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German court keeps ban on Monsanto corn

BERLIN (AP)--A German court on May 5 rejected an attempt by the world's leading seed seller, Monsanto Co., to suspend a government ban of its genetically engineered MON810 corn, saying it may pose a risk to the environment.

Braunschweig administrative court spokesman Torsten Baumgarten said in a statement the Agriculture Ministry had shown that it had assessed the possible risk posed by the corn "sufficiently and without arbitrariness," allowing the ban to remain in place.

St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto had sought to suspend the ban, pending the outcome of a suit asking for its permanent reversal. That suit must still go before the court, but an initial ruling upholds the ban in the meantime.

Earlier this month, Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner banned the sale and planting of MON810 seeds, saying they present a danger for the environment although the European Union had authorized it in 2004.

The genetically engineered seeds produce a toxin to ward off insects. Monsanto claims this genetic trait reduces the need for chemical pesticides, but opponents fear the seeds will spread and alter the natural surroundings.

Baumgarten said although the ministry so far had produced no "clear evidence" showing that genetically altered corn poses a danger to the environment, the suspicion is enough to uphold the ban until a final ruling can be made. In addition, he said that recent tests indicate the toxin produced by the corn can be harmful to other insects as well as vermin and that pollen from genetically modified corn can spread farther than previously thought.

No hearing date has yet been set for the suit seeking the ban's permanent reversal.

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