GENET archive


4-Misc: Greenpeace exposes Genetic Contamination of Cotton in Greece

International Press Release

Greenpeace exposes Genetic Contamination of Cotton in Greece

Athens/Brussels, March 10, 2000 --- Greenpeace today exposed large-scale genetic
contamination of imported cottonseed in Greece and demanded Greek and EU
authorities to take immediate action to stop the planting of contaminated seed.
The organisation demonstrated in Athens in front of the ministry of agriculture
where twelve activists erected a 'statue of Frankenstein' and blew a tonne of
cotton in the air with film studio fans symbolising the spread of genetic

'This case once again shows the difficulty of controlling the GE contamination,
and that the authorities don't have a clue what's going on,' said Nikos
Charalambides of Greenpeace. 'The Greek authorities have taken no action to stop
the spread of the contaminated seed even though we informed them about our
preliminary information three weeks ago and despite the fact that EU legislation
requires them to prevent any commercial use of unapproved GE crops.'

Greenpeace took samples of cottonseed sold in Greece and sent them to Gene Scan
Laboratory in Freiburg, Germany for analysis. Two out of seven samples were
found to be contaminated and a third one had a strong indication of
contamination. The seed sampled originate from Mississippi and Arizona where
about 2/3 of cotton grown is GE.

'It is alarming that GE crops which have not been tested for human consumption
and contain an antibiotic resistance gene are about to enter the European food
chain,' said  Charalambides. 60-70 per cent of the Greek cotton harvest is used
for the production of cotton oil and animal fodder. Greece exports about 85,000
tonnes of cotton oil and feed annually to Italy and Spain.

'We today also alerted the European Commission that Greece is breaching European
legislation by allowing unauthorised GE crops to be grown in Greece and that
similar illegal growing of GE cotton may be taking place in Spain,' said
Charalambides. 'This illegal growing is also subsidised by the EU.'

'The authorities must confiscate the contaminated seed immediately because the
farmers could start the planting any day now. Furthermore the European
Commission needs to demand a guarantee from the Member States that no GE
contaminated seed is imported to EU. Furthermore this is not only an issue for
cotton growers. GE contaminated maize seed from
Pioneer Hi-Bred was found last year in Germany and Switzerland.'

Note for editors:
Greece, which is among the ten largest cotton producer in the world, imports
most of its cottonseed from the US. About 400 000 hectares of cotton is planted
in Greece annually. US seed is used also in Spain. No GE cotton has been
approved in the EU making the growing of GE cotton illegal.

For further information:
Nikos Charalambides, Greenpeace Greece GE campaigner + 30.944.454506
Mika Railo, Greenpeace International Press Desk, + 31.20.5249 548