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EU Commission to consider controversial measure on GMO thresholds in seeds

(Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- IFOAM news release, 09/02/04:
Brussels - The European Commission is due to adopt on 8 September a proposal for a Decision "establishing minimum thresholds for adventitious or technically unavoidable traces of genetically modified seeds in other products." The proposal would allow maize and oilseed rape seed lots to contain up to 0.3% of genetically modified organisms without being labelled.

"If this Decision goes ahead, it could spell the end of freedom of choice for consumers regarding GMOs. It provides no guarantee that farmers and the food industry will be able to continue offering non-GM products below the 0.9% labelling threshold for final products. It will also load serious additional costs on economic operators all along the production chain," said Eric Gall, Policy Advisor for Greenpeace European Unit.

Marco Schluter of IFOAM Europe, umbrella organisation for the organic movement, said: "EU member states, which are supposed to develop national legislation to protect conventional and organic farming from GMO contamination, will be left no room for manoeuvre. The next European Commission will also be deprived the chance to take a more considered view on the issue of 'co-existence.' It will find its hands tied on a problem that is crucial for the future of non-GM farming in Europe."

Stefano Masini from the Italian Confederazione nazionale COLDIRETTI, Europe's largest farmers' organisation, said: "High quality agriculture, which is at the core of the new Common Agricultural Policy, will be damaged if unlabelled contamination of seeds is allowed."

Arnd Spahn from EFFAT (European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism trade unions) said: "By undermining the GM-free market, the Commission will destroy businesses and threaten jobs. Our sector has suffered too much from food scandals in the past to risk going against consumer opinion."

"There is no need to rush through this decision. The vast majority of conventional seeds on the EU market today, including imported seeds, are not contaminated with GMOs. It would be irresponsible for the outgoing Commission to leave us with a proposal that contradicts its promises to guarantee 'co-existence' and freedom of choice for consumers," said Donal Walshe Director of Eurocoop.

The decision to allow contamination of seeds, the first step of the production chain, will have a major impact on the ability of farmers to offer non-GM products and will determine the feasibility and the costs of co-existence measures further down the food production chain. Around 300 genetically modified maize plants and more than 2,000 GM oilseed rape plants would be allowed to grow on every hectare of supposedly GM-free fields in Europe without farmers even knowing about it.

The European Parliament (1), NGOs, consumer groups, farmers organisations and trade unions have all have appealed to the Commission to set the seeds labelling threshold at the reliable detection level of 0.1%.

Notes:1. European Parliament resolution on coexistence between genetically modified crops and conventional and organic crops (2003/2098(INI)), adopted 18 December 2003.


Mauro Albrizio,
Vice-president, EEB, tel +32 (0)479 940251

Eric Gall, GMO policy advisor, Greenpeace EU Unit, tel +32 (0)2 274 1906, tel +32 (0)496 161582

Stefano Masini, European office of Confederazione nazionale COLDIRETTI, tel +32 (0)2 230 9893

Geert Ritsema, GMO co-ordinator, Friends of the Earth Europe, tel +31 6 290 05 908

Marco Schluter, IFOAM EU Group (organic farmers association), tel +32 (0)2 282 4665

Arnd Spahn, Agricultural Sector Secretary, EFFAT (European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism trade unions), tel + 32 (0)2 209 62 65

Donal Walshe, EURO COOP Director, tel +32 (0)2 285 00 74 or +32 (0)475 52 76 90

For more information and documents : http://www.saveourseeds.org/press_may3.html

Source: http://www.ifoam.org/press/Seed_Contamination.pdf