IRELAND AIMS TO BECOME A GMO-FREE ZONE
GM Content a threat to market: farmer
More EU states wary on GMO maize
Ban on trials of GM crops to continue
RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS PRESENT NEW DATA ON THE IMPACT OF GMOs ON ANIMAL HEALTH
Judge prohibits planting of genetically engineered alfalfa
Greetings from Brazil!
Judge mulls making alfalfa ban permanent
Scientist says GE crops don't live up to promise
India to divulge information on toxicity of GM foods
OVER 6.5 MILLION FARMERS FROM EVERY STATE IN INDIA, 'PRAY' TO INDIA'S SUPREME COURT
Greenpeace activist denied access to data on safety tests of GM crops
KOREA SAYS NO TO GE RICE IMPORTS
ASIA: Facing the Threat of GE Rice
Bt cotton allegedly causes cattle deaths in Andhra Pradesh
Bee demise - Are GMOs the missing link?
Mexico Halts US Rice Over GMO Certification
French Scientists Express Doubt About Genetically Modified Corn
USDA accused of lax food safety measures
Dutch Council of State ordered destruction of BASF GE potato field trial
GM starch potato: still no cultivation in 2007
Rice Recalled Over Gene Contamination
Bt cotton spells doom for cattle?
Freeze Welcomes Judges List of Mistakes in FSA Handling of GM Rice Contamination
US group wants to halt herbicide-resistant alfalfa seed
EU ENVIRONMENT MINISTERS TWICE RESIST GMOs
Suppressed report shows cancer link to GM potatoes
France fines Monsanto for fraudulent advertising
US judge challenges Monsanto seed approval: NYT
USA: Federal Court Orders for the First Time a Halt to New Field Trials of GM Crops
Plea to halt cultivation of Bt hybrids
GE rice industry facing meltdown as global tide of rejection grows
ONE MILLION EU CITIZENS CALL FOR LABELLING OF GM FOODS
Africa's Sorghum Saved
Farmers discard Bt GM Variety
The ongoing Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court India on Genetically Modified Organisms
Corn pest expansion consequence of transgenic crops?
The Global Status of Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops: 10 years of continuing rejection
GE Crops Slow to Gain Global Acceptance
THE Bt COTTON TRAGEDY THAT STRUCK DHARMAPURI
Giant ragweed added to glyphosate resistant list
Monsanto maize approved for human consumption potentially toxic, warns new study
Greenpeace demands immediate withdrawal of suspect maize from the market, and review of regulatory system
Brussels, Belgium - New research into the health impacts of genetically engineered (GE) food already approved in Europe casts further doubt on the way these products are checked for safety by EU authorities before being approved for sale and consumption.
The study, carried out by French scientific research institute CRIIGEN on the results of rat feeding trials using a GE maize made by biotech firm Monsanto, highlights 60 significant differences between the rats that were fed the GE maize and those fed normal maize (all for 90 days). The first group showed differences in their kidney, brain, heart and liver measurements, as well as significant weight differences. These could be warning signs of toxicity, but have not been further investigated.
"Greenpeace is deeply concerned that genetically engineered crops and foods are getting the EU green light for sale despite alarming health anomalies occurring in test animals over very short test periods. We will be faced with eating these foods for years," said Marco Contiero policy adviser on GMOs at Greenpeace European Unit.
The Monsanto maize, known as NK603 maize, has been engineered to tolerate Monsanto's own herbicide. Approved for import for use in human food and animal feed in 2004, it is currently being tested for cultivation in field trials in Europe. The scientists at CRIIGEN analysed Monsanto's own test results, which had informed the EU food safety authority's decision to approve the maize for sale. CRIIGEN's report  suggests that a far more thorough investigation is necessary. Neither Monsanto nor the scientific committees consulted on the feeding trials disputed the differences found in the test animals compared to the control group. However, they dismissed the results as "not of biological significance". The CRIIGEN study questions that conclusion.
"It is alarming that a company which produces a genetically-engineered crop not only gets to design and conduct the safety tests of its own product, but also to analyse the results. The lack of any independent scrutiny of test data suggests that Europe's risk assessment procedure is overlooking the threats and not assessing risks at all, just rubberstamping company dossiers," said Marco Contiero.
This is the second such case: another Monsanto maize, known as MON863, subject of a peer-reviewed scientific study published in March 2007, also showed signs of toxicity of liver and kidney in rats fed with this maize over a period of three months. Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of CRIIGEN, the University of Caen and the French state commission on biotechnology (Commission du Genie Biomoleculaire, CGB) said: "The statistical analysis should be repeated by independent experts and the crude data put on a website for the scientific community to be involved. Further testing should always be carried out if the analyses of the data do not result in a clear outcome."
Greenpeace is campaigning for the withdrawal from the market of NK603 maize, pending further investigation and a re-evaluation of Monsanto's trials, and for the suspension of all genetically engineered product and crop authorisations until the current EU risk assessment system is reviewed.
Further contact information for reporters to get video, photos or report details
The CRIIGEN report is available now from Professor Séralini, 40 rue de Monceau, 75008 PARIS, or by e-mail from Katharine Mill, firstname.lastname@example.org. It will be posted on the CRIIGEN website [http://www.criigen.org/] in the coming days.
Katharine Mill, Media Officer, Greenpeace European Unit - email@example.com - Telephone: +32 2 274 1903
Marco Contiero, Greenpeace European Unit, Policy Director - GMOs - firstname.lastname@example.org - Telephone: +32 2 274 1906
Ban on trials of GM crops to continue - Nitin Sethi - THE TIMES OF INDIA, 12 May 2007
NEW DELHI: The GM industry has nothing to cheer about. SC [Supreme Court] has not vacated its order on fresh field trials of genetically modified crops. The apex court has only allowed ongoing and earlier approved trials to continue, while not vacating the ban that it had imposed in an interim order of September 22 2006, banning any fresh field trials of GM crops. The court, in its order, said, "The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) shall take sufficient precautions to see that these (ongoing and already approved) trials are not causing any contamination to the cultivation in the neighbouring fields." In order to pin down responsibility in case of any mishap, the court said: "In all trials that are being conducted, the name of the scientist and other details of who will be responsible for all aspects of the trials should be reported to GEAC and there should be regular supervision by them."
The court, in fact, tightening the leash on the government, has also ordered that the government release data on any tests of toxicity and allergenicity that may have been conducted on the four species of Bt Cotton already approved by the government. The precedent setting order has elated the green groups as they have been constantly asking for such data to be put out in the public domain.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for the petitioners in the case, Prashant Bhushan, has sent a legal notice to the environment ministry for the ?misinterpretation? of the SC order by minister of state for environment and forests, Namo Narain Meena. In a speech, the MoS was quoted as saying, "The stay on Genetic Engineering Approval Committee has been vacated today (May 9) during judicial hearing."
RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS PRESENT NEW DATA ON THE IMPACT OF GMOs ON ANIMAL HEALTH - By Eremurus Club
"The results of new research of the impact of GMOs on living organisms question the idea of their safety" said Alexander Baranov, president of All-National Association of Genetic Safety at the press-conference that was held on the 16th of April in Moscow. At the event the results of new experiment made in the Vavilov's Agrarian University of Saratov (regional capital on Volga river) by the members of the association were presented to public. The research demonstrated serious pathological defects in experimental mice fed on GM-soy.
As Maria Konovalova (engineer-biotechnologist, post-graduate who conducted the experiment under the supervision of doctor of medicine, professor V.Blinov) reported at the press-conference, a herbicide resistant RoundUp Ready Monsanto soy (variety 40-3-2), approved for human consumption in the Russian Federation and in many other countries, induced serious changes in the morphology of viscera (liver, kidney, testis) of mice, in their histological and cell structures. GM-soy also is found to impact the size of litters, and the mortality of the young. Soy is already assumed to provoke an increase in aggressiveness and a loss of maternal instinct. "Mice that were fed by protein from GM soy demonstrated different behaviour. Some of the females in the GM soy group suffocated their young and then ate their brains. And it is also very sad that we identified abnormalities in the young mice whose mothers were fed on GM soy," said Maria Konovalova.
At the press-conference Baranov reported that his association has sent an Open Letter to the Chief sanitary doctor of Russia Gennadi Onischenko, whose department is responsible for controlling the safety of GM food. The NGO urged him to temporarily revoke the authorization of approved GM food in Russia and to declare a moratorium on the registration of new varieties until full data related to GMO impacts on human health is available.
Russian researchers present new data on negative influence of GMO on human health - http://www.regnum.ru/english/813298.html
(translation from several sources)
"Results of our research on the effects of GMOs upon living organisms indicate that they are not harmless," President of the National Association for Genetic Safety Alexander Baranov said at a news conference held at the REGNUM press center in Moscow today. "This research must form the basis for serious reflection at official governmental institutions," Baranov said.
Members of the association presented the results of research conducted at Vavilov Agriculture University (Saratov). The research registered pathological deviation in experimental animals that ate GMO. As author of the test, Russian biotechnologist Maria Konovalova, who was personally conducting the research, said the Monsanto Roundup Ready GM-soy used during the tests on rats and mice caused serious mutilations of their internal organs (liver, kidneys, testicles) and in histological and cellular construction. Besides, it influences the number of babies in a litter, caused increased death rates among descendants, and results in increased aggressiveness and loss of maternal instinct.
"In mice fed on a protein isolated from GM-soy, there has been an increase in the weight of internal organs," she says. In addition, there has been an increase in aggressive behaviour by females towards their young. The really sad thing is that we found deformities and abnormalities in mice whose mothers drank GM-soy." Maria Konovalova submitted a photo of a typical mouse from the GM test group which had been fed on GM soy for 5 months, and another photo of a mouse from the control group fed on normal soy. The difference in bodyweight and general condition was apparent, with the GM-fed mouse apparently in very poor condition.
At the press conference, President OAGB Alexander Baranov also said that the association sent an open letter to the chief sanitary doctor of the Russian Federation Gennadi Onishchenko. "The letter asks for the suspension of already approved GMOs in food products and the declaration of an interim moratorium on the registration of new GMOs to fully determine their effects on the human organism," said Baranov. "It was surprising to see that in our country, where a number of GM lines is allowed in the food supply, none of those lines have been fully explored," concluded President OAGB. According to him, the RAMN Nutrition Research Institute recently confirmed that the overwhelming majority of GM-lines have been tested in only one generation of rats.
"Only in one case was there a two generation study," said Alexander Baranov. "Methodical medical-biological guidance on assessing GM food products was signed by the same Onishchenko in 2000, and researchers are encouraged to check 5 generations of the test animals. But at the moment, there is a terrible situation: we feed our children food which no one can claim to be one hundred percent safe," says President OAGB Aleksandr Baranov. "We do not want to seek scapegoats. In our letter to Gennadi Onishchenko, we propose concrete measures for a speedy solution to the problem."
As REGNUM reported earlier, in October 2005, Russian reseracher Dr. Irina Ermakova made public the results of her experiment that showed that genetically modified soy affects posterity in rats.
Judge mulls making alfalfa ban permanent - By Michael Kahn - SCIENCE NEWS - Reuters, April 27 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. judge questioned whether he should lift a ban on the sale and planting of Monsanto Co.'s genetically modified alfalfa without a government study of the crop's potential impact. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer on Friday told lawyers defending the use of Monsanto's alfalfa that it was up to the government - not him -- to determine whether use of the seed posed a potential threat to the environment. He also said that lifting his preliminary injunction before such a study was complete could lead to greater harm to the environment. He challenged defense lawyers to show him case law establishing a precedent for him to do so.
Breyer, who has already ruled that the government acted illegally in approving the biotech alfalfa, issued the preliminary injunction in March and set April 27 as a date to consider whether to make it permanent. He did not indicate when he might make a final decision on the ban. "It is not the court's function to do an environmental impact study," Breyer said during the hearing. "That hasn't been done, and I don't know if the court ought to do it. The government ought to do it, and that is what I held.."
In March, Breyer issued a preliminary injunction banning the sale and planting of the alfalfa, which has been genetically altered to tolerate treatments of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
Many farmers, environmentalists and consumer activists fear the biotech alfalfa will contaminate organic and conventional varieties, create "superweeds" that don't respond to herbicide and damage export business. Alfalfa is a perennial livestock fodder crop and among the most widely grown crops in the United States. The judge's order in March said the USDA had not done a thorough job in evaluating the potential impact of the crop, and he vacated the USDA's 2005 approval of Monsanto's alfalfa. His decision marked the first time a federal court overturned USDA approval of a biotech seed and halted planting, according to The Center for Food Safety, among the groups seeking the injunction.
Lawyers defending use of the crop, however, urged the judge to lift his injunction, saying at the hearing on Friday that the important factor was that any likelihood of injury was low and that farmers relying on the seed would be harmed. "There are some significant environmental and beneficial effects in Roundup Ready Alfalfa," Janice Schneider, a lawyer representing Monsanto, told the judge.
Monsanto has presented testimony from scientists who say there is an "extremely low" risk that Roundup Ready Alfalfa would pollinate conventional crops if "appropriate stewardship measures" were taken. Monsanto has also argued that a continued ban on Roundup Ready seed would force farmers "to plant lower-yield alfalfa breeds that pose more complicated and costly weed control problems and require the use of more toxic or environmentally problematic herbicides." The Roundup Ready alfalfa genetic trait was developed by Monsanto and licensed to Forage Genetics International, which produces and markets the seeds.
Scientist says GE crops don't live up to promise - By PAUL GORMAN - The Press, 16 April 2007
Crop and Food Research is being accused of tunnel vision on genetic engineering (GE) by one of its former scientists. Biotechnologist Dr Elvira Dommisse, who worked on the early stages of Crop and Food's GE onion experiments before the current field trials began, says GE crops have not lived up to their initial promise and the Crown research institute should invest more in conventional plant breeding. The institute's application to carry out a 10-year Lincoln field trial of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and forage kale genetically engineered to contain a natural pesticide to kill caterpillars was heard by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) in Christchurch last week.
Dommisse worked for the old Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and then Crop and Food from 1985 to 1993. She left because she found the work unrewarding and could not see it solving the problems people said it would. She was critical of the "lack of precaution and lack of thinking" in Crop and Food's application to Erma, and said scientists working in the GE area were under pressure to develop lines that would become commercially viable. Some scientists were not keen on GE work but were afraid to talk out about it for fear of losing funding on which jobs depended.
"New Zealand has invested quite heavily in it. As a scientist, once you narrow down into GE your skills are very much in that area. You can't just say, `I don't like this area any more, I'll zip over to plant breeding instead'.....You have to try to push it - 'we have got this GE stuff, what are we going to do with it now? We have to keep getting our salaries for the next 10 years, get funding that will keep this project going'.....If you can get a 10-year bloc of funding, you are home and hosed," Dommisse said. She doubted the field trial would be a useful exercise if it were approved. Most people ate broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower for health benefits and would be unimpressed by GE brassicas.
By the time the 10-year trial ended, that would mark 30 years since the experiment began. "They could have been spending that time and money to develop new commercial lines. What they could do instead is put a bit more money into conventional brassica breeding, using hand pollination and selection to look for good traits without tweaking the genes." Scientists were "theoretical people, not growers", she said. "They have done this under very strict conditions in the glasshouse but not in the field. You can't just transfer that to the fields, it's completely different."
On the last day of the Erma hearing on Friday, Crop and Food project leader Dr Mary Christey admitted there were no cast-iron guarantees all the GE material could be contained on the site. "I don't think you can give an absolute to anything, but we would have a high level of probability of detecting things," she told the hearing. Christey said she would not engage in any research that would compromise the environment her children inherited. "I'm interested in ensuring the environment is preserved for them. I wouldn't engage in this research if I didn't think it wouldn't be damaging the environment....At the same time, I can see GE plants growing overseas and I can see the benefits that can accrue."
BioAg New Zealand founder Phyllis Tichinin said if the trial went ahead it was important for New Zealand's "social cohesion" that it was scientifically robust and advanced the country's international "scientific mana".
CIC orders govt to divulge toxicity of GM foods - Manoj Mitta - The Times of India, 14 April 2007
NEW DELHI: If a genetically modified (GM) food causes allergies or contains toxins, can the government refuse to disclose such bio-safety information on the grounds that it involves "commercial confidence" or "trade secrets" and that it will compromise the "competitive position" of the bio-tech company concerned? Central Information Commission (CIC) said no on Thursday and ordered the department of biotechnology to disclose toxicity and allergenicity data on transgenic food crops that are being field-tested across the country. In a far-reaching interface between RTI and environmental protection, the head of CIC, Wajahat Habibullah, directed the government to make public within 10 working days all the relevant data on genetically engineered brinjal, okra, mustard and rice which have been approved for multi-location trials.
The order came on an appeal filed by a Greenpeace activist, Divya Raghunandan, against government's refusal to disclose the data saying it was covered by Section 8 (1)(d) of RTI Act which exempts from disclosure "information, including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party". While arguing for the disclosure of the toxicity and allergenicity data, Raghunandan cited a recent rat-feeding study in Europe by three French scientists who, despite the efforts of bio-tech major Monsanto to keep the matter under wraps, established that a genetically modified maize brought out by that company was not a safe food. Raghunandan also drew attention to an alarming admission made by the government in response to her RTI application. Although it has approved their multi-location field trials, the government said that the data on rice, okra and mustard was "under development" and "yet to be evaluated" by it. Such laxity in regulation, she said, could lead to genetic contamination in the areas where field trials were being held even before the toxicity and allergenicity data had been analysed.
Given the obvious public interest in the health risk assessment of genetically modified foods, CIC observed that the government should be, under Section 4 of the RTI Act, proactively putting out all the relevant data without waiting for applications for their disclosure. But CIC declined Raghunandan's plea for making public the minutes of the meetings of the Review Committee on Genetic Modification (RCGM), which approved the various proposals of multi-location field trials of genetically modified food crops. Since RCGM's minutes mention details of the proposals made by each of the bio-tech companies, Habibullah chose to leave it to the government to take a call on whether those confidential documents could be made public.
Info body gives bio-tech dept a RTI power-punch - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, April 14 2007
NEW DELHI, APR 13: In a verdict which may have a far-reaching consequence in the future, the Central Information Commission (CIC) on Friday directed the department of bio-technology (DBT) to make public the data generated from the tests carried out on transgenic crops by agro-biotech companies. Chief commissioner Wajahat Habibullah delivered this right to information (RTI) power-punch, in response to an petition filed by Greenpeace India, after the review committee on genetic modification (RCGM) under DBT consistently refused to part with this closely guarded secret for over a year.
Striking down the DBT's contention that the data falls under Section 8.1.(d), Habibullah pointed out that the request of the applicant for toxicity and allergenicity tests on genetically modified (GM) rice, mustard, okra and brinjal cannot be refused under the RTI Act. Any further grounds for non-disclosure are invalid even if the data in reference are in the process of development. The information was also directed to be disclosed under section 4. (1). (d) of the RTI Act, which states "provide reasons for its administrative or quasi judicial decisions to affected persons.
Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan who pleaded before the CIC on behalf of Greenpeace India said, "The Commission's order is significant as past experience shows that RCGM has not used the right kind of protocols for bio-safety testing". In February, last year, Greenpeace India had requested the RCGM to make public the toxicity and allergenicity data for four GM crops alongwith the minutes of the meeting. "Our victory today is in keeping with the spirit of the RTI, and has only strengthened the RTI as a tool to building a participatory democracy, " Divya Raghunandan of Greenpeace India.
GMOs: FARMERS IMPLEAD IN THE GM PIL - PRESS RELEASE
OVER 6.5 MILLION FARMERS FROM EVERY STATE IN INDIA, 'PRAY' TO INDIA'S SUPREME COURT TO BE IMPLEADED IN THE GM PIL. IN AN UNPRECEDENTED & HUGE REACTION TO THE UNION OF INDIA'S CONTINUING DRIVE TO FORCE GM CROPS ON AN UNAWARE FARMING COMMUNITY AND AN UNAWARE POPULATION, FARMERS SAY:
"NO GM CROPS"; "NO" TO THE ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY OF IRREVESIBLE CONTAMINATION OF THEIR FIELDS AND SEED STOCK IF GM CROPS ARE NOT BANNED.
Contamination from GM Crops Including Field Trials Risk Farmlands & India's Bio-diversity in Perpetuity
Contamination, even the risk of contamination, from GM crops has been long denied by the GE Industry as a figment of the imagination of those opposing GM crops. However, it is a biological FACT and the physical evidence of genetic contamination being reported from all over the world is now incontrovertible and conclusive. The recent GM rice contamination of US long-grain rice is so serious that the damage to the US rice industry is valued in billions of $s with countries moving to ban US rice imports and American farmers being stopped from planting rice in the current season. The GM contamination of rice in the US is spiralling out of control despite the best attempts of farmers, millers, exporters and the Regulator to contain it and clean-up. Thus, the strategy of GM crop developers in the US and other parts of the world has now changed to demanding that they be allowed to contaminate Non GM crops! Regulation is being 'bent' to allow contamination. And the reasons are:
*That testing techniques are not sensitive enough to detect contamination at zero detection levels so some contamination is therefore inevitable and should be accepted as reasonable, even of organic certified crops! Thereafter, contamination of all crops by GM will be so pervasive that we will be faced with a 'fait accompli' everywhere, particularly in India and the developing world, that it will be futile to oppose it. 'NATURAL' SEEDS WILL BE VIRTUALLY EXTINCT. This is quite simply the objective of the Biotech GE industry led by Monsanto.
The question that must be asked is; why is the Union of India with its Regulator the GEAC and DBT aiding and abetting such an objective? This is the mystery because, the astonishing fact is, that the Union of India and its Regulator are complicit in allowing the contamination of India's farmlands, food and the environment, as they continue to actively promote and approve GM crops and field trials of every conceivable oilseed, grain and vegetable, not undertaken in any other country in the world. GM crops continue to be largely untested by regulators that rely on the crop developer?s assurance of their safety. Leading International scientists warn of the serious hazards connected with GM crops; that they are unsafe for human and animal health and for the environment. Toxicity and allergenicity tests are conspicuous by their absence in every country, not just India. When the Regulator was requested by GreenPeace for such data under the RTI for brinjal and okra, it was refused on grounds of CBI (Confidential Business Information). Thus, it is now quite clear that the Union of India and its Regulator consider the protection of Monsanto and the rest of the industry as having priority over public health and India's sovereign interests of food security and her bio-safety.
Genetically engineered crops because of the certainty of genetic contamination therefore also preclude or negate farmer rights to grow Non-GM crops, and indigenous people's community rights. Without the required prohibitions and remedies in place, farmers are faced with multiple threats arising from the adverse and irreversible impact of GMOs on them. They therefore require the following action to be taken immediately (amongst other measures):
i.No GM Crops to be Grown in India.
ii.A Full List of Field Trials and their Locations during 2005-7
It is also required that DNA sequences of the genes in field trials are put in the public domain to allow probes to be easily developed to perform independent PCR tests to detect whether these experimental genes have contaminated farmlands and/or made it into food. GE crop developers may not be allowed to hide behind bogus claims of CBI (confidential business information), as the GEAC have repeatedly cited, putting public health and the environment in jeopardy.
iii.Deterrent & Precautionary Measures
§Any farmer that suspects his fields have been contaminated will have the right to ask for tests to be conducted on his crop and land. Detection levels for GM contamination are being constantly refined and state-of-the-art labs are currently able to detect traceability levels of genetic contamination of less than 0.01%. It is stressed that farmers require zero tolerance for genetic contamination. The Regulator will not be exempt from responsibility if contamination occurs, the rules for which must be addressed.
§Testing for genetic contamination, which will be required periodically, or as required by stakeholders for quality assurance regarding the genetic purity of their crop. These are required to be done at the crop developers' expense and will be carried out in a time-bound way within the stipulated period of time, non compliance of which will attract penalties as laid down.
§Compensation for genetic contamination will be penal to be worked out according to the well grounded and established legal principle of Tort and will also entail criminal liability individually and collectively.
iv.The Institution of an Ombudsman
Given the track record of the Government and its Regulator and anti-farmer stance in promoting GM crops, it is clear that we have a thoroughly compromised Government. Therefore, in order to engender a commitment to objectivity, it is required that the many issues outlined above, most critically the environmental defence of India, must be overseen by an independent and autonomous Body, free of bureaucrats in its management, with the active involvement of civil society in the election and execution of its mandate. Such an 'Ombudsman' must carry the critical Constitutional mandate of the 'Protection of India?s Biodiversity'. It therefore becomes necessary that its authority is underpinned by an Act of Parliament by which it will be instituted.
Dr. KrishanBir Chaudhary: Petitioner No 1 - Executive Chairman Bharat Krishak Samaj
With Co-Petitioners: Arun K Shrivastava (New Delhi) and Mrs. Begari Samamamma (Andhra Pradesh)
9th April 2007
Greenpeace activist denied access to data on safety tests of GM crops - Meena Menon - The Hindu, April 4 2007
Reason: disclosure can harm crop developing company
*Appellate authority's decision "questionable"
*Procedure was "not transparent"
MUMBAI: The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 has not helped Greenpeace activist Divya Raghunandan. Her demand for information about safety tests of genetically modified (GM) crops was rejected on the ground that disclosure could harm the competitive position of the third party - the company which developed the crops.
In February 2006, Ms. Raghunandan applied to the Department of Biotechnology for information on a list of field trial locations (villages and districts) for brinjal, okra, mustard and rice. These trials drew widespread protests from farmers and consumers last year. In several places, rice trials were destroyed and exporters were particularly alarmed at transgenic rice being tested in basmati growing areas. Ms. Raghunandan also sought toxicity, allergenicity and other relevant data on transgenic brinjal, rice, mustard and okra and minutes of the meetings of the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), which is under the Department of Biotechnology, held between February 2005 and 2006. On March 29, 2006, she received a reply with information on field trial locations but she was denied information on the second demand. On her appeal on April 19, 2006, the appellate authority of the department said the information officer was being requested to provide the toxicity and allergenicity data for brinjal not later than June 15, 2006 as the third party had to be informed. As for rice, okra and mustard, she was told that the data was yet to be evaluated and therefore could not be made public. The RCGM minutes might contain information related to trade secrets and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues and if put in the public domain, it would be prejudicial to the interest of the applicants, the appellate authority said. However, information not pertaining to this could be culled out if specific requests were made to the information officer.
Ms. Raghunandan, whose final appeal will be heard on April 5, told The Hindu that though information about the toxicity, allergenicity and other relevant biosafety data on brinjal was to be provided before June 15, 2006, this had not happened. She said the RCGM did not require the submission of any information by the applicant under confidential clauses. Therefore, the appellate authority's decision to withhold information till June 15 for disclosing to the third party the intention to make this information public was questionable. Information to her was refused under Section 8.1.d RTI Act, which relates to "information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of the third party." In her second appeal, she submitted that none of this information, sought under RTI Act, could be used for harming the third party's competitive position. Citing the latest studies that refer to the toxicity of GM foods, Ms. Raghunandan said the whole procedure was not transparent. There was no reason to withhold data on toxicity and biosafety tests of transgenic crops as they were all critical and of public interest, specially as genetic engineering was a technology which had not yet been proved safe for human consumption.
While GEAC maintains that field trials were conducted with all regulatory norms in place and that biosafety tests were under way, Greenpeace and farmers' organisations are pointing out serious violations.
KOREA SAYS NO TO GE RICE IMPORTS
28 March 2007- Seoul - Korea's leading civil and farmer organizations voiced an unequivocal NO! to the import of genetically engineered (GE) rice into the country at the WORA Seminar entitled "How to Secure the Safety of Rice" held in the heart of Seoul city today. This stand is supported by the Korean Ministry of Agriculture. In a message from the Vice-Minister of Agriculture, Park Hae Sang, which was read out on his behalf by the Deputy Director of the Foodgrain Policy Division, Park Hee-Su, the VM said that the Ministry was working to keep GE rice out of the country: "Rice is the principal food for Koreans and is the most important product of Korean agriculture. Korea is the only one out of 140 rice-importing countries to have a policy requiring GMO-certification from the exporting country - in this way, we try to prevent importing GMO rice." This pleased the crowd of about 80 present comprising government officials, journalists and members from local leading NGOs and farmer organizations.
The seminar was the major event of WORA Korea, organized by Consumers Korea (CK) in collaboration with The Korean Farmers and Fishermen?s Weekly News (KFFWN) and Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP). Presidents of CK and KFFWN, Kim Jai Ok, and Suh Kyu Yong respectively, opened the event by talking about the importance of ensuring the safety of rice in Korea. "Rice is our life and the risks of GM rice are very real," they said and both called upon the groups present to act collectively to secure a GM rice-free Korea. Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher, director of Econexus (UK) and a consultant genetic scientist for PAN AP who had been invited to address the event, spoke on "Genetically Engineered Food and Crops: Issues and Concerns from a Scientific Perspective". Stressing that genetic engineering was far from being a precise technology, she cited example after example of negative, unexpected and unexplainable side effects of the genetic engineering of various crops. "Since rice is eaten everyday, even low level toxicity, which can be a side effect of GE rice, will be very damaging over the long term. It is best to exercise the precautionary principle with regard to GE rice and GE food."
Clare Westwood, Campaign Coordinator of PAN AP, based in Penang, Malaysia, explained why there was an urgent need to organize an Asia-wide campaign to save the rice of Asia with the onset of the threat of GE Rice. "Lee Kyung Hae, the Korean farmer-hero who took his life in 2003 in protest of rice trade liberalizaton, is a symbol of what is happening to rice farmers everywhere. Do we want seeds that mean the extinction of millions of small rice farmers all over the world?" She called upon Korea as a developed Asian nation to ban GE rice and deny GE seed companies an important market. "Korea, Asia needs you! Join hands with the rest of Asia to save Asia's rice heritage."
The eleven leaders from the various local NGOs and farmer organizations present each responded affirmatively and added calls of their own. All agreed to fight to keep Korea GE rice-free, set up more GE-free zones, and insist on strict labeling regulations for GE food/products. Consumers Korea reported that it had found GE content in 27 out of 260 food product samples - none of the samples had GE content included in the label. Furthermore, the farmer organizations expressed interest in forming a network with the consumer organizations to fight against GE. "This is a wonderful development," said Kim. "This WORA seminar has been very successful for many reasons, mainly in bringing together leading opinion leaders in Korea - this is very important as collectively, they are a powerful force; in getting everyone to realize that an Asian-wide campaign is needed to tackle the GE threat and having them commit to this campaign; in the strengthening and formation of alliances between the various groups to fight GE; and last but not least, in having the Ministry's assurance that it is against the import GE Rice."
As proof of their commitment, all those present at the seminar put pen to paper by signing giant posters of the 1-million "People's Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia". The Week of Rice Action (WORA) 2007 brings together farmers, rural communities, and other sectors of society to celebrate and protect rice culture. To be officially launched on March 13 in Bangladesh, the main WORA events will take place in 13 countries across Asia from March 29 to April 4. Culminating in India and the Philippines, WORA will be an unprecedented mobilization of Asians "Celebrating and Protecting Rice Culture"! A key feature of WORA will be its one-million signature campaign calling on policy-makers to take immediate steps to save the rice of Asia.
WORA is organised by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) and its partner organisations in thirteen countries in the region. Anyone interested in being a part of WORA 2007 can log on to the WORA page at www.panap.net
Contact at PAN AP:
Ms Anne Haslam, PAN AP at email@example.com
PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK ASIA AND THE PACIFIC (PAN AP), P.O. Box 1170, 10850 Penang, Malaysia. Tel: 604-6570271 or 604-6560381 Fax: 604-6583960
Home Page: www.panap.net
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is a global network working to eliminate the human and environmental harm caused by pesticides and to promote biodiversity based ecological agriculture. PAN Asia and the Pacific is committed to the empowerment of people especially women, agricultural workers, peasant and indigenous farmers. We are dedicated to protect the safety and health of people, and the environment from pesticide use and genetic engineering. We believe in a people-centered, pro-women development through food sovereignty, ecological agriculture and sustainable lifestyles.
ASIA: Facing the Threat of GE Rice - Marwaan Macan-Markar - Inter Press Service, March 27 2007
BANGKOK, Mar 27 (IPS) - With an eye to the future of rice farming in Thailand, a local grassroots organisation is bringing together youth in a north-eastern rice-growing province in a celebration of the diverse varieties of this staple grown in the traditional way. The event in Kalasin, from Mar. 28 to Apr. 4, aims to ''expose the young to the local rice-growing culture,'' says Janphen Ruyan, programme manager of the Foundation of Reclaiming Rural Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Action. ''Rice is our life; it is not something we just consume.'' This youth camp aims to make the sons and daughters of the country's farmers ''proud of what their communities have produced in the past'' and ''the need to do more,'' she explained in an interview. ''There is concern because some of the local varieties of rice are disappearing.''
In fact, such an awareness campaign is part of a broader effort, spanning the rice-growing countries of Asia, to showcase the triumphs of farmers and rural communities that toil to ensure an abundant crop annually. Thirteen countries, ranging from Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, on one end, to Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines, on the other, are part of the Week of Rice Action (WORA), which runs from Mar. 29 to Apr. 4. ''This is a fight for the grassroots people,'' says Anne Haslam, spokeswoman for the Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN-AP), a regional non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Penang, Malaysia which is spearheading this campaign. ''We want to collect a million signatures during the week to support the work of the local farmers.'' The week of activism is a response to growing fears that traditional farming is under threat from genetically engineered (GE) rice varieties, she told IPS. ''GE rice has been detected in some Asian countries.''
''Agri-business has paved the way for hybrid rice and now, GE varieties such as 'Golden Rice', 'Bt rice' and 'Liberty Rice', have brought about not only the loss of strong and unique local and traditional rice varieties, but their contamination as well,'' states the petition being circulated for signatures during (WORA). ''GE will only make the problem of world hunger worse.'' The petition also targets the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based in Los Banos in the Philippines, accusing it of joining ranks with agri-business giants to ensure ''corporate control of seeds and agriculture,'' which, the petition argues, ''rightfully belongs to the farmers of the land.''
IRRI has led the way in producing high yielding hybrid rice in Asia for over four decades. In the last ten years, for instance, it developed over 20 hybrid rice varieties and distributed them to nine Asian countries, from India and Bangladesh in South Asia to Indonesia and Vietnam in South-east Asia. IRRI also pioneered the Green Revolution, during which high yielding varieties of rice were distributed to increase the rice output by 42 percent over a 13-year period, from 1968-81. But grassroots sympathisers are hardly impressed by such feats, as the 'People's Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia' notes. ''Through the so-called Green Revolution, corporate agriculture has poisoned people and rice fields with pesticides and synthetic fertilisers; degraded rice lands; destroyed rice ecosystems, ecological rice practices and rice culture; and severely undermined the safety of cereal as food,'' states the petition.
Bangladesh illustrates that view. The introduction of hybrid rice has seen that country's rice varieties drop from an estimated 50,000 rice varieties to about 1,500. Activists blame the Green Revolution for destroying the traditional farming culture that had given birth to such an abundant diversity of grain. Asia is the largest producer of the grain that feeds an estimated three billion people daily. China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand top the list of the world's rice-growing nations. The region harvests over 500 million tonnes of paddy annually, according to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates. Thailand, moreover, is the world's leading rice exporter, shipping over seven million tonnes of the grain annually, in recent years, to overseas markets, adds the U.N. food agency. Vietnam comes second in a list that also includes China, India and Pakistan.
But early this year, the global environmental lobby Greenpeace raised the alarm on threats to Asian rice varieties by GE rice varieties produced in the United States but detected in South-east Asian markets. The Philippines government was the target of this warning, given Manila's decision to allow ''the importation and continued sale of genetically-modified rice which, by law, cannot be legally distributed and marketed for human consumption in the country.'' Among the rice brands singled out by the South-east Asia office of Greenpeace was ''Uncle Sam Texas Long Grain,'' which it said was ''tainted with the GMO Bayer LL601.'' This grain 'LL601' is rice that has been ''genetically altered to resist the powerful herbicide glufosinate. It is illegal (not approved for distribution and human consumption) everywhere in the world except in the U.S.'' ''This is a threat to biodiversity in the region. It shows that there is no proper effort to check and monitor contaminated rice from the U.S. ending up here,'' Neth Dano, an associate of the Third World Network, a regional think tank, said in a telephone interview from Manila. ''Governments are still not aware about the dangers posed by GE rice.''
The week-long awareness campaign is needed to drive home the concerns of local farmers and communities that the paddy fields of the region are not open to GE rice, she added. ''If things change, it will be very tragic.''
Bt cotton allegedly causes cattle deaths in AP - Uma Sudhir - NDTV, March 26 2007
(Hyderabad): Genetically modified Bt cotton in the midst of yet another controversy. And this time it could be the beginning of a head on collision between the animal husbandry and agriculture ministry in Andhra Pradesh. The animal husbandry department in Andhra Pradesh is going to ask the agriculture ministry to stop the sale of genetically modified Bt cottonseeds in the new season. This follows reports from several districts that sheep, goat and even cattle grazing on leftover Bt cotton fields have taken ill and even died. "We have given this message that not just goat and sheep, even cattle are also affected with this poison, so better not to graze. We will also write to the commissioner, agriculture to give clear instructions not to sell Bt cotton seeds in the coming season," said Dr Laxmi Rajam, Additional Director, Animal Husbandry, Andhra Pradesh.
Shepherds and goatherds from 12 districts protested in Hyderabad on Monday to demand immediate action on the unusual deaths that are now being reported for the third consecutive year. "After grazing on non-Bt fields, there is no problem. Only after grazing on Bt leaves, sheep and goat are dying," said P Jamalaiah, Secretary, AP Shepherds and Goatherds Union. "It is not just us who are saying that. Even the animal husbandry department and veterinary doctors have said that in their primary reports," he added.
The department had earlier this year issued an advisory to shepherds and goatherds to avoid Bt cotton fields but that did not reach people like Urimekala Kotaiah in Khammam who lost 10 of his 50 sheep just two weeks ago. "The government is allowing the sale of these seeds, so only if they ban the seeds, this problem can be solved because our sheep necessarily graze in open fields," said U Kotaiah, Shepherd. The agriculture department has initiated an independent study following the reports of animal mortality. However, it may not be easy at all for the government to stop the sale of Bt cottonseeds even if it decides to, as a precautionary measure.
Bee demise - Are GMOs the missing link? - Sierra Club press release, March 22 2007
Are honey bees the canary in the coal mine? What are honey bees trying to tell us that we should pay attention to?
One out of every three bites of food that we consume is due to the work of honeybees, serving as crucial pollinators. Yet food production may be severely impacted by the recently reported Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Beekeepers are reporting estimates as high as 80% loss of their honey bee colonies.
There's a link that's not being investigated. Highly respected scientists believe that exposure to genetically engineered crops and their plant-produced pesticides merit serious consideration as either the cause or a contributory factor to the development and spread of CCD.
Laurel Hopwood, Sierra Club's Chair of the Genetic Engineering Committee states, "In searching for the cause of massive honey bee losses nationwide, we must leave no stone unturned to find the answer. Is the release of genetically engineered organisms the smoking gun?"
This past decade we are seeing releases into the environment that we have never before seen on this planet. Genetic engineering involves the artificial transfer of genes from one organism into another, bypassing the protective barrier between species. Scientists admit that unintended consequences may occur due to the lack of precision and specificity in the DNA sites on different plant chromosomes where the inserted genes randomly end up. According to the prominent biologist Dr. Barry Commoner, "Genetically engineered crops represent a huge uncontrolled experiment whose outcome is inherently unpredictable. The results could be catastrophic."
Regulators don't look, so they don't find. The USDA and EPA have failed to adequately assess the potential for lethal and sublethal impacts of engineered crop pesticides on pollinators like honey bees and wild bees, including the larvae brood and young bees. They have failed to study the effects of the practice of feeding honeybee colonies genetically engineered (GE) corn syrup and parts of recycled hives containing additional GE food residues.
Considering that loss of honeybee pollinators can leave a huge void in the kitchens of the American people and an estimated loss of 14 billion dollars to farmers, it would be prudent to use caution. If genetically engineered crops are killing honeybees, a moratorium on their planting should be strongly considered.
In a letter sent to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees sent yesterday, Sierra Club urges our elected officials to initiate investigations to determine if exposure to genetically engineered crops or corn syrup is the missing link.
To read the letter: http://www.sierraclub.org/biotech/whatsnew/whatsnew_2007-03-21.asp
Contact: Sierra Club - Laurel Hopwood - 216-371-9779 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Mexico Halts US Rice Over GMO Certification - REUTERS NEWS SERVICE, March 16 2007
Chicago Board of Trade rough rice futures took a nose dive Wednesday, falling nearly the 50-cent trading limit on talk of the trade disruption, traders said. US export sales were already lagging about 20 percent from a year ago as business has been hurt since a biotech gene material LLRICE601 was found in the US rice supply last summer. The US government has said the variety, which was engineered to resist herbicides, is safe for human consumption, but many countries now require certification that US rice contains only trace amounts of GMO. Three exporters of US milled rice had their shipments stopped, said Bob Cummings, the vice president of international policy at USA Rice Federation, a trade group. At least eight rail cars have been stopped at Laredo, Texas, he said.
Mexico is requiring certification from an approved laboratory that the grain is free of LLRICE601. "We are working to make sure that Mexico understands this is a safe product," Cummings said. "We have been able to do that in countries like Canada where we are selling rice. We'd like to be able to do the same thing in Mexico." Marco Antonio Meraz, who heads a federal biosecurity and GMO commission, said the Mexican government was testing for the LLRRICE601 strain which contaminated the US commercial supply last year. The Mexican Ministry of Health would publish the test results Friday or Monday, he said.
Mexico is the largest buyer of US rice and last year bought 805,500 tonnes of rice valued at US$205 million, USA Rice Federation said. "Mexico would have to be considered the stumbling block for American rice today," said Neauman Coleman, an analyst and rice broker from Brinkley, Arkansas. "Considering the magnitude of Mexico for American rice, any time you back up the flow, that just holds up overall consumption and tends to become a tad negative," Coleman added.
(Additional reporting by Christine Stebbins in Chicago)
French Scientists Express Doubt About Genetically Modified Corn - DeutscheWelle, 13 March 2007
The environmental protection organization Greenpeace has long said genetically modified maize could be a health hazard. Now, in a new study, a group of French scientists have also expressed their doubts about the corn. Greenpeace has warned about the potential dangers of genetically modified (GM) produce and maize for some time. On Tuesday they presented a study in Berlin to backup their claims. Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen said that according to studies by his group, CRIIGEN, Monsanto's maize type MON863 caused symptoms of poisoning and liver and kidney damage in rats that were fed the product during experiments. Seralini's results call into question an earlier report by Monsanto that said genetically modified feed was harmless. "There are significant deficits in the statistic evaluation of the Monsanto report," Seralini said. Genetically altered maize could therefore not be deemed safe, Seralini said.
Greenpeace genetic engineering expert Christoph Then said the case shows that "German Consumer Affairs Minister Horst Seehofer must stop the sowing of GM seeds and the import of GM food in Germany."
Built in pest control
MON863 has been cultivated since 2003 in several countries, including the United States and Canada. The GM maize, which can be legally imported into European Union countries since 2006 as a food and feed product, contains a protein to combat plant pests, allowing farmers largely to grow their maize crops without having to use pesticides. Seralini, however, said he found that GM maize produced around one kilogram of poisonous substances per hectare. He said that is more than farmers would use in pesticides. The scientist also pointed out that Monsanto ran tests with animals fed with MON863 for only 90 days. Long-term studies do not exist, he said.
As safe as unmodified corn
Andreas Thierfelder, spokesperson for Monsanto Agrar Germany, said Greenpeace had already been unsuccessful in several attempts to question studies done on the effects of MON863 in feed. "But the allegations were refuted every time by competent authorities," Thierfelder said. He said the European Food Safety Authority and the German Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety had evaluated Monsanto's experiments with GM feed. Monsanto Germany's spokesman said the authorities had found that "MON863 to be as unquestionable for health and the environment as conventional maize."
USDA accused of lax food safety measures - Tuesday, March 13, 2007
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been accused of failing to protect the nation's food supply, following last week's withdrawal of a long-grain rice seed after possible contamination with genetically modified material.
"This latest incident of contamination-the third in the last six months-underscores the USDA's inability to keep unwanted and potentially harmful modified genes out of our food supply," said Karen Perry Stillerman, a food analyst at the non-profit group Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) last week issued 'emergency action notifications' to prevent the planting and distribution of a rice seed from German firm BASF. The variety, Clearfield CL 131, was not developed as a genetically engineered product, but the firm's own testing revealed that the seed may have been contaminated with a genetically modified strain. BASF last week notified the USDA of its findings, which are now due to be verified by further tests conducted by APHIS.
The US rice industry - and the USDA's regulatory standing - already suffered a major hit last year, after Bayer Crop Sciences in July notified the agency that it had discovered trace amounts of an unapproved GM rice in samples of commercial rice seed. The incident sparked a flow of reactions against the firm and the US rice export market, with food safety warnings and regulatory restrictions resonating globally. These two incidents together indicate that the agency is lacking in its protection of the US food supply, claimed UCS last week.
The organization, which says it combines independent scientific research and citizen action for a safer consumer environment, also said the USDA was taking consumer health risks by approving the first commercial production of a food crop - again rice - engineered with human genes. The new rice is genetically engineered to produce lactiva and lysomin - two proteins found naturally in breast milk, and reported to have significant potential against diarrhea. California-based Ventria Bioscience this month received approval from the agency to cultivate over 3,000 acres of the rice in Kansas. But the news sparked new concerns and fears from the global anti-GM lobby, and UCS added its voice to these. According to the group, pharmaceutical crops such as Ventria's rice pose a threat to the food supply and public health because the proteins they contain are intended to be biologically active in humans and may be harmful if eaten accidentally.
"When such compounds are produced in food crops grown outdoors, they are almost certain to contaminate the food supply," said UCS. "Growing pharmaceutical food crops outdoors is not worth the risk it poses to public health and the financial health of farmers and food companies. Because it is virtually impossible to produce pharma food crops outdoors safely, even if very strong regulatory systems were put in place, we are calling for a USDA ban," said Stillerman. According to Stillerman, a 2005 report by the USDA's internal auditor found that the agency's oversight of pharma crops was lax. "In some cases, regulators didn't know where pharma crops were grown or stored. Several recent court decisions also have lambasted the agency's risk assessment and regulatory systems for pharma and other genetically engineered crops."
© 2000/2007 Decision News Media SAS
Dutch Council of State ordered destruction of BASF GE potato field trial - Linda Coenen, ASEED (Netherlands), 9 March 2007
Last Wednesday, March 7th, The Council of State in The Netherlands judged in a appeal by Greenpeace that the field trials of BASF had been illegally permitted by the Ministry of Housing, Spacial Planning, andnEnvironment (VROM) and destroyed the permits immediately. The court decision was based on the grounds that 1) these potatoes had been insufficiently tested in a controlled environment (like a greenhouse or laboratory) to be release in the open, and 2) the Ministry had not been able to do a proper environmental effect assessment (as required) since BASF had failed to provide information specific enough for this purpose on the location of the trial sites. It concerns three BASF GM potato varieties, two with changed starch content similar to the Amflora-potato and one with hightened late blight resistence. All three are also herbicide-resistent.
Court decision (Dutch): http://www.raadvanstate.nl/verdicts/verdict_details.asp?verdict_id=16397
Greenpeace press release (Dutch): http://www.greenpeace.nl/news/rechter-trekt-vergunning-proef
GM starch potato: still no cultivation in 2007 - GMO Compass, Germany, 5 March 2007
The Amflora potato, developed by BASF Plant Science with an altered starch composition, apparently may not yet be cultivated this year in the EU. As reported by the magazine Agrar Europe, the European Commission has requested an opinion from the European Medicines Agency, EMEA, as prerequisite to an approval decision.
The subject of interest is the marker gene used in the potato, making it resistant against the antibiotic kanamycin. GM plants are only approved in the EU, if the containing resistance gene has no harmful effects on health and environment. According to a current study by the World Health Organisation, WHO, the relevant antibiotic kanamycin may have a greater importance in veterinary medicine than has been assumed to date. However, the European Food Safety Authority has already identified no safety concerns which may have an adverse effect upon approval.
The Amflora potato contains only starch with the amylopectin component, and delivers renewable raw material to the starch industry. Its cultivation was planned already for 2007. Three cultivation areas have been registered provisionally in the site register of the Federal Bureau for Consumer Protection, BVL.
GMO-Compass: Amflora approval - http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/gmo/db/17.docu.html
GMO-Compass: Why Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Transgenic Plants? - http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/safety/human_health/45.docu.html
GMO-Compass: Alternatives to Antibiotic Resistance Marker Genes - http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/safety/human_health/129.docu.html
Rice Recalled Over Gene Contamination - Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer - Washington Post, March 6 2007
The Agriculture Department last night took the unusual step of insisting that U.S. farmers refrain from planting a popular variety of long-grain rice because preliminary tests showed that its seed stock may be contaminated with a variety of gene-altered rice not approved for marketing in the United States The announcement marks the third time in six months that U.S. rice has been found to be inexplicably contaminated with engineered traits, and it comes just weeks before the spring planting season Adding to the potential disruption, the variety of rice affected is one that many farmers had planned to switch to this spring to avoid a different contaminated strain.
The new problem involves Clearfield CL131 seed, produced by BASF of Germany and marketed by Horizon Ag of Memphis. In an after-hours posting on the USDA Web site, agency officials did not say which unexpected genetic trait had been found in the rice. In August, Cheniere rice was found to be contaminated with an herbicide-resistance gene that had been under study in 2001 but was never approved or brought to market. The discovery continues to disrupt U.S. rice exports, even though the trait won speedy approval in December.
Bt cotton spells doom for cattle?
Following is a news article from The Hindu, in the Hyderabad edition today, for your information and further investigation.
So far, reports on livestock morbidity and mortality came from civil society groups including shepherd unions and the government discounted such reports consistently, other than making admissions here and there (including in the Parliament) under pressure.
For the first time, we have reports from the animal husbandry department officials from Adilabad district. If they are reporting 200 deaths so far, the actual mortality would be much higher and morbidity even higher. When will the GEAC and the DBT sit up and do a proper investigation? Is this country incapable of doing a systematic, scientific study on what is the phenomenon here by quickly constituting a team to design a sound framework for the study and then go about implementing it?
It is also learnt that the issue of livestock deaths after grazing on bt cotton came up in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly yesterday and the Animal Husbandry department responded that they have no such reports reaching them! How can that be when their own officials are recording the phenomenon in the districts and warning farmers not to graze their animals on Bt Cotton? How can that be when representatives of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and AP Goatherds' & Shepherds' Union met with senior officials in the animal husbandry department in the month of February 2007, gave them our preliminary assessment report from a couple of villages and demanded immediate action?
The phone numbers of the Director, Animal Husbandry department are 040-23316855 and 23316848. The scientist who investigated the phenomenon last year too, after the Director-AH ordered an investigation is one Dr Sudarshan Rao, Animal scientist, Veterinary Biological Research Institute [ VBRI], a public sector agency: +91-94-408-10709. It is the same institute which is supposed to have received the samples from the dept veterinarians from Adilabad this year for further investigations.
Bt cotton spells doom for cattle? - S. Harpal Singh
NOTHING TO CHEER ABOUT: Cattle grazing on the residual Bt cotton crop in Gudihatnoor mandal.
ADILABAD: Grazing on residual Bt cotton crop seems to have resulted in the death of over 200 animals in various mandals of the district in the last two months. The Animal Husbandry Department has sounded an alarm as the number of sick animals with somewhat classic poisoning symptoms has kept increasing.
It is a practice among the farming community, especially in the cotton-intensive areas, to use residual crops as fodder. As the area under Bt cotton had increased substantially this year, large tracts under the crop were available for use as fodder after harvesting ended in December-January.
Acute in many mandals
"In all the cases where animals were treated for suspected Bt cotton poisoning, the animals showed symptoms like convulsions, nasal discharge, vomiting, respiratory problems and diarrhoea," K. Shravan Kumar, veterinary assistant surgeon, said. The problem is acute in mandals like Tamsi, Bazarhatnoor, Sirpur(U), Gudihatnoor, Talamadugu and Bela. A. Vinod, veterinary assistant surgeon at Tamsi, said the problem came to their notice in January. "We are opting for symptomatic treatment so long as the `culprit' toxic substance is not identified. Timely treatment can save a few animals in our mandal," he said.
"Another bullock died in Talamadugu recently. We have sent the extracted feed material after a post-mortem on the animal and leaves, stem and other material from the suspected plants for analysis at the Veterinary Biological Research Institute in Hyderabad," Y. Sanjiv Reddy, veterinary assistant surgeon at Talamadugu, said. Having noticed similar deaths of sheep from other districts, the Animal Husbandry Directorate issued a circular this month to veterinary hospitals asking them to send relevant material for analysis. "However, it needs more than an analysis to curb the occurrence of animal deaths due to suspected poisoning," a veterinarian observed.
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad 500 017 - Phone: +91-9393001550
Freeze Welcomes Judges List of Mistakes in FSA Handling of GM Rice Contamination - 23rd February 2007
GM Freeze has welcomed acknowledgement of a High Court judge that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) had made mistakes in the way they handled the contamination of US long grain rice imports with an unapproved GM traits last summer. The campaigning group is calling upon the FSA to break their close relationship with industry and for Parliament to take far greater interest in the operations of the Agency.
In a Judicial Review brought against the FSA by Friends of the Earth, Justice Calvert-Smith ruled that the food safety watch dog had not acted illegally in failing to require local authorities and companies to take action to verify that all contaminated rice which was already in the retail and catering supply chains had been traced and removed from sale (22nd February). However, in his ruling the judge identified three mistakes in the way the FSA had dealt with the contamination incident. These were their:
• failure to issue any Food Alerts to local authorities.
• failure to notify the public of which batches of rice were contaminated.
• failure to provide legal guidance to local authorities at the start of the incident
The FSA have agreed to hold an internal review on how it handled the GM rice contamination incident.
The contamination of US long grain rice with GM rice, known as LL601, was discovered in January 2006 but the EU authorities were not informed until mid August. The GM rice had been grown in test sites in the USA between 1998 and 2001 but had not received any approval for commercial growing anywhere in the world. It was illegal to sell the rice in the EU. The dossier of safety data required for a commercial approval was not complete and therefore the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) were unable to complete a full safety assessment and to say, with certainty, whether the GM rice was safe to eat.
Initially, the FSA announced there were no public safety issues  associated with the LL601 but later revised their advice following the EFSA’s opinion which acknowledged the lack of data. Minutes of private meetings between the food industry and FSA showed that the FSA were advising companies that it did not “expect contaminated products already in the food supply chain to be removed from sale” and “does not expect companies to trace products and remove them from sale’ .
Over five weeks (21st and 25th September) after the GM contamination was first announced, GM Freeze supporters were able to buy batches of contaminated rice from Morrisons’ store in Taunton. GM Freeze reported these purchases to Somerset Trading Standards but no legal action was taken.
In January 2006 GM Freeze published a report of a survey on how well the GMO traceability and labelling regulations were being enforced and warned the FSA that the UK was open to future GM contamination incidents .
Commenting on the outcome of yesterday’s case Pete Riley Campaign Director of GM Freeze said: “The FSA were well aware of the risk of further GM contamination and that the UK was ill equipped to deal with such incidents so the judge’s criticisms of their handling the GM rice case are fully justified. The next contamination incident could involve crops genetically modified to produce drugs or vaccines. The FSA’s review of their handling of this case must include a substantial input from outside and the outcome and evidence must be published in full. In our view, Parliament needs to take a more active role in overseeing the performance of the FSA to ensure that they become a true consumer watchdog and that they break their cosy relationship with industry”.
Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341065/01226 790713
1. FSA press release 1st September 2006.
2. Food and Drink Federation minutes of a meeting with the FSA.
3. See http://www.gmfreeze.org/admin/uploads/report_doc.pdf
Carrie Stebbings, Co-ordinator, GM FREEZE CAMPAIGN, 94 White Lion Street, London, N1 9PF - Tel: 020 7837 0642 - Fax: 020 7837 1141
email@example.com - www.gmfreeze.org
US group wants to halt herbicide-resistant alfalfa seed - By Jim Gransbery - Wednesday, February 21, 2007
A coalition of farmers, environmentalists and food safety organizations plans to ask a federal judge in California to halt the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed, the group's lawyer said Tuesday. The request follows a decision released two weeks ago in which U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer in San Francisco ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to follow environmental law before approving the genetically modified forage. Breyer asked parties to the suit for proposals for remedies after he found that the USDA should have completed an environmental impact statement before giving its go-ahead for the crop in 2005. The proposed remedies are due Monday.
"The USDA approval is vacated" by the judge's decision, said Joseph Mendelson, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. "So any new sales of seed and hay should be halted," he said. As for what to do with stands of the perennial already in the ground, Mendelson said, "It is hard to speculate. It is difficult to halt a harvest." In Montana and Wyoming, a decision to stop sales could directly affect seed producers and seed businesses. The Center for Food Safety represented itself and the co-plaintiffs in the suit, including the Western Organization of Resource Councils, which has headquarters in Billings. WORC is a coalition that includes the Northern Plains Resource Council and similar organizations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and Colorado. Mendelson was asked if Roundup Ready alfalfa posed any threat to animal or human health or whether the suit focused on environmental and economic consequences. "Both," he said. "At this point on alfalfa we are unable to know (health threats) because USDA has not done an EIS."
Millions of acres of Roundup Ready soybeans, corn and canola are planted each year in the United States and are consumed by animals and humans. Genetic modification, as compared with hybridization or cross-breeding, involves inserting genes from one kind of an organism into the genes of an unrelated organism. Roundup Ready seeds contain genetic material that makes the plants resistant to the herbicide Roundup, thus reducing the costs of tilling and weed control. Monsanto Co., which produces Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds, discontinued its research plots of spring wheat varieties in Montana in 2004. The company said at the time that there were better business opportunities for its genetically modified strains of corn, cotton and oilseeds.
Monsanto and Forage Genetics of Nampa, Idaho, a partner in the development of the alfalfa strain, were not party to the case in California but are affected by the results of Breyer's decision. "We are working with seed producers and farmers," said Andrew Burchett, public affairs manager for Monsanto in St. Louis, Mo. "And we will work with USDA in seeing the regulatory requirements are satisfied. There is an extensive dossier already" on Roundup Ready alfalfa. Approved in Canada, Japan He noted that Canada and Japan have ruled Roundup Ready alfalfa safe. Jose Arias, of Forage Genetics, said he had no comment when informed that the Center for Food Safety intended to seek a halt of the sale of the seed. Burchett said the issue is procedural." The coexistence of Roundup Ready plants and organic is well-known. Roundup Ready soybeans, corn and canola all co-exist."
Blaine Schmaltz, of Rugby, N.D., rejects that argument. An independent seed grower and organic farmer, Schmaltz discontinued his sprouting seed sales because the "expense of testing lies on me." He said he has to prove that his seed is not contaminated by pollen from Roundup Ready plants. "Alfalfa is a perennial and is open-pollinated," he said. "And there is the liability issue. There is no insurance for it." Schmaltz was a co-plaintiff in the suit as an affected party. He provided written testimony in the case. He said the possibility of contamination from Roundup Ready alfalfa is "devastating the organic market, which is growing." He expressed concern that Roundup Ready plants are leading to "super-resistant" weeds because the herbicide is now used on so many crops.
The suit also affects Laurel seed producer John Wold, who raises seed for Forage Genetics. He said Monday that he has raised Roundup Ready alfalfa seed for two years. "It is very safe, in my opinion," he said. He questioned how the court could halt sales. "It would be pretty hard to do that," he said. "A tremendous amount is sold already."
Wold conceded that the issue is "a touchy subject." Seed purveyor and user Dan Downs said Roundup Ready "is just another tool in the box." "The question is, does it work for that field for the money?" Downs said. The seed carries a premium that goes to Monsanto as a royalty because it has a patent on the process. Downs owns and operates Montana Seed and Grain and Chemicals in Billings. "This is not a big issue for me," he said of the suit. "But for others it is big." Downs said he has sold less than three tons of seed in the past two years. "Roundup Ready can make a real difference in getting an early start," he said. "I planned on planting it this spring. I go seed when the ground is ready, and I get a 15 to 20-day head start." When the weeds emerge, Downs can use Roundup herbicide to kill them without injuring the alfalfa.
3rd most valuable crop
Alfalfa is grown on more than 21 million acres in the United States and is valued at $8 billion a year, making it the country's third most valuable and fourth most widely grown crop. It is the primary forage for dairy and beef cattle. Alfalfa seed production was worth $4.8 million in 2006 for Montana farmers, almost double its value in 2005. The 2006 increase was attributable to increased acres. In 2006, 10,700 acres were harvested, compared with 6,100 acres in 2005. The average price per hundredweight was $113 in both years.
Copyright © The Billings Gazette
EU ENVIRONMENT MINISTERS TWICE RESIST GMOs
Friends of the Earth Europe - Press Statement - Tuesday 20th February 2007
Brussels - Today, Environment Ministers from EU Member States voted to allow Hungary to uphold its national ban of Monsanto’s genetically modified maize .
Helen Holder, GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said, “EU countries have defended Hungary’s right to protect its environment and its citizens’ health by banning a genetically modified crop. Bans such as Hungary’s are allowed under EU law and according to the World Trade Organisation rules and EU countries were quite right to refuse to
be bullied by the European Commission into annulling the ban.”
Environment Ministers also failed to give the green light for the marketing of a genetically modified flower. Since the Ministers failed to reach a clear agreement amongst themselves, the final decision, under EU rules, will now revert back to the European Commission.
For more information, please contact:
Helen Holder, GM Campainger at Friends of the Earth Europe : Tel : +32 2 542 0182 , Mobile +32 474 857 638 , Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel:+32 25 42 61 05 , Mobile: +32 485 930515 , Email: email@example.com
 Genetically modified maize, MON810, produced by Monsanto. Prohibited by Hungary under the Safeguard Clause of Directive 2001/18
Suppressed report shows cancer link to GM potatoes - By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor - The Independent, 17 February 2007
Campaigners against genetically modified crops in Britain last are calling for trials of GM potatoes this spring to be halted after releasing more evidence of links with cancers in laboratory rats. UK Greenpeace activists said the findings, obtained from Russian trials after an eight-year court battle with the biotech industry, vindicated research by Dr Arpad Pusztai, whose work was criticised by the Royal Society and the Netherlands State Institute for Quality Control.
The disclosure last night of the Russian study on the GM Watch website led to calls for David Miliband, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to withdraw permission for new trials on GM potatoes to go ahead at secret sites in the UK this spring. Alan Simpson, a Labour MP and green campaigner, said: "These trials should be stopped. The research backs up the work of Arpad Pusztai and it shows that he was the victim of a smear campaign by the biotech industry. There has been a cover-up over these findings and the Government should not be a party to that." Mr Simpson said the findings, which showed that lab rats developed tumours, were released by anti-GM campaigners in Wales. Dr Pusztai and a colleague used potatoes that had been genetically modified to produce a protein, lectin. They found cell damage in the rats' stomachs, and in parts of their intestines.
The research is likely to spark a fresh row about GM crops in Britain. Graham Thompson, a Greenpeace campaigner, said: "It is important because it backs up the research by Pusztai, which was smeared at the time by the industry." Brian John of GM Free Cymru, who released the findings, said the research was conducted in 1998 by the Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and has been suppressed for eight years. It showed that the potatoes did considerable damage to the rats' organs. Those in the "control groups" that were fed non-GM potatoes suffered ill-effects, but those fed GM potatoes suffered more serious organ and tissue damage.
The potatoes contained an antibiotic resistance marker gene. The institute that carried out the studies refused to release all the information. However, Greenpeace and other consumer groups mounted a protracted legal battle campaign to obtain the report. In May 2004 the Nikulinski District Court in Russia ruled that information relating to the safety of GM food should be open to the public. The institute, however, refused to release the report. Greenpeace and Russian activist groups again took the institute to court, and won a ruling that the report must be released.
Irina Ermakova, a consultant for Greenpeace, said she had conducted her own animal feeding experiments with GM materials. "The GM potatoes were the most dangerous of the feeds used in the trials ... and on the basis of this evidence they cannot be used in the nourishment of people." Greenpeace said the Russian trials were also badly flawed. Half of the rats in the trial died, and results were taken from those that survived, in breach of normal scientific practice.
France fines Monsanto for fraudulent advertising - Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
Agence Presse news service reported that a French court levied US $19,000 fines on both Monsanto and Scotts France for misleading the public about Roundup, Monsanto's flagship herbicide. One of the groups to which damages also must be paid stated that the court decision, "puts an end to Monsanto's lies." A former chairman of Monsanto Agriculture France had claimed that Roundup is biodegradable and "left the soil clean." Roundup's active ingredient is glyphosate.
According to a June 2005 report in Environmental Health Perspectives, Roundup was found to be "...toxic to human placental...cells within 18 hours [of exposure], with concentratons lower than those found in agricultural use," and, "Roundup is always more toxic than its active ingredient." The researchers also found glyphosate and Roundup effects on sexual hormones at very low levels. This suggests that "dilution with other ingredients in Roundup may, in fact, facilitate glyphosate's hormonal impacts." Read more about Roundup.
US judge challenges Monsanto seed approval: NYT - Reuters, February 14 2006
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Agriculture Department violated the law by failing to adequately assess possible environmental impacts before approving genetically-engineered alfalfa from Monsanto, the New York Times said on Wednesday.
The ruling, given on Tuesday by Judge Charles Breyer of the District Court in San Francisco, said the agency had been "cavalier" in deciding that a full environmental impact statement was not needed because the potential environmental and economic effects of the crop were not significant, the paper said.
The judge asked the plaintiffs, some alfalfa seed companies and environmental and farm advocacy groups, and the defendant, the Agriculture Dept., to meet and propose remedies to him by February 26, the paper said.
Monsanto was not named in the suit, the paper said. No one at the company could immediately be reached for comment.
USA: Federal Court Orders for the First Time a Halt to New Field Trials of GM Crops
Far-Reaching Decision Requires More Rigorous Environmental Review For Future Trials
Past Trials on Genetically Engineered Creeping Bentgrass Ruled Illegal
Center for Food Safety press release, 6 February 2007. - Contact: Joseph Mendelson (202) 547-9359
Washington, DC - In a decision broadly affecting field trials of genetically engineered crops a federal district judge ruled yesterday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must halt approval of all new field trials until more rigorous environmental reviews are conducted. Citing potential threats to the environment, Judge Harold Kennedy found in favor of the Center for Food Safety that USDA's past approvals of field trials of herbicide tolerant, genetically engineered bentgrass were illegal.
"This is a significant victory. The decision requires far more thorough oversight of the environmental impact of these crops, " stated Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety. "The Court was clearly concerned that the agency has put our nation's environment at risk by exempting many of these field trials from environmental review. That's why the judge made the decision broadly apply to all future field trials of genetically engineered crops." Mendelson continued.
The federal lawsuit was filed by the Center for Food Safety, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and other individuals and organizations in 2003. At issue in the lawsuit are novel varieties of creeping bentgrass and Kentucky bluegrass manufactured by Scotts and Monsanto that have been genetically engineered to resist Roundup, Monsanto's popular herbicide. Currently, use of the Roundup weedkiller is limited to spot spraying of weeds in that the herbicide kills any grass with which it comes in contact. The new engineered grass has been altered to be resistant to the weedkiller so that users will be able to spray entire lawns, fields and golf courses with large amounts of the chemical without fear of hurting the grass. Large scale planting of the biotech grass would therefore significantly increase the amounts of herbicide used in home lawns, sports fields, schools and golf courses around the country.
In seminal studies concerning environmental contamination from genetically engineered creeping bentgrass, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found multiple instances of the pollen from engineered bentgrass traveling several miles and transferring its traits to native grasses. Last year, EPA researchers found that the engineered grasses had escaped from field trials to contaminate a national grassland. "These field trials threaten our public land, our communities and our health," said Lesley Adams, Outreach Coordinator for plaintiff Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. "We will monitor the USDA very closely to make sure they don't allow any more of these tests until they've rigorously assessed their environmental impact," Adams concluded.
View the court's decision: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/GTBC_Doc_94_Opinion%202-5-07.pdf
Plea to halt cultivation of Bt hybrids - The Hindu, 4 February 2007 - http://www.hindu.com/2007/02/04/stories/2007020417070300.htm
Hyderabad: The Deccan Development Society (DDS) has asked the Government to declare a moratorium on the cultivation of Bt hybrids until a comprehensive study is undertaken on the possible impact of Bt hybrids on environment, livestock and human health.
In a statement, M. Abdul Qayuum and S. Kiran, DDS scientists, said the deleterious affects of Bt cotton on livestock have resurfaced in Warangal district. In Gammadavelli village, symptoms appeared more on the goats compared to sheep. Bloating of stomach, mucous flow from nostrils, reddish urination were some of the symptoms. Besides, some shepherds also had bloating of stomach and skin allergies in the neck region, the release said.
GE rice industry facing meltdown as global tide of rejection grows - Bayer, global pusher of GE rice must admit defeat, says Greenpeace
Greenpeace press release, 6 February 2007.
Amsterdam 6 February 2007 - - The global rejection of genetically engineered rice is revealed today as 41 of the world’s biggest exporters, processors and retailers issued written commitments to stay GE free. The worldwide tide of opposition is reflected in the new Greenpeace report, "Rice Industry in Crisis". The report carries extracts of company statements covering Asia, Europe, Australia, and North and South America (1) and includes a commitment from the world's largest rice processor, Ebro Puleva, to stop buying US rice. This follows a major contamination incident in 2006, when the world's rice supply was contaminated with an experimental and illegal variety of GE rice produced by biotech company Bayer.
"Bayer is aggressively pursuing commercial approvals for its GE rice globally, including in Europe and Brazil, yet refuses to accept responsibility for the major financial damage its unauthorised GE rice has caused in the US and elsewhere. Indeed, Bayer is blaming hardworking farmers or 'acts of God' for these problems when all signs point to Bayer being at fault," (4) said Adam Levitt, a partner in the Chicago office of the law firm of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz - one of the law firm's leading the prosecution of these cases against Bayer. "This global contamination and global market rejection of GE rice clearly shows the need for Bayer to withdraw from any further GE rice development," said Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International rice campaigner. "Bayer proves that GE rice is too risky. Through field trials alone Bayer caused massive financial damage to the global rice industry. The commercial growing of GE rice must never become a reality; the impact on the world's most important food crop world be disastrous."
The report also examines the significant economic implications of the Bayer contamination, including when rice futures prices plummeted $150 million -- the sharpest one-day decline in years. Experts have predicted that US rice exports may decline by as much as 16% in 2006/2007. (2) Several multi-million dollar class action lawsuits have been filed by US farmers who refuse to bear the financial burden of Bayer's irresponsible and negligent conduct. The farmers claim that Bayer is responsible for the contamination of rice supplies and the economic losses the U.S. rice farmers have suffered as a result and must compensate farmers for the monetary and other losses that they have sustained as a result of Bayer's improper conduct. (3) In addition to the class action lawsuits, several individual lawsuits have also been filed and there are also anecdotal reports that European traders contemplating legal action. As a result of the contamination of the rice supply with Bayer's GE rice farmers, millers, traders and retailers around the globe are facing massive financial costs, including testing and recall costs, cancelled orders, import bans, brand damage and consumer distrust - distrust that could last for years.
"Governments from around the world must respond to the economic, market and environmental damage caused by the 2006 GE rice contamination and reject outright any GE rice food and cultivation applications currently on the table," said Tager. "GE rice should not be developed as genetic engineering is an unnecessary, unwanted and outdated technology that threatens the world's most important staple food."
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production grounded on 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.
For more information and interviews
Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE campaigner, +31 6 4622 1185
Adam Levitt, partner, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLC, +1 312-984-0000, U.S. lawyer representing rice farmers in U.S.-based class action litigation against Bayer
Mhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International Communications: (M) +44 (0)7801 212 960
Notes to editors
(1) Company statements received from the following countries: Japan, Switzerland, France, Hong Kong, Germany, Australia, Pakistan, Thailand, India, Brazil, Spain, Canada and the UK. For statements see pages 7 - 12 of the Rice markets report: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/rice-industry-in-crisis.
(2) Elias P. 2006. California growers fear biotech rice threat. Washington Post. 15 October, 2006:
(3) Weiss, R. 2006. Firm Blames Farmers, Act of GodÇ for Rice Contamination. Washington Post. 22 November, 2006: www.washingtonpost.com/ActofGod
Leonard, C. 2006. 13 Lawsuits Over Accidental Spread of Genetically Altered Rice Could Be Combined Into 1. Associated Press. 30, November, 2006:
(4) Countries in which Bayer CropScience has applied for authorization for cultivation or food/feed consumption. All approvals are for LL62 unless otherwise noted.
1. Australia - food and feed. Applied 2006
2. Brazil - cultivation, food and feed, seed import, additional field trials. Applied 2006
3. Canada - approval granted for food and feed 2006
4. European Union (25 states) - food and feed. Applied 2004
5. New Zealand - food and feed. Applied 2006
6. Philippines - food and feed. Applied 2006
7. South Africa - food and feed. Applied 2006
8. United States - approvals granted for cultivation, food and feed. Approvals - LL601, 62, 06 (2006, 2002)
ONE MILLION EU CITIZENS CALL FOR LABELLING OF GM FOODS - EU Observer, 5 February 2007. By Helena Spongenberg.
BRUSSELS - A Greenpeace petition - signed by 1 million EU citizens ‚ is calling on the European Commission to legislate that food products such as eggs, meat and milk where the animal has been fed with genetically modified crops should be labelled as such. The petition was handed over to EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou on Monday (5 February) after the 1,000,000 signatures had been displayed outside the EU executive building in Brussels.
"This petition reflects the broad concern of the public for food safety, for the quality of food and in particular for the use of GMOs in the food chain," said Marco Contiero from Greenpeace at a press conference together with the commissioner. Under EU law, foods like cooking oil, ketchup and cake mix have to be labelled if the ingredients include 0.9 percent GMOs or more, and animal feed packets must be similarly labelled. But food products derived from animals fed with GMOs do not need to be labelled. "Currently there is a loophole in the legislation and we hope that the commission will actually act in order to cover this loophole, because millions of tonnes of genetically modified crops are entering the European market every year, used in animal feed," Mr Contiero said, adding that consumers in the EU are not informed about this.
Greenpeace said that up to 30 percent of the regular diet of farm animals contains GMOs, adding that over 90 percent of GM crops imported into the 27-nation bloc are soy and maize destined for animal feed. The group argues that studies have shown that animals react badly to genetically modified crops. Industry argues, however, that European concerns are unfairly restricting their access to the lucrative EU market, and that decisions on the approval of new products are based on political motives rather than scientific proof.
"A petition supported by 1 million signatures of course shows a strong interest on the part of European citizens for a specific issue and therefore we will take this into serious consideration," Mr Kyprianou said. He explained that even though an attempt for similar measures was taken out of a compromise law on labelling by the European Parliament and the member states in 2004, the commission would look at the case again. "Being presented now with a strong view on the part of the European citizens, of course we will look into the matter again," he said, adding that he would consult with his advisers.
Mr Contiero told EUobserver that things look differently now than they did four years ago with more studies and a petition from one million citizens in 21 EU countries. The right of citizens to form an initiative and become more involved in EU issues is part of the European Constitution, rejected by France and the Netherlands in 2005 but seeing a revival by the current German EU presidency. According to the treaty, if a petition collects one million signatures, the commission can then be asked to look into the issue. "Even if the EU constitution is not ratified it is still a principle for the EU - it has a political weight that cannot simply be disregarded," Mr Contiero explained.
Africa's Sorghum Saved: Applause for second GM sorghum rejection - African Centre for Biosafety - 2ndFebruary, 2007
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) hails the decision taken by the Executive Council (EC)-South Africa’s GM regulatory body on the 30 January 2007 to turn down an application by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's (CSIR) to conduct experiments with genetically modified (GM) sorghum in a level three containment facility.
This decision was taken against the backdrop that Africa is the centre of origin for sorghum where (including in South Africa), a large number of sexually compatible weeds, wild relatives strains and races of cultivated sorghum occur.
While the EC will make its reasons for the rejection available in due course, it previously (in June 2006) turned down a similar application when it cited environmental concerns about gene flow from transgenic sorghum to South Africa’s biodiversity.
The ACB lodged an objection to the application and raised strong concerns that GM sorghum would introgress into wild relatives. “Some activities just cannot be permitted and should be regarded as NO GO options” said Mariam Mayet, founder of the ACB.
“The risks posed by GM sorghum to sorghum wild and weedy relatives cannot be tolerated at all and the granting of a permit will be tantamount to a licence to contaminating Africa's heritage. Even containment in a level three facility will not negate the concerns that will remain, if the GM sorghum was to be tested in open field trials with the objective of commercialisation” said Mayet.
This decision is a severe and final blow to the African Biotechnology Sorghum Project (ABS), bankrolled by Bill and Melinda Gates to the tune of millions of dollars, to bring GM sorghum to Africa’s poor. The ABS is spearheaded by a consortium, which includes Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Florence Wambugu’s Africa Harvest Biotechnology International, Rockerfeller Foundation-backed African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), the CSIR, the Agricultural Research Council etc.
Mariam Mayet 083 269 4309
Farmers discard Bt GM Variety - Radhakrishna Rao, INFA - Central Chronicle, Thursday February 1 2007
The sustained and no-holds-barred campaign by Indian farmers against the "backdoor and sly" move to introduce the genetically modified GM rice variety into the country, has resulted in the farmers in parts of Haryana and Tamil Nadu destroying the trial plots of GM rice. These experimental rice fields were being monitored by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) on behalf of the American agro-business outfit Monsanto.
The increasing tempo of the countrywide opposition to GM rice has derived strength from the decision of the EU countries to ban the import of American rice, fearing contamination by the GM rice strain Liberty Line (LL-601). In fact, it was the detection of few grains of GM rice in the American rice consignments that proded the EU countries to suspend the trading in American rice. Following this episode, the world's largest rice importer Ebro Puleva stopped trading in the US grown rice. In fact, there is a vehement public distrust of GM variety of food in Europe even as the USA is trying to hardsell the theory that GM food varieties are safe for human consumption.
According to a well-known agricultural scientist, "Bt (GM) rice proponent might argue that since rice is a self-pollinated crop, genetic contamination is excluded. But genes travel to related plots on their own which is called gene flow. In 1966, gene flow was discovered to be much more common than it was previously thought. The process of putting alien genes into plants and animals to favour certain traits or confer resistance is, at best, an inexact science, with unpredictable consequences. Genes don't necessarily control a single trait".
Clearly and apparently, the European countries' decision to stop importing American grown rice could be utilized by the Indian rice exporters to fill this "vital gap". The EU countries used to import about 300,000 tonnes of rice from the USA to meet a part of its annual requirement running upto 12,000,00 tonnes. And the rice of Indian and Pakistani origin imported by the EU countries used to account for around 3,00,000 tonnes. "Since Indian rice is free from the GM contamination, this gap in supply certainly open up vistas for additional market access for Indian exporters", says K.S. Money, Chairman of the New Delhi-based Agricultural Products and Processed Food Export Development Authority (APEDA).
Indian exporters of Basmati rice who have already established a presence in the EU countries hope to boost their export by expanding their portfolios to include non-basmati rice varieties. Pakistan and Thailand are the other major exporters of rice to the EU countries. And in terms of quality and price, Indian rice has certain advantages over its Asian competitors.
Meanwhile, with a view to step up rice production to meet the needs of a fast-growing population, India is laying special emphasis on increasing the area under hybrid rice cultivation. Currently, over a million hectares of land under hybrid rice in India. And this is a far cry from just 10,000 hectares in 1995. But in the neighbouring China around 15-million hectares are under hybrid rice cultivation and this constitutes 50% of the total area under rice cultivation in this most populous country in the world.
"Hybrid rice is an option that could come handy at a time when India will have to increase rice production by at least 2 million tonnes by 2011-12", says B.C. Viraktamath, Project Director of the Directorate of Rice Research in Hyderabad. Incidentally, India is the second country in the world to develop and commercialize hybrid rice. Researchers, on their part, point out that the potential in the country for raising hybrid rice varieties, is anywhere between 8 million and 15 million hectares.
In the meantime, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has signed an agreement with the Las Banos-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for collaboration in research which includes genetic enhancement of rice in terms of yield and quality. The main objective of collaboration is to apply genomics and bioinformatics to discover new and novel genes capable of pushing up the rice yield.
As it is, in India the productivity of rice has now touched 2,000 kg per hectare and the country continues to occupy second position in rice export, next only to Thailand. But then in India there is a growing realization of the need to boost rice production without bringing in ore land under cultivation.
As such, the focus is on surmounting the technological challenges in breaking the genetic yield barriers, improving input yield efficiency and developing environmentally acceptable strategies for decreasing the losses due to pest attacks and diseases. There is also a growing concern in the country over the steady control exerted by the big and powerful multinational corporations (MNCs) over the genetic resources of rice.
Navadanaya, a New Delhi-based NGO (Non-Government Organisation) has together with farmers from nine Indian States developed a register documenting over 2,000 indigenous rice varieties. According to Navadanya, the genetically modified rice strains are not only costly to cultivate but also are a poor match to the native strains in fighting pests, diseases and environmental fluctuations. Several indigenous rice strains adopted by the Indian farmers can withstand extremes of climatic conditions, survive submergence for a fortnight and even withstand salinity with a high degree of success.
According to Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) all through the last decade, global production increased at rates marginally higher than those of the population growth. Right now, China and India account for more than half of the world rice yield. As it offers food security, rice is one of the commodities that remains widely subject to Government intervention.
As rice continues to be one of the most traded commodities, under protection, it presents considerable scope for further liberalization. However, due to its importance in income generation and political stability, Governments are often reluctant to lower their control over the rice sector. There is also a concern in rice growing countries including India that the global warming could adversely affect the yield of the rice crop in the years ahead. As such, the need for devising an appropriate strategy to blunt the threat of global warming to the rice crop, is being felt acutely.
February 1, 2007 : In the ongoing Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) filed by Aruna Rodrigues, Devinder Sharma, P V Satheesh and Rajeev Baruah, the next hearing is slated for 5th February. Yesterday's hearing had to postponed because the Union of India did not file their response and requested for a day's time. This is for your information.
As you are aware, the current issues before the Court in this case, (especially after the interim orders in September 2006 where the SC halted further GM field trial approvals in the country), are related to
* conflict of interest in the regulatory regime of the country & the need for a truly independent Ombudsman mandated to protect India's health and environment and
* the Delhi University's GM Mustard trial which was permitted on conditional grounds & the need to stop ALL field trials anywhere and everywhere in the country.
Below, CSA has put together some information (collected from personal contacts and through other reports) related to some of the regulators in GEAC and RCGM. We request the media to look into these matters and investigate further. Thanks.
How can we believe that Indian GM regulation is driven by farmers' interests?
A look at some of the people involved in GM regulation in the country does not give us much hope that farmers' interests would be the foremost when the apex regulatory body, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), supported by Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM in the DBT) takes major decisions related to irreversible agricultural technologies to be used in the country.
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture tried to compile some such information for the public to understand where they have placed their trust.
1. Dr C D Mayee Co-Chair of GEAC, nominee from DBT as per the reconstitution of GEAC that took place on January 25th 2007: Dr Charudatta Mayee, as reported in a leading national daily, is also a Board member of ISAAA an international network funded by biotech majors such as Monsanto, Bayer and Dupont and whose high-profile Board Members, past and present, include Monsanto's Robert Fraley, Wally Beversdorf of Syngenta, and Gabrielle Persley, Executive Director of the AusBiotech Alliance. In addition to the Rockefeller Foundation, its financial sponsors include Monsanto (USA), Syngenta (Swiss), Dow AgroSciences (USA), Pioneer Hi-Bred (USA), Cargill (USA), Bayer CropScience (Germany), and a mysterious "Anonymous Donor" (USA), and US-AID of the State Department.
Dr C D Mayee's son, Dr Hrishikesh Mayee, is reported to have gotten married to the daughter of Mr Vijay Kashikar, a Director of Ankur Seeds on January 23 rd this year. Ankur Seeds is one of the Bt Cotton companies in India (reported to have a 300-crore turnover) which has been permitted by the GEAC to sell its genetically engineered seeds to the farmers.
2. Dr Venugopal Earlier, a CICR-Coimbatore scientist who oversaw some field trials of certain Bt Cotton hybrids while with CICR [Central Institute for Cotton Research]. Now with Rasi Seeds, which has a growing market of Bt Cotton hybrids in India.
3. Dr T V Ramanaiah, Ex-Member-Secretary, Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation [RCGM], Department of Biotechnology: The person known for the many approvals he had personally given as Member-Secretary of RCGM to the hundreds of GM crop field trials that have happened in India so far (some of the hurried approvals for the scores of trials permitted had their share of "cut & paste" mistakes too!) has quit his post in the DBT and has joined Pioneer HiBred International (a subsidiary of DuPont) as their 'Biotech Regulatory Affairs Manager' (as per a phone call to PHI). He is further named as a Spokesperson of the All India Crop Biotechnology Association (AICBA) [as confirmed by a phone call to AICBA], an industry body consisting of several companies as its members ones that have approved Bt Cotton varieties and other GE crops in the pipeline. This technocrat reported in a national business daily (Business Standard in November 2006, when violations from field trials were being reported including the fact that trials were taking place without the knowledge of trial farmers), to have said "As for informing farmers, how do you expect every farmer to be told about the various experiments that are being done?". The story goes on to quote RCGM authorities, presumably Dr Ramanaiah who is quoted extensively in the story as the RCGM voice,: "University of Hissar …. know it rather than telling hundreds of farmers about things they will not understand. ''
4. Dr Deepak Penthal: promoter of the controversial GM Mustard variety which has been permitted for trials by the Supreme Court in the ongoing Public Interest Litigation, on a conditional basis. He is also the Chairperson of a 12-member Expert Committee set up by the GEAC to look into the public feedback received on Mahyco's Bt Brinjal.
Meanwhile, a closer look at the 30-member GEAC reveals more conflict of interest and questionable "independent" expertise. While their expertise may not be in doubt here, the 'independent' status alluded to is worth looking at.
Other members in the GEAC :
• Dr Akhilesh Tyagi UDSC (University of Delhi, South Campus) is shown as an Independent Expert whereas the Vice Chancellor himself is clearly a GM crop developer, walking up to the GEAC and the SC for approvals on behalf of the institution. Similarly, Prof A N Maitra, Dept. Of Chemistry, Delhi University is listed as an Independent Expert.
• Dr B M Khadi, Director of CICR is shown as an Independent Expert, when CICR is busy trying to get approvals for its GM cotton varieties from the GEAC!
• ICGEB (International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology) is a GM crop developer for GM cotton, GM Rice and GM Tobacco, as per DBT's reports in 2003 about GE crops in the pipeline (as reported by the USDA's GAIN report No. IN3125 in December 2003). The Director of ICGEB, Dr V S Chauhan is listed as an Independent Member of the GEAC!
• Dr P Anand Kumar of National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, (NRCPB), Indian Agricultural Research Institute is also listed as an Independent Expert. IARI incidentally is into developing Bt Brinjal, GM Mustard, GM Pigeonpea (2003), GM Tobacco (2003), GM Tomato (2003), GM Cauliflower (2003), GM Cabbage (2003) and GM Rice. [http://www.iari.res.in/divisions/biotechnology/ has more information on the projects that Dr Anand Kumar has handled]
Dr Rakesh Tuli of National Botanical Research Institute is also a regulator listed under "Nominees of Scientific Institutions" in the re-constituted GEAC list. Dr Tuli is also well-known for providing Bt genes to various institutions and companies for their transgenic crop development.
The GEAC itself saw many Chairpersons change over the past few years including some periods when there was no Chairperson in place. The following is the list of Chairpersons who came in and went out since 2002:
A M Gokhale, 2002, when the first Bt Cotton hybrids were allowed for commercial cultivation; his exit happened soon after rejection of possibly-Starlink-contaminated food aid consignments from the USA; Sushma Chowdhary - 2003; V K Duggal came in mid-year 2003; Meena Gupta, around November 2003, after a gap without a Chair; Bina Chotray, in 2004; Suresh Chandra, from December 2004; No Chairperson during November 2005-January 2006; Bir Singh Parsheera, from February 2006.
GEAC also does not have a set date for its meetings nor a quorum of members required for its decision-making. Given that only a small set of people seem to be appearing for the meetings for reasons and interests of their own, it is very hard to believe that decision-making in the apex regulatory body will actually ensure biosafety and the best interests of farmers and consumers in the country.
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad 500 017 - Phone: +91-9393001550
Corn pest expansion consequence of transgenic crops? - FarmWeek, January 17 2007
A corn pest that can devastate yields may be increasing in prevalence across Illinois and other states because Bt crops are reducing predators that once kept the pest at bay. That was the word from an Iowa State University researcher who spoke during the recent Illinois Crop Protection Technology Conference, Urbana. Western bean cutworms, a major pest in Nebraska and Colorado, was first detected in Illinois in 2004 and has spread to 49 counties, according to Marlin Rice, an Extension entomologist at Iowa State. Rice and his colleagues attempted to learn why a pest that was rare in Iowa six years ago has spread as far east as central Ohio.
In laboratory experiments and field studies, Rice tested the bean cutworm's survival when placed together with corn earworm, which is the more aggressive of the two pests and will kill the bean cutworm. Both pests were allowed to feed on silks from Herculex and YieldGard plants [YieldGard is a Monsanto GM rootworm-resistant corn]. The bean cutworms had better survival rates when they fed on YieldGard, which is not labeled for cutworm control, compared to Herculex, which is. Both hybrids are labeled for corn earworm control. "Our theory is that increased (use) of Bt cotton and YieldGard corn has suppressed (populations) of corn earworms, which are predators of western bean cutworms. This allows (more) bean cutworms to survive," Rice said. "YieldGard corn may be one of the reasons for more damage from western bean cutworm," Rice said. "It may be influencing (pest) competition in the field."
Bean cutworms have become established in Illinois, "but we'll have to wait a couple of years to see if it is an economic problem," Rice said. He recommended farmers scout their fields and time insecticide treatments for when eggs or young larvae reach economic thresholds. If western bean cutworm becomes an economically damaging pest, farmers should consider planting Herculex hybrids, he said. - Kay Shipman
For More Info Contact: David McClelland, Editor of Publications - Phone (309) 557-3156 Fax (800) 640-1995 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The Global Status of Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops: 10 years of continuing rejection
GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
Amsterdam, 18 January 2007: A summary of global reaction against genetic engineering in 2006, released by Greenpeace today, provides solid evidence that resistance to genetically engineered (GE) crops continues to grow among farmers, consumers and governments. The Greenpeace summary was released hours before the expected release of an annual report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), a think-tank supported largely by the agrochemical industry.
"There is irrefutable evidence (1) that governments, farmers and consumers throughout the world recognise that genetic engineering is unreliable, unviable or downright dangerous," said Jeremy Tager, campaigner for Greenpeace International, "Market reaction to the recent rice contamination scandal was of near epidemic proportions; some countries are banning GE altogether. Romania, for instance, which had 85,000 hectares planted with GE soy in 2005, will drop to zero this year, in keeping with a new government policy banning the cultivation of GE soy."
The most significant demonstration of GE rejection occurred in the aftermath of Bayer's LLRICE601 contamination scandal. In August 2006, the US government announced that significant amounts of US long grain rice had been found to be contaminated with an unapproved genetically engineered variety, LLRICE601; the news elicited strong reactions from rice farmers and processors, as well as governments worldwide. The Rice Producers of California and a major rice mill in the state, Sunwest Foods, have called for a ban on any cultivation of GE rice (including field trials) in California. Large sectors of the rice industry, including Ebro Puleva, the world's largest rice processor, committed to being GE-free. Rice traders of two of the largest rice exporting countries, Thailand and Vietnam, have signed an agreement that commits them to being GE-free, capitalizing on new market opportunities that have opened up as a result of the contamination of US rice supplies with Bayer's GE rice.
The Chinese Biosafety Committee once again requested further data and assessment on the safety of GE rice, thereby again delaying a decision about commercial approval, even though the varieties have been under active consideration by the committee for over two years. The All India Rice Exporters' Association formally requested that the Indian government prohibit field trials of GE rice in basmati rice-growing states. Rice farmers in India burnt down GE-rice test plots that could potentially contaminate their own fields. Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson for the Bharathiya Kisan Union, (BKU) one of the largest farmers' groups in India, was straightforward in his condemnation of GE, saying, "The threat to farmers' livelihoods in India is clear. Examples from across the country of Bt cotton failures show that this technology is unsafe for humans and the environment, and that it can neither be controlled nor regulated. We consider the threat serious enough to warrant the destruction of test fields of GE rice to stop its introduction and protect ourselves."
Chip Struckmeyer, a rice farmer from California, agreed, "US rice producers took a big hit financially when rice was found to be contaminated with unapproved varieties. It's clear our customers don't want genetically engineered rice. Why on earth would we plant it?"
"ISAAA might claim that genetic engineering has been a success, with consistent increases in global acreage. But the global reaction to the Bayer rice contamination scandal of 2006 provides a sharp contrast to the rosy picture they're painting. It is overwhelmingly evident that the GE industry will not be able to convince consumers to eat GE rice, wheat, aubergine, or anything else. With governments unwilling to allow it, farmers unwilling to grow it and consumers unwilling to buy it, it is clear that genetic engineering has no place in our future," concluded Tager.
Notes to Editor:
1. See 'Global reaction against Genetic Engineering in 2006', http://www.greenpeace.eu/downloads/gmo/GlobalStatusGECrops2006.pdf
For further information please contact:
Namrata Chowdhary, Greenpeace International Communications: +31 646 1973 27, email@example.com
Jeremy Tager, GE Campaigner Greenpeace International: + 31 646 2211 85, Jeremy.firstname.lastname@example.org
GE Crops Slow to Gain Global Acceptance - by Stephen Leahy - Inter Press Service, January 10 2007
Widespread use of genetically engineered (GE) crops remains limited worldwide, even as growing weed and pest issues are forcing farmers to use ever greater amounts of pesticides. More than 70 percent of large-scale GE planting is still limited to the U.S. and Argentina, according to a new report released Tuesday by Friends of the Earth International (FOEI). "No GM (GE) crop on the market today offers benefits to the consumer in terms of quality or price, and to date these crops have done nothing to alleviate hunger or poverty in Africa or elsewhere," said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Africa in Nigeria. "The great majority of GM (GE) crops cultivated today are used as high-priced animal feed to supply rich nations with meat," Bassey said in a statement.
The new report, "Who Benefits From GM Crops?", is an analysis of the global performance of GE crops from 1996-2006. It also notes that the "second generation" of GE farm crops with attractive traits long promised by the industry has failed to appear. Supporters of biotechnology have long claimed that the technology is the solution to world hunger, but the only GE crops widely planted are herbicide-tolerant soy, maize, cotton and canola (oil seed rape) and Bt maize and cotton. Herbicide tolerance allows these crops to be sprayed with glyphosate (RoundUp), a potent weed killer, without affecting the crop. Bt maize and cotton contain an insecticide that kills insect pests.
Studies have shown that GE crops do not increase yields or improve food quality - the only benefit is reduced labour for farmers because it easier to control weeds by constantly spraying glyphosate over their crops, said Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe. "That's only an advantage for big, industrial-scale farmers and is inappropriate for the majority of farmers," Bebb told IPS. Studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and University of Arkansas show that large farms continue to get larger because the combination of the high GE seed costs and the low cost of glyphosate works better the bigger farms are. However, repeated use of glyphosate is creating weeds that are resistant to the chemical that is widely considered the world's best herbicide. Late last year, U.S. scientists discovered that giant ragweeds in Indiana and Ohio have become immune to glyphosate. This is the seventh weed species to do so in the U.S. In the southern U.S. where GE cotton is widely grown, 39 percent of farmers who grow GE crops reported problems with glyphosate-resistant weeds. Only a few years ago there was no such thing. "The only surprise here is the speed with which weeds evolved resistance," says Bebb.
Many scientists had predicted that continual use of glyphosate on GE crops would eventually result in resistant weeds. The same thing has happened in Canada, Brazil and Argentina. In fact, glyphosate-resistant wild poinsettia, also resistant to other herbicides, has become nearly uncontrollable on 16 million hectares in Brazil, Ribas Vidal, professor of weed science at the University of Rio Grande du Sol in central Brazil, has been reported as saying. Despite this, acreage planted with GE soy and maize continues to grow in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, says Karen Nansen of Friends of the Earth Uruguay. "Yields are not better but there is a savings in labour costs," Nansen said in an interview. "That's a big problem here because it increases rural unemployment." As in the north, the GE technology works only with large farm operations. Most of the GE soy and maize grown is exported to North America and Europe as animal feed, she says.
These countries use GE exports to help pay off their massive debts to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and for that reason create policies and conditions to encourage the GE expansion, said Bebb. Worse still is the fact that a government and industry focus on GE crops has drained enormous amounts of money from research and seed breeding of conventional crops, critics say. Normal breeding methods have already produced virus- and blight-resistant potatoes but the nearly all the focus is on creating GE potatoes with the same properties and that meet the precise shape and size demanded by large fast food corporations, Bebb says.
Not surprisingly, the biotech industry takes the opposite view. In fact, Clive James, chairman and founder of the influential International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), an industry-funded promoter, recently claimed that the number of countries growing GE crops will "at least double" from 21 in 2005 to around 40. Next week the ISAAA will issue its annual global status report detailing the global use of GE crops. Last year, it claimed 90 million hectares of GE crops were planted in 21 countries in 2005. However, Bebb says that many of those 21 countries, like Germany, France and Romania, planted "minuscule amounts...The ISAAA will declare a country even if it grows a single hectare."
According to the FOEI report, Spain and Romania planted fewer hectares of GE as have the majority of countries using GE cotton including Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, South Africa and Australia. James has said that "6.4 million Chinese peasants are growing Bt cotton on tiny farms in China" in previous interviews with IPS last year. Bebb said that ISAAA data in 2004 reported 7 million Chinese cotton farmers. Even with that decline, both numbers appear too high because recent studies by Cornell University in the U.S. has shown that after a number of years of using Bt cotton, many of China's cotton fields are now plagued by insects unaffected by Bt. "No one knows where the ISAAA gets their numbers because they never provide any references," says Bebb. James maintains that ISAAA data is proprietary and is based on government and industry information. "If FOEI reports had no references we'd be a laughing stock and yet ISAAA stats are widely quoted by governments and scientists," said Bebb.
THE Bt COTTON TRAGEDY THAT STRUCK DHARMAPURI [Tamil Nadu] - PASUMAI VIKATAN, 3/1/2007
"Looks like we have to pluck our nose with this cotton…."
"Like the proverbial saying --'it has bitten the goat. Then bitten the cow...finally bitten the man himself' --- Bt has taken the lives of Andhra farmers, then the Maharastra farmers and now it is threatening our lives", tremble the fear-struck Dharmapuri farmers. The reason behind is the total failure of Bt cotton planted here this year. They had petitioned to the Collector asking for action against the seed company as the crop they had raised stands as trash.
Kantha Goundanur is 10 kms from Kadathur and is on the road from Kadathur to Puttirettipatti and adjacent to the rail track. Cotton grown in this area is known as KanthaGoundanur cotton and is highly popular. KanthaGoundanur and the adjacent villages like Sivanalli, Venkatathara Alli cultivate cotton as their main crop. Till last year the crop was a money spinner; but this year, the farmers are shedding blood from their eyes….
As we entered Kanthagoundanur, the villagers had collected around us and poured out their stories. Everyone is filled with sadness and dejection. "Look at my field. Out of ten plants, eight plants do not hold the bolls. Looking for the bolls, one only got numbed eyes. You plough, make ridges, plant, irrigate and take care of the crop finally, one has to pluck his nose with this cotton only" says a farmer Manikkam.
Next was the turn of another Chakravarthy who narrated his experience in a sad and choked voice - "Lost. Lost. All are lost. We planted MRC 6918 seeds. We spent Rs.15000/= per acre. They had cheated us by giving useless and good for nothing seeds. Last Pongal I had stacked cotton in my whole house and was running short of space I stacked part of the produce outside my house. This time the investment is lost. We purchased 450gm packs of this seed. Out of this only about 10 gm of seeds has flourished well. The rest is all standing up as sticks.
"The local dealer Jayaram had supplied the seeds from Mahyco Company of Maharastra. Last year, we got more than Rs.45,000/- per acre. The dealer had interviewed us and advertised that 'the seeds are high yielding'. This year we had purchased seeds from the same dealer. The yield is not good. Now the dealer is joking with us 'May be your plants are affected by chicken-gunya'. If a solution is not arrived at before Pongal, we do not have any means to cook food in our households", says Chakravarthy.
"In our area, about 4000 acres are affected. We have decide to go to the Consumers' Court. We have sent petitions to the authorities for taking action. But we are not sure whether our authorities will take action on the Mahyco company, which is a very big company", doubts Chakravarthy.
The narration of another farmer Chokalingam raises anxiety. "With the hope that this shall give a good harvest, I have pledged even the Mangalsutra of my wife and sowed in the soil. Finally it had ended like this. Saying that the seeds are gene changed, they have changed our lives. MY daughter is waiting to be married. Those who had lent money on the hope of Cotton yield are coming down heavily and when they abuse me biting their teeth, I feel like ending my life all at once. Some time back we heard that the goats which had grazed on BT cotton had perished. We do not know whether the news is true or false. But we fear that such a plight may happen to us". We intervened and uttered a few words of comfort to him. "If there is a problem with the seeds there will be action from the government side".
Then we proceeded to meet the dealer Jayaram. When we asked about the complaints made by the the farmers, the dealer said: "We had sold the seeds for Rs. 1600/= last year and the very seeds we had sold this year for a mere Rs.600/. Farmers are saying that we had reduced the price and reduced the quality also. The actual reason for reducing the price was to spread the BT seeds to all farmers. Bt cotton is not such a loss making crop as the farmers are making out. If the same crop is planted in the soil for 10 years continuously, then it creates some changes in the soil conditions. One should use crop rotation. Leaving behind all such factors, they are talking about gene modified seeds and there is some problem in that. Farmers are coming out with reasons of their own. We have written to the company enquiring about the reason for the failure and they had promised to come and investigate".
Then we met Mr. Duraisamy, Joint Director (Agriculture), Dharmapuri District and discussed with him about the problem. He said, "As soon as the matter had come to our knowledge we had informed the Scientists at Coimbatore Agriculture University. They had come to the site on 22 nd and inspected the seeds. Also they had conducted tests on the soil where the crops were planted. To get a better picture, they had taken the seeds with them. The results will be known very soon. We can talk only after getting the results".
The Dharmapuri District Collector Mr. Pankajkumar Bansal had received a petition from slogan-shouting farmers who had collected in front of his office and assured them: "I shall definitely take suitable action." When we discussed with him he opined: "Only after the investigation report, we can ascertain whose fault it is. If the fault is that of the seed company, action shall be taken on them after getting approval from the government". He said that very firmly.
There is already a countrywide uproar about the BT type seeds. Though the problem is not very much pronounced in Tamilnadu, farmers and NGOs in the state are up in arms against Bt seedsvery agitated about it.
In this context, T.S. Prabhuraja, President of NAAM said: "The demonstration was conducted at Collector's office under my leadership. The collector had ordered for immediate report on what type of failure had occurred and how many people were affected. The officials had collected all necessary information at lightning speed. They are now waiting for the test report. We have demanded a compensation of Rs.50000/=per acre". "However mighty the concerned organizations may be, the officials have to act firmly ensuring justice to the affected farmers. ..Otherwise our struggle will be inevitable", the leader roared emotionally.
"Ban for Mahyco Seeds"
When we met the Tamilnadu Agriculture Minister Mr Veeera Pandi Arumugam and presented the plight of cotton farmers, the Minister stated: "What you are going to say had already been brought to my notice. The authorities had informed me that improper seeds only had caused all the problems. I had talked to the Chief Minister immediately and I had ordered that the said company should not sell any type of seeds in Tamilnadu. We had advised the company to pay compensation to the affected farmers. So the farmers need not be worried". The minister further added, "we have formed a cell to safeguard the interests of farmers under the leadership of the Chief Minister. Experts from various sections of agriculture ministry shall be in the cell. They shall watch out for problems of farmers and keep submitting solutions for the problems. On the whole, our objective is there should not be any problem to the farmers".
R Yoganathan, Junior Vikatan, 3/1/2007 - Translated by Mr G.Thirunavukkarasu, Tamilnadu Organic Agriculturists Movement