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Greenpeace PR - Grains Council miss the point

Greenpeace PR - Grains Council miss the point

“NZ Grains Council chairman Hugh Ritchie’s response to Bob Willick’s testimony of GE failure in Canada is astounding,” said Greenpeace GE Campaigner Steve Abel today, in response to claims by Ritchie that the Canadian GE crop experience is irrelevant to New Zealand arable growers.

Bob Willick told Federated Farmers Grains Council executives during a phone conference last Friday that the ability to grow non-GE or organic canola in Saskatchewan, Canada had been destroyed through widespread contamination by GE canola.

“We can’t grow canola organically or non-GE anymore in Saskatchewan because of GE spreading through the fields,” Willick said. That forms the basis of a class action being brought by 960 organic farmers against Monsanto and Bayer in Canada (1).

Bob Willick described the idea of co-existence [of GE and conventional crops] as “slick corporate deception”, and asserted that the practical reality of GE crops meant that once released, widespread contamination ensued. Willick recounted an instance where a storm had caused it to “rain canola”, highlighting the stupidity of buffer zones as a means to stopping GE spread.

“Surely Bob Willick’s first-hand experience of GE is relevant to New Zealand and to the Grains Council’s policy on GE, at a time when our Government is devising a ‘co-existence’ strategy,” said Abel.

When asked if the NZ Grains Council would follow the stance of the Australian Wheat Board in calling for a ban on GE canola, Mr Ritchie responded that the Council would leave the choice to grow or not grow GE crops to the individual farmer.

Ritchie said: "Just as Mr Willick had the choice to move to organic production, whilst other farmers have continued to grow GM crops [in Canada], New Zealand arable growers should be able to retain the option of growing GM crops if they see commercial advantage in it”.

Steve Abel says Ritchie has totally missed Bob Willick’s point. “You can’t grow organic canola in Saskachewan anymore, so there is no choice for organic growers but to quit that crop. That’s exactly the problem!”

“Once you release a GE crop the evidence is that it spreads, thereby stealing the right of conventional farmers to grow GE- free and ultimately the right of consumers to eat GE-free produce,” said Abel.

Abel noted that at least there is recognition by the Grains Council that the GE crops currently being grown in North America are of no value to NZ growers.

“But the general failure to recognise the fundamental issues of the irreversibility of GE release, contamination of conventional and organic production, widespread market and consumer rejection of GE foods and the value of New Zealand’s GE free production status is concerning,” said Abel.

Mr Ritchie said in the conference call, that “We [Federated Farmers] respond to our members”. On this basis Greenpeace is urging New Zealand farmers and growers to make their feelings on GE clearly known to Federated Farmers.

“New Zealand farmers should demand that the Grains Council make a stance against GE release, similar to that of the Australian and Canadian Wheat Boards,” said Abel.

Greenpeace is opposed to the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment and food chain.

(1) Two organic farmers filed a claim on behalf of all certified organic grain farmers in Saskatchewan on 10 January 2002. The class action suit calls for:

* Compensation for the damage caused to certified organic farmers resulting from the introduction of GE canola into the rural environment; and

An injunction to prevent the introduction of GE wheat.

(2) 210 North American organisations are campaigning against GE wheat release including the Canadian Wheat board. The Australian Wheat Board (responsible for 12% of Australia’s rural exports) has also called for a moratorium on the release of GE canola because they are concerned it will harm their export markets.

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