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GE Contamination in Spain: a warning for Europe

GE Contamination in Spain: a warning for Europe

Vienna, 4 April 2006--The spiralling uptake of Genetically Engineered (GE) crops in Spain is causing massive genetic contamination, threatens the livelihood of farmers and urgently needs to be suspended, says Greenpeace. In a new report

'Impossible Coexistence', environmentalists (1) show how GE crops in Spain - the only EU country that grows Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on a large scale - are undermining agricultural biodiversity and consumer choice.

"This report should be taken as a warning to the Commission and Europe in general of the dangers of GE production, " said Greenpeace campaigner Geert Ritsema from Vienna where a major European Commission conference on coexistence begins today. "Despite guarantees by various Spanish governments that guidelines and controls would ensure safety, farmers and consumer choice the reality has been the opposite.

"Testimonials from farmers demonstrate that the unabated growth of the GE industry now represents the single largest threat to their livelihoods, especially in the regions Aragón and Catalonia where GE crops are mainly cultivated."

The report 'Impossible Coexistence' written in cooperation with farmer organisation Assemblea Pagesa and civil society group Plataforma Trangènics Fora!, is based on thorough research including laboratory tests of samples taken from the maize fields of 40 Spanish organic and conventional farmers, documents the following:

- In almost a quarter of the investigated cases unintended and unwanted presence of GE maize was found in the maize fields of non GE farmers. The GE contamination was as high as 12.6 %;

- In several cases the affected farmers suffered economic losses, as they were not able anymore to sell the contaminated maize at a premium market value.

- Three of the contamination cases involved local maize varieties which, after ears of careful selection, can no longer be used for future plantings; These ases show how GE contamination is a threat to biodiversity and to the few local varieties that are still in the hands of farmers;

"The lack of GE regulation in Spain is a slap in the face to organic and conventional farmers who have put blood, sweat and tears into their businesses and now find the interests of big Agro Biotech firms like Syngenta and Monsanto not only being placed above local communities and ultimately damaging their livelihoods," said Mr Antonio Ruiz, president of the Organic Farming Committee of Aragón, who attended a Greenpeace press conference in Vienna today.

Greenpeace is calling on the Spanish authorities to immediately suspend the cultivation of GMOs in Spain. It is also calling on EU ministers and the European Commission to prevent the cultivation of GE crops in other EU countries.

"The Spanish experience demonstrates that GE and non-GE co-existence is a fallacy," said Ritsema. "European Ministers attending this week's meeting should seriously consider whether they wish it upon the farmers and consumers in the rest of Europe."

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to drive solutions essential to a green and peaceful future.

For further information:

Notes to Editors

(1) The report, which was written by Greenpeace in cooperation with farmer organisation Assemblea Pagesa and civil society group Plataforma Trangènics Fora!, was launched today at the opening of a major European Commission conference attended by EU ministers in Vienna. The conference will discuss the EU's future policy on "coexistence" and determine if GE and Non GE crops can be grown together.

Impossible Coexistence: Seven years of GMOs have contaminated organic and conventional maize: an examination of the cases of Catalonia and Aragon, is available for downloading at: www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/impossible-coexistence

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