Opposition to GM crops and food is global and growing. Here are some of the most recent activities from around the world. Including the latest developments in South America and more. Click on the following as well for news from
Argentina, Mexico, India, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Canada, USA, Philippines, China, Brazil, South Africa.
Chronologically listed items on the International Page for 2003-2005 in descending order - or go to INTERNATIONAL for current items in 2006:
Vandana Shiva takes fight against Monsanto to Hong Kong
Mali's David v Goliath GM stuggle
Consumers International intensifies anti-GM campaign
COMMNUNIQUE OF ONE DAY NATIONAL WORKSHOP ON BIOSAFETY AND THE PEOPLE, ABUJA
CAP And SAM Object To Inclusion of Genetic Engineering In International Symposium On Papaya
GM pea causes allergic damage in mice
Kenyan NGO to lobby MPs against GMO food
Farmers hail PVP & FR Act notification
Bt cotton 'fails' in official debut - Fazilka-Abohar farmers go back to 'desi' varieties
Complexities of GM issue delay WTO decision
Illegal GMO rice spreads across China
Risk of illegal genetically engineered rice in China's exports
Monsanto may ditch GM corn investment
Court orders Monsanto to make scandal report public
Three Statements at the Conclusion of the Montreal meeting on the Cartegna Protocol
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL SAFETY TALKS END IN ACRIMONY
ILLEGAL US GM MAIZE FOUND IN JAPANESE IMPORTS
FIRST ON-LINE WORLDWIDE REGISTER OF GM CONTAMINATION INCIDENTS LAUNCHED TODAY
Pressure groups release first international register of contamination mishaps as governments meet to discuss problem
Japan plans to reassess import of genetically modified canola from Canada
Organic Sector Calls for Strict Liability Under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
Russians reject GM foods
Genetically engineered (GE) crops contaminate fields and food around the world
ILLEGAL GM MAIZE SHOULD BE RETURNED TO USA
VICTORY FOR THE PUBLIC!! - Right to participate on GMO decisions granted for the Pan-European Region
Turkey working to form policy on genetically modified organisms - Risk to biological (and career) diversity
GM sweetcorn from Monsanto rejected by EU states, again
Monsanto Dealt Defeat in Attempt to Invade Brazilian Schools
China says ratifies GMO transparency treaty
Africa's Top Biosafety Envoy Shut Out of Canada Talks
WILL GMOs FEED THE HUNGRY POOR? PELUM ASSOCIATION ZAMBIA
Genetically Modified Wheat Still Risky One Year after Monsanto Shelves Plan
AMERICAN CORN GROWERS FOUNDATION RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT LOST CORN GLUTEN MARKET AND LOW CORN PRICES DUE TO BIOTECH BLUNDERING
India bans Monsanto GM cotton seeds with coments from PV Satheesh
MONSANTO GRABS SOUTHERN AFRICAN SEED MARKET BUT SA FARMERS GIVE GMOS COLD SHOULDER
The GM Bubble
Lack of cooperation into GM papaya probe
New Study Points to Likely Source of GE Rice Contamination in China
Some US firms 'want to control local agricultural production'
Don't Rush GMO Use in Tanzania, Says Organic Body
Conned with corn - from Lagos
Illinois Attorney General Probes Monsanto Pricing
Japan Wary of Making New Purchases of U.S. Corn
EU nations to ban suspect corn imports
Unlicensed GM rice may be in UK food chain
China Seeks Probe of Greenpeace Rice Claim
EU MOVES TO RESTRICT US MAIZE IMPORTS - FOE calls for industry to pay the costs
Europeans to Toughen Rules on Animal Feed From US
Food safety spawns public concern
EU set to ban US maize feed after GM scare
Illegal GE rice contaminates food chain in China
Busch to boycott state's rice if genetic alterations allowed
Brazil, Latin American Soybean Producers to Charge Sale Royalty
MEXICO, MAIZE AND MONSANTO
MNCs, designers join lobbies against GM crops
GMO CROP SCANDAL - TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE - Commission only acts after 10 days
US officials fret over South Korea's response to GM corn mix-up - 3/31/2005
BRAZIL: Soy Boom Highlights Biotech Advances, but Encounters Resistance - Mario Osava - RIO DE JANEIRO, Mar 29, 2005 (IPS)
Nigerian consumer body rejects GMOs - Angola Press, 16 March 2005
SEEDS OF DISPUTE: Crop crusaders - By MIKA OMURA - The Asahi Shimbun, February 25, 2005
A moratorium on the further release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
Russian Scientists Warn Putin of GM Food Threat - MosNews, 14 October 2004
WHO URGES FURTHER RESEARCH - Bangkok Post, 13 Oct 2004
MONSANTO LEAVES COSTA RICA - COSTA RICA TRANSGENICS ALERT
The Thika Declaration on GMOs - Statement from the Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum - 20 August, 2004
Region in the Phillipines going GM free on 21st July 2004
Cultivation of genetically modified crops to be prohibited on Venezuelan soil - 21st April. 2004
Brazil labels GM food
GMO bill passes Senate - Battleboro Reformer, Saturday, 17th April 2004
Brazil's Parana State Bans Monsanto, Basf Pesticides on Risks
MORATORIUM IN AUSTRALIA CONTINUES
US Offers Biggest Market For Organic Produces
Mendocino County voters approved the nation's first ban Tuesday on the raising and keeping of genetically engineered crops or animals
GM technology fails local potatoes - The Daily Nation, Kenya, Online, Thursday January 29, 2004.
Farmer doubts about GM cotton grow - Kultida Samabuddhi - Bangkok Post, 3 January 2004
US Challenge presents threat to African Food Sovereignty - 4th September 2003.
Trade rows loom over GM export treaty By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent The Times, May 28, 2003- CARTAGENA PROTOCOL
The Action Aid report Going against the Grain
DEVINDER SHARMA SAYS US FORCE-FEEDING THE WORLD - GM FOOD WILL LEAD TO MORE HUNGER NOT LESS
DNA Survives In The Soil For Far Longer Than Some Might Say New Research Shows
Paraguayans protest GM crop spray incidents
Scientist who pressed GM panic button raises new food health fears, The Sunday Times, May 04, 2003
ECOLOGIST INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL MEACHER - February 2003
Vandana Shiva takes fight against Monsanto to Hong Kong - WebIndia, December 14, 2005
Indian environment activist Vandana Shiva and French anti-globalisation crusader Jose Bove Wednesday launched a campaign against US food and seed giant Monsanto on the sidelines of the global trade talks here. The duo also handed a petition to officials of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to oppose the trade dispute filed by the US, Argentina and Canada under the rules of the multilateral organisation on genetically modified (GM) food. The petition - which Shiva claimed has been signed by 135,000 citizens from over 100 countries and 740 organisations representing 60 million people - was to be given to WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, who instead sent a representative.
"The petition asks the World Trade Organisation not to undermine the rights of countries like the European Union to take appropriate measures to protect their ecology and environment from GM Food," Shiva said. The backdrop for the short event were placards and posters that read, "WTO: Hands Off Our Food" and "Monsanto Plunders and Kills Peasants and the Planet". The organisers - including Friends of Earth International chairperson Meena Raman and Member of the European Parliament Carolina Lucas - also delivered a box of organic food to the WTO official.
Concerned by the food related crisis in the 1990s, EU has regulations to control the GM food industry, which followed a four-year ban on such produce in 1999. The US, however, says it violated the WTO agreement. "This is not a case of US versus the EU, but clearly Monsanto versus the civil society," Shiva, registered as a representative of non-government organisations, told IANS. The EU and the US have a discord over a regulation of Brussels on genetically modified food. The US claims the regulation violates the WTO trade agreement, but the EU says free trade is not truly free without informed consent.
"The WTO has become a tool for big companies to patent seeds and even our lives since it allows such measures under the agreement on trade related intellectual property rights," Bove said. "GM foods make farmers dependent on big companies, threaten food security and take away consumer choice. A ruling that goes in favour of the US will have a major implications," he warned.
Shiva says her next course of action is to launch a satyagraha - the philosophy of non-violent protest adopted by Mahatma Gandhi - in India against Monsanto. "We have to protect the rights of Indian farmers and consumers."
Mali's David v Goliath GM stuggle - Joan Baxter - Bamako, Mali - BBC News, 7 December 2005 - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4445824.stm
The debate on genetically modified (GM) crops has erupted again in Africa, three years after Zambia refused genetically modified food aid. This time, however, the hot debate is not over GM food aid in southern Africa - it's about GM crops in Mali.
In 2004 in Mali, the national agricultural research institute, IER, began a five-year project with the US development agency, USAid, and the transnationals Monsanto and Syngenta to develop and introduce GM crops such as BT cotton, to the country. IER scientific coordinator, Siaka Dembele, supports the project. "A lot of BT cotton is produced in the United States and it seems to be productive there," he says. "And also in developing countries such as China, India and South Africa. We have been given some figures that show that generally BT cotton is more productive than conventional cotton because of the natural protection of this plant so there is no need for treatments."
Dembele says the use of less pesticide would have both economic and environmental benefits. "That's an absurd proposition," says Asseto Samake, a professor of genetics and biology at the University of Mali. "The claims they are making for this cotton are absolutely false." Samake explains that BT cotton has been modified with the introduction of genes of the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensi so it can secrete toxins to resist two or three major cotton pests. She says that in Mali there are thousands of cotton pests and that when a few are removed from the natural equation, others will flourish and farmers will still need pesticides. "If BT cotton is so profitable," Samake says, "why do they have to subsidise their cotton farmers with billions of dollars in the United States? Our farmers in West Africa achieve record production using just their digging sticks and regular seeds and they have great difficulty selling what they produce, because subsidies in America and Europe have made the world price for cotton fall. "So why do they come now with their GMOs and technology to solve a problem that they created? It's a big farce!" Samake is a member of the Coalition to Protect Mali's Genetic Heritage that formed when word leaked from IER about the USAid-funded project on BT crops.
Kind of door
Coalition member Mamadou Goita says the organisation has over 100 member associations of farmers, women, academics and NGOs. A similar regional coalition has formed for West Africa, where governments are currently developing bio-safety legislation. But he worries about genetic pollution of and eventual disappearance of local seed varieties if GM seeds are introduced. According to Goita: "Mali is a kind of door they need to open to reach some European countries", where there is still widespread public opposition to GM crops. He alleges USAid and the multinationals are encouraging Africa's researchers and government officials to accept biotechnology with lavish gifts of new computers and printers, office equipment, vehicles, and scholarships for study of biotechnology in the United States. "This is buying people," he says. Phone calls to USAid in Mali were not returned.
Mali's Minister of Agriculture, Seydou Traore, dismisses suggestions of corruption. "I know of no bribes in Mali that have anything to do with biotechnology and GMOs," says Traore. "If there are cases of corruption elsewhere around the debate on biotechnology and GMOs, in Mali, at least for the moment, we don't know them."
GM crops would re-colonise us
In July 2005, Monsanto paid a $1.5 million fine for having bribed an Indonesian official $50,000 to try avoid an environmental impact study on its genetically engineered cotton in that country. Traore says that Mali needs to improve the quality and productivity of its cotton, and BT cotton could help do that. To reject biotechnology, he says, is "neither tenable nor reasonable".
Debt and dependence
The debate over GMOs is not limited to the capital city, Bamako. In the mud and thatch villages of Mali's cotton belt, many farmers express concern that BT cotton would increase debt and dependence. "Our problem is the low price and not cotton production," says 37-year-old Ladji Kone, in the community of Bohi in southern Mali. "GM crops would re-colonise us," says Sereba Kone, president of the cotton growers in Bohi. In the village of Petaka, 800 km northeast of Bamako, farmers express similar concerns. Here, they work on a project funded by the small Canadian NGO, USC, to develop and preserve their own seed varieties in community gene and seed banks. "I think GM crops are not a good principle for us," says project leader, Tienen Sylla. "These seeds we have here we inherited from our ancestors over generations and they fit our difficult climate. GM seeds would be a trap." "It's a part of Western culture to believe that technology is the solution to development," says Mana Diakite, who heads USC in Mali. "I don't think that in the area of food security that is true. Because once they introduce GM crops to Africa, farmers will only access the seed if they pay. "You know that when the rain fails, farmers here can seed and re-seed at least three times. And if they have to buy seeds three times a year to produce, I don't think that's a good policy for this country, or any country in West Africa."
Some coalition members admit that theirs is a "David and Goliath" struggle, which they are not likely to win. "I think there is pressure coming from outside which they probably can't divert," says Mana Diakite. "It's very difficult for an African government to fight something being imposed by a super giant like United States or all these seed companies." The third West African ministerial meeting on biotechnology, supported by USAid, is set for Accra, Ghana, in June 2006.
Listen to GM Mali African perspective http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/meta/tx/nb/africanperspective_au_nb.ram
Consumers International intensifies anti-GM campaign - Angola Press, 30 Nov 2005 - http://www.angolapress-angop.ao/noticia-e.asp?ID=395699
Dakar, Senegal, 11/30 - Consumers International (CI), the worldwide federation of consumer organisations, together with the Foundation for Consumers, Thailand`s leading independent consumer group, has launched a global campaign against genetically modified (GM) crops and foods. A CI release said the "Consumers say NO to GMOs" campaign would "press governments and international bodies for a moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in seeds, crops and foodstuffs, while putting stringent safeguards in place for GM foods already in the market." Speaking at the launch in Bangkok, Amadou Kanoute, Director of Consumers International Africa Office (CI-ROAF), touched on efforts to introduce GM seeds and crops to African countries. He warned that "rather than solving hunger in Africa GM would further impoverish African farms by making them totally dependent on corporate giants, such as Monsanto, who would have a monopoly on seed supply." According to CI, about two-thirds of GM crops are grown in the USA, with the remainder in a few key countries. But most countries have not switched to GM crops, partly because of widespread consumer resistance to GM foods. Michael Hansen, from the Consumers` Union (United States) and an expert on the effects of biotechnology on agriculture, explained the basics of genetic engineering and some of the dangers it posed. He said some of the science that supposedly supported GMOs was dubious, stressing that precautionary principle must prevail. Saree Aongsomwang, Director of the Foundation for Consumers, outlined the current situation in Thailand and explained why it was so vital for Thai farmers to resist the pressure to adopt methods based on GM crops. She pointed out the inadequacy of labelling laws in Thailand, showing how some labels were hidden or inadequate, while others were missing altogether.
Scientists and others caution against biotech products - By Uduma Kalu - The Guardian (Lagos) - http://www.guardiannewsngr.com
SCIENTISTS and farmers were among some stakeholders at the weekend that cautioned against biotechnology products. The warning came as multinational corporations intensified efforts to introduce the products into Africa. But in Nigeria, a bill for the regulation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and related products has been sent to the National Assembly. Many Nigerians do not seem to be aware of the issues at hand and so little is known about the bill. To increase the understanding of the bill, government officials and the civil society have been asked to begin a public enlightenment campaign. The media have also been advised to live up to the responsibility of informing the public on modern biotechnology issues. These were some of the issues discussed last weekend in Abuja where international groups, including scientists, government agencies and ministries, farmer organisations, legal practitioners, academics, media practitioners and students met at a seminar organised by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/ FoEN) entitled: "National Workshop on Biosafety and the People: Towards a Strict GMO Law".
At the end of their one-day workshop, the participants drawn from Nigeria, Cameroun, Ghana and Togo recalled that Nigeria was a party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and that the convention mandated the country to put in place effective biosafety laws. They, therefore, called for a moratorium on the introduction of GMOs in Nigeria until effective legislative, administrative and infrastrctural framework for the regulation of modern biotechnology was put in place. In a statement at the end of their one-day workshop, the participants expressed worry over the potential health and environmental hazards associated with modern biotechnology products and non-availability of evidence-based science to allay those fears. Calling for a comprehensive risk assessment and risk management plan before the introduction of modern biotechnology products, the group said there "should be clear provisions in the biosafety bill to guarantee an enforceable liability regime, unambiguous labelling on any GMO or product thereof because the consumer has to know". The statement also called for introduction of a section in the biosafety bill on "protected areas" or GMO-free-zones where the release of GMOs will be prohibited.
"As a start, all protected areas/forests/ community lands should be declared no-go-areas for GMOs. Communities, local councils, states and regions should immediately commence processes by which they can regulate or declare themselves GMO-free", the statement read. The group went on to call for a transparent and speedy process with full public participation in enacting a Biosafety Act that would be based on precautionary principle and would be effective for the protection of public health and the environment from the hazards of modern biotechnology products.
COMMNUNIQUE OF ONE DAY NATIONAL WORKSHOP ON BIOSAFETY AND THE PEOPLE, ABUJA, November 25, 2005
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) on November 25, 2005 organized a "National Workshop on Biosafety and the People: Towards a Strict GMO Law" in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The conference brought together civil society groups, scientists, government agencies and ministries, farmer organizations, legal practitioners, academics, media practitioners and students, to deliberate on the planned bill to regulate the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and related products in the country.
Alarmed by intensified efforts of multinational corporations towards the introduction of modern biotechnology products in Africa despite the lack of existing legal, administrative and infrastructural frameworks to regulate the products;
Worried by the potential health and environmental hazards associated with modern biotechnology products and the non-availability of evidence-based science to allay those fears;
Concerned by the implication of introduction of GMOs on local livelihoods particularly local farmers that will be at the mercy of transnational seed manufacturing companies;
Acknowledging the fact that the solution to food security in Nigeria is not in GMOs as being promoted by modern biotechnology giants, but improved farming practices, good infrastructure, modern storage facilities and effective distribution networks for agricultural products;
Recalling that Nigeria is a Party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and that the convention mandates the country to put in place effective biosafety laws;
Recognizing the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Environment in initiating a Biosafety bill to regulate modern biotechnology products in the country
The participants recommended:
Moratorium on the introduction of GMOs in Nigeria until effective legislative, administrative and infrastructural framework for the regulation of modern biotechnology is put in place;
Comprehensive risk assessment and risk management plan before the introduction of modern biotechnology products;
Clear provisions in the Biosafety bill to guarantee an enforceable liability regime, unambiguous labeling on any GMO or product thereof because the consumer has the right to know;
Introduction of a section in the Biosafety bill on "Protected areas" or GMO - Free - Zones where the release of GMOs will be prohibited. As a start, all protected areas/forests/community lands should be declared no-go areas for GMOs. Communities, Local governments, states and regions should immediately commence processes by which they can regulate or declare themselves GMO free;
Transparent and speedy process with full public participation in enacting a Biosafety Act that will be based on precautionary principle and is effective for the protection of public health and the environment from the hazards of modern biotechnology products, and
Government and civil society should make deliberate effort for public enlightenment and participation. The media should also live up to the responsibility of informing the public on modern biotechnology issues.
SAHABAT ALAM MALAYSIA - MEDIA RELEASE - 22nd November 2005
CAP And SAM Object To Inclusion of Genetic Engineering In International Symposium On Papaya
The Consumers' Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) are concerned that the International Symposium on Papaya being held in Genting Highlands from November 22nd to 24th would be an avenue for biotechnology industries to promote transgenic papaya. The symposium is jointly organized by the Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Institute (MARDI), International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), International Service for the Acquisition of Agricultural Biotechnology Applications (ISAAA) and the International Tropical Fruits Network (TFNet).
With the participation of the Papaya Biotechnology Network of South East Asia which is coordinated by ISAAA, the symposium would be an opportunity for the biotech industry to promote genetic engineering. ISAAA facilitates the partnership between Syngenta, Monsanto and five countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) on the development of genetically engineered papaya with the papaya ringspot virus (PRSV)-resistant and delayed ripening traits. Research findings in biotechnology applications in papaya is purported to be presented at this symposium.
We are very concerned that genetic engineering (GE) is being promoted and used as a solution to address disease problems of papaya and improving the fruit. This is because genetic engineering carries many risks and hazards, which potentially result in adverse health, environmental and socio-economic impacts. GE contamination is difficult to contain or avoid. There is already widespread contamination by GE papaya in Hawaii. Conventional varieties of papaya grown in Hawaii have tested positive for transgenic seeds, whilst contamination was also detected in the stock of non-GE seeds being sold commercially by the University of Hawaii. Closer to home, there has already been contamination from an experimental field trial of transgenic papaya in Thailand.
One of the concerns of GE food is the risk of allergic reactions. A recent scientific paper shows that the papaya ringspot virus coat protein is one of a number of transgenic proteins that had sequence similarity with known allergenic proteins. To our knowledge, no research has been done to further investigate the implications of this, and the long-term effects to humans are unknown.
SAHABAT ALAM MALAYSIA - (Friends of the Earth Malaysia) - No. 9 Solok Mas, 11600 Pulau Pinang. Tel: 04 ? 659 6930 Fax: 04 ? 659 6931
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website ; www.foe-malaysia.org.my
GM pea causes allergic damage in mice - Emma Young, Sydney - NewScientist.com news service, 21 November 2005
A decade-long project to develop genetically modified peas with built-in pest-resistance has been abandoned after tests showed they caused allergic lung damage in mice. The researchers - at Australia's national research organisation, CSIRO - took the gene for a protein capable of killing pea weevil pests from the common bean and transferred it into the pea. When extracted from the bean, this protein does not cause an allergic reaction in mice or people. But the team found that when the protein is expressed in the pea, its structure is subtly different to the original in the bean. They think this structural change could be to blame for the unexpected immune effects seen in mice. The work underlines the need to evaluate new GM crops on a case-by-case basis, says Paul Foster of the Australian National University in Canberra, who led the immunological work. He also calls for improvements in screening requirements for genetically engineered plants, to ensure comprehensive tests are carried out. Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace Australia's campaigner on genetic engineering, agrees. "These results indicate the potential for unpredicted and unintended changes in the structure of transferred proteins. And I'm not aware of any country that requires feeding studies as part of its approval process
Field peas (Pisum sativum) are susceptible to the pea weevil Bruchus pisorum, which lays its eggs on the pea pods. The weevil frequently devastates crops not only in Australia but across the developing world. The common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) contains alpha-amylase inhibitor-1, a protein that inhibits the activity of alpha-amylase, an enzyme that is used by pea weevils to help them digest starch. CSIRO Plant Industry researchers hoped the developing weevils would starve after eating the protein, before they could cause any real damage to the crop. Trials showed that the GM peas were almost completely resistant to the pea weevils.
Foster and his team then used mice to investigate whether eating the GM peas might have any undesirable immune impact. Generally, digested proteins do not create a specific immune system response. But researchers found that mice that ate transgenic pea seed did develop antibodies specific to the protein. Some of these mice were later exposed to the purified protein, either through injection into the blood, or by putting the protein into their airways. This approach is a standard "multiple immune challenge" procedure and is designed to determine if the immune system is tolerant to a protein. The injected mice showed a hypersensitive skin response, while the airway-exposed mice developed airway inflammation and mild lung damage. The effect was the same whether the protein was taken from raw or cooked peas - so whether the protein was active or denatured. "To my knowledge, this is the first description of inducing experimental inflammation in mice" with a GM food, Foster says. In the early 1990s, researchers engineered a more nutritious strain of soya bean by adding a gene taken from brazil nuts. But the project ended when it was discovered that the hybrid was likely to trigger a major attack in people with brazil nut allergies.
Further investigations by Foster's team revealed slight differences in the molecular structure of the protein when it was expressed in the bean and in the pea. They think this was caused by differences in the way the two plants produce proteins - particularly in a step called glycosylation, which involves adding saccharides to the protein. When expressed in the pea, the protein was glycosylated at different points - that's the only structural change we've been able to identify so far," says Foster. He adds that slight differences in protein synthesis might also occur in other plants with other genes, meaning each new GM food should be very carefully evaluated for potential health effects. "If a GM plant is to go up for human consumption, there should be a detailed descriptive list of how one should go about analysing that plant," he says. Tager agrees. It is rare for an investigation of the potential health effects of a GM product to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, he adds. "If it had been a private company doing this, it might never have seen the light of day," he says.
Journal reference: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (vol 53, p 9023)
Kenyan NGO to lobby MPs against GMO food - AngolaPress, Nov 19 2005 - http://www.angolapress-angop.ao/noticia-e.asp?ID=392722
Nairobi, Kenya, 11/19 - A nongovernmental organisation (NGO) in Kenya, Africa Nature Stream, plans to lobby and meet the country's parliamentarians to fight against the introduction of genetically modified crops in the country, ANS chairman Masoa Muindi said Friday here. Currently, Muindi observed, a draft bill to formulate biotechnology in the country was at the attorney general`s office waiting for parliament to pass it. Muindi, in a letter to the US ambassador to Kenya, alluded to a speech delivered by an embassy official, John Smith, at a recent function in Nairobi where the introduction of GMO foods were encouraged in the country. The NGO claimed that during the Africa Harvest International function, where the promotion of GMOs was widely acclaimed as best for the African continent, America was taking Kenyans and Africa for a ride by persuading them into the development of genetically modified crops. "By passing the bill, the government will be robbing Kenya of crops not being purchased in the world market as they will have been contaminated with the genetically engineered organisms," he added.
Muindi claimed that the US had now bribed scientists at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) with the sole purpose of using them to protect multinational biotechnology companies to deliver GMO seeds to Kenyan farmers. He also accused KARI of "pretence" while delivering newly introduced seeds to the farmers from their research stations without declaring to farmers the consequences and the dangers of such inputs. "They have been lying to Kenyans that the new plants will save them from hunger," he charged. Muindi further said the GMO scheme has failed miserably in the developed countries such as Canada, Russia and Japan hence "the reason why they have decided to dump the technology and seeds in Africa". He requested the American government to stop financing and promoting any kind of food crops and seeds which would adversely affect African economies, adding that the continent, with its climate, fertile soils, rivers and natural water could easily feed its people "with proper management of resources."
Farmers hail PVP & FR Act notification - ASHOK B SHARMA, Financial Express, Bombay, India - Posted online: Monday, November 14, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
New Delhi, Nov 13 Farmers have hailed the government’s decision to notify the Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers’ Rights (PVP&FR) Act, 2001. They said that though the decision is belated, it would solve the farmers’ problems to a great extent. The legislation was passed by Parliament way back in 2001 and received Presidential assent in the same year, but was withheld from notification, which prevented its implementation over the past few years. The Act, apart from protecting farm bio-diversity, allows farmers to save and exchange seeds in unbranded form for use in the next crop season. The Act has also banned registration of seeds containing terminator technology vide section 18 (1) (C). The government has recently constituted Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers’ Rights Board under the chairmanship of Dr S Nagarajan for implementation of the Act.
Speaking to FE, executive chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS) Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary said: “The PVP&FR Act was long withheld from its implementation due to pressure from the interested lobby of seed companies. This law gives some leverage to farmers in matters of use of seeds, though not complete freedom. There had been recent attempts to nullify this meagre freedom given to farmers under this Act by the introduction of amendments to the Seeds Act in the Parliament. The farmers will not tolerate any such move and demand immediate withdrawal of the proposed amendments to the Seeds Act. Rather PVP&FR Act should be further amended to give more freedom to farmers.”
Dr Chaudhary had earlier expressed concern over Delta & Pine Land announcing its new plans to foray into the seed sector, after it got patent rights for its terminator technology in patent offices abroad. He now said that with the notification of PVP&FR Act, the country is better poised to deal with this situation. Dr Chaudhary was the sole farmers’ representative to the recently held global conference on biotechnology hosted by Asia-Pacific Association of Agriculture Research Institutions (APAARI) and FAO in Bangkok where he demanded that the seed multinationals compensate farmers for failure of Bt cotton.
Below is the press release from the Government of India:
PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
CENTRE ISSUES NOTIFICATION ON PROTECTION OF PLANT VARIETY & FARMERS RIGHTS AUTHORITY
New Delhi, Kartika 20, 1927 - November 11, 2005
The Protection of Plant Variety & Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Authority has come into being with the enforcement of the Act, 2001, and the Rules framed thereunder. A notification to this effect was issued today by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation. The Authority would now regulate all matters pertaining to plants and seeds varieties of the country and would act as the national registry for documentation, indexing and cataloguing of all flora of the country, including extant varieties, farmers’ varieties and land races. The Authority will also be registering new varieties thereby protecting the breeders’ rights, inclusive of both farmers and the industry.
The Authority represents the interests of a wide spectrum of stakeholders, which include the scientific community, farmers’ organizations, women, tribal entities and State and Central Government as also the State Agricultural Universities.
The PPV&FR Authority is a major step forward in stimulating investment in the agricultural seed and plant sector and would greatly encourage development of new plant varieties. It will protect the interests and rights of farmers and the farming community and recognize their contribution to the selection and preservation of traditional varieties. The Authority also has the mandate to administer the National Gene Fund which ill help conserve and protect our plant genetic resources/biodiversity.
The PPV&FR Authority is presently functioning out of the premises of National Agricultural Science Centre at Pusa, New Delhi, and is headed by Dr. S Nagarajan, recently appointed as its chairman.
Wilting of Bt cotton in Madhya Pradesh - farmers demand ban on companies - Kerala, 14 Nov 2005 http://www.newkerala.com/news.php?action=fullnews&id=52326
Bhopal: The genetically modified Bt cotton crops in over two lakh acre area in Nirmar region in western Madhya Pradesh suffered partial or complete wilting causing a loss of more than Rs 400 crores, the affected farmers said today. The farmers, who held a public hearing last month at Kukshi in Dhar district, urged the state government to ban multi-national Monsanto and other companies which sold Bt cotton seeds in the state and sought compensation. Several varieties, which had been banned in Andhra Pradesh for similar reasons, had been allowed to be marketed in Madhya Pradesh. ''Instead of banning these varieties, the state government gave extension to these companies for another three years'', Mr Mohanlal Patidar, President of Kukshi Mandi Samiti, told reporters today. ''The 'banned' varieties were causing huge losses to the farmers in MP, the state government should have been vigilant and banned it'', said Agriculture scientist Dr Debashish Banerji, who was among the panelists at the public hearing attended by about 500 farmers....The experience of the farmers of Nimar has shown that there is an urgent need to review the genetically modified technology as the effects of this technology on agriculture, farmers, environment and human health has not been properly evaluated'', Dr Banerji said. During the public hearing, a health report presented by Mr Amulya Nidhi showed that Bt cotton was causing severe to moderate allergy to people coming in contact with it.
THE INDIGENOUS TERRITORIES OF ZENU, CORDOVA AND SUCRE WERE DECLARED GE FREE
San Andres de Sotavento, October 7th 2005
More than 300 indigenous leaders and authorities, from the indigenous territories of Zenu in San Andres de Sotavento, which belong to the Municipalities of Cordova and Sucre, together with 5 organizations of organic producers, declared their territory GE FREE. The decision was based in the important role of corn in their culture, productive systems and food sovereignty. At the moment they conserve more than 25 different varieties of corn with a very rich culinary culture. The corn is a sacred food, and this is why they call themselves "sons and daughter of corn". There is a centre of diversity of corn in the Zenu territory, and close to it, the Government has established some plantations with GE corn, and the people think that there is a big threat of genetic contamination They demand from the local authorities to respect this decision and urged them to take necessary actions to control and monitor all the corn that enter into the territory. They also asked the authorities to promote programs in support of the small farmer agriculture and demand the government to stop any food aid with GMOs.
They also rejected the intention of the Colombian Government and Monsanto and Dupont to introduce GE corn in Colombia, but specially the the Caribbean region, since it is centre of diversity of this crop. In their declaration they made they called the civil society, the mass media to respect and support the declaration of the Zenu territory as GE Free. They invite other indigenous and afro descendent organizations to declare their territories GE Free. On the other hand they committed themselves to conserve and defend their seeds, productive systems, their food sovereignty based on agroecological sustainable systems.
The Zenu indigenous peoples are preparing an internal rule to control and protect their traditional seeds against biopiracy, genetic contamination and the introduction of GMOs inside their territory.
Guipipia, Santa Cruz declared GE Free- Press Release
The Municipal Council of Santa Cruz in the Province of Guanacaste in Costa Rica, declared itself GE Free the 24th of October. This is the second GE Free Municipality in Costa Rica, after the decision of the Council of Paraiso de Cartago The decision to ban any GE crop inside Santa Cruz, was taken by all the members of the Council unanimously. The decision was taken after the demand of the local communities inside the Municipality because of the possibility that their crops became contaminated by GMOs, declared Roger Matarrita, one of the members of the Council, which is also coordinator of Environment of the Municipality.
According with Matarrita the people of Guanacaste enjoy their meals based on traditional corn, and they do not want their varieties to be contaminated with transgenes. The Council committed itself to promote agroecological initiatives in the region.
According with Fatima Montealegre, member of the community of Santa Barbara de Santa Cruz, the decision of the Council is the result of a process of study and deep analysis of all the members of the Municipality. It is not just the decision of the Members of the Council, she added, but is a process promoted from the grassroots of Santa Cruz. She asked the international community to send letters of support to the decision of the Santa Cruz Council. If you want to congratulate and support this decision, you can send a Fax to:
Concejo Municipal de Santa Cruz - Fax (506) 680-0629. For more information email@example.com Tel: (506) 2836128
Corporates gain control over nature's seeds as the Terminator patent is granted
Amsterdam, 25 October 2005 - Greenpeace today exposed details that the patent for the controversial "Terminator technology" was granted in Europe on 5 October 2005. The Terminator patent (1) has been approved for all plants that are genetically engineered so that their seeds will not germinate. Further research by the "Ban Terminator Campaign", a network of farmers' unions and environmental organisations revealed that a patent was also granted in Canada on 11 October 2005.
Plants created using Terminator technology will produce sterile seeds, creating a monopoly and unnatural control of the seeds. Farmers will not be able to use seeds from such plants for the following season's cultivation. The seeds will rot \in the soil without producing new plants. If this technology is introduced in crops such as soya, wheat, canola and cotton it will force farmers to buy new seeds every year from the same company.
"Farmers should be aware that corporations all over the world are ready to take control of their seeds with genetic engineering (GE). These corporations will control the entire food chain with the help of monopoly patents and Terminator technology," said Christoph Then, Greenpeace International GE campaigner. "We need a global ban on this technology and on any patents on seeds. These corporate instruments will disrupt the backbone of global food supply, making it impossible for the farmers to reuse their own harvest for planting."
So far, the market introduction of the Terminator technology-which was already developed about ten years ago-was successfully prevented through worldwide protest of several groups and stakeholders. But many observers believe that the GE industry will drive towards the legalisation of this technology at the meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in March next year. The grant of the patent could push even harder for market introduction.
"These new patents confirm that corporations are once again actively pursuing Terminator technology and an international ban on the technology is urgently needed," said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the new global Ban Terminator Campaign, which involves farmers unions, environmental and Indigenous peoples organisations (2).
Although the GE industry claims that Terminator technology will help contain the spread of GE contamination, Greenpeace believes otherwise. "GE technology can not be controlled by Terminator seeds. On the contrary, it is likely that farmers will find their harvest being contaminated with this Terminator technology, if introduced. This is a real threat for estimated 80% of the farmers all over the world who save their seeds for cultivation."
Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.
For further information, contact:
Christoph Then, Greenpeace International GE Campaign, +49 171 8780832
Judit Kalovits, Greenpeace International Communications, +31 621 296914
Lucy Sharratt, Ban Terminator Campaign, +1 613 2412267, mobile: +1 613 2226214
Notes to Editors:
(1) The Terminator patent, EP 775212B, was granted to US-based Delta &Pine and the United States of America, represented by the Secretary of Agriculture. According to further data bank research the patent was already granted in similar versions in USA, further applications were filed in Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Turkey and South Africa.
Genetically modified soy affects posterity: Results of Russian scientists' studies - http://www.regnum.ru/english/526651.html
On October 10, during the symposium over genetic modification, organized by the National Association for Genetic Security (NAGS), Doctor of Biology Irina Ermakova made public the results of the research led by her at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). This is the first research that determined clear dependence between eating genetically modified soy and the posterity of living creatures.
During the experiment, doctor Ermakova added GM soy flour to the food of female rats two weeks before conception, during conception and nursing. In the control group were the rat females that were not added anything to their food. The experiment was formed by 3 groups of 3 female rats in each: the first one was control group, the second one was the group with GM-soy addition, and the third one with traditional soy addition. The scientists counted the number of female species to give birth and the number of born and died rats.
After the result of the first stage, the second part took place. Now the rats were divided into two groups - one with GM-soy addition in their food, and other without the GM- soy. In three weeks the scientists received results best seen as a table at http://www.regnum.ru/english/526651.html According to these results, the abnormally high level of posterity death has been detected at the posterity of the female species with GM-soy added to their food. And 36% percent of born rats weighed less than 20 grams that is an evidence of their extremely weak condition.
"The morphology and biochemical structures of rats are very similar to those of humans, and this makes the results we obtained very disturbing," said Irina Ermakova to NAGS press office. According to NAGS Vice-president Aleksey Kulikov, the data received by Dr.Ermakova confirm the necessity of full scale tests of GM-products influence over living creatures.
Sustainable farming can feed the world - swissinfo, October 16, 2005 - http://www.swissinfo.org/sen/swissinfo.html?siteSect=107&sid=6157727&cKey=1129451815000
On World Food Day, Swiss agricultural specialist Hans Rudolf Herren tells swissinfo that hunger can be overcome if farming practices are improved. Herren, who won the World Food Prize in 1995 for helping to save cassava crops throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, says rich countries need to support education and to do more research.
The theme of this year's World Food Day, promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is "Agriculture and intercultural dialogue". The FAO says that the intercultural movement of crops and livestock breeds revolutionised diets and reduced poverty. The organisation adds that these exchanges are still necessary to fight hunger and protect the environment. But this dialogue could be under threat with pressure on governments and farmers to adopt technologies such as genetic manipulation to increase productivity.
Herren, however, says that agricultural specialists should step back and consider all the options before taking the plunge.
swissinfo: A large part of the world's population suffers from malnutrition. Can intercultural exchanges as promoted by the FAO help alleviate hunger?
Hans Rudolf Herren: I think it can help us understand better how hunger works and help overcome this problem. Plenty of food is grown, but not always in the right places.
Those who overproduce actually make it difficult for those who underproduce to increase their output and supply the food that is preferred and required by the people who are going hungry.
swissinfo: One of the UN Millennium Goals is to reduce hunger around the world. Are rich countries like Switzerland doing enough?
H.R.H.: Not enough is being done. Just the fact there are so many hungry people proves my point. Enough is not being done to alleviate poverty and provide jobs and income options for hungry people. They are hungry because they don't have the money to buy food or there is not enough incentive for farmers to produce. If there is a market, farmers can and will produce food. Dealing with poverty will help us deal with hunger and this is where governments can do more. They don't have to give money away but can create options and means for people to earn a living. There should be an emphasis by rich countries on developing capacities in poor nations. Farmers need to be trained properly because there is no genetic predisposition for being one. So more funding for education and research is needed for sustainable agricultural systems.
swissinfo: Do you feel the right economic or agricultural research is already being done to deal with these issues?
H.R.H.: What is needed is more research that is tailored to the different needs of different regions. I don't think we need to do more research into how to grow maize, for example, but we should consider diversifying our food base. Africa is a good example where there could be crops other than corn that would grow better under precarious conditions such as limited rainfall. More research could help revive traditional crops that have been abandoned and that would generate income for farmers. There's a lot of research to be done in reviving and improving traditional crops, including vegetables, fruits and nuts, and bringing them back into the mainstream. This would also help improve nutrition and health in developing countries.
swissinfo: In Africa, some countries have accepted the introduction of genetically-modified (GM) crop varieties, others haven't. Is this really an issue, particularly in developing countries?
H.R.H.: We need to see if there is real need for these crop varieties. We already have plant varieties that can produce far more than they produce today. The real constraints are elsewhere, such as soil fertility or the agronomic system. So what is really needed is more research in agronomy and sustainable farming practices. An improved seed will not produce more unless it is planted in the right conditions, and we seem to have forgotten that. So we need to promote agriculture in developing countries that helps maintain a healthy soil rather than industrial farming that impoverishes it. If biotechnology is part of a more sustainable agricultural system, I don't have a problem with that, but we have to resolve many other issues before we spend millions on something that won't necessarily produce more food.
swissinfo: So, does the adoption of GM technology in developing nations have more to do with politics?
H.R.H.: It has a lot to do with politics and economics. American companies are pushing for the adoption of GM technology and there are lobbyists hard at work in Africa and other continents. Maybe this technology does some good, but there are alternatives that are much cheaper. We have done our research on this and have shown you can apply other technologies that are far more farmer-friendly. African farmers can't afford GM technology - they can't even afford fertiliser. So I don't think it is the right thing in the right place at the right time. We need to address the needs of farmers, find solutions that actually help and attain sustainable agricultural production as promoted by the FAO.
swissinfo-interview: Scott Capper
Transgenics and Indian Agriculture: Where are the benefits?
- A paper presented in a meeting of National Commission on Farmers on 22nd Sept.2005 by Dr.Krishan Bir Chaudhary, Executive Chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj (India's premier farmers' organisation) and patron of Indian Society for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development -
In India, transgenic crops are being experimented with and even released, without a coherent approach to the whole matter. It is not clear why transgenic agriculture is considered “frontier” or indispensable by numerous agricultural research bodies both in the public sector and private sector. Given below are our strong objections to transgenic crops in Indian agriculture and the reasons for the same.
Firstly, when it comes to transgenic agriculture, it is not clear how research and commercial release priorities are being set in this country. It seems that agencies are free to choose what suits and benefits them most, rather than what farmers need. No consultation with farmers and their organizations on whether they want GE as a technology in Indian agriculture at all is visible. There is no assessment witnessed of various options including safer, more inexpensive and politically right decisions that would uphold farmers’ interests before zeroing in on transgenic technology as the option for a given crop or problem. Herbicide resistance is a trait that is being worked on by many agencies, including public sector bodies! What implications would this have for the poor agricultural workers of this country, not to mention the environmental implications with increased herbicide use? Similarly, major food crops are being worked on without any thought to environmental and health repercussions! This includes our staple food, Rice. Public monies are being spent on expensive research on crops like tobacco! How are these research priorities being set? What are the accountability systems here, given that public sector research is much more than private sector when it comes to transgenic crop experimentation in India? Also, how have agencies, especially in the public sector, zeroed in on research on transgenics, rather than research on safer, ecological alternatives? These public sector bodies shy away from even validating such ecological practices that are being adopted by farmers on the ground. They would rather spend expensive resources sitting in their laboratories and campuses developing an imprecise technology.
On top of this are complications related to IPRs which have not been worked out at all. The UAS, Dharwad has a case to illustrate where they had developed a Bt Cotton variety with a gene donated by Ford Foundation only to discover later that that gene is a proprietary technology owned by Monsanto!
Civil society verification and research shows several bio-safety violations in all such experiments the products from field trials are allowed to enter the food chain routinely before all bio-safety tests are completed. Seeds from such field trials are routinely allowed to contaminate the other seed stock either physically or biologically, much before such crops are allowed for commercial cultivation. The Navbharat Bt cotton fiasco would have happened in such a manner too though no detailed investigations were undertaken on the matter. Similarly, field trial permissions and seed production permissions are given and no monitoring takes place to check what happens to the seed stocks if commercial approval is not granted in the next season. There have also been instances in the past where attempts have been made for clandestine imports of GE foods into the country or when they have actually been imported. The Soya imports into this country from countries like the US must surely be GM-contaminated however, no permission for such imports are being sought from the GEAC nor is GEAC pro-actively stopping such imports. All of these are clear indications of the complete failure of bio-safety regulations or risk assessment procedures in the country.
Coming to the experience of Bt Cotton in India, the first transgenic crop to be commercially cultivated, there are many lessons to be learnt including the fact that the technology is very imprecise and imperfect. Government’s own studies have shown that Bt Cotton, a technology imported from the US, was fit for the American conditions and their major pests rather than ours. There has been an extremely uneven performance, predictably, of the technology on the ground the primary claims have been belied with regard to pesticide use coming down along with bollworm incidence coming down. There are several other problems reported by farmers which need deeper investigations this is however not being done despite repeated requests. The country has not stopped to pause to take stock of the situation so far, before more varieties are released all the time. Worse, biosafety assessments are being done away with, with the argument that the “event” has already been approved for its bio-safety. This is a highly questionable claim. Bt Cotton cultivation in this country has also shown all the shortcomings and lacunae in our regulatory functioning. The post-approval surveillance is extremely unscientific and erratic. The cases of falsification of actual experience on the ground point to corrupt elements entering the picture. Monsanto’s bribing of several Indonesian officials for obtaining a clearance for a GE crop is well-known and is a good reminder to us about the extent the industry would go to push its markets.
The most important shortcoming in the story of Bt Cotton in India has been the lack of accountability mechanisms. Farmers who have incurred losses due to the cultivation of Bt Cotton have been left to fend for themselves while the companies involved in the commercialization are laughing all the way to the banks. Farmers’ interests have definitely been shown to be the last priority in this fiasco.
Resistance management plans are non-existent and faulty where they exist. Even in a country like Australia, there is a 30% limit to Bt Cotton cultivation. Why do Indian scientists only talk about experiences from elsewhere and adverse results from their own studies, instead of doing something to influence the decisions? Is scientific research by specialist bodies like CICR meant only for academic interest?
India should also take cue from the developments across the world. Worldwide, starting from 2003, GM crops research is drying up, even in countries like the US. Companies like Bayer Crop Science have announced that they are going back to conventional breeding. Companies are also voluntarily withdrawing products that have been in the pipeline like GM Wheat due to enormous consumer and farmer pressure against these crops. India should consider why it wants to tread a path that could be inimical to the interests of its farmers and definitely prove hazardous to its environment.
Let us look at the situation worldwide In 2004, the biotech industry and their allies celebrated the ninth consecutive year of expansion of genetically modified (GM) crops. The estimated global area of approved GM crops was 81 million hectares in 22 countries. Corn and soya, the two most widely grown GE crops are grown mostly for animal feed or enter the human food chain mostly as minor ingredients or derivatives. The GM industry would like to tell us that it has delivered benefits to consumers and society at large through more affordable food, feed and fiber with less pesticide usage. It is difficult to imagine how such benefits have been achieved given that more than 70% of the global area under GM crops is devoted to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide-tolerant crops. Even yield increase claims are questionable since studies from the US show that yields were suppressed with crops like RR Soybean cultivars. Other studies from North America on Roundup Ready Soy and Bt Maize found that the returns from these crops essentially equaled those of non-GE varieties.
The social costs of displacement of small farmers and agricultural workers from their farming are well documented and enormous. In Argentina, the situation is quite dramatic as 60000 farms went out of business while the area of Roundup Ready Soybean almost tripled. In countries like Brazil, GM soybean-led deforestation of the Amazon forests is also well-documented. These developments only point out towards the very hollow impact assessment studies and risk assessment studies that are taken up before the introduction of the technology. Often, such studies are not taken up at all and India cannot be allowed to go the same way. Please note that there are strong reasons as to why only 22 countries in the world have so far approved GM crop cultivation.
The environmental costs of the transgenic technology in agriculture are irreversible and unaffordable. Degradation of soils, loss of sustainable farming practices, loss of biodiversity, huge monocultures to the detriment of the sustainability of resources, impact on other living organisms, increase in secondary pests’ damage to the crops etc. have all been well-documented. Equally well-documented are the positive impacts of many sustainable agriculture practices which are non-pesticidal and non-GE.
The use of chemicals has only increased after the introduction of GE-led agriculture in countries like the US. In 2004, farmers sprayed an average 4.7% more pesticides on GE crops than on identifical conventional crops. In the case of herbicide resistant crops, the usage of herbicide goes up and in the case of insect-resistance crops, insects are known to adapt themselves given the enormous selection pressure on them which once again translates itself into higher chemical use for their control. The increase in chemical usage not only has environmental implications in terms of groundwater contamination, super-weeds etc., but also raises important questions on food safety.
Coming to the much-forwarded principle of co-existence of GM and conventional crops, regulators and scientists should understand that co-existence is an impossibility in India. Experiences from world over including the Mexican maize contamination case are an illustration. “Adventitious presence” or contamination of conventional seed with biotechnology traits is a known phenomenon which has adverse environmental and economic implications. In a country where there are millions of small holdings right next to each other and where traditional seed exchange systems are vibrant to this day, both genetic and physical contamination of seed stocks is inevitable. Failure of regulation is more than well-established in the case of a non-food crop like Cotton. The disaster waiting to happen if GM technology is introduced in food crops cannot be overstated.
GM foods are known to cause a variety of human health problems. There are numerous studies on GM tomato, GM potato, GM corn, GM soy and other crops which show that these foods constitute a definite hazard to health. Monsanto’s secret GM Maize study findings also point to the same facts. There is also the issue of antibiotic resistance building up through GM crops. There can be no easy management solutions to these issues. In developed countries too, segregation was known to have failed as the Starlink corn contamination case reveals. Many long term human health impacts might not even start showing in the health assessment studies being taken up right now. How can India afford to tread this path, when it has agreed to enshrine the Precautionary Principle when it signed up to the Cartagena Protocol? How can the precautionary principle guide us for international trade decisions but not when it comes to domestic production and trade decisions?
1Has India begun assessing the possibilities of market rejection for its agricultural products if it opts for GE any further? Many large companies in the mainstream food industry already have a non-GE policy in response to consumer demand in many countries in the West. What will be the economic implications for Indian farmers of such market rejection? What kind of an analysis is available for the farmers so that they can make an informed choice on the matter?
The organic food industry, which has a great potential for growth will definitely be closed to us by our pro-GE decisions and this will once again mean a great economic loss to Indian farmers. Organic farmers have their own rights which need to be protected too. In Canada, a class action suit is under way demanding lost organic canola profits due to contamination. Similarly, Germany has a law that makes farmers who plant GE crops liable for contamination of other crops. Many other countries in Asia are treading cautiously and have moratoriums, or bans, or pro-active organic farming policies in addition to strict labeling regimes for regulation of their agriculture and food industry. India however seems to be moving in a very ad-hoc and anti-farmer manner in this regard.
India often talks about emulating the USA without considering that the social and agro-ecological conditions are vastly different between the countries, not to mention the regulatory mechanisms. India has to evolve solutions for its agriculture indigenously and an enormous number of successful alternatives to various situations exist with the farmers themselves in various pockets of the country. It is time that the agricultural research establishment, the agricultural education establishment as well the agricultural policy-makers first look at these options before chasing technologies that are unsustainable and anti-farmer.
UN World Food Day - Asians Call for Ban on GE Rice
BANGKOK - A coalition of 17 organisations from across Asia today issued a World Food Day statement calling for a global ban on the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) rice. "Rice is the world's most important staple food crop and we simply cannot allow a small number of biotech companies and GE scientists to determine the future of rice development," said Varoonvarn Svangsopakul of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "GE rice is not a solution to world hunger. It poses unacceptable risks to health and the environment, as well as people's livelihoods."
The aggressive push from biotechnology companies wanting to introduce GE rice in Asia is facing increasing criticism from civil society organisations concerned about negative impacts on farmers, on the environment, health and agricultural sustainability. The theme of this year's World Food Day sponsored by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is Agriculture and intercultural dialogue - celebrating the contribution of different cultures to world agriculture.
"GE rice poses threats to the centre of origin and diversity of rice in Asia, as well as the cultural diversity of rice-growing communities across the region. The introduction of GE rice is contradictory to the theme of this year's World Food Day celebration," said Dr Suman Sahai from Gene Campaign, India. "The real way forward for sustainable agriculture and solution for hunger is through the protection and use of biodiversity rather than genetic engineering, and the promotion of ecological agriculture based on the traditional knowledge of farming communities," said Paul Borja, SEARICE, based in the Philippines. "Bangladesh farmers have a long tradition of maintaining local rice diversity and they are resisting Syngenta's move to introduce Golden Rice," said Palash Baral, from UBINIG Bangladesh. "With breeding and growing local rice varieties, Thailand farmers are able to enjoy nutritious food and stabilize their income," said Supanee Taneewut, RRAFA, Thailand.
Following a 2-day meeting outside Bangkok, representatives from 10 rice growing countries wearing traditional dresses will today deliver the GE-Free Rice Declaration to the FAO headquarters in Bangkok, along with a collection of rice varieties as a demonstration of the importance of maintaining rice diversity. In the declaration, the group called for a ban on the development and cultivation of GE rice, and called upon the FAO to cease support for GE crops, and to instead support the development of sustainable, ecologically sound farming systems."
GE-Free Rice Declaration - Supanburi, Thailand, October 14th, 2005
We the participants representing organisations from 10 rice growing countries across Asia, having come together for a discussion on rice and genetic engineering, hereby declare that:
1. Rice is the world's most important staple food crop and forms the basis of the diet for over 3 billion people. It has played a central role in the cultural, social and spiritual life of communities throughout Asia for thousands of years;
2. Tens of thousands of rice varieties have been developed by farmers over millennia and farmers continue to develop and breed new varieties adapted to diverse ecosystems, economic and cultural requirements. GE rice threatens to undermine this diversity;
3. Women play a significant role in the conservation and development of seeds and as holders of traditional knowledge. With the advent of GE crops the role of indigenous knowledge and community led farming systems is likely to be destroyed;
4. GE rice cannot be a solution to hunger since the causes of hunger are the lack of access to productive resources to produce food, or lack of income to buy food.
5. Genetically engineered rice poses unacceptable risks to human and animal health and to the environment, particularly the contamination of gene pools in the centres of origin and diversity of rice in Asia;
6. The segregation of genetically engineered from non-genetically engineered rice cannot be implemented. Therefore co-existence is impossible;
7. The undue influence of transnational corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta on international agricultural production, trade and policies serves to undermine local access to food and the right of peoples and nations to democratically determine the use of their food resources;
8. Corporate influence is further directing public sector agricultural research away from public and towards commercial interests;
9. The future of our world's most important staple food crop will be secured through the protection and use of biodiversity rather than genetic engineering, and through ecological agriculture based on the traditional knowledge of farming communities;
For World Food Day 2005, we therefore call for a ban on the development and cultivation of genetically engineered rice, and call upon the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to cease support for genetically engineered crops and food, and to instead support comprehensive research and development of sustainable, ecologically sound farming systems.
Biotani Indonesia Foundation Cenesta (Centre for Sustainable Development and Environment), Iran Consumers' Association of Penang, Malaysia Friends of the Earth Malaysia / Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) Gita Pertiwi Foundation, Indonesia Gene Campaign, India Green Net, Thailand Greenpeace Khao Kwan Foundation, Thailand No! GMO Campaign, Japan Save Our Rice Campaign (PAN AP) Reclaiming Rural Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Action (RRAFA) Thailand South East Asian Council for Food Security and Fair Trade (SEACON) Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) Third World Network (TWN) UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative), Bangladesh VECO Vietnam
WTO Ruling On EU GMO Laws Delayed - American Soybean Association Weekly Update - 10 October 2005
A World Trade Organization dispute panel ruling on the EU's alleged moratorium on market authorizations for new genetically modified products is being put off until after the WTO's Hong Kong ministerial conference in December. The panel has informed the EU and the three complainants in the dispute - the United States, Argentina, and Canada - that its preliminary ruling, which had been due October 10, will now be postponed until the first week of January 2006. No date was given for the release of the final ruling to the parties, although that normally takes place a month after the preliminary findings have been issued.
The panel cited scheduling conflicts as the reason for the delay. The chairman of the panel, Christian Haberli, is a senior negotiator on agriculture for the Swiss government. Although the panel did not explicitly link the delay with Hong Kong, it has been noted that the postponement will allow the WTO to avoid having the dispute become an issue at the ministerial conference, which is expected to be targeted by thousands of anti-globalization protestors.
The panel, which was established back in August 2003, has been asked by the three co-complainants to rule on what they claim is the EU's illegal de-facto moratorium on the approval of products containing GMOs. The three also accused Austria, France, Greece, and Italy of prohibiting the importation and marketing of GMO products, even though those products have already been approved for sale within the EU.
MP wary of GM crop trials - Standard Correspondent - Standard (Kenya), September 28 2005
An MP yesterday asked the Government to suspend trials on Genetically Modified (GM) crops, pending development of strong biosafety policies and legal framework. Mr David Nakitare (Saboti) also said further field trials on genetically engineered crops should be stopped until the technology was proved safe to the environment. He said many people in Africa would be affected if the technology was found dangerous to man and the environment. "At least 85 per cent of people in the continent practice small-scale agriculture. This is why it is important to tread cautiously on GMO crops," he said He praised the Government for ordering the destruction of GM maize under field trial. The MP added that the same policy should be implemented against genetically modified cotton, cassava and sweet potatoes. Nakitare pointed out that this was necessary because the country did not have bio-safety laws. He also urged stakeholders, farmers and consumers "to take more interest to understand the issues around GM crops and participate in the debate on genetic engineering of crops."
The MP was speaking at a civil society strategy workshop on GMOs in African Agriculture at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies, Nairobi. "I urge you to explore other practical and sustainable alternatives to increase food production in Africa and, most important, how the increased food can be brought to the table of poor people in Africa." The meeting was attended by representatives of over 20 countries in Africa and international organisations.
Report of a Fact Finding Team's Visit to Warangal District to investigate an unusual disease on Bt Cotton on September 9, 2005
Kavitha Kuruganti - Centre for Sustainable Agriculture - 09393001550
A newspaper report appeared recently in the Warangal edition of Eenaadu (a telugu daily) titled Pathiki Anthu Chikkani Tegulu ("An unknown disease on cotton - Losses in 50,000 acre of Warangal district") which mentioned that more than 50,000 acres of cotton crop in Warangal district has been affected by an unknown disease. The media report also mentions that this problem appears to be higher in Bt Cotton than on cotton other than Bt Cotton [non-Bt Cotton]. This was confirmed by government agriculture scientists who visited several villages of the district to investigate into farmers' complaints. Farmers, who have had a good season so far, are panicking at this adverse development at the flowering and fruiting stage on the crop. These reports came from Hasanparthi, Hanmakonda, Atmakur, Dharmasagar and Geesukonda blocks.
A fact finding team consisting of Mr Ramprasad, Agriculture Scientist, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, Researcher, CSA and Mr Damoder of Sarvodaya Youth Organisation visited the fields in a few villages in Atmakur and Geesukonda blocks of Warangal district on September 9, 2005 along with farmers from the villages. The villages visited include Sthambhampalli in Geesukonda mandal, Durgampeta and Gudeppad in Atmakur mandal.
In Sthambampalli village, we visited the field of Mr Shankar Rao, who had sown RCH2Bt on one acre. He had so far sprayed Confidor for sucking pests and Boron and Magnesium Sulphate for the peculiar problem that had appeared on the crop. Here, while about 10% of the plants were completely stunted and seemed to be fully affected, another 20% of plants were affected in the upper canopy almost completely. The top leaves of the plant are wrinkled with non-uniform expanded and unexpanded areas. These leaves have inter-veinal red tinge. These plants also seem as if they will not recover. The squares are drying up and falling down. The leaves have a reddish color all over and are curling downwards. The plant however not dried out, no browning found in the dissected stem and wilt has been ruled out. There is high attack of Spodoptera also on this plot with leaves and shoots having been eaten. He also says that he was told that Bt Cotton would be effective against all pests while he is discovering now that this is not the truth. The incidence of sucking pests is quite low - we found however low incidence of mites, thrips and jassids on some leaves. White flies are absent. This could also be because he had taken action to control the initial incidence of sucking pests.
We also looked at the cotton plants with this problem in Mr Doosayya Veeraswamy?s land which was also sown with RCH2 Bt. The problem was similar spodoptera was present in this field too. We also visited Mr Sambayya?s land planted with Bunny Bt ? here it was much lesser but still present. Mr Gundekari Ramesh, who had sown 3 acres of his land with RCH2 Bt showed us his Bt Cotton plants which were similar. They were stunted and more than 35% of his field was affected by this disease like phenomenon. While we were walking through the fields, other farmers including women started complaining about the same problem and started asking for a remedy. Some of them were farmers who had sown illegal Bt Cotton.
We went to at least two plots that we were told were Bt Cotton plots - however, we discovered that there is no non-Bt Cotton sown in this village this year. It was all either approved or unapproved Bt Cotton. One of the explanations provided for the spread of Bt Cotton was that farmers who wanted to opt for non-Bt Cotton feared that they will lose out if there is only Bt Cotton all around them and therefore opted for Bt Cotton too. While some of the farmers had sown Bt Cotton last year also, others are growing it for the first time this year. Refuge system is not being followed on the ground.
The villagers here reported that after feeding on Bt Cotton, several goats got killed last year. Asked why they have opted for Bt Cotton despite the problems that they are reporting (they mentioned that the Mahyco varieties of Bt Cotton failed badly last year with very low yields and that goats got killed), they said that they hope that pesticide usage would come down with Bt Cotton now that they are trying other Bt Cotton varieties and that farmers who form a majority of the village cannot afford to think about the negative repercussions on some shepherds who rear animals like sheep and goats. However, several of the farmers met also mentioned that they have to re-think their decision about Bt Cotton now that they are witnessing the new disease on the crop.
We then visited the field of Mr Chelpuri Chandraiah of Durgampet village. He had sown one acre of RCH2 Bt, one acre of Bunny Bt and one acre of Mallika Bt Cotton. His field, several kilometers away from Sthambampalli village, had the same problem. Many plants with stunted growth with leaves reddish in color and curled downwards were present. The problem was more prevalent on this land. The IIIT people, who are running an information extension service in this village, had suggested that he apply boron for treating the problem. Chandraiah had done so 20 days ago, with no improvement in the situation. He had sprayed Contaf and Confidor so far. At the time that we visited him, he was spraying curacron with a power sprayer for the spodoptera attack. He chose to opt for Bt Cotton this year since he got about 10 quintals with RCH2 Bt last year with around Rs. 3000/- spent on pesticides. However, a non-Bt variety that he had sown last year called Pratham had given him 12 quintals with Rs. 5000/- or so spent on pesticides. He said that he had not been able to compare his crop with non-Bt fields since there aren't any such fields around his plot. He thinks that the problem could be because of spurious seed supplied to him by the company coupled with the current weather conditions.
We visited the fields of Mr Chelpuri Narsayya who had sown RCH2 Bt Cotton on 2 acres of his land, with one row of non-Bt refuge all around. In this field, we found high attack of spodoptera as well as Helicoverpa in addition to the unknown disease and leaf curling due to a high incidence of sucking pests. Narsayya had sprayed Confidor and Actara so far in addition to Boron to take care of the new disease. Bollworm damage to squares and buds was quite high in this field.
We also met Mr Chelpuri Laxmaiah here, who had sown RCH 20 Bt in six acres. He has faced the new disease as well as high incidence of sucking pests, Spodoptera and Helicoverpa. He has so far sprayed Confidor, Monocrotophos, Pride, Actara and Avaunt now to control Helicoverpa. When he consulted the Rasi company representatives about the various problems in his field, he was told that it was because he lacked irrigation!
We then visited the field of Mr Lakkidi Channa Reddy who had sown MECH 12 Bt this season. Helicoverpa incidence as well as spodoptera incidence was high here even as the peculiar disease was present at equal levels here. Even though there were not many stunted plants here, the upper canopy of almost a third of his plot was affected with the disease. This farmer also reported higher incidence of skin allergies in all Bt Cotton fields this year. All the other farmers concurred with this observation and experience of this farmer.
We finally visited a non-Bt plot of Mr Chelpuri Mogili, who had sown a non-Bt Cotton hybrid called Sudarshan. In this plot, Helicoverpa damage was at par with the Bt cotton plots we had seen so far, but the disease was definitely much lower. The farmers accompanying us (around 6-7 of them) found the difference marked too. So far, he had sprayed Actara and Cypermethrin for the control of Helicoverpa. His seed cost per packet was Rs. 430/- as opposed to around Rs. 1700/- on an average paid by the others.
We found that in village Gudeppad, where we met with Mr Bommineni Rajireddy, a well-known progressive farmer, who has given his land for some Rasi field trials on Bollgard this season too, that the problem was present on these trial plots too. The Rasi company personnel, including their entomologist Mr Venkat from Salem, could not diagnose the problem - they felt that it was a viral disease that was probably being spread by thrips. We found that the incidence of thrips was quite low in all the fields that we visited - however, both mites and thrips were present at a low level in almost all the fields visited while the presence of jassids and white fly was low this year.
The fact finding team, from its field visits and consultations with other experts (plant pathologists and entomologists), concludes that this might be a new disease unusual for the cotton crop in this state, being spread mostly by the higher incidence of sucking pests on Bt Cotton, that too of thrips.
The main points that emerge from this fact-finding trip are:
1.The government allowed the spread of Bt Cotton, especially of unapproved varieties too to such an extent that it has become very difficult to find control plots to check the actual situation of whether this viral attack was common to all cotton plots or was prevalent more on Bt Cotton (as a result of some unpredictable result of the genetic technology employed here).
2.Beyond academic reasons, such a monoculture of Bt Cotton also means a great deal of damage if this disease is indeed peculiar to Bt Cotton hybrids, which seemed to be the case from our own verification of Bt and non-Bt plots. The government scientists have a similar observation to make, as per media reports. The dire future of cotton farmers in a monoculture situation with such susceptibilities of Bt Cotton cannot be overstated.
3.It is known that Bt Cotton has higher incidence of sucking pests and for the first time, the possibility of viral diseases spreading through these sucking pests mostly on Bt Cotton because of its higher vulnerability is becoming clear. Therefore, it is not only a vulnerability to higher incidence of sucking pests but a vulnerability to greater spread of diseases through these sucking pests.
4.Bt Cotton plots, especially of RCH2 Bt variety, have higher prevalence of this disease. This disease has mixed symptoms of boron deficiency as well as mite attack and the visiting government officials are recommending treatment for both these causes. However, this has not improved the situation, though the spread of the disease has been controlled in the first two plots visited.
5.The damage is upto 30% of the Bt Cotton plots visited. While some plants have become stunted with no growth at all, in other plants which are affected, the upper canopy is displaying the symptoms of leaf reddening and curling downwards with a dried rim even as the squares are drying up and falling down.
6.There is high incidence of Spodoptera on all the plots visited including the non-Bt cotton field. The spodoptera larvae were found to be feeding on leaves as well as buds and flowers. This brings into question the claims of the Bt Cotton companies that damage to flowering and fruiting parts is protected well through this technology. Bt Cotton is clearly not effective against Spodoptera and this is the major pest damaging buds and flowers right now!
7.There is equal incidence of Helicoverpa damage on Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton plots. This brings into question the efficacy of the very technology with which Bt Cotton was introduced. Samples of such larvae were collected by the team. The incidence was more than 1 larva per plant. In the case of one farmer's case, the average reported was 2-3 helicoverpa larvae per plant. The square damage that was witnessed by the team was more than 3-4 squares per plant that were bored into by the larvae.
8.There are experiences of skin allergies from working in the Bt Cotton fields and of livestock deaths after feeding on left over Bt Cotton vegetation in the fields from these villages. However, no investigation was done by the government on these issues.
* We demand that immediate assessment be taken up of the extent of damage with this phenomenon and the reasons for the same. Cotton fields of neighboring districts like Nalgonda, Karimnagar and Khammam have to be monitored too for the purpose.
* Scientific comparison of the field level situation between Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton plots be taken up to understand the full dimensions of the problem.
* Clear recommendations for control of the problem be disseminated to all farmers before any further loss takes place.
* Compensation mechanisms should be put into place for all those farmers whose fields have been badly affected by this phenomenon and the government should ensure that such compensation is paid properly.
This Fact Finding Report is part of the Bt Cotton monitoring across India of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee [MEC] set up by Adivasi Ekta Sangathan, AKRSP, CEAD, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Grameen Vikas Trust, Greenpeace India, Jan Saahas, Kheti Virasat Mission, Krishnadevaraya Rythu Sankshema Sangam, Krushi, MARI, Navajyothi, Pasumai Tayagam, Prasun, Rashtriya Satyagrah Dal, Sampark, Sarvodaya Youth Organisation, SECURE, VASPS and YUVA.
Appeal to EC and world for caution over GMO contamination - Bologna, Italy, 9 September 05
Consumers International (CI) made an appeal for caution over genetically modified organism (GMO) contamination. David Cuming, CI GM Campaign Manager, said: 'Stop GMO contamination - it can happen quickly and over vast areas and is irreversible. In places, like Italy, where there are a lot of small farms with traditional and organic crops, "co-existence" is probably impossible without removing the freedom of consumers and farmers to choose.'
Speaking at a conference in Italy, organised by CI and RegioneEmilia-Romagna, David Cuming advised 'All countries worldwide must introduce strict rules to prevent contamination, and allow for GM-free zones, before allowing GMOs in their countries. The EC must wait until they have completed the full review of "co-existence" in Europe before approving new GMO crops.'
Prof. Ignacio Chapela, leading expert on GMOs told the conference '"Co-existence" of GMOs and GM-free plants is biologically impossible. If we keep thinking like this it won't be a question of - if contamination will occur: It will be a question of when and how much? We do not have the political will, the technical capacity or the independence of thought to deal with "co-existence"; neither to monitor its development, nor to remedy its consequences. Proposed biosafety and bioethical frameworks will not prevent contamination.'
GMO and consumer experts from Canada, USA, Brazil, Thailand, Zambia, Austria, Italy and UK presented their position on "co-existence", contamination and GM-free zones at the conference in Bologna. Recent examples of GMO contamination cases are: canola fields in Australia and Canada, shipments of maize to Japan and New Zealand, and illegal rice in China.
Note to editors
The EC are making decisions on whether to allow several new GMO crops into Europe and the Commission is preparing a report on how EU states are dealing with 'co-existence' expected at the end of this year.
The GM-free zone movement is growing in the EU and in the USA, with increasing interest in developing countries.
Pressure from the biotech industry is mounting in Africa for countries to grow GMOs.
Summaries of speeches made at the conference will be made available on CI website.
International conference open to the public
organised by Regione Emilia-Romagna and Consumers International
'Co-existence', contamination and GM-free zones - Jeopardising consumer choice?
Ukraine Agriculture Ministry Seeks to Ban GMO Soy Imports - REUTERS, 8 September 2005 - http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=32416
KIEV - Ukraine's Farm Ministry said on Wednesday it would ask the government and the parliament to ban imports and planting of genetically modified (GMO) soybeans in the country. "We are going to adopt a decision to ban planting and imports of GMO soybeans," Ivan Dymchak, deputy farm minister, told reporters. "At the moment we are talking only about soybeans......We want to have the status of a country which produces only clean agriculture products," he added.
Ukraine is a traditional importer of soy meal and imported 78,200 tonnes in the 2003/04 season and 74,300 in 2002/03. It has imported 47,700 tonnes so
far this season. Ukraine imports soy meal mostly from Brazil.
Global Seed Industry Concentration - 2005 - News Release - ETC Group - 5 September 2005
The ETC Group today releases a new Communique on seed industry consolidation that shows a recent upsurge in seed industry takeoversand a shake-up in rankings. According to ETC Group, the top 10 multinational seed firms control half of the world's commercial seed sales. With a total worldwide market of approximately US$21,000 million per annum, the commercial seed industry is relatively small compared to the global pesticide market ($35,400 million), and it's puny compared to pharmaceutical sales ($466,000 million). But corporate control and ownership of seeds - the first link in the food chain - has far-reaching implications for global food security. A single firm, Monsanto, now controls 41% of the global market share in commercial maize seed, and one-fourth of the world market in soybean seeds. The same company's seeds and biotech traits accounted for 88% of the total area planted in genetically modified seeds worldwide in 2004.
ETC Group's report includes a table listing many of the world's top 20 seed companies and their acquisitions and/or subsidiaries. The full text of the 12-page Communique is available free of charge for download on the ETC Group website: http://www.etcgroup.org
IMPACT: With control of seeds and agricultural research held in fewer hands, the world's food supply is increasingly vulnerable to the whims of market maneuvers. Corporations make decisions to support the bottom line and increase shareholder returns - not to ensure food security. Ultimately, seed industry oligopoly also means fewer choices for farmers. A new study by the US Department of Agriculture examines the impact of seed industry concentration on agbiotech research. The study concludes that reduced competition is associated with reduced R&D. Despite seed industry claims to the contrary, concentration in the seed industry is resulting in less innovation - not more.
PLAYERS: A fistful of transnational firms, the Gene Giants, dominates global seed sales. Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta - all among the world's top-ranking pesticide firms - lead the pack.
POLICY: Seed industry concentration is already high on the agenda of civil society and farmers' organizations that are working to support and maintain peasant and farmer-controlled seed systems and against policies and technologies that seek to further privatize seeds. The implications of seed industry consolidation for food security and biodiversity must also be urgently addressed by governments at the FAO biennial Conference in November and by the Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (20-31 March 2006, Curitaba, Brazil).
World's Top 10 Seed Companies + 1
[Based on 2004 seed sales (US) millions]
1. Monsanto (US) + Seminis - pro forma = $2,803
2. Dupont/Pioneer (US) $2,600
3. Syngenta (Switzerland) $1,239
4. Groupe Limagrain (France) $1,044
5. KWS AG (Germany) $622
6. Land O' Lakes (US) $538
7. Sakata (Japan) $416
8. Bayer Crop Science (Germany) $387
9. Taikii (Japan) $366
10. DLF-Trifolium (Denmark) $320
11. Delta & Pine Land (US) $315
For more information, contact: Hope Shand and Kathy Jo Wetter, ETC Group (USA) - firstname.lastname@example.orgemail@example.com - tel: +1 919 960-5223
Pat Mooney, ETC Group (Canada) firstname.lastname@example.org tel: +1 613 241-2267
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group (Mexico) email@example.com tel: +52 55 55 632 664 Veronica Villa, ETC Group (Mexico) firstname.lastname@example.org tel: +52 55 55 632 664
Kenya suspends research on GM maize - Angola Press, 31 August 2005 - http://www.angolapress-angop.ao/noticia-e.asp?ID=370408
Nairobi, Kenya, 08/31 - Kenya has suspended field trials on genetically modified maize after a major anomaly was discovered in the process in a move aimed at stopping further abuse of procedures until proper legislation is put in place, sources said here Tuesday. Kenyan officials feared the advances in the field trials of the genetically modified maize could harm the lives of thousands of its consumers should it be allowed to move further into commercial production despite huge financial investments in the research. The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS), the national watchdog agency tasked with enforcing standards and ensuring quality research, has rejected plans to have the field trials continue, citing lack of integrity by scientists to safeguard public safety. According to the KEPHIS directors, the country is ill prepared for GM research as no legal framework is in place to give rules on the conduct of research involving human life, as scientists funded by rich Western foundations are easy to compromise.
Kenyan Agriculture Secretary Wilson Songa was quoted by the local Daily Nation as saying scientists have succumbed to pressure from international groups to rubber-stamp research on GM, even if the right procedures were not followed. Scientists said the field trials, which were halted after a major breach of research procedures was discovered, smacked of acts of sabotage as no technician could have sprayed the GM seeds with a banned chemical without supervision.
The maize research focusing on enhancing resistance to the stalk borer, a disease that deprives farmers of thousands of tonnes of maize yields, was on its final phase before commercial production. The spraying of a chemical called Furadan compromised its success, they said. Furadan is sprayed on maize seeds to reduce the influence of the stalk borer.
Scientists could not determine the effectiveness of the maize seedlings or samples after they were sprayed with the chemicals because it was difficult to determine whether the end product would be naturally resistant to the stalk borer. "We do not have baseline data on the impact of the maize on non-target plants and insects. This was a major omission, as supervisors in the field have nothing to rely on. They shouldn't have gone on the ground without some baseline study on the environment," Songa said.
Kenya has not passed a biosafety law but a draft bill has been gathering dust at the attorney general's offices waiting for a cabinet approval and the onward transmission to parliament for debate and possible approval. Ochieng Ogodo, an environmental journalist in Nairobi, said the bill is expected to give guidelines on which procedures to be applied in conducting research on GM, a thorny issue across Africa. African countries have expressed their disgust with Western institutions seeking to get an across the board approval for GM foods as a panacea to Africa`s hunger crisis -- an issue which has left many on the continent unconvinced.
Govt stops research on maize - Story by SUNDAY NATION Reporter, Kenya - Publication Date: 28/8/2005
The Government has terminated the Genetically Modified (GM) maize experiments recently launched by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) and an American firm, Sygenta, and ordered the crop destroyed. The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service(Kephis) will supervise the destruction.
The the first ever field experiments on GM maize in the country, was started in May at a Kari field station in Kiboko, Machakos. They were initially hailed as a major break-through in resolving the challenges stem borer pests present to farmers. At the same time, local bio-technology researchers have been cautioned against succumbing to pressure from international organisations at the expense of standards and safety. The newly appointed Agriculture secretary, Dr Wilson Songa, said there was a tendency by local scientists to yield to pressure and sidestep existing regulations in spite of the absence of any legal framework to mitigate possible negative consequences. "The fact that we don't have an enabling legal framework to fall back on should anything nasty happen, should be reason enough for us to be extra vigilant in biosafety. Unfortunately, there is an emerging tendency by our scientists yielding to pressure from international collaborators pushing to secure approvals for their research projects faster, sidestepping procedures" Dr Songa said.
Dr Songa, who is the chairman of the National Biosafety Committee of the National Council of Science and Technology, was commenting on last month's termination of the stem-borer resistant maize experiments. He cited failure by the transformed maize (Bt maize) researchers to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the biosafety glass house where the maize seeds were grown. The planting of the seeds in the glass house at the National Agricultural Laboratories in Kabete was launched by President Kibaki in May last year.
"We don't have a baseline data on the impact of the maize on non-target plants and insects. This was a major omission as supervisors in the field have nothing to rely on. They shouldn't have gone to the field without some baseline study on the environment. Our scientists should be lobbying for the pending Biosafety Bill to be fast tracked into law. Instead, they are rushing projects in the field that can have serious consequences in case something went wrong, while we have no framework for redress," Dr Songa said. The Kiboko experiments were terminated after a technician sprayed the trial maize crop with a restricted chemical, Furadan, and which also acts on stem borers which meant it could no longer be possible to tell if it was the Bt maize or the chemical that would influence results being examined. The Kari director, Dr Romano Kiome, could not be reached for comment by Friday but was expected back in the office next week.
COMMENT - From: ECOTERRA Intl. [KENYA] - Sent: Sunday, August 28, 2005 10:19 AM - Subject: Right steps ahead in Kenya - Govt stops research on GM maize
Right steps ahead in Kenya against GM maize
With the newly appointed Agriculture secretary, Dr Wilson Songa, who also is the chairman of the National Biosafety Committee of the National Council of Science and Technology, in Kenya there is light ahead in the deep dark tunnels and dungeons of corporate masterminding by the GM lobby. Also NEMA, the National Environment Management Authority, the body who has to ensure and oversee that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are carried out prior to any permission, is actually a body, which still has a hard core of honest civil servants. While often such obstacles were created in the past only to increase the kickbacks from the corporate players, this time around there is a new spirit of consciousness and responsibility in Kenya emerging.
The task ahead is to change the present draft Biosafety bill, written by the lawyers of the GM lobby, into legislation, which can serve as a role model for Africa, protecting its traditional crops, natural species and most importantly the health and well-being of its people. Immediate action is required to inform the public comprehensively, which other genetically engineered (GE) crops are already in the open and on the market (e.g. tomatoes, papaya etc.).
It is high time to isolate the GE lobby and their Sorcerer's Apprentices together with their corporate money masters and their makings and to put them all into secure confinement from where they only shall be released once measures are in place to secure that the precautionary principle is fully observed and any move is 100% controlled by independent and honest scientists acting on behalf of the people and within a framework, which secures their fully informed prior consent and respect of their will.
The vast majority of Kenyan farmers stands like one wo/man against GE crops.
BRITISH RETAIL CONSORTIUM POSITION ON BRAZILIAN NON-GM SOYBEAN - Friday 26 August 2005
British Retail Consortium (BRC) members do not currently stock own label brands sourced from Genetically Modified (GM) materials and ingredients. This decision is based solely on customer demand, as the general public remains highly critical of potential health effects from consuming GM products. For this reason, UK retailers are determined to maintain a non-GM stance for products for as long as practically and commercially possible.
GM has failed to convince
Research data from across the UK indicates that customer demand for non-GM remains as strong now as it was in the late nineties when widespread opposition first emerged. A 2003 survey by NOP World revealed the following:
- 78% of people remain unconvinced that GM is safe to eat
- 79% would not knowingly buy food containing GM ingredients
- Even if GM food could be proven safe to eat, 61% of customers would still not consume these products
- 55% were against GM food and crops with 38% yet to be convinced of its benefits
Working with suppliers
In order to help suppliers of commodity crop provide non-GM soya and maize to our market, British retailers and manufacturers have worked together to produce a standard for identity-preserved systems in the supply of non-GM products, based on current best practice. The standards acts as a guide for use at appropriate points along the supply chain, from seed supply to the use of derivative ingredients in the manufacture of final food products.
Retailers are committed to giving their customers informed choice. Retailers support the 0.9% de minimis threshold for the accidental mixing of non-GM material, below which labelling will not be required. Without such a threshold to allow for such low level mixing, manufacturers and retailers would have no incentive to ensure non-GM supply lines as any error would mean presentation. That scenario would have businesses acting defensively, labelling 'containing GM' which is not what most customers want.
Maintaining Brazil’s non-GM supply
It will be enormously difficult to maintain trust in the food chain should Brazil’s supply of non-GM soybean dry up. It is therefore essential that Brazil remains a continued source of non-GM soybean and halts the progression at the current level of 35% GM.
We urge the Brazilian industry to resist further growth of GM planting. This would send a disastrous signal to UK consumers and could seriously damage trust and confidence in the food chain across the board.
Lower cottonseed weights troubling - By Hembree Brandon - Delta Farm Press, Aug 18, 2005 [shortened]
BILOXI, Miss. -- In a perfect world, says Randy Dismuke, a cotton variety would satisfy everyone's demands - growers, ginners, oil mills, textile spinners, and other downstream users. "Unfortunately, it's not a perfect world and we don't yet have a variety that's a 'perfect 10,'" the senior vice president for Delta and Pine Land Co., Scott, Miss., told members of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at their summer conference. The ginners, many of whom are also growers, had asked a panel of industry leaders to address the issue of why hugely popular, and widely-planted, new cotton varieties have significantly less seed turnout than conventional varieties.
Cottonseed removed in the ginning process represents a significant source of revenue to ginners, and reduced seed tonnage from newer genetically modified varieties has been cutting into their bottom line. Also, traditionally, the seed retained by the gin has offset the cost of ginning for the grower, a scenario that's becoming more difficult to maintain as ginning costs rise and seed weights/revenues decline. "A Cottonseed Digest study shows the 10-year trendline is down," Dismuke said, with a 14 percent decrease from 1995-96 to 2004-05. From 2003-04 to 2004-05, there was an 8 percent decline in seed yield.
Oil mill perspective
"One of the biggest challenges I see facing oil mills and the ginning industry is the seed derived from today?s popular genetically modified varieties," said Sammy Wright, vice president, Chickasha of Georgia, Tifton, Ga. Seed weights per bale "have dropped fairly dramatically" in some areas of the country, he said. "These smaller seed are much more difficult to delint and dehull in the milling process, and they contain quite a bit less oil. This reduces the value of the seed to the crusher." In the Southeast, he said, "We've been averaging 300-305 pounds of oil per ton of cottonseed; now, we're down to about 280 pounds of oil. "With 25-cent oil, that means roughly $5 to $6 less in crush value per ton of cottonseed. While that may not sound like a lot, in tight market times it can be the difference between making money and losing money. Lower seed weights also reduce the amount of seed available to ginners to convert to cash flow income."
In many cases today, returns to ginners from seed will not cover the cost of ginning, Wright said. "How much longer can the ginning industry operate under the scenario of ginning for the seed, when the seed don't return adequate value." "I wish I had the answer, but I don't," he said. ?I think it's safe to say, though, if we don't see a drastic change upward in seed yields, economics will force us to make some hard decisions as to how we operate our gins, or we won't be able to survive."
In 1980, Wright said, there were 74 operating oil mills in the U.S.; today, only 13. "These numbers speak to the radical change we've seen in our business." What does this mean to ginners? "For one thing, if you're not in close proximity to a major milk shed, you'd better hope you can keep a viable oil mill presence to help consume some of that seed. If not, the fundamental laws of supply and demand can get pretty ugly."
Development, yield, grain moisture and nitrogen uptake of Bt corn hybrids and their conventional near-isolines. - October 14, 2005
Field Crops Research 93: 199.211 - B.L. Ma and K.D. Subedi
There are concerns over the economic benefits of corn (Zea mays L.) hybrids with the Bt trait transferred from Bacillus thuringiensis. A field experiment including three to seven pairs of commercial hybrids and their transgenic Bt near-isolines were grown side-by-side for three consecutive years in Ottawa, Canada (458170N, 758450W; 93 m above sea level) to determine (i) which hybrid had the highest yielding potential, (ii) if there was a differential response of Bt and non-Bt hybrids to N application, and (iii) under natural infestation of European corn borer (ECB), whether there was a yield advantage of Bt over non-Bt hybrids to justify their cost.
We found that some of the Bt hybrids took 2-3 additional days to reach silking and maturity, and produced a similar or up to 12% lower grain yields with 3.5% higher grain moisture at maturity, in comparison with their non-Bt counterpart.
Although N application increased grain yield and N uptake in 2 of the 3 years, there was no N-by-hybrid interaction on yield or other agronomic traits. Most Bt hybrids had similar to or lower total N content in grain with higher N in stover than their respective non-Bt near-isolines. Under extreme weather conditions (e.g. cool air temperature at planting and severe drought during the development), some of the hybrids (both Bt and non-Bt) required up to 400 additional crop heat units (CHU) to reach physiological maturity than indicated by the supplying companies. Our data suggest that within the same maturity group, it was the superior hybrids (non-Bt trait) that led to the greatest N accumulation, and the highest grain yield. Under the conditions tested, there was no yield advantage of Bt hybrids in comparison with their conventional counterparts when stalk lodging and breakage of the non-Bt counterpart by ECB was low to moderate. (Download the report as a pdf file here - 244kb)
NEW SET-BACK FOR GMO CROPS IN EUROPE - Bayer withdraws GMO oilseed rape
Brussels/London, 26 July 2005 - The German biotech giant Bayer has withdrawn its applications to grow genetically modified (GM) oilseed rape in the European Union, Friends of the Earth revealed today. The move comes as public calls for GM-free zones spreads across Europe and follows a series of research findings which have uncovered environmental damage resulting from the GM crop being grown.
Bayer is the only biotech company to have applied for permission to grow GM oilseed rape commercially in Europe, but it was revealed this week that their applications have been withdrawn .
Earlier this year, results from the world's biggest environmental trials confirmed that growing GM oilseed rape, which has been modified to make it resistant to a weed killer, reduced the level of wildlife in the field . New research by the UK Government, revealed yesterday, showed that the GM crop had also crossed with wild plants to produce herbicide-resistant 'superweeds' in the UK .
While pressure to grow and import GM crops in Europe has grown, so has resistance from local authorities and communities. There are now GM-free initiatives virtually in every European country; 164 European regions and over 4500 local governments and smaller areas have declared themselves GM free or want to restrict commercial growing of GM crops . Last month European countries voted to allow France and Greece to maintain their national bans on the import and cultivation of GM oilseed rape .
Friends of the Earth Europe's GM Campaigner, Adrian Bebb said:
"Bayer's decision to withdraw its oilseed rape is a major step forward to protecting Europe from genetically modified crops. If this oilseed rape was grown commercially in Europe it would have been a disaster for consumers, farmers and wildlife. It is now time to move forward and for Europe to support the type of farming and food production that people want and trust."
CONTACT - Adrian Bebb +49 1609 1163 (mobile) - Clare Oxborrow (UK) +44 7712 843211 (mobile)
 Bayer's about turn on GM oilseed rape was revealed in correspondence from the UK Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and confirmed by the German authorities handling the applications. Received in an email from DEFRA, 25 July 2005. "On our DEFRA web site we say that these applications are pending transfer from a 90/220 and 2001/18 application to a 1829/2003 food and feed application. Our understanding is that the applications have actually been withdrawn by Bayer."
 www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/gm_crop_trial_blow_to_biot_21032005.html (March 2005)
Producers must segregate to avoid unnecessary royalties - Source: Agrenco News - Date: Jul 01, 2005 - Source: Trace Consult
Producers that are thinking in planting GMO soybeans in the next crop ? especially those interested in keeping part of its lands seeded with conventional beans ? must take good care of contamination, because any negligence will result in unnecessary losses, according to Rita Froes, general manager of IQS-Genlab. The question is all about Monsanto's attempt of charge royalties over its GMO "Roundup Ready" soybeans. The value accorded with cooperatives and agricultural federations in Brazil's South Region is of 1% of sales price, and a 2% has been negotiated for 2005-06 crop. "The limit to be tolerated as accidental contamination is of 2% of a soybean cargo", Rita Froes explains. "Above this limit, royalties will be charged over the whole lot." This means that a producer who plants 20% of his land with GMO varieties just to test its performance may be obliged to pay royalties also over the other 80% planted with regular beans, if he does not provide proper segregation. Rita Froes warns that the care to avoid contamination of the conventional soybeans by GMO beans may begin in the planting period and must be taken ahead till harvest time. "Producers can not finish to harvest an area planted with GMO soybeans and proceed harvesting other area planted with conventional beans without cleaning machines first", she says. Segregation also does not end at this point, it must go on during storage, transport and export.
Contact of Rita Froes: email@example.com
What matters more than anything else is agriculture - Colin Tudge - New Statesman, 11th July 2005 - http://www.newstatesman.com/200507110010
The right support for traditional farming could help Africa more effectively than any amount of "development". It alone can maintain landscapes and provide jobs for billions who need them. By Colin Tudge
Gordon Brown and Bob Geldof are good people, but it seems as if all the best intentions of those in the highest places are misguided - destined to make things steadily worse in Africa. "Development" is a good idea, but horribly misconstrued. Technology is vital, but only if directed at the carefully identified problems of people at large - which, for the most part, it isn't. Extreme poverty is vile, but wealth per se does not necessarily reduce the vileness. New models are needed: for Africa and for the world as a whole. By being the first to enact such, Africa could yet emerge as the world leader.
What really matters, far more than anything else, is agriculture. Build on that in its traditional form - the subtle exploiter of landscape and employer of people - and all of Africa could be both stable and enviable. But who, apart from the farmers themselves and a few eccentric academics, even knows what agriculture is? Traditional farming is perceived as a disaster worldwide, dragging down the farmers themselves and their whole communities. Agriculture, the mantra has it, must "compete" with everything else, from diamonds to tourism, and so must focus on "commodities" to sell on the allegedly free world market. Biotech companies such as Syngenta are lauded for providing modern crops in the form of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) - perceived in high places to be both profitable and necessary. Governments such as Zambia's that have turned them down are seen as backward, if not downright wicked. But, in truth, the ignorance is all on the reformers' side.
Perhaps the most fundamental error, reflected in a thousand treatises and news reports, is that Africans starve because their farming is bad. It is innately unproductive, we are told. One tonne of cereal per hectare is typical for much of Africa, against the 12 or more one would expect in East Anglia. The native crops have not been bred for high yields. They are too vulnerable as well: they die in the field (typically a third or more is lost) and are spoiled in store (another 50 per cent of what is left). Contrast the misery and poverty of African farmers with the wealth of Norfolk. Clearly, Africa's farming must become more like ours . . .
But all the scholars and true aficionados (including farmers) I have spoken to worldwide these past 40 years say the complete opposite. Tropical soils are extremely variable and often poor, and tropical climates are fickle and extreme: traditional farming typically and subtly copes with both. The yields of East Anglia are simply not possible except in exceptional circumstances, and it is better to aim for reliable yields in bad (and typical) years than for highest yields in the best. High inputs are rarely justified, precisely because outputs are innately unreliable. Besides, high outputs are disastrous - they are simply gluts - if markets are not guaranteed. The mixed cropping typical of small traditional farms is highly desirable in countries with unpredictable climates and with so many pests - as with the 600 different conventional varieties of beans that are still grown in Angola. Angola is among the countries that have failed in recent decades, but not because it cannot produce food. It is two and a half times bigger than France, with a population roughly the size of Rio's, and with every kind of climate and landscape. A 30-year civil war and fields full of landmines do most to explain the shortfall.
In contrast, the industrialisation of farming can pay its way only through mass production, and that means monoculture - highly precarious, and potentially disastrous. The notion that countries such as Angola actually need GMOs to provide sufficient yields is simply a misunderstanding, or a straightforward lie. We should object to GMOs not primarily for reasons of health or environment, but because of economics and politics: their introduction suppresses local production and increases the dependency of poor countries on those who supply the new technologies. The argument in favour of GMOs, supported not least by Tony Blair, rests on the assumption that they are necessary. If they are not needed, there is no point in taking any risk at all.
Of course, traditional farms have drawbacks. The work can be intolerable, and far more crops are lost than is necessary. So new technologies are desirable - small machines of the kind that rich people use on their allotments, and also the highest-tech: IT is always useful. Once the technology is geared to the task, all African countries could feed themselves well, several times over. Yet the world is not geared to provide such appropriate (both low and high) technologies. Increasingly, egged on by governments (beginning in Britain and the US), science is increasingly financed by corporates, for corporates. Hence the illusion grows that without industrialisation and corporatisation there can be no science or modern tech at all: that small farms of traditional structure are bound to be backward. Again, this is just not true.
Then there is employment. In the developing world in general, 60 per cent of people work on the land: that's about two billion worldwide. In Africa, it can be even more. In Angola, it is 80 per cent; in Rwanda, 90. We can all agree that 90 per cent is too many - that leaves too few to do everything else. Even 60 per cent is perhaps too much. But it is ludicrous to suggest that the western model - with only 1 per cent in full-time rural work in Britain and the United States - is intrinsically desirable, or could ever be the norm. Britain is able to employ so few people on the land because there are plenty of other things for Brits to do - if no longer making ships, then at least selling insurance and cutting each other's hair. If Africa ever develops big urban industries, that would be the time to take people off the land en masse. To force people to leave the land before an alternative is put in place seems very much like wickedness.
Then there is the huge and all-pervasive mistake, which says that Africa and the developing world in general could solve their problems if only world trade were truly free. What nonsense. First, third world farmers cannot compete at all unless they industrialise their farms. If Africa industrialised its farms, that would throw most of its people out of work, and it cannot industrialise without foreign investment, which entails foreign control. This means the cash will mostly leave the continent, and the economy will be administered from elsewhere. Finally, western markets are far from bottomless, and are already oversubscribed. Even if the playing field were level (which it never can be) Africans would soon find it too difficult to compete with the US and Europe and the enormous labour forces of Asia and South America. Of course, exports of high-value crops from bananas to cardamoms have provided good incomes for many countries for many years - but only for some people. Push exports much further than usual, and we will merely create a global dogfight that will benefit western consumers and traders (such as Tesco), but will leave the world's farmers permanently on the brink. Given that farmers worldwide are the biggest single group of workers, it would be worse than can yet be conceived.
The task is not to twiddle with World Trade Organisation rules or even to ease up on debt, but to rethink. In the short term, the prime task for the world as a whole, and in Africa in particular, must be to build on traditional agriculture, which alone can maintain landscapes and provide good jobs for the billions who need them: with appropriate-tech, small-scale financial support, and the general ambition not to trash small farms, but to make agrarian life tolerable, and indeed positively agreeable and desirable. Yet most of what seems to be on the agendas even of the best-intentioned seems to be going in different directions altogether.
Colin Tudge's latest book, So Shall We Reap, is published in paperback by Penguin (GBP8.99)
This article first appeared in the New Statesman. For the latest in current and cultural affairs subscribe to the New Statesman print edition.
More on contaminated papaya in Thailand - Jul 7, 2005 - http://www.ems.org/nws/2005/07/07/european_and_asi
Bangkok, 7 July 2005 - Greenpeace activists today dumped thousands of papayas at the offices of Thailand's Department of Agriculture in a protest against the government's utter disregard for consumer and environmental protection from threats caused by the spread of illegal genetically engineered (GE) papaya in Thailand. The threat also concerns many European countries that import papaya from Thailand; it is possible that GE contaminated papaya is already on European markets. "The Thai government's lies and total disregard for the GE papaya contamination problem is directly putting Thai papaya exporters and consumers of papaya around the world at risk. We demand that the government seriously and properly decontaminate Thai papaya farms before the GE papaya reaches the global food chain. It won't be long until EU reacts negatively against the entry of Thai papaya," said Patwajee Srisuwan of Greenpeace in Southeast Asia.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia today released new laboratory tests confirming more GE papaya contamination in the northeastern provinces of Kalasin, Mahasarakham and Chaiyaphum. Last month the group released evidence of GE papaya contamination in the Northern and Eastern regions of Thailand. Government papers also indicate that GE contaminated papaya seeds may have been sold to 2,600 farmers in 34 Thai provinces (1). Consumers in Thailand and in countries that import Thai papayas are now at risk of consuming GE contaminated papaya, which has also been found to contain antibiotic (tetracycline) resistant genes that contradict the FAO/WHO Codex standards as well as strict legislations of the European Union on GMOs in food.
In 2004, Thailand exported BHT 2.86 billion (57.3 million Euros) worth of fresh and prepared or preserved fruits to Europe and Asia, a large amount of which includes papaya and cocktails with papaya as part of the ingredients, based on figures from the Thai Customs Department. The main destinations for Thailand's fresh papaya and mixed fruit products are the Netherlands, Germany, France, UK, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Georgia, China, Japan and Hong Kong. The EU does not allow the import of GE papaya and Thailand-based companies such as Dole, Malee and Universal Food Co. (UFC), which have large papaya-related exports to the EU, stand to lose financially from this GE papaya fiasco. Last year the German government launched an investigation on papayas from Thailand, after the GE papaya contamination scandal broke. Dole, the world's largest producer and marketer of fresh fruits and vegetables, sources papaya from Thailand for its operations in the EU (2). Malee exports to the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, while UFC produces fruit products for large food suppliers like Sainsbury's, Safeway, Libby, QP Corp., Sun Queen, Rykoff-Sextion and El Dorado (3).
In July 2004, Greenpeace Southeast Asia activists sealed off a government-run GE papaya experimental station after scientific evidence confirmed it was the source of contamination of one of Thailand's staple food. The Thai government ran a campaign to discredit Greenpeace and consistently lied to public by declaring they have already decontaminated Thai papaya farms. Recent findings of widespread GE papaya contamination in the country prove them otherwise, however.
For more information:
Patwajee Srisuwan, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Genetic Engineering campaigner, +661 3815367
Ua-phan Chamnan-ua, Greenpeace Southeast Asia media officer, +661 9282426
Notes to editor:
(1) The problem of contamination is widespread. The latest Dept of Agriculture documents say that last year the government collected 8,912 samples of papaya and found GE papaya contamination in 329 samples which came from 85 farms. The DOA destroyed only 83 of the said farms.
(2) Source: www.customs.go.th
The Royal Thai Customs department reports that in 2004 prepared or preserved fruit exports totaled around BHT 2.9 billion last year. Breakdown of exports: BHT 113 million for papaya in airtight containers, BHT 24 million for fresh papaya, and BHT 2.86 million for mixed fruits.
(3) A statement from Dole said the company sources its papayas from Southern Thailand.
(4) Sources: www.malee.co.th , www.ufc.co.th
GM papayas in Khon Kaen found unsafe - Greenpeace uncovers antibiotic resistance - APINYA WIPATAYOTIN - Bangkok Post, 1 July 2005
Genetically-modified (GM) papaya seeds used in in experimental field trials by the agricultural research station in Khon Kaen contain the tatracyclin antibiotic-resistant gene, recognised as an unsafe GM marker gene by various international food safety organisations, said Greenpeace South East Asia yesterday. "We obtained GM papaya seeds from the Khon Kaen agricultural research station in July last year. We were suspicious that the research station might use tatracyclin as a marker gene for its experiments.....In May, we decided to send those samples for a gene scan test in Germany. The result showed that GM papaya seeds were contaminated with the tatracyclin-resistant gene," said Greenpeace campaigner Patwajee Srisuwan.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has already warned against the use of the tatracyclin gene marker on GM plants in the market or in plants used for experimental field trials. Codex, a commission created in 1963 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation to develop food standards, has ruled that antibiotic-resistant genes should not be present in food.
Greenpeace South East Asia last year discovered that GM papaya seeds experimented on by the Khon Kaen agricultural research station had slipped through to 2,600 farmers in 37 provinces. The organisation later raided the station and also destroyed suspected GM papayas in private farms in Khon Kaen in July. To minimise the conflict, the government decided to temporarily suspend open-field GM crop trials. However, it has continued to allow laboratory tests of GM crops.
Greenpeace said it was concerned about the impact on human health and Thai fruit exports. Tatracyclin would be no longer effective as an antibiotic in people who have eaten GM papayas containing the tatracyclin-resistant gene. Tatracyclin is one of the world's most widely-used antibiotics.
Thailand currently exports canned fruit salad mixed with papaya to the European Union and Japan. If some of the GM papaya slipped into food exports, it would hurt the country's income, the group warned. Meanwhile, the Confederation of Consumer Organisations criticised the Department of Agriculture for refusing to release information on its GMO experiments, saying its refusal was a threat to the public. "It is the government's job to tell the truth to people. But as you see, the government did nothing," said confederation manager Sairung Thongplon. Miss Patwajee pointed out that the Department of Agriculture told the House Committee on Science and Technology on June 16 that GM papaya was safe for the environment and food. "We need to see transparency from state officials. The government must reveal the correct information to the public. The department told us that all GM papayas in open fields had already been destroyed. But we have still found GM crops in Rayong and Kamphaeng Phet provinces. With the current situation, we are not sure that we can believe information from state authorities," she said. Miss Sairung said that legal action might be taken if the department still refused to clarify the facts.
Farmers thrash seed company officials - Newindpress, India, 4 Jul 2005
The honeymoon with the Bt cotton seems to be over in the district. Repeated failure of the Bt cotton to yield the desired results have driven the farmers to the edge and have placed the officials of the agriculture department in a quandary. Enraged farmers in the district, furious with the BT cottonseeds failing to germinate vented their ire against the representatives of the seed company on Saturday. They stormed the agriculture department office and thrashed the representatives of the seed company. They alleged that more than 50 percent of the 14,000 BT cotton packets distributed in the district failed to germinate. They were also peeved that company ditched them in spite of being recognised by the government.
Trouble began when hundreds of farmers from neighbouring villages gathered at the office of the joint director of agriculture in anticipation of the compensation package. The seed company officials declared that compensation would be paid even if 25 percent of the seeds fail to germinate. The farmers entered into heated arguments with the company officials and even as the local representatives were explaining the situation to the company higher ups, the farmers began to manhandle them. The police arrived and quelled the agitation.
MLA T Veerabhadram and other leaders were holding discussions with the officials of the agriculture department.
African consumers need food security - not GMOs - Press Release - For immediate release - Date: 30 June 2005
In the lead up to the G8 meeting (6-8 July, 2005) Consumers International (CI) is calling for food security in Africa, not genetically modified (GM) food. Large biotechnology corporations, and some governments, are trying to promote GM crops as miracle solutions to world hunger and malnutrition. However, there is no evidence that GM crops will solve world hunger and the claims made by biotechnology companies are detracting attention from real causes of hunger in Africa.
Some reasons that cause African consumers to go hungry are problems related to lack of access to and distribution of food, as well as internal conflict and poor infrastructure. African farmers are faced with unfavourable international trade rules and regulations. African farmers are keen improve farming methods, but the use of GM crops could do more damage than good.
David Cuming, GM Campaign manager, CI Head Office says: "In Africa farmers save their seeds to use the following year. When they use GM seeds they are forced to buy them each year so destroying their food production systems. This puts control of the food chain in the hands of a small number of unscrupulous biotech corporations."
Amadou Kanoute, Director of CI Office for Africa says: "Genetic modification will not solve world hunger. The supposed benefits of GM have not been proven to outweigh potential risks to the environment, human and animal health. It would make more sense to put scarce money in other technologies that are more ecologically and economically suited to poor farmers and consumers."
CI will have a stand at the 'Make Poverty History' rally on the 2 July 2005 in the Meadows, Edinburgh, Scotland. CI supports the goals of the 'Make Poverty History' rally including:
- trade justice for poor countries ? so they can choose trade policies which work in the interest of poor people rather than against them
- end of export subsidies that damage the livelihoods of poor communities around the world
- laws to prevent big business from profiting at the expense of people and the environment
David Cuming, GM Campaign Manager and Amadou Kanoute, Director of CI Office for Africa are available for interview. For more information please call: Julia Crosfield on + 44 20 7226 6663 ext: 212 or mobile: 07932 563 491
Consumers International... currently represents over 250 organisations in 115 countries. For more information, see: www.consumersinternational.org
CIVIL SOCIETY STATEMENT AT THE CLOSING OF THE ECOWAS (ECONOMIC COMMUNITY OF WEST AFRICAN STATES) MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE ON BIOTECHNOLOGY IN WEST AFRICAN AGRICULTURE
Bamako, 24 June 2005
Statement of peasants' organisations, consumers' associations, the Mali Coalition for the Protection of Genetic Heritage and the Francophone African Coalition for the Protection of Genetic Heritage.
Civil society groups have expressed their reservations about genetic modification (GM) among the tools of biotechnology and wish to inform the ECOWAS Ministers as well as African and international public opinion of the reasons underlying this position.
WE DENOUNCE AND WE REJECT:
1. the patenting of life, which comes with GM, because it dispossesses small-scale African producers and violates their economic and cultural rights
2. the absence of labelling of GM products, which violates consumers rights to information
3. the lack of any mechanism for traceability in our countries, which prevents us from identifying the source of any eventual problem brought on by GM
4. the recognition of liability of producers/users of GM technology with regard to any damage to the environment or human health, in conformity with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
5. that the adoption of any innovation using genetic modification be postponed in the long term (10 years) to allow different actors to build their capacities in terms of verifying the absence of risk from GMOs These five recommendations were the subject of intense debate between civil society and experts both at the plenary session of the Ministerial Conference and in the working groups. However, they have been left out of the final report that is being officially submitted to the ECOWAS Ministers.
West African Network of Peasant Organisations and Producers (ROPPA) /
West African Network of Chambers of Agriculture (RECAO)
Mali Coalition for the Protection of Genetic Heritage
Francophone Africa Coalition for the Protection of Genetic Heritage
Ibrahim Ouedraogo, General Secretary of INADES-Formation, Abidjan - 15, Avenue Jean Mermoz-Cocody 08 B.P. 8 Abidjan 08, Côte d'Ivoire
Tel.: (225) 22 40 02 16 Fax : (225) 22 40 02 30 firstname.lastname@example.org
Massacre in the department of Caaguazu - PARAGUAY - Written by Javiera Rulli - GRR- Grupo de Reflexion Rural - email@example.com
Brazilean Genetically Modified soy growers protected by the police and military in Paraguay have attacked last friday (24/06/05) a peasant community, TEKOJOJA, in Caaguazu. They have evicted 270 people, burnt down all the 54 houses and crops. 2 men have been killed -- ANGEL CRISTALDO and LUIS TORRES -- there are many people injured and 130 people arrested amongst them many women and children.
The peasant community of Tekojoja is a land settlement of 500 hectares were 56 peasants families live and is located 70 km from the city of Caaguazu in Paraguay. The peasant community of Tekojoja is part of the Organización Agraria y Popular, part of MCNOC (National coordination platform of peasant organisatiosn) Via Campesina Paraguay. They are also involved in the Frente por la Soberania y la Vida (Front for Food Sovereignity and Life).
Caauguazu together with San Pedro are the regions where the GM soy monocultures have mainly been expanding in Paraguay in the last 5 years. There are 2 million hectares of GM soy monocultures in Paraguay and the government plan the expansion of 2 more million hectares. In Paraguay less than 2% of the population owns 7% of the land causing the expulsion of the peasants of their historical territories.The GM soy monocultures aimed for export is a principal cause to this severe situation, the rate of land conflicts have multiplied in the last years; only in 2004, 162 land conflicts and 118
land occupation took place.
Tekojoja is one of the peasant settlement recovered during the land reform, however many of these lands have gone back to the hands of private big land owner by illegal and corrupted manouvres or by tricking of the peasant. This is the case of the Tekojoja community that has since its beginnig been threatened by the expansion of the GM soy monocultures. Adelin Osperman is a brasilean GM soy producers that want to control these lands and begun a juridical trial against the peasants despite that the settlement were legally recognised 3 years ago by the current government of Nicanor Duarte Frutos. Carlos Gonzalez member of the Coordinación de la Organizacion Agraria y Popular states "the judge in charge of the juridical process has never taken into account that these land belonged to the state and were donated to the peasant organisations with the land reform program". In august 2004, the community was attacked and tried to be evicted with the results of several arrested people and injured people.
On Friday 25 june, at 5.30 in the morning the attorney Pedro Torrales and Nelly Varela appeared with 150 policemen with the intention of evicting the whole community. While the eviction, and with the presence of the attorneys, people were brutally harassed and beaten.The police were evicting and arresting the people followed by the paramilitary groups destroying and burning the houses with caterpillar tractors. In total 130 people were arrested amongst them 40 children and they were taken to the local jail in Caaguazu. Galeano, a spoke person of the community, informed that after the incident
29 men, 19 women y 40 children have been liberated. Several peasants are missing since friday. In the eviction, the legal land owner Adelin Osperman (brasilean soy producer) joined by hired gunmen entered the land with trucks and from these shot the peasants, killing Angel Cristaldo (20 years old) , y Leopoldo Torres (49 years old) and severely injuring 5 more people in front of the policemen present in the settlement. One is still in a critic state in the Hospital La Candelaria (Caaguazu), Anibal Gonzalez had to be operated yesterday. The Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, the National Comission of Human Rights of Paragauy is covering the health care cost as the health and social services in tha country have been privatised.
At current date Ademir Oppermann and several of his gunmen have been arrested because of the murders. In the arrestement a whole arsenal of weapons were found 4 shotguns, 2 of caliber 12 and 2 of caliber 20, one revolver caliber 38, and bullets packages for shotguns, all these were found in the trucks that entered the peasant community to destroy houses and crops. The actions of these paramilitary groups have been widely denounced during the last years. It is with the help of these groups that the majority of the evictions take place ususally under the collaboration of militaries and policegroups. The last time this was denounced was in January this year when Jorge Galeano, a peasant lider of the community, denounced publicly that Opperman had hired
armed goups to terrorise the peasant communities.
The urgency is now to help to the 270 people that have lost all their belongings, they are back into their land where nothing is left. The landowner took away 3 trucks with belonging of the peasant and only one has been found back and is in the hands of the police. It is worth to remark the urgent situation of the whole community that are now facing the winter without clothes, food and shelter.
The peasant organisations have planned several demonstrations for the coming days. There wil be demonstrations in Asuncion in front of the attorneys offices, denouncing the behauvior of the two attorneys that ordered the evictions. One of them , Nelly Varela ordered verbally to the police to take the children out of the school and arrest them and take them to jail as they were criminals, stated Galeano. The peasant organisation will as well try to meet the president of INDERT (Rural Development and Land Issue Institution) and demand the protection of their lands by this institute. "Ko yvyko oremba'e, ha roi roproba haguaicha upeva; roguerekopa la documento ome'eva'ekue oreve Indert ha upevare ndorose mo'ai ko'agui (this land belongs to us and we can show it , we have the documents from the government institution INDERT and we will not leave) stated Jorge Galeano.
We ask international organisations to spread this situation, network for solidarity actions and send human right observers to Paraguay. Many land conflicts take time during the soy crop season (dec- mars) when the peasant tries to stop the pesticide fumigations in the surroundings of the communities confronting police and military that guards the soy fields.
The peasant communities need help in the form of support for legal advocacy and health care. They need to cover the costs of lawyers for the juridical processes defending their lands and to denounce the violation of their rights. The health care is privatized in Paraguay and the peasants do not have access to it. They are intensively poisoned by the fumigation of pesticides and the community members are suffering severe health problems and need to do tests and buy medicines. The coordination of women of peasant and indigenous women - CONAMURI- is at current date maintaining the courtcase against two brasilean soy producers acussed of murdering a 11 years old boy, Silvino Talavera by their uncareless fumigation of Round Ready herbicide.
BOLETÍN FSP- 24-06-05
Personal phonecall to MCNOC firstname.lastname@example.org ( tel= 00595 21 550598)
Call Out of CONAMURI . (Tel= 0595- 21- 490 203) email@example.com
FORWARDED MESSAGE: Please sign on and forward to all African civil society organisations - Sign on to: <firstname.lastname@example.org> and <email@example.com>
Dear friends and colleagues,
As the Summit of the G8 approaches, to be held in Scotland on the 5th-8th July, World leaders tell us that Africa is to be high on their agenda. We welcome much of the goodwill that has been shown to our continent in the build-up to this major event of global significance. We also note that if we do not call attention to the realities of the problems facing us, many of the same mistakes are likely to be repeated.
It is for this reason that a coalition of grassroots African NGOs have written this statement to the leaders of the G8. This is to be a message from the grassroots, from those of us who know what the realities, and the real solutions are. We therefore invite all other grassroots African NGOs, CBOs and civil society organizations to join with us, and add your names to this sign-on statement.
Please send your name, organization, country and email address details to the co-ordinator of the Africa Biodiversity Network in Ethiopia, at <firstname.lastname@example.org> and <email@example.com>, by Friday the 1st July.
Africa Biodiversity Network
Africa Statement on the G8 and the Africa Commission
We, a coalition of local, grassroots African NGOs, see that Africa is the subject of much discussion at the G8 summit in July this year. We appreciate the efforts of world leaders to envision a way through our problems. But we feel that it is essential that more African voices are heard in this debate too. We therefore request that world leaders and development partners take concrete actions on the following issues:
The Africa Commission to the G8 emphasises the importance of "Good Governance" in its vision for Africa's development, but the term "Good Governance" must be clarified. What does it mean?
"Good Governance" should mean a truly democratic and participatory political system, where the voices of the people are heard, their needs addressed, and politicians and policy makers held accountable. The term "Good Governance" should not be used merely as a means for Northern governments to impose trade, aid or other conditionalities that suit their own interests, or to impose their values onto us.
Just as good governance should be an African commitment, so should Northern governments and partners commit themselves and their corporations and institutions investing in Africa to legally binding obligations that ensure transparency, and that they do not undermine movements for social and ecological justice and democracy. Good governance ensures participation and accountability for all, including foreign interests.
DEBT RELIEF AND AID
We welcome debt relief and increased aid to Africa. However, many of the worst regimes in Africa's history have in fact been supported and strengthened by Northern governments and aid. Therefore genuine "Good Governance" must ensure accountability of both African and donor countries.
Mechanisms for the distribution of aid must be participatory, transparent, accountable, and socially and ecologically just. The distribution of resources should be determined by participatory processes that include all levels of civil society in decision-making. Genuine "Good Governance" will mean that aid and resources are used to restore imbalances of justice and wealth. All parties integrity is at stake if this does not happen; governments and donors are accountable. Resources must get down to the levels where they need to go: to the people.
Aid and resources should enhance autonomy, rather than create dependency. They should be supported with other mechanisms and initiatives that enable African countries and communities to get out of the debt trap, free of harmful conditionalities and able to determine their own development path.
TRADE AND INVESTMENT
In order for any investment and trade to genuinely help the people of Africa, and not become a means for further exploitation, we call for corporations, agencies and governments from the North to be held accountable to legally binding codes of conduct, which include a liability and redress regime.
We support more initiatives that bring fair prices for producers, whilst recognising that development that focuses only on export-led agriculture will not help to feed Africa's citizens.
We also note the growing number of bilateral trade deals in addition to pressure from the World Trade Organisation to open up markets to private sector interests. If these policies continue then the problem of poverty in the South will rapidly deteriorate further, regardless of the aid pledges of G8 leaders. Ending poverty is more a matter of taking less from poor countries rather than giving more. The people of Africa are poor not because they have been left behind, but because their resources have been appropriated and privatized, and their wealth creating capacity destroyed.
ENVIRONMENT AND LAND
The G8 and the Africa Commission continue to look for growth in trade and exports as a solution to Africa's problems. But we are mindful that these approaches tend to have a critical impact on the environment. People in rural Africa will not survive in an increasingly degraded environment. For the majority of Africans, a healthy environment, stable climate, rich biodiversity and clean, accessible water, are vital for our livelihoods and quality of life. However, as the recent UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has made clear, the world's ecosystems are in a critical state. As always, it is the rural poor who are the first to suffer from the degradation of the environment.
In spite of the fact that Africa contributes the least to climate change, it will suffer from it the most, as our rural populations face increasingly unreliable weather patterns. We urge the G8 leaders and others to take responsibility to act on climate change for the good of all the planet. We caution against the use of African plantation forests being used as carbon sinks by distant Northern nations, instead of actual progress on reducing carbon emissions.
The G8 and the rest of the world must recognise that taking care of our environment is not a luxury. For us, it is not a choice between "Development" and "Environment". They are not mutually exclusive
Global leaders must commit to ensuring that the African rural majority are not displaced from their land and their resources, as this all they can depend on. A healthy environment, which is not privatised nor industrialised by foreign interests or the elite, must be respected if people are genuinely concerned about poverty.
As Africans, our right to land, biodiversity, water and our own diverse cultural livelihoods, that are specifically adapted to our ecosystems, must be at the heart of any poverty reduction commitment.
We call for measures that take serious action to protect our ecosytems. We call for a portion of all investment into, and profits from Africa, to go towards an urgently needed environmental fund for ecosystem rehabilitation.
FOOD AND CULTURE
Lastly, we call on leaders to recognise the importance of the local, not just the global. We recognise the value of local agriculture in supporting women and feeding children. Diverse and local crops grown by small-scale farmers can reduce dependence on unstable world markets and prevent hunger.
Africa's immense agricultural biodiversity is one of our greatest assets in the fight against hunger. The protection of our seed diversity is paramount. We do not want patented genetically engineered seeds to contaminate our seed banks and create dependence on the North.
We have nurtured and developed our local seed, our biodiversity and our traditional cultures for generations, and they have much to offer us for food, health, livelihoods and sustainable approaches to living. Development in Africa must respect and understand the values in our ways.
Genuine development for the good of Africans requires time and a long-term commitment to social processes that are ecologically sound, protect livelihoods, respond to the grassroots, and support local in-country growth and development of our potential. The process may be slow. But we do not believe that short-term interests or quick-fix solutions will help us in the long run.
We see that the real hope for Africa lies in a model of development that involves the grassroots in decision-making, that strengthens local capacity to feed ourselves, and that recognises the environment as critical to our livelihoods, culture and our future. We therefore hope that as the world leaders of the G8 discuss Africa's problems, they also recognise that the solutions lie within us.
Hungry for an alternative
Tewolde Berhan believes that organic farming is the only real solution to famine in Africa. Sally J Hall meets the quiet but formidable Ethiopian who has become a thorn in the side of the GM foods lobby
The Independent, 27 June 2005 - http://news.independent.co.uk/world/environment/story.jsp?story=649963
Organic farming is a slow-to-grow, low-yield industry favoured by middle-class parents who have the time and money to meander the overpriced aisles of Waitrose, deliberating over wild rocket or white asparagus. Right?
Wrong, says Tewolde Berhan. He thinks organic farming could be the solution to Ethiopia's famines. The chief of the country's Environment Agency has worked his way through academia and government to become one of the world's most influential voices in the biotechnology field. Berhan believes that, properly applied, his approach could save the lives of many of the thousands of Africans who die every day as a result of hunger and poverty. He maintains that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) remove control from local farmers. He speaks for a growing number who believe that Africa should return to natural, sustainable methods of agriculture better suited to its people and environment.
Can one man hope to stand against governments and the huge multinationals? Visiting London, Berhan appears to be a frail - if nattily dressed - sexagenarian. But our conversation reveals his determination, intelligence and encyclopedic memory, combining to create an indomitable force.
Asked why bad harvests seem to have a greater impact on Ethiopia than its neighbours, he has a simple yet stark response. "It's largely because of the lack of infrastructure," he says. "The road system in Ethiopia has doubled in the past 10 years, but is still very poor. "Ethiopia is still an agrarian society, and there isn't one such country that hasn't had famines," he adds. "The reasons are clear: some years you have plenty and others not enough. If you don't have the technological and financial capacity and the infrastructure to store in good years, you can't make provision for the bad. People here depend entirely on the crops they produce in their fields, so when one season fails, the result is famine."
Born in 1940, Berhan graduated in 1963 from Addis Ababa University and took a doctorate at the University of Wales in 1969. Later posts as dean of science at Addis Ababa, keeper of the National Herbarium and director of the Ethiopian Conservation Strategy Secretariat kept him in touch with the agricultural needs of Ethiopia's people. In 1995, he was made director general of the Environmental Protection Authority of Ethiopia, in effect becoming the country's chief scientist in agriculture. A strong critic of GMOs, he's a powerful voice in lobbying on food safety. His most notable triumph came in negotiations on biosafety in Cartagena, Colombia in 1999. Berhan acted as chief negotiator for a group of southern hemisphere countries. He helped to secure an agreement to protect biosafety and biodiversity, while maintaining respect for the traditional rights of the Third World population, gained against strong opposition from the European Union and North America.
So why is organic farming the answer? Given low yields, poor soil and drought, you'd think that industrial farming would help Ethiopia to maximise production. Not so, Berhan says. "Organic farming deviates little from the natural environment in supplying nutrients to crops. We've developed the ability to change things in a big way and, without considering the consequences, we create disasters. Look at what happened with DDT. "Organic farming disturbs nature as little as possible and reduces those risks. Intensive farming has led to the exacerbation of pests and diseases, and loss of flavour in food."
These views are at odds with the "conventional" industry. Tony Combes, the director of corporate affairs for Monsanto UK, a big player in the GM market, says: "Going organic isn't the way to increase yields. But then, neither is going totally GM. Farmers need solutions suitable for local predicaments. This means choosing from a range of options - organic, conventional and GM. If yields can be increased, that surplus can be sold."
Berhan is undeterred. He has persuaded the Ethiopian government to let him demonstrate his ideas in the Axum area of Ethiopia. Old field-management techniques have been resurrected, while methods new to the area, like compost-making, have been successful. Those who think organic farming means low yields will be surprised by Berhan's evidence. "When well managed, and as fertility builds over years, organic agriculture isn't inferior in yield. Now, farmers don't want chemical fertilisers. They say, 'Why should we pay for something we can get for free?'"
Berhan expresses gratitude for the West's famine-relief efforts, but he has reservations. "When countries want to help, they may not know how, so the intention has to be appreciated. But if you go beyond the intention and begin to dictate terms, it becomes more sinister. In times of shortage, making food aid available is helpful - for that year. If you keep making it available, you discourage production." He believes there are times when food aid can be more about control by Western governments than assistance. "The feeling is strong that this is deliberate. I attended a meeting where farmers from the USA were present. I told them a story I'd read about how rice production in Liberia was depressed because of cheap imports from the USA. The American farmers said this was a deliberate policy by the US State Department to make countries dependent on them for food. "I began to investigate and discovered that, while the EU has abandoned its policy of providing food aid, initially sending money so that food can be bought locally, the US still insists it will only give food in kind. This makes me feel those farmers were right."
Berhan insists on the necessity of further trials for GM crops, and believes extreme caution should be used in their growth and trade. His application for a visa to attend talks in Canada on GM labelling was turned down earlier this year, suggesting that his influence is feared. "We were finalising the labelling of grain commodities," he says. "A compromise had been reached in 2000 for labelling to say, 'This product may contain GMOs,' but we wanted to toughen it up, to say, 'This product contains these GMOs,' and to list them." He also contests that GMOs give higher yield. "This is mainly hype. So far, there's not one GM crop that produces higher yields per acre than conventional crops. They offer an economical advantage to farmers as they can apply herbicide in large doses and not have to worry about weeds: that's all."
After protests from the media and groups such as Greenpeace, the visa was granted. Dr Eric Darier, GM campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, explained why it was so important that Berhan attended. "He is truly one of the key 'fathers' of the biosafety protocol," Darier says. "It was convenient for the Canadian government [to refuse the visa], as it prevented a major critic and opponent of pro-GM Canadian policy from attending two of the three days of the workshop on liability. Canada has failed to ratify the biosafety protocol. In view of the fact that the Canadian government has done everything to undermine the efforts of the international community to adopt a strict, effective biosafety protocol, the delays in issuing the visa are evidence of Canada's bad faith." Is Berhan bitter? Far from it. "I think [the visa refusal] was based on a mistaken calculation. If anything, it gave the labelling issue higher visibility. We told the Canadian government: either you accept multilateral discussions, or the Office for the Commission of Biological Diversity [based in Montreal], must move to another country." The threat worked.
Berhan's message is compelling - and he is in demand worldwide. In the past month alone, he has travelled to Austria, the UK, Tunisia and Norway. He returns to the UK in July to give a talk for the Soil Association, where he will ask: "Can Organic Farming Feed the World?" He is a huge force in trying to prove that it can.
The Soil Association will be at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Tuesday 12 July (0117 987 4586; www.soilassociation.org )
Nesac says field trial ban should continue - PIYAPORN WONGRUANG - Bangkok Post, 23 June 2005 - http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/23Jun2005_news04.php
The National Economic and Social Advisory Council (Nesac) will recommend that the government maintain the ban on open field trials of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their eventual commercialisation. Reungchai Tansakul, a member of the council's agriculture and cooperatives committee, said Nesac considered the issue critical as the GMO impact would be widespread in various sectors ranging from farming to exports. He cited the examples of the recent GM papaya spread in addition to pressure from the United States to open up the country for GMOs through free trade area negotiations.
The government had considered opening the country up for GMO production months ago, but dropped the idea after strong public opposition. Dr Reungchai said the committee had taken about six months to study the issue before arriving at its recommendation. According to its report, GM commercial production and field trials should be carried out only when the country has risk management and control measures on the impact of GMOs, including the appropriate laws, in place. The committee found there were no regulations dealing directly with the issue. It suggested the government develop bio-safety laws, GM product control regulations, as well as establishing national agencies comprising people from various sectors to direct related policies as well as implementation.
In addition, research and development on GMOs should be carried out in line with public needs, whereas use of materials in research should be strictly controlled. "All the points we have raised have never been made clear, so these should be made clear, particularly the role of the public in the government's GMO policy development,'' said Dr Reungchai. "Thais should be well informed what GMOs are, so they can decide whether they want to accept them or not."
Witoon Lianchamroon, director of BioThai, an independent organisation promoting bio-diversity conservation and community rights, said at a time when the government has a parliamentary majority, the council's recommendations could help add more weight to public scrutiny of the government's policies and performance. At least, he said, the government has to respond one way or another to the points raised by the council, helping clarifying what the public should know. "It has not been clear what should be done about GMOs and by whom. Our independent committee has asked the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to
check for any further spread of GM papaya, but nothing has moved so far. We think filing our complaints with the court is our next best hope," said Mr Witoon.
Korn: Biotechnology may be unnecessary - PIYAPORN WONGRUANG - Bangkok Post, 18 June 2005 - http://www.biothai.org/cgi-bin/content/news/show.pl?0545
Thailand should first decide which crops are best to develop before worrying about the technology needed to create them, Science and Technology Minister Korn Thapparansi said yesterday. Mr Korn said biotechnology was one of the top items on the government's agenda to develop crops that improve both farmers' lives and market produce.
"When you can specify the crops you want to develop, you are then able to decide how you want to grow them. "It may not be necessary to think about genetic modification in the first place," said Mr Korn in a keynote speech delivered to the Global Sharing of Knowledge and Experience on Crop Biotechnology conference. He said the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry should take the lead in developing crop biotechnology policies that give the public more options for choosing the crops that are developed. The Science and Technology Ministry should act as a core research centre to support the Agriculture Ministry, he said.
Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, a non-governmental organisation supporting agricultural biotechnology for poor countries, said although biotechnologies were not the answer, they could help with a nation's development. So far, he said, the global trend toward biotech crops was increasing significantly. Those crops accounted for about 81 million hectares last year and could jump to 150 million hectares by 2010, he added.
However, Banphot Na Pompetch, a bio-safety law expert, cautioned that Thailand should not rush to embrace biotechnology, particularly genetically modified crops which have raised concerns about their impact on human health and the environment. He said the government should conduct risk analysis on GM technology first before opening the market to the products.
Monsanto's GM corn: Unfit for rats, unfit for humans
MON863 is a genetically modified corn which expresses a Bt-toxin (Cry3Bb1). This toxin, which stems from a micro-organism (Bacillus thuringiensis), is meant to protect the maize against a pest called corn rootworm. This GM maize is different from those Bt-plants (Mon 810, Bt11, Bt 176) already placed on the market, as they produce another toxin (Cry1Ab), which is toxic to the European corn borer. Further, the GM maize contains an antibiotic resistance marker gene, which should be not used according to recent EU law.
On 23 April 2004 the French newspaper Le Monde revealed that the French expert body in charge of GMO evaluation (CGB, Commission du Genie Biomoleculaire) had expressed doubts about the safety of GM maize Mon 863. By filing application for market authorisation under EU law, Monsanto had delivered the results of a rat feeding study to EU government authorities. These results show that significant variations were found between the rats fed with conventional maize and those fed with GM maize Mon863, such as an increased number of white blood cells in the males, reduced immature red blood cells in females, a significant increase in blood sugar in the females or a higher frequency of physical irregularities in the kidneys of the males, such as reduced weight and inflammation.
Victory for transparency a precedent
When it filed the application to market MON863, Monsanto requested that crucial documents concerning the risk assessment, like the results of rat feeding trials, should be classified as confidential. But according to European law the public has a right to have full access to information concerning the risk assessment of GMOs. Article 25 of Directive 2001/18/EC states that :
"2. The notifier may indicate the information in the notification submitted under this Directive, the disclosure of which might harm his competitive position and which should therefore be treated as confidential. Verifiable justification must be given in such cases.
3. The competent authority shall, after consultation with the notifier, decide which information will be kept confidential and shall inform the notifier of its decisions."
Article 25 (4) also indicates that "in no case" should the information related to "environmental risk assessment" be kept confidential.
Article 2 (8) of Directive 2001/18 defines "environmental risk assessment" as "the evaluation of risks to human health and the environment, whether direct or indirect, immediate or delayed, which the deliberate release or the placing on the market of GMOs may pose and carried out in accordance with Annex II."
In Annex II of Directive 2001/18 the general principles declare that the risk assessment should : "be carried out in a scientifically sound and transparent manner based on available scientific and technical data".
It took more than a year for Greenpeace to see the interests of society finally prevail over Monsanto's economic interests and its policy of opacity and secrecy.
· On 5 May 2004, Greenpeace wrote to the German agriculture ministry, which was in charge of the initial risk assessment report, to request access to the full documents concerning Mon 863.
· On 4 August 2004, the German agriculture ministry replied that the applicant, Monsanto, had refused to agree to publish the initial rat study MSL-18175, which had been classified as "confidential business information".
· On 21 March 2005, the Gerrman authority decided to give access to the full document, because Monsanto could not show that its request for confidentiality was backed by EU or national law.
· On 27 April 2005, Monsanto filed an appeal against the decision of German government and, in addition, took out an injunction to stop the authorities publishing the data.
· On 9 June 2005, the German court decided to reject Monsanto's request; the data could not be seen as confidential, the right of society to transparency had to be given more weight than Monsanto's economic interests. The company appealed the decision.
· On 20 June, the court rejected the appeal, and ruled that the documents be made public.
Serious safety concerns
Greenpeace's ongoing examination of the material provided by Monsanto gives rise to serious concerns. Monsanto's results reveal many irregularities in the study and five significant differences between the rats fed with the GMO maize and the control groups, which were fed conventional maize. These include statistically significant differences in white blood cells. These cells are an indicator of abnormal situations in the body such as infections and inflammations. Furthermore, there are differences in the organ weight of the kidneys and some abnormal changes in the structure of the kidneys.
Monsanto tries to negate these findings by use of "reference" and "historical" control data collected from other experiments where rats were fed non-GM maize. Such inclusion of "historical" or "reference" data is hardly valid from a scientific point of view. It is the direct comparison between two or more groups during a certain experiment that is the critical and valid comparison in normal scientific practices. As soon as statistically significant differences appear, one should immediately check for further evidence, run further experiments to try to find out where those differences come from. This is particularly important as this feeding trial was only conducted over 90 days. The high number of statistically significant differences therefore raises severe doubts regarding the food and feed safety of this GMO maize.
Since the study indicates that this GM maize has the potential to negatively affect the health of rats, there are grounds for concern that it could also interfere with the metabolism of humans and other animals. This is a valid reason for rejecting the request for market permission. Furthermore, the experiment was not well designed. Important data and parameters are missing. And, as it took only 90 days, it remains impossible to draw any conclusions regarding the effects of long-term ingestion of the maize.
Greenpeace's position has been confirmed by two new scientific opinions by renowned experts in the field, presented in Berlin on 22 June 2005: Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, a member of two GMO evaluation committees within the French ministry of agriculture and ministry of ecology, and Professor Arpad Pusztai, who was invited some months ago by the German government to give an opinion on this GM maize. Both support Greenpeace's position that this maize should not receive market authorisation, given the data known so far.
The high number of statistically significant differences between rats fed MON863 and the control groups in this short feeding trial give sufficient cause for concern to justify rejecting MON863 outright.
Bt cotton 'fails' in official debut - Fazilka-Abohar farmers go back to 'desi' varieties - By Ravinder Banwait, - Hindustan Times, June 12, 2005, Chandigarh (Punjab), page 1
Touted as the answer to the American Bollworm menace and making a much-hyped official debut in Punjab this season. Bt cotton seems to have fallen to the very disease it has been designed to resist in Fazilka and Abohar. Cotton growers spoken to in the two districts said many of their plants had been fully or partly eaten up by worms. Some had grown fungus and others didn't germinate at all. Those who tried the seeds illegally last season (these were approved only recently) have gone back to the traditional "desi" (local) varieties after the not-so-happy experience with designer seeds.
The farmers alleged that the government did not bother to assess the ground situation, as the "low price-high yield" seeds were not suitable for sandy soil. The weather, too, was not considered before hard-selling the Bt cotton, they said. The problem seems to be acute in Fazilka as most of the farmers have sown approved seeds this time. The Punjab government had approved six varieties of Bt cotton - RCH-134, RCH-137, Ankur-2534, Ankur-651, MRC-6304 and MRC-6301.
Mohan Lal from Kheo Wali Dhab village in Fazilka, who used RCH-134 in 30 acres, said, "I completed the sowing in the first week of May and within a few days, many of the plants were eaten up by worms. Who will pay for the expensive seeds? A packet of 450 gms cost Rs 17.25. The government should compensate me as 20 per cent of my crop has already been eaten up by worms." Bhagirath, another farmer from the same village, faced a similar problem. He, in fact, is even using pesticides.
Chuni Lal of Khuhi Kehra village said last year he had illegally used Ankur-651 variety and that, too, was attacked by worms. "This year I opted for 'desi' (local) seeds. The sandy soil here needs local varieties." Like him.Amirr Chand also planted local seeds. He had spoken to some farmers before deciding on it. He found that the Bt cotton seeds were expensive and returns didn't match up Nirmal a farmer in Nihal Khera in Fazilka, said he had sown RCH-134 in 13 acres and the crop faced problem in germination. "Many plants have not grown or are dying after coming up. I am now again sowing the seeds and one can understand how much a fanner has to spend for this as initially I had taken seeds for nearly Rs 17 per packet," he said. Some big farmers had even opted for still-unapproved Bt cotton varieties.
Narender and his cousins, who have grown cotton in 100 acres in Bodiwala village, chose "Badal" variety for 10 acres and "desi" in 70 acres. "I don't know on what basis the new Bt seeds have been approved. There is some problem with the seed as cotton balls are covered by the leaf, which is big and doesn't allow enough sunlight to reach, making it vulnerable to fungus," he said.
From The Fields
* Mainly RCH 134 used; plants eaten up by worms
* Farmers feel seed don't suit soil and climate
* Opt for unapproved varieties rather than those approved by the government
Source: Radar, Business Critical Information
Complexities of GM issue delay WTO decision - Food Navigator, 20/06/2005 -http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/news-ng.asp?n=60763-complexities-of-gm
Stakeholders in the food chain, along with technocrats and politicians in Brussels, must wait until October this year to get the final word from the WTO on the GM complaint filed by the US, Canada and Argentina, reports Lindsey Partos. These three major GM crop producing countries set off to the world's trade arbiter two years ago, complaining that the EU's moratorium on approvals of genetically modified organisms was a barrier to trade. Chairman of the GM dispute panel at the World Trade Organisation, Swiss trade diplomat Christian Haberli, recently told the parties that the panel's ruling, due by the end of June, was now being put off until the end of October. Haberli cited the complexity of the case, the large amount of documentation submitted, as well as the decision to consult with scientific experts on technical issues raised as the reasons for the delay.
A de facto moratorium in place since 1998 saw Europe refusing to approve any new GM cops for entry into the food chain. But since the US complaint was issued, Brussels has brought in tough new labelling legislation for GM ingredients: the labels alert consumers to any engineered foodstuffs used in a food recipe. Through greater transparency for the consumer the new rules, seen by critics as Europe caving into pressure from the US, actually ushered in the possibility for new GM approvals and heralded an end to the moratorium. But since their introduction, only two products have been cleared for import: a GM sweetcorn supplied by Swiss biotech firm Syngenta and Monsanto's MON810 biotech maize, engineered to be resistant to the European corn borer. The lack of approvals, despite a host of applications, reflects the deep divisions in Europe over GM acceptance. And while the biotech companies continue to push forward their applications for approval, there is little chance the European food industry will actually use the GM ingredients in their formulations. By all accounts, the business savvy food maker, who cannot afford to lose sales, will opt to skip the use of GM ingredients in their European food formulations: knowing, as they do, that the cynical European consumer will refuse to buy any GM food product.
Illegal GMO rice spreads across China - Greenpeace - 13 Jun 2005 09:08:44 GMT - Source: Reuters
BEIJING, June 13 (Reuters) - The discovery of genetically modified rice being illegally sold in a booming southern Chinese city shows the grain is spreading across China and could enter markets overseas, Greenpeace said on Monday. The environmental group said genetically engineered rice had been found at grain wholesalers in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, even though such rice had not gone through safety testing or been approved by the Chinese government. Greenpeace in April announced it had found genetically engineered rice at markets in central Hubei province. "We are sure that people are consuming it unknowingly," Greenpeace campaigner Sze Pang Cheung said at a news conference in Beijing, referring to rice that had been modified to contain the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which produces a toxin that kills pest. "We are now facing the contamination of the most important staple crop in the whole world," Sze said.
Pressure to launch GMO rice in China comes at a time when the country is facing a tough task in raising urban grain output and narrowing the income gap between farmers and urban citizens. Proponents of genetically modified crops say they will improve yield and reduce plants' vulnerability to pests. Opponents say pests will develop greater resistance to the modified crops, and that the techniques undermine biodiversity and could prove dangerous for human consumption.
China, the world's largest producer and consumer of rice, is testing several strains of genetically modified rice and is expected to grant approval for the commercialisation of such rice as early as this year. China, one of the world's largest importers of GMO crops, said last month it had ratified a U.N. treaty that aims for more transparency and control over trade in genetically modified foods. "China is sending a strong message to the world that it is no dumping ground for GM crops," Sze said at the time. Chinese genetically engineered rice may have already made its way into exports of rice or rice-based products, Sze said on Monday. But he acknowledged Greenpeace had no direct evidence of Bt rice leaving China.
Greenpeace estimated that up to 29 tonnes of genetically modified Bt rice seeds, capable of producing as much as 14,500 tonnes of rice, were illegally sold in Hubei this year. "We think it is unacceptable and irresponsible that they are not taking this issue seriously because rice is the most important staple in China," Sze said. The group called on the government to ban planting and sales of genetically engineered rice, recall and destroy all modified seeds on the market and punish people involved.
Risk of illegal genetically engineered rice in China's exports, Greenpeace warns - Channel News Asia, 13 June 2005
BEIJING: Environmental watchdog Greenpeace is warning illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice might contaminate China's exports to the rest of the world. The warning came as Greenpeace said it had found illegal GE rice, which has produced allergic reactions when tested on mice, in the huge Chinese city of Guangzhou, just north of Hong Kong. "We can't rule out the possibility that GE rice could contaminate rice exports from China," Sze Pang Cheung, a Greenpeace campaign manager, told a briefing in Beijing. The announcement came just weeks after Greenpeace sounded the alarm over the proliferation of illegal GE rice in the central Chinese province of Hubei.
While no GE rice has yet been found in Chinese exports, there are two possible ways of contamination, he said. "One, it will contaminate processed rice and go overseas, and the other possibility is that rice from Hubei could be used as ingredients for rice products or products which include rice ingredients," he said.
Japan, South Korea and the European Union have already raised concerns with the Chinese government regarding possible contamination of Chinese rice exports, according to Greenpeace. "Immediate recall actions are needed if we are to prevent consumers from exposure to risks of untested GE rice," Sze said, commenting on the findings in Guangzhou.
The rice is popular with some Hubei farmers as it is engineered to produce an inbuilt pesticide, but most of them would not dream of eating it themselves, according to Greenpeace. "Most of the farmers we met don't eat this rice. They would explain that it is because they are afraid that this rice will harm their health," Sze said.
China, a major exporter of rice, is considering commercialization of GE rice, and officials have indicated a decision may be made this year.
Monsanto may ditch GM corn investment - KULTIDA SAMABUDDHI - Bangkok Post, 13 June 2005
Phitsanulok - Agribusiness giant Monsanto, a leading developer of genetically modified (GM) crops, has threatened to scrap its plans to invest in GM corn production in Thailand unless the government lifts its ban on open field trials and the commercialisation of transgenic crops. Poomin Trakoontiwakorn, director of Monsanto's Southeast Asia technology development division, said the US-based company had begun shifting its operation from Thailand to India and the Philippines, where the commercial planting of GM corn and cotton has been approved. "Over the past four years, we have tried to convince the public and the government to embrace GMOs, but to no avail. So we can't think about expanding our business here," Mr Poomin said. "Due to the unsupportive policy on genetic engineering, it's not surprising our headquarters have begun turning their eyes to other Asian nations, where GMOs are being welcomed," he told a press briefing at Monsanto's seed plant in Phitsanulok on Friday.
Monsanto announced in November 2003 a plan to make Thailand a regional base by 2006 for its GM seed production, starting with Round-up Ready and Bt corn seeds. Monsanto's Round-up Ready corn is resistant to Round-up herbicide produced by the company, while Bt corn is resistant to bollworm, one of the most destructive pests to attack corn and cotton crops. However, the plan has been hit by the government's ban on open field trials, which was imposed in 1999 after finding that GM cotton crops belonging to Monsanto had spread to nearby farms growing non-GM crops. GM crops must pass three levels of biosafety tests - laboratory, greenhouse, and open field trials - before being endorsed for mass production. Monsanto has repeatedly yet unsuccessfully lobbied Agriculture and Cooperatives ministers, including Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, and the cabinet to revoke the ban. Efforts have failed due to strong opposition from farmers, environmentalists and consumer groups. The anti-GMO coalition says GM crops pose a serious threat to native plants, increase investment costs and pose a health threat to the human population.
In terms of basic infrastructure and the skills of its farmers, Mr Poomin said Thailand offered more potential than India and the Philippines as a GM ``seed hub''. The country could earn large revenues from exporting transgenic seeds to a number of Southeast Asian countries, South American countries, as well as some European nations, such as Portugal and Spain. "It is disappointing that the government has failed to see the benefit and potential of GM crops in the world market," he said, adding that he expected the expansion of GM plantations worldwide to prompt the Thai government to fully embrace the technology in the near future. Monsanto is working on the modification of its Phitsanulok seed plants to raise the production capacity for corn from 12,000 to 19,200 tonnes a year in a bid to prepare for full acceptance of commercial GM crops, he said.
According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, an alliance of biotechnology and multinational agribusiness firms, 17 countries have adopted commercial GMO planting, including developing countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, and the Philippines. The total area of land being utilised to grow GM crops in 2004 stood at 81 million hectares, up 20% from 13.3 million hectares in 2003.
Mr Poomin said besides herbicide and pest resistant corn, Monsanto is preparing to launch a series of transgenic crops in the Thai seed market, including a drought-resistant crop, a high Omega-3 oil seed crop and high-nutrient maize crop. He conceded the possibility of cross-breeding between transgenic and native plant species, but insisted contamination was "controllable". Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner Varoonvarn Svangsopakul, however, urged the government to stand firm on its GM-free policy, which would protect Thai farmers and consumers from multinational firms' expensive GM crops.
Court orders Monsanto to make scandal report public - Environmental Media Services - Source: Greenpeace International - Jun 10, 2005
Amsterdam/Cologne, 10 June 2005 - A German law court in Cologne/Germany today ordered biotechnology giant Monsanto to make one of it's confidential reports public after the company tried to prevent the dissemination of its own study. The 1000-page document is in the center of international attention after its results were exposed by the British newspaper Independent On Sunday (1).
Greenpeace have asked for access to the document in Germany referring to an EU-law which states that the public has the right to have insight in all documents related to risk assessement of genetically modified (GM) plants. After the German state authorities endorsed the access, Monsanto filed a court case against the government of Germany in an attempt to try to stymie the publishing of the document. Greenpeace joined sides with the German government in the case and with today's order the original study should be open for insight by the public. "This is a important success - both for Greenpeace and for the people. The strategy of secrecy and intransparency of Monsanto failed, and now the document can be a subject to independent investigations," said Greenpeace International campaigner Christoph Then.
The aforesaid rat feeding study found "significant" effects in the blood and organs of the rats fed on the GM maize MON863. A number of scientists across Europe who have already seen the study expressed concerns about the health and safety implications of this GM corn. Monsanto does not put in question that there were significant health effects in the rats, but claims that these were not caused by the GM maize. But according to the opinion of several experts the explanations of Monsanto are not sufficient to put down recent concerns.
On the 24th of June the Council of EU ministers will decide on the market authorisation for import and use of MON863 in our food. It is almost impossible to evaluate Monsanto's over 1000-page study on the health effects until that date; in particular because Monsanto is expected to file a further appeal against the recent decision, which could result in further delay in the publication of the documents. "EU member states should set a clear signal in the interest of their people and should reject the application of the GM maize. Otherwise the maize corn could be permitted by the EU Commission without any further consultation or votings - and that could have serious consequences," - said Then.
For more information:
Christoph Then, GE campaigner, Greenpeace International, mobile: +49 171 878 0832
Judit L. Kalovits, media officer, Greenpeace International, mobile: +31 621 296 914
(1) Independent On Sunday, 22 April 2005.
Three Statements at the Conclusion of the Montreal meeting on the Cartegna Protocol
Fear Of Boycotts as NZ De-rails International Agreement - GE free NZ Press Release, June 5 2005
International consensus on a system to regulate GM organisms is being undermined by New Zealand and causing anger amongst nations around the world. The shock moves by New Zealand have been reported from the Montreal meeting on the Cartegna Protocol and have caused a wave of stinging criticism. "New Zealand's international standing and economic wellbeing is now being compromised by our government who are actively lobbying for one specific sector of industry at the expense of other sectors and the country as a whole," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment. The government and exporters must be prepared for a backlash from overseas which could even include boycotts of NZ-made products as the news of the conference spreads. "We are extremely worried that the attempt to de-rail the agreement will backfire on New Zealand. We are writing to the government asking for urgent action to rebuild our standing in the international community," says Mr. Carapiet.
Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681
Civil Society Statement at Final Plenary MoP 2 - Marijane Lisboa (IDEC) - 3 June 2005, Montreal (Canada)
I make this statement on behalf of environmental NGOs and civil society organizations attending this meeting.
It is disappointing and shocking that some Parties arrived at this meeting with no spirit of cooperation and compromise. Indeed, it is obvious that some came to obstruct and disrupt positive decision-making. As a Brazilian, I can tell you that the delegation from Brazil does not represent the real interests of the Brazilian people. It was disappointing and shocking to hear the opening remarks of the representative of UNEP. Instead of a balanced overview, we heard a pro-Industry statement. It is shocking to see the role played by Industry at these negotiations, to witness their highly funded and brazen lobbying and their sponsorship of organizations claiming to speak for public, independent scientists and whole regions. It is disappointing to note that the voices of the people who work with nature - the farmers and indigenous peoples - have not been heard here.
On the other hand, it was delightful to witness the confident and constructive biosafety leadership displayed by many countries who remembered that this is a Protocol about biosafety and not a treaty about the promotion of trade, who understood that these negotiations are about protecting biodiversity and not protecting a single industry. We can assure delegates that when we return to our countries, we will share with those at home what we have seen here and who exactly were the actors. We know that civil society around the world wants strong biosafety rules and we urge all delegations to negotiate with this goal in mind in the future.
SHAME ON BRAZIL AND NEW ZELAND!
Statement delivered at the Closing Session of the Plenary by Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International
Two countries block the will of over 100 countries commited to Biosafety and environmental protection
On behalf of Friends of the Earth International I would like to express our big disappointment about the failure to come to a decision on the identification requirements of article 18.2a.
We are particularly disappointed about the behaviour of the Brazilian and the New Zealand delegation. It has been clearly shown during the week that both delegations came to these negotiations with a clear spirit to block and to prevent a decision on Living Modified Organisms for feed, food and processing, as required by the Biosafety Protocol. Both delegations acted with bad faith, and constantly blocked, and blocked, and blocked, and blocked. systematically any constructive moves, and previously planned and agreed that no decision should be adopted here in Montreal.
Both delegations have proved to have big expertise in hypocrisy and untruthfulness. Moreover, they have proved to have no expertise at all on biosafety issues and environmental protection, but on the contrary have a huge deal of biased expertise on trade, market, exaggerated grain handling costs, etc. In fact the Brazilians kept on blocking every progressive step, without giving any reason or valid argument to defend their position. Taking into account that Brazil will host the next Meeting of the Parties on BIOSAFETY, it would be important if the Brazilian delegations considers seriously attending a good biosafety and environmental protection training course, so they can gain knowledge. And maybe a miracle can happen and in 9 months at the Third Meeting of the Parties in Brazil, we could have a Brazilian delegation which has more knowledge and respect for biosafety and the environment.
Brazil for the first time has sent a clear signal to the world in this meeting. Brazil has shown no commitment to Biosafety, and a clear opposition to further development of biosafety regulations. Brazil has shown that their own interest is on the free release of Genetically Modified Crops without any international biosafety regulations.
In a way what has happened here reflects the reality of GM crops in the world today. Over 90% of the world surface planted with GM crops is only in three countries. The products of one company alone, Monsanto, accounts for over 90% of the total area cultivated with GM crops. In these negotiations 2 countries have blocked and prevented the desire of over 100 delegations that clearly stated during the whole week its desire to have a decision on identification of transboundary movement of LMOs.
Brazil and New Zealand have proved here that they are serving the interests of the biotech industry, and the non Parties, which are major producers of GM crops. The United States, Canada, and Argentina, while not actively participating during the negations, were strongly active behind the scenes supporting and encouraging the position of both delegations.
The positive note is to see that over 100 countries have manifested a clear support for biosafety, and for the need to clearly identify the shipments of LMOs around the world. This huge commitment is really encouraging and shows that the development of national and regional biosafety frameworks will be the key priority in the future for all those countries committed to Biosafety. The need to implement adequate biosafety frameworks is clear... biosafety is here to stay and despite the opposition of the biotech industry and this minority of GM producing countries, the majority of the world has already made clear that there is no way to stop the implementation of protective measures to tackle the potential risks derived from the movement of Living Modified Organisms around the world.
Friends of the Earth International - Greenpeace International - INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL SAFETY TALKS END IN ACRIMONY
Two countries block tighter rules on GM crops and foods - MONTREAL, CANADA, 3 June 2005
Key United Nations negotiations on the safe trade of genetically modified (GM) crops and foods ended today in acrimony. Despite over 100 countries demanding comprehensive controls to limit GM contamination, the move was blocked by just two countries that sided with the GM industry - New Zealand and Brazil.
This week's negotiations on the United Nations' Biosafety Protocol were aimed at bringing in international rules to reduce contamination from imports of GM crops and to introduce full labelling. However, despite support from virtually all countries, especially in the developing world, little progress was made in making the laws stronger. Needing consensus to bring in the new laws, New Zealand and Brazil sided with big business and shamelessly blocked all moves.
The Biosafety Protocol provides a safety net to protect the environment from the threat of GM crops. Countries are encouraged to develop legislation that protects their biodiversity and can also ban imports of GM products if there are questions over its safety. To date 119 countries have ratified the Protocol.
Juan Lopez, GM Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International said: "The world community has shown here this week that it wants laws to protect itself from the threat of genetically modified foods and crops. Two countries, Brazil and New Zealand, acting in the interest of big business, held the talks to hostage and destroyed the hopes of improving international laws."
Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace international genetic engineering campaigner added: "The actions of Brazil and New Zealand are shameless. They have prevented the vast majority from bringing in rules that will protect the environment. Their victory, however, will be short-lived as global opposition to genetically engineered foods continues to grow."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT
Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International
+1 514 8036 718 or +39 333 1498 049
Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace International +1 202 285 7398
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth International +1 514 996 4090
For information, pictures and reports from Friends of the Earth see: www.foecanada.org
For information on GM contamination see: www.gmcontaminationregister.org
ILLEGAL US GM MAIZE FOUND IN JAPANESE IMPORTS as international talks on the safety of GM crops reach crucial stage - Friends of the Earth Press Release - Immediate release: Thursday 2 June 2005
Unapproved genetically modified (GM) maize, originating from the United States, has been found in shipments arriving in Japan, according to reports . The contamination incident comes as key United Nations negotiations in Montreal, Canada, reach a crucial point in agreeing regulations for a safe trade in GM foods and crops.
Japanese officials said that a shipment of corn from the US was found to be contaminated by an illegal experimental GM maize, called Bt10. The Swiss-based biotech company, Syngenta, admitted in March that it had mistakenly sold the wrong maize to farmers in the US for the last four years . The EU introduced emergency measures to stop shipments of contaminated corn-based animal feeds in April and last week a contaminated shipment was detected and blocked in Ireland .
Japan, the biggest importer of US maize, said that they will now test every shipment for illegal contamination. Trade sources claimed that the shipment is likely to be sent back to the US, at Syngenta's expense.
In Montreal, UN negotiations on the Biosafety Protocol , are discussing the issue of the export of GM crops that are not licensed in the importing country. The talks are at a critical stage with a small number of countries - New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico and Peru - holding up progress that would reduce contamination from GM crops. An agreement is expected in the next 24 hours, despite the huge lobbying by the GM industry for weaker rules.
Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner Clare Oxborrow said: "The biotech industry clearly needs to be brought under control. Every new contamination incident highlights the urgent need for strong international laws. Unless we have strict controls then the contamination of our foods will continue and our environment will be put at risk. The Biosafety Protocol negotiations taking place in Montreal are key to solving these problems."
On Monday, Friends of the Earth International released a report showing that tougher measures are needed to prevent contamination from GM crops .
 For more information on Biosafety Protocol and the "Second meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety" go to the official UN website: http://www.biodiv.org/biosafety
 The report, Tackling GMO Contamination can be found here: http://www.foecanada.org
FIRST ON-LINE WORLDWIDE REGISTER OF GM CONTAMINATION INCIDENTS LAUNCHED TODAY
GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace International Press Release Embargoed 08.01GMT Wednesday 1st June 2005
Amsterdam/Buxton, 1 June 2005 -- Today, GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace International are launching the first on-line register of genetically modified contamination incidents. The on-line, searchable web site gives details of all the known cases of GM contamination of food, feed, seed and wild plants that have taken place worldwide.
"No Government or international agency has established a public record of contamination incidents or other problems associated with GM crops. This register has been established because the official approach of 'turning a blind eye' is not good enough when dealing with a technology like GM where living organisms are released to the environment", said Dr. Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK's Director. "We hope this register will form an important resource for citizens and regulators in the future."
Since their introduction in 1996, GM crops have contaminated food, feed, seed and the environment right across the globe. Over 60 incidents of illegal or unlabelled GM contamination have been documented in 27 countries on 5 continents, and those are only the recorded incidents. The register (which can be found at www.gmcontaminationregister.org) also gives links to more information about the incidents. Cases of illegal releases of GM organisms and negative agricultural side-effects are also included.
"This register is being launched when governments are meeting in Montreal to decide on liability regulations for GM crops. If states don't act and set strict rules now, GM crops will further contaminate lands, seeds and food around the world" said Doreen Stabinsky, of Greenpeace International.
Highlights from the register:
27 countries have experienced a total of 63 cases of GM contamination of food, feed, seed or wild plants.
The largest number of contamination incidents have taken place in the USA (11 incidents).
Contamination from StarLink maize was found in 7 countries: USA, Canada, Egypt, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Japan and South Korea.
Illegal releases of GM crops into the environment or food chain have taken place in India (cotton), Brazil (cotton and soya), China (rice), Croatia (maize), Europe, Germany (papaya) and Thailand (cotton and papaya).
Six cases of negative agricultural side-effects have been recorded including deformed cotton bolls and the emergence of herbicide tolerant 'super-weeds'.
For more information:
Dr. Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK +44 1298 871898
Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace International +1 202 285 7398
Notes to editors:
Two maps of the contamination incidents are available on the web site:
Incidents of GM contamination, illegal releases and negative agricultural side-effects worldwide.
All the countries affected by a GM contamination incident are shown in this map produced using data from the register. Since the first GM tomatoes were grown commercially in the USA in 1995, and followed by Roundup Ready soybeans in 1996, there have been a range of different incidents of GM contamination and illegal plantings. This register has records of 63 incidents of contamination, 10 illegal releases and 6 negative agricultural side-effects (some incidents fall into more than one category). The map shows how they are distributed worldwide.
How StarLink contamination spread around the world
A new map shows how Starlink maize contamination has spread from the US. In September 2000, sampling by a coalition of public interest groups in the US, showed that a variety of GM maize known as StarLink was present in taco shells being sold for human consumption even though it was not approved for this use and should only have been used for animal feed. The StarLink maize, produced by Aventis (now Bayer CropScience), is genetically modified to contain a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis coding for an insecticidal Bt toxin known as Cry9C. Unlike the Cry1A and Cry3A Bt toxins used in other GM crops, it is heat stable and does not break down in gastric acid ? characteristics shared by many allergens.
Before the Starlink maize contamination was detected, it was exported from the US and has now been found in a whole range of countries as this map, produced using data from the register, illustrates.
Pressure groups release first international register of contamination mishaps as governments meet to discuss problem - Paul Brown, environment correspondent - The Guardian, Wednesday June 1, 2005 - http://society.guardian.co.uk/environment/news/0,14129,1496284,00.html
The first register of GM contamination incidents across the world, which includes eight in Britain, is being published today as governments meet to discuss how to protect the environment from unauthorised releases. Details of all known contamination of food, feed for animals, seed and wild plants since GM crops were introduced in 1996 are available on a website launched by GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace. More than 60 incidents of illegal or unlabelled GM contamination have been documented in 27 countries. Cases of illegal releases of GM organisms and damaging side-effects such as the development of super-weeds are also included.
Governments are meeting in Montreal, Canada, to try to develop rules to allow all GM products to be traced so that if they were accidentally or deliberately released into the environment the extent of the contamination among non-GM plants or animals could be tracked. The second thorny issue governments are dealing with is liability - who pays when either the natural environment is damaged by the spread of GM genes or organic and conventional farmers lose markets through contamination. This is an issue on which the British government has so far failed to develop a policy. Progress in these areas has been slow internationally and governments are anxious to complete work this week on the agreement called the Caragena protocol, part of the convention on biodiversity, to prevent further contamination incidents. The US and the large agribusinesses which market GM are anxious to avoid any liability for unauthorised releases.
Campaigners compiled the register to show the extent of the problem and put pressure on governments for action. Sue Mayer, the director of GeneWatch UK said "No government or international agency has established a public record of contamination incidents or other problems associated with GM crops. The official approach of turning a blind eye is not good enough when dealing with a technology like GM where living organisms are released into the environment." Campaigners believe that only strict rules with liability regulations applied by governments can stop the unauthorised spread of GM seeds and products. "If states do not act and set strict rules now GM crops will further contaminate lands, seeds and food around the world," Doreen Stabinsky of Greenpeace International said yesterday
The worst single contamination incident was of StarLink Maize, a GM variety approved only for animal feed which entered the human food chain in seven countries, the US, Canada, Egypt, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Japan and South Korea. The maize was found in taco shells, a popular snack, and had been genetically modified to produce an insecticidal toxin to protect the plant against boring insects. It does not break down in gastric acid, a characteristic shared by many substances which can cause an allergic reaction. Thousands of stores across the world were forced to withdraw products from sale because of the illegal contamination.
Other illegal releases into the environment or food chain include cotton in India, cotton and soya in Brazil, rice in China, maize in Croatia, papaya in Germany and cotton and papaya in Thailand.
Trial and error
There have been eight incidents of GM contamination in Britain
1. In September 2000, during the UK field trials of herbicide tolerant GM sugar beet, Aventis reported some plants did not die even when they were sprayed with a different herbicide designed to kill them. Investigations showed that some of the original seed was tolerate to two herbicides and this had probably happened as a result of cross-pollination during production of original seed in Germany.
2 Aventis (now Bayer) revealed in 2002 that oilseed rape used at 12 sites in the UK's farm trials was contaminated with an unapproved GM variety. The seed had been used at a total of 25 British trials dating back to 1999.
3 The Food Standards Agency surveyed food and food ingredients in 2002 and found GM soybean in some products, including several labelled non-GM. None were above the 1% level requiring a GM label under EU law, but failure to segregate GM and non-GM crops was thought to be the cause.
4. Friends of the Earth tested 21 samples of food and three of animal feed in 1999 and found five contained GM material. Only one was labelled. The companies concerned changed their suppliers.
5. Routine tests by the Soil Association in 2002 of animal feed labelled organic found GM contamination even though GM is not permitted in organic products. The feed is believed to have come from Italy.
6. In 2001 trading standards officers in the Medway, Kent, sampled a range of foods and found low levels of contamination in 10% of the processed food sampled.
7. Ten samples out of 25 health and organic foods screened were found to contain GM soya at levels below 1%, above which there is a legal requirment to label them, but eight of those were wrongly labelled as non-GM or organic.
8. In May 2000 the government admitted that Advanta seeds had imported an oilseed rape variety called Hyola, which was contaminated with GM herbicide tolerant seed because of cross-pollination. The seed was sown on 4,700 hectares before the mistake was discovered. The company Advanta Seeds eventually paid compensation to farmers who were forced to plough up their crop because it was unsaleable.
Japan plans to reassess import of genetically modified canola from Canada - Jason T. Testar, Canadian Press - http://www.canada.com/
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
TOKYO (CP) - Genetically engineered canola believed from Canada has been found growing in the wild in Japan, prompting concerns among farmers and environmentalists in a nation generally wary of such crops. The Japanese government says the import of canola seed from Canada is considered safe. But the agriculture ministry indicated Japan intends to reassess the situation soon. The conclusions could affect one of Canada's main exports to Japan, a key agricultural market. Canadian exporters are responsible for 80 per cent of all the canola Japan imports each year. It's estimated that of the 1.6 million tonnes of seed Canada ships annually to Japan, the same proportion - 80 per cent - is genetically modified. Canola, or rapeseed, is crushed to produce vegetable cooking oil. Japan is one of the world's largest markets for canola but the country produces very little canola itself and relies on imports.
Strict guidelines are in place to prevent genetically engineered seeds from contaminating local plants. When researchers at Japan's National Institute of Environmental Studies discovered genetically engineered canola growing wild, conventional farmers and environmentalists expressed shock. There is no definitive proof of origin but it has not stopped critics from blaming Canada. "We cannot distinguish where the wild GE canola is from because we have no molecular marker with which to distinguish a Canadian strain from that imported from other countries," said Nobuyoshi Nakajima of the environmental studies institute. "However, I expect that the possibility is very high that it is in fact from
Canada." France and Australia also ship canola seed to Japan, but neither commercially exports genetically engineered varieties at present.
Genetically engineered canola strains were created to resist heavy doses of herbicides. Some researchers believe that once spread into the wild, either of the two strains discovered in Japan can transfer herbicide-resistant genes to domestic plants, creating so-called "superweeds" that require increasingly toxic chemicals to control. Such a view is not unanimous. Manabu Yoshikawa, a leading science writer, wrote in the Mainichi newspaper that even if genetically engineered seeds "are spilled and grow wild, such plants will have low fertility; therefore there is no possibility they will spread and disturb the native species." Japan's agriculture and environment ministries do not see any problems right now. "At the moment GE canola imported from Canada is deemed safe," said Hirokatsu Watatani, a spokesman at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. "This assessment is based on both the Food Hygiene Law and the Feed Safety Law." But Watatani noted "these laws were established before implementation of the Cartagena protocol" - an international convention on biological diversity aiming to prevent contamination from genetically modified organisms.
INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE MOVEMENTS - Press Release
36 Organic Mega-Countries - Global Organic Agriculture Crop Area Reaches 26 Million Hectares - Organic Sector Calls for Strict Liability Under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
Bonn, May 30th 2005 ? Organic farming, the systematic conversion of land to certified practices that ensure food safety and security from the farm to the table, a comprehensive and fully traceable system, is developing rapidly throughout the world. According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement?s study The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics and Emerging Trends 2005, 36 countries achieved organic mega-country status in 2004, meaning that over 50,000 hectares of certified organic land are currently being cultivated. In total, over 26 million hectares of land are currently certified worldwide, generating over $25 billion in revenue in 2003. 558,449 farms in 108 countries are currently certified, and many millions of people are involved in the production, marketing, processing and distribution of organic products, generating immense income for a great number of people while simultaneously enhancing biodiversity and protecting the environment for future generations.
Organic agriculture is a holistic system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. Certified organic products are those which have been produced, stored, processed, handled and marketed in accordance with precise technical specifications (standards) and certified as organic by a certification body. The use of GMOs within organic systems is not permitted during any stage of organic food production, processing or handling.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) issues an annual report on the amount of global biotech crop acreage. The 2005 report indicates that there were 14 biotech mega-countries in 2004, countries where more than 50,000 hectares or biotech crops are being grown. The figures, however, are dubious. For instance, whereas the report claims that 500,000 biotech hectares are being grown in South Africa, a report from Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe, an industry coalition, and a survey team from the University of Reading in the UK show that the ISAAA's figures are exaggerated by factors of 20 and 30 respectively, and a recent report from GRAIN (www.grain.org) demonstrates that out of 3,000 farmers who originally grew Bt cotton there, only 700 continue to do, and many farmers who chose to grow the cotton are now perilously in debt. Also, 98% of the world's GM crops are still grown in only four nations - USA, Canada, Argentina and a bit in China, which has remained the same for the last five years.
Biotech crops grown in so-called biotech mega-countries are planted indiscriminately without any substantive regulatory framework, increasing reliance upon dangerous herbicides and pesticides, creating super-weeds and destroying biodiversity in order to increase yields in the short term, but ultimately rendering the cropland useless, while simultaneously contaminating the world's major food crops with undesirable characteristics. This contamination is not something the biotech industry should flaunt, but rather, the biotech industry should be held strictly liable for all such contamination under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Biotech crops have been riddled by scandal, from StarLink corn, which was not approved for human consumption but nevertheless entered the food supply, prompting the recall of over 300 contaminated food products from shelves in the USA and continues to linger in the food supply, to the illegal entry of a 1000 tons of Bt10 into the European Union, also not approved for human consumption, and the recent publication of internal Monsanto documents, reviewed by EU scientists, revealing serious health damage to laboratory animals fed Monsanto's new genetically engineered "rootworm-resistant" corn. Rats who consumed the mutant corn developed smaller kidneys and exhibited blood abnormalities.
Biotech crops containing industrial enzymes, pharmaceuticals, viruses, antibiotic resistance markers and other traits have been planted in large-scale field tests for years in the USA, but tests for those experimental crops do not exist, and thus it is likely that contamination of agricultural crops is much more widespread. Alternatively, organic agriculture ensures food security and safety for future generations, distributing income equitably among those involved in the chain of production, and credibly backing up its claims with thorough documentation. Organic agriculture also increases or stabilizes yields in developing countries, particularly in marginal and semi-arid areas, increasing productivity without dependency on unaffordable chemicals. The IFOAM Basic Standards include social standards that ensure the protection of workers' rights. IFOAM Accredited certifiers (www.ioas.org) adhere to these social standards, and IFOAM is working together with the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling (ISEAL) Alliance (www.isealalliance.org/) to improve the effectiveness and compatibility of social and environmental standards and verification systems.
IFOAM calls for strict liability to be imposed for the introduction of GMOs. To insure that the costs of injuries resulting from defective products are borne by the manufacturer that put such products on the market rather than by the injured persons who are powerless to protect themselves, strict liability for GMOs is warranted. Strict liability ensures that organic farmers and consumer receive protection from problems of proof inherent in pursuing negligence, placing the burden of loss on manufacturers rather than injured parties who are powerless to protect themselves. IFOAM applauds the inclusion of a GMO liability regime in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an idea that originated from African nations and other Third World nations, and is opposed by the USA and Canada.
IFOAM's Position on Genetic Engineering:
To purchase a copy of The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics and Emerging Trends 2005, go to the IFOAM website www.ifoam.org.
Additional information can be requested from the IFOAM Head Office (Charles-de-Gaulle-Str. 5, 53113 Bonn, Germany, phone +49-228-92650-10).
IFOAM Press Release, responsible Gerald A. Herrmann, Executive Director, IFOAM Head Office: Charles-de-Gaulle-Str. 5, 53113 Bonn, Germany
Tel: ++49-228-926 50 10 - Fax: ++49-228-926 50 99 - www.ifoam.org, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Russians reject GM foods - http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/news/news-ng.asp?n=60290-russians-reject-gm
30/05/2005 - Two thirds of Russians are against genetically modified foods and the majority of experts support a ban on GM crops as the government prepares new production laws, reports Chris Mercer. Only one in every three Russians had heard of GM products yet 95 per cent of those who were aware of GM said they were strongly against it or seriously concerned, according to new research by VCIOM, Russia's largest public opinion research body. The most serious concern was about baby food, with around 90 per cent of those who had heard of GM foods supporting a moratorium on such products in Russia. A further survey of 'experts', including state employees, doctors, farmers and supermarket managers found 76 per cent support for a ban on GM crop production in Russia, until the impact on human health and the environment is clearer.
The poll included 1,567 people from 100 cities and towns across 40 regions. It was sponsored by environmental action group Greenpeace. The new research confirms that the anti-GM feeling that has taken hold of many other European countries, has also spread to Russia. And the study comes at a particularly pertinent time for food producers in view of Russia's new labelling laws, introduced in January this year, which state that any product prepared with GM materials must mention this on the label. Wide public scepticism of GM products in Russia gives an advantage to natural ingredients suppliers like Chr Hansen and reinforces the trend towards high quality, natural products among Russia's more affluent city dwellers. The Russian government is also considering new regulations on the production of GM foods.
"In 2005 a legislative base is going to be developed. It will regulate production and use of GM food products, baby food production and GM crop production in Russia," said Natalya Olefirenko, Greenpeace Russia GE campaign coordinator. At present, GM soy, maize, potato, white beet and rice are allowed in Russia. But, the public debate over their safety is escalating and last week, Greenpeace protested outside the Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It accused the institute of withholding information on the safety of GM food from the public, despite a district court ruling that such information must be released. Last year, Moscow's biggest producer of baked goods, Kolomenskoe, pledged to tighten GM testing to ensure all products were free of GM ingredients. The firm said its consumer research showed 80 per cent of people did not want to buy food containing GM ingredients.
Genetically engineered (GE) crops contaminate fields and food around the world - Greenpeace International, May 29, 2005
Montreal, 30 May 2005 - Greenpeace, farmers' organizations and community representatives today called on delegates to the Biosafety Protocol meeting to urgently introduce strict liability regulations to make companies accountable for the contamination and damage caused by their GE products.
In a written invitation to Canadian Environment Minister Stéphane Dion, the groups called on the minister to join them for the opening of the biosafety protocol meeting, for a Return to Sender activity in order to hand over to him Canadian GE canola found to be growing wild in Japan.
As predicted by environmental, farming and social movements, GE seeds have, since their introduction in 1996, contaminated food crops and the environment right across the globe. Over 50 incidents of illegal or unapproved GE contamination have been documented in 25 countries on 5 continents, and those are only the recorded incidents.
Illegal and unapproved GE contamination of seeds and crops has been recorded in maize in Mexico, rice in China, soya in Brazil, papaya in Thailand, oilseed rape in Europe, cotton in India, canola in Canada, and now, in the latest example, GE canola in Japan. In Chile, where the World Seed Congress starts today, Greenpeace is calling attention to the latest case of illegal maize seed contamination, the first to be found in this country highly dependent on its export seed industry.
"GMOs have been found growing in the fields of farmers who never asked for, nor ever wanted, GE anywhere near their fields. Yet instead of compensation the farmers have found themselves forced by sharp lawyers and intimidation to pay the GE seed companies -- for damage to the company's patent!" Greenpeace GE Campaigner Doreen Stabinsky said.
Potentially allergenic GE maize (Starlink) has contaminated food products on two continents and dangerous GE pharmaceutical crops have been discovered in silos of harvested crops in the USA. In the meantime, field trials or commercial growing of anything from pig vaccines to industrial plastics continues apace in the USA.
"If states don't act now to make producers and exporters accountable, further and more dangerous GMO contamination is around the corner," said Stabinsky.
Greenpeace demands negotiators immediately establish an interim liability regime and compensation fund for harm done to farmers, consumers or the environment.
"The evidence shows that GMOs may cause irreversible harm to ecosystems and biodiversity even far away from their country of origin. As long as no binding international liability regulations have been agreed, importing countries risk that they may have to pay for the damage themselves," said Stabinsky. "Under these conditions, countries should simply refuse to accept imports of GMOs."
For more information contact:
Doreen Stabinsky PhD, Greenpeace GE Campaigner +1 202 285 7398
Andrew Male, Greenpeace Canada Communications Coordinator , + 1 416 880 2757
ILLEGAL GM MAIZE SHOULD BE RETURNED TO USA
2,546 tonnes of prohibited Bt10 maize unloaded at Irish port - Department of Agriculture accused of slapdash procedures and cover-up
GM-free Ireland Network press release - http://www.gmfreeireland.org - Photos are available at http://www.gmfreeireland.org/scandal/
Dublin, 28 May 2005
An illegal shipment of 2,546 tonnes of genetically modified (GM) corn-gluten animal feed made from the unauthorised Bt10 maize (1) arrived in Ireland aboard the ship Helena Oldendorff on Wednesday 25 May and was unloaded at Greenore Port in Co. Louth, on Thursday.
The Bt10 maize, which has for years been mislabelled as a legal GM variety called Bt11, is not allowed for importation into the EU because it contains an antibiotic resistance gene which threatens the health of animals and humans (2). But instead of returning the illegal cargo to the sender in the USA, the Government allowed it to be taken ashore, together with GM soybean hull pellets and distillers dried grain destined for the Irish food chain (3).
This shipment of Bt10 is the first known case of the banned biotech maize arriving in the EU since emergency measures were recently adopted by the EC to prevent Bt10 seeping through European borders (4). According to an EU Commission spokesman, US officials tested the shipment for Bt10 corn before it left, "and notified to Irish authorities before the ship arrived" in Ireland. So why did the Government not act in time?
Local eyewitnesses report that Department of Agriculture officials arrived on the scene late, after the shipment had already been brought ashore. They also said the Bt10 consignment was improperly unloaded through the same hopper, transport vehicles and storage facilities used for legal GM and non-GM animal feed, which have thus been cross-contaminated by the banned Bt10. It is unclear if the cargo was then cleared by Customs. The tainted animal feed is now stored in a shed at the Greenore quay.
Speaking in Berlin on Thursday, German Minister for Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture Renate Kunast called for the shipment to be destroyed because it is illegal in every country on Earth. She said “this incident shows that the EU must keep its strong measures; the US authorities must guarantee that their controls are functioning before such shipments leave the US, and not just after they arrive in Europe.” (5)
The fact that over two-and-a half thousand tonnes of the unauthorised Bt10 maize arrived in a single shipment to Ireland long after the EU required the USA to terminate the practice, raises the question of how many hundred thousand tonnes of mislabelled Bt10 GM feed may have been fraudulently sold to Irish cattle and sheep farmers and consumed by Irish livestock - over the past 4 years or more. US exporters send 3.5 million tonnes of corn gluten feed to Europe each year, a trade worth some €350 million, and most of this is genetically modified. GM corn gluten has been the main ingredient of compound feeds for Irish sheep and cattle since 1995, although most farmers were not informed of this until the EC’s GM labelling laws came into effect last summer. Premium Irish beef exporters are already being excluded from leading European markets if their animals are fed on GM feed. (6)
Nobody knows how much Irish beef and lamb has been contaminated, eaten by Irish consumers, or exported under Ireland’s clean green food island brand image.
In an attempt to cover-up the scandal on Wednesday 25 May, the Irish Department of Agriculture and Food issued a press release (7) which referred to the illegal Bt10 shipment as a “sample”, failing to disclose the fact that this so-called sample consists of 2,546 tonnes -- enough to fill over 85 lorries and feed over six million cattle and sheep. (8)
The Government said “the material will be detained in a holding store at the point of arrival until disposal can be arranged. Further sampling and analysis will be conducted to ensure that any associated lots are not contaminated.” A Department of Agriculture and Food spokesperson said "We are satisfied that the testing arrangements and protocols that are in place worked very well."
But as representatives from around the world gather this week and next in Montreal for the second round of negotiations on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, US arguments against the EU’s mandatory labelling and precautionary approach to legalising GMOs include claims that current testing methods for GM food ingredients should be abandoned because they are “unreliable”. Michael Schechtman, executive secretary of a US Agriculture Department biotechnology committee said "many of the requirements (on biotech labelling and tracking) do not match the ability of current testing methods to detect their presence or do not yield consistent results.”
Leading scientists concerned about the reliability of the Bt10 detection methods are now claiming a major cover-up. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Professor Joe Cummings of the Independent Science Panel on GM stated that the Bt10 testing method probably involves scientific fraud. (9)
The GM-free Ireland Network (which represents over 32,000 farmers, food producers, retailers, and restaurants North and South of the border) today called on the Government to return the outlawed GM maize to the US. (10)
GM-free Ireland spokesperson Michael O’Callaghan said “Importing this illegal GM animal feed is a violation of EU law. For the government to cover up the scandal by describing over 2,500 tonnes as “a sample” is outrageous. The Irish government should make use of its legal right, under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (11), to refuse the importation of any GM seeds, crops, trees, fish, livestock, animal feed or food, based on the Precautionary Principle. It is disgraceful that while the Biosafety Protocol conference takes place in Canada and Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency hosts the European Enforcement Project conference for regulators of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Dublin today, our Government simultaneously violates EU law by allowing this dangerous and illegal shipment of GM animal feed to be unloaded unto Irish soil with virtually no control over handling procedures."
(1) The Bt10 maize, patented by the Swiss agri-biotech firm Syngenta, is prohibited in the USA and Europe because it contains an Ampicillin resistance marker gene which may confer resistance to this common antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections. This could create new “superdiseases” with no possibility of cure. According to an Opinion issued by the European Food Safety Authority Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms in 2004, “Ampicillin resistance marker genes should not be present in GM plants to be placed on the market”. No official information has been forthcoming regarding the Ampicillin resistance marker gene in Bt10, nor any attempt to ascertain whether the marker gene has contaminated other GM and conventional varieties of maize which are routinely sold to Irish farmers to feed their cattle and sheep.
Moreover, like many GMO crops, Bt10 maize also produces its own insecticide. According to the (US) Institute for Responsible Technology, transgenic DNA from GM plants has been found to survive digestion and become lodged inside otherwise harmless bacteria that live in the human digestive system. The risk is that this could turn people into living pesticide factories.
Most GM crops contain novel combinations of DNA (taken from viruses, bacteria, plants and animals) which evolve and interact with the living organisms and ecosystems in which they are released, and whose long-term health and environmental impacts are thus scientifically impossible to predict. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) tend to be genetically unstable, don’t always perform as expected, threaten biodiversity, and create superweeds. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (run by a former biotech industry executive) claims that GM animal feed and GM food are safe, despite no long-term health studies to prove this assertion. Independent scientists with no financial ties to the biotech industry have published evidence that transgenic DNA in food may survive digestion and activate inside your body. Apart from the possibility of turning you into a living pesticide factory, other GM food risks include new diseases, allergies, reduced immunity and antibiotic resistance. Scientific evidence from around the world proves that GMO crops inevitably contaminate surrounding regions, can never be recalled, and cannot possibly “co-exist” with conventional and organic farms. But the Irish Government has never voted against their legalisation in the EU Parliament and is currently trying to “ensure their co-existence” in Ireland.
(2) Dr. Philip Michael MICGP, Chairman of the Irish Doctors Environmental Association (IDEA) issued a statement on Friday stating “both the theoretical and proven adverse effects of GM foods are well known. There is a major global health risk looming in terms of antibiotic resistance of microorganisms commonly encountered in daily medical practice. Ampicillin is still one of the safest and most useful drugs in adult and paediatric practice in many parts of the world. Anything which could jeopardise its usefulness by increasing the rate of resistance development has to avoided at all costs, hence he importance of removing all traces of Bt10 maize from the animal and food chain.”
(3) The Bt10 shipment was being sent to to Arcady Seeds in Dublin.
(4) The Swiss biotech giant Syngenta (formerly Novartis) has been selling the illegal Bt10 maize mixed up with a legal variety called Bt11 for the past four years or more in the USA, resulting in about 133 million kilograms of the maize making its way into the human food chain in the USA and Europe. Syngenta and the US government were able to cover up the scandal from December 2004 until the story broke on 22 March 2005 in the science journal Nature. Syngenta claimed the Bt10 is substantially equivalent to the legal Bt11 variety, and that in any case only 1,000 tonnes had been placed on the market during the four year period. The US government only fined Syngenta € 270,000. In the following weeks, Syngenta refused to make public the information needed for governments to test food and feed imports for the illegal GM maize.
(5) Under pressure from public protests across Europe, on 18 April, the European Union blocked all imports of genetically modified corn-gluten feed and brewers grain from the USA unless they are accompanied by an analytical report by an accredited laboratory which demonstrates that the product does not contain the unauthorised maize Bt10. Scarcely a week later, the EU authorities announced that Syngenta had presented a detection test for Bt10, which was already validated by the EU authorities.
(6) This information is provided by the Kepak Group (http://www.kepak.com). This Irish company is one of Europe’s leading food processing firms with sales offices throughout Europe, an annual turnover of over €500 million and which processes in excess of 400,000 cattle, 2.5 million lambs and 15,000 tons of consumer foods per annum. Some of Kepak’s prime EU clients have informed Kepak they now refuse to continue buying the company’s flagship KK Beef Club “designer beef” brand of premium Irish grass-fed beef it comes from GM-fed cattle.
For a detailed overview of European market rejection of GM food, see the report “No market for GM foods in Europe” published by Greenpeace in January 2005. This well researched document shows that the EU market for GM labelled food products is virtually closed. Europe's top 30 retailers and top 30 food & drink producers have policies and non-GM commitments which reveal a massive international food industry rejection of GM ingredients. This cuts across the industry from food and drink manufacturers to retailers, and includes everything from snacks and ready meals to pet food and beer. The combined total food and drink sales of the 49 companies with a stated non-GM policy in their main market or throughout the EU (27 retailers and 22 food and drink producers) amounts to €646 billion, more than 60% of the total €1,069 billion European food and drink sales. Irish food companies doing business internationally need to implement a non-GM policy without delay. Download report (2MB PDF file) from http://www.gmfreeireland.org/downloads/NoMarketForGMFood.pdf
(7) The full text of the Department of Agriculture and Food press release of 25 May 2005:
“Department applies new EU controls to import consignment of an unauthorised animal feedstuff
In early 2005 the European Commission was informed of the inadvertent release of an unauthorised Genetically Modified Maize (Bt10) onto the market in the US. Measures were immediately put in place to ensure that this material would not enter the animal feed chain in EU Member States (Commission Decision 2005/317). These measures relate to two by-products of maize that are used in animal feed, namely Maize Gluten Feed and Distillers Dried Grains originating in the US. In accordance with the Commission Decision all imports of these two feedstuffs must be accompanied by certification from an accredited laboratory which demonstrates that the product does not contain the unauthorised Bt10 Maize.
In accordance with the Decision, the Department of Agriculture and Food has been applying this certification requirement to imports from the US of the relevant feedstuffs.
The Department has in recent days been informed by an Irish importer that a sample of a consignment of Maize Gluten Feed destined for Ireland had tested positive in an accredited laboratory in the US for the presence of the unauthorised Bt10 maize. The material was already en route when the laboratory results were obtained. In accordance with the Commission Decision the material in question will not be allowed enter the animal feed chain and will be disposed of. The material will be detained in a holding store at the point of arrival until disposal can be arranged. Further sampling and analysis will be conducted to ensure that any associated lots are not contaminated.”
(8) Most Irish beef and lamb comes from animals fed on GM animal feed. The amount consumed depends on the type of animal and the season of the year. According to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, a typical dose for cattle being fattened for market is of 4 or 5 Kgs per day, of which 5 to 10 per cent may consist of GM corn gluten. Animal feed for lambs may contain up to 30 per cent of GM corn gluten. A single feed of Bt10 could confer antibiotic resistance to common bacteria.
(9) Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Professor Joe Cummings said: “The detection method for Syngenta’s illegal GM maize is flawed; there must now be a full disclosure of information and access to reference material for retrospective risk assessment and risk management.” A leading scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the data which Syngenta provided to the EC to help identify the contaminated shipments is “very suspicious”.
Dr. Brian John of GM-free Cymru (GM-free Wales) raised concerns about Syngenta's attempt to control the testing for Bt10 by setting up a monopoly with only one private lab having ’official’ reference material. “This lab is known to be closely cooperating with Syngenta, and so the question of impartiality of testing is a real one. For instance, might that lab have a behind the scenes agreement with Syngenta that they will report any positives to Syngenta first, even before reporting the positive to the customer who sent in the sample? ” Dr. John also said that Bt10, like most GM crops, is probably genetically unstable and that its transgenic DNA may have changed since it was first patented. He is concerned that the validation trial was conducted on just one undated sample of Bt10 maize selected and submitted by Syngenta. “This sample may not truly represent the nature of Bt10 as it is today, more than ten years after its initial development.”
(10) The GM-free Ireland Network declared over 1,000 GMO-free zones North and South of the border on 22 April 2005, as a first step in protecting the right of Irish farmers and consumers to choose safe GMO-free food and farming. They want the Governments of the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland to prohibit GMO seeds, crops, trees, fish, livestock, animal feed and food on the island, in order to protect Ireland’s world famous clean green food island image and enable Irish farmers to secure their fair share of the rapidly growing market for the safe GM-free food which the majority of EU consumers demand. The GM-free Ireland Network also encourages Irish County Councils to join the European Network of GMO-free Regions which includes over 100 regions and 3,500 local areas that prohibit GMO farming in 22 EU countries. For more information visit the GM-free Ireland web site at http://www.gmfreeireland.org
(11) The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, to which the EU is a party, recognises the right of any country to say "no" to GMOs on the basis of the precautionary principle. Ireland thus the legal right to prohibit or restrict GMOs when there is scientific uncertainty about their short to long-term safety. The Protocol explicitly upholds the right of Parties to ban imports of GMOs and to impose higher safety standards. The treaty recognises the Precautionary Principle whereby governments should take preventative action before environmental damage starts to occur, when there is a reasonable cause for concern. Since the Biosafety Protocol was drafted and negotiated in the years 1999 and 2000, scientific backing to the precautionary principle has increased in the light of additional evidence on the risks of genetically modified organisms to biodiversity (e.g. the Mexican maize contamination case, among others). A ban or embargo on GMOs in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland would therefore be fully legitimate and backed by science. Details may be found in An Explanatory Guide to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. IUCN Environmental Policy and Law Paper No. 46. Published by IUCN - The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland, 2003. ISBN: 2-8317-0671-8. Can be ordered online from: www.iucn.org/bookstore, tel: + 41 22 999 0001.
PERSON TO CONTACT
Michael O’Callaghan - Co-ordinator, GM-free Ireland Network
tel + 353 (0) 404 43 885 - mobile: + 353 (0) 87 799 4761 - email: email@example.com - http://www.gmfreeireland.org
VICTORY FOR THE PUBLIC!! - Right to participate on GMO decisions granted for the Pan-European Region
Almaty (Kazakhastan)/Brussels, May 27, 2005. After four years of intensive and polarized discussions, the Meeting of the Parties to the UN Treaty, called the Aarhus Convention (AC), agreed today to grant the public of the Pan-European Region, including Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia the right to participate on decisions related to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). This is the first time that a pan-European legal obligation will provide the public with effective information and public participation on decisions to authorize a GMO release for experimental and for commercial purposes.
"This is a major victory for the public. No GMO will be introduced anymore in this region without public scrutiny and adequate information", said Juan Lopez, International Coordinator of Friends of the Earth Programme on Genetic Engineering.
Since 2001 the vast majority of countries from Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia have constantly stated and restated the need for the Aarhus Convention to include a legally binding provision granting the public the right to participate in decisions related to GMO activities. The EU was divided and was never able until the meeting in Almaty to take a common position on the issue. The Biotech industry always opposed further requirements on public participation on GMOs in the framework of the Aarhus Convention.
Ecoforum, FoEI, EEB Briefing: http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/international_legislation/aarhus_convention.htm
Official Site 2nd Meeting of the Parties: http://www.unece.org/env/pp/mop2.htm
UNECE Aarhus Convention GMO webpage: http://www.unece.org/env/pp/gmo.htm
Ecoforum webpage: http://www.participate.org/
Guidelines on access to information, public participation and access to justice with respect to Genetically Modified Organisms: http://www.unece.org/env/pp/documents/gmoguidelinesenglish.pdf
Position of the Biotechnology Industry Organization on GMOs in Aarhus: http://www.unece.org/env/pp/gmo/lbbio.pdf
Serhy Vykhryst, Ecoforum (Russian, English): +(32) 486512127
John Hontelez, European Environmental Bureau (English, Dutch, German, French): +(32) 486512127
Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International (English, Spanish, French): tel. Tel: +1 514 803-6718 or +39-333-1498049
Turkey working to form policy on genetically modified organisms - Risk to biological (and career) diversity - MICHAEL KUSER - Turkish Daily News (ISTANBUL)
The introduction of transgenic crops is especially sensitive in Turkey, which boasts a rich biological stock with over 12,000 species of flora and fauna. This compares to 13,000 in all of Europe. Archeologists have found the earliest strains of domesticated wheat in the fertile crescent of ancient Mesopotamia, specifically at a site in present day Turkey near the Syrian border. A bio-engineering scientist in Turkey with five years of experience in DNA testing of transgenic crops said that she came to the subject with an open mind, "neither for nor against, but now the risk side seems to outweigh the benefits for me." She declined to reveal her name while pursuing a court case against her university for this month reassigning her to another department and taking her lab away. The researcher had raised funds from government and industry (80,000 euros from the State Planning Organization and 175,000 euros from Turkish food conglomerate Ülker) to set up an independent laboratory. She was days away from final stage testing on seed samples gathered around Turkey when the news came from her rector.
The chairman of the Agricultural Engineers Association, Gökhan Günaydn, said they were aware of the woman's situation and were writing a formal letter of support. "Where the pressure comes from is not clear, except that the same pressure is coming to our association," he said. "They blame us as anti-GMO activists, but I stood up in Parliament last month and said that we have no financial ties to any of these companies, unlike certain academicians who have a salary from their university and at the same time, take money as consultants to industry."
Researchers in the UK conducted tests on the effects on bio-diversity of GM oil seed rape and corn, studying the amount of weed seeds and biomass left after harvest. Overall results showed a detrimental effect on wild plants and animals, though initial lower rates of herbicide application with the corn crop benefited insects and birds. The trouble in Turkey is that the government is trying to please all sides -- the public, the EU and the United States. "The ministry (agriculture) has changed its tune every time, from no GM seeds at all, to only some, to no GM grain imports, to only those for animal feed," said the university researcher. For example, Günaydn cited a study at Middle Eastern Technical University (METU) that found GM tomato seeds in Turkey. "The minister of agriculture said it was not true, that testing was complicated and that the school must have made a mistake, but METU researcher Candan Gurakan came back and asserted that foreign labs had confirmed the findings," he said.
Everyone interviewed agreed that Turkish customs does nothing to control the importation of GMO seeds. "Customs does absolutely no testing, only accepting the importer's declaration," said Günaydn. The temporarily anonymous university researcher said she believes "GM corn and soy to be growing, Turkey's two largest crops, and of course we already found tomatoes." Testing is difficult if you don't know what you're looking for, such as is required with protein-specific field tests.
Researchers worry about the risk to biodiversity because the newly introduced traits come from dominant genes, which mean they may be very difficult, if not impossible, to breed out. The woman mentioned American approval of patented crops in Iraq as a real danger to Turkey's huge GAP irrigation project in the Southeast. The risk from cross-pollination is very real to one of the country's most important agricultural production areas.
"I hear they are passing out free samples of the seed in Manisa and Adipazari, corn seed," said the besieged researcher. "The ministry just doesn't want to be the one to say GMOs already exist in Turkey."
(Genetic modification for agricultural purposes aims at either making a plant poisonous to insects or tolerant to various herbicides.
The most famous herbicide-related treatment prepares a plant to tolerate glyophosphate, a weed-killer patented by Monsanto and marketed under the trade name Roundup.
Crop seed bio-engineered to tolerate the herbicide is marketed as Roundup Ready.
Chemical companies involved in the business of developing biotechnology for agricultural applications aim to "stack" the genetic traits, so that a corn resistant to certain herbicides may also contain a protein toxic to insects.
The most common form of built-in pesticide comes from transferring a gene from a common soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, into a plant, say corn, which then renders the corn's leaf tissue toxic to caterpillars, which feed on that crop. Corn engineered in this way is known as Bt corn.)
GM sweetcorn from Monsanto rejected by EU states, again - http://www.foodanddrinkeurope.com/news/printNewsBis.asp?id=60119
20/05/2005 - Deep divisions over biotech food ingredients once again evident as member states fail to approve a gene-altered corn designed by US biotech giant Monsanto, reports Lindsey Partos.
Food and feed experts from member states failed to reach a qualified majority yesterday, that would have cleared the way for imports of Monsanto's Mon 863 maize into the European food chain. Reflecting disparate opinions on biotech foods, the vote saw ten members in favour (including the UK and France), eight voting against (Greece and Italy for example) and six abstaining, an EU source tells FoodNavigator.com. The outcome should come as no surprise. Since tough new labelling rules on GMOs entered into force last year, propelling an end to the moratorium on GM ingredients, only two products have been cleared for import: a GM sweetcorn supplied by Swiss biotech firm Syngenta and Monsanto's MON810 biotech maize, engineered to be resistant to the European corn borer.
By comparison, over ten dossiers for GM ingredients have failed to gain approval for use in foods. But while the biotech companies are pushing forward their applications for approval, there is little chance the European food industry will actually use the GM ingredients in their formulations. By all accounts, the business savvy food maker, who cannot afford to lose sales, will opt to skip the use of GM ingredients in their European food formulations: knowing, as they do, that the cynical European consumer will refuse to buy any GM food product.
Critics of the Commission believe Europe's executive body is caving into pressure from the US: last year the US, the leading producer of GM crops, filed a case against the EU at the World Trade Organisation claiming Europe's precautionary stance on GM food, including the national bans, is a barrier to free trade that harms their farmers. But for Monsanto, all may not be lost for EU approval of its MON 863 maize. The proposal now goes back to the Commission, which will then send it to the Council. According to the EU official, the proposal should be with the Council by June, which will then have three months to make a decision. If the gridlock continues at the Council level, and in the absence of a vote, the Commission can actually adopt the proposal under a legal loophole.
In a separate vote, this time by post, member states yesterday failed to reach a qualified majority for a maize, known as 1507, made jointly by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont, and Dow AgroSciences unit Mycogen Seeds. The application was for import and processing for animal feed use and will now pass to the Council.
Monsanto Dealt Defeat in Attempt to Invade Brazilian Schools - http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/brazil051005.cfm
GM-FREE BRAZIL - Periodical news & analysis of the Campaign For a GM-Free Brazil - Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, May 6, 2005 - Bulletin #16
Monsanto's defeat The federal government declines its support for the company's "social project", and Monsanto even has to pay for the costs The Ministry of Culture had declined its support on a project financed by the company Monsanto, which was directed to students from public schools in a number of Brazilian states. The Ministry decided to suspend the distribution of the magazines (Horizonte Geográfico) that contained texts and articles about agriculture, and were sponsored by Monsanto, leader of the transgenic market in the country.
At the very beginning of April, Monsanto had announced its new "social project", in partnership with a publishing house and the federal government (Ministry of Culture), that foreseed the distribution of didactic material concerning two of "the most important matters of our present reality: agriculture and environment". According to the company, the states of Mato Grosso, Bahia, Goiás, Rio Grande do Sul and Distrito Federal would be enrolled on the project.
The project called up attention of a number of organisations and personalities that launched a protest against the government's support to Monsanto. The partnership was denounced by the deputy Frei Sergio Gorgen who saw the obvious: the company was using public schools to advertise its products and, consequently, to gain future consumers. It also concerned teachers from all over the country that, throughout the ngo Rebea (Rede Brasileira de Educacao Ambiental), asked to the federal authorities for a more discerning evaluation of the project. The publishing house responsible for the magazine denied that material was being used to make any kind of publicity for Monsanto or for genetic modified organisms (at some point, the magazine instructed the teachers to promote a debate among the students around the subject "O grao que conquistou o Brasil" - "The grain that captivated Brazil").
The Ministry was put under pressure and decided to review the programme and, after a period of evaluation, it decided for the suspension of the magazine distribution. Moreover, the costs of the publication will not be paid with resources from the law of culture incentives anymore (as it was established beforehand).
According to the government's evaluation, "the contents of the original proposal were not fully achieved" and "they were modified by the company, without the ministry's approval". The Ministry of Culture also justified its decision by announcing, "the articles and texts were not faithful to the ones previously approved".
This episode was an undoubtedly proof of the power of the civil society. After a series of victories, like the approval of the Biosafety Bill on its terms, Monsanto was finally faced with a defeat.
GM-FREE BRAZIL - An international periodical news & analysis bulletin on the development of the struggle against GMOs in Brazil. Published by Assessoria e Serviços a Projetos em Agricultura Alternativa (AS-PTA). Editor: Sabrina Petry. The Campaign For a GM-Free Brazil is a collective of Brazilian NGOs and social movements. AS-PTA main office: Rua da Candelaria, 9/6o / Centro, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Phone: 0055-21-2253-8317 Fax: 0055-21-2233-363 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
China says ratifies GMO transparency treaty - Thu May 19, 2005 07:21 AM ET
BEIJING (Reuters) - China, one of the world's largest importers of GMO crops, said on Thursday it has ratified a U.N. treaty the U.S. has spurned that aims for more transparency and control over trade in genetically modified foods.
China's ratification of the U.N.'s Cartagena Protocol could give a boost to the agreement, which has been signed by more than 100 countries but not the United States, the world's GMO giant.
The next meeting to negotiate the protocol's implementation and enforcement is set for Montreal in late May and early June.
China's State Council, the cabinet, ratified the Protocol on April 27, an official at the State Environmental Protection Administration of China said.
The protocol obliges exporters to provide more information on GMO products like maize and soybeans before any shipment to recipient countries, to help them decide whether to accept it. Crucially, it lets a nation reject GMO imports or donations, even without scientific proof if it fears they pose a danger to traditional crops or undermine local cultures.
"It (ratification) indicates China's promise in implementing international treaties and in strengthening its biosafety management. The invasion of imported species is posing a threat to varieties at home and the country has an urgent need to step up management," the State Environmental Protection Agency said:
Environmental campaigners, who fear the impact of GMO crops on biodiversity and health, while manufacturers claim they pose no risk, applauded China's move. "China is sending a strong message to the world that it is no dumping ground for GM crops. China's ratification will add immense weight to the protocol," Greenpeace Campaigner Sze Pang Cheung said in a statement.
The ratification comes into force 90 days from the date of signing, the official said.
China is the world's largest soybean importer with 2004 imports amounting to 20.2 million tonnes, of which Greenpeace says more than 70 percent is thought to be genetically modified. Greenpeace warns that could pose a threat to the biodiversity of soybean in China.
China is also the world's largest GMO cotton grower.
Under the protocol, nations may reject GMO imports or donations, even without scientific proof, if they fear they pose a danger to traditional crops, undermine local cultures or cut the value of biodiversity to indigenous communities.
Africa's Top Biosafety Envoy Shut Out of Canada Talks - Stephen Leahy - http://www.ipsnews.net/new_nota.asp?idnews=28747
BROOKLIN, Canada, May 19 (IPS) - Africa's chief negotiator for the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety has been denied entry into Canada to attend meetings to finalise key provisions regarding the international movement of genetically engineered organisms. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, the Ethiopian government's chief scientist, had his passport returned without the requested Canadian visa Wednesday despite previous visits to Canada. Tewolde is trying to attend talks starting May 30 in the Canadian city of Montreal.
''I have been to Montreal many times,'' Tewolde said in an interview from Addis Ababa. ''I have never heard of something like this happening before.'' While this may be just a case of ''exceptional bureaucratic bungling'', he said, he wonders if it's a not-so-subtle but effective way of preventing him from participating. ''I have always been on the opposite side of the Canadian delegation especially on biosafety,'' he said.
The U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the biosafety protocol in 2000 to address the safe transfer, handling, and use of living genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that could have an adverse effect on biodiversity. A respected scientist and champion of biodiversity, Tewolde received the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the alternative Nobel prize) from the king of Sweden in 2000. He is considered by some to be the father of the Biosafety Protocol. Unlike the U.S. and Canadian governments, he firmly believes in the need for strong international regulations for genetically engineered (GE) seeds and crops.
Tewolde had planned to go to Montreal to ensure that GE seeds and food products would be labeled under the agreement. He also wanted to see companies and governments accept liability when their seeds lead to GE contamination. ''Canada doesn't want to see any serious regulations regarding GMOs,'' Tewolde said. ''They wouldn't want me there because I have been the spokesperson for the African group and other developing countries.''
Canadian-based non-governmental organisations that support Tewolde's position blasted the visa denial. ''We're not just upset, we're pissed off about this,'' said Pat Mooney, executive director of ETC Group. ''I wouldn't have believed it was deliberate but after the CBD meeting in Bangkok I'm not so sure,'' Mooney told IPS. In Bangkok last February, he said, the Canadian government used ''heavy-handed tactics'' to try and lift a de-facto moratorium on the so-called Terminator, a GE technology that makes seeds sterile. Only strong objections from African countries, Austria, Switzerland, Peru, and the Philippines kept the moratorium in place.
The son of a farmer, Tewolde has publicly clashed with Canadian and U.S. representatives at international meetings over issues such as patents on seeds and the risks of GE crops. The visa denial ''is a real embarrassment for Montreal which hopes to be a U.N. city,'' said Mooney. The CBD is based in Montreal and holds many of its meetings there. ''We've pulled as many strings as we can to get Dr. Tewolde a visa,'' said a spokesperson for the CBD Secretariat. ''We don't know why this is happening but we're doing our best to get him here.'' There have not been any other visa issues for the upcoming meeting, she said.
Canadian officials responsible for issuing visas said Tewolde's statements that his visa has been denied ''conflicts with our information'' but refused to comment further. ''It's a matter of protecting the privacy of the individual involved,'' said Cara Prest, spokesperson for Canada's Citizenship and Immigration department. Tougher rules for those requiring visas to enter Canada have been in place since June 2002. When it comes to granting visas, Prest said, ''we're also always researching new developments.''
The visa foul-up has also meant that Tewolde missed an African preparatory meeting for upcoming talks on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, he said. He also will miss inter-regional negotiations on the biosafety protocol in Oslo, Norway because the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi held on to his diplomatic passport. ''Now that I have been prevented from coming to Montreal, who knows which ones of you will be prevented next time?'' Tewolde wrote in an open letter of protest. Now, he said, he is waiting for the Canadian government to respond. (END/2005)
WILL GMOs FEED THE HUNGRY POOR? PELUM ASSOCIATION ZAMBIA - http://www.pelum-zambia.net/front_page/article_04.htm
There have been several assertions about the potential of GMOs to feed a hungry and poor world through the increase of yields through better crop management, with low inputs. It argued that the technology is the new silver bullet of this generation in agriculture. Clement Chipokolo tries to look at these statements while answering the question "Will GMOs feed the Hungry Poor?"
When the root of the problem of hunger is driven by poverty and unequal distribution of food resources, technology is and can never be the solution. Poverty is the key reason over 800 million people don't have enough to eat. In recent decades existing technologies have produced enough food to feed everyone on the planet - but the food hasn't been evenly distributed and isn't accessible to those who can't afford to buy or produce it. Hunger is not caused by lack of technology; it exists because people don't have access to food or the land and resources needed to produce it. If the root causes are not addressed, hunger will persist no matter what agricultural technologies are used. Biotech is part of the problem - GM seeds will widen the gap between rich and poor and promotes corporate consolidation. Commercial GM seeds are developed and commercialized almost exclusively by multinational enterprises. The first interest of corporations is, naturally, to create profit for their shareholders, not to feed hungry people or to worry about poor farmers and consumers who don't have the money to buy patented GM products.
The opportunity costs of agricultural biotech must also be considered. Corporate agricultural research emphasizes high-tech, capital-intensive food production, best suited to the needs of large-scale farmers and not small-scale farmers who are in the majority in this country. The danger is that sustainable agro-ecological technologies that are appropriate for small-scale producers in marginal farming environments in which our government has heavily invested in the past years will receive far less attention and funding. Corporate funding increasingly determines the direction of public sector research. With sharp declines in public sector agricultural research, there is the added danger that public sector breeders will increasingly serve the interests of corporate science.
While we cannot ignore the potential of science as a major tool of increasing agricultural production, we should hasten to point out the scientific technologies, are not sufficient to combat poverty and hunger. Without policies to reduce the unequal burden of poverty, hunger, and disease in the world, no amount of new science or technology will promote sustainable livelihoods for the poor. What this country and the rest of the world needs is pro-poor science and technology, combined with policies to support the poor and excluded. One way to build capacity is to foster the development of public-private partnerships. The key is that new technologies must promote farming systems that are economically profitable, environmentally sound, and culturally appropriate. All agricultural technology applications are not equally beneficial. In some cases, GM seeds can help poor farmers improve pest resistance while reducing reliance on chemical pesticides that are expensive and damaging to the environment.
In the process of developing the agricultural technologies, it is critical for each country to be able to pick and choose carefully, reflecting its own needs and capabilities. New Agricultural technologies should only be introduced when Third World countries gain the capacity to use the science effectively and after its safety can be established. It has been noted that local farming communities, native and long held traditions and cultures can be profoundly influenced by the exposure to outside influences and new technologies thus infringing on cultural liberties. Additionally, biotechnology threatens traditional knowledge and crop diversity because GM seeds introduce monoculture and an ideology of privatization that erodes community-based agriculture and locally-adapted diversity. Biotech's corporate seeds will increase the farm communities' dependency on outside sources of seeds and the costly inputs they require. If patents prevent farmers from saving seed, farmers will have no opportunity to experiment with selection and breeding for local adaptation. GM crops are designed for one-size-fits-all industrial agriculture, not agro ecological approaches that are suited to local ecosystems, cultural traditions and food preferences. There is a huge concern that adoption of GM grains fortified with micronutrients will further promote monoculture and diminish the value of home gardens and diets derived from diverse, nutritious foods.
GM contamination in Mexico's centre of diversity illustrates the potential for GM technology to abuse the socio-cultural rights of many indigenous communities. In the words of one indigenous farmer from Sierra Juarez de Oaxaca: "The contamination of our traditional maize undermines the fundamental autonomy of our indigenous and farming communities because we are not merely talking about our food supply; maize is a vital part of our cultural heritage. The statements made by some officials that contamination is not serious because it will not spread rapidly, or because it will 'increase our maize biodiversity,' are completely disrespectful and cynical." This statement certainly represents the feelings of all the small scale farmers world wide including Zambia who have for many years developed have painstakingly developed vibrant local seed-banks in their backyards which have dutifully fed them and their families without necessarily depending on the emerging multinational seed companies.
A recent assessment of GM Crops in Africa gives more evidence about their inability to alleviate poverty and feed the nations. The study examined three GM crops in Africa present-GM cotton, sweet potatoes and maize and concluded that in general their nature is inappropriate for poverty alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa. The report also shows that genetic modification is relatively an ineffective and expensive tool and the evidence assembled in the report suggests that 'there are better ways to feed Africa than through GM crops'. Moreover, the US State Department website notes that the genetically modified corn sent to Africa as food aid 'would be expected to perform poorly in African growing conditions' and 'is not suited for planting. This is a major concern since in Zambia there is a common practice of food aid recipients in rural areas to save part of their grain for planting. Farmers in famine stricken areas who plant U.S corn can expect lower yields and less food in future.
Genetically Modified Wheat Still Risky One Year after Monsanto Shelves Plan - Update Says European and Asian Consumers Still Not Round-up Ready- Tuesday, May 10, 2005
(BILLINGS, MONT.) - Prospects for introducing genetically modified (GM) wheat in the U.S. haven't improved since Monsanto shelved its research and development plans one year ago, according to Dr. Robert Wisner, a leading grain market economist. Introduction of genetically modified wheat in the U.S. still risks the loss of up to half U.S. wheat export markets and a one-third drop in price, according to the latest update of an October 2003 report, Market Risks of Genetically Modified Wheat, released today by the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC). Dr. Wisner is the University Professor of Economics at Iowa State University.
"One year after Monsanto's decision, consumers in Europe and Asia remain resistant to GM crops," said Todd Leake, a wheat grower from Grand Forks, N.D., and WORC spokesperson. "Introducing GM wheat would open the door for our competitors to take more of the export market and depress prices paid to U.S. wheat growers."
The report covers policy changes, trends, and other developments that may affect market risk, including:
* Some European Union (EU) policies on GM crops and food are changing, but so far, consumer attitudes have not.
* Ten central and eastern European nations joined the EU, increasing the number of countries with food labeling programs. Labeling allows consumers in these countries to show their preferences about GM food to food companies, wheat producers and to the seed industry.
* Syngenta is developing fusarium-resistant GM wheat, but will not release it for six years or more. Consumers overseas may be as resistant to Syngenta's GM wheat as to Monsanto's. Monsanto developed GM hard red spring wheat to resist the commonly used Round-Up(r) herbicide. The company indefinitely postponed release of its GM wheat in May 2004, compelled by the market resistance documented by Dr. Wisner's original report. In that report, Dr. Wisner found:
* A large majority of foreign consumers and wheat buyers do not want GM wheat. At least 37 countries had mandatory labeling programs for food with detectable GM ingredients as of October 2003.
* Commercialization of GM wheat in the U.S. now or in the next few years would create a high risk of loss of one-third to one-half of U.S. hard red and durum wheat exports.
* The European market for U.S. hard red spring and durum wheat likely would be lost completely.
* Hard red spring and durum wheat prices could fall by one-third, to feed wheat levels.
* Increased government program payments would only partially offset lower wheat prices.
* Plummeting prices would lead to lost wheat acreage, loss of revenue to farm-related and rural non-farm businesses, and falling local and state tax revenues.
* Market risks for GM wheat are greater than for GM corn and soybeans. Unlike wheat, most corn and soybeans are fed to livestock or processed into oils and sweeteners. The U.S. share of world exports is much smaller for wheat than corn or soybeans, and domestic demand for corn (unlike wheat) is growing rapidly.
* The issue is consumer acceptance. Consumers are the driving force in countries where food labeling allows choice. Governmental approval does not guarantee consumer acceptance.
WORC is a regional network representing farmers and ranchers in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
CONTACT: Dr. Robert Wisner, 515-294-7318; Todd Leake, 701-594-4275; or John Smillie or Kevin Dowling, WORC staff, 406-252-9672
A two-page summary of Dr. Wisner's latest market risk update, the ten-page update, and Dr. Wisner's original report are available at http://www.worc.org.
AMERICAN CORN GROWERS FOUNDATION RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT LOST CORN GLUTEN MARKET AND LOW CORN PRICES DUE TO BIOTECH BLUNDERING
Washington, D.C., May 9, 2005 - The American Corn Growers Foundation (ACGF) and the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) are warning U.S. corn farmers that key U.S. corn gluten exports are being lost due to unapproved biotech, specifically GMO (genetically modified organisms) varieties that are unacceptable in various markets.
"Blundering biotech companies and their arrogance toward world buyers and consumers cost the U.S. the valuable, cash paying European Union (EU-25) corn market since 1996, and caused substantial corn export reductions to Japan. Now, adding insult to economic injury, some biotech companies and their carelessness is putting the EU-25 import market for U.S. corn gluten feed and meal in serious jeopardy, with the EU-25 now testing every cargo," says Dan McGuire, CEO of the American Corn Growers Foundation and project director of the ACGF Farmer Choice-Customer First program. "Foreign demand for U.S. corn gluten is extremely important for the economic future of corn processing ethanol plants. The EU bought 5 million metric tons (MMT) with an export value of $403,726,000 as recently as the 1999-00 marketing year. But in the most recent 2004 marketing year, the EU-25's imports of U.S. corn gluten had dropped to 3.6 MMT with a value of only $377,636,000. In the current 2005 marketing year (September through February) EU-25 imports are only 1.2 MMT compared to 1.9 MMT the year earlier," added McGuire.
"Last Friday corn prices were only $1.63 per bu. in both Utica, S.D. and Wayne, Neb., a disastrous price, due largely to the failure of the current 'export oriented' farm policy to deliver on corn exports as promised," said Larry Mitchell, ACGA CEO. "If the crafters of the current U.S. farm policy still believe it is 'export oriented' they should require the biotech companies to get onboard. Biotech arrogance is losing U.S. exports. Maybe those same biotech companies should be sent the bill for lost corn markets, low corn prices and the resulting high cost of the farm program."
India bans Monsanto GM cotton seeds - Tuesday 03 May 2005 - http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/4DE63A66-0461-48F4-A7E0-B6C2213BF0F3.htm
India has barred Monsanto Company and its Indian partners from selling three varieties of genetically modified cotton in a southern Indian state.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, a federal regulator, refused to renew licences for the sale of three Monsanto BT cotton varieties in Andhra Pradesh state, because these had been found ineffective in controlling pests there, said Suresh Chandra, the committee chairman. However, the seeds can be sold in other Indian states, Chandra said.
Years of discussion
"It took us six-and-a-half hours of discussion, but at the end, we decided not to renew those licenses for Andhra Pradesh," he said. The Andhra Pradesh state government also asked Monsanto to compensate farmers who it said lost money by sowing its transgenic cotton. Monsanto disputed the claim. Monsanto's spokeswoman in India, Ranjana Smetacek, said the company had yet to receive the federal regulator's order and would not comment. The licences granted in March 2002 expired last month, and Monsanto applied for their renewal in six southern and central Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh.
Verdict on cotton
In April, the federal regulator asked various state governments to give their comments on the performance of BT cotton over the past three years. The report (from Andhra Pradesh state) was not satisfactory, and hence we had to disallow the licences," Chandra said.
India has also been hesitant to use GM technology in foods
St Louis-based Monsanto's BT cotton is the only genetically modified crop allowed in India. BT stands for bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium whose gene is injected into cotton seeds to give them resistance against boll worms, which are common in India. Monsanto sold 1.3 million packets of BT cotton in 2004, but critics say the seeds are environmentally hazardous and could contaminate the genes of native varieties through cross pollination. However, advocates of genetic modification say it helps fight plant diseases, increases yields, and makes food crops more nutritive.
Comments from PV Satheesh
This morning when I woke up, I was greeted by the following news: All the THREE varieties - Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt &Mech-184 Bt have been disallowed for commercial cultivation in Andhra Pradesh. Nothing could have made my day better. The news was about the decision taken by the GEAC, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Government of India, the apex regulatory body of the Indian Government. Incidentally all the three varieties are products of Monsanto. The news is specially significant for us because the Deccan Development Society and the Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity have fought a relentless and focused battle against these Bt hybrids for the last three years. In fact on our latest demands the prominent one read as below:
WE STRONGLY DEMAND FROM THE GENETIC ENGINEERING APPROVAL COMMITTEE OF THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA THAT THEY WITHHOLD THE LICENSE FOR NEXT THREE YEARS TO THE BOLLGARD BT HYBRIDS OF MAHYCO MONSANTO.
The battle included campaign in hundreds of villages involving posters, film shows, discussions with farmers and a path breaking independent scientific study that tracked farmers experience with the Bt cotton from the day they planted the cotton till the day they harvested.
The study produced regular annual reports in
2003 : Did Bt Cotton Save Farmers in Warangal?
2004: Bt Cotton Disillusions AP Again
2005: Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: A three year assessment
Another powerful tool used in the struggle were two films made by a group of women farmer-filmmakers from the DDS Community Media Trust. They used their cameras and microphones as instruments of farmer to farmer research by extensively filming in Warangal District touring over 30 villlages every year and recording the impression of hundreds of farmers. They relentlessly returned Warangal month after month in cold winter and searing summer, sought out their focus farmers, patiently spoke to them to get their information and opinion and came up with two stunning films: Why are Warangal Farmers Angry with Bt Cotton? and Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: A Three Year Fraud. The films in Telugu have not only been seen by several thousand farmers in over 200 villages in Warangal, Adilabad and Nalgonda districts but also have been translated into French, Spanish, Thai and English and used in as varied parts of the world such as the Francophone West Africa, Meso America, South East Asia and many parts of Europe.
I must make a very special mention of the Warangal Against Genetic Engineering, WAGE, a district coalition of about ten NGOs in Warangal who led the campaign and research from 2002 to 2005. Their spiritied campaign and lead taken by them in the research was the backbone of the entire three year struggle. They have demonstrated that a determined fight from a small band of committed groups can take on the Goliaths of the Life[destroying] Industry and defeat them even if it is in a battle if not a war.
This small victory has buoyed the spirits of the civil society groups particularly in Andhra Pradesh and given them the confidence that by pursuing their larger goal with renewed determination, sharper focus and collective effort, they can attempt to win the war. There was a tremendous solidarity in this fight from civil society groups, environmenatal action groups and funding partners. We gratefully acknowledge all this support and urge their continued collaboration in the future struggle to see that some parts of AP can be GM-free zones.
with warm regards
MONSANTO GRABS SOUTHERN AFRICAN SEED MARKET BUT SA FARMERS GIVE GMOS COLD SHOULDER
SOUTH AFRICAN FREEZE ALLIANCE ON GENETIC ENGINEERING (SAFeAGE) - 3 May 2005
Cape Town/Johannesburg, South Africa-According to research conducted by the African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa's commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) maize, soya and cotton has been grossly exaggerated by the biotechnology industry for propaganda purposes.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), an industry supported organisation, consistently tries to inflate the figures of GM plantings around the world to support the argument that GM crops are here to stay. Despite South Africa's permissive GMO laws, Monsanto South Africa has estimated production of its GM maize (MON 810 and NK603) in South Africa to constitute no more than a total of 6-7% of the area under maize, less than the ISAAA's estimate of 15-20% of GM maize grown during 2004. South Africa does not produce enough cotton for domestic needs and has to import the shortfall each year. In 2003/04 the area planted to cotton was less than one-fifth of the area under cotton in the late 1980s. Despite the dominance of Monsanto's GM cotton varieties, no more than 30 000 ha was planted to GM cotton in 2003, even though it represents 75% of the cottonseed planted in that year.
South Africa's soyabean industry is similarly small and no more than 41 000 ha of Monsanto's GM (glysophate tolerant) soya was grown in South Africa during 2004. However, during 2001-2005, just more than 67 000 tons of GM soya was imported for animal feed; equivalent to about 8% of South Africa's domestic soyabean production over the same period. This brings the total land under GM crops in South Africa to around 300 000 ha and not the 500 000 ha claimed by ISAAA.
Despite its historical status as a net exporter of maize, South Africa has become reliant on imports from Argentina and the US of enormous amounts of GM maize. GM maize imports during the period 1999-2005, estimated to be in access of 2.6 million tons (MON 810, Bt11, Bt176 and TA25) are equivalent to over 7.5% of the domestic production in South Africa in the 2001-2004 growing seasons. Almost all GM seed imported into South Africa contains Monsanto?s technology.
The study also shows that South Africa is being used as a base from which to distribute GM food aid to the region. South Africa has also become an important country for GM seed bulking (propagating seed in volume for commercial use) and a base to produce GM seed for international distribution for experimentation/consumption. Alarmingly, the study shows that Monsanto, the globally dominant company in the agrochemical, seed and agricultural biotechnology sector has about 45% of the South African maize seed market share and almost the entire market share for wheat seed. In 2005, Monsanto had at least 15 yellow maize, 11 white maize, 17 wheat, 4 soybean and 5 sunflower varieties on the market. The recent acquisition of Seminis, the global vegetable company, with nearly 60 vegetable and melon seed varieties registered by Seminis South Africa gives Monsanto an entry point into the vegetable seed market. As the engine for the distribution of commercial seed into Southern Africa, control by Monsanto over South Africa's seed supply means control over Southern Africa's commercial seed supply. Monsanto has identified Brazil, India and South Africa as focal points for its efforts to expand into the developing world.
The South African government supports genetic modification in agriculture and has also used its own infrastructure and resources to encourage positive attitudes in the public. The state's support has allowed South Africa to become a base for expansion into Africa, for export of GM seed around the world and as an experimental base for new GM crops not approved elsewhere.
The full report "A Profile of Monsanto in South Africa" produced by the African Centre for Biosafety, April 2005 is available on www.biosafetyafrica.net
For further information contact:
Glenn Ashton (SAFeAge) 083 403 6263
Mariam Mayet, (African Centre for Biosafety) 084 68 333 74
Stephen Greenberg, Researcher, 083 988-2983
In South Africa
African Centre for Biosafety (www.biosafetyafrica.net)
Biowatch South Africa (www.biowatch.org.za)
Earthlife Africa (www.earthlife-ct.org.za)
GM Free Africa (www.gmfreeafrica.org/gmfa_main/)
South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (Safeage) (www.safeage.org)
Other useful info on Monsanto - Badcorp.org (www.badcorp.org)
Consumers International (www.consumersinternational.org)
Corporate Watch (www.corporatewatch.org)
Corporate Dirt Archives (www.corporations.org/corplist.html)
Monsanto South Africa (www.monsanto.co.za)
Monsanto Watch (www.monsantowatch.org.uk)
Millions Against Monsanto (http://www.organicconsumers.org/monlink.html
Multinational Monitor (www.multinationalmonitor.org)
The GM Bubble - Science in Society issue 22, summer 2004 - Subscriptions +44 (0)20 7383 3376 or online at www.i-sis.org.uk/subscribe
Claire Robinson questions ISAAA's inflated figures of GM crop uptake and planting
"India a key GM crop cultivator" ran a headline in the Times of India back in January. "India has made it to the list of top ten transgenic crop-growing nations," the paper reported, alongside what it called the "glowing figures" on "the global acreage of transgenic crops" and the number of farmers planting them - seven million in 18 countries, up from six million in 16 countries in 2002. The Times of India was not alone in its breathless account of GM crop expansion. Headlines around the world declared, "Frankenfood flourishing" and "Biotech crops continue rapid global growth". Every January, similar headlines appear when the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Association (ISAAA) publishes its "Annual Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic (GM) Crops." They are drawn directly from press releases sent out by ISAAA's agri-centers around the globe plus country-specific media briefings via worldwide teleconferences. ISAAA stands at the front line of a major public relations war, and as with all wars, the first casualty is the truth. Fortunately, a few are not taken in. India's Financial Express reported that despite ISAAA's hype about India being "a key GM crop cultivator", the actual area planted with India's first GM crop, Bt cotton, is minuscule in terms of the total area devoted to cotton in India. According to an internal report of the country's agriculture ministry, "In 2002-03, the first year of its approval for commercial cultivation, Bt cotton covered an area of only 38,038 hectares, representing only 0.51 per cent of the area under cotton in the period. In 2003-04, with good monsoon rains, the area under Bt cotton increased to 92,000 hectares. This area coverage under Bt cotton is almost negligible as compared to over 9 million hectares under cotton crop in the country. This points to the low acceptability of Bt cotton by farmers."
As well as engaging in selective spin about the popularity of GM crops among farmers, ISAAA stands accused of pumping up the planting figures. ISAAA's Southeast Asia director, Dr Randy Hauteau, while briefing the media, quoted ISAAA figures for Bt cotton plantings in India in 2003-04 of 100,000 hectares - a nearly 10% inflation of the agriculture ministry's figures. When questioned about the data and methodology underlying this claim, the Financial Express reported that Hauteau refused to comment. Hauteau was also unable, the paper reported, to justify claims made in the ISAAA study that "in 2003-04 almost one-third of the global biotech crop area was grown in developing countries." Although ISAAA's figures are quoted routinely by official bodies and even governments, the organisation is vague about how its figures are generated, referring only to their being "based on a consolidated database from a broad range of sources, including government agencies and other organizations in the public and private sector".
But Aaron deGrassi of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex has shown the questionable validity of ISAAA figures. Analysing GM cotton farming in South Africa, he notes, "ISAAA implies that small farmers have been using the technology on a hundred thousand hectares. Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe - an industry coalition - suggests 5,000 ha of 'smallholder cotton.' The survey team [from the University of Reading, UK] suggests 3,000 ha." In other words, ISAAA's GM plantings figures are 20 times higher than even those claimed by a biotech industry source and more than 30 times greater than those from an academic survey. ISAAA's figures claiming increased profits to South African farmers from Bt cotton are also dubious, deGrassi points out. ISAAA argued that switching to Bt cotton allowed farmers to make an extra US$50 per hectare, whereas the University of Reading survey team found that farmers gained only US$18 in the second year. But deGrassi notes that in the first year, "Bt cotton non-adopters were actually $1 per hectare better off". As well as exaggerating the extent of GM plantings and profitability, ISAAA has given misleading figures on yields that have been discredited by subsequent scientific research findings. For instance, ISAAA's "Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops" for 1998 claimed yield improvements of 12% for GM soy over conventional soy, as reported by American farmers. However, a review of the results of over 8 200 university-based controlled varietal trials in 1998 showed an almost 7% average yield reduction in the case of the GM soy - the diametric opposite. It later transpired that ISAAA's figures were based on nothing more substantial than producer estimates.
Who pulls ISAAA's strings?
ISAAA is supported by cash from the GM industry. Its funders include Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred and the BBSRC (the UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council). In other words, ISAAA's reports should not be considered as coming from an independent source. ISAAA's multi-million dollar budget is matched by high-profile industry board members past and present, such as Monsanto's Robert Fraley, Wally Beversdorf of Syngenta, and Gabrielle Persley, Executive Director of AusBiotech Alliance and advisor to the World Bank. ISAAA has no representatives, however, from farmers' organizations in areas like Africa.
One of ISAAA's goals is to "facilitate a knowledge-based, better informed public debate." To that end, ISAAA has three "Knowledge Centers": the "AmeriCenter" based at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; the "SEAsiaCenter" in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines; and the "AfriCenter" in Nairobi, Kenya. ISAAA's Africa office was originally headed by Florence Wambugu, the Monsanto-trained scientist who hyped the company's GM sweet potato around the globe until it was exposed as a failure earlier this year (see "Broken promises", this series).
Aaron deGrassi says that in Africa the ISAAA has "spun off a number of innocuously named pro-biotech NGOs", such as the African Biotechnology Stakeholders' Forum and the African Biotechnology Trust. Pro-biotech Western aid agencies have joined with these organizations to quietly conduct one-sided conferences at upmarket venues around the continent, such as Kenya's Windsor Golf and Country Club, aimed at swinging high-level officials in favour of GM. But critics allege that these forums are facades for large corporations; the NGOs consist of little more than a website and a few staff. In a report on ISAAA's activities in Asia, GRAIN concluded that its role was one of "promoting corporate profit in the name of the poor".
Claire Robinson is an editor with GM Watch www.gmwatch
Lack of cooperation into GM papaya probe - AGRICULTURE / GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS - By Bangkok Post, 30 April 2005 - PIYAPORN WONGRUANG
An independent probe into the alleged spread of genetically modified papaya has encountered a setback because of a lack of cooperation from the Department of Agriculture, said a probe panel source yesterday. The panel was set up late last year to conduct an investigation into the case after farm advocates expressed concern over the possible spread of the transgenic plant. Last July, Greenpeace activists revealed the department's research station in Khon Kaen province had grown GM papaya, and said seeds of the plant might have been distributed to growers in the province and elsewhere. The farm advocates demanded an investigation to stop the spread.
Thailand does not allow open field trials of GM plants nor their commercial production. The agricultural department set up its own panel to investigate its operation at the station, but later left the task to a new panel. The source said the panel kept asking the department for information that could help it check how wide the papaya had spread, but received no response. Without relevant information, the panel could make no progress. The more time it took to complete the investigation, the more the papaya might have spread, said the source. ''We could not track and destroy them to prevent any further spread if we do not know where they are,'' said the source. ''The fact is we cannot know this as we haven't received the necessary information.''
According to an official at the department who asked not to be named, the DNA testing team had finished testing DNA fingerprints of over 8,000 samples of papaya collected from about 2,600 farms suspected of having bought the seeds from the station. Some 85 northeastern farmers, mainly in Khon Kaen, were found to have grown GM papaya. The team reported the findings to the department late last year, the official said. The official who was involved with the independent probe confirmed that the panel sent an official request to the department for information but had not yet received it. More requests would be made, the source said, adding the agriculture and cooperatives minister should help push the case along. ''As the ministry chief, it's the minister's duty to take care of this case. More importantly, this involves farmers' security and well-being,'' the source said.
New Study Points to Likely Source of GE Rice Contamination in China - APRIL 29, 2005 - http://www.commondreams.org/news2005/0429-01.htm
CONTACT: Greenpeace - Sze Pang Cheung, GE Campaigner, Greenpeace China +852 965 39067 (Hong Kong)
Janet Cotter, Greenpeace International Science Unit +44 781 217 4783 (UK)
Maya Catsanis, Media Officer, Greenpeace International, mobile +61 407 742 025 (Sydney)
BEIJING -- April 29 -- Just two weeks after Greenpeace exposed the illegal selling and planting of genetically engineered (GE) rice in Hubei province, a research paper published today in Science magazine (1) describes what appear to be unregulated trials of the same GE rice (Shanyou 63) that Greenpeace researchers found being illegally sold in the open market. With rice planting due to start any day, Greenpeace said the study reveals further evidence of the failure to control GE rice trials in China.
Greenpeace China GE Campaigner Sze Pang Cheung said; "The Science paper states that farmers cultivated the GE rice without the assistance of technicians, and that quite a number of the randomly selected participants grew both GE and conventional varieties on their small family farms." "In other countries GE field trials are tightly regulated, monitored and separated from conventional rice crops," Sze continued. "The Chinese system of regulating GE field trials is failing. It looks like GE rice has grown out of control under the very noses of the scientists that were trusted to control it."
If urgent action is not taken, up to 13,500 tonnes of untested and unapproved GE rice may enter the food chain this year. This is likely to increase international concern over contamination of Chinese rice exports. "Chinese GE researchers who have released GE rice without adequate biosafety precautions are failing to protect farmers and the Chinese public. They need to remember that GE rice is illegal because it hasn't been shown to be safe for health or environment and because it may have major negative economic impacts," Sze said. "We should not be risking long term health and environmental impacts, as well as international consumer rejection of Chinese rice when we don't need GE in the first place," he added.
Jitters were sent through the international food industry following the Greenpeace revelations that the unapproved GE rice may also have contaminated exports. "The Japanese Health ministry has begun testing of Chinese rice imports, the European Commission has requested testing information while governments in the UK, Slovakia and Korea are all conducting some level of investigations into the contamination," Sze said.
The Chinese government has been evaluating the proposed release of GE rice in the country but has not yet approved any varieties due to unresolved environmental, health and economic issues.
The Science article claims that GE rice is needed to improve rice production and reduce environmental impacts ? claims that are strongly disputed by Greenpeace. "The research paper is an economic analysis that fails to take into account the environmental or health risks of GE rice. Instead of investing in the high risk strategy of genetic engineering, China should be investing in real, long-term solutions to sustainability in agriculture." (2) (3)
"GE is an anti-farmer technology that locks farmers into monoculture farming, high seed costs and risks of consumer rejection. The Government needs to act immediately to stop further contamination, to uphold the law and to investigate the scientists who have released unapproved GE rice," Sze concluded.
Notes of the Editor
(1) Huang, J., Hu, R., Rozelle, S. & Pray, C. 2005. Insect-resistant GM Rice in farmers? fields: assessing productivity and health effects in China. Science, 688-690. 29th April 2005.
(2) A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) program into Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in China resulted in a reduction of pesticide use of over 45% - without any of the environmental, health or market risks of genetic engineering. See Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Green Farming in Rural Poverty Alleviation in China http://www.unescap.org/rural/doc/ipm2002/ch04.pdf
(3) A study into the adoption of GE Bt cotton in China concluded that farmers still over-used pesticides on pest-resistant crops. It found that farmers in small-scale production systems require training in identification of pests, natural predators, basic ecology and integrated pest management in order to ensure sustainable production. Yang, P, Iles, M., Yan,S., Jolliffe, F.2004. Farmers' knowledge, perceptions and practices in transgenic Bt cotton in small producer systems in Northern China. Crop Protection, 24 (2005) 229-239.
Some US firms 'want to control local agricultural production' - Financial Express, 27 April 2005
A top environmental group said Tuesday that some American multinational companies want to control Bangladesh's agriculture production through supplying seed that is sterile and harmful to environment. The environmental pressure group, Ubinig, said that the American government is promoting those companies and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has already started its works to make Bangladesh its seed-colony. Executive director of Ubinig Farida Akhter told journalists at a press conference that Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seed giant Monsanto (new name Pharmacia) wants to control food production of the developing world by "destroying their agriculture." This GMO seed does not yield better than other high yielding varieties that are already being used in the country. This seed causes gene pollution and affects bio-diversity. The seed is sterile and does not have multiplication capacity.
Local GMO seed importers say the seed is productive and will help Bangladesh achieve self-sufficiency in food. The seed will offer higher per acre yield in a country where arable land is shrinking.
"The only way Monsanto can grab our agriculture is to destroy established farming of Bangladesh and take control of seeds," Farida said adding it is not at all true that GMO foods have better nutrients. She said many multinational companies are pushing the government hard to legalise import of GM foods and seeds. "We have been made dependent permanently on insecticides and pesticides and now they (multinational companies) want us to depend on them for seeds," said the Ubinig leader. Farida said there is no strong scientific proof that GMO food is better by any means than the high yielding and local varieties. She said GMO foods sometimes lack basic nutrients and sometimes it contains overdoses that in fact cause health hazards. Farida said if rice like "Golden Rice" was imported, farmers would turn into American or multinationals' contract growers and would lose their ancient culture of farming. Ubinig believes Bangladeshis are already consuming GM soybean oil, maze, gram seed, fast foods, which contain toxic agents. The environmental pressure group have warned against importation of any GM foods and seeds, urging the government to declare Bangladesh a "GM Food Free" country. "Please ban any GM food in Bangladesh or unless we will organise massive agitation," Farida said.
Don't Rush GMO Use in Tanzania, Says Organic Body - C. Akitanda - The East African (Nairobi), April 25, 2005
As parliament is scheduled to debate and approve the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) mid this year, the secretariat of the committee for the establishment of the Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement (TOAM), called it "an unnecessary rush." Jordan Gama, the secretary to the committee, said last week that there was an unnecessary rush on the part of some government officials and local scientists, especially the Arusha-based Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI), to introduce GMOs in the country even before the biosafety law is in place. "We should stop the rush to introduce GMOs in Tanzania until proved safe and conducive to smallholder farmers, our health and to our environment, Mr Gama stated. He said there should be a national public debate on GMOs, and all Tanzanians should be given a chance to know what are GMOs and who is pushing for their use in the country, what is the economic impact on small-scale farmers and Tanzania's exports, especially to the European Union, and the possible health and environmental risks. According to Gama, before the introduction of GMOs, Tanzanian small farmers should have a say, "Since genetic engineering isn't a normal technology, and once introduced, field trials could eventually have massive negative impacts on people's livelihood and environment that could be irreversible." "The majority of the investment in the production of GM crops is in the hands of large transnational corporations that are profit-driven, and GM crops are patented by these companies, which will force the smallscale farmers in Africa to depend on them forever, said Mr Gama. "We therefore say the country needs a 10-year moratorium on GMOs while consulting stakeholders on the technology and building capacity to handle the risks, he added.
Early this year, the Director of Research at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr Jeremiah Haki, was quoted as saying a Cabinet paper on GMO policy has already been prepared and parliament is scheduled to debate and approve the approach GMO technologies mid this year. Dr Haki further said, "Tanzania, which largely depends on agriculture, cannot afford to ignore technologies that increase crop yields and profits and reduce farm costs. Earlier, Wilfred Ngirwa, the permanent secretary in the ministry had issued a statement saying the ministry has, "proactively participated in the development of a national policy for biotechnology that will soon be tabled in the parliament." This policy will give overall guidance on all issues related to biotechnology including priority areas for research and development, regulatory framework, sustainable use of biodiversity and resource requirements. Mr Ngirwa said that, in the interim, the ministry has established the Agricultural Biotechnology Scientific Advisory Committee (ABSAC) to advise the minister on issues related to GMO including their importation, safe handling and testing.
South Africa is the only African country that is already commercially producing GM crops. Tanzania is among the countries that ratified the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety, an international law negotiated under the Convention on Biological Diversity that has basic requirements for member countries to comply with when pursuing GMO technology. Tanzania will later in the year start confined field trials of cotton in the south of the country in a government move to halt the spread of the redball worm disease that had hit the cotton crop.
Conned with corn - Nnimmo Bassey - Lagos - This Day (Lagos), April 22, 2005 - http://allafrica.com/stories/200504250259.html
The scramble for Africa is getting hotter today than it may have been during the Berlin Conference at which she was partitioned. The partitioning of Africa sowed the seeds of discord and conflict that we are reaping today. Today, certain concepts have been painstakingly constructed and foisted on the continent. And this has been done in order to have Africa so compromised that she would simply just beg to be colonised once more. We are talking about the onslaught by the biotech industry on the innards of this continent.
The siege is on. Many people imagine that the pressure on Africa to accept genetically modified grains or other crops as food aid ended with the widely known case with Zambia in 2002. That emblematic case rightly showed that every country has the sovereign right determine what type of food to eat, irrespective of whether it is purchased in the market or is donated as aid. And it demonstrated to the world that the predicted catastrophe of Zambians starving never happened. The country thereafter recorded food surpluses, besides the fact that in the heat of the crisis the shortage was limited to sections of the country and there were supplies in other regions that simply needed to be procured for the needy areas.
Genetically engineered food has been presented as the ultimate weapon against hunger in Africa and the world. This is also seriously suggested in the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) meaning that this may be the direction efforts will be concentrated in the years to come. African leaders have largely been co-opted into thinking this way because they are warned that since the so-called Green Revolution train left Africa standing at the station they should not miss the gene train. It has been noted that the Green Revolution required extensive chemical and equipment inputs and although food production increased in some areas, small scale farmers were marginalised, the environment took a beating and on the aggregate hunger was boosted in the world.
The next major push has manifested in the presenting of Monsanto's genetically engineered cotton (Bt Cotton) as the solution. This cotton variety which has been engineered to withstand certain pests and to be suitable for use of certain herbicides has been planted in India, Indonesia, South Africa, etc. The biotech industry touts these as huge successes, but the farmers have recorded lower yields, have gone into debt and some have been forced to commit suicide! The manifold failure of Bt Cotton is so well documented that we may not need to go into details here. Suffice to say that industry's underhand push and shove has been vividly illustrated in the bribery scandal that rocked Indonesia where a prominent biotech industry bribed as many as 144 serving and retired government officials in order to have approval for the commercial cultivation of the variety.
Last year, some governments in West Africa pledged to embrace this same variety of cotton. The next point of call of the proponents of Bt Cotton is Tanzania. All these efforts have been made under the direction of the USAID one of whose major goals is promoting the spread of GMOs in the world and pointedly working to "integrate GM
into local food systems."
The push into Tanzania gathered momentum in 2002 when USAID began meeting with Tanzanian scientists to describe the potential of engineered foods. Some of these USAID advocates were also the architects of the Memorandum of Understanding signed with Nigeria in 2004 for a biotech programme managed by IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria.
The interesting thing about the Tanzanian case is that although cotton production was suspended in the southern part of Tanzania because of the spread of redball cotton disease in 1968, the country is currently experiencing cotton production surpluses. When this is coupled with the record low cotton price in the market, it becomes hard to see what arguments could be pushed for the genetically engineered variety of cotton.
Barring a change of Heart by the government of Tanzania has already buckled under intense pressure and the country is set to join Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Burkina Faso and Kenya in conducting confined field trials (CFT) for genetically modified crops. These so-called field tests will eventually open the nation's doors to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
As already noted, food aid is one of the main vehicles for putting GMOs on the platter of the world. Do we call that charity? Not so. One issue about some of these food aids is that citizens in the recipient country may not even know that their country receives food aid. In 2003 Nigeria received 11000.6 Metric Tons of soy meal as food aid from the United States, under the US title 'Food for Progress '. Taking into account that over 80% of soybeans in the US are genetically modified we strongly suspect Nigeria has been receiving GM products without any prior information to the Government, and with our population completely uninformed on this. In 2004 the country was billed to receive 10,500 tons of rice.
People around the world have been vocal is calling for caution in the introduction of genetic engineering in food crop propagation. The biotech industry with their powerful lobby has stoutly resisted compliance with the precautionary principle enshrined in the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety. The precautionary principle as the name implies requires that countries apply caution when considering or opening doors to bringing GMOs into their environment. One of the reasons for this is that the safety of GMOs has not been unequivocally proven.
The biotech industry thrives on subverting the ability of people to protect themselves and their environments. They do this through deliberate contamination and illegal release of genetically modified crops into the environment. In fact, when environments are acutely contaminated, nations have no option but to legalise the illegality. Many suspect that this may have been the case with Brazil. Also, when organic farms are contaminated by genetically modified neighbours, the innocent farmers are made liable and pay compensation to the polluter instead of the other way round. This is cowboy justice.
The argument usually put forward as a response to the insistence on caution is that GMOs have not harmed anyone. But studies have shown allergic reactions in some cases and deaths have been recorded in animals fed on certain varieties.
The biotech industry is like a bull set loose in a china shop and needs all the controls possible. Recent reports of contamination of food supplies with illegal varieties should worry everyone. We refer to the case of Latin America where corn varieties with StarLink which are not authorised for human consumption have been found in food aid sent there in 2002 and also in 2005. Where they cannot deny the presence of the illegal grain the response of the biotech industry has been that the illegal corn is okay for consumption. No apologies.
Africa received huge quantities of corn from the USA as food aid and the presence of StarLink corn varieties was real. From reports Africa was the top worldwide recipient of U.S corn as food aid in 2004. Three African countries, Angola (62.400 MT), Tanzania and Burundi (28.000 MT) were among the top five. Other African countries included Uganda (20.900 MT), and Kenya (13,600 MT). We recall here that after the refusal of GMO grains by Zambia and Zimbabwe the shipments of food aid to these countries in 2003 and 2004 dropped to zero.
It is well known that the local population received these GM corn as grain they would inevitably save some grains for planting, thus compromising the native stock, exposing the population and their biodiversity to danger. The push continues even though proponents like the USAID recognises that GM corn sent to Africa as food aid 'would be expected to perform poorly in African growing conditions' and is 'not well suited for planting'. Despite this, the maize keeps coming to Africa. If one country rejects it it is channelled to another like the case of Tanzania and Burundi which since 2003 the corn food aid grain shipments continue to grow.
We have many reasons to worry. Another reason is that the industry does not have GMOs under control and the risks to health and environment are unknown. A few weeks ago it became public that an untested experimental crop, from Swiss agrochemicals multinational group, Syngenta, called Bt10, has been illegally planted from 2001 until 2004 in the USA. This illegal variety contains antibiotic resistance marker genes, which the British Medical Association recommended not to commercialise due to the potential risks for human health. The EU, Japan and South Korea have already protested against this and are taking measures to test the grains in order to isolate and destroy the illegal variety. All Syngenta could say is that they planting of 1000 tons of Bt10 food entered the EU accidentally. They claim that Bt10 and Bt11 (the approved type) are virtually identical. What other areas have confused the biotech industry? United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) fined Syngenta $375,000 for this illegal release.
What measures are taken by our Governments in Africa? Africa continues to be the biggest corn food aid recipient, not only grain, but also corn soy blend and cornmeal. Are we going to continue to let our population be at risk of consuming these GM products without even knowing about them?
Following the scandal of the illegal release of Bt10 corn, the European Commission is about to authorise studies that would tell it the potential 'cumulative long-term effects' genetically modified (GMO) crops might have on human and animal health in the longer term. This is coming eight years after the EU first allowed biotech crops. If the European Commission is only now considering commissioning such studies, it goes to show that both human and animals may already have had their health greatly compromised. And if that is the situation in Europe, we have every reason to pause
Genetic pollution is not comparable to oil or other environmental pollution. Chemical pollution may finally dissipate after a thousand or so years, but genetic pollution on the other hand grows exponentially with time. They simply do not diminish. The problem expands.
With the huge contamination of the world's corn stock almost irreversible right now, the biotech industry is now seriously working on commercialising GM wheat and rice. Indeed it is reported that China may release GM rice into the market in the next one year. With the bulk of rice in Nigeria coming from Asia, it is a matter of time before GM rice from China floods our supply lines. This is inevitable, unless something is done, and quickly too.
Right now researchers have made an application in Nigeria for the testing of genetically modified cassava. Note that we are talking only of crops and not of animal species as that is another ball game entirely.
Just to think about all these makes us feel really scared about the food we that is placed on our plates, and the seeds that we may be planting? If we blindly follow the biotech agri-business path we are bound to find that all traditional food crops will be genetically engineered in no time and as we have seen already, when the plague hits, the chance of recovery will be slim.
This is the time for everyone, Nigerian, Tanzanian, Togolese, or Swazi to stand up and defend our collective right to live in dignity and to choose what seeds to plant and what foods to eat. We cannot afford to place our future in the hand of an industry that has lost control of its Frankenstein. Our governments, if the represent us, must begin now to ask questions, and to act. Tomorrow will be too late.
-Bassey is the Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria
Illinois Attorney General Probes Monsanto Pricing - by Carey Gillam - Reuters, 21 April 2005
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Monsanto Co.'s role in the US biotech seed business is the subject of scrutiny by the Illinois Attorney General's office, the agrochemical company said Wednesday. Monsanto issued a statement saying it was cooperating with a subpoena seeking information on pricing and licensing of its genetically modified seeds. The company defended its market activities, which have been the subject of rising complaint as its market influence has grown. "We firmly believe that Monsanto has and continues to compete fairly in establishing the value our innovations are bringing to our seed customers and to farmers," General Counsel Charles W. Burson said in a statement. The St. Louis-based company controls 100 percent of the market for certain specialized soybean and corn seeds that have been genetically modified to help farmers fight weeds, along with more than 80 percent of the market for a corn that resists destructive insects. In all, Monsanto corn and beans strains are planted annually on more than 70 million acres of US farmland. Monsanto's reach has allowed it to implement double-digit price hikes for seeds carrying its technology, actions that have angered farmers. "It has been a sore spot over the years that US farmers have to pay what they do," said Illinois Corn Growers spokesman Mark Lambert. "It is an issue." Indeed, last year Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta, the world's biggest agrochemical company, filed a lawsuit accusing Monsanto of using coercive tactics and unfair bundling arrangements since the 1990s to exercise monopolistic power in multiple markets. Meanwhile, Monsanto has continued to expand its dominance of the US seed industry, making a series of acquisitions over the last several months. Melissa Merz, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office, said she could not discuss the subpoena or what prompted it. Monsanto shares were down 9 cents at $59.41 in midday New York Stock Exchange trade.
Japan Wary of Making New Purchases of U.S. Corn - Illinois Farm Bureau, 04/15/05 09:20 - http://ilfb.aghost.net/index.cfm?show=4&id=14047
OMAHA (DTN) -- Japanese importers have nearly stopped making new purchases of U.S. corn due to fears shipments might contain an unapproved variety of Bt corn. Some Japanese purchasers reportedly have shifted to non-U.S. origins for their corn, especially for the food market.
The matter concerns Swiss group Syngenta AG's announcement on March 22 that some of its corn seeds in the United States had been mistakenly contaminated with Bt10, an insect-resistant corn strain that has not been approved for distribution. Japan's rules on genetically modified products would require importers to destroy U.S. corn or ship it back to the United States if it was contaminated with the unapproved GM strain.
Japan imports 14 to 16 million metric tons of corn annually, with 90 percent of that sourced from the United States. U.S. trade officials have traveled to Japan because Bt10 is not authorized for export to Japan. U.S. government officials wanted to ensure that its biggest corn export market had the information it needed on this topic. [!]
The Associated Press/BRUSSELS, Belgium - By RAF CASERT - Associated Press Writer
EU nations to ban suspect corn imports
*APR. 15 9:03 A.M. ET* European Union nations voted Friday to ban U.S. shipments of suspect corn gluten animal feed unless the bloc has full assurance that the imports are free of genetically modified corn. The move could affect millions of dollars' worth of corn gluten exports. The dispute centers on a batch of Bt10 genetically modified corn that Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta AG inadvertently sold in the United States and exported to Europe without approval. "This is a targeted measure which is necessary to uphold EU law, maintain consumer confidence and ensure that the unauthorized GMO Bt10 cannot enter the EU. Imports of maize products which are certified as free of Bt10 will be able to continue," said EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.
The ban will effectively shut out all imports of U.S. corn gluten, since there is currently no effective way of testing for Bt10, which has not been approved by American or European regulators. EU spokesman Philip Tod said Syngenta was working to develop and validate such a test, but they could not say when it would be ready for use. U.S. shipments of corn gluten feed to the EU totaled 347 million euros ($450 million) last year.
The United States said the ban was exaggerated. "We view the EU's decision to impose a certification requirement on U.S. corn gluten due to the possible, low-level presence of Bt10 corn to be an overreaction," said Edward Kemp, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the EU. "U.S. regulatory authorities have determined there are no hazards to health, safety or the environment related to Bt10," Kemp added. "The small amounts of Bt10 corn that may have entered the EU have had no proven negative impact."
The ban is to come into force early next week, pending formal approval by the EU's head office.
Environmental campaigners welcomed the move. "Europe now has a de facto ban on the import of many US animal feeds," said Friends of the Earth spokesman Adrian Bebb. However, Greenpeace warned that stricter controls are needed to prevent more cases of unauthorized biotech imports. "Europe is currently helpless to defend itself from contamination by GMOs that are suspected to harm human health and the environment," said Christoph Then, genetic engineering expert for the campaign group. "As long as EU authorities have no means to test imports for all the GMOs being released in the U.S. and elsewhere, it must say 'no entry' to the EU for any food, feed or seeds that are at risk of contamination."
The EU said it is in continuous contact with U.S. authorities on the issue, but its decision to ban suspect corn gluten imports further strains trans-Atlantic trade relations.
Syngenta said last week it has reached a settlement with the U.S. government over the inadvertent sale to farmers of Bt10. The company said in a statement that under the settlement reached with U.S. authorities, it would pay a fine of $375,000 and teach its employees the importance of complying with all rules. However, the EU has been annoyed that U.S. authorities allowed the export of Bt10 to Europe after it was mixed up with an authorized biotech Syngenta maize labeled Bt11. About 1,000 tons of animal feed and food products such as oil and flour containing the corn are thought to have entered the EU since 2001.
The case has underscored European concerns about biotech foods, coming shortly after the EU relaxed restrictions on genetically modified organisms.
Associate PressCopyright 2005, by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Unlicensed GM rice may be in UK food chain - Greenpeace finds illegal strain in Chinese exports - Thursday April 14, 2005 - The Guardian
Unlicensed GM rice sold illegally on the internet to Chinese farmers has been sold for human consumption and may have been imported undetected into the UK, even though it could cause allergic reactions. The Chinese authorities are investigating after 11 samples of rice in Hubei province were found to contain BT rice, a transgenic strain that has not been approved for commercial growing and should not be in human food.
The UK is one of a number of EU countries that imports rice from China. Although the amount of GM rice involved is thought to be only a small percentage of the total grown - about 1,200 tonnes - no one knows precisely, or where it went. Since no GM rice is grown legally anywhere in the world, importers would not have checked if any had entered British food supplies.
The GM rice was discovered after Greenpeace China investigated offers on the internet to farmers of GM rice that would kill larvae which bore into the stalks of the crop, seriously damaging yields. The rice has not been tested for human consumption, but it caused an allergic reaction in mice when fed to them. Apart from a potential risk to human health, the poison genetically engineered into the plant could also kill non-target species such as butterflies and moths. Insects which are or become resistant to the introduced toxin may evolve and require more intensive chemical control. There are also fears that the rice could contaminate natural genetic resources and affect long-term soil health.
For China it is also an economic risk, because importer countries such as Japan and Korea have consumers who reject GM foods. A similar GM contamination case in the US in 2000 resulted in a $1bn (£530m) product recall, amid concerns of potential allergenic reactions after illegal, genetically engineered corn called StarLink entered the food chain. Although StarLink was grown on less than 1% of all US cornfields, it was mingled with much larger quantities of corn. It resulted in the recall of nearly 300 contaminated food product lines.
The Chinese rice contamination was discovered when researchers followed up the internet sales and collected samples of rice from millers and merchants. Testing by the Genescan international laboratory found that 11 samples were contaminated, and two contained toxins which were known to cause an allergic reaction in mice. Sarah North, the GM campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "This dodgy rice could have serious consequences for human health and the environment and it could already be on UK supermarket shelves. This is just another sorry example of how the GM industry is out of control."
The discovery of the GM rice followed a scandal last month over unlicensed GM maize entering the food chain as a result of a mix-up between two types of GM seed - one called BT10, which was unlicensed, and the second BT11, which could be grown commercially. For three years BT10 was grown and mixed with BT11 before anyone realised. Yesterday, three weeks after being told of the error by the US authorities, the European commission was still unsure how many member countries had unwittingly imported about 1,000 tonnes of the contaminated maize. It has demanded that all maize imports should be certified as free of contamination - something which is almost impossible to achieve - but many think that is not enough. The UK Green member of the European assembly's environment committee, Caroline Lucas, condemned the decision to continue importing US corn at all. "This incident casts serious doubt on the EU's ability to monitor GM ingredients in the food chain. The only way to ensure unauthorised GM corn doesn't enter the food chain is to halt all US corn imports until the contaminated corn has been identified, recalled and returned to the US." David Cuming, of Consumers International, said: "The release of untested GMOs into the environment and the food chain is unacceptable, undermining consumer rights to safety, to a healthy and sustainable environment and to information. People need to know that their food is safe." The organisation, which represents 250 groups in 115 countries, wants labelling to enable GMs to be traced, the establishment of GM-free areas and independent safety testing. Mr Cuming said the rice and maize discoveries raised questions about the integrity of the companies and individuals involved in genetically-engineered food. "It also reveals weakness in regulation systems. Strict safety guidelines and independent testing need to be implemented and we also need strict rules to prevent such contamination from occurring," he said.
China Seeks Probe of Greenpeace Rice Claim - Thursday April 14, 2005 - Associated Press
BEIJING (AP) - China has ordered an investigation into an environmental group's claims that genetically modified rice not approved for human consumption has been sold in central China for two years, an official said Thursday. Greenpeace on Wednesday called for a recall of the rice and released what it said were results of lab tests of rice from seed companies, farmers and rice millers in Hubei province. ``We have started an investigation of the Greenpeace report,'' said an official contacted by phone at the Agriculture Ministry's office for genetically modified organisms. The official confirmed that some genetically modified rice was planted in Hubei, but said it was experimental and the plantings were limited to five acres. He refused to give his name.
The Chinese government is researching genetic engineering in a wide range of crops, hoping to increase farm output as it copes with a shortage of farmland and the need to feed a population of 1.3 billion people. China has seen little of the debate that has raged abroad about the possible dangers of genetically modified, or GM, crops. Greenpeace said up to 1,200 tons of the rice may have ``entered the food chain.'' It did not give any more details and it was not clear whether the rice had been shipped out of the country. It said interviews with seed providers and farmers showed that the rice had been in circulation for at least two years. The rice has been modified to produce a pesticide that can cause allergic reactions in humans, Dr. Janet Cotter, from the group's science division, said in a prepared statement. ``We are calling on the Chinese government to take urgent action to recall the unapproved (genetically engineered) rice from the fields and from the food chain, and to conduct an immediate inquiry into the source of the contamination,'' Greenpeace said in the statement.
An official of the Hubei provincial agriculture bureau, contacted by phone, said the province has been carrying out test plantings of GM rice engineered to resist insects for two to three years. The official refused to give his name or any other details about the rice, saying the issue was a ``sensitive problem.''
Beijing said in December that it was testing the safety of genetically modified rice but denied that it was preparing to allow commercial sales.
EU MOVES TO RESTRICT US MAIZE IMPORTS - FOE calls for industry to pay the costs
Brussels, 13 April 2005 -The European Commission should immediately halt all imports of maize from the United States, said Friends of the Earth today. Late yesterday, European member states agreed unanimously to a proposal demanding that all shipments from the US are certified free of an illegal genetically modified (GM) maize - a de facto ban on the import of US maize-based animal feeds. The Commission is likely to make the decision in the coming days. (1)
The agrochemical firm Syngenta admitted three weeks ago that it had sold unlicensed GM seeds to US farmers for four years. Syngenta has since refused to make public the information needed for governments to test food and feed imports for the illegal GM maize.
Whilst Friends of the Earth is backing the EU proposal, it is urging the European Commission to go further and:
* Immediately halt all shipments of imported US maize food and feed products unless they can be certified as not containing the illegal GM maize;
* Insist that Syngenta sets up a compensation fund to pay for the testing of maize products worldwide;
* Urgently review the EU's monitoring system to guarantee public protection from unapproved GM products.
The incident was first made public through an article in Nature on 22 March (2). Between 2001 and 2004 Syngenta sold several hundred tonnes of a GM maize seed, called Bt10, to US farmers, mistaking it for another GM maize, Bt11. Unlike the Bt11 maize, Bt10 has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world. It has been estimated that around 1000 tonnes of the illegal GM maize entered the European food chain and was even planted at test sites in Spain and France.
Syngenta claimed that the Bt10 maize was "physically identical" to Bt11, a view initially endorsed by governments and the European Commission. Friends of the Earth disagreed, pointing out that the unapproved GMO also contained a controversial antibiotic resistance gene, which confers resistance to an important group of antibiotics. Syngenta finally admitted that this was indeed the case (3).
Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: "EU countries have now given the European Commission the green light to introduce strict restrictions on US imports. The Commission must act quickly to protect the public from this unlicensed and untested genetically modified crop." "The failure of Syngenta to provide the basic information needed to test for their contamination is a disgrace. The Commission must insist that this secrecy ends and Syngenta sets up a fund to pay for testing. The polluter must pay, not the public." "The inability of the biotechnology industry to control its own products makes a complete mockery of the EU's monitoring systems. The European
Commission must order an immediate review to ensure that the public is never again exposed to unapproved genetically modified foods."
Contact: Adrian Bebb, + 49 1609 490 1163 (mobile)
(1) Member states met in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health
(2) The original Nature article can be found at:
(3) Bt 10 contains the amp gene, which confers resistance to the ampicillin family of antibiotics. In recent guidance, the European Food Safety Authority stated that GMOs containing this gene should not be approved for cultivation and their use restricted to field trials.
Europeans to Toughen Rules on Animal Feed From US - New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/13/business/worldbusiness/13syngenta.html
By PAUL MELLER - Published: April 13, 2005
BRUSSELS, April 12 - The European Commission said Tuesday that it was drafting stricter rules governing exports of animal feed from the United States to prevent the entry of unapproved genetically modified feed. The announcement follows news in past weeks that an unapproved strain of genetically altered corn seed may have entered the European Union in corn oil, corn flour and animal feed. The European authorities are focusing on animal feed, as they have confirmed the presence of the genetically altered corn in it, but not in corn oil or flour thus far. The European Food Safety Authority, meanwhile, said Tuesday that the unapproved corn was unlikely to pose any threat to health or the environment.
Syngenta, the Swiss agrichemicals company, told authorities in Europe, Japan and Canada last month that it had inadvertently switched two strains of corn seed in 2001. This resulted in its Bt-10 seed, which contains a gene resistant to the antibiotic ampicillin, being grown and marketed as Bt-11, a nearly identical seed that has been approved in Europe and the United States for many years. The unapproved corn was grown in the United States until December, when Syngenta discovered the mistake and informed authorities in Washington. Some of the corn, however, is believed to have been exported to Europe, Canada and Japan.
Europe's food safety agency gave a mixed preliminary view of Bt-10 corn. After examining a different genetically altered corn with a similar antibiotic-resistant gene last summer, the agency said these types of corn should not be sold in Europe. But in its statement Tuesday, the agency said that a similar strain of Bt-10 examined last year showed that corn of this type is "unlikely to alter the existing pool of bacteria" resistant to ampicillin, and that research so far indicated that ampicillin-resistant genes do not spread through pollination from genetically modified corn to normal corn.
Philip Tod, a spokesman for the European Commission, said that the commission would push ahead with the stricter rules as quickly as possible to prevent any more of the unauthorized corn from entering the European Union. American exporters of corn gluten feed for animals would have to provide proof from an internationally accredited laboratory that their exports to the European Union do not contain any of the unapproved corn strain, he said, adding that a majority of the 25 member countries were behind the idea. "There is clear agreement that this is an illegal situation that cannot be allowed to continue," Mr. Tod said. "It's not good enough that exporters from America can't show that their feed isn't contaminated. The burden of proof is on them."
Food safety spawns public concern - China Daily, 26 March 2005 - http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-03/26/content_428253.htm
Xi Ping, a Shanghai resident, had already consumed a dozen bottles of a name-brand pickle product when he learned from a television report that his favourite food contains Sudan I, a carcinogenic dye used mainly to colour shoe polish and other waxes. "I have been taking poison without even knowing it," he said, bitterly. "I had wondered how the vegetables could be made so delicious looking...now I know. And I learned it's dangerous." In no way is Xi's story exceptional. In recent weeks, Sudan I has been found in a variety of foods sold in a dozen Chinese provinces and municipalities, including Beijing, the nation's capital. The dye is used as an additive not only in tomato paste and ketchup, but also in chili sauce, pepper oil and pickles that are prepared with traditional methods. Fast food outlets, including some KFC branches, have used the dye-tainted products. The latest discovery of Sudan I in foods follows another food-related tragedy that shocked the nation and is still fresh in people's minds. Thirteen infants died of malnutrition and 171 fell ill in Fuyang, East China's Anhui Province, after being fed with a blend of infant formula that contained mainly starch and little dried milk. The case was cracked last May. Several local officials were disciplined for dereliction of duty or inaction. Some heartless merchants were jailed for producing or selling the so-called "powdered milk."
About the same time, 40 people in Guangdong Province were hospitalized after drinking liquor adulterated with industrial alcohol. Fourteen died in that incident. As a deputy to the National the People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, Zhang Wenrong, a businessman in Shanghai, spent nearly six months beginning last June in an investigation of foods sold in 221 local markets.
Poor food quality
In a 64-page report on his findings, he listed 150 "questionable" foods: sleeve-fish preserved in formalin, bamboo shoots kept fresh with
industrial sulfur, cuttlefish dyed with ink, and moldy oranges covered with a coating of paraffin. On the eve of World Consumer Rights Day, March 15, the State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC) reported that in the past year, it had handled 110,000 cases concerning food safety. In the process, it discovered 920 million yuan (US$111 million) worth of counterfeit and substandard goods. The State Quality and Quarantine Administration (SQQA) tested 2,000 food samples the same year and found one-fifth of them were below the State- imposed quality standards.
Many Chinese are growing increasingly nervous. Like Xi Ping, the man in Shanghai who has stopped eating pickles, they are changing their eating habits. He Jiguo, a professor with the Food School of the China Agricultural University in Beijing, views the phenomenon from two perspectives. "On the one hand," he said, "people are more concerned than ever with the quality of what they eat, in particular with whether foods are safe. Gone are those days when they ate simply in order to be full." "On the other hand," he continued, "legislation on food must be improved." The professor cited a report published by the SQQA recently to back up his views.
In 2004, according to the report, the SQQA surveyed a million producers of rice, wheat flour, cooking oil, soy sauce and vinegar products. Of these, 79.25 per cent were family businesses with fewer than 10 workers each. Nearly 16 per cent of them were producing without a licence, and quality control and safety inspections were void in 64 per cent of them. Ji Zhanling, an official in charge of food hygiene in canteen cars under the Shijiazhuang Railway Bureau, went further to cite what he called "loopholes" in current food legislation. He classified "problem" food and drinks into three kinds: those below the hygiene standards, those below the proper nutrition standards and dangerous types like adulterated liquors and wines. "The existing laws, like the Food Hygiene Law and the Criminal Law, just focus on whether food is clean and innocuous," he said. "Provisions on nutrition values and safety, if any, are vague."
Shi Sizhen is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory body. She submitted two proposals to this year's annual session of the CPPCC National Committee in mid-March, demanding improvements in law enforcement efforts to ensure food safety. "In not a few cases," she noted, "a guy may make 1 million yuan (US$120,900) by producing or marketing substandard or adulterated foods.
"When the wrongdoing is exposed, all the guy needs to do is to pay a fine of a few thousand yuan or, in some cases, may have his business licence revoked. The guy will remain free provided no deaths have been caused. That's wrong."
Governmental role defined
Shi proposed that laws specify, in explicit language, the responsibilities of governments for food oversight, obliging agencies to monitor the entire process of food production and distribution, from purchases of raw and processed materials to the delivery of finished products. China's highest authorities have responded to such proposals by listing a food safety law on the lawmaking agenda of the NPC. If all goes well, the law should come out by the end of this year, covering the responsibilities of food producers, establishment of food safety monitoring systems, government supervision over food production and distribution, as well as food quality control. In a related development, people have expressed concern with genetically-modified (GM) foods.
Also on the eve of this year's World Consumer Rights Day, a report was released by Green Peace, a world non-profit organization for environmental protection, noting that several types of food sold in China's supermarkets contain GM ingredients, like the Ritz biscuits and Campbell's soups. Ma Tianjie, a Green Peace campaigner, was outraged at the double standards of these companies, which are committed not to using genetically modified ingredients in foods sold in Europe. Ma notes that consumers are becoming more aware and cautious of such foods. In a survey carried out in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in 2004, 62 per cent of the 600 respondents know about GM foods and 57 per cent said they would not buy it - a big leap from 52 per cent and 40 per cent in 2003, respectively. A poll on the sina.com, one of China's portal websites, shows that nearly 82 per cent of the 6,937 respondents are against the promotion of
transgenic rice, which might be planted in large areas for commercial purposes this year. Some experts insist that transgenic foods are harmless, but Ma takes it with a grain of salt. "Genetically modified food crops came into being not long ago, and it is still early to say whether transgenic foods are safe or harmful," he said.
EU set to ban US maize feed after GM scare - Bruno Waterfield - EU Politix
The EU has moved closer to a ban on US maize-based animal feeds after Europe's governments demanded that imports be certified free of unauthorised GM crops. EU member states on Tuesday agreed unanimously to proposals requiring that all corn feed shipments from the US are guaranteed not to contain the unauthorised GM maize BT10. The move is likely to lead to a de-facto ban on EU imports of US maize-based animal feed by the European Commission later this week. A corn gluten feed trade worth Euro 347 million a year could be now be hit after shipments of unauthorised GM crops were exported from the US.
The dispute centres on BT10, a biotech animal feed manufactured by Swiss company Syngenta, sold to the US and exported to the EU without approval. The European Commission is to ask that each shipment is accompanied with an analytical report - a measure that would halt all imports for weeks. "Exports of corn gluten feed from the US which are accompanied by this analytical report would be allowed to enter the EU, but without this analytical report they would not be allowed to enter the EU," an EU source told Reuters. "We're talking about a measure which would say that exports of corn gluten feed essentially should be certified, should be accompanied by an analytical report by an accredited laboratory certifying that these exports are free of Bt-10."
EU health and consumer protection chief Markos Kyprianou has stressed the need for tests that can detect, and thus prevent, unauthorised GM entering Europe. "Kyprianou continues to emphasise the importance of detection methods," said a commission spokesman on Tuesday. Existing detection methods are modelled to test products for authorised GM not unauthorised or experimental crops. "We have detection methods for GMOs that are authorised. We do not have one for this GMO because it is unauthorised," said the commission spokesman.
Syngenta is still developing reliable detection methods for BT 10 and workable tests are not expected for another two weeks. Any possibility of certifying imports would depend on the agribusiness giant providing EU authorities with a BT10 test.
Although just 1000 tons of BT10 affected product was imported into the EU, the row raises questions about the Europes ability to manage GM crops. Brussels is angry over the incident which has damaged the authority of the EU's controversial, and already discredited, authorisation procedures.
Syngenta insists BT10 poses no threat to human health and is very similar to BT11, another genetically modified corn strain - already approved by the EU. Friends of the Earth has attacked the companys secrecy over BT10 and the GM crops antibiotic resistance gene. "The failure of Syngenta to provide the basic information needed to test for their contamination is a disgrace," said a spokesman. "The commission must insist that this secrecy ends and Syngenta sets up a fund to pay for testing. The polluter must pay, not the public."
Illegal GE rice contaminates food chain in China - PRESS RELEASE, 13 April 2005
13 April 2005, Beijing, China -- Greenpeace is calling for an urgent, international product recall after uncovering the illegal release of a variety of genetically engineered (GE) rice in China. The GE rice has not been approved for human consumption and may have contaminated Chinese rice exports.
"The GE industry is out of control," said Greenpeace GE campaigner Sze Pang Cheung. "A small group of rogue scientists have taken the world's most important staple food crop into their own hands and are subjecting the Chinese public to a totally unacceptable experiment." "We're calling on the Chinese Government to take urgent action to recall the unapproved GE rice from the fields and from the food chain, and to conduct an immediate inquiry into the source of the contamination."
A Greenpeace research team discovered unapproved GE rice being sold and grown illegally in the Chinese province of Hubei. Interviews with seed providers and farmers indicate that GE rice seeds have been sold over the past two years. Samples of rice seed, unmilled and milled rice have been collected from seed companies, farmers and rice millers. Testing by the international laboratory Genescan has confirmed the presence of GE DNA in 19 samples. The evidence from the lab, combined with field reports, confirms that some of the illegal GE varieties are Bt Rice ? which is genetically engineered to produce an inbuilt pesticide. Greenpeace estimates that at least 950 to 1200 tons of GE rice entered the food chain after last year's harvest, and that up to 13,500 tons may enter the food chain after this year unless urgent action is taken.
According to Greenpeace International Scientist, Dr Janet Cotter, this is a very serious problem requiring urgent Government action: "There are strong warning signs that this GE Bt rice could cause allergenic reactions in humans. It has been shown that the protein produced in Bt rice (called Cry1Ac) may have induced allergenic-type responses in mice (1). To date, there has been no human food safety testing of Bt rice."
China is a major exporter of rice and it is expected that the contamination scandal may have significant trade and market impacts, particularly in countries like Japan and Korea where consumer rejection of GE foods is very high. A similar case in the USA in 2000 resulted in a $1 billion product recall amid concerns of potential allergenic reactions after GE corn (Starlink) illegally entered the human food chain. "This will have a major impact on the Chinese as well as international rice markets," said Sze. "China is one of the world's major rice exporters and our customers in Japan, Korea, Russia and Europe are strongly opposed to GE foods." Consumer concern over GE foods in China is also rising. In an opinion poll released by Greenpeace in March, 73% of the respondents said they would choose non-GE rice over GE rice. China is considering commercialization of GE rice and officials have indicated a decision may be made this year. The contamination scandal raises the question of whether the government could regulate GE rice. "The government has not controlled GE rice in the research stage, how will it regulate large scale commercialization?" Sze said.
Video and photo images of the GE rice are available from: http://photos.greenpeace.org.au
For more information contact:
Sze Pang Cheung, GE Campaigner, Greenpeace China +86 13911460884 (Beijing)
Janet Cotter, Greenpeace International Science Unit, (UK) +44 781 217 4783 (UK)
Zhou Meiyue, Media Officer, Greenpeace China, mobile +86 139 100 36849 (Beijing)
Maya Catsanis, Media Officer, Greenpeace International, mobile +61 407 742 025 (Sydney)
(1) Moreno-Fierros, L., Garcia, N., Gutierrez, R., Lopez-Revilla, R. & Vazquez-Padron, R.I.2000. Intranasal, rectal and intraperitoneal immunization with protoxin Cry1Ac from Bacillus thuringiensis induces compartmentalized serum, intestinal, vaginal and pulmonary immune responses in Balb/c mice. Microbes and Infectection 2: 885-890 and references therein.
Busch to boycott state's rice if genetic alterations allowed - Scott Canon - The Kansas City Star, Apr. 12, 2005 - http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/business/11369865.htm
Commodity-buying behemoth Anheuser-Busch Cos. has vowed to boycott Missouri's 30 million-bushel rice crop if genetically altered, drug-making plants are grown in the state The beer maker, the country's single largest rice buyer, last week told Missouri growers it would not buy their rice if a firm that recently moved from California wins permission to plant about 150 acres of pharmaceutical grain in the rice-rich Bootheel region. "Anheuser-Busch holds the trump card. If they say they're not going to buy any rice if this (pharmaceutical) rice is planted, then don't plant," said Dan Jennings, a grower from Sikeston, Mo., who had previously supported the experimental crop. An Anheuser-Busch boycott "puts pressure on everybody else who buys Missouri rice to defend it." The brewer has long opposed Ventria Bioscience's plans.
Ventria wants to grow rice genetically engineered to produce lactoferrin and lysozyme - substances found in human tears, saliva and mother's milk and used for digestive problems. Currently they can be extracted from mother's milk for up to $30,000 a gram or drawn from chicken eggs with the chance of triggering allergic reactions. The rice is not yet approved for huma nconsumption. Anheuser-Busch contends too many ways exist - from human error to flooding to the movement of animals - for the pharmaceutical rice to invade commercial varieties. "Given the potential for contamination of commercial rice production in this state, we will not purchase any rice produced or processed in Missouri if Ventria introduces its pharma rice here," said Jim Hoffmeister, Busch's group vice president for procurement, logistics and agricultural resources. "It freezes the rice grower in Missouri out of selling to this huge customer," said Paul Combs, a grower and implement dealer near Kennett. "We think it's indicative of the pattern other companies will take."
The beer company is joined in opposing Ventria's plans by the USA Rice Federation, the U.S. Rice Producers Association and Riceland Foods Inc., a farmer-owned cooperative and the world's largest rice miller and marketer. Anheuser-Busch, however, is alone in its boycott. The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has said Ventria's plan "should not have a significant impact, either individually or cumulatively, on the quality of the human environment" but has not weighed in on the economic impact. The firm still must get federal approval for its plans. States are consulted during such permit processes, and Missouri has been solidly behind Ventria. A spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Blunt said Monday that he supports Ventria's plans despite Anheuser-Busch's position, saying the "science is sound."
Last year the company decided to move its headquarters from Sacramento, Calif., to Maryville, Mo., to form a partnership with Northwest Missouri State University, which offered free office space and a promise of investment in plant research. The university's president, Dean Hubbard, has since joined Ventria's board of directors without compensation. Hubbard speculated that opposition from Riceland Foods comes from worries that the cooperative won't be able to pay farmers as much as Ventria promises. He said Anheuser-Busch's worries about contamination are unfounded. The university president said any risks - he characterized them as minimal as "anything when you're dealing with nature" - should be weighed against how the cheap production of drugs promised by pharmaceutical rice could save children in developing countries. "What this boils down to is beer or babies," Hubbard said.
The company now has a proposal pending with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grow its rice in the southeast Missouri counties of Cape Girardeau, Scott and Mississippi - within 5 miles of some commercial paddies. The company chose self-pollinating crops such as rice and barley to prevent wind from carrying the pollen to other crops. The Union of Concerned Scientists recently studied the breeding of drugs into corn and soybeans - soybeans are self-pollinating, corn is not - and concluded that contamination is virtually inevitable. Missouri's rice crop in 2004, nearly all of it grown on 200,000 acres in the rich and soggy soil of the Bootheel, was worth about $95 million to farmers. Those fields sit next to 1.6 million acres of rice in Arkansas - or about half the nation's crop.
To reach Scott Canon, national correspondent, call (816) 234-4754 or send e-mail to email@example.com
Brazil, Latin American Soybean Producers to Charge Sale Royalty
April 4 (Bloomberg) -- Brazil, Argentina and other South American soybean producers agreed to charge royalties on the purchase of genetically modified soybean seeds, after deciding against royalties on the harvested crops.
Agriculture officials from South America, including representatives from Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Bolivia and Paraguay, announced the policy after an April 1 meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, to study proposals from Monsanto Co., the world's biggest developer of genetically modified crops.
Monsanto had been seeking to have the royalties charged on the grains after harvested, the Argentine Agriculture Secretary said in a statement.
The officials ``agreed to coordinate action to defend producers in the region from all monopolistic practices that could affect their income,'' the statement said.
Monsanto shares fell $3.16, or 4.9 percent to $61.50 at 2:06 p.m. in New York.
Go to Brazil and Argentina pages for more background on the soya business in these countries.
Chicago Tribune - http://www.chicagotribune.com/technology/chi-0504030255apr03,1,1533534.story?coll=chi-technology-hed
MEXICO, MAIZE AND MONSANTO - Genetic colonialism - REGULATION - Good enough for U.S., good enough for Mexico?
By Norman C. Ellstrand - Published April 3, 2005
Despite Mexico's multiyear ban on planting genetically engineered corn, scientists have confirmed that engineered genes have made their way into remote cornfields in Mexico. For most corn scientists, this discovery wasn't a surprise. For millenniums, Mexican farmers have managed the genetics of their crops--particularly corn--carefully replanting seed saved from last year's crop, exchanging seed with others and experimenting with new seed when the chance arises. Mexico's native crops may be traditionally grown and managed, but they are genetically sophisticated, far from primitive. Farmers have created a constellation of corn varieties for specific uses, from tortillas to tamales. Because Mexico imports millions of tons of corn from its NAFTA neighbors, some of that foreign seed might find its way into its cornfields. It is likely that some farmers experimentally planted seed imported from Canada or the United States for human or animal consumption (seed technically known as "grain"). Almost half of that corn seed contains engineered genes. If a transgenic corn plant in a Mexican field had a chance to flower and cross-pollinate others, then the seed it sired would carry engineered genes. Because it's not unusual for corn pollen to fertilize ears hundreds of feet from a source plant, some transgenes could end up in a neighbor's crop.
But are unintended engineered genes in Mexican corn a big deal? That question was addressed by a report released last year by the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation which studies the environmental impacts of NAFTA trade. The report came at the request of Mexican organizations worried about what these unexpected genes might mean for Mexico's environment and health. Regulatory scientists in the United States, Canada and a few other countries have approved the commercial production of corn with certain transgenes for insect resistance and herbicide resistance. The first variety was approved in the United States a decade ago, without subsequent evidence of environmental or health effects. The fraction of genetically engineered corn has grown to about 40 percent of the U.S. crop.
Not so fast
If it's good enough for the United States, shouldn't it be good enough for Mexico? Not without Mexican regulatory scrutiny. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation recommended reducing the likelihood that imported GE corn is planted in Mexico until scientists there can consider the impacts of GE corn in Mexico. This recommendation makes sense for two reasons.
First, regulators in one country don't consider possible impacts of transgenics beyond their borders. I once asked a regulator why a U.S. Department of Agriculture decision document didn't mention that corn naturally hybridizes with its wild relative, teosinte. He said, "Teosinte doesn't grow in the United States, only Mexico. It would be presumptuous to tell the Mexican government what to do." And he is right. Environmental context is important. What is considered a crop in some countries may be a nasty weed elsewhere. Mexican government scientists haven't yet studied the impact of American transgenic corn in the Mexican environment. Wouldn't Americans be anxious and angry about importing millions of tons of living transgenic seed deregulated in, for example, China, but not by our own regulatory scientists? Clearly, this issue of regulatory sovereignty is critical. Second, unintended transgene spread could create corn varieties that might not be as benign as the intended varieties. Corn has been the species of choice for genetic engineers who create plants to produce pharmaceuticals and other industrial chemicals not intended for human consumption. The USDA has approved hundreds of field tests for corn engineered to create such chemicals. Many of these chemicals wouldn't be harmful if they inadvertently ended up in food. But others would result in adverse health effects, if they occur at high enough levels.
Nonetheless, current U.S. regulations require fairly stringent confinement for so-called pharm crops; thus, if a few pollen grains strayed, siring transgenic seeds that entered the U.S. food supply, the concentration of such compounds would likely be too low to be of consequence or to even be detected. Because more than 99 percent of American farmers grow hybrid varieties, which are sterile, and thus buy new seed every year, it would be close to impossible for the frequency of such genes (and their unwanted products) to increase in farmers' fields or the U.S. food supply. It's different for Mexico. Some Mexican farmers use hybrid varieties and do not replant seed. But thousands of others plant saved seed from a previous harvest, often experimenting with seed from their neighbors or taken from a bag of grain distributed for human or animal consumption. Bags of grain for consumption have come increasingly from Mexico's NAFTA partners.
Consider the worst-case scenario.
Assume a tiny fraction of corn seed imported into Mexico contains a transgene that creates a chemical that would have serious health effects in sufficiently high concentrations. Then assume a farmer experimenting with imported seeds plants one with the chemical-producing transgene. Finally, assume that gene confers an advantage to plants that bear it, resulting in more seeds or more pollen. Then, the conditions are right for the gene to evolve, increasing in frequency, undetected, generation by generation. The chemical also increases in concentration in the food supply until it eventually has serious effects on the health of those eat it.
Although this scenario is unlikely, each separate step has already happened. For example, both the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency have reported compliance violations in the United Statesinvolving seed- and pollen-mediated escape of pharmaceutical-producing corn genes. Luckily, the violations were caught in time, and crop products were destroyed. The limited planting of pharm corn (a couple of hundred acres) at this time makes international leakage extremely unlikely. But the popularity of pharm crops and the hazard posed by the "worst-case scenario" make clear that now is the time for Mexico to start managing and monitoring the inflow of corn transgenes, as the Commission for Environmental Cooperation suggests.
Managing and monitoring
Gene flow could be managed by treating seeds in some way that prevents germination. Monitoring could be facilitated by requiring that transgenic seed be genetically marked, say, with a seed color trait. Some have criticized the commission's report as flawed and unscientific. Yet its scientific basis is sound. Agricultural biotechnology has potential for great benefits. But like any new technology, with potential benefits come potential risks. Like other modern technologies, from electrification to the automobile, the wise use of science maximizes benefits while minimizing risks.
Norman C. Ellstrand is director of the Biotechnology Impacts Center at the University of California, Riverside, and author of "Dangerous Liaisons? When Cultivated Plants Mate with Their Wild Relatives."
Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune - http://www.chicagotribune.com
MNCs, designers join lobbies against GM crops - http://www.deepikaglobal.com/ENG3_sub.asp?newscode=98419&catcode=ENG3&subcatcode=
New Delhi, Apr 3 (UNI) Western Multi-National Companies and Indian Fashion designers are to join hands with environmental activists to make the country a 'Genetically Modified Organism -- Free Zone'. The campaign for making India a GMO-free zone will begin in two months, according to Indian environmentalists. Indian activists have already asked American Sports goods giant Nike, international lifestyle brand Espirit and several domestic fashion designers the big question--If we launch a campaign, will you refuse to procure GM products for manufacturing your products? ''The answer was Yes. They will come on board when we start our campaign,'' says Vandana Shiva of Delhi-based environmental group Navdanya. The Indian lobbies, who have raised fears of health hazard from GMO, will be supported in their action by European anti-GMO groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace Europe. The campaign will also be targeting the Monsanto-owned GM crop BT cotton, presently being cultivated in six Indian states.
According to Dr Shiva, the campaign will be in three phases. In the first phase, a ''People's Commission'' will be set up to spread awareness about the health and environmental hazards from GMO. The year-long phase also plans to bring back attention on farmers' suicides in Karnataka and Kerala last year. The second phase will be, in fact, an extension of the global movement for a GMO-free zone. ''Presently, about 30,000 zones in Europe have been categorised as GMO-free zones,'' says Dr Shiva. ''In India, thousands of villages have already taken pledge not to plant GM seeds.'' The first genetically modified crop to be introduced in India three years ago, BT Cotton is cultivated in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. A month ago, six new varieties of transgenic cotton developed by domestic seed companies were allowed for cultivation in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The case for further extension of the GM crop in these six states will come up before the Genetical Engineering Approval Committee of the Ministry of Environment on April 13. The campaign will focus in its last phase on making the GMO industry shift its base through intensifying protests. The case against Mahyco, the Indian subsidiary of multinational GM seeds company Monsanto Mahyco, in the Supreme Court will also receive the attention in this phase, according to Dr Shiva.
The lobbies also want to direct their campaign at the government to force it enact laws to label anything that is genetically engineered. "The labelling will help consumers identify whether the food they are buying is GM food or not,'' says Geert Ritsema of Friends of Earth Europe, which led a successful campaign to introduce a labelling law in Europe last year. Besides legislations, the environmental groups also want facilities for conducting tests on GM foods to find out the risks.
GMO CROP SCANDAL - TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE - Commission only acts after 10 days
Brussels, 1 April 2005 - Friends of the Earth today criticised the European Commission for doing too little, too late, about the illegal import into the
EU of unapproved genetically modified (GM) maize. It is ten days since Swiss-based Syngenta announced that it had inadvertently sold hundreds of tonnes of the unapproved GM corn to US farmers for four years. The Commission confirmed today that around 1000 tonnes of the illegal GM maize
has entered the European food chain and some was planted at tests sites in Spain and France. The Commission has now written to the United States and to the GM company for more information.
The incident was first made public through an article in Nature on March 22. The article revealed that, between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta produced and sold several hundred tonnes of a GM corn, called Bt10, which contains an insecticide. The corn has not been approved for human consumption anywhere worldwide. According to the article, Syngenta and the US Government were in
discussions since last year over what should be done about the error, and how and when information should be released to the public.
Initially Syngenta claimed that the maize was "physically identical" to a GMO maize already approved, called bt11, a view mimicked by the Commission. However, Friends of the Earth disagreed, pointing out that the unapproved
GMO also contained a controversial antibiotic resistant gene, which confers resistance to an important groups of antibiotics. This week, Syngenta finally admitted this was the case. (1)
Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: "The European Commission's response is too little and too late. For ten days they haven't taken action, even though it was public knowledge that a food unapproved for human consumption had entered the European food chain. The public expects and deserves better. The Commission must now get back into control and demand that any illegal foods are immediately removed from the
Contact: Adrian Bebb, + 49 1609 490 1163 (mobile)
The original Nature article can be found at:
1. Bt 10 contains the amp gene, which confers resistance to the ampicillin family of antibiotics. In recent guidance, the European Food Safety Authority stated that GMOs containing this gene should not be approved for cultivation and their use restricted to field trials.
US officials fret over South Korea's response to GM corn mix-up - 3/31/2005 - http://www.soyatech.com/bluebook/news/viewarticle.ldml?a=20050331-3
Nikkei English News via NewsEdge Corporation : WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--U.S. industry and government officials say they are concerned South Korea may disrupt corn trade by requiring testing for an unapproved biotech strain produced in the U.S. over the past four years. Switzerland's Syngenta AG (SYT) announced last week it inadvertently sold a limited amount of the unapproved Bt10 corn seed instead of the approved Bt11 to U.S. farmers who planted it on 37,000 acres from 2001 through 2004. U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, who asked not to be named, said since Syngenta's announcement, South Korea has brought up testing as a possible regulatory response. A senior USDA official, when asked about trade implications from Bt10 corn, said: "This could be a problem."
Reports from private analysts in South Korea said the country's Food and Drug Administration, or KFDA, is looking into how it can test corn imports for Bt10. And Syngenta has mobilized, sending top level representatives to Seoul. Syngenta spokeswoman Sarah Hull confirmed that Paul Tenning, head of the company's global biotech regulatory compliance division, has been sent there.
South Korea imported 148.7 million bushels of U.S. corn in the 2003-04 marketing year, making it the sixth largest foreign market for U.S. corn, according to data compiled by the National Corn Growers Association. USDA officials said it is still too early to know how South Korea or Japan, the largest foreign market for U.S. corn, will respond to the commercialization of the unapproved biotech strains here. USDA spokesman Ed Loyd said Japan, South Korea and other countries just learned of the unapproved biotech corn production here on March 21. Syngenta informed the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration in December that the company discovered it had accidentally been selling the experimental and unapproved Bt10 corn seed to farmers. A senior USDA official said "both Japan and Korea are looking at their options," but stressed no decisions have been announced on how they will implement their domestic regulations. "We have been having an ongoing exchange of information. They've been asking questions. We've been providing answers."
The only reaction so far from Japanese government officials has been to seek assurances there will be no more Bt10 in the U.S. corn supply and to request more information about Bt10 from Syngenta and the U.S. Nathan Danielson, biotech director for the National Corn Growers Association, said the question of how Japan will react has some analysts "sitting here waiting and holding our breath." The USDA, Environmental Protection Agency, and Food and Drug Administration were quick to declare last week: "The genetically engineered proteins in Bt10 corn are identical to those in the Bt11 strain, which is another genetically engineered corn strain that has been approved for use. Bt10 corn meets EPA's current health-based regulatory food safety standards, and the existing food safety clearance for Bt11 applies to Bt10."
Syngenta officials stressed that not only have they destroyed or isolated all the remaining unapproved Bt10 seed, but the likelihood that the corn produced from it over the past four years made it into exports was very small. Despite the company's promises and U.S. government reassurances, Syngenta is still being investigated for violating USDA and EPA regulations. Syngenta has not asked for approval of its Bt10 corn from the USDA or EPA, spokespersons for those agencies and Syngenta said.
By Bill Tomson, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-646-0088; firstname.lastname@example.org - Copyright ©2005 Nihon Keizai Shimbun America, Inc.
BRAZIL: Soy Boom Highlights Biotech Advances, but Encounters Resistance [shortened] - Mario Osava - RIO DE JANEIRO, Mar 29 (IPS)
Large numbers of transgenic seeds have been smuggled into southern Brazil from neighbouring Argentina, and genetically modified soy is now widely planted in that region. The Brazilian legislature only recently passed a Biosafety Law that will allow genetically modified crops to be legally planted. But transgenic crops face resistance from a broad movement in Brazil in favour of a country free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Activists point out that no conclusive studies have been carried out to demonstrate that food containing GMOs is safe for human health. In addition, a group of non-governmental organisations in Brazil just released a study showing that the fast spread of soy plantations is contributing to deforestation in the country's Amazon jungle region, by driving up the value of land and encouraging clear-cutting and logging. In the meantime, the yields of the genetically modified soy grown in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul dropped sharply this year due to drought, according to farmers.
Because the seeds planted in the state are the product of contraband, and are not specifically adapted to the local climate, they are less resistant to drought, reported the Association of Producers and Traders of Seeds and Seedlings of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Conventional varieties of soy, developed by national companies and institutions and adapted to the specific characteristics of the region, performed better, with up to 25 percent higher yields.
Soy also causes other "environmental imbalances" by requiring intensive use of toxic agrochemicals and mechanisation, as well as economic and social problems, since it is a monoculture crop, Altermir Tortelli, the coordinator of the Federation of Family Agriculture Workers of the Southern Region, remarked to IPS. Monoculture export crops accentuate the concentration of land ownership in Brazil, leaving millions of small farmers without land and aggravating the rural exodus, at the expense of diversified farming, which contributes to food security and the fight against poverty, he argued. But soy already represents nearly half of all production of basic grains and oilseeds in Brazil, and is cultivated by 243,000 agricultural producers, according to the Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oils.
Nigerian consumer body rejects GMOs - Angola Press, 16 March 2005 - http://www.angolapress-angop.ao/noticia-e.asp?ID=326883
Lagos, 03/16 - Nigerian consumers, under the umbrella All-Nigerian Consumer Movements Union, have rejected genetically- modified foods (GMOs) and called on the federal government to change its position on "these dangerous products". The union's stand was contained in a statement circulated at a workshop organised in the commercial city of Lagos Tuesday to mark World Consumer Rights Day in the country. The workshop, jointly organised by the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), set up by the federal government in 1992 to pursue increased consumer awareness, and the local NGO Consumer Rights Project, focused on the theme of the 2005 observance of the Day:"Food security: Is GMO the answer?" "Whereas it is true that GM technology may have the potential to increase food production and improve the nutritional quality of food, it is not being used by its dominant practitioners, the private corporation to produce either more of better food," the union claimed.
Nigeria has drafted a biosafety law allowing the use of GMO technology, though the National Assembly has yet to pass it. The country also does not have a policy on GMO imports, unlike African nations such as Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho and Zambia, which have banned the import of GMO foods. The union criticised the recent Memorandum of Understanding signed by Nigeria and the US Agency for International Development to jointly promote biotechnology and genetically modified products in Nigeria. The consumer group called for the reversal of the memorandum.
THE RESOLUTION ADOPTED AT THE FoE-AFRICA/TWN CONFERENCE ON GMOS AND AFRICA, 21-23 MARCH 2005, LAGOS, NIGERIA
WE, environmental, consumers and farmers' representatives from Africa participating in the African Conference on GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in Lagos 21-23 March 2005;
CONCERNED that the biotech industry and some Governments are pushing GMOs into our continent without due regard to our centuries old agricultural practice of seeds saving, sharing and development;
REALISING that GMOs have potential negative environmental, ecological, economical, cultural, ethical, political and health impacts. Today, it is known that the promises of GM crops have not proven to be true, that the concept that people will die if GM food is not embraced is incorrect, and that the problem of food insecurity is not a reason for promoting GMOs;
CONCERNED that GMOs are being presented as one of the means to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Multiple experiences with GMOs in many parts of the world have shown that there are serious problems and risks;
AWARE that the majority of the investment in the production of GMOs is in the hands of transnational corporations and the fact that these corporations have patented these products. The actions of companies like Monsanto in North America and other parts of the world clearly shows that if farmers in Africa adopt GM seeds in the continent they will lose sovereignty over their seeds;
WORRIED that the GM food aid is being forced on Africa and that Africa may be a dumping ground for contaminated food rejected elsewhere. This is an attempt to have total control of our lives through food, following economic slavery and colonisation;
NOW THEREFORE, WE, the groups participating in the FoE-TWN GMO Conference in Africa in Lagos, do hereby resolve as follows:
1) we demand a complete moratorium on GMOs in Africa until their safety for our environment, health, and socio-economic conditions is established beyond doubt;
2) we will embark on action-oriented research and campaigns and a massive public awareness campaign on the negative impacts of GMOs in Africa with the aim of securing a GM-free Africa;
3) we will intensify our efforts to create awareness of the existence of and problems with GMOs, especially in the grassroots, and the materials and our outreach should be in languages understood, and with methods accessible by, the people in our countries;
4) that effective networking is necessary to coordinate our work. National work should be the basis for the regional networking;
5) that African Governments should adopt and implement strict, comprehensive, and genuinely participatory democratic laws on GMOs;
6) that African Governments should ratify and implement the Cartegena Protocol on Bio-Safety and adopt the African Model Law on Safety in Biotechnology as the minimum standard to be used;
7) that African Governments should ensure democratic and qualitative public participation in decision making on this matter, and guarantee the public right of access to information;
8) we reject attempts to dump GMOs on Africa in the guise of food aid. Indigenous food crops remain the answer to the question of food security in Africa. We therefore call on African Governments to invest in research on, with a view to promotin g indigenous and sustainable food production systems;
9) we reject the commoditization, privatization and patenting of agricultural seeds;
10) and we strongly assert that decisions related to GMOs must include socio-economic considerations, in particular, an assessment of the impact of GM crops in local, farming and indigenous communities.
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, Third World Network (TWN), Africa Centre for Biosafety, South Africa, ANCOMU, Lagos, Nigeria, Biowatch, South Africa, Centre for Environment and Development, Cameroon, Committee on Vital Environmental Resources (COVER), Nigeria, Development Communications Network, Nigeria, Earthlife Africa, South Africa, Friends of the Earth, Mauritius, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Leone, Friends of the Earth, Swaziland, GroundWork, South Africa, Les Amis de la Terre, Togo, Nigerian Environmental Society, Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia, Participatory Ecological Land-Use Management (PELUM), Tanzania, Persons with Disability Network (PEDANET), Nigeria, WARDC, Nigeria
SEEDS OF DISPUTE: Crop crusaders - By MIKA OMURA - The Asahi Shimbun, February 25, 2005 - http://www.asahi.com/english/nation/TKY200502250146.html
Farmers fight to keep genetically modified plants from wreaking havoc in their fields. Farmers adamant about preventing genetically modified plants from infiltrating their fields are declaring GM crop-free zones to bolster public awareness and fight the influx of such wayward crops. There is every indication that their concerns are well-founded.
The Environment Ministry disclosed Feb. 14 that GM rapeseed with resistance to herbicides had been detected in 11 locations near ports. These included Kajima and Yokkaichi in Ibaraki and Mie prefectures, respectively, along with Kobe, Chiba and Nagoya. The seeds likely spilled from containers during unloading or transportation. Each year, Japan imports about 2 million tons of rapeseed, mainly as an ingredient for cooking oil. Japan began importing GM crops in the 1990s. Farmers worry that imported GM rapeseed will cross-pollinate and hybridize the closely related domestic rapeseed and other crops. "If we allow GM rapeseed to flourish, we won't be able to stop worrying about whether we can continue to collect our own seeds for cultivation," said Shigetaka Hayashi, 50, a farmer in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture. Hayashi has been raising Western rapeseed crops using seeds collected from his field and stored for the next season. When Hayashi heard that GM rapeseed had been found growing in Chiba Prefecture, he started worrying that his field could become ``contaminated'' and last year decided not to produce the crop. "If I trade seeds collected from a contaminated crop with a fellow farmer, I would inadvertently be lending a hand in spreading GM seeds," he said.
Anti-GM groups are waging a grass-roots public awareness campaign. A large signboard announcing "Genetic modification crops are not allowed here" stands in the middle of a rice paddy in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, near Lake Biwako. The sign was erected by eight rice farmers who banded together as "Harie genki mai saibai" (Harie healthy rice farming) group. They started their own GM-free zone movement last month. Group member Fumio Ishizu, 57, explained: "We want people to stop and wonder, what is this? That will be a start, and we can go from there to explain what's wrong with genetically modified crops."
Meantime, civic organizations in Chiba Prefecture are taking a hands-on approach. On Feb. 6, about 15 members from two groups, "Stop GM Seeds Network Japan" and "Yuki Netto Chiba" took part in a clean-up project to pull up GM rapeseed growing along the roadside near JR Chiba-Minato Station. The volunteers-including Hayashi, the farmer from Sakura-filled 10 large bags in one morning. "We want people to stop and wonder, what is this? ... We can go from there to explain what's wrong with genetically modified crops." FUMIO ISHIZU Farmer, anti-GM activist Since it is impossible to tell if a rapeseed plant is GM or not just by looking at it, the workers pulled up all the rapeseed they found. Some plants had grown about shoulder high and some had already flowered and were carrying seeds. The plants were grouped into three batches according to location and tested for genetic modifications. All groups contained GM rapeseed.
The GM-free zone movement is going strong in Europe where governments are cautious about introducing GM crops. In Japan, the "NO! GMO Campaign" organized by consumer organizations began calling for the creation of GM-free zones last month. At the moment, there are no GM crops produced commercially in Japan, but some farmers have begun requesting the right to grow GM crops. The new "NO!" movement aims at getting more farmers to forego GM crops, and to expand GM crop-free zone areas. At the moment, pledges are being collected through various co-ops, organizations and farms. Group representative Keisuke Amagasa said, "Our goal is to achieve pledges from 10,000 farmers, just as in Germany." Local governments are not sitting back idly, either. In Iwate, Ibaraki and Shiga prefectures, the authorities established guidelines that restrict GM crop production. The Tokyo metropolitan government is also looking into implementing similar rules. Hokkaido is one step ahead. It has already compiled a draft ordinance that carries penalties for offenders who embark on commercial GM crop production without a permit. Scheduled to take effect shortly, it would be the first such regulation on this issue at the local government level. Hokkaido is determined to protect its unique "Hokkaido brand" crops, keeping them free of contamination and preventing cross-breeding with general crops.
No GM rapeseed were found growing in the wild during the first Environment Ministry investigation undertaken in fiscal 2003. But the second investigation found plenty near the 11 port areas. The study was conducted by collecting sample seed specimens from Western rapeseed, domestic rapeseed and mustard plant, found growing in 86 locations around the major ports where imported rapeseed is unloaded-plus dry riverbed areas in Ibaraki, Saitama and Chiba prefectures. Further, according to a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report released last June, two plant specimens out of seven, collected from Western rapeseed varieties found growing within a 5-kilometer radius of Kajima port in 2002, were found to be carrying genetically modified genomes. The report also said six seed samples out of 20 were found to be genetically modified. Nobuyoshi Nakajima, a researcher at the National Institute for Environmental Studies, studied seeds collected from rapeseed plants growing at 45 locations along main roads in Ibaraki Prefecture and Chiba Prefecture last year. He discovered genetically modified genomes from samples collected at seven locations along Highway 51 in Narita and Sakura, Chiba Prefecture, far from the port area. Nakajima also studied mustard plants growing in dry riverbeds, but did not discover GM plants at the time. He commented: "It is not all that easy for hybrid plants to establish themselves in a new setting-they must thrive in a competitive natural environment and be hardy enough to produce seeds for the next generation. Chances are considered pretty low, but close monitoring should continue."
(International Herald Tribune/Asahi: February 25,2005)
A moratorium on the further release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
The World Conservation Congress at its 3rd Session in Bangkok, Thailand, 17-25 November 2004:
1. CALLS for a moratorium on further environmental releases of GMOs until this can be demonstrated to be safe for biodiversity, human and animal health beyond reasonable doubt;
2. REQUESTS IUCN to promote information and communication on GMOs, especially in developing countries, and to support initiatives to ratify and implement the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety; and
3. URGES the Director General to compile and disseminate within one year from the adoption of this resolution a report on current knowledge of the dispersal and impacts of GMOs on biodiversity and human health.
RECALLING that the IUCN Intersessional Programme Framework adopted at the 2nd IUCN World Conservation Congress (Amman, 2000) included a request to play a major role in identifying and defining issues that affect biodiversity and that attention be paid to environmental impacts of biotechnology;
APPRECIATING that Resolution 2.31 /Genetically Modified Organisms and biodiversity/, which was adopted at the 2nd IUCN World Conservation Congress (Amman, 2000), noted two key concerns regarding GMOs, namely:
(a) the potential for significant reduction or loss of biodiversity as a result of releases of GMOs into the environment; and
(b) the potential role of GMOs in "achieving global food security" which it notes "have not been adequately demonstrated so far";
NOTING that there has been introduction and promotion of GMO products worldwide, especially in developing countries, with inadequate controls on their entry into national or regional markets, and that there is growing concern over their safety for biodiversity, human and animal health;
AWARE that the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety has incorporated the precautionary approach as set out in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development in determining risk management as to what is an acceptable level of risk;
OBSERVING that GMO introduction and promotion are driven primarily by the private sector, whose interests in development and marketing may be greater than in assessing potential risks to biodiversity, human and animal health;
AWARE of the broad public concern about GMOs and their potential risks to biodiversity, human and animal health; and
WELCOMING the Key Result Areas in the draft IUCN Intersessional Programme 2005-2008 which take into consideration the impact of GMOs on biodiversity, such as calling upon key private sector companies to integrate biodiversity into their corporate social responsibilities and actions;
The delegations of Japan, The Netherlands and Sweden indicated that they were unable to support this Resolution. http://www.twnside.org.sg
Russian Scientists Warn Putin of GM Food Threat - MosNews, 14 October 2004
Russian scientists have warned about the dangers of genetically modified products in a letter to President Putin. Importing genetically modified foods is jeopardizing both Russia's health and agriculture, they claim.
Alexander Baranov, president of the National Association for Genetic Security, explained that genetically modified products are putting the health of the nation in serious danger, RIA News Agency reported. The letter to Vladimir Putin, signed by more than 30 key public, political, and scientific figures, reads:
"This address is imposed by the growing vulnerability of Russia's biological security. There is a process of substituting environmentally friendly foods, which are typical for Russia, with imported genetically modified products. Russia is becoming a site for testing foreign biotechnology."
Among other precautions, the letter advises a ban on using GM products in baby food, a moratorium on growing GM crops before they are proved to be harmless, and a new federal law concerning biological security. The letter also notes that the Russian food market is flooded with imported genetically modified and transgenic products that are not subject to any state control.
"These products are dangerous in their unpredictability, especially considering their prolonged use. We don't know their eventual effects on the human body," Vladimir Kuznetsov, head of the scientific council of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said.................................
WHO URGES FURTHER RESEARCH - Bangkok Post, 13 Oct 2004 - http://www.biothai.org/cgi-bin/content/news/show.pl?0374
The World Health Organisation yesterday suggested Thailand conduct further research on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) so that an early action plan can be implemented to cope with possible health risks posed by transgenic food.
"At this point, we have no evidence to say that it is dangerous to consume food products that contain GMOs, but at the same time we also don't know its negative side. So, we have to say that we do not know the adverse health effects of GM food," WHO assistant director-general Kerstin Leitner said yesterday.
The WHO suggested studies be conducted in order to be sure that should there be a negative health effect, appropriate action could be taken, said Ms Leitner, who was in Bangkok to attend a three-day international conference - the second Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators - organised by the WHO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
With more than 500 food safety regulators and scientists from 104 countries participating, the conference aims to strengthen food safety controls in developing countries and to improve response to trans-boundary food safety emergencies....................................................
MONSANTO LEAVES COSTA RICA - COSTA RICA TRANSGENICS ALERT - Central American Alliance for Protection of Biodiversity
Biodiversity Network - CR - 20 September 2004
Monsanto the company responsible for more than 90% of industrial releases of transgenic organisms in the world has decided to withdraw its request to release genetically modified corn (maiz) in Costa Rica and to pull out of the country. Environmentalists in Costa Rica are still working to strengthen the campaign for an GMO-free country. Members of the National Commission on Biosafety say that Monsanto's withdrawal is a success for social groups that have been leading a campaign against the expansion of transgenic crops in Costa Rica. Staff of the Biotechnology Department of the State Plant Health Service believe the government can no longer stand up for companies, when faced with the persistent claims and demands of the public that opposes this kind of biotechnology. They say it would be good if the companies responded to the many invitations for an open debate made by numerous social groups. Isaac Rojas, President of the Costa Rica Federation for Environment Conservation, welcomed the self-criticism of the National Commission on Biosafety. He said the public sector (State) cannot and should not continue to legitimize and defend biotec companies nor transgenic products. It is time that the corporate sector shows its face and enters into a process of public debate. Fabián Pacheco, a spokesman for the Social Ecology Association, said "It was to be expected that Monsanto would choose to go to other countries where conditions are less critical and more permissive," and added "This kind of evasive attitude shows that the companies do not have technical arguments to prove that GMOs are safe and that the precautionary principle is not being violated." The Biodiversity Network CR calls on all parts of the ecological movement and peoples' organisations of other countries in the region to be alert. Monsanto is leaving Costa Rica, but it will go to other countries where it can sell its transgenic crops without much noise, to avoid polemics and open debate and adverse effects on its economic interests. Beware!
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The Thika Declaration on GMOs - Statement from the Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum - 20 August, 2004
We, the Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum leaders, representing crop farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolk, do declare today, August 20th 2004, that farming is our livelihood and not just a trade. Farming has been passed down from generation to generation, and is now threatened by Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
GMOs are a danger to food security and our indigenous gene pool. Patented GMO crops threaten farmers ability to save and share their indigenous seeds which have stood the test of time. Thus they will reduce our seed security and food security, without the long and short term effects on our health and environment being known. GMOs will hand control of our food systems to the multinational companies, who have created these seeds for financial gain, and not for our need.
These new seeds may create conflict between farmers due to the risks of cross pollination from GMO to non GMO crops leading to contamination between farms.
GMOs will increase costs for farmers. This new kind of agriculture has been produced using a complicated and expensive process called genetic engineering. To make their profits back from the farmers, the companies patent the GMO seeds, which leads to higher costs for farmers, who are then forbidden from saving and sharing their seeds for planting the following season. If the seeds fail, farmers are left in great destitution. The agrochemicals associated with GM crops will oblige farmers to pay the high prices set by the companies, and replace the need for paid farm labour, thereby threatening our livelihoods.
GMOs threaten Kenya's environment. A clean environment is a fundamental right for all. GMOs on the contrary are contaminative, unfriendly to our biodiversity, and pose a threat to the existence of our indigenous seeds, to organic farming systems, and to human and animal health in general.
Our government is being arm-twisted to accept GMOs by multinationals, without considering the effects on small scale farmers.
Small scale farmers in Kenya should be included in policy formulation on agriculture research and food security. Government should invest in irrigation, improvement of infrastructure, appropriate technologies, marketing, subsidies, credit, farm inputs and better rangeland management, and NOT ON GMOs.
We believe that God created life, and no one can own it, not even Monsanto, Syngenta or other multinational companies. We therefore reject all GMOs in agriculture, and call upon the Kenyan government to respect our indigenous expertise. Therefore to be able to fully understand the effects of GMOs on our livelihoods, health and environment, we demand a twenty-year moratorium on GMOs in Kenya.
Region in the Phillipines going GM free on 21st July 2004
Cultivation of genetically modified crops to be prohibited on Venezuelan soil - 21st April 2004
President Hugo Chavez Frias has announced that the cultivation of genetically modified crops will be prohibited on Venezuelan soil, possibly establishing the most sweeping restrictions on transgenic crops in the Western Hemisphere. Though full details of the administration's policy on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are still forthcoming, the statement by President Chavez will lead most immediately to the cancellation of a contract that Venezuela had negotiated with the US-based Monsanto Corporation.
Before a recent international gathering of supporters in Caracas, President Chavez admonished genetically engineered crops as contrary to interests and needs of the nation's farmers and farm workers. He then zeroed in on Monsanto's plans to plant up to 500,000 acres of transgenic soybeans in Venezuela. "I ordered an end to the project," said President Chavez, upon learning that transgenic crops were involved. "This project is terminated." President Chavez emphasized the importance of food sovereignty and security -- required by the Venezuelan Constitution -- as the basis of his decision. Instead of allowing Monsanto to grow its transgenic crops, these fields will be used to plant yuca (an indigenous crop), Chavez explained. He also announced the creation of a large seed bank facility to maintain indigenous seeds for peasants' movements around the world.
The international peasants' organization Via Campesina, representing more than 60 million farmers and farm workers, had brought the issue to the attention of the Chavez administration when it learned of the contract with Monsanto. According to Rafael Alegria, secretary for international operations of Via Campesina, both Monsanto and Cargill are seeking authorization to produce transgenic soy products in Venezuela. "The agreement was against the principles of food sovereignty that guide the agricultural policy of Venezuela," said Alegria when informed of the President's decision. "This is a very important thing for the peasants and indigenous people of Latin America and the world." Alegria has good reason to be concerned ... with a long history of social and environmental problems, Monsanto won early international fame with its production of the chemical Agent Orange - the Vietnam War defoliant linked to miscarriage, tremors, and memory loss, to which over a million people were exposed. More recently, the company has been criticized for side-effects that its transgenic crops and bovine growth hormone (rBGH) are believed to have on human health and the environment.
Closer to home in Venezuela, Monsanto manufactures the pesticide glyphosate, which is used by the neighboring Colombian government as part of its Plan Colombia offensive against coca production and rebel groups. The Colombian government aerially sprays hundreds of thousands of acres, destroying legitimate farms and natural areas like the Putomayo rainforest, and posing a direct threat to human health, including that of indigenous communities. "If we want to achieve food sovereignty, we cannot rely on transnationals like Monsanto," said Maximilien Arvelaiz, an advisor to President Chavez. "We need to strengthen local production, respecting our heritage and diversity." Alegria hopes that Venezuela's move will serve as encouragement to other nations contemplating how to address the issue of GMOs. "The people of the United States, of Latin America, and of the world need to follow the example of a Venezuela free of transgenics."
From AxisofLogic.com - Americas - Food, Trade And US Power Politics In Latin America - Toni Solo - 13th April, 2004,
The difference between what Bush officials say to Congress and the pap they feed foreign audiences makes interesting reading for anyone trying to figure out US government rhetoric on Latin America. The account rendered by US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick to Congress is very different from the one offered in speeches by US Representative to the Organization of American States John Maisto. Beyond these texts and pretexts, the US acts to dominate events in Latin America combining diplomacy and foreign aid with trade and economic pressure, all ultimately backed up by the threat of ruthless covert or overt military force.
How it's done
Dumped food and attendant 'aid' measures soften up recipient countries by distorting a country's domestic agricultural economy. Military and economic aid props up compliant regimes. Central America's history is replete with examples of this use of 'aid'. Witholding aid - or threatening to - tightens the screws on governments the US deems recalcitrant. That pressure is usually complemented by economic sanctions and incentives applied both bilaterally and through US proxies like the World Bank, the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank.
In that context, trade negotiations like the Central America Free Trade Agreement are put like a pistol to the heads of governments. Trade negotiators find their minds concentrated under the threat of their government losing US aid or concessionary World Bank or Inter American Development Bank loans and IMF balance of payments support. To help things along where necessary, an election can be swayed or rigged or a crisis engineered with funding from the National Endowment for Democracy or other State Department or CIA catspaws assisted by timely interventions from the local US ambassador. When all else fails vicious military action is readily mounted, either covertly staged as in Nicaragua and this year in Haiti or else overtly imposed as in Grenada or Panama.
How it's dressed up
The whole gamut of coercion is generally reported by compliant news media as if they were speech writers for George Bush or John Maisto, It is often hard to tell the difference. These quotes happen to be from Maisto, but the language they use could come from editorals in newspapers either side of the Atlantic. "The President's policies in the Western Hemisphere are grounded in basic American ideals and values. President Bush's emphasis is on promoting democracy and human rights and strengthening democratic institutions to make them more credible and relevant for individual citizens; on advancing trade and investment as engines for economic growth and job creation......" Or, "We must continue to advocate policies that have a proven record of success : free-market reform, respect for the rule of law, the right to property, and sound macroeconomic principles." Maisto's assertion of such hypocritical nonsense is consistently given a free ride by mainstream journalists in the US and elsewhere.
Never mind FTAA-lite. Try Empire-heavy.....
Meanwhile, to Congress, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick tells it like it is, "Day-in and day-out, all around the world, the U.S. government is working aggressively to make sure barriers to U.S. goods and services are removed......Our new and pending FTA partners represent America's third largest export market -- these FTAs are stripping away trade barriers across-the-board, market-by-market, and expanding American opportunities....... Enforcement of existing trade agreements is a vital complement to producing new ones. Indeed, enforcement is inherently connected to the process of negotiating new agreements......Virtually everything USTR does is connected with enforcement in some way. Negotiations to open markets and enforcement are two sides of the same coin." 
Zoellick's report to Congress lists what the the US Trade representative views as unfair trade barriers and practices to American exports of goods, services, and farm products around the world. It covers 58 countries. No one reading it can have any illusions that the primary purpose of all the US phony 'free trade' deals is to break open markets for US and foreign (Zoellick's links to the multinational Vivendi are relevant here) multinational corporations - permanently, especially as regards food and energy resources. It is impossible to make sense of events in Venezuela and Colombia or anywhere else in Latin America without realizing that the ultimate goal of current US policy in Latin America is to render national sovereignty completely obsolete except for the United States.
Many writers from around the world see the issue of food sovereignty as equally if not more important than sovereignty over energy resources. Some have put the reality of US and European hypocrisy on food very succinctly "Both America and the EU have a protection built in, and it is called the Peace Clause. The Peace Clause was put into what is called the Blair House Accord at the time of the original WTO negotiations. It actually exempted the European Union and America from reducing their subsidies until December 31, 2003. For instance, India cannot take America to the dispute panel, saying that your cheaper food is destroying our agriculture. At the same time, having built this ring of protection around their own agriculture, they have made sure that the developing countries have phased out their tariff barriers and other protections. So we have no tariff barriers left, and we've become a dumping ground."
Now the Peace Clause is replaced by technical talk about the 'Singapore issues', 'green' and 'blue' boxes of trade areas the EU and the US want exempt from World Trade Organization anti-protectionist rules. In Latin America, opponents of the Free Trade Area of the Americas are not fooled. They are just as clear as Devinder Sharma.
Here is Colombian Senator Jorge Robledo Castillo: "A nation whose food supply was located somewhere else in the world stands to lose if for some reason it cannot be made available for domestic consumption. Ultimately this is the key reason -- to which all others are subordinate no matter how important they may seem-- that explains why the 29 richest countries in the world spend 370 billion dollars annually in agricultural subsidies. This figure has been continually increasing for decades and, in the nineties, grew by 50 billion dollars. ......That's why the pleading of some people who, in the midst of the process of globalization, are asking the US and other powers to eliminate subsidies and other protective measures toward their farmers and stockbreeders and suggesting that Third World countries become the food suppliers are totally naïve."
People at all levels across Latin America see this very clearly. A spokesperson for the Movement of Landless Workers in Brazil, states, The principal base for forging a free, sovereign people is that it has the conditions to produce its own food. If a country becomes dependent on another in order to feed its people it becomes a dependent nation politically, economically and ideologically.
Worrying about the GM Frankenstein Monster
Within the broader concern in Latin America about food sovereignty, anxiety about genetically manipulated foods is acute. Writers like Elizabeth Bravo of Ecuador's Acción Ecológica have analysed what the FTAA would mean in terms of the ability of US multinationals like Monsanto and Dupont to penalise local agriculture by enforcing Intellectual Property Rights on plants and seeds through patents and related ownership rights. She argues this will introduce monopoly rights into the food production system, limit the free movement of seeds, increase erosion of genetic resources and force farmers to pay royalties on the seed they use, thus generally increasing food prices.
She goes on to point out that, even without broaching the ethical monstrosity of patenting life forms, these attempts to prioritise the agenda of the agribusiness multinationals will lead to monocultivation and eliminate small farmers. Latin American agriculture will become more insecure the more it comes to rely on foreign, especially United States, technology. Looking further afield, one has only to consider a country like Honduras to see where the free trade model leads: abject dependency, widespread poverty. massive unemployment.
The Case of Argentina
Argentina offers a vision of the possible nightmare future for agriculture and food production in Latin America. Gutted financially after embracing the great neo-liberal economic confidence trick through the 1990s, now Argentina faces the consequences of selling out its food sovereignty to foreign multinationals. These excerpts from an article by Alberto Lapolla are worth quoting at length.
"Our people suffers the greatest punishment in its history. 55 children, 35 adults and 15 older people die daily through hunger related causes. That is 450,000 people between 1990 and 2003, a true economic genocide. 2O million people out of a population of 38 million live below the poverty line. Six million are indigent, suffering extreme hunger, and nearly four and a half million are unemployed......Nonetheless Argentina has the highest per capita food production in the world with more than 70 million tons of grain and 56 million head of cattle, a similar number of sheep and likewise of pigs a food production of three tons per person each year. However, that mass of food products bears witness to the greatest hunger and social genocide in our history.
This brutal process of social vindictiveness serves as an example for the rest of the world's peoples, who can see in situ the role played by transgenic crops, publicised by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont and the rest of the multinational owners of biotechnology, as a panacea to alleviate human hunger......The hunger of the Argentine people, its thousands of children dead of hunger, its old people dead from hunger, the millions of impoverished people sorting through rubbish seeking something to eat are the clearest and most categorical demonstration of the true effects of transgenic crops on people's economies.,,,,,This year, Argentina will produce 34.5 millon tons of transgenic soya (50% ot the grain total) on 14 million hectares (54% of cultivated land). 99% of this soya is transgenic, destined to feed cattle in the European Union and China. They then export that beef to markets that no longer import Argentine beef because our open range cattle production has been affected by the uncontrolled expansion of transgenic soya production. So the government produces export commodities instead of food and industrial products so as to get foreign exchange in order to pay illegitimate foreign debt."
The Venezuelan case a strong whiff of US imperial inconsistency?
Argentina's case is salutary and ominous for the rest of Latin America and casts a different perspective on the case of Venezuela. Looking back again at the US Trade Representative's report to Congress this year, Robert Zoellick's indictment of Venezuela's trade felonies goes on for six pages. Among the charges:
* Venezuela's use of tariffs under the Andean Community's price-band system to protect prices of feed grains, oilseeds, oilseed products, sugar, rice, wheat, milk, pork, poultry and yellow corn.
* its non-legislated system of guaranteed minimum prices and the discretioanry use of import licenses and permits to protect domestic white corn, sorghum, soybean meal, yellow grease, pork, poultry, oilseeds, and some dairy products.
* the requirement that importers obtain sanitary and phytosanitary permits for agricultural and pharmaceutical (including veterinary) imports.
* state controlled purchases of basic food products like sugar, rice, wheat flour, black beans, milk powder, edible oil, margarine, poultry, and eggs from a variety of countries.
* support through tax credits for exporters of coffee, cocoa, some fruits and certain seafood products
It's not just Venezuela's energy resources the US has its eyes on. It wants Venezuela's example to the rest of Latin America on food sovereignty destroyed as well. Negotiations with Colombia on a trade-in-your-sovereignty deal are scheduled to start on May 18th. Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia won`t be far behind. Plenty of people in those countries can see very clearly how free trade fraud will bring them misery and penury.
Whether their governments care very much is moot. Robert Zoellick and his team are likely to coerce a deal out of them regardless. Nor is it mere coincidence that the US is simultaneously consolidating and extending its network of military bases throughout the region. Unless the US finds a way to make Venezuela comply with the FTAA, other countries may ask why they have to sign up to free trade deals that damage the interests of the poor majority.
Under Bush or under Kerry, it will make no difference. Time and credit are running out for the United States. It has to consolidate its control of the Americas so as to defend its economic position against Asia and Europe. The US will do everything, including promoting covert internal terrorism and, externally, fomenting war between Colombia and Venezuela, to destroy Venezuela's sovereignty by insisting on a peace-keeping intervention. The reason is simple. Along with Cuba, Venezuela is steadily working out an indigenous, viable alternative that the US cannot permit the rest of Latin America to copy.
Toni Solo is an activist based in Central America. Contact: email@example.com
(1) Remarks by Ambassador John F. Maisto upon being sworn in as U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States September 16, 2003 Benjamin Franklin Room, U.S. Department of State
(2) Address by Ambassador John F. Maisto, U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS and National Coordinator for the Summit of the Americas Process ANDEAN DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION VII ANNUAL CONFERENCE ON TRADE AND INVESTMENT IN THE AMERICAS Washington, DC September 11, 2003
(3) April 1, 2004 USTR Releases 2004 Inventory of Foreign Trade Barriers Market by Market, U.S. Free Trade Pacts Complement Global Efforts to Reduce U.S. Export Barriers
(4) 'Food as Political Weapon' by Devinder Sharma, Acres U.S.A, March 03, 2004
(5) GLOBALIZATION AND NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY, Jorge Enrique Robledo Castillo, Seminar on Rural Development and Food Security, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, November 6-7, 2001
(6) "Un pueblo sin soberanía alimentaria es un pueblo esclavo, dependiente' João Pedro Stédile, of Movimiento de los Trabajadores Sin Tierra (MST) interviewed by Luis Hernández Navarro 27 de agosto de 2003 (Página Abierta, nº 141, October 2003)
(7) 'Ecuador: el ALCA y la soberanía alimentaria' Elizabeth Bravo, Acción Ecológica, 25/11/2003
(8) 'Argentina: del granero del mundo al hambre generalizado, de la mano del monocultivo de soja transgénica' Alberto Jorge Lapolla, Rebelión, 31 de marzo del 2004
Brazil labels GM food
GMO bill passes Senate - Battleboro Reformer, Saturday, 17th April 2004
By Reformer Staff and the Associated Press - http://www.reformer.com/Stories/0,1413,102~8860~2089906,00.html
MONTPELIER, Vermont - The Senate on Friday passed a bill that could make Vermont the first state in the country to require the labelling of genetically engineered seeds.
House Passes Labeling Bill for GE Seeds - Measure is 1st in USA to define and label 'genetically engineered' seeds - 8th Apr 2004
GE Free VT Media Release: Contact: Amy Shollenberger, Rural Vermont 802.793.1114; Doyle Canning, GE Free VT 802.999.7502
Vermont House of Representatives Votes Yes 125-10 on Labeling of Genetically Engineered Seeds. Farmer's Right-to-Know Act is first of its kind in US: Makes manufacturers label GE seeds; Bucks industry claim that GE is 'same as conventional.'
Montpelier, VT: The Vermont House of Representatives voice-voted on final passage to endorse the Farmer's Right-to-Know Seed Labeling Bill (H-777) today, an act defining genetically engineered seeds as different from conventional seeds in the state of Vermont seed statute, and mandating the labeling of all genetically engineered seeds sold in the state. The bill goes back to the Senate next week for confirmation of final changes, before going to Governor Douglas for final approval and enactment. Todays' overwhelming yes vote comes as the Vermont Senate has unanimously approved the Farmer Protection Act in March, and 79 Vermont towns have passed Town Meeting measures calling on lawmakers in Montpelier and Washington enact a moratorium on genetically engineered crops. Representative Floyd Nease (D-Johnson) reported out the bill, explaining that this act is intended to "avoid potential adverse affects on biological diversity from use of GE seeds." Nease noted that the bill prescribes labeling of GE seeds by the manufacturer, which can either print or attatch a tag reading "GE" on the seed packets. Responsibility for this labeling rests with seed manufacturers, not Vermont retailers, unless retailers package and market their own GE seeds. Section four of the bill also requires seed manufacturers to report on GE seed sales to the Agency of Agriculture in addition to general seed sales reporting. "This bill is a step in the right direction. It gives consumers, both farmers and gardeners, the option of choices. I hope we will also, some day, get to vote to protect all of our farms from the economic consequences that may result from the contamination of seeds," said Representative David Zuckerman (P-Burlington), referring to the Farmer Protection Act, a bill awaiting action in the House Natural Resources Committee, on which he sits. "The key piece of the Farmer's Right to Know Act defines genetically engineered seeds and plants as different from conventional varieties. This bucks the industry's claim that GE is the same as conventional, and therefore doesn't require any additional regulation. This bill is the first of its kind in the US, and destabilizes the whole premise of 'substantial equivalence,' which informs GMO policy at every level," said Amy Shollenberger, Policy Director at Rural Vermont. "Let's not forget that, while this seed labeling bill is important, we're talking about seeds that are still patented GMOs with a life of their own and that's a whole can of worms of liability, contamination, and living pollution. That's why we've got to support our family producers with the Farmer Protection Act, and call a Time Out on GMOs," said Dexter Randall, a 7th generation dairy farmer from Troy. Randall will be speaking on April 17th at the International Day of Farmer's Struggles rally at Derby Line, Vermont on the US/Canada border to represent the global movement of farmers saying no to GMOs and the corporate takeover of agriculture. The GE Free Vermont Campaign on Genetic Engineering is a statewide coalition of public interest groups, businesses, concerned citizens and farmers, who are organizing to oppose genetic engineering at the local, state and national level, and calling for a "Time Out" on GMOs. For more information: http://www.gefreevt.org
See also USA page
Brazil's Parana State Bans Monsanto, Basf Pesticides on Risks
5th April 2004 - Brazil's Parana, the country's biggest soy-producing state, ordered Monsanto Co. and Basf AG to suspend the sale of some pesticides as it seeks more information about their impact on human health. Roberto Requiao, the state governor, ordered the recall of all stocks of pesticides produced by both companies because state officials lack information about their impact on health, said Benedito Pires, a spokesman for the governor. "Roundup Ready,'' a pesticide produced by Monsanto to work with its genetically modified soybeans, is among the products prohibited by the state, he said. ``The governor banned all the products that are missing the information demanded by the state's agriculture department,'' said Pires in a telephone interview. ``They're dangerous for people's health."
See also Brazil
MORATORIUM IN AUSTRALIA CONTINUES
GM food crops get taken off the menu - By Caitlin Fitzsimmons and Megan Saunders - 2ND April 2004
PLANS to grow genetically modified food crops in Australia are on hold indefinitely, after the NSW Government ruled out a 3000-hectare trial of GM canola. The shock decision came a week after Western Australia imposed an outright ban on GM food crops, and Victoria extended its moratorium for another four years. NSW Agriculture Minister Ian Macdonald vetoed the 3000ha commercial trial, despite his own GM advisory committee recommending it go ahead. Mr Macdonald said there would be no coexistence trial of GM crops for at least another year, but he would allow three small scientific trials covering a total of 420ha. "It's a good balanced decision - it will enable the farming community to evaluate what benefits, if any, there are," Mr Macdonald said. "By taking a cautious, staged approach, NSW is neither ruling out the potential of this technology nor jumping in without more science to guide us." The decision is a major blow to chemical giants Monsanto and Bayer, who wanted to plant enough GM canola to fill a single shipping container, in an effort to ease farmers' concerns about coexistence with non-GM agriculture and possible rejection by consumers. Monsanto had no comment yesterday, but Bayer CropScience BioScience general manager Susie O'Neill said coexistence trials were essential and she was "very disappointed" by the decision. The federal regulator approved Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola and Bayer's InVigor canola as safe for human health and consumption last year, but final approval rests with the states. The NSW decision blocks possible commercialisation of GM canola in the short term, as Tasmania and South Australia also have moratoriums, and the climate in Queensland and the Northern Territory is too warm to grow canola crops.
See also Australia
US Offers Biggest Market For Organic Produces
JOSEPH VACKAYIL - CHENNAI, 28th March 2004 : The increasing health and environmental awareness among consumers of the developed countries of western Europe, North America, Japan and Australia, has opened up markets for organically-grown produces and food and beverages made from them. The growing resistance among consumers to food products made from genetically modified (GM) organisms and GM farming is also said to be a major factor for the expanding demand for organic goods. Among rich nations, the US is expected to provide the organic farmers and exporters of the developing countries the biggest business opportunities in spite of that country having a growing organic farm acreage. According to official studies, there were over 7,800 organic farmers in the US in 2000 and most of them might be certified farmers by now. About 1.3 million acres of farmland in 49 states were certified organic in 1997 and certified organic livestock was being raised in 23 states. Although, most of the organic production is done on relatively small farms in the US, there are also several large-scale organic farms like Pavich Family Farms in California having over 4,000 acres of 100 per cent certified organic soil and 500 acres in transition to organic. According to the Organic Consumer Trends 2001, published by the Natural Marketing Institute in association with Organic Trade Association, the retail sales of organic food and beverages in the US are estimated to be of $20 billion by 2005. For the organic produce exporters that eye the US market four product categories are identified as most promising. Products mostly tropical: These are products not produced in the US, or produced only in small quantities. Examples include coffee, coca, tea, most of the tropical fruit and vegetables (fresh or processed) spices, herbs, dried fruits and nuts. Offseason products: These include fresh fruit and vegetables produced in the US, but having shortage in certain months. In-season products: Again fruits and vegetables, for which there is a temporary or a more permanent shortage because of strong and increasing demand. Novelty or specialty products: This segment include high quality organic wines, certain ethnic food products or retail-packed food products, mostly to be met by the European exporters. However, the major chunk of market demand would be for fresh organic produce (fruit and vegetable) and bulk-packed organic raw material or ingredients for further processing, packing or repacking. Studies by the International Trade Centre and the United Nations Conference on Trade Development say that "considerable amount of work is necessary to build up an organic export trade in developing countries, both on the production side and on the marketing side. At the country level, a good agricultural supply base with appropriate national or international certification is absolutely necessary, while for the producers and exporters it is important to offer a range of high quality organic food products that meet the requirement of the market". It is also important to note that the organic certification has to be recognised or accepted within the US National Organic Programme (NOP) and the export products meet all legal and market requirements of hygiene, weight, size, ripeness, colour, packing and other technical specifications of the US.
UKIAH, California Associated Press - 3rd March 2004 - Mendocino County voters approved the nation's first ban Tuesday on the raising and keeping of genetically engineered crops or animals.
The move represented a big black eye for the biotechnology industry, which spent more than $500,000 to defeat the measure in a county of 47,000 registered voters. "They had the money, we had the people," said Els Cooperrider, who led the local ballot measure. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Measure H had support from 56 percent of voters in the area known for its wineries. Opponents of the measure could not be immediately reached for comment. Their campaign headquarters in Ukiah was vacant with a "for lease" sign on it. Led by organic vintners and farmers, backers of the ban raised and spent close to $100,000. The ban will have little direct effect inside Mendocino County, since there are no known genetically modified crops raised in the area. But Mendocino County's organic growers said they would use the law as a marketing tool, especially in Europe, where opposition to genetically engineered foods is fierce. The victory is also expected to embolden similar movements in neighboring Northern California counties as well as elsewhere in the country. The biotechnology industry may file a lawsuit trying to overturn the new law. The industry argued that biotechnology regulation should be left to the federal government, otherwise biotech companies will have to wade through a hodgepodge of local laws.
GM technology fails local potatoes - The Daily Nation, Kenya, Online, Thursday January 29, 2004.
Trials to develop a virus resistance sweet potato through biotechnology have failed. US biotechnology, imported three years ago, has failed to improve Kenya's sweet potato. This has confirmed critic's fears that bio-engineered techniques tried elsewhere may not be replicated in Africa with similar results. The modified potato was launched in Kenya, in 2001 by US special envoy, Dr Andrew Young, who had flown into the country for the occasion. Investigations, on the transgenic crop, by KARI's Biotechnology Centre, say the technology has failed to produce a virus resistant strain. "There is no demonstrated advantage arising from genetic transformation using the initial gene construct," says a report by researchers, Dr Francis Nang'ayo, and Dr Ben Odhiambo. The transgenic potato was imported from Monsanto in the US to Kenya for tests.
Agriculture Canada is abandoning a long-running project involving genetically engineered wheat it developed in partnership with biotech giant Monsanto, amid doubts about how well the product would sell (9/1/04) - see Canada page.
Farmer doubts about GM cotton grow - Kultida Samabuddhi - Bangkok Post, 3 January 2004 http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/03Jan2004_news12.html
While the debate over genetically-modified crops carries on in Thailand, farmers in India, Indonesia and the Philippines, where GM cotton and corn have been grown commercially, are complaining that GM crops incur more losses than gains. (See the link for the full text and the section on India below for more, as well as Reports)
Press Release from Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, Director General of the Environmental Protection Authority, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - 4th September 2003 US Challenge presents threat to African Food Sovereignty.
The United States challenge to the European Union in the WTO courts over Genetically Modified Organisms primarily presents a threat to African and developing countries' food sovereignty and the Biosafety Protocol.
We in African countries, who have fought long and hard for the agreement and ratification of the Biosafety Protocol, feel that US actions are intended to send a strong and aggressive message to us: that should we choose to implement the Protocol and reject the import of GM foods, we may also face the possibility of a WTO challenge. We cannot help but perceive that US actions are a pre-emptive strike on the Biosafety Protocol and developing country interests.
The Protocol is due to come into effect on the 11th of September, coinciding with the WTO's 5th Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico. At Cancun, the US/ EU GM debate is expected to be high on the agenda. Part of the US argument for forcing the EU to accept GM without any kind of labelling restrictions, is that the EU rejection creates hunger in the developing world. Supposedly, we would willingly grow GM crops if we weren't afraid of losing our lucrative European markets.
But this premise is untrue. The only African country to support the WTO challenge was Egypt, who soon retracted support on the grounds of consumer and environmental concerns. Developing countries, and African countries in particular, do not want to grow GM crops uncritically and without the due process of their regulatory systems approving them. They will not have their crops contaminated by GM crops, for many reasons other than market access to Europe. The one important consideration is safety to human health, domestic animals and the environment. This can only be assured, as provided by the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, only through informed risk assessments and decisions based on the Precautionary Principle.
Secondly, we reject the patenting of living things, as has been made clear by our negotiations in the WTO. Otherwise, Article 34 of TRIPs would, in combination with the natural processes of cross pollination, not only contaminate our crops, but also turn our farmers into patent infringers. This would remove control of food production into the hands of multinational corporations, thereby wresting away food sovereignty into the hands of these companies. Besides paying royalties, we would lose food sovereignty.
Developing world agriculture systems are adapted to their geography, economy and culture, and GM farming systems that require capital and chemicals threaten our agriculture and food security. Ethiopia is strongly against the hasty introduction of GM crops, for, as a centre of origin and diversity of crops, we recognise the assets that come from a biologically diverse, locally adapted, small-scale agriculture. This is why African nations have fought so hard for the Biosafety Protocol, which can provide us with a legal basis on which to protect our own food sovereignty. We suspect that Africa is high on the agenda for the US next push for GM acceptance. And we resent the way that the stereotyped image of the hungry in developing countries has been used to force a style of agriculture that will only exacerbate problems of hunger and poverty.
The arguments that the EU must give up its right to label, or even reject GM, because of the developing countries must stop. We have the right to implement the Biosafety Protocol, and we must do so without delay.
Dr Tewolde was one of the architects of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. He will be in London, and available for comment 8-12 September, at the Gaia Foundation (+44) (0)20 7435 5000.
http://www.gmwatch.org/archive.asp Towards Cancun WTO Ministerial - ABANDONING AGRICULTURE - By Devinder Sharma
http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,993688,00.html Cotton farmers' poverty laid at door of US - African leaders to challenge Bush over 'ruinous' trade practices - Rory Carroll, Africa correspondent - Tuesday July 8, 2003, The Guardian
Trade rows loom over GM export treaty By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent The Times, May 28, 2003 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,172-694416,00.html
A TREATY restricting exports of genetically modified crops is likely to come into force within weeks, threatening to ignite a fresh trade row between the United States, Europe and the developing world. The Cartagena Protocol, which was drawn up in 2000, needs to be ratified by just two more countries to become legally binding and grant governments strong powers to ban the import of certain GM crops. The agreement, which has been signed by 103 countries, but not by the US, forces exporters to provide detailed information about the contents and potential environmental risks of any GM shipments, at considerable cost, before a destination country is required to accept it.
Under its precautionary approach, governments will be allowed to block imports if they are not satisfied with this information, although they must base such decisions on sound science. The protocols provisions, however, conflict sharply with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which allow imports to be restricted only when there is clear scientific evidence that a crop, either GM or conventional, could harm human health or the environment..................................
For the full text of the Cartagena Protocol see http://www.biodiv.org/biosafety/protocol.asp
GM crops of no benefit to poor, says ActionAid The Action Aid report Going against the Grain http://www.actionaid.org/resources/pdfs/gatg.pdf
Paul Brown, environment correspondent The Guardian, Wednesday May 28, 2003 http://www.guardian.co.uk/gmdebate/Story/0,2763,965299,00.html
Widespread adoption of GM crops would not help feed the world as their promoters claim, according to ActionAid. So great are the dangers that GM crops will worsen the plight of the 800 million hungry people in the world that there should be a moratorium until more research is done, it says in a report published today.
"Instead of focusing on risky technologies that have no track record in addressing hunger" policy should be directed to giving poor people land, credit, resources, and markets so they can feed themselves and sell their surplus crops.
After research in four continents among nine million farmers, ActionAid concludes that GM crops are more likely to benefit rich corporations than poor people. Only 1% of GM research is aimed at crops used by poor farmers in poor countries. It can cost up to 200m and 12 years to develop a GM crop, and that cost has to be recouped by selling to farmers who can pay for it.
"It is not the interests of poor farmers but the profits of the agrochemical industry that have been the driving force behind the emergence of GM agriculture. Four multinationals - Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, and Dupont - now control most of the GM seed market. About 91% of all GM crops grown in the world are from Monsanto seeds."
The report says corporations extend their markets by linking herbicides and pesticides to the GM seeds they sell. But yields are no greater and in some cases more chemicals are needed. Widespread adoption of GM crops would not help feed the world as their promoters claim, according to ActionAid. So great are the dangers that GM crops will worsen the plight of the 800 million hungry people in the world that there should be a moratorium until more research is done, it says in a report published today.
"Instead of focusing on risky technologies that have no track record in addressing hunger" policy should be directed to giving poor people land, credit, resources, and markets so they can feed themselves and sell their surplus crops. After research in four continents among nine million farmers, ActionAid concludes that GM crops are more likely to benefit rich corporations than poor people. Only 1% of GM research is aimed at crops used by poor farmers in poor countries. It can cost up to 200m and 12 years to develop a GM crop, and that cost has to be recouped by selling to farmers who can pay for it.
"It is not the interests of poor farmers but the profits of the agrochemical industry that have been the driving force behind the emergence of GM agriculture. Four multinationals - Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, and Dupont - now control most of the GM seed market. About 91% of all GM crops grown in the world are from Monsanto seeds."
MORE LIES FROM THE GM LOBBY - THIS TIME PROF CHRIS LAMB (Royal Society and John Innes Centre): "Contrary to ActionAid's report (GM crops of no benefit to poor, says Action Aid, May 28), GM technology is delivering results in the developing world... Smallholders in China have seen increased income and in India and South Africa cotton has provided significant yield increases." - Prof Chris Lamb. Letter to the Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,3604,967607,00.html
COMPARE THIS THIS TO PV SATHEESH'S 'UNPUBLISHED' LETTER TO THE GUARDIAN
This has reference to Prof Chris Lamb's letter in today's Guardian. I wonder where the Professor got his data about the yield increases in India for GM cotton. For the first time Bt Cotton was permitted for commercial release by the Government of India in 2002. We are freshly out of a season long study on Bt Cotton's performance in Warangal District in Andhra Pradesh in Southern India. This is one of the first districts to grow Bt cotton in the country. The study covered about 20% of all farmers who cultivated Bt Cotton in Warangal District. Conducted by two agricultural scientists [one of them Dr Abdul Qayum was formerly the Joint Director of Agriculture of the Government of Andhra Pradesh] the study clearly brings out the following findings:
Bt farmers got nearly 50% less yield compared to non-Bt farmers.
While 71% of Bt farmers reported losses, only 18% of non - Bt farmers reported losses.
While only 29% of Bt farmers reported profits, 82% of non-Bt farmers had gained profit.
In all non-Bt farmers earned more than 600% profit compared to Bt farmers.
The full study entitled Did Bt cotton save farmers in Warangal will be on our website <www.ddsindia.com> with effect from June 5th, the day on which the report will be formally released*. Besides our own study the Government of Andhra Pradesh's own assessment said that Bt cotton had performed badly in the state and there was a proposal by the government to ask Mahyco-Monsanto the company which produces Bollgard Bt cotton in India to compensate the farmers for their losses. The statement was made by the Minister for Agriculture, Government of Andhra Pradesh. As most of your readers know the AP government is very pro-biotech and encourages GE in agriculture. But still it had to accept ground reality. Almost 95% of farmers most of whom are medium and small farmers [In India a small farmer is one who owns five acres of rainfed farmland and medium farmer is a ten acre owner] swear that they will never plant Bt cotton again. Therefore we strongly believe that statements saying that Bt cotton has done well in India and has helped the poor are completely misleading. I would be curious to know where the learned professor got his facts to support that Bt cotton has done well in India.
PV Satheesh, Deccan Development Society , #101, Kishan Residency, Road No 5 Hyderabad 500016, Andhra Pradesh, India
[*copies of the full study along with a CD containing the 23 minute film called Why are Warangal Farmers Angry with Bt Cotton are available at a cost price of ten euros. For more information, please write to Ms Jayasri, Joint Convenor, AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity on her email: Jayasri <firstname.lastname@example.org>.]
DEVINDER SHARMA SAYS US FORCE-FEEDING THE WORLD - GM FOOD WILL LEAD TO MORE HUNGER NOT LESS:
As America launches its global GM trade war, New Delhi-based food and trade policy analyst, Devinder Sharma concludes that, far from reducing starvation in the developing world, GM foods "will further exacerbate the food crisis - eliminating in the process not hunger but the hungry." Much of the existing hunger, destitution, and poverty in the world is because of lop-sided trade and economic policies that keep the farmers in rich countries plump with massive subsidies, which then creates more hunger, malnutrition and destitution in the majority world. As a result of the 2002 subsidy hike in America, millions of small and marginal farmers in the developing world will be driven out of agriculture to move to the urban slums in search of a menial living. The noose is slowly tightening. An all-out offensive has been launched, using the three most important instruments of economic power - the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - along with the badly bruised but democratically elected governments. This time, the target is not oil but to force the world to accept GM food and crops. The battle for controlling the global food chain has begun. The US administration fired the first missile this month by formally launching a complaint with the WTO against the European Union for its five-year ban on approving new biotech crops.
Devinder Sharma's writings and analysis can be viewed at www.dsharma.org This article was published in the South African press. http://www.businessreport.co.za/index.php?fSectionId=553&fArticleId=149356
DNA Survives In The Soil For Far Longer Than Some Might Say New Research Shows
When in January 2000 the UK's leading supermarket chain Tesco indicated to growers that they were not willing to buy produce grown on sites used for GM trials, Professor Chris Pollock, Head of the UK Scientific Steering Committee on Farm Scale Evaluations, remonstrated with them in the media. As The Times reported, "Professor Chris Pollock, chairman of the scientific steering committee behind the farm-scale trials, accused Tesco of adding to, rather than allaying, public confusion. He said there was no evidence that DNA from GM crops persisted in the soil."
In reality, when Pollock made his remark there was already a significant amount of published research showing exactly the opposite with one team, for instance, reporting the persistence of transgenic DNA in soil and in bacteria under field conditions, even after 2 years. [see Gebhard, F. & Smalla, K. (1999)] Now research in New Zealand has shown that plant (and animal) DNA far from not persisting can survive intact in soil for *millenia*. Professor Alan Cooper of Oxford University who made the discovery has already pointed out the worrying implications for genetic engineering.
May 11, 2003
A remarkable discovery at a cave in Central Otago has raised new questions on the safety of genetic modification. British-based Professor Alan Cooper unearthed plant and animal DNA thousands of years old surviving intact in the soil. The find has turned DNA theory on it's head. The soil contains the genetic building blocks of two species of moa, a parakeet and numerous plants 2,000 years old, longer than it was previously thought possible for DNA to survive in the wild. "We didn't expect to see dna surviving this long. The general idea being that DNA loose in soil would be very quickly eaten by bacteria and
fungus or washed away or dissolved." Professor Alan Cooper believes this DNA came from animal droppings, left undisturbed in the cave.. He is warning it may have implications for genetically modified dna. "It's very concerning that if we can stumble across something like this, that DNA survives much longer in the soil and therefore GM DNA would survive longer and presumably get to a broader distribution than we would've expected. How many other things don't we know at the moment?"
But Tony Conner, a plant geneticist with Crop and Research says in science there will always be unanswered questions. "The simple fact is that in the case of GM crops we know a lot more about them than their non-gm counterparts." The moratorium on GM field trials ends in October. After that GM potatoes
and onions resistent to pests will be first in the ground. "The next step to advance the scientific knowledge is to go to larger scale trials with some controls imposed on them."
\This ancient DNA also provides a snapshot of a New Zealand ecosystem before humans arrived. Cooper is planning another expedition here to build a more complete picture.
Research showing persistence of GM plant DNA http://www.netlink.de/gen/Zeitung/2000/000107.html
Paraguayans protest GM crop spray incidents Farmers in Paraguay are blaming health problems on chemicals sprayed on GM soy. It is even claimed that in one incident an 11 year old boy died after suffering convulsions for several days. http://www.lapress.org/article.asp?IssCode=&lanCode=1&artCode=3343
http://www.femail.co.uk/pages/standard/article.html?in_article_id=186115&in_page_id=194 Dangers of GM chicken feed
EXCERPT: Alarming safety doubts have been raised about GM maize after a feeding trial in which death rates among chickens doubled. Twice as many birds fed GM maize died during the 42-day Canadian trial compared with those on conventional diets. And when it was over, the birds fed GM maize varied widely in size. But far from raising concerns, the trial was used to back up an application to grow the new crop in Britain.
Greenpeace press release on a report it commissioned on GM products and the risks and liabilities on Monsanto's business interests with particular attention to the problems posed by GM contamination. www.greenpeaceusa.org/media/press_releases/2003/04162003text.htm
The scientist mainly responsible for developing GM golden rice is in Scotland to argue that GM crops and food can be a good thing whilst every political party fighting for seats in the Scottish parliament elections is either promising to ban GMO crops or take a cautious approach. www.thescotsman.co.uk/business.cfm?id=445892003
A Blair adviser attacks UK government Public Debate 'fix'. www.observer.co.uk/politics/story/0,6903,935944,00.html
US food giant Kraft calls for tougher rules on GM pharmaceuticals. www.suntimes.com/output/business/cst-fin-biopharm04.html
NGOs oppose GM food dumping on Iraq. www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=32150
The Three Mile Island of Bio-tech? By John Nichols, The Nation, December 30th 2002 www.thenation.com/doc.mhtm/?i=20021230&s=nichols
Scientist who pressed GM panic button raises new food health fears, The Sunday Times, May 04, 2003
A SCIENTIST who shocked the world with research claiming that genetically modified (GM) crops might damage human health is to release new findings supporting his warnings, writes Jonathan Leake.
Arpad Pusztai, who lost his job at the prestigious Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen after outlining his findings in a television programme in 1998, will publish the new research this week. It warns that the work carried out by biotechnology companies into the human health hazard from GM food is inadequate and unsafe. It also points to technical defects in the way GM plants are created. Pusztai's study is contained in a book called Food Safety, a compilation of scientific papers which describes the contaminants and toxins contained in modern foods. In his section, Pusztai brings together all the scientific studies carried out into the safety of GM foods and subjects them to rigorous statistical and scientific scrutiny. This weekend he said: "We found that there are only a few such studies and they show many problems. In particular, they illustrate that GM foods have never been publicly tested for their safety and wholesomeness. There is increasing research to show they may actually be very unsafe."
The research comes at a crucial time. This autumn the Royal Society is expected to publish the results of the government-sponsored field trials of GM crops. The government is also about to sponsor a nationwide debate on the issue.
However, Britain's Food Standards Agency has completed separate research appearing to confirm some of Pusztai's warnings. It showed that genetically modified DNA in plants can be taken up by gut bacteria in humans and animals. This finding was contrary to previous assurances from biotechnology firms, which had said DNA would be broken down in the gut shortly after consumption. It raises the possibility that alien genes inserted into crop plants and conferring properties such as antibiotic resistance could be passed on to bacteria, making them resistant, too. Pusztai had been a plant researcher at the Rowett Institute until he appeared in a World in Action documentary on GM foods to describe how rats fed on GM potatoes had suffered gut lesions, retarded growth and other symptoms. He spoke fewer than a dozen sentences but his words reverberated around the world, infuriating GM firms and the scientific establishment. They claimed his research had been poorly done and that he should not have revealed the results before having it reviewed by peers. However, it was later approved and published in the medical journal The Lancet. Pusztai's first warnings have been echoed by the Royal Society. Its experts last year concluded that GM crops could offer substantial benefits but said too little was known about their potential health impact.
ECOLOGIST INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL MEACHER - February 2003
Michael Meacher is in something of a ministerial hurry. As we bustle down the steps of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs a car pulls up to whisk us away. Five hundred metres down the road it stops in front of the House of Commons and we all pile out again. Before we can suggest that the minister is 'doing a Prescott' he turns to us with a smile. 'Not a very good start, eh? I should have walked.'
It is this willingness to admit that problems exist that made us want to talk to Meacher in the first place. Last year he was asked his opinion of the US policy of dumping GM food on starving African countries and calling it aid. Candidly, he replied: 'It's wicked when there is such an excess of non-GM food available. We have the means to assist, but we are playing politics over GM.'
So, with the US accusing NGOs of leaving Africa to starve, Tony Blair calling those environmentalists who are concerned about safety 'anti-science' and the public seemingly keen to keep its food GM-free, we start by asking Meacher what he feels about the risks GM might pose. 'The real problem is not whether people are going to develop terrible diseases in six months' time - which is not going to happen,' he replies. 'The real problem is whether 10, 20, 30 years down the track serious and worrying things happen that none of us ever predicted. It's these sorts of totally unpredicted problems that make me very, very cautious. The human race has existed on this planet for about a quarter of a million years. We have been feeding ourselves perfectly adequately, since overcoming problems of hunger in our early existence. GM is not necessary.'
So, leaving aside the small fact that the UK minister for the environment feels that we neither need GM nor can be sure if it will be safe, what does Meacher feel about the current trials' system? As the current trials are only testing what effects GM crops might have on the environment, he says, and as the government has neither the money nor the manpower to do anything else, we have to rely upon the bio-tech companies themselves to tells us if they discover any other problems, such as, for example, health risks. 'So the question is,' he continues, 'can we trust the companies and be sure that they are telling us all they know? When asked if the system is adequate, it is difficult to give the answer 'yes', for the reasons I have just given. Thesyst em is very trusting, and that is worrying.' The issues of trust and corporate science have risen on the agenda in recent years. No more so than when Lord Sainsbury was appointed as the government's science minister. For the record, Sainsbury is a member of the cabinet bio-technology committee responsible for national policy on GM crops and foods, and as such a key adviser to Blair on GM technology. He is also a multi-million-pound donor to the Labour Party, having given Labour its biggest single donation in September 1997 and over £9m in all. He was made a life peer by Blair on October 3 1997.
Sainsbury is also a major personal investor in GM agricultural bio-technology, and has long-established links to two bio-tech companies - Innotech and Diatech. Gatsby, a charity established by Sainsbury, has invested over £2m a year into the new Sainsbury Laboratory, which carries out research into GM crops. In case this isn't enough, the laboratory also receives over £800,000 a year from the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council, for which Sainsbury is responsible in his ministerial role. Blair once said: 'There is no conflict of interest in David Sainsbury's position. He has nothing to do with the licensing of GM foods.'
We ask Meacher whether he agrees with Blair's assessment. The government line, he explains, is that whenever the relevant cabinet sub-committee - known as Sci-Bio - meets to discuss policy or make decisions then Lord Sainsbury withdraws. But this, we say, does not prevent Sainsbury from influencing proceedings before the meeting. 'Sci-Bio meets pretty rarely,' Meacher replies. 'But as far as I know the only way [Sainsbury] seeks to avoid this conflict of interest is by absenting himself when decisions are taken by these inter-departmental committees. And as far as I know that is all he does.' Satisfied? We ask the minister how he thinks this arrangement must seem to people in the outside world. Meacher smiles but declines to answer.
THIS PAGE WAS L AST UPDATED ON 14/2/06