An American court bans genetically modified alfalfa -How will Ottawa react?
MONTREAL, May 4 /CNW Telbec/ - Multinational biotech companies yesterday were dealt a severe blow, suffering a major legal setback when a California judge reconfirmed his earlier ruling that the U.S. government failed to follow its own rules for assessing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), in particular Monsanto's Roundup Ready genetically modified (GM) alfalfa.
Yesterday's decision makes the previously temporary ban permanent. Monsanto's GM alfalfa can no longer be sold in the United States and alfalfa that is already in the ground will be tightly controlled to prevent genetic contamination.
In a harsh decision, Judge Charles Breyer reaffirmed that the GM seed can harm the environment and contaminate naturally planted alfalfa. He also stated that the U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to discharge its responsibilities by ignoring the fact that there were doubts surrounding the likelihood of contamination by the GM seed. The ruling requires companies to reveal the locations of all their Monsanto Roundup Ready GM alfalfa fields in the U.S. within 30 days. Judge Breyer has also asked the companies to make the information public as soon as possible to enable conventional and GM alfalfa producers to determine whether their crops have been contaminated. In pronouncing the ban, Judge Breyer noted that contamination of natural alfalfa by its GM counterpart has already occurred, stating, "Such contamination is irreparable environmental harm. The contamination cannot be undone."
GM alfalfa by Monsanto has been approved for use in Canada since September 7, 2004. According to Eric Darier, who heads the anti-GMO campaign for Greenpeace, "It was reviewed using criteria similar to those used in the U.S., which even the Royal Society of Canada considered to lack scientificm rigour in 2001. We have every right to doubt the seriousness of the GMO assessments conducted by Ottawa."
In a report to the government, the Royal Society of Canada-the highest independent scientific body in the country-recommended 58 precautionary measures regarding GMOs, but to no avail. Among other things, the 14-member expert panel criticized the lack of transparency in GMO assessments. Indeed, practically all the data supplied by the companies-the same ones that are trying to obtain GMO approval-are confidential and not available for scientific scrutiny.
"It took a judge in the United States to confirm the worst fears voiced by the Royal Society in 2001," stated Mr. Darier. "Greenpeace demands that the Canadian government withdraw its approval of this GM variety of alfalfa immediately and impose the same measures ordered by the judge in California.
The government must then take real action to implement the Royal Society's 58 recommendations. In the meantime, it must suspend all GMO approvals in Canada."
Greenpeace is warning Ottawa of the impact that its laisser-fair attitude could have on international markets. "If the government does not act immediately, Canada is in danger of becoming THE dumping ground for GM alfalfa seeds," said Mr. Darier.
For further information: Eric Darier, Greenpeace GMO campaign head,
(514) 605-6497; Jocelyn Desjardins, Communications - Public Relations, (514) 212-5749, http://blogues.greenpeace.ca/