GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 4th November 2003

Organic food production could be forced out of existence

A study promoting the idea of co-existence of GE and non-GE crops may signal that the biotech industry intends to force organic production out of existence- or at least force it inside.

The proposals made in a new study in Spain are ironic given the decision in New Zealand to allow release of GE organisms outside of the lab: if the study's conclusions are to be believed organic production may be forced " into the lab" to maintain its purity from GE contamination.

"The study claims organic farmers are being too hard on GE and should accept some contamination. But unlike "temporary" chemical contamination that lasts a single generation GE contamination is irreversible and inheritable, "says Jon Carapiet, from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

The cost of all food that is GE-free- and which the majority of consumers around the world are demanding- will rocket beyond the reach of most people if the mainstream food supply continues to be contaminated by GE step by step.

The Researchers claim that if farmers feel current practices are not sufficient to ensure the non-GM integrity of their crop, it should be up to them to implement any further measures. But the threat to conventional and organic crops from GE contamination is a scientific, environmental economic and consumer-rights issue.

New Zealand can benefit enormously form maintaining our GE-free positioning for food, and it also preserves the right for all people to eat GE-free food- whether conventionally or organically grown.

It is immoral for the biotech industry to suggest either farmers and the public accept GE contamination or grow their crops in such confined environments that " ordinary food" ends up having to be produced in a lab-type containment facility and is unaffordable to most.

Biotech companies whose GE products contaminate other crops or food products must be held liable. Monsanto's RR soy that has already recently led to a prosecution of a New Zealand food manufacturer.

Monsanto, the Life Sciences Network, and other biotech groups must protect the rights of the world's people to eat GE-free food as we have for all history. To deny that right and allow the spread of patented artificial gene constructs is an act of global terrorism that must be prosecuted.

Contact Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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NZLSN posting

World News > Study supports co-existence

The responsibility for keeping organic produce free of transgenic material should not fall on the shoulders of genetically-modified crops producers,according to a new study.

The study on co-existence of GM and non-GM crops, based on experience with commercial plantings in Spain, concluded they have co-existed "without economic and commercial problems".

In the future the likelihood of problems arising "remains fairly limited" said the study, written by biotech consultants Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot.

But it is the organic sector that receives the most criticism.

"Organic certification is based on certifying the production method rather than giving an end product guarantee as to the productís freedom from unwanted material such as GMOs or pesticide residues," points out the study.

It recommends the organic sector should do more to facilitate co-existence by "applying a more consistent, practical, proportionate and cost effective policy towards GMOs".

The authors criticise the current policy which de-certifies organic produce found to contain more than 0.1% GM material (the maximum EU labelling threshold is 0.9%).

"This practice is both inconsistent with the treatment of other unwanted material (e.g. pesticide residues) and may be unfairly penalising organic farmers whose crops are found to contain very low levels of GMOs through no fault of their own."

The study concludes that separation distances and on-farm segregation practices are sufficient to ensure non-GM produce contains less than the EU maximum threshold of GM material.

Further improvements can be made by increasing separation distances or planting sacrificial buffer zones around the non-GM crop.

But if organic farmers feel current practices are not sufficient to ensure the non-GM integrity of their crop, it should be up to them to implement any further measures, say the authors of the report.

"The onus for implementation of such measures (and associated cost) should fall on the organic sector in the same way as current organic farmers incur costs associated with adhering to organic principles and are rewarded through the receipt of organic price premia."

Out of 460,000ha currently planted to maize in Spain, about 32,000 ha (7%) is to GM insect resistant (Bt) varieties.

Less than 1,000ha (0.2%) is organic and the vast majority is conventionally produced.

Source: Farmers Weekly Interactive, 31 October 2003

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