Greenpeace joins wine producers in urging halt to GM vine trials-

Last edited 26 March 2001 at 9:00am
26 March, 2001
GM grainResearch released today by Greenpeace International reveals that trials of genetically modified vines are currently underway in key wine growing countries across the world, including the USA (California), France, Australia, Italy and Germany (1).

Greenpeace is urging governments to halt these trials amid concerns that they could destroy traditional and organic grape varieties. The call came as they released results of a survey showing that UK wine retailers unanimously reject GM wine.

French wine house Moet et Chandon have been collaborating with the French Government's Agronomic Research Institute (INRA) to produce a vine modified to be resistant to a common vine pest. In Germany, the wine maker Regent has produced a wine from vines genetically modified to contain a gene from barley - intended to confer resistance to moulds.(2).

GM wines cannot currently be sold in the EU, as no application has been made so far for market approval under the EU 'Novel Food' Regulation. Furthermore, a draft EU Directive that would set rules for GM vines marketing and cultivation has not yet been approved. The subject was last discussed at an EU Agricultural Ministers Meeting on 29th January 2001, when the Italian Minister successfully argued that the directive should be returned to the EU technical experts (COREPER) for redrafting, as its economic impact on wine industry had not been considered.

The GM vine trials are causing strong concern amongst wine producers. In the Burgundy region of France, they have banded together to form a group 'Terre et Vin de Bourgogne'(3) which is calling for a ten year moratorium on GMO vine marketing. They are concerned that the genetic diversity of grape varieties will be lost and that there may be changes in taste, colour and texture of the grapes.

In Italy, a lobbying group of wine-producing areas (Citta del Vino -Association of Wine Producing Towns) has urged the Italian government to oppose the development of GM wine and in particular to oppose the EU directive on marketing of GM vines (4).

The trials also pose a potentially devastating risk to the organic wine industry. Jem Gardener, Director of UK organic wine importer and wholesaler Vinceremos explained,
"Organic winemakers and importers like ourselves are very concerned about the contamination of organic vineyards by wind or insect borne GM pollen. As the proud custodians of the purity of their fruit, organic vignerons have much to fear from GM. If there is accidental contamination, the damage will be irreversible".

He continued,
"We will not import wines with any detected trace of GM contamination, however inadvertently this may have occurred. We are of the opinion that the only genuinely safe course of action is to stop the test plantings."

The majority of the GM traits introduced into the grapevines currently in trials aim to reduce pesticide use on wine grape crops.

Greenpeace Campaigner Kathryn Tulip commented,
"Obviously Greenpeace would like to see a reduction in pesticide use in vineyards. However GM is not the solution , but is another form of pollution. What we support are natural methods for improving vine pest resistance, such as marker assisted breeding, which give the benefits of molecular biology without the long-term environmental and human health risks of genetic engineering".

She added,
"These trials pose serious risks to wine quality and valuable export markets. We urge governments to listen to the wine producers and put an end to these experiments."

Celebrity chef Anthony Worrall Thompson is backing the call for a ban on tests. He said,
"As a chef and restauranteur I am very concerned about the quality of food and wine that I serve. I fear that the quality of wines produced from GM grapes will be inferior to traditionally produced wines and that the great diversity of wine types found around the world will be lost. My customers don't want GM wines and I do not want to serve GM wines to them."

Mr Worral Thomson's view is backed by all the UK wine retailers contacted by Greenpeace, who unanimously rejected the use of GM technology and stated that they will not stock GM wines (5).

Notes for Editors: 1. In France the INRA has carried out trials on a number of grape varieties which have been genetically modified to be resistant to grapevine fanleaf nepovirus. GM vines are being tested in Germany by Bundesanstalt fur Zuchtungsforschung an Kulturpflanzen (Federal Institute of Crop Breeding) and Institut fur Rebenzuchtung Geilweilerhof (Institute for Vine Breeding, Geilweiler Estate). In Italy research on GM grapevine is being carried out at the University of Ancona.

2. Greenpeace's GM Wine Report.

3. For more information about 'Terre et Vin de Bourgogne' visit

4. Regiones Toscana and Valle d'Aosta, the Executive Board of the Italian Association of Wine Producer Towns (Associazione Nazionale Citta del Vino) and several Town Councils of the same association have opposed the EU wine directive.

5. Greenpeace surveyed all of the major supermarkets and the following specialist wine retailers: Thresher/Victoria Wine, Oddbins, Unwins, Majestic and Wine Cellars. For further details see the Greenpeace GM Wine Report.

Further information:
Greenpeace Press Office on 020 7865 8255

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