January 23, 2002 – American farmers, speaking at the French National Assembly today, warned Europeans to stay away from GMOs until outstanding problems of cross- contamination and liability have been resolved. If the European Union abandons its moratorium on GMO approvals and starts growing GM crops, European agriculture will be irreversibly contaminated within five years, they warned.
The farmers – Percy Schmeiser from Saskatchewan, Canada, and Tom Wiley from North Dakota, USA – are visiting Europe to share their personal experiences of GMO contamination. Both have suffered considerable financial loss as a result of their conventional crops being contaminated by neighbouring farms where GMOs were grown.
Schmeiser is the victim of a legal battle with Monsanto as a result of their Roundup Ready oilseed rape being found on his land, although he never purchased or intended to grow the seed. Wiley lost 10,000 US$ when his non-GM soya, grown for export to Japan, was found to be contaminated by GM soya.
In Paris today, Wiley said that some U.S. farmers wanted to give the other side of the story and to counteract the impression that all Americans embrace agricultural biotechnology. “The choice to grow non-GM crops has been taken away”, he said. “Our agricultural university predicts that this is the last year that farmers will be able to buy non- GM soya seed”. Schmeiser, whose court case with Monsanto has required him to mortgage the family farm to cover legal costs, painted a similarly depressing picture. “As a result of contamination, there is probably no seed available anymore in western Canada for non-GM oilseed rape”, he said.
Speaking on behalf of Friends of the Earth Europe, who organised the farmers visit to Brussels and Paris*, Gill Lacroix said that the American farmers’ experiences must be taken on board by the EU’s farmers and decision-makers.
“These people are brave enough to stand up and tell it how it really is, despite incredible pressure from the biotech industry”, she said. “If Europe does not want to go down that road of no return, the questions of GMO contamination and liability will have to be addressed. Unfortunately,
European citizens are being let down by the European Commission’s legislative proposals. The Traceability/Labelling proposal allows thresholds for contamination and the proposal for an Environmental Liability Directive, tabled today, completely fails to resolve the issue of liability for GMOs”.
Gill Lacroix, FoE Europe (Brussels), T. 02/542.0182, mobile 0476/244161
(*The American farmers’ tour to Paris was co-organised by Friends of the Earth Europe and the French NGO Inf’OGM.)