This Wednesday German’s Federal Constitutional Court, the country’s top court, ruled that the two-year-old law restricting areas where genetically modified crops are grown protected the public from risks of technology. The Court held that:
[t]he legislative branch is pursuing legitimate public welfare objectives and must be given generous room to implement state regulation in order to realise these objectives against the backdrop of the broad social and scientific debate about the use of genetic engineering.
In contrast to American regulations, the German law, enacted in 2008, mandates a 150-metre-wide (490-feet-wide) “protective zone” (a.k.a. buffer zones) between GM crops and standard farmland and a 300-metre-wide (984-feet-wide) gap next to organic crops. Furthermore, the German law required GM field registration so any co-mingling can be traced back to the source and the responsible farmers can be held liable — a concept yet to be embraced by American lawmakers and haphazardly accepted by courts. Proving liability for GM contamination of traditional or organic seeds in U.S. courts is based on centuries old property law concepts such as nuisance, negligence, trespass, and pollution, whose standards differ from state to state, whereas the application of uniform federal law would better serve farmers and consumers.
The German Court was swayed by arguments that the buffer zones between GM and conventional crops were justified due to the risk of “contamination” between the plants and open questions about the technology.