GREENPEACE EXPOSES BIOTECH INDUSTRY PR CAMPAIGN TO OVERTURN PUBLIC OPPOSITION TO GENETICALLY MANIPULATED FOOD

AMSTERDAM, 26 June 1997

Greenpeace activists from across Europe dumped a truckload of soybeans, which may contain genetically modified organisms, in front of the first congress of a new biotechnology industry association which intends to mount a multi-million dollar public relations campaign to convince consumers that their products are safe for environment and consumers .

Greenpeace activists, calling for no releases of genetically modified organisms into the environment because their ecological impact is unpredictable, also hung a banner over the main entrance saying "Stop the manipulators of nature and consumers". Greenpeace is demanding segregation of genetically modified crops from natural grains and full labelling of all food products derived from genetically modified organisms (GMO's).

The meeting, sponsored by the Dutch government as holder of the European Union (EU)-Presidency, is the first public event of the newly formed "EuropaBio" an association of the worlds leading genetic-engineering and food companies such as Monsanto, Novartis, AgrEvo, Rhone-Poulenc, Nestle, Unilever as well as associations of smaller European genetech companies.

Greenpeace spokesperson Marie-Jeanne Schiffelers said the Europa Bio meeting represented the fist stage in a multi-million dollar public relations campaign by the industry to overturn public opposition to genetically manipulated crops and the food made from them. This strategy is outlined in a document, leaked to Greenpeace, written by the public relations company Burson Marsteller, best known for its work for US chemical company Union Carbide after the Bhopal chemical explosion in India.

"The same companies, who brought us dioxins, PCBs, DDT, CFC's and dozens of other dangerous chemicals, which have long since been banned, are now telling us genetically manipulated organisms where safe and even environmental beneficial," Schiffelers said.

Already their first GMO products are being questioned by scientists. Various European regulatory authorities such as the UK, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark objected to the approval of the transgenic maize from Novartis because of the possible spread of antibiotic resistance. However they were over ruled by the EU Commission under massive pressure of the USA. Similar concerns are being raised over AgrEvo's transgenic rapeseed. "EuropaBio intends to mislead European consumers by talking about choices and benefits while preparing to force feed them with gentech-food," Schiffelers said.

Schiffelers said soya beans, for example, are used in 70 per cent of processed supermarket products from ice-cream and chocolate to pasta. However the supply of soya beans, which comes mostly from the United States, has been mixed with by genetically altered soya beans.

While publicly pretending that consumers should have a choice and should be given full information leading members of EuropaBio such as AgrEvo, Monsanto, Novartis in the US just signed a letter to President Clinton urging him to threaten the EU with sanctions of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to force genetically modified crops on the European market.

The letter suggests that existing and planned EU regulations were not based on science but rather "emotion which often turns into pure hyperbole" and clearly stated "that segregation of bulk commodities is not scientifically justified and is economically unrealistic."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

Marie-Jeanne Schiffelers (Dutch speaker) +31 6531 06592,

Benny Haerlin (German speaker) +49 171 3569109

Jon Walter +31 65 323 8475


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