MONTHLY REVIEW - FEBRUARY 2005
+ NEW U.S. CALL FOR AFRICAN LEADERS TO BE TRIED FOR "CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY"
Tony Hall, the US ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, has repeated his call for African leaders who refuse the US's GM-contaminated food aid to be tried for "crimes against humanity". Hall's comments have played a part in a viral marketing strategy aimed at painting the US and biotech as the saviours of Africa and those that raise concerns as villains.
+ HAWAII: GOVT FORCED TO REVEAL PHARMCROP TEST SITES
In a first step toward public disclosure of test sites of biopharmaceutical crops, the US Department of Agriculture was forced by court order to reveal the locations of these sites in Hawaii.
+ ARKANSAS RICE GROWERS REJECT "PHARMA RICE"
The Arkansas Rice Growers Association has voted to approve legislative efforts to ban the production of pharmaceutical or industrial rice in Arkansas. The vote came in response to Ventria Bioscience's leaving California and relocating to Missouri, where they hope to plant their GM drug-producing rice this year.
+ FOOD, HEALTH AND BRIBES
In Indonesia, Monsanto employees used bribery to try to buy the company out of the need for an environmental impact statement. If Monsanto finds it necessary to bribe at least 140 officials and family members for half a decade in a country that only makes less than 1% of its overall revenue, what can we expect in places where there's more at stake? All human safety data for Monsanto's GM crops - if any exists - is provided to regulators by Monsanto itself.
+ AUSTRALIA: POULTRY GIANTS QUAIL AT GM FOOD PROTESTS
A consumer backlash against GM food has prompted the three largest poultry companies, which produce 80 per cent of chicken sold in Australia, to stop using GM feed. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4891
+ GM FOOD FIGHT: DAVID SCHUBERT
An article on the lack of safety tests on GM foods, citing various scientists, is at
+ 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. But, bizarrely, Biowatch was landed with Monsanto's costs by the court even though it was agreed that Biowatch was acting in the public interest!
+ 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.
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 dependence on industry funding. The effect of this is to generate convergence between private sector and public sector.
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.
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 holding their meeting (3-4 March) at the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center in St Louis, Missouri - home town of Monsanto. The Danforth Center was established by Monsanto Corporation "and academic partners" with a $70-million pledge from Monsanto. The company also donated land on which the Center is built.
+ ROCKEFELLER PRESIDENT IS NEW MAN AT DFID
A campaign to push more public money into GMOs has received a boost with the appointment of a GM proponent to help oversee the international aid programmes of Britain's Department for International Development (DFID). The campaign has been underway for some time on both sides of the Atlantic.
DFID has now appointed Gordon Conway as its chief scientific adviser. Until recently, Conway was president of the Rockefeller Foundation. Recently, the Rockefeller-funded Center for Science in the Public Interest called for extra public investment in GMOs. In 1999, Conway, the author of "The Doubly Green Revolution: Food for All in the 21st Century", told a meeting organised by Monsanto that "the Rockefeller Foundation has funded over $100 million dollars of plant biotechnology research and trained over four hundred scientists from Asia, Africa and Latin America". Conway has made clear his own support for the technology.
+ BANNED GMO TURNS UP IN FOOD AID
A banned GM variety of corn forbidden for humans in the US is being handed out in UN food aid to Central America and the Caribbean. A study found that samples of World Food Program shipments collected in Guatemala included StarLink along with other GM contaminants. The study looked at 77 samples of imported corn included in aid shipments or sold on the open market. Eighty percent was reported to include GM material. Starlink corn was pulled from the market in the US because of concerns it could provoke allergic reactions.
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."
+ ROBERT VINT OF GE FOOD ALERT COMMENTS:
"This situation has only arisen because the USA, unlike other nations, supplies food aid in the form of dumped surplus grain. Other members of the World Food Program - eg the EU and Japan -disapprove and instead supply cash to purchase food as near to the recipients as possible. Buying locally supports peasant farmers in developing nations as well as enabling choice; dumping free food puts local farmers out of business... It is reasonable to blame much of the rural unemployment and food dependency of developing nations on the impact of US food aid policies... Oxfam America has estimated that up to 80% of funds channelled through US Food Aid Program... are spent, not in developing countries, but in the US. US food aid shipments correlate with times of surplus and silo emptying - not with times of food shortages."
+ CORE MAKES PRO-GM VIDEO
African-American civil-rights-turned-corporate-rights group CORE has made a video, "Voices from Africa", said to show the results of its fact-finding trip to Africa. The video was premiered at CORE's "UN World Conference-2005" on "Biotechnology" (New York, January 17-18, 2005).
Its main presenter is CORE chairman Roy Innis, who says, "Because of my concern [about hunger in Africa], I came to Africa to see for myself... and to see the potential for biotechnology." Roy's philanthropic mission is totally unconnected, of course, with Monsanto becoming CORE's "Corporate Partner".
Veteran black American journalists Glen Ford and Peter Gamble describe CORE as "a tin cup outstretched to every Hard Right political campaign or cause that finds it convenient - or a sick joke - to hire Black cheerleaders".
+ DOUG POWELL PART OF "ORGANISATION WHICH DISTORTS SCIENCE REPORTING"
GM promoter Doug Powell turns up again in an article at http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4896 about CanStats, an organisation that "seems to be in the employ of industry, particularly industry that pollutes the environment or exposes people to health or safety risks".
Stats [US parent organization of CanStats] and its parent organization, the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), have been spectacularly successful in pushing American television networks and newspapers rightward during 20 years of effort. ... Now the project has come to Canada. CanStats was launched with a grant from the Donner Canadian Foundation, a key organization in the project to change the ideological fabric of Canadian society.
CanStats is an American-inspired organization with an American director, an American agenda, advisors from the American Enterprise Institute and a Canadian target audience. Canadian advisors include Doug Powell from the University of Guelph... Powell's food safety network receives funding from dozens of corporations including Maple Leaf Foods, McCain's Foods, McDonalds, Meat and Livestock Australia and Monsanto Canada, to name just the companies beginning with M.
+ WHAT ORDER 81 MEANS FOR IRAQ: FARMERS COULD LOSE EVERYTHING
A useful article explains the implications for Iraqi farmers of Order 81, imposed by the US on Iraq: "Order 81 not only prohibits the practice of saving patented seeds brought into the country, but allows the patenting of new varieties developed from existing seeds through scientific plant breeding or genetic modification... only corporate-owned seed strains can be patented. And these are being widely distributed through US aid channels."
In this context it may be worth revisiting the prediction of John Vidal, The Guardian's environment correpondent, who in July 2003 wrote, "What's the betting that Iraq turns to GM crops within a year? Dan Amstutz, the American charged with running the country's agriculture, has been widely criticised by Oxfam - not least because he drafted the World Trade Organisation's Uruguay round, which has ruined so many developing countries. Amstutz plays down his corporate connections (he used to work for giant grain company Cargill), but it seems he's chairman of the board of directors of a new company set up by some of the biggest agribusiness and GM companies in the world - including Cargill and DuPont."
+ MONARCH BUTTERFLIES ON DECLINE IN MEXICO
The population of Monarch butterflies has suffered a drastic decline. Mexico's Environment Department says that 75 percent fewer Monarch butterflies have appeared in 2004 compared to previous years. It blames cold weather and intensive farming - including GM crops - in areas of the US and Canada where the butterflies spend the summer and reproduce... Monarch butterfly larvae have been found to die after eating milkweed coated with GM corn pollen.
+ EC EXPOSES MEMBER STATES TO GM RISKS
While the European Commission claims that Monsanto's GE maize MON810 has been monitored for environmental risks, Greenpeace investigations show that no comprehensive monitoring plan exists. Says Christoph Then of Greenpeace International, "Simple investigations reveal that the only monitoring plan the EU refers to is nothing more than Monsanto's own monitoring from 1995."
+ SCIENTISTS NO LONGER USING (HUMAN) FOOD CROPS FOR VACCINES
According to an article in New Scientist, drug developers are abandoning their quest for vaccines contained in staple foods like bananas, tomatoes or potatoes - to avoid vaccine-laden food straying into shops. Instead, developers are now focusing on making vaccines in the leaves of non-food plants.
+ TERMINATOR ACTION SUCCESS!
An international moratorium on the use of Terminator technology in GM crops survived Canadian government-led efforts to overturn it at a United Nations meeting in Bangkok. After being swamped by protest emails and letters, the Canadian government was forced to soften its position on Terminator. "Canada's proposal could easily have been mistaken for one written by Monsanto," Jim Thomas of ETC Group said.
The issue now bounces to another CBD advisory body (the Working Group on 8(j)) in March 2006. The bad news is that decisions made in Bangkok will allow the issue of Terminator to be re-examined interminably.
+ 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 GM soy seeds in Brazil. 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 GM crops are on the up in the USA. Some producers are expecting Monsanto's technology fees to rise 75% this season.
+ 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).
+ IOWA BILLS FIGHT GM-FREE ZONES AND FARMER CHOICE
Bills currently before the Iowa house (HF 202) and senate (1144) would disallow Iowa farmers from creating GM-free zones.
+ SONOMA COUNTY TO VOTE ON BIOTECH BAN
Voters in Sonoma County, California, will decide in November whether to become the fourth California county to ban cultivation of GMOs.
+ BT COTTON - VERY POOR PERFORMANCE, SAYS NEW REPORT
As Monsanto's Bt cotton comes up for review on March 4 in India, a new report slams the crop for poor performance. 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.
+ NO BT COTTON, NO PESTICIDES, AND NO PESTS! HOW COTTON FARMERS ARE BEING FLEECED
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 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:
+ 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 is a compilation of the overwhelmingly negative experience of the 3 years of Bt cotton commercial cultivation in Andhra Pradesh. 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".
+ 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.
+ MONSANTO TO ACQUIRE EMERGENT GENETICS
Continuing its recent buying spree, Monsanto Co. plans to buy Emergent Genetics Inc. - the US's third-largest cotton seed company - for USD300 million. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4914
Monsanto Co. also said its holding company will buy seed-marketer NC+ Hybrids Inc. for USD40 million.
+ ROUNDUP HURTS BABIES
Monsanto's Roundup herbicide harms babies, says new research from the University of Caen, France. A team of researchers led by Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini found that human placental cells are sensitive to Roundup, in concentrations lower than the agricultural use. This could explain miscarriages and premature births in US farmers. Moreover, Roundup was found to affect sexual hormones at levels below those considered toxic. This finding classes the herbicide as a potential endocrine disruptor. Finally, the effects of Roundup are 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".