WEEKLY WATCH number 41
from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH guest editor
Welcome to WW41 bringing you all the latest news in brief on the GM issue.
This week's issue is a special on the results of the UK public debate on GM, which resulted in a smorgasbord of anti-GM articles from all sectors of the media. We've included excerpts from many of these. They make for an exhilarating read, as they show how hard it is to fool the public. One could almost feel proud to be British!
The GM lobby was thrown onto the back foot by the results, so much so that the best reply they could think of was claims such as that the more than million-member Women's Institute "hijacked" the debate, pointing to the "implacable" opposition of "middle-aged mothers"! The industry, of course, has considerable experience of fixing debates and discussions.
WW41 may be of particular interest to any friends or contacts finding it hard to keep up with all the breaking news, so please circulate widely.
PS Look out for the CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK showing solidarity with Brazil where Lula appears to have succumbed to U.S. pressure.
***WEEKLY WATCH 40 - CLARIFICATION***
An alert subscriber has pointed out that our summary DANISH WATER CONTAMINATED BY ROUNDUP, BAN IMPOSED may have misled readers into believing that glyphosate has been totally banned in Denmark. This is not so, as the archived article at
makes clear; there are many sorts of ban, and this ban is temporary and partial. From 15 September in Denmark, autumn spraying of glyphosates will be banned on sites where leaching is extensive because of heavy rain.
SETBACKS TO THE GM LOBBY
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
FACTS OF THE WEEK - all the latest problems with GM crops
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK
*CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK* - solidarity with Brazil
SETBACKS TO THE GM LOBBY
GM PUBLIC DEBATE GIVES PUBLIC RASPBERRY TO GM
The GM Nation? public debate in the UK found that just 2% of participants were happy to eat GM food. What is perhaps of more interest is the finding that the better informed participants were about GM, the more sceptical they became.
"The GM Debate has given the loudest public raspberry conceivable to GM technology" was the conclusion of an article in the Independent. The article was one of many covering the overwhelmingly negative reaction to GM revealed by the results of the UK public debate. Below we reproduce one comprehensive article in full, followed by excerpts from other pieces on the topic.
HOW TO READ THE REPORT
The findings of the public debate
Read the Executive summary
Download a PDF of the full report (266KB)
View supporting documents
GM CROPS? NO THANKS
Britain delivers overwhelming verdict after unprecedented public opinion exercise
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
The Independent, 25 September 2003
The title of the debate was "GM Nation?" But that is precisely what the British people do not want their country to be, according to the official report from the national consultation on genetically modified crops and food presented to the Government yesterday.
The unprecedented test of public opinion, which over six weeks this summer involved 675 public meetings and elicited more than 36,000 written responses, revealed a deep hostility to GM technology across the population.
Alongside fears that GM crops and food could be harmful to human health and the environment, the debate threw up widespread mistrust and suspicion of the motives of those taking decisions about GM - especially government and multi-national companies such as Monsanto.
On a whole series of questions GM-hostile majorities were enormous, with 85 per cent saying GM crops would benefit producers not ordinary people, 86 per cent saying they were unhappy with the idea of eating GM food, 91 per cent saying they thought GM had potential negative effects on the environment, and no fewer than 93 per cent of respondents saying they thought GM technology was driven more by the pursuit of profit than the public interest. Figures in support of GM were, by contrast, tiny.
Even special focus groups, deliberately selected from people who were uncommitted one way or another, to tease out the views of the "silent majority", and whose members were initially prepared to admit the technology might have benefits, opposed GM technology more the more they learnt about it, the report discloses.
The extent and the unequivocal nature of the hostility revealed by "GM Nation?" will represent a substantial political hurdle to those who wish to bring the technology to Britain as soon as possible - led by Tony Blair and his Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, and the giant American and European agribusiness companies such as Monsanto and Bayer.
Yesterday Mrs Beckett reaffirmed a promise that the Government would "listen" to the views the debate has highlighted and respond to them publicly, although she made no such pledge that it would take account of them in deciding its course of action.
But that was what the Government had to do, said green groups, the organic agriculture movement and others sceptical of the values of GM, who warmly welcomed the report. "The Government will ignore this report at its peril," said Pete Riley, the GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth. "The public has made it clear that it doesn't want GM food and it doesn't want GM crops. There must not be any more weasel words from the Government on this issue."
The umbrella body for the GM companies in Britain, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, rejected the report's findings, saying that "public meetings do not equal public opinion," although the ABC's chairman, Paul Rylott, had been a member of the debate steering group and issued no dissenting opinion in the report itself.
Criticising the debate's methodology, the ABC claimed that nearly 80 per cent of the debate response forms "can be clearly identified by cluster analysis as being orchestrated by campaigning groups". The chairman of the debate, Professor Malcolm Grant, rejected the accusation.
The report is indeed likely to be widely seen as reflecting public opinion, and Mrs Beckett herself legitimised it yesterday by saying it had been "a new way of engaging the public in the policy-making process."
The embarrassment that "GM Nation?" will cause to Mr Blair and his like-minded colleagues is all the greater in that it is the third such in as many months, after two other GM reports, both commissioned by ministers and published in July. One final report is now due before the Government decides whether to give the go-ahead to the commercial growth of GM crops in Britain.
This is on the farm-scale evaluations of GM crops, a four-year trial designed to see if the deadlier weedkillers used with them cause new harm to the environment. It is due to be published on 16 October and will be the crucial document in the debate, because the decision to go ahead is taken by the EU in Brussels, and the only way the Government can countermand it is by finding new evidence of harm to human health or the environment from GM technology - such as crop trials may provide.
The general mood, the report said, "ranged from caution to doubt, through suspicion and scepticism, to hostility and rejection." Professor Grant said: "I now look forward to the Government's responding to the points raised in the debate, and taking these into account in the future formulation of policy on GM."
GM Nation? By numbers
* 20,000 people attended 675 meetings across Britain
* The public sent in 1200 letters and e-mails
* The website received 2.9 million hits in just six weeks
* 70,000 feeback forms were downloaded; 36,557 were returned
* 93% of respondents believed GM technology was driven by profit rather than public interest
* 85% thought GM crops would benefit producers, rather than ordinary people
* 84% believed they would cause "unacceptable interference" with nature
* 54% never want to see GM crops grown in Britain
* 86% were unhappy with the idea of eating GM food
* 93% said too little was known about health effects
* 2% were happy with GM foods in all circumstances
BLAIR THE KEY AS DECISION NEARS OVER COMMERCIAL GM CROPS IN BRITAIN
Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
The Independent, 25 September 2003
... Ever since it dawned on people five years ago that this new form of super-intensive agriculture was coming, whether they liked it or not, they have on the whole been sceptical or hostile. And now this scepticism and hostility have been rubbed in the Government's face - through a public debate it endorsed and funded itself - in a way which will be politically very hard to ignore.
But the Government may yet try to. The decision on whether GM crops can be grown commercially here is due to be taken in the next few months. It has been put on hold for four years while extensive trials have been carried out on the four GM crops currently proposed for Britain.
The trials are designed to see if the super-powerful weedkillers which the GM crops are engineered to tolerate cause more harm to farmland wildlife than the weedkillers being used at the moment. If the trials show that they do, this will be the one chance the Government has of halting GM in Britain.
This is because the basic decision to authorise the crops is taken at a European level, and only new evidence of harm to human health or the environment can then be used to overrule the Brussels authorisation. The Farm Scale Evaluations (FSEs) as they are known, to be published on 16 October, will thus be the crucial piece of evidence on which a decision not to turn Britain into a GM nation could be based.
... The Government's political will is likely to be key, because if the trials admit of more than one interpretation - as they may - ministers can either retreat behind the argument that they are powerless in the face of an EU decision to authorise GM, or seek to derogate [deviate] from that decision in the EU Council of Ministers.
The fact that the GM Debate has given the loudest public raspberry conceivable to GM technology may well push them towards the second course of action.
MICHAEL MEACHER: ARE WE GOING TO SACRIFICE A GROWING MARKET FOR ORGANIC CROPS BY RISKING CONTAMINATION?
The Independent, 25 September 2003
The main advantages alleged for genetic modification are that it increases yields, reduces herbicide use and could feed the developing world. Unfortunately, all these claims are either strongly disputed or downright wrong.
Monsanto has declared that yields increase, but the experience of Canadian farmers, who were initially favourable to GM, has proved the opposite. In India, the GM cotton harvest collapsed because of bollworm infestation. On herbicide use, powerful chemical weedkillers still often have to be used three times - first to clear the ground, then as the crop begins to grow, and third as it matures. Cross-contamination has proved a nightmare, with oilseed rape pollen particularly promiscuous. And if world hunger is to be addressed, fair trade rules for the developing countries, a more equal distribution of land, and population management measures are vastly more important than GM, whose role is insignificant.
The disadvantages of GM are that it is an untested, and potentially risky, technology. The insertion of GM DNA and lack of control over the gene's functions could cause undesired effects not immediately apparent. That is why it is so serious that no systematic clinical testing has been carried out on the health impacts of GM foods. We do know that food allergies and food-related illnesses have doubled here and in North America over recent years, but the suspected connection with GM has not been tested. Equally, long-term impacts of GM on the environment have not been explored.
Other key disadvantages are that co-existence with organic crops is impossible. Organic oilseed rape has virtually been wiped out in Canada as a result of GM contamination. Do we want the same to happen here? We have a choice. Are we going to sacrifice organic crops, for which there is an expanding market, in order to license GM crops, for which there is no market?
People also want consumer choice. The Government says it is in favour. But people cannot choose GM-free food when the labelling rules proposed have a 0.9 per cent threshold, so you do not know if it is GM free.
ONLY 2% OF PUBLIC 'WOULD EAT GM FOOD'
Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor
London Times, 25 September
FOUR out of five people are opposed to genetically-modified crops and only 2 per cent would eat GM food, according to the first official test of public opinion. Nine out of ten people expressed fears when questioned about specific risks such as the long-term effects of GM food on human health and contamination of conventional and organic farms.
This rejection was accompanied by a message to Tony Blair that most people had a "profound mistrust" of the Government and thought that secret decisions had been made to go ahead with commercial GM planting.
Malcolm Grant, who led the national debate, said yesterday that this feeling of mistrust was fuelled by arguments over the Iraq war and the political future of Michael Meacher, who was removed this year from his job as Environment Minister and who is sceptical about GM technology.
5 TO 1 AGAINST GM CROPS IN BIGGEST EVER PUBLIC SURVEY
John Vidal and Ian Sample
September 25, 2003
The widest formal public debate ever conducted in Britain has found an overwhelming percentage of people uneasy, suspicious or outrightly hostile to the introduction of genetically modified crops in Britain. More than 650 public meetings were held around the country, and about 37,000 people responded to questionnaires, with 54% saying they never want to see GM crops grown in the UK. A further 18% said they would find the crops acceptable only if there was no risk of cross-contamination; 13% wanted more research.
In a clear message to government and supermarkets, only 2% of people said GM crops were acceptable "in any circumstances" and just 8% said they were happy to eat GM food. "Every single group was broadly negative in its feelings about every GM issue," said the report which found the numbers opposed to GM outweighed those who may support it by 5 to 1.
THEY REAP WHAT THEY SOW
Leader, The Guardian, Thursday September 25, 2003
In trying to find where hostility to the genetic modification of crops ends, the government has discovered an uncomfortable fact: there is no boundary to the public's antipathy. Instead, the results of the admirable national public debate show that not only are people deeply uneasy about GM technology, but that the more they find out about it, the more their opinions harden and the more intense become their concerns. The news will dismay GM's supporters, including many in government, who always thought that opinion could be turned around if the public was given enough decent information.
This view is quietly disappearing from the political radar. In fact, rather than supporting the case for GM crop cultivation, the government's own advisers have been steadily weakening it. Its science review of biotechnology in July expressed hitherto unspoken doubts about the environmental impact of transgenic crops and admitted substantial gaps in scientific knowledge remained.
UK GOVT POISED TO GIVE GO-AHEAD TO GM CROPS?
A report in the Sunday Times says even in the face of sky-high public opposition to GM, ministers are poised to approve the commercial growing of genetically modified crops in Britain, according to leaked cabinet papers. Confidential letters between senior ministers disclose that the government is to back new Brussels rules banning GM-free zones and allowing the "co-existence" of GM with conventional crops. The revelation comes ahead of the publication next month of long-awaited results of GM crop trials in Britain. The studies are expected to show that the growing of some GM crops could be allowed under regulated conditions.
Trade secretary Patricia Hewitt makes clear the reasons for this act of political suicide: "I agree that our interests are best served by giving broad support to the [EU] commission guidelines. We must also bear in mind the potential impact (on) EU-US relations." Earlier this year The Sunday Times revealed that [British] ministers wanted to kill off plans by Brussels to bring in a comprehensive regime for labelling GM foods because they fear "negative fallout" from Washington.
THREAT OF CIVIL UNREST OVER GM
Western Morning News, 25 September 2003
The Government faces a campaign of civil unrest if it ignores the public's official condemnation over the commercialisation of genetically modified crops, West country protesters warned last night. Road blocks, the pulling up of GM crops and mass demonstrations are all being threatened if ministers refuse to take heed of the nation's overwhelming "no" vote in the Government's official consultation exercise on the technology.
GREEN GLOVES PLEDGE
A pledge to pull up GM crops was launched as the results of the Government's public debate on genetic modification were announced in London. The Green Gloves Pledge, a pledge to peacefully remove GM crops or support those who do, was announced this morning with the delivery of a six and half foot green glove to Tony Blair at Downing Street bearing the question "Which part of No GM do you not understand?". A letter to the Prime Minister was also handed in.
Delivering the glove, Kathryn Tulip, one of the organisers of Green Gloves pledge said. "Once again Tony Blair looks set to ignore the overwhelming sentiment of the British people who do not want GM. The British people have clearly said no to GM again and again. Now we are underlining our resolve with a promise of action - either this government agrees to deliver a GM-free Britain or a nation of gardeners will put on their gloves and take that decision into their own hands. We are here to let him know that for every GM plant he allows to be planted there will be many pairs of hands willing to pull them up again."
The launch of the Green Gloves pledge to pull up GM crops comes as new leaked letters from Margaret Beckett suggest the Government is still intending to press ahead with GM crop commercialisation despite the clear public sentiment against GM expressed in the public debate.
WOMEN'S INSTITUTE ACCUSED OF HIJACKING DEBATE!!
In a desperate attempt to explain away the results of the public debate, the pro-GM journalist Andy Coghlan, writing in New Scientist magazine, suggested that the public debate was "hijacked" by the Women's Institute. "Websites run by groups opposed to GM crops, such as the National Federation of Women's Institutes, had urged members to attend meetings in force, for example. And the report identifies middle-aged mothers as displaying the most 'implacable' opposition."
For the WI's response, see
NATIONAL CONSUMER COUNCIL CRITIQUE OF THE WAY THE GOVERNMENT RAN THE PUBLIC DEBATE
GM SCIENTISTS FLEE THE UK (WE WISH)
An article in the Guardian reports an exodus of GM scientists from the UK because of hostile public attitudes to GM. This is great news for the UK's farming and economy, and will perhaps start to redirect the massive waste of public resources on this type of research.
We need research for UK and developing country farmers on approaches that are effective, have a public mandate and that develop products for which there is a market. GM crops totally fail on all these counts, so good riddance...
You can read more about the brain drain at the url below, although be warned that some of this is spin. It actually appears to boil down to 7 scientists - at least one of whom, Dick Flavell, left the UK some 5 years ago! But if it encourages others to go or to explore non-contentious areas of food biotechnology like marker assisted selection, then all well and good.
We reproduce below some excerpts from the article at
"The blow to the government [UK public debate results] comes as a Guardian investigation reveals a crisis looming in GM science in Britain. A stream of leading GM crop researchers have quit the country, while others are preparing leave in the next few months...
"...Britain's opposition to GM crops has already contributed to a near collapse of industrial crop research in this country. The past 20 years have seen the number of crop scientists employed by major companies decline by more than 60%, with the majority of the fall being since 1999. At least four big companies have closed their crop research facilities in Britain in the past three years.
"The only major multinational crop research centre left in the UK is Jealott's Hill, owned by the Swiss-based company Syngenta. Trials of GM plants there have been all but given up on because of anti-GM activists. Dave Lawrence, Syngenta's head of research and technology, said: 'In the last two years, we haven't been able to do a field trial in the UK because activists come and dig them up. The feeling in the scientific community is "Where did we go wrong?"'"
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
ROYAL SOCIETY REJECTS 'ANTI-GM' REPORT
The UK government's GM crop trials have been hit by a scientific row after the Royal Society refused to publish a crucial report on the tests. The results of the exhaustive farm-scale tests on three GM crops are due to be published by the Royal Society on 16 October.
The society has infuriated the scientists who ran the trials by rejecting one of their reports, which explains and summarises the complex results of the eight technical reports that it will be publishing next month. The row will reignite allegations that the Royal Society is biased in favour of GM foods.
A senior source familiar with the trials said this paper was the most important and accessible document of all. Michael Meacher, the former environment minister who originally set up the crop trials, said the refusal to publish the overview paper would "arouse suspicions" about the society's motives.
BRAZIL GIVES WAY ON GM SEED...
Brazil's Vice-President Jose Alencar has signed a provisional measure or decree allowing farmers to plant GM seeds. But environmental groups are expected to try and challenge the decree in the courts. Some Brazilian farmers have been illegally planting GM seeds for years, leading to heavy contamination of a soybean crop that has been marketed to the EU and Japan as non-GM.
The planting and sale of GM crops will only be permitted until the next season which begins in October. By the time this crop is harvested next year, the government hopes that the national congress will have passed a new law defining once and for all Brazil's policy on GM crops.
...BUT BRAZIL COURT RULING MAY BLOCK GM PLANTINGS
Two Brazilian court rulings may block the government from allowing the production of GM crops, O Globo reported, citing Judge Antonio Souza Prudente, author of the decisions. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva may even face impeachment if he allows the use of GM crops in defiance of the court rulings, Prudente said.
****SEE CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK****
GOLDEN RICE BUBBLE BURSTS
Even the BBC don't appear to believe in the Golden Rice myth any more. BBC enviro correspondent Alex Kirby has written a distinctly GM-sceptical article, which reveals that the genes which add paltry amounts of vitamin A to the GM rice are already present in rice. He quotes a scientist from the biotech company Syngenta as saying: "All the genes are present in rice. One could make a non-GM vitamin-A rice simply by studying those genes in a more focused way." Kirby adds, "Beyond that though, poorly-fed people are unlikely to be able to absorb beta-carotene [vit A precursor] even when they eat golden rice. To use it, they need a diverse diet, including green leafy vegetables." Nice to see the message getting through at last.
JUDGE ALLOWS ANTITRUST LAWSUIT
A federal judge let proceed an antitrust case that accused Monsanto and other seed giants of conspiring to control the world's market in GM crops. Rodney W. Sippel, a federal district judge in St. Louis, dismissed part of a class-action lawsuit that was filed in 1999 by a group of farmers who said they had suffered huge losses because of global opposition to GM crops. But Judge Sippel allowed the antitrust portion of the case to proceed, possibly setting the stage for a court battle over whether the world's biggest producers of agricultural seeds got together in the late 1990's to fix prices and control the market for GM seeds, now planted on more than 100 million acres worldwide.
NUFFIELD SHOULD READ GEGRASSI, SAYS VIDAL OF GUARDIAN
John Vidal writes in the Guardian that the Nuffield Council on Bioethics will soon update its 1999 report on the GM potential for developing countries, and is expected to be pretty much in favour again. But the authors should consider the work of Aaron deGrassi, a researcher at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.
DeGrassi has analysed three flagship GM projects in Africa - including Monsanto's GM cotton in South Africa, Syngenta's maize project in Kenya, and another Kenyan project with GM sweet potatoes involving Monsanto, the World Bank and USAid. The industry claims that all three are showcase successes for small farmers, but DeGrassi finds the benefits much lower than could be obtained with conventional breeding at a fraction of the investment in GM research. Details at:
ANOTHER REPORT RUBBISHES GM CROPS AS HELPING THE POOR
A report from the independent Food Ethics Council published on Tuesday (23 September) rubbishes arguments that GM foods are a moral crusade to feed the poor.
"The US government is playing the hunger card to breach EU opposition to GM crops," said Dr Tom MacMillan, the council's executive director.
The new report argues that the European Union should maintain a moratorium on GM crops until regulation is reformed to take public concerns more seriously.
Download the report: ENGINEERING NUTRITION: GM crops for global justice?
HOW WILL THE CARTAGENA BIOSAFETY PROTOCOL AFFECT THE SOUTH?
Read Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher's (director general of Ethiopia's Environmental Protection Authority and chief African negotiator at the Cartagena Protocol) take on this topic at
Among the points he makes are:
* GMOs, even when developed in the South, will be controlled by the foreign patent owners [largely in the North] of sub-cellular parts.
* TRIPs [the international agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] puts the burden of proof of innocence on the person accused of the infringement of a process patent. This could spell trouble when a GMO cross-pollinates with the unmodified crop of a smallholder farmer and his crop becomes contaminated by patented genes. Absurdly, the farmer is assumed to be a process patent infringer. The culprits - the wind and the insects - cannot be summoned to court as witnesses.
FACTS OF THE WEEK
From the Summary of the report by Dr Peter Wills, a theoretical biologist in the Department of Physics at the University of Auckland, on recent problems found with GM crops:
*Potatoes engineered to deter one pest have been found to attract another, demonstrating the virtual impossibility of taking account of all of the ecological consequences of making small changes in the biochemistry of an organism.
*In India, GE cotton under drought conditions has been a failure relative to non-GE cotton.
*Five years after authorities exempted the coat protein of the Papaya Ringspot Virus from restrictions on its production in GE fruit, new bioinformatic screening techniques show that it is a potential allergen.
*Roundup Ready soybeans contain DNA that its creators did not know they had introduced into it.
*A British study has reported GE material found in honey two miles away from GE crops.
*Traces of genetically modified grains, especially soybeans and corn, are repeatedly creeping into US wheat supplies. Similar problems are surfacing in Australia.
*A biotechnology firm failed to follow US government regulations for the containment of corn that had been engineered to produce a pig vaccine. As a precaution, 63 hectares of nearby corn were ordered destroyed, as were more than 17.5 million L of harvested soybeans.
*During UK farm trials of GE crops it was discovered that illegal GE canola had been mixed with other GE crops grown in 14 fields in England and Scotland.
*A study has shown that genes move reasonably readily from wheat to jointed goatgrass, a major weed in wheat-producing areas of western US.
*Weeds that have acquired resistance to more than one herbicide have been reported in Canada.
*Experimental studies confirm that genes passing from crops to weeds can persist for generations, rather than disappearing quickly due to the lack of any positive selective pressure.
*Commercial transgenes, or parts of them, have found their way into native maize in remote locations of Mexico despite a ban on their cultivation.
*A theoretical study of the effects of specific novel genes in crops shows how wild plants are threatened by gene flow from crops.
*The direct transfer of genes from bacteria to mammalian cells has been demonstrated.
*The natural trafficking of genes between chloroplasts and nuclei has been found to occur rapidly, scotching one of the methods proposed to contain plant transgenes.
*In the past seven years, several weed species have been found with Roundup resistance.
*Differences have been found in soil microbial communities around GE canola and conventional canola.
*It has been found that some Bt-resistant insects are actually able to digest and utililise the toxin protein, potentially increasing the fitness of resistant populations.
*At low toxin levels Bt-resistance is inherited in a codominant or weakly codominant rather than recessive fashion, making refugia potential liabilities rather than assets.
*According to US government figures nearly one-fifth of farmers in the midwest are ignoring federal rules concerning refugia.
*The Bt toxin exudes from the roots of plants and accumulates in soil, and retains insecticidal activity for at least 6 months, bound to particles in the soil.
*Bt corn, especially one that expresses toxin at high levels, appears to damage non-target monarch and black swallowtail caterpillars in the wild.
FACTS & FIGURES from The Independent, reproduced at
* GM crops were cultivated on 59 million hectares globally in 2002 with 99 per cent in four countries, the US (66 per cent), Argentina (23 per cent), Canada (6 per cent) and China (4 per cent).
* Three crops comprise 95 per cent of the land under GM cultivation: soybean (62 per cent), maize (21 per cent) and cotton (12 per cent).
* Products from the US biotech giant Monsanto account for more than 90 per cent of the total area planted with genetically engineered crops in the world in 2001.
* In 2000, a variety of GM maize called StarLink, designed by GM company Aventis as an animal feed and not allowed to be fed to humans, was found to have contaminated taco shells in the USA. Aventis had to buy the whole harvest in the US, at estimated cost of $100m.
* All of the GM oilseed rape trials by GM company Aventis in farm scale evaluations had been contaminated with an unapproved GM oilseed rape variety. The Government said it was a "serious breach of regulations" but allowed the crops to be harvested.
* In May 2000, conventional non-GM oilseed rape imported from Canada and sold in the UK, France, Germany and Sweden by seed company Advanta was found to be contaminated with GM oilseed rape.
* Commercialisation of GM oilseed rape and maize would increase costs of non-GM and organic farmers by up to 41 per cent.
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the GMWATCH archive
20/9/2003 Royal Society blocks GM report
20/9/2003 The real story behind the food crisis in Zambia
20/9/2003 THE WEEKLY WATCH number 40
21/9/2003 GM crops get the go-ahead
22/9/2003 Food Security, The WTO & GMOs - The Need for a Global Ethic & A Global Moratorium on GMOs
23/9/2003 Biotech "feeding the poor": PR on life and death
23/9/2003 Brazil court rulings may block biotech crops
23/9/2003 New Zealand should delay release of GM crops - survey
23/9/2003 Poor lose in GM power play
23/9/2003 Report slams US 'moral crusade'
23/9/2003 The Gloves are on! GM Pledge Throws Down The Green Gauntlet To
23/9/2003 When Northern Elephants Fight Over GMOs...
24/9/2003 'Mirage' of GM's golden promise
24/9/2003 Britain delivers overwhelming verdict - "the loudest public raspberry conceivable to GM technology"
24/9/2003 GM debate results due/Public still have no appetite for GM food/Conduct of UK's GM public Debate - National Consumer Council
24/9/2003 Invasion mounted at Brazils' ag ministry to protest GM soy
24/9/2003 Most Britons 'oppose GM crops'/Read the report
24/9/2003 New evidence of problems with use of GMOs
24/9/2003 Nuffield should read deGrassi/What relevance does GM have for poor farmers?
24/9/2003 UK public strongly rejects GM foods - public debate results
24/9/2003 Updated comments on The Newcastle Feeding Trial
25/9/2003 GM scientists flee UK as 5 to 1 oppose GM crops in biggest ever public survey
25/9/2003 Judge Allows Antitrust Case Against Seed Producers
25/9/2003 Potrykus comes to town/Only 2% would eat GM food/Food industry perspective on developments in NZ and UK
25/9/2003 Threat of civil unrest over GM/Papers say "GM? No thanks"/No limit to public hostility to GM
25/9/2003 WI response to claims they fixed the public debate
FOR THE COMPLETE GMWATCH ARCHIVE: http://www.gmwatch.org/archive.asp
CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK
The Campaign for a GM-Free Brazil asks for your help. Please, join them in a massive e-mail campaign to show Lula and his Ministers how serious the situation is. The proposed text and e-mail addresses follow. Please adapt and personalise as you wish.
Send emails to:
With copies to:
Rio de Janeiro, September 25, 2003
Mr. President of Brazil Luiz InÃ¡cio Lula da Silva
Mr. Vice-President José Alencar
and Ministers of State,
I request the immediate suspension of the planned sending of Provisory Measure to the National Congress for releasing GMOs in Brazil until this extremely important subject has been fully and widely discussed with all parties, just as it has been with the supporters of transgenics. This is only right in a supposedly democratic country.
I point out that there are no studies at all in any country that prove the safety of GMOs, both for the consumer health and for the environment, and that an eventual liberation would pose a serious threat to the food sovereignty of Brazilians and will damage the economy of this country, which has been achieving great success with its exportats precisely because of the fact that Brazil is widely recognized in the global market as a GM free country.
I reiterate that even the Brazilian Company of Agricultural Research (Embrapa) affirms, in a document published and widely distributed on 2nd September that: Embrapa is conscious that practically no conclusive research exists on the risks to consumers' health, as well as on the current risks of releasing GMOs into the environment, which should be studied on a case by case basis.
I wish to express my confidence that your government will not betray the commitments made during your successful election campaign when in your government´s program you assured people, on four occasions, of your commitment to deal with the issue of GMOs by making use of the precautionary principle, which provides a scientific and internationally recognised means of approaching the safe introdcution of new technologies.
To subscribe to the 'GMW daily' list
'subscribe GMW daily'
You'll receive up to 30 mails a week
To subscribe to the 'WEEKLY WATCH'
'subscribe WEEKLY WATCH'
You'll receive 1 mail a week with a news roundup
Those subscribed to the daily list will receive the WEEKLY WATCH
To subscribe to 'GMWATCH' (monthly)
You'll receive 1 mail a month with a news roundup
Those subscribed to the daily bulletins and WEEKLY WATCH will receive
To unsubscribe to any of the these lists:
just mail us saying 'unsubscribe' and specifying which list
Donations made out to 'NGIN':
NGIN, 26 Pottergate, Norwich, NR2 1DX, United Kingdom