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Biotech company must be held liable on GE Corn

GE Free New Zealand
In Food And Environment Inc.
http://www.gefree.org.nz


GE Free NZ PR _ 11 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.

Ends
Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

Background

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.


GE onions have “no benefit “ for New Zealand and threaten Exports

The application by New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research to field test onions modified for tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate should be rejected by ERMA and the farming community as being counter to the national interest.

That was the view of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification that considered such GM crops and reported they had no benefit for New Zealand.

“ This is another indicator of a systems - breakdown. Why is this research even being considered, when we spent $6 million on a Royal Commission that identified clear problems with this type of GM,” says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

This project is not just a waste of money but also a threat to our marketing opportunity to position all fruit and vegetables grown in New Zealand as GE-Free.

GE crops like these onions present a clearly defined set of problems.
There is an increased absorption of chemical residues into human food . Monsanto and other companies have had food authorities increase the level of permitted residues by 200 times.

Such crops have also been found to develop resistance to the herbicide leading to a cycle of increased use of herbicides, including more toxic sprays as the problem of resistance escalates.

This application betrays the fact there is a serious lack of strategic vision for our agricultural sector at the level of government and amongst publicly-funded research centers.

“ I hope the farming community voices its rejection of this project loudly and clearly. The application should be withdrawn as the Royal Commission’s findings indicate,” says Mr Carapiet.

These GE onions have no place in New Zealand’s marketing future. Like the push for GE potatoes modified to impact insects, there is simply no market for them.

The scientists pushing GE onions and potatoes must show the public and the regulatory authorities where their customer-base is. The reality is they have no customers wanting such products now or in the future.

It’s time to stop going down a blind alley that threatens the national interest.

ENDS
Contact Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370


Submission period: - 9 July to 20 August 2003ERMA New Zealand contact: - Andrew Allen

ERMA New Zealand has received the above application for approval to Field Test in Containment any New Organism in which you may have an interest. The application has been verified by ERMA New Zealand to contain adequate information to be accepted for
processing.

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