MONTHLY REVIEW No. 27
from Claire Robinson, editor
+ SWISS BACK GM MORATORIUM
Switzerland has voted in favour of a 5-year moratorium for commercial cultivation of GM plants and animals on 27 November. Campaigners hailed the vote as "a spectacular victory".
+ POLAND'S PRIME MINISTER PLEDGES TO KEEP COUNTRY GM-FREE
The new Polish Prime Minister has pledged to the Polish Parliament that he will keep Poland GM-free.
+ BOVE, FRENCH MEP & OTHERS JAILED FOR DESTROYING GM CROPS
French farmer Jose Bove has been sentenced to four months in prison for destroying a field of GM corn. A Green Party lawmaker and a French member of the European Parliament, both received three-month sentences.
+ MONSANTO SEIZES TRADE UNION BANK ACCOUNT
Monsanto has seized the bank accounts of France's second largest agriculture trade union. Confederation Paysanne is calling for increased resistance to the multinational and financial support.
+ GM CROPS A FLOP IN THE USA
On a tour of Australia, US agronomist Dr Charles Benbrook is advising Australian farmers and policy makers not to follow North America down the biotech cul-de-sac.
"Across the southeastern US, where soybean and cotton farmers have relied almost exclusively on GM technology for several years, the system is on the brink of collapse, the volume of herbicides used is setting new records and farmers' profit margins are shrinking," Benbrook warns.
+ GM CROP SCRAPPED AS MICE MADE ILL
In Australia, CSIRO scientists have abandoned a decade-long GM crop project in its last stages of research after learning that peas modified to resist insects had caused inflammation in the lung tissues of mice. Their findings have sparked calls for better regulation and testiung of GM crops.
Abstract of the study:
+ U.S. "BRIBED SCIENTISTS" AT KENYA AG RESEARCH INSTITUTE CLAIM
The chairman of the NGO Africa Nature Stream, Masoa Muindi, has claimed that the US bribed scientists at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to protect multinational biotechnology companies and help deliver GMO seeds to Kenyan farmers.
+ U.S. ENVOY URGES VATICAN ON GM CROPS
The new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Rooney, has urged the Vatican to promote the potential of biotech crops, saying there was a "moral imperative" to investigate the possible benefits of agricultural technology to feed the world's hungry.
+ DENMARK TO TAX FARMERS OF GM CROPS
The European Commission has authorised Denmark to tax farmers who grow GM crops. The money collected will be used to compensate organic or conventional farmers who can't sell produce at its usual price because of contamination from a GM farm nearby.
+ A DISASTER CALLED BT COTTON - TIMES OF INDIA
The Times of India has published a useful summary by Suman Sahai of the Bt cotton debacle. Here's an excerpt: "Two days ago the government admitted for the first time that Bt cotton had indeed failed in parts of India. The Agriculture Minister conceded in the Rajya Sabha that Bt cotton had failed in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. He asked state governments in all cotton growing regions to institute an enquiry into the quality of seeds available to farmers and the spread of spurious seeds. At the same time, in Madhya Pradesh, the Governor has asked the state government to find out the causes of the failure of Bt cotton and called for compensation to farmers. The Mahyco-Monsanto and Rasi varieties of Bt cotton have reportedly failed in large parts of Madhya Pradesh causing serious losses to farmers. A report from Nimad district in Madhya Pradesh states that Bt cotton is causing allergic reactions in those coming into contact with it and cattle have perished near Bt cotton fields in another district."
+ POLISH FARMER AVOIDS PRISON OVER GM PROTEST
Marian Zagorny, the Polish farmer who faced prison for attempting to block illegal shipments of GM grain and the introduction of GMOs will not be prosecuted. The court agreed that his and his organization's actions were done to protect Polish agriculture and the health of society and were not a criminal action. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5925
+ GERMAN ELECTION PUTS BIOTECH LAW UNDER PRESSURE
Following the general election in Germany, the new German government is apparently planning to repeal strict liability for GMO contamination. But its plans may contravene both German and European law.
+ SPANISH FARMER LOSES ORGANIC CORN TO GM POLLUTION
A front page article in the Wall Street Journal reports on the problems of GM contamination and the plight of the Spanish farmer, Felix Ballarin, who laboured for 15 years to produce an organic red corn, only to have to discard his project when the corn fell victim to GM pollution.
+ MONSANTO, SYNGENTA STILL INVOLVED IN CHILD LABOUR
A new report written by Indian researcher, Dr. Davuluri Venkateswarlu, and the British agricultural economist, Lucia da Corta from Oxford University, reveals that companies including Bayer, Monsanto and Syngenta are still "responsible for large-scale child (bonded) labour and for evading India's minimum wage laws."
+ IRRESISTIBLE RISE OF TONY'S CRONY
In Britain, another scandal has broken around Lord Drayson, the former head of the BioIndustry Association and the widely tipped successor to Lord Sainsbury as Tony Blair's Science Minister. A BBC's programme has revealed that his biotech company, PowderJect, sold faulty TB vaccines and kept quiet about it for 21 months, risking the health of thousands of people.
+ SUPPLIERS TURN SOUR ON GM MILK-BOOSTER DRUG
A leading dairy processors’ organisation in South Africa, Sampro, has applied for the deregistration of the GM growth hormone rBST, also known as "crack for cows", after a South African newspaper published an article which exposed the link between the use of rBST and cancer.
+ INDEPENDENT TESTS ON GM CANOLA
Genetically modified canola varieties Roundup Ready and Invigor are likely to be assessed under an animal feeding trial to be funded by the Australian state government. Topas 19/2, the Bayer variety found in non-GM canola recently, may also be added to the trial. The study will examine the rats for cancerous or precancerous growths, and assess the potential for GM DNA to enter their bodies. This may be the first time independent health testing on a GM product has been funded in this way since the British government (via the Scottish Office) funded Dr Pusztai's research.
+ THE 35S CaMV PROMOTER IS ACTIVE IN SOME HUMAN INTESTINAL CELLS
The 35S CaMV promoter, used in most currently available GM crops, is active in some human intestinal cells, according to new research.
+ DISAPPOINTING BIOTECH
From British Medical Journal 331:895-897, October 15, 2005:
We assessed the biotech medicines approved by the European Medicine Evaluation Agency from 1995 to 2003.
*Only a small proportion are therapeutically innovative.
*Most new products were variations on existing drugs.
*Evaluation of these substances was not always based on rigorous methodological criteria.
*The promises of good tolerability of biotechnology substances have not been met - most are no less toxic than conventional drugs.
*”¦biotechnology drugs ”¦ are generally more expensive....
+ CALIFORNIA: SONOMA GM BAN REJECTED
A proposed ban on planting or cultivating GM crops was rejected by Sonoma County voters. Part of the problem seems to be the poor understanding of corporate capture in the US. If the biotech industry hides behind the farm bureau, or the FDA, it seems they can get their message accepted - see below.
+ CLONED MEAT FINE IF FDA SAYS SO
Two-thirds of US consumers said they would either buy or consider buying meat and milk made from cloned animals if the FDA declared cloning safe.
+ RUMMY'S BIRD FLU BONANZA
Think the US administration is violently opposed to the spirit of precaution? Not when it favours major corporate interests, it isn't.
President Bush has called on Congress for US$7.1 billion in emergency funding to prepare for a not-imminent, not-pandemic danger, avian flu. Prominent among his list of emergency measures was a call for Congress to appropriate another $1 billion for Tamiflu.
Tamiflu was developed and patented in 1996 by a California biotech firm, Gilead Sciences Inc. In 1997, before he became Pentagon chief, Donald Rumsfeld was named chairman of the board of Gilead.
Rumsfeld holds a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million. In the past six months, the global rush to buy Tamiflu has sent Gilead's stock from $35 to $47 - amounting to a windfall of at least $1 million for Rumsfeld.
President Bush is writing protections for such companies into the bill that some say would make it extremely difficult for those harmed by such a medicine to get any financial compensation. Reports coming out of Japan suggest 12 children's deaths there may have been caused by Tamiflu.
+ ZAMBIA HOLDS FIRM TO GM BAN
The Zambian government has said it remains committed to rejecting GM foods.
+ REUTERS CORRECTS REPORTING OF GM LOBBY
Reuters, the influential news agency, has made important corrections to an article on GMOs in Africa, following a complaint from SpinWatch, a public interest organisation that monitors PR and spin.
The article as republished by Reuters makes clear that the views that are described are not those of a neutral expert but those of a "GMO advocate" who "promotes biotechnology". It also no longer describes the lobby group Africa Harvest as a "non-governmental organisation" and it makes plain the organisation's collaboration with a subsidary of the American GM giant DuPont.
+ MOVE TO LIFT BAN ON GM CROP TRIALS IN THAILAND
Thailand’s agriculture department plans to ask the cabinet to lift the ban on field trials of GM crops.
+ GMOs, BIOFUELS AND THE THIRD WORLD
The GM lobby is exploiting the current energy crisis to push biofuels grown from GM crops, reports Resistance Bulletin. President Lula of Brazil has declared GM soya to be used for biofuels and non-GM soya for human consumption. Argentina is also advancing plans to transform GM soya into biodiesel.
Third World Countries are expected to play an important role: they will provide the land, cheap labour and will absorb all environmental effects caused by large biofuel plantations.
+ GM MCSWEENEY BITES THE DUST
Biochemist Barry McSweeney, Ireland's first government science advisor, was forced to leave the job because of a fake PhD. McSweeney, who at one time headed BioResearch Ireland which aimed to develop Irish biotech companies, had previously attempted to suppress the publication of a report on the feasibility of introducing GM crops in EU member states.
The study concluded that GM crops inevitably contaminate conventional and organic crops and may cause 40% higher production costs for EU farmers. Mr McSweeney recommended that the report should not be made public.
+ THE BIOWEAPON IS IN THE POST
From New Scientist:
Armed with a fake email address, a would-be bioterrorist could probably order the building blocks of a deadly biological weapon online, and receive them by post within weeks.
+ PAYING THE PRICE OF BT COTTON
Bt cotton has come with a huge price tag attached, reports an article in the Hindustan Times.
+ BAN MONSANTO CALL BY INDIAN FARMERS
Bt cotton in Nirmar region in western Madhya Pradesh has suffered partial or complete wilting causing a major financial loss, the affected farmers report.
+ INDIAN GOVT ADMITS FAILURE OF BT COTTON
The Indian government has for the first time conceded the failure of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. And the governor of Madhya Pradesh, Balram Jakhar, has asked the state government to find out the reasons of failure of Bt cotton
+ NEW REPORT ON BT COTTON PROBLEMS IN ANDHRA PRADESH
A report on some of the severe problems with Bt cotton being found in Andhra Pradesh is at: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5918
+ TAMIL NADU BT COTTON SEEDS FAIL TO GERMINATE
Up to 75 per cent of the Bt cotton seeds in over a third of the area sown in two districts of Tamil Nadu apparently failed to germinate.
+ MORE REPORTS ON BT COTTON PROBLEMS
+ FARMERS GROUP CONDEMNS AGGRESSIVE MARKETING OF BT
India's National Commission on Farmers (NCF) has criticised seed companies for their "aggressive advertisement" of Bt cotton.
+ GREENPEACE FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST MONSANTO'S "MISLEADING" AD
Greenpeace has filed a complaint with the ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) against an ad campaign by GM seeds company Mahyco-Monsanto, alleging it to be misleading.
The ad showed a farmer standing in front of a tractor. The message conveyed to other farmers was that if a farmer sows Bt cotton, he will be able to afford assets such as a tractor, lorry, etc. But the NGOs claim to have interviewed the farmer and learnt that he was approached by a company representative and told that if he registered for a contest, he might win a ticket to Mumbai. He was asked to pose for a photograph in front of a tractor, which he had purchased on a loan, and was not informed what his photograph would be used for.
+ NEW MONSANTO WEBSITE WITH FARMERS PUNTING GM CROPS
A new website, "Conversations about Plant Biotechnology" at www.monsanto.com/biotech-gmo, features farmers discussing the benefits that biotech crops have had on their farms, families, communities and the environment. GM Watch hasdrawn attention to Monsanto's long history of manufacturing farmer support and making fake claims.
+ TERMINATOR BANNED IN INDIA
Farmers have hailed the government's decision to notify the Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers' Rights (PVP&FR) Act, 2001. The Act allows farmers to save and exchange seeds for use in the next crop season. The Act has also banned registration of seeds containing terminator technology.
+ INDIAN FARM RESEARCH SECTOR OPENED TO U.S. COMPANIES
India has opened its public sector agriculture research sector to US private companies, including posible areas for joint research using biotechnology.
+ U.S. ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF WEST AFRICA COTTON IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM
On November 10, US Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and US Trade Representative Rob Portman announced the launch of the West Africa Cotton Improvement Program (WACIP) aimed at the cotton sectors of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Senegal.
Almost at the very bottom of the US State Dept press release announcing the program, it mentions that the program aims to "Improve the enabling environment for agricultural biotechnology".
+ CANADIAN FARMERS GET $1.2 BILLION PROP
The Canadian Government has announced federal assistance aimed at propping up Canada's grains and oilseeds producers - including producers of soya and canola - to the tune of $1.2 billion. According to a Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) economic study of GM crops, "the US share of the EU's maize imports has fallen to virtually zero (from around 2/3 in the mid-1990s), as has Canada's share of EU canola imports (from 54% in the mid-1990s). GM-adopting countries have lost market share to GM-free suppliers".