GM-FREE IRELAND


NEWS RELEASE

DAVID BYRNE ACCUSED OF LEADING GM CONTAMINATION OF EUROPE

Dublin, 1 September 2004 ï Global Vision Consulting Ltd.
www.global-vision.com


EU Commissioners split over controversy
Byrne wants 17 seed varieties to be contaminated
Fischler and Wallström oppose move
Byrne denies scientific evidence of GM risks accepted by WTO



Outgoing European Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner David Byrne is trying to get the EC to include 17 varieties of genetically modified (GM) agricultural crops on the EUís approved seed catalogue, before he leaves office in November.

This move is opposed by Agriculture Commissioner Frantz Fischler and Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström.

Byrne continues to deny the existence of any scientific evidence of health and environmental risks of GM food and farming, even though last week the WTO ruled in favour of the EU in the GM trade dispute filed by the USA. The WTO agreed to set up a scientific panel to review the mounting evidence of GM risks, including substantial evidence of GM-related death and disease in laboratory animals, livestock, and humans.

Byrne is also trying to get the Commission to allow 0.5% of Europeís agricultural seeds to be contaminated by GM varieties without labelling. Under future legislation seed types with traces of authorised GM crops above the threshold would be labelled.

Under pressure from other governments at emergency meetings in Brussels this week, a proposal due for decision on September 8 has reduced the contamination threshold for sugar beet, fodder beet, potato and cotton seeds from 0.5% to 0.3%. New proposals by Fischler and Wallström now limit a threshold call to a 0.3 per cent ceiling on maize and oilseed rape after deep and continuing divisions between EU officials. But David Byrne and EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy are countering the 0.3 per cent limit with arguments for a 0.5 per cent cap, claiming the 0.5% threshold would be ìtoo expensiveî for global seed conglomerates like Monsanto.

European Greens are backing a 0.1 per cent threshold (the lowest practical level at which GM contamination of seeds can be detected). The Danish Minister of Agriculture, Else Mariann 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.

Divisions run so deep that the proposal for GM contamination due to be adopted on September 8 may now be postponed. But if the Commissioners do decide to contaminate all seeds then the proposal will go to a regulatory committee for members states to vote on, with a Qualified Majority Vote (QMV) required to reject it . If there is no QMV in favour or against then it will go to a Council of Ministers meeting where the same result is likely. If this is the case it will go back to the Commission to approve it. The last time this happened, regarding the legalisation of the first GM food and animal feed (Syngenta's controversial Bt11 maize) for release in the EU last May, David Byrne persuaded the Commission to legalise it.

GM-free Ireland Network co-ordinator Michael OíCallaghan said ìIt is essential that the Irish Government vote for a 0.1% contamination threshold, or it will be the end of consumer choice in Europe. If Byrne gets his way, he will go down in history as the man responsible for the irreversible invasion of Ireland by GM crops, exposing farmers to GM contamination, GM superweeds, crop failures, increased insurance costs, liability lawsuits, and loss of market share. This will make non-GM and organic farming virtually impossible in Ireland and around the EU, and also threaten the health of consumers and future generations. It is totally unacceptable that Commissioner Byrne, who is entrusted to protect our health, continues to deny and suppress the scientific evidence of the health and environmental risks of GM food and farming.î

Environmentalist campaigners brand both moves as ìirresponsibleî in a Europe where 23 EU member states have no rules to prevent GM traces appearing in conventional or organic crops. ìIt would be a shame if the outgoing Commission should leave us with this completely irresponsible legislation,î said Greenpeace spokesman Eric Gall.

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

GM Foods Are Inherently Unsafe:
www.gmfreeireland.org/resources/documents/science/smith/GM_Unsafe.pdf.

Eating GM Food is Gambling With Your Health:
www.gmfreeireland.org/resources/documents/science/smith/GM_Gambling.pdf.

Seeds of Deception:
exposing exposing corporate and government lies about the safety of genetically engineered food:
www.seedsofdeception.com.

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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