ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
30 August 2002



Here comes massive contamination.... lets act.

I'm glad Farmers Guardian giving this impending disaster of the seed contamination directive  some  space (see below) - but I feel its crucial that folks clarify  for the press/ farmers/each other exactly what these low  sounding thresholds actually mean and how serious this  inocuos sounding technical standard is when translated  into the real world:

for example the proposed  0.5% threshold for  contamination  in maize means one in every 200  conventional maize plants grown next year could be GE.  That amounts to 500 maize plants per hectare,  thousands of GE maize plants across a single field and   millions across the UK!

0.3 threshold for rape translates to 2100 GE plants per  hectare - tens of thousands per field and again many  millions across the UK.

- ie this is a license for HUGE environmental release  and unlike field trials there will be NO monitoring, NO  notification - not even the farmers growing it will be  aware of what they are growing let alone neighbouring  organic farms, beekeepers etc

 This makes a mockery of any so called debate on  commercial scale growing. It is commercial scale  growing and its about to be given the go ahead in mid  september.

 It renders the national seed registration process for T25  pointless since for a seed to be allowed to contaminate  it needs only have EU approvals (which T25 already  does).

For organic farmers who are often forced to use  conventional seeds because of lack of supply of organic  seeds it puts them in a perilous position with regards to  their GE-free status.

For conventional farmers who are expected to deliver  food to most food producers and supermarkets at less  than 0.1% GE contamination these contamination levels  of 0.3, 0.5 and 0.7 could lose them markets

Agrinomically of course it could also be a nightmare - for  example the current proposals allow about one in 330  rape seeds to be contaminated which amount to 2100  plants per hectare - in effect a farmer could have to deal  with up to 20,000 herbicide tolerant rape plants ina field  and all the volunteers that produces.

The EU standing committee on seeds is having a first  vote to approve these outrageous thresholds in mid  september - only just over 2 weeks away... and so far  there is barely a whisper of protest from the anti-GE  folks compared to the consistent daily lobbying that the  biotech industry have been applying to have these  thresholds approved.

if you do just one bit of GE campaigning in the next 2  weeks - Please contact DEFRA and urge them to reject  this dangerous dirty little standard and get as many  others to do so as well.. and if anyone feels like writing in  response to farmers guardian, farmers weekly or any  other press to point out the enormity of the  contamination about to be quietly foisted on us by this  unelected European committee, please do!!

if you need more info about the seed contamination  directive check out or feel free  to contact me

this is absolutely urgent

Action point: Write to DEFRA and ask them to vote for zero tolerance in the seed committee and/or ask for the directive to go  before the EU parliament for proper democratic scrutiny. Send fax or e-mail to the following address by no later than 12 September 2002:

Mr Michael Miller, DEFRA, PVRO and Seeds Division
Room 22, White House Lane, Huntingdon Road,
Cambridge CB3 OLF
Fax: 01223 342386



Monsanto scale back forecasts

Farmers Guardian August 23, 2002
MONSANTO, the US-based corporation at the forefront  of the  drive to introduce genetically modified crops across the  globe, says it feels it is losing the battle over the  technology in Europe. Monsanto chief executive Hendrik  Verfaillie said the corporation has been forced to revise  its predictions of growth in Europe and Brazil in the face  of persistent opposition to GM crops. "We are assuming  no  progress in Europe until 2005. We are trying to be  conservative. It is better to under-promise than over  deliver," he said this week. The admission will be seen  as  victory for anti-GM campaigners across the EU who  have  maintained constant pressure on Governments to  abandon the  technology since the EU declared a three-year  moratorium on  new GM crops in 1998. Green campaigners accused  the UK  Government this week of backing EU plans to introduce  GM  crops across Europe through the back door. The  European  Commission has issued proposals to allow conventional  seeds  to be contaminated with up to 0.5 per cent of GM  material  for maize and beet, 0.3 per cent for oilseed rape and 0.7 per cent for soya  bean.  The thresholds have been set so crops produced from  these  seeds will not contain GM content in excess of the 1 per  cent labelling threshold for food and animal feed. Under  the proposal, this level of contamination would not have  to  be declared on labels of seed bought by farmers. But  seed  manufacturers will be able to market seeds exceeding  these  thresholds as long as it is declared on the label. The  Commission has not proposed an upper limit on  contamination  allowed in labelled seed, although it has considered a  limit of 5 per cent. The proposals amending existing  legislation will be subject to an initial vote next month  by civil servants on an EU standing committee on seeds.  This will make a final decision later this year. MEPs will not  get the chance to vote on the proposals. Greenpeace  said it  has been told Ministers will tell DEFRA representatives  on  the committee to back the proposals. A spokesman  said this  shows the Government is backing the biotech industry  by  supporting moves to legalise the technology. "It will lead  to GM crops being grown across the country without  people  knowing about it. Levels will not stay at 0.3 or 0.5 per  cent for very long because of cross contamination," he  said.

DEFRA is currently consulting on the proposals,  although it  has only allowed six weeks instead of the normal 12  because  of the imminent Commission vote. A DEFRA  spokeswoman said  the department has still not made its mind up on the  proposals. "We will look at the consultation and then  make  a decision," she said. Biotech company Aventis called  this  week for more sensible, enforceable' thresholds for GM  contamination to be established as soon as possible. It  said 100 per cent purity will never be achieved, after it landed  itself in trouble for allowing GM oilseed rape used in the  Government's Farm Scale Evaluations to be  contaminated with  nearly 3 per cent of unauthorised GM seed. Countryside  Minister Elliott Morley admitted last week that the UK  Government is coming under enormous international  pressure'  from the biotech countries to adopt the technology. The  Government is launching a public debate on GM issues  this  autumn. DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett says the  Government is keen to deepen understanding' of the issues, although  anti-GM campaigners have claimed it is a public  relations  exercise to pave the way for commercial planting of GM

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