GE Contamination in Spain: a warning for Europe

Press release - 4 April, 2006
The spiralling uptake of Genetically Engineered (GE) crops in Spain is causing massive genetic contamination, threatens the livelihood of farmers and urgently needs to be suspended, says Greenpeace. In a new report 'Impossible Coexistence', environmentalists (1) show how GE crops in Spain - the only EU country that grows Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on a large scale - are undermining agricultural biodiversity and consumer choice.

Organic Spanish farmers are burning their maize harvest after it was revealed that it had been contaminated by nearby fields of genetically engineered maize.

"This report should be taken as a warning to the Commission and Europein general of the dangers of GE production, " said Greenpeacecampaigner Geert Ritsema from Vienna where a major European Commissionconference on coexistence begins today. "Despite guarantees by variousSpanish governments that guidelines and controls would ensure safety,farmers and consumer choice the reality has been the opposite.

"Testimonialsfrom farmers demonstrate that the unabated growth of the GE industrynow represents the single largest threat to their livelihoods,especially in the regions Aragón and Catalonia where GE crops aremainly cultivated."

The report 'Impossible Coexistence'written in cooperation with farmer organisation Assemblea Pagesa andcivil society group Plataforma Trangènics Fora!, is based on thoroughresearch including laboratory tests of samples taken from the maizefields of 40 Spanish organic and conventional farmers, documents thefollowing:

- In almost a quarter of the investigated casesunintended and unwanted presence of GE maize was found in the maizefields of non GE farmers. The GE contamination was as high as 12.6 %;

-In several cases the affected farmers suffered economic losses, as theywere not able anymore to sell the contaminated maize at a premiummarket value;

- Three of the contamination cases involved localmaize varieties which, after years of careful selection, can no longerbe used for future plantings; These cases show how GE contamination isa threat to biodiversity and to the few local varieties that are still in the hands of farmers;

"Thelack of GE regulation in Spain is a slap in the face to organic andconventional farmers who have put blood, sweat and tears into theirbusinesses and now find the interests of big Agro Biotech firms likeSyngenta and Monsanto not only being placed above local communities andultimately damaging their livelihoods," said Mr Antonio Ruiz, presidentof the Organic Farming Committee of Aragón, who attended a Greenpeacepress conference in Vienna today.

Greenpeace is calling on theSpanish authorities to immediately suspend the cultivation of GMOs inSpain. It is also calling on EU ministers and the European Commissionto prevent the cultivation of GE crops in other EU countries.

"TheSpanish experience demonstrates that GE and non-GE co-existence is afallacy," said Ritsema. "European Ministers attending this week'smeeting should seriously consider whether they wish it upon the farmersand consumers in the

rest of Europe."

Greenpeace is anindependent, campaigning organisation which uses non-violent, creativeconfrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to drivesolutions essential to a green and peaceful future.

Other contacts: For further information:Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International GE Campaigner, +31 646 197 328Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International Communications Officer +31 646 197 324

VVPR info: Greenpeace Photo Desk: +31653819255Greenpeace Video: +31653504721

Notes: (1) The report, which was written by Greenpeace in cooperation with farmer organisation Assemblea Pagesa and civil society group Plataforma Trangènics Fora!, was launched today at the opening of a major European Commission conference attended by EU ministers in Vienna. The conference will discuss the EU's future policy on "coexistence" and determine if GE and Non GE crops can be grown together.Impossible Coexistence: Seven years of GMOs have contaminated organic and conventional maize: an examination of the cases of Catalonia and Aragon, is available for downloading at:www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/impossible-coexistence

Exp. contact date: 2006-05-04 00:00:00