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2-Plants: Five Year Freeze launch in UK



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---------------- Begin Forwarded Message ----------------
Date:        16.02  8:56 Uhr
Received:    17.02  13:46 Uhr
From:        genetics, genetics@gn.apc.org
To:          genetics@gn.apc.org

from: "Sandra Bell" <gjc10@dial.pipex.com>

 Five Year Freeze launch - press release

16 FEBRUARY 1999

PHOTOCALL: 0945 a.m. Lambeth Pier (Corner Lambeth Palace Road and Lambeth
Bridge on embankment)
BRIEFING for MPs and Media: 11 a.m. Committee Room 6, House of Commons. 


5 YEAR FREEZE ON GM CROPS, FOOD AND PATENTS: NEW COALITION

London 16 February 1999 A giant ice cube containing five fish "mutated" with maize will be unveiled opposite the Houses of Parliament this morning to highlight growing opposition to genetic engineering and patenting in food and farming and call for a five year freeze on their release in the UK. 

The event marks today's launch of the call by an unprecedented coalition of 29 consumer, development, health and environment organisations for a Five Year Freeze on GE crops and food. The Five Year Freeze Campaign has been born out of escalating concerns over the environmental, social, economic and health impacts that genetically modified (GM) crops and food may inflict on Britain and throughout the world.

The call comes on the eve of multinational agrochemical company Monsanto's appearance in court, charged with breaching legally required safety measures on a GM oilseed rape test site in Lincolnshire.

"The Government seems to be deaf to all but a few, carefully selected, commercially-based opinions. This flies in the face of the widespread public concern at the rush to embrace GE crops and food," said Sandra Bell, Five Year Freeze Campaign Coordinator. "Five years gives us all time to make informed decisions." 

The campaign is calling for a five year freeze on the growing of GM crops for any commercial purpose, the import of GM foods and farm crops; the patenting of genetic resources for food and farm crops. 

Speakers at this morning's briefing: 

Dr Vyvyan Howard, Toxicologist: "the scientific evidence does not adequately address the areas of uncertainty: a five year freeze is needed on the
science;"  Dr Vandana Shiva, Action Aid Advisor and leading campaigner in India "Genetic Engineering and its patents are likely to keep the developing world in poverty;" Dr Simon Lyster, the Wildlife Trusts: "British wildlife is already under threat from intensive farming: GMOs could make a bad situation even worse."  Mr Malcolm Walker, Chief Executive Iceland Foods: "A five year freeze makes sound business sense and the consumer wants it". 

Information on all speakers and a list of opposition to genetic engineering
available. For information call: 

Cindy Baxter/Jenny Driscoll: ActionAid 0171 561 7614 or 0831 391 131
Neil Verlander Friends of the Earth 0171 566 1649; 
Sandra Bell: 0171 837 0642

The Five Year Freeze Campaign members: ActionAid, Action against Allergy, Biodynamic Agriculture Association, British Society of Nature Conservation, Catholic Institute for International Relations, Centre for Alternative Technology, Christian Aid, Elm Farm Research Centre, Farming and Livestock Concern, FLAG, Food for Health Network, Food Commission, Friends of the Earth,Gaia Foundation, Genetics Forum, Genetix Food Alert, GenetiX Snowball, GeneWatch, Greenpeace, Guild of Food Writers, Iceland Foods, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environment, Neal's Yard Remedies, Soil Association, The Townswomens Guild, The Vegetarian Society, The Wildlife Trusts, Women's Environmental Network, World Development Movement. 

FIVE YEAR FREEZE CAMPAIGN 

DETAILED QUOTES AND INFORMATION FROM SPEAKERS

Feeding the world? Or multinational profits
Rather than "feeding the world", genetic engineering was more likely to increase poverty in the developing world, said ActionAid campaign advisor and leading genetics campaigner from India, Dr Vandana Shiva. "Genetic engineering is only likely to feed the profits of multinational companies like Monsanto - it is not the answer to world hunger." 

She saw genetic engineering as the trojan horse for big business to get its hands on the emerging markets of the developing world, but this would be at the expense of centuries-old traditional, subsistence farming practices. The only thing holding back the GE floodgates was whether international patents were granted to secure company profits. This year would see the review of international rules on the patenting of life. A five year freeze on patents would give developing countries time to prevent both the theft of their genetic resources and the erosion of their seed-saving traditions. 

Freeze "sound business decision" and consumers want it 
A five year freeze on GM foods and crops was a sound business decision, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Iceland Group, Malcolm Walker told MPs. Consumers would rather know their food was safe and didn't harm the environment. Iceland, which last year committed to have its own brand food GE-free, had received an overwhelmingly positive response from its customers to the policy anouncement. Consumers had not only welcomed the fact that Iceland had made them aware of the issues, but also were happy to have an GE free alternative, he said.

The Science is wrong
University of Liverpool Toxicologist and advisor to the Government, Dr Vyvyan Howard, warned that the scientific community was extremely concerned at industry's use of ill-founded risk assessment to convince the Government that genetic engineering was safe. A five year freeze was required to ensure that enough proper analysis of the hazards of GE foods could be carried out. 

"I have looked at some of the scientific evidence supporting company applications on some GE crops and it simply does not adequately address the many areas of uncertainty," said Dr Howard. "We need to be very careful: once this is out in the environment and in our food we will not be able to stop it or recall it." 

The Environment could suffer 
Dr Simon Lyster of the Wildlife Trusts listed the risks the GMOs could pose for wildlife and biodiversity in the UK. 

"Intensive farming practices have already had a catastrophic effect on biodiversity in this country. GMOs have the potential to make a bad situation even worse. What is the rush? Waiting for five years to truly assess the risks is the only sensible thing to do," he said. 

Past experience with BSE, when the scientific evidence came to light later, should have taught the Government that it was worth waiting. He noted that the experience with introduced species, let alone GMOs, was bad. "History gives us every reason to be careful." 

Biographies

Vandana Shiva 
A leading campaigner on the impact of globalisation on food rights and farmers, particularly in India, where she is based. She is founder of the independent institute the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in India, and later founded Navdanya, a national organisation which sets up community seed banks, promotes organic agriculture, food security and food safety. She is a Consultant Advisor to Action Aid's Food Rights Campaign. 

Malcolm Walker
Malcolm Walker CBE is the Chairman and Chief Executive of Iceland Group PLC, a chain he opened in 1970, which now has 770 stores nationwide, annual sales of over 1.5 billion and over 22,000 employees. Iceland has been a pioneer of environmental and ethical issues, from the recycling of CFCs, development of affordable environmentally friendly fridges and freezers, through to the banning of genetically modified organisms in its own brand foods. 

Vyvyan Howard 
Dr C V Howard is a leading toxico-pathologist and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool. He is Vice President of the Royal Microscopical Society and advises the House of Commons Scientific Committee, and, for the past ten years, has specialised in environmental pollutants and their impact on humans. He has been instrumental in setting up an environmental database at Liverpool University. He is currently working, under an EC grant, to educate decisionmakers in environmental pollution, and is in the process of setting up a permanent trans European Environmental Education Health Network. 

Dr Simon Lyster 
Dr Simon Lyster is Director-General of the Wildlife Trusts. The Wildlife Trusts are a partnership of 46 local Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK, and are one of Britain's largest conservation organisations. The Wildlife Trusts manage more than 2,300 nature reserves, as well as undertaking a variety of conservation and education activities in both town and country. Reform of agricultural policy to achieve more wildlife-friendly farming systems is a particularly high priority for the Wildlife Trusts, because it is in the farmed landscape that the loss of biodiversity in Britain has been most severe.

Opposition to GMOs 
- English Nature, the Government's own advisors, has called for a five year moratorium
- The Conservative Party has called for a three year moratorium
- A Government MORI poll published Monday 08 February shows that only 2 per cent of the population think that the Government has handled the situation correctly. 53 per cent supported more legislation on GE food. 
- The House of Commons cafeteria has banned GE food
- 23 of 33 London Councils and at least 14 county councils across England have banned GE food in school dinners
- In Europe, Austria, France, Norway have banned GE crops
- The Dutch and Italian Governments are challenging the EU Directive on Patents




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