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European Conference, Berlin 22 -23 January 2005: GMO free regions, biodiversity & rural development For immediate release, 24/01/2005 GMO FOODS AND CROPS: European conference calls for regional governance Berlin, 24th January 2005 - The Regions of Europe should be given the final say on the growing of genetically modified crops (GMOs) in their area, a major European conference today concluded. The conference, organised during the International Green Week in Berlin, heard that with over 100 regional and 3500 sub-regional areas now declaring themselves GMO-free, it was time for European law to be changed to protect such areas from the cultivation of GM crops. 200 delegates from GMO free regions and from 30 European countries called on the European institutions to protect conventional and organic seeds from GMO contamination, to establish the regions right to stay GMO-free and to give them a say in the approval process of GMOs, which they find scientifically questionable and not based on the precautionary principle. Benedikt Haerlin, conference organiser from GENET and the German-based Foundation on Future Farming said: "There is fast growing and unstoppable movement against the cultivation of genetically modified crops all over Europe. A new alliance of local and regional authorities, nature protection agencies and farmers unions with environmental and consumer organizations has emerged to defend their freedom of choice and the self-determination of the regions." Representatives of the Tuscan government announced that agricultural ministers, forming a GMO-free network of regional governments, will meet in Florence, Italy, on February 4th to take further steps to protect their citizens and the rights of the Regions within the European Union. The conference also endorsed a "Berlin Manifesto for GMO-free Regions and Biodiversity in Europe" (see attached). For more information, a list of participants and presentations of GMO free Regions in Europe see the conference web-site: www.zs-l.de/conference Benedikt Haerlin, GENET and Foundation on Future Farming Marienstr.19-20, D-10117 Berlin, Germany, phone +49 (0) 30 27590309, fax +49 (0) 30 27590312 e-mail: conference@zs-l.de Agnès Ciccarone, Assembly of European Regions Immeuble Europe 20, place des Halles, F- 67000 Strasbourg, France phone + 33 (0) 3 88220707, fax + 33 (0) 3 69201318 http://www.are-regions-europe.org "Berlin Manifesto for GMO-free Regions and Biodiversity in Europe" Our Land, our Future, our Europe The regions of Europe have the right to determine their own ways of farming, eating, producing and selling food and of protecting their environment and landscapes, their culture and heritage, their seed, their rural development, their economic future. This includes the right to decide about the use of genetically modified plants and animals in their agriculture and ecosystems. Our choice We all share the fundamental human right to chose what we eat. Choices about the use of reproductive material in a common environment cannot be made individually, as they affect all people sharing these commons. Decisions about the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the shape of our landscape should be made democratically in the regions and not be imposed by individual farmers, bureaucrats or companies. Decisions can be wrong and thus should be open for change and reversal. Our seed The local diversity of seeds and traditional varieties and their wild relatives is the foundation for a regions unique composition of taste and the heritage of a region and is the basis for further innovation and development of seed. Protecting and encouraging the conservation and breeding of native and adapted local varieties and the integrity of farm saved seed is an important duty and right of regional agricultural policy. As seeds reproduce there can be no thresholds for any unlabelled GM contamination of non-GM conventional, organic and traditional varieties. Our agricultural diversity Agri-Culture is an important part of our regional way of life. Socio-economic and cultural impacts must be taken into account when introducing agro-technologies such as GMO. Most European regions have made the promotion of sustainable and organic farming and regional marketing priorities for their rural development. Where the right to farm without GMOs and without undue changes to the local agricultural practice can not be guaranteed, the introduction of GMOs must be prevented. Our natural biodiversity The shape of Europe's environment and landscapes, including its protected areas, is the result of thousands of years of human cultivation. The enormous wealth of different landscapes, eco-systems and species must be protected by those who share this common heritage. Safeguarding our biodiversity from the spread and introgression of GM varieties is a conservation goal in itself. Our safety and precaution Science can be wrong, but GMOs cannot easily be recalled, if detrimental effects occur. Hence the regions have the right to follow the precautionary principle on GMO release. Our food sovereignty and labels Most Europeans don't want GM-food. To serve this demand is part of a region's food sovereignty and an important economic chance. Regional authorities must be able to protect quality labels, purity standards, organic production and designations of origin at competitive prices. This includes access to GMO free animal feed. Our co-existence In most cases and for most species there is no realistic chance for coexistence between GM and non-GM farming, just as there is none between silence and noise in a room. The highest standards of protection are required for local cultivars and their wild relatives. The level of protection and standards of co-existence, including their costs, must be assessed and decided upon locally and regionally. Fair and sustainable co-existence must prevail between neighbours and economic partners. It must not be forced upon their traditional practices and future development. Our Europe The diversity of regions shapes the identity of Europe. In a global economy we do need common European standards on food safety, transparency, liability, environmental and nature protection and market access. They should be designed to serve and not to suppress the local and regional self-determination of the people of Europe. We will defend these rights and duties and the beauties and joys of our regions throughout Europe. Berlin, 23rd January 2005 190 participants of the Berlin Conference on GMO free Regions, biodiversity and rural development from regions in 28 countries of Europe.


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