from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor
The biotech lobby has launched a new attempt to pull the wool over our eyes: it's trying to categorize largely bought-and-paid-for scientists as being from the "public research sector". They're lobbying for this group to have a say alongside overt industry types, on the one hand, and civil society, on the other. If this scam succeeds, it'll give industry two voices and the rest of us just one! See our LOBBYWATCH SPECIAL REPORT.
As Monsanto's Bt cotton comes up for review today (March 4th) in India, don't miss news of the two new reports from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture on the appalling failures of this GM crop. Their findings are backed up by a just released report by an expert team led by Andhra Pradesh's commissioner and director of agriculture which has confirmed that Bt cotton is giving poor yields and has caused losses to farmers.
Most exciting, though, is the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture's new research showing the efficiency of non-pesticidal alternatives which render entirely unnecessary the considerable expense of GM cotton. As Devinder Sharma notes, this gives the Indian government a clear choice: helping to end rural poverty, hunger and farm suicides or continuing to hype GM crops. (ASIA).
www.gmwatch.org / www.lobbywatch.org
+ PUBLIC RESEARCH FRAUD - GM WATCH SPECIAL REPORT
A bunch of scientists claiming to represent the public research sector are perpetrating a new fraud. They've launched an initiative - The Public Research Sector Initiative - executed by a foundation called "Public Research and Regulation". The initiative is based on deceit.
The biotech scientists involved are saying that they represent a third non-aligned group between civil society and industry who should "weigh in" at meetings of the Cartagena Protocol that help determine biosafety rules. They claim, "the public research sector has been not able to provide scientific input for the benefit of the negotiations nor to express its views about the effectiveness and workability of the provisions of the Protocol."
Their call for increased leverage for "nonprofit", "public sector" players belies the heavy industrial-alignment of most public sector agricultural biotechnology, where there is a long history of involvement with intensive agricultural R&D and of collaboration with agribusiness multinationals, not to mention dependence on industry funding. The effect of this is to generate convergence between private sector and public sector operators.
This convergence means that this "third" group would not be non-aligned but would have interests and an agenda that would all too often be indistinguishable from that of the industry. In other words, GM proponents would get two bites of the cherry to the rest of society's one.
The problem is apparent as soon as one looks at the detail of this initiative and those that are driving it forward. Although the biotech scientists claim it is a "misconception that modern biotechnology, and in particular its agricultural application, is the exclusive domain of a handful of big, western multinationals", they are actually holding their meeting yesterday and today (3-4 March) at the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center in St Louis, Missouri - the home town of Monsanto.
This is no coincidence. The Danforth Center was established by Monsanto Corporation "and academic partners" with a $70-million pledge from Monsanto. The company also donated the 40-acre tract of land, valued at $11.4 million, on which the Center is built.
More on the scientists involved in the initiative: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4943
+ WHICH SCIENCE OR SCIENTISTS CAN WE TRUST?
Former UK environment minister Michael Meacher's excellent speech to the Green Network Conference on Science, Medicine and the Law (London, 31 Jan-2 Feb 2005) is the perfect antidote to the deceit of the biotech lobbying "independent" scientists of the Public Research and Regulation Foundation (see above item). As Meacher says, "We should never forget the words of Winston Churchill, who said 'Science should be on tap, not on top'."
Mark Purdey, a Somerset farmer turned epidemiologist, has produced detailed evidence to show that BSE was caused by farmers spreading Phosmetz, an organohosphate (OP), over the backs of cattle as a prophylaxis, but the Government's MRC [Medicines Research Council] Toxicology Unit - funded by the pharmaceutical company Zeneca - apparently refuted this theory. Which company held all rights over the production of Phosmetz? Zeneca. Whom do you believe?
...science can only be fully trusted if it is pursued with the most rigorous procedures that guarantee total independence and freedom from commercial and political bias. That is far too often not the case today. The implications for policy are clear.
One, if the Government truly wants independent research, it has to be prepared to pay for it, not lay down, as it has, that 25% of finance for publicly funded research should come from private sources, thus forcing the universities into the hands of corporate sponsors.
Two, the Government should also require that no member of its advisory committee or regulatory bodies should have any current or recently past financial or commercial link with the industry concerned.
Three, contributors to scientific journals should be required to make full disclosure of current and prior funding sources, so that any conflicts of interest can be exposed and taken into account.
Four, we need above all a Government with the political gumption to stand up to the United States and those demanding calls from the White House, to stand up to the biotech companies, and to stand up to big business, and make clear that there will be no succumbing to dominant political /economic interests, e.g. no growing of GM crops in this country until proper, systematic, independent, peer-reviewed research, which is totally absent at present, has been carried through and made public which demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt whether GM foods are safe or not.
+ REUTERS SPEWS INDUSTRY PROPAGANDA
Monitoring the newsfeeds here at GM Watch, it's not been hard to spot that someone at Reuters has been suckered big time! A series of heavily spun GM stories came tumbling out this week in the space of just a few hours.
We've had: "China Seen Opening Door Soon to Biotech Rice", "Red tape, media stop Russia growing GMO crops", "S. Africa leads on GMO, other African states wary", and "Spanish farmers want more GM crops".
We're talking journalism that is embarrassingly one-sided. An article that admits a great deal of wariness of GM in Africa, focuses on apparent enthusiasm in South Africa and even misleads as to the type of crops being grown (see AFRICA). An article on Europe doesn't focus on the almost continent-wide market exclusion and massive movement for GMO Free zones but on the one EU country with any significant cultivation of a GM crop. An article on Russia puts down the strong opposition to GMOs to red tape and stories in the media.
There's a clear pattern: South Africa leads in Africa, China leads in Asia, Spain leads in Europe and poor old unregenerate Russia lags behind, a victim of media scare stories and the kind of red tape no modern economy would wish to be burdened with.
Where could Reuters be getting this one-sided propaganda? A possible clue can be found in the article on China, which is entirely attributable not to any source in China but to Clive James of the GM-industry backed lobby group, ISAAA. The article does not include a single comment that appears to come from any other source. Indeed, the entire content of the article reads as if provided by ISAAA.
What makes this particularly unforgivable is the nature of the content. China may, as James suggests, commercialise GM rice some time in the future, but on the other hand it may not. If China does what James hopes, then this may have a knock on effect elsewhere in Asia. But all of this is speculative and an industry lobbyist's speculations on what may or may not happen in the next few years hardly justifies the headline "China Seen Opening Door Soon to Biotech Rice".
The Russian story is also almost entirely from one source. This time it's a GM researcher whose project is going nowhere because of Russia's lack of enthusiasm for GMOs. Who could have suggested this disgruntled researcher would make the ideal person to give perspective on Russia and GMOs? Interestingly, the article contains a reference to - wait for it! - ISAAA.
Now as it happens, ISAAA's Clive James has recently been on a lobbying tour around Europe. Is it too cynical to speculate that a stop off at Reuters' offices may have occurred, if not lunch with an editor? Or perhaps it was just a chat over the telephone?
Whatever the explanation, this is a case of seriously bad journalism. But for ISAAA the China story, in particular, serves an important need. What ISAAA is doing is bringing together what's been termed "the bad idea virus" - that biotech brings an economic lift (the evidence is entirely otherwise!) - with viral marketing.
Across Asia industry lobbyists like ISAAA are spinning the idea to governments that they are getting left behind in the race to adopt GM agriculture and so need to make urgent moves to catch up. By making it seem that Asia's giants, like China and India, are forging ahead with GM crops, ISAAA hopes to gain further leverage over ministers who've been made afraid that they'll miss out. It's a classic scam.
+ SOUTH AFRICAN GOVT MUST TELL ALL ON GMOS
Environmental group Biowatch has gained a major victory in South Africa, obtaining a Pretoria High Court order compelling the government to divulge details of all GMOs brought into or manufactured in the country. This includes a list of facts concerning each permit, approval and authorisation granted for all GMO imports, exports, field trials and general releases to date. It also includes a description of the GMO, its purpose, the name and address of the permit applicant, the area where the GMO would be used, plans for its monitoring and the relevant environmental impact studies. But, bizarrely, Biowatch was landed with Monsanto’s costs by the court even though it was agreeed that Biowatch was acting in the public interest!
+ REUTERS FALLS FOR GM HYPE OVER AFRICA
A recent Reuters article, "S.Africa leads on GMO, other African states wary", is full of bull. For instance, it says: "Supporters of drought- and insect-resistant GMO crops say they offer a way to fight famine, but so far only South Africa has taken the plunge."
But there are no "drought- and insect-resistant GMO crops" being grown in S Africa!.
The reason GM crops are being grown there at all is that South Africa's regulatory system was captured by industry-connected lobbyists under apartheid and the S african government witrh its neo-liberal bent has never seen fit to remedy the situation.
The real reason that GM seeds., like Bt cotton, sell is not to be found in the Reuters piece. There is credit and other support for their purchase. And as Aaron de Grassi of the Institute of Development studies has shown, Bt cotton, which the Reuters article claims is giving small farmers an easier and more affluent life, has not only failed to solve farmers' problems with debt, but has actually deepened and widened indebtedness, helping to saddle small farmers with debts of $1.2 million!
For more on Reuters’ recent stories - see LOBBYWATCH
+ BRAZIL ENDS GM BAN
Brazil's lower house of Congress has approved a law creating a framework to legalize biotech seed sales. The move, hotly protested by environmentalists, clears the way for Monsanto to sell genetically GM soy seeds in Brazil.
Over the last decade, environment and consumer groups have successfully won in the courts against biotech seed companies, keeping Brazil the world's largest food exporter still to ban GMOs. However, despite the fierce resistance a significant part of Brazil's soybean crop is believed to be planted with pirated GMO seeds.
+MONSANTO HIKES TECHNOLOGY FEES IN USA
Seed and technology fees for genetically modified crops are on the up in the USA. Some producers are expecting Monsanto's technology fees to rise 75% this season, as the firm seeks to recoup costs.
+ DAIRY CO-OP REJECTS MONSANTO PROPOSAL TO DROP HORMONE BAN
The Oregon dairy farmers whose cows produce the US's No. 2 chunk cheese (2nd after Kraft) have supported a ban on the use of Monsanto's GM growth hormone rBGH (banned in Canada and the EU). The Tillamook County Creamery Association farmers were 70% in favour of going rBGH free, rejecting intense pressure from the chemical company. Monsanto's GM cattle drug was first used in 1993; twelve years later, it's still proving hugely controversial.
+ NEW GM CORN GETS CLOSER LOOK (OR DOES IT?)
According to press reports, the US government is again investigating the safety of a GM corn. This time, the issue isn't StarLink, the corn variety that spawned nationwide food recalls in 2000, but a variety developed by Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Dow AgroSciences. The new variety produces corn resistant to rootworm.
Like StarLink, the Pioneer-Dow product contains a protein that takes longer to break down in the human gut than many other proteins. That's a characteristic of foods that cause allergic reactions.
"At this stage, any kind of reasonably cautious approach would say hold off on their protein until we get data that is more definitive," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a former scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency who doesn't believe the EPA should approve the new corn variety. Gurian-Sherman, who worked on the StarLink issue while at the EPA, is now senior scientist with the Center for Food Safety.
The EPA believes the corn is safe, based on research provided by Pioneer and Dow, as does the Food and Drug Administration.
+ MORE ON STARLINK STILL IN FOOD AID TO CENTRAL AMERICA
Civil society organizations in Central America have presented lab results confirming that StarLink - a GM maize banned for human consumption in the US - has been detected in food aid sent to Central America. The proofs contradict earlier public denials from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that StarLink was present in food aid distributed by the WFP.
Alejandro Lopez, representative from the regional office of the WFP for Latin America said, "The issue of GM food is an old controversy in which the WFP is not going to enter."
It's interesting to contrast WFP's failure to listen to concerns about GM food aid, and its years of failing to label GM grain, with the statement on the subject by the pro-GM Nuffield Council on Bio-ethics in their report, "The use of genetically modified crops in developing countries" (2004):
"With regard to donations of GM crops as food aid, we note that the preferences of developing countries dependent on emergency food aid must be taken seriously. A genuine choice between GM and non-GM food should be offered, where this is possible. It will therefore be necessary to provide full information about whether or not donated food is derived wholly or in part from GM crops."
Julio Sanchez from Centro Humboldt/Friends of the Earth Nicaragua commented, "The WFP must take seriously our demands and assume its responsibilities. The WFP must buy any needed food locally, and stop using food aid to introduce GMOs."
+ IOWA BILLS FIGHT GM-FREE ZONES AND FARMER CHOICE
Bills currently before the Iowa house (HF 202) and senate (1144) would disallow local jurisdictions from regulating the sale or production of seeds. The reason? They are trying to prevent Iowa farmers from creating GM-free zones. These zones, which do not allow the cultivation of GM crops, are being created at an accelerated rate on all continents, including the US. They provide farmers easier access to the significant world markets that avoid the controversial technology.
Rep. Mark Kuhn, a Democrat from Charles City, said that the legislation is "an attempt to legislate by and for the biotechnology industry." He added that the lawmakers should focus instead on protecting organic producers from GM crops and damage caused by pollen drift.
+ SONOMA COUNTY TO VOTE ON BIOTECH BAN
Voters in Sonoma County, California, will decide whether to become the fourth California county to ban GMOs. The measure, which will likely be voted on in November, would prohibit the cultivation of GM plants and animals for 10 years.
+ WARNER, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTERS ASKED TO OPPOSE GMOS
Voters at a town meeting in Warner, New Hampshire will be asked to discourage the growing of GM crops in town and to support any state or federal laws calling for a moratorium on them and making manufacturers liable for damages if they cause harm.
About 70 Vermont towns passed similar warrant articles last year and the Vermont Legislature passed a law requiring GM seeds sold in the state to be clearly labeled, but the Warner move appears to be the only one in New Hampshire so far.
+ MEXICO'S "MONSANTO LAW" ON BIOSAFETY: A MODEL?
Here are two opposing views on Mexico's new biosafety law, dubbed by environmentalists "the Monsanto law" because it gives control over seeds to corporations and fails to protect biodiversity. The agenda is plain: this law is being held up by industry to other countries as a model for them to emulate.
*"It's a shame that they passed the Mexican law, because now our countries will want to take it as an example, even though it's a terrible law, because it lines up with the interests of the (biotech) transnationals.'' - Morena Murillo, a director of the non-governmental Unidad Ecologica of El Salvador
*''The Mexican law could be a big help for those who are interested in developing their own laws.'' - Luis Herrera, who, along with other researchers, in 1983 created the first GM plant at the University of Gante, Belgium. Herrera was recently identified in an interview with Dr Ignacio Chapela as one of those behind the attacks against him.
+ BT COTTON - VERY POOR PERFORMANCE, SAYS NEW REPORT
A new eport slams Bt cotton and shows it gave poor yields just at the time that Indian regulators are deliberating on its future. The report by an expert team led by Andhra Pradesh commissioner and director of agriculture has revealed that Bt cotton has given poor yields in Warangal district and has caused losses to farmers.
The findings were made available just a day before the genetic engineering approval
committee (GEAC) is due to take a decision on whether an extension will be provided to the three varieties of Monsanto's Bt cotton.
Based on the report, district joint director of agriculture M Lakshman Rao has shot off a letter to Mahyco Monsanto India asking the company to shell out Rs 2.49 crore (Rs 24.9 million) as compensation to farmers.
The total compensation has been worked out at the rate of Rs 1,469.25 per acre. As per the MoU signed by the company with the state, compensation should be paid on account of damages done to farmers.
Meanwhile, Vandana Shiva of Navdanya and Krishan Bir Chaudhary of Bharat Krishak Samaj along with several other NGOs met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and demanded withdrawal of Bt cotton from cultivation.
+ NO BT COTTON, NO PESTICIDES, AND NO PESTS! HOW COTTON FARMERS ARE BEING FLEECED
Bt cotton is coming up for review in India right now. A powerful article from Devinder Sharma lays out the choice confronting the Indian government. It can end rural poverty, hunger and farm suicides or it can continue to hype GM crops.
It was in 1999 that a few farmers began experimenting with Non-Pesticidal Management (NPM) practices. A year later, in 2000-01, a local NGO, Socio-Economic and Cultural Upliftment in Rural Environment (SECURE), with technical support from the Centre for World Solidarity in Hyderabad was able to convince 20 farmers to opt for NPM. The highly contaminated environment began to change for the better. Soil and plant health looked revitalised, and the pests began to disappear. Such was the positive impact both environmentally and economically that by 2004 the entire village had stopped using chemical pesticides. Restoring the ecological balance brought back the natural pest control systems. Along with the pesticides, the pests too disappeared.
The NPM initiative has been so overwhelmingly successful that it is being taken to hundreds to other villages in the state of Andhra Pradesh by the AP Agriculture
Minister. This is the same state in which farmers have gone on the rampage in fury at the disappointing results they've had from Bt cotton.
For more on the research showing the massive and unnecessary costs of GM cotton as compared to growing conventional cotton varieties with the help of bio-pesticides and natural control agents:
+ INDIAN GOVT ANTI-FARMER?
India’s Gene Campaign said in a statement that policy actions that the Indian government is taking seem to be distinctly anti farmer. Gene Campaign is concerned that Monsanto-Mahyco's Bt cotton varieties are coming up for renewal at the meeting of the regulatory body GEAC on 4 March. It said there is no justification for considering the Monsanto cotton for renewal since this Bt cotton has failed resoundingly almost everywhere it has been cultivated.
+ ASHOK SHARMA QUESTIONS BT FAIRYTALE
The agricultural correspondent of India's Financial Express, Ashok Sharma, has responded to the current hype in India about Bt cotton being responsible for last year's bumper cotton crop. This has been pushed not only by the industry and its supporters but by the Agricultural Ministry, which is currently adopting a strongly pro-GM position.
Yet the claim is clearly nonsense. Bt cotton was not grown on a sufficient acreage to have that kind of impact and as Ashok Sharma shows there are reasons unconnected with Bt for last year's good harvest. The main reason may be the low incidence of pests and diseases on account of deficient rainfall, and farmers' switching their crops to cotton due to the drought (cotton needs less water than other crops).
He also notes the evidence that Bt cotton may yet again have actually performed poorly. PV Satheesh of Deccan Development Society said that research showed Bt cotton failed to perform yet again in the third consecutive year in parts of South India.
+ NEW STUDY SHOWS BT COTTON 690% MORE EXPENSIVE FOR PEST MANAGEMENT
The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) in Andhra Pradesh, India, organised a press conference last week where they released two reports.
The first shows that Bt cotton growers in 2004 incurred 690% higher costs in pest management as compared to those growing conventional cotton varieties with the help of bio-pesticides and natural control agents.
The other report - a compilation of the experience of the 3 years of Bt cotton commercial cultivation in Andhra Pradesh - is excerpted below.
Bt cotton is up for review in India now and the GEAC of the Ministry of Environment and Forests is going to decide on the extension or otherwise of the 3-year conditional approval granted to the 3 Monsanto-Mahyco varieties.
Together these new reports give the lie to industry hype about Bt cotton, and show the truth of what Devinder Sharma said at the time Monsanto's Bt cotton was granted approval: "It is the biggest scientific fraud to have hit Independent India".
The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture concludes that Monsanto-Mahyco must be made accountable for the losses that Indian farmers have suffered. Even though government committees have repeatedly ordered the company to pay compensation to farmers, the company is still refusing to do so.
+ NEW REPORT: BT COTTON IN INDIA AND ANDHRA PRADESH
The hype and propaganda put out by biotech companies about the unquestionable superior performance of Bollgard Bt Cotton has been proven false yet again. This is the finding of a fascinating and detailed new report: "The story of Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: Erratic Processes and Results", published by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Secunderabad.
Shortened and edited excerpts from the report follow. It can be read in full, in two parts, at
For a second year in three years, in 2004-05 also the government of Andhra Pradesh decided that farmers who have incurred losses by growing Bollgard Bt Cotton need to be compensated by the company. In the year 2002-03, the first year of its commercial cultivation, the then Minister for Agriculture had to announce that Bollgard performance was less than satisfactory and that farmers would be compensated.
In the year 2004-05, hundreds of farmers across different districts went on an agitation in Andhra Pradesh demanding compensation of at least twenty thousand rupees an acre for incurring losses with Bollgard Bt Cotton cultivation. The companies decided to contest the awards, predictably. However, the awarding of compensation by the district agriculture (JDA) committees is a statement in itself about the performance of Bt Cotton.
TRIALS: The new report says the performance of Bollgard cotton seems to have been suspect from the start, even in the trials that preceded commercialization. The trials were conducted by Monsanto-Mahyco company and were not open to independent scrutiny. Claims were made of increased yields and cost reductions, but the data submitted did not tally with these claims.
PROBLEMS IN FIRST YEAR OF COMMERCIALIZATION (2002-3)
Almost at the beginning of the season, the first complaints about Bt cotton came from Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. While the AP reports were about the vulnerability of the Bt varieties to leaf curl virus and jassids, the MP report was about failure of Bt xotton crop in Khargone district, including the costs of Bt xotton being exorbitantly high.
Reports from all states said that not only did Bt Cotton mean the emergence of new pests and diseases but that it failed to control the bollworm for which it has been designed. RFSTE (Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology) brought out findings from its survey in the three states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra:
* False claims of pest resistance: cases of substantial attack of bollworm in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra were found. There was also a 250-300% increase in non-target pests like jassids, aphids and thrips. Bt cotton has been attacked by wilt and root rot in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka;
* False claims of higher yields: Bt Cotton was sold with many promises made by the company in its propaganda with farmers. Higher yields of up to 15 quintals per acre were promised, whereas the average yields of Bt Cotton as per this study were 1.2 quintals per acre in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The study found that nowhere did Bt Cotton yields cross more than 4 quintals per acre at the end of the harvest;
* False claims of higher income: Incomes of Bt Cotton farmers were affected not only by lower yields but because of the prices fetched by the Bt cotton in the market - the staple length was lower than promised.
PROBLEMS IN SECOND YEAR OF COMMERCIALIZATION (2003-4)
Given the widespread reports of Bt Cotton failure in various parts of the country in its first year of commercial cultivation, the second year began on an aggressive push for Bt Cotton by the companies involved. They would not admit to failure, nor were they willing to pay compensation to farmers who have incurred losses. Monsanto began backtracking on its promises and said in its interview to NDTV, "we had never promised higher yields". This is a clear lie since all their propaganda material promises higher yields to farmers.
In a desperate bid to save face and markets, the company intensified its aggressive marketing and changed its strategies. New strategies included:
* giving farmers free pesticides;
* putting out advertisements showing farmers claiming to have got good results from growing Bt cotton. Activists asked some basic questions about these advertisements: why is it that advertisements being put out in Warangal district had farmers vouching for better performance from districts like Guntur and Karimnagar? How are farmers in Warangal supposed to check the veracity of such claims?
* publishing a controversial and discredited scientific paper (by Qaim and Zilberman, which reported an 87% increase in yield with Monsanto's Bt Cotton, using data supplied by Monsanto without collecting or analyzing any other data), with questionable data from the field trials projecting great results with Bt cotton even as data from the farmers indicated the burden that Bt cotton cultivation had placed on farmers who were already in distress.
...Monsanto-Mahyco chose one more strategy to promote its products. ... A C Nielson was commissioned to do a survey. A C Nielson came up with a (predictably) positive report. However, a season-long monitoring done by independent competent agencies like Deccan Development Society, "Did Bt Fail AP Again in 2003-2004?", challenges the AC Nielson study for its design and methodology in addition to the veracity of findings. This report proves Bt cotton failed on all its three main promises - pesticide use reduction, subsequent reduction in cultivation costs and enhancement of farmers' profits.
+ CAN INDIA AFFORD TO GROW GM CROPS?
An assessment done by the Economic Survey 2004-05 (an annual report prepared by government experts) on the status and future of agriexports in India has raised a pertinent question as to whether India can afford to grow GM crops. Referring to the exports of oil meals from India, the survey said that its growth has increased and sustained on account of its "non-GM nature".
India has not yet approved any GM oilseed crop for cultivation. GM mustard seed varieties developed by ProAgro were not approved by the regulatory authority.
+ JAPANESE FARMERS FIGHT TO KEEP GM CROPS OUT
In Japan, farmers are declaring GM crop-free zones to bolster public awareness and fight the influx of such wayward crops. There is every indication that their concerns are well-founded. The Environment Ministry disclosed Feb. 14 that GM rapeseed with resistance to herbicides had been detected in 11 locations near ports. These included Kajima and Yokkaichi in Ibaraki and Mie prefectures, respectively, along with Kobe, Chiba and Nagoya.
The seeds likely spilled from containers during unloading or transportation.
+ VIETNAMESE WAR VICTIMS SUE MONSANTO & CO.
Vietnamese citizens who say they have suffered a lifetime of health problems after being poisoned by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War are suing the American chemical companies, like Monsanto, that provided the Pentagon with the toxic defoliant. In the lawsuit filed this week, it was alleged that up to four million Vietnamese suffered persistent respiratory and reproductive problems as a result
of being contaminated by Agent Orange. They are seeking compensation that could run to billions of dollars from 30 companies, including Dow Chemical and Monsanto.
+ OZ MINISTER BLASTED
The Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) has accused the Australian Minister for Agriculture, Mr Truss of being misleading in promoting GM crops. Mr Truss said that the state moratoria were hurting farmers: "How much longer can Australian farmers compete if unscientific state bans on Genetically Modified Organisms deny access to higher yielding, pest and disease resistant, drought tolerant plant varieties?"
Julie Newman, NCF National Spokesperson countered, "Mr Truss knows the State bans are due to economic risk and as the Federal Minister for Agriculture, he has a duty of care to Australian grain growers to ensure that any GM introduction is economically more viable and will not threaten the viability of existing industries. Not once has the Federal Minister taken the initiative to provide unbiased performance data or attempt to resolve the unfair liability issues.
"There is no scientific reason why GM canola would be any better than our existing non-GM hybrids or chemical resistant canolas. The varieties concerned are Invigor and Roundup Ready canola and both are only genetically modified to be resistant to chemicals. Forget the hype, that is it.
"The US has polluted their agricultural area with a product consumers are rejecting and they want to share their problem so consumers do not have a choice and this will help them avoid market rejection. Our Minister for Agriculture is too keen to sacrifice the economics of the Australian rural areas to satisfy the US and to avoid political pressure from earlier committments to scientists and GM companies."
+ SECRET VICTORIAN GM CROP SITES REVEALED
GeneEthics has published locations of Bayer's secret GM canola releases in Victoria. Four Western District sites threaten the GM-free products of farmers and beekeepers.
+ EXPOSED - EUROPE'S HYPOCRISY OVER GMOS
Leaked documents obtained by Friends of the Earth reveal that the European Commission is admitting to significant and legitimate scientific concerns about the safety of GM foods and crops. The environment campaign group accuses the European Commission of putting the health of the public and the environment at risk from its inconsistent policy by forcing new GM products onto the European market despite these concerns.
The documents form part of Europe's defence in the trans-Atlantic trade dispute in the World Trade Organisation. The Commission has previously refused to release them. In, the documents the Commission admits that:
* The science on GMOs is constantly evolving and that "new risk considerations sometimes arise spontaneously and change the scope of the risk assessment";
* Concerns about antibiotic resistant genes and secondary effects on beneficial insects are "legitimate scientific concerns";
* Member states should be able to determine their own level of protection.
However, since the trade dispute started in 2003, the European Commission has forced two new GM products onto the market and pressurised member states to drop national bans on GM foods and crops.
The leaked document shows the Commission accusing the US government of being ignorant and says that it "deliberately selects what it knows to be a narrow presentation of the issues".
+ 1,000 GMO-FREE ZONES ON EARTH DAY 2005
The GM-free Ireland Network invites you to collaborate in launching 1,000 local GMO-free zones throughout Ireland at 2pm on Earth Day, 22 April 2005.
+ UK EX-MINISTER: ONLY BLAIR AND BECKETT SUPPORT GM
Former UK environment minister Michael Meacher has urged MPs to listen to their constituents over the threat of GM crops and foods. Meacher's call came at a rally in Westminster organised by Friends of the Earth, the Five Year Freeze, FARM and the National Federation of Women's Institutes.
Mr Meacher said prime minister Tony Blair and environment secretary Margaret Beckett were supporting GM in defiance of their own policies. "Everyone except the Government is against GM. Public opinion is overwhelming against it and if anything it's hardening. The supermarkets aren't stocking it."
+ UK: CHARTERED SURVEYORS CALL FOR GM LAND REGISTER
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has called for a web-based land GM Land Register detailing where GM crops are grown. The register would help consumers, landowners and tenants to avoid GM contamination. EU Directive 2001/18EC places an obligation on member states to draw up a register for recording the location of GM crops before the first commercial release of crops.
+ WALES: GM SAFETY LAWS DEMANDED
Farmers have joined environmental campaigners and a cross-party group of Welsh Assembly members to demand tough new laws to prevent GM contamination of conventional crops.
The Farmers' Union of Wales, Friends of the Earth Cymru, National Federation of Women's Institutes, and the campaign group GM Free Cymru at the National Assembly united to call for strict legislation to prevent contamination of organic and conventional farming if GM crops are grown commercially in the future.
+ SCOTLAND: MSP LODGES LIABILITY BILL
Mark Ruskell, Green Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), has officially lodged his GM Liability Bill proposal in the Scottish Parliament with support from four other political parties and all independent MSPs.
The Bill would make GM companies strictly liable for any economic damage as a result of contamination caused by GM crop trials and commercialisation, should it ever be forced through by the Labour/Libdem Coalition in Scotland.
+ MONSANTO TO ACQUIRE EMERGENT GENETICS
Continuing its recent buying spree, Monsanto Co. has said it plans to buy Emergent Genetics Inc. - the US's third-largest cotton seed company - for USD300 million. The announcement comes less than a month after Monsanto agreed to a USD1 billion cash deal to buy Seminis Inc., the Oxnard, Calif.-based supplier of more than 3,500 seed varieties to commercial fruit and vegetable growers, dealers, distributors and wholesalers in more than 150 countries.
+ MONSANTO BUYS REGIONAL SEED COMPANY FOR $40 MILLION
Monsanto Co. said its fledgling holding company will buy seed-marketer NC+ Hybrids Inc. for USD40 million in cash, continuing the agribusiness' shopping spree for regional seed companies as its dominance in herbicides erodes.
+ ROUNDUP HURTS BABIES
Monsanto's Roundup herbicide harms babies, shows new research from the University of Caen, France. A team of researchers led by Pr. Gilles-Eric Seralini found that human placental cells are very sensitive to Roundup, in concentrations lower than the agricultural use. This could explain miscarriages and premature births in the US in farmers. Moreover, Roundup was found to affect sexual hormones at levels below those considered toxic. This finding classes this herbicide as a potential endocrine disruptor. Finally, the effects of Roundup are always greater than those of glyphosate, its active compound. This is significant because herbicide toxicity testing is generally done only on the active ingredient.
Roundup is one of the most widely used herbicides worldwide and the most widely used with GMOs. The study was supported by CRIIGEN (www.crii-gen.org) and "Fondation pour une Terre Humaine".