GM-FREE IRELAND


NEWS RELEASE

GOVERNMENT TO ALLOW CONTAMINATION OF SEEDS WITH GM VARIETIES
7am, Wednesday 7 July 2004

Dublin, 31 August 2004 ï Global Vision Consulting Ltd.
www.global-vision.com


EC to make decision on 8 September
David Byrne expected to favour contamination
Will Irish MEPs stand up for Irish farmers and consumers?



On 8 September, the Irish Government intends to support an EC proposal to legalise the unlabelled contamination of conventional and organic seeds with genetically modified varieties.

This would introduce GMOs in all seeds and food against the will of Irish consumers and farmers.

It would make non-GM farming most difficult and would massively increase the costs of farming and of non-GM products. It would also render control and monitoring of GMO releases into the Irish environment practically impossible and induce widespread and uncontrolled GM contamination throughout Europe.

On September 8th, the outgoing EU Commissioner for Environment Margot Wallstr–m will propose to the old Commission a draft "Commission decision establishing minimum thresholds for adventitious or technically unavoidable traces of genetically modified seeds in other products", which sets thresholds for unlabelled GM contamination of seeds at 0.3% for maize and oilseed rape. If adopted, only a 2/3 majority of the Council of Ministers could stop this proposal from entering into force under the legal "comitology" procedure chosen by the Commission.

The GM-free Ireland Network, whose members include a number of prominent farm and food organisations, demands that the government keep conventional and organic seeds free of GMOs and that it labels any presence of GMOs at the practical detection level of 0.1%. This position is supported by hundreds of thousands of European citizens, by over 300 organisations with more than 25 million members as well as the European Parliament and many Member States. Only recently the Danish Minister of Agriculture, Else Mariann Fischer Boel, introduced her countryís demand to establish GMO labelling in seeds at 0.1% in the Council of Agricultural Ministers. As of November Mrs. Boel will be the new EU Commissioner for Agriculture.

For nearly three years now the Commission could not enact a regulation of GM seed contamination. Resistance from civil society and objections of the European Parliament and Member States have repeatedly prevented such legislation. Now, in their last days, David Byrne and the other outgoing Commissioners should not try to sneak such a fundamental and highly contentious piece of legislation through the present vacuum of political power in Brussels. It should be up to the new Commission to present a coherent and well founded proposal, based on a broad agreement in European society and on sound scientific and economic assessments of it's implications on the environment, on farmers and food producers and last not least on the consumers in Europe.

The present proposal is the minimum common denominator between the outgoing Commissioners in charge (Wallstr–m, Fischler and Byrne) and largely the result of multiple disagreements between them. Obviously this is no solid basis for a comprehensive policy on the issue and especially not an integrated approach to co-existence and traceability.

There are still massive legal concerns about the concept of allowing uncontrolled and unmonitored deliberate releases through the seed thresholds.

Thresholds for seed contamination must be put in the context of co-existence and are the Commissionís main outstanding contribution to this issue. There is no defence for such high thresholds in this context and the economic impacts would be massive, as recently confirmed in a hearing of the EC Economic and Social Affairs Committees (see www.zs-l.de/coexistence where the evidence of Syngenta actually confirms the feasibility of 0.1%.)

The old Commission should leave such pivotal decisions to the new Commissioners and the new Commission should take into account the member states and Parliaments opinion, the Economic and Social Affairs Committees pending opinion as well as new research on co-existence to be presented by the Joint Research Centre in October / November.

There is no need to hasten this Directive through before the next planting period as there will be no substantial planting of GMOs in 2005 anyway, and also because of the August 2004 WTO ruling that it will require scientific advice in making its decision about the GM dispute filed against the EU by the USA, Canada and Argentina (a scientific advisory panel is to be appointed which will delay the process for many months, making it unlikely that a final WTO decision will be made before spring 2005 at the earliest).

Despite massive lobby efforts of international agro-business and the US mission to the EU, a clear majority of European citizens wants pure, non-GM seeds and must not be ignored.

Irish MEPs should pose hard questions to the new Commissioners with respect to the Seed thresholds within the present interrogation-phase (deadline for written questions to the Commissioners is Sept 3, for their responses Sept 15, hearings in the Committees will then start September 27).

For more information, please visit the GM-free Ireland web site at http://www.gmfreeireland.org.

ENDS

For information on the GM-free Ireland campaign, please call Michael O'Callaghan on (0404) 43 885, mobile 087 799 4761.

NOTES TO EDITORS

The GM-free Ireland Network is an association of farming organisations, food producers and distributors, restaurants, chefs, NGOs, journalists and ordinary people collaborating to keep the whole island of Irelandís GM-free - for the benefit of farmers, consumers and future generations. Members include the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association, the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Irish Farmers Markets, the Irish Association of Health Stores, Friends of the Earth, Irish Seed Savers Association, the Irish Doctors Environmental Association, Euro-Toques Ireland / the European Commission of Chefs, Slow Food Ireland, Food and Wine magazine, the Food Writers Guild, Sustainable Ireland, and many farmers and food producers.

Last available proposal of the Commission:
www.saveourseeds.org/downloads/com_draft_seeds_04_2004.pdf.

Open letter of 60 farmers organisations letter to Fischler & Prodi:
www.saveourseeds.org/downloads/letter_farmers_16.07.pdf.

Open Letter of EFFAT, European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions:
www.saveourseeds.org/downloads/EFFAT_IUF_07_04.pdf.

Ten Arguments for clean Seeds:
www.saveourseeds.org/Download_Centre/Ten%20arguments%20for%20clean%20.seeds.rtf.

Documentation of the Economic and Social Affairs Committee hearing on co-existence in Brussels, July:
www.zs-l.de/coexistence.

GM-free Ireland Network: www.gmfreeireland.org.

ATTRIBUTION

Michael O'Callaghan

Co-ordinator, GM-free Ireland Network ‚ www.gmfreeireland.org
Chairman, Global Vision Consulting Ltd ‚ www.global-vision.com

Tel: (0404) 43 885
Mobile: 087 799 4761


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