GENET archive


9-Misc: Growing GE-free movement in Greece

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  A growing resistance
SOURCE: Greece Now
DATE:   Jan 2004

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A growing resistance

As Europe tenuously clings to its ban on genetically modified crops,
agricultural regions around Greece campaign in support

Amid continuing European ambivalence over the introduction of genetically
modified (GM) crops and intense international pressure on the EU to lift
its 5-year de facto ban on such products, a series of homegrown movements
against GMO's has begun to take root in important agricultural regions
around Greece.

From Rhodope in the North, Thessaly in the central mainland, Zakynthos
Island in the west and Crete in the south, local authorities,
environmental organizations and other civic groups are becoming
increasingly vocal in their demands that their regions, and the whole of
Greece, be declared GMO-free zones. The opposition is fueled by fears
that the genetically engineered crops will compromise local ecosystems
and interfere with efforts to develop organic products and local varieties.

These sentiments were echoed in the recent recommendation by the Greek
National Bioethics Commission , which has proposed that Greece adopt a
temporary moratorium on the cultivation of gm crops, concentrating
instead on "integrated and sustainable agricultural practices."

Local initiatives began just as the European Union seemed to be on the
verge of loosening its de facto moratorium on the genetically modified
crops. A proposal by the European Commission , that a biotech sweetcorn
manufactured by Swiss agrochemical giant Syngenta be approved for
importation, was rejected in early December at a meeting of the EU Food
Chain and Animal Health Committee.

Greece, along with France, Austria, Portugal, Denmark and Luxembourg
voted against the proposal, which will now pass to the Council of
agriculture ministers. The ministers will have three months to act on the
issue; otherwise, the file will return to the Commission for a final decision.

No GM products have been approved for importation into the EU since 1998,
after Greece, France, Italy, Denmark and Luxembourg declared their
intention to block new GMO approvals pending the adoption of legislation
regulating the traceability and labeling of GMO's and their derivatives.
The five were later joined by Austria and Belgium.

New stricter EU regulations on labeling and traceability of GM products
took effect as of October 2003. The new rules would require that products
containing more than .9% genetically modified materials would have to be
clearly labeled as such. The rules also require the establishment of
systems to enable the tracing of gm products from field to consumer.

"Categorically opposed"

In Greece, anti-gmo activism began in late 2003 on Ionian island of
Zakynthos - a producer of high-quality crops - when a local council vote
asked the government to declare all of Greece a GMO-free zone. Shortly
thereafter, anti-GMO sentiment spread to the Central Greek Department of
Thessaly, a region whose fertile plains have earned it the nickname of
breadbasket of Greece.

Here, in a broad and coordinated effort, more than fifty agricultural,
environmental and civic groups have created the Panthessalian Network
against GM crops, with the purpose of organizing information campaigns
for both citizens and farmers and having Thessaly declared a GMO-free
zone. They have also called on the rest of Greece to participate in
creating a "truly Panhellenic network against GM crops." Even before the
creation of the Network, the prefectural council of Thessaly's Trikala
prefecture had voted its desire to become a GM-free zone.

In the northern prefecture of Rhodope, famous for its virgin forests,
prefect Aristidis Yannakidis did not mince words when he recently told
reporters from the daily Kathimerini : "We are categorically opposed to
the cultivation of genetically modified crops in our region. We have an
amazing ecosystem. Why should we disturb its balance?" The region aspires
to develop ecotourism and organic farming, as well as to promote local
varieties - goals which, as Yannakidis pointed out, are hardly compatible
with the introduction of GM crops:

"Half the prefecture, the area that stretches toward the sea, is
protected by the Ramsar Convention , while the northern and mountainous
region is literally virgin. We aspire to develop low-impact and
environmentally friendly tourist activities, while upgrading agricultural
production at the same time. GM crops will only place obstacles to all
this." Yannakidis asserted. "We have already moved ahead in the
cultivation of herbs, while we will immediately proceed with the
establishment of controlled appellations of origin for local products and
the certification of organic crops."

In a meeting last November, representatives from Rhodope prefecture
joined delegates from agricultural regions in France, Italy, Germany, and
the UK in pressing their demands for the creation of GMO-free zones.

While in the Cretan municipality of Chania , the municipal council voted
to declare the area gm-free. The council hopes to open a dialogue with
the island's other local authorities, with the aim of extending the
interdiction to the entire island.

Organic growth

Unfortunately, once released, genetically modified crops are as hard to
control as the wind that wafts their pollen through the air. During
random sampling by local Greenpeace branch, conducted recently on cotton
and cotton products harvested in Greece, six out of seven samples were
found to be contaminated with genes from genetically modified cotton.
This, despite strict oversight via frequent sampling of imported seed
imposed by the ministries of agriculture and
environment in 2001, after the
highly publicized discovery of contaminated cotton seed in Greece.

While currently only about .9% of Greek arable land is used for organic
farming, the practice has been increasing by about 50% annually since
1993. Olive groves account for the greatest proportion of organically
cultivated land (53.5%), with vineyards coming a distant second (7.9%),
followed by wheat (4.8%), barley (3.8%), and citrus fruit (3.7%).

According to the environmental organization Friends of the Earth http://, 70% of Europe's citizens are opposed to the
importation of GM products.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Activists: GM cotton unchecked
SOURCE: Kathimerini, Greece
DATE:   Jan 16, 2003

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Activists: GM cotton unchecked

Despite the official ban on cultivating genetically modified crops in
Greece, independent testing found high quantities of GM cotton in this
year's output, the Greenpeace environmental group said yesterday.
Greenpeace activists mounted a protest outside the Agriculture Ministry
in Athens, urging the government to seize all this year's cotton crop and
conduct wide-ranging tests for GM pollution. "We found that GM seeds have
been imported and sown, while the plants have been harvested," Greenpeace
spokeswoman Myrto Pispini said. "These seeds were not caught by the
official testing system." Greenpeace tests found that six out of seven
samples of cotton seed and kernels - used for animal fodder - from cotton
mills in central Greece "contained alien genetic material." In May, the
Agriculture Ministry said it had tested 566 samples of cotton seeds
imported for sowing, and only found three to be GM-positive. Two of the
polluted shipments were destroyed, and the third returned to the US exporter.


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