GENET archive


6-Regulation: On the EU discussion on GE crop coexistence

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Europe: Gm Crops Mean Farewell to Organic Foods - Greenpeace
SOURCE: IPS & Global Information Network / Tierramrica*, by Julio Godoy
DATE:   24 Mar 2006

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Europe: Gm Crops Mean Farewell to Organic Foods - Greenpeace

PARIS, Mar. 24, 2006 (IPS/GIN) -- The European Commission (EC) has
condemned the continent's farms to contamination from genetically
modified crops, say environmental groups consulted by Tierramerica.

In a report published March 10 in Brussels, the EC considered it
unnecessary to separate conventional and organic crops from genetically
modified crops.

The EC also deemed illegal any measures to protect sensitive ecosystems
against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), also known as transgenics,
and threatened to sanction national or regional governments that attempt
to ban such crops.

"Given the total and irreversible nature of transgenic contamination, the
EC report marks the end of traditional and organic farming in Europe,"
Arnaud Apoteker, head of the biogenetics campaign for the environmental
watchdog Greenpeace in Paris, told Tierramerica. "The EC is either very
naive or completely dishonest."

The EC says farmers who use transgenic seeds can get insurance to cover
potential sanctions against them, in case their products genetically
contaminate neighboring fields through pollination.

The Commission also allows European governments to increase the maximum
contamination to 0.9 percent transgenic content in organic or
conventional products without risking fines or requiring labeling of
products indicating GMO content if the contamination occurs "by chance."

"Strict laws against genetic contamination of conventional and organic
agriculture are necessary, as is suspending production and sales of
GMOs," stressed Apoteker.

In January the EC also authorized three new types of genetically modified
corn, including MON 863, whose toxic effects in rats have been
demonstrated in laboratory tests.

Gilles-Eric Seralini, molecular biology professor at the French
University of Caen and author of a study of MON863 effects in rodents,
told Tierramerica that "the tests revealed an increase in sugar in the
blood, as well as anomalies in the quantity of white and red blood cells,
and renal lesions" in the animals.

Says Helen Holder, GMO campaign coordinator for the environmental
organization Friends of the Earth, "the EC continues authorizing imports
of transgenics, without laws that protect organic and traditional
agriculture against genetic contamination."

The French government is drafting a law on GMOs that, according to
Greenpeace, ignores all the evidence about their potential threats to
health and the environment.

But despite the efforts of the EC and of the major biotech multinational
corporations, the production and sale of transgenics in Europe is
limited. There are no European countries among the world's top 10
producers of GMOs, but there are three South American nations: Argentina,
Paraguay and Uruguay.

Axel Kruschat, director of the German environmental group BUND, said in a
Tierramerica interview that fields of transgenic corn represent less than
one in a thousand of the total dedicated to growing conventional corn in

In France, transgenic corn is planted on less than 1,000 hectares, out of
a total of three million hectares of cornfields.

The genetically modified maize variety grown in France in Germany is
known as "bt-maize" because it was grafted with a gene of the Bacillus
thuringiensis (bt) to increase its resistance to Ostrinia nubilalis, a
larva known commonly as the corn borer.

The corn borer is considered the worst maize pest. It begins by feeding
on the plant's leaves, then bores into the stalk, developing two or three
generations of larvae.

Despite its anti-pest benefit, bt-maize is avoided by most German
farmers, said Kruschat. "The consumers don't buy genetically modified
maize," he explained.

Kruschat noted that "Marka, the bt-maize seed distributor in Germany,
offers to buy the entire crops of the conventional or organic farmers
neighboring the transgenic fields at market price, regardless of their
contamination with genetically modified maize. For the farmers, it's an
interesting proposal, because they have a sure buyer."

Marka thus avoids lawsuits filed by non-bt-maize farmers against its
clients whose transgenic crops may cross the legal limits of
contamination of nearby fields, according to Kruschat.

Andreas Thierfelder, spokesman in Germany for the agro-tech multinational
Monsanto, creator of bt-maize, confirmed this approach in an article in
the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung.

The French growers of transgenic maize don't sell their harvest at home
either -- they export it to Spain. According to a survey published in
late February by the environmental group Agir pour l'environnement
(Action for the Environment), 75 percent of French consumers are opposed
to genetically modified foods.

The precautions of Monsanto and Marka are justified. Despite the new
directive of the EC, the limit for GMO contamination of conventional
agricultural products is 0.9 percent. If it is any higher, the product
must bear a label stating that it contains GMOs.

Katja Moch, a biologist with Germany's Ecological Institute of Freiburg,
told Tierramerica that "the maximum limit for genetic contamination in
conventional and organic crops is obeyed, but only if the entire non-
transgenic harvest is considered at the time of measuring the percentage
of its GMO content."

As such, those parts of the harvest taken from areas farther away from
neighboring transgenic fields have less contamination. "But in reality
the farmers don't harvest their entire fields at once. In these partial
harvests, the GMO content is frequently higher than 0.9 percent," said Moch.

This contamination also occurs as a result of conventional and organic
farmers sharing machinery or storage sites with farmers who grow
transgenic crops.

"Many heavy machines used in farming and shared by several different
farmers are difficult to clean, and that permits the dissemination of
GMOs," explained Moch.

Environmentalists and organic farming activists insist that the maximum
limit for GMO contamination must be reduced to 0.1 percent.

The European Commission continues to ignore their demands.

(*Julio Godoy is an IPS correspondent. Originally published March 18 by
Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramerica network.
Tierramerica is a specialized news service produced by IPS with the
backing of the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations
Environment Program.)

                                 PART II
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TITLE:  Greens Slam EU Commission's Views on GMO Crop Law
SOURCE: Reuters, by Jeremy Smith
DATE:   13 Mar 2006

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Greens Slam EU Commission's Views on GMO Crop Law

BRUSSELS - Pro-biotech bullying by the European Commission - the EU
executive - will lead to irreversible contamination from genetically
modified organisms (GMO's), green groups warned on Friday.

In a report published by its agriculture department, the Commission says
there is no immediate need for EU-wide rules to separate traditional,
organic and GMO crops, since countries need much more time to develop
their own national crop laws.

Its conclusion is a turnaround from repeated Commission comments over the
last year that some kind of legal framework could be envisaged in 2006
setting parameters for governments to set up crop-growing laws to
minimise cross-contamination.

Green groups said it showed an approach that could cause the irreversible
contamination of EU food, seeds and environment.

"The EU Commission approach is clearly a failure," said Helen Holder at
Friends of the Earth Europe, attacking the EU executive for a "wait-and-
contaminate" approach on GMO crops.

"It must stop dodging its responsibility and introduce an EU law that
prevents contamination of our food, farming and environment," she said in
a statement.

Only a handful of EU countries have specific crop separation laws in
place - four, as of the end of 2005 - based on a set of broad non-binding
guidelines issued by the Commission in July 2003, although many others
are now debating draft laws.

Some of the laws favoured non-GMO farmers over those who wanted to
experiment with biotech crops. Most of them placed the burden of
separating crops on the GMO farmer, the report said.

And some countries appeared keen to restrict GMO farming as much as
possible, it said. In these cases, the Commission has usually sent a
draft law back to the country concerned, with a veiled threat of legal
action if changes are not implemented.


By the end of 2005, 20 draft crop laws had been notified to Brussels.
Half of these drew objections from the Commission, which attacked some of
them for being overly restrictive and violating EU laws on the internal
market and movement of goods.

Green groups said EU countries were entitled to restrict GMO crop growing
on their territory if they wanted to, especially given the strong
opposition to GMO foods among EU consumers.

"The Commission ... is now trying to bully with threats of legal action
against any country or region that wants to defend the right of farmers
and consumers not to plant GMO's or eat genetically modified food," said
Eric Gall of Greenpeace. The European biotech industry takes a very
different view, saying GMO crops can easily exist alongside non-GMO varieties.

"EuropaBio considers that existing national laws on civil liability
already provide the necessary mechanisms to determine fault and assess
liability and the need for compensation," said European biotech industry
lobby group EuropaBio.

"Additional Community (EU) or member state liability legislation or funds
that single out GMO's are not necessary, and would thus be
disproportionate and discriminatory," it said.

                                 PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Co-existence - Choice or Denial?
SOURCE: EuropaBio, Belgium
DATE:   13 Mar 2006

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Co-existence - Choice or Denial?

On March 10th 2006, the European Commission reported (1) on the national
measures to ensure co-existence of genetically modified crops with
conventional and organic farming and concluded that the development of
EU-wide legislation on the co-existence of genetically modified crops
with conventional and organic farming "does not appear justified at this

What is clear from the Commission's report is that while some member
states have set in place reasonable science based rules to achieve a fair
co-existence regime, others have clearly developed disabling rules that
are aimed at denying choice to farmers and consumers.

"We note that the Commission's report makes reference to these
discriminatory and disproportionate measures. We look to the Commission
to ensure that the rules which Member States put in place meet the
Commission's own guidelines (2) on co-existence published in July 2003.
These guidelines provide a rational basis to set in place procedures to
meet the statutory labeling requirements," says Simon Barber, Director of
the Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio - the EU Association for

Co-existence is not a new issue; many studies and farming practices have
been dealing with issues of growing one crop along side another crop (3).
The EU has set in place thresholds of 0.9% for GM material found in non-
GM crops, under this threshold there is no obligation to label harvested
crops as containing GM.

The recently published Joint Research Centre Study (4) provides the
background scientific and technical data that indicates co-existence can
function in the EU and that the Community's labeling standards can be
reasonably achieved. The report concludes that crop production at the
0.9 % threshold set by the EU is feasible, with few or no changes in
agricultural practices.

"Those opposed to GMOs should stop using co-existence as a means to deny
freedom of choice to Europe's farmers and consumers. The record of
successful co-existence between GM and non-GM in Spain since 1998 is
proof that co-existence between different farming methods works,"
concluded Simon Barber.

For more information, contact

Adeline Farrelly
Tel: +32 2 735 0313
Direct: +32 2 739 1174
Mobile: +32 475 93 17 24 Email:

Simon Barber
Tel: +32 2 735 0313
Direct: +32 2 739 1172
Mobile: +32 476 44 24 20

Notes to Editors:

(1) Commission report on co-existence

(2) Commission guidelines on co-existence

(3) Co-existence of GM and Non GM crops
EuropaBio fact sheet

(4) JRC study - New case studies on the co-existence of GM and non-GM
crops in European agriculture

About EuropaBio
EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries, has 60 direct
members operating worldwide and 25 national biotechnology associations
representing some 1500 small and medium sized enterprises involved in
research and development, testing, manufacturing and distribution of
biotechnology products.

                                 PART IV
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  How can we make sure we stay GM free?
SOURCE: The Observer, UK, by Lucy Siegle,,1728196,00.html
DATE:   12 Mar 2006

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How can we make sure we stay GM free?

If you think the GM battle is over, think again, says Lucy Siegle.
Beware, transgenic crops and Terminator Technology are back

Given that it is a decade since the first GM seeds were sown in the UK,
this is an apposite question. Arguably, back then it was easier to
express anti-GM sentiments. You merely dressed up in a white boiler suit,
ripped up trial sites for GM crops in the dead of night and very likely
got arrested.

Now the GM cloud is more nebulous. In fact, thanks to a five-year
European moratorium on planting GM crops, it may have appeared as if it
had disappeared. UK consumers rejected GM produce so vociferously that
only an insane retailer would bother stocking Flavr Savr tomatoes (in
which the rotting gene had been removed).

However, there's no room for complacency. Last year, on the back of
'scientific advice', the government backed an EU proposal to overturn
bans of GM crops in five EU countries. The green light has now been given
for the commercial planting of maize, although, according to Defra, GM
crops will probably not be grown commercially in the UK until at least
2008 - which gives everybody something to look forward to. Meanwhile, the
US, Canada and Argentina have won a case against Europe through the World
Trade Organisation, potentially forcing Europe to open its markets fully
to GM produce.

Certainly, global trends suggest we should rouse ourselves from our
complacent slumber. Last year marked the planting of the billionth acre
of GM crops as 8.5m farmers in 21 countries now farm transgenic (GM)
crops. This growth is despite the fact that, contrary to assertions from
the biotech industry, there is still no proof that GM crops are the same
as non-GM crops, nor conclusive evidence that GM has no adverse affect on
health. And there's the very thorny issue of cross-pollination of non-GM
crops, especially of organic crops. A University of Chicago study found
one transgenic plant was 20 times more likely to interbreed with related
plants than its natural counterpart.

At its most picturesque, GM was described by biotechs as the 'golden rice
bowl'. Well, there's still no GM rice, nor has any crop been introduced
specifically for the purpose of alleviating poverty. Meanwhile, Monsanto
has withdrawn a 1999 agreement not to commercialise so-called 'Terminator
Technology', GM crops which produce sterile seeds. Potentially this could
mean some 1.4bn small farmers in the developing world having to buy their
next season's seed from biotechs, rather than 'seed saving' in the
traditional way.

Globally, soy consumption has increased by an average of 4.5m tonnes a
year since 1970, most of it to feed an expanding global animal herd.
Brazil, a major producer with capacity to meet growing demand, is
currently deciding whether to stay predominantly GM-free or to follow the
transgenic route like Argentina.

The latter route would represent a biotech victory, but a Pyrrhic one.
Leaving aside the fact that many people believe GM to be a threat to the
biological integrity of the planet, GM soy monoculture in Argentina has
caused serious social and economic problems. According to Friends of the
Earth, it's time for UK consumers to lobby retailers (see
campaigns) to support non-GM Brazilian soy. That way, you can express
anti-GM sentiments, and without the white boiler suit.

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
news & information

phone....... +49-531-5168746
fax......... +49-531-5168747
email....... news(*)
skype....... hartmut_meyer

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