from Claire Robinson, editor
+ VICTORY IN INDIA: GOVT BANS MONSANTO GM COTTON SEEDS
In the light of their poor performance, India's regulatory authority, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), has banned commercial cultivation of three varieties of Mahyco-Monsanto's Bt cotton hybrids in Andhra Pradesh. These three varieties are Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt and Mech-184 Bt. These varieties completed three years of commercial cultivation and were waiting renewal. One of the varieties - Mech-12 Bt - has been banned throughout southern India.
Farmer and civil society groups are demanding that farmers who incurred losses from the varieties that have now been banned be compensated by the company. The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture is demanding that stocks of the 3 varieties be seized by the government before they can enter illegal channels.
+ ... YET MONSANTO CLAIMED ITS BT COTTON WAS A BIG SUCCESS!
It's worth contrasting the widely reported failure of Mahyco-Monsanto's Bt cotton with Mahyco-Monsanto's claims of success. Monsanto said its research showed Bt cotton produced good results in all the states in which it was grown.
But a senior member of India's regulatory committee, GEAC, said that every state reported at best "mixed" results with Monsanto's Bt cotton.
In Andhra Pradesh, where Bt cotton has now been banned, Monsanto's research proclaimed that AP farmers had gained five-fold from its Bt cotton. The GEAC also disallowed commercial cultivation of one of Monsanto's Bt cotton varieties in the whole of south India "on receiving adverse reports about its performance in the last three years".
In addition to adverse reports from about 20 farmers' organisations, these reports came from state governments. One state - Gujarat - failed to provide reports but it is known that its report for 2002 declared Monsanto's Bt cotton "unfit for cultivation"!
Could it be that the states are biased against Monsanto? Far from it. The Chief Minister in Gujarat has been a rabid GM supporter, and he is not alone. In the recent BBC Bitter Harvest series, it was noted how the whole state apparatus in Punjab is working to promote Monsanto's seeds. Even in Andhra Pradesh, evidence has emerged of state manipulation of data in Monsanto's favour. While data in an original report revealed the failure of Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh, a second, visibly tampered-with version exaggerated the yields in Monsanto's favour!
+ MONSANTO'S "LIE OF THE CENTURY" - P V SATHEESH
A compelling presentation on the failure of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh by P V Satheesh, Director of the Deccan Development Society, is at
..what is the story that the farmers in AP are telling us with regard to Mahyco-Monsanto Bt hybrids? It is a story of terrible loss, deep pain, and cold anger, leading to explosive violence and even death... Hundreds of farmers... have repeatedly told us how the Bollgard cultivation had ruined them totally. In the face of this reality, the claim by Mahyco Monsanto [that farmers in Andhra Pradesh had gained five-fold from Bollgard]
can easily earn them the Lie of the Century award.
+ INDIA: BT COTTON INFECTS SOIL, FAILS ON ALL FRONTS, SAYS STUDY
Despite claims that Bt cotton provides socio-economic benefits, a new study reveals that it infected soil and no other crop could grow after the Bt cotton crop was harvested. The study, sponsored by Deccan Development Society, tracked GM Bt cotton for three years in Andhra Pradesh. It showed that Bt cotton has failed on all fronts including yield, cost of cultivation, returns to farmers and resistance to pests. The non-Bt cotton performed better on all counts.
+ INDIA: BT COTTON PRONE TO DISEASE
A study conducted by a team of cotton experts from the Indian government has noted that Bt cotton hybrids are susceptible to diseases like bacterial blight, alternaria leaf spot and grey mildew.
This report confirms the claims by different studies conducted by civil society organisations and independent scientific bodies pointing to the failure of Bt cotton in 2004 season. It also justifies the claims of Andhra Pradesh Bt cotton growers for compensation for crop loss.
+ INDIA: STORM OF PROTEST AGAINST NOD FOR MORE GM CROPS
Farmers' groups and civil society organisations have expressed deep concerns over the country's regulatory authority approving new Bt cotton hybrids for cultivation in new areas when it has just banned three Bt cotton varieties after they failed in the field.
+ FARMERS SAY NO TO GM
Farmers and others from Bangladesh, Canada, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali, Nepal, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Thailand gathered at Southern Encounters - an international consultation on Bt cotton, 14-15 April at Hyderabad, India as part of the Global Week of Action. Farmers, scientists and researchers narrated first-hand encounters with Bt cotton and GM crops.
A statement from the Deccan Development Society, India said: "Having shared our encounters with genetic engineering from our countries, we are stronger in our conviction that the use of transgenic crops has unleashed new hazards onto our farms and into our lives. The profit-driven 'life' science industry is more life destroying than life giving."
A new coalition, South Against Genetic Engineering, was formed in Hyderabad:
+ WOMEN FARMERS CALL ON ICRISAT TO SHUT DOWN GENE BANKS
About 500 women farmers on 15 April held a demonstration outside the International Crop Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics in Patancheru, Andhra Pradesh, demanding farmers' seeds back from the ICRISAT Gene Banks. They also demanded that ICRISAT close down if it does not put farmer-led research on their agenda.
The women said the trend of ICRISAT to turn its facilities over to private business and to invite transnational corporations onto its Board, has made it lose their trust. The women said, "Once upon a time, in trust, we handed over to you, a large number of germplasms. The seeds we had nourished like our own children. Seeds which were a product of generations of our own knowledge."
The women demanded that ICRISAT hand back the collection of germplasms in its gene bank to farmers: "Please hand us back our germplasm. Close down your gene banks. They have already turned into Gene Morgues. Now they will be turned by you into seeds for predatory corporate profits. THIS IS OUR HERITAGE, GIVE IT BACK TO US."
+ INDIA'S DRAFT SEED BILL MAY BE DELAYED
The Indian agriculture ministry's attempt to rush through the draft National Seed Bill may be delayed. Acting on a representation made by a farmers' organisation, the chairperson of the National Advisory Council, Sonia Gandhi, directed the ministry to reconsider clauses in the draft that could hamper the interests of farmers.
Opposition comes from the All India Farmers' Council, the farmers' outfit of the ruling Congress party, Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS). The BKS leader, Dr Krishna Bir Chaudhary, said: "The bill is a clear trap to curb the traditional and indigenous rights of our peasantry to grow, breed, multiply, preserve and exchange seeds.”
The bill's delay is a huge embarrassment for India's ruling party. While its agriculture minister hypes GM to the skies, its own All India Farmers' Council has called for a ban on GMOs "for all times to come".
+ ILLEGAL GM RICE CONTAMINATES FOOD CHAIN
Greenpeace is calling for an urgent international product recall after uncovering the illegal release of a GM Bt rice in China. The GM rice has not been approved for human consumption and may have contaminated Chinese rice exports.
Greenpeace discovered unapproved GM rice being sold and grown illegally in the Chinese province of Hubei. Greenpeace estimates that 950-1200 tons of GM rice entered the food chain after last year's harvest, and that up to 13,500 tons may enter the food chain after this year unless urgent action is taken.
According to Greenpeace International scientist, Dr Janet Cotter, "There are strong warning signs that this GE Bt rice could cause allergenic reactions in humans. It has been shown that the protein produced in Bt rice (called Cry1Ac) may have induced allergenic-type responses in mice. To date, there has been no human food safety testing of Bt rice."
+ NEW STUDY POINTS TO LIKELY SOURCE OF GM RICE CONTAMINATION IN CHINA
Just two weeks after Greenpeace exposed the illegal selling and planting of GM rice in Hubei province, a paper published April 29 in Science magazine describes what appear to be unregulated trials of the same GM rice (Shanyou 63) that Greenpeace researchers found being illegally sold in the open market.
With rice planting due to start any day, Greenpeace said the study reveals further evidence of the failure to control GM rice trials in China. Greenpeace China's Sze Pang Cheung said, "The Science paper states that farmers cultivated the GM rice without the assistance of technicians, and that quite a number of the randomly selected participants grew both GM and conventional varieties on their small family farms... It looks like GM rice has grown out of control under the very noses of the scientists that were trusted to control it."
+ GM RICE NOT BEST WAY TO REDUCE PESTICIDES IN CHINA
A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) program into Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in China resulted in a reduction of pesticide use of over 45% - without any of the environmental, health or market risks of genetic engineering.
A study into the adoption of GM Bt cotton in China concluded that farmers still over-used pesticides on pest-resistant crops.
+ CHINA: 57 PERCENT WOULD NOT BUY GM FOODS
In a survey carried out in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in 2004, 62 per cent of the 600 respondents know about GM food and 57 per cent said they would not buy it - a big leap from 52 per cent and 40 per cent in 2003.
+ JAPANESE DEMAND FOR US CORN SLOWS AFTER CONTAMINATION
Between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta produced and distributed an unapproved GM corn [maize], called Bt10, and sold it as an approved corn, Bt11. Some Japanese buyers have already halted imports of US corn to avoid importing problematic cargoes contaminated by Bt10, traders said.
+ THAI AG MINISTRY NOT COOPERATING IN GM PAPAYA CONTAMINATION PROBE
While Thailand's Ag Ministry is relentlessly pursuing a lawsuit against the campaigners who allegedly trespassed on its Khon Kaen research station in order to prove that experimental GM papaya grown there had spread elsewhere, the Ministry is dragging its heels when it comes to investigating the illegal proliferation of the GM papaya.
A panel set up by the Department has been starved of information by the Department of Agriculture, making it impossible to halt the contamination.
+ NGOs URGE END TO TRESPASS SUIT
Human rights and agricultural advocates have called on Thailand's Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to withdraw the lawsuit against Greenpeace campaigners who allegedly trespassed on its Khon Kaen research station to prove that GM papaya grown there had spread elsewhere.
About 20 representatives of about 15 non-governmental organisations including Amnesty International Thailand, the Protection for Human Rights Defenders and Greenpeace submitted their request in a letter to ministry officials. They argued that the campaigners had the right to information about the state's actions and that they acted to protect the public interest. As such, they should not be subject to threats of legal action.
+ UK BACKS EMERGENCY CURBS ON US ANIMAL FEEDS
The UK and European member states voted on 15 April to introduce emergency measures curbing the import of animal feeds from the US, following the discovery that the US has been illegally exporting Syngenta's banned GM maize Bt10 to Europe for the past four years. Each batch of imported corn from the US must now be certified free of Bt10.
+ US FACES MASSIVE ECONOMIC LOSSES
US economics officer Robert Cekuta has said that the US now faces "an enormous economic loss" as a result of the Bt10 contamination. A similar accident with genetic corn from Starlink cost the US economy over a billion dollars in 2001.
+ SYNGENTA FINED
Syngenta said it had been fined 375,000 dollars (292,000 euros) by US authorities over the unauthorised release of GM Bt10 corn in the US.
+ CRAIG SAMS ON TAVERNE'S MARCH OF UNREASON
Read a superb review of Lord Taverne's recently published book, The March of Unreason, at
If you are partial to blind faith, then buy 'The March of Unreason' by Dick Taverne. The chairman of the pro-GM lobby group, the Association of Sense about Science, exhibits the most touching belief in a God called Science.
Curiously, there is no reference in the book to the Scientific Method... If he had applied this to his own work, the book would never have been written. The most common mistake in applying the Scientific Method is the experimenter's own bias and Dick has that by the bucketful.
**Real scientist Margaret Cook rubbishes pseudo-scientist Taverne:
**Taverne trashed in Financial Times:
The Financial Times accuses Taverne (see previous item) of exhibiting his own brand of fundamentalism - "a naive and outdated scientism. His is a world in which science can do no wrong; in which research is untainted by vested interests, and companies such as Monsanto exist purely to feed the hungry":
+ GOODBYE BIRDBRAIN (no offence meant to feathered species)
Sir John Krebs has retired from the UK's Food Standards Agency. Even prior to his appointment as head of the FSA, Krebs was on record as saying that criticisms of GM food were "shrill, often ill-informed and dogma-driven". Some speculate that his support for GM may have been a factor in his being offered the top job at the FSA, particularly as his area of specialism has no connection with food safety - he's an expert on bird behaviour!
+ TANZANIA BLITZED BY US GM LOBBY
Intense lobbying is under way in Tanzania in an effort to secure a toe-hold for GM crops, with CS Prakash, Shanthu Shantharam, USAID and the US State Department all involved.
+ ISAAA EXAGGERATES GM PLANTINGS - AGAIN!
Research conducted by the African Centre for Biosafety says South Africa's commercial growing of GM maize, soya and cotton has been grossly exaggerated by the biotech industry for propaganda purposes.
South Africa has been presented as one of the big cultivators of GM crops but South Africa is actually an importer and not an exporter of these crops because its production is so limited. Meanwhile Monsanto is doing its best to take over South Africa's seed supply in terms of both GMOs and hybrids.
Behind the misleading hype is the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), an industry-backed lobby group that inflates the figures of GM plantings around the world to support the argument that GM crops are here to stay.
Despite South Africa's permissive GMO laws, Monsanto South Africa has estimated production of its GM maize (MON 810 and NK603) in South Africa to constitute no more than a total of 6-7% of the area under maize, less than the ISAAA's estimate of 15-20% during 2004.
+ ANTI-GM SENTIMENT ON THE RISE IN AFRICA
NGO Biowatch South Africa notes that anti-GM resistance is on the increase in Africa.
+ US BLACKMAILED ZAMBIA
Over a year after the controversy over Zambia's rejection of US GM food aid, US health secretary Tommy Thompson visited Zambia, where he criticised the rejection of the GMO food aid and linked future American assistance to Zambia in its fight against HIV/AIDS, to accepting GMO food aid.
+ PLANS SCRAPPED FOR GM PHARMA RICE IN BOOTHEEL
Beer giant Anheuser-Busch threatened to stop buying rice from growers in the Bootheel, Missouri if Ventria Bioscience went ahead with plans to plant GM pharmaceutical rice there. Ventria agreed to amend its application with the US Department of Agriculture to plant its rice at least 120 miles away from southeast Missouri's rice growing areas. Anheuser-Busch had expressed concern that the GM rice had not been declared safe for consumption and that it might have come into contact with conventional rice.
+ LANDMARK BILL GIVES FARMERS SAFETY NET FOR GM DAMAGES
In Sacramento, California, the Assembly Judiciary Committee has passed the Food Integrity and Farmer Protection Act, AB 984. Under this landmark legislation, California farmers, handlers and food processors will not have to suffer legal and financial liability caused by the inadvertent contamination of crops by GMOs.
+ BIOTECH INDUSTRY THREATS BACKFIRE IN VERMONT
The Vermont Senate has given nearly unanimous approval to a bill to make seed manufacturers liable for the impacts of GM crops.
Seed manufacturers who will reportedly not sell their products in Vermont if the bill passes may have been responsible for the nearly unanimous vote. Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, said, "I don't take well to threats from international companies that don't want to come into the state and compete on a level playing field. It's not acceptable."
+ AGRIBIZ TARGETS STATE LEGISLATORS TO PRE-EMPT LOCAL SEED LAWS
Legislators in eight US states have passed bills preventing counties, towns and cities from introducing legislation relating to agricultural seeds. These seed pre-emption bills are an orchestrated industry response to recent local actions on GMOs. For example, ballot initiatives in three California counties have prohibited the cultivation of GM crops, livestock, and other organisms, and nearly 100 New England towns have passed resolutions to limit GM crops.
+ US BIOTECH FIRM ON THE RUN - AGAIN!
Ventria Bioscience, the company that riled Bootheel farmers and beer giant Anheuser-Busch with a plan to grow pharmaceutical rice in Missouri, has given up on planting in the state this year and instead is aiming at North Carolina. This is the second time Ventria has been stopped from planting by local opposition - the first time, their GM pharma rice was stymied in California, forcing a move to the Monsanto state of Missouri.
The Grocery Manufacturers of America, whose members represent $500 billion in annual sales, says the government lacks a way to prevent contamination of food with synthetic proteins destined for drugs.
+ USDA LAUNCHES INITIATIVE TO FOSTER GM FRUIT 'N' VEG
Just in time for Monsanto's take-over of the fruit and vegetable seed giant Seminis, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which plays the part of both industry booster and regulator, has launched a public-private Specialty Crop Regulatory Initiative to help developers of GM fruits and vegetables "work their way through federal regulatory requirements into the marketplace."
USDA has concluded that the current regulatory framework is hindering development of GM fruit and veg. It says the new initiative will "help developers, obtain regulatory clearances, and work with consumer and stakeholder interests to foster market acceptance."
+ EPA TURNS TO NASA FOR REGULATORY TECHNO-FIX
The US's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has turned to NASA for technological help in order "to ensure appropriate management practices are used to avoid the development of resistance [to GM crops] in corn pest populations".
The Institute for Technology Development at NASA's Stennis Space Center is trying to generate sophisticated new imaging equipment to visually differentiate between GM and non-GM crops and so identify pest infestation conditions. It seems that this technology will be utilised via satellites to monitor GM crop cultivation and pinpoint problems the agency needs farmers to address.
At the same time that US EPA is having to resort to the US space programme for a sophisticated techno-fix to problems of GM crop management, the US administration and USAID are pushing the technology as appropriate to the developing world!
+ US: LAWSUITS OVER PESTICIDES ALLOWED
The makers of pesticides and weedkillers can be sued and forced to pay damages if their products cause harm, the Supreme Court ruled on 27 April, rejecting the view of the Bush administration. The 7-2 ruling permits lawsuits by farmers whose crops are damaged by pesticides, as well as suits by consumers who are hurt by bug sprays.
+ MILK FROM CLONED COWS SAFE, SAY CLONING SCIENTISTS
Cattle-cloning scientists at the University of Connecticut say milk and meat from cloned animals are safe for human consumption.
+ CONTAMINATION OF FOOD BY EXPERIMENTAL GM CROPS MAY BE "FOUND ACCEPTABLE"
The US government plans to routinely allow unapproved experimental GM proteins to contaminate US food crops and exports. The US Food and Drug Administration has issued draft guidelines which say that "intermittent, low levels of biotechnology-derived genes and gene products from such field tests could be found acceptable".
+ EPA GRUDGINGLY PULLS PLUG ON "CHEERS" STUDY
Stephen Johnson, Acting Administrator for the US Environmental Protection Agency, has announced the end of the CHEERS study, in which parents were paid to spray pesticides in the rooms occupied by their infant children under age 3. Johnson did not admit any ethical problems with the study.
+ COURTING ARMAGEDDON
There's an excellent if hair-raising article with the above title on the commondreams website (http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0414-21.htm) on how the Bush administration's bioweapons buildup affects us all.
+ ROUNDUP KILLS FROGS, MAY EXPLAIN GLOBAL DECLINE
A study has found that Roundup is extremely lethal to amphibians. The results may provide a key link to global amphibian declines. University of Pittsburgh assistant professor of biology Rick Relyea found that Roundup caused a 70 percent decline in amphibian biodiversity and an 86 percent decline in the total mass of tadpoles.
The paper, "The Impact of Insecticides and Herbicides on the Biodiversity and Productivity of Aquatic Communities", is published in the journal Ecological Applications.
In another study, a group of scientists led by Gilles-Eric Seralini from the University of Caen in France has found that human placental cells are very sensitive to Roundup at concentrations lower than the agricultural use. This, they suggest, could explain the high levels of premature births and miscarriages observed among women farmers in the US using glyphosate.
+ RACISM, FRAUD AND RETALIATION
Dr Ignacio Chapela, a microbial biologist at UC Berkeley, has sued the University of California, saying he was denied tenure because he criticized a multimillion-dollar research deal with a biotech company. The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, also claims Ignacio Chapela was discriminated against because he is of Mexican origin and that he has been a victim of a secret, unwritten rule of UC's tenure process - that professors shouldn't publicly criticize those giving lots of money to the university.
+ MONSANTO 'EDUCATES' BRAZIL'S CHILDREN - PROTEST!
Monsanto, supported by Brazil's Ministry of Culture, has developed a "social" project to take its doctrine into state-run schools. The company has announced a new partnership with a publishing house that plans to distribute educational materials on agriculture and the environment to a number of schools in the country. The project is presented as a programme of "social responsibility", but it surely aims to gain future consumers of GMOs.
+ UK: GBP3m SHORTFALL AT JOHN INNES CENTRE
Dozens of scientists at one of Britain's most prestigious laboratories face redundancy after a GBP3m hole was uncovered in its accounts. The John Innes centre in Norwich, a world leading research facility for plant and microbial science, blamed changes in European funding and increased costs.
Dr Ian Gibson, who is close to the JIC, has blamed its difficulties in obtaining funding on "the current public ill feeling over genetically modified crops" and the collapse of a multi-million pound deal with GM giant Syngenta.
The JIC's director, Chris Lamb, was warned time and again that putting so many of the institute's eggs in the GM basket was dangerous and futile, given the lack of a public mandate or a market for GM foods.
+ ORGANIC FARMING BETTER THAN GM FOR JOBS AND ECONOMY
"Organic farming has already created 150,000 jobs in Germany alone. A study by Ernst & Young showed that there are only 2,000 jobs in the sector of agricultural genetic engineering. And [the EU’s] clear-cut requirements - security, labeling, and traceability - have already created an economic advantage, especially in the export sector. Throughout the world, consumers are weary of genetically modified products. Producers know this. For many, abstaining from these products is already paying off."
- German consumer protection minister Renate Kuenast
MONTHLY REVIEW APRIL 2005
from Claire Robinson, editor