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5-Year Global Ban On GE Crops Moves Closer

–20th April 2002

"5-Year Global Ban On GE Crops Moves Closer As Government Confirms Corn Now Contaminated. "

The demand for a global ban on new GE crops has been given a boost by scientists confirming GE constructs have contaminated original-maize varieties in Mexico,
despite being banned since 1998.
The uproar over the discovery has been plagued by scientific debate and PR spin but now the government has confirmed the contamination has indeed occurred.

" This is a warning that unless we stop the rush to introduce more GE crops the whole of the food chain could be rapidly and permanently contaminated, with unknown and uninsured implications for the whole world." says Jon Carapiet for Ge-Free NZ ( Food and Environment)
There will be greatly increased demand for the New Zealand to cancel its plan to allow commercial GE release from October 2003 .
" The government's GE Release clause in the new HSNO bill cannot be justified. We are calling on all New Zealanders to urgently demand MPs learn the facts about Mexico's disaster and oppose the automatic lapse-clause allowing approvals of GE release.

The Clark government need to be supporting a five year moratorium at the international level. We must act now and anything less given this evidence is a crime against humanity and against all future generations' said Jon Carapiet.

Greenpeace has said it will activate its supporters to lobby MPs against the automatic-lapse clause on GE releases in the weeks leading to the vote in Parliament.
ENDS

Media contact -Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

Related articles from UK press

1. Mexico's vital gene reservoir polluted by modified maize
2. 'Worst ever' GM crop invasion
---
1. Mexico's vital gene reservoir polluted by modified maize
Paul Brown, environment correspondent
The Guardian, Friday April 19, 2002
http://www.guardian.co.uk/gmdebate/Story/0,2763,686955,00.html

The Mexican government has confirmed that despite its ban on genetically
modified maize, there is massive contamination of crops in areas that
act as the gene bank for one of the world's staple crops.

The announcement of the worst ever contamination of crops by GM
varieties was made yesterday at the biodiversity convention meeting in
the Hague.

It fuels the controversy stirred by the discovery of mutant strains of
maize, which was originally reported in November in the journal Nature
and then embarrassingly disowned by the journal earlier this month.

But speaking at the Hague, Jorge Soberon, a senior civil servant and the
executive secretary of Mexico's national commission on biodiversity,
said government tests had now shown the level of contamination was far
worse than initially reported.

Mexico is the home of hundreds of varieties of maize which are allowed
to crossbreed to produce the best crops for extreme conditions.

To preserve this gene bank, the government banned planting of GM crops
in 1998.

At first, Mexico rejected the claims of contamination which were
published in Nature by Ignacio Chapela and David Quist, of the
University of California at Berkeley.

But the government went on to take samples from sites in two states,
Oaxaca and Puebla, said Ezequiel Ezcurra, the director of the institute
of ecology at the ministry of the environment in Mexico. The states are
the genetic home of maize.

A total of 1,876 seedlings was taken, and evidence of contamination was
found at 95% of the sites. One field had 35% contamination of plants.

Mr Soberon confirmed this infiltration of supposedly pure strains was
the worst recorded anywhere.

"There is no doubt about it," he said. "We found it in 8% of seeds
kernel by kernel."

It appeared that maize imported into Mexico from the US for the
production of tortillas may have been used as seed by farmers who were
unaware that it contained grain derived from GM crops.

The worst contamination was found near main roads, along which maize is
sold to villagers. In remote areas, contamination was down to between 1 and
2%.

The revealing factor was the presence of the cauliflower mosaic virus,
which is used widely in GM crops to "switch on" insecticides which have
been inserted into them.

Mr Soberon said the GM developers Monsanto, Syngenta and Aventis all
used the same technology.

The government could not find out which of the three varieties of GM
maize was responsible for the contamination because the companies
refused to disclose which protein they used in such a commercially
sensitive project.

"I find that extremely difficult to accept," he said. "How can you
monitor what is going on if they do not allow you the information to do
it?"

The research is continuing and, after the dispute that followed the
publication of the original paper, the Mexican government is having it
carefully reviewed by peers before offering it for publication in a
scientific journal.
---
2. 'Worst ever' GM crop invasion
By Charles Clover, Environment Editor in The Hague
Daily Telegraph, Friday April 19, 2002

THE world's worst case of pollution by genetically-engineered crops
has taken place in southern Mexico, the gene bank for maize, one of
the world's staple crops, the Mexican government said yesterday.

Findings by Mexican scientists mark a new twist to a story that has
provoked a bitter scientific battle on both sides of the Atlantic.

Earlier this month Nature, Britain's leading scientific journal, took
the extraordinary step of disowning a paper it published in November
by David Quist and Ignacio Chapela, researchers at the University of
California, Berkeley, claiming to prove that genes from GM maize grown
in the United States had accidentally crossed into Mexico.

At the time Dr Quist said his research showed the benefits of GM crops
"don't outweigh the enormous risks to food security".

The paper sparked a protest to Nature by 100 leading biologists. It
was also disowned by the Mexican government after their scientists
could not repeat the experiment.

Latest tests were carried out by Mexican government scientists in an
attempt to settle the controversy, Jorge Soberon, head of the Mexican
delegation, told a meeting of parties to the Convention on Biological
Diversity in The Hague.

Some 1,876 seedlings from indigenous varieties of maize grown by
traditional farmers in the rural southern states of Oaxaca and Puebla
were analysed by scientists from the National Autonomous University of
Mexico and the Environment Ministry.

In 95 per cent of the sites surveyed, they found traces of a gene from
the cauliflower mosaic virus, used as a promoter to "switch on"
insecticidal or herbicidal properties in GM varieties of maize used in
the United States.

Contamination varied from one to 35 per cent of a farmer's crop, with
10-15 per cent average, showing that GM genes had cross-pollinated at
a speed never before predicted in the four years since GM maize
entered the country.

Mr Soberon, secretary of the environment ministry's national
commission on biodiversity, said: "This is the world's worst case of
contamination by genetically modified material because it happened in
the place of origin of a major crop. It is confirmed. There is no
doubt about it."

Philip Campbell, editor of Nature, said: "The Chapela results remain
to be confirmed. If the Mexican government has confirmed them, so be
it."

Ends

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