Anti-GM protest at biotech conference/EU blasts back at Bush over biotech food (27/5/2003)

*Anti-GM protest at biotech conference
*EU blasts back at Bush over biotech food
Anti-GM protest at biotech conference
Business Day
By Lisa Andrews

Two South African lobby groups today picketed a biotechnology conference in Johannesburg today over the controversial issue of genetically modified (GM) food.  A small group of protesters from the Environmental Justice Networking Forum and the South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering held up placards with slogans like "Say Yes to Organic Agriculture" and "Warning: GM foods can damage your health".

Sister Angelica Loub, one of the protesters, said she had environmental, social and economic concerns about genetically modified foods.  "GM technology has not been tested. It damages the health of our people... It destroys the livelihood of small farmers because it makes them dependent on US seed," she said.

Sister Angelica said the forum was lobbying for greater consultation by the SA government with the public on the issue of GM crops and seed. In addition, she said, the labelling of GM products should be a priority, in order to allow people to make an informed choice.

The Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering accused conference organisers of excluding community representation due to the high cost of attending as delegates.

"The cost of over R5,000 per person effectively excludes the public and this sort of exclusion has epitomised the introduction of GE crops and biotechnology in South Africa.

"There has been no public consultation or input on the need or desirability of the technology and these types of conferences only serve to further this exclusivity," alliance spokesman Peter Komane said in a statement.

The Environmental Justice Networking Forum issued a memorandum to the meeting of multinational biotechnology companies today, demanding:  that all field trials on GM crops in South Africa should be suspended until adequate research has been done on the impact on health and the environment; that multinationals allow the public access to information about their technology and the location of their field trials; and allow for independent assessments and monitoring of the trials.

The biotechnology conference ends tomorrow.
EU blasts back at Bush over biotech food
Agence France Presse
May 26, 2003

The European Commission blasted Monday as "unacceptable" a US accusation that the European Union was starving developing countries because of its ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy made the rebuttal after US President George W. Bush said last week that the EU's policy on biotech foods was hindering efforts to fight famine in Africa.

"It is one thing not to have the same feeling on the level of precautions one must take over GMOs. We feel the need for more precautions than the Americans," he said.  But "to accuse for example the EU of starving the Third World because we don't stuff them with GMO surpluses or to use this kind of argument, that is clearly going much to far, that is absolutely unacceptable," he said.

Bush, who is travelling to Europe this week, scolded the EU on aid to poor nations last Wednesday, saying the EU ban on GMOs was an obstacle to battling widespread starvation.  "Our partners in Europe are impeding this effort. They have blocked all new biocrops because of unfounded, unscientific fears," he said in a graduation day speech to the US Coast Guard Academy.

"This has caused many African nations to avoid investing in biotechnologies, for fear that their products will be shut out of European markets. European governments should join -- not hinder -- the great cause of ending hunger in Africa," he said.

Lamy said: "There are arguments... which should not be used in this kind of debate, otherwise one crosses lines in the debate which in general are reproved by morality."

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