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GM Freeze Condemns France for GM Pharming Test Sites

Immediate release (13 Jun 2006)

Calls to Carrie Stebbings on 0207 837 0642 and Pete Riley on 07903 341 065

GM Freeze has condemned the French Government for licensing two sites for crops genetically engineered to produce pharmaceuticals [1] ahead of legislation to deal with crop contamination and liability.

Two out of 17 new GM test sites announced by the French Minister of agriculture, Mr Dominique Bussereau, include maize [2] and tobacco [3] genetically engineered to produce pharmaceuticals.

Pharmaceutical crops or “pharming” are second generation GM crops designed to produce drugs, vaccines and other medical products. They have already been grown experimentally in the USA where problems of contamination have already occurred.

In 2003, GM maize containing genes to produce a vaccine for transmissible gastroenteritis vaccine in pigs developed by Prodigene contaminated a following soya crop destined for human food and animal feed [4]. The incident highlights the risks of contamination of a food crop with potentially harmful and untested products intended for medical application.

Locations of GM test sites in France are kept secret meaning that neighbouring farmers are unable to take action to prevent the risk of contamination by GM pollen fertilizing their plants. France exports a variety of maize products to the UK including seed and grain for animal feed.

Commenting, Pete Riley of GM Freeze:

The decision of the French government to license pharm crops for field testing is madness. A serious debate is needed about whether such crops should be grown in open fields at all. The use of maize, a food crop, increases the risk of accidental exposure of people and animals to biologically active chemicals produced by these plants. France has not resolved how GM contamination of other crops will be prevented or who will be liable if things go wrong. The gung- ho attitude of the French Minister needs to be controlled as well as GM crops themselves.

ENDs

Calls to Carrie Stebbings on 0207 837 0642 and Pete Riley on 07903 341 065.

[1] See www.checkbiotech.org/root/index.cfm?fuseaction=news&doc_id=12913&start

[2] See www.ogm.gouv.fr/experimentations/dossiers/dossiers_2006/BFR060302%20Lipasepublic0602171.pdf

[3] See www.ogm.gouv.fr/experimentations/dossiers/dossiers_2006/BFR060114_LIBROPHYT2006_Dossierpublic.pdf

[4] See www.gmcontaminationregister.org/index.php?content=re_detail&gw_id=18®=cou.1&inc=1&con=1&cof=1&year=2002&handle2_page=