Go to http://www.anti-lomborg.com to see the pro-GM anti-environmental author of 'The Sceptical Environmentalist', Prof BjÃ¸rn Lomborg, getting his just desserts in an Oxford bookshop. Did the T-shirted coke swilling Lomborg remain a cool Dane, we wonder, or become a dyspeptical 'envronmentalist'? press release: http://www.anti-lomborg.com/press1.htm Lomborg's claims have already been discredited in his native Denmark, where colleagues in Aarhus University have created a website dedicated to a critique of his views as untrue, dangerous, absurd and irrelevant. See http://www.au.dk/~cesamat/debate.html
items from AGNET SEPTEMBER 7, 2001
PM looks set to blunt genetics push [New Zealand]
No good going half pie on GE release - Greens
Government moratorium must include field trials
GM volunteer canola causes havoc
Starlink ghost seen chasing Asia away from US corn for another year
Hold MPs' feet to fire on GMO issue
Unmentioned agenda for world food security - RAFI
European commission launches new website - Cantley appeal to AgBioView
Canadian FARM POLICY SHIFTING
Prakash urges president fox to bring biotech to Mexican farmers
full bulletin archived at:
PM LOOKS SET TO BLUNT GENETICS PUSH
September 7, 2001
The Government looks likely to dash scientists' hopes when it responds to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification. The $6.5 million commission, chaired by retired chief justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum, advised the Government in July that genetically modified crops could co-exist alongside organic and conventional production.
At the time, Prime Minister Helen Clark described the recommendations as "thorough, balanced and measured".
But she is now signalling that her Government will not agree to either the commercial or "conditional" release of genetically modified crops or animals. Conditional release is an interim step proposed by the commission. It would have allowed authorities to approve commercial production under strict conditions. "The overall image of New Zealand as a place that you buy food from is important," Miss Clark said. "We can't do anything that compromises that reputation. That will have a major impact on the decision we make." As a final safeguard, the commission advised the Government itself to rule on the first application to produce genetically modified crops for sale. But the Government is leaning toward imposing a moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified crops and animals while it waits to see how world opinion develops on genetically modified produce.
If it does so, some New Zealand scientists will head overseas, Life Sciences Network chairman William Rolleston says. The royal commission had proposed a robust process that took into account all the interests that existed in the community and all options, he said. "A moratorium would effectively say that we are not going to preserve a particular option. It would be inappropriate to say to the rest of the world and particularly to our scientists that we are going to unilaterally block new developments which may have absolutely no impact on the environment at all. It's a question of sending a message to the science community internationally about whether or not we are serious about building a knowledge economy."
Miss Clark said the Government wanted to keep New Zealand's options open. A "significant minority" of existing publicly funded research was genetic, but the logical outcome of that was not necessarily the production of genetically modified crops or animals for sale.
NO GOOD GOING HALF PIE ON GE RELEASE - GREENS
September 7, 2001
Press Release by Green Party
Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today only a ban on genetically engineered organisms in the environment would protect New Zealand's ecosystems and clean green reputation. "While I welcome as a first step the suggestion of a moratorium on commercial or conditional release of genetically engineered crops or animals, as the Dominion today reported the Prime Minister is considering, that would still mean that some large-scale releases of genetically engineered organisms and all field trials could take place," she said.
"Allowing some releases and not others would be going half pie on the GE issue - we couldn't market ourselves as GE-Free, and we would be taking all the environmental risks identified in the Royal Commission report." Three examples of possible large-scale release that could still be approved under such a policy are:
1. live genetically engineered vaccines such as the cholera vaccine which was found to have been used here without ERMA approval
2. the release of genetically engineered organisms such as viruses being developed for possum control
3. the widespread planting of genetically engineered pine trees (which may not be counted as 'crops')
"I don't imagine the Prime Minister has chosen the words "crops or animals" without a fair bit of thought, and although some people have read this as a Green victory, it is in fact very incomplete.
"I hope the Prime Minister will realise that the only way to protect our reputation as a GE-Free food producer and tourism destination is to keep all genetically engineered organisms, not just crops and animals, out of our environment."
GOVERNMENT MORATORIUM MUST INCLUDE FIELD TRIALS
September 7, 2001
Press Release by Greenpeace
Preserving options means a GE free environment
Auckland 7th December 2001. Greenpeace today called for field trials to be included in any moratorium, while supporting the cautious approach outlined by the Prime Minister regarding NZ's policy on genetic engineering. "The line must be drawn at the laboratory door. Any release into the environment will lead to contamination. Examples here and overseas show that genetic material cannot be contained in field trials. Therefore it is critical to ensure that the Government position halts all releases into the environment," said Annette Cotter, Greenpeace campaigner.
In Tasmania, there have been 21 documented breaches of GE field trials, and in New Zealand field trials of genetically engineered peas, potatoes, salmon and tamarillos have had containment breaches. "The Government is responding to the uncertainty and concerns raised by the Royal Commission's report.
In acknowledging that our clean green image cannot be compromised, Ms Clark is assuming a sensible approach to GE," said Cotter. "Keeping options open by keeping GE in the lab is a pragmatic position to take. Lab based research can continue with our environment being GE free. This is the best of both worlds."
GM VOLUNTEER CANOLA CAUSES HAVOC
September 7, 2001
BIRSAY, Sask. Ken Howell's fields at his 960 acre farm at Birsay, Sask., are, according to this story, now "mostly clear" of genetically modified canola, but the Saskatchewan farmer says questions raised by the uninvited guests have yet to be answered.
The story says that GM canola showed up on Howell's herbicide-fallowed land this year, even though he said he took the necessary precautions to keep it off his . He said he bought certified Hudson, non-GM canola seed two years ago and rotated it with durum last season. He said he sprayed the appropriate herbicides for broadleaf weeds, used farm equipment that had not handled GM crops, and bought seed from a dealer that didn't clean GM seed. Howell was cited as saying that Monsanto, the company that developed the GM glyphosate-tolerant canola, has sent workers to his farm to hand pick the GM plants in an attempt to eliminate it from his fields but that the company admitted to him this won't likely be the last he will see of RoundUp Ready canola on his farm, adding, "They tell me the seed can sit dormant for up to five years. This is only the second year and it sounds like there is still some seed out on my fields that didn't get cleaned up." Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan was cited as saying the company is making every effort to satisfy producers who find "unexpected volunteers" in their fields.
Howell said Monsanto sent "about 20 kids for six days" to hand pick the canola plants in mid-August. The canola was bagged in garbage bags and a few unsealed, large chemical container disposal bags. Howell said he was told to burn the plants. Howell was further quoted as saying, "Who owns these plants, me or Monsanto...? Why should I contaminate my land with a crop that somebody else has paid to grow?"
Jack Stabler, head of the University of Saskatchewan's agricultural economics department, was quoted as saying there "isn't really a legal framework to determine what happens when there are unintended spillovers" of GM plants. There is a larger issue that has yet to be addressed here. So far, there are no simple solutions and I'm not sure we as a country want them." He said that if liability for the plants is assigned to any one group or company, the result may drive up production costs for GM crops. "If our international competitors don't assign responsibility in the same way Canada does, we might not be competitive in the marketplace. There are many unanswered questions here."
STARLINK GHOST SEEN CHASING ASIA AWAY FROM US CORN
September 7, 2001
SINGAPORE - Industry officials were cited as saying in this story that gene-spliced Starlink corn, the subject of a massive food recall last year, continues to haunt some Asian consumers who have little intention to switch back to U.S. maize any time soon.
Though U.S. grains officials say the probability of Starlink contamination in the new crop is very very small, starch makers in Japan or South Korea are, the story says, unfazed, and they do not want to take any risk, with consumers in their countries now more averse than ever to any genetically modified organisms (GMOs), not only Starlink. Kim Bong-Chan of South Korean starch producer Samyang Genex Corp was quoted as saying, "We don't consider buying U.S. corn for another year or so. Customers in Korea have bad feeling to all GM products...We think corn from the U.S. or Argentina contain GM corn."
Reiichiro Sakamoto from Japan's Oji Cornstarch Co. Ltd was quoted as, saying: "We don't import U.S. corn...In practice, we can not use any GM corn, not only Starlink." Both Oji and Samyang now buy corn from China, Brazil or South Africa. They are also reluctant to buy from Argentina, the world's number two corn exporter known for other GM maize.
HOLD MPS' FEET TO FIRE ON GMO ISSUE
September 7, 2001
Owen Sound Sun Times
Cheryl Murray, an Environmental Technologist in Ripley, Ont., writes that she recently faxed her MP, Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce) because she has deep concerns about consuming food that is genetically engineered and wants the choice as to what food she buys. Having the contents clearly labelled "no GMO" is what is necessary to enable me to make that choice. Bill C-287, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, put forth as a private member's bill, aptly addresses this issue and calls for mandatory labelling of these products.
The bill is to be revisited this month. Murray says that Mr. Steckle's response was, "I am not prepared to support the proposal," saying something about the ``logistical factors at play," undoubtedly alluding to the fact that because so much of our food is already genetically modified, determining package contents and labelling it as such would create quite the dilemma. Still, the food industry should be forced to label package contents. There is another simple solution: They put the stuff in, they can take it out, which they will have to do, especially when people stop buying these products. Murray says she is awestruck and outraged that her MP thinks it is OK for his constituents to not have the right to choose, or not to choose, to purchase GMOs. We, the people, have the right to live in a clean environment and drink safe water and eat healthy food. It is up to our MP to facilitate the process and support the passing of legislation that upholds these ideals, despite cost and inconvenience.
UNMENTIONED AGENDA" FOR WORLD FOOD SECURITY
September 6, 2001
Rural Advancement Foundation Intl -- Press Release
A new Communique, "Globalization, Inc.", (available at www.rafi.org) issued today by ETC group (formerly RAFI) focuses on corporate concentration in the Life Industry and draws attention to its implications for world food security on the eve of the FAO World Food Summit/ Five Years Later taking place in November. The release of the report also coincides with major meetings in Bonn and Havana that are intended to prepare governments, farmers, and other civil society organizations (CSOs) for the important Summit and the WTO Ministerial meeting that follows on its heels in Qatar. Global Grocery Gluttons: In the year 2000, only 10 global corporations (many of them dominant in several sectors) control close to half of all prescription drugs; nearly two-thirds of veterinary medicines; almost one-third of commercial seed sales; and well over four-fifths of the agrochemical market. The top 10 grocery retailers control one-sixth of world grocery sales and the top 32 grocers have in excess of one-third of the sector's revenues. The specific companies and their market shares and revenues are presented in a series of table and charts in the full report.
Unmentioned Agenda: ETC group (formerly RAFI) has been reporting regularly on consolidations in the Life Industry since the mid-nineties.
In this latest report, ETC group expands its analysis of the seed, agrochemical, veterinary, and pharmaceutical industries to include biotechnology, genomics, food and beverage, and retail grocery sectors. "In effect, the dominant players are the pharmaceutical majors and the grocery retailers," Hope Shand, ETC Group's Research Director, says. "As much as they might claim otherwise, the seeds and agrochemical industries, and veterinary medicines are farm teams for the Life Industry's agricultural interests, while biotech boutiques and the new genomics companies are the pharm teams for the Life Industry's pharmaceutical interests. Shand notes that the huge food and beverage industry feeds into the global grocery retailers. "Despite strenuous efforts by the Life Industry to distance the majors from the embarrassment of GM crops, the reality is that the technologies are almost identical and even the end products are merging into the so-called "nutriceuticals" and "farmaceuticals" that grocery chains and drug companies dream of," Shand stresses.
Bonn "Bomb"? This issue of ETC Communiqué is timed to fill a gap left by IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC) which is presenting a number of new studies on food security at a conference in Bonn, Germany, September 4-6). Advance response to the studies indicate that they have "bombed" with CSOs attending the Bonn seminar. None of the documents (which generally favour U.S. views on agricultural trade liberalization and globalization) including a new book, The Unfinished Agenda, address the food security threat posed by corporate concentration. Pat Mooney, ETC group's Executive Director, is attending the conference.
The report is also being presented by ETC group's Silvia Ribeiro to a major world gathering of small farmers' organizations in Havana, Cuba. The farmers' meeting is in preparation for the World Food Summit and WTO Ministerial later this year.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE
September 6, 2001
The Commission has just launched a new website,
as part of a consultation exercise leading up the the preparation of a "Strategic Vision" communication on the life sciences and biotechnology to be prepared by the end of this year. A Consultative Document COM(2001)454 has been published, at <http://europa.eu.int/comm/biotechnology/pdf/doc_en.pdf>, in English, French and German, and comments on this are invited, up to 16 November. This document will also be the basis of a major conference being held by the Commission on 27-28 September, in Brussels. Commenting on the Commission's initiative, President Romano Prodi said: "It is of strategic and long-term importance that Europe master the new frontier technologies, in particular the life sciences and biotechnology, and use them for the benefit of society. We must get our priorities right and plan for the future to ensure that Europe, over the next decades, takes its place at the forefront of the scientific and technological development. The issues at stake are broad and complex. They go far beyond the current focus on genetically modified foods and stem cells, important as these issues are. The Union needs a coherent forward-looking policy towards life sciences and biotechnology.
The Commission will make its contribution to such a strategic vision by the end of 2001. The public consultation now launched is part and parcel Of our approach, leading to the Commission's policy paper at the end of the year. It should help us all develop coherent approaches that meet our fundamental objectives and concerns. We want to hear in particular from the ultimate decision-makers - the citizens, consumers and patients. In the spirit of our new approach to Governance, I seek to encourage dialogue and involve all stakeholders in this crucial policy area. In this debate, we should all strive to avoid misleading simplifications and generalisations." Comments are invited from all persons or organisations interested, and will be posted on the website. Readers of AgBioView are encouraged to recognise this as an opportunity to contribute to a broad debate on policy in Europe for the life sciences and biotechnology.
FARM POLICY SHIFTING
September 7, 2001
The Leader-Post (Regina)
When Canadian Wheat Board Minister Ralph Goodale suggested in a speech this August that some farmers should start growing trees instead of grain, Saskatchewan producers, according to this story, laughed at the Regina MP. But this idea is no joke to the federal government. It is part of Agriculture Canada's life sciences agenda -- also known as the bioeconomy -- which has become a major focus of the department. As part of a radical shift in federal policy, the government wants to use the life sciences to encourage farmers to grow crops not just for food but for everything from energy and materials to herbal remedies. A source in the department was quoted as saying, "It is the use of biotechnology advances to improve Canadian agriculture. This would include genetically modified organisms, organics, nutraceuticals, on-farm environmental improvements, etc." Wheat and corn, for example, can be manufactured into the clean-burning fuel ethanol.
The story says that documents obtained by The Leader-Post and interviews with federal officials suggest the government sees the life sciences as key to solving the problem of money-losing farms that are currently growing grain for traditional export markets. Those markets have been flooded with overproduction of many grain and oilseed commodities because of massive international subsidization of farmers, particularly in Europe and the U.S. For Ottawa, the bioeconomy could offer a way out of expensive emergency farm-aid payments made necessary by international subsidies. An internal Agriculture Canada policy overview said past policies have focused on producer income and science to increase farm productivity. Lyle Vanclief, the federal agriculture minister, was quoted as saying in a recent interview that, "Science is pointing out to us that we can do more with a product like corn. When I was a boy, corn was used for corn flakes and livestock feed. Now corn is used for the production of ethanol, a life science. Your automobile has all kinds of components that have a fractionated portion of corn. So we're just finding out there are more things that can be done from what we grow on farms than just producing food." Vanclief refused to disclose how much the federal government is spending on its life sciences initiatives.
But, the story says that a source said Deputy Minister Samy Watson -- one of the most fervent supporters of the bioeconomy push -- has withheld 15 per cent of the total Agriculture Canada budget for his initiatives. Watson has also directed his assistant deputy ministers to hold back 10 per cent of the department budget for these initiatives at his discretion, the source said. In addition, the life sciences are consuming federal agriculture research efforts. Historically, the Canadian government's Plant Biotechnology Institute in Saskatoon spent 95 per cent of its research creating better crops for food. Today, about half of its research is dedicated to the bioeconomy. Wilf Keller, research director of the institute, was cited as saying the shift has occurred over the last three years, but the research has been particularly active over the last year. He said the institute's efforts are part of the National Research Council's mandate to develop a bioeconomy strategy for Agriculture Canada and other federal departments like Natural Resources Canada.
SCIENCE GROUP URGES PRESIDENT FOX TO BRING BIOTECH TO MEXICAN FARMERS
September 5, 2001
Dr. C.S. Prakash
WASHINGTON-- As Mexico's President Vicente Fox prepares to meet President Bush, scientists are encouraging him to to allow Mexican farmers and consumers to benefit from new technologies -- such as seeds derived through biotechnology -- which have been used enthusiastically in the United States, Argentina and Canada for years. At the same time, he is being encouraged to disregard scare stories being spread by anti-technology activists. "It is ironic that Mexico-the birthplace of corn-is not taking full advantage of biotech corn seeds which have helped American farmers significantly reduce labor and pesticide use," said Dr. C.S. Prakash of Tuskegee University and the AgBioWorld Foundation. "Mexican scientists at the National Agricultural Research Program (INIFAP), the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) have done excellent research, but Mexican farmers have not been allowed to take advantage of it."
Dr. Prakash also supported criticism of Greenpeace and other anti-biotech groups by Mexico's Victor Manuel Villalobos Arambula, Under-Secretary for Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who recently told the newspaper Reforma, "If those who call themselves environmentalists were in fact pure environmentalists, they would be begging for GMOs to be used." Similar views have been expressed by numerous other scientists and agriculture experts on the AgBioWorld discussion boards found at http://www.agbioworld.org. However, special interest groups and the activists they fund have been spreading stories about "Frankenfood," monarch butterflies and "mystery DNA" -- all of which are not supported by mainstream scientists. Concerns about superweeds, mutant DNA and claims of genetic pollution are unfounded and mislead consumers about the scientific facts and the underlying safety of biotechnology crops. Anecdotal stories about biotech varieties outcrossing with wild relatives and destroying native biodiversity are not supported by evidence; biotech crops are no more likely than traditional crops to outcross with wild species. It is hoped that President Fox, whose family has a background in farming and agriculture, will continue to be a champion of Mexican farmers and that he will do all that he can to implement the acceptance of biotech crops so that they too can benefit from plants with resistance to disease, viruses, drought and heat stress. As recent disputes over irrigation water along the border between Texas and Mexico have shown, agricultural resources are limited, and a growing population is likely to strain these resources even further in the future. According to a new report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) entitled 2020 Global Food Outlook: Trends, Alternatives, and Choices, "decisions made now can have wide-reaching effects on food security and nutrition in the future." The sooner the decision is made to bring ag-biotech to Mexico, the greater its impact will be.