from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor
Welcome to WW56 bringing you all the latest news in brief on the GM issue.
It's depressing that UK PM Blair seems intent on allowing commercialisation of GM maize in this country, even if it is for only one season (HIGHLIGHTS) - especially as his action appears to be motivated by a desire to save face.
Many of us are concerned also about the EU lifting its moratorium on GM crop acceptance. But the EU's move could backfire on the US, as EU tracing and labelling rules require the US to do something it seemingly finds impossible: identify which GM traits are in which crops and where they are going! The Americans say these rules are more of a trade barrier to GMOs than the moratorium, so let's raise a half-hearted cheer for Brussels red tape.
NEW FROM GM WATCH: BEHIND THE HEADLINES
HYPE OF THE WEEK
SETBACKS TO THE GM LOBBY
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: DEVINDER SHARMA AT THE WORLD SOCIAL FORUM, MUMBAI, INDIA
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK
NEW FROM GM WATCH: BEHIND THE HEADLINES
We've just launched a new section on the GM Watch website that looks behind the stories in the news - go to this page for all the accompanying links for each item: http://www.gmwatch.org/p1temp.asp?pid=28&page=1
Here's a taster:
20th: 'Eco-imperialism' in New York - exploiting the poor for corporate purposes A conference that its organisers say will make 'eco-imperialism' a household word is taking place at the Sheraton Hotel, New York, today. Opposition to GM crops, its organisers claim is part of a 'war' against the poor in the developing world. But those organisers have been called 'a tin cup outstretched to every Hard Right political campaign or cause that finds it convenient - or a sick joke - to hire Black cheerleaders'. Find out more about those behind the event, and how they are using "experts" like Prof CS Prakash, Patrick Moore, Roger Bate, Niger Innis and Paul Dreussen who seem far more interested in defending corporate interests than those of the poor.
HYPE OF THE WEEK: Indian journalist exposes GM cotton hype
+ AREA UNDER BT COTTON NEGLIGIBLE, SAYS AGRICULTURE MINISTRY
The Times of India recently reported that "India [is] a key GM crop cultivator", saying India has made it to the list of top ten transgenic crop-growing nations by doubling its (GM) Bt cotton cultivation. But now an article in India's Financial Express by Ashok B. Sharma has revealed thhat if India is "a key GM crop cultivator", then the biotech industry is in dire trouble.
Sharma's article draws on a leaked internal report of the Indian government which says the area under cultivation with India's first transgenic crop, Bt cotton, is actually miniscule compared to the total area given over to cotton. The report also says this shows the unpopularity of the GM crop with India's farmers.
"In 2002-03, the first year of its approval for commercial cultivation, Bt cotton covered an area of only 38,038 hectare area representing 0.51 per cent of the area under cotton in the period. In 2003-04 with good monsoon rains the area under Bt cotton increased to 92,000 hectare. This area coverage under Bt cotton is almost negligible as compared to over 9 million hectare under cotton crop in the country. This points to the low acceptability of Bt cotton by farmers", says the internal report of the Union agriculture ministry.
The agriculture ministry's findings undermine the hype created by the US-based International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-biotech Association (ISAAA), which gave rise to stories like that in the Times of India, and similar hyped claims all around the world. The ISAAA in its study claimed that the Bt cotton area in India has increased to 100,000 hectare in 2003-04, as against the government figure of 92,000 hectare. The ISAAA Southeast Asia director, Dr Randy Hauteau, refused to answer questions about the methodology for arriving at such a conclusion and the source of the data generated. The ISAAA also failed to put its figures into context, implying instead that they were an indication of the massive success of Bt cotton in India.
The latest evidence of ISAAA hype follows on from a report by Aaron deGrassi of the Institute of Development Studies, at the University of Sussex, which showed that ISAAA's claims on the area under GM cotton cultivation in South Africa were 20-30 times higher than other reports, even those from industry sources.
ISAAA's annual reports generate massive uncritical media coverage right around the globe about the growing success of GM crops. Type in "ISAAA" into Google and it will generate over 14,000 items many with headlines like "ISAAA forecasts 700% growth in GE crop market". Its reports and figures are also often referred to and quoted by governments and other expert groups.
ISAAA receives funding from Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, Syngenta, and Pioneer Hi-Bred. ISAAA's multi-million dollar budget is matched by high-profile board members, past and present, such as Monsanto's Robert Fraley, Wally Beversdorf of Syngenta, and Gabrielle Persley, Executive Director of AusBiotech Alliance and advisor to the World Bank. ISAAA has no representatives, however, from farmer organizations in the very areas like Africa that it claims it is there to help.
For the Financial Express article:
For a profile of ISAAA:
SETBACKS TO THE GM LOBBY
+ US EXPECTS NEW EU BIOTECH LAWS TO FURTHER DAMPEN AG TRADE
Regardless of whether some EU governments are inching forward on GM crop acceptance, for the US the economic headache that GM crops represent is only set to get worse.
As the EU prepares to launch new laws in April to label and track all GM food, US farmers and government officials are warning they may turn out to be stronger trade barriers than the biotech approval ban they are intended to replace. Only nine biotech agriculture commodity varieties had been cleared for consumption by the EU when it shut down the approval process in 1998. That, according to US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, has cost U.S. exporters "a few hundred million dollars...a year" in corn sales alone. The US, in comparison, has approved more than 50, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
The EU has promised the US for years it would lift its ban on new biotech crops so long as labelling and record-keeping regulations could be implemented. But trade and biotech counsellor for the USDA David Hegwood said the regulations may be impossible to comply with: "What's not clear about this regulation is whether it's going to require exporters to identify the specific (biotech traits) in a corn shipment. We've got know way of knowing. We don't know how we're going to deal with that."
The US's problems stem from a determination to deny choice to the consumer, as an USDA official makes clear, "Labeling is a problem for us primarily because the food companies have said they don't want to label their brand name products because they think consumers won't buy them if they do. We have no reason to doubt that would be the case." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2293
Funny that US GM-pushers claim to be so sure that GM foods haven't caused so much as a headache. How would they know, if they haven't a clue which GM traits are in exported foods or where they're going?
+ MONSANTO EXITS ARGENTINA SOY BIZ
Monsanto has stopped selling soybean seeds in Argentina, the world's no. 3 producer (after the US and Brazil), because it can't make a buck. The company pushed its way into the market with cut price GM seed but now says a huge black market for the seeds is making it impossible to recoup its investments. Many suspect Monsanto is trying to arm-twist the Argentine government into exerting more control over farmers in Monsanto's interest. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2301
+ GM INCREASING PESTICIDE USE - NON-GM DOING THE OPPOSITE
In a letter to the press, Canadian agronomist Dr Bert Christie draws attention to how Dr Charles Benbrook's recent study demolishes the constantly repeated claim that GM crops reduce pesticide use, showing the opposite is the case in the longer term. Revealingly, he also notes: "Dr. Benbrook's study also points out the often ignored fact that growers of conventional (non-GM) crops are reducing the use of chemicals substantially, without turning to GM technology." He comments: "The decline in the use of chemicals on non-GM corn was attributed to the desire of farmers to reduce chemical dependency coupled with the use of other practices to control weeds; chemical and non-chemical." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2397
+ GENES RUN WILD - NEW NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL REPORT
A report commissioned by the US Dept of Agriculture from the National Research Council warns that bio-containment is just not possible and that there are serious ecological risks posed by some GM plants, insects, microbes and animals. It says there is no completely effective way to prevent some introduced genes from running out of control in the wild. [see video at http://www.sciencentral.com/articles/view.php3?language=english&type=article&article_id=218392157]
The report, "Biological Confinement of Genetically Modified Organisms, " recommends that regulatory agencies require, and enforce, what it calls "bioconfinement" on a case-by-case basis. It says, "the evaluation of whether and how to confine a GEO should be an integral part of its development, and the need for bioconfinement should be considered early in the process." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2374
+ NEW ZEALAND: ANTI-GM TROOPS SET FOR ACTION
Anti-GM activists in New Zealand have vowed to de-contaminate any GM crops grown after the expiry last year of the moratorium on GM plantings. Lenka Rochford of the People's Moratorium Enforcement Agency - one of the newer groups which advocate direct action - articulates the frustration that has led for calls to take the anti-GM campaign to a new level: "We've done petitions. We've done submissions. We've written letters to the editor. We've even got naked on Parliament Grounds. We've done it all, and nobody's listening. [Direct action] is all we've got left."
PMEA is running training sessions on direct action techniques. One attendee, Penny Bright of Auckland, said, "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. If you plant it [GM crops], we'll pull it." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2297
+ SCHMEISER VS MONSANTO: TEST CASE FOR GM PATENTS
Canada's Supreme Court was cited as pointedly questioning lawyers for Monsanto in a dispute with Saskatchewan canola grower Percy Schmeiser, whom Monsanto previously successfully sued for infringing its GM Roundup Ready seed patent when GM contamination showed up in his canola crop.
The outcome of this case will determine whether GM patents on crops are legally recognised in Canada; whether farmers can continue the age-old practice of saving seeds; and if farmers are liable for patent infringement if their crop is contaminated with GM traits.
Schmeiser's lawyer was cited as arguing that in light of another court ruling refusing to patent "a higher life form" - a GM mouse created by Harvard University - Monsanto's patent on the engineered gene in canola does not give it ownership of the entire plant.
Robert Hughes, Monsanto's lawyer, argued that the company wasn't seeking a patent on the entire canola plant, but rather an "ingredient" of the plant, likening the company's patent to that of an inventor who develops a new kind of steel for automobiles and receives a patent for that component rather than the whole car. But Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour was quoted as saying, "According to the Harvard Mouse ruling, I don't think the steel analogy works."
Justice Ian Binnie also appeared sceptical of the damages awarded to Monsanto against Schmeiser, asking what additional profit Schmeiser made with Monsanto's seeds than conventional seeds if Schmeiser, as he has testified, didn't spray the company's herbicide. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2372
Read Dr Vandana Shiva on the Schmeiser case: "Percy's future is our future" http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2375
"Poor peasants of the South cannot survive seed monopolies. That is why the case of Percy Schmeiser will decide the fate not just of one Canadian farmer but billions of peasants. The unjust and unethical case brought by Monsanto against Percy is a double crime against farmers. Firstly by creating and enforcing illegitimate patent rights to seed, it robs us of our human right and human duty to be seed savers. Secondly, it rewards the polluter with enhanced property rights and profits. The principle of 'polluter pays' has been transformed into 'polluter gets paid'.
"This perverse jurisprudence must be corrected for the sake of all farmers, and all species. Farmers' freedoms must come before corporate monopolies. Farmers' survival must come before corporate greed. Percy's future is our future."
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
+ UK MINISTERS TO APPROVE COMMERCIAL GROWTH OF GM CROPS NEXT MONTH...
The government will next month approve the commercial growing of GM crops in Britain for the first time. But ministers claim they will impose strict conditions on the cultivation of GM maize and ban commercial GM sugar beet and oilseed rape after trials showed that they could be more damaging to the environment than conventional crops. The decision to go ahead follows this week's recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE).
Farmers are unlikely to be able to go ahead before 2005 and will be subject to similar restrictions to those governing the trials, which specify the type of herbicide and the variety of GM seed they can use, and the type of plants they can grow in neighbouring fields.
Michael Meacher, the former environment minister, said that questions over health risks had still to be resolved. He said: "I do not believe the government has a mandate to proceed with the commercialisation of any GM crop."
Pete Riley, a senior GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth, claimed that low demand from consumers would leave few farmers prepared to invest in the new technology.
A spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds also called for more research. Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, said: "It seems the only time the Government wants to do something on the environment is when it wants to damage it." But government sources believe the restrictions will be so tight that many farmers will be put off planting the first GM commercial crops in the UK. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2292
+ ... BUT GM CORN WILL BE APPROVED FOR ONE YEAR ONLY
GM maize will be given the go-ahead for a single season in Britain, in a move largely crafted to save the Prime Minister's face, according to a story in The Independent on Sunday. The Government is preparing a very limited approval for just one crop, GM maize, which will effectively mean that it will only be able to be grown in 2005 and then under strict conditions that may make it uneconomic.
The plan, which will be announced next month, is designed to save Tony Blair from abandoning the technology, while placating public outrage by ensuring that few GM crops are planted in British soil.
After the first crop of GM maize, atrazine, the pesticide used on conventional maize, will be banned under EU rules. The chemical, which effectively sterilises the soil, is entirely responsible for the poor performance of the maize against its GM counterpart in the official trials.
If it is to get permission for GM maize beyond 2006, the industry will have to prove its case all over again with new studies, to show that growing its product remains more beneficial than traditional cultivation even after atrazine has been replaced. Ministers will insist that the GM maize is grown under the same conditions as in the official trials. Critics say that conditions were designed to give the modified crop the best possible environmental performance, making it uneconomic in the real world.
Senior officials expect that there will be no market for GM maize, and believe it will only be grown if biotech firms give farmers "offers they cannot refuse". http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2300
+ PRO-GM SCIENTISTS URGE BLAIR TO APPROVE BIOTECH CROPS
Just before the Blair government's announcement of commercialisation of GM maize, 150 pro-GM scientists signed a letter to Tony Blair urging a "science-based approach" to the country's policy on GM crops. It turns out that means just one thing - unquestioning acceptance of faith-based claims such as the following: "GM crops are providing farmers with cost-effective means of controlling pests while using less pesticides and reducing the impact of agriculture in the face of increasing environmental pressures. In reality, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that this technology is a safe and useful approach to improving agricultural production and environmental sustainability, and contributes significantly to better health." No references are given for these claims.
Better health? That's particularly intriguing. We can only assume that the scientists are referring to the robust condition of their wallets.
One signatory of the letter to Blair was Peter Raven.
+ FROM THE GMWATCH PROFILE OF PETER RAVEN
Peter Raven is director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis. Raven is a passionate advocate of "world sustainability" of the sort that has GM crops as its central element. "There is nothing I'm condemning Monsanto for," he says. And he's praised the company's efforts to win public acceptance for GMOs, "The company has... won many more believers around the world in what they're doing and attempting to do."
An old friend of Raven's, geneticist Wes Jackson, says of him, "I just wish Peter was more reflective... The fact that living substance, germplasm, can become the property of a corporation is going to come at a cost. I think the boundaries of consideration need to be broader than Peter's willing to make them. In a certain sense he's a paid traveling salesman for Monsanto".
Raven has good reason to smile on the company. According to Time magazine, "When Raven first came to the garden in 1971, he had 85 employees and a budget of $650,000. Today there are 354 people on staff, and the budget is $20 million." That expansion has been assisted by millions from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and substantial corporate support, not least from Monsanto.
The Garden, in fact, is based in Monsanto's home town of St Louis. According to Raven there are other reasons for the strength of Monsanto's support. Although "We don't do biotech work other than bioprospecting," he says, "the basic research we do here at the Garden makes us a major resource for the biotechnology industry." Raven, together with Monsanto, was also the driving force behind a nearby plant biotech research institute on whose board he sits.
The Raven-Monsanto equation includes the Garden's multimillion-dollar research centre - The Monsanto Center.
And it doesn't stop there: the St Louis paper, The Riverside Times, noted in 1999, "The Garden received $3 million from Monsanto in their last fundraising campaign... Monsanto also contributed land and a large chunk of the $146 million startup money for the Danforth Plant Science Center [a project Raven was instrumental in getting off the ground]. Monsanto matches its employees' contributions to the Garden ($225,000 last year) and contributes to the operating fund ($25,000 last year). Trustees give privately, too, and in past years the Garden has had Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro, Monsanto vice president Tom K. Smith and Monsanto research-and-development director Howard Schneiderman on its governing board.
Now the Garden is collaborating with Monsanto's nutrition sector on a food library, collecting samples of all plants used worldwide as foods and medicines. (The World Resources Institute lists Monsanto as a bioprospector since 1989 and lists its collector, as of 1993, as the Missouri Botanical Garden.) When Confluence, an environmental quarterly, criticized Monsanto, the Garden's PR woman pulled it from their literature table."
At the time that was written, Raven's wife was Monsanto's Director of Public Policy, Kate Fish, leading to jokes that even Raven's sex life came corporate-sponsored.
Not without reason did one scientist say, "Raven glows with conflict of interest from his perch in St Louis."
+ FROM GMWATCH'S BEHIND THE HEADLINES
As Britain's Labour government prepares to approve, at least temporarily, the first commercial GM crop in the UK to save Tony Blair's face, find out more about the GM connections of:
Lord Sainsbury - Blair's science minister and Labour's principal donor
David Hill - Blair's spin doctor-in-chief and Monsanto's PR man
Mike Craven - Labour's former spin doctor-in-chief who now helps direct the industry's lobbying.
+ FIXING THE FARM SCALE TRIALS
The farm scale trials were designed to see if the herbicide management regime used with GM crops damaged wildlife less than the regime used with conventional crops. GM maize has been given the go-ahead for commercialisation because the GM crop supposedly allowed more wildlife (weeds) to survive than the conventional crop. So here's an interesting quote: "Critics ... claimed that the non-GM crops was sprayed several times with Atrazine while the GM crop was sprayed with herbicide just once at the start of the season - and farmers alarmed at the growth of weeds were told not to spray a second time." - Steve Dube, "Cardiff and London in GM crops row", The Western Mail, Jan 17 2004. No wonder the trials carefully avoided measuring yield! http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2296
+ CARDIFF AND LONDON IN GM CROPS ROW
A confrontation is looming between the Welsh and UK governments over whether to allow GM maize to be grown in Britain. The prospect of open disagreement looks more likely following approval by the government's advisers, The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE). ACRE advised UK Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett that farmers could grow GM maize under strict rules without adverse effects on wildlife.
UK Environment Minister Elliott Morley told MPs there was a strong case for growing the GM maize because trials showed it was less damaging than a conventional crop. But Wales Countryside Minister Carwyn Jones said the ACRE advice supported the National Assembly's opposition to GM crops.
National Assembly Member Mick Bates, the Welsh Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, drew attention to the experience in Canada, where genetic modifications have spread to organic and conventional crops and into the wider environment with devastating results. "[UK environment minister] Elliot Morley and Tony Blair want to assess each application to grow commercial GM crops on a 'case-by-case basis'," said Mr Bates. "But that cannot be allowed to happen in Wales, not with a population which is so opposed to any re-run here of the Canadian example."
Plaid Cymru environment spokesman Simon Thomas said, "Today's advice from ACRE gives the Government all the legal basis it needs to reject GM maize, beet and spring oil seed rape." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2296
+ AFRICA: DUMPING GROUND FOR REJECTED GM WHEAT
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has revealed that Monsanto plans to "dump" in South Africa what no one else wants - GE wheat. On 19 January 2004, Monsanto announced that it had approached the South African government for permission to import its GE Roundup Ready wheat, from the US or Canada, in an obvious pre-emptive bid to create a much needed market for its GE wheat, because none exists anywhere in the world.
GE wheat is not grown commercially anywhere, including the US and Canada. Monsanto is struggling to obtain commercial approval in the US and Canada, because of technical difficulties in the genetic transformation of wheat and massive rejection by consumers and farmers in those countries. In May 2003, the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), a farmer-controlled grain marketing agency, called on Monsanto Canada to withdraw its application for an environmental safety assessment of the GM wheat and put the interests of consumers first.
Monsanto's application also comes at a time of widespread rejection by the major wheat importers throughout the world, including in Africa. Importers from Algeria, Egypt, the European Union, Japan Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have unequivocally and repeatedly stated that they would not accept GE wheat. The senior managing director of the Japanese Flour Millers Association, comprising 36 large flour millers who have more than 90% of the total wheat market in Japan, stated his position clearly:
"Under the circumstances, I strongly doubt that any bakery and noodle products made from genetically modified wheat or even conventional wheat that may contain genetically modified wheat will be accepted in the Japanese market. World wheat supply has been abundant in recent years, and I don't see why we have to deal with modified wheat... I believe the production of modified wheat at this time will be a very risky challenge for US producers." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2373
+ GM GIANTS PIN HOPES ON AFRICA
African countries are coming under increasing pressure from international seed companies to embrace GM foods, say South Africa's anti-GM lobby. "Africa is the last chance for the GM seed companies and that's why they're pushing so hard. The European market has closed for these companies - as we've seen with Monsanto pulling out of the European cereal market - so they are looking to Africa," says Glenn Ashton of SAFeAGE (South African Freeze Alliance for Genetic Engineering). http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2399
+ THE GM LOBBYISTS IN SOUTH AFRICA - IDENTIFIED
GM lobbyists pushing GM into South Africa are profiled in our directory, The Biotech Brigade. They include Monsanto's favourite farmer, TJ Buthelezi (profile at http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=184&page=B ) and AfricaBio (profile at http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=170&page=A ) - an industry lobby group part-funded by Monsanto.
+ GREECE: GM COTTON UNCHECKED
Despite the official ban on cultivating GM crops in Greece, independent testing found high quantities of GM cotton in this year's output, Greenpeace said. Greenpeace activists mounted a protest outside the Agriculture Ministry in Athens, urging the government to seize all this year's cotton crop and conduct wide-ranging tests for GM pollution.
"We found that GM seeds have been imported and sown, while the plants have been harvested," Greenpeace spokeswoman Myrto Pispini said. "These seeds were not caught by the official testing system." Greenpeace tests found that six out of seven samples of cotton seed and kernels - used for animal fodder - from cotton mills in central Greece "contained alien genetic material." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2290
+ COLOMBIA: CONTROVERSY AS GM CROPS GET GREEN LIGHT
Controversy is growing in Colombia over the government's decision to go ahead with the commercial cultivation of GM cotton. Colombian farmers have already planted 6,500 hectares of commercial Bt cotton in the north of the country. The government also plans to allow the planting of GM crops, such as maize, in other regions of the country.
But the government's move has been criticised by environmental groups, who argue that GM crops should not be planted without an 'environmental licence' - a certificate issued by the environment ministry authorising projects that may affect biodiversity, such as new roads and various industrial and agricultural activities. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2290
INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
+ DEVINDER SHARMA AT THE WORLD SOCIAL FORUM, MUMBAI, INDIA
In the following interview excerpt, Devinder Sharma lays bare the real agenda behind the WTO (World Trade Organisation) and OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) programmes: not eradicating hunger but making the developed countries the food producers and the developing countries the food consumers:
Q [reporter]: ... where do you think the process of economic liberalisation and free trade in agriculture is headed?
A [Devinder]: To me, the basic objective of the entire globalisation process - and the WTO is part of it - is to destroy the inherent capability of the poor and developing countries, which as you know constitutes the majority world, to produce food from within the country. It aims at taking away food security and letting the markets dictate who should eat what, if at all.
The Agreement on Agriculture, coupled with TRIPs, sanitary measures, and foreign direct investment, are all aimed at limiting the role of developing countries in food production. With the Third World forced to remove trade barriers and QRs (quantitative restrictions), and with the OECD multiplying agricultural subsidies for its own farmers, the game is very clear. The developing countries should refrain from producing food and that can be only done if they are made to diversify to cash crops - thereby destroy the natural farming systems. And in turn, these countries should import cheaper and high-quality food from the west.
Q: You mean the OECD will be the world's only food bowl?
A: Yes, you got it right. The world is being very conveniently divided into two parts: the OECD countries as the food providers and the rest of the world as food receiver.
The process to ensure that staple foods are produced only in North America and Europe (and to some extent in Australia) was actually initiated more than a decade ago. The World Bank/IMF have always, as part of the loan conditionalities, asked the developing countries to diversify the cropping pattern from staple foods to cash crops - crops like strawberries, cut flowers, melons, tomato, saying that such a shift will bring more income to farmers.
...If the public money being incurred on GM crops research, regulation and promotion - in the name of eradicating hunger and malnutrition - were to be diverted to feed the hungry, the FAO can meet its target of reducing global hunger by half and that too at least 12 years before the internationally accepted deadline of the year 2015. That would mean saving the lives of around 24,000 people a day who die from hunger and related ailments.
... The message that the WSF is trying to convey is that the globe is not a football to be tossed around by a few multinational conglomerates and that another world - where peace, equality and food security prevail - is possible. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2396
CLAIRE'S THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
Keeping an ear trained on the media over the past few weeks has been an uplifting experience for all except the genetic determinists, who believe that our genes decide what diseases we suffer from. This discredited dogma, which assumes that one gene confers one trait, underlies the entire GM industry.
The BBC's programme on Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man", who suffered from extreme deformities, was a potential showcase for the determinists. The programme makers had traced a descendant of Merrick and assembled a research team to "take DNA samples from her and, using the latest genetic techniques, try to diagnose what condition caused his deformities... Many of the conditions that could have caused the disfigurements can now be determined by DNA testing."
It was clear that some heritable disease trait was being passed along this family line. The descendant had a bony growth on her forehead in the same place as one of Joseph's major growths; and many members of the family had had cancer. Throughout the programme, we were repeatedly told that a certain gene mutation could cause the condition that Joseph Merrick had.
The scientists obtained DNA from Joseph Merrick's descendant, and from many of her relatives. They tested for the gene mutation, and found... nothing. The genes were normal. Then they tested DNA from the skull of Merrick himself, and found... nothing.
Oddly, no mention was made of this miserable failure on the part of genetic determinism. All the tested family members were told they had nothing to worry about because they didn't have the gene mutation. This was a bizarre conclusion, because of the obvious problem of cancers and growths, which was acknowledged by the family members. In what appeared to be a desperate attempt to salvage some kudos for genetic science, the programme's message was twisted at the end into a eulogy of the research leader for her extraordinary feat in salvaging intact DNA from Merrick's ancient remains.
I don't mean to detract from these scientists' skills and achievements. They did what they were asked to do, to perfection. But I can't help thinking that if geneticists can't find any answers to the problem of heritable disease in the Merrick family genes, they won't find them in anyone else's, either.
So is heredity more than just genes? I'm sure that question will be answered, and soon. Watch this space.
"You need to know more than gene products in order to explain the emergence of shape and form in organisms. You actually need a theory, a theory that involves physics, chemistry, forces and spatial organization. You can have complete details about genes and you are not going to be able to explain how development occurs. So I think that is the fundamental test. When Darwinists say to me 'genes are enough', I say 'Show me.'" - Prof Brian Goodwin http://ngin.tripod.com/article8.htm
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the GMWATCH archive
22/1/2004 GM giants pin hopes on Africa
22/1/2004 GM increasing pesticide use - non-GM doing the opposite
22/1/2004 More on GM in South Africa - the lobbyists
21/1/2004 Africa: Dumping ground for rejected GM wheat
21/1/2004 Behind the headlines
21/1/2004 Monsanto's lawyers rebuffed in Schmeiser case
20/1/2004 Genes Run Wild says New Report from U.S.'s National Research Council
20/1/2004 Percy's Future is Our Future / Canadian farmer stands up against Monsanto
19/1/2004 ISAAA hyped GM cotton figures for India
19/1/2004 Monsanto exits Argentina soy biz - it can't make a buck
18/1/2004 Saving Blair's face - GM corn to be approved for one year only
17/1/2004 Anti-GM troops set for action
17/1/2004 Fate of biodiversity rests on Canadian farmer's court challenge vs. Monsanto
17/1/2004 Tony Blair must listen on GM / Cardiff and London in GM crops row
17/1/2004 U.S. Expects New EU Laws To Increase Its Losses
16/1/2004 Controversy in Greece and Colombia
16/1/2004 Ministers to approve commercial growth of GM crops next month
16/1/2004 THE WEEKLY WATCH number 55
FOR THE COMPLETE GMWATCH ARCHIVE: http://www.gmwatch.org/archive.asp