GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 10th July  2003

More GE corn contamination: Biotech company must be held liable

Revelations that 400 hectares of corn planted in Italy has been found to be GE-contaminated, again highlights the urgent need for biotech companies to be held liable for contaminating other crops.

The New Zealand government has side-stepped the issue of liability ever since the Crown Law Office reported that current laws exposed the country to risks with ill-defined lines of accountability.

The recent BERL report on negative economic impacts from GE also highlights the need for legislation that will make the biotech companies liable, instead of leaving the Public to pick up the costs.

"We want the government and ERMA to explain who will pay for the costs of the most recent contamination in New Zealand,' says Jon Carapiet from GE-Free NZ.

"Will the biotech company owning the contaminating gene be charged, and if not why not?"

" These companies know that contamination will spread unless they keep the new organisms contained. In effect this is deliberate contamination, as a result of deliberate environmental release, that scientists gave clear warnings would damage GE-free production," says Mr Carapiet.

Sunrise Coast NZ and other New Zealand producers are now under threat of losing exports to vital markets like Japan. Our government must not stand by and let a key economic opportunity be destroyed. 

The New Zealand government should be working to instigate international liability regimes that will protect all countries and the environment from predatory activity by the biotech industry.

This would require a change of policy, at the moment New Zealand is actively trying to force the EU to eat unwanted GE products, and is planning to allow GE release that will contaminate the local food supply too.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370


Italian seed contamination scandal highlights need for tighter European legislation

Piemonte, Italy - 10 July 2003-- Government  officials and farmers leaders in the region of Piemonte Northern Italy are meeting today to decide what to do with 400 hectares of GE contaminated maize and how to prevent further contamination from the maize which is due to flower soon. Over 100 farmers in Northern Italy have discovered that the seeds they bought and planted as non-GE maize were in fact already contaminated by GE maize even before they planted it.

The situation has come to light following routine seed tests by the national authorities, however the testing was carried out after the seeds had been planted. The seeds were reportedly sold by the company Pioneer Seeds. Whilst the exact details of the GE contamination have not yet been made public, local reports and
previous experience suggest that GE varieties produced by Monsanto may be the source of the contamination. As well as selling conventional non-GE seeds, Pioneer also act as a sales agent for Monsanto GE seeds in many countries.

Coming less than one week after new EU legislation on labelling and traceability of GE food and animal feed this case highlights two of the major loopholes still existing in European legislation and that are already acknowledged by many EU governments, i.e. that there is an urgent need for legislation that prevents seed contamination and which ensures strict liability for the GE company responsible when contamination does occur.

Greenpeace spokesperson Federica Ferrario said; "It is one thing to have in place good labelling laws which make sure food products and animal feed require to be labelled if they do contain GE ingredients but if Monsanto and its sales agents such as Pioneer seeds are allowed to continually contaminate normal non-GE seeds then that will make an absolute nonsense of the new legislation because it will entirely deny any choice for farmers or for consumers."

Greenpeace is calling for a full investigation of this  contamination and also of what appears to be Monsanto's policy of deliberate contamination of non-GE seeds and farming. "With such cases happening on a regular basis the question has to be asked whether this is either gross negligence or whether contamination of conventional seeds is part of a deliberate strategy of companies who sell GE seeds. In either case legislation and legal action are required to make those responsible pay for the costs associated with their contamination and to prevent more such contamination in the future," concluded Ferrario.

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