Greenpeace Canada

Greenpeace Canada

May 24, 2005 15:27 ET

Canadian government urged to stop GE Canola contamination in Japan

Canadian government urged to stop genetically engineered (GE) Canola contamination in Japan Attention: Agriculture Editor, Environment Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TOKYO/JAPAN--(CCNMatthews - May 24, 2005) - Greenpeace and Japanese consumer, environmental and farmer organizations today appealed to the Canadian government to stop contamination of food products and the environment by exporting only non-GE canola in future.

The Japan National Institute for Environmental Studies found GE canola growing wild around five ports and investigations by citizens groups found the GE canola growing wild around a further three ports. In all GE canola has been found at eight of the 10 main ports importing Canadian canola, It was growing wild beside rice fields, on riverbanks and on grass verges as a result of seed spillages during transportation, including for example on a transport route thirty kms away from the Kashima port.

The organizations delivered a strongly worded letter to the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, addressed to the Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Minister of Agriculture, informing them of the contamination.

Eighty percent of the two million tons of imported canola comes from Canada, of which 80% is estimated to be genetically engineered. GE canola seeds are produced mainly by two chemical companies, Monsanto and Bayer, and are genetically engineered so that they can survive increased doses of the herbicides glyphosate and glufosinate which these companies also sell. Canola seeds are crushed to use as cooking oil and in the production of margarine and mayonnaise, and also for use as animal feed and fertilizer.

Consumer groups are already concerned that GE canola oil is being used as cooking oil and for other food production in Japan without any consumer choice because they are not labelled as GE. Now the GE canola has also been found spreading wild in the environment adding new concerns. In Chiba port, citizens reportedly filled a small truck with Roundup-Ready GE canola that was growing wild.

This spillage of GE canola threatens to spread GE genes into the seeds and food crops of related food plants growing in Japan such as cabbage, Chinese cabbage, daikon radish and turnip. It also threatens to create genetically engineered 'super-weeds' which can lead to further use of extra toxic chemicals. Steve Shallhorn a Canadian working with Greenpeace in Japan joined the delegation of NGOs in Tokyo: 'The Canadian Government has a responsibility to the people of Japan, who are a good customer of Canada, to stop exporting this GE canola.'

To highlight the concerns of Japanese consumers about eating GE food the representatives also took with them bottles of canola oil products in which this GE canola is being used, unlabelled, as an example of the type of product that Japanese consumers may choose to avoid buying if the GE canola imports and contamination continue.

The NGOs delivered their message the day before the first working group negotiation session on liability for damage caused by genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under the Biosafety Protocol, 25-27 May. Akiko Frid a Japanese representative of Greenpeace will be in Montreal attending the session and also the second full meeting of the Biosafety Protocol starting a few days later on 30th May. Frid said: 'The contamination caused by GE canola imports to Japan is a good example of why strict liability laws are needed for GMOs. The question is; who pays for the damage caused when genetically engineered seeds contaminate our food and environment?'

Greenpeace Canada took this opportunity to invite Environment Minister Stéphane Dion, to meet with them at the opening of the Biosafety Protocol meetings on Monday the 30th of May and collect a specimen of Canadian GE canola found growing in Japan.

For more information:

Eric Darier, Greenpeace GE Campaigner: Mobile: 514-605-6497
Steve Shallhorn, ED Greenpeace Japan: Office +81-3-5338-9800 mobile; +81-80-5416-6507
Akiko Frid Campaigner Greenpeace (in Montreal): Mobile: +1-514-206-9152
Andrew Male, Greenpeace Communications: cell: 416-880-2757

Pictures of the NGO delegation at the Canadian Embassy and a copy of their letter are available.
Briefing on GE canola contamination in Japan: www.greenpeace.or.jp
Biosafety Protocol information: http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.asp?mtg=BSWGLR-01 IN: AGRICULTURE, ENVIRONMENT, POLITICS

Contact Information