from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor

Dear all:

With a failure to read current trends that is mind-boggling in its enormity, food giant Unilever is planning to market a low-fat ice cream derived via a GM process from a fish protein. Unilever believes that worries about obesity will overcome people's instinctive disgust at GM ... hmm, we'll see. (NEW GM-DERIVED FOOD)

Quite apart from the almost universal hostility to GM and the strong "yuk factor" of brown fish goop in our ice cream, Unilever evidently has not woken up to the growing mistrust among scientists, nutritionists and the public of the anti-fat-in-foods lobby. People are increasingly aware that it is not fat in itself that's harmful, but the wrong kinds of fats, and these are generally those produced by the processed foods industry.

In fact, our brains are mostly made of fat, but because of modern de-natured diets, most children today are seriously deficient in fats essential for brain development - which explains a lot about the problems they have.

In addition, there's the pollution factor that makes even natural fats potentially more toxic than they should be. Certain persistent toxins that are hard for the body to detoxify are fat-soluble and accumulate in fat, both in foods and the human body. These include heavy metals, dioxins and pesticides - pollutants spread around the environment by companies like, er, Unilever. It's a neat scam to make money out of creating a problem and then make even more money out of the oh so clever "solution".

Claire This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. /




The US Dept of Agriculture is accepting public comments between now and July 17, 2006 on a petition that would allow commercial growing and marketing of the first GM plum trees. If approved, this would remove all regulatory oversight of this GM variety, a virus-resistant plum tree known as the Honey Sweet Pox Potyvirus Resistant plum. This would open the door to GM varieties of many other related stone fruits, such as peaches, apricots, cherries and almonds, that are susceptible to the same virus. Ironically, this virus is not even found in the US today according to the USDA, and is certainly not a significant agricultural problem there.

The USDA admits that this GM plum will contaminate both organic and conventional non-GM plum orchards if it is approved. Since all commercial plum trees are cultivars that are relatively compatible within the same species, contamination via GM plum pollen carried by bees and other insects will infiltrate the plum orchards of organic and conventional growers. The proposed buffer zones between GM plums and other plums will not prevent genetic contamination from being spread by pollinating insects.

The one GM fruit tree that has previously been approved, a virus resistant Hawaiian papaya, has caused extensive contamination of organic, conventional and wild papaya orchards on most of the Hawaiian Islands in just a few years.

A new report by Greenpeace concludes that GM papaya introduced in Hawaii since 1998 has been a failure and the prospects for the industry are dim, thus contradicting claims of its success by the GM industry and other GM promoters.

Quoting from statistics from the US Department of Agriculture, the report says that a decade ago in 1995, the gross value of Hawaii's fresh papaya crop was over US$22 million but today, it has declined by more than half. In 1997, before ringspot virus-resistant GM papaya were sold, farmers received an average of $1.23 per kilogram. In 1998, that figure crashed to $0.89 when traditional buyers of Hawaiian papayas, such as Japan and Canada, rejected the GM fruit. As prices declined, so has production and the area cultivated over the years.

The failures in Hawaii are especially important because GM papaya is being heavily promoted in other countries, especially in Southeast Asia. It is hoped that lessons can be drawn from the Hawaiian experience so that history will not repeat itself in these countries.


A new report by the Vermont-based Institute for Social Ecology Biotechnology Project outlines evidence that US federal oversight is far from adequate to protect farmers and the public from potential consequences of GM technology.

The report addresses several key questions:
***Does the US government regulate GM crops?
***How does the US Dept of Agriculture's (USDA) oversight of GM crops in the field work?
***Is USDA oversight of GM crops adequate?
***How well do EPA and FDA address environmental and food safety concerns?

The report concludes that state and local jurisdictions should retain the power to address specific problems with GM crops that are not sufficiently addressed by federal regulators.

Full text of report:


Here are some excellent examples - from sources as diverse as, a newspaper in India and the journal Science - of how pro-GM lobbyists manage to pass themselves off as either independent experts, when they're not, or as a large body of scientific experts, when they're a smaller self-interested clique.

According to an article on a recent food industry conference on the global acceptance of GM food, the conference heard an interesting perspective from "a US scientist" on EU regulations governing GM food. According to this "US perspective", the EU is failing to base its policy on GM on "scientific evidence".

The "US scientist" providing the "US perspective" is identified as "Francis Smith from the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington DC". Presumably, this is Frances Smith, wife of Fred Smith, the founder of the CEI.

Frances Smith is a board member and adjunct fellow at CEI but she is not a scientist. According to her CEI profile, though, she was the founding editor of the Journal of Retail Banking!

PR Watch describes CEI as "a well-funded front for corporations" which uses its multi-million dollar budget to attack environmental, health and safety regulations. Among CEI's long list of known sponsors are Philip Morris, Pfizer, Dow Chemicals, Monsanto and Exxon.

CEI's aggressive campaign of Exxon-supported climate change scepticism is worth bearing in mind when reading Smith's insistence that policy needs to be based on "scientific evidence".

Smith also told her audience that in comparison to Europeans, US consumers tend to be a lot more accepting of GM. However, according to the US sociologist Thomas Hoban, who helped produce some of the most quoted US consumer surveys on GM, "Polls still show the vast majority of American consumers do not understand that they already have been eating genetically engineered foods. When they find out, they resent the fact that no one told them scientists were changing their food."

India's Deccan Herald reports a kind offer from Dr C S Prakash, director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University in the US and a member of the scientific advisory board of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH).

Dr Prakash is leading the charge of India's biotech and other experts based abroad who "have made a name for themselves globally," and who are now keen, it seems, to offer their expertise to the Indian state of Karnataka in order to assist the development of its agricultural sector.

All very kind - but if the author of this piece had explained to his readers exactly what the American Council on Science and Health was and exactly how Dr Prakash had made his name globally, it might have given them more insight into Dr Prakash's real expertise and his possible motivation for involvement in this initiative.

John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton of PR Watch call the ACSH an "industry front group that produces PR ammunition for the food processing and chemical industries". Monsanto, Dow and Dupont are amongst ACSH's funders, and Stauber and Rampton are hardly alone in charging ACSH with being an industry front. ACSH president and founder Elizabeth Whelan says: "I've been called a paid liar for industry so many times I've lost count."

Similar charges have been laid against CS Prakash over his pro-GM AgBioWorld campaign which has had proven links to Monsanto and its PR people. Prakash has also toured the world pushing GM for the US State Dept.

An article from the journal Science reports on the economist Jeremy Rifkin's recent paper on how the non-GM biotech approach of marker-assisted selection (MAS) is not only eclipsing the crude technology of GM but offers a way of moving the biotech debate forward. The snide Science piece, though, also reveals the difficulty in doing just that.

The article, in presenting criticisms of Rifkin and his position, frames the criticism with phrases such as:
"many in the scientific community"
"many scientists suspect"
"like many others"
"scientists and companies... disagree [with Rifkin]"

But when you look at who amongst the "many in the scientific community" the article quotes, you discover they're almost to a (wo)man ardent GM enthusiasts who come from a tightly knit clique of genetic engineers prone to propagandise for the technology.

We're talking about the likes of Roger Beachy, president of the Danforth Plant Science Center, which was established by Monsanto and academic partners with a $70-million pledge from the company. Monsanto also donated the Center's 40-acre tract of land valued at over $10 million. And Beachy gives them a great return on their investment.


The Andhra Pradesh government has filed a contempt application against the Indian subsidiary of Monsanto for violating the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission's order to reduce the price of Bt cotton seeds. Monsanto has only reduced the price minimally.

India has tabled a controversial Seeds Bill (2004) in Parliament that would allow foreign companies to be directly involved with small farmers. Large multinational corporations are now attracting Indian farmers through an aggressive extension network that promises seeds with bigger yields and better profits.

"This is an absolute no-no,'' says Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign. ''It overrides the farmer's rights clauses put into the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVP) of 2001. First let this Act be implemented and then bring in the seed bill."

The PVP Act authorises farmers to buy registered seeds with the option of saving and selling them, besides offering compensation for failed seed. The single biggest reason why the PVP has not been implemented, says Sahai, is corporate influence - and that is now pushing the seed bill.

According to campaigner Vandana Shiva, the new legislation has the potential of destroying forever India's vast biodiversity in seeds and crops, and taking away the independence of farmers.

Indian consumers may be eating GM foods without knowing it, since India's health ministry has not finalised labelling rules.

A round table organised in Hyderabad by city-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) said that the state government should reject Bt brinjal (aubergine/eggplant) as "it is not the need of farmers, does not benefit consumers and there is no crisis in brinjal production in the State."

The meeting noted that Bt brinjal as part of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) field trials was tested in the Acharya N.G. Ranga Agriculture University along with 10 other centres last year. "Worst" results were obtained in terms of several parameters, including yields.

M.S. Chari, agriculture scientist and former director of Central Tobacco Research Institute, observed that "there is no reason whatsoever why the state government or the Centre [central government] cannot promote other well-established and safer alternatives for pest management in brinjal".

Farmers may have to pay a heavy price for Bt brinjal seeds when they are approved for commercial cultivation. Seed company Mahyco has filed for patents rights over its event-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) involved in developing Bt brinjal.

Bt gene has been isolated and developed by Monsanto. The same gene has been employed by its Indian partner, Mahyco in developing Bt cotton and other GM crops like Bt brinjal in India. Mahyco has also transferred this technology to other Indian seed company, which are its sub-licencees.

According to an article in the Financial Express, regarding the planned introduction of GM Bt brinjal, NGOs and farmers' organisations have said Bt gene is a known toxin that impacts human and livestock health adversely: They cite reports of mortality of 10,000 sheep grazing over Bt cotton fields in Andhra Pradesh. Responding to this, the GEAC has decided to take up leaf toxicity studies.

Nutrition expert and toxicologist Arpad Pusztai says: "Studies have revealed that toxin form of Cry1Ac is potent antigen in mice, following gastric administration. Specific IgG and IgM antibodies and locally produced IgA and IgG antibodies to the toxin were detected. Several human cell cultures, including colonic epithelial and liver cells, demonstrated a number of cytotoxic reactions when exposed to Bt toxins and immunologic sensitisation of farm workers has been well documented. Accordingly, it would be unwise to use Bt toxin-containing foodstuffs for human or animal diet."

Norwegian scientist Marjt R Myhre and his team found the plant virus promoter (35S CaMV) used in Bt brinjal "active in human enterocyte-like cells." The NGOs in their representation to GEAC also cited several studies done by scientists at the Center for Genetic Engineering. They have begun lobbying ministers to convince them of their arguments. Aruna Rodrigues and others have filed a suit in the Supreme Court asking for a moratorium on approval of GM crops. The case is in progress.


A French court of appeal convicted 49 activists for destroying a crop of GM maize, quashing an earlier court ruling which found their actions were justified.

Jean-Emile Sanchez, a leading member of the Small Farmers' Confederation, was handed a two-month jail term, while the 48 others were given two-month suspended sentences.

State prosecutors had appealed after the activists - who attacked two fields of GM maize planted in France by Monsanto, in 2004 and 2005 - were cleared in December of charges of organised vandalism.

The judge had ruled they were justified in ripping out the crops because "the unbridled distribution of modified genes... constitutes a clear and present danger for the well-being of others". The initial verdict had been hailed by anti-GM activists as a major victory in their battle against the spread of GMOs.

Sanchez - who has been convicted twice before in similar cases - denounced Tuesday's ruling as "a political decision" and vowed to "continue our fight" for a moratorium on GMOs.

Friends of the Earth Europe has urged EU environment ministers to introduce stricter rules to protect the public and environment from GM foods and crops. Environment ministers discussed new proposals to improve the way that GM products are approved on 27 June.

Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe said, "The European Food Safety Authority ... ignores major safety concerns raised across Europe and appears to protect the biotech industry rather then the public. Environment ministers now have the perfect opportunity to take the lead and call for tougher safety standards to be imposed on the biotech industry. It is essential that member states set the standards and not the food safety authority."


Action by Churches Together (ACT) International - the global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide - has developed a new policy on GMOs.

It states that ACT members will in future follow the guideline of NOT buying any GM food with the resources administered by them.

Says John Nduna, director of ACT International, "As the debate continues on the harmful effects of GMOs, the ACT alliance could not just sit and watch from the sidelines without producing a policy to protect our food beneficiaries in emergencies."

The long list of ACT members active in humanitarian response is given at

It includes hundreds of organisations worldwide, including a number in the US.


Wall's is planning to use a protein isolated from fish blood to create the world's first ice creams using GM technology.

Its parent company, Unilever, claims the technique will allow it to develop low-calorie, low-fat ice creams. It could be used to create new versions of best-sellers such as Cornetto, Magnum and Carte D'Or.

But using GM technology may be at odds with a desire by consumers for a more natural 'real' food diet. However, Unilever believes the benefits of low-fat ice cream could outweigh any doubts about GM.

The blood protein originally comes from the eel-like ocean pout fish, which uses it to survive extreme cold at the bottom of the seas.

The protein has been chemically sythensised and can be grown in vast vats which produce a brownish liquid. This is added to the ice cream and lowers the temperature at which ice crystals form and the shape they take up. It is claimed a stiff and solid mixture can then be created by using less cream or fat.

An application to use the new technology, involving the GM process, has been lodged with the Food Standards Agency, which is inviting comment.

Unilever said the process has already been approved in the US and other parts of the world. It stresses that no GM material remains in the final product, rather the process used to create the protein involves a GM element.

But Friends of the Earth's Clare Oxborrow said: "At a time when more and more consumers want to choose unadulterated food, it's disappointing to see Unilever investing in this unnecessary development in overly processed food."

GM Watch comment: Unilever hopes to bypass fears about GM by claiming that no GM material is left in the final product. But this does not exclude the possibility that toxic or allergenic byproducts created in the GM process will be left in the final product.

Such byproducts cannot show up in tests unless the researcher knows in advance what they are looking for. Toxicological testing could show up potential problems - but this is not required by "regulators" anywhere in the world.

It was just such toxic byproducts of the GM process that contaminated the GM-produced l-tryptophan food supplement that killed and sickened many Americans.


Tasmania must maintain its freedom from GM or risk valuable agricultural exports, the primary industry minister has told a Budget estimates hearing.

Rowallan MLC Greg Hall asked minister David Llewellyn whether the state was considering a policy of coexistence between GM and traditional crops.

Mr Llewellyn said he could not support coexistence as it had major ramifications for Tasmania. "We are positioning Tasmania as GM-free and we don't want to fall in with those who would target less-than discerning buyers," Mr Llewellyn said this week.

"There is a push at a national level to move the issue on by saying coexistence policies should be adopted by each state. I don't believe it's a viable alternative. I don't want us to lose our competitive advantage."

Mr Llewellyn said the managing director of a major Japanese importer of Tasmanian products said if the state moved down the GM line, it would cut its ties with the state.


The World Bank is set to secure funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for two projects that will undermine public debate and aggressively drive GM crops into the heart of peasant agriculture, reports the NGO, GRAIN. The two projects, one in West Africa and the other in Latin America, will hasten the spread of GM crops into farmer seed systems and even into certain centres of origin.

The projects are clearly being driven by an outside agenda. At their core is a long-standing strategy pursued by the World Bank and the US government to harmonise regulations for GM crops across regions in order to override national processes that are more susceptible to local opposition. The idea is to establish favourable regulations in a few countries whose governments are open to GM crops and then to use these regulations as a model that can be imposed on neighbouring countries by way of regional policy bodies. In this way, harmonisation sidesteps democratic debate and provides corporations with a large, one-stop shop for their GM crops.

The GM lobby has a direct hand in the World Bank projects, as partners, advisors and even funders. Participants in the projects include CropLife - the main lobby arm of the GM corporations - as well as GM industry front groups like the Public Research and Regulation Initiative and AfricaBio.

In Latin America, the project focuses on five crops: cassava, cotton, maize, potato and rice. In West Africa, a project involving Bt cotton will secure US corporate control over West Africa's lucrative cotton production. The World Bank project plans to use field trials to develop a single uniform model for risk assessment and regulation that can be adopted throughout West Africa.


California biotech company Ceres Inc. has signed an agreement with the Ardmore, Oklahoma-based Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation to develop and commercialize GM switchgrass that can be used for ethanol production.

But not all are convinced of the potential of GM switchgrass as a crop for biofuels. Tadeusz W. Patzek, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, has studied bio-ethanol and other biofuels and said that monoculture plantations of switchgrass require large amounts of chemical fertilization and are likely to decline in yield and wither after four to five years.

"The reason is that you are following the model of our deadly fossil-fuel intensive and poison-rich agriculture, which is wreaking havoc with half of the US area and its waters and is costing thousands of people their lives," Patzek said in an email. "No amount of gene splicing will do the job, because you work against nature, not with it. Instead, you need to look at the prairie and mimic its rich diverse ecosystems full of perennial grasses and legumes."

With David Pimentel, a professor of entomology, systematics and ecology at Cornell University, Patzek has done research that concludes that too many fossil fuels are required to create ethanol from switchgrass and other crops.


Who's behind the proliferation of illegal GM seeds? Find out in the latest GM Watch podcast. The podcast looks at how GM scientists seem to be colluding with commercial interests regarding illegal Bt cotton in Brazil, and at how illegal proliferation is being used as a strategy to force GM crop approvals.

You can download GM Watch's latest podcast (no. 5) in a different way if you want an alternative to listening via iTunes.

Go to Biotech Indymedia and click on the download link on this page:

It'll take a couple of minutes to download and should then open up in whatever player/media software you have on your computer.

You can find all GM Watch's podcasts at Biotech Indymedia. Look under 'NEWSWIRE' on the home page:

If you have iTunes, then you can get any of all of the GM Watch podcasts via:

More information about downloading and listening to the GM Watch podcasts, and about how to install iTunes if you need to, is available at: