Greenpeace calls on UN biosafety conference to make: “genetic polluters pay”

Press release - 9 May, 2008
From 12-16 May, governments from around the world will gather in Bonn, Germany to hammer out the final details of global liability and redress measures for damage caused by genetically engineered (GE) organisms. Greenpeace will attend the 4th meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (1), telling governments “GE polluters must pay for the damage their crops wreak on the environment, on farmers, and on human health.”

Illegally planted GE rape plant with bee.

At the meeting Greenpeace will release a briefing paper that draws on the most recent GE global contamination scandals, involving an illegal GE maize variety from Syngenta (2), and GE rice from Bayer (3).  The paper highlights the general lack of access of government authorities to information about both experimental and commercially available GE crops.

"Genetic Engineering companies indiscriminately pollute the world's food and seed supplies, and natural environments with their wandering genes" said Jan van Aken, Greenpeace International agriculture campaigner.  "They refuse to provide governments with the necessary information to detect those genes.  And they are doing everything they can, including blaming God (4), to shirk responsibility. Governments must stand up to this - genetic polluters must pay!"

In addition to liability and redress, governments at the meeting will negotiate on several other controversial political issues, including sharing of information and harmonisation of methods to detect illegal international movements of GE organisms.

To facilitate detection and clean-up, and to prevent the highest risk organisms from contaminating food supplies in the first place, Greenpeace demands governments ensure that sequence information and reference material for all genetically engineered plants on the global market is made available to all regulatory authorities worldwide.

"The companies shouting the loudest that GE is safe are also those fighting the hardest to avoid liability for their dangerous products.  GE companies want to take no responsibility for their unproven technology. GE crops pose an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment. Last week's decision by the EU Commission to send three new types of GE crops back to the European Food Safety Authority shows that Europe's most senior lawmakers are starting to make the right decisions. But much more must be done" concluded van Aken.


Other contacts: Greenpeace contacts at the UN Biosafety meeting: Dr. Jan van Aken, +49 151 1805 34 15Dr. Doreen Stabinsky, +1 202 285 73 98

Notes: 1. The Fourth Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, is meeting from 12-16 May 2008, in Bonn, Germany. A Greenpeace briefing outlining the current play of the negotiations is available at Greenpeace’s position paper on sampling, detection and the problem of illegal transboundary movements is available at In 2005, Syngenta finally admitted that they had sold hundreds of tonnes of the wrong GE maize (Bt10 instead of Bt11) in the US for four years. The mistake was discovered in 2004 but instead of informing farmers and consumers, Syngenta entered into secret talks with the US government. 2006 traces of Bayer’s GE rice variety LL601, were discovered in US rice supplies. The contamination came from experimental field trials which had ended in 2001. The discovery triggered the largest financial and marketing disaster in the history of the US rice industry, and at least 30 countries were affected. Greenpeace calculated that the total costs of the disaster could exceed $1.2 billion