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Bangladesh Must Halt GM Crop Rollout, Lucrative UK Market at Risk

Immediate release (4 Dec 2013)

Calls to: Helena Paul 0845 217 8992

Today GM Freeze wrote to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, President and Ministers for Commerce and the Environment urging them to overturn the decision to commercialise GM brinjal (aubergine) to protect Bangladeshi farmers and exporters from serious risks to their businesses. [1]

The UK imports some 40% of Bangladesh’s fresh produce exports, a business worth around US$31.18 million per year. [2] GM Freeze wrote to remind the Government of Bangladesh that the decision to grow GM brinjal jeopardises not only this UK market, but also the market for Bangladeshi produce in the rest of the EU for a number of reasons, including:

  • The considerable resistance to eating GM food in the UK and EU, and the EU legal requirement to label all GM products so consumers can identify them, leave serious doubt that there is any EU market now or in the future for GM Bt brinjal. This makes its commercialisation in a country with considerable exports to the EU a questionable strategy.
  • GM brinjal is not authorised as a food or feed in the EU. The resulting need for all Bangladeshi brinjal farmers to enact strict coexistence practices to prevent crop contamination or comingling with non-GM cargoes for export place the expense of GM production unfairly on those growing non-GM crops, directly impairing the viability of otherwise successful non-GM businesses.
  • EU authorisation for GM brinjal as a food could take years to secure after an application is made (none is yet filed), putting Bangladeshi export markets at serious risk throughout that time.

GM Freeze Director Helena Paul said:

There is no good reason to jeopardise Bangladeshi farm and export business by growing GM brinjal. We appeal to the Government of Bangladesh to reverse its decision to commercialise Bt brinjal urgently to prevent erosion of the confidence EU importers have in the quality and marketability of Bangladeshi produce.

These are not theoretical risks – contamination of Chinese and US rice crops with experimental varieties from just a few GM trials wreaked havoc with export markets for years and cost farmers dear. US rice farmers were forced to seek redress in the courts, with suits resulting in millions of dollars in compensation paid by the companies that should have kept their unwanted, experimental GM rice out of the food chain in the first place.

GM crops have a nasty habit of getting where they should not be, and since this GM brinjal would be produced on a commercial scale in Bangladesh, the risks are all the greater. We can’t understand how that is good for business.

 

Notes

[1] Full text of the letter is available at http://www.gmfreeze.org/news-releases/gm-freeze-letters/

[2] The Independent, 18 February 2913. “Fresh Vegetable Exports up by 47 per cent

See also GM Freeze, 2010. GM In the Dock US courts step in where safety regulators fail