July 25, 2001 – Environmental groups today revealed that a soya product sold by the Czech company Santé, in Poland, contained 4% genetically modified soybeans. The product was bought in Poland in February this year and sent for testing to the US laboratory, Genetic ID, in Iowa.

According to Polish legislation, the company Santé requires an authorisation before putting products containing GMOs on the Polish market and they must be labelled. “This product was neither approved, nor labelled” says Ela Priwiezincew, from the Polish group, Socio-Ecological Union. She adds: “The Polish regulation is just a paper tiger, since there is no Polish laboratory undertaking routine testing of food on the market for the presence of GMOs and no authority has been designated responsibility for enforcing the law. The Trade Inspection Services rely on information provided by the importer or producer about the presence of GMOs in their products, but can they be trusted?”

The Polish Environment Ministry claims that the only companies that have been granted permits for putting GMO products on the market are: Monsanto, for GM soybeans destined for animal feed; and the Polish company Polgrunt for soy flour. Meanwhile, the Main Sanitary Inspectorate has also been issuing permits for importing GM products, but claims that they are unauthorised to provide information as to which companies have received these permits. “Producers and importers exploit the fact that the regulations are not enforced, that officials hide behind the legislation and that no one is protecting the Polish consumer” , claims Priwiezincew.

Worse is to come as Poland prepares to join the European Union. “After accession, those GM products that are illegal in the EU’s common market, will have to taken off the market at high cost. Who will pay the price of recalling thousands of products?” , asks Iza Kruszewska, from the NGO network ANPED, The Northern Alliance for Sustainability, that supports environmental groups in Eastern Europe.

As things stand at the moment, the EU may bend to the wishes of the USA and agri-business and abandon its precautionary approach to regulating GMOs. Today in Brussels, the European Commission is debating proposals to allow for the contamination of food by GMOs that have not been approved as safe in Europe, in the course of preparing new Regulations on Traceability/Labelling of GMOs and Novel Food/Feed. “The current proposals for allowing non-approved GMOs into our food chain, if passed, will make a mockery of EU legislation that is intended to protect us as consumers and our environment” , said Gill Lacroix, Biotechnology Coordinator, Friends of the Earth Europe. “The European Commission, in making these proposals, is putting the commercial interests of the biotech industry and the USA before the safety and wishes of European citizens” , added LaCroix.

EU Commissioner Byrne, responsible for food safety, has been sent hundreds of letters criticising these proposals, from concerned citizens in the EU and in EU Candidate countries. “As Candidates for EU membership, we look to Brussels to maintain the highest standards of food safety. Instead, we find that the EU Commission may be bowing to the pressures of big business. The proposals, if passed, will undermine our confidence in the EU’s legislative process with respect to the safety of our food”, concluded Priwiezincew.

For more information:
Ela Priwiezincew, Socio-Ecological Institute, Tel: +48 22 668 9792; e-mail: szymon@gmo-bio.org
Iza Kruszewska, ANPED, Tel: +44 20 8672 3454
Gill Lacroix, Friends of the Earth Europe, Tel: +32 2 542 0182; Mobile: +32 476 244 161