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Fetzer Wines Announce Opposition to GE Grapes

Fetzer Wines Announce Opposition
to GE Grapes

Greenpeace news update 12-20-01

Fetzer Winery Announces Opposition to GE Grapes

SAN FRANCISCO - Fetzer Winery has announced it is opposed to
genetically engineered (GE) grapes in its wine production, becoming the
first large-scale winery in the U.S. to make such a commitment. Fetzer will
launch an advertising campaign in Europe, highlighting that its wines are
GE-free. Fetzer president Paul Dolan made the announcement December
14 at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

"Fetzer has recognized that California vintners cannot afford to taint
their wines with GE grapes," said Jeanne Merrill, of the Greenpeace genetic
engineering campaign. "With great foresight, Fetzer took the lead in what
will become a trend in the industry as wine producers find that consumers
don't want GE wine and neither do export markets."

Genetically engineered (GE) grapes pose a tremendous risk to the California
wine industry and to organic wine growers. Jem Gardener, Director of the
UK organic wine importer and wholesaler Vinceremos explains: "Organic
winemakers and importers like ourselves are very concerned about the
contamination of organic vineyards by wind- and insect-borne GE pollen. As
the proud custodians of the purity of their fruit, organic vignerons have
much to fear from genetic engineering. If there is accidental
contamination, the damage will be irreversible."

News reports of field trials conducted by the University of Florida to
engineer a wine grape resistant to Pierce's Disease have been touting the
grape as a potential panacea for California's grape disease problem.
However, the researchers have acknowledged that the gene inserted into wine
grapes creates a protein similar to a substance in bee venom that can cause
anaphylactic shock in some people. One GE grape researcher told the
magazine New Scientist that it may not be possible to alter the grapes in
such a way to keep the potentially deadly substance out of the human food
chain.

Fetzer's announcement follows on the heals of widespread rejection of
genetic engineering in Europe. In France, wine makers have called for a
moratorium on GE vines and increased state research into alternative
solutions. The institute that supervises the specifications of French wines
currently forbids any modified grape varieties. In Italy, the Association
of Wine Producing Towns and the regional councils of Tuscany and Valle
d'Aosta also have opposed GE wine experiments.

For more information, contact: Jeanne Merrill, 415-255-9221 ex. 306 or
Craig Culp, 202-319-2461

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