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6-Regulation: Civil society urges EU Commission to reject GM seedcontamination

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TITLE:  Civil society urges EU Commission to reject GM seed contamination
SOURCE: Save Our Seeds, Kampffmeyer Mühlen Hameln, EFFAT, Greenpeace,
        Friends of the Earth Europe, EEB, IFOAM EU, EURO COOP,
        Confederazione nazionale COLDIRETTI, Coordination Paysanne
        Européenne CPE, Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y
        Ganaderos of Spain, Press Release
DATE:   8 Sep 2004

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Civil society urges EU Commission to reject GM seed contamination

Brussels, 8 September 2004 - A unique coalition of actors representing
the entire food production chain appeals to all members of the outgoing
EU Commission to reject a proposal that would allow unlabelled GMO
contamination of conventional seeds. Instead, they demand mandatory GMO-
labelling of seeds at the practical detection limit. The College of
Commissioners is due to adopt today a proposal for a Decision
"establishing minimum thresholds for adventitious or technically
unavoidable traces of genetically modified seeds in other products". It
would allow for 0.3 percent of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to
be present in all oilseed rape and maize seeds, without farmers even
knowing about it.

"The current proposal would make a mockery of the Commission's commitment
to ensure fair and safe co-existence between GM and non-GM production.
GM-free seeds are an essential prerequisite for environmental precaution
and for consumers' and producers' freedom of choice," said Benedikt
Haerlin of Save our Seeds, which represents over 300 organisations and
companies as well as 200,000 citizens demanding pure non-GM seeds (1).

Stefano Masini of Italy's Confederazione nazionale COLDIRETTI, Europe's
biggest farmer association, said: "The Commission must take into account
the reality that most European farmers, processors and retailers have to
supply a non-GMO market. A threshold above the detection limit will
burden the production process with uncertainty, additional risks and
costs. If creeping contamination becomes the rule, the production of non-
GM food will become a costly and high-risk business." "Farmers would be
trapped between two contamination thresholds: 0.3% for seeds and 0.9% for
final food and feed products. In many cases and especially on small
farming plots, these seed contamination levels will not allow farmers to
guarantee food and feed below the 0.9% threshold (2). Their customers
today demand a maximum contamination of 0.1-0.5% for the raw material in
order to cope with the risk of further contamination during the
production process", added Xosé Ramón Urbán, Chairman Environmental
Policy of Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos of Spain.

"This directive would have a highly negative impact on the organic
sector, where consumers are very sensitive to GM contamination," added
Francis Blake, President of the IFOAM EU Group, the umbrella organisation
of the organic movement. "Organic farmers might lose markets, and even
their organic status."

"Measures to avoid the risk of contamination should be taken at source",
said Franz Engelke, managing director of Weser-Mühlen Hameln of
Kampffmeyer, Germany's biggest grain milling group. "GM contamination
does not appear equably. You may find contamination in some packages even
if 99.9% of the initial batch of crops were GM-free. If you found
contamination in a single 40g package of a maize product you would have
to recall products of the entire batch. Even if seed prices were to
double," Engelke notes, "their share would be minimal compared to the
costs for the final product."

"The cultivation of GM crops in Europe will not create more jobs. Yet
with the current proposal, the Commission is certainly endangering
employment in the non-GM food sector. Food crises in the past have shown
that loss of consumer trust can destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The Commission should not weaken seed standards which are already
practised in some EU Member States", said Arnd Spahn of EFFAT, the
European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions.

"Contamination levels of 0.3 % would severely undermine environmental
precaution, monitoring and traceability of GMOs in the environment," said
Eric Gall of Greenpeace. "Recalling a GMO from the environment, should
something go wrong, would become virtually impossible." Under the
proposal, around 300 genetically modified maize plants and more than
2,000 GM oilseed rape plants would be allowed to grow on every hectare
(10,000 square metres) of supposedly GM-free land in Europe, without
farmers, public authorities, food processors or consumers even knowing.

"Why not tackle the problem of GM contamination at the beginning of the
food chain, as seed companies are already able to do? In the absence of
strict EU legislation ensuring seed purity, consumer choice would be
reduced to 'more or less' GMOs. This is not what the vast majority of
consumers want, as 70% of them refuse to eat GM foodstuffs," said Aude
L'Hirondel, EURO COOP Food Policy Officer. "Consumers should not have to
pay more for non-GM products merely because of higher thresholds that
make the whole production chain more costly," she added.

"This Decision is the Trojan horse of the GM industry," said Gérard
Choplin, coordinator of the European Farmers Coordination, "It will allow
them to intentionally withhold crucial information from their customers,
only to reveal later that GMOs are everywhere and can no longer be
avoided. Seeds tested by national authorities to date usually contain no
GMOs at all and certainly never the high contamination levels now
proposed by the Commission - even when they come from GMO-growing
countries like the United States." The European seed industry currently
respects purity levels of 0.1 percent, as no level of GMO contamination
is permitted in the Union's GMO legislation.

If the outgoing Commission adopts the draft presented by Environment
Commissioner Margot Wallström, the proposal will be submitted to the
Standing Committee on GMOs and, should it not be adopted there with
qualified majority, will proceed to the Council of Ministers. Unless a
qualified majority in the Council rejects the proposal, the new European
Commission will be able to implement the decision directly into Community
law, as has been done with recent GMO approvals.

The European Parliament and many member states have called for seed
purity standards at the detection level. The Commissioner designate for
Agriculture, Else Mariann Fischer Boel, submitted the following statement
to the Council of Ministers in her role as Danish Agriculture Minister:
"In order to secure the best possible conditions for co-existence,
Denmark finds that thresholds in any forthcoming proposal should be set
at detection level." ENDS - (Characters 5,296)

- Franz Engelke, managing director of Kampffmeyer Mühlen Hameln, phone:
+49 (0) 5151 / 791-101
- Enrico Lucconi, Asseme, Italian seed producer, phone: +39 (06) 48905720
- Arnd Spahn, Agricultural Sector Secretary, EFFAT (European Federation
of Food, Agriculture and Tourism trade unions), phone: + 32 (0)2 209 62 65
- Benedikt Haerlin, Save Our Seeds, phone: +49 (0) 173 9997555, C/o Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft, Marienstr.19,
10117 Berlin, Germany
- Eric Gall, GMO policy advisor, Greenpeace European Unit, phone: +32
(0)2 274 1906, mobile: +32 (0)496 161582
- Aude L´Hirondel, EURO COOP Food Policy Officer, phone: +32 (0)2 285 00 74
- Marco Schlüter, IFOAM EU Group (organic farming movement association),
EU- coordiantor, phone: +32 (0)2 282 4665,
- Stefano Masini, European office of Confederazione nazionale,
COLDIRETTI, phone: +32 (0)2 230 9893
- Xosé Ramón Urbán, Chairman Environmental Policy of Coordinadora de
Organizaciones de Agricultores Y Ganaderos of Spain, phone: +32.2.2800484
- Gérard Choplin, European Farmers Coordination, CPE, phone: + 32
(0)2 217 3112
- Mauro Albrizio, Vice-president, European Environmental Bureau, EEB,
phone: +32 (0)479 940251
- Geert Ritsema, Senior campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe, phone:
+31 (0)6 290 05 908

Notes to editors:
(1) A petition signed by 200,000 European citizens demanding that GMOs in
seeds be labelled at the reliable detection limit was handed to EU
Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström by the Save Our Seeds coalition
on 3rd May earlier this year. The petition is supported by more than 300
farmers', consumers' and environmental organisations, trade unions, food
companies, scientists, churches and other civil society groups with more
than 25 million members. The European Parliament and several Member
States have also urged the European Commission to ensure seed purity. In
addition, on 8 July 2004 36 farmer associations around Europe expressed
their concerns about the proposed directive. For more details see
(2) European Parliament and Council regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 and
1830/2003 on genetically modified food and feed and traceability
established a maximum threshold for GM contamination of final food and
feed products at 0,9% per ingredient, below which the product needs not
be labelled as GM.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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