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Alliance Formed In Canada To Stop GE Wheat

Broad Alliance Formed In Canada To Stop Genetically Engineered Wheat


Auckland/Winnipeg, August 2nd, 2001 – Greenpeace today, together with a diverse coalition of interest groups, called upon the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to prevent the introduction of genetically engineering (GE) wheat into the Canadian feed and food supply. The broad alliance of groups – from farmers to food industry, from health professionals to consumers – identified diverse concerns: Farmers and grain industry participants are worried about market loss, risks to Canada’s distinguished reputation for quality wheat varieties, agronomic impacts and negative effects on Canada’s successful organic sector. Citizen groups outlined consumer concerns for food and environmental safety, as well as regulatory inadequacies.

A letter to the Prime Minister endorsed by over 300 industry associations, local governments, citizen groups, experts and researchers read: "We represent diverse constituencies and interests, but we are unified in asking that you act immediately to prevent the introduction of GE wheat into Canadian food and fields unless the concerns of Canadian farmers, industry, and consumers are addressed adequately."

Monsanto has announced that it hopes to commercialise genetically engineered wheat, resistant to the company’s Roundup weed-killer between 2003 and 2005 in Canada and the United States. Under pressure from farmers the company has announced it would aim at segregation of GE wheat and conventional varieties, but already cautioned that this would only work if sufficiently high thresholds for allowable GE contamination were established.

"This is not just a national issue for Canada," said Annette Cotter, GE Campaigner for Greenpeace. "This is about keeping the daily bread of this world pure. This is about preventing it from becoming contaminated by Monsanto’s and Syngenta’s genetically modified organisms."

Many Canadian farmers are opposed to GE wheat after experiencing a rapid, uncontrollable and multiplying cross- pollination of herbicide resistant GE canola (rapeseed) which has within the last three years created a serious weed problem.

Fred Tait of the Canadian National Farmers Union said: "The introduction of {genetically modified} GE wheat will result in similar problems of cross pollination. Following the introduction of GE wheat, farmers will be faced with the choice of growing GE wheat, GE contaminated wheat, or not growing wheat. Consumers will have the option of eating products that contain Canadian GE wheat or locating wheat products manufactured from imported, GE-free wheat."

With 19 million tonnes of Canadian wheat exported around the world, Canada is the second largest wheat exporter after the United States and sells more than two thirds of its wheat production abroad. The most important countries of destiny are China, the USA, Iran, Algeria, Japan, the European Union, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico. The majority of these countries are not prepared to accept any genetically engineered wheat.

Farmers in Canada are also increasingly concerned about secret field trials presently conducted in Canada by Monsanto and Syngenta as a potential source of GE contamination even before commercial approval of such varieties. The companies insist that the location of these field trials is "confidential business information" and the government has so far refused to make public any information about them, even to the local authorities such as the Prince Edward Island Minister of Agriculture.

"Withholding such basic information is not only undemocratic but contradicts any claims of transparency. It also means the government has chosen to defend the commercial interests of Monsanto and Syngenta at the expense of the commercial interest of Canadian farmers.

Even if the Canadian government continues to deny its own citizens the right to know, it is already facing the clear rejection of GE wheat by importers,” said Holly Penfound of Greenpeace Canada.


Ends

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