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    Seeds of doubt: why the GE moratorium shouldn't be lifted

    by Alison White

    A comprehensive new report into the impact of genetically engineered crops in North America should spark further debate about the Labour Government's plan to lift its moratorium on the release of commercial GE crops and animals in 12 months. The "Seeds of Doubt" report, commissioned by Britain's Soil Association, found that GM soya, maize and oilseed rape crops have cost the US economy more than $25 billion since 1999.

    The report into GM crops' effect on North American farms finds that:

    • Almost the entire $700 million annual US maize export to the EU and the $700 million annual Canadian rape export to the EU have disappeared;
    • Non-GM farmers are finding it very hard or impossible to grow GM-free crops;
    • GM contamination has led to a proliferation of lawsuits, including a class action launched on behalf of the whole organic sector in Saskatchewan for the loss of the organic rape market;
    • Claims of increased yields have not been realised, with the main GM variety (Roundup Ready soya) yielding 6­11 per cent less than non-GM varieties.

    The New Zealand Government is currently preparing legislation to allow "conditional release", which was recommended by the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification last year. This would enable ERMA to insist on controls like buffer zones between GE and non-GE crops.

    However, as Green Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons remarked,

    "this is an attempt to make release look acceptable when it isn't. If it's not in containment then it's released and it will spread, and no condition is going to change that. Conditional release is like being a little bit pregnant ­ you don't stay a little bit pregnant."

    Evidence is mounting daily of widespread GE crop contamination and potential risks to human health. This questions the assumption, held by regulatory authorities, that GE crops do not damage health and the environment. Recent findings include fields in England and Scotland found to be contaminated with unauthorised GE material, containing illegal antibiotic genes; an American study showed that weeds became hardier when they received genes from GE crops, confirming fears that the technology would breed 'superweeds'. French research demonstrated that GE beetroot swopped genes with weeds far more readily than had been thought. A British study revealed that GE DNA material from GE food was getting into bacteria in the guts of people who ate it. An EU study concluded organic farming would be forced out of business if GE crops became widespread because GE genes would contaminate organic crops.

    Will our Government continue to yield to American political pressure, ignoring this mounting scientific evidence and overriding the wishes of consumers who do not want GE food? The moratorium on commercial release of GE crops should not be lifted.SF

    Sources: www.soilassociation.org, Dominion Post 18 Sept 02, Geoffrey Lean UK Mail 17 Aug 02.

    December 2002

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