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Europeans Demand Ban on GE Contaminated Seeds

Oct. 14, 2002
Press Release

EU Commission and Agricultural Ministers asked to stop license to
contaminate Europe with genetically engineered crops

Luxembourg, 14th Oct, 2002 - A delegation representing over 300 European
environmental, farmer and consumer organisations with more than 25 million
members today handed a petition entitled 'SOS Save our Seeds' to EU
Commissioners Franz Fischler (Agriculture) and David Byrne (Consumer
Protection) demanding the new EU Seed Directive to guarantee the purity of
seeds sold and planted in Europe instead of tolerating any levels of
genetic contamination in them. (1)

The groups warned that if the Seed Directive is passed as the EU Commission
currently proposes - allowing between 0,3 and 0,7 percent of genetically
modified organisms in conventional seeds without GE labelling - this would
result in a large scale growing of genetically engineered (GE) crops in
European fields. Approximately 7000 million GE seeds would be planted every
year by farmers (2) without them having the possibility to know and to
avoid such unwanted planting of GE crops.

"The EU Commission is about to give the GE companies a license to
contaminate European agriculture even as this industry has failed miserably
to convince anybody about their GE products", said Benedikt Haerlin, one of
the Petition organisers. "This is a slap in the face of 70 percent of
consumers and a similar majority of farmers in Europe who reject GE in
their food and in their seeds. It would cost farmers, food processors and
retailers millions of Euro just to serve the interests of a few
transnational GE companies."

Despite its far reaching consequences, the Seed Directive is still being
handled as a routine technical matter involving only a small EU Standing
Committee of Seed Experts, but not the EU Council or the Parliament.
Agricultural ministers and the European Parliament only recently seemed to
wake up to the vast implications of the proposed Directive. The Commission
has promised to redraft the Directive, but has so far refused to lower the
proposed thresholds for GE contamination in seeds. This would mean, as
Lorenzo Consoli of Greenpeace put it, "flooding European fields with GMOs
through the backdoor".

The EU Scientific Advisory Committee estimates that if the Seed Directive
is passed as drafted the genetic contamination in food and feed will
increase substantially, somewhat below the threshold level of one percent,
above which labelling of food is mandatory. However, the experts admit that
no reliable prediction can be made in the absence of solid data and that
the one percent threshold may well be exceeded under certain conditions..
Obviously a new threshold level of 0,5 percent in food and feed, proposed
by the European Parliament would be unachievable at this level of seed
contamination.

"Farmers have the right to know and to decide what they plant," said Alois
Marx of Coordination Paysanne Européenne, the European family farmers
association. "Who will pay for our losses if we can't deliver non-GE
products anymore? Who will cover the costs of additional measures, tests
and insurance which all conventional and organic farmers will suddenly be
required to take, in order to prove their non-GMO status?"

Representatives of the European Seed and GE Industry demand even higher
contamination allowances in conventional seeds and claim "zero tolerance"
was impossible in the future. However, seed tests conducted by EU member
states prove that contamination problems are still minimal and that seed
contamination can be avoided even in the US. (3)

For more information:

"Save our Seeds" Initiative: Benedikt Haerlin, +49 171 8781192
Greenpeace EU Unit: Lorenzo Consoli +32 496122112;
Greenpeace Press Office, Teresa Merilainen, Tel: +31205236637;
Photos available from Greenpeace International Photo Desk, John Novis, Mob:
+31653819121

Notes to the editor:
For all details { HYPERLINK http://www }http://www.saveourseeds.org,
Signatories also include over 70.000 individuals from 15 countries.
Oilseed rape (~ 500.000 seeds per hectare) is grown on roughly 3 million
hectares, maize (~100.000 seeds per ha) on approximately 4,5 mio hectares
within the EU. The figures assume 0,3% and 0,5% contamination respectively.
Beet, cotton, potatoes and tomato not included in this calculation yet. See
table attached.
In Austria a Seed Regulation which prohibits any GMO contamination of seeds
has been in force for one year w

-----------------------------
FYI -- Delegation handing the SOS petition

Delegation List:
Benedikt Haerlin
Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft / organiser of Save Our Seeds petition
Lucien Haller
Centrale Paysanne - Main Luxembourg Farmers Group.
Aloyse Marx
Freie Lëtzebuerger Bauerenverband,
representing Coordination Paysanne Europe.
Markus Schoerpf
"Ernteverband", Austrian organic farmers association,
"Arge Gentechnik-frei", a working group on GMO-free production and
IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements)
Camille Schroeder
Bauerenallianz - Luxembourg Farmers Group.
Lorenzo Consoli
Greenpeace International.
Geert Ritsema
Friends of the Earth International.
Andre Schanck and Anja Staudenmeyer
Demeter Luxembourg, member of IFOAM.

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