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(Monday, April 21, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Vancouver Courier: Environmentalist and scientist David Suzuki is speaking out on the effects of GMOs on the organic-food industry April 24 at a lecture sponsored by the Canadian Food Association called The Risk of Denaturing Nature, scheduled for the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre from 7: 30 to 10 p.m.

Suzuki says that unless the government steps in and slams the brakes on genetically modified food, organics-loving Vancouverites will have no guarantee what they're eating is untainted, and that an international committee set up to look at the idea of labelling food containing genetically modified organisms has already concluded it can only guarantee up to 95 per cent that products are GMO-free, adding, "That's a minimum of five per cent contamination. For the organic food grower, that's a disaster.

It's far too early to tell what the effects will be and the government needs to stop experimenting until we find out more."

Suzuki says that no matter how carefully organic farmers work to control their crops, pollen from GMOs can drift up to a kilometre and insects can cross-pollinate from field to field, adding, "This can be a very big problem. With these genes shifting like that, how can there be any absolute guarantee that a crop is free of GMOs?"

Roundup Ready canola seeds are genetically modified to withstand regular spraying of the pesticides and weed killers, and Suzuki says that not only does this create a toxic product that's absorbed into humans, it's also generating super weeds that take stronger and stronger chemicals to kill. Other health risks to humans include allergic responses and antibiotic resistance--since many GMOs also contain antibiotics--that leads to super bugs and viruses.

Trish Jordan, spokeswoman for Monsanto Canada, was cited as confirming that at least 85 per cent of the canola oil sold in Canada contains GMOs, but that it's absolutely safe for human consumption, adding, "It was introduced to crops in 1995 and no health risk has been exposed to date. Mr. Suzuki is entitled to his opinion but GM crops are a huge success story. There are extensive regulations in place to ensure that seeds modified with DNA are safe."

Paddy Doherty, who heads up the Certified Organic Associations of B.C., representing 500 organic growers, producers and distributors across the province, was cited as echoing Suzuki's concerns, saying the canola gene pool is so contaminated, it's almost impossible to grow organic canola, adding, "And now these biotech companies are trying to do the same with wheat and the federal government is supporting them."

--- www.westernmorningnews.co.uk
Aura Sabadus
Western Morning News
09:00 - 21 April 2003

The Government has come under fire from West country campaigners [UK] after a scientific commission revealed that cultivating genetically modified crops could devastate organic farming.

In the light of new documents prepared by the Agriculture, Environment and Biotechnology Commission, more than 4,000 organic farmers nationwide could see their livelihoods endangered if their crops are contaminated by GM plants.

The independent commission suggests that the spread of pollen from genetically modified crops means that certified produce would be forever tainted.

>From next month the public will be asked to express their views on the possibility of commercialising GM organisms in the UK.

Ministers hope that the consultation will highlight the public's views on the technology.

The results of the debate which is expected to finish in September will ultimately lead to a decision on whether GM plants such as oilseed rape or maize should be grown alongside organic and conventional crops.

But campaigners have already shown their strong disapproval, claiming Whitehall is "biased in favour of GM".

Robert Vint, Totnes-based director of Genetic Food Alert, said there were "multiple risks" involved in adopting the technology. And Mr Vint is convinced that beekeepers will also be affected, losing their jobs.

"They won't be able to stop the bees from collecting pollen from GM farms up to six miles from their hives. There are multiple risks involved.

Wholesalers and retailers will switch to buying honey from other countries to maintain the standards to which they are committed."

Mr Vint said that contamination could occur in the trucks that transport crops, in grain silos, on conveyor belts, in factories or warehouses.

He added: "For some sectors there will be no hope. Those businesses that can survive will be exposed to great financial risks. Normally the Government would have to pay compensation for farmers who have been polluted, but ministers have already decided that in the case of GM contamination the polluters will not be liable and so there won't be any compensation."

He added: "The Government is biased in favour of GM. Although there will be a consultation soon, I believe Ministers have already made up their mind."

Currently food certified by the Soil Association as organic must undergo rigorous tests which show the purity and quality of the products.

However, it is feared that growing GM crops would lead to a widespread contamination which could ultimately wipe out the entire industry.

Devon-based organic farmer John Watson explained: "Five years ago the National Institute for Agricultural Botany conducted field trials near our farm in Totnes. My son Guy, realised the risks involved in growing organic along with GM plants and decided to move the crops of sweetcorn more than one kilometre away from the field trial."

Mr Watson said that in Canada the degree of GM contamination was so high that the country could no longer return to organic farming.

"The effects of pollution are visible only after many years. That's the case of the North American countries which have switched to GM and can no longer go back to organic."

He added: "The reality is that no one knows what the effects of GM crops are and it is wiser to give credence to those seeking a far more cautious approach. The organic sector is a prosperous industry fetching 2 billion every year."

But last night the Department of Food Environment and Rural Affairs, which organises the debate on GM, said the issue was under scientific scrutiny and no clear-cut answer would be given as to GM until the public had their say.

A spokesman said: "The AEBC is an independent body which analyses all data received on GM. It has been established to assess both the benefits and risks of the biotechnology."