Impossible Coexistence


GMO contamination in Spain: a warning for Europe

Vienna, 4 April 2006–The spiralling uptake of genetically engineered (GE) crops in
Spain is causing massive genetic contamination, threatens the livelihood of
farmers and urgently needs to be suspended, says Greenpeace. In a new report,
‘Impossible Coexistence’, environmentalists (1) show how GE crops in Spain – the
only EU country that grows genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on a large
scale – are undermining agricultural biodiversity and consumer choice.

"This report should be taken as a warning to the European Commission and
Europe in general of the dangers of GE production, " said Greenpeace campaigner
Geert Ritsema from Vienna, where a Commission-organised conference on
coexistence begins today. "Despite guarantees by various Spanish governments
that guidelines and controls would ensure safety, farmers and consumer choice,
the reality has been the opposite.

"Farmers’ testimonials demonstrate that the unabated growth of the GE industry
now represents the single largest threat to their livelihoods, especially in the
regions of Aragón and Catalonia, where GE crops are mainly cultivated."

‘Impossible Coexistence’, written in cooperation with farmer organisation
Assemblea Pagesa and civil society group Plataforma Trangènics Fora!, is based
on research including laboratory tests of samples taken from the maize fields of 40
Spanish organic and conventional farmers, and documents the following:

– In almost a quarter of the investigated cases unintended and unwanted presence
of GE maize was found in the maize fields of non GE farmers. The GE
contamination was as high as 12.6 %;

– In several cases the affected farmers suffered economic losses, as they were no
longer able to sell the contaminated maize at a premium market value.

– Three of the contamination cases involved local maize varieties which, after years
of careful selection, can no longer be used for future planting.

These cases show how GE contamination is a threat to biodiversity and to the few
local maize varieties that are still in the hands of farmers.

"The lack of GE regulation in Spain is a slap in the face to organic and
conventional farmers who have put blood, sweat and tears into their businesses,
and now find the interests of big agro-biotech firms like Syngenta and Monsanto
not only being placed above local communities but ultimately damaging their
livelihoods," said Mr Antonio Ruiz, president of the Organic Farming Committee of
Aragón, who attended a Greenpeace press conference in Vienna today.

Greenpeace is calling on the Spanish authorities to immediately suspend the
cultivation of GMOs in Spain. It is also calling on EU ministers and the European
Commission to prevent the cultivation of GE crops in other EU countries.

"The Spanish experience demonstrates that coexistence between GE and non-GE
crops is a fallacy," said Ritsema. "European ministers attending this week’s
meeting should seriously consider whether they wish this state of affairs on farmers
and consumers in the rest of Europe."

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation which uses non-violent,
creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to drive
solutions essential to a green and peaceful future.

For further information, contact:

Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International GE Campaigner, +31 646 197 328
Eric Gall, Greenpeace European Unit GMO policy adviser, +32 496 161 582
Katharine Mill, Greenpeace European Unit media officer, +32 496 156 229

Notes to Editors

(1) The report, which was written by Greenpeace in cooperation with farmer
organisation Assemblea Pagesa and civil society group Plataforma Trangènics
Fora!, was launched today at the opening of a European Commission conference
attended by EU ministers in Vienna. The conference will discuss the EU’s future
policy on "coexistence" and determine if GE and non-GE crops can be grown

Impossible Coexistence: Seven years of GMOs have contaminated organic and
conventional maize: an examination of the cases of Catalonia and Aragon, is
available for downloading at:


Attached image shows organic maize farmer Enric Navarro burning his harvest
after it was found to be contaminated with GMOs.

Greenpeace position paper on coexistence:

A pdf version of this press release is available online at

Katharine Mill
media officer
Greenpeace European Unit
t +32 (0)2 274 1903
m +32 (0)496 156229
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