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Keep GMOs out of organic food! - Urgent (26/3/2007)

1.Keep GMOs out of organic food!
2.URGENT - TAKE ACTION: Lobby MEPs to stop GM contamination in organic food

NOTE: The vote is on Thursday and the amendments to vote for are now known, so - whether you have already contacted your MEPs or not - please contact them urgently about the amendments (details in item 2)

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1.Keep GMOs out of organic food!
European Parliament to vote on new EU law
PRESS RELEASE, March 26th 2007

Brussels, 26 March, 2007 - Environment groups are this week appealing to the European Parliament to protect organic farming from contamination by genetically modified crops. MEPs will vote this Thursday on whether a new EU law should allow GMOs in organic food [1,2].

According to Mauro Albrizio, Vice President of the European Environmental Bureau: "Organic farming is the jewel in the crown of European agriculture. The European Parliament should support organic production rather than putting it at risk from contamination by genetically modified crops that citizens don’t want to eat anyway"

Although the use of genetically modified (GM) crops is currently banned in organic production, the new draft law would allow traces of contamination and contains no measures to stop GM crops contaminating organic farms [3].

A large proportion of European citizens are opposed to GMOs in food and crops, and have been so consistently for the past ten years, as confirmed by the most recent EU opinion poll, published in June 2006 [4].

"People buy organic foods in the confidence that they are 100% GMO-free. Opening the farm gate to GMOs in organic food will be going against consumer choice and accepting that big business can contaminate our food and decide what we eat", said Marco Contiero, senior policy advisor on GMOs at Greenpeace's EU unit.

Helen Holder, GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, added: "Organic farming is the only farming sector in the EU showing growth. The sector provides quality jobs and a lifeline for rural economies, but it could be wrecked because of the biotech industry's inability to control its crops. We need strong laws that allow the organic sector to grow the crops and produce foods that European consumers want."

Environmental NGOs are urging MEPs, the European Commission and Member States to take all necessary measures to prevent genetic contamination. As well as the new law on organic production, strict laws on the commercial growing of GM crops and contamination ("coexistence") are urgently needed.

For further information please contact:-

Helen Holder, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe Tel : +32 (0)2 542 0182; Mobile +32 (0)474 857 638;
E-mail:
_helen.holder@foeeurope.org_
Marco Contiero, Senior Policy Advisor, GMOs, Greenpeace EU Unit
Mobile: +32 477 777 034; E-mail:
_marco.contiero@diala.greenpeace.org_
Mauro Albrizio, Vice-President, European Environmental Bureau Mobile : +32 479 940 257 ; E-mail: _legambiente@skynet.be_

Notes for editors:-

[1] Proposal for a Council Regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products (COM(2005)0671 – C6-0032/2006 – 2005/0278(CNS))

[2] EEB, Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace are calling on MEPs to vote for an amendment to the report that was supported unanimously by all political parties in the EP’s Environment Committee:- "In this Regulation, the labelling threshold for GMOs as defined in Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 March 2001 on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms shall not apply".

[3] The proposed law, if adopted as such, would allow 0.9% GMO contamination in organic foods. The law only allows this contamination as long as it is "adventitious" and "technically unavoidable", however there is evidence that the European Commission and other risk managers - under pressure to adopt a lax attitude to contamination - are in fact interpreting the 0.9% threshold to mean "acceptable" contamination. The organic sector currently works to a lower threshold and EU laws must support and enable organic farmers and retailers to maintain existing standards.

[4] Eurobarometer study (Gaskell et al., June 2006)

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2.Lobby MEPs to stop GM contamination in organic food
(based on request from Friends of the Earth)

Please could you contact your MEPs before Thursday to ask them to support the amendments for no GM contamination in organics.

Please write to them whether you have already contacted them or not. You can copy and paste the suggested letter below, and personalise it if you have time.

You can find out the contact details for the MEPs in your region here: http://www.europarl.org.uk/uk_meps/MembersMain.htm

Letter to MEPs:

[Subject line of email]: Plenary vote this Thursday (29/3) please vote to stop GM contamination of organic food

Dear MEP,

On 29 March the European Parliament will vote on the Proposal for a Council Regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products (COM(2005)0671 – C6-0032/2006 – 2005/0278(CNS)). In the light of the amendments that have been tabled, I urge you to vote in favour of the following amendments:

166/167; 170/171; 175; 194

As you know, the proposal covers a wide range of issues related to organic production. I am especially concerned about the inclusion in the Regulation of a higher threshold for the presence of GMOs in organic food. In its current form, after the vote of the Agriculture Committee on 27 February, the Report to be voted on in Plenary allows the presence of GMOs in organic products of up to 0.9% without consumers being told. Setting such a threshold would mean accepting routine GM contamination in organic food. I find this completely unacceptable.

Organic farming is a profitable activity which shows consistent growth and has already created many new jobs. In the UK, the retail market for organic products is worth an estimated GBP1.213 billion pounds. Consumers choose organic products because they are grown in a more sustainable way, with virtually no use of pesticides and completely GM-free. Allowing genetic contamination in organic products will destroy the trust built up by the sector, and ultimately threaten its survival.

For these reasons I urge you to support the amendments tabled last week that support a low (detection level) threshold for organic foods ie amendments 166/167; 170/171; 175; 194.

I would also like to remind you that an amendment rejecting the 0.9% threshold currently proposed was adopted unanimously by all political parties at the Environment Committee (Opinion 2005/0278(CNS)), presented to the Agriculture Committee as Amendment 41:

"In this Regulation, the labelling threshold for GMOs as defined in Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 March 2001 on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms shall not apply".

I hope that in the interest of organic farming in the UK and Europe, of the people working in this sector and of consumers who are increasingly demanding organic products you will vote to keep organic food GM free and oppose the inclusion of any genetic contamination threshold in the organic Regulation.

Yours sincerely

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