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GMO negotiations break down

Negotiations on new documentation requirements governing cross-border transport of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) broke down on June 3 in Montreal, Canada, over objections by Brazil and New Zealand to a proposal that was backed by 117 other nations.

The new rules, that should prevent accidental contamination, needed agreement of all 119 nations that have signed on to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, established in January 2000. According to Greenpeace, the two dissenting countries ‘sided with big business and shamelessly blocked all moves’ on the rules. New Zealand’s environment minister Marian Hobbs, however, issued a statement saying that “some of the labeling proposals [..] involve a level of detail which could mean that non-Living Modified Organism [LMO] agricultural products, including organics, would need to be labeled as ‘may contain LMOs’.” Calling this ‘a perverse outcome’, Hobbs said her country thus withheld its support. New Zealand doesn’t currently export genetically modified crops, but hasn’t ruled out doing so in the future. The Montreal meeting was the second of several in the wake of the Cartagena Protocol; the next meeting will take place next year in Curitiba, Brazil.

Meanwhile on May 26 Japanese authorities discovered traces of Bt10 corn in two shipments of Bt11 imported from the US, according to a spokesperson of Syngenta, the Swiss company that created both varieties. Earlier, a shipment to Ireland was intercepted when samples tested positive for Bt10 shortly after it had left a US port. In March, Syngenta acknowledged having accidentally mixed some Bt10 in corn sold as Bt11 in the US between 2001 and 2004. Bt10 corn carries a marker gene for antibiotic Ampicillin, while Bt11 does not. The US has approved both variants, but Japan and the EU only allow sales of Bt11. US traders announced they would start testing shipments before they leave ports.

Also, in the EU, experts of 25 member states deadlocked over authorization of GM maize products of Pioneer Hi-Bred International (Des Moines, IA) and Monsanto (St. Louis, MO). If EU ministers fail to break the stalemate within the next three months, the European Commission will decide.

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