ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

21 October 2002



European Seed Industry meets behind high security to  push acceptance of genetic contamination in EU  agriculture

Brussels 21st Oct 2002 - In Brussels today a high  security cordon has been thrown around the Crowne  Plaza hotel where the European Seed Association  (ESA) is meeting behind closed doors to discuss  contamination of genetically modified organisms  (GMOs) in seeds. (1)

High on the agenda of the ESA Annual Meeting is a  strategy to allow genetic contamination of European  agriculture by introducing legal tolerance thresholds for  unlabelled GMOs in conventional seeds. The  association, dominated by the big genetic engineering  (GE) companies Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer  (former Aventis) has been lobbying for these tolerance  thresholds to be included in a new  EU Commission  Directive (2). This Directive is to be approved in the  coming months under the so-called Ścomitology‚  procedure, with no involvement of either the EU  Environment ministers or the European Parliament

If the Directive is approved as proposed by the  Commission (3) all European fields of maize and rape  (amounting to over 10% of EU arable land) could next  year be legally contaminated by up to 7000 million  unidentified GMO plants to be released across Europe  which would be unmonitored and impossible to recall.

The proposed European Seed Directive, will be  discussed as the main item in the ESA general  assembly at 5.30pm today. It has drawn  opposition from a coalition of over 300 farmer,  environmental and consumer groups across Europe  representing over 25 million individuals.  Last week a petition signed by that many groups and  over 70,000 individuals was handed to European  Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler and Consumer  Affairs Commissioner David Byrne (4). Amongst the  signers are also a dozen seed producers.

Among member states that are concerned by the  proposal are Italy, Austria and Luxembourg. Austria has  for a year been successfully operating a law that outlaws  the contamination of conventional seeds with GE  varieties above the level of detection (5). Pioneer, the  largest seed company in the world has confirmed that it  can supply non-GE seed to the Austrian market without  contamination (6).

For more information: Lorenzo Consoli, EU Advisor for  Greenpeace
International, Tel:   +(32);  Mob:  +(32) 496
12 21 12;
Photographs available from Greenpeace Photo Desk,  John Novis, Mob:

Notes to the editors:

 (1) One hundred and thirteen police, razor wire fences  and 10 armoured riot vans are all in place to prevent  public access to this prestigious hotel. The Botanic  Garden has also been closed.

(2) In a position paper on the EU's draft Seed Directive  ESA writes that it "is convinced that thresholds need to  be set at least at 1% and at even higher levels for some  crops (e.g. oilseed rape) according to their biology."

(3) ESA also demands these thresholds to be extended  to GMOs not  approved within the European Community.  This would clearly render any present food and feed  labelling legislation worthless and provide for a complete and fast contamination of all European Seeds with  GMOs.

(4) The European Commission services (DG SANCO)  have proposed 3  different thresholds for contamination  in seeds according to different  types of plant: 0.3% for  oilseed rape, 0.5% for cotton, maize, tomatoes, potatoes and beet and 0.7% for soya.

(5) See { HYPERLINK ""

(6) See Greenpeace briefing „No Genetically  contaminated seeds:  Austrian regulations lead EU way  to pure seeds‰.

(7) Letter from Pioneer Austria to the Government of the  federal county  Voralberg 1 March 2002 ¯  available from http://www.zs-

Greenpeace briefing "Save our Seeds - Agriculture and  Environment threatened by GE Seed contamination law"  available on


Article for Greenpeace Website:

Seed Plot: Behind barbed wire the seed industry is  planning GE  contamination.

 Sometimes Greenpeace uncovers the bad guys..  sometimes they  uncover themselves. This rainy monday  morning a Greenpeace  supporter in Brussels tipped us  off that the European Seed Industry  was meeting to  discuss genetically engineered seed - not that it  was  difficult to tell! When we arrived to check we discovered  an  entire Brussels street had been cordoned off with  razor wire.  Armoured vans and over 110 police  surrounded the Crowne Plaza  Hotel with the sort of  protection usually afforded to ministers and  heads of  states.  So what exactly was going on inside?

"Its a meeting about the transgenic seeds" explained a  friendly  policeman handing out belgian waffles to his  troops manning the  barbed wire "They are worried that  Greenpeace will find out."

There was a time when the seed industry was about  providing  farmers and gardeners with the seeds they  needed to grow the food  people wanted. Today's seed  industry however is another arm of  the genetic  engineering industry and is made to dance to their  tune.  The world's largest seed companies are now either  owned by  GE companies (such as Du Pont's Pioneer  Seeds) or are  themselves GE companies such as  Monsanto, Bayer and  Syngenta. First they tried to mix  GE ingredients with the food  unlabelled. Then they tried  unsuccesfully to convince farmers and  consumers to  support GE crops. Now they are onto  plan C:   Contamination.

Plan C: Contamination.

 "The real strategy is to introduce so much genetic  pollution that  meeting the consumer demand for GM- free food is seen as not  possible. The idea, quite  simply, is to pollute faster than countries  can legislate -  then change the laws to fit the contamination".  When Choice Becomes Just A Memory -Naomi Klein  The Guardian, January 21, 2001

For two years the European Seed Association has been  at the  forefront of lobbying for a new European Seed  Contamination  Directive. That regulation was due to be  finalised next month. it  would allow an initial release of  up to 7000 million unregulated and  unmonitored  GE  plants across Europe by contaminating ordinary   planting seed that all farmers buy. It could affect the 10  percent of  EU arable land currently planted to maize  and oilseed rape and  introduce an unprecedented  amount of GE contamination into the  food chain.  Greenpeace and others have warned that it would add   extra costs to farmers and could destroy the viability of  the  European organic industry which must stay GE-free.

In one respect the barbed wire was no surprise. The  proposed seed  contamination Directive has so far been  characterised by closed  doors and secrecy. In an  unusual move, both the European  Parliament and  Council of EU Environment ministers are being   excluded from the decisionmaking process on this  controversial  measure. Instead an unelected technical  committee, the Standing  Committee on Seeds, are  being asked to give the final go ahead for  what may be  the biggest single release of GE crops Europe has  ever  seen. The only other body who will have any say is the  World  Trade Organisation. It feels like a stitch-up from  start to finish.

Perhaps though the seed industry has good reason to  be worried.   In the past few weeks thousands of  Greenpeace cyberactivists  have been emailing  European ministers to alert them to the real cost of the  GE seed contamination directive. Last week   Greenpeace and others presented an online petition  signed by over 70,000 individuals and 300 farmer,  environmental and consumer  groups representing over   25 million members. Franz Fischler the  minister for  Agriculture who received the petition seemed surprised   and concerned by the scope of impact of legalising  seed  contamination.

Down in central Brussels. Police are still standing in the  rain and  waiting in riot vans. They have even closed  down the botanic  garden, a little green haven of  biodiversity, so that the genetically  engineered seed  industry can safely plan the destruction of our   agricultural diversity away from public view. An  undercover detective  stops me and searches my bags,  expecting Greenpeace climbers  and thousands of  activists to arrive momentarily on the street. I  smile as I  think of the thousands of cyberactivists sending their   concerns direct to EU ministers. There are ways to even  get past  razor wire.

If you live in Europe please join the cyberaction on GE  seeds and  sent letters to your national Agriculture  minister asking them not to  accept GE contamination in  our seeds : go to

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