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In response to pressure from the USA government and multinationals, the European Commission has approved genetically engineered crops, such as transgenic corn and soy from USA, for import into Europe. However, biotech imports to Europe are effectively on hold because several individual countries, including Luxembourg, Austria, and Italy, have banned these products, recognizing them as health hazards.
Since Canada has not segregated its genetically modified canola from unmodified versions, Canadian canola has not been allowed into Europe either. Canadians exports of canola to Europe, which were $180 million in 1996, are nothing for this year. Only such pressure from consumers and distributors can force governments and industry to stop marketing genetically engineered crops, which risk the health of consumers.
Because of mounting consumer concern, especially in Europe, a growing international trade has begun to develop in corn and soybeans -- as well as products derived from these grains -- which are tested, certified, and labeled as non-genetically engineered. Genetic ID in Fairview, Iowa and TNO Nutrition in the Netherlands, two labs testing for genetic contamination, report a "brisk business" as food buyers and manufacturers scramble to meet increasing consumer demands for non-GE products. Polls in the USA, Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, and other industrialized nations continue to find 80-90% of consumers demanding mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods -- mainly so that they can avoid buying them. Sales of organic or "biological" products are rapidly increasing, partly in response to the gene foods controversy.
The world's largest grain multinationals continue to claim publicly that it is "impossible," or at at least "economically impractical," to separate out and label gene-altered and regular grains. But recent behind-the-scenes surveys of numerous grain handlers and grain dealers in the USA tell a different story. The bottom line is that the grain cartels are already segregating or sourcing non-GE soy and corn and supplying it secretly to some of their major European customers. Large supermarket chains in Europe seem to have already made "backroom deals" with the cartels to supply them with all the non-GE grains they need -- as long as they, the buyers, agree to keep their sources secret.
Concerned consumers worldwide are planning for the Second Global Days of Action against genetic engineering, which will take place Oct. 2-17. Countries already participating include USA (many cities), Canada, UK, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, India, Malaysia, Philippines, France, Netherlands, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Brazil, Croatia, Argentina, Honkong, South Korea, Honduras, and Costa Rica. Actions and public education events planned include press conferences, public meeting and lectures, mailings, distribution of leaflets, and other means to bring to the attention of the press and the public the hazards of genetically engineered foods, which are coming on the market with enormous speed.
SAY NO NOW TO THE BIOTECH INDUSTRY.
A Canadian farmer recently phoned in to take part in a radio programme (CBC September `97) discussing labelling of GE crops. He went on to say how unhappy he was with the Roundup Ready Canola that he was in the process of harvesting. He reported that he was only getting 15 bushels per acre, after getting 30 the week before from the fields seeded with conventional canola. He had seeded Roundup-Ready (RR) Canola because he `wanted to clean up this field'. The problem with that was that the weeds the Roundup were guaranteed to clean up were still there.
On top of that, he said, he had grown some RR canola the year before and kept it segregated, but this year the industry told him not to bother segregating the RR canola because it had been approved in Japan and Europe. Now they tell him that the European and Japanese buyers don't want it, approved or not, because the public don't want it - but now it is all mixed in with his regular canola!
The radio station was CBC Regina, the show was on air from 1-2 pm local time, on Sept. 2nd and the host was Lindy Thorsen. Peter McCann, an industry front man (president of AgWest Biotech, a publicly funded industry lobby group) was a guest on the show as was Brewster Kneen, who is an anti-GE campaigner.
Brazilian agriculture officials will meet on October 2nd to discuss Brazil's ban on imports of soybeans containing GMOs. At present, the entry into Brazil of any soybeans containing genetically modified material is prohibited; providing a source of GM-free processed soybeans for other countries. Brazil itself has said that the main reason for the ban is that some third countries who are significant buyers of the processed soybean do impose restrictions on such products.
Without imports of US soybeans, which some say could total around 2 million tons, sources say the Brazilian [soya bean], crushing industry could shut down for several months, potentially from Nov. 1997 to Feb. 1998, when new-crop supplies come on line. Brazil's own GE free soya beans were in such high demand this year that they sold out in record time.
** Brazil is under immense pressure from the US to end its ban, please send as many faxes as possible to the Brazilian Agriculture Minister, Arlindo Porto, before October 2nd, urging him not to give in. Explain to him the US strategy and tell him that Europe doesn't want transgenic soya from the US and that Brazil shouldn't be pressured into buying something that nobody else wants. His fax number is: +55-61-225 9046. If you have the time fax Brazilian press also. For their details e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org he would also like to hear about any faxes that you send to Arlindo Porto.
Richard Wolfson, Ph.D., Campaign for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods
Natural Law Party, 500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2, Tel. 613-565-8517 Fax. 613-565-1596, e-mail: email@example.com
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