Greenpeace press release and media advisory
GM advisors fail to answer the ultimate GM riddle
Greenpeace press release, 25th November 2003

A new Government report on 'coexistence' designed to examine whether GM crops can be grown without contaminating non-GM and organic crops has failed to answer this crucial question. The report published today (Tuesday) by the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC) also looks at who should foot the bill if something goes wrong. 'GM Crops? Coexistence and Liability ' is the Government's final piece of evidence in helping decide whether or not GM crops are to be grown commercially in the UK.

Responding to the report, Greenpeace GM Campaigner Ben Ayliffe said:

"The Commission has failed to answer the crucial question about whether GM can actually coexist with conventional and organic crops in the UK. This is because they can't - coexistence is impossible and widespread contamination will be inevitable if GM is commercialised in this country."

"This comprehensive report at least acknowledges that GM crops could pose an irreversible threat to the environment. The Government now has a stark choice: either regulate coexistence and liability, effectively by stopping GM commercialisation, or regulate it ineffectively and open the floodgates to GM contamination.

"As there is practically zero demand for GM, the Government has a duty to protect our environment and health rather than promoting this risky and unpredictable technology. The GM industry still refuses to accept liability for their products. Why should we be left to carry the can?"

For more contact the Greenpeace Press Office on 020 7865 8255 or Ben Ayliffe on 020 7865 8282.

Attached: Greenpeace Media Advisory on AEBC Coexistence Report
November 2003
Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission report on GM coexistence and liability

What is happening?
A new report will be submitted by the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC) to the Government this week. It will advise ministers on how to deal with some of the most controversial aspects surrounding GM crops - whether they can be grown without contaminating non-GM and organic crops and who should foot the bill if something goes wrong. The AEBC is the Government's strategic advisory body on biotechnology issues affecting agriculture and the environment. This influential body comprises stakeholders from both sides of the GM debate. In the past it has published reports on issues such as GM animals and the Farm Scale Evaluations.

What is the new report about? The report is about two things - coexistence and liability. In its simplest form the issue of coexistence is the question of whether GM can be grown alongside conventional and organic crops without damaging farmer and consumer choice. Liability in this case refers to the issue of who should bear legal and financial responsibility if at some future point we find out that GM crops and foods cause harm. Recent EU guidelines have given member states the right to make arrangements to promote coexistence. This report should have a significant impact on future Government policy, which thus far has been ill-defined.

What is the report likely to say? The report is likely to conclude the following:

* Government policy on coexistence should be to maintain consumer and farmer choice.
* If GM crops are grown farmers must follow statutory management protocols to keep contamination to a minimum.
* There should be an introductory period of intensive monitoring and auditing of arrangements to see whether successful coexistence is possible, if the Government allows GM to be grown. This monitoring must also cover possible environmental impacts.
* The Government must ensure that it can halt the growing of GM crops during this introductory period if data shows that coexistence is impossible.
* There should be arrangements in place to compensate farmers suffering economic loss.

The Greenpeace position
Voluntary protocols written and enforced by the biotech industry would be worse than useless. Such an arrangement would give an impression of protection where none would genuinely existed. Geographic separation distances would be a recipe for disaster. Farmers would have little incentive to follow these protocols and there would be too much reliance on being - or having - good neighbours.

A coexistence and liability regime that really ensures choice for farmers and consumers would be yet another nail in the coffin for GM crops in the UK. Given the uncertainty inherent in the technology and its potential impact on the environment, it is a red herring to suggest that people should have the choice to grow GM. Government policy should be designed to protect the environment and human health, not market access for a risky and unpredictable technology.

Conventional and organic farmers should not be burdened with having to ensure the purity of their seed. Whatever other attributes the coexistence regime eventually has, it is essential that organic standards have legal protection. The legal limit for GM contamination of organic crops must be maintained at  0.1%.

For more information contact Greenpeace on 0207 865 8283