from Claire Robinson, editor
Our main focus this week is again on Africa and particularly South Africa, a land where GM industry insiders are also the regulators (FOCUS ON AFRICA)! As Africa seems to be the only place where the industry is still expanding, let's hope they take warning from China, where confirmation has emerged of growing problems of pest resistance to Bt crops (HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - GLOBAL).
Outside of dumping the technology on Africa, almost the industry's last hope is the US-led World Trade Organisation case against the European Union. Three WTO judges met in secret this week and a ruling is expected by October. Friends of the Earth Europe last week delivered more than 100,000 signatures objecting to the WTO's involvement given that the organisation is "secretive, undemocratic and unfit to serve in the interests of the general public".
Meanwhile, the industry meltdown continues apace, with Bayer following Monsanto in withdrawing from Australian GM canola trials. We also have a fascinating story of the possible death of Monsanto's GM bovine growth hormone amid revelations of bacterial contamination, forced into the open under the US Freedom of Information Act (HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - GLOBAL).
And right now protesters are preparing counter events to the big Biotechnology Industry Organisation bash in San Francisco next week (June 6-9). They aim to "dazzle the forces of corporate globalization with streets full of resistance and vision!" Plans include shutting down the BIO2004 meeting on Tuesday, June 8th, in protest at corporate power gone awry and in solidarity with the G8 demonstrations. http://reclaimthecommons.net/
Finally, don't miss our new LobbyWatch website - www.lobbywatch.org - which exposes industry-generated lies and spin. It's specifically designed for those campaigning on issues other than GM.
LobbyWatch aims to help to create a united front against deceptive PR, and the links section of the website not only connects you to a wealth of other sources of information, but to sites which will help campaigners mount their own investigations.
Check it out and please tell all your friends and contacts about it. For more details see the LOBBYWATCH section below.
FOCUS ON AFRICA
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - GLOBAL
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - UK
CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK - URGENT!
THE REST OF THE MONTH'S TOP STORIES
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK
FOCUS ON AFRICA
+ REGULATORY CAPTURE IN SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa provides one of the worst examples anywhere in the world of regulatory capture. As one South African critic recently put it, "In the UK you have the likes of Lord Dick Taverne and Sense about Science and they are a bit of a nuisance, but in South Africa we have their equivalent actually running the show!"
The profile below of pro-GM lobbyist Muffy Koch gives a sense of the extraordinary conflicts of interest within the South African system. This is a country where a lobbyist and her private company appear to be getting paid to help guide GM crops through a regulatory system of which she herself is a part.
Koch's story also reveals how South Africa is being used as biotech's gateway to Africa. In particular, we are seeing a wholesale attempt to export South Africa's biosafety regime to the rest of the continent. Yet this is a system that has been described by environmental and development lawyers in South Africa as displaying a "cynical disregard" for contemporary international and national environmental principles, as well as for the development imperatives of South Africa.
As part of this process of "South Africanisation", Muffy Koch is being paid by international bodies to contribute to the development of "biosafety" systems in different parts of Africa, while at the same time playing a leading role in a controversial lobby group that's fighting tooth and nail for GM crops.
Muffy Koch's story is one of African sovereignty and biosafety under carefully crafted attack. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3633
For a GMWATCH profile of Muffy Koch: http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=271&page=K
For a GMWATCH profile of AfricaBio, of which Muffy Koch is a member: http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=170&page=A
+ US TO GIVE US$2.1 MILLION FOR NIGERIAN BIOTECH
US Agency for International Development (USAID) has said it plans to invest US$2.1 million in biotechnology for Nigeria over the next three years. USAID is targeting African countries and trying to lock them into following South Africa's weak biosafety regime.
A press article makes the US agenda clear (our emphasis): "The USAID assistance... coincided with the opening of discussions between Nigeria and South Africa on the formulation of a model biosafety law, which **other African countries can emulate**."
Note that the $2.1 million, as well as being used for GM crop research, is to "improve implementation of biosafety regulations, and enhance public knowledge and acceptance of biotechnology". http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3630 For a GMWATCH profile of USAID see http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=165&page=U
+ MUSEVENI FINALLY GIVES IN TO GM FOOD PRODUCTION
Uganda's President Museveni has announced that he is convinced of the logic of GM crops and is poised to begin production. Museveni suddenly started being more positive about GM following private discussions with George Bush. The following article suggests a possible explanation:
EXCERPT: Some critics wonder whether there are other issues at stake behind Uganda's newly found enthusiasm for GM crops. Some are questioning whether Ugandan support for GM is part of a range of measures agreed between Kampala and Washington following President Museveni's visit to the American capital earlier this year.
One of the issues likely to have been discussed there, aside from the ongoing issue of terrorism, is the debate surrounding whether or not the constitution could be changed to allow Uganda's leader to try for a third term in office.
..... Mr [Martin] Kimani [of the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences] argued that in Kenya, it would be better to use resources currently being devoted to developing GM crops into organic methods of agriculture and integrated pest management to address the issue of food security. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3629
+ KENYA'S GM MAIZE USEFUL ONLY AS PR
A program set up in Kenya to develop a GM maize resistant to attack by the stem borer pest has come in for trenchant criticism from Aaron deGrassi of the Institute of Development Studies.
The Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project is being jointly implemented by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), which is funded by Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.
According to a report by Aaron deGrassi of the Institute of Development Studies, the Syngenta Foundation's activities have much more to do with PR than with delivering real benefits to poor farmers.
"The Syngenta Foundation," he writes, "has a poor record of supporting client-driven public agricultural research institutes, as illustrated by the Cinzana research station in Mali. The extent of damage by stem borers was repeatedly over-estimated based on ad hoc guesses. No rigorous assessments were done before the project was started of the extent of damage by stem borers, nor of whether farmers felt they were a significant problem. When the project did survey 30 villages throughout the country, none identified stem borers as the most pressing constraint upon maize production... project surveys found that many farmers were already using their own resistant varieties." http://www.twnafrica.org/docs/GMCropsAfrica.pdf
According to deGrassi, the Syngenta project has failed to engineer protection against the most important stem borer in Kenya - the one which affects 80% of the country's maize crop. Moreover, deGrassi reports that in terms of alleviating poverty, which is the basis on which these projects are being promoted, stem borers are a relatively insignificant contributing factor. Of far greater importance are other agronomic constraints - such as "droughts, low soil fertility, and the weed Stiga - as well as other socio-economic and political constraints - such as corruption, HIV/AIDS, poor transport, unequal land tenure, and political repression." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3632
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - GLOBAL
+ MAJOR PROBLEMS IN CHINA WITH BT COTTON
Previous research claims of major problems with GM cotton in China can be confirmed, according to a Chinese researcher who says the technology will not only be useless within six to seven years but "could cause a disaster".
Despite the scale of problems faced elsewhere with transgenic Bt cotton growing - e.g. in India (outperformed economically by non-GM cotton), in Indonesia (Monsanto withdrew after economic failure) and in South Africa (indebtedness increased) - China has constantly been held up by GM proponents as the big GM success story. It is also the key element in all those statistics claiming millions of small farmers are benefiting from GM.
However, given the secretive nature of the Chinese state, it has been difficult to confirm many of the figures cited, let alone gain a balanced view of the claims made for what remains the only major GM crop to be widely adopted in the country.
When a report was published in June 2002 which seriously questioned the claims of success, it came under ferocious attack.
Although the report was based on the work of scientists at a research institute funded by China's State Environmental Protection Agency, it was vilified on the grounds that it had been commissioned and co-published by Greenpeace.
The report suggested that while the widespread adoption of Bt cotton in China may have reduced pesticide consumption, it had also resulted in the evolution of Bt toxin-resistant bollworms which could make the technology "ineffective in controlling pests after eight to ten years of continuous production".
However, the report's critics claimed, "There is not a single example or shred of evidence in the Greenpeace report of actual resistance in bollworms to Bt cotton in the field... According to Shirong Jia and Yufa Peng of the Chinese National GMO Biosafety Committee, 'no resistance of cotton bollworm to Bt has been discovered yet, after five years of Bt cotton planting.'" http://whybiotech.ca/html/claims.html
Claims by the scientists commissioned by Greenpeace that secondary pests were emerging that caused equivalent damage to Bt cotton, were also stridently dismissed.
Now, however, Liu Xiaofeng, a researcher in Henan, China's number two cotton producing province, has confirmed the Greenpeace-commissioned research findings. Liu is cited as saying that the cotton bollworm is indeed developing resistance and will be no longer susceptible to Bt cotton within six to seven years. He also confirms that Bt cotton is not effective in controlling secondary pests and that this "could cause a disaster". http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3636
+ INDIA: REGULATORY BODY REINVENTED TO INDUSTRY'S DESIGN
The final report of the MS Swaminathan Committee, which has been looking at GM crop regulation, says that the "evaluation procedure of GM crops should invite farmers' participation and not that of the NGOs". http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3678
Interestingly, in the run-up to the commercialisation of Bt cotton in India, "farmers' groups" were invited to attend a "public dialogue" on GM cotton approval held by the Indian regulator - the GEAC. But these farmers groups had no significant constituency and a history of coordinating their activities with industry.
Check out those who attended: Chengal Reddy and the Federation of Farmers' Associations (FFA) http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=196 and Kisan Coordination Committee http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=70.
PV Satheesh of the Deccan Development Society commented in relation to the MS Swaminathan Committee that the "powerful industrial lobby in India" is working to "completely dismantle the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests and hand over the control to an industry dominated committee in the name of a fast track approval."
For more comments on the Swaminathan Committee's interim report see: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3406
+ HOW GM CROPS DESTROY THE THIRD WORLD
(Case studies from Argentina, Indonesia and India) An excellent roundup by Lim Li Ching of GM crops' dismal performance in the above countries, given as an Independent Science Panel briefing at the House of Commons, is at http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3666
+ GERMANY: CROP SITES STAY SECRET
Political and public pressure is increasing on researchers in Germany to reveal the locations of 30 fields sown with corn seeds that have been genetically modified to resist corn borer. The study involves seed companies Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, and the German-based firm KWS SAAT.
Thus far, research coordinators, seed companies, and participating farmers have resisted the ever-increasing pressure, saying that field locations in seven German states must be kept secret to protect them from damage by anti-GM activists, a fate that has befallen other German GM crop sites recently. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3635
+ AUSTRALIA: BAYER PULLS OUT OF GM CANOLA TRIALS
There will be no trials of GM canola in New South Wales this year with the second big industry player pulling out. Monsanto recently announced it would not proceed with GM canola trials this year. On 3 June it was revealed Bayer Crop Science is also withdrawing from planned trials.
Bayer cited poor seasonal conditions as the reason. Graham Strong from the Network of Concerned Farmers welcomed the decision. "I am pleased they're not going ahead, but on the other hand it just seems a bit contradictory... if you're going to pick and choose the years you choose to put a trial in then your agronomic data is going to be skewed," he said.
GMWATCH suspects other reasons - consumer and farmer opposition and the consequent lack of markets - are responsible for Bayer's withdrawal. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3677
+ NEW ZEALAND: MAF ALLOWS FARMERS TO HARVEST GE CROPS
Officials say farmers who have planted maize contaminated with GM seed will be allowed to harvest their crops. But the farmers will be asked to comply with additional conditions, including separate storage of the harvest, and post-harvest field inspections.
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) staff have nearly completed investigations into the planting of the maize seed containing GM DNA - despite New Zealand's "zero-tolerance" stance on seed imports.
The contaminated seed was allowed across the border because of shoddy interpretation by the American laboratory that provided test certificates for 52 shipments - representing about 40 per cent of corn consignments from the US since January 2003.
Checks have shown some of the seed imported for planting since January 2003 was wrongly certified as GE-free: MAF originally identified 1317 bags of maize seed which contained 0.05 per cent GE presence - equivalent to less than one GE seed in 2000 non-GE seeds. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3635
+ EU COMMISSIONER CHALLENGED OVER GM SAFETY CLAIM
A powerful article by US lawyer Steven Druker tells how regulators in the US and the EU, in their efforts to smooth the path for GM foods, have wilfully and illegally ignored the precautionary principle that is meant to underpin food safety laws. The article is published in the EU Parliament magazine. The article singles out EU health and consumer protection commissioner David Byrne as being either deceptive or deluded:
Excerpt: ..... David Byrne boldly proclaimed that Bt11 "has been subjected to the most rigorous pre-marketing assessment in the world." Either Mr. Byrne is unconscionably deceiving the public or he himself has been deeply deceived by the biotech lobbyists. I challenge him to fully substantiate his claim or else formally retract it - and to apologize for the irresponsible nature of the Commission's action. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3640
This follows on from Steven Druker's recent piece in The Financial Times which can be seen at http://www.biointegrity.org/american-hypocrisy.htm
+ US: IS MONSANTO'S GM CATTLE DRUG DEAD?
Late last year we reported a story that Monsanto had sent a letter to dairy farmers informing them that its GM bovine growth hormone (aka Posilac, rBGH or rbST), given to dairy cows to increase milk production, would be in short supply "while necessary corrections and improvements in manufacturing are made by Monsanto's supplier." We wondered what dark secret lay behind this uncharacteristically shrinking attitude of Monsanto's. Now, a possible answer has come to light.
A post on another list claims that the FDA closed down Monsanto's Bovine Growth Hormone production facility a few months ago, five years after a report sent them by researcher Robert Cohen blew the whistle on a serious defect in the product.
The FDA was forced under the US Freedom of Information Act to release the following observations filed by an FDA investigator after inspecting Monsanto's rBGH production facility in Austria. The observations relate to bacterial contamination of the product.
"There is a failure to thoroughly review the failure of a batch or any of its components to meet any of its specifications whether or not the batch has been thoroughly distributed.
"Specifically, the corrective actions implemented after the investigation of nine sterility failures reported since 2001 (3 for 2001, 3 for 2002, and 3 for 2003) for Posilac injection or for the lyophilized active ingredient (Sometribove zinc) have not been effective in preventing reoccurrence. In five instances (2 for 2001, 1 for 2002, and 2 for 2003) the organism was identified as Propionibacterium acnes; Staphylococcus species have been identified in three instances and in one instance (in 2002) Bacillus pumilus was found. Propionibacterium was found in environmental samples of the manufacturing areas. Batches manufactured around the same period of time and under the same conditions of the affected lots have been released to the market."
"Equipment for adequate control over micro-organisms is not provided when appropriate for the manufacture, processing, packing or holding of a drug product."
Current speculation is that the FDA will allow Monsanto to quietly withdraw its product with no further loss of dignity. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3665
+ US: PHARM CROPS INCREASING
There's more of them and nobody knows where they are. Welcome to the regulation of potent pharmaceuticals in food crops, US-style.
Excerpts from a terrifying article: The USDA has approved slightly more than 300 biopharming plantings throughout the country since 1995
The number of federal regulatory approvals and applications of these outdoor plantings -- often called "biopharming'' -- have nearly doubled in the last 12 months, compared to the previous year.
Most applications... don't specify how many acres are to be cultivated and exactly where the pharmaceutical crops are to be grown, making it impossible for nervous conventional farmers to know whether biotech varieties that could cross-pollinate with their harvest are growing nearby. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3668
+ MORE ON THE FBI/ARTIST CASE
We've had confirmation from the Washington Post of the extraordinary story we circulated recently of the FBI's aggressive bio-terror probe of a New York art professor who focuses on projects that highlight the problems with GM seeds. It seems the Feds' suspicions were triggered by the GM testing kit and bacterial cultures which form the professor's art materials.
Adele Henderson, chair of the art department of the State University of New York at Buffalo where he works, says, "This is a free speech issue, and some people at the university remember a time during the McCarthy period when some university professors were harassed quite badly". http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3667
+ BT AND ANTHRAX
An interesting comment came in from Dr Colin Leakey, a biologist who likes to breed beans the non-GM way and who has earned fame for his dissident but commonsensical views on BSE. Dr Leakey points out a possible reason for the Feds' over-reaction. The bacterium that causes anthrax, Bacillus anthracis, is very closely related to the insecticidal bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, which is engineered into many GM crops. He wonders whether GM test kits that could detect Bt could also be used to test for anthrax.
Elsewhere [http://www.lincolnstwc.2far.co.uk/colinleakey.htm] Dr Leakey points out that the close relationship between the two bacteria may have led to unjustified anthrax-driven fears of mobile Iraqi "bioterror labs" that were actually production facilities for agricultural Bt.
That an anthrax production facility could in fact be a Bt production facility is a possibility which, if validated, could turn seeming swords into ploughshares. But the relationship cuts both ways: Dr Leakey asks if we may be overlooking severe dangers of Bt insecticide, which is usually assumed to be harmless but which has been linked to ill health effects in exposed populations.
He says, "As a biologist I am, and have long been, closely interested in both anthrax and Bacillus thuringiensis. Bt is of course the bacterium providing the so-called Bt crystal toxin whose production is genetically engineered into "Bt Crops". It has always been assumed/assured that bacterial (live) B. thuringiensis is entirely "safe" when it has been used as an insecticide. That is open to question as the bacterium also produces a powerful phospholipase [an enzyme, one type of which is found as a highly toxic secretion product of pathogenic bacteria] which is the same as that produced by the Listeria bacterium and accounts for that bacterium's pathogenicity, i.e listeriosis.
"When [genetic] engineers have introduced genes from B thuringiensis to crops such as cotton and corn the idea is to have only introduced a single gene encoding the plasmid derived toxin precursor. At least they will also have had to introduce a promoter and a reporter as well in their 'construct'.
"Question is whether the code for the potentially harmful phospholipase is also transferred in the construct. No information seems to be available. However, hence a test looking for code derived from B thuringiensis may also happen to be useful in looking for parts of the genome of Bacillus anthracis. Perhaps the Feds know this and you don't! So there are rational reasons to have some concern over GM food and feed crops which have been engineered supposedly only to be substantially equivalent except for being toxic to insect pests."
Notwithstanding my continued disgust at the Feds' treatment of the artist (which appears to me far from rational), I would be very interested to hear other scientists' views on Dr Leakey's comments on the relationship between Bt and anthrax and the fate of the phospholipase code in GM Bt plants. Please do write to us.
+ HOW BIG BIOTECH SILENCES SCIENTISTS WORKING ON RISK
In an article centred on UC Berkeley professor Tyrone Hayes, the cases of other researchers who have come under fire from the biotech industry are also dealt with. These include the little-reported case of the entomologist Angelica Hilbeck. Hilbeck's research into a type of GM corn produced by Syngenta showed that the green lacewing was being poisoned by eating corn borer larvae that had fed on this corn. Like many others, she then found herself under attack from the industry.
"They've been going after scientists in a systematic, organized way that I haven't seen in my memory," says Chuck Benbrook, a food policy expert and former executive director of the Board on Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences. "Let's face it, [big biotech has] silenced the vast majority of scientists who are interested in doing research on risks."
Tyrone Hayes comments, "I thought only criminals and desperate people lied, not educated people."
Excerpts from a long article are at
For the full article:
+ AUTHOR TAKES SWIPE AT SCIENCE ELITE
In "a rare example of a science writer biting the hand that feeds him", author and former editor of New Scientist, Nigel Calder, interviewed in the Guardian, has criticised the current generation of scientists for a complacent failure to countenance the fact that "what [they] say now is likely to be false". He also attacks peer review, describing it as "self-appointed clubs that claim to be experts" but actually perpetrate "systematic resistance" to new findings that might upset existing orthodoxies. However, Calder fails to explore the way in which massive financial interests play into this scenario - see, for instance, Bioscience Warfare: Big Biotech has silenced majority of scientists working on risk.
+ THE BUSINESS OF KILLING RICE
An interesting article on US policy during the Vietnam war tells how killing food crops was both a military strategy and - with the procurement of many millions of gallons of toxic herbicides from US chemical companies - a very profitable business: "Indeed, the notion of killing what can't be controlled suited perfectly the logic of the agro-chemical industry."
Excerpts: "The Nixon administration finally ended the program not because of public outcries or moral afterthoughts but because the spraying in Vietnam left insufficient herbicides for US domestic users...."
.....the FAO has declared its support for genetic engineering/agro-chemical giants such as Monsanto, and in doing so supports the corporate takeover of rice - the staple food of more than half the world's population
So the International Year of Rice presents itself as an opportunity for unfinished business. Companies that were involved in the US military's rice-killing operations are now telling us that they hold in their hands the future of rice.
'Rice is Life' -- that is why the US government dedicated so much money and military power to killing it in Vietnam. And that is why US corporations are targeting rice today... And for those who resist this, who want to farm rice without poisoning their fields or themselves with toxic chemicals, who want to keep rice free of corporate patents, and who want to protect rice because it is life, they are faced with a new kind of battle. Because the philosophy of the powerful political and corporate elites remains unchanged: If they can't control it, they'll kill it. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3681
GMWATCH NOTE: The herbicide combination that the US used to kill rice was based on arsenic. It was called Agent Blue after the blue stripe painted on the barrels intended to distinguish the mix from the defoliant Agent Orange, which had an orange stripe. A Vietnam vets' site giving info on which herbicides were sprayed where and the health effects that are officially accepted as being caused by exposure is at: http://www.landscaper.net/agent.htm
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - UK
+ SAINSBURY'S TO MARKET MILK FROM NON-GM FED COWS
The British supermarket chain Sainsbury's is to market a new range of GM-free milk after a surge in demand from shoppers. The company denied that it had caved in to Greenpeace, which has waged a high-profile campaign against the store selling milk from cattle fed GM fodder. City experts, however, believe that the company was under pressure from shareholders concerned about a possible impact on profits.
Greenpeace said, "Whilst today's announcement is good news, Greenpeace wants Sainsbury's to make all its own brand milk non-GM fed. The campaign certainly won't stop if Sainsbury's refuses to take this step."
Well done to all those who helped in this campaign!
+ TRACK THE MEDIA MANIPULATORS & FAKE PERSUADERS
Tell your friends campaigning on issues outside GM to check out our new website: www.lobbywatch.org It's for them.
Please read and pass on our press release advertising the site at http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3680
+ THE GM BUBBLE: ISAAA FIGURES QUESTIONED
An article questioning the industry body ISAAA's inflated figures of GM crop uptake and planting has been published by GMWATCH editor Claire Robinson in the latest issue of Science in Society magazine.
Excerpt: ..... despite ISAAA's HYPE about India being "a key GM crop cultivator", the actual area planted with India's first GM crop, Bt cotton, is minuscule in terms of the total area devoted to cotton in India. According to an internal report of the country's agriculture ministry, "In 2002-03, the first year of its approval for commercial cultivation, Bt cotton covered an area of only 38,038 hectares, representing only 0.51 per cent of the area under cotton in the period. In 2003-04, with good monsoon rains, the area under Bt cotton increased to 92,000 hectares. This area coverage under Bt cotton is almost negligible as compared to over 9 million hectares under cotton crop in the country. This points to the low acceptability of Bt cotton by farmers." Science in Society issue 22, summer 2004 Subscriptions +44 (0)20 7383 3376 or online at www.i-sis.org.uk/subscribe
+ HAPPY ENDING TO GM MAIZE FARCE
An article detailing the government and industry LIES & SPIN that surrounded the approval for EU commercialisation and subsequent withdrawal of Bayer's GM maize is to be found in the latest issue of Science in Society magazine. Subscriptions as above. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3638
+ BOGUS COMPARISON IN GM MAIZE TRIAL
Prof Peter Saunders and Dr Mae-Wan Ho report in the latest issue of Science in Society magazine that Prof Joe Perry's research paper claiming that GM maize is better for the environment than non-GM even if atrazine is not used is highly MISLEADING. Atrazine was used on the non-GM control crop but is now banned in the EU because of toxicity - but it's thanks to atrazine that the GM maize came out as better for wildlife. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3638
To see the astonishing photos taken by campaigner Jean Saunders of a GM maize trial showing the appalling agronomic performance (stunted growth and weediness) of the GM crop compared with non-GM maize, you can click on the link at the online version of the article at http://www.i-sis.org.uk/BogusComparison.php Note that yield was NOT measured in the trial!
- or get the hard copy mag: Science in Society Issue 22, Summer 2004 Subscriptions +44 (0)20 7383 3376 or online at www.i-sis.org.uk/subscribe]
CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK - URGENT
+ FAO DECLARES WAR ON FARMERS NOT FAMINE - SIGN OPEN LETTER
You are invited to sign-on to an open letter in response to the recent pro-GM and highly biased UN Food and Ag Organisation (FAO) report, which has ignored the "available evidence of the adverse ecological, economic, and health impacts of genetically engineered crops".
You can read the open letter at http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3634
REST OF THE MONTH'S TOP STORIES
+ MONSANTO DROPS GM WHEAT - WORLDWIDE VICTORY FOR CONSUMERS
Monsanto has announced that it is stopping all further efforts to commercialise its controversial GM wheat. Monsanto has faced worldwide opposition from farmers, food manufacturers and consumers.
Monsanto has failed to get GM crops approved for import or cultivation in the EU for the past six years because of consumer and farmer concerns about the safety of GMOs. It announced its withdrawal from GM wheat in the EU last year when the cereals division was put up for sale.
Major wheat buyers such as the Italian miller Grandi Molini have rejected GM wheat stating that "we will not only avoid buying GM wheat, but we will probably be forced to completely avoid importing from those countries/regions where it is known that GM wheat is grown." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3441
+ BIOTECH'S DISMAL BOTTOM LINE: MORE THAN $40 BILLION IN LOSSES
An uncharacteristically despondent article on GM investments with the above title has appeared in the usually bullish Wall Street Journal (20 May 04).
Excerpt: Since the first biotechnology company went public a quarter-century ago, stock-market investors have put somewhere close to $100 billion into the industry. The results so far... [include] cumulative net losses of more than $40 billion for the industry's public companies. ...it's hard to argue that it's a good investment. Not only has the biotech industry yielded negative financial returns for decades, it generally digs its hole deeper every year. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3606
+ AGBIOTECH'S SILICON VALLEY SHUTS DOWN
As Bayer pulls its maize in the UK, Monsanto pulls GM wheat globally plus its canola in Australia, even in the US a pattern of closures and shrinkage is hitting biotech.
Excerpts: Epicyte Pharmaceutical, one of the last vestiges of the San Diego biotechnology community's attempt to become an agricultural biotech stronghold, has closed...
In 1999, Stephen Briggs, the head of the San Diego-based Novartis Agricultural Discovery Institute, which was building a major research campus here, predicted San Diego could become the "Silicon Valley of agricultural biotech."
.....A consumer backlash against genetically-modified food, along with high-profile industry blunders, helped nip investor enthusiasm in the bio-engineered bud.
.....In 2000, the Novartis Agricultural Discovery Institute was folded into Switzerland's Syngenta.
In 2002, Syngenta closed the La Jolla unit... Other San Diego agricultural biotechs also disappeared. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3461
+ CONTAMINATION FOUND IN GM REFUGES
US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines on the planting of non-transgenic "refuges" - areas in which a non-transgenic crop is grown to allow survival of susceptible insects adjacent to GM crops - could actually increase the risk of pests acquiring resistance to the GM crops, according to a report published in the May 10 online edition of PNAS. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0400546101v1
Pests eating the kernels of the contaminated refuge plants would not be exposed to the very high level of Bt toxin found in the transgenic crop, but to an intermediate level, said Ian Denholm, head of the Division of Plant and Invertebrate Ecology at Rothamsted Research, UK.
Said Denholm, who was not involved in the study, "...because they may encounter conditions under which they can survive [in the contaminated refuge], the potential risk of resistance developing to an appreciable frequency in the pest population is definitely increased." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3501
+ US: FBI ABDUCTS ARTIST, SEIZES ART
American artist Steve Kurtz was already suffering from one tragedy when he called 911 early in the morning to tell them his wife had suffered a cardiac arrest and died in her sleep. The police arrived and, cranked up on the rhetoric of the "War on Terror," decided Kurtz's art supplies were actually bioterrorism weapons.
Thus began an Orwellian stream of events in which FBI agents abducted Kurtz without charges, sealed off his entire block, and confiscated his computers, manuscripts, art supplies... and even his wife's body.
Kurtz, a member of the Critical Art Ensemble, makes art which addresses the politics of biotechnology. "Free Range Grains," CAE's latest project, included a mobile DNA extraction laboratory for testing food products for possible transgenic contamination. It was this equipment which triggered the Kafkaesque chain of events. http://www.rtmark.com/CAEdefense/
+ PHARM CROP PRODUCTS GROWN AND MARKETED IN US
Prof. Joe Cummins has revealed that dangerous GM pharmaceutical crops have been produced and marketed in the US for at least two years, unbeknownst to the public, via a gaping loophole in the regulatory process.
There has been a great deal of public opposition recently to the testing of rice genetically modified to produce the human proteins lysozyme and lactoferrin in the United States. So far, those tests have been stalled.
But Sigma-Aldrich, a US chemical company, has been marketing the biopharmaceutical products trypsin, avidin and beta-glucuronidase (GUS) processed from transgenic maize, for at least two years. Meanwhile, Prodigene Corporation and Sigma-Aldrich are marketing aprotinin (AproliZean) from maize and from a transgenic tobacco.
+ CONFLICTS OF INTEREST OVER PHARMA RICE
Our thanks to a US subscriber who sent us details of alleged conflicts of interest and misrepresentation by the California Rice Commission's lawyer, George Soares, in the Commission's consideration of Ventria's GM pharma rice. Ventria's application to grow the rice in California has been turned down for the time being but may be re-submitted in the future.
Soares, it is alleged, told the Commission's advisory board that it could not ban the rice but only set conditions for its approval. A legal opinion by the Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, and Environment California says this is untrue and that Soares is guilty of misrepresentation of the relevant law.
In addition, say the consumer groups, Soares may have a conflict of interest that could violate the California Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys: "While advising the Advisory Board on alleged limits to its authority with respect to protocols for Ventria's GE rice proposal, Mr Soares is the Managing Partner of the law firm, Kahn, Soares, and Conway, which according to its own website represents other prominent corporate producers of genetically-engineered (GE) crops. These corporations include, at least, Dow and Syngenta."
+ US: WEED WITH ROUNDUP IMMUNITY GALLOPING ACROSS STATE
US farmers are now being instructed to routinely use the endocrine disrupting herbicide 2,4-D in order to cope with the growing problem of Roundup resistant weeds. They are being advised to do this regardless of whether they are yet experiencing resistance problems.
Marestail populations that are immune to glyphosate were first identified in 2002 in the southeast Indiana counties of Jackson, Bartholomew, Clark, Jefferson and Jennings. Recent field inspections by Purdue University researchers found the weeds in another 15 counties to the north and west, said Bill Johnson, Purdue Extension weed specialist. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3618
+ RESULT IN ON PERCY SCHMEISER CASE
There's both bad and good news from the Canadian Supreme Court case in which Monsanto sued Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser for stealing its patented genes when his canola crop was found to be contaminated with GM Roundup Ready traits.
The bad news is that the court has upheld the Monsanto's right to have a patent on a plant gene and has found Percy guilty of infringing its patent. This decision sets a dangerous precedent for justice in that it upholds the patentability of crops and seems to uphold the fact that Monsanto can claim ownership and rewards even over unintentional pollution.
The good news is that the court has not upheld that Percy should pay damages because he did not profit from the GM technology by spraying Roundup. Both parties have to pay their own court costs.
See Percy's response at http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3616
GRAIN comments: "...the Supreme Court decision could trigger a major backlash against Monsanto. The true face of the "gene revolution" and of the control handed to transnational corporations through patents on life has been laid bare." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3616
+ TELL MONSANTO WHERE TO GO!
If you think your property may have GM canola lurking somewhere (or GM maize or soy or cotton), tell Monsanto where to go! Take action! Send a letter to Monsanto warning them that their GM seeds may be trespassing on your land by clicking at http://www.etcgroup.org/takeaction.asp
+ CRITICS OF FAO REPORT SPEAK OUT
+ INDIA: ELECTORAL ROUT FOLLOWING GM COTTON FAILURE
The failure of Monsanto's Bt cotton in India has helped rout the pro-GM ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Andhra Pradesh.
According to Y S R Reddy, who is expected to become a minister in the new government, "Of the 4,000 farmers who are known to have committed suicide in the last few years, 3,000 were from Andhra Pradesh."
According to IPS news, "Mass suicides by farmers in the state, many of them cotton growers who had experimented disastrously with genetically modified seeds supplied by large multinationals, were frequently cited by Congress party workers to blunt the Bharatiya Janata Party's 'India Shining' motto during the election." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3464
+ DEATH OF VISION 2020?
The recent electoral rout in Andhra Pradesh, India may spell the death of a dangerous experiment masterminded by the UK and US governments to corporatise the state's agriculture (the plans included the promotion of GM crops) at the cost of mass starvation, writes George Monbiot.
The "Vision 2020" plan was drawn up by US consultancy company McKinsey and paid for by British and US taxpayers. It was obediently adopted by Andhra Pradesh's chief minister (widely viewed as a favourite puppet of Western interests), to the disgust of the people, who called it "the return of the East India Company". Now that this unpopular government has gone, it remains to be seen what will happen to Vision 2020. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3586
+ BROKEN PROMISES IN INDIA, KENYA AND INDONESIA
Will GM crops help developing countries? In an excellent article for ISIS, Lim Li Ching looks at some telling examples in Kenya, Indonesia and India in her article Broken Promises. http://www.i-sis.org.uk/BrokenPromises.php
+ AUSTRALIA: MONSANTO TO CLOSE GM CANOLA PROGRAM
The Grains Council of Australia says Monsanto will shut down its program to introduce GM canola to Australia. Grains Council president Keith Perrett says moratoria on commercial crops in most states have ended the company's investment: "[It's] finished, because if you're investing your money somewhere and you could see no chance of getting a return on that investment you wouldn't continue to put money down the spout." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3466
+ UK DAIRY FARMS URGED TO CUT OUT GM FEED
The British dairy industry, which imports hundreds of thousands of tonnes of GM soya and maize for cattle feed every year, could go completely GM-free for less than 1p extra per litre of milk, according to a study by Greenpeace.
The report, produced with the rural campaign group Farm, urges farmers to give their cows non-GM soya and other imported feed and, in time, to move to growing lupins and other high protein crops for home-grown food. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3498
+ PANTS ON FIRE AWARD SPECIAL
"The Pants on Fire award is the prize offered for scientists' services to lying and deception by Professor Bullsh*t, a friendly bloke in a white coat who works in a virtual laboratory on the web." - Education Guardian
See why this year's Pants on Fire have been awarded to Monsanto-trained scientist Florence Wambugu, who has lied shamelessly in her promotion of the failed GM sweet potato project. For links + pics of the lovely Flo in all her pantalooned splendour: http://www.gmwatch.org/p2temp2.asp?aid=59&page=1&op=2
+ SOUTH AFRICAN COURT CASE SEEKS TO MAKE GM INFORMATION PUBLIC
The NGO Biowatch is currently taking the South African Government to court, over access to information on GM crops in South Africa.
For years, the NGO has been trying to get access to the safety data and information on which GMOs are being imported, tested, grown and released, which it says the public has the right to know. But the registrar of genetic resources has consistently stalled, claiming that the data is confidential business information.
Now Biowatch has taken their demand to the Pretoria High Court, where the Registrar of Genetic Resources, the Executive Council for Genetically Modified Organisms and the minister of agriculture have been joined by biotech companies Monsanto and Delta Pine Land, and seed company Stoneville Pedigreed, who are seeking to prevent the information about their products being made public. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3625
+ GERMAN PARLIAMENT DEMANDS GM LABELLING AT DETECTION LEVEL
Campaign group Save Our Seeds has welcomed the German Parliament's demand for labelling of all GM contamination of seeds at the detection level and intends to implement appropriate legislation at the European level. Germany, the EU's largest member state, now follows Italy, Denmark, Austria and Luxembourg in taking a clear position to keep GMOs out of our seeds. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3627
+ GM SOY ALTERS STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION OF LIVER CELLS
Research from Italy shows changes in the nuclei of hepatocytes (large liver cells) in GM-fed mice. Heaptocytes have many metabolic functions, including storage and detoxification. Manuela Malatesta, Chiara Caporaloni, Stefano Gavaudan, Marco B.L. Rocchi, Sonja Serafini, Cinzia Tiberi and Giancarlo Gazzanelli, "Ultrastructural Morphometrical and Immunocytochemical Analyses of Hepatocyte Nuclei from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean", Cell Structure and Function, Vol. 27 (2002) , No. 4 pp.173-18 http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3622
+ MONSANTO DEFIES GERMAN GOVERNMENT ON RISK STUDY
Monsanto has refused a request by the German government to hand over a study showing that rats fed a variety of Monsanto GM maize suffered serious health abnormalities, Greenpeace revealed.
The German government, who assessed Monsanto's original application for approval of the MON863 maize, officially asked the company to present the full study to them, after Le Monde disclosed its details last month. But Monsanto has refused to hand over the document, claiming it is "confidential business information". This contravenes EU law, which stipulates that any information concerning human health or environmental safety must be made public.
The study, carried out by Monsanto, found that rats fed with MON863 suffered a number of abnormal effects in the development of blood cells and vital organs, including the kidneys. Despite being aware of these results, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) delivered a positive assessment on the maize on 19 April. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3589
+ EU: CONSUMER RESISTANCE PUTS GM CORN ON HOLD Despite the European Commission's recent authorisation of the GM corn Bt-11, the producer, Syngenta, has announced that it will not commercialise it for the time being due to strong consumer resistance. Syngenta cited the resistance of the European food industry to add GM corn to their product range. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3612
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"Lots of American consumers probably don't know seeds are involved in agriculture - they don't even know farms are involved in agriculture." - Thomas Hoban, background researcher for the FAO report pushing biotech for the third world, expressing the extent of his respect for the public's scientific literacy, at a BIO (GM industry body) meeting
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HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the GMWATCH archive
3/6/2004 Author takes swipe at scientific elite
3/6/2004 Media manipulators and fake persuaders
3/6/2004 Now Bayer pulls out of GM canola in Australia
2/6/2004 Bioscience Warfare - Big Biotech has silenced majority of scientists working on risk
2/6/2004 FBI's GM Art Attack/overwhelming police response
2/6/2004 GM Crops Destroy the Third World
2/6/2004 India's new biotech matrix
2/6/2004 Is Monsanto's GM cattle drug dead?
2/6/2004 Pharma crops increasing in US
1/6/2004 Happy ending to GM farce
1/6/2004 ISAAA's GM Bubble
1/6/2004 Sainsbury's cowed into non-GM milk
31/5/2004 AfricaBio - 'The NGO taking biotechnology to the people of Africa'
31/5/2004 Biotech take-over in Kenya - Kenya prepares to grow genetically modified maize
31/5/2004 EU Commissioner challenged over safety claim
31/5/2004 Uganda's 'Museveni Finally Gives in to GM Food Production'
30/5/2004 Regulatory capture in South Africa - the extraordinary tale of Muffy Koch
30/5/2004 USAID targets Africa / US to give US$2.1 million for Nigerian biotech
29/5/2004 FAO Declares War on Farmers not on Hunger - sign on to this Open Letter
29/5/2004 GM crop sites stay secret
29/5/2004 Major problems in China with GM cotton
28/5/2004 More protests against Monsanto in the Philippines
28/5/2004 WEEKLY WATCH number 74
FOR THE COMPLETE GMWATCH ARCHIVE: http://www.gmwatch.org/archive.asp