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European Commission to allow GM contamination of organic food

(Thursday, July 24, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release.

Brussels, 23 July. Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the European Environmental Bureau today condemned the European Commission' s recommendation on co-existence between genetically modified (GM) and non-GM crops.

The Commission says that GM contamination of organic crops should be allowed. It says that new GM labelling rules - which will require products to carry a label if they contain an ingredient containing 0.9 per cent or more GM material to be labelled - should apply to " conventional and organic farming alike " [1]. The environmental NGOs are urging member states to refuse to allow this to happen.

GM-free areas

But the Commission gave a boost to Friends of the Earth's GM-free Britain campaign by recommending that "measures of a regional dimension could be considered " to prevent GM contamination. This opens the door to regional bans on GM crops.

In October last year Friends of the Earth launched its GM-free Britain (www.gmfreebritain.com[1]) campaign, to persuade local authorities to take action on GM food and crops. Earlier today (Wednesday) Somerset County Council voted to go GM-free, and Cumbria County Council will vote in the issue tomorrow. The Welsh National Assembly, Devon, Dorset, Lancashire, Cornwall, Warwickshire, Shropshire, South Gloucestershire and the Lake District National Park have already backed GM-free policies.

European Commission's Recommendation

The European Commission's recommendation (which has yet to be published) will be discussed by the Commission later today. It will not be legally binding. EU member states therefore have the right to take more far reaching measures to protect organic and conventional crops from GM contamination. Amendments, adopted by the European Environment Ministers yesterday, say that "member states may take measures to avoid the unintended presence of GM 's in other products ". The amendments also say that responsibility for avoiding genetic pollution should lie with the GM producers.

Friends of the Earth Europe GM campaigner Clare Oxborrow said:

"Moves to allow organic crops to be contaminated with GM pollution are totally unacceptable, and could lead to the death of organic food and farming. Member States should reject this recommendation and bring in tough legislation to prevent genetic contamination and ensures real consumer choice."

"Local authorities across the UK have taken steps to protect their food, farming and environment by introducing GM-free policies. The Commission's call for regional measures to stop GM pollution is a welcome boost, and should encourage even more councils to take action."

There is widespread scientific agreement that commercially grown GM crops will contaminate conventional and organic farms over an extensive area. Therefore the green NGO's are urging Member States to take appropriate measures, such as creating GMO free zones and the adoption of legislation that establishes zero tolerance towards the GM contamination of seeds.

Eric Gall from Greenpeace said.

"Member states should make clear in their national legislation that GM producers are the ones responsible for avoiding GMO's in food, feed and especially seeds. According to the polluter pays principle GM producers should also bear the cost of anti-contamination measures."

Mauro Albrizio from the European Environmental Bureau added:

"The right to eat GM-free food will be severely compromised if GM crops are grown on a large scale. The Commission must accept that no one wants GM foods and that public authorities have every right to protect their consumers and environment."


[1] Draft Commission recommendation on guidelines for the development of national strategies and best practices to ensure the co-existence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming.

[2] A number of local authorities (and the Welsh National Assembly) have already endorsed GM-free policies. These include taking action to stop tenant farmers growing GM crops, and banning GM food from local food services such as school meals and residential homes. They can also write to the Government and Brussels applying, under new European laws, to be excluded from growing certain GM crops.