Dairy industry must listen to concerns about GMOs in the food chain

Press release - 23 August, 2005
Greenpeace today demanded that two of the largest European dairy companies must stop buying their milk from dairy farmers who grow GE maize, to avoid the potential contamination of the food chain. To illustrate the risk, a life-size sculpture of a cow with a see-through stomach filled with animal feed was placed by activists in a field growing the GE crop in Seelow, Brandenburg near the Polish border. Several farmers in Brandenburg growing GE maize, deliver milk to Campina and Mueller, who sell it directly to consumers.

Greenpeace action against GE animal feed in a field growing GE crops. Greenpeace demands that two of Europe's largest dairy companies must stop buying their milk from farmers who grow Genetically Engineered (GE) maize to avoid potential contamination of the food chain.

European consumers have consistently rejected food that is genetically engineered (GE). As a result there are hardly any GE labelled food products on the European market. However, EU labelling law contains a loophole; milk, eggs, meat and other animal-derived foodstuffs do not need to be labelled if the animals were fed genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As most of the GE maize grown in Europe is used as animal feed, European consumers could unknowingly consume GE derived products, such as milk.

"Despite huge opposition to GMOs in the food chain from European consumers, Mueller and Campina refuse to guarantee that their dairy cattle are not fed on GE maize," said Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International GE Campaigner. "Through advertising their products as pure and natural, they are misleading their consumers as their products risk being contaminated from the GE crops grown by their dairy farmers."

Other European countries have taken steps to ensure their products are completely GE free. Food manufacturers have ensured that GE animal feed is not used in Switzerland and Sweden. In Austria, the large dairy company, NOEM AG, ensured its entire range of fresh milk products are "GE free".

The U.S. biotech company, Monsanto, produces the GE maize (MON 810) sown in the fields of Seelow. The European Commission gave approval for the GE maize to be grown in the EU in 2004. However, a debate about its safety for the environment is still ongoing. As a result the Governments of Austria, Greece, Hungary and Poland have banned the maize. Currently this particular crop of GE maize is the only GE plant permitted to be grown throughout the EU. Other GE maize and GE Soya varieties, cultivated outside the EU, are authorised for import as animal feed.

Greenpeace is demanding that the European dairy industry take steps to stop the cultivation of GE maize in the EU, and to stop importing GE maize, GE Soya and other GE plants grown outside the EU to use in animal feed. Companies such as Campina and Mueller can make a significant contribution to stopping the use of GE animal feed by insisting that their milk only comes from non-GE suppliers.

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation, which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force solutions essential to a green and peaceful future.

Other contacts: Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International GE Campaigner, +31 646 197 328Mhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International Communications, +31 646 162 026

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