California Winemakers Face Global Boycott If They Grow Frankengrapes

California Winemakers Face Global Boycott
If They Grow Frankengrapes

For Immediate Release June 18, 2001


Hype of Pierce's Disease-Resistant Grapes Overlooks Environmental, Economic

SAN FRANCISCO-- California wine makers will face massive consumer
rejection if they accept genetically engineered (GE) grapes, according to a
just-released report by Greenpeace. More than 30 requests for field trials
of engineered grapes have already been granted in California and other
states, including research into GE grapes resistant to Pierce's Disease. A
Greenpeace survey of British retailers representing 80 percent of the UK's
wine sales found that all would refuse to carry wine made from gene-altered
grapes. Britain is the largest export market for California wine, consuming
30 percent of the state's wine exports. The report also includes a
compilation of U.S. public opinion polls that show increasing concern among
Americans about GE crops.

"Consumers at home and abroad say they don't want genetically engineered
wine," said Jeanne Merrill of Greenpeace. "California must support real
solutions for grape growers, not genetic experiments that put our
environment and our economy at risk."

The Greenpeace report, "GM Grapevines," found that British wine sellers
were unanimous in their rejection of genetically engineered wine. Tesco,
the largest supermarket and wine retailer in the country wrote: "We do not
differentiate between wine and food in our policy, it is clear we will not
accept GM (genetically modified) in either."

The report also found widespread rejection of genetic engineering elsewhere
in Europe. In France, wine makers have called for a moratorium on GE vines
and increased state research into alternative solutions. The institute that
supervises the specifications of French wines currently forbids any modified
grape varieties. In Italy, the Association of Wine Producing Towns and the
regional councils of Tuscany and Valle d'Aosta have opposed GE wine

News reports of field trials conducted by the University of Florida to
engineer a wine grape resistant to Pierce's Disease have been touting the
grape as a potential panacea for California's grape disease problem.
However, the researchers have acknowledged that the gene inserted into
wine grapes creates a protein similar to a substance in bee venom that can
cause anaphylactic shock in some people. One GE grape researcher told
the magazine New Scientist that it may not be possible to alter the grapes in
such a way to keep the potentially deadly substance out of the human food chain.

GE grapes pose a tremendous risk to the California wine industry and to
organic wine growers. Jem Gardener, Director of the UK organic wine importer
and wholesaler Vinceremos explained, "Organic winemakers and importers like
ourselves are very concerned about the contamination of organic vineyards by
wind- and insect-borne GE pollen. As the proud custodians of the purity of
their fruit, organic vignerons have much to fear from genetic engineering.
If there is accidental contamination, the damage will be irreversible."

CONTACT: Jeanne Merrill, (415) 512-9023; Craig Culp, Greenpeace Media, (202)
319-2461. The full report can be found at: report.pdf

############################ Jeanne Merrill True Food Network Coordinator
Greenpeace 965 Mission St. #625 San Francisco, CA 94103 415-512-9023 tel.
415-512-8699 fax

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