GENET archive


6-Regulation: Europe to act on GM pollution of organic farms

----------------------------- GENET-news -----------------------------

TITLE:  Europe to act on GM pollution of organic farms
SOURCE: The Independent, UK, by Geoffrey Lean
DATE:   March 26, 2000

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Europe to act on GM pollution of organic farms

Ministers want Britons to have the power to sue GM companies, and 
force them to pay massive damages if they harm health, the 
environment or livelihoods. They are backing moves in the European 
Parliament to make Monsanto and other giant firms financially 
responsible for any ill-effects of their activities. They are 
particularly keen to safeguard organic farmers, who face ruin if 
their crops are contaminated with pollen from GM crops.

The measure would dramatically shift the balance of power in the 
management of GM foods and crops to the public, while calling the 
bluff of the firms, who have long claimed GM produce is harmless. 
Last week the European parliament's environment committee passed an 
amendment to an EU directive imposing full liability on the companies 
for damage done by their products. The amendment goes before the full 
parliament next month and, if passed, will be sent to EU environment 
ministers for approval.

Michael Meacher, the environment minister, has already called on the 
European Commission to draw up a similar measure, and he will raise 
it again at a meeting with his EU colleagues this week.

Right-wing MEPs and David Bowe MEP, the Labour spokesman on the 
environment committee, predict a bitter battle. "The companies have 
been mounting a huge campaign behind the scenes to kill the 
amendment," he says. "But they must take responsibility for their 
products, and the public must be protected." Patrick Holden, director 
of the Soil Association, hailed the amendment as "tremendous". He 
says 30 organic farmers are close enough to the field trials of GM 
crops announced 10 days ago, for their produce to be contaminated by 
bees carrying pollen from the plots.

If this happened, the farmers could lose their licences as organic 
growers, threatening their livelihood. Mr Holden says they have to 
have the right to take the GM companies to court for compensation. 
Under the provisions, companies could also be sued if genes from 
their crops escaped and created "superweeds", or if GM foods were 
found to damage health.


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