News - Japan, Oz, Brazil, US, EU and China (13/2/2008)

1.Background to EU emergency measures on Chinese rice
2.Japanese tell Australia to stay GM free
3.Brazil approves two GM maize varieties
4.US Green Party candidate on GM foods
5.EU experts clash on approving GM cotton, soybean
6.Permission for GM wheat trial in Zurich


1.Background to EU emergency measures on Chinese rice
Clare Oxborrow, Friends of the Earth UK

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace discovered Bt63 rice contamination back in 2006 http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/illegal_gm_rice_found_in_u_05092006.html

and have been calling for EU action to stop illegal imports since then.

Initially they refused to take any action on Chinese rice as they thought the government was taking the steps needed to deal with the contamination.

The latest case of rice contaminated with Bt63 from China was reported in November last year by Sweden and Germany. Now the EC have announced emergency measures to prevent import of rice contaminated with Bt63, but it's unclear why it will only implemented in April.

Here's the European Commission press release:


2.Japanese activists tell Australia to stay GM free

Kashima, Japan, Wednesday, 13th February 2008: Early this morning Japanese activists placed a message on a cargo ship telling Australia to reject genetically modified (GM) canola. The message, projected onto a ship carrying GM canola and a nearby grain silo read 'Australia stay GM free!'.

The action comes just days after the South Australian Government announced that it would extend its GM food crop ban, due to concerns over loss of markets such as Japan. However, New South Wales and Victoria still intend to let their GM food crop bans expire this year, opening up Australia to GM contamination. This will threaten the entire country’s GM free reputation and international markets.

Last year Japan accounted for 80 per cent of Australian canola exports (1).

Koichi Kato, Chairperson of the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union in Japan said, 'I am concerned that GM- free canola across Australia will be contaminated if GM canola is introduced in New South Wales and Victoria. If that happens, we would unfortunately be forced to import canola from countries other than Australia.'

There is growing consumer resistance to GM food in Japan. Polling by the Japanese Government in 2006 showed that 78 per cent of Japanese consumers are uncertain about the impacts of eating GM food. Last year a Japanese delegation came to Australia to deliver a petition representing 2.9 million Japanese consumers, urging state governments to extend their GM food crop bans.

Another important export market for Australian canola is Europe. Canada completely lost its canola seed exports to Europe as a result of adopting GM canola, and it is likely that the same thing would happen to Australia if it were to go GM. Australian canola currently attracts preferential market access and premiums because of its GM free status.

Greenpeace Japan GMO Campaigner Sachiyo Tanahashi said, 'The experience in Canada has proven that segregation is impossible and that contamination is inevitable wherever GM canola is grown. In Japan we even have wild GM canola growing on our wharves and roadsides as weeds, due to the transport of Canadian seeds for crushing. The introduction of GM canola to Australia would remove choice for both farmers and consumers who want to remain GM free.

'Because Australia is Japan's main source of GM free canola, if Australia introduces GM canola Japanese companies will have to look elsewhere for a non-GM product. We don't understand why any Australian farmers would want to grow a product that consumers are rejecting all over the world,' said Ms Tanahashi.

(1) Source: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Kaoru Narisawa, Greenpeace Japan Media Officer: +81 80 6558 4446 Sachiyo Tanahashi, Greenpeace Japan GMO Campaigner: +81-80-5416-6507 Teri Calder, Greenpeace Australia Media Officer: +61 419 697 515 Louise Sales, Greenpeace Australia Genetic Engineering Campaigner: +61 438 679 263


3.Brazil approves two GM maize varieties and puts at risk its biodiversity
GREENPEACE MEDIA RELEASE Departamento de Campanhas, Greenpeace Brasil, Feb 12 2008

Greenpeace regrets the decision taken by 7 of the 11 Ministers that compose the National Biosafety Council

Sao Paulo (Brazil), Feb 12 2008 Following the decision taken by CTNBio (National Technical Commission for Biosafety) in 2007, seven out of eleven Ministers of the National Biosafety Council ignored the vast documentation about the risks of Liberty Link and MON810 maizes and approved both varieties for commercial release in Brazil. The meeting of the Council happened this afternoon in Brasilia.

Greenpeace regrets the decision and will now strengthen its initiatives to alert Brazilians about the risks of these products. Greenpeace will also follow up the implementation of the labeling decree by the government and food industries. Despite the decree (approved since 2003), the first labeled products only got to the supermarkets in the beginning of 2008.

'The council of ministers has made the same mistakes as the scientists from CTNBio by ignoring so many relevant documents that put huge question marks on the safety of these maize varieties', said Gabriela Vuolo, Greenpeace Brazil campaigner. 'A significant list of countries have already chosen not to plant these varieties. Instead of joining this list, Brazil is now going in the other direction. It doesn't make any sense and show how irresponsible this government is'.

Ministers that voted against the commercial release: Health, Environment, Rural Development, Fisheries. Ministers that voted for the commercial release: Agriculture, Science and Technology, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Defense, Development and Trade, and the Chief of the Presidential Staff.

'The result of the meeting brings to light what are the main concerns of the Brazilian government. Instead of prioritizing people's health and the environment, the government preferred to give in to the agrobusinness interests'.

Last Friday, Greenpeace sent to the Council a package of information with many relevant documents about the risks of MON810 and Liberty Link maize. All these documents had previously been sent to CTNBio that also didn't consider them during the process.


4.US Green Party presidential candidate on GM foods

US Green Party presidential candidate ,Cynthia McKinney's You Tube video makes clear her strong opposition to GM foods in a one-minute collection of statements she made during the Green Party presidential debate that was held recently in San Francisco.


5.EU experts clash on approving GMO cotton, soybean
REUTERS, Feb 12 2008

BRUSSELS, Feb 12 (Reuters) - European Union biotech experts failed to agree on Tuesday on authorising two genetically modified (GMO) products, one soybean and one cotton type, passing the decision onto EU farm ministers, the European Commission said.

Both products are marketed by German drugs and chemicals group Bayer (BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research), which has requested EU approval for import and processing for general use in food and animal feed.

They would not be for cultivation in Europe's fields.

Experts representing the EU's 27 national governments failed to reach the consensus needed in the EU weighted voting system either to approve or reject the application, the European Commission said in a statement. Under EU law, the paperwork now goes to EU ministers for a final decision.

If the ministers fail to take a decision within three months, the Commission -- the EU's executive arm -- usually issues its own authorisation under a legal default process. (Reporting by Jeremy Smith)


6.Swiss grant permission to sow GM wheat in Zurich
Translated by Mark Inglin
Checkbiotech, February 12 2008

BERN, Switzerland - Genetically modified wheat can be sowed experimentally in the spring at the Agricultural Research Institute of Zurich-Reckenholz.

The Swiss Federal Department of the Environment (Bundesamt fuer Umwelt 'BAFU') has approved applications by the University of Zurich and the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology).

As reported by BAFU, researchers have provided the required evidence that antibiotic-resistance genes are not found in the two varieties of wheat. In addition, emergency planning has been completed.

The applications made by the University of Zurich pertain to the investigation of wheat plants with increased specific resistance to powdery mildew fungal disease as well as to crosses of wheat with the wild grass, Aegilops cylindrica. The ETH wants to experimentally plant wheat with increased fungal resistance.

BAFU conditionally approved the application on September 3, 2007. Requirements included, among others, providing details of the experimental arrangement and proof that the plants contain no antibiotic-resistance genes. The results of preliminary experiments at the vegetation center in Reckenholz must be presented.

Under these conditions, the sowing of genetically engineered wheat can start at Zurich-Reckenholz. The BAFU decision is a particularly bitter pill for Greenpeace to swallow. The environmental organization has given notice of a supervisory grievance.

Greenpeace leveled the criticism that, 'We only know a part of what they are approving. The approval that BAFU has now definitely granted is based on information that is incomplete. ‘Important data’ were missing when the application was submitted this past May.'

Greenpeace has received support from the Small Farmers Association. In a communiqué, it has signed on to the supervisory grievance. Also dissatisfied with the decision are Bio Suisse and Pro Natura. Whether they will initiate legal measures is, however, still uncertain.

The release of genetically enhanced organisms is subject to stringent conditions. The research is being permitted, despite a five-year moratorium placed on genetic modification that was approved on November 27, 2005 by the Swiss general public. (sda)

Contact: mark.inglinbluewin.ch
Copyright Checkbiotech 2008

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