GE Free NZ, 4th June  2003

Call to Government for "People's Contract" as GE Contaminates Wheat

The Labour-lead government is being called on to promise New Zealanders that they will protect citizens' rights to grow, buy and eat GE-free food now and for future generations, under a " People's Contract".

The demand for the government to make a commitment similar to the "Kiwi Share" has been prompted by the discovery that conventional supplies of US wheat have already become GE-contaminated, and by the government's decision to accept widespread contamination as the basis of "co-existence" of GE in New Zealand. 

Even before Monsanto has pushed through the commercialization of GE wheat, US exporters have admitted GE elements from other crops are being found in wheat. 

The revelations make the prospect of wider contamination a virtual certainty if Monsanto pushes to commercialise GE wheat despite the damage to exports and the denial of people's right to avoid GE food if they want.

"The government must make a commitment to New Zealanders to protect our access to GE-Free food. According to their own claims and the Royal Commission's proposals for labelling GE-Free food, that means 100% GE-free, not 1% contamination, that would make a nonsense of food safety and consumer laws," says Jon Carapiet from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

There is already enough evidence to show that it is fundamentally wrong to lift the moratorium on GE release just as other countries are introducing moratoria because of the risks. But the Labour-lead government are bullying their way on, backed by the likes of Monsanto and biotech-speculators.

The 'Kiwi share' negotiated with Telecom is one example of government making a commitment to protect the long-term interests of the New Zealand Public.

" It is time the government made some similar promises to New Zealander's about the right to eat 100% GE-Free foods," says Mr Carapiet. 

" Helen Clark and her ministers must make this promise before they attempt to start commercial GE releases," says Mr Carapiet. "The new GE-release Bill now before a Parliamentary Select Committee must be amended to force ERMA, and other Ministries such as Trade, and Consumer Affairs, to guarantee this basic human right."

" This protection is entirely reasonable. The government will be condemning themselves out of their own mouths if they refuse to make such a contract with the people of New Zealand, or ignore the overwhelming demand from the people to have their right, to choose GE-Free food, preserved."

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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REUTERS: U.S. wheat supply already contaminated Tests find traces of GM crops in U.S. wheat supply Reuters, 05.30.03, 4:38 PM ET By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) - Tests have revealed that traces of genetically modified grains are repeatedly creeping into U.S. wheat supplies, even as the debate rages over whether the world's first biotech wheat variety should be released in North America, grain industry sources said.

Biotech soybeans and corn, the two most widely grown genetically modified crops in the world, are the common culprits. Traces of the GM crops have been found not only in unmilled wheat but also in flour used to make bread and other foods, sources said.

The findings come at a time when debate over biotech wheat is reaching a near-fever pitch. 

Critics fear that Monsanto Co.'s plans to release a genetically modified spring wheat in the United States an! d Canada will cripple wheat exports and add complications and costs for domestic players. The Canadian Wheat Board, which controls that country's wheat exports, pleaded with Monsanto this week to drop its bid for North American regulatory approval. 

Many countries that buy grain from the United States refuse to purchase bioengineered varieties, saying their consumers fear that the long-term health and environmental impacts of the GM grains have not been established.

At Rank Hovis, the largest miller in the United Kingdom and an importer of U.S. wheat, testing for biotech contamination has repeatedly found evidence of genetically modified soybeans and corn particles mixed in with wheat supplies, wheat director Peter Jones said.

"We routinely find beans and maize (in wheat) and we must accept that these are genetically modified," said Jones.

U.S. industry sources are reluctant to discuss the matter openly because of fear! s of scuttling U.S. wheat sales to countries wary of genetically modified crops.

But they say the findings of biotech materials in nonbiotech wheat illustrate the difficulties that lie ahead in trying to segregate wheat, the most actively traded grain in the world. 

"We've already got GM contamination in wheat in small levels from non-GM sources," said one U.S. milling source. "If we can't keep the corn and soybeans out of the wheat, how are we going to keep the GM wheat out of the wheat?"

"The slightest little detection can complicate wheat shipments going out of this country," said Steven Tanner, director of the U.S. Grain Inspection Packers Stockyards Administration technical services division.

"The question comes down to what is reasonable. If you're going to say zero tolerance you might as well stop world trade," Tanner said.

Millers said cleaning techniques remove most if not all traces of foreign matter, ! though some small amounts are making it into flour.

In the United States, some major flour companies have started testing wheat for customers who do business in other countries where no genetically modified foods are allowed. Samples have turned up positive, causing headaches and revisions to contracts, industry sources said.

The wheat most likely mixes with foreign materials as it moves through storage and transportation systems that handle a variety of grains, experts said.

The issue is not a new one. Four years ago, Thailand detected genetically modified materials in a shipment of U.S. wheat and determined that GM corn was to blame. The government then announced it would ban the import of all GM seeds.

U.S. Wheat Associates said that it is not only U.S. wheat that often contains small amounts of biotech grains.

In the European Union, which imports about 2 million tonnes of spring wheat from the United States! and Canada annually, many European grain companies have developed tests to determine the presence of nonwheat biotech material down to a level of 0.1 percent, according to U.S. Wheat Associates.

Wheat industry sources said most grain traders -- both sellers and buyers -- would rather avoid testing wheat. They prefer to rely on the "letters of assurance" that routinely accompany U.S. and Canadian wheat sales. The letters certify there are "no transgenic wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production."

But once regulatory approval is granted, even if Monsanto still has not released its biotech wheat, those assurances could be lost.

"Europe has already been testing wheat," said U.S. Wheat Associates vice president Nelson Denlinger. "When you get down to commercialization you're going to have a major problem if people want non-GM wheat."

Copyright 2003, Reuters News Service

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