Greenpeace takes legal action to stop the spread of genetic contamination
Amsterdam, May 25, 2000 --- Greenpeace today took legal action against the Dutch seed company Advanta and the government of Germany to enforce the immediate destruction of oilseed rape fields contaminated with genetically engineered (GE) rape seed varieties from Canada. No genetically engineered oil seed rape has been approved in Europe making its planting illegal.
“The European and respective national legislation clearly state that any release of unapproved genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) such as the GE oilseed rape is illegal,” said Benny Haerlin of Greenpeace. “It is the obligation of seed companies to recall all contaminated seed and compensate farmers and it is the obligation of governments to enforce the law.”
While the Swedish Board of Agriculture yesterday announced that all fields planted with the contaminated Advanta oil seed rape variety Hyola has to be destroyed, Germany and the United Kingdom have claimed that there is neither legal basis nor environmental need to take such action. In France, where the first fields of Advanta oilseed rape were destroyed voluntarily yesterday by a farmer the government has still not decided how to deal with the case. Minor quantities of the contaminated variety have also been identified in Luxembourg, Norway and Finland.
Greenpeace yesterday made public a letter from the European Seed Associations (ESA) to Agricultural Ministers and the EU Commission calling for contamination of conventional seed up to one percent by GMOs as a legal standard. According to ESA its members are already using one per cent level as “voluntary standard”. The legalisation would clearly break the EU directive on releases of GMOs into the environment. “As seeds are living organisms capable of replicating there are no environmentally safe thresholds for minimal contamination,” said Haerlin. “The biotech industry and seed companies are trying to sneak GMOs into our environment and food chain by demanding contamination levels. This must be stopped immediately.”
Such contamination would especially be a problem with maize seed imported to the EU from the US, which accounts for about 15 percent of the entire acreage of maize planted in Europe (1).
Greenpeace demands that the European governments immediately perform DNA test to map out the extent of GMO contamination of seed. “Unless GMO producing countries, such as the US, Canada and Argentina, can prove their conventional seed is 100 per cent GE-free these seeds should not be planted or sold within the EU,” Haerlin said. “Nobody has the right to contaminate the seed diversity of a country and there is no ethical, environmental or legal excuse for this.”
Note to editors: In 1999 US maize seed exports to the EU were slightly over 21,000 metric tonnes, which would cover around 870,000 hectares out of a total of 4.1 million hectares planted within the EU. According to an article in this week’s New Scientist a random check of 20 conventional maize varieties in the USA revealed that more than half of them contained GMOs.
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