From Fri May 26 11:42:55 2000
From: Sadanand, Nanjundiah (Physics) <>
To: Jones, Carol (SchA&S) <>
Subject: FW: Genetically Modified Seeds Sow Anger Across Europe
Date: Fri, 26 May 2000 11:33:57 -0400

Tainted seeds sow anger and alarm across Europe

AFP, 25 May 2000

With alarm and anger sweeping Europe due to the accidental spread of genetically-modified seed, European agricultural ministers prepared Thursday for urgent talks on the issue.

Seed suppliers and scientists have acknowledged that contamination of crops by genetic modification is probably widespread, but various governments have insisted there is no threat to public health or the environment.

Environmental campaign organisation Greenpeace is unconvinced.

On Thursday it announced it was taking legal action against Anglo-Dutch seed company Advanta and the German government to force the destruction of genetically-modified (GM) oilseed rape from Canada, which is being grown across Europe.

The French and Swedish governments have already announced they are ordering the uprooting of contaminated crops.

As feeling intensified on the issue, in the northwestern Italian city of Genoa, around 20 police and protestors were hurt Thursday in clashes at a demonstration against GM organisms.

The latest outbreak of protests has been prompted by the disclosure last week that GM rapeseed imported by Advanta Seeds two years ago had been unwittingly grown on more than 13,000 hectares (32,500 acres) of fields in Britain, France, Germany and Sweden.

Moreover, according to Greenpeace, up to 15 percent of this year's European maize crop has been contaminated with genetically-modified seed.

The group cited an official document it had obtained detailing that almost one million hectares (2.5 million acres) in the European Union has been affected by contaminated maize seed this year.

The activists have sent a letter to Britain's Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Agriculture Minister Nick Brown advising them that any sale of the genetically-modified rape released by Advanta would constitute an illegal act under British and European GM regulations.

Greenpeace set a seven-day deadline for the government to inform affected farmers of the illegality of selling contaminated rape, after which it would take the British government to court.

A spokeswoman for the ministry of agriculture said she could not comment at this point on the letter.

She also said that European agricultural ministers would begin meeting informally over the weekend in Portugal as they arrive for talks at the start of next week.

Brown has said he and Prescott were seeking advice on complex legal issues, including whether any offence has been committed.

In a written reply to the House of Commons, Brown continued: My officials are in discussion with the National Farmers' Union on the practical and legal implications of the incident for farmers whose crops may have been affected.

My officials have been in contact with the Canadian authorities to obtain more detailed information about the circumstances surrounding this incident.

One of my officials is travelling to Canada to follow this up and will report back to me and to the EU Standing Committee on Seeds on May 30.

Brown said he had been in contact with the commission and other EU member states affected with a view to taking a common approach to the issues raised by this incident.

I have agreed with the French Minister of Agriculture that we should explore urgently the possibility of joint discussions between ourselves, the other member states concerned and the seed company, Advanta, said Brown.

I will be following this up when I meet my colleagues at the informal meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers on May 29 to 30, he added.

British newspapers have reported that a European association representing the seed industry the European Seed Association has disclosed that international maize growers were relaxing their standards to permit up to one percent of GM products in maize seed supplies.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher has said the government will have a very careful hard look before any decisions are made over moves in Europe to allow for unavoidable contamination by permitting up to one percent of genetically-modified material in seeds.

The claims and revelations fly in the face of regulations that have banned the cultivation of genetically-modified crops until more research is conducted.

Britain has authorised trials of GM crops on specific sites, while maintaining a commercial ban on the produce.