Greenpeace Canada

Greenpeace Canada

February 19, 2007 11:50 ET

Greenpeace wants corporations held liable for GE contamination

Report highlights world-wide impacts of GE contamination in 2006

Attention: Assignment Editor, Environment Editor, News Editor, Science Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 19, 2007) - Greenpeace is calling on experts meeting in Montreal today to discuss the liability of corporations producing genetically engineered (GE) crops to hold those companies responsible for the environmental and economic impacts of GE contamination.

"There is an urgent need for a strong liability treaty," said Josh Brandon, Greenpeace campaigner. "2006 has been the worst year yet for GE contamination. Farmers in the US are reeling from the costly effects of the Bayer LL601 rice scandal. Over 60 cases against Bayer have been filed in US courts. A strong treaty would make sure that companies profiting from the technology are made to pay for the economic and environmental damage caused by their products. Without liability protection, it is small farmers around the world who will pay the price."

That seems to be the case for organic farmers in Saskatchewan, many of whom have reported that they cannot grow oilseed rape because of contamination. They are now in the midst of legal action against the companies involved. The case in Saskatchewan is just one of nine incidents of GE contamination in Canada documented in the online register: www.gmcontaminationregister.org. In total it contains 142 cases of unintended release, illegal planting and harmful agricultural impacts of GE crops, recorded from around the world in the last decade.

The register accompanies the GM Contamination Register Report, launched today to coincide with the meeting in Montreal of the Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts on Liability and Redress in the context of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety(2), The report, produced by Greenpeace International in conjunction with GeneWatch UK, highlights the burgeoning problem of genetic contamination of crops by (GE)) variants. The report provides a detailed overview of the significant contamination events from around the world(1) in 2006.

Also highlighted in the report is the looming threat of contamination of maize seed supplies and the possible downstream effects on traditional maize varieties. GE maize was involved in nearly one-third of all contamination incidents over the last decade, with four incidents of maize seed contamination (in four different countries) reported in 2006. Contamination of maize seed is a serious problem for both farmers and consumers around the world, but particularly in areas where traditional varieties are still grown. Even though Mexico - the birthplace of maize - does not currently allow field trials or commercial farming of GE maize, traditional varieties of maize have been contaminated. Brazil - also a centre of diversity for maize and home of many valuable indigenous varieties - is also identified as being at high risk.

"Contamination from genetically engineered crops is a growing problem that countries must take seriously," said Brandon. "Steps need to be taken now to protect farmers' and consumers' choice to grow and eat GE-free food. By linking contamination to economic penalties for biotechnology companies, we stand a much higher chance of protecting the world's food and seed supplies for future generations."

Contacts: Josh Brandon GE campaigner with Greenpeace, cell: 604-721-7493
Jane Story, Greenpeace Communications, cell: 416-930-9055

Notes to Editors:
1. The report has maps depicting the location of global contamination incidents in 2006. To view and download the maps, please visit: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports (FINAL LINK WILL BE CHANGED WHEN THE REPORT IS LIVE)
2. The GM contamination register is a biosafety information resource included on the official UN Biosafety Clearinghouse website. https://bch.biodiv.org/database/record.shtml?id=11886
3. The working group is meeting under the auspices of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a global treaty on genetically engineered organisms, in Montreal from 19 February to 23 February. www.biodiv.org

IN: ENVIRONMENT, POLITICS

Contact Information