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International petition protests against EU plans for higher GMO thresholds in crops

05.09.2002 - Zukunftsstifung Landwirtschaft

A petition protesting against EU plans to allow higher thresholds for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in crops was presented to the German minister for consumer protection, food and agriculture, Renate Künast, by representatives from environmental, farmers’ and consumer organisations on Tuesday.

According to the initiator of the action, the Zukunftsstifung Landwirtschaft agricultural foundation, more than 30,000 people as well as over 100 organisations with a membership exceeding three million people have signed the petition, "Save our Seeds", in recent weeks.

"We want to be able to continue to purchase non-genetically engineered products. Farmers must have the certainty that seeds which are labelled as non-genetically modified really do not contain any GMOs," Benedikt Haerlin from the Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft said.

The minister was challenged to ensure that the purity of crops was strictly maintained in the European Union. "We want Ms Künast to make a concrete statement today as to the position of the German government regarding the vote and whether it intends to accept the thresholds proposed by the EU Commission or not," Haerlin demanded on Tuesday.

The petition, which will also be presented to the EU Commission in the autumn at an appropriate point in the Brussels decision-making process, is directed against proposals by the Commission which would undermine the present absence of genetically engineered products in agriculture, the Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft said.

Because a majority of people in the whole of Europe continue to reject genetically engineered crops, the petition demands that the non-contamination of crops with GMOs should continue to be assured. The signatories see not just a danger to the environment, but also to consumers’, food producers’ and farmers’ freedom of choice.

In the autumn, the EU standing committed on seeds will vote on a directive which intends to introduce higher thresholds of contamination with GMOs for ordinary seeds of between 0.3 and 0.7 percent before labelling becomes necessary.

"Such percentages may appear low at first glance," Haerlin said, "but seeds, in contrast to food, are blessed with the ability to multiply. They are positioned at the beginning of our food chain. Once seeds have been genetically contaminated, we will have to expect to encounter GMOs everywhere: in food, in the fields and also in the wild."

The Commission proposals mean that for every hectare there would be about 2000 genetically modified rape or 500 maize plants which are not labelled as such. Maize is planted in Germany on about one-and-a-half million hectares and rape on a million hectares.

Currently, food whose ingredients exceed the GMO threshold of one percent must be labelled as such. The proposed higher thresholds for seeds before requiring labelling would mean that the whole food sector, from farmers via processors to retailers, but also the public authorities, would be forced to take expensive measures to prove that their products did not exceed the labelling threshold for food, the Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft said in a statement.

The associated costs amounted to millions of euros which consumers and tax payers would end up paying. In addition, businesses would be affected because there is no demand for GMO products. Organic products would particularly hard hit because the use of GMOs for them is banned by law.

The petition is open for signature until 26 September.

Further information on the Petition: