from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor


Dear all,

I don't know many campaigners who are good at self-congratulation, but I hope we've all made an exception in the wake of Bayer's withdrawal from the UK. The first item in our HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - UK should inspire you.

This week was the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. It is an event which we in the West are often accused of forgetting, so to mark the occasion we've produced a special series of articles on a group of people who went further than forgetting - they actually denied the atrocities that took place in Rwanda. (See HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - GLOBAL.) One of these people is now in charge of the UK's Science Media Centre! Others in the group hide under a cloak of independence and "sound science" to put out pro-GM propaganda every bit as dishonest as the articles denying the genocide.

Good news at last from Brazil, where in spite of the betrayal of President Lula in allowing the temporary growing and selling of GM soy, the governor of the major soy-producing state is busy banning pesticides made by Monsanto and BASF on health grounds (HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - GLOBAL). The pesticides under the gun include Roundup, used on GM soy.

Meanwhile, in India, while the government has just approved a fourth GM cotton, the state of Mizoram has declared itself organic and has refused its allocation of chemical fertiliser this year. Three other Indian states, Sikkim, Nagaland and Meghalaya, are in the process of going wholly organic. The chief minister of a fifth, Uttaranchal, has vowed to keep his state GM-free and pursue organics vigorously, and the Madhya Pradesh government has identified 3,300 villages where only organic farming will now be practised. If one good thing has come out of humankind's disastrous experiment with GM, perhaps it is that, as Dr Johnson said of knowing you are going to be hanged next morning, it concentrates the mind wonderfully.


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




With the inspiring recent news from the UK (probably no GM commercialisation for the next five years) and Australia (four states have installed moratoria on GM plantings), messages of delight have been pouring in to GM WATCH. Here are two:

(i) TO GMWatch Humans, Jim Thomas & Sarah North
As a Tawo Seed Carrier of sacred plants, please accept my humble and grateful thank you for all your personal sacrifices. To quote the Mahatma, "this world has enough for everyone's need but not enough for one man's greed." Here in Turtle Island [Canada] we continue to resist being the guinea pigs of Monsanto and their ilk.  We need your prayers.
Lilia Firefly
Tawo Seed Carrier

 (ii) ...THANK YOU from me, personally to you for the incredible work you have done, for your courage and for not giving up. I cannot match most of you, except, perhaps, in the not giving up department. The world does not thank us very often for the work we do, so we have to thank each other.

I also want you to feel what it means to your life that sometimes we can actually WIN, not just fight the good fight because we know it's the right thing to do. Sometimes, you can win when you're pushing a door that is already starting to open, but nobody can say that that was the case here.

So, right now, get up from your computer, and, if you haven't already done it a lot, dance around the room, punch the air (or whatever you do), hug someone, MAKE SOME NOISE, claim some credit out loud!

GO ON, I really mean it, do it now.
[one of the first campaigners on GM]

A defiant Dr Julian Little is predicting that acres of GM oilseed rape will be growing in Cambridgeshire fields before the end of the decade. Dr Little, public and government affairs manager for Bayer CropScience, sounds undeterred by this week's announcement that his company is abandoning its GM maize plans for this country.

Dr Little said it was a case of the GM maize seed running past its shelf life, with new developments in seed technology superseding this variety. He said, "Bayer remains absolutely committed to GM and we are looking forward to the day when it is grown in the UK. We were disappointed to have to make the maize announcement because we had worked hard to keep the shelf life going as long as possible. However, we do expect GM oilseed rape to be harvested in the fields of Cambridgeshire before the end of the decade."

According to an article in the Independent, ministers are prepared for GM crops never to be grown commercially in Britain after the strain approved for cultivation was withdrawn by Bayer, the company that developed it. The article claims ministers are determined not to compromise on strict conditions for growing the crops, which Bayer blamed for its decision not to proceed with the GM maize given the go-ahead by the government last month. Unless the controls are relaxed, Bayer says it will abandon the technology in Britain.

An article by Sean Poulter in the Daily Mail says of Bayer's decision to withdraw its GM maize, "the biotech farming lobby viewed it as a disaster, setting back such cultivation many years. It was also a huge embarrassment for ministers, who have done all they could to approve the genetically modified maize. Bayer is believed to have abandoned its plans after realising that consumer opposition could make it impossible to find a market for the product."

Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday wrote that 31 March, the day Bayer withdrew its GM maize, was "the day on which the Prime Minister suffered his greatest ever defeat. It was inflicted not by Parliament, but by the public, with the assistance of a five-year campaign in The Independent on Sunday.  For the decision by Bayer CropScience to 'discontinue' its efforts to grow a modified maize in this country marks the end of Mr Blair's personal drive to make Britain the 'European hub' for GM technology."

"First, the government's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre) proposed that if GM maize cultivation were allowed to go ahead, the same regime would have to be followed as in the FSE trials.

"It presented a dilemma for the government and the industry. The government could only guarantee FSE-comparable trials by amending EU regulations on atrazine. The commission and 14 other member states would be unlikely to agree to this. For the industry, without the option to use the Liberty ATZ mix, too many weeds would survive, making the crop yields uneconomic for most farmers.

"In addition, biotech companies always maintained that there was no problem over cross-contamination of organic and conventional crops because separation distances ensured almost none occurred, or if it did, it could be dealt with quite easily by the GM farmer taking out insurance.

"But no insurance company would provide cover for GM crops, and the government properly refused to use taxpayers' money to bail out the industry if anything went wrong. The industry was hoist on its own petard. It was invited to cover the costs of what it roundly declared to be a virtually non-existent problem, and it balked at it. Its big lie was exposed. Rather than taking the risk of having to compensate organic or conventional farmers driven out of business by GM contamination, it cut its losses and pulled out.

"So what now? The problems associated with GM are becoming clearer and, in the case of issues such as co-existence and separation distances, are probably insoluble. In Britain, the more that people find out about GM the more they are opposed. And in the EU as a whole, the refusal of  member states to process GM applications shows no sign of weakening.

"Globally, GM crops are confined (in other than insignificant amounts) to just four countries - the US with 66% of global GM production, Argentina 23%, Canada 6%, China 4%, and the other 181 countries together with less than 1%. Most staggeringly of all, no systematic testing has yet been carried out on the health impacts of eating GM foods.  

"GM crops will not be planted in Britain for several years, and we should use that time to draw breath and reflect. Is GM really the way forward when there are no consumer benefits and huge potential risks? Let's switch the focus to alternative technologies, notably marker assisted selection, which offers a qualitative leap in precision over traditional breeding techniques."

More on marker assisted selection

On 31 March, the London Borough of Havering was voted a GM-free zone. It's a great victory for a local year-long campaign by Havering Friends of the Earth, the Green Party, Greenpeace and Havering residents' association, all working together.

The motion put to Havering Borough Council by the residents' association said that (my point A) since "there is still scientific debate about the safety of GM crops" along with "economic, social and ethical problems that have not yet been properly addressed", "Havering will, so far as is possible, be kept free of GM crops and GM food and feed."

The motion went on to commit the Council (my point B) to ensure that no GM crops are grown on land it controls and adopt a GM-free policy for goods and services for which it is responsible. The motion also commits the Council to writing to the European Commission within 30 days of any GM crop being approved, under article 19(3) of Directive 2001/18, to ban the crop locally "to protect the environment of Havering and to protect the integrity of Havering as a GM-free area".

The Council is made up of 27 Conservatives and 27 non-Conservatives. All the Conservatives voted to amend the motion to remove Point B (the meaty bit that commits them to action!) and all the non-Cons voted to keep it, which split the vote evenly. The Mayor had the casting vote, and he voted against the amendment. Another vote was held on the full motion, which passed with 26 for, 6 against and 22 abstentions.

Havering is the second London borough to go GM-free, Southwark being the first.


If you want to know just how bad it's been of late for the GM industry, you only have to read some of the less mealy-mouthed contributions to CS Prakash's AgBioView. A theme running through several items is "Loss of Innovation". The argument is that if you check the introduction of GM agriculture, you block technological development and progress.

As Dr Andy Stirling, an expert in policy research in this area, has pointed out, this is a startlingly simplistic perspective, though a politically and commercially convenient one.

To treat any particular technological development as being self-evidently good is absurd. Technologies do not spring from nowhere, nor are they hard-wired in nature. Technological directions are deliberate choices. The real debate is about who chooses technology and to what end.

Obviously, Australia's biotechnology industry organisation, which is responsible for the press release below, has a vested interest in limiting societal influence and control over their industries.

But Stirling points out that just as scepticism is the key to good science, dissent is the key to robust and innovative technologies. This means that it is in the long-term interest of societies to allow more, not less, attention to the politics of technology.

By contrast, those who seek to prevent particular technologies from being subjected to scepticism and dissent are seeking to narrow society's choices as to the technological path we proceed along. It is they who seek to exclude dissent, diversity and *innovation*, and it is reasonable to ask whose interest that serves.

Press Release from AusBiotech, 1 April 2004
"AusBiotech, Australia's biotechnology industry organisation, is stunned and amazed at a week in politics that has seen GM moratoria placed in four states in five days. In such a short period of time, many of AusBiotech's members and biotechnology players have been left wondering at the timing, coordination and coincidental moratorium periods and legislation announced in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

"'This marks a sad day for colleagues in the agriscience and biotechnology industries, as the sheer enormity of this decision impacts the competitiveness of Australia's technology and the ongoing confidence and support of local researchers,' said Dr Tony Coulepis, Executive Director, AusBiotech."

Several users of canola oilseed, including some of Australia's big food manufacturers, say they are not interested in buying the GM product. New South Wales has just approved three new GM trials [small-scale; the major trial the industry wanted has been rejected - see].

One of the big users of oil seeds, Unilever, has a policy of not buying GM food products. Small-scale canola crusher Mac Smith Milling, which uses canola meal for stock feed, says its customers are not interested in buying GM product. Flour miller the Manildra group says its customers demand non-GM product.

Canada could be locked out of one of its most important canola markets later this month. China has set an April 20 deadline for developers of GM crops to attain safety certificates required under new regulations. "If they have not obtained the safety certificate, they will not be able to export GMO products to China after April 21," said Shi Yanquan, head of China's GM office.

Shi said developers of 17 GM products submitted their applications on time, five of which received the certificates. One soybean, two corn and two cotton varieties were approved.

Officials have to fully assess the ecological and human health risks associated with GM canola. Shi said the pesticide DDT was once considered safe, but scientists and health officials now realize they were wrong. "The same also applies to our understanding of GMOs, which are new to us. It will take some time and process to understand it."

Last week Greg Conko of the US think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), was in Australia on a US-government funded tour, lobbying unsuccessfully for GM. The tour was also backed by the US's National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy, which pumps out scientific studies showing remarkable benefits from GM farming.

While in Australia Conko admitted to journalist Bob Burton that CEI takes funding from Monsanto: "While saying that less than a quarter of the CEI's agriculture programme funding comes from corporations, Conko confirmed that Monsanto is the biotechnology sponsor of the institute".

Conko and CEI co-founded CS Prakash's AgBioWorld campaign. Indeed, the CEI describe Conko as "the Vice President and a member of the Board of Directors of the AgBioWorld Foundation, [which] he co-founded with ... C.S. Prakash". CEI also says that it played "a key role in the creation" of Prakash's petition for "agbiotech" as part of its wider campaign against "death by regulation" - a campaign that also takes in attacking restrictions on smoking. Philip Morris is another of the CEI's sponsors.

GM WATCH research has also shown that AgBioWorld has intimate links to Monsanto's Internet PR firm, The Bivings Group, and that AgBioWorld and its listserv AgBioView have been used as a conduit for Monsanto/Bivings-inspired dirty tricks campaigns involving poison pen attacks on Monsanto's scientific and environmental critics - most infamously, a campaign of smears and attacks on the Berkeley researchers Quist and Chapela.

For a profile of CS Prakash and AgBioWorld see:
For a profile of CEI see:
For a profile of Greg Conko see:

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the start of the genocide that took place between April and June 1994 in the central African state of Rwanda. Those systematised massacres left around one in ten of Rwanda's population dead and much of the remainder physically or emotionally scarred.

As the director of the Aegis Trust, a British-based charity, speaking at a conference in Rwanda's capital Kigali this weekend, noted, "In this city, you know, there are still more nightmares than dreams, because you know personally, that just 10 years ago, someone hacked your father to death, sliced through your brother, raped your mother. Never forget Rwanda, let it be a dangerous, unsettling, unnerving memory."

Many accuse the rich world of doing precisely the opposite of remembering Rwanda - of first turning a blind eye to the genocide in the months in which it occurred and then ignoring its traumatised survivors. Some, however, have gone much further than mere indifference. Rather than just ignoring the horrors of the Rwandan genocide, they have become actual apologists for what occurred, even seeking to deny in racist terms the murder of around 800,000 people. This the revisionists dismiss as merely some sort of disorganised tribal bloodletting.

In March 2000 Guardian correspondent Chris McGreal wrote of this perspective, "Genocide is such a hard crime to deny that those who insist on doing so usually put themselves on the outer fringes of historical debate. How many people had heard of Living Marxism (LM) before the ITN reporters decided to prove the magazine lied about the camps in Bosnia? Obscuring the truth about Bosnia was not LM's only bid to rewrite history in favour of the murderers. It has also conducted a long campaign to deny there was a genocide in Rwanda. But while the magazine is of no great consequence, it is articulating a lie perpetuated by a host of more powerful interests...",3604,181819,00.html

In a recent article, Rotten to the Corp (Science in Society 21, Spring 2004), GM WATCH editors Claire Robinson and Jonathan Matthews examined how the LM network, which has now made promoting biotechnology its central preoccupation, continues to articulate lies on behalf of powerful interests - this time from within the very heart of the science-media establishment.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide, we've taken a long hard look at a network whose carefully placed members have been at the very heart of campaigns to bring us patents on life, embryo cloning and the commercialisation of GM crops.

We expose the genocide deniers who became biotech apologists, and how they have successfully applied to the GM debate the talent they showed over Rwanda and Bosnia, for articulating lies perpetuated by more powerful interests.

Full article in three parts at

For an article by GM WATCH editors Jonathan Matthews and Claire Robinson, "Rotten to the Corp", an expose of biotech's new corporate warriors who promote their agenda by infiltrating the science-media establishment and by using smear tactics borrowed from America's far-right (published in Science in Society 21, Spring 2004

Here are the key players:

***Science Media Centre director Fiona Fox was responsible for the first denial of the Rwandan genocide to appear in print in a widely sold English language publication.

As our GM WATCH profile of Fox notes, "It is perhaps revealing that someone whose own immensely controversial journalism has been denounced as 'shoddy' and 'an affront to the truth', has been selected as the director of an organisation which claims the role of making sure that controversial scientific issues like GM crops are reported accurately in the media." Profile of Fox:

***Thomas Deichmann, German author of pro-GM book "The Popular Lexicon of Genetic Engineering: Surprising Facts from Allergy and Killer Potatoes to Cell Therapy" and contributor to the LM-organised and industry-funded Genes and Society 'festival' in London in 2003. Deichmann chides the media over the inaccuracy of their reporting on GM.

Prior to his reinvention as a GM expert, Deichmann was an apologist for crimes against humanity. He was best known for an article on Bosnia he contributed to LM, in which he accused British journalists of fabricating evidence of imprisonment and atrocities at the Trnopolje camp in Bosnia. As a result of the article, LM was sued out of existence with the court finding, as did war crimes tribunals at the Hague, that Trnopolje was "a camp where Muslims were undoubtedly imprisoned" and where "many were beaten, tortured, raped and killed by their Serb guards". Profile of Deichmann:

Last week a sharply divided California rice industry voted 6-5 to approve the nation's first commercial-scale planting of a crop genetically engineered to produce drug compounds - Ventria Bioscience's GM rice containing human proteins for treatment of diarrhoea.

All 5 of the "no" votes came from handlers and growers, while of the 6 "yes" votes 4 came from scientists and two from the Farmers Rice Cooperative (the largest handler). It is reported that FRC are experiencing a sizeable backlash, while there is speculation that some of the scientists may have plant-breeding connections to relevant commercial interests or to those involved in trialling GM varieties.

Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign, India warns that this decision has global implications. She points out that the US is the second largest exporter of rice in the world and California is the US's principle rice-growing region. A press release from the Organic Trade Association points out the failure to contain GMOs and declares America's GM food system "out of control". More at

Brazil's Parana, the country's biggest soy-producing state, ordered Monsanto and BASF AG to suspend the sale of some pesticides as it seeks more information about their impact on human health. Roberto Requiao, the state governor, ordered the recall of all stocks of pesticides produced by both companies because state officials lack information about their impact on health, said spokesman Benedito Pires. Roundup, a pesticide produced by Monsanto to work with its GM soybeans, is among the products prohibited by the state.

"The governor banned all the products that are missing the information demanded by the state's agriculture department,'' said Pires. "They're dangerous for people's health.''

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva allowed the temporary planting and selling of GM soybeans in Brazil in October. Requiao approved a state law barring farmers from growing the GM seeds in the state and exporting them through Paranagua, Brazil's biggest grain port.

India has approved a fourth strain of GM cotton seed using technology licensed from Monsanto for cultivation and sale in parts of India, despite opposition from environmentalists. Rasi Seeds of India developed RCH2BT, a variant of Monsanto's BT Cotton. The seed can be sold and cultivated only in central and southern India, as the government has not allowed GM crops in the north and east regions, which account for most of the country's foodgrain production.

GM, says Devinder Sharma in a Times of India interview, diverts precious financial resources into an irrelevant line of research and it comes with stronger intellectual property rights aimed at strengthening corporate control over agriculture.

"Bt cotton field trials were a sham. In three years of research trials, the experiments were not conducted as per scientific norms. And yet, the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, ministry of environment & forests) had approved the results. The experiment only showed that such products are not suitable for Indian conditions. If only the same attention had gone to more sustainable farming systems, India would have been able to create a unique model of agriculture where farmers are not forced to commit suicide, where the land is not polluted, and where water is not poisoned. GM crops experiments show that the country is fast moving into a hitherto unforeseen era of biological pollution, which will be more unsustainable and also destructive to human health and environment."


"Only GM can save the banana" is a story that first surfaced in 2001. It next did a comeback in 2003 and now it is doing the rounds all over again: "Without a genetic fix, the banana may be history" by David Ewing Duncan

Each time this story (re)emerges, it gets expertly debunked (even by the UN Food Agency) ... until the next time comes around! And each time exactly the same scientist is quoted, Dr Emile Frison. Here are some of the headlines Frison has helped to generate:

Bananas are a Dying Breed; Bananas "killed off" by 2013; Banana blight?; Banana on a slippery slope to extinction; GE declared as last hope to save the banana; Yes - in 10 years we may have no bananas; Bananas could split for good; Defenceless banana "will be extinct in 10 years"; Bye Bye Banana; Bananas, an endangered fruit.

According to the GM lobby, the reporting of science is endangered by a gullible media fed on scare stories by pressure groups. We couldn't agree more.


"Up until 30 years ago, most European and North American seed companies were small, family-owned businesses. Since that time, the seed industry has changed dramatically. In 2000, ... ten seed companies controlled almost one-third of the USD24.7 billion commercial seed market. Indeed, two companies - Monsanto and DuPont (with Pioneer) - controlled almost 15 per cent, and corporate market share is much higher in specific seed sectors and for certain crops. For example:
*Forty per cent of US vegetable seeds come from a single source.
*The top five vegetable seed companies control 75 per cent of the global vegetable seed market.
*DuPont and Monsanto together control 73 per cent of the US seed corn market.
*Just four companies (Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow) control at least 47 per cent of the commercial soybean seed market."
- Helena Paul and Ricarda Steinbrecher, Hungry Corporations (London and New York: Zed Books, 2003) ISBN 1 84277 301 1

"As the same corporations seek to enforce the same conditions everywhere, they create a universal class interest in confronting them. No one needs to persuade the people fighting Monsanto in Britain that they have common cause with the people fighting Monsanto in Bangladesh or Bolivia. But because the corporations have so effectively crushed the global workforce, much of the pressure for change now comes from outside the factory gates."

"Science in countries like Britain has been subordinated to the corporate demand for profitable new technologies. To deploy these technologies, companies must also demand ever-lower regulatory standards. These are the reasons why science policy has become such a battleground, and why so many of those who claim to be defending science instead appear to be defending corporate power." - George Monbiot, "Jump on our bandwagon: The left must see that only environmentalism has the power to restrain global corporations", The Guardian, 6 April 2004

"Although about 100 trials have been done on the commercial value of GM animal feed, only 10 feeding trials that look at the health effects on animals have been done. Of these, the biotechnology companies were connected with five, and none found harmful effects. However, most of the remaining five, done independently, found worrying changes in the gut. None of these has been followed up."

"The fact is that no one knows if GM food is safe to eat. Worldwide, there has been only one trial that looked at what happens when humans eat GM food. To their surprise, researchers found that the human gut bacteria could take up GM DNA. This trial, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2002, has not been followed up."

"The global market for organic food is GBP16bn, five times the global market for genetically engineered seed (about GBP3bn). No one is queuing up to eat GM food; in contrast organic sales are growing. We must not go down the uncertain, unpredictable - and irreversible - road to GM." - Peter Melchett, "When it comes to food, it's better to contact your supermarket than your MP", The Independent, 5 April 2004

"Food aid for people who can no longer feed themselves and are in desperate need is obviously essential, but why should this assistance be made conditional upon acceptance of an agricultural strategy whose benefits are highly questionable?" - Caspar Henderson, "Rwanda, Sudan and beyond: lessons from Africa", Open Democracy, 7 - 4 - 2004


Our thanks to all of you who have donated to GM WATCH. For those who have not yet contributed, you can donate online in any one of five currencies via PayPal, at OR by cheque or postal order payable to 'NGIN', to be sent to: NGIN, 26 Pottergate, Norwich, NR2 1DX, UK. We appreciate your support.


7/4/2004 From genocide revisionists to biotech apologists - pt 3
7/4/2004 Going GM bananas all over again
7/4/2004 Rwanda, Sudan and beyond: lessons from Africa
7/4/2004 Why did Bayer do it? / Marker assisted selection
6/4/2004 Brazil's Parana State Bans Monsanto, Basf Pesticides
6/4/2004 From genocide revisionists to biotech apologists - pt 2
6/4/2004 Global corporations: the new aristocracy - George Monbiot
5/4/2004 Genocide? What genocide? How historical revisionists became biotech apologists - pt 1
5/4/2004 Melchett on objections to GM
4/4/2004 'GM will never be grown in Britain'
4/4/2004 'No market' for GM canola / Rules may halt GM canola to China
4/4/2004 AgBioView co-founder takes money from Monsanto
3/4/2004 America's drug producing GM rice should be blocked
3/4/2004 Blair suffers his greatest ever defeat
2/4/2004 Biotech industry "stunned and amazed" by GM meltdown
2/4/2004 Defiant Dr Little predicts acres of GM crops within decade, say Bayer
2/4/2004 Grateful and humble / Time to party!
2/4/2004 Thought for Food / India OKs GM Cotton
1/4/2004 Bayer share price down/3 important ACTION ALERTS/Germany says restaurant food must be labelled
1/4/2004 Big Norm praises Blair / Michael Meacher on Seeds of Deception / Guardian on Bayer pull-out
1/4/2004 Gene Ecology taking off/Scientists slam Bush again/US regs inadequate
1/4/2004 GM food crops in Australia "on hold indefinitely"/GM crop moratorium demanded in India
1/4/2004 Oz - Gene Giants face meltdown as GM snuffed out in yet another State
1/4/2004 THE WEEKLY WATCH NUMBER 66 - and monthly review