Biotech crops take root around world?
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News Update From The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods
Dear News Update Subscribers,
A new report titled "The Global Diffusion of Plant Biotechnology: International Adoption and Research in 2004" was released on Wednesday by the Council on Biotechnology Information.
Since this report was prepared for supporters of genetically engineered crops, as we might have expected, it paints a positive outlook for the future of biotech crops. However, if we look closer, we find that the growth of biotech crops has been quite restricted.
There were only five countries that grew about 98 percent of the $44 billion of commercial genetically engineered crops in 2003-2004. Those five countries were: the United States ($27.5 billion), Argentina ($8.9 billion), China ($3.9 billion), Canada ($2.0 billion) and Brazil ($1.6 billion).
And the 98 percent that those five countries grew consisted of only four crops -- soybeans, cotton, maize (corn) and canola.
Eight other countries are growing some genetically engineered crops commercially, but the combined acreage is less than 2 percent of the global total. Those countries are South Africa, Mexico, Australia, India, Romania, Spain, Philippines and Uruguay. And there is a lot of heated debate in several of those countries regarding these controversial crops.
The global acreage is dramatically less than many in the biotech industry had predicted 10 years ago when these crops were first introduced on a commercial basis. Many promoters of biotech crops predicted there would be dozens of countries growing large-scale commercial acreage by now. And they expected dozens of varieties to be grown worldwide by the year 2000.
It has been the active protests of thousands of concerned citizens all around the world, particularly in European Union nations, that have stopped the international acceptance of these risky crops.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The real question is: "Where do we go from here?"
Will many more countries start growing biotech crops in the near future? Will the acreage continue to grow? Or is it possible to reduce the growth of biotech crops?
THE ANSWERS TO THOSE QUESTIONS ARE MUCH MORE IN YOUR HANDS RIGHT NOW THAN YOU MIGHT IMAGINE.
There is a well-known quote from famous anthropologist Margaret Mead that you may have heard. It says: "Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
When it comes to genetically engineered foods being forced into other countries around the world, the United States is like an 800-pound gorilla throwing our weight around. However, concerned citizens from all around the world have been remarkably successful at throwing rocks at this 800-pound biotech gorilla to keep it out of their countries.
In the United States, we have allowed this 800-pound biotech gorilla to run amuck with nearly no supervision. As informed and concerned Americans, we DO have the ability and responsibility to put him back in his cage before he causes any more damage to organic crops, human health and the environment.
PASSING FEDERAL LEGISLATION TO REQUIRE THE MANDATORY LABELING OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS IS THE QUICKEST AND MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO PUT THE BIOTECH GORILLA BACK IN HIS CAGE.
We will get the mandatory labeling legislation re-introduced into the new 109th U.S. Congress early next year. But just introducing the legislation before Congress is not going to get it passed into law.
IN ORDER TO DO A MORE EFFECTIVE JOB IN GETTING SUPPORT FROM MEMBERS OF CONGRESS FOR THE LABELING LEGISLATION, THE CAMPAIGN WILL TAKE THREE IMPORTANT STEPS NEXT YEAR:
1) In January 2005, we are opening up an office in Virginia in order to be close to Washington, DC. As a result, we will be doing a lot more direct lobbying of members of Congress to support the legislation.
2) We will be greatly increasing our pressure on the health and agriculture committee members in Congress to hold hearings on the labeling legislation.
3) We will be asking activists like you to join with others in your communities to pass city and country council resolutions endorsing the federal labeling legislation.
We will be discussing item three -- city and country council resolutions in support of the federal labeling legislation -- in much great detail after the start of the year. But for now, suffice it to say that a lot of you reading this right now are going to have a ton of fun getting these resolutions passed through your city and county councils.
OUR GOAL IS TO USE CITY AND COUNTY COUNCIL RESOLUTIONS TO LIGHT A FIRE UNDER GRASSROOTS ACTIVISM TO A DEGREE NEVER BEFORE SEEN IN THE UNITED STATES.
We will be using Meet-Up meetings, advanced computer technology, and other tools to network our grassroots activities to a degree far beyond what we have done in the past.
WISDOM FROM THE PAST FOR MODERN TIMES
When Benjamin Franklin was leaving Independence Hall in 1787 after signing the Constitution of the United States, he was asked what type of government had been created. He replied: "A republic, if you can keep it."
I honestly believe that if Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Abigail Adams and other founders of the United States were alive today and serving as advisors to The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, they would say that passing city and county council resolutions are an ideal way to express our concerns and desires to our federal officials. This is the type of representative government in action that they envisioned when they formed our great nation over 225 years ago.
Let's show Benjamin Franklin we DO know how to "keep our republic" with an unprecedented grassroots effort to pass city and country council resolutions beginning in 2005.
Posted below is an Associated Press article titled "Biotech crops take root around world" that discusses the new report on the global growth of biotech crops.
If you would like to read the entire 124-page report, here is a link:
(Note: I did a search on the word "organic" to see if the report addressed any concerns about organic crops being under attack from biotech pollen drift. The word "organic" never appears even once in the entire report.)
If you have not yet made a donation to The Campaign in 2004, please consider doing so before the end of the month. It is only with your support that we are able to do our work on your behalf. Here is a link where you can make a donation online or print out a mail-in donation form:
Thanks for your support!
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods
PO Box 55699
Seattle, WA 98155
Web Site: http://www.thecampaign.org
Mission Statement: "To create a national grassroots consumer campaign for the purpose of lobbying Congress and the President to pass legislation that will require the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the United States."
Biotech crops take root around world
By LIBBY QUAID
Associated Press writer
WASHINGTON ”” Biotech crops are flourishing in the United States, but they're also taking root across the globe, accounting for about $44 billion in crops in five leading countries, according to a report Wednesday by an industry group.
Argentina has planted $8.9 billion worth of genetically engineered soybeans and corn. In China, biotech cotton is worth $3.9 billion. There are $2 billion in genetically altered canola, corn and soybeans growing in Canada, and Brazil has biotech soybeans worth $1.6 billion.
The United States eclipses them all with its nearly $28 billion in biotech soybeans, corn, cotton and canola.
The report, by a University of Minnesota researcher for the industry's Council for Biotechnology Information, anticipates that growth of these gene-altered crops will soar, particularly in Asia, Latin America and parts of Africa.
"What I'm suggesting is that we are probably at the threshold of a much larger and more extensive adoption of plant biotechnology,'' said C. Ford Runge, director of Minnesota's Center for International Food and Agriculture Policy. "You can conclude there are many more crops in the pipeline than the four major ones that I mention.''
The study found that more than half of the world's soybeans are now biotech varieties. Thirty percent of all cotton comes from biotech seeds, and 15 percent of corn and canola are genetically engineered, the study said.
Traditional plant breeding requires growing generation after generation of plants to develop a specific trait, such as corn that resists insects or potatoes that bruise less easily. Genetic engineering is like a high-tech shortcut; scientists transfer certain traits by attaching genes from one organism to another.
Even in Europe, where fears run high about the safety of gene-altered food, there has been substantial research and development of new crops. However, activity slowed dramatically in 1999, after the European Union placed a moratorium on biotech crops. Officials agreed to resume approvals earlier this year, but a political stalemate remains.
The study asserts that the EU can slow the global spread of biotech crops but cannot halt it. The study found that eight other countries are producing significant amounts of biotech crops. They are South Africa, Mexico, Australia, India, Romania, Spain, Philippines and Uruguay.
Greenhouse experiments and other research and development has been done in 63 countries, Runge found.
Activity isn't limited to traditional row crops. Many biotech vegetables and fruits ”” such as potatoes, tomatoes, squash, sweet peppers, papaya, melon, banana and apples ”” are in various phases of research or approval. And researchers in many countries are working on biotech tobacco, coffee, peanuts, mustard, cocoa and other crops.
In the United States, a recent report raised concerns about whether state governments have the legal and financial tools they need to oversee the fast-growing industry. The study by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology looked at 17 states working with federal officials to oversee biotech crops.