European regions have today reiterated their demand to be included in any decisions over the commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops (GM or GMOs) in order for them to enhance and promote quality agriculture and food products.
Over 250 people from across Europe today attended an over-subscribed conference in Brussels to hear regional Ministers and MEP's call for a bigger say in whether GM crops are grown commercially in their region. The number of European regions and provinces now declaring themselves 'GM Free zones', or publicly wishing to restrict GM crops, has climbed to 162. Over 4500 local governments and smaller areas in Europe are similarly calling for restrictions to commercial growing (see www.gmofree-europe.org for a full list).
The conference, Safeguarding Sustainable European Agriculture, set out clearly that regions want to develop quality food products instead of GM foods. These demands are driven by a combination of concerns over the environment, food safety, food quality, the local and regional economy, and consumer and farmer choice. The conference also heard support for the Agriculture Commissioners notion that there is a need for EU-wide legislation for the coexistence of GM, conventional, traditional and organic farming in order to prevent contamination. The Assembly of European Regions (AER) and Friends of the Earth Europe, published 10 principles that should be included in any such legislation (see www.foeeurope.org/press/2005/10_principles_EN.pdf).
The conference was organised by the AER and Friends of the Earth Europe, and was hosted by Mr Janusz Wojciechowski MEP, with the strong support of Upper Austria and Tuscany.
Mr Janusz Wojciechowski MEP said:
'In the New Member States the majority of farms are small family farms, particularly in Poland. For this kind of farming we have the opportunity to produce ecologically and traditionally using natural technologies, which respect environmental and animal welfare standards. GMO and other intensive technologies focus on how to produce more and more products as cheaply as possible. That idea threatens not only human health and environment safety, but also the economical and social interest of millions of small farmers.'
Mr Josef Martinz, Carinthian Minister for Agriculture, speaking on behalf of the Assembly of European Regions said:
"I kindly ask the European Commission to lay the ground so that it is feasible to produce food without GMOs.'
Mr Rudi Anschober, Minister for the Environment and Consumer Protection in Upper Austria said:
' We have led the way in avoiding the commercial cultivation of GM crops and of seeds and plants containing GMOs with a total ban in our whole region by regional law. . Having in mind the right of self-determination, the precautionary and the polluter-pays-principles, Brussels must allow regions to decide their own form of agriculture.'
Ms Susanna Cenni, the new Agriculture Minister for Tuscany said:
'Tuscany is recognized around the world for its rural culture, quality local products and its special relationship between the environment and its people. These qualities are treasured, especially economically, and the introduction of GMOs could irremediably destroy them. We are strongly determined to defend these qualities from any external factors that could represent a danger for its delicate balance.'
Mr Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said:
' The European Commission must wake up to the fact that more and more regions are rejecting the cultivation of genetically modified crops. This is at complete odds with the Commission strategy to force more GM foods and crops into Europe.'
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe, GMO Campaigner mobile +49 1609 490 1163
Agnès Ciccarone, Assembly of European Regions, Responsible for 'Regional Policy' Committee mobile + 33 6 74 79 04 27
The photos of the participants are available on www.foeeurope.org.