from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor

Dear all

We've a Christmas treat for you this week in the form of redoubtable Australian farmer Julie Newman KO'ing pro-GM lobbyist Roger Kalla in the arena of GM contamination and liability (AUSTRALASIA).

Another remarkable woman, Kenya's Nobel Prize-winning Wangari Mathai, is indignant over the way in which big business is managing to browbeat and bribe poor governments into embracing GMOs. She warns that far from ending hunger, GMOs will worsen food insecurity. And farmers in Kenya have been expressing their outrage over a government bill seeking to introduce GM crops. (AFRICA)

Another GMO has been blocked in Europe (EUROPE), partly on food safety grounds, and Californian dairies are thinking about going GM-free in the cause of market advantage (THE AMERICAS).

More good news from the States: Monsanto has had to set up a massive liability fund following the bankruptcy of its chemicals division, Solutia, leading to a share price drop. But - and here's the kicker - the fund doesn't cover most of the liabilities that drove Solutia into bankruptcy, which have yet to be quantified! You can imagine why Monsanto has only let this particular cat out of the bag when it's hoping everyone's enjoying a Christmas snooze. (COMPANY NEWS)

There are two important CAMPAIGNS OF THE WEEK. Please continue to support Dr Ignacio Chapela in his fight for tenure justice. Even if you've already protested to Berkeley's Chancellor over Ignacio Chapela's sacking, you'll want to take advantage of The Campaign's new multiple alert that takes in everyone from the President of Berkeley to Governor Arnie! And stop the US FDA legalizing contamination of our food with experimental GMOs.

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



Summaries of two documents providing background on the Mexican Senate's recent passing of what has been aptly termed the "Monsanto Law" - a biosafety bill offering more protection to multinationals than to Mexico's farmers and biodiversity - are at

These documents show how the legislation was watered down and excluded amendments put forward by a group of scientists and academics calling for a continued moratorium on the importation of GM maize.

The drafting of the legislation also paid lip service to public consultation while deliberately excluding any of the amendments to the legislation which were drawn up as a result of those consultation exercises.

This led to a collective resignation of the Consultation Board which was set up to investigate the issue of GMOs because their opinions were completely ignored. One participant said, "We are left with the farce of public consultation exercises which achieve nothing given that the results of all these heated debates are merely filed away."

Read Ignacio Chapela's open letter on Mexico's new law on biosafety at

Excerpt from summary of English translation of Chapela's letter:

The proposed legislation about to be passed by the Chamber of Representatives might well be re-titled: "The Law for Genetic Colonisation for the 21st Century" or "The Law for the Promotion and Gratification of the New Genetic Colonies". The legislation only succeeds in ensuring the interests of a tiny elite within Mexico which in turn represents the narrow interests of political and economic powers at home and abroad.

The implications of GM technology are profound and the effects of GMOs unpredictable. The government tells us that it knows of no damage caused by the release of transgenics, but this might well be a cause for alarm rather than complacency. No evidence exists simply because no attention has been paid to the obvious problems of genetic manipulation. Any research expressing reservations in respect of transgenics is routinely discredited. Those studies that purport to find no evidence of risks from transgenics are invariably funded by the industry itself.

Any opposition to the dogmatic principles of the science at the core of this legislation is stifled. The dangers of genetic contamination are barely mentioned. Similarly watered down is any attempt to enforce labelling and public information about transgenic products, and the legislation has effectively excluded public representation in the decision-making process.
Add your voice to the global protest over the treatment of Dr Chapela:

The National Farmers Union of Canada has presented its opposition to the Seed Sector Review completed in May this year. The NFU said, "The plan is to introduce legislation that will prevent farmers from being able to save seed and use it on their farms."

The seed review proposes the collection of royalties on farm-saved seed. The National Farmers Union says it also wants to compel farmers to buy corporate-produced seed by linking crop insurance premiums to the use of that seed.

An NFU representative said there is a link between forcing farmers to buy seed and genetic modification and that the biotech firms have been buying up the seed producers, adding, "Once they own all the seed companies, and once you have to buy [their seed], they're only going to give you what they want you to buy, which would be [genetically engineered."

California dairy farmers who plant GMOs on dairy ranches may be inadvertently downloading an economic virus that could damage the local industry's market position as a supplier of natural products, says an article for The market risks are so serious that members of one local dairy association say they will probably seek a ban on GMO planting by members.

The Humboldt Creamery cooperative - which incorporates about two-thirds of local dairies - will probably consider whether to ban GMO planting by its members because of the potential impacts on its market. The dairies that supply Rumiano and Loleta, although not a cooperative, may consider a ban as well.

Such a policy would follow the successful precedent set when the dairies and processors became rBST-free in the 1990s. Given the risks involved, enacting a collective ban on planting GMOs may be the best course for the industry to take.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a proposal on 24 November 2004 to allow experimental GM crops grown on 'test' sites to legally enter the food chain. The proposal is open for comment until 24 January 2005.

The FDA proposal came in response to a 2002 Bush administration initiative in the wake of widespread contamination of US food supplies and exports in 2000 with unauthorised Starlink GM corn, which continued to be detected in the US grain supply and in food shipments to Bolivia, Japan and South Korea as recently as autumn 2003.

FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford described the proposed policy as "a high priority for the Administration and the industry, to enhance public confidence, avoid product recalls, and provide an international model" for similar policies around the world.

The new policy sets out loose "safety assessment" guidelines under which a company may voluntarily consult with the FDA to have its experimental GM crop material deemed "acceptable" as a food contaminant.

The "safety assessment" consists of paperwork and two inadequate tests that the FDA estimates will take companies just 20 hours to complete; and does not include animal feeding trials or tests for unintended effects caused by genetic modification. This would then give biotech companies the legal cover to allow their experimental GM crops to enter the US food supply. The US biotechnology and grain industries are already calling on the US government to "vigorously promote global adoption" of this policy.

It is already virtually impossible to test for the presence of experimental GM food crops in foods imported from or processed in the US, because over two-thirds of US field trials of experimental GM crops involve one or more genes classified as confidential which therefore cannot be detected.



(See previous item for background)
Food imported to your country is at risk! The closing date for comments is 24 January 2005.
* Send in your comments to the FDA today - see
for a sample response
* Urge your government to object to the proposals
Friends of the Earth International Action Alert:

Tell the FDA that it needs to devise rules to stop contamination of the food supply with experimental GM traits, not find new ways to make it okay for companies to do so!

Submit your comments by 24 January 2005
Through the FDA website, (Docket ID "2004D-0369") at
Or send written comments, referencing Docket ID 2004D-0369 to: FDA Commissioner, Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane , Room 1061, Rockville , MD 20852

Even if you've already protested to Berkeley's Chancellor over Ignacio Chapela's sacking, you'll want to take advantage of The Campaign's multiple alert that takes in everyone from the President of Berkeley to Governor Arnie!

Please support Dr. Chapela by taking part in this important ACTION ALERT:

QUOTES from the recent Berkeley rally in support of Chapela:

"The [UC Berkeley] Budget Committee knows the chancellor wants to get his hands on that corporate loot...Chapela is exactly the kind of person we need around here. He has wisdom, and above all he has courage and integrity." - Joe Nielands, emeritus professor of biochemistry, who came to UC Berkeley in 1952

"If we lose Ignacio, diversity in the biological sciences will decrease by 50 percent. Isn't it a coincidence that Ignacio and I have wound up on the wrong side of the same corporation that was funding research here at the university?" - Professor Tyrone Hayes of the Department of Integrative Biology

"This case sends a clear message that faculty who challenge the dominant paradigm are not welcome, especially if they don't accept corporate funding." - Ethnic Studies Professor Carlos Munoz

"The university is egregiously violating its own rules. I hope this struggle continues." - Barbara Epstein, professor of history at UC Santa Cruz


Farmers in Kenya have expressed outrage over a government bill seeking to introduce GM crops. Representatives from 10 districts said they would support a Private Members' Motion seeking to outlaw GM crops instead.

The impact of GM food on the country's agriculture, farmers' livelihood, food security and human health," said the representatives of the Kenya Small-Scale Farmers' Forum, is a matter of serious concern. Speaking at a press conference in Nairobi, the farmers warned that patents on GM seeds alone threatened the future of agriculture, given that most small-scale farmers usually store their seeds for up to three years.

Kenya has been developed as a biotech industry bridgehead, having been targeted consistently by the biotech corporations and USAID since the days of the corrupt Moi adminstration.

African Nobel Peace Prize winner, environmentalist Wangari Mathai, who single-handedly built a Green Belt Movement in Kenya and spent 25 years helping reverse her tree-shorn country's chronic drought, picked up her Peace Prize just six days ago.

The environmentalist, who is using the Nobel Prize money to set up her own Foundation, says big business is managing to browbeat and bribe poor governments into embracing GMOs.

She is indignant: "In Africa we are told if we only embrace GMOs, we will have no hunger." But, she says, "People fear the control of seeds once they are patented and owned by multi-nationals. They will not be owned by the farmer. Just like trade, he who owns the seed, owns the trade. You would be food insecure."


As well as being part of the "Network of Concerned Farmers" - an Australia wide network of farmers concerned about the economic, environmental and social impacts of GM crops, Julie Newman is a conventional farmer and vice president of the Western Australian Farmers Grains Committee, and the WA representative on the Grains Council of Australia's Seeds Subcommittee. As such, she is not exactly a pin-up girl with the pro-GM lobby who seem to feel Julie is an unhelpful impediment to sprinkling their fairy bio-hype over Australia's farmers' representatives.

For lobbyists who like to present those concerned about GM as deranged pie-in-the-sky activists getting in the way of the self-interest of hard-working practical farmers keen to adopt the technology, having hard-working practical farmers like those in the Network of Concerned Farmers pointing out the hard-nosed economic shortcomings of adopting GM is little short of a nightmare.

Perhaps understandably, one Aussie pro-GMer recently told the press he thought the Network of Concerned Farmers needed to be wiped off the face of the earth!

Another keen GM promoter is Roger Kalla, director of Korn Technologies, a company that describes itself as "Innovators in ag-biotechnology".

Recently, GM WATCH has had the pleasure of being cc'ed on an exchange of e-mails between Roger Kalla and Julie Newman, and we have to report that Roger has not been getting the best of it. Here's one of Julie's choice responses:

Now Roger, you seem to be missing the point of the debate.

Firstly, a brief comment about
"As Julie and I both know the EU doesn't import any canola neither from Canada nor Australia five year out of six due to the oversupply of farm produce that the EU subsidies to farmers create. Apparently the future for farmers in Europe and UK in particular are to become 'free range' gardeners that are there to ensure the vistas are kept open for City folk to enjoy during their drives in the country side on the weekend."

EU is not just an opportune market, over the last 5 years they have amounted to 13% of our export volume (3rd largest export customer). If we went GM, we would lose at least 13% of our export market because it is too difficult and too expensive to market as GM-free. Why should those farmers that don't want to grow GM want to lose any markets? and your comment: "GM-FREE? DNA Technology to the rescue...." is a tad misguided but in the spirit of Christmas parties, I will share a joke with you on that one.

Farmers are not stupid, we know that the intention is to contaminate so that farmers and subsequently consumers do not have a choice to market as GM-free. You however, have to accept that we will not accept the economic loss associated with your aim. It is quite simple really Roger, you cause us economic harm and we will sue you. If you don't believe there is an economic problem associated with it, well it shouldn't worry you.

The reason they are having to pay premiums for GM-free from US is because of the expense of segregation and traceability. Farmers have market access to GM-free markets without the additional cost burden that will be imposed on the end-user. It is a huge marketing tool to maintain that status without the cost and risk involved. The NZ sausage maker learnt that US cannot produce GM-free despite all the precautions in the world.

If the pro-GM activists want to bring in GM, work out a way that it can be grown and contained without impacting negatively on anyone else.

You may approve of consuming GM foods but the majority do not and those that have looked in more detail at our regulatory process trust it far less. What are they testing for? The GM applicants provide the testing (e.g. Monsanto), the tests are checking if it will impact negatively on stock fed GM canola meal. The canola oil, which is the bit that consumers consume, is not even tested. Why? Because Monsanto presented data showing that the 10 people that were allergic to peanuts were not allergic to peanut oil and deduced that accordingly there is no DNA or protein in oil. How ridiculous to accept this deduction when it is known medically that around 10% of consumers allergic to peanuts are allergic to peanut oil. [GM WATCH comment: Monsanto's claim that there's no DNA or protein in oil, while convenient to the GM industry, is dubious. A UK GM testing lab representative told me that around 50% of soy oil samples tested by his lab contained enough DNA to test for GM content.]

So where is the rigorous, exhaustive, highly regulated etc. testing of these foods that will guarantee that consumers are safe? The OGTR replies that it is the same testing that has been undertaken on chemicals BUT chemicals are recallable, GM plants are not.
Why irreversibly contaminate the worlds food supply with a product that has already had adverse health reports? It is foolish and irresponsible and we do not want to be a part of it.

GM canola has not really progressed much in the last 10 years. Australian farmers are being offered old technology that has no performance value that cannot be achieved in non-GM. Why allow a donkey to enter the Melbourne Cup if its sole role is to kick the other horses?

Will we allow contamination of our product, loss of markets etc? No way... no hard feelings but if you try it, we will sue you for the damages. Cheers!
Regard, Julie

More of Julie KO'ing Kalla at


A majority of EU Environment Ministers on 20 December blocked the approval of a GM food from the biotech giant Monsanto. The European Commission asked Ministers to take a decision after Member State experts failed to reach an agreement in June.

The application was for the import of a GM oilseed rape, called GT73, that has been modified to resist Monsanto's own chemical herbicide. Reasons for the vote centred around two issues:

1. The food and feed safety of GT73 is still not resolved.

The official UK government advisors on GM foods and feeds, ACRE and ACAF, have said that they are not satisfied with the explanation that Monsanto has provided for the observed increased liver weight in rats fed GT73. They are not convinced by EFSA's assurance that GT73 ''is as safe as conventional oilseed rape for humans and animals, and in the context of the proposed uses, for the environment.'' ACAF says it can only draw such conclusion "on receipt of satisfactory data from a further rat-feeding study using 15 per cent oilseed rape meal."

2. Illegal seed spills of GT73 into the environment are likely to happen.

On 20 December the Environment Ministers of 19 European Union countries voted against approving a Monsanto GM crop despite the assurance of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that Monsanto's GT73 rape crop was "as safe as conventional oilseed rape for humans and animals, and in the context of the proposed uses, for the environment.''

The EFSA has adopted a firmer stance on the issue than even the official UK government advisors on GM foods and feeds, who have said that they are not satisfied with the explanation that Monsanto has provided for the observed increased liver weight in rats fed GT73.

There are very good reasons for concern about the EFSA and its assurances. There are scientists on the panel who have involvements with the biotech industry. Two have even appeared in promotional videos for the industry, while another has financial links, as Friends of the Earth Europe pointed out last month in a hard-hitting report on the EFSA and its dubious decision making on GMOs.

The head of the EFSA robustly denies any bias. According to an article at
Geoffrey Podger "branded the allegations 'unsubstantiated'" and those who made them as "quite mad"!

But how much confidence should the public have in Geoffrey Podger? When in October 2002 the Wall Street Journal broke the news that the board of the then new European Food Safety Authority was nominating the chief executive of the UK's Food Standards Agency as its first executive director, GM Watch warned the European Parliament to take a long hard look at Podger's nomination "given the dire record of the UK's Food Standards Agency, which was at the forefront of Britain's opposition to the EU's new labelling rules".

The UK's Food Standards Agency's disastrous start, not least on the GM front, was mostly blamed on its pro-GM Chair, Sir John Krebs, but some saw Podger as the one to watch.

The Food Commission's Food Magazine, for instance, reported how, "At one of the BSE consultation meetings open to the public, chairman Krebs frequently had to ask Podger to help him answer questions from the audience. During one of Podger's lengthy replies, Krebs actually raised his hand and said "Excuse me, Mr Chairman ..... oops, I'm the chair, aren't I?" Podger grinned broadly. Now Podger is tightening his grip on the agency."

Prof Philip James, who drew up the blueprint for the FSA, told the investigative journalist Andy Rowell, that two key decisions undermined the blueprint and the agency's independence. "When you look at the way the FSA was organised, they managed not to make the staff independent of the civil service which we'd identified as critical for establishing its independence," said James. In addition, "they appointed senior MAFF [Ministry of Agriculture] staff to the senior echelons of the agency, when I'd made it quite clear... that you needed to bring in outsiders."

According to Prof James, this then had the knock-on effect of alienating others involved in developing the FSA blueprint who "suddenly saw the final decisions' being 'controlled by MAFF' and so 'immediately asked for a transfer' out of the agency.

Podger came to the FSA as a full time civil servant and previously career bureaucrat at MAFF and the Department of Health. Having made an indelibly pro-GM mark on the FSA, "Dodgy Podger" now seems to be running true to type at the EFSA.

The Fair Price for GM Free Milk Alliance - a broad coalition of farming and food organizations - has met senior Sainsbury's supermarket chain representatives to demand policy changes to save small farms and sustainable agriculture in Britain. The alliance is calling for farmgate milk prices that will guarantee an income over the cost of production. In conjunction with this they are also demanding a date for the final phasing out of the use of GM animal feed in the production of all Sainsbury's milk.

Gerald Miles, representative for the 18000-member Farmers Union of Wales, said: "Farmers and the public are united in wanting supermarkets to support small farms and sustainable GM-free agriculture. Farmers want to give their animals safe GM-free feed. Neither can happen without fair farmgate prices."

The Fair Price for GM Free Milk Alliance includes Farmers for Action, the Farmers Union of Wales, The Small Farms Association, FARM, Small and Family Farmers Alliance, The Wholesome food Association, the Institute of Science in Society, Genetic Food Alert and the Genetic Engineering Network.

A total of 248 of the 1,209 municipalities in the northern Italian region of Piedmont have declared themselves free from GMOs, Italian farmers' association Coldiretti said on December 21, 2004.

The number of GMO-free municipalities in the province of Turin has reached 26. A total of 1,806 municipalities in Italy have so far chosen to declare their territories GMO-free. Fighting against transgenic crops are also 14 Italian regions (out of a total of 20 regions) and 27 provinces.


Parts of an article with the above title posted on AgBioView verge on the fantastical, not to say the nonsensical, e.g. "GMO fertilizers for the culturally important wagwag rice variety will be used to allow farmers to harvest even during the off-season" and "Another Filipino GMO is the cotton bollworm"!!

However, in other respects it conforms to the standard pattern of GM propaganda pieces, particularly in the developing world. We're told that if Bt corn acreage dramatically expands in the Philippines then the country will move from being a net importer to an exporter of the crop.

The Bt corn we are told generates higher yields, which improve farmers' incomes. "The experience of corn farmers since December 2002, when Bt corn was approved for cultivation in the country, was positive, with yields rising by 37 percent and profits zooming by 60 percent."

These are dramatic benefits and they contrast notably with US Dept of Agriculture findings which show that GM crops do not increase yield and may actually reduce yields and that Bt corn has had a negative economic impact on farms!

For an interview with GM WATCH's Jonathan Matthews telling how GM crops are hyped to poor farmers in the South, see

At a rice workshop in Kerala, India, 57 organisations from all parts of the country had an opportunity to listen to farmers and groups working on policy and came out with this declaration clearly saying no to pesticides, patents and GM, and a big yes for traditional and proven ecological farming.

The full Declaration from the "Indian Workshop on Rice" at Kumbalangi, December 9-11, 2004, is at

For more on the success of sustainable farming methods:
Genetic security in native seed-baskets
Keep away, Anjammas tell GM pushers


Monsanto has set aside a reserve of $285 million and began to quantify its liabilities in the year-old bankruptcy of corporate cousin Solutia Inc., which it set up to enable it to spin off its chemicals business.

The reserve will fund liabilities directly related to the chemical business of the old Monsanto - those incurred before that business was spun off as Solutia. It will pay for environmental cleanups as well as tort litigation aimed at old Monsanto operations.

However, ***the reserve won't cover liabilities that have yet to be quantified, but which make up a lion's share of the $1 billion in obligations that drove Solutia into [bankruptcy]***. Those include the cost of dealing with hazardous polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, that spread from former Monsanto plants into the communities of Sauget as well as Anniston, Ala.

Monsanto Chief Financial Officer Terry Crews told analysts, "Some things remain unclear. ... The ultimate resolution still lies with the (Bankruptcy) Court. It's possible that the reserve could have to be revised in the future."

The reserve will lead to an expected fiscal first-quarter net loss of 16 cents a share on a reported basis. Expenses from involvement in Solutia's bankruptcy will continue to be charged to each quarter's operations, Monsanto said.


Activists gathered at a UN conference on climate change in Buenos Aires, Argentina have challenged a 2003 decision to include GM trees in the "clean development mechanism" of the Kyoto Protocol that is supposed to mitigate carbon emissions.

Representatives from groups in Belgium, Uruguay, Chile, Finland and the United States argued on 16 December that GE trees threaten forests and communities. A day earlier, more than a dozen groups, social movements and NGOs from around the world met to plan an international campaign to ban the genetic engineering of trees around the world.

"Tree plantations in southern Chile are causing great environmental and social problems," said Lorena Ojeda, a scientist with the Mapuche people. "We are especially concerned about the heavy pollination of pine plantations in Chile. This pollen causes serious allergies and other health problems in people who breathe it. It also contaminates the water. If this pollen is from genetically engineered trees, it will cause even more serious problems."

According to Anne Petermann, co-director of he Global Justice Ecology Project in Burlington, VT, "Traits being engineered into trees include insect resistance, herbicide resistance, sterility and faster growth, among others. If these traits escape into native forests, which is virtually guaranteed, it will lead to the destruction and contamination of native forests, which will worsen global warming."

Other speakers criticizing the UN's promotion of GM trees represented the World Rainforest Movement, the UK-based group FERN, and the Union of Ecoforestry.

Do the UN flag and the Nike swoosh belong together? Secretary-General Kofi Annan thinks they might. Leaders of nearly 50 of the world's most powerful corporations met with him on July 26, 2000 to hail the dawn of a new relationship between the United Nations and big business.

A coalition of critics, including Greenpeace International and the Third World Network, denounces this Global Compact as threatening the integrity of the United Nations.

At the UN meeting, the leaders of corporations well known for running sweatshops, engendering environmental disaster and colluding in human rights violations sat at the table with Mr Annan. They agreed to adhere to and publicly promote the Global Compact's nine core principles of labor, environmental and human rights values.

Business will regulate itself, charting its progress by posting ''best practice'' case studies on the Global Compact Web site. But there will be no mechanism to make adherence to the compact's principles binding. Companies supporting the Global Compact include Aventis (since sold to Bayer), Bayer, BP, BASF, British American Tobacco, Dow, DuPont, GlaxoSmithKline, Nestle, Nike, Novartis, Rio Tinto, Roche, Shell, Unilever, etc.