New report reveals GE contamination problem in the Philippines, other parts of the world

Feature story - March 10, 2006
A report released this week reveals that the Philippines is one of 39 countries affected by contamination from genetically-engineered organisms (GEs or GMOs).

Greenpeace marks a maize field with signs showing corn with a 'question mark' indicating that 1 in 200 maize crops can be genetically contaminated if the draft EU seed directive is passed.

The GM Contamination Report 2005, the first ever to delve into the extent to which GMOs have 'leaked' into the environment reveals a disturbing picture of widespread worldwide contamination, illegal planting and negative agricultural side effect(1), is a summary of cases uncovered by the website GMO Contamination Register(2) set up by Greenpeace and GeneWatch UK.

The contamination case cited for the Philippines was the presence of GMOs in common food products, including baby food.

"The Philippine's inclusion in the list is not surprising considering the country's failure to ratify the Biosafety protocol which establishes the minimum international safety standards for GMO crops and their trade," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia GE Campaigner Daniel Ocampo.

"But what is equally alarming is that the government has a pro-active GMO commercialization policy, particularly of Bt corn, but has no clear stand on liability and redress for the uncontrolled spread of GMOs, and has not established clear-cut monitoring mechanisms and safety nets ensure the protection of conventional corn varieties from GMO contamination."

In total, the report reveals 113 cases of GM contamination worldwide, involving 39 countries-twice as many countries as are officially allowed to grow GM crops since they were first commercialized in 1996. Worryingly, the frequency of these cases is increasing, with 11 countries affected in 2005 alone. Contamination has even been found in countries conducting supposedly "carefully controlled" high-profile farm-scale evaluations, such as the UK.

Greenpeace is calling for a mandatory international register of all such cases to be set up, along with the adoption of minimum standards of identification and labelling of all international shipments of GE crops.

"Without such biosafety standards, the global community will have no chance of tracing and recalling dangerous GMOs, should this become necessary." said Benedikt Haerlin of Greenpeace International's Biosafety Protocol delegation.

The publication of the report comes only days before the latest meeting of the 132 countries who have signed the Biosafety Protocol(3), which establishes standards of safety and information of GE crops in global food and feed trade. At their last meeting an imminent agreement was blocked by only two member states, Brazil and New Zealand. They were backed by the major GE exporting countries USA, Argentina and Canada, who are not members of the Protocol and want to restrict required identification to a meaningless note that a shipment "may contain" GE.

Such moves endanger countries like the Philippines which is subjected to GE imports.

"GE exporting countries have national legislation to protect themselves from illegal GE imports. Yet they want to deny the same rights and level of information to less developed countries with no national Biosafety-laws and means to enforce them," concluded Haerlin. "Do they really want such unethical double standards and create dumping grounds for unidentified and illegal GE imports? We hope that Brazil, who will be hosting this meeting, will not betray the developing countries and cater to large agro-businesses at the expense of the environment."

For further details contact:

Greenpeace Southeast Asia: Daniel Ocampo: +63 917 897 6416

Benedikt Haerlin, tel +49 30 27590309, fax +49 30 27590312 mobile +49 173 9997555

Greenpeace USA: Prof. Doreen Stabinsky , tel. +1-202-285-7398

Greenpeace China: Isabelle Meister +86 10 655 46931 ext 135

GeneWatch UK, Dr Sue Mayer, tel +44 1298 871898

(1)Among those catalogued were highly disturbing incidents of GMO contamination around the world, including: - Pork meat from genetically engineered pigs being sold to consumers - Ordinary crops being contaminated with GE crops containing pharmaceuticals - Growing and international distribution of illegal antibiotic resistant Maize seeds - Planting of outlawed GE crops which have been smuggled into countries - Mixing of unapproved GE crops in food, including shipments of food aid - Inadvertent mixing of different GE strains even in high profile scientific field trials (2)The GM Contamination Register is online at www.gmcontaminationregister.org The full report is also available at http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/gm-contamination-report.pdf (3)The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety under the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty to establish minimum international safety standards for genetically engineered organisms ratified by 132 states. http://www.biodiv.org/biosafety An overview of national legislation on imports and labelling of GE organisms world wide including a map of potential GE dumping grounds as well as import and export figures is available online at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/genetic-engineering/biosafety-protocol

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