Coalition Calls for Moratorium on Genetically Engineered Crops

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(11/30/1999) - Seattle, WA – GREEN (GrassRoots Environmental Effectiveness Network) and a coalition of more than 200 organizations from five continents today sent a petition to member nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) calling for an immediate global moratorium on the trade of genetically modified Bt crops such as corn and maize. The petition, a result of an effort led by GREEN, was presented to the WTO at its ministerial conference being held this week in Seattle, Washington.

“The diverse profile of groups signing this petition should encourage the WTO to act on this important issue immediately," said Roger Featherstone, GREEN Director. “Environmental, consumer, and farming organizations have joined with scientific, medical, religious and student organizations to demonstrate how vital this issue is to the global community. The fact that groups from as far away as Japan, Indonesia, and New Zealand signed on proves that we are united in our effort to stop this harmful farming practice."

Bacillus thuringiensus (Bt) is a naturally occurring soil organism that has been used in powder form by organic farmers for decades as an approved pesticide. The petitioners are concerned that overuse of Bt through genetically modifying plants to exude it constantly will increase pests’ immunity over time to this naturally beneficial pesticide and will kill indiscriminately and place soil ecosystems at risk. Pest resistance to Bt could mean organic and other farmers will have to rely on increased toxic chemical pesticides in the future. Bt crops gained notoriety earlier this year when scientific research indicated a direct threat to Monarch butterflies.

“Genetically modified Bt crops aren’t detrimental to just Monarch butterflies," said Scotty Johnson, Rural Outreach Coordinator for GREEN. “They potentially threaten other biodiversity and organic farming. There is tremendous uncertainty about these kinds of crops. We need much more scientific information about the effects of Bt farming before allowing its continued use. Until leaders commit to invoke the precautionary principle implying ‘first do no harm,’ a moratorium is urgently needed."

Bt crops are part of a larger debate currently underway about the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). This week member nations of the World Trade Organization are meeting to negotiate world trade issues.

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270