Greenpeace Biosafety Patrol takes action where Greek Government has failed

Press release - May 22, 2004
Activists from the Greenpeace ship 'Esperanza' this morning boarded a bulk carrier 'Flag Tom' carrying some 40,000 thousands tons of genetically engineered (GE) soya and 14,000 tons of maize from Argentina to demand that Greek authorities inspect the cargo for illegal GE imports and to highlight the continuing contamination of the Greek food supply by GE imports (1).

The Greek coastguard looks on as Greenpeace activists occupy the hatches on the bulk carrier Flag Tom in order to prevent its cargo of GE soya from reaching Greece.

Greenpeace climbers boarded the ship from inflatable boats and four volunteers are now onboard the 'Flag Tom'. Volunteers have locked themselves to the ship's hatches to prevent the off-loading of the portion of the cargo known to be GE until Greek Authorities arrive to properly control the cargo as required by EU legislation. Others are displaying banners in English and Greek saying, 'No to the imports of GE' and 'Don't buy GE Food'. A delegation from the 'Esperanza' is currently speaking with the captain of the 'Flag Tom'. The importing company and the Greek authorities have been contacted.

"We have taken action today to protest the uncontrolled import of GMOs into the Greek market. We are asking the Ministry of Agriculture and the Food Inspection Authority to act immediately and conduct proper controls and ensure consumers are fully informed about all GE products entering Greece," said Myrto Pispini Greenpeace GE Campaigner in Greece, who is at the scene (2).

Greece imports about 500,000 tons of soya annually from the U.S., Argentina and Brazil, an estimated 60% of which is GE or GE contaminated. GE soya covers over 14 million hectares in Argentina. Land is being converted for GE soya production, which leads to Argentinean families being violently removed from their lands for planting GE soya, causing an environmental and social nightmare. The figures for annual maize imports to Greece are unclear.

"GE soya and GE corn are contaminating the environment where they are grown and are contaminating our food when they are imported. Labeled or unlabeled, Greenpeace is against any GE imports as they perpetuate this unnecessary, unwanted, GE food experiment," said Daniela Montalto Greenpeace International GE Campaigner.

Earlier this week, in the North of Greece, conventional non-GE maize seeds were found to be GE contaminated in an area of more than 100 hectares in the region of Drama. Greenpeace condemned the Agriculture Ministry for conducting ineffective checks and asked for more strict, timely controls and liability regulations. The Ministry ordered the destruction of the identified contaminated maize field.

Last week, as a result of a Greenpeace action preventing the offloading of the ship 'Keoyang Majesty', which was carrying some 40,000 tons of Argentinean GE soya into Italy, the Italian police has reportedly seized 1,200 tons of the GE soya due to improper documentation and further investigation is ongoing.

VVPR info: Photographs from +31 646 16 2019 Video from +31 646 16 2003

Notes: 1) Some 10,000 tons of the GE soyabeans and 7,000 tons of the maize from the 'Flag Tom' are intended for import to Greece. The soyabeans are assumed to be GE because they come from Argentina where a massive 98% of the soya grown is GE. The status of the maize is not known at this time. 2) New EU regulations on traceability and labelling came into force on the 18 April this year, and it obliges to label all food products (and animal feed) containing GMOs authorized by the EU. Greenpeace is calling on the Government in Greece that they at least enforce the implementation of this law. The Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, under the Convention on Biological Diversity, sets up minimum safety standards regarding the transboundary movement of living GE organisms. In February, the first Meeting of Parties adopted more detailed requirements on the documentation and labeling of GE organisms. The documentation accompanying transboundary movements will have to include the "common, scientific and commercial names" of the GE organisms in the shipment, as well as their "transformation event codes" or, where available, their "unique identifier codes". 3) Greenpeace is highly critical of a major loophole in the new EU rules with regard to meat and dairy products, insisting that for consumer choice to be meaningful, meat and dairy products from animals fed with GMOs must also be labeled.