ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

4 October 2001


From: Jim Thomas <>

Don't believe the hype!

I'm in mexico at the moment working on this contamination.. the statement from NZLS was probably written for Radio NZ who are going to do a piece about the mexican situation..

below is my quick response. Expect much much more on the mexican contamination in the coming days and weeks - this is a scandal with huge international ramifications - mexico is the centre of origin and diversity for maize which is the world’s no1. staple crop. The campesinos in Oaxaca are livid about the contamination and so are the mexican maize producers association ANEC.. the real scandal here has yet  to be told.. watch this space..



I'm sure you have seen the following statement from the new Zealand biotech industry. clearly it fundamentally misses the point.

1.The 'moratorium' imposed by the Mexican government so far had the huge loophole of still allowing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of living GE corn into the country as 'food/feed' and then distributing that corn without warning to communities who habitually plant corn seeds. At no point were people in Oaxaca told that this food aid was transgenic or not for planting. Greenpeace warned repeatedly that this put native landraces of maize at risk. The government claimed it didn't and sadly they have been proved wrong.  In NZ It is possible for the government to also put in place measures to prevent living genetically modified material into the country, just as they put in place measures to control argentine ants and other invasive species - Greenpeace and others outlined these measures to the Royal Commission. We must also recognise the difference in culture - new zealand is not a culture of peasant farmers who plant saved and donated corn seed but has larger professional farmers who habitually buy corn seed from certified suppliers with the ability to check and maintain quality.

2. Contrary to William Rolleston's assertion, farmers in Mexico do not want the genetically modified seeds. Our discussion with the affected communities of Oaxaca shows they are extremely angry about this contamination and last friday 20 peasants organisations across different states issued a statement demanding that these varieties are kept out of their communities. Even the larger Maize growers such as the producers’ association ANEC have called for imports of GE corn to be stopped because of the effect on mexican varieties. What small mexican farmers and peasants want to use is the varieties they have carefully developed in the fields over 9000 years  not the risky transgenic varieties that large chemical companies have invented in the last decade or two in faraway laboratories and sterile fields..

3. Unfortunately what the mexican situation shows is that because we are dealing with living pollution anything less than the strictest exclusionary action by the government will lead to widespread contamination. Mr Rolleston is disingenuous in comparing new zealand with Mexico. new Zealand is two islands surrounded by water in the south pacific - it doesn't share a land  border of thousands of miles with the most GE contaminated country on earth - nor is it yet locked into the NAFTA or similar free trade agreement that requires it to buy US maize.

If there is further information you need about the mexican situation please don't hesitate to contact me or greenpeace mexico - we will be releasing a letter tomorrow (fri) with an emergency plan for the government to follow that is signed by at least 30 organisations and scientists. We would encourage other organisations, scientists and experts on food security to add their support to this emergency plan which has been developed with the affected communities.



Date sent:       Thu, 04 Oct 2001 18:34:59 +0100
From:            ngin <>
To:              ngin <>
Subject:         ngin: GE-FREE PROVEN IMPOSSIBLE

"THE HOPE OF THE INDUSTRY IS THAT OVER TIME THE MARKET IS SO FLOODED [WITH GM] THAT THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT, YOU JUST SORT OF SURRENDER." - Don Westfall, vice-president, Promar International a major Washington-based consultancy to the food industry

October 3, 2001
Biotenz/NZ Life Sciences Network (Inc) or

The discovery of genetically modified corn in Mexico, despite the moratorium on planting of GM crops, which had been imposed by the Mexican Government, proves that a moratorium won’t work in New Zealand the Chairman of the Life Sciences Network, Dr William Rolleston, said today.

How the GM corn seed came to be planted is not known at the moment.  It may well have been through inadvertent co-mingling of non-GM and GM corn seed by suppliers from the US.  It may also have happened as a result of farmers planting out corn that was supposed to be used as animal feed.

But, it's clear in Mexico, just as it is in Brazil, that farmers want to use GM crops so they can reduce their dependence on costly pesticides and herbicides.  The environmental benefits of this are obvious.

What the Mexican experience proves is that a moratorium is not an effective tool if it is used to try to impose a zero tolerance policy. The Mexican experience shows it is also impossible for a country which imposes a moratorium to declare itself GE-Free.

The only thing a moratorium stops is the acquisition of more knowledge and understanding about the impacts of GM crops in the environment.

Zero tolerance is a concept which was rejected by the Royal Commission. It makes much more sense to manage the introduction of new organisms and species through the very robust regulatory process New Zealand already has than to impose another level of exclusion, which has been shown to be flawed.  We are much better to specify reasonable tolerance levels which can be monitored by the authorities, concluded Dr Rolleston.

ngin bulletin archive