GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 8th  March 2004

US Contamination Shows Need to Re-establish Moratorium

Studies showing GM crops released in the US have widely contaminated conventional crops after only 7 years of use is evidence of the need for New Zealand to prevent environmental release for the foreseeable future.

The need for international action to prevent new GE crops like wheat from contaminating the food supply has become more urgent because Monsanto has applied to sell GM wheat in New Zealand and Australia despite huge resistance to GE varieties.

The contamination of food means organic supplies of some crops are doomed and the basic right to avoid experimental GE food is being taken away.

"The Biotech industry say they expected this contamination but refuse to accept liability. Their so-called 'co-existence strategy' now appears to be a 'replacement strategy'. As their patented genes spread there will be nothing untouched," says Jon Carapiet from GE free NZ in food and environment.

Liability is once again at the heart of the issue as companies push on with the newest GM crops to make pharmaceuticals. Scientists warn these "Pharm "crops represent a new level of threat to the world's food supply.

Until there is a global regulatory system in place to prevent contamination and keep GM crops 100% separate, any release of these experimental and little-understood crops is a potential crime against humanity.

In the light of these new reports and the warnings made by scientists last week, GE Free NZ in food and environment is calling for the re-instatement of the moratorium on applications for GE release. 

If ERMA will or cannot say no, the government must call a halt to any plans to release GE in New Zealand.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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Reveale d: Shocking new evidence of the dangers of GM cropsGenetically modified strains have contaminated two-thirds of all crops in USBy Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor07 March 2004More than two-thirds of conventional crops in the United States are nowcontaminated with genetically modified material - dooming organicagriculture and posing a severe future risk to health - a new reportconcludes.The report - which comes as ministers are on the verge of approving theplanting of Britain's first GM crop, maize - concludes that traditionalvarieties of seed are "pervasively contaminated" by genetically engineered DNA.

The US biotech industry says it is "not surprised" by the findings.Because of the contamination, the report says, farmers unwittingly plantbillions of GM seeds a year, spreading genetic modification throughout US agriculture. This would be likely to lead to danger to health with the next generation of GM crops, bred to produce pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals - delivering "drug-laced cornflakes" to the breakfast table.

The report comes at the worst possible time for the Government, which istrying to overcome strong resistance from the Scottish and Welshadministrations to GM maize.The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee drew attention to theproblem in North America in a report published on Friday, and said theGovernment had not paid enough attention to it. The MPs concluded: "Nodecision to proceed with the commercial growing of GM crops [in Britain]should be made until thorough research into the experience with GM crops in North America has been completed and published". 

It would be "irresponsible" for ministers to give the green light to the maize without further tests.Peter Ainsworth, the committee chairman, accuses the Cabinet of "greatdiscourtesy" to Parliament by making its decision on the maize lastThursday, the day before the report came out, and plans to raise the issue with the Speaker of the House.This week's statement by Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for theEnvironment, is expected to fall short of authorising immediate planting of the maize, and provide only a muted endorsement for the technology. 

She will make it clear that the Government wants the GM industry to compensate farmers whose crops are contaminated. This could make cultivation uncommercial. The US study will increase the pressure on her to be tough.Under the auspices of the green-tinged Union of Concerned Scientists, two separate independent laboratories tested supposedly non-GM seeds"representing a substantial proportion of the traditional seed supply" for maize, soya and oilseed rape, the three crops
whose modified equivalents are grown widely in the United States.

The test found that at "the most conservative _expression", half the maize and soyabeans and 83 per cent of the oilseed rape were contaminated with GM genes - just eight years after the modified varieties were first cultivated on a large scale in the US.The degree of contamination is thought to be at a relatively low level of about 0.5 to 1 per cent. 

The reports says that "contamination ... is endemic to the system". It adds:
"Heedlessly allowing the contamination of traditional plant varieties with genetically engineered sequences amounts to a huge wager on our ability to understand a complicated technology that manipulates life at the most elemental level." There could be "serious risks to health" if drugs and industrial chemicals from the next generation of GM crops got into food.Lisa Dry, of the US Biotechnology Industry Association, said that theindustry was "not surprised by this report, knowing that pollen travels and commodity grains might co-mingle at various places".

� 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

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