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 this page for 2006 in descending order - or go to INTERNATIONAL 2003-2005 for items before 2006:
EU upholds Austria's sovereign right to ban GMOs
EU VOTES TO DEFY WTO RULING ON GM FOODS
Supreme Court of India Scrutinises GM Mustard
NZ Govt may face $1 million bill for corn botchup
Exporters worried over GM rice rejection
Top rice exporters say no to genetically engineered rice
Agreement on non-GE policy
Biggest Russian food and feed importers adopt GE free policy
West Africa contaminated by US GM Rice
Genetic engineering no magic bullet for Africa's hunger
Ban GE Trees from Kyoto Protocol
Irina Ermakova appointed Vice President of Russian National Genetic Safety Association
US Embassy to the Holy See is continuing its efforts to get the Vatican's endorsement of GM crops
Biotech Rice Saga Yields Bushel of Questions for Feds
Thailand reaffirms that all rice is GM free
Scientists say transgenics or genetically modified crops cumbersome
GM PAPAYA ROW
OPPOSITION TO GE CROPS - Thais reap windfall
US rice exporters face new costs
Malawi must formulate national legislation to reject GM maize!
Exporters want GM-free pledge
UN Climate Conference - An Opportunity for GM?
Monsanto posts bigger loss for 4th quarter
Greenpeace discovers contamination from Bayer's Genetically Engineered Rice in Middle East
Aliens in the Field
Japan widens testing of U.S. rice for illegal GMO
Supreme Court says no to GM products till further orders
Gene-Altered Profit-Killer - A Slight Taint of Biotech Rice Puts Farmers' Overseas Sales in Peril
Swiss Retailers Block Sale of U.S. Rice
Tainted biotech rice found in Germany
EU:Food Companies Risk Legal Action If Import Illegal GMO Crops
Updated Report Says Industry Still Not Ready for Biotech Wheat Farm Futures
NEW THAI GOVERNMENT BILL SPARKS CONCERN
Gene-altered rice from China found in EU
Consumer Association of Ghana - US long rice could be GMO contaminated / SAVE US FROM THIS GMO RICE
Bayer faces more lawsuits over GMO rice
US rice farmers sue Bayer CropScience over GM rice
GE Rice Scare Shows Vulnerability of Food Supply
Greenpeace demands global ban on imports of US rice
Regulating GM crops a local matter
Unapproved, Genetically Engineered Rice Found in Food Supply
Japan Suspends US Long-Grain Rice Imports
U.S. Rice Supply Contaminated - Genetically Altered Variety Is Found in Long-Grain Rice
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Statement on Report of Bioengineered Rice in the Food Supply
Protest Meeting against the Introduction of Golden Rice
Africa Must Resist Pressure Over GMOs
Biodiversity: agriculture minister versus BRRI
Review your biotech policy, prime minister
GM foods pose threat to health, environment, Speakers tell dialogue
Biodiversity protection and opposition to the GMO expansion
NO GATEWAY TO AFRICA'S SORGHUM
Ethiopia: The Controversy Over Genetically Modified Crops
Groups in Africa, Latin America condemn World Bank biosafety projects
Eat To Live: FDA sued over biotech foods
Keeping tabs on GMOs
U.S. DID NOT WIN TRANSATLANTIC GM TRADE DISPUTE
EC approved GM crops despite safety fears
EU approves genetically modified foods despite serious concerns
Resistance continues to GM crops - There is an alternative
Resistance continues to GM crops
Watchdog fails on GM food
Safety checks on GMOs flawed: EU environment chief
UN Upholds Moratorium on Terminator Seed Technology
Terminator rejected! A victory for the people
Terminator Seeds Poor Farmers Could Face Billions of Dollars in extra Seed Bills
Uganda: Southern Farmers Confront Challenge of Terminator II
Biotech Foods: David versus Goliath - Developing Countries Fight With Big Business Over Safety Laws
First contamination report reveals worldwide illegal spread of genetically engineered crops
LEAKED REPORT: U.S. MISLED THE WORLD ON BIOTECH FOODS "VICTORY"
LATIN AMERICA: Wanted - Labels for Genetically Engineered Products
Bt cotton seeds in eye of political storm
New Suspicions about GMOs
Real impact of GM decision will be felt in developing countries
America's masterplan is to force GM food on the world
WTO secrecy an outrage
AFRICAN FARMERS SAY GM CROPS ARE NOT THE WAY FORWARD
GM CROPS ON TRIAL IN AFRICA
Rejection of transgenic maize in Bolivia
Biotech "Revolution" May Be Losing Steam
MONSANTO AIMS FOR EUROPEAN DOMINATION
TEN YEARS OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS FAIL TO DELIVER BENEFITS TO AFRICA
GM: New study shows unborn babies could be harmed
GM foods verdict unlikely to alter EU rules
EU upholds Austria's sovereign right to ban GMOs - By Jeremy Smith - 19 Dec 2006
BRUSSELS - EU ministers slapped down an attempt on Monday to order Austria to drop its bans on two genetically modified (GMO) maize types, delivering a second stinging rebuff to the EU's executive European Commission. Between 1997 and 2000, five EU countries banned specific GMOs on their territory, focusing on three maize and two rapeseed types approved shortly before the start of the EU's six-year moratorium on new biotech authorisations. The Commission's draft order, proposed in response to a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling that attacked the various so-called national GMO safeguards for breaking international trade rules, was roundly rejected by EU environment ministers.
Only four countries supported the Commission in its attempt to overturn Austria's ban: Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. Austria has banned two GMO maize types, one in 1997 and the other in 1999. The first ban was against MON 810 maize made by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto (MON.N) and the second against T25 maize made by German drugs and chemicals group Bayer (BAYG.DE).
In June 2005, the Commission also tried to get the bans scrapped. EUenvironment ministers rejected the proposals then as well. Observers say the Commission's latest attempt to overturn the Austrian ban was meant to demonstrate to the complainants in the WTO case - Argentina, Canada and the United States - that it was taking action to facilitate more GMO approvals. But for many years, little has changed in the split of opinion on biotech policy among the EU's governments, which are consistently unable to secure the weighted majority that is legally required to vote through a new GMO approval. European consumers are well known for their antipathy towards GMO foods but the biotech industry insists its products are safe and no different to conventional foods. Europe's hostility to GMO foods is unfounded, it says.
Problems at WTO?
The problem now for the Commission is to decide what to do next: it may decide to propose a similar order at a later date, or even the same one, or just quietly let the matter rest. Privately, Commission officials say the biggest worry is more pressure from the three WTO complainants over GMO approvals, or the two manufacturing companies themselves. "The Commission will have to consider very carefully the legal and scientific basis that would underpin any new proposals by us," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said. Austria's Environment Minister Josef Proell was jubilant that the Commission's order was so comprehensively rejected, as were environment groups - who were quick to warn the Commission not to attempt similar action against other EU countries. "This is a very strong signal by the Environment Council (of ministers) for the Commission to reassess its policy," he said. "The Commission could save itself a lot of humiliation like today if they would provide for a common (EU legal) basis for coexistence, for example," he said, referring to rules for how farmers should separate organic, traditional and GMO crops. At present, the EU has only a set of non-binding guidelines for crop coexistence. EU governments are supposed to draft their own rules and then submit them for the Commission's approval.
"EU environment ministers should be congratulated for defending the environment and consumer protection against U.S. trade interests and commercial pressure," said Martina Holbach, GMO policy adviser at Greenpeace's European unit. "It is time the Commission did the same - it has been served a second slap in the face today and should drop plans to pursue similar action against Greece and Hungary unless it wants further humiliation," she said in a statement.
© Reuters 2006
EU VOTES TO DEFY WTO RULING ON GM FOODS - Friends of the Earth Europe - 18th December 2006
Member States support the right to ban GMOs
Brussels, 18 December - Friends of the Earth Europe has welcomed today's rejection by EU Environment Ministers of a proposal to force Austria to lift its bans on genetically modified (GM) foods and crops.  The proposal was tabled by the European Commission in response to a ruling by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) earlier this year, which stated that the bans broke international trade laws.
Helen Holder, GMO Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Today's vote was a complete rejection of the WTO's ruling on GM foods. This is a major defeat for the biotech industry and their friends in the European Commission. Every country must have the democratic right to protect its citizens and environment. Neither the European Commission nor the WTO should be allowed to force Europeans to eat genetically modified foods." "The biotech industry's tactics have backfired. It's now time for the European Commission to put the interests of the public and the environment before those of the biotech industry."
The WTO ruling did not rule against GMO bans per se but judged that Austria had not followed the risk assessments needed under the trade-friendly WTO rules. Austria, together with all EU member states, has ratified the UN's Biosafety Protocol which allows countries to ban genetically modified crops if there is a lack of scientific certainty over their safety. The WTO disregarded the Biosafety Protocol because the complainants in the trade dispute (the US, Canada and Argentina) had not ratified it.
For more information, please contact:
Helen Holder, GM Campainger at Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel : +32 2 542 0182, Mobile +32 474 857 638, Email: email@example.com
Adrian Bebb, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe: Mobile : +49 1609 4901163, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel:+32 25 42 61 05, Mobile: +32 485 930515, Email: email@example.com
 Today (18th December), Environment Ministers met at an Environment Council meeting in Brussels and discussed a proposal from the European Commission to force Austria to drop its ban on two genetically modified (GM) maizes. The Austrian ban on the two maizes - one by Bayer and one by Monsanto - has been in place since June 1999. All countries rejected the proposal apart from the UK, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Sweden.
Impact of field trials on GM-mustard sought by court - Indo-Asian News Service, December 16 2006
(IANS) New Delhi, Dec 15 - The Supreme Court Friday asked a committee to examine the impact of field trials being conducted by Delhi University on a genetically modified mustard variety following expert opinion that such trials were toxic and harmful.
On Sep 22, the apex court had restrained the committee - Genetic Engineering Approval Committee - - from giving fresh approvals to genetically modified products, particularly for commercial purposes. Subsequently, Delhi University was allowed to carry out field trials of DMH-11 Mustard for research.
On Friday, a three-Judge bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice R.V. Raveendran asked the GEAC to examine the matter after counsel Prashant Bhushan opposed continuance of the field trials saying that the release of genetically modified organism/seeds even for research would have the potential of causing major health hazards once they were released into the environment. Bhushan produced opinions given by three eminent professors saying the field trials on GM-Mustard would result in release of toxic elements in the environment. They said that even at low levels the release of these organisms could prove toxic to the environment and the main areas required fuller study prior to the exposure of millions of people and millions of animals to the toxins.
Counsel for Delhi University said that the university had modified its research and no harm would be caused to the environment due to the field trials. The bench therefore directed the GEAC to give its opinion before proceeding further in the matter and adjourned the proceedings to January 2007.
Genetic panel to examine Delhi University field trials - Legal Correspondent - The Hindu, Dec 16 2006 (front page)
Court order on expert opinion that the exercise involving genetically modified crop is a health hazard
*GEAC approval not obtained for test; opinion sought
*Release of toxic elements hazardous, says petitioner
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to examine the impact of ongoing Delhi University field trials on genetically modified DMH-11 mustard variety in the light of expert opinion that such exercises are toxic and harmful.
The Court, which restrained field trials of genetically modified products with commercial implications, later permitted the University to sow seeds of the newly developed DMH-11 for academic research. On September 22, the Court, acting on a petition from Aruna Rodrigues and three others, had restrained the GEAC from according fresh approvals for genetically modified products, particularly for commercial purposes. The public interest litigation had sought a ban on release of genetically modified organism/seeds having the potential of causing major public health hazards.
On Friday a Bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justices C.K. Thakker and R.V. Raveendran directed the GEAC to examine the matter after it was brought to the Court's notice that GEAC approval was not obtained for this field trial. It asked the GEAC to give its opinion by the first week of January and directed that the case be listed for January.
Petitioner's counsel Prashant Bhushan said genetically modified organism/seeds would pose major health hazards once they were released into the environment even for research. He cited opinions given by three eminent professors that the field trials on GM-Mustard would result in release of toxic elements that, even at low levels, could prove harmful to the environment. The main areas (relating to field trials) required a fuller study before exposing millions of people and millions of animals to the toxins.
Appearing for the University, senior counsel P.P. Rao said it had modified its research and no harm would be caused to the environment by the field trials.
SC concerned over risks of open field trials of GM seeds - Times of India, 16 December 2006
NEW DELHI: Supreme Court on Friday shared the public concern over the largescale ongoing field trials of genetically modified (GM) seeds in India and their potential to corrupt traditional crops like rice, cotton, brinjal, tomato, cauliflower, wheat and okra. However, it was cautious not to accede to petitioner Aruna Rodrigues' plea for a total ban on field trials till the statutory Genetic Engineering Advisory Committee (GEAC) gave the green signal to the outcome of laboratory safety tests on the GM seeds.
The issue on debate before a Bench comprising Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justices C K Thakker and R V Raveendran was the field trials of GM mustard seed - DMH-11 - being carried out by Delhi University. The court, while allowing continuance of the trial, had warned the university that it could be asked to uproot the plants if they were found to be ecologically dangerous.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Prashant Bhushan, questioned the credentials of the independent members appointed by the government to the GEAC and alleged that one of them was a partner to the commercial interests of a multinational GM seed firm. This allegation soon turned into a finger-pointing exercise, with Additional Solicitor General Amarendra Saran questioning the credentials of the experts suggested by the petitioner for inclusion in GEAC. Not getting drawn into the seemingly unending trading of accusations, the Bench took note of the petitioner's argument that DMH-11 seed contained genetic use restriction technology (GURT) and asked GEAC to submit a report on the safety aspect of the field trials being carried out by Delhi University.
It also asked GEAC to respond to the expert opinions cited by the petitioner, which unequivocally cautioned against use of GURT seeds in field trials. Saran contended that the green revolution which made India self-sufficient in foodgrains, was due to the genetically modified seeds and that GEAC has not allowed any GM seed for field trial which could have an adverse impact on ecology or traditional crops
NZ Govt may face $1 million bill for corn botchup - New Zealand Press Association, 7 December 2006
WELLINGTON - The Government may face a hill of up to $1 million to clean up the latest border bungle - allowing genetically-engineered (GE) contaminated seeds to enter the country. Imports of a total of 4420kg of sweetcorn seed is being being investigated for possible GE contamination. About two-thirds of the sweetcorn seed -- 3067.5kg -- was planted in Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, and Ashburton, on about 373ha spread over 25 properties. The bill the Crown faces for cleanup of the latest incident is understood to be in the vicinity of $1 million," Sustainability Council executive director Simon Terry said today. He said the council had proposed to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) two years ago low-cost and no-cost biosecurity measures to significantly boost chances of detecting seed contamination and avoiding expensive cleanup bills. These included trebling the quantity of seeds sampled, to raise the ability to detect low concentrations, and encouraging importers to track and screen seeds for GE content from origin to delivery.
Such quality assurance procedures would aid MAF's stated objective of ensuring New Zealand's GE-free status was maintained. Mr Terry said MAF had put aside the council's proposals, to be reviewed at some later date. But they would have boosted the chance of detecting GE seeds in the latest shipments, even if the paperwork had not been read correctly at the border. Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitizsimons said tonight that efforts by Biosecurity NZ, an agency within MAF, to go back to the US suppliers ofthe seeds, Syngenta, seemed pointless. "These four consignments came through with documentation that showed GE contamination," she said. "Even if Syngenta provides 100 more documents, it will not change the fact that several tonnes of contaminated seeds have been illegally imported and planted." Ms Fitzsimons said that for MAF or biosecurity officials to consider letting the corn mature and be harvested, on the condition that it was then exported would send a dangerous signal to markets that expected NZ to be GE-free.
Mr Terry said trying to contain the GE seeds in that way would raise questions about how committed NZ was to the policy of "zero tolerance" of illicit GE seed. "No level of GE contamination is acceptable for the buyers who seek out New Zealand producers because of this country's GE-free reputation," he said.
Exporters worried over GM rice rejection - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial, Express, November 28 2006
NEW DELHI, NOV 27: Indian rice exporters are concerned over the growing rejection of genetically modified (GM) across the world. Recently producers in major rice exporting countries - Thailand and Vietnam - signed agreement to keep GM rice out of cultivation. The All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) has woken up to the situation and have asked the government not to allow any field trials or commercial cultivation of GM rice in the country. They say that the retention of the country's image as producer of non-GM foods would largely boost the prospects of rice exports. "Country earns millions of dollars in foreign exchange due to export of rice. India's long grain aromatic rice - basmati has a premium market abroad," said RS Seshadri of Tilda Riceland - a major exporter of basmati rice.
AIREA chief Anil Adlakha has already expressed his concern over the possible contamination of long grain non-GM rice if GM rice trials were allowed to be conducted in the country. Seshadri said "We must learn lessons from the recent contamination of food chain by GM rice under field trials in the US and China. The profitability of US rice industry has declined as many countries began rejecting the US shipments of contaminated rice." He said recently on November 16 in the Rice Exporters Association of Thailand and the Vietnam Food Association signed an accord in Bangkok to keep off GM rice. This accord was signed in presence of senior officials and ministers of both the countries. He said that this is a wake up call for India too.
Top rice exporters say no to genetically engineered rice - Greenpeace International, 28 November 2006
Bangkok Thailand: Good news: the world's first and second largest exporters of rice have agreed to shun genetically engineered (GE) varieties. A recent agreement between rice traders from Thailand and Vietnam protects half the crop traded on the world market from the dangers of GE, and will put mounting pressure on other rice-producing nations to commit to a GE-free rice supply. According to our campaigner Jeremy Tager, the decision resulted from a "massive backlash against the GE industry following recent scandals." Illegal and unapproved GE rice varieties from the US and China have contaminated the global rice supply, with disastrous results for many growers, distributors, and traders.
Last week, a historic meeting between the powerful Rice Exporters Association of Thailand and the Vietnam Food Association resulted in the joint announcement of a non-GE rice production policy. More than 30 of the largest rice producers and traders in Thailand and Vietnam were present to endorse the agreement. Only days earlier in India (the worlds third largest exporter of rice), the representative body for India's rice exporters announced they too were supporting a ban on GE rice field trials because of the threat they pose to their GE-free export markets. The Indian government has yet to take action to ban field trials.
Thailand has shown the world that it can lead in rice production without GE rice. As a key agricultural producer, Thailand stands to benefit more if it stops all open-field GE crop trials and declares a GE-free policy once and for all. Rice production accounts for 11 percent of the world's arable land, or 500 million hectares, 90 percent of which is produced on Asian farms of less than one hectare.
We are eating the GE industry's experiments
Stopping field trials is important because the results of GE rice experiments don't seem to be containable: they keep turning up where they're not welcome. Even as news of the Thailand Vietnam accord was breaking, we uncovered yet another major contamination, this time in the Philippines, where rice is the staple food. Bayer's LL601 has contaminated rice products coming from the US, which are currently on sale in Manila. So far in 2006, this unapproved and illegal variety has been found in at least 24 countries. Last week contamination was announced in several countries in Africa. Bayer ended field trials of the LL601 variety in the US five years ago. The global food industry is now facing massive costs associated with GE contamination, including testing costs, product recalls, brand damage, import bans and cancelled imports and contracts. At least five multi-million dollar class-action lawsuits have been filed by about 300 US rice farmers against Bayer, as they struggle to protect their livelihoods from GE contamination.
Rice has been part of our staple diet around the world for over 10,000 years, it is cultivated in 113 countries - in China alone there are 75,000 varieties. Studies of the potential ecological risks of GE rice show that there is a high risk of 'transgene escape' (gene flow) from GE rice to non-GE rice varieties. Research also shows that GE rice out-crossing may threaten wild rice varieties.
Importers are banning it too
The world's largest rice processing company, Ebro Puleva, has stopped all imports of rice from the US and is expected to bring legal action against Bayer as well. Ebro Puleva controls 30 percent of the EU rice market. This move is only one of dozens by traders, millers, exporters, producers and retailers to protect themselves and their customers from unwanted GE foods.
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.
Agreement on non-GE policy - APINYA WIPATAYOTIN - Bangkok Post, 28 November 2006
An agreement between Thai and Vietnamese rice exporters to maintain non-genetically engineered produce will enable Thailand to gain more access to the European Union market, Wanlop Pichpongsa, a member of the Thai Exporters Association, said yesterday. The association and the Vietnam Food Association last week agreed in principle to announce non-GE crops during a meeting in Bangkok. The agreement will be made official in March next year. Mr Wanlop said the agreement would present a big opportunity for Thai and Vietnamese rice exporters, who would enjoy better access to the EU market after the EU imposed a ban on rice imports from the United States, after GM strains were found in a rice shipment from the US last month. ''We should not waste this opportunity because the EU is seeking new sources of rice to replace the US,'' Mr Wanlop said.
Currently, Thailand's export of jasmine rice to the EU totalled about 250,000 tonnes a year, compared to 300,000 tonnes by the US to the same market. Thailand is the world's biggest rice exporter with 8.2 million tonnes a year, followed by Vietnam with 4.7 million tonnes. India and the US ranked third and fourth with 4.3 and three million tonnes, respectively. Meanwhile, Patwajee Srisuwan, an anti-GE campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, welcomed the private sector's initiative. ''This is a victory for farmers in the region. However, the threat of GE rice adulteration still looms large and it is necessary that the agreement be expanded to cover other Asian countries,'' she said.
In another development, the Administrative Court yesterday agreed to hear the case of GM papaya leakage to farms in Khon Kaen province.
Biggest Russian food and feed importers adopt GE free policy - Greenpeace Russia press release, 23 November 2006.
Kaliningrad, Russia - Today, after three weeks of intensive campaigning against imports of genetically engineered food (GE) and feed coming into Russia, Greenpeace received an announcement from two major Russian food and feed importers that they have adopted a policy of only using non GE products.
Sodruzhestvo, the biggest soya importer in Russia, which supplies 70% of all soya used in the Russian food and feed industry, has stated that it will turn its new factory currently under construction in Kaliningrad into a GE free zone. The new oil-extraction and feed-processing plant will not only produce GE free soya oils and feeds, but also GE free maize and GE free oilseed rape products. (1) Following the move by Sodruzhestvo the feed producer Rybflotprom, which controls 7% of the Russian feed market and is 80 % owned by the French company Provimi, also announced it has adopted a GE free policy for all its products. Both companies will soon start importing GE free soya from Brazil instead of GE soya from Argentina and the US. (2)
"Greenpeace welcomes the move by the Russian companies it's a significant shift in the global market towards GE free products," said Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International GE campaigner. "This is good news for Russian consumers, who reject the use of GE ingredients in their foods by an overwhelming majority of 80 %. It is yet another blow to the global genetic engineering industry - and in particular to Monsanto - the world's biggest seller of GE seeds."
The announcements were made at a press conference at the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, currently in the harbour of Kaliningrad. For the last three weeks the Arctic Sunrise was on the Baltic Sea exposing controversial imports of GE food and feed products being imported into Russia. (3)
The decisions by Sodruzhestvo and Rybflotprom will have a strong effect on countries that export GE products such as the US and Argentina and will cause a shift in the demand to countries such as Brazil where soya and maize production is still predominantly GE free. In a written statement Sodruzhestvo director S.L.Kandybovich explicitly stated that his company will in the future mainly use imported soy from Brazil. "We think that Brazil is the only country that grows GMO-free soy, whose quality meets our criteria", his statement said. (4)
Earlier in the year, and following a Greenpeace investigation into the impacts of the soya trade in the Brazilian Amazon rainforests, multinational soya traders in Brazil have agreed to a two year moratorium on buying soya from newly deforested land in the Amazon. Greenpeace will also ask Sodruzhestvo to support this initiative to ensure the soya produced in Brazil does not contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people to have access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.
For more information and interviews:
Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International GE campaigner, mobile: +31 6 4619 7328 Natalia Olefirenko, Greenpeace Russia GE campaigner, mobile: +7 903 739 4956
Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications officer, mobile +31 6 4619 7324
Notes to Editors
(1) Sodruzhestvo is currently building a new processing plant for oil seeds in Kaliningrad. The new factory is expected to have a turnover of 2 million tonnes of soya, maize and oilseed per year of which 1.5 million tonnes will be soya products used for both food and feed.
(2) According to data provided by the Russian customs at present Russia imports approximately 1 million tons of soya products which are used in both feed and food industry. Data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that 77 percent of soya imports into Russia originate from Argentina and the Netherlands. Most soy products imported from the Netherlands contain U.S. origin soybeans that have been processed in the Netherlands or other EU countries. In Argentina almost 100 % of the cultivated soya is GE, in the US this is approximately 90 %, meaning that most soya currently imported into Russia is genetically engineered.
(3) On 13 November, Greenpeace boarded a Russian vessel, RUSICH-1, loaded with 5000 tons of feed soya destined for St. Petersburg in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The samples taken from the cargo have now been tested in a laboratory. The lab tests reveal that 78 % of the soya on board of the Rusich-1 was genetically engineered. The captain of the ship could not present any documentation identifying the cargo as GE soya, which is a legal requirement according to European Regulations as well as Russian law.
(4) Statement by Sodruzhestvo is available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/sodruzhestvo-ge-free-company-s
West Africa contaminated by US GM Rice - FoE Africa Press Release - Friday, 24 November 2006
US rice imports sent to West Africa are contaminated with illegal GM rice - FoE Africa calls for immediate recall of all tainted rice food aid, and commercial imports
Accra (Ghana), Freetown (Sierra Leone). 24 November 2006.
A genetically modified (GM) rice not allowed for human consumption originated from the United states has been found in West Africa. The findings have been revealed today by Friends of the Earth in simultaneous press conferences in Ghana and Sierra Leone. Friends of the Earth Africa is urging the Governments of Sierra Leone and Ghana to immediately recall the contaminated products.
In August this year the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the presence of LLRICE601, an unapproved genetically modified (GM) rice variant developed by a subsidiary of chemical company Bayer in the food chain. Worried by this development, many countries, especially in Europe began to test rice shipments from the USA into their countries, and it has been found in over 15 European countries. Many supermarket chains like Tesco, and Sainsbury have withdrawn American rice from their shelves amid concerns it may be contaminated, and the EU is testing all rice imports coming from the US
In September/October 2006 FoE Ghana and Sierra Leone in collaboration with FoE African experts on GMOs collected samples of US long grain rice in their countries and sent them to the laboratory for testing. The tests were conducted in an independent laboratory in the US with a validated testing method for LL601. The results show that there is LL601 contamination in Ghana and Sierra Leone. “We are shocked that unapproved genetically modified long grain rice has been sent to our country through food aid channels,” commented Arthur Williams, a GM campaigner with FoE Sierra Leone. “We are a nation just recovering from years of civil war and now to attack us in this manner is now making our people once more vulnerable.”
Ghana is among the top 10 importers of rice from the USA and it is feared that the contamination may have spread across the West African sub-region and beyond. Ghana’s rice imports from the USA stood at 78.900 metric tonnes (MT) in 2001/2002, 117.600 MT in 2002/2003 and 166.400 MT in 2004/2005.
In 2002 East African countries such as Zambia rejected GM corn as food aid even though they were in a situation of food shortages. In Latin America contamination of the food chain through food aid was established when illegal corn strain, such as Star Link, was found there in 2002 and 2005. Now it is clear that serious efforts must be made by governments and international agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) to endure that food aid does not become the popular channel for GM contamination around the world.
“We cannot accept a situation when food aid becomes a secret channel to ambush our peoples with illegal genetically modified food. We refuse to be used as guinea pigs in big business’s experimentations,” said Nnimmo Bassey of FoE Africa. “With the confirmation of this contamination, it is very likely that a large number of African countries are already contaminated. Africa is facing a lot of challenges and cannot afford to add this man-made problem. It must be halted at its roots.”
Reacting to the contamination, Cheryl Agyepong GM campaigner with FoE Ghana said: “We don’t want genetically modified rice in our fields and we call on our Government to take all necessary measures to prevent any possible contamination of our seeds.” She further added that African governments must preserve “the African environment in order to secure the future of humanity.”
LLRICE601 is engineered to tolerate an herbicide called glufosinate which is sold under the brand name Liberty Link. This tolerance was introduced through a Streptomyces hygroscopicus gene that codes for phospinothricin acetyl transferase (PAT), a glufosinate-inactivating enzyme. The GM rice, produced by German-based biotechnology company Bayer, was field tested between 1998 and 2001 but the contamination of commercial long grain rice has only just come to light. The US exported more than 3 million tonnes of rice in 2005.
FoE Africa calls on the government to immediately halt untested long grain rice food aid and commercial imports from the USA. The public does not want this illegal rice and even rice growers in the USA were shocked to learn that they were cultivating an unapproved rice strain. The USDA must take immediate steps to examine protocols for the containment of field trails and also to ensure that every shipment to Africa is adequately screened to ensure they are free of contamination.
Protecting rice - Suman Sahai - Times of India, 18 November 2006
Farmers belonging to the Bharatiya Kissan Union have set fire to the trial plots of a Bt rice variety belonging to Mahyco that was being field-tested in Karnal. It turns out that the trials were being conducted in violation of biosafety standards. Farmers on whose fields the trials were being conducted had no idea what was planted, nor did they understand the implications of genetically-engineered rice containing the toxin gene from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. Apart from the safety issue of eating genetically-engineered foods containing poison genes, there are other aspects that are particularly relevant to GE rice and India.
India is an exporter of both Basmati and non-Basmati rice and has significant trade interests in this crop. If Indian rice were to be contaminated with genetically-engineered Bt rice, which is certain to happen, traders would lose their traditional rice markets in the European Union, Africa and the Middle East. All these regions have declared their opposition to genetically-engineered foods. That is the reason why rice exporters have appealed to government to halt further trials of GE rice. India shouldn't take the risk of cultivating GE rice not just from the trade point of view but also because it is a major centre of origin for rice.
Mexico, which is the centre of origin and diversity for corn, has imposed a ban on not just the cultivation of GE corn, but also research in GE corn. Mexico has taken this position in order to safeguard the natural gene pool of corn, another major staple food of the world. India is one of the centres where rice originated. This means that the greatest number of rice and related genes are found in India. Centres of origin are considered high-risk areas for GE crops because if foreign genes contained in the GE variety were to move into the natural gene pool, the results could be potentially catastrophic.
Scientists promoting agbiotech argue that rice is a self-pollinating crop and will not accept outside pollen and genes. This is not true since cross-pollination is known to occur in rice and there are several studies that show that the extent of cross-pollination, depending on humidity and wind speed, can in fact be significantly high. Studies conducted in China and Latin America have shown that gene flow between GE rice and other rice happens at rates that are high enough to cause concern about gene transfers.
One of the growing concerns about the impact of genetic engineering is gene-silencing. Experiments show that the introduction of foreign genes can cause gene-silencing in the plant that is receiving the foreign gene. This means certain genes in the plant will become silent (non-functional) and not produce what they normally should. Gene-silencing could have very grave implications if it were to spread to the natural gene pool by careless scientists.
Maintaining genetic diversity is crucial for the long-term survival of any crop. When a crop variety somewhere becomes vulnerable either due to the onslaught of a disease or the soil becoming waterlogged or alkaline, scientists need to breed another variety of the crop for that region. They do this by searching for suitable genes in related varieties and the natural gene pool. If GE rice were to contaminate the native gene pool of rice and introduce harmful features like gene-silencing or change the normal functions of other genes, it would have terrible implications for food security of the rice-eating regions of the world.
Although genetically-engineered crops and foods are being pushed into the market, there is little investment in their regulation and monitoring. Apart from that, not enough is understood about what happens when foreign genes are abruptly pushed into the genetic material of plants and animals. That is the reason why the biosafety process places such a premium on the precautionary principle. Essentially this says that when faced with uncertainty, it is better to be cautious and not proceed with genetic engineering.
It is not clear what advantages can come about from GE rice but it is apparent what damage can be wrought by it. The most judicious course for India is to stay away from GE rice and protect the genetic integrity of this food crop for future generations.
The writer is convenor, Gene Campaign.
Genetic engineering no magic bullet for Africa's hunger - BY ERIC HOLT-GIMENEZ - Des Moines Register, November 17 2006
The Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced their joint $150 million Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa for the continent's 180 million impoverished farmers who - they claim - were bypassed by the Green Revolution.
For 25 years, the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research - the entity that brings together the key Green Revolution institutions - invested 40 percent to 45 percent of its $350 million-a-year budget in Africa. If these public funds were not invested in a Green Revolution, then where were they spent? If they were spent on the Green Revolution, then why does Africa need another one? Either the Green Revolution's institutions don't work, or the Green Revolution itself doesn't work - or both. The Green Revolution did not "bypass" Africa. It failed.
Why are Rockefeller, Gates, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and even U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Anan proposing more of the same? Some writers who contributed essays to the Register in conjunction with World Food Prize festivities called for a second Green Revolution, too, this time employing the magic bullet of genetic engineering. Why should we believe that another multibillion dollar super-seeds project will be any more successful at ending hunger in Africa? Why would it avoid the first Green Revolution's extensively documented - but less celebrated - failures?
Indian economist Amartya Sen won the Nobel Prize for demonstrating that hunger doesn't result primarily from a lack of food, but from the poverty of the hungry, who can't afford the food that is available. Around the world, poor people go hungry while their country exports grain. During the heyday of the Green Revolution (1970-90), the total food available in the world rose by 11 percent per person. However, (excluding China), the number of hungry people also increased by more than 11 percent, from 536 million to 597 million.
In South America, food per capita rose almost 8 percent, but the hungry increased by 19 percent. The rise in hunger clearly was not due to population increase because total food per person went up. Rather, it resulted from the tendency of the Green Revolution to exacerbate unequal access to food and food-producing resources. Throughout the 1980s, sub-Saharan Africa's exports grew faster than imports. By 1994, 11 countries in the region were net exporters of food. During the terrible droughts of the 1960s and '70s, the value of agricultural exports was three times that of imported grain. Even in India, the country's heralded 26 million-ton grain surplus could easily feed its 320 million hungry people, but does not. Why? Because starving villagers are too poor to buy the food.
Aside from inducing soil degradation and pest explosions on the marginal lands of poor farmers, Green Revolution crops are also water-intensive. In India, they are responsible for widespread, catastrophic declines in water tables, forcing farmers to return to rain-fed agriculture or give up farming altogether.
Industry spokespeople insist that genetically engineered crops are the only alternative to mass starvation - bashing concerned opposition as "elitist." This name-calling masks the truth: Genetic engineering is more about controlling seeds, selling more chemicals and reviving the sagging Green Revolution than about saving the world from hunger. More than 80 percent of the world's biotech crop acreage is planted to herbicide-tolerant varieties that have increased herbicide use in the United States alone by more than 100 million pounds since 1996, while genetically engineered soybeans suffer from lower yields. Hardly a solution to hunger.
Hunger will also be exacerbated by the criminalization of seed-saving. According to a 2005 report from the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C., America's hard-strapped family farmers have already paid Monsanto more than $15 million in lawsuits for allegedly saving and replanting the company's exorbitantly priced genetically engineered seeds.
African farmers beware. The genetically engineered Green Revolution may lead to the enrichment of seed, fertilizer and herbicide companies - but it will not end hunger in Africa. Indeed, it might make things worse.
ERIC HOLT-GIMENEZ is executive director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy (Food First), Oakland, Calif. For a policy report on the Green Revolution see www.foodfirst.org
Ban GE Trees from Kyoto Protocol - 15 November 2006
Organizations Around the World Demand Ban of Genetically Engineered Trees from Kyoto Protocol
World Rainforest Movement and Global Justice Ecology Project have presented a demand to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Nairobi, Kenya to ban the use of genetically engineered trees under the Kyoto Protocol. GE trees have been proposed for use in plantations developed as climate sinks or for biofuels.
At the Ninth Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Milan in 2003, genetically engineered (GE) trees [also known as genetically modified or transgenic trees] were approved for use in plantations created to offset carbon emissions as a part of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism. Research, however, actually shows:
• Native forests overall absorb and hold far more carbon than industrial tree plantations, which can also be responsible for net combined soil-carbon releases and carbon emissions during their life-cycle;
• Plantations bring many additional problems that contribute to global warming and ecological destruction, including water and nutrient depletion, increased soil salinity and acidity, increased fire risk and biodiversity loss;
• GE trees (e.g. Bt and reduced lignin trees) may actually worsen global warming by exacerbating problems caused by monoculture tree plantations, and by causing unprecedented new ones, including alteration of decomposition, insect and disease patterns.
For this reason, many organizations around the world in several official and unofficial events have called on the UNFCCC to ban GE trees from the Kyoto Protocol.
In addition, the UNFCCC must bring its policies in line with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which has taken a stand against GE trees.
On Wednesday, 22 March, 2006 during the Eighth Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, representatives from non-governmental organizations, social movements, scientists, indigenous groups, farmers, foresters and others were joined by CBD delegates from ten countries in calling for a moratorium on the release of GE trees into the environment.
As a result, the UN CBD made an historic decision, acknowledging for the first time the potential dangersboth social and ecologicalof genetically engineered trees and urging countries to take a very cautious approach to the technology.
It is now the responsibility of the UNFCCC to end the contradiction between its own pro-GE trees decision and the UN CBD's cautionary decision. The UNFCCC must issue a new decision prohibiting the use of GE trees in carbon offset plantations under the CDM.
Genetically engineered trees do not offer a solution to global warming, rather they are a global distraction from finding real solutions to the problems of global warming. In addition, they threaten the world's forests and forest-dwelling communities.
For this reason, the above groups call on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to bring its policies in line with those of the UN CBD and prohibit the use of genetically engineered trees in carbon sink plantations.
Groups endorsing this demand include Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Carbon Trade Watch, Global Forest Coalition, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the EarthNigeria, FASEEspirito Santo, Brazil, Large Scale Biofuels Action Group, Oilwatch International, STOP GE Trees Campaign, Timberwatch Coalition and The Corner House.
For the full text of the open letter, go to:
Contact in Nairobi: Orin Langelle, Global Justice Ecology Project. firstname.lastname@example.org - Nairobi number: 0724.130.511; International number: +254.724.130.511
Irina Ermakova appointed Vice President of Russian National Genetic Safety Association - Regnum, November 12 2006
Russian researcher, known in the world for her studying of risks triggered by eating GM food, Doctor of Biology Irina Ermakova was appointed Vice President of the Russian National Genetic Safety Association (NGSA), REGNUM is told at the association. Dr. Irina Ermakova's name became known to the world when in 2005 she started conducting experiments on finding out GM food impact on health conditions of rats and their posterity.
Results of the research gave a reason for speaking about possible negative influence of GM food upon living organisms. The rats had been fed with genetically modified soy two weeks before coupling and during carrying of a pregnancy. According to data published by Irina Ermakova, as a result of the experiment, more than a half of born rats died soon after birth. 40% of those that survived were falling behind in development of their internal organs, which had a much smaller size than those whose parents were not fed with GM soy. Female rats and infant rats from the GMO-fed group had a heightened level of anxiety and aggression. Some female rats were registered to be having no maternal instinct.
"We are happy that Irina has made a decision to join us," NGSA President Alexander Baranoc says. "Our association initiated holding a public probe, first in worldwide history, to reveal damage or absence of damage of genetically modified organisms, and the fact that Dr. Ermakova joins us will only speed up preparation for the experiment." "It has been a result of Dr. Ermakova's experiments that pushed our Association on the way forward to start an international action called 'Safety Test' to raise money for holding a public scientific experiment to discover GMO's impact on mammals," NGSA Director Alyona Sharoikina says.
Commenting on the program of NGSA experiments, Ermakova stressed: "It has written a lot of reports and articles every year about potential GMO-triggered risks, but transnational corporations count on that no studies have carried out in the world that would have unambiguously proven damage or absence of damage of GM-produce upon human. The task can be solved only by certain actions, a series of independent tests. I am happy, my views on the issue coincided with the NGSA position: scientific experiments instead of words. And now we shall combine our effort for practical results."
According to Ermakova, "transnational corporations consider our country as a test ground for GMOs, which can be proved at least by US claims for Russia abandoning its obligatory marking of products with GM ingredients sounded at the WTO talks." Ermakova believes until harmlessness of GMOs has been proved, the risk Russia and other countries are running is too high, and the consequences can include "genetic mutations, oncological illnesses, infertility, allergy and toxicosis."
US Embassy to the Holy See is continuing its efforts to get the Vatican's endorsement of GM crops
It seems that the US Embassy to the Holy See is continuing its efforts to get the Vatican's endorsement of GM crops as a key element in addressing world hunger and poverty. In his article, posted on the National Catholic Register website on 25 October, Edward Pentin writes that "as part of its ongoing efforts to stimulate debate", the US Embassy to the Holy See invited three American professors to Rome from 5 to 6 Oct to present eight years of research on genetically modified (GM) crops and their effects on farmers, industry and the environment.
Debate usually involves opposing or at least diverse viewpoints, but the US Embassy to the Holy See did not seek the views of farmers and scientists who contend that GM crops present more socio-economic and environmental threats than solutions. Such farmers and scientists would like support to be channelled into low-cost sustainable agricultural technologies that have been shown to work and benefit farmers, not agribusiness corporations.
In his article Pentin mentions that the professors' visit was timely because it happened shortly after "a network of Christian and environmentalists groups spearheaded a campaign warning of 'Terminator technology'". It is important to note that the World Council of Churches (WCC) - with a membership of over 340 churches and denominations representing 560 million Christians in more than 110 countries - is in agreement with this campaign. Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the WCC, says: "Applying technology to design sterile seeds turns life, which is a gift from God, into a commodity. Preventing farmers from re-planting saved seed will increase economic injustice all over the world and add to the burdens of those already living in hardship".
Pentin's article says that GM crops have reduced pesticide spraying but does not provide details of the peer-reviewed research backing these assertions. In fact, according to Dr Charles Benbrook, empirical evidence demonstrates that, contrary to the biotechnology industry's claims, GM crops do not require fewer herbicides and pesticides. This is hardly surprising, since the most common GM crops in cultivation today are those that are resistant to proprietary brands of herbicide. This means that you can dose your crop with herbicide in order to kill weeds and the crop will not be affected: hardly an incentive for sustainable use of pesticides. Pentin writes that what gave value to the professors' findings is the neutrality of their arguments. It is not possible for readers to judge this as only one of the professor's names is given, and incidentally he works for an organisation that receives funding from the biotech corporation Monsanto.
According to these professors, the claims by "anti-GMO campaigners" that multinationals aim to make farmers dependent on their seeds, are "paternalistic" because they imply that farmers are not clever enough to make their own decisions. However, it is a fact that farmers with limited resources often face political and economic pressures from seed companies and government authorities that can limit their choices. There are plenty of examples of the immense political pressure put on developing countries to accept genetically modified seeds. Programmes aimed at conserving and reviving native seeds are mostly supported by NGOs rather than national governments.
Pentin writes that "Particularly frustrating for Prof Kent is that his organisation has teamed up with Monsanto to offer free modified seeds to poor farmers, but many African governments won't look at them". Is it not then "paternalistic" to claim to know better than these governments who are exercising their right to say "No" to GM crops? Moreover, giving a product for free is a widespread promotional practice used in marketing that is not intended to last and that is aimed at creating dependency. Poverty will be reduced not by giving products for free, but by empowering communities to produce these things themselves to increase their autonomy and reduce their corporate dependency.
According to Pentin, "the professors also accused their opponents of spreading myths about damage caused to the environment by biotech crops". These are not myths. According to research by Genewatch UK and Greenpeace in March 2006, there have been cases of GM contamination in 39 countries; twice as many countries as officially permit the growing of GM crops. In 2004 the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, which manages approximately 600,000 seed samples, warned that the probability of genebank collections becoming contaminated was high for maize and rapeseed, and medium for rice and cotton. Its report recommended immediate action. In 2001, research by Berkeley University revealed that local Mexican maize varieties had been contaminated by commercial transgenic varieties of maize from the United States, even though at the time Mexico had a moratorium on GM crops. These are only a few examples of the widespread problem of contamination of non-GM crops by GM crops. In fact, having argued for years that contamination was not a problem, the biotechnology industry is now promoting Terminator technology as a tool to prevent the unwanted flow of genes from GM crops.
The causes of hunger and poverty are mainly social and economic. They cannot be solved by technological fixes. If technology is to play a role in helping to reduce poverty and hunger it must be knowledge-intensive, rather than capital and resource-intensive, and farmers, rather than agribusiness, must control it. In other words, it needs to aim to empower farmers rather than make them dependent on commercial inputs. In the words of Dr Miguel Altieri, Dr Eric Holt-Gimenez and Dr Peter Rosset: "Across Africa, Latin America and Asia, farmer-to-farmer movements, farmer-led research teams and farmer field schools have already discovered how to raise yields, distribute benefits, protect soils, conserve water and enhance agro-biodiversity on hundreds of thousands of smallholdings. With appropriate support the spread of these approaches to thousands of other farm households can contribute to food sovereignty rather than corporate dependency".
Elisabet Lopez, Progressio's Environment Advocacy Co-ordinator
Fr. Sean McDonagh, Columban Missionary
Benbrook CM (2003) Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Eight Years, BioTech InfoNet, Technical Paper No 6, Nov 2003
Biotech Rice Saga Yields Bushel of Questions for Feds - USDA Approval Shortcut Emerges As Issue - Rick Weiss - Washington Post,
When the biotech company Bayer CropScience AG requested federal permission in August to market a variety of gene-altered rice, it assured itself a small, unwanted place in history: the first to seek approval for a genetically engineered food that was already - illegally - on the market. Now, as federal regulators consider that belated application, they are finding themselves under scrutiny, too -- from scientists and others who say the 20-year-old system of biotech crop oversight is failing. The Bayer lapse is the latest in a string of problems, critics note, including taco shells and other foods contaminated in 2000 with unapproved StarLink corn, the accidental release in 2002 of crops engineered to make a pig diarrhea vaccine, and the growing prevalence of "superweeds" that have acquired biotech genes that make them impervious to weed killers.
Federal officials are still investigating how the experimental "LLRICE601" escaped from Bayer's test plots after the company dropped the project in 2001. When they announced 10 weeks ago that the unapproved variety had become widespread in the nation's long-grain-rice supply, countries around the world blocked imports from the United States, rice futures plummeted and hundreds of farmers sued Bayer. Bayer's response - a hasty application for government approval, expected to be granted within weeks - has been greeted with concern by many agriculture experts who fear that the action, though likely to ease Bayer's legal woes, will make matters worse for farmers and the environment. "Are we going to do this every time a new transgene that we didn't intend to get out gets out?" asked Norman Ellstrand, who directs the Biotechnology Impacts Center at the University of California at Riverside.
LL601 contains a bacterial gene that protects rice from Bayer's Liberty weed killer, allowing farmers to use the chemical without harming their crop. The prospect of widespread cultivation worries many experts, who say the key gene is sure to move via pollen into red rice, a weedy relative of white rice and the No. 1 plant pest for rice farmers in the South. Thus endowed, red rice would become immune to the herbicide, increasing its economic havoc. Experts point to other troubling elements of the Bayer petition. Nearly 40 percent of its pages, for example, are blacked out as "CBI," or confidential business information, even though the approval process is by federal statute supposed to be public. Also at issue is the regulatory shortcut that Bayer is using, which allows a company to skip many of the usual safety tests by claiming that the new variety is similar to ones already approved - in this case, two approved varieties of biotech rice that Bayer never commercialized because farmers did not want it around their fields.
Bayer, with U.S. headquarters in Research Triangle Park, N.C., is adamant that LL601 poses no risk, and even critics generally agree that it is safe to eat. The bacterial gene that is in LL601 is also in several approved varieties of engineered corn, canola and cotton. "We believe that our herbicide-tolerant rice would contribute significantly to rice productivity," said company spokesman Greg Coffey, adding that Bayer nevertheless has no immediate plans to market the product. In a draft environmental assessment released with extraordinary rapidity last month, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which handles biotech crop approvals for the Agriculture Department, announced a "preliminary decision" to approve - or in agency parlance "deregulate" - LL601. Among those favoring approval is the USA Rice Federation, which represents many rice growers. The group has opposed introducing engineered rice to U.S. fields, but it is now more concerned about the European Union's ongoing refusal to buy American long-grain rice laced with LL601. U.S. approval would not guarantee European acceptance. But it is "the best available response to a major commercial issue," the federation wrote to APHIS.
Many weed experts see the relative risks and benefits differently, however. They agree with APHIS and Bayer that cross-pollination between white rice and red rice is rare, probably occurring less than 1 percent of the time. But multiply that by millions and millions of rice plants, they say - and then start using Liberty, which by killing conventional red rice will allow the resistant weed to dominate - and within a few years, huge expanses of the South could be infested with Liberty-resistant red rice. "Anyone who works with rice and red rice knows it," said Cynthia Sagers, a plant ecologist at the University of Arkansas. "It's going to happen."
The government's environmental assessment contends that farmers can fall back on other herbicides when that occurs, but opponents say that solution is shortsighted. They note that as gene-altered crops have become common - some 70 varieties have been approved in the past 15 years, many of them engineered to be resistant to various weed killers - it has become common to find weeds that are immune to two or even three weed killers. "We have no ability to absolutely contain these things once they're grown outside," said Rene Van Acker, a weed ecologist at the University of Guelph in Canada.
Others are complaining that Bayer's application is effectively a secret document because of the material blacked out as confidential business information. "It makes the public reliant on the interpretation of the data by Bayer, which is not a disinterested or unbiased party," wrote the Washington-based Center for Food Safety in comments to regulators. Rebecca Bech, associate deputy administrator for biotechnology regulatory services at APHIS, defended the application, saying it is "fairly typical to have a lot" of redacted proprietary information in biotech crop applications. But a review of the five most recently released applications submitted by companies, including ones for genetically engineered corn, grass, alfalfa and cotton, shows that four of those five had no such deletions. (The fifth notes that information has been deleted but does not say how many pages.) Still others question the procedure Bayer is using to seek LL601 approval. Instead of going through a full deregulation process, it applied for an extension of approvals it won earlier for two other herbicide-resistant rice varieties developed nearly a decade ago. That shortcut was created in 1997 to streamline approvals. But critics say the record of problems indicates a need for more careful oversight, not quicker approvals.
To allay concerns, Bayer has submitted with its application a "stewardship plan" - voluntary farming practices, including extra dosings of Liberty, aimed at minimizing genetic crossovers to red rice. Critics doubt that farmers will spend the extra time and money if they're not required to. "Farmers are already under huge economic pressure," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "It's just not going to happen." But others, such as Johnny Saichuk, a rice specialist at the Louisiana State University AgCenter, support the approach. "People are becoming better stewards," he said. "The sloppy managers who let it outcross will lose the technology. The good farmers will not have problems."
Even if LL601 is approved, Bayer's problems will not be over. It may be impossible to get every last seed of LL601 out of the U.S. long-grain-rice supply. And negotiations between American and European Union officials broke down last month over how much contaminating LL601 will be considered acceptable in exported rice. The company also faces dozens of lawsuits, which may soon be combined into a large class action. Reassuringly to Bayer, and infuriatingly to others, the trouble appears not to have weakened regulators' trust in the company. Since learning of the contamination this summer, APHIS has received applications from Bayer to start field experiments on nine new kinds of gene-altered crops. To date, eight of those have been given a green light.
Thailand reaffirms that all rice is GM free - By Phusadee Arunmas - The Bangkok Post, October 31 2006
Thai authorities have assured importing countries that Thai rice is free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), in light of growing concerns, especially in Europe. The European Union (EU), has urged Thai exporters to obtain GMO-free certification, at 1,800 baht per test, to improve confidence among European consumers, who are especially sensitive about genetically modified foods. Concern rose earlier this year when genetically modified grains were detected in some rice shipped from the United States and China to the EU.
Officials from the Commerce and Agriculture ministries have reassured Thailand's trade partners that they could trace back the origins of every single grain of Thai rice. The Germ Bank and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) store all varieties of Thai rice. "Thailand has no policies on using GMO plants for commercial purposes. The country has never imported GMO rice, even for research purposes," said Surapong Pransilapa, director-general of the Rice Department.
The ministries are distributing a handbook on Thai rice to importing countries, which they hope will stop the EU from requesting certification. Vijak Visetnoi, deputy director of the Commerce Ministry's Foreign Trade Department, said Thai exporters should turn crisis into opportunity, expanding rice markets in the EU because of the concerns about US and Chinese shipments.
Hiking rice yield, biotechnology to the rescue
Scientists say transgenics or genetically modified crops cumbersome, biotech tools can boost harvest of non-GM crops
ASHOK B SHARMA - Indian Express, Posted online: October 27, 2006
New Delhi, October 26: Scientists, faced with the major challenge of boosting productivity of staple crops for ensuring world's food and nutritional security, are now looking at effectively deploying biotechnological tools to develop crops which would not be transgenics or genetically modified (GM) ones.
Transgenics or GM crops, they say, have generated much controversy across the globe. It has to pass through rigorous regulatory process before commercial release and hence it's time consuming. Rather the better option would be to deploy biotechnological tools like marker-aided selection, molecular characterisation, exploitation of apomatic genes, allele mining, harnessing heterosis, pyramiding of rice genes to develop a range of high yielding non-GM crops.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has already sounded the alarm bell that the global demand for rice would increase by another 200 million tonne by 2025 and scientists have taken up this challenge seriously. However, scientists at the recently concluded 2nd International Rice Congress in New Delhi were of the view that no major technological breakthrough is in sight that would increase rice yield. A major technological breakthrough means increasing the photosynthesis in rice (C3 crop) to the level of that in maize, sorghum and sugarcane (C4 crop).
In a major rice producing country like India, the annual rate of growth in output of this staple crop has tapered off to a level lower than the annual increase in population growth of 1.8 per cent. "Though the yield potential of rice is 10 tonne per hectare, farmers on the average still harvest five tonne per hectare. To close this gap, we must develop varieties with more durable resistance to disease, insects and tolerance to abiotic stress," says a noted plant breeder and World Food Prize recipient, Gurudev Kush.
But the availability of rice genome structural sequence has given agricultural scientists the confidence to proceed. The International Rice Genome Sequencing Project has identified about 56,298 genes. "After this project, scientists are busy identifying its functions. Once the function of a gene is identified, it will be possible to develop better by introducing genes through traditional breeding in combination with marker-aided selections or through direct engineering of genes into rice varieties," says Kush.
"Scientists are exploring the possibilities of deploying modern biotech tools for developing high yielding crops with high nutrition content,?" director-general of the International Rice Research Institute Robert S Zeigler says. "We have effective biotechnological tools at our disposal such as improved rice crops which would not be transgenic crops. Development of transgenic crop is only one of the many options."
ENVIRONMENT / GM PAPAYA ROW - Greenpeace files suit to end open-field trials - APINYA WIPATAYOTIN - Bangkok Post.October 26 2006
Greenpeace Southeast Asia yesterday petitioned the Administrative Court to revoke the Agriculture Department's order allowing the open-field trials of genetically modified (GM) papaya. The group also filed a petition with the court against the department and its director Adisak Sreesunpagit for negligence in preventing the leak of GM seeds from its research station in Khon Kaen in 2004. Khon Kaen Horticultural Research Station, which conducted a controlled field trial of GM papaya, failed to prevent the leak of GM seeds. The incident caused the Agriculture Department to eliminate all GM papaya at the station.
''The department and related government agencies failed to act to protect the public interest. GM papaya continues to contaminate our environment,'' Greenpeace campaigner Patwajee Srisuwan said yesterday. She alleged GM papaya was found in many provinces such as Kamphaeng Phet, Kalasin, Maha Sarakham, Rayong and Chaiyaphum, even though the Agriculture Department had assured that it had destroyed all of it.
Open-field trials of all GM crops were banned in 2001 by the cabinet for fear of possible cross-pollination between GM and non-GM plants, but the department and a group of papaya farmers in the Northeast managed to get the ban lifted. Mr Adisak said earlier this year the trials would be a way to help the government evaluate whether the farming of GM crops harmed the environment. GM technology allows scientists to add or remove genes across species to build desirable traits for crops, including better resistance to pests and drought. In the case of papaya, a viral gene was injected into the fruit, which subsequently developed immunity to the virus which causes ring spot. However, biosafety advocates fear that GM pollen will contaminate non-GM crops and this would affect Thai exports of farm produce to countries that impose a ban on GM products.
Meanwhile, Banpot Napompeth, chairman of the National Biological Control Research Centre, said the disparity in views between different groups over GM crops had delayed the launch of the biosafety law. He said the panel would not be able to present the draft biosafety law to the interim government during its term. ''I think it will be difficult to make progress on the law in one year. But we have to make it clear the law is important as it's a tool to secure safety,'' he said.
OPPOSITION TO GE CROPS - Thais reap windfall - Kamol Sukin - The Nation, October 22 2006
Kingdom lands more export orders as EU and some Asian countries ban GE rice from US.
The global rice trade was stunned last July when US shipments bound for the European Union were found to contain genetically engineered rice. Thailand, as the world's leading rice-exporter, has reaped a windfall as orders for non-GE rice have kept rising in past months. Sixteen European countries and Japan have effectively banned all imports of GE rice. The Thai government has adhered to its non-GE rice policy.
Morrakot Tanticharoen, director of the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Biotec), told The Nation recently that GE rice was not an option today, though it might be in the distant future. Science and Technology Minister Yongyuth Yuthavong said rice was a very big and sensitive issue. "Policywise we ought to move very carefully. Yet, we shouldn't close all doors to scientific development," he said. According to environmental group Greenpeace, Ebro Puleva, Europe's largest food-processing company, has suspended rice imports from the US following the July GE rice scandal.
The US Agriculture Department has announced that rice shipments of one exporting company, Riceland Food Inc, were found to have carried a GE rice strain called Liberty Link (LL) 601. The strain should have been restricted to laboratories and trial fields, according to the department. LL 601 is said to have been developed by Bayer Crop Science, a unit of German chemical giant Bayer. It is designed to resist some agricultural chemicals but has not yet been approved for commercial planting or consumption. According to Greenpeace International, GE rice traces were originally discovered last January involving several of Riceland's suppliers. Afterwards, Riceland traced back the sources of the rice to four US states, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Texas.
At least four US farmers have sued Bayer for the infiltration of GE rice, demanding billions of dollars in damages. The case is pending in court. Besides Europe and Japan, other US rice markets such as the Philippines have imposed a ban on GE rice. Korea has also tightened its import rules by requiring a non-GE certificate, especially for rice from the US. The moves overseas against GE rice have proved a boon for Thai exporters - at least for now. "We've got more orders from Europe to replace those which would otherwise have gone to the US," said Wanlop Pitchyapongsa of Capital Rice, a major exporter. "Replacement is obvious, especially for long-grain rice, which is normally supplied by the US. Usually we export only premium jasmine rice to the EU," he said. The scandal shows that Thailand's strength lies in non-GE rice, which should be maintained as the chief selling point, he said. Thanakorn Jitratangbunya of Chia Meng Group, another big player, said the risk of experimenting with GE rice was high and it should not be allowed here. Even though the US regulations are very strict, there was still a leak and contamination from the lab to the farm, he said.
Wanlop said the damage from GE crops was irreversible and it was difficult to clean up if there was GE contamination. Capital Rice exports around one million tonnes of non-GE rice worth Bt12 billion annually while Chia Meng, the country's biggest fragrant-rice exporter, ships out 400,000 tonnes per year worth Bt7 billion. The country ships a total 7.5 million tonnes worth around Bt80 billion a year. Both Wanlop and Thanakorn said the government should promote Thailand as a 100-per-cent non-GE rice-exporter. Yongyuth said the country had no GE-rice research and development facilities.
Biotec director Morrakot said the only biotechnological research on rice going on here was related to the development of DNA markers, which are part of the rice genome research series, aimed at developing better rice strains through genetic improvement, not by inserting non-rice genes. The work has yielded the high-iron nutrient khao hom nil strain and also flood-resistant strains in laboratory and field trials. These strains will be offered to farmers soon, he said. "Although we've closed the door to GE rice development, we should still keep a window open in the laboratory so that we don't miss the next biotechnology train. Field trials should be allowed case by case, particularly for papaya and tomato research," he said.
Sairung Thongplon of the Confederation of Consumer Organisations of Thailand said the government should review biosafety legislation being drafted by the Agriculture Ministry because it would promote the biotech business rather than protect the country's rich biological diversity. "This bill is a legacy of the past government," she said, adding that citizens'-rights advocates and other non-governmental groups were preparing a parallel bill focusing on biodiversity to replace the biosafety bill. Anti-GE campaigner Patwajee Srisuwan of Greenpeace Southeast Asia said GE rice had also been detected in food products sold in the UK, France and Germany, as these items contained ingredients made from GE rice exported by China. These products were removed from the shelves early this year. "GE rice has become a major issue as consumers worldwide have sent a strong 'No' message," she said.
According to Greenpeace, GE rice is understood to be supported by the US, China and Iran, but it remains illegal for consumption and commercial plantation due to the safety issue. In China, GE rice strains developed by Huazhong University were found to have reached farmers, with the rice identified in a vast area of Hubei province and some southern cities. The GE rice was found contaminating Heinz baby cereal food in March. According to a Greenpeace survey conducted this year, 57 per cent of Chinese respondents said they would avoid eating GE rice, up from last year's figure of only 40 per cent.
Iran, the world's largest rice market, is experimenting with GE rice containing antibiotic-resistant genes in the field with plans to distribute seeds to farmers soon, amid opposition from an international anti-GE alliance.
US rice exporters face new costs - By Andrew Bounds in Brussels - Financial Times, October 19 2006
Exporters of US rice are to be hit by new charges as the European Union widens its clampdown on genetically modified food. The European Commission said on Thursday that on Monday it would ask national food safety experts to require mandatory testing of all imports of US long-grain rice at EU ports after talks on an agreed testing regime broke down. The decision follows the detection of a herbicide-resistant strain - which is illegal in the EU - in rice certified GM-free by the US, and indicates that Brussels has lost confidence in Washington's testing methods.
In August, the Commission tightened rules governing imports of US long-grain rice after finding the LL Rice 601 strain in a batch already checked by US authorities. It has since been found in nine of the EU 25 countries. "If a consignment is certified as free of LL Rice 601, [then] before it can be released, it will be counter-tested by the authorities," a Commission spokesman said. "Only if the counter-test confirms the absence of LL Rice 601 or any other unauthorised GMO, would it be released." The tests, costing exporters several hundred euros at least, would also look for a strain known as LL Rice 62, detected recently in France.
A fortnight ago the EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou began negotiating a common sampling protocol with Washington, but talks ended on Thursday without agreement. "Despite extensive discussions between both sides, the Commission and the United States were unable to agree on such a protocol," his spokesman said. It is understood that the US wanted higher acceptable levels of GM strains than Brussels.
While the Commission said LL Rice 601 was produced by Bayer, the German chemical company told Reuters news agency it was not. The strain was developed by Aventis CropScience, a company it acquired in 2002. Development ended the year before, the company said.
Europe's Food Safety Authority has initially ruled there is no threat to human health from the GM rice. However, all biotech rice remains illegal in the EU. Only a few strains of GM crops have been approved for cultivation or consumption in the EU because some countries, such as Austria, and many consumers are opposed to them.
Katharine Mill, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, the environmental pressure group, welcomed the move. "We congratulate the EU for not agreeing to weaker US testing measures," she said. However, she pointed out that Brussels has not taken any action against Chinese imports. Greenpeace found the BT63 strain of rice, which has not been approved for commercial use anywhere, in Chinese products on supermarket shelves in Germany in August. "European rice growers are worried about the seeds getting out and contaminating their crops," she said.
Malawi must formulate national legislation to reject GM maize! [shortened] - By Brenda Zulu - Southern Africa Social Forum, 15 October 2006
Malawi must formulate a national legislation to reject Genetic Modification (GM) maize, until it undertakes a scientific assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on human health and biodiversity. Presenting the food aid analysis and its effects at the Southern Africa Social Forum (SASF), Edson Musopole from Action Aid said the decision with regard to the acceptance of GM commodities as part of food aid transactions rests with recipient's country.
Musopole noted that alternative source of non GM food are usually available in local or non GM maize neighbouring countries. He said Malawi had more and more become dependent on food aid which also comes in form of GM maize. Musopole said the Malawian Government needs to develop policies to provide donors with a code of conduct which helps to free food aid from its negative image of being tool for rich countries to get rid of their surplus production.
Exporters want GM-free pledge - By Apinya Wipatayotin - Bangkok Post, 17 October 2006
Rice exporters yesterday urged the government to confirm for Thailand's trading partners that Thai rice is free of genetically modified (GM) organisms. The move follows the discovery that food products sold in European markets contained GM rice. Government assurances are urgently needed to boost international confidence in Thai rice in the wake of the reports about GM rice spreading, they told a press conference to mark the World Food Day.
Last month, Greenpeace released findings that the environmental group says show GM rice from China has affected food products in France, Germany and the UK. The group also said GM rice from the US has been found on supermarket shelves in Germany.
Commercialisation of transgenic rice is banned in many countries. Wallop Pitchyapongsa, managing director of Capital Rice, a leading organic rice exporter, said the non-GM policy was the "selling point" of Thai agricultural products, including rice, therefore the government should promote this policy to global consumers. One indication of consumer preference for non-GM rice was that some US rice customers had turned to importing rice from Thailand after Greenpeace confirmed US-grown rice contained GM organisms (GMOs), said Mr Wallop. Tanakorn Jitrarangbunya, of Chia Meng, another major rice exporting company, said Thailand could lose export markets if the government fails to create a global perception that Thailand a GMO-free. Export of the world's popular Hom Mali rice would be the first to suffer, he said. Thailand exports about 7.5 million tonnes of rice a year, earning around 100 billion baht. The major markets include Africa, Asia, Middle East, the EU and US. Mr Tanakorn called on the government to continue the ban on field trails of GMOs, as well as commercialisation of GM crops. "I know the [GMO] field trial is important. But, it must be conducted under stringent measures to prevent adulteration by GMOs," he said.
Patwajee Srisuwan, Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner, said many countries, such as Japan and in Europe, have been enforcing tougher rules to prevent the import of GM rice from China and the US. The move would also be positive for Thai rice exporters, she said. "The government should take this opportunity to declare Thailand a 'GMO-free country' and terminate all pro-GMO policies and activities," said Ms Patwajee. Government reluctance to embrace a total non-GMO policy will adversely impact the whole agricultural sector, she said. Greenpeace urged the government to come up with stringent measures to prevent the import of GM rice shipments into Thailand. Rice importers should demand certificates and ensure products coming into Thailand do not contain GMOs, said Greenpeace.
UN Climate Conference - An Opportunity for GM? - GM/Biosafety mailout from Teresa Anderson at the Gaia Foundation - email@example.com
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held in Nairobi, Kenya this year from the 6th-17th November.
Climate change is now acknowledged to be one of the biggest threats facing the planet, although some sections of business (the oil industry in particular) and some governments (e.g. the US) have been reluctant to acknowledge the devastating role that modern industry, transport and food systems have had in contributing to carbon dioxide emissions and climate change. Deforestation is exacerbating the problem as there are fewer trees to absorb carbon dioxide for growth. As the atmosphere warms up due to increased carbon dioxide, climate responds by changing in different ways across the planet. We are already seeing changes in patterns of temperature and rainfall across Africa, as many of you who lament the loss of the reliable and regular rainy seasons well know.
At the UNFCCC, countries will attempt to implement mitigation measures to reduce the impact of climate change, while also discussing adaptation techniques. There are many controversies over the proposed measures put forward in the Kyoto Protocol, and NGOs attending the session will have their hands full in trying to push for solutions that truly address the problems and interests of the rural poor and not just big business. As it happens, Nairobi provides a base to a number of groups that promote GM for African Agriculture: Africa Harvest (run by Florence Wambugu), Africa Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF), African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), Africa Biotechnology Network Africa (ABNETA), Biotechnology Trust Africa and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). Furthermore USAID, Monsanto and Syngenta all have a strong presence there. It is therefore possible that the GM industry will be looking to turn the Nairobi UNFCCC COP-12 into an opportunity to promote GM technology as the next big solution to climate change.
The GM industry may push for the UNFCCC to endorse GM in a number of areas, such as biofuels, GM trees, and drought tolerant GM crops. However, it is vitally important that NGOs and country delegates attending the UNFCCC know the true story behind the hype, and the risks that GM technology can bring. Having lost the argument that GM will feed the world, the industry is now desperate to cast itself again as the global solution - but yet again GM offers only empty promises and more problems.
Biofuels - There is increasing talk of using Biofuels made from crops as ethanol instead of petrol and biodiesel instead of diesel. The crops absorb as much carbon dioxide (CO2) when they are growing, as they release when they are burned, so they are termed as "carbon neutral", and seen by some as an environmentally friendly option instead of fossil fuels. European countries aim to replace a percentage of their fossil fuels with biofuels, and the EU has a programme called "Partners for Africa" to encourage African countries to grow biofuels for export to Europe. The GM industry intend to capitalise on this new vision of African agriculture. Syngenta have developed a variety of GM maize that contains an enzyme that would speed up the conversion to ethanol, and a GM cassava is also being developed for use in biofuels.
However, according to a study by Cornell University, the amount of energy input required for fertiliser, machinery, processing and transport for ethanol from maize is actually greater than the energy in the resulting fuel. In Indonesia, the rainforest, a valuable ecosystem which helps to absorb carbon dioxide and reduce climate change, is being cut down and replaced with Palm Oil plantations for biofuels. Furthermore, according to the Earth Policy Institute, the amount of grain for fuel required to fill one 4x4 SUV tank, would feed a person for a year. We are going to find ourselves in a situation where the best agricultural land in Africa is increasingly used to grow fuel for European cars, instead of food for Africans. Biofuels could therefore pose a threat to food security in Africa. If acceptance of biofuels allows backdoor entry to GMOs, this would pose an even greater threat to African farmers through cross-pollination and patented seed.
GM Trees - One of the approaches that has been taken up since the development of the Kyoto Protocol is the concept of "Carbon Sinks" - large tree plantations that can allow countries, businesses and people to "offset" their CO2 emissions. The carbon sinks tend to be grown in the South, in tropical countries such as Uganda, and paid for by wealthy industrial countries. This approach has been criticised as allowing business to continue as usual in the developed countries, and distracting policy makers from the need to actually reduce carbon emissions. Whether carbon sinks really reduce CO2 emissions or not is also a point of controversy. Some research suggests that they can be damaging to local communities and the environment. They many be monoculture plantations which affect the water table or have replaced forest that is already there.
The GM industry is also attempting to turn this crisis into an opportunity. Fast-growing GM trees may be pushed as the next solution to creating instant carbon sinks. However, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held in April this year, urged countries to take a very cautious approach to GM trees. Tree pollen can travel for hundreds of miles and could cross-pollinate with non-GM trees. Pine pollen can travel 2000 miles. Trees have such a long growth cycle we have little or no idea what the impact will be on their ecologies. But trees provide the planet's most important ecosystems for keeping climate in the balance. It seems insanity to use this untested technology as a so-called "solution" when there is a large chance that it could harm global forest systems and create even more long-term chaos.
Drought Tolerance - When aiming to justify GM technology in agriculture, one of the most frequent arguments brought out is that GM will give us drought tolerant crops, which will be important in Africa and in the face of impending climate change. This has been repeated so often by lobbyists and ambitious scientists that the media, the public and the policy makers actually believe that drought-tolerant crops are almost a reality, and that there is a moral imperative to pursue GM technology for the sake of the hungry.
But the reality is that the genetic coding for drought tolerance is incredibly complex, and it is quite possible that understanding of genetic engineering will never gain the ability to harness the trait. There may be up to 60 different genes involved in drought tolerance, all interacting and reacting in a subtle and complex way. The successful transferral of many complex genes, which can respond to a variety of conditions, and not produce unwanted toxins and allergens, is a long way off for current scientific knowledge. That is why some geneticists admit that even hoping for drought tolerance in the next 10 or 20 years may be too ambitious. Even Monsanto has admitted that it will take 8-10 years - however this is likely to be a strategic understatement for the purposes of public relations.
In the meantime, African farmers already know that their traditional varieties can survive drought conditions more successfully than the bought hybrid varieties. Genuine strategies for ensuring drought tolerance and future food security need to preserve and encourage natural genetic diversity in seed, by encouraging seed saving programmes and traditional farmer breeding knowledge. By endorsing GM technology to find drought tolerance, valuable resources are being drained from the real solutions.
Please forward this information to any of your colleagues who work on climate change issues, or who are planning to attend the UNFCCC COP-12 in Nairobi this November. It is vitally important that the GM industry does not take advantage of the opportunity to get official UN endorsement through the back door.
1. Starving the People To Feed the Cars - Article from the Washington Post - 10 September 2006 - Lester R. Brown
2. Cornell Ecologist's Study Finds that Producing Ethanol and Biodiesel from Corn and Other Crops is Not Worth the Energy - Article from Cornell University News Service, US. 5 July 2005 - Susan S. Lang - http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/July05/ethanol.toocostly.ssl.html
3. Feeding Cars, Not People - Article from the Guardian - 22 November 2004 - George Monbiot - http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2004/11/23/feeding-cars-not-people
4. On Eve of Nairobi Climate Conference, New Book Exposes Scandal of Carbon Trading - Press Release from The Corner House - 4 October 2006
5. GE Trees: No Solution to Climate Change, Article from Gen-ethischer Informationsdienst - February/March 2005. Chris Lang
6. Drought-resistant GM seeds won't benefit Kenyans for the next decade, says Monsanto - Comment from GM Watch - 1 February 2006
7. Drought-Resistant GM Seeds Won't Benefit Kenyans for the Next Decade - Article from the Nation (Kenya) - 31 January 2006 - Kevin J. Kelley
Monsanto posts bigger loss for 4th quarter - By Carey Gillam - Reuters, October 11 2006
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Monsanto Co. said on Wednesday it posted a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss due to lower revenues from its biotech seed technology, sending shares down 7 percent in early trading. The St. Louis-based agricultural products company, an industry leader in genetically altering crops to resist pests and tolerate weed-killing treatments, saw a drop of 56 percent in net sales of its soybean seeds and biotechnology traits and a 10 percent decline in other crop seeds and traits in its fourth quarter. Soy and other crop seed sales were up for the year, however, with some sales typically seen in the fourth quarter captured in prior quarters, according to Monsanto officials. The company posted a loss of 27 cents a share on an as-reported basis in the fourth quarter that ended August 31, compared with a loss of 23 cents a share a year earlier. On an ongoing basis, the loss was 21 cents a share, compared with a loss of 25 cents a share in the fourth quarter of 2005. Analysts, on average, were looking for a 24-cent net loss per share or 21 cents a share on an ongoing basis, according to Reuters Research.
The lower quarterly U.S. biotech soybean and other crop revenues were partially offset by higher U.S. sales of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides as well as higher sales of corn products, Monsanto officials said. Corn seed and trait sales totaled $212 million in the quarter, up more than 11 percent. And total quarterly sales were $1.4 billion, 9 percent higher than sales in the same period in 2005. In all, it amounted to a net loss of $144 million in the fourth quarter, compared to a loss of $125 million in the same period in 2005. Investors showed their disappointment, sending Monsanto shares down more than 7 percent before they recovered. Still, Argent Capital Management portfolio manager Tom Leritz characterized the quarterly results as a temporary "hiccup." "If you're priced for perfection, any little hiccup will cause concerns and cause people to sell the stock. But I think it is a near-term issue," Leritz said. "I think long term the company has a very good product, they are way ahead of the competition and they have a large total available market."
Monsanto also announced Wednesday that its full-year 2007 EPS guidance, both on a reported and ongoing basis, is expected to be $1.50 to $1.57, reflecting a projected growth rate of up to 15 percent to 20 percent from the fiscal year 2006 EPS ongoing base of $1.31 per share. Monsanto said it was facing pricing challenges in two large growth markets - Brazil and India - but was making changes that should provide for further market penetration, particularly in Brazilian soybean acreage. The company said gains in the U.S. corn market, its pending acquisition of Delta and Pine Land Co., the top U.S. seller of cotton seeds, and a restructuring of its Seminis vegetable seed product offerings and pricing were among the factors seen driving future growth. Shares of Monsanto were down 4.4 percent, or $2.06, at $44.36 on the New York Stock Exchange.
GE Technology out of control: Greenpeace discovers contamination from Bayer's Genetically Engineered Rice in Middle East
Greenpeace Press Release, OCTOBER 10 2006 - http://www.commondreams.org/news2006/1010-14.htm
NEW DELHI, India - October 10 - Test results released today by Greenpeace International establish that rice products being sold in the Middle East region have also been contaminated by Bayer's illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice grown in field trials in the United States. (1) Contamination in the Middle East has serious global implications as the region is the world's 2nd largest importer of US rice and a major re-exporter of food throughout the Asia region.
Today, Greenpeace activists challenged Agriculture Ministers attending the International Rice Congress (IRC) in Delhi to take immediate action to prevent the continuing contamination of the world's most important staple food. Conference delegates were presented with symbolic bowls of rice with question marks.
Agricultural ministers of eight countries(2) are participating in the IRC, to set the agenda for rice production and export over the next five years, discussing trade issues as well as scientific innovations and sustainable solutions for rice production. Ironically, Bayer and Monsanto - the two main advocates for the GE industry, are jointly sponsoring the Congress, placing them in a key position to influence the agenda to their advantage. Contamination from Bayer's rice has already been found in nine countries, and resulted in import restrictions against the United States.
"The contaminated rice in the Middle East is yet another body blow to the US rice industry, already reeling under product recalls, testing requirements, import restrictions and cancelled orders in many countries," said Divya Raghunandan, GE campaigner from Greenpeace India. "Now, more than ever before, it is clear that GE crops pose a serious risk and that 'controlled field trials' are a dangerous myth. Any country allowing GE crops to be grown, even in field trials, is exposing its farmers and traders of agricultural produce to an economic and environmental disaster. A complete ban is the only solution," added Raghunandan.
Greenpeace urged governments to protect this staple food, by drawing up a clear plan of action to protect their countries from similar GE contamination, prevent genetic contamination of crops and hold Bayer accountable for its recklessness.
"The extent of contamination necessitates an urgent response. This rice and its by-products could be on supermarket shelves anywhere," warned Jeremy Tager, GE Campaigner from Greenpeace International. "We urge agricultural ministers to immediately order comprehensive testing of all products that may have been exposed to contamination from GE rice, and to impose strict import controls on any goods imported from GE rice-growing countries. It will take a globally coordinated approach to ensure that citizens everywhere are responsibly protected from GE-contaminated products," concluded Tager. Notes to Editor
Notes to editors:
1. The following samples were found to contain traces of Bayer's illegal LL601 GE rice when tested at an independent laboratory.
Uncle Ben's long grain rice: Purchased at Geant supermarket Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Riceland Chef-way, preboiled rice: Purchased at Carrefour supermarket,Dubai, UAE
Riceland, preboiled rice: Purchased at Geant supermarket Dubai, UAE
American Rice, INC, parboiled rice: Purchased at City Center supermarket Salmiya, Kuwait
2. China, Indonesia, India, Laos, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam
Aliens in the Field - http://www.tve.org/earthreport/archive/doc.cfm?aid=1690
Genetic modification is a new frontier in science, giving us the power to reconstruct the building blocks of life itself. But when it comes to food, do genetically modified crops offer the hope of a new Green Revolution? Or are they poised to contaminate our environment and make farmers dependent on agri-business bent on maximising profits? Do the risks outweigh the benefits ? And who decides? India's farmers have been attracted by claims of higher yields, while Zambia refused desperately needed food aid because it was GM. Argentina on the other hand, has enthusiastically embraced GM crops, sowing half of its land with GM Soya. Earth Report went to these three countries to find out how genetically modified crops are changing the world.
In the Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh, India, most smallholders here have become dependent on cotton as a cash crop. But resistence to chemical pesticides has grown and farmers have had to go into debt to buy new, more potent chemicals. At the same time, prices plummeted. Seeing no way out of the debt trap, suicides have become common. According to the Indian authorities, in the last decade, up to 10,000 cotton farmers have taken their own lives. When genetically modified cotton, called BT cotton, was developed by multinational biotech company, Monsanto, it gave farmers new hope. PV Sateesh is one of the founders of the Deccan Development Society an Indian grassroots NGO working to empower the rural poor of Andra Pradesh. "BT cotton entered the field with the assurance to farmers, saying if you adopt BT cotton you will increase your yield, reduce the pesticide use and you will get more profits." The BT cotton plant's DNA had been manipulated to include the Bacillus Thuringiensis gene. With this gene, the plant becomes toxic to the most common cotton pest, the bollworm. The crop can resist attack and stays healthy. One of the seed's producers, Mahyco, partly owned by Monsanto, had advertised heavily in Andhra Pradesh.
Pest Resistant, Not Drought Resistant
The BT cottonseed was four times more expensive than the conventional seed but in the hope that the new seed would turn their luck around, many farmers went further into debt and invested in it. But for many farmers the expected success failed to materialise. Warangal District is a drought prone area. Agriculture is dependent on the rains. In two out of the three years that BT cotton has been grown here, the rains failed. Devinder Sharma is a Political Analyst. "If you look at the reports of the Department of Biotechnology, BT cotton consumes about 20 per cent more water than hybrid cotton. And scientists knew it, industry knew it.." The problem appears to be that cotton farmers, like Banoth Balu, were not told about this drawback. Banoth Balu: "I was told that BT cotton gives good yields and requires no sprays. I planned to take land on lease for two to three years and grow this with a hope that I would be able to repay most of my debts. All my hopes were crushed. The BT crop did not germinate and my wife committed suicide three months ago because of it. She went to the field and drank pesticide."
According to Warangal authorities, suicides among the farmers farmer's have continued at a rate of over 20 a month after the harvest failure in 2004. The irony was that those who stuck with the conventional, more drought resistant cotton fared better. PV Sateesh: "BT cotton could not adapt because it was technologically manipulated and this technological manipulation could not adapt itself to these stressed conditions. The people who grew non-BT cotton made six times more profits than the BT cotton people." The farmers that had converted to BT were furious. They rioted in Warangal Town and demonstrated against the seed companies and pressed for the sale of BT cotton to be banned.
Raghuveera Reddy is Minister for Agriculture Andrah Pradesh "We have ordered for a detailed field inspection and once it is found that the company is at fault, he should pay that, if he doesn't pay also, we'll put those companies on a blacklist, we don't hesitate to do that also." According to Mahyco, BT cotton has performed much better in other provinces. Earth Report contacted Mahyco. The company sent the following statement about the Andhrah Pradesh situation: "Investigations by an expert government team has found that the performance of BT cotton is safisfactory - it is increasing yields significantly and reducing the number of sprays for bollworm control. The farmers who are not managing the crops for disease and nutrients are getting reduced yields and hence proper practices must be adopted."
Biotech for the Poor?
But despite the experiences in Andhra Pradesh, countries such as India are pushing ahead with biotechnology. In Hyderabad, the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, or ICRISAT, is working on developing crops that they say will help ease poverty. Part of a publically-funded network of seed banks and agricultural research institutes, ICRISAT like many others is seeking private sector partnerships to keep going. Dr Kiran Sharma, ICRISAT: "We are basically working for the poor farmers. In a country like India where 70 per cent of the people are actually farmers, if we can help these farmers have a better livelihood and rise above the poverty line, I think that's a mission accomplished." If there is one lesson from the comparitive failure of BT cotton in Andhra Pradesh it is that GM crops are no magic bullet. Dr Kiran Sharma: "The work on the drought is still in early stages. We've developed transgenics with a gene that might provide tolerance to drought but I think we still have a long way to go before we have proper answers."
Looking a Gift-horse in the Mouth
In Zambia, genetically modified crops are controversial for a different reason. Here, the concern has been about disclosure and transparency. The issue came to the fore when the country faced famine in 2002. The US government responded by giving 12,000 metric tonnes of genetically modified maize. In the USA widespread growing of GM maize is not a matter of controversy. But to some, it was deeply suspect that Zambia was not alerted that the food aid was genetically modified - as it should have been under the Food Aid Convention. Mundia Sikatana, the Zambian Minister of Agriculture explains."Zambia took exception to the fact that we were not told. We were not told that the food we were being given was GMO. You have got to disclose! What is wrong with disclosing? Because they knew we would react." There was general astonishment in the international community when the Zambian government rejected the GM food aid. The race was now on to find alternatives to the imported food aid acceptable to the Zambian government.
David Stevens, Director, World Food Programme recalls the gravity of the situation. "We were in the middle of a drought here in Zambia, a very serious drought, with almost 3 million people in need of emergency fooddistributions." Charles Mushitu, Zambian Red Cross: "We had to go back to the drawing board to replan our exercise. And what I remember very well, during that period we started distributing beans from other neighboring countries like Tanzania. We started delivering those beans, people could live on these beans, they would cook the beans, mash them, eat it as a meal." David Stevens: "With the generous donations of many countries, cash donations, we were able to purchase food in the region and elsewhere - Non-GM food for distribution." Charles Mushitu: "We didn't record a single death arising out of hunger." Disaster had been averted, but the issue had raised a fierce public debate in Zambia and throughout Africa.
Zambia had another incentive for refusing the GM aid. It exports vegetables to Europe. The Europeans have strict GMO controls. If those given the GM food aid grew crops from it, Zambia's exports might have been threatened. Songowayo Zyambo from the Zambia National Farmers Union explains the concerns of the agricultural sector. "The export markets demanded that if there was any activity of GMO in Zambia, then they would't buy that particular crop. Now that meant loss of a market for farmers, it also meant loss of foreign exchange earnings for Zambia. Eventually it would have translated into reduced employment in Zambia and so many other negative implications." Farmers were worried about possible GM contamination of their crops. Seed Producer Tewani Clarke: "Every time you bring in something that has not been tested you bring in dangers. It has happened when there has been food aid in the past, we imported a pest that didn't have natural predators in Zambia and it's still giving us a problem now. The larger commercial farmers may be able to afford the chemicals to protect their grain but the small-scale farmers may not even be aware about it. So the same thing could happen in a GMO situation."
Proceeding with Caution
Zambia is now considering on its own terms if GM crops may have a place in its future. Dr Fastone Goma, University of Zambia: "We want crops that won't dent the environment. We would want to control cross-pollination. We want to make sure that we still enjoy our organic products. And so with all that in mind, we need to set the agenda for biotechnology. I think we have open arms towards it but we will not just accept what has gone on everywhere as being good for Zambia." Impoverished nations such as Zambia have little capacity to make their own scientific assessments of the possible threats posed by GM crops. It is forced to rely on a fair and unbiased international regime. An issue Norway's aid minister Hilde F Johnson, is well aware of. "Very very few countries have the capacity necessary even to deal not only with the scientific part of this, but also the regulatory framework that has to go with it. We as the international community and donor community we have also to strengthen their possibilities to deal with the GMO area."
Full Speed Ahead
Argentina is a world away from Zambia - not least in its attitude to GM. Its government does not share the doubts about GM crops. At the end of the 1990s, GM Soya was introduced. It proved so profitable that now half of the country's arable land is planted with a single species - 'RoundUp Ready Soya', produced by Monsanto. Frederico Ovejero, Monsanto, Argentina: "The economic impact has been US$9 billion - $9 billion that has been not only generated for the growers but also for the whole country." The big agri-businesses are the most enthusiastic growers of GM Soya. Juan Carlos Mettifogo represents the Producers' Association APPRESID: "Agricultural producers must participate in the obtainment of their profits. Through biotechnology, producers will get their profits and very large profits."
Making Money, but Going Hungry
But as more and more land was switched to GM Soya cultivation, over 150,000 small farmers have quit their land, claiming they can no longer compete. Orchards, greenbelts and dairy farms have gone under the Soya juggernaut. It is good for the country's exports but incredibly, the country now has to import basic foodstuffs such as milk and potatoes. It is how free trade is meant to work - the problem is that half the country can't afford the imported food. Recently, the National Institute of Statistics and Consensus estimated that half of Argentina's population was unable to meet their basic food needs.
Is it Safe?
The big agro-producer association APPRESID, started a campaign called Soya Solidarity to help the hungry. Over one million people received food made from RR Soya donated by APPRESID's producers. The Soya products were given out in schools, churches, orphanages, hospitals and soup kitchens. However some are worried about the safety of eating GM Soya beans. They point to research that has been done on GM corn. Prof. Jorge Kaczewer is a toxicologist at the University of Buenos Aires. He explains some of his recent research. "We can see that consummation of GM corn leads direct changes in the bowel, changes in the bowel mucous of animals fed with this. And look at the cell growth in animals consuming GM and this is a normal bowel of a rat, which didn't eat GM corn. We already know that GM Soya beans were approved without enough long-term experiments to determine that they're safe."
Monsanto's scientists insist the crop has been properly tested. Miguel Azancedo Monsanto Argentina "You have of course studies to demonstrate that the feeding or eating this new stuff it's not - it's safe enough. And those studies are conducted basically on birds and chicken because chickens are a particular animal with a very very fast grow and with a very very easy way to detect some problems." RoundUp Ready Soya is genetically modified to withstand the herbicide Glyphosate. After spraying with glyphosate, only weeds die - the Soya plant stays healthy. The use of glyphosate has gone up. Dr Walter Pengue University of Buenos Aires: "One thing we can link as regards Soya production in Argentina, is the very strong, intensive increase in the use of agrochemicals. Particularly in the use of herbicides, mostly glyphosate. Since the beginning of the 90s, we've gone from less than one million litres to more than 150 millions nowadays."
A consortium of US universities funded by the US Department of Agriculture, give glysophate a clean billing - but medical observers here in Argentina want to find out if some of the chemicals used alongside glyphosate in the production of GM soya might be linked to health problems. Endosulfan, often used as an insecticide, is a cause of particular concern. According to the pro-biotech organisation CASAFE, the sales of Endosulfan have gone up by 25% over recent years. Dr. Gianfelice is one of the researchers: "We have seen with a higher than normal frequency dead babies, babies born with abnormalities and pregnancies without an embryo. Usually this happens to people who produce or spray Soya, or are exposed to Soya fumigation. There are international studies, which demonstrate that the use of persistent organic pollutants to which Roundup-sulfan belongs, produce severe reduction in people's capacity to reproduce. That's what the big agrochemical companies, the GM multinationals don't want to be said." But the government believes the chemicals are not poisonous when used correctly. Miguel Santiago Campos, Minister for Agriculture "It is specified in the label how you have to do it, when you have to do it and in what condition you have to do it. And sometimes they don't know that."
Flooded by Soya
Critics also point to the environmental impact of the soya expansion. To create new fields for genetically modified crops, forests in the north of the country have been destroyed. This has limited the ablility of the ground to absorb rain water, and increased flooding. In 2003, a huge flood devastated Santa Fe town. Over 100,000 people had to be evacuated. Jorge Carpatto, Friends of the Earth/Proteger: "Catastrophic floods, which used to happen every 100 years, now happen every five or ten years. The levels of the river rose twenty times, there were places where water rose by 5 metres in 20 minutes. We have a saying: 'God always forgives, man sometimes, nature never.'"
Let the People Decide
Although the Santa Fe authorities confirm the link between the deforestation and the floods, the Argentine government continues to support forest clearance for export crops. It is pressing ahead with other gm crops and has recently approved RoundUP Ready maize. Each of these countries is finding its own way to deal with biotechnology. But on a wider scale, who is determining how biotechnology shapes our future? Peter Newell, University of Sussex:"The key decisions about a technology which impacts all of us are being taken elsewhere, by other people, who have their own vested interests in the technology. We have to find ways of trying to bring people in to the process and allowing them to express whether they want this technology, what type of technology, what safeguards they would want to see." There is a whole set of issues about the technology and it's role in society that scientists alone cannot deal with.
Japan widens testing of U.S. rice for illegal GMO - Reuters News Service, September 28 2006
TOKYO, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Japan has expanded testing of U.S. rice for an unapproved genetically modified (GMO) strain due to a lack of proof from Washington that short- and medium-grain rice are free from contamination. An official at Japan's Agriculture Ministry said on Thursday that testing of U.S. rice for the unapproved strain, previously limited to long-grain rice and its products, now covers short- and medium-grain rice from the country. The ministry has started testing U.S. short- and medium-grain rice stockpiled in warehouses in Japan, totalling about 1.1 million tonnes, for the unapproved GMO rice strain LLRice 601 owned by Bayer CropScience, a division of Bayer AG (BAYG.DE:
The genetically engineered rice has a protein known as Liberty Link, which allows the crop to withstand applications of an herbicide used to kill weeds. The ministry has also started testing U.S. rice before shipment to Japan, with samples from each lot of contracted supplies examined by Japanese laboratories, the official said. "We will only accept rice tested negative for GMO," he said. Japan has a zero-tolerance policy on imports of unapproved GMO crops, and importers of crops tainted with unapproved GMO must destroy them or ship them back to exporting countries. Japan has put rice imports under the state trading system as the grain is the nation's staple food, with the Agriculture Ministry acting as a rice importer.
Japan suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice and its products immediately after the United States Department of Agriculture disclosed on Aug. 18 that LLRice 601 was detected in long-grain rice targeted for commercial use.
Supreme Court says no to GM products till further orders - By Indo Asian News Service, September 22nd, 2006
New Delhi - The Supreme Court Friday asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) not to give approvals to genetically modified products until further orders. A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justices C.K. Thakker and R.V. Raveendran gave the direction on an application filed by Aruna Rodrigues and three others in a public interest litigation seeking a ban on the release of genetically modified organisms/seeds having the potential of causing major health hazards. Counsel Prashant Bhushan alleged that the policy of the government was to give speedy clearance to genetically modified organisms even before putting in place a mechanism to test their bio-safety value. He pleaded for a stay against grant of fresh approvals and of all field trials on genetically modified crops.
In its brief order, the bench said 'we are not inclined to direct stoppage of all field trials at this stage without the stand of the respondents. At the same time we deem it appropriate to direct GEAC to withhold the approvals till further directions are issued on hearing all concerned. The government would also consider associating independent experts in the field in the GEAC.'It listed the matter after two weeks.
The petitioners said the use of technology of genetic engineering and release of GM organisms into the environment would require application of precautionary principle, which mandated that every possible precaution must be taken to ensure that no harmful effects are caused to human and animal health and environment. They said genetic engineering if allowed to proceed unchecked would change the molecular structure of the world?s food. In India, if the GEAC's reckless rush into GM foods was not checked, this process would be the fastest and riskiest experiment anywhere with irreversible impacts on our farmers, their crop choices, our food and health.
Gene-Altered Profit-Killer - A Slight Taint of Biotech Rice Puts Farmers' Overseas Sales in Peril - By Rick Weiss - Washington Post Staff Writer
Washington Post, September 21 2006 - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/20/AR2006092001903.html
The disclosure last month that American long-grain rice has become widely contaminated with traces of an experimental, gene-altered rice has provoked an economic crisis for farmers and reignited a long-smoldering debate over the adequacy of U.S. oversight of biotech food. Already, Japan has banned U.S. long-grain imports, noting, as have other countries, that the genetically altered variety never passed regulatory muster. Stores in Germany, Switzerland and France have pulled American rice off their shelves. And at least one ship last week remained quarantined in Rotterdam, awaiting word of whether its contents would be diverted or destroyed. "Until this happened, it looked like rice farmers were finally going to make a profit this year," said Greg Yielding, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association. Instead, U.S. rice prices have slumped about 10 percent, and some expect market losses to reach $150 million.
Scientists are just now figuring out how LLRICE601 made its way into the nation's commercial rice supply. The company that developed it, Bayer CropScience of Research Triangle Park, N.C., says it abandoned the project in 2001. The unapproved rice poses no threat to human or animal health, federal officials have assured the public. And the level of contamination is minuscule, on the order of just six genetically engineered grains in every 10,000. But the growing economic fallout from LL601's unwanted and illegal reappearance -- including a handful of lawsuits against Bayer -- is a reminder that when it comes to food, public perception is as important as scientific assurances. "We've been warning for years that something like this could happen," Yielding said, citing a December 2005 report from the Agriculture Department's inspector general that lambasted the government for not keeping a closer eye on companies developing new crops. "This is one of those deals where you hate to be right."
Genetically engineered crops are common in the United States, where 60 to 90 percent of the corn, soybean and cotton plants are enhanced with genes from bacteria and other organisms. Most of the added genes allow the plants to make their own insecticides or, as in LLRICE601, confer resistance to commonly used weedkillers. But motivated by scientific, cultural and economic concerns, most countries around the world are finicky about biotech crops and allow relatively few in. That, in turn, has created tension for U.S. agriculture. Although U.S. farmers say they favor, in theory, further development of the crops, many have called for delays in field testing or marketing until other countries agree to accept them. With few mechanisms in place to segregate engineered from conventional varieties, and wide availability of tests able to detect minute quantities of foreign DNA, they say it is not worth the risk that shipments will become contaminated and rejected. "Once it's in the pipeline, it's very hard to get it out," said Jeffrey Barach, a vice president at the Food Products Association, a D.C. trade group.
Concerns have been especially high among rice growers, who sell big portions of their harvests to Kellogg for Rice Krispies, Anheuser-Busch for beer and Gerber for baby food, said Eric Wailes, an agricultural economist at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. "These are companies with huge brand equity," Wailes said, and are unwilling to risk their reputations. In fact, many experts suspect that pressure from the food industry was a major reason why Bayer mysteriously dropped LL601 five years ago without seeking USDA approval for it. The company has refused to answer questions about its biotech rice program, which produced two other varieties. The Agriculture Department deemed those two safe for sale, but Bayer opted not to market them.
In recent weeks, tests by researchers in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana have begun to unveil how LL601 persisted even after Bayer quit. The rice had been grown in several test locations, including Louisiana State University's rice research station near Crowley from 1999 to 2001. Analyses in the past two weeks of samples of other rice varieties that were grown over the years at the same research station found that at least one - a long-grain rice known as Cheniere - was contaminated with LL601 at least as far back as 2003. Records indicate that the affected plot of Cheniere rice, which was used to grow "foundation stock" from which much larger amounts were produced over the next few years, was located at least 160 feet from the LL601 plot, farther apart than what USDA required, said LSU spokeswoman Frankie Gould.
Exactly how and when the crossover of the genetically altered rice occurred remains uncertain. It could be, experts said, that some grains of LL601 got mixed inadvertently with grains of Cheniere, so that future plantings of Cheniere were really plantings of both. That could have gone unnoticed for years until someone tested for the errant gene -- which is how Riceland Foods Inc. of Stuttgart, Ark., happened upon the problem this year. Or it may be that LL601 plants fertilized some Cheniere plants, creating a gene-enhanced Cheniere. Rice pollen does not usually go far afield, but it can. Tests on more than a dozen other LSU varieties have come up negative for the LL601 gene, as have tests from Texas and Arkansas plots; results from Mississippi are pending. But because many varieties of rice are mixed in huge bins after harvest, it could be difficult to rid the U.S. rice crop of the illegal variety. "The damage has been done and it is still being done," said Adam J. Levitt, a partner in the Chicago office of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLC, who led a class action lawsuit that won $110 million for farmers after gene-altered and unapproved StarLink corn appeared in food in 2000. "They've really in a very substantial way poisoned the well."
How Bayer will deal with the international ramifications of LL601's escape is uncertain. But its domestic strategy became clear on Aug. 18, the day Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced the problem. That day Bayer filed a petition seeking USDA approval - or "deregulation" - of LL601. If the petition is successful, the variety's presence would no longer violate U.S. regulations - but the strategy has raised some hackles. "Post hoc approval strikes us as really cynical," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the District-based Center for Food Safety. "Bayer has no intention of bringing this rice to market. Clearly this is an effort to avoid liability." Last week Freese's group filed a petition asking USDA to reject Bayer's request and to rescind its earlier approval of the company's other two engineered rice varieties. The petition argues that the herbicide resistance trait is sure to make its way into red rice, a weedy wild relative of white rice that is already rice growers' biggest pest. Any advance likely to make red rice herbicide-resistant, the petition claims, would force farmers to turn to more potent weedkillers and violate the Plant Protection Act.
Even if Bayer succeeds in deregulating LL601, farmers will still face international rejection - a potentially major hit, since most rice profits are from overseas sales. On Friday the European Commission said the rice "is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern." But it also made plain that the rice is illegal and offered no hints it would soften its stance. Of even greater concern is whether Central American nations - the biggest foreign buyers of U.S. rice - and Mexico, the second biggest, will adhere to their strict rules on engineered foods. Talks were underway late last week, Yielding said.
The December inspector general report scolded USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for failing to conduct required inspections of test plots and in some cases not even knowing where experiments it had approved were being conducted. APHIS spokeswoman Rachel Iadicicco said the shortcomings cited in that report have been remedied.
Swiss Retailers Block Sale of U.S. Rice - Associated Press, September 13 2006 - http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/fn/4183605.html
ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) - The largest supermarket chain in Switzerland has blocked the sale of U.S. long grain rice after traces of an illegal genetically modified strain were found, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. Retailer Migros detected small amounts of the strain LL 601 over the weekend in shipments of long grain rice coming from the United States, said spokeswoman Martina Bosshard. Swiss law prohibits the sale of genetically modified food without special authorization. As a result, the company decided to hold back its entire stock of U.S. long grain rice and recall six products already sold to consumers, Bosshard said. Migros imports between 4,000 and 5,000 tons (4,400 and 5,500 U.S. tons) of the rice each year. "We are now waiting for a definitive analysis before we proceed," Bosshard said, adding that the contaminated shipment had come from a single
supplier, which she refused to identify.
The European Union, of which Switzerland is not a member, already imposed strict certification requirements on U.S. rice shipments in August because it had found traces of the illegal biotech strain. On Tuesday, the European Commission said 33 of 162 samples of U.S. rice imports tested by European rice millers contained illegal genetically altered
strains and had been recalled or withheld from the market.
Migros' rival in Swiss retailing, Coop, banned American long grain rice last week, blocking 10 silos containing about 800 tons (880 U.S. tons) as a precautionary measure, spokeswoman Liselotte Dolder said. "We are blocking the rice until we have certainty and we are now working hard to test all our rice," Dolder told The Associated Press. She said the company was determined to prevent genetically modified goods from hitting its shelves.
The Swiss health ministry has yet to take any measures against U.S. long grain rice imports, but spokesman Martin Schrott said illegal LL 601 contamination would not be tolerated.
"We have taken note of Migros' and Coop's decisions, but we have not yet received any lab results from the relevant cantonal (state) authorities," Schrott said. If traces of the strain are found, he said the rice would be banned from sale. Switzerland recommends importers obtain a certification that goods are free from biotech products when purchasing foreign suppliers. The EU requires such certification.
Concerns about the safety of biotech foods for consumers and the environment have led many Europeans to resist the introduction of such products, even if their use is widespread in the United States and other countries. Governments in Germany and France, neighbors of Switzerland and two of Europe's largest economies, both have imposed national bans on products they deem unsafe.
Quick revision - John Vidal - Eco-soundings, The Guardian, 13 September 2006 - http://society.guardian.co.uk/societyguardian/story/0,,1870543,00.html
Anyone who believed the hype and imagined that GM was the only way to increase crop yields should consider last week's anouncement by the Egyptian government of their best-ever rice harvest. Farmers using conventional seeds grew a record average of 9.5 tonnes per hectare. Meanwhile, GM giant Monsanto says it wants to get into growing biofuel crops, but has rejected the use of genetic engineering. A spokesman says conventional breeding techniques are "quicker".
Tainted biotech rice found in Germany - Greenpeace Reuters News Service - 11th September 2006
BRUSSELS - An unauthorised genetically modified (GMO) rice has found its way into the European Union's retail food sector and appeared for sale at branches of discount supermarket Aldi, environment group Greenpeace said on Monday. The biotech rice strain, known as LL Rice 601, was found in Aldi branches in Germany, Greenpeace International said in a report. At present, no biotech rice at all is allowed to be grown, sold or marketed in the 25 countries of the EU. "Tests conducted by an independent accredited laboratory have confirmed the presence of Bayer's Liberty Link rice in U.S. parboiled long grain rice sold in Aldi Nord, a major German supermarket chain," it said in a statement. Officials at Aldi Nord were not immediately available for comment.
In August, the European Commission tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain rice imports to prove the absence of LL Rice 601, which it said was marketed by Germany's Bayer AG and produced in the United States. In Frankfurt, a spokeswoman for Bayer said the company did not sell or produce LL Rice 601. She said the strain was developed by Aventis CropScience, a company bought by Bayer in 2002, but that development had been discontinued in 2001. "We are taking note of this report, evaluating it together with the rice industry as more information becomes available," the spokeswoman said. "We don't know whether Greenpeace has used testing methods validated by European authorities and whether they have used designated labs." She also said U.S., British and Canadian regulators had confirmed the food safety of the rice.
The Commission's decision followed the discovery by U.S. authorities of trace amounts of LL Rice 601, engineered to resist a herbicide, in long-grain samples that were targeted for commercial use. The only other evidence so far of the presence of LL Rice 601 in the EU-25 has been in the Netherlands, where Dutch authorities have been testing a 20,000-tonne U.S. rice cargo that was partly destined for Britain and partly for Germany. As of last Friday, two-thirds of the cargo - held in Rotterdam - had been tested but no positive trace was found, European Commission officials said. The shipment equates to one month's average EU imports of U.S. long-grain rice.
EU:Food Companies Risk Legal Action If Import Illegal GMO Crops - The Wall Street Journal, September 6 2006
Brussels - European Union food companies that import illegal genetically modified foods risk legal action by national governments, the European Commission said Tuesday after environmental groups said an illegal and potentially dangerous biotech strain has been found in Chinese food products sold in the U.K., Germany and France. Greenpeace International and Friends of the Earth Tuesday said their experts found Chinese rice-based products sold in Asian supermarkets in Germany, the U.K. and France contaminated with an experimental strain of genetically engineered rice that's not been approved for human consumption. The groups called for an immediate ban on Chinese rice.
The European Commission said the groups should submit their samples and findings to national test centers and the E.U.'s central biotechnology laboratory in Italy. "The presence of traces of unauthorized GMO food in the E.U. is illegal and it is the responsibility of food operators to ensure that they do not place on the market food that doesn't comply with E.U. law. Food operators are clearly not doing enough," E.U. food and consumer protection spokesman Philip Tod said. The Commission wrote Friday to food operators telling them "that they are not doing enough" to ensure imports are free of illegal biotech strains, Tod said. European governments should punish companies importing illegal crops. "We would expect member states to take action against any companies not complying with their obligations under E.U. food law."
The food scare is the second in as many weeks and casts doubt over the ability of biotech companies to control their crops. Late last month Europe imposed strict screeing rules on imports of U.S.-farmed long-grain rice following the discovery of an illegal biotech strain in commercial stocks there. European food safety experts - who have the power to impose import bans - are meeting in Brussels Tuesday and Wednesday. It is unclear whether the issue will be discussed. Greenpeace warned the strain "poses serious health risks" and called on European governments to "take immediate action to protect consumers." It said the rice - which is modified to resist insects - contains a protein that has reportedly induced allergic-like reactions in mice. "Five positive samples were found containing an illegal GE not approved anywhere in the world. However, this could be the tip of the iceberg with rice products included in everything from baby food to yoghurt," Greenpeace said in the statement. Countries that grow and produce biotech crops should be required to certify their exports biotech-free, Greenpeace said. Such certification "is reasonable, cost-effective, and necessary to protect Europe's consumers." Chinese seed companies have been selling the illegal strain to farmers, Greenpeace said.
Last week authorities in the Dutch port of Rotterdam stopped a shipment of U.S. rice thought to be contaminated with the illegal strain. U.S. authorities have declared the U.S. rice strain safe for human consumption.
Updated Report Says Industry Still Not Ready for Biotech Wheat Farm Futures - September 6 2006
http://www.farmfutures.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=CD26BEDECA4A4946A1283CC7786AEB 5A&nm=News&type=news&mod=News&mid=9A02E3B96F2A415AB C72CB5F516B4C10&tier=3&nid=84F11CCF12DA4027890CAE51646B9BB4
Segregating biotech and non-biotech wheat supplies in marketing channels is still a major stumbling block in market acceptance of genetically modified wheat, according to an updated analysis from Iowa State University grain market analyst Bob Wisner. "If a low-cost acceptable segregation system could be developed, that would increase the likelihood of market acceptance of GM wheat. With the low tolerances allowed for GM food ingredients in some foreign markets, effective market segregation to meet those low tolerances would be important if negative impacts on export demand from commercializing GM wheat at this time are to be avoided," Wisner writes in his update to his October 2003 report, Market Risks of Genetically Modified Wheat.
Exports account for 56% of the market for U.S. hard red spring wheat, making export market acceptance vital to the U.S. wheat industry's economic health. Wisner warns introduction of biotech wheat could risk the loss of one-fourth to one-half of U.S. hard red spring and durum wheat export markets and up to a one-third drop in price, as earlier reports have found.
The acreage shift
A number of organizations and businesses associated with the U.S. wheat industry as well as wheat growers have become concerned about the long-term downward trend in U.S. wheat planted acreage and the declining U.S. share of world wheat exports. At a recent industry meeting, these groups made commitments to encourage the development of biotech wheat, with the view that this technology will create technological developments making U.S. wheat more competitive in world markets. At the same time, the wheat industry participants stressed that careful attention will be given to ensuring that resulting products are accepted by consumers. At this stage, there is no way of knowing for certain whether genetically modified varieties of wheat would halt or reverse the decline in U.S. wheat acres.
"The decline has occurred in response to major government policy changes, as well as accelerated growth in demand for alternative crops and development of varieties of alternative crops more suited to the short growing season of the Northern Plains," Wisner reports. "It also has been influenced by a sharp increase in wheat exports from former Soviet republics. By western standards, wheat yields in these countries are not very impressive. But the shift to a market-oriented economy has encouraged farmers in the region to produce crops for which they have a comparative advantage in world markets."
Comparing to other crops
Wisner says in the next several years, U.S. government incentives for production of biofuels from corn and soybeans almost certainly will cause these crops to provide intense competition with wheat. "Genetic improvements in wheat - if the resulting varieties are acceptable in international markets - could somewhat moderate the intensifying competition," he says.
So far in the September 1, 2005-August 31, 2006 soybean marketing year (through August 17, 2006), U.S. cumulative soybean export sales to the EU were down from the same period a year earlier by 54%. U.S. soybean meal exports to the EU during the same period were down 56% from the previous year's low level and have dropped to almost economically insignificant levels. Historically, the EU has been the largest overseas customer for U.S. soybeans and often has been its largest foreign buyer of soybean meal. "U.S. soybean exports to the EU in the next few years could be an important lead indicator of potential market acceptance of GMO wheat," Wisner says. "Loss of the U.S. corn export market in EU and the sharp downward trend in US soybean and soybean meal exports to EU are strong cautions to the wheat industry that GM issues in that market should be taken seriously."
The report was prepared by Wisner for the Western Organization of Resources Councils and the Dakota Resource Council. Read the report online at Potential Market Impacts from Commercializing Roundup Ready Wheat, September 2006 Update - http://www.worc.org/pdfs/Market%20Risks%20Update%20Final%208-06.pdf
Rights panel pushing govt to drop biosafety bill - GENETIC ENGINEERING / NEW LAW SPARKS CONCERN - Piyaporn Wongruang - Bangkok Post, 5 September 2006
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has stepped up its call for the caretaker government to drop the draft biosafety bill for fear the legislation would pave the way for commercialisation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The move was joined by the National Economic and Social Advisory Council (Nesac), which is preparing to seek clarification from the government about the national policy on GMOs. Buntoon Srethasirote, of the NHRC's sub-panel on biodiversity, said genetic-engineering technology had an immense impact on human health and the environment, so agencies involved should seek a public consensus before going ahead with the development of laws. However, the drafting committee of the biosafety bill had bypassed the process, resulting in the content of the bill sparking concerns, Mr Buntoon said. "We agree that laws should be put in place to deal with GMOs, but not in a way that would support the use of GMOs because the public still doubts their benefit," Mr Buntoon told a seminar on the draft biosafety bill yesterday. He said his panel would work with community and farmer representatives in drafting another version of the bill to counter the government's version.
The alternative version would focus on protection of human health and biodiversity from biotechnology, said Mr Buntoon. Witoon Lianchamroon, a member of the Nesac's science sub-panel, said the new bill would lead to contradictions in the government's agriculture policy. He said while the government had been promoting GMO-free organic farming, it was now going to enforce a law that could lead to commercial production of transgenic crops. Instead of safeguarding the country's biological resources and farmer and consumers' rights from the GMOs, the new bill gives guidelines on how to use the GMOs, he said. The Nesac member also demanded the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) confirm that the policy to expand organic farming to more than half of the country's farm area would be written down in the 10th national development plan.
Jaroen Compeerapap, vice president of Silpakorn University's Intellectual Property Rights and Traditional Knowledge Faculty, said the draft bill contained several weak points, including the lack of a checks-and-balances system for the use of genetic engineering technology and compensation for damaged parties. Vithes Srinetr, of the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning, in charge of the drafting process, said the drafting committee would take all the comments into consideration. It was likely that the draft bill would be revised, he said. Thailand currently bans commercial production of genetically-modified crops. Field trials of the GM plants are also prohibited.
Activists say govt bill promotes use of GMOs BIOSAFETY LEGISLATION - Pennapa Hongthong - The Nation, 5 September 2006
Environmentalists and lawyers yesterday said they would draw up their own draft legislation on biosafety after being disappointed with the one drawn up by a government team. Witoon Lienchamroon, director of BioThai, a network of academic and community organisations concerned with the importance of biological resources and conserving biological diversity, said the government's draft bill of the Biosafety Law appeared to promote the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) instead of protecting the country's biological resources.
The first draft of the bill, drawn up by a working team appointed by Suwit Khunkitti, who was the Natural Resources and Environmental Minister in 2004, was completed recently. Witest Srinet of the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning, who headed the team, said the bill aimed to protect biosafety related to the use and distribution of GMOs, but does not promote GMOs as Witoon claimed. The bill has been strongly criticised by opponents of GMOs. Yesterday was the fourth and final public hearing, and the already heated debate reached a peak as it was the last chance to collect public suggestions for amendments to the draft.
Sairoong Thongplon, manager of the Consumers Federation, said the bill failed to consider the issues of consumer rights or the impact of GMOs on people's health and the environment. "The issues have been controversial in the country for almost a decade, so why did the bill not focus on it? It seems the government wants to ignore all controversial issues on GMOs so the approval of the bill can be accelerated. "Once it is enforced, the law will be used to open the country to GMOs," Sairoong said.
Somchai Rattanachaisakul, a law academic at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the bill ignored the so-called precautionary principle accepted as the basis of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, to which Thailand is signatory. The principle states that when there is reasonable suspicion of harm, lack of scientific certainty or consensus must not be used to postpone preventative action.
Witest said he and his team would review the bill in light of the public's comments and draw up a new draft bill, but Witoon said activists would go ahead with drafting their own version. "We need a comprehensive law on biosafety, not a separate law that only focuses on GMOs and products thereof," Witoon said. Witoon said the "people's version" of the Biosafety Law would be submitted for the Parliament's consideration, either through opposition parties or by collecting 50,000 signatures and submitting it directly as prescribed by the Constitution.
Gene-altered rice from China found in EU - Science News - REUTERS, Sep 5 2006
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European consumers are at risk from unauthorized genetically modified (GMO) rice grown in China after evidence of a strain was found in Britain, France and Germany, environment group Greenpeace said on Tuesday. The Chinese rice, modified to resist certain insects, was found in samples of rice stick noodles in France and Germany, and also in rice vermicelli in Britain, Greenpeace said, citing the results of two rounds of laboratory tests. Its report did not indicate the possible quantities involved but said the GMO rice had been detected in different product brands found in Asian Specialty stores and Asian restaurants. "Innocent consumers again become the victims of the GE (genetic engineering) industry's 'contamination first' strategy," Greenpeace International GMO campaigner Jeremy Tager said in a statement.
The Chinese rice contained a protein that might cause allergenic reactions in humans, he said. It was supposed to be used only in field trials and was not approved for commercial growing because of concerns about its safety. The discovery of the experimental rice comes just a few weeks after the European Union tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain imports to prove the absence of another biotech rice type detected in samples intended for commercial use. The EU does not yet permit the sale, import or marketing of any biotech rice on the territory of its 25 member countries. "Once illegal GE crops are in the food chain, removing them takes enormous effort and cost. It is easier to prevent contamination in the first place," Tager said.
Last month, the EU-25 tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain rice imports to prove the absence of the GMO strain LL Rice 601 marketed by Germany's Bayer AG and produced in the United States. The EU decision followed the discovery by U.S. authorities of trace amounts of LL Rice 601, engineered to resist a herbicide, in long-grain samples targeted for commercial use. European consumers are well known for their wariness over GMO foods, but the biotech industry says its products are perfectly safe and are no different to conventional foods.
Consumer Association of Ghana - US long rice could be GMO contaminated / SAVE US FROM THIS GMO RICE - September 4th, 2006
US long rice could be GMO contaminatedConsumer group alerts
The Consumer Association of Ghana (CAG) says it has learnt with concern from a BBC report that the US long grain rice is possibly infected with unapproved Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and that if its consumption is not discontinued, it could cause a major public health problem for importing countries. In a press statement on Friday, CAG’s President, Dr. Ferdinand D. Tay, said the BBC report, which was aired on the 22 and 23rd of August, 2006 quoted the US Secretary for Agriculture, Mike Johanns as announcing a week earlier that “commercial supplies of the long-grain rice had become inadvertently contaminated with genetically engineered variety that has not been approved for human consumption nor for feeding animals.” The statement said judging that Ghana is one of the top ten importers of rice from the US, she could become a source of contamination of food supplies to the rest of the sub-region, particularly since rice is a staple in almost all West African countries.
The BBC report, the basis of the consumer protection group’s worry, quoted Mike Johanns also as saying that Bayer Crop Science of Monheim of Germany, producer of the contaminated rice, confessed to the US Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration about the incident only recently, 31 July 2006, after the USDA discovered “trace amounts” during testing of commercial supplies. The agriculture secretary, however, according to the BBC report, said he “did not know where the contaminated rice was found or how widespread it may be in the US food supply,” chain. The variety, LLRICE 601, is endowed with bacterial DNA that makes rice plants resistant to a weed killer, glufosinate, made by agricultural giant, Aventis. The LLRICE 601 variety is not approved in any country of the world and has not undergone the necessary safety assessments to determine its health or environmental impact. According to Bayer, the GM rice “is present in some samples of commercial rice seed” even though field testing ended five years ago2001. According the CAG statement, Bayer informed the USDA of the contamination only on July 31, 2006, by which time, the US had exported millions of tones of rice to several countries. According to the statement, the US in 2005 alone, exported over 3 million tones of rice
However, Japan and the European Union (EU) have since banned imports of the long-grain rice from the US following the revelation. But Ghana, a top ten importer of rice from the US, and other African nations may not ban it given the government’s failure to implement its own new tariffs imposed on imported rice in 2003. Ghana’s rice imports from the US stood at 78.9 tones in 2001/2002, 117.6 tones in 2002/2003 and 166.4 tones in 2004/2006. Who knows how much of these quantities contained traces of the infected variety and how many Ghanaians have consumed them.
The CAG’s press release quoted Nnimmo Bassey, International GMO campaigner and Executive Director of the Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth Nigeria as describing the revelation as “a complete scandal”, saying, “the Biotech industry has once again failed to control its products and lax regulations in the USA have led to consumers being put at considerable risk.” According to the CAG, it wants the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Private Sector Development and President’s Special Initiative and the Ministry of Agriculture to suspend immediately the importation of US long-grain rice to Ghana as done by Japan and the EU until the matter is thoroughlyinvestigated.
Secondly, to protect the health and safety of Ghanaians, the Ghana Standards Board (GSB) and the Food and Drugs Board (FDB), must ensure that the contaminated rice is not sold in market. It also wants the appropriate agencies to conduct further investigation to assure Ghanaians that US long-grain already put for sale in the market is not the contaminated rice. It however, advises Ghanaians to desist from patronizing what it says is “artificial rice,” since the manufacturer has confessed that it wasn’t made for human consumption.
Author: By Jonathan Adabre - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2002 -2006. ©COPYRIGHT GHANAWEB.COM/PUBLICAGENDA
Editorials - September 4th, 2006 - SAVE US FROM THIS GMO RICE
Last Friday the Consumer Association of Ghana, drawing on the strength of a BBC report that a contaminated variety of the American long grain rice may have found its way into Ghana blew the whistle over the country’s over reliance on imported rice. In a statement, the association said judging from the fact that Ghana is one of the top ten importers of rice from the US, she could become a source of contamination of food supplies. The latest revelation of the possible importation of contaminated rice into the country is just a tip of the iceberg. A walk around the markets and supermarkets would open the average consumers’ eyes to the number of junk foods and other consumer items that are entering the country in the name of trade liberalisation. This raises the question as to whether Ghana has a workable consumer policy. In Ghana, where over 30% of the population live below the poverty line, there are no consumer policies to ensure the survival of the poor.
A consumer policy and law for Ghana must ensure the survival and protection of the poor from unscrupulous businessmen/women who exploit their ignorance to sell them expired and hazardous food and substances. Protecting consumers’ economic interests is as important as regulation to ensure that the goods and services are available at a reasonable price and are safe. There is a consumer dimension to almost every state policy and therefore there is a need to take consumer interest into account in all policy decisions through public consultation.
The former American President, John F Kennedy moved the consumers’ bill of rights in 1962 in the US Congress saying.. “If a consumer is offered inferior products, if prices are exorbitant, if drugs are unsafe or worthless, if the consumer is unable to choose on an informed basis, then his dollar is wasted, his health and safety may be threatened and national interest suffers.” Kennedy equated consumers’ interest with National Interest. Every modern state seeks to provide the protection of the Right to Basic Needs of consumers particularly for the have-nots.
The right to basic need is not just a consumer right, but a human right as well. Article 25 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights says: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, and housing and medical care and necessary social services.” It is in line with this UN declaration that we join the Consumer Association to urge the appropriate government ministries and agencies to move quickly to identify the contaminated long grain in question and withdraw it from the market. Not only withdrawing it, its importation should be banned as the Japanese and the European Union (EU) have already done. What has just happened should be a reminder to our policy makers that any country that depends on another for food is constantly under threat of disease or political pressure. We need a Consumer Ombudsman now in the form of a central body to oversee all consumer protection issues with the support of consumer protection laws.
Author: from the Editor - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2002 -2006. ©COPYRIGHT GHANAWEB.COM/PUBLICAGENDA
Bayer faces more lawsuits over GMO rice - REUTERS, Aug 29 2006 By Lisa Haarlander
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Bayer CropScience has been hit with two more lawsuits claiming its genetically modified rice contaminated the U.S. long grain rice supply, according to court documents and attorneys for the plaintiffs. Bayer CropScience, a unit of Bayer AG (BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research), now faces a total of three lawsuits seeking damages to compensate farmers for falling rice prices. The U.S. Agriculture Department announced August 18 that trace amounts of an unapproved GMO variety engineered by Bayer CropScience were found in rice storage bins in Arkansas and Missouri. USDA said there was no health or environmental risk. But Japan has suspended imports of U.S. long grain rice and the 25-nation European Union will only allow into its stores long grain rice that is certified free of the unapproved strain.
The latest lawsuit was filed on Tuesday morning in Lonoke County Courthouse in Lonoke, Arkansas, on behalf of 20 rice farmers, said Janet Keller, spokeswoman for the law firm of Hare, Wynn, Newell and Newton LLP, which is based in Birmingham, Alabama. Arkansas is the top rice producing state in the United States and its farmers have just begun harvesting the crop. The latest suit seeks $275,000 per plaintiff plus punitive damages, Keller said. "We fully anticipate more farmers to become involved," she said.
Since the announcement of the contamination, rice futures at the Chicago Board of Trade have fallen about 85 cents per hundredweight, or about 9 percent, on worries that exports would be affected. The two other lawsuits, each seeking class-action status, were filed on Monday against Bayer CropScience. One, brought by Lonnie and Linda Parson, rice farmers in Arkansas, was filed by Emerson Poynter LLP in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock. Damages were not specified. Another was brought by Geeridge Farm Inc. and George Watson and was filed by Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
U.S. officials are still investigating how the biotech rice ended up in the commercial supply. The United States is expected to produce a rice crop this year valued at around $1.9 billion.
US rice farmers sue Bayer CropScience over GM rice - REUTERS, 28 Aug 2006 - http://today.reuters.com/News/CrisesArticle.aspx?storyId=N8S372113
LOS ANGELES, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Rice farmers in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and California have sued Bayer CropScience, alleging its genetically modified rice has contaminated the crop, attorneys for the farmers said on Monday. The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock, law firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll said in a statement.
The farmers alleged that the unit of Germany's Bayer AG <BAYG.DE> failed to prevent its genetically modified rice, which has not been approved for human consumption, from entering the food chain. As a result, they said, Japan and the European Union have placed strict limits on U.S. rice imports and U.S. rice prices have dropped dramatically. A Bayer representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
U.S. agriculture and food safety authorities learned on July 31 that Bayer's unapproved rice had been found in commercial bins in Arkansas and Missouri. While the United States is a small rice grower, it is one of the world's largest exporters, sending half of its crop to foreign buyers. The genetically engineered long grain rice has a protein known as Liberty Link, which allows the crop to withstand applications of an herbicide used to kill weeds.
The European Commission said on Wednesday the EU would require U.S. long grain rice imports to be certified as free from the unauthorized strain. The commission said validated tests must be done by an accredited laboratory and be accompanied by a certificate. Japan, the largest importer of U.S. rice, suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice a week ago.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration have said there are no public health or environmental risks associated with the genetically engineered rice.
The United States is expected to produce a rice crop valued at $1.88 billion in 2006. U.S. rice growers are responsible for about 12 percent of world rice trade. Three-fourths of the crop is long grain, grown almost entirely in the lower Mississippi Valley. California, the No. 2 rice state, grows short grain rice. (Additional reporting by Christopher Doering in Washington)
GE Rice Scare Shows Vulnerability of Food Supply - Emad Mekay - Inter Press Service News Agency, August 25 2006
WASHINGTON, Aug 25 (IPS) - The revelation that commercial rice in the United States was found to be contaminated with an unlicensed genetically engineered strain shows how easily the food supply in the United States and in countries importing U.S. food can be tainted, watchdog groups say. The long grain rice that was found to contain trace amounts of genetically engineered (GE) Liberty Link Rice 601, produced by the agro-chemical giant Bayer CropScience and never intended for commercial release, was immediately banned in Japan. The United States is responsible for 12 percent of the global rice trade and many countries rely on U.S. rice to feed their people.
The main importers of U.S. rice are Mexico, Central America, Saudi Arabia, Canada and South Africa. Long grain rice, the type that was contaminated, comprises 80 percent of U.S. rice exports. "Clearly there are a lot of countries that could be impacted here," said Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Centre for Food Safety in Washington. "I think quite a lot of these countries are in Latin America and they should be concerned about this." "With genetically engineered crops, you can have unintended, unpredictable effects that can have impacts on human health or the environment," Freese added.
The 601 strain is one of several products designed to resist certain types of herbicides but is not yet approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for consumption or cultivation anywhere in the world. A Bayer spokesperson was not immediately available on Thursday but the company said in a statement it was cooperating with the USDA and said the protein used in the 601 strain was safe. "The protein is well known to regulators and has been confirmed safe for food and feed use in a number of crops by regulators in many countries, including the EU, Japan, Mexico, U.S. and Canada," the statement said.
Washington has strongly defended the Bayer product. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns said this week the contamination posed no risk to human health, food safety or the environment. "The protein found in LL RICE 601 is approved for use in other products," Johanns said. The United States says that GE crops have been developed with the benefit of the consumer in mind. But the Centre for Food Safety accused the USDA of complacency in regulating the powerful biotech industry. "The USDA is an agency out of control," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Centre for Food Safety. "USDA's continuing failure to adequately regulate and monitor field testing of genetically engineered crops clearly puts the environment and public health at risk." Since 1996, the USDA has granted at least 48 permits authorising Bayer or companies it has acquired, such as Aventis and AgrEvo, to plant over 4,000 acres of experimental GE rice. "The extent to which pollen or grains from these field trials have contaminated commercial rice or related weedy species such as red rice is unknown. USDA policies do not provide for the testing of fields adjacent to field test sites to detect possible contamination with the experimental genetically engineered crop," said the Centre for Food Safety.
Last year, Japan and the European Union banned U.S. maize imports following a GE contamination scandal in which Washington had relied on similar self-reporting by the agro-business giants. But this time, and despite the international outcry, the European Commission said it would only impose testing and certification requirements on imports of U.S. long grain rice. International environmentalists and green groups who fear contamination of the global food chain, in part because of the low cost of GE rice compared to GE-free brands, argue that the EC should have banned the rice. "It is time to move beyond case-by-case procedures as the GE industry has shown time and time again that it is unwilling or unable to prevent GE contamination," said Jeremy Tager of Greenpeace International, which has called for a ban on U.S. GE rice. The group criticised the EC for its response and said that rice is the world's most important staple food and further contamination could have catastrophic results. It wants the EC to identify countries and products that are at high risk of contaminating food supplies with illegal or dangerous GE organisms.
There were also calls for major importing regions such as the Americas, Africa and the Middle East to take similar steps immediately until the U.S. can guarantee that its rice supply is no longer contaminated. "A message needs to be sent to the U.S. and to agro-chemical giant Bayer that genetic contamination and 'accidents' with our food are not acceptable, and ultimately they must be held liable for cleaning it up," said Tager. "Countries that import U.S. rice, such as the EU, Mexico, Brazil and Canada, must become serious about preventing this kind of threat to our food supplies by banning any imports of GE rice, removing all contaminated food from supermarket shelves and rejecting applications for the commercial cultivation of rice," he said.
GE products can tolerate drought conditions and herbicides, resist insects and viruses, and provide enhanced quality and nutrition for consumers, the industry says. But those assertions are hotly contested by food safety and consumer groups. The United States produces more than 100 commercial varieties of rice valued at almost 1.9 billion dollars, according to the USDA. About half of all U.S. production is exported. The USDA estimates that in 2006, 61 percent of the corn, 83 percent of the cotton and 89 percent of the soybeans planted in the United States were biotech varieties. Over 70 percent of processed foods on grocery store shelves in the U.S. contain ingredients and oils from biotech crops.
Greenpeace demands global ban on imports of US rice - Dominican Today, August 21 2006 - http://www.dominicantoday.com/app/article.aspx?id=16617
Amsterdam - Greenpeace International today called for a global ban on imports of US rice in order to protect the public from eating illegal, untested and unapproved varieties of genetically engineered (GE) rice. GE Liberty Link (LL) rice 602, produced by agro-chemical giant Bayer and never intended for commercial release, has been found in commercial rice in the United States and rice imports were, as a result, immediately banned in Japan. It is not approved for consumption or cultivation anywhere in the world. "Rice is the world's most important staple food and contamination of rice supplies by Bayer, a company pushing its GE rice around the world, must be stopped," said Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE campaigner.
Japan has already announced a ban on long grain rice imports from the US as a result of this latest contamination scandal. Last year, Japan and the EU banned US maize imports as a result of yet another GE contamination scandal. "This latest contamination scandal once again shows the GE industry is utterly incapable of controlling GE organisms. Countries that import US rice, such as the EU, Mexico, Brasil and Canada must become serious about preventing this kind of threat to our food supplies by banning any imports of GE rice, removing all contaminated food from supermarket shelves and rejecting applications for the commercial cultivation of rice," said Tager. "Relevant authorities in importing countries must also conduct an investigation into the contamination caused by Bayer and also determine whether any other GE rice varieties being tested by Bayer have contaminated the world's food chain," Tager concluded.
Regulating GM crops a local matter - BY KENICHI IWASAKI - THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Ten of the nation's 47 prefectures have their own regulations on the open-air cultivation of genetically modified plants, an Asahi Shimbun survey has found. The local ordinances or guidelines are meant to prevent cross-pollination and hybridization of GM plants with related crops in the region. "Once cross-breeding or mixups take place, it will be too late," said an agriculture section official of Niigata Prefecture.
Japan began to import GM crops in the 1990s, but no commercial production has started here because of consumer concerns over safety.
Niigata, known for its Koshihikari rice, put a stringent ordinance into effect in May. It obliges farmers to get permission to grow GM crops, while research institutes must file reports on open-air experiments. Violators face up to a year in prison or fines of up to 500,000 yen.
GM crops are the focus of persistent concerns over safety and possible effects on the environment. Niigata and other prefectures want to avoid having the reputations of their produce hurt by the GM taint. In Tokushima Prefecture, which implemented an ordinance in April, officials say it is part of its "farm brand strategy" to compete with other production centers. "The image that no GM crops are produced in the prefecture is important," said one official.
Chiba and Kyoto prefectures also introduced similar ordinances in April, while Hokkaido implemented one in January. The Hokkaido rules set minimum distances between GM crop fields and others. The distance is at least 300 meters for rice, 1.2 kilometers for corn and 2 km for sugar beets. The distances are about twice as long as those set by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for its research entities.
The other five of the 10 prefectures have set up GM crop guidelines. Ibaraki, Shiga and Iwate established them in 2004, followed by Hyogo in April this year and Tokyo in May. Similar moves are spreading to municipalities. Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, will put new guidelines in effect in September. An ordinance will be proposed to the Imabari city assembly in Ehime Prefecture in the same month. Many of these local entities are setting rules to prevent conflict between producers and anti-GM farmers and consumers. In Hokkaido, Niigata Prefecture and Tsukuba, local farmers, co-ops and consumers have put up strong resistance to GM crop production tests at research institutes.
In Japan, GM crop production is regulated under the so-called Cartagena Law, which went into force in February 2004 to maintain biological diversity and safety. Open-air production is allowed for 91 crop varieties, including rice, corn and soybeans. Farmers are allowed to cultivate varieties among the 91 that have further cleared safety screening under the food sanitation and other laws, but there has been no known case yet. "While laws ensure the safety of GM crops, it is up to each local entity to decide not to produce them," said an official of the farm ministry's plant products safety division.
While some researchers are concerned local regulations may hinder their work, there are also calls among local officials for the central government to make unified rules.
(IHT/Asahi: August 21, 2006)
Unapproved, Genetically Engineered Rice Found in Food Supply - USDA and FDA Unaware of Identity, Location or Number of Contaminated Products
Center for Food Safety, August 18, 2006
Citing Past Contamination and USDA's Illegal Activities, Center for Food Safety Calls for Moratorium on Genetically Engineered Crop Field Trials
Late today in a webcast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that an unapproved, genetically engineered rice known as LL601 was found contaminating commercial long-grain rice supplies, according to information supplied by the developer of the rice, Bayer CropScience. The presence of LL601 in the food supply is illegal, as it has not undergone USDA review for potential environmental impacts required prior to marketing, nor review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for possible harm to human health. LL601 is genetically altered to survive application of the powerful herbicide glufosinate, and was field-tested under permits granted by the USDA from 1998 to 2001.
In the webcast, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns professed ignorance as to how much rice was contaminated, which rice products were involved, or where the contaminated rice was found. Bayer informed USDA of the contamination on July 31st, 2006, based on test results reported to the company by a rice merchandiser. USDA officials stated that rice contaminated with LL601 will not be destroyed. Though Bayer does not intend to market the rice, the company will apply to USDA for marketing approval of LL601, apparently in an effort to limit its liability for the episode. Bayer reportedly stopped development of LL601 for unknown reasons in 2001.
"Once again, USDA has demonstrated its inability to keep experimental and potentially hazardous genetically engineered crops out of the food supply," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety. "Until USDA gets its act together, we recommend a moratorium on all new permits for open-air field testing of genetically engineered crops not permitted in the food supply."
"The USDA is an agency out of control," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. "USDA's continuing failure to adequately regulate and monitor field testing of genetically engineered crops clearly puts the environment and public health at risk". Kimbrell points to an August 10th decision by a federal district judge in Hawai'i, who ruled that USDA violated two federal laws in granting permits to grow drug-producing, genetically engineered crops in Hawai'i. The judge said the USDA acted "arbitrarily and capriciously," and in "utter disregard" of the Endangered Species Act.
In late 2005, the USDA's own Inspector General issued a scathing report detailing numerous violations of agency rules in regulating genetically engineered crop field trials. USDA officials did not know the locations of many field trials it was charged with regulating, and did not conduct required inspections of others. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences also criticized serious deficiencies in USDA's regulation of genetically engineered crops.
Since 1996, the USDA has granted at least 48 permits authorizing Bayer or companies it has since acquired (Aventis, AgrEvo) to plant over 4,000 acres of experimental, genetically engineered (GE) rice. The extent to which pollen or grains from these field trials have contaminated commercial rice or related weedy species such as red rice is unknown. USDA policies do not provide for the testing of fields adjacent to field test sites to detect possible contamination with the experimental genetically engineered crop.
Overall, USDA has issued permits authorizing field tests of over 100 genetically engineered crops on roughly 50,000 sites on more than half a million acres since 1987.
Contacts: Bill Freese, 202-547-9359 x14, Rebecca Spector, 415-826-2770 x301 - WWW.CENTERFORFOODSAFETY.ORG
UPDATE: Japan Suspends US Long-Grain Rice Imports - Report - Sunday August 20th, 2006 / 12h36
TOKYO (AP) -Japan has suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice following a positive test for trace amounts of a genetically modified strain not approved for human consumption, a news report said Sunday. Japan's Health Ministry imposed the suspension on Saturday after being informed by U.S. federal officials that trace amounts of the unapproved strain had been discovered in commercially available long-grain rice, the Asahi newspaper said. The genetically engineered rice was detected by Bayer CropScience AG. The German company then notified U.S. officials. The strain is not approved for sale in the U.S., but two other strains of rice with the same genetically engineered protein are. The ministry will instruct companies not to process or sell any U.S. long-grain rice they may already have imported, though it has so far not received any report this year that any company has imported or plans to import such rice, the Asahi said. The ministry has requested the U.S. government to enact strict controls, the Asahi said, adding that the suspension does not affect short- and medium-grain rice imports. The Health Ministry does not include any strain of rice on its list of genetically modified foods approved for sale in Japan. Health Ministry officials were unavailable for comment Sunday.
U.S. Rice Supply Contaminated - Genetically Altered Variety Is Found in Long-Grain Rice - By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, August 19, 2006; PageA07
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced late yesterday that U.S. commercial supplies of long-grain rice had become inadvertently contaminated with a genetically engineered variety not approved for human consumption. Johanns said the company that made the experimental rice, Bayer CropScience of Monheim, Germany, had provided information to the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration indicating that the rice poses no threats to human health or the environment.
"Based upon the information we have seen, this product is safe," he said in a telephone news conference. Johanns said he did not know where the contaminated rice was found or how widespread it may be in the U.S. food supply. The agency first learned about it from the company, he said, after it discovered "trace amounts" during testing of commercial supplies. The variety, known as LLRICE 601, is endowed with bacterial DNA that makes rice plants resistant to a weedkiller made by the agricultural giant Aventis. Johanns said Bayer had not finished the process of getting LLRICE 601 approved for marketing before dropping the project years ago. But the company did complete the process for two other varieties of rice with the same gene. And although neither of those were marketed, he said, their approval offers reassurance that 601 is probably safe, too.
Bayer said in a statement it is "cooperating closely" with the government on the discovery. It added that the protein conferring herbicide tolerance "is well known to regulators and has been confirmed safe for food and feed use in a number of crops by regulators in many countries, including the EU, Japan, Mexico, U.S. and Canada." Johanns acknowledged that the discovery could have a significant impact on rice sales - especially exports, which are worth close to $1 billion a year. Many U.S. trading partners have strict policies forbidding importation of certain genetically engineered foods, even if they are approved in the United States.
Those restrictions reflect a mix of science-based fears that some gene-altered foods or seeds may pose health or environmental hazards; cultural beliefs about food purity; and political wrangling over trade disparities. If other countries cut off imports, the political and economic impact could rival or exceed that of the last such major event -- the discovery in 2000 that the U.S. corn supply had become contaminated with StarLink corn.StarLink, which was engineered to be insect-resistant, was approved for use in animal feed but not for humans because of its potential to trigger allergic reactions. The StarLink episode led to the recall of hundreds of products and the destruction of corn crops on hundreds of thousands of acres. There have been several smaller incidents requiring similar actions since.
Yesterday's announcement quickly prompted a new round of accusations that the government is failing in its efforts to regulate and contain the burgeoning field of agricultural biotechnology, in which genes from various organisms are added to crops and other plants - usually to confer resistance to weed-killers or to make the plants produce their own insecticides. "How many incidents will it take before the government takes their oversight of the biotech industry seriously?" asked Gregory Jaffe, director of the biotechnology project at the District-based Center for Science in the Public Interest. "It's reassuring that in this instance there is no safety risk, but I don't think that justifies the industry's blatant violation of government regulations."
Johanns said Bayer contacted the USDA about the problem on July 31, but the agency delayed announcing the finding until it had developed a test it could share with trading partners and others who might want to check for contamination. That test is now available. Although Bayer stopped field tests of LLRICE 601 in 2001, the contamination appeared in the 2005 harvest, Johanns said - a detail that Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, found "alarming." "It's more evidence to me that all of these things that have been getting tested ultimately have a route to the food supply," Mellon said.
Although agency investigations are underway, both Johanns and Robert Brackett of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said they do not anticipate recalls, crop destruction or other regulatory action. "If we become aware of any new information to suggest that food or feed is unsafe, we will take action," Johanns said. Instead, Johanns said, Bayer now plans to resurrect its effort to get the product approved - or in government parlance, "deregulated" - a move that would make the contamination issue moot in the domestic market.
Researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Statement on Report of Bioengineered Rice in the Food Supply
CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety - August 18 2006 - http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biorice.html
Bayer CropSciences recently notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that trace amounts of a bioengineered variety of rice were detected in samples of commercial rice seed, and may have entered the food and feed supply in the United States. The bioengineered variety of rice, called LLRICE601, expresses the phosphinothricin-N-acetyltransferase (PAT) protein which provides tolerance to glufosinate-ammonium herbicide. This rice variety, not intended for commercialization, was not submitted to FDA for evaluation under the Agency's voluntary biotechnology consultation process. However, crops containing the PAT protein have previously been evaluated for safety by FDA on a number of occasions through the Agency's voluntary biotechnology consultation process. Bayer has informed the Agency that LLRICE601 is present in some samples of commercial rice seed at low levels. In addition, Bayer has provided information about the safety of the PAT protein, molecular characterization, and nutritional composition of grain from LLRICE601. Based on the available data and information, FDA has concluded that the presence of this bioengineered rice variety in the food and feed supply poses no food or feed safety concerns.
Release No. 0307.06 - Statement by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns Regarding Genetically Engineered Rice - USDA, August 18 2006
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been notified by Bayer CropScience that the company has detected trace amounts of regulated genetically engineered (GE) rice in samples taken from commercial long grain rice. Both have reviewed the available scientific data and concluded that there are no human health, food safety, or environmental concerns associated with this GE rice.
"Bayer has developed many GE herbicide-tolerant products with the protein called Liberty Link, three of which are rice. The regulated line is LLRICE 601 and Bayer reports finding only trace amounts of it during testing. LLRICE 601 was field tested between 1998 and 2001. Two deregulated lines, LLRICE 62 and LLRICE 06, have been through thorough safety evaluations and have been deemed safe for use in food and safe in the environment, although these lines have not been commercialized.
"Based on the available data and information, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded that the presence of LLRICE 601 in the food and feed supply poses no safety concerns. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also conducted a risk assessment, which indicates LLRICE 601 is safe in the environment.
"Bayer indicated it had no plans to market LLRICE 601 and therefore had not requested deregulation. Based on reports that LLRICE 601 is in the marketplace and a petition from Bayer, APHIS will conduct a deregulation process, including an opportunity for public comment.
"Because the line of GE rice in question was regulated, APHIS is conducting an investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the release and whether any violations of USDA regulations occurred.
"The protein found in LLRICE 601 is approved for use in other products. It has been repeatedly and thoroughly scientifically reviewed and used safely in food and feed, cultivation, import and breeding in the United States, as well as nearly a dozen other countries around the world.
"Since 1987, APHIS has deregulated more than 70 GE crop lines and in the last decade farmers have increasingly planted biotech varieties engineered mainly for herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, and enhanced quality traits. USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates that in 2006, 61 percent of the corn, 83 percent of the cotton and 89 percent of the soybeans planted in the United States were biotech varieties."
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Statement On Report Of Bioengineered Rice In The Food Supply - http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biorice.html
Fact Sheet: Genetically Engineered Rice - http://www.usda.gov/2006/08/0306.xml
Contact: Karen Eggert (202) 720-2511, Ed Loyd (202) 720-4623
Protest Meeting against the Introduction of Golden Rice, organized by UBINIG and Nayakrishi Andolon in front of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI).
Press Release from UBINIG in Bangladesh[Policy Research for Development Alternative]
A protest meeting was organized today (August 6, 2006) in front of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute against the introduction of Golden Rice. The meeting was organized by UBINIG and Nayakrishi Andolon. The meeting was attended by 100 farmers representatives. It was chaired by Harunur Rashid, a farmer. The meeting was addressed among others by Rokeya Begum, Nasreen Begum, Tamijuddin, Palash Baral and Jahangir Alam Jony.
Farmer Rokeya Begum mentioned seed is the heart of the farmers. "For thousands of years the farmers have been maintaing seeds with their own hands. Today the government and the seed companies have been squandering this invaluable resource. What a terrible time! The very word GMO initiates skin rash. We warn the government and all others concerned with the game of ducks and drakes involving seeds, we shall not spare anybody"
Farmer Nabiron mentioned, "I can not pronounce GMO/LMO, in fact I do not like to utter these as well. It is said the government is planning for introduction of 'Golden Rice' with a view to offering us extra vitamins, although we have many local varieties of rice with high cantent of vitamins." "In addition we have plenty of vegetables rich in vitamines. We don't need any vitamins enriched GMO rice. Many of our local rice varieties with lots of rare attributes are now threatened. The government should conserve those threatened varieties. Contrarily the government is learnt to have agreement with a company to give authority of our best variety of rice, BR-29. This is a shameful act. We protest against this deal."
On behalf of Nayakrishi Andolon Jahangir Alam Jony mentioned, "deep rooted interest of the company is inherently linked with the introduction of genetically engineered rice. There is no relationship of remedy for night blindness with GMO rice, 'Golden Rice". There are plenty of food items available in Bangladesh rich in vitamin A. The Nayakrishi farmers have so far, identified 67 local varieties of rice rich in vitamin A. Local midwives prescribe these rice for the pregnant mothers and the children. Moreover, we have many vitamin rich vegetables. BR-29 is a rice variety of Bangladesh. There is apprehension about the piracy of BR-29."
On behalf of UBINIG, Palash Baral mentioned, "we have come here together in order to voice in clear terms that the introduction of GE/GM would be disastrous for the farming community and the nation at large. This is definitely an anti public act. On behalf of the public we strongly protest this heinous act of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and the Government of Bangladesh. There is no alternative of saving agriculture and the farmers of Bangladesh without conserving and expanding the local resources. Making secret deals with companies is simply an anti-people activity."
Farmer Harun ur Rashid reiterated the fact that GMO agreement means a kick in the belly of the farmers. "We must not spare those who will kick us in the chest. Scientist friends! we invite you to work with us to save our resources".
Slogans and banners also marked the protest against the introduction of GMOs and 'Golden Rice'.
The meeting was concluded with a unanimous recommendation for:
*Enactment of a law for conservation of biodiversity based ecological agriculture
*Formulation of national policy against introduction of genetically modified rice and other GMOs.
UBINIG (Unnayan Bikalper Nitinirdharoni Gobeshona) - Policy Research for Development Alternative
5/3 Barabo, Mahanpur, Ring Road, Shalom, Dhaka-1207
Phone 8111465, 8124533
Africa Must Resist Pressure Over GMOs - By Sifelani Tsiko - The Herald (Harare), 24 July 2006 - http://allafrica.com/stories/200607250370.html
AFRICA must resist pressure from multinational corporations that continue flooding the agro-business sector with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) until Africans understand the implications of genetic engineering on biodiversity, the environment, farmers as well as consumers. It is worrying that the majority of people in Africa have become consumers of foods that they have no knowledge of how they were produced and manufactured.
A conference on food security and the challenge of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which was held last week at Silveira House, about 23km east of Harare raised stakes in the debate. Participants at this conference which was organised by Environment Africa and the Catholic-run Silveira House, who were drawn from South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe raised pertinent questions on the need for African governments to set clear guidelines on GMOs when it comes to food aid as well as the general consumption of other GMO products.
Andrew Mushita, the director of Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT) said African governments should develop food aid policies so that they adopt specific measures to guard against the dumping of GMO food donations in their countries. Delegates agreed that the adoption of GMO technology and food aid was not the panacea to hunger in Africa.
"So far there is no technology to decontaminate GM seed. Food security is fundamental for many people. Most of these technologies are not focused on increasing food security and production but maybe disease resistance," Mushita said. There are huge risks to the smallholder rural African farmers if they adopt GM-crops. Experience highlights the danger of dependency and monopoly control over GM seed by multinationals. Large multinationals, Mushita said, have monopoly through their country agents, subsidiaries and joint-venture exercises on the price of the GM seed eroding the rights of the poor farmers to other alternatives.
Kevin Roussel, an anti-GMO campaigner of the South African Catholic Bishops' Conference, said new genetically engineered seed known as "suicide" or "terminator" seeds which were engineered to be sterile forced poor farmers to repurchase seed each year from the multinationals who have patented these 'genetic use restriction technologies." These GM seeds, he said, included "junkie plants" that were dependent on chemicals sold by multinationals to flower, seed or sprout. He said all farmers using GM crops in South Africa had to sign contracts with Monsanto, a giant GMO corporation, where they agree not to share their seed, only use Monsanto chemicals, buy new seed the following year and agree to set aside 25 percent of their land as a "refuge" area to control diseases.
Participants felt that GM seed would increase the dependency and indebtedness of smallholder farmers to multinationals eroding the communal rights, which entitled them to traditional crop varieties, which they would share freely without added costs. The multinational giants include Monsanto, Aventis, DuPont and Syngenta (a merger of Astra Zeneca and Novartis) which dominate the global agro-chemical business as well as genetic engineering technologies. It is estimated that between them, they account for nearly two-thirds of the $31 billion global pesticide market, one quarter of the $30 billion commercial seed market and virtually the entire GM seed market. To push for further global control, these "Gene Giants" are merging with the $300 billion pharmaceutical industry as plants are being used to produce penicillin and insulin amongst other chemical and bacterial agents.
The major actors in the GMO debate are the United States, which supports it, and the European Union, which has largely opposed the wholesale spread of the GMOs. The US has tightened its law on GMOs but surprisingly still continues to encourage use of the technology throughout the world. "Both these blocs have tried to dictate their positions on other countries in the absence of either side being able to convince the other," said Roussel. Resource poor farmers will never be able to afford technology fees and the chemicals to grow the GM seeds. Experts say about 1,4 billion people depend on saved seed for their survival.
Worldwide hectarage of GM crops grew from 1,7 million in 1996 to an estimated 60,7 million in 2002, showing the strength of the growing influence of transnational corporations. Roussel and Mushita said genetic engineering in its present form and thrust cannot form part of the solution to the food crisis in Africa. They said it merely worsens the problem and reduced smallholder farmers to beggars and highly indebted people. They said it took away the communal farmers' right to be able to save, sell and exchange seed freely. Muyatwa Sitali of Zambia said there was need to mobilise mass campaigns to educate the poor rural farmers about the perceived dangers of GMOs to human health and the environment. "After analysing the issues at stake we realised that there was need to blow the whistle," he said. "Are we going to refuse forever? Are we not going to see any benefits coming with it? We have to educate rural farmers about the risks and challenges that GMOs pose." Other experts say there is enough food for everyone but the main problem is the inequitable distribution process. "Food aid comes as a result of the myth of hunger. Hunger in Africa is unevenly distributed and I must say that this is a result of inequitable economic systems which deny the poor access to food and land, not merely inadequate supplies of food," Raymond Bokor, an agro-ecologist wrote in a paper in 2003.
Most of the concerns which were raised by participants at Silveira House centred on the monopoly by multinationals, the need to buy GM seed for every new planting season to maintain high yield levels, dependency on new generation GM seeds, rising input costs and declining profits for smallholder farmers. Of major concern was the possible loss of the existing robust crop varieties and technologies that may reduce diversity, flexibility and resilience in farming systems that could expose many to famine. Additional concerns at the conference included the issue of the ongoing globalisation and liberalisation of markets changes in agricultural systems and how these were impacting on rural societies.
The US government, through the World Food Programme, has donated a lot of GMO food items to some food insecure African countries as food aid with no option for the recipients or governments to make any choices. Mushita said the US must give such African countries other options like cash to buy alternative non-GM food the way the European Union was doing in some cases. In 2000, Algeria banned the importation, distribution, commercialisation and cultivation of GM foods and raw materials. Egypt followed suit and banned the import of GM wheat and canned tuna packed in genetically modified soybean oil. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Angola have rejected GMO maize offered through the WFP as food aid, raising concern over the way hunger was being used to impose GM crops and food on developing countries. The Zimbabwe Biosafety Board screens food aid before it comes in to safeguard the health of the people as well as protect the environment. All GMO grain food aid is milled outside the country in periods of distress and the country has enacted laws to manage and control GMOs and biotechnological research.
Other countries in the region are in the process of enacting laws to govern and control GMOs. South Africa has embraced genetic engineering and is now producing GM maize, milk, cotton, canola, wheat, apples, potatoes, sugar cane and soy products. Critics say most South Africans are not aware that they are consuming GM foodstuffs due to lack of information, labelling and the monopolistic influences of the multinationals when it comes to media advertising, lobbying government and the funding of stooge NGOs which support the proliferation of GMOs for profit.
"Cross contamination in the region is also a possibility. With terminator seed technology this could be devastating for farmers," said Roussel. "The region could lose centuries of practice which will be a major loss of indigenous knowledge systems. We should be wary of making the same mistakes that formed in the Green Revolution." Experts fear that genetic engineering in agriculture is likely to have adverse environmental impacts that may affect the ecological basis of food production. They say GM crops will stimulate the growth of "superweeds" and "superbugs" leading to the use of higher doses of chemicals making food supplies more vulnerable to pest damage. Adoption of GM crops may lead to reduced genetic diversity resulting in fewer and fewer types of food crops. This, in turn, may increase the likelihood of pest and disease epidemics. Mushita said there are great scientific uncertainties regarding the safety of GMOs and their potential risks to the environment, health, food and animal safety. This, he said, calls for the precautionary principle in regulating international trade in living modified organisms. The other ethical concern, he said, was that most developing countries had no biosafety regulations but were under pressure from GMO exporting countries to implement weak biosafety regulations and to accept GMOs through food aid. "This calls for the region to develop collective regional policies on food aid that address the array of potential risks in all facets of the technology," Mushita said.
The food crisis in Africa is a result of droughts, floods, limited access to credit, poor infrastructure, unfavourable agricultural policies, trade policies that disadvantage poor farmers, lack of inputs, inappropriate technologies and lack of information and unsustainable farming practices. There are 300 million people in Africa who are hungry and in many cases this is due to inequitable distribution of food. Africa must be in the driving seat when it comes to introducing new technologies that aim to boost food security and reduce poverty. All indicators from the Silveira House conference point to the need to strengthen the anti-GMO movements, regional and global network for information sharing to break the power of multinational firms and research institutions on the continent. In light of the controversy and public concern over GMOs, Bokor concludes: "It is imperative that an immediate freeze on genetic engineering on food and farming is declared throughout Africa until we have assessed and understood all the implications for consumers, farmers and the environment."
Biodiversity: agriculture minister versus BRRI - Editorial: New Age, July 28, 2006 - http://www.newagebd.com/edit.html
The agriculture minister, MK Anwar, lamented on Wednesday the fact that barely 200 varieties of the local rice were still cultivated by the farmers although there used to be over 10,000 varieties in the past. He strongly advocated the conservation of genetic resources and biological diversity. To that end he said the government would soon enact two laws: a plant varieties act and a biodiversity & community knowledge act.
According to another report in this newspaper published on Thursday, the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute intends to introduce golden rice, a genetically modified version of the BR29, by 2010. The BR29 is extremely popular for its high yield and its 'golden' version will be supposedly fortified with 17 times the amount of vitamin A found in high-yielding varieties. According to the officials concerned the process is on and is currently being cultivated at laboratory level.
Given the worldwide debate over genetically modified organisms, especially about their effects on the human body and environment, the rice research institute's move is rather alarming. Laboratory tests on rats have found that genetically modified food result in allergic reactions, high white blood cell count, production of immature red cells, changed structure and cell functioning of the pancreas, liver and testes besides high death rates. There are also a host of examples of genetically modified crops with erratic yields all over the world, destroying the livelihoods of numerous farmers and leading many of them to commit suicide. This technology has also given birth to terminator seeds that yield crops only once and have to be bought every year.
Advocates of food sovereignty point out that genetic technology destroys biodiversity and has enormous adverse affects on food sovereignty. The two laws that the agriculture minister had referred to, conform to the norms of food sovereignty and have been drafted in accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity, which also upholds the notion of food sovereignty. It should be noted that the two laws in question had been drafted in 1998 and have so far received little attention from the government quarters concerned, which would be instrumental in protecting and preserving traditional knowledge and biological diversity of Bangladesh. But the rice research institute's move, obviously with the agricultural ministry's approval, contradicts the agriculture minister's advocacy for the conservation of genetic resources and biological diversity. It is also not known whether the rice research institute would conduct tests on live animals or humans to find out the effects of this genetically modified variety that many would consider unnecessary given the abundance of alternate sources of beta carotene in Bangladesh. The government has no concrete regulations regarding hybrid seeds or genetic technology. Neither are there any laws preventing biopiracy or protecting community knowledge which have become rather valuable sources of information for medical research. Intellectual property rights, which have come to be a topic of intense debate, are entirely handled by the industries ministry without any oversight from any other ministries although it concerns many of them.
MK Anwar's inconsistency conforms to the general attitude of the government towards the implications of genetic technology, food sovereignty and the livelihood of millions of farmers. We expect that the government formulates policies, laws and regulations to address these issues in consultation with not just government officials, but with the consumers, farmers and other stakeholders.
Review your biotech policy, prime minister - NewAge, July 25, 2006
The National Biotechnology Policy of Khaleda Zia is essentially to please the USA - for soliciting US support in the next election; it has been passed just a few months before the term of her government is completed and the Caretaker Government steps in to steer the statecraft. It is not a new phenomenon for the regime has been constantly trying to please the USA. But the danger lies in the fact that creating a policy environment favourable to the promotion of the commercial transgenic crop, is part and parcel of American foreign policy. This policy is not merely economic in nature to benefit US biotech companies but alarmingly related to our security and survival, writes Farhad Mazhar
Prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia has recently presided over the meeting of the National Task Force on Biotechnology for the approval of the National Biotechnology Policy. According to the Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) report, as published in New Age on July 20, the National Biotechnology Policy is aimed at 'increasing food production', 'alleviating poverty' and ensuring 'health and nutrition development'. The prime minister stressed on formulating a 20-year national road map on biotechnology on a priority basis for the development and flourishing of biotechnology in the country and she claimed 'proper use of biotechnology could help the country produce (a) huge (amount of) food grains'.
It was a high-level meeting with the presence of all relevant ministers including the ministers for health, environment & forest, agriculture, fisheries & livestock, ICT, commerce and law. The principal secretary of the prime minister was also present at the meeting. There were no representatives from the consumers or the farmers, who are going to be affected by such a controversial technology. The drafting of the policy document was done secretively and without any consultation with people with concern and expertise in the area but only with the lobbyists and promoters of transgenic crops, from both transnational corporations and their local beneficiaries.
The prime minister's speech, as we learn from the BSS story, is based on false notions and propaganda claims about biotechnology. She is not even objective as she made no comments on how it is going to affect the farmers and the consumers in general. There is total silence about the international concerns about 'biotechnology' nor is there any reference of the huge piles of literatures that repeatedly argued that until today biotechnology has failed to prove any agronomic value and that it could be disastrous for countries like Bangladesh.
The prime minister's confidence in the efficacy of biotechnology to 'feed 14 crore (140 million) people' is misplaced and shows her complete ignorance both in agriculture and science & technology. Not surprisingly, like any elite, anti-people and anti-farmer who have no idea about how food is produced, she has seen only the 'mouths of the people' and not their hands and productive ingenuity.
At least 70% of the 140 million people belong to farming communities who are presently producing food for the country and their success has largely come from their own ingenuity. They have been affected by the introduction of the agricultural technologies such as mechanised and chemical-based HYV technology and later on by the introduction of hybrid seeds. There are tons of critical literatures that argue that we need to distinguish the positive from the negative in green revolution technologies and that technological solution to food production has always been a bad proposition given the ecological and environmental destruction it has caused. So the shift should be towards socially, ecologically and environmentally responsible science and technology. Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering does not fit into this ideal.
Secondly, it is not the government who feeds the people, it is the farmers who are producing food and feeding the government and the people including the parasitic class who are engaged in looting our resources and destroying our biodiversity-based farming systems. Khaleda's National Biotechnology Policy would certainly benefit this parasitic commercial class who are eager to import transgenic crops and biotech product from the USA and other industrial countries.
A section of corporate-appointed scientists, who are eager to turn our public education and research institutions to the service of corporate interests, will also be benefited, but the farmers will be severely affected as has been witnessed in countries like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, etc. In the neighbouring country India, the blind introduction of genetic engineered BT cotton has resulted in the suicide of over 100,000 farmers because of crop failures and high indebtedness, a widely known fact that perhaps did not reach the ear of the prime minister.
The National Biotechnology Policy of Khaleda Zia is essentially to please the USA - for soliciting US support in the next election; it has been passed just a few months before the term of her government is completed and the Caretaker Government steps in to steer the statecraft. It is not a new phenomenon for the regime has been constantly trying to please the USA. But the danger lies in the fact that creating a policy environment favourable to the promotion of the commercial transgenic crop, is part and parcel of American foreign policy. This policy is not merely economic in nature to benefit US biotech companies but alarmingly related to our security and survival. It is a systematic strategy of polluting the biodiversity-rich countries like Bangladesh so that they become permanently dependent on the USA, particularly the US biotech companies. Such uncritical biotech policy will permanently transform Bangladesh agriculture into industrial food production bringing the sector under the logic of global control of food chains and cripple the possibility of the agricultural sector to enter in the global market with ecological and organic product. While there is an increasing demand for safe food produced in ecologically-friendly methods in Europe and North America, Khaleda Zia is heading to destroy Bangladesh agriculture. This will seriously compromise our ability to attain food sovereignty.
A ploy to allow import of transgenic agricultural crops and products
According to USDA Foreign Agriculture Service GAIN REPORT (BG 5005, 7/15/2005), Bangladesh does not commercially cultivate any biotechnology crops. Scientists in the universities and government research institutes are trying to produce bioengineered varieties of rice, jute, pulses, oilseeds, and vegetables, mostly for higher yields, disease resistance, and salt tolerance; all these are only at the laboratory stage. However, tissue cultured crops of various forest plants, ornamental and fruit trees are in commercial cultivation.
The USDA report further says, 'Bangladesh officially prohibits the import of agricultural products containing bioengineered organisms.' Bangladesh is a food aid recipient country (mostly wheat), and is likely to remain so in the coming years. Commercial imports include wheat, rice, cotton, soybean oil (mostly from Brazil), soybean meal (from India), palm oil, and corn (from India). Crops grown using imported seeds include maize, cotton, potato, and some winter vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, carrot, none of which are reported to be bioengineered.
The USDA report further says that the 'absence of a biotech regulatory system could pose a barrier for the exports of US agricultural commodities, such as corn and soybeans, to Bangladesh'. So, policy and regulatory instruments for biotechnology is in fact to allow import of transgenic agricultural crops and products into Bangladesh. It is clearly in the interest of the developed countries and their companies, who are finding it more and more difficult to sell genetically engineered products in their own countries, to have a market in Bangladesh.
Biotech products have not been proved safe. Here are a few examples from new research that are coming up challenging the claims of biotech industries:
a. Australian study of GM peas revealed immunological effects of genetic engineering with the transfer of a 'safe' gene to a different plant species producing allergic reactions in mice. A trial by Monsanto also indicated immunological effects with higher white blood cell levels in GM maize-fed rats.
b. the only long-term feeding trial (24 months, by an Italian team) found GMOs can affect key body organs, changing the cell structure and cell functioning of the liver, pancreas and testes of mice fed Roundup Ready soya. Similarly, a Monsanto trial found rats fed with GM maize Mon863 developed smaller kidneys.
c. a Monsanto trial found GM consumption affects the development of the blood with fewer immature red blood cells and changes in blood chemistry in rats fed with GM maize Mon863.
d. a Russian rat study found apparent generational effects of GMOs with very high death rates in the young of rats fed with GM Roundup Ready soya (56% died) and stunted growth in the surviving progeny.
e. a programme of UK studies funded by the Food Standards Agency found that genetic engineering routinely causes a large number of random genetic and chemical changes in GM plants, the health impacts of which are unknown.
f. two UK trials, one with humans and one with sheep, found that when GMOs are eaten some of the inserted genes move out and transfer into the gut bacteria.
These are only a few examples cited from a report: New Research on the Impact of GMOs on Health [SOIL ASSOCIATION, GA, 13.1.2006, GMbriefing19. Updated 13.4.2006]
The scientists and environmentalists around the world have continuously warned on the basis of scientific evidence from the use of biotech crops in different countries that GE technology contaminates other crops and damages the biodiversity and such detrimental feature is in the nature of the technology. Bangladesh is rich in biodiversity and belongs to the origin of diversity of many plants and crops of the world. To ensure bolstering her popular support Khaleda Zia should have created an enabling policy and regulatory environment to protect the biological wealth of Bangladesh and encourage scientific and technological innovation that could invigorate farming communities and bio-diverse agriculture. She could have taken into account the profound richness of our diversity in order not only to nurture a nutritionally healthy nation but create a thriving and robust agrarian sector. Instead, she preferred to join hands with the USA and biotech companies to destroy our farming systems and exposed our biological resources to the threat of bio-piracy by the same companies. Her undertaking of such a policy will not ensure her victory in the election, since she has forgotten that it is the farmers who could indeed vote her return to the power. This article is to put in the record the detrimental role she is playing against both the consumers and the farming communities.
Does the government have any right to introduce a technology which poses potential threats to the life and livelihood of the people? Should we allow a government to enact a policy, origin of which is not transparent and which lacks participation of the very people who are going to be affected negatively? These issues must be brought to the forefront. We may still hope and expect that the prime minister will reconsider the approval of the National Biotechnology Policy in the interest of the farmers, consumers and the future of Bangladesh.
GM foods pose threat to health, environment, Speakers tell dialogue - Daily Star, July 17 2006 - http://www.thedailystar.net/2006/07/18/d60718060170.htm
A group of environmentalists and NGO activists yesterday expressed concern over gradual introduction of Genetically Modified (GM) foods in the country, saying that such foods are harmful to human health and environment and a means to marginalise the small farmers. Some companies and NGOs are trying to promote GM foods, which pose a threat to biosafety, but the government has no policy in this regard, they said at a dialogue on 'Genetic Engineering in Food and Agriculture: Threat to Farmers and Human Health'. Jagrata Juba Shangha (JJS) and ActionAid Bangladesh in association with Food Security Network and the European Commission organised the dialogue at Civic Inn in the city.
Farida Akter, executive director of Ubinig, said the USAID-supported Biotech Activities is trying to promote fruit and shoot borer-resistant eggplant, late blight-resistant potato and drought- and salinity-tolerant rice, while GM papaya is also on the list of import. "This is very alarming both for the agriculture and human health," she said in her presentation citing a number of examples where such foods have negative impacts. Biotech industry claims that GM crops have higher yields, but in reality they have a lower yield or at best the same yield as non-GM crops, she said. The industry's claim that GM crops need less pesticides has also been proved false, Farida Akhter said, adding that intensification of such crops increases possibility of monocultures, which is true for Argentina. The country used to be a granary of the world, but now it has soy monocultures and has become the exporter of oil feed for cattle in Europe and Asia, she said. Quoting from a publication, GM Contamination Report, she said 39 countries are known to have been affected by an incident of GM contamination, illegal planting or adverse agricultural side-affects since 1996.
Centre for Sustainable Development (CFSD) Secretary General Mahfuzullah said the claim that GM crops will meet the increasing demand for food worldwide is not true. "There will always be hunger, because it is not related to food production but to politics. Bangladesh has become self-reliant on food production, but 40 percent of people still could not afford more than two square meals a day." The farmers and the traditional cultivation system will be destroyed due to the dominance of profit-driven multinational companies trying to promote GM foods, he noted. Pieter Jansen of Both Ends, a Netherlands-based environment organisation, said that there can be co-existence of GM, traditional and organic crops as there is in the European Union, but that requires national legislation if it is to be applied in any other countries.
JJS Executive Director ATM Zakir Hossain and ActionAid's interim Country Director Shoyeb Siddique also spoke at the dialogue moderated by Syeda Rizwana Hasan, director of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers' Association.
Biodiversity protection and opposition to the GMO expansion - http://en.civilg8.ru/ngo/biodiversity/2016.php
"GMOs - One of the Challenges of the XXI century"
Recommendations of the Forum on the meeting of the heads of G8 countries in St. Petersburg in July 2006
Taking into account the urgency of solving problems caused by the untimely and widespread distribution of GMOs civil society representatives from 17 countries have gathered in Moscow to discuss the issue of GMOs and reached the following conclusions and recommendations, which we ask you to consider and address:
- wide-spread genetic contamination by Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), unregulated and sometimes even unnoticed by governments, is negatively affecting biodiversity, including protected areas and centers of crop origin.
- genetic contamination of traditional and organic crops is increasingly violating the right of farmers and consumers to choose crop and foods without GMOs. Genetic contamination is also negatively affecting farmer's livelihoods.
- there is a growing number of scientific studies that indicate that Genetically Modified (GM) crops and GM foods are potentially dangerous for human health and the environment. Among scientific experts there is strong disagreement over the safety of GMOs. However, there is a lack of independent research on biotechnology.
- high levels of monopolization in the GMO industry and the fact that just a few corporations own the vast majority of patents on GMOs, pose a threat to the sovereignty of states in the field of agriculture and to the independency of farmers in both the developed and the developing world.
- there is a lack of democratic decision making and transparency related to commercialization of GMOs.
- there is an unjustified and growing role of the WTO in the solution of issues related to GMOs , food sovereignty and genetic safety.
We urge you:
1. To include the GMO issue into the agenda of the next G8 summit.
2. To declare a moratorium on the release of GMOs into the environment and the food chain, as long as the safety questions hanging over GMOs are not resolved. Most urgently a moratorium on baby food should be established.
3. To take immediate measures at national and international level to ensure that GMOs are not contaminating neighboring fields, the food chain and the environment.
4. To ensure that consumers have the right to know if their food is produced from GMOs by providing systems of mandatory labeling and identification.
5. To ensure that the companies who produce GMOs will be held liable for any economic, environmental or health damage according to the polluter pays principle.
6. To make decision-making processes on GMOs open for the public at national and international levels.
7. To make the safety assessment procedure for GMOs completely transparent and to ensure that no data relating to GMOs will be classified as "confidential business information"
8. To ensure that conflicts between countries over GMOs are not subject to WTO dispute settlement but are resolved in international fora according to the principles laid down in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. To promote that more countries join and ratify the Cartagena Biosafety on Protocol.
NO GATEWAY TO AFRICA'S SORGHUM - from The African Centre for Biosafety
The African Centre for Biosafety, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, applauds the decision by the South African GM regulatory body to turn down an application by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to conduct laboratory and greenhouse experiments with transgenic sorghum in South Africa. The Executive Council (EC) established in terms of South Africa's GMO Act, refused the application on biosafety grounds, fearing that GM sorghum will lead to the destruction of the sorghum varieties prevalent throughout Africa.
This decision represents a severe blow to the African Biotechnology Sorghum Project (ABS), bankrolled by Bill and Melinda Gates to the tune of $450 million to bring GM sorghum to Africa's poor. The ABS is spearheaded by a consortium, which includes Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Florence Wambugu's Africa Harvest Biotechnology International, Rockerfeller Foundation-backed African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), the CSIR, the Agricultural Research Council, Ghana's Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and University of California, Berkeley.
Notwithstanding the "lofty" agenda of the ABS, the EC has for the first time deemed it prudent to protect an African cereal in the face of huge international funding. The African Centre for Biosafety warmly welcomes the decision by the EC as sorghum is an extremely important crop for Africa, having unique abilities to withstand the harsh environmental conditions on the continent.
Sorghum seeds have been discovered at an ancient site in Nabta Playa in Southern Egypt, dating the seeds back to 8000 years. Early domestication of sorghum took place near the Ethiopian border, west though Sudan and up to Lake Chad. Today, there are several varieties of sorghum being grown in several countries in Africa. Although sorghum only represents 3.5% of the total cereal production, sorghum is of great importance to Africans especially where traditional agriculture predominates.
Issued by Mariam Mayet, 10 July 2006 - www.biosafetyafrica.net
Ethiopia: The Controversy Over Genetically Modified Crops - Melaku Demissie - The Reporter (Ethiopia), July 1, 2006
(Addis Ababa) - A recent CNN report says that while many scientists and environmental groups claim the cultivation of genetically modified organisms will have severe ecological and health consequences, advocates of the technology claim with equal vigor that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will feed the world and improve human health and well- being. There is also another concern from Africa. Researchers say that GM crops are coming in by way of food imports and seed smuggling, even for countries that have taken measures to prevent imports of GM foods, such as Zambia, Angola, Sudan and Benin. In short, the researchers argue that Africa is in danger of becoming the dumping ground for the struggling GM industry and the laboratory for frustrated GM scientists.
Mr. Zachary Makanya, in his well-researched paper entitled "12 reasons for Africa to reject GM crops", says that the proponents of GM technology sell a sweet message of GM crops as the second green revolution and the answer to African hunger, but the reality is quite different. "A close look at GM crops and the context under which they are developed makes it clear that GM crops have no place in African agriculture," he said. Greeen Peace also states firmly that it believes GMOs should not be released into the environment as there is not adequate scientific understanding of their impact on the environment and human health. But Monsanto, who dominate 90 percent of the global market in GMOs say on their website, "Crop improvements like [GMOs] can help provide an abundant healthful food supply and protect our environment for future generations."
According to CNN, the problem is complex. Just like nuclear power, genetic modification is a branch of science that has attracted a huge amount of controversy and fierce debate, with both sides claiming the stakes are high. GMOs are the on the frontline of one of the biggest conflicts of recent years between the science-business community and activist groups. Many of these feel that, in addition to environmental concerns, with four big multinational companies dominating the global bio-tech market, the proliferation of patented GMOs will give corporations an unhealthy control over food production. Apart from other problems related to GMOs, researchers say that GM crops will foster dependence on a corporate seed supply. Most GM seed manufacturing companies prohibit farmers from saving their on-farm produced seeds for the next season and from sharing them with their neighbors, relatives and friends. This is imposed through elaborate contracts, agreements, and conditions, which are imposed by the multinational GM seed companies.
There is a study that says that more than 80 percent of the small-scale farmers in Africa today save their on-farm produced seeds for the next season. Farmers sometimes do this because they do not have enough money to buy new seeds and sometimes because they value their own seeds. Also, seed sharing is a crucial norm in many African communities. The fear is that the introduction of GM seeds will jeopardize these traditional and vital practices. One of the greatest fears in the business of the GMOs is a question of patent right. Mr. Zachary Makanya says that transnational corporations own nearly 100 percent of the agricultural biotechnology patents and the majority of these are controlled by a handful of pesticide corporations. These companies will use their patents to block research that does not suit their interests and to trap farmers into paying them royalities every year on seeds and into a never-ending dependence on their chemical inputs.
An Ethiopian environmentalist, Ayele Kebede, from Forum for Environment, in his paper presented last week at a workshop on 'Impact of GMOs on Environment and Seed Diversity,' says that the free exchange of seeds among farmers has been the basis of biodiversity and food security for millennia. "It gives us the diversity of plants that provides us nutrition. But by 1990, biotechnology became more profitable than chemical weapons." Ayele notes that the giant chemical companies, clearly began "repositioning themselves as life science" companies whose goal was to control agriculture. "In 1997, Monsanto spun off its chemical division and spent six billion dollars acquiring seed companies like Cargil International Seed and Dekalb Genetics. Dupont spun off its petroleum division, Conocs, and formed USD 1.7 billion 'research alliance' with Pioneer-Hi-Bred International, the world's largest seed company." Another giant company, Aventis, bought Plant Genetic Systems, which already had patents on strains of corn and wheat.
According to Ayele, the patenting of biotechnology concentrates ownership and control of the sector in the hands of a few private firms. "Some 80 percent of patents on GMO foods are owned by only 13 giant companies, and the top five agro-chemical companies control almost the entire genetically modified seed market." The environmentalist says seed saving gives farmers life, and seed monopolies rob farmers of life and makes a free resources available on farm, a commodity to which farmers are forced to buy every year. This is a shift from biodiversity to monoculture in agriculture, and monoculture increases the risk of crop failure. "This is an assault on our culture, our human right, our very nature. It is a major seed and food insecurity. Patents on seed and biodiversity is intellectual property crime. This is unjust and unethical," he added.
Though there is a general consensus that GM crops will contaminate non-GM crops; will increase the use of chemicals; threaten organic and sustainable farming; will not reduce hunger in Africa; will not resolve problems with pests; and they are threat to human health; many researchers in the field suggest that Africans can provide African solutions to African problems. Outsiders may help, but the insiders, those who are affected, must do the job.
Groups in Africa, Latin America condemn World Bank biosafety projects - 26 June 2006 - http://www.grain.org/front/?id=92
The World Bank is set to secure funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for two projects that will undermine public debate and aggressively drive GM crops into the heart of peasant agriculture. The two projects, one in West Africa and the other in Latin America, will hasten the spread of GM crops into farmer seed systems and even into certain centres of origin.
The projects are clearly being driven by an outside agenda. At their core is a long-standing strategy pursued by the World Bank and the US government to harmonise regulations for GM crops across regions in order to override national processes that are more susceptible to local opposition. The idea is to establish favourable regulations in a few countries whose governments are open to GM crops and then to use these regulations as a model that can be imposed on neighbouring countries by way of regional policy bodies. In this way, harmonisation side-steps any possible democratic debate and provides corporations with a large, one-stop shop for their GM crops.
The project's preliminary processes have already shown a complete disregard for genuine public debate. There is still no French version of the West African project proposal, even though all of the participating countries are Francophone. In Benin, NGOs participating in an initial project consultation organised by the US consulting firm Market Strategies were presented with the introduction of GM crops as a foregone conclusion. The NGOs were confined to a meeting separated from the previous day's meeting with farmers' organisations and government officials, which they were not allowed to attend. Likewise, in Costa Rica, the World Bank project builds on a GEF funded biosafety process that has already been denounced by the national network of civil society organisations active on biodiversity issues (Red de Coordinacion en Biodiversidad) for its lack of effective civil society participation and for bringing forward a biosafety bill that excluded the network from participation in the National Biosafety Commission, something which is guaranteed by presidential decree.
In contrast, the GM lobby has a direct hand in the World Bank projects, as partners, advisors and even funders. Participants in the projects include CropLife - the main lobby arm of the GM corporations - as well as GM industry front groups like the Public Research and Regulation Initiative and AfricaBio.
The project's other core objective is to advance the GM industry's on-going strategy of contamination. The projects will facilitate or initiate field trials and pave the way for the commercialisation of GM crops, with a focus on crops that are central to the peasant farming systems in the respective regions. The Latin American project specifically sets out to facilitate the "deployment" of GM crops in the centres of origin for these crops. Contamination will be inevitable, as the World Bank certainly understands. Indeed, the projects assume that the GM crops will be introduced on a large-scale in the regions. Biosafety "capacity-building" in this sense is merely about managing the ensuing contamination.
Usurping sovereignty in West Africa
The West Africa Regional Biosafety Project is a direct descendent of the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) activities in the region and the UNEP-GEF project that came to an end last year. As national debate over GM crops has erupted in the region, leading to a wide variation in national biosafety process, USAID has been aggressively supporting regional biosafety harmonisation and the introduction of transgenic Bt cotton, the main cash crop for West African peasants.
The US government has a three-fold agenda in pushing Bt cotton in West Africa: bringing African support to the small club of GM nations on the international stage; distracting attention from unfair US domestic cotton subsidies; and, securing US corporate control over West Africa's lucrative cotton production. The World Bank project plans to piggy-back on several US Bt cotton projects  and use field trials to develop a single uniform model for risk assessment and regulation that can be adopted throughout West Africa.
USAID is also busy supporting biosafety harmonisation initiatives in the region. The Sahel Institute is drafting a regional biosafety framework for Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. The West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development developed a $25 million regional project on biotechnology and biosecurity with USAID support that was then approved at a Ministerial Meeting on Biotechnology of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Bamako in 2005. During the Bamako meeting, which was also funded by USAID, the ECOWAS Ministers pledged to harmonise their biosafety regulations within 5 years.
The World Bank project is the next step forward in this harmonisation process. ECOWAS covers a large market, covering all 15 countries of West Africa, but, according to the World Bank, it doesn't have the authority to force member countries to adopt common legislation; it can only make policy recommendations. The World Bank project, therefore, focuses instead on WAEMU?a smaller grouping of 8 West African states that has the power to impose the "fast-track adoption" of compulsory "enabling" legislation on its members. As stated in the project proposal: "If WAEMU is able to harmonise national biosafety legislations and later to enforce a decision taken in one country in the other countries, it will drastically improve the investment climate in biotechnology for cash and food crops in the WAEMU area...by diminishing the costs of doing business." Once adopted within WAEMU, the Bank says it will then look to "scale-up" the project to the much bigger market of ECOWAS.
Harmonisation is part of the agenda for the Latin America project as well. The countries in that region were in part selected because of the "political, strategic, future role they might play in biosafety management in their respective regions". Such "harmonisation" is inherently unscientific and contrary to sound biosafety practice. It does not respect even the minimum standards laid out in the Biosafety Protocol because the projects will usurp sovereign rights of countries to take biosafety decisions, on a country-by-country, case-by-case basis. The Protocol envisions that biosafety decision-making take place at the national level, in the context of open and transparent public awareness and participation (Article 23), respecting the rights of local and indigenous peoples (Article 26), and conserving centres of origin and genetic diversity. To be scientifically rigorous and sensitive to local realities, assessments must be based on a country?s specific ecological socio-economic context and they must be informed by genuine public debate. The research required to support effective environmental risk assessments is extensive and long-term, and all countries must have enough policy space to set their own priorities and not be pressured, from a lack of resources and capacity, to adopt those that are reactionary or merely responsive to industry developments.
Destroying food sovereignty in Latin America
The main reason for selecting the five countries involved in the Latin American project is that as a group they are among the most important centres of biodiversity in the world and centres of origin for four of the five crops targeted by the project. This central objective is explicit in the name of the project: "Biosafety in Centers of Biodiversity: Building Technical Capacity in Latin America for Safe Deployment of Transgenic Crops".
There are five crops that the project focuses on: cassava, cotton, maize, potato and rice. Millions of people in Latin America depend on these crops for food, medicine, livelihoods and cultural identity. The rich diversity within these crops that exists in the region is directly attributed to indigenous and peasant farmers? communities, who have conserved, recreated and utilised the crops and maintained deep cultural and spiritual relationships to them. Maize, potatoes, cotton and cassava make up the most important crops for Mesoamerican, Andean and Amazonian communities. Rice is also an extremely important crop in the region since it makes up an essential part of the basic diet of local communities.
It is impossible to accept the project's purported concern in strengthening the capacity of participating countries to implement the Biosafety Protocol, an agreement dealing with transboundary trade in GMOs, when it focuses mainly on local food crops that are rarely traded across borders in the region . Rather, the real aim here is to push GM crops into the very heart of the region's peasant agriculture and food sovereignty. The project's introduction of GM varieties of these crops will inevitably contaminate traditional varieties and thus pave the way for the destruction of the seed and food systems that indigenous and peasant communities have developed over millennia.
The fierce resistance to GM crops among indigenous and peasant communities in Latin America is rooted in their determination to defend their seed systems from such GM contamination. The World Bank's project is a direct effort to undermine this opposition by putting scientific agencies that have already demonstrated their support for GM agriculture, such as CIAT, the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology Research (Costa Rica) and EMBRAPA (Brazil), in charge of developing field test protocols and regulations that can give the veneer of legitimacy to the deliberate GM contamination of farmer seed systems. The national scientific centres participating in the project are even referred to as "ports of entry".
It's not a big surprise to see governments in Latin America and Africa signing up for these World Bank projects. Few governments are willing to uphold the opposition to GM crops that is expressed by their people, especially when money is on the table and powerful actors like the World Bank and USAID are involved.
These regional projects shift decision-making power even further to international and regional bodies that are removed from local influence and they give undue power to agencies like the World Bank, that are well-known for championing the interests of GM corporations. Such projects make a mockery of the vibrant national and local debates on GM raging around the world.
With another 10 regional biosafety projects supposedly in the GEF pipeline, the gulf between the official decision-makers and the people they supposedly represent could grow even deeper. Once again, real biosafety will have to be secured at the grassroots, in local struggles to keep GM crops out.
 Current US programs to introduce Bt cotton in the region include a $7 million "West African Cotton Improvement Programme" that promises to "improve the enabling environment for agricultural biotechnology", a USAID-financed project for field trials of Bt cotton in Mali, and USAID's Bioengineerd Cotton in Africa project.
Project: West Africa Regional Biosafety Project
Implementing agencies :
World Bank, West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU)
Participating countries : Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Togo
Project: Latin America Multi-Country Capacity-Building in Biosafety
Implementing agencies : World Bank, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
Participating countries : Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru
The proposals for both projects are available on the GEF website: - http://www.thegef.org/Documents/Council_Documents/GEF_C28/WP.html
Groups in Africa, Latin America condemn World Bank biosafety projects
African Centre for Biosafety - http://www.biosafetyafrica.net
ETC Group - http://www.etcgroup.org
GRAIN - http://www.grain.org
Red por una América Latina Libre de Trasngénicos - http://www.rallt.org
For more information please contact:
Mariam Mayet , South Africa - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: + 27 83 2694309
Elizabeth Bravo, Ecuador - Email: email@example.com, Tel: + 593 (2) 254 7516
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group, Mexico, - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +52 55 5563 2664
Eat To Live: FDA sued over biotech foods - By Julia Watson - United Press International, June 9, 2006 - http://www.upi.com/
LE BUGUE, France (UPI) -- It`s been a conversational curiosity, at the very least, among consumers in Europe, Australia, Japan, and parts of Africa, why Americans don`t seem the slightest bit interested in the issue of the genetic engineering of some of their key crops. The nations just mentioned have as little tolerance for biotech foods as legally possible. Now, however, American consumers may have to reflect upon their complacency.
This week, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration to force the government to establish mandatory reviews of genetically engineered foods and to label them as genetically modified if the foods are approved for consumption. The dramatic action comes after six years of waiting without a response from the FDA to a legal petition it lodged, along with over 50 consumer and environmental groups, demanding that biotech food be more meticulously regulated and labeled.
Why would the FDA - so anxious to protect our health with advisories on food fears from mercury in fish to the pasteurization of young raw milk cheeses - not want to take a rigorous look on our behalf at industrial science's inalterable tampering with nature? Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General has been appalled by the USDA's handling of field tests of genetically engineered plantings. As Eat To Live revealed earlier this year, the inspector general's report condemned the USDA for failing to inspect experimental genetically engineered crops and for not insuring they were destroyed after field tests, to protect surrounding farmland.
The prime genetically modified crops grown extensively across the U.S. are corn, soybeans and canola. Europe, pushed by massive consumer unease, has made every effort to resist the entry of genetically engineered crops into its markets. Foods that contain them must be so labeled. Yet Europe has been under intense pressure by the United States through the World Trade Organization to reverse this stand and allow U.S. biotech crops and products in. Even the United Nations Cartagena Protocol of Biosafety authorizes member countries, in the case of scientific uncertainty, to take a precautionary approach to regulating biotech crops. In the United States, no GM labeling is necessary, nor is testing of foods containing biotech crops or by-products compulsory.
European consumers - and many in the science community - fear that the restructuring of the genetic composition of a crop by introducing foreign genes - from other species of plant or even animals - could have an impact on health. They fear so-called 'Frankenfoods' might encourage antibiotic-resistant illnesses, produce new food toxins and generate food allergies.
Farmers are attracted by the higher yields and lower investment in pesticides and time that genetically engineered crops offer. Their creators, like Monsanto, promote the philanthropic message that they could be the instrument for the reduction of world hunger and poverty. They assert that rather than abuse the environment, genetically modified crops make it safer. Critics of biotech crops and food say that none of these contentions have been properly tested nor have ecological, health and social questions been stringently addressed.
Let's hope there`s enough publicity for the CFS's lawsuit to alert American consumers finally to an issue that has been the concern of much of the rest of the world. This barbecuing season, when timing everything to be on the table as soon as the burgers come off the grill is tricky, you may like this tip from legendary New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne. He contended that the best way to cook (genetically unmodified) sweet corn was to bring to the boil a pot of unsalted water, drop in the shucked corn, slam the lid on, bring it back to the boil then immediately turn off the heat under the pot. Leave the corn in for a minimum of 5 minutes - and a relaxed maximum of 45. It`s a method that saves corn that isn`t at peak of freshness. Salting the water toughens it.
Copyright 2006 by United Press International
Keeping tabs on GMOs - By Simon Terry - New Zealand Herald, 15 May 2006
Conditions for the international trade of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are to become tougher as a result of changes to the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol. Buried in the diplomatic language added to this United Nations agreement is a shift in the rules on food labelling that has deep ramifications for GM food cultivation. The protocol will ultimately require sufficiently detailed labelling of GM content in food exports to make it the norm for GM crops to be strictly segregated from conventional export crops. While a number of richer nations already have import requirements for identifying GM content, the protocol provides for their wider application to developing countries, and is likely to pave the way for a de facto global standard for labelling. The success of these negotiations puts the protocol back on track to deliver an international liability regime governing shipments containing living GMOs. The protocol regulates the international shipment of living GMOs and its central purpose is the protection of biodiversity and human health. The new rules contribute to this by requiring identification of unintended GM content in shipments of conventional food. Importing countries can then determine if they wish to prevent or limit the unintended release of GMOs through a process of informed consent in advance.
The labelling issue has, however, been a major point of contention since negotiation of the protocol began a decade ago and its final text, agreed in 2000, in effect postponed a real solution. When a way forward was attempted last year, New Zealand and Brazil vetoed the proposed arrangements - changes required to make the agreement operational. The recent negotiations thus became something of a do or die for the protocol, as a failure to reach consensus on labelling was likely to have resulted in individual countries going their own way to protect their borders. Brazil, the host country, had rethought its stance and the compromise position it put forward - primarily a delay in implementing some aspects - gained early backing from other parties. However, the New Zealand delegation, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, indicated that its position had not changed. While it agreed with labelling intentional GMO content in food, New Zealand said it remained steadfastly opposed to labelling GM content that was unintended - it did not want to label for "actual content". Concern over New Zealand's stance prompted the heads of two other delegations to take the unusual step of speaking to journalists while the negotiations were in progress.
Leading African representative Dr Tewolde Egzhabier, of Ethiopia, said: "New Zealand's position is freezing the whole of the negotiations." The EU couched its comments in more diplomatic terms, but the message was the same - New Zealand was not supporting the Brazil compromise and other countries were struggling to understand why. New Zealand was not the only country raising difficulties - Peru, Paraguay and Mexico also had issues. However, it was the one many countries were most concerned about. Then, on the last day, New Zealand dropped its objections, the concerns of the Latin American counties were attended to, and the hammer fell without dissent. The protocol establishes the framework for nations to require that any GMO contamination in a shipment is identified and labelled in accordance with an importing country's minimum standards. Although there are limitations for the next six years on the scope of GMOs for which labelling can be required, these are intended to expire once the phase-in period is over.
Each of the 132 countries that have ratified the protocol determines its own threshold standards for what triggers the labelling requirement. But exporters will want to produce to just one standard of purity, so the strictest major importer will tend to act as a ratchet setting standard for all. The EU, which is New Zealand's largest food export market, already has the bar set at 0.9 per cent maximum GM content, and other countries can now use the protocol to readily impose standards that are tougher. As a result, any country thinking of newly permitting GMO cultivation will most likely allow GM crops only if they are strictly segregated from conventional export production. Segregation can be very costly, where it is technically achievable. More costly, however, is not properly segregating, given the strength of consumer resistance to GM foods.
Wholesale buyers in markets such as Japan and Western Europe have zero tolerance for GM contamination and continue to reject food products with any detectable level of GMO content irrespective of whether it triggers labelling requirements. Who pays for segregation or product rejection thus becomes a key question - one the protocol is also poised to influence. The next major change will be an international liability regime intended to allow importers to gain redress for harm caused by a living GMO. For this to work fairly for conventional farmers that suffer GMO contamination, each country needs to have domestic law that ensures that claims ultimately rest with those producing the GMOs. The protocol is therefore likely to put into sharp focus New Zealand's ill-founded liability law that essentially absolves from claims anyone who uses a GMO consistent with an ERMA approval. Premium export markets will leave no place to hide from GMO contamination and those who cause losses for conventional farmers should not be able to hide from the financial consequences.
U.S. DID NOT WIN TRANSATLANTIC GM TRADE DISPUTE - Friends of the Earth: WTO still wrong place to settle such rows
Brussels, 10 May 2006 - The United States has failed in its bid to prevent the European Union from using strict regulations to control genetically modified (GM) foods and crops. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) made a final judgement on this issue last night. Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe's GMO campaigner, commented: "This is no victory for the United States or the biotech companies. Countries still have the right to ban or suspend genetically modified foods and crops. Europe's only failure was the way they did it and not why they did it. Public opposition around the world is solid, and neither the United States or the WTO will stop countries from protecting their citizens and the environment from the risks of genetically modified crops".
The WTO last night sent its final ruling to parties involved in the dispute. And, although the decision will not be made officially public until the autumn, media reports have confirmed that it is substantially the same as the 'draft ruling', which was leaked to Friends of the Earth Europe in February .
The WTO's draft ruling rejected most of the US-led coalition's complaints:
* It refused to rule against strict EU regulations to control the use of GM food and crops;
* It refused to rule on whether GM foods are safe or different to conventional foods;
* It rejected US claims that moratoria are illegal and did not question the right of countries to ban GM foods or crops.
However, the WTO did rule - on technicalities - that Europe's four year GM moratorium, which ended in 2004, broke trade rules by causing "undue delays". However, the WTO did not recommend any action against the EU and stated that moratoria were acceptable under certain circumstances. The WTO said national GM bans also broke trade rules, but only because the risk assessments did not comply with the WTO requirements; Friends of the Earth Europe also called for a fundamental overhaul of the way that trade disputes are sorted out in future. A fairer and more transparent body should be used that also takes into account international environmental treaties such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration or the International Court of Justice.
Friends of the Earth Europe's Trade Campaigner, Sonja Meister, said: "Despite today's ruling, the WTO is the wrong body for settling trade disputes. It has a long history of putting corporate interests firmly ahead of environmental protection, public safety and democracy. It is time that environment-related disputes were taken away from the WTO."
The United States, Argentina and Canada filed a trade dispute in the WTO in May 2003 against Europe's reluctance to accept genetically modified foods or crops. Europe argued that many GM crops should not be grown because of their unknown effects on the environment and that it was not yet known whether eating GM foods would cause cancer, allergies or other health effects .
Friends of the Earth Europe believes that the WTO is the wrong forum for dealing with environment-related trade disputes due to its long history of bias towards industry, its pro-trade agenda and its lack of transparency. In this particular case the WTO failed to consider other international environmental laws such as the Convention on Biodiversity and the Biosafety Protocol. In addition it refused to consider all submissions made by the public and held all meetings in secret. In sending the draft final ruling only to the dispute countries, it allowed the US to tell the media in February that it had won the dispute when the real result was quite different . The environment group has called for such disputes to be dealt with away from the industry-friendly WTO.
 The 1000 page interim report and a shorter analysis by Friends of the Earth can be downloaded from: http://www.foeeurope.org/biteback/WTO_decision.htm
The interim report showed:
* Europe's four-year moratorium on GM Organisms (GMOs) only broke trade rules because it caused "undue delay" in the approval of new GM foods. The WTO dismissed eight other complaints in relation to the moratorium, and did not recommend any further action, since the moratorium ended in 2004
* There was also an "undue delay" in the EU?s approval procedures for over 20 specified biotech products. However, eleven other claims of the complainants related to the product-specific EU measures were dismissed by the WTO Panel.
* National bans by EU member states broke trade rules only because the risk assessments used by the countries in question did not comply with the WTO requirements;
 Europe's scientific case has been summarised in a report by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. The report, Hidden Uncertainties, can be downloaded for free from http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/hidden_uncertainties.pdf
 FOE Europe has assessed the relative merits of a range of intergovernmental institutions, in relation to their capacity to deal equitably with trade and environment disputes. The conclusion is that the WTO is in fact the least suitable of all institutions considered, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration or the International Court of Justice would be the most appropriate venue. "Is the WTO the only way?", which can be downloaded from - http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2005/alternatives_wto.pdf
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe GMO expert: +49 1609 490 1163
Sonja Meister, Friends of the Earth Europe Trade expert: +32 4849 75107
EC approved GM crops despite safety fears - The Daily Telegraph, 18/04/2006
The European Commission approved a range of GM foods and crops despite having serious doubts over their health and environmental impacts, according to new documents released by green charities. Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth said the documents revealed scientific arguments put forward behind closed doors in the European Commission's recent GM trade dispute. The groups have called for the immediate suspension in the use and sale of all GM foods and crops until the safety issues have been addressed. In the documents, the Commission argues that there were "large areas of uncertainty about the health risks posed by GM produce," and that "some issues have not yet been studied at all." The papers also say "there simply is no way of ascertaining whether the introduction of GM products has had any other effect on human health," and "no unique, absolute, scientific cut off threshold available to decide whether a GM product is safe or not." Among other revelations, the documents suggested ther were huge disagreements between the Commission and the European Food Safety Authority, the agency that is responsible for GM risk assessments.
At the same time as the Commission wrote and submitted these documents to the World Trade Organisation highlighting safety concerns it approved seven GM foods, despite a lack of support from the majority of EC member states. Clare Oxborrow, a Friends of the Earth GM Campaigner, said: "This is a political scandal. The European Commission must call a halt to the sale and growth of all genetically modified food and crops given the serious concerns over their safety that have come to light." "When the EU Commission broke the moratorium and forced GM foods into Europe, it told the public they were safe. But the Commission clearly knew this was not the case and was prepared to recognise the risk behind closed doors. The UK Government must now reveal whether it had access to these documents and whether it voted in support of GM foods while knowing the risks they posed."
The EC is accused of approving products despite safety concerns - BBC News, 17 April 2006 - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4917302.stm
Two environmental groups say they have documents which show a double standard on the safety of genetically-modified organisms in the European Commission. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace accuse the commission of telling the public GMOs are safe but admitting to safety concerns in a report. The two groups are citing a report submitted by the commission to the World Trade Organisation. The European Commission is the EU's executive body.
Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace are accusing the European Commission of approving GM crops and foods despite serious doubts over their impact on health and the environment. Using freedom of information rules, they obtained the commission's report to the World Trade Organisation, which is hearing a complaint against European bans on GMOs. The report warns that there are still large areas of scientific uncertainty and disagreement, and that based on current data there is no way to rule out the development of cancer or allergies as a result of GMOs. It raises concerns about weeds and insects becoming resistant to the toxins in GM crops, and it warns that GM plants like oilseed rape and sugar beet can easily cross with their wild relatives. Just two weeks ago the EU agriculture commissioner repeated that no GM products were approved unless they were completely safe. But those assurances are not getting through. In a recent EU poll, nearly two-thirds said they were worried about the safety of GM foods.
EU approves genetically modified foods despite serious concerns - New documents reveal EU Commission's double standards
Brussels, 18 April 2006 - New documents released to Friends of the Earth reveal that the European Commission has been approving genetically modified (GM) foods and crops despite having serious doubts over their health and environmental impacts. Both Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have today called for a suspension in the use and sale of all GM foods and crops until the safety issues have been addressed. The documents reveal the scientific arguments put forward behind closed doors in the recent GM trade dispute (1). In them, the Commission argues that there are "large areas of uncertainty" and that "some issues have not yet been studied at all". They also reveal that:
* On human safety: "there simply is no way of ascertaining whether the introduction of GM products has had any other effect on human health
there is no unique, absolute, scientific cut off threshold available to decide whether a GM product is safe or not."
* On growing GM crops: "It is a reasonable and lawful position" that insect-resistant crops (the only GM crops being grown in the EU) should not be planted until all the effects on the soil are known.
* On the environment: a key scientific study that was used to support the environmental safety of a GM crop is "scientifically flawed".
* There are huge disagreements between the Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an EU agency. In one example, the Commission criticises the EFSA for not requiring further investigations after dismissing scientific evidence that showed that a certain GMO had negative effects on earthworms.
A comprehensive report on the new revelations has been written by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace (2).
At the same time as the Commission was writing and submitting these documents to the WTO highlighting safety concerns, it:
* Pushed through the approval of seven GM foods over the past 2 years, despite a lack of support from member states;
* Required member states to vote twice on proposals to lift national bans on GM products in five countries (November 2004 and June 2005). It was defeated in both votes (3). Ironically, in the submissions to the WTO, the Commission gave scientific arguments to justify the bans.
* Commercialised 31 varieties of Monsanto's GM maize for cultivation in the EU. (4)
"The sale and growing of all genetically modified food and crops in the European Union must be halted immediately, given the serious concerns over their safety that have now come to light," Adrian Bebb, GM Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said. "This is a political scandal. When the EU Commission broke the moratorium and forced new genetically modified foods into Europe, it told the public they were safe. Now we know that behind closed doors the Commission was arguing the complete opposite," Bebb added. "These double standards of the EU Commission clearly show that public health and environmental protection are being compromised by an institution intent on promoting trade and business interests at any costs," he said.
Christoph Then, Genetic Engineering Campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "The truth is now out in the open for all to see. The released EU papers outline detailed scientific concerns about the safety of genetically modified food and crops." "These revelations are astonishing; they show contempt for humans and the environment, and prove that Europe?s safety net is not working. The European Food Safety Authority, on which the Commission depends for advice, comes out particularly badly and needs to be urgently and radically reformed."
Notes to the Editor
1. The Commission's scientific arguments at the World Trade Organisations are outlined in two documents:
Comments by the European Communities on the Scientific and Technical Advice to the Panel, Geneva, 28 January 2005; and Further scientific or technical evidence in response to the other parties' comments by the European Communities, Geneva, 10 February 2005. Both can be downloaded from http://www.foeeurope.org/biteback/EC_case.htm
2. The Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace report can be downloaded at http://www.foeeurope.org/biteback/download/hidden_uncertainties.pdf
4. The Commission put 17 varieties of Monsanto's MON810 maize on the EC Common Catalogue of seeds in September 2004. A further 14 varieties were added in December 2005.
Contacts: Friends of the Earth: Adrian Bebb +49 1609 490 1163 (mobile) - Helen Holder +32 474 857638 (mobile)
Greenpeace: Christoph Then +49 1718780832 (mobile) - Katharine Mill, media officer, tel +32 (0)2 274 1903 or +32 (0)496 156 229
Resistance continues to GM crops - There is an alternative - Marc Dufumier - Le Monde diplomatique, April 2006 - Translated by Donald Hounam
[Marc Dufumier is a lecturer at the Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon]
There are 6.5 billion people on this planet. More than 850 million of them go hungry and almost 2 billion, for lack of sufficient proteins, vitamins and minerals, suffer from malnutrition. The transnational seed-manufacturing companies claim that GM plants can help solve this problem. Should we believe them?
More than two-thirds of the underfed are smallholder farming families who rely exclusively upon hand tools and do not produce enough crops or animals to feed themselves, either directly or through the market. Then there are the poor and indebted who have flocked into shanty towns but have failed to find paid employment. The best way to reduce global hunger and malnutrition would be to raise the productivity and agricultural incomes of the poorest farmers. But there is no evidence that GM crops can help us attain this goal. Practically, the emphasis should be on the cultivation of different species and varieties that complement each other in space and time. Our priorities should be:<
*To take maximum advantage of solar radiation and to use photosynthesis to transform as much light as possible into food calories.
*Encourage bacteria living in symbiotic relationship with legumes to produce proteins from the atmosphere through nitrogen fixation.
*Ensure the maximum penetration of the soil by plant roots and assist the vertical transfer of minerals to the surface through the creation of aerial biomass, whose fallen leaves will decompose into the arable layer.
*Guarantee sufficient plant coverage to protect land surface from erosive elements (tropical rainfall, runoffs, violent winds).
*Encourage the production of humus by spreading organic matter on fields under cultivation.
*Prevent the propagation and proliferation of potentially predatory insects and pathogenic agents.
The best chance for marginal farmers lies with hardy varieties that can survive in uncertain conditions, limiting the risks from bad harvests. One example is the recent success of the pluvial rice Nerica in West Africa. This cross between African and Asian varieties is rich in proteins, resistant to drought, and is not GM.
When agriculture and animal-rearing are carried out side by side, crop residues can be fed to livestock, and animal droppings turned into manure without being moved over distances. But farmers need access to the necessary means of production: draft animals, carts, sufficient land. This is more a question of resource allocation than of genetic manipulation.
Among the farming communities of the third world there is an under-exploited wealth of natural knowledge. This is demonstrated by groups that cultivate the creole gardens of Haiti and many other Caribbean islands. Some societies in Sudano-Sahelian Africa sow their cereals in parklands beneath Acacia albida, a leguminous tree whose foliage provides excellent animal fodder and also helps fertilise the soil. Alongside their rice, the farmers of Vietnam's Red River delta also cultivate algae, encouraging cyanobacteria that assist in the nitrogen fertilisation of the soil. Raising ducks on paddies is an effective way of combating the insects that feed on rice.
All of these techniques could be improved, so agronomists won't be out of a job, provided that they respect often complex ecosystems whose productive capacities will continue to need careful management. There is no evidence to suggest that genetics is the factor limiting agricultural production and incomes, or that GM organisms can be useful to poor farmers. Only a fool could believe that the multinationals, having made massive investments in GM crops, are going to hand over their seeds to the planet's least economically-viable farmers.
The developing world is already growing GM soya beans, maize and cotton on the great landed estates of Brazil, in Argentina and in South Africa. There is no sign that these crops are helping to end the poverty of landless peasants or of the inhabitants of the favelas and bantustans.
MORE ON SOLUTIONS
Farming solutions without GM crops - http://www.farmingsolutions.org
Feeding or Fooling the World - Can GM really feed the hungry? - http://www.fiveyearfreeze.org/Feed_Fool_World.pdf
Genetic security in native seed-baskets - http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=1222
The Venoms Of Scorpions And Spiders - report on GM cotton in Africa - http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4571
A New Green Revolution in Africa? - http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~degrassi/gra.htm
African Organic Success - New Scientist - http://www.biotech-info.net/ordinary_miracle.html
SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE: GLOBAL HIGHLIGHTS
Sustainable Farming Has Sustained Our Lives - http://www.acts.or.ke/sacred/Report%20-%20ORGANIC%20FARMING.pdf
Resistance continues to GM crops - Mali: not on my farm - Le Monde diplomatique, April 2006 - http://mondediplo.com/2006/04/11gmomali
Cotton is the main currency earner for Mali, one of the world's poorest countries. Before Mali would allow the introduction of GM cotton, it asked a citizen's jury to evaluate its potential advantages and dangers. After deliberation, the jury voted against GM.
By Roger Gaillard
A tall, thin man jumped to his feet and grabbed the microphone. In a resonant voice, his forefinger raised towards the fans that struggled to mitigate the midday heat, he addressed the meeting in Bambara, the local language: "We're just poor farmers. Why are they asking us to accept GMOs if the rich farmers in northern countries don't want them?" There were murmurs of agreement from the audience. The microphone was passed to a young farmer with her baby: "What's the point of encouraging us to increase yields with GMOs when we can't get a decent price for what we already produce?"
This happened in the south of Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world. Sikasso is a quiet town in a rural province that produces two-thirds of Mali's main currency earner, cotton. For five days in January, 43 small farmers, many of them women, met for an extraordinary exercise in participatory democracy. The Sikasso Regional Assembly, the provincial parliament, invited cotton growers from across the region to form a citizens' jury to evaluate the potential advantages and dangers of introducing GM into Malian agriculture. The Citizen's Space for Democratic Deliberation (Ecid) took its name from a form of public debate that is already well-established in Mali. For the first time in West Africa, the jury was supported by European partners promoting participative methods as a means of assessing technological choices and development policies (1).
The Sikasso forum was a response to the strong pressure being exerted upon African countries by food-processing multinationals, led by the United States company Monsanto and the Swiss Syngenta Foundation, which aspire to industrialise the agricultural sector and open markets to transgenic crops. They are promoting Bt cotton, which produces an effective toxin against certain pests, theoretically allowing the reduction of pesticide use and guaranteeing higher yields to farmers. Since West Africa is the world's third-largest cotton-producing area, there is much at stake for these companies, which enjoy the support of the US Agency for International Development and its $100m budget to encourage biotechnologies in the developing world.
African responses have been varied. Despite the threat of famine, Zambia has refused aid from the World Food Programme, which notoriously peddles surplus US GM maize. Benin has accepted this double-edged gift, despite declaring a five-year moratorium on GMOs in 2002. South Africa, the food industry's bridgehead, has grown transgenic cotton and maize for almost 10 years, with controversial results. In Burkina Faso, Mali's neighbour, full field trials of GM cotton have been under way since 2003 despite opposition.
In Sikasso, the citizens' jury members listened with sustained concentration to expert witnesses from western and southern Africa, India and Europe. Molecular biologists, agricultural engineers, members of NGOs and representatives of farmers' movements answered wide-ranging questions about the benefits and dangers: environmental and health risks, real productivity increases, socio-economic factors, ethical and legal issues, and cultural implications, all the more relevant for often being unspoken. The Bambara expression for GM is Bayere ma'shi ("transformed mother"): in a country where animism remains a powerful force beneath a veneer of Islam, the reality of genetic engineering - transferring genes from one species to another - is enough to disturb.
There was much discussion of the crucial problem of intellectual property rights and the patenting of living organisms. As the Beninese geneticist Jeanne Zoundjihekpon, from the NGO Grain, pointed out: "Bt seeds are protected by patents that give companies absolute control over growers. Small farmers have always kept seed from the harvest to re-sow the following year, but now the threat of legal action will deprive them of that right." This is a telling argument in an area of Africa where, as Mamadou Goïta, director of the Coalition to Protect Mali's Genetic Heritage, reminded the assembly, the cotton industry is in crisis. The Malian Textile Development Company, 60% of which is owned by the state and 40% by the French company Dagris, is losing money following the devaluation of the CFA franc and the collapse of the global market in white gold, despite the fact that between 1994 and 2005 annual production rose from 320,000 to 600,000 tonnes.
The World Bank has made the company's privatisation in 2008 a necessary condition for any financial aid to Mali's government. At a time when the cost of imported chemicals is rising, the company's losses have driven down the price it pays to producers from 210 CFA francs per kilo in 2004 to 160 (approx 30 US cents) in 2006. Cotton is no longer profitable and many farmers who grow it exclusively are considering diversifying into food crops such as millet and maize. But Goïta has another suggestion: "Organic cotton could be a passport to markets in European countries where there is opposition to GMOs. In Mali there are 3,000,000 people who depend on cotton, so we simply can't compete with a power like the US, which practises a policy of dumping by paying massive subsidies of $4bn a year to just 25,000 growers."
The multinationals refused to put their case to the jury. "We sent several invitations to Syngenta and Monsanto," explained Barbara Bordogna, a biologist with RIBios and a member of the Ecid steering committee, "but they seem reluctant to engage in an open and transparent debate that they are unable to control." But Monsanto did recommend farmers who supported its cause. A Zulu farmer, TJ Buthelezi, who has been growing Bt cotton since 1996, insisted that the results were conclusive: ever since fields sown with transgenic cotton withstood a flood that devastated conventional crops, he has exclusively grown GMOs, including maize which he eats himself without any ill-effect on his health. "Copy me," he told the Malian farmers. "Get rich!"
PV Satheesh, from the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, put the counter-argument with the results of a methodical three-year study showing that traditional cotton growers in his region had obtained higher yields than those testing transgenic seed, and that pesticide use with Bt varieties was only marginally lower than with conventional varieties. The higher price of Bt seed, combined with disappointing yields, eventually ruined many small farmers. Following Monsanto's refusal to agree compensation, the state of Andhra Pradesh recently banned it from operating within its borders.
Other witnesses expressed less polarised positions. Ouola Traore is an agronomist and head of the cotton programme at the Institute for the Environment and Agricultural Research in Burkina Faso, where Bt cotton has been undergoing tests since 2003 with a view to starting commercial production after 2010. He said: "The only way to determine whether GMOs are a future solution for West Africa is to carry out in-depth research into local varieties adapted to our climate." But his call for independent public research didn?t go down well with an audience suspicious of the notorious dependence of Africa's scientific institutions upon funding from lobbies promoting biotechnological development.
The members of the jury finally separated into several committees (one all-woman) based on the size of their holdings. After deliberating for a day, they returned their verdict: no. The Sikasso farmers unanimously rejected the introduction of GMOs to Mali, their primary concern being to prevent dependence upon multinationals by preserving local varieties and traditional know-how. As Brahim Sidebe, put it: "We want to be the masters of our own fields, not slaves."
Birama Kone emphasised the preservation of a cooperative way of life: "Our farmers are used to helping each other. The danger is that GMOs will destroy that sense of friendship and solidarity. If I have a GM field and my neighbour doesn't, contamination problems are bound to create conflict between us."
For the women, Basri Lidigoita called for research into using traditional agronomic techniques to improve local varieties, and for better training for small farmers, especially in organic farming.
The jury's recommendations were passed to the Sikasso Regional Assembly on 29 January and broadcast by local radio stations (whichhad relayed the debate daily) and by Malian television. The result is not binding, but it is likely to prove influential since Mali is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (2). Under proposed legislation there would be public consultation at a national level before the introduction of any GMO, even for testing.
"We don't want GMOs, ever," said Lidigoita, "and we are calling upon the government to prevent them entering the country. If farmers grow them illegally, we'll set fire to their fields."
Translated by Donald Hounam
Roger Gaillard is a journalist with the InfoSud press agency, Geneva
(1) The Biosafety Interdisciplinary Network, which organises courses in biosecurity at the universities of Geneva and Lausanne, will soon offer one in the Malian capital, Bamako.
(2) The Cartagena Protocol on the prevention of biotechnological risk, adopted as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, is intended "to contribute to ensuring an adequate level of protection in the field of the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and specifically focusing on transboundary movements". By the set date of 4 June 2001, 103 countries had signed.
Watchdog fails on GM food: Chance - Eloise Dortch - West Australian, pg 11 - http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=2711
Agriculture Minister Kim Chance has attacked the national food safety watchdog, claiming it does not adequately assess health impacts of genetically modified crops. He said more information was needed about the effects of GM food for public health and to inform WA Government policy, which currently includes a moratorium on commercial GM crops. Mr Chance opened fire in defence of the Governments move to fund one of only a few trials to be held worldwide into the effect of feeding animals genetically modified crops.
The plan has attracted criticism from pro-GM scientists and Food Standards Australia New Zealand because the work will be conducted by a research group which is openly opposed to GM products. The trial, due to start mid-year, will see laboratory rats or mice fed GM and non-GM crops over a six month period. Their blood and organs will then be analysed to see if there is any significant difference between those fed different crops. The Government has given a South Australian group, the Institute of Health and Environmental Research, $92,000 to conduct the trial. Institute director Judy Carman said previous trials, generally focussing on one function such as reproductivity, had shown rodents fed GM crops were significantly less healthy with greater infant mortality, slower growth rates and lower immunity.
Mr Chance said that after announcing the trial in November he had received letters from US scientists criticising the move. All the scientists received research funding from GM companies. Mr Chance said Dr Carman was a "world-class scientist. In addition, the trial would be overseen by an independent steering committee of respected scientists and the results peer-reviewd for publication in a scientific journal. NZ's approach was inadequate (Testing by FSANZ) is not rigorous at all. What they do is review information sent to them by the GM companies and the review is fairly superficial and they don't look at the raw data," Mr Chance said.
FSANZ spokesperson Lydia Buchtmann agreed FSANZ did not conduct trials involving feeding animals or people GM foods. She said FSANZ used product data from GM companies and compared it with data about conventionally grown food of the same type in deciding to approve products. The decisions were extensively peer-reviewed by Australian and international scientists. "To date no studies have shown any problem with the foods we have approved and we are well regarded internationally," she said.
Safety checks on GMOs flawed: EU environment chief - By Jeremy Smith - Wed Apr 5, 2006
VIENNA (Reuters) - Europe's environment chief attacked the EU's top food safety agency on Wednesday for flawed risk assessments of genetically modified (GMO) crops and foods, saying it relied too much on data given by the biotech industry. In a strong hint he was unwilling to process new requests for approval of GMOs for growing until their potential long-term impact was known, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas also warned against using such data as a sole information source. His comments on EFSA, Europe's Parma-based food safety agency, which conducts scientific risk assessments of GMO products awaiting EU approval, echoed similar criticisms made last month by the bloc's environment ministers. "There are questions like whether scientific opinions rendered by EFSA have relied exclusively on information provided by companies that look at short-term effects," he said. "EFSA cannot give a sound scientific opinion on long-term effects of GMOs. There are also questions on whether GMO companies are providing the right information to the European Commission," he told a news conference.
EFSA's opinions are required by law if any country objects to a company's application to authorize a new GMO product on EU territory. The agency, set up in 2002, conducts its assessments based on data given by the biotech companies that make the GMOs. At their last meeting in March, several of the EU's 25 environment ministers accused EFSA of failing to take independent and national studies into account for its GMO risk assessments and of not allowing proper access to its research. This is not the first time EFSA, set up in 2002, has drawn fire on its GMO reports, mainly by green groups that say the agency shows repeated bias in favor of the biotech industry. This view is disputed by industry, which says EFSA's independent work is undermined by a small number of countries that oppose GMO crops on political and not scientific grounds. EFSA says it is not influenced by commercial or other interests. [!]
NEW APPROVALS 'ON HOLD'?
Later, in a speech delivered to a two-day conference on GMO crop separation, Dimas gave a clear indication that longer-term studies on the potential impact of GMOs were needed before the EU could consider new applications for approval. Three such applications are now sitting in his department of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, back in Brussels -- two modified maize types and one GMO potato variety. "Applications for cultivation of GMO products raise a whole new series of possible risks to the environment, notably potential longer-term effects that could impact on biodiversity," he told conference delegates. "No new GM varieties have as yet been approved under the new regulatory framework. And it is essential that we address such potential risks before granting approvals for their cultivation," he said. Dimas was referring to the 2001 Deliberate Release directive, the EU's main GMO law that is used for approvals of any GMO destined for growing in Europe's fields. While the EU has authorized a few GMO crops for cultivation -- the only one that is grown commercially is maize, mainly in Spain -- these approvals were granted before 1998, when the EU began a six-year unofficial ban on all new GMO authorizations.
UN Upholds Moratorium on Terminator Seed Technology
Worldwide Movement of Farmers, Indigenous Peoples and Civil Society Organizations Calls for Ban
Ban Terminator Campaign - News Release - 31 March 2006 - www.etcgroup.org - www.banterminator.org
It's official. Governments at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have unanimously upheld the international de facto moratorium on Terminator technology - plants that are genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds at harvest. The 8th meeting of the CBD ended today in Curitiba, Brazil.
"The CBD has soundly rejected the efforts of Canada, Australia and New Zealand - supported by the US government and the biotechnology industry - to undermine the moratorium on suicide seeds," said Maria Jose Guazzelli of Centro Ecologico, a Brazil-based agro-ecological organization.
"By consensus decision, all governments have re-affirmed the moratorium on a genetic engineering technology that threatens the lives and livelihoods of 1.4 billion people who depend on farmer-saved seed," said Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group.
Over the past two weeks, the call for a ban on sterile-seed technology took center stage at the UN meeting in Brazil. Thousands of peasant farmers, including those from Brazil's Landless Workers Movement (Movimento Sem Terra) protested daily outside the UN meeting to demand a ban, and the women of the international Via Campesina movement of peasant farmers staged a powerful silent protest inside the meeting on 23 March. "Terminator seeds are genocide seeds," said Francisca Rodriguez from Via Campesina, "We have pride in being one more step forward in our struggle but we will not stop until Terminator is banned from the face of the earth."
The CBD's moratorium on Terminator, adopted six years ago, was under attack by three governments - Australia, Canada and New Zealand - that insisted on a "case-by-case risk assessment" of the technology. A broad coalition of farmers, social movements, Indigenous peoples and civil society organizations pressed governments meeting in Brazil to reject the controversial text because it threatened to open the door to national-level field testing of Terminator, without regard for its devastating social impacts.
On 23 March, Malaysia, speaking on behalf of the G77 and China (together a group of 130 developing nations), said that the reference to case-by-case risk assessment was "clearly unacceptable" because it would potentially allow field tests. Today the CBD re-affirmed the moratorium on Terminator and even strengthened it by making it clear that any future research would only be conducted within the bounds of the moratorium - meaning no field trials.
Leading up to the UN meeting, civil society groups and social movements across the globe intensified their campaigns against Terminator - sending a strong message to governments meeting in Brazil. Actions include:
* In India, farmers collected over a half million signatures calling on the Prime Minister to remain strong in defending the national ban on Terminator and upholding the international moratorium;
* On 16 March, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on European governments to uphold the CBD moratorium and reject text on "case by case;"
* On March 23, following extensive consultations, Indigenous community leaders in Peru called on multinational company Syngenta to abandon its Terminator-like patent on potatoes;
* In Madrid on March 23, anti-Terminator protesters planted local varieties of organic vegetable seeds outside Monsanto's offices;
* Last week groups targeted those countries supporting Terminator and, in addition to domestic letter-writing campaigns, protests were held at the New Zealand embassies in London and New Delhi, and a protest was held at the Canadian embassy in Berlin.
"The international moratorium on Terminator has been upheld - but the battle isn't over yet. Terminator will be commercialized unless national governments take action to ban it - as Brazil and India have done," said Lucy Sharratt of the international Ban Terminator Campaign.
5000 peasant farmers protested today outside the UN conference to send government delegates home with their message to protect Farmers' Rights.
For further information:
Pat Mooney, ETC Group, email@example.com, +55 41 884 32014
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group, firstname.lastname@example.org, + 52 5555 6326 64
Hope Shand, ETC Group, email@example.com, +1 919 960-5767
Kathy Jo Wetter, ETC Group, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 919 960-5223
Terminator rejected! A victory for the people
Just an hour ago here in Brazil, the Chair of the UN meeting announced that governments have agreed to reject language that would have undermined the moratorium on Terminator. Groups, communities and individuals across the world have joined together in this fight to ban Terminator and your action has been effective in this important first step. The Ban Terminator Campaign will continued to monitor the meetings today and next week.
Terminator rejection - a victory for the people
A broad coalition of peasant farmers, indigenous peoples and civil society today celebrate the firm rejection of efforts to undermine the global moratorium on Terminator technologies - genetically engineered sterile seeds - at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil. "This is a momentous day for the 1.4 billion poor people world wide, who depend on farmer saved seeds," said Francisca Rodriguez of Via Campesina a world wide movement of peasant farmers, "Terminator seeds are a weapon of mass destruction and an assault on our food sovereignty. Terminator directly threatens our life, our culture and our identity as indigenous peoples", said Viviana Figueroa of the Ocumazo indigenous community in Argentina on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity.
"Todays' decision is a huge step forward for the Brazilian Campaign against GMOs," said Maria Rita Reis from the Brazilian Forum of Social movements and NGOs, "This reaffirms Brazils' existing ban on Terminator. It sends a clear message to the national government and congress that the world supports a ban on Terminator." "Common sense has prevailed lifting the Moratorium on the Terminator seeds would have been suicidal literally,” said Greenpeace International’s Benedikt Haerlin from the Convention meeting. "This is a genuine victory for civil society around the world - it will go a long way to ensuring that biodiversity, food security and the livelihoods of millions of farmers around the world are protected.”
Terminators, or GURTS (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies), are a class of genetic engineering technologies which allow companies to introduce seeds whose sterile offspring cannot reproduce, preventing farmers from re-planting seeds from their harvest. The seeds could also be used to introduce specific traits which would only be triggered by the application of proprietary chemicals by the same companies.
At the CBD Australia, Canada and New Zealand along with the US government (not a party to the CBD) and a number of biotech companies were leading attempts to open the door to field testing of Terminator seeds by insisting on ‘case by case’ assessment of such technologies. This text was unanimously rejected today in the CBD's working group dealing with the issue. It still needs to be formally adopted by the plenary of the CBD.
Despite today's victory, there is no doubt that the multinational biotech industry will continue to push sterile seed technology. ‘Terminator’ will rear its ugly head at the next UN CBD meeting in 2008. The only solution a total ban on the technology once and for all,” concluded Pat Mooney of the Ban Terminator Campaign. Now all national governments must enact national bans on Terminator as Brazil and India have done.
Ban Terminator Action Alerts Canada
email@example.com - http://www.banterminator.org
Terminator Seeds Poor Farmers Could Face Billions of Dollars in extra Seed Bills
Press Release - UK Campaigning Group on Terminator Technology - 22nd March 2006
The first estimates of the costs of GM terminator technology to farmers around the world has been released as the debate about the controversial sterile seed technology intensifies at the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) talks in Brazil today. The estimates , prepared by civil society organisation ETC Group in cooperation with farm organisations, show that if Terminator was commercialised and displaced all farm saved seed the extra seed costs for farmers in just seven countries could easily exceed $1.2 billion per year equivalent to 23% of the UK’s £5.3 million aid budget. Examples of the extra costs to replace farm saved seed used for major crops include:
Soya beans in Brazil 70% of the planted area additional costs- $407m/year.
Wheat in Pakistan 88% of the planted area additional costs $191m/year.
Rice in the Philippines 59% of the planted area additional costs $172m/year.
If Terminator technology were applied over time to all the seed lines around the world, the costs to farmers of buying fresh seed annually would be billions of dollars. Even Canadian wheat farmers, whose government is one of the leading proponents of Terminator at the CBD, could be stung with an annual bill of US$85 million dollars.
Biotech companies have made no secret of their plans to maximise their share of the global seed market. The global farm saved seed market is potentially huge and even in the UK it is estimated that between 10 and 40% of oilseed rape seed is saved each year . In Argentina, where 90% of soya is now GM, farmers continued the practice of seed saving when GM soya was introduced and Monsanto has made retrospective attempts through the courts to re-coup its lost sales from European importers . Companies are likely to want to circumvent such GM seed saving with the use of Terminator technology.
The issue of Terminator technology is being negotiated at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), meeting in Curitiba, Brazil this week . Terminator crops (or GURTS - genetic use restriction technologies) are genetically modified to create sterile seeds at harvest so that farmers must buy new seed every season. Over 500 organisations around the world have joined the Ban Terminator campaign to prevent the current CBD decision  which placed a global moratorium on outdoor testing or commercial growing of Terminator crops before global socio-economic assessments had been completed, being weakened at this week’s talks.
A small group of industrialised nations, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the UK (supported on the sidelines by the US which is not a member of the CBD) promoted "case by case risk assessment" for Terminator Technology. This "case by case" clause would open the door to field testing and eventual commercialisation of sterile seed technology ahead of an understanding of the socio-economic impact on the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm saved seeds for their food security and livelihoods . The ETC data is the first attempt to be published to assess the cumulative impact of hundreds of |terminator seeds lines around the world.
Roberto Requião, the Governor of Brazil's Paraná state, opened the CBD conference on Monday with a strong condemnation of Terminator. "Suicide seeds are the next step in the transnational industry's strategy to control the production and commercial use of seeds." Requião told the opening plenary of 3000 delegates "It is one more step by transnational industry to obtain total control over the production of the grain."
Commenting for the UK Terminator Alliance , Pete Riley said: "No wonder the multinational seed industry is so keen to win 'case by case' assessment of Terminator. If they can undermine the existing moratorium they will use Terminator as a technology platform for all commercial seeds and extract billions of extra dollars from farmers. The UK government and others backing the case by case approach need to listen hard to Southern voices on this vital issue and maintain the moratorium”.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341065
1. The Potential Economic Impact of Terminator Seed Technology Estimates for Selected Crops and Countries - ETC Group (www.etcgroup.org )
Background: The president of Delta & Pine Land, the world’s largest cotton seed company, predicted in 1998 that Terminator could be used on over 400 million hectares of crops worldwide, and that it would provide seed companies with a safe way to introduce their patented seeds into countries like China, India and Pakistan especially for crops like rice, wheat, soybeans and cotton.[i] He also speculated that the technology fee would range from a low of 50 cents per acre to $1.50 per acre for high-value crops. (1 hectare = 2.47 acres). Delta & Pine Land is now growing Terminator plants in greenhouses in the United States. If farmers who now use farm-saved seeds were forced to buy new seeds every time they planted, what economic impact would it have on those countries?
The following case studies were compiled using statistics from national governments, farmers’ organizations, trade groups and universities. These statistics are theoretical but they illustrate what's at stake if the CBD fails to strengthen the de facto moratorium on Terminator and reject proposed language on “case-by-case risk assessment.” If Terminator seeds are commercialized, the multinational Gene Giants will take total control over the first link in the food chain.
In Brazil, an estimated 70 percent of the 22 million hectare soybean crop is planted in farmer-saved seed. If Terminator seeds were commercialized and used in soybeans, it would cost Brazilian soybean farmers US$407 million per year (Brazilian Real $866 million).[ii]
Argentina - Soybeans:
In Argentina, an estimated 70 percent of the 14 million hectare soybean crop comes from farmer-saved seed and purchases of “bolsa blanca” (black market) seeds. If Terminator seeds were commercialized and used in soybean seed, the estimated cost would be US$276 million per annum (BRL$588).[iii]
In Pakistan approximately 88% of the total wheat area is planted in farm-saved seeds. If wheat farmers in Pakistan were forced to rely on Terminator seeds it would cost them an estimated US$191 million per year (BRL $406 million).[iv]
An estimated 40% of Pakistan’s 3.15 million cotton area is planted in farm-saved cotton seed. The estimated cost if cotton farmers in Pakistan were forced to buy seed with Terminator technology: US$33 million per annum (BRL $70 million).[v]
In the Philippines, 59% of the rice crop is planted with farmer-saved seeds. If these rice farmers were forced to buy new seed every time they planted - they would spend an estimated US$172 million per annum (BRL $366).[vi]
In Ethiopia, approximately 90% of the total wheat area is planted in farm-saved seed. If Terminator seeds were commercialized and Ethiopian wheat farmers were forced to buy new seed every time they planted, it would cost an estimated US$66 million per year. (140 BRL)[vii]
In 2001-2002 more than 600,000 hectares under rice production in Iran, and more than 80% of the total rice area under cultivation was dedicated to local varieties, which implies farmer-saved seeds. If rice farmers in Iran who use farm-saved seed on an estimated 480,000 hectares were forced to buy Terminator rice seed, it would cost approximately US$34 million (BRL$72) [viii]
If Canadian wheat farmers (who now grow wheat on 8.36 million hectares with farm-saved seed) were forced to buy Terminator wheat seed, the total cost per annum would be US$85 million per annum (BRL$181).
2. Page 38 “GM Crops? Coexistence and Liability” A report by the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC), November 2003.
4. The COP8 of the CBD is being held in Brazil this week. Decisions on Terminator will be Wednesday 22nd March.
5. The global moratorium is CBD Decision V/5 section III agreed in 2000. This decision states that products incorporating Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) should not be approved for field-testing or commercial use until assessment of ecological, socio-economic and cultural impacts.
6. The UK Campaigning Group on Terminator Technology includes UK Food Group, Progressio (formerly CIIR), Friends of the Earth, GM Freeze, GeneWatch UK, The Gaia Foundation, EcoNexus, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Munlochy GM Vigil. Link to www.eco-matters.org for free copies of a leaflet on Terminator Technology.
EDM calling for moratorium on Terminator to be maintained has been signed by 215 MPs from all parties.
The group wrote to Margaret Beckett this week asking that the UK uphold the moratorium.
[i] Bill Freiberg, “Is Delta & Pine Land’s Terminator Gene” a Billion Dollar Discovery?” Seed and Crops Digest, March/April 1998.
[ii] Sources: Central Cooperative for Agricultural Research (Coodetec); Enrique Ortega. FEA, Unicamp, Campinas, Brasil, FAO.
Approximately 22 million hectares of soybeans were under cultivation in 2005/06. According to Central Cooperative for Agricultural Research (Coodetec), certified RR soybean seeds account for 2.5 million hectares of plantings only 11.4% of the 22 million hectares under cultivation in the 05-06 growing season. We are using a conservative estimate that 70% of the total soybean crop in Brazil is planted in farmer-saved and/or black market seed. According to Enrique Ortega, the cost of certified soybean seed in Brazil per hectare/per year is US$25.20. 15.4 million hectares x $25.20 = $388 million. If Brazilian soybean farmers who are currently using farm-saved seed were forced to buy commercial seed every year they would spend $388 million on seed at current commercial soybean seed prices. If an additional fee of 50 cents per acre were charged ($1.23 per hectare) $1.23 per hectare x 15.4 million hectares = $18,942,000. The total estimated cost to Brazilian soybean farmers, if Terminator seeds were commercialized and used in soybeans = $388 million + $19 million = $407 million.
[iii] Sources: Secretaria de Agricultura, Republica Argentina: http://www.sagpya.mecon.gov.ar/new/00/agricultura/otros/granos/soja.php; Walter Pengue, Professor of Agriculture and Ecology, University of Buenos Aires; In Argentina, approximately 70% of the soybean area is planted in farmer-saved seeds and seed purchased on the black market (“bolsa blanca”). Of the 14 million hectares of soybeans harvested in 2005, an estimated 9,800,00 hectares were sown with farm-saved soybean seeds. In Argentina, the cost of soybean seed (RR) is approximately US $27 per hectare. If farmers who are now using farm-saved seed were forced to use Terminator soybean seed, how much would they have to pay? 9,800,000 ha x $27 per ha = $264,600,000; estimated Terminator technology fee (50 cents per acre) = $1.23 per hectare: $1.23 x 9,800,000 = $12,054,000. Total = $264,600,000 + $12,054,000 = $276,654,000.
[iv] Sources: Lok Sanjh Foundation; www.nationalpak.com; FAOSTAT. Pakistan harvested approximately 8.3 million hectares of wheat in 2005. Only 12% of the total wheat area is planted with purchased seed. An estimated 7.3 million hectares of wheat are planted with farm-saved seed. The current price of wheat seed per hectare is approximately US$25.00. 7.3 million hectares x $25 per ha = $182,500,000. Estimated Terminator technology fee: $1.23 per hectare 7.3 million x $1.23 = $8,979,000. $182,500,000 + $8,979,000 = $191,479,000. Total estimated cost if wheat farmers in Pakistan (who are now growing wheat on 7.3 million hectares with farm-saved seed) were forced to buy seed with Terminator technology = $191,479,000.
[v] Sources: Sources: Lok Sanjh Foundation, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. In 2005/06, Pakistan produced 3.15 million hectares of cotton. An estimated 40% of the total cotton area, 1,260,000 hectares, is planted in farm-saved cotton seed. Cost of commercial cotton seed per hectare is approximately US$25. $25 per ha x 1,260,000 hectares = $31,500,000 Terminator technology fee - $1.23 per hectare = $1.23 x 1,260,000 = $1,549,800
$31,500,000 + $1,549,800 = $33,049,800
Total estimated cost if cotton farmers in Pakistan (who are now growing cotton on an estimated 1.26 million hectares with farm-saved seed) were forced to buy seed with Terminator technology = $33,049,800.
[vi] Sources: Philippines Department of Agriculture; SEARICE, FAO. Approximately 4.12 million hectares of rice were harvested in the Philippines in 2005. According to the Philippines Department of Agriculture, the area planted in certified, registered and hybrid rice for 05/06 targets = 1.68 million hectares. Of the 1.68 million ha, approx. 23% to hybrid rice; 77% to certified commercial rice seed. Approximately 41% total rice area in Philippines planted to purchased seed. An estimated 59% rice area planted to farmer-saved seeds and informal seed exchanges (SEARICE notes this is conservative estimate in reality the area planted to farmer-saved seed is higher) With government subsidy the current price of hybrid rice is $24 per hectare. For two plantings of rice per year, the total is $48 per hectare/per year. Cost of self-pollinated commercial rice seed: $76.50 per hectare per year (two plantings)
If 389,000 ha planted in hybrid rice, the cost of seed = 389,000 x $48 = $18,672,000 (govt. subsidized price) If 1,291,867 ha planted in certified commercial rice, the estimated cost of seed (two plantings per annum) = 1,292,000 hectares x $76.50 = $98,838,000
What would be the cost if farmers were forced to buy seed for 2,420,000 hectares the 59% of the total rice area now planted in farm-saved seeds? We calculate that 23% of total area is the cost of hybrid rice: 556,600 hectares x $48.00 = $26,716,800. Estimated additional technology fee of 50 cents per acre = $1.23 per hectare (1 hectare = 2.471 acres). The additional technology fee of $1.23 per hectare x 556,600 hectares = $684,618. $26,716,800 + $684,618 = $27,401,418. If 77% of Terminator rice area (1,863,400) 77% of the area now devoted to farm-saved rice was planted at cost of certified commercial (2 plantings per year = $76.50 per hectare) 1,863,400 ha x 76.50 = $142,550,100. 1,863,400 ha x $1.23 = $2,291,982. 77% of rice area calculated at cost of certified commercial seed + technology fee: Total = $144,842,082. 144,842,082 + $27,401,418 = $172,243,500 the total estimated cost if rice farmers in the Philippines (now growing rice on 2.4 million hectares with farm-saved seed) were forced to buy seed with Terminator technology.
[vii] Sources: FAO; Dr. Regassa Feyissa, former director, Institute of Biodiversity, Addis Ababa. More than 90% of the wheat crop in Ethiopia is planted in farmer-saved seed. The total wheat area harvested in 2005 was 1,200,000 hectares. Approximately 1,000,000 hectares planted in farm-saved seeds. Price of commercial wheat seed in Ethiopia = approximately 525 birr per hectare = US$;1 Ethiopian Birr = 0.12443 US dollar. 525 Birr = approximately $65.00 per ha. US$65 per hectare x 1,000,000 hectares = US$65,000,000 Estimated Terminator technology fee = $1.23 per hectare x 1,000,000 = $1,230,000. $65,000,000 + $1,230,000 = $66,000,000 per hectare. Ethiopian wheat farmers were forced to buy commercial wheat seed every time they planted, and if an additional technology fee of $1.23 per hectare were added to the price of commercial wheat seed, they would spend an estimated $66 million per annum.
[viii] Sources: Ministry of Jihad for Agriculture MJA, FAO/TCDC Mission to the Islamic Republic of Iran; N. Shobha Rani. On the Internet: http://www.fao.org/documents/ show_cdr.asp?url_file=//DOCREP/003/W8595T/ w8595t00.htm. According to FAO more than 80% of the rice land under cultivation is dedicated to local varieties, which implies farmer-saved seeds. In 2001-2002 more than 600,000 hectares were under rice production in Iran. In 2001-02 the average cost of commercial rice seed per hectare was 568,560 rials, about $70 US dollars at the exchange rate of the time. Estimated technology fee = US$1.23 per hectare x 480,000 hectare = US$590,400 480,000 x US$70 = US$33,600,000 US$590,400 + US$33,600,000 = US$34,190,400
Carrie Stebbings, Co-ordinator GM FREEZE CAMPAIGN, 94 White Lion Street, London, N1 9PF - Tel: 020 7837 0642 - Fax: 020 7837 1141
firstname.lastname@example.org - www.gmfreeze.org
Uganda: Southern Farmers Confront Challenge of Terminator II - PANOS, March 13, 2006 - Ebenezer Bifubyeka - Mbarara
Unknown perhaps to most farmers, the governments of Australia, Canada and New Zealand - apparently prompted by Washington - have just been trying to get the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, or CBD, to overturn a six-year-old moratorium on the production and use of what have come to be called 'Terminator Seeds'. The technology, developed by multinational biotech companies, is controversial because the genetic code that causes seeds to self-destruct after harvesting just once robs farmers of the opportunity to save and sow again season after season - as they have done ever since agriculture began thousands of years ago.
Officially known as Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT), it is aimed at stopping farmers from freely reproducing seeds developed by large companies who put considerable funds into research and development. It was jointly developed in the early 1990s by the US government's Department of Agriculture and the Delta and Pine Land Company. They hold a US patent on the technology, and in October 2005 were granted the first European terminator patent. The initial bid to introduce these seeds - also called 'Suicide Seeds' - in the late 1990s was met by massive public opposition across the world, with campaigners pointing out that 1.4 billion farmers worldwide depend on saved seeds and that the majority of them could not afford to buy new seeds every season. The outcry led the CBD to agree an international de-facto moratorium on use of Terminator in 2000.
A 'bewildering' return
However, at a meeting of the CBD in Granada, Spain, on 23 to 27 January 2006, Australia, Canada and New Zealand successfully argued that the technology could actually increase productivity. Making a case that some anti-GM campaigners called "bewildering", these countries argued that the new technology causes all crops to ripen at the same time - with minimum losses to storms and pests - which could increase profits for farmers. New wording added to the CBD by these countries at the working group meeting in Granada threatens to overturn the moratorium, advocating instead "a case-by-case risk assessment basis with respect to different categories of GURTs technology". In tandem, Monsanto, one of the largest biotech companies in the world, appears to have reversed a pledge made in 1999 not to commercialise Terminator technology in food crops. Monsanto's new policy says that although the company continues to "stand by that commitment today", it "does not rule out the potential development and use of one of these [GURTs] technologies in the future. The company will continue to study the risks and benefits of this technology on a case-by-case basis".
The new text from Granada is to be placed before a high-level meeting of the CBD at Curitiba in Brazil in March. Campaigners say the stand taken by the European Union at Curitiba will be key to the fate of the moratorium. Although the EU itself takes a 'case-by-case' approach to GMOs, whether or not it will want to harmonise CBD provisions with its domestic regulations remains unclear. In the meantime, just as in the 1990s, farmers' groups from around the world - particularly Africa - are up in arms.
The situation in Uganda captures the challenges facing farmers across the developing world - not only is knowledge about this technology scant, but governments do not have the expertise and technologies needed to assess the health and environmental risks posed by it. Food Rights Network (FORINET), an alliance of farmers' organisations, community-based organisations and civil society organisations based in Eastern Uganda, wrote to the CBD's scientific advisory body last year saying there was little knowledge about the potential health and environmental risks of using Terminator technology. "Uganda has no systems in place to monitor any negative impacts of the new GMO technology called GURTS or 'Terminator'," FLORINET said.
Individual farmers, once informed about the technology, have also expressed concern. A farmer in Bushenyi district in western Uganda said on condition of anonymity that if farmers are forced to buy seeds every season, they will become dependent on multinational companies controlling the production and sale of these seeds. "Farmers in poor countries will lose their seed saving practices and seed heritage thus losing ownership, sovereignty, independence, and dignity. We shall also lose export markets in countries that have rejected GM foods," she added.
One of the main fears farmers have is over the environmental effects of Terminator seeds - that they may cross-pollinate with non-GM plants in neighbouring fields and make the indigenous crops sterile too. "If the indigenous crops are contaminated with GMOs or Terminator through cross-pollination, it will destroy the local seed biodiversity and it will be difficult for the affected farmers to claim for compensation from the seed companies because it's not easy to provide scientific proof," said Christopher Benon Kababi, a bean and maize corn farmer at Mbarara in south-western Uganda. "Besides, poor farmers won't be able to pay for expensive legal action," he added.
While most Ugandan farmers that Panos spoke to were strongly opposed to terminator seeds, a small minority saw in them an opportunity to increase profits. Mbarara farmer Elkad Bakeihahoki, who harvests 100 bags of indigenous maize corn each season said: "I have never grown the GM crops or Terminator seeds. But I like improved varieties, so if Terminator seeds are commercialised and they yield well, I would buy and plant them." But Jeconious Musingwire, south-western zonal officer for the government's National Environmental Management Authority urged caution. "Terminator and other GM varieties may have a disastrous impact on the environment, and communities have the right to say 'no'," he said. "Governments should ask seed manufacturing corporations to carry out independent social, environmental and economic impact analysis and report this to the affected communities."
'No GM seeds for planting' - minister
Minister for agriculture, fisheries and animal husbandry, Mary Mugyenyi was categorical that the Uganda government has not accepted GM seeds, including Terminator seeds, for planting. "We don't accept GM seeds for planting at all. We only accept modified [GM] food like maize flour but not seeds for planting," Mugyenyi told Panos. The government's position was articulated forcefully at the Granada CBD meeting where the Ugandan representative spoke on behalf of all African countries. "Perhaps the impacts of GURTs would not be felt more than on the African continent, where 90 per cent of all seed planted is from farm-saved sources; and where most of the farmers are small-scale subsistence farmers, predominantly local and indigenous communities," David Hafashimana told the meeting. "The basis of survival of biological diversity lies in the ability of all living organisms not only to live and die, but to replace themselves before they die," he added.
Campaigners, scientists unite
African campaigners are also worried that further liberalisation of international trading rules - being negotiated at the UN World Trade Organisation - may ease the entry of Terminator and other GMOs into countries such as Uganda, where the use of GM seeds and plants is banned. The forum also heard the CBD's own scientific advisors advocate caution, and African NGOs slam the move to overturn the moratorium. The CBD's Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) was clear in its assessment: "In the current absence of reliable data on GURTs, without which there is inadequate basis on which to assess their potential risks, and in accordance with the precautionary approach, products incorporating such technologies should not be approved by parties for field testing" until further tests had been carried out and their results made known to farmers.
Additionally, a coalition of African NGOs told the meeting: "We find bewildering the insistence by industry, and the countries that are promoting the use of GURTS (Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand), that this technology will lead to food security and improved yields. We can only shake our heads in wonder at the logic. To us it is obvious. There can be no food security if there are sterile seeds," they said. "Perhaps it is harder for those from developed countries to appreciate what seed means to us. But let us assure you that when we have described this technology to farmers, their response is one of disbelief, fear and outrage."
Biotech Foods: David versus Goliath - Developing Countries Fight With Big Business Over Safety Laws
Media Advisory Friends of the Earth International - Friday 10 March 2006
CURITIBA (BRAZIL), 10 March 2006 - The battle between the majority of developing countries and some of the world's biggest corporations will peak on March 13-17, 2006 in Brazil. United Nations talks on the global trade in genetically modified (GM), or biotech foods and crops will highlight the gap between countries demanding the right to regulate imports of GM products and the huge business interests that seek to benefit from weak rules.
The identification and labeling of imports of GM products will be the key debate in Curitiba. (1) The biotech industries consistently opposed clear identification and labelling requirements for any of the GM crops on the market today. Without clear labelling many countries, especially developing countries with their limited resources, are unable to protect their food supply and environment from GM contamination.(2)
Nnimmo Bassey, International Coordinator of the Friends of the Earth GM Campaign said: "These talks are key to protecting the environment and the world's food supply from contamination from the biotech industry. Every country should have the right to know what is being imported and to decide if they want to eat genetically modified foods or not. African countries and other developing countries will not be the dumping ground for genetically modified crops that no one else wants."
The UN Biosafety Protocol, which was originally agreed in January 2000, provides basic international rules that allow mainly developing countries to regulate the safety of GM foods, crops and seeds. It has been ratified by 132 countries but the three main countries that grow GM crops – the United States, Argentina and Canada - have refused to support it. Talks broke down in Montreal in June 2005 after Brazil and New Zealand blocked proposals that would have allowed the majority of developing countries to know if GM grains were being imported.
Ten years after the first significant planting of GM crops, no plants with benefits to consumers or the environment have materialized and GM crops have failed to deliver the promises of the biotech industry. More than 80% of the area cultivated with biotech crops is still concentrated in only three countries: the US, Argentina and Canada. Friends of the Earth International recently published a report (3) that concluded: GM crops are not "green". Monsanto's GM soybeans, the most extensively grown GM crop today, has led to an increase in herbicide use. The intensive cultivation of soybeans in South America is fostering deforestation, and has been associated with a decline in soil fertility and soil erosion.
GM crops do not tackle hunger or poverty. Most GM crops commercialized so far are destined for animal feed, not for food, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty issues. In Argentina, the second biggest producer of GM crops in the world, only 2% of the soya stays in the country. Other developing countries, such as Indonesia and India, have experienced substantial problems with Monsanto crops. GM crops, often leaving farmers heavily indebted.
The biotech industry has failed to introduce the promised "new generation" of GM crops with consumer benefits. After 30 years of research, only two modifications have made it to the marketplace on any scale: insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.
For more information contact
Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth International / Friends of the Earth Nigeria Tel: +234 8037274395 (Nigerian mobile) or email email@example.com
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe Tel +49 1609 490 1163 (German mobile) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International Tel +34 6259 805 820 (Spanish mobile)
Notes to editors
(1) For a full briefing on the Biosafety Protocol see: http://www.foei.org/gmo/Briefing_Curitiba.pdf
(2) See FoEI Briefing: Tackling GM contamination: making segregation and identification a reality http://www.foei.org/publications/pdfs/contamination3.pdf
(3) See http://www.foei.org/media/2006/0110.html
For more information:
Background on biosafety: http://www.foei.org/gmo/biosafety.html
First contamination report reveals worldwide illegal spread of genetically engineered crops
PRESS RELEASE: 8th March 2006
Greenpeace and GeneWatch UK call for urgent adoption of international biosafety standards The first report into the extent to which genetically engineered (GE) organisms have 'leaked' into the environment - released today - reveals a disturbing picture of widespread contamination, illegal planting and negative agricultural side effects.
The report is a summary of incidents uncovered by the on-line Contamination Register (1) set up by Greenpeace and GeneWatch UK. It reveals a catalogue of highly disturbing incidents right across the world, including
* Pork meat from genetically engineered pigs being sold to consumers
* Ordinary crops being contaminated with GE crops containing pharmaceuticals
* Growing and international distribution of illegal antibiotic resistant Maize seeds
* Planting of outlawed GE crops which have been smuggled into countries
* Mixing of unapproved GE crops in food, including shipments of food aid
* Inadvertent mixing of different GE strains even in high profile scientific field trials
The report reveals 113 such cases worldwide, involving 39 countries - twice as many countries as are officially allowed to grow GE crops since they were first commercialised in 1996. Worryingly, the frequency of these cases is increasing, with 11 countries affected in 2005 alone. Contamination has even been found in countries conducting supposedly "carefully controlled" high-profile farm-scale evaluations, such as the UK. "This may well only be the tip of the iceberg, as there is no official global or national contamination register so far," said Dr. Sue Mayer of GeneWatch UK, who leads the team of investigators. "Most incidents of contamination are actually kept as confidential business information by companies as well as public authorities."
Greenpeace is calling for a mandatory international register of all such events to be set up, along with the adoption of minimum standards of identification and labelling of all international shipments of GE crops. "Without such biosafety standards ,the global community will have no chance of tracing and recalling dangerous GMOs, should this become necessary." said Benedikt Haerlin of Greenpeace International's Biosafety Protocol delegation.
The publication of the report comes only days before the latest meeting of the 132 countries who have signed the Biosafety Protocol (2), which is to establish standards of safety and information on GE crops in global food and feed trade. At their last meeting an imminent agreement was blocked by only two member states, Brazil and New Zealand. They were backed by the major GE exporting countries USA, Argentina and Canada, who are not members of the Protocol and want to restrict required identification to a meaningless note that a shipment "may contain" GE. "All of these countries have national legislation to protect themselves from illegal GE imports. Still they want to deny the same rights and level of information to less developed countries, with no national Biosafety-laws and means to enforce them," concluded Haerlin. "Do they really want such unethical double standards and create dumping grounds for unidentified and illegal GE imports? We hope that Brazil, who will be hosting this meeting, will not betray the developing countries and cater to large agro-businesses at the expense of the environment."
For further details contact:
Benedikt Haerlin, tel +49 30 27590309, fax +49 30 27590312 mobile +49 173 9997555
Greenpeace USA: Prof. Doreen Stabinsky , tel. +1-202-285-7398
Greenpeace China: Isabelle Meister +86 10 655 46931 ext 135
GeneWatch UK, Dr Sue Mayer, tel +44 1298 871898
Notes to editors
1. The GM Contamination Register is online at www.gmcontaminationregister.org
The full report is also available at www.greenpeace.org/bsp2006 and www.genewatch.org/publications/reports/contamination report final.doc
2. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety under the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty to establish minimum international safety standards for genetically engineered organisms ratified by 132 states. http://www.biodiv.org/biosafety
3. An overview of national legislation on imports and labelling of GE organisms world wide including a map of potential GE dumping grounds as well as import and export figures is available online at http://www.greenpeace.org/bsp2006
LEAKED REPORT: U.S. MISLED THE WORLD ON BIOTECH FOODS "VICTORY"
WTO ruling does not prevent countries from restricting or banning GM foods
BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) / WASHINGTON DC (US) 28 February 2006 - Friends of the Earth International made available online today a confidential World Trade Organization ruling on the trade dispute on biotech, or genetically modified (GM) foods.  The 1000-page report, which was distributed earlier this month only to the countries involved in the dispute, was leaked to Friends of the Earth, which published today February 28 a preliminary analysis in the briefing 'Looking behind the US spin'.  The leaked report reveals that:
- despite claims of victory by the US Administration and the biotechnology industry - widely reported in the media in February 2006- the three countries that started the trade dispute against the European Union (US, Canada and Argentina) failed to win most of their arguments;
- the World Trade Organization (WTO) did not rule on two of the most important questions, namely whether GM foods are effectively the same as non-GM foods and if they are safe.
"The WTO ruling is not a victory for the US administration and the biotech giants. Countries around the world should continue to enforce tough legislation protecting their citizens and the environment from the risks of genetically modified crops," said Juan Lopez, GM Campaign Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International. According to Friends of the Earth International the WTO is not and should not be the appropriate body to deal with conflicts between trade rules and environmental protection since it ignores the internationally recognised 'Precautionary Principle' and considers only trade principles.
The leaked WTO report argues that:
* Europe's 4-year moratorium on GM Organisms (GMOs) only broke trade rules because it caused "undue delay" in the approval of new GM foods. The WTO dismissed eight other complaints in relation to the moratorium, and did not recommend any further action, since the moratorium ended in 2004.
* There was also an "undue delay" in the EU's approval procedures for over 20 specified biotech products. However, eleven other claims of the complainants related to the product-specific EU measures were dismissed by the WTO Panel.
* National bans by EU member states broke trade rules because the risk assessments used by the countries in question did not comply with the WTO requirements;
"This is the report that the WTO didn't want the public to see. It reveals that the big corporations that stand behind the WTO failed to get the big win they were hoping for. Free trade proponents needed a clear victory in this dispute to be able to push governments in the EU and the developing world to accept genetically modified food. They failed and now is the time to build a consensus that the WTO, with its business-only agenda, is the wrong place to decide on what people eat and how we protect our environment." said Adrian Bebb, GMO campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels.
Friends of the Earth Europe today launched a cyber action (http://www.bite-back.org/objection/our_food.php ) urging the public to call on their Governments to reject the WTO as a forum to decide on environmental trade disputes and to support the right of countries to ban GMOs.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International GM coordinator, Tel: +34-6-25980582 (Spanish mobile number)
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe GMO expert, Tel: +49 1609 490 1163 (German mobile number)
David Waskow, Friends of the Earth US Tel: + 1 202 492 4660
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 The WTO report is available online in two parts at: www.foeeurope.org/biteback/WTO_decision.htm
 The Friends of the Earth preliminary analysis in the briefing 'Looking behind the US spin' is online at www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/WTO_briefing.pdf
LATIN AMERICA: Wanted - Labels for Genetically Engineered Products - Diego Cevallos* - IPS - Inter Press Service News Agency, Feb 21 2006
MEXICO CITY, Feb 21 (Tierramerica) - Labels on foods sold in Latin American countries don't indicate whether they contain genetically engineered ingredients. There is legislation on the books in Brazil, but companies aren't complying with the requirement. In Mexico the laws on the matter are imprecise, and in Chile a new law is expected soon. Many of the foods consumed in the region do indeed contain transgenics, in other words, ingredients that have been genetically modified in some way, and science has not produced definitive answers about their possible effects on health and the environment. That is why defenders of consumers' rights believe labelling of foods with genetically modified ingredients should be required. More than 30 countries had adopted or planned legislation as of 2004 for requiring labels for transgenic products, according to a study by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A 2003 presidential decree in Brazil requires that all foods containing more than one percent genetically modified ingredients must bear a "T" inside a triangle. But shoppers have yet to see this symbol on supermarket shelves. "We Brazilians are consuming genetically modified products without knowing it," and the government "is irresponsibly omitting" its duty of requiring the label, Paulo Pacini, attorney for the non-governmental Brazilian Consumer Defence Institute, told Tierramerica. In 2000, then-minister of health and current president-elect of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, issued an order for obligatory labelling of transgenics, but it was not enacted. She has pledged to resolve the matter during her presidency, which begins Mar. 11. A 2005 Mexican law on biosafety entails obligatory labels, to the extent that the product involves transgenics whose nutritional content is significantly different from other foods. Because the nutritional value of genetically modified foods is generally the same as conventional foods, lawmakers are seeking to modify the law so that labelling occurs without considering the nutritional factor.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were developed in the 1980s as a means to improve certain characteristics of crops, such as appearance, colour and yield, and resistance to pests or extreme climate conditions or to specific pesticides. The technique consists of introducing genes from another species -- which can be plant or animal -- into the seeds. Activists, governments, agroindustry executives and scientists are unable to agree on whether transgenics should be labelled, but most do agree that consumers are likely to be wary of genetically modified foods. In the European Union, where labelling is required, the consumer who sees this alert tends not to buy the product. Several surveys conducted in Latin America indicate that consumers in this region would have a similar reaction. In Brazil, 74 percent of those surveyed in 2001 by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics said they preferred non-transgenic foods, while 73.9 percent of those consulted in 2004 by the Institute Studies on Religion said GMOs "pose a risk". And in Chile, 58.5 percent of consumers prefer foods that have not been genetically modified, according to a survey by Ipsos polling firm in 2005. In Mexico, the Sigma Dos pollster found that 98 percent of the people consulted said they distrust transgenic products and that food companies should inform consumers about whether they use them or not.
Environmentalists and some governments, such as the Europeans, call for the cautionary principle when it comes to cultivating and consuming GMOs, but farmers and many scientists assure that these biotech products are harmless and should be used more widely. According to a 2005 WHO report, it is unlikely that transgenic foods already on the market pose risks to humans, although, in the future, they could carry "potential direct threats for health and development." "There is certainty that foods derived from genetically modified plants that are being marketed are as harmless as their conventional counterparts. This is verified by 81 European research projects and the WHO", said Esteban Hopp, coordinator of the plant biotech unit of the Argentine Institute of Biotechnology. "Furthermore, from the more than 300 million hectares harvested and processed for human and animal food so far, it is estimated that globally more than 100 billion meals of high GMO content have been consumed, without any consequences for health reported," Hopp said in a Tierramerica interview.
But there are documented examples of potentially dangerous genetically modified foods. In the United States, the corn variety Starlink was withdrawn from the market in 2000 after cases of allergic reactions by consumers were reported. And the transgenic corn variety Mon863, produced by the U.S.-based Monsanto, an agroindustry giant, and authorised for human consumption in Mexico, caused health problems in rats during experiments, according to a confidential document from Monsanto that was made public in 2005 by court order.
GMO cultivation has been expanding worldwide since 1996, when commercialisation of these seeds began. From then through last year, 471 million hectares have been planted with transgenic crops, according to the International Service for Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a U.S. company that promotes transgenic crops. The leading producers of these crops are the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Canada, concentrated in soybeans resistant to certain herbicides, and maize and cotton resistant to herbicides and insects. Almost the entirety of the seeds for these crops are created and sold by Monsanto.
In the international forums where the labelling question is being discussed -- like the International Committee of Codex Alimentarius -- the United Sates, Argentina and other countries are resoundingly opposed to any binding international rules on labelling requirements. In May 2005 in Malaysia, during the last meeting of Codex, an agency of the United Nations, the labelling debate ended in a stalemate, and the parties to the discussion only agreed to take up the matter again in the future. "If there are companies and governments so sure that transgenics will not produce secondary effects in the long term, why this resistance to labelling?" wonders Aleri Carreon, coordinator of the consumers campaign and genetic engineering for the environmental watchdog Greenpeace-Mexico. According to Argentine biotech expert Hopp, "the label should provide information to the consumer, and not fear, nor should it lead to political discrimination" against those who sell products derived from GMOs, he said. For the scientist, who believes organisations like Greenpeace are "fundamentalists" when it comes to transgenics, if the food truly isn't safe, it shouldn't be labelled - it should be banned.
(* Diego Cevallos is an IPS correspondent. With reporting by Marcela Valente in Argentina, Mario Osava in Brazil and Daniela Estrada in Chile. Originally published Feb. 11 by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.)
Bt cotton seeds in eye Of political storm - By Shashikant Trivedi - Tuesday, February 21, 2006
At a time when Mahyco Monsanto is in the process of launching the new version of Bt Cotton (Bacillus thuringiensis), cotton prices have crashed to Rs 2200-2700 per quintal, against Rs 4,300 to 4,500 per quintal. The issue rocked the State Assembly yesterday when members of opposition parties, including the Congress, today staged a walkout in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, alleging heavy losses suffered by farmers due to the low yield from Bt cotton. They also accused the ruling BJP of promoting multi-national companies. Raising the issue through a calling attention motion, Samajwadi Party leaders Suneelam, Govind Singh, and Arif Aqeel of Congress claimed that thousands of farmers in Malwa and Nimar region were growing Bt Cotton on an area of 6.34 lakh hectares, the average yield of cotton had been reduced from 15 quintals to only 4 quintals. Demanding compensation for the affected farmers, the opposition members claimed that Bt cotton had proved to be a failure in terms of cost effectiveness, germination, productivity and quality.
Replying to the opposition, agriculture minister Chandrabhan Singh refuted their allegations and said production had increased by using Bt cotton seeds. The state government had permitted farmers to grow Bt cotton after getting necessary formalities and permissions from the Centre. "An enquiry had been initiated in some cases, and the matter has been probed. Reports will be sent to the Central government," he said. Bt cotton's allergic reactions in Madhya Pradesh, in which farmer-turned state Governor Balram Jakhar has reportedly ordered a probe, came to light during the month of November last year. During a public hearing organised by Dhar district's Krishi Upaj Mandi presented during the hearing, at least 14 animals had died and several fell reportedly ill. It had also been alleged during the hearing that use of the seeds had led to a rise in cases of skin diseases. Genetically modified Bt Cotton is allegedly causing allergic ailments among people.
Monsanto India Ltd had claimed that results of Bt cotton in Madhya Pradesh were encouraging. The national manager of the company, P Rath, claimed to have come up with an improved version of Bt cotton named as Bollgard-2. The approval for Bt-2 was in the last stage of trial in November. According to Monsanto figures released in November, the sales of Bt cottonseeds had swelled from 2002-03 to 2005-06. Bt cotton crops covered an area of 1470.40 hectares though 3676 packets, which had increased to 1,34,638.80 hectares, with consumption touching 3,36,597 packets of Bt seeds. More and more firms joined the Bt cotton race Mahyco sold 1,97,390 packets to cover 78,956 hectares, Rasi Seeds sold 1,02,150 packets to cover 40,860 hectares, Ankur Seeds sold 576 packets to cover 230. 40 hectares and Nuziveedu Seeds sold 36,481 packets to cover 14,592.40 hectares of land in Madhya Pradesh.
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New Suspicions about GMOs - By Herve Kempf - Le Monde, 9 February 2006 - http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/021006H.shtml
Do transgenic plants have a negative effect on health? Ever since their commercialization in 1996, the question has agitated circles of experts and ecologists, without any indisputable proof allowing an affirmative response. Now, several recent studies effected by credible researchers and published in scientific reviews tally with one another to throw doubt on GMOs' complete harmlessness. They don't assert that GMOs generate health problems. But at the very least they suggest that GMOs provoke biological impacts that must be more widely studied. This new questioning arises just as the Council of Ministers adopted a proposed law on GMO Wednesday, February 8, and as the World Trade Organization (WTO) handed over an interim report February 7 to the parties in a conflict that opposes the United States, Canada, and Argentina to the European Union on the issue of transgenic plants.
In November 2005, Australian researchers published an article in a scientific review (Vanessa Prescott et al., Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 2005, p. 9023) explaining that the transfer of a gene that expresses an insecticide protein from a bean to a pea had provoked unexpected problems: among the mice fed the transgenic peas, CSIRO (the Australian equivalent of the French National Center for Scientific Research, CNRS) researchers observed antibody production, markers of an allergic reaction. The affair, which made headlines in the Australian and English press, led Csiro to stop development of that transgenic pea, while West Australia Minister of Agriculture Kim Chance announced that his government would finance an independent study on feeding animals with GMO: "The state government is aware of the anxiety concerning GMO safety, while most of the research in this domain is conducted or financed by the very companies promoting GMO," Mr. Chance explained in a November 2005 communique.
During the summer of 2005, it was an Italian team led by Manuela Malatesta, cellular biologist at the Histological Institute of the University of Urbino, that published intriguing results (European Journal of Histochemistry, 2005, p. 237). In prior studies, that team had already demonstrated that absorption of transgenic soy by mice induces modifications in the nuclei of their liver cells. This summer's publication proved that a return to non-transgenic food made the observed differences disappear. It also showed that several of these changes could be "induced in adult organisms in a very short time."
In Norway, Terje Traavik, scientific director of the University of Tromsso's Institute of Genetic Ecology, just published a study in European Food Research and Technology (January 2006, p. 185): he demonstrates that an element of the genetic structures used to modify a plant, the catalyst 35S CaMV, can provoke gene expression in cultured human cells. Now, according to GMO promoters, that catalyst normally only operates that way in plants.
The increase in these experiments led the FAO (the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization) to organize a seminar on the safety of transgenic food in October 2005, bringing together the best specialists on the question. "What came out of it was that we have to pay attention to this type of study," said FAO seminar coordinator Ezzedine Boutrif. "In several cases, GMOs have been put on the market when the safety issues were not very clear."
The researchers involved in these recent studies declare their neutrality. "I had no preconceived idea about GMOs when I began my research in 2000," says Manuela Malatesta. "I thought they weren't dangerous because we had been eating them for a long time. But there was virtually no scientific literature on the subject. Consequently, we thought it was useful to undertake some studies." For Terje Traavik, the initial motivation was different: "I was doing cancer research using transgenesis. My colleagues and I knew that it would pose a problem if it left the laboratory. That concern convinced us that we needed to study this type of risk."
This work attracts all the more attention in that, in the United States as well as in Europe, research on the impacts of GMO has not been encouraged by governments. Toxicological studies were effected by the companies promoting GMOs, the impartiality of which is debatable, and subsequently examined by commissions. But the latter never reproduced the experiments, which remain secret. Yet those studies sometimes also show notable biological impacts.
On April 23 2004, Le Monde revealed that experts from the Commission on Biomolecular Genetics (CGB) were divided over the effects of a Monsanto corn, MON 863. In the toxicological study that had been communicated to them, it seemed that rats fed with the GMO presented several anomalies: an increase in white blood cell count, blood sugar changes, reduction of red blood cell count, etc. A debate followed between the agencies concerned that led to a favorable CGB opinion. Although the experts re-examined the file, they did not, however, take a new look at the statistical analysis presented by Monsanto.
Associations including Greenpeace demanded publication of the toxicological file so that they can submit it to a second opinion. On June 9, 2005, the Munster, Germany, Court of Appeal ordered its publication. Greenpeace then consigned two French researchers, Gilles-Eric Sâralini, of the University of Caen, and Dominique Cellier, of the University of Rouen, to prepare a statistical second opinion of the case. They are supposed to publish the results of their study in February. "Monsanto's statistical analysis of the differences observed in the rats was very superficial," observes Dominique Cellier, who is a biocomputer specialist. "They isolate the variables instead of using so-called multi-variable analysis methods, which consist of looking at the observed anomalies in a coherent way. If one uses those methods, one observes coherence between the weight, urinary tract, and hematological anomalies in the animals fed GMOs." This study should provoke new debates. But already, official experts recognize that the toxicological evaluation procedures for GMOs are not perfect. "The discussion about MON 863 was very positive," says Jean-Michel Wal, a member of the European Authority on Food Security's GMO group. "It has allowed us to deepen our evaluation methods. In fact, 90 day toxicological studies on rats are very difficult to execute and interpret. We don't know how to study a food overall, whether it's a GMO or not; there's no norm." And the increase in questions about the biological impacts of GMOs, at the very least, calls for more open scientific debate and public research, which, at the moment, is very rare.
Translation: truth out French language correspondent mailto:email@example.com Leslie Thatcher.
Real impact of GM decision will be felt in developing countries - Letter to the Financial Times by Robert Falkner and Aarti Gupta - February 13, 2006
Sir, The US has won the first round in the long-standing transatlantic battle over genetically modified food ("Trading blows over Frankenfoods", February 9). But the question of how the World Trade Organisation's interim ruling will affect European regulations is largely a red herring. The real impact of the WTO decision will be felt elsewhere, in the developing world.
For one, the consequences for the European market will be minimal. The European Union has already lifted its moratorium on new GM products, and its revised rules on the release, traceability and labelling of GM organisms were not the subject of the WTO dispute. Crucially for the biotech industry, a panel of three trade experts is unlikely to convince European consumers that GM food is safe to grow and eat. The European GM food market has so far been small and is unlikely to grow rapidly. In fact, the US only claimed $300m annual losses in its WTO complaint, a paltry sum compared with what is involved in transatlantic disputes over tax exemptions for multinationals and subsidies to aircraft makers.
An important reason behind Washington's decision to take on European GM rules is the signal that it sends to the developing world. Many developing countries are currently struggling to put in place safety measures to deal with the recent surge in GMO trade. On this, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a multilateral treaty on GMO safety, strengthens the right of countries to restrict GMO imports if these might harm the environment, health or sustainability of agricultural systems.
But the US, which grows more than half of the world's GM crops, rejects the biosafety treaty and is pushing developing countries to accept GM imports. Under intense pressure from the US trade representative, China and Mexico have already relaxed GMO safety policies, and African countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia and Ethiopia have faced demands to accept GM food aid. Many countries in the South have therefore been watching the WTO dispute with apprehension. They have reason to do so. Developing countries are a key target of the US's WTO case against Europe's GM rules.
Robert Falkner, Associate Fellow, Chatham House, London SW1Y 4LE, UK
Aarti Gupta, Associate Fellow, Wageningen University, Wageningen 6706 KN, The Netherlands
America's masterplan is to force GM food on the world
The reason the US took Europe to the WTO court was to prise open lucrative markets elsewhere
by John Vidal - The Guardian, February 13, 2006 - http://www.guardian.co.uk/gmdebate/Story/0,,1708375,00.html
Just a few years ago, World Trade Organisation officials used to act hurt when described by social activists as irresponsible, secretive bureaucrats who trampled over national sovereignty and placed free trade over the environment or human rights. But that was when the global-trade policeman ruled on disputes that had little bearing on Europeans.
The WTO court's latest ruling will greatly increase the number of people who believe the organisation needs radical reform, if not burial. This week three judges emerged after years of secret deliberation to rule that Europe had imposed a de facto ban on GM food imports between 1999 and 2003, violating WTO rules. The court also ruled that Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg had no legal grounds to impose their own unilateral import bans. "Europe guilty!" shouted the US press. "This is glorious news for the Bush administration," said one blogger. Actually, the judges said much more, but in true WTO style no one has been allowed to know what. A few bureaucrats in the US, EU, Argentina and Canada have reportedly seen the full 1,045-page report, and an edited summary of some of its conclusions has been leaked. But no one, it seems, will take responsibility for the ruling, which may force the EU to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate some of the world's most heavily subsidised farmers, and could change the laws of at least six countries that have imposed GM bans.
In fact the US has mostly won a lot of new enemies. Rather than going away, as the biotech companies and Washington fervently hoped, the opposition to GM foods seems to have been growing since 2004 when the case was brought to the WTO. Europe, its member states and its consumers all rejected the ruling last week, making the WTO look even more out of touch and incompetent to rule on issues about the environment, health and consumer choice. The European commission, which has been trying to force GM crops into Europe over the heads of its member states, says the ruling is "irrelevant" because its laws have already been changed. Meanwhile, individual countries who dislike being told what to eat or grow by the EC as much as the WTO say they will resist any attempts to make them accept GM. In the past few days Hungary has declared that it is in its economic interests to remain GM-free, and Greece and Austria have affirmed their total opposition to the crops. Italy has called the WTO ruling "unbalanced" and Poland's prime minister has pledged to keep the country GM-free. Local government is even more opposed: more than 3,500 elected councils in 170 regions of Europe have declared themselves GM-free.
There is little the WTO, the EC or the US can do in face of this coalition of the unwilling. If the US again tries to impose its GM products on Europe - as it did in the 90s, sparking the whole debacle - the attempt will backfire. Europe's biotech industry may now try to force the EC to use the WTO judgment to get the six countries with import bans to repeal anti-GM laws, but it will meet an even broader, more determined movement. In fact, Washington and the US companies are not that bothered by Europe's predictable reaction. Europe has all but dropped off the world's GM map. The companies and the supermarkets know there is little or no demand for GM crops, and that Europe's subsidised farmers are reluctant to alienate the public further by growing them. It is now clear that the real reason the US took Europe to the WTO court was was to make it easier for its companies to prise open regulatory doors in China, India, south-east Asia, Latin America and Africa, where most US exports now go. This is where millions of tonnes of US food aid heads, and where US GM companies are desperate to have access, buying up seed companies and schmoozing presidents and prime ministers.
More than two-thirds of exported US corn now goes to Asia and Africa, where once it went to Europe. As the Monsanto man said this week about the WTO ruling: "Our feeling is that it's important for countries other than the EU to have science-based regulatory frameworks." Like the tobacco industry, GM companies are now focusing almost exclusively on developing countries. But here the industry is meeting stiff opposition from powerful unions and farming groups. Brazil has caved in, but Bolivia may shortly become the first Latin American country to fully reject GM. Some Indian states are deeply opposed, and there have been major demonstrations in the Philippines, Korea, Indonesia and elsewhere. India's largest farmers' organisation this week said the result of the WTO verdict would be that the US would become more aggressive in dumping GM food on to developing countries.
The US maintains that through the WTO it has won a great victory for free trade, and passed a significant milestone in US attempts "to have GM crops accepted throughout the world". Perhaps, but the battle is far from won, and in the meantime anyone opposing the crops is being reclassed as an enemy of America. Within hours of the WTO decision, Jose Bove, the French farmer who has led European protests, arrived in New York to give an invited talk to Cornell students about GM food - and was immediately sent back to France by the US government.
Groups publish conclusions of WTO dispute - IATP, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace: WTO secrecy an outrage - Geneva/Brussels - 8th February 2006
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace have made the conclusions of the WTO dispute on genetically modified organisms public  in order to allow the whole world to engage in the debate on the future of our food. The groups condemned the secrecy of the WTO and called on governments to ensure that complex health and environmental decisions are taken in a transparent manner by bodies qualified to do so.
"This verdict only proves that the WTO is unqualified to deal with complex scientific and environmental issues. They even say so themselves, claiming that 'the panel did not examine ... whether biotech products in general are safe or not'. The US administration and agro-chemical companies brought the case in a desperate attempt to force-feed markets with GMOs. But consumers, citizens and farmers around the world do not want GMOs and this ruling will change none of that," said Daniel Mittler, Trade Policy Advisor at Greenpeace International.
"The WTO is keeping its draft ruling secret. This sums up everything that is wrong with the WTO. It is secretive, undemocratic and biased towards business interests. The WTO should be the last institution to decide what people eat and grow in the fields," said Alexandra Wandel, Trade Coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe.
"The WTO dispute panel is set up to view regulations strictly in a framework designed to facilitate trade, not to realize public or environmental health objectives," said Steve Suppan, Senior Trade Associate at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. "The U.S. government and the biotech companies may claim that the ruling proves that GE crops are safe for human consumption and the use of GE seeds is an environmentally beneficial agricultural practice. But the case covers no such thing: much less does it support the profoundly flawed U.S. regulation of GE crops."
 The conclusions and recommendations of the WTO panel report are available at: http://www.tradeobservatory.org/
Backgrounders are available at: IATP: http://www.tradeobservatory.org
For further comment contact:
IATP: Ben Lilliston, IATP, +1 612-870-3416
Friends of the Earth: Alexandra Wandel, +49 172 748 3953
Greenpeace: Daniel Mittler, +49 171 876 5345
AFRICAN FARMERS SAY GM CROPS ARE NOT THE WAY FORWARD - From the International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED)
Ordinary cotton-growers and other farmers have voted against introducing genetically-modified crops in a "citizens jury" in Mali, which is the world's fourth poorest country. Instead, the jurors proposed a package of recommendations to strengthen traditional agricultural practice and support local farmers. The five day event (25-29 January) took place in Sikasso in the south of the West African country, where two-thirds of the country's cotton is produced. Mali is the largest producer of cotton in sub-Saharan Africa, largely grown by smallholder farmers whose livelihoods depend on it. Birama Kone, a small farmer on the 43-strong jury, said: "GM crops are associated with the kind of farming that marginalises the mutual help and co-operation among farmers and our social and cultural life." Basri Lidigoita, a woman farmer on the jury, said: "We do not ever ever want GM seeds. Never." Brahim Sidebe, a medium-size farmer on the jury, said: "Farmers do not want GM crops and do not want public research to work on GM technology in Mali." The jurors cross-examined 14 international witnesses representing a broad range of views on this controversial issue. These included biotech scientists, agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation and farmers from South Africa and India with first-hand experience of growing GM crops.
African countries are under increasing pressure from agribusiness to open their markets to GM crops and industrialise their farming sector, but the continent remains divided in its response. South Africa and Mali's neighbour Burkina Faso have allowed the introduction of GM, but Benin has said no. Though the jurors' decision is not binding, it is expected to influence the future direction of agricultural policy in Mali and across the region where most people rely on subsistence farming. The citizens jury was hosted by the regional government (Assemblee Regionale de Sikasso) and, to ensure a fair process, it was designed and facilitated by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and RIBios, the University of Geneva's Biosafety Interdisciplinary Network, together with a wide range of local partners in Mali.
IIED's Dr Michel Pimbert said: "This initiative is about making the agriculture agenda more directly responsive to African people's priorities and choices. It is vital that we redress the current democratic deficit in which governments and big agri-food corporations have far more say than farmers and other citizens about how land is used, and what crops are grown. We must all recognise that local people have the right to decide the food and farming policies they want. This citizens jury has provided a safe space for farmers to reach an informed, evidence-based view on this complicated and often controversial issue, which can then be amplified to policy-makers."
Kokozie Traore, President, Assemblee Regionale Sikasso, said: "This citizen space for democratic deliberation has allowed farmers to learn about the potential risks and benefits of GM in the context of Malian farming. As a learning process it has created many synergies between all actors in our province, from the very local to the regional level. The citizens jury has been an eye-opening process and has made possible a cross-fertilisation of local, regional and international opinions on GM and the future of farming." One of the local organisers, Dr Togola, Research Director of the Sikasso Agricultural Research Station, said: "I am very satisfied. I know that during the last five days our farmers have been sufficiently informed and empowered to make the choices that best suit them on GM and farming options."
For further information, to arrange interviews or attend the event, contact: Tony Samphier on +44 208 671 2911, Liz Carlile on +44 207 388 2117
Notes to editors
The International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) is a London-based think tank working for global policy solutions rooted in the reality of local people at the frontline of sustainable development. www.iied.org
GM CROPS ON TRIAL IN AFRICA - Wednesday 25 January 2006 - From the International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED)
Ordinary cotton-growers and other farmers in Mali, West Africa, will this week decide whether GM technology is the way forward for the world's fourth poorest country. A "citizens' jury" will cross-examine international experts, representing a broad spectrum of views on this controversial issue, before reaching its decision. The event starts on Wednesday 25 January with three days of witness testimony, after which the jury, made up of 43 small farmers and medium-size producers, will deliberate and deliver their verdict on Sunday 29 January. It will take place in Sikasso in southern Mali where two-thirds of the country's cotton is produced. The jury will question a wide range of agricultural specialists including farmers from other poor countries who have first-hand experience of growing GM crops. Though the jurors' decision is not binding, it is expected to influence the future direction of agricultural policy in Mali and across the region where most people rely on subsistence farming.
Mali is the largest producer of cotton in sub-Saharan Africa, largely grown by smallholder farmers whose livelihoods depend on it. At stake is whether farmers should swap traditional seeds for those that have been genetically modified and patented by corporations, which would mark a dramatic break with current agricultural practice. African countries are under increasing pressure from agribusiness to open their markets to GM crops and industrialise their farming sector, but the continent remains divided in its response. South Africa and Mali's neighbour Burkina Faso have allowed the introduction of GM, but Benin has said no. To ensure a fair process, the citizens' jury has been designed and facilitated by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and RIBios, the University of Geneva's Biosafety Interdisciplinary Network, together with a wide range of local partners in Mali.
IIED's Dr Michel Pimbert said: "This initiative is about making the agriculture agenda more directly responsive to African people's priorities and choices. It is vital that we redress the current democratic deficit in which governments and big agri-food corporations have far more say than farmers and other citizens about how land is used, and what crops are grown. We must all recognise that local people have the right to decide the food and farming policies they want. This citizens' jury creates a space for farmers to reach an informed, evidence-based view on this complicated and often controversial issue, which can then be amplified to policy-makers."
For further information, to arrange interviews or attend the event, contact: Tony Samphier on +44 208 671 2911, Liz Carlile on +44 207 388 2117
The International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) is a London-based think tank working for global policy solutions rooted in the reality of local people at the frontline of sustainable development. www.iied.org
Rejection of transgenic maize in Bolivia
On 14 November, 2005, an Administrative Resolution was issued by the Bolivian government to "Reject all requests to introduce genetically modified maize into National Territory for field tests, planting, production or deliberate release into the environment".
Dow AgroSciences of Bolivia, S.A. presented a request to undertake field tests with genetically modified maize (resistance to rootworm and to the herbicide ammonium gluphosinate, with Bt maize, event TC 1507). Political events precipitated the resignation of Erwin Aguilera, who approved the release of transgenic soy from Monsanto, and who would have similarly approved the release of transgenic maize.
Dow AgroSciences de Bolivia had its first application annulled on the basis of their failure to comply with required procedures. The company presented a second application, which was analyzed on the basis of legal norm and taking into account technical recommendations, which establish the high probability of genetic contamination into local varieties of maize. Maize has a high degree of cross-pollination and this represents a risk to the diversity of this crop, since Bolivia is a center of genetic diversity for maize. The governmental decision also determines to reject any and all applications for the introduction of genetically modified maize into Bolivian territory, whether the application is for experimentation in the field, planting, production or deliberate release into the environment. This directive instructs the Biodiversity Directorate to implement and enforce the ruling.
Rechazada la introducción de maíz transgénico en BOLIVIA - http://www.fobomade.org.bo/bioytrans/docs/maiz.php - La Paz, 20/Enero/2006
En fecha 14 de noviembre de 2005 fue emitida la Resolución Administrativa VRNMA Nº 135/05 que en su articulo segundo resuelve: "Rechazar toda solicitud sobre introducción de maíz genéticamente modificado al territorio nacional, para la realización de pruebas de campo, siembra, producción o liberación deliberada en el medio ambiente."
La Empresa Dow AgroSciences Bolivia S.A. presentó, en agosto del 2004 una solicitud para la realización deensayos con maíz genéticamente modificado (resistencia al gusano cogollero y al herbicida glufosinato de amonio con maíz Bt, evento TC 1507). Los hechos políticos de junio precipitaron la salida de Erwin Aguilera, el ex ministro que aprobó la liberación comercial de soya transgénica de Monsanto y que probablemente hubiera también aprobado el maíz transgénico.
La primera solicitud de Dow AgroSciences Bolivia S.A. fue anulada por no cumplir procedimientos. Posteriormente la empresa presentó una Segunda solicitud, que fue analizada en base a la normativa legal y tomando en cuenta las recomendaciones técnicas que establecen la alta probabilidad de contaminación genética de las variedades criollas de maíz debido a sus características de reproducción cruzada y el potencial de riesgo que esto presenta a la diversidad genética de este cultivo, ya que Bolivia es centro de diversidad genética del maíz. Asimismo determina, rechazar toda solicitud sobre introducción de maíz genéticamente modificado al territorio nacional para la realización de pruebas de campo, siembra, producción o liberación deliberada en el medio ambiente y encarga la ejecución y aplicación de la misma a la Dirección General de Biodiversidad. (Resolución Administrativa VRNMA Nº 135/05)
En Octubre de 2005 organizaciones de la sociedad civil se dirigieron a la Ministra Bozo para recordarle que: La región andina en su conjunto, es centro de diversidad de este cultivo; incluso para algunos investigadores, el centro de origen sería la zona chaqueña de Bolivia-Paraguay, por la presencia de maíces tunicados.
La liberación del maíz transgénico implica la seguridad de contaminación de la gran variedad de semillas utilizadas en todo el país. Ello significa afectar un patrimonio genético y cultural desarrollado en miles de años por las diferentes culturas y pueblos que los habitan, así como poner en riesgo el material genético que se encuentra en los bancos de germoplasma de instituciones y de los agricultores. Mas allá de esto, pone en riesgo toda la región andina como centro de diversidad del maíz, lo cual es absolutamente irracional tomando en cuenta los problemas que atraviesa en la actualidad el maíz en México, considerado el centro de origen.
Por la información existente, las características de la polinización, manejo, selección e intercambio de maíz, extensión del cultivo en todo el país, así como las evidencias de contaminación en México; permitir el inicio de pruebas con maíz transgénico sería atentar contra uno de los principales patrimonies genético-culturales del país. Pondría en riesgo no solo el cultivo en los llanos, en la región andina, en los valles y en la amazonía, sino las propias políticas nacionales y regionales de recursos genéticos y de biodiversidad destinadas a la protección de estos recursos compartidos en la región andina.
Nuestros pueblos manejan una gran variedad de maíz, de diversos tamaños, sabores, consistencia. Así, cada plato tiene su tipo de maíz y cada región tiene su propia tradición, desde el Altiplano, los Valles, la Amazonía, el Chaco, la Chiquitanía, la Llanura Beniana, hasta el Pantanal. La diversidad de platos y formas de preparar el maíz es un reflejo de la cantidad de variedades cultivadas en todas las bioregiones y de las culturas que las habitan, pero es al mismo tiempo una muestra de la biodiversidad del país.
FOBOMADE - Foro Boliviano sobre Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo - Tel. 2421221, Fax. 2422105, firstname.lastname@example.org - http://www.fobomade.org.bo
Biotech "Revolution" May Be Losing Steam - Stephen Leahy - http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=31815
BROOKLIN, Canada, Jan 18 (IPS) - Just four countries plant 99 percent of the world's genetically engineered (GE) crops, despite more than a decade of hype about the benefits of agricultural biotechnology. The United States, home of the agricultural biotech giant Monsanto, represents 55 percent of the world's GE crops, while Argentina, Canada and Brazil account for the rest. Long trumpeted as the solution to world hunger, some biotech supporters have scaled back their claims and now say the technology will make a substantial contribution to ending hunger. But just when or if that contribution will ever arrive is not clear. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), GE technology has increased the incomes of 7.7 million resource-poor farmers in developing countries.
Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAA, told IPS that "6.4 million of these are Chinese peasants growing Bt cotton on tiny farms. They use it because it cuts the number of insecticide sprayings from 30 times a season to half that." "Our report shows that while they spend 70 dollars per hectare on the GM (GE) technology, the saving on insecticides and labour nets them 60 dollars per hectare," he said. In the ISAAA's annual global status report issued on Jan. 12, it claimed that 90 million hectares of GE crops were planted in 21 countries in 2005. Although labeled an "anti-poverty group" by some media, the ISAAA is in fact a biotech industry-supported lobby organisation. "No one has any idea where they are getting their numbers from," said David MacDonald of the Polaris Institute, a Canadian NGO. Where there is solid independent government data, such as in the United States, the ISAAA numbers are inflated by five to 10 percent, he charged. MacDonald told IPS that the group's reports do not cite any sources or references, nor would most governments have this kind of information. "We and other NGOs have been trying to get independent confirmation of this data for years, without success," he said. James responded that, "We spent 10 years getting key contacts in business, industry associations and governments to compile our data." "We don't identify sources because our database is proprietary," he added.
Since no other global figures are available, the ISAAA numbers are widely quoted and referenced -- the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation cites them. An international survey on the commercial cultivation of GE crops in the Jan. 13 issue of science journal Nature is based on ISAAA data. However, Nature interprets the data rather differently. "Only a few countries have wholeheartedly embraced a transgenic future," writes Peter Aldhous, chief news and features editor. Despite billions of dollars invested in research by governments and industry over more than 20 years, only three crops - cotton, maize and soy - account for 95 percent of GE acreage. These three crops are either herbicide-resistant or contain Bt insecticide. All that does is make life simpler for large farm operations to spray any amount of a particular herbicide without harming the crop, says MacDonald. Yields are not directly affected, nor are there additional nutritional benefits, improvements to the soil or environmental benefits. GE cotton accounts for much of the small GE acreage in countries like South Africa, India, China and Mexico. In Argentina and Brazil, GE soy dominates on the large-scale farms, but farmers have so far avoided paying companies like Monsanto for their seed, which amounts to at least 250 million dollars in lost revenue, he says. "Governments may be forced to impose a Monsanto tax on every bushel of soy sold," MacDonald added.
More than a decade of biotech industry promises of drought-proof crops or ones that thrive in salty soils or that improve yields have never been realised, nor have the promises to "improve" sweet potatoes, cassava or other local food crops using the technology. And yet the hype continues. "While American farmers are Monsanto's main customers, much of their market is also overseas, where they've helped develop crops exclusively for Third World countries, including a variety of disease-resistant sweet potato," wrote Michael Fumento, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, in a widely published Jan. 8 column for the Scripps Howard News Service. The GE sweet potato was a complete failure when it was planted in Kenya in 2004. It turns out that Fumento had previously received 60,000 dollars from Monsanto, and the company also partially finances the Hudson Institute. Scripps dropped Fumento as a columnist on Jan. 13.
"Biotech crops are not a solution to solve hunger in Africa or elsewhere," said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth (FOI) Nigeria. "The reality of the last 10 years shows that the safety of GM (GE) crops cannot be ensured and these crops are neither cheaper nor better quality," Bassey said in a statement. In a 100-page report released Jan. 10, FOI International found that neither consumers nor the environment has benefited from the "genetic revolution" in agriculture. The "success" of GE crops is mainly due to aggressive marketing and misrepresentation of the benefits, the report concludes. "It's an ongoing struggle to counter the biotech industry's hype," said Dick Bell of FOI U.S. While FOI is not opposed to biotechnology in itself, none of the GE crops have undergone human health testing and the long-term health effects are still unknown. Many countries are understandably cautious about growing or allowing their citizens to eat them, Bell said in an interview. "Countries like the U.S. and Argentina are taking a big gamble, especially considering the GE crops grown today offer little if any benefits," he said. That is why industry and governments in those countries conspired to prevent labeling of food products made from GE crops, he said: "If they were labeled, no one would buy them."
While the industry says it is expanding by leaps and bounds and gaining entry into more and more countries, Bell says that growth has been incremental and will be an uphill fight over the next five years. Others, including Nature's Aldhous, agree that the 10-year battle is coming to a head but say it is too close to guess at the outcome. The big three companies that dominate agbiotech - Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer - have some very powerful allies, the U.S. government and World Trade Organisation among them. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has long been a tool through which companies promote biotech in the developing world, according to Brewster Kneen, an author and food industry critic. USAID has been particularly busy in Africa providing funding and technical expertise for biotech research and regulation. However, Africa is unlikely to be able to afford to buy large quantities of GE seed, said Kneen. But James of ISAAA disagrees. "It's a fallacy that farmers can't afford the seeds or are concerned about patents," he said. "One million Indian farmers grow Bt cotton and that will at least double next year."
MONSANTO AIMS FOR EUROPEAN DOMINATION - 10 years of biotech crops fail to deliver benefits for consumers and environment
Brussels (Belgium) January 10, 2006 - US-based biotech giant, Monsanto, is aiming to genetically modify all of Europe's maize over the next 4 years, reveals a new Friends of the Earth report released today. The report also concludes that in the ten years since the introduction of genetically modified (GM) foods in Europe, the biotech industry has failed to deliver any benefits for consumers or the environment, and has not played any role in solving hunger and poverty.
The Friends of the Earth report highlights that over the past 10 years Monsanto and its trade bodies have consistently worked to weaken European laws to protect consumers, the environment and farmers and that despite overwhelming public rejection in Europe, Monsanto and the biotech industry have an unacceptable influence over many parts of European food, research and agriculture policy. 
The report reveals that in November 2005 Monsanto announced to its investors that it sees Europe as a "Next Opportunity". It highlighted that in the four years up to 2010 there is market potential to introduce 59 million hectares of its Roundup Ready maize and 32 million hectares of its YieldGard insect-resistant maize. In other words, it is targeting the whole of the European continent's maize production. In addition, it is aiming to introduce 1 million acres of its GM soybeans . Monsanto has currently permission to grow only one type of insect-resistant maize in the EU
However, despite Monsanto's efforts, the Friends of the Earth report reveals that:
* There have been no new GM crops approved for cultivation in the EU since 1998, and despite 30 years of research and public money the industry has only delivered two GM traits: herbicide tolerance and insect resistance.
* Commercial growing on any scale in the EU is still limited to just Spain, and even there the number of GM events permitted has now been reduced to just one.
* The number of countries banning GM products has increased over recent years and the number of regions in Europe declaring themselves GM Free zones has grown to 165, with 4500 smaller areas declaring themselves also GM free. In November the Swiss voted in a referendum for a five year ban.
* Europeans continue to reject GM foods. European polls show that 70% of the public do not want to eat GM foods, and all major food manufacturers and retailers prohibit the use of GMOs in their products, in particular Monsanto's GM soya.
* GM crops have failed to tackle hunger and poverty. Most GM crops are destined for animal feed, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty issues. GM crops in developing countries have been grown mainly as export cash crops, sometimes at the expense of local food production. Other developing countries, such as Indonesia and India, have experienced substantial problems with Monsanto's GM crops, often leaving farmers heavily indebted. Monsanto continues to introduce aggressive royalty initiatives in South America to increase its profits.
Adrian Bebb, GM Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Monsanto's plans to take-over and genetically modify all maize production in Europe should be ringing alarm bells for farmers and consumers. It is crucial that Europe and its national Governments thwart Monsanto's plans to control our food and countryside." "Our report shows that in the ten years since genetically modified crops were introduced we have seen crops fail in developing countries leaving poor farmers destitute, we've seen an increase in the use of pesticides and we've seen a small number of very big corporations buy up the world's seed supply."
Paul de Clerck, Friends of the Earth Europe's corporate campaigner said: "Monsanto has been in the driver's seat as the US, Brazil and other countries developed their GM policies, and their influence has been obvious. In Paraguay and Brazil Monsanto's GM products were grown even though they were forbidden, and in Indonesia the company was reduced to bribing government officials. Governments should stop serving the interests of big companies such as Monsanto and put the interests of their citizens and the environment first."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Adrian Bebb mobile +49 1609 490 1163
Paul de Clerck + 32-2-5426107
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 The executive summary of the report will be available on January 10
online at: www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/who_benefits_from_gm_crops_Jan_2006.pdf The full report is available upon request from email@example.com
A fact sheet on GM crops is online at: www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/key_facts_Jan_2006.pdf
 Brett Begemann, Executive Vice President, Monsanto Bienniel US Investor Day, 10 November 2005,
TEN YEARS OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS FAIL TO DELIVER BENEFITS TO AFRICA
PRESS RELEASE - African Center for Biosafety and Friends of the Earth Nigeria - January 10, 2006
Johannesburg (South Africa), Lagos (Nigeria), January 10, 2006 - Ten years after the first significant planting of Genetically Modified (GM) crops there are no apparent benefits for consumers, farmers or the environment, and despite renewed promises by biotech corporations, there has been no impact on hunger and poverty, according to a report by the African Center for Biosafety and Friends of the Earth International.  The 100-page report "Who benefits from GM crops? Monsanto and its corporate driven genetically modified crop revolution" concludes that the increase in GM crops in a limited number of countries has largely been the result of the aggressive strategies of the biotech industry, rather than the consequence of benefits derived from using GM technology.
"Contrary to the promises made by the biotech industry, the reality of the last ten years shows that the safety of GM crops cannot be ensured and that these crops are neither cheaper nor of better quality. Biotech crops are not a solution to the hunger question in Africa or elsewhere," said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Nigeria. The biotech industry continues the misleadingly claim that GM crops play a role in solving world hunger in Africa and the world's largest producer of GM seeds, Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON), holds an oppressive influence over agriculture and food policies in many countries and international bodies. Several Western African Governments Burkina Fasso and other Governments in Western Africa have been under substantial pressure in recent years to rapidly introduce GM cotton. In the meantime at the end of 2005, South Africa adopted a moratorium on new GM crops pending a study of the Department of Trade and Industry. "The moratorium on new GM crops in South Africa sends a clear signal of the failure of GM crops in our continent. GM cotton in South Africa did not solve our farmers problems, on the contrary it has contributed to increase their indebtedness. The rest of African countries where Monsanto is promoting Bt cotton should learn from our experience".
The new report states that:
* GM crops in Africa will not solve hunger. Most GM crops commercialised so far are destined for animal feed, not for food, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty. GM Bt cotton in South Africa's Makhathini Flats has been widely promoted by Monsanto as an African small farmer/GM success story and a solution to poverty. However, since 2000 the number of Bt cotton farmers in South Africa has lessened, many of them incurring losses and defaulting on their loans, raising strong questions about the impact of GMOs on poverty reduction
* - Monsanto-funded Kenyan sweet potato fails. GM sweet potato in Kenya was presented as a key GM crop to help African agriculture. However by the end of January 2004, and more than US$10 million later, the results of the trials were quietly published in Kenya, showing that none of the claims were true. The results revealed that the non-GM sweet potatoes had yielded significantly more than the GM variety.
- A moratorium in South Africa. In November 2005, despite having introduced GM crops in several hundred thousand hectares, the South African government communicated that it had placed a moratorium on import approvals, pending the outcome of a socio-economic study that the Department of Trade and Industry.
* GM crops are not 'green'. Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans, the most extensively grown GM crop today, has led to an increase in herbicide use. Independent reports from the US show that since 1996, GM corn, soybean and cotton have led to an increase in pesticide use of 122 million pounds (55 million Kilos). The intensive cultivation of soybeans in South America contributes to deforestation, and has been associated with a decline in soil fertility and soil erosion.
After ten years of GM crop cultivation more than 80% of the area cultivated with biotech crops is still concentrated in only three countries: the US, Argentina and Canada.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
In Nigeria: Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth Nigeria - Tel: +234 8037274395 (mobile) +234 52602680 (office)
In South Africa: Mariam Mayet, African Center for Biosafety - Tel: P: +27 (0)11 646 0699 C: +27 (0) 84 683 3374
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 The executive summary of the report is available from January 10 at http://www.foei.org/publications/pdfs/gmcrops2006execsummary.pdf
The full report is available upon request from firstname.lastname@example.org
 A four-page 'Key Facts of a decade of GM crops' is available from January 10 at: http://www.foei.org/publications/pdfs/gmcrops2006factsheet.pdf
GM: New study shows unborn babies could be harmed. Mortality rate for new-born rats six times higher when mother was fed on a diet of modified soya
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor, The Independent on Sunday, 08 January 2006 - http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article337253.ece
Women who eat GM foods while pregnant risk endangering their unborn babies, startling new research suggests. The study - carried out by a leading scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences - found that more than half of the offspring of rats fed on modified soya died in the first three weeks of life, six times as many as those born to mothers with normal diets. Six times as many were also severely underweight. The research - which is being prepared for publication - is just one of a clutch of recent studies that are reviving fears that GM food damages human health. Italian research has found that modified soya affected the liver and pancreas of mice. Australia had to abandon a decade-long attempt to develop modified peas when an official study found they caused lung damage. And last May this newspaper revealed a secret report by the biotech giant Monsanto, which showed that rats fed a diet rich in GM corn had smaller kidneys and higher blood cell counts, suggesting possible damage to their immune systems, than those that ate a similar conventional one.
The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation held a workshop on the safety of genetically modified foods at its Rome headquarters late last year. The workshop was addressed by scientists whose research had raised concerns about health dangers. But the World Trade Organisation is expected next month to support a bid by the Bush administration to force European countries to accept GM foods.
The Russian research threatens to have an explosive effect on already hostile public opinion. Carried out by Dr Irina Ermakova at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, it is believed to be the first to look at the effects of GM food on the unborn. The scientist added flour from a GM soya bean - produced by Monsanto to be resistant to its pesticide, Roundup - to the food of female rats, starting two weeks before they conceived, continuing through pregnancy, birth and nursing. Others were given non-GM soya and a third group was given no soya at all. She found that 36 per cent of the young of the rats fed the modified soya were severely underweight, compared to 6 per cent of the offspring of the other groups. More alarmingly, a staggering 55.6 per cent of those born to mothers on the GM diet perished within three weeks of birth, compared to 9 per cent of the offspring of those fed normal soya, and 6.8 per cent of the young of those given no soya at all. "The morphology and biochemical structures of rats are very similar to those of humans, and this makes the results very disturbing" said Dr Ermakova. "They point to a risk for mothers and their babies."
Environmentalists say that - while the results are preliminary - they are potentially so serious that they must be followed up. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has asked the US National Institute of Health to sponsor an immediate, independent follow-up.
The Monsanto soya is widely eaten by Americans. There is little of it, or any GM crop, in British foods though it is imported to feed animals farmed for meat. Tony Coombes, director of corporate affairs for Monsanto UK, said: "The overwhelming weight of evidence from published, peer-reviewed, independently conducted scientific studies demonstrates that Roundup Ready soy can be safely consumed by rats, as well as all other animal species studied."
What the experiment found
Russian scientists added flour made from a GM soya to the diet of female rats two weeks before mating them, and continued feeding it to them during pregnancy, birth and nursing. Others were give non-GM soya or none at all. Six times as many of the offspring of those fed the modified soya were severely underweight compared to those born to the rats given normal diets. Within three weeks, 55.6 per cent of the young of the mothers given the modified soya died, against 9 per cent of the offspring of those fed the conventional soya.
GM foods verdict unlikely to alter EU rules - By Raphael Minder in Brussels - Financial Times, January 4 2006
A ruling expected next month by the World Trade Organisation in the transatlantic dispute over genetically modified products is likely to have more political resonance than actual impact on European food and agriculture sectors, according to officials and experts. The European Union stopped approving new types of GM products in 1998 in response to concerns about the safety of GMOs from European consumer organisations and environmental lobby groups. But the move angered biotechnology companies and some of the EU's main trading partners, whose farmers export GM products. The US eventually complained to the WTO, with the backing of Canada and Argentina, arguing that the European moratorium was an unjustifiable obstacle to trade.
In an effort to defuse the transatlantic dispute and reduce mistrust among European consumers, the EU then took steps to improve its regulatory framework for GMOs, notably by introducing stricter rules to guarantee the traceability and labelling of GM products. More significantly, the EU finally approved in May 2004 a modified sweetcorn made by Syngenta, a decision that was followed by a handful of other GM approvals. This has left EU officials insisting that the US-led complaint against a moratorium has become obsolete.
An interim ruling from the WTO arbitration panel was due this week, but has been delayed for a third time and is now expected next month. On Wednesday, the European Commission argued that, whatever the WTO ruling, it would not force further adjustments to EU approval procedures and regulations. It said: "Only products recognised as safe will be allowed and the WTO report will not influence the decision-making process in the EU. Any idea that there is going to be a flood of GMOs is simply not the case."
However, the EU approval system has remained highly divisive, triggering a profound split among the 25 member states of the EU. The Commission has also struggled to challenge tighter national restrictions in countries such as Austria and Greece that are die-hard opponents of GMOs, another issue addressed in the US-led complaint to the WTO. Helen Holder, GMO campaign co-ordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe, argued that one of the most important consequences of a WTO ruling against the EU could be that it would increase public antagonism towards the Geneva trade body, given that most European consumers remain averse to GM food.
FORWARDED MESSAGE: Please sign on and forward to all African civil society organisations - Sign on to: <email@example.com> and <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.
pain 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.
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
THIS PAGE WAS L AST UPDATED ON 19/12/06