Important paper and conference on contamination and "coexistence" + Chapela comment (25/8/2005)

1.Chapela on "coexistence"
2.Excerpts from paper - GM crops and agricultural landscapes: spatial patterns of contamination.
3.Abstract of the paper.
4.GMO and consumer experts converge in Bologna


There's an important conference coming up in Bolgna, Italy, on the 9th of September: "'Co-existence', contamination and GM-free zones - Jeopardising consumer choice." The full programme's given below (item 5).

Dr Ignacio Chapela, who's one of the conference speakers, has drawn our attention to a very revealing paper published earlier this year on the issue of how GM crops can be grown together with non-GM crops - so-called "coexistence".

The biotech industry and its supporters like to maintain that coexistence is unproblematic. Dr Paul Rylott, who formerly headed the industry's Agricultural Biotechnology Council, is among those who have asserted that, "The two will not get mixed up. Everybody will have the right to choose."

At the time of that statement Rylott was Seed Manager for Aventis. Shortly afterwards the company was engulfed in the Starlink scandal, in which hundreds of food lines had to be recalled thanks to contamination by an Aventis GM corn unapproved for humans. In Iowa, StarLink corn represented just 1 percent of the total crop grown, yet it tainted 50 percent of Iowa's corn harvest.

Unlike Dr Rylott, the authors of the paper on agricultural economics and political governance that Dr Chapela refers to, realistically conclude that there is "great potential for ubiquitous contamination of farmland wherever GM crops are introduced". They also suggest that avoiding that happening will require the introduction of measures that will be both complex and expensive.

Currently the industry, the US administration and USAID are working flat out to push GM crops into some of the poorest countries in the world. The technically complex and financially burdensome nature of anything approaching effective coexistence shows up the truly criminal character of what they're doing.

1. Chapela on coexistence

Dear GM Watch,

The mildly-worded paper attached highlights, through a Cellular Automaton model, what many have been saying before: coexistence would be expensive, most harming to the less-organized and less-wealthy, and could only be "socially optimized" through strong governmental and international intervention (prior some questionably strong assumptions). I think Percy Schmeisser has it better when he simply says "Coexistence is impossible". In the end, from a strictly economic analysis, and seeing the lack of any benefits from GMO crops, the conservative consequence for policy is obvious: "Just say no, to GMO", as so many have chanted through our streets already... beyond the "possibility" of market failure, I think there is no doubt of the governance failure that this all represents.

Some excerpts below.

2.Excerpts from Genetically modified crops and agricultural landscapes: spatial patterns of contamination.
By Ken Belcher, James Francis Nolan and Peter WB Phillips

However, recent activity in the area of policy development shows growing recognition that there are social costs imposed by GM crop proliferation.

Markets will certainly have a major role in deciding how and where to plant GM and non-GM crops, but this study suggests that the potential scope of GM contamination may render it difficult for markets to effectively internalize externalities associated

We suggest that either a tax on GM growers could be used to compensate non-GM growers for any loss of income due to co-mingling or, alternately, non-GM growers could pay GM growers to restrict their planting.

Ultimately, our preliminary analysis suggests that the potential for market failure offers a prima facie case for government action. We acknowledge that the costs of a zoning or a spatial planting system used to ensure some target level of uncontaminated land would be non-trivial, but the long-term social benefits of maintaining a certified non-GM agricultural sector may be great enough to justify these costs.

Genetically modified crops and agricultural landscapes: spatial patterns of contamination
Ken Belcher(a), James Nolan(a), Peter W.B. Phillips(b).
a = Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Saskatchewan
b = Department of Political Studies, University of Saskatchewan
Available online 3 February 2005
Ecological Economics 53 (2005) 387- 401

3.Abstract: Genetically modified crops and agricultural landscapes: spatial patterns of contamination.

There is a growing concern in the global agri-food industry about the problem of genetically modified (GM) crop "field contamination" and its scope and duration at the farm level. The farm-level GM contamination problem needs to be better understood so as to ensure that crop identity preservation (IP) systems can be developed and maintained. Otherwise, the introduction of GM crops could prove very costly to the agri-food industry. These costs could more than offset the significant production benefits envisioned for producers and developers of GM crops. To help develop the kinds of policies necessary to maintain IP at the farm level, we develop and explore a spatial simulation model of farm level GM contamination. We find that unless careful attention is paid to where GM crops are grown in relation to non-GM crops, there is great potential for ubiquitous contamination of farmland wherever GM crops are introduced.

4.GMO and consumer experts converge in Bologna
By eco-farm.org, Aug 24, 2005

A panel of international experts on genetic modification (GM) and consumer rights will be speaking at a conference on '"Co-existence", contamination and GM-free zones: Jeopardising consumer choice?' in Bologna, Italy (9 September 2005) organised by Consumers International (CI) and Regione Emilia-Romagna.

Contamination of GM-free crops can occur during the breeding, transportation and processing of seeds. Also, when pollen from GM crops blows into fields of GM-free crops. Unless strong measures are put in place by governments, contamination will eventually eliminate the consumer's right to choose.

David Cuming, CI GM Campaign Manager says:

'How is contamination of GM-free crops and fields going to be prevented? Unless governments, scientists, GM farmers and biotechnology companies can guarantee availability of GM-free food for all consumers, then the consumer right to choice is threatened. GM-free food must not become a luxury good.'

Anna Bartolini, Italian representative in the European Consumer Consultative Group (ECCG) says:

'In Italy we have many problems segregating GM crops from conventional and organic crops. However, GM crops must be contained to prevent contamination of GM-free food. Italian people are proud of their food and don't want to eat GM. The consumer voice must be heard!'

Some questions that will be explored at the Bologna conference include: Is it viable to grow genetically modified (GM) crops without contaminating conventional and organic crops? Is consumer choice being threatened by the current growth of GM crops? How can GM-free zones be legally established, and what purpose do they serve?

Speakers include Ignacio Chapela (University of California - Berkeley, USA), Angelika Hilbeck (Geobotanical Institute, ETH - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Switzerland), Marijane Lisboa (IDEC - Instituto de Defesa do Consumidor, Brazil), Muyanda Ililonga (ZACA- Zambia Consumers Association, Zambia) and Benedikt Haerlin (Save our Seeds and Foundation on Future Farming, Germany). See below for full programme.

Note for editors

The conference is free and open to all. Discussions will take place in English and Italian with interpretation in these 2 languages. To ensure a place please register in advance by contacting: [email protected]

The conference is part of SANA, the 17th International Exhibition of Natural Products - NUTRITION, HEALTH, ENVIRONMENT, Bologna, Italy (8 - 11 September 2005). Registration to the conference provides free admission to the SANA exhibition (www.sana.it).


International conference open to the public organised by Regione Emilia-Romagna and Consumers International

'Co-existence', contamination and GM-free zones - Jeopardising consumer choice?

9 September 2005

Sala Europa - Palazzo dei Congressi, Piazza Costituzione, 4 -Bologna - Italy<br />

Outline of the programme
Friday 9 September 2005
8:30 - 9:00 Registration
9:00 - 9:30 Welcome and Introduction
Sergio Rossi, Italy
Consigliere Delegato SANA srl
David Cuming, UK
GM Campaigns Manager, Consumers International
Daniela Primicerio, Italy
Director General, Direzione generale per l'armonizzazione del mercato e la tutela dei consumatori (DGAMTC)

The meeting will be chaired by Anna Bartolini, Italy

Italian representative in the European Consumer Consultative Group (ECCG)
Anna Fielder, UK
Director, Office for Developed and Transition Economies, Consumers International

9:30 - 11:00 PANEL 1
Regional perspectives and experiences on GM-free zones and 'co-existence' - perspectives from Italy, Brazil, Zambia, USA and Thailand
Gianni Cavinato, Italy
Secretary General, Associazione Consumatori Utenti

Els Cooperrider, USA
Co-owner of the Ukiah Brewing Company and co-author of Measure H for a GM-free Mendocino County

Marijane Lisboa, Brazil
Coordinator, Instituto de Defesa do Consumidor (IDEC) and Sociology lecturer, São Paulo Catholic University (PUC-SP)

Gerald Lonauer, Austria
Head of the Liaison Office of Upper Austria, Assembly of European Union

Muyunda Ililonga, Zambia
Executive Director, ZACA - Zambia Consumers Association

Saree Aongsomwang, Thailand
Director, Foundation for Consumers

11:00 - 12:30 PANEL 2
What are the main scientific issues surrounding the debate over GM-free zones and 'co-existence'?
Ignacio Chapela, USA
Assistant Professor, Division of Ecosystem Sciences, University of California - Berkeley

Simone Vieri, Italy
Professor of Agricultural Economics and Politics, Università della Sapienza di Roma

Angelika Hilbeck, Switzerland
Project coordinator, Geobotanical Institute, ETH - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich

Claudia Sorlini, Italy
Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Universita degli Studi di Milano
Biotechnology Industry representative

12:30 - 14:00 Buffet lunch

14:00 - 15:30 PANEL 3
What efforts have government and industry taken to ensure 'co-existence' is viable for all sectors of agriculture and are they working?

Bernd Voss, Germany
Member of the European Economic and Social Committee and rapporteur on co-existence

Lim Li Lin, Malaysia
Third World Network

Victor Gonzalvez, Spain
Technical Coordinator, Sociedad Espanola de Agricultura Ecologica (SEAE), IFOAM - EU Spain Board member

15:30 - 17:00 PANEL 4
What are the main legal concerns surrounding GM-free zones and 'co-existence'?

Benedikt Haerlin, Germany
Director, Save our Seeds and Foundation on Future Farming

Andrew Kimbrell, USA
Executive Director, Center for Food Safety

Paolo Martinello, Italy
President, Altroconsumo (CCA)

17:00 - 18:00 Discussion
18:00 -18:30 Concluding remarks
Tiberio Rabboni, Italy
Assessore Agricoltura, Regione Emilia-Romagna
18:30 End of Conference
Location of conference
Sala Europa
Centro Congressi
Piazza Costituzione
40100 Bologna

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