from Andy Rees, the WEEKLY WATCH editor
Dear all

Welcome to WW31 bringing you all the latest news in brief on the GM issue.

In the week of the Sacromento ministerial on the value of GM crops for the developing world, we've brought REPORT OF THE WEEK right to the top of WW31 to draw attention to a damning new report on the real evidence about the impact of GM crops in Africa, and the way in which it is being spun to mislead world leaders - and the rest of us!  THIS IS A "MUST READ" REPORT.

GM WATCH is also pleased to announce that we now have a new archive where you can view all the material that's gone out on our lists in 2003. This will be developed into a comprehensive and fully searchable archive of postings on the NGIN/GM WATCH lists over the last five years.  Check it out:

Finally, watch out for this week's HIGHLIGHTS and don't miss some cracking QUOTES OF THE WEEK.

Please circulate far and wide.

Andy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

REPORT OF THE WEEK - GM not the answer to hunger in Africa
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - Chapela/Zimbabwe/Serbia/Paraguay/St. Louis
TOPIC OF THE WEEK 1 - Bush over Africa
TOPIC OF THE WEEK 2 - Sacramento GM Promotional
TOPIC OF THE WEEK 3 - A week in the life of Michael Meacher
ARTICLE OF THE WEEK - Bush administration gunning for NGOs

REPORT OF THE WEEK - GM not the answer to hunger in Africa
A detailed new report by Aaron deGrassi at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK, concludes GM crops do not address the real causes of poverty and hunger in Africa.  The full report can be downloaded as a pdf from here:

'Genetically Modified Crops and Sustainable Poverty Alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Assessment of Current Evidence' is both readable and revelatory. It draws its conclusions from a careful analysis of the evidence from the biotech industry's flagship projects in Africa: Monsanto's GM cotton in the Makhitini Flats in South Africa, the Syngenta Foundation's GM maize project in Kenya, and another Kenyan project with GM sweet potatoes involving Monsanto, the World Bank and USAID.

The report shows that in empirical terms these biotech showcases, which have been reported as huge successes for small-scale African farmers, have very little to do with suitability or effectiveness for the farmers.  Their results are much lower than can be obtained "with either conventional breeding or agroecology-based techniques". The excitement over them, the author shows, stems in reality from a PR strategy by the biotech industry which is trying to give itself the public legitimacy to help reduce 'trade restrictions, biosaftey controls, and monopoly regulations.'

deGrassi's analysis receives support from a surprising quarter. An Associated Press article this weekend profiling Robb Fraley, Monsanto's chief technology officer and Robert Horsch, its vice president of product and technology cooperation, notes, 'Horsch manages a Monsanto program designed to help farmers in developing nations improve their farming methods. He says his mission is twofold: "create goodwill and help open future markets." '

Here's a telling excerpt from deGrassi's carefully referenced report, detailing the GM lobby's PR use of South African GM cotton farmers such as 'Bt Buthelezi':  'Buthelezi was by Zoellick's side when the Trade Secretary formally announced a US WTO case against EU restrictions on GM imports. A month later, the Administrator of USAID, Andrew Natsios, described Buthelezi before a Congressional panel on plant biotechnology in Africa.

...The Council for Biotechnology Information calls him a "small farmer," and others describe his life as "hand-to-mouth existence." Administrator Natsios described him as a "small farmer struggling just at the subsistence level." However, independent reporters have revealed that, with two wives and more than 66 acres, he is one of the largest farmers in Makhathini and chairs the area's farmers' federation encompassing 48 farmers' associations.

For Monsanto, Buthelezi and his stories are part of the firm's declared strategy of "gaining global acceptance of biotechnology."  Just before President Bush's May 2003 speech claiming that Europe's import restrictions exacerbate African hunger, Monsanto flew four black South African GM crop farmers to London, where they spoke at a private conference hosted by the Commonwealth Business Council, before heading on to Denmark and Germany. Like Buthelezi, these "representative farmers" read statements carefully scripted by Monsanto and own dozens of acres of land. Several actually spend most of their time working at their day jobs as school administrators. Other pro-biotech campaigners have caught on: CropGen, for instance, celebrates another South African farmer, Mbongeni Nxumalo.

These South African farmers - whom representatives of Monsanto and other businesses call "basically representative farmers" and "representatives of the African smallholding community" - are plucked from South Africa, wined and dined, and given scripted statements about the benefits of GM. In an area where most farmers cultivate just a few hectares, and only half the population can read, Monsanto's "representative" farmers are school administrators and agricultural college graduates, owning dozens of hectares of land. Monsanto has been criticized for using these farmers as a part of a deliberate attempt to distort public debate on biotechnology. Critics have coined the nickname "Bt Buthelezi," to illustrate this farmer's unconditional support to Bt cotton: during a trip to Monsanto's headquarters in St. Louis, Buthelezi was quoted as saying, "I wouldn't care if it were from the devil himself." '

Meanwhile, conventional crop breeding methods, which cost much less and produce better results, have failed to attract attention from both African governments and biotech companies. More alarming is the amount of money earmarked for these crop innovations, when cotton and sweet potato are not even major crops in Africa and thus will not in any way solve Africa's poverty/hunger problems.

The report shows how the evidence out of which the industry's PR is spun is often farcically inexact. Here's just one example in relation to GM cotton in South Africa:  'ISAAA implies that small farmers have been using the technology on a hundred thousand hectares. Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe - an industry coalition - suggests 5,000 ha of "smallholder cotton."  The survey team suggests 3,000 ha.
'In addition to conflicting data on the area and numbers of farmers, the profits gained by switching to Bt cotton are unclear. CropGen says farmers gain $113 per hectare. Monsanto says farmers gain an extra $90. ISAAA argues that switching to Bt allows farmers make an extra $50 per hectare. University researchers calculate $35, whilst the survey team found farmers gained only $18 in the second year, but in the first year "Bt cotton *nonadopters* were actually $1 per hectare better off." ' [emphasis added]

In other words, the claimed profitability for GM cotton in the area ranges from $1 down per hectare to $113 up, amongst a group of small holders who, apparently, range in number from 100,000 to as few as 3,000.

Meanwhile, the very crop that has been reported to be giving small farmers an easier and more affluent life, turns out to have not only failed to solve Makhathini farmers' existing problems with debt, but to have actually deepened and widened indebtedness. The expensive crop has saddled them with debts of $1.2 million!

Despite which CropGen has claimed GM cotton has turned the area from one that wasn't viable for agriculture into 'a thriving agricultural community'. Monsanto says, 'The region has become an example to the world of how plant biotechnology can help the smallholder farmers of Africa'. Not to be outdone, Steven Smith, Chairman of the UK's Agricultural Biotechnology Council, has said of the project, 'small farmers are realizing huge economic benefits.' A group of academics have even claimed that projecting the results across the entire continent, shows 'it could generate additional incomes of about six billion Rand, or US$600 million, for some of the world's poorest farmers.' ISAAA's claims are apparently even more fantastical.

The report shows that GM cotton is in truth at best irrelevant to poverty in the area, and at worst 'is lowering wages and job prospects for agricultural laborers, who are some of the most impoverished people in South Africa.'

The other showcase project that deGrassi looks at in detail centers on GM sweet potatoes in Kenya. Again deGrassi demonstartes the total gap between the supposed "evidence" and hyperbole - 'Transgenic Sweet Potato Could End Kenyan Famine' - and the wholly unimpressive reality.

'The [GM] sweet potato project [which may increase production by as much as 18%] is now nearing its twelfth year, and involves over 19 scientists (16 with PhDs) and an estimated $6 million. In contrast, conventional sweet potato breeding in Uganda was able in just a few years to develop with a small budget a well-liked virus-resistant variety with yield gains of nearly 100%.'

Yet it has been claimed that the virus in question 'is a classic example of a problem that cannot be solved through conventional breeding,' and that 'the time and money spent actually developing GM varieties are less than for conventional varieties.'

deGrassi also notes:

'Another surprising example of advocacy trumping facts is C.S. Prakash, the influential biotechnology advocate who has advised the US Trade Representative. Prakash has repeatedly cited sweet potatoes as a positive example of the benefits of GM for African countries, but has confessed to having no knowledge of the results of scientific trials in Kenya.'

Prakash this week issued a press release ahead of the Scramento ministerial demanding that international leaders ignore the protesters and 'let sound science determine the future of agricultural technologies in developing countries'.

deGrassi mercilessly exposes the kind of 'sound science' that has been used to lobby leaders around the world. The new report concludes, "The evidence assembled here supports the view of a South African commentator: "There are better ways to feed Africa than GM crops." '

Read the press release:
Download the full report:
For the section on the biotech industry's PR use of Africa:

Chapela launches Berkely protest
Dr Ignacio Chapela has begun a public protest at the University of California, Berkeley, where his tenure as an associate professor has not been renewed in controversial circulstances.  Dr Chapela has been under fire since the publication of his research with David Quist revealing GM contamination of maize in a remote part of Mexico - its place of origin and center of diversity - despite an official prohibition on the GM crop.
In a public statement Dr Chapela said, "All but one of the colleagues who witness my everyday teaching  and research in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and  Management have repeatedly stated their support for my tenure, and so have a set of external expert reviewers and the leadership of my College.  ...I do not know of any other academic information on the case that might suggest that a negative decision should be reached.  Yet as of tonight, well over a year into the part of the process conducted in secret in California Hall, no decision has been made, as far as I am aware."
Dr Chapela's research and his criticism of the close links between UC Berkeley and biotech giant Syngenta has won him many enemies who, unable to bring forward any credible reasons not to renew his tenure, are believed to be behind the paralysing of the tenure review.
Dr Chapela said, "In the face of such lack of transparency and accountability, I choose to hold office hours in public, in the open, and in the midst of our beautiful campus.  I do so in celebration of my vocation and my time at Berkeley..."


Ignacio Chapela has been the focus of a vicious campaign of vilification, initited by the biotech industry, since the publication of his research

He is soon to come to the UK where he will be joining the great debate (Corn Hall, St Nicholas Street, Diss, Norfolk, 8th July, 7:15pm)
Zimbabwe orders destruction of GM maize
THE government has directed National Foods Limited to destroy all the GM maize at the firm's plant in Bulawayo.  A total of about 3, 000 tonnes of the GM maize are reported to have been dumped in several disused mine shafts at Turk Mine.  National Foods last year won a multi-million dollar World Food Porgramme (WFP) contract to mill 13,000 tonnes of GM maize. Obert Mpofu, the governor and resident minister of Matabeleland North, says the state felt the residue was not even fit as stock feed, "we don't want to contaminate our beef or fields. We don't like these GMO foods and we are not alone in this in Africa." (Natfoods destroys GMO maize, Financial Gazette, 26 june 2003)
Brutal arrest of Jose Bove sparks outrage
France's Justice Minister, Dominique Perben, has faced a storm of criticism after 80 policemen, accompanied by teams of dogs and a helicopter broke inro Jose Bove's farmhouse in order to take him to prison to serve a 10-month sentence for destroying two fields of genetically modified crops.  In the face of the furore the Minister has hinted that Bove could be granted a Presidential pardon.,2763,983683,00.html
Indian cotton will become Bt resistant
Even as GM Bt cotton is struggling to get a foothold in India, Karnataka scientists have shown that in the long run Bt cotton will fail to resist the bollworm.
Monsanto hometown police suppressed anti-GM dissent
Last year GM Watch exposed how Monsanto had been engaged in a dirty tricks campaign intended, amongst other things, to paint biotech critics as violent terrorists.*  In an artciel in The Guardian George Monbiot reported how the campaign had been designed from the top at their headquarters in St Louis, Missouri.**  Now exactly the same rationale has been used to justify police repression in St Louis of "suspected protesters".  A police officer has told the St Louis Post-Dispatch that police supervisors portrayed the occupants of one raided building as terrorists planning harm.  When residents were allowed to return to the building, they found it ransacked and some of their clothes drenched in urine.  The officer told the paper he'd also taken part in slashing tyres of suspected protesters.  A variety of groups have now accused the police of trying to suppress political dissent against the biotech industry.
Leading Japanese soy sauce manufacturer shifts to non GM soya
Kikkoman Corp. has begun using only non-GM soybeans in its products (which command 27% of the Japanese market).  "We have always used soybeans whose safety was assured," said spokesman Masahiko Shinoharaha. We wanted our customers to enjoy our soy sauce without any worries." (but not in the US where they use local soya beans).
India Should Back Africa's TRIPs Proposals
According to an article in India's Finacial Express, "The time has come to support the African proposals for prohibiting patents on all life forms, as such patents are  contrary to moral and cultural norms of many societies. Article 27.3(b) should be revised to prohibit patents on plants, animals, micro-organisms. The WTO should adopt a  decision on traditional knowledge and set up a committee to oversee the  protection of traditional knowledge and genetic resources.
Paraguayans protest GM crop spray incidents
Farmers in Paraguay are blaming health problems on chemicals sprayed on GM soy.  It is even claimed that in one incident an 11 year old boy died after suffering convulsions for several days.
NZ - Concerns over transgenic sheep
The collapse of the company that cloned Dolly the sheep is a salutary lesson in the dangers of investing millions in poor science, according to New Zealand Member of Parliament Jeanette Fitzsimons, after PPL Therapeutics pulled the plug on its NZ venture in GM sheep and all but one of its GE experiments worldwide.
GE Free New Zealand wants assurances over the fate of a flock of GM sheep.  There could be about 2,500 transgenic sheep on PPL's farm near Whakamaru.  There are concerns about how the company will dispose of the sheep, if it decides to destroy them, and also about whether taxpayers will be left to pick up the bill.,1227,200008-1-7,00.html
Serbia to punish farmers growing GM crops
Vojvodina Agriculture Minister Igor Kurjacki said in Novi Sad on 25 June that two farmers caught growing GM crops face up to three years in prison and the confiscation of their crops, AP reported. He called on "all citizens who know or have noticed the genetically modified soy plants" to report them to the authorities. The growing of GM crops has been banned since 2002.
(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 7, No. 120, Part II, 26 June 2003)
NFU warns of the threat of GM foods
Danny Hendricken, district director for the National Farmers Union (NFU) on Prince Edward Island says the PEI government has okayed field trials of GM wheat and other cereal crops, which could have a serious impact for cereal farmers, jeopardising important markets in Europe. "At the same time, however, the Canadian government is considering the approval of the grain system equivalent of BSE: genetically-modified wheat," said NFU president Stewart Wells. "GM wheat will lead to massive market losses and will effectively close borders to Canadian exports. But unlike BSE-which can be rooted out and markets and borders reopened-the devastating effects of GM wheat will be permanent," said Wells, in a presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture. Other exporters, such as Australia, will not be proceeding with GM wheat and are positioning themselves to take over Canadian markets.
GM pet for sale
A Taiwanese company has created a GM fish that glows in the dark. The Taikong Corporation took DNA from a jellyfish and inserted it into a zebra fish.  The "Night Pearl" zebra fish is the first gene-altered pet to go on sale to the public.  The Taikong Corporation reports strong interest in its creation from the UK, where the aquatic industry is worth millions.

TOPIC OF THE WEEK 1 - Bush over Africa/BIO goes to Washington
This week George W. Bush addressed the 10th annual conference of the Biotechnology Industry Organsation (BIO) which kicked off in Washington DC on June 22.  The US president used the occasion to hammer home once again the message that the EU's stance on GMOs is starving Africa: "For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European governments to end their opposition to biotechnology. We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger."   Mr Bush also told his audience, "Our biotechnology industry is the strongest in the world, and we need to keep it that way".

It was George W. Bush, of course, who at the recent G8 summit torpedoed Chirac's proposal to ban the dumping of subsidised farm produce in African markets.,9321,969259,00.html

Bush is also in control of the world's stingiest aid budget.,13365,967654,00.html

And Bush's aid promises to Africa have been judged misleading.

Bush leaves for his first visit to the continent July 7.  Over the six days he is to visit Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria.

This is from an editorial headlined "One battle Bush won't win," in the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation, 25 June:  "As he prepares to make his trip to Africa next month... US President George Bush is expected to come bearing an armful of goodies.  Mr Bush does not sound at all like a philanthropist keen to deliver starving Africans from their misery; he sounds like a smooth-tongued salesman for American biotech.  .It is no secret that having invested billions of dollars in research, giant US food and biotechnology companies are increasingly frustrated that their products are not bringing in the projected financial returns."

Europe accused Bush of falsehoods about EU restrictions on the eve of a summit meant to ease transatlantic tensions but which was said to have been soured by the GM dispute.  The EU has rejected US calls to reassure developing  countries that they should accept GMOs.

EU spokesman Gerassimos Thomas told a press conference, "The suggestions made by the United States are simply not true... We have a much  better record that the United States (on aid). We provide seven times more aid than the United States. We do not tie our aid to our policy. In a way, it is a bit  worrying to see that the United States in the pharmaceutical aid tries to impose GMO acceptance as a condition for pharmaceutical aid."  Thomas was referring to an attempt to tie GM acceptance in to help to Africa with treatments for AIDS.

Friends of the Earth said Bush's link of GMOs to world hunger was "absolutely immoral."  "If the US says it is going to solve the world food problem through GMOs it is a lie, " said FoE campaigner Geert Ritsema. "The main reason that the United States wants this is  that they want to break open the (developing countries) market to GMOs."

Pascal Lamy, the EU trade commissioner, told reporters, "It is one thing to disagree. It is another thing to use starvation to advance a position in this debate."  Mr Lamy charged that US policy was being driven by farmers who feared they would no longer be able to dump surplus food on Africa in the form of food aid.

According to a BBC report, Ethiopia's chief environmental advisor said that the US and EU could do more for Ethiopian and African farmers by removing agricultural subsidies than promoting GM crops.

BIO has sought to capitalize on its conference location. Several panel discussion will be held on Capitol Hill. A number of legislators, administration officials and judges will participate on panels on topics ranging from ethics, to securing government funding for biodefense initiatives to stem cells and cloning.  It's an opportunity for the industry to lobby the political leaders, network with the FDA and National Institute of Health and educate the jurists whose decision will determine the limits of intellectual property protection.

BIO engaged in an unusually extensive public-outreach campaign for its annual meeting, with a barrage of advertising in Washington newspapers and television channels, and a two-day festival on the National Mall. Carl Feldbaum, president of the BIO, says that the organization has staged large campaigns at its past three conventions. "But here in Washington we've extended that theme exponentially," he says.  The slump in finacial investment in the industry is forcing it to turn to the government, analysts say, for financial support. (Share slump brings biotech firms to government's door, Nature 423, 908)

TOPIC OF THE WEEK 2 - GM promo in Sacramento (taxpayer-funded)
$3 MILLION SACRAMENTO BIOTECH CONFERENCE OPENS: On Monday 23rd June more than 150 agriculture, science and environment ministers from 112 countries gathered  at the invitation of the Bush administration at the Sacramento Convention Center for the Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology.  The $3 million extravaganza was sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the US Agency for International Development and the US Department of State - in other words, the hapless American taxpayer.

US agriculture secretary Veneman hailed GM food as a tool to reduce global hunger but thousands of demonstrators outside disagreed, ptotesting in the streets of the state capital throughout the three-day event. Demonstrators said the conference was a means for the US to lower trade barriers and expand the use of GM crops.,1282,-2826188,00.html
"It's simply a slick infomercial for Monsanto and a handful of other gene manipulators," said George Naylor, an Iowa corn and soybean grower and member of the National Family Farm Coalition.

Family farmers from throughout the US dumped GM corn at the Conference to expose the distortions and lies being perpetuated by the Bush Administration and the biotech industry in the promotion of GMOs.

"Family farmers have suffered significant economic losses from the use of GE products," said Walter Kessler, California dairy farmer and Vice-President of the Family Farm Defenders, "but the truth about GE crops and their impacts on family farmers is being buried in the slick multi-million dollar public relations campaign being waged by the biotechnology industry and promoted by the USDA, primary sponsors of this conference." 

"We are here to stand in solidarity with farmers, consumers and governments throughout the world who do not want to raise, eat or import food that has been contaminated through genetic engineering," said George Naylor, Iowa corn and soybean farmer and President of the National Family Farm Coalition. "Every nation should have the right to adopt a food production system that is in the best interests of their farmers, their citizens and their country."

On top of the $3 million dollars invested in the Sacramento GM promo the costs of providing security for the controversial conference are expected to climb well above $2 million, officials estimated.

A loose coalition of farmers, celebrity chefs, world hunger campaigners and critics of US trade policy descended on Sacramento to accuse Washington of putting pressure on other countries to accept GM crops, to the detriment of biodiversity and small farmers worldwide.

On the weekend before the Conference, about 75 protestors from across the country parked themselves in front of a Sacramento store owned by International Paper.  They demanded the world's largest timber logger withdraw from the research and development of GM trees.,0,7336431.story?coll=ktxl-ne

Three protesters were arrested at UC Davis during another rally against GM trees at the Life Sciences building on campus.
For more on GM trees see:  Site of the
Global Alliance Against GE Trees (GAAGET) - an international network working to prevent the release of GM trees into the environment.

MONDAY: arrests became progressively more violent.
A group of young people peaceably assembled on the lawn of Capitol Park were attacked without warning by police armed with stun guns.
TUESDAY: at least 11 protesters were arrested - including one subdued with a stun gun. About 70 people were arrested from Sunday to Tuesday despite protests being mostly peaceful.
WEDNESDAY: there were reports of 500-700 police on horses, in an armored personal carrier, on motorcycles and on bikes and foot. Many were dressed for a riot and armed with rubber bullet guns.  Many of the riot police had taped over their name and badge number.  Protesters were coralled away from the conference.

go to the bottom of the page of the Sac police website:

TOPIC OF THE WEEK 3 - A week in the life of Michael Meacher
The week started with an article in a Sunday paper by Michael Meacher on GM crop safety.  In the words of the accompanying editoirial, "In The Independent on Sunday today the former minister for the environment Michael Meacher suggests that Tony Blair is rushing to judgement over genetically modified foods without adequate scientific evidence." Meacher dissected the lack of evidence in a damning article, " Are GM crops safe? Who can say? Not Blair"

In the article Meacher said studies on the effects of GM foods on human health had been "scientifically vacuous", and warned the government against rushing the debate. He told the paper the only human GM trial, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, found GM DNA did transfer to bacteria in the human gut.  "But instead of this finding being regarded as a serious discovery which should be checked and rechecked, the spin was this was nothing new and did not involve any health risk," he said. Mr Meacher said the so-called rigorous testing of GM products only amounted to considering whether a crop was similar in composition to a non-GM crop.  "This is justified under the rubric of 'substantial equivalence', which was originally a marketing term, and is scientifically vacuous".  He said it was "really extraordinary" there had so far been virtually no independent studies of the health effects of GM.

In interviews it also became clear that Meacher had been sacked as environment minister - a post he held since the 1997 election - despite UK government claims that he had resigned.

Meacher's accusation that the Government and official agencies were trying to bury bad news was widely reported in the UK media.  He said scientific reports indicating possibly damaging effects from GMOs on humans had been "widely rubbished in government circles".  And the debate on GM foods had been deliberately stifled with pressure from biotech companies.  Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Andrew George said Mr Meacher's comments "blow a hole in any claims the government might make about their desire for an open debate on GM".  Pete Riley, of Friends of the Earth, said they confirmed the fears of those who suspected the government-funded debate on the GM issue was a mere PR exercise aimed at getting the green light for GM crops to be grown in the UK.

In a television interview, Mr Meacher suggested that the push to have GM foods on sale in the UK has been backed by "senior people in government who are committed to the biotechnology industry".  Though he did not mention names, it is likely that one of the people Mr Meacher had in mind is the Science minister, Lord Sainsbury.

Meacher has also questioned the make-up of the key committees that advise the government.  "Acre [the advisory  committee on releases into the environment] is a body dominated  by GM scientists, " Meacher told the Guardian. "It should have scientists with a variety of views. It is not balanced at the moment."

And the very senior cabinet subcommittee known as Sci Bio, which includes Sir David King, who's in charge of the Science Review, and Sir John Krebs, head of the Food Standards Agency, is according to Meacher "almost  wholly supportive of GM.  In my experience there was no one [on that committee] expressing  a cautious line, except myself.  It's very biased".

Mr Meacher is also highly critical of the Food Standards Agency and its director, Krebs, particularly over their attitudes on organic food.

Michael Meacher is now leading a cross-party group of MPs who are calling on the Government to extend the public debate on GM food and crops to enable maximum public participation on a fully informed basis.

Throughout the week, the pro-GM lobby desperately sought to undermine Michael Meacher's criticisms, leading to a flurry of press releases and media briefings.

First into the ring was the new Environment Minister, Elliot Morley, claiming lots of studies had proven GM food safety. But Farmers Weekly in an article entitled, MINISTER'S GM EVIDENCE "FLAWED", reported accusstions that Morley was using flawed evidence to convince the public that eating GM food is safe.  Asked about studies on humans, Morley said: "There have been very many studies.  There has never been any indication of the slightest risk to health. There have been studies in this country, in France and studies by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.  In terms of existing products there has never been any indication that there is a health risk." But both the studies referred to are only theoretical reviews - not actual empirical studies.  The article notes, "neither [study] had involved the sort of human and animal feeding trials that would provide such evidence.  Mr Morley's comments were condemned by GM critics as being part of Downing Street's campaign of spin and subterfuge."

The FSA issued a statement on Tuesday about the Newcastle University study, in response to Michael Meacher's comments about it having been underplayed despite its disturbing findings.  According to Farmers Weekly, the FSA and Monsanto claim the study was dismissed largely because it was a small study carried out on people who already had unrelated health problems!  Amongst others, Dr Mae wan Ho was deeply unimpressed.

On Wednesday Lord May, the President of the RS (themselves the ultimate self-interested science-spinmeisters) launched a personal attack on Meacher, for daring to question their corporate science agenda on GM. Meacher's concerns are all "spin" and "ideological opposition", apparently. Find out about the Royal Society & Big Business including an article by Dr Tom Wakeford on the corruption of the UK's science institutions and how it has encouraged uncritical support for GM crops.

ARTICLE OF THE WEEK - Bush administration gunning for NGOs
Naomi Klein in an article, Bush to NGOs: Watch Your Mouths (in The Globe and Mail) warns that the Bush administration has found its next target for pre-emptive war, but it's not Iran, Syria or North Korea, not yet anyway.  Before launching any new foreign adventures, the Bush gang has some homeland housekeeping to take care of: it is going to sweep up those pesky NGOs that are helping to turn world opinion against US bombs and brands.

The war on NGOs is being fought on two clear fronts. One buys the silence and complicity of mainstream humanitarian and religious groups by offering lucrative reconstruction contracts. The other marginalizes and criminalizes more independent-minded NGOs by claiming that their work is a threat to democracy. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is in charge of handing out the carrots, while the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the most powerful think tank in Washington, is wielding the sticks.

For aid workers, there are even more strings attached to US dollars. USAID told several NGOs that have been awarded humanitarian contracts that they cannot speak to the media -- all requests from reporters must go through Washington.  These days, NGOs are supposed to do nothing more than quietly pass out care packages with a big "brought to you by the USA" logo attached.

That is the message of "NGO Watch," an initiative of the AEI, and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, that takes aim at the growing political influence of the non-profit sector. The stated purpose of the website, launched on June 11, is to "bring clarity and accountability to the burgeoning world of NGOs." In fact, it is a McCarthyite blacklist, telling tales on any NGO that dares speak against Bush administration policies or in support of international treaties opposed by the White House.

As Raj Patel, policy analyst at the California based-NGO Food First, points out, "The American Enterprise Institute is an NGO itself and it is supported by the most powerful corporations on the planet. They are accountable only to their board, which includes Motorola, American Express and ExxonMobil." As for influence, few peddle it quite like the AEI, whose looniest of ideas have a habit of becoming Bush administration policy.

"NGO Watch" is a name first used by a right wing Australian group, the Institute of Public Affairs, which has been at the forefront of attacks on NGOs in the global South that criticise GMOs. The IPA claims inspiration for this campaign from CS Prakash although he has denied this.

Among those speaking at a recent AEI anti-NGO event was Jay Byrne, Monsanto's former head of Public Affairs and the chief architect of Monsanto's dirty tricks campaign which included a fake agricultural institute from whose website browsers were encouraged to send e-mails petitioning NGO funders to desist from funding NGOs (critical of Monsanto) because of their supposed links to violence and terrorism. For more on Byrne's covert campaign:
For Monsanto's fake agricultural institute:

"An industry on the crutches of public subsidy for a quarter of a century, an industry that trembles in the face of the simplest token of precautionary research, is hardly an industry that deserves to carry the public trust, much less our best hope for recovery in a flagging economy.  It would seem rational that our university - and the public - should strive to keep an independent source of advice on the wisdom of supporting such an industry.  Rationality, however, must take a back seat when the university becomes grafted to a specific industry. Such has increasingly been the case at Berkeley and at other universities." - Dr Ignacio Chapela, in a public statement, 26 June 2003

"As always in Washington, the money is flowing both ways. Republican legislators, in particular, have benefited from large contributions from biotech companies in recent years. In return, critics say, the legislators have worked to weaken the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the industry. But analysts say that an increasingly cosy relationship with the government won't save the biotech industry's skin." - Share slump brings biotech firms to government's door, Nature 423, 908

"As he prepares to make his trip to Africa next month, Mr Bush does not sound at all like a philanthropist keen to deliver starving Africans from their misery; he sounds like a smooth-tongued salesman for American biotech.  It is no secret that having invested billions of dollars in research, giant US food and biotechnology companies are increasingly frustrated that their products are not bringing in the projected financial returns."
- from an editorial headlined "One battle Bush won't win" in the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation, 25 June 2003

"Our biotechnology industry is the strongest in the world, and we need to keep it that way... For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European governments to end their opposition to biotechnology. ... May God bless your work, and may God continue to bless America." 
- George W. Bush in his speech this week to the Biotechnology Industry Organisation

"The suggestions made by the United States are simply not true... We have a much  better record that the United States (on aid). We provide seven times more aid than the United States. We do not tie our aid to our policy. In a way, it is a bit  worrying to see that the United States in the pharmaceutical aid tries to impose GMO acceptance as a condition for pharmaceutical aid."
- EU spokesman Gerassimos Thomas

"WHEN CONGRESS last year caved in to special interests in agribusiness and passed a farm bill laden with subsidies for commodity crops like cotton, corn, wheat, and soybeans, there was little discussion of its foreign policy impact.  But the subsidies encourage US farmers to produce far more than the nation needs and to dump the rest on world markets, undercutting farmers in the Third World... the United States should not blame others for contributing to African poverty." - "Unfair America", Editorial, Boston Globe, 22 June 2003

"If they are really sincere in fighting malnutrition, they should ensure that the 50 million tonnes of foodgrains that is rotting in the open is first fed to the hungry. And before you ask me why, let me tell you that over 25 million tones of food that is stocked and rotting comprises wheat, which contains four time more proteins than potatoes." - Devinder Sharma interviewed about the GM "protato" on Radio Five Live

" is often claimed by the biotech companies that there have been millions of people consuming GM foods over several years in the US, but without any ill-effects. However, there have actually been no epidemiological studies to support this claim. What is known is that coinciding with the introduction of GMOs in food in the US, food-derived illnesses are believed by the official US Centres for Disease Control to have doubled over the past seven years. And there are many reports of a rise in allergies - indeed a 50 per cent increase in soya allergies has been reported in the UK since imports of GM soya began. None of this of course proves the connection with GM, but it certainly suggests an urgent need for further investigation of this possible link. Typically, however, this has not been forthcoming."
- Michael Meacher, "Are GM crops safe? Who can say? Not Blair"

"We asked the captain what course of action he proposed to take toward a beast so large, terrifying, and unpredictable.  He hesitated to answer, and then said judiciously: 'I think I shall praise it.' "
Robert Hass, quoted this week by Dr Ignacio Chapela

A survey conducted by the Internet Marketing Research Services and adopting the Government's own GM Nation debate questionnaire has asked 2 400 members of the UK public what they thought about the long-term health effects of genetically modified foods:
* 83% said they did not think the general public knew enough about the long-term effects of GM foods on our health
* 78% said they were worried about this new technology was being driven more by profit than by public interest
* 75% said they were worried that GM Crops would compromise the integrity of Non-GM crops
* 71% said they were concerned about the negative impact of GM crops on the environment.

"The biotech companies often claim that millions in the US have been consuming GM foods over several years, without ill-effect.  But there have been no epidemiological studies to support this claim.  However, the official US Centres for Disease Control believe food-derived illnesses have doubled over the past seven years, coinciding with the introduction of GM food.  And there has been a rise in allergies - with a 50% increase in soya allergies reported in the UK since GM soya imports began. None of this proves the connection with GM, but it suggests an urgent need for further investigation.  Typically, however, this has not been forthcoming." - Blair's sacked Environment Minister, Michael Meacher

In the U.S. the total income from crop sales is $125 billion a year.

A new study, funded by Monsanto, Syngenta and the Biotechnology Industry Organization, claims GM crops could boost European farmers' net incomes by $1 billion a year.

According to the study's author, Leonard Gianessi, "there will be general agreement that we got it right."  However, this is not the first time Gianesi has produced such upbeat reports.  Gianessi has previously claimed that the US spent $1 billion less by using glyphosate-resistant soybeans when other analyses suggested such farmers were at best breaking even.  Even the US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) has reported, "the soybean results appear to be inconsistent with the rapid adoption of this technology" and that "An analysis using broader financial performance measures... did not show GE crops to have a significant impact."

For more on how USDA's findings have totally undermined Gianessi's claims, see:

For more on the new report:

An Associated Press piece earlier this week noted that "a Bush administration appointee was dispatched to Baghdad, tasked with, among other things, figuring out whether genetically modified crops have a place in Iraq."]Dan

The man in question is Dan Amstutz appointed by US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to head Iraq's agricultural reconstruction. Veneman is keen to see US agribiz play a significant role in Iraq's future, where she says "the opportunities are immense".

Amstutz came under immediate fire from many quarters, including Oxfam, not least because of his previous role as an executive with the Cargill Corporation - the biggest grain exporter in the world and a company which has had joint ventures with Monsanto.  "Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission," said Kevin Watkins, Oxfam's policy director. "This guy is uniquely well placed to advance the commercial interests of American grain companies and bust open the Iraqi market, but singularly ill equipped to lead a reconstruction effort in a developing country."

At a press conference Amstutz countered such criticisms by emphasising his corporate affiliations were in the long distant past, "I left Cargill in 1978 and have had no affiliation with them whatsoever."  But there are now reports that as recently as late-October 2000, Amstutz was named chairman of the board of directors of a new company established by amongst others ADM, Cargill, and DuPont - ie the biggest transnational ag firms in the world. Its task was to take advantage of the "global, unregulated secondary market for ag commodities".

Sounds like the ideal man for the US to introduce into the piratical chaos of post-war Iraq.

Bush's call at the BIO conference this week for European governments to end their opposition to GM crops has "earned the praise of members of the African-American leadership network Project 21," who have issued a press release to express their support. This is not just about GM foods, say Project 21, "What is really at issue here is the same European mentality that has successfully suppressed Africans and people of African decent for hundred of years."

Radical stuff, though curious that Bush's America gets off scott free when it comes to harming Africans or people of African decent. Perhaps that's understandable, though, when one considers that Project 21 is an initiative of the National Center for Public Policy Research  - a conservative/free market foundation with a strongly anti-environmental agenda. 

According to PR Watch, Project 21 'opposes affirmative action and the minimum wage and has issued news releases in support of genetically modified foods. Project 21 has been funded by RJ Reynolds, and it has lobbied in support of tobacco industry interests, opposing FDA regulation of the industry, excise taxes and other government policies to reduce tobacco use.'

Black American journalists Glen Ford and Peter Gamble describe Project 21 as a 'Black front group' and 'a network and nursery for aspiring rightwing operatives'.

One of those operatives is Niger Innis who sits on Project 21's Advisory Committee. Innis is also the National Spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which in May 2003 organised a counter-protest against Greenpeace, alleging the environmental group had committed 'eco-manslaughter' through the impact of its policies on the developing world. Greenpeace's 'opposition to genetically modified foods' was listed by CORE as among the ways by which 'these zealots' cause 'misery and death'.

Ford and Gamble describe CORE as 'a tin cup outstretched to every Hard Right political campaign or cause that finds it convenient - or a sick joke - to hire Black cheerleaders'. And they report how James Farmer, the legendary civil rights leader and former head of the original Congress of Racial Equality confronted Niger's father Roy Innis on TV for turning 'the organization into what Farmer called a "shakedown" gang.'

HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the archive
21/6/2003 Indian farmers are not pirates - Monsanto is a polluter
21/6/2003 Michael Meacher: Are GM crops safe? Who can say? Not Blair
22/6/2003 'Superweeds' signal setback for GM crops
22/6/2003 Blair buried health warning on GM crops, says sacked minister
22/6/2003 Government determined to sell GM food to consumers
22/6/2003 Jose Bove back in jail/Unfair America/Protests begin
22/6/2003 Monsanto's home town police suppressed dissent against biotech
23/6/2003 'Black Group Praises Bush' over GM crops
23/6/2003 Bush says Europe must allow GM foods and other stories
23/6/2003 Meacher says ACRE, Krebs and King biased on GM
23/6/2003 Protesters Swarm Calif. Biotech Meeting
24/6/2003 Global Ag Ministers Assemble for Biotech Promotion
24/6/2003 Protesters March on Global Food Conference
25/6/2003 Beauty and fear mark Day 3 in Sacramento
25/6/2003 Bush to NGOs: Watch Your Mouths
25/6/2003 Ethiopia wary of GM seeds
25/6/2003 Farmers dump GM corn to protest U.S. promo
25/6/2003 New study says European farmers would earn $1 billion a year
25/6/2003 Science wars over GM foods - Pusztai/FSA/Morley/Monsanto...
25/6/2003 That speech/EU Says Bush Accusations on Biotech Policy Untrue


The EU GM Labelling legislation faces its final vote in the European Parliament will take place during Parliament's plenary session in July (1-3 July). At its last Committee stage, the legislation was tightened dramatically, and it is important that this version of the legislation gets passed into law.

Please e-mail as many MEPs as possible, asking them to support the Environment Committees' 22nd May 2003 recommendations for GM labelling and traceability in full (details below).

Details of all UK MEPs can be found at:

Encourage your MP to sign the new Early Day Motion, already supported by a cross-party coalition of MPs, caling for an extension of the 18th July closing date public debate.

The EDM points out that while the government's public consultation on GM ( is well underway (3rd June - 18th July) most of the evidence that would inform the debate is not yet published.

Don't forget you can fax them at (please read the guidelines on this page).  The EDM is number 1466.
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