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Alliance supports global legal challenge to GE

Alliance supports global legal challenge to GE crops

Sun Oct 3 1999

'The announcement that the biggest antitrust lawsuit ever is to mount an international challenge to take leading GE seed producers to court is very welcome,’ said Alliance health and environment spokesperson Phillida Bunkle.

An international consortium of citizens’ groups is backing the biggest anti competition lawsuits ever mounted. It will challenge the five GE companies that according to the Financial Times 'virtually control all GM crops'.

These companies, Monsanto, Du Pont, Aventis, AstraZenaca and Novartis are establishing a dangerous monopoly over the world's food production.

The citizens groups are being backed by 20 of the top US law firms.

The court challenge is being co-ordinated by leading Washington DC law firm Cohen Milstein Hausfeld and Toll.

Mr Hausfeld said from Washington in launching the suit, 'By the early part of the next century, less than a handful of corporations will possess control over the entire agricultural foundation for every society. You can see the potential for market abuse and manipulation.

'Earlier this year Phillida Bunkle found out unde rthe Official Information Act that the New Zealand Commerce Department had recommended to Cabinet that it outlaw seed saving on this country.

'Far from governments protecting its citizens by sensible safeguards against possible dangers of GE foodstuffs, it has taken private organisations to act. These two organisations have employed 20 law firms around the world to take out anti-trust suits against the three leading GE seed-producing firms. They claim that these firms are using their control over GE technology to exploit farmers by obtaining a stranglehold on agricultural markets,’ Phillida Bunkle said.

'The commercial seed trade in the USA is now worth US$23 billion a year and only 10 companies control 30% of it. In the USA Du Pont-owned Pioneer Hi-Breed alone has 42% of the US$20 billion corn crop, and Monsanto owns every variety of GE Cottonseed used in margarine oil production and fibre.

'The GE debate has always been about who owns the genes. Ownership of genes grants a monopoly power which forces growers into a subordinate relationship. GE seeds are leased to growers for a single season and some contain so-called terminator genes to prevent growers saving seed for the future.

'This power makes a mockery of the agenda for free trade in agricultural produce being pushed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under Mike Moore. In the presence of such monopoly power of global proportions freedom to trade means giving huge profits to a few companies at the expense of growers everywhere. The forthcoming Seattle meeting of the WTO to start the process of bringing agriculture under WTO rules is the first stage in what promises to be the wholesale exploitation of farmers throughout the world.

''The Alliance supports the legal challenge to this new and dangerous monopoly. It calls upon Mr Moore's erstwhile colleagues in the Labour Party and sponsors in the National Government to do the same,’ Ms Bunkle said.

ENDS

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