EPA Fines Syngenta $1.5 Million for Distributing Unregistered Genetically Engineered Pesticide - Grain Net, 21 December 2006
Washington, DC - Syngenta Seeds, Inc. Golden Valley, MN has agreed to pay a $1.5 million penalty to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for selling and distributing seed corn that contained an unregistered genetically engineered pesticide called Bt 10. While the federal government has concluded that there are no human health or environmental concerns with Bt 10 corn, it is still illegal to distribute any pesticide not registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). "This action shows that when a company violates the law by distributing unapproved pesticides, EPA vigorously enforces the law," said Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance.
Late in 2004, Syngenta disclosed to EPA that it may have distributed the seed corn to the United States, Europe, Japan, and South America. Immediately following the disclosure, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and EPA began an investigation and evaluation that confirmed the distribution of unregistered seed corn on over 1,000 occasions. A penalty was assessed by USDA, and the company destroyed all the affected seed under USDA supervision. EPA filed today's settlement with its Environmental Appeals Board (EAB). The EAB is the final EPA decision maker on permit, enforcement, and other administrative appeals under all major environmental statutes that the agency administers. If approved by the board, Syngenta will pay a penalty of $1.5 million.
See Related Websites/Articles: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - http://www.epa.gov/
Austria allowed to keep its ban on GM corn - By Andrew Bounds in Brussels - December 19 2006
A US trade victory over the European Union's import regime for genetically modified crops looked hollow last night as Austria retained its right to ban the growing of bio-engineered corn. Environment ministers yesterday threw out a European Commission proposal to force Austria to lift the bans it imposed on two authorised GM maize varieties in 1999 and 2000. They had rejected the move in 2004 but Brussels hoped that a World Trade Organisation ruling this year that the ban was illegal would tip the argument in its favour and retabled the proposal. However, in a sign of how sensitive the issue remains for European consumers, only the UK, Netherlands, Czech Republic and Sweden among the EU's 25 member states backed it. "The Commission will now have to carefully consider the legal and scientific bases that would underpin any further proposals," a spokeswoman said yesterday. It may now have to legislate.
Another case against Hungary will almost certainly be rejected by ministers next month. Greece also bans genetically modified crops. The European Food Safety Authority ruled in March 2006 there was no health risk from T25, created by Bayer of Germany, or MON810, from US company Monsanto. However, Austria pointed to the United Nation's Biosafety Protocol, which allows countries to ban genetically modified crops if there is a lack of scientific certainty over their safety. The WTO disregarded the treaty because the complainants - the US, Canada and Argentina - had not ratified it, and found against Austria because it had not conducted a proper risk assessment.
Helen Holder, of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "Today's vote was a complete rejection of the WTO's ruling on GM foods. This is a major defeat for the biotech industry and their friends in the European Commission. "Every country must have the democratic right to protect its citizens and environment."
The Financial Times Limited 2006
EU VOTES TO DEFY WTO RULING ON GM FOODS - Friends of the Earth Europe - 18th December 2006
Member States support the right to ban GMOs
Brussels, 18 December - Friends of the Earth Europe has welcomed today's rejection by EU Environment Ministers of a proposal to force Austria to lift its bans on genetically modified (GM) foods and crops.  The proposal was tabled by the European Commission in response to a ruling by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) earlier this year, which stated that the bans broke international trade laws.
Helen Holder, GMO Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Today's vote was a complete rejection of the WTO's ruling on GM foods. This is a major defeat for the biotech industry and their friends in the European Commission. Every country must have the democratic right to protect its citizens and environment. Neither the European Commission nor the WTO should be allowed to force Europeans to eat genetically modified foods." "The biotech industry's tactics have backfired. It's now time for the European Commission to put the interests of the public and the environment before those of the biotech industry."
The WTO ruling did not rule against GMO bans per se but judged that Austria had not followed the risk assessments needed under the trade-friendly WTO rules. Austria, together with all EU member states, has ratified the UN's Biosafety Protocol which allows countries to ban genetically modified crops if there is a lack of scientific certainty over their safety. The WTO disregarded the Biosafety Protocol because the complainants in the trade dispute (the US, Canada and Argentina) had not ratified it.
For more information, please contact:
Helen Holder, GM Campainger at Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel : +32 2 542 0182, Mobile +32 474 857 638, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adrian Bebb, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe: Mobile : +49 1609 4901163, Email: email@example.com
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel:+32 25 42 61 05, Mobile: +32 485 930515, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Today (18th December), Environment Ministers met at an Environment Council meeting in Brussels and discussed a proposal from the European Commission to force Austria to drop its ban on two genetically modified (GM) maizes. The Austrian ban on the two maizes - one by Bayer and one by Monsanto - has been in place since June 1999. All countries rejected the proposal apart from the UK, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Sweden.
Impact of field trials on GM-mustard sought by court - Indo-Asian News Service, December 16 2006
(IANS) New Delhi, Dec 15 - The Supreme Court Friday asked a committee to examine the impact of field trials being conducted by Delhi University on a genetically modified mustard variety following expert opinion that such trials were toxic and harmful.
On Sep 22, the apex court had restrained the committee - Genetic Engineering Approval Committee - - from giving fresh approvals to genetically modified products, particularly for commercial purposes. Subsequently, Delhi University was allowed to carry out field trials of DMH-11 Mustard for research.
On Friday, a three-Judge bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice R.V. Raveendran asked the GEAC to examine the matter after counsel Prashant Bhushan opposed continuance of the field trials saying that the release of genetically modified organism/seeds even for research would have the potential of causing major health hazards once they were released into the environment. Bhushan produced opinions given by three eminent professors saying the field trials on GM-Mustard would result in release of toxic elements in the environment. They said that even at low levels the release of these organisms could prove toxic to the environment and the main areas required fuller study prior to the exposure of millions of people and millions of animals to the toxins.
Counsel for Delhi University said that the university had modified its research and no harm would be caused to the environment due to the field trials. The bench therefore directed the GEAC to give its opinion before proceeding further in the matter and adjourned the proceedings to January 2007.
Genetic panel to examine Delhi University field trials - Legal Correspondent - The Hindu, Dec 16 2006 (front page)
Court order on expert opinion that the exercise involving genetically modified crop is a health hazard
*GEAC approval not obtained for test; opinion sought
*Release of toxic elements hazardous, says petitioner
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to examine the impact of ongoing Delhi University field trials on genetically modified DMH-11 mustard variety in the light of expert opinion that such exercises are toxic and harmful.
The Court, which restrained field trials of genetically modified products with commercial implications, later permitted the University to sow seeds of the newly developed DMH-11 for academic research. On September 22, the Court, acting on a petition from Aruna Rodrigues and three others, had restrained the GEAC from according fresh approvals for genetically modified products, particularly for commercial purposes. The public interest litigation had sought a ban on release of genetically modified organism/seeds having the potential of causing major public health hazards.
On Friday a Bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justices C.K. Thakker and R.V. Raveendran directed the GEAC to examine the matter after it was brought to the Court's notice that GEAC approval was not obtained for this field trial. It asked the GEAC to give its opinion by the first week of January and directed that the case be listed for January.
Petitioner's counsel Prashant Bhushan said genetically modified organism/seeds would pose major health hazards once they were released into the environment even for research. He cited opinions given by three eminent professors that the field trials on GM-Mustard would result in release of toxic elements that, even at low levels, could prove harmful to the environment. The main areas (relating to field trials) required a fuller study before exposing millions of people and millions of animals to the toxins.
Appearing for the University, senior counsel P.P. Rao said it had modified its research and no harm would be caused to the environment by the field trials.
SC concerned over risks of open field trials of GM seeds - Times of India, 16 December 2006
NEW DELHI: Supreme Court on Friday shared the public concern over the largescale ongoing field trials of genetically modified (GM) seeds in India and their potential to corrupt traditional crops like rice, cotton, brinjal, tomato, cauliflower, wheat and okra. However, it was cautious not to accede to petitioner Aruna Rodrigues' plea for a total ban on field trials till the statutory Genetic Engineering Advisory Committee (GEAC) gave the green signal to the outcome of laboratory safety tests on the GM seeds.
The issue on debate before a Bench comprising Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justices C K Thakker and R V Raveendran was the field trials of GM mustard seed - DMH-11 - being carried out by Delhi University. The court, while allowing continuance of the trial, had warned the university that it could be asked to uproot the plants if they were found to be ecologically dangerous.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Prashant Bhushan, questioned the credentials of the independent members appointed by the government to the GEAC and alleged that one of them was a partner to the commercial interests of a multinational GM seed firm. This allegation soon turned into a finger-pointing exercise, with Additional Solicitor General Amarendra Saran questioning the credentials of the experts suggested by the petitioner for inclusion in GEAC. Not getting drawn into the seemingly unending trading of accusations, the Bench took note of the petitioner's argument that DMH-11 seed contained genetic use restriction technology (GURT) and asked GEAC to submit a report on the safety aspect of the field trials being carried out by Delhi University.
It also asked GEAC to respond to the expert opinions cited by the petitioner, which unequivocally cautioned against use of GURT seeds in field trials. Saran contended that the green revolution which made India self-sufficient in foodgrains, was due to the genetically modified seeds and that GEAC has not allowed any GM seed for field trial which could have an adverse impact on ecology or traditional crops
GM paddy runs into rough weather in TN - Arun Ram - DNA INDIA, December 11 2006 - http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1068790
CHENNAI: Field trials of genetically modified (GM) rice in Tamil Nadu may be nipped in the bud. While the Centre has done virtually nothing to dispel the Frankenstein theories about the anti-GM crop groups, the state is mulling a legislation to ban such trials altogether. "The government may issue a law banning GM crop trials. We hope the Centre will support us," said Tamil Nadu agriculture minister Veerapandi Arumugam. The minister's reply came in the wake of severe concerns raised by legislators across party lines. While Congress leader, Peter Alphonse, said: "GM crops will wipe out traditional crops", PMK legislator Velmurugan, said: "GM crops are being dumped in India to harm the farming sector."
The volley of political rallies began soon after a farmer's group uprooted BT paddy in a plot in Ramanathapuram village of Coimbatore last month. Mahyco-Monsanto had taken on lease the 20-acre field to try a variety of rice that has a larger yield and resists some common paddy diseases. The group under the banner of the Tamil Nadu Farmers' Association put up notices around the plot, calling it a bio-hazard element. It alleged the company was doing field trials in the land of Rangaraju, a farmer, without informing him that the crop is genetically engineered. "Some 37 people have died and 1,500 others have been crippled in the country after consuming GM crops," said Tamil Nadu Green Movement president Jeevanandam.
The only effort to dispel fears came from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU). "Our scientists have visited the fields and have found the trials to conform to the bio-safety guidelines set by the Union government," a TNAU official said. While the commercial release of GM crops in the country is regulated by the review committee on genetic manipulation under the department of biotechnology, experts feel that there is no convincing monitoring agency for safety standards during the trials. "We can quell all doubts if we succeed in establishing an autonomous and professionally eminent National Biotechnology Authority that can assess risks and benefits in a manner which inspires public, political, professional, farmers and media confidence.
The bottom line for any biotechnology regulatory policy should be the safety of the environment, the well being of farming families, the ecological and economic sustainability of farming systems, the health and nutrition security of consumers, safeguarding of home and external trade, and the biosecurity of our nation," said agriculture scientist MS Swaminathan.
Chip makers oppose GM potato trial - By Charles Clover Environment Editor - The Daily Telegraph, 2 December 2006
The Government's decision yesterday to allow trials of a new strain of genetically modified potato has been met with strong opposition by the potato industry and the country's largest maker of chips. The British Potato Council said its refusal to endorse trials of a potato modified to be resistant to late blight, which caused the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, was based on consumers' mistrust of GM technology. The council said it was "paramount" that public concerns over GM trials were addressed and fears about possible cross-contamination were allayed before the trials began.
The Government has given permission for five-acre plots of GM potatoes produced by the company BASF to be grown in Derbyshire and Cambridgeshire next year. The conditions stipulate that the plots must be left fallow after the five-year trial so that overlooked tubers can be destroyed and that none of the potatoes harvested enters the food chain. Helen Priestley, the BPC's chief executive, said: "While we welcome steps to further understanding of this technology, the public must be comfortable with whatever steps are taken to introduce it and we didn't feel the time was right. "However, there are rigorous procedures in place to ensure that commercial crops are not contaminated with GM material and that no GM material enters the human food chain. The public must be left in no doubt that the procedures are effective, that they are maintained and that the trials process is open and transparent....It is crucial consumers understand that potatoes on sale through retail or food service outlets will continue to be GM-free."
Bill Bartlett, the corporate affairs director of McCain Foods (GB) which is the largest manufacturer of chips in Britain, said: "McCain Foods is disappointed with this decision at a tie when consumer attitudes do not support GM foods." Lord Melchett, the policy director of the Soil Association, said that the Government is "ignoring what consumers want to eat and their health and safety". He said: "Even in America, McDonald's, McCain, Pringles and Burger King rejected GM potatoes years ago. The chances of anyone in the UK willingly buying GM potato crisps or chips are zero. This trial is a monumental waste of time and money." The association claims that GM potatoes are one of the few crops where there is any scientific evidence of potential risks to human health, though the Government-sponsored research which found stomach lesions in rats fed on GM potatoes was widely criticised in the scientific community. Experts say the use of a natural resistance gene, from wild relatives of the potato in Mexico to give a commercial strain resistance to fungal attack represents a new departure for the GM industry.
The first generation of crops submitted for trial in Britain either contained natural pesticides, such as BT toxin, or were herbicide resistant. Representatives of companies such as Monsanto were famously unable to think of any advantage to the public, other than cost savings for farmers, of the first generation of GM crops. Government field trials in 2003 showed that the herbicide use they encouraged was often worse for wildlife than current practices. Built-in resistance to disease for one of the world's staple crops, however, is one of the potential benefits of GM technology discussed before the means became widely available. Chris Leaver, Sibthorpian professor of plant sciences at Oxford University, said the spreading of genes was not a problem because potatoes do not reproduce sexually, but are propagated by using tubers. Prof Joe Perry, of Rothamsted Research, said: "Under EU law, GM crops can only be banned if scientists can find evidence of harm to human health or the environment. Trials are therefore the only way to gather evidence to demonstrate actual harm."
Exporters worried over GM rice rejection - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial, Express, November 28 2006
NEW DELHI, NOV 27: Indian rice exporters are concerned over the growing rejection of genetically modified (GM) across the world. Recently producers in major rice exporting countries - Thailand and Vietnam - signed agreement to keep GM rice out of cultivation. The All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) has woken up to the situation and have asked the government not to allow any field trials or commercial cultivation of GM rice in the country. They say that the retention of the country's image as producer of non-GM foods would largely boost the prospects of rice exports. "Country earns millions of dollars in foreign exchange due to export of rice. India's long grain aromatic rice - basmati has a premium market abroad," said RS Seshadri of Tilda Riceland - a major exporter of basmati rice.
AIREA chief Anil Adlakha has already expressed his concern over the possible contamination of long grain non-GM rice if GM rice trials were allowed to be conducted in the country. Seshadri said "We must learn lessons from the recent contamination of food chain by GM rice under field trials in the US and China. The profitability of US rice industry has declined as many countries began rejecting the US shipments of contaminated rice." He said recently on November 16 in the Rice Exporters Association of Thailand and the Vietnam Food Association signed an accord in Bangkok to keep off GM rice. This accord was signed in presence of senior officials and ministers of both the countries. He said that this is a wake up call for India too.
Top rice exporters say no to genetically engineered rice - Greenpeace International, 28 November 2006
Bangkok Thailand: Good news: the world's first and second largest exporters of rice have agreed to shun genetically engineered (GE) varieties. A recent agreement between rice traders from Thailand and Vietnam protects half the crop traded on the world market from the dangers of GE, and will put mounting pressure on other rice-producing nations to commit to a GE-free rice supply. According to our campaigner Jeremy Tager, the decision resulted from a "massive backlash against the GE industry following recent scandals." Illegal and unapproved GE rice varieties from the US and China have contaminated the global rice supply, with disastrous results for many growers, distributors, and traders.
Last week, a historic meeting between the powerful Rice Exporters Association of Thailand and the Vietnam Food Association resulted in the joint announcement of a non-GE rice production policy. More than 30 of the largest rice producers and traders in Thailand and Vietnam were present to endorse the agreement. Only days earlier in India (the worlds third largest exporter of rice), the representative body for India's rice exporters announced they too were supporting a ban on GE rice field trials because of the threat they pose to their GE-free export markets. The Indian government has yet to take action to ban field trials.
Thailand has shown the world that it can lead in rice production without GE rice. As a key agricultural producer, Thailand stands to benefit more if it stops all open-field GE crop trials and declares a GE-free policy once and for all. Rice production accounts for 11 percent of the world's arable land, or 500 million hectares, 90 percent of which is produced on Asian farms of less than one hectare.
We are eating the GE industry's experiments
Stopping field trials is important because the results of GE rice experiments don't seem to be containable: they keep turning up where they're not welcome. Even as news of the Thailand Vietnam accord was breaking, we uncovered yet another major contamination, this time in the Philippines, where rice is the staple food. Bayer's LL601 has contaminated rice products coming from the US, which are currently on sale in Manila. So far in 2006, this unapproved and illegal variety has been found in at least 24 countries. Last week contamination was announced in several countries in Africa. Bayer ended field trials of the LL601 variety in the US five years ago. The global food industry is now facing massive costs associated with GE contamination, including testing costs, product recalls, brand damage, import bans and cancelled imports and contracts. At least five multi-million dollar class-action lawsuits have been filed by about 300 US rice farmers against Bayer, as they struggle to protect their livelihoods from GE contamination.
Rice has been part of our staple diet around the world for over 10,000 years, it is cultivated in 113 countries - in China alone there are 75,000 varieties. Studies of the potential ecological risks of GE rice show that there is a high risk of 'transgene escape' (gene flow) from GE rice to non-GE rice varieties. Research also shows that GE rice out-crossing may threaten wild rice varieties.
Importers are banning it too
The world's largest rice processing company, Ebro Puleva, has stopped all imports of rice from the US and is expected to bring legal action against Bayer as well. Ebro Puleva controls 30 percent of the EU rice market. This move is only one of dozens by traders, millers, exporters, producers and retailers to protect themselves and their customers from unwanted GE foods.
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.
Agreement on non-GE policy - APINYA WIPATAYOTIN - Bangkok Post, 28 November 2006
An agreement between Thai and Vietnamese rice exporters to maintain non-genetically engineered produce will enable Thailand to gain more access to the European Union market, Wanlop Pichpongsa, a member of the Thai Exporters Association, said yesterday. The association and the Vietnam Food Association last week agreed in principle to announce non-GE crops during a meeting in Bangkok. The agreement will be made official in March next year. Mr Wanlop said the agreement would present a big opportunity for Thai and Vietnamese rice exporters, who would enjoy better access to the EU market after the EU imposed a ban on rice imports from the United States, after GM strains were found in a rice shipment from the US last month. ''We should not waste this opportunity because the EU is seeking new sources of rice to replace the US,'' Mr Wanlop said.
Currently, Thailand's export of jasmine rice to the EU totalled about 250,000 tonnes a year, compared to 300,000 tonnes by the US to the same market. Thailand is the world's biggest rice exporter with 8.2 million tonnes a year, followed by Vietnam with 4.7 million tonnes. India and the US ranked third and fourth with 4.3 and three million tonnes, respectively. Meanwhile, Patwajee Srisuwan, an anti-GE campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, welcomed the private sector's initiative. ''This is a victory for farmers in the region. However, the threat of GE rice adulteration still looms large and it is necessary that the agreement be expanded to cover other Asian countries,'' she said.
In another development, the Administrative Court yesterday agreed to hear the case of GM papaya leakage to farms in Khon Kaen province.
Biggest Russian food and feed importers adopt GE free policy - Greenpeace Russia press release, 23 November 2006.
Kaliningrad, Russia - Today, after three weeks of intensive campaigning against imports of genetically engineered food (GE) and feed coming into Russia, Greenpeace received an announcement from two major Russian food and feed importers that they have adopted a policy of only using non GE products.
Sodruzhestvo, the biggest soya importer in Russia, which supplies 70% of all soya used in the Russian food and feed industry, has stated that it will turn its new factory currently under construction in Kaliningrad into a GE free zone. The new oil-extraction and feed-processing plant will not only produce GE free soya oils and feeds, but also GE free maize and GE free oilseed rape products. (1) Following the move by Sodruzhestvo the feed producer Rybflotprom, which controls 7% of the Russian feed market and is 80 % owned by the French company Provimi, also announced it has adopted a GE free policy for all its products. Both companies will soon start importing GE free soya from Brazil instead of GE soya from Argentina and the US. (2)
"Greenpeace welcomes the move by the Russian companies it's a significant shift in the global market towards GE free products," said Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International GE campaigner. "This is good news for Russian consumers, who reject the use of GE ingredients in their foods by an overwhelming majority of 80 %. It is yet another blow to the global genetic engineering industry - and in particular to Monsanto - the world's biggest seller of GE seeds."
The announcements were made at a press conference at the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, currently in the harbour of Kaliningrad. For the last three weeks the Arctic Sunrise was on the Baltic Sea exposing controversial imports of GE food and feed products being imported into Russia. (3)
The decisions by Sodruzhestvo and Rybflotprom will have a strong effect on countries that export GE products such as the US and Argentina and will cause a shift in the demand to countries such as Brazil where soya and maize production is still predominantly GE free. In a written statement Sodruzhestvo director S.L.Kandybovich explicitly stated that his company will in the future mainly use imported soy from Brazil. "We think that Brazil is the only country that grows GMO-free soy, whose quality meets our criteria", his statement said. (4)
Earlier in the year, and following a Greenpeace investigation into the impacts of the soya trade in the Brazilian Amazon rainforests, multinational soya traders in Brazil have agreed to a two year moratorium on buying soya from newly deforested land in the Amazon. Greenpeace will also ask Sodruzhestvo to support this initiative to ensure the soya produced in Brazil does not contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people to have access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.
For more information and interviews:
Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International GE campaigner, mobile: +31 6 4619 7328 Natalia Olefirenko, Greenpeace Russia GE campaigner, mobile: +7 903 739 4956
Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications officer, mobile +31 6 4619 7324
Notes to Editors
(1) Sodruzhestvo is currently building a new processing plant for oil seeds in Kaliningrad. The new factory is expected to have a turnover of 2 million tonnes of soya, maize and oilseed per year of which 1.5 million tonnes will be soya products used for both food and feed.
(2) According to data provided by the Russian customs at present Russia imports approximately 1 million tons of soya products which are used in both feed and food industry. Data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that 77 percent of soya imports into Russia originate from Argentina and the Netherlands. Most soy products imported from the Netherlands contain U.S. origin soybeans that have been processed in the Netherlands or other EU countries. In Argentina almost 100 % of the cultivated soya is GE, in the US this is approximately 90 %, meaning that most soya currently imported into Russia is genetically engineered.
(3) On 13 November, Greenpeace boarded a Russian vessel, RUSICH-1, loaded with 5000 tons of feed soya destined for St. Petersburg in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The samples taken from the cargo have now been tested in a laboratory. The lab tests reveal that 78 % of the soya on board of the Rusich-1 was genetically engineered. The captain of the ship could not present any documentation identifying the cargo as GE soya, which is a legal requirement according to European Regulations as well as Russian law.
(4) Statement by Sodruzhestvo is available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/sodruzhestvo-ge-free-company-s
USDA Gives Rubber-Stamp Market Approval to Genetically Engineered Rice Contaminating Food Supply
'Approval-by-Contamination' Policy Puts Consumers and Environment at Risk, Erodes Trust in U.S. Food
USDA Continues to Allow Bayer to Test Experimental Genetically Engineered Crops
November 24, 2006
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today granted marketing approval of a genetically-engineered (GE) rice variety following its illegal contamination of the food supply and rice exports, first announced three months ago. The controversial decision was taken despite the insistence of its developer, Bayer CropScience, that it dropped plans to commercialize the variety, known as LibertyLink601 (LL601), five years ago.
"With this decision, USDA is telling agricultural biotechnology companies that it doesn't matter if you're negligent, if you break the rules, if you contaminate the food supply with untested genetically engineered crops, we'll bail you out," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety. "In effect, USDA is sanctioning an 'approval-by-contamination' policy that can only increase the likelihood of untested genetically engineered crops entering the food supply in the future, and further erode trust in the wholesomeness of U.S. food overseas," he added.
Mendelson also noted that USDA has still not determined how LL601 entered the rice supply or the extent of the contamination, and that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not undertaken a formal assessment of the rice, which is designed to survive direct spraying with the powerful herbicide glufosinate. "Experimental, genetically engineered crops like LL601 are prohibited for a reason," said Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst at Center for Food Safety. "Exhaustive testing is required to determine whether or not mutagenic gene-splicing procedures create human health or environmental hazards, and no one has done that analysis on LL601 rice," he added.
In comments filed with USDA, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) opposed USDA's consideration of Bayer's petition for market approval of LL601 as an abuse of the regulatory process. CFS also blasted USDA for allowing Bayer to black out extensive portions of its petition as "confidential business information," and demanded that it be released for public scrutiny and comment before any decision was made. CFS further noted that Bayer might exploit the approval to evade liability for an estimated $150 million in market losses suffered by U.S. farmers because of the episode. The comments also spelled out the potential for LL601 to spread its herbicide-resistance trait to weedy red rice, making it more difficult for farmers to control.
LL601 is one of several 'LibertyLink' (LL) rice varieties that have been genetically engineered by Bayer to survive application of Bayer's proprietary Liberty© herbicide. Liberty kills normal rice, but can be applied directly to LL varieties to kill surrounding weeds. This explains why Bayer had to obtain government approval to permit residues of the weedkiller on rice grains of its two approved versions of LibertyLink rice. "Contrary to what you hear from the biotech industry, genetically engineered crops like LibertyLink rice mean more chemicals in our food, not less," said Freese.
"USDA's decision to approve genetically engineered rice that Bayer itself decided was unfit for commerce is the clearest sign yet that U.S. authorities are intent upon dismantling federal regulation of genetically engineered crops in the interests of the biotechnology industry," said Mendelson. "Center for Food Safety will consider all legal options to put an end to USDA's 'approval-by-contamination' policy for new genetically engineered crops," he added. Mendelson further noted that since the contamination debacle was first announced on August 18, 2006, USDA has given Bayer the green light to conduct nine more outdoor field trials of new genetically engineered crops.
Contacts: Joe Mendelson: 703-244-1724, Bill Freese: 301-985-3011
For CFS's comments to USDA on Bayer's petition for approval of LL601, see: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/policy_com.cfm
CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY, 660 Pennsylvania Ave., SE , Suite 302, Washington, DC 20003 - (202) 547-9359 É fax (202) 547-9429
2601 Mission Street, Suite 803, San Francisco, CA 94110 - (415) 826-2770 É FAX (415) 826-0507
West Africa contaminated by US GM Rice - FoE Africa Press Release - Friday, 24 November 2006
US rice imports sent to West Africa are contaminated with illegal GM rice - FoE Africa calls for immediate recall of all tainted rice food aid, and commercial imports
Accra (Ghana), Freetown (Sierra Leone). 24 November 2006.
A genetically modified (GM) rice not allowed for human consumption originated from the United states has been found in West Africa. The findings have been revealed today by Friends of the Earth in simultaneous press conferences in Ghana and Sierra Leone. Friends of the Earth Africa is urging the Governments of Sierra Leone and Ghana to immediately recall the contaminated products.
In August this year the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the presence of LLRICE601, an unapproved genetically modified (GM) rice variant developed by a subsidiary of chemical company Bayer in the food chain. Worried by this development, many countries, especially in Europe began to test rice shipments from the USA into their countries, and it has been found in over 15 European countries. Many supermarket chains like Tesco, and Sainsbury have withdrawn American rice from their shelves amid concerns it may be contaminated, and the EU is testing all rice imports coming from the US
In September/October 2006 FoE Ghana and Sierra Leone in collaboration with FoE African experts on GMOs collected samples of US long grain rice in their countries and sent them to the laboratory for testing. The tests were conducted in an independent laboratory in the US with a validated testing method for LL601. The results show that there is LL601 contamination in Ghana and Sierra Leone. “We are shocked that unapproved genetically modified long grain rice has been sent to our country through food aid channels,” commented Arthur Williams, a GM campaigner with FoE Sierra Leone. “We are a nation just recovering from years of civil war and now to attack us in this manner is now making our people once more vulnerable.”
Ghana is among the top 10 importers of rice from the USA and it is feared that the contamination may have spread across the West African sub-region and beyond. Ghana’s rice imports from the USA stood at 78.900 metric tonnes (MT) in 2001/2002, 117.600 MT in 2002/2003 and 166.400 MT in 2004/2005.
In 2002 East African countries such as Zambia rejected GM corn as food aid even though they were in a situation of food shortages. In Latin America contamination of the food chain through food aid was established when illegal corn strain, such as Star Link, was found there in 2002 and 2005. Now it is clear that serious efforts must be made by governments and international agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) to endure that food aid does not become the popular channel for GM contamination around the world.
“We cannot accept a situation when food aid becomes a secret channel to ambush our peoples with illegal genetically modified food. We refuse to be used as guinea pigs in big business’s experimentations,” said Nnimmo Bassey of FoE Africa. “With the confirmation of this contamination, it is very likely that a large number of African countries are already contaminated. Africa is facing a lot of challenges and cannot afford to add this man-made problem. It must be halted at its roots.”
Reacting to the contamination, Cheryl Agyepong GM campaigner with FoE Ghana said: “We don’t want genetically modified rice in our fields and we call on our Government to take all necessary measures to prevent any possible contamination of our seeds.” She further added that African governments must preserve “the African environment in order to secure the future of humanity.”
LLRICE601 is engineered to tolerate an herbicide called glufosinate which is sold under the brand name Liberty Link. This tolerance was introduced through a Streptomyces hygroscopicus gene that codes for phospinothricin acetyl transferase (PAT), a glufosinate-inactivating enzyme. The GM rice, produced by German-based biotechnology company Bayer, was field tested between 1998 and 2001 but the contamination of commercial long grain rice has only just come to light. The US exported more than 3 million tonnes of rice in 2005.
FoE Africa calls on the government to immediately halt untested long grain rice food aid and commercial imports from the USA. The public does not want this illegal rice and even rice growers in the USA were shocked to learn that they were cultivating an unapproved rice strain. The USDA must take immediate steps to examine protocols for the containment of field trails and also to ensure that every shipment to Africa is adequately screened to ensure they are free of contamination.
Protecting rice - Suman Sahai - Times of India, 18 November 2006
Farmers belonging to the Bharatiya Kissan Union have set fire to the trial plots of a Bt rice variety belonging to Mahyco that was being field-tested in Karnal. It turns out that the trials were being conducted in violation of biosafety standards. Farmers on whose fields the trials were being conducted had no idea what was planted, nor did they understand the implications of genetically-engineered rice containing the toxin gene from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. Apart from the safety issue of eating genetically-engineered foods containing poison genes, there are other aspects that are particularly relevant to GE rice and India.
India is an exporter of both Basmati and non-Basmati rice and has significant trade interests in this crop. If Indian rice were to be contaminated with genetically-engineered Bt rice, which is certain to happen, traders would lose their traditional rice markets in the European Union, Africa and the Middle East. All these regions have declared their opposition to genetically-engineered foods. That is the reason why rice exporters have appealed to government to halt further trials of GE rice. India shouldn't take the risk of cultivating GE rice not just from the trade point of view but also because it is a major centre of origin for rice.
Mexico, which is the centre of origin and diversity for corn, has imposed a ban on not just the cultivation of GE corn, but also research in GE corn. Mexico has taken this position in order to safeguard the natural gene pool of corn, another major staple food of the world. India is one of the centres where rice originated. This means that the greatest number of rice and related genes are found in India. Centres of origin are considered high-risk areas for GE crops because if foreign genes contained in the GE variety were to move into the natural gene pool, the results could be potentially catastrophic.
Scientists promoting agbiotech argue that rice is a self-pollinating crop and will not accept outside pollen and genes. This is not true since cross-pollination is known to occur in rice and there are several studies that show that the extent of cross-pollination, depending on humidity and wind speed, can in fact be significantly high. Studies conducted in China and Latin America have shown that gene flow between GE rice and other rice happens at rates that are high enough to cause concern about gene transfers.
One of the growing concerns about the impact of genetic engineering is gene-silencing. Experiments show that the introduction of foreign genes can cause gene-silencing in the plant that is receiving the foreign gene. This means certain genes in the plant will become silent (non-functional) and not produce what they normally should. Gene-silencing could have very grave implications if it were to spread to the natural gene pool by careless scientists.
Maintaining genetic diversity is crucial for the long-term survival of any crop. When a crop variety somewhere becomes vulnerable either due to the onslaught of a disease or the soil becoming waterlogged or alkaline, scientists need to breed another variety of the crop for that region. They do this by searching for suitable genes in related varieties and the natural gene pool. If GE rice were to contaminate the native gene pool of rice and introduce harmful features like gene-silencing or change the normal functions of other genes, it would have terrible implications for food security of the rice-eating regions of the world.
Although genetically-engineered crops and foods are being pushed into the market, there is little investment in their regulation and monitoring. Apart from that, not enough is understood about what happens when foreign genes are abruptly pushed into the genetic material of plants and animals. That is the reason why the biosafety process places such a premium on the precautionary principle. Essentially this says that when faced with uncertainty, it is better to be cautious and not proceed with genetic engineering.
It is not clear what advantages can come about from GE rice but it is apparent what damage can be wrought by it. The most judicious course for India is to stay away from GE rice and protect the genetic integrity of this food crop for future generations.
The writer is convenor, Gene Campaign.
Future of Rice
New report sets out future for world's most important staple food - 'Future of Rice' highlights alternatives to genetic engineering in the lab and field
Chennai, India 15th November 2006 - New, environmentally sustainable and consumer-friendly technologies effectively render the imprecise Genetic Engineering (GE) technology both obsolete and unnecessary, according to a new report released today by Greenpeace.
The Greenpeace report 'Future of Rice' (1) brings together the varied ways in which farmers and scientists are improving rice production and increasing farmer income through the use of technologies such as marker assisted selection (MAS). By highlighting an environmentally sustainable future for the world's most important staple food, the report debunks the myth that GE companies such as Monsanto can secure the future of rice.
At the launch of the report, Greenpeace was joined by Indian farmers protesting against GE field trials in India (2) and called for a global end to such field trials in order to protect the future and security of food supplies worldwide.
"This year we have seen the contamination of global supplies of rice - the world's most important staple food - by illegal GE rice varieties from the US and China," said Divya Raghunandan "No further proof is needed that GE crops are dangerous and cannot be contained. The report establishes that there is in fact, no need to take the risk of GE solutions to the problems of rice production exist and are being used in labs and fields around the world," she continued.
The report, co-written by two scientific experts in sustainable rice production, (3) examines current challenges affecting rice production such as pests and diseases, chemical use and yields. It showcases scientifically proven solutions currently used by rice farmers around the world. "The real solutions to ensure sustainable rice production already exist in farms around the world. These solutions, based on traditional knowledge combined with cutting edge technology are far more reliable and acceptable than destructive industrial agriculture and imprecise genetic engineering," said Nammalwar, a well-known organic farming scientist from India.
Farmers, millers, traders and retailers around the globe are facing massive financial costs as a result of the contamination of rice supplies, including testing and recall costs, cancelled orders, import bans, brand damage and consumer distrust that could last for years.
"GE rice field trials threaten both, the integrity of rice varieties and the economic benefits of producing GE-safe rice. By taking the lead on developing a long-term sustainable, GE free rice supply, the Indian Government could become a world leader, with direct benefits to the Indian economy, rice farmers and traders and the billions of people who rely on rice as a staple food," said Divya Raghunandan, GE Campaigner, Greenpeace India.
"The world's most important staple crop is too important to gamble with. There are as many as 140,000 different varieties of rice, with an enormous diversity of traits, such as resistance to different pests and diseases and capacity to grow in salty or dry conditions. We don't need genetic engineering to take advantage of these traits - we need to preserve this resource and knowledge and combine it with safe hi tech breeding techniques," concluded Divya, "Governments and research institutes the world over must abandon GE field trials and focus their energies, and indeed their research budgets, on sustainable and real world solutions to protect the global rice supply."
The new 'Future of Rice' report can be downloaded here: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/future-of-rice
For more information, contact
Divya Raghunandan, GE Campaign India +91 98455 35406
Jeremy Tager, GE Campaign Greenpeace International +31 646221185
Namrata Chowdhary, Media Officer, Greenpeace International +31 646 197 327
Saumya Tripathy, Media Officer, Greenpeace India, +91 93438 62212
Notes to Editors:
2. On 10 November 2006, 150 farmers uprooted a GM rice field trial in Alandurai district ? Coimbatore Tamil Nadu. In October 2006, over 500 farmers burned a GE rice field trial in Karnal in Haryana.
3. Dr Emerlito Borromeo, PhD genetics; Dr Debal Deb, PhD Ecology
Ban GE Trees from Kyoto Protocol - 15 November 2006
Organizations Around the World Demand Ban of Genetically Engineered Trees from Kyoto Protocol
World Rainforest Movement and Global Justice Ecology Project have presented a demand to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Nairobi, Kenya to ban the use of genetically engineered trees under the Kyoto Protocol. GE trees have been proposed for use in plantations developed as climate sinks or for biofuels.
At the Ninth Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Milan in 2003, genetically engineered (GE) trees [also known as genetically modified or transgenic trees] were approved for use in plantations created to offset carbon emissions as a part of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism. Research, however, actually shows:
• Native forests overall absorb and hold far more carbon than industrial tree plantations, which can also be responsible for net combined soil-carbon releases and carbon emissions during their life-cycle;
• Plantations bring many additional problems that contribute to global warming and ecological destruction, including water and nutrient depletion, increased soil salinity and acidity, increased fire risk and biodiversity loss;
• GE trees (e.g. Bt and reduced lignin trees) may actually worsen global warming by exacerbating problems caused by monoculture tree plantations, and by causing unprecedented new ones, including alteration of decomposition, insect and disease patterns.
For this reason, many organizations around the world in several official and unofficial events have called on the UNFCCC to ban GE trees from the Kyoto Protocol.
In addition, the UNFCCC must bring its policies in line with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which has taken a stand against GE trees.
On Wednesday, 22 March, 2006 during the Eighth Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, representatives from non-governmental organizations, social movements, scientists, indigenous groups, farmers, foresters and others were joined by CBD delegates from ten countries in calling for a moratorium on the release of GE trees into the environment.
As a result, the UN CBD made an historic decision, acknowledging for the first time the potential dangersboth social and ecologicalof genetically engineered trees and urging countries to take a very cautious approach to the technology.
It is now the responsibility of the UNFCCC to end the contradiction between its own pro-GE trees decision and the UN CBD's cautionary decision. The UNFCCC must issue a new decision prohibiting the use of GE trees in carbon offset plantations under the CDM.
Genetically engineered trees do not offer a solution to global warming, rather they are a global distraction from finding real solutions to the problems of global warming. In addition, they threaten the world's forests and forest-dwelling communities.
For this reason, the above groups call on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to bring its policies in line with those of the UN CBD and prohibit the use of genetically engineered trees in carbon sink plantations.
Groups endorsing this demand include Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Carbon Trade Watch, Global Forest Coalition, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the EarthNigeria, FASEEspirito Santo, Brazil, Large Scale Biofuels Action Group, Oilwatch International, STOP GE Trees Campaign, Timberwatch Coalition and The Corner House.
For the full text of the open letter, go to:
Contact in Nairobi: Orin Langelle, Global Justice Ecology Project. email@example.com - Nairobi number: 0724.130.511; International number: +254.724.130.511
Protect rice exports from GM contamination: industry - ASHOK B SHARMA - Tuesday, October 31, 2006
NEW DELHI, OCT 30: Leading commodity exporters have urged the government to take lessons from the losses being suffered by the US rice industry and farmers on account of contamination of American long grain rice by the genetically modified (GM) grains. They have said that policy measures should be put in place to see that transgenic versions of long grain rice are not developed so as to peril the Indian exports. Speaking to FE, RS Seshadri of Tilda Riceland said, “India exports good quantity of long grain basmati and non-basmati rice to Europe, West Asia and Japan at premium prices. Consumers in these regions do not accept GM rice. The US and Chinese exports of rice has taken a heavy beating as their rice is contaminated with GM grains.” He was referring to burning of Mahyco’s Bt rice under contained field trials in Ramapura village in Karnal, Haryana, on October 28. Leading farmers’ organisation Bharatiya Kissan Union (BKU)had led local farmers in destroying Mahyco’s Bt rice under field trials.
BKU spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said, “We found that trials of Bt rice were conducted under secrecy on the farm land of Paramjit Singh, who leased his two-acre land to Mahyco for Rs 15,000. He was not informed by Mahyco about what seeds were sown and for what purpose. We found blatant violation of biosafty norms in the field trial which may lead to genetic contamination of other rice fields. Singh after discovering the truth joined us along with 500 farmers in uprooting and burning of the crop.”
Mahyco general manager MK Sharma when contacted said : “This is really unfortunate development. The experimental research crop was meant to evaluate the performance of the new technology which will help farmers use less pesticide, increase yield and benefit environment.”
Shesadri further said that All India Rice Exporters Association is of the view that no transgenic version of any long grain rice should be developed, keeping in view country’s export prospects. If the country wants to develop GM rice it should first negotiate with the major importers like European Union, Japan and West Asian countries and see that Indian exports are not hampered. The health ministry should give the final clearance for any GM food crops and vouch its safety and the findings should be put up for public debate, he said
DoE resists transgenic rice growing authorization - Mehr News (Iran), Oct 28 2006 - http://www.mehrnews.ir/en/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=399000
TEHRAN - The director of the country's Department of Environment (DoE) Fatemeh Javadi on Friday announced that an official go-ahead for cultivation of genetically modified rice would not be issued due to lack of compelling documents that could support the move. Speaking to the reporters, she added that DoE has yet to receive any report from a group of experts in charge of providing sufficient documentation to prove that transgenic rice would be healthy and the project would be economical altogether. However, he admitted that the scientific basis for the move is convincing. "A sample of the DNA of the main rice pest, called stem borer, is used in the process which makes the plant resistant against the pest during its growth period."
US rice exporters face new costs - By Andrew Bounds in Brussels - Financial Times, October 19 2006
Exporters of US rice are to be hit by new charges as the European Union widens its clampdown on genetically modified food. The European Commission said on Thursday that on Monday it would ask national food safety experts to require mandatory testing of all imports of US long-grain rice at EU ports after talks on an agreed testing regime broke down. The decision follows the detection of a herbicide-resistant strain - which is illegal in the EU - in rice certified GM-free by the US, and indicates that Brussels has lost confidence in Washington's testing methods.
In August, the Commission tightened rules governing imports of US long-grain rice after finding the LL Rice 601 strain in a batch already checked by US authorities. It has since been found in nine of the EU 25 countries. "If a consignment is certified as free of LL Rice 601, [then] before it can be released, it will be counter-tested by the authorities," a Commission spokesman said. "Only if the counter-test confirms the absence of LL Rice 601 or any other unauthorised GMO, would it be released." The tests, costing exporters several hundred euros at least, would also look for a strain known as LL Rice 62, detected recently in France.
A fortnight ago the EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou began negotiating a common sampling protocol with Washington, but talks ended on Thursday without agreement. "Despite extensive discussions between both sides, the Commission and the United States were unable to agree on such a protocol," his spokesman said. It is understood that the US wanted higher acceptable levels of GM strains than Brussels.
While the Commission said LL Rice 601 was produced by Bayer, the German chemical company told Reuters news agency it was not. The strain was developed by Aventis CropScience, a company it acquired in 2002. Development ended the year before, the company said.
Europe's Food Safety Authority has initially ruled there is no threat to human health from the GM rice. However, all biotech rice remains illegal in the EU. Only a few strains of GM crops have been approved for cultivation or consumption in the EU because some countries, such as Austria, and many consumers are opposed to them.
Katharine Mill, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, the environmental pressure group, welcomed the move. "We congratulate the EU for not agreeing to weaker US testing measures," she said. However, she pointed out that Brussels has not taken any action against Chinese imports. Greenpeace found the BT63 strain of rice, which has not been approved for commercial use anywhere, in Chinese products on supermarket shelves in Germany in August. "European rice growers are worried about the seeds getting out and contaminating their crops," she said.
Monsanto posts bigger loss for 4th quarter - By Carey Gillam - Reuters, October 11 2006
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Monsanto Co. said on Wednesday it posted a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss due to lower revenues from its biotech seed technology, sending shares down 7 percent in early trading. The St. Louis-based agricultural products company, an industry leader in genetically altering crops to resist pests and tolerate weed-killing treatments, saw a drop of 56 percent in net sales of its soybean seeds and biotechnology traits and a 10 percent decline in other crop seeds and traits in its fourth quarter. Soy and other crop seed sales were up for the year, however, with some sales typically seen in the fourth quarter captured in prior quarters, according to Monsanto officials. The company posted a loss of 27 cents a share on an as-reported basis in the fourth quarter that ended August 31, compared with a loss of 23 cents a share a year earlier. On an ongoing basis, the loss was 21 cents a share, compared with a loss of 25 cents a share in the fourth quarter of 2005. Analysts, on average, were looking for a 24-cent net loss per share or 21 cents a share on an ongoing basis, according to Reuters Research.
The lower quarterly U.S. biotech soybean and other crop revenues were partially offset by higher U.S. sales of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides as well as higher sales of corn products, Monsanto officials said. Corn seed and trait sales totaled $212 million in the quarter, up more than 11 percent. And total quarterly sales were $1.4 billion, 9 percent higher than sales in the same period in 2005. In all, it amounted to a net loss of $144 million in the fourth quarter, compared to a loss of $125 million in the same period in 2005. Investors showed their disappointment, sending Monsanto shares down more than 7 percent before they recovered. Still, Argent Capital Management portfolio manager Tom Leritz characterized the quarterly results as a temporary "hiccup." "If you're priced for perfection, any little hiccup will cause concerns and cause people to sell the stock. But I think it is a near-term issue," Leritz said. "I think long term the company has a very good product, they are way ahead of the competition and they have a large total available market."
Monsanto also announced Wednesday that its full-year 2007 EPS guidance, both on a reported and ongoing basis, is expected to be $1.50 to $1.57, reflecting a projected growth rate of up to 15 percent to 20 percent from the fiscal year 2006 EPS ongoing base of $1.31 per share. Monsanto said it was facing pricing challenges in two large growth markets - Brazil and India - but was making changes that should provide for further market penetration, particularly in Brazilian soybean acreage. The company said gains in the U.S. corn market, its pending acquisition of Delta and Pine Land Co., the top U.S. seller of cotton seeds, and a restructuring of its Seminis vegetable seed product offerings and pricing were among the factors seen driving future growth. Shares of Monsanto were down 4.4 percent, or $2.06, at $44.36 on the New York Stock Exchange.
GE Technology out of control: Greenpeace discovers contamination from Bayer's Genetically Engineered Rice in Middle East
Greenpeace Press Release, OCTOBER 10 2006 - http://www.commondreams.org/news2006/1010-14.htm
NEW DELHI, India - October 10 - Test results released today by Greenpeace International establish that rice products being sold in the Middle East region have also been contaminated by Bayer's illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice grown in field trials in the United States. (1) Contamination in the Middle East has serious global implications as the region is the world's 2nd largest importer of US rice and a major re-exporter of food throughout the Asia region.
Today, Greenpeace activists challenged Agriculture Ministers attending the International Rice Congress (IRC) in Delhi to take immediate action to prevent the continuing contamination of the world's most important staple food. Conference delegates were presented with symbolic bowls of rice with question marks.
Agricultural ministers of eight countries(2) are participating in the IRC, to set the agenda for rice production and export over the next five years, discussing trade issues as well as scientific innovations and sustainable solutions for rice production. Ironically, Bayer and Monsanto - the two main advocates for the GE industry, are jointly sponsoring the Congress, placing them in a key position to influence the agenda to their advantage. Contamination from Bayer's rice has already been found in nine countries, and resulted in import restrictions against the United States.
"The contaminated rice in the Middle East is yet another body blow to the US rice industry, already reeling under product recalls, testing requirements, import restrictions and cancelled orders in many countries," said Divya Raghunandan, GE campaigner from Greenpeace India. "Now, more than ever before, it is clear that GE crops pose a serious risk and that 'controlled field trials' are a dangerous myth. Any country allowing GE crops to be grown, even in field trials, is exposing its farmers and traders of agricultural produce to an economic and environmental disaster. A complete ban is the only solution," added Raghunandan.
Greenpeace urged governments to protect this staple food, by drawing up a clear plan of action to protect their countries from similar GE contamination, prevent genetic contamination of crops and hold Bayer accountable for its recklessness.
"The extent of contamination necessitates an urgent response. This rice and its by-products could be on supermarket shelves anywhere," warned Jeremy Tager, GE Campaigner from Greenpeace International. "We urge agricultural ministers to immediately order comprehensive testing of all products that may have been exposed to contamination from GE rice, and to impose strict import controls on any goods imported from GE rice-growing countries. It will take a globally coordinated approach to ensure that citizens everywhere are responsibly protected from GE-contaminated products," concluded Tager. Notes to Editor
Notes to editors:
1. The following samples were found to contain traces of Bayer's illegal LL601 GE rice when tested at an independent laboratory.
Uncle Ben's long grain rice: Purchased at Geant supermarket Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Riceland Chef-way, preboiled rice: Purchased at Carrefour supermarket,Dubai, UAE
Riceland, preboiled rice: Purchased at Geant supermarket Dubai, UAE
American Rice, INC, parboiled rice: Purchased at City Center supermarket Salmiya, Kuwait
2. China, Indonesia, India, Laos, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam
UH cuts off funding after failing to silence agriculture professor - By HECTOR VALENZUELA and LORRIN PANG - The Maui News, 26 September 2006
For the past few years we have been speaking out for stricter regulation of genetically engineered crops. Our agency heads told us to do this on our own time and expense since our views were not the "official position." Some have asked that we not be allowed to voice private views since the public might think we speak officially. However, it is imperative that government employees be permitted to state their expert opinions, even privately, to ensure that decision makers and the public make judgments based on the whole story, rather than only on officially sanctioned views. For example, a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture internal audit report showed serious gaps in the oversight of GE crops, which could result in the unintended "escape" of unapproved organisms into the environment. Also, a federal judge ruled recently that the Hawaii Department of Agriculture failed to require environmental impact studies prior to the planting of GE biopharmaceutical crops in clear violation of federal laws. In hindsight there were probably people within these agencies who saw these regulatory system failures, but were hesitant to speak out or were even silenced. We, too, are insiders simply trying to get our agencies to uphold federal laws designed to protect us all. One would hope that we might now be encouraged to speak up. Sadly this is not the case.
At the time of the judges ruling, a Maui-based UH administrator circulated a memo to UH staff threatening to cut off support for my (Valenzuela's) organic workshops and educational activities in Maui County because I was planning to talk on crop biotechnology at a Maui event. According to this derogatory memo:
"If Hector shows up here Tuesday (as advertised) for GMO-free Maui's presentation of the "Pandora's Box" movie to lead the Q & A session with Lorrin Pang, then there will be no support of any kind out of this office to assist any workshop, activity or any other endeavor with which he is affiliated . . . It would be insane for me to assist him in Maui County - hiding behind a guise of free-speech on personal time . . . if he shows up to spew his intellectual vitriol on Tuesday (or any other time if it is for the same purpose), no assistance in any form will be provided from here on activities to which he is related. . . . It is insulting to our organization and to several of our clients. . . . There are enough nut jobs here without helping a CTAHR-grown one." CTAHR is the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at Manoa.
I did speak on Maui and support has been suspended. Ironically this questionable retaliatory move was done on taxpayer time and money. It is hoped that the memo's author will have the integrity to come forward and state his case regarding the use of retaliation and limits on First Amendment rights. Whistle-blower laws protect insiders expressing views and taking actions that uphold federal laws, but how many government employees fear repercussions and hold their tongues or even speak contrary to what they think is true? Even we sometimes tone down our opinions out of fear for our jobs. Decision-makers (legislators and judges) might be getting very distorted views of the real risks of GE crops. If government employees were encouraged rather than discouraged to speak out, what picture would decision makers get? Or if we too could speak on government time and travel expense, what then would the rulings be?
It is assumed that industry spokespersons distort the truth for financial reasons, or worse, that those in government with industry ties may be blind to the truth, which was shown to be true at the FDA. We all know about this type of conflict of interest. But how many citizens consider that the picture they are given about GMOs is distorted because insiders are silenced out of "conflict of fear?" When there are threats within regulating/scientific agencies against insiders trying to uphold federal rules, we must appeal to the courts and the public as our last resort. The public should be made aware that this is how tax dollars are spent behind the scenes in spite of the appearance of "fair play" and "openness." Henceforth we expect to be protected by whistle-blower rules. Threats of retaliation must no longer be tolerated. As David Stockman was quoted in US News magazine, it is necessary to change a system where "in policymaking, powerful interests tend to trump powerful arguments." Until this "process" is fixed we now realize that there is no sense in even arguing the science. And so, these are indeed sad days for Hawaii and America.
We are writing as private citizens.
Hector Valenzuela is a specialist in the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at Manoa.
Dr. Lorrin Pang is the state Department of Health, Maui District health officer.
FROM THE MINISTER FOR INNOVATION, MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE - August 9, 2006
VICTORIAN SCIENTISTS DEVELOP DROUGHT TOLERANT CANOLA
Victorian scientists have developed a new species of drought tolerant canola that could make up to 1.5 million hectares of drought prone farmland in Australia more productive and profitable, the Minister for Innovation, John Brumby, announced today. Mr Brumby said Department of Primary Industry (DPI) scientists, together with collaborative international partners, the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool have used enhanced traditional breeding and molecular marker assisted selection to refine the yield and quality of juncea canola. Announcing the research as part of the Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC) 2006 currently being held in Melbourne, Mr Brumby said the scientific breakthrough had come at an opportune time for Australian primary producers. "The drought is hitting the Australian community very hard, but this development is another example of how Victoria's scientists are working with international scientists to provide biotechnology solutions to serious problems," Mr Brumby said.
Commercial arrangements are currently being finalised and seed plantings for the first two juncea canola cultivars bred for Australia are also underway, with a view to releasing commercial quality seed to farmers next year. The Minister for Agriculture, Bob Cameron, said recent trials of Brassica juncea across Australia equalled and in some cases exceeded standard Brassica napus canola yields by up to 30 per cent. "Juncea canola has more vigorous early growth, better drought and heat tolerance than conventional canola, and quality characteristics ideal for the current canola market," Mr Cameron said. "In dry areas such as the Mallee, juncea canola shows much better early vigour than traditional canola, which means it gets up and competes better with weeds......It is of course still susceptible in extreme dry like we are experiencing this season, but the product's durability in drought prone conditions should enable it to survive in regions receiving as little as 275mm of rainfall annually......Juncea canola offers growers rotational benefits in their current cereal rotations by allowing them to control grass weeds and cereal diseases and pests......DPI is currently continuing to trial juncea canola at a series of dryland sites across the Mallee, including Beulah, Birchip, Hopetoun, Walpeup, Ultima and across Australia in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia."
Stores told to remove GM rice from shelves - Press Association - The Guardian, October 6, 2006
The government's food watchdog has changed its advice to retailers about genetically modified rice. Stores must remove any rice known to contain GM strains from their shelves, the Food Standards Agency said. The move follows ongoing concerns over the presence of GM strains in batches of long-grain rice from the US. Selling products known to be contaminated with GM material is illegal in the UK, but the FSA previously told businesses that actively tracking down and removing contaminated rice products was unnecessary because they didn't pose an "imminent" health risk. The watchdog's updated advice follows the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) assessment of safety implications of GM material in rice.
EFSA experts said rice containing traces of GM material was "not likely" to pose an imminent safety concern, but they found insufficient information to complete a full risk assessment of the issue. The FSA's advice to consumers is unchanged. Anyone who has US long-grain rice at home can continue to eat it. An FSA spokesman said today: "We are doing this because there is new information."
The environmental group Friends of the Earth complained that the stepped-up advice had come too late. The group's GM campaigner, Clare Oxborrow, said: "The FSA should have issued this advice right from the start, instead of playing down the seriousness of the issue. "The agency is still refusing to carry out any testing of rice on shelves and still failing to require retailers to carry out such testing themselves."
The US government confirmed in August that a genetically modified strain of long-grain rice was found in samples. In response, the EU introduced emergency measures to stop contaminated rice entering the food chain. Friends of the Earth researchers claim they have found GM strains in packets of rice and noodles on sale in a number of UK stores.
RUSSIA: US rice imports suspended over GMOs - http://www.just-food.com/article.aspx?id=96181 - 2 October 2006| Source: just-food.com
The Rosselkhoznadzor, the Russian agricultural inspection agency, announced on Friday (29 September) that it has stopped issuing quarantine permits for US rice because genetically modified rice, which had not yet passed safety tests, had been on sale in the US.
The complete article is available to full members only
GM Campaigner, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), 26-28 Underwood Street, London, N1 7JQ, United Kingdom
Direct line: +44 (0)20 7566 1716 Switchboard: +44 (0)20 7490 1555 Fax: +44 (0)20 7490 0881 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
World's largest rice company halts all US rice imports because of GM contamination threat:
Bayer's illegal GM rice continues to inflict damage on US rice industry - 29th September 2006:
In yet another blow to the US rice industry, the world's largest rice processing company, Ebro Puleva,(1) which controls 30% of the EU rice market, has confirmed to Greenpeace that it has stopped all imports of rice from the USA to the EU due to the threat of contamination by genetically modified (GM) rice. The move follows a string of scandals, with illegal GM contamination found in rice products all over Europe. In January of 2006 a strain of Bayer's GM rice, which was not approved for human consumption was found in US rice intended for export. As a result of Bayer's recklessness, the global food industry is facing massive costs associated with this contamination, including testing costs, product recalls, brand damage, import bans and cancelled imports and contracts.
In a letter to Greenpeace(2), the Chairman of Ebro Puleva states: "We regret that US rice is facing a problem with GM rice and decided to stop any imports of US rice since August 2006." Ebro Puleva has also indicated that it will not consider purchasing from the US until the situation is under control. Instead, the company will purchase rice from other countries, with the exception of China, which continues to have problems with GM contamination of its rice. "By imposing a blanket ban on rice imports from the US, Ebro Puleva has acknowledged how real and costly the risk of GM contamination is," pointed out Jeremy Tager, GM campaigner, Greenpeace International. "With GM now as uneconomic as it is unacceptable, governments in countries that grow or import GM must stop placing farmers, consumers, the environment and industry at such high risk." At least three multi-million dollar class action lawsuits have been filed by US rice farmers against Bayer CropScience already, as farmers struggle to protect their livelihoods (3). Ebro Puleva has said they expect to bring legal actions against Bayer as well.
The strain of Bayer's illegal GM LL601 rice was first detected in rice intended for export from the US earlier in 2006. This variety has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world. It has only been grown in field trials that ended in 2001, and yet in September 2006, testing commissioned by Greenpeace and then by various European government agencies showed a broad variety of products on supermarket shelves in Europe had been contaminated by Bayer's illegal GM rice. Following the Greenpeace expose a leading German supermarket chain Edeka announced that they would cease selling all US long grain rice. A number of European retailers, millers and processors have followed suit. "It is now time for governments to respond strongly as well. They cannot leave enforcement of food safety laws to industry alone. We urge the EU to enforce its laws more vigorously and ensure that all member states comply, particularly those that have thus far refused to enforce EU law," concluded Jeremy Tager.
For further information, please contact: Greenpeace Press Office 0207 865 8255 or Graham Thompson, GM Campaigner, Greenpeace 0207 865 8293
1. Ebro Puleva, with a presence in 40 countries, is the first supplier of rice as a raw material for the major companies of the European food sector. It has taken over, and now owns Riviana Foods, Inc, the leading company on the US rice market, with extensive distribution networks in the United States and Central America; Kraft Foods' rice business in Germany, Austria and Denmark; and Panzani, one of the leading food enterprises in France - http://www.ebropuleva.com/ep/en/acerca_ebro/negocioarroz.jsp
2. The letter from the Chairman is available online at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/letter-from-ebro-puleva-to-gre
Will genetically engineered foods cause allergic reactions? Michigan State University scientists receive EPA grant to find out
Michigan State University Newsroom, Sep 27 2006 - http://www.newsroom.msu.edu/site/indexer/2864/content.htm
EAST LANSING, Michigan - The potential of genetically engineered foods to cause allergic reactions in humans is a big reason for opposition to such crops. Although protocols are in place to ask questions about the allergy-causing possibilities, there has been no test that offers definitive answers. But all of that could change as a Michigan State University researcher has developed the first animal model to test whether genetically engineered foods could cause human allergic reactions. Venu Gangur, MSU assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, has received a $447,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to validate the test. Genetically engineered crops are created by inserting a protein from a different organism into the original crop's genome. This is usually done to create a plant that is more resistant to insects or diseases. [in 80% of cases it's so the plant can be drenched in herbicide!]
The Food and Agriculture Organization within the World Health Organization has a structured approach to determining whether genetically engineered foods cause allergies, according to Gangur, who also is a faculty member in the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center. "But it has a major flaw. A critical question in that process asks, 'Does the protein cause an allergic reaction in animals?' The problem is that there has been no good animal model available to test this." Gangur and students in his lab have developed a mouse model the first of its kind to test the allergy-causing potential of genetically engineered foods. He'll use the EPA grant to examine whether the model works on a variety of proteins. If successfully validated, the testing could be available commercially in about five years.
Perhaps the best known case of a genetically engineered crop potentially causing allergies was StarLink corn. Created by Aventis in 1996, StarLink contained the cry9C protein from a common soil bacterium, a strain of Bacillus thuringiensis. The cry9C protein protected the corn from several types of corn borers and black cutworms. StarLink was approved by the EPA for use in animal feed and nonfood products in 1998. But in 2000, fragments of cry9C DNA were detected in taco shells and other food products. "Many people believed that StarLink was responsible for their asthma attacks and other allergic reactions," Gangur said. "The Centers for Disease Control took samples and tried to figure out if StarLink was the cause, but the data were inconclusive. There was really no good method to determine if StarLink caused allergic reactions. This is why our model will be such a valuable tool. We'll be able to determine the allergenic potential of genetically engineered crops before they're released into the human or animal food chain."
Robert Tempelman, MSU professor of animal science and statistics and probability, is the project's co-investigator. Gale Strasburg, chairperson of the MSU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition; and Jim Pestka and Maurice Bennink, MSU professors of food science and human nutrition, also are participating in the project. The research of Gangur, Tempelman, Pestka and Bennink is supported by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.
Contact: Venu Gangur, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition: (517) 355-8474, Ext. 134, email@example.com; or Jamie DePolo, Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station: (609) 354-8403 (cell)
The Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station is one of the largest research organizations at Michigan State University. Founded in 1888, the MAES funds the work of nearly 350 scientists in five colleges at MSU to enhance agriculture, natural resources and families and communities in Michigan.
Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 14 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.
Japan to Test U.S. Short- and Medium-Grain Rice for LLRICE601
TOKYO - Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry's (MAFF) Food Department will start testing all U.S. short- and medium-grain rice imports (whole and broken kernels) and existing rice stocks for the presence of Bayer CropScience LLRICE601, the U.S. Embassy here said today. Testing will begin with a shipment of U.S. rice that is scheduled to arrive in Japan Sept. 30, but will not apply to processed products, the embassy said to the USA Rice Federation.
"We are surprised by this development, because Japan is not a long-grain customer for U.S. rice and LLRICE601 has not been found in U.S. medium and short varieties," said Bob Cummings, USA Rice VP, for international polic policy. Future import samples will be drawn from the product at loading in the United States and air mailed to Japan for testing at MAFF's expense. The first results of testing on U.S. rice held in MAFF warehouses in Japan will reportedly be available by next week with all stocks test results ready by late October. "We are following the situation closely," Cummings said, "and will be working with USDA and U.S. Trade Repres Representative officials."
Contact: Bob Cummings Cummings, (703) , 236- 14 1473 73
Supreme Court says no to GM products till further orders - By Indo Asian News Service, September 22nd, 2006
New Delhi - The Supreme Court Friday asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) not to give approvals to genetically modified products until further orders. A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justices C.K. Thakker and R.V. Raveendran gave the direction on an application filed by Aruna Rodrigues and three others in a public interest litigation seeking a ban on the release of genetically modified organisms/seeds having the potential of causing major health hazards. Counsel Prashant Bhushan alleged that the policy of the government was to give speedy clearance to genetically modified organisms even before putting in place a mechanism to test their bio-safety value. He pleaded for a stay against grant of fresh approvals and of all field trials on genetically modified crops.
In its brief order, the bench said 'we are not inclined to direct stoppage of all field trials at this stage without the stand of the respondents. At the same time we deem it appropriate to direct GEAC to withhold the approvals till further directions are issued on hearing all concerned. The government would also consider associating independent experts in the field in the GEAC.'It listed the matter after two weeks.
The petitioners said the use of technology of genetic engineering and release of GM organisms into the environment would require application of precautionary principle, which mandated that every possible precaution must be taken to ensure that no harmful effects are caused to human and animal health and environment. They said genetic engineering if allowed to proceed unchecked would change the molecular structure of the world?s food. In India, if the GEAC's reckless rush into GM foods was not checked, this process would be the fastest and riskiest experiment anywhere with irreversible impacts on our farmers, their crop choices, our food and health.
Gene-Altered Profit-Killer - A Slight Taint of Biotech Rice Puts Farmers' Overseas Sales in Peril - By Rick Weiss - Washington Post Staff Writer
Washington Post, September 21 2006 - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/20/AR2006092001903.html
The disclosure last month that American long-grain rice has become widely contaminated with traces of an experimental, gene-altered rice has provoked an economic crisis for farmers and reignited a long-smoldering debate over the adequacy of U.S. oversight of biotech food. Already, Japan has banned U.S. long-grain imports, noting, as have other countries, that the genetically altered variety never passed regulatory muster. Stores in Germany, Switzerland and France have pulled American rice off their shelves. And at least one ship last week remained quarantined in Rotterdam, awaiting word of whether its contents would be diverted or destroyed. "Until this happened, it looked like rice farmers were finally going to make a profit this year," said Greg Yielding, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association. Instead, U.S. rice prices have slumped about 10 percent, and some expect market losses to reach $150 million.
Scientists are just now figuring out how LLRICE601 made its way into the nation's commercial rice supply. The company that developed it, Bayer CropScience of Research Triangle Park, N.C., says it abandoned the project in 2001. The unapproved rice poses no threat to human or animal health, federal officials have assured the public. And the level of contamination is minuscule, on the order of just six genetically engineered grains in every 10,000. But the growing economic fallout from LL601's unwanted and illegal reappearance -- including a handful of lawsuits against Bayer -- is a reminder that when it comes to food, public perception is as important as scientific assurances. "We've been warning for years that something like this could happen," Yielding said, citing a December 2005 report from the Agriculture Department's inspector general that lambasted the government for not keeping a closer eye on companies developing new crops. "This is one of those deals where you hate to be right."
Genetically engineered crops are common in the United States, where 60 to 90 percent of the corn, soybean and cotton plants are enhanced with genes from bacteria and other organisms. Most of the added genes allow the plants to make their own insecticides or, as in LLRICE601, confer resistance to commonly used weedkillers. But motivated by scientific, cultural and economic concerns, most countries around the world are finicky about biotech crops and allow relatively few in. That, in turn, has created tension for U.S. agriculture. Although U.S. farmers say they favor, in theory, further development of the crops, many have called for delays in field testing or marketing until other countries agree to accept them. With few mechanisms in place to segregate engineered from conventional varieties, and wide availability of tests able to detect minute quantities of foreign DNA, they say it is not worth the risk that shipments will become contaminated and rejected. "Once it's in the pipeline, it's very hard to get it out," said Jeffrey Barach, a vice president at the Food Products Association, a D.C. trade group.
Concerns have been especially high among rice growers, who sell big portions of their harvests to Kellogg for Rice Krispies, Anheuser-Busch for beer and Gerber for baby food, said Eric Wailes, an agricultural economist at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. "These are companies with huge brand equity," Wailes said, and are unwilling to risk their reputations. In fact, many experts suspect that pressure from the food industry was a major reason why Bayer mysteriously dropped LL601 five years ago without seeking USDA approval for it. The company has refused to answer questions about its biotech rice program, which produced two other varieties. The Agriculture Department deemed those two safe for sale, but Bayer opted not to market them.
In recent weeks, tests by researchers in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana have begun to unveil how LL601 persisted even after Bayer quit. The rice had been grown in several test locations, including Louisiana State University's rice research station near Crowley from 1999 to 2001. Analyses in the past two weeks of samples of other rice varieties that were grown over the years at the same research station found that at least one - a long-grain rice known as Cheniere - was contaminated with LL601 at least as far back as 2003. Records indicate that the affected plot of Cheniere rice, which was used to grow "foundation stock" from which much larger amounts were produced over the next few years, was located at least 160 feet from the LL601 plot, farther apart than what USDA required, said LSU spokeswoman Frankie Gould.
Exactly how and when the crossover of the genetically altered rice occurred remains uncertain. It could be, experts said, that some grains of LL601 got mixed inadvertently with grains of Cheniere, so that future plantings of Cheniere were really plantings of both. That could have gone unnoticed for years until someone tested for the errant gene -- which is how Riceland Foods Inc. of Stuttgart, Ark., happened upon the problem this year. Or it may be that LL601 plants fertilized some Cheniere plants, creating a gene-enhanced Cheniere. Rice pollen does not usually go far afield, but it can. Tests on more than a dozen other LSU varieties have come up negative for the LL601 gene, as have tests from Texas and Arkansas plots; results from Mississippi are pending. But because many varieties of rice are mixed in huge bins after harvest, it could be difficult to rid the U.S. rice crop of the illegal variety. "The damage has been done and it is still being done," said Adam J. Levitt, a partner in the Chicago office of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLC, who led a class action lawsuit that won $110 million for farmers after gene-altered and unapproved StarLink corn appeared in food in 2000. "They've really in a very substantial way poisoned the well."
How Bayer will deal with the international ramifications of LL601's escape is uncertain. But its domestic strategy became clear on Aug. 18, the day Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced the problem. That day Bayer filed a petition seeking USDA approval - or "deregulation" - of LL601. If the petition is successful, the variety's presence would no longer violate U.S. regulations - but the strategy has raised some hackles. "Post hoc approval strikes us as really cynical," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the District-based Center for Food Safety. "Bayer has no intention of bringing this rice to market. Clearly this is an effort to avoid liability." Last week Freese's group filed a petition asking USDA to reject Bayer's request and to rescind its earlier approval of the company's other two engineered rice varieties. The petition argues that the herbicide resistance trait is sure to make its way into red rice, a weedy wild relative of white rice that is already rice growers' biggest pest. Any advance likely to make red rice herbicide-resistant, the petition claims, would force farmers to turn to more potent weedkillers and violate the Plant Protection Act.
Even if Bayer succeeds in deregulating LL601, farmers will still face international rejection - a potentially major hit, since most rice profits are from overseas sales. On Friday the European Commission said the rice "is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern." But it also made plain that the rice is illegal and offered no hints it would soften its stance. Of even greater concern is whether Central American nations - the biggest foreign buyers of U.S. rice - and Mexico, the second biggest, will adhere to their strict rules on engineered foods. Talks were underway late last week, Yielding said.
The December inspector general report scolded USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for failing to conduct required inspections of test plots and in some cases not even knowing where experiments it had approved were being conducted. APHIS spokeswoman Rachel Iadicicco said the shortcomings cited in that report have been remedied.
Genetically engineered plums may not find a willing market - By Deborah Rich - 18 Sep 2006
A genetically engineered stone fruit tree, the 'HoneySweet' plum could be the first such stone fruit to be released for commerical use. The patented 'HoneySweet' plum (Prunus domestica), developed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service in collaboration with the Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique in Paris and Cornell University, resists the plum pox virus, a plant virus not harmful to humans but deadly to stone fruit yields. Whether the plum's future will be as sweet as its name depends upon many things, including the travels of the plum pox virus, whether the plum's custom-designed DNA can do its job without recombining with other species and whether consumers will eat the fruit.
In 2004, the USDA-ARS petitioned the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to grant the 'HoneySweet' a nonregulated status. Genetically engineered varieties that might pose a plant pest risk can be grown, tested and transported only under permit from USDA-APHIS until the agency determines that they no longer present a risk. Petitioning for deregulation is often the first step toward the commercialization of a variety. The 'HoneySweet' plum was placed in the regulated category because its new DNA contains genetic material from the plum pox virus itself. The agency now wants to deregulate the plum, and expects to make a decision within two to three months.
Despite its name, the plum pox virus does not limit itself to plums. Depending upon the strain of the virus, it can have equally devastating effects on apricots, peaches, sweet and sour cherries, and nectarines. On some trees, the virus causes fruit to drop prematurely. On others, it scars and deforms the fruit. Total losses are not uncommon once trees are infected. The only method of halting the spread of the virus once it appears in an orchard is to destroy the trees.
The plum pox virus was first identified on plums in Bulgaria in 1915. With the opening of the borders of Bulgaria and other former communist bloc countries to international trade and travel, the virus spread throughout much of Europe, and to Egypt, Syria, India, China and Canada. The virus travels from tree to tree and orchard to orchard via aphids, and from region to region through the transport of bud and graft wood. In 1999, the virus appeared in Pennsylvania, causing $40 million in damage and the destruction of 1,600 acres of commercial and backyard peach trees. This past July, it was found on a plum tree in New York, and, in August, on a plum tree in Michigan. The plum pox virus has yet to arrive in California, and this is one reason neither the California plum nor the prune (dried plum) industry has taken a strong stance on the genetically engineered plum, despite California's role as producer of 95 percent of the nation's fresh plums and 99 percent of its prunes. "My board decided not to take a position on the 'HoneySweet,' but to just observe and see what happens with the USDA as they try to release this variety," said Rich Peterson, executive director of the California Dried Plum Board. "In Europe, plum pox virus is a serious problem in many stone fruits including prunes. So the French prune industry - they're our No. 2 competitor, second to California in worldwide production - is very interested in this variety."
If the plum pox virus does hit the United States in a big way, growers may be glad that Dr. Ralph Scorza, USDA-ARS research horticulturist and lead developer of the 'HoneySweet,' began research when he did. "We knew, as early as the late 1980s, that plum pox was going to start to travel across the world. Countries were opening up. We knew the virus was going to be a problem; we knew that we didn't have resistance here in this country; and we knew that we had a big stone fruit industry," he said. Developing and testing the 'HoneySweet' has taken 16 years. Once deregulated by USDA-APHIS, additional years of traditional breeding will be necessary to cross the 'HoneySweet' with varieties preferred by growers and processors.
The 'HoneySweet' gains its resistance to the plum pox virus from a sequence of genes that Scorza and his team implanted in the plum's DNA. The researchers included genes from two different bacteria - one makes the plants resistant to an antibiotic, the other causes tissues to turn blue when exposed to certain chemicals - that allow them to test whether the new gene patch is working. (Plum cells and tissues in which the genetic modification didn't "take" die when exposed to the kanamycin antibiotic and fail to turn blue in the presence of the appropriate chemical mixture.) They also included two genes from viruses - one from the plum pox virus stimulates the tree to produce a novel small ribonucleic acid molecule which enables the tree to stop an invading plum pox virus from replicating; the other, a gene from the cauliflower mosaic virus, "drives" or turns on the gene from the plum pox virus.
But not everyone agrees that man-made genetic sequences such as the one patched into the 'HoneySweet' plum can do their jobs without complications. Joe Cummins, genetics professor at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, warns that splicing antibiotic-resistance genes from bacteria into plums and other crops could lead to the transfer of antibiotic resistance to bacteria in the soil, and from there, to bacteria that are animal and human pathogens. In the case of the 'HoneySweet,' soil bacteria would come into contact with the embedded antibiotic-resistance gene as leaves, blossoms and fruit from the plum tree fall to the ground each year. Many bacterial genes, including some that are ubiquitous in soil and sediment, are known for their ability to absorb genes from other species and integrate them into their own DNA. Cummins also warns that including the activating gene from the cauliflower mosaic virus may stimulate the exchange or recombination of genes between the plum pox virus gene and other viruses that invade the plant. "The cauliflower mosaic virus is well known to initiate a process called genetic recombination," said Cummins. "You can get recombination between the inserted gene and another virus and generate new and unique viruses."
In its environmental assessment of the 'HoneySweet,' USDA-APHIS notes that gene interactions between viruses in plants already occur because of the propensity of viruses to exchange genes and the fact that several viruses can infect a tree at the same time. "It is highly unlikely given the high background of recombination known to occur naturally in mixed infections of both crop and wild plants that the risk of recombination would be any different in transgenic plants," it said.
The ubiquitous presence of a unique small RNA molecule in the 'HoneySweet' also concerns Cummins, who warns against assuming the new RNA is safe for human consumption. In a study reported in Nature in May 2006 on the effects of high levels of small RNA molecules in adult mice, many of the mice developed liver damage and died. "It seems unwise to presume that a novel plum RNA is safe for humans until it is proven to be safe," said Cummins.
Perhaps the biggest question is whether consumers will eat the fruit. (The FDA does not require genetically engineered fruit or other foods to be labeled.) "The packers in our industry are saying, 'We don't want to touch this with a 10-foot pole because we know customers are already very averse to anything that is genetically modified, and they might stop buying from me as a supplier if they heard that California had been involved with genetically modified plum breeding programs,' " says Peterson of the California Dried
Plum Board. With a good part of the fresh plums and prunes produced in California destined for export markets, producers have to take into account the potential reaction of foreign as well as domestic consumers. In 1998, Hawaii exported more than $10 million in papayas per year to Japan, but when the state introduced a genetically engineered papaya that same year, Japan banned the altered variety, and Hawaii's papaya exports declined precipitously. By 2005, Hawaii was exporting only $5 million worth of papayas to Japan. When the USDA announced on Aug. 18 that the U.S. rice supply had been contaminated by trace amounts of an unapproved genetically engineered rice variety, Japan banned all imports of American rice, and the European Union moved to require that all imports be tested.
Here at home, retailers wary of consumer backlash may hesitate to sell 'HoneySweet' plums. Karen Christensen, national produce coordinator for Whole Foods Market, said that "Whole Foods will not sell the 'HoneySweet' plum when and if it becomes available." Similarly, Teena Massingill, spokeswoman, said, "Safeway does not plan to sell genetically engineered plums."
©2006 San Francisco Chronicle
Legal challenge plan over GM rice - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5354294.stm
GM rice has been banned in the European Union. Friends of the Earth has said it will start a legal challenge against the Food Standards Agency (FSA) over the sale of GM rice in UK supermarkets. It claims the agency privately told retailers they did not need to test for contamination of rice by GM products. GM rice is banned in the EU because of fears not enough research on possible health risks has been carried out. The FSA said: "It is the responsibility of retailers to ensure the food they put on the market is in compliance."
Friends of the Earth said it had sent a number of rice samples for testing after reports in the US that long-grain rice had been contaminated by a type of GM rice - Bayer CropScience's LLRICE 601 - grown in experimental trials in August. The European Commission then introduced emergency measures to stop it entering Europe. No GM rice has yet been approved for consumption in the EU.
Friends of the Earth said a leaked memo revealed the FSA had told food retailers and manufacturers in private it did not expect them to carry out tests to see if rice was contaminated, or remove contaminated rice from sale. GM material was found in two types of own-brand rice for sale at Morrisons, Friends of the Earth said. The supermarket said it was withdrawing from sale 500g packets of American Long Grain Rice with a best before date of May 2008 and its 1kg pack of American Long Grain Brown Rice with a best before date of July 2008. We have now resorted to legal action to force the FSA to do its job properly, said Phil Michaels, Friends of the Earth. A Morrisons spokeswoman said: "Based on information received about tests carried out by Friends of the Earth, we have withdrawn the two products implicated as a precautionary measure."
The pressure group said the FSA had said in the memo it would only be testing for contaminated rice at mills, and any which had been sold to stores or was in warehouses would not be withdrawn. The FSA says the rice poses no threat to human health.
Friends of the Earth says it has written a formal legal letter before beginning action it hopes will lead to a judicial review. Friends of the Earth's head of legal Phil Michaels said: "The Food Standards Agency's response to this GM contamination incident is scandalous and, we believe, unlawful. It has failed to act adequately to prevent illegal GM rice reaching our plates and has failed to provide accurate advice and information as it is required to do by law." The FSA's spokesman said: "We haven't told retailers not to test, but we haven't required them to test." She said research by the European Food Standards Authority "does not suggest it poses a risk to health".
Swiss Retailers Block Sale of U.S. Rice - Associated Press, September 13 2006 - http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/fn/4183605.html
ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) - The largest supermarket chain in Switzerland has blocked the sale of U.S. long grain rice after traces of an illegal genetically modified strain were found, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. Retailer Migros detected small amounts of the strain LL 601 over the weekend in shipments of long grain rice coming from the United States, said spokeswoman Martina Bosshard. Swiss law prohibits the sale of genetically modified food without special authorization. As a result, the company decided to hold back its entire stock of U.S. long grain rice and recall six products already sold to consumers, Bosshard said. Migros imports between 4,000 and 5,000 tons (4,400 and 5,500 U.S. tons) of the rice each year. "We are now waiting for a definitive analysis before we proceed," Bosshard said, adding that the contaminated shipment had come from a single
supplier, which she refused to identify.
The European Union, of which Switzerland is not a member, already imposed strict certification requirements on U.S. rice shipments in August because it had found traces of the illegal biotech strain. On Tuesday, the European Commission said 33 of 162 samples of U.S. rice imports tested by European rice millers contained illegal genetically altered
strains and had been recalled or withheld from the market.
Migros' rival in Swiss retailing, Coop, banned American long grain rice last week, blocking 10 silos containing about 800 tons (880 U.S. tons) as a precautionary measure, spokeswoman Liselotte Dolder said. "We are blocking the rice until we have certainty and we are now working hard to test all our rice," Dolder told The Associated Press. She said the company was determined to prevent genetically modified goods from hitting its shelves.
The Swiss health ministry has yet to take any measures against U.S. long grain rice imports, but spokesman Martin Schrott said illegal LL 601 contamination would not be tolerated.
"We have taken note of Migros' and Coop's decisions, but we have not yet received any lab results from the relevant cantonal (state) authorities," Schrott said. If traces of the strain are found, he said the rice would be banned from sale. Switzerland recommends importers obtain a certification that goods are free from biotech products when purchasing foreign suppliers. The EU requires such certification.
Concerns about the safety of biotech foods for consumers and the environment have led many Europeans to resist the introduction of such products, even if their use is widespread in the United States and other countries. Governments in Germany and France, neighbors of Switzerland and two of Europe's largest economies, both have imposed national bans on products they deem unsafe.
Quick revision - John Vidal - Eco-soundings, The Guardian, 13 September 2006 - http://society.guardian.co.uk/societyguardian/story/0,,1870543,00.html
Anyone who believed the hype and imagined that GM was the only way to increase crop yields should consider last week's anouncement by the Egyptian government of their best-ever rice harvest. Farmers using conventional seeds grew a record average of 9.5 tonnes per hectare. Meanwhile, GM giant Monsanto says it wants to get into growing biofuel crops, but has rejected the use of genetic engineering. A spokesman says conventional breeding techniques are "quicker".
Doubts over cassava project - East African Magazine, 11 September 2006
Researchers have admitted that varieties of the genetically-modified cassava that they had declared to be disease-resistant were actually vulnerable to the devastating cassava mosaic disease. Dagi Kimani reports
CONTROVERSY HAS deepened over a multi-million dollar USAid-supported cassava research programme, which proponents had said would help boost East Africa's food security, but which critics have dismissed as an attempt by the United States to develop alternative sources of "renewable" energy. In the latest twist, a leading American research facility, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Centre, has admitted that varieties of genetically-modified cassava that it had declared to be disease-resistant are actually vulnerable to the devastating cassava mosaic disease (CMD), the leading cause of farm losses for the crop. CMD routinely leads to losses of over 30 per cent of the cassava harvest in some farms. A statement by the centre dated May 26, 2006, says that though resistance to CMD had been established through genetic engineering seven years ago, "the resistance was subsequently lost, and [changes to] the plant's DNA had taken place."
Revelations of the resistance failure came even as plans were at an advanced stage to have the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) test the transgenic cassava plants under natural field conditions as a preamble to its release to farmers. The GM cassava varieties were developed through the Disease-Resistant Cassava for Kenya Project, which is funded by USAid, whose stated goal was "to develop and deliver transgenic, disease-resistant cassava planting materials to farmers in Kenya to increase their harvests and improve their food security." Critics of the cassava-research programme, however, say that the objectives of the project go beyond food security, and touch on the search by the United States of a cheap source of starch other than maize to manufacture ethanol to help wean it from oil. The development of a GM cassava would also help break down resistance to the introduction of genetically-modified crops across the region. According to the critics, a senior scientist at Danforth Centre, Dr Claude Fauquet, admitted as such when he said in a briefing paper that the "acquisition of the cassava genome sequence will provide a platform to explore the vast biodiversity within cassava wild species. Ultimately, these activities will position cassava as a valuable source of renewable bio-energy."
Together with several other US research facilities, the Danforth Centre, has in addition to being involved in the effort to develop disease-resistant varieties of cassava been contracted by the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE-JGI) to sequence the plant's entire genome. The DOE-JGI itself acknowledges that cassava is an excellent energy source which "is grown worldwide as a source of food for approximately one billion people, raising the possibility that it could be used globally to alleviate dependence on fossil fuels." According to the South African-based African Centre for Biosafety, these admissions mark a "dramatic about-turn from previous commitments to address hunger and the nutritional needs of people in developing countries." Proponents of the research programme, however, contend that its critics are opposed to it purely because of the fact that it involves genetic-modification, a controversial issue in most African countries outside South Africa.
Before the latest announcements of setbacks, the Danforth Centre had released an elaborate programme in which the disease resistant varieties would be rolled out across East Africa, starting with the distribution of the region's most popular cassava variety - Ebwanatareka - for adoption by 32,000 Kenyan farming families. "Successful achievement of the project goal will help 200,000 Kenyan cassava farmers and their family members increase their food security by controlling CMD and increasing their cassava harvests by 50 per cent on a sustainable basis," the Danforth Centre says in its website. "A 50 per cent increase in yield for these families will generate an additional 63,000 tonnes of food each year." The Ebwanatareka variety would then be distributed to Uganda, where it was projected to substantially raise the country's cassava out-put. "By deploying the same transgenic variety in Uganda, annual production of cassava in that country will increase by over 600,000 tonnes, and the total number of beneficiaries in both countries will increase to over one million persons," says the Danforth Centre's statement.
EU:Food Companies Risk Legal Action If Import Illegal GMO Crops - The Wall Street Journal, September 6 2006
Brussels - European Union food companies that import illegal genetically modified foods risk legal action by national governments, the European Commission said Tuesday after environmental groups said an illegal and potentially dangerous biotech strain has been found in Chinese food products sold in the U.K., Germany and France. Greenpeace International and Friends of the Earth Tuesday said their experts found Chinese rice-based products sold in Asian supermarkets in Germany, the U.K. and France contaminated with an experimental strain of genetically engineered rice that's not been approved for human consumption. The groups called for an immediate ban on Chinese rice.
The European Commission said the groups should submit their samples and findings to national test centers and the E.U.'s central biotechnology laboratory in Italy. "The presence of traces of unauthorized GMO food in the E.U. is illegal and it is the responsibility of food operators to ensure that they do not place on the market food that doesn't comply with E.U. law. Food operators are clearly not doing enough," E.U. food and consumer protection spokesman Philip Tod said. The Commission wrote Friday to food operators telling them "that they are not doing enough" to ensure imports are free of illegal biotech strains, Tod said. European governments should punish companies importing illegal crops. "We would expect member states to take action against any companies not complying with their obligations under E.U. food law."
The food scare is the second in as many weeks and casts doubt over the ability of biotech companies to control their crops. Late last month Europe imposed strict screeing rules on imports of U.S.-farmed long-grain rice following the discovery of an illegal biotech strain in commercial stocks there. European food safety experts - who have the power to impose import bans - are meeting in Brussels Tuesday and Wednesday. It is unclear whether the issue will be discussed. Greenpeace warned the strain "poses serious health risks" and called on European governments to "take immediate action to protect consumers." It said the rice - which is modified to resist insects - contains a protein that has reportedly induced allergic-like reactions in mice. "Five positive samples were found containing an illegal GE not approved anywhere in the world. However, this could be the tip of the iceberg with rice products included in everything from baby food to yoghurt," Greenpeace said in the statement. Countries that grow and produce biotech crops should be required to certify their exports biotech-free, Greenpeace said. Such certification "is reasonable, cost-effective, and necessary to protect Europe's consumers." Chinese seed companies have been selling the illegal strain to farmers, Greenpeace said.
Last week authorities in the Dutch port of Rotterdam stopped a shipment of U.S. rice thought to be contaminated with the illegal strain. U.S. authorities have declared the U.S. rice strain safe for human consumption.
Gene-altered rice from China found in EU - Science News - REUTERS, Sep 5 2006
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European consumers are at risk from unauthorized genetically modified (GMO) rice grown in China after evidence of a strain was found in Britain, France and Germany, environment group Greenpeace said on Tuesday. The Chinese rice, modified to resist certain insects, was found in samples of rice stick noodles in France and Germany, and also in rice vermicelli in Britain, Greenpeace said, citing the results of two rounds of laboratory tests. Its report did not indicate the possible quantities involved but said the GMO rice had been detected in different product brands found in Asian Specialty stores and Asian restaurants. "Innocent consumers again become the victims of the GE (genetic engineering) industry's 'contamination first' strategy," Greenpeace International GMO campaigner Jeremy Tager said in a statement.
The Chinese rice contained a protein that might cause allergenic reactions in humans, he said. It was supposed to be used only in field trials and was not approved for commercial growing because of concerns about its safety. The discovery of the experimental rice comes just a few weeks after the European Union tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain imports to prove the absence of another biotech rice type detected in samples intended for commercial use. The EU does not yet permit the sale, import or marketing of any biotech rice on the territory of its 25 member countries. "Once illegal GE crops are in the food chain, removing them takes enormous effort and cost. It is easier to prevent contamination in the first place," Tager said.
Last month, the EU-25 tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain rice imports to prove the absence of the GMO strain LL Rice 601 marketed by Germany's Bayer AG and produced in the United States. The EU decision followed the discovery by U.S. authorities of trace amounts of LL Rice 601, engineered to resist a herbicide, in long-grain samples targeted for commercial use. European consumers are well known for their wariness over GMO foods, but the biotech industry says its products are perfectly safe and are no different to conventional foods.
ILLEGAL GM RICE FROM CHINA FOUND IN EUROPE - Friends of the Earth Europe - Press Release - Tuesday 5 September 2006
NEW FOOD SCANDAL: ILLEGAL GM RICE FROM CHINA FOUND ACROSS EUROPE - Friends of the Earth demands ban on Chinese rice imports
Brussels, Tuesday 5 September 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe has called for an immediate ban on rice imports from China following the discovery by environmental groups that foods on sale in Europe are contaminated with an illegal genetically modified (GM) rice from China. This is the second illegal GM rice crisis to hit Europe in three weeks. Last month the European Commission introduced emergency measures to prevent US rice, illegally contaminated with a different GM strain, from entering the food chain .
Friends of the Earth Europe‚s GM Campaigner Adrian Bebb said: "It is shocking that contamination with illegal genetically modified rice has occurred for the second time in three weeks. The European Commission must react quickly and ban imports from China until consumers can be guaranteed that foods containing rice are safe from contamination. Chinese foods already in shops should also be immediately tested and products recalled if necessary." "These incidents must be prevented from happening again. Consumers in Europe deserve better than panic measures each time the latest crisis breaks. We need a radical overhaul of food testing in the EU to stop illegal and potentially unsafe genetically modified foods from entering the food chain."
Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace tested foods in the UK, France and Germany and found rice products to be contaminated with the unauthorized GM rice . The products were found in Asian specialty stores and were imported from China . The illegal rice is an experimental variety genetically engineered to produce an insecticide. It is not approved for human consumption or commercial cultivation anywhere in the world. Scientific studies raise concerns about the risk to human health of eating the rice, particularly the potential to cause food allergies .
Both this latest incident and the contamination by Bayer's unauthorised GM rice in the US resulted from outdoor field trials of GM crops. Friends of the Earth Europe has now called for a global moratorium on field trials and a halt to the commercial development of GM rice. "This latest contamination is further proof that experimental genetically modified crops cannot be contained safely when grown in outdoor trials. Rice is one of the world‚s most important food crops and every effort should be made to protect it from contamination." Mr Bebb added.
No GM rice is approved in Europe either for import or cultivation. However, Bayer has applied to import herbicide resistant rice into the EU. And since 1991, 35 applications were made for field trials of GM rice in Europe, mainly in Spain and Italy .
For more information contact: Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel +49 80 25 99 19 51, Mobile +49 1609 4901 163, Email Adrian.firstname.lastname@example.org
Clare Oxborrow, GM campaigner at Friends of the Earth (London): Tel +44 207 566 1649, Mobile +44 771 2843211, Email email@example.com
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel +32 25 42 61 05, Mobile +32 485 930515, Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
 The foods testing were bought from Asian stores in Germany, France and the UK. Products testing positive were: Cock Brand Rice Sticks (France), Swallow Sailing Rice Sticks (Germany), Brotherhood Rice Vermicelli (UK), Happiness Rice Vermicelli (UK), Gold Plum Rice Sticks (UK)
 This latest contamination incident stemmed from field trials in China. An investigation by Greenpeace in 2005 found that research institutes and seed companies in China had been illegally selling unapproved GM rice seeds to farmers. Further testing indicated that the whole food chain had been contaminated, with the most recent case being the contaminated Heinz rice cereal products in Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. The Chinese government, in the wake of the situation, reportedly punished seed companies and destroyed illegal-grown GM rice.
 The GM rice contains either the Cry1Ac protein, or a fusion Cry1Ab/Cry1Ac protein. A 1999 study partly sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency found evidence to suggest that the Bt protein Cry1Ac can elicit antibody responses consistent with allergic reactions in farm-workers and a series of studies published in 1999 and 2000 by a Cuban researcher Vasquez-Padron on Cry1Ac documented immunogenic responses to which indicate the potential for allergic reactions or other immune system responses http://www.humboldt.org.ni/transgenicos/docs/what_experts_says_human_effects.pdf
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer, Friends of the Earth Europe, Rue Blanche 15, B-1050 Bruxelles , Belgium - Tel.: +32 2 542 6105 - Mobile: +32 485 930515 - Fax: +32 2 537 5596 - email@example.com - http://www.foeeurope.org
Illegal genetically engineered Chinese rice discovered in Europe - Health risks require immediate recall and import ban - PRESS RELEASE - Tuesday 5 September
Amsterdam September 5 2006 - Greenpeace International released findings today that show illegal GE (genetically engineered) rice from China has contaminated food products in France, Germany and the UK. Greenpeace International has notified authorities that the illegal GE rice poses serious health risks and calls upon European governments to take immediate actions to protect consumers.
Greenpeace offices tested samples of rice products such as vermicelli, rice sticks and other processed foods found in Asian specialty stores and Asian restaurants. Three positive samples were found containing an illegal GE not approved anywhere in the world. However this could be the tip of the iceberg with rice products included in everything from baby food to yoghurt. (1) "These findings are shocking and should trigger high-level responses", said Jeremy Tager, GE rice campaigner, Greenpeace International. "Consumers should not be left swallowing experimental GE rice that is risky to their health."
The illegal GE rice, genetically engineered to be resistant to insects, contains a protein or fused protein (Cry1Ac) that has reportedly induced allergenic-like reactions in mice.
Greenpeace International is calling for immediate recall and measures to ensure no further contaminated rice enters the EU. Additionally, we are calling for the urgent implementation of a preventative screening system for countries with high contamination risks. Demanding GE free certification for food from countries that produce GE crops is reasonable, cost effective, and necessary to protect Europe's food.
This recent rice contamination in China began with field trials; the rice is not currently approved for commercial growing because of mounting concerns over its safety. Yet an investigation by Greenpeace in 2005 shows that research institutes and seed companies in China had been illegally selling unapproved GE rice seeds to farmers. (2) "Innocent consumers again become the victims of the GE industry's 'contamination first' strategy", says Tager. "A group of rogue scientists pushing for the approval of GE rice in China leaked the illegal seeds to the market and have created major genetic contamination. Just two weeks ago, US rice was contaminated with an illegal GE rice developed by Bayer. Once illegal GE crops are in the food chain, removing them takes enormous effort and cost. It is easier to prevent contamination in the first place," concluded Tager.
For more information contact: Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE rice campaigner +31 646 22 11 85. Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications officer +31 6 4619 7324
Notes to editors:
(1) All tests were conducted by an accredited and independent laboratory. Details in attached background briefing.
(2) Further testing indicated that the whole food chain had been contaminated, with the most recent case being the contaminated Heinz rice cereal products in Beijing, Guangzhou and Hongkong. The Chinese government, in the wake of the situation, reportedly punished seed companies and destroyed illegally grown GE rice.
GM CASSAVA FAILS IN AFRICA - Mariam Mayet, African Centre for Biosafety - http://www.biosafetyafrica.net
The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (the "Danforth Center"), whose partners include Monsanto Corporation and the Missouri Botanical Garden, has been heavily involved in research on transgenic varieties of cassava for the past seven years. According to the Danforth Center's website, it has been pursuing a Disease-Resistant Cassava for Kenya Project, with funding from USAID, in order to develop and deliver transgenic, disease-resistant cassava planting materials to farmers in Kenya to increase their harvests and improve their food security.
However, on the 26 May 2006, the Danforth Center quietly announced that it had discovered that GM virus-resistant varieties of cassava, first developed seven years ago, had lost resistance to the African cassava mosaic virus (CMVD) and that expert consultants had been asked to review why and how the modified cassava had changed and to assess future plans.[i] This failure underlies the reason why African governments, save for pro-GM South Africa, have adopted the precautionary principle and not allowed Africa to be turned into a laboratory for an unpredictable technology.
According to the Danforth Center press release, the group reviewed the data and concurred with the conclusions that resistance to the African CMVD was achieved in cassava line Y-85, "that the resistance was subsequently lost, and that methylation of the plant's DNA had taken place." This failure undermines the claim on the Danforth Center's website that "transgenic plants developed at the Danforth Center have demonstrated strong resistance to the disease in greenhouse trials over multiple years."[ii]
This turn of events also undermines plans by the Danforth Center's International Programs Office to push Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to test transgenic cassava plants under natural field conditions. Clearly, the kind of promises held out by the Danforth Center on its website are no longer credible: "virus-resistance technology will initially be deployed in the East African region's most popular cultivar - Ebwanatareka - for adoption by the 22,000 Kenyan farming families
. the project will help 200,000 Kenyan cassava farmers and their families and increase cassava harvests by 50% on a sustainable basis." Similar benefits are promised to neighbouring Uganda and to millions of farmers throughout Africa.
This is not the first time that these kind of false promises have been held out to KARI, which previously ran field trials on a much hyped transgenic sweet potato - part of another USAID supported project. The sweet potato had been touted as high-yielding and virus-resistant, but during three years of field trials KARI discovered the virus resistance was no better than for ordinary varieties and the yields were sometimes less. By contrast, a conventional breeding programme in Uganda successfully produced a high-yielding virus-resistant sweet potato more quickly and more cheaply, without any recourse to genetic engineering.[iii]
The Danforth Center is also involved in sequencing the cassava genome.[iv] In what seems to be a dramatic about turn from its previous commitment to address hunger and the nutritional needs of people in developing countries, Dr Claude Fauquet, of the Danforth Center revealed in a press release, that the "acquisition of the cassava genome sequence will
provide a platform to explore the vast biodiversity within cassava wild species. Ultimately, these activities will position cassava as a valuable source of renewable bio-energy." According to the U.S Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), funder of the project, the DOE JGI chose to sequence cassava because it is an excellent energy source - "it is grown worldwide as a source of food for approximately 1 billion people, raising the possibility that it could be used globally to alleviate dependence on fossil fuels."[v]
The cassava genome project is spearheaded by a consortium made up of the Danforth Center, the USDA, Washington University in St Louis, the University of Chicago, the Institute of Genomic Research, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Broad Institute, Ohio State University, the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, and the Smithsonian Institute.
[i] Danforth Center Cassava Viral Resistance Review Update http://www.danforthcentre.org/newsmedia/NewsDetail.asp?nid=121; and Danforth Centre, Cassava Update http://www.danfothcentre.org/newsmedia/NewsDetail.asp?nid=119
[iii] Monsanto's showcase project in Africa fails, New Scientist, Vol 181 No. 2433, 7 February 2004
[iv] Danforth Center Spearheads Effort to Sequence Cassava at National Research Center - http://www.danforthcentre.org/newsmedia/NewsDetail.asp?nid-122 18 July 2006.
[v] Danforth Center Spearheads Effort to Sequence Cassava at National Research Center - http://www.danforthcentre.org/newsmedia/NewsDetail.asp?nid-122 18 July 2006.
Unauthorised U.S. GMO rice arrived in Netherlands - REUTERS, Thu Aug 31 2006
BRUSSELS, Aug 31 (Reuters) - A shipment of an unauthorised GMO rice strain from the United States arrived in the Netherlands on Saturday, the European Commission said. "We do have a suspected positive case in Rotterdam," Commission spokesman Philip Tod told a news conference on Thursday, adding that the rice had not entered the market and was being tested by Dutch authorities. "We also have been told by industry of another suspected positive case in New Orleans, but that has not left the U.S."
Last week, the EU tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain rice imports following the discovery by U.S. authorities of a genetically modified (GMO) strain known as LL Rice 601 marketed by Germany's Bayer AG and produced in the United States.
Johnsongrass resistance to glyphosate confirmed in Argentina - By Harry Cline - Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Monsanto has confirmed that a Johnsongrass biotype has become resistant to glyphosate in Northeastern Argentina. The findings were announced recently by companies represented by two of the major fertilizer and agrochemical trade organizations in Argentina and by Monsanto. No Johnsongrass resistance has been identified in the United States. Monsanto took the initiative in researching reports in 2004 of resistance and has worked with the industry to develop recommendations to mitigate the resistance. A preliminary assessment of the affected area identified the problem on 17,000 to 25,000 acres. Monsanto and the agricultural organizations have developed recommendations to mitigate the documented resistance.
Several weed species have been identified as resistant to glyphosate in the U.S. and Monsanto has developed aggressive vegetation management plans to mitigate those situation as well. Among them is an online weed resistance management continuing education course for California and Arizona pest control advisors on the Western Farm Press website. Monsanto also sponsors a major online resistance course for Midwest and Southern corn producers. Information in these courses includes recommendation for chemical control with herbicides other than glyphosate as well as recommendations for mechanical and non-chemical control.
Copyright Western Farm Press
US rice farmers sue Bayer CropScience over GM rice - REUTERS, 28 Aug 2006 - http://today.reuters.com/News/CrisesArticle.aspx?storyId=N8S372113
LOS ANGELES, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Rice farmers in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and California have sued Bayer CropScience, alleging its genetically modified rice has contaminated the crop, attorneys for the farmers said on Monday. The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock, law firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll said in a statement.
The farmers alleged that the unit of Germany's Bayer AG <BAYG.DE> failed to prevent its genetically modified rice, which has not been approved for human consumption, from entering the food chain. As a result, they said, Japan and the European Union have placed strict limits on U.S. rice imports and U.S. rice prices have dropped dramatically. A Bayer representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
U.S. agriculture and food safety authorities learned on July 31 that Bayer's unapproved rice had been found in commercial bins in Arkansas and Missouri. While the United States is a small rice grower, it is one of the world's largest exporters, sending half of its crop to foreign buyers. The genetically engineered long grain rice has a protein known as Liberty Link, which allows the crop to withstand applications of an herbicide used to kill weeds.
The European Commission said on Wednesday the EU would require U.S. long grain rice imports to be certified as free from the unauthorized strain. The commission said validated tests must be done by an accredited laboratory and be accompanied by a certificate. Japan, the largest importer of U.S. rice, suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice a week ago.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration have said there are no public health or environmental risks associated with the genetically engineered rice.
The United States is expected to produce a rice crop valued at $1.88 billion in 2006. U.S. rice growers are responsible for about 12 percent of world rice trade. Three-fourths of the crop is long grain, grown almost entirely in the lower Mississippi Valley. California, the No. 2 rice state, grows short grain rice. (Additional reporting by Christopher Doering in Washington)
Unapproved Rice Strain Found in Wide Area - By ANDREW POLLACK - New York Times, August 22 2006
An unapproved genetically engineered strain of rice has been found in trace amounts in commercial supplies over a wide area in the nation's southern rice-growing region, the country's largest marketer of rice said yesterday. The marketer, Riceland Foods, a farmer-owned cooperative, said samples from its five-state growing region - Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas - had tested positive for the genetically engineered trait. "The positive results were geographically dispersed and random throughout the rice-growing area," Riceland said.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced late Friday that unapproved rice had been found in supplies destined for human consumption. He and other federal officials said the rice posed no risk to health or the environment. Because some countries will not accept genetically modified crops they have not approved themselves, the finding could hurt American exports or require them to undergo extra testing. About half the nation's $1.9 billion rice crop is exported. In a telephone news conference on Friday, Mr. Johanns declined to discuss how far the unapproved rice had spread. Agriculture Department officials later said it had been found in bins in Arkansas and Missouri that held rice from the 2005 crop, though the rice in those bins might have come from other states. Bill J. Reed, a spokesman for Riceland, said in an interview yesterday that the rice was "not limited to Arkansas and Missouri" but had been found "throughout the southern rice-growing area."
The unapproved rice, a long-grain variety developed by Bayer CropScience, part of the Bayer Group, contains a gene that makes it resistant to the herbicide Liberty, also known as glufosinate. While this type of rice never received approval, two very similar types did - though they have not been marketed. European Commission said yesterday that it would ask Washington for more information and then decide what action to take on the unapproved rice. A Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, reported that Japan had suspended imports of long-grain rice from the United States, The Associated Press said. American rice industry executives said Japan's imports consisted mainly of short- and medium-grain rice from California, and hardly any long-grain rice. The California Rice Commission said yesterday that it did not expect that the state's rice would be affected.
Riceland, which is based in Stuttgart, Ark., said the existence of a genetically engineered product in its rice was discovered in January by one of its export customers. Riceland said that because genetically engineered rice was not grown commercially in the United States, it initially thought that a small amount of genetically engineered corn or another crop had been mixed in with rice, perhaps through the use of a common means of transportation. But in May, Riceland said, the company collected rice samples from several grain storage sites and found positive results for the Bayer trait. Riceland said it then told Bayer, which confirmed the findings and said the modified rice was present at levels equivalent to 6 of every 10,000 grains. Bayer reported this to the government on July 31. Since then, Mr. Johanns said, the government has been working on the situation.
It is still unclear how the rice, which was last field-tested in 2001, entered the 2005 crop. Rice growers said yesterday that the finding could be damaging as it came just as the harvest was beginning, and as prices for rice seemed set to rise because of demand. They called for more information. "We need to know where it got started, how it got started, is it an isolated incident, how widespread it is," said Dwight Roberts, president of the United States Rice Producers Association. He said the Agriculture Department "has to move clearly and quickly and announce some policy on certification and testing."
U.S. rice dives as GMO issue stirs export fears - By Christine Stebbins - REUTERS, Aug 22 2006
CHICAGO, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Rice prices on Tuesday tumbled 5 percent to the lowest level in nearly two months, amid fears that exports could suffer after the discovery of U.S. rice supplies tainted with unapproved genetically modified rice. Japan has already banned imports of U.S. long grain rice after U.S. government officials announced on Friday that GMO rice was found in commercial supplies. Europe, a major market for U.S. rice, was set to block unauthorized biotech rice from reaching its shores even as American farmers harvest this year's crop. "The saga continues, and it's still the psychological fear element that is driving the market," said Neauman Coleman, analyst and rice broker from Brinkley, Arkansas.
Rice futures at the Chicago Board of Trade fell by the daily trading limit of 50 cents per hundredweight, or more than 5 percent, the sharpest one-day decline in years. Tuesday's drop came on top of declines chalked up on Monday, the first dayside trading session after news of the commingling was announced late on Friday by the U.S. Agriculture Department. U.S. officials said it was the first time unmarketed genetically modified rice has been found in rice used in the commercial market.
The Food and Drug Administration and USDA were notified on July 31 that testing by Bayer CropScience, a division of Bayer AG, reported the biotech sample, called LLRICE 601, in rice bins in Arkansas and Missouri. There were no plans to recall or destroy the commercial rice that was contaminated with the unapproved variety.
CBOT traders were most concerned that the European Union, a big buyer of long grain rice as traded at the exchange, will stop importing U.S. long grain rice following Japan's move. The 25-nation European Union bloc imported 300,000 tonnes of U.S. rice last year, with 85 percent being long grain. No GMO rice is authorized for import or sale in the EU. CBOT rice futures for November delivery fell the 50-cent trading limit before closing 49 cents lower at $9.35 per hundredweight -- its lowest close since June 29. CBOT September futures closed 50 cents lower. Since the USDA's announcement late Friday, the price of CBOT November rice has fallen 75 cents.
"There are going to be trade tensions. That is basically your knee-jerk reaction," said grain analyst Shawn McCambridge with Prudential Financial. "Where it goes from here really depends on the political environment within the importing countries, and whether or not this whole GMO issue is as big as they think it is," McCambridge added.
EU MUST ACT QUICKLY TO PREVENT CONTAMINATED GM RICE ENTERING EUROPE
Friends of the Earth Europe - Press Release - Tuesday 22 August 2006
Friends of the Earth pushes for an immediate suspension of US rice imports and a full investigation
Brussels, Tuesday 22 August 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe has welcomed the announcement today by the EU Commission that it plans to prevent unapproved genetically modified rice from the US from entering the European food chain (1). However, the environmental campaign group warns that the measures taken (due to be announced tomorrow) must be rapid and must involve an immediate suspension of US rice imports.
Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "North American rice has been contaminated with a genetically modified variety that has not been properly tested and has not been authorised for human consumption. The EU rightly plans to take action to prevent it from entering the European food chain, but it must move faster. Imports of rice from the US must be suspended immediately and contaminated products must be removed from the shelves." "This disturbing incident is yet another warning of the dangers of genetically modified crops, and shows that consumer opposition to this technology is completely justified. There must be a full investigation to find out how this contamination has occurred and to ensure that it never happens again," Mr Bebb added.
Japan has already put a halt on imports on rice from the US.
The environmental campaign group is also calling on the Commission to set out its response to the incident, to clarify what steps are being taken, and to provide answers to the following specific questions:
* When was the European Commission officially notified of the contamination by the US authorities?
* Does the European Commission have the relevant reference materials to allow detection of LL601 rice in foodstuffs?
* Has a system for testing rice imports been established?
* Will the Commission make details of their plans for testing publicly available?
* Does the European Commission have any further information regarding the extent, location(s) and level of contamination of US rice, and when it occurred?
* Has the EFSA made any assessment of the safety of LL601 rice?
* Have the safety assessments from Bayer or the US authorities been made available to the European Commission?
* Will the Commission make any safety data publicly available?
For more information, please contact:
Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +49 8025 99 1951; Mobile: +49 160 949 01163; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer for Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +32 25 42 61 05; Mobile: +32 485 930 515; email@example.com
(1) Reuters: http://today.reuters.com/news/articleinvesting.aspx?view=CN&storyID=2006-08-22T102146Z_01_L22121916_RTRIDST_0_FOOD-EU-USA-RICE-UPDATE-1.XML&rpc=66&type=qcna
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer, Friends of the Earth Europe, Rue Blanche 15, B-1050 Bruxelles, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 542 6105 Mobile: +32 485 930515 Fax: +32 2 537 5596 firstname.lastname@example.org - http://www.foeeurope.org
Greenpeace demands global ban on imports of US rice - Dominican Today, August 21 2006 - http://www.dominicantoday.com/app/article.aspx?id=16617
Amsterdam - Greenpeace International today called for a global ban on imports of US rice in order to protect the public from eating illegal, untested and unapproved varieties of genetically engineered (GE) rice. GE Liberty Link (LL) rice 602, produced by agro-chemical giant Bayer and never intended for commercial release, has been found in commercial rice in the United States and rice imports were, as a result, immediately banned in Japan. It is not approved for consumption or cultivation anywhere in the world. "Rice is the world's most important staple food and contamination of rice supplies by Bayer, a company pushing its GE rice around the world, must be stopped," said Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE campaigner.
Japan has already announced a ban on long grain rice imports from the US as a result of this latest contamination scandal. Last year, Japan and the EU banned US maize imports as a result of yet another GE contamination scandal. "This latest contamination scandal once again shows the GE industry is utterly incapable of controlling GE organisms. Countries that import US rice, such as the EU, Mexico, Brasil and Canada must become serious about preventing this kind of threat to our food supplies by banning any imports of GE rice, removing all contaminated food from supermarket shelves and rejecting applications for the commercial cultivation of rice," said Tager. "Relevant authorities in importing countries must also conduct an investigation into the contamination caused by Bayer and also determine whether any other GE rice varieties being tested by Bayer have contaminated the world's food chain," Tager concluded.
GM rice in the news - Kurashi News from Japan, August 21 2006 - http://martinjapan.blogspot.com/2006/08/gm-rice-in-news.html
Japan has banned imports of US rice following news about a positive test for trace amounts of a genetically modified strain not approved for human consumption. Japan's government has requested the US to enact strict controls, according to several newspapers. The Health Ministry does not include any strain of rice on its list of genetically modified foods approved for sale in Japan. Also, ten of the nation's 47 prefectures have their own regulations on the open-air cultivation of genetically modified plants, an Asahi Shimbun survey has found: The local ordinances or guidelines are meant to prevent cross-pollination and hybridization of GM plants with related crops in the region. "Once cross-breeding or mixups take place, it will be too late," said an agriculture section official of Niigata Prefecture.
Japan began to import GM crops in the 1990s, but no commercial production has started here because of consumer concerns over safety.
Environment Group Urges EU Ban US Rice On GMO Scare - DOW JONES, 21 August 2006
BRUSSELS -(Dow Jones)- A European environment group has called on the European Union to stop all imports of U.S.-farmed long-grain rice following news that an unknown volume has been contaminated with a strain of genetically modified rice owned by German biotech giant Bayer CropScience (506285.BY) and not approved for human consumption. An import ban would deprive U.S. rice exporters of their second largest customer. The E.U. buys about 300,000 metric tons of rice, worth about EUR70 million, from the U.S. each year. Japan, the U.S. biggest rice customer, shut off all U.S. long-grain rice imports last Saturday.
Officials at the European Commission in Brussels, which is in charge of deciding import bans, said officials were discussing the matter.
EU URGED TO BAN NORTH AMERICAN RICE - Friends of the Earth Europe Press Release
US rice contaminated by illegal GM strain
Brussels, August 21, 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe has today called on the European Commission to immediately restrict imports of American rice after the US Department for Agriculture (USDA) revealed that the US food chain has been contaminated with an illegal and untested genetically modified (GM) strain . The US announcement states that conventional long-grain rice on the market has been contaminated by a GM rice that was grown at experimental test sites between 1998 and 2001. The statement does not reveal how widespread the contamination is or how the contamination occurred. Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the European Union to follow the example of Japan, which suspended US rice imports on Saturday. 
Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said, "This is a complete scandal. The biotech industry has failed once again to control its experiments and lax regulations in the US have allowed consumers worldwide to be put at risk. The European Union must immediately suspend US rice imports until consumers can be guaranteed protection from untested and illegal foods."
Europe imports approximately 70 million Euros worth of US rice every year . The source of the contamination is apparently an experimental GM rice called LLRICE601, produced by German-based biotechnology company Bayer. This experimental rice is engineered to withstand application of the herbicide glufosinate, but it has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world and has not undergone any official assessments to determine its health or environmental impact. According to Bayer the GM rice "is present in some samples of commercial rice seed at low levels" even though field-testing ended five years ago. Bayer informed the USDA of the contamination on 31 July 2006.
As well as calling for an immediate import ban, Friends of the Earth Europe has called for an investigation by authorities in the US and Europe into the full extent of the contamination and for Bayer to release all the necessary information into the public domain on the safety testing and detection methods for LLRICE601. "It is vital that Bayer is forced to reveal all information about how this contamination has occurred over such a long time scale. Contamination of the food chain is totally unacceptable and must be prevented in the future," Mr Bebb added.
This latest case of GM contamination echoes a GM maize scandal in March last year, in which the biotech company Syngenta admitted to selling an experimental and illegal GM maize variety to US farmers for four years. Maize exports to Europe were contaminated with the illegal maize, and the European Commission put in place emergency measures to prevent the import of contaminated maize into the EU. These measures are still in place .
For more information, please contact:
Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +49 80 25 99 1951; Mobile: +49 160 949 01163; email: email@example.com
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer for Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +32 25 42 61 05; Mobile: +32 485 930 515; firstname.lastname@example.org
 The announcement was made late on Friday 18 August in the US.
 UNCTAD http://r0.unctad.org/infocomm/anglais/rice/market.htm#cce
Unapproved, Genetically Engineered Rice Found in Food Supply - USDA and FDA Unaware of Identity, Location or Number of Contaminated Products
Center for Food Safety, August 18, 2006
Citing Past Contamination and USDA's Illegal Activities, Center for Food Safety Calls for Moratorium on Genetically Engineered Crop Field Trials
Late today in a webcast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that an unapproved, genetically engineered rice known as LL601 was found contaminating commercial long-grain rice supplies, according to information supplied by the developer of the rice, Bayer CropScience. The presence of LL601 in the food supply is illegal, as it has not undergone USDA review for potential environmental impacts required prior to marketing, nor review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for possible harm to human health. LL601 is genetically altered to survive application of the powerful herbicide glufosinate, and was field-tested under permits granted by the USDA from 1998 to 2001.
In the webcast, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns professed ignorance as to how much rice was contaminated, which rice products were involved, or where the contaminated rice was found. Bayer informed USDA of the contamination on July 31st, 2006, based on test results reported to the company by a rice merchandiser. USDA officials stated that rice contaminated with LL601 will not be destroyed. Though Bayer does not intend to market the rice, the company will apply to USDA for marketing approval of LL601, apparently in an effort to limit its liability for the episode. Bayer reportedly stopped development of LL601 for unknown reasons in 2001.
"Once again, USDA has demonstrated its inability to keep experimental and potentially hazardous genetically engineered crops out of the food supply," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety. "Until USDA gets its act together, we recommend a moratorium on all new permits for open-air field testing of genetically engineered crops not permitted in the food supply."
"The USDA is an agency out of control," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. "USDA's continuing failure to adequately regulate and monitor field testing of genetically engineered crops clearly puts the environment and public health at risk". Kimbrell points to an August 10th decision by a federal district judge in Hawai'i, who ruled that USDA violated two federal laws in granting permits to grow drug-producing, genetically engineered crops in Hawai'i. The judge said the USDA acted "arbitrarily and capriciously," and in "utter disregard" of the Endangered Species Act.
In late 2005, the USDA's own Inspector General issued a scathing report detailing numerous violations of agency rules in regulating genetically engineered crop field trials. USDA officials did not know the locations of many field trials it was charged with regulating, and did not conduct required inspections of others. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences also criticized serious deficiencies in USDA's regulation of genetically engineered crops.
Since 1996, the USDA has granted at least 48 permits authorizing Bayer or companies it has since acquired (Aventis, AgrEvo) to plant over 4,000 acres of experimental, genetically engineered (GE) rice. The extent to which pollen or grains from these field trials have contaminated commercial rice or related weedy species such as red rice is unknown. USDA policies do not provide for the testing of fields adjacent to field test sites to detect possible contamination with the experimental genetically engineered crop.
Overall, USDA has issued permits authorizing field tests of over 100 genetically engineered crops on roughly 50,000 sites on more than half a million acres since 1987.
Contacts: Bill Freese, 202-547-9359 x14, Rebecca Spector, 415-826-2770 x301 - WWW.CENTERFORFOODSAFETY.ORG
UPDATE: Japan Suspends US Long-Grain Rice Imports - Report - Sunday August 20th, 2006 / 12h36
TOKYO (AP) -Japan has suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice following a positive test for trace amounts of a genetically modified strain not approved for human consumption, a news report said Sunday. Japan's Health Ministry imposed the suspension on Saturday after being informed by U.S. federal officials that trace amounts of the unapproved strain had been discovered in commercially available long-grain rice, the Asahi newspaper said. The genetically engineered rice was detected by Bayer CropScience AG. The German company then notified U.S. officials. The strain is not approved for sale in the U.S., but two other strains of rice with the same genetically engineered protein are. The ministry will instruct companies not to process or sell any U.S. long-grain rice they may already have imported, though it has so far not received any report this year that any company has imported or plans to import such rice, the Asahi said. The ministry has requested the U.S. government to enact strict controls, the Asahi said, adding that the suspension does not affect short- and medium-grain rice imports. The Health Ministry does not include any strain of rice on its list of genetically modified foods approved for sale in Japan. Health Ministry officials were unavailable for comment Sunday.
U.S. Rice Supply Contaminated - Genetically Altered Variety Is Found in Long-Grain Rice - By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, August 19, 2006; PageA07
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced late yesterday that U.S. commercial supplies of long-grain rice had become inadvertently contaminated with a genetically engineered variety not approved for human consumption. Johanns said the company that made the experimental rice, Bayer CropScience of Monheim, Germany, had provided information to the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration indicating that the rice poses no threats to human health or the environment.
"Based upon the information we have seen, this product is safe," he said in a telephone news conference. Johanns said he did not know where the contaminated rice was found or how widespread it may be in the U.S. food supply. The agency first learned about it from the company, he said, after it discovered "trace amounts" during testing of commercial supplies. The variety, known as LLRICE 601, is endowed with bacterial DNA that makes rice plants resistant to a weedkiller made by the agricultural giant Aventis. Johanns said Bayer had not finished the process of getting LLRICE 601 approved for marketing before dropping the project years ago. But the company did complete the process for two other varieties of rice with the same gene. And although neither of those were marketed, he said, their approval offers reassurance that 601 is probably safe, too.
Bayer said in a statement it is "cooperating closely" with the government on the discovery. It added that the protein conferring herbicide tolerance "is well known to regulators and has been confirmed safe for food and feed use in a number of crops by regulators in many countries, including the EU, Japan, Mexico, U.S. and Canada." Johanns acknowledged that the discovery could have a significant impact on rice sales - especially exports, which are worth close to $1 billion a year. Many U.S. trading partners have strict policies forbidding importation of certain genetically engineered foods, even if they are approved in the United States.
Those restrictions reflect a mix of science-based fears that some gene-altered foods or seeds may pose health or environmental hazards; cultural beliefs about food purity; and political wrangling over trade disparities. If other countries cut off imports, the political and economic impact could rival or exceed that of the last such major event -- the discovery in 2000 that the U.S. corn supply had become contaminated with StarLink corn.StarLink, which was engineered to be insect-resistant, was approved for use in animal feed but not for humans because of its potential to trigger allergic reactions. The StarLink episode led to the recall of hundreds of products and the destruction of corn crops on hundreds of thousands of acres. There have been several smaller incidents requiring similar actions since.
Yesterday's announcement quickly prompted a new round of accusations that the government is failing in its efforts to regulate and contain the burgeoning field of agricultural biotechnology, in which genes from various organisms are added to crops and other plants - usually to confer resistance to weed-killers or to make the plants produce their own insecticides. "How many incidents will it take before the government takes their oversight of the biotech industry seriously?" asked Gregory Jaffe, director of the biotechnology project at the District-based Center for Science in the Public Interest. "It's reassuring that in this instance there is no safety risk, but I don't think that justifies the industry's blatant violation of government regulations."
Johanns said Bayer contacted the USDA about the problem on July 31, but the agency delayed announcing the finding until it had developed a test it could share with trading partners and others who might want to check for contamination. That test is now available. Although Bayer stopped field tests of LLRICE 601 in 2001, the contamination appeared in the 2005 harvest, Johanns said - a detail that Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, found "alarming." "It's more evidence to me that all of these things that have been getting tested ultimately have a route to the food supply," Mellon said.
Although agency investigations are underway, both Johanns and Robert Brackett of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said they do not anticipate recalls, crop destruction or other regulatory action. "If we become aware of any new information to suggest that food or feed is unsafe, we will take action," Johanns said. Instead, Johanns said, Bayer now plans to resurrect its effort to get the product approved - or in government parlance, "deregulated" - a move that would make the contamination issue moot in the domestic market.
Researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Statement on Report of Bioengineered Rice in the Food Supply
CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety - August 18 2006 - http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biorice.html
Bayer CropSciences recently notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that trace amounts of a bioengineered variety of rice were detected in samples of commercial rice seed, and may have entered the food and feed supply in the United States. The bioengineered variety of rice, called LLRICE601, expresses the phosphinothricin-N-acetyltransferase (PAT) protein which provides tolerance to glufosinate-ammonium herbicide. This rice variety, not intended for commercialization, was not submitted to FDA for evaluation under the Agency's voluntary biotechnology consultation process. However, crops containing the PAT protein have previously been evaluated for safety by FDA on a number of occasions through the Agency's voluntary biotechnology consultation process. Bayer has informed the Agency that LLRICE601 is present in some samples of commercial rice seed at low levels. In addition, Bayer has provided information about the safety of the PAT protein, molecular characterization, and nutritional composition of grain from LLRICE601. Based on the available data and information, FDA has concluded that the presence of this bioengineered rice variety in the food and feed supply poses no food or feed safety concerns.
Release No. 0307.06 - Statement by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns Regarding Genetically Engineered Rice - USDA, August 18 2006
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been notified by Bayer CropScience that the company has detected trace amounts of regulated genetically engineered (GE) rice in samples taken from commercial long grain rice. Both have reviewed the available scientific data and concluded that there are no human health, food safety, or environmental concerns associated with this GE rice.
"Bayer has developed many GE herbicide-tolerant products with the protein called Liberty Link, three of which are rice. The regulated line is LLRICE 601 and Bayer reports finding only trace amounts of it during testing. LLRICE 601 was field tested between 1998 and 2001. Two deregulated lines, LLRICE 62 and LLRICE 06, have been through thorough safety evaluations and have been deemed safe for use in food and safe in the environment, although these lines have not been commercialized.
"Based on the available data and information, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded that the presence of LLRICE 601 in the food and feed supply poses no safety concerns. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also conducted a risk assessment, which indicates LLRICE 601 is safe in the environment.
"Bayer indicated it had no plans to market LLRICE 601 and therefore had not requested deregulation. Based on reports that LLRICE 601 is in the marketplace and a petition from Bayer, APHIS will conduct a deregulation process, including an opportunity for public comment.
"Because the line of GE rice in question was regulated, APHIS is conducting an investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the release and whether any violations of USDA regulations occurred.
"The protein found in LLRICE 601 is approved for use in other products. It has been repeatedly and thoroughly scientifically reviewed and used safely in food and feed, cultivation, import and breeding in the United States, as well as nearly a dozen other countries around the world.
"Since 1987, APHIS has deregulated more than 70 GE crop lines and in the last decade farmers have increasingly planted biotech varieties engineered mainly for herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, and enhanced quality traits. USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates that in 2006, 61 percent of the corn, 83 percent of the cotton and 89 percent of the soybeans planted in the United States were biotech varieties."
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Statement On Report Of Bioengineered Rice In The Food Supply - http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biorice.html
Fact Sheet: Genetically Engineered Rice - http://www.usda.gov/2006/08/0306.xml
Contact: Karen Eggert (202) 720-2511, Ed Loyd (202) 720-4623
Escaped GM grass could spread bad news - Nature, 11 August 2006 - http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060807/full/060807-17.html
An escaped strain of transgenic grass bred for golf courses could wreak havoc on native grassland species in the northwestern United States, ecologists are warning. The strain, which was growing in a test plot in Oregon and hadn't yet been approved for use by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), has now been detected in the wild, up to 3.8 kilometres outside the test area. While the transgenic component of the plant might not in itself pose a problem, the hardy strain could replace many other native grasses if it gains a foothold, ecologists say
Scientists working for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Corvallis, Oregon, have been monitoring the region surrounding the experimental plots where the plants, called creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) were being grown The EPA team studied areas of grass within almost 5 kilometres of the experimental plot. As they report in a forthcoming issue of Molecular Ecology, of 55 sites examined, six contained descendants of the transgenic test plants. The researchers believe that seeds and pollen from the test site were dispersed by the wind EPA officials stress that the scale of the problem is not yet known. "It could persist in the wild, but we wouldn't necessarily expect it to have an advantage," says Jay Reichman, one of the scientists who tracked down the grass in the wild. "Its impact remains to be seen." The USDA has started a full environmental impact assessment of the plant.
It is not clear what advantage, if any, the grass's transgenic status will give it in the wild. The strain, bred by The Scotts Company, based in Marysville, Ohio, was engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, also known as Roundup. This means that it would be difficult to eradicate from areas where other grasses are grown and managed with herbicides. More pressing is the effect that the grasses might have on other local grass species, says Tom Stohlgren, an ecologist at the US Geological Survey's National Institute of Invasive Species Science in Fort Collins, Colorado. Plants of this type, called 'sod-forming' grasses, can spread rapidly because they can reproduce sexually, through widely dispersing pollen and seeds, and also asexually, by forming a dense mat of roots from which more shoots emerge. Although bentgrass would be unlikely to encounter herbicide in the wild, so its transgenic status wouldn't necessarily be an issue, it might still plough down native grasses. "Sod-forming grasses can tend to outcompete other species," he explains. "It doesn't need to sexually reproduce - it's like The Blob. It could potentially hit rare species or national parks."
Distances of a few dozen kilometres won't be enough to stop a tenacious grass, Stohlgren adds. Grasses, unlike food crop plants, are perennial, meaning that they survive from one year to the next. And their seeds are so fine that they can easily be transferred from place to place by the wind or by sticking to animals, people or vehicles. Oregon's grass-seed industry, which produces some 70% of seed for US gardeners and groundskeepers, is based in Willamette Valley, about 90 kilometres away from the test site. If the bentgrass reaches here, it would be very hard to eliminate.
Grasses have mounted widespread invasions before, Stohlgren says. In 1998, he showed how Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) had swept through Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, tearing through habitats that previously contained a diverse range of grasses. Kentucky bluegrass can now be found in every state in the country. The rampant spreading ability of bentgrass could also pass on the transgene for Roundup resistance to other grass species through hybridization, Stohlgren adds. "We've broken down the barriers - things happen so fast," he says. "It's like Darwin on steroids."
Monsanto Announces Takeover of Delta & Pine Land and Terminator Seed Technology (again) - News Release - ETC Group, 16 August 2006
In a quest to expand its corporate seed empire - Monsanto, the world's largest seed enterprise - announced yesterday that it will buy the world's leading cotton seed company, Mississippi-based (USA) Delta & Pine Land, for US$1.5 billion. Monsanto and Delta & Pine Land (D&PL) together account for over 57% of the US cotton seed market. With D&PL subsidiaries in 13 countries - including major markets such as China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and Pakistan - the takeover means that Monsanto will command a dominant position in one of the world's most important agricultural trade commodities and that millions of cotton farmers will be under increased pressure to accept genetically modified (GM) cottonseed.
"This merger," says Ibrahim Coulibaly, President of the National Coordination of Peasants' Organizations of Mali, "guarantees an intensification of the already immense political pressure on West African governments to accept genetically modified seeds. Delta & Pine Land couldn't exercise the kind of clout Monsanto can. This deal is a major threat to our farmers and food sovereignty. African farmers' groups and civil society organizations need international support to resist the pressure of multinational corporations and USAID on African governments to adopt GMOs."
Sterile Cotton Bolls: Delta & Pine Land is notorious for its early development, with the US Department of Agriculture, of Terminator technology - plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest. Despite massive opposition from farmers, civil society and many governments, Delta & Pine Land has repeatedly vowed to commercialize the technology and declared that their primary market would be in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The company claims that it is already growing genetically modified cotton and tobacco containing Terminator genes in greenhouses.
Over 500 organizations worldwide have called for a global ban on Terminator Technology, asserting that sterile seeds will destroy the livelihoods and cultures of the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm-saved seed. In March 2006, governments at the biennial meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity unanimously re-affirmed and strengthened the international moratorium on field testing and commercialization of Terminator seeds.
"With the takeover of Delta & Pine Land, Monsanto acquires a research program devoted to commercializing Terminator seeds, as well as US, European and Canadian patents on genetic seed sterilization technology," said Hope Shand of ETC Group. "We demand that Monsanto make a public commitment to shut down the Terminator research program it will acquire from D&PL and abandon its Terminator patents once and for all," said Shand.
Monsanto's Boll Weasel: Monsanto's 1998 bid to buy Delta & Pine Land for $1.8 billion collapsed in 1999 amid global controversy over Terminator technology. In response to massive opposition, Monsanto's former CEO, Robert Shapiro, publicly pledged in 1999 that his company would not commercialize sterile-seed technology. But the company's revised 2005 pledge states that the company will not "commercialise sterile-seed technologies in food crops" - suggesting that it would use Terminator seeds in non-food crops (e.g. cotton?) and does not rule out other uses of Terminator in the future.
In an email communication to ETC Group today, Monsanto spokesperson, Lori Fisher wrote that Monsanto does not intend to use technologies that render seeds sterile, and stands by its 2005 pledge "not to commercialize sterile-seed technologies in food crops." [available here] The pledge also states that "Monsanto people constantly reevaluate this stance as technology develops."
ETC Group notes that the company's pledge leaves the door open and does not rule out future development of the technology.(1) Monsanto's pledge allows the company to change its position on any aspect of its pledge at any time. Cotton is one of the world's most lucrative non-food commercial crops. Will it become Monsanto's first target crop for Terminator genes?
Feeding Frenzy: Monsanto's acquisition of D&PL is just the latest in a decade-long series of seed company takeovers. Monsanto became the world's largest vegetable seed company with its January 2005 takeover of Seminis. In April 2005 Monsanto acquired Emergent Genetics (including Stoneville) - the 3rd largest US cotton seed company. Over the past year Monsanto took control of more than a dozen US-based corn and soybean seed companies. Just three months ago, D&PL acquired Syngenta's global cotton seed business - including operations in India, Brazil, Europe and some cotton germplasm in the US.
Global Cotton King: With the takeover of Delta & Pine Land, Monsanto aims to insert biotech traits into cotton germplasm worldwide. Despite growing resistance in West Africa, D&PL initiated tests on GM cotton in Burkina Faso, Mali and Egypt in 2004.(2) Monsanto and D&PL already control an estimated one-third of the Indian hybrid cotton seed market. According to Monsanto, D&PL now controls one-third of the Brazilian cotton seed market, and almost one-fourth of the Australian market.
Monsanto's bid for D&PL comes on the heels of the collapse of the Doha Round in Geneva on July 24. West African cotton exporting states, in particular, were banking on the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations to rollback cotton subsidies in the USA and on increased market access in the EU for finished cotton goods. With the WTO failure, the $4 billion US cotton subsidy remains in place and prospects for African and Asian cotton growers look dim. This is bad news for D&PL which lacks Monsanto's deep pockets and long-term market opportunities. Monsanto is buying its major cotton competitor for $1.5 billion - one third less than it offered in 1998(3) before the WTO trade talks began. From Monsanto's perspective, it's inevitable that the US will have to drop its subsidy to large US cotton operations and, when it does, the cotton seed business in the US will all but disappear with the market shifting to Africa and Asia. Monsanto can afford to wait - as long as it is the cotton seed provider and all the seed available uses the company's genetically modified traits.
Monopoly challenge: With control of almost 60% of the US cotton seed market after the buyout, Monsanto anticipates anti-trust scrutiny in the US, and the company's president says it will divest its US cotton seed company Stoneville, which controls about 14% of the US market. "If the EU is serious about helping Africa's cotton farmers and improving Africa's cotton export earnings, it can begin by rejecting the Monsanto/D&PL merger in Brussels as an attack on anti-competition policy," said Pat Mooney of ETC Group. "The merger of these two US companies will make the removal of cotton subsidies much more difficult and will keep cotton and cotton clothing prices unnaturally high for European consumers. A barrier thrown up in Brussels will even be seen inside the Beltway in Washington, DC. The boll is in the EU's court!" said Mooney.
US Cotton Seed Market -- % Market Share 2005
Delta & Pine Land (to be acquired by Monsanto) 43.37
Stoneville (Monsanto) 13.93
Bayer Cropscience 25.32
Phytogen (Dow AgroSciences) 2.64
Source: USDA; figures are for upland cotton.
If the buyout is approved, Monsanto's Stoneville and Delta & Pine Land will together account for more than 57% of the total US cotton market. According to the USDA 83% of the cotton acreage planted in the US in 2005 was transgenic.
Delta & Pine Land has subsidiaries in 13 countries, including companies in North, South and Central America, Europe, China, South Africa, Turkey and India.
Delta & Pine Land Subsidiaries (as of November 2005)
ATLED, D&M INTERNATIONAL, LLC, D&M PARTNERS, D&PL ARGENTINA, INC., D&PL CHINA, INC., D&PL CHINA PTE, LTD., D&PL INVESTING CORP., D&PL INVESTMENTS, INC., DELTAPINE PARAGUAY, INC., D&PL SOUTH AFRICA, INC., D&PL INTERNATIONAL TECHNOLOGY CORP., DELTA PINE DE MEXICO S. DE R.L. DE C.V., DELTAPINE AUSTRALIA PTY. LIMITED, GREENFIELD SEED COMPANY, LLC, HEBEI JI DAI COTTONSEED TECHNOLOGY COMPANY, LTD. (CHINA), PAYMASTER TECHNOLOGY CORP., TURK DELTAPINE, INC. (TURKEY), D&PL SEMILLAS LTDA. (COSTA RICA), CDM MANDIYU S.R.L. (ARGENTINA), DELTA AND PINE LAND HELLAS MONOPROSOPI, E.P.E. (GREECE), D&PL BRASIL, LTDA., ANHUI AN DAI COTTONSEED TECHNOLOGY COMPANY, LTD. (CHINA), D&PL TECHNOLOGY HOLDING COMPANY LLC., D&M BRASIL ALGODAO, LTDA, MDM SEMENTES DE ALGODAO LTDA (BRAZIL), SURE GROW, LLC, D&PL INDIA, LLC, DELTAPINE INDIA SEED PRIVATE LTD. (INDIA), D&PL MAURITIUS LIMITED
Source: Delta & Pine Land, SEC Filing 10-K, November 14, 2005
For more information, please contact:
Hope Shand, ETC Group (USA) email: email@example.com tel: +1 919 960-5767
Pat Mooney, ETC Group (Canada) email: firstname.lastname@example.org tel: +1 613 241-2267
Kathy Jo Wetter, ETC Group (USA) email: email@example.com tel: +1 919 960-5223
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group (Mexico) email: firstname.lastname@example.org tel: +52 5555 6326 64
Jim Thomas, ETC Group (Canada) email: email@example.com
Ibrahim Coulibaly, Président de la coordination nationale des organisations paysannes du MALI, CNOP /MALI, tel: +223-228-6781, mobile: +223-676-1126, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) In February 2006 the international Ban Terminator Campaign (www.banterminator.org) revealed that Monsanto's revised pledge no longer rejected commercialization of Terminator technology in all food crops. [see correspondence here] In response, Monsanto's Director of Public Policy, Diane Herndon, wrote: "We apologize for any confusion caused by the added language 'in food crops' that appeared in the discussion of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) in our last Pledge Report. We stand by our commitment to not use genetic engineering methods that result in sterile seeds. Period."
Monsanto's Herndon also wrote: "we are in the process of reworking our Web site and will be able to remove the confusing language as part of the redesign." But a half-year later, Monsanto has not corrected or removed the confusing language.
(2) Monsanto, "Delta and Pine Land Acquisition: Investor Conference Call," August 15, 2006. www.monsanto.com
(3) Accounting for inflation, Monsanto's 1998 offer of $1.8 billion converts to $2.25 billion in 2006. Monsanto's current offer of $1.5 billion for DPL is, therefore, in 2006 terms, $750 million below its 1998 offer. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics: www.BLS.GO/CPI .)
The Polish Parliament has put a ban on the use of GMOs in animal fodder - From the IPCC in Poland.
After passing an act, in May this year, banning the import and trading of GMseeds, the Polish Senate and Sejm (upper and lower hoses) have now passed an Act on animal fodder. The Act, passed on July 22 2006," bans the production, the putting into circulation and the use of genetically modified fodder and genetically modified organisms destined for fodder use in animal feeding." The ban will be in force within 24 months.
This is another huge step forward in the battle against GMO in Poland. It will reverse the current reliance on GM soya and maize in pig, poultry and dairy production on the larger Polish farms and will also protect smaller farms from unwittingly purchasing GM feed. Poland is more than capable of producing all the fodder required to maintain current livestock levels and to be self sufficient in indigenous, traditional (non soya) animal feeds. Food quality and consumer health will benefit through being protected from the residual effects of feeding animals on GM products, giving Poland a leading position as a GMO free food producer.
ICPPC has consistently pressed for a ban of all GMO products in Polish agriculture with strong support from Provincial authorities, some politicians, farmers, international activists and other organisations. In the latest situation, it was possible to introduce a key 'no GMO' ammendement to the animal feed act just before it was put to the vote in the upper house/Senat of the Polish parliament and then accepted by the lower house/Sejm/. In many ways, an astonishing event.
The significance of this Polish initiative is bound to have repercussions right accross Europe and it remains to be seen what the European Commission will make of such resistance! Whatever results, we hope it will give new heart to all who continue the battle for a GMO Free Europe, often in a climate of official repression and intimidation. Two years ago it was (almost) unthinkable to believe that Poland might lead the anti-GMO way in Europe. But it is now a reality and gives all of us a great opportunity to push our respective governments to take similar actions.
With our warm wishes,
Julian and Jadwiga
ICPPC - International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside, Mie˛dzynarodowa Koalicja dla Ochrony Polskiej Wsi, 34-146 Stryszów 156, Poland tel./fax +48 33 8797114
email@example.com - http://www.icppc.pl - http://www.gmo.icppc.pl - http://www.eko-cel.pl
Bt maize effects on Papilio machaon - The effects of pollen consumption of transgenic Bt maize on the common swallowtail, Papilio machaon L. (Lepidoptera, Papilionidae)
Andreas Lang (Bavarian State Research Centre for Agriculture, Institute of Plant Protection, Lange Point 10, D-85354 Freising, Germany), Eva Vojtech ( Bavarian State Research Centre for Agriculture, Institute of Plant Protection, Lange Point 10, D-85354 Freising, Germany and Institute of Environmental Sciences, University Zurich, Winterthurerstr. 190, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland)
Received 10 March 2005; accepted 31 October 2005
Effects of exposure to maize pollen of event Bt176 (cultivar "Navares") on the larvae of the European common swallowtail (Papilio machaon L.) were studied in the laboratory. First instar larvae were exposed to different pollen densities applied to leaf disks of Pastinaca sativa L. for 48 h. Pollen densities applied in this study were in the range recorded from the field. Larvae which were exposed to higher Bt maize pollen densities consumed more pollen and had a lower survival rate. The LD50 with regard to larvae surviving to adulthood was 13.72 pollen grains consumed by first-instar larva. Uptake of Bt maize pollen led to a reduced plant consumption, to a lower body weight, and to a longer development time of larvae. Effects on pupal weight and duration of the pupal period were present but less pronounced and smaller than effects on larvae. Larvae having consumed Bt-maize pollen as first instars had a lower body weight as adult females and smaller forewings as adult males. We conclude that possible effects of Bt maize on European butterflies and moths must be evaluated more rigorously before Bt maize should be cultivated over large areas.
Farmers use as much pesticide with GM crops, US study finds - By Steve Connor, Science Editor - The Independent, 27 July 2006
One of the major arguments in favour of growing GM crops has been undermined by a study showing that the benefits are short-lived because farmers quickly resort to spraying their fields with harmful pesticides. Supporters of genetically modified crops claim the technique saves money and provides environmental benefits because farmers need to spray their fields fewer times with chemicals. However, a detailed survey of 481 cotton growers in China found that, although they did use fewer pesticides in the first few years of adopting GM plants, after seven years they had to use just as much pesticide as they did with conventional crops. The study found that after three years, the GM farmers had cut pesticide use by 70 per cent and were earning over a third more than conventional farmers. But, by 2004, the GM cotton farmers were using just as much pesticide as their conventional counterparts and were spending far more because GM cotton seed is three times the price of conventional cotton seed. The findings will undermine claims by the biotechnology industry that GM technology can boost food production without necessarily damaging the environment with pesticides.
Scientists from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, carried out the study which involved interviews with hundreds of Chinese farmers who had switched to cotton that had been genetically modified with a gene for a bacterial toxin. The toxin - known as Bt - is secreted by the GM cotton plant and is highly effective at stopping the growth of bollworm, a major pest of the crop that can cause millions of pounds worth of damage. Major cotton producers, the United States, China, India and Argentina, quickly adopted Bt cotton after it was introduced in 1996 by Monsanto, the American biotechnology company. Today, more than a third of the global cultivation of cotton is accounted for by Bt cotton, ranging from 42.8 million hectares in the United States to 3.7 million hectares in China.
Before the introduction of the GM crop into China, farmers in the country had to spray on average 20 times each growing season to control bollworm but, with Bt cotton, the average number of treatments fell to below seven. The amount of pesticide also fell by 43.3kg per hectare in 1999, which was a decrease of about 71 per cent on previous years. However, Professor Per Pinstrup-Andersen and his colleagues at Cornell found that all those benefits have since been largely lost due to the rise of other pests that were not considered a problem for cotton. "Using a household survey from 2004, seven years after the initial commercialisation of Bt cotton in China, we show that total pesticide expenditure for Bt cotton farmers in China is nearly equal to that of their conventional counterparts," the scientists say in their report. "Bt farmers in 2004 on the average have to spray pesticide 18.22 times, which is more than three times higher compared with 1999. "Detailed information on pesticide expenditures reveals that, though Bt farmers saved 46 per cent of bollworm pesticide relative to non-Bt farmers, they spend 40 per cent more on pesticides designed to kill an emerging secondary pest," they say.
Secondary pests, such as a type of leaf bug called mirids, are not normally a problem in cotton fields because bollworm, and sprays against bollworm, tend to keep them in check. However, because Bt cotton is targeted mainly against bollworm, other pests are able to exploit the relatively low use of pesticide that such fields need. "These results should send a very strong signal to researchers and governments that they need to come up with remedial actions for the Bt-cotton farmers, otherwise these farmers will stop using Bt cotton and that would be very unfortunate," Professor Pinstrup-Andersen said.
Farmer suicides hit 10-year high as aid package from Indian PM falls short - Paul Peachey - AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE , Saturday, July 22, 2006
The suicide rate of farmers in India's poverty-stricken main cotton belt has hit a 10-year high, apparently prompted by disappointment at an aid package from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Sixty farmers - including two fathers and their sons - have killed themselves this month, crippled with debt and hit by falling prices for cotton, says a group working with farmers. Singh announced on July 1 a relief package of 37.5 billion rupees (HK$6.23 billion) after a visit to the Vidarbha region of western Maharashtra. More than 600 Vidarbha farmers killed themselves in the 12 months to the end of June, hitting a peak of more than 70 in March, said Kishor Tiwari, of the Vidarbha People's Protest Forum. But it got worse after Singh's visit. The death rate is the highest in the 10 years the group has kept records.
"People are very disappointed because they had high hopes," Tiwari said, as Singh missed key issues. Singh ordered a waiver of interest payments to state-owned banks. But activists say he failed to address the issue of private moneylenders used by 90 percent of farmers. Some moneylenders - including politicians and businessmen - charge up to 120 percent annual interest from farmers.
Federal government officials earlier this year said more than 8,900 farmers had committed suicide since 2001 in four states hardest hit by agricultural distress, including 980 in Maharashtra. The number has been dismissed by activists. A state government-backed report, for instance, says more than 4,100 farmers ended their lives in Maharashtra in 2004. Its author, Srijit Mishra, said "something has to be done with the moneylenders. The ground level situation seems to be getting worse." Activists blame the high cost of genetically modified seeds for adding to farmers' indebtedness. And the Supreme Court last month backed investigators who said US biotech giant Monsanto charged too much for cotton seed and had to cut prices. Mahyco Monsanto's cotton was planted by more than one million Indian farmers in 2005, resulting in higher yields and less pesticide, the company claimed. But farmers said GM seed last year was nearly four times the price of traditional seed.
A new disease appears to be spreading for Bt cotton
PRESS RELEASE, July 18, 2006 - from APCIDD-DDS [Deccan Development Society]
To, The Editor
Alarm bells are ringing for the Bt cotton farmers once again. Buoyed by the government decision to control Bt seed prices nearly 100% more farmers planted Bt cotton this year. But the early results are nothing but scary.
A new disease appears to be spreading for Bt cotton in the districts of Nalgonda and Rangareddy. A senior agriculture scientist Dr Qayum [who retired as the Joint Director, Agriculture of the AP Government] who toured these areas reports that "a peculiar symptom of middle order leaves exhibiting necrotic spots" is visible in Bt cotton that was planted early. Never before has this disease appeared in cotton.
This might turn out to be fatal for Bt cotton plants. Last year there were wide spread complaints that Bt cotton had invited Tobacco Streak Virus, a disease which had never been seen on cotton plants in the history of the crop in this region. Similarly there have been widespread reports that the soils on which Bt cotton has been planted have been showing early symptoms of toxicity. Last year the news that over 1500 sheep grazing on Bt cotton had died had sent chill down the spine of plant toxicologists. The APCID which has been researching Bt cotton in Warangal District since the last four years had written to the officers of the Veterinary Department with evidences of goats and other animals who had grazed on Bt cotton dying of toxicity.
Now the new symptom which according to Dr Qayum might be a "complex of Tobacco Streak Virus and Necrosis" is becoming visible in Nalgonda and Rangareddy Districts. With the delay in rains compounding the problem, farmers are panicking the area.
In view of this the APCID demands that the Government immediately order a scientific inquiry into the disease from the scientists of Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University as well as invite scientists from the Central Institute for Cotton Research and get to the truth of the matter. Bt cotton plant is a toxic plant by definition because it continuously produces its own pesticide at least for 90 days of the plant growth. To make people believe that this has no effect on soil, human, animal and environmental health is one of the crudest lies offered to the farming community. If the lie is perpetuated in the same fashion year after year, Bt cotton could be another major reason for farmer suicides in the state.
P V Satheesh - Convenor
SHOULD INDIA BE FED GM FOOD? - The Bangalore Declaration, July 5, 2006
In a Round Table titled Should India be fed GM Food? held at Bangalore, Karnataka on July 5, 2006, a 52 member group consisting of six food scientists, nutrition experts and agricultural scientists, two law specialists, a dozen eminent farmer leaders, twenty consumer groups, half a dozen media people and six environmental NGOs thoroughly discussed the GM Labelling Rules being proposed by your Ministry and have come to the following conclusions:
We question the need to allow import of Genetically engineered foods, and wonder what is the current necessity to facilitate these imports at all? Is it to give more nutritious food to Indian people or to ensure their food security? On both counts the need of these imports is highly questionable.
As food, nutrition and agriculture scientists in the group:
We are completely convinced of the advantages of our traditional foods over the articulated need for genetically engineered [GE] foods. The traditional cropping technology that is marked by biodiverse farming systems contains all the human nutritional needs within it. These systems are natural, non-toxic, and the knowledge of their cultivation is located within the community. These natural foods have therapeutic value also because of the bioactive molecules contained in them. It is the awareness of these advantages that we must create among the citizens of this country. We would like to emphasise that a particular focus of our government should be on reclaiming and popularising less familiar, uncultivated and underutilised foods that are integral to our biodiverse farming and are very rich in all the macro and micro nutrients.
Considering the problems of primary, secondary and tertiary processing of foods, we feel that there are temptations to recommend GE foods. But these problems can be met by making citizens and consumers aware of the multifaceted advantages of traditional Indian foods According to us, most of the problems relating to agricultural productivity, food security and nutrition arise from a fragmented approach to science. This blinds a majority of scientists to the existing alternatives. Therefore there is an acute need for holistic scientific research along with integrated evaluation. We want to emphasise that biotech science has been marginalising other life sciences. There are large areas of scientific ignorance and misinformation that govern the current biotech led scientific arguments. There is an urgent need to correct these and retrieve a holistic science.
As farmers we are convinced that:
We do not want any kind of labelling. We totally reject GE food and GE technology, since we all know that authentic alternatives already exist in this country including organic, traditional systems of food production. The proposed amendment in the name of biosafety undertaken by the government is totally anti farmer, anti people and anti environment. We are of the opinion that the labelling order being pushed down our throats without any large debates and discussions is definitely an effort to promote GE and prop up the MNCs involved in GE.
We want to emphasise that food and nutritional security of this country can only be achieved if the knowledge of crop production is integral to the community. In our traditional systems this knowledge is located and distributed within the community and therefore it carries a distinct social and economic advantage over GE crops which is a centralised, proprietary knowledge system and must be viewed within the framework of IPR regime. Apart from externalising production knowledge, GE is also characterized by a total externality of inputs. It is a market oriented technology and has very little to do with the welfare of food consumers and food producers. It can only be done in a monopolistic form of production which will displace the farming community of this country, which is almost 70% of our population. This will be a disaster of monumental proportions.
We contest the idea that we have to keep on increasing food output using GE to meet the food security of people. This is a total fallacy. Traditional production systems have the capacity to produce enough and more to address the food security of this nation. It is a great irony that while our government is happy to export organic foods produced in this country, it is also trying to import GE foods into the country. Through this policy process, we wonder whether it is trying to create a ìsecond classî of food consumers in this country who should be fed with inferior GE foods that are injurious to peopleís health while superior organic foods are exported. To overcome all these, we should concentrate on traditional food systems which have all the nutritional, food and health security. This centuries old organic system in this country will be killed if we allow GE foods and technologies to take over.
We want to warn the government that GE technology, besides tampering with nature, through the contamination of crops which is inherent to it, will irreparably damage our biodiversity and genetic resources and pauperise the enormous genetic wealth of this country. Therefore the government should never forget even for a moment that GE is internally contaminant and its presence itself is the presence of contamination and therefore whether it is labelled or not, will carry irreparable damage to our agriculture and environment. We believe that a lot of the changes in our food and agricultural policies are being done without any discussion with the people being affected by those changes. Such policy changes made at the Centre are contrary to the Constitution of the country where agriculture is a State subject.
As consumers in the group:
We are horrified that the rights enumerated in the Consumer Protection Act have not been represented in the current labelling efforts. We are completely opposed to GE technology per se. The lessons learnt from other countries that have rejected GE foods have guided us to come to this conclusion. We strongly urge that GE foods should not be imported until it is conclusively proven safe. The regulatory mechanism available in the country such as GEAC, Food Standards Council should be made more transparent and autonomous. Currently they are captured by the industry. As consumers we oppose GE food and GE technology thrust by such mechanisms.
In the light of all of the above, the Bangalore Declaration emanating from the round table Should India be fed with GM Food, in which food, nutrition and agricultural scientists, legal experts, farmer leaders, consumer groups and environmentalists strongly opposes the efforts to import GM foods, labelled or unlabelled, into this country. The Bangalore Declaration strongly argues for a GM-Free India in the interests of the health and nutrition of its population, food safety, food security and the environmental integrity.
On behalf of
Y G Muralidharan - CREAT
Maj Gen Vombatkere - MYSORE GRAHAKARA PATRIKA, A Mysore city based consumer organisation
P V Satheesh
SOUTH AGAINST GENETIC ENGINEERING
A coalition of 50 networks, individuals representing farmers, consumers, academics, scientists, media practitioners and civil society groups in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra
NO GATEWAY TO AFRICA'S SORGHUM - from The African Centre for Biosafety
The African Centre for Biosafety, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, applauds the decision by the South African GM regulatory body to turn down an application by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to conduct laboratory and greenhouse experiments with transgenic sorghum in South Africa. The Executive Council (EC) established in terms of South Africa's GMO Act, refused the application on biosafety grounds, fearing that GM sorghum will lead to the destruction of the sorghum varieties prevalent throughout Africa.
This decision represents a severe blow to the African Biotechnology Sorghum Project (ABS), bankrolled by Bill and Melinda Gates to the tune of $450 million to bring GM sorghum to Africa's poor. The ABS is spearheaded by a consortium, which includes Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Florence Wambugu's Africa Harvest Biotechnology International, Rockerfeller Foundation-backed African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), the CSIR, the Agricultural Research Council, Ghana's Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and University of California, Berkeley.
Notwithstanding the "lofty" agenda of the ABS, the EC has for the first time deemed it prudent to protect an African cereal in the face of huge international funding. The African Centre for Biosafety warmly welcomes the decision by the EC as sorghum is an extremely important crop for Africa, having unique abilities to withstand the harsh environmental conditions on the continent.
Sorghum seeds have been discovered at an ancient site in Nabta Playa in Southern Egypt, dating the seeds back to 8000 years. Early domestication of sorghum took place near the Ethiopian border, west though Sudan and up to Lake Chad. Today, there are several varieties of sorghum being grown in several countries in Africa. Although sorghum only represents 3.5% of the total cereal production, sorghum is of great importance to Africans especially where traditional agriculture predominates.
Issued by Mariam Mayet, 10 July 2006 - www.biosafetyafrica.net
Midstate cotton growers battling another scourge - 10 Jul 2006 - By S. Heather Duncan
This week, agricultural researchers have been weeding a Macon County cotton field the old-fashioned way, with hoes and bare hands. They are uprooting pigweed, the worst weed to infest cotton, using the same methods that farmers used a century before chemical herbicides. Why? This pigweed is special. When you spray it with the herbicide Roundup, it doesn't care. Roundup-resistant pigweed - the scientific name is Palmer amaranth - has been confirmed in 46 Middle Georgia cotton fields. Although Roundup resistance has developed in seven or eight weed types nationwide, the resistant pigweed in Macon, Dooly and Taylor counties is the first ever found in Georgia, said Stanley Culpepper, an associate professor and weed expert with the University of Georgia. "The problem is Roundup has been the most economic and effective tool to manage" pigweed, Culpepper said. "Once you've lost that, your cost is increased drastically. ... For moderate growers or those that have too much on their plate, it's going to be a major devastating impact."
The situation illustrates some perils of modern farming: Genetically engineered cotton, which has made farming cheaper, also led unintentionally to the evolution of this resistant weed. But since switching to the modified cotton, most farmers have changed their operations too much to go back. Pigweed is the scourge of cotton because it can grow an 1 to 2 inches a day, continues to grow in drought, produces an average of half a million seeds, tolerates many herbicides and easily grows 6 to 8 feet tall, Culpepper said. It can't be killed once it reaches a certain size, and it will clog a cotton harvester. "This is the single worst weed (for cotton) in the Southeast, probably in the U.S.," Culpepper said. "Any other weed, I think I can manage pretty effectively. This one - I'm striking out left and right."
Roundup-Ready cotton is a genetically engineered variety developed by Monsanto. It's more expensive than natural cotton seed, and farmers must pay to use it each year. Introduced a decade ago, Roundup-Ready cotton allows farmers to control most weeds by spraying Roundup without harm to the crop. Although residual herbicides, which linger in the soil, can kill pigweed, most are pricier and must be watered in. For Middle Georgia farmers with no irrigation systems, these chemicals won't help during drought. The drought is worsening the pigweed threat this year, said Macon County agricultural extension agent Jeremy Kichler. Most Macon County cotton farms have been hit, he said.
The weeding operation on Gordon Sutton's farm in Garden Valley is part of a furious research effort on the part of the University of Georgia to learn more about how the resistant weed spreads, how much it takes to choke out cotton, and what kinds of tilling and herbicides might combat it. Ironically, the weeds are being pulled so researchers can plant more pigweeds at controlled distances from each other, to measure how far the pollen can travel. As part of the study, resistant male weeds are planted in the center of the field, with Roundup-sensitive female weeds planted in a spiral pattern extending away from the center, Culpepper said. Researchers will then test the seeds produced by the female plants to see how far the resistant genes traveled. (All the surrounding fields are already infested with pigweed.) It's the first experiment of its kind anywhere, Culpepper said. In addition, the UGA weed team has test plots in 15 acres of nearby fields, using different herbicides, cover crops and tillage to see what works with resistant pigweed. So far, Culpepper is not very hopeful. "I get very depressed when I come up here," he said. "Most folks think, 'Oh, they'll come up with something.' Well, it's not coming! The next stuff is expected to come out in 2012, and it doesn't look promising." UGA declared a crisis exemption this year, allowing Middle Georgia farmers to use a new herbicide before it has been registered with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
'WE ARE ... TO BLAME'
Roundup resistance developed naturally as pigweed evolved. When 95 percent of farmers switched to Roundup-Ready cotton, they stopped using many other chemicals. "We are definitely to blame," Culpepper said. "We have been spraying Roundup. And Roundup. And more Roundup and more Roundup. And that's not necessarily bad. It is safest herbicide there is, to the grower and the environment." But heavy use increases the risk that weeds like pigweed will develop resistance to the chemical. "The important thing we should learn from this is we don't need to use the same chemistry over and over again," said Chuck Ellis, Dooly County's extension agent.
Roundup-Ready cotton enabled farms to grow in size and reduce manpower. Because they could depend on Roundup to kill weeds, there was less need to till weeds under in spring. Many Middle Georgia farmers stopped, or switched to tilling only in strips, which leaves more ground cover in the field. This holds moisture in - a key advantage during a dry year like this one - and prevents erosion. These changes in farming mean that it isn't feasible to return to methods used before Roundup-Ready cotton, Ellis said. For example, a Dooly County farm run by Eddie Green and his father-in-law, Terrell Hudson, has almost doubled in size to 1,700 acres of cotton in the last decade and stopped using conventional tillage. Green believes the farm has isolated pockets of resistant pigweed, although they haven't been confirmed. "If we have to go back to conventional farming, I don't think we would farm," Green said. They've sold their conventional cultivation equipment and no longer have enough farm workers to do it the old way, he said.
Fortunately, Culpepper said early experiments seem to indicate that the most successful approach to Roundup-resistant pigweed is a combination of herbicide and good conservation tillage methods. Sutton, whose farm hosts part of the UGA pigweed research, remains concerned about his rising herbicide costs. "It's $8,000 or $10,000 every time you try a herbicide, and it looks like it's going to kill it, but then two weeks later it's back again," he said. Ellis said he is hearing some farmers are paying 30 percent to 40 percent more for herbicides this year. Roundup costs about $4.50 an acre to apply, while residual herbicides often run $10 to $12 an acre, Kichler said. Additional trips across the field to apply multiple chemicals, and additional watering, drive up farmers' fuel costs, which are already high this year.
Sutton, who has been farming 46 years, said he thinks he had resistant pigweed for the last five or six years, but no one believed him. At first, Culpepper said, UGA weed experts thought only one field was infested. "We spent a fortune going out and pulling all if it up - 500 acres - and now, in fact, we wasted our time," he said. When he randomly tested 100 fields in Macon, Dooly and Taylor counties, almost half had the resistant weed. But proving it took almost a year. The weed must be field-tested by experts applying Roundup properly, then the seeds must be grown and tested in a greenhouse, Culpepper said. Kichler said the weed is believed to have spread more widely since then, and Culpepper plans to test fields in surrounding counties this fall.
Groups in Africa, Latin America condemn World Bank biosafety projects - 26 June 2006 - http://www.grain.org/front/?id=92
The World Bank is set to secure funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for two projects that will undermine public debate and aggressively drive GM crops into the heart of peasant agriculture. The two projects, one in West Africa and the other in Latin America, will hasten the spread of GM crops into farmer seed systems and even into certain centres of origin.
The projects are clearly being driven by an outside agenda. At their core is a long-standing strategy pursued by the World Bank and the US government to harmonise regulations for GM crops across regions in order to override national processes that are more susceptible to local opposition. The idea is to establish favourable regulations in a few countries whose governments are open to GM crops and then to use these regulations as a model that can be imposed on neighbouring countries by way of regional policy bodies. In this way, harmonisation side-steps any possible democratic debate and provides corporations with a large, one-stop shop for their GM crops.
The project's preliminary processes have already shown a complete disregard for genuine public debate. There is still no French version of the West African project proposal, even though all of the participating countries are Francophone. In Benin, NGOs participating in an initial project consultation organised by the US consulting firm Market Strategies were presented with the introduction of GM crops as a foregone conclusion. The NGOs were confined to a meeting separated from the previous day's meeting with farmers' organisations and government officials, which they were not allowed to attend. Likewise, in Costa Rica, the World Bank project builds on a GEF funded biosafety process that has already been denounced by the national network of civil society organisations active on biodiversity issues (Red de Coordinacion en Biodiversidad) for its lack of effective civil society participation and for bringing forward a biosafety bill that excluded the network from participation in the National Biosafety Commission, something which is guaranteed by presidential decree.
In contrast, the GM lobby has a direct hand in the World Bank projects, as partners, advisors and even funders. Participants in the projects include CropLife - the main lobby arm of the GM corporations - as well as GM industry front groups like the Public Research and Regulation Initiative and AfricaBio.
The project's other core objective is to advance the GM industry's on-going strategy of contamination. The projects will facilitate or initiate field trials and pave the way for the commercialisation of GM crops, with a focus on crops that are central to the peasant farming systems in the respective regions. The Latin American project specifically sets out to facilitate the "deployment" of GM crops in the centres of origin for these crops. Contamination will be inevitable, as the World Bank certainly understands. Indeed, the projects assume that the GM crops will be introduced on a large-scale in the regions. Biosafety "capacity-building" in this sense is merely about managing the ensuing contamination.
Usurping sovereignty in West Africa
The West Africa Regional Biosafety Project is a direct descendent of the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) activities in the region and the UNEP-GEF project that came to an end last year. As national debate over GM crops has erupted in the region, leading to a wide variation in national biosafety process, USAID has been aggressively supporting regional biosafety harmonisation and the introduction of transgenic Bt cotton, the main cash crop for West African peasants.
The US government has a three-fold agenda in pushing Bt cotton in West Africa: bringing African support to the small club of GM nations on the international stage; distracting attention from unfair US domestic cotton subsidies; and, securing US corporate control over West Africa's lucrative cotton production. The World Bank project plans to piggy-back on several US Bt cotton projects  and use field trials to develop a single uniform model for risk assessment and regulation that can be adopted throughout West Africa.
USAID is also busy supporting biosafety harmonisation initiatives in the region. The Sahel Institute is drafting a regional biosafety framework for Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. The West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development developed a $25 million regional project on biotechnology and biosecurity with USAID support that was then approved at a Ministerial Meeting on Biotechnology of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Bamako in 2005. During the Bamako meeting, which was also funded by USAID, the ECOWAS Ministers pledged to harmonise their biosafety regulations within 5 years.
The World Bank project is the next step forward in this harmonisation process. ECOWAS covers a large market, covering all 15 countries of West Africa, but, according to the World Bank, it doesn't have the authority to force member countries to adopt common legislation; it can only make policy recommendations. The World Bank project, therefore, focuses instead on WAEMU?a smaller grouping of 8 West African states that has the power to impose the "fast-track adoption" of compulsory "enabling" legislation on its members. As stated in the project proposal: "If WAEMU is able to harmonise national biosafety legislations and later to enforce a decision taken in one country in the other countries, it will drastically improve the investment climate in biotechnology for cash and food crops in the WAEMU area...by diminishing the costs of doing business." Once adopted within WAEMU, the Bank says it will then look to "scale-up" the project to the much bigger market of ECOWAS.
Harmonisation is part of the agenda for the Latin America project as well. The countries in that region were in part selected because of the "political, strategic, future role they might play in biosafety management in their respective regions". Such "harmonisation" is inherently unscientific and contrary to sound biosafety practice. It does not respect even the minimum standards laid out in the Biosafety Protocol because the projects will usurp sovereign rights of countries to take biosafety decisions, on a country-by-country, case-by-case basis. The Protocol envisions that biosafety decision-making take place at the national level, in the context of open and transparent public awareness and participation (Article 23), respecting the rights of local and indigenous peoples (Article 26), and conserving centres of origin and genetic diversity. To be scientifically rigorous and sensitive to local realities, assessments must be based on a country?s specific ecological socio-economic context and they must be informed by genuine public debate. The research required to support effective environmental risk assessments is extensive and long-term, and all countries must have enough policy space to set their own priorities and not be pressured, from a lack of resources and capacity, to adopt those that are reactionary or merely responsive to industry developments.
Destroying food sovereignty in Latin America
The main reason for selecting the five countries involved in the Latin American project is that as a group they are among the most important centres of biodiversity in the world and centres of origin for four of the five crops targeted by the project. This central objective is explicit in the name of the project: "Biosafety in Centers of Biodiversity: Building Technical Capacity in Latin America for Safe Deployment of Transgenic Crops".
There are five crops that the project focuses on: cassava, cotton, maize, potato and rice. Millions of people in Latin America depend on these crops for food, medicine, livelihoods and cultural identity. The rich diversity within these crops that exists in the region is directly attributed to indigenous and peasant farmers? communities, who have conserved, recreated and utilised the crops and maintained deep cultural and spiritual relationships to them. Maize, potatoes, cotton and cassava make up the most important crops for Mesoamerican, Andean and Amazonian communities. Rice is also an extremely important crop in the region since it makes up an essential part of the basic diet of local communities.
It is impossible to accept the project's purported concern in strengthening the capacity of participating countries to implement the Biosafety Protocol, an agreement dealing with transboundary trade in GMOs, when it focuses mainly on local food crops that are rarely traded across borders in the region . Rather, the real aim here is to push GM crops into the very heart of the region's peasant agriculture and food sovereignty. The project's introduction of GM varieties of these crops will inevitably contaminate traditional varieties and thus pave the way for the destruction of the seed and food systems that indigenous and peasant communities have developed over millennia.
The fierce resistance to GM crops among indigenous and peasant communities in Latin America is rooted in their determination to defend their seed systems from such GM contamination. The World Bank's project is a direct effort to undermine this opposition by putting scientific agencies that have already demonstrated their support for GM agriculture, such as CIAT, the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology Research (Costa Rica) and EMBRAPA (Brazil), in charge of developing field test protocols and regulations that can give the veneer of legitimacy to the deliberate GM contamination of farmer seed systems. The national scientific centres participating in the project are even referred to as "ports of entry".
It's not a big surprise to see governments in Latin America and Africa signing up for these World Bank projects. Few governments are willing to uphold the opposition to GM crops that is expressed by their people, especially when money is on the table and powerful actors like the World Bank and USAID are involved.
These regional projects shift decision-making power even further to international and regional bodies that are removed from local influence and they give undue power to agencies like the World Bank, that are well-known for championing the interests of GM corporations. Such projects make a mockery of the vibrant national and local debates on GM raging around the world.
With another 10 regional biosafety projects supposedly in the GEF pipeline, the gulf between the official decision-makers and the people they supposedly represent could grow even deeper. Once again, real biosafety will have to be secured at the grassroots, in local struggles to keep GM crops out.
 Current US programs to introduce Bt cotton in the region include a $7 million "West African Cotton Improvement Programme" that promises to "improve the enabling environment for agricultural biotechnology", a USAID-financed project for field trials of Bt cotton in Mali, and USAID's Bioengineerd Cotton in Africa project.
Project: West Africa Regional Biosafety Project
Implementing agencies :
World Bank, West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU)
Participating countries : Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Togo
Project: Latin America Multi-Country Capacity-Building in Biosafety
Implementing agencies : World Bank, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
Participating countries : Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru
The proposals for both projects are available on the GEF website: - http://www.thegef.org/Documents/Council_Documents/GEF_C28/WP.html
Groups in Africa, Latin America condemn World Bank biosafety projects
African Centre for Biosafety - http://www.biosafetyafrica.net
ETC Group - http://www.etcgroup.org
GRAIN - http://www.grain.org
Red por una América Latina Libre de Trasngénicos - http://www.rallt.org
For more information please contact:
Mariam Mayet , South Africa - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: + 27 83 2694309
Elizabeth Bravo, Ecuador - Email: email@example.com, Tel: + 593 (2) 254 7516
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group, Mexico, - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +52 55 5563 2664
Eat To Live: FDA sued over biotech foods - By Julia Watson - United Press International, June 9, 2006 - http://www.upi.com/
LE BUGUE, France (UPI) -- It`s been a conversational curiosity, at the very least, among consumers in Europe, Australia, Japan, and parts of Africa, why Americans don`t seem the slightest bit interested in the issue of the genetic engineering of some of their key crops. The nations just mentioned have as little tolerance for biotech foods as legally possible. Now, however, American consumers may have to reflect upon their complacency.
This week, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration to force the government to establish mandatory reviews of genetically engineered foods and to label them as genetically modified if the foods are approved for consumption. The dramatic action comes after six years of waiting without a response from the FDA to a legal petition it lodged, along with over 50 consumer and environmental groups, demanding that biotech food be more meticulously regulated and labeled.
Why would the FDA - so anxious to protect our health with advisories on food fears from mercury in fish to the pasteurization of young raw milk cheeses - not want to take a rigorous look on our behalf at industrial science's inalterable tampering with nature? Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General has been appalled by the USDA's handling of field tests of genetically engineered plantings. As Eat To Live revealed earlier this year, the inspector general's report condemned the USDA for failing to inspect experimental genetically engineered crops and for not insuring they were destroyed after field tests, to protect surrounding farmland.
The prime genetically modified crops grown extensively across the U.S. are corn, soybeans and canola. Europe, pushed by massive consumer unease, has made every effort to resist the entry of genetically engineered crops into its markets. Foods that contain them must be so labeled. Yet Europe has been under intense pressure by the United States through the World Trade Organization to reverse this stand and allow U.S. biotech crops and products in. Even the United Nations Cartagena Protocol of Biosafety authorizes member countries, in the case of scientific uncertainty, to take a precautionary approach to regulating biotech crops. In the United States, no GM labeling is necessary, nor is testing of foods containing biotech crops or by-products compulsory.
European consumers - and many in the science community - fear that the restructuring of the genetic composition of a crop by introducing foreign genes - from other species of plant or even animals - could have an impact on health. They fear so-called 'Frankenfoods' might encourage antibiotic-resistant illnesses, produce new food toxins and generate food allergies.
Farmers are attracted by the higher yields and lower investment in pesticides and time that genetically engineered crops offer. Their creators, like Monsanto, promote the philanthropic message that they could be the instrument for the reduction of world hunger and poverty. They assert that rather than abuse the environment, genetically modified crops make it safer. Critics of biotech crops and food say that none of these contentions have been properly tested nor have ecological, health and social questions been stringently addressed.
Let's hope there`s enough publicity for the CFS's lawsuit to alert American consumers finally to an issue that has been the concern of much of the rest of the world. This barbecuing season, when timing everything to be on the table as soon as the burgers come off the grill is tricky, you may like this tip from legendary New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne. He contended that the best way to cook (genetically unmodified) sweet corn was to bring to the boil a pot of unsalted water, drop in the shucked corn, slam the lid on, bring it back to the boil then immediately turn off the heat under the pot. Leave the corn in for a minimum of 5 minutes - and a relaxed maximum of 45. It`s a method that saves corn that isn`t at peak of freshness. Salting the water toughens it.
Copyright 2006 by United Press International
Genetically Altered Corn May Cause Diabetes - DiabeticNews.com, June 14, 2006
New Zealand's governmental food standards board may approve a genetically altered type of corn used for animal feed. The Monsanto Corporation produces the new corn called High-Lysine Corn LY038. Monsanto scientists have altered the corn to contain higher levels of the amino acid lysine than is found in other corn varieties. While lysine itself isn't a health risk, if the LY038 variety is cooked with sugars also found in the corn, compounds called AGE's are produced which are implicated in causing Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and several other health conditions.
Even though Monsanto states that LY038 is intended only for animal feed, they made application for approval as a human food so they do not have to keep the altered corn separate from edible corn. The real problem is the government's food agency made no effort to test what the health impact would be if the LY038 were to enter the human food supply. Numerous ways animal feed either can accidentally or deliberately end up eaten by humans is a serious risk. There are many countries with diabetes epidemics, including New Zealand and the United States. Risking our food supply is not worth the risk of potentially increasing the sugar content of food in a diabetic diet or everyday foods.
U of I: Some Corn Rootworms Can Detect Bt Corn and Live - Illinois Farm Bureau, June 08, 2006
Research just published in the Journal of Economic Entomology suggests that some western corn rootworm larvae may be able to detect small concentrations of certain Bt proteins in root tissue, stop feeding, and survive to the next instar. Later instars of corn rootworm larvae are less likely to succumb to the Cry3Bb1 protein expressed in transgenic root tissue, says University of Illinois entomologist Mike Gray. Ultimately, under this scenario, there is adult emergence into producers' fields.
Corn rootworm emergence from fields planted to transgenic corn rootworm hybrids (MON 863, Cry3Bb1) has been reported many times previously. The authors of this paper correctly point out that it is "not entirely clear" how this occurs. Yet some larvae are surviving in fields planted to transgenic rootworm hybrids and emerging as adults in sufficient numbers to warrant scouting of fields for silk clipping in some instances.
Consumer group sues FDA over biotech foods - REUTERS, June 7, 2006
WASHINGTON - A lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks to force the U.S. government to conduct mandatory reviews of genetically engineered foods and require labeling of such foods once they are approved. The Center for Food Safety's suit against the Food and Drug Administration comes after years of lobbying by environmental and consumer groups for more stringent regulation and labeling of biotech crops, which biotech opponents fear can harm human health. "We think the FDA should be the gatekeeper and should require... a mandatory process that has rigorous science behind it and public involvement and an actual approval process," said CFS legal director Joseph Mendelson. "And we're asking that once these products are on the market that they be labeled." The FDA had no immediate comment on the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Genetically modified crops, such as soybeans, corn, and canola, are grown widely throughout the United States, and the world leader in development and marketing of the gene-altered crops is St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto Co. Yet the United States requires no independent testing of these crops or the food products they are used in, does not mandate what data companies must submit for review, and does not require that foods that contain biotech crops be labeled, CFS said. Indeed, the United States has been pushing Europe, through complaints with the World Trade Organization, to open its markets to genetically modified food crops, despite widespread consumer opposition there.
"There has been a conscious effort on the part of the FDA and the administration not to create any kind of regulatory burden for agricultural biotechnology," Mendelson said. "They view this purely as an issue of economics rather than of human health." CFS and more than fifty consumer and environmental groups, filed a legal petition with the FDA in March 2000, asking the agency to adopt a more rigorous approach to biotech food regulation, but the CFS said Wednesday that the FDA had ignored the petition. At various times over the last several years, different scientists, including some within the FDA, have warned that altering the genetic makeup of a food plant by inserting genes from one organism into another, sometimes from an animal into a plant, for instance, could trigger unexpected food allergies, create toxins in food, or spread antibiotic-resistant disease.
Last year in Australia, scientists found that genes from a bean engineered into pea plants created a potentially dangerous allergen in the biotech peas. CFS said the tests that exposed that potential hazard have not been conducted on any of the genetically modified foods currently marketed in the United States. The FDA is one of three government agencies that monitor genetically modified crops. The U.S. Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service oversees bio-crop trials and the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for regulating plants engineered to produce pesticides.
Council stresses ban on genetically modified papayas - Source:Taiwan News - 25th May, 2006
The Council of Agriculture has reiterated its ban on the sale of genetically modified papayas in Taiwan, saying that anyone found growing or selling such fruits could face a fine of between NT$1 million and NT$5 million.
An official of the COA Food and Agriculture Administration said that a new species of genetically modified papayas, which was developed locally to resist certain diseases, has been grown in some farms in Taiwan on an experimental basis since July 2003. As this new species of papayas has not been approved by or registered with the COA, the marketing and the sale of these papayas is banned by law, the official warned, adding that violators will be penalized under the Food Sanitation Law and the Seedling and Sapling Law. The official said the COA has directed city and county governments to check on papayas on sale in markets under their jurisdiction to see if there are any genetically modified fruit. The COA will encourage farmers to buy certified papaya seedlings for mass reproduction, instead of growing genetically modified plants that have not yet been confirmed as safe for consumption, the official said.
Japan has recently resumed its imports of papayas from Taiwan because of Taiwan's effort to ensure the quality of its fruits, the official said, adding that he hopes farmers would not ruin the reputation of Taiwan fruits by growing or selling fruits that have not been approved.
Ecuadorean Parliament Passes Law Banning GMO in Food Aid - 23 May 2006 - THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
Dear Friends and colleagues,
RE: ECUADOREAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW BANNING GMO IN FOOD AID
We wish to bring to your attention that the Ecuadorean Parliament has passed a law which bans the presence of GMOs in food aid.
Food aid has become controversial in recent years as some parties, namely the US, have insisted that countries facing famine should accept GM food aid, even though some countries have rejected it.
The fact that countries and people require food assistance should not be a reason to deprive them of the choice to obtain non-GM food. Countries' right to reject GM food aid should be respected and all means should be taken to provide non-GM food to countries that do not want to receive GM food.
Ecuador's decision to ban GM food aid is in line with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which enshrines the sovereign right of countries to be informed of, and to take precautionary decisions, on imports of GMOs.
With best wishes,
Chee Yoke Heong, Third World Network, 121-S Jalan Utama, 10450 Penang, Malaysia
Website: www.biosafety-info.net and www.twnside.org.sg
ECUADOREAN PARLIAMENT PASSED A LAW WHICH BANS GMO IN FOOD AID - ACCION ECOLOGICA - 18 May 2006
The Ecuadorean Parliament passed a law, which ban the presence of GMO in food aid. This provision was part of a law of food security, which also include concepts such as the promotion of food security through supporting local production, reducing the dependency on imported food and donations. The idea of having a law on food security was promoted by FAO. Later the text was discussed by indigenous, farmers and consumer1s organizations; and concluded with a text, which pretend reach food security through food sovereignty. In Ecuador, GMOs have been found in food aid programs before. With this law the local population which participate in these programs (mainly indigenous people and poor farmers), can ensure that the food they are receving is GE free.
FAO accused of persecuting farmers in Asian countries - The Jakarta Post, May 17, 2006 - http://www.thejakartapost.com/yesterdaydetail.asp?fileid=20060517.J01
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is supporting the liberal economic and production policies that persecute farmers, an Asian non-governmental organization alleges. The Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), a grouping of agricultural organizations across Asia, claimed Tuesday in Jakarta that the FAO had failed to meet its target of combating hunger in the region. "Poor Asian farmers were further weakened and subjected to increasing exploitation. It leads to the worsening of hunger, poverty and landlessness," the APC said on a statement handed out on the sidelines of the 28th FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific here Tuesday.
The APC - which boasts 14 million members from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan and the Philippines - said that more and more farmers had no access to land, which was increasingly taken over by transnational corporations. Taking Philippines as an example, APC Research Coordinator Carl Anthony said that more than 35 percent of Filipinos were going hungry. This is because of landlessness, trade liberalization and monopolistic practice by transnational corporations. "Farmers are forced to plant mangoes, pineapple and asparagus -- instead of rice or corn -- simply to fulfill the needs of the wealthy countries," Carl told The Jakarta Post. More than 7 out of 10 farmers in the Philippines, he said, do not own the land they toil. Nearly 60 percent of agricultural land is owned by 13 percent of landowners.
Carl demanded that the FAO discard all of its policies that are detrimental to the people, especially farmers. According to him, in 2004 the FAO promoted the development of genetically modified products. "We reject this. For us, the way to improve the condition of farmers in Asia is to give them access to land so that they can toil it," he said. If the farmers get access to land, they will improve their lives and eventually strengthen the economy of the nation. Carl said that governments should not depend on genetically modified products because it would only benefit transnational corporations.
David Dawe, a senior food system economist at FAO in Bangkok, separately said that farmers and fishermen in the region found difficulties due to inflation. Speaking at the FAO forum Tuesday, David said that farmers could solve their problems through intensification and diversification of activities outside agriculture. "Many farmers, however, will not make it due to limited access to resources," he said. David said that per capita production of fisheries and wood declined as a result of shrinking bases, increased population and, in some cases, over-exploitation in the past.
UN food agency deputy resigns over leader's 'culture of silence' - Jo Revill - The Observer, May 14, 2006
The United Nations body which combats world hunger was in turmoil last night after one of its most senior officials resigned, claiming that her boss ruled through 'silence, rumour and fear'. Louise Fresco, assistant director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), handed in her notice last week, angered at the way the agency was being run by its Senegalese director-general, Dr Jacques Diouf. In a scathing letter of resignation, which has been leaked to The Observer, she criticises him for the direction of the agency and its inability to offer the poorest countries proper advice on agriculture. She writes to Diouf: 'I am sad that you have isolated yourself so much from most senior managers. Combined with a lack of transparency in decision-making, you have stimulated a culture of silence, rumours and even fear.....FAO deserves a reform, but a fundamental reform which does not limit itself to hastily moving units across departments or dispatching generalist decentralised teams. FAO needs visionary leadership to move itself out of its bureaucratic paralysis. But such leadership can only flourish if it builds on the commitment of all staff.....We need to become an exemplary body, not only technically but also in our mode of operation: committed, compassionate and critical.'
The FAO was set up after the Second World War to help developing nations overcome food shortages by offering agriculture support and technical expertise, as well as framing policies which would allow them to compete against wealthier countries. With a budget of $765m this year, it aims to help improve the production, processing, marketing and distribution of food and agricultural products, and also to promote rural development. But there has been criticism that it replies too heavily on involvement from agribusiness, and does little to encourage independence and projects that would boost the nutritional levels of the poorest countries.
In January, Diouf was elected for a third term of office which upset many officials, according to one insider. In 2004, Diouf attracted huge protests from campaigners in more than 80 countries for an FAO report on biotechnology, which, his critics said, was a thinly-veiled attempt to support genetically engineered crops. They said the study failed to point out that it would disadvantage the world's poorest farmers, and that one major company, Monsanto, dominated the market in genetically modified seeds. One UN insider, who asked not to be named, said: 'There is a general perception that Diouf has done very little to work closely with other UN bodies. He seems keener to spend time with the US guys running multinational companies than he does to sort out problems on the ground. There have been tensions brewing over its lack of any clear strategy and they are coming to the surface now.'
According to Fresco's letter, 'there is no single cause that explains the crisis that has affected FAO for several years. The role of agriculture is changing, demands on our specialised expertise are growing and there is no doubt that we have a unique global role. But the organisation has been unable to adapt.' She writes that the FAO is 'caught in a vicious circle' in which most countries appreciate its work for specific projects but do not like it as a whole. She adds that it has not been able to build coalitions and that its reputation is in decline. 'Unfortunately, its leadership has not proposed bold options to overcome this crisis.' Fresco, who is leaving to take up a professorship at the University of Amsterdam after nine years at the FAO, said there had been no serious questioning of the organisation's direction and in particular the balance between the work it does in the field - working with the poorest countries to overcome their problems - and the more centralised research. 'Whatever is done now is too little and too late,' she writes. 'The current intent at reform does hardly anything to alleviate these problems.. '
A spokesman for the FAO said last night that it could not comment on the contents of a private letter. The spokesman said: 'I understand that Louise Fresco has written a private letter to the D-G explaining her reasons for resigning but it was a private letter which has not been published.....My understanding is that she does not intend to make a public comment on this, and neither does Dr Diouf.'
Polish President signs Act banning genetically modified seeds
The news has just come through that President Lech Kaczynski has signed the parliamentary act introducing a ban on the trading of genetically modified seeds in Poland. The act forbids the import of GM seeds and the inclusion of genetically modified seeds/plants in the national plant record. This is a joint success of the representatives of local authorities in the provinces, non-governmental organisations, farmers, politicians and scientists! Many thanks to all those who also responded to our call to send letters to the President.
The passing of this act is a remarkable step that will set an important precedent for all EU Countries and beyond. This action now puts Poland on a collision course with the European Commission which has consistently refused to accept National or regional independent banning of GMO's. We believe that it also lends further weight to our call for a complete moratorium / ban on all GMO's in Europe and to the inherently unworkable idea of "coexistence" between GM and non-GM crops.
With kind greetings,
Jadwiga Lopata and Julian Rose
Below is a short history of ICPPC's campaign "Stop GMO's in Poland - Create GMO free zones"
ICPPC - International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside, Mie˛dzynarodowa Koalicja dla Ochrony Polskiej Wsi, 34-146 Stryszów 156, Poland tel./fax +48 33 8797114 email@example.com, www.icppc.pl - www.gmo.icppc.pl - www.eko-cel.pl
ICPPC has been running the campaign "Stop GMO's in Poland - Create GMO free zones" since June 2004. The first GMO free zone provinces were declared in September 2004, the last - 16th February 2006. All declarations demanding rights for provinces to create GMO free zones were signed by provincial authorities and sent to the national government.
During an international conference "GMOs, CAP, Biodiversity and European Solidarities" in the European Parliament, Brussels (30 June 2005) ICPPC launched a new 'Moratorium against all GMO's in Europe' to promote solidarity between Countries where the great majority of citizens are completely opposed to GMO's - and to push forward the objective of a GMO FREE EUROPE. We gained the support of more than 200 Polish and European organizations and VIPs as well as thousands of private citizens.
ICPPC has been cooperating with Mr Janusz Wojciechowski - Polish MEP, who started an official 'statement' for the European Parliament demanding that each country and region have the right to decide on GMOs. We were asked for advice on a draft of the statement and have been very involved in helping to collect signatures of other MEPs since this time.
In February 2006, ICPPC organized an international conference in Krakow: 'European Solidarity against GMO' with the participation of representatives from 13 countries. We re-enforced the idea of a 10 year Moratorium on all GMOs in the KRAKOW DECLARATION.
More www.gmo.icppc.pl - www.stop-gmo.info
ICPPC - International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside, Mie˛dzynarodowa Koalicja dla Ochrony Polskiej Wsi, 34-146 Stryszów 156, Poland tel./fax +48 33 8797114 firstname.lastname@example.org, www.icppc.pl - www.gmo.icppc.pl - www.eko-cel.pl
G-modified foods to be banned from Moscow schools - http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=8196720&PageNum=0
MOSCOW, May 15 (Itar-Tass) -- Foodstuffs containing genetically modified products will be banned from Moscow schools and pre-school childcare centers, the Moscow Mayor's office has told Itar-Tass, as follows from an instruction issued by Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. "Scientists have not fully studied the effects of genetically modified products on the human body yet. The city authorities have decided to take precautions to protect the city's population, in particular, youngsters, from the unfavorable effects the use of such products may have, and to ban the g-modified foods from children's diet," the source said. The packages of genetically modified products on offer at Moscow's supermarkets will carry the appropriate warning.
U.S. DID NOT WIN TRANSATLANTIC GM TRADE DISPUTE - Friends of the Earth: WTO still wrong place to settle such rows
Brussels, 10 May 2006 - The United States has failed in its bid to prevent the European Union from using strict regulations to control genetically modified (GM) foods and crops. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) made a final judgement on this issue last night. Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe's GMO campaigner, commented: "This is no victory for the United States or the biotech companies. Countries still have the right to ban or suspend genetically modified foods and crops. Europe's only failure was the way they did it and not why they did it. Public opposition around the world is solid, and neither the United States or the WTO will stop countries from protecting their citizens and the environment from the risks of genetically modified crops".
The WTO last night sent its final ruling to parties involved in the dispute. And, although the decision will not be made officially public until the autumn, media reports have confirmed that it is substantially the same as the 'draft ruling', which was leaked to Friends of the Earth Europe in February .
The WTO's draft ruling rejected most of the US-led coalition's complaints:
* It refused to rule against strict EU regulations to control the use of GM food and crops;
* It refused to rule on whether GM foods are safe or different to conventional foods;
* It rejected US claims that moratoria are illegal and did not question the right of countries to ban GM foods or crops.
However, the WTO did rule - on technicalities - that Europe's four year GM moratorium, which ended in 2004, broke trade rules by causing "undue delays". However, the WTO did not recommend any action against the EU and stated that moratoria were acceptable under certain circumstances. The WTO said national GM bans also broke trade rules, but only because the risk assessments did not comply with the WTO requirements; Friends of the Earth Europe also called for a fundamental overhaul of the way that trade disputes are sorted out in future. A fairer and more transparent body should be used that also takes into account international environmental treaties such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration or the International Court of Justice.
Friends of the Earth Europe's Trade Campaigner, Sonja Meister, said: "Despite today's ruling, the WTO is the wrong body for settling trade disputes. It has a long history of putting corporate interests firmly ahead of environmental protection, public safety and democracy. It is time that environment-related disputes were taken away from the WTO."
The United States, Argentina and Canada filed a trade dispute in the WTO in May 2003 against Europe's reluctance to accept genetically modified foods or crops. Europe argued that many GM crops should not be grown because of their unknown effects on the environment and that it was not yet known whether eating GM foods would cause cancer, allergies or other health effects .
Friends of the Earth Europe believes that the WTO is the wrong forum for dealing with environment-related trade disputes due to its long history of bias towards industry, its pro-trade agenda and its lack of transparency. In this particular case the WTO failed to consider other international environmental laws such as the Convention on Biodiversity and the Biosafety Protocol. In addition it refused to consider all submissions made by the public and held all meetings in secret. In sending the draft final ruling only to the dispute countries, it allowed the US to tell the media in February that it had won the dispute when the real result was quite different . The environment group has called for such disputes to be dealt with away from the industry-friendly WTO.
 The 1000 page interim report and a shorter analysis by Friends of the Earth can be downloaded from: http://www.foeeurope.org/biteback/WTO_decision.htm
The interim report showed:
* Europe's four-year moratorium on GM Organisms (GMOs) only broke trade rules because it caused "undue delay" in the approval of new GM foods. The WTO dismissed eight other complaints in relation to the moratorium, and did not recommend any further action, since the moratorium ended in 2004
* There was also an "undue delay" in the EU?s approval procedures for over 20 specified biotech products. However, eleven other claims of the complainants related to the product-specific EU measures were dismissed by the WTO Panel.
* National bans by EU member states broke trade rules only because the risk assessments used by the countries in question did not comply with the WTO requirements;
 Europe's scientific case has been summarised in a report by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. The report, Hidden Uncertainties, can be downloaded for free from http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/hidden_uncertainties.pdf
 FOE Europe has assessed the relative merits of a range of intergovernmental institutions, in relation to their capacity to deal equitably with trade and environment disputes. The conclusion is that the WTO is in fact the least suitable of all institutions considered, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration or the International Court of Justice would be the most appropriate venue. "Is the WTO the only way?", which can be downloaded from - http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2005/alternatives_wto.pdf
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe GMO expert: +49 1609 490 1163
Sonja Meister, Friends of the Earth Europe Trade expert: +32 4849 75107
'Major Step Forward' Seen in DuPont Shareholder Vote on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) - Disclosure Resolution to Keep Initiative by Christian Brothers Investment Services Alive
Wednesday April 26, 1:31 pm ET
Christian Brothers Investments, Other Groups Will Continue to Insist on DuPont Satisfying Duty to Disclose Potential Risks to Shareholders
WILMINGTON, Del., April 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) said today that it has achieved a "major step forward" with the 7.3 percent of DuPont shareholders who voted in favor of a resolution urging the company to disclose any potentially material risk or "off-balance sheet liability" that could be posed by its manufacturing and distribution of food-related genetically modified organisms (GMOs). With more than 480 million shares voting, the 7.3 percent of DuPont shareholders siding with the CBIS resolution represents over $1.5 billion in shareholder equity.
Reflecting what is almost always a multi-year process of building shareholder awareness and support, CBIS only needed 6 percent of shareholders to support the GMO-related resolution in order for it to be reintroduced for DuPont's 2007 annual meeting. As the CBIS resolution notes, a wide variety of government, industry and scientific experts have raised concerns about the lack of adequate testing and controls in place in relation to the GMOs unleashed by DuPont and other firms. Recent reports also have raised potential health concerns -- including increased incidence of allergies -- that could result from the introduction of GMOs into agriculture and the food supply.
John K. S. Wilson, director of socially responsible investing at Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc., said: "Today's vote gives CBIS and other concerned groups considerable new leverage to keep up the pressure on DuPont to determine and disclose the potential risks associated with genetically modified agriculture. Our sole goal here is to avoid a repeat of the Teflon controversy, which was brought about when DuPont inaccurately asserted the safety of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) over many decades. At a minimum, DuPont has an obligation to start acknowledging to its shareholders that there are valid concerns here about potential risks associated with GMOs."
In addition to citing recent health concerns and regulatory problems with GMOs, the CBIS resolution stated: "Disclosure of material information is a fundamental principle of our capital markets. Investors, their confidence in corporate bookkeeping shaken, are starting to scrutinize other possible 'off- balance sheet' liabilities, such as risks associated with activities harmful to human health and the environment, that can impact long-term shareholder value. SEC reporting requirements include disclosure of environmental liabilities and of trends and uncertainties that the company reasonably expects will have a material impact on revenues. Public companies are now required to establish a system of controls and procedures designed to ensure that financial information required to be disclosed in SEC filings is recorded and reported in a timely manner."
The CBIS resolution urged that DuPont's "board of directors review and report to shareholders by the 2007 annual meeting on the company's internal controls related to potential adverse impacts associated with genetically modified organisms, including: reviewing the adequacy of current post- marketing monitoring systems; retaining an independent environmental expert to review the effectiveness of established risk management processes; and examining possible impact on seed product integrity."
In outlining the potential risks surrounding DuPont GMOs, the CBIS resolution goes on to point out: "'Gone to Seed' [from the Union of Concerned Scientists] reports that genetically engineered DNA is contaminating U.S. traditional seed stocks of corn, soybeans and canola, and that if left unchecked could disrupt agricultural trade, unfairly burden the organic foods industry, and allow hazardous materials into the food supply ... Insurers in Germany, the UK and elsewhere are refusing liability coverage for genetically engineered (GE) crops, demonstrating heightened concern about the long-term safety of GE crops."
Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc. (http://www.cbisonline.com) manages more than $4 billion, combining faith and finance in the responsible stewardship of Catholic financial assets. CBIS' combination of premier institutional asset managers, diversified product offerings, and careful risk- control strategies constitutes a unique investment approach for Catholic institutions and their fiduciaries. CBIS strives to integrate faith-based values into the investment process through a disciplined approach to socially responsible investing that includes principled purchasing (stock screens), active ownership strategies (proxy voting, dialogues, and shareholder resolutions) and community investment. The firm contributes a portion of all profits to support the Church's educational and social ministry.
Source: Christian Brothers Investment Services, New York, NY
EC approved GM crops despite safety fears - The Daily Telegraph, 18/04/2006
The European Commission approved a range of GM foods and crops despite having serious doubts over their health and environmental impacts, according to new documents released by green charities. Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth said the documents revealed scientific arguments put forward behind closed doors in the European Commission's recent GM trade dispute. The groups have called for the immediate suspension in the use and sale of all GM foods and crops until the safety issues have been addressed. In the documents, the Commission argues that there were "large areas of uncertainty about the health risks posed by GM produce," and that "some issues have not yet been studied at all." The papers also say "there simply is no way of ascertaining whether the introduction of GM products has had any other effect on human health," and "no unique, absolute, scientific cut off threshold available to decide whether a GM product is safe or not." Among other revelations, the documents suggested ther were huge disagreements between the Commission and the European Food Safety Authority, the agency that is responsible for GM risk assessments.
At the same time as the Commission wrote and submitted these documents to the World Trade Organisation highlighting safety concerns it approved seven GM foods, despite a lack of support from the majority of EC member states. Clare Oxborrow, a Friends of the Earth GM Campaigner, said: "This is a political scandal. The European Commission must call a halt to the sale and growth of all genetically modified food and crops given the serious concerns over their safety that have come to light." "When the EU Commission broke the moratorium and forced GM foods into Europe, it told the public they were safe. But the Commission clearly knew this was not the case and was prepared to recognise the risk behind closed doors. The UK Government must now reveal whether it had access to these documents and whether it voted in support of GM foods while knowing the risks they posed."
The EC is accused of approving products despite safety concerns - BBC News, 17 April 2006 - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4917302.stm
Two environmental groups say they have documents which show a double standard on the safety of genetically-modified organisms in the European Commission. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace accuse the commission of telling the public GMOs are safe but admitting to safety concerns in a report. The two groups are citing a report submitted by the commission to the World Trade Organisation. The European Commission is the EU's executive body.
Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace are accusing the European Commission of approving GM crops and foods despite serious doubts over their impact on health and the environment. Using freedom of information rules, they obtained the commission's report to the World Trade Organisation, which is hearing a complaint against European bans on GMOs. The report warns that there are still large areas of scientific uncertainty and disagreement, and that based on current data there is no way to rule out the development of cancer or allergies as a result of GMOs. It raises concerns about weeds and insects becoming resistant to the toxins in GM crops, and it warns that GM plants like oilseed rape and sugar beet can easily cross with their wild relatives. Just two weeks ago the EU agriculture commissioner repeated that no GM products were approved unless they were completely safe. But those assurances are not getting through. In a recent EU poll, nearly two-thirds said they were worried about the safety of GM foods.
EU approves genetically modified foods despite serious concerns - New documents reveal EU Commission's double standards
Brussels, 18 April 2006 - New documents released to Friends of the Earth reveal that the European Commission has been approving genetically modified (GM) foods and crops despite having serious doubts over their health and environmental impacts. Both Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have today called for a suspension in the use and sale of all GM foods and crops until the safety issues have been addressed. The documents reveal the scientific arguments put forward behind closed doors in the recent GM trade dispute (1). In them, the Commission argues that there are "large areas of uncertainty" and that "some issues have not yet been studied at all". They also reveal that:
* On human safety: "there simply is no way of ascertaining whether the introduction of GM products has had any other effect on human health
there is no unique, absolute, scientific cut off threshold available to decide whether a GM product is safe or not."
* On growing GM crops: "It is a reasonable and lawful position" that insect-resistant crops (the only GM crops being grown in the EU) should not be planted until all the effects on the soil are known.
* On the environment: a key scientific study that was used to support the environmental safety of a GM crop is "scientifically flawed".
* There are huge disagreements between the Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an EU agency. In one example, the Commission criticises the EFSA for not requiring further investigations after dismissing scientific evidence that showed that a certain GMO had negative effects on earthworms.
A comprehensive report on the new revelations has been written by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace (2).
At the same time as the Commission was writing and submitting these documents to the WTO highlighting safety concerns, it:
* Pushed through the approval of seven GM foods over the past 2 years, despite a lack of support from member states;
* Required member states to vote twice on proposals to lift national bans on GM products in five countries (November 2004 and June 2005). It was defeated in both votes (3). Ironically, in the submissions to the WTO, the Commission gave scientific arguments to justify the bans.
* Commercialised 31 varieties of Monsanto's GM maize for cultivation in the EU. (4)
"The sale and growing of all genetically modified food and crops in the European Union must be halted immediately, given the serious concerns over their safety that have now come to light," Adrian Bebb, GM Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said. "This is a political scandal. When the EU Commission broke the moratorium and forced new genetically modified foods into Europe, it told the public they were safe. Now we know that behind closed doors the Commission was arguing the complete opposite," Bebb added. "These double standards of the EU Commission clearly show that public health and environmental protection are being compromised by an institution intent on promoting trade and business interests at any costs," he said.
Christoph Then, Genetic Engineering Campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "The truth is now out in the open for all to see. The released EU papers outline detailed scientific concerns about the safety of genetically modified food and crops." "These revelations are astonishing; they show contempt for humans and the environment, and prove that Europe?s safety net is not working. The European Food Safety Authority, on which the Commission depends for advice, comes out particularly badly and needs to be urgently and radically reformed."
Notes to the Editor
1. The Commission's scientific arguments at the World Trade Organisations are outlined in two documents:
Comments by the European Communities on the Scientific and Technical Advice to the Panel, Geneva, 28 January 2005; and Further scientific or technical evidence in response to the other parties' comments by the European Communities, Geneva, 10 February 2005. Both can be downloaded from http://www.foeeurope.org/biteback/EC_case.htm
2. The Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace report can be downloaded at http://www.foeeurope.org/biteback/download/hidden_uncertainties.pdf
4. The Commission put 17 varieties of Monsanto's MON810 maize on the EC Common Catalogue of seeds in September 2004. A further 14 varieties were added in December 2005.
Contacts: Friends of the Earth: Adrian Bebb +49 1609 490 1163 (mobile) - Helen Holder +32 474 857638 (mobile)
Greenpeace: Christoph Then +49 1718780832 (mobile) - Katharine Mill, media officer, tel +32 (0)2 274 1903 or +32 (0)496 156 229
European Commission slaps its own food safety body as more countries ban biotech crops
Friends of the Earth Europe: Press release 12 April 2006
Friends of the Earth Europe welcomed today's statement by the European Commission calling for major improvements to the workings of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the issue of genetically modified (GM) foods and crops. (1)
The environmental organisation accuses the EFSA of being biased towards the biotech industry and believes that its work on GM foods should be halted until public and environmental safety can be guaranteed.
In a separate move, Austria has confirmed a new ban on the import of Monsanto?s GM oilseed rape, a product that was passed as safe by the EFSA. The Austrian government has banned the GM seeds on the basis that no long term safety tests have been done and that imports would likely lead to the accidental spillage of the seeds into the environment. (2)
The EFSA has also today published new opinions on bans of five GM products by Member states. They conclude, as usual, that there is no reason to believe that the GM products in question will "cause any adverse effects for human and animal health or the environment" (3)
Commenting of today's developments, Adrian Bebb, GM Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "The Commission should be welcomed for acknowledging a problem with their food safety authority, but it needs to go further. The Food Authority has for too long sided with the biotech industry and ignored any research or opinions that questioned the safety of genetically modified foods.
"The Commission should now suspend all new approvals until public and environmental safety can be guaranteed," he demanded.
On the new EFSA opinions, Adrian Bebb added: "Today's opinions by the European Food Safety Authority show how out of touch it is with the real world. This body once again ignored the concerns of the EU member states and seem more interested in protecting the biotech industry then protecting the public or the environment."
Notes to editors
1. Commission proposes practical improvements to the way the European GMO legislative framework is implemented, press release IP/06/498, Brussels, 12 April 2006
Adrian Bebb +49 1609 490 1163 Helen Holder +32 474 857 638
Commission proposes practical improvements to the way the European GMO legislative framework is implemented
European Commission press release - IP/06/498 - Brussels, 12 April 2006
Today the European Commission gave its support to an approach proposed by Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou and Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas on further steps to improve the scientific consistency and transparency for Decisions on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The measures proposed aim to bring about practical improvements which will reassure Member States, stakeholders and the general public that Community decisions are based on high quality scientific assessments which deliver a high level of protection of human health and the environment. These improvements will be made within the existing legal framework, in compliance with EC and WTO law, and avoiding any undue delays in authorisation procedures.
In light of recent practical experience acquired with the placing on the market of GMOs, the Commission has decided that practical improvements could be made to the system to improve the scientific consistency and transparency for Decisions on GMOs and develop consensus between all interested parties. These improvements will be made within the existing legal framework, in compliance with EC and WTO law, and avoiding any undue delays in authorisation procedures.
The Commission proposes that the following practices be implemented:
- in the scientific evaluation phase:
to invite the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to liaise more fully with national scientific bodies, with a view to resolving possible diverging scientific opinions with Member States; to invite EFSA to provide more detailed justification, in its opinions on individual applications, for not accepting scientific objections raised by the national competent authorities.
The Commission will fully exercise its regulatory competences foreseen in the basic legislation to specify the legal framework in which EFSA assessment is to be carried out; to invite EFSA to clarify which specific protocols should be used by applicants to carry out scientific studies (for example regarding toxicology) demonstrating safety.
Applicants and EFSA will also be asked to address more explicitly potential long-term effects and bio-diversity issues in their risk assessments for the placing on the market of GMOs.
- in the decision-making phase:
The Commission will also address specific risks identified in the risk assessment or substantiated by Member States by introducing on a case by case basis additional proportionate risk management measures in draft decisions to place GMO products on the market, as appropriate; and where in the opinion of the Commission a Member State's observation raises important new scientific questions not properly or completely addressed by the EFSA opinion, the Commission may suspend the procedure and refer back the question for further consideration.
This development of the GMO authorisation process is not just the result of the Commission's internal reflections, but draws on discussions with Member States and stakeholders.
The Commission will discuss its proposals with the Member States in the Council, and with EFSA, in the coming months with the objective of building greater consensus and transparency in this area of Community policy.
Over the past five years, the EU has put in place a stringent system to regulate the marketing and production of genetically modified food, feed and crops. The EU authorisation procedure ensures that only GMOs which are safe for human and animal consumption and for release into the environment can be placed on the European market. Clear labelling rules allow farmers, other users and consumers to choose whether or not to purchase such products and the rules also ensure that each GMO can be traced at each stage of its use.
The EU regulatory system, one of the strictest in the world, is based on the granting of individual authorisations for placing GMOs on the EU market, following scientific evaluation on a case-by-case basis. Requests for authorisations which do not fulfil all criteria have been and will continue to be rejected.
CIVIL SOCIETY DEMANDS ACTION AGAINST MAHYCO-MONSANTO AFTER ITS INDICTMENT FOR MONOPOLY PRACTICES
Gene Campaign: PRESS RELEASE
The Director General of Investigation and Registration (DGIR) has indicted Mahyco-Monsanto and found it guilty of illegal practices in the Bt cotton case filed against the company by the All India Kissan Sabha and Andhra Pradesh Ryotu Sangam before the MRTP (Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission ). The DGIR report states that Mahyco-Monsanto was charging an excessively high royalty fee for its Bt gene which made the seed exorbitant for farmers, leading to losses; that Mahyco-Monsanto has provided no rationale for the exorbitant license fees and that because there is no competition, Mahyco-Monsanto are in a position to charge for the technology arbitrarily and unreasonably, thus establishing a monopoly.
The DGIR report was welcomed by civil society groups that have been demanding action against Mahyco-Monsanto because its exorbitantly priced cotton was a failure, farmers had suffered heavy losses and already fragile farm economies were taking a beating.
Dr Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign, Dr Suneelam of Madhya Pradesh Kissan Sangharsh Samiti, Sri Yudhvir Singh of the Coordination Council of Farmers Movements, Sri Anil Chaudhary of Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) and Sri Dhirendra Singh of Popular Education and Action Center (PEACE) said in a joint statement today that the indictment of Mahyco-Monsanto by the Director General of Investigation and Registration is an important and welcome step. The groups said this is a landmark judgment since it marks the first step that has ever been taken against the company whose poor quality Bt cotton has resulted in major losses for the farming community in almost all states where it was cultivated, chiefly Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Despite the widespread failure of the Mahyco- Monsanto Bt cotton varieties reported by NGOs, State governments, media and other independent agencies, neither the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) nor the Ministry of Agriculture, have so far moved to take action against the offending company.
After the first harvest of 2003 when it was clear that the Mahyco-Monsanto cotton had failed, Gene Campaign had demanded from the Agriculture Minister that the company be made to pay compensation to those farmers who had suffered losses. Mahyco- Monsanto had flatly refused to pay any compensation; the government allowed it to have its way and the company was not made accountable for its actions. In 2004, a coalition of NGOs led by Gene Campaign requested an enquiry by the Central Vigilance Commission into the reasons why in the face of widespread failure of its Bt cotton, government officials refused to take any action against the company.
The organizations said that the DGIR report should be seized upon to start the process of redressing the losses suffered by farmers. The DGIR, which is a statutory body has established a clear case against Mahyco-Monsanto through due process of law so action must be taken swiftly. DGIR found that Bt cotton seeds are only being produced by sub-licensees of Mahyco-Monsanto which is, therefore, in a position to fix a higher royalty fee in the absence of any competition. It thus imposes unjustified costs and restrictions on the farmers.
Dr Suman Sahai, Dr Suneelam, Sri Yudhvir Singh, Sri Anil Chaudhary and Sri Dhirendra Singh said that it is clear that Mahyco-Monsanto is guilty of illegal action since the trade practice of charging exorbitant and unreasonable royalty fee amounts to monopolistic trade practice under Section 2(i) of the MRTP Act 1969 where 'Monopolistic Trade Practice' has been defined as a trade practice which has or is likely to have the effect of maintaining the prices of goods or charges for services at an unreasonable level by limiting, reducing or otherwise controlling the production, supply or distribution of goods. In the absence of any competition from other Bt cotton producers, Mahyco-Monsanto is in a position to maintain the price of Bt cotton seeds at an unreasonable level by fixing the license fee as it wishes, arbitrarily. The company is also in a position to control the production of Bt cotton seeds through its sub-licensees.
Gene Campaign,Madhya Pradesh Kissan Sangharsh Samiti, Coordination Council of Farmers Movements, INSAF and PEACE said that Mahyco-Monsanto's indictment by the DGIR should be followed immediately by action against the company. The organizations have demanded that:
* Mahyco-Monsanto be made to pay compensation immediately to farmers who have suffered losses due to crop failures from planting their MECH 12, MECH, 162 and MECH 184 Bt cotton.
* Mahyco-Monsanto be made to refund the excessive price it has charged farmers due to the exorbitant license fees of Rs 1250 per bag of seed, which has been found to be illegal and monopolistic by the DGIR.
* Mahyco-Monsanto be barred from setting the rate of royalty/ license fees on the Bt technology unilaterally and arbitraraily. The license fee should be set by a multi stakeholder body involving Mahyco-Monsanto, Indian seed companies, government officials and representatives of farmers and their organizations, inkeeping with the guidelines of the MRTP.
In 1996, Monsanto developed insect resistant Bt cotton by introducing Cry1Ac gene from a soil borne bacteria Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) and commercialized this trait in USA and subsequently in other countries.
Monsanto came to India with the same gene and technology and got commercial approval in India in 2002 through its joint venture with Mahyco through the new company Mahyco-Monsanto Biotechnology Ltd (MMBL),
Monsanto has successfully used the genetically modified crop release regulatory system to keep its monopoly intact preventing the entry of Indian seed companies or even other multinational companies.
Even though the Indian law does not allow gene patents, specifically to prevent monopolies from being exercised on genes and plants, Mahyco-Monsanto has been able to exercise a de facto patent because of the monopoly position it has succeeded in establishing .
Poland Eyes Ban on GMO Plantings - Thursday, April 06, 2006 - Story by Ewa Krukowska
WARSAW - Poland's government wants to ban sowing and curb imports of genetically modified (GMO) plants to protect its image as an environmentally-friendly state, Deputy Farm Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski said on Wednesday. No biotech seeds have been planted in Poland and the biggest food producer among the 10 new states that joined the European Union in 2004 fears potential future sowings of GMO crops could lead to contaminatation of other crops. The minority ruling government party has long said it wanted to make Poland "GMO-free" and parliamentary deputies have been working on several draft bills on the issue.
"The government's stance is that planting of GMOs should not be allowed. It permits sales of GMO products provided that they are clearly labelled," Ardanowski told Reuters in a brief interview on the sidelines of a GMO seminar. Story by Ewa Krukowska. "If we allowed GMOs, our image of a country supporting organic agriculture and producing healthy food would be tarnished. And with the still scanty research on co-existence, noone can guarantee we would avoid contamination," he said.
"Coexistence" laws - or rules for biotech crops from organic and traditional crops - have become the most controversial area in the biotech debate across the European Union. Environmental groups in the bloc say no "live" GMOs should be grown in Europe until an EU-wide coexistence law is in place. The biotech industry takes a very different view, saying there are no problems with growing GMO crops next to non-GMO types. Industry experts say that Poland would face strong objections from Brussels to any attempt to ban GMO plantings, but Ardanowski said Warsaw would try to word law in line with EU rules or even seek changes to the bloc's biotech policy.
Some analysts have said one way to effectively ban GMO plantings would be to push restrictive coexistence regulations through the Polish parliament. Ardanowski also said Warsaw intended to curb imports of GMO soybean meal, an important compoment of animal feed. "The tendency is also to curb imports of GMO soybean meal, but we must start looking for an alternative source of protein for animal feed," Ardanowski said. Market talk that Poland may ban imports of soybean meal has unnerved grain traders and food producers, who fear an increase of animal feed costs. According to estimates by the Polish Institute for Agricultural Economics, more than 2 million tonnes of soybean meal were brought into the central European country last year.
© 2006 Reuters Limited.
Safety checks on GMOs flawed: EU environment chief - By Jeremy Smith - Wed Apr 5, 2006
VIENNA (Reuters) - Europe's environment chief attacked the EU's top food safety agency on Wednesday for flawed risk assessments of genetically modified (GMO) crops and foods, saying it relied too much on data given by the biotech industry. In a strong hint he was unwilling to process new requests for approval of GMOs for growing until their potential long-term impact was known, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas also warned against using such data as a sole information source. His comments on EFSA, Europe's Parma-based food safety agency, which conducts scientific risk assessments of GMO products awaiting EU approval, echoed similar criticisms made last month by the bloc's environment ministers. "There are questions like whether scientific opinions rendered by EFSA have relied exclusively on information provided by companies that look at short-term effects," he said. "EFSA cannot give a sound scientific opinion on long-term effects of GMOs. There are also questions on whether GMO companies are providing the right information to the European Commission," he told a news conference.
EFSA's opinions are required by law if any country objects to a company's application to authorize a new GMO product on EU territory. The agency, set up in 2002, conducts its assessments based on data given by the biotech companies that make the GMOs. At their last meeting in March, several of the EU's 25 environment ministers accused EFSA of failing to take independent and national studies into account for its GMO risk assessments and of not allowing proper access to its research. This is not the first time EFSA, set up in 2002, has drawn fire on its GMO reports, mainly by green groups that say the agency shows repeated bias in favor of the biotech industry. This view is disputed by industry, which says EFSA's independent work is undermined by a small number of countries that oppose GMO crops on political and not scientific grounds. EFSA says it is not influenced by commercial or other interests. [!]
NEW APPROVALS 'ON HOLD'?
Later, in a speech delivered to a two-day conference on GMO crop separation, Dimas gave a clear indication that longer-term studies on the potential impact of GMOs were needed before the EU could consider new applications for approval. Three such applications are now sitting in his department of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, back in Brussels -- two modified maize types and one GMO potato variety. "Applications for cultivation of GMO products raise a whole new series of possible risks to the environment, notably potential longer-term effects that could impact on biodiversity," he told conference delegates. "No new GM varieties have as yet been approved under the new regulatory framework. And it is essential that we address such potential risks before granting approvals for their cultivation," he said. Dimas was referring to the 2001 Deliberate Release directive, the EU's main GMO law that is used for approvals of any GMO destined for growing in Europe's fields. While the EU has authorized a few GMO crops for cultivation -- the only one that is grown commercially is maize, mainly in Spain -- these approvals were granted before 1998, when the EU began a six-year unofficial ban on all new GMO authorizations.
GMOs : Commission requests information from Syngenta to confirm reliability of detection method for Bt10 maize - April 4, 2006
European Commission Media Release
Markos Kyprianou, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, has sent a letter to the biotechnology company Syngenta, requesting confirmation of the reliability of the detection method for genetically modified BT10 maize. The letter has been sent in light of concerns expressed by the Community Reference Laboratory for GMOs for Food and Feed, based at DG Joint Research Centre (JRC), that it could not exclude "false negative" results (i.e. negative results where Bt10 was not really absent) when the detection method in question is used to test for the presence of Bt10 in a consignment. Bt10 maize is not authorised in the EU, and following the inadvertent export of this GMO from the USA to certain Member States last year, the Commission put in place emergency measures to address the situation (see IP/05/437). Syngenta was asked to provide an event-specific method for the detection of Bt10, which was validated by the JRC based on information provided by the company, and used to test maize consignments entering the EU. However, the most recent information on the structure of Bt10 received by the JRC from Syngenta was inconsistent with earlier information provided. This has led the JRC to express doubts about the reliability of the detection method. Commissioner Kyprianou has therefore insisted that Syngenta should clarify the situation as soon as possible, and provide the Commission, in particular the Community Reference Laboratory at JRC with all the necessary information. On the basis of the material received from Syngenta, the JRC will re-evaluate the detection method and decide whether or not it needs to be adjusted in order to ensure full reliability.
WTO, GMO AND TOTAL SPECTRUM DOMINANCE - FreeMarketNews.com, 31 March 2006, by William Engdahl.
On February 7, a private organization with unique powers over world industry, trade and agriculture, issued a Preliminary Draft Ruling on a three-year-old case. The case was brought by the Bush Administration in May 2003 against European Union rules hindering the spread of genetically-engineered plants and foods. The WTO ruling, which is to be final in December, will have more influence over life and death on this planet than most imagine. The ruling was issued by a special three-man tribunal of the World Trade Organization, in Geneva Switzerland. The WTO decision will open the floodgates to the forced introduction of genetically-manipulated plants and food products - GMO, or genetically-modified organisms as they are technically known - into the world's most important agriculture production region, the European Union. The WTO case arose from a formal complaint filed by the governments of the United States, Canada and Argentina - three of the world's most GMO-polluted areas.
The WTO three-judge panel, chaired by Christian Haberli, a mid-level Swiss Agriculture Office bureaucrat, ruled that the EU had applied a 'de facto' moratorium on approvals of GMO products between June 1999 and August 2003, contradicting Brussels' claim that no such moratorium existed. The WTO judges argued the EU was 'guilty' of not following EU rules, causing 'undue delay' in following WTO obligations. The secretive WTO tribunal also ruled, according to the leaked document, that in terms of product-specific measures, the completion of formal EU government approval to plant specific GMO plants had also been unduly delayed in the cases of 24 of 27 specific GMO products that the European Commission in Brussels had before it. The WTO tribunal recommended that the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), the world trade policeman, call on the EU to bring its practices 'into conformity with its obligations under the (WTO's) SPS Agreement.' Failure to comply with WTO demands can result in hundreds of millions dollars in annual fines.
Trade Über Alles
SPS stands for Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. On the surface it sounds as if health concerns were part of the WTO considerations. The reality is the opposite. Only minimal health standards are to be allowed to be enforced under WTO free trade rules, and any nation attempting anything more strict, such as the EU ban on import of US hormone-fed beef, can be found guilty by WTO of an 'unfair restraint of trade.' Today the EU must pay a fine of $150 million yearly to maintain its ban on the US hormone-fed beef. WTO rules in effect put free-trade interests of agribusiness above national health concerns. That means, de facto, that the EU Commission must complete its approval process for the 24 outstanding applications to plant GMO crops in Europe once the final ruling is made later this year. That will mean a flood of new GMO products in EU agriculture. Monsanto, Syngenta and other GMO multinationals have already taken advantage of lax national rules in new EU member countries such as Poland to get the GMO 'foot-in-the door.' Now it will be far easier for them. Pro-GMO governments such as that of Angela Merkel in Germany can claim they are only following WTO 'orders.'
What is the significance of this WTO ruling, assuming it remains as is in final form by December? It represents a major, dangerous wedge into largely GMO-free EU agriculture, permitting powerful agribusiness multinationals such as Monsanto, Dow Chemicals or DuPont to overrun national or regional efforts to halt the march of GMO. For this reason, it is potentially the most damaging decision in the history of world trade agreements.
A strategic Washington matter
The case first came before the World Trade Organization in a filing made by the Bush Administration in May 2003, just as the military occupation of Iraq was entering a new phase. The US President held a rare press conference to tell the world that the US was formally charging the EU, accusing the EU 'moratorium' on GMO approval of being a cause of starvation in Africa. Their twisted logic argued that so long as a major industrialized region such as the EU resisted planting GMO crops domestically, it caused sceptical African governments to harden their resistance to US food aid in the form of GMO crops. That, Bush charged, was causing unnecessary 'starvation' in Africa because some countries refused USDA food aid in form of GMO crop surpluses.
The issue of breaking resistance barriers in the European Union to the proliferation of GMO crops has been a matter of the highest strategic priority for those controlling policy in Washington since 1992 when then-President George H.W. Bush, the father of the current President, issued an Executive Order proclaiming GMO plants such as soybeans or GMO corn to be 'substantially equivalent' to ordinary corn or soybeans, and, therefore, not needing any special health safety study or testing. That 'substantial equivalence' ruling by President Bush in 1992 opened the floodgates to the unregulated spread of GMO across the American agriculture landscape. As basis for its 2003 WTO filing against the EU, Washington, on behalf of agribusiness interests including Monsanto, Dow, DuPont and others, charged the EU with violation of the American 'substantial equivalence' doctrine!
So long as the world's second most powerful agriculture trade region, the EU, firmly resisted the introduction of untested GM plants, the global spread of the GMO revolution would remain strategically crippled. For the past decades, breaking up the system of domestic agriculture protection of the EU, centered around its Common Agriculture Program, has been a strategic political and trade goal of the US Government and US-based agribusiness. The creation of the WTO in 1995, a result of the GATT Uruguay Round trade talks during the 1980's, opened the possibility for the first time of forcing the EU to drop its defenses on US threat of sanctions.
The secret process behind WTO
When the final WTO Panel ruling is published and official this coming December, assuming no major changes take place in the 1,050 page preliminary ruling of February 7, a major barrier to the global spread of largely untested and highly unstable genetically modified foods will be gone. This will become unstoppable, as it was in the USA, unless political pressure from a sceptical European population forces the EU Commission to pay a WTO fine or penalty, in lieu of acceding to the demands of the WTO. It's relevant to ask what is this body, WTO which exercises such enormous power over laws of nations? What is its mandate and who controls its policies?
The negotiations of world trade since the establishment of the Bretton Woods postwar monetary system at the end of World War II, had been made through a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), a series of trade rounds on specific issues between specific member countries. In September 1986, on US-led pressure, the Uruguay Round of GATT was launched in Punta del Este Uruguay. The result was creation of a new, powerful private international agency, the WTO. In late 1994 the US Congress voted to join the WTO, the new permanent trade body established by the GATT Uruguay Round. There was almost no debate. It was clear in Washington who would dominate the new body. Unlike GATT which had no enforcement power, and which required unanimous member vote for sanctions, the WTO would be given tough sanction and enforcement powers. More important, how it reached decisions was to remain secret, with no democratic oversight. The most vital issues of economic life on the planet were to be decided behind closed doors in Geneva WTO headquarters or in Washington and Brussels. It could choose its 'experts' as it saw fit and ignore what evidence it saw fit. In the EU GMO dispute, three of four initial scientific experts chosen were from either US or UK institutions, two countries most in favour of GMO. (1)
Two years earlier, in 1992, at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Rio, 175 UN governments signed a convention to on the safe handling and treatment of GMOs, a major vote of the world community to examine the health and economic impacts of GMO agriculture before it could be allowed in a country. The US Government of President George Bush Sr. aggressively opposed the CBD, arguing that a Biosafety Protocol was unnecessary. Under the CBD agreement, a country could prohibit GMO imports.
The GMO industry, led by Monsanto, DuPont and Dow of the US, sabotaged this agreement. A group of six countries controlling the world Biotech or GMO market˜Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia Chile and USA-- forced a clause into the CBD text which would subordinate the Biosafety Protocol to the WTO. They argued that limiting trade based on 'unproven' biosafety concerns should be considered a 'barrier to trade' under WTO rules! Traditional liability law holds that a new product must first be proven safe before being allowed on market. This WTO rule placing the burden of proof not on the producer of a new GMO product, but on the potential victims, turned prudence and health safety issues on its head. In the end the US destroyed the Biosafety Protocol by refusing to include soybeans and corn, 99% of all GMO products, making the Protocol near worthless regarding GMO health issues.
The WTO serves as the weapon for the powerful coalition of Washington and the powerful private GMO giants, led by Monsanto. Earlier in 1992, Bush, on advice of Monsanto and the emerging US GM giant companies, ruled that GM organisms were 'substantially equivalent' to ordinary seeds for soybeans or corn and such. As substantially equivalent, GM seeds required no special testing or health controls before being put on the market. This was crucial to the future of Monsanto and the GMO lobby. By Presidential Executive Order, the US had defined GMO seeds as harmless and hence not needing to be regulated for health and safety. It made sure this principle was carried over into the new WTO in the form of the WTO‚s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS), which stated, 'Food standards and measures aimed at protecting people from pests or animals can potentially be used as a deliberate barrier to trade.' The US charge against the EU in the present GMO dispute charged the EU with violation of the SPS agreement of WTO.
Other WTO rules in the Agreement to Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) forbid member countries from using domestic standards or testing, food safety laws, product standards, calling them an 'unfair barrier to trade.' The impact of those two US-mandated WTO rulings meant that Washington could threaten that any government restricting import of GM plants on grounds they might pose threats to health and safety of their population, could be found to be in violation of WTO free trade rules! This is what the US Government, on behalf of its agribusiness private corporations has done against the EU restrictions on GMO. Under the WTO's Technical Barriers to Trade, the US has argued that no labelling of GMO plants was required, as the plants have not been 'substantially transformed' from normal or non-GM soya, corn or other plants. This conveniently ignored the fact that Washington simultaneously insisted that GMOs, due to the genetic engineering process, are sufficiently transformed, i.e. NOT equivalent, to be patented as 'original', and protected under WTO TRIPS intellectual property patent rights. (2)
The Agreement on Agriculture
The heart of the WTO machinery is the WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), which under the sheep's wool of 'free trade' hides the wolf of private agri-business GMO monopoly power. Under AoA rules, since 1995 poorer developing countries have been forced to eliminate quotas and slash protective tariffs, at the same time the Bush Administration voted to increase its subsidies to US agribusiness farming by $80 billions. The net effect has been to allow the powerful monopoly of five grain trading giants - Cargill, ADM, Bunge, Andre (formerly) and Louis Dreyfus - to dramatically increase the dumping of food commodities globally, ruining millions of family farmers worldwide in the process, while maximizing their private corporate profits. The AoA of WTO ignores the reality of agriculture markets which are qualitatively different from, say, the market for cars or CD's. Agriculture and national food safety and security are at the heart of a nation's sovereignty, and its obligation to its own citizens to support the basics of life. Agriculture is unique in this respect, along with water rights.
The AoA was written by the US-dominated agribusiness giants such as Cargill, ADM, Monsanto and DuPont, to serve the agenda of these global supranational private companies, whose sole aim is to maximize profits and market monopoly, regardless of human consequences. Their focus is the domination of the $1 trillion global agriculture trade. The actual author of the AoA of WTO was Daniel Amstutz, a former Vice President of Cargill Grain, who was at the time in the Washington US Trade Representative‚s Office, before going back to the grain trade.(3)
Who controls WTO?
The essential control of WTO decisions, decisions which have the full power of international law and can force governments to repeal local laws for health, safety and such is held by private interests, by a global US-centered agribusiness cartel. There are no public or democratic checks on the power of WTO. On paper, WTO rules are made by a consensus of all 134 member countries. In reality, four countries, led by the United States, decide all important agriculture and other trade issues. As in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, Washington exercises decisive control behind the scenes. And it does so in the interest of the private agribusiness cartel. The four WTO controlling countries, known as the QUAD countries, are USA, Canada, Japan and the EU. In the QUAD, in turn, the giant agri-business multinationals exercise controlling influence, most clearly in Washington.
The WTO is designed to impose the wishes of giant private companies over the legitimate democratic will of entire nations and duly-elected governments. WTO has one mission: enforce rules of a free trade, an agenda which is in no way genuinely free‚ but rather suits the needs of agribusiness giants. Under the secretive WTO rules, countries can challenge another‚s laws for restricting their trade. The case is then heard by a tribunal or court of three trade bureaucrats. They are usually influential corporate lawyers with pro-free trade bias. The lawyers have no conflict of interest rules binding them, such that a Monsanto lawyer can rule on a case of material interest to Monsanto. Further, there is no rule that the judges of WTO respect any national laws of any country. The three judges meet in secret without revealing the time or location. All court documents are confidential and are not published unless one party releases it. It is a modern version of the Spanish Inquisition, but with far more power.
The EU banned the import of US beef treated with growth and other hormones, and the US lodged a formal WTO complaint. There was a long report from independent scientists showing that the hormones added to US beef were cancer-causing‚. The WTO three judge panel ruled that the EU did not present a valid‚ scientific case to refuse import, and the EU was forced to pay $150 million annually for lost US profits. (4). The powerful private interests who control WTO agriculture policy prefer to remain in the background as little-publicized NGO's. One of the most influential in creating the WTO is a little-publicized organization called the IPC - the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council, shortened to International Policy Council.
The IPC was created in 1987 to lobby for the GATT agriculture rules of WTO at the Uruguay GATT talks. The IPC demanded removal of high tariff‚ barriers in developing countries, remaining silent on the massive government subsidy to agribusiness in the USA. A look at the IPC membership explains what interests it represents. The IPC Chairman is Robert Thompson, former Assistant Secretary US Department of Agriculture and former Presidential economic adviser. Also included in the IPC are Bernard Auxenfans, Chief Operating Officer, Monsanto Global Agricultural Company and Past Chairman of Monsanto Europe S.A.; Allen Andreas of ADM/Toepfer; Andrew Burke of Bunge (US); Dale Hathaway former USDA official and head IFPRI (US).
Other IPC members include Heinz Imhof, chairman of Syngenta (CH); Rob Johnson of Cargill and USDA Agriculture Policy Advisory Council; Franz Fischler Former Commissioner for Agriculture, European Commission; Guy Legras (France) former EU Director General Agriculture; Donald Nelson of Kraft Foods (US); Joe O‚Mara of USDA, Hiroshi Shiraiwa of Mitsui & Co Japan; Jim Starkey former Assistant US Trade Representative; Hans Joehr, Nestle‚s head of agriculture; Jerry Steiner of Monsanto (US). Members Emeritus include Ann Veneman, herself a board member of a Monsanto subsidiary company before she became US Secretary of Agriculture for George W. Bush in 2001. The IPC is controlled by US-based agribusiness giants which benefit from the rules they drafted for WTO trade. In Washington itself, the USDA no longer represents interests of small family farmers. It is the lobby of giant global agribusiness. The USDA is a revolving door for these private agribusiness giants to shape friendly policies. GMO policy is the most blatant example.
Brussels also dominated by GMO lobby
The power of the giant GMO companies and US-centered agribusiness companies extends to control of key policies in Brussels at the European Commission. Typical is the fact that former EU Agricuolture Commissioner Franz Fischler is a member of the powerful pro-GMO IPC. For years it has been common knowledge among EU farm experts that grain policy was not set by national governments but by the Big Five private grain traders led by Cargill and ADM. Now the powerful weight of Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and the GMO lobby has been added. This is clear in the recent announcement of a new EU program, SAFEFOODS, a successor to the controversial pro-GMO ENTRANSFOOD project. ENTRANSFOOD was set up to facilitate market introduction of GMO's in Europe, and therefore to bring the European (sic) industry into a competitive position. ENTRANSFOOD, now called the more innocuous SAFEFOODS, claims to combine different views on GMO food. In reality, its key Working Group 1, responsible for Safety Testing of Transgenic Foods‚ consists of representatives not from independent consumer organizations, but from Monsanto, Unilever, Bayer Corp., Syngenta and BIBRA International, a consultancy close to agribusiness and the pharmaceutical industry.
As well, Dr. Harry Kuiper, a Dutch scientist member of the food safety GMO group of SAFEFOODS in Brussels, is Coordinator of SAFEFOODS. Kuiper chairs the EU European Food Safety Authority GMO Panel. He has also been leading the vicious slander attack campaign to discredit scientist Dr Arpad Pusztai who dared to go public with alarming evidence of organ damage from rats fed GMO potatoes and was fired on the intervention of Monsanto in 1999.(5). The WTO today is nothing more than the global policeman for the powerful GMO lobby and the agribusiness firms tied to it. With the new German coalition government under Chancellor Angela Merkel and Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer now officially on record supporting the role of Germany as a future leader in biotech crops and GMO, the impact of the latest WTO ruling on food safety in the EU and beyond has put European and hence world food safety in danger.
1.Abreu, Marcelo de Paiva, "Brazil, the GATT and the WTO: History and Prospects", September 1998, Department of Economics, PUC, Rio de Janeiro, No. 392.
2. 'GMOs and the WTO: Overruling the Right to say No,' By World Development Movement, November 1999, www.wdm.org.uk.
3. Murphy, Sophia, 'WTO Agreement on Agriculture: Suitable Model for a Global Food System?' Foreign Policy in Focus, v.7, no. 8, June 2002.
4. Montague, Peter, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO, The WTO and Free Trade, Environmental Research Foundation in www.garynull.com.
5. 'PR Operation on GM Foods again exposes EFSA industry-bias,' Press release, 29.12.2004. www.gmwatch.org
F. William Engdahl, an economist and writer, is author of the best-selling book on oil and geopolitics, 'A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order,' which has been translated into Arabic, Korean, German, Croatian and Turkish. He has just completed the soon-to-be released 'Seeds of Destruction: the hidden agenda of GMO'. He has written on issues of political economy, geopolitics, energy, agriculture, WTO, IMF, politics and economics for more than 30 years, beginning the first oil shock and world grain crisis in the early 1970's. After a degree in politics from Princeton University and graduate study in comparative economics at the University of Stockholm, he worked as an economist and free-lance journalist in New York and in Europe, covering subjects including the collapse of the USSR, the 1997-98 Asia Crisis, GATT Uruguay Round trade talks, EU food policies, the grain cartel, IMF policy, Third World debt issues, hedge funds and the political role of derivatives trade.
Mr. Engdahl contributes regularly to a number of publications including Asia Times Online, Asia, Inc, Japan's Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Foresight magazine; Freitag and ZeitFragen newspapers in Germany and Switzerland respectively; Grant'sInvestor.com, European Banker and Business Banker International. He is a frequent Contributor to FinancialSense.com and 321Gold.com among other online sites. He has spoken at numerous international conferences on geopolitical, economic, GMO, economic and energy subjects, including a keynote address to the Montreaux Global Investors' Forum, the Centre for Energy Policy Studies in London, Bank Negara Indonesia in Jakarta, the International Chamber of Commerce in Zagreb and the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Moscow. He currently lives in Germany and in addition to writing regularly on issues of economics, energy and international affairs, is active as a consulting geopolitical risk economist.
UN Upholds Moratorium on Terminator Seed Technology
Worldwide Movement of Farmers, Indigenous Peoples and Civil Society Organizations Calls for Ban
Ban Terminator Campaign - News Release - 31 March 2006 - www.etcgroup.org - www.banterminator.org
It's official. Governments at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have unanimously upheld the international de facto moratorium on Terminator technology - plants that are genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds at harvest. The 8th meeting of the CBD ended today in Curitiba, Brazil.
"The CBD has soundly rejected the efforts of Canada, Australia and New Zealand - supported by the US government and the biotechnology industry - to undermine the moratorium on suicide seeds," said Maria Jose Guazzelli of Centro Ecologico, a Brazil-based agro-ecological organization.
"By consensus decision, all governments have re-affirmed the moratorium on a genetic engineering technology that threatens the lives and livelihoods of 1.4 billion people who depend on farmer-saved seed," said Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group.
Over the past two weeks, the call for a ban on sterile-seed technology took center stage at the UN meeting in Brazil. Thousands of peasant farmers, including those from Brazil's Landless Workers Movement (Movimento Sem Terra) protested daily outside the UN meeting to demand a ban, and the women of the international Via Campesina movement of peasant farmers staged a powerful silent protest inside the meeting on 23 March. "Terminator seeds are genocide seeds," said Francisca Rodriguez from Via Campesina, "We have pride in being one more step forward in our struggle but we will not stop until Terminator is banned from the face of the earth."
The CBD's moratorium on Terminator, adopted six years ago, was under attack by three governments - Australia, Canada and New Zealand - that insisted on a "case-by-case risk assessment" of the technology. A broad coalition of farmers, social movements, Indigenous peoples and civil society organizations pressed governments meeting in Brazil to reject the controversial text because it threatened to open the door to national-level field testing of Terminator, without regard for its devastating social impacts.
On 23 March, Malaysia, speaking on behalf of the G77 and China (together a group of 130 developing nations), said that the reference to case-by-case risk assessment was "clearly unacceptable" because it would potentially allow field tests. Today the CBD re-affirmed the moratorium on Terminator and even strengthened it by making it clear that any future research would only be conducted within the bounds of the moratorium - meaning no field trials.
Leading up to the UN meeting, civil society groups and social movements across the globe intensified their campaigns against Terminator - sending a strong message to governments meeting in Brazil. Actions include:
* In India, farmers collected over a half million signatures calling on the Prime Minister to remain strong in defending the national ban on Terminator and upholding the international moratorium;
* On 16 March, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on European governments to uphold the CBD moratorium and reject text on "case by case;"
* On March 23, following extensive consultations, Indigenous community leaders in Peru called on multinational company Syngenta to abandon its Terminator-like patent on potatoes;
* In Madrid on March 23, anti-Terminator protesters planted local varieties of organic vegetable seeds outside Monsanto's offices;
* Last week groups targeted those countries supporting Terminator and, in addition to domestic letter-writing campaigns, protests were held at the New Zealand embassies in London and New Delhi, and a protest was held at the Canadian embassy in Berlin.
"The international moratorium on Terminator has been upheld - but the battle isn't over yet. Terminator will be commercialized unless national governments take action to ban it - as Brazil and India have done," said Lucy Sharratt of the international Ban Terminator Campaign.
5000 peasant farmers protested today outside the UN conference to send government delegates home with their message to protect Farmers' Rights.
For further information:
Pat Mooney, ETC Group, email@example.com, +55 41 884 32014
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group, firstname.lastname@example.org, + 52 5555 6326 64
Hope Shand, ETC Group, email@example.com, +1 919 960-5767
Kathy Jo Wetter, ETC Group, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 919 960-5223
Terminator rejected! A victory for the people
Just an hour ago here in Brazil, the Chair of the UN meeting announced that governments have agreed to reject language that would have undermined the moratorium on Terminator. Groups, communities and individuals across the world have joined together in this fight to ban Terminator and your action has been effective in this important first step. The Ban Terminator Campaign will continued to monitor the meetings today and next week.
Terminator rejection - a victory for the people
A broad coalition of peasant farmers, indigenous peoples and civil society today celebrate the firm rejection of efforts to undermine the global moratorium on Terminator technologies - genetically engineered sterile seeds - at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil. "This is a momentous day for the 1.4 billion poor people world wide, who depend on farmer saved seeds," said Francisca Rodriguez of Via Campesina a world wide movement of peasant farmers, "Terminator seeds are a weapon of mass destruction and an assault on our food sovereignty. Terminator directly threatens our life, our culture and our identity as indigenous peoples", said Viviana Figueroa of the Ocumazo indigenous community in Argentina on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity.
"Todays' decision is a huge step forward for the Brazilian Campaign against GMOs," said Maria Rita Reis from the Brazilian Forum of Social movements and NGOs, "This reaffirms Brazils' existing ban on Terminator. It sends a clear message to the national government and congress that the world supports a ban on Terminator." "Common sense has prevailed lifting the Moratorium on the Terminator seeds would have been suicidal literally,” said Greenpeace International’s Benedikt Haerlin from the Convention meeting. "This is a genuine victory for civil society around the world - it will go a long way to ensuring that biodiversity, food security and the livelihoods of millions of farmers around the world are protected.”
Terminators, or GURTS (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies), are a class of genetic engineering technologies which allow companies to introduce seeds whose sterile offspring cannot reproduce, preventing farmers from re-planting seeds from their harvest. The seeds could also be used to introduce specific traits which would only be triggered by the application of proprietary chemicals by the same companies.
At the CBD Australia, Canada and New Zealand along with the US government (not a party to the CBD) and a number of biotech companies were leading attempts to open the door to field testing of Terminator seeds by insisting on ‘case by case’ assessment of such technologies. This text was unanimously rejected today in the CBD's working group dealing with the issue. It still needs to be formally adopted by the plenary of the CBD.
Despite today's victory, there is no doubt that the multinational biotech industry will continue to push sterile seed technology. ‘Terminator’ will rear its ugly head at the next UN CBD meeting in 2008. The only solution a total ban on the technology once and for all,” concluded Pat Mooney of the Ban Terminator Campaign. Now all national governments must enact national bans on Terminator as Brazil and India have done.
Ban Terminator Action Alerts Canada
email@example.com - http://www.banterminator.org
Biotech Foods: International safety laws agreed - MEDIA ADVISORY, Friends of the Earth International
CURITIBA (BRAZIL), 17 March 2006 - United Nations talks on the global trade in genetically modified (GM) foods and crops ended here today with an agreement on the labelling of GM grains traded worldwide. Friends of the Earth welcomed the agreement as a "small step forward" but attacked the biotech industry and the trade interests of a few countries for blocking progress towards better protection for developing countries and the environment. The biotech industry consistently opposed clear identification and labelling
requirements for GM crops. Without clear labelling many countries, especially developing countries with their limited resources, are unable to protect their food supply and environment from GM contamination.
Nnimmo Bassey, International Coordinator of the Friends of the Earth GMO Campaign said: "Protection of the environment and the public from genetically modified crops has taken a small step forward today. However it is clear that trade interests and the biotech industry stopped a better agreement from being made. Countries have the right to know what is being imported into their country and the right to say no to GM crops."
The UN Biosafety Protocol, which was originally agreed in January 2000, provides basic international rules that allow mainly developing countries to regulate the safety of GM foods, crops and seeds. It has been ratified by 132 countries but the three main countries that grow GM crops - the United States, Argentina and Canada - have refused to support it.
Ten years after the first significant planting of GM crops, no plants with benefits to consumers or the environment have materialized and GM crops have failed to deliver the promises of the biotech industry. More than 80% of the area cultivated with biotech crops is still concentrated in only three countries: the US, Argentina and Canada. Friends of the Earth International recently published a report that concluded:
* GM crops are not green. Monsanto‚s GM soybeans, the most extensively grown GM crop today, has led to an increase in herbicide use. The intensive cultivation of soybeans in South America is fostering deforestation, and has been associated with a decline in soil fertility and soil erosion.
* GM crops do not tackle hunger or poverty. Most GM crops commercialized so far are destined for animal feed, not for food, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty issues. In Argentina, the second biggest producer of GM crops in the world, only 2% of the soya stays in the country. Other developing countries, such as Indonesia and India, have experienced substantial problems with Monsanto‚s GM crops, often leaving farmers heavily indebted.
* The biotech industry has failed to introduce the promised new generation‚ of GM crops with consumer benefits. After 30 years of research, only two modifications have made it to the marketplace on any scale: insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT
In Curitiba, Brazil - Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth International / Friends of the Earth Nigeria
Tel: +44 7785334200 (UK mobile) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe - Tel +49 1609 490 1163 (German mobile) or email email@example.com
In Europe - Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International - Tel +34 6259 805 820 (Spanish mobile)
For more information background on biosafety: http://www.foei.org/gmo/biosafety.html
The Battle in Brazil: Lines Drawn in Terminator Seed Fight
Ban Terminator Campaign - www.banterminator.org - 15 March 2006 - Media Advisory - 20th-31st March 2006, Curitiba
As 188 national governments gather in Curitiba, Brazil, for the Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), battle lines are being drawn on the issue of Terminator technology - crops genetically modified to produce sterile seeds, also known as "suicide seeds." Almost 500 organisations - including farmer organizations and peasant movements, international civil society organizations, trade unions, faith organizations and churches - have now called on the world's governments to enact a ban on Terminator at the upcoming CBD meeting. (The complete list of organizations supporting a ban on Terminator is posted at www.banterminator.org/endorsements.)
Thousands of farmers organized through Via Campesina, the international peasant movement representing millions of farmers worldwide, have announced that they will demonstrate against Terminator outside the CBD conference centre. Working with other social movements as part of the Forum of Brazilian NGOs (FBOMS), Via Campesina will hold public events and rallies throughout COP8, including a day of opposition to Terminator on March 21st. To mark International Women's Day (March 8th), Pakistani women farmers met near Islamabad and vowed to resist any moves to introduce Terminator technology into their country. Last week in Porto Alegre, at the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development organized by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rafael Alegria from Via Campesina received a standing ovation for his speech against Terminator. The parallel Forum for Land, Territory and Dignity also expressed its strong rejection of Terminator Technology.
From Australia and New Zealand to Spain, Germany, the UK and Canada, letter-writing campaigns are underway. Many thousands of citizens have asked their national delegations to support a ban on Terminator at the CBD, including 50,000 Canadians who have sent "Ban Terminator" protest cards to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In India nearly 500,000 signatures supporting the Terminator moratorium have been collected. In Italy, more than 120 scientists have signed an anti-Terminator petition sent to the Minister of Agriculture. In Canada, there have been protests in Montreal, home of the CBD secretariat. A public "Terminator on Trial" event is scheduled for the evening of 20th March in Canada's capital city. National radio journalist Bob Carty will host the event in Ottawa and there will be a live video link to the CBD meeting in Curitiba. The "trial" will feature "testimony" from Indian scientist and activist Vandana Shiva and farmer Percy Schmeiser (famously sued by Monsanto for planting saved seed). Organizers expect hundreds to attend the trial acting as a people's jury.
In light of the vigorous and worldwide opposition to Terminator, even the world's three largest seed companies - Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred (DuPont) and Syngenta - have now publicly distanced themselves from suicide seeds.  However, it seems that a handful of governments from wealthy countries have come to Curitiba intending to press ahead with attempts to undermine the existing, six-year old global moratorium on Terminator. At stake is the food security and livelihoods of 1.4 billion people who depend on farmer-saved seed.
In 2000, governments at the CBD agreed to a moratorium on field trials and commercial release of Terminator technology. Terminator is a type of genetically engineered technology called Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (or GURTs) at the UN. Six years later, governments from Africa, Asia and Latin America continue to support the moratorium, but Australia, New Zealand and Canada have attempted in recent years to introduce new wording into the text of the Convention that undermines the moratorium. These three countries appear to be doing the bidding of the US government, which is not a party to the CBD. The US would like Terminator to be regulated under national laws rather than internationally at the CBD. The pro-Terminator governments are pushing for "case by case risk assessment" of GURTs with the intention of allowing Terminator to be approved through existing legislation for genetically modified crops, without consideration for social and economic impacts. The "Terminator Trio" - Australia, New Zealand and Canada - have now been joined by a fourth: the UK government.
The interest in promoting Terminator on the part of a handful of wealthy governments is not hard to understand. The commercial seed market worldwide brings in approximately US$23 billion in revenue annually, but trade sources estimate that if farmers could not save seed and were forced to buy new seed at each planting, the global seed market would increase beyond $45 billion. The international civil society organization ETC Group estimates that at least US$10 billion of the seed market increase would come from South farmers. Brazilian soybean farmers who are now using farm-saved seed would see their seed costs increase by approximately $515 million each year. Argentina's soybean farmers would pay an extra US$276 million. Wheat farmers in Pakistan would face a price rise of US$191 million, while cotton farmers in that country would pay out an additional US$33 million. Rice farmers in the Philippines will pay another US$172 million. Farmers in the North will also suffer. Terminator wheat, alone, will conservatively cost Canadian farmers an additional US$85 million dollars per year.
GURTS: (some) Governments Urging Release of Terminator Seeds
What follows is more information on the four pro-Terminator governments' positions in the days leading up to the Battle in Brazil.
Canada - in deaf mode
Opposition to Terminator is strong among Canada's farm organizations.. No major farm organisation in Canada currently supports Terminator. The Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), representing 44,000 Québec farmers and the National Farmers Union, as well as Canadian Organic Growers are opposed to Terminator. Last week, the 200,000-member Canadian Federation of Agriculture passed a critical resolution requesting an assessment of Terminator's impacts on farmers. But it doesn't appear that the Canadian government is listening. Canada first attempted to overturn the CBD moratorium on Terminator in February 2005 at a UN meeting in Bangkok. Referring to Canada's position, Giuliano Tolusso of Agriculture Canada admitted, "We haven't necessarily actively consulted farmers." In fact, it's difficult to know whom the Canadian Government has consulted. The 90 or so organizations of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation have asked that the moratorium on Terminator be strengthened and have received no reply from the Canadian government; neither have churches such as the United Church of Canada. Despite Terminator's unpopularity among Canada's farmers and public, Agriculture Canada still feels that Canada should support Terminator at the CBD: "There's always a risk with any technology," explains Giuliano Tolusso. "The brakes on your car are not 100 per-cent effective either. They can fail."
Australia - in the dark?
The Australian government led the most recent attempt to undermine the de facto moratorium on Terminator at a CBD meeting in Granada in January. With an official from the US State Department by her side during key negotiations, Australian delegate Susan Jones insisted on a "case by case risk assessment" of GURTs. When civil society representatives recently met with the office of Australia's agriculture minister, officials seemed genuinely surprised by the Australian delegation's behaviour in Granada, indicating that Australia doesn't have a formal policy on the GURTs issue.
New Zealand - in denial?
Documents obtained by the Sustainability Council of New Zealand under New Zealand's Official Information Act show that New Zealand has supported field trials and "case by case assessment" of Terminator since February 2005 and that representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have been actively involved in lobbying at the CBD to undermine the moratorium. Inexplicably, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Winston Peters, appeared oblivious to the issue and even denied the existence of the Convention on Biological Diversity. In two days of parliamentary exchanges with MP Nandor Tanczos concerning New Zealand's position on Terminator, Minister Peters repeatedly asserted, "There is no such international convention or treaty." When treaty text and a list of the signatories to the CBD was tabled, he responded saying, "I seek leave to table a paper from the convention in respect of Terminator technology, but I cannot, because there is no such convention." The New Zealand public appears better informed, with thousands of New Zealanders sending email messages to the government asking for a ban on Terminator.
UK - in on the act?
While the UK has previously supported the CBD de facto moratorium on Terminator as part of the EU, Prime Minister Tony Blair is known to be close to the biotech industry and, as a result, it seems the UK's opposition to Terminator is weakening.
UK Environment Ministers have refused to meet with civil society groups, preferring to put civil servants in the firing line. The UK's Environment Ministry quietly released its own position paper, stating that it will now support "case by case risk assessment" of Terminator (see http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/eu/gurts-0602.htm). This policy is backed by the UK Department for International Development.
Michael Meacher, Labour MP (and UK Environment Minister at the time the UK signed the CBD de facto moratorium in 2000), has written to his successor asking that the revised policy be dropped before the meeting in Curitiba. Mr Meacher wrote, "The UK must demonstrate its commitment to global food security and have a strong position at the CBD meeting in March, to ensure that Terminator seeds never see the light of day." Nearly 200 cross-party members of the UK parliament have signed a motion calling for the CBD Terminator moratorium to be maintained and there has been a recent debate on the matter in the UK Parliament during which an opposition MP said, "Once the technology is let out of Pandora's box, there is no putting it back."
Notes to editors:
The Eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8) begins Monday 20th March 2006 and continues until the following Friday 31st March. The issue of Terminator technology is expected to be addressed during the second and third days of the meeting (Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd). The Ban Terminator campaign will provide daily news updates from Curitiba throughout COP8 at www.banterminator.org and, in Portuguese, at www.cop8.org.br. The ETC group will also offer a perspective on events on its web log: www.etcblog.org.
International media seeking updates, interviews or analysis can contact Jim Thomas in Curitiba at firstname.lastname@example.org (+55  88341049; alternate number: +1 613 241-2267). Spanish speakers can contact Verónica Villa at email@example.com. French and Portuguese speakers can contact Karine Peschard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 The world's three largest seed companies have pledged not to commercialize seed sterilization technologies. Monsanto's pledge is available on its web site at www.monsanto.com/monsanto/content/media/pubs/2005/pledgereport.pdf. The pledge, as it is stated in the Pledge Report, is currently incorrect, according to Monsanto's head of public policy, Diane Herndon. In an email message to the Ban Terminator Campaign dated 27 March 2006, Ms. Herndon clarified that the mention of "non food crops" was a mistake. For more details, see http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=546. In an email message to the ETC Group dated 2 March 2006, Tom West, Vice President of Pioneer Hi-Bred International (#2 seed company, owned by DuPont), wrote: "DuPont has not changed our position on this matter. While we continue to work on the use of gene switches in seed products.we have no plans to use biotechnology to interfere with the traditional practice of saving seed by farmers." Syngenta's Lionel Stanbrook of Syngenta International AG (the world's #3 seed company) has also informed The Ban Terminator campaign that it does not intend to commercialize Terminator Technology - referring to a clear position statement on the Syngenta website (available at http://www.syngenta.com/en/about_syngenta/our_views.aspx).
Only one company publicly vows to commercialize Terminator Technology: Delta and Pine Land (D&PL), the world's 11th largest seed company and joint owner of three US patents on Terminator with the US Department of Agriculture. In 1998, D&PL has said it expected the technology would be used on over one billion acres, especially in countries such as India, Pakistan and China.
 Kelly Patterson, "Seeds of discontent: A blessing or a curse to mankind? Critics of genetically modified food and grain-industry giants await UN ruling on 'suicide seeds,'" The Ottawa Citizen, Sunday, March 5, 2006.
 Michael Meacher, "Defra is sowing the seeds of poor farmers' destruction," The Guardian, March 15, 2006.
 To see the full debate's transcript see 8 March 2006, columns 919-925 on http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/cm060308/debindx/60308-x.htm.
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
Defra is sowing the seeds of poor farmers' destruction - Michael Meacher - The Guardian, March 15, 2006
The claim by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that it has not altered its policy on genetically modified terminator technology - used to sterilise farm-saved seeds, thereby protecting corporate seed sales - does not stand up to serious scrutiny. The Defra policy, published on February 21 in advance of the meeting later this month of the eighth conference of the parties to the UN convention on biodiversity (CBD), calls for a case-by-case assessment of terminator crops. It differs significantly from what I approved in 2000.
I could see the need for a global agreement on how to prevent the release of terminator. The parties to the CBD agreed with me and decided that terminator technology, a varietal-genetic use restriction technology (v-GURT), posed a greater threat than any other type of GM seeds because it would undermine farmers' seed saving - as practised by 1.4 billion people worldwide - and would threaten food security and agricultural biodiversity. Using this technology would force more farmers to buy new seed each season from corporations whose control over seeds is already substantial - just 10 corporations control more than 50% of global seed sales. The result was the global de facto moratorium agreed by the CBD.
This decision, in 2000, stated that no terminator licences should be approved until the potential socio-economic impact of the technology on farming communities around the world had been assessed. To date, no such assessments have been published. So what is the basis of the change in UK policy? Could it be Defra has swallowed the corporate hype that terminator will prevent GM genes contaminating neighbouring crops or wild plants. This is nonsense because terminator cannot provide 100% sterility, nor prevent normal cross-contamination through pollen drift. In any case, that is not its purpose; it is to make the seeds agronomically unviable in order to ensure seed sales.
Defra's published policy has retroactively reinterpreted the CBD decision in favour of a national case-by-case approach, which is EU policy for any GMO approval. Terminator crops would thus be subject only to a scientific risk assessment, as required by EU directive 2001/18. Socio-economic factors, such as the impact on poor farmers' livelihoods, would be ignored. Without internationally accepted assessments of impacts, and globally-binding rules, poor southern countries would struggle to withstand pressure from biotechnology companies to license terminator seeds. Is this Defra's ulterior motive?
The policy as now stated by Defra undermines the international agreement signed in 2000, by opening up the possibility of terminator creeping on to the market by stealth. Ministers and officials must review their document, making it clear that the UK is not in favour of terminator at all. There can be no doubt that public opinion in Britain remains overwhelmingly against GM, and would be even more strongly against allowing use of the terminator technology if it was understood that this would endanger food security across all developing countries and would worsen world poverty. Defra has a duty to do whatever is necessary at the CBD meeting to ensure this potentially devastating technology never sees the light of day.
Michael Meacher MP is a former environment minister
Greenpeace finds Heinz Baby Rice Cereal contaminated by illegal GE rice - 14/3/2006
Greenpeace announced in Beijing today that non-approved genetically-engineered (GE) rice has been detected in Heinz's Baby Rice Cereal and the environmental group called for an immediate recall of all the contaminated products. It also asked on the government to control the spread of GE rice in the food chain. The test results were provided by GeneScan, a Germany-based independent laboratory, which tested 19 food samples that Greenpeace had collected in the supermarkets in Beijing. Heinz Baby Rice Cereal with a best before date of March 12, 2007 is the only product where GE ingredients, namely Bt rice, were detected. The GE rice variety is developed to be resistant to pest but has not been approved by the government.
"We were completely shocked by the result," said Steven Ma, GE campaigner for Greenpeace China. "It is the first time we found illegal GE rice in baby food, which should have been subject to the most rigorous surveillance."
In 2000 Mexican scientists found that the Bt protein (Cry1Ac) which comes from GE rice has been found to induce allergic responses in mice, Ma said.
On March 1, Greenpeace notified Heinz China of its finding, asking for an immediate recall of the product and for the company to change its suppliers. Donald Gadsden, CEO of Heinz China, replied on March 8 that "Heinz will take any alerts seriously and we are now conducting a thorough inspection." As of March 14, Heinz had not responded with further information about its inspection.
HUMAN AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS RELATED TO GM SOY EXPANSION IN PARAGUAY
NEW REPORT WILL BE LAUNCHED AT U.N. BIODIVERSITY SUMMIT:
Curitiba, Brazil, 13-21 March 2006
Grupo de Reflexion Rural (Argentina) will present a new report providing detailed accounts of the current violent campaign against rural and indigenous communities in Paraguay, which is strongly related to the expansion of GM soy production. Witnesses of the cases exposed in the report will be present at the coming United Nations conferences on Biosafety (MOP3) and Biodiversity (COP8). They will denounce the agroexport model that not only destroys (agro)biodiversity, but also leads to violent land evictions and intoxications of the rural population through agrochemical fumigations.
The new report called ¨Paraguay Sojero¨ (Soy producer Paraguay), compiled by Grupo de Reflexión Rural, exposes the widespread human rights violations, including biodiversity destruction, related to soy expansion in Paraguay. Javiera Rulli, one of the authors, says: “Ongoing human rights violations in Paraguay go hand in hand with the advancement of soy monocultures. Agribusiness corporations knowingly take advantage of the fact that in Paraguay corruption florishes, while environmental regulations or human rights are not respected¨.
The report will be launched at the Alternative Forum to the MOP3-COP8 conferences, on Monday 20 March, from 9-13.30 hrs. The launch is part of the Morning Panel titled: “The real agenda of Monsanto and its consequences in Latin America - Testimonies of the Victims of Agribusiness from Paraguay, Argentina and Mexico”, organised by the Agribusiness Observatory Network for a Human Agriculture.
GRUPO de REFLEXION RURAL (Argentina), GRAIN and ACCION ECOLOGICA (Ecuador), part of this network, have invited a delegation of ¨Victims of Agribusiness¨ to a range of activities during MOP3-COP8. From Paraguay, Petrona Villasboa, member of CONAMURI (Coordination of Rural and Indigenous Women), will present her fight for justice after her son was killed by agrochemicals fumigations of GM soy fields. Jorge Galeano, leader of the Movimiento Agrario y Popular, will account of the repression of peasant organisations and violent land evictions taking place in Paraguay, orchestrated by soy producers. Both their cases are described in the report.
At the same time, two other publications dealing with GM soy expansion, in Paraguay and Brazil, will be presented.
Javiera Rulli, one of the authors of the report, as well as Petrona Villasboa and Jorge Galeano, will be available for interviews after the Morning Panel, and further throughout the period March 13-21. Photos, articles and press releases and the report “Paraguay Sojero” are available from the website of Grupo de Reflexión Rural: www.grr.org.ar
Javiera Rulli: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Or Nina Holland: firstname.lastname@example.org
The exansion of soy monocultures is causing a wave of environmental and social destruction throughout the MERCOSUR. The Biodiversity Convention does not succeed to counteract the free trade policies headed by the WTO, that are at the basis of the expansion of industrial agriculture. Equally, the Convention fails to provide any protection for local and indigenous communities, that according to the Convention are main actors in saving biodiversity.
The situation in Paraguay presents the most pronounced case of this violence against the rural and indigenous population. Soy monocultures cover 2 million hectares, causing a great loss of (agro)biodiversity and food security. Communities are frequently threatened by violent evictions, carried out with help of corrupt police forces and paramilitaries. Intensive fumigations with agrochemicals intoxicate people, animals, destroy harvests, contaminate water sources and ruin rural livelihoods. Companies like Cargill and Monsanto are amongst those most benefiting from the expansion of soy production.
Jorge Galeano witnessed the infamous eviction of June 24 2005 in the community of Tekojoja, where a group of soy producers and hired policemen expelled 270 people from their lands, burnt 54 houses and adjacent fields, arrested 130 people and killed two.
In 2003, Petrona Villasboa and her entire family were poisoned after fumigations with glyphosate by a GM soy producer next to their farm. Her 11 years old son Silvino Talavera died. Petrona and CONAMURI is fighting a legal battle for justice against the two soy producers envolved.
These cases are just examples of the consequences of soy expansion, suffered by small producers and indigenous communities in the countryside of MERCOSUR countries.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION: CONTAMINATE, THEN LEGISLATE - New report on GMOs reveals EU Commission going for "wait-and-contaminate" policy
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH EUROPE PRESS RELEASE - March 10th 2006
Brussels, 10 March 2006 - The Commission of the European Union is avoiding EU-wide legislation on the coexistence of genetically modified (GM) and non-GM crops, a move that could lead to the irreversible contamination of Europe's food, seeds and environment. The "wait-and-contaminate" policy on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is in a report by the European Commission, which is due to be published today (March 10). The report has been obtained in advance by Friends of the Earth Europe (1).
Whilst the Commission recommends in the report that coexistence measures be decided at country level, it has in fact objected to half of all legal proposals from EU Member States. The report lacks any clear proposals or conclusions and effectively delays any concrete decision until 2008.
*Helen Holder**,* GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "The European Commission has decided to first contaminate and then legislate, a move in line with the interests of the biotechnology industry. By adopting a 'wait-and-contaminate' policy, the Commission ignores the rights of European consumers and farmers who do not want to experiment with genetically modified foods."
The EU report on the coexistence between GM, conventional and organic crops looks at current measures by EU member states to protect farming from contamination:
* The Commission threatens countries or regions with legal action if they try to prohibit the growing of GM crops. Currently 172 European regions have expressed their desire to be GM free. (2)
* The Commission considers that a half of all the legislative coexistence proposals by EU member states "create obstacles to the free movement of goods".
* Coexistence measures that ban the growing of GM crops in "protected or ecologically sensitive regions" are not permitted, despite existing legislation which allows this for individual GMOs.
* Schemes that require GM growers to obtain insurance against contamination should not be mandatory as this type of insurance cover is not available in the EU and this would "make the cultivation of GM crops impossible."
* The Commission is not however threatening to take countries to court if they set a threshold for contamination lower than the Commission's recommended 0.9%. This confirms independent legal advice that the Commission's use of the labeling threshold for coexistence is "legally flawed" (3).
"The EU Commission approach is clearly a failure," Helen Holder said. "It must stop dodging its responsibility and introduce an EU law that prevents contamination of our food, farming and environment".
A Friends of the Earth *briefing* on the Commission report is available at: http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/Media_Briefing_coexistence_10_March_2006.pdf
Helen Holder, GMO campaign coordinator, +32 (0)474 857 638
(1) A final draft of the Commission report obtained by Friends of the Earth can be downloaded at:
(3) Advice - In the matter of Co-existence, traceability and labelling of GMOs. K.P.E. Lasok QC and Rebecca Haynes, 21 January 2005.
Helen Holder, European GMO campaign coordinator, Friends of the Earth Europe, Rue Blanche 15, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +322 542 01 82 Fax: +322 537 55 96 Helen.Holder@foeeurope.org - www.foeeurope.org
Monsanto apologizes and returns to original "pledge" not to commercialize Terminator - March 6, 2006 - details at http://www.banterminator.org
A Feburary 21 press release from the Ban Terminator Campaign reported that Monsanto had revised its 1999 public commitment not to commercialize Terminator technology. Its new pledge suggests that it would use Terminator seeds in non-food crops and does not rule out other uses in the future. Now Monsanto's Director of Public Policy has written an apology to the Ban Terminator Campaign, saying that it did not really mean it would consider using Terminator in non-food crops. Monsanto will now change their pledge again to remove this suggestion. Monsanto's language can be read at http://www.banterminator.org/p/342
Monsanto's Mistake? ETC Group takes the view that Monsanto's modified text was not a mistake or an accident. When Hope Shand of ETC Group spoke to Monsanto representative Roger Krueger in January, he indicated that Monsanto's position was not to use Terminator in food crops - http://www.etcgroup.org
After a series of communications between the Ban Terminator Campaign and Monsanto, the company has officially returned to its original pledge not to develop or use "genetic engineering methods that result in sterile seeds. Period." The company's pledge does not rule out future development of the technology however and still allows the company to change its position at any time.
Meanwhile Australia, New Zealand and Canada are still working hard to end the UN moratorium on Terminator and Delta & Pine Land continues to develop the technology in greenhouses in the US. If these governments succeed in overturning the moratorium, Monsanto can be expected to change its pledge and license Terminator for use in its seeds.
WRITE to your national government now and urge them to support the moratorium at the UN meeting in Brazil this month!
Details and action suggestions are at http://www.banterminator.org/take_action
From: Terminator Information email@example.com
High Court issues notice to Chief Secretary on farmers' suicides issue - The Hindu, March 3, 2006
Mumbai: Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court has issued notice to Maharashtra Chief Secretary and Principal Secretaries of agriculture and finance departments on the issue of suicides committed by cotton growing farmers. The division bench of Justice J N Patel and Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari has directed the Chief Secretary and others to file an affidavit as to the steps taken to prevent the suicides within four weeks. The notice in this regard was issued on February 27. The PIL, filed by Kishor Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti and Tukaram Meshram, alleged the number of farmers committing suicides because of crop failure, since last June, has reached 337 by February end. Besides, other reasons such as lack of alternatives to money-lenders, the PIL contended that most of these farmers were cotton growing farmers from West Vidarbha region and failure of government promoted BT Cotton seeds ruined them. According to the petitioners, the state government encouraged BT Cotton seeds -- which are genetically modified -- saying it would lessen spending on pesticides, which proved to be wrong. Among other things, the PIL has demanded government's promotion of BT cotton -- marketed by Monsanto BT Seeds Company -- should be probed. It has also demanded families of farmers who have committed suicide be given a compensation of Rs five lakh each.
LEAKED REPORT: U.S. MISLED THE WORLD ON BIOTECH FOODS "VICTORY"
WTO ruling does not prevent countries from restricting or banning GM foods
BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) / WASHINGTON DC (US) 28 February 2006 - Friends of the Earth International made available online today a confidential World Trade Organization ruling on the trade dispute on biotech, or genetically modified (GM) foods.  The 1000-page report, which was distributed earlier this month only to the countries involved in the dispute, was leaked to Friends of the Earth, which published today February 28 a preliminary analysis in the briefing 'Looking behind the US spin'.  The leaked report reveals that:
- despite claims of victory by the US Administration and the biotechnology industry - widely reported in the media in February 2006- the three countries that started the trade dispute against the European Union (US, Canada and Argentina) failed to win most of their arguments;
- the World Trade Organization (WTO) did not rule on two of the most important questions, namely whether GM foods are effectively the same as non-GM foods and if they are safe.
"The WTO ruling is not a victory for the US administration and the biotech giants. Countries around the world should continue to enforce tough legislation protecting their citizens and the environment from the risks of genetically modified crops," said Juan Lopez, GM Campaign Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International. According to Friends of the Earth International the WTO is not and should not be the appropriate body to deal with conflicts between trade rules and environmental protection since it ignores the internationally recognised 'Precautionary Principle' and considers only trade principles.
The leaked WTO report argues that:
* Europe's 4-year moratorium on GM Organisms (GMOs) only broke trade rules because it caused "undue delay" in the approval of new GM foods. The WTO dismissed eight other complaints in relation to the moratorium, and did not recommend any further action, since the moratorium ended in 2004.
* There was also an "undue delay" in the EU's approval procedures for over 20 specified biotech products. However, eleven other claims of the complainants related to the product-specific EU measures were dismissed by the WTO Panel.
* National bans by EU member states broke trade rules because the risk assessments used by the countries in question did not comply with the WTO requirements;
"This is the report that the WTO didn't want the public to see. It reveals that the big corporations that stand behind the WTO failed to get the big win they were hoping for. Free trade proponents needed a clear victory in this dispute to be able to push governments in the EU and the developing world to accept genetically modified food. They failed and now is the time to build a consensus that the WTO, with its business-only agenda, is the wrong place to decide on what people eat and how we protect our environment." said Adrian Bebb, GMO campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels.
Friends of the Earth Europe today launched a cyber action (http://www.bite-back.org/objection/our_food.php ) urging the public to call on their Governments to reject the WTO as a forum to decide on environmental trade disputes and to support the right of countries to ban GMOs.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International GM coordinator, Tel: +34-6-25980582 (Spanish mobile number)
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe GMO expert, Tel: +49 1609 490 1163 (German mobile number)
David Waskow, Friends of the Earth US Tel: + 1 202 492 4660
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 The WTO report is available online in two parts at: www.foeeurope.org/biteback/WTO_decision.htm
 The Friends of the Earth preliminary analysis in the briefing 'Looking behind the US spin' is online at www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/WTO_briefing.pdf
Ministers back 'terminator' GM crops - Website reveals plan to scrap prohibition on seeds that threaten Third World farmers with hunger
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor - The Independent on Sunday, 5 March 2006 - http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article349331.ece
Ministers are trying to scrap an international agreement banning the world's most controversial genetic modification of crops, grimly nicknamed "terminator technology", a move which threatens to increase hunger in the Third World. Their plans, unveiled in a new official document buried in a government website, will cause outrage among environmentalists and hunger campaigners. Michael Meacher, who took a lead as environment minister in negotiating the ban six years ago, has written Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Environment, to object.
The Government is to push for terminator crops to be considered for approval on a "case-by-case basis" at two meetings this month; its position closely mirrors the stance of the United States and other GM-promoting countries. Terminator technology, so abominated even Monsanto will not develop it, would stop hundreds of millions of poor farmers from saving seeds from their crops for resowing for the following harvest, forcing them to buy new ones from biotech companies every year. More than 1.4 billion poor Third World farmers and their families pursue the age-old practice. The technique is officially known as genetic use restriction technology (Gurt), making crops produce sterile seeds. It could be applied to any crop, including maize and rice, widely grown in developing countries. The UK working group on terminator technology, a coalition of 10 British environment and development groups, says: "It could destroy traditional farming methods, damage farmers' livelihoods and threaten food security, particularly in developing countries."
In 2000, the world's governments imposed a de facto moratorium on developing, or even testing, the technology under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, an agreement largely brokered by Britain under Mr Meacher's leadership. But pro-GM nations such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, largely orchestrated by the US, have been pressing for the moratorium to be lifted, and for Gurt crops to be approved after "case-by-case risk assessment". They, and biotech companies, claim the technology is a green solution to a serious drawback of GM crops, the way their genes spread, through pollen, to create superweeds and contaminate conventional and organic crops. But environmentalists say this is an illusion because terminator plants will still produce pollen, and their genes would pose a particular hazard by threatening to make non-GM sterile as well.
Yet ministers have refused to meet environmental groups to discuss their policy and failed publicise their position, posted two weeks ago on the website of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Britain will be pushing for this approach first at a meeting of EU ministers on Thursday, then at a meeting of the convention in Brazil in two weeks. Mr Meacher said: "For the first time in the history of the world, farmers would be stopped from using their own seeds. This would undermine food production and cause starvation."
How it works: Sowing the seeds of starvation
Gurts may be an ugly acronym, but environmentalists believe that the genetic use restrictions technologies they stand for are even uglier. There are two types:
v-GURTS, called terminator technology. Developed by the US Department of Agriculture and the Delta Pine and Land Co, it makes seeds sterile so they cannot be cropped and resown. Before they are sold, seeds are treated with a compound which activates a gene introduced into the plant from bacteria. The gene allows the crop to be grown normally, but takes charge just as it becomes ready for harvesting and stops its seeds from manufacturing any of the protein it needs for germination.
t-GURTS, dubbed traitor technology. These are linked to a particular trait of a plant such as good growth , germination and other desirable characteristics. The genes governing these can be activated only when the plant is sprayed with a proprietory chemical, which is sold separately. Big biotech companies want to make the plants dependent on their own chemicals so they can make profits by selling first the seed, then the chemical needed to make it work properly.
Leaked WTO Report fails to make a decision on GM safety - GM Freeze PRESS RELEASE - 28th February 2006
The leaked report published by Friends of the Earth Europe  today shows that the US’s WTO complaint against the European Union’s GM moratorium  has failed to resolve the debate on the testing and safety of GM crops.
The 1000 plus page WTO report does not make a judgment on the human, animal and environmental safety of GM crops or on the system of safety assessment based on GM crops being equivalent to non-GM crops.
The report only criticises the EU for undue delays on approving some GM crops and some EU member states for failure to adopt WTO risk assessment procedures before banning some GM crop imports. Several US complaints were dismissed and no action against the EU was recommended in the report.
Carrie Stebbings of GM Freeze said: “The US has failed to get a judgment that would force the EU to change its GM policies and regulations. Having failed to get a favourable judgment, it has resorted to spin, in an attempt to intimidate the rest of the world in to accepting GM crops. The debate on GM safety and science is still unresolved and the US only gained favourable judgments on narrow procedural points. After three years and millions of pounds the WTO has shown itself to be incapable addressing the dispute over GM. Countries around the world should resist US attempts to bully them and should be free to adopt a cautious approach to GM. The role of the WTO in dealing with complex issues cutting across scientific, technical and socio-economic fields needs to be challenged by governments and civil society across the world very few issues can be boiled down to trade factors only”.
Calls to Carrie Stebbings a 0207 837 0642 and Pete Riley 07903 341 065.
2. The de facto moratorium ran from 1999 to 2004.
Carrie Stebbings, Co-ordinator GM FREEZE CAMPAIGN, 94 White Lion Street, London, N1 9PF - Tel: 020 7837 0642 - Fax: 020 7837 1141
firstname.lastname@example.org - www.gmfreeze.org
Monsanto May Commercialize Terminator:
Press Release - UK Campaigning Group on Terminator Technology - Immediate Release 21st February 2006
Biotech Giant reverses pledge on GM Terminator Technology as global alliance calls for a ban.
Monsanto, the world’s largest seed and biotechnology company, has withdrawn its high profile promise not to commercialise GM ‘Terminator Technology’ made in 1999 . The announcement has been condemned by groups representing farmers and indigenous people around the world. Monsanto now says it may develop or use the so-called ‘suicide seeds’ after all in non-food crops and does not rule out other uses of Terminator in the future . Monsanto’s back tracking on their 1999 pledge means that the company may use Terminator sterility genes in cotton, tobacco, pharmaceutical crops and grass . Monsanto’s new policy says, "Monsanto does not rule out the potential development and use of one of these technologies in the future. The company will continue to study the risks and benefits of this technology on a case-by-case basis."
Monsanto’s shift in policy comes to light as the biotech and seed industry prepares for next month’s meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). At pre-meetings in Spain last month the pro- biotech governments of Australia, New Zealand and Canada, orchestrated by the biotechnology industry and the US government, pressed for new wording which would allow a “case by case” assessment of Terminator technology . These amendments will be pushed hard at next month Conference of the Parties of the CBD (COP8) . The existing CBD agreement of 2000 bans testing and commercial growing before scientific, ecological, socio economic and cultural assessments are made and evaluated. To date, no assessments have been done.
The main concerns are that the sterile seeds produced by Terminator technology threaten biodiversity and would destroy the livelihoods and cultures of 1.4 billion people who depend on farm-saved seed. Alejandro Argumedo, a Peruvian Quecha spokesperson from the Association ANDES commented: “The world’s farmers and Indigenous peoples cannot trust Monsanto. Monsanto’s broken promise is a deadly betrayal because Indigenous peoples and farmers depend on seed saving for food security and self-determination.” Chee Yoke Ling of Third World Network said: “Monsanto's modified policy resonates closely with the views of a few rich governments that are promoting Terminator in UN meetings. It looks like Monsanto and other corporations are behind the strategy to unleash Terminator at the upcoming meetings of the CBD.”
The Ban Terminator campaign has today released the names of 300 organisations worldwide which are calling for a ban on Terminator technology. The organisations are from every region of the world including small farmer movements, Indigenous peoples organisations, civil society and environmental groups, unions, faith communities, international development organisations, women’s groups, consumer organisations and youth networks .
Patrick Mulvany speaking for the UK Campaigning Group on Terminator technology  said”: “It is now clear that Monsanto and the biotechnology industry are behind the surprising actions of a few OECD governments to end the UN moratorium on Terminator. We are calling on national governments to reject Monsanto’s tactic of ‘case by case risk assessment’ in favour of an all-out ban on Terminator. We invite many more organisations to join with us in the battle against Terminator next month in Brazil”
Calls to Patrick Mulvany 07949 575711 Pete Riley 07903 341065/ 0207 837 0642
1. Terminator technology was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture and US seed company Delta & Pine Land to prevent farmers from saving and re-using harvested seed, forcing them to buy new seeds each season by making seeds sterile (embryos are prevented from developing). The technology has never been field-tested and is not yet commercially available, although Delta & Pine Land is now testing Terminator plants in greenhouses and vows to commercialize them. After delaying for many years, the European Patent Office granted a patent on this technology on 5th October 2005. Both the UN and Monsanto refer to Terminator as Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs).
2. In response to worldwide opposition, Monsanto publicly pledged not to commercialize Terminator seeds in October 1999. Then-CEO of Monsanto, Robert Shapiro, wrote in an open letter to the head of the Rockefeller foundation, "I am writing to let you know that we are making a public commitment not to commercialize sterile seed technologies, such as the one dubbed ‘Terminator.’”
3. 2005: From Monsanto’s 2005 Pledge Report, Genetic Use Restriction Technology, p. 29. On the Internet: http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto/content/media/pubs/2005/pledgereport.pdf
4. The text of the recommendations is available from: http://www.etcgroup.org/documents/8jWorkingGroupRecommendations.pdf
Monsanto’s new stance on Terminator is part of an industry-wide attempt to remove a de facto moratorium on Terminator. Last year at a smaller UN meeting in Bangkok (the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Assessment SBSTTA) Canadian government delegates, working hand in hand with the biotech industry, made a surprise attempt to overturn the moratorium and allow Terminator into fields. Last month, at another preparatory meeting in Granada, Spain (known as the Working Group on 8j), the Australian government, advised by a US State Department representative, also attacked the moratorium. In a new tactic the Australian government introduced text recommending that Terminator technologies be approached on a “case by case riskassesment” basis.
5. The Conference of the Parties of the CBD (COP8) will meet in Curitiba, Brazil (March 20-31 2006)
6. CBE COP5 in 2000 Decision V/5, section III, Paragraph 23 clearly states that “products incorporating such technologies should not be approved by Parties for field testing until appropriate scientific data can justify such testing, and for commercial use until appropriate, authorized and strictly controlled scientific assessments with regard to, inter alia, their ecological and socio-economic impacts and any adverse effects for biological diversity, food security and human health have been carried out in a transparent manner and the conditions for their safe and beneficial use validated”. To date no scientific data exists that can justify field-testing of Terminator technology nor any studies of potential ecological or socio-economic impacts; indeed, there is no published information on this technology despite well over a decade’s worth of development.
7. Other organizations are invited to join the alliance at www.banterminator.org
8. The UK Campaigning Group on Terminator Technology includes UK Food Group, Progressio (formerly CIIR), Friends of the Earth, GM Freeze, GeneWatch UK, The Gaia Foundation, EcoNexus, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Munlochy GM Vigil. Link to www.eco-matters.org for free copies of a leaflet on Terminator technology.
An Early Day Motion (EDM 1300) calling for the moratorium on Terminator to be maintained has been signed by 107 MPs from all parties.
INDIA: BT cotton seeds cause allergy: NGO - http://www.bharattextile.com/newsitems/1998748
INDORE: The NGO's three member investigation team has suspected that a large number of farmers of Nirmar region suffer from allergies after coming in contact with BT cotton seed, sources said here on February 19. The three member team comprising of Dr Ashish Gupta, Ashish Mandloi and Amulya Nidhi, carried out the survey in five villages and interviewed 23 labourers and farmers of Barwani and Dhar district between October and December 2005. The team further revealed, the toxins inside the BT cotton seed which helps the cotton plant fight the deadly American Bollworm, was the main reason behind the allergy. The team also admitted that the study was not a comprehensive one and it covered only those persons who had allergies and had been definitely been exposed to BT cotton plant or had picked up cotton. Dr Gupta said that all respondents had itching of skin, while 86 pct of them had eruptions on body and 56 pct had swelling of face where as in some cases, the itching was so severe that they had to discontinue their work, or had to work after taking anti-allergy medicine. The use of the BT cotton seed increased in the past two seasons has surged the cases of allergies in the region. So the team suggested to conduct a detailed investigation into the matter and also to take necessary measures to stop the allergies eruption.
Genetically modified hubris - by Tom Philpott - Gristmill, 16 Feb 2006 - http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2006/2/16/84730/1561
A couple of days ago, NY Times writer Andrew Pollack attempted to address the failure of biotech companies to "improve" fruits and vegetable crops -- that is, to bring a genetically altered fruit or vegetable strain (as opposed to grains like corn and legumes like soy) from seed to supermarket. Unwittingly, the article illustrates the industry's hubris and the mainstream press's gullibility in covering the topic. Pollack opens thus: "At the dawn of the era of genetically engineered crops, scientists were envisioning all sorts of healthier and tastier foods, including cancer-fighting tomatoes, rot-resistant fruits, potatoes that would produce healthier French fries and even beans that would not cause flatulence."
The only response to that statement is a horselaugh. Tomatoes already fight cancer; fruits like apples and oranges resist rot just fine (Does anyone seriously want, say, raspberries that last weeks? When we harvest them on my farm, they tend to disappear rapidly anyway); french fries can be plenty healthy, so long as you (like those skinny French people) fry them in good-quality fat and don't eat them in excess; and the answer to beans' flatulence problem lies not in the lab, but in the garden: Just add a bit of the hardy herb epazote to the pot. I've seen epazote thrive everywhere from a full-sun garden in Texas to a community garden in Brooklyn to a shady herb patch in North Carolina's mountains. In other words, low-tech solutions already exist for most of the "problems" the biotech industry has set out to "solve." It's no coincidence that biotech ag companies are the mutant child of the pharmaceutical industry, which peddles a pill for every malady, including many you didn't know you had.
Pollack's next sentence contains another howler: "But so far, most of the genetically modified crops have provided benefits mainly to farmers, by making it easier for them to control weeds and insects." That's enough to turn one's horselaugh into a full-on growl. How, precisely, have biotech's benefits flowed "mainly to farmers"? Let's review the industry for a second here. As Pollack notes, biotech has failed completely to bring a successful fruit or veg seed to market. Its only triumphs have been in heavily subsidized grain, legume, and fiber crops: specifically corn, soy, and cotton.
Since 1995, when Monsanto started to market GM seeds heavily, some $70 billion in direct government subsidies have flowed to corn, cotton, and soy farmers -- the most prolific decade for commodity subsidies ever. If biotech seeds have been such a boon to farmers, then why have the farmers that grow them needed such a monumental bailout? Meanwhile, Monsanto's share price, like its bottom line, has surged. Clearly, the big winners in the biotech boom have not been consumers or (pace Pollack) farmers, but rather shareholders in the seed giants.
See Andrew Pollack's article below.
Announcing: April 8th, Joint International GM Opposition Day - http://www.indybay.org/news/2006/02/1802198.php
*5 April : March for GMO-free regions during the GMO European Conference held in Vienna, Austria.
*6 April :National Call-In Day to the US Congress, in support of the "Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, USA
*8 April : JIGMOD, Earth
8th of April 2006: Joint International GM Opposition Day (JIGMOD)
The World Trade Organization (WTO) -- whose Deputy Director General previously served as the European general counsel for the agrochemical and biotechnology giant Monsanto -- has ruled in favor of genetically modified (GM) crop producers against the European Union (EU). International critics of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are confident that European citizens remain opposed, and that GMOs will not significantly break into the European market. However, they are concerned that it will open the way to the development of GM crops, as well as the contamination of both GM-free fields and food chains. Furthermore, the WTO is thus dictating a message to the world that it is useless to attempt to regulate GMOs. In this context, 100 international organizations from more than 40 countries are now announcing April 8, 2006 as a Joint International GM Opposition Day. The day will feature major public events in several of these countries to demonstrate continuing global opposition to genetically modified foods and crops.
"This international day follows the WTO decision to restrain European governments from protecting their farmers and other citizens from the threat of GMOs," explained one of the US promoters of the event. "We will join with our allies around the world to condemn the WTO decision, and to denounce the US administration's attempts to impose this hazardous technology on us all."
On the 8th of April, "Information Sites" distributed worldwide will allow the general public to learn more about the social, scientific, environmental and health dimensions of the GMO file. Some of these sites will be linked through a video-conference that will provide a forum for GM opponents to dialog across the world, including the historical figures of the movement. A letter, written by a team of scientists and others, which emphasizes health risksand problems of genetically engineered organisms, will notably be presented during this conference.A public demonstration will occur in Chicago, USA, where the biotechnology industry is holding its annual convention. A promotion of "peasant seeds," as the pre-existing alternative to GM crops, will be launched in several countries. Among other joint initiatives, a NO-to-GMO Mosaic composed of pieces originating from many regions of the world will be exhibited in Turkey. Concerts, movies, discovery walks and peasant markets will accompany exhibitions by sponsoring organizations.
"We are concerned about our quality of life, and want to prevent our farms and our dinner plates from being touched by GMOs," said Dominique BEroule, of the JIGMOD Coordinating Team in France. For ten years, organizations worldwide have followed parallel and complementary tracks toward this goal. Now, whereas the WTO intervenes to extend the GMO market and suppress protective regulations, environmentalists, farmers, and consumer organizations are joining in to inform the public of the increasing evidence against genetically modified crops and food, on the occasion of a worldwide appointment."
"The more people learn about the hazards of GMOs for our health, the environment, and traditional agricultural communities, the more they oppose this technology," explained Brian Tokar, of the US-based Institute for Social Ecology. "And in many countries, this concern has been translated into sound public policies to limit the importation and growing of GM products. That is why corporations work to suppress public awareness in the US, and why our government has pressed theWTO to overrule sound protective actions in other countries."
"The countries that have adopted GM are facing higher costs and market rejection which is why they want to force the GM problem on other competitive countries. Farmers want to market what consumers want, and it is not GM. Contamination is not controllable and economic loss will occur but it should be the GM companies, not the non-GM farmers, that should be forced to accept the liability for the losses GM crops will cause." said Julie Newman, of the Australian Network of Concerned Farmers.
According to Ignacio Chapela, microbial ecologist and Professor at the University of California (Berkeley), "We want to make sure that GMOs are not released into the environment without public transparency and informed consent, but to recognize that some manipulations of organisms might be useful, provided there is a high degree of public responsibility and technical capacity to ensure that they do not come out of a laboratory."
Dr Arpad Pusztai, who pioneered research on the nutritional and developmental impacts of transgenic food, declares:"Will the biotech company executives pushing GM crops on an unwilling public be able to face their own children and grandchildren when the health damage and environmental dangers of GM crops will come true?"
Events during the period leading up to the 8th of April include:
24 February: Conference of the European GM-free regions, 24 February, in Krakow, Poland.
3 March: National demonstrations in several towns of Germany
5 April: March for GMO-free regions during the GMO European Conference held in Vienna, Austria.
6 April: National Call-In Day to the US Congress, in support of the "Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act,USA
8 April: JIGMOD, Earth
The full program and complete list of sponsors will be updated until the 8th of April on the dedicated website:http://altercampagne.free.fr/
Walkout over low yield from Bt cotton by opposition in Madhya Pradesh assembly - New Kerala, 15 Feb 2006
Bhopal: Major opposition parties, including Congress today staged a walkout in Madhya Pradesh assembly alleging heavy losses suffered by farmers due to low yield from Bt cotton grown by them and accusing the ruling BJP of promoting multi-national companies. Raising the issue through a calling attention motion, Samajwadi Party leader Suneelam and Govind Singh and Arif Aqeel of Congress claimed that thousands of farmers in Malwa and Nimar region who grew different varieties of the genetically modified Bt cotton had to incur huge losses. Demanding compensation to the affected farmers, they claimed that during several tests, Bt cotton seeds have been proved to be a failure as far as germination, productivity, quality and cost effectiveness are concerned. Farmers, who grew Bt cotton, were facing huge debt burden due failure of crops, they said.
Refuting the allegations levelled by opposition members, Agriculture Minister Chandrabhan Singh said though crops were damaged in some areas due to lack of irrigation facilities, overall production has increased by using Bt cotton seeds. Following complaints about Bt cotton, the matter was probed and its report sent to the central governmemt, he said. Unhappy with the Minister's reply, Congress members staged a walkout, while Samajwadi Party and CPI-M MLAs followed them charging the state government of promoting multi-nationals. The house witnessed noisy scenes when Speaker Ishwardas Rohani informed members about acceptance of the resignation by BJP MLA from Budhni Rajendra Singh.
Cut and dried?
The World Trade Organisation has ruled that Europe's moratorium on GM organisms was wrong. But biotech companies beware - the decision does not mean that countries are ready to roll over, says Sue Mayer
The Guardian, February 15, 2006 - http://society.guardian.co.uk/societyguardian/story/0,,1709490,00.html
Last week, industry analysts were predicting that markets for GM crops would soon be expanding globally. Their claims were based on reports that the US, Argentina and Canada had "won" in their World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute with Europe over GM crops and foods. For the GM crop growing countries and the biotech industry, the tactic of using the WTO to steamroller European recalcitrance over GM organisms (GMOs) seems to have come up trumps. But the reality is likely to be less clear, although the determination of the US to bully countries into accepting GM food shouldn't be underestimated.
The US, Argentina and Canada made their complaint to the WTO in May 2003. Europe's moratorium on approvals for importing and growing GM crops, introduced at the end of 1998, had angered the three countries, which grow around 90% of all GM crops. They also complained about bans by six countries, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg, on certain GM crops that had been approved before the moratorium. The US and its allies said the moratorium, "undue" delays in approvals, and national bans could not be justified scientifically. This was, they said, delaying progress in the development of GM crops and their role in tackling world hunger. Europe responded by arguing that it had taken a justifiable precautionary approach because the science of GM crops and foods was uncertain.
The interim report of the WTO's dispute panel was finally sent to the parties on February 7. It was about 18 months behind schedule and ran to more than 1,000 pages, the longest in the WTO's history. Like the whole of the dispute proceedings, the report is confidential to the parties, and public access is limited to leaks. Only the conclusions and recommendations of the interim report are currently accessible via a leak to the Geneva-based Institute of Agricultural Trade and Policy. In a nutshell, the WTO dispute panel has said that Europe's moratorium on GMOs - which ended in 2004 with the approval of a GM maize variety - led to trade rules being broken because it caused "undue" delays in the approvals process. In relation to individual products, the panel has also said that 24 of 27 applications awaiting approval were subject to "undue" delays.
At a time of considerable political controversy, active revision of regulations and further scientific investigation into GMOs, the WTO's dispute panel has made the rather extraordinary judgment that Europe's assessments of GM crops and foods were simply taking too long. The dispute panel also said the bans by six member states were not based on an adequate risk assessment and so were not scientifically justified according to WTO rules. This represents an intervention into countries' freedom to establish the levels of environmental and human safety they deem appropriate.
But what practical effect could the panel's report have? On the one hand, it could be used to pressurise countries to evaluate GMOs according to a narrow risk assessment that gains WTO approval, and to do this without "undue" delay. Any bans on GMOs could be judged to conflict with trade rules. Consumer choice, time for public deliberation, protecting non-GM or organic agriculture, or seeking maximum environmental and health protection seem, according to the WTO panel, not allowable. No doubt the US, Canada and Argentina will be pointing this out to other countries that have taken what they see as an unhelpful position on GMOs. On the other hand, there is the public and political reaction to the WTO's decision. There is little evidence of increasing support for GM crops and foods, and moves to coerce countries and citizens into accepting GM food could backfire. There are now 172 regions and provinces in Europe that have declared themselves GM-free. A recent poll showed that 58% of European citizens are worried about GMOs. Austria and Greece have made defiant statements in response to the report and, in a national referendum last year, the Swiss voted for a five-year moratorium on the commercial growing of GM crops.
Scepticism about GM is not restricted to Europe. All the states in Australia growing oilseed rape have moratoriums on growing, despite federal-level approval for GM oilseed rape. Farmers in Mali have rejected GM crops as an attack on their way of life, and consumer surveys in Russia, China and South Africa demonstrate a lack of appetite for GM products. From this perspective, the WTO's intervention looks set to intensify controversy. For trade between Europe and farmers in the US, Canada and Argentina, the decision will have little if any effect. The loss of trade in GM crops has not come as a result of regulatory delays, but because food producers have responded to consumer concerns by removing GM ingredients from products. There seems to be no intention on the part of European food companies to move from this position.
If there had not been a moratorium in Europe while new rules were agreed, several serious consequences would have arisen. The indirect effects on farmland wildlife of growing GM herbicide-tolerant crops would not have been considered in assessments, even though the UK's farm-scale evaluations showed that bird populations could be adversely affected by growing GM oilseed rape or sugar beet. There would have been no requirement to monitor environmental or human health effects. Consumers would not have been able to make a choice about products derived from GM crops, as new labelling laws now allow for. And there would have been no traceability requirement for GM foods, so if an adverse effect had emerged it would have been impossible to withdraw the product quickly and easily. Following bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), traceability is a cornerstone of European food safety systems. Europe's moratorium on GM crop approvals was not an "undue" delay - it allowed for the introduction of important new rules. All countries should be able to establish the safety rules that they consider appropriate for safety without fear of bullying and arm twisting.
Although the panel's interim report is provisional, based on past performance it is unlikely it will be modified before it has final approval. The EU can then appeal, but, if the appeal is upheld, the WTO will then ask the EU and member states to comply with the findings of the panel. Because the moratorium no longer exists, this is partly irrelevant. However, at least some of those countries with national bans look unlikely to roll over and submit. Only then will sanctions be discussed. In today's world, with such widespread opposition to GM, the WTO complaint and the panel's report may look increasingly misjudged. Investors would be advised to show some caution about the future of GM crops because the instincts of the biotech industry in relation to consumer reaction are usually wrong.
Sue Mayer is director of GeneWatch UK - http://www.genewatch.org - one of a coalition of 14 international organisations that made a submission to the WTO dispute panel.
Biotech's Sparse Harvest - By ANDREW POLLACK - The New York Times, Feb 14 2006 - http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/14/business/14gene.html
At the dawn of the era of genetically engineered crops, scientists were envisioning all sorts of healthier and tastier foods, including cancer-fighting tomatoes, rot-resistant fruits, potatoes that would produce healthier French fries and even beans that would not cause flatulence. But so far, most of the genetically modified crops have provided benefits mainly to farmers, by making it easier for them to control weeds and insects. Now, millions of dollars later, the next generation of biotech crops - the first with direct benefits for consumers - is finally on the horizon. But the list does not include many of the products once envisioned.
Developing such crops has proved to be far from easy. Resistance to genetically modified foods, technical difficulties, legal and business obstacles and the ability to develop improved foods without genetic engineering have winnowed the pipeline. "A lot of companies went into shell shock, I would say, in the past three, four years," said C. S. Prakash, director of plant biotechnology research at Tuskegee University. "Because of so much opposition, they've had to put a lot of projects on the shelf." Developing nonallergenic products and other healthful crops has also proved to be difficult technically. "Changing the food composition is going to be far trickier than just introducing one gene to provide insect resistance," said Mr. Prakash, who has promoted agricultural biotechnology on behalf of the industry and the United States government.
In 2002, Eliot Herman and his colleagues got some attention when they engineered a soybean to make it less likely to cause an allergic reaction. But the soybean project was put aside because baby food companies, which he thought would want the soybeans for infant formula, instead are avoiding biotech crops, said Mr. Herman, a scientist with the Department of Agriculture. In addition, he said, food companies feared lawsuits if some consumers developed allergic reactions to a product labeled as nonallergenic.
The next generation of these crops - particularly those that provide healthier or tastier food - could be important for gaining consumer acceptance of genetic engineering. The industry won a victory last week when a panel of the World Trade Organization ruled that the European Union had violated trade rules by halting approvals of new biotech crops. But the ruling is not expected to overcome the wariness of European consumers over biotech foods.
New crops are also important for the industry, which has been peddling the same two advantages - herbicide tolerance and insect resistance - for 10 years. "We haven't seen any fundamentally new traits in a while," said Michael Fernandez, executive director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, a nonprofit group. Now, some new types of crops are appearing. Monsanto just won federal approval for a type of genetically engineered corn promoted as having greater nutritional value - albeit only for pigs and poultry. The corn, possessing a bacterial gene, contains increased levels of lysine, an amino acid that is often provided to farm animals as a supplement. Coming next, industry executives say, are soybean oils intended to yield healthier baked goods and fried foods. To keep soybean oil from turning rancid, the oil typically undergoes a process called hydrogenation. The process produces trans fatty acids, which are harmful and must be disclosed in food labels under new regulations. Both Monsanto and DuPont, which owns the Pioneer Hi-Bred seed company, have developed soybeans with altered oil composition that, in some cases, do not require hydrogenation. Kellogg said in December that it would use the products, particularly Monsanto's, to remove trans fats from some of its products. Monsanto's product, Vistive, and DuPont's, which is called Nutrium, were developed by conventional breeding. They are genetically engineered only in the sense that they have the gene that allows them to grow even when sprayed with the widely used herbicide Roundup. But Monsanto and DuPont say the next generation of soybean, which would be able to eliminate trans fats in more foods, would probably require genetic engineering. Those products are expected in three to six years. Beyond that, both companies said, would be soybeans high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart and the brain. These are now derived largely from eating fish, which in turn get them by eating algae. Putting algae genes into soybeans could allow for soy oil that is rich in the fatty acids. "Our hope is it is easier to formulate into food without it smelling or tasting fishy," said David M. Stark, vice president for consumer traits at Monsanto.
Other second-generation crops are also on the way. DuPont is trying to develop better tasting soy for use in products like protein bars. Some efforts are under way to develop more nutritious crops for the world's least developed countries, led by what is termed golden rice, which contains the precursor of vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness in certain poor countries. There has been progress in crops able to withstand drought. While those would mainly benefit farmers, it would also help consumers in regions like Africa, where droughts bring famine. Mr. Stark said Monsanto had not anticipated that use of genetic engineering would discourage food companies from using the company's soybeans. "I don't get many requests for 'Is this a G.M.O. or not?' " he said, using the abbreviation for genetically modified organism. "It's more 'Does the oil work?' "
Still, opposition by consumers and food companies has clearly forced big companies like Monsanto and DuPont to choose their projects carefully. It has also made it difficult for academic scientists and small start-ups, which typically provide much of the innovation in other fields, to obtain financing. Avtar K. Handa, a professor at Purdue, said he had stopped work on a tomato he helped develop a few years ago that was rich in lycopene, a cancer-fighting substance. Genetically modified crops are not being brought to market and research funds have diminished, he said.
Still, opposition is not the only problem. Alan McHughen, a professor at the University of California, Riverside, said that for small companies and university researchers, the main obstacles were patent rights held by the big companies and the cost of taking a biotech crop through regulatory review. That has made it particularly difficult to apply genetic engineering to crops like fruits and vegetables, which have smaller sales than the major grain and oil crops. Technical issues are another obstacle. While a single bacterial gene can provide herbicide resistance or insect resistance, changing the nutritional composition of crops sometimes requires several genes to alter the metabolism within a cell. That raises a greater risk of unintended effects, some experts say.
Enhanced crops must also meet the demands of farmers for high yields and of food companies for good taste and handling properties. DuPont won approval for a soybean high in oleic acid, which could produce healthier oils, back in 1997. But instead of becoming a showcase of the consumer health benefits of genetic engineering, the crop is now used only to make industrial lubricants. Erik Fyrwald, group vice president of DuPont's agriculture and nutrition division, said one reason the crop was not sold for use in food was that demand for healthier oils was not as great then as it is now. But other experts say there was another problem - foods made with the oil did not taste good. "The high-oleic oils are not very well received by the consumer," said Pamela White, a professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University. Further, she predicted that soy oils containing the omega-3 fatty acids would be unstable, making them hard to use in fried foods.
William Freese, a research analyst at Friends of the Earth, which opposes genetically engineered crops, said genetic engineering had been oversold. "The facts show that conventional breeding is more successful at delivering crops with 'healthy traits' than genetic manipulation, despite all the hype from Monsanto and other biotech companies," he wrote in an e-mail message. Scientists at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico have already used conventional breeding to develop corn rich in lysine, similar to the new Monsanto product, he said. The biotech companies concede that if improvements can be made conventionally, results would come quicker because such crops do not face regulatory scrutiny. Mr. Stark of Monsanto said that if his company could develop high-oleic soybeans using breeding, the product could reach the market in three years, rather than six for the genetically engineered version.
But in some cases, scientists and executives say, it is not possible to get a trait, like the omega-3 fatty acids, without using genes from another species. "With genetic engineering you can go further," said Mr. Fyrwald of DuPont. Mr. Fernandez of the Pew Initiative said polls have shown that consumers seem to be receptive to genetically modified products that have direct benefits for them. But whether that would be enough to win wide acceptance of genetically engineered foods remains to be seen. One issue is whether consumers would even know what they are eating. Right now, in the United States, genetically modified and conventional crops are typically mixed together, and food made from biotech crops is not labeled. But it is likely that crops with consumer benefits would be segregated so farmers could charge more for them. And food companies are probably going to want to label them. But the labeling is likely to proclaim that the food has healthier oil or is better for the heart, rather than mention it was the product of genetic engineering. In Europe, food containing genetically modified ingredients has to be labeled to that effect, but it is not clear whether the health aspects would be linked to genetic engineering on the label.
Chris Somerville, chief executive of Mendel Biotechnology, a small company developing drought-resistant crops, said acceptance would depend more on big food companies than consumers. Companies, he said, would not want to risk their brands by using biotech crops if they thought there was even a slight chance of consumer rejection. "Really, they're the gatekeepers," said Mr. Somerville, who is also head of the plant biology department at the Carnegie Institution. "The consumers aren't going to have any choice before the brand companies think it's safe to go out."
WTO's decision on GM foods in Europe did not cover safety issues - Agence France Press, 2/10/2006
GENEVA, Feb 9 (AFP): A World Trade Organisation ruling that the European Union imposed unfair restrictions on genetically modified crops did not tackle the vexed issue of their safety, it emerged yesterday. The confidential WTO ruling noted that the organisation's dispute settlement panel had stuck purely to trade issues. "The panel did not examine whether biotech products in general are safe or not," said the ruling, which ran to 1,050 pages-the longest ever issued by the decade-old WTO, reflecting the complexity of the case. Nor did it address "whether the biotech products at issue in this dispute are 'like' their conventional counterparts", even though this claim was made by Argentina, Canada and the United States, which had asked for the WTO ruling. They filed their complaint in May 2003, charging that the EU stance reflected business protectionism rather than concerns about the impact of biotechnology on the health of consumers or the environment The problem, the report said, was that a de facto EU moratorium on imports of GM crops between June 1999 and August 2003 broke a WTO agreement that allows governments to restrict imports on health grounds. No party in the case questioned the EU's right to consider possible risks prior to giving approval for the consumption or planting of biotech crops, the ruling said.
US may press Africa on GMOs, Africans vow to resist - Shapi Shacinda - Reuters, 8 February, 2006
LUSAKA - The U.S. may push Africa to accept gene-altered (GMO) food now that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled the EU broke rules by barring GMO foods and seeds, but Africans vowed on Wednesday to resist. "We do not want GM (genetically modified) foods and our hope is that all of us can continue to produce non-GM foods," Zambian Agriculture Minister Mundia Sikatana told Reuters in Lusaka. "The decision by the WTO does nothing to change our stand in this matter." The WTO ruled on Tuesday that the European Union and six member states had broken trade rules by barring entry to genetically modified crops and foods. A U.S. trade official confirmed findings of the preliminary ruling, contained in a confidential report sent only to the parties. The closely watched verdict addressed a complaint brought against the EU by leading GMO producers the United States, Argentina and Canada.
The European Union's opponents asserted that the moratorium, which Brussels argued was never official, hurt their exports and was not based on science. Manufacturers of the biotech seeds, designed to increase yields and resist pests better than normal seeds, maintain they are safe for human consumption. European consumers, fearing the effects of "Frankenstein foods" have resisted them. Even African countries facing food shortages, such as Zambia, have refused to accept gene-altered food donations, arguing their safety had not been ascertained. Those countries that take in GMO-food demand stringent certifications and milling before it arrives on their borders.
Regional heavyweight South Africa is one of the few countries on the continent to embrace the controversial technology. Campaigners and analysts saw the U.S. using the World Trade Organization ruling to press Africans to accept GMO food imports on the basis that Europe, which has usually backed the obstinate African position, will itself have to take them. "Politically, I think it is very clear that the U.S. will try and use this case to force GMOs into African markets. American industry is already saying that the result is a signal to the rest of the world," Daniel Mittler, trade adviser at Greenpeace International, told Reuters by telephone. "They are implying that while the EU may be able to resist an outlawing of national bans on GMOs, developing countries will not and will have to open their markets," Mittler said.
Africans argue that better technology to increase irrigation, more widespread use of fertilizers and pesticides, and improved monitoring of market trends will help deliver improved harvests and defeat hunger. "It is obvious to everyone that the U.S. will interpret the WTO ruling as a message to Africans that it is now time to eat GMOs and stop the noise-making ... after all, the EU has been put on a leash in the matter," said an agriculture consultant in Malawi, one of the countries that often require food aid. But Zambian minister Sikatana said there was no looking back: "We made a decision based on facts and those facts have not changed. We hope no one in Africa feels they have to change their views based on that ruling, it will not do."
Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard in Johannesburg
FIVE STORIES ON THE CONFIDENTIAL PRELIMINARY WT0 FINDING ON EU GM POLICY
Food ruling will keep WTO in activists' sights - Alan Beattie - Financial Times - 7th February, 2006
When scores of activists dressed as turtles appeared on the streets of Seattle during the disastrous World Trade Organisation meeting in 1999, it became clear that the WTO had inadvertently backed into the gunsights of environmental campaigners. It has remained there since. On Tuesday, the WTO‚s dispute settlement panel released its long-awaited ruling in a transatlantic argument on one of the most politically charged subjects of all: the EU's restrictions on allowing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food.
Environmentalists delivered an onslaught of criticism when the ruling came down in favour of the US. "The World Trade Organisation with its secretive decision-making processes is unfit to decide what we should eat or what farmers should grow," said Alexandra Wandel, trade co-ordinator at Friends of the Earth. "A new global trading system is needed that protects people and the environment from the worst excesses of industry." The WTO and its defenders say it is merely judging whether existing rules are followed. But as such cases increase in complexity, so do the challenges to its judicial system.
The three-person WTO panel was asked to rule not on whether GMOs were safe, but whether the EU‚s lengthy and stringent approval process met EU and WTO rules that products be tested without "undue delay".
The US, whose farmers use GMOs extensively, says GMO products have been languishing in the approval process since 1998. This, they say, acts as a form of backdoor protectionism against farm exports from the US and other countries that use GMOs a lot.
WTO rules against Europe in GM food case
WTO panel rulings often say more about legal process than the substantive issue. The turtle activists in Seattle, for example, were complaining about a WTO panel ruling in favour of Thailand against the US, which required shrimp sold in US markets to be caught using special nets that allowed turtles to escape. The ruling actually upheld the right of the US to require use of the special net, merely finding that it had applied the rules unfairly, making it easier for Latin American shrimpers to qualify than for their counterparts in Asia. But other cases have taken WTO panels towards assessing the appropriate level of risk themselves.
In 1997, a ruling went in favour of the US and Canada that the EU's ban on growth hormones in beef was unduly cautious. And in the GMO case, it had to decide whether, given the scientific complexities surrounding GMOs, it has moved with proper speed in assessing their safety. Mary Footer, professor of international economic law at Nottingham University, says: "There should be a clearer understanding by WTO members and those choosing the panel about the need to understand science-based risk assessment." Dispute panels are generally made up not of scientists but of trade diplomats who have to rely on expert advice to inform their rulings. But the EU argues that scientists are divided on the risk from GMOs. "The science necessary to assess the risks of these new [genetic] combinations is having a hard time to catch up with the rapid
development of new GM products,": it said.
The panel's ruling, given consumer resistance, may not make much difference to the actual consumption of GMO-based foods in Europe. But in taking the case, the WTO has ensured its uncomfortably prominent role in such debates will continue.
WTO condemns EU over GMO moratorium
GENEVA, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The World Trade Organisation, in a closely watched ruling, decreed on Tuesday that the European Union and six member states had broken trade rules by barring entry to genetically modified crops and foods, diplomats said. The preliminary finding, contained in a confidential verdict sent to the parties to the dispute, addressed a complaint brought against the EU by the United States, Argentina and Canada. In a 1,000-page report, which diplomats said that they were still seeking to digest, WTO trade judges found that the EU had applied an effective moratorium on GMO imports for six years from 1998. Moratoriums are barred under WTO rules.
"The panel confirmed that there was a moratorium, and that is not allowed," said one diplomat who had seen the verdict. "Members' safeguard measures have also been condemned," he said in reference to the complaint against individual market and import bans imposed by France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Greece. Diplomats said that other parts of the WTO ruling, which also covered individual crops and foods, were more mixed, although they were still wading through the detail. The decision, which still needs to be confirmed in a final ruling in a month's time, and can be appealed, came as little surprise to diplomats and industry watchers who had forecast that the EU
could come off worst in the long-running case.
"NOT BASED ON SCIENCE"
The EU's opponents asserted that the moratorium, which Brussels argued was never officially declared, hurt their exports and was not based on science. The ruling had been keenly awaited by the world's biotech industry, which would like to ship far more GMOs to Europe. Although Brussels began once again authorising imports of GMOs in May 2004, only seven crops and foods have been given the green light, and a number of member states have maintained individual bans. Europe's shoppers are known for their wariness towards GMO products, often dubbed "Frankenstein foods" by European media. Opposition is estimated at more than 70 percent, a stark contrast to the United States where the products are far more widely accepted. But trade sources said the ruling would send a message to other WTO members, including some in Africa, which have been taking, or are considering taking, a similar line to that of the EU, that they could face legal action.
U.S. farmers say the EU ban cost them some $300 million a year in lost sales while it was in effect since many U.S. agricultural products, including most U.S. corn, were effectively barred from entering EU markets. "Biotechnology produces safe food ... we believe it will help reduce poverty in poor countries. We believe it enhances development and it provides important environmental benefits," said United States Trade Representative Rob Portman before the ruling's release. The EU says its cautious approach to GMOs is in line with scientific opinion which, it says, has concluded that GMOs must be assessed on a case-by-case basis even if they are not intrinsically unsafe.
Biotech industry hails WTO ruling, greens annoyed
BRUSSELS, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Biotech industry groups hailed a world trade ruling on Tuesday that condemned the European Union over its policy on genetically modified (GMO) crops and foods, while green groups blasted it as a direct attack on democracy. In a keenly awaited confidential judgment, the World Trade Organisation said the EU applied an effective moratorium on GMO imports for six years from 1998 -- illegal under WTO rules. Six EU countries also broke trade rules by slapping their own bans on marketing and importing GMO products that had already won EU-wide approval, according to diplomats who had seen the finding issued by the Geneva-based trade body. "If confirmed, the verdict seems to be pretty unambiguous," said Christian Verschueren, director-general of CropLife International, representing the global plant science industry. "It seems to send a clear signal that any measures to protect animal, human and plant health have to be based on sound science," he told Reuters. "We hope that ... we gradually gain more political clarity within the EU, and get the regulatory machine working more effectively than it has done."
The complaint was filed against the EU in 2003 by Argentina, Canada and the United States -- all major growers of GMO crops such as soy and maize. U.S. farmers say the EU ban cost them some $300 million a year in lost sales while it was in effect since many U.S. agricultural products, including most U.S. corn, were effectively barred from entering EU markets. Europe's shoppers are known for their wariness towards GMO products, often dubbed as "Frankenstein foods". But the biotech industry insists that its products are
perfectly safe and say Europe's hostility is unfounded. Green groups were disappointed by the findings, saying the months of waiting, and many delays, in the WTO biotech case had already made Europe take a much more pro-active stance on approving GMOs than warranted by the poor consumer demand for modified foods. "U.S. agro-chemical giants will not sell a bushel more of their GM grain as a result of the WTO ruling," said Daniel Mittler, trade adviser at Greenpeace International. "European consumers, farmers and a growing number of governments remain opposed to GMOs, and this will not change in Europe or globally," he said in a statement.
The three complainants said the EU's moratorium, lifted in May 2004, was more about business protectionism than concerns about the health of consumers or the environment, accusing Brussels of dragging its feet and abusing WTO rules that enable trading nations to restrict imports on health grounds. The EU said it was needed to enable it to gather data from biotech firms and decide how to update its rules on GMOs. Green groups were also upset about the WTO's view on the EU's national bans on specific GMO products, where some states used legal exemption clauses to block GMOs on their territory. "Member states voted only last year to maintain those bans," said Adrian Bebb, GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth. "This is a direct attack on democracy in Europe."
US wins WTO backing in war with Europe over GM food
Julian Borger in Washington, Nicholas Watt in Brussels and John Vidal - Wednesday February 8, 2006 - The Guardian
The World Trade Organisation last night ruled that Europe had broken international trade rules by blocking the import of genetically modified food, in a decision US trade officials hailed as a victory. The WTO found that Europe had imposed a de facto ban on GM food imports for six years from 1998 which violated trade agreements, and that Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg also had no legal grounds to impose their own unilateral import bans. The decision is subject to appeal and European officials insisted it applied to the past rather than current EU import policies, but the US maintained the ruling lent support to the Bush administration's efforts to force an acceleration in EU approval procedures for GM food imports.
Details of the complex ruling, more than 800 pages long, were not available last night as trade experts on both sides of the Atlantic began to digest the report's implications. But US officials said the WTO decision had broadly vindicated the American position, which had been supported by Canada and Argentina. A US trade official described the outcome as "a significant milestone" in US efforts to have GM crops accepted in international trade. "The panel did find that there was a general [EU] moratorium and that it did violate WTO rules." But there was disappointment in Brussels. "This needs to be examined very carefully, but some of it will make for difficult reading," one official said. The European trade commission, headed by Peter Mandelson, will respond today.
However, European officials pointed out last night that the moratorium had been lifted in 2004, and that since then the European commission had licensed more than 30 GM crops, including three last month after "rigorous safety assessment". US officials countered that there remained backlogs of up to a decade in the approval of imports of about 20 types of GM corn, cotton and soyabean. The Bush administration had argued that the EU moratorium had had a chilling effect on the development of GM crops around the world, to the detriment of global food production. "We wanted biotech products to be judged on their merits, not by a political process," another US trade official said.
European environment and consumer groups last night called the ruling a direct attack on European democracy and appealed to governments to stand up to what they called US "bullying tactics". "US agrichemical giants will not sell a bushel more of their GM grain as a result of the WTO ruling," said Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace International's trade adviser. "It's a desperate attempt to force these products on an unwilling market. This will lead to even greater opposition to GM crops," said Claire Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth International. "Protecting wildlife, farmers and consumers is far more important than free trade rules." A coalition of 170 regions in Europe and 4,500 smaller areas have said they want to be GM-free."I do not expect this decision to change European law, but it will be used by the US government to pressure countries around the world to further liberalise trade rules," said Sue Meyer, of the watchdog group Genewatch.
WTO Rules Against EU's Biotech-Seed Rules
Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- The World Trade Organization ruled against the European Union in a dispute over genetically engineered crops from companies such as Monsanto Co., people familiar with the ruling said, aiding U.S. efforts to limit worldwide regulation of the technology. The Geneva-based WTO concluded that the EU discriminated against biotech seeds without adequate scientific evidence, the people said. The decision stems from a complaint filed in 2003 by the U.S., Canada and Argentina, which accounted for 80 percent of the area planted to biotech crops globally last year and accused the EU of maintaining an unlawful ban on the seeds.
While today's confidential ruling won't open markets in Europe - where some governments are fighting EU-wide rules that the European Commission says will allow such crops - it may set a precedent for nations including China, India, Brazil, Japan, Indonesia, Russia, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia. Those countries all have rules stipulating strict consumer labeling and tracing of goods containing bio-engineered ingredients. The U.S. insists that the crops are safe and shouldn't be distinguished from conventional seeds. The administration of George W. Bush said the EU violated WTO rules because its approvals process wasn't based on science and was subject to ``unnecessary delays.''
``I hope this will send a strong signal to countries around the world that no measure can be taken unless it's based on sound science,'' Christian Verschueren, director general of CropLife International in Brussels, which represents companies including Monsanto and DuPont Co., said in an interview.
The 1,047-page WTO decision also condemns national bans on marketing and releasing genetically modified organisms into the environment, imposed by governments including Germany, France, Austria and Greece, said the people, who declined to be identified before the EU and U.S. comment publicly on the trade body's decision. The refusal of those governments to approve new seeds began the moratorium in 1998, because the EU's barrier-free trade rules mean a product sold in one member nation can be marketed in all the others. U.S. industry groups say the EU ban has cost their exporters $300 million a year in lost sales to the 25-nation EU. The bloc counters that consumers were already buying fewer biotech products before 1998.
The commission says new laws since 2004 allow biotech seeds to be planted, traced and labeled and points to more than 30 gene-altered products approved for marketing in the bloc. The EU's executive blames national governments including France and Austria for continuing to obstruct new approvals in an environment where more than half of the region's 450 million consumers consider gene-engineered foods to be dangerous. The commission has separate cases under way against those two countries as well as Luxembourg, Germany and Greece for refusing to lift bans on biotech products, including Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta AG's Bt11 pest-resistant corn.
Today's decision against national bans ``is a direct attack on democracy,'' said Adrian Bebb, a campaigner at environmental group Friends of the Earth. ``EU governments only last year voted to maintain their bans and now the WTO has called them into question.''
Lack of Majority
All EU governments have a say over biotech decisions because the bloc's barrier-free trade rules mean a product sold in one member can be sold in the others. Since imports of GM products resumed in 2004, the commission has approved just three varieties, including Monsanto's MON863 corn. The commission can make decisions unilaterally because there's no majority among EU governments either to approve or dismiss new approvals.
With 98 million hectares (242 million acres) under arable production in the EU, second only to the U.S., the 25 nations grow less than 1 percent of the world's genetically modified crops. Global biotech sales in 2006 will amount to $5.5 billion. Switzerland, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, Algeria, Ghana, Benin, Zambia and Georgia are among countries that prohibit the planting of genetically engineered crops.
Today's report, under WTO rules, is designed to remain confidential in an effort to give the governments involved a chance to make any amendments or to negotiate a last minute solution. The substance of a confidential decision has only been altered twice at the final stage - in cases over U.S. steel duties and South Korean paper -- in more than 130 disputes that have reached this stage.
EU Food Policy
``We're not going to say anything tonight, under no circumstances,'' Peter Power, a commission spokesman, said by telephone from Brussels. Monica Meda, a spokeswoman for the Argentine agriculture secretary, also declined to comment, saying the government hadn't yet received a copy of the ruling. The case is a test for the EU's ``better-safe-than-sorry'' food policy, known as the precautionary principle, which has kept hormone-treated beef from the U.S. and Canada out of the EU even though the WTO ruled in 1998 that found the bloc hadn't scientifically proven a cancer risk to consumers from the treatments. The EU has been paying $126 million a year in sanctions as a result and is working to get the retaliatory duties lifted on the grounds that it now has enough evidence.
GM varieties are engineered to resist specific herbicides or pesticides, letting a farmer spray his field with products that kill everything except his crop. Some have genes that act as insecticides, prevent fungal growth or withstand drought.
Advocates say the technology boosts yields and cuts the number of times chemicals must be sprayed, meaning the soil is less compacted and limiting rainwater run-off and erosion. The U.S. accounted for 55 percent of the global area planted to biotech crops last year, or 49.8 million hectares, Argentina 19 percent and Canada 6 percent, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. Brazil became the third-biggest grower last year with just over 10 percent of the total area and worldwide, sowings rose 11 percent to 90 million hectares.
Opponents say there are no proven health or environmental benefits to GM crops. They argue that they're no cheaper, nor have they helped alleviate hunger in Africa, because the crops are mostly for animal feed. They also say that engineered genes can't be contained, once released into the environment. The crops have increased the use of herbicides and pesticides over the last decade, environmental group Friends of the Earth says, and have contributed to deforestation and soil erosion.
THE CULTIVATION OF GM-SOY WILL BE BANNED AS OF JANUARY 1, 2007 - Press office of the Ministery of Agriculture, Romania
Taking into account the numerous debates at the European level on the genetically modified organisms (GMO) and the political sensitivity of this subject (the majority of the EU member states and the majority of European consumers are opposing the cultivation and the consumption of products derived from GM plants), it it necessary to clarify the status of GM-soy in our country, because this type of soy is not approved for cultivation in the EU.
Consequently, the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture organised, in Autumn 2005, a series of debates, with the participation of specialists from institutions involved in GMO regulation (the Ministry of Agriculture - MAPDR, The Ministry of Environment MMGA, The National Sanitary - Veterinary and Food Safety Authority - ANSVSA, The National Authority for Consumers Protection - ANPC, The Ministry of Health- MS), agricultural research and education institutions (including universities) from Romania, parliamentaries, representatives of GM seeds producers, cultivators and GM soy seed processing companies, ecological agriculture associations and NGOs for environmental protection. A strict analysis of all the aspects connected to this sector was made, taking into consideration the techniqual, economic and social advantages but also the risks of GM plant cultivation for the environment, health, conventional and ecological agriculture as well as the ethical aspects of this technology.
Following discussions the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture had with European Comission experts, the necessity of taking a clear position in this field has emerged, from the part of Romania, in the perspective of the European integration
After the Romanian Government meeting from 25.01.2006, it was decided to ban GM soy, starting with January 1st , in accordance with current EU regulations.
For the present year, the GM soy cultivation will be accepted following conditions that are to be decided in the next period, through a Governmental Decision.
Romania will continue harmonizing the national legislation with the European legislation and constituting the institutional framework to implement it, in order to enforce the inspection and control system of GMO related activities.
Argentina targets Monsanto soy suits in Europe - KTIC 840 Rural Radio [shortened] - http://ellinghuysen.com/news/articles/27814.shtml
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Jan 26, 2006 (Reuters) - Argentina next week will formally ask to participate in patent infringement lawsuits filed by Monsanto Co. in Europe, charging that the company's efforts to extract royalty fees on Argentine soy grown with Monsanto technology harms the entire sector. Last June, the U.S. biotech pioneer sued importers of Argentine soy in Denmark and the Netherlands to enforce patents in those countries on its Roundup Ready gene technology. And this week, the company stopped two boatloads of Argentine soymeal in Spanish ports, threatening to sue there as well. Europe is the top market for Argentina's soymeal, and the South American nation is the world's No.1 soymeal supplier. "If the company has decided to take legal action and harm Argentine exports, the Argentine government is not going to turn a blind eye," Gustavo Idigoras, Argentina's agricultural attache in Brussels, told Reuters on Thursday by telephone. Idigoras said the government may also sue Monsanto directly in European courts, citing economic harm to Argentine exports. The government estimates that 30 percent of Argentine farmers buy GMO seeds on the black market, avoiding royalty fees historically embedded in seed prices. By law, farmers are allowed to reuse GMO seeds without paying the fees.
Monsanto, based in St.Louis, Missouri, has been lobbying for two years for a change in the royalties collection system, but the government is unwilling to alter the basic structure. Although Monsanto stopped selling its own Roundup Ready soybean seeds in Argentina two years ago, other seed makers sell varieties with that same technology under license. Argentina's Center for Grain Exporters and the Chamber of Vegetable Oil Industries said in a joint statement that Monsanto's actions endanger soymeal exports to Europe worth more than $2 billion a year. "This has increased European importers' concerns about sealing commercial deals with our country, making such deals more difficult and increasing uncertainty in the market for these products," the groups said, urging all players in the soy sector to quickly find alternative solutions.
Roundup Ready is not patented in Argentina, but the government says it respects the rights of Monsanto and other seed companies to charge for the technologies they develop. In its bid to participate as a third party in the Danish and Dutch suits, Idigoras said Argentina argues that Monsanto's actions have inflicted economic damage on both the state and Argentine farmers and exporters.
Monsanto gets notice over 'exorbitant' royalty - Manoj Mitta - Times of India, January 29, 2006 - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1390908.cms
NEW DELHI: The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) on Friday issued notices to biotech major Monsanto and its Indian affiliates on a reference made by the Andhra Pradesh government on the controversial Bt cotton seed. The state, which has seen a spate of suicides among cotton farmers in recent years, is accusing the multinational of collecting "exorbitant" royalty from farmers, taking undue advantage of its monopoly in providing different varieties of pest-resi stant genetically modified hybrid cotton seed. In an unprecedented move, Andhra Pradesh has asked MRTPC to restrain Monsanto from charging a royalty of Rs 1,250 on each 450 gm packet of Bt cotton seed and thereby pushing its selling price to around Rs 1,800. It alleges that the royalty charged by Monsanto for similar hybrids in the US works out to no more than Rs 108
AFRICAN FARMERS SAY GM CROPS ARE NOT THE WAY FORWARD - From the International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED)
Ordinary cotton-growers and other farmers have voted against introducing genetically-modified crops in a "citizens jury" in Mali, which is the world's fourth poorest country. Instead, the jurors proposed a package of recommendations to strengthen traditional agricultural practice and support local farmers. The five day event (25-29 January) took place in Sikasso in the south of the West African country, where two-thirds of the country's cotton is produced. Mali is the largest producer of cotton in sub-Saharan Africa, largely grown by smallholder farmers whose livelihoods depend on it. Birama Kone, a small farmer on the 43-strong jury, said: "GM crops are associated with the kind of farming that marginalises the mutual help and co-operation among farmers and our social and cultural life." Basri Lidigoita, a woman farmer on the jury, said: "We do not ever ever want GM seeds. Never." Brahim Sidebe, a medium-size farmer on the jury, said: "Farmers do not want GM crops and do not want public research to work on GM technology in Mali." The jurors cross-examined 14 international witnesses representing a broad range of views on this controversial issue. These included biotech scientists, agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation and farmers from South Africa and India with first-hand experience of growing GM crops.
African countries are under increasing pressure from agribusiness to open their markets to GM crops and industrialise their farming sector, but the continent remains divided in its response. South Africa and Mali's neighbour Burkina Faso have allowed the introduction of GM, but Benin has said no. Though the jurors' decision is not binding, it is expected to influence the future direction of agricultural policy in Mali and across the region where most people rely on subsistence farming. The citizens jury was hosted by the regional government (Assemblee Regionale de Sikasso) and, to ensure a fair process, it was designed and facilitated by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and RIBios, the University of Geneva's Biosafety Interdisciplinary Network, together with a wide range of local partners in Mali.
IIED's Dr Michel Pimbert said: "This initiative is about making the agriculture agenda more directly responsive to African people's priorities and choices. It is vital that we redress the current democratic deficit in which governments and big agri-food corporations have far more say than farmers and other citizens about how land is used, and what crops are grown. We must all recognise that local people have the right to decide the food and farming policies they want. This citizens jury has provided a safe space for farmers to reach an informed, evidence-based view on this complicated and often controversial issue, which can then be amplified to policy-makers."
Kokozie Traore, President, Assemblee Regionale Sikasso, said: "This citizen space for democratic deliberation has allowed farmers to learn about the potential risks and benefits of GM in the context of Malian farming. As a learning process it has created many synergies between all actors in our province, from the very local to the regional level. The citizens jury has been an eye-opening process and has made possible a cross-fertilisation of local, regional and international opinions on GM and the future of farming." One of the local organisers, Dr Togola, Research Director of the Sikasso Agricultural Research Station, said: "I am very satisfied. I know that during the last five days our farmers have been sufficiently informed and empowered to make the choices that best suit them on GM and farming options."
For further information, to arrange interviews or attend the event, contact: Tony Samphier on +44 208 671 2911, Liz Carlile on +44 207 388 2117
Notes to editors
The International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) is a London-based think tank working for global policy solutions rooted in the reality of local people at the frontline of sustainable development. www.iied.org
TERMINATOR BAN UNDERMINED AT UN MEETING IN SPAIN - JANUARY 27, 2006
The National Farmers Union (NFU) of Canada, the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) in the United States, and other organizations are concerned that "suicide seeds" may be introduced into the environment through the back door. A worldwide de-facto moratorium on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs - popularly known as "Terminator" technology) was undermined this past week at a United Nations conference in Granada, Spain. Terminator technology is used to create genetically modified seeds which are rendered sterile at harvest. A resolution adopted at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Granada, Spain January 27 recommends abandoning the precautionary principle and allows testing of Terminator plant varieties on a "case by case" basis under the guise of "risk management" and "capacity building." Government representatives from Australia, New Zealand and Canada were instrumental in forcing the change in policy at the UN forum.
Terry Boehm, NFU Vice-President and Chair of the Ban Terminator campaign in Canada, said officials from the Canadian Department of Environment tried to accomplish this objective last year at a similar meeting in Bangkok, but backed off following strong public opposition in Canada and worldwide. "This time around, the Canadian delegation is involved in a supporting role, with the governments of Australia and New Zealand taking the lead in destroying the consensus against Terminator," said Boehm. "This flies in the face of any regard for farmers, citizens and the world's biosphere. Why would Canada help to unleash something as dangerous as Terminator on the world?" Boehm said the Canadian delegation appears to be taking advantage of a change in government to push though an agenda that benefits large multinational seed and chemical companies.
Colleen Ross, NFU Women's President, said the CBD consultations in Spain were supposed to involve Indigenous peoples, "yet the bureaucrats repeatedly refused to consult with farmers or Indigenous groups on this issue." She said Terminator technology is all about who controls seeds - and ultimately who controls the food system. "Terminator is the ultimate tool in controlling the world's food supply, because it forces farmers to buy seeds from the handful of seed companies which dominate the global market," she said.
Other citizens' groups supporting the stance of the NFU and NFFC in opposing Terminator include: The Council of Canadians, the ETC Group, Inter Pares, Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, Beyond Factory Farming, GenEthics of Australia, the National Council of Women of Canada, and others.
Contact: Terry Boehm, NFU Vice-President (306) 255-2880, Colleen Ross, NFU Women's President (613) 652-1552, Terry Pugh, NFU Executive-Secretary (306) 652-9465
Rejection of transgenic maize in Bolivia
On 14 November, 2005, an Administrative Resolution was issued by the Bolivian government to "Reject all requests to introduce genetically modified maize into National Territory for field tests, planting, production or deliberate release into the environment".
Dow AgroSciences of Bolivia, S.A. presented a request to undertake field tests with genetically modified maize (resistance to rootworm and to the herbicide ammonium gluphosinate, with Bt maize, event TC 1507). Political events precipitated the resignation of Erwin Aguilera, who approved the release of transgenic soy from Monsanto, and who would have similarly approved the release of transgenic maize.
Dow AgroSciences de Bolivia had its first application annulled on the basis of their failure to comply with required procedures. The company presented a second application, which was analyzed on the basis of legal norm and taking into account technical recommendations, which establish the high probability of genetic contamination into local varieties of maize. Maize has a high degree of cross-pollination and this represents a risk to the diversity of this crop, since Bolivia is a center of genetic diversity for maize. The governmental decision also determines to reject any and all applications for the introduction of genetically modified maize into Bolivian territory, whether the application is for experimentation in the field, planting, production or deliberate release into the environment. This directive instructs the Biodiversity Directorate to implement and enforce the ruling.
(For the full Spanish version see International page)
Renewed calls to ban Terminator Technology as CBD meets - 24 January 2006 - THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
Dear Friends and colleagues,
Governments are gathering from 23-27 January for the fourth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Intersessional Working Group on Article 8(j) and related provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Granda, Spain. One of the key items on the agenda is with regards to the potential socio-economic impacts of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) on indigenous and local communities (Item 1).
Terminator Technology, which is one of the GURTs under development, is an extremely controversial application of genetic engineering. It renders seeds sterile at harvest, thus preventing farmers from saving and re-using seed, and forcing them to return to corporations to buy seed every season. Although the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has a "de facto" moratorium on the field-testing and commercialization of GURTs, it is under threat, as there have been increased efforts by industry and some governments to overturn this. Moreover, industry is now presenting the technology as suitable for "biological containment", to prevent gene flow. However, this is a false argument as Terminator is not a reliable gene containment system for both technical and practical reasons (Item 2). For example, Terminator crops will still produce pollen and could cross with neighbouring non-genetically engineered or organic crops. So gene flow could still occur, with potentially catastrophic impacts on agrobiodiversity and biodiversity, and on seed saving.
It is crucial that the Working Group on 8(j) makes strong and conclusive recommendations against GURTs. Civil society groups are calling for an international ban on Terminator Technology.
For more information, please visit www.banterminator.org
With best wishes,
Lim Li Ching, Third World Network, 121-S Jalan Utama, 10450 Penang, Malaysia - Email: email@example.com
Website: www.biosafety-info.net and www.twnside.org.sg
Item 1 - Renewed calls to ban Terminator Technology as CBD meets
Kuala Lumpur, 23 January (Lim Li Ching) ? As governments gather for the fourth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Intersessional Working Group on Article 8(j) and related provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity, indigenous peoples, farmers' groups and NGOs are renewing their calls for an international ban on the "Terminator Technology", because of its serious threat to livelihoods, food security and agricultural biodiversity. The 8(j) Working Group will meet from 23-27 January in Granada, Spain.
Terminator Technology, which is one of the Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) under development, is an extremely controversial application of genetic engineering. Terminator was designed by the multinational seed industry and the United States Department of Agriculture to render seeds sterile at harvest, thus preventing farmers from saving and re-using seed, and forcing them to return to corporations to buy seed every season. This poses a threat to the millions of farmers, particularly in developing countries, who depend on farm saved seed for their survival. Furthermore, there would be adverse impacts on the practice and retention of the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and farmers that, in turn, supports food security, self-determination, cultural and spiritual practices, and the protection of biodiversity around the world.
Ten multinational corporations are now estimated to control around half of all the world's seed supply. This consolidation has been facilitated by biotechnology and the advent of patents on genes and seeds and Terminator would further add to this corporate control. In 1999, in response to an avalanche of public opposition, two of the world's largest seed and agrochemical corporations, Monsanto and AstraZeneca (now Syngenta), publicly vowed not to commercialize Terminator seeds. In 2000, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted Decision V/5 (Agricultural biological diversity) section III, paragraph 23, which recommends that Parties not approve GURTs for field testing or commercial use, thereby establishing a "de facto" moratorium on GURTs.
The relevant part of the decision reads: "Recommends that, in the current absence of reliable data on genetic use restriction technologies, without which there is an inadequate basis on which to assess their potential risks, and in accordance with the precautionary approach, products incorporating such technologies should not be approved by Parties for field testing until appropriate scientific data can justify such testing, and for commercial use until appropriate, authorized and strictly controlled scientific assessments with regard to, inter alia, their ecological and socio-economic impacts and any adverse effects for biological diversity, food security and human health have been carried out in a transparent manner and the conditions for their safe and beneficial use validated. In order to enhance the capacity of all countries to address these issues, Parties should widely disseminate information on scientific assessments, including through the clearing-house mechanism, and share their expertise in this regard."
However, the CBD's "de facto" moratorium on Terminator is now seriously threatened, as there have been increased efforts made by industry and some governments to overturn the previous decision on GURTs. At the tenth meeting of the CBD's intergovernmental scientific advisory body - the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) - in February 2005, the Canadian government led efforts by some Parties to overturn the CBD's existing "de facto" moratorium in favor of national approval for the field testing and commercial use of GURTs. They were unsuccessful in this respect, and Decision V/5 was reaffirmed due to the interventions of other Parties, but the threat of Terminator looming its head again remains. Simultaneously, multinational seed corporations are increasing pressure to win acceptance for Terminator:
*In 2003, Monsanto and Delta and Pine Land seed company representatives co-authored the International Seed Federation position paper promoting Terminator.
*In March 2004, Syngenta (the world's largest agrochemical company and holder of the most Terminator patents) won another Terminator patent (US 6,700,039). This, despite Syngenta stating that it will not commercialize the technology.
*In February 2005, Delta & Pine Land (DPL) actively promoted Terminator (the company calls it a "Technology Protection System") at SBSTTA-10.
*On 5 October 2005, DPL and the US Department of Agriculture won a new patent on Terminator from the European Patent Office (EP 775212B).
*On 11 October 2005, DPL and the US Department of Agriculture were awarded a Canadian patent on Terminator (CA 2196410).
In addition, corporations like Delta and Pine Land, the company behind Terminator, are now presenting Terminator as "enhancing biosafety and biodiversity". This company and many others, including Monsanto and Syngenta, were damaged by the initial international protest against their plans in the late 1990s. Having been pressed by public opinion to make statements that they would not develop Terminator crops, they now seem to be seeking a more acceptable image for their intentions. To allay fears about contamination from genetically engineered crops, they are now presenting the technology as suitable for "biological containment", to prevent gene flow, which is one of the recognized threats of genetically engineered crops.
However, Terminator is not a reliable gene containment system for both technical and practical reasons. It is not a biosafety tool and cannot be 100% effective. Conversely, Terminator crops, like other genetically engineered crops, may pose threats to the environment and human health. In the first place, biological containment systems cannot help reduce or eliminate contamination of food, feed or seed with genetically engineered genes, that is a result of accidental mixing after harvest or during transport and processing. Terminator is also a complex and largely experimental system that has several shortcomings in terms of gene containment. Terminator crops will still produce pollen and could cross with neighbouring non-genetically engineered or organic crops. So gene flow could still occur, with potentially catastrophic impacts on agrobiodiversity and biodiversity, and on seed saving. Furthermore, because the system relies on a chemical sensitive genetic switch to ultimately activate a toxin gene that prevents seed germination, the chemical would need to be applied to the seed before it is sold. However, the treatment of seeds may not be completely effective. The effect may be sufficient to make saving seed an unreliable exercise for farmers, but not enough for complete gene containment. The chemical sensitive genetic switch may also be activated by some of the plant's own chemicals or may not be completely switched off all the time. This "leakage" could lead to fertile seeds being produced, and thus the failure of Terminator to prevent gene flow. Other problems, such as gene silencing or instability of one component, could lead to failure of the whole system. Gene silencing is one phenomenon seen in genetically engineered crops that arises from the introduction of foreign genes. Furthermore, the genes forming the Terminator system have to be linked together to work properly, so if they split during reproduction, the system would fail.
The industry's spin recasting Terminator as effective in preventing genetic contamination and gene flow from genetically engineered crops is seriously flawed. In fact, Terminator's only real value is to benefit corporations economically, by forcing farmers to buy seed every season. The efforts to overturn the CBD's "de facto" moratorium on Terminator are expected to continue at next week's 8(j) Working Group meeting, which has been asked "to consider the potential socio-economic impacts of genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs) on indigenous and local communities". The 8(j) Working Group was established by the CBD to specifically address the implementation of Article 8(j) and related provisions of the Convention. Article 8(j) deals with issues related to the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. The Working Group is likely to make recommendations on the potential socio-economic impacts of GURTs to the eighth meeting of the CBD?s Conference of the Parties (COP 8), to be held in Curitiba, Brazil from 20-31 March 2006.
Terminator had already proven to be a "hot potato" issue, passing among various CBD bodies, starting from when the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies met in February 2003 to consider the potential impacts of GURTs on smallholder farmers, indigenous and local communities. Its report was critical of Terminator and noted the potential negative socio-economic and cultural impacts. In fact, in addition to reaffirming Decision V/5 III, the AHTEG report recommended that Parties and other Governments "consider the development of regulatory frameworks not to approve GURTs for field-testing and commercial use." However, the AHTEG report has been criticized by some Parties (who are unhappy with the overall tone of the report which is critical of Terminator) for not representing a consensus viewpoint and for not being "scientific". The AHTEG report was sent to SBSTTA-9, as well as the third meeting of the 8(j) Working Group for consideration and advice in 2003. At the third meeting of the 8(j) Working Group, held in December 2003, a draft recommendation was drafted on GURTs. However, some representatives considered that there had been insufficient time to adequately address the issue, which they argued required further in-depth assessment and discussion. The Working Group thus recommended that its next meeting (i.e. the meeting in Granada next week) be the forum to consider the potential socio-economic impacts of GURTs on indigenous and local communities.
Meanwhile, SBSTTA-9 avoided the controversial issue by claiming it was unable to provide advice because of the broad agenda before it and proceeded to transmit the AHTEG report to the Conference of the Parties (COP 7) while recommending that COP 7 requests SBSTTA-10 to provide advice on GURTs to COP 8. In February 2004, COP 7 in turn, urged the 8(j) Working Group to consider the potential socio-economic impacts of GURTs on indigenous and local communities, on the basis of the report of the AHTEG on GURTs, the outcome of deliberations of SBSTTA-10, and a study undertaken by the FAO, on potential impacts of GURTs on agricultural biodiversity and agricultural production systems. When SBSTTA-10 met in February 2005, it could not reach consensus on the AHTEG report. This is the crossroads at which the world stands now on Terminator, following a long, tortuous route and repeated delays in seriously addressing the issue. It thus seems that the 8(j) Working Group meeting in Granada will be in a unique position to make strong and conclusive recommendations to COP 8. Civil society groups have thus stepped up their efforts to ensure that Terminator is banned once and for all, and formed the Ban Terminator Campaign (www.banterminator.org) in 2005. The Campaign is supported by groups and movements across the world including AS-PTA (Assessoria e Serviços a Projectos em Agricultura Alternativa), ETC Group (Action group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration), GRAIN, Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, ITDG (Intermediate Technology Development Group), Pesticide Action Network, Asia and the Pacific, Third World Network and Via Campesina.
Item 2 - Why Terminator Technology Won't Prevent GM Contamination - GeneWatch UK Briefing, January 2006
Terminator technology brings potential social and economic implications for the millions of farmers in developing countries who rely on farm-saved seed for survival. Terminator should never be allowed on these grounds alone. However, it is also not a reliable gene containment system for both technical and practical reasons.
What are Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs)?
There are two types of GURTs:
v-GURTs: where the use of the GM crop variety is controlled through seed sterility
t-GURTs: where the use of a GM trait (such as disease resistance) is controlled
GURTs were designed because conventional ways of preventing copying, such as patent protection, are difficult to enforce for plants which are self-reproducing. GURTs use a chemical sensitive genetic switch system which is turned on or off by the external application of a chemical. This switch is linked to either a sterility trait in v-GURTs or the GM trait in t-GURTs. The company controls the seed or trait via access to the chemical to be applied. Both types of GURT are still in the development and testing stage.
GURTs as a whole are also known as "Traitor technology" and v-GURTs as "Terminator technology".
What is biological gene containment?
Biological containment uses genetic modification (GM) techniques aimed at preventing cross-pollination or preventing seed from a GM crop, or a cross with a GM crop, being viable or persistent. Biological containment systems cannot help reduce or eliminate contamination of food, feed or seed caused as a result of accidental mixing after harvest or during transport and processing. Although a range of different techniques for biological containment has been proposed, none of them is in commercial use for containment purposes and most are far from being ready to apply. For a variety of technical reasons, none of them will ever be 100% effective or applicable in all situations.
Terminator Technology, one form of "Genetic Use Restriction Technologies" has been proposed as a biological containment mechanism to limit gene flow from GM crops, by preventing any seed that is produced from being able to germinate or persist in the environment.
Seed sterility (Terminator technology)
This is one of the most contested applications of GM to crops. It involves genetic modification of a plant so that the seed from the crop will not germinate if farmers keep it for resowing.1 Like Traitor technology, Terminator technology uses a chemical sensitive genetic switch (responsive, for example, to alcohol or the antibiotic tetracycline) linked to a gene for an enzyme which activates a toxin gene.2,3 When the toxin gene is switched on, it becomes active in the late stage of seed formation; it does not prevent the seed forming but will prevent it germinating. The genetic switch may act either to suppress or activate the enzyme and toxin so switches germination either on or off. It is anticipated that the switch would generally be used to suppress germination - the chemical would be applied to the seed before it is sold to farmers to prevent seed saving and resowing. In terms of gene containment, because the seed is sterile, any hybrids formed will be sterile and seed shed at harvest will not survive and germinate in later years: one dimension of gene flow is limited. However, the system is complex and largely experimental and has several shortcomings in terms of gene containment.4
Terminator crops will still produce pollen and could cross with neighbouring non-GM or organic crops. The GM traits could therefore contaminate non-GM food or feed and compromise fertility if farmers had been intending to save seed from their crops.
Treatment of seeds before sale may not be completely effective. In fact, for any use of genetic switches, it is difficult to imagine that sufficient chemical could be applied to millions of seeds or the growing crop in sufficient concentrations to reliably trigger the switch in every case. The effect may be sufficient to make saving seed an unreliable exercise for farmers, but not enough for complete gene containment.
There may be gene silencing or instability of one component leading to failure of the system. Depending on which gene was affected, there would be seed sterility at the wrong time (during seed production), or it would not occur when required (after sale to farmers). Gene silencing is one phenomenon seen in GM crops that arises from the introduction of foreign genes.
The chemical sensitive genetic switch may be activated by some of the plant's own chemicals or may not be completely switched off all the time. This "leakage" could lead to fertile seeds being produced. Some of the chemicals used in studies using such switch technology can be harmful to the plant.5
The genes forming the Terminator system have to be linked together to work properly. If they split during reproduction, the system would fail.
1. RAFI (1998) Terminator technology targets farmers. Communique. www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=188.
2. US patent 5723765 USDA/Delta and Pine Land.
3. Odell JT, Hoopes JL and Vermerris W (1994) Seed-specific gene activation mediated by the Cre/lox site-specific recombination system. Plant Physiology 106, 447-58.
4. Daniell H (2002) Molecular strategies for gene containment in transgenic crops. Nature Biotechnology 20, 581-6.
5. Padidam M (2003) Chemically regulated gene expression in plants. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 6, 169-77.
Extracted from "GM CONTAMINATION: Can biological containment work for crops and society?" Gene Watch UK Briefing Number 33, December 2005. http://www.genewatch.org/publications/Briefs/brief33.pdf
GeneWatch UK, The Mill House, Manchester Road, Tideswell, Derbyshire, SK17 8LN, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1298 871898 Fax: +44 (0)1298 872531
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.genewatch.org
Opposition to GMOs in Europe grows: Austria bans Monsanto’s GMO oilseed rape
Friends of the Earth Europe - Press Release - Monday January 23rd 2006
Brussels, January 23rd Friends of the Earth welcomes the Austrian Government’s decision today to ban Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) oilseed rape, GT73. There are now twelve bans of GM foods or crops in the European Union (1). The decision by the current EU presidency follows November’s referendum in Switzerland that banned GM crops for five years.
“Opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is growing throughout Europe,” said Helen Holder, GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, “This is a clear message from the country currently holding the EU presidency“. “Counties are overriding the EU commission and the number of national bans are increasing. This is on top of the large number of European regions who want to ban the growing of GM crops,” she added
The Austrian decision is based on the risk of genetic contamination, and the inadequate risk assessment carried out prior to the EU Commission authorizing the oilseed rape in August 2005. This authorisation came despite a majority of EU Environment Ministers blocking the authorisation of the oilseed rape in December 2004 (2) for environmental and health reasons. “The authorisation procedure for GM food and crops in the EU does not take risk assessment seriously,” said Holder. “Austria’s new ban is yet another example of the inadequate risk assessment by Europe’s Food Safety Authority, and the Commission’s unwillingness to listen to Member States’ concerns”
GMOs are now banned in seven European countries, while the number of EU regions banning GMOs is also growing:
- 172 Regions in the European Union and 4500 local authorities and other zones have now declared themselves GMO free (3) and are calling for the right of Regions to decide whether or not to grow GMOs.
- In June 2005, the EU Commission was defeated by Member States when it tried to force them to drop national GMO bans. (4)
*Contact:* Helen Holder, +322 542 01 82 (office), +324 74 857 638 (mobile)
(1) GMO bans in the European Union:
Syngenta's Bt176 maize (banned 31/03/2000) - Reason: effects on non-target insects + transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to humans and animals + insects could develop resistance to the Bt
Bayer's oilseed rape Topas 19/2 (banned 16/11/1998) - Reason: impact of genetic escape and spread of herbicide tolerance. Bayer's oilseed rape MS1xRf1 (banned 16/11/1998) - Reason: impact of genetic escape and spread of herbicide tolerance
Syngenta's Bt176 maize (banned 13/02/1997) - Reason: effects on non-target insects such as butterflies + transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to humans and animals. Bayer's T25 maize (banned 28/4/2000) - Reason: protection of sensitive areas, lack of monitoring plan and concerns about the herbicide used. Monsanto's MON810 maize (banned 10/06/1999) - Reason: Effects on non-target insects
Monsanto’s maize MON810 seeds (banned 20/01/2005)
Syngenta's Bt176 maize (banned 07/02/1997) - Reason: Transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to humans and animals
Bayer's oilseed rape Topas 19/2 (banned 08/09/1998) - Reason: impact of genetic escape Monsanto’s maize MON810 seeds (Commission ruled to overturn ban earlier this month)
Monsanto’s maize MON810 seeds
(2) Voting Results of Environment Council on 20/12/2004: *For* : SK, SE, FR, PT, FI, NL. (78 votes). *Against* : IT, GR, DK, PO, MT, BE, HU, LT, LV, CY, AT, EE et LU. (135votes). *Abstention* : IE, SI, ES, DE, CZ et UK. (108 votes)
(3) see http://www.gmofree-europe.org/ for further information
(4) see http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2005/AB_24_June_vote.htm
Helen Holder, European GMO campaign coordinator, Friends of the Earth Europe, Rue Blanche 15, 1050 Brussels, Belgium - Tel: +322 542 01 82, Fax: +322 537 55 96
Helen.Holder@foeeurope.org - www.foeeurope.org
ETC Group - News Release - 20 January 2006 - www.etcgroup.org
Terminator Threat Looms: Intergovernmental meeting to tackle suicide seeds issue
CBD's Working Group on 8(j) Meets in Granada, Spain 23-27 January
Indigenous peoples, farmers' organizations and civil society representatives are bracing to defend a de facto United Nations' moratorium on seed sterilization technology - the moratorium is now under attack by the multinational seed and biotech industry. A meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, where "suicide seeds" are on the agenda, gets underway in Spain next week. The UN moratorium - which recommends against the field-testing and commercial sale of seed sterilization technology - is under attack. Delta & Pine Land (a multinational seed company) and the US Department of Agriculture recently won new patents on Terminator in Europe and Canada.(1)
Terminator (a.k.a. "genetic use restriction technology" - GURTs) refers to plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest. The technology was developed by the multinational seed/agrochemical industry and the US government. If commercialized, Terminator would prevent farmers from saving seeds from their harvest, forcing them to return to the commercial market every year and marking the end of locally-adapted agriculture through seed selection. The vast majority of the world's farmers routinely save seed from their harvest for re-planting.
Bombshell in Bangkok: Almost one year ago, the Canadian government and its seed industry allies made a scandalous bid to dismantle the United Nations' moratorium on Terminator seed technology at a February 2005 meeting of a scientific advisory body to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bangkok. A leaked memo revealed that the Canadian government was prepared to push for language allowing for field-testing and commercialization of Terminator. Ultimately, the Canadian government was forced to publicly distance itself from Terminator in response to citizen protests back home, and due to key interventions from other governments that support the moratorium. (For more details: http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=500 )
"The promise of increased profits is simply too enticing for industry to give up on Terminator seeds," explains Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the international Ban Terminator Campaign (www.banterminator.org). "Terminator seeds will become a commercial reality unless governments take action to prevent it," agrees Hope Shand of ETC Group. The Ban Terminator Campaign, launched in response to attacks on the CBD moratorium, seeks to promote government bans on Terminator technology at the national and international levels. It also supports efforts of civil society, farmers, Indigenous peoples and social movements to campaign against suicide seeds.
National Bans: In March 2005 the Brazilian government passed a national law that prohibits the use, sale, registration, patenting and licensing of Terminator seeds. The Government of India has implemented a national ban on Terminator through its legislation governing plant variety registration.
One More Round in Granada: Governments will meet in Granada, Spain next week (January 23-27) to consider the social, economic and cultural impacts of Terminator seeds on indigenous and local communities, and on peasant farmers. The meeting will review an expert report on Terminator (known as the AHTEG Report http://www.banterminator.org/the_issues/indigenous_peoples_traditional_knowledge_and_biodiversity/expert_group_report_on_gurts) and make recommendations to the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8) in Curitiba, Brazil, 20-31 March 2006, where Terminator is on the agenda.
"Terminator technology is an assault on the traditional knowledge, innovation and practices of indigenous and local communities," said Debra Harry of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, and member of the expert group that examined the potential impacts of GURTs (Terminator) on indigenous peoples, smallholder farmers and Farmers' Rights. "Field testing or commercial use of sterile seed technology is a fundamental violation of the human rights of Indigenous peoples, a breach of the right of self-determination," said Harry.
The Ban Terminator Campaign urges the Working Group on 8j to unambiguously advise that genetic seed sterility threatens biodiversity, indigenous knowledge systems and food sovereignty. The AHTEG Report on GURTs should be forwarded to COP8 for its consideration, and the report's recommendation that governments adopt national regulations to prohibit the field-testing and commercial use of GURTs should be strengthened.
For more information: Lucy Sharratt, Ban Terminator Campaign - email@example.com - www.banterminator.org - mobile: +1 613 252-2147
Hope Shand or Veronica Villa - firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
(1) Delta & Pine Land and USDA, EP775212B, (European Patent), issued 5 October 2005; Delta & Pine Land and USDA, CA2196410, (Canadian Patent), issued 11 October 2005
GM Labelling Watch Dogs Need Better Leadership and More Cash - GM Freeze PRESS RELEASE - Embargoed until 00:00 (midnight) Sunday 22nd January 2006
GM Freeze is calling for improved leadership from the FSA and more money for port health and local authorities to ensure that UK consumers and farmers can be certain that food and feed they buy are correctly labelled as to its GM content and that it does not contain any genetic modifications which are unapproved in the EU. They describe the FSA's attitude to enforcement as "luke-warm".
In 2005, GM Freeze surveyed  local authority departments with responsibility for enforcing the GM traceability and labelling regulations . The main findings (see attached Executive Summary) of the survey were:
a.. Only one prosecution for a breach of the previous GM labelling regulations took place in 2004 by the local authorities surveyed and only three local authorities mounted investigations into possible breaches.
b.. 44% of local authorities questioned had taken no food/feed samples to test for GM content in the last year.
c.. Over half of respondents thought their enforcement costs would increase because of the new requirements under the 2004 Regulations.
d.. The average cost of the most basic test for GM in food and feed (presence or absence) was £135.66 per sample.
e.. Operation budgets for all for local authorities depend partly on the size of the local authority and nature of their area and range from £5,800 to £137,000
f.. Responsibility for enforcing GM traceability and labelling regulations in food and feed at ports is split between Port Health Authorities, Environmental Health Departments and Trading Standards Departments . This means that GM contamination could be widespread without being detected.
The GM Freeze report (published today) concludes that the present enforcement procedures fall well short of guaranteeing that unauthorised GM crops are not entering the UK food chain or that GM labelling on food and feed is accurate. The report concludes with a 12 point action plan for improving levels of enforcement providing consumers and farmers with a reliable system of labelling which enables people wanting to avoid GM crops in any part of their diet to do so with full confidence. It also highlights the recent revelation about contamination of maize imports over four years with an unapproved and potentially harmful GM maize (Bt10) as an example of the failures of current enforcement procedures. A recent report on the failure of official agencies to adequately regulate the growing of GM experimental crops in the US highlights the risks of untested GM traits contaminating export crops . Potential high risk GM crops are those modified for pharmaceutical genes.
Further evidence that the FSA did not approach the illegal import of Bt10 with urgency comes in documents released to GM Freeze under the Environmental Information Regulations  after an appeal following the FSA's initial decision to withhold them. The internal DEFRA email stated: ".....the same team that covers these issues in FSA is also dealing with the issue of Sudan 1, and naturally did not see it as such a priority". Another internal email released by the FSA confirms that the FSA thought that Bt10 maize was imported to the UK : "Also, is the first part of the third question correct as we do believe some has been imported into the UK?"
The GM Freeze report's main recommendations (see attached executive summary) are
a.. That the main focus of enforcement should be at ports where potential GM cargoes enter the UK
b.. That Port Health Authorities should have sole responsibility for monitoring and enforcement of the imports and receive adequate funding to do this job.
c.. Random samples of food and feed sold to consumers and farmers should continue to ensure that segregation of GM and non-GM food in the UK is up to scratch.
d.. The FSA must provide much better guidance to local authorities on sampling procedures to ensure that no unauthorised GM traits enter the food chain and labelling is accurate.
e.. Cargoes containing unapproved GM traits should be returned to the country of origin.
f.. Biotech companies should provide samples of all the crops they are selling or experimenting with around the world so that regulators can develop tests which are lacking at present.
Commenting, GM Freeze Director Pete Riley said, "When the contamination with unapproved Bt10 maize was announced a few weeks after our survey started it confirmed what we were already finding: that food and feed monitoring at our ports was not adequate to prevent GM crops including unapproved varieties getting into our food or feed. Local authorities have been asked to perform a task for which they are not given enough resources or information. The FSA has been luke-warm about these regulations since they were first drafted despite massive public support for clear labelling. Our official consumer watch-dog needs to provide the leadership and cash required to provide the public with a reliable labelling regime for GM in food and feed and to protect them from unapproved imports ".
Calls to Pete Riley 0207 837 0642 or 07903 341065
1. GM Freeze's report GM food and Crops: Maintaining Consumer Choice. A report of a survey on the enforcement of the EU GM Traceability and Labelling Regulations will be available at www.gmfreeze.org
2. The GMO Traceability and Labelling (England/Scotland/Wales Northern Ireland) Regulations 2004/2005 (EC Regulation 1830/2003) replacing The Food Labelling (Amendment) Regulations 1999 (EC Regulation 258/97).
3. At ports responsibility for enforcing the GM Traceability and Labelling regulations for food imports is split between PHAs, Trading Standards and Environmental Health Departments and animal feed between PHAs and Trading Standards except in Northern Ireland where the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARDNI) are also involved.
5. Email within DEFRA copied to FSA 11/4/05 released to GM Freeze on 17 January 2006 under the Environmental Information Regulations(EIR) following an earlier refusal by the FSA to release the documents on the grounds that they were internal discussions (Section12 (4) e of the EIR) and an internal review by the FSA . Other FSA documents are still being withheld under 12(5) (international relations) because they relate to discussions with German government officials.
6. Internal email within DEFRA copied to FSA/FSA reply Dated 30 March 2005 in Response to a Guardian story by Paul Brown released to GM Freeze on 17 November 2006 under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) following an earlier refusal by the FSA to release the documents on the grounds that they were internal discussions (Section12 (4) e of the EIR) and an internal review by the FSA.
Carrie Stebbings, Co-ordinator, GM FREEZE CAMPAIGN, 94 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF - Tel: 020 7837 0642- Fax: 020 7837 1141
firstname.lastname@example.org - www.gmfreeze.org
Biotech "Revolution" May Be Losing Steam - Stephen Leahy - http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=31815
BROOKLIN, Canada, Jan 18 (IPS) - Just four countries plant 99 percent of the world's genetically engineered (GE) crops, despite more than a decade of hype about the benefits of agricultural biotechnology. The United States, home of the agricultural biotech giant Monsanto, represents 55 percent of the world's GE crops, while Argentina, Canada and Brazil account for the rest. Long trumpeted as the solution to world hunger, some biotech supporters have scaled back their claims and now say the technology will make a substantial contribution to ending hunger. But just when or if that contribution will ever arrive is not clear. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), GE technology has increased the incomes of 7.7 million resource-poor farmers in developing countries.
Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAA, told IPS that "6.4 million of these are Chinese peasants growing Bt cotton on tiny farms. They use it because it cuts the number of insecticide sprayings from 30 times a season to half that." "Our report shows that while they spend 70 dollars per hectare on the GM (GE) technology, the saving on insecticides and labour nets them 60 dollars per hectare," he said. In the ISAAA's annual global status report issued on Jan. 12, it claimed that 90 million hectares of GE crops were planted in 21 countries in 2005. Although labeled an "anti-poverty group" by some media, the ISAAA is in fact a biotech industry-supported lobby organisation. "No one has any idea where they are getting their numbers from," said David MacDonald of the Polaris Institute, a Canadian NGO. Where there is solid independent government data, such as in the United States, the ISAAA numbers are inflated by five to 10 percent, he charged. MacDonald told IPS that the group's reports do not cite any sources or references, nor would most governments have this kind of information. "We and other NGOs have been trying to get independent confirmation of this data for years, without success," he said. James responded that, "We spent 10 years getting key contacts in business, industry associations and governments to compile our data." "We don't identify sources because our database is proprietary," he added.
Since no other global figures are available, the ISAAA numbers are widely quoted and referenced -- the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation cites them. An international survey on the commercial cultivation of GE crops in the Jan. 13 issue of science journal Nature is based on ISAAA data. However, Nature interprets the data rather differently. "Only a few countries have wholeheartedly embraced a transgenic future," writes Peter Aldhous, chief news and features editor. Despite billions of dollars invested in research by governments and industry over more than 20 years, only three crops - cotton, maize and soy - account for 95 percent of GE acreage. These three crops are either herbicide-resistant or contain Bt insecticide. All that does is make life simpler for large farm operations to spray any amount of a particular herbicide without harming the crop, says MacDonald. Yields are not directly affected, nor are there additional nutritional benefits, improvements to the soil or environmental benefits. GE cotton accounts for much of the small GE acreage in countries like South Africa, India, China and Mexico. In Argentina and Brazil, GE soy dominates on the large-scale farms, but farmers have so far avoided paying companies like Monsanto for their seed, which amounts to at least 250 million dollars in lost revenue, he says. "Governments may be forced to impose a Monsanto tax on every bushel of soy sold," MacDonald added.
More than a decade of biotech industry promises of drought-proof crops or ones that thrive in salty soils or that improve yields have never been realised, nor have the promises to "improve" sweet potatoes, cassava or other local food crops using the technology. And yet the hype continues. "While American farmers are Monsanto's main customers, much of their market is also overseas, where they've helped develop crops exclusively for Third World countries, including a variety of disease-resistant sweet potato," wrote Michael Fumento, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, in a widely published Jan. 8 column for the Scripps Howard News Service. The GE sweet potato was a complete failure when it was planted in Kenya in 2004. It turns out that Fumento had previously received 60,000 dollars from Monsanto, and the company also partially finances the Hudson Institute. Scripps dropped Fumento as a columnist on Jan. 13.
"Biotech crops are not a solution to solve hunger in Africa or elsewhere," said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth (FOI) Nigeria. "The reality of the last 10 years shows that the safety of GM (GE) crops cannot be ensured and these crops are neither cheaper nor better quality," Bassey said in a statement. In a 100-page report released Jan. 10, FOI International found that neither consumers nor the environment has benefited from the "genetic revolution" in agriculture. The "success" of GE crops is mainly due to aggressive marketing and misrepresentation of the benefits, the report concludes. "It's an ongoing struggle to counter the biotech industry's hype," said Dick Bell of FOI U.S. While FOI is not opposed to biotechnology in itself, none of the GE crops have undergone human health testing and the long-term health effects are still unknown. Many countries are understandably cautious about growing or allowing their citizens to eat them, Bell said in an interview. "Countries like the U.S. and Argentina are taking a big gamble, especially considering the GE crops grown today offer little if any benefits," he said. That is why industry and governments in those countries conspired to prevent labeling of food products made from GE crops, he said: "If they were labeled, no one would buy them."
While the industry says it is expanding by leaps and bounds and gaining entry into more and more countries, Bell says that growth has been incremental and will be an uphill fight over the next five years. Others, including Nature's Aldhous, agree that the 10-year battle is coming to a head but say it is too close to guess at the outcome. The big three companies that dominate agbiotech - Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer - have some very powerful allies, the U.S. government and World Trade Organisation among them. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has long been a tool through which companies promote biotech in the developing world, according to Brewster Kneen, an author and food industry critic. USAID has been particularly busy in Africa providing funding and technical expertise for biotech research and regulation. However, Africa is unlikely to be able to afford to buy large quantities of GE seed, said Kneen. But James of ISAAA disagrees. "It's a fallacy that farmers can't afford the seeds or are concerned about patents," he said. "One million Indian farmers grow Bt cotton and that will at least double next year."
Transgenic crops catching up, claims pro-GM agency! - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=114660
ASHOK B SHARMA - Posted online: Monday, January 16, 2006 at 0200 hours IST
It is 10 years since the world was first introduced to genetically modified (GM) crops. Despite its share of controversies, advocates of the transgenic technology claim that there is growing acceptance to the commercial cultivation of these crops. They claim that the global area under GM crops has increased to 90 million hectares in 2005, fuelled by a double-digit growth rate over the years. International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), an US-based agency, funded and supported by many including major multinational biotech companies, has stated that the worldwide cumulative area coverage under GM crops was 400 million hectare during the decade (1996-2005). The number of countries too that have approved GM crops shot up from a mere six in 1996 to 21 in 2005.
Yet, all these figures do not necessarily prove the growing popularity of GM crops. New countries may be embracing these crops, but there are others that have rejected them too, sometimes temporarily. For instance, Indonesia and Bulgaria stopped growing GM crops in 2004. France stopped growing Bt maize in 2001, but resumed cultivation in 2005. Portugal too saw a similar pattern: cultivation of Bt maize began here in 1999, was stopped soon after and resumed in 2005 after a five-year hiatus. Both France and Portugal are members of the EU where there is very stiff public opposition to human consumption of GM crops. The Bt maize grown in France, Portugal, Spain and Czech Republic are largely used as poultry and animal feed and for the export market. Even the EU is yet to ratify GM crops as fit for human consumption. Worldwide, transgenic crops like soya, maize, cotton, canola, squash and papaya. are mainly grown to meet the commercial needs of the industry.
The increase in area under GM crops is primarily due to new countries adopting these crops. Besides, researches on developing GM crops were under way in these countries for a considerable period of time. However, what the ISAAA report fails to record is the number of farmers who have continued with or disbanded GM crop cultivation. India approved cultivation of Bt cotton since 2002 with three varieties being introduced in the southern states Mech-12, Mech-162 and Mech-184. After three years of reported failures in Andhra Pradesh, all these three varieties were banned in that state. Mech-12 variety was banned in the entire south. Farmers have claimed compensation for losses due to crop failure, but the seed company concerned has not yet responded. The rise in area under Bt cotton in 2005 is due to the approval of 16 new varieties of Bt cotton and also the approval of Bt cotton, for the first time, in north India. Seed companies are now wooing farmers with aggressive marketing strategies. But it would be too early to conclude that there is widespread acceptance of Bt cotton. Already, complaints of several pest attacks and diseases have surfaced in the current season.
In Iran, the only country to approve a transgenic cereal cropBt ricefor cultivation in 2005, the area is restricted to 4,000 ha. According to ISAAA’s recent report, the growth in area under GM crops seems to have plateaued in major countries. In 2005, the growth rate was 5% in the US, 6% in Argentina and 7% in Canada. China has responded cautiously, withholding approval to GM rice in 2005 and thereby dashing to the ground ISAAA’s hopes. China, India, Australia and Columbia have not yet approved any GM food crop so far. Ten years on, GM crops still have a long way to go.
Protecting a sacred resource - ART COULSON - St Paul Pioneer Press, Jan. 15, 2006 - http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/editorial/13621879.htm
To the Anishinabe of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the plant is called manoomin or mahnomen. We know it in English as wild rice, though that black grain we buy at the grocery store often isn't. Wild, that is. Much of the "wild" rice sold in local stores is commercially grown in rice paddies, mostly in northern California. Unfortunately, Minnesota's official state grain and a major source of income for Minnesota's native people has little to protect it from commercial interests that would trade on the good name of one of our state's natural treasures.
A state labeling law - which grew out of a lawsuit in the 1980s - requires that any wild rice sold as such in Minnesota must contain at least 51 percent naturally grown wild rice. That still means up to 49 percent of your wild rice could be paddy-grown. And nothing stands in the way of commercial producers who oxymoronically label their 100 percent paddy-grown rice as "cultivated wild rice" and use Indian names and imagery to mislead shoppers. "We can't compete with the combines," said Winona LaDuke, founding director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project. "The paddy rice pretty much trashed our (reservation) economies. The people on the reservations relied on the rice for income. We have a huge wild rice resource but we can't compete." Among the factors that tilt the competitive playing field in favor of large commercial ricing interests are state and federal water subsidies in California and research at public universities, including the University of Minnesota, that leads to the development of new strains of rice that benefit large commercial farmers, but could harm native wild rice crops. It's that research into rice genetics that most frightens Ojibwe ricers. They fear that genetically modified rice could infect their manoomin - a gift to them from the Creator - and forever end its bounty.
Their fears are hardly irrational or misplaced. Some field tests of genetically modified crops in the U.S. and Canada have resulted in miles-long "drift" of modified pollen, leading to fears that cross-pollination with non-modified crops is inevitable. And a scathing report from the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Agriculture last month charged that the department failed to properly monitor experimental biotech crops. According to an Associated Press report on the findings, the USDA didn't thoroughly evaluate biotech applications nor did it ensure that experimental crops were destroyed at the end of field tests. In some cases, the USDA didn't even know where the modified crops were planted. "The system has been set up practically as a self-reporting system," Greg Jaffe, biotech director for the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the AP. "It's a 'don't look, don't find' policy."
Instead of plowing public money into research that almost certainly will harm or destroy a native resource, why not channel the money into programs that will help Ojibwe ricers become economically self-sufficient? Native wild rice processors could benefit from recapitalization and expansion of their medium-size facilities, LaDuke said. And ricers and processors could use help with marketing their superior product. "Branding and marketing," LaDuke said. "What distinguishes us? Quality over quantity." That brings us back to the labeling issue. LaDuke's cousin, St. Paul businessman Al Paulson, has been pushing for a federal wild rice labeling law for years. "We have (Sens. Mark) Dayton and (Norm) Coleman on the Agriculture Committee," he said. "We're trying to get them to pass a law. Native wild rice is a name worth protecting, just like Champagne and Bordeaux."
To Indian people, manoomin is even more important than that. Wild rice was a gift to The People from the Creator, fulfillment of a prophesy that led the Anishinabe on their westward migration to Wisconsin and Minnesota. As LaDuke says, "Don't mess it up."
Coulson is editorial page editor of the Pioneer Press, 345 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55101.
White Earth Land Recovery Project: www.savewildrice.org
Native Harvest: www.nativeharvest.com/index1.asp
Minnesota Public Radio wild rice project: news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2005/03/08_robertsont_wildrice/
MONSANTO AIMS FOR EUROPEAN DOMINATION - 10 years of biotech crops fail to deliver benefits for consumers and environment
Brussels (Belgium) January 10, 2006 - US-based biotech giant, Monsanto, is aiming to genetically modify all of Europe's maize over the next 4 years, reveals a new Friends of the Earth report released today. The report also concludes that in the ten years since the introduction of genetically modified (GM) foods in Europe, the biotech industry has failed to deliver any benefits for consumers or the environment, and has not played any role in solving hunger and poverty.
The Friends of the Earth report highlights that over the past 10 years Monsanto and its trade bodies have consistently worked to weaken European laws to protect consumers, the environment and farmers and that despite overwhelming public rejection in Europe, Monsanto and the biotech industry have an unacceptable influence over many parts of European food, research and agriculture policy. 
The report reveals that in November 2005 Monsanto announced to its investors that it sees Europe as a "Next Opportunity". It highlighted that in the four years up to 2010 there is market potential to introduce 59 million hectares of its Roundup Ready maize and 32 million hectares of its YieldGard insect-resistant maize. In other words, it is targeting the whole of the European continent's maize production. In addition, it is aiming to introduce 1 million acres of its GM soybeans . Monsanto has currently permission to grow only one type of insect-resistant maize in the EU
However, despite Monsanto's efforts, the Friends of the Earth report reveals that:
* There have been no new GM crops approved for cultivation in the EU since 1998, and despite 30 years of research and public money the industry has only delivered two GM traits: herbicide tolerance and insect resistance.
* Commercial growing on any scale in the EU is still limited to just Spain, and even there the number of GM events permitted has now been reduced to just one.
* The number of countries banning GM products has increased over recent years and the number of regions in Europe declaring themselves GM Free zones has grown to 165, with 4500 smaller areas declaring themselves also GM free. In November the Swiss voted in a referendum for a five year ban.
* Europeans continue to reject GM foods. European polls show that 70% of the public do not want to eat GM foods, and all major food manufacturers and retailers prohibit the use of GMOs in their products, in particular Monsanto's GM soya.
* GM crops have failed to tackle hunger and poverty. Most GM crops are destined for animal feed, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty issues. GM crops in developing countries have been grown mainly as export cash crops, sometimes at the expense of local food production. Other developing countries, such as Indonesia and India, have experienced substantial problems with Monsanto's GM crops, often leaving farmers heavily indebted. Monsanto continues to introduce aggressive royalty initiatives in South America to increase its profits.
Adrian Bebb, GM Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Monsanto's plans to take-over and genetically modify all maize production in Europe should be ringing alarm bells for farmers and consumers. It is crucial that Europe and its national Governments thwart Monsanto's plans to control our food and countryside." "Our report shows that in the ten years since genetically modified crops were introduced we have seen crops fail in developing countries leaving poor farmers destitute, we've seen an increase in the use of pesticides and we've seen a small number of very big corporations buy up the world's seed supply."
Paul de Clerck, Friends of the Earth Europe's corporate campaigner said: "Monsanto has been in the driver's seat as the US, Brazil and other countries developed their GM policies, and their influence has been obvious. In Paraguay and Brazil Monsanto's GM products were grown even though they were forbidden, and in Indonesia the company was reduced to bribing government officials. Governments should stop serving the interests of big companies such as Monsanto and put the interests of their citizens and the environment first."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Adrian Bebb mobile +49 1609 490 1163
Paul de Clerck + 32-2-5426107
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 The executive summary of the report will be available on January 10
online at: www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/who_benefits_from_gm_crops_Jan_2006.pdf The full report is available upon request from email@example.com
A fact sheet on GM crops is online at: www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/key_facts_Jan_2006.pdf
 Brett Begemann, Executive Vice President, Monsanto Bienniel US Investor Day, 10 November 2005,
TEN YEARS OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS FAIL TO DELIVER BENEFITS TO AFRICA
PRESS RELEASE - African Center for Biosafety and Friends of the Earth Nigeria - January 10, 2006
Johannesburg (South Africa), Lagos (Nigeria), January 10, 2006 - Ten years after the first significant planting of Genetically Modified (GM) crops there are no apparent benefits for consumers, farmers or the environment, and despite renewed promises by biotech corporations, there has been no impact on hunger and poverty, according to a report by the African Center for Biosafety and Friends of the Earth International.  The 100-page report "Who benefits from GM crops? Monsanto and its corporate driven genetically modified crop revolution" concludes that the increase in GM crops in a limited number of countries has largely been the result of the aggressive strategies of the biotech industry, rather than the consequence of benefits derived from using GM technology.
"Contrary to the promises made by the biotech industry, the reality of the last ten years shows that the safety of GM crops cannot be ensured and that these crops are neither cheaper nor of better quality. Biotech crops are not a solution to the hunger question in Africa or elsewhere," said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Nigeria. The biotech industry continues the misleadingly claim that GM crops play a role in solving world hunger in Africa and the world's largest producer of GM seeds, Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON), holds an oppressive influence over agriculture and food policies in many countries and international bodies. Several Western African Governments Burkina Fasso and other Governments in Western Africa have been under substantial pressure in recent years to rapidly introduce GM cotton. In the meantime at the end of 2005, South Africa adopted a moratorium on new GM crops pending a study of the Department of Trade and Industry. "The moratorium on new GM crops in South Africa sends a clear signal of the failure of GM crops in our continent. GM cotton in South Africa did not solve our farmers problems, on the contrary it has contributed to increase their indebtedness. The rest of African countries where Monsanto is promoting Bt cotton should learn from our experience".
The new report states that:
* GM crops in Africa will not solve hunger. Most GM crops commercialised so far are destined for animal feed, not for food, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty. GM Bt cotton in South Africa's Makhathini Flats has been widely promoted by Monsanto as an African small farmer/GM success story and a solution to poverty. However, since 2000 the number of Bt cotton farmers in South Africa has lessened, many of them incurring losses and defaulting on their loans, raising strong questions about the impact of GMOs on poverty reduction
* - Monsanto-funded Kenyan sweet potato fails. GM sweet potato in Kenya was presented as a key GM crop to help African agriculture. However by the end of January 2004, and more than US$10 million later, the results of the trials were quietly published in Kenya, showing that none of the claims were true. The results revealed that the non-GM sweet potatoes had yielded significantly more than the GM variety.
- A moratorium in South Africa. In November 2005, despite having introduced GM crops in several hundred thousand hectares, the South African government communicated that it had placed a moratorium on import approvals, pending the outcome of a socio-economic study that the Department of Trade and Industry.
* GM crops are not 'green'. Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans, the most extensively grown GM crop today, has led to an increase in herbicide use. Independent reports from the US show that since 1996, GM corn, soybean and cotton have led to an increase in pesticide use of 122 million pounds (55 million Kilos). The intensive cultivation of soybeans in South America contributes to deforestation, and has been associated with a decline in soil fertility and soil erosion.
After ten years of GM crop cultivation more than 80% of the area cultivated with biotech crops is still concentrated in only three countries: the US, Argentina and Canada.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
In Nigeria: Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth Nigeria - Tel: +234 8037274395 (mobile) +234 52602680 (office)
In South Africa: Mariam Mayet, African Center for Biosafety - Tel: P: +27 (0)11 646 0699 C: +27 (0) 84 683 3374
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 The executive summary of the report is available from January 10 at http://www.foei.org/publications/pdfs/gmcrops2006execsummary.pdf
The full report is available upon request from firstname.lastname@example.org
 A four-page 'Key Facts of a decade of GM crops' is available from January 10 at: http://www.foei.org/publications/pdfs/gmcrops2006factsheet.pdf
GM: New study shows unborn babies could be harmed. Mortality rate for new-born rats six times higher when mother was fed on a diet of modified soya
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor, The Independent on Sunday, 08 January 2006 - http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article337253.ece
Women who eat GM foods while pregnant risk endangering their unborn babies, startling new research suggests. The study - carried out by a leading scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences - found that more than half of the offspring of rats fed on modified soya died in the first three weeks of life, six times as many as those born to mothers with normal diets. Six times as many were also severely underweight. The research - which is being prepared for publication - is just one of a clutch of recent studies that are reviving fears that GM food damages human health. Italian research has found that modified soya affected the liver and pancreas of mice. Australia had to abandon a decade-long attempt to develop modified peas when an official study found they caused lung damage. And last May this newspaper revealed a secret report by the biotech giant Monsanto, which showed that rats fed a diet rich in GM corn had smaller kidneys and higher blood cell counts, suggesting possible damage to their immune systems, than those that ate a similar conventional one.
The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation held a workshop on the safety of genetically modified foods at its Rome headquarters late last year. The workshop was addressed by scientists whose research had raised concerns about health dangers. But the World Trade Organisation is expected next month to support a bid by the Bush administration to force European countries to accept GM foods.
The Russian research threatens to have an explosive effect on already hostile public opinion. Carried out by Dr Irina Ermakova at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, it is believed to be the first to look at the effects of GM food on the unborn. The scientist added flour from a GM soya bean - produced by Monsanto to be resistant to its pesticide, Roundup - to the food of female rats, starting two weeks before they conceived, continuing through pregnancy, birth and nursing. Others were given non-GM soya and a third group was given no soya at all. She found that 36 per cent of the young of the rats fed the modified soya were severely underweight, compared to 6 per cent of the offspring of the other groups. More alarmingly, a staggering 55.6 per cent of those born to mothers on the GM diet perished within three weeks of birth, compared to 9 per cent of the offspring of those fed normal soya, and 6.8 per cent of the young of those given no soya at all. "The morphology and biochemical structures of rats are very similar to those of humans, and this makes the results very disturbing" said Dr Ermakova. "They point to a risk for mothers and their babies."
Environmentalists say that - while the results are preliminary - they are potentially so serious that they must be followed up. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has asked the US National Institute of Health to sponsor an immediate, independent follow-up.
The Monsanto soya is widely eaten by Americans. There is little of it, or any GM crop, in British foods though it is imported to feed animals farmed for meat. Tony Coombes, director of corporate affairs for Monsanto UK, said: "The overwhelming weight of evidence from published, peer-reviewed, independently conducted scientific studies demonstrates that Roundup Ready soy can be safely consumed by rats, as well as all other animal species studied."
What the experiment found
Russian scientists added flour made from a GM soya to the diet of female rats two weeks before mating them, and continued feeding it to them during pregnancy, birth and nursing. Others were give non-GM soya or none at all. Six times as many of the offspring of those fed the modified soya were severely underweight compared to those born to the rats given normal diets. Within three weeks, 55.6 per cent of the young of the mothers given the modified soya died, against 9 per cent of the offspring of those fed the conventional soya.
Canadian government urged to stop genetically engineered (GE) Canola contamination in Japan
Paying the price of Bt Cotton - C Rajasekhar - The Hindustan Times, November 21, 2005
(The author is Assistant Professor, National Law Institute University, Bhopal)
APPARENTLY, Bt cotton has come with a huge price tag attached - Bt cotton farmers in Nimar are supposed to have lost about Rs 400 crore, as nearly half of the crop grown on about 4 lakh acres has wilted. What is Bt cotton and what is the genesis of the present controversy? Bt cotton is a genetically engineered cotton seed that contains a gene akin to the common soil bacteria, bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which produces a toxin lethal to the cotton pest, bollworm. The controversy began in 1998 when the joint venture, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd (Mahyco) - Monsanto Biotech Limited (MMBL) - started its field trials of Bt cotton in nine states including MP without the written approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).
In March 2002, regulatory approval was given to Bt cotton for commercial cultivation on the grounds that the Bt cotton field trials gave greater yields, generated higher incomes for farmers and required lesser pesticide sprays than non-Bt cotton crop. Mysteriously, the detailed results of the field trials have still not been disclosed to the public.
A recent survey conducted by the Beej Swraj Abhiyan in association with two NGOs, Sampark and WASP in Jhabua and Dhar districts, belie the tall claims made by Bt cotton seed makers. While Bt cotton growers incurred an expenditure of Rs 2127.13 per acre on fertilisers, wages, pesticides and irrigation, non-Bt cotton farmers spent just Rs 1014.86 per acre. While a 450-gm packet of Bt cotton seed cost around Rs 1600-2000, a non-Bt cotton packet cost between Rs 400-500. Moreover, the difference in pesticide sprays for both Bt cotton sprays and non-Bt cotton sprays was not statistically significant. Finally, Bt cotton growers earned a net profit of Rs 1493.53 per acre, non Bt cotton farmers earned Rs 2663.12 per acre, that is, about 75 per cent more. Clearly, in economic terms, Bt cotton farmers have been left high and dry!
The episode also indicates a complete regulatory failure - though the National Biotechnology regulatory regime provides for State Biotechnology Coordination Committees and district-level committees on paper, in practice they have proved completely ineffective. However, the most disturbing feature is the transformation of the character of farming in the State - instead of maximising food security and ecological security, farmers are being induced by private sector seed or agribusiness companies to grow profit maximising cash crops without a proper assessment of costs, benefits and risks.