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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Calls for GM coffee boycott
coffee producer in costa rica
The charity says GM coffee threatens the livelihoods of millions of small farmers
A charity is launching a campaign calling on retailers and consumers to boycott genetically modified coffee.

ActionAid is expected to stage a protest outside the World Coffee Conference, a three-day gathering of leading figures in the industry, held at London's Hilton Park Lane hotel.

ActionAid has also taken out newspaper advertisements and is leafleting coffee shops and supermarkets.

The charity says GM coffee threatens the livelihoods of the millions of small farmers who produce 70% of the world's coffee.

The technology, being developed in Hawaii, involves genetically engineering coffee berries so they all ripen at the same time.

This would make harvesting on large plantations less labour intensive.

But, according to ActionAid, it would also spell disaster for smaller farmers and workers who handpick berries as they ripen at a natural uneven rate.

ActionAid's Salil Shetty told BBC News: "It is likely to displace the lives of about seven million very poor people whose livelihoods rely on coffee entirely.

"This is because the technology is going to replace labour with mechanised farming."

But the British Coffee Association said in a statement that research into genetically modified coffee was at an early stage and would "not be commercially viable for many years".

"There are currently no coffee products on the market that have been produced from genetically modified coffee beans, neither are there any close to being brought to the market," said the BCA.

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See also:

16 May 01 | Business
Coffee farmers 'face destitution'
19 May 00 | Business
Coffee price set to rise
06 Jun 00 | Americas
My story: The coca grower
15 Jul 00 | Africa
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