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2-Plants: Greece goes to destroy GE-contaninated cotton fields

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TITLE:  Greece to further test, destroy any GM cotton crop
SOURCE: Reuters, by Dina Kyriakidou 
DATE:   July 4, 2000

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Greece to further test, destroy any GM cotton crops

ATHENS - Greece said yesterday it would destroy genetically modified 
cotton crops and compensate farmers after conducting additional 
testing to determine the extent of their spread. The Agriculture 
Ministry said initial tests showed accidental mixing of GM seeds in 
cotton planted this year, contrary to a European Union ban on gene-
altered cotton.

"After the results of more detailed tests...any cotton found to be 
genetically engineered will be uprooted," Agriculture Minister George 
Anomeritis told a news conference. "The farmers will be completely 
compensated." The minister said 3,100 samples were tested from 14,000 
tonnes of seeds, of which 10,000 tonnes were planted. Out of 2,518 
results in, 69 had been contaminated. "These positive tests will be 
sent for quantitative testing, to trace the extent of the 
contamination," he said.

The minister would not say how many hectares this could affect but 
added that the problem was "extremely limited". But Greenpeace, which 
brought the GE cotton issue to light last month, said that this could 
mean destroying nearly 20,000 acres of cotton crops. "If 2.74 percent 
of tests were positive, then this could mean 2.74 percent of the 
400,000 hectares of cotton Greece usually plants annually should be 
destroyed," Greenpeace Greece director Stelios Psomas told Reuters.

Envriromentalists strongly oppose gene-altered crops and foods, 
fearing they contaminate nature and pose health risks. Greenpeace had 
warned that any cotton destruction should be done before the plants 
bloom. "Blooming begins in mid-July and that means genetic 
pollution," Psomas said. "Now that we have official proof, we demand 
immediate destruction (of affected plants) and compensation for 
farmers." Anomeritis said he could not say whether the additional 
testing would be done before the plants bloom. "I hope (they will be 
completed) within 15 days at the latest," Anomeritis said.

The European Union bans any gene-altered cotton. Greece, a major 
cotton exporter, receives EU subsidies for an industry that supports 
hundreds of thousands of farmers. Greece does not legally allow GM 
cotton seed to be imported or used and ministry officials could not 
explain how the tested seeds were contaminated. They said seeds could 
have been mixed in the fields, during processing or packing. 
Anomeritis said the ministry was setting up a special committee on GM 
agricultural products to deal with such problems in future.


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