Chronologically listed items on this page for 2004-2005 in descending order:
Consumers International intensifies anti-GM campaign
Monsanto's Mon 863 GM Maize Feeding Study Faces Comprehensive Critique
EU Environment Ministers To Vote On GM Bans
Belated Visa for Africa's Top Diplomat leaves UN's Montreal Biosafety negotiations in suspense
Brooklin Votes to Become Maine's First GMO-Free Zone
Senate passes GMO liability bill
Roundup® highly lethal to amphibians
Food watchdog is 'biased against organic food', says its own review
Monsanto suspends GM canola programs - 12th May , 2004 - Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
Results of European GMO Vote - 30th April 2004
Venuzuelan Government opposes the introduction of GM soya
The Highlands has become the first area in Scotland to declare its opposition to genetically modified crops.
EU Biotech Labelling and Traceability Requirements to be introduced as of 18th April 2004 will be a serious barrier to international trade says a food processors lobby group in the USA. Meanwhile in North Dakota, farmers on the Great Plains begin to fight against the introduction of GM Wheat.
Food Firms Reject GM Ingredients in the UK
Biotech Rice Plans Are Stalled
THE DECISION BY BAYER TO WITHDRAW CHARDON LL MAIZE AT THE END OF MARCH 2004
Despairing GM firms halt crop trials - The Guardian - 15th April, 2004
International Year Of Rice: Some Thoughts - Ashok B Sharma - The Financial Express, New Dehli, 11th April 2004
From the latest New Scientist - Real health risk - From Jonathan Latham, EcoNexus
You are right to highlight the recent finding that a supposedly harmless bean protein could trigger allergic reactions in mice when the gene that produces it is transferred into a pea plant (26 November, p5). However, your editorial (p3) is in danger of misrepresenting the arguments of many of those who oppose genetically modified crops.
It is not "silly" but actually consistent and fully scientific to oppose the introduction of all GM crops if there is a concern that none of them has been produced or tested to standards adequate to protect public health.
Which standards are considered adequate depends upon judgements concerning the plausibility of various risk factors. The transgenic pea findings are surprising precisely because this particular risk factor - that a transgenic protein could have a medically relevant difference from the native version of the same protein - was considered highly implausible.
Thus the significance of the pea research is that it reveals the dangers of a source of risk that would typically be considered beneath regulatory consideration. In doing so, the researchers have exposed in a dramatic way how we are still very far from distinguishing correctly between plausible and implausible concerns when it comes to GM plants. This is the real and disturbing lesson.
Brighton, Sussex, UK
Kraft Promises to Sell Non-GE Food in China - CRIENGLISH.com, 2005-12-21 - http://firstname.lastname@example.org
Kraft Foods has announced it will stop supplying genetically engineered food to China within one year. Kraft is the world's second largest food producer. It's made the announcement in a letter to Greenpeace China. In the letter, Kraft says it will only use non-GM crop-derived ingredients for products sold by Kraft Foods in China. This is to include all additives and flavors currently sold in the country. The new policy will go into effect as of January 2007.
Greenpeace China GE campaigner, Steven Ma, says Kraft Foods' decision to shift to non-GE sends a strong signal to the food industry. "Growing concerns of Chinese consumers have started to reshape GE ingredient policies of top food companies. Kraft's commitment will have a profound influence on other food manufacturers in China."
The safety of GE food has been a controversial issue. According to the latest survey sponsored by Greenpeace China, about 60% of residents in China's three main cities say they don't want GE food. Kraft Foods is among several top ranking food companies who have already adopted a non-GE policy in China. Others include Pepsico Food, Coca-cola and Danone. 107 food brands have applied a non-GE policy in China thru October. This according to the recently released Shopper's Guide to Avoiding GE Food by Greenpeace in China. But Greenpeace says the world's number one food producer, Nestle, has not committed to a non-GE policy in China. The company has been criticized for adopting a double standard, as it has a non-GE policy for the EU, Russia and Brazil.
Belarus decrees GM food must be labelled
Labelling of genetically modified (GM) food is now law in Belarus. The Belarus government issued a decree requiring labelling of GMOs in spring this year and it was brought to our attention by Consumers International (CI) member Belorusskoe Obstestvo Zastity Potrehitelei.
The introduction of GM labelling in Belarus follows on from action taken by the Russia government in January 2005 to tighten their law on GM labelling.
Previously, all products in Russia containing more than 5% of GMOs had to be labelled but since January this year all products containing GMOs must be labelled. This amendment was the result of campaigning by Greenpeace and CI member KonfOP, which has become a leading voice in Russia for regulation on GMOs.
The Belarus decree explicitly forbids the production or trade in children's food prepared using GM constituents. This decree, and amendments in Russian law on GM labelling, are encouraging for consumers who have a right safety, and a right to make informed choices. Labelling allows concerned consumers to avoid GM foods.
For more information please contact David Cuming: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
or Julia Crosfield (until 23 December): email@example.com
New Scientist, issue 2530 - Letter to the Editor, 17 December 2005 - Crop testing - Bill Freese, Washington DC, US
When expressed in transgenic peas, an innocuous bean protein elicits immune reactions in mice, reviving concerns about the allergenic potential of genetically modified foods (26 November, p 3 and p 5). These "surprising results" from researchers in Australia raise several intriguing questions.
Should regulators require the use of animal models? Allergenicity assessments of transgenic proteins in GM crops are usually limited to in vitro tests of digestive stability, database searches for sequence similarities to known allergens, and in some cases a heat stability test. While certainly cheap and convenient for GM crop developers, such tests provide no direct immunological information and cannot rule out allergenic proteins. Both the BALB/c mouse strain used in the Australian pea study and the brown Norway rat have shown promise as predictors of human allergic response.
Also, at present, all testing is performed on a bacterial surrogate of the protein, rather than that produced by the plant. GM crop developers complain that it is too inconvenient to extract sufficient quantities of transgenic protein from their plant. But if peas and beans - both legumes - can generate immunologically distinct proteins from the same gene, surely the same is true of bacterium and plant. Thus, results of testing on bacterial surrogates may not reflect the toxic or allergenic profile of the in planta protein people are exposed to.
Other factors also argue against use of bacterial surrogates. For example, allergenic proteins are often glycosylated, and plant glycosylation patterns have been implicated in allergenicity. Bacteria, in contrast, seldom glycosylate proteins.
Finally, perhaps regulators should demand full sequencing of the transgenic proteins in plants. At present, the standard practice is to sequence just 5 to 25 amino acids at the N-terminal as a demonstration of "identity", even if the putative protein is 600-plus residues long. Since the transformation process - the insertion of foreign DNA to a cell - can be sloppy and even point mutations can transform an innocuous protein into an immunogenic/aggregating one, it is unclear why this basic information is not required.
“Let’s Liberate Diversity”
European Seeds Seminar, Poitiers, 25th and 26th November 2005
RESOLUTION TO CALL FOR A BAN ON TERMINATOR TECHNOLOGY
because of its European and Global Impacts on Farmers, Food Sovereignty and the Environment
Participants at the European Seeds Seminar, who came from 15 European countries and 21 countries in other continents, meeting in Poitiers, France on 26th November 2005 supported the international campaign to Ban Terminator technology its development, testing and commercialisation.
Terminator, a technology requiring multiple genetic modifications, will stop farmers from being able to save and reuse seed. It is designed to prevent farm-saved seed from germinating so that farmers have to buy new seeds each season. It has been developed to increase corporate control over seeds by the biotech companies. Terminator directly infringes Farmers’ Rights, undermines food sovereignty and presents a threat to farmers’ livelihoods and agricultural biodiversity.
The participants at the seminar:
Opposed the use of Terminator or any other GURTs (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies) that would prevent farmers from saving and re-using seeds;
Called on the European Patent Office to revoke the patent on Terminator technology granted to Delta&Pine Land and USDA on 5th October 2005;
Rejected the false claim that Terminator technology could permit co-existence of conventional and GM crops it cannot be a biosafety tool;
Criticised the investment in research on Terminator technology which diverts funds and effort from agriculturally useful investigation;
Called on peasants and rural peoples to actively expose and oppose Terminator technology and GM crops and intensify the struggle against imperialist globalisation and the agrochemical TNCs; and
Called on their governments to:
Ban Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) and Terminator, and
Defend the existing de facto moratorium on the development, testing and commercialisation of Terminator technology, in upcoming meetings of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in March 2006.
Adopted at 16:15 on 26th November 2005, by unanimous vote in the final Plenary
 At the seminar there were about 140 participants from national and international farmers’ organisations, NGOs, agricultural research organisations and national, regional and international civil society networks concerned with seeds, agricultural biodiversity, food and farming.
 See www.banterminator.org
 The Terminator patent, EP 0 775 212 B1, was granted by the European Patent Office on 5th October 2005 to US-based Delta & Pine Land (D&PL Technology Holding Company LLC ) and the United States of America, represented by the Secretary of Agriculture. According to further data bank research the patent was already granted in similar versions in the USA, further applications were filed in Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Turkey and South Africa.
Mali's David v Goliath GM stuggle - Joan Baxter - Bamako, Mali - BBC News, 7 December 2005 - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4445824.stm
The debate on genetically modified (GM) crops has erupted again in Africa, three years after Zambia refused genetically modified food aid. This time, however, the hot debate is not over GM food aid in southern Africa - it's about GM crops in Mali.
In 2004 in Mali, the national agricultural research institute, IER, began a five-year project with the US development agency, USAid, and the transnationals Monsanto and Syngenta to develop and introduce GM crops such as BT cotton, to the country. IER scientific coordinator, Siaka Dembele, supports the project. "A lot of BT cotton is produced in the United States and it seems to be productive there," he says. "And also in developing countries such as China, India and South Africa. We have been given some figures that show that generally BT cotton is more productive than conventional cotton because of the natural protection of this plant so there is no need for treatments."
Dembele says the use of less pesticide would have both economic and environmental benefits. "That's an absurd proposition," says Asseto Samake, a professor of genetics and biology at the University of Mali. "The claims they are making for this cotton are absolutely false." Samake explains that BT cotton has been modified with the introduction of genes of the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensi so it can secrete toxins to resist two or three major cotton pests. She says that in Mali there are thousands of cotton pests and that when a few are removed from the natural equation, others will flourish and farmers will still need pesticides. "If BT cotton is so profitable," Samake says, "why do they have to subsidise their cotton farmers with billions of dollars in the United States? Our farmers in West Africa achieve record production using just their digging sticks and regular seeds and they have great difficulty selling what they produce, because subsidies in America and Europe have made the world price for cotton fall. "So why do they come now with their GMOs and technology to solve a problem that they created? It's a big farce!" Samake is a member of the Coalition to Protect Mali's Genetic Heritage that formed when word leaked from IER about the USAid-funded project on BT crops.
Kind of door
Coalition member Mamadou Goita says the organisation has over 100 member associations of farmers, women, academics and NGOs. A similar regional coalition has formed for West Africa, where governments are currently developing bio-safety legislation. But he worries about genetic pollution of and eventual disappearance of local seed varieties if GM seeds are introduced. According to Goita: "Mali is a kind of door they need to open to reach some European countries", where there is still widespread public opposition to GM crops. He alleges USAid and the multinationals are encouraging Africa's researchers and government officials to accept biotechnology with lavish gifts of new computers and printers, office equipment, vehicles, and scholarships for study of biotechnology in the United States. "This is buying people," he says. Phone calls to USAid in Mali were not returned.
Mali's Minister of Agriculture, Seydou Traore, dismisses suggestions of corruption. "I know of no bribes in Mali that have anything to do with biotechnology and GMOs," says Traore. "If there are cases of corruption elsewhere around the debate on biotechnology and GMOs, in Mali, at least for the moment, we don't know them."
GM crops would re-colonise us
In July 2005, Monsanto paid a $1.5 million fine for having bribed an Indonesian official $50,000 to try avoid an environmental impact study on its genetically engineered cotton in that country. Traore says that Mali needs to improve the quality and productivity of its cotton, and BT cotton could help do that. To reject biotechnology, he says, is "neither tenable nor reasonable".
Debt and dependence
The debate over GMOs is not limited to the capital city, Bamako. In the mud and thatch villages of Mali's cotton belt, many farmers express concern that BT cotton would increase debt and dependence. "Our problem is the low price and not cotton production," says 37-year-old Ladji Kone, in the community of Bohi in southern Mali. "GM crops would re-colonise us," says Sereba Kone, president of the cotton growers in Bohi. In the village of Petaka, 800 km northeast of Bamako, farmers express similar concerns. Here, they work on a project funded by the small Canadian NGO, USC, to develop and preserve their own seed varieties in community gene and seed banks. "I think GM crops are not a good principle for us," says project leader, Tienen Sylla. "These seeds we have here we inherited from our ancestors over generations and they fit our difficult climate. GM seeds would be a trap." "It's a part of Western culture to believe that technology is the solution to development," says Mana Diakite, who heads USC in Mali. "I don't think that in the area of food security that is true. Because once they introduce GM crops to Africa, farmers will only access the seed if they pay. "You know that when the rain fails, farmers here can seed and re-seed at least three times. And if they have to buy seeds three times a year to produce, I don't think that's a good policy for this country, or any country in West Africa."
Some coalition members admit that theirs is a "David and Goliath" struggle, which they are not likely to win. "I think there is pressure coming from outside which they probably can't divert," says Mana Diakite. "It's very difficult for an African government to fight something being imposed by a super giant like United States or all these seed companies." The third West African ministerial meeting on biotechnology, supported by USAid, is set for Accra, Ghana, in June 2006.
Listen to GM Mali African perspective http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/meta/tx/nb/africanperspective_au_nb.ram
Consumers International intensifies anti-GM campaign - Angola Press, 30 Nov 2005 - http://www.angolapress-angop.ao/noticia-e.asp?ID=395699
Dakar, Senegal, 11/30 - Consumers International (CI), the worldwide federation of consumer organisations, together with the Foundation for Consumers, Thailand`s leading independent consumer group, has launched a global campaign against genetically modified (GM) crops and foods. A CI release said the "Consumers say NO to GMOs" campaign would "press governments and international bodies for a moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in seeds, crops and foodstuffs, while putting stringent safeguards in place for GM foods already in the market." Speaking at the launch in Bangkok, Amadou Kanoute, Director of Consumers International Africa Office (CI-ROAF), touched on efforts to introduce GM seeds and crops to African countries. He warned that "rather than solving hunger in Africa GM would further impoverish African farms by making them totally dependent on corporate giants, such as Monsanto, who would have a monopoly on seed supply." According to CI, about two-thirds of GM crops are grown in the USA, with the remainder in a few key countries. But most countries have not switched to GM crops, partly because of widespread consumer resistance to GM foods. Michael Hansen, from the Consumers` Union (United States) and an expert on the effects of biotechnology on agriculture, explained the basics of genetic engineering and some of the dangers it posed. He said some of the science that supposedly supported GMOs was dubious, stressing that precautionary principle must prevail. Saree Aongsomwang, Director of the Foundation for Consumers, outlined the current situation in Thailand and explained why it was so vital for Thai farmers to resist the pressure to adopt methods based on GM crops. She pointed out the inadequacy of labelling laws in Thailand, showing how some labels were hidden or inadequate, while others were missing altogether.
China committee not recommending GMO rice - By Nao Nakanishi - Reuters, 28 November, 2005
HONG KONG - A Chinese government committee has failed to reach a consensus on the safety of genetically modified rice, putting off the world's first large-scale production of the transgenic grain for human consumption. Committee members told Reuters on Monday the biosafety committee was asking for more data to prove the safety of genetically modified (GMO) rice before recommending that Beijing approve its use. "There has been no safety agreement for commercial release," said Lu Baorong of Shanghai Fudan University, who is one of 74 members of the committee, which comes under the ministry of agriculture. "Next year, if they provide sufficient safety information, we will assess again," said Lu, also a deputy director at the Institute of Biodiversity Science. An official from the agriculture ministry's GMO office declined to give details of the three-day meeting that ended on Friday, saying that it was collecting expert views on GMO rice.
Activists and scientists have said China, the world's top rice consumer and producer, is reining in plans to introduce GMO rice as concerns mount over safety. The government has added more food and environment safety experts to the new committee, which they said had made it more difficult to reach a consensus on GMO rice.
Beijing was caught off guard in April when environment group Greenpeace said unapproved GMO rice was on sale in markets in the central province of Hubei, one of China's major rice producers. <p>Greenpeace also reported sales in the southern province of Guangdong in June. Early this year China, already the world's largest grower of insect resistant GMO cotton, looked set to approve commercialization of a GMO rice known as Xa21 that includes a gene from an African wild rice. Yet Beijing has not given the green light to the disease resistant Xa21 rice.
China has been conducting field trials on four varieties of GMO rice, including Bt rice, which has a gene that makes it toxic to pests, the insect resistant CpTI and Bt/CpTI rice. "We are just waiting," said Jia Shirong, a professor from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, whose team had applied for the commercial release of Xa21 rice after more than eight years of study and field trials. "We have submitted additional data...Whether it will be approved for commercialization depends on the government. I don't know when it will happen," the professor told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Niu Shuping in Beijing)
WA to fund independent health testing on GM foods - State GM study splits farmers - The West Australian, 28 November 2005
The State Government has announced it will fund laboratory testing on rats to determine the safety of genetically modified food crops, sparking a rift between farming groups. Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said most GM research in Australia was done by or funded by companies with a vested interest in promoting GM food, prompting community concern about its safety. Mr Chance said the study by Adelaide's Institute of Health and Environmental Research would give the Government independent data. But the announcement has divided farming groups.
Anti-GM lobby group Network of Concerned Farmers welcomed the decision, but WAFarmers fears the announcement will stall the formation of a high-level advisory group to examine a path for commercialised genetically modified crops in WA. Concerned Farmers spokeswoman Julie Newman said an independent study was vital considering GM crops could not be recalled if they later proved dangerous."We cannot rely on voluntary testing done by companies focused on promoting GM crops," Mrs Newman said."They only give the public information that supports their case and are unlikely to release any information that would damage their ultimate goal of having GM crops in Australia."
WAFarmers president Trevor DeLandgrafft suspects the study will duplicate testing already done. "At the end of the day, all testing has to get past the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, which is a Federal office for determining the safety of foods," Mr De Landgrafft said."It may be useful, in that it could allay fears in the minds of people who don't trust existing studies but may trust an independent study."If it did this it could be useful, but it could end up just duplicating other studies and be a means of stalling the formation of the high-level advisory group."
A spokesman for Mr Chance said the Minister was committed to the high-level group and expected to announce the committee this week. The study will involve two initial trials on three GM corn varieties and two canola varieties given approval for commercial planting in Australia. It will examine rats for cancerous and pre-cancerous growths and assess the potential for GM DNA to enter the animals' body.
Government of India admits failure of Bt cotton in 2 States - Gargi Parsai - The Hindu, Nov 27 2005
State Governments to take action against producers, suppliers of spurious seeds *The GEAC has not renewed permission for cultivation of three Cotton Mahyco [Monsanto's partner in India] hybrids
*Tamil Nadu Government advised to constitute special flying squads to prevent sale of illegal seeds
*Andhra Pradesh seeks compensation amounting to Rs. 3.84 crores from Monsanto-Mahyco NEW DELHI:
The Government on Friday conceded the failure of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. Subsequently, permission for sale of the Monsanto-Mahyco varieties of MECH seeds had not been renewed for Andhra Pradesh this kharif. The Centre has asked the cotton-growing State Governments to take action against producers, suppliers and vendors of spurious Bt cotton seeds that have failed to germinate or are non-Bt cotton seeds being sold in the name of transgenic seeds at exorbitant prices. It has also asked States to monitor the performance of Bt cotton by constituting State level and district level coordination committees. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told the Rajya Sabha that the Andhra Pradesh Government had reported large-scale complaints against Bt cotton seeds that had failed in Warangal district and other parts of the State during kharif 2004 causing losses to farmers. The State Government had sought compensation amounting to Rs. 3.84 crores from Monsanto-Mahyco. The company had appealed before the State-level Memorandum of Understanding Committee and the High Court.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has not renewed permission for cultivation of three Mahyco cotton hybrids, including Bt MECH-12, Bt MECH-162, Bt MECH-184 for Andhra Pradesh. The State Government has imposed a ban on sale of Bt cotton hybrids of the company during kharif 2005. In Rajasthan too some Bt cotton had performed poorly due to inadequate rain, a long dry spell and high temperature during the crop's growth period, the Minister said. The Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur has been notified as referral laboratory for detecting the presence or absence of Bt gene in the cotton seeds. The Department of Seed Certification in Tamil Nadu has also established a laboratory for similar purpose in Coimbatore. The State Governments have been advised to constitute special flying squads to prevent sale of illegal Bt.cotton seeds and undertake massive campaigns to educate farmers on the subject.
Switzerland 'backs GM crop ban' - BBC News, Sunday 27 November 2005 - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4475044.stm
Swiss voters have approved a five-year ban on the use of genetically modified crops, partial results from Sunday's referendum suggest. Results from most of the country's 26 cantons show that more than 55% have voted in favour of the moratorium. Supporters of the ban include farmers, who believe that the introduction of GM crops would undermine organic produce. But the biotechnology industry had campaigned against the ban, saying the country must accept new developments. The BBC Imogen Foulkes in Berne says the Swiss have long been suspicious of genetically modified crops. Only one tiny experimental GM crop of wheat has ever been grown on Swiss soil, by scientists at the University of Zurich. Surveys show Swiss consumers would not buy GM produce.
The EU lifted its own moratorium on GM crops last year. Switzerland, although not a member of the EU, was under pressure to do the same.
Swiss agree to 5-year GMO farming ban - Reuters, Sun Nov 27, 2005
ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland voted in favor of a five-year ban on the use of genetically modified plants and animals in farming on Sunday, putting in place some of the toughest measures in Europe. Results of the referendum, compiled by Swiss television SF DRS, showed that 55 percent of voters had accepted the proposal to place a five-year moratorium on GMO crops and the import of genetically modified animals. A majority of Switzerland's 26 cantons had also accepted the ban, SF DRS said. Officials are expected to confirm the national result later on Sunday. Final results take months to be published. The measures will force the Swiss government to put in place some of the toughest legislations on GMOs in Europe. In the 25-nation European Union that surrounds Switzerland, restrictions apply to specific crops only and are temporary in nature, rather than the blanket ban proposed by Swiss ecologists and consumer groups. The proposal is supported by Swiss farmers, many of whom are considering moving into the booming organic farming business in response to moves to cut traditional agricultural subsidies. Under the country's legislative system, the Swiss electorate is regularly asked to vote on major decisions. However, while the vote has a symbolic meaning, a ban will mean very little change from current practice, said those who opposed the motion. [because it was already so difficult to grow GMOs]
Swiss back GMO moratorium and labour law - swissinfo November 27, 2005 1:47 PM
Swiss voters have backed a call for a five-year ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Swiss agriculture. Near-final results show almost 56 per cent of voters approving a people's initiative for a temporary ban on GMOs. All the country's 26 cantons backed the proposals by environmentalists and consumer groups. The ballot on the GMO moratorium comes after parliament passed a new law in 2003, which allows GM crops in Switzerland under certain conditions. Supporters of the proposal argue GMOs are neither in the interest of consumers nor of Swiss farmers, and that a moratorium is an opportunity for farmers to improve their marketing for natural production methods.
Consumers and research
The government, the business community, as well as the main centre-right and rightwing parties, all came out against a temporary ban on GMOs. They argue the current law contains enough safety guarantees and a ban could be detrimental to biotechnology research in the country. But the lobby groups, supported by the Greens and the centre-left Social Democrats, say their aim is not to oppose research but to allow time to consider the potential risks of GMOs. The electorate overwhelmingly voted down a far-reaching ban on GMOs in 1998.
Commission authorises Danish state aid to compensate for losses due to presence of GMOs in conventional and organic crops
European Commission, PRESS RELEASE - 23 November 2005
The European Commission has today authorised Denmark to pay compensation in cases where farmers with conventional or organic production suffer economic losses when genetically modified (GM) material is found in their crops. This is the first case where the Commission has authorised such state aid. The compensation will be granted only if the presence of GM material exceeds 0.9% and is limited to the price difference between the market price of a crop that has to be labelled as containing GM material and a crop for which no such labelling is required. The compensation is entirely financed by obligatory contributions from farmers who cultivate genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The admixture of conventional crops with GM material may cause economic losses to the farmer with conventional crops if his products have to be labelled as containing GM material and he gets a lower price for them. This is in particular the case with products from organic farming. At this point no insurance products against this risk exist in the European Union. The Danish compensation scheme institutes a compensation fund, wholly financed by the producers of GM crops with an annual parafiscal tax of DKR 100 per hectare of land cultivated with such crops, to cover the economic losses due to admixture with GM material. The scheme is administered by the Danish authorities.
Compensation may be paid only to farmers and if the amount of GM material exceeds 0.9 % of the conventional or organic crop, which means that the product has to be labelled as containing GMOs, as provided by EU law (Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed). The amount of compensation is limited the price difference (based on official market prices) between the GM crop and conventional or organic crops. The payment of compensation does not free the GM farmer from any civil or criminal liability under Danish law. The Danish authorities will in all cases take action to recover the compensation paid from the farmer from whose fields the GM material has spread. The compensation fund will be replaced by private insurance as soon as such is available. The duration of the compensation scheme is limited to 5 years.
The Commission finds that such aid contributes to a successful co-existence of GM crops with conventional and organic crops, not the least because it is wholly financed by the Danish farmers with GM crops and ends when insurance products covering the risk of admixture become available on the Community market. Such aid appears to improve the structures of agricultural production in a way that is compatible with Community policy concerning such co-existence. Therefore the Commission has approved the aid on the basis of EU state aid rules (Article 87(3)(c) of the EC Treaty).
The text of the decisions will shortly be made available on the Internet at http://europa.eu.int/comm/secretariat_general/sgb/droit_com/index_en.htm#aides under the aid number 568/2004..
Paying the price of Bt Cotton - C Rajasekhar - The Hindustan Times, November 21, 2005
(The author is Assistant Professor, National Law Institute University, Bhopal)
APPARENTLY, Bt cotton has come with a huge price tag attached - Bt cotton farmers in Nimar are supposed to have lost about Rs 400 crore, as nearly half of the crop grown on about 4 lakh acres has wilted. What is Bt cotton and what is the genesis of the present controversy? Bt cotton is a genetically engineered cotton seed that contains a gene akin to the common soil bacteria, bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which produces a toxin lethal to the cotton pest, bollworm. The controversy began in 1998 when the joint venture, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd (Mahyco) - Monsanto Biotech Limited (MMBL) - started its field trials of Bt cotton in nine states including MP without the written approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).
In March 2002, regulatory approval was given to Bt cotton for commercial cultivation on the grounds that the Bt cotton field trials gave greater yields, generated higher incomes for farmers and required lesser pesticide sprays than non-Bt cotton crop. Mysteriously, the detailed results of the field trials have still not been disclosed to the public.
A recent survey conducted by the Beej Swraj Abhiyan in association with two NGOs, Sampark and WASP in Jhabua and Dhar districts, belie the tall claims made by Bt cotton seed makers. While Bt cotton growers incurred an expenditure of Rs 2127.13 per acre on fertilisers, wages, pesticides and irrigation, non-Bt cotton farmers spent just Rs 1014.86 per acre. While a 450-gm packet of Bt cotton seed cost around Rs 1600-2000, a non-Bt cotton packet cost between Rs 400-500. Moreover, the difference in pesticide sprays for both Bt cotton sprays and non-Bt cotton sprays was not statistically significant. Finally, Bt cotton growers earned a net profit of Rs 1493.53 per acre, non Bt cotton farmers earned Rs 2663.12 per acre, that is, about 75 per cent more. Clearly, in economic terms, Bt cotton farmers have been left high and dry!
The episode also indicates a complete regulatory failure - though the National Biotechnology regulatory regime provides for State Biotechnology Coordination Committees and district-level committees on paper, in practice they have proved completely ineffective. However, the most disturbing feature is the transformation of the character of farming in the State ? instead of maximising food security and ecological security, farmers are being induced by private sector seed or agribusiness companies to grow profit maximising cash crops without a proper assessment of costs, benefits and risks.
While the NGOs have demanded that the State Government secures compensation from seed companies, it may be legally difficult to do so, as farmers have purchased these seeds from the companies in their personal capacity. Nevertheless, Agriculture Minister Gopal Bhargava must immediately appoint a committee comprising agriculture scientists, top-ranking agriculture officials, geneticists and representatives of NGOs and farmers to probe the issue thoroughly.
Amongst other things, the committee could seek the results of the field trials done by MMBL in the State; share information with Southern states like AP and Karnataka about their experiences with Bt cotton; collect data on area and output under commercial cultivation of Bt and non-Bt cotton crop in the State, the yields per acre, incomes of farmers and quality of Bt and non-Bt cotton crop and a full biodiversity assessment of Bt cotton crop including the frequency of pesticide sprays, its effect on soil microorganisms and birds, bees and butterflies who act as pollinators and the risks of transfer of genetically engineered traits to non-genetically engineered crops through pollination.
Besides this, the Agriculture Minister must also ensure that in future whenever seeds of a company are introduced into the local market, the Agriculture Department must test samples of these seeds and district- and block-level officials of the department must guide the farmers appropriately in this regard. Finally, all said and done, when even the West is adopting a cautious approach towards biotech farming, do we really need genetically engineered cotton and other crops in the State? Agriculture being a State subject and the ruling party being one that espouses indigenous solutions, Bhargava should tread with wisdom and caution - lest agriculture is transformed into a scary reality show in the State.
GM pea causes allergic damage in mice - Emma Young, Sydney - NewScientist.com news service, 21 November 2005
A decade-long project to develop genetically modified peas with built-in pest-resistance has been abandoned after tests showed they caused allergic lung damage in mice. The researchers - at Australia's national research organisation, CSIRO - took the gene for a protein capable of killing pea weevil pests from the common bean and transferred it into the pea. When extracted from the bean, this protein does not cause an allergic reaction in mice or people. But the team found that when the protein is expressed in the pea, its structure is subtly different to the original in the bean. They think this structural change could be to blame for the unexpected immune effects seen in mice. The work underlines the need to evaluate new GM crops on a case-by-case basis, says Paul Foster of the Australian National University in Canberra, who led the immunological work. He also calls for improvements in screening requirements for genetically engineered plants, to ensure comprehensive tests are carried out. Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace Australia's campaigner on genetic engineering, agrees. "These results indicate the potential for unpredicted and unintended changes in the structure of transferred proteins. And I'm not aware of any country that requires feeding studies as part of its approval process
Field peas (Pisum sativum) are susceptible to the pea weevil Bruchus pisorum, which lays its eggs on the pea pods. The weevil frequently devastates crops not only in Australia but across the developing world. The common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) contains alpha-amylase inhibitor-1, a protein that inhibits the activity of alpha-amylase, an enzyme that is used by pea weevils to help them digest starch. CSIRO Plant Industry researchers hoped the developing weevils would starve after eating the protein, before they could cause any real damage to the crop. Trials showed that the GM peas were almost completely resistant to the pea weevils.
Foster and his team then used mice to investigate whether eating the GM peas might have any undesirable immune impact. Generally, digested proteins do not create a specific immune system response. But researchers found that mice that ate transgenic pea seed did develop antibodies specific to the protein. Some of these mice were later exposed to the purified protein, either through injection into the blood, or by putting the protein into their airways. This approach is a standard "multiple immune challenge" procedure and is designed to determine if the immune system is tolerant to a protein. The injected mice showed a hypersensitive skin response, while the airway-exposed mice developed airway inflammation and mild lung damage. The effect was the same whether the protein was taken from raw or cooked peas - so whether the protein was active or denatured. "To my knowledge, this is the first description of inducing experimental inflammation in mice" with a GM food, Foster says. In the early 1990s, researchers engineered a more nutritious strain of soya bean by adding a gene taken from brazil nuts. But the project ended when it was discovered that the hybrid was likely to trigger a major attack in people with brazil nut allergies.
Further investigations by Foster's team revealed slight differences in the molecular structure of the protein when it was expressed in the bean and in the pea. They think this was caused by differences in the way the two plants produce proteins - particularly in a step called glycosylation, which involves adding saccharides to the protein. When expressed in the pea, the protein was glycosylated at different points - that's the only structural change we've been able to identify so far," says Foster. He adds that slight differences in protein synthesis might also occur in other plants with other genes, meaning each new GM food should be very carefully evaluated for potential health effects. "If a GM plant is to go up for human consumption, there should be a detailed descriptive list of how one should go about analysing that plant," he says. Tager agrees. It is rare for an investigation of the potential health effects of a GM product to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, he adds. "If it had been a private company doing this, it might never have seen the light of day," he says.
Journal reference: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (vol 53, p 9023)
GM crop scrapped as mice made ill - Selina Mitchell and Leigh Dayton - The Australian, November 18, 2005
CSIRO scientists have abandoned a decade-long GM crop project in its last stages of research after learning that peas modified to resist insects had caused inflammation in the lung tissues of mice. It is only the second time in the world a GM project has been abandoned after a gene transfer from one crop to another, deputy chief of CSIRO Plant Industry T.J.Higgins said yesterday. The findings - published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry this week - suggest the allergic-style reaction in the mice was triggered because the protein was altered by a natural process. Dr Higgins said it was disappointing to have to discontinue work on the genetically modified field pea, which had proved almost 100 per cent effective against insect attack. But he said the case demonstrated the effectiveness of strict regulations on research into genetically modified crops. The regulations did not allow the commercial release of a genetically modified crop unless it satisfied all health and safety requirements.
"It's a good example of why the regulations are necessary," he said. "This work strongly supports the need for case-by-case examination of plants developed using genetic modification and the importance of decision-making based on good science." But Greenpeace GM campaigner Jeremy Tager disagreed. "That's complete nonsense," he said. "Withdrawing a failure doesn't show the success of the regulatory system....It just shows the failure of the science in relation to this gene product." Director of the GeneEthics Network Bob Phelps was pleased the project was scrapped. "Not only are these experiments on a minor crop a waste of public money, they highlight the growing concern worldwide about the health impacts of all GM foods," Mr Phelps said. The GM peas will be destroyed, Gene Technolgy Regulator Sue Meeks said. "The whole proof-of-concept study will be wrapped up under contained conditions - nothing has entered the human food chain," Dr Meeks said.
The CSIRO was working with the Grains Research and Development Corporation to genetically modify peas to resist attack by the pea weevil (Bruchus pisorum) and fungus. Pea weevils alone can cause yield losses of up to 30per cent a year in the $100million-a-year field pea industry. The scientists added a gene that produces a bean protein to the peas that causes weevil larvae to starve. Humans have been eating the naturally occurring bean protein for years. But a team at the John Curtin School of Medical Research found that when mice were fed the GM peas, they suffered an adverse reaction and their lung tissue became inflamed. "It was not life-threatening, but nonetheless it was a concerning reaction," Dr Higgins said. However, he said the search for weevil and fungus-resistant peas would continue, using the gene transfer system that was developed at the CSIRO as part of a $3million project.
In an earlier case of GM research, work on a protein-enhanced soy product was abandoned when it was discovered that the brazil nut gene transferred to the soy produced a protein that could cause allergic reactions in some people. Grains Research and Development Corporation managing director Peter Reading said it was good to be able to identify problems "early in the piece". A spokeswoman for Bayer Crop Sciences, also involved in researching GM products, said the CSIRO's decision had no impact on the firm's GM work. Melbourne-based Monsanto - which has developed several GM food products, including corn - was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Poland parliament approves minority govt - www.chinaview.cn 2005-11-11 [shortened] http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-11/11/content_3764791.htm
WARSAW, Nov. 10 (Xinhuanet) - Poland's minority government under the leadership of Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz was approved on Thursday after winning a vote of confidence in parliament. The 460-seat lower house of parliament endorsed the newly-elected cabinet by 272 to 187 with no abstentions. The cabinet, mainly comprising members of Marcinkiewicz's conservative Law and Justice party, also received support from three other parties, the far-right League of Polish Families (LPR),the Samoobrona, and the Peasants' Party. The approval came seven weeks after parliamentary elections, which gave the Law and Justice party 27 percent of the vote. Analysts say the new cabinet, lacking a majority in the parliament, could be plagued by instability in the longer term. Marcinkiewicz appealed to other parties in the parliament to back his cabinet in a crucial policy speech before the vote. "If you back this ambitious program, which is important for Poland, then ... we will mend the state, we will change our country," he said. Marcinkiewicz promised in the speech to push forward the Polish economy with "pragmatic policies." The new leader also said his government aimed to develop agriculture and rural areas. He pledged Poland would remain a country free of genetically-modified crops while bio-fuel development would be given priority.
35S CaMV promoter is active in some human intestinal cells - 13 November 2005 - THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
Dear Friends and colleagues,
RE: 35S CaMV promoter is active in some human intestinal cells
The 35S promoter of the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) is a general, strong plant promoter. It has been used to secure expression of the transgene in most genetically engineered (GE) crop plants commercialized so far. It has been claimed that the 35S promoter is plant-specific and would not be active in mammalian cells, and hence would not pose risks linked to the consumption of GE food and feed in the event that plant DNA fragments are taken up from the mammalian gastrointestinal tract. However, this claim has not been supported by experimental data. On the contrary, there have already been published reports indicating that this assumption might be incorrect, for example, previous research has indicated the potential of the 35S promoter to be active in mammalian systems. More recently, direct evidence that the 35S promoter is active in mammalian cell cultures has been presented. Of particular importance are the cells lining the intestinal wall, given that the gastrointestinal tract will be the first site of exposure to GE food and feed.
In a recently published paper, scientists have demonstrated that the 35S CaMV promoter was able to drive the expression of two reporter genes (gfp and luc) in the human cell line Caco-2, which share a number of characteristics with human enterocytes (cells lining the intestinal wall). While the protein expression levels were modest compared to results obtained with strong mammalian promoters, the significant observation remains that the 35S CaMV promoter, generally assumed to be plant specific, initiated significant protein expression levels in host cells that share important characteristics with those lining parts of the human gastrointestinal tract. These results, taken together with other published papers, leads the scientists to conclude that the 35S CaMV promoter is capable of initiating gene expression in some mammalian cell lines under a range of different conditions and circumstances. Computer based searches further indicate that transcriptional activation by the 35S promoter may be stronger in other human and animal cell types than those investigated so far. This research clearly warrants further serious investigation, including by in vivo means.
Whether there are GE food safety implications would be linked to the process of foreign DNA uptake from the human gastrointestinal tract. The uptake of food-derived DNA fragments from the intestines into the blood stream and some organs has already been demonstrated in various animal species and recently also in humans. Given the potential for the 35S promoter to initiate gene expression in some mammalian cells, if the intact 35S promoter is taken up, the biological consequences are potentially great (for example, inappropriate expression of genes may occur).
The abstract of the paper is attached.
With best wishes,
Lim Li Ching, Third World Network, 121-S Jalan Utama, 10450 Penang, Malaysia Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.biosafety-info.net www.twnside.org.sg
The 35S CaMV plant virus promoter is active in human enterocyte-like cells
European Food Reseach and Technology (2005) - DOI 10.1007/s00217-005-0154-3
Marit R. Myhre (2, 4), Kristin A. Fenton (4), Julia Eggert (3), Kaare M. Nielsen (3) and Terje Traavik (1, 2)
(1) GENOK-Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology, Science Park, N-9294 Tromsø, Norway
(2) Department of Microbiology and Virology, Institute of Medical Biology, University of Tromsø, N-9037 Tromso, Norway
(3) Department of Pharmacy, University of Tromsø, N-9037 Tromsø, Norway
(4) Both authors have contributed equally, University of Tromso, N-9037 Tromso, Norway
Received: 22 May 2005 Accepted: 5 September 2005 Published online: 20 October 2005
The 35S cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) promoter is commonly used to drive transgene expression in the genetically engineered (GE) crop plants that have been commercialized so far. Whether, and how far, the 35S promoter might be active in mammalian cells has been scientifically unsettled and controversial. Very recently it was established that the 35S promoter is transcriptionally active following transient reporter gene transfections in continuous cell lines of human [J Biotechnol 103:197?202, 2003] and hamster ovary [Environ Biosafety Res 3:41?47, 2004] fibroblasts. The initial exposure of a human organism to DNA from GE food takes place in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Hence, we have now investigated the promoter capacity of 35S in human enterocyte-like cells. We constructed expression vectors with 35S promoter inserted in front of two reporter genes encoding firefly luciferase and green fluorescent protein (GFP), respectively, and performed transient transfection experiments in the human enterocyte-like cell line Caco-2. It was demonstrated that the 35S CaMV promoter was able to drive the expression of both reporter genes to significant levels, although the protein expression levels might seem modest compared to those obtained with the strong promoters derived from human cytomegalo virus (hCMV) and simian virus 40 (SV40). Furthermore, computer-based searches of the 35S CaMV DNA sequence for putative mammalian transcription factor binding motifs gave a high number of hits. Some of the identified motifs indicate that transcriptional activation by the 35S CaMV promoter may be stronger in other human and animal cell types than in those investigated so far.
Farmers hail PVP & FR Act notification - ASHOK B SHARMA, Financial Express, Bombay, India - Posted online: Monday, November 14, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
New Delhi, Nov 13 Farmers have hailed the government’s decision to notify the Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers’ Rights (PVP&FR) Act, 2001. They said that though the decision is belated, it would solve the farmers’ problems to a great extent. The legislation was passed by Parliament way back in 2001 and received Presidential assent in the same year, but was withheld from notification, which prevented its implementation over the past few years. The Act, apart from protecting farm bio-diversity, allows farmers to save and exchange seeds in unbranded form for use in the next crop season. The Act has also banned registration of seeds containing terminator technology vide section 18 (1) (C). The government has recently constituted Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers’ Rights Board under the chairmanship of Dr S Nagarajan for implementation of the Act.
Speaking to FE, executive chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS) Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary said: “The PVP&FR Act was long withheld from its implementation due to pressure from the interested lobby of seed companies. This law gives some leverage to farmers in matters of use of seeds, though not complete freedom. There had been recent attempts to nullify this meagre freedom given to farmers under this Act by the introduction of amendments to the Seeds Act in the Parliament. The farmers will not tolerate any such move and demand immediate withdrawal of the proposed amendments to the Seeds Act. Rather PVP&FR Act should be further amended to give more freedom to farmers.”
Dr Chaudhary had earlier expressed concern over Delta & Pine Land announcing its new plans to foray into the seed sector, after it got patent rights for its terminator technology in patent offices abroad. He now said that with the notification of PVP&FR Act, the country is better poised to deal with this situation. Dr Chaudhary was the sole farmers’ representative to the recently held global conference on biotechnology hosted by Asia-Pacific Association of Agriculture Research Institutions (APAARI) and FAO in Bangkok where he demanded that the seed multinationals compensate farmers for failure of Bt cotton.
Below is the press release from the Government of India:
PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
CENTRE ISSUES NOTIFICATION ON PROTECTION OF PLANT VARIETY & FARMERS RIGHTS AUTHORITY
New Delhi, Kartika 20, 1927 - November 11, 2005
The Protection of Plant Variety & Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Authority has come into being with the enforcement of the Act, 2001, and the Rules framed thereunder. A notification to this effect was issued today by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation. The Authority would now regulate all matters pertaining to plants and seeds varieties of the country and would act as the national registry for documentation, indexing and cataloguing of all flora of the country, including extant varieties, farmers’ varieties and land races. The Authority will also be registering new varieties thereby protecting the breeders’ rights, inclusive of both farmers and the industry.
The Authority represents the interests of a wide spectrum of stakeholders, which include the scientific community, farmers’ organizations, women, tribal entities and State and Central Government as also the State Agricultural Universities.
The PPV&FR Authority is a major step forward in stimulating investment in the agricultural seed and plant sector and would greatly encourage development of new plant varieties. It will protect the interests and rights of farmers and the farming community and recognize their contribution to the selection and preservation of traditional varieties. The Authority also has the mandate to administer the National Gene Fund which ill help conserve and protect our plant genetic resources/biodiversity.
The PPV&FR Authority is presently functioning out of the premises of National Agricultural Science Centre at Pusa, New Delhi, and is headed by Dr. S Nagarajan, recently appointed as its chairman.
Wilting of Bt cotton in Madhya Pradesh - farmers demand ban on companies - Kerala, 14 Nov 2005 http://www.newkerala.com/news.php?action=fullnews&id=52326
Bhopal: The genetically modified Bt cotton crops in over two lakh acre area in Nirmar region in western Madhya Pradesh suffered partial or complete wilting causing a loss of more than Rs 400 crores, the affected farmers said today. The farmers, who held a public hearing last month at Kukshi in Dhar district, urged the state government to ban multi-national Monsanto and other companies which sold Bt cotton seeds in the state and sought compensation. Several varieties, which had been banned in Andhra Pradesh for similar reasons, had been allowed to be marketed in Madhya Pradesh. ''Instead of banning these varieties, the state government gave extension to these companies for another three years'', Mr Mohanlal Patidar, President of Kukshi Mandi Samiti, told reporters today. ''The 'banned' varieties were causing huge losses to the farmers in MP, the state government should have been vigilant and banned it'', said Agriculture scientist Dr Debashish Banerji, who was among the panelists at the public hearing attended by about 500 farmers....The experience of the farmers of Nimar has shown that there is an urgent need to review the genetically modified technology as the effects of this technology on agriculture, farmers, environment and human health has not been properly evaluated'', Dr Banerji said. During the public hearing, a health report presented by Mr Amulya Nidhi showed that Bt cotton was causing severe to moderate allergy to people coming in contact with it.
Government slaps temporary freeze on GM imports to SA - By Dominique Herman - Cape Times, October 28, 2005
A temporary moratorium on all applications to import genetically modified (GM) commodities has been ordered by the government at its most recent executive council meeting. A study by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to assess the implications of GM imports on SA's trade has also been commissioned. Before any more GM commodities - such as maize and soya - were brought into the country, information was needed to determine whether imports had any implications on trade compliance of international agreements, according to the council chairman, Moephuli Shadrack. He did not know how long the moratorium would last but, as soon as the council received the DTI's study, it would convene again. A DTI spokesperson said a first draft was expected to be complete by early 2006 with a final draft by the end of the year.
DTI's mandate was to ascertain the trade and price implications specifically of the importation of GM maize. At least 70% of maize traded on the global market was GM maize and only a handful of countries imported it, which affected its price. There was also no identification and preservation system in place to trace the movement of GM commodities in South Africa. Mariam Mayet, a director of the African Centre for Biosafety, said this was the first time a government department had been "courageous enough" to take this decision. South Africa is a net exporter of maize so it "doesn't make sense" to import hundreds of thousands of tons of GM maize - mostly from Argentina.
"South Africa is one of the few countries which allows the importation of GM maize for commercial purposes and, although this maize is for animal feed, the animal feed industry accounts for about 60% of South Africa's maize market," Biowatch SA director Leslie Liddell said. Mayet said that because so many countries restricted the import of GM commodities, there was a glut of the grain and there had to be resultant price distortions on the international market. This had led to a situation where GM maize was cheaper to import from South America than it was to transport non-GM maize from Gauteng to the Western Cape. She recalled a Grain SA statement earlier this year that approximately 3.5 million tons of local maize could not be moved.
The fact that labelling was not mandatory on South African food products also facilitated the import of GM maize, Liddell said. As a result of the imports, farmers could not sell maize on the domestic market, which impacted on local commercial production and risked thousands of regional agricultural jobs. "For the first time, government is demonstrating the will to govern on this issue, as opposed to being led by partisan biotech industry interests," said Glenn Ashton of Safeage.
Praise for GM maize ruling - News 24, 28 October 2005 - http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_1825155,00.html
Johannesburg - Environmental group Biowatch SA on Friday said it welcomed the moratorium placed on genetically modified (GM) maize imports into South Africa. There have been no maize imports into South Africa since March 2005. The grouping also welcomed the study by the department of trade and industry (DTI) to assess the implications which GM maize imports have on SA's trade. SA was one of the few countries, which allowed the importation of GM maize for commercial purposes, Biowatch said. The effect of GM maize imports would be to depress the price of maize and also to hinder robust exports to markets abroad where consumers don't want GM products. The DTI had informed Biowatch SA that the study on the implications of GM maize imports to South Africa was due to be completed early in 2006, said Biowatch SA. However, the DTI is also conducting two other studies into GM products. One of these was investigating the implications of GM products within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Most SADC countries have rejected GM products. The other study was looking at the implications for South Africa as an exporter of GM products. "The results of these studies, we suspect, will show that government has to take a much firmer stand on this risky new technology," Biowatch said. The studies were also likely to suggest that the government should make it easier for farmers who wished to enter the lucrative niche markets in Europe and Asia by putting in place mechanisms for compulsory separation and identification of GM products, Biowatch added. "We trust the initiative taken by the DTI will be followed by other departments," the grouping said. "Besides the potential negative implications for trade and pricing, GM crops have a range of other potentially negative impacts and, to date, this new technology has not been shown to have any major benefits to justify the risk of introducing it," said Biowatch.
Farmers concerned over D&PL’s terminator patent - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=107018
ASHOK B SHARMA - Posted online: Friday, October 28, 2005 at 0054 hours IST
NEW DELHI, OCT 27: Indian farmers have expressed grave concern over the patent rights accorded to Delta & Pine Land in Europe and US over its controversial terminator technology. They have expressed fears that the company which has recently declared that it would foray into the country’s farm sector in big way, may bring in the terminator technology. This terminator technology is detrimental to the interests of farmers, they said.
Speaking to FE, the executive chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary said: “The government should take immediate steps to ban terminator technology in the country. It should immediately review the activities and intentions of Delta & Pine Land. The company should not be allowed any field trials of terminator seeds. The pollen flow from plants with terminator technology to other crops will have dangerous consequences. It would make the pollen-affected crops sterile.” Mr Chaudhary said that it the hidden agenda of the corporate houses is to monopolise the seed sector. It is for this reason the seed companies are producing hybrid seeds which the farmers cannot save for the next season. They usually do not produce conventional varietal seeds which the farmers can save for the next season. Now with the terminator technology, the seed companies intends to complete their agenda of monopolising the entire seed sector as the plants of terminator technology will produce only sterile seeds, he said.
Greenpeace has recently exposed the details of the patent for the controversial “terminator technology” granted in Europe on 5 October 2005. The terminator patent has been approved for all plants that are genetically engineered so that their seeds will not germinate. Further research by the "Ban Terminator Campaign", a network of farmers' unions and environmental organisations revealed that a patent was also granted in Canada on 11 October 2005. "Farmers should be aware that corporations all over the world are ready to take control of their seeds with genetic engineering (GE). These corporations will control the entire food chain with the help of monopoly patents and terminator technology. We need a global ban on this technology and on any patents on seeds. These corporate instruments will disrupt the backbone of global food supply, making it impossible for the farmers to reuse their own harvest for planting," said Christoph Then of Greenpeace International.
So far, the market introduction of the Terminator technology - which was already developed about ten years ago - was successfully prevented through worldwide protest of several groups and stakeholders. But many observers believe that the GE industry will drive towards the legalisation of this technology at the meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in March next year. The grant of the patent could push even harder for market introduction, said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the new global Ban Terminator Campaign, which involves farmers unions, environmental and Indigenous peoples organisations.
Mr Harry Collins of D&PL in the Agra/Industrial Biotechnology Legal Letter has said : "We've continued right on with work on the Technology Protection System [Terminator]. We never really slowed down. We’re on target, moving ahead to commercialize it. We never really backed off." The company states that it may be "several years" before their technology is commercially available but also says that "Once developed, we intend licensing of this technology to be widely available to other seed companies"
Corporates gain control over nature's seeds as the Terminator patent is granted
Amsterdam, 25 October 2005 - Greenpeace today exposed details that the patent for the controversial "Terminator technology" was granted in Europe on 5 October 2005. The Terminator patent (1) has been approved for all plants that are genetically engineered so that their seeds will not germinate. Further research by the "Ban Terminator Campaign", a network of farmers' unions and environmental organisations revealed that a patent was also granted in Canada on 11 October 2005.
Plants created using Terminator technology will produce sterile seeds, creating a monopoly and unnatural control of the seeds. Farmers will not be able to use seeds from such plants for the following season's cultivation. The seeds will rot \in the soil without producing new plants. If this technology is introduced in crops such as soya, wheat, canola and cotton it will force farmers to buy new seeds every year from the same company.
"Farmers should be aware that corporations all over the world are ready to take control of their seeds with genetic engineering (GE). These corporations will control the entire food chain with the help of monopoly patents and Terminator technology," said Christoph Then, Greenpeace International GE campaigner. "We need a global ban on this technology and on any patents on seeds. These corporate instruments will disrupt the backbone of global food supply, making it impossible for the farmers to reuse their own harvest for planting."
So far, the market introduction of the Terminator technology-which was already developed about ten years ago-was successfully prevented through worldwide protest of several groups and stakeholders. But many observers believe that the GE industry will drive towards the legalisation of this technology at the meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in March next year. The grant of the patent could push even harder for market introduction.
"These new patents confirm that corporations are once again actively pursuing Terminator technology and an international ban on the technology is urgently needed," said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the new global Ban Terminator Campaign, which involves farmers unions, environmental and Indigenous peoples organisations (2).
Although the GE industry claims that Terminator technology will help contain the spread of GE contamination, Greenpeace believes otherwise. "GE technology can not be controlled by Terminator seeds. On the contrary, it is likely that farmers will find their harvest being contaminated with this Terminator technology, if introduced. This is a real threat for estimated 80% of the farmers all over the world who save their seeds for cultivation."
Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.
For further information, contact:
Christoph Then, Greenpeace International GE Campaign, +49 171 8780832
Judit Kalovits, Greenpeace International Communications, +31 621 296914
Lucy Sharratt, Ban Terminator Campaign, +1 613 2412267, mobile: +1 613 2226214
Notes to Editors:
(1) The Terminator patent, EP 775212B, was granted to US-based Delta &Pine and the United States of America, represented by the Secretary of Agriculture. According to further data bank research the patent was already granted in similar versions in USA, further applications were filed in Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Turkey and South Africa.
Ag Ministers must act on GE contamination - Japanese consumers add voice
GREENPEACE PRESS RELEASE
Tuesday, 25 October, 2005: Agriculture ministers from all canola growing states face mounting pressure ahead of tomorrow's Primary Industries Ministerial Council meeting in Launceston, over the uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered canola contamination. Japanese consumers have added their voice to calls from farmers and environment groups about the need to find and eliminate the source of GE canola contamination and keep Australia GE free.
The Seikatsu Club Consumers' Co-operative in Japan, which has 260,000 members and buys 1% of Australia's canola crop each year, has written to Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran, urging him, "to take more strict measures to prevent seed [contamination] from genetic pollution, including stronger rules for field trials, and to ensure more strict identity preserved distribution."
The discovery of GE contamination in a Victorian farmer's field earlier this month is worrying farmers, consumer and environment groups who want to see the States protect their GE-free crop moratoriums. Geoffrey Carracher, a Canola farmer from Wimmera, was devastated to find that his 64 hectare crop worth $48,000 was 0.5% contaminated with Bayer's Liberty Link gene. Alarmingly, the same 'Grace' seeds he purchased were also sold to farmers across three states: NSW, Victoria and South Australia, creating serious legal and financial problems for them. "Any farmers who sowed Grace canola face the same risk and need to get their crop tested," said Mr Carracher, who is concerned about the legal minefield he is now exposed to. "How will I keep my crop from contaminating my neighbours' crops? Will my contractors harvest my canola if it's known to be contaminated? If I can't harvest it, who will compensate me for the $48,000 it's worth?"
Greenpeace has proposed an action plan, sent to all State Agriculture ministers, that would address the current crisis. It includes: comprehensive testing of seed stocks; a farmer protection fund to cover farmers' costs, and strict liability for GE products, so that holders of the patent are held responsible for harm and contamination caused by their product. "The GE canola contamination is a direct result of the incompetence and lack of care of the biotech companies," said Greenpeace GE campaigner John Hepburn. "They now want to convince us that we can be 'a little bit pregnant', but in reality any level of contamination threatens Australia's GE free status. Governments need to act fast to identify and eliminate any sources of GE contamination." Greenpeace opposes the release of genetically engineered plants into the environment due to the unknown long term environmental and health impacts.
Communications Officer: Carolin Wenzel 0417 668 957
Campaigner: John Hepburn (02) 9263 0302 0407 231 172
Geoffrey Carracher: Wimmera, Victoria (03) 5386 6261 0428 316 901
Images of Geoffrey Carracher in his contaminated canola field: http://photos.greenpeace.org.au - (User: photos - Password: green)
Genetically modified soy affects posterity: Results of Russian scientists' studies - http://www.regnum.ru/english/526651.html
On October 10, during the symposium over genetic modification, organized by the National Association for Genetic Security (NAGS), Doctor of Biology Irina Ermakova made public the results of the research led by her at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). This is the first research that determined clear dependence between eating genetically modified soy and the posterity of living creatures.
During the experiment, doctor Ermakova added GM soy flour to the food of female rats two weeks before conception, during conception and nursing. In the control group were the rat females that were not added anything to their food. The experiment was formed by 3 groups of 3 female rats in each: the first one was control group, the second one was the group with GM-soy addition, and the third one with traditional soy addition. The scientists counted the number of female species to give birth and the number of born and died rats.
After the result of the first stage, the second part took place. Now the rats were divided into two groups - one with GM-soy addition in their food, and other without the GM- soy. In three weeks the scientists received results best seen as a table at http://www.regnum.ru/english/526651.html According to these results, the abnormally high level of posterity death has been detected at the posterity of the female species with GM-soy added to their food. And 36% percent of born rats weighed less than 20 grams that is an evidence of their extremely weak condition.
"The morphology and biochemical structures of rats are very similar to those of humans, and this makes the results we obtained very disturbing," said Irina Ermakova to NAGS press office. According to NAGS Vice-president Aleksey Kulikov, the data received by Dr.Ermakova confirm the necessity of full scale tests of GM-products influence over living creatures.
CAMPAIGN FOR GMO-FREE FINLAND STARTED
GMO-free Finland campaign - www.gmovapaa.fi
Four Finnish NGO's launched on October 18th a long waited campaign to defend GMO-free Finland. The Union of Organic Farmers in Finland, The Biodynamic Association in Finland, Friends of the Earth Finland and People's Biosafety Association in Finland were the first to join the movement. Others are warmly welcomed.
Although the Finnish Government has been one of the foremost supporters of the EU Commission on GMOs there are only two test fields of gm-plants and no commercial growing of gmo's in Finland.
"The campaign has a clear vision to encourage people to stand up for their GMO-free environment. We offer Finnish farms, gardens, food stores, restaurants, food manufacturers, municipalities and other communities a forum to register themselves as GMO-free and get involved", explains campaign coordinator Hannes Tuohiniitty.
The NGOs started by demanding a thorough discussion on gmo's in agriculture once the Government review on agricultural policy is presented to the Finnish Parliament next week. Local initiatives, influencing the decision making process and gaining public support for the strategy without gmo's are some of the objectives of the campaign.
More information: www.gmovapaa.fi/en
Hannes Tuohiniitty, campaign coordinator, mobile +358443452111 / e-mail email@example.com
Leo Stranius, Friends of the Earth Finland, mobile +358407547371 / email firstname.lastname@example.org
Carmen Olmedo, GMO Campaign & Bite Back Campaign Assistant, Friends of the Earth Europe, Rue Blanche, 15, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: 0032 (0)2 542 61 00 Fax:0032 (0)2 537 55 96 email@example.com http://www.foeeurope.org http://www.bite-back.org
UN World Food Day - Asians Call for Ban on GE Rice
BANGKOK - A coalition of 17 organisations from across Asia today issued a World Food Day statement calling for a global ban on the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) rice. "Rice is the world's most important staple food crop and we simply cannot allow a small number of biotech companies and GE scientists to determine the future of rice development," said Varoonvarn Svangsopakul of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "GE rice is not a solution to world hunger. It poses unacceptable risks to health and the environment, as well as people's livelihoods."
The aggressive push from biotechnology companies wanting to introduce GE rice in Asia is facing increasing criticism from civil society organisations concerned about negative impacts on farmers, on the environment, health and agricultural sustainability. The theme of this year's World Food Day sponsored by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is Agriculture and intercultural dialogue - celebrating the contribution of different cultures to world agriculture.
"GE rice poses threats to the centre of origin and diversity of rice in Asia, as well as the cultural diversity of rice-growing communities across the region. The introduction of GE rice is contradictory to the theme of this year's World Food Day celebration," said Dr Suman Sahai from Gene Campaign, India. "The real way forward for sustainable agriculture and solution for hunger is through the protection and use of biodiversity rather than genetic engineering, and the promotion of ecological agriculture based on the traditional knowledge of farming communities," said Paul Borja, SEARICE, based in the Philippines. "Bangladesh farmers have a long tradition of maintaining local rice diversity and they are resisting Syngenta's move to introduce Golden Rice," said Palash Baral, from UBINIG Bangladesh. "With breeding and growing local rice varieties, Thailand farmers are able to enjoy nutritious food and stabilize their income," said Supanee Taneewut, RRAFA, Thailand.
Following a 2-day meeting outside Bangkok, representatives from 10 rice growing countries wearing traditional dresses will today deliver the GE-Free Rice Declaration to the FAO headquarters in Bangkok, along with a collection of rice varieties as a demonstration of the importance of maintaining rice diversity. In the declaration, the group called for a ban on the development and cultivation of GE rice, and called upon the FAO to cease support for GE crops, and to instead support the development of sustainable, ecologically sound farming systems."
GE-Free Rice Declaration - Supanburi, Thailand, October 14th, 2005
We the participants representing organisations from 10 rice growing countries across Asia, having come together for a discussion on rice and genetic engineering, hereby declare that:
1. Rice is the world's most important staple food crop and forms the basis of the diet for over 3 billion people. It has played a central role in the cultural, social and spiritual life of communities throughout Asia for thousands of years;
2. Tens of thousands of rice varieties have been developed by farmers over millennia and farmers continue to develop and breed new varieties adapted to diverse ecosystems, economic and cultural requirements. GE rice threatens to undermine this diversity;
3. Women play a significant role in the conservation and development of seeds and as holders of traditional knowledge. With the advent of GE crops the role of indigenous knowledge and community led farming systems is likely to be destroyed;
4. GE rice cannot be a solution to hunger since the causes of hunger are the lack of access to productive resources to produce food, or lack of income to buy food.
5. Genetically engineered rice poses unacceptable risks to human and animal health and to the environment, particularly the contamination of gene pools in the centres of origin and diversity of rice in Asia;
6. The segregation of genetically engineered from non-genetically engineered rice cannot be implemented. Therefore co-existence is impossible;
7. The undue influence of transnational corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta on international agricultural production, trade and policies serves to undermine local access to food and the right of peoples and nations to democratically determine the use of their food resources;
8. Corporate influence is further directing public sector agricultural research away from public and towards commercial interests;
9. The future of our world's most important staple food crop will be secured through the protection and use of biodiversity rather than genetic engineering, and through ecological agriculture based on the traditional knowledge of farming communities;
For World Food Day 2005, we therefore call for a ban on the development and cultivation of genetically engineered rice, and call upon the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to cease support for genetically engineered crops and food, and to instead support comprehensive research and development of sustainable, ecologically sound farming systems.
Biotani Indonesia Foundation Cenesta (Centre for Sustainable Development and Environment), Iran Consumers' Association of Penang, Malaysia Friends of the Earth Malaysia / Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) Gita Pertiwi Foundation, Indonesia Gene Campaign, India Green Net, Thailand Greenpeace Khao Kwan Foundation, Thailand No! GMO Campaign, Japan Save Our Rice Campaign (PAN AP) Reclaiming Rural Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Action (RRAFA) Thailand South East Asian Council for Food Security and Fair Trade (SEACON) Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) Third World Network (TWN) UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative), Bangladesh VECO Vietnam
WTO Ruling On EU GMO Laws Delayed - American Soybean Association Weekly Update - 10 October 2005
A World Trade Organization dispute panel ruling on the EU's alleged moratorium on market authorizations for new genetically modified products is being put off until after the WTO's Hong Kong ministerial conference in December. The panel has informed the EU and the three complainants in the dispute - the United States, Argentina, and Canada - that its preliminary ruling, which had been due October 10, will now be postponed until the first week of January 2006. No date was given for the release of the final ruling to the parties, although that normally takes place a month after the preliminary findings have been issued.
The panel cited scheduling conflicts as the reason for the delay. The chairman of the panel, Christian Haberli, is a senior negotiator on agriculture for the Swiss government. Although the panel did not explicitly link the delay with Hong Kong, it has been noted that the postponement will allow the WTO to avoid having the dispute become an issue at the ministerial conference, which is expected to be targeted by thousands of anti-globalization protestors.
The panel, which was established back in August 2003, has been asked by the three co-complainants to rule on what they claim is the EU's illegal de-facto moratorium on the approval of products containing GMOs. The three also accused Austria, France, Greece, and Italy of prohibiting the importation and marketing of GMO products, even though those products have already been approved for sale within the EU.
GM crop 'ruins fields for 15 years' - By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor - The Independent o Sunday, 09 October 2005
GM crops contaminate the countryside for up to 15 years after they have been harvested, startling new government research shows. The findings cast a cloud over the prospects of growing the modified crops in Britain, suggesting that farmers who try them out for one season will find fields blighted for a decade and a half. Financed by GM companies and Margaret Beckett's Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the report effectively torpedoes the Government's strategy for introducing GM oilseed rape to this country. Ministers have stipulated that the crops should not be grown until rules are worked out to enable them to "co-exist" with conventional ones. But the research shows that this is effectively impossible.
The study, published by the Royal Society, examined five sites across England and Scotland where modified oilseed rape has been cultivated, and found significant amounts of GM plants growing even after the sites had been returned to ordinary crops. It concludes that the research reveals "a potentially serious problem associated with the temporal persistence of rape seeds in soil." The researchers found that nine years after a single modified crop, an average of two GM rape plants would grow in every square metre of an affected field. After 15 years, this came down to one plant per square metre - still enough to break the EC limits on permissible GM contamination. Last night Pete Riley, the director of GM Freeze, said; "It is becoming clearer and clearer that it is going to be impossible to grow GM crops in Britain."
INDEPENDENT ENQUIRY DEMANDED ON BT COTTON - Press Release, 28 September 2005 - Contact: DR. SUMAN SAHAI - Phone: - +91 11 29556248; 98-110-41332 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gene Campaign said today that the story of Bt cotton is getting murkier by the day. Dr Kranthi, a scientist from the prestigious cotton research institute in Nagpur publishes a paper providing the scientific data that provides evidence that Bt cotton is not very effective in India, then writes an article in a newspaper recanting pretty much all that he has said in the scientific publication! Not only does he deny his earlier findings and assertions, he springs to the defense of his boss, the DG of ICAR , absolving him of any responsibility in the questionable decisions taken to release Bt cotton. If there has been any pressure on Dr Kranthi to revise his views as published in Current Science, this must come out in a careful enquiry. It is highly unusual for a scientist to present another view of his data in a newspaper article after publishing a scientific paper.
Gene Campaign demands a full fledged enquiry on all aspects of Bt cotton.
* Given that there are several contradictory reports on its performance
* several reports of the failure of the Mahyco- Monsanto MECH Bt cotton varieties
* rampant proliferation of illegal varieties to the extent that spurious Bt seeds being sold on the market often do not even contain the Bt gene
* the fact that the burden of expensive and risky Bt cotton is increasing the misery of farmers already crushed under the burden of debts
* that despite corroborated reports of failure, Monsanto has refused to pay any compensation to farmers who have suffered losses and GEAC has not taken any action in this regard.
Asking for a panel of independent experts involving a cross section of stakeholders, not just selected scientists, Gene Campaign director Dr Suman Sahai said the contradictory situations that have arisen around Bt cotton must be investigated thoroughly. A time bound enquiry process of six months, headed by a respected scientist must include farmers, consumers, academicians, scientists and NGOs who should examine the available information to come up with a status report on Bt cotton. This must be presented to Parliament and made widely available. Farmers and other citizens have the right to know what exactly is happening with respect to Bt cotton, who has suffered losses, what is the efficacy of the technology and take a decision on whether this technology is good or not, for the farmers in the longer term.
Dr Suman Sahai said that it is criminal on the part of the government and regulatory agencies to continue to pretend that all is well with Bt cotton, when there is so much evidence that it is not. It is also shameful that the GEAC continues to release Bt cotton varieties without taking any action on the spread of spurious Bt cotton that is obviously failing and causing immense suffering to farmers. Nor has GEAC taken up the question of compensation to those farmers who have suffered losses, even after the AP govtís ban on the Mahyco-Monsanto Bt cotton.
The GEAC also needs to explain why it is promoting Bt cotton as a hybrid in this country which will result in farmers being forced to buy fresh seeds every year, when it is known that true breeding varieties from which farmers can save seeds for subsequent crops are much more effective against bollworm that the hybrids (mentioned also by Kranthi) . China promotes true breeding varieties , not hybrids therefore the performance of Bt cotton is far better there than here.
Kranthi and his group had provided scientific data in a paper published in Current Science ( July 25, 2005) which explains why Bt cotton hybrids in India were unstable and unpredictable, the result of faulty technology in which gene expression is variable, showing declining levels of Bt toxin . Bt expression was found to be lowest in the economically most important part of the cotton- the boll itself.
The publication said that since Bt cotton does not provide adequate protection, farmers must use chemical pesticides to protect their crops. This is in consonance with the findings of many groups including Gene Campaign, that the Mahyco-Monsanto cotton failed to protect against bollworm, that farmers had to use chemical pesticides, and that savings on pesticide were therefore not significant.
Dr. Suman Sahai
ICMR calls for mandatory labelling of GM foods - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, September 27, 2005
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has called for mandatory labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods. It said that imported foods containing traces of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should be tested for their safety in the labs in the country. The report prepared under the leadership of ICMR director-general NK Ganguly has been submitted to the government. The recommendations of the report are being reviewed by the Central Committee on Food Safety (CCFS) for incorporation under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act and Rules. The ICMR report focuses on issues of labelling, nutrition value, food safety and ethical values.
At present PFA Act and Rules does not have any provisions to deal with GM foods. The new Food Safety and Standards Bill, 2005 tabled in Parliament has mentioned the need for regulating GM foods. The existing regulatory authority for transgenic products, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has the power to regulate only transgenic crops and animals and recombinant pharma products and not GM foods. The Ganguly panel, therefore, suggested that GM foods will be regulated by GEAC.
The permissible limit of the presence of traces of GMOs in food as proposed by ICMR is higher than that proposed by the European Union. EU has fixed the permissible limit at 0.9% while ICMR has fixed it at 1%. ICMR has said that labelling of GM foods should disclose the necessary information relating to the orgin of the transgene and the processes
invloved. The norms for labelling will be revised in accordance with more advanced techniques of detection becoming available.
According to ICMR, the producers and importers should submit detailed supporting documents. Only accredited labs should conduct tests to determine GMO traces in foods. Since currently, there are few labs in the country like the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, the Central Food Technology Research Institute, Mysore, and Lucknow's Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, capable of conducting tests on GMOs, the Ganguly panel called for upgradation of other labs.
Crop Production Factors Associated with Fusarium Head Blight in Spring Wheat in Eastern Saskatchewan - M. R. Fernandez,* F. Selles, D. Gehl, R. M. DePauw, and R. P. Zentner
http://crop.scijournals.org/cgi/content/full/45/5/1908 (Requires a subscription to Crop Science Online.)
ABSTRACT Fusarium head blight (FHB) has been increasing in western regions of the Canadian Prairies. The objective of this 4-yr study was to identify crop production factors (CPF), associated with FHB development in spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). From 1999 to 2002, 659 were sampled in eastern Saskatchewan for FHB levels, and information gathered on agronomic practices used on these fields. In 2000 and 2001, percent Fusarium-damaged kernels (FDK) was also determined. Differences in the FHB index among years indicated that was the most important factor affecting disease development. The effects of CPFs on FHB were lower in years with high (2001) and low (1999 and 2002) disease pressure, compared with a year with moderate (2000) disease pressure. Previous application of glyphosate [N-(phos-2003). phonomethyl) glycine] formulations (GF) within tillage system, tillage system, previously grown crop, and cultivar susceptibility were the only CPFs that affected FHB. GF application in the previous 18 months within tillage system was significantly associated with higher FHB levels every year; it was the only CPF in 1999, and one of two CPFs in 2002, that affected FHB, suggesting that its effect was not influenced as much by, environmental conditions as that of other CPFs. Percentage FDK also higher in fields previously treated with GF in 2000 and 2001. Because of the nature of this study, we could not determine if the association between previous GF use and FHB development was a cause-effect relationship. Thus, further research is needed to elucidate the nature of this association and the underlying mechanisms.
Other research showing glyphosate could cause an increase in fungal populations
Excerpt from 'Crop Production Factors Associated with Fusarium Head Blight in Spring Wheat in Eastern Saskatchewan'
Kawate et al. (1997) reported that Fusarium populations greater in the rhizosphere soil from glyphosate-treated, than from untreated, henbit (Lamium amplexicaule L.) whereas Lynch and Penn (1980) reported that glyphosate-treated quackgrass (Agropyron repens Beauv.) was rapidly colonized by F. culmorum, which subsequently caused damage to the following barley crop. More recently, it has been shown that glyphosate application to glyphosate-tolerant soybean caused a significant increase in the isolation frequency of the causal agent of sudden death syndrome, F. solani (Mart.) Sacc. f. sp. gly-cines form. nov. (Sanogo et al., 2001), and Fusarium populations on the roots and rhizosphere of the plants (Kremer, 2003).
Report of a Fact Finding Team's Visit to Warangal District to investigate an unusual disease on Bt Cotton on September 9, 2005
Kavitha Kuruganti - Centre for Sustainable Agriculture - 09393001550
A newspaper report appeared recently in the Warangal edition of Eenaadu (a telugu daily) titled Pathiki Anthu Chikkani Tegulu ("An unknown disease on cotton - Losses in 50,000 acre of Warangal district") which mentioned that more than 50,000 acres of cotton crop in Warangal district has been affected by an unknown disease. The media report also mentions that this problem appears to be higher in Bt Cotton than on cotton other than Bt Cotton [non-Bt Cotton]. This was confirmed by government agriculture scientists who visited several villages of the district to investigate into farmers' complaints. Farmers, who have had a good season so far, are panicking at this adverse development at the flowering and fruiting stage on the crop. These reports came from Hasanparthi, Hanmakonda, Atmakur, Dharmasagar and Geesukonda blocks.
A fact finding team consisting of Mr Ramprasad, Agriculture Scientist, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, Researcher, CSA and Mr Damoder of Sarvodaya Youth Organisation visited the fields in a few villages in Atmakur and Geesukonda blocks of Warangal district on September 9, 2005 along with farmers from the villages. The villages visited include Sthambhampalli in Geesukonda mandal, Durgampeta and Gudeppad in Atmakur mandal.
In Sthambampalli village, we visited the field of Mr Shankar Rao, who had sown RCH2Bt on one acre. He had so far sprayed Confidor for sucking pests and Boron and Magnesium Sulphate for the peculiar problem that had appeared on the crop. Here, while about 10% of the plants were completely stunted and seemed to be fully affected, another 20% of plants were affected in the upper canopy almost completely. The top leaves of the plant are wrinkled with non-uniform expanded and unexpanded areas. These leaves have inter-veinal red tinge. These plants also seem as if they will not recover. The squares are drying up and falling down. The leaves have a reddish color all over and are curling downwards. The plant however not dried out, no browning found in the dissected stem and wilt has been ruled out. There is high attack of Spodoptera also on this plot with leaves and shoots having been eaten. He also says that he was told that Bt Cotton would be effective against all pests while he is discovering now that this is not the truth. The incidence of sucking pests is quite low - we found however low incidence of mites, thrips and jassids on some leaves. White flies are absent. This could also be because he had taken action to control the initial incidence of sucking pests.
We also looked at the cotton plants with this problem in Mr Doosayya Veeraswamy?s land which was also sown with RCH2 Bt. The problem was similar spodoptera was present in this field too. We also visited Mr Sambayya?s land planted with Bunny Bt ? here it was much lesser but still present. Mr Gundekari Ramesh, who had sown 3 acres of his land with RCH2 Bt showed us his Bt Cotton plants which were similar. They were stunted and more than 35% of his field was affected by this disease like phenomenon. While we were walking through the fields, other farmers including women started complaining about the same problem and started asking for a remedy. Some of them were farmers who had sown illegal Bt Cotton.
We went to at least two plots that we were told were Bt Cotton plots - however, we discovered that there is no non-Bt Cotton sown in this village this year. It was all either approved or unapproved Bt Cotton. One of the explanations provided for the spread of Bt Cotton was that farmers who wanted to opt for non-Bt Cotton feared that they will lose out if there is only Bt Cotton all around them and therefore opted for Bt Cotton too. While some of the farmers had sown Bt Cotton last year also, others are growing it for the first time this year. Refuge system is not being followed on the ground.
The villagers here reported that after feeding on Bt Cotton, several goats got killed last year. Asked why they have opted for Bt Cotton despite the problems that they are reporting (they mentioned that the Mahyco varieties of Bt Cotton failed badly last year with very low yields and that goats got killed), they said that they hope that pesticide usage would come down with Bt Cotton now that they are trying other Bt Cotton varieties and that farmers who form a majority of the village cannot afford to think about the negative repercussions on some shepherds who rear animals like sheep and goats. However, several of the farmers met also mentioned that they have to re-think their decision about Bt Cotton now that they are witnessing the new disease on the crop.
We then visited the field of Mr Chelpuri Chandraiah of Durgampet village. He had sown one acre of RCH2 Bt, one acre of Bunny Bt and one acre of Mallika Bt Cotton. His field, several kilometers away from Sthambampalli village, had the same problem. Many plants with stunted growth with leaves reddish in color and curled downwards were present. The problem was more prevalent on this land. The IIIT people, who are running an information extension service in this village, had suggested that he apply boron for treating the problem. Chandraiah had done so 20 days ago, with no improvement in the situation. He had sprayed Contaf and Confidor so far. At the time that we visited him, he was spraying curacron with a power sprayer for the spodoptera attack. He chose to opt for Bt Cotton this year since he got about 10 quintals with RCH2 Bt last year with around Rs. 3000/- spent on pesticides. However, a non-Bt variety that he had sown last year called Pratham had given him 12 quintals with Rs. 5000/- or so spent on pesticides. He said that he had not been able to compare his crop with non-Bt fields since there aren't any such fields around his plot. He thinks that the problem could be because of spurious seed supplied to him by the company coupled with the current weather conditions.
We visited the fields of Mr Chelpuri Narsayya who had sown RCH2 Bt Cotton on 2 acres of his land, with one row of non-Bt refuge all around. In this field, we found high attack of spodoptera as well as Helicoverpa in addition to the unknown disease and leaf curling due to a high incidence of sucking pests. Narsayya had sprayed Confidor and Actara so far in addition to Boron to take care of the new disease. Bollworm damage to squares and buds was quite high in this field.
We also met Mr Chelpuri Laxmaiah here, who had sown RCH 20 Bt in six acres. He has faced the new disease as well as high incidence of sucking pests, Spodoptera and Helicoverpa. He has so far sprayed Confidor, Monocrotophos, Pride, Actara and Avaunt now to control Helicoverpa. When he consulted the Rasi company representatives about the various problems in his field, he was told that it was because he lacked irrigation!
We then visited the field of Mr Lakkidi Channa Reddy who had sown MECH 12 Bt this season. Helicoverpa incidence as well as spodoptera incidence was high here even as the peculiar disease was present at equal levels here. Even though there were not many stunted plants here, the upper canopy of almost a third of his plot was affected with the disease. This farmer also reported higher incidence of skin allergies in all Bt Cotton fields this year. All the other farmers concurred with this observation and experience of this farmer.
We finally visited a non-Bt plot of Mr Chelpuri Mogili, who had sown a non-Bt Cotton hybrid called Sudarshan. In this plot, Helicoverpa damage was at par with the Bt cotton plots we had seen so far, but the disease was definitely much lower. The farmers accompanying us (around 6-7 of them) found the difference marked too. So far, he had sprayed Actara and Cypermethrin for the control of Helicoverpa. His seed cost per packet was Rs. 430/- as opposed to around Rs. 1700/- on an average paid by the others.
We found that in village Gudeppad, where we met with Mr Bommineni Rajireddy, a well-known progressive farmer, who has given his land for some Rasi field trials on Bollgard this season too, that the problem was present on these trial plots too. The Rasi company personnel, including their entomologist Mr Venkat from Salem, could not diagnose the problem - they felt that it was a viral disease that was probably being spread by thrips. We found that the incidence of thrips was quite low in all the fields that we visited - however, both mites and thrips were present at a low level in almost all the fields visited while the presence of jassids and white fly was low this year.
The fact finding team, from its field visits and consultations with other experts (plant pathologists and entomologists), concludes that this might be a new disease unusual for the cotton crop in this state, being spread mostly by the higher incidence of sucking pests on Bt Cotton, that too of thrips.
The main points that emerge from this fact-finding trip are:
1.The government allowed the spread of Bt Cotton, especially of unapproved varieties too to such an extent that it has become very difficult to find control plots to check the actual situation of whether this viral attack was common to all cotton plots or was prevalent more on Bt Cotton (as a result of some unpredictable result of the genetic technology employed here).
2.Beyond academic reasons, such a monoculture of Bt Cotton also means a great deal of damage if this disease is indeed peculiar to Bt Cotton hybrids, which seemed to be the case from our own verification of Bt and non-Bt plots. The government scientists have a similar observation to make, as per media reports. The dire future of cotton farmers in a monoculture situation with such susceptibilities of Bt Cotton cannot be overstated.
3.It is known that Bt Cotton has higher incidence of sucking pests and for the first time, the possibility of viral diseases spreading through these sucking pests mostly on Bt Cotton because of its higher vulnerability is becoming clear. Therefore, it is not only a vulnerability to higher incidence of sucking pests but a vulnerability to greater spread of diseases through these sucking pests.
4.Bt Cotton plots, especially of RCH2 Bt variety, have higher prevalence of this disease. This disease has mixed symptoms of boron deficiency as well as mite attack and the visiting government officials are recommending treatment for both these causes. However, this has not improved the situation, though the spread of the disease has been controlled in the first two plots visited.
5.The damage is upto 30% of the Bt Cotton plots visited. While some plants have become stunted with no growth at all, in other plants which are affected, the upper canopy is displaying the symptoms of leaf reddening and curling downwards with a dried rim even as the squares are drying up and falling down.
6.There is high incidence of Spodoptera on all the plots visited including the non-Bt cotton field. The spodoptera larvae were found to be feeding on leaves as well as buds and flowers. This brings into question the claims of the Bt Cotton companies that damage to flowering and fruiting parts is protected well through this technology. Bt Cotton is clearly not effective against Spodoptera and this is the major pest damaging buds and flowers right now!
7.There is equal incidence of Helicoverpa damage on Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton plots. This brings into question the efficacy of the very technology with which Bt Cotton was introduced. Samples of such larvae were collected by the team. The incidence was more than 1 larva per plant. In the case of one farmer's case, the average reported was 2-3 helicoverpa larvae per plant. The square damage that was witnessed by the team was more than 3-4 squares per plant that were bored into by the larvae.
8.There are experiences of skin allergies from working in the Bt Cotton fields and of livestock deaths after feeding on left over Bt Cotton vegetation in the fields from these villages. However, no investigation was done by the government on these issues.
* We demand that immediate assessment be taken up of the extent of damage with this phenomenon and the reasons for the same. Cotton fields of neighboring districts like Nalgonda, Karimnagar and Khammam have to be monitored too for the purpose.
* Scientific comparison of the field level situation between Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton plots be taken up to understand the full dimensions of the problem.
* Clear recommendations for control of the problem be disseminated to all farmers before any further loss takes place.
* Compensation mechanisms should be put into place for all those farmers whose fields have been badly affected by this phenomenon and the government should ensure that such compensation is paid properly.
This Fact Finding Report is part of the Bt Cotton monitoring across India of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee [MEC] set up by Adivasi Ekta Sangathan, AKRSP, CEAD, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Grameen Vikas Trust, Greenpeace India, Jan Saahas, Kheti Virasat Mission, Krishnadevaraya Rythu Sankshema Sangam, Krushi, MARI, Navajyothi, Pasumai Tayagam, Prasun, Rashtriya Satyagrah Dal, Sampark, Sarvodaya Youth Organisation, SECURE, VASPS and YUVA.
Appeal to EC and world for caution over GMO contamination - Bologna, Italy, 9 September 05
Consumers International (CI) made an appeal for caution over genetically modified organism (GMO) contamination. David Cuming, CI GM Campaign Manager, said: 'Stop GMO contamination - it can happen quickly and over vast areas and is irreversible. In places, like Italy, where there are a lot of small farms with traditional and organic crops, "co-existence" is probably impossible without removing the freedom of consumers and farmers to choose.'
Speaking at a conference in Italy, organised by CI and RegioneEmilia-Romagna, David Cuming advised 'All countries worldwide must introduce strict rules to prevent contamination, and allow for GM-free zones, before allowing GMOs in their countries. The EC must wait until they have completed the full review of "co-existence" in Europe before approving new GMO crops.'
Prof. Ignacio Chapela, leading expert on GMOs told the conference '"Co-existence" of GMOs and GM-free plants is biologically impossible. If we keep thinking like this it won't be a question of - if contamination will occur: It will be a question of when and how much? We do not have the political will, the technical capacity or the independence of thought to deal with "co-existence"; neither to monitor its development, nor to remedy its consequences. Proposed biosafety and bioethical frameworks will not prevent contamination.'
GMO and consumer experts from Canada, USA, Brazil, Thailand, Zambia, Austria, Italy and UK presented their position on "co-existence", contamination and GM-free zones at the conference in Bologna. Recent examples of GMO contamination cases are: canola fields in Australia and Canada, shipments of maize to Japan and New Zealand, and illegal rice in China.
Note to editors
The EC are making decisions on whether to allow several new GMO crops into Europe and the Commission is preparing a report on how EU states are dealing with 'co-existence' expected at the end of this year.
The GM-free zone movement is growing in the EU and in the USA, with increasing interest in developing countries.
Pressure from the biotech industry is mounting in Africa for countries to grow GMOs.
Summaries of speeches made at the conference will be made available on CI website.
International conference open to the public
organised by Regione Emilia-Romagna and Consumers International
'Co-existence', contamination and GM-free zones - Jeopardising consumer choice?
Ukraine Agriculture Ministry Seeks to Ban GMO Soy Imports - REUTERS, 8 September 2005 - http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=32416
KIEV - Ukraine's Farm Ministry said on Wednesday it would ask the government and the parliament to ban imports and planting of genetically modified (GMO) soybeans in the country. "We are going to adopt a decision to ban planting and imports of GMO soybeans," Ivan Dymchak, deputy farm minister, told reporters. "At the moment we are talking only about soybeans......We want to have the status of a country which produces only clean agriculture products," he added.
Ukraine is a traditional importer of soy meal and imported 78,200 tonnes in the 2003/04 season and 74,300 in 2002/03. It has imported 47,700 tonnes so
far this season. Ukraine imports soy meal mostly from Brazil.
Global Seed Industry Concentration - 2005 - News Release - ETC Group - 5 September 2005
The ETC Group today releases a new Communique on seed industry consolidation that shows a recent upsurge in seed industry takeoversand a shake-up in rankings. According to ETC Group, the top 10 multinational seed firms control half of the world's commercial seed sales. With a total worldwide market of approximately US$21,000 million per annum, the commercial seed industry is relatively small compared to the global pesticide market ($35,400 million), and it's puny compared to pharmaceutical sales ($466,000 million). But corporate control and ownership of seeds - the first link in the food chain - has far-reaching implications for global food security. A single firm, Monsanto, now controls 41% of the global market share in commercial maize seed, and one-fourth of the world market in soybean seeds. The same company's seeds and biotech traits accounted for 88% of the total area planted in genetically modified seeds worldwide in 2004.
ETC Group's report includes a table listing many of the world's top 20 seed companies and their acquisitions and/or subsidiaries. The full text of the 12-page Communique is available free of charge for download on the ETC Group website: http://www.etcgroup.org
IMPACT: With control of seeds and agricultural research held in fewer hands, the world's food supply is increasingly vulnerable to the whims of market maneuvers. Corporations make decisions to support the bottom line and increase shareholder returns - not to ensure food security. Ultimately, seed industry oligopoly also means fewer choices for farmers. A new study by the US Department of Agriculture examines the impact of seed industry concentration on agbiotech research. The study concludes that reduced competition is associated with reduced R&D. Despite seed industry claims to the contrary, concentration in the seed industry is resulting in less innovation - not more.
PLAYERS: A fistful of transnational firms, the Gene Giants, dominates global seed sales. Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta - all among the world's top-ranking pesticide firms - lead the pack.
POLICY: Seed industry concentration is already high on the agenda of civil society and farmers' organizations that are working to support and maintain peasant and farmer-controlled seed systems and against policies and technologies that seek to further privatize seeds. The implications of seed industry consolidation for food security and biodiversity must also be urgently addressed by governments at the FAO biennial Conference in November and by the Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (20-31 March 2006, Curitaba, Brazil).
World's Top 10 Seed Companies + 1
[Based on 2004 seed sales (US) millions]
1. Monsanto (US) + Seminis - pro forma = $2,803
2. Dupont/Pioneer (US) $2,600
3. Syngenta (Switzerland) $1,239
4. Groupe Limagrain (France) $1,044
5. KWS AG (Germany) $622
6. Land O' Lakes (US) $538
7. Sakata (Japan) $416
8. Bayer Crop Science (Germany) $387
9. Taikii (Japan) $366
10. DLF-Trifolium (Denmark) $320
11. Delta & Pine Land (US) $315
For more information, contact: Hope Shand and Kathy Jo Wetter, ETC Group (USA) - email@example.comfirstname.lastname@example.org - tel: +1 919 960-5223
Pat Mooney, ETC Group (Canada) email@example.com tel: +1 613 241-2267
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group (Mexico) firstname.lastname@example.org tel: +52 55 55 632 664 Veronica Villa, ETC Group (Mexico) email@example.com tel: +52 55 55 632 664
Monsanto's Round-up is toxic: http://ehpniehs.nih.gov/docs/2005/113-6/ss.html#roun (Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 113, Number 6, June 2005)
Roundup Revelation - Weed Killer Adjuvants May Boost Toxicity
Although the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup is generally thought to be less toxic to the ecosystem than other pesticides, concerns about its effects on human reproduction persist. In a study in Ontario, Canada, exposure of male farmers to glyphosate-based herbicides was associated with an increase in miscarriage and premature birth in farm families. Seeking an explanation for these pregnancy-related problems, researchers at France's Université de Caen investigated the effects of the full Roundup formulation and glyphosate alone on cultured human placental cells [EHP 113:716-720]. The herbicide, they found, killed the cells at concentrations far below those used in agricultural practice. Surprisingly, they also found that Roundup was at least twice as toxic as glyphosate alone.
Virtually all previous testing of Roundup for long-term health damage has been done on glyphosate rather than on the full herbicide formulation, of which glyphosate makes up only around 40%. The remainder consists of inactive ingredients including adjuvants, chemicals that are added to improve the performance of the active ingredient. Roundup's main adjuvant is the surfactant polyethoxylated tallowamine, which helps glyphosate penetrate plant cells.
The Roundup concentration recommended for agricultural use is 1-2% in water. The authors incubated placental cells with various concentrations of Roundup (up to 2.0%) or equivalent concentrations of glyphosate. The viability of the cells was measured after 18, 24, and 48 hours. No one is sure how Roundup interferes with reproduction, so the team also tested whether it, like other pesticides, would disrupt the activity of aromatase (an enzyme that regulates estrogen synthesis) in placental cells. Aromatase activity was measured after 1 hour and 18 hours.
The researchers found that a 2.0% concentration of Roundup and an equivalent concentration of glyphosate killed 90% of the cultured cells after 18 hours' incubation. The median lethal dose for Roundup (0.7%) was nearly half that for glyphosate, meaning Roundup was nearly twice as toxic as the single chemical alone. Further, the viability of cells exposed to glyphosate was considerably reduced when even minute dilutions of Roundup were added.
After an hour's incubation with Roundup, estrogen synthesis in placental cells (as shown by aromatase activity) was enhanced by about 40%. After 18 hours, however, synthesis was inhibited, perhaps reflecting an effect on aromatase gene expression. This effect was not seen with glyphosate alone.
The study showed that the effect of Roundup on cell viability increased with time and was obtained with concentrations of the formulation 10 times lower than those recommended for agricultural use. Roundup also disrupted aromatase activity at concentrations 100 times lower than those used in agriculture. The researchers suspect that the adjuvants used in Roundup enhance the bioavailability and/or bioaccumulation of glyphosate.
How these findings translate into activity of Roundup in the human body is hard to say. The French researchers point out that serum proteins can bind to chemicals and reduce their availability--and therefore their toxicity--to cells. Nevertheless, the authors conclude that the demonstrated toxicity of Roundup, even at concentrations below those in agricultural use, could contribute to some reproduction problems.
Kenya suspends research on GM maize - Angola Press, 31 August 2005 - http://www.angolapress-angop.ao/noticia-e.asp?ID=370408
Nairobi, Kenya, 08/31 - Kenya has suspended field trials on genetically modified maize after a major anomaly was discovered in the process in a move aimed at stopping further abuse of procedures until proper legislation is put in place, sources said here Tuesday. Kenyan officials feared the advances in the field trials of the genetically modified maize could harm the lives of thousands of its consumers should it be allowed to move further into commercial production despite huge financial investments in the research. The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS), the national watchdog agency tasked with enforcing standards and ensuring quality research, has rejected plans to have the field trials continue, citing lack of integrity by scientists to safeguard public safety. According to the KEPHIS directors, the country is ill prepared for GM research as no legal framework is in place to give rules on the conduct of research involving human life, as scientists funded by rich Western foundations are easy to compromise.
Kenyan Agriculture Secretary Wilson Songa was quoted by the local Daily Nation as saying scientists have succumbed to pressure from international groups to rubber-stamp research on GM, even if the right procedures were not followed. Scientists said the field trials, which were halted after a major breach of research procedures was discovered, smacked of acts of sabotage as no technician could have sprayed the GM seeds with a banned chemical without supervision.
The maize research focusing on enhancing resistance to the stalk borer, a disease that deprives farmers of thousands of tonnes of maize yields, was on its final phase before commercial production. The spraying of a chemical called Furadan compromised its success, they said. Furadan is sprayed on maize seeds to reduce the influence of the stalk borer.
Scientists could not determine the effectiveness of the maize seedlings or samples after they were sprayed with the chemicals because it was difficult to determine whether the end product would be naturally resistant to the stalk borer. "We do not have baseline data on the impact of the maize on non-target plants and insects. This was a major omission, as supervisors in the field have nothing to rely on. They shouldn't have gone on the ground without some baseline study on the environment," Songa said.
Kenya has not passed a biosafety law but a draft bill has been gathering dust at the attorney general's offices waiting for a cabinet approval and the onward transmission to parliament for debate and possible approval. Ochieng Ogodo, an environmental journalist in Nairobi, said the bill is expected to give guidelines on which procedures to be applied in conducting research on GM, a thorny issue across Africa. African countries have expressed their disgust with Western institutions seeking to get an across the board approval for GM foods as a panacea to Africa`s hunger crisis -- an issue which has left many on the continent unconvinced.
New Study Says Costs of Roundup Ready Wheat Are Greater Than Benefits: Industry Could Lose Up To $272 Million Roundup Ready Wheat
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, August 30, 2005
CONTACT: Dr. Charles Benbrook, 701-371-1564, Tuesday only; Dena Hoff, 406-687-3645; Todd Leake, 701-594-4275; or Kevin Dowling, WORC staff, 406-252-9672
FARGO, N.D. - Introduction of genetically modified wheat would lower income for wheat growers and the wheat industry, according to a report released today. Published by WORC (Western Organization of Resource Councils), Harvest at Risk - Impacts of Roundup Ready Wheat in the Northern Great Plains examines the likely consequences of Roundup Ready wheat adoption and projects economic impacts on wheat growers and the wheat industry.
"This is a technology for which there is really no compelling need," said Dr. Charles Benbrook, author of the study. "Existing weed management systems are stable, the price of weed management is not increasing, and farmers are managing resistance to currently used herbicides." If Roundup Ready wheat is introduced, increased seed and herbicide costs and reduced wheat prices would outweigh the operating cost savings from Roundup Ready wheat's simplified weed management by as much as $37 per acre, the report concludes. Farmers who do not plant Roundup Ready wheat would also face increased costs and lower income, ranging from $5.60 to $18 per acre.
"Overall, the wheat industry could lose $94 million to $272 million," Benbrook said. Benbrook said the wheat industry needs an in-depth and independent study of the factors and impacts of GM wheat so that the technology does not reduce farm income in the long run. "I don't see any advantage to the farmer in the introduction of Roundup Ready wheat," said Todd Leake, a North Dakota wheat grower and spokesperson for the Dakota Resource Council.
The report projects costs per bushel and per acre for farmers adopting Roundup Ready wheat and for non-adopters under a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario. In either case, farmers would lose money from introduction and use of Roundup Ready wheat. The report finds mostly negative affects from nine factors affecting the costs and benefits of growing Roundup Ready wheat: emergence of resistance, gene flow, disease pressure and related problems, impacts on seed plus herbicide expenditures, market rejection, dockage, yields, grain quality, and wheat prices.
Harvest at Risk is the latest WORC report analyzing the probable effects of commercial introduction of Roundup Ready, genetically modified wheat. An earlier report by WORC found that introduction of genetically modified wheat in the U.S. risks 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. WORC commissioned the study to answer questions about gene flow and contamination, weed resistance, disease problems and cost and returns, said Dena Hoff, WORC Chair, farmer, and member of the Northern Plains Resource Council. "There are other unanswered questions about the impacts on soil and water and human and animal health that should be studied," Hoff said. "We're going to have to work together so that we don't put our harvest at risk." Monsanto indefinitely postponed development of Roundup Ready wheat in May 2004.
Dr. Benbrook runs Benbrook Consultant Services, based in Sandpoint, Idaho. He has a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an undergraduate degree from Harvard University. He has served on the President's Council on Environmental Quality, in staff positions in Congress, and as Executive Director of the National Academy of Science Board on Agriculture.
WORC is a regional network representing farmers and ranchers in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming. The Dakota Resource Council and Northern Plains Resource Council are members of WORC.
Western Organization of Resource Councils, 2401 Montana Avenue, #301, Billings, Montana 59101 - 406.252.9672 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Govt stops research on maize - Story by SUNDAY NATION Reporter, Kenya - Publication Date: 28/8/2005
The Government has terminated the Genetically Modified (GM) maize experiments recently launched by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) and an American firm, Sygenta, and ordered the crop destroyed. The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service(Kephis) will supervise the destruction.
The the first ever field experiments on GM maize in the country, was started in May at a Kari field station in Kiboko, Machakos. They were initially hailed as a major break-through in resolving the challenges stem borer pests present to farmers. At the same time, local bio-technology researchers have been cautioned against succumbing to pressure from international organisations at the expense of standards and safety. The newly appointed Agriculture secretary, Dr Wilson Songa, said there was a tendency by local scientists to yield to pressure and sidestep existing regulations in spite of the absence of any legal framework to mitigate possible negative consequences. "The fact that we don't have an enabling legal framework to fall back on should anything nasty happen, should be reason enough for us to be extra vigilant in biosafety. Unfortunately, there is an emerging tendency by our scientists yielding to pressure from international collaborators pushing to secure approvals for their research projects faster, sidestepping procedures" Dr Songa said.
Dr Songa, who is the chairman of the National Biosafety Committee of the National Council of Science and Technology, was commenting on last month's termination of the stem-borer resistant maize experiments. He cited failure by the transformed maize (Bt maize) researchers to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the biosafety glass house where the maize seeds were grown. The planting of the seeds in the glass house at the National Agricultural Laboratories in Kabete was launched by President Kibaki in May last year.
"We don't have a baseline data on the impact of the maize on non-target plants and insects. This was a major omission as supervisors in the field have nothing to rely on. They shouldn't have gone to the field without some baseline study on the environment. Our scientists should be lobbying for the pending Biosafety Bill to be fast tracked into law. Instead, they are rushing projects in the field that can have serious consequences in case something went wrong, while we have no framework for redress," Dr Songa said. The Kiboko experiments were terminated after a technician sprayed the trial maize crop with a restricted chemical, Furadan, and which also acts on stem borers which meant it could no longer be possible to tell if it was the Bt maize or the chemical that would influence results being examined. The Kari director, Dr Romano Kiome, could not be reached for comment by Friday but was expected back in the office next week.
COMMENT - From: ECOTERRA Intl. [KENYA] - Sent: Sunday, August 28, 2005 10:19 AM - Subject: Right steps ahead in Kenya - Govt stops research on GM maize
Right steps ahead in Kenya against GM maize
With the newly appointed Agriculture secretary, Dr Wilson Songa, who also is the chairman of the National Biosafety Committee of the National Council of Science and Technology, in Kenya there is light ahead in the deep dark tunnels and dungeons of corporate masterminding by the GM lobby. Also NEMA, the National Environment Management Authority, the body who has to ensure and oversee that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are carried out prior to any permission, is actually a body, which still has a hard core of honest civil servants. While often such obstacles were created in the past only to increase the kickbacks from the corporate players, this time around there is a new spirit of consciousness and responsibility in Kenya emerging.
The task ahead is to change the present draft Biosafety bill, written by the lawyers of the GM lobby, into legislation, which can serve as a role model for Africa, protecting its traditional crops, natural species and most importantly the health and well-being of its people. Immediate action is required to inform the public comprehensively, which other genetically engineered (GE) crops are already in the open and on the market (e.g. tomatoes, papaya etc.).
It is high time to isolate the GE lobby and their Sorcerer's Apprentices together with their corporate money masters and their makings and to put them all into secure confinement from where they only shall be released once measures are in place to secure that the precautionary principle is fully observed and any move is 100% controlled by independent and honest scientists acting on behalf of the people and within a framework, which secures their fully informed prior consent and respect of their will.
The vast majority of Kenyan farmers stands like one wo/man against GE crops.
BRITISH RETAIL CONSORTIUM POSITION ON BRAZILIAN NON-GM SOYBEAN - Friday 26 August 2005
British Retail Consortium (BRC) members do not currently stock own label brands sourced from Genetically Modified (GM) materials and ingredients. This decision is based solely on customer demand, as the general public remains highly critical of potential health effects from consuming GM products. For this reason, UK retailers are determined to maintain a non-GM stance for products for as long as practically and commercially possible.
GM has failed to convince
Research data from across the UK indicates that customer demand for non-GM remains as strong now as it was in the late nineties when widespread opposition first emerged. A 2003 survey by NOP World revealed the following:
- 78% of people remain unconvinced that GM is safe to eat
- 79% would not knowingly buy food containing GM ingredients
- Even if GM food could be proven safe to eat, 61% of customers would still not consume these products
- 55% were against GM food and crops with 38% yet to be convinced of its benefits
Working with suppliers
In order to help suppliers of commodity crop provide non-GM soya and maize to our market, British retailers and manufacturers have worked together to produce a standard for identity-preserved systems in the supply of non-GM products, based on current best practice. The standards acts as a guide for use at appropriate points along the supply chain, from seed supply to the use of derivative ingredients in the manufacture of final food products.
Retailers are committed to giving their customers informed choice. Retailers support the 0.9% de minimis threshold for the accidental mixing of non-GM material, below which labelling will not be required. Without such a threshold to allow for such low level mixing, manufacturers and retailers would have no incentive to ensure non-GM supply lines as any error would mean presentation. That scenario would have businesses acting defensively, labelling 'containing GM' which is not what most customers want.
Maintaining Brazil’s non-GM supply
It will be enormously difficult to maintain trust in the food chain should Brazil’s supply of non-GM soybean dry up. It is therefore essential that Brazil remains a continued source of non-GM soybean and halts the progression at the current level of 35% GM.
We urge the Brazilian industry to resist further growth of GM planting. This would send a disastrous signal to UK consumers and could seriously damage trust and confidence in the food chain across the board.
Lower cottonseed weights troubling - By Hembree Brandon - Delta Farm Press, Aug 18, 2005 [shortened]
BILOXI, Miss. -- In a perfect world, says Randy Dismuke, a cotton variety would satisfy everyone's demands - growers, ginners, oil mills, textile spinners, and other downstream users. "Unfortunately, it's not a perfect world and we don't yet have a variety that's a 'perfect 10,'" the senior vice president for Delta and Pine Land Co., Scott, Miss., told members of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at their summer conference. The ginners, many of whom are also growers, had asked a panel of industry leaders to address the issue of why hugely popular, and widely-planted, new cotton varieties have significantly less seed turnout than conventional varieties.
Cottonseed removed in the ginning process represents a significant source of revenue to ginners, and reduced seed tonnage from newer genetically modified varieties has been cutting into their bottom line. Also, traditionally, the seed retained by the gin has offset the cost of ginning for the grower, a scenario that's becoming more difficult to maintain as ginning costs rise and seed weights/revenues decline. "A Cottonseed Digest study shows the 10-year trendline is down," Dismuke said, with a 14 percent decrease from 1995-96 to 2004-05. From 2003-04 to 2004-05, there was an 8 percent decline in seed yield.
Oil mill perspective
"One of the biggest challenges I see facing oil mills and the ginning industry is the seed derived from today?s popular genetically modified varieties," said Sammy Wright, vice president, Chickasha of Georgia, Tifton, Ga. Seed weights per bale "have dropped fairly dramatically" in some areas of the country, he said. "These smaller seed are much more difficult to delint and dehull in the milling process, and they contain quite a bit less oil. This reduces the value of the seed to the crusher." In the Southeast, he said, "We've been averaging 300-305 pounds of oil per ton of cottonseed; now, we're down to about 280 pounds of oil. "With 25-cent oil, that means roughly $5 to $6 less in crush value per ton of cottonseed. While that may not sound like a lot, in tight market times it can be the difference between making money and losing money. Lower seed weights also reduce the amount of seed available to ginners to convert to cash flow income."
In many cases today, returns to ginners from seed will not cover the cost of ginning, Wright said. "How much longer can the ginning industry operate under the scenario of ginning for the seed, when the seed don't return adequate value." "I wish I had the answer, but I don't," he said. ?I think it's safe to say, though, if we don't see a drastic change upward in seed yields, economics will force us to make some hard decisions as to how we operate our gins, or we won't be able to survive."
In 1980, Wright said, there were 74 operating oil mills in the U.S.; today, only 13. "These numbers speak to the radical change we've seen in our business." What does this mean to ginners? "For one thing, if you're not in close proximity to a major milk shed, you'd better hope you can keep a viable oil mill presence to help consume some of that seed. If not, the fundamental laws of supply and demand can get pretty ugly."
Development, yield, grain moisture and nitrogen uptake of Bt corn hybrids and their conventional near-isolines. - October 14, 2005
Field Crops Research 93: 199.211 - B.L. Ma and K.D. Subedi
There are concerns over the economic benefits of corn (Zea mays L.) hybrids with the Bt trait transferred from Bacillus thuringiensis. A field experiment including three to seven pairs of commercial hybrids and their transgenic Bt near-isolines were grown side-by-side for three consecutive years in Ottawa, Canada (458170N, 758450W; 93 m above sea level) to determine (i) which hybrid had the highest yielding potential, (ii) if there was a differential response of Bt and non-Bt hybrids to N application, and (iii) under natural infestation of European corn borer (ECB), whether there was a yield advantage of Bt over non-Bt hybrids to justify their cost.
We found that some of the Bt hybrids took 2-3 additional days to reach silking and maturity, and produced a similar or up to 12% lower grain yields with 3.5% higher grain moisture at maturity, in comparison with their non-Bt counterpart.
Although N application increased grain yield and N uptake in 2 of the 3 years, there was no N-by-hybrid interaction on yield or other agronomic traits. Most Bt hybrids had similar to or lower total N content in grain with higher N in stover than their respective non-Bt near-isolines. Under extreme weather conditions (e.g. cool air temperature at planting and severe drought during the development), some of the hybrids (both Bt and non-Bt) required up to 400 additional crop heat units (CHU) to reach physiological maturity than indicated by the supplying companies. Our data suggest that within the same maturity group, it was the superior hybrids (non-Bt trait) that led to the greatest N accumulation, and the highest grain yield. Under the conditions tested, there was no yield advantage of Bt hybrids in comparison with their conventional counterparts when stalk lodging and breakage of the non-Bt counterpart by ECB was low to moderate. (Download the report as a pdf file here - 244kb)
WA seeks national GM liability laws - Australian Broadcasting Corporation - Tuesday, 09/08/2005 - http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2005/s1433454.htm
Western Australia's Minister for Agriculture says he would like to see national legislation governing liability for GM contamination. The call comes after preliminary test results in WA identified a small amount of genetically-modified canola in non-GM canola. The sample has now been sent overseas to confirm the initial results. Kim Chance says while he believes his state's GM-free status is not under threat, liability laws are something the grain industry should consider. "And indeed, I think the question of liability laws is one that the pro-GM groups ought to support as well, because it would be, if it was properly constructed, it would be something that would give a degree of legal certainly to both sides," he said.
The issue is set to widen, with the Western Australian discovery coming just weeks after a similar incident in Victoria. Authorities believe the source of the contamination could be from lines of commercial seed sold to farmers all over Australia. Scott Kinnear from organics group Biological Farmers Australia says seed products may have to be recalled and crops destroyed to protect Australia's GM-free status. "Certainly the banning of any contaminated seed varieties from sale and either crop destruction, which is what we are urging them to do or a quarantining type of arrangement whereby we identify the crops and we send them through the supply chain in very carefully monitored and controlled consignments to ensure that contamination is not spread throughout the grain cropping system throughout Australia," he said.
China: Carrefour sells illegal genetically engineered rice - Greenpeace - AFX News Limited - http://www.forbes.com/finance/feeds/afx/2005/08/03/afx2169281.html
BEIJING (AFX) - Environmental group Greenpeace said it had found genetically engineered (GE) rice not approved for human consumption on sale at a Carrefour supermarket in central China. The rice was discovered at the French retailer's store in Wuhan city in Hubei province and Greenpeace demanded it be immediately withdrawn
Since April, Greenpeace China researchers have uncovered illegal GE rice being grown in Hubei, which has produced allergic reactions when tested on mice. It warned that other retailers were also at risk unless the Chinese government recalls the rice, which produces an inbuilt pesticide, from the field and food chain.
"Carrefour must withdraw the contaminated rice to protect its consumers," said Steven Ma, Greenpeace China campaigner. Carrefour officials in Wuhan were not immediately available for comment. China is considering commercialization of GM rice, and officials have indicated a decision may be made this year.
NEW SET-BACK FOR GMO CROPS IN EUROPE - Bayer withdraws GMO oilseed rape
Brussels/London, 26 July 2005 - The German biotech giant Bayer has withdrawn its applications to grow genetically modified (GM) oilseed rape in the European Union, Friends of the Earth revealed today. The move comes as public calls for GM-free zones spreads across Europe and follows a series of research findings which have uncovered environmental damage resulting from the GM crop being grown.
Bayer is the only biotech company to have applied for permission to grow GM oilseed rape commercially in Europe, but it was revealed this week that their applications have been withdrawn .
Earlier this year, results from the world's biggest environmental trials confirmed that growing GM oilseed rape, which has been modified to make it resistant to a weed killer, reduced the level of wildlife in the field . New research by the UK Government, revealed yesterday, showed that the GM crop had also crossed with wild plants to produce herbicide-resistant 'superweeds' in the UK .
While pressure to grow and import GM crops in Europe has grown, so has resistance from local authorities and communities. There are now GM-free initiatives virtually in every European country; 164 European regions and over 4500 local governments and smaller areas have declared themselves GM free or want to restrict commercial growing of GM crops . Last month European countries voted to allow France and Greece to maintain their national bans on the import and cultivation of GM oilseed rape .
Friends of the Earth Europe's GM Campaigner, Adrian Bebb said:
"Bayer's decision to withdraw its oilseed rape is a major step forward to protecting Europe from genetically modified crops. If this oilseed rape was grown commercially in Europe it would have been a disaster for consumers, farmers and wildlife. It is now time to move forward and for Europe to support the type of farming and food production that people want and trust."
CONTACT - Adrian Bebb +49 1609 1163 (mobile) - Clare Oxborrow (UK) +44 7712 843211 (mobile)
 Bayer's about turn on GM oilseed rape was revealed in correspondence from the UK Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and confirmed by the German authorities handling the applications. Received in an email from DEFRA, 25 July 2005. "On our DEFRA web site we say that these applications are pending transfer from a 90/220 and 2001/18 application to a 1829/2003 food and feed application. Our understanding is that the applications have actually been withdrawn by Bayer."
 www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/gm_crop_trial_blow_to_biot_21032005.html (March 2005)
Brazil GMO soy sales start slowly; royalties cited - By Roberto Samora - Reuters, July 26, 2005
SAO PAULO - Sales of genetically modified (GMO) soybean seeds for next harvest, which were legalized earlier this year in Brazil, are very slow, industry sources said on Monday. Farmers' financial difficulties and royalties charged by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto Co. are seen as the main reasons for the slowness. "The market isn't moving. GM sales are sluggish and things are generally quiet because farmers don't have cash," said Ivo Carraro, executive director of the Central Cooperative of Agricultural Research (Coodetec, Brazil's biggest producer of GM seeds). Coodetec has sold less than 10 percent of its seeds, compared with 90 percent at the same time last year, he said. Coodetec, one of Monsanto's partners in Brazil, produced around 2.5 million 40-kg bags of GM seeds for next year's harvest.
Following lengthy negotiations, Monsanto reached a deal with seed growers in mid-July to charge 0.88 real per kilo for use of its Roundup Ready (RR) soybean technology. As the market considered the charge to be excessive, Monsanto sought to boost sales by offering farmers credit in proportion to the volume of their GM seed purchases. In addition, seed producers can offer farmers discounts by passing on some of the bonuses they receive from Monsanto for various services. "These benefits could be given to farmers," said Narciso Barison Neto, interim president of the Brazilian Seed Producers Association (Abrasem). Monsanto also made an agreement earlier this year with soy producers from Rio Grande do Sul state under which those using illegal Argentine seed must pay a charge equivalent to 2 percent of 2005/06 soy sales. Coodetec's Carraro said that the situation concerning GM soy sales should become clearer in August and September.
Asian flour mills unlikely to take GM - Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 25 July 2005 - http://www.abc.net.au/news/items/200507/1421743.htm?act
Asian flour mills say they are unlikely to buy Australian genetically-modified (GM) wheat because it would affect their ability to sell to their markets. They have given their views to a study on GM grains, commissioned by Biotechnology Australia. Victorian consultant Peter England has presented his findings on Asian attitudes to a conference in Canberra. "The negatives for GM would be along the lines of loss of their markets or long-term health issues," he said. "And the benefits they see are either no benefits or flour yield improvements or quality of flours."
GM crops created superweed, say scientists - Modified rape crosses with wild plant to create tough pesticide-resistant strain
Paul Brown, environment correspondent - The Guardian, Monday July 25, 2005 - http://www.guardian.co.uk/gmdebate/Story/0,2763,1535428,00.html
Modified genes from crops in a GM crop trial have transferred into local wild plants, creating a form of herbicide-resistant "superweed", the Guardian can reveal. The cross-fertilisation between GM oilseed rape, a brassica, and a distantly related plant, charlock, had been discounted as virtually impossible by scientists with the environment department. It was found during a follow up to the government's three-year trials of GM crops which ended two years ago. The new form of charlock was growing among many others in a field which had been used to grow GM rape. When scientists treated it with lethal herbicide it showed no ill-effects. Unlike the results of the original trials, which were the subject of large-scale press briefings from scientists, the discovery of hybrid plants that could cause a serious problem to farmers has not been announced.
The scientists also collected seeds from other weeds in the oilseed rape field and grew them in the laboratory. They found that two - both wild turnips - were herbicide resistant. The five scientists from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the government research station at Winfrith in Dorset, placed their findings on the department's website last week. A reviewer of the paper has appended to its front page: "The frequency of such an event [the cross-fertilisation of charlock] in the field is likely to be very low, as highlighted by the fact it has never been detected in numerous previous assessments." However, he adds: "This unusual occurrence merits further study in order to adequately assess any potential risk of gene transfer."
Brian Johnson, an ecological geneticist and member of the government's specialist scientific group which assessed the farm trials, has no doubt of the significance. "You only need one event in several million. As soon as it has taken place the new plant has a huge selective advantage. That plant will multiply rapidly." Dr Johnson, who is head of the biotechnology advisory unit and head of the land management technologies group at English Nature, the government nature advisers, said: "Unlike the researchers I am not surprised by this. If you apply herbicide to plants which is lethal, eventually a resistant survivor will turn up." The glufosinate-ammonium herbicide used in this case put "huge selective pressure likely to cause rapid evolution of resistance".
To assess the potential of herbicide-resistant weeds as a danger to crops, a French researcher placed a single triazine-resistant weed, known as fat hen, in maize fields where atrazine was being used to control weeds. After four years the plants had multiplied to an average of 103,000 plants, Dr Johnson said. What is not clear in the English case is whether the charlock was fertile. Scientists collected eight seeds from the plant but they failed to germinate them and concluded the plant was "not viable". But Dr Johnson points out that the plant was very large and produced many flowers. He said: "There is every reason to suppose that the GM trait could be in the plant's pollen and thus be carried to other charlock in the neighbourhood, spreading the GM genes in that way. This is after all how the cross-fertilisation between the rape and charlock must have occurred in the first place."
Since charlock seeds can remain in the soil for 20 to 30 years before they germinate, once GM plants have produced seeds it would be almost impossible to eliminate them. Although the government has never conceded that gene transfer was a problem, it was fear of this that led the French and Greek governments to seek to ban GM rape. Emily Diamond, a Friends of the Earth GM researcher, said: "I was shocked when I saw this paper. This is what we were reassured could not happen - and yet now it has happened the finding has been hidden away. This is exactly what the French and Greeks were afraid of when they opposed the introduction of GM rape." The findings will now have to be assessed by the government's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre). The question is whether it is safe to release GM crops into the UK environment when there are wild relatives that might become superweeds and pose a serious threat to farm productivity. This has already occurred in Canada.
The discovery that herbicide-resistant genes have transferred to farm weeds from GM crops is the second blow to the hopes of bio-tech companies to introduce their crops into Britain. Following farm scale trials there was already scientific evidence that herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape and GM sugar beet were bad for biodiversity because the herbicide used to kill the weeds around the crops wiped out more wildlife than with conventionally grown crops. Now this new research, a follow-up on the original trials, shows that a second undesirable potential result is a race of superweeds. The findings mirror the Canadian experience with GM crops, which has seen farmers and the environment plagued with severe problems.
Farmers the world over are always troubled by what they call "volunteers" - crop plants which grow from seeds spilled from the previous harvest, of which oilseed rape is probably the greatest offender. Anyone familiar with the British countryside, or even the verges of motorways, will recognise thousands of oilseed rape plants growing uninvited amid crops of wheat or barley, and in great swaths by the roadside where the "small greasy ballbearings" of seeds have spilled from lorries. Farmers in Canada soon found that these volunteers were resistant to at least one herbicide, and became impossible to kill with two or three applications of different weedkillers after a succession of various GM crops were grown. The new plants were dubbed superweeds because they proved resistant to three herbicides while the crops they were growing among had been genetically engineered to be resistant to only one. To stop their farm crops being overwhelmed with superweeds, farmers had to resort to using older, much stronger varieties of "dirty" herbicide long since outlawed as seriously damaging to biodiversity. (See Reports )
Japan finds 4th U.S. corn cargo tainted with Bt-10 - Reuters, July 7, 2005 - Copyright Reuters
TOKYO - Japan has discovered a fourth U.S. feed grain cargo tainted with Bt-10 biotech corn, and the importer must either destroy it or ship it back to the United States, the Agriculture Ministry said. Samples from the U.S. feed corn cargo tested positive for traces of Bt-10, a genetically modified (GMO) corn strain made by Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta AG that has not been approved for distribution. Syngenta said in March that some of its corn seeds in the United States had been mistakenly contaminated with Bt-10 from 2001 to 2004.
Japan has a zero-tolerance policy on imports of unapproved GMO crops. The Agriculture Ministry has proposed accepting feed grain cargoes with up to 1 percent of Bt-10 corn, to smooth the flow of U.S. corn supplies to Japan's livestock industry. But the plan is subject to approval by Japan's Food Safety Commission, an independent agency. In a statement issued late on Wednesday, a ministry official said the tainted cargo arrived on June 20 at the port of Tomakomai on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Samples containing Bt-10 were taken from 1,429 tonnes of corn in the vessel. The ministry did not name the importer.
It was the fourth discovery since May 23 when the ministry started random tests on arriving U.S. corn shipments. The three previous cases were reported on June 1, June 3 and June 23. More contaminated cargoes will likely be found, as the ministry has stepped up its tests to cover all U.S. corn cargoes. To ensure tainted supplies are not shipped to Japan, the ministry has told importers of U.S. corn they must obtain certificates stating the cargoes do not contain Bt-10.
Farmers thrash seed company officials - Newindpress, India, 4 Jul 2005
The honeymoon with the Bt cotton seems to be over in the district. Repeated failure of the Bt cotton to yield the desired results have driven the farmers to the edge and have placed the officials of the agriculture department in a quandary. Enraged farmers in the district, furious with the BT cottonseeds failing to germinate vented their ire against the representatives of the seed company on Saturday. They stormed the agriculture department office and thrashed the representatives of the seed company. They alleged that more than 50 percent of the 14,000 BT cotton packets distributed in the district failed to germinate. They were also peeved that company ditched them in spite of being recognised by the government.
Trouble began when hundreds of farmers from neighbouring villages gathered at the office of the joint director of agriculture in anticipation of the compensation package. The seed company officials declared that compensation would be paid even if 25 percent of the seeds fail to germinate. The farmers entered into heated arguments with the company officials and even as the local representatives were explaining the situation to the company higher ups, the farmers began to manhandle them. The police arrived and quelled the agitation.
MLA T Veerabhadram and other leaders were holding discussions with the officials of the agriculture department.
Farmers ask why GM crops perform worse in drought - http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=2253
The Network of Concerned Farmers, an alliance of farmers with concerns regarding genetically modified crops, are calling for research to determine why GM crops perform worse during droughts. "There is more than enough evidence to reveal that GM crops perform worse than non-GM crops during drought conditions but this vital information is being ignored," said Julie Newman, National Spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers. "Farmers worldwide have complained that GM crops perform worse than non-GM crops during drought including GM cotton in India and Indonesia, GM soy in the United States and Brazil and GM canola in Canada. Australian farmers have even stated that they use an additional irrigation for GM cotton so it appears there is evidence that GM crops need more water," she said. "Our Federal Minister for Agriculture is making outrageous statements wanting states to ignore economic risk and claiming we need GM crops to counter drought when reality shows GM crops perform worse in drought. Australia is known for adverse conditions and may be totally unsuitable for GM crops but nobody seems to care about this vital detail."
There has recently been a significant drop in soybean production due to the drought in Brazil. The president of the Rio Grande do Sul seed association cites 25% higher crop losses in GE soy crops as compared with conventional ones. Brazil's agricultural department estimates that yields are down 72% in Rio Grande do Sul which is the biggest adopter of Monsanto's Roundup Ready GM technology. "Many Brazilian farmers who use Round-Up Ready soy will be thinking twice about it next year," said Etienne Vernet, South American Research Director of the Polaris Institute. Governor of Mato Grosso (25% of national soy production) has publicly stated that he will not plant genetically modified soy next year.
Monsanto and Bayer Cropscience withdrew from the proposed independent trials in NSW in 2004 with Bayer Cropscience stating a concern for dry conditions as a reason. Requests for further independent testing has been denied but Bayer Cropscience has been growing canola under irrigation for export to Canada under special state exemption orders. "Farmers need trials to compare GM performance during adverse conditions and scientists need to investigate this further. Farmers have had enough of the bulldust, we need facts." Non-GM drought tolerant varieties of wheat are being grown in Australia. Mrs Newman claims there are far better alternatives in non-GM biotechnology but some scientists are more interested in attracting corporate investment so are misleading farmers to believe all biotechnology is GM.
Contact: Julie Newman 08 98711562 or 08 98711644 or 0427 711644 - Network of Concerned Farmers - www.non-gm-farmers.com
Western Australia GM crops moratorium to remain - Friday, 1 July 2005 - http://abc.net.au/news/items/200507/1404623.htm?southwestwa
Western Australian Agriculture Minister Kim Chance says the Government has no intention of changing its stance on genetically modified (GM) crops. Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss has called on the states to end the ban on the cultivation of GM crops, saying it is discouraging investment in biotechnology. Mr Chance says there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered about GM crops and WA's moratorium will remain in place. "I can see no reason to change our present position, indeed we want to understand a lot more about the advantage and disadvantage with respect to GM and in particular in relation to market advantages and disadvantages," he said.
Drought in Brazil Could Dry Up Monsanto's Sales - Media Release - For immediate release - 29th June, 2005
Drought in Brazil has caused a severe 72% drop in soybean yields in the heaviest Round-Up Ready soy using state. The Polaris Institute calls on the company to review its FY06 earnings estimates that include new Brazilian sales that will begin this fall. In particular, what pricing changes should investors expect to address this crisis and how will those changes affect next year's EPS estimates?
Rio Grande do Sul - the biggest adopter of Monsanto technology - has been the hardest hit by the drought. The state is also home to Monsanto's fledgling royalty collection system. Brazil's agricultural department estimates that yields are down 72% in Rio Grande do Sul. Monsanto representative Ricardo Miranda concedes that yield losses are 80% in some areas. Soy exports from Rio Grande do Sul are expected to drop 95%.
The effects of such a severe drought are predictable. In some cases, soy crushers are halving their staff. Cargill is even closing a processing plant for a month for lack of inputs. Farmers have defaulted on one-third of the government loans so far this year.
Farmers are taking notice. The president of the Rio Grande do Sul seed association cites 25% higher crop losses in GE soy crops as compared with conventional ones. Governor of Mato Grosso (25% of national soy production) has publicly stated that he will not plant genetically modified soy next year. "Farmers and farm groups are only now realizing the full financial impact of this drought," said Etienne Vernet, South American Research Director of the Polaris Institute. "Many Brazilian farmers who use Round-Up Ready soy will be thinking twice about it next year."
"Despite the distressing facts of a severe drought, which some farmers are blaming on Round-Up Ready soy, Monsanto has been consistently optimistic about its prospects for Brazil in FY06," said David Macdonald, Analyst with the Polaris Institute. The Polaris Institute calls on the Monsanto to review what pricing changes investors should expect in the Brazilian market and how those changes will affect next year's EPS estimates.
Contact: David Macdonald, Tel: 613-237-1717 Cell: 613-725-7606 - Etienne Vernet, email@example.com, Tel: +011 55 21 22 25 67 39
Church group sets survey to probe claim on Bt corn - By BONG REBLANDO - Manila Bulletin - http://www.mb.com.ph/PROV2005062938128.html
GENERAL SANTOS CITY - The Diocese of Marbel says it will conduct a survey to look into claims by US multinational Monsanto that bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn gives high yield. This came after an international environment watchdog, Greenpeace-Southeast Asia, reported that a farmer in Naujan town, Oriental Mindoro complained of low harvest from his farm planted to Bt corn. "This is a disturbing report that contradicts claims by seed-producing firms like Monsanto of increased harvest from Bt corn," said Fr. Romeo Catedral, director of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel. The survey, the priest said, will be launched soon and will involve several corn farmers in South Cotabato and General Santos. Catedral hopes that the result of the survey would be released this year.
Aside from Monsanto, Pioneer Hibred, another foreign company, is also producing commercial Bt corn seeds whose yield is much higher than the ordinary corn. This claim, however, was being disputed by environmentalist groups, the Catholic Church and other militant organizations.
The diocese?s 24 parishes in the Socsargen (South Cotabato-Sarangani-General Santos City) growth corridor would be involved in the survey. The farmers who would participate are assured of confidentiality in the information they will provide. "The various social action centers in Socsargen," Catedral said, "would soon meet to draw up plans and mechanics of the survey and other related social matters affecting human health vis-à-vis Bt corn." Catedral reiterated Church's official opposition to Bt corn, saying the genetically engineered crop is harmful to man and the environment until after further scientific studies, globally accepted, say otherwise.
The latest news from the debate in Iceland on GMOs, GM food and GM crops.
We would like to bring your attention to the most recent articles of our homepage, www.erfdabreytt.net:
EFA Grants Licence for More Release of GM Pharm Crops - ORF´s Application Approved Despite Informed Objections
Iceland Should Be Declared a GM-Free Country! Ministers Criticized For Ignorance and Incompetence - By the Chairman of the Consumers´ Association of Iceland
GM Crops Pose New Risks to Environment and Health - Which will come first, the licenses or the debate? - By Sandra B. Jónsdóttir, Principal Writer for erfdabreytt.net -
ICELANDIC INFORMATION CAMPAIGN ON GMOs
Massacre in the department of Caaguazu - PARAGUAY - Written by Javiera Rulli - GRR- Grupo de Reflexion Rural - firstname.lastname@example.org
Brazilean Genetically Modified soy growers protected by the police and military in Paraguay have attacked last friday (24/06/05) a peasant community, TEKOJOJA, in Caaguazu. They have evicted 270 people, burnt down all the 54 houses and crops. 2 men have been killed -- ANGEL CRISTALDO and LUIS TORRES -- there are many people injured and 130 people arrested amongst them many women and children.
The peasant community of Tekojoja is a land settlement of 500 hectares were 56 peasants families live and is located 70 km from the city of Caaguazu in Paraguay. The peasant community of Tekojoja is part of the Organización Agraria y Popular, part of MCNOC (National coordination platform of peasant organisatiosn) Via Campesina Paraguay. They are also involved in the Frente por la Soberania y la Vida (Front for Food Sovereignity and Life).
Caauguazu together with San Pedro are the regions where the GM soy monocultures have mainly been expanding in Paraguay in the last 5 years. There are 2 million hectares of GM soy monocultures in Paraguay and the government plan the expansion of 2 more million hectares. In Paraguay less than 2% of the population owns 7% of the land causing the expulsion of the peasants of their historical territories.The GM soy monocultures aimed for export is a principal cause to this severe situation, the rate of land conflicts have multiplied in the last years; only in 2004, 162 land conflicts and 118
land occupation took place.
Tekojoja is one of the peasant settlement recovered during the land reform, however many of these lands have gone back to the hands of private big land owner by illegal and corrupted manouvres or by tricking of the peasant. This is the case of the ractors. In total 130 people were arrested amongst them 40 children and they were taken to the local jail in Caaguazu. Galeano, a spoke person of the community, informed that after the incident
29 men, 19 women y 40 children have been liberated. Several peasants are missing since friday. In the eviction, the legal land owner Adelin Osperman (brasilean soy producer) joined by hired gunmen entered the land with trucks and from these shot the peasants, killing Angel Cristaldo (20 years old) , y Leopoldo Torres (49 years old) and severely injuring 5 more people in front of the policemen present in the settlement. One is still in a critic state in the Hospital La Candelaria (Caaguazu), Anibal Gonzalez had to be operated yesterday. The Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, the National Comission of Human Rights of Paragauy is covering the health care cost as the health and social services in tha country have been privatised.
At current date Ademir Oppermann and several of his gunmen have been arrested because of the murders. In the arrestement a whole arsenal of weapons were found 4 shotguns, 2 of caliber 12 and 2 of caliber 20, one revolver caliber 38, and bullets packages for shotguns, all these were found in the trucks that entered the peasant community to destroy houses and crops. The actions of these paramilitary groups have been widely denounced during the last years. It is with the help of these groups that the majority of the evictions take place ususally under the collaboration of militaries and policegroups. The last time this was denounced was in January this year when Jorge Galeano, a peasant lider of the community, denounced publicly that Opperman had hired
armed goups to terrorise the peasant communities.
The urgency is now to help to the 270 people that have lost all their belongings, they are back into their land where nothing is left. The landowner took away 3 trucks with belonging of the peasant and only one has been found back and is in the hands of the police. It is worth to remark the urgent situation of the whole community that are now facing the winter without clothes, food and shelter.
The peasant organisations have planned several demonstrations for the coming days. There wil be demonstrations in Asuncion in front of the attorneys offices, denouncing the behauvior of the two attorneys that ordered the evictions. One of them , Nelly Varela ordered verbally to the police to take the children out of the school and arrest them and take them to jail as they were criminals, stated Galeano. The peasant organisation will as well try to meet the president of INDERT (Rural Development and Land Issue Institution) and demand the protection of their lands by this institute. "Ko yvyko oremba'e, ha roi roproba haguaicha upeva; roguerekopa la documento ome'eva'ekue oreve Indert ha upevare ndorose mo'ai ko'agui (this land belongs to us and we can show it , we have the documents from the government institution INDERT and we will not leave) stated Jorge Galeano.
We ask international organisations to spread this situation, network for solidarity actions and send Tekojoja community that has since its beginnig been threatened by the expansion of the GM soy monocultures. Adelin Osperman is a brasilean GM soy producers that want to control these lands and begun a juridical trial against the peasants despite that the settlement were legally recognised 3 years ago by the current government of Nicanor Duarte Frutos. Carlos Gonzalez member of the Coordinación de la Organizacion Agraria y Popular states "the judge in charge of the juridical process has never taken into account that these land belonged to the state and were donated to the peasant organisations with the land reform program". In august 2004, the community was attacked and tried to be evicted with the results of several arrested people and injured people.
On Friday 25 june, at 5.30 in the morning the attorney Pedro Torrales and Nelly Varela appeared with 150 policemen with the intention of evicting the whole community. While the eviction, and with the presence of the attorneys, people were brutally harassed and beaten.The police were evicting and arresting the people followed by the paramilitary groups destroying and burning the houses with caterpillar thuman right observers to Paraguay. Many land conflicts take time during the soy crop season (dec- mars) when the peasant tries to stop the pesticide fumigations in the surroundings of the communities confronting police and military that guards the soy fields.
The peasant communities need help in the form of support for legal advocacy and health care. They need to cover the costs of lawyers for the juridical processes defending their lands and to denounce the violation of their rights. The health care is privatized in Paraguay and the peasants do not have access to it. They are intensively poisoned by the fumigation of pesticides and the community members are suffering severe health problems and need to do tests and buy medicines. The coordination of women of peasant and indigenous women - CONAMURI- is at current date maintaining the courtcase against two brasilean soy producers acussed of murdering a 11 years old boy, Silvino Talavera by their uncareless fumigation of Round Ready herbicide.
BOLETÍN FSP- 24-06-05
Personal phonecall to MCNOC email@example.com ( tel= 00595 21 550598)
Call Out of CONAMURI . (Tel= 0595- 21- 490 203) firstname.lastname@example.org
Third Japanese Shipment Tests Positive for Bt10 High Plains Journal, 27 June 2005 [shortened]
OMAHA (DTN) - A third shipment of corn intended for feed use in Japan has tested positive for Bt10, a biotech event that is unapproved in that country. The Ministry of Agriculture - Forestry & Fisheries (MAFF) announced this week that a third shipment of U.S. corn tested positive for Bt10.
In early June, Both MAFF and Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor & Welfare (MHLW) announced all vessels containing U.S. corn will be tested for the presence of Bt10. Both agencies had started random testing for Bt10 in early May.
Of the U.S. corn imported by Japan for food use, 90 percent is identity preserved and considered non-genetically modified.
The Government of Japan has not, to date, accepted U.S. government regulatory agency arguments as sufficient to allow Bt10 to be legally imported under Japanese law.
The U.S. exported more than 15 million metric tons of corn to Japan in 2004.
Bt-corn not financially rewarding - Allen V. Estabillo - Sun Star, June 27, 2005
THE genetically-engineered Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn does not directly offer increase in production yields, contrary to claims of "windfall benefits" by its producers and proponents in the government, a study made by environmental group Greenpeace bared. The study, entitled "The Economics of Bt Corn: Whose interest does it really serve?" claimed that Bt corn, which is being sold commercially in the country over the last two and a half years, is not a viable option for small Filipino farmers due to the high cost of the seeds, fertilizers and other inputs required in planting the crop. Greenpeace said it released the study last Monday to counter the continuing "misleading claims" by Bt corn seed producer Monsanto and the Department of Agriculture that the crop ensures increase in yields and reduces the farmers' dependence on fertilizers and chemicals.
"Our findings prove that the Arroyo government should never have approved the commercialization of Bt corn. Monsanto is promoting it as profitable for small farmers but it's not. Bt corn is actually a lot more expensive than conventional corn varieties," Greenpeace genetic engineering (GE) campaigner Daniel Ocampo said in a separate statement emailed to this reporter. According to the Greenpeace study, Bt corn seeds, which were developed to resist the Asiatic corn borer pests, are currently sold at P4,400 to P4,900 per 18-kilogram bag, approximately twice the price of the more expensive non-Bt hybrid corn seeds.
Conventionally bred hybrid seeds sell at about P1,500 to P,2700 while the open pollinated varieties (OPVs) are priced between P460 to P1,200, it said. An 18-kilogram bag of seeds covers one hectare of land for hybrid and Bt corn while and 20-kilograms for OPVs. For fertilizers, Greenpeace said it has established that Bt corn plants require more usage of Urea, complete or 14-14-14 and the 16-20-0. It said the usage is two to three bags per hectare for OPVs, six bags for hybrid and 15 bags for Bt corn. The said usage rate was reportedly recommended by Monsanto field technicians to farmers in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. In Isabela, the recommended fertilizer usage is around 4 bags per hectare for OPVs and 6 to 8 bags both for hybrid and Bt corn.
A check with some farmers in Tantangan town in South Cotabato showed the same recommendations from Monsanto personnel. "This large quantity of fertilizers recommended by the Monsanto agent was probably to artificially boost the yield for the first crops and convince other farmers to switch to Bt corn," Greenpeace said. For pest control, Greenpeace said a farmer who uses non-Bt hybrids and OPVs and biological control methods like trichocards for protection from corn borer may spend only for seeds if the trichocards are availed of for free. But if a charge of P1 per card is set, with the recommended 70 cards per hectare by the Regional Crop Protection Center, a farmer will incur an added cost of P 70 only for pest control instead of P2000 for pesticides, it said.
"If the price of hybrid seed is pegged at P2,000 per bag, then the cost will reach a maximum of P2,070. Therefore, the use of non-Bt varieties with trichocards is still much cheaper than Bt corn seeds," the study said. Ocampo said such findings make it clear from the beginning that planting Bt corn comes at a huge premium that most farmers cannot recover from.
South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos or the Socsksargen area is currently considered by Monsanto as a primary production area of Bt corn, which was placed at 4,700 hectares in January. Mindanao's total Bt corn production area reportedly reached close to 7,000 hectares as of January, Monsanto cited. Ronaldo Cayomo, Monsanto's corn lead for the area, earlier claimed that the utilization of Bt corn in the Socsksargen area has been on an upward trend supposedly due to the increased yield and income experienced by its users.
EU MINISTERS VOTE TO KEEP GM FOOD BANS - Commission defeated
Luxembourg 24 June 2005 - Environment Ministers from across Europe today voted to allow countries to keep their safety bans on genetically modified (GM) foods. The Ministers rejected by a qualified majority all the proposals by the European Commission to lift the bans in Austria, Luxembourg, France, Greece and Germany. The Commission's move follows a dispute over GM foods at the World Trade Organisation, where the United States is claiming national bans are a barrier to trade. Over 70% of the European public are against GM foods.
The Ministers however failed to reach the qualified majority required to prevent approval of another GM maize - referred to as MON 863 - which caused unexplained kidney damage to rats, according to research conducted by the manufacturer, biotech giant Monsanto. Monsanto has refused to release all the results of its own test on this GM food.
Adrian Bebb, GMO Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The European Commission asked for more guidance from the member states and they got it. Countries today have demanded the sovereign right to ban genetically modified crops if there are questions over their safety. The Commission now faces a test of credibility - will it listen to national governments and the public, or carry on with its unpopular policy of pushing GM foods and crops into Europe? It is time to reconnect with the public and protect them from unwanted GM foods and crops."
Since 1997, five EU countries have banned various GM crops on safety grounds. (1) The Commission asked all EU member states to vote on proposals requiring the five countries to lift their bans within 20 days.(2) Ministers today voted overwhelmingly to allow these bans to remain.
The Commission's proposals are seen as a direct result of the trade dispute in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that was started in 2003 by the United States, Argentina and Canada. These countries, all big producers of GM crops, claim that Europe's precautionary stance on GM food, including the national bans, are a barrier to free trade and harm their farmers. The WTO is expected to deliver an interim ruling in August.
Today's vote also questions the credibility of the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA). Last year the EFSA claimed the national bans had no scientific basis - a view rejected today by member states. Friends of the Earth, who have been deeply critical of EFSA's pro-biotech position and their close links with the GMO industry, today called for a major review into the independence and scientific standards of the EFSA. (3)
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Adrian Bebb GM Campaigner Friends of the Earth Europe +49 1609 490 1163
(1) Friends of the Earth briefings and a cyber action urging Ministers to reject the Commission proposals are available at - http://www.foeeurope.org/ban_risky_gm_food/index.php
(2) The Commission proposals can be found at: www.foodlaw.rdg.ac.uk/news/eu-05037.htm
(3) The Friends of the Earth report: Throwing Caution to the Wind can be downloaded at: http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/publications/EFSAreport.pdf
The national bans are:
Syngenta's Bt176 maize (banned 31/03/2000) - Reason: effects on non-target insects + transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to humans and animals + insects could develop resistance to the Bt
Bayer's oilseed rape Topas 19/2 (banned 16/11/1998) - Reason: impact of genetic escape and spread of herbicide tolerance Bayer's oilseed rape MS1xRf1 (banned 16/11/1998) - Reason: impact of genetic
escape and spread of herbicide tolerance
Syngenta's Bt176 maize (banned 13/02/1997) - Reason: effects on non-target insects such as butterflies + transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to humans and animals Bayer's T25 maize (banned 28/4/2000) - Reason: protection of sensitive areas, lack of monitoring plan and concerns about the herbicide used Monsanto's MON810 maize (banned 10/06/1999) - Reason: Effects on non-target insects
Syngenta's Bt176 maize (banned 07/02/1997) - Reason: Transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to humans and animals
Bayer's oilseed rape Topas 19/2 (banned 08/09/1998) - Reason: impact of genetic escape
Monsanto's Mon 863 GM Maize Feeding Study Faces Comprehensive Critique
Material provided by Doctor Arpad Pusztai for Greenpeace press conference, 22nd June, on MON863
Why the Mon 863 Study Should Have Been Rejected
The Mon 863 feeding study was poorly designed and reported. It is doubtful whether any prominent nutritional journal would consider it. It is odd, therefore, that it remains the key document used by government regulators to protect the health of European citizens.
Nutritional data missing: Nutrition studies require measurement and disclosure of the nutritional composition of the feed and the demonstration that it remains stable for the duration of the 90-day experiment. This assurance backed up by actual chemical analysis is not provided.
Methodology missing: The study fails to describe most of the methods used in the study. When methods cannot be evaluated or repeated, they remain suspect.
Older animals masked results: Nutritional studies use young, fast-growing animals, which are sensitive to toxic and nutritional effects. The study uses a mix of younger and more mature animals, which can mask serious problems.
Bizarre and conflicting animal weights: The starting rat weights given at two different places in the study were different. Thus, for male rats at the beginning of the report it was given as between 198.4 to 259.8 g while in Appendix 2, the values were 143 to 186 g. (similar differences for female rats). No high-class journal would tolerate such imprecision. Normally differences in starting weight should not be more than mean weight (typically about 80 g) ± 2%. Using such a wide range can make it impossible to find significant differences in animal weights at the end of the experiment.
The growth rates reported were inexplicable. During the experiment, for example, one rat lost 53 g in one week and then gained 102 g the next. Rats with the highest starting weight sometimes ended up with the smallest final weight. In the last four weeks, rats hardly grew at all, in spite of the similar feed intake and even though rats typically continue to grow throughout their lives. There is too little information provided to judge whether these are the result of animal mismanagement, degradation of the feed stored at room temperature, or some other problem.
Ignored modern methods: The analytical methods used are decades old. Powerful new methods, such as various profiling techniques, DNA chips, proteomix, and others, were ignored. The 90-day length can also miss chronic problems, reproductive problems, and problems arising in subsequent generations. Also, the study relied on only two observation times, missing the rate of appearance (kinetics) of the changes.
Inappropriate and missing controls: The study?s use of six irrelevant controls and reference to historical databases obscured the true findings. The study should have included a control group fed the non-GM parent line, spiked with the Bt gene product obtained from the GM maize, to isolate results of the transformation process. A second parental line spiked with a known toxin would also be useful as a positive control.
"Follow-up study" was inadmissible: Monsanto defended changes in kidney weights by comparing results from the test animals with rats used in a completely different study, conducted in a different laboratory, using Mon 863 hybrids with other GM maize samples. In this study the results of the original MON 863-study was quoted (but not actually re-done) for comparison. This inter-experimental comparison is entirely inappropriate for nutritional evaluation and should be disregarded.
Nutritional scientists and leading journals would not accept these blatant inadequacies and misinterpretations. How can regulators accept it for a novel genetically modified food?
Report on MON 863 GM maize produced by MONSANTO Company - June 2005
Controversial effects on health reported after subchronic toxicity test : a confidential rat 90 day feeding study
By Pr. Gilles-Eric SERALINI, University of Caen, France and President of the Scientific Council of the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN).
Professor SERALINI is member of two commissions for GMOs evaluation before and after commercial release (commissions of the french Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Ecology) since 1998, and was expert for the European authorities on the first panel in the WTO conflict with the United States, concerning the GMO moratorium. He develops research on the effects of pesticides on health. He has written several books on GMOs in french, the last one is « Ces OGM qui changent le monde » (Ed. Flammarion).
Background information. MON 863 is a GM maize from the first generation, second category of GMOs ; i.e. genetically modified to produce a pesticide. The first generation of GMOs commercialized in open fields since 1995 either tolerate a pesticide for the first category (72% of GMOs tolerate for instance mainly the herbicide Roundup, like NK603 maize from Monsanto) or produce a pesticide for the second category (generally around a kg/ha, like artificial Bt toxins in MON810 or MON863 maize ; these different insecticides are produced in 20% of GMOs). The second generation of GMOs (8% of total) developed from 1998 make both : producing and tolerating a pesticide. Then virtually all GMOs commercialized in agriculture have been designed to contain pesticides that they absorb and / or produce (all the remaining characters are less than 1%). The third and fourth generations are anticipated from the actual experiments in fields to produce two insecticides and to tolerate one or two herbicides.
MON 863 description. The genetic modification has inserted an artificial genetic construction, called the transgene, by particle bombardment by chance in the maize genome from immature cells. These cells have then regenerated new transformed plants, so called GMOs. Everyone agrees that this may have created insertional mutagenesis effects that are not visible by the compositional analysis ; this kind of analysis by « substantial equivalence » can by definition only be partial. From a reductionist point of view, the hypothesis taken is that an artificial genetic modification by particle bombardment (or by an equivalent method) does not create more risk than unknown genetic effects possibly visible after classical hybridization. This hypothesis has not been demonstrated yet, but has been used to avoid labelling and long-term feeding studies with GMOs in north america.
In our precise file, the genetic modification has been performed and reaches three separate goals :
1) to produce a variant of an artificial insecticide called Cry3Bb1 by the maize plant (49-96.5 mg/g) throughout its development and in all organs (adapted 35S promoter is used in the genetic construction). The toxin is measured in the grains by Monsanto. This toxin is directed against coleopteran insects like Diabrotica. Diabrotica is from a very dangerous family of insects for a wide range of crops and was absent from the european countries untill the late 1990?s, forbidden even in laboratories (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera) because it is very difficult to eliminate it with known chemical insecticides. It appears that it has been introduced probably during the Balkan?s war from America ; and since then it reaches western european countries like Italy and France (around 2000), probably by planes (around military airports). Monsanto seems to have anticipated this problem since the company developed a few years before transgenic maize against to try to fight this insect in the future, in trials in particular in France ; this step being necessary some years before commercialization in the country. The molecular mechanism of action of the toxin is not precisely known, nor is identified the receptor binding the toxin within the insect gut. The specificity of action is generally hypothesized ; but no proof has been published on the action of this toxin on human cells and a controversy exists at this level. Monsanto is not able to produce toxicity tests with the toxin extracted from the maize and put into contact with human digestive epithelia. It appears that following theoretical considerations, and preliminary data from acute toxicity experiments during a few days in a very little number of rodents, the toxin has been exempted from serious toxicity analysis. In this context, the result of the confidential toxicity 90 day study with rats is of highest importance, because it is the best that one can have to get an idea of the toxin activity in mammals, or other unexpected effects of the genetic modification.
2) To facilitate economically the maize selection, Monsanto has used and maintained within the GM plants an antibiotic marker gene called NPTII (neomycin phosphotransferase II). The latter produces into the vegetal cells a protein inducing resistance towards at least kanamycin, a well known antibiotic. This is also a sign of the first generation of GMOs which have been made rapidly with low consideration of the following problem. Antibiotic resistance is recognized to be a major health problem in numerous countries, developed because of the growing development in the environment and bodies of antibiotic resistance genes. This is a phenomenon amplified by the common use of antibiotics according to the scientific community, which agrees to limitate their use nowadays. In this context, it could appear very strange to promote a food containing an antibiotic resistance, overall since Monsanto has already developed transgenic maizes without this kind of marker genes. This is true even if the company says that the antibiotic resistance has little chance to spread out from this agriculture, and that this will have if any very little effect on human and animal health. This belief is not supported by well-designed experiments to prove it. This could shed a very big trouble in citizens? mind on the real goals of this company on health protection ; and this is not good for the development of biotechnologies in general, that have been highly promoted by member states policy, including by heavy financial supports.
3) MON 863 is also designed to be a transgenic father for other GMOs, since several applications may concern hybrids with MON863, even containing other GM characters, like MON 863 x MON 810 producing two different insecticides (next generation). Although MON 863 is giving its Cry3Bb1 toxin to MON 863 x MON 810 plants in this instance, both plants are genetically different and are not a priori directly comparable for their toxicity. Combined effects of both insecticides are not excluded.
DOCUMENTS USED FOR THIS REPORT
For this report, we have compared and compiled four kinds of documents :
1) Background documents in the public domain for general and specific considerations (like EFSA or AFSSA reports)
2) Scientific peer-reviewed literature from various international journals. This literature is cited on www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed and mostly in « Ces OGM qui changent le monde ».
3) Files made available by Greenpeace not covered by confidential agreements
4) Reports obtained via CRIIGEN (www.criigen.org) non covered by confidential agreements and communicated as such by the french government after request ; they are considered as public data. The government has given that to CRIIGEN after order from CADA (Commission of Access to Administrative Documents). These documents are written by Monsanto and different State Members asking relevant questions about toxicity of MON 863 in particular.
All the scientific committees consulted agree with Monsanto that statistical significative differences (summarized below) have been reported during the 90 day study between control and treated rats (with GMOs) on numerous parameters including blood composition and detoxification organs such as kidneys. EFSA indicates at this level : « Some differences were observed in haematological parameters, including total white blood cell, lymphocyte and basophil counts » ; « At study termination, statistically significant differences were observed for reticulocyte counts between the female animals fed 33% MON 863 and those fed the control and reference lines » ; « Individual kidney weights of male ratd fed with the 33% MON 863 diet were statistically significantly lower compared to those of animals on control diets » ; « a statistically significant lower incidence of mineralized kidney tubules was noted for rats fed 33% MON 863 maize compared to those fed the control maize ».
Significant effects in comparison to controls are also noticed with other GMOs tolerant to Roundup, and in total with at least 4 GMOs for which this kind of tests has been done, resembling classical side-effects of pesticides in toxicology. But this has also been observed for MON 810 maize producing another insecticide : « For rats fed 33% MON 810 maize, a statistically significantly lower albumin/globulin count was observed compared with control and overall reference lines at study termination ».
On the other hand, public CGB discussions report inflammation and regeneration abnormalities in male kidneys fed with MON 863, significant increase of glycemia in treated females. Scientific committees in Austria, Italy, France, Spain, Sweden, and The Netherlands in particular have given questions to Monsanto on toxicity and allergenicity of this maize or MON 810, or both, or MON 863 x MON 810 after the transmission of the Company data, even if the time to evaluate the documents was very short.
Interpretations of above data. Most of these significant differences were judged as « not biologically meaningfull » by Monsanto and consecutively by several scientific committes cited above at majority, after important debates and meetings. The results were considered as relevant but their interpretation may be the cause of disagreements. Some of the final votes were made with a very few number of toxicologists, and none of them had access to our knowledge to the histological slides of the organs except the ones decided by Monsanto Company.
Anyway, the main arguments in discussion in favour of the absence of toxic effects were:
1/ The comparison with reference groups of rats that did not eat the same line of maize than the maize that was genetically modified. By contrast, the control group was fed with a maize genetically very close to the treated group with the GMO, the difference in the diet was considered in this case to be the transgene, its protein expression and its consequences alone. This is a general practice with GMO tests. The total reference group was also at least 6 times bigger than the GMO treated group (in some instances the historical data of the laboratory conducting the experiment served also as references in some files).
2/ For some significant effects, the differential effects between males and females served to say that the problem was probably not linked to the GMO.
3/ For some significant effects, their observations only during some weeks of the experiment served to eliminate those from biological significance.
4/ For some significant effects, the absence of correlation with the dose ingested by the rats was a cause to avoid to link them to the GMO.
By contrast, other international experts, after consultation may consider that:
1/ The statistical analysis may have encountered problems in the choice of methodology or unexpected bias and should be done again. This is proposed by CRIIGEN after communication of all crude data. The improper or poor statistical analysis has been admitted in some cases.
2/ The differential effects of a treatment by a toxic coumpound on males and females is observed quite often, this may be due to enzymatic and hormonal differences between the two sexes in regard to detoxification
3/ The transient effects after chemical or biological intoxications are also numerous and do not mean that the coumpound is safe on a long-term
4/ The dose-dependant effects are not the only ones to be taken in consideration in toxicology. For instance, most of endocrine effects are not for sure directly proportional to the dose, but may present biphasic or feedback effects, and also depend on the time of administration.
It can be concluded that no independant study of toxicity has been made besides the experiments directed and interpreted by Monsanto Company. In addition, the interpretations of data may be controversial. There was no open access to the organs from treated rats and slides of these organs. There was never new experiments after discussions, but only new analysis and interpretations of the same MON 863 data by experts designed by Monsanto. Moreover and for instance, for all GMOs untill recent years, the so called independant external expert paid by the french government to be referee for CGB was, according a written rule, chosen during numerous years by the Company in the last round of propositions. Even if that is not always the case now, it should be checked if this kind of practice is followed by other state members or EU. All these practices avoid a contradictory expertise similar to judiciary processes, but this could be organized easily. The secret on confidential raw data claimed by Monsanto has no scientific basis ; all scientific data have to be published or transparent are they are in the commercial request files to the state members, like it is done for public research, if the GMO is for public feeding. The directive CEE/2001/18 indicates that the risk assessment on health and environment should be public for GMOs.
Whatever the results are, in such a controversial case, the minimum could be, like in public research, to repeat the experiment since no clear conclusion can be drawn from these data. CRIIGEN proposes to conduct new experiments, also longer and on two generations of rats, and is asking for financial support for this project, which is ready to go with OCDE standards.
If we compare GMOs with other products tested for their safety, the closest example possible is for pesticides, since this MON 863 GMO has been genetically modified in order to produce a pesticide. The European legislation concerning pesticides has been for a long time directed by the directive CEE/91/414, and its successive adaptations. This legislation precises that, concerning the toxicity study of pesticides in food and feed for humans and other mammals, three month tests should be done for three species (generally rat, mouse, and dog), and that pesticides are given in food during one year to one species (generally dog) and during two years on another one (generally rat, this approximately corresponds to its life span). There is no scientific reason to avoid these kind of experiments for actual GMOs.
The in vivo tests are the final security that should be undertaken to test unknown products that do not present in vitro negative effects. However, specific in vitro tests should be stimulated before, and one can note that there is very large room for still improvements in GMO files, i.e. more tests with the Bt artificial Cry3Bb1 toxin extracted from the maize and incubated with human cells in this case.
In the case of MON 863 maize, it should be noted that the 90 day toxicology study appears to be the best one and the longest one that has been performed with mammals. It shows significant effects in comparison to control laboratory animals, and in some instances in comparison to the so called very large "reference group", the existence of which may be questioned. In all instances, it is recommended that :
1) The statistical analysis should be repeated with independant experts and the tests put on a website for the scientific community
2) The experiment should be repeated if the significant effects are confirmed, in comparison with the proper control group
3) Other experiments with rats during one and two years, and also with two other species of mammals should be conducted in order to study potential adverse effects of the genetic modification, to know if these are linked to the Cry3Bb1 toxin or not, like it is regularly performed for other pesticides. GMOs should not be exempted from pesticide evaluation if they contain pesticides or specific pesticide metabolites. It is the case obviously for MON 863.
4) In vitro studies should be performed with Cry3Bb1 extracted from maize and various mammalian cells including human digestive epithelia and hepatocytes
In the absence of such results, the agreement for maize release into the environment, for food, feed or cultures, may present a serious risk for human and animal health and the release should be forbidden.
One should also underline that today no legal obligation is given to companies concerning the exact basic number of studies they have to accomplish on mammals eating GMOs and their length. This lack of precision (Entransfood project) is difficult for public authorities and companies. For the public, it could appear very normal to give GMOs during 2 years to rats before giving them to the entire population during their entire life, including babies and elderly or sick people. To standardize the GMOs tests in Europe on three mammalian species, from 3 months to 2 years, could finally help companies to reach homogenized standards and to commercialize high quality food and feed. Biotechnology will be more easily accepted in such conditions.
Nesac says field trial ban should continue - PIYAPORN WONGRUANG - Bangkok Post, 23 June 2005 - http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/23Jun2005_news04.php
The National Economic and Social Advisory Council (Nesac) will recommend that the government maintain the ban on open field trials of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their eventual commercialisation. Reungchai Tansakul, a member of the council's agriculture and cooperatives committee, said Nesac considered the issue critical as the GMO impact would be widespread in various sectors ranging from farming to exports. He cited the examples of the recent GM papaya spread in addition to pressure from the United States to open up the country for GMOs through free trade area negotiations.
The government had considered opening the country up for GMO production months ago, but dropped the idea after strong public opposition. Dr Reungchai said the committee had taken about six months to study the issue before arriving at its recommendation. According to its report, GM commercial production and field trials should be carried out only when the country has risk management and control measures on the impact of GMOs, including the appropriate laws, in place. The committee found there were no regulations dealing directly with the issue. It suggested the government develop bio-safety laws, GM product control regulations, as well as establishing national agencies comprising people from various sectors to direct related policies as well as implementation.
In addition, research and development on GMOs should be carried out in line with public needs, whereas use of materials in research should be strictly controlled. "All the points we have raised have never been made clear, so these should be made clear, particularly the role of the public in the government's GMO policy development,'' said Dr Reungchai. "Thais should be well informed what GMOs are, so they can decide whether they want to accept them or not."
Witoon Lianchamroon, director of BioThai, an independent organisation promoting bio-diversity conservation and community rights, said at a time when the government has a parliamentary majority, the council's recommendations could help add more weight to public scrutiny of the government's policies and performance. At least, he said, the government has to respond one way or another to the points raised by the council, helping clarifying what the public should know. "It has not been clear what should be done about GMOs and by whom. Our independent committee has asked the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to
check for any further spread of GM papaya, but nothing has moved so far. We think filing our complaints with the court is our next best hope," said Mr Witoon.
Korn: Biotechnology may be unnecessary - PIYAPORN WONGRUANG - Bangkok Post, 18 June 2005 - http://www.biothai.org/cgi-bin/content/news/show.pl?0545
Thailand should first decide which crops are best to develop before worrying about the technology needed to create them, Science and Technology Minister Korn Thapparansi said yesterday. Mr Korn said biotechnology was one of the top items on the government's agenda to develop crops that improve both farmers' lives and market produce.
"When you can specify the crops you want to develop, you are then able to decide how you want to grow them. "It may not be necessary to think about genetic modification in the first place," said Mr Korn in a keynote speech delivered to the Global Sharing of Knowledge and Experience on Crop Biotechnology conference. He said the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry should take the lead in developing crop biotechnology policies that give the public more options for choosing the crops that are developed. The Science and Technology Ministry should act as a core research centre to support the Agriculture Ministry, he said.
Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, a non-governmental organisation supporting agricultural biotechnology for poor countries, said although biotechnologies were not the answer, they could help with a nation's development. So far, he said, the global trend toward biotech crops was increasing significantly. Those crops accounted for about 81 million hectares last year and could jump to 150 million hectares by 2010, he added.
However, Banphot Na Pompetch, a bio-safety law expert, cautioned that Thailand should not rush to embrace biotechnology, particularly genetically modified crops which have raised concerns about their impact on human health and the environment. He said the government should conduct risk analysis on GM technology first before opening the market to the products.
Brussels 22 June 2005 - Environment Ministers from across Europe will vote this Friday (June 24) on whether countries should lift their bans on genetically modified foods (called GM or GMOs). The proposal to lift the bans has been tabled by the European Commission in response to a dispute over GM foods at the World Trade Organisation, where the United States claim that the national bans are a barrier to trade. Ministers will also vote on a controversial GM maize which caused unexplained kidney damage to rats, according to research conducted by the manufacturer, biotech giant Monsanto, which refused to release all its results into this maize.
Since 1997, five EU countries have banned various GM crops on safety grounds. (1) The Commission is asking all EU member states to vote on proposals requiring the five countries to lift their bans within 20 days.(2) One of the GMOs in question, Syngenta's BT176 maize, was never even supported by member states; it was forced onto the market by the Commission in 1997.
The Commission's proposals are seen as a direct result of the trade dispute in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that was started in 2003 by the United States, Argentina and Canada. These countries, all big producers of GM crops, claim that Europe's precautionary stance on GM food, including the national bans, are a barrier to free trade and harm their farmers. The WTO is expected to deliver an interim ruling in August.
The ministerial vote will also be a key test of the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA). Last year the EFSA claimed the national bans had no scientific basis. So far, member states have never supported any of the GMO products cleared by the EFSA and Friends of the Earth has been deeply critical of EFSA's pro-biotech position and close links with the GMO industry. (3)
Adrian Bebb, GMO Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "After the recent shocks to the European project, this vote will be a key test for Ministers. It's the unpopular European institutions who have been forcing GM foods onto the market, despite huge public concern right across Europe. Now is the chance for Ministers to help to make Europe more relevant to people, by following public opinion and allowing countries to ban GM foods."
The Ministers will also vote on the import of Monsanto's GMO maize, called MON863. The maize has been seeped in controversy following feeding studies that showed differences in blood cell parameters, kidney weights and kidney structure in rats fed MON863. The EFSA rejected all concerns raised by member states and Monsanto refused to publish the whole feeding study. The German government won a court ruling earlier this month against Monsanto who are trying to prevent the publication of the study.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Adrian Bebb GM Campaigner Friends of the Earth Europe +49 1609 490 1163
(1) Friends of the Earth briefings and a cyber action urging Ministers to reject the Commission proposals are available at http://www.foeeurope.org/ban_risky_gm_food/index.php
(2) The Commission proposals can be found at: www.foodlaw.rdg.ac.uk/news/eu-05037.htm
(3) The Friends of the Earth report: Throwing Caution to the Wind can be downloaded at: http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/publications/EFSAreport.pdf
The national bans are:
Syngenta's Bt176 maize (banned 31/03/2000) - Reason: effects on non-target insects + transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to humans and animals + insects could develop resistance to the Bt
Bayer's oilseed rape Topas 19/2 (banned 16/11/1998) - Reason: impact of genetic escape and spread of herbicide tolerance. Bayer's oilseed rape MS1xRf1 (banned 16/11/1998) - Reason: impact of genetic escape and spread of herbicide tolerance
Syngenta's Bt176 maize (banned 13/02/1997) - Reason: effects on non-target insects such as butterflies + transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to humans and animals. Bayer's T25 maize (banned 28/4/2000) - Reason: protection of sensitive areas, lack of monitoring plan and concerns about the herbicide used. Monsanto's MON810 maize (banned 10/06/1999) - Reason: Effects on non-targetinsects
Syngenta's Bt176 maize (banned 07/02/1997) - Reason: Transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to humans and animals
Bayer's oilseed rape Topas 19/2 (banned 08/09/1998) - Reason: impact of genetic escape
Adrian Bebb - GM Campaigner , Friends of the Earth Europe - Mobile +49 1609 490 1163
GM maize has risks and side effects - Greenpeace publishes company documents on rat-feeding trials
BERLIN Greenpeace is today publishing confidential Monsanto corporation documents on feeding trials conducted on rats using genetically manipulated (GM) maize. The animals displayed negative health effects after being fed Monsanto's Mon863 GM maize, which produces an insecticidal toxin. The higher administrative court in Münster released the documents on Monday after Greenpeace had successfully pressed to inspect them in accordance with the EU law on environmental information. The judgement sets a precedent for cases in which companies keep their documents on GM-plant risk assessment secret. The EU environment council in Luxembourg will decide whether to authorise imports of this maize on Friday. Greenpeace and scientists are together calling for an import ban on Mon863; the German government should vote against it being authorised.
"The GM maize should not be allowed to be licensed as food or feedstuff in EU countries," said Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini of the French state Commission du Génie Biomoléculaire (CGB), which is responsible for risk assessments of GM plants. "If a trial produces such striking results, it must at all events be repeated." The release of the documents means that scientists like Professor Séralini are no longer bound to maintain confidentiality. "The safety standards in EU authorisation procedures for genetically manipulated plants are in general inadequate," said Professor Seralini, speaking at a Greenpeace press conference in Berlin.
Professor Arpad Pusztai, who had already made a risk assessment of Mon863 for the German government, also warns against allowing the maize to be licensed. "It cannot be presumed that the damage to the rats' inner organs and the animals' blood picture are based on chance. The documents also show that the set-up for the experiments was inadequate and evaluation of the data incorrect. Further investigations are absolutely necessary."
Mon863 produces a so-called Bt-toxin, to protect it against the corn rootworm. This toxin is not identical to the substance contained in GM plants already licensed in Europe and which makes them resistant to the corn borer. Mon863 furthermore contains a controversial gene conferring resistance to antiobiotics, which according to EU release Directive 2001/18/EC should be avoided. It cannot be ruled out that the gene sequence will transfer to disease-causing agents and thus encourage the creation of new resistant pest organism.
The ministers will also vote in Luxembourg on existing national bans on the importing and cultivation of GM plants. Five EU countries including Germany are appealing to a national protection clause in the EU law. The Commission has called on countries to lift the bans. To date only the UK and the Netherlands are supporting the EU Commission.
"Few countries want to have their rights curtailed," says Greenpeace's Christoph Then. "Lifting national restrictions must be rejected just as the authorisation of Mon863 GM maize must be. The EU must prove that it believes in the importance of protecting consumers and the environment."
NOTES TO EDITOR Please direct your enquiries to Christoph Then, mobile phone no. +49 (0)171-878-0832, or Simone Miller, press officer, tel. + 49 (0)171 870 6647. You can obtain a paper with background information by calling +49 (0)40- 30618 386. Greenpeace is on the internet in Germany at www.greenpeace.de and internationally at www.greenpeace.org
Katharine Mill, media officer - Greenpeace European Unit - tel +32 2 274 1903/+32 496 156229 - Katharine.Mill@diala.gl3 - http://eu.greenpeace.org
Adrian Bebb - Friends of the Earth Europe - Mobile +49 (01609 490 1163)
Bt cotton 'fails' in official debut - Fazilka-Abohar farmers go back to 'desi' varieties - By Ravinder Banwait, - Hindustan Times, June 12, 2005, Chandigarh (Punjab), page 1
Touted as the answer to the American Bollworm menace and making a much-hyped official debut in Punjab this season. Bt cotton seems to have fallen to the very disease it has been designed to resist in Fazilka and Abohar. Cotton growers spoken to in the two districts said many of their plants had been fully or partly eaten up by worms. Some had grown fungus and others didn't germinate at all. Those who tried the seeds illegally last season (these were approved only recently) have gone back to the traditional "desi" (local) varieties after the not-so-happy experience with designer seeds.
The farmers alleged that the government did not bother to assess the ground situation, as the "low price-high yield" seeds were not suitable for sandy soil. The weather, too, was not considered before hard-selling the Bt cotton, they said. The problem seems to be acute in Fazilka as most of the farmers have sown approved seeds this time. The Punjab government had approved six varieties of Bt cotton - RCH-134, RCH-137, Ankur-2534, Ankur-651, MRC-6304 and MRC-6301.
Mohan Lal from Kheo Wali Dhab village in Fazilka, who used RCH-134 in 30 acres, said, "I completed the sowing in the first week of May and within a few days, many of the plants were eaten up by worms. Who will pay for the expensive seeds? A packet of 450 gms cost Rs 17.25. The government should compensate me as 20 per cent of my crop has already been eaten up by worms." Bhagirath, another farmer from the same village, faced a similar problem. He, in fact, is even using pesticides.
Chuni Lal of Khuhi Kehra village said last year he had illegally used Ankur-651 variety and that, too, was attacked by worms. "This year I opted for 'desi' (local) seeds. The sandy soil here needs local varieties." Like him.Amirr Chand also planted local seeds. He had spoken to some farmers before deciding on it. He found that the Bt cotton seeds were expensive and returns didn't match up Nirmal a farmer in Nihal Khera in Fazilka, said he had sown RCH-134 in 13 acres and the crop faced problem in germination. "Many plants have not grown or are dying after coming up. I am now again sowing the seeds and one can understand how much a fanner has to spend for this as initially I had taken seeds for nearly Rs 17 per packet," he said. Some big farmers had even opted for still-unapproved Bt cotton varieties.
Narender and his cousins, who have grown cotton in 100 acres in Bodiwala village, chose "Badal" variety for 10 acres and "desi" in 70 acres. "I don't know on what basis the new Bt seeds have been approved. There is some problem with the seed as cotton balls are covered by the leaf, which is big and doesn't allow enough sunlight to reach, making it vulnerable to fungus," he said.
From The Fields
* Mainly RCH 134 used; plants eaten up by worms
* Farmers feel seed don't suit soil and climate
* Opt for unapproved varieties rather than those approved by the government
Source: Radar, Business Critical Information
Complexities of GM issue delay WTO decision - Food Navigator, 20/06/2005 -http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/news-ng.asp?n=60763-complexities-of-gm
Stakeholders in the food chain, along with technocrats and politicians in Brussels, must wait until October this year to get the final word from the WTO on the GM complaint filed by the US, Canada and Argentina, reports Lindsey Partos. These three major GM crop producing countries set off to the world's trade arbiter two years ago, complaining that the EU's moratorium on approvals of genetically modified organisms was a barrier to trade. Chairman of the GM dispute panel at the World Trade Organisation, Swiss trade diplomat Christian Haberli, recently told the parties that the panel's ruling, due by the end of June, was now being put off until the end of October. Haberli cited the complexity of the case, the large amount of documentation submitted, as well as the decision to consult with scientific experts on technical issues raised as the reasons for the delay.
A de facto moratorium in place since 1998 saw Europe refusing to approve any new GM cops for entry into the food chain. But since the US complaint was issued, Brussels has brought in tough new labelling legislation for GM ingredients: the labels alert consumers to any engineered foodstuffs used in a food recipe. Through greater transparency for the consumer the new rules, seen by critics as Europe caving into pressure from the US, actually ushered in the possibility for new GM approvals and heralded an end to the moratorium. But since their introduction, only two products have been cleared for import: a GM sweetcorn supplied by Swiss biotech firm Syngenta and Monsanto's MON810 biotech maize, engineered to be resistant to the European corn borer. The lack of approvals, despite a host of applications, reflects the deep divisions in Europe over GM acceptance. And while the biotech companies continue to push forward their applications for approval, there is little chance the European food industry will actually use the GM ingredients in their formulations. By all accounts, the business savvy food maker, who cannot afford to lose sales, will opt to skip the use of GM ingredients in their European food formulations: knowing, as they do, that the cynical European consumer will refuse to buy any GM food product.
Signs of altered rice around China - By David Barboza - The New York Times, JUNE 14, 2005
SHANGHAI Genetically altered rice, which has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world, has been found in the food supply in one of China's biggest cities, Greenpeace charged on Monday. Researchers for the environmentalist group said bags of rice that were purchased in April and May in Guangzhou had been tested by an independent laboratory and found to contain genetically altered rice, which it is illegal to sell on the open market in China. The findings suggested that China may have inadvertently become the first country where humans are consuming genetically modified rice even though safety testing has not yet been completed. Two months ago, the Ministry of Agriculture said it would investigate charges by Greenpeace that genetically altered rice was being illegally planted and sold in Hubei Province, which contains one of China's biggest rice-growing regions. The ministry's findings have not been released.
Now Greenpeace says that rice that has been genetically altered to resist pests has spread from experimental plots in Hubei to wholesale rice markets in Guangzhou, a city of seven million people that is 145 kilometers, or 90 miles, north of Hong Kong. "This illegal and unapproved rice has spread out of Hubei Province, and it is reaching other parts of the country," said Sze Pang Cheung, a Greenpeace researcher in Beijing. Sze said Greenpeace had purchased the rice from a wholesaler in Guangzhou who buys from Hubei and then resells about 60 tons of rice a day, much of it to restaurants or food shops in Guangzhou. Greenpeace - which has strongly opposed the use of genetically altered crops, citing health and safety concerns - said its findings had been confirmed by Genescan, an independent testing laboratory in Germany.
Scientists around the world continue to debate the use of genetically altered crops, but there has been little or no evidence so far that genetically altered crops are harmful to human health. In the United States, the planting of genetically altered corn and soybeans is widespread. But since the late 1990s, European and U.S. regulators have slowed the approval process because of health and safety concerns, as well as consumer fears. In China, the government has also been reluctant to approve the sale of genetically altered food crops because of safety and health concerns. But in recent years, Beijing has approved the use of experimental plots to test whether genetically altered crops could help farmers by improving yields or reducing pesticide use.
In April, Greenpeace said a group of "rogue scientists" in Hubei Province had allowed genetically altered rice to seep into a corner of the food market by illegally selling it to farmers. A journalist who went to Hubei Province a day after the Greenpeace announcement was still able to purchase bags labeled as "anti-pest" rice from local farmers and even from a government-owned seed market. Those bags of rice were later tested with a home testing kit from Envirologix, an American company. That rice was said to have tested positive for a strain of altered genes, while tests on rice purchased at a food market in Shanghai were negative.
Japanese rethinking GM canola - Wednesday June 8, 2005 2005 - By Sean Pratt - Saskatoon newsroom
A country that regularly buys half of Canada's canola seed exports is contemplating whether it will continue to accept shipments containing genetically modified product. Japan is re-evaluating the regulatory approval of GM canola through a new law intended to ensure the smooth implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an international agreement governing the movement of GMOs. "If it is not reapproved, GM canola will not be in the Japanese market," said Chie Yoshitomi, third secretary for the Japanese Embassy in Canada. That would be a huge blow to the canola industry, which regularly ships 1.7 million tonnes of seed to that destination. But according to the embassy's agricultural attache the word out of Tokyo is that since GM canola was approved under the old guidelines it is "unlikely" there will be any problem meeting the new requirements. "This will probably be approved, but it's not for sure," said Yoshitomi.
However, the uncertainty over the new Japanese legislation is creating anxiety in canola circles. "The whole issue of gene technology has become so sensitized that there really is no such thing as a rubber stamp when it comes to the product," said Barb Isman, president of the Canola Council of Canada. "This stuff is studied and tested and mulled over probably more than any technology in the history of food production." The council has kept a close eye on the progress of the legislation since it was enacted in June 2003, but there have been few developments and Japanese officials are reluctant to divulge when public hearings will wrap up. "That was one of the questions we asked and we were told, 'when it ends,' " said Isman.
GM varieties are currently accepted under a temporary transitional measure but a spokesperson for the Japanese ministry of agriculture was recently quoted as saying a new food and feed safety assessment based on the Cartagena protocol will be conducted in the near future. Greenpeace Canada campaigner Eric Darier said that review could spell disaster for prairie canola growers. "It could mean that Canadian farmers would be facing another problem in terms of exporting Canadian commodities abroad." One thing that won't help their cause is the recent discovery of GM canola volunteers growing near a number of Japanese ports. In February the Japanese Institute for Environmental Studies published the findings of its investigation that found herbicide-resistant canola growing around five of the six ports where samples were collected. Japan's ministry of agriculture has stated there is no need to worry about the environmental impact of the escaped GM seeds, but it has recommended the Japan Oilseed Processors Association clean up the unwanted plants.
The canola council has also been working with the Japanese crushing industry because Canada provides about 80 percent of Japan's seed imports. However, Isman pointed out that the extent of contamination amounted to about 700 plants. "I took 700 seeds and that represents a tablespoon. And we ship them between 1.5 and 1.8 million tonnes per year." Darier said the incident is galvanizing opposition to GM canola in a country that consumes domestically grown rapeseed, mustards and other related crops. "This GE contamination in Japan is potentially very, very bad news for Canadian farmers who are growing canola."
Isman said the volunteer problem is easily managed by cutting the plants down, pulling them out or spraying chemical on them. However, she remains a little nervous about the broader reapproval process because of its potentially disastrous ramifications and how long it seems to be dragging out. "If you look at this from a scientific perspective we have nothing but confidence. If you look at this from a political perspective I don't know. I can't gauge that," said Isman.
Risk of illegal genetically engineered rice in China's exports, Greenpeace warns - Channel News Asia, 13 June 2005
BEIJING: Environmental watchdog Greenpeace is warning illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice might contaminate China's exports to the rest of the world. The warning came as Greenpeace said it had found illegal GE rice, which has produced allergic reactions when tested on mice, in the huge Chinese city of Guangzhou, just north of Hong Kong. "We can't rule out the possibility that GE rice could contaminate rice exports from China," Sze Pang Cheung, a Greenpeace campaign manager, told a briefing in Beijing. The announcement came just weeks after Greenpeace sounded the alarm over the proliferation of illegal GE rice in the central Chinese province of Hubei.
While no GE rice has yet been found in Chinese exports, there are two possible ways of contamination, he said. "One, it will contaminate processed rice and go overseas, and the other possibility is that rice from Hubei could be used as ingredients for rice products or products which include rice ingredients," he said.
Japan, South Korea and the European Union have already raised concerns with the Chinese government regarding possible contamination of Chinese rice exports, according to Greenpeace. "Immediate recall actions are needed if we are to prevent consumers from exposure to risks of untested GE rice," Sze said, commenting on the findings in Guangzhou.
The rice is popular with some Hubei farmers as it is engineered to produce an inbuilt pesticide, but most of them would not dream of eating it themselves, according to Greenpeace. "Most of the farmers we met don't eat this rice. They would explain that it is because they are afraid that this rice will harm their health," Sze said.
China, a major exporter of rice, is considering commercialization of GE rice, and officials have indicated a decision may be made this year.
Scientists 'asked to fix results for backer' - Liz Lightfoot / London Telegraph 14 Feb 00
ONE in three scientists working for Government quangos or newly privatised laboratories says he has been asked to adjust his conclusions to suit his sponsor. Contracting out and the commercialisation of scientific research are threatening standards of impartiality, scientists claim. The survey was conducted by the union representing research scientists, which is campaigning against further privatisation of public laboratories. The Institute of Professionals, Managers and Specialists says that public safety could be harmed by the Government's plans to bring private funding into the National Air Traffic Services and the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. Privatisations over the last few years have included the Radio Chemical Centre, now Nycomed Amersham Laboratories, and the Atomic Energy Authority, which trades as AEA Technology. Charles Harvey, the institute's spokesman, said an increasing number of scientists had privately raised concerns with the union so it had decided to include a question about the influence of sponsors in a survey about pay and conditions. Thirty per cent of the 500 respondents said they had been asked to tailor their research conclusions or resulting advice. The figure included 17 per cent who had been asked to change their conclusions to suit the customer's preferred outcome, 10 per cent who said they had been asked to do so to obtain further contracts and three per cent who claimed they had been asked to make changes to discourage publication. "Some were working for quangos and some for fully privatised laboratories," said Mr Harvey. "The piper is calling the tune and it raises worrying issues. We have seen the BSE crisis, food scares and the the GMO debacle and the public is losing confidence in Government as an independent, fair-minded arbiter." Scientists should be given the right to publish their research instead of having to get permission from the sponsors, he said. Concern over pressure brought to bear on medical researchers has prompted the British Medical Journal to insist that authors declare their source of funding and whether they have any "competing interests". They must fill in a form declaring, for example, whether they have been paid to lecture or attend symposiums by companies connected with their work, or hold shares in them. Richard Smith, editor of the journal, said the policy had been formally introduced because of evidence that the authors of reviews of research evidence were influenced by those who commissioned them to do the work. Research into the funding of 10 papers on the alleged blood clotting risk of the third generation contraceptive pills found those funded by the pharmaceutical industry had discovered no risk, whereas those with other sources of funding claimed there was, he said.
Recent American research had also discovered links between studies which found passive smoking was not dangerous and the tobacco industry. "These competing interests are very important," said Dr Smith. "It has quite a profound influence on the conclusions and we deceive ourselves if we think science is wholly impartial."
See also a current view on this matter:
One in three scientists confesses to having sinned - Meredith Wadman
Abstract: Misconduct ranges from faking results outright to dropping suspect data points.
Nature 435, 718-719 (9 June 2005) | doi: 10.1038/435718b
Court orders Monsanto to make scandal report public - Environmental Media Services - Source: Greenpeace International - Jun 10, 2005
Amsterdam/Cologne, 10 June 2005 - A German law court in Cologne/Germany today ordered biotechnology giant Monsanto to make one of it's confidential reports public after the company tried to prevent the dissemination of its own study. The 1000-page document is in the center of international attention after its results were exposed by the British newspaper Independent On Sunday (1).
Greenpeace have asked for access to the document in Germany referring to an EU-law which states that the public has the right to have insight in all documents related to risk assessement of genetically modified (GM) plants. After the German state authorities endorsed the access, Monsanto filed a court case against the government of Germany in an attempt to try to stymie the publishing of the document. Greenpeace joined sides with the German government in the case and with today's order the original study should be open for insight by the public. "This is a important success - both for Greenpeace and for the people. The strategy of secrecy and intransparency of Monsanto failed, and now the document can be a subject to independent investigations," said Greenpeace International campaigner Christoph Then.
The aforesaid rat feeding study found "significant" effects in the blood and organs of the rats fed on the GM maize MON863. A number of scientists across Europe who have already seen the study expressed concerns about the health and safety implications of this GM corn. Monsanto does not put in question that there were significant health effects in the rats, but claims that these were not caused by the GM maize. But according to the opinion of several experts the explanations of Monsanto are not sufficient to put down recent concerns.
On the 24th of June the Council of EU ministers will decide on the market authorisation for import and use of MON863 in our food. It is almost impossible to evaluate Monsanto's over 1000-page study on the health effects until that date; in particular because Monsanto is expected to file a further appeal against the recent decision, which could result in further delay in the publication of the documents. "EU member states should set a clear signal in the interest of their people and should reject the application of the GM maize. Otherwise the maize corn could be permitted by the EU Commission without any further consultation or votings - and that could have serious consequences," - said Then.
For more information:
Christoph Then, GE campaigner, Greenpeace International, mobile: +49 171 878 0832
Judit L. Kalovits, media officer, Greenpeace International, mobile: +31 621 296 914
(1) Independent On Sunday, 22 April 2005.
Angry Andhra uproots Monsanto - Financial Express, Saturday, June 04, 2005 - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=92868
HYDERABAD, JUNE 3: The Andhra Pradesh government has barred seed major Monsanto from marketing and selling its Bt cotton varieties in the state. Reason: failure of the company's seeds in previous crops and its refusal to pay compensation to farmers as decided by the agricultural commissioner of the state. This is perhaps the first time that a state government has blacklisted a corporate entity from marketing its products. According to agricultural commissioner Poonam Malakondiah, the company has been barred from even undertaking trials. This, when it has already applied for approval to carry out trial cropping of two more varieties of Bt cotton. "We will not allow them," Ms Malkondiah said.
Differences cropped up between Monsanto and the government when the latter sought a compensation package of about Rs 4.5 crore to be paid by the company to farmers in Warangal, Khammam, Guntur and Karimnagar districts. Supporting the commissioner?s decision, state agriculture minister said the government will not allow the company to sell cotton seeds in the state. "The company has to respect the government's order and it has never behaved as a good corporate citizen with us," he said.
Andhra Pradesh, which is considered to be the seed capital of India, could potentially harm the business prospects of the company, industry observers said.
NZ doing GE exporters' dirty work - Friday, 3 June 2005 - Press Release: Green Party - http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0506/S00087.htm
New Zealand is doing the dirty work for pro-GE countries outside the Cartagena Protocol on bio-safety by trying to unravel the deal from the inside, says Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons. Greenpeace International, the Third World Network and the Friends of the Earth International last night condemned what they called "the lone attempts" of the New Zealand Government to "derail" Cartagena, an international agreement setting rules on trade in Genetically Modified Organisms, at talks in Montreal. This follows criticism of New Zealand earlier in the week from the Malaysian delegate, Gurdial Singh Nijar. "On Tuesday, Marian Hobbs claimed in Parliament that Mr Nijar's statements were untrue and denied that New Zealand was trying to undermine the Cartagena Protocol. This information received last night from NGO observers at the Montreal conference confirms Mr Nijar's concerns," said Ms Fitzsimons. "Ms Hobbs said New Zealand is 'inside the tent' on Cartagena, but this report suggests that we're trying to tear 'the tent' down."
Doreen Stabinsky, a GE campaigner with Greenpeace International, has said, "There is no way to describe New Zealand's behaviour at these talks as other than obstructionist. They don't want this agreement to happen and they are doing everything they can to stop it - even if that means isolating New Zealand from the entire rest of the world."
Ms Fitzsimons: "New Zealand is being a poor international citizen, acting on behalf of other pro-GE countries which have not ratified the Protocol and so don't get a vote. We should not be doing the dirty work of the US and others who are standing aside from this treaty.
The three NGOs report: "The New Zealand delegation is continuing to block consensus on key provisions regarding the information that must accompany GMOs in international trade. Instead of defending New Zealand national law that requires the labelling of genetically modified food, and presumably requires that importers and food manufacturers know whether the ingredients they import are or are not genetically modified, the NZ negotiators continue to argue that shipments of commodities such as corn or soy should merely state that they 'may contain' GMOs. By continuing with this stance, New Zealand is blocking consensus on the main item under negotiation in Montreal."
Ms Fitzsimons: "This move on labelling is a deliberate attempt to prevent consumers knowing what is in their food and countries from knowing what is crossing their borders. ...Other observers have reported to us that New Zealand is also blocking consensus on the formation of a group to consider risk assessment and the rules for the compliance committee. Apparently it is being asked in the corridors 'why did New Zealand become a party if their only intention was to lower the standards of the Protocol?.....This all surely confirms my earlier concerns that New Zealand's actions are those of a country that is trying to secure minimal liability for its GE exports, rather than protection for our environment and economy from GE imports," said Ms Fitzsimons.
National food fight launched to stop genetically engineered crops - http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/June2005/02/c6866.html
VANCOUVER, June 2 /CNW Telbec/ - Canadians are joining regions, communities and countries around the world in declaring their communities GE-Free Zones.
Launched today, the GE-Free Canada campaign is a nation-wide, grass-roots effort by farmers, environmentalists, and ordinary Canadians concerned with issues of food safety and food sovereignty. Community by community, citizens are banding together to create a web of zones across Canada that are free of genetically engineered (GE) plants, animals, crops and trees. The campaign's goal is to have 50 communities in Canada declare themselves GE-Free in the next two years. Saskatchewan farmer and world-renowned food sovereignty activist Percy Schmeiser will kick off the campaign at a public event in Vancouver
tonight. "For years I have fought for farmers' rights to decide what we grow and how we grow it. GE-Free Zones extend that principle to the entire community," says Schmeiser. "This movement is about long-term economic sustainability, local control over food production, a healthy environment and democracy as opposed to food profiteering and the destruction of our genetic biodiversity through corporate control of seeds and agriculture."
The GE-Free movement already has incredible momentum in Canada. Salt Spring Island, BC and Powell River, BC have passed municipal resolutions declaring themselves GE-Free Crop Areas. Prince Edward Island is currently holding legislative committee hearings to decide whether to make the province GE-Free. Numerous communities across the prairies have passed municipal resolutions banning GE wheat. "Currently, biotech giants such as Monsanto Canada aren't held accountable when their GE seeds contaminate a farmer's fields. Farmers, on the other hand, are forced to pay up to the corporation or lose their farms," says Tara Scurr of the Council of Canadians. "With the attempted introduction of untested GE crops, terminator and predator seeds, keeping food safe and in the control of local communities is a battle we cannot afford to lose."
Communities in Europe, Asia, and the United States have banded together to fight GE products at local and national levels. Over 100 regions of Europe and 3400 local authorities have told biotech companies that their genetically engineered crops are not welcome. "As community activists working to promote a democratic food system, our chapter feels that this is a real opportunity to engage our community around ethical consuming and to support sustainable local farming practices. It's a question of 'eat local, think global.' Right now food is controlled by large corporations with a global reach and an absence of ethics, not by local farmers and consumers. And that's scary." says Tony Beck of the Council of Canadians Vancouver North Shore Chapter. Canadians want a moratorium on the planting and harvesting of genetically engineered crops, plants, trees, and animals until the public is satisfied that they do not threaten human health or Canada's genetic biodiversity.
The GE-Free Canada campaign will be launched tonight at a public forum in Vancouver at the Maritime Labour Centre. Doors open at 6:30 pm, and admission is free.
For further information: Laura Sewell, Media Officer, (613) 233-2773, cell: (613) 795-8685, email@example.com; Tara Scurr, BC Regional Organizer, (604) 688-8846, cell: (604) 340-2455, firstname.lastname@example.org
ILLEGAL US GM MAIZE FOUND IN JAPANESE IMPORTS as international talks on the safety of GM crops reach crucial stage - Friends of the Earth Press Release - Immediate release: Thursday 2 June 2005
Unapproved genetically modified (GM) maize, originating from the United States, has been found in shipments arriving in Japan, according to reports . The contamination incident comes as key United Nations negotiations in Montreal, Canada, reach a crucial point in agreeing regulations for a safe trade in GM foods and crops.
Japanese officials said that a shipment of corn from the US was found to be contaminated by an illegal experimental GM maize, called Bt10. The Swiss-based biotech company, Syngenta, admitted in March that it had mistakenly sold the wrong maize to farmers in the US for the last four years . The EU introduced emergency measures to stop shipments of contaminated corn-based animal feeds in April and last week a contaminated shipment was detected and blocked in Ireland .
Japan, the biggest importer of US maize, said that they will now test every shipment for illegal contamination. Trade sources claimed that the shipment is likely to be sent back to the US, at Syngenta's expense.
In Montreal, UN negotiations on the Biosafety Protocol , are discussing the issue of the export of GM crops that are not licensed in the importing country. The talks are at a critical stage with a small number of countries - New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico and Peru - holding up progress that would reduce contamination from GM crops. An agreement is expected in the next 24 hours, despite the huge lobbying by the GM industry for weaker rules.
Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner Clare Oxborrow said: "The biotech industry clearly needs to be brought under control. Every new contamination incident highlights the urgent need for strong international laws. Unless we have strict controls then the contamination of our foods will continue and our environment will be put at risk. The Biosafety Protocol negotiations taking place in Montreal are key to solving these problems."
On Monday, Friends of the Earth International released a report showing that tougher measures are needed to prevent contamination from GM crops .
 For more information on Biosafety Protocol and the "Second meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety" go to the official UN website: http://www.biodiv.org/biosafety
 The report, Tackling GMO Contamination can be found here: http://www.foecanada.org
FIRST ON-LINE WORLDWIDE REGISTER OF GM CONTAMINATION INCIDENTS LAUNCHED TODAY
GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace International Press Release Embargoed 08.01GMT Wednesday 1st June 2005
Amsterdam/Buxton, 1 June 2005 -- Today, GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace International are launching the first on-line register of genetically modified contamination incidents. The on-line, searchable web site gives details of all the known cases of GM contamination of food, feed, seed and wild plants that have taken place worldwide.
"No Government or international agency has established a public record of contamination incidents or other problems associated with GM crops. This register has been established because the official approach of 'turning a blind eye' is not good enough when dealing with a technology like GM where living organisms are released to the environment", said Dr. Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK's Director. "We hope this register will form an important resource for citizens and regulators in the future."
Since their introduction in 1996, GM crops have contaminated food, feed, seed and the environment right across the globe. Over 60 incidents of illegal or unlabelled GM contamination have been documented in 27 countries on 5 continents, and those are only the recorded incidents. The register (which can be found at www.gmcontaminationregister.org) also gives links to more information about the incidents. Cases of illegal releases of GM organisms and negative agricultural side-effects are also included.
"This register is being launched when governments are meeting in Montreal to decide on liability regulations for GM crops. If states don't act and set strict rules now, GM crops will further contaminate lands, seeds and food around the world" said Doreen Stabinsky, of Greenpeace International.
Highlights from the register:
27 countries have experienced a total of 63 cases of GM contamination of food, feed, seed or wild plants.
The largest number of contamination incidents have taken place in the USA (11 incidents).
Contamination from StarLink maize was found in 7 countries: USA, Canada, Egypt, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Japan and South Korea.
Illegal releases of GM crops into the environment or food chain have taken place in India (cotton), Brazil (cotton and soya), China (rice), Croatia (maize), Europe, Germany (papaya) and Thailand (cotton and papaya).
Six cases of negative agricultural side-effects have been recorded including deformed cotton bolls and the emergence of herbicide tolerant 'super-weeds'.
For more information:
Dr. Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK +44 1298 871898
Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace International +1 202 285 7398
Notes to editors:
Two maps of the contamination incidents are available on the web site:
Incidents of GM contamination, illegal releases and negative agricultural side-effects worldwide.
All the countries affected by a GM contamination incident are shown in this map produced using data from the register. Since the first GM tomatoes were grown commercially in the USA in 1995, and followed by Roundup Ready soybeans in 1996, there have been a range of different incidents of GM contamination and illegal plantings. This register has records of 63 incidents of contamination, 10 illegal releases and 6 negative agricultural side-effects (some incidents fall into more than one category). The map shows how they are distributed worldwide.
How StarLink contamination spread around the world
A new map shows how Starlink maize contamination has spread from the US. In September 2000, sampling by a coalition of public interest groups in the US, showed that a variety of GM maize known as StarLink was present in taco shells being sold for human consumption even though it was not approved for this use and should only have been used for animal feed. The StarLink maize, produced by Aventis (now Bayer CropScience), is genetically modified to contain a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis coding for an insecticidal Bt toxin known as Cry9C. Unlike the Cry1A and Cry3A Bt toxins used in other GM crops, it is heat stable and does not break down in gastric acid ? characteristics shared by many allergens.
Before the Starlink maize contamination was detected, it was exported from the US and has now been found in a whole range of countries as this map, produced using data from the register, illustrates.
Pressure groups release first international register of contamination mishaps as governments meet to discuss problem - Paul Brown, environment correspondent - The Guardian, Wednesday June 1, 2005 - http://society.guardian.co.uk/environment/news/0,14129,1496284,00.html
The first register of GM contamination incidents across the world, which includes eight in Britain, is being published today as governments meet to discuss how to protect the environment from unauthorised releases. Details of all known contamination of food, feed for animals, seed and wild plants since GM crops were introduced in 1996 are available on a website launched by GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace. More than 60 incidents of illegal or unlabelled GM contamination have been documented in 27 countries. Cases of illegal releases of GM organisms and damaging side-effects such as the development of super-weeds are also included.
Governments are meeting in Montreal, Canada, to try to develop rules to allow all GM products to be traced so that if they were accidentally or deliberately released into the environment the extent of the contamination among non-GM plants or animals could be tracked. The second thorny issue governments are dealing with is liability - who pays when either the natural environment is damaged by the spread of GM genes or organic and conventional farmers lose markets through contamination. This is an issue on which the British government has so far failed to develop a policy. Progress in these areas has been slow internationally and governments are anxious to complete work this week on the agreement called the Caragena protocol, part of the convention on biodiversity, to prevent further contamination incidents. The US and the large agribusinesses which market GM are anxious to avoid any liability for unauthorised releases.
Campaigners compiled the register to show the extent of the problem and put pressure on governments for action. Sue Mayer, the director of GeneWatch UK said "No government or international agency has established a public record of contamination incidents or other problems associated with GM crops. The official approach of turning a blind eye is not good enough when dealing with a technology like GM where living organisms are released into the environment." Campaigners believe that only strict rules with liability regulations applied by governments can stop the unauthorised spread of GM seeds and products. "If states do not act and set strict rules now GM crops will further contaminate lands, seeds and food around the world," Doreen Stabinsky of Greenpeace International said yesterday
The worst single contamination incident was of StarLink Maize, a GM variety approved only for animal feed which entered the human food chain in seven countries, the US, Canada, Egypt, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Japan and South Korea. The maize was found in taco shells, a popular snack, and had been genetically modified to produce an insecticidal toxin to protect the plant against boring insects. It does not break down in gastric acid, a characteristic shared by many substances which can cause an allergic reaction. Thousands of stores across the world were forced to withdraw products from sale because of the illegal contamination.
Other illegal releases into the environment or food chain include cotton in India, cotton and soya in Brazil, rice in China, maize in Croatia, papaya in Germany and cotton and papaya in Thailand.
Trial and error
There have been eight incidents of GM contamination in Britain
1. In September 2000, during the UK field trials of herbicide tolerant GM sugar beet, Aventis reported some plants did not die even when they were sprayed with a different herbicide designed to kill them. Investigations showed that some of the original seed was tolerate to two herbicides and this had probably happened as a result of cross-pollination during production of original seed in Germany.
2 Aventis (now Bayer) revealed in 2002 that oilseed rape used at 12 sites in the UK's farm trials was contaminated with an unapproved GM variety. The seed had been used at a total of 25 British trials dating back to 1999.
3 The Food Standards Agency surveyed food and food ingredients in 2002 and found GM soybean in some products, including several labelled non-GM. None were above the 1% level requiring a GM label under EU law, but failure to segregate GM and non-GM crops was thought to be the cause.
4. Friends of the Earth tested 21 samples of food and three of animal feed in 1999 and found five contained GM material. Only one was labelled. The companies concerned changed their suppliers.
5. Routine tests by the Soil Association in 2002 of animal feed labelled organic found GM contamination even though GM is not permitted in organic products. The feed is believed to have come from Italy.
6. In 2001 trading standards officers in the Medway, Kent, sampled a range of foods and found low levels of contamination in 10% of the processed food sampled.
7. Ten samples out of 25 health and organic foods screened were found to contain GM soya at levels below 1%, above which there is a legal requirment to label them, but eight of those were wrongly labelled as non-GM or organic.
8. In May 2000 the government admitted that Advanta seeds had imported an oilseed rape variety called Hyola, which was contaminated with GM herbicide tolerant seed because of cross-pollination. The seed was sown on 4,700 hectares before the mistake was discovered. The company Advanta Seeds eventually paid compensation to farmers who were forced to plough up their crop because it was unsaleable.
Italy calls for independent EU research on GMOs - REUTERS, Mon May 30, 2005 - By Jeremy Smith
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Italy, known as skeptical about genetically modified (GMO) foods and crops, called on Monday for Europe's top food safety agency to use its own research when deciding if GMOs are safe -- not just that of the manufacturers. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is regularly asked for its independent scientific views on the safety risk of GMO products for entry into the EU's food chain, for consumption by humans and animals, and release into the environment as crops. 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.
"The EFSA ... does not conduct any scientific tests to ascertain whether new genetically modified products are safe to use. It merely examines the scientific data supplied by applicants," said a statement written by Italy's EU delegation. "In our view, the EFSA should itself be able to perform the analysis required for independent assessment of the safety of products for which marketing authorization is sought, either by making its own checks on data supplied or, if necessary, by having further investigations carried out," it said. Italian Agriculture Minister Giovanni Alemanno read out the statement to a regular meeting of EU farm ministers in Brussels. Even though he won support from several other countries, such as Greece and Luxembourg, his comments largely fell on deaf ears.
"I don't share the concerns, the point of view that we have to have EFSA performing its own tests," EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou told reporters. "Any change in the system would change the EU's whole approach on GMO authorizations, and it would alter the burden of proof," he said. "Based on the system we have, there is no reason for a change."
EFSA, which recently moved from Brussels to its new base in the Italian city of Parma, came under fire late last year from environmental group Friends of the Earth, which accused the agency of repeated bias in favor of the biotech industry. Friends of the Earth said EFSA's GMO panel had ignored views of scientists working for EU governments and issued a string of positive assessments on GMO safety. EFSA denied the charges, saying it was not influenced by commercial or other interests. Alemanno said he was disappointed by the Commission's response and would continue to insist that EFSA take a more proactive role in its GMO assessments. "Kyprianou's response was unsatisfactory," he said. "We want more severe and objective rules for approving GMOs for food. It must be possible to EFSA to do their own experiments, or have a list of certified institutes who they can ask," he told reporters.
Despite the EU ending a five-year blockade on authorizing new GMO products around a year ago, EU governments are still deeply divided on the merits and disadvantages of GMO foods.
INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE MOVEMENTS - Press Release
36 Organic Mega-Countries - Global Organic Agriculture Crop Area Reaches 26 Million Hectares - Organic Sector Calls for Strict Liability Under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
Bonn, May 30th 2005 ? Organic farming, the systematic conversion of land to certified practices that ensure food safety and security from the farm to the table, a comprehensive and fully traceable system, is developing rapidly throughout the world. According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement?s study The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics and Emerging Trends 2005, 36 countries achieved organic mega-country status in 2004, meaning that over 50,000 hectares of certified organic land are currently being cultivated. In total, over 26 million hectares of land are currently certified worldwide, generating over $25 billion in revenue in 2003. 558,449 farms in 108 countries are currently certified, and many millions of people are involved in the production, marketing, processing and distribution of organic products, generating immense income for a great number of people while simultaneously enhancing biodiversity and protecting the environment for future generations.
Organic agriculture is a holistic system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. Certified organic products are those which have been produced, stored, processed, handled and marketed in accordance with precise technical specifications (standards) and certified as organic by a certification body. The use of GMOs within organic systems is not permitted during any stage of organic food production, processing or handling.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) issues an annual report on the amount of global biotech crop acreage. The 2005 report indicates that there were 14 biotech mega-countries in 2004, countries where more than 50,000 hectares or biotech crops are being grown. The figures, however, are dubious. For instance, whereas the report claims that 500,000 biotech hectares are being grown in South Africa, a report from Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe, an industry coalition, and a survey team from the University of Reading in the UK show that the ISAAA's figures are exaggerated by factors of 20 and 30 respectively, and a recent report from GRAIN (www.grain.org) demonstrates that out of 3,000 farmers who originally grew Bt cotton there, only 700 continue to do, and many farmers who chose to grow the cotton are now perilously in debt. Also, 98% of the world's GM crops are still grown in only four nations - USA, Canada, Argentina and a bit in China, which has remained the same for the last five years.
Biotech crops grown in so-called biotech mega-countries are planted indiscriminately without any substantive regulatory framework, increasing reliance upon dangerous herbicides and pesticides, creating super-weeds and destroying biodiversity in order to increase yields in the short term, but ultimately rendering the cropland useless, while simultaneously contaminating the world's major food crops with undesirable characteristics. This contamination is not something the biotech industry should flaunt, but rather, the biotech industry should be held strictly liable for all such contamination under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Biotech crops have been riddled by scandal, from StarLink corn, which was not approved for human consumption but nevertheless entered the food supply, prompting the recall of over 300 contaminated food products from shelves in the USA and continues to linger in the food supply, to the illegal entry of a 1000 tons of Bt10 into the European Union, also not approved for human consumption, and the recent publication of internal Monsanto documents, reviewed by EU scientists, revealing serious health damage to laboratory animals fed Monsanto's new genetically engineered "rootworm-resistant" corn. Rats who consumed the mutant corn developed smaller kidneys and exhibited blood abnormalities.
Biotech crops containing industrial enzymes, pharmaceuticals, viruses, antibiotic resistance markers and other traits have been planted in large-scale field tests for years in the USA, but tests for those experimental crops do not exist, and thus it is likely that contamination of agricultural crops is much more widespread. Alternatively, organic agriculture ensures food security and safety for future generations, distributing income equitably among those involved in the chain of production, and credibly backing up its claims with thorough documentation. Organic agriculture also increases or stabilizes yields in developing countries, particularly in marginal and semi-arid areas, increasing productivity without dependency on unaffordable chemicals. The IFOAM Basic Standards include social standards that ensure the protection of workers' rights. IFOAM Accredited certifiers (www.ioas.org) adhere to these social standards, and IFOAM is working together with the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling (ISEAL) Alliance (www.isealalliance.org/) to improve the effectiveness and compatibility of social and environmental standards and verification systems.
IFOAM calls for strict liability to be imposed for the introduction of GMOs. To insure that the costs of injuries resulting from defective products are borne by the manufacturer that put such products on the market rather than by the injured persons who are powerless to protect themselves, strict liability for GMOs is warranted. Strict liability ensures that organic farmers and consumer receive protection from problems of proof inherent in pursuing negligence, placing the burden of loss on manufacturers rather than injured parties who are powerless to protect themselves. IFOAM applauds the inclusion of a GMO liability regime in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an idea that originated from African nations and other Third World nations, and is opposed by the USA and Canada.
IFOAM's Position on Genetic Engineering:
To purchase a copy of The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics and Emerging Trends 2005, go to the IFOAM website www.ifoam.org.
Additional information can be requested from the IFOAM Head Office (Charles-de-Gaulle-Str. 5, 53113 Bonn, Germany, phone +49-228-92650-10).
IFOAM Press Release, responsible Gerald A. Herrmann, Executive Director, IFOAM Head Office: Charles-de-Gaulle-Str. 5, 53113 Bonn, Germany
Tel: ++49-228-926 50 10 - Fax: ++49-228-926 50 99 - www.ifoam.org, E-Mail: email@example.com
Russians reject GM foods - http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/news/news-ng.asp?n=60290-russians-reject-gm
30/05/2005 - Two thirds of Russians are against genetically modified foods and the majority of experts support a ban on GM crops as the government prepares new production laws, reports Chris Mercer. Only one in every three Russians had heard of GM products yet 95 per cent of those who were aware of GM said they were strongly against it or seriously concerned, according to new research by VCIOM, Russia's largest public opinion research body. The most serious concern was about baby food, with around 90 per cent of those who had heard of GM foods supporting a moratorium on such products in Russia. A further survey of 'experts', including state employees, doctors, farmers and supermarket managers found 76 per cent support for a ban on GM crop production in Russia, until the impact on human health and the environment is clearer.
The poll included 1,567 people from 100 cities and towns across 40 regions. It was sponsored by environmental action group Greenpeace. The new research confirms that the anti-GM feeling that has taken hold of many other European countries, has also spread to Russia. And the study comes at a particularly pertinent time for food producers in view of Russia's new labelling laws, introduced in January this year, which state that any product prepared with GM materials must mention this on the label. Wide public scepticism of GM products in Russia gives an advantage to natural ingredients suppliers like Chr Hansen and reinforces the trend towards high quality, natural products among Russia's more affluent city dwellers. The Russian government is also considering new regulations on the production of GM foods.
"In 2005 a legislative base is going to be developed. It will regulate production and use of GM food products, baby food production and GM crop production in Russia," said Natalya Olefirenko, Greenpeace Russia GE campaign coordinator. At present, GM soy, maize, potato, white beet and rice are allowed in Russia. But, the public debate over their safety is escalating and last week, Greenpeace protested outside the Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It accused the institute of withholding information on the safety of GM food from the public, despite a district court ruling that such information must be released. Last year, Moscow's biggest producer of baked goods, Kolomenskoe, pledged to tighten GM testing to ensure all products were free of GM ingredients. The firm said its consumer research showed 80 per cent of people did not want to buy food containing GM ingredients.
GRAIN NEWS RELEASE - South Africa: 26 May 2005 - BT COTTON IN MAKHATHINI, SOUTH AFRICA: THE SUCCESS STORY THAT NEVER WAS
Despite claims that Bt cotton will catapult African farmers out of poverty, recent reports revealed that the majority of Bt small-scale cotton farmers on the Makhathini Flats in South Africa have stopped planting Bt cotton because they cannot repay their debts. A five year study by Biowatch South Africa, has shown that small-scale cotton farmers in Northern KwaZulu Natal have not benefited from Bt cotton and that the hype surrounding this case is just that - a media hype created by American biotechnology companies to try and convince the rest of Africa why they should approve genetically modified crops. A summary of this study has just been published in GRAIN's quarterly magazine, Seedling (available at http://www.grain.org/seedling/?id=330).
Bt cotton is genetically modified (GM) to be an insecticide, supposedly eliminating the need to spray against bollworm, saving on insecticides and increasing yields. However this study shows that Bt cotton has failed on a number of fronts: farmers are in debt and credit institutions have withdrawn from the area because farmers cannot repay their loans and the number of farmers planting cotton has dropped by 80% since 2000. One farmer commented: "Four years ago we were told we would make lots of money but we work harder and make nothing".
A recent three year study of Indian small-scale farmers in the Warrangal district, Andra Pradesh, echoes these findings: farmers are in debt as a result of increased cost and lower yields (12% less than non-Bt cotton) and there has been little difference in pesticide reduction (see full report at http://grain.org/research/?id=302)
In Makhathini, Bt cotton compounded the problems that African cotton farmers typically face. After the introduction of Bt cotton, the Makhathini farmers were hit with droughts and low cotton prices. Since Bt cottonseeds are double the price of non-GM cotton, farmers increased their debt to be able to plant it, thereby increasing their risk. Only four farmers of the total sample of 36 Bt cotton farmers followed in the study made a profit. The net loss for these 36 farmers was US$ 83,348. Such debt and income problems are rampant for Makhathini farmers. According to a local Land Bank official, farmers in Makhathini owe an average of US$ 1,322 per farmer and around 80% of them have defaulted on their loans.
Mr Lawrence Mkhaliphi, who did fieldwork for the study and is based in the area said that: "The damage is increasing for the local farmers and their livelihoods are negatively impacted on." He added that the responsible government departments are not aware of the situation on the ground. The South African government has instead been very supportive of GM crops, putting in place biosafety legislation to accommodate the biotech industry.
Makhathini was the GM industry's showcase for how transgenic crops can help the poor. Monsanto, the US company that owns the patent on the technology, and USAID have brought African scientists, farmers, journalists and other opinion makers in droves to Makhathini. In 2003 the chairman of the local farmers' association, Mr TJ Buthelezi, was flown to the US to stand next to Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative, when he announced that the US will take the EU to the World Trade Organisation to challenge its stand on GM crops and food. "With the Makhathini miracle is now in tatters, the GM industry is bound to dig up another 'success story'", said Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss, one of the researchers. In South Africa, the GM industry has already shifted its attention to the promotion of GM maize, citing yields of up to 400% for small farmers in areas such as Hlabisa. She added that: "It would be wise to keep in mind the rise and fall of the Makhathini farmers whenever the industry talks about the benefits of GM crops for the poor".
South Africa was the first African country to introduce GM crops but field trials for Bt cotton are taking place in Kenya, Burkina Faso, and Egypt, while countries like Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Benin and Mali are heavily pressured to open their doors, despite their reluctance to do so. The study sends a clear warning to other African countries that Makhathini is not the fairy tale it is made out to be and that where African cotton farmers are already struggling to compete with the US on world markets, opening their doors to GM crops will only expose them to more risk and increase dependency on multinational companies.
NOTES: For more information or queries contact Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss at: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org - Tel: +27 (0)22 492 3426 - Mobile: +27 (0)82 413 0502
GRAIN is an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people's control over genetic resources and local knowledge. Visit http://www.grain.org for more information.
BT COTTON: GRAIN follows closely the latest news and documents on Bt cotton. Visit http://www.grain.org/go/btcotton.
The Seedling article "Bt cotton in South Africa: the case of the Makhathini farmers" can be found here: http://www.grain.org/seedling/?id=330.
A table on "Field trials and commercial releases of Bt cotton around the world" can also be found here: http://www.grain.org/research/?id=306
India to press for liability regime at Cartagena Protocol - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=91954
ASHOK B SHARMA - Posted online: Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
NEW DELHI, MAY 25: India has called for a defined international liability regime to redress the damages resulting from transboundary movements of living modified organisms (LMOs). This liability regime should be incorporated under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which came into effect from September 11 2003. It has also called for setting up of a global fund on mandatory basis for redressing the damages. India has already submitted its views, in writing, on the proposed global liability regime to the technical group of experts. Indian team led by Desh Deepak Verma, a senior official in the environment ministry, is expected to press upon the need for a liability regime at the second Meeting of Parties (MOP-2) to the Cartagena Protocol scheduled in Montreal from May 30.
Back home, the Union commerce ministry has set up a panel headed by the additional secretary, GK Pillai to assess the impact of Cartagena Protocol on trade. The panel is scheduled to meet on May 30 and will assess global scenario of acceptance or rejection of genetically modified (GM) crops and food and how to deal with a situation of clandestine imports of GM foods which are not yet approved in the country.
The Article 27 of the Cartagena Protocol calls for setting up of a global liability and redressal mechanism for damages caused on account of transboundary movement of GMOs otherwise called LMOs. This mechanism is scheduled to be put in place by the end of 2007. India's contention is that Article 27 includes damages not only to environment, but also to health, property, income, person and biodiversity. The Starlink Corn episode lends support to include all such kinds of damages under the liability regime in the biosafety protocol," the Indian submission said. India is against limiting the liability for damages caused. It said: "It is not prudent to limit the liability by a specific amount both because of their inherently hazardous character as well as difficulty of assessment." It also said that arbritration for resolution of disputes arising out of the claims of damages is not a dependable mode of resolution because "it is non-permanent as well as parties have the freedom to choose their own judges." According to India, the proposed liability regime should be considered strict and absolute as there may be cases of `irreversible losses'. In cases of damages done on account of transboundary movements of LMOs, the State is primarily liable as it willingly permits the LMOs to be used in the country. The operator is also liable for production, handling and export of LMOs. As the issue is of transboundary nature, there is a need for a global liability regime to address the problems.
Tainted biotech maize impounded at Irish port - Wed May 25, 2005 - http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=8604559
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A United States consignment of genetically modified corn gluten feed tainted with an illegal strain has been impounded upon arrival at an Irish port, the European Commission said on Wednesday. The feed was contaminated with the banned Bt-10, a genetically modified (GMO) maize made by Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta . The shipment was tested in the United States and the positive results for Bt-10 were sent to Ireland to allow Dublin to stop the cargo on arrival, the EU executive said. "The Irish authorities are taking necessary measures to ensure that the contaminated consignment does not enter the food chain," Commission spokesman Philip Tod told a news conference. Last month the European Union blocked imports of maize from the United States unless shipments carried proof that they were free of Bt-10, which is not authorized for use either in Europe or the United States. The curb will be reviewed at the end of October but the EU's food safety chief said last month the conditional ban may be extended if more contaminated products were discovered. Syngenta said the impounding of the maize shipment in Ireland showed that the testing system for Bt-10 was working. "The testing and certification implemented by the European Union is doing exactly what it is supposed to do," said a Syngenta spokesman.
U.S. exporters send 3.5 million tonnes of corn gluten feed to Europe each year, a trade worth some 350 million euros ($440 million). In March Syngenta said some of its maize seeds sent to the EU from the United States were mistakenly mixed with Bt-10. This insect-resistant strain is similar to Bt-11, a different GMO strain that is approved for distribution in the EU. The maize mix-up occurred between 2001 and 2004.
EU: Ireland intercepts U.S. biotech corn - Associated Press, Wednesday May 2005
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Irish port authorities intercepted a shipment from the United States of animal feed that contained genetically modified corn banned in the European Union, the European Commission said Wednesday. U.S. officials tested the shipment for Bt10 corn before it left, "and notified to Irish authorities before the ship arrived" in Ireland, EU Commission spokesman Philip Tod said. About 290 tests for Bt10 have been conducted on EU-bound shipments, but this was the first time a test turned up positive, Tod said. The cargo will be offloaded and stored, pending a decision on its disposal, the commission said. Irish authorities will carry out a risk assessment of the other feed materials on the boat.
The EU's six-year ban on biotech foods in general ended in May 2004 when the European Commission approved a new corn developed by Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta. But a ban against Bt10 remains in place. The EU says it contains a gene that can make that strain of corn resistant to ampicillin, a commonly used antibiotic. EU rules require the commission to prevent unauthorized genetically modified products from entering Europe. Europeans have become increasingly wary what they eat, following recent food scares including mad cow disease in beef and poisonous dioxins in chickens.
Canadian government urged to stop genetically engineered (GE) Canola contamination in Japan
Tokyo/Japan, May 24 /PR Direct/ - Greenpeace and Japanese consumer, environmental and farmer organizations today appealed to the Canadian government to stop contamination of food products and the environment by exporting only non-GE canola in future. The Japan National Institute for Environmental Studies found GE canola growing wild around five ports and investigations by citizens groups found the GE canola growing wild around a further three ports. In all GE canola has been found at eight of the 10 main ports importing Canadian canola, It was growing wild beside rice fields, on riverbanks and on grass verges as a result of seed spillages during transportation, including for example on a transport route thirty kms away from the Kashima port. The organizations delivered a strongly worded letter to the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, addressed to the Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Minister of Agriculture, informing them of the contamination.
Eighty percent of the two million tons of imported canola comes from Canada, of which 80% is estimated to be genetically engineered. GE canola seeds are produced mainly by two chemical companies, Monsanto and Bayer, and are genetically engineered so that they can survive increased doses of the herbicides glyphosate and glufosinate which these companies also sell. Canola seeds are crushed to use as cooking oil and in the production of margarine and mayonnaise, and also for use as animal feed and fertilizer. Consumer groups are already concerned that GE canola oil is being used as cooking oil and for other food production in Japan without any consumer choice because they are not labelled as GE. Now the GE canola has also been found spreading wild in the environment adding new concerns. In Chiba port, citizens reportedly filled a small truck with Roundup-Ready GE canola that was growing wild.
This spillage of GE canola threatens to spread GE genes into the seeds and food crops of related food plants growing in Japan such as cabbage, Chinese cabbage, daikon radish and turnip. It also threatens to create genetically engineered 'super-weeds' which can lead to further use of extra toxic chemicals. Steve Shallhorn a Canadian working with Greenpeace in Japan joined the delegation of NGOs in Tokyo: 'The Canadian Government has a responsibility to the people of Japan, who are a good customer of Canada, to stop exporting this GE canola.' To highlight the concerns of Japanese consumers about eating GE food the representatives also took with them bottles of canola oil products in which this GE canola is being used, unlabelled, as an example of the type of product that Japanese consumers may choose to avoid buying if the GE canola imports and contamination continue.
The NGOs delivered their message the day before the first working group negotiation session on liability for damage caused by genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under the Biosafety Protocol, 25-27 May. Akiko Frid a Japanese representative of Greenpeace will be in Montreal attending the session and also the second full meeting of the Biosafety Protocol starting a few days later on 30th May. Frid said: 'The contamination caused by GE canola imports to Japan is a good example of why strict liability laws are needed for GMOs. The question is; who pays for the damage caused when genetically engineered seeds contaminate our food and environment?'
Greenpeace Canada took this opportunity to invite Environment Minister Stephane Dion, to meet with them at the opening of the Biosafety Protocol meetings on Monday the 30th of May and collect a specimen of Canadian GE canola found growing in Japan.
For more information:
Eric Darier, Greenpeace GE Campaigner: Mobile: 514-605-6497
Steve Shallhorn, ED Greenpeace Japan: Office +81-3-5338-9800 mobile; +81-80-5416-6507
Akiko Frid Campaigner Greenpeace (in Montreal): Mobile: +1-514-206-9152
Andrew Male, Greenpeace Communications: cell: 416-880-2757
Pictures of the NGO delegation at the Canadian Embassy and a copy of their letter are available.
Briefing on GE canola contamination in Japan: www.greenpeace.or.jp
Biosafety Protocol information: http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.asp?mtg=BSWGLR-01
For: Greenpeace Canada Stock Symbol:
Contact: Andrew Male, Communications Coordinator
Primary Phone: 416-880-2757
Secondary Phone: 416-597-8408
Canada Jeopardizes Biotech Liability Talks - Belated Visa for Africa's Top Diplomat leaves UN's Montreal Biosafety negotiations in suspense
Ottawa - Dr. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher of Ethiopia, Africa's chief scientist and negotiator for the Cartagena (biosafety) Protocol, received his Canadian visa late Tuesday evening Ethiopian time. Dr. Tewolde, who is scheduled to be in the crop biotech liability negotiations tomorrow morning, May 25 in Montreal, has his bags packed and is awaiting a revised plane ticket that - even under ideal circumstances - could only get him to Montreal in time for the final day of the controversial set of UN negotiations (May 27). After extended discussions over Canada's Victoria Day holiday on Monday, a visa arrived in Ethiopia from the Canadian High Commission in NairobiTuesday.
Dr. Tewolde's delay at the hands of the Canadian government is particularly troubling because the scientist was a key figure in forcing industrialized countries and biotech corporations to agree to discuss liability and redress issues. The unintended spread of genetically modified DNA from biotech crops has caused unwanted genetic contamination in other countries, and is now a major problem for countries like Canada who are being called on to take responsibility for contamination. Canada is the world's third largest producer of GM crops, after the US and Argentina. Not surprisingly, Canada was among the governments opposed to liability negotiations. The issue became a major stumbling block to achieving the biosafety protocol in 2000. Only when Canada and other major biotech countries agreed to Dr. Tewolde's demand that a special meeting on liability be convened soon after the coming into force of the protocol (in late 2003), did governments in developing countries accept the protocol. That meeting on liability, brokered by the Ethiopian scientist, is the one that he will miss two days of this week.
Dr. Tewolde, the Ethiopian government's chief scientist and its representative to the Montreal-based UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) requested a visa from Canada on May 5th and only received it late Tuesday in Addis Ababa. In response to the delay, the Canadian Government has been flooded with protest phone calls and letters from around the world - a reaction similar to that provoked in February when the government tried to promote Terminator technology (sterile seeds) at meetings in Bangkok.
Dr. Tewolde's case is not unique. Late last year a colleague of his at the Environmental Protection Authority of Ethiopia, Mr. Dereje Agonafir, was refused a Canadian visa to participate in a meeting of a CBD Expert Group relating to the Biodiversity of Water, Marine and Coastal Ecosystems. In a telephone conversation earlier today, Dr. Tewolde suggested that the future of Montreal as host to the Secretariat of the CBD should be tied to the Canadian government's ability to provide other government delegates with visas. Civil society from developing countries have also been denied visas for this week's meetings, including Professor Kavulakunpla Ramanna Chowdry and Kaka Ramakrishna, two farmers from India.
For more information:
Pat Mooney, ETC Group - Ottawa - Canada phone: 1-613-241-2267 mobile: 1-613-261-0688 email@example.com;
Ban Terminator Campaign - Lucy Sharratt, Ottawa - Canada phone: 1-613-241-2267 mobile: 1-613-222-6214
GREENPEACE PRESS RELEASE - Scientist backs Greenpeace concerns on GM crops
Hungarian Academy of Sciences professor warns of impacts on biodiversity and industry pressure
BRUSSELS, 24 MAY 2005 - European countries should not grow insect-resistant genetically modified (GM) maize because of its potential threat to the environment, Professor Béla Darvas of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences argued today at a press conference in Brussels organised by Greenpeace. Professor Darvas called for more studies into the effects of GM crops, and criticised the biotech industry's reluctance to cooperate with independent scientists. Professor Darvas's research on behalf of the Hungarian government into the effects of a Monsanto insect-resistant maize (MON 810) led Hungary in January 2005 to impose a national ban on the crop, which is authorised for growing in the EU . His preliminary findings show that protected butterfly species and other organisms are sensitive to the Bt toxin produced by the crop, and raised other questions regarding its possible secondary effects.
"Bt maize can have a severe unintended impact on a variety of species. Hungary cannot take the risk of allowing this crop to be planted until its impacts are properly investigated, and so has taken the precautionary approach of banning MON 810," said Professor Béla Darvas. Professor Darvas also shared his concerns that biotechnology companies are not cooperating with scientists: "We asked Monsanto several times to provide us with material necessary to conduct further research on behalf of the Hungarian government, but the company said that it did not wish to provide more modified seeds for research purposes. This is absolutely unacceptable from a scientific standpoint," said Darvas. "We cannot suspend studies into the safety of GM crops just because the findings upset the biotech industry. If this is a reflection of how little they care about the impact of their products on the environment, we have cause to be very concerned."
Greenpeace is concerned that potential threats to the environment of Bt maize and other genetically modified crops are also consistently disregarded by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) . "The current over-reliance on data supplied by industry is irresponsible. The EFSA gives the benefit of doubt to GMOs, which is contrary to the precautionary principle," said Eric Gall of Greenpeace European Unit. "The European Commission needs to ensure that the precautionary principle which is at the heart of EU legislation on GMOs is fully respected by the EFSA."
NOTES TO EDITOR
 MON 810 was approved for cultivation in the European Union in 1998, since when no new GM crops have been authorised. Poland and Greece recently took similar steps to Hungary, to restrict the import and cultivation of GM crops. Member states that have had similar regulations in place for several years include Germany, France, Austria, Luxembourg and Greece. In June, the Council of environment ministers will have to decide on whether to back the European Commission's call to force the lifting of these national bans.
 The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recently released a positive scientific opinion for the cultivation of two other maize varieties containing Bt insecticidal toxins: on 4 March 2005 for 1507 (Pioneer Hi-Bred) for food and feed, and cultivation; and on 20 May 2005 on Bt11 (Syngenta) for cultivation. Greenpeace has chronicled a number of oversights in the EFSA's assessment of both varieties, ranging from abnormal results in rat-feeding trials to lack of information on ecological effects. New Greenpeace briefings on: 1507, see http://eu.greenpeace.org/downloads/gmo/BackgroundBriefingPioneer1507.pdf
Bt11, see http://eu.greenpeace.org/downloads/gmo/BackgroundBt11short0505.pdf
Eric Gall, EU policy director on GMOs, Greenpeace European Unit, tel +32 (0)496 161 582
Christoph Then, GMO campaigner, Greenpeace International, +49 171 878 0832
Katharine Mill, media officer, Greenpeace European Unit, tel +32 (0)2 274 1903
Monsanto denies rat research reports on GM corn - Agence France Presse, 24 May 2005 -
ST LOUIS (AFX) - Monsanto Co discounted European reports that the company''s internal research had found variations in the health of rats fed a genetically modified corn produced to protect against corn rootworm prior to European approval. Monsanto reiterated that, contrary to published reports, it supplied all required information to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) prior to approval of MON 863 YieldGard(R) Rootworm corn. ''Published reports suggest that there is new information about MON 863 that has not been submitted to EU regulators. That is not the case,'' said Jerry Hjelle, vice president for Monsanto Worldwide Regulatory Affairs. ''Monsanto has provided all required data and studies, including the subject rat study, to European regulatory authorities, and EFSA reviewed these studies before issuing its opinion.''
Yesterday, the EFSA asked Monsanto to provide all its research results into the GM corn amid health risk concerns. ''Monsanto must immediately transmit to EFSA its entire research into (the corn strain) MON 863,'' said Italy''s professor Giorgio Calabrese, an EFSA member in an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa. Rats fed on the corn developed serious abnormalities, with kidney malformations and changes to blood indicating damage to the immune system, an internal scientific report at the US-based company found, according to Sunday''s edition of English newspaper The Independent. The company is said to have given only partial results of its tests on MON 863 when first seeking backing for the strain from the EU, said Calabrese. ''It seems the multinational gave its own conclusions to the scientists working on GMOs (genetically modified organisms) for the European Agency,'' he said. ''European researchers made their own tests and have found results that differ with those put forward by Monsanto'', he said.
Revealed: health fears over secret study into GM food - Rats fed GM corn due for sale in Britain developed abnormalities in blood and kidneys
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor - Independent on Sunday - 22 May 2005
Rats fed on a diet rich in genetically modified corn developed abnormalities to internal organs and changes to their blood, raising fears that human health could be affected by eating GM food.
The Independent on Sunday can today reveal details of secret research carried out by Monsanto, the GM food giant, which shows that rats fed the modified corn had smaller kidneys and variations in the composition of their blood.
According to the confidential 1,139-page report, these health problems were absent from another batch of rodents fed non-GM food as part of the research project.
The disclosures come as European countries, including Britain, prepare to vote on whether the GM-modified corn should go on sale to the public. A vote last week by the European Union failed to secure agreement over whether the product should be sold here, after Britain and nine other countries voted in favour.
However, the disclosure of the health effects on the Monsanto rats has intensified the row over whether the corn is safe to eat without further research. Doctors said the changes in the blood of the rodents could indicate that the rat's immune system had been damaged or that a disorder such as a tumour had grown and the system was mobilising to fight it.
Dr Vyvyan Howard, a senior lecturer on human anatomy and cell biology at Liverpool University, called for the publication of the full study, saying the summary gave "prima facie cause for concern".
Dr Michael Antoniu, an expert in molecular genetics at Guy's Hospital Medical School, described the findings as "very worrying from a medical point of view", adding: "I have been amazed at the number of significant differences they found [in the rat experiment]."
Although Monsanto last night dismissed the abnormalities in rats as meaningless and due to chance, reflecting normal variations between rats, a senior British government source said ministers were so worried by the findings that they had called for further information.
Environmentalists will see the findings as vindication of British research seven years ago, which suggested that rats that ate GM potatoes suffered damage to their health. That research, which was roundly denounced by ministers and the British scientific establishment, was halted and Dr Arpad Pusztai, the scientist behind the controversial findings, was forced into retirement amid a huge row over the claim.
Dr Pusztai reported a "huge list of significant differences" between rats fed GM and conventional corn, saying the results strongly indicate that eating significant amounts of it can damage health. The new study is into a corn, codenamed MON 863, which has been modified by Monsanto to protect itself against corn rootworm, which the company describes as "one of the most pernicious pests affecting maize crops around the world".
Now, however, any decision to allow the corn to be marketed in the UK will cause widespread alarm. The full details of the rat research are included in the main report, which Monsanto refuses to release on the grounds that "it contains confidential business information which could be of commercial use to our competitors".
A Monsanto spokesman said yesterday: "If any such well-known anti-biotech critics had doubts about the credibility of these studies they should have raised them with the regulators. After all, MON 863 isn't new, having been approved to be as safe as conventional maize by nine other global authorities since 2003."
GM sweetcorn from Monsanto rejected by EU states, again - http://www.foodanddrinkeurope.com/news/printNewsBis.asp?id=60119
20/05/2005 - Deep divisions over biotech food ingredients once again evident as member states fail to approve a gene-altered corn designed by US biotech giant Monsanto, reports Lindsey Partos.
Food and feed experts from member states failed to reach a qualified majority yesterday, that would have cleared the way for imports of Monsanto's Mon 863 maize into the European food chain. Reflecting disparate opinions on biotech foods, the vote saw ten members in favour (including the UK and France), eight voting against (Greece and Italy for example) and six abstaining, an EU source tells FoodNavigator.com. The outcome should come as no surprise. Since tough new labelling rules on GMOs entered into force last year, propelling an end to the moratorium on GM ingredients, only two products have been cleared for import: a GM sweetcorn supplied by Swiss biotech firm Syngenta and Monsanto's MON810 biotech maize, engineered to be resistant to the European corn borer.
By comparison, over ten dossiers for GM ingredients have failed to gain approval for use in foods. But while the biotech companies are pushing forward their applications for approval, there is little chance the European food industry will actually use the GM ingredients in their formulations. By all accounts, the business savvy food maker, who cannot afford to lose sales, will opt to skip the use of GM ingredients in their European food formulations: knowing, as they do, that the cynical European consumer will refuse to buy any GM food product.
Critics of the Commission believe Europe's executive body is caving into pressure from the US: last year the US, the leading producer of GM crops, filed a case against the EU at the World Trade Organisation claiming Europe's precautionary stance on GM food, including the national bans, is a barrier to free trade that harms their farmers. But for Monsanto, all may not be lost for EU approval of its MON 863 maize. The proposal now goes back to the Commission, which will then send it to the Council. According to the EU official, the proposal should be with the Council by June, which will then have three months to make a decision. If the gridlock continues at the Council level, and in the absence of a vote, the Commission can actually adopt the proposal under a legal loophole.
In a separate vote, this time by post, member states yesterday failed to reach a qualified majority for a maize, known as 1507, made jointly by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont, and Dow AgroSciences unit Mycogen Seeds. The application was for import and processing for animal feed use and will now pass to the Council.
Monsanto Dealt Defeat in Attempt to Invade Brazilian Schools - http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/brazil051005.cfm
GM-FREE BRAZIL - Periodical news & analysis of the Campaign For a GM-Free Brazil - Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, May 6, 2005 - Bulletin #16
Monsanto's defeat The federal government declines its support for the company's "social project", and Monsanto even has to pay for the costs The Ministry of Culture had declined its support on a project financed by the company Monsanto, which was directed to students from public schools in a number of Brazilian states. The Ministry decided to suspend the distribution of the magazines (Horizonte Geográfico) that contained texts and articles about agriculture, and were sponsored by Monsanto, leader of the transgenic market in the country.
At the very beginning of April, Monsanto had announced its new "social project", in partnership with a publishing house and the federal government (Ministry of Culture), that foreseed the distribution of didactic material concerning two of "the most important matters of our present reality: agriculture and environment". According to the company, the states of Mato Grosso, Bahia, Goiás, Rio Grande do Sul and Distrito Federal would be enrolled on the project.
The project called up attention of a number of organisations and personalities that launched a protest against the government's support to Monsanto. The partnership was denounced by the deputy Frei Sergio Gorgen who saw the obvious: the company was using public schools to advertise its products and, consequently, to gain future consumers. It also concerned teachers from all over the country that, throughout the ngo Rebea (Rede Brasileira de Educacao Ambiental), asked to the federal authorities for a more discerning evaluation of the project. The publishing house responsible for the magazine denied that material was being used to make any kind of publicity for Monsanto or for genetic modified organisms (at some point, the magazine instructed the teachers to promote a debate among the students around the subject "O grao que conquistou o Brasil" - "The grain that captivated Brazil").
The Ministry was put under pressure and decided to review the programme and, after a period of evaluation, it decided for the suspension of the magazine distribution. Moreover, the costs of the publication will not be paid with resources from the law of culture incentives anymore (as it was established beforehand).
According to the government's evaluation, "the contents of the original proposal were not fully achieved" and "they were modified by the company, without the ministry's approval". The Ministry of Culture also justified its decision by announcing, "the articles and texts were not faithful to the ones previously approved".
This episode was an undoubtedly proof of the power of the civil society. After a series of victories, like the approval of the Biosafety Bill on its terms, Monsanto was finally faced with a defeat.
GM-FREE BRAZIL - An international periodical news & analysis bulletin on the development of the struggle against GMOs in Brazil. Published by Assessoria e Serviços a Projetos em Agricultura Alternativa (AS-PTA). Editor: Sabrina Petry. The Campaign For a GM-Free Brazil is a collective of Brazilian NGOs and social movements. AS-PTA main office: Rua da Candelaria, 9/6o / Centro, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Phone: 0055-21-2253-8317 Fax: 0055-21-2233-363 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
GENET-NEWS - Canada denies visa for chief African biosafety negotiator
SOURCE: Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, Ethiopia - DATE: 17 May 2005
It will be recalled that the final show down in the negotiations on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety involved a Canadian delegate negotiating on behalf of the Miami Group (Canada, USA, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile), a European Commission delegate negotiating on behalf of the European Union, and myself negotiating on behalf of the developing countries including China, with the exception of Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. It will also be recalled that the two main issues left pending during the final negotiation session of the Protocol in 2000, to be negotiated and settled soon after the Protocol comes into force, were identification (labelling) (see Article 18.2 (a)) and liability and redress (See Article 27).
The issue of identification has to be settled in COP/MOP 2 in Montreal, 30 May-3 June 2005, and I expect that the shape of the future negotiations on liability and redress will be determined in the preceding 3-day meeting of the 1st Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts on Liability and Redress on 25 -27 May 2005. Both meetings will take place in Montreal, Canada, in the territory of a State which is not a Party to the Protocol.
I had planned to participate in these negotiations and continue with trying to help finalize the unfinished business of protecting biodiversity and human beings.
In a related forum under the auspices of the FAO, I helped negotiate the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture as the chief negotiator of the African Group. In this treaty also, we have an unfinished business - that of negotiating a Material Transfer Agreement to go with the Treaty. On the 11th and 12th of May 2005 we were to have an African Preparatory Meeting on the Material Transfer Agreement in Lusaka, Zambia. On the 19th and 20th of May 2005 we were to have an inter-regional meeting on the same issue in Oslo, Norway. From Oslo, I was to travel to Montreal via London. Based on these facts, I planned my travels and obtained all my visas for Zambia, the Schengen States, and the United Kingdom and sent my diplomatic passport to the Canadian Embassy in Addis Ababa for the Canadian visa. They gave me some highly complex forms to fill in. I filled them in. The passport and the forms duly filled in were sent to the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi by courier on 5 May 2005. The Canadian High Commission sent me back even more complicated additional forms to fill in. I filled them in immediately and sent them back on 10 May 2005 together with clear information on all my travel plans. I should have left for Lusaka on 10 May 2005. So, I missed the African Preparatory meeting on the Material Transfer Agreement of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture because my passport was still in the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi.
Today is the 17th of May 2005. My passport returned from Nairobi and was given to me this morning at 10:00 hrs. The British Airways flight which was to take me to Oslo had already left in the night. Therefore I will not be able to attend the meeting in Oslo. My passport came back to me without a Canadian visa. Therefore, I am not going to Montreal to attend the liability and readdress and COP/MOP 2 negotiations either.
What a neat instrument of interfering with negotiations to which you are not a party, refusing an entry visa has become!
My friends, we have passed various hurdles in assuring our rights for fairness and justice in both the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
I am writing this letter to you all for the following reasons:
1. I would like to urge you all Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to continue withstanding the ex-Miami Group and insisting on:
a. Clear labelling on all genetically engineered commodities;
b. State liability in cases of damage to the environment and/or human beings arising from products of genetic engineering;
c. Entitlement to full compensation in cases of damage to the environment and/or human beings;
d. Burden of proof of any product of genetic engineering not being the cause of damage resting on the country exporting that product;
e. Venue of litigation and enforcement of judgement being in the country where the damage occurred and not in the country of export.
2. But, now that I have been prevented from coming to Montreal, who knows which ones of you will be prevented next time? Should we allow the country where our own Secretariat of the CBD is located to become the sieve to let pass only those of us it wants to participate in negotiations?
I protest, and I invite you to join me in the protest, to the Government of Canada. If this act of sieving by Canada continues, I suggest that we either move our Secretariat of the CBD elsewhere, or at least refuse to hold any negotiation sessions in Canada.
3. I would like to urge you all my African and other friends in the Material Transfer Agreement discussions to ensure a common understanding on aiming at communally obtaining the benefits that the CBD entitles us, i.e.
a) Research on the genetic resources accessed to be carried out "with the full participation of" the Parties that need to develop their capacities ( Art. 15.6);
b) Research to be carried out in the territories of the Parties that need to develop their capacities (Art. 15.6);
c) Research results to be made available to Parties (Art.15.7);
d) Financial benefits to be shared with the Parties (Art.15.7);
e) Technologies generated to be transferred to the Parties (Art. 16);
f) The continuing right to revise the Material Transfer Agreement to be maintained by the Parties to make it consistent with developments in the
CBD, especially with the outcome of the ongoing negotiations on access and benefit-sharing.
Of course, inspite of this present hindrance by the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi, I will try to get on the processes with you at a later stage.
Please, in the mean time, negotiate effectively.
With best wishes for you all,
Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher
- Dr. Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary of the CBD email@example.com
- The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Addis Ababa
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Addis Ababa
- Embassy of Canada, Addis Ababa
China says ratifies GMO transparency treaty - Thu May 19, 2005 07:21 AM ET
BEIJING (Reuters) - China, one of the world's largest importers of GMO crops, said on Thursday it has ratified a U.N. treaty the U.S. has spurned that aims for more transparency and control over trade in genetically modified foods.
China's ratification of the U.N.'s Cartagena Protocol could give a boost to the agreement, which has been signed by more than 100 countries but not the United States, the world's GMO giant.
The next meeting to negotiate the protocol's implementation and enforcement is set for Montreal in late May and early June.
China's State Council, the cabinet, ratified the Protocol on April 27, an official at the State Environmental Protection Administration of China said.
The protocol obliges exporters to provide more information on GMO products like maize and soybeans before any shipment to recipient countries, to help them decide whether to accept it. Crucially, it lets a nation reject GMO imports or donations, even without scientific proof if it fears they pose a danger to traditional crops or undermine local cultures.
"It (ratification) indicates China's promise in implementing international treaties and in strengthening its biosafety management. The invasion of imported species is posing a threat to varieties at home and the country has an urgent need to step up management," the State Environmental Protection Agency said:
Environmental campaigners, who fear the impact of GMO crops on biodiversity and health, while manufacturers claim they pose no risk, applauded China's move. "China is sending a strong message to the world that it is no dumping ground for GM crops. China's ratification will add immense weight to the protocol," Greenpeace Campaigner Sze Pang Cheung said in a statement.
The ratification comes into force 90 days from the date of signing, the official said.
China is the world's largest soybean importer with 2004 imports amounting to 20.2 million tonnes, of which Greenpeace says more than 70 percent is thought to be genetically modified. Greenpeace warns that could pose a threat to the biodiversity of soybean in China.
China is also the world's largest GMO cotton grower.
Under the protocol, nations may reject GMO imports or donations, even without scientific proof, if they fear they pose a danger to traditional crops, undermine local cultures or cut the value of biodiversity to indigenous communities.
Africa's Top Biosafety Envoy Shut Out of Canada Talks - Stephen Leahy - http://www.ipsnews.net/new_nota.asp?idnews=28747
BROOKLIN, Canada, May 19 (IPS) - Africa's chief negotiator for the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety has been denied entry into Canada to attend meetings to finalise key provisions regarding the international movement of genetically engineered organisms. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, the Ethiopian government's chief scientist, had his passport returned without the requested Canadian visa Wednesday despite previous visits to Canada. Tewolde is trying to attend talks starting May 30 in the Canadian city of Montreal.
''I have been to Montreal many times,'' Tewolde said in an interview from Addis Ababa. ''I have never heard of something like this happening before.'' While this may be just a case of ''exceptional bureaucratic bungling'', he said, he wonders if it's a not-so-subtle but effective way of preventing him from participating. ''I have always been on the opposite side of the Canadian delegation especially on biosafety,'' he said.
The U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the biosafety protocol in 2000 to address the safe transfer, handling, and use of living genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that could have an adverse effect on biodiversity. A respected scientist and champion of biodiversity, Tewolde received the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the alternative Nobel prize) from the king of Sweden in 2000. He is considered by some to be the father of the Biosafety Protocol. Unlike the U.S. and Canadian governments, he firmly believes in the need for strong international regulations for genetically engineered (GE) seeds and crops.
Tewolde had planned to go to Montreal to ensure that GE seeds and food products would be labeled under the agreement. He also wanted to see companies and governments accept liability when their seeds lead to GE contamination. ''Canada doesn't want to see any serious regulations regarding GMOs,'' Tewolde said. ''They wouldn't want me there because I have been the spokesperson for the African group and other developing countries.''
Canadian-based non-governmental organisations that support Tewolde's position blasted the visa denial. ''We're not just upset, we're pissed off about this,'' said Pat Mooney, executive director of ETC Group. ''I wouldn't have believed it was deliberate but after the CBD meeting in Bangkok I'm not so sure,'' Mooney told IPS. In Bangkok last February, he said, the Canadian government used ''heavy-handed tactics'' to try and lift a de-facto moratorium on the so-called Terminator, a GE technology that makes seeds sterile. Only strong objections from African countries, Austria, Switzerland, Peru, and the Philippines kept the moratorium in place.
The son of a farmer, Tewolde has publicly clashed with Canadian and U.S. representatives at international meetings over issues such as patents on seeds and the risks of GE crops. The visa denial ''is a real embarrassment for Montreal which hopes to be a U.N. city,'' said Mooney. The CBD is based in Montreal and holds many of its meetings there. ''We've pulled as many strings as we can to get Dr. Tewolde a visa,'' said a spokesperson for the CBD Secretariat. ''We don't know why this is happening but we're doing our best to get him here.'' There have not been any other visa issues for the upcoming meeting, she said.
Canadian officials responsible for issuing visas said Tewolde's statements that his visa has been denied ''conflicts with our information'' but refused to comment further. ''It's a matter of protecting the privacy of the individual involved,'' said Cara Prest, spokesperson for Canada's Citizenship and Immigration department. Tougher rules for those requiring visas to enter Canada have been in place since June 2002. When it comes to granting visas, Prest said, ''we're also always researching new developments.''
The visa foul-up has also meant that Tewolde missed an African preparatory meeting for upcoming talks on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, he said. He also will miss inter-regional negotiations on the biosafety protocol in Oslo, Norway because the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi held on to his diplomatic passport. ''Now that I have been prevented from coming to Montreal, who knows which ones of you will be prevented next time?'' Tewolde wrote in an open letter of protest. Now, he said, he is waiting for the Canadian government to respond. (END/2005)
United States tries to derail discussion on labelling of GM food
11 May, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
The international Codex Committee on Food Labelling today deferred a decision on the mandatory labelling of genetically modified (GM) food.
The United States and four other countries tried to derail global support for the measure by European, African and Asian countries.
From 55 country delegations present, 30 spoke in favour of labelling of GM food and 18 remained silent. Despite the overwhelming support for labelling, the conclusion of the meeting was to defer a decision. Discussions will continue over the year, but little other progress was made at the meeting.
A 12-strong delegation from Consumers International (CI) lobbied delegates to speak up for an international guideline that would protect countries with labelling of GM food from a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute and give guidance to developing countries wishing to introduce labelling legislation. Consumer rights to safety, to information, and to a healthy and sustainable environment are threatened by the current marketing of GMOs.
Members of the CI delegation expressed deep disappointment about the outcome.
Head of CI delegation, Mr Samuel Ochieng, Chief Executive Officer, Consumers Information Network, Kenya, said: 'The interests of biotech companies are being put before consumer interests. GM food is substantially different from non-GM food. With GM, genes can be transferred between unrelated species such as from a swine to a vegetable or from wheat to rice. The health impacts are unknown and GM food is not currently safety tested. However, we are encouraged that many countries are beginning to recognise the need for labelling and next time we hope to move forward.'
Sue Davies, Chief Policy Advisor, Which? (the UK Consumers' Association), said: 'Forty countries have mandatory labelling of GM and this accounts for one third of the world's population. Despite this, a handful of countries still managed to block substantial process on an international standard for labelling of GMOs.'
Clare Hughes, Food Policy Officer, Australian Consumers'Association, said: `We are ashamed that Australia spoke against labelling of GM food. Australia has labelling of GMOs and the delegation failed to stand up for the even limited amount of protection we have at home. We are denying countries from having the benefits of something that Australians already have.'
David Cuming, CI GM Campaign Manager, said: `Consumers International members worldwide have put a huge effort into lobbying countries to support labelling of GM food. We have heard massive support from countries who have not previously taken a stand on GM. The US and others have failed to derail discussions but we are optimistic that more nations now understand the importance of labelling for consumer information. The consumers right to know must be upheld.'
Further information Contact: Julia Crosfield, Tel: +44 7974 922 703, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to editors:
Countries with mandatory labelling: Australia, Brazil, China, Japan, Russia and the European Union (which last year introduced comprehensive labelling and traceability of GM food).
Countries that tried to terminate discussions on the GM labelling guidelines at Codex:
United States, Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, Philippines
Countries with GM labelling who spoke out against Codex guidelines:
Countries who supported discussions on GM labelling at Codex:
The European Union (EU) countries: Austria, Ireland, Finland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, United Kingdom, Poland, Belgium, France, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary and the Netherlands.
Other countries in support were: Japan, Brazil, Malaysia, India, Kenya, Indonesia, Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand, Tunisia, Senegal, Swaziland, Panama, Turkey and Ghana.
Global Communications Co-ordinator, Consumers International - Tel: +44 20 7226 6663 x 219, Mobile: 07985 023005
Genetically Modified Wheat Still Risky One Year after Monsanto Shelves Plan - Update Says European and Asian Consumers Still Not Round-up Ready- Tuesday, May 10, 2005
(BILLINGS, MONT.) - Prospects for introducing genetically modified (GM) wheat in the U.S. haven't improved since Monsanto shelved its research and development plans one year ago, according to Dr. Robert Wisner, a leading grain market economist. Introduction of genetically modified wheat in the U.S. still risks the loss of up to half U.S. wheat export markets and a one-third drop in price, according to the latest update of an October 2003 report, Market Risks of Genetically Modified Wheat, released today by the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC). Dr. Wisner is the University Professor of Economics at Iowa State University.
"One year after Monsanto's decision, consumers in Europe and Asia remain resistant to GM crops," said Todd Leake, a wheat grower from Grand Forks, N.D., and WORC spokesperson. "Introducing GM wheat would open the door for our competitors to take more of the export market and depress prices paid to U.S. wheat growers."
The report covers policy changes, trends, and other developments that may affect market risk, including:
* Some European Union (EU) policies on GM crops and food are changing, but so far, consumer attitudes have not.
* Ten central and eastern European nations joined the EU, increasing the number of countries with food labeling programs. Labeling allows consumers in these countries to show their preferences about GM food to food companies, wheat producers and to the seed industry.
* Syngenta is developing fusarium-resistant GM wheat, but will not release it for six years or more. Consumers overseas may be as resistant to Syngenta's GM wheat as to Monsanto's. Monsanto developed GM hard red spring wheat to resist the commonly used Round-Up(r) herbicide. The company indefinitely postponed release of its GM wheat in May 2004, compelled by the market resistance documented by Dr. Wisner's original report. In that report, Dr. Wisner found:
* A large majority of foreign consumers and wheat buyers do not want GM wheat. At least 37 countries had mandatory labeling programs for food with detectable GM ingredients as of October 2003.
* Commercialization of GM wheat in the U.S. now or in the next few years would create a high risk of loss of one-third to one-half of U.S. hard red and durum wheat exports.
* The European market for U.S. hard red spring and durum wheat likely would be lost completely.
* Hard red spring and durum wheat prices could fall by one-third, to feed wheat levels.
* Increased government program payments would only partially offset lower wheat prices.
* Plummeting prices would lead to lost wheat acreage, loss of revenue to farm-related and rural non-farm businesses, and falling local and state tax revenues.
* Market risks for GM wheat are greater than for GM corn and soybeans. Unlike wheat, most corn and soybeans are fed to livestock or processed into oils and sweeteners. The U.S. share of world exports is much smaller for wheat than corn or soybeans, and domestic demand for corn (unlike wheat) is growing rapidly.
* The issue is consumer acceptance. Consumers are the driving force in countries where food labeling allows choice. Governmental approval does not guarantee consumer acceptance.
WORC is a regional network representing farmers and ranchers in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
CONTACT: Dr. Robert Wisner, 515-294-7318; Todd Leake, 701-594-4275; or John Smillie or Kevin Dowling, WORC staff, 406-252-9672
A two-page summary of Dr. Wisner's latest market risk update, the ten-page update, and Dr. Wisner's original report are available at http://www.worc.org.
Delegates from 50 nations attending Codex meeting - http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=34397
Kota Kinabalu: Delegates from around 50 countries, representatives from industry and representatives from non-government organisations (NGOs) are attending the 33rd Meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL), which began Monday at the Sutera Harbour Resort, here. A 12-member strong delegation of consumer representatives from Consumers International (CI) are also present to lobby the committee to adopt international guidelines on labelling of genetically modified (GM) food. (Codex Alimentarius is a food standard code). They are experts in genetic modification and consumer issues.
CI is a federation of consumer organisations dedicated to the protection and promotion of consumer's rights worldwide through empowering national consumer groups and campaigning at the national level. Currently, it represents over 250 organisations in 115 countries. President of CI, Marilena Lazzarini, said: "If guidelines on labelling of GM
food are adopted at the Codex meeting here, this will protect countries who already label GM food from being challenged at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Consumer interests must be put above trade interests. Consumers have a right to information, a right to choice, a right to safety and a right to a healthy and sustainable environment. They must be able to make decisions on what they eat based on environmental, ethical, religious or moral concerns. Many consumers do not want to eat GM food and they must have the information to make this choice. GM food must be labelled!"
CI's GM campaign demands the labelling of all foods containing or derived from GMOs, independent safety testing of GMOs and the protection of GM-free crops. On Sunday, CI held an open discussion for delegates about consumer concerns on labelling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Senior Research Associate Dr Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union, USA, said: "Labelling is important for health concerns - it can help to detect unintended effects of GM food such as allergenicity." According to him, the GM labelling debate has been going on for more than 10 years. Codex, he said, needs to make a final decision this week and protect consumers. "Enough already!"
Said Cheah Chee Ho of Fomca (Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations):
"If a gene from a swine is put in a vegetable, this is important information in a country where many people are Muslim and eat hallal. These ingredients are forbidden by their religion and must be labelled."
Thailand's President of the Foundation for Consumers, Saree Aongsamwang told the participants: "When companies are obliged to, they label genetically modified food. In Japan, some companies say they can't put a comprehensive label on GM food, but they put GM labels on their exports. All consumers have a right to information. Also, in Thailand, some labels are so small people can't read them. There must be full, mandatory labelling of all GMOs for all consumers."
In his talk on "Is GM feasible in the developing world-an African perspective", Chief Executive Officer of Consumer Information Network, Kenya, Samuel Ochieng, pointed out that problems with GM in developing countries are intellectual property rights giving power and control to multinationals. This leads to less sovereignty and farmer's rights are reduced. Other concerns are loss of biodiversity by cross-pollination and food safety. The cost of labelling could not be higher than the cost of not labelling."
AMERICAN CORN GROWERS FOUNDATION RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT LOST CORN GLUTEN MARKET AND LOW CORN PRICES DUE TO BIOTECH BLUNDERING
Washington, D.C., May 9, 2005 - The American Corn Growers Foundation (ACGF) and the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) are warning U.S. corn farmers that key U.S. corn gluten exports are being lost due to unapproved biotech, specifically GMO (genetically modified organisms) varieties that are unacceptable in various markets.
"Blundering biotech companies and their arrogance toward world buyers and consumers cost the U.S. the valuable, cash paying European Union (EU-25) corn market since 1996, and caused substantial corn export reductions to Japan. Now, adding insult to economic injury, some biotech companies and their carelessness is putting the EU-25 import market for U.S. corn gluten feed and meal in serious jeopardy, with the EU-25 now testing every cargo," says Dan McGuire, CEO of the American Corn Growers Foundation and project director of the ACGF Farmer Choice-Customer First program. "Foreign demand for U.S. corn gluten is extremely important for the economic future of corn processing ethanol plants. The EU bought 5 million metric tons (MMT) with an export value of $403,726,000 as recently as the 1999-00 marketing year. But in the most recent 2004 marketing year, the EU-25's imports of U.S. corn gluten had dropped to 3.6 MMT with a value of only $377,636,000. In the current 2005 marketing year (September through February) EU-25 imports are only 1.2 MMT compared to 1.9 MMT the year earlier," added McGuire.
"Last Friday corn prices were only $1.63 per bu. in both Utica, S.D. and Wayne, Neb., a disastrous price, due largely to the failure of the current 'export oriented' farm policy to deliver on corn exports as promised," said Larry Mitchell, ACGA CEO. "If the crafters of the current U.S. farm policy still believe it is 'export oriented' they should require the biotech companies to get onboard. Biotech arrogance is losing U.S. exports. Maybe those same biotech companies should be sent the bill for lost corn markets, low corn prices and the resulting high cost of the farm program."
India bans Monsanto GM cotton seeds - Tuesday 03 May 2005 - http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/4DE63A66-0461-48F4-A7E0-B6C2213BF0F3.htm
India has barred Monsanto Company and its Indian partners from selling three varieties of genetically modified cotton in a southern Indian state.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, a federal regulator, refused to renew licences for the sale of three Monsanto BT cotton varieties in Andhra Pradesh state, because these had been found ineffective in controlling pests there, said Suresh Chandra, the committee chairman. However, the seeds can be sold in other Indian states, Chandra said.
Years of discussion
"It took us six-and-a-half hours of discussion, but at the end, we decided not to renew those licenses for Andhra Pradesh," he said. The Andhra Pradesh state government also asked Monsanto to compensate farmers who it said lost money by sowing its transgenic cotton. Monsanto disputed the claim. Monsanto's spokeswoman in India, Ranjana Smetacek, said the company had yet to receive the federal regulator's order and would not comment. The licences granted in March 2002 expired last month, and Monsanto applied for their renewal in six southern and central Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh.
Verdict on cotton
In April, the federal regulator asked various state governments to give their comments on the performance of BT cotton over the past three years. The report (from Andhra Pradesh state) was not satisfactory, and hence we had to disallow the licences," Chandra said.
India has also been hesitant to use GM technology in foods
St Louis-based Monsanto's BT cotton is the only genetically modified crop allowed in India. BT stands for bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium whose gene is injected into cotton seeds to give them resistance against boll worms, which are common in India. Monsanto sold 1.3 million packets of BT cotton in 2004, but critics say the seeds are environmentally hazardous and could contaminate the genes of native varieties through cross pollination. However, advocates of genetic modification say it helps fight plant diseases, increases yields, and makes food crops more nutritive.
Comments from PV Satheesh
This morning when I woke up, I was greeted by the following news: All the THREE varieties - Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt &Mech-184 Bt have been disallowed for commercial cultivation in Andhra Pradesh. Nothing could have made my day better. The news was about the decision taken by the GEAC, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Government of India, the apex regulatory body of the Indian Government. Incidentally all the three varieties are products of Monsanto. The news is specially significant for us because the Deccan Development Society and the Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity have fought a relentless and focused battle against these Bt hybrids for the last three years. In fact on our latest demands the prominent one read as below:
WE STRONGLY DEMAND FROM THE GENETIC ENGINEERING APPROVAL COMMITTEE OF THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA THAT THEY WITHHOLD THE LICENSE FOR NEXT THREE YEARS TO THE BOLLGARD BT HYBRIDS OF MAHYCO MONSANTO.
The battle included campaign in hundreds of villages involving posters, film shows, discussions with farmers and a path breaking independent scientific study that tracked farmers experience with the Bt cotton from the day they planted the cotton till the day they harvested.
The study produced regular annual reports in
2003 : Did Bt Cotton Save Farmers in Warangal?
2004: Bt Cotton Disillusions AP Again
2005: Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: A three year assessment
Another powerful tool used in the struggle were two films made by a group of women farmer-filmmakers from the DDS Community Media Trust. They used their cameras and microphones as instruments of farmer to farmer research by extensively filming in Warangal District touring over 30 villlages every year and recording the impression of hundreds of farmers. They relentlessly returned Warangal month after month in cold winter and searing summer, sought out their focus farmers, patiently spoke to them to get their information and opinion and came up with two stunning films: Why are Warangal Farmers Angry with Bt Cotton? and Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: A Three Year Fraud. The films in Telugu have not only been seen by several thousand farmers in over 200 villages in Warangal, Adilabad and Nalgonda districts but also have been translated into French, Spanish, Thai and English and used in as varied parts of the world such as the Francophone West Africa, Meso America, South East Asia and many parts of Europe.
I must make a very special mention of the Warangal Against Genetic Engineering, WAGE, a district coalition of about ten NGOs in Warangal who led the campaign and research from 2002 to 2005. Their spiritied campaign and lead taken by them in the research was the backbone of the entire three year struggle. They have demonstrated that a determined fight from a small band of committed groups can take on the Goliaths of the Life[destroying] Industry and defeat them even if it is in a battle if not a war.
This small victory has buoyed the spirits of the civil society groups particularly in Andhra Pradesh and given them the confidence that by pursuing their larger goal with renewed determination, sharper focus and collective effort, they can attempt to win the war. There was a tremendous solidarity in this fight from civil society groups, environmenatal action groups and funding partners. We gratefully acknowledge all this support and urge their continued collaboration in the future struggle to see that some parts of AP can be GM-free zones.
with warm regards
MONSANTO GRABS SOUTHERN AFRICAN SEED MARKET BUT SA FARMERS GIVE GMOS COLD SHOULDER
SOUTH AFRICAN FREEZE ALLIANCE ON GENETIC ENGINEERING (SAFeAGE) - 3 May 2005
Cape Town/Johannesburg, South Africa-According to research conducted by the African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa's commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) maize, soya and cotton has been grossly exaggerated by the biotechnology industry for propaganda purposes.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), an industry supported organisation, consistently tries to inflate the figures of GM plantings around the world to support the argument that GM crops are here to stay. Despite South Africa's permissive GMO laws, Monsanto South Africa has estimated production of its GM maize (MON 810 and NK603) in South Africa to constitute no more than a total of 6-7% of the area under maize, less than the ISAAA's estimate of 15-20% of GM maize grown during 2004. South Africa does not produce enough cotton for domestic needs and has to import the shortfall each year. In 2003/04 the area planted to cotton was less than one-fifth of the area under cotton in the late 1980s. Despite the dominance of Monsanto's GM cotton varieties, no more than 30 000 ha was planted to GM cotton in 2003, even though it represents 75% of the cottonseed planted in that year.
South Africa's soyabean industry is similarly small and no more than 41 000 ha of Monsanto's GM (glysophate tolerant) soya was grown in South Africa during 2004. However, during 2001-2005, just more than 67 000 tons of GM soya was imported for animal feed; equivalent to about 8% of South Africa's domestic soyabean production over the same period. This brings the total land under GM crops in South Africa to around 300 000 ha and not the 500 000 ha claimed by ISAAA.
Despite its historical status as a net exporter of maize, South Africa has become reliant on imports from Argentina and the US of enormous amounts of GM maize. GM maize imports during the period 1999-2005, estimated to be in access of 2.6 million tons (MON 810, Bt11, Bt176 and TA25) are equivalent to over 7.5% of the domestic production in South Africa in the 2001-2004 growing seasons. Almost all GM seed imported into South Africa contains Monsanto?s technology.
The study also shows that South Africa is being used as a base from which to distribute GM food aid to the region. South Africa has also become an important country for GM seed bulking (propagating seed in volume for commercial use) and a base to produce GM seed for international distribution for experimentation/consumption. Alarmingly, the study shows that Monsanto, the globally dominant company in the agrochemical, seed and agricultural biotechnology sector has about 45% of the South African maize seed market share and almost the entire market share for wheat seed. In 2005, Monsanto had at least 15 yellow maize, 11 white maize, 17 wheat, 4 soybean and 5 sunflower varieties on the market. The recent acquisition of Seminis, the global vegetable company, with nearly 60 vegetable and melon seed varieties registered by Seminis South Africa gives Monsanto an entry point into the vegetable seed market. As the engine for the distribution of commercial seed into Southern Africa, control by Monsanto over South Africa's seed supply means control over Southern Africa's commercial seed supply. Monsanto has identified Brazil, India and South Africa as focal points for its efforts to expand into the developing world.
The South African government supports genetic modification in agriculture and has also used its own infrastructure and resources to encourage positive attitudes in the public. The state's support has allowed South Africa to become a base for expansion into Africa, for export of GM seed around the world and as an experimental base for new GM crops not approved elsewhere.
The full report "A Profile of Monsanto in South Africa" produced by the African Centre for Biosafety, April 2005 is available on www.biosafetyafrica.net
For further information contact:
Glenn Ashton (SAFeAge) 083 403 6263
Mariam Mayet, (African Centre for Biosafety) 084 68 333 74
Stephen Greenberg, Researcher, 083 988-2983
In South Africa
African Centre for Biosafety (www.biosafetyafrica.net)
Biowatch South Africa (www.biowatch.org.za)
Earthlife Africa (www.earthlife-ct.org.za)
GM Free Africa (www.gmfreeafrica.org/gmfa_main/)
South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (Safeage) (www.safeage.org)
Other useful info on Monsanto - Badcorp.org (www.badcorp.org)
Consumers International (www.consumersinternational.org)
Corporate Watch (www.corporatewatch.org)
Corporate Dirt Archives (www.corporations.org/corplist.html)
Monsanto South Africa (www.monsanto.co.za)
Monsanto Watch (www.monsantowatch.org.uk)
Millions Against Monsanto (http://www.organicconsumers.org/monlink.html
Multinational Monitor (www.multinationalmonitor.org)
The GM Bubble - Science in Society issue 22, summer 2004 - Subscriptions +44 (0)20 7383 3376 or online at www.i-sis.org.uk/subscribe
Claire Robinson questions ISAAA's inflated figures of GM crop uptake and planting
"India a key GM crop cultivator" ran a headline in the Times of India back in January. "India has made it to the list of top ten transgenic crop-growing nations," the paper reported, alongside what it called the "glowing figures" on "the global acreage of transgenic crops" and the number of farmers planting them - seven million in 18 countries, up from six million in 16 countries in 2002. The Times of India was not alone in its breathless account of GM crop expansion. Headlines around the world declared, "Frankenfood flourishing" and "Biotech crops continue rapid global growth". Every January, similar headlines appear when the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Association (ISAAA) publishes its "Annual Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic (GM) Crops." They are drawn directly from press releases sent out by ISAAA's agri-centers around the globe plus country-specific media briefings via worldwide teleconferences. ISAAA stands at the front line of a major public relations war, and as with all wars, the first casualty is the truth. Fortunately, a few are not taken in. India's Financial Express reported that despite ISAAA's hype about India being "a key GM crop cultivator", the actual area planted with India's first GM crop, Bt cotton, is minuscule in terms of the total area devoted to cotton in India. According to an internal report of the country's agriculture ministry, "In 2002-03, the first year of its approval for commercial cultivation, Bt cotton covered an area of only 38,038 hectares, representing only 0.51 per cent of the area under cotton in the period. In 2003-04, with good monsoon rains, the area under Bt cotton increased to 92,000 hectares. This area coverage under Bt cotton is almost negligible as compared to over 9 million hectares under cotton crop in the country. This points to the low acceptability of Bt cotton by farmers."
As well as engaging in selective spin about the popularity of GM crops among farmers, ISAAA stands accused of pumping up the planting figures. ISAAA's Southeast Asia director, Dr Randy Hauteau, while briefing the media, quoted ISAAA figures for Bt cotton plantings in India in 2003-04 of 100,000 hectares - a nearly 10% inflation of the agriculture ministry's figures. When questioned about the data and methodology underlying this claim, the Financial Express reported that Hauteau refused to comment. Hauteau was also unable, the paper reported, to justify claims made in the ISAAA study that "in 2003-04 almost one-third of the global biotech crop area was grown in developing countries." Although ISAAA's figures are quoted routinely by official bodies and even governments, the organisation is vague about how its figures are generated, referring only to their being "based on a consolidated database from a broad range of sources, including government agencies and other organizations in the public and private sector".
But Aaron deGrassi of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex has shown the questionable validity of ISAAA figures. Analysing GM cotton farming in South Africa, he notes, "ISAAA implies that small farmers have been using the technology on a hundred thousand hectares. Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe - an industry coalition - suggests 5,000 ha of 'smallholder cotton.' The survey team [from the University of Reading, UK] suggests 3,000 ha." In other words, ISAAA's GM plantings figures are 20 times higher than even those claimed by a biotech industry source and more than 30 times greater than those from an academic survey. ISAAA's figures claiming increased profits to South African farmers from Bt cotton are also dubious, deGrassi points out. ISAAA argued that switching to Bt cotton allowed farmers to make an extra US$50 per hectare, whereas the University of Reading survey team found that farmers gained only US$18 in the second year. But deGrassi notes that in the first year, "Bt cotton non-adopters were actually $1 per hectare better off". As well as exaggerating the extent of GM plantings and profitability, ISAAA has given misleading figures on yields that have been discredited by subsequent scientific research findings. For instance, ISAAA's "Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops" for 1998 claimed yield improvements of 12% for GM soy over conventional soy, as reported by American farmers. However, a review of the results of over 8 200 university-based controlled varietal trials in 1998 showed an almost 7% average yield reduction in the case of the GM soy - the diametric opposite. It later transpired that ISAAA's figures were based on nothing more substantial than producer estimates.
Who pulls ISAAA's strings?
ISAAA is supported by cash from the GM industry. Its funders include Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred and the BBSRC (the UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council). In other words, ISAAA's reports should not be considered as coming from an independent source. ISAAA's multi-million dollar budget is matched by high-profile industry board members past and present, such as Monsanto's Robert Fraley, Wally Beversdorf of Syngenta, and Gabrielle Persley, Executive Director of AusBiotech Alliance and advisor to the World Bank. ISAAA has no representatives, however, from farmers' organizations in areas like Africa.
One of ISAAA's goals is to "facilitate a knowledge-based, better informed public debate." To that end, ISAAA has three "Knowledge Centers": the "AmeriCenter" based at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; the "SEAsiaCenter" in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines; and the "AfriCenter" in Nairobi, Kenya. ISAAA's Africa office was originally headed by Florence Wambugu, the Monsanto-trained scientist who hyped the company's GM sweet potato around the globe until it was exposed as a failure earlier this year (see "Broken promises", this series).
Aaron deGrassi says that in Africa the ISAAA has "spun off a number of innocuously named pro-biotech NGOs", such as the African Biotechnology Stakeholders' Forum and the African Biotechnology Trust. Pro-biotech Western aid agencies have joined with these organizations to quietly conduct one-sided conferences at upmarket venues around the continent, such as Kenya's Windsor Golf and Country Club, aimed at swinging high-level officials in favour of GM. But critics allege that these forums are facades for large corporations; the NGOs consist of little more than a website and a few staff. In a report on ISAAA's activities in Asia, GRAIN concluded that its role was one of "promoting corporate profit in the name of the poor".
Claire Robinson is an editor with GM Watch www.gmwatch
AP cotton growers compensation claim for crop loss justified' - Bt cotton prone to diseases: study = ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, May 1 2005
NEW DELHI, MAY 1: A study conducted by a team of cotton experts from the government has noted that Bt cotton hybrids are susceptible to diseases like bacterial blight, alternaria leaf spot and grey mildew. Bacterial blight, alternaria leaf spot and grey mildew were the major diseases on cotton identified in central and southern parts of the country in 2004 season. This report of the government body confirms the claims by different studies conducted by civil society organisations and independent scientific bodies pointing to the failure of Bt cotton in 2004 season. It also justifies the claims of Andhra Pradesh Bt cotton growers for compensation for crop loss.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has withheld its decision to extend the approval period for three varieties of Mahyco-Monsanto' Bt cotton, on getting adverse reports about its performance. Farmers leader Mallareddy of AP Rythu Sangam has written to GEAC not to approve extension period for "three failed Bt cotton hybrids," while S Jaipal Reddy of the Federation of Farmers Association (FFA) has demanded immediate extension of the approval period. FFA and its leaders have entered into close partnership with the apex industry body, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and have floated Farmers-Industry Alliance.
All India Coordinated Cotton Improvement Project (AICCIP) in its annual report for the year 2004-05 said: "The Bt cotton hybrid trials laid out in the central and south zone centres were assessed for the occurrences of Alternaria leaf spot, grey mildew and bacterial blight. A comparative study on the incidence of diseases on Bt and non-Bt cotton was carried out. The results revealed that both Bt and non-Bt cotton hybrids are equally susceptible to bacterial blight, alternaria leaf spot and grey mildew. The results indicate that the presence of Bt gene does not have any impact on the nost susceptibility and disease development in the Bt cotton hybrids tested so far."
The AICCIP report added: "he outbreak of alternaria leaf blight and grey mildew disease in central and south zones was significant, especially in hybrids such as Bunny and certain Bt hybrids. The critical damage of these diseases at peak boll formation stage was quite threatening, while adequate pre-emptive control measures were taken by AICCIP by alerting the local state agricultural departments." Three separate teams for evaluation of Bt cotton for north, central and south zones were constituted by AICCIP. The teams studied breeding, entomology and pahology. Regarding the south zone, the AICCIP report said: "All the hybrids tried at Lam, Siruguppa and Coimbatore were statistically on par, whereas in Nandyal, Mech 12 Bt and Mech 162 Bt gave significantly higher seed cotton yield over NHH-44. In Dharwad, Mech 184 Bt and RCH 2 Bt seems to be superior over Mech 162 Bt."
This means all cotton hybrids - whether Bt or non-Bt - had same yields as per the evaluations made in Lam, Siruguppa and Coimbatore. Only the evaluation done in Nandyal showed Bt hybrids having more yields than non-Bt varieties. The AICCIP study said the farmers practicing integrated pest management (IPM) benefited in net income and the number of pesticide sprays were reduced by nearly 50%.
Federation of Farmers Association (India) - http://www.spinwatch.org/modules.php?name=Encyclopedia&op=content&tid=94
Together with Kisan Coordination Committee, the Federation of Farmers' Associations (FFA), based in the city of Hyderabad in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh, has been at the forefront of support for GM crops in India. The FFA was inaugurated in December 1998 by Sharad Joshi, founder of Shetkari Sanghatana and the Kisan Coordination Committee. The FFA is said to be an 'independent organisation representing some two million members from 500 farmers organisations in Andhra Pradesh'. However, the term 'federation' is employed loosely in India and, as with the Kisan Coordination Committee, the FFA's real constituency appears to be quite small and significantly different from that which it claims. The FFA's President, P Chengal Reddy , has been described as speaking 'on behalf of small-holder farmers' but the FFA is a lobby for Andhra Pradesh's big commercial farmers.Chengal Reddy's family have long been a rightwing political force in Andhra Pradesh. Chengal Reddy has had a close association with Monsanto. He is also known to have proposed that the FFA become the operational arm in Andhra Pradesh of The Indian Crop Protection Association (ICPA). The ICPA represents India's leading agrochemical companies.
The links page on the FFA's website is revealing. There are links to Monsanto and a number of other biotech corporations, to the far right International Policy Network and, perhaps most revealing, to Monsanto's Internet PR firm Bivings, under its previous name of Bivings Woodell Inc. The page also has a link to 'Tuskege University' (sic), which links to CS Prakash's agbioworld website. In order to promote GM crops to farmers, legislators and others, in 1999 the FFA organised a workshop with the Administrative Staff College of India, at Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. Among the contributors was C S Prakash. In April 2000 Chengal Reddy shared a platform with Prakash at a pro-GM event organised by the Liberty Institute .
In 2003 S Jayapal Reddy, a member of the Executive Committee of the Federation of Farmers Associations, travelled to Europe as part of a 'Third World' GM lobby group, hosted by EuropaBio, which included Dr Luke Mumba from Zambia, TJ Buthelezi from South Africa and representatives of ISAAA and AfricaBio . Chengal Reddy has also represented 'Third World farmers' on a number of occasions, including at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 where he was the guest of ISAAA and AfricaBio . Kisan Coordination Committee was also present and together with Reddy and TJ Buthelezi they participated in a carefully choreographed pro-GM demonstration. Together with Kisan Coordination Committee and the Liberty Institute, the FFA was one of the chief lobbyists for the approval of GM crops in India.
New Study Points to Likely Source of GE Rice Contamination in China - APRIL 29, 2005 - http://www.commondreams.org/news2005/0429-01.htm
CONTACT: Greenpeace - Sze Pang Cheung, GE Campaigner, Greenpeace China +852 965 39067 (Hong Kong)
Janet Cotter, Greenpeace International Science Unit +44 781 217 4783 (UK)
Maya Catsanis, Media Officer, Greenpeace International, mobile +61 407 742 025 (Sydney)
BEIJING -- April 29 -- Just two weeks after Greenpeace exposed the illegal selling and planting of genetically engineered (GE) rice in Hubei province, a research paper published today in Science magazine (1) describes what appear to be unregulated trials of the same GE rice (Shanyou 63) that Greenpeace researchers found being illegally sold in the open market. With rice planting due to start any day, Greenpeace said the study reveals further evidence of the failure to control GE rice trials in China.
Greenpeace China GE Campaigner Sze Pang Cheung said; "The Science paper states that farmers cultivated the GE rice without the assistance of technicians, and that quite a number of the randomly selected participants grew both GE and conventional varieties on their small family farms." "In other countries GE field trials are tightly regulated, monitored and separated from conventional rice crops," Sze continued. "The Chinese system of regulating GE field trials is failing. It looks like GE rice has grown out of control under the very noses of the scientists that were trusted to control it."
If urgent action is not taken, up to 13,500 tonnes of untested and unapproved GE rice may enter the food chain this year. This is likely to increase international concern over contamination of Chinese rice exports. "Chinese GE researchers who have released GE rice without adequate biosafety precautions are failing to protect farmers and the Chinese public. They need to remember that GE rice is illegal because it hasn't been shown to be safe for health or environment and because it may have major negative economic impacts," Sze said. "We should not be risking long term health and environmental impacts, as well as international consumer rejection of Chinese rice when we don't need GE in the first place," he added.
Jitters were sent through the international food industry following the Greenpeace revelations that the unapproved GE rice may also have contaminated exports. "The Japanese Health ministry has begun testing of Chinese rice imports, the European Commission has requested testing information while governments in the UK, Slovakia and Korea are all conducting some level of investigations into the contamination," Sze said.
The Chinese government has been evaluating the proposed release of GE rice in the country but has not yet approved any varieties due to unresolved environmental, health and economic issues.
The Science article claims that GE rice is needed to improve rice production and reduce environmental impacts ? claims that are strongly disputed by Greenpeace. "The research paper is an economic analysis that fails to take into account the environmental or health risks of GE rice. Instead of investing in the high risk strategy of genetic engineering, China should be investing in real, long-term solutions to sustainability in agriculture." (2) (3)
"GE is an anti-farmer technology that locks farmers into monoculture farming, high seed costs and risks of consumer rejection. The Government needs to act immediately to stop further contamination, to uphold the law and to investigate the scientists who have released unapproved GE rice," Sze concluded.
Notes of the Editor
(1) Huang, J., Hu, R., Rozelle, S. & Pray, C. 2005. Insect-resistant GM Rice in farmers? fields: assessing productivity and health effects in China. Science, 688-690. 29th April 2005.
(2) A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) program into Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in China resulted in a reduction of pesticide use of over 45% - without any of the environmental, health or market risks of genetic engineering. See Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Green Farming in Rural Poverty Alleviation in China http://www.unescap.org/rural/doc/ipm2002/ch04.pdf
(3) A study into the adoption of GE Bt cotton in China concluded that farmers still over-used pesticides on pest-resistant crops. It found that farmers in small-scale production systems require training in identification of pests, natural predators, basic ecology and integrated pest management in order to ensure sustainable production. Yang, P, Iles, M., Yan,S., Jolliffe, F.2004. Farmers' knowledge, perceptions and practices in transgenic Bt cotton in small producer systems in Northern China. Crop Protection, 24 (2005) 229-239.
EU ministers reject GM ingredient, again - Food Navigator, 28 April 2005 - http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/news-ng.asp?n=59694-eu-ministers-reject
European ministers once again throw out a Commission proposal to allow a GM ingredient to flow into the food chain, writes Lindsey Partos. Meeting this week, ministers from the 25 member states failed to reach a majority to authorise into Europe imports of Monsanto's GM maize GA21. Despite tough new rules on the labelling of GM ingredients for food products, member states still need to be convinced that introducing genetically modified ingredients into food production is acceptable. Since November 2003, the European Commission has asked EU states ten times to vote on authorising a GMO food or feed product. But by all accounts a damp squib, in nine cases there was no agreement on the proposal and in one case the vote was postponed.
Under this latest vote, 12 countries abstained, eight voted in favour (including the UK and the Netherlands) and five voted against (France, Portugal) Monsanto's GA21, modified to be tolerant to the company's glyphosate herbicide.
To date, only two crops, Bt11 sweetcorn from Swiss agrochemicals firm Syngenta whose approval broke the EU ban, and NK603 maize designed by biotech giant Monsanto, have been approved under regulation (EC) No 97/258 on novel foods, in May and October 2004 respectively. On both occasions, approval was pushed through by the Commission, under an obscure facet of European law known as the 'comitology procedure'.
Critics of GM foods claim Brussels is caving into pressure from the US, the number one exporter of GM food crops. Brussels, in response, affirms the tough new laws on GM foodstuff labelling in Europe, some of the most stringent in the world, paved the way for entry of GM foods: by flagging up a GM ingredient on the food label, and therefore placing the decision to buy the product firmly in the hands of the consumer.
Parallel to the decision to clear, or not, imports of GM ingredients into Europe are discussions on the cultivation of certain GM crops on European soil. Meeting with strong opposition from environmental groups, there are proposals to allow the cultivation of maize 1507, jointly developed by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont, and Dow Agroscience unit Mycogen seeds. The decision that now lies with the ministers of the member states.
The 'pro' camp was given a boost last week after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in its first ever assessment on GM crop growing, cleared the 1507 maize.
DECLARATION OF ONE THOUSAND GMO-FREE ZONES IN IRELAND - GM-Free Ireland Network, 22 April 2005 -- Dublin, Ireland.
One thousand GMO-Free Zones were declared throughout the island of Ireland today -- 22nd April, Earth Day 2005 -- by farmers, food producers, hotels, restaurants, markets, pubs, retailers, and homes North and South of the border. These sites require legal protection from contamination by genetically modified (GM) seeds, crops, trees, livestock and fish. Hundreds of participants have placed GMO-FREE ZONE signs outside their place of business.
The event was co-ordinated by the GM-free Ireland Network (1), an association of 56 farming organisations, companies and environmental groups representing 32,000 farmers, foresters, food producers, food distributors and exporters, leading chefs and restaurants, NGOs, professional associations, doctors, economists, lawyers, journalists, students, and consumers. Speakers included Kathy Sinnott MEP, John Heney (Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association), Michael O’Callaghan (GM-free Ireland), Brian Meaney (Clare County Council), and Sean McArdle (Irish Farmers Markets).
The GM-Free Ireland Network launched this initiative with a briefing for media and politicians to highlight the legal, economic, health, environmental and food security benefits of keeping Ireland free of GM crops, and a political strategy to achieve this goal. The briefing, which took place in Buswell’s Hotel in Dublin included a digital map showing the location of the GMO-free sites (2).
Co. Clare, Co. Fermanagh and Co. Monaghan have already passed GM-free motions. City Councils and other Local Authorities which have done likewise include Clonakilty, Derry, Mourne, Navan and Newry. GM-free motions have also been tabled in Co. Leitrim, Dublin City Council and South Dublin County Council.
Addressing the briefing today the coordinator of the GM-free Ireland Network, Michael O’Callaghan, said, “This government has never voted against GM crops in the EU parliament. It still promotes the transnational agri-biotech companies’ unscientific claims that genetically modified food and crops will increase crop yields, improve nutrition, and alleviate world hunger. But independent scientific evidence from around the world proves beyond doubt that GMO crops often fail to perform, inevitably contaminate surrounding regions, produce superweeds, can never be recalled, and cannot “co-exist” with conventional and organic farming (3). If the Irish Government and its Northern Ireland counterpart go ahead with their current strategy to allow the so-called “co-existence” of GMO crops on this island, we will lose our right to choose safe GM-free farming and food, forever.” Michael O’ Callaghan continued, “The introduction of patented GMO crops in Ireland would cause all farmers to be contaminated, lose their right to save and plant their own seeds, and burden them with annual licensing fees, higher production costs, superweeds, bureaucracy, labelling, traceability, liability issues, and patent infringement lawsuits with no insurance available to cover the risks. GM animal feed is already causing Irish farmers to lose access to prime EU export markets, and destroying our world famous clean green reputation as ‘Ireland the food island.’”
Kathy Sinnott, MEP said “GMO crops are an experiment. I have told the European Parliament that I do not support the GMO experiment but if it is to go ahead in Europe, I recommend Ireland as the perfect control. It is an island with predominantly westerly winds and therefore significantly protected from GMO contamination from neighbouring countries. With this control, the EU will be able to properly assess GM crops in 5, 10, 50 years time. And if GM bellies up European farmers and consumers will be able to get safe food and seed stocks from us in Ireland.”
Michael O’Callaghan agreed: “Keeping Ireland GMO-free will provide Ireland with a significant competitive economic advantage. The vast majority of European food brands, retailers and consumers refuse GM food (4). Our Atlantic winds and island status provide the capacity to produce the most credible GM-free agricultural seeds and food in the EU.” (5)
Also speaking at the briefing John Heney, who is the Rural Development Chairman of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, said “Research consistently shows that the majority of EU consumers are strongly opposed to the use of GM, whether in the production of food for human consumption or as part of the diet of animals destined for dairy and meat production. This is a vital message, which cannot be ignored if we wish to successfully market Irish beef. The old adage that ‘the customer is always right’ still
pertains. As food producers we are aware of not alone our moral obligation but also our legal obligation to the people who consume our produce. We have yet to be reassured of the safety of GM food.” He emphasized the need for farmers to think of their future: “Food scares such as BSE have already had devastating effects on farming. What if something should go wrong with GM food? Last week’s Bt 10 maize scandal and the efforts of the people involved to fudge the situation makes me very nervous. We must ask ourselves, why should we risk our future for the benefit of faceless multinational companies? It makes absolutely no sense! Because of our unique island status we in Ireland have been afforded an opportunity to make a very important decision. We can either decided to remain a totally GM-free area and avoid all the inherent risks which this technology involves or we can go down the dangerous and untried GM road, a road which I am afraid has no turn backs!”
Although most EU governments still hesitate to ban GMO crops, 100 regional governments and 3,500 local authorities in 22 EU countries already prohibit GMO farming (5). But current EC law does not clearly define the matter: some national governments approve the regions’ laws and others challenge them. The Assembly of European Regions, Friends of the Earth Europe and a wide coalition of NGOs have launched a campaign to ensure that an EC Directive due later this year on the "Co-existence" of GM crops with conventional and organic farming, will legally empower Irish Counties to protect themselves from GMO contamination. Irish County Councils are being invited to sign an EC petition to this effect. Michael O’Callaghan said “The declaration of 1,000 GMO-free zones in Ireland today marks a first step in protecting the right of Irish farmers and consumers to choose safe food and farming.”
John Heney said he cannot understand the Irish Government’s stance on GM. “The Government has an obligation to protect the interests of Irish citizens. Hiding behind the opinions of a small group of scientists is not good enough. We all know that science has got it wrong before and will do so again in the future. ICSA believes that the blindfolds must be removed; the public must be informed of all the issues involved and a national debate initiated on the use of GM in food. Simplistic and patronising statements are not good enough. For instance, just two weeks ago we heard one of our top scientist say on RTE Prime Time that ‘sugar is sugar’ the fact that it may be genetically modified was apparently irrelevant! I would say to this gentleman, try telling a person living in Belfast, Beirut or Baghdad that a car is a car - that is, irrespective of what somebody may have packed into its boot. This charade has gone on for far too long: our government must respect its citizen’s rights and immediately get off the fence on the GM issue. They owe it to us all.”
A public presentation about the GMO-free sites will also take place this afternoon as part of the Convergence Festival in Dublin.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
(1) The GM-free Ireland Network web site: http://www.gmfreeireland.org Prominent organisational members include the Body Shop, An Taisce (the National Trust for Ireland), the Irish Doctors Environmental Association, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association, the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Euro-Toques Ireland, the Irish Association of Health Stores, Irish Farmers Markets, the Irish Seed Savers Association, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Irish Environment, the Columban Missionaries, the Food Writers Guild, Forest Friends Ireland, Just Forests, the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, the Irish Wildlife Trust, Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment, Slow Food Ireland, and Sustainable Ireland.
(2) The map of Irish GMO-free zones may be viewed from 10am Friday 22 April at http://www.gmfreeireland.org/map/index3.php
(3) Authoritative information on the risks of GM food and farming is available from the Independent Science Panel on GM at http://www.indsp.org
(4) The EU market for GM labelled food products is virtually closed. According to the January 2005 Greenpeace report “No market for GM labelled food in Europe”, Europe's top 30 retailers and top 30 food & drink producers have policies and non-GM commitments which reveal a massive international food industry rejection of GM ingredients. This cuts across the industry from food and drink manufacturers to retailers, and includes everything from snacks and ready meals to pet food and beer. The combined total food and drink sales of the 49 companies with a stated non-GM policy in their main market or throughout the EU (27 retailers and 22 food and drink producers) amounts to € 646 billion, more than 60% of the total € 1,069 billion European food and drink sales. Irish food companies doing business internationally need to implement a non-GM policy without delay. The Greenpeace report can be downloaded from http://www.gmfreeireland.org/downloads/NoMarketForGMFood.pdf (2MB PDF file).
(5) Benedikt Haerlin, who chaired the European Conference on GMO-free Regions, Biodiversity and Rural Development in January 2005 said: “Ireland's particular situation as an island that is better protected from unwanted gene transfer by wind-borne pollen than most European areas makes it a perfect place to preserve the seeds heritage and the diversity of presently available commercial seeds, by staying GMO-free. The economic opportunities for Ireland are obviously in the non-GM sector. This presents a big opportunity, especially for international seed companies but also smaller and medium sized seed companies throughout the European Union. If Ireland were in a position to guarantee these companies that there is no threat of GMO pollution in your country, this would provide them with a great opportunity to use Ireland as a safe place for their seed reproduction. This would not only be an economic benefit, but could also be an advantage in terms of the further development of seeds and innovations and new jobs in research and development. The simple message from very many regions all across Europe is: please keep Ireland GMO-free!”
(6) Information and maps of all the GMO-free zones in Europe may be found at http://www.gmofree-europe.org.
For more information please contact: Michael O’Callaghan, GM-Free Ireland Network - Tel. + 353 404 43 885 - Mobile + 353 87 799 4761
Or, Niall McLoughlin, Ross Communications - Tel. + 353 1 633 4033 - Mobile + 353 86 819 4842
ITALY: GO AHEAD NOW TO GMO-FREE PRODUCE - (AGI) - Rome, Italy, 12th April, 2005
"The sentence of the Constitutional Court confirms that the choice for GMO-free produce made by 15 Italian regions is fully legitimate. Now, the "Florence Charter", the manifesto of the program the Regions which have chosen to keep their areas free from genetically modified crops can become a true reference point for the choices made in agriculture by the new regional governments", said Loredana De Petris, a Green senator and the group leader of the Agricultural Commission, in commenting today's sentence from the Constitutional Court about the laws in Marche and Puglia. She added: "This sentence is a clear pronouncement of the Government's vague stance in this issue. The action concerning the regional laws and the allowance of co-existing laws which make it judicially difficult for the regions to choose to be GMO-free are a clear sign of the persistence of the executive body in promoting the indiscriminate introduction of GMO crops to the advantage of interests foreign to those of national agriculture". She added: "I want to also stress that the only public research in this matter which was commissioned by the British government and which concerns the effects of GMO crops in open fields has shown negative irreversible results for both the environment and for bio-diversity. Those who still deny this evidence today are putting at risk the special qualities of the Italian agricultural system". (AGI)
Kenneth Richter (FoE) wrote: Luca Colombo reports that the Italian Constitutional Court has rejected the appeal of the Italian government against two GMO-free laws of the regions of Marches and Puglia. It should be noted though that the court decision is a 'simple' technical (juridical) decision due to the incompetent formulation by the State lawyer who badly referenced the juridical terms for the rejection of the two regional laws. The government had argued that only states can ban GMOs using the procedure of the safeguard clause (Article 16). But the court ruled that this reference was not legitimate as the safeguard clause exclusively concerns "the use and/or sale of that product" (that contains GMOs) on its territory, while the regional laws concern only the cultivation of crops and the breeding of animals. But Luca also says: despite it is not a highly juridical decision on the legitimacy of the regional govts. to deliberate on their (GMo-free) territories, you will not miss the political sense of this decision (likely embedded in the court intention).
Kenneth Richter, European GMO Campaign, Friends of the Earth, 26-28 Underwood Street, London N1 7JQ
US sent banned corn to Europe for four years - By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor - The Independent on Sunday, 17 April 2005
All imports of United States corn have been stopped at British ports following the discovery that the US has been illegally exporting a banned GM maize to Europe for the past four years. The unprecedented move, which has angered the Bush administration, follows efforts to hush up and play down the scandal on both sides of the Atlantic. For weeks the official food watchdog failed to look for imports of the maize, which is banned on health grounds. It has been forced to take action by the European Commission.
The two main opposition parties yesterday blamed the delay on a pro-GM and pro-US bias in the Food Standards Agency, and pledged to correct it if they came to power.
The scandal - the worst yet involving GM imports - centres around maize named Bt , modified to repel a pest called the corn borer. It also contains a gene conferring resistance to antibiotics. All such crops are banned in Europe because of fears that the resistance could spread to consumers via the food chain.
Syngenta, the biotech company that developed the maize, told the US government last December that the crop had been grown over 37,000 acres of the country since 2001, because it had been confused with a similar, approved, maize. It was fined $375,000 (GBP200,000) for the blunder. But the Bush administration failed for three months to inform European customers that they were importing a banned maize. The scandal was admitted only after it was exposed by the scientific magazine Nature, on 22 March. Even then the US failed to mention that the maize contained the gene for antibiotic resistance.
Europe is estimated to have imported about 1,000 tons of the banned maize, as animal feed. The EC says it cannot eliminate danger to people who consumed meat or dairy products from livestock. It has no idea where in Europe the banned maize has gone or whether the US stopped exporting it.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said only "very small" amounts of maize were involved, echoing a statement from Syngenta, and there was "no actual indication" any had ended up in the UK. The Food Standards Agency refused pleas to try to identify the maize in Britain. Its import was stopped on Friday and supplies in transit are being tested at the ports.
The Associated Press/BRUSSELS, Belgium - By RAF CASERT - Associated Press Writer
EU nations to ban suspect corn imports
*APR. 15 9:03 A.M. ET* European Union nations voted Friday to ban U.S. shipments of suspect corn gluten animal feed unless the bloc has full assurance that the imports are free of genetically modified corn. The move could affect millions of dollars' worth of corn gluten exports. The dispute centers on a batch of Bt10 genetically modified corn that Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta AG inadvertently sold in the United States and exported to Europe without approval. "This is a targeted measure which is necessary to uphold EU law, maintain consumer confidence and ensure that the unauthorized GMO Bt10 cannot enter the EU. Imports of maize products which are certified as free of Bt10 will be able to continue," said EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.
The ban will effectively shut out all imports of U.S. corn gluten, since there is currently no effective way of testing for Bt10, which has not been approved by American or European regulators. EU spokesman Philip Tod said Syngenta was working to develop and validate such a test, but they could not say when it would be ready for use. U.S. shipments of corn gluten feed to the EU totaled 347 million euros ($450 million) last year.
The United States said the ban was exaggerated. "We view the EU's decision to impose a certification requirement on U.S. corn gluten due to the possible, low-level presence of Bt10 corn to be an overreaction," said Edward Kemp, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the EU. "U.S. regulatory authorities have determined there are no hazards to health, safety or the environment related to Bt10," Kemp added. "The small amounts of Bt10 corn that may have entered the EU have had no proven negative impact."
The ban is to come into force early next week, pending formal approval by the EU's head office.
Environmental campaigners welcomed the move. "Europe now has a de facto ban on the import of many US animal feeds," said Friends of the Earth spokesman Adrian Bebb. However, Greenpeace warned that stricter controls are needed to prevent more cases of unauthorized biotech imports. "Europe is currently helpless to defend itself from contamination by GMOs that are suspected to harm human health and the environment," said Christoph Then, genetic engineering expert for the campaign group. "As long as EU authorities have no means to test imports for all the GMOs being released in the U.S. and elsewhere, it must say 'no entry' to the EU for any food, feed or seeds that are at risk of contamination."
The EU said it is in continuous contact with U.S. authorities on the issue, but its decision to ban suspect corn gluten imports further strains trans-Atlantic trade relations.
Syngenta said last week it has reached a settlement with the U.S. government over the inadvertent sale to farmers of Bt10. The company said in a statement that under the settlement reached with U.S. authorities, it would pay a fine of $375,000 and teach its employees the importance of complying with all rules. However, the EU has been annoyed that U.S. authorities allowed the export of Bt10 to Europe after it was mixed up with an authorized biotech Syngenta maize labeled Bt11. About 1,000 tons of animal feed and food products such as oil and flour containing the corn are thought to have entered the EU since 2001.
The case has underscored European concerns about biotech foods, coming shortly after the EU relaxed restrictions on genetically modified organisms.
Associate PressCopyright 2005, by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Unlicensed GM rice may be in UK food chain - Greenpeace finds illegal strain in Chinese exports - Thursday April 14, 2005 - The Guardian
Unlicensed GM rice sold illegally on the internet to Chinese farmers has been sold for human consumption and may have been imported undetected into the UK, even though it could cause allergic reactions. The Chinese authorities are investigating after 11 samples of rice in Hubei province were found to contain BT rice, a transgenic strain that has not been approved for commercial growing and should not be in human food.
The UK is one of a number of EU countries that imports rice from China. Although the amount of GM rice involved is thought to be only a small percentage of the total grown - about 1,200 tonnes - no one knows precisely, or where it went. Since no GM rice is grown legally anywhere in the world, importers would not have checked if any had entered British food supplies.
The GM rice was discovered after Greenpeace China investigated offers on the internet to farmers of GM rice that would kill larvae which bore into the stalks of the crop, seriously damaging yields. The rice has not been tested for human consumption, but it caused an allergic reaction in mice when fed to them. Apart from a potential risk to human health, the poison genetically engineered into the plant could also kill non-target species such as butterflies and moths. Insects which are or become resistant to the introduced toxin may evolve and require more intensive chemical control. There are also fears that the rice could contaminate natural genetic resources and affect long-term soil health.
For China it is also an economic risk, because importer countries such as Japan and Korea have consumers who reject GM foods. A similar GM contamination case in the US in 2000 resulted in a $1bn (£530m) product recall, amid concerns of potential allergenic reactions after illegal, genetically engineered corn called StarLink entered the food chain. Although StarLink was grown on less than 1% of all US cornfields, it was mingled with much larger quantities of corn. It resulted in the recall of nearly 300 contaminated food product lines.
The Chinese rice contamination was discovered when researchers followed up the internet sales and collected samples of rice from millers and merchants. Testing by the Genescan international laboratory found that 11 samples were contaminated, and two contained toxins which were known to cause an allergic reaction in mice. Sarah North, the GM campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "This dodgy rice could have serious consequences for human health and the environment and it could already be on UK supermarket shelves. This is just another sorry example of how the GM industry is out of control."
The discovery of the GM rice followed a scandal last month over unlicensed GM maize entering the food chain as a result of a mix-up between two types of GM seed - one called BT10, which was unlicensed, and the second BT11, which could be grown commercially. For three years BT10 was grown and mixed with BT11 before anyone realised. Yesterday, three weeks after being told of the error by the US authorities, the European commission was still unsure how many member countries had unwittingly imported about 1,000 tonnes of the contaminated maize. It has demanded that all maize imports should be certified as free of contamination - something which is almost impossible to achieve - but many think that is not enough. The UK Green member of the European assembly's environment committee, Caroline Lucas, condemned the decision to continue importing US corn at all. "This incident casts serious doubt on the EU's ability to monitor GM ingredients in the food chain. The only way to ensure unauthorised GM corn doesn't enter the food chain is to halt all US corn imports until the contaminated corn has been identified, recalled and returned to the US." David Cuming, of Consumers International, said: "The release of untested GMOs into the environment and the food chain is unacceptable, undermining consumer rights to safety, to a healthy and sustainable environment and to information. People need to know that their food is safe." The organisation, which represents 250 groups in 115 countries, wants labelling to enable GMs to be traced, the establishment of GM-free areas and independent safety testing. Mr Cuming said the rice and maize discoveries raised questions about the integrity of the companies and individuals involved in genetically-engineered food. "It also reveals weakness in regulation systems. Strict safety guidelines and independent testing need to be implemented and we also need strict rules to prevent such contamination from occurring," he said.
China Seeks Probe of Greenpeace Rice Claim - Thursday April 14, 2005 - Associated Press
BEIJING (AP) - China has ordered an investigation into an environmental group's claims that genetically modified rice not approved for human consumption has been sold in central China for two years, an official said Thursday. Greenpeace on Wednesday called for a recall of the rice and released what it said were results of lab tests of rice from seed companies, farmers and rice millers in Hubei province. ``We have started an investigation of the Greenpeace report,'' said an official contacted by phone at the Agriculture Ministry's office for genetically modified organisms. The official confirmed that some genetically modified rice was planted in Hubei, but said it was experimental and the plantings were limited to five acres. He refused to give his name.
The Chinese government is researching genetic engineering in a wide range of crops, hoping to increase farm output as it copes with a shortage of farmland and the need to feed a population of 1.3 billion people. China has seen little of the debate that has raged abroad about the possible dangers of genetically modified, or GM, crops. Greenpeace said up to 1,200 tons of the rice may have ``entered the food chain.'' It did not give any more details and it was not clear whether the rice had been shipped out of the country. It said interviews with seed providers and farmers showed that the rice had been in circulation for at least two years. The rice has been modified to produce a pesticide that can cause allergic reactions in humans, Dr. Janet Cotter, from the group's science division, said in a prepared statement. ``We are calling on the Chinese government to take urgent action to recall the unapproved (genetically engineered) rice from the fields and from the food chain, and to conduct an immediate inquiry into the source of the contamination,'' Greenpeace said in the statement.
An official of the Hubei provincial agriculture bureau, contacted by phone, said the province has been carrying out test plantings of GM rice engineered to resist insects for two to three years. The official refused to give his name or any other details about the rice, saying the issue was a ``sensitive problem.''
Beijing said in December that it was testing the safety of genetically modified rice but denied that it was preparing to allow commercial sales.
EU MOVES TO RESTRICT US MAIZE IMPORTS - FOE calls for industry to pay the costs
Brussels, 13 April 2005 -The European Commission should immediately halt all imports of maize from the United States, said Friends of the Earth today. Late yesterday, European member states agreed unanimously to a proposal demanding that all shipments from the US are certified free of an illegal genetically modified (GM) maize - a de facto ban on the import of US maize-based animal feeds. The Commission is likely to make the decision in the coming days. (1)
The agrochemical firm Syngenta admitted three weeks ago that it had sold unlicensed GM seeds to US farmers for four years. Syngenta has since refused to make public the information needed for governments to test food and feed imports for the illegal GM maize.
Whilst Friends of the Earth is backing the EU proposal, it is urging the European Commission to go further and:
* Immediately halt all shipments of imported US maize food and feed products unless they can be certified as not containing the illegal GM maize;
* Insist that Syngenta sets up a compensation fund to pay for the testing of maize products worldwide;
* Urgently review the EU's monitoring system to guarantee public protection from unapproved GM products.
The incident was first made public through an article in Nature on 22 March (2). Between 2001 and 2004 Syngenta sold several hundred tonnes of a GM maize seed, called Bt10, to US farmers, mistaking it for another GM maize, Bt11. Unlike the Bt11 maize, Bt10 has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world. It has been estimated that around 1000 tonnes of the illegal GM maize entered the European food chain and was even planted at test sites in Spain and France.
Syngenta claimed that the Bt10 maize was "physically identical" to Bt11, a view initially endorsed by governments and the European Commission. Friends of the Earth disagreed, pointing out that the unapproved GMO also contained a controversial antibiotic resistance gene, which confers resistance to an important group of antibiotics. Syngenta finally admitted that this was indeed the case (3).
Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: "EU countries have now given the European Commission the green light to introduce strict restrictions on US imports. The Commission must act quickly to protect the public from this unlicensed and untested genetically modified crop." "The failure of Syngenta to provide the basic information needed to test for their contamination is a disgrace. The Commission must insist that this secrecy ends and Syngenta sets up a fund to pay for testing. The polluter must pay, not the public." "The inability of the biotechnology industry to control its own products makes a complete mockery of the EU's monitoring systems. The European
Commission must order an immediate review to ensure that the public is never again exposed to unapproved genetically modified foods."
Contact: Adrian Bebb, + 49 1609 490 1163 (mobile)
(1) Member states met in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health
(2) The original Nature article can be found at:
(3) Bt 10 contains the amp gene, which confers resistance to the ampicillin family of antibiotics. In recent guidance, the European Food Safety Authority stated that GMOs containing this gene should not be approved for cultivation and their use restricted to field trials.
Europeans to Toughen Rules on Animal Feed From US - New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/13/business/worldbusiness/13syngenta.html
By PAUL MELLER - Published: April 13, 2005
BRUSSELS, April 12 - The European Commission said Tuesday that it was drafting stricter rules governing exports of animal feed from the United States to prevent the entry of unapproved genetically modified feed. The announcement follows news in past weeks that an unapproved strain of genetically altered corn seed may have entered the European Union in corn oil, corn flour and animal feed. The European authorities are focusing on animal feed, as they have confirmed the presence of the genetically altered corn in it, but not in corn oil or flour thus far. The European Food Safety Authority, meanwhile, said Tuesday that the unapproved corn was unlikely to pose any threat to health or the environment.
Syngenta, the Swiss agrichemicals company, told authorities in Europe, Japan and Canada last month that it had inadvertently switched two strains of corn seed in 2001. This resulted in its Bt-10 seed, which contains a gene resistant to the antibiotic ampicillin, being grown and marketed as Bt-11, a nearly identical seed that has been approved in Europe and the United States for many years. The unapproved corn was grown in the United States until December, when Syngenta discovered the mistake and informed authorities in Washington. Some of the corn, however, is believed to have been exported to Europe, Canada and Japan.
Europe's food safety agency gave a mixed preliminary view of Bt-10 corn. After examining a different genetically altered corn with a similar antibiotic-resistant gene last summer, the agency said these types of corn should not be sold in Europe. But in its statement Tuesday, the agency said that a similar strain of Bt-10 examined last year showed that corn of this type is "unlikely to alter the existing pool of bacteria" resistant to ampicillin, and that research so far indicated that ampicillin-resistant genes do not spread through pollination from genetically modified corn to normal corn.
Philip Tod, a spokesman for the European Commission, said that the commission would push ahead with the stricter rules as quickly as possible to prevent any more of the unauthorized corn from entering the European Union. American exporters of corn gluten feed for animals would have to provide proof from an internationally accredited laboratory that their exports to the European Union do not contain any of the unapproved corn strain, he said, adding that a majority of the 25 member countries were behind the idea. "There is clear agreement that this is an illegal situation that cannot be allowed to continue," Mr. Tod said. "It's not good enough that exporters from America can't show that their feed isn't contaminated. The burden of proof is on them."
Illegal GE rice contaminates food chain in China - PRESS RELEASE, 13 April 2005
13 April 2005, Beijing, China -- Greenpeace is calling for an urgent, international product recall after uncovering the illegal release of a variety of genetically engineered (GE) rice in China. The GE rice has not been approved for human consumption and may have contaminated Chinese rice exports.
"The GE industry is out of control," said Greenpeace GE campaigner Sze Pang Cheung. "A small group of rogue scientists have taken the world's most important staple food crop into their own hands and are subjecting the Chinese public to a totally unacceptable experiment." "We're calling on the Chinese Government to take urgent action to recall the unapproved GE rice from the fields and from the food chain, and to conduct an immediate inquiry into the source of the contamination."
A Greenpeace research team discovered unapproved GE rice being sold and grown illegally in the Chinese province of Hubei. Interviews with seed providers and farmers indicate that GE rice seeds have been sold over the past two years. Samples of rice seed, unmilled and milled rice have been collected from seed companies, farmers and rice millers. Testing by the international laboratory Genescan has confirmed the presence of GE DNA in 19 samples. The evidence from the lab, combined with field reports, confirms that some of the illegal GE varieties are Bt Rice ? which is genetically engineered to produce an inbuilt pesticide. Greenpeace estimates that at least 950 to 1200 tons of GE rice entered the food chain after last year's harvest, and that up to 13,500 tons may enter the food chain after this year unless urgent action is taken.
According to Greenpeace International Scientist, Dr Janet Cotter, this is a very serious problem requiring urgent Government action: "There are strong warning signs that this GE Bt rice could cause allergenic reactions in humans. It has been shown that the protein produced in Bt rice (called Cry1Ac) may have induced allergenic-type responses in mice (1). To date, there has been no human food safety testing of Bt rice."
China is a major exporter of rice and it is expected that the contamination scandal may have significant trade and market impacts, particularly in countries like Japan and Korea where consumer rejection of GE foods is very high. A similar case in the USA in 2000 resulted in a $1 billion product recall amid concerns of potential allergenic reactions after GE corn (Starlink) illegally entered the human food chain. "This will have a major impact on the Chinese as well as international rice markets," said Sze. "China is one of the world's major rice exporters and our customers in Japan, Korea, Russia and Europe are strongly opposed to GE foods." Consumer concern over GE foods in China is also rising. In an opinion poll released by Greenpeace in March, 73% of the respondents said they would choose non-GE rice over GE rice. China is considering commercialization of GE rice and officials have indicated a decision may be made this year. The contamination scandal raises the question of whether the government could regulate GE rice. "The government has not controlled GE rice in the research stage, how will it regulate large scale commercialization?" Sze said.
Video and photo images of the GE rice are available from: http://photos.greenpeace.org.au
For more information contact:
Sze Pang Cheung, GE Campaigner, Greenpeace China +86 13911460884 (Beijing)
Janet Cotter, Greenpeace International Science Unit, (UK) +44 781 217 4783 (UK)
Zhou Meiyue, Media Officer, Greenpeace China, mobile +86 139 100 36849 (Beijing)
Maya Catsanis, Media Officer, Greenpeace International, mobile +61 407 742 025 (Sydney)
(1) Moreno-Fierros, L., Garcia, N., Gutierrez, R., Lopez-Revilla, R. & Vazquez-Padron, R.I.2000. Intranasal, rectal and intraperitoneal immunization with protoxin Cry1Ac from Bacillus thuringiensis induces compartmentalized serum, intestinal, vaginal and pulmonary immune responses in Balb/c mice. Microbes and Infectection 2: 885-890 and references therein.
Busch to boycott state's rice if genetic alterations allowed - Scott Canon - The Kansas City Star, Apr. 12, 2005 - http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/business/11369865.htm
Commodity-buying behemoth Anheuser-Busch Cos. has vowed to boycott Missouri's 30 million-bushel rice crop if genetically altered, drug-making plants are grown in the state The beer maker, the country's single largest rice buyer, last week told Missouri growers it would not buy their rice if a firm that recently moved from California wins permission to plant about 150 acres of pharmaceutical grain in the rice-rich Bootheel region. "Anheuser-Busch holds the trump card. If they say they're not going to buy any rice if this (pharmaceutical) rice is planted, then don't plant," said Dan Jennings, a grower from Sikeston, Mo., who had previously supported the experimental crop. An Anheuser-Busch boycott "puts pressure on everybody else who buys Missouri rice to defend it." The brewer has long opposed Ventria Bioscience's plans.
Ventria wants to grow rice genetically engineered to produce lactoferrin and lysozyme - substances found in human tears, saliva and mother's milk and used for digestive problems. Currently they can be extracted from mother's milk for up to $30,000 a gram or drawn from chicken eggs with the chance of triggering allergic reactions. The rice is not yet approved for huma nconsumption. Anheuser-Busch contends too many ways exist - from human error to flooding to the movement of animals - for the pharmaceutical rice to invade commercial varieties. "Given the potential for contamination of commercial rice production in this state, we will not purchase any rice produced or processed in Missouri if Ventria introduces its pharma rice here," said Jim Hoffmeister, Busch's group vice president for procurement, logistics and agricultural resources. "It freezes the rice grower in Missouri out of selling to this huge customer," said Paul Combs, a grower and implement dealer near Kennett. "We think it's indicative of the pattern other companies will take."
The beer company is joined in opposing Ventria's plans by the USA Rice Federation, the U.S. Rice Producers Association and Riceland Foods Inc., a farmer-owned cooperative and the world's largest rice miller and marketer. Anheuser-Busch, however, is alone in its boycott. The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has said Ventria's plan "should not have a significant impact, either individually or cumulatively, on the quality of the human environment" but has not weighed in on the economic impact. The firm still must get federal approval for its plans. States are consulted during such permit processes, and Missouri has been solidly behind Ventria. A spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Blunt said Monday that he supports Ventria's plans despite Anheuser-Busch's position, saying the "science is sound."
Last year the company decided to move its headquarters from Sacramento, Calif., to Maryville, Mo., to form a partnership with Northwest Missouri State University, which offered free office space and a promise of investment in plant research. The university's president, Dean Hubbard, has since joined Ventria's board of directors without compensation. Hubbard speculated that opposition from Riceland Foods comes from worries that the cooperative won't be able to pay farmers as much as Ventria promises. He said Anheuser-Busch's worries about contamination are unfounded. The university president said any risks - he characterized them as minimal as "anything when you're dealing with nature" - should be weighed against how the cheap production of drugs promised by pharmaceutical rice could save children in developing countries. "What this boils down to is beer or babies," Hubbard said.
The company now has a proposal pending with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grow its rice in the southeast Missouri counties of Cape Girardeau, Scott and Mississippi - within 5 miles of some commercial paddies. The company chose self-pollinating crops such as rice and barley to prevent wind from carrying the pollen to other crops. The Union of Concerned Scientists recently studied the breeding of drugs into corn and soybeans - soybeans are self-pollinating, corn is not - and concluded that contamination is virtually inevitable. Missouri's rice crop in 2004, nearly all of it grown on 200,000 acres in the rich and soggy soil of the Bootheel, was worth about $95 million to farmers. Those fields sit next to 1.6 million acres of rice in Arkansas - or about half the nation's crop.
To reach Scott Canon, national correspondent, call (816) 234-4754 or send e-mail to email@example.com
Brooklin Votes to Become Maine's First GMO-Free Zone - Voters Cite Importance of Preventing Contamination and Protecting the Environment As Primary Concerns.
BROOKLIN, MAINE - Brooklin voters approved an article on the town meeting warrant declaring Brooklin a Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)-Free Zone. The vote in Brooklin is the 98th resolution opposing genetic engineering to be passed in New England and the first to declare a voluntary moratorium on the planting of GMOs. The Brooklin vote was also the first such vote of any kind on the GMO issue by a municipality in Maine. The article was developed by a handful of local residents who later sought assistance from the six-month old farmer advocacy group GE Free Maine (http://www.gefreemaine.org).
According to Brooklin resident Marilyn Anderson, "Simply stated, this article is about declaring the importance of preserving the environment,human health and food by resisting the irreversible GMO contamination of Brooklin. This approved article is not an ordinance and does not restrict businesses from selling, serving or marketing GMO products, nor does it restrict laboratory research." Anderson and several other Brooklin residents circulated the petition that led to the item being included on the town's warrant.
The area in and around Brooklin has an increasing number of conventional and organic farmers and gardeners and fishermen, providing the community with healthy food uncontaminated by GMOs. The residents voted to voluntarily preserve the lands, waters and livelihoods of these businesses, which are a great asset to their community, and which would be threatened by the raising of GMOs.
The vote was brought to the Brooklin town meeting on April 2 by residents concerned about the legal and economic ramifications if genetically modified crops contaminate local organic or conventional farms, as well as the impact GMO crops have on the environment. "Once introduced into the environment, these invasive life forms can never be recalled," said Anderson. "The purpose of the article was to ask Brooklin residents to speak out about the importance of safeguarding our town lands and waters by not cultivating genetically modified organisms - GMO plants, trees, fish and animals - in Brooklin."
GE Free Maine is working with residents in municipalities around the state to bring the question of how to best deal with genetically modified crops to town meetings. According to Meg Gilmartin, cofounder of GE Free Maine, "Towns have a responsibility to protect the rights of farmers and landowners who choose not to grow [GE crops] on their land. Town meeting is the purest of our democratic institutions, a place where the issue can be decided face-to-face by local residents without the interference of paid lobbyists."
GE Free Maine stayed away from the Brooklin Town Meeting at the request of local residents believing it important that local residents discuss the issue on their own and make a decision on whether they wished Brooklin to become a GMO-Free Zone. The vote did attract outside opponents of the measure. Doug Johnson, a professional lobbyist for the biotech industry and a partner in biotechnology public relations firm GreenTree Communication, attended the meeting and sought to speak. Local residents did not take kindly to this outside interference. Recently- arrived Brooklin resident John Bradford, a former Republican legislator from Massachusetts moved that Johnson be given the floor, but the Town voted down the motion. Several voters stated that, "We are educated and intelligent people - we don't need slick, highly paid corporate lobbyists coming in here trying to tell us what to do."
According to Anderson, "The vote Saturday was just a first step for the State. We are confident that Brooklin will be the first of many towns in Maine to take up this issue, educate themselves on the issue, and take action to help farmers and other landowners, as well as the natural environment, avoid irreversible damage by GMO contamination."
Gilmartin agrees. "GE Free Maine applauds the residents of Brooklin for banding together, starting a dialogue within their community, and considering what actions to take to protect the right of their fellow citizens, farmers and land owners to remain free from genetic contamination. This action will encourage communities around the state to start similar dialogues, educate themselves and take appropriate steps to protect their communities from the contamination and lawsuits that result from these unnatural and unpredictable crops."
A genetically modified organism is a plant, animal or microorganism whose genetic code has been altered by subtracting or adding genes (either from the same, or a different species) in order to give it characteristics that do not occur in nature. Outside of the United States, Canada, Argentina and South Africa, most countries in the world have rejected or placed restrictions on these crops.
The approved article read "Shall the town vote to voluntarily protect its agriculture and marine economies, environment and private property from irreversible Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) contamination by declaring Brooklin a GMO-free zone?"
The Brooklin response: YES!
For More Information contact Rob or Meg and 207-244-0908 or via email - firstname.lastname@example.org or Marilyn Anderson 207-359-4617.
EU mulls U.S. trade ban in illegal GMO import row - April 8, 2005 - Reuters/ Associated Press [via Agnet]
BRUSSELS - The EU executive Commission was cited as considering halting imports of genetically modified animal feed from the United States on Friday in a row with a major Swiss agrochemicals group over illegal shipments to Europe. The stories explain that Syngenta disclosed in March that some of its maize seeds were mistakenly contaminated between 2001 and 2004 with Bt-10, an insect-resistant strain that was not approved by the European Union for distribution. The stories add that the European Commission wants Syngenta to help it identify Bt-10 so the 25-nation bloc can differentiate the two types of
biotech maize and trace the tainted consignments but the Swiss firm has so far refused to give the information.
An EU official was quoted as saying, "The Commission is reflecting about possible action ... a temporary suspension of imports of corn gluten feed." EU Health and Consumer Protection Commission spokesman Philip Tod was quoted as telling a news conference that, "We have again emphasised to Syngenta we must have it (detection method) as soon as possible ... before next Tuesday."
Syngenta spokesman Markus Payer was quoted as saying, "We are in constant contact with the European Commission."
EU vets from the 25-nation bloc will meet on Tuesday to discuss the situation and receive a report from the EU's food safety authority on the risks associated with Bt-10.
Encouraging news from Spain - Spanish government retreats on GM coexistence - Environment Daily 1854, 07/04/05
Spain's agriculture ministry this week suspended draft legislation on coexistence of genetically modified (GM) and non-GM crops "to permit further consideration". The move follows objections by environmentalist and farmers' groups to clauses in the proposed law setting a minimum separation distance of 25 metres between GM and non-GM crops and absolving GM cultivators from legal responsibility for contaminating non-GM crops. Given the ministry's traditional support for GM - Spain is the only EU country with commercial-scale cultivation - the decision appears to indicate a potential shift of opinion. See Spanish agriculture ministry http://www.mapya.es/.
Whole Foods to Label GMO-free Products
NEW YORK (April 5, 2005) - Whole Foods Market announced yesterday that it will begin informing customers that its private-label brands are made with non-genetically engineered ingredients. "We've decided that we're going to take more of a leadership role on [this issue]," Chief Executive Officer John Mackey said at a shareholders meeting here. A coalition of six social responsibility funds controlling a combined $21 million in Whole Foods stock had introduced a proxy ballot proposal to require the company to label its brands GMO-free, but the measure failed to garner sufficient votes. Although the company did not present a timeline, Mackey said Whole Foods would move forward on the initiative despite the failed vote, and was already in the early stages of re-evaluating its ingredient auditing processes. "I think this is a terrific, farsighted act on the part of the company, and we're very pleased that they decided to do this," Shelly Alpern, assistant vice president and director of social research for Trillium Asset Management, told SN. In a review of the company's most recent annual report, Mackey noted that Whole Foods had its best year ever in 2004, with 14.9% comparable-store sales growth leading to a 23% increase in sales over 2003, to just under $4 billion.
Matthew Enis - Supermarket News
SOUTH AMERICAN MINISTERS REFUSE MONSANTO ROYALTY PLAN - Reuters, April 4 2005
BUENOS AIRES - Farm ministers from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay -- the world's top soybean exporters behind the United States -- on Friday shunned a bid by US biotech pioneer Monsanto to charge royalties on genetically modified soybeans when they are harvested. Royalties "should only be charged when farmers buy seeds," said a statement issued by Argentina after a special meeting of the Southern Agricultural Council in Cartagena, Colombia at the request of Argentine Agriculture Secretary Miguel Campos. The meeting arose from a protracted battle between Argentina and Monsanto over GMO soy royalties. Chile's Agriculture Minister Jaime Campos also attended, as did lower-level Uruguayan and Bolivian officials.
Monsanto officials in Buenos Aires declined to comment. The St. Louis, Missouri-based company wants Argentine farmers to pay technology fees for its herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready soybeans.
The statement did not refer specifically to soybeans, and could include other crops such as wheat. Argentina approved Roundup Ready soy for planting in 1996 and Monsanto used to embed the royalties charge into soybean seed prices. But because the black market for soy seeds is so great, the company stopped selling such seeds altogether in 2003. Many other companies continue to sell soy seeds containing Roundup Ready genes, however, paying licensing fees to Monsanto. Only 20 percent of Argentina's $1 billion, annual soybean seed trade is legal.
Months-long talks to set royalties collapsed last month when Monsanto warned Argentine exporters it aimed to impose a $15-per-tonne fine on Argentine shipments of Roundup Ready beans in European nations where the gene is patented. In February, the firm had proposed a $1-per-tonne charge on Argentine soy and soy derivatives in 2005, rising to $2.50 per tonne between 2006 and 2011. Argentina's Campos responded by threatening to take Monsanto to court if it levies fines in European ports. Campos, who insists technology fees should be charged as part of the seed price, rallied five neighboring countries to his side. South American officials "urged farmers in the region to reject accords to pay any kind of royalties compensation on harvested grains," the statement said.
Last month, farmers in Paraguay agreed to pay royalties to Monsanto for Roundup Ready soybeans grown this season. But the company has yet to reach a national accord in Brazil, where GMO crops were just recently approved. Argentina has drafted a legislative bill to crack down on the illegal seed trade.
On Thursday, Campos met in Colombia with US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who expressed concern over Argentina's lack of royalties payments, according to a statement issued afterward by Argentina's Agriculture Secretariat. Johanns said this puts US farmers who pay royalties at a competitive disadvantage. But the Secretariat statement said Campos replied that US subsidies on farm production and exports are even less fair.
© 2005 Reuters Limited.
Senate passes GMO liability bill - By Louis Porter - Vermont Press Bureau - http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050406/NEWS/504060325/1003
MONTPELIER: The Vermont Senate on Tuesday gave nearly unanimous approval to a bill designed to make seed manufacturers liable for the impacts of genetically modified crops. As many as a dozen senators were expected to oppose the bill, but the final vote was 26-1. Sen. Wendy Wilton, R-Rutland, voted against final passage. But the political wrangling over the bill, which now goes to the House, is far from over and could end in a veto by Gov. James Douglas. And a portion of the bill which defines the extent to which manufacturers of genetically modified seeds are liable for potential harm remains a sticking point. Two amendments designed to strengthen the protection afforded to farmers were added to the bill almost without debate. But the amendment which caused the most consternation and discussion in the Statehouse wasn't even offered on the floor in the end. That change, which hung on a single word, would have removed the "strict liability" provision of the proposed legislation. Under strict liability a seed manufacturer would not have to be proven at fault before they could be held liable for potential damages from pollen drift of genetically modified crops. The change supported by Wilton, Sen. Robert Starr, D-Essex/Orleans, and Sen. Harold Giard, D-Addison, who also proposed the other two amendments, would have changed the wording of the bill from "is liable" to "may be liable"."The dog in this bill is strict liability," said Starr, who vowed to work to change the language in the bill in the House, where he used to be a state representative. Strict liability is "killing a fly with a baseball bat," he said. Wilton agreed. "I thought long and hard about what I was going to do," she said. "It's the strict liability provision that is most damaging."
If strict liability remains in the bill, Agriculture Secretary Steve Kerr said he will recommend to Douglas that he veto the bill. "The governor shares the concerns that have been articulated by Secretary Kerr," said Douglas spokesman Jason Gibbs. "The governor is hopeful we will be able to reach a compromise before the bill arrives on his desk." Strict liability is typically used with chemicals and products which are known to be abnormally dangerous, Kerr said, and that claim has not even been discussed this year during the debate over the genetically modified seed bill. Pesticides, which are known to be dangerous, are not governed under strict liability, he said.
Amy Shollenberger, policy director for Rural Vermont, said strict liability was the only way to ensure that seed manufactures, not farmers, were liable for the impact of genetically modified crops. "It's the only way to get it off their backs and establish a clear course of action," she said. "The fundamental part of the strict liability is to have the responsibility lie where it belongs," said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Welch, D-Windsor.
Seed manufacturers who will reportedly not sell their products in Vermont if the bill passes may have been responsible for the nearly unanimous vote, senators said. "Some of the manufacturers made threats that undermined their arguments," Welch said. Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, was even more direct. "I don't take well to threats from international companies that don't want to come into the state and compete on a level playing field," he said. "It's not acceptable."
Contact Louis Porter at email@example.com
Roundup® highly lethal to amphibians, finds University of Pittsburgh researcher - 1-Apr-2005 - http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-04/uopm-rhl040105.php
Contact: Karen Hoffman - firstname.lastname@example.org - 412-624-4356 - University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
PITTSBURGH--The herbicide Roundup® is widely used to eradicate weeds. But a study published today by a University of Pittsburgh researcher finds that the chemical may be eradicating much more than that. Pitt assistant professor of biology Rick Relyea found that Roundup®, the second most commonly applied herbicide in the United States, is "extremely lethal" to amphibians. This field experiment is one of the most extensive studies on the effects of pesticides on nontarget organisms in a natural setting, and the results may provide a key link to global amphibian declines.
In a paper titled "The Impact of Insecticides and Herbicides on the Biodiversity and Productivity of Aquatic Communities," published in the journal Ecological Applications, Relyea examined how a pond's entire community--25 species, including crustaceans, insects, snails, and tadpoles--responded to the addition of the manufacturers' recommended doses of two insecticides--Sevin® (carbaryl) and malathion--and two herbicides--Roundup® (glyphosate) and 2,4-D. Relyea found that Roundup® caused a 70 percent decline in amphibian biodiversity and an 86 percent decline in the total mass of tadpoles. Leopard frog tadpoles and gray tree frog tadpoles were completely eliminated and wood frog tadpoles and toad tadpoles were nearly eliminated. One species of frog, spring peepers, was unaffected.
"The most shocking insight coming out of this was that Roundup®, something designed to kill plants, was extremely lethal to amphibians," said Relyea, who conducted the research at Pitt's Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology. "We added Roundup®, and the next day we looked in the tanks and there were dead tadpoles all over the bottom."
Relyea initially conducted the experiment to see whether the Roundup® would have an indirect effect on the frogs by killing their food source, the algae. However, he found that Roundup®, although an herbicide, actually increased the amount of algae in the pond because it killed most of the frogs.
"It's like killing all the cows in a field and seeing that the field has more grass in it--not because you made the grass grow better, but because you killed everything that eats grass," he said.
Previous research had found that the lethal ingredient in Roundup® was not the herbicide itself, glyphosate, but rather the surfactant, or detergent, that allows the herbicide to penetrate the waxy surfaces of plants. In Roundup®, that surfactant is a chemical called polyethoxylated tallowamine. Other herbicides have less dangerous surfactants: For example, Relyea's study found that 2,4-D had no effect on tadpoles.
"We've repeated the experiment, so we're confident that this is, in fact, a repeatable result that we see," said Relyea. "It's fair to say that nobody would have guessed Roundup® was going to be so lethal to amphibians."
Food watchdog is 'biased against organic food', says its own review - By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor - 3 April 2005
Britain's official food safety watchdog must review its controversial policies on GM and organic goods, a wide-ranging official review of its performance has concluded. The review, carried out to mark the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Food Standards Agency, makes it clear that its support for GM and its attacks on organic produce has caused a widespread loss of confidence in its judgement and independence. This conclusion is all the more striking because the review - conducted by Baroness (Brenda) Dean at the agency's invitation - is otherwise notably sympathetic to the watchdog. The review vindicates The Independent on Sunday, which has long been critical of the agency's stance on both issues.
The FSA has been one of the most vigorous proponents of GM food - overwhelmingly rejected by the British public - while concentrating its fire on organic foods, whose sales are booming. It repeatedly refused requests by ministers to back a drive across Government to promote chemical-free farming.
After interviews with 129 "stakeholders" - including government ministers, MPs and members of the House of Lords, representatives of the food industry and consumer and public health groups - the report concludes that "the perception of the vast majority was that the agency had deviated from its normal stance of making statements based solely on scientific evidence, to giving the impression of speaking against organic food and for GM food". It backs calls for the official watchdog to "revisit both areas", saying, "it is important that the agency addresses these consumer concerns."
Last night, Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, said: "Finally, the bias of the agency has been exposed - and by its own inquiry....Its promotion of GM foods failed to convince the public, while damaging its own reputation, but its attacks on organic produce have been constantly used by those with a commercial interest in trying to limit this environmentally friendly farming. We look forward to the agency reversing its outrageous and unscientific stance."
MNCs, designers join lobbies against GM crops - http://www.deepikaglobal.com/ENG3_sub.asp?newscode=98419&catcode=ENG3&subcatcode=
New Delhi, Apr 3 (UNI) Western Multi-National Companies and Indian Fashion designers are to join hands with environmental activists to make the country a 'Genetically Modified Organism -- Free Zone'. The campaign for making India a GMO-free zone will begin in two months, according to Indian environmentalists. Indian activists have already asked American Sports goods giant Nike, international lifestyle brand Espirit and several domestic fashion designers the big question--If we launch a campaign, will you refuse to procure GM products for manufacturing your products? ''The answer was Yes. They will come on board when we start our campaign,'' says Vandana Shiva of Delhi-based environmental group Navdanya. The Indian lobbies, who have raised fears of health hazard from GMO, will be supported in their action by European anti-GMO groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace Europe. The campaign will also be targeting the Monsanto-owned GM crop BT cotton, presently being cultivated in six Indian states.
According to Dr Shiva, the campaign will be in three phases. In the first phase, a ''People's Commission'' will be set up to spread awareness about the health and environmental hazards from GMO. The year-long phase also plans to bring back attention on farmers' suicides in Karnataka and Kerala last year. The second phase will be, in fact, an extension of the global movement for a GMO-free zone. ''Presently, about 30,000 zones in Europe have been categorised as GMO-free zones,'' says Dr Shiva. ''In India, thousands of villages have already taken pledge not to plant GM seeds.'' The first genetically modified crop to be introduced in India three years ago, BT Cotton is cultivated in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. A month ago, six new varieties of transgenic cotton developed by domestic seed companies were allowed for cultivation in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The case for further extension of the GM crop in these six states will come up before the Genetical Engineering Approval Committee of the Ministry of Environment on April 13. The campaign will focus in its last phase on making the GMO industry shift its base through intensifying protests. The case against Mahyco, the Indian subsidiary of multinational GM seeds company Monsanto Mahyco, in the Supreme Court will also receive the attention in this phase, according to Dr Shiva.
The lobbies also want to direct their campaign at the government to force it enact laws to label anything that is genetically engineered. "The labelling will help consumers identify whether the food they are buying is GM food or not,'' says Geert Ritsema of Friends of Earth Europe, which led a successful campaign to introduce a labelling law in Europe last year. Besides legislations, the environmental groups also want facilities for conducting tests on GM foods to find out the risks.
European Commission press release: http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/05/382&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
Commission seeks clarification on Bt10 from US authorities and Syngenta
The European Commission has written to the US authorities and to the biotechnology company Syngenta requesting clarification of the situation regarding the unauthorised genetically modified maize Bt10. According to the information received to date from the US authorities and from Syngenta, the developer of Bt10, up to 10 kg of Bt10 seed may have been exported inadvertently as Bt11 for research purposes to Spain and France. The resulting materials have all been destroyed. In addition, the Commission is informed that an estimated 1000 metric tonnes of Bt10 food and feed products may have entered the EU through the Bt11 export channels since 2001, the date from which the inadvertent release of Bt10 started. At a meeting yesterday with representatives of Syngenta, officials of the European Commission were informed that Bt10 included the gene conferring resistance to the antibiotic ampicillin.
EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissoner Markos Kyprianou said: "The European Commission deplores the fact that a GMO which has not been authorised through the EU's comprehensive legislative framework for GMOs, nor by any other country, has been imported into the EU, and we are writing to the US authorities asking them to guarantee, by taking the appropriate measures, that present and future exports of maize to the EU do not contain GMOs which are not authorised for the EU market, including Bt10. This case again shows the importance of the European Unions's comprehensive framework for traceability and labelling of GMOs."
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "In order to avoid any adverse effect on human and animal health or the environment of such an accidental release, the Commission has asked Member States to carry out appropriate control measures to stop Bt10 entering their territory. Member States should also notify the state of play regarding past or current national experimental releases of Bt11, and implement any necessary monitoring and surveillance measures in the surrounding areas where these releases took place."
The Commission was first informed by the US Mission to the European Union on 22 March about an inadvertent release in the US of a non authorised genetically modified maize line called Bt10. The Commission informed the Member States without delay via the Rapid Alert System for food and feed. Moreover, the Commission has asked the US Administration for the full safety information about Bt10 at its disposal without delay, including the full risk assessments upon which it is based as well as for an urgent audit and an official view as to the quantities exported, including the channels they may have taken in the EU.
The Commission has also asked Syngenta, the developer of the Bt10 crop, to release the full information about the molecular characterisation of Bt10 and its distinction from Bt11, as well as the specific detection method and adequate reference materials to trace Bt10. The Commission has also asked Syngenta to confirm that all Bt10 plantings and seed stock in the USA have been destroyed or isolated for further destruction. Syngenta has committed to provide this information next week.
The US government has given reassurance that no food, feed or environmental concerns are associated with the inadvertent release of this non authorised genetically modified crop, based on the fact that the Bt protein in Bt10 is similar to the one in Bt11, which is fully authorised in the US and which the EU has authorised for use in food and feed.
However, the US authorities did not inform the Commission that Bt10 contains, contrary to Bt11, the gene conferring resistance against the antibiotic ampicillin. It was only on the 31 of March that this information was given officially to the Commission by Syngenta. According to the advice of the European Food Safety Authority, the ampicillin resistance gene should not be present in crops grown commercially. However, according to Syngenta, this gene is inactive in Bt10.
GMO CROP SCANDAL - TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE - Commission only acts after 10 days
Brussels, 1 April 2005 - Friends of the Earth today criticised the European Commission for doing too little, too late, about the illegal import into the
EU of unapproved genetically modified (GM) maize. It is ten days since Swiss-based Syngenta announced that it had inadvertently sold hundreds of tonnes of the unapproved GM corn to US farmers for four years. The Commission confirmed today that around 1000 tonnes of the illegal GM maize
has entered the European food chain and some was planted at tests sites in Spain and France. The Commission has now written to the United States and to the GM company for more information.
The incident was first made public through an article in Nature on March 22. The article revealed that, between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta produced and sold several hundred tonnes of a GM corn, called Bt10, which contains an insecticide. The corn has not been approved for human consumption anywhere worldwide. According to the article, Syngenta and the US Government were in
discussions since last year over what should be done about the error, and how and when information should be released to the public.
Initially Syngenta claimed that the maize was "physically identical" to a GMO maize already approved, called bt11, a view mimicked by the Commission. However, Friends of the Earth disagreed, pointing out that the unapproved
GMO also contained a controversial antibiotic resistant gene, which confers resistance to an important groups of antibiotics. This week, Syngenta finally admitted this was the case. (1)
Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: "The European Commission's response is too little and too late. For ten days they haven't taken action, even though it was public knowledge that a food unapproved for human consumption had entered the European food chain. The public expects and deserves better. The Commission must now get back into control and demand that any illegal foods are immediately removed from the
Contact: Adrian Bebb, + 49 1609 490 1163 (mobile)
The original Nature article can be found at:
1. Bt 10 contains the amp gene, which confers resistance to the ampicillin family of antibiotics. In recent guidance, the European Food Safety Authority stated that GMOs containing this gene should not be approved for cultivation and their use restricted to field trials.
GMO CORN SCANDAL - SYNGENTA MISLED THE WORLD - European Commission urged to take action
Brussels, 30 March 2005 - Friends of the Earth has accused the world's largest agro-chemical company, Syngenta, of misleading Governments and the public. The company has been claiming that the unapproved genetically modified (GM) corn, which they sold to US farmers for four years, is identical to a GM corn previously approved for consumption. But according to Nature, who published an article on their website last night, Syngenta has now admitted that the corn, called Bt10, actually contains a gene which confers resistance to an important group of antibiotics (1). The approved GMO, Bt11, does not contain this gene. Friends of the Earth revealed this information last week but Syngenta refused to confirm it publicly. The use of antibiotic resistant genes has been widely condemned by eminent bodies such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Royal Society and the Pasteur Institute, who are concerned that the genes could flow from crops to micro-organisms and spread problems of antibiotic resistance in humans and animals.(2)
The European Commission last week mimicked Syngenta's view and stated in the press that the Bt10 is "genetically the same as Bt-11 which is already approved in the EU". In April 2004, the European Food Safety Authority said that marker genes conferring resistance to ampicillin "should be restricted to field trials and not be present in genetically modified plants placed on the market". (3)
Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: "Governments around the world have been taken in by Syngenta's attempt to play down the real scale of their huge error. In view of this new information, the European Commission must take immediate action to ensure that foods which aren't permitted for human consumption are removed from the food chain. "
Contact: Adrian Bebb, + 49 1609 490 1163 (mobile)
1. The Nature article can be found at: http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050328/full/434548a.html
2. 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.
3.The EFSA opinion can be found at: http://www.efsa.eu.int/science/gmo/gmo_opinions/384_en.html
Stray seeds had antibiotic-resistance genes - Nature - Published online: 29 March 2005; | doi:10.1038/434548a - Colin Macilwain
Accidental release of genetically-modified crops sparks new worries - http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050328/full/434548a.html
Hundreds of tonnes of genetically modified corn seeds sold to farmers by mistake over the past four years contained a gene for antibiotic resistance, Nature has learned. The release of such genes into the environment is sometimes considered inadvisable, as there is a small chance that they could flow from crops to microorganisms and spread problems of antibiotic resistance.
The Swiss biotechnology company Syngenta admitted last week that it had accidentally released a variety of corn (maize) called Bt10 between 2001 and 2004. Like other crops with the name Bt, this corn had been genetically modified to produce a protective pesticide. But Bt10 has not been approved for sale by regulatory agencies. Officials at the company last week argued that Bt10 is basically identical to Bt11 corn, which has been approved for sale (see Nature 434, 423; 2005). But this week, Sarah Hull, a spokeswoman for Syngenta, confirmed that a marker gene that confers resistance to ampicillin, a commonly used antibiotic, was present in the Bt10 seeds. She adds that this gene would not have been active in the corn plants that grew from the seeds.
Antibiotic-resistance genes are widely used as 'tags' during the production of genetically modified crops, to help breeders identify and preserve desirable strains. But the genes are often removed before the seeds enter the food chain. The presence of the marker gene in Bt10 corn was noted in a 2003 advice notice from a UK government committee, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, which was using Bt10 as a comparison to prove that there were no marker genes in Bt11 corn. Critics have expressed surprise that neither Syngenta nor the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the presence of the marker when they admitted that the release of Bt10 had taken place. "It is quite scandalous," says Greg Jaffe, head of the biotechnology project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a pressure group in Washington DC. "This shows that the government and the company are not being forthright. Hull says that the company didn't mention the gene's presence because "it wasn't relevant to the health and safety discussion". She adds that the antibiotic-resistance genes have been around for a long time. "They've been studied extensively, and they pose no risk to humans or animals," she says. Regulators say that the genes present a very small risk to human health, either directly - if in the stomach of a patient on antibiotics, for example - or indirectly through gene flow into microbes.
Michael Rodemeyer, director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, a think-tank in Washington DC, says that the presence of such genes would be unlikely to see a crop declared unsafe in the United States - but adds that it could cause problems in Europe. In a ruling published last April, for example, the European Food Safety Authority, which advises European Union governments on food issues, said that marker genes conferring resistance to ampicillin "should be restricted to field trials and not be present in genetically modified plants placed on the market". And the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international food-standards body, has urged the agricultural biotechnology industry to use alternative methods to refine genetically modified strains in the future.
The EPA, which is jointly investigating the release of the Bt10 corn with the US Department of Agriculture, declined to say what it knew about the antibiotic-resistance marker. "What the company told us and when about the marker gene is part of our ongoing investigation and we are not able to discuss it at this time," the agency said in a statement. "I think they've done a terrible job," says Margaret Mellon, head of the food and environment programme at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington DC, referring to both Syngenta and the government agencies. "There are lots and lots of unanswered questions, and the longer they remain, the less confidence people are going to have in the technology and in the regulatory system."
Roundup Doesn't Poison Only Weeds - By Herve Morin - Le Monde, 12 March 2005 - http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/032805HB.shtml
The most used herbicide in the world: Monsanto's Roundup and its competitors, formulated, like Roundup, on a base of glyphosate, have long enjoyed a reputation for harmlessness to human health and the environment. However, several recent studies seem to indicate that this active ingredient, used by farmers as well as by public road services and Sunday gardeners, could well not be as inoffensive as its promoters claim. The stakes are big, because the usage of glyphosate grows along with that of genetically modified organisms, the great majority of which have been specifically conceived to "tolerate" this active ingredient, fatal to plants.
In fact, while Roundup and similar products were originally used against weeds, "they have become a food product, since they are used on GMOs, which can absorb them without dying," maintains the biochemist Gilles-Eric Seralini. A member for years of the French Commission on Biomolecular Genetics (CBG), responsible for preparing the files for requests for field studies, then GMO commercialization, he ceaselessly demands more intense studies on their eventual health impact.
Also a member of Criigen, an association which has made control of GMOs its passion, he has oriented his own research toward the study of the impact of glyphosate. In an article published February 24 in the American journal Environmental Health Perspective, the biochemist and his team from the University of Caen demonstrate, in vitro, several toxic effects of this compound as well as of the additives associated with it to facilitate its diffusion.
For their study, the researchers used human placental cell lines, in which very weak doses of glyphosate showed toxic effects and, at still weaker concentrations, endocrinal disturbances. This, for Gilles-Eric Seralini, could explain the high levels of premature births and miscarriages observed in certain epidemiological studies - which are, however, controversial - covering women farmers using glyphosate. "The effect we have observed is proportional to the dose, but also to the length of exposure," he emphasizes.
His team has also compared the comparative effects of glyphosate and Roundup. And it has observed that the commercial product is more disruptive than its isolated main active ingredient. "Consequently the evaluation of herbicides must take into account the combination with additives in the product," he says.
Gilles-Eric Seralini acknowledges that his study must be extended by animal experiments. But he rejects criticisms that have been made on the absence of any real link between in vitro and normal utilization: "Farmers dilute the pure product and are punctually exposed to doses 10,000 times stronger," he insists. "Our results show that the length of exposure must be taken into account."
He is joined in his conclusions by Robert Belle, from the National Center for Social Research (CNRS) biological station in Roscoff (Finistere), whose team has been studying the impact of glyphosate formulations on sea-urchin cells for several years. This recognized model for the study of early stages of cancer genesis earned Tim Hunt the 2001 Nobel Prize in medicine. In 2002, the Finisterian team had shown that Roundup acted on one of the key stages of cellular division.
"This deregulation can lead to cancer," warns Robert Belle, who, to make himself understood, insists on summarizing the mechanisms of cancer genesis: during the division of a cell into two daughter cells, the two copies of genetic inheritance, in the form of DNA, may give rise to very numerous errors, up to 50,000 per cell. That's why repair mechanisms or natural cell death (apoptosis) are automatically set in motion. However, it happens that a cell escapes these alternatives (death or repair) and can perpetuate itself in an unstable form, potentially cancerous over the long term.
The Breton team has recently demonstrated (Toxicological Science, December 2004) that a "control point" for DNA damage was affected by Roundup, while glyphosate alone had no effect. "We have shown that it's a definite risk factor, but we have not evaluated the number of cancers potentially induced, nor the time frame within which they would declare themselves," the researcher acknowledges. A sprayed droplet could affect thousands of cells. On the other hand, "the concentration in water and fruits is lower, which is rather reassuring."
For the researcher, it's not necessarily a matter of banning the product - "Now it's for the public authorities to evaluate the benefits and the risks" - but it is important that users take every possible precaution, for themselves as well as for the public. "I've seen people in their underwear spray several square meters in a playground," he exclaimed, revolted.
"Such in vitro studies are not adequate for deducing the effects on people," however, insists Sophie Gallotti, coordinator of studies on contaminants at the Agence francaise pour la swcurite sanitaire des aliments (Afssa) [French Agency for Food Health Security]. The same sentiment is expressed by Remi Maximilien, toxicological expert at Afssa, for whom the sea-urchin experiment "shows a potential mechanism for cancer genesis that remains to be proved in human beings."
Monsanto is not impressed by these results. "It's not up to us to judge the interest of these publications, the validity of which we do not contest, but the interpretation," indicates Mathilde Durif, spokeswoman for the French subsidiary of the American giant. These results contradict sixty other available studies and "neither the European authorities nor the World Health Organization, nor the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) have classified this product as carcinogenic."
Glyphosate is, however, an active ingredient and "it is necessary to use it according to the recommended usage." A cautious attitude that seems slightly in contradiction with the firm's marketing efforts. And these are now already under attack by the Breton association, which reproaches Monsanto with making its product's "biodegradability" an advertising argument - one already judged to be a lie by the American legal system.
Translation: by t r u t h o u t French language correspondent email@example.com
The end for GM crops: Final British trial confirms threat to wildlife - By Steve Connor, Michael McCarthy and Colin Brown - 22 March 2005
Yet another nail was hammered into the coffin of the GM food industry in Britain yesterday when the final trial of a four-year series of experiments found, once more, that genetically modified crops can be harmful to wildlife. The study was the fourth in a series that has, in effect, sealed the fate of GM in the UK - at least in the foreseeable future. They showed the ultra-powerful weedkillers that the crops are engineered to tolerate would bring about further damage to a countryside already devastated by intensive farming. Only one of the four farm-scale trials, which have gone on for nearly five years, showed that growing GM crops might be less harmful to birds, flowers and insects than the non-GM equivalent - and even that was attacked as flawed, because the weedkiller the particular conventional crop required was so destructive it was about to be banned by the EU. Even so, a year ago the Government gave a licence for that crop - a maize known as Chardon LL, created by the German chemical group Bayer - to be grown in Britain, thus officially opening the way for the GM era in Britain, to loud protests from environmentalists. However, only three weeks later Bayer withdrew its application, suggesting the regulatory climate would be too inhibiting. That followed the withdrawal from Europe of the world leader in GM crops, the American biotech giant Monsanto, which also seemed to have tired of the struggle. Since then, the GM industry in Britain has withered on the vine, despite the fact that some members of the Government, and Tony Blair in particular, were privately great supporters of it from the outset. Official policy is portrayed as being neutral and based simply on scientific advice. But yesterday's results make it even less likely that other big agribusiness firms will want to come forward and go through the extensive testing process - and public opposition - that bringing a GM crop to market in Britain would involve.
Last night, the Conservatives spotted a political opportunity from the latest test results and, this morning, the shadow Environment Secretary, Tim Yeo, will pledge to prevent any commercial planting of GM crops until science showed it would be safe for people and the environment, and there was a liability regime in place to deal with any cross-contamination. Observers saw that as yet another Tory attempt to win over Middle England voters in the pre-election campaign.
The fourth and final mass experiment involving GM crops has found that they caused significant harm to wild flowers, butterflies, bees and probably songbirds. Results of the farm-scale trial of winter-sown oilseed rape raised further doubts about whether GM crops can ever be grown in Britain without causing further damage to the nation's wildlife. Although the experiment did not look directly at the catastrophic demise of farmland birds over the past 50 years, ornithologists said the results suggested that growing GM oilseed rape would almost certainly exacerbate the problem. David Gibbons, the head of conservation at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said the herbicides used to spray GM rape killed broad-leaved wild flowers such as chickweed and fat hen which are important to the diet of songbirds such as skylarks, tree sparrows and bullfinches. "For most farmland birds, broad-leaved weeds are a particularly important part of their diet. There are a few birds that will take grass seeds but, by and large, it would be hard to see how the loss of broad-leaved weeds would be beneficial to them," Dr Gibbons said. "Broad-leaved weeds are particularly important to farmland birds and the widespread cultivation of this crop, in this way, would damage hopes of reversing their decline."
The trial of winter oilseed rape involved planting conventional and GM forms of the crop in adjacent plots at 65 sites across Britain. Scientists then carefully monitored wild flowers, grasses, seeds, bees, butterflies and other invertebrates. Over the course of the three-year experiment, the scientists counted a million weeds, two million insects and made 7,000 field trips. Although they found similar overall numbers of weeds in the two types of crop, broad-leaved weeds such as chickweed were far fewer in the GM plots. The scientists counted fewer bees and butterflies in the GM plots compared to plots of conventional oilseed rape. Les Firbank, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Lancaster, who led the study, said that there was about one-third fewer seeds from broad-leaved flowers in the GM plots compared to fields with conventional oilseed rape. "These differences were still present two years after the crop had been sown ... So we've got a significant biological difference that is carrying on from season to season," he said.
GM oilseed rape is genetically designed to be resistant to a weedkiller that would kill the non-GM crop. It means that farmers are free to use broader-spectrum herbicides. The three previous farm-scale trials into crops investigated spring-sown oilseed rape, maize and beet. These showed that growing GM rape and GM beet did more harm to wildlife than their conventional counterparts. "All of the evidence that we've got from the farm-scale evaluations points out that differences between the treatments are due to the herbicides. It's the nature of the chemicals and the timing at which the farming is done," Dr Firbank said.
Christopher Pollock, chairman of the scientific steering committee that oversaw the farm-scale trials, said: "What's good for the farmer is not always good for the natural populations of weeds, insects, birds and butterflies that share that space." Farm-scale trials of GM crops are unique to Britain and represent the first time that scientists have evaluated the environmental impact of a new farming practice before it has been introduced, Professor Pollock said. Results of the latest trial are published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The Four Tests
Test 1: Spring-sown oilseed rape, October 2003
Nationwide tests found that biotech oilseed rape sown in the spring could be more harmful to many groups of wildlife than their conventional equivalent. There were fewer butterflies among modified crops, due to there being less weeds. Verdict: GM fails.
Test 2: Sugar beet, October 2003
The GM crop was found to be potentially more harmful to its environment than crops that were unmodified. Bees and butterflies were recorded more frequently around conventional crops, due to greater numbers of weeds. Verdict: GM fails.
Test 3: Maize, October 2003
The production of biotech maize was shown to be kinder to other plants and animals compared to conventional crops. More weeds grew around the biotech maize crops, attracting more butterflies, bees and weed seeds. Verdict: GM passes, but critics brand study as flawed.
Test 4: Winter-sown oilseed rape, March 2005
Tests showed that fields sown with the biotech crop had fewer broad-leaved weeds growing in them. This impacted on the numbers of bees and butterflies, which feed on such weeds. Verdict: GM fails.
HALF A CENTURY OF DEBATE
1953: James Watson and Francis Crick unravel double-helix form of DNA, making biotechnology a possibility.
1983: Kary Mullis, a scientist and surfer from California, discovers the polymerase chain-reaction which allows tiny pieces of DNA to be replicated rapidly. Shortly after, US patents to produce GM plants are awarded to companies. US Environment Protection Agency approves release of first GM crop: virus-resistant tobacco.
1987: Potato becomes first GM plant introduced to UK.
1994: Flavr Savr tomato is approved by US Food and Drug Administration, paving way for more GM products.
1997: Public find Monsanto GM soya is used, unlabelled, in processed UK food.
June 1998:The Prince of Wales stokes debate by saying he will neither eat GM produce nor serve it to his family or friends.
July 1998: English Nature, the Government's wildlife advisory body, calls for a moratorium on planting of GM crops while trials are conducted into effects on wildlife of their weedkillers.
February 1999:Michael Meacher, the environment minister, persuades GM companies to agree to a moratorium until farm-scale weedkiller trials are done.
Spring 2000: Farm-scale trials of GM crops begin.
October 2003: Preliminary results find that two of three GM crops are believed to damage the environment.
March 2004:Cabinet members approve qualified planting of first UK GM crop.
Munlochy GM Vigil Press Release 21st March 2005
GM Oilseed Rape (OSR) Farm Scale Evaluation results mark the end of the GM OSR experiment in Scotland
The results, may lead some to call for further research, for further clarification, but, put simply, winter and spring sown GM OSR damage the environment.
Under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 (http://www.scotland-legislation.hmso.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/acts2004/40006--b.htm#1):
"........all public bodies and individual office holders have a statutory duty to further biodiversity in exercising their functions. This applies to the Scottish Executive itself, to all government agencies, and to local government" (Scotlands Biodiversity, its in your hands - page 48, section 5.3, The Scottish Executive, 2004)
Clearly no GM Oilseed Rape furthers biodiversity, and as such, the Scottish Executive, under its own rules, has no option but to prevent GM OSR being grown in Scotland. Furthermore results from the "global experiment "with GM crops show that:
there are no long term improved yields for GM crops,
there is no long term reduction in pesticide use with GM crops,
and there are no long term safety tests for GM foods.
What GM crops do bring are environmental damage, consumer rejection, patenting of life forms, and further intensification of agriculture.
Now is the time to draw a line.
Public funding for research should be re- directed to producing more palatable crops.
Government patronage should be withdrawn from the GM multinationals.
And imports of GM animal feed should be halted, and supermarkets should source all their animal feed supplies from non GM agriculture."
The GM silver bullet, has to put it mildly, lost its sheen, and now we must take this opportunity to work towards real long term solutions for Scottish, UK, and Global agriculture and food security.
Effects on weed and invertebrate abundance and diversity of herbicide management in genetically modified herbicide-tolerant winter-sown oilseed rape
by DA Bohan, CWH Boffey, DR Brooks, SJ Clark, AM Dewar, LG Firbank, AJ Haughton, C Hawes, MS Heard, MJ May, JL Osborne, JN Perry, P Rothery, DB Roy, RJ Scott, GR Squire, IP Woiwod and GT Champion - Proceedings of the Royal Society, B: Biological Sciences, (2005) 272, 463474, March 2005
http://www.pubs.royalsoc.ac.uk/proc_bio_content/pdf/rspb20043049.pdf - electronic appendix:http://www.pubs.royalsoc.ac.uk/proc_bio_content/pdf/rspb20043049supp.pdf
Golden Rice is a technical failure standing in way of real solutions for vitamin A deficiency - 17 March 2005, NETHERLANDS/Amsterdam
Five years after the hype on the so called "Golden Rice" started, Greenpeace claims that this project is a technical failure, not suited to overcome malnutrition and worse, is drawing funding and attention away from the real solutions to combat vitamin A deficiency (VAD). Greenpeace expects that industry scientists will shortly release new propaganda on Golden Rice, misleading the public again on real solutions for VAD.
Golden rice was first presented in 2000 as a rice variety that was genetically engineered in a laboratory to produce pro-vitamin A (beta-carotene). The aim was that this genetically engineered (GE) rice would solve the problems of vitamin A deficiency, which can result in blindness and even death and occurs predominantly in developing countries. "Industry tries to sell Golden Rice as a magic solution. Their strategy is misleading the public, they are oversimplifying the actual problems in combating vitamin A deficiency and try to turn down other, more effective solutions," says Christoph Then, GE campaigner, Greenpeace International. "The Golden Rice project simply aims to help industry to gain support for their controversial GE-food in markets such as India and Europe". "The GE industry is using hungry children in India as their expense account to open up Indian markets to GE foods - an untested, potentially dangerous and irresponsible act." says Divya Raghunandan, GE Campaigner, Greenpeace India.
Close reading of the Golden Rice publications reveals that these publications were hiding technical problems. The original publication on Golden Rice did not fully, nor accurately, describe the type of pro-vitamin A present in Golden Rice. In fact, the reported amount of beta-carotene present was significantly over-estimated. The main problem is that current science doesn't understand how the GE rice makes the beta-carotene in the plant. The human food safety of the GE rice is unknown, but it is known that cultivated rice will outcross to wild and weedy relatives, likely to cause agronomic and environmental problems.
Since Golden Rice was presented in 2000, solutions such as increased food diversity, medical vitamin A supplementation and home gardening, have proven to be working solutions for VAD. Although VAD is still a serious problem, in some countries such as Bangladesh, these solutions helped to virtually eliminate the blindness of children induced by VAD. There are also traditional rice varieties that not only contain beta-carotene but also several other important nutritional compounds such as iron, high quality protein and even fatty components that are necessary for any uptake of beta-carotene.
"GE rice could, if introduced on a large scale, exacerbate malnutrition and undermine food security because it encourages a diet based on a single industrial staple food rather than upon the reintroduction of the many vitamin-rich food plants with high nutritional value that are cheap and already available." says Professor Klaus Becker, from University of Hohenheim, Germany, one of the contributors to the Greenpeace reports that are released today. Greenpeace warns that Golden Rice researchers will again try to draw attention by presenting new research on their GE rice, claiming that this Golden Rice will have a ten times the content of beta-carotene as the first generation. In five years of propaganda, Golden Rice has not deliverd any real solutions to combat VAD, but distracted public awareness away from available solutions that are likely to be cheaper, more effective and more sustainable for the environment.
for more information: Divya Raghunandan, GE campaigner, Greenpeace India. +91 9845535406
Christoph Then, GE campaigner, Greenpeace International. +49 1718 780 832
Vivek Sharma, Media Officer, Greenpeace India. +91 9343788424
READ THE REPORTS:
1.All That Glitters is Not Gold: The False Hope of "Golden Rice", Greenpeace - http://www.greenpeace.org/india/multimedia/download/1/793664/0/Greenpeace_All_That_Glitters_is_Not_Gold.doc
2.On Rice, Biodivesity and Nutrients, Micheal Frei and Klaus Becker - http://www.greenpeace.org/india/multimedia/download/1/793650/0/Rice_Biodiversity___Nutrients.pdf
3.Vitamin A deficiency: diverse causes, diverse solutions, Antje Lorch- http://www.greenpeace.org/india/multimedia/download/1/793677/0/Greenpeace_Doc_-_vitA_solutions.doc
Q&A : GOLDEN RICE - http://www.greenpeace.org/india/multimedia/download/1/793674/0/Greenpeace_Q_&_A_on_Golden_Rice.doc
Environmentalists claim modified corn included in U.N. aid - Sergio de Leon - Associated Press
GUATEMALA CITY -- Environmental groups said Wednesday they have discovered that banned genetically modified food -- including a variety of corn forbidden for humans in the United States -- is being handed out in U.N. food aid to Central America and the Caribbean.
A study backed by the international group Friends of the Earth found that samples of World Food Program shipments collected in Guatemala included StarLink, a corn long ago pulled from the market in the United States because of concerns it could provoke allergic reactions. Discovery of StarLink corn in consumer products in the United States prompted several high-profile supermarket recalls of cornmeal, corn dogs, taco shells, soup and chili mixes in the United States in 2000 and 2001. The study looked at 77 samples of imported corn included in aid shipments or sold on the open market. Eighty percent was reported to include genetically modified material. Some of the samples here showed a Monsanto-developed variety which is restricted by the European Union, member of the Central American Alliance in Defense of Biodiversity told a news conference here.
"We have alarming news about the food aid that the country is receiving," said Mario Godinez, director of the local environmental group Ceiba.
Similar news conferences occurred simultaneously in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador as part of an international campaign against the growing use of genetically modified crops. Many activists say they are a risk to health and to the environment. Backers say they provide more and cheaper food to the world and say no health risks have been proven.
Julio Sanchez of the Humboldt Center in Nicaragua said the World Food Program "is placing at risk our children and pregnant women, the most vulnerable people in our society."
In a Friends of the Earth news release, he said the programs should purchase food locally instead of importing modified foods from abroad.
In Rome, World Food Program spokeswoman Anthea Web said that "the U.N. WHO, FAO and ourselves have found absolutely no evidence there is any health safety issue" with genetically modified foods. "They're eaten safely by millions of people everyday from Boston to Brussels to Buenos Aires," she said.
The director of Guatemala's National Coordinating Committee of Farm Organizations, Daniel Pascual, alleged that the introduction of genetically modified foods endangered the country's native varieties of corn as well as the health of consumers.
A spokeswoman for Guatemala's Agriculture Ministry, Maria del Carmen Fuentes, said she was unaware of the study, but added, "we are worried in any case and an expert in the area will be assigned to indicate as soon as possible what happened." She insisted, however, that "at no moment would we harm the population."
"The investigation reveals the incapacity of the state to protect national biosecurity", said Adrian Pacheco, spokesman for Costa Rica's Social Ecology Association, at a news conference there. "Although the authorities have not authorized the cultivation of (modified) corn, for example, it is entering the country as a grain without any kind of control." He called for a moratorium on genetically modified crop imports because they could be planted by local farmers and contaminate local varieties.
The WPA's Webb said that the decision on accepting foods "rests with the host government." She that because most of the food aid comes from the United States, a center of modified food production, "We're really in a tough place" in trying to avoid modified foods.
Friends of the Earth complained in 2002 that it had found StarLink corn in U.S. aid shipments to Bolivia.
Monsanto fined $1.5m over Indonesia bribes - By Jonathan Birchall in New York - January 6 2005
Monsanto, the agrochemical company, is to pay $1.5m in penalties to the US government over a bribe paid in Indonesia in a bid to bypass controls on the screening of new genetically modified cotton crops.
According to a criminal complaint by the Department of Justice on Thursday under US anti-bribery laws, the company paid $50,000 to an unamed senior Indonesian environmental official in 2002, in an unsuccesful bid to amend or repeal the requirement for the environmental impact statement for new crop varieties.
The cash payment was delivered by a consultant working for the company's Indonesian affiliate, but was approved by a senior Monsanto official based in the US, and disguised as consultants fees.
The company also admitted that it had paid over $700,000 in bribes to various officials in Indonesia between 1997 and 2002, financed through improper accounting of its pesticide sales in Indonesia.
As part of the agreement with the DoJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission, Monsanto has also pledged to appoint independent consultants to review its business practices over a three year period, when the criminal charges against it would be dropped permanently by the DoJ.
Christopher Wray, assistant US attorney general, said in a statement that the agreement required Monsanto's full cooperation and acceptance of responsibility for the wrong-doing. "Companies cannot bribe their way into favorable treatment by foreign officials," he said.
Monsanto's general counsel Charles Burson said that "Monsanto accepts full responsibility for these improper activities, and we sincerely regret that people working on behalf of Monsanto engaged in such behavior".
Monsanto said it had first become aware of financial irregularities in its Indonesian affiliates in 2001, and had begin an an internal investigation, which continued at the direction of its board of directors.
The company also said it had voluntarily notified US government officials of the results of this investigation, and had fully cooperated with the investigations by the DoJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The attempt to circumvent environmental controls on genetically-modified crops in a developing country is a significant embarrasment for Monsanto, which is engaged in an ongoing campaign to win public support in the European Union for its genetically modified crops.
AND ACCORDING TO REUTERS: "The SEC charges also included at least $700,000 of "illegal or questionable payments made to at least 140 current or former Indonesian government officials and their family members," the SEC said. Some of the payments were for buying land and building a house in the name of the wife of a senior Ministry of Agriculture official, the SEC said. "Companies cannot bribe their way into favorable treatment by foreign officials," said Christopher Wray, an assistant U.S. Attorney General.
No right for contamination - Global Ban on GM trees - http://elonmerkki.net/forestforum - GM Tree Watch Network
For more information on this campaign see Things To Do
Industry's Push for Genetically Engineered Trees in Industrial Forestry Plantations
At the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at COP 9 in Milan, Italy last December it was agreed that Genetically Engineered (GE) Trees could be used in carbon offset forestry plantations. Shortly thereafter, Global Justice Ecology Project came together with other forest protection advocates around the world to launch a campaign to demand the UN not only reverse that ill-informed decision, but go one step further and ban GE trees outright.
More on GE Trees:
The United Nations, the World Bank, GE Trees and Global Warming
GE Trees and Global Warming: The Myth of Carbon Offset Forestry
SIGN ON TO UN CAMPAIGN AGAINST GE TREES
About Global Justiice Ecology Project's Genetically Engineered Trees Program
Stop GE Trees Campaign http://www.stopgetrees.org/
15 November 2004 - Bayer pulls out of Genetic Engineering Research in India; Admits to Greenpeace the Future is in 'Conventional' Breeding.
CONTINUED LOSSES PUT PRESSURE ON MONSANTO PRODUCT LAUNCH - ISB News Report, November 2004 - Anastasia L Thatcher
On Oct 6, 2004, Monsanto posted a net loss of $42M for the fourth quarter, spurring a 3.2% single day drop in share price1. Continued erosion of sales, down 3% from a year earlier, has increased expectations for the agrochemical giant's newest product: low linolenic VISTIVE soybeans.
A Troubled Horizon
Since 2000 when U.S. patent protection expired for its flagship product, Round-Up®, Monsanto has been struggling to keep market share and stay in the black2. Despite increased sales in its growing trait business, which partially offset losses in the herbicide arena, a year ago the company posted significant losses-$188M, or $0.72 per share. This year, despite near perfect global farming weather, Monsanto has been unable to stem the tide of falling sales and prices for its Round-Up brand herbicide, a situation exacerbated by global glyphosate (active ingredient in Round-Up) dumping by Chinese manufacturers. U.S. prices for Round-Up are now predicted to hit $11-$13 per gallon, well below Monsanto's expectations, and market share to fall near 65%, similar to what Monsanto sees in countries where generic glyphosate has been available for years.
Monsanto has been further hit by the inability to collect royalties on pirated soy seeds in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina-globally the top three soybean exporters after the United States. Until very recently, genetically modified crops were illegal in Brazil and are still illegal in Paraguay, although farmers are thought to have been planting genetically modified soy for the last six years............................................................
THAILAND, AUGUST - SEPTEMBER 2004: HOW MINDS CHANGED AS THE GM PROSPECT TURNED UGLY FOR THAI ENTHUSIASTS
1,000 'GM papaya trees' felled - The Nation, Sep 16, 2004 - http://nationmultimedia.com/page.news.php3?clid=3&id=120934&usrsess=1
An agricultural research station yesterday destroyed 1,000 suspected genetically modified (GM) papaya trees in Muang district..............
GOVERNMENT ADMISSION: GM papaya confirmed in NE - The Nation, Sep 15, 2004
Ministry says it will immediately destroy all crops found to be contaminated The Agriculture Ministry yesterday admitted it had found genetically modified (GM) papaya on a farm in Khon Kaen and vowed to destroy the produce of any farm where GMO (genetically modified organism) contaminated fruit is discovered..........................
Clean-up operation likely for GM papaya - Bangkok Post, 14 Sep 2004 - http://www.biothai.org/cgi-bin/content/news/show.pl?0331
First concrete action since denial of spread
Clean-up operations will be organised to tackle possible contamination of plantations in the country by genetically-modified (GM) papayas, the Agriculture Department said yesterday. The procedure has three stages - eradication of all papaya trees in affected plantations, imposition of 400-metre quarantine zones and investigations into how the contamination occurred, said department chief Chakan Saengraksawong...............
Scientists must listen to the public - EDITORIAL - The Nation (Thailand), 13 September 2004
Scientific policies can backfire if professionals fail to look beyond the lab
The way Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra retreated from his policy on genetically modified (GM) crops was a negative lesson in political credibility, but political lessons were not the only illuminating topics to emerge from this debate. The scientific community could also learn a lesson or two from this failed policy initiative, particularly if science is to sit in the driver's seat in future development initiatives. Changes are taking place the world over in the way that any single discipline advances the interests of humanity. For example, activists were initially the only people involved in battling against dogmatic policymaking where it affected the environment. Eventually, debates over the environmental ramifications of public policy were expanded to include all stakeholders, like community members and consumer groups................
PM urges farmers to use organic fertilizers - http://etna.mcot.net/query.php?nid=30708
BANGKOK, Sept 11 (TNA) &Mac246; In a bid to make Thailand the 'Kitchen of the World', Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra today urged local farmers to switch to using organic fertilizers, instead of chemical ones. Mr. Thaksin's comments were made during his weekly radio program, "Premier Thaksin talks with the public", broadcast nationwide this morning, in which he said using the organic fertilizers had become the national agenda, and trial had already been launched in the northeastern province of Surin. The country has to import chemical fertilizers worth 25 billion baht and insect pesticides valued about 7 billion baht annually, he said. The use of chemical fertilizers does not produce satisfactory output for crops, while it causes a lot of danger such as cancer and a difficulty in breathing. Organic fertilizer is cheap, and it will help farmers reduce production costs, he pointed out. Farmers can produce organic fertilizers by themselves, while agricultural officials in provinces will also assist them to make the fertilizers on a large-scale basis, and that serious production should start from now. (TNA)--E111
Processed papaya exports rejected after GM rumours - Bangkok Post, 4 Sep 2004 - http://www.biothai.org/cgi-bin/content/news/show.pl?0305
Processed papaya shipments from at least ten fruit exporters have been delayed or rejected by importers in European countries fearing contamination from genetically modified organisms, a leading agribusiness operator said yesterday. The bans and delays of canned papaya orders from European importers have resulted in about one billion baht loss for the industry so far, said an executive of Sun Sweet Co, a leading fruit and vegetable exporter based in Chiang Mai. The situation will worsen if the government and the Department of Agriculture (DoA) refuse to look into the alleged leakage and GM papaya contamination from the government's Khon Kaen research station, said the executive, who asked not to be named.........
GMO FEARS: 'Papayas are not tainted' - Ministry denies local varieties contaminated during field trials - The Nation, 4 Sep 2004
The Agriculture Department yesterday denied that papayas destined for European markets and elsewhere were genetically modified crops......
German food distributor cancels order - Contamination from GMO papaya feared - KULTIDA SAMABUDDHI - Bangkok Post, 3 September 2004
A well-known German food distributor has banned fruit cocktail products from a Thai exporter for fear the products contain genetically-modified papaya. The German importer has stopped ordering canned fruit cocktail from a Chiang Mai-based processed fruits exporter following a report of the spread of GM papaya from the Agriculture Department's Khon Kaen research station to local farms, said Soontorn Sritawee, vice-president of River Kwai International Food Industry, a key member of the Thai Organic Alliance Society. The Thai exporter and German importer were not named. ``It is a shocking move for exporters. We did not expect that the ban would be imposed this fast,'' said Mr Soontorn..............
GMOs may not be manna from heaven - Bangkok Post, 3 Sep 2004 - http://www.biothai.org/cgi-bin/content/news/show.pl?0301
Thaksin Shinawatra's back down on his decision to give the green light to open field trials and the eventual commercialisation of transgenic crops is a good sign. It's not easy for a leader with high self-confidence and a big ego such as Mr Thaksin to accept that his decisions might not be absolutely right. My only fear is that this may be just a tactical retreat to allow time to formulate a more convincing marketing campaign rather than genuine open-mindedness to hear out different opinions as a basis for policy-making. The pros and cons of genetically modified organisms are still being heatedly debated among scientists, so it is prudent to go slow, especially when so much is at stake. Thailand is recognised worldwide as a major producer of quality organic foods. Any move that creates doubt about this hard-earned reputation would shake international confidence and lead to market losses. Farmers would be the ones who suffer. GMO proponents argue that any decision on the issue should be science-based. They say there has been no scientific evidence that GMOs are harmful to health or the environment. But any evidence there might be is by no means conclusive. Not enough time has elapsed to prove things one way or the other. Underlining the argument about scientific proof, however, is the economic motive. GMO supporters assert that the technology will be key to eradicating world hunger and farmers' poverty........
THAILAND: Larger Battle Ahead for Anti-GMO Activists - Sonny Inbaraj - http://www.ipsnews.net/africa/interna.asp?idnews=25299
BANGKOK, Sep 1 (IPS) - While activists welcomed the Thai prime minister's reversal of a recent decision to allow the commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) crops, and hailed it as a people's victory, they warned that a national committee set up by the government to study the issue could run the risk of being hijacked by scientists having links to bio-technology companies. On Tuesday at a cabinet meeting Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra reversed his decision made on Aug 21 to undo an earlier ban on the planting of GM crops, and opted for a national committee of academics to study the move before he planned any further action. ''Prime Minister Thaksin decided not to consider putting the resolution on the cabinet's agenda due to it being a debatable issue academically with controversy among various groups,'' government spokesman Jakrapob Penkair told reporters. ''More information needs to be gathered before a decision can be made,'' added Jakrapob. While Thaksin's cabinet was meeting at Government House, over 100 representatives from consumer bodies, organic farm-product exporters and environmental groups gathered outside to protest against the premier's Aug 21 decision. In 2001, Thailand imposed a ban on field trials of GM crops, and terminated ongoing field trials of GM cotton and corn carried out by the transnational corporation Monsanto. The government also banned all commercial planting of GM crops.........
Thai cabinet overturns GMO approval - 31 Aug 2004 - Reuters - By Trirat Puttajanyawong
BANGKOK, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Thailand's cabinet decided on Tuesday to keep a three-year ban on planting crops using genetically modified organisms (GMO), overturning a decision by a panel chaired by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Instead, it decided to set up a panel to hear the arguments for and against GMO crops from state agencies and biotech lecturers at all Thai universities, Science Minister Korn Dabbaransi told reporters. "We will have academics from all universities to hear their view on three options -- 1) to promote GMOs freely in Thailand, 2) to allow the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops, or 3) to ban GMOs completely," Korn said after the weekly cabinet meeting. Tuesday's decision reversed one made by Thaksin's committee only little more than a week ago to allow open-field trials alongside non-GMO plants.......
Watchdog demands Dept surrender list - Staff worried about exposing farmers - Bangkok Post, 28 August 2004
The National Human Rights Commission has blasted the Department of Agriculture (DOA) for covering up information relating to genetically-modified papaya, which has reportedly spread to farmers' plantations. DOA officials had acted suspiciously in refusing to hand over information as requested by the commissioners, who made an inspection trip to Khon Kaen on Wednesday, said NHRC chairman Prof Saneh Chamrik. The commission would write to Agriculture Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, pressing him to tell the DOA to reveal the list of farmers, who received papaya seeds from the department's Khon Kaen research station. The NHRC took up the case after receiving a complaint from Greenpeace, which accused the DOA of illegally distributing GM papaya seeds...........Meanwhile, the GMWatch, a global network of anti-GMOs organisations, yesterday warned in an open letter to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra that the decision to approve GM cropping would hurt Thailand's standing in the world and marketability of its products. ''We ask you (Mr Thaksin) not to base your decision solely on the advice of biotech advocates and the demands of Washington and corporations,'' said Jonathan Matthews, the group's director.
Hawaiians warn against GM papaya - Bangkok Post, 04 July 2003
Species' introduction may hit native strain
Hawaiian farmers yesterday warned Thai farmers against planting genetically modified papaya, saying that the plant would invade local varieties, with serious market loss. "The introduction of GM papaya has brought economic and environmental disasters to farmers in Hawaii in the past five years,'' Melanie Bondera told a press conference organised by Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "I understand that GM papaya is going to be introduced in Thailand soon. So, we would like to caution you about its possible adverse impacts.''...................
Consumer resistance puts GM corn on hold in Europe - Syngenta will not attempt to foist it on the market
Seed buying contracts may become state issue in the USA
Percy Schmeiser speaks:
'The Supreme Court handed down their decision yesterday and I have mixed emotions to it.....I do not have to pay Monsanto one cent for profits, damages, penalties, court costs or their technology use fee of $15/acre. I feel good about this ruling, as I have said all along that I didn't take advantage or profit from Monsanto's technology in my fields. I am pleased that the Supreme Court felt that way as well. It has been my position that I didn't want their technology in my fields, that I didn't use their technology by spraying, didn't sell their technology as seed to another farmer and didn't earn any profit from it. I felt it hard to accept that I should have to pay them for it.
I believe that Monsanto will have a hard time in pursuing patent infringement against other farmers. They are now going to have to prove that a farmer profited from having RR canola in their field. The Court noted that my profits were the same whether I had conventional canola or RR canola, so I find it hard to see how Monsanto can say in any future case that the farmer made more money because of their product. This decision may have removed the teeth from their patent.
I also believe that Monsanto will face huge liability issues down the road. The Court determined that they have ownership to the plant and that I infringed by having it in my field. With ownership comes responsibility and I assume morelawsuits will be filed against them for the contamination of farmer's fields. I was always concerned about this lack of responsibility that Monsanto took for the unconfined release of RR canola in western Canada. I think the Court's decision will force them to be held accountable for it now.
On the bigger issue of whether or not their patent was valid, the Court ruled that it is, and we have to accept that judgment. For this to be changed our Parliament will have to act. We have a conflict between plants breeder's rights and patent law and the government will have to sort that out. All I did was save my seed from year to year. Now it is clear that a company's patent will take precedence over the rights of farmer's to save and reuse their seed.
Farmer's should be concerned about this judgment as they now may lose their ability to continue with this practice. I believe that this ruling is an injustice and Parliament must act to ensure that farmer's rights are protected. The playing field between farmer's rights and the bio-tech companies rights has been tilted towards the companies with this decision............." http://www.percyschmeiser.com/decisioncomments.htm
FOR THE CANADIAN SUPREME COURT RULING GO TO THE REPORTS PAGE
The case of Bt Maize in the Philippines is a salutary tale - A Backgrounder on Dr. Traavik's Study - by Masipag May 26, 2004 - Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines - firstname.lastname@example.org - http://qc.indymedia.org/news/2004/05/659.php - http://www.masipag.org
On July 2003, the small, quiet village of Landan in Polomolok, South Cotabato was disrupted by an unusual outbreak of illnesses. About 51 individuals residing within the 100-meter radius of a Bt-corn field experienced bouts of respiratory and intestinal pains. "The problems started during the start of the flowering period of the nearby Bt-corn plantation," recounted Pablo Senon, a barangay leader in Landan. "The children as young as 5 months old got sick first. They complained of headaches, tummy aches, coughs, colds, dizzy spells and difficulty in breathing." The residents then decided to report the unusual incidence to church workers who immediately conducted a medical mission among the villagers. Then in September 2003, a scientist working on an independent research on Bt-corn volunteered to analyze the blood samples of the affected individuals….
On February 22, 2004, Norwegian scientist Dr. Terje Traavik disclosed in a conference in Kuala Lumpur the results of their ongoing research in the Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology. Among three projects cited, the antibody analyses of blood sera from Philippine farmers generated the most reaction and interest among the audience. According to Dr. Traavik, they detected the presence of antibodies in the blood samples of 38 persons residing near a Bt-corn plantation in Polomolok, South Cotabato. These IgA, IgG and IgM antibodies are "specifically binding to Bt-toxin Cry1Ab" which means that these antibodies are released as a natural mechanism by the body when it is infiltrated by the said toxin or antigens. "The presence of the antibodies in the human blood show that these people have been exposed to the Bt-toxin during the last few months," said Dr. Traavik.
Dr. Traavik said that this result "might indicate a coincidence in time between the three observed events" - the first flowering season for Bt-corn, the outbreak of respiratory / intestinal disease among the residents near the Bt-corn field and the production of the antibodies. While the study cannot establish yet a relationship between the Bt-corn and the outbreak of illnesses, it does not also rule out the possibility that the exposure of the local residents to the Bt-corn caused their health problems. The production of antibodies specific to the Bt-toxin Cry1Ab simply indicate that the toxin has entered the farmers' and residents' body, hence the production of antibodies.
Monsanto abandons worldwide GM wheat project - 11th May, 2004 - The Guardian
Monsanto has abandoned plans to introduce GM wheat on to the world market despite spending seven years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing the crop.
The decision, announced yesterday, is a major fillip for the anti-GM lobby and follows pressure from US and Canadian farmers who feared the introduction of GM wheat would lead to the collapse of their billion-dollar markets in Europe and Japan.
Monsanto, the world's biggest seller of GM seeds, had looked to the development and introduction of GM wheat to fulfil a dream of dominating the world's bread market.......................................................... http://www.guardian.co.uk/gmdebate/Story/0,2763,1214066,00.html
Monsanto to Realign Research Portfolio, Development of Roundup Ready Wheat Deferred
Decision Follows Portfolio Review, Consultation with Growers
ST. LOUIS (May 10, 2004) - Monsanto announced today it is realigning research and development investments to accelerate the development of new and improved traits in corn, cotton, and oilseeds. As part of this realignment, the company is deferring all further efforts to introduce Roundup Ready wheat, until such time that other wheat biotechnology traits are introduced. This decision was reached after a comprehensive review of Monsanto's research investment portfolio and extensive consultation with customers in the wheat industry.
Monsanto suspends GM canola programs - 12th May , 2004 - Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
Results of European GMO Vote - 30th April 2004
Against: Denmark, Greece, Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal
Abstain: Germany, Spain
For: UK, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, Finland, Sweden
European member states have failed to support the application by US-based multinational Monsanto to import a new genetically modified maize into Europe. Earlier in the week Agriculture Ministers also failed to support a different maize application after disagreements emerged over its safety (see Europe). At today's meeting of the EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, member states voted on the import of a GM maize called NK603 for human food. It has been genetically modified to be resistant to Monsanto's herbicide called RoundUp. In February member states also failed to support the same GM crop for use as an animal feed.
Speaking at the GM-free Ireland workshop at the Convergence Festival in Dublin, IFA (Irish Farmer's Association) Deputy President Ruaidhri Deasy said "The IFA's stance on GMOs is: Keep GM products out of Ireland. We don't need them. We certainly can't pay for them. And our customers don't want them." Pointing out his role to protect and speak for the 85,000 farmers of Ireland, Mr. Deasy said Ireland's GM policy is a very important issue and challenged all political parties to conserve Ireland's GM-free status. Mr. Deasy said that he had seen multinationals corporations like Monsanto in operation in the developing world. "They don't care; they sit in their plush boardrooms but they don't give a hoot. All they care for is profits. The last thing Monsanto did was to put in the Terminator gene which wipes out the plant's ability to reproduce. That enslaves farmers the world over." - 29th April 2004 - http://www.global-vision-consulting.com
Venuzuelan Government opposes the introduction of GM soya
The Highlands has become the first area in Scotland to declare its opposition to genetically modified crops.
EU Biotech Labelling and Traceability Requirements to be introduced as of 18th April 2004 will be a serious barrier to international trade says a food processors lobby group in the USA. Meanwhile in North Dakota, farmers on the Great Plains begin to fight against the introduction of GM Wheat.
Food Firms Reject GM Ingredients in the UK
Biotech Rice Plans Are Stalled - http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-rice10apr10,1,1477379.story?coll=la-headlines-business
State regulators Friday derailed a small biotechnology company's ambitious plans to immediately begin growing commercial quantities of rice engineered with human genetic material for use in medicine. The California Department of Food and Agriculture denied Ventria Bioscience's application to grow more than 120 acres of rice in Central and Southern California because federal regulators haven't issued a permit. The Sacramento-based company said it had not yet applied for federal regulatory approval. State officials also said the public needed more time to comment on an issue that had roiled California's $500-million rice industry. Many rice farmers fear consumer perception will turn against their crops and cost them customers in biotechnology-adverse Europe and Japan if Ventria's permit were granted. Now Ventria, which already has permission to grow experimentally on small plots, will have to wait at least until next year's planting to expand production. Despite the regulatory setback and continued vocal opposition, Ventria Chief Executive Scott Deeter said Friday that the company would reapply in California. The human genes that Ventria inserts into its rice produce proteins that are found in mother's milk, tears and saliva and can combat diarrhea and anemia, Deeter said. Ventria has been growing genetically engineered rice on 120 acres in Northern California on an experimental basis since it received U.S. Department of Agricultural permits in 1997. On Monday, the USDA refused to renew that permit for this year, saying the company planned to grow its experimental rice too close to crops intended for human consumption.
THE DECISION BY BAYER TO WITHDRAW CHARDON LL MAIZE AT THE END OF MARCH 2004, THE ONLY GM CROP GIVEN A CONDITIONAL GO-AHEAD BY THE UK GOVERNMENT (see the UK page) REPRESENTS A SIGNIFICANT STAGE FOR THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST GM CROPS AND FOOD IN THE UK BUT THE CAMPAIGN MUST CONTINUE TO HALT THE IMPORT OF GM ANIMAL FEED INTO THE UK (see things to do). BY STEPPING UP THE PRESSURE NOW THESE RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE UK (and Australia - see the International page) CAN GIVE EXTRA IMPETUS TO THE GLOBAL STRUGGLE AND MUCH NEEDED SUPPORT TO LOCAL CAMPAIGNS IN INDIA, BRAZIL, NORTH AMERICA, MEXICO, THE PHILLIPINES, NEW ZEALAND, ARGENTINA TO NAME A FEW. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE AND DONT DROP YOUR GUARD!
Despairing GM firms halt crop trials - The Guardian - 15th April, 2004
All the major biotechnology companies have abandoned GM trials in the UK this year and only one crop - a GM pea - has been granted a licence to be planted this summer. The lack of applications, which peaked at 159 in 2000-2001, shows a dramatic change in the fortunes of a technology which had the backing of the government but remains unpopular with the public. Although the figures of field trials were inflated by the bio-tech companies' three-year trials of oilseed rape, sugar beet and maize, the slump to 140 in 2001-2002, 42 last year and only one trial this year is a remarkable decline for what the government claims is a sunrise industry. The one crop that will be grown this year is a herbicide-resistant pea being tested for drought resistance in polytunnels at the John Innes research centre, Norwich. The trial began last year. All the big companies - Novartis Seeds, Aventis CropScience and Bayer CropScience - have told the government that no crops are being grown this year. The largest British research centres, including the Natural Environment Research Council, which uses the Rothamsted research establishment at Harpenden in Hertfordshire, have also stopped GM trials.........................In 2002, when there were 140 licences issued to grow GM crops, 105 were associated with the government's trials to see whether three key crops were better or worse for the environment than conventional varieties. Another 17 were unrelated trials to check whether GM crops reseeded in subsequent years, and others were to test whether crops such as GM barley and potatoes were successful in the British climate.........................
International Year Of Rice: Some Thoughts - Ashok B Sharma - The Financial Express, New Dehli, 11th April 2004 -
The United Nations has declared 2004 as International Year of Rice. A number of programmes are planned by inter-governmental and national research institutes across the globe.
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) inaugurated the event in February in Rome. The Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has planned a series of events in collaboration with national governments like International Rice Science Conference in Seoul on September 13-15 and World Rice Research Conference in Tokyo and Tsukuba on November 4-7. The Vietnam government and the Mekong River Commission are jointly hosting the Mekong Rice Conference in Ho Chi Minh City on October 15-17. This conference is for developing strategies for the Mekong river basin region shared by Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and China's Yunnan province.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) also has convened the 39th All India Rice Research Group Meeting on April 12.
The UN has declared International Year of Rice for the second time in 2004. Earlier, 1966 was declared as the International Year of Rice. 1966 was the turning point when Green Revolution swept across Asia. The message of the 1966 International Year of Rice was translated into action by bringing food deficit countries to the level of food surplus.
But the situation in 2004 is different. Many countries have become food secured. The high yielding varieties introduced as part of Green Revolution
boosted production and productivity. But these high yielding varieties are not superior to the traditional ones in nutrition content. So, the message
for the 2004 International Year of Rice should stress on nutritional security.
Of course, there are still some food deficit countries which need to increase their production and productivity through high yielding varieties. The countries which have undergone Green Revolution and have become food secured need to look back and see how much they have gained and how much they have lost. Green Revolution was the need of the hour in 1960s for meeting food shortages for feeding the population which was growing at a faster pace. Now that population growth in many countries have stabilised, there is a need to focus on nutritional content of grains in the interest of nutritional security.
The excessive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and intensive mechanised tillage of soil have not only degraded soil health and environment but have also resulted in poor crop quality. We have gained in terms of quantity but have lost much in terms of quality. Moreover, the degraded soil health has resulted in plateauing of production and lowering of factor productivity.
There is a growing demand for organic food for which the global market size is estimated at $ 36.89 billion. The focus is on nutritious food free from chemical or pesticide residues.
There is a growing demand for dehusked brown rice owing to its nutrient content. The industrial milling of rice which began during Green Revolution produces polished white rice which looks attractive, but lacks in essential micronutrients. Now there is a market shift in demand for dehusked brown rice.
The Green Revolution has displaced many traditional aromatic rice varieties out of cultivation. In India, among aromatic varieties, Basmati is in cultivation. But the real Basmati varieties earlier grown in its native place, Dehradun are lost. The rice varieties now grown by the name Basmati have only one or two parental lines of the original Basmati. Even rice varieties grown in regions other than Dehradun are now being claimed as Basmati.
There are other traditional aromatic rice varieties which are not grown in the country. Similarly, there are many aromatic rice varieties in other countries which have gone out of cultivation on account of Green Revolution.
There is a need to search these varieties in the gene bank and bring them back to cultivation so that the farmers get a premium price in the global market. It is good to honour scientists who have developed high yielding varieties for ensuring food security. It is also time to think of nutritional security by encouraging traditional varieties and complimenting the generation of farmers for their treasure of knowledge.
For more on the International Year of Rice 2004 see http://www.fao.org/rice2004/index_en.htm
THIS PAGE WAS LAST UPDATED ON 19/2/06