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Novartis Breaks Pledge of No GMOs in Gerber Baby Food

Novartis Breaks Pledge of No GMOs
in Gerber Baby Food

Novartis breaks promise: its Gerber Baby Food contains massive amounts of
genetically engineered soya

Manila/Basel, Aug 21, 2001 - Greenpeace today revealed test results
showing massive levels between 34% and 66% of Genetically Engineered
(GE) soya in the soya ingredient of Gerber/Novartis baby food products
sold in the Philippines. The Swiss-based food and agrochemical
multinational Novartis is selling GE baby food despite its pledge one year
ago to stop using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in its food
products worldwide.

'Are Novartis' promises only valid in rich countries and not in poor ones
such as the Philippines?' asked Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner in
the Philippines Beau Baconguis while presenting the test results at a
press conference in Manila (Philippines) this morning. The Philippine
Congress filed a bill on Aug. 15, 2001 requiring the labelling of
GMO-derived food and food products under which the penalty for failing to
label would be 6 to 12 years in jail.

Meanwhile, in Basel, Switzerland, other Greenpeace activists were
protesting in front of the Novartis headquarters, blocking the main
entrance of the building with hundreds of baby-puppets. The puppets were
holding protest signs saying : «Novartis/Gerber, keep your promise!» and
«Novartis/Gerber, stop genetically modified Baby food!». Food products in
Europe are mostly GE-free but unlabelled GE food is sold to consumers in
other parts of the world.

'We demand an immediate stop to Novartis' double standards policy,' said
Bruno Heinzer of Greenpeace Switzerland in front of the Novartis building.
Three Novartis/Gerber baby food products sold in the Philippines were
sent for testing by Greenpeace to the internationally certified Hong Kong
laboratory DNA Chips. Results showed a very high level of GE contamination
in the soya contained in Gerber's products. Green Monggo's: 66.7% ; Cream
of Brown Rice: 52.2% ; Mixed Fruit: 34.3%. These levels of contamination
demonstrate Novartis' deliberate intention to use GMOs in its Gerber baby
food products (all manufactured in Indonesia) in the Philippines. (1)

In the past Novartis repeatedly declared it would not use GMOs in its food
products. On 11 June 1999, Novartis Consumer Health head Martin Stefani
wrote in a letter to Greenpeace: 'Our consumers can be sure that our baby
food does not contain any GMOs or parts derived thereof.'
This was reiterated by Novartis US spokesperson Al Piergallini who was
quoted in the Wall Street Journal Europe of 30 July 1999 as follows: 'I
want our mothers to be comfortable'. In a letter to Greenpeace dated 2
August 2000, Novartis declared it would not use anymore GMOs in its food
products worldwide. Greenpeace is now urging Novartis to respect its own
pledges not only in rich nations but in all countries. Scientific
understanding of the impacts of genetic engineering on the environment and
human health is extremely limited. Greenpeace believes that citizens and
consumers wordwide have the right to know how their food is produced and
to refuse to eat genetically engineered food.

Information recently published by a team of Belgian scientists shows
unknown DNA in the GE soya used in Novartis/Gerber baby food products.
This 'RoundUp Ready' soya is patented and sold by US multinational
Monsanto.

For more information: Greenpeace Southeast Asia in the
Philippines: Von Hernandez, Mob: +63-917-5263050 and Beau Baconguis, Mob:
+63-917-8151431
Greenpeace Switzerland: Bruno Heinzer, +41-79-400 88 31 Greenpeace
International Press Office: Teresa Merilainen: +31-20-5236637
{ HYPERLINK http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng/
}http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng/

Notes to the editors:

(1) In addition to the three Novartis/Gerber baby food products, the
following products analysed by the laboratory DNA Chips tested positive
for GE material: Nestle's Cerelac Wheat, Kellogg's Chocos Chex, Wyeth's
Nursoy, and Farina's Hot Wheat Cereal. Quantitative analysis has not yet
been carried out for these products.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Novartis' response:


21.8.2001

Dear Mr Heinzer

With respect to todays demonstation at the St. Johann, Basel, headquarters
of Novartis AG we understand that representatives of Greenpeace alledge
that our affilliate Gerber is selling in the Philippines products intended
for consumption by infants which contain genetically modified ingredients.

We will investigate these serious allegations without delay and once we
have a full understanding of all the facts, we will take appropritate
actions.

Very truely yours

Felix Raebe
Head media relations Novartis International

------------------------
Greenpeace International
Genetic Engineering Campaign
Barbara Kuepper
phone: +49 30 30889914
fax: +49 30 30889930
e-mail: bkuepper@greenpeace.de
http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng

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