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FoEE PRESS RELEASE - CONTAMINATED GM MAIZE



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PRESS RELEASE
4th May 1999
For immediate distribution


PIONEER MAIZE SEED IS CONTAMINATED WITH AN ILLEGAL VARIETY, says Friends of
the Earth
Laboratory tests identify contamination by Novartis and Monsanto seeds

Friends of the Earth (FoE) announced today that some of the Pioneer maize
seed being sold in Germany, under the brand name "Benicia", which was
turned over to police by BUND/FoE in Freiburg and analyzed by the official
control laboratory(1) , has been shown to be contaminated by a genetically
modified (GM) variety which has not been authorized for cultivation in the
European Union (EU).

FoE revealed last week(2)  that preliminary tests on three sacks of Pioneer
Hi-Bred maize had shown that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were
present in small quantities, despite the fact that no varieties of Pioneer
genetically modified maize have yet been approved by the EU.  Results of
further laboratory tests were made public by FoE today :

- All three sacks tested negative for contamination by two authorized GM
varieties : AgrEvo's "T25" GM maize (approved by the EU in spring 1998), or
Novartis "Bt 176" GM maize (the first of its kind to be approved by the EU
- amid much controversy - in 1996).

However:
- Two sacks tested positive for contamination by a Monsanto variety of GM
maize, either "MON 810" (approved for cultivation by the EU in spring 1998)
or "MON 809"(3)  which is produced by Pioneer Hi-Bred under license from
Monsanto and is not approved by the EU, either for cultivation or import;
- One sack tested positive for contamination by Novartis "Bt 11" GM
maize(4) , which is not approved for cultivation in the EU (authorization
by the EU last year only covers import and processing).

According to Friends of the Earth, the analyses show that genetic pollution
of seeds is getting completely out of control.  "No-one buying seed can be
sure of what they're getting", said Gill Lacroix of FoE Europe's
Biotechnology Programme.  "Even the companies themselves don't seem to know
what's in their sacks(5).   How are farmers supposed to know if the seed
they buy and plant is contaminated with an illegal variety?  FoE is once
again calling on the European Commission to investigate and urgently take
action.  If unauthorized varieties are being planted in European fields
this spring, it makes a completely mockery of the whole EU legislative
system."

For more information, contact: 
Gill Lacroix, FoE Europe, T. 32-2-542.0182, F. 32-2-537.5596
Dan Leskien, FoE Europe, T. 49-40-431.897.66
Copies of the laboratory analyses are available on request.

Footnotes:
(1)  Chemische Landesuntersuchungsanstalt Freiburg.
(2)  See FoEE press release of 28th April 1999.
(3)  MON 809 is insect-resistant (through expression of the Bt cryIA(b)
gene), expresses some resistance to glyphosate-type herbicides (e.g.
Monsanto's RoundUp), and carries a marker gene conferring resistance to the
antibiotic kanomycin. 
(4)  Novartis "Bt 11" is both insect-resistant (through expression of the
Bt cryIA(b) gene) and herbicide-tolerant (to glufosinate ammonium type
chemicals, marketed under brand names such as "Basta" and "Liberty").
(5)  Distributors of Pioneer seed in some parts of France are offering to
exchange sacks of suspect seed for uncontaminated EU-origin seed. 



Gill Lacroix
Friends of the Earth Europe
Biotechnology Programme
"To say that this is not a highly political area seems to me extraordinary.
 To claim that GM products 'pose no risks' is absurd.  We know that there
are risks involved.  And if this was not a political issue, Monsanto and
others would not spend time and money cosying up to governments" (speech,
18.03.99 by David Bowe, MEP, rapporteur for the revision of Directive
90/220/EEC)
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