Austria allowed to keep its ban on GM corn
Glyphosate-resistant weeds more burden to growers’pocketbooks
Exporters worried over GM rice rejection
Top rice exporters say no to genetically engineered rice
Agreement on non-GE policy
USDA Gives Rubber-Stamp Market Approval to Genetically Engineered Rice Contaminating Food Supply
West Africa contaminated by US GM Rice
JUDGE GIVES GO AHEAD TO FSA HIGH COURT CHALLENGE OVER GM RICE
Biotech Rice Saga Yields Bushel of Questions for Feds
Rice farmers biggest losers over altered rice
USA Rice forms Seed Committee to address GMO trait issue
Glyphosate-resistant marestail confirmed in Nebraska
Why glyphosate resistance is so important
EU to test all US rice imports
EU Tests May Stifle U.S. Rice Imports
OPPOSITION TO GE CROPS - Thais reap windfall
Pigweed not only threat to glyphosate resistance
Second Kind Of Bayer GM Rice Detected In EU
US rice exporters face new costs
Another GE rice from Bayer contaminates EU food supplies
Farmers' group wants rice import banned
Biotech instills fear and loathing in California rice belt
Comments to USDA/APHIS on a Petition to Deregulate Bayer Rice LL601
Monsanto posts bigger loss for 4th quarter
UH cuts off funding after failing to silence agriculture professor
Stores told to remove GM rice from shelves
RUSSIA: US rice imports suspended over GMOs
World's largest rice company halts all US rice imports because of GM contamination threat
Will genetically engineered foods cause allergic reactions? Michigan State University scientists receive EPA grant to find out
Japan widens testing of U.S. rice for illegal GMO
Japan to Test U.S. Short- and Medium-Grain Rice for LLRICE601
Pigweed resistance a nightmare for Carolina grower
Italy finds unauthorized variety of genetically modified rice in imports
Britons eating GM rice as watchdog fails to test imports
Tainted GMO rice found in Netherlands, Belgium
Safety net failed to halt sale of GM rice
A foolish gamble
Fears mount over possible rice contamination in the Philippines
Gene-Altered Profit-Killer - A Slight Taint of Biotech Rice Puts Farmers' Overseas Sales in Peril
Genetically engineered plums may not find a willing market
GMO rice found in Britain
Flap Over Modified Rice Weighs on Food Importers
Rice farming: Grains of doubt
More farmers sue over release of altered rice
Farmers from Missouri, Arkansas sue Bayer over rice prices
Sale of illegal GM rice in Scotland sanctioned by food safety watchdog
Consumer group urges USDA not to approve GMO rice
French tests reveal banned GMO in US rice imports
Genetically modified rice hits Switzerland
Genetically Modified Rice Found in German Supermarkets
EU confirms presence of tainted GMO rice
US Illegal GE Rice Contamination Spreads Further into Europe
Tainted biotech rice found in Germany
Genetically modified wheat still shunned
USDA to Rubber-Stamp Contamination of Food with Illegal, Genetically Engineered Rice Banned in Japan and Europe
Market boosts organic while GMOs wane
Updated Report Says Industry Still Not Ready for Biotech Wheat Farm Futures
The monarch and the milkweed
Ark. farmers file 4th lawsuit over genetically engineered rice
Counties need power over biotech crops
Monsanto-Backed GE Food Bill dies in CA Legislature
Efforts to take GMO control blocked
Unauthorised U.S. GMO rice arrived in Netherlands
US Oversight of Biotech Crops Seen Lacking
Questions abound as rice industry faces GMO concerns
Bayer faces more lawsuits over GMO rice
US rice farmers sue Bayer CropScience over GM rice
Biotech foods: A cat that won't stay bagged
Rice contaminated by GM has been on sale for months
A straw in the wind
Unapproved Rice Strain Found in Wide Area
EU tightens rules to block tainted U.S. biotech rice
EU restrictions on illegal US rice imports inadequate
U.S. rice dives as GMO issue stirs export fears
Japan rice ban worries some California farmers
India May Move In On Japanese Rice Market
EU MUST ACT QUICKLY TO PREVENT CONTAMINATED GM RICE ENTERING EUROPE
Mother Nature Is No Lab
Escaped bentgrass sounds a warning
Biopharming gone awry
US Rice Prices Are Stunted By Concerns of Biotech Controls
Tainted Southern rice threatens U.S. market - Japan halts shipments
GM contamination warning triggers call for ban on US rice
Ban call in West Africa
Greenpeace demands global ban on imports of US rice
CALL FOR BAN ON IMPORTS OF US RICE AFTER CONTAMINATION REVEALED
GM rice in the news
Environment Group Urges EU Ban US Rice On GMO Scare
EU URGED TO BAN NORTH AMERICAN RICE
Unapproved, Genetically Engineered Rice Found in Food Supply
Japan Suspends US Long-Grain Rice Imports
U.S. Rice Supply Contaminated - Genetically Altered Variety Is Found in Long-Grain Rice
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Statement on Report of Bioengineered Rice in the Food Supply
Escaped GM grass could spread bad news
GM grass, designed for golf courses, has been found three miles from its test site
The Non-GMO Project Signs On Its First 50 Member Stores in the U.S.
Bollworms feeding on Bt cotton in Arkansas
Organic Consumers Association launches, "Millions Against Monsanto" grassroots activism campaign
University of Missouri Confirms Glyphosate-Resistant Waterhemp
Midstate cotton growers battling another scourge
Georgia cotton growers fight pigweed
Report on US GMO regulation
County supervisors OK ban on genetically engineered crops
Eat To Live: FDA sued over biotech foods
Lawsuit Challenges Unscientific FDA Policy on Gene-Altered Foods
County eyes ban on genetically engineered crops
Consumer group sues FDA over biotech foods
Douglas based veto on rumored threat
Douglas veto is divisive
Despite Pesticide Reductions, Transgenic Cotton Fails to Improve Biodiversity
'Major Step Forward' Seen in DuPont Shareholder Vote on Genetically Modified Organisms
GMO bill tough on manufacturers
Monsanto: Monster Stock, or Just Plain Monster?
The Genetically Modified Conundrum - What's in your food?
Herbicide resistant weeds are introducing a new problem to cotton farmers
U.S. Interior Department sued over GMO plantings
Alert shoppers to grocery contents
Biotech-food debate draws many voices
LEAKED REPORT: U.S. MISLED THE WORLD ON BIOTECH FOODS "VICTORY"
Cotton farmers sue Monsanto and others for crop loss
Farmers, Ranchers and Consumers Challenge GM Alfalfa
MY TURN: GMOs and Vermont
Farmers, others sue USDA over Monsanto GMO alfalfa
Bill would require labeling of GM seeds
PUERTO RICO HOST TO BIOTECH CROP EXPERIMENTS
Biotech's Sparse Harvest
Europe has right to avoid GMOs
UM Researcher Cites GE Contamination; Genetic Herbicide Resistance Found in [non-GM] Seeds
Protecting a sacred resource
Patents on taro hybrids protested
The Non-GMO Project Is Officially Launched in Both the United States and Canada
House waters down modified-seed bill
More than just a food fight
Austria allowed to keep its ban on GM corn - By Andrew Bounds in Brussels - December 19 2006
A US trade victory over the European Union's import regime for genetically modified crops looked hollow last night as Austria retained its right to ban the growing of bio-engineered corn. Environment ministers yesterday threw out a European Commission proposal to force Austria to lift the bans it imposed on two authorised GM maize varieties in 1999 and 2000. They had rejected the move in 2004 but Brussels hoped that a World Trade Organisation ruling this year that the ban was illegal would tip the argument in its favour and retabled the proposal. However, in a sign of how sensitive the issue remains for European consumers, only the UK, Netherlands, Czech Republic and Sweden among the EU's 25 member states backed it. "The Commission will now have to carefully consider the legal and scientific bases that would underpin any further proposals," a spokeswoman said yesterday. It may now have to legislate.
Another case against Hungary will almost certainly be rejected by ministers next month. Greece also bans genetically modified crops. The European Food Safety Authority ruled in March 2006 there was no health risk from T25, created by Bayer of Germany, or MON810, from US company Monsanto. However, Austria pointed to the United Nation's Biosafety Protocol, which allows countries to ban genetically modified crops if there is a lack of scientific certainty over their safety. The WTO disregarded the treaty because the complainants - the US, Canada and Argentina - had not ratified it, and found against Austria because it had not conducted a proper risk assessment.
Helen Holder, of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "Today's vote was a complete rejection of the WTO's ruling on GM foods. This is a major defeat for the biotech industry and their friends in the European Commission. "Every country must have the democratic right to protect its citizens and environment."
The Financial Times Limited 2006
Glyphosate-resistant weeds more burden to growers’pocketbooks - By Forrest Laws - Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Cotton producers who encounter glyphosate-resistant horseweed in their fields may be tempted to fall back on a solution that served their fathers and grandfathers well: cold steel.
Before you pull that disk out of the weeds on the back side of the equipment lot, however, think about this: Do you really want to spend all that extra money on diesel fuel and labor and undo the benefits of conservation tillage you’ve worked so hard on all these years? And there’s another consideration, according to Larry Steckel, Extension weed scientist with the University of Tennessee, and a speaker at Cotton Incorporated’s recent Crop Management Seminar in Memphis. “You have to be careful,” says Steckel, displaying a photo of a freshly disked field with green horseweed plumes sticking up in it. “If you don’t do a thorough job of disking, you can wind up with a worse problem than when you started.”
There’s no doubt glyphosate-resistant horseweed has set back conservation tillage efforts in Tennessee, says Steckel, who spoke on “The Impact of Glyphosate-Resistant Horseweed and Pigweed on Cotton Weed Management and Costs.” (The University of Georgia’s Stanley Culpepper and Arkansas’ Ken Smith were co-authors.) In a 2004 survey, county Extension agents said glyphosate-resistant horseweed had reduced conservation tillage farming in Tennessee by 18 percent. Even more telling, the survey showed the percentage of farms using conservation tillage in the largest cotton counties in Tennessee had dropped from 80 to 40 percent. Arkansas weed scientists estimate a 15 percent reduction in conservation tillage in their state due to glyphosate resistance. Similar trends have been reported in Mississippi and the Bootheel of Missouri.
Glyphosate-resistant horseweed has spread much more quickly than anticipated when Bob Hayes, a weed scientist with the West Tennessee Experiment Station in Jackson, discovered it in west Tennessee’s Lauderdale County. “It’s in all our cotton acres now,” Steckel told Crop Management Seminar participants. “Horseweed can grow in Tennessee 11 months out of the year. It has a very aggressive tap root, and it loves a no-till environment.” Horseweed (it is sometimes called marestail) also competes well with cotton. Studies show horseweed can reduce cotton yields by 40 percent when left unchecked through the two-leaf stage. If not controlled between planting and first bloom, losses can reach 70 percent.
The staggering increase in glyphosate-resistant horseweed followed a spectacular rise in the amount of glyphosate products (Roundup, Touchdown and others) being applied in cotton and other glyphosate-tolerant crops. “We saw a 752-percent increase in glyphosate applications between 1997 and 2003 at the expense of just about everything else with the exception of diuron (Karmex, Direx),” said Steckel. (Applications of diuron jumped 101.1 percent during the same period while those of other herbicides declined.) As most farmers now know, weed scientists with the University of Georgia have documented cases of glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed in southwest Georgia. More recently, glyphosate-tolerant Palmer pigweed has been found in Crockett and Lauderdale counties in Tennessee and Mississippi County in Arkansas. Resistant waterhemp, a cousin of pigweed, has also been found in Missouri.
Culpepper, a weed scientist with the University of Georgia, also discussed Palmer pigweed resistance in Georgia at the Cotton Incorporated seminar. “Scientists at Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have found an 8x to 12x level of resistance to glyphosate in Palmer pigweeds in their states,” said Steckel. “We’ve seen pigweed survive 2x to 4x rates of glyphosate in Arkansas and Tennessee. “When you look at some of the slides Stanley (Culpepper) showed earlier, it’s a shock. We don’t have near the weed problem with Palmer pigweed in this part of the world that they do in Georgia.” Weed scientists say glyphosate-resistant horseweed and pigweed can be managed with a combination of herbicides, but it will cost growers more. One approach has been to burn down with glyphosate or paraquat (Gramoxone Inteon) plus 8 to 12 ounces of dicamba (Clarity, Oracle) in early February and go back with Gramoxone at 48 ounces plus Ignite at 29 ounces plus Caparol at 32 ounces, Cotoran at 32 ounces or Direx at 16 ounces 21 days before planting. Some growers have also been making a fall (November or December) herbicide application with Valor at 2 ounces plus Clarity or Oracle at 8 ounces. Others have applied Valor plus Caparol, Cotoran or Direx in February. “A fall application of Valor has been getting a lot of attention from growers,” says Steckel. “You’ve got to get some residual control out there to keep the horseweed from emerging during the winter.” Envoke has also received a label from EPA for fall and early winter application in cotton fields. Envoke will provide residual and knockdown control of glyphosate-resistant horseweed and other winter annuals. The use rate will be 0.10 ounce per acre.
“Trying to burn down large horseweed that got its start the summer of the previous year or early in the fall is going to be hard with anything,” said Steckel. “If a grower catches these populations early with a residual herbicide, he will be ahead of the game.” Cotton farmers can spend an extra $20 per acre to control glyphosate-resistant horseweed by the time they add Valor, Clarity and Caparol to their program, according to Steckel. For glyphosate-resistant horseweed and pigweed, the cost could rise $27 an acre if they have to apply a maximum rate of glyphosate; add Dual Magnum over-the-top with the first or second glyphosate spray, followed by a post-directed application of Caparol or Dual and Valor or Caparol in a hooded sprayer. But that’s not as expensive as what growers already face in southwest Georgia, says Steckel. Control costs for glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed in Georgia can range from another $45 an acre to as high as $92 an acre in fields where farmers have had to resort to hand weeding to remove the problem weed. “Glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed can be much more problematic than horseweed due to its more competitive nature,” says Steckel. “On average, glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed could cost cotton producers an extra $40 per acre or more to manage. “Because of that, we think glyphosate-resistant pigweed is a much bigger threat to cotton production, and every year we can delay its arrival in the Mid-South can mean big savings to our producers.”
© 2006 Prism Business Media Inc - Source: Delta Farm Press
Exporters worried over GM rice rejection - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial, Express, November 28 2006
NEW DELHI, NOV 27: Indian rice exporters are concerned over the growing rejection of genetically modified (GM) across the world. Recently producers in major rice exporting countries - Thailand and Vietnam - signed agreement to keep GM rice out of cultivation. The All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) has woken up to the situation and have asked the government not to allow any field trials or commercial cultivation of GM rice in the country. They say that the retention of the country's image as producer of non-GM foods would largely boost the prospects of rice exports. "Country earns millions of dollars in foreign exchange due to export of rice. India's long grain aromatic rice - basmati has a premium market abroad," said RS Seshadri of Tilda Riceland - a major exporter of basmati rice.
AIREA chief Anil Adlakha has already expressed his concern over the possible contamination of long grain non-GM rice if GM rice trials were allowed to be conducted in the country. Seshadri said "We must learn lessons from the recent contamination of food chain by GM rice under field trials in the US and China. The profitability of US rice industry has declined as many countries began rejecting the US shipments of contaminated rice." He said recently on November 16 in the Rice Exporters Association of Thailand and the Vietnam Food Association signed an accord in Bangkok to keep off GM rice. This accord was signed in presence of senior officials and ministers of both the countries. He said that this is a wake up call for India too.
Top rice exporters say no to genetically engineered rice - Greenpeace International, 28 November 2006
Bangkok Thailand: Good news: the world's first and second largest exporters of rice have agreed to shun genetically engineered (GE) varieties. A recent agreement between rice traders from Thailand and Vietnam protects half the crop traded on the world market from the dangers of GE, and will put mounting pressure on other rice-producing nations to commit to a GE-free rice supply. According to our campaigner Jeremy Tager, the decision resulted from a "massive backlash against the GE industry following recent scandals." Illegal and unapproved GE rice varieties from the US and China have contaminated the global rice supply, with disastrous results for many growers, distributors, and traders.
Last week, a historic meeting between the powerful Rice Exporters Association of Thailand and the Vietnam Food Association resulted in the joint announcement of a non-GE rice production policy. More than 30 of the largest rice producers and traders in Thailand and Vietnam were present to endorse the agreement. Only days earlier in India (the worlds third largest exporter of rice), the representative body for India's rice exporters announced they too were supporting a ban on GE rice field trials because of the threat they pose to their GE-free export markets. The Indian government has yet to take action to ban field trials.
Thailand has shown the world that it can lead in rice production without GE rice. As a key agricultural producer, Thailand stands to benefit more if it stops all open-field GE crop trials and declares a GE-free policy once and for all. Rice production accounts for 11 percent of the world's arable land, or 500 million hectares, 90 percent of which is produced on Asian farms of less than one hectare.
We are eating the GE industry's experiments
Stopping field trials is important because the results of GE rice experiments don't seem to be containable: they keep turning up where they're not welcome. Even as news of the Thailand Vietnam accord was breaking, we uncovered yet another major contamination, this time in the Philippines, where rice is the staple food. Bayer's LL601 has contaminated rice products coming from the US, which are currently on sale in Manila. So far in 2006, this unapproved and illegal variety has been found in at least 24 countries. Last week contamination was announced in several countries in Africa. Bayer ended field trials of the LL601 variety in the US five years ago. The global food industry is now facing massive costs associated with GE contamination, including testing costs, product recalls, brand damage, import bans and cancelled imports and contracts. At least five multi-million dollar class-action lawsuits have been filed by about 300 US rice farmers against Bayer, as they struggle to protect their livelihoods from GE contamination.
Rice has been part of our staple diet around the world for over 10,000 years, it is cultivated in 113 countries - in China alone there are 75,000 varieties. Studies of the potential ecological risks of GE rice show that there is a high risk of 'transgene escape' (gene flow) from GE rice to non-GE rice varieties. Research also shows that GE rice out-crossing may threaten wild rice varieties.
Importers are banning it too
The world's largest rice processing company, Ebro Puleva, has stopped all imports of rice from the US and is expected to bring legal action against Bayer as well. Ebro Puleva controls 30 percent of the EU rice market. This move is only one of dozens by traders, millers, exporters, producers and retailers to protect themselves and their customers from unwanted GE foods.
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.
Agreement on non-GE policy - APINYA WIPATAYOTIN - Bangkok Post, 28 November 2006
An agreement between Thai and Vietnamese rice exporters to maintain non-genetically engineered produce will enable Thailand to gain more access to the European Union market, Wanlop Pichpongsa, a member of the Thai Exporters Association, said yesterday. The association and the Vietnam Food Association last week agreed in principle to announce non-GE crops during a meeting in Bangkok. The agreement will be made official in March next year. Mr Wanlop said the agreement would present a big opportunity for Thai and Vietnamese rice exporters, who would enjoy better access to the EU market after the EU imposed a ban on rice imports from the United States, after GM strains were found in a rice shipment from the US last month. ''We should not waste this opportunity because the EU is seeking new sources of rice to replace the US,'' Mr Wanlop said.
Currently, Thailand's export of jasmine rice to the EU totalled about 250,000 tonnes a year, compared to 300,000 tonnes by the US to the same market. Thailand is the world's biggest rice exporter with 8.2 million tonnes a year, followed by Vietnam with 4.7 million tonnes. India and the US ranked third and fourth with 4.3 and three million tonnes, respectively. Meanwhile, Patwajee Srisuwan, an anti-GE campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, welcomed the private sector's initiative. ''This is a victory for farmers in the region. However, the threat of GE rice adulteration still looms large and it is necessary that the agreement be expanded to cover other Asian countries,'' she said.
In another development, the Administrative Court yesterday agreed to hear the case of GM papaya leakage to farms in Khon Kaen province.
USDA Gives Rubber-Stamp Market Approval to Genetically Engineered Rice Contaminating Food Supply
'Approval-by-Contamination' Policy Puts Consumers and Environment at Risk, Erodes Trust in U.S. Food
USDA Continues to Allow Bayer to Test Experimental Genetically Engineered Crops
November 24, 2006
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today granted marketing approval of a genetically-engineered (GE) rice variety following its illegal contamination of the food supply and rice exports, first announced three months ago. The controversial decision was taken despite the insistence of its developer, Bayer CropScience, that it dropped plans to commercialize the variety, known as LibertyLink601 (LL601), five years ago.
"With this decision, USDA is telling agricultural biotechnology companies that it doesn't matter if you're negligent, if you break the rules, if you contaminate the food supply with untested genetically engineered crops, we'll bail you out," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety. "In effect, USDA is sanctioning an 'approval-by-contamination' policy that can only increase the likelihood of untested genetically engineered crops entering the food supply in the future, and further erode trust in the wholesomeness of U.S. food overseas," he added.
Mendelson also noted that USDA has still not determined how LL601 entered the rice supply or the extent of the contamination, and that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not undertaken a formal assessment of the rice, which is designed to survive direct spraying with the powerful herbicide glufosinate. "Experimental, genetically engineered crops like LL601 are prohibited for a reason," said Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst at Center for Food Safety. "Exhaustive testing is required to determine whether or not mutagenic gene-splicing procedures create human health or environmental hazards, and no one has done that analysis on LL601 rice," he added.
In comments filed with USDA, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) opposed USDA's consideration of Bayer's petition for market approval of LL601 as an abuse of the regulatory process. CFS also blasted USDA for allowing Bayer to black out extensive portions of its petition as "confidential business information," and demanded that it be released for public scrutiny and comment before any decision was made. CFS further noted that Bayer might exploit the approval to evade liability for an estimated $150 million in market losses suffered by U.S. farmers because of the episode. The comments also spelled out the potential for LL601 to spread its herbicide-resistance trait to weedy red rice, making it more difficult for farmers to control.
LL601 is one of several 'LibertyLink' (LL) rice varieties that have been genetically engineered by Bayer to survive application of Bayer's proprietary Liberty© herbicide. Liberty kills normal rice, but can be applied directly to LL varieties to kill surrounding weeds. This explains why Bayer had to obtain government approval to permit residues of the weedkiller on rice grains of its two approved versions of LibertyLink rice. "Contrary to what you hear from the biotech industry, genetically engineered crops like LibertyLink rice mean more chemicals in our food, not less," said Freese.
"USDA's decision to approve genetically engineered rice that Bayer itself decided was unfit for commerce is the clearest sign yet that U.S. authorities are intent upon dismantling federal regulation of genetically engineered crops in the interests of the biotechnology industry," said Mendelson. "Center for Food Safety will consider all legal options to put an end to USDA's 'approval-by-contamination' policy for new genetically engineered crops," he added. Mendelson further noted that since the contamination debacle was first announced on August 18, 2006, USDA has given Bayer the green light to conduct nine more outdoor field trials of new genetically engineered crops.
Contacts: Joe Mendelson: 703-244-1724, Bill Freese: 301-985-3011
For CFS's comments to USDA on Bayer's petition for approval of LL601, see: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/policy_com.cfm
CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY, 660 Pennsylvania Ave., SE , Suite 302, Washington, DC 20003 - (202) 547-9359 É fax (202) 547-9429
2601 Mission Street, Suite 803, San Francisco, CA 94110 - (415) 826-2770 É FAX (415) 826-0507
West Africa contaminated by US GM Rice - FoE Africa Press Release - Friday, 24 November 2006
US rice imports sent to West Africa are contaminated with illegal GM rice - FoE Africa calls for immediate recall of all tainted rice food aid, and commercial imports
Accra (Ghana), Freetown (Sierra Leone). 24 November 2006.
A genetically modified (GM) rice not allowed for human consumption originated from the United states has been found in West Africa. The findings have been revealed today by Friends of the Earth in simultaneous press conferences in Ghana and Sierra Leone. Friends of the Earth Africa is urging the Governments of Sierra Leone and Ghana to immediately recall the contaminated products.
In August this year the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the presence of LLRICE601, an unapproved genetically modified (GM) rice variant developed by a subsidiary of chemical company Bayer in the food chain. Worried by this development, many countries, especially in Europe began to test rice shipments from the USA into their countries, and it has been found in over 15 European countries. Many supermarket chains like Tesco, and Sainsbury have withdrawn American rice from their shelves amid concerns it may be contaminated, and the EU is testing all rice imports coming from the US
In September/October 2006 FoE Ghana and Sierra Leone in collaboration with FoE African experts on GMOs collected samples of US long grain rice in their countries and sent them to the laboratory for testing. The tests were conducted in an independent laboratory in the US with a validated testing method for LL601. The results show that there is LL601 contamination in Ghana and Sierra Leone. “We are shocked that unapproved genetically modified long grain rice has been sent to our country through food aid channels,” commented Arthur Williams, a GM campaigner with FoE Sierra Leone. “We are a nation just recovering from years of civil war and now to attack us in this manner is now making our people once more vulnerable.”
Ghana is among the top 10 importers of rice from the USA and it is feared that the contamination may have spread across the West African sub-region and beyond. Ghana’s rice imports from the USA stood at 78.900 metric tonnes (MT) in 2001/2002, 117.600 MT in 2002/2003 and 166.400 MT in 2004/2005.
In 2002 East African countries such as Zambia rejected GM corn as food aid even though they were in a situation of food shortages. In Latin America contamination of the food chain through food aid was established when illegal corn strain, such as Star Link, was found there in 2002 and 2005. Now it is clear that serious efforts must be made by governments and international agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) to endure that food aid does not become the popular channel for GM contamination around the world.
“We cannot accept a situation when food aid becomes a secret channel to ambush our peoples with illegal genetically modified food. We refuse to be used as guinea pigs in big business’s experimentations,” said Nnimmo Bassey of FoE Africa. “With the confirmation of this contamination, it is very likely that a large number of African countries are already contaminated. Africa is facing a lot of challenges and cannot afford to add this man-made problem. It must be halted at its roots.”
Reacting to the contamination, Cheryl Agyepong GM campaigner with FoE Ghana said: “We don’t want genetically modified rice in our fields and we call on our Government to take all necessary measures to prevent any possible contamination of our seeds.” She further added that African governments must preserve “the African environment in order to secure the future of humanity.”
LLRICE601 is engineered to tolerate an herbicide called glufosinate which is sold under the brand name Liberty Link. This tolerance was introduced through a Streptomyces hygroscopicus gene that codes for phospinothricin acetyl transferase (PAT), a glufosinate-inactivating enzyme. The GM rice, produced by German-based biotechnology company Bayer, was field tested between 1998 and 2001 but the contamination of commercial long grain rice has only just come to light. The US exported more than 3 million tonnes of rice in 2005.
FoE Africa calls on the government to immediately halt untested long grain rice food aid and commercial imports from the USA. The public does not want this illegal rice and even rice growers in the USA were shocked to learn that they were cultivating an unapproved rice strain. The USDA must take immediate steps to examine protocols for the containment of field trails and also to ensure that every shipment to Africa is adequately screened to ensure they are free of contamination.
JUDGE GIVES GO AHEAD TO FSA HIGH COURT CHALLENGE OVER GM RICE - Friends of the Earth UK, 21 November 2006
A High Court judge has given Friends of the Earth permission to take its legal challenge against the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to a full hearing in the High Court. The environmental campaign group says that the FSA failed to take appropriate action to prevent unauthorised GM rice entering the UK food chain. The FSA had claimed that Friends of the Earth's challenge should not be allowed to proceed to a hearing because its case was 'unarguable'.
Friends of the Earth also argued that the case needs to be heard urgently to ensure that the FSA acts while GM-contaminated rice is still on the market. The FSA has argued that the case is not urgent. The Court  has ordered a hearing be held "as soon as possible" to decide the next steps in the case.
The Court's initial decision follows Friends of the Earth's application for judicial review of the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) failure to take necessary action to prevent UK consumers being exposed to unapproved GM rice in their food. The illegal GM presence stems from an incident in the US where GM rice grown experimentally (BayerCropScience's LL Rice 601) has contaminated commercial long grain rice supplies and been exported around the world. The rice is not approved for human consumption or cultivation anywhere in the world.
Friends of the Earth's Head of Legal, Phil Michaels said:
"The High Court has recognised that this is a serious case which requires a full hearing by the High Court. Three months after the Emergency Decision the Food Standards Agency is still not taking the UK's legal obligations seriously. The FSA's response to the case has been to point the finger at everyone else and to deny that it has any responsibility. Rather than seeking to avoid responsibility the FSA should instead be taking steps to comply with the law and to make sure that proper testing and analysis is carried out throughout the UK so that consumers are not exposed to illegal GM rice."
The Court's decision follows the publication by the FSA last week of its findings that just under 10% of samples collected in UK rice mills were contaminated with the illegal GM rice . Illegal GM material has already been detected in long grain rice from Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Somerfield and the Co-op.
According to the European Commission's amended Emergency Decision any long grain rice imported into the EU from the US must be tested to be demonstrated free of the illegal rice . Furthermore, Member States must take appropriate steps to test rice products already on the market to make sure the illegal variety is not present.
Friends of the Earth claims that the FSA:
has failed to take actions necessary to comply with the requirements of the Emergency Decision to test rice already on the market in the UK;
has failed to ensure that local food authorities investigate or take enforcement action;
has encouraged food businesses to carry on as normal and not to test their rice for contamination or withdraw product.
 Mr Justice Crane
Biotech Rice Saga Yields Bushel of Questions for Feds - USDA Approval Shortcut Emerges As Issue - Rick Weiss - Washington Post,
When the biotech company Bayer CropScience AG requested federal permission in August to market a variety of gene-altered rice, it assured itself a small, unwanted place in history: the first to seek approval for a genetically engineered food that was already - illegally - on the market. Now, as federal regulators consider that belated application, they are finding themselves under scrutiny, too -- from scientists and others who say the 20-year-old system of biotech crop oversight is failing. The Bayer lapse is the latest in a string of problems, critics note, including taco shells and other foods contaminated in 2000 with unapproved StarLink corn, the accidental release in 2002 of crops engineered to make a pig diarrhea vaccine, and the growing prevalence of "superweeds" that have acquired biotech genes that make them impervious to weed killers.
Federal officials are still investigating how the experimental "LLRICE601" escaped from Bayer's test plots after the company dropped the project in 2001. When they announced 10 weeks ago that the unapproved variety had become widespread in the nation's long-grain-rice supply, countries around the world blocked imports from the United States, rice futures plummeted and hundreds of farmers sued Bayer. Bayer's response - a hasty application for government approval, expected to be granted within weeks - has been greeted with concern by many agriculture experts who fear that the action, though likely to ease Bayer's legal woes, will make matters worse for farmers and the environment. "Are we going to do this every time a new transgene that we didn't intend to get out gets out?" asked Norman Ellstrand, who directs the Biotechnology Impacts Center at the University of California at Riverside.
LL601 contains a bacterial gene that protects rice from Bayer's Liberty weed killer, allowing farmers to use the chemical without harming their crop. The prospect of widespread cultivation worries many experts, who say the key gene is sure to move via pollen into red rice, a weedy relative of white rice and the No. 1 plant pest for rice farmers in the South. Thus endowed, red rice would become immune to the herbicide, increasing its economic havoc. Experts point to other troubling elements of the Bayer petition. Nearly 40 percent of its pages, for example, are blacked out as "CBI," or confidential business information, even though the approval process is by federal statute supposed to be public. Also at issue is the regulatory shortcut that Bayer is using, which allows a company to skip many of the usual safety tests by claiming that the new variety is similar to ones already approved - in this case, two approved varieties of biotech rice that Bayer never commercialized because farmers did not want it around their fields.
Bayer, with U.S. headquarters in Research Triangle Park, N.C., is adamant that LL601 poses no risk, and even critics generally agree that it is safe to eat. The bacterial gene that is in LL601 is also in several approved varieties of engineered corn, canola and cotton. "We believe that our herbicide-tolerant rice would contribute significantly to rice productivity," said company spokesman Greg Coffey, adding that Bayer nevertheless has no immediate plans to market the product. In a draft environmental assessment released with extraordinary rapidity last month, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which handles biotech crop approvals for the Agriculture Department, announced a "preliminary decision" to approve - or in agency parlance "deregulate" - LL601. Among those favoring approval is the USA Rice Federation, which represents many rice growers. The group has opposed introducing engineered rice to U.S. fields, but it is now more concerned about the European Union's ongoing refusal to buy American long-grain rice laced with LL601. U.S. approval would not guarantee European acceptance. But it is "the best available response to a major commercial issue," the federation wrote to APHIS.
Many weed experts see the relative risks and benefits differently, however. They agree with APHIS and Bayer that cross-pollination between white rice and red rice is rare, probably occurring less than 1 percent of the time. But multiply that by millions and millions of rice plants, they say - and then start using Liberty, which by killing conventional red rice will allow the resistant weed to dominate - and within a few years, huge expanses of the South could be infested with Liberty-resistant red rice. "Anyone who works with rice and red rice knows it," said Cynthia Sagers, a plant ecologist at the University of Arkansas. "It's going to happen."
The government's environmental assessment contends that farmers can fall back on other herbicides when that occurs, but opponents say that solution is shortsighted. They note that as gene-altered crops have become common - some 70 varieties have been approved in the past 15 years, many of them engineered to be resistant to various weed killers - it has become common to find weeds that are immune to two or even three weed killers. "We have no ability to absolutely contain these things once they're grown outside," said Rene Van Acker, a weed ecologist at the University of Guelph in Canada.
Others are complaining that Bayer's application is effectively a secret document because of the material blacked out as confidential business information. "It makes the public reliant on the interpretation of the data by Bayer, which is not a disinterested or unbiased party," wrote the Washington-based Center for Food Safety in comments to regulators. Rebecca Bech, associate deputy administrator for biotechnology regulatory services at APHIS, defended the application, saying it is "fairly typical to have a lot" of redacted proprietary information in biotech crop applications. But a review of the five most recently released applications submitted by companies, including ones for genetically engineered corn, grass, alfalfa and cotton, shows that four of those five had no such deletions. (The fifth notes that information has been deleted but does not say how many pages.) Still others question the procedure Bayer is using to seek LL601 approval. Instead of going through a full deregulation process, it applied for an extension of approvals it won earlier for two other herbicide-resistant rice varieties developed nearly a decade ago. That shortcut was created in 1997 to streamline approvals. But critics say the record of problems indicates a need for more careful oversight, not quicker approvals.
To allay concerns, Bayer has submitted with its application a "stewardship plan" - voluntary farming practices, including extra dosings of Liberty, aimed at minimizing genetic crossovers to red rice. Critics doubt that farmers will spend the extra time and money if they're not required to. "Farmers are already under huge economic pressure," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "It's just not going to happen." But others, such as Johnny Saichuk, a rice specialist at the Louisiana State University AgCenter, support the approach. "People are becoming better stewards," he said. "The sloppy managers who let it outcross will lose the technology. The good farmers will not have problems."
Even if LL601 is approved, Bayer's problems will not be over. It may be impossible to get every last seed of LL601 out of the U.S. long-grain-rice supply. And negotiations between American and European Union officials broke down last month over how much contaminating LL601 will be considered acceptable in exported rice. The company also faces dozens of lawsuits, which may soon be combined into a large class action. Reassuringly to Bayer, and infuriatingly to others, the trouble appears not to have weakened regulators' trust in the company. Since learning of the contamination this summer, APHIS has received applications from Bayer to start field experiments on nine new kinds of gene-altered crops. To date, eight of those have been given a green light.
Rice farmers biggest losers over altered rice, exec says - BY NANCY COLE - Arkansas Democrat Gazette, November 4 2006
Roughly 40 percent of U.S. rice exports have been negatively affected by what many experts consider to be their industry's worst crisis, a USA Rice Federation official said Friday. Speaking in Little Rock to the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board, federation Vice President Bob Cummings discussed the damage caused to the $1.3 billion U.S. rice export market after the U.S. Department of Agriculture's August revelation that traces of an unapproved, genetically engineered rice had been discovered in U.S. longgrain rice supplies.
Keith Glover, president and chief executive officer of Producers Rice Mill Inc. in Stuttgart, said at the meeting that farmers have been some of the biggest losers in this case. "There's no doubt in my mind you'd be looking at 40 to 50 cents a bushel more for rice today than what it is... and when you look at 210 million bushels in Arkansas, you're talking about an $80 [million ] to $100 million hit," Glover said. Cummings, who oversees international trade policy for the industry group based near Washington, D.C., said the federation is "not opposed to genetic engineering of rice, because it holds some real benefits to growers." "However, you need to be able to sell the product that you grow, and you need to make sure that consumers are ready for it and that the U.S. and foreign countries have granted regulatory approval," he said. Cummings described the federation's draft plan, developed earlier this week in Dallas by a group of 50-60 rice-industry experts, which is intended to "flush genetically engineered rice out of the long-grain system starting with the 2007 crop."
Board members, most of whom are rice farmers, acknowledged the importance of acting swiftly. "We've got to do something or we're going to have a crop that we can't sell," said board member Marvin Hare, who farms rice near Newport. Everyone in the rice industry has been bloodied by the loss in export market share, but none more so than farmers, Glover said. "It's a mess, and the quicker we can clean it up, the faster you guys are going to get the premiums you have developed in the marketplace," he told board members. The problem is of particular concern in Arkansas because the state produces roughly half of all the rice grown in the United States, and about half of all U.S. rice is exported. Rice is Arkansas' single most valuable row crop, worth 810 million in 2005.
Since mid-August, more than 25 federal lawsuits have been filed by farmers seeking damage payments from Bayer Crop-Science, whose experimental LLRICE 601 is at the center of the controversy. Stuttgart-based Riceland Foods Inc. also has been named in two of the lawsuits, which criticize how the cooperative has handled its investigation of the problem since January and allege negligence and fraudulent concealment. The USDA, which announced discovery of the unapproved rice on Aug. 18, and the Food and Drug Administration have said that no health, food safety or environmental concerns are associated with LLRICE 601 and that "the domestic market is steady to date," Cummings said.
But the picture is far more bleak in export markets. Trade with the 25-nation European Union, an $87 million market in 2005, has stopped because of the problem. Other countries have banned U. S. rice imports, and many are requiring testing to prove that U.S. rice shipments are essentially free of material associated with LLRICE 601, Cummings said. "Roughly 41 percent of our total rice exports have been impacted by this event," he said. Although the problem involves only long-grain rice - which is produced primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas - some markets that buy medium- and short-grain rice, produced primarily in California, have been affected by it, he said.
The current problem involves not only LLRICE 601 but also two other so-called Liberty Link rice varieties, LLRICE 62 and LLRICE 06, Cummings said. "Liberty Link 62 has been detected in Europe and there's been some detection in U. S. testing," he said. All three Liberty Link varieties contain genes that make them resistant to the herbicide Liberty, also known as glufosinate. While Bayer never sought USDA approval to commercialize LLRICE 601, the two other Liberty Link varieties were approved for sale - though Bayer has never marketed them. The fact that LLRICE 601 has never been approved for sale in any county is significant, Cummings said. "[The USA Rice Federation is ] supportive of biotechnology for rice, but we're only supportive to the extent that there's regulatory approval here in the United States and in foreign markets, and there's consumer acceptance," he said. That policy is behind the draft plan to rid the U.S. long-grain rice system of the Liberty Link varieties, Cummings said. "We want to provide confidence to customers that their preferences are being met," yet avoid use of the term "GE- or genetically-engineered-free," he said. "If you talk to the folks who are really up to speed on sampling and testing... they'll always say that where we are today we will never get a GE-free statement that's valid," Cummings said. "The traits are in the system, you cannot guarantee statistically that you'll ever get rid of them."
Instead, the plan calls for seed testing at a level of sensitivity that is close to GE-free, he said. In data collected from seven U.S. rice exporters, USA Rice Federation found that 32 percent of nearly 700 long-grain rice samples - collected between August and October and including everything from unmilled rice to parboiled rice - tested positive for Liberty Link traits. Several Rice Research and Promotion Board members noted that the 31 percent rate of positive test results for Arkansas was almost three times the share of Cheniere variety rice that was planted in the state. Cheniere, a rice variety developed by Louisiana State University AgCenter's Rice Research Station near Crowley, La., is the only seed rice that has tested positive for traces of LLRICE 601. Because only 11 percent to 12 percent of all Arkansas rice acres are planted in Cheniere, Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Richard Bell and state Plant Board Director Darryl Little told a legislative committee last month that the scope of the genetic-engineering problem in the state probably was comparable to that 11 percent to 12 percent.
Cummings said the main points of the USA Rice Federation response plan are simple: Only seed that tests negative for Liberty Link traits at an 0. 01 percent sensitivity level will be planted in 2007. No Cheniere variety rice will be planted in 2007. Mills will buy rice in 2007 only from farmers who provide evidence that their seeds tested negative. Rice produced from farmsaved seed in 2007 will be purchased only if it tests negative. Cummings said Chuck Wilson, rice agronomist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, will lead an education campaign that will explain the plan and seek acceptance for it from all interested parties, including farmers, seed dealers, mills, financial institutions and crop insurers. Who will bear the cost of implementing the plan remains unclear, Cummings said. "It will cost money," and most of the plan's architects believe Bayer bears some responsibility, he said.
The genetically engineered problem with rice is reminiscent of the December 2003 discovery of mad-cow disease in a Washington state cow. Both events have thrown export markets into disarray. Although the 2005 U.S. rice export market is only about one-third the size of the 2003 U.S. beef and veal export market, the rice problem is likely to have a much greater impact on Arkansas given the state's dominant position in the market.
USA Rice forms Seed Committee to address GMO trait issue - By Forrest Laws - 2 Nov 2006
The USA Rice Federation has formed a Seed Committee to develop a plan to try to eliminate LibertyLink traits from the commercial rice seed supply beginning with the 2007 crop. Members of the committee are scheduled to meet in Dallas later this week to begin working on the plan. Participants include representatives from USDA, state plant boards, rice research stations, rice seed dealers, rice producers, rice millers and rice merchants. Federation leaders said they were taking the action following the discovery of a trace amount of LibertyLink 601, rice that has been genetically altered to be resistant to glufosinate (LibertyLink) herbicide, on Aug. 18.
Since the finding in August, European Union member countries have closed their markets to U.S. rice and other countries have raised questions about the potential for the presence of the material in shipments of U.S. rice. “A major focus of USA Rice will be leadership of an industry-wide effort to rid the commercial U.S. rice supply of Liberty Link genetically engineered traits (LLRICE06 and LLRICE62 and LLRICE601),” the Federation said. “We are taking this action because of the lack of regulatory approval and consumer acceptance of Liberty Link in overseas markets.” The Federation said the focus on the 2007 crop will bolster ongoing work to keep foreign markets open for U.S. rice or reopening them in the case of the European Union countries.
It also addressed the question of legal action by the Federation in a paper on the organization’s Web site. “Strong legal precedent indicates that USA Rice and its member organizations lack legal ‘standing’ to file a lawsuit to seek damages suffered by members due to the presence of LLRICE601 in the commercial U.S. rice supply,” USA Rice said. “Such lawsuits for damages must be brought in the names of individual USA Rice members or by representation on their behalf in class action lawsuits. “A class representative must have suffered damages like those suffered by the class members. USA Rice has not suffered damages and thus cannot serve as a class representative in a class action lawsuit.”
© 2006 Prism Business Media Inc
Glyphosate-resistant marestail confirmed in Nebraska - by Peter Shinn - Brownfield (Ag News), October 27 2006
The University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL) announced Thursday their weed scientists had confirmed the presence of the first glyphosate-resistant weed in the Good Life State. They said it reinforced the need for farmers to implement integrated weed resistant management (IRWM) strategies. According to a UNL press release, it took a year of testing to determine marestail in Nebraska, also known as horseweed, is resistant to glyphosate. The release said it's the first glyphosate-resistant weed to be confirmed in the state.
Steven Knezevic, integrated weed management specialist at UNL's Haskell Agricultural Laboratory said widespread use of glyphosate herbicide, developed by Monsanto Company under the Roundup Ready brand, has resulted in selection pressure on weed populations since its launch a decade ago. "Prior to the introduction of glyphosate-tolerant crops only a few weed species, ryegrass and goosegrass, had developed resistance worldwide," Knezevic said in the release. "However, the number of glyphosate-resistant weeds tripled in just over eight years of repeated glyphosate use due to the introduction of Roundup Ready crops."
According to the release, other glyphosate-resistant weeds in the U.S. include waterhemp, lambsquarters, giant ragweed, common ragweed and palmer amaranth. And UNL weeds specialist Alex Martin said the discovery of glyphosate-resistant marestail in Nebraska highlights the importance of IRWM practices, especially with when planting Roundup Ready corn after Roundup ready beans, or vice versa. "We believe that glyphosate and herbicide-tolerant crops, including those based on glyphosate herbicide, can remain useful components of crop production systems only with proper management," Martin said in the release. "It is easy to fall into a trap of overusing glyphosate versus combinations of pre-emergence herbicides or tank mix partners when one Roundup Ready crop is grown after another."
Related Links: More on UNL's finding of glyphosate-resistant marestail in Nebraska - http://cropwatch.unl.edu/archives/2006/crop24/resistant_marestail.htm
Why glyphosate resistance is so important - By Ford L. Baldwin - Practical Weed Consultants, LLC - Delta Farm Press, Oct 24 2006 [shortened]
I spend so much time on glyphosate resistance because we have built our entire farming system in cotton, corn and soybeans around this one herbicide. In the past, when resistance to an herbicide developed, we simply switched herbicides and moved on. Quite often, as resistance developed, we had a new herbicide coming that was better than what we had. Because of this, farmers had no reason to take the herbicide resistance issue very seriously.
In my former career as a university specialist, I would commonly hear, "By the time I get resistance on my farm, the companies and university will have a solution, so I'm not going to worry about it." At that time, it was hard to argue with that philosophy. Times have changed. The Roundup Ready technology simply blew existing weed control technology out of the water.
There does not appear to be any novel chemistry being developed. In today's market, because anything developed has to compete with generic glyphosate prices, a newer better herbicide simply is not coming along to solve a major resistance problem. I am rarely asked for advice by younger university weed scientists. However, when I am asked, I advise them to stake their careers on something other than new herbicides coming along. If you are farming for the short haul, it probably does not matter. However, if you are farming for the long haul, glyphosate resistance needs to become a "big deal." Next week I will attempt to let Palmer pigweed explain that better.
EU to test all US rice imports - By AOIFE WHITE - AP Business Writer - The Associated Press/BRUSSELS, Belgium, OCT. 23
European Union nations voted Monday to test all U.S. long-grain rice imports to make sure they don't contain genetically modified varieties that haven't been approved by the EU. All consignments of U.S. long-grain rice will be sampled and tested at EU entry ports before they can be distributed and sold, the European Commission said. The new rules will go into effect within a few days. The EU action stems from fears that a banned genetically modified rice strain named Liberty Link Rice 601, which was accidentally imported from the United States, could have found its way into the food supply. The Commission said it has to start mandatory tests because the EU and the U.S. failed to agree on how to check for genetically modified rice not legally allowed on sale in Europe. Talks broke down after the sides could not find a way of testing the rice to "a high level of consistency and accuracy" within a 15-day negotiation period, it said. The costs of testing will be borne by exporters.
The EU buys about 70 million euros ($90 million) worth of U.S. rice each year. The tests also will check for another unauthorized genetically modified rice, LL Rice 62, recently found in French imports of U.S. rice. Wary of public health and environmental concerns, the EU allows only genetically modified foodstuffs that have been evaluated and authorized to be placed on the EU market. While the EU's executive arm insists on a recall of the illegal imports, it has said the presence of LL 601 poses no immediate health risk to humans or animals based on a review of incomplete data provided by the U.S. government and the maker of the rice variety. Whether the rice is safe to eat or not, it is still cannot be sold in Europe because it has not been evaluated and authorized in line with EU law, the Commission said.
The EU said it was acting in response to finding LL Rice 601 in U.S. shipments four weeks ago. It first stepped up controls on U.S. rice in August after Dutch officials found an unauthorized genetically modified variety in shipments that arrived in the port of Rotterdam in August. Other shipments also were found in the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy. The LL 601 strain was developed by Aventis CropScience, which was taken over by Germany's Bayer AG in 2002 and renamed Bayer Crop Science. Bayer announced in July it had found the 601 strain in storage units in Arkansas and Missouri.
EU Tests May Stifle U.S. Rice Imports - Farm Futures staff - Farm Futures, 10/23/2006
If the EU decides to go ahead with mandatory rice testing, U.S. rice exports to Europe may fizzle. As the European Commission asks the EU nations to approve its proposal of mandatory testing of all U.S. rice imports, the U.S. says the burden may be too much for rice trade to continue between the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. has "consulted with the industry and reviewed it internally and came to the conclusion it would just have the effect of not allowing trade to resume," says Floyd Gaibler, U.S. deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services. The proposed testing program would be aimed at making sure rice sent to the EU contains no unauthorized genetically modified varieties. The push for mandatory testing comes in response to the EU discovery of Liberty Link Rice 601, a genetically modified strain of long-grain rice banned in the EU, in a shipment of rice supposed to be free of biotech products.
Since the EU increased monitoring for genetically modified strains, U.S. rice shipments to Europe have halted. Gaibler says the European testing program would be "simply too onerous for us to accept," but Philip Tod, spokesman for the EU, says the group has "no other option" from mandatory tests after the U.S. and EU failed to agree on a common testing protocol.
OPPOSITION TO GE CROPS - Thais reap windfall - Kamol Sukin - The Nation, October 22 2006
Kingdom lands more export orders as EU and some Asian countries ban GE rice from US.
The global rice trade was stunned last July when US shipments bound for the European Union were found to contain genetically engineered rice. Thailand, as the world's leading rice-exporter, has reaped a windfall as orders for non-GE rice have kept rising in past months. Sixteen European countries and Japan have effectively banned all imports of GE rice. The Thai government has adhered to its non-GE rice policy.
Morrakot Tanticharoen, director of the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Biotec), told The Nation recently that GE rice was not an option today, though it might be in the distant future. Science and Technology Minister Yongyuth Yuthavong said rice was a very big and sensitive issue. "Policywise we ought to move very carefully. Yet, we shouldn't close all doors to scientific development," he said. According to environmental group Greenpeace, Ebro Puleva, Europe's largest food-processing company, has suspended rice imports from the US following the July GE rice scandal.
The US Agriculture Department has announced that rice shipments of one exporting company, Riceland Food Inc, were found to have carried a GE rice strain called Liberty Link (LL) 601. The strain should have been restricted to laboratories and trial fields, according to the department. LL 601 is said to have been developed by Bayer Crop Science, a unit of German chemical giant Bayer. It is designed to resist some agricultural chemicals but has not yet been approved for commercial planting or consumption. According to Greenpeace International, GE rice traces were originally discovered last January involving several of Riceland's suppliers. Afterwards, Riceland traced back the sources of the rice to four US states, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Texas.
At least four US farmers have sued Bayer for the infiltration of GE rice, demanding billions of dollars in damages. The case is pending in court. Besides Europe and Japan, other US rice markets such as the Philippines have imposed a ban on GE rice. Korea has also tightened its import rules by requiring a non-GE certificate, especially for rice from the US. The moves overseas against GE rice have proved a boon for Thai exporters - at least for now. "We've got more orders from Europe to replace those which would otherwise have gone to the US," said Wanlop Pitchyapongsa of Capital Rice, a major exporter. "Replacement is obvious, especially for long-grain rice, which is normally supplied by the US. Usually we export only premium jasmine rice to the EU," he said. The scandal shows that Thailand's strength lies in non-GE rice, which should be maintained as the chief selling point, he said. Thanakorn Jitratangbunya of Chia Meng Group, another big player, said the risk of experimenting with GE rice was high and it should not be allowed here. Even though the US regulations are very strict, there was still a leak and contamination from the lab to the farm, he said.
Wanlop said the damage from GE crops was irreversible and it was difficult to clean up if there was GE contamination. Capital Rice exports around one million tonnes of non-GE rice worth Bt12 billion annually while Chia Meng, the country's biggest fragrant-rice exporter, ships out 400,000 tonnes per year worth Bt7 billion. The country ships a total 7.5 million tonnes worth around Bt80 billion a year. Both Wanlop and Thanakorn said the government should promote Thailand as a 100-per-cent non-GE rice-exporter. Yongyuth said the country had no GE-rice research and development facilities.
Biotec director Morrakot said the only biotechnological research on rice going on here was related to the development of DNA markers, which are part of the rice genome research series, aimed at developing better rice strains through genetic improvement, not by inserting non-rice genes. The work has yielded the high-iron nutrient khao hom nil strain and also flood-resistant strains in laboratory and field trials. These strains will be offered to farmers soon, he said. "Although we've closed the door to GE rice development, we should still keep a window open in the laboratory so that we don't miss the next biotechnology train. Field trials should be allowed case by case, particularly for papaya and tomato research," he said.
Sairung Thongplon of the Confederation of Consumer Organisations of Thailand said the government should review biosafety legislation being drafted by the Agriculture Ministry because it would promote the biotech business rather than protect the country's rich biological diversity. "This bill is a legacy of the past government," she said, adding that citizens'-rights advocates and other non-governmental groups were preparing a parallel bill focusing on biodiversity to replace the biosafety bill. Anti-GE campaigner Patwajee Srisuwan of Greenpeace Southeast Asia said GE rice had also been detected in food products sold in the UK, France and Germany, as these items contained ingredients made from GE rice exported by China. These products were removed from the shelves early this year. "GE rice has become a major issue as consumers worldwide have sent a strong 'No' message," she said.
According to Greenpeace, GE rice is understood to be supported by the US, China and Iran, but it remains illegal for consumption and commercial plantation due to the safety issue. In China, GE rice strains developed by Huazhong University were found to have reached farmers, with the rice identified in a vast area of Hubei province and some southern cities. The GE rice was found contaminating Heinz baby cereal food in March. According to a Greenpeace survey conducted this year, 57 per cent of Chinese respondents said they would avoid eating GE rice, up from last year's figure of only 40 per cent.
Iran, the world's largest rice market, is experimenting with GE rice containing antibiotic-resistant genes in the field with plans to distribute seeds to farmers soon, amid opposition from an international anti-GE alliance.
Pigweed not only threat to glyphosate resistance - By Roy Roberson - Farm Press Editorial Staff - Southeast Farm Press, October 19 2006
Though Palmer amaranth, commonly called Palmer pigweed, is the most pressing weed resistance problem for farmers from the Midwest to the Southeast, it is not the only weed showing resistance to glyphosate. The first glyphosate resistant weed to create problems was horseweed, sometimes called marestail. Horseweed resistance was first found in the Carolinas in 2003, and it continues to be a problem. "Each year we find a little bit more - it is wide-spread all up and down the Coastal Plain of North Carolina," says Alan York, long-time North Carolina State University weed specialist.
In 2006, glyphosate resistant common ragweed was reported in a handful of counties in North Carolina. "High rates of Weathermax uglied-up the terminal, but the ragweed didn't die," York says. He explains that to document resistance, there has to be proof that the resistant trait is heritable. Giant ragweed is being investigated in Indiana, with distinct signs that it has developed resistance to glyphosate. Resistant giant ragweed would be a problem comparable to Palmer amaranth in some parts of the country.
Common ragweed is not likely to be a big problem for growers in the Carolinas and Virginia, according to York. The biggest problem may be in no-till or reduced-till systems which require a clean field to plant cotton. In these systems the problem is what to use for burn-down. If ragweed is resistant to glyphosate, the options are limited to dicamba, paraquat and 2,4-D.
Researchers in South Carolina have found glyphosate resistant cocklebur, and are in the process of documenting for certain that it is resistant. Clemson researchers are still conducting greenhouse tests, but the evidence is strong that at least one cotton field in South Carolina has glyphosate resistant cocklebur. Virginia Tech researchers are at a similar place in time in documenting glyphosate resistant lambsquarters. More of a problem in the upper end of the Southeast, lambsquarters, prior to the introduction of Roundup Ready technology, was a constant problem in a number of row crops.
Second Kind Of Bayer GM Rice Detected In EU - Dow Jones, October 20, 2006 - http://www.cbgnetwork.org/1658.html
FRANKFURT -- A second kind of genetically modified rice developed by German chemicals and pharmaceutical company Bayer AG (BAY) has been detected in the European Union, a E.U. spokesman confirmed to Dow Jones Newswires Friday. French authorities' recently found unauthorized rice LL62 in France imported from the U.S. and notified the European rapid alert system, spokesman Philip Tod told Dow Jones Newswires. The E.U. spokesman said the LL62 rice is still unauthorized in the E.U., but is in the approval process. The application to import the rice into the E.U. was made three years ago, Philipp Mimkes of Coordination gegen Bayer Gefahren, or CBG, an anti-Bayer campaign group, told Dow Jones Newswires.
Although the rice is authorized for marketing in the U.S., it has not been commercialized there, Tod added. Bayer spokeswoman Anette Josten said "we are taking note of this report about an alleged positive detection made by the French authorities and continue to work closely with the governments and others in the rice industry as more information becomes available." She also confirmed the rice hasn't been commercialized in the U.S.
In September of this year, traces of Bayer's LL601 rice were found which were not authorized in the U.S. Later the LL601 rice was also found in Europe for example in Germany in rice sold in discount supermarkets.
US rice exporters face new costs - By Andrew Bounds in Brussels - Financial Times, October 19 2006
Exporters of US rice are to be hit by new charges as the European Union widens its clampdown on genetically modified food. The European Commission said on Thursday that on Monday it would ask national food safety experts to require mandatory testing of all imports of US long-grain rice at EU ports after talks on an agreed testing regime broke down. The decision follows the detection of a herbicide-resistant strain - which is illegal in the EU - in rice certified GM-free by the US, and indicates that Brussels has lost confidence in Washington's testing methods.
In August, the Commission tightened rules governing imports of US long-grain rice after finding the LL Rice 601 strain in a batch already checked by US authorities. It has since been found in nine of the EU 25 countries. "If a consignment is certified as free of LL Rice 601, [then] before it can be released, it will be counter-tested by the authorities," a Commission spokesman said. "Only if the counter-test confirms the absence of LL Rice 601 or any other unauthorised GMO, would it be released." The tests, costing exporters several hundred euros at least, would also look for a strain known as LL Rice 62, detected recently in France.
A fortnight ago the EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou began negotiating a common sampling protocol with Washington, but talks ended on Thursday without agreement. "Despite extensive discussions between both sides, the Commission and the United States were unable to agree on such a protocol," his spokesman said. It is understood that the US wanted higher acceptable levels of GM strains than Brussels.
While the Commission said LL Rice 601 was produced by Bayer, the German chemical company told Reuters news agency it was not. The strain was developed by Aventis CropScience, a company it acquired in 2002. Development ended the year before, the company said.
Europe's Food Safety Authority has initially ruled there is no threat to human health from the GM rice. However, all biotech rice remains illegal in the EU. Only a few strains of GM crops have been approved for cultivation or consumption in the EU because some countries, such as Austria, and many consumers are opposed to them.
Katharine Mill, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, the environmental pressure group, welcomed the move. "We congratulate the EU for not agreeing to weaker US testing measures," she said. However, she pointed out that Brussels has not taken any action against Chinese imports. Greenpeace found the BT63 strain of rice, which has not been approved for commercial use anywhere, in Chinese products on supermarket shelves in Germany in August. "European rice growers are worried about the seeds getting out and contaminating their crops," she said.
Another GE rice from Bayer contaminates EU food supplies - Greenpeace calls for EU strategy to prevent food and feed contamination with GMOs
19 OCTOBER 2006
BRUSSELS News that French authorities have detected another variety of illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice contained in US imports to the EU - the third illegal GE rice scandal in Europe in two months - should prompt urgent action on behalf of regulatory authorities, Greenpeace said today.
Tests in France found US rice containing a GMO called Liberty Link 62 (LL62), which is not approved in Europe (1). This comes on top of test results from several EU countries since August showing that US rice on sale in Europe is contaminated with another unauthorised GE rice variety, LL601. For the second time, the source of the contamination is Bayer Cropscience. Greenpeace believes that Bayer should be held accountable for its negligence, as it is clearly incapable of controlling contamination of rice with its genetically engineered varieties. In the interests of the global rice supply, Bayer should withdraw from all research, field trials and applications for GE rice globally.
The European Commission on Thursday announced that it would seek member state approval for compulsory tests on all US long-grain rice imports, to prove the absence of LL rice varieties. The Commission should be congratulated for not giving in to US demands to weaken import testing standards.
The Commission's proposal will be examined on Monday by a committee of EU food safety experts. On the same day, EU environment ministers may address the question of how to avoid contamination of the food chain with illegal GMOs.
Greenpeace is urging ministers to develop a strategy to prevent further contamination by GE products: any country which grows GMOs for commercial or experimental use should provide the EU and member states with a full list of these crops, and reliable testing methods for each of them. GE crop-growing countries should have to provide a certificate to accompany imports to the EU proving that they are not contaminated with crops that have not been approved in Europe. In the absence of reliable certification and testing systems, the EU should prohibit imports of products which may have been contaminated.
Greenpeace also expressed concern that the EU has still not agreed on emergency measures regarding the import of illegal Bt63 rice from China, identified by testing on behalf of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth six weeks ago, and confirmed by official tests in Germany, France and Austria. While the EU imposed emergency measures in response to news of the US rice contamination within five days of the notification, no such steps have been taken on Bt63, despite its potential health risks (2).
(1) LL62 rice is legal in the United States (since 2000) and Canada, but is not authorised anywhere else in the world. LL601 is not legal anywhere. Neither is Bt63, detected in Chinese rice products on sale in Europe.
(2) For further information on the Chinese GE rice contamination, see http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/IllegalChinaGErice
CONTACT: Martina Holbach, Greenpeace GMO campaigner, +32 (0)2 274 1906 Katharine Mill, Greenpeace European Unit media officer, +32 (0)2 274 1903
Farmers' group wants rice import banned - The SunStar - Victor L. Camion - October 12 2006
A FARMERS' group in Negros Oriental urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to ban rice imports from the US to protect the local rice farmers and safeguard Filipino consumers from the alleged contaminated and genetically engineered rice variety. The variety of the imported rice is called LibertyLinkRice601 (LLRice601), said Eugene Quirante, regional liaison officer of Centro Saka Inc. Centro Saka Inc. is a research and policy advocacy and a non-government organization accredited by the National Research Institute of the Department of Agriculture.
Quirante said farmers want the ban imposed after the United States Department of Agriculture found that commercial long grain rice in the US has been contaminated by the unapproved genetically engineered (GE) LLRice601 rice variety. He said traces of the illegal genetically modified rice have been found in supermarkets in European countries and the United Kingdom. "As a result, Japan banned all long-grain rice from the US, while the European Union now tests US rice shipments and rejects any rice imports contaminated with LLRice601," said Quirante. LLRice 601, he said, is a long grain of rice that containing the protein Liberty Link that allows the crop to withstand herbicide applications.
"Imported rice, especially genetically modified (GM) rice from the United States, should be banned from entering our country to prevent contamination of our crops," warned Quirante adding, "If the European countries and the United Kingdom were not spared from the contamination, then we are also at risk from possible contamination since the United States has been dumping their rice into our country through the PL 480 grant!" He said Centro Saka demands that government impose stricter measures in testing and monitoring shipments of all imported rice from the US and other countries to ensure that local rice varieties and species would be spared from possible contamination. "The Department of Agriculture should protect our local rice farmers from the risks of GE rice," he said adding, "We should not allow this to happen to our already beleaguered local rice industry." Quirante stressed that the contamination of GE rice has been causing massive problems for the US rice industry.
Biotech instills fear and loathing in California rice belt - Associated Press, October 11 2006
PRINCETON - Fourth-generation farmer Greg Massa was in the middle of the rice harvest and he was dirty, angry and depressed. The price of the gasoline that powers his water pumps and rice harvester has never been more expensive. A late planting season, hot summer and rising expenses had ensured a less-than-stellar harvest, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasting a 13 percent drop compared to last year. So the last thing Massa needed was a biotechnology blunder so disastrous that it prompted the rice industry's biggest export customer - Japan - to prohibit some varieties and threaten to ban all U.S. imports. The European Union is making similar threats because genetically engineered rice continues to turn up on grocery shelves in Europe. "If that happens, the California industry will evaporate," said Massa as he drove the harvester around his farm about 80 miles north of Sacramento. He has spent the past three years publicly protesting the growth of genetically engineered rice anywhere and in any quantity. Biotech-averse overseas consumers in Japan, Europe and elsewhere simply won't buy it, he says, even if the crops are approved for U.S. consumption.
The U.S. rice harvest is imperiled by the discovery of small amounts of experimental strains of genetically engineered rice in storage facilities holding crops destined for the food supply. Bayer CropScience AG, the German company responsible for the mistake, is still investigating how the experimental rice got into the food supply. Federal officials say the company's signature genetically engineered rice came from storage bins in Arkansas and Missouri, but they don't know where it was grown. The rice was genetically engineered by Bayer to be resistant to a weed killer and had never been approved for human consumption. Federal officials and company executives say the strain posed no health threat and was similar to biotech rice that had been approved. Still, Bayer's blunder has been costly.
Rice futures plummeted by $150 million immediately after the contamination announcement and biotech-hating European retailers pulled U.S. rice from their shelves. Growers in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas filed lawsuits against Bayer for hurting their sales. Rice exports are worth $200 million annually to California, which is second only to Arkansas in rice production. Nearly all Japanese imports come from California, which grows mostly short and medium rice grains. Longer-grain rice is grown in the South. In all, the U.S. rice harvest fetches about $1.8 billion annually. "It has caused problems in the market," said Grant Lundberg, chief executive of Richvale-based Lundberg Family Farms, one of the state's biggest rice growers. "It has given everybody a new perspective on this technology and it's not positive." A Bayer spokesman declined to comment, other than to say that the company has no plans to commercialize any of its genetically engineered rice because few farmers are interested in growing it.
Rice farmers throughout Northern California are perplexed that companies and scientists are continuing to experiment with a technology so thoroughly rejected by the market. Japanese and European consumers have a long-standing aversion to biotechnology products, and any changes to their food supply, a fear that harkens back to government mishandling of mad cow disease. Those consumers fear that not enough is known about genetic engineering to guarantee that food is safe. U.S. trade officials convinced Japan to lift a ban on imported rice in 1995, but the relationship between domestic farmers and their best customer remains precarious. Last month, Japan announced it would genetically test every rice shipment entering the country and shut down all U.S. imports if it found any more biotechnology crops. None of the genetically engineered rice at issue has been found in California. Many rice farmers see it as the last step before the country closes its borders to all U.S. rice. "There are political forces in Japan that would very much like to see California rice no longer shipped there," said John Hasbrook of SunWest Foods Inc., California's largest rice miller. "It's pretty much economic suicide to let genetic engineered rice creep into California and pose a contamination threat." SunWest has called for legislation banning genetically engineered rice in California.
So-called "golden rice" was one of the first genetically engineered crops developed and it was aimed at alleviating malnutrition because of its ability to produce Vitamin A. Golden rice contains a gene from the daffodil plant and is unrelated to Bayer's rice, which is engineered with bacteria genes. Two rice strains that were genetically engineered with bacteria genes to resist weed killer were approved for the U.S. market 14 years ago but never sold because consumers around the world rejected the use of biotechnology on such a food staple. Still, a few companies continue to tinker with rice genes, arguing that biotechnology can be beneficial to farmers, consumers and the environment. Researchers continue to genetically engineer rice that can tolerate drought, floods and disease. Proponents hope that consumer attitudes will change over the next few years.
In Davis, near Sacramento, Arcadia Biosciences has planted two experimental plots of genetically engineered rice. One variety is genetically engineered with a barley gene designed to help rice better consume nitrogen-laced fertilizer, which would cut down on the amount that ends up in ground water. The other variety makes it easier for rice to grow in salty conditions. Arcadia received two of the nine USDA permits issued this year to grow small plots of experimental biotechnology rice in California. Bayer received four USDA permits, including an approval on Sept. 7, two weeks after it divulged its mistake. Another company permit is still pending. The USDA doesn't release locations of such test plots and doesn't comment on biotech permits. "The farmers will make more money and at the same time it's going to help the environment," said Arcadia Chief Executive Eric Rey.
At the Richvale Cafe, unofficial headquarters of the California rice belt and where growers gather daily for lunch, the biotechnology crisis has opened a schism among the usually tight-knit community. Despite the recent setbacks, some see the benefits of biotechnology. "I am not against research with genetically modified materials," said Frank Rehermann, a farmer and chairman of the California Rice Commission. "There will come a day when people will be less apprehensive. But we do have to grow what the market wants and Japan is really particular about this issue."
The Center for Food Safety - Comments to USDA/APHIS on a Petition to Deregulate Bayer Rice LL601 - Docket No. APHIS-2006-0140
....The Center for Food Safety objects to USDA's consideration of a petition to deregulate a crop that is not intended for commercialization. Bayer stopped development of LL601 in 2001 for unknown reasons, and has said that it has no plans to market the rice. Deregulation (or determination of non-regulated status) is a process intended specifically to clear a crop for unregulated commercial cultivation and sale.
"After several years of field testing and data collection, a company or researcher may choose to begin preparing for commercialization. At this point, an applicant typically files a petition for the determination of nonregulated status with USDA..."
Absent plans to commercialize LL601, Bayer's intent with this deregulation can be seen only as an attempt to relieve itself of liability for the adverse financial consequences of allowing the illegal entry of a regulated article (LL601 rice) into the environment and food supply. This is an improper use of the deregulation process for which we find no sanction or precedent. It is also a waste and misuse of staff resources, tantamount to aiding and abetting Bayer CropScience in its efforts to evade liability for illegal activity. Center for Food Safety believes such staff resources would be better spent on elucidating how the contamination episode occurred, and preventing the future occurrence of similar episodes. It should be noted that USDA has yet to produce any explanation of the LL601 contamination episode, and apparently will not do so for at least two months.
While the most proper course would be for USDA to reject this petition, we recognize that this is unlikely. If the petition is not rejected outright, however, it must be subjected to a thorough and stringent review process. USDA must not cut corners based on representations by Bayer officials that the company does not intend to market LL601, for two reasons:
1) The petition itself contains no statement that Bayer will not market LL601; and
2) Deregulation is absolute, permanently removing a regulated crop variety and its progeny from USDA oversight. Therefore, if USDA were to deregulate LL601, there would be nothing to stop Bayer from changing its plans and intentionally introducing LL601 to the market in the future.
Unfortunately, there is abundant evidence that USDA has cut corners in this deregulation process. The deficiencies in USDA's review process are of three sorts:
1) Errors in its preliminary environmental assessment (EA);
2) Inadequacy of the data upon which the USDA's EA is based; and
3) USDA's failure to publicly release data that are essential for meaningful public review of Bayer's petition, but have been illegitimately claimed as "confidential business information" by Bayer. We will address the latter problem first.
Information Illegitimately Claimed as "Confidential Business Information" (CBI)
Nearly 40% of the petition consists of full pages denoted "CBI deleted page" (see Table 1). As discussed further below, the deleted material includes crucial information required for a critical evaluation of Bayer's claims and USDA's environmental assessment.
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), of which Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) is a part, has developed clear guidelines regarding what constitutes legitimate versus illegitimate claims to protect information as confidential. In order to be deemed confidential business information (CBI), material must be "commercially valuable." Persons desiring CBI protection "must submit a detailed statement containing facts" to support their CBI claims. Finally, the policy requires APHIS to assess the merit of a claim to confidentiality and grant it only "if review establishes that substantial competitive harm would result from disclosure" (emphasis added). We find no evidence in APHIS's environmental assessment or elsewhere that it has reviewed Bayer's CBI claims, much less established that substantial competitive harm would result from the disclosure of this information.
The petition has 83 numbered pages, though 7 pages are empty except for the title of the appendix which follows. Of the 76 remaining pages that contain information, 28 are completely deleted, while two diagrams containing crucial molecular information have been deleted on two additional pages. The huge amount of information deleted as CBI in Bayer's petition is primarily molecular in nature, and does not merit protection as confidential for several reasons:
1) Since Bayer officials have stated that the company dropped plans to commercialize LL601 in 2001, it is difficult to understand how molecular information relating to it can be considered commercially valuable, much less how public disclosure of such information could cause "substantial competitive harm" to Bayer. LL601 can have no commercial value if it is not marketed.
2) Much of the molecular information deleted as CBI relates to random events of the genetic engineering process over which Bayer had no control. Because such random events are not subject to control, and are therefore not reproducible, the molecular data that document such events would not give an advantage to any competitor of Bayer, because a competitor could not use such data to replicate the genetic engineering process that resulted in LL601 (assuming, for the sake of argument, that a competitor would want to do this, which seems unlikely).
3) Finally, Bayer itself has stated that the random molecular events documented in the CBI-deleted material have no bearing on the properties of LL601 (an interpretation that we dispute)....
APHIS has prepared and EA evaluating an extension petition evaluation of LL601 for deregulation. Bayer's petition contains substantially less data than other petitions for deregulation. In particular, in comparison to previously deregulated LL06 and LL062 there are a number of deficiencies, especially regarding possible unintended effects. APHIS has ignored or dismissed these deficiencies.
The justification of an extension petition rests on the applicability of data from similar previous deregulation petitions. However, the petition for LL601 falls short of this standard for several reasons discussed above. In particular, unintended effects may differ between each transformation event, and therefore, unintended effects should be as thoroughly examined in an extension petition as in a typical non-extension petition. This was not done for LL601.
Furthermore, deficiencies in the characterization of the LL601 bar transgene and transgenic protein mean that the identity of the Bar protein and gene in LL601 has not been shown to be the same as the bar gene and protein from previous glufosinate-resistant crops. Therefore, the use of an extension petition is not justified.
Overall, a number of parameters that should have been examined, or more closely examined, were glossed over in this petition and the EA, or the methodology was improper. These included, but are not limited to: lack compositional comparisons, especially of anti-nutrients; inappropriate comparators in yield trials, lack of adequate glycosylation analysis of the Bar protein from LL601; lack any consideration of gene flow to red rice and lack of a resistance management plan. Furthermore, the excessive and unjustified use of CBI by Bayer prevents adequate public review and comment, and thereby subverts the public review process.
APHIS must not cut corners in its safety assessment of LL601 to accommodate the wishes of Bayer to avoid the consequences of actions that allowed the contamination of US rice. This contamination has already harmed rice farmers through reduced rice exports and falling prices. Letting Bayer off the hook through this hurried risk assessment will allow rice to remain contaminated with LL601, and cause continuing harm to US rice farmers and the environment.
The Centre For Food Safety - http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org
Monsanto posts bigger loss for 4th quarter - By Carey Gillam - Reuters, October 11 2006
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Monsanto Co. said on Wednesday it posted a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss due to lower revenues from its biotech seed technology, sending shares down 7 percent in early trading. The St. Louis-based agricultural products company, an industry leader in genetically altering crops to resist pests and tolerate weed-killing treatments, saw a drop of 56 percent in net sales of its soybean seeds and biotechnology traits and a 10 percent decline in other crop seeds and traits in its fourth quarter. Soy and other crop seed sales were up for the year, however, with some sales typically seen in the fourth quarter captured in prior quarters, according to Monsanto officials. The company posted a loss of 27 cents a share on an as-reported basis in the fourth quarter that ended August 31, compared with a loss of 23 cents a share a year earlier. On an ongoing basis, the loss was 21 cents a share, compared with a loss of 25 cents a share in the fourth quarter of 2005. Analysts, on average, were looking for a 24-cent net loss per share or 21 cents a share on an ongoing basis, according to Reuters Research.
The lower quarterly U.S. biotech soybean and other crop revenues were partially offset by higher U.S. sales of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides as well as higher sales of corn products, Monsanto officials said. Corn seed and trait sales totaled $212 million in the quarter, up more than 11 percent. And total quarterly sales were $1.4 billion, 9 percent higher than sales in the same period in 2005. In all, it amounted to a net loss of $144 million in the fourth quarter, compared to a loss of $125 million in the same period in 2005. Investors showed their disappointment, sending Monsanto shares down more than 7 percent before they recovered. Still, Argent Capital Management portfolio manager Tom Leritz characterized the quarterly results as a temporary "hiccup." "If you're priced for perfection, any little hiccup will cause concerns and cause people to sell the stock. But I think it is a near-term issue," Leritz said. "I think long term the company has a very good product, they are way ahead of the competition and they have a large total available market."
Monsanto also announced Wednesday that its full-year 2007 EPS guidance, both on a reported and ongoing basis, is expected to be $1.50 to $1.57, reflecting a projected growth rate of up to 15 percent to 20 percent from the fiscal year 2006 EPS ongoing base of $1.31 per share. Monsanto said it was facing pricing challenges in two large growth markets - Brazil and India - but was making changes that should provide for further market penetration, particularly in Brazilian soybean acreage. The company said gains in the U.S. corn market, its pending acquisition of Delta and Pine Land Co., the top U.S. seller of cotton seeds, and a restructuring of its Seminis vegetable seed product offerings and pricing were among the factors seen driving future growth. Shares of Monsanto were down 4.4 percent, or $2.06, at $44.36 on the New York Stock Exchange.
UH cuts off funding after failing to silence agriculture professor - By HECTOR VALENZUELA and LORRIN PANG - The Maui News, 26 September 2006
For the past few years we have been speaking out for stricter regulation of genetically engineered crops. Our agency heads told us to do this on our own time and expense since our views were not the "official position." Some have asked that we not be allowed to voice private views since the public might think we speak officially. However, it is imperative that government employees be permitted to state their expert opinions, even privately, to ensure that decision makers and the public make judgments based on the whole story, rather than only on officially sanctioned views. For example, a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture internal audit report showed serious gaps in the oversight of GE crops, which could result in the unintended "escape" of unapproved organisms into the environment. Also, a federal judge ruled recently that the Hawaii Department of Agriculture failed to require environmental impact studies prior to the planting of GE biopharmaceutical crops in clear violation of federal laws. In hindsight there were probably people within these agencies who saw these regulatory system failures, but were hesitant to speak out or were even silenced. We, too, are insiders simply trying to get our agencies to uphold federal laws designed to protect us all. One would hope that we might now be encouraged to speak up. Sadly this is not the case.
At the time of the judges ruling, a Maui-based UH administrator circulated a memo to UH staff threatening to cut off support for my (Valenzuela's) organic workshops and educational activities in Maui County because I was planning to talk on crop biotechnology at a Maui event. According to this derogatory memo:
"If Hector shows up here Tuesday (as advertised) for GMO-free Maui's presentation of the "Pandora's Box" movie to lead the Q & A session with Lorrin Pang, then there will be no support of any kind out of this office to assist any workshop, activity or any other endeavor with which he is affiliated . . . It would be insane for me to assist him in Maui County - hiding behind a guise of free-speech on personal time . . . if he shows up to spew his intellectual vitriol on Tuesday (or any other time if it is for the same purpose), no assistance in any form will be provided from here on activities to which he is related. . . . It is insulting to our organization and to several of our clients. . . . There are enough nut jobs here without helping a CTAHR-grown one." CTAHR is the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at Manoa.
I did speak on Maui and support has been suspended. Ironically this questionable retaliatory move was done on taxpayer time and money. It is hoped that the memo's author will have the integrity to come forward and state his case regarding the use of retaliation and limits on First Amendment rights. Whistle-blower laws protect insiders expressing views and taking actions that uphold federal laws, but how many government employees fear repercussions and hold their tongues or even speak contrary to what they think is true? Even we sometimes tone down our opinions out of fear for our jobs. Decision-makers (legislators and judges) might be getting very distorted views of the real risks of GE crops. If government employees were encouraged rather than discouraged to speak out, what picture would decision makers get? Or if we too could speak on government time and travel expense, what then would the rulings be?
It is assumed that industry spokespersons distort the truth for financial reasons, or worse, that those in government with industry ties may be blind to the truth, which was shown to be true at the FDA. We all know about this type of conflict of interest. But how many citizens consider that the picture they are given about GMOs is distorted because insiders are silenced out of "conflict of fear?" When there are threats within regulating/scientific agencies against insiders trying to uphold federal rules, we must appeal to the courts and the public as our last resort. The public should be made aware that this is how tax dollars are spent behind the scenes in spite of the appearance of "fair play" and "openness." Henceforth we expect to be protected by whistle-blower rules. Threats of retaliation must no longer be tolerated. As David Stockman was quoted in US News magazine, it is necessary to change a system where "in policymaking, powerful interests tend to trump powerful arguments." Until this "process" is fixed we now realize that there is no sense in even arguing the science. And so, these are indeed sad days for Hawaii and America.
We are writing as private citizens.
Hector Valenzuela is a specialist in the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at Manoa.
Dr. Lorrin Pang is the state Department of Health, Maui District health officer.
Stores told to remove GM rice from shelves - Press Association - The Guardian, October 6, 2006
The government's food watchdog has changed its advice to retailers about genetically modified rice. Stores must remove any rice known to contain GM strains from their shelves, the Food Standards Agency said. The move follows ongoing concerns over the presence of GM strains in batches of long-grain rice from the US. Selling products known to be contaminated with GM material is illegal in the UK, but the FSA previously told businesses that actively tracking down and removing contaminated rice products was unnecessary because they didn't pose an "imminent" health risk. The watchdog's updated advice follows the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) assessment of safety implications of GM material in rice.
EFSA experts said rice containing traces of GM material was "not likely" to pose an imminent safety concern, but they found insufficient information to complete a full risk assessment of the issue. The FSA's advice to consumers is unchanged. Anyone who has US long-grain rice at home can continue to eat it. An FSA spokesman said today: "We are doing this because there is new information."
The environmental group Friends of the Earth complained that the stepped-up advice had come too late. The group's GM campaigner, Clare Oxborrow, said: "The FSA should have issued this advice right from the start, instead of playing down the seriousness of the issue. "The agency is still refusing to carry out any testing of rice on shelves and still failing to require retailers to carry out such testing themselves."
The US government confirmed in August that a genetically modified strain of long-grain rice was found in samples. In response, the EU introduced emergency measures to stop contaminated rice entering the food chain. Friends of the Earth researchers claim they have found GM strains in packets of rice and noodles on sale in a number of UK stores.
RUSSIA: US rice imports suspended over GMOs - http://www.just-food.com/article.aspx?id=96181 - 2 October 2006| Source: just-food.com
The Rosselkhoznadzor, the Russian agricultural inspection agency, announced on Friday (29 September) that it has stopped issuing quarantine permits for US rice because genetically modified rice, which had not yet passed safety tests, had been on sale in the US.
The complete article is available to full members only
GM Campaigner, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), 26-28 Underwood Street, London, N1 7JQ, United Kingdom
Direct line: +44 (0)20 7566 1716 Switchboard: +44 (0)20 7490 1555 Fax: +44 (0)20 7490 0881 Email: email@example.com
World's largest rice company halts all US rice imports because of GM contamination threat:
Bayer's illegal GM rice continues to inflict damage on US rice industry - 29th September 2006:
In yet another blow to the US rice industry, the world's largest rice processing company, Ebro Puleva,(1) which controls 30% of the EU rice market, has confirmed to Greenpeace that it has stopped all imports of rice from the USA to the EU due to the threat of contamination by genetically modified (GM) rice. The move follows a string of scandals, with illegal GM contamination found in rice products all over Europe. In January of 2006 a strain of Bayer's GM rice, which was not approved for human consumption was found in US rice intended for export. As a result of Bayer's recklessness, the global food industry is facing massive costs associated with this contamination, including testing costs, product recalls, brand damage, import bans and cancelled imports and contracts.
In a letter to Greenpeace(2), the Chairman of Ebro Puleva states: "We regret that US rice is facing a problem with GM rice and decided to stop any imports of US rice since August 2006." Ebro Puleva has also indicated that it will not consider purchasing from the US until the situation is under control. Instead, the company will purchase rice from other countries, with the exception of China, which continues to have problems with GM contamination of its rice. "By imposing a blanket ban on rice imports from the US, Ebro Puleva has acknowledged how real and costly the risk of GM contamination is," pointed out Jeremy Tager, GM campaigner, Greenpeace International. "With GM now as uneconomic as it is unacceptable, governments in countries that grow or import GM must stop placing farmers, consumers, the environment and industry at such high risk." At least three multi-million dollar class action lawsuits have been filed by US rice farmers against Bayer CropScience already, as farmers struggle to protect their livelihoods (3). Ebro Puleva has said they expect to bring legal actions against Bayer as well.
The strain of Bayer's illegal GM LL601 rice was first detected in rice intended for export from the US earlier in 2006. This variety has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world. It has only been grown in field trials that ended in 2001, and yet in September 2006, testing commissioned by Greenpeace and then by various European government agencies showed a broad variety of products on supermarket shelves in Europe had been contaminated by Bayer's illegal GM rice. Following the Greenpeace expose a leading German supermarket chain Edeka announced that they would cease selling all US long grain rice. A number of European retailers, millers and processors have followed suit. "It is now time for governments to respond strongly as well. They cannot leave enforcement of food safety laws to industry alone. We urge the EU to enforce its laws more vigorously and ensure that all member states comply, particularly those that have thus far refused to enforce EU law," concluded Jeremy Tager.
For further information, please contact: Greenpeace Press Office 0207 865 8255 or Graham Thompson, GM Campaigner, Greenpeace 0207 865 8293
1. Ebro Puleva, with a presence in 40 countries, is the first supplier of rice as a raw material for the major companies of the European food sector. It has taken over, and now owns Riviana Foods, Inc, the leading company on the US rice market, with extensive distribution networks in the United States and Central America; Kraft Foods' rice business in Germany, Austria and Denmark; and Panzani, one of the leading food enterprises in France - http://www.ebropuleva.com/ep/en/acerca_ebro/negocioarroz.jsp
2. The letter from the Chairman is available online at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/letter-from-ebro-puleva-to-gre
Will genetically engineered foods cause allergic reactions? Michigan State University scientists receive EPA grant to find out
Michigan State University Newsroom, Sep 27 2006 - http://www.newsroom.msu.edu/site/indexer/2864/content.htm
EAST LANSING, Michigan - The potential of genetically engineered foods to cause allergic reactions in humans is a big reason for opposition to such crops. Although protocols are in place to ask questions about the allergy-causing possibilities, there has been no test that offers definitive answers. But all of that could change as a Michigan State University researcher has developed the first animal model to test whether genetically engineered foods could cause human allergic reactions. Venu Gangur, MSU assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, has received a $447,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to validate the test. Genetically engineered crops are created by inserting a protein from a different organism into the original crop's genome. This is usually done to create a plant that is more resistant to insects or diseases. [in 80% of cases it's so the plant can be drenched in herbicide!]
The Food and Agriculture Organization within the World Health Organization has a structured approach to determining whether genetically engineered foods cause allergies, according to Gangur, who also is a faculty member in the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center. "But it has a major flaw. A critical question in that process asks, 'Does the protein cause an allergic reaction in animals?' The problem is that there has been no good animal model available to test this." Gangur and students in his lab have developed a mouse model the first of its kind to test the allergy-causing potential of genetically engineered foods. He'll use the EPA grant to examine whether the model works on a variety of proteins. If successfully validated, the testing could be available commercially in about five years.
Perhaps the best known case of a genetically engineered crop potentially causing allergies was StarLink corn. Created by Aventis in 1996, StarLink contained the cry9C protein from a common soil bacterium, a strain of Bacillus thuringiensis. The cry9C protein protected the corn from several types of corn borers and black cutworms. StarLink was approved by the EPA for use in animal feed and nonfood products in 1998. But in 2000, fragments of cry9C DNA were detected in taco shells and other food products. "Many people believed that StarLink was responsible for their asthma attacks and other allergic reactions," Gangur said. "The Centers for Disease Control took samples and tried to figure out if StarLink was the cause, but the data were inconclusive. There was really no good method to determine if StarLink caused allergic reactions. This is why our model will be such a valuable tool. We'll be able to determine the allergenic potential of genetically engineered crops before they're released into the human or animal food chain."
Robert Tempelman, MSU professor of animal science and statistics and probability, is the project's co-investigator. Gale Strasburg, chairperson of the MSU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition; and Jim Pestka and Maurice Bennink, MSU professors of food science and human nutrition, also are participating in the project. The research of Gangur, Tempelman, Pestka and Bennink is supported by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.
Contact: Venu Gangur, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition: (517) 355-8474, Ext. 134, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Jamie DePolo, Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station: (609) 354-8403 (cell)
The Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station is one of the largest research organizations at Michigan State University. Founded in 1888, the MAES funds the work of nearly 350 scientists in five colleges at MSU to enhance agriculture, natural resources and families and communities in Michigan.
Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 14 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.
Japan widens testing of U.S. rice for illegal GMO - Reuters News Service, September 28 2006
TOKYO, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Japan has expanded testing of U.S. rice for an unapproved genetically modified (GMO) strain due to a lack of proof from Washington that short- and medium-grain rice are free from contamination. An official at Japan's Agriculture Ministry said on Thursday that testing of U.S. rice for the unapproved strain, previously limited to long-grain rice and its products, now covers short- and medium-grain rice from the country. The ministry has started testing U.S. short- and medium-grain rice stockpiled in warehouses in Japan, totalling about 1.1 million tonnes, for the unapproved GMO rice strain LLRice 601 owned by Bayer CropScience, a division of Bayer AG (BAYG.DE:
The genetically engineered rice has a protein known as Liberty Link, which allows the crop to withstand applications of an herbicide used to kill weeds. The ministry has also started testing U.S. rice before shipment to Japan, with samples from each lot of contracted supplies examined by Japanese laboratories, the official said. "We will only accept rice tested negative for GMO," he said. Japan has a zero-tolerance policy on imports of unapproved GMO crops, and importers of crops tainted with unapproved GMO must destroy them or ship them back to exporting countries. Japan has put rice imports under the state trading system as the grain is the nation's staple food, with the Agriculture Ministry acting as a rice importer.
Japan suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice and its products immediately after the United States Department of Agriculture disclosed on Aug. 18 that LLRice 601 was detected in long-grain rice targeted for commercial use.
Japan to Test U.S. Short- and Medium-Grain Rice for LLRICE601
TOKYO - Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry's (MAFF) Food Department will start testing all U.S. short- and medium-grain rice imports (whole and broken kernels) and existing rice stocks for the presence of Bayer CropScience LLRICE601, the U.S. Embassy here said today. Testing will begin with a shipment of U.S. rice that is scheduled to arrive in Japan Sept. 30, but will not apply to processed products, the embassy said to the USA Rice Federation.
"We are surprised by this development, because Japan is not a long-grain customer for U.S. rice and LLRICE601 has not been found in U.S. medium and short varieties," said Bob Cummings, USA Rice VP, for international polic policy. Future import samples will be drawn from the product at loading in the United States and air mailed to Japan for testing at MAFF's expense. The first results of testing on U.S. rice held in MAFF warehouses in Japan will reportedly be available by next week with all stocks test results ready by late October. "We are following the situation closely," Cummings said, "and will be working with USDA and U.S. Trade Repres Representative officials."
Contact: Bob Cummings Cummings, (703) , 236- 14 1473 73
Pigweed resistance a nightmare for Carolina grower - By Roy Roberson - Farm Press Editorial Staff - Southeast Farm Press, September 27 2006
Bill McGoogan, who farms near Lumber Bridge, N.C., first noticed some pigweed in one of his soybean fields that had been sprayed with glyphosate. He went back and sprayed it again with glyphosate, making sure to get good coverage. "The second time I sprayed it, I knew I had good coverage and nothing happened with the pigweed. I called Monsanto, and they came and sprayed a 3X and a 6X rate of Weathermax, and it still had little effect" the North Carolina farmer says. In 2005, McGoogan says he didn't see any other real bad spots, though there were Palmer pigweed escapes throughout his farm. Pigweed escapes are not at all uncommon, and he couldn't pinpoint for certain that any of these were caused by herbicide resistance. After finding the resistant pigweed in his soybeans, McGoogan began noticing patches of weeds in neighboring fields.
In 2006, the resistant pigweed spread to cotton and soybean fields. On cotton, he used 24 ounces per acre of Weathermax, plus 1.7 pints of Staple. When that didn't control the pigweed, he put on a second application of 24 ounces of Weathermax, and did not control the weeds. Already looking toward the 2007 season, McGoogan tried three different combinations of pre-plant, residual herbicides in test plots on his farm. His goal is to help keep pigweed under control for 4 or 5 weeks after cotton is planted. In these test plots, he used Prowl alone, Reflex alone, and Prowl plus a pint of Direx. The best combination, he says, was Prowl H20, and he got similar results with Prowl plus a pint of Direx, Prowl alone cost $4-5 per acre and a pint of Direx adds another $2 to the tab. Reflex did not perform as well in McGoogan's test and cost about $11 per acre.
In the 2006 test, the North Carolina farmer said conditions were nearly perfect for using a pre-plant material. Adequate rainfall after he applied the test plots of Prowl, Prowl plus Direx and Reflex gave each material the opportunity to work. A big knock on pendamethalin, which Prowl is one of a number of herbicides available, is failure to work properly without adequate moisture In 2007, McGoogan says he will probably go back to more cultivation, use pre-plant residual herbicides, most likely Prowl, then come back at the four leaf stage and apply Weathermax. Within a week or so after applying Weathermax, he will likely come back and cultivate and use a post-directed spray, probably Cotoran and MSMA. For farmers who document cases of resistance on the farms, he says, plan on the problem getting much bigger the following year. "I thought, maybe it won't carry through from one year to the next, but it does. If you see an isolated area this year, you better count on it being a quarter or half the field the next year," he says.
Italy finds unauthorized variety of genetically modified rice in imports: Health Ministry - Associated Press, 22 September 2006
Italy has found an unauthorized genetically modified variety of rice in shipments from North America, the Health Ministry said. The ministry said it carried out checks after being alerted by U.S. diplomatic authorities. It found that four samples included the Liberty Link Rice 601, a genetically modified variety developed by Bayer CropScience AG in the United States. It was testing three more batches, the ministry said in a statement late Thursday.
The European Union allows only genetically modified foodstuffs that have been evaluated and authorized to be placed on the EU market. Liberty Link is not among them and also is not approved for human consumption in the United States. "It's a very serious episode," Health Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio was quoted as saying in Corriere della Sera on Friday. "We need more checks and rules to safeguard consumers' health." The Health Ministry said that the contaminated rice will be taken off supermarket shelves and either be destroyed or sent back.
On Thursday, the EU alerted officials in Britain, France and Germany that some of the genetically modified long-grain rice may have entered their nations. Brussels also said it would reinforce controls. Dutch officials found traces of Liberty Link Rice 601 in shipments that arrived in the port of Rotterdam last month.
Britons eating GM rice as watchdog fails to test imports - By SEAN POULTER - Daily Mail, 21st September 2006
Official watchdogs have admitted that a huge gap in the policing of food imports allowed GM rice to end up on the nation's dinner tables. Millions of families are believed to have been eating American imported long-grain rice tainted with GM genes for at least eight months. Supplies of rice sold by Morrisons are known to have been contaminated and have recently been withdrawn. Tesco also withdrew its own-label American rice amid concerns it may be contaminated, while Sainsbury's has had to find alternative sources for its ready meals. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. For the tainted rice will have been used in many other processed foods.
The Food Standards Agency,(FSA) which is responsible for policing the food system, yesterday admitted there has been no official state testing regime to prevent GM contamination of food imports. Instead, retailers are expected to make sure their products are not contaminated. This failure has allowed GM tainted rice and possibly many other contaminated crops to be imported into the UK. The government watchdog said it now intends to hold talks with the European Commission to improve GM testing.
The US authorities discovered GM contamination of long-grain rice in January this year, but it did not tell Britain and the rest of the world until August - eight months later. During this period GM tainted rice continued to be sold and eaten. The FSA is now testing all new rice imports. However, it has left the testing of products on the shelves to voluntary action by retailers. The watchdog's handling of the issue has been condemned as scandalous by politicians and green campaigners. They point out that the risk of illegal GM contamination of rice and other food crops was entirely predictable. And they argue the FSA has failed in its duty to prevent this law-breaking.
The Conservative shadow food, farming and environment Secretary, Peter Ainsworth MP is particularly critical. "The FSA is meant to be a custodian of public health and consumer interests in relation to food. Yet their reaction to the news that GM rice has been on sale in the UK seems astonishingly casual," he said. "The point is that we don't know if this rice is harmful or not." Friends of the Earth GM campaigner, Clare Oxborrow, said: "It is quite shocking that there is not a system in place looking for GM contamination of imports. It should have been in place a long time ago. The FSA should not be reduced to scrabbling to deal with the problem now. That is only shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. This is not just a problem with American rice, for it is clear that there could also be GM contamination of rice and other crops from other regions." The biotech industry is now developing a raft of new GM crops containing pharmaceuticals. Peter Riley, of the GM Freeze organisation, warned that failure to check crop imports could allow food containing GM drugs to get on to plates. "If that happened, it would have very wide implications for public health," he said.
The FSA's chief scientist, Andrew Wadge, admitted gaps in knowledge about the food on our plates at an FSA board meeting in London yesterday. He said: "Are there things out there in the food that we don't know about? I think the honest answer is, 'Yes, sometimes there can be.'" Mr Wadge accepted that the GM rice contamination had highlighted the gap in testing of imports. And he said the FSA would be raising this with the European Commission. "This incident has raised questions as to what are the opportunities for this type of thing to happen again in future," he said. "This has shown, this is a possibility that could occur. Rather than being in a reactive mode, what we need to do across Europe is to discuss and make sure we have in place appropriate testing methodology." The FSA insist the trace levels of GM contamination found in the UK are not a health risk, however this is disputed.
Tainted GMO rice found in Netherlands, Belgium: EU REUTERS NEWS SERVICE, Sep 21 2006
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Two shipments of U.S. rice held in the Netherlands and Belgium have tested positive for a strain of unauthorized genetically modified (GMO) rice, the European Commission said on Thursday. A Commission spokesman said the consignments had passed through the Dutch port of Rotterdam in August. "The U.S authorities have been informed and we will follow up," the spokesman said.
Safety net failed to halt sale of GM rice - By Petrina Vousden - Daily Mail (Ireland), 20 September 2006 - http://www.gmfreeireland.org/news/index.php
Fury erupted last night after illegal GM rice slipped through both EU and national food safety checks and onto Irish supermarket shelves. It is illegal to sell genetically modified rice in the EU because it has never been cleared, or even tested, for human consumption. Even more alarmingly, however, the GM rice strain that was found in Tesco American rice has not been cleared for human consumption in the more lenient U.S. All existing stocks of the rice have been withdrawn by Tesco and the quantities found were small.
However, the discovery sparked outrage last night and there were demands for an inquiry into how it entered the Irish food chain. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) confirmed that samples taken from own-brand American rice on sale at Tesco stores had tested positive. Tesco rice fields are believed to have been contaminated by pollen from nearby GM rice testing sites. Although American food authorities are much more lenient in approving genetically modified foodstuffs, this particular rice strain - known as LL Rice 601 - has not yet been approved or even assessed for human consumption there. In the EU it is currently illegal to grow, sell, or market any gene-altered rice as research continues into whether unauthorised biotech varieties pose a risk to people's health.
The FSAI Biotechnology chief specialist, Dr. Pat O'Mahony said: "Six samples were sent to the State Laboratory and Tesco's own-brand long grain rice tested positive. The GM rice was found in minute quantities mixed in with other rice. We have notified the EU Rapid Alert System of the discovery." Dr. O'Mahony said the FSAI will continue to monitor rice on sale to Irish consumers. "Tesco is withdrawing those batches. There are no safety implications. Two other versions of the herbicide tolerant GM rice lines have been tested and authorised for the U.S. market in 1999." And he insisted: "While there are no immediate food safety issues associated with the presence of this GM rice in the food chain, this GM rice has not been authorised either in the U.S. or the EU and therefore should not be on the market."
The revelation follows an announcement by Tesco on Monday that it was withdrawing as a "precautionary measure" its own American long-grain rice. "Whilst this is not a food safety issue we, of course, take it very seriously. We are working with our suppliers and ther relevant authorities and as a precaution we've withdrawn previous stock of Tesco American long grain rice in 500g and 1kg packs." The company refused to reveal how many bags of the rice had been sold and how long the rice was being sold to Irish customers.
We need an explanation
Green Party chairman John Gormley TD said: "It's unacceptable and the Food Safety Authority needs to be far more vigilant. The whole thing about GM food is we don't know if it's safe. We don't expect people to show any immediate negative signs but there may be consequences in the long term." "We need to have a proper explanation as to how this occurred. We ought to at all times adopt caution." Spokesman for the group GM-free Ireland, Michael O'Callaghan, said independent scientists believe all GM foods are unsafe. He said: "Irish consumers have obviously been eating it and don't know how long for". "There is no scientific evidence to show this is safe for consumption. The long-term health risk of GM foods is unknown." "GM crops are made by taking DNA from other species. Typically they take DNA from a species that has a trait they want to give to a modified crop. For example, when a company wanted to make tomatoes and strawberries that were frost resistant they took DNA from a fish which has a natural anti-freeze." "So you have tomatoes with fish genes and you even have potatoes in existence with spider genes." "Seventy per cent of Europeans are opposed to GM foods. But the Government has continually played a leading role in promoting GM food in the EU."
The controversial rice line was engineered by the Bayer Corporation in the U.S. to tolerate a herbicide in experimental trials.
A foolish gamble - Daily Mail (Ireland) Comment, 20 September 2006. - http://www.gmfreeireland.org/news/index.php
The great myth about GM crops - and one that is enthusiastically promulgated by the huge biotech corprations that have invested billions in this Brave New World that nobody else appears to want - is that they are so carefully controlled and monitored that there is no danger or impacting on the wider environment. The reality, of course, is that in the open countryside it is virtually impossible to prevent cross-fertilisation. Proof, if proof were needed, came with yesterday's confirmation by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, that traces of a GM strain of rice had been found in American rice harvested from non-modified crops. There is, of course, no proof that this genetically modified rice is in any way harmful. But equally nobody - not even in the U.S. where the authorities are markedly more lenient on this issue - has said that it is not. And most alarmingly of all, it ended up in the Irish food chain without anybody knowing it was here.
Man interferes with nature at his own peril. In the case of GM foods, we are doing so without any real reason other than to fuel the profits of U.S. conglomerates. The world is awash with food surpluses; yes, there are millions starving, but the problem is not growing food but getting it to them. GM crops are not going to solve that. Meanwhile, in order to keep the moguls of Wall Street happy, we risk creating a biological desert, with our countryside denuded of butterflies, bees, beetles and songbirds and in which new super-weeds could require more herbicide to control. For the short term gain of a few, we run the risk of creating monopolies in food production, damaging small farmers, making a mockery of consumer choice, and abusing nature. And tragically, the ecological consequences of this reckless folly may be with us forever.
Fears mount over possible rice contamination in the Philippines - By James Knowles - Food Production Daily, September 21 2006
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace is warning that the food supply in the Philippines could be at risk from illegal GM rice contamination originating in the US and China, with potentially damaging costs to manufacturers in extraction. Following the recent discovery of GMOLL601 rice contamination in the US test results by Greenpeace Germany revealed last week that US parboiled rice products being sold by German supermarket Aldi Nord contained illegal Bayers Liberty Link rice.
"The illegal GM rice scandal, however, may not be limited to Europe. In South East Asia rice is the staple diet. The Philippines is among the countries most at risk because we import rice and rice products from both the US and China", said Greenpeace South East Asia GE campaigner Daniel Ocampo. The impact of contamination and any need for extraction from the food supply would be costly for manufacturers within the Philippines, which according to figures from USDA imported $20m of rice from the US in 2006.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johans of USDA rejected claims made by Greenpeace that GM rice has allergenic qualities as shown by mice during testing due to the added protein Cry1Ac, saying that in the instance of Bayers LL Rice-601 only trace amounts were found and deemed to be safe. "I empahsise that based upon the materials that have been provided, we have reached a determination based upon those materials that there isn't any environmental fear; there isn't a food safety fear" he said at the Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Conference in August. The sale of GM rice is an issue of contention in markets across the world and there are no plans to introduce it to Philippine markets anytime soon, Cherly Casiwan Senior Science Research Specialist for the Social Economics Division of the Philippines Rice Research Institute told AP-Foodtechnology.
Gene-Altered Profit-Killer - A Slight Taint of Biotech Rice Puts Farmers' Overseas Sales in Peril - By Rick Weiss - Washington Post Staff Writer
Washington Post, September 21 2006 - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/20/AR2006092001903.html
The disclosure last month that American long-grain rice has become widely contaminated with traces of an experimental, gene-altered rice has provoked an economic crisis for farmers and reignited a long-smoldering debate over the adequacy of U.S. oversight of biotech food. Already, Japan has banned U.S. long-grain imports, noting, as have other countries, that the genetically altered variety never passed regulatory muster. Stores in Germany, Switzerland and France have pulled American rice off their shelves. And at least one ship last week remained quarantined in Rotterdam, awaiting word of whether its contents would be diverted or destroyed. "Until this happened, it looked like rice farmers were finally going to make a profit this year," said Greg Yielding, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association. Instead, U.S. rice prices have slumped about 10 percent, and some expect market losses to reach $150 million.
Scientists are just now figuring out how LLRICE601 made its way into the nation's commercial rice supply. The company that developed it, Bayer CropScience of Research Triangle Park, N.C., says it abandoned the project in 2001. The unapproved rice poses no threat to human or animal health, federal officials have assured the public. And the level of contamination is minuscule, on the order of just six genetically engineered grains in every 10,000. But the growing economic fallout from LL601's unwanted and illegal reappearance -- including a handful of lawsuits against Bayer -- is a reminder that when it comes to food, public perception is as important as scientific assurances. "We've been warning for years that something like this could happen," Yielding said, citing a December 2005 report from the Agriculture Department's inspector general that lambasted the government for not keeping a closer eye on companies developing new crops. "This is one of those deals where you hate to be right."
Genetically engineered crops are common in the United States, where 60 to 90 percent of the corn, soybean and cotton plants are enhanced with genes from bacteria and other organisms. Most of the added genes allow the plants to make their own insecticides or, as in LLRICE601, confer resistance to commonly used weedkillers. But motivated by scientific, cultural and economic concerns, most countries around the world are finicky about biotech crops and allow relatively few in. That, in turn, has created tension for U.S. agriculture. Although U.S. farmers say they favor, in theory, further development of the crops, many have called for delays in field testing or marketing until other countries agree to accept them. With few mechanisms in place to segregate engineered from conventional varieties, and wide availability of tests able to detect minute quantities of foreign DNA, they say it is not worth the risk that shipments will become contaminated and rejected. "Once it's in the pipeline, it's very hard to get it out," said Jeffrey Barach, a vice president at the Food Products Association, a D.C. trade group.
Concerns have been especially high among rice growers, who sell big portions of their harvests to Kellogg for Rice Krispies, Anheuser-Busch for beer and Gerber for baby food, said Eric Wailes, an agricultural economist at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. "These are companies with huge brand equity," Wailes said, and are unwilling to risk their reputations. In fact, many experts suspect that pressure from the food industry was a major reason why Bayer mysteriously dropped LL601 five years ago without seeking USDA approval for it. The company has refused to answer questions about its biotech rice program, which produced two other varieties. The Agriculture Department deemed those two safe for sale, but Bayer opted not to market them.
In recent weeks, tests by researchers in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana have begun to unveil how LL601 persisted even after Bayer quit. The rice had been grown in several test locations, including Louisiana State University's rice research station near Crowley from 1999 to 2001. Analyses in the past two weeks of samples of other rice varieties that were grown over the years at the same research station found that at least one - a long-grain rice known as Cheniere - was contaminated with LL601 at least as far back as 2003. Records indicate that the affected plot of Cheniere rice, which was used to grow "foundation stock" from which much larger amounts were produced over the next few years, was located at least 160 feet from the LL601 plot, farther apart than what USDA required, said LSU spokeswoman Frankie Gould.
Exactly how and when the crossover of the genetically altered rice occurred remains uncertain. It could be, experts said, that some grains of LL601 got mixed inadvertently with grains of Cheniere, so that future plantings of Cheniere were really plantings of both. That could have gone unnoticed for years until someone tested for the errant gene -- which is how Riceland Foods Inc. of Stuttgart, Ark., happened upon the problem this year. Or it may be that LL601 plants fertilized some Cheniere plants, creating a gene-enhanced Cheniere. Rice pollen does not usually go far afield, but it can. Tests on more than a dozen other LSU varieties have come up negative for the LL601 gene, as have tests from Texas and Arkansas plots; results from Mississippi are pending. But because many varieties of rice are mixed in huge bins after harvest, it could be difficult to rid the U.S. rice crop of the illegal variety. "The damage has been done and it is still being done," said Adam J. Levitt, a partner in the Chicago office of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLC, who led a class action lawsuit that won $110 million for farmers after gene-altered and unapproved StarLink corn appeared in food in 2000. "They've really in a very substantial way poisoned the well."
How Bayer will deal with the international ramifications of LL601's escape is uncertain. But its domestic strategy became clear on Aug. 18, the day Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced the problem. That day Bayer filed a petition seeking USDA approval - or "deregulation" - of LL601. If the petition is successful, the variety's presence would no longer violate U.S. regulations - but the strategy has raised some hackles. "Post hoc approval strikes us as really cynical," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the District-based Center for Food Safety. "Bayer has no intention of bringing this rice to market. Clearly this is an effort to avoid liability." Last week Freese's group filed a petition asking USDA to reject Bayer's request and to rescind its earlier approval of the company's other two engineered rice varieties. The petition argues that the herbicide resistance trait is sure to make its way into red rice, a weedy wild relative of white rice that is already rice growers' biggest pest. Any advance likely to make red rice herbicide-resistant, the petition claims, would force farmers to turn to more potent weedkillers and violate the Plant Protection Act.
Even if Bayer succeeds in deregulating LL601, farmers will still face international rejection - a potentially major hit, since most rice profits are from overseas sales. On Friday the European Commission said the rice "is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern." But it also made plain that the rice is illegal and offered no hints it would soften its stance. Of even greater concern is whether Central American nations - the biggest foreign buyers of U.S. rice - and Mexico, the second biggest, will adhere to their strict rules on engineered foods. Talks were underway late last week, Yielding said.
The December inspector general report scolded USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for failing to conduct required inspections of test plots and in some cases not even knowing where experiments it had approved were being conducted. APHIS spokeswoman Rachel Iadicicco said the shortcomings cited in that report have been remedied.
Genetically engineered plums may not find a willing market - By Deborah Rich - 18 Sep 2006
A genetically engineered stone fruit tree, the 'HoneySweet' plum could be the first such stone fruit to be released for commerical use. The patented 'HoneySweet' plum (Prunus domestica), developed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service in collaboration with the Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique in Paris and Cornell University, resists the plum pox virus, a plant virus not harmful to humans but deadly to stone fruit yields. Whether the plum's future will be as sweet as its name depends upon many things, including the travels of the plum pox virus, whether the plum's custom-designed DNA can do its job without recombining with other species and whether consumers will eat the fruit.
In 2004, the USDA-ARS petitioned the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to grant the 'HoneySweet' a nonregulated status. Genetically engineered varieties that might pose a plant pest risk can be grown, tested and transported only under permit from USDA-APHIS until the agency determines that they no longer present a risk. Petitioning for deregulation is often the first step toward the commercialization of a variety. The 'HoneySweet' plum was placed in the regulated category because its new DNA contains genetic material from the plum pox virus itself. The agency now wants to deregulate the plum, and expects to make a decision within two to three months.
Despite its name, the plum pox virus does not limit itself to plums. Depending upon the strain of the virus, it can have equally devastating effects on apricots, peaches, sweet and sour cherries, and nectarines. On some trees, the virus causes fruit to drop prematurely. On others, it scars and deforms the fruit. Total losses are not uncommon once trees are infected. The only method of halting the spread of the virus once it appears in an orchard is to destroy the trees.
The plum pox virus was first identified on plums in Bulgaria in 1915. With the opening of the borders of Bulgaria and other former communist bloc countries to international trade and travel, the virus spread throughout much of Europe, and to Egypt, Syria, India, China and Canada. The virus travels from tree to tree and orchard to orchard via aphids, and from region to region through the transport of bud and graft wood. In 1999, the virus appeared in Pennsylvania, causing $40 million in damage and the destruction of 1,600 acres of commercial and backyard peach trees. This past July, it was found on a plum tree in New York, and, in August, on a plum tree in Michigan. The plum pox virus has yet to arrive in California, and this is one reason neither the California plum nor the prune (dried plum) industry has taken a strong stance on the genetically engineered plum, despite California's role as producer of 95 percent of the nation's fresh plums and 99 percent of its prunes. "My board decided not to take a position on the 'HoneySweet,' but to just observe and see what happens with the USDA as they try to release this variety," said Rich Peterson, executive director of the California Dried Plum Board. "In Europe, plum pox virus is a serious problem in many stone fruits including prunes. So the French prune industry - they're our No. 2 competitor, second to California in worldwide production - is very interested in this variety."
If the plum pox virus does hit the United States in a big way, growers may be glad that Dr. Ralph Scorza, USDA-ARS research horticulturist and lead developer of the 'HoneySweet,' began research when he did. "We knew, as early as the late 1980s, that plum pox was going to start to travel across the world. Countries were opening up. We knew the virus was going to be a problem; we knew that we didn't have resistance here in this country; and we knew that we had a big stone fruit industry," he said. Developing and testing the 'HoneySweet' has taken 16 years. Once deregulated by USDA-APHIS, additional years of traditional breeding will be necessary to cross the 'HoneySweet' with varieties preferred by growers and processors.
The 'HoneySweet' gains its resistance to the plum pox virus from a sequence of genes that Scorza and his team implanted in the plum's DNA. The researchers included genes from two different bacteria - one makes the plants resistant to an antibiotic, the other causes tissues to turn blue when exposed to certain chemicals - that allow them to test whether the new gene patch is working. (Plum cells and tissues in which the genetic modification didn't "take" die when exposed to the kanamycin antibiotic and fail to turn blue in the presence of the appropriate chemical mixture.) They also included two genes from viruses - one from the plum pox virus stimulates the tree to produce a novel small ribonucleic acid molecule which enables the tree to stop an invading plum pox virus from replicating; the other, a gene from the cauliflower mosaic virus, "drives" or turns on the gene from the plum pox virus.
But not everyone agrees that man-made genetic sequences such as the one patched into the 'HoneySweet' plum can do their jobs without complications. Joe Cummins, genetics professor at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, warns that splicing antibiotic-resistance genes from bacteria into plums and other crops could lead to the transfer of antibiotic resistance to bacteria in the soil, and from there, to bacteria that are animal and human pathogens. In the case of the 'HoneySweet,' soil bacteria would come into contact with the embedded antibiotic-resistance gene as leaves, blossoms and fruit from the plum tree fall to the ground each year. Many bacterial genes, including some that are ubiquitous in soil and sediment, are known for their ability to absorb genes from other species and integrate them into their own DNA. Cummins also warns that including the activating gene from the cauliflower mosaic virus may stimulate the exchange or recombination of genes between the plum pox virus gene and other viruses that invade the plant. "The cauliflower mosaic virus is well known to initiate a process called genetic recombination," said Cummins. "You can get recombination between the inserted gene and another virus and generate new and unique viruses."
In its environmental assessment of the 'HoneySweet,' USDA-APHIS notes that gene interactions between viruses in plants already occur because of the propensity of viruses to exchange genes and the fact that several viruses can infect a tree at the same time. "It is highly unlikely given the high background of recombination known to occur naturally in mixed infections of both crop and wild plants that the risk of recombination would be any different in transgenic plants," it said.
The ubiquitous presence of a unique small RNA molecule in the 'HoneySweet' also concerns Cummins, who warns against assuming the new RNA is safe for human consumption. In a study reported in Nature in May 2006 on the effects of high levels of small RNA molecules in adult mice, many of the mice developed liver damage and died. "It seems unwise to presume that a novel plum RNA is safe for humans until it is proven to be safe," said Cummins.
Perhaps the biggest question is whether consumers will eat the fruit. (The FDA does not require genetically engineered fruit or other foods to be labeled.) "The packers in our industry are saying, 'We don't want to touch this with a 10-foot pole because we know customers are already very averse to anything that is genetically modified, and they might stop buying from me as a supplier if they heard that California had been involved with genetically modified plum breeding programs,' " says Peterson of the California Dried
Plum Board. With a good part of the fresh plums and prunes produced in California destined for export markets, producers have to take into account the potential reaction of foreign as well as domestic consumers. In 1998, Hawaii exported more than $10 million in papayas per year to Japan, but when the state introduced a genetically engineered papaya that same year, Japan banned the altered variety, and Hawaii's papaya exports declined precipitously. By 2005, Hawaii was exporting only $5 million worth of papayas to Japan. When the USDA announced on Aug. 18 that the U.S. rice supply had been contaminated by trace amounts of an unapproved genetically engineered rice variety, Japan banned all imports of American rice, and the European Union moved to require that all imports be tested.
Here at home, retailers wary of consumer backlash may hesitate to sell 'HoneySweet' plums. Karen Christensen, national produce coordinator for Whole Foods Market, said that "Whole Foods will not sell the 'HoneySweet' plum when and if it becomes available." Similarly, Teena Massingill, spokeswoman, said, "Safeway does not plan to sell genetically engineered plums."
©2006 San Francisco Chronicle
GMO rice found in Britain - Friends of the Earth - Scotsman Sun 17 Sep 2006 - http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=1375792006
LONDON (Reuters) - Chain Morrison Supermarkets said on Sunday it had withdrawn two rice products after an environmental group said they contained unauthorised genetically modified (GMO) rice. Environmental group Friends of the Earth said in a statement the GMO strain had been found in two samples of rice from Morrisons stores. At present it
is forbidden to grow, sell or market any biotech rice in the European Union's 25 countries. "The discovery of GMO-contaminated rice on supermarket shelves is extremely worrying," Helen Holder, from Friends of the Earth Europe, said in Brussels. "GM rice is illegal, it has not even been properly investigated and there is no guarantee that it is safe for human consumption," she said.
Morrisons said it had taken the products off its shelves. "Based of the information received about tests carried out by Friends of the Earth we have withdrawn the two products implicated," a spokeswoman said. Friends of the Earth named the affected products as Morrisons American Long Grain Rice 500g, with a best before date of May 2008, and Morrisons American Long Grain Brown Rice 1kg, with a best before date of July 2008. The European Commission confirmed on Monday the presence of unauthorised
LL601 rice strain in 33 samples carried out by the industry although it did not specify that any had been found in Morrisons' products. A spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth said it was not clear yet if the GMO rice found in Britain was of that type. Friends of the Earth said it sent a number of samples to be tested after the European Commission decided in August to tighten requirements on U.S. long-grain rice.
France and Sweden have also detected the presence of GMO rice, a European Union diplomat said on Tuesday. Three bargeloads of U.S. rice have tested positive in Rotterdam.
(Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander in Brussels) (c) Reuters 2006.
Flap Over Modified Rice Weighs on Food Importers - by Julianne von Reppert-Bismarck - Wall Street Journal, 7 September 2006
Brussels - When commercial rice stored in Missouri and Arkansas turned up traces of an illegal biotech strain last month, Britain's largest food importer said it was looking for a new supplier. Now, Associated British Foods PLC - a food empire with sales of £5.6 billion ($10.6 billion) last year - may have to change suppliers again, this time to replace some of the foods it buys from China.
Environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth this week said they found an illegal genetically engineered strain in rice-based products sold in Asian supermarkets in the U.K., France and Germany. European Union officials responded with strong language, telling food importers they could be sued if they failed to keep unauthorized foods out of Europe. The EU has yet to confirm the findings of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
The rice scare underlines problems facing food companies and biotech firms world-wide. Many genetically modified strains are banned in Europe. But techniques for stopping biotech crops crossing into the food chain by accident are imperfect. Companies are struggling to find reliable suppliers and to avoid legal suits by testing their product lines. "We'll comply with European food law as best we can," Associated British Foods spokesman Geoff Lancaster said. Hours after the environmental groups announced their findings, Mr. Lancaster's company started isolating and testing several goods it suspected of containing Chinese rice ingredients that might include the illegal strain.
Farmers, importers and biotech firms are beginning to feel the sting. The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Aug. 18 that Arkansas and Missouri commercial-rice stocks had turned up traces of Liberty Link rice, an experimental and unauthorized modified strain. After the announcement, September rice-futures prices on the Chicago Board of Trade sank 14% to $8.47 a hundredweight. Japan banned U.S. long-grain rice. American farmers say Europe's strict screening rules on all long-grain-rice imports from the U.S. are pinching profits. Looking for compensation, U.S. farmers have filed at least three legal actions against German chemicals company Bayer AG, which owns the patent to Liberty Link rice. Such court cases can be costly: Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta AG last year put aside about $50 million to fund tests of U.S. corn-gluten exports to the EU following the discovery that Syngenta accidentally had sold an unauthorized corn strain to farmers exporting to Europe.
At the same time, food importers may face costly legal challenges in Europe. The European Commission has written to governments reminding them to take a hard line against companies that allow biotech crops to be sold on their territory. While no suits yet have been filed, the commission believes companies "are not doing enough" to comply, according to EU spokesman Philip Tod. But testing is expensive and difficult. Swiss food empire Nestle AG says it spends a "significant part" of its $1.2 billion research-and-development budget on in-house safety testing. The amount of the illegal Liberty Link strain found in Arkansas and Missouri was equivalent to six rice grains out of 10,000. Companies without in-house labs are competing for the services of a handful of European labs capable of testing such small quantities.
Large companies say they can follow their ingredients back to their source. But the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries this week said importers were unsure which rice-based products, such as vermicelli, sauce mixes or rice starch, came from China. Several Chinese regions were found to be using an illegal biotech strain in 2004, and importers say the problem hasn't been rooted out. "You have to look at the various forms that the rice takes. It takes time for our members to know exactly what rice starch or flour they are using," said Nathalie Lecoq, from the confederation's commercial department. Environmentalists want to ban all Chinese rice goods or at least require countries farming with genetically engineered grains to label exports according to their biotech content. European experts meet again Monday to assess the biotech situation and may well discuss the question of Chinese rice goods.
Rice farming: Grains of doubt - The Economist, 16 September 2006 [via Agnet]
GENETICALLY altered crops slipping into the food chain; foreign countries placing restrictions on imports; farmers in rural America panicking. It has
happened before, with corn. Now America's rice-farmers are facing a similar drama. In late July, American agriculture officials and food safety authorities learned that unapproved rice had been found in commercial bins in Arkansas and Missouri. The rice - known as LLRICE601 - had been genetically modified to resist certain herbicides by Bayer CropScience, which is based in Germany. As a result, the European Union is demanding proof that long-grain imports are not contaminated with LLRICE601, which was tested between 1998 and 2001 in the United States but never marketed. The EU now wants rice tested by an accredited laboratory using "a validated testing method" and accompanied by a certificate. Japan has banned all imports of American long-grain rice. This is bad news for Arkansas, where rice paddies cover around 1.5m acres. It is the state's main farm export, adding about $1.55 billion yearly to the economy and generating an estimated 20,000 jobs: quite a few of them at Riceland Rice, the world's largest miller and marketer of the stuff. Riceland became aware of the genetically altered rice in January, when a customer alerted the 9,000 farmer-member co-operative about possible contamination. Riceland sent a sample for testing to a laboratory; it tested positive for the herbicide-resistant trait. Further tests confirmed it, and in June Riceland contacted Bayer.
More farmers sue over release of altered rice - RUDI KELLER - Southeast Missourian, Sunday, September 17, 2006
The unapproved rice somehow escaped test plots and made it into the food supply. More than 200 Missouri and Arkansas rice farmers have joined forces to sue Bayer Cropscience over the release of a genetically altered rice variety into the food supply. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in St. Louis, brings together 229 farmers who will harvest more than 125,000 acres of rice this year. The lawsuit charges that the North Carolina-based agricultural company failed to control field tests of a variety designed to resist a Bayer-produced herbicide. The lawsuit will seek to discover how the rice variety, which has not been approved for crop production, escaped test plots, said Don Downing, a St. Louis attorney with Gray, Ritter and Graham. "This is a catastrophe for Missouri rice farmers," Downing said. "To the extent that Missouri and Arkansas rice farmers lost money, we intend to hold Bayer accountable."
Bayer has maintained that the rice poses no threat to health, is similar to varieties that have been approved for crop use and promised to cooperate with investigations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The lawsuit is the second filed in Missouri and the sixth filed nationwide against Bayer. After the modified rice was discovered in shipments to overseas purchasers from Riceland, a farmer cooperative, Japan suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice and the European Union started requiring expensive testing of every shipment. Bayer has declined to comment on any of the lawsuits.
Prices farmers can expect for their rice dropped more than $1 per 100 pounds after discovery of the modified rice in late August. The lawsuit seeks to recover both the lost income from rice sales due to lower prices and any expenses farmers incur to test their rice to certify it as free from any of the modified strain of rice, Downing said. Missouri is one of the smaller rice producing states. U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates indicate Missouri farmers expect to harvest about 1.5 billion pounds of rice this year. The harvest is underway now in southern areas of the rice-growing region, which extends along the Mississippi River to Louisiana and into Texas.
The lawsuit mirrors one filed last week by Cape Girardeau attorney Michael Ponder on behalf of three area farmers. Downing said his lawsuit seeks compensation under 11 different Missouri laws. The lawsuit also seeks to discover how extensive the release of modified rice has become. "We don't know which farmers have contaminated crops and which ones don't," Downing said. "It will require segregation of the crops and that will cost a lot of money."
Farmers from Missouri, Arkansas sue Bayer over rice prices - Robert Frederick, KWMU science reporter - KWMU, 15 September 2006
ST. LOUIS, MO (2006-09-14) A group of Missouri and Arkansas rice farmers filed a lawsuit this week against Bayer CropScience. They claim the company's actions led to the price of rice dropping fifteen percent since August. During that month, the Department of Agriculture announced that the U.S. rice supply had been contaminated with genetically modified rice. While the Food and Drug Administration wasn't concerned, prices fell as many countries imposed import restrictions. "The Missouri and Arkansas farmers that I represent are very concerned that this fifteen percent loss in the price of rice will be permanent," said St. Louis attorney Don Downing, who is representing the farmers. "And the only way to recoup these losses are from Bayer." Bayer Cropscience, the defendant, acquired the genetically modified strain of rice when it bought Adventis Cropscience in 2002. Representatives of Bayer Cropscience could not be reached for comment.
Sale of illegal GM rice in Scotland sanctioned by food safety watchdog - By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor - The Sunday Herald, 17 September 2006
Rice that has been illegally contaminated with genetically modified (GM) organisms from the United States is being sold in Scotland because the government's food safety watchdog has failed to recommend the product's withdrawal. A number of supermarkets are following the advice of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and leaving suspect GM rice on their shelves. Others, however, have said they are withdrawing the rice due to consumer concerns. The FSA's stance has been strongly criticised by a former GM adviser to the US government's Food and Drug Administration, Doug Gurian-Sherman. "We should be taking a more cautious approach," he told the Sunday Herald. "Risks should not be taken with public health for the convenience of companies or of government. It sets a very bad precedent to make safety assessments based on data that is incomplete."
According to Gurian-Sherman, now with the Centre for Food Safety in Washington DC, there simply was not enough evidence to judge whether the contaminated rice was safe or not. "I wouldn't eat it myself," he said. The Bush administration told European governments last month that US long grain rice had been contaminated by a GM strain known as LL601. The cause is still under investigation, but the gene is thought to have leaked from field trials of GM rice in the southern states more than five years ago. Last week, the European Union reported that traces of LL601 had been found in 33 out of 162 samples tested by the European rice industry. Contaminated rice has been detected in Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland and The Netherlands.
In the UK, however, the FSA is not expecting test results for two weeks. But the agency accepted that rice on sale in the UK is likely to be contaminated with LL601, as did the rice industry. "US long grain rice containing low levels of GM could already have been imported into the UK, including Scotland," said an FSA spokeswoman. "The presence of the GM rice is illegal at any level." But the FSA insisted that the rice was safe to eat. "Given the very low levels of GM rice, we suggested to the industry that we didn't expect them to withdraw products on food safety grounds," she added.
The FSA is, however, working with the rice industry to prevent any more contaminated rice from entering the country. "The material will undoubtedly be in the food chain, though at very low levels," said Alex Waugh of the Rice Association, which represents UK rice millers. The UK's biggest supermarket chain, Tesco, said on Friday that it had withdrawn Tesco American long grain rice in 500g and one-kilo bags as a precaution "pending further investigations". Though Sainsbury's had stopped buying American long grain rice, it was still contained in products on sale. "If any of our customers are uncomfortable eating the rice, they can take it back to their nearest Sainsbury's store where a full refund will be offered," said a spokeswoman for the company. Waitrose said only that it was "following FSA advice on this issue". The Co-op said its suppliers had confirmed that none of the supermarket's long grain rice products were "implicated". The FSA's stance has been condemned by environmental groups, who are calling for suspect stocks of US rice to be withdrawn. "It is outrageous, and quite probably illegal, that the FSA is doing nothing to protect consumers from this unauthorised GM rice," said Anthony Jackson of anti-GM campaign group, the Munlochy GM Vigil. "The FSA has known about this for nearly a month, the US authorities since January, and imports may have been arriving for the last few years. The cover-up attempt must stop now."
The Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: "I cannot understand how it can be deemed acceptable to just leave contaminated illegal products on the shelves." He voiced concerns that the Scottish Executive was about to introduce a "coexistence" regime allowing GM crops to be grown alongside conventional and organic crops. This would "let the GM genie out of the bottle," Ruskell warned.
Consumer group urges USDA not to approve GMO rice - By Christopher Doering - Reuters News Service, Sep 14, 2006
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A controversial genetically modified rice strain found in commercial supplies last month should not be approved by the U.S. Agriculture Department, which a consumer group said on Thursday has failed to adequately protect farmers and consumers. The Center for Food Safety filed a petition with USDA asking it to instead regulate the rice as a "plant pest" under the Plant Protection Act. The center said the rice, known as LLRICE 601, could further contaminate commercial rice, damage trade, create herbicide resistant weeds and increase chemical residue on rice. "USDA's stamp of approval to genetically engineered rice after it has illegally contaminated the food supply would set a dangerous precedent, rewarding the biotech industry's negligence and thereby making similar contamination episodes more likely in the future," said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney at Center for Food Safety and lead author of the petition.
The Food and Drug Administration and USDA notified the public on August 18 that testing by Bayer CropScience, a division of Bayer AG, found the genetically modified rice in bins in Arkansas and Missouri. USDA has said there are no environmental or health concerns with the genetically modified rice and it does not plan to recall or destroy the contaminated commercial product. In order for a product to be sold commercially, the genetically modified crop must be tested extensively by the manufacturer before the application is reviewed by USDA. The department is collecting public comments on LLRICE 601 until October 10. "The purpose of this process is to invite public comment and we welcome any science-based information that might be relevant to the final assessment of the product," said Kristin Scuderi, USDA's deputy press secretary. "We will carefully review all comments submitted during this process before making a final determination."
The genetically engineered rice has a protein known as Liberty Link, which allows the crop to withstand applications of an herbicide used to kill weeds. There are two other Bayer CropScience genetically modified rice lines with Liberty Link that have been confirmed safe for use in food and the environment, but they have not been commercialized. After the discovery in August, Japan banned imports of U.S. long grain rice. The European Union, which confirmed the unauthorized strain earlier this week, requires certification that long grain rice from the United States is free of the unapproved crop.
French tests reveal banned GMO in US rice imports - Agence France Presse, September 14, 2006 - http://www.todayonline.com/articles/142572.asp
AFP: France has discovered traces of a banned genetically modified strain of rice in imports from the US, French market and consumer regulator DGCCRF has said. The regulator said Thursday that traces of the LL601 strain of rice, which has been banned by the 25-nation European Union, had been detected in seven out of 19 samples tested. "At this stage, the results reveal the absence of GMO in 12 samples and the presence of the LL601 strain of rice, at a level less than 0.1 percent, in seven samples," the regulator said in a statement. The results are from samples taken from French importers accounting for more than 90 percent of rice imports from the United States. The DGCCRF was alerted by the European Commission, which in turn had been informed by US authorities about the risk of a possible contamination.
Genetically modified rice hits Switzerland - Swiss Info, September 12, 2006
The country's largest retailer Migros has confirmed finding traces of genetically modified rice, supplied from the United States, that is banned in Switzerland. Migros says the storage silos containing the LL 601 rice have now been sealed but it is unclear whether any of the rice actually went on sale. Both Migros and rival Coop have suspended sales of long-grain rice from the US. Migros spokesman Monica Glisenti said that traces of the unapproved rice were found after laboratory tests, adding that the concentration level was 0.01 per cent. The legal tolerance permitted for genetically modified organisms is 0.9 per cent. However, no genetically modified rice is permitted in Switzerland, so the level is of no relevance.
Glisenti said that the LL 601 rice was found in a shipment of 1,500 tons. Long-grain rice from other countries is to remain on the shelves, she said. She noted that examination had only been possible this week because the tests had only just become available. As a result, it could not be ruled out that banned rice had already been sold in Switzerland. Coop, which receives its rice from the same supplier as Migros, said it had found no traces of LL 601. But it has also withdrawn long-grain rice from the US from the shelves, noting in a statement that contamination could not be excluded completely.
The two retailers are now waiting for advice from the Swiss Federal Health Office in Bern before taking further action. Decisions are also expected from the European Union, which has also been affected by the LL 601 rice. The EU Commission urged EU member states and the food industry to carry out tests following the discovery of unauthorised GM rice imports in Europe. Thirty-three out of 162 results of rice samples carried out by members of the European Federation of Rice Millers tested positive for the LL 601 strain, the European Commission said in a statement. It also said that three bargeloads within a 20,000 metric ton US rice cargo detained in Rotterdam had tested positive, while 20 other bargeloads had tested negative. The consignments which tested negative for the unauthorised GMO have now been allowed to proceed to their final destination, while those which tested positive continue to be detained in Rotterdam and will either be returned to the US or destroyed," the EC said.
In August, the EC tightened requirements on US long-grain rice imports to prove the absence of biotech rice strain LL 601, which it said was marketed by the Bayer company of Germany and produced in the US. The Commission's decision followed the discovery by US authorities of trace amounts of LL 601, engineered to resist a herbicide, in long-grain samples that were targeted for commercial use. On Monday, environmental group Greenpeace International said a strain of LL 601 rice had been found in branches of discount supermarket Aldi Nord in Germany.
*Swiss voters in November accepted a proposal for a five-year blanket ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Swiss agriculture.
*The result is forcing the Swiss government to put in place some of the toughest legislation on GMOs in Europe.
The European Union, of which Switzerland is not a member, ended a six-year moratorium on accepting applications for new genetically modified foods in May 2004. But Germany and France, two of Switzerland's neighbours, have both voted to uphold national bans on products they deem unsafe.
Genetically Modified Rice Found in German Supermarkets - Deutsche Welle, 12 September 2006
The European Commission has confirmed that EU imports of long-grain rice contain traces of genetically modified material. According to Greenpeace, some of it made it to the shelves of a German supermarket chain. The European Federation of Rice Millers tested 162 shipments of rice imported from the United States. 33 of them tested positive for the genetically modified rice type known as LL-601, the European Commission said in a statement on Monday. "Any consignments which tested positive have already been recalled or withheld from the market and the Federation's members have committed to continuing such withdrawals for any positive findings," the commission said. Biotech rice is not allowed to be grown, sold or marketed in the EU.
German consumers affected
The EU confirmation followed an announcement by environmental group Greenpeace that its tests in Germany had detected traces of genetically modified rice in products sold at the Aldi Nord chain of supermarkets. Greenpeace genetics expert Ulrike Brendel said that the Aldi products, sold under the Bon-Ri brand, had been contaminated with a strain of rice developed by German industrial giant Bayer and tested in the United States. "We tested the samples at a respected and independent laboratory," Brendel said. "The results show some of the rice has been modified using a method developed and published by Bayer --there's no doubt about it."
A tainted biotech product
Rice found in eight of Aldi Nord's 35 sales areas contained traces of LL-601-- a rice strain engineered by Bayer to resist certain Bayer herbicides. Aldi Nord said documentation for the rice imports showed no signs of shipments containing genetically modified rice, but it removed the affected products from its shelves and was testing the countries of origins of other similar products. The European Commission's findings suggested GM material had been finding its way into the European market for some time. Considering that Germany imports about one quarter of its rice from the US, Brendel thought it was inevitable that a number of products and supermarket chains would be affected. "This modified strain of rice was planted in the US in 2001, but only as a test crop," Brendel said. "The fact we're finding it here in imports shows that industry isn't capable of controlling genetically modified crops. We don't know what human health or environmental risks involved. If we want to keep food sources free of genetically modified material, then we can't afford to plant GM crops."
Declaring war on biotech rice
Last month the European Commission slapped stringent testing requirements on rice imports from the US to try and stop genetically modified varieties from entering the 25 country-bloc. At the end of August, Germany's federal ministry of consumer protection ordered state-level authorities to step up their detection efforts. France and Sweden have also discovered traces of a banned genetically modified substance in imported US rice, in tests which must be confirmed by EU laboratories, a European Commission source said Tuesday. "Two member states, France and Sweden, have found, by their own methods, positive samples of GMO," the official said. "These remain to be verified by the Commission's testing methods." In France, seven samples out of 20 tested were found to include the unauthorized LL601 strain, the official said, on condition of anonymity.
EU confirms presence of tainted GMO rice - Reuters news service, 11 September 2006 - http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=2420414
11 Sep , 2006 - BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission confirmed on Monday the presence of an unauthorized genetically modified (GMO) strain of rice. Thirty-three out of 162 results of rice samples carried out by members of the European Federation of Rice Millers tested positive for the LL601 strain, the European Commission said in a statement. "Any consignments which tested positive have already been recalled or withheld from the market and the Federation's members have committed to continuing such withdrawals for any positive findings," the European Commission said. It also said that three bargeloads within a 20,000 metric ton U.S. rice cargo detained in Rotterdam had tested positive, while 20 other bargeloads had tested negative. "The consignments which tested negative for the unauthorized GMO have now been allowed to proceed to their final destination, while those which tested positive continue to be detained in Rotterdam and will either be returned to the USA or destroyed," the European Commission said. At present, no biotech rice at all is allowed to be grown, sold or marketed in the 25 countries of the EU.
In August, the European Commission tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain rice imports to prove the absence of biotech rice strain LL601, which it said was marketed by Germany's Bayer AG and produced in the United States. The Commission's August decision followed the discovery by U.S. authorities of trace amounts of LL601, engineered to resist a herbicide, in long-grain samples that were targeted for commercial use. Earlier on Monday environmental group Greenpeace International said a strain of LL601 rice had been found in branches of discount supermarket Aldi Nord in Germany. However, Aldi said no GMO rice had yet been found at its Aldi Nord operations.
In Frankfurt, a spokeswoman for Bayer said the company did not sell or produce LL Rice 601. She said the strain was developed by Aventis CropScience, a company bought by Bayer in 2002, but that development had been discontinued in 2001.
US Illegal GE Rice Contamination Spreads Further into Europe - Bayer's illegal GE rice found in major German supermarket
11 SEPTEMBER, 2006 - http://www.commondreams.org/news2006/0911-03.htm
NEW YORK - September 11 - The scandal around illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice entering European food outlets has grown today as Greenpeace tests reveal illegal rice from the US has contaminated rice on supermarket shelves in Germany. Last week Greenpeace revealed illegal GE rice from China, which poses a potential health risk, had ended up in rice products on European shelves. The European Food Safety Committee meets today to determine the EU response to the potentially widespread contamination of rice and rice products and Greenpeace is calling on the EU to implement strong measures to stop further contamination.
Tests conducted by an independent laboratory have confirmed the presence of Bayer's Liberty Link rice in US parboiled long grain rice sold in Aldi Nord a major German supermarket chain which also has 700 outlets throughout France. Bayers LL GE rice is not approved for food or cultivation anywhere in the world except for the United States and Canada.
"The first question we are asking to both US and European authorities is how widespread is this contamination in products already on grocery store shelves?" said Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace GE campaigner. "The second question is what are they doing to protect consumers?" Greenpeace is demanding global testing of consumer products by the rice products industry and a European recall of contaminated US rice products.
Greenpeace is also calling on US authorities and food companies to protect US consumers. "We know that food products in Europe are contaminated. What about the rice products that US consumers are buying, like Uncle Ben's and Rice Krispies? We haven't heard a peep from the US food industry. What assurance are companies such as Kellogg's providing to consumers that their products sold in US supermarkets do not contain illegal GMOs?" added Stabinsky.
Greenpeace followed the announcement of contamination with a letter to US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, calling on the agency to test all rice exports, regardless of destination. Other important export markets for US long grain rice and rice products include Mexico and the Middle East, where countries such as Saudi Arabia have strict laws regulating GE food products. Greenpeace is urging governments around the world to protect consumers in their countries and test rice products on supermarket shelves that originate from the United States.
For the past two years, US rice producers have refused to grow GE rice commercially because of lack of consumer acceptance around the world. The US rice industry, already reeling under widespread contamination and multiple lawsuits as a result of falling rice prices, is now likely to face an even larger global backlash.
"We know from experience in the Starlink case that the initial contamination finding is just the tip of the iceberg. Once illegal GE crops are in the food chain, removing them takes enormous effort and cost. It is easier to prevent contamination in the first place and stop any plans to commercialise GE rice," concluded Jeremy Tager, GE rice campaigner with Greenpeace International. "This is a clear message to the global rice industry - stay away from GE rice or you risk serious long-term economic damage to your market."
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people to have access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.
In the US Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace International GE campaigner, +1-202-285-7398
In Amsterdam Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE rice campaigner +31 6 4622 1185 Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications officer +31 6 4619 7324
Images are available of the contaminated rice products - Contact the Greenpeace International picture desk +31 20 718 2058
Tainted biotech rice found in Germany - Greenpeace Reuters News Service - 11th September 2006
BRUSSELS - An unauthorised genetically modified (GMO) rice has found its way into the European Union's retail food sector and appeared for sale at branches of discount supermarket Aldi, environment group Greenpeace said on Monday. The biotech rice strain, known as LL Rice 601, was found in Aldi branches in Germany, Greenpeace International said in a report. At present, no biotech rice at all is allowed to be grown, sold or marketed in the 25 countries of the EU. "Tests conducted by an independent accredited laboratory have confirmed the presence of Bayer's Liberty Link rice in U.S. parboiled long grain rice sold in Aldi Nord, a major German supermarket chain," it said in a statement. Officials at Aldi Nord were not immediately available for comment.
In August, the European Commission tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain rice imports to prove the absence of LL Rice 601, which it said was marketed by Germany's Bayer AG and produced in the United States. In Frankfurt, a spokeswoman for Bayer said the company did not sell or produce LL Rice 601. She said the strain was developed by Aventis CropScience, a company bought by Bayer in 2002, but that development had been discontinued in 2001. "We are taking note of this report, evaluating it together with the rice industry as more information becomes available," the spokeswoman said. "We don't know whether Greenpeace has used testing methods validated by European authorities and whether they have used designated labs." She also said U.S., British and Canadian regulators had confirmed the food safety of the rice.
The Commission's decision followed the discovery by U.S. authorities of trace amounts of LL Rice 601, engineered to resist a herbicide, in long-grain samples that were targeted for commercial use. The only other evidence so far of the presence of LL Rice 601 in the EU-25 has been in the Netherlands, where Dutch authorities have been testing a 20,000-tonne U.S. rice cargo that was partly destined for Britain and partly for Germany. As of last Friday, two-thirds of the cargo - held in Rotterdam - had been tested but no positive trace was found, European Commission officials said. The shipment equates to one month's average EU imports of U.S. long-grain rice.
Genetically modified wheat still shunned - Billings Gazette, 10 September 2006
FARGO, N.D. - An eminent agricultural economist has looked at it again: The world still is against genetically modified wheat. Robert Wisner of Iowa State University in Ames, offering an annual update of his 2003 study "Market Risks of Genetically Modified Wheat," said introducing genetically modified wheat won't turn around the trend of declining wheat acres in the United States, as some proponents suggest. Wisner, updating the study on behalf of the Western Organization and its seven state groups - including the Dakota Resource Council - found that introducing genetically modified wheat still would risk the loss of a quarter of U.S. hard red spring and wheat durum export markets and would cut prices about one-third, as earlier reports have concluded. "Nothing new," said Todd Leake of Emerado, N.D., a commercial farmer and chairman of the DRC's Food Safety Task Force, which deals with genetically modified wheat issues.
The issue was heavily in the news until 2004, when Monsanto announced it would shelve its Roundup Ready plans until markets and farmers would accept it. Syngenta and others are continuing to develop genetically modified wheat that would protect a crop from Fusarium head blight, or scab. Wisner concluded that the market makes no distinction between genetically modified crops for scab resistance vs. herbicide resistance. Leake, who grew 1,200 acres of wheat in 2006, called scab "yesterday's problem," noting the success of North Dakota State University's Alsen wheat variety with its "excellent Fusarium resistance." He said success of conventional techniques is something proponents of genetic modification "publicly ignore." "Fusarium head blight is not an important enough issue anymore to warrant the market risks of a GMO wheat introduction," he said, noting it would drop U.S. wheat prices to about $2 a bushel, which is the rough price for Canadian feed wheat.
WTO and ag issues
Leake said the fact that World Trade Organization talks are faltering on ag issues is an indication that the European Union is less likely to drop its restrictions on GMO crops. Leake said the report's message is made even stronger by a separate event. Japan suspended imports of U.S. rice and the European Union imposed mandatory testing of all imported rice after the Bayer Corp. announced that traces of Liberty Link rice, a genetically modified rice, had been detected in commercial supplies. "This is a warning," Leke said. "If we had contamination of a GMO in wheat, from everything they've said, they wouldn't import the wheat. Even if Japanese or European food agencies would relinquish a bit, that doesn't mean the milling industry is going to buy it. The paradigm hasn't changed." Leake said the study runs counter to claims that if wheat can be genetically modified for weed protection, disease protection or for other consumer traits, the crop will be more able to compete against soybeans and corn for acres. Wisner concludes that wheat acreage is declining because of more favorable U.S. farm support policies and because of expanding demand for ethanol and biodiesel.
USDA to Rubber-Stamp Contamination of Food with Illegal, Genetically Engineered Rice Banned in Japan and Europe
Press Release - Center for Food Safety
U.S. Dismantles Regulation of Genetically Engineered Crops to Serve Interests of Biotechnology Industry
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today initiated fast-track market approval of an illegal, genetically-engineered (GE) rice variety that has contaminated long-grain rice throughout the South, throwing rice markets into turmoil and potentially causing harm to consumers and the environment. Bayer CropScience developed the rice, known as LL601. Bayer field-tested LL601 from 1998-2001, but for unknown reasons never applied to USDA for market approval.
Though LL601 is illegally present in rice supplies, and has not undergone meaningful reviews for potential health or environmental impacts, U.S. authorities have failed to recall LL601-contaminated rice supplies or food products. In contrast, Japan has banned U.S. long-grain rice imports, and the European Union is testing all U.S. rice shipments and rejecting those that contain LL601.
Bayer is now asking USDA to grant retroactive market approval of the illegal rice, even though the company gave up plans to market LL601 in 2001 and it remains untested.
"Illegal, potentially hazardous rice in grain bins, on supermarket shelves, in cereal, beer, baby foods, and all rice products. It should be a no-brainer - recall this stuff to make sure no one eats it," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety. "Instead, USDA plans to rush through 'market approval' of a genetically engineered rice that Bayer itself decided was unfit for commerce. Why? To free Bayer from liability." "Experimental, genetically engineered crops like LL601 are prohibited for a reason," said Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst at Center for Food Safety. "Exhaustive testing is required to determine whether or not mutagenic gene-splicing procedures create human health or environmental hazards, and no one has done that analysis on LL601 rice," he added.
LL601 is one of several 'LibertyLink' (LL) rice varieties that have been genetically engineered by Bayer to survive application of Bayer's proprietary Liberty© herbicide. Liberty kills normal rice, but can be applied directly to LL varieties to kill surrounding weeds. This explains why Bayer had to obtain government approval to permit residues of the weedkiller on rice grains of its two approved versions of LibertyLink rice.
"Contrary to what you hear from the biotech industry, genetically engineered crops like LibertyLink rice mean more chemicals in our food, not less," said Freese.
"USDA's bid to approve - rather than recall - an illegal, genetically engineered contaminant in the food supply is the clearest sign yet that U.S. authorities are intent upon dismantling federal regulation of GE crops in the interests of the biotechnology industry," said Mendelson.
LL601 was first detected in U.S. rice by an export customer of Arkansas-based Riceland Foods in January 2006. According to Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Richard Bell, LL601 has been detected in virtually all milled long-grain rice supplies that have been tested. USDA announced the contamination debacle seven months later, on August 18th, when U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns professed ignorance as to how much rice was contaminated, which rice products were involved, or where the contaminated rice was found.
In 2001, Bayer purchased Aventis CropScience, the company responsible for multimillion dollar food recalls due to massive contamination of U.S corn supplies with genetically engineered StarLink corn. StarLink was unapproved for human consumption due to concerns it could cause food allergies.
Since 1996, the USDA has granted at least 48 permits authorizing Bayer or companies it has since acquired (Aventis, AgrEvo) to plant over 4,000 acres of experimental, genetically engineered (GE) rice. The extent to which pollen or grains from these field trials have contaminated commercial rice or related weedy species such as red rice is unknown. USDA policies do not provide for the testing of fields adjacent to field test sites to detect possible contamination with the experimental genetically engineered crop.
September 8, 2006 - Contacts: Joe Mendelson, 202-547-9359 x12; Bill Freese, 202-547-9359 x14
Market boosts organic while GMOs wane - Daniel Mintz - Eye Correspondent - Arcata Eye, CA, September 5 2006
HUMBOLDT - Genetically engineered crops are being upstaged by organic farming in Humboldt, as biotech trends continue to be offset by economic and political forces.
The growing demand for organic products, particularly dairy products, is being met with an increase in local organic farming. With Humboldt?s organic farming economy ascending, the use of genetically modified crops is believed to be on the wane, as local dairies are increasingly switching from conventional to organic production. And the local campaign to protect crop integrity through voter-approved legislation will soon re-emerge. The treasurer and co-chair of the Humboldt Green Genes coalition has said that a new anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) ballot measure campaign will focus on the spring 2008 election. That effort is still viable thanks to the recent rejection of Senate Bill 1056, the so-called "Monsanto law," named after its corporate sponsor, which would have blocked counties and cities from passing GMO bans. But regulation of a different sort has vaulted the prevalence of organic farming in Humboldt County and the region surrounding it.
"A radical swing"
Market forces have strongly encouraged organic crop production here, as the demand for chemical-free food escalates nationwide. Corn for livestock feed is the county's primary GMO crop, and Frank Holzberger, the county's senior agricultural inspector, reports that an increase in organic dairies responds to market trends and may reflect a downturn in the local use of high-yield GMOs. The county's first organic dairy established itself in 2001, Holzberger said, and he guessed that 30 more have come since. "More will soon," he continued. "The needle is going way toward organic." The reason why is explained by the cornerstone of economics - supply and demand. "Economics is driving this," said Holzberger. "The demand for organic milk is so strong and supply is so limited, more dairies have gone the organic route."
With the organic food economy becoming more entrenched here, the need to protect it intensifies. One of the reasons why GMO crops are so controversial is concern over cross-pollination and contamination of non-GE crops. Holzberger thinks the advent of organic agriculture will be the ultimate GMO regulator. "This is going to take care of itself," he said. "Recently, the dairies here have made a radical swing and it was the market that drove that." Quantifying the trend is hard because its scale is more accurately gauged by numbers of cows rather numbers of diaries. And some conventional producers will continue to lean on GMO crops, but Holzberger thinks the organic upswing will crowd out GE farming. "That would be a reasonable assumption to make, as the number of organic acres increase, and the numbers of conventional acres and cows decrease," he said.
The organic trend is also noted by Len Mayer, general manager of the North Coast Co-op, who said that the attention-getting growth of the organic market is magnetizing food producers. Mayer said food markets usually match population hikes with two to three percent a year production increases. The growth rate of the organic market far exceeds those expectations, seeing 15 to 20 percent annual increases over the last ten years. "That is getting everybody's attention," Mayer said. "And that's why even the big guys are entering the organic market." The market for organic milk is wide open. "For a long time, there's been a surplus of milk in the U.S. and there's also been a shortage of organic milk," Mayer explained. "Producers see that there is excess milk in the market on the conventional side, and the real opportunity is with organic." The Ferndale-based Humboldt Creamery produces both its own conventional milk and organic milk for other distributors, but Mayer said the creamery's involvement in the organic market is about to become more evident with the production of organic milk under its own brand name. "More and more products are going organic, and that is displacing conventional production," said Mayer.
Nevertheless, there will be political action to protect what has become a prized aspect of local economy. Mike Gann, Humboldt Green Genes' treasurer and co chair, said the anti-GMO coalition still has $9,000 left over from its 2004 campaign and will propose another ballot measure for the June 2008 election. The first effort to pass a local anti-GMO law was dropped due to flaws in its content, but Gann noted the failure of SB1056, which would have exclusively placed all forms of seed and crop regulation with the state. He doesn't doubt that the biotech industry will again encourage legislation against local authority, and said that his coalition "remains steadfast in our commitment to draft a GMO-free ordinance." And as organic food becomes more popular, the rationale for such an effort has a decidedly economic angle. "To have an anti-GMO measure gives us a record of GMO-free, safe food and it gives us a market advantage," said Gann, who pointed out that Mendocino County already has a GMO ban and the trend could become regional and define a united organic front. "We definitely feel that our movement is spreading," Gann said.
Updated Report Says Industry Still Not Ready for Biotech Wheat Farm Futures - September 6 2006
http://www.farmfutures.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=CD26BEDECA4A4946A1283CC7786AEB 5A&nm=News&type=news&mod=News&mid=9A02E3B96F2A415AB C72CB5F516B4C10&tier=3&nid=84F11CCF12DA4027890CAE51646B9BB4
Segregating biotech and non-biotech wheat supplies in marketing channels is still a major stumbling block in market acceptance of genetically modified wheat, according to an updated analysis from Iowa State University grain market analyst Bob Wisner. "If a low-cost acceptable segregation system could be developed, that would increase the likelihood of market acceptance of GM wheat. With the low tolerances allowed for GM food ingredients in some foreign markets, effective market segregation to meet those low tolerances would be important if negative impacts on export demand from commercializing GM wheat at this time are to be avoided," Wisner writes in his update to his October 2003 report, Market Risks of Genetically Modified Wheat.
Exports account for 56% of the market for U.S. hard red spring wheat, making export market acceptance vital to the U.S. wheat industry's economic health. Wisner warns introduction of biotech wheat could risk the loss of one-fourth to one-half of U.S. hard red spring and durum wheat export markets and up to a one-third drop in price, as earlier reports have found.
The acreage shift
A number of organizations and businesses associated with the U.S. wheat industry as well as wheat growers have become concerned about the long-term downward trend in U.S. wheat planted acreage and the declining U.S. share of world wheat exports. At a recent industry meeting, these groups made commitments to encourage the development of biotech wheat, with the view that this technology will create technological developments making U.S. wheat more competitive in world markets. At the same time, the wheat industry participants stressed that careful attention will be given to ensuring that resulting products are accepted by consumers. At this stage, there is no way of knowing for certain whether genetically modified varieties of wheat would halt or reverse the decline in U.S. wheat acres.
"The decline has occurred in response to major government policy changes, as well as accelerated growth in demand for alternative crops and development of varieties of alternative crops more suited to the short growing season of the Northern Plains," Wisner reports. "It also has been influenced by a sharp increase in wheat exports from former Soviet republics. By western standards, wheat yields in these countries are not very impressive. But the shift to a market-oriented economy has encouraged farmers in the region to produce crops for which they have a comparative advantage in world markets."
Comparing to other crops
Wisner says in the next several years, U.S. government incentives for production of biofuels from corn and soybeans almost certainly will cause these crops to provide intense competition with wheat. "Genetic improvements in wheat - if the resulting varieties are acceptable in international markets - could somewhat moderate the intensifying competition," he says.
So far in the September 1, 2005-August 31, 2006 soybean marketing year (through August 17, 2006), U.S. cumulative soybean export sales to the EU were down from the same period a year earlier by 54%. U.S. soybean meal exports to the EU during the same period were down 56% from the previous year's low level and have dropped to almost economically insignificant levels. Historically, the EU has been the largest overseas customer for U.S. soybeans and often has been its largest foreign buyer of soybean meal. "U.S. soybean exports to the EU in the next few years could be an important lead indicator of potential market acceptance of GMO wheat," Wisner says. "Loss of the U.S. corn export market in EU and the sharp downward trend in US soybean and soybean meal exports to EU are strong cautions to the wheat industry that GM issues in that market should be taken seriously."
The report was prepared by Wisner for the Western Organization of Resources Councils and the Dakota Resource Council. Read the report online at Potential Market Impacts from Commercializing Roundup Ready Wheat, September 2006 Update - http://www.worc.org/pdfs/Market%20Risks%20Update%20Final%208-06.pdf
The monarch and the milkweed - By Roxana Robinson - The Boston Globe, September 6 2006
NEAR MY back door is a tall, straggly plant, with an awkward shape, nearly colorless flowers. If you saw it you'd think it was a weed, and you'd be right. I planted it.
When I put in plants, I hope they'll thrive. I hope they won't be shredded by insects - which is a risk in my garden. I don't use toxic chemicals, and it's always a race to see which comes first, the end of summer or the end of the garden. I'm tempted by chemicals: a quick misting and the aphids are gone, the walk, weed-free. Still, I don't use them. Their smooth eradicatory sweep makes me uneasy: nature works in messy ebbs and flows, but it's always worked. The wheat farmers of Sicily, for example, breadbasket of the Roman Empire, managed fine without Ortho. In my garden (and many others), plants thrive without chemicals, as they have since the first human planted the first yam. Synthetic chemicals are newcomers: it's only about 50 years since they've been widely used by backyard gardeners. Now they're everywhere, their cheery labels carrying ominous small-print warnings. No one knows the long-term consequences. On summer evenings children used to run alongside the DDT truck, letting its cool spray coat their arms and legs.
When small green caterpillars attacked my roses, I used Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring organism that attacks caterpillars' intestines. It doesn't affect vertebrates and breaks down without a trace. It sounds safe. I hope my homely back-door plant will thrive, but not that the insects will leave it alone: actually, I want it ripped to shreds. The plant is asclepius syriaca, the common milkweed, and the destructive visitor I hope for is Danaus plexippus, the monarch butterfly.
The ember-colored monarch may be the most beautiful of all butterflies; certainly it's the most famous. Every fall, all the monarchs in the Northern Hemisphere make remarkable journeys. The West Coast ones head for California, the East Coasters - including mine in Maine - fly to Mexico. No one knows how they survive the buffeting thumps of airplane traffic, or El Nino. Most monarchs live about six weeks. The last generation, hatching in the fall, is called Methuselah, and lives from six to nine months. The Methuselahs fly to the winter retreat, though no one knows how they find it, since they've never been there. Milkweeds are the only plants on which monarchs lay eggs. Larvae - caterpillars - hatch, and eat the leaves. The caterpillar forms a chrysalis, which forms the butterfly. Every monarch on the planet depends on milkweed.
In the mornings, on my milkweed, there are monarchs. Brilliant, fire-colored, their wings pulse slowly, in and out. On the leaves, the torpid caterpillars eat their way toward splendor. You used to see milkweeds everywhere - ditches, fields, empty lots. In the fall, they produce a thick brown pod, tightly packed with seeds, filmy white fibers. You see them seldom now. We're eradicating milkweed. It produces cardenolide alkaloid, which disagrees with cattle. Cattle farmers dislike it. Crop growers dislike it because it's a weed. Traditionally, weeds were tilled under. It's probably what the Sicilians did. Tilling eliminates most weeds, though some survive. Until now, it wasn't possible to eradicate a plant altogether.
Most monarch/milkweed habitat occurs in farmland, vanishing at nearly 3,000 acres a day. The remaining habitat, mostly owned by agribusiness, increasingly grows genetically modified (GM) corn and soybeans. GM crops resist glyphosphate, the active ingredient in RoundUp. Milkweed cannot. The GM switch meant the loss of 80 million acres of monarch habitat. Roadside milkweeds are eradicated by townships, backyard milkweeds by anyone who uses herbicides. Even organic gardeners are implicated - remember those tiny caterpillars, and the Bt? The monarch and the milkweed will vanish. Everyone knows that economics come before beauty, commerce before conservation. Everyone knows that everything legal is safe. Or maybe we all don't know this. Maybe we think nature, with its messy ebbs and flows, has value. Maybe we're not sure that a few big companies should eradicate whole species. Maybe we're not certain that GM crops should predominate, playing an unknown role in our children's health.
We can write letters, quit using herbicides, reject GM crops. We can plant milkweed. For a while, monarchs will appear, airborne jewels, landing dreamily on our plants as though this were the only place on earth they want to be. Which it is.
Roxana Robinson is a novelist and nature writer. Her most recent novel is "Sweetwater."
Ark. farmers file 4th lawsuit over genetically engineered rice - Associated Press, September 2 2006 [shortened]
LITTLE ROCK - A fourth lawsuit has been filed against Bayer CropScience LP, accusing the company of negligence after an unapproved, genetically engineered rice was found in the United States. The latest suit was filed by Ephron H. and Doris S. Lewis of Cross County, Floyd and Genotrice Murrow from Phillips County and Ivory Nealy of Lee County. Their suit, filed Thursday in federal court, is the third federal class-action case against Bayer. This week, a group of rice growers filed suit in Lonoke County Circuit Court against Bayer and Stuttgart-based Riceland Foods Inc. on similar claims.
"Farmers sue over genetically modified rice" - Counties need power over biotech crops
LETTERS TO BUSINESS, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, September 3, 2006
Editor - Your Aug. 29 Business section story "Farmers sue over genetically modified rice" makes it look like these supposedly hysterical, uninformed food activists who are working to protect all farmers from the uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered organisms got it right again. Lately we've seen stories on the struggle between activists and the chemical/biotech industry and its trusty Farm Bureau ally over SB1056, the California Seed Preemption Act. The bill will effectively eliminate the power counties have to protect local farmers by banning genetically engineered crops, as four counties already have.
This latest story makes it plain that the same federal government the state has abdicated all authority to on the issue of biotech crops has failed completely in its mission to regulate biotech crops and protect farmers from universal crop contamination. The subhead, "Exports banned after contamination found; prices plummet," makes it equally plain why, in the absence of effective federal and state regulation, the counties must retain the authority to protect local farmers from biotech blight.
It was known that the nation's long-grain rice stocks had been contaminated with unapproved Bayer CropScience biotech muck, imperiling Mississippi Valley farmers and their export markets, even before the Assembly voted 51-24 in favor of SB1056. If state senators cast a similar vote when SB1056 comes to the floor, California's farmers will be condemned to the certain fate of biotech contamination, lost markets, plummeting prices and endless lawsuits.
WILL STOCKWIN, Colfax
Monsanto-Backed GE Food Bill dies in CA Legislature - Senate rebuffs biotech industry-sponsored play to pre-empt local democracy
Californians for GE-Free Agriculture, Sep 2 2006 - http://www.yubanet.com/artman/publish/article_41591.shtml
Proponents of precautions for genetically engineered crops declared victory in their battle to defend the rights of counties and cities to enact local restrictions on genetically engineered (GE) organisms. SB1056, a bill that would have pre-empted such local laws, failed to make it out of committee in the California Senate and died with the close of the legislative year. The Monsanto-backed bill was introduced last year after the passage of four county and two city bans on GE crops. It was opposed by associations of cities and counties, environmentalists, organic and family farmers, and thousands of citizens concerned that it would have pre-empted democratically established local rules. California currently has no state regulations to protect farmers, consumers or the environment from the risks of GE crops. "In the absence of statewide safeguards, local governments have stepped up to the plate and taken the precaution of restricting GE crops," said Lisa Bunin, Ph.D., member of the Santa Cruz County Public Health Commission GE Subcommittee. "With the passage of local GE-free laws, these governments have sent a clear message that the state needs to act not only to protect the state's diverse agriculture, but also public health and the environment."
One of the central concerns about genetically engineered crops is contamination of the food supply by engineered varieties. Just this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that an unapproved variety of GE rice has been contaminating the U.S. rice supply for years. Japan, the E.U., and other important U.S. rice importing countries reacted immediately with bans and restrictions on long grain rice imports, shaking the rice industry and causing the rice futures market to plummet by more than $150 million so far. Peggy Miars, Executive Director of California Certified Organic Farmers, explains, "Organic farmers are often portrayed as the main farming sector concerned about genetic contamination. While it is true that organic markets are highly vulnerable to GE contamination, the recent rice fiasco demonstrates once again that this is an issue for all farmers, both organic and non-organic, whose customers don't want to buy gene altered foods." "The rice contamination incident highlights the inadequacy of the federal GE regulatory system, and the high economic stakes involved when contamination occurs. It serves as a wake-up call to California lawmakers about the need for state legislation on GE," stated Rebecca Spector, Center for Food Safety's West Coast Director.
Beginning last year, the biotechnology industry pushed for similar pre-emption laws in several U.S. states, fearful that California's model of local bans would take hold elsewhere. It has also spent decades fighting all over the world against any regulatory restrictions on experimental GE foods. "By not even bringing SB1056 to a vote, the Senate sent a clear message that enacting pre-emption before state legislation is bad policy," said Renata Brillinger, Director of Californians for GE-Free Agriculture. "We commend Senate leadership, and look forward to moving ahead with discussions on effective state laws to address the problems associated with genetic engineering of crops and food."
Californians for GE-Free Agriculture http://www.calgefree.org is a coalition of sustainable farming, environmental, and consumer organizations including: California Certified Organic Farmers * Center for Environmental Health * Center for Food Safety * Community Alliance with Family Farmers * Ecological Farming Association * Occidental Arts and Ecology Center * True Food Network
CA's SB1056 Fails, Communities Retain Right to Shape their Food Systems - by Britt Bailey - Friday Sep 1st, 2006
ATTEMPT TO STRIP LOCAL AUTHORITY OVER SEEDS AND PLANTS FAILS IN CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE
As the 2006 California legislature came to a close, environmental and sustainable agriculture advocates breathed a sigh of relief as a controversial bill intended to strip local communities' rule over seeds and plants was defeated.
SB1056, introduced as a direct response to local governments adopting ordinances restricting the growing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), died as the session came to an end yesterday. Since 2004, four counties (Mendocino, Trinity, Santa Cruz, and Marin) and two cities (Point Arena and Arcata) have acted to prevent the growing of genetically modified seeds. The agribusiness industry, including Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, worried that local regulation of genetically modified crops would hamper the consolidation and expansion of intensive agriculture, have backed and supported the bill removing local authority over seeds and plants.
While stopping local initiatives to regulate genetically modified organisms was squarely the basis for SB1056, the breadth of the preemption bill and its limitation on the democratic rights of citizens created discomfort for local government organizations, community rights advocates, and legislators, as well as for environmental and farming advocates. Referring to SB1056, Senator Wesley Chesbro stated, "First and foremost, it's anti-democratic to deny local voters the right to speak." Assemblywoman Patty Berg said, "I argued against that bill and I voted against that bill because I think it's bad for California. If the counties involved in giant agribusiness want to allow GMO crops, that's their business. But they shouldn't be able to impose it on the rest of the state, especially not on counties here on the North Coast that are taking a serious look at banning this worrisome technology. Bottom line: if the people don't want it, it shouldn't be forced on them."
According to Environmental Commons Director, Britt Bailey, "I am very pleased that California's local governments will retain the right to shape their food systems. Local food systems build community, improve rural economies, and develop regional character and identity."
SB1056 is at the crux of a fierce, decade-long debate between sustainable agriculture advocates and biotechnology multinationals. Those supporting and protecting sustainable agriculture point to a lack of adequate state and federal regulations protecting foods from the detrimental effects of genetic pollution," which occurs when an engineered gene enters another species of crop or wild plant through cross-pollination. Vern Goehring, lobbyist for the California Native Plant Society also in opposition to SB1056, affirms the rights of communities to protect their food systems, "Cross pollination from cultivated plants to wild plants is a common occurrence and science has shown that this depends on the individual crop, the wild species in the area, and local environmental conditions. Therefore, it is critical that local communities retain the ability to protect their local economies and natural resources."
In recent weeks news broke that the U.S. food supply has been contaminated with an unapproved variety of genetically engineered rice developed by Bayer Corporation. Japan, South Korea, and Europe immediately placed bans and restrictions on long grain rice imports. The contamination has caused rice futures to fall an estimated $150 million. Californians are likely to see another legislative attempt to preempt local governments in the future. Though, for now, communities can continue to protect their environmental and farming resources.
Efforts to take GMO control blocked - By FRANK HARTZELL Of The Beacon - The Mendocino Beacon, 31 August 2006
Local food safety activists have apparently successfully led efforts to defeat a proposed new state law that would prevent other counties from following the lead of Mendocino County on genetically-modified (GM) farm crop regulation. Mendocino County was specifically exempt from the effects of Senate Bill 1056. The bill was approved last week on a 46-19 vote in the California Assembly and sent back to the Senate, where it was approved previously. While the bill needed only a simple concurrence vote in the Senate, it was apparently blocked there.
State Sen. Wes Chesbro's office told pleased local activists that the bill would not get a Senate vote this week, ending its chances this year, said Els Cooperrider, a leading proponent of the controversial Mendocino county ordinance restricting GMOs. The legislative session ended Thursday, the same day this newspaper was going to press. Local activists helped lead a statewide effort to lobby Sen. Don Perata, the Senate Pro Tem. Some reports credited Perata with killing the bill. "What I know is that a bunch of us lobbied everyone we could think of. I called Mike Thompson to call Perata as well. I figured it couldn't hurt," said Cooperrider. "We are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping Chesbro was right." If signed into law by the governor as all sides had expected, the bill would have prevented individual counties or cities from banning the use of GM crops. Mendocino became the first county in the United States to restrict the growing of genetically-modified organisms. Currently, there are three additional California counties and nearly 100 towns in New England which restrict the growing of GMOs, said Britt Bailey, director of Environmental Commons in Gualala.
"SB1056 strips local communities of their rights to shape their food systems [so that they] reflect the unique characteristics and features of their region," Bailey said. The effect of moratoriums like the one passed in Mendocino County is precautionary in nature, Bailey explained. "These communities have in essence pro-actively protected their local food supplies from possible genetic contamination which occurs when an engineered gene enters another species of crop or wild plant through cross-pollination," she said. A genetically modified organism (GMO) is a man-made plant or animal created in a laboratory using genes from other species and patented for use in agriculture. The bill would prevent local regulation of GM seed and nursery stock.
Trinity and Marin counties have also passed ordinances restricting GMOs and would also have been exempt from the bill. Twelve other counties, mostly in the San Joaquin Valley, have passed ordinances in support of GMOs. Santa Cruz Count yhas backpedaled on a plan passed earlier. Media reports said most of the opposition was coming from Mendocino and other areas that have already banned GMOs and would not be affected. Supporters of SB1056 say the goal is to create guidelines for consistent statewide legislation on genetically-engineered crops. "Agribusiness lobbyists such as Dow and Monsanto claim that this statewide preemption is necessary to create uniformity and consistent statewide regulation," Bailey said. "However, the bill puts the state in the nonsensical position of preempting local authority and declaring that it occupies the entire field' on an issue - genetically modified crops - for which there is not one law or regulation on the books. SB1056 preempts to a statutory void," Bailey said.
After Mendocino County banned GMOs, conservative think tanks in the U.S. such as the Hoover Institution launched a large-scale effort to debunk the notion that there is any threat from so-called "Frankenfoods." At the same time, Asian and European nations have been perplexed by the American enthusiasm for freshly created life forms and have restricted imports from the United States. "The agricultural industry has been pushing state bills like this across the country to preempt local municipalities from having local control over food safety," said Toni Rizzo of Fort Bragg, a supporter of the Mendocino County GMO ban. "It's another way that corporate money is used to stifle the democratic process and take away our right to control the quality of the food and environment in our communities."
The Assembly passage of SB1056 was a bi-partisan effort, which included Central Valley Democrats, who normally support environmental efforts, the publication Capitol Weekly News reported. Most of the Central Valley now grows genetically-modified foods, such as tomatoes bolstered by genes from cattle. Weeds have evolved resistance to nearly all pesticides and herbicides but when combined with animal genes, more toxic sprays can be used on weeds which then don't kill the farmed crops such as rice. Genetically-modified crops can have significant impacts on the environment, the economy, and public health, Bailey claims. Several recent incidents highlight risks associated with inadequate control of genetically modified crops, she said. On Aug. 5, it was reported that genetically-engineered herbicide-resistant bentgrass swere discovered in the wild in Oregon. Norman Ellstrand, University of California plant geneticist, said, "Such resistance could force land managers and government agencies ... to switch to nastier herbicides to control grasses and weeds." In another blow for GMOs, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns announced that U.S. supplies of long-grain rice have been contaminated with a genetically engineered variety not approved for human consumption, leading Japan, South Korea, and Europe to reject all U.S. long-grain rice, according to the Washington Post.
Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka, whose district includes the coast, said she was disappointed that her colleagues approved SB1056 by Central Valley lawmaker Dean Florez. Berg spoke against the bill, which passed despite opposition from environmental and local government interests. "When counties in my district voted to restrict the use of GMO crops, I supported those efforts. I still support those efforts. I believe that people have a right to say what goes on in their counties, in their fields and near their homes. I oppose this bill, and I will oppose any bill that would strip from counties the right to restrict this technology," Berg said on the Assembly floor. Florez said that some of the demands made by environmentalists in negotiations have been unreasonable - most notably the suggestion that all fields with GM crops be covered in heavy plastic to prevent pollen from escaping. Much of Florez' district is already planted in genetically engineered crops, Capitol Weekly News reported. "This bill may come back next year in a new suit. I'm sure it will," said Cooperrider.
For more information, see http://environmentalcommons.org/food-democracy-CA.html.
Unauthorised U.S. GMO rice arrived in Netherlands - REUTERS, Thu Aug 31 2006
BRUSSELS, Aug 31 (Reuters) - A shipment of an unauthorised GMO rice strain from the United States arrived in the Netherlands on Saturday, the European Commission said. "We do have a suspected positive case in Rotterdam," Commission spokesman Philip Tod told a news conference on Thursday, adding that the rice had not entered the market and was being tested by Dutch authorities. "We also have been told by industry of another suspected positive case in New Orleans, but that has not left the U.S."
Last week, the EU tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain rice imports following the discovery by U.S. authorities of a genetically modified (GMO) strain known as LL Rice 601 marketed by Germany's Bayer AG and produced in the United States.
ANALYSIS - US Oversight of Biotech Crops Seen Lacking - Story by Carey Gillam - US: REUTERS NEWS SERVICE, August 29 2006
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Criticism is mounting over the US government's efforts to control experimental genetically modified crops in the wake of admissions that a discarded biotech rice has contaminated US commercial supplies. The disclosure of the contamination of experimental biotech rice owned by Bayer CropScience, a unit of Bayer AG, coupled with statements by USDA officials that they have no idea how the contamination occurred or how extensive it may be, has outraged players up and down the food chain. Farmers, food and beverage makers and exporters all are positioning themselves for a long, and likely costly, ordeal.
Already, Japan has suspended imports of US long grain rice because of the contamination, and Europe, a major export market for US rice, has insisted rice imports be tested and any contaminated rice excluded from shipments to the 25-member European Union. Other US rice customers are also reportedly reviewing their planned purchases even as US rice prices have dropped sharply. Meanwhile, with much of the US rice industry in turmoil because the extent of the contamination is unknown, an official with the USDA's Animal Health and Plant Health Inspection Service said it would likely take two to three months before the agency had many answers. "This is real money that farmers are losing," said Arkansas Rice Growers Association executive director Greg Yielding, who said he has fielded dozens of calls from frantic rice farmers. "It is a big deal. We do not feel that USDA and APHIS have adequate funds or staff to do this job. They can't tell you where anything is even though they get permits for it."
HOLES IN OVERSIGHT
Over the last decade, the USDA has approved applications for more than 49,000 field site tests of GMO crops and APHIS has deregulated more than 70 GMO crop lines, many of which have been embraced by farmers because they are easier and/or more profitable to grow. USDA and APHIS have touted the government's ability to oversee the growth of biotechnology in agriculture and repeatedly assured consumer groups and foreign governments that safety was a foremost concern for regulators. But an Office of Inspector General audit of APHIS' and its biotechnology regulatory services unit found numerous holes in oversight efforts and issued a stern warning in its December 2005 report. It said APHIS lacks "basic information about the field test sites it approves and is responsible for monitoring, including where and how the crops are being grown and what becomes of them at the end of the field test."
The OIG said that even though APHIS was supposed to inspect experimental fields, it was not even requiring companies to provide site location information. The government did not require companies to document efforts to make sure GMO crops were segregated, and it didn't test neighboring fields to look for contamination during or after field trials. The OIG also said it found widespread violations of a rule requiring experimental crops to be shipped in metal containers, instead allowing them to be shipped in boxes or bags. Overall, the OIG audit found the APHIS regulatory system so weak that it increased the risk that experimental GMO crops would "persist in the environment."
The contaminated rice is only one example of unapproved GMO's slipping into the mainstream. Last year, Swiss agrochemicals firm Syngenta revealed that its unapproved, experimental strain of corn known as Bt10, was found to have contaminated corn supplies from 2001-2004. Also, a biotech grass resistant to weedkiller developed in part by Monsanto Co. has been found growing in the wild, while ProdiGene Inc. had to buy back and destroy millions of dollars of grain after tainting crops with an experimental corn plant used to produce medicine. And earlier this month, a US district judge ruled that APHIS broke environmental rules when it allowed the planting of certain biotech corn and sugarcane between 2001 and 2003 in Hawaii.
Because of the government oversight concerns, Greenpeace International has called for a ban on US GMO rice and the Center for Food Safety has said it wants a moratorium on all field tests of genetically modified crops until government oversight improves. "There is all this stuff in writing to give you a sense of security but when you look at what they're actually doing, it's nothing," said Center for Food Safety scientist policy analyst Bill Freese. Cindy Smith, deputy administrator for APHIS' biotechnology regulatory services acknowledged in an interview some issues with oversight, but said those problems were largely in the past and had been corrected or would be soon. "You will likely continue to see the program evolve in different ways. As long as we're regulating this technology, we're going to have to continue to grow and expand and respond based on the nature of the technology," Smith said.
Questions abound as rice industry faces GMO concerns - By David Bennett - Farm Press Editorial Staff - Delta Farm Press, August 30 2006
According to Dwight Roberts, on the afternoon of Aug. 18, "all hell broke loose" when USDA head Mike Johanns announced that trace amounts of GM rice had been found in the U.S supply. "It will take some time to sort this out," said the U.S. Rice Producers Association (USRPA) president at the Missouri Rice Research and Demonstration Farm field day outside Glennonville, Mo. "This whole process is generating many rumors and stories. There are a bunch of unanswered questions that we've been trying to get answers to
The situation is extremely unfair to farmers. They were finally looking at a good rice price for the first time in many years." According to Riceland Foods, the GMO material was discovered by an overseas customer.
"They contacted Riceland wanting an explanation. Riceland retained a portion of the sample and sent some of it to a lab. The lab found the samples tested positive for Bayer's (LibertyLink) herbicide resistance trait." Since there's no known commercial production of GMO rice, "Riceland says they suspected the material would be identified as residual fragments." In May, "Riceland then decided to collect samples from several grain storage locations. I'm told this happened in Missouri, Arkansas and elsewhere. A significant portion of those samples tested positive for the Bayer trait. The positive results, according to Riceland, were geographically dispersed and random throughout the U.S. rice-growing areas." In early June, Bayer was contacted about the possible contamination. In late July, the company confirmed the positive results for their trait at .06 percent (about six kernels per 10,000). By law, Bayer was required to report its findings to the USDA within 24 hours.
Following USDA's announcement, the market reacted negatively. "On (Aug. 21) the futures market fell 28 cents. (On Aug. 22), it fell the limit. Overnight trading was up a few cents but has since fallen. As of 15 minutes ago (on Aug. 23), November rice was down 7 cents, January was down 3 cents, November 2007 was down 9 cents and May 2007 was down 1 cent. This is not what we wanted to hear." For losses on (Aug. 21 and Aug. 22) alone "we calculate farmers lost about $150 million. We feel farmers shouldn't take the brunt of this." On Aug. 22, USRPA representatives met with USDA officials. "We pushed them, saying, 'You must get to the bottom of this. It's fine to say you're looking out for the consumer and the rice is safe. But we've got some important issues from a price standpoint.'" "We told the USDA in a strong tone that they need to answer farmers' questions. How did it get started? What is the trail? How widespread is it?" "We need those answers so we can put an end to some of the rumors. This must be very clear and transparent."
There is some good news. Rice remains eligible for the USDA loan program and the Chicago Board of Trade has taken a position that even rice testing positive for the LibertyLink trait is deliverable against futures contracts. In large measure, USDA wants to treat this as a commercial issue between buyers and sellers, said Roberts. "We disagree with that. We want nothing that could be seen as self-serving. We must show the public and foreign buyers that we're dealing properly with this." The European Union says it will allow U.S. rice imports (270,000 tons to 300,000 tons annually) to continue as long as a rigorous testing mechanism is in place. While tests have now been approved for finding the offending trait, Roberts says farmers shouldn't be saddled with the cost. "Not just anyone can test for this. DNA testing is sophisticated and expensive. Farmers shouldn't be hit with a test that costs $200, or more."
And there are many other questions. "We have a harvest coming. Will every truck be tested? Will loads be segregated? Will this blow over now and then explode later on? Why wasn't the material destroyed way back?" Bayer, said Roberts, "must accept responsibility for this. They need to work with farmers to make it right. Congress and policymakers should think the same way. This must be corrected quickly. It can't be allowed to (fester). "There is no good news with this. The mere mention of this last Friday launched a negative perception. And, in the rice markets, perception is everything."
Bayer faces more lawsuits over GMO rice - REUTERS, Aug 29 2006 By Lisa Haarlander
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Bayer CropScience has been hit with two more lawsuits claiming its genetically modified rice contaminated the U.S. long grain rice supply, according to court documents and attorneys for the plaintiffs. Bayer CropScience, a unit of Bayer AG (BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research), now faces a total of three lawsuits seeking damages to compensate farmers for falling rice prices. The U.S. Agriculture Department announced August 18 that trace amounts of an unapproved GMO variety engineered by Bayer CropScience were found in rice storage bins in Arkansas and Missouri. USDA said there was no health or environmental risk. But Japan has suspended imports of U.S. long grain rice and the 25-nation European Union will only allow into its stores long grain rice that is certified free of the unapproved strain.
The latest lawsuit was filed on Tuesday morning in Lonoke County Courthouse in Lonoke, Arkansas, on behalf of 20 rice farmers, said Janet Keller, spokeswoman for the law firm of Hare, Wynn, Newell and Newton LLP, which is based in Birmingham, Alabama. Arkansas is the top rice producing state in the United States and its farmers have just begun harvesting the crop. The latest suit seeks $275,000 per plaintiff plus punitive damages, Keller said. "We fully anticipate more farmers to become involved," she said.
Since the announcement of the contamination, rice futures at the Chicago Board of Trade have fallen about 85 cents per hundredweight, or about 9 percent, on worries that exports would be affected. The two other lawsuits, each seeking class-action status, were filed on Monday against Bayer CropScience. One, brought by Lonnie and Linda Parson, rice farmers in Arkansas, was filed by Emerson Poynter LLP in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock. Damages were not specified. Another was brought by Geeridge Farm Inc. and George Watson and was filed by Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
U.S. officials are still investigating how the biotech rice ended up in the commercial supply. The United States is expected to produce a rice crop this year valued at around $1.9 billion.
US rice farmers sue Bayer CropScience over GM rice - REUTERS, 28 Aug 2006 - http://today.reuters.com/News/CrisesArticle.aspx?storyId=N8S372113
LOS ANGELES, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Rice farmers in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and California have sued Bayer CropScience, alleging its genetically modified rice has contaminated the crop, attorneys for the farmers said on Monday. The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock, law firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll said in a statement.
The farmers alleged that the unit of Germany's Bayer AG <BAYG.DE> failed to prevent its genetically modified rice, which has not been approved for human consumption, from entering the food chain. As a result, they said, Japan and the European Union have placed strict limits on U.S. rice imports and U.S. rice prices have dropped dramatically. A Bayer representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
U.S. agriculture and food safety authorities learned on July 31 that Bayer's unapproved rice had been found in commercial bins in Arkansas and Missouri. While the United States is a small rice grower, it is one of the world's largest exporters, sending half of its crop to foreign buyers. The genetically engineered long grain rice has a protein known as Liberty Link, which allows the crop to withstand applications of an herbicide used to kill weeds.
The European Commission said on Wednesday the EU would require U.S. long grain rice imports to be certified as free from the unauthorized strain. The commission said validated tests must be done by an accredited laboratory and be accompanied by a certificate. Japan, the largest importer of U.S. rice, suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice a week ago.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration have said there are no public health or environmental risks associated with the genetically engineered rice.
The United States is expected to produce a rice crop valued at $1.88 billion in 2006. U.S. rice growers are responsible for about 12 percent of world rice trade. Three-fourths of the crop is long grain, grown almost entirely in the lower Mississippi Valley. California, the No. 2 rice state, grows short grain rice. (Additional reporting by Christopher Doering in Washington)
Biotech foods: A cat that won't stay bagged - Another unapproved product finds its way into marketplace. Editorial, Star Tribune, August 27 2006
WHO BUYS THE RICE?
The U.S. rice crop is valued at nearly $1.9 billion. About half is exported. Of exports, about 80 percent is long-grain rice. Mexico is the largest single importer. Last year, U.S. sales of long-grain rice to EU countries totaled about 198,000 metric tons, worth $67 million. Japan hasn't bought long-grain raw rice from the United States since 1998, but last year bought 235,000 tons of short- and medium-grain rice, as well as 17,000 tons of processed products that may be made with long-grain rice. In a global marketplace that dislikes genetically modified (GM) foods, America's agricultural exports must rely on trust above all - trust that GM varieties are safe to eat, preferable to grow and strictly regulated.
On the first point, the scientific support is pretty strong. On the second, which is about philosophy as much as science, it looks to be an uphill fight. And on the third, well. . . can't we go back to talking about safety? That seems to be the approach at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose response to the latest regulatory breakdown - inexplicable mixing of biotech rice into regular stocks - can only make matters worse, trustwise, with skeptical export customers. Friday before last, Secretary Mike Johanns announced that Bayer CropScience had found "trace amounts" of its engineered long-grain variety in U.S. bins holding rice from the 2005 crop. Although this GM rice was "regulated" - fedspeak meaning "unapproved for market release" - Johanns stressed that both his department and the Food and Drug Administration had found it to pose no threat to human or environmental health.
The announcement didn't mention that Bayer had notified USDA of its discovery on July 31, three workweeks earlier. Johanns acknowledged the timing at a press conference, explaining that USDA had withheld the information while trying to validate a test that producers, shippers and customers could use to detect the Bayer rice, an herbicide-resistant variety known as Liberty Link 601. Oh, and they were reviewing safety data, too -- not a time-consuming task, since the basis for declaring the 601 variety safe is only that its special protein is the same inserted into two earlier Bayer strains that were "deregulated" years ago. Anyway, the testing is all about protecting sales, not safety. It was a sure bet that Japan and the EU countries would ban raw rice or processed foods contaminated, in their view, with the Bayer strain. Saving this billion-dollar export market required a way to certify shipments as GM-free.
Alas, three workweeks wasn't enough time for USDA to prepare answers to such questions as how the Bayer rice, field-tested between 1998 and 2001, could turn up in the 2005 harvest. Or how many rice bins, in how many states, contained the modified strain. Or whether any of the GM rice had reached U.S. supermarket shelves. Some of this information has surfaced subsequently. According to Riceland Foods, the nation's largest rice marketer, the 601 strain was detected "across the rice belt" in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. Moreover, Riceland also said it had been investigating the matter since January, when a customer discovered GM rice in an export shipment. How it got there remains a mystery, but a solution has emerged: Bayer will now seek retroactive USDA approval to sell Liberty Link 601.
That may be of some help to American rice producers, who have seen prices plummet since Johanns' announcement. But it won't do much to boost their credibility, or the USDA's, with foreign customers. That will require a regulatory system that can be trusted to do what it claims -- under leadership that treats its customers' concerns with respect and candor, and discloses screwups without rationalization and delay.
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Rice contaminated by GM has been on sale for months - US has been knowingly shipping banned food here all year. But only now do they tell us
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor - Independent on Sunday, 27 August 2006 - http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article1222081.ece
Britons have unwittingly been eating banned GM rice imported from the United States for months, if not years, food safety experts fear. Imports of the rice were stopped by the European Commission (EC) on Thursday. But investigations in the US show that it has long been "wide-spread" in grain destined to be shipped overseas.
It was first discovered in January that the banned crop, which has never received safety clearance, was contaminating export stocks of long-grain rice. But it was not until nine days ago that the US government informed importing countries. European governments are furious that the Bush administration delayed warning them. And the row threatens ministers' plans for growing GM crops in Britain.
The unauthorised rice, codenamed LLRICE601, was developed by Bayer CropScience to tolerate weedkiller. It was tested on US farms between 1998 and 2001, but the company decided not to market it and never submitted it for official approval. In January, it was found to have contaminated rice from Arkansas-based Riceland, the world's largest miller and marketer, which is responsible for one-third of the entire US crop. In May, Riceland tested samples from "several storage locations", finding the contamination in a "significant" number. It concluded, in an official statement, that it was "geographically dispersed and random" throughout its rice-growing area.
Bayer officially notified the US government on 31 July. But it was a further 18 days before the Bush administration told importers, informing EU countries such as Britain just an hour before holding a press conference to make details of the contamination public. On Thursday, the EC prohibited any shipments from the US unless they could be proved to be free of the banned rice. But it remains concerned that Britons and other Europeans may have been eating it for months, possibly years. Britain has imported more than 42,000 tons of long-grain rice from the US since January, when the problem was first discovered. No one knows how much of this was contaminated, but the Food Standards Agency is planning to carry out tests on rice that has yet to be sold to the public.
The Arkansas government suspects that the crisis began when pollen from the rice tested on US farms spread to contaminate conventional crops. This would mean that it has been present - and presumably been exported - at least since 2001, when the trials stopped. Richard Bell, the state's agriculture secretary, admits that the contamination is "widespread" and predicts it will show up again in this year's crop when it is harvested. The Bush administration says that "there are no human health, food safety or environmental concerns associated with this rice". But the EC's Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou, says it must not be allowed to enter the food chain. Bayer, which had no part in exporting the contaminated rice, says it is "co-operating closely" with the US authorities. But it says that while the matter is being investigated, it cannot say when it first knew of the problem.
A straw in the wind - A Register-Guard Editorial - Register Guard, August 25, 2006
Don't be alarmed, say the people at Monsanto and Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. They're developing a genetically modified type of grass that is resistant to the herbicide glyphosphate, better known as Roundup. The fact that the grass has been found miles away from a test plot in central Oregon is nothing to worry about, company spokesmen say. Yet it is difficult to feel reassured.
Roundup-resistant grass would be used on golf courses, where groundskeepers could spray the herbicide to kill weeds without hurting the grass. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is conducting an environmental assessment before deciding whether to approve the grass. The USDA would be well-advised to take into account some factors the developers seem to have overlooked.
Monsanto and Scotts planted a crop two years ago on a test plot surrounded by a wide buffer. Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency laboratory in Corvallis found that pollen from the grass had drifted as far as 13 miles. When the test was complete, the grass was destroyed. Now the EPA has found nine grass plants containing the Roundup-resistant gene outside the test plot - some of which had grown from drifting seed, and others that had hybridized with wild grass species.
No big deal, say the companies' spokesmen. A majority of many of the United States' major crops, such as soybeans, corn and cotton, are genetically modified varieties, including some that have been given genes for herbicide resistance. They're not spreading uncontrollably. But these crops do not have wild relatives nearby, and they have to be replanted every year. Grasses have many relatives, and do not need replanting.
Even so, Monsanto and Scotts claim, the kind of grass used on golf courses is not a weed, so its spread would not be a problem. And it's unlikely to spread in any case, because golf course groundskeepers keep their grass short, so it never has a chance to scatter seed or pollen. Yet the genetically modified grass has already shown itself able to hybridize with other varieties, some of which might be undesirable. And even the most careful groundskeeper's mower can miss a few blades or patches of grass.
Finally, the companies say the seed and pollen was spread by an unexpected windstorm that came after the grass had been cut and was drying. Such conditions are so rare that spreading should not recur. Yet if Monsanto and Scotts are counting on predictable weather to keep their crop where it belongs, they may also have overlooked a thousand other ways, from birds to boots, that pollen and seed can be spread by accident or by chance.
The escape and proliferation of an herbicide-resistant grass would not be the end of the world, but it could cause serious problems. One result could be that farmers and groundskeepers would be forced to use herbicides other than Roundup - including some that cost more or persist longer in the environment - to control unwanted grasses. Another is that Oregon's $370-million grass seed crop could be closed out of markets in countries that have strict rules against genetically modified organisms.
Those effects are unlikely, the companies say. Maybe so. Still, it's hard not to feel a twinge of concern. As the USDA reviews the genetically modified grass, it should bear in mind some facts that have already been demonstrated on the Oregon test plot: Life is tenacious, biological processes are hard to control, the risk of the unforeseen is ever-present and hubris has the power to make people blind.
Unapproved Rice Strain Found in Wide Area - By ANDREW POLLACK - New York Times, August 22 2006
An unapproved genetically engineered strain of rice has been found in trace amounts in commercial supplies over a wide area in the nation's southern rice-growing region, the country's largest marketer of rice said yesterday. The marketer, Riceland Foods, a farmer-owned cooperative, said samples from its five-state growing region - Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas - had tested positive for the genetically engineered trait. "The positive results were geographically dispersed and random throughout the rice-growing area," Riceland said.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced late Friday that unapproved rice had been found in supplies destined for human consumption. He and other federal officials said the rice posed no risk to health or the environment. Because some countries will not accept genetically modified crops they have not approved themselves, the finding could hurt American exports or require them to undergo extra testing. About half the nation's $1.9 billion rice crop is exported. In a telephone news conference on Friday, Mr. Johanns declined to discuss how far the unapproved rice had spread. Agriculture Department officials later said it had been found in bins in Arkansas and Missouri that held rice from the 2005 crop, though the rice in those bins might have come from other states. Bill J. Reed, a spokesman for Riceland, said in an interview yesterday that the rice was "not limited to Arkansas and Missouri" but had been found "throughout the southern rice-growing area."
The unapproved rice, a long-grain variety developed by Bayer CropScience, part of the Bayer Group, contains a gene that makes it resistant to the herbicide Liberty, also known as glufosinate. While this type of rice never received approval, two very similar types did - though they have not been marketed. European Commission said yesterday that it would ask Washington for more information and then decide what action to take on the unapproved rice. A Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, reported that Japan had suspended imports of long-grain rice from the United States, The Associated Press said. American rice industry executives said Japan's imports consisted mainly of short- and medium-grain rice from California, and hardly any long-grain rice. The California Rice Commission said yesterday that it did not expect that the state's rice would be affected.
Riceland, which is based in Stuttgart, Ark., said the existence of a genetically engineered product in its rice was discovered in January by one of its export customers. Riceland said that because genetically engineered rice was not grown commercially in the United States, it initially thought that a small amount of genetically engineered corn or another crop had been mixed in with rice, perhaps through the use of a common means of transportation. But in May, Riceland said, the company collected rice samples from several grain storage sites and found positive results for the Bayer trait. Riceland said it then told Bayer, which confirmed the findings and said the modified rice was present at levels equivalent to 6 of every 10,000 grains. Bayer reported this to the government on July 31. Since then, Mr. Johanns said, the government has been working on the situation.
It is still unclear how the rice, which was last field-tested in 2001, entered the 2005 crop. Rice growers said yesterday that the finding could be damaging as it came just as the harvest was beginning, and as prices for rice seemed set to rise because of demand. They called for more information. "We need to know where it got started, how it got started, is it an isolated incident, how widespread it is," said Dwight Roberts, president of the United States Rice Producers Association. He said the Agriculture Department "has to move clearly and quickly and announce some policy on certification and testing."
EU tightens rules to block tainted U.S. biotech rice - By Jeremy Smith - REUTERS, August 23 2006
BRUSSELS, Aug 23 (Reuters) - The European Union has tightened requirements on U.S. long grain rice imports to prove there are no signs of an unauthorised genetically modified organism (GMO), the European Commission said on Wednesday. The decision follows the discovery by U.S. authorities of trace amounts of the unauthorised GMO rice strain in long grain samples that were targeted for commercial use. The rice, called LL Rice 601, is marketed by Germany's Bayer AG (BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) to withstand a weed-killing pesticide and grown in the United States. "The European Commission has today adopted a decision requiring imports of long grain rice from the USA to be certified as free of the unauthorised GMO LL Rice 601," Commission spokesman Philip Tod told a news briefing.
With immediate effect, only shipments of U.S. long grain rice tested by an accredited laboratory using a validated detection method will be able to enter EU markets. Shipments must be accompanied certificate assuring the absence of LL 601. The EU measure will be reviewed on Friday by a committee of EU-25 food safety experts, and again in six months' time. At present, no GMO rice is authorised for import or sale within the 25-country European Union, which imported 300,000 tonnes of U.S. rice last year, with 85 percent being long grain.
Biotech foods have run into strong resistance in Europe, where many consumers view them as "Frankenstein" foods. The biotech industry insists that its products are perfectly safe. Green groups, which had called for the EU to suspend all its U.S. rice imports, complained that the Commission's restrictions were a "minimal response to a serious contamination problem". "While the Commission should be congratulated for a quick response to this genetic contamination, this response is inadequate as rice is the world's most important staple food," Jeremy Tager at Greenpeace International said in a statement.
EU UNHAPPY WITH DELAY
U.S. authorities insist that the GMO strain poses no risk to public health or the environment. But the Commission, which says it needs much more data about the case, was not so sure. "We are still missing substantial amounts of information," a senior Commission official said. "For the moment, we do not share the view of the U.S. that there is no risk." The EU executive says it still has no idea about possible volumes of LL Rice 601 that may have entered Europe, nor the countries that may have received cargoes with the strain. They are also unhappy about U.S. information policy that caused a near 3-week delay in telling Brussels that traces of the unauthorised GMO were found in the commercial rice.
On July 31, U.S. agriculture and food safety authorities were notified that testing by Bayer CropScience, a Bayer unit, showed LL Rice 601 in rice bins in Arkansas and Missouri: the first time that unmarketed biotech rice had been found in rice used in the U.S. commercial market. Japan, for which the United States is the largest rice exporter, banned imports of U.S. long grain rice on Aug. 19.
For LL Rice 601, the validation test was now available and would be distributed in Europe in a few days, officials said.
EU restrictions on illegal US rice imports inadequate - Greenpeace International, Press Release
Brussels, International 23 August 2006 - Greenpeace International criticized the announcement by the European Commission (EC) today as a minimal response to a serious contamination problem. The EC stated that it would only impose testing and certification requirements on imports of long grain rice from the United States which does not address contamination from genetically engineered (GE) rice that may already be in food in the EU. The EC also relies on testing and information provided by Bayer, makes no commitment to its own assessment of the extent of the contamination problem and also imposes no penalties and costs against Bayer. The EC made this move after Commercial rice in the United States was found contaminated with genetically engineered (GE) Liberty Link (LL) rice 601, produced by agro-chemical giant Bayer and never intended for commercial release. Imports were, as a result, immediately banned in Japan. (1)
"While the Commission should be congratulated for a quick response to this genetic contamination, this response is inadequate as rice is the world's most important staple food and is contained in many food products currently on EU shelves," said Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE campaigner. "It is time to move beyond case-by-case procedures as the GE industry has shown time and time again that it is unwilling or unable to prevent GE contamination." Greenpeace International calls on the EC to stop reacting to contamination 'accidents' and start preventing them instead. The EC should identify countries and products that are at high risk of contaminating our food supply with illegal or dangerous GE organisms and implement screening, preventative testing and, where there is no demonstrated capacity to prevent contamination, total bans.
Greenpeace International calls on other major importing regions such as the Americas, Africa and the Middle East to take similar steps immediately until the US can guarantee that their rice supply - and other foods - are no longer contaminated. "A message needs to be sent to the US and to agro-chemical giant Bayer that genetic contamination and 'accidents' with our food are not acceptable, and ultimately they must be held liable for cleaning it up."
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production grounded on the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people to have access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.
For more information and interviews
Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE campaigner mob +31 (0) 6 4622 1185 office +31 (0) 20 718 2177
Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications +31 (0) 6 4619 7324
Notes to editors
U.S. rice dives as GMO issue stirs export fears - By Christine Stebbins - REUTERS, Aug 22 2006
CHICAGO, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Rice prices on Tuesday tumbled 5 percent to the lowest level in nearly two months, amid fears that exports could suffer after the discovery of U.S. rice supplies tainted with unapproved genetically modified rice. Japan has already banned imports of U.S. long grain rice after U.S. government officials announced on Friday that GMO rice was found in commercial supplies. Europe, a major market for U.S. rice, was set to block unauthorized biotech rice from reaching its shores even as American farmers harvest this year's crop. "The saga continues, and it's still the psychological fear element that is driving the market," said Neauman Coleman, analyst and rice broker from Brinkley, Arkansas.
Rice futures at the Chicago Board of Trade fell by the daily trading limit of 50 cents per hundredweight, or more than 5 percent, the sharpest one-day decline in years. Tuesday's drop came on top of declines chalked up on Monday, the first dayside trading session after news of the commingling was announced late on Friday by the U.S. Agriculture Department. U.S. officials said it was the first time unmarketed genetically modified rice has been found in rice used in the commercial market.
The Food and Drug Administration and USDA were notified on July 31 that testing by Bayer CropScience, a division of Bayer AG, reported the biotech sample, called LLRICE 601, in rice bins in Arkansas and Missouri. There were no plans to recall or destroy the commercial rice that was contaminated with the unapproved variety.
CBOT traders were most concerned that the European Union, a big buyer of long grain rice as traded at the exchange, will stop importing U.S. long grain rice following Japan's move. The 25-nation European Union bloc imported 300,000 tonnes of U.S. rice last year, with 85 percent being long grain. No GMO rice is authorized for import or sale in the EU. CBOT rice futures for November delivery fell the 50-cent trading limit before closing 49 cents lower at $9.35 per hundredweight -- its lowest close since June 29. CBOT September futures closed 50 cents lower. Since the USDA's announcement late Friday, the price of CBOT November rice has fallen 75 cents.
"There are going to be trade tensions. That is basically your knee-jerk reaction," said grain analyst Shawn McCambridge with Prudential Financial. "Where it goes from here really depends on the political environment within the importing countries, and whether or not this whole GMO issue is as big as they think it is," McCambridge added.
Japan rice ban worries some California farmers - By Robin Hindery - ASSOCIATED PRESS, August 22 2006
SACRAMENTO - A recent Japanese ban of long-grain rice from the United States has set off alarm among California farmers and added fuel to a debate over genetically modified rice. On one side, some farmers and industry groups say the ban does not pose a direct threat to California's crop, which is almost entirely short- and medium-grain rice. They add that the state's tightly regulated system for the introduction of any new rice variety has protected its products from the sort of contamination that prompted Japan's decision. But others worry that restrictions on the biotech industry are insufficient, and that contamination is a near certainty in a state where hundreds of crops are grown in close proximity. "Biotech does not recognize a fence line where one farmer's property ends and another begins," said Bryce Lundberg, a rice grower with Lundberg Family Farms. The farm, based near Chico in the northern Sacramento Valley, supports keeping California free of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Lundberg said the situation surrounding the Japanese rice ban "points at the heart of the reason the farm opposes them."
Japan on Saturday suspended U.S. long-grain rice imports after supplies were found to contain trace amounts of a genetically engineered variety that is not approved for sale. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday that the contamination had been found in samples from storage bins in Arkansas and Missouri, but that the exact source had not been identified because the bins held rice from several Southern states. Japan is the biggest foreign market for California rice ? a $500 million industry that relies on exports for 50 percent of annual sales. Japanese consumers have a long-standing aversion to biotechnology and any changes to their food supply. A ban on U.S. beef over fears of mad cow disease was lifted just a few weeks ago. "Three of our top markets - Japan, Taiwan and North Korea - are very clear on their position on genetically engineered crops," said Renata Brillinger of Californians for GE-Free Agriculture, a coalition of environmental groups and family and organic farms. "And Japan is very influential over decisions that Taiwan and North Korean markets make." Brillinger and others say that although it is business as usual right now for the California rice industry, any future contamination of the crop by GMOs could have an immediate and severe economic impact.
The state's farmers produce nearly 2 million tons of rice annually, making California the second largest rice-growing state in the nation behind Arkansas. Rice is produced on about 500,000 acres, primarily in the Sacramento Valley. The crop is primarily self-pollinated, so the likelihood of cross-pollination is small, Brillinger said. But every stage from harvesting to stocking supermarket shelves is highly consolidated, she said, and therefore risky. "Contamination is inevitable," she said. "It's just a matter of when and how."
Kent McKenzie, director of the Rice Experiment Station, sees much less cause for alarm. "This material has never been grown in the fields of California," he said of the aberrant rice found in the South. The experiment station, in a small town south of Chico, is a nonprofit research foundation owned by the state's rice growers. On Monday, it sent material from its seed stocks to be tested for contamination at independent testing labs after a request from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. McKenzie said he expected results within a week.
McKenzie and Tim Johnson, president of the California Rice Commission, credited a landmark state law with maintaining a separation between normal rice and genetically modified rice in recent years. The California Rice Certification Act of 2000 helped establish rice industry regulations to avoid mixing different varieties. It also formed an advisory board that approves and creates protocols for any new rice introduced into California. It is the only such regulation for any crop in any state. As a result, "we know of no commercially grown genetically modified rice produced in California today," said Johnson, whose commission operates under the supervision of the state agriculture secretary. Opponents of genetically modified organisms say that could change quickly and that certain stringent conditions must be put in place.
Interest groups such as the Rice Producers of California and California Certified Organic Farmers have established a set of standards they say must be met in order for GMOs to enter the rice market safely. Those include labeling standards to identify products containing GMOs; legal recourse for farmers if their crops are contaminated; and rigorous precautions throughout the harvesting, processing and distribution phases to maintain total isolation of genetically engineered materials.
Both sides in the debate over bio-engineered rice acknowledge that it is not a black-and-white issue. Ultimately, they share the same overall goal: to ensure that whatever the future of California rice looks like, farmers are protected. "We recognize the potential future benefits of biotech for both consumers and rice farmers," said Greg Massa, a rice grower in Glenn and Colusa counties and the co-chairman of the Rice Producers of California. "What we want is to make sure farmers' interests are taken care of first." Massa said incidents such as the contamination found in the southern rice show there still is a long way to go before farmers can feel secure. "We just want to make sure biotech is done right," he said. "Stuff like this, this is not doing it right."
India May Move In On Japanese Rice Market - Matthew Borghese - All Headline News Staff Writer - August 22 2006
New Delhi, India (AHN) - The U.S. will no longer export rice to Japan as lawmakers overseas fight the importation of genetically modified food. According to the Financial Express, unapproved, gene-modified rice made by Bayer CropScience AG, was found in commercial U.S. rice supplies last week following which Japan, the second largest importer of rice from the US, announced a ban. Now, India is positioned to sell 300,000 to 400,000 tons of non-basmati rice to Japan. Japan is slowly opening up to Indian trade, recently it began allowing mangoes. Now, after previously buying 291,000 tons of rice from the U.S. last year, Japan will have to quickly find a new supply.
Anil Monga, managing director, Emmsons International, a star trading house tells the newspaper, "There is a huge opportunity for India to tap and export non-basmati rice to Japan. India has never exported rice to Japan before, so the quality parameters will have to be checked."
EU MUST ACT QUICKLY TO PREVENT CONTAMINATED GM RICE ENTERING EUROPE
Friends of the Earth Europe - Press Release - Tuesday 22 August 2006
Friends of the Earth pushes for an immediate suspension of US rice imports and a full investigation
Brussels, Tuesday 22 August 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe has welcomed the announcement today by the EU Commission that it plans to prevent unapproved genetically modified rice from the US from entering the European food chain (1). However, the environmental campaign group warns that the measures taken (due to be announced tomorrow) must be rapid and must involve an immediate suspension of US rice imports.
Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "North American rice has been contaminated with a genetically modified variety that has not been properly tested and has not been authorised for human consumption. The EU rightly plans to take action to prevent it from entering the European food chain, but it must move faster. Imports of rice from the US must be suspended immediately and contaminated products must be removed from the shelves." "This disturbing incident is yet another warning of the dangers of genetically modified crops, and shows that consumer opposition to this technology is completely justified. There must be a full investigation to find out how this contamination has occurred and to ensure that it never happens again," Mr Bebb added.
Japan has already put a halt on imports on rice from the US.
The environmental campaign group is also calling on the Commission to set out its response to the incident, to clarify what steps are being taken, and to provide answers to the following specific questions:
* When was the European Commission officially notified of the contamination by the US authorities?
* Does the European Commission have the relevant reference materials to allow detection of LL601 rice in foodstuffs?
* Has a system for testing rice imports been established?
* Will the Commission make details of their plans for testing publicly available?
* Does the European Commission have any further information regarding the extent, location(s) and level of contamination of US rice, and when it occurred?
* Has the EFSA made any assessment of the safety of LL601 rice?
* Have the safety assessments from Bayer or the US authorities been made available to the European Commission?
* Will the Commission make any safety data publicly available?
For more information, please contact:
Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +49 8025 99 1951; Mobile: +49 160 949 01163; email: email@example.com
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer for Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +32 25 42 61 05; Mobile: +32 485 930 515; firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Reuters: http://today.reuters.com/news/articleinvesting.aspx?view=CN&storyID=2006-08-22T102146Z_01_L22121916_RTRIDST_0_FOOD-EU-USA-RICE-UPDATE-1.XML&rpc=66&type=qcna
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer, Friends of the Earth Europe, Rue Blanche 15, B-1050 Bruxelles, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 542 6105 Mobile: +32 485 930515 Fax: +32 2 537 5596 email@example.com - http://www.foeeurope.org
Mother Nature Is No Lab - The Hartford Courant, 20 August 2006
Given the latest criticisms of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's inept handling of genetically modified crops, comparisons to Pandora's box are inevitable. Pandora, as a version of the Greek legend goes, was the first mortal woman. And what a stunner: Epimetheus (a titan, no less) fell in love with her. Zeus gave her a box as a dowry. Suspecting Zeus was up to something, however, Epimetheus warned her not to open it. But Pandora's curiosity got the better of her. She raised the lid, releasing all misfortunes onto the world including disease, sorrow, poverty, crime, despair and greed. Genetically modified crops may not fall into the category of "misfortunes." But the USDA's oversight of these crops leaves a lot to be desired. Once these crops are released into the world, there is no going back.
On Aug. 10, a U.S. District Court judge in Hawaii had harsh words for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which grants permits for genetically engineered crops. The judge concluded that the agency allowed such crops to be planted on four islands without first determining whether they posed a threat to the 329 endangered or threatened species that call Hawaii home. The modified crops consisted of corn and sugar cane that were genetically tweaked to produce human hormones, drugs and ingredients for vaccines against AIDS and hepatitis B. The judge called USDA's regulatory heedlessness "arbitrary and capricious" and "an unequivocal violation of a clear congressional mandate."
Those findings recall similar conclusions reached by the USDA's own auditors last year. After reviewing two years of records, the auditors concluded that the agency's biotechnology regulators overlooked violations of their own rules, failed to inspect sites and did not assure that genetically engineered crops were destroyed after field trials. In some cases, regulators did not even know the locations of trials. Spokesmen for the USDA say all these mistakes are in the past. They say the agency has made changes that will address long-standing concerns about oversight. Advocates of biotechnology, meanwhile, paint a picture of a better world where there is less disease and where foods are cheaper and more plentiful. It's a noble vision, of course. But getting there is the tricky part. Genetically modified crops may contaminate ordinary plants, creating such mutants as a tougher, more herbicide-resistant weed. Crops modified for industrial or pharmaceutical uses can also get into the food chain, unleashing strains that put public health and the environment at risk.
Unless the USDA can prove capable of doing a far better job of regulating crops, the courts and Congress should consider imposing a moratorium on new permits. Mother Nature shouldn't be used as a laboratory for some uncontrolled genetic experiment.
Escaped bentgrass sounds a warning - Editorial - Minneapolis Star Tribune, 21 August 2006 - http://www.startribune.com/561/story/627420.html
BEYOND THE BUFFERS
"It's a cautionary tale of what could happen with other [transgenic] plants that could be of greater concern. I suspect that more examples of this will show up." Jay Reichman, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who led the search for escaped bentgrass, said.
You don't have to be a grass-seed producer in central Oregon to be alarmed by last week's news that genetically modified bentgrass has escaped its test area and taken root among wild plants miles away. Once again, companies controlling the transgenic revolution have proved themselves unable to safely sequester their creations while the risks are under study. Those risks remain murky, though certainly real, and even if this first documented escape of engineered plants from a U.S. test plot falls short of catastrophe, rest assured there will be others. Industry practices and lagging government oversight virtually guarantee it.
In some ways, the downwind migration of creeping bentgrass into an area including the Crooked River National Grassland, northeast of Eugene, is more alarming than the earlier case of transgenic canola popping up in Canada. The issue is the same: accidental transfer, especially to wild and weedy plants, of a gene specially inserted to make the engineered variety resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup). But unlike canola, which has few wild cousins to pollinate and must be replanted each year, bentgrass is a perennial with at least a dozen close relatives susceptible to cross-pollination. While the goal in both cases was also the same - lowering herbicide use - it's not irrelevant to consider that canola contributes lots of vegetable oil to the world's food supply, while the high-tech bentgrass was destined for golf courses (and perhaps, down the road, some lawns in affluent suburbs).
Because old-fangled grass seed is a $370-million-a-year industry in Oregon, officials of Scotts Miracle-Gro and Monsanto offered safety guarantees against seed or pollen escaping from their experimental bentgrass plantings, including a wide buffer zone around the test plots. But by the time the test crop's seed was harvested two years ago and the modified plants destroyed, scientists had found its pollen well beyond the buffer. Now bentgrass sampling in wild fields has turned up nine plants with the gene that provides Roundup resistance, as far as three miles outside the zone. It's unclear how many of these grew from escaped seed or are essentially wild plants that picked up the resistance gene from drifting pollen. Either way, it's a nightmare scenario for Oregon's seed producers. If the resistance gene shows up in their grasses, it could kill exports to the many countries that ban genetically modified plants. If it shows up in noxious grasses, their weed-control problems will multiply -- while the usefulness of glyphosate, rather earth-friendly as herbicides go, will correspondingly contract.
Scotts and Monsanto are pressing for federal approval to bring their talented new bentgrass to market. But you've no need to worry that its Roundup resistance will drift into your manicured grass, or your neighbor's weedy yard, or that vacant lot down the street. The Scotts people say the golf courses will surely keep the bentgrass stuff cut so short it won't have a chance to produce pollen or go to seed. Rest assured.
Biopharming gone awry - Editorial, The Denver Post, 21 August 2006 - http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_4215493
It's not exactly the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but the genetically engineered grass that recently escaped from an Oregon test plot has the potential to wreak serious environmental havoc. The creeping bentgrass, genetically modified to be resistant to common herbicides such as Roundup, was found to have crossed with wild grasses, the first known transgenic crop escape in the U.S.
Grass farmers and environmentalists fear the cts on them before issuing permits for cultivation of genetically modified crops. In a scathing 52-page order, U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright took the agency to task, saying the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service violated the law by granting permits for modified corn and sugar cane plants. Companies modified their genetic structure so that when harvested, the plants would contain hormones or proteins that could be used to treat human illnesses. Seabright this week will be considering remedies, and the plaintiffs are asking the judge to prohibit the issuance of biopharming permits for open air crops anywhere in the country until agency reviews its permitting process. It is a prudent course of action. While Oregon and Hawaii are far from Colorado, biopharming interests have eyed our state before. Two years ago, we urged extreme caution as the federal government planned to move ahead with permits allowing "pharmaceutical" corn to be cultivated in Colorado. Luckily, it would seem, no commercial biopharm crops were actually planted here. An Iowa State University researcher sowed a tiny plot of seed corn, but that was a far cry from original plans. Given the recent revelations of blunders, we think federal regulators ought to re-evaluate the regulatory process and monitoring safeguards. While tomatoes run amok might be the stuff of Hollywood, the risks from sloppy handling of gene-altered crops is all too real.
creation of a superweed that would contaminate grass seed production, a $373.5 million industry in Oregon. The revelation underscores the caution that is necessary - and apparently wasn't exercised - in handling genetically engineered crops. A federal judge recently came to a similar conclusion in a case out of Hawaii. The judge ruled that U.S. Department of Agriculture officials displayed "utter disregard" for Hawaii's many endangered plant species by not investigating potential impa
US Rice Prices Are Stunted By Concerns of Biotech Controls - Wall Street Journal, 22 August 2006
Trading partners abroad began tightening their controls on American-grown rice after the discovery of an accidental release of a genetically modified variety unapproved for sale by U.S. regulators. Prices of rice futures contracts sank yesterday as countries such as Japan and South Korea moved to prevent the genetically modified rice from coming into their markets from the U.S., which counts on foreign customers to buy roughly half of its annual production. European Union officials said they are requesting more information from the U.S. and Bayer AG of Germany, the maker of the accidentally released long-grain variety, before deciding
Tainted Southern rice threatens U.S. market - Japan halts shipments - By Jane Roberts [excerpts only] - Commercial Appeal, August 22 2006
Monday the price of September rice closed down 28 cents - a three-week low - as the market teetered on news of widespread contamination in the crop largely grown in the MidSouth. Japan, the largest importer of U.S. rice, Saturday suspended shipments of long-grain rice. Monday, the European Union faced pressure to do the same.
"We're seeing the typical kneejerk reaction in the market you'd expect from any news of this type," said Darin Newsom, senior analyst at DTN in Omaha. "If something else comes out on this and there's a more widespread problem, we could see the domestic market come down." The samples came from storage bins in Arkansas and Missouri. But trace amounts of the contaminant have been found across the rice belt, according to Bill Reed, spokesman for Riceland Foods in Stuttgart, Ark. "This is a situation not limited to a state or a farmer or a producer or a handler. It's a situation for Southern long-grain rice."
GM contamination warning triggers call for ban on US rice - John Vidal, environment editor - The Guardian, August 22 2006
Environment groups yesterday urged the European commission to follow Japan and restrict imports of American rice after the US government admitted that an illegal and untested genetically modified strain had contaminated the food chain. The announcement said conventional long-grain rice had been contaminated by a GM rice that was grown at experimental sites between 1998 and 2001. However, there was no indication as to how widespread the contamination had been, how it occurred or why it had taken until now for the disclosure to be made. The UK imported 82,625 tonnes of US rice in 2004. Adrian Bebb, GM food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "This is a complete scandal. The EU must immediately suspend US rice imports until consumers can be guaranteed protection from untested and illegal foods."
The contamination source is apparently a trial GM rice called LLRICE601, produced by the German-based biotechnology company Bayer. The rice is engineered to withstand the herbicide glufosinate, but it has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world. According to Bayer the GM rice is "present in some samples of commercial rice seed at low levels" even though field testing ended five years ago. Bayer informed the US Department of Agriculture of the contamination on July 31. The company said: "The protein found in LLRICE 601 is approved for use in other products. It has been repeatedly and thoroughly scientifically reviewed and used safely in food and feed, cultivation, import and breeding in the US, as well as nearly a dozen other countries."
The EU last night said it needed more information. Its executive commission was "dealing with this as a matter of the utmost urgency," said a spokeswoman, Antonia Mochan. "Measures will depend on the answers we get from the company and the US authorities." The US agriculture secretary, Mike Johanns, said: "There are no human health, food safety or environmental concerns associated with this genetically engineered rice."
Ban call in West Africa - Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria - Press Release, August 21, 2006 [shortened]
GM CONTAMINATION: ERA SEEKS BAN OF IMPORTATION OF US RICE
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoE N) has urged the Federal Government to immediately ban the importation of rice from the United States. ERA/FoEN in a statement issued yesterday said the ban has become imperative following revelation that rice supplies from the US have been contaminated with an illegal and untested genetically modified (GM) strain. The Japanese Government has already announced on Saturday August 19, 2006 that Japan was suspending US long-grain rice imports due to the contamination. ERA/FoEN Executive Director and International GMO Campaigner, Nnimmo Bassey said: "This is a complete scandal. The biotech industry has once again failed to control its products and lax regulations in the USA have led to consumers being put at considerable risk." Bassey noted that Ghana is among the top 10 importers of rice from the USA and that this may have spread across the West African sub-region and beyond. Ghana's rice imports from the USA stood at 78.9 tonnes in 2001/2002, 117.6 tonnes in 2002/2003 and 166.4 tonnes in 2004/2006. "Rice importation from America must immediately suspend such imports until it can be guaranteed that its citizens are protected from untested and illegal foods," Bassey added.
The GM rice, produced by German-based biotechnology company Bayer, was field tested between 1998 and 2001 but the contamination of commercial long grain rice has only just come to light. The US exported more than 3 million tonnes of rice in 2005. ERA is worried that this contaminated rice may already be present in the food chain in Nigeria. The group has consistently urged precaution in the introduction of novel crops and has campaigned against GMOs because of safety issues and other risks to the environment. Nigeria is yet to have a national biosafety law and has not authorised the introduction of GMOs in the country.
Maryam Bassey, Project officer, GMO Campaign
ERA/FoE N, Postal: P.O.Box 10577, Ugbowo, Benin City, Nigeria Tel: +234 52 600 165 Mobile: +234 803 727 4395 Fax: + +234 52 602 680 eFAX: +1-520-844-8482 & + 1-309-416-1666. Website: www.eraction.org
Greenpeace demands global ban on imports of US rice - Dominican Today, August 21 2006 - http://www.dominicantoday.com/app/article.aspx?id=16617
Amsterdam - Greenpeace International today called for a global ban on imports of US rice in order to protect the public from eating illegal, untested and unapproved varieties of genetically engineered (GE) rice. GE Liberty Link (LL) rice 602, produced by agro-chemical giant Bayer and never intended for commercial release, has been found in commercial rice in the United States and rice imports were, as a result, immediately banned in Japan. It is not approved for consumption or cultivation anywhere in the world. "Rice is the world's most important staple food and contamination of rice supplies by Bayer, a company pushing its GE rice around the world, must be stopped," said Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE campaigner.
Japan has already announced a ban on long grain rice imports from the US as a result of this latest contamination scandal. Last year, Japan and the EU banned US maize imports as a result of yet another GE contamination scandal. "This latest contamination scandal once again shows the GE industry is utterly incapable of controlling GE organisms. Countries that import US rice, such as the EU, Mexico, Brasil and Canada must become serious about preventing this kind of threat to our food supplies by banning any imports of GE rice, removing all contaminated food from supermarket shelves and rejecting applications for the commercial cultivation of rice," said Tager. "Relevant authorities in importing countries must also conduct an investigation into the contamination caused by Bayer and also determine whether any other GE rice varieties being tested by Bayer have contaminated the world's food chain," Tager concluded.
CALL FOR BAN ON IMPORTS OF US RICE AFTER CONTAMINATION REVEALED
Excerpts from Friends of the Earth (UK) Press Release - Monday 21 August 2006
Friends of the Earth today (Monday) urged the UK Government to take action to restrict UK imports of American rice after it was revealed that supplies had been contaminated with an illegal genetically modified strain. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that GM rice unapproved for human consumption has entered the US food chain .
The extent of the contamination is not known, but the UK imported some 82,625 tonnes of rice from the United States in 2004 . Friends of the Earth is calling on food safety authorities to take immediate action to protect the health of UK and European consumers.
Friends of the Earth have called for an immediate investigation by authorities in the US and Europe into the full extent of the contamination. The environmental campaign group is also demanding that:
*Bayer immediately releases all the necessary information on the safety testing and detection methods for LLRICE601 into the public domain
*The European Commission and UK Foods Standards Agency bans US rice imports (following the example of Japan ) and issues product recalls for all foods containing rice from the US.
This latest case of GM contamination echoes the Bt10 scandal, revealed in March last year, where biotech company Syngenta sold the wrong GM seed to US farmers for four years. Maize exports to Europe were contaminated with the illegal maize, and the European Commission put in place emergency measures to prevent maize contaminated with Bt10 being imported into the EU. These measures are still in place .
In the UK, the Government is consulting on how GM and non-GM crops can 'coexist' in England . It is vital that the Government takes into account evidence of how the US has failed to control GM contamination in determining the rules needed to allow GM crops to be grown in the UK.
 The announcement was made late on Friday 18 August in the US. - http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2006/08/0307.xml
 Source: HM Customs & Excise, data prepared by Trade Statistics, Food Chain Analysis 3, DEFRA. The UK imported 82,625 tonnes of rice from the USA in 2004
 See http://www.stopgmcontamination.org
GM rice in the news - Kurashi News from Japan, August 21 2006 - http://martinjapan.blogspot.com/2006/08/gm-rice-in-news.html
Japan has banned imports of US rice following news about a positive test for trace amounts of a genetically modified strain not approved for human consumption. Japan's government has requested the US to enact strict controls, according to several newspapers. The Health Ministry does not include any strain of rice on its list of genetically modified foods approved for sale in Japan. Also, ten of the nation's 47 prefectures have their own regulations on the open-air cultivation of genetically modified plants, an Asahi Shimbun survey has found: The local ordinances or guidelines are meant to prevent cross-pollination and hybridization of GM plants with related crops in the region. "Once cross-breeding or mixups take place, it will be too late," said an agriculture section official of Niigata Prefecture.
Japan began to import GM crops in the 1990s, but no commercial production has started here because of consumer concerns over safety.
Environment Group Urges EU Ban US Rice On GMO Scare - DOW JONES, 21 August 2006
BRUSSELS -(Dow Jones)- A European environment group has called on the European Union to stop all imports of U.S.-farmed long-grain rice following news that an unknown volume has been contaminated with a strain of genetically modified rice owned by German biotech giant Bayer CropScience (506285.BY) and not approved for human consumption.
An import ban would deprive U.S. rice exporters of their second largest customer. The E.U. buys about 300,000 metric tons of rice, worth about EUR70 million, from the U.S. each year. Japan, the U.S. biggest rice customer, shut off all U.S. long-grain rice imports last Saturday.
Officials at the European Commission in Brussels, which is in charge of deciding import bans, said officials were discussing the matter.
EU URGED TO BAN NORTH AMERICAN RICE - Friends of the Earth Europe Press Release
US rice contaminated by illegal GM strain
Brussels, August 21, 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe has today called on the European Commission to immediately restrict imports of American rice after the US Department for Agriculture (USDA) revealed that the US food chain has been contaminated with an illegal and untested genetically modified (GM) strain . The US announcement states that conventional long-grain rice on the market has been contaminated by a GM rice that was grown at experimental test sites between 1998 and 2001. The statement does not reveal how widespread the contamination is or how the contamination occurred. Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the European Union to follow the example of Japan, which suspended US rice imports on Saturday. 
Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said, "This is a complete scandal. The biotech industry has failed once again to control its experiments and lax regulations in the US have allowed consumers worldwide to be put at risk. The European Union must immediately suspend US rice imports until consumers can be guaranteed protection from untested and illegal foods."
Europe imports approximately 70 million Euros worth of US rice every year . The source of the contamination is apparently an experimental GM rice called LLRICE601, produced by German-based biotechnology company Bayer. This experimental rice is engineered to withstand application of the herbicide glufosinate, but it has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world and has not undergone any official assessments to determine its health or environmental impact. According to Bayer the GM rice "is present in some samples of commercial rice seed at low levels" even though field-testing ended five years ago. Bayer informed the USDA of the contamination on 31 July 2006.
As well as calling for an immediate import ban, Friends of the Earth Europe has called for an investigation by authorities in the US and Europe into the full extent of the contamination and for Bayer to release all the necessary information into the public domain on the safety testing and detection methods for LLRICE601. "It is vital that Bayer is forced to reveal all information about how this contamination has occurred over such a long time scale. Contamination of the food chain is totally unacceptable and must be prevented in the future," Mr Bebb added.
This latest case of GM contamination echoes a GM maize scandal in March last year, in which the biotech company Syngenta admitted to selling an experimental and illegal GM maize variety to US farmers for four years. Maize exports to Europe were contaminated with the illegal maize, and the European Commission put in place emergency measures to prevent the import of contaminated maize into the EU. These measures are still in place .
For more information, please contact:
Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +49 80 25 99 1951; Mobile: +49 160 949 01163; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer for Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +32 25 42 61 05; Mobile: +32 485 930 515; email@example.com
 The announcement was made late on Friday 18 August in the US.
 UNCTAD http://r0.unctad.org/infocomm/anglais/rice/market.htm#cce
Unapproved, Genetically Engineered Rice Found in Food Supply - USDA and FDA Unaware of Identity, Location or Number of Contaminated Products
Center for Food Safety, August 18, 2006
Citing Past Contamination and USDA's Illegal Activities, Center for Food Safety Calls for Moratorium on Genetically Engineered Crop Field Trials
Late today in a webcast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that an unapproved, genetically engineered rice known as LL601 was found contaminating commercial long-grain rice supplies, according to information supplied by the developer of the rice, Bayer CropScience. The presence of LL601 in the food supply is illegal, as it has not undergone USDA review for potential environmental impacts required prior to marketing, nor review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for possible harm to human health. LL601 is genetically altered to survive application of the powerful herbicide glufosinate, and was field-tested under permits granted by the USDA from 1998 to 2001.
In the webcast, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns professed ignorance as to how much rice was contaminated, which rice products were involved, or where the contaminated rice was found. Bayer informed USDA of the contamination on July 31st, 2006, based on test results reported to the company by a rice merchandiser. USDA officials stated that rice contaminated with LL601 will not be destroyed. Though Bayer does not intend to market the rice, the company will apply to USDA for marketing approval of LL601, apparently in an effort to limit its liability for the episode. Bayer reportedly stopped development of LL601 for unknown reasons in 2001.
"Once again, USDA has demonstrated its inability to keep experimental and potentially hazardous genetically engineered crops out of the food supply," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety. "Until USDA gets its act together, we recommend a moratorium on all new permits for open-air field testing of genetically engineered crops not permitted in the food supply."
"The USDA is an agency out of control," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. "USDA's continuing failure to adequately regulate and monitor field testing of genetically engineered crops clearly puts the environment and public health at risk". Kimbrell points to an August 10th decision by a federal district judge in Hawai'i, who ruled that USDA violated two federal laws in granting permits to grow drug-producing, genetically engineered crops in Hawai'i. The judge said the USDA acted "arbitrarily and capriciously," and in "utter disregard" of the Endangered Species Act.
In late 2005, the USDA's own Inspector General issued a scathing report detailing numerous violations of agency rules in regulating genetically engineered crop field trials. USDA officials did not know the locations of many field trials it was charged with regulating, and did not conduct required inspections of others. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences also criticized serious deficiencies in USDA's regulation of genetically engineered crops.
Since 1996, the USDA has granted at least 48 permits authorizing Bayer or companies it has since acquired (Aventis, AgrEvo) to plant over 4,000 acres of experimental, genetically engineered (GE) rice. The extent to which pollen or grains from these field trials have contaminated commercial rice or related weedy species such as red rice is unknown. USDA policies do not provide for the testing of fields adjacent to field test sites to detect possible contamination with the experimental genetically engineered crop.
Overall, USDA has issued permits authorizing field tests of over 100 genetically engineered crops on roughly 50,000 sites on more than half a million acres since 1987.
Contacts: Bill Freese, 202-547-9359 x14, Rebecca Spector, 415-826-2770 x301 - WWW.CENTERFORFOODSAFETY.ORG
Japan Suspends US Long-Grain Rice Imports - Report - Sunday August 20th, 2006 / 12h36
TOKYO (AP) -Japan has suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice following a positive test for trace amounts of a genetically modified strain not approved for human consumption, a news report said Sunday. Japan's Health Ministry imposed the suspension on Saturday after being informed by U.S. federal officials that trace amounts of the unapproved strain had been discovered in commercially available long-grain rice, the Asahi newspaper said. The genetically engineered rice was detected by Bayer CropScience AG. The German company then notified U.S. officials. The strain is not approved for sale in the U.S., but two other strains of rice with the same genetically engineered protein are. The ministry will instruct companies not to process or sell any U.S. long-grain rice they may already have imported, though it has so far not received any report this year that any company has imported or plans to import such rice, the Asahi said. The ministry has requested the U.S. government to enact strict controls, the Asahi said, adding that the suspension does not affect short- and medium-grain rice imports. The Health Ministry does not include any strain of rice on its list of genetically modified foods approved for sale in Japan. Health Ministry officials were unavailable for comment Sunday.
U.S. Rice Supply Contaminated - Genetically Altered Variety Is Found in Long-Grain Rice - By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, August 19, 2006; PageA07
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced late yesterday that U.S. commercial supplies of long-grain rice had become inadvertently contaminated with a genetically engineered variety not approved for human consumption. Johanns said the company that made the experimental rice, Bayer CropScience of Monheim, Germany, had provided information to the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration indicating that the rice poses no threats to human health or the environment.
"Based upon the information we have seen, this product is safe," he said in a telephone news conference. Johanns said he did not know where the contaminated rice was found or how widespread it may be in the U.S. food supply. The agency first learned about it from the company, he said, after it discovered "trace amounts" during testing of commercial supplies. The variety, known as LLRICE 601, is endowed with bacterial DNA that makes rice plants resistant to a weedkiller made by the agricultural giant Aventis. Johanns said Bayer had not finished the process of getting LLRICE 601 approved for marketing before dropping the project years ago. But the company did complete the process for two other varieties of rice with the same gene. And although neither of those were marketed, he said, their approval offers reassurance that 601 is probably safe, too.
Bayer said in a statement it is "cooperating closely" with the government on the discovery. It added that the protein conferring herbicide tolerance "is well known to regulators and has been confirmed safe for food and feed use in a number of crops by regulators in many countries, including the EU, Japan, Mexico, U.S. and Canada." Johanns acknowledged that the discovery could have a significant impact on rice sales - especially exports, which are worth close to $1 billion a year. Many U.S. trading partners have strict policies forbidding importation of certain genetically engineered foods, even if they are approved in the United States.
Those restrictions reflect a mix of science-based fears that some gene-altered foods or seeds may pose health or environmental hazards; cultural beliefs about food purity; and political wrangling over trade disparities. If other countries cut off imports, the political and economic impact could rival or exceed that of the last such major event -- the discovery in 2000 that the U.S. corn supply had become contaminated with StarLink corn.StarLink, which was engineered to be insect-resistant, was approved for use in animal feed but not for humans because of its potential to trigger allergic reactions. The StarLink episode led to the recall of hundreds of products and the destruction of corn crops on hundreds of thousands of acres. There have been several smaller incidents requiring similar actions since.
Yesterday's announcement quickly prompted a new round of accusations that the government is failing in its efforts to regulate and contain the burgeoning field of agricultural biotechnology, in which genes from various organisms are added to crops and other plants - usually to confer resistance to weed-killers or to make the plants produce their own insecticides. "How many incidents will it take before the government takes their oversight of the biotech industry seriously?" asked Gregory Jaffe, director of the biotechnology project at the District-based Center for Science in the Public Interest. "It's reassuring that in this instance there is no safety risk, but I don't think that justifies the industry's blatant violation of government regulations."
Johanns said Bayer contacted the USDA about the problem on July 31, but the agency delayed announcing the finding until it had developed a test it could share with trading partners and others who might want to check for contamination. That test is now available. Although Bayer stopped field tests of LLRICE 601 in 2001, the contamination appeared in the 2005 harvest, Johanns said - a detail that Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, found "alarming." "It's more evidence to me that all of these things that have been getting tested ultimately have a route to the food supply," Mellon said.
Although agency investigations are underway, both Johanns and Robert Brackett of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said they do not anticipate recalls, crop destruction or other regulatory action. "If we become aware of any new information to suggest that food or feed is unsafe, we will take action," Johanns said. Instead, Johanns said, Bayer now plans to resurrect its effort to get the product approved - or in government parlance, "deregulated" - a move that would make the contamination issue moot in the domestic market.
Researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Statement on Report of Bioengineered Rice in the Food Supply
CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety - August 18 2006 - http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biorice.html
Bayer CropSciences recently notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that trace amounts of a bioengineered variety of rice were detected in samples of commercial rice seed, and may have entered the food and feed supply in the United States. The bioengineered variety of rice, called LLRICE601, expresses the phosphinothricin-N-acetyltransferase (PAT) protein which provides tolerance to glufosinate-ammonium herbicide. This rice variety, not intended for commercialization, was not submitted to FDA for evaluation under the Agency's voluntary biotechnology consultation process. However, crops containing the PAT protein have previously been evaluated for safety by FDA on a number of occasions through the Agency's voluntary biotechnology consultation process. Bayer has informed the Agency that LLRICE601 is present in some samples of commercial rice seed at low levels. In addition, Bayer has provided information about the safety of the PAT protein, molecular characterization, and nutritional composition of grain from LLRICE601. Based on the available data and information, FDA has concluded that the presence of this bioengineered rice variety in the food and feed supply poses no food or feed safety concerns.
Release No. 0307.06 - Statement by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns Regarding Genetically Engineered Rice - USDA, August 18 2006
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been notified by Bayer CropScience that the company has detected trace amounts of regulated genetically engineered (GE) rice in samples taken from commercial long grain rice. Both have reviewed the available scientific data and concluded that there are no human health, food safety, or environmental concerns associated with this GE rice.
"Bayer has developed many GE herbicide-tolerant products with the protein called Liberty Link, three of which are rice. The regulated line is LLRICE 601 and Bayer reports finding only trace amounts of it during testing. LLRICE 601 was field tested between 1998 and 2001. Two deregulated lines, LLRICE 62 and LLRICE 06, have been through thorough safety evaluations and have been deemed safe for use in food and safe in the environment, although these lines have not been commercialized.
"Based on the available data and information, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded that the presence of LLRICE 601 in the food and feed supply poses no safety concerns. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also conducted a risk assessment, which indicates LLRICE 601 is safe in the environment.
"Bayer indicated it had no plans to market LLRICE 601 and therefore had not requested deregulation. Based on reports that LLRICE 601 is in the marketplace and a petition from Bayer, APHIS will conduct a deregulation process, including an opportunity for public comment.
"Because the line of GE rice in question was regulated, APHIS is conducting an investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the release and whether any violations of USDA regulations occurred.
"The protein found in LLRICE 601 is approved for use in other products. It has been repeatedly and thoroughly scientifically reviewed and used safely in food and feed, cultivation, import and breeding in the United States, as well as nearly a dozen other countries around the world.
"Since 1987, APHIS has deregulated more than 70 GE crop lines and in the last decade farmers have increasingly planted biotech varieties engineered mainly for herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, and enhanced quality traits. USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates that in 2006, 61 percent of the corn, 83 percent of the cotton and 89 percent of the soybeans planted in the United States were biotech varieties."
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Statement On Report Of Bioengineered Rice In The Food Supply - http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biorice.html
Fact Sheet: Genetically Engineered Rice - http://www.usda.gov/2006/08/0306.xml
Contact: Karen Eggert (202) 720-2511, Ed Loyd (202) 720-4623
Escaped GM grass could spread bad news - Nature, 11 August 2006 - http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060807/full/060807-17.html
An escaped strain of transgenic grass bred for golf courses could wreak havoc on native grassland species in the northwestern United States, ecologists are warning. The strain, which was growing in a test plot in Oregon and hadn't yet been approved for use by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), has now been detected in the wild, up to 3.8 kilometres outside the test area. While the transgenic component of the plant might not in itself pose a problem, the hardy strain could replace many other native grasses if it gains a foothold, ecologists say
Scientists working for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Corvallis, Oregon, have been monitoring the region surrounding the experimental plots where the plants, called creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) were being grown The EPA team studied areas of grass within almost 5 kilometres of the experimental plot. As they report in a forthcoming issue of Molecular Ecology, of 55 sites examined, six contained descendants of the transgenic test plants. The researchers believe that seeds and pollen from the test site were dispersed by the wind EPA officials stress that the scale of the problem is not yet known. "It could persist in the wild, but we wouldn't necessarily expect it to have an advantage," says Jay Reichman, one of the scientists who tracked down the grass in the wild. "Its impact remains to be seen." The USDA has started a full environmental impact assessment of the plant.
It is not clear what advantage, if any, the grass's transgenic status will give it in the wild. The strain, bred by The Scotts Company, based in Marysville, Ohio, was engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, also known as Roundup. This means that it would be difficult to eradicate from areas where other grasses are grown and managed with herbicides. More pressing is the effect that the grasses might have on other local grass species, says Tom Stohlgren, an ecologist at the US Geological Survey's National Institute of Invasive Species Science in Fort Collins, Colorado. Plants of this type, called 'sod-forming' grasses, can spread rapidly because they can reproduce sexually, through widely dispersing pollen and seeds, and also asexually, by forming a dense mat of roots from which more shoots emerge. Although bentgrass would be unlikely to encounter herbicide in the wild, so its transgenic status wouldn't necessarily be an issue, it might still plough down native grasses. "Sod-forming grasses can tend to outcompete other species," he explains. "It doesn't need to sexually reproduce - it's like The Blob. It could potentially hit rare species or national parks."
Distances of a few dozen kilometres won't be enough to stop a tenacious grass, Stohlgren adds. Grasses, unlike food crop plants, are perennial, meaning that they survive from one year to the next. And their seeds are so fine that they can easily be transferred from place to place by the wind or by sticking to animals, people or vehicles. Oregon's grass-seed industry, which produces some 70% of seed for US gardeners and groundskeepers, is based in Willamette Valley, about 90 kilometres away from the test site. If the bentgrass reaches here, it would be very hard to eliminate.
Grasses have mounted widespread invasions before, Stohlgren says. In 1998, he showed how Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) had swept through Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, tearing through habitats that previously contained a diverse range of grasses. Kentucky bluegrass can now be found in every state in the country. The rampant spreading ability of bentgrass could also pass on the transgene for Roundup resistance to other grass species through hybridization, Stohlgren adds. "We've broken down the barriers - things happen so fast," he says. "It's like Darwin on steroids."
GM grass, designed for golf courses, has been found three miles from its test site - Thursday, August 10, 2006 - By Lewis Smith
A genetically modified grass designed to improve golf courses and lawns has caused alarm in the US after escaping into the wild. Creeping bentgrass, Agrostis stolonifera, has spread up to three miles outside a test site in Oregon with nine different plants being identified. It had been modified to make it impervious to the herbicide glysophate and was designed to appeal to golf course managers who would be able to spray large areas to kill off weeds without damaging the grass. Homeowners were considered another lucrative market because it could help them to create perfect lawns in front of their houses.
The US Department of Agriculture has ordered a full environmental audit of its impact and spread to determine the threat to wildlife. Unlike GM crops such as maize and soybeans, which are annuals and unable to reproduce, the perennial grass was able to produce seeds during outdoor tests. Some of the plants found outside the test site, reports the New Scientist, had been grown from seeds produced by the GM parent. Others were hybrids derived from a non-GM plant being pollinated by one of the modified specimens. Jay Reichman, of the US Environmental Protection Agency, which identifed the escaped grasses, said: “It’s a cautionary tale of what could happen with other GM plants that could be of greater concern.”
GM bentgrass has yet to be given official approval by the USDA for commercial use but environmentalists are concerned that widespread take-up will quickly see it spread into ecologically sensitive wilderness areas. A spokeswoman for the USDA said: “This is a perennial and has wild and weedy relatives and it’s something we think we need to know the environmental impact of before it’s deregulated.” She added: “Some of the seeds were dispersed and some of the pollen. We are following up on this to make sure all the plants outside the test area are dug up and recovered. “We have a lot of measures in place to try to prevent this type of thing. However, there is human error that can occur.”
Eric Baack, of Indiana University, told the journal Current Biology: “It’s definitely a new set of variables we’ve not had to deal with in previous GM crops.” He doubted, however, that the escape would cause alarm beyond scientific and environmental circles: “I don’t think people will worry about lawns and golf courses if they have not shown any worries already about GM food.”
It is uncertain how much the genetic modification would help the plant in the wild where the herbicide would not be expected to be used. The modification is not believed to have conferred any other advantage on the grass and it is possible that it has evolutionary weaknesses that are not shared by non-GM plants.
Among the factors that the USDA will take into account while carrying out an environmental assessment are the level of resistance to herbicide, the ability to hybridise and the damage to the environment. In deciding whether the grass should be deregulated for the commercial market, officials will consider how widespread the grass could become.
Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.
The Non-GMO Project Signs On Its First 50 Member Stores in the U.S. - BERKELEY, July 25, 2006
The Non-GMO Project, a collaboration of North American grocery stores and co-ops urging natural food and supplement companies to go Non-GMO, is now at 50 members nationwide, and counting. From San Diego, California to White River Junction, Vermont, natural food retailers have begun to join this effort to assure "a Non-GMO food supply, our customer's confidence in the foods and supplements we offer, and the general health & well-being of ourselves, our customers and the world in general."
The Certificate of Membership that each store receives upon joining the Project also describes the project as: "A Groundbreaking Effort To Identify GMOs In The Food Supply and To Influence Natural Food & Supplement Companies To Go Non-GMO. The First Comprehensive Non-GMO Compliance Review System started By Independent Natural Foods & Supplements Retailers and their Customers. The most rigorous standard for Non-GMO verification, developed with the technical assistance of Global ID Consulting."
The Non-GMO Project was founded by two natural grocery stores, The Natural Grocery Company in Berkeley, California, and The Big Carrot Natural Food Market in Toronto, Canada. To create a systematic and scientific program for Non-GMO certification, they have retained Global ID Consulting / Genetic ID North America, the world's leader in GMO control and identification. The Project's mission is two-fold; first, it seeks to enlist as many member grocery stores as possible across the United States and Canada. Second, The Non-GMO Project will contact all natural foods & supplements manufacturers, and formally request their participation.
See the list of The Non-GMO Project Member Stores at: http://www.nongmoproject.org/stores.html
To join The Non-GMO Project as a member store, or for more information about the project, please visit their website: http://www.nongmoproject.org
U.S. Contact: Corey Nicholl, The Non-GMO Project, (510) 526-2456 ext.154, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Canada Contact: Julie Daniluk, The Non-GMO Project, (416) 466-2129 or email@example.com
Bollworms feeding on Bt cotton in Arkansas - By Lamar James - Arkansas Extension Communications Specialist - Delta Farm Press, July 28 2006
Bollworms have been showing up in cotton fields across Arkansas. They're especially prevalent in south Arkansas, said Glenn Studebaker, entomologist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. "They began showing up at the end of last week (July 16-22) in south Arkansas and now they're in north Arkansas," Studebaker said. "We're seeing pretty heavy numbers." The entomologist said insect numbers tend to "blow up" in July and August. Worms tend to get worse this time of year in cotton as do the late-season insects, plant bugs and stink bugs. "The big problem is that farmers are finding damage in Bollgard cotton, Bt cotton genetically modified to provide protection against tobacco budworms. Usually, they provide some protection against bollworms. But this year seems to be worse. Farmers are having to spray a lot of Bt cotton for bollworms." Studebaker said the insects are feeding in the terminal area on the upper plant. Usually, if they survive on Bt cotton, they feed from the lower portion of the plant.
Why isn't the variety providing some degree of protection?
"It's too early to say why yet. It could be a natural cycle or it could be growing tolerance for Bt in these insects," Studebaker said. "Farmers have been growing Bt cotton for about 10 years. Bollworms always had some tolerance to Bt, but after 10 years, we may have been selecting for insects that are more tolerant." He said the good news is that dual genetically protected Bt, Bollgard II, cotton is still holding up well against bollworms and tobacco budworms. This variety has two proteins that provide double protection.
The single protein Bt variety is working well to protect against budworms. If bollworms are becoming more tolerant of Bt cotton, what will that mean to farmers? "It could mean that more farmers will switch to Monsanto's Bollgard II or Dow's Wide Strike if we continue to see more bollworm damage to regular Bollgard," Studebaker said. "The only problem is these are more expensive."
Meanwhile, farmers with Bt cotton being damaged by bollworms are having to spray with pyrethroid insecticides. But Studebaker said it's never a good thing when farmers have to spray costly insecticides. In conventional cotton that doesn't offer genetic protection, farmers are seeing budworms and bollworms. They should spray pyrethoroids mixed with Tracer or Denim, Studebaker said. Unfortunately, it hits harder in a year like this when farmers are facing lost profit from high fuel and fertilizer prices. While spraying decreases their profits, Studebaker said farmers can't afford to let insects steal their yields by not spraying. He said farmers need to make sure their cotton fields are scouted for insects. He said they also need to check soybean and grain sorghum fields for bollworms, since they also feed on these crops.
Organic Consumers Association launches, "Millions Against Monsanto" grassroots activism campaign - http://www.newstarget.com/019789.html
Sign the Millions Against Monsanto petition, demanding that the Monsanto Corporation:
Stop intimidating small family farmers.
Stop force-feeding untested and unlabeled genetically engineered foods on consumers.
Stop using billions of dollars of US taypayers' money to subsidize genetically engineered crops - cotton, soybeans, corn, and canola.
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) recently launched a grassroots campaign "to mobilize one million consumers to end Monsanto's global corporate terrorism."
The "Millions Against Monsanto" campaign website says it seeks to end the Monsanto Corporation's intimidation of small family farmers, its use of unlabeled genetically engineered (GE) foods in consumer products and its use of U.S. taxpayer money to subsidize GE crops such as corn, cotton and soybeans.
The OCA website for Millions Against Monsanto cites the experiences of small farmers such as Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer whose crops were contaminated by a nearby field of Monsanto GE canola. Schmeiser was then sued by the corporation, which demanded he pay an expensive technology fee for the GE plants in his contaminated field.
Oakhurst Dairy - a company that produces milk from cows free of the synthetic hormone rBGH - was also sued by Monsanto, which claims the dairy should not be allowed to inform its customers that its products do not contain the Monsanto-patented chemical.
The campaign also calls for an end to Monsanto's environmental pollution, as well as the company's close ties to members of the federal government, which include Justice Clarence Thomas, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Anne Veneman and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, among others.
Consumers wishing to join the OCA action campaign can find more information at http://www.organicconsumers.org/monlink.html
University of Missouri Confirms Glyphosate-Resistant Waterhemp - Jerilyn Johnson - Farm Futures, 13 July 2006
University of Missouri researchers have confirmed that tall waterhemp is the sixth glyphosate-resistant weed in the U.S. and the ninth such weed in the world. Kevin Bradley, a University of Missouri Extension weed scientist, and graduate student Travis Legleiter found that tall waterhemp from a field near the Missouri River in Platte County could survive despite being treated with up to eight times the labeled rate of glyphosate. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide. The fields where resistant waterhemp was found had been in continuous Roundup Ready soybean production since 1996.
Kevin Bradley, University of Missouri weed scientist, explains new waterhemp research trials at the MU Weed Resistance Management Field Day last month near Columbia. While all resistant weeds are worrisome, Bradley says resistant tall waterhemp is especially troubling. "Waterhemp is one of Missouri's toughest weed problems," he says. "It has developed resistance to a number of other soybean herbicides." That resistance has been known to spread quickly. Waterhemp plants are either male or female, which means females rely on pollen shed from surrounding male plants. "If the resistant trait is carried in the pollen, which we are fairly confident it is, then you have pollen traveling to fields all around the resistant plants," Bradley adds. Each female waterhemp plant produces hundreds of thousands of seeds, ensuring a ready supply of plants for the following season.
Bradley and Legleiter have found good news in their field plots. The glyphosate-resistant waterhemp is killed by a number of popular pre-emergence soybean and corn herbicides. Bradley reported on this strategy at the Weed Resistance Management Field Day June 20 near Columbia, hosted by MU and Monsanto. The pair plan at least two seasons of examining whether the resistant plants can be brought under control economically in continuous soybeans - using pre-emergence and post-emergence herbicides - or whether it is better for farmers facing resistant weeds to alternate plantings of corn and soybeans. The rotation opens up a wider array of herbicides labeled for use in corn.
The eight other confirmed glyphosate-resistant weeds throughout the world include common ragweed, buckhorn plantain, goosegrass, hairy fleabane, horseweed (a.k.a. marestail), Italian ryegrass, palmer amaranth and rigid ryegrass.
Midstate cotton growers battling another scourge - 10 Jul 2006 - By S. Heather Duncan
This week, agricultural researchers have been weeding a Macon County cotton field the old-fashioned way, with hoes and bare hands. They are uprooting pigweed, the worst weed to infest cotton, using the same methods that farmers used a century before chemical herbicides. Why? This pigweed is special. When you spray it with the herbicide Roundup, it doesn't care. Roundup-resistant pigweed - the scientific name is Palmer amaranth - has been confirmed in 46 Middle Georgia cotton fields. Although Roundup resistance has developed in seven or eight weed types nationwide, the resistant pigweed in Macon, Dooly and Taylor counties is the first ever found in Georgia, said Stanley Culpepper, an associate professor and weed expert with the University of Georgia. "The problem is Roundup has been the most economic and effective tool to manage" pigweed, Culpepper said. "Once you've lost that, your cost is increased drastically. ... For moderate growers or those that have too much on their plate, it's going to be a major devastating impact."
The situation illustrates some perils of modern farming: Genetically engineered cotton, which has made farming cheaper, also led unintentionally to the evolution of this resistant weed. But since switching to the modified cotton, most farmers have changed their operations too much to go back. Pigweed is the scourge of cotton because it can grow an 1 to 2 inches a day, continues to grow in drought, produces an average of half a million seeds, tolerates many herbicides and easily grows 6 to 8 feet tall, Culpepper said. It can't be killed once it reaches a certain size, and it will clog a cotton harvester. "This is the single worst weed (for cotton) in the Southeast, probably in the U.S.," Culpepper said. "Any other weed, I think I can manage pretty effectively. This one - I'm striking out left and right."
Roundup-Ready cotton is a genetically engineered variety developed by Monsanto. It's more expensive than natural cotton seed, and farmers must pay to use it each year. Introduced a decade ago, Roundup-Ready cotton allows farmers to control most weeds by spraying Roundup without harm to the crop. Although residual herbicides, which linger in the soil, can kill pigweed, most are pricier and must be watered in. For Middle Georgia farmers with no irrigation systems, these chemicals won't help during drought. The drought is worsening the pigweed threat this year, said Macon County agricultural extension agent Jeremy Kichler. Most Macon County cotton farms have been hit, he said.
The weeding operation on Gordon Sutton's farm in Garden Valley is part of a furious research effort on the part of the University of Georgia to learn more about how the resistant weed spreads, how much it takes to choke out cotton, and what kinds of tilling and herbicides might combat it. Ironically, the weeds are being pulled so researchers can plant more pigweeds at controlled distances from each other, to measure how far the pollen can travel. As part of the study, resistant male weeds are planted in the center of the field, with Roundup-sensitive female weeds planted in a spiral pattern extending away from the center, Culpepper said. Researchers will then test the seeds produced by the female plants to see how far the resistant genes traveled. (All the surrounding fields are already infested with pigweed.) It's the first experiment of its kind anywhere, Culpepper said. In addition, the UGA weed team has test plots in 15 acres of nearby fields, using different herbicides, cover crops and tillage to see what works with resistant pigweed. So far, Culpepper is not very hopeful. "I get very depressed when I come up here," he said. "Most folks think, 'Oh, they'll come up with something.' Well, it's not coming! The next stuff is expected to come out in 2012, and it doesn't look promising." UGA declared a crisis exemption this year, allowing Middle Georgia farmers to use a new herbicide before it has been registered with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
'WE ARE ... TO BLAME'
Roundup resistance developed naturally as pigweed evolved. When 95 percent of farmers switched to Roundup-Ready cotton, they stopped using many other chemicals. "We are definitely to blame," Culpepper said. "We have been spraying Roundup. And Roundup. And more Roundup and more Roundup. And that's not necessarily bad. It is safest herbicide there is, to the grower and the environment." But heavy use increases the risk that weeds like pigweed will develop resistance to the chemical. "The important thing we should learn from this is we don't need to use the same chemistry over and over again," said Chuck Ellis, Dooly County's extension agent.
Roundup-Ready cotton enabled farms to grow in size and reduce manpower. Because they could depend on Roundup to kill weeds, there was less need to till weeds under in spring. Many Middle Georgia farmers stopped, or switched to tilling only in strips, which leaves more ground cover in the field. This holds moisture in - a key advantage during a dry year like this one - and prevents erosion. These changes in farming mean that it isn't feasible to return to methods used before Roundup-Ready cotton, Ellis said. For example, a Dooly County farm run by Eddie Green and his father-in-law, Terrell Hudson, has almost doubled in size to 1,700 acres of cotton in the last decade and stopped using conventional tillage. Green believes the farm has isolated pockets of resistant pigweed, although they haven't been confirmed. "If we have to go back to conventional farming, I don't think we would farm," Green said. They've sold their conventional cultivation equipment and no longer have enough farm workers to do it the old way, he said.
Fortunately, Culpepper said early experiments seem to indicate that the most successful approach to Roundup-resistant pigweed is a combination of herbicide and good conservation tillage methods. Sutton, whose farm hosts part of the UGA pigweed research, remains concerned about his rising herbicide costs. "It's $8,000 or $10,000 every time you try a herbicide, and it looks like it's going to kill it, but then two weeks later it's back again," he said. Ellis said he is hearing some farmers are paying 30 percent to 40 percent more for herbicides this year. Roundup costs about $4.50 an acre to apply, while residual herbicides often run $10 to $12 an acre, Kichler said. Additional trips across the field to apply multiple chemicals, and additional watering, drive up farmers' fuel costs, which are already high this year.
Sutton, who has been farming 46 years, said he thinks he had resistant pigweed for the last five or six years, but no one believed him. At first, Culpepper said, UGA weed experts thought only one field was infested. "We spent a fortune going out and pulling all if it up - 500 acres - and now, in fact, we wasted our time," he said. When he randomly tested 100 fields in Macon, Dooly and Taylor counties, almost half had the resistant weed. But proving it took almost a year. The weed must be field-tested by experts applying Roundup properly, then the seeds must be grown and tested in a greenhouse, Culpepper said. Kichler said the weed is believed to have spread more widely since then, and Culpepper plans to test fields in surrounding counties this fall.
Georgia cotton growers fight pigweed - Associated Press, July 8 2006 - http://www.macon.com/mld/macon/news/politics/14995325.htm
A variety of pigweed resistant to the herbicide Roundup is spreading in Georgia cotton crops, already identified in nearly 50 fields. The plant - known as Palmer amaranth - is the first resistant weed identified in Georgia, said Stanley Culpepper, a weed expert at the University of Georgia. So far, the weed has popped up in Macon, Dooly and Taylor counties. The cost of treating weeds increases "drastically" without the luxury of using Roundup, Culpepper said. "For moderate growers or those that have too much on their plate, it's going to be a major devastating impact," Culpepper said.
UGA agriculture researchers are working on ways to control the weed. So far, the most successful strategy is using a combination of residual herbicides and tilling, Culpepper said. But residual herbicides are expensive compared to Roundup, which costs about $4.50 per acre to apply compared to the $10-$12 an acre. Farmers also have increased fuel and irrigation costs from the distribution of the herbicides, which require multiple applications.
Pigweed grows 1 to 2 inches per day, flourishes even in a drought and produces an average of half a million seeds. It tolerates many herbicides and easily grows 6 to 8 feet tall. The weed can't be killed once it reaches a certain height and clogs cotton harvesters. The weed's evolution is rooted in genetically engineered cotton - called Roundup-Ready cotton - developed a decade ago. The cotton, used by the majority of farmers, allows weeds to be controlled by Roundup without harm to the crop.
Report on US GMO regulation - http://www.gefreemaine.org/staticpages/index.php?page=20060626145840467
Brian Tokar , 26.06.2006
There is presently a struggle in the US and Europe regarding the appropriateness of local ordinances or regional efforts to control the spread of genetically manipulated crops. Opponents in the US argue that GM technology is sufficiently well regulated by the federal government. This report outlines the extensive evidence that federal oversight is far from adequate to protect farmers and the general public from the potential consequences of GM technology.
PDF version of briefing on US regulations. 61K http://biotech.indymedia.org/media/2006/06//5165.pdf
This 7-page briefing seeks to address several key questions:
Does the US government regulate genetically engineered crops?
How does the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) oversight of GE crops in the field actually work?
Is USDA oversight of GE crops adequate?
How well do the Environmental Protection Agency and Food & Drug Administration address environmental and food safety concerns?
We conclude that state and local jurisdictions should retain the power to address specific problems with GE crops that are not sufficiently addressed by federal regulators.
The full, footnoted text of this new briefing report, titled "Deficiencies in Federal Regulatory Oversight of Genetically Engineered Crops," is available at http://www.gefreemaine.org/staticpages/index.php?page=20060626145840467. The pdf version can also be downloaded from http://www.environmentalcommons.org/RegulatoryDeficiencies.html.
County supervisors OK ban on genetically engineered crops - http://midday.santacruzsentinel.net/content/view/103/25/
As expected, supervisors Tuesday approved a moratorium on growing genetically engineered crops in Santa Cruz County. The unanimous decision pleased numerous audience members, all of whom spoke in favor of the decision. The county now joins Marin and Mendicino in outlawing the plants. The Board received over 100 letters, e-mails, and phone calls in support of the GE Moratorium which "makes it unlawful for any person to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow any genetically engineered crop and declares that any act in violation of this prohibition constitutes a public nuisance."
Eat To Live: FDA sued over biotech foods - By Julia Watson - United Press International, June 9, 2006 - http://www.upi.com/
Lawsuit Challenges Unscientific FDA Policy on Gene-Altered Foods - June 7, 2006
LE BUGUE, France (UPI) -- It`s been a conversational curiosity, at the very least, among consumers in Europe, Australia, Japan, and parts of Africa, why Americans don`t seem the slightest bit interested in the issue of the genetic engineering of some of their key crops. The nations just mentioned have as little tolerance for biotech foods as legally possible. Now, however, American consumers may have to reflect upon their complacency.
This week, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration to force the government to establish mandatory reviews of genetically engineered foods and to label them as genetically modified if the foods are approved for consumption. The dramatic action comes after six years of waiting without a response from the FDA to a legal petition it lodged, along with over 50 consumer and environmental groups, demanding that biotech food be more meticulously regulated and labeled.
Why would the FDA - so anxious to protect our health with advisories on food fears from mercury in fish to the pasteurization of young raw milk cheeses - not want to take a rigorous look on our behalf at industrial science's inalterable tampering with nature? Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General has been appalled by the USDA's handling of field tests of genetically engineered plantings. As Eat To Live revealed earlier this year, the inspector general's report condemned the USDA for failing to inspect experimental genetically engineered crops and for not insuring they were destroyed after field tests, to protect surrounding farmland.
The prime genetically modified crops grown extensively across the U.S. are corn, soybeans and canola. Europe, pushed by massive consumer unease, has made every effort to resist the entry of genetically engineered crops into its markets. Foods that contain them must be so labeled. Yet Europe has been under intense pressure by the United States through the World Trade Organization to reverse this stand and allow U.S. biotech crops and products in. Even the United Nations Cartagena Protocol of Biosafety authorizes member countries, in the case of scientific uncertainty, to take a precautionary approach to regulating biotech crops. In the United States, no GM labeling is necessary, nor is testing of foods containing biotech crops or by-products compulsory.
European consumers - and many in the science community - fear that the restructuring of the genetic composition of a crop by introducing foreign genes - from other species of plant or even animals - could have an impact on health. They fear so-called 'Frankenfoods' might encourage antibiotic-resistant illnesses, produce new food toxins and generate food allergies.
Farmers are attracted by the higher yields and lower investment in pesticides and time that genetically engineered crops offer. Their creators, like Monsanto, promote the philanthropic message that they could be the instrument for the reduction of world hunger and poverty. They assert that rather than abuse the environment, genetically modified crops make it safer. Critics of biotech crops and food say that none of these contentions have been properly tested nor have ecological, health and social questions been stringently addressed.
Let's hope there`s enough publicity for the CFS's lawsuit to alert American consumers finally to an issue that has been the concern of much of the rest of the world. This barbecuing season, when timing everything to be on the table as soon as the burgers come off the grill is tricky, you may like this tip from legendary New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne. He contended that the best way to cook (genetically unmodified) sweet corn was to bring to the boil a pot of unsalted water, drop in the shucked corn, slam the lid on, bring it back to the boil then immediately turn off the heat under the pot. Leave the corn in for a minimum of 5 minutes - and a relaxed maximum of 45. It`s a method that saves corn that isn`t at peak of freshness. Salting the water toughens it.
Copyright 2006 by United Press International
Politics, Not Science, Informed Policy that Leaves Engineered Foods Untested and Unlabeled
Joseph Mendelson, Center for Food Safety, (202) 547-9359; Charles Margulis, CFS, (510) 697-0615. Washington, DC - The Center for Food Safety today filed suit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the agency's failure to adopt any pre-market safety requirements for genetically engineered (GE) foods, and for failing to require labels so consumers can know when foods contain ingredients from GE crops. The CFS lawsuit calls for a mandatory, pre-market regulatory review system for all genetically engineered foods. Currently, there are no binding FDA regulations to protect the public from the risks of the genetically engineered foods that are currently found in thousands of products on supermarket shelves.
CFS and over fifty consumer and environmental groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Natural Resources Defense Council, and others filed a detailed legal petition with FDA in March 2000, outlining the comprehensive approach that the agency should be taking to assess the health and safety issues from new GE foods.
Despite numerous attempts to engage the agency, FDA has refused to respond to this legal petition. FDA first adopted a hands-off policy on GE foods in 1992, and despite mounting evidence of health and environmental threats from GE crops, has never significantly changed its deregulatory stance. The lawsuit filed today challenges FDA's unreasonable delay in failing to respond to the March 2000 petition.
"For too long, the FDA has let biotech companies set the table for deregulation of GE food," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director for the Center for Food Safety. "Over six years ago, we challenged the agency to come up with a scientific defense for their lax approach to GE foods. Their failure to respond demonstrates the lack of science behind their GE foods policy."
The CFS challenge to FDA calls for rigorous testing on GE foods before they are marketed. Scientists, including FDA physicians and scientists have warned that genetic engineering is different than traditional breeding techniques and may have different risks. For example, FDA and other scientists have warned that GE foods could trigger unexpected food allergies, create toxins in food, and/or hasten the spread of antibiotic-resistant disease.
Despite these scientific warnings, FDA's policy assumes that gene altered foods are safe based solely on scant information that biotechnology companies voluntarily submit in consultations with FDA. Since these consultations are voluntary, industry determines what information they submit and in what form. Generally submissions include merely compositional comparisons to show that GE foods are "equivalent" to their natural counterparts.
But scientists say that such comparisons cannot adequately address the kinds of unexpected changes in food that the genetic engineering process can create, including changes that could create health concerns. For example, just last fall Australian scientists were surprised to find that genes from a bean engineered into pea plants created a potentially dangerous allergen in the GE peas. The tests that exposed this potential hazard have not been conducted on any of the GE foods currently marketed in the U.S., even though these GE foods contain genes from non-food organisms that have never been in the human diet and have never been adequately assessed for allergencity.
FDA also overlooked potentially dangerous allergies in its review of StarLink corn, a gene-altered crop that contaminated much of the food supply and cost American farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost exports and clean-up costs. In 2001, CFS was part of a coalition of organizations that discovered illegal StarLink contamination in taco shells and other products sold in supermarkets across the country. While FDA's review failed to identify or address any potential allergenicity concerns with StarLink, scientific advisors to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned that the GE corn might trigger allergies. EPA allowed the corn to be sold only for non-food uses, but StarLink contamination of the food supply led to over 300 product recalls and crippled U.S. corn exports for months.
Numerous countries have adopted mandatory pre-market approval and labeling systems for GE foods, including Russia, China, Brazil, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and all of the European Union. In international forums, FDA and other U.S. officials have endorsed at least three agreements on safety assessments and pre-market review to protect consumers around the world from the risks of GE foods. But FDA's own guidelines for American consumers do not follow these international safety standards.
In fact, in developing its lax GE foods policies, FDA was heavily influenced by biotechnology interests. For example, a former attorney for Monsanto, the world's leading producer of GE crops, developed FDA's policy on GE food labeling when working as an FDA regulator in the mid-1990s. Previous legal actions by CFS unearthed numerous FDA documents showing that agency scientists warned of unintended health risks from GE foods, but were overruled by political appointees.
"While the rest of the world is rejecting these risky, untested foods, FDA's unscientific approach is making American consumers the world's guinea pigs in this genetic food experiment," said Mendelson. "Americans deserve the right to know what's in their food. FDA must stop playing politics and start developing a science-based policy to protect Americans from these risky foods."
Today's lawsuit was filed in district court in Washington, DC.
View Complaint - http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/ComplaintGEFoodRegs6.07.06.pdf
View Original Petition - http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/PetitionGEFoodRegs3.2000.pdf
County eyes ban on genetically engineered crops - By ROGER SIDEMAN - Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 8 2006
SANTA CRUZ - The county is one step closer to seeing a ban on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. Supervisors unanimously agreed Tuesday to develop an ordinance that would place a "precautionary" moratorium on the use of crops that carry transplanted genes from other species to make them more nutritious or easier to grow. The ordinance is being drafted, and will come before supervisors on June 20. There are no genetically engineered, or GE, crops in Santa Cruz County, but the supervisors' action was prompted by a nine-month study of the laws and risks associated with such crops, which are being planted on a growing share of the world's farmland. The group that conducted the study suggested a moratorium because too little is known about the effects of genetically engineered organisms on human health and the environment. The future viability of organic agriculture is also at risk, the report states.
Some counties, including Trinity, Mendocino and Marin already have imposed bans on genetically engineered crops. "There are too many concerns about the impact on crops and human health," said Peggy Miars, executive director of California Certified Organic Farmers in Santa Cruz. A minority within the study group said in an unsigned letter that the technology "holds promise" and that a moratorium is unnecessary since there's currently no interest in planting GE crops in the county. Indeed, a moratorium would be more of a preemptive move. Genetically engineered crops are typically corn, cotton and soybeans rather than the berries and lettuce crops that dominate the county's agriculture. Still, the potential exists for local GE crops, said Poki Namkung, county health officer and the report's lead author.
Genetic engineering research in other areas has begun on 13 of the 39 commercial crop and flower varieties grown in the county, including strawberries and apples, Namkung told supervisors. The report was written by two appointees from each of the five supervisorial districts, as well as the county agriculture commissioner and two public health experts. Among its findings:
*State and federal laws provide inadequate oversight. The USDA does not know the location of many GE test sites. Some crops not approved for human consumption have found their way into the food supply.
*Lack of safety testing leaves a potentially dangerous void in understanding long-term health effects of GE food, which is still largely unlabeled in the U.S.
*Farmers worldwide have reported their crops being tainted by stray GE pollen, subjecting some to patent infringement lawsuits from large biotechnology corporations. The moratorium could be lifted once GE crops are better contained, tested and labeled.
"A ban places responsibility back on the industry," said Angela Flynn, an organic farmer in Bonny Doon. Flynn was among about 15 people who spoke in favor of the ban Tuesday. No one was against it.
"I am one of the 76 percent of Santa Cruz residents who buys organic foods on a regular basis," said Gavilan College instructor Debra Klein, citing a well-publicized study. "The looming prospect of unregulated GE foods being sold in our grocery stores and farmers markets is horrifying to me, my family and friends." Supervisor Ellen Pirie agreed, describing the report's findings as "scary." Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt said a ban would be "only prudent when 65 nations already have regulations." "Hopefully other communities in California will see this," said Supervisor Mark Stone.
During the meeting, Supervisor Tony Campos, whose district spans most of the county's farmland, was quiet on the subject and did not return calls later Tuesday. County Agricultural Commissioner Dave Moeller noted that supervisors already passed a law in 1988 that requires that the county be notified before genetically modified crops are planted. Down the road, additional regulations could hurt local farmers if GE technology takes off, Moeller said. A anonymous minority within the study group disagreed with a moratorium. In their letter, they wrote: "We do not want to close the door on those opportunities for increased yields, reduced pesticide use ... which results in cleaner water and air through reduced emissions."
The comments echo sentiments heard in counties where similar bans have failed and where GE crops have been touted by their producers and many scientists as the future of farming, improving agriculture and even human health. Though the letter was unsigned, Moeller was later identified as one of its authors, along with Richard Nutter, Steve Bontadelli and Thomas Rider - all of whom participated in creating the report. Moeller later said that the minority group agrees with the report's general findings.
The report can be found online at: http://www.co.santa-cruz.ca.us
Contact Roger Sideman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Consumer group sues FDA over biotech foods - REUTERS, June 7, 2006
WASHINGTON - A lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks to force the U.S. government to conduct mandatory reviews of genetically engineered foods and require labeling of such foods once they are approved. The Center for Food Safety's suit against the Food and Drug Administration comes after years of lobbying by environmental and consumer groups for more stringent regulation and labeling of biotech crops, which biotech opponents fear can harm human health. "We think the FDA should be the gatekeeper and should require... a mandatory process that has rigorous science behind it and public involvement and an actual approval process," said CFS legal director Joseph Mendelson. "And we're asking that once these products are on the market that they be labeled." The FDA had no immediate comment on the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Genetically modified crops, such as soybeans, corn, and canola, are grown widely throughout the United States, and the world leader in development and marketing of the gene-altered crops is St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto Co. Yet the United States requires no independent testing of these crops or the food products they are used in, does not mandate what data companies must submit for review, and does not require that foods that contain biotech crops be labeled, CFS said. Indeed, the United States has been pushing Europe, through complaints with the World Trade Organization, to open its markets to genetically modified food crops, despite widespread consumer opposition there.
"There has been a conscious effort on the part of the FDA and the administration not to create any kind of regulatory burden for agricultural biotechnology," Mendelson said. "They view this purely as an issue of economics rather than of human health." CFS and more than fifty consumer and environmental groups, filed a legal petition with the FDA in March 2000, asking the agency to adopt a more rigorous approach to biotech food regulation, but the CFS said Wednesday that the FDA had ignored the petition. At various times over the last several years, different scientists, including some within the FDA, have warned that altering the genetic makeup of a food plant by inserting genes from one organism into another, sometimes from an animal into a plant, for instance, could trigger unexpected food allergies, create toxins in food, or spread antibiotic-resistant disease.
Last year in Australia, scientists found that genes from a bean engineered into pea plants created a potentially dangerous allergen in the biotech peas. CFS said the tests that exposed that potential hazard have not been conducted on any of the genetically modified foods currently marketed in the United States. The FDA is one of three government agencies that monitor genetically modified crops. The U.S. Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service oversees bio-crop trials and the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for regulating plants engineered to produce pesticides.
Douglas based veto on rumored threat - Times Argus, June 4, 2006
The cancellation of the June 1 vote to override Gov. James Douglas' veto of the Farmer Protection Act may be a blessing in disguise, causing us to look at the issue in broader terms. Rather than showing division between farmers, this bill has pointed out a great commonality. Whether big or small, organic or conventional, dairy or vegetable, all Vermont farmers understand that they are indentured to the interests of major corporations like Monsanto that benefited most from his veto.
The farmers who were opposed to the bill based their opposition on the fear that, when made to take responsibility for their product, genetically modified seed manufacturers would not be willing to sell in Vermont. The governor used this rumor as the basis for his veto despite a statement to the contrary from the industry spokesperson herself. Since there was no official threat, the biotech industry needed only to plant the rumor of a threat to get the hard-working farmers of Vermont who use GM seed to put on their green hats and fight their battle for them. The power that the industry wields over these farmers has never been clearer.
Even if this bill had passed, it would only have altered the playing field on which a Vermont farmer could do battle with Monsanto in the courts. The contamination will have already occurred and the farmer will face an endless court battle against Monsanto, its infinite resources and its team of corporate lawyers.
We, the people of Vermont, need to first address the question of who should wield power in a democracy: the few or the many. If seed manufacturers can prevent the passage of law merely with the rumor of a threat, then they have usurped our authority to govern ourselves. Change begins with the acceptance that we are not currently self-governing, the knowledge that we are capable as citizens to make the decisions that affect our lives, and the courage to accept nothing less than real democracy.
Douglas veto is divisive - Rutland Herald, May 24, 2006 - http://www.rutlandherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060524/NEWS/605240315/1037
In vetoing the Farmer Protection Act, which the Vermont Legislature crafted with courage and wisdom, Governor Douglas ignored the real issue. The real issue is who sets the rules for doing business in Vermont? Is it Monsanto and other purveyors of agricultural seed, or is it the citizens? The purveyors of genetically modified seeds want rules that restrict parties injured by the seeds from suing them, and that exempt them from liability in Vermont courts. The governor acknowledged willingness to let corporations write the rules when he conjectured that manufacturers might not sell seed in Vermont under the proposed act. Whom is he kidding? Of course, manufacturers will sell seed into this major market. In fact, at least one seed company urged the governor to sign the act.
The prosperity of Vermont agriculture depends on both strong conventional farms and strong organic farms. Yet the governor wants us to believe that these two types of farmers have competing interests, and that the act divides them. The governor has it backwards. It is the absence of the protection act that fosters division. Under the manufacturer's rules, a farmer damaged by a neighbor's GE crop is barred from suing the seed manufacturer and has no recourse except to sue the neighbor. So if anything is divisive, it is the governor's veto. The governor's plan to have Agriculture Secretary Kerr convene organic and conventional farmers to resolve issues about GE seeds under the existing pro-manufacturer rules, has little likelihood of success. Secretary Kerr, like the governor, will let manufacturers write the rules for their business in Vermont. Hence, the Douglas plan is another instance of the fox guarding the hen house.
I urge Vermonters to recognize the true issue in the Farmer Protection Act. Let us not be distracted by Governor Douglas' assertions. And I urge the Legislature to continue its courage and wisdom by overriding the governor's veto.
Despite Pesticide Reductions, Transgenic Cotton Fails to Improve Biodiversity - SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
Genetically modifying cotton promises to reduce the use of chemicals and, potentially, create a better environment for harmless insects and other animals. For the last decade, some farmers in Arizona have been planting cotton engineered to contain a toxin that kills pests such as the pink bollworm. A study of randomly chosen cotton fields reveals that although this genetically modified cotton did reduce pesticide use, it did not reduce use of herbicides nor did it improve biodiversity when compared to unmodified strains.
Ecologist Yves Carriere of the University of Arizona and his colleagues randomly selected 81 cotton fields -split between unmodified and transgenic cotton breeds - over the course of two growing seasons. The scientists gathered data on pesticide use, herbicide use and all the ants and beetles they could find in pitfall traps placed in the fields, as well as other information. "The idea here is to look at not only the possible effects of transgenics but also all the other factors," Carriere says.
The data confirmed that farmers applied pesticides less often to transgenic fields - and used more precisely targeted chemicals when they did. But use of such targeted pesticides on modified cotton did rise in the fields selected during the second year of the study, perhaps due to the need to control pests unaffected by the engineered toxin, the authors speculate. And herbicide use remained the same no matter whether the cotton in question was unmodified, toxin-producing, or toxin-producing and herbicide resistant. "My guess is that they use herbicide resistance as more of an insurance policy," Carriere says.
Nor did genetic modification seem to have an effect on ant and beetle biodiversity; no matter which type of cotton was grown, ant populations declined and beetles boomed in farmed fields compared to adjacent unfarmed fields. Other factors such as soil type, seeding rates and amount of rain played a bigger role in determining population dynamics, according to the paper in Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.
The researchers will continue to refine their analysis of the data, looking for differing impacts on predatory and plant-eating insects as well as an economic analysis of the costs and benefits of genetically modified cotton. "You cannot simply assume that you will get across-the-board benefits," Carriere notes. "One thing I was a bit surprised to find is that if you control some pests with [transgenic] cotton, others become more of a problem."
'Major Step Forward' Seen in DuPont Shareholder Vote on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) - Disclosure Resolution to Keep Initiative by Christian Brothers Investment Services Alive
Wednesday April 26, 1:31 pm ET
Christian Brothers Investments, Other Groups Will Continue to Insist on DuPont Satisfying Duty to Disclose Potential Risks to Shareholders
WILMINGTON, Del., April 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) said today that it has achieved a "major step forward" with the 7.3 percent of DuPont shareholders who voted in favor of a resolution urging the company to disclose any potentially material risk or "off-balance sheet liability" that could be posed by its manufacturing and distribution of food-related genetically modified organisms (GMOs). With more than 480 million shares voting, the 7.3 percent of DuPont shareholders siding with the CBIS resolution represents over $1.5 billion in shareholder equity.
Reflecting what is almost always a multi-year process of building shareholder awareness and support, CBIS only needed 6 percent of shareholders to support the GMO-related resolution in order for it to be reintroduced for DuPont's 2007 annual meeting. As the CBIS resolution notes, a wide variety of government, industry and scientific experts have raised concerns about the lack of adequate testing and controls in place in relation to the GMOs unleashed by DuPont and other firms. Recent reports also have raised potential health concerns -- including increased incidence of allergies -- that could result from the introduction of GMOs into agriculture and the food supply.
John K. S. Wilson, director of socially responsible investing at Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc., said: "Today's vote gives CBIS and other concerned groups considerable new leverage to keep up the pressure on DuPont to determine and disclose the potential risks associated with genetically modified agriculture. Our sole goal here is to avoid a repeat of the Teflon controversy, which was brought about when DuPont inaccurately asserted the safety of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) over many decades. At a minimum, DuPont has an obligation to start acknowledging to its shareholders that there are valid concerns here about potential risks associated with GMOs."
In addition to citing recent health concerns and regulatory problems with GMOs, the CBIS resolution stated: "Disclosure of material information is a fundamental principle of our capital markets. Investors, their confidence in corporate bookkeeping shaken, are starting to scrutinize other possible 'off- balance sheet' liabilities, such as risks associated with activities harmful to human health and the environment, that can impact long-term shareholder value. SEC reporting requirements include disclosure of environmental liabilities and of trends and uncertainties that the company reasonably expects will have a material impact on revenues. Public companies are now required to establish a system of controls and procedures designed to ensure that financial information required to be disclosed in SEC filings is recorded and reported in a timely manner."
The CBIS resolution urged that DuPont's "board of directors review and report to shareholders by the 2007 annual meeting on the company's internal controls related to potential adverse impacts associated with genetically modified organisms, including: reviewing the adequacy of current post- marketing monitoring systems; retaining an independent environmental expert to review the effectiveness of established risk management processes; and examining possible impact on seed product integrity."
In outlining the potential risks surrounding DuPont GMOs, the CBIS resolution goes on to point out: "'Gone to Seed' [from the Union of Concerned Scientists] reports that genetically engineered DNA is contaminating U.S. traditional seed stocks of corn, soybeans and canola, and that if left unchecked could disrupt agricultural trade, unfairly burden the organic foods industry, and allow hazardous materials into the food supply ... Insurers in Germany, the UK and elsewhere are refusing liability coverage for genetically engineered (GE) crops, demonstrating heightened concern about the long-term safety of GE crops."
Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc. (http://www.cbisonline.com) manages more than $4 billion, combining faith and finance in the responsible stewardship of Catholic financial assets. CBIS' combination of premier institutional asset managers, diversified product offerings, and careful risk- control strategies constitutes a unique investment approach for Catholic institutions and their fiduciaries. CBIS strives to integrate faith-based values into the investment process through a disciplined approach to socially responsible investing that includes principled purchasing (stock screens), active ownership strategies (proxy voting, dialogues, and shareholder resolutions) and community investment. The firm contributes a portion of all profits to support the Church's educational and social ministry.
Source: Christian Brothers Investment Services, New York, NY
GMO bill tough on manufacturers - Bennington Banner (Vermont, USA), 26 April 2006 - http://www.benningtonbanner.com/headlines/ci_3752330
MONTPELIER- Manufacturers of genetically engineered seeds could be liable for damages if their products drift into the fields of neighboring farmers who don't want them under a bill that won approval Tuesday in the Vermont House.
The proposal could put Vermont at the forefront of a heated national debate about the wisdom of using the seeds and plants, which can be scientifically modified to resist pests or disease. Some farmers and consumers don't want such technology being used on their food. But others say it's an important way to keep food economical and to control the use of pesticides on farm fields.
That divide was starkly illustrated in the Statehouse. Supporters and opponents thronged the House chamber to witness the debate on a compromise version of the bill that's been debated in the Legislature for the past year and a half. "As an organic farmer, my job is to make sure I'm producing a crop that's free of genetically modified (organisms)," said Leceister dairy farmer Annie Claghorn after the House voted 77-63 in favor of the bill.
But opponents were out in equal force to demonstrate to Gov. Jim Douglas, who has made pretty clear he'll veto the bill if it wins Senate approval, that they'll back him. "We're here to show the governor he has the vote when, hopefully, he vetoes it," said St. Albans dairy farmer Mitch Montagne, standing outside the governor's office after the vote.
The issue in the legislation is fairly arcane. The bill was designed to give farmers who don't want to use modified seeds a forum to address their grievances if pollen from modified plants drift into their crops. The bill would treat farmers as consumers and would allow them to sue a seed manufacturer, claiming the so-called drift into his or her field was a private nuisance. Such a claim could only be made if the farmer could prove that his or her total loss exceeded $3,500. "This is a bill to protect all farmers, especially those who use genetically modified seeds," said Rep. Dexter Randall, P-Troy, the primary sponsor of the bill and a dairy farmer. He and others said it was an attempt to give farmers a greater say over their businesses. Although manufacturers retain ownership of the genetically engineered seeds and plants and only lease them to farmers, the companies have been insulated from damage claims.
The new bill would protect a farmer using the genetically engineered seeds, making manufacturers liable for damages. Supporters said that's why they believed the bill would be good for both conventional farmers and organic farmers, who are among the leaders in opposing the use of the genetically altered seeds. "This bill is not about dividing these farmers," said Rep. Rosemary McLaughlin, D-Royalton. "(It) is about protecting these two types of farmers."
Rep. William Johnson, R-Canaan, also a dairy farmer, argued that all the bill would do was erroneously call into question the safety of genetically modified organisms. "It's based on a false premise," he said. "It's based on the premise that there's something wrong with genetically engineered seeds or biotechnology."
Monsanto: Monster Stock, or Just Plain Monster? - By Alyce Lomax - The Motley Fool, March 23, 2006
Many of us are attracted to growth stocks, and on the surface, Monsanto (NYSE: MON) certainly looks like one. Judging by its last quarter (and lots of other Foolish coverage over the last year or so) one can see that many things seem to be going right for Monsanto. However, what price are you willing to pay for growth? Are the profits worth the risks -- and the possible long-term ramifications -- for both investors and consumers? Monsanto's success hasn't come without controversy, and more is likely to come.
One of the things that first appealed to me about investing was that there was always a story behind the numbers. And Monsanto has an interesting one -- indeed, some might call it frightening. Now, I'm a big fan of scary stories like The Shining, but I'm not so big on them when it comes to investing.
The controversies of bygone days still haunt Monsanto. For example, in 1984, Monsanto and Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW) agreed to pay a $180 million settlement to American Vietnam War veterans who complained of long-lasting physical effects from the use of Agent Orange. The two companies were the largest producers of the pesticide-turned-chemical-warfare agent. However, the controversy is still noted in Monsanto's SEC filings -- Vietnamese and Korean lawsuits have also been filed, and while most have been dismissed, in January 2006, the Seoul High Court ordered that Monsanto and Dow Chemical pay $62 million in compensation to approximately 6,800 people. The plaintiffs may still appeal. (Two lawsuits originally filed in 1999 sought more than $4 billion in damages from the companies.)
Granted, the Monsanto of today is a bit different than the Monsanto of yesterday. Its pharmaceutical business, Pharmacia, is now part of Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), and its chemicals business was spun off as Solutia. (You can read this article for details on how Monsanto and Solutia share a legacy -- and payments -- regarding environmental remediation related to PCB pollution, an ongoing issue.) Today's Monsanto comprises the agricultural business alone.
The split didn't free Monsanto from controversy, though. Note its major products: genetically modified (GM) herbicides and seeds. Such products are touted as increasing agricultural productivity and yields. Some say such solutions from companies like Monsanto will feed the world. However, if you ask some farmers and most environmentalists, you'll get a different story.
Monsanto, with its annual revenues approaching $7 billion, is embroiled in quite a few lawsuits -- it takes quite some time to read through them all in regulatory filings. Recently, it agreed to pay $100 million in royalties to the University of California, which claimed Monsanto violated its patent on bovine somatotropin, or Posilac, a hormone that increases milk production in cows. Furthermore, 90 Texas farmers recently alleged that Monsanto failed to warn them about a defect in its GM cotton product, resulting in widespread crop loss.
Monsanto's most obvious controversy is the GM hot button, though. A group of farmers, consumers, and environmentalists recently sued the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, alleging that it is improperly allowing Monsanto to sell an herbicide-resistant alfalfa seed without examining the health, environmental, and economic ramifications.
Monsanto isn't just the defendant in many lawsuits. Part of its business is being the plaintiff as well. For example, GM alfalfa is expected to easily contaminate old-school alfalfa crops, which could result in Monsanto lawsuits against farmers for royalties if traces of its own patented GM alfalfa get into such farmers' crops by accident. Alfalfa is apparently easily cross-pollinated by bees and wind. That seems not only an ethical issue, but an antitrust issue as well, to my way of thinking. Many farmers and environmentalists contend that Monsanto is gearing up to have an agricultural monopoly, and they've filed suits related to antitrust issues.
Furthermore, many people are still unconvinced that GM products like Monsanto's won't end up being harmful to human health or the environment in the long run.
The European Union has had a long-standing reluctance to approve GM products, and many companies, including Monsanto, have been fighting to get GM wares into the European market.
The World Trade Organization recently made a preliminary ruling against the EU, which may eventually force a more open approach to GM foods. (The EU has been approving the products on a case-by-case basis, requiring labeling and traceability.) The EU's stance is logical: A 2005 poll showed that 54% of Europeans believe GM foods are dangerous.
Their concern isn't surprising, given food-supply health and safety issues in recent years. Consider the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease) situation. The adverse effects of using meat and bone materials in animal feed weren't known for many years, until mad cow disease emerged and made the leap to human infections, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
GM products are alive and well in the U.S., though. Monsanto has a cache of high-profile food company customers here -- for example, Kellogg (NYSE: K), which now uses Monsanto's Vistive to lower the trans-fat and saturated fat content of certain foods -- and since there are no labeling requirements, many Americans are eating GM foods whether they know it or not.
Some companies have made such concern into big business. Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI) has been a major advocate of clear GM labeling, and it doesn't stock GM foods (bear in mind that organic food is understood to be GM-free). In fact, Whole Foods' stance on environmental matters is probably one of its biggest selling points with its customers.
GM fans may say that the detractors are exhibiting fearmongering and junk science, holding back progress, or ignoring the needs of the hungry in a world where populations continue to grow. On the other hand, as recently as last December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's own inspector general charged that the agency has failed to do a good enough job in regulating field trials of GM crops.
What keeps you up at night?
I know one should avoid being an emotional investor. I also know that some people make a pretty penny by investing in companies that others find unpalatable. Take Altria (NYSE: MO), for example. It's certainly got some unsavory elements, given its addictive -- and unhealthy -- cash cow of a product, but its returns have made it one of the most remarkable stocks in history.
I like to consider myself a socially responsible investor. In that regard, Monsanto isn't a stock that I'd ever consider owning, regardless of the growth potential. There's just too much bad mojo, in my opinion. (I could go on about the bad mojo, but I've got a word count limit.) I believe that there are certain situations where the question isn't whether one can do it, but whether one should do it, and that goes for corporations as well. Such considerations influence my investing decisions.
Ethical discussions aside, though, this stock doesn't look like a bargain to me, given the risks. Check out this chart* to see Monsanto's five-year trajectory. Just for starters, Monsanto shares trade at a trailing P/E ratio of 63, despite sales and earnings growth that is expected to slow somewhat in the next three years. Meanwhile, insiders have been selling shares at a rapid clip recently, which could indicate that they believe the stock is nearing its apex. All things considered -- particularly given the risks at hand -- Monsanto could leave a bad taste in investors' mouths.
Chart showing Monsanto's five-year trajectory: http://quote.fool.com/chart.aspx?s=MON&t=5y&l=off&q=l&c=%5eGSPC
The Genetically Modified Conundrum - What's in your food? Some companies don't want you to know - By Alyce Lomax
The Motley Fool, April 24, 2006
The U.S. is sometimes described as the bastion of biotech crops, the great hope for the sparkling future of genetically modified (GM) foods. That's seen as a boon to some of the companies that have been spearheading efforts to develop such crops and distribute them throughout the food supply. Likewise for the biggest food providers, who hope to market and sell these wares throughout the world. Yet there's still the fact that GM foods remain controversial, to say the least.
There's a troubling element to Americans' supposedly open arms about GM foods: Many of them apparently simply don't know much about it. While some people have heard of efforts to genetically engineer crops, what many Americans may not realize is that those crops are already here. A survey from the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology last fall said that 58% of Americans are unaware of GM foods; a mere 41% know that they are already available on grocer's shelves.
I can't help wondering whether some consumers will feel duped when they realize that the future is already here and nobody bothered to tell them. Whether GM foods will turn out to be dangerous to human health and/or the environment isn't exactly the point I want to make. What may be dangerous to some of the related entities is the seemingly clandestine way that GM foods have been introduced into Americans' pantries -- as if the makers of GM foods hope we won't notice.
Don't look, don't tell
I first started reading about the GM-foods controversy when I delved into what I believe are risks for Monsanto. There, I explored the idea that while Monsanto may have cleaned up and greened up its image, its foray into biotech food is riskier than some might want to believe. Monsanto's not the only company that's making a big bet on GM foods. DuPont, Syngenta, and Bayer are also involved in this budding industry
GM foods are bolstering the profits of companies like Monsanto, and there are some logical reasons why anti-GM advocates suspect a level of foul play. Critics like to point out that when regulators wrote the rules for GM foods, the Food and Drug Administration's deputy commissioner for policy, Michael Taylor, happened to be a former attorney for Monsanto. What's more, after his stint at the FDA, he went on to become a vice president at Monsanto. Critics claim there is plenty of such overlap between business and government agencies as corporate executives become regulators of their own industries. But although a regulator should have adequate expertise in his or her area, it doesn't take rocket science to suspect the possibility of grave conflicts of interest.
It's no surprise, then, that critics go on to claim that here in the U.S., the regulatory environment has been extremely lax when it comes to biotech foods. Critics say that too few rules and too little testing and oversight into GM crops amounts to a "don't look, don't tell" mentality -- meaning that corporate entities don't reveal any concerns that might crop up, and regulators don't look for them. (However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's inspector general did recently criticize his own agency's treatment of GM field trials.)
GM proponents see the foods as a great hope for consumers, helping humanity combat hunger and disease through enhanced edibles that are engineered to be tougher, stronger, and better for you than the natural versions. So it's easy to see where the controversy lies as these ingredients travel through the food chain.
What's in my cereal?
If it sounds as though I'm on the critics' side, I must admit that I am leaning in that direction, because of claims that there hasn't been nearly enough testing -- or, in lieu of testing, time passed -- to know whether GM foods really are as harmless as believed. Meanwhile, even the suggestion of regulatory bias makes me uneasy as well.
At any rate, I'm not a scientist; I'm someone who's fascinated with business and investing, and a consumer, just like you. And at the moment, there are strong arguments in both the pro and con camps. My biggest issue with this whole controversy is simply that the foods containing GM ingredients are not being clearly labeled for the public.
I suppose many would say that since regulators here in the U.S. don't *require* labeling, the companies in question don't have to do it. However, there's a difference between legality and ethics. In that vein, why shouldn't the companies involved voluntarily label their products as containing GM ingredients? If these ingredients are indeed as safe as they say, then why not? Surely, they have nothing to hide.
Could this lack of transparency be part of the reason why companies like Whole Foods Market are doing so well with their organic wares? (Certified organic is, by definition, GM-free, among other things.) Anti-GM consumers are surely attracted to stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, where there's an emphasis on foods that haven't been monkeyed with. I've long believed that Whole Foods' ethics have been a clear element of its impressive sales growth and profitability.
Furthermore, if you're a label reader, you might have noticed that some companies use a lack of GM ingredients as a marketing pitch. That's smart business that could become even smarter as consumers increasingly realize that the companies that do include GM ingredients don't seem to be inclined to say so. Greenpeace has implicated such heavyweights as Kellogg, Hershey, Campbell, General Mills as among the many major food companies using GM ingredients. According to estimates, 75% of all processed foods in the U.S. contain a GM ingredient; when you consider that about 80% of soy crops and 40% of corn is now genetically modified, the statistic makes sense.
Freedom not to choose
If the U.S. has been portrayed as very pro-GM, Europe is the opposite extreme. The current skirmish between the World Trade Organization and the European Union regarding the E.U.'s historically hard-line approach to GM goods (it OKs products on a case-by-case basis and requires labeling and traceability) is even more interesting to watch considering that, unlike Americans, European consumers are *extremely* aware of GM foods -- and firmly against them.
Americans may be consuming the goods, but they haven't been given the opportunity to make a clear choice. True, if labeling were a good-faith initiative by affected corporations, perhaps it would come to pass that Americans would happily eat GM foods, and that's fine with me. However, without labeling, the choice is being made for them.
Many corporations stand a lot to gain, in terms of profits, from biotech crops and the food they produce. And in this country, which so greatly prides itself on freedom, that lack of choice and information strikes me as a slippery slope. Some of the best companies -- the ones that reward investors the most over the long term -- are the ones that invoke trust from their customers. In light of this issue, I'd say that the companies that haven't felt moved to voluntarily label still-controversial GM ingredients in their products aren't doing much to earn that trust.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
Herbicide resistant weeds are introducing a new problem to cotton farmers - http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=2730
Pesticide resistant weeds are introducing a new problem to cotton farmers. Traditionally, herbicide resistance is dealt with by simply changing the herbicide. But according to North Carolina State weed scientist Alan York, farmers are running out of options: there are no more effective pesticides to switch to. The majority of farmers in the Cotton Belt are now growing Monsanto's genetically engineered Roundup Ready cotton, which is resistant to glyphosate pesticides. As a result of the heavy use of glyphosate in the area, varieties of pigweed have developed an immunity to it. Tests at the University of Georgia showed that the pigweed Palmer Amaranth has developed amazing resistance to glyphosate. Scientists doused the weeds three times with a quadruple concentrated dose of glyphosate, but the pigweed continued to grow and multiply. "If you grow cotton in the Southeast, and you have Palmer amaranth in your fields, looking at side-by-side comparisons of resistant and non-resistant pigweed should scare you to death," York says. http://www.organicconsumers.org/ge/cotton060404.cfm
U.S. Interior Department sued over GMO plantings - Thursday, April 06, 2006 - By Carey Gillam
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A coalition concerned about the cultivation of genetically modified crops in wildlife refuge areas filed suit against the U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday, saying government workers illegally approved the planting. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware, seeks to block further cultivation of the crops at the Prime Hook refuge outside Dover, Delaware. Prime Hook is one of more than 500 federal wildlife refuges. It named as defendants the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and its parent agency, the Interior Department. T he plaintiffs are the Delaware Audubon Society, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Center for Food Safety.
The plaintiffs said they discovered "a top Bush administration political appointee" overruled the wildlife refuge manager in allowing the genetically altered crops to be planted on land designated as a national wildlife refuge in violation of department policy. Officials with Fish and Wildlife and the Interior Department declined to comment immediately. The plaintiffs say the genetically modified crops and the pesticides associated with growing them can have negative effects on birds, aquatic animals, other wildlife and plant species. "These refuges are supposed to be for wildlife, not chemical companies or agribusiness," Gene Hocutt, a spokesman for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "Plowing up native grasses for mutated row crops constitutes biological malpractice of the highest order and a betrayal of the purposes of the National Wildlife Refuge System."
As many as 100,000 acres of refuge lands are under cultivation to genetically modified crops, according to agency documents obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act.
© Reuters 2006.
Alert shoppers to grocery contents - Democrat and Chronicle - February 26, 2006
While the federal government has improved labeling requirements for possible allergens in foods, it has failed to implement similar labeling requirements for genetically modified ingredients or organisms. Since 2003, the European Union has required that "all foodstuffs that are genetically modified organisms, that contain them or are derived from them, including foodstuffs for animals, must be labeled GMO. This allows consumers (in Europe) to make a choice when buying these products." Several consumer and environmental organizations have tried and failed to get similar regulations here in the United States.
The lack of GMO labels in the United States may come down to economics and political muscle. According to a report on the European Union and GMOs on American Public Radio's Marketplace, "Consumers (in Europe) can and do avoid (foods with GMOs)." It is likely that agribusiness giants such as Monsanto fear that labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients would lead to decreased sales of GMO seeds, animal feed and crops. The muscle is the more than $200,000 in political contributions made by Monsanto since the 2000 election cycle, according to the Center for Political Accountability.
Supporters of GM foods argue that their use decreases the cost of farming and production. However, as there is no labeling, consumers cannot see the price differences. Consumers should have the ability to choose whether to buy less expensive food containing GMOs or to pay a premium for GMO-free food. Consumers already have such a choice with foods labeled as "Certified Organic" or foods with organic ingredients. There is a bill pending in the New York state Legislature (A.3165/S.1637) that would give consumers choice by requiring the labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients.
New York farmers also are concerned about genetically modified organisms. The New York Farm Bureau and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York support a bill currently in the New York State Legislature that requires the labeling of genetically modified seeds (A.8344 and S.6625). Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York
also supports a bill that places liability on GM seed manufacturers when cross-contamination of GM crops occurs on the fields of organic or non-GMO farmers (A.1969). Requiring the labeling of GM seeds would give farmers the same choice consumers would have under a food labeling law. Organic farmers and those who choose not to use GM seeds would be able to be compensated for lost product and sales when GMO cross-contamination of their crops occurs.
Abundance Cooperative Market supports transparency in labeling and increased choice for consumers and farmers. Our owners and shoppers want to know what they are putting on their families' tables.
Van Kerkhove is board president, Abundance Cooperative Market.
Biotech-food debate draws many voices - Jim Wasserman - Sacramento Bee, February 26, 2006
Sean Darragh, a representative of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, contended in a Feb. 20 Bee interview that scientists support genetically modified foods.
*Read The Bee's interview with Sean Darragh http://www.sacbee.com/content/business/agriculture/story/14211382p-15037501c.html
The Bee's interview with the biotech industry's Sean Darragh - the excerpts of which were published on Feb. 20 - provoked calls and letters from about two dozen readers.
They scolded The Bee's business staff for publishing Darragh's statements without amplification, and they pummeled Darragh for statements that they said were misleading or false. Today, we give readers an opportunity to discuss genetically modified foods and potential concerns. Darragh recently took over as food and agriculture chief for the Biotechnology Industry Organization of Washington, D.C. The group, which represents 1,100 biotech firms and academic institutions, says biotech foods have an unblemished safety record. Darragh and the industry argue that labeling would amount to a "skull and crossbones," frightening consumers. This statement, along with another in which Darragh said he never met anyone with a Ph.D. in biology who didn't believe in the safety of biotech food, irked readers who thought Darragh's position limited his circle of acquaintances.
Three counties - Marin, Mendocino and Trinity - in California have banned biotech crops. Six years ago, California Sen. Barbara Boxer tried unsuccessfully to get legislation approved to label food produced with genetically modified ingredients. Similar ideas in the California Legislature have also failed. In 2003, the European Union adopted laws requiring labels that state: "This product is produced from GMOs."
- Jim Wasserman
Letters - Readers respond in biotech debate
Subject - easing fears of biotech foods, published Feb. 20:
I have a Ph.D., worked for five years as a reviewer of the safety of genetically engineered crops with the Environmental Protection Agency, was a science adviser to the Food and Drug Administration for three years on GE food safety. I have plenty of objections. So do many other scientists, as attested by a recent meeting of scientists on this issue convened by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome in October, or many reports by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences or the Royal Academies of Canada and England, as well as many peer-reviewed scientific publications. I guess the operative phrase from Sean Darragh was that he has not talked to any Ph.D. who has objections or concerns about genetic engineering. That is not too surprising, given his employer, since no doubt he carefully insulates himself from direct contact with people who have opposing opinions.
- Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist for the Center for Food Safety, Washington, D.C.
Product labeling needed
Subject - easing fears of biotech food:
I simply do not, nor will I ever, have faith in the government or private sector's commitment to my safety versus a chance to improve their political or monetary position. Because of that, I should have the freedom to choose not to buy products created through genetic modification. Product labeling is the only way to ensure I continue to have that right.
- David Houghton, Sacramento
Consumers' right to know
Why is it that we Californians are choosing our destiny when the people of Sonoma County vote to allow the biotech industry into their agricultural realm, but it is "skull and crossbones" when I insist, as an individual, to know what I am about to purchase and consume? Regular folks like me like to make our own choices, not just take the government's word or the industry's word that a particular substance is safe. This is my choice and my destiny. If the food product contains hydrogenated fats or high-fructose corn syrup, I have a right to be told. If the food product contains more salt per serving than I wish to consume, I want to know. I want to know if what I am purchasing is a genetically modified food or an organic one. This is my right to know, my right to choose. To Sean Darragh, please don't ask me to casually give up that right.
- Marietta Pellicano, Sacramento
Scientists have a lot to say
The interview with Sean Darragh provides a chilling, up-close look at the moral fiber and tactics of the biotechnology industry organization. His words are categorical lies of great consequence: "Ten years have gone by without one documented case of any problem associated with the technology. ... I've never met anybody with a science degree, who has a Ph.D. in biology, ever, who was not comfortable with the safety of biotechnology. ... There's nobody out there." Do a little clicking on your computer to read scientific Web sites that hold the truth: 828 scientists from 84 different countries voiced concerns to the U.S. Congress, the World Trade Organization, etc. (See www.i-sis.org.uk/list.php.) The National Research Council of the Academy of Science and the Union of Concerned Scientists have established proceedings to address effects on the environment. (See www.ucsusa.org/ food_and_environment/ genetic_engineering/environmental-perspectives-on-agricultural-biotechnology.html.) The Union of Concerned Scientists describes the risks in simple language: www.ucsusa.org/food_and_environment/genetic_engineering/risks-of-genetic-engineering.html. There's nobody out there? Hmmm.
- William Now, Sacramento
Studies raise concerns
While long-term tests of genetically modified foods have not been concluded, some researchers have found issues of concern. Among them:
* After a four-day test, researchers at Cornell University discovered that pollen from BT corn could be fatal to the monarch butterfly and other beneficial insects. (BT corn gets its name from the integration of a gene in a naturally occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, which produces a protein that kills the larvae of the European corn borer and other pests.)
* A two-year study by the University of Nebraska showed that growing herbicide-resistant soybeans resulted in lower productivity than with conventional soybeans.
Up to 60 percent of processed foods already have some genetically modified ingredients. Rennin, the enzyme to curdle milk into cheese, is now in 65 percent of all U.S. cheese. The inability of local populations to choose whether or not to consume GM products is one of the central issues of the anti-globalization movement. Want more information on these complex issues? Read Andrew Kimball's "Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture," Vandana Shiva's "Stolen Harvest, Hijacking of the Global Food Supply," and Dennis Avery's "Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic."
- Brandon Chee, Sacramento
Government taking risks
In your Feb. 20 story, you asked Sean Darragh whether the industry has done any long-term health studies to back up its claims that biotech food is safe. He didn't answer - because the industry hasn't done any long-term studies, nor have government agencies that supposedly regulate the industry. As for Darragh's spin on plant modification, biotechnology doesn't just modify plants. It crosses the DNA of separate species, something that never occurs in nature. Responding to your comment that the government has approved things before that it said were safe and later found to be harmful, Darragh runs on about never talking to a biology Ph.D. who can articulate real concerns with the technology. A better answer would have been, yes, the government has gotten it wrong before and is taking the same chances. Case in point: When the FDA approved Monsanto's Roundup Ready soy, both knew that the product contained unidentified DNA. Then, when Belgian scientists later made that discovery and called FDA on it, the agency said it had assumed the unidentified DNA was safe. In Harper's Magazine, Dr. Barry Commoner, senior scientist and emeritus professor at Queens College, City University of New York, has said that unidentified DNA, which never occurs in nature, should have been a huge red flag and was astounded that the FDA had simply assumed it was safe when there is absolutely no scientific basis on which to make such an assumption. Fears regarding biotech food's safety won't be resolved until there's enough independent, long-term research done to begin answering myriad questions the industry will not or cannot answer.
- Will Stockwin, Colfax
Read 'whole sorry tale'
Sean Darragh lies when he says there is nobody with a Ph.D. who can articulate why they are concerned about the harmful nature of biotech methods and that it is no different than the selective breeding that people have been doing for years. In Jeffrey M. Smith's "Seeds Of Deception," Darragh can read the whole sorry tale, including the venality of the FDA, the prostitution of science by the biotech companies that profit thereby, and the ignominious methods of the Fox Network to censor, obscure and finally to suppress the facts discovered by its own reporters. Please don't give a pass to such slick industry spokespersons, and please do give the millions of concerned consumers who do want to make informed choices through labeling the other side of the story.
- David Reed, Nevada City
LEAKED REPORT: U.S. MISLED THE WORLD ON BIOTECH FOODS "VICTORY"
WTO ruling does not prevent countries from restricting or banning GM foods
BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) / WASHINGTON DC (US) 28 February 2006 - Friends of the Earth International made available online today a confidential World Trade Organization ruling on the trade dispute on biotech, or genetically modified (GM) foods.  The 1000-page report, which was distributed earlier this month only to the countries involved in the dispute, was leaked to Friends of the Earth, which published today February 28 a preliminary analysis in the briefing 'Looking behind the US spin'.  The leaked report reveals that:
- despite claims of victory by the US Administration and the biotechnology industry - widely reported in the media in February 2006- the three countries that started the trade dispute against the European Union (US, Canada and Argentina) failed to win most of their arguments;
- the World Trade Organization (WTO) did not rule on two of the most important questions, namely whether GM foods are effectively the same as non-GM foods and if they are safe.
"The WTO ruling is not a victory for the US administration and the biotech giants. Countries around the world should continue to enforce tough legislation protecting their citizens and the environment from the risks of genetically modified crops," said Juan Lopez, GM Campaign Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International. According to Friends of the Earth International the WTO is not and should not be the appropriate body to deal with conflicts between trade rules and environmental protection since it ignores the internationally recognised 'Precautionary Principle' and considers only trade principles.
The leaked WTO report argues that:
* Europe's 4-year moratorium on GM Organisms (GMOs) only broke trade rules because it caused "undue delay" in the approval of new GM foods. The WTO dismissed eight other complaints in relation to the moratorium, and did not recommend any further action, since the moratorium ended in 2004.
* There was also an "undue delay" in the EU's approval procedures for over 20 specified biotech products. However, eleven other claims of the complainants related to the product-specific EU measures were dismissed by the WTO Panel.
* National bans by EU member states broke trade rules because the risk assessments used by the countries in question did not comply with the WTO requirements;
"This is the report that the WTO didn't want the public to see. It reveals that the big corporations that stand behind the WTO failed to get the big win they were hoping for. Free trade proponents needed a clear victory in this dispute to be able to push governments in the EU and the developing world to accept genetically modified food. They failed and now is the time to build a consensus that the WTO, with its business-only agenda, is the wrong place to decide on what people eat and how we protect our environment." said Adrian Bebb, GMO campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels.
Friends of the Earth Europe today launched a cyber action (http://www.bite-back.org/objection/our_food.php ) urging the public to call on their Governments to reject the WTO as a forum to decide on environmental trade disputes and to support the right of countries to ban GMOs.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International GM coordinator, Tel: +34-6-25980582 (Spanish mobile number)
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe GMO expert, Tel: +49 1609 490 1163 (German mobile number)
David Waskow, Friends of the Earth US Tel: + 1 202 492 4660
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 The WTO report is available online in two parts at: www.foeeurope.org/biteback/WTO_decision.htm
 The Friends of the Earth preliminary analysis in the briefing 'Looking behind the US spin' is online at www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/WTO_briefing.pdf
Cotton farmers sue Monsanto and others for crop loss - By Carey Gillam - Fri Feb 24, 2006
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters)- More than 90 Texas cotton farmers have sued Monsanto Co. (MON.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and two affiliated companies, claiming they suffered widespread crop losses because Monsanto failed to warn them of a defect in its genetically altered cotton product. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Marshall, Texas, seeks an injunction against what it calls a "longstanding campaign of deception," and asks the court to award both actual and punitive damages. In addition to Monsanto, the suit names Delta & Pine Land Co. (DLP.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Bayer CropScience L.P., producers and retailers of Monsanto's biotech cotton. A Delta & Pine Land spokeswoman said the company had no comment and no one for Bayer, a unit of Bayer AG (BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research), returned phone calls seeking comment.
Monsanto, which denies the allegations, wants the complaints removed from the court system and handled through arbitration. About half of the farmers agreed this week to enter into arbitration, but others have not. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Monday in Austin. The farmers' essential claim is that Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" cotton did not tolerate applications of Monsanto's Roundup weed killer as it has been genetically altered to do. The farmers claim there is evidence that the promoter gene inserted into the cotton seeds in the genetic modification process does not work as designed in extreme high heat and drought conditions, allowing herbicide to eat into plant tissue, leading to boll deformity, shedding and reduced yields. The plaintiffs claim Monsanto knew this but did not disclose it so the farmers would continue to buy and use Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. "We feel like Monsanto's been lying to us all along," said B.B. Krenek, a Wharton, Texas cotton consultant who is working with a number of affected farmers.
Monsanto spokesman Andrew Berchet said there is no evidence that anything other than the weather is to blame for the technology that caused the crop losses. "As far as we can tell this is weather related. The month of June was one of the driest and hottest in more than a century," said Berchet. "We don't see evidence that this is related to our product." But farmer Alan Stasney said he has evidence in his fields. A strip of cotton four rows across and 3,000 feet long that inadvertently was not treated with Roundup yielded 1,051 pounds of lint per acre at harvest, while on either side of those rows, cotton that was treated with Roundup yielded only 675 pounds per acre. Stasney said the lost yield cost him more than $250,000 in sales and forced him to refinance his farm. "It is just a real sad situation," said Stasney. "There are a lot of people in a world of hurt because of that."