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Contamination in Mexico puts NZ industry on notice

Global protest over contamination in Mexico puts NZ industry on notice.

International Biotechnology companies- including those that operate in New Zealand and Australia- will be held liable for the contamination of Mexico's native Maize stock and any other gene-banks and natural gene-reserves.

That is the message from a massive international protest issued around the world following confirmation that "patented GE genes" have spread into native flora as a result of failure by companies to control and contain their experimental GE food-products.

GE Free New Zealand in food and environment believes the contamination of Mexico's indigenous plants is a warning of what may happen here if these same companies push for commercial release of GE crops.

" In the absence of strict liability laws, (which the NZ government has refused because it might stifle capital investment in GE) no commercial GE releases should be considered. The international experience involving the spread of GE constructs through Mexico is proven, though the mechanisms are still little understood," says Jon Carapiet from GE free NZ in food and environment. "These are unacceptable events arising from ignorance- verging on criminal negligence- of the basic processes at work."

GE contamination of genetic centres of diversity as has happened in Mexico is in effect a crime against all of humanity, and not something the New Zealand government should be supporting through its legislation or financial backing of Crown Research Institute's planning GE release.

Just as we have seen with the tobacco industry and the threat of legal action against companies linked to increased obesity, the actions of the biotech companies pushing GE release could one day see them charged in court.

The challenge for the international community and regulatory authorities is to prevent such criminal activities from causing irreversible damage in the first place, but if and when that fails- as has happened in Mexico- these companies must be held to account.

The international message of protest (see below) demands that patent infringement claims against farmers who are victims of DNA contamination are not permitted, and that companies are held legally liable for the contamination.

Organizations from five continents around the world are also asking the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and the Cartagena
Protocol on Biosafety to adopt these issues on their agendas and take action.

They also urge intergovernmental bodies to call for a global moratorium on the release of GMOs in crop centres of origin and diversity

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