Dr Robert Watson, Defra Chief Scientist, Farmers Guardian (30 Jan 2009, p.14) "We don't need GM to solve the hunger problem of today...David King [previous Government Chief Scientist who claimed hunger in Africa was because they had not embraced GM crops] was absolutely wrong. Farmers in Africa can't afford the better seeds, they have no access to fertilisers and sprays and they have severe constraints over irrigation - you don't need GM to solve that." via www.soilassociation.org
Click here for Latest News"Unlike ordinary drugs or pesticides, which have to be tested for three-months in three mammalian species, then with one mammalian species for one year, and yet another for 2 years, current regulation does not require such tests for 'biopesticides' produced continuously in open fields; nor for the herbicides and herbicide residues accumulated by herbicide-tolerant GM crops. The two traits, biopesticides and herbicide tolerance now account for practically all GM crops grown in the world today." www.i-sis.org.uk
Genetic Modification for ProfitWarmwell.com Links to articles we have found interesting about what seems to us to be the less ethical side of GM technology.
Soil Association Report - Seeds of Doubt(new window) : North American farmers' experiences of GE crops is the first comprehensive study into the economic and social impacts of Genetically Engineered crops in North America.
"We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us."
Delegates from 20 African Countries to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN meeting on Plant Genetic Resources. GM Watch
GM/BiotechnologyHuman insulin is capable of being grown in GM yeast and there are, as the FAO's 2000 statement says, "examples where genetic engineering is helping to reduce the transmission of human and animal diseases through new vaccines" and we have said many times on this website, we do not want to throw the entire biotechnology/GM baby out with the bath water. Yet the FAO statement shows awareness too of the unwanted transfer of antibiotic resistance markers, unintended transfer of transgenes through cross-pollination, unknown effects on the soil - and a possibly disastrous loss of biodiversity. (See February posting)
GM ".. to maximise profits rather than to pull the world out of poverty and hunger"
Advances in every human sphere - commerce, agriculture, transportation, the military, science and technology, household life, health care, public utilities-were driven directly or indirectly by the changes in society's underlying energy systems.
Bamboozled by PR from the Agrobiotech lobby?The Soil Association's page GM crops don't increase yields, do have negative health impacts
May 2014 ~ France 'definitively' bans GM maize
On Monday May 5th France definitively banned the growing of the GM maize strain MON810 produced by Monsanto. France’s upper House, the Senate, approved a standing ban on MON810 even though it has been cleared at European Union level, agreeing that it poses a risk to the environment.
France's agriculture minister, Stéphane Le Foll, told the Senate at the start of the debate:
"This law aims to give a legal framework to our country, to ensure that a ban is applied."In March France halted the sowing of Monsanto's insect-resistant MON810 corn, the only GM crop at present that is allowed for cultivation in the European Union. GM variety Pioneer 1507, developed jointly by DuPont and Dow Chemical, might still be approved by the EU executive later this year, but France appears to be determined to take all future GM authorisations at its own national level without reference to Brussels. See also Farming.co.uk
April 2014 ~ Canada: Bill C-18 would give patent rights over seeds to corporate agribusiness
Over centuries, plant breeding succeeded because genetic material in the form of seed was freely shared. Under C-18, the Canadian farmer wanting to store and reuse seed will have to ask for the permission of the holder of the Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) – which may or may not be given. The breeder has the right to charge royalties as well.
UPOV '91, is an international seed treaty, also nicknamed "Monsanto Laws", under which the right to save seed is no longer an automatic right. Under C-18 Canada would become a signatory. As may be imagined, the huge biochemical corporations such as Monsanto and Syngenta, claiming that their mission is to improve agriculture, lobby fiercely to get the last few countries to sign up.
The UK is a signatory, as are France, Germany, Russia and Japan, among others.
Vandana Shiva says that reclaiming seed freedom is vital:
Canada's NFU - rather different from the NFU in Britain - is made up of Canadian farming families, all working members of which may vote. Their view is very clear:
- the freedom of the seed itself, as a living being, in its diversity, integrity and evolutionary potential;
- the freedom of the farmer to save and exchange seed, and to have their contribution to breeding recognised;
- and the freedom of the eater to get good food, because without good seed, there is no good food. (See the Edmonton Journal)
" Bill C-18 in fact..empowers government to remove, restrict or limit the farmer's seed-saving privilege by passing regulations, a process that can happen quickly and without public debate."As is more and more the case, those who want to make massive profits from ordinary people, both from their purses and from their work of producing vital commodities, can only succeed if people are unaware of what is happening to them. In Chile, activist groups like Yo no Quiero Transgénicos en Chile have spoken out loudly and, for the time being at least, are protecting the farmers' right to save seed. Last month Chile withdrew the UPOV-91 law from its Congress, saying "further analysis" was needed.
October 2013 ~ Global marches against Monsanto
People from around the world participated in a global "March Against Monsanto" on Saturday (12th October) calling for the permanent boycott of GMOs, hoping to build on the protests that took place in May. Monsanto, a company estimated to be worth 55 billion dollars, has found it harder to gain a foothold in Europe than in the rest of the world and it has abandoned plans to win approval for growing new types of genetically modified maize, sugar beet and soybean there.
Monsanto insists its food is safe and claim that its innovations help farmers produce more using fewer natural resources. However, there is widespread concern that its seeds destroy the soil and its "Terminator" seeds are designed to make constant repurchase necessary because they last only one generation.
The seeds must also be used with a variety of the company's other products such as fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides. Critics say that no long-term, independent studies were carried out on GMOs before their introduction for human consumption.
April 17th 2012 ~ Monsanto's Roundup is creating new weed resistance to glyphosate
Glyphosate use in agriculture has tripled since 1997 because farmers have wanted to use so-called "Round-up ready" crops. The glyphosate in Roundup was supposed to keep these crops weed free. However, USA Today quotes a Mississippi farmer, John McKee, who grows corn, cotton and soybeans on his 3,300-acre farm:.
"I've gone from budgeting $45 an acre just two years ago to spending more than $100 an acre now to control weeds."According to the weed management technical lead at Monsanto, Rick Cole, the answer is for farmers to use "multiple modes of action," i.e. using more chemicals and start tilling the soil.
But Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C., says that herbicide-resistant crops are
"taking us in the wrong direction. It's just not sustainable...It increases the chances they will get into our food and water."Weed resistance to herbicides is now happening at a much quicker rate.
In a fully referenced and concerned paper Roundup and birth defects Is the public being kept in the dark? (pdf) published by Earth Open Source in 2011, we read
"Scientific research published in 2010 showed that Roundup and the chemical on which it is based, glyphosate, cause birth defects in frog and chicken embryos at dilutions much lower than those used in agricultural and garden spraying."Among its recommendations are that EU regulators "look critically at the applications for GM Roundup Ready crops that are in the EU approvals pipeline instead of repeating outdated and misleading assurances about the safety of glyphosate and Roundup." Read paper in full
February 20th 2012 ~ Human health and fertility - and Monsanto's Roundup
A German university study has found significant concentrations of glyphosate in the urine samples of city dwellers. Glyphosate, it will be remembered, is the carcinogenic chemical found in herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup. It is systemic poison preventing the formation of essential amino acids, weakening and killing plants ("weeds" are the ones intended) . We read today on GMWatch
"The address of the university labs, which did the research, the data and the evaluation of the research method is known to the editors. Because of significant pressure by agrochemical representatives and the fear that the work of the lab could be influenced, the complete analytical data will only be published in the course of this year."The analysis of the urine samples apparently found that all had concentrations of glyphosate at 5 to 20-fold the limit for drinking water. Glyphosate-based weedkillers often also get sprayed onto railway lines, urban pavements and roadsides. Last year also saw the publication of two US Geological Survey studies (here and here) which consistently found glyphosate in streams, rain and even air in agricultural areas of the US.
Researchers tested Roundup on mature male rats at a concentration range between 1 and 10,000 parts per million (ppm), and found that within 1 to 48 hours of exposure, testicular cells of the mature rats were either damaged or killed.
April 17th 2012 ~ Monsanto's Roundup is creating new weed resistance to glyphosate
Glyphosate use in agriculture has tripled since 1997 because farmers have wanted to use so-called "Round-up ready" crops. The glyphosate in Roundup was supposed to keep these crops weed free. However, USA Today quotes a Mississippi farmer, John McKee, who grows corn, cotton and soybeans on his 3,300-acre farm:.
"I've gone from budgeting $45 an acre just two years ago to spending more than $100 an acre now to control weeds."According to the weed management technical lead at Monsanto, Rick Cole, the answer is for farmers to use "multiple modes of action," i.e. using more chemicals.
But Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C., says that herbicide-resistant crops are
"taking us in the wrong direction. It's just not sustainable...It increases the chances they will get into our food and water."Weed resistance to herbicides is now happening at a much quicker rate.
In a fully referenced and concerned paper Roundup and birth defects Is the public being kept in the dark? (pdf) published by Earth Open Source in 2011, we read
"Scientific research published in 2010 showed that Roundup and the chemical on which it is based, glyphosate, cause birth defects in frog and chicken embryos at dilutions much lower than those used in agricultural and garden spraying."Among its recommendations are that EU regulators "look critically at the applications for GM Roundup Ready crops that are in the EU approvals pipeline instead of repeating outdated and misleading assurances about the safety of glyphosate and Roundup." Read paper in full
February 12th 2012 ~ "Weeds will inevitably become resistant to 2, 4-D, creating an increasingly vicious cycle as bioengineers come up with crops that can survive applications of ever more toxic herbicides."
"... It’s a neat trick. The companies will profit from problems that their products create.Read in full
In a recent issue of the journal Bioscience, a group of researchers led by David Mortensen, a specialist in weed ecology at Penn State University, reported that the introduction of the new 2,4-D-resistant crops was likely to "increase the severity of resistant weeds." The researchers also concluded that the new crops would result in a significant increase in the use of herbicides.
Regulators at the USDA would have done well to consult with their colleagues over at the Environmental Protection Agency. A month before the USDA opened the door to approval of Dow’s new GMO corn, the EPA took agri-giant Monsanto to task for “inadequate” monitoring. Scientists found signs that rootworms in four states were developing resistance to Monsanto corn that was engineered to produce a natural bacterial insecticide that normally kills caterpillars and worms.
First Super Weeds, now Wonder Worms. What marvel can we expect next from the laboratories of Big Ag?"
January 15th 2012 ~ GM "Both these pending legal cases could set important precedents for biopiracy in India and Europe."
According to Vandana Shiva, the biotech giant Monsanto is turning Indian farmers into seed slaves and consumers in captivity by "patenting" its own GM seeds and making sure that no seeds from native plants can compete. As we reported below India is suing Monsanto for "Biopiracy", accusing the company of stealing India's indigenous plants. Extract from Nature Biotechnology volume 30 number 1 January 2012
"India's National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is alleging that the developers of India's first GM food crop - Jalna-based Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) partnered with St. Louis– based seed giant Monsanto and several local universities - used local varieties to develop the transgenic crop, but failed to gain the appropriate licenses for field trials. At the same time, activists in Europe are claiming that patents on conventionally bred plants, including a melon found in India, filed by biotech companies violate farmers' rights to use naturally occurring breeds.In America meanwhile, 83 seed businesses, trade organisations and family farmers, together representing more than 270,000 people, are bringing a lawsuit against Monsanto questioning the validity of Monsanto's patents on GM seeds. Monsanto has created some of the most controversial products on the planet, including Agent Orange, dioxin, recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and genetically modified seeds. As for Glyphosate, the major ingredient in the Monsanto's ubiquitous weedkiller Roundup, Mercola.com reports that "recent studies show it does not readily break down in the environment and is now contaminating our air, rain, water and food. Glyphosate has been linked to more than 20 adverse health effects, including birth defects, infertility and cancer."
September 28th 2011 ~ India is suing Monsanto for "Biopiracy"
India's action is an attempt to protect its living species and the livelihoods of its farmers.
The government is suing multi-national Monsanto and its Indian collaborators for "biopiracy," accusing the company of stealing India's indigenous plants (eggplants) in order to develop genetically modified versions of them, without giving any compensation back to the local people or nation where the plant originally came from.
This video from France 24 (in English) by Vikram Singh may be of great interest to those who are fearful of food itself becoming the private property of the multinationals. In spite of their defeat over eggplants, and undeterred by huge outrage in India, Monsanto is continuing to try to develop other GM crops to be sold as its own commodities. Monsanto refused to cooperate with Vikram Singh's report.
May 8th 2011 ~ The Prince of Wales' concerns echo those of Dr Don Huber about the urgent need for healthy topsoil
We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. Dr Huber said in this interview,
"...It's hard to find an acre in the US that hasn't had glyphosate applied on it in the last three years..... it's just a matter of time before we see more serious negative ramifications. We will have increasing toxin levels (in crops), reduced nutrient values, and the direct presence of glyphosate in crops."Micronutrients such as manganese, copper, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc are essential to human and animal health. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide used extensively with Roundup Ready genetically modified crops. Earlier this year, Dr Huber wrote a letter to the Obama administration (see below) about a new infectious agent, associated with the use of glyphosate, which
"promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare. It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas."He wanted time and resources to investigate further before more RoundupReady crops were given the go-ahead. The letter was ignored. Dr. Huber wrote a second letter, in March, to European officials, explaining the issue in more depth. Click here to read the second explanatory letter. As he says, the loss of alfalfa, the United State’s most valuable forage crop and fourth most economically important crop, could strike a mortal blow to struggling dairy and beef operations. The necessary research has not been done in these areas.
May 8th 2011 ~ the GM industry will not allow independent research into safety
One of the most alarming aspects of all this is a statement from 26 University Entomologists to the US Environmental Protection Agency dated August 2009, revealing that the GM industry will not allow independent research unless they "approve" it:
"Technology/stewardship agreements required for the purchase of genetically modified seed explicitly prohibit research. These agreements inhibit public scientists from pursuing their mandated role on behalf of the public good unless the research is approved by industry. As a result of restricted access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology, its performance, its management implications, IRM, and its interactions with insect biology. Consequently, data flowing to an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel from the public sector is unduly limited."(IRM menas Insect Resistance Management.)
May 7th 2011 ~ "I believe we’ve reached the tipping point toward a potential disaster..." Dr Don Huber
A growing body of scientific evidence has shown that the overuse of Roundup and Glyphosate has created severe micronutrient deficiencies in the soil and plants causing an epidemic of diseases, such as Goss's Wilt on Roundup Ready® corn and Sudden Death Syndrome in Roundup Ready® soybeans. A new and as yet un-named pathogen is associated with this rise in plant diseases - plants which are used for animal feed. Glyphosate in Monsanto's Roundup has been enthusiastically used by increasing numbers of farmers since the 70s.
On January 17th a letter from retired military colonel and Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, Don Huber, to the US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack urged that permission for GMO crops be halted until independent, peer-reviewed studies can be conducted to determine whether or not these products pose a threat to plant, animal and human health.
"I believe we’ve reached the tipping point toward a potential disaster...It is urgent to examine whether the side effects of glyphosate use may have facilitated the growth of this pathogen, or allowed it to cause greater harm to weakened plant and animal hosts. It is well documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases.... (The pathogen) deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure." (Read letter in full or watch Dr Huber on video)The Obama administration approved 2 new Roundup Ready® GMO crops within three weeks of the letter's arrival.
May 2011 ~ unknown effects on the soil and a possibly disastrous loss of biodiversity
An article here about the risks of Monsanto's herbicidal chemical glyphosate quotes Marie-Monique Robin, the author of The World According To Monsanto
".. what really matters to Monsanto is control of the world seed market. To that end, they have genetically engineered seeds that are resistant to, and therefore dependent on, Roundup, Monsanto's herbicide, which nets them gigantic profits."
This website is aware that human insulin is capable of being grown in GM yeast and there are, as the FAO's 2000 statement says, "examples where genetic engineering is helping to reduce the transmission of human and animal diseases through new vaccines." However, the world should be deeply concerned about unwanted transfer of antibiotic resistance markers, unintended transfer of transgenes through cross-pollination, unknown effects on the soil and a possibly disastrous loss of biodiversity.
May 5th 2011 ~ EU farm minister Dacian Ciolos strongly favours traditional agriculture: "GM crops not the panacea for meeting increasing food demands across Europe"
Farmers Weekly reports:
"...He said EU agriculture should not be based on producing cheap foods at whatever cost and consumer demand for quality produce would not be met by GM technology...GM produce risked damaging consumer trust in food produced in the EU....agricultural research should be directed towards developing diversity and quality of conventional produce." Read in full
April 2011 ~ Keiser Report on "the seeds of Evil"
One of the few who dare to criticise Monsanto is Max Keiser - and he does it with style at the beginning of this edition (You Tube) in December about planned retaliation against France and the EU. Wikileaks revealed U.S. diplomatic cablesshowing that in 2007 the Bush administration drew up ways to retaliate against Europe for refusing to use genetically modified seeds. Initially approved by the European Union, the corn in question, Monsanto’s MON-810, was banned in France and other EU countries following research suggesting that the genetically modified seeds were harmful to humans and the environment. The then U.S. ambassador to France, Craig Stapleton, warned that a new French environmental review standard could spread anti-biotech policy across Europe.
South Africa was one of the first countries after the United States to adopt GM corn. South African farmers suffered millions of dollars in lost income in 2009 when 82,000 hectares of genetically-manipulated corn (maize) produced only very few seeds inspite of looking healthy from the outside.
April 2011 ~ Dr Séralini argued that the campaign had damaged his reputation, reducing his opportunities for work and his chances of getting funding for his research.
A belated report on the French court case in which Séralini sued Marc Fellous of the Association Française des Biotechnologies Végétales (AFBV) for libel. It was brought by Dr Seralini because of a smear campaign conducted against him. Seralini and colleagues re-analysed the data presented by Monsanto and various member states on the health impacts of three Monsanto GM maize varieties (MON 863, MON 810 and NK603) demonstrating serious shortcomings in the Monsanto research dossiers which the GM company had submitted to support their applications.
During the trial, Fellous accused those who criticise GMOs as 'ideological' and 'militant' - yet although he called himself "neutral" it emerged that he owned GM patents through a company based in Israel. This company sells patents to many corporations such as Aventis. Seralini's lawyer showed that various other AFBV members also have links with agribusiness companies -- so their scientific impartiality and integrity came under careful scrutiny.
The court found in Seralini's favour. The judge sentenced the AFBV to a fine on probation of 1,000 EUR, 1 EUR for compensation (as requested by the plaintiff) and 4,000 EUR of court fees.
February 2011 ~ "Roundup or Roundup-Ready Crops May Be Causing Animal Miscarriages and Infertility"
Dr. Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, - his letter to U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack warns of what looks like an entirely new pathogen caused by Monsanto's Roundup and Roundup Ready crops
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn—suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science!
This is highly sensitive information that could result in a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies. On the other hand, this new organism may already be responsible for significant harm (see below). My colleagues and I are therefore moving our investigation forward with speed and discretion, and seek assistance from the USDA and other entities to identify the pathogen’s source, prevalence, implications, and remedies.
We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of RR alfalfa. Naturally, if either the RR gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity. Based on the current evidence, the only reasonable action at this time would be to delay deregulation at least until sufficient data has exonerated the RR system, if it does.
For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks. Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency.
A diverse set of researchers working on this problem have contributed various pieces of the puzzle, which together presents the following disturbing scenario:
Unique Physical Properties
This previously unknown organism is only visible under an electron microscope (36,000X), with an approximate size range equal to a medium size virus. It is able to reproduce and appears to be a micro-fungal-like organism. If so, it would be the first such micro-fungus ever identified. There is strong evidence that this infectious agent promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare.
Pathogen Location and Concentration
It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas.
Linked with Outbreaks of Plant Disease
The organism is prolific in plants infected with two pervasive diseases that are driving down yields and farmer income—sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soy, and Goss’ wilt in corn. The pathogen is also found in the fungal causative agent of SDS (Fusarium solani fsp glycines).
Implicated in Animal Reproductive Failure
Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of this organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. Preliminary results from ongoing research have also been able to reproduce abortions in a clinical setting.
The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.
For example, 450 of 1,000 pregnant heifers fed wheatlege experienced spontaneous abortions. Over the same period, another 1,000 heifers from the same herd that were raised on hay had no abortions. High concentrations of the pathogen were confirmed on the wheatlege, which likely had been under weed management using glyphosate.
In summary, because of the high titer of this new animal pathogen in Roundup Ready crops, and its association with plant and animal diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions, we request USDA’s participation in a multi-agency investigation, and an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of RR crops until the causal/predisposing relationship with glyphosate and/or RR plants can be ruled out as a threat to crop and animal production and human health.
It is urgent to examine whether the side-effects of glyphosate use may have facilitated the growth of this pathogen, or allowed it to cause greater harm to weakened plant and animal hosts. It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defenses by chelating vital nutrients; and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders. To properly evaluate these factors, we request access to the relevant USDA data.
I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.
COL (Ret.) Don M. Huber
Emeritus Professor, Purdue University
APS Coordinator, USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS)
July 30th 2010 ~ Concern about the spread of weeds resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide
The short term advantages of using GM crops can be compared to this sombre article about the spread of weeds resistant to Roundup herbicide in America. Michael Owen, an Iowa State University weed scientist, thinks Iowa is only two years away from a serious problem with glyphosate-resistant weeds. He has warned (at www.dailyyonder.comm here) that farmers need to "mix up the herbicides" they use, to stem the development of chemical resistant weeds.
"Roundup-resistant weeds have already infected Southern cotton and grain crops, but have not yet made their presence known in Iowa's corn and soybean fields. He said farmers have to quit relying so heavily on Roundup to control weeds. Farmers "value the convenience and simplicity of these crops without appreciating the long-term ecological and economic risks," (See also article at www.desmoinesregister.comNot surprisingly, the response of the big biotech companies is to start to engineer new crop varieties that will be immune to more herbicides than Roundup. However, it seems inevitable that such herbicides will develop resistance problems too - and that, because of insufficient foresight and care by USDA and others, weeds will be far more of a problem to commercial crops than ever.
July 23rd 2010 ~ GM crops. The Irish Government has destroyed its field trials after contamination by Monsanto's patented GM NK603
The Irish Government has been accidentally growing GM maize. A press release issued late yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency says routine tests by DAFF discovered by random testing that maize variety PR39T83 contained the unapproved Monsanto's patented GM NK603 at the level of 0.3%.GM NK603 is a genetically modified maize that can withstand the heavy doses of glyphosate in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. DAFF says it destroyed its fields of contaminated maize plants before they reached the flowering stage, in order to prevent pollen drift. See also www.gmfreeireland.org/press/GMFI50.pdf
As this website has said many times, there are advantages from GM technology that we would not want to throw out with the bathwater - insulin used in medicine, for example - but it is widely considered that more questions need to be answered about genetically engineered crops and foods. NK603 was one of the three GMOs fed to rats by french researchers last year (see abstract from Int J Biol Sci 2009; 5:706-726 )
"...Effects were mostly associated with the kidney and liver... Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system.....unintended direct or indirect metabolic consequences of the genetic modification cannot be excluded."
July 23rd 2010 ~ How timely it is that the Food Ethics Council is showing concern for the livelihoods of smallscale and subsistence farmers
In February we quoted the former Managing Director of Monsanto in India. He said Monsanto's aim is to assume total control of all aubergine production in India. India is responsible for the origin of aubergine cultivation with more than 2,500 varieties. All international covenants clearly state that if a country is the centre of origin for a particular crop that crop shall not be genetically engineered in that country. said that once the Indian government decides to introduce BT brinjal, every seed will then have to be purchased from Monsanto. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, following long-term safety concerns of genetically modified food on human health, the commercial cultivation of genetically modified brinjal (Bt brinjal) was put on hold for the time being. The Genetic Engineering and Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is taking a fresh look at the issues and is likely to set up independent laboratories for testing. However, some studies on Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant corn have alleged there are serious environmental and ecological impacts, especially when herbicide use begins to rise in response to growing resistance. The UK Food Ethics Council report, "Food Justice", considers that
"Our domestic and global food system is profoundly unfair, and this deep-rooted social injustice impedes our progress towards food security, sustainability and public health"It has just been published. See below.
July 23rd 2010 ~ "business as usual isn't an option" - report of the Food and Fairness Inquiry
The Food Ethics Council is a registered charity. Its report today can be read here. In its Foreword, Helen Browning speaks of the committee's "shared commitment and determination to tackle social injustice" and says that it has formulated "a series of recommendations that are realistic... that will represent real progress towards a fairer food system...." Extract:
"....the methods of agricultural production that have increased productivity have themselves pushed new people into poverty. Broadly, industrialisation in agriculture has benefited larger-scale producers, and undermined the livelihoods of smallscale subsistence farmers."Read report (pdf 55 pages)
July 22nd 2010 ~ "We need a dialogue between the industry and the critics, as a basis for sound policy and practices": Prof Dr David Fraser
Professor Fraser, who lectures in animal welfare at the University of British Columbia, was interviewed on Vetsweb yesterday. He is concerned that food production industries should take steps in the area of animal welfare and husbandry that are in their own long-term interest and that these considerations should be part of the scientific agenda. Very well aware of changing public attitudes to such things as intensive methods of farming he points out that recent research into animal cognition and emotion has "narrowed the gap that we perceive between ourselves and other species". He discusses how the present polarised conflict between factory farmers and their critics might be resolved:
".. We need a good dialogue to prevent two camps forming here. ..each side is tending to ignore the concerns of the other. So we have to find solutions that allow the animals to live in a sufficiently 'natural' way... that also incorporate good disease prevention, treatment, protection from injuries, protection from harsh weather and so on. .."He feels that "some of the current science being applied to animal welfare issues...can help to put animal welfare standards on a solid basis." Read interview.
June 7th 2010 ~ DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman is under pressure to halt the government review of GM crops.
Farmers Weekly reports: "The call comes amid claims that biotech lobbyists helped to draft a major report on the cultivation and sale of GM crops". Mr Spelman applied to Companies House to close down the company last month and Caroline Spelman had resigned in her role as director a year earlier. The Telegraph today notes that " ..critics questioned why the company was not closed earlier and said the minister had to be "squeaky clean".
June 2nd 2010 ~ GM debate. The FSA in "a state of institutionalised denial" says resigning professor
Professor Brian Wynne from Lancaster University was vice-chairman of a group set up by the FSA to assess opinion on genetically modified food - until he resigned from the Food Standards Agency in protest at what he considers the wrongful use of public money to promote pro-GM propaganda.
When he was asked on the Today Programme if he did not believe the FSA's statement when it asserted its commitment to a "well balanced dialogue which presumes no particular outcome", Prof Wynne answered that- although he drew that conclusion "quite reluctantly" - he did not believe such an assertion. "When you look at the premises on which the FSA is operating, then there is no way that this can be an impartial public dialogue." He was "stunned" to hear Lord Rookers extraordinary remark that the public's concerns about GM therefore shows that the public is "anti-science". Listen Again to the interview.
15th April 2010 ~ The real cost of GM - warnings from US farmers' experience
Soil Association for link to disturbing pdf file of article "Warning shot". Extracts:
"once land had been used to grow GM crops, producers soon found they weren’t able to grow a non-GM variety of the same crop without it becoming contaminated. ..."Read pdf file
"... Monsanto’s GM glyphosate-resistant Roundup Ready seed - producers had to forgo the right to plant farm saved seed as part of the ‘technology agreement’ they had to sign. ... Since 2000, as GM soybeans came to dominate the market, the price rose by an additional 230%. ...new Roundup Ready 2 (RR2) soybeans in 2010 will cost 42% more per bag (about 150,000 seeds) than 2009. The $70/bag for RR2 is twice the cost of conventional seed...."
"....Over the last 13 years, US producers applied 318 million more pounds (in weight) of pesticides as a result of planting GM seeds. In 2008, overall GM crops required over 26% more pounds of pesticides per acre than non-GM varieties...."
"..Marker Assisted Selection (MAS), which uses genetic markers to identify the genetic sequence for desired traits, has already been successfully used to produce disease resistant varieties in a range of crops – including barley, wheat and beans and droughttolerance in aerobic rice. Researchers use a rapid DNA test to identify immediately which plants have the desired trait and which do not. These techniques offer farreaching changes to our food and farming systems, based on agro-ecological and organic farming of which GM technology has no part...."
".....in 2009 the multi-traited hybrids often yielded no better or even less than their conventional isolines. The cause has perplexed seed developers and growers alike and, as a result, most growers are not rushing to buy these heavily traited Gm hybrids. But the problem is that a number of major companies only offer traited varieties and it’s increasingly difficult to source non-Gm varieties...."
8th February 2010 ~ GM: "Monsanto is looking for control with the introduction of Bt brinjal ..."
Brinjal" is another name for aubergine. The French scientist, Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, of the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN) considers that the release of genetically modified brinjal into the environment may present a serious risk for human and animal health. He found in particular that Bt brinjal produces a protein in the vegetable cells that induces antibiotic resistance. (source: www.i-sis.org.uk)
Today, the former managing director of Monsanto in India himself, T V Jagadishan, is quoted in the Indian press in a surprising warning against Monsanto's plans:
" ... Once Bt brinjal is introduced and the gene is released, it is bound to contaminate the natural brinjal.He said that once the Indian government decides to introduce BT brinjal, every seed will then have to be purchased from Monsanto. The minister of state for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, was in Bangalore on Saturday to hold final discussions with NGOs, farmers and scientists on whether Bt brinjal should be introduced in India or not. The final decision is expected on Wednesday.
..Monsanto is looking for control and with the introduction of Bt brinjal the control enters the bio-diversity of India. Once the gene is released, it would for sure destroy the 2,400 different varieties of natural brinjal that the Indian farmers grow...."
January 21 2010 ~Greenpeace, the Swedish Board of Agriculture and French anti- GM campaigners force Monsanto to release very worrying experimental data
According to the research, animals fed on three strains of genetically modified maize created by Monsanto suffered signs of organ damage after just three months. Figures released by Monsanto were examined by French researcher Dr Gilles-Eric Seralini, from the University of Caen. The Mail quotes Dr Seralini in an interview with New Scientist::
What we've shown is clearly not proof of toxicity, but signs of toxicity. I'm sure there's no acute toxicity but who's to say there are no chronic effects?'The Mail explains that experiments were carried out by Monsanto researchers on three strains of GM maize. Two of the varieties contained genes for the Bt protein which protects the plant against the corn borer pest, while a third was genetically modified to be resistant to the weedkiller glyphosate. All three strains are widely grown in America, while one is the only GM crop grown in Europe, mostly in Spain. Dr Seralini concluded that rats which ate the GM maize had ' statistically significant' signs of liver and kidney damage. Each strain was linked to unusual concentrations of hormones in the blood and urine of rats fed the maize for three months, compared to rats given a non-GM diet. Monsanto claimed the analysis of its data was 'based on faulty analytical methods and reasoning, and does not call into question the safety findings for these products'. Read Mail article
January 8th 2010 ~ "global hunger is as much to do with power and control of the food system as with growing enough food".
Guardian:"Critics of GM point out that a UN-sponsored four-year review, involving more than 400 international scientists and chaired by Watson, concluded in 2007 that GM technologies were unlikely to have more than a limited role in tackling global hunger.
According to the Watson-led review, the scientific evidence on the claimed benefits of GM suggests they are variable, with increases in yield in some areas but decreases in others, and both greater and lesser pesticide use in different contexts. The report concluded that global hunger is as much to do with power and control of the food system as with growing enough food.
January 8th 2010 ~ Artificial nanoparticles - "very significant gaps in our knowledge": Lord Krebs
Nanoparticles are materials at the atomic/molecular level, generally with structures of less than 100 nm in size. The concern about their use in food is that although if one changes the size of materials it may result in useful properties, no one can yet be sure how size will affect other properties such as potential toxicity. Last February, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee launched an inquiry into the use of nanotechnology in food products and the food industry. Today, both the Telegraph and the BBC report that the Committee's Report, Nanotechnologies and Food recommends that an official register be set up by the Food Standards Agency to keep a check on research into the controversial additives. And there is concern about the secrecy of the industry in conducting research. The evidence given in Part Two of the report is interesting - particularly since it shows how no-one yet has any real understanding of engineered nanoparticles nor of the significance of the fact that such materials will end up in the environment, just as antibiotics, analgesics and even cancer chemotherapy agents can be detected in British rivers.
January 7/8 2010 ~ "this time our prime objective must be feeding people, not making profits for large business corporations as now"
Professor John Beddington, like his predecessor, David King, appears to think GM and nanotechnology will provide a new, "green" revolution. The Telegraph reported today on the government's Chief Scientist speech at this year's Oxford Farming Conference and quoted Caroline Boin, Environment Programme Director at International Policy Network, who asserted grimly that the public "will have to accept GM eventually"
However, Colin Tudge at the rival "Oxford Real Farming Conference" gave a very different view:
"...Britain has been robbed of the skills it needs...Finally the Government has recognised that we're now in trouble and are desperately pinning their hopes on untried GM technology to save us. But scientists who truly understand agriculture know that..the real answer is to redesign agriculture from first principles. But this time our prime objective must be feeding people, not making profits for large business corporations as now."See also the Farmers Guardian
November 22 2009 ~ France's highest court has ruled that U.S. agrochemical giant Monsanto had not told the truth about the safety of its best-selling weed-killer, Roundup.
Although Monsanto appealed against it, France's Supreme court has confirmed the 2007 judgment that Monsanto falsely advertised its Roundup herbicide as "biodegradable" and said it "left the soil clean". (See .mercola.com)
Monsanto claimed that Roundup was "Safer than Mowing", "Biodegradable" and "Environmentally Friendly" - advertising now judged to be deceptive..
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in RoundUp. Roundup Ready soybean, cotton and corn crops are the world’s largest group of genetically modified crops. According to Wikipedia, Roundup-ready wheat is still under development. The Wikipedia entry ssays that on two occasions the United States Environmental Protection Agency has caught scientists deliberately falsifying test results at research laboratories hired by Monsanto to study glyphosates. It also mentions the December 2008 French study, Glyphosate Formulations Induce Apoptosis and Necrosis in Human Umbilical, Embryonic, and Placental Cells which has shown that Roundup formulations and metabolic products cause the death of human embryonic, placental, and umbilical cells in vitro even at low concentrations.
"The real threshold of G toxicity must take into account the presence of adjuvants but also G metabolism and time-amplified effects or bioaccumulation. This should be discussed when analyzing the in vivo toxic actions of R. This work clearly confirms that the adjuvants in Roundup formulations are not inert. Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death around residual levels to be expected, especially in food and feed derived from R formulation-treated crops."In America, 13 states are now reporting resistance, says Wikipedia, and many farmers, including cotton farmers, are now heavily dependent on glyphosate to control weeds. "Farmers associations are now reporting 103 biotypes of weeds within 63 weed species with herbicide resistance. This problem is likely to be exacerbated by the use of roundup-ready crops."
Round-up and other similar products are still widely on sale. As the Huffington Post said yesterday:
"....We should all know what Monsanto and other companies are selling, and it's not a solution to world hunger or a cleanser for the environment. What they are really selling is what they make best: chemicals.
The biotech giants - Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow - are, without exception, major pesticide manufacturers. They have each bought up sizeable chunks of the world's seed supply, and are using biotechnology to make those seeds sell their pesticides for them.
It may be good for their bottom line, but its bad for us, the safety of our food, and the health of our environment." Read Huffington Post article
November 17 2009 ~ Not another GM debate
An impressive letter in the Telegraphtoday, signed by 7 research fellows and academics:November 17 2009 ~ "With glyphosate-resistant weeds now infesting millions of acres, farmers face rising costs coupled with sometimes major yield losses, and the environmental impact of weed management systems will surely rise..." Reuters today quotes Charles Benbrook, chief scientist of The Organic Center on the report released by the nonprofit organisations The Organic Center (TOC), the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS)
SIR - We are concerned about the request by the Government to the Food Standards Agency to lead a dialogue to explore, yet again, the subject of genetically modified food with the British public (Comment, November 14).
A great deal of public funding has already been spent on shaping public views on GM. Focusing on just one technological approach to food production means this proposed exercise is likely to encounter the same problems that dogged past consultations.
A recent Royal Society report observed that "dialogue (with members of the public) should start with the problem that needs to be addressed (global food security), rather than presupposing any particular solution".
The focus of the FSA project on GM agriculture alone seems to fly in the face of the views of Britain's premier academy of science. It could also be interpreted as ignoring or manipulating public concerns in an attempt to "sell" a policy favourable to commercial and industrial interests.
We need a broader debate over agri-food and food security problems, together with the many potential solutions: social, political and technological. STRONG>Dr Tom Wakeford
Director of Public Engagement, Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre,
Dr Les Levidow
Senior Research Fellow, Development Policy and Practice,
The Open University
Dr Tom MacMillan
Executive Director, Food Ethics Council
Professor Erik Millstone,
Science and Technology Policy Research,
University of Sussex
Dr Bronislaw Szerszynski
Centre for the Study of Environmental Change,
Professor Brian Wynne
Associate Director, Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics,
Dr Michel Pimbert
Director, Sustainable Agriculture Programme, International Institute for Environment and Development
"The groups additionally criticized the agricultural biotechnology industry for claiming that higher costs for genetically engineered seeds are justified by multiple benefits to farmers, including decreased spending on pesticides. The group said biotech corn seed prices in 2010 could be almost three times the cost of conventional seed, while new enhanced biotech soybean seed for 2010 could be 42 percent more than the original biotech version."Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety said, "This report confirms what we've been saying for years. The most common type of genetically engineered crops promotes increased use of pesticides, an epidemic of resistant weeds, and more chemical residues in our foods. This may be profitable for the biotech/pesticide companies, but it's bad news for farmers, human health and the environment." Read in full
November 14/15 2009 ~ "That could not possibly be what is happening this time. Could it?"
Geoffrey Lean in today's Telegraph notes that tomorrow, the Foods Standards Agency (the same quango as he reminds us, " that constantly condemns the organic produce that people really do want") is going to announce who is on a steering group to "include stakeholders… with different views of GM" - and only two of the 11 to be named are known to oppose the technology.
He remembers how six years ago there was a similar public "debate",
"whose purpose - one senior official told me - was to "dispel the myths" put about by "extremists in environmental groups"In fact although the exercise hoped to reverse public opinion that was running at three-to-one against GM by the time it had finished, "opposition among those who participated had soared to 90 per cent, with the uncommitted becoming increasingly hostile the more they learned about GM." Read article in full -
October 21 2009 ~ "Science has a key role to play in reducing hunger and poverty, but the report's focus on GM crops ignores mounting evidence that this technology is failing..." Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran on the publication of the Royal Society report
Friends of the Earth says today:
"Commenting on a new Royal Society report on science and food, published today, Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran said: "Science has a key role to play in reducing hunger and poverty, but the report's focus on GM crops ignores mounting evidence that this technology is failing.See also Food Security pages
GM crops are an extension of big-business factory farming that is already wiping out wildlife, destroying communities and making climate change worse.
The UK Government has already invested millions of pounds in GM technology, with little benefit to farmers, consumers and the planet - meanwhile research into green farming methods have been starved of funds.
Any attempt to combat the global food crisis must also address its root causes, such as industrial livestock production and a narrow focus on increasing yields - an analysis which is missing from the Royal Society report.
A massive increase in investment is needed in agricultural science - but this should focus on supporting traditional farming methods and providing safe, planet-friendly food." A more detailed assessment of the Royal Society report can be obtained from Friends of the Earth campaigners. "
September 6 2009 ~ "Monsanto represents the worst kind of monopoly, combining market dominance with a long history of abusive business practices."
The text of a petition to the US equivalent of the Competition Commission continues:
"We, the undersigned, demand that you immediately begin an investigation into Monsanto with the intent to file charges for violations of antitrust law." act.credoaction.comAccording to the website, "Monsanto - through acquisitions and cut-throat business practices - has cornered 90% of the soy, 65% of the corn, and 70% of the cotton market, and has a rapidly growing presence in the fruit and vegetable market..... in order to be productive, the entire line of Monsanto's seeds all but require the use of Roundup herbicide...while farmers' incomes are dropping, Monsanto recently announced a 42% price hike on its most popular genetically modified seeds.."
September 6 2009 ~ "We do not need genetically modified (GM) food to feed the poor in Africa today."
As we have said before, GM technology itself should not be instantly discounted. As the much respected Dr Robert Watson, Defra Chief Scientist, said recently on the need globally to produce "in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner" a diverse array of crops, livestock, fish, forests, biomass and commodities over the next 50 years - in some cases, the technology to achieve this already exists: "We do not need genetically modified (GM) food to feed the poor in Africa today." However, he went on to say that GM technology can potentially help with productivity, drought, temperature and pest resistance. "I see very little evidence of health risks," he said, but warned against making generalisations. "Consumers will need to see real benefits before GM products are accepted in Europe." (Dr Watson was speaking at the World Food Business Summit in New York in June 2009)
June 4 2009 ~ Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which genetically-modified products are authorised for sale in the UK. 
"Jane Kennedy: Decisions on the commercial release of genetically modified (GM) products are taken at European Union (EU) level. Currently there are 27 GM products that are authorised for food and animal feed uses in the EU. Full details are available on the European Commission website. Only one type of GM crop seed has EU approval for cultivation and is being sold in some EU member states. It is a type of insect-resistant maize known as MON 810, and it is not being marketed in the UK because it is unsuitable for our growing conditions."
May 23 2009 ~Austrian trial suggests GM maize affects fertility - An organic vegetable garden at Number 10?
Soil Association press release reports that the Austrian Government's call for research in a long-term feeding trial found mice fed on GM corn or maize had fewer offspring and lower birth rates.
The Organic businesses have managed to persuade Hilary Benn to propose, at least, an organic vegetable garden at Number 10 to rival that at the White House. They condemned Hilary Benn for voting at EU meetings to stop Germany (and others) from banning Monsanto's GM maize. The Welsh Assembly Government propose to make GM companies liable for any damage their GM crops cause. 
Hilary Benn's careful reply was that he "did not oppose the fact that the Welsh government were adopting their own position on this issue", and apparently agreed that claiming there was "no evidence that they are not safe", as he did in the meeting, is not the same as saying that there is evidence that GM crops are safe.
May 8 2009 ~ GM crops fail massively
"South African farmers suffered millions of dollars in lost income when 82,000 hectares of genetically-manipulated corn (maize) failed to produce hardly any seeds.The plants look lush and healthy from the outside. Monsanto has offered compensation...Some 280 of the 1,000 farmers who planted the three varieties of Monsanto corn this year, have reported extensive seedless corn problems..." The seedless cobs (three varieties) show no sign of disease from the outside. See www.digitaljournal.com
April 2009 ~ "I will live to see the end of Monsanto."
Vandana Shiva predicts that Monsanto's seed dominance will not last. The Organic and Non-GMO Report, April 2009
Independent researchers who find negative impacts of GE foods on human health and the environment are harassed. "Every time independent science is done, it is called junk science. Biotechnology is a new religion, and we are asked to blindly accept it," she said. She predicted that Monsanto's seed dominance wouldn't last. "I will live to see the end of Monsanto." Finally, Ms. Shiva again emphasized the importance of seed. 'Seed is the biggest issue around democracy in food. Seed is a common resource, and we have to protect it for future generations.'Read in full
March 5 2009 ~ No adequate answer forthcoming on how the co-existence of genetically-modified and non-GM crops is to be managed
On March 4, (Hansard) James Paice (Shadow Minister, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs; South East Cambridgeshire, Conservative) asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs "what plans his Department has for managing the co-existence of genetically-modified (GM) and non-GM crops." Huw Irranca-Davies (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Ogmore, Labour) replied
"In 2006 DEFRA published a consultation paper on proposals for managing the coexistence of GM and non-GM crop in England. This is available at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/crops/pdf/gmcoexist-condoc.pdf
On 8 November 2007, Hansard, column 16WS, we made a written statement confirming that we would await further developments before finalising our coexistence plans. That remains the current position."
January 30 2009 ~ "We don't need GM to solve the hunger problem of today...David King [previous Government Chief Scientist who claimed hunger in Africa was because they had not embraced GM crops] was absolutely wrong.
Farmers in Africa can't afford the better seeds, they have no access to fertilisers and sprays and they have severe constraints over irrigation - you don't need GM to solve that." via www.soilassociation.org
December 19 2008 ~ Oilseed rape at a trial site in Somerset has been contaminated by GM seed,
Defra has confirmed, following an investigation by its GM Inspectorate, that GM seed, which is not approved for cultivation in Europe, has contaminatedan oil-seed rape crop. The discovery followed a tracing exercise after a similar contamination was found in Scotland earlier this year.
Defra said no GM material had entered the food chain, and it was now being 'securely stored' while investigations continue. See Farmers Guardian
December 6 2008 ~ EU Ministers agree to tighten GM controls
At Thursday's meeting of the EU Environment Ministers, the Member States made clear to the Commission and to EFSA that there must be a dramatic improvement in the way in which GMO risks to health and the environment are assessed. In spite of indications that the UK and Germany might be intending to interfere with the emerging consensus across Europe, those countries have agreed a statement which includes the following
There is to be far more of a role for independent scientists- and EFSA'a powers may be reduced. EU Ministers are insisting on reform of what has been seen by some as a secretive and corrupt assessment process. More from the pdf version (English) of the Council's conclusions.
- a re-statement of the precautionary principle as a guiding principle in GMO assessments.
- a strengthening of the environmental impact assessment for GMOs and a strengthening of monitoring requirements.
- more emphasis on the consequences of use of herbicides
November 17 2008 ~ GM protests to be criminalised?
It is alarming - to say the least - to read in the Independent that
"Ministers are drawing up plans for genetically-modified crops to be grown in secret and more secure locations to prevent trials being wrecked by saboteurs. They may ask the police to target opponents of GM crops in the way that they have cracked down on animal rights protesters. Another option is for the controversial crops to be grown at a secure government site such as Porton Down.." Read in fullProfessor Tim Benton at Leeds university, research dean of Biological Science, who wants to run trials, is quoted as saying:
"There is absolutely no way we can move towards a world with food security without using GM technology. ..."but there are powerful arguments against this view that did not find their way into the article. One unanswerable problem is that GM material can escape to cross-fertilise conventional plants. As we reported on Nov 3, when crops failed in the past, farmers could still save seeds and replant them the following year but many GM seeds contain 'terminator technology'and do not produce viable seeds of their own. (GM page) It is hardly surprising that the issue of GM produces such strength of feeling. There is a genuine fear that the huge firms pushing GM as the magic seeds to feed the world are more interested in the heady power of holding a monopoly on food crops.
By the term "security at trial sites", the biotechnology industry seems to mean - not safe trials in which cross contamination cannot take place and proper independent studies are done - but "more protection against protest". Their drawing of a parallel between anti-GM protesters and opponents of experiments on animals suggests that anyone whose deep conviction leads them to active protest may now be prosecuted and no defence allowed.
November 3 3008 ~ "official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that ...more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves here each month."
A journalist from the Daily Mail, Andrew Malone, travelled to the 'suicide belt' in Maharashtra state.
"...What I found was deeply disturbing - and has profound implications for countries, including Britain, debating whether to allow the planting of seeds manipulated by scientists to circumvent the laws of nature.....In village after village, families told how they had fallen into debt after being persuaded to buy GM seeds instead of traditional cotton seeds. The price difference is staggering: £10 for 100 grams of GM seed, compared with less than £10 for 1,000 times more traditional seeds..."The article explains how traditional varieties have been banned from many government seed banks. Up to 17 million acres in India have been planted with GM but, far from being 'magic seeds', as poor farmers were promised, not only do GM pest-proof 'breeds' of cotton become devastated by bollworms, they also require double the amount of water. When crops failed in the past, farmers could still save seeds and replant them the following year but GM seeds contain 'terminator technology'and do not produce viable seeds of their own.
November 1 2008 ~ And what of the effect of genetic modification on the soil?
Geoffrey Lean's article last Sunday (IOS) revealed, from minutes of a series of private meetings of representatives of 27 governments, that there are plans to "speed up" the introduction of GM crops and foods and to "deal with" public resistance to them.
He quoted Peter Melchett of the Soil Association: "... Scientists have found genetically engineered insecticide in crops can leak and kill beneficial soil fungi" and the article notes:
"Official trials in Britain showed that growing GM crops was worse for wildlife than cultivating conventional ones. Worse, genes escape from the modified plants to create superweeds and to contaminate normal and organic crops..." Read Geoffrey Lean's articleExtract from concluding Q and A section::
"Can they feed the world?
Almost certainly not. Despite all the hype, present GM varieties actually have lower yields than their conventional counterparts. The seeds are expensive to buy and grow, so wealthy developing-world farmers would tend to use them and drive poor ones out of business, increasing destitution. The biggest agricultural assessment ever conducted - chaired by Professor Robert Watson, now Defra's chief scientist - recently concluded that they would not do the job."
October 8 2008 ~ London Conference November 12th 2008
The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre 10.30 am Feeding the World - Are GM crops fit for purpose? If not, then what?...see email and details "......With the support and participation of charitable foundations, academics, researchers, NGOs, farmers and policy makers from the UK and abroad this conference brings a wide and challenging perspective to questions and issues that are too often mired in cliché and propaganda..." Read in full
October 5 2008 ~"The reason I keep sticking my 60-year-old head above an increasingly dangerous parapet is not because it is good for my health"
Prince Charles on his heartfelt opposition to GM crops - "commerce without morality". See Geoffrey Lean's Independent on Sunday article
"...the Prince attacked the contention that "GM food is now essential to feed the world", saying that the evidence showed that modified crops' yields were "generally lower than their conventional counterparts". He called them "a wrong turning on the route to feeding the world in a sustainable or durable manner" and "a risky and expensive distraction, diverting attention and resources away from those real, long-term solutions such as crop varieties which respond well to low input systems that, in turn, do not rely on fossil fuels."....
September 8 2008 ~ Devon farmer appeals to Farming Today to "give us some properly impartial investigative reports".
The email was copied to warmwell.com. Extract:
"...the adoption of GM crops presents us with the real possibility that one large Pharmaceutical Company will gain control of the World food supply..... Secondly, the GM crops are not subject to rigorous safety testing. ..... Thirdly, the advice of the ‘expert scientists' on this matter cannot be trusted. .... it is suicidal for any research scientist to make comments unwelcome to these powerful interests. ..."Read in full
Sept 3 2008 ~ EU to approve Bayer GM soy imports next week
Reuters -" The European Union will next week approve imports of genetically modified (GM) soybeans made by Bayer CropScience..... hoping to ease a shortage of animal feed, officials said on Wednesday.
The rubber-stamp approval, permitted under EU law when ministers from the bloc's 27 countries fail to agree after a certain time, will be valid for a standard 10 years and be granted by the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, on September 8, they said.
Bayer's soybean, developed to resist glufosinate herbicides, is known by its codename A2704-12 and will be imported into EU markets either as whole soybeans, oil or meal, and then be processed by European companies for use in food and animal feed.
Its EU authorization does not permit cultivation in Europe...."
August 23 2008 ~ "More Milk. Fewer Cows. What's The Problem?"
This is the headline of an article from the "Center for Consumer Freedom" - an article that concludes,
"...the folks at Eli Lilly are no dummies. They've just placed a nine-figure bet on the notion that this product is in the food chain to stay.There is well documented concern about animal welfare and an article that calls such concern "radical environmentalism" seems, itself, somewhat bizarre. Monsanto's Posilac has been banned in every industrialized nation in the world except for the United States. According to http://ec.europa.eu , the use of rBST, "substantially increased health problems with cows, including foot problems, mastitis and injection site reactions, impinged on the welfare of the animals and caused reproductive disorders" Monsanto's attempt to restrict labels indicating that milk comes from untreated cows, failed. Even Wal-Mart pledged to source only rBGH-free milk.
Fortunately for those of us outside the bizarre world of radical environmentalism, this looks like a bet that farmers, cows, and the milk-buying public are also likely to win."
Eli Lilly bought Monsanto's Posilac last week for 300 million dollars. www.indystar.com
August 13 2008 ~ Des Turner, Labour MP is calling Prince Charles a Luddite.
There is outrage being expressed (Telegraph this afternoon) from GM supporters with powerful voices - Lord Haskins included - who are implying that Prince Charles' warning about the multinationals' use of GM crops for profit is a rejection of all science in agriculture. This is not what he is saying. His passionate view echoes that of a recent UNESCO statement:
"...We must develop agriculture that is less dependent on fossil fuels, favours the use of locally available resources and explores the use of natural processes such as crop rotation and use of organic fertilisers"Crop rotation, the use of organic fertilisers and understanding of local resources are the time honoured ways of working with nature. But, as Prince Charles shows in yesterday's interview, the so-called Green Revolution and its genetic engineering technologies are dependent on external suppliers of seeds, fertiliser, pesticides and water. That this comes at a huge price is now becoming evident - even to those most blinded by the alllure - political and financial -of untried technologies that need external and expensive inputs.
August 13 2008 ~ relying on multi-nationals to mass-produce GM food would drive millions of farmers off their land and lead to "absolute disaster" - says Prince Charles
Prince Charles speaks of the damage being "wreaked on the earth's soil by scientists' research" and warns that huge multi-national corporations involved in developing genetically modified foods are conducting a "gigantic experiment with nature and the whole of humanity - which has gone seriously wrong". Millions driven off their own land and "into unsustainable, unmanageable, degraded and dysfunctional conurbations of unmentionable awfulness." There is an audio link on the page in which we hear him warning that it could all end in "absolute disaster".target="_blank"
What should be being debated was "food security not food production", he says. Telegraph article. Food Security was indeed debated in Parliament on June 30th this year - and there were several voices dutifully claiming that GM can solve the world's hunger. It was rather alarming to hear statements, even from the wary, such as, "Whether people want to grow those crops is up to them, as is whether they think there is a market for such production..." as if there really were some kind of democratic choice involved.
Food security in all its aspects has become a most urgent issue for Britain as well as for the rest of the world and it is cheering to see what genuine and powerful concern Prince Charles shows for the planet and for those who have no such voice to raise in eloquent protest.
"... if they think its somehow going to work because they are going to have one form of clever genetic engineering after another then again count me out, because that will be guaranteed to cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time."
August 13 ~ Was Prince Charles trying to turn back the clock?
He is quoted: "I think not. I'm terribly sorry. It's not going backwards. It is actually recognising that we are with nature, not against it. We have gone working against nature for too long.
Look at India's Green Revolution. It worked for a short time but now the price is being paid.
I have been to the Punjab where you have seen the disasters that have taken place as result of the over demand on irrigation because of the hybrid seeds and grains that have been produced which demand huge amounts of water. [The] water table has disappeared. They have huge problems with water level, with pesticide problems, and complications which are now coming home to roost. ..." The article should be read in full.
Tuesday 15th July 2008 ~ "A shift from an industrialised agriculture system to one based on ecologically sound principles and free from petro-chemical inputs..."
The House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil has published its first report. See peak oil pages. Building on the advice of experts in international development its findings are as relevant to the affluent West as to the 'developing' world. It quotes a recent UNESCO statement:
"The status quo is no longer an option. We must develop agriculture that is less dependent on fossil fuels, favours the use of locally available resources and explores the use of natural processes such as crop rotation and use of organic fertilisers"and agrees that ".... The food crisis is set to deepen if modern agriculture remains reliant on fossil fuels..."
The page 16 section on Resilient food production advocates "independence from external suppliers of seeds, fertiliser, pesticides and water, .... builds resilience and stronger local economies, health and wellbeing." Interestingly it appears to concur with the view that
‘External Input' agricultural models of Green Revolution and genetic engineering technologies fare poorly compared with ‘Internal Input' ecological agriculture, where productivity is based upon biodiversity and full and efficient utilisation of biological resources.."The report is a timely acknowledgement that after the end of cheap oil and gas, business as usual is not an option. Nor can GM technology (see below) ever replace time honoured ways of working with nature.
July 10 2008 ~" using high market prices to scare consumers into thinking that their food will become too expensive unless they turn to GM technology.."
An article in the International Herald Tribune, after reporting that "Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta have all raised 2008 earnings forecasts.." and that "a wave of food-price inflation may help wash away popular opposition to so-called Frankenstein foods", gives balance on the second page by quoting Peter Melchett the policy director of the Soil Association
"GM chemical companies constantly claim they have the answer to world hunger while selling products which have never led to overall increases in production and which have sometimes decreased yields or even led to crop failure."The IHT also quotes Geert Ritsema, a genetic engineering campaigner at Greenpeace International, who said that proponents of biotech crops are using high market prices to scare consumers into thinking that their food will become too expensive unless they turn to GM technology.
10 July ~ "There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the current food price increase. ."
If there really exists - as some genuinely fear - an ambition among the biotech giants to control across the globe the seed trade and ultimately food production itself, the present food crisis provides the ideal opportunity to drown out opposing voices. But there is evidence of what can happen when small farmers change over from their traditional farming to the use of GMO seeds. According to www.countercurrents.org what follows "... is a horror story of bad harvests, huge debts, increased costs for herbicides and fertilizers (in spite of the companies' promises of lower costs), and the suicides of thousands of farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala - among the Indian states that are hit the worst."
Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU GMO campaign director said last month that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the current food price increase and any claim that a single technology such as genetic engineering is a silver bullet for our future food supply distracts attention from the real solutions.
"Farming methods that ensure higher yields, that are more climate resilient, which do not destroy natural resources and can provide better livelihoods for farmers around the world are the only way forward."What must also not be forgotten is the possibility of the unwanted transfer of antibiotic resistance markers, unintended transfer of transgenes through cross-pollination, unknown effects on the soil - and a possibly disastrous loss of biodiversity. (See also February posting.
July 2 2008 ~ A sustainable food system must be low energy, water conscious and actively involve as many people as possible.
Dr Ian Gibson, in his persuasive arguments in favour of GM crops in Tuesday's debate, said: ".. high food prices will be with us for some time to come. The only response is to increase the food supply.. " He meant that genetic modification has the answer. However, on the notion that we can relax and simply now give full rein to GM crops, one warmwell emailer says today,
"....I am not at all convinced that in times of diminishing oil reserves we should seek to utilise methods so dependent on oil-based products (fertiliser, herbicide etc)"He went on to say that in the production of herbicide-resistant varieties, if the seed production and the herbicide production lies in the same commercial organisation it is "a bit like having an election with only one candidate".
Since intensive farming equipment is so dependent on fossil fuel for its machinery, transport and non-organic fertilisers, let us instead learn to cultivate our gardens in the most biodiverse way we can, and encourage as fast and as widely spread as possible the human scale gardening and farming that isn't dependent on oil. The methods so happily embraced by UK smallholders, by the Transition movement and other far-sighted ones should now be a source of inspiration to all.
June 20 2008 ~ "genetically modified food lobby smiling all the way to the seed bank"
Unfortunately the oil and food crisis is giving quick fix solutions a false allure - encouraging what Geoffrey Lean in his article today calls "the increasingly noisy British GM lobby" to assert that GM can feed the world. His article is packed with enough facts and statistics showing that GM is not the answer to world hunger to make one's jaw drop. He writes,
" biotech companies ... have filed for no fewer than 532 patents around the world....these will enable them to monopolise the seeds..charge what they like and, by ensuring the seeds are 'infertile', make farmers buy new ones every year...In spite of its fine words about caution and "upsetting the ecosystem balance" one's heart sinks to read in the FAO statement that "the responsibility for formulating policies towards these technologies rests with the Member Governments themselves...."
... Even some biotech chiefs seem to be admitting the truth. Hans Kast, managing director of the plant science branch of the chemical giant BASF, said: 'Genetically modified agriculture will not solve the world's hunger problem.' "
If the FAO is waiting for governments to demonstrate a responsible attitude in formulating GM policy one finds oneself muttering, along with Mr Lean, " If I were you, I wouldn't hold your breath." (See also below)
June 20 2008 ~ "Europe is heavily dependent on imports as it does not have enough land to both farm animals and grow the feed they need."
In an article revealing that the Environment minister has held private talks with the biotechnology industry about relaxing Britain's policy on the use of GM crops, Andrew Grice, the Independent's Political Editor in Brussels tells us
"... At a two-day summit in Brussels which began last night, EU leaders were urged to "bite the bullet" and embrace GM products as a solution to rocketing food prices. .... Europe is heavily dependent on imports as it does not have enough land to both farm animals and grow the feed they need. .."At the end of the article Michael McCarthy's Q and A section we discover that it is only in the developing countries that governments and universities are now working on drought-resistant crop strains. The dominant aim of the big commercial companies is different. It is "is to maximise profits rather than to pull the world out of poverty and hunger". If widely grown in Britain, the present "broad-spectrum" weedkillers used with herbicide-tolerant crops "would have a devastating effect on farmland wildlife".
May 22 ~ The threat of GM terminator seeds - back again
The practice of seed-saving and seed sharing is at the very heart of small-scale farming and central to the livelihoods of 1.4 billion people in the developing world. But its future - and the food security of those who rely on it - is now under serious threat. Sol Oyuela, the Environmental officer of Progressio, an international development charity which chairs the 'UK Working Group on Terminator Technology', writes in today's Guardian about the threat to the world's poorest farmers from "terminator" technology - genetic engineering that results in plants producing sterile seeds. The highly controversial technology is currently controlled by a temporary UN ban - but this is
"... now under threat from a powerful alliance of biotech companies and countries with vested interests.... We fear the ban will once again come under pressure at this week's UN summit on the convention on biological diversity in Bonn. ...the EU and, by implication, British taxpayers are contributing to the development of the technology through a £3.4m EU research project "Read Progressio's report "Against the Grain"
May 22 2008 ~ The relentless rise of the seed multinationals has already locked millions of farmers into buying commercialised seed
Extract from Progressio's report "Against the Grain"
"Seed industry concentration and market forces are undermining small-scale farming in developing nations. The facts are shocking:Read "Against the Grain"
The danger is that Terminator is the logical next step in seed companies' bid to privatise plant life and would leave farmers with no choice at all...."
- As market demand for commercial crops rises, small producers are forced to abandon local and indigenous varieties.
- Seeds which people once saved now have to be sourced from seed companies while foodstuffs farmers once grew on their land now have to be bought from shops.
- The top 10 seed companies control 55% of the total commercial seed market.
May 2 2008 ~ "Organic agriculture is the only option left in our looming energy crisis, when oil becomes too expensive and scarce for farming use..."
Letter from Richard Sanders of Elm Farm (Organic Research Centre) in the Independent today. ".... It is time to move on from sterile debates about GM food verses organic, about the relative killing power of organic and synthetic pesticides and whether an outdoor pig is happier than his concrete-dwelling cousin. We're running out of oil and we're running out of food. Proper organic farming allied to local food economies has minimal reliance on fossil fuels and must play a central part in future, sustainable solutions to feeding our hungry planet."
April 16 2008 ~ There is emphasis in the report on proven traditional agricultural methods from around the world as much as on the new technologies.
The controversial questions surrounding GM were not dodged by the IAASTD report. The fact that we still don't know how GMOs will alter biodiversity, eco-system function or affect human health is seen as important. "We do know," says the video report, "that corporate control over seeds can undermine the livelihoods of small scale farmers." As for the combined expertise of the smaller farmers across the world, the four year study took pains to collect information. We learn, for example, that after Hurrican Mitch in 1998, farmers in one small area of Honduras using "zero tillage" (which helps prevent mud slides) managed to feed the rest of the country.
March 25 2008 ~ France's "decision was a victory for environmentalists and for farmers opposed to gene-modification technology"
The Conseil d'Etat has upheld the ban on MON810 (see below). Judge Jean-Marie Delarue evidently felt that the committee of French specialists who had, in January, called for more studies on the product's safety, should not be ignored. The New York Times commented that proponents of the GM maize said that allowing plantings of the gene-altered seed "could benefit consumers at a time of rising food prices." However, a analytical study (pdf) conducted last year by Greenpeace raised "far-reaching questions about the safety and the technical quality of the MON810 plants as well as some fundamental methodological questions."
March 10 2008 ~ The Independent on "prejudice" and "superstition" among food consumers
A rather different kind of article appeared in the Independent this morning, attacking consumer 'ignorance'. On the subject of H5N1, the article seems to profess concern that "...nine out of 10 people questioned said they would be concerned about eating chicken from a factory contaminated with the disease..." This, "despite evidence showing the illness cannot be contracted from consuming properly cooked poultry." The article assures readers that the Food Standards Agency's board concluded in 2000 that " the safety assessment procedures for GM foods were "sufficiently robust and rigorous" to ensure that they posed "no additional risk"..." In 2000 John Krebs was still the boss at the FSA. His profile at www.gmwatch.org is interesting.
Colin Blakemore says of the FSA report that it,
".... seems to show that people are more likely to listen to advice about risk from friends than from scientists."This is not surprising. Consumers, tired of false scares, will trust their own judgement until they are convinced of the genuine independence, benign intentions and common sense of scientists who make assertions about food safety.
February 25 2008 ~ GM crops will save us?
Iain Ferguson, the chief executive of Tate & Lyle and president of the UK's Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said at the NFU conference that food prices in the UK are fuelling a rise in the average family's annual shopping bill of £750. He seems to contemplate GM as a possible saviour. (One doubts if Percy Schmeiser would agree.) Mr Ferguson is quoted:
"We have to face up to the issue of genetic modification and rise to the challenge of helping to foster a fair and scientific debate on an issue that has typically been clouded by suspicion and a lack of trust." (source)A fair and scientific debate that allows the voices of genuine scientific caution to speak would indeed be a good thing. And as warmwell noted in a Blog last October, it may be remembered that Sir John Krebs, when still at the helm of the FSA, dismissed anyone who disagreed with his championing of GM as "shrill, often ill-informed and dogma-driven".
February 20 2008 ~ Commission likely to give green light to 5 GM strains
Since the relevant Ministers failed to agree on Monday, the European Commission is now likely to give its approval - and within weeks - on four strains of insect-resistant genetically modified maize developed by Monsanto, and a GM potato produced by German chemical firm BASF. The potato is intended for industrial purposes, but has animal feed applications as well. None of the strains is intended to be grown on European farms, but they are intended to be used in food and feed. See EUobserver
Unfortunately, however "pest resistant" GM crops may seem to be, evolution is at work - as in the case of the destructive bollworm insect which has developed resistance to a GM cotton crop in America ( as the Independent reported last week.)
January 3 2008 ~ GMOs "contribute negatively to poverty alleviation and food security"
José Bové, the farmer hero to so many in France and elsewhere has launched an anti GM hunger strike today in Paris. (José Bové is the force behind the Confederation Paysanne, the 2nd largest farmers' union in France.) The majority opinion in France is that GMOs could harm humans and wildlife by triggering an uncontrolled spread of modified genes. The government has only suspended the commercial use of GM maize seeds reliant on the MON 810 technology until Feb. 9 by which time a new law allowing for GMO use is expected to have been passed.
According to Reuters, senior government officials had said France would extend its ban beyond Feb. 9 and use the safeguard clause if doubts about safety lingered.
January 3 2008 ~ "quality balanced information on agricultural biotechnology"
The FAO's Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture has now been running for over seven years with the aim of providing "quality ba lanced information on agricultural biotechnology in developing countries" and its statement can be read here. Genetic modification is not necessarily an all-or-nothing issue. One can be glad, for example, that human insulin is capable of being grown in GM yeast but still feel deep misgivings about a possible biotech monopoly of the food chain. Interesting then that a contributor to the FAO's Forum, Professor El-Tayeb, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Industrial Biotechnology at Cairo University commented that: "..currently available (GMO's) mostly contribute negatively to poverty alleviation and food security - and positively to the stock market."
Monday October 29 2007 ~ A farmer's story: 'It's all about control of food production'
We see from Geoffrey Lean's article in the Independent today that the government has been using taxpayers' "tens of millions of pounds a year to boost research into modified crops and foods" Constant claims of impartiality on GM technology and repeated promises to promote environmentally friendly, "sustainable" farming now seem hollow. Internal documents obtained under the Freedom Of Information Act reveal that DEFRA allowed the biotech giant BASF to plant 450,000 modified potatoes in British fields and officials
"repeatedly went to remarkable lengths to make sure the trial conditions, supposed to protect the environment and farmers, were "agreeable" to BASF"Meanwhile in France, President Sarkozy says no GMO crops will be planted in France until the government had received the results of an evaluation by a new authority on GMOs set to be launched later this year. The BBSRC, however, says its funding for the research on GM crops would continue even if there was "a Europe-wide ban" on growing them commercially.
It is hard not to speculate on possible reasons why the UK government envisages the end of livestock farming with apparent lack of concern.
Monday October 29 2007 ~ "few signs that the boom in organic food is ending."
An ongoing four year Newcastle University study has now found that
"Fruit and vegetables contain up to 40 per cent more nutrients if they are grown without chemical fertilisers and pesticides, organic milk contains 80 per cent more antioxidants and organic produce also had higher levels of iron and zinc, vital nutrients lacking in many people's diets."Foods grown without pesticides and chemicals are increasingly popular with shoppers in the UK. Sales are now growing by 25 per cent each year.
Monday October 29 2007 ~ The debate over the future of GMOs in Europe rages
In France, where 80 percent of the public are against GMO foods, President Sarkozy had said no more will be grown until an evaluation has been considered. When one type of maize was fed to rats in a laboratory study at the University of Caen, their immune system was weakened. Hungary banned the planting of Monsanto's MON 810 seed in January 2005. Germany says maize grown from MON 810 seeds can only be sold if there is an accompanying monitoring plan to research its effects on the environment. Austria could soon be facing an attempt by EU regulators to force it to lift bans on two GMO maize types. See www.dw-world.de
European labels must declare GMO ingredients. This is not the case in the US.
June 2007 ~ "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias has announced that the cultivation of genetically modified crops will be prohibited on Venezuelan soil
possibly establishing the most sweeping restrictions on transgenic crops in the western hemisphere.
Though full details of the administration's policy on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are still forthcoming, the statement by President Hugo Chavez will lead to the cancellation of a contract that Venezuela had negotiated with the US-based Monsanto Corporation. Before a recent international gathering of supporters in Caracas, Chavez admonished GM crops as contrary to interests and needs of the nation's farmers and farmworkers. He then zeroed in on Monsanto's plans to plant up to 500,000 acres of transgenic soybeans in Venezuela.
"I ordered an end to the project," said Chavez, upon learning that GM crops were involved. "This project is terminated." www.organicconsumers.org
June 2007 ~ "My topic was genetically modified (GM) food and my stance was distinctly supportive. (Don't start throwing the rotten tomatoes now!)...."
An interesting post (only just tracked down) on Genetics and Health ( which is in favour of genetic modification when it involves the cross-breeding two organisms of the same species, such as crossing strawberry plants with a deeper red color with those that have larger fruit) goes on to list the controversies summarised by the Human Genome Project in relation to GM foods. A substantial list! :
and the post concludes, "There's no doubt that the GM food supply should be closely monitored and regulated, but that doesn't mean it should all be banned. I believe that genetic engineering of plants, animals, and humans has much to offer as long as we are aware of potential benefits and side effects. And that's true even for more traditional methods of farming, animal husbandry, and medicine."
- Potential human health impact: allergens, transfer of antibiotic resistance markers, unknown effects
- Potential environmental impact: unintended transfer of transgenes through cross-pollination, unknown effects on other organisms (e.g., soil microbes), and loss of flora and fauna biodiversity
- Domination of world food production by a few companies
- Increasing dependence on Industralized nations by developing countries
- Biopiracy - foreign exploitation of natural resources
- Violation of natural organisms' intrinsic values
- Tampering with nature by mixing genes among species
- Objections to consuming animal genes in plants and vice versa
- Stress for animal
- Labeling not mandatory in some countries (e.g., United States)
- Mixing GM crops with non-GM confounds labeling attempts
- New advances may be skewed to interests of rich countries
June 3 2007 ~ MAJOR FLAW IN GM TRIALS
Louise Vennells in the Western Morning News "Studies into contamination by genetically modified crops failed to take into account one important factor - the wind. Academics based in the Westcountry say researchers made the basic flaw of not calculating the effects of wind on GM pollen. The news yesterday brought an outcry from growers of organic crops, who said the Government had consistently underestimated the threat of cross-contamination by GM plants.
Dr Martin Hoyle, of Exeter University, who conducted the study of GM crop research as part of his post-doctorate work in ecology, said he was "surprised" the effects of wind speed and distances had not been taken into account before. He said he had used "common sense" in investigating the subject, which resulted in a computer model which could be applied to calculate the risk of cross-pollination. ...... Dr Hoyle, who plans to approach the Government with his new model, said: "If the production of GM crops becomes widespread in Europe, it is essential that measures are taken to minimise cross-pollination from GM to conventional non-GM crops,' said Hoyle.
The recommended minimum distances between GM and conventional crops should be informed by weather data, which is possible using our model of pollen dispersal in the wind." He added: "We were surprised that this hasn't been assessed before. I approached this research in the first place by using my common sense." Dr Hoyle's work has been funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and is published today.
Dr Hoyle said it was too early to say how much further apart fields could have to be to minimise the risk of cross-pollination. "Another piece of research would be needed to assess that," he said. Now, recommended distances vary depending on a range of factors, including the crop species and the depth of the field. It stands at about 35 metres for oilseed rape, but 100 metres for maize. ............
......... Phil Thomas, of Linscombe Organics near Crediton, East Devon, said he believed the greatest danger was not cross-pollination, but GM DNA spreading to unrelated species through viral infections. He said: "This research shows how flawed most of the studies have been in the past, because this one takes into account a natural factor which any idiot could have thought of, but hasn't been researched under lab conditions. It just makes you wonder how many other natural factors have not been thought of."
3rd May 2007 ~ GM Maize MON 863 is Toxic
French scientists have found signs of toxicity to liver and kidney in Monsanto's study on its controversial GM maize....As Séralini and colleagues point out in the case of MON 863, a new artificial protein Cry3Bb1 is produced at relatively high levels (49 . 97 microgram/gram). Its mechanism of action is not known in mammals because it was never studied, and the target receptor has not even been characterised in insects. Most of all, unlike ordinary drugs or pesticides, which have to be tested for three-months in three mammalian species, then with one mammalian species for one year, and yet another for 2 years, current regulation does not require such tests for 'biopesticides' produced continuously in open fields; nor for the herbicides and herbicide residues accumulated by herbicide-tolerant GM crops. The two traits, biopesticides and herbicide tolerance now account for practically all GM crops grown in the world today." Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
March/April 2006 ~ 8th of April 2006: Joint International GM Opposition Day (JIGMOD)
See pdf file ".. The World Trade Organization (WTO) -- whose Deputy Director General previously served as the European general counsel for the agrochemical and biotechnology giant Monsanto -- has ruled yesterday (Feb 6 2006) in favor of genetically modified (GM) crop producers against the European Union (EU).
International critics of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are confident that European citizens remain opposed, and that GMOs will not significantly break into the European market.
However, they are concerned that it will open the way to the development of GM crops, as well as the contamination of both GM-free fields and food chains.
Furthermore, the WTO is thus dictating a message to the world that it is useless to attempt to regulate GMOs.In this context, 100 international organizations from more than 40 countriesiare now announcing April 8, 2006 as a Joint International GM Opposition Day. The day will feature major public events in several of these countries to demonstrate continuing global opposition to genetically modified foods and crops..."
March 22 2006 ~ This week's United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity ends on March 31.
The US did not sign the convention, because it was feared that the convention would constrain US companies from accessing the genetic resources of developing countries (which was indeed an objective of the convention).
March 22 2006 ~ The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
is an agreement designed to regulate the international trade, handling and use of any genetically engineered organism that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. Extract from An Introduction to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (pdf new window)
"Governments and civil society are collaborating through the Convention on Biological Diversity to reverse the tide of devastation that humanity has inflicted upon the natural world. The stakes are high: although some 40% of the world economy is derived directly from biological diversity, humanity is pushing ecosystems, species and gene pools to extinction faster than at any time since the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago."
March 22 2006 ~ Little African input at the convention
SABC News reports today that there were " ... "concerns about the lack of adequate financial resources for the participation of all developing countries." ..... Who is liable for genetically modified contamination, should it arise, and who should pick up the bill for potentially costly compensation are issues that remain contentious at negotiations on the Protocol."
March 22 2006 ~ "The funding issue has also led participants to speculate about wider implications of the costs involved for full implementation of all the provisions of the protocol.
Building the capacities of developing countries for labelling, packaging, testing, policing and a host of other issues will need to be paid for. Governments promoting genetic modification have fought hard to avoid responsibility for these extra costs.
They argue instead that if importers are concerned about genetic modified material entering their country they should be prepared to pay for that information. With the genetically modification industry also refusing to pick up the tab, some delegates said it appears likely that the cost will have to be borne by developing country taxpayers.
Another controversial topic is the current de-facto moratorium on what is commonly known as 'terminator technology'. This technique is designed to make seeds infertile after their first harvest to prevent sharing and re-use by farmers.
As many farmers in developing countries depend on seed sharing, it could potentially have a major long-term impact on their livelihoods. There are also safety implications should the terminator genes spread into the natural environment and render other plants infertile." From SABCNews.com
January 25th 2006 ~ 'Suicide Seeds' Could Spell Death of Peasant Agriculture, UN Meeting Told
Groups fighting for the rights of peasant communities are stepping up pressure on governments to ban the use of genetically modified ''suicide seeds'' at UN-sponsored talks on biodiversity in Spain this week. ''This technology is an assault on the traditional knowledge, innovation, and practices of local and indigenous communities,'' said Debra Harry, executive director of the U.S.-based Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism...." Yahoo
August 8 2005 ~ Monsanto is offering free GM seed to UK farmers.
GM crops can be grown in the UK without farmers having to notify the authorities or their neighbours," the Guardian reports. "...Supporters of GM crops can legally grow them in Britain by applying to the biotech company Monsanto for a sample pack of GM maize to test on a British farm...". DEFRA "says no regulations exist to prevent farmers growing GM crops approved for cultivation elsewhere in the EU because "it seems unlikely that anyone would want to do so".
August 8 2005 ~ the Government is launching a charm offensive to stop the media reporting scare stories about GM crops.
Independent "A cabinet minister has revealed that the Government is launching a charm offensive to stop the media reporting scare stories about GM crops. The campaign led by John Hutton, the Cabinet Office Minister, led environmental pressure groups to warn last night against the Government "softening up" the media for controversial scientific developments. The EU Commission will today approve the use in animal feed of a GM maize that allegedly showed a link with low liver weight in tests on rats. Anti-GM campaigners said agriculture ministers would now greenlight the maize for use in food, lifting a ban on its EU import. "
27 July 2005 ~ Bayer plays down anti-GM claims
FWi ".BAYER HAS dismissed claims by Friends of the Earth that it withdrew its applications to grow genetically modified oilseed rape in the EU following new DEFRA research findings..... FoE claim the DEFRA report (July 25) which found that in farm-scale trials, genes from Bayer's GM oilseed rape had transferred into wild charlock to produce a resistant strain of the weed, had prompted the decision. .Their [Bayer's] genetically modified oilseed rape would be a disaster for farmers and wildlife,. said FoE GM campaigner, Clare Oxborrow. .The UK government must do more to support sustainable farming, producing food that people want to eat, and abandon GM technology once and for all.. Five Year Freeze director Pete Riley agreed, adding that politicians need to involve people more in decisions about food and farming."
26 July 2005 ~ Government researchers have found a GM version of the common weed charlock growing in one of the fields used in the Government-sponsored farm-scale trials of GM crops.
Telegraph "....The plant was resistant to the weed killer used in the GM trial and was confirmed as containing the gene inserted into the GM oilseed rape. It is the first known case of such an occurrence in Britain and overturns previous scientific assumptions that charlock, a common weed found alongside oilseed rape in Europe, was unlikely to cross-breed with GM oilseed rape. FoE says that is GM oilseed rape was grown commercially, herbicide-resistant weeds could become widespread. Farmers would then have to use more and more damaging weedkillers to get rid of them, with knock-on impacts on the environment. Bayer has lodged two applications for approval to grow GM oilseed rape with the European Commission. Approval would allow the GM oilseed to be grown in Britain.
FoE said that last month Elliot Morley, the environment minister, voted to try to force France and Greece to lift their bans on GM oilseed rape."
28/30 June 2005 ~ "If you just grow GM crops you are pushing farmers down the line of just producing a commodity. That is really not what we need, particularly in a region like the Westcountry where we can establish a reputation for growing high quality and safe food." WMN reports on Elliot Morley's comment that European ministers are going against "sound science". EU ministers have overwhelmingly rejected the proposals to lift the GM bans imposed by Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, France and Greece. See also the article by Geoffrey Lean showing "Stalinist tactics" by the FSA.
28/30 June 2005 ~ GM. "Britain's official food safety watchdog - which prides itself on its "openness" - is embroiled in a row over the blanking-out of large sections of a document relating to a banned GM maize illegally imported into the country..." Article by Geoffrey Lean last week in the Independent about the FSA. "..the maize contained a gene conferring resistance to antibiotics that could potentially cause people to resist vital medicines."
5 June 2005 ~ Mandelson wants to fast-track GM
Mandelson wants to fast-track GM by Geoffrey Lean in the Independent
"Peter Mandelson is pressing for new GM foods and crops to be eaten and planted across Europe, even though governments cannot agree on whether to introduce them.... the controversial trade commissioner's department wants to speed up their use, despite widespread public opposition, and is insisting on their being imposed by the Commission on unwilling governments. ......
Michael Meacher, the former UK environment minister, said yesterday: "Having a group of unelected bureaucrats deciding what food should be eaten is fundamentally undemocratic. It is intolerable that they can ride it through roughshod over the objections of member states. "This is the very kind of thing that the peoples of France and the Netherlands were objecting to in their referendums last week." Mr Mandelson's office failed to take up the opportunity to comment. "
22 March 2005 ~ Yet another nail was hammered into the coffin of the GM food industry in Britain yesterday
The Independent reports "Yet another nail was hammered into the coffin of the GM food industry in Britain yesterday when the final trial of a four-year series of experiments found, once more, that genetically modified crops can be harmful to wildlife.
The study was the fourth in a series that has, in effect, sealed the fate of GM in the UK - at least in the foreseeable future. They showed the ultra-powerful weedkillers that the crops are engineered to tolerate would bring about further damage to a countryside already devastated by intensive farming.
Only one of the four farm-scale trials, which have gone on for nearly five years, showed that growing GM crops might be less harmful to birds, flowers and insects than the non-GM equivalent - and even that was attacked as flawed, because the weedkiller the particular conventional crop required was so destructive it was about to be banned by the EU.
Even so, a year ago the Government gave a licence for that crop - a maize known as Chardon LL, created by the German chemical group Bayer - to be grown in Britain, thus officially opening the way for the GM era in Britain, to loud protests from environmentalists.
However, only three weeks later Bayer withdrew its application, suggesting the regulatory climate would be too inhibiting. That followed the withdrawal from Europe of the world leader in GM crops, the American biotech giant Monsanto, which also seemed to have tired of the struggle. "
23 January 2005 ~ ".... the minute you start fooling around with it in various ways, I think there is a danger."
The I-SIS ( Institute of Science in Society )Report, September 24, 2001 suggested that the FMD epidemic might possibly have been the result of a bio-warfare simulation or genetic engineering experiments gone wrong. Scientists in Australia genetically modified a mousepox virus - then realised they had created a highly virulent strain that could not be stopped by vaccination. Now, on the subject of GM modification of the smallpox virus to "counter any threat of a bioterrorist attack" the Independent quotes the warnings of the man who eradicated smallpox, Professor Donald Henderson, "...the minute you start fooling around with it in various ways, I think there is a danger..."
January 3 2005 ~ The GM watchdog, the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission, is to be scrapped.
See Guardian "... .... the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and other pro-GM forces in the government, particularly Tony Blair, had not factored in the persuasive powers of Prof Grant, who managed to produce three influential consensus reports... the commission insisted the consumer should have the freedom to buy non-GM British food... ..... Privately, members have been told the organisation is to be abolished..." Read in full
December 7 2004 ~ An alarming letter suggesting that there is corruption in the European Food Safety Authority.
Apparently, they received - but refuse to make public - fresh evidence on the detrimental effects of GM by Arpad Pusztai. They have also threatened him with litigation if he himself makes his research public : "... Monsanto are tied in with the European Food Safety Authority as they have been for years ever since the Eurobio Office was set up." See also the whistle-blowing article in Le Monde from last April.
November 20 - 26 2004 ~ Iraqi farmers will no longer be permitted to save their seeds. Instead, they will be forced to buy seeds from US corporations
including seeds the Iraqis themselves developed over hundreds of years. See www.Grain.org "...The new law is presented as being necessary to ensure the supply of good quality seeds in Iraq and to facilitate Iraq's accession to the WTO . What it will actually do is facilitate the penetration of Iraqi agriculture by the likes of Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow Chemical - the corporate giants that control seed trade across the globe. Eliminating competition from farmers is a prerequisite for these companies to open up operations in Iraq, which the new law has achieved. Taking over the first step in the food chain is their next move.
The new patent law also explicitly promotes the commercialisation of genetically modified (GM) seeds in Iraq.."
November 22 2004 ~ Industry has dropped its last attempts to get GM seeds approved for growing in Britain
Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday writes, "Industry has dropped its last attempts to get GM seeds approved for growing in Britain, in a final surrender of its dream to spread modified crops rapidly across the country. Bayer CropScience has withdrawn the only two remaining applications for government permission for the seeds - a winter and a spring oilseed rape..."
October 2004 ~ The Five Year Freeze, a unique alliance of 120 UK organisations,
all calling for a freeze on genetic engineering and patenting in food and farming. For more information, go to the website: www.fiveyearfreeze.org.
Sept 20 ~ Europe halts GM maize proposals
"....The Monsanto-produced maize failed to get the required qualified majority from representatives of the member states in an indicative vote on Monday (Sept 20). Results of a feeding study of this GM maize on rats have caused some concern among scientists. Monday's vote in the EU regulatory committee was the eighth failed attempt by the Commission to win support for a GM product among member states. The Commission must now decide whether to send the application to a vote by Ministers. If there is no agreement from Ministers, the Commission will make a decision itself...." FWi
Sept 2 ~ Public opposition to genetically modified (GM) food has hardened
during the past two years, even as the government moves closer to drawing up rules on GM crop cultivation, according to a new survey...The use of GM products in food worried 61 percent of the survey's respondents compared with 56 percent in 2002 while the percentage of people who tried to avoid GM food and ingredients rose to 58 percent from 45 percent. Lack of information on the long-term health consequences of genetically altered products was cited as the main cause for concern. The government said in July that commercial plantings of GM crops are still unlikely for some time yet, though a consultation process is underway to draw up rules for any future biotech crop sowings. Environmental group Friends of the Earth welcomed the Which? report and called on the government to ensure tough rules on GM crops to protect food, farming and the environment. ..." Reuters
August 17 ~ José Bové and 500 of his supporters came to blows with a new group describing itself as "volunteer farmers and researchers in favour of GMO tests"
Independent "... In a maize field near Marsat in the Puy-de-Dome at the weekend, gendarmes intervened after the anti-globalisation campaigner Josi Bovi and 500 of his supporters came to blows with a new group describing itself as "volunteer farmers and researchers in favour of GMO tests" The clash came amid growing signs that the French authorities are wavering in their opposition to open-field tests of GM crops....
..France - where anti-GMO campaigners trample experimental crops most weekends - has become Europe's main battleground over the issue, but police rarely intervene and most confrontations have been confined to courtrooms. Mr Bovi has called on his supporters - known as "the volunteer reapers" - to step up their campaign of civil disobedience before a European Commission decision on the issue due this autumn. The commission, which in May for the first time authorised the planting of a genetically modified maize seed manufactured by the Swiss company Syngenta, is divided and must decide by November whether to authorise the US chemical giant Monsanto to sell its transgenic NK603 maize in the EU...The "volunteer farmers and researchers in favour of GMOs'' are led by Pierre Pagesse, a farmer and the managing director of the French biotechnology firm Biogemma. "
July 10 2004 ~ Vineyard owners call for ban on GM grapes
Telegraph "French winemakers have called on the government to block attempts to cultivate pest-resistant genetically modified grapes, arguing that they could ruin traditional wine-growing methods. ........... "We have no proof that there won't be some kind of contamination of healthy vines." She is demanding full disclosure from the government on every step in the experiments with GM vines. She added that any experiments on vines needed to run for at least 80 years for their conclusions to be considered valid. The winemakers argue that it is one thing to experiment on the GM vines in laboratories, but quite another to plant them in fields where they could infect other vines nearby. The institute's scientists believe that is all but impossible...."
July 5 ~ To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list GM products which may be imported into the UK..
Mr. Morley : The crops in the following table were approved for placing on the market under Directive 90/220/EC (Directive 2001/18's predecessor). As far as we are aware the countries listed in the third column of the table have approval to cultivate these crops but we do not know for certain whether crops are grown there for export to the EU. ...Hansard.
July 1 2004 ~ Firm shuts British project on GM crops
Telegraph "....... Earlier this year, the GM food lobby was dealt a blow when Bayer CropScience gave up attempts to grow GM maize in Britain. Now the Government faces further embarrassment with Syngenta moving its project from Bracknell, Berks, to North Carolina..."
June 29 2004 ~ the sixth time in a row that the European Commission has failed to convince the member states to approve a genetically modified organism
FoE ".. EU Environment Ministers today failed to reach an agreement on a proposal by the European Commission to authorise the import of genetically modified maize NK 603, produced by the US company Monsanto. Eight EU ministers ( from Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg) voted against the proposal and three countries (Germany, Spain and Slovenia) abstained.
Eleven countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden and UK) voted in favour. The postions of Poland and Malta remained unclear.
Friends of the Earth Europe's GM Campaign Coordinator Geert Ritsema said: "This is the sixth time in a row that the European Commission has failed to convince the member states to approve a genetically modified organism. The Commission wants to show the public that there is a thorough safety assessment for any adverse impact on public health. What they achieve is the contrary. It is becoming more and more clear that the authorities in Europe are deeply divided over the subject of GM."
June 22 ~ Greenpeace spokesman Ben Stewart claimed success in the protest last night.
Independent "Tonight we thwarted a third opportunity to bring the boat into the dock," he said. "This was a result of the actions of two brave campaigners who suspended themselves above the propeller so the ship could not move. "We hope people are now more aware that supermarkets like Sainsbury's, which claim to be GM free, are supporting huge imports of GM crops by selling milk from cows fed on GM products."
May 24 ~ ordinary New Zealanders are having to call ERMA to account for a cavalier attitude to sound science
and their refusal to monitor sites like the PPL GE Sheep farm. The farm has been sold off and the proceeds are to be taken out of this country despite a lack of funding for ongoing monitoring of the site. The legal case, expected to be lodged in court next week is being taken by Claire Bleakley. GE Free (NZ)in food and environment were unable to take the case on because of fears that the authority would attempt to destroy the community group in the same way that MAdGE was sued for costs by AgResearch. Situations like this show that a functioning watchdog is needed to protect New Zealand's GE Free status. ...
...ERMA have been burying their heads in the sand and pretending there are no risks to consider from transgenes in the soil. Claire Bleakley's lawyer wrote to ERMA to put them on notice that papers would be filed with the courts following ERMA's dismissal of such concerns. ERMA's stated intention is to allow PPL to re-patriate remaining assets to the UK. This leaves the field trial site soiled by 8 years of transgenic sheep to be sold for farming without any research or monitoring of transgenic material. " Press Release: GE Free NZ
May 21 ~ The Supreme Court of Canada rules against Percy Schmeiser by 5-4- but waives the 200,000 dollar "damages" and court costs
CBC News ".......The Supreme Court of Canada ruled against a Saskatchewan farmer Friday, saying since U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto holds a patent on a gene in its canola seed, it can control the use of the plant.
In a 5-4 decision, the court upheld Monsanto's patent over its Roundup Ready canola plant gene, ruling Percy Schmeiser infringed on the company's patent by growing the plant without a licence. The company inserts a gene into a canola plant to make it pesticide-resistant. Monsanto holds patents over the gene and the insertion process, and argued the patent should extend to control of the plant. ...Schmeiser argued the canola seed blew onto his property from a nearby farm. He has said the plants "polluted" his fields. In a news release, Monsanto said it welcomed the decision, adding the Supreme Court has "set a world standard in intellectual property protection." In what Schmeiser called a "personal victory," the Supreme Court ruled he does not have to pay roughly $200,000 in court costs and damages to Monsanto. He said his battle is now over, but believes the debate over patenting life forms must continue. "I and my wife have done everything possible to take it this far," said Schmeiser. "It will have to be carried forward, whether it's through the Parliament of Canada or other countries of the world."
INDEPTH: Percy Schmeiser's battle..."
May 19 ~ EU Commissioners grant a licence for the importation and use of a GM maize
FWi EU Commissioners have granted a licence for the importation and use of a GM maize - the insect resistant Bt11 variety from Swiss firm Syngenta.
The move brings an end to the five year moratorium on new approvals.
Speaking after the decision on Wednesday (May 19), food safety commissioner David Byrne insisted the commission was acting responsibly.
"GM sweet corn has been subject to the most rigorous pre-marketing assessment in the world," he said.
May 18 ~".. biotechnology is much more than genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
sometimes also called transgenic organisms. And while the potential benefits and risks need to be carefully assessed case by case, the controversy surrounding transgenics should not distract from the potential offered by other applications of biotechnology such as genomics, marker-assisted breeding and animal vaccines.
Still, biotechnology should complement - not replace - conventional agricultural technologies, the report says. Biotechnology can speed up conventional breeding programmes and may offer solutions where conventional methods fail..." See FAO's report - "Agricultural Biotechnology: Meeting the Needs of the Poor?" (pdf)
May 18 ~ The FAO is at variance with the views of many leading aid agencies
Independent "Genetically modified crops were given a cautious endorsement as a means of solving world hunger by the UN's food agency yesterday, in a move that will prolong the controversy over GM technology. The backing, from the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), is at variance with the views of many leading aid agencies, which say that such claims made for GM are misleading...Eighteen months ago Britain's top aid charities told Tony Blair that genetically modified foods would not solve world hunger, but might increase poverty and malnutrition.
A submission signed by the directors of Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save the Children, Cafod and Action Aid said claims that GM crops could feed the world were "misleading and fail to address the complexities of poverty reduction". The charities said that GM crops were likely to create more poverty, pointing out that hunger was not caused by a shortage of food, but because the poor could not afford to buy it; and it was rich farmers who tended to take up new agricultural techniques.
They feared that introducing GM technology would have catastrophic effects because it is dominated by a few multinational companies. Salil Sheehy, the director of Action Aid, said at the time: "Farmers will be caught in a vicious circle, increasingly dependent on a small number of giant multinationals." Prince Charles, a noted GM opponent, said that the argument GM would feed the world was "suspiciously like emotional blackmail". ..." Read in full
May 15 ~ The European Commission says it will approve one variety of genetically modified corn for human consumption.
May 13 ~ US biotech giant Monsanto has abandoned plans to grow GM oil seed j rape (canola) in Australia
Earlier this week it was confirmed that Monsanto had pulled out of GM wheat ....GM canola has also proved controversial in Canada, where it has been widely grown, because it has led to wide-spread GM contamination, and many potential markets (such as the EU) have refused to take it because the public demand GM-free food. ...." FOE press release
May 7 ~ The field-scale trials clearly demonstrated what a disaster these crops can be for wildlife
Guardian letters ".....However, his claim that GM crops allow low-till farming that is "the most beneficial to birds and wildlife" is deeply misleading. The field-scale trials clearly demonstrated what a disaster these crops can be for wildlife, drastically reducing the availability of seeds, an important food source for birds ..."
May 7 ~ Peter Ainsworth's Environmental Audit Committee criticises the "either wilful or careless misinterpretations. of the Government Response to its report.
In the light of the debate on GM crops, the Committee decided to respond quickly to the Government response to its Second Report. Environmental Audit Committee
.The Government response is clearly unsatisfactory. It fails to reply to the substance of some arguments even while misinterpreting others.. (para 3) The response contains a number of .either wilful or careless misinterpretations. of the Committee's Report.
.The Government response tries to take us to task for its failure to take oral evidence from the research consortium engaged in the farm scale evaluations, a failure it regards as a .serious weakness.. Yet it makes clear that it was the job of the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC), not the research consortium, to ensure that the design of the trials . with which we took greatest issue . was appropriate. We of course did take evidence from the Chairman of the SSC.. (para 4)
.The Government response also fails to address the point that the farm scale evaluations reflected not only a narrow part of the assessment required under Directive 2001/18/EC but an even narrower part of the totality of the Government's consultation.. (para 5)
.The Government response does not address the issue of liability.. (para 6)
.We intend to return to the issue of GM crops later in the year when we will look at the issues raised by the Government response in more detail, and at the ever-growing body of evidence about the impact of GM crops on the environment.The public at large are very concerned about issues relating to GM and will regard the Government's failure to engage in a proper debate with the Committee on this matter as a sign of weakness.. (para 8)
May 6 2004 ~ CENSURE FOR BECKETT OVER GM GO-AHEAD
Western Morning News " A furious row erupted at Westminster yesterday over the Government's decision to give the green light to GM crops, as ministers were accused of riding roughshod over the views of expert MPs. In an unprecedented move, the powerful Environmental Audit Committee reprimanded Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett for her decision to allow the commercial growing of GM maize just four days after the committee warned that such a move would be premature. In a statement, the committee said: "It is unfortunate that the Government has not responded in a more constructive way to our report. The public at large are very concerned about issues relating to GM and will regard the Government's failure to engage in a proper debate with the committee on this matter as a sign of weakness. We can only hope the Government will show itself to be more open and responsive in the future." The statement came as MPs were finally given the chance to debate Mrs Beckett's decision - two months after it was announced...."
April 24 2004 ~ Hansard for April 22
The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): The Government are accepting the advice that there are no reasons not to support the application by Syngenta for approval under the European novel foods regulations for sweetcorn from genetically modified maize line Bt11.
Joan Ruddock : Is my hon. Friend aware that the Belgian Government, the French Government and the Austrian Government have all raised serious concerns about the scientific testing of this sweetcorn, which is designed for human consumption, and its safety? As that is the case, how can he support the marketing of this product when it has been tested under outdated and inadequate novel foods regulation, given that a much more rigorous testing regime has just become law in the EU?
April 4 2004 ~ 'GM will never be grown in Britain'
By Geoffrey Lean Independent on Sunday "Ministers are prepared for GM crops never to be grown commercially in Britain after the strain approved for cultivation was withdrawn last week by the company that developed it.
They are determined not to compromise on strict conditions for growing the crops, which were behind the decision by Bayer CropScience not to proceed with the GM maize given a tentative go-ahead by the Government last month. Unless the controls are relaxed, Bayer says it will abandon the technology in Britain.
Environmentalists and politicians hailed Bayer's decision as the death of GM in Britain. They said that even if biotech companies did try to get new modified crops approved it would be "extremely difficult" to get government or public approval. . "
April 4 ~ 'IoS' hastens end of GM crops in Britain
Independent on Sunday After five years of lobbying by the public and this newspaper, the Government caves in Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor "Wednesday should have been a triumphant day for Tony Blair. That evening the latest revolt by Labour MPs - on tuition fees - fizzled out like all those before it. But, almost unnoticed, this was also 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. The Government admitted that no genetically modified crops would now be grown in Britain for "the foreseeable future", and both campaigners and ministers believe that might mean never. Peter Melchett, the policy director of the Soil Association, said bluntly: "This is the end of GM in Britain."
Many can rightly lay claim to major credit for this, the first outright defeat for one of the Prime Minister's passionately promoted causes - notably pressure groups, critical politicians and, above all, the public.
But the former Environment minister, Michael Meacher, who has himself played one of the most crucial roles in the drama, said yesterday that the IoS had been "the most effective anti-GM campaigner" of all. .......In November 1999 the Government - led by Michael Meacher - concluded year-long negotiations with the biotech industry, establishing a three-year voluntary moratorium while official trials were carried out. And it was soon officially accepted that GM foods would have to be labelled. ...... Study after study showed that genes from GM crops spread to neighbouring organic and conventional produce; only last month we reported that more than two-thirds of non-GM crops in the United States were so contaminated. ......
Last year Monsanto announced that it was closing down its cereal seed business in Britain and Europe. The Government still pressed on, tentatively approving Bayer's GM maize only last month, while imposing strict conditions on its cultivation. But with Bayer's withdrawal, none of the 50 crops originally queuing for approval will now be grown...."
GM MAIZE APPROVAL IN THE UK THREATENS SCOTTISH AGRICULTURE, PUBLIC HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT
Scottish Green Party News Release (before Bayer's Decision) "As well as the environmental safety of GM maize being questionable, there is also evidence that it may pose a serious risk to the animals who will be eating it, said Green MSPs today. Although Chardon LL (GM maize) is fed to cattle, there have been no published studies that have shown that it is safe for animals to eat. The UK government, with the consent of the Scottish Executive, is set to give the go ahead to GM maize this week.(1)
A feeding study carried out for Bayer CropScience (the patent holder of the organism) by Reading University has never been published, in spite of being completed several years ago. It is believed that the results of the trial have been passed to Bayer, but they have never released the data.(2) During feeding trials of this crop on chickens, the mortality rate of chickens fed the GM maize was double that of the control group. Yet the crop was given marketing approval by the government's own scientific advisors. (3)..." Read in full
There is plenty of evidence that transgenic lines are unstable
Transgenic Lines Proven Unstable The insert in every commercially approved GM line has undergone rearrangement. The cauliflower mosaic virus promoter plays a major role. This should be the final nail in the coffin for GM crops, says Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, who has, for years, challenged scientific committees advising governments over this very issue.
There is plenty of evidence that transgenic lines are unstable which is why ISIS has long recommended that appropriate molecular methods must be used to document the stability of the GM insert before any transgenic line is released into the environment. The characterization of the insert must be 'event-specific', which not only gives the structure of the insert, but also the host genome sequences flanking the insert, proving that the insert remains stable in successive generations. This recommendation has been incorporated into the current European Directive (2001/18 /EC) on deliberate release of GMOs..."Read in full
March 31 ~ GM giant abandons bid to grow crops in Britain
Independent "In a huge blow to the genetically modified food lobby, Bayer Cropscience has given up attempts to grow commercial GM maize in Britain. The decision, blamed by the company on government restrictions, means no GM crop will be grown commercially in the UK in 2005 and raises questions about the future of GM in this country.
The German biotechnology company will announce today that its maize variety Chardon LL, which was to be developed as cattle feed, had been left "economically non-viable" because of conditions set by the Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett when she gave limited approval to the growing of the crop this month.
..... There were suggestions last night that GM crops were unlikely to be grown in the UK until 2008, when GM oil seed rape may be approved for cultivation.
Bayer's decision will be seen as a huge win for the former environment minister Michael Meacher and green groups. ......
Only three weeks ago in parliament, Ms Beckett controversially announced her decision to allow Bayer to go ahead with its maize project. The decision came after 15 years of field trials and four years of farm-scale evaluations. Ms Beckett told the Commons the GM maize could be grown as soon as next year and said non-GM farmers who suffered financial losses because of crop contamination would be compensated by the industry, not the taxpayer. At the time, Mr Meacher said: "This is the wrong decision. It is driven by the commercial interests of the big biotech companies and, no doubt, pressure from the White House."
March 26 2004 ~ Genetically Modified Organisms Bill collapses - Elliot Morley "did not bother to turn up"
Press release received "Paterson: Embarrassed Labour kill GM Bill"
Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Owen Paterson MP, commented on the collapse of the Genetically Modified Organisms Bill, which the Government engineered today. He said:
.Today, Labour has killed off this important Bill which would have ensured that regulations on liability could be debated and approved by the Houses of Parliament. This makes it even more extraordinary that the Minister, Elliot Morley did not bother to turn up. This Bill was designed to address the legal and compensation implications of the issues surrounding GM crops. Bearing in mind that the issue of GM is one of great national controversy, the Bill is all the more important. We are now left without any idea of how the Government will proceed with the fundamental GM issues of liability.
All parties agree that the issues of liability must be resolved before GM plantings can proceed. The Government's actions today are astonishing..
March 23 ~ Why GM maize should not be grown in the UK
Dr Brian John in the Ecologist Exposing the flaws in the science behind the one GM product that the government has approved
Dr Brian John is a geographer, and taught geomorphology and environmental management at Durham University. He now lives in Wales, where he is involved in a number of environmental groups. He is one of the founders of the pressure group GM-Free Cymru " Read the article in full
- THE CROP ISN"T SAFE
- IT WILL CONTAMINATE OTHER CROPS
- THE HERBICIDE ISN'T SAFE
- THE TRIALS WERE FATALLY FLAWED
- IT IS NOT SAFE FOR WILDLIFE
March 21 ~ Crucial vote on GM crop
Independent on Sunday By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor "Plans to grow GM maize in Britain are on a knife edge this weekend after a strong revolt in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. As revealed by The Independent on Sunday, ministers have threatened to quell the resistance to allowing genetically modified maize by an unprecedented use of powers in the devolution settlement.
Scotland's parliament has failed to reject the GM crop by just 60 votes to 59 after the Liberal Democrats supported it in defiance of their position in the rest of the UK. The Scottish National Party's Roseanna Cunningham said that if just one Liberal Democrat had stood by their own policy "the executive would have been told Scotland must remain GM free".
On Wednesday this week the Welsh Assembly also faces the crunch, with the Lib Dems leading the opposition to the crop and set to prevail if they can get just one Labour member to rebel. The Lib Dems' Mick Bates, who praised the IoS for exposing the devolution loophole, said that approving the crop would jeopardise work done to make Wales "a quality environment". The votes are vital for Westminster, as all the UK administrations must agree before any approval for the crop's cultivation can be given. "
March 18 ~ Welsh amazement at Scottish ambivalence
Herald "Down in Wales we are amazed at the ambivalence shown in Scotland on the matter of GM crop commercialisation, and the apparent willingness of MSPs to believe whatever Mrs Beckett and her tame civil servants choose to tell them. Here are two facts.
The government simply assumes that there is no GM problem, because that is what the GM industry tells them. No epidemiological studies have been conducted anywhere in the world to demonstrate that GM foods are safe to eat. Now the Westminster government is proposing that thousands of beef and dairy cattle should be fed on Chardon LL forage maize, without ever having researched the transfer of transgenic DNA from feed into animal and human cells, or the physiological changes that might result, or the "knock-on" effects on humans who eat meat and drink milk from those animals.
- Neither DEFRA nor FSA, nor any other responsible authority, has ever commissioned any research designed to examine the effect of GM crops or GM foods on human health.
- With respect to Chardon LL, which is a GM fodder maize intended for cattle feeding, none of the responsible bodies has ever asked for or commissioned any research designed to test the physiological effects on animals which are fed on this material for extended periods.
Have we learned nothing from the tragedy of BSE and CJD? We now have a glimpse of a GM world inhabited by mad scientists and mad politicians. We hope that Scotland will join Wales in seeking to resist the madness of Whitehall and in showing that at least some of us are still capable of rational thought processes.
Dr Brian John, GM-free Cymru, Trefelin, Cilgwyn, Newport, Pembrokeshire
March 16 ~ Chardon LL maize: greater value - or triggering illness?
Hansard 15 Mar 2004 : Column 4W
Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether Chardon LL fodder maize has a greater value for cultivation and use than the conventional varieties from which it was bred. Mr Morley means, presumably, that it has never even been compared to non-GM varieties. It appears to have been in vain that nine organisations representing 8 million members, including the National Trust and the Women's Institute, wrote to Tony Blair on March 5th demanding he postpone the introduction of GM crops. Their introduction rests not on demand, nor measurable advantage - and GM maize may even be triggering respiratory illness. See John Vidal's article "Scientists suspect GM maize crop of triggering respiratory illnesses" in the Guardian on February 28th "..Scientists investigating a spate of illnesses among people living close to fields of genetically modified maize in the Philippines believe the crop may have been the cause of fevers, respiratory illnesses and skin reactions..."
Mr. Morley: The value for cultivation and use of Chardon LL has not been compared with that of its parental lines or the equivalent non-GM variety. The criterion for addition to the UK National List is that it should, taking its qualities as a whole, represent a clear improvement compared with other forage maize varieties already on the UK List. Chardon has been assessed on this basis and found to meet the performance standards set to indicate a clear improvement."
March 16 ~ If the public knew that Carwyn Jones had this option and that it was neither "illegal" nor "irresponsible", then he would be under considerable pressure to choose that option.
From a letter in icWales by Robert Vint, the Director of Genetic Food Alert UK
".....a total, open-ended, unconditional ban on all GM crops in the absence of a scientific explanation may violate current EU law.
However, that is not the only option available. If a ban is temporary, relates to specified crops and is justified by a scientific explanation, then the use of the veto is legal.
Only one crop, Chardon LL maize, needs stopping and Westminster's cross-party Environmental Audit Committee has provided a sound reason for a four-year postponement of approval of that crop - they say the crop trials were flawed and another three years of trials of maize are needed, using different growing regimes, before we can know its environmental impact.
If the public knew that Carwyn Jones had this option and that it was neither "illegal" nor "irresponsible", then he would be under considerable pressure to choose that option.
Carwyn Jones has pledged to take "the most restrictive approach possible to the growing and commercialisation of GM crops within current UK and EU legislation" - and he can do a lot more than set up "voluntary" and unenforceable GM-free zones.
ROBERT VINT Director, Genetic Food Alert UK Hope House, High Street, Totnes, Devon
March 14 - 20 ~ Scotland and Wales 'bullied' over GM crop veto
Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday "Ministers are threatening to take unprecedented steps under the devolution agreements with Scotland and Wales to ensure that they accept GM crops, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for the Environment, made it clear last week that the devolved administrations - which are much more sceptical about the technology than the Westminster government - could not have a veto on planting GM maize across Britain. Her move, immediately described by environmentalists as "bullying", is bound to lead to a storm of protests in both devolved assemblies, where GM crops have become an explosive political issue, and could cause a constitutional crisis..."
March 13 ~ "GM crops: The public spoke but, hey, why should ministers listen?"
The Western Mail "....... "Shaping policy, apparently, was never the point of the public consultation. Mrs Beckett said, "It was never intended that the debate would do more than explore the range and nature of the public's concerns." Then, presumably, ignore them...."
March 9 ~ Starved of the truth
George Monbiot asks (Guardian 09/03/04) "The question is as simple as this: do you want a few corporations to monopolise the global food supply? If the answer is yes, you should welcome the announcement that the government is expected to make today that the commercial planting of a genetically modified (GM) crop in Britain can go ahead. If the answer is no, you should regret it. The principal promotional effort of the genetic engineering industry is to distract us from this question.
GM technology permits companies to ensure that everything we eat is owned by them. They can patent the seeds and the processes that give rise to them. They can make sure that crops can't be grown without their patented chemicals. They can prevent seeds from reproducing themselves. By buying up competing seed companies and closing them down, they can capture the food market, the biggest and most diverse market of all. .....
The biotech companies are not interested in whether science is flourishing or whether people are starving. They simply want to make money. The best way to make money is to control the market. But before you can control the market, you must first convince the people that there's something else at stake." Read in full
March 8 ~ We have been sent the whole Environment Audit Committee report on the GM trials
(pdf file) Extract: "The problems evident in north America have not been taken seriously enough. DEFRA should have advised the SSC to take account of north American experiences with GM. (Paragraph 31)
We are unhappy that this work on north American GM experiences has been left until after most of the FSEs have reported. Consequently, the findings from that trans-Atlantic research have not now been factored in to the decisions that are already being reached on those GMHT crops in the UK nearest approval. This is clearly unsatisfactory. No decision to proceed with the commercial growing of GM crops should be made until thorough research into the experience with GM crops in north America has been completed and published."
March 7 2004 ~ The Nature paper and the Environment Audit report
The abstract of the paper "Ban on triazine herbicides likely to reduce but not negate relative benefits of GMHT maize cropping" can be accessed here."... Some critics of the FSE pointed out that the atrazine used on conventional maize is so harmful to weeds and other wildlife anyway, that almost any alternative would be better, whether or not the crops were GM.
The Nature article that accompanies it is also on the Nature website. The Environment Audit Committee's press release can be read here."...We are concerned that the GMHT forage maize trials were based on an unsatisfactory, indeed invalid, comparison. ..."
March 7 ~"... The influential Environmental Audit Select Committee's report suggests that, for the first time since the GM debate started, Parliament has smelt the GM rat
Peter Melchett in the Independent on Sunday " The report raised serious questions to which the Government has no answers. Why, for example, were GM crops tested for their impact on wildlife by comparing them with the most destructive types of farming, rather than the best? .." Read in full
March 7 ~"... The reports says that "contamination ... is endemic to the system"
It adds: "Heedlessly allowing the contamination of traditional plant varieties with genetically engineered sequences amounts to a huge wager on our ability to understand a complicated technology that manipulates life at the most elemental level." There could be "serious risks to health" if drugs and industrial chemicals from the next generation of GM crops got into food...." Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday "Genetically modified strains have contaminated two-thirds of all crops in US"
March 7 ~ Executive tells farmers: don't grow modified crops
By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor of the Sunday Herald "The Scottish Executive will defy the Blair government by rejecting genetically modified crops, which this week will get the go-ahead in England. After years of not taking sides in one the fiercest environmental arguments of our times, Scottish ministers finally decided against GM crops on Friday. They accepted that the public had not been convinced of the need for GM by the biotechnology industry.
So when UK environment secretary, Margaret Beckett makes her long-awaited announcement this week allowing GM maize to be grown commercially, the Executive will take steps to ensure none is planted north of the Border...."
Independent on Sunday "the most serious threat to the Government's position is posed by the Welsh and Scottish administrations. Ministers desperately want them on board so that they can make a united announcement that, in principle, growing the maize is acceptable. Even more crucially, by law they have to have their assent before a definite go-ahead can be given to cultivating the GM crop commercially anywhere in Britain. ..... Ministers are puttingpressure on both administrations...." Read today's GM stories in full
March 6 ~ Delay GM crops, say groups speaking for 8m members
Paul Brown Guardian "Nine organisations representing 8 million members, including the National Trust and the Women's Institute, wrote to Tony Blair yesterday demanding he postpone the introduction of GM crops. The letter was among an unprecedented number of hostile reactions to the news that Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, is to make a statement on Tuesday giving the go-ahead for the first commercial GM crop in Britain. The letter came on the same day as a report from the all-party Commons environmental audit committee which demanded a halt to the government's plans. ..."
March 5 ~ Peter Ainsworth, the (Environmental Audit) committee chairman ...said leaked minutes from a cabinet panel suggest "a decision to open the door to the commercial growing of genetically modified crops is imminent."
"It would be irresponsible of the government to permit the commercial growing of GM crops" without reviews of research from North America and the Britain, the Environmental Audit Committee said in a report. Existing trials of a genetically modified corn developed by a Bayer unit were "invalid..." International Herald Tribune
March 4 ~ Scientists back GM crop findings
Financial Times "The imminent decision to approve the growing of genetically-modified maize in the UK will this week be supported by scientific advice that the crop remains more wildlife-friendly than conventional varieties, despite a European Union ban on atrazine, a widely-used and powerful weedkiller.
On Friday scientists involved in the farm-scale evaluations of GM crops will announce that the ban on atrazine does not overturn their original findings, published last October, that growing GM maize does less damage to biodiversity than non-GM maize crops. ..... Professor Joe Perry, the ecological statistician from Rothamsted Research station who recalculated the trials results following the ban, concluded that if atrazine was not used for conventional production, the benefits to wildlife of growing GM maize were reduced by about one-third but still remained significant. His findings, to be published on the website of the scientific magazine Nature, will be welcomed by the biotechnology industry and disappoint environmentalists who had hoped the atrazine ban could force ministers to change their minds and block the commercialisation of the UK's first GM crop. Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, is due to announce the controversial go-ahead for GM maize next week, subject to a number of conditions."
March 2 ~ Until the middle of April, GM foods imported into the UK for human and animal feeds will not have been labelled.
Letter in the Western Mail from J MacDonald BSc "...The multinational companies have been enabled to patent genes, giving them control over our life forms. These genes can be taken up by the normal bacteria in the human and animal gut, the combination creating an organism of unknown character and effect. While masses of pro-GM propaganda is being forced on countries around the world, research on human safety is in short supply. Many GM companies also produce the chemical sprays used on these crops so have a double interest in their promotion. Weeds related to the crop species build up resistance to these crops resulting in production and use of more chemicals on our food crops. It is vital that we remind this Government that it was voted in to address the wishes of the electorate and not these companies. This Government has got to be stopped from putting monetary interests of companies before the safety issues of the nation's food."
....and from Peter Melchett
"...how can a ban on a potential contaminant that consumers want kept out of their food possibly be a "disadvantage"? The Welsh Assembly Government's determination to keep Wales GM-free will, of course, be a huge economic advantage to Welsh farmers and the Welsh food industry. This was recognised in a report by Tony Blair's own Cabinet Office Strategy Unit into the economic impact of growing GM crops. They said "the introduction of GM crops could . . . affect tourism and the potential for rural areas to play a role as non-GM suppliers on the domestic and international agri-food market", and they also said that growing non-GM crops would allow farmers to capitalise on a non-GM "premium"....Read letters in full
March 1 ~" Leaked minutes from the UK government show that it is planning to enforce different levels of GM contamination for different organic food if GM crops are grown commercially
in the UK, says UK organic body, the Soil Association.
....Currently, EU organic law forbids any use of GM products or derivatives in organic food. EU labelling rules forbid any deliberate use of GM in all food, but allow accidental or technically unavoidable GM contamination up to 0.9 per cent.
The rules state that any food containing more than 0.9 per cent 'adventitious' or 'technically unavoidable' (or any deliberate or avoidable) GM ingredients must be labelled as GM. But the Soil Association insists that the lowest level of reliable detection (0.1 per cent) must be used throughout the organic sector. ...The leaked minutes state "a lower threshold for organic should not be ruled out immediately, instead the government should consult on its feasibility on a crop-by-crop basis," said the Soil Association in a statement last week.
"This is nonsense. No-one in the food industry will take these proposals seriously. The government seems to be saying that some organic food can have no reliably detectable GM in it, but with other products, almost one in a hundred mouthfuls could be pure GM," said Peter Melchett, the Soil Association's policy director.
According to the Soil Association, Defra, the government department in charge of GM policy, claims that it does not know what the EU legal position is, and that it is still getting legal advice on the precise meaning of 'use', 'adventitious' and 'technically unavoidable' in the EU laws. ...." FoodNavigator
Feb 29 ~ GM crops roll-out is blighted as MPs prepare to challenge No 10
Independent on Sunday Geoffrey Lean
"MPs are poised to reject the Government's plans to approve the growing of GM crops in Britain, just as ministers are preparing to announce them.
The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, one of its two most powerful select committees, is putting the final touches to a report concluding that no modified crops should be cultivated commercially until more trials are carried out. This would delay their introduction until the end of the decade. ..... The MPs believe approval should not be given until after new trials are carried out using the herbicides that replace Atrazine, and that these trials need to be run for at least four years. They also believe ministers have not taken enough account of problems with GM crops in the US and Canada, where neighbouring crops have been contaminated and superweeds created.
In another blow for the industry, Bayer CropScience, which owns the maize about to be approved by ministers, has made the heads of its GM operations in Europe redundant. "
Feb 27 ~ "Friends of the Earth renewed its call for tough GM liability legislation in the UK
following agreement earlier today on a framework for an international liability regime at the first meeting of the parties to the Biosafety Protocol - the global agreement on genetically modified organisms - in Kuala Lumpur.
The UK Government is expected to announce its GM policy shortly, including commercial approval for GM maize, but as a Party to the Biosafety Protocol they are bound by any international agreements made under the Protocol. This will provide a framework for the regulation of international trade in GM seed with any agreement under the Protocol affecting imports of GM contaminated seeds to the UK. ..." Read press release in full including the three key decisions made in Kuala Lumpur on liability, compliance and identification.
Feb 26 ~ GM crops delayed by at least a year after cabinet leak
Paul Brown Guardian Genetically-modified crops cannot be planted in the UK for at least another year, and maybe not even then, the environment minister, Elliot Morley, said yesterday. The delay is because it will take many months to sort out proper separation distances between crops, and a liability regime for contamination of conventional or organic crops.
A Commons statement by Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, that the government is to go ahead with the first commercially grown GM crop has been delayed, after the leak to the Guardian last week of cabinet sub-committee minutes. Details of government plans to recruit MPs and scientists to put a gloss on the announcement embarrassed ministers, who have decided that another wide public consultation exercise is required before the policy on commercial growing can be implemented. Mr Morley met Gregory Barker, Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle, who has cross-party support for a private member's bill on GM being introduced on March 26. It would create a strict regime for planting and compensation for farmers whose crops or livelihoods are damaged by GM crops. Mr Morley told him that the government would not support his bill, although the minister agreed with parts of it. Mr Morley told the Guardian that the bill was "out of sync" with government plans for a wide-ranging public consultation on the separation distances between GM and other crops and compensation funds for farmers, and on who would pay any damages.
......the twin problem of compensation if all goes wrong, and who pays for it, remains intractable. The biotech companies remain adamant that they will not foot the bill, and that it is a matter for insurance by farmers. The government refuses to set up a fund with taxpayers' money. ..."
Feb 26 ~ GM industry to be liable for damages claims
By Robert Uhlig Telegraph "The biotechnology industry will be liable for any compensation for damage or contamination caused by genetically modified crops, leaked Cabinet minutes reveal. According to minutes of a recent Cabinet committee meeting, the Government has decided that damage caused by GM crops "would be funded by the GM industry". The proposal, if adopted, is likely to derail the Government's plans to license at least one GM crop this spring.
Paul Rylott, chairman of the industry-backed Agricultural Biotechnology Council, warned yesterday that if the industry was made liable for compensation, GM crops would become too expensive for farmers to plant. He said there was a "finite limit of money" to be gained by planting GM, which was at "risk of erosion" if the Government made the industry liable for losses. He said that if the financial benefits of GM were threatened, then "there will not be any point in planting GM crops because there will be few benefits to farmers". The minutes say "the difficulty of proving that a particular farmer was to blame for GM contamination should not be underestimated". By making the industry responsible, it would be necessary only to identify the GM variety, which could be easily traced back to the consent holder - the biotech company that developed the GM seed."
Feb 25 ~ First evidence'of GM health-risk
"The first evidence emerges that GM crops are harmful to humans, reports the Daily Mail..." FWI
Feb 25 ~ Dismay over GM licence
Guardian Letters As a former member of the Biotechnology Commission set up by the government to advise on strategy for GM use in agriculture, I am dismayed by its apparently cavalier attitude to the licensing of GM herbicide-tolerant maize. It was emphasised in our report, Crops on Trial, that we certainly did not consider the results of the farm-scale evaluations (FSE) were "the final piece of the jigsaw" in deciding on the whether GM crops should be grown commercially in the UK. Far more is at stake, as is patently evident from the widespread apprehensions expressed in the GM nation debate held last year.
Yet, if the leaked Cabinet Office minutes (Leader, February 20) are anything to go by, it seems that by treating the FSE results as the sole criterion, the government is totally ignoring the advice of its own advisers. Moreover, the deficiencies of the FSEs themselves - in comparing management of GM maize with that employing a herbicide (atrazine) soon to be banned in the EU - are inexplicably discounted. Given the recommendation of the advisory committee on releases to the environment that "further work be conducted to investigate the implications of the impending withdrawal of atrazine", a decision to licence would smack of irresponsibility. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the government's decision has far more to do with striking a political bargain with the US government than with a belief in the oft-cited "sound science".
Prof Ben Mepham
Feb 24 ~ UK 'not yet set for GM go-ahead'
By Alex Kirby BBC News Online "The UK environment minister, Elliot Morley, has sought to calm fears the government will shortly give the go-ahead to genetically modified crops. Mr Morley said there were still several issues to be settled, and the UK could not let GM crops be grown commercially. He told journalists the UK would give no blanket approval for GM varieties, but would judge each crop on its own. But it is clear the government is close to making an announcement on GM crops in the UK, probably in early March. ..."
Feb 24 ~ Scientists warn of danger of GMO contamination
FT "Seeds from genetically modified crops designed for industrial or pharmaceutical use could leak into the food chain and threaten human health because regulation by the US authorities is too lax, scientists warned yesterday. .... poor controls to separate GM and non-GM varieties could lead to increased dangers in the future, said the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based pressure group.
Margaret Mellon, director of the UCS food and environment programme, said: "This study shatters the presumption that at least one portion of the seed supply - that for traditional varieties of crops - is truly free of genetically engineered elements. The (US) government should immediately follow up this study to determine the extent of the contamination and the steps needed to protect this treasure." ...... "Seeds are the wellspring of our food system, the base on which we improve crops and the course to which we return when crops fail. Seeds will be our only recourse if the prevailing belief in the safety of genetic engineering proves wrong," it said. ......
* Some developing countries lack the capacity to monitor the introduction of GM technology, a United Nations-backed conference in Malaysia was told. Hamdallah Zedan, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, said countries that had signed the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety were trying to implement rules that take effect next year. However, many lacked the money to set up the necessary science laboratories to monitor use of the technology. www.ucsusa.org
Feb 24 ~ Legal challenge to GM go-ahead
FWI "Friends of the Earth has warned that it will consider a legal challenge if the government pushes ahead with the decision to force through Chardon LL GM maize for commercial growing in the UK.
The environmental organisation said the GM maize has not been rigorously assessed for its proposed uses and could pose a risk to human health and the environment. If the government decides to add Chardon LL to the National List of Varieties then members of the public - including Friends of the Earth - would still be able to take the matter to the national Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal.
Before a seed can be approved for the National List, it has to be shown to be "distinct, uniform and stable" and have "value for cultivation and use....."
Feb 22 ~ "... how to spin the announcement of a decision to approve GM maize with "careful presentation" so that public opposition can be "worn down"...."See two articles today on the GM question GM seeds may have built-in obsolescence by Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday and The Not-So-Funny Farm by Ian Bell in the Sunday Herald. "Labour is going to give us GM crops whether we want them or not . what does that say about British democracy?"
Feb 22 2004 ~The GM maize trials were doubly flawed
Michael Meacher, writing in the Independent on Sunday :"... The trials used by ministers to justify commercial planting, purport to show that it harmed the environment less than conventional (ie non-GM) maize. But the trials were doubly flawed. First, Atrazine, the chemical weedkiller used on conventional maize crops, has now been banned throughout the EU because of its toxicity. Since it will therefore never be used, the whole basis of the trial is invalidated. Second, the farmers were told to spray the GM crops only once in the trials, allowing more weeds to grow and thus reducing environmental damage. But in the real world it is unlikely that commercial GM maize growers would accept a significantly lower yield so as to enjoy more beetles and butterflies on their land.
Because of these flaws on both the GM and non-GM sides the trials cannot be cited to justify licensing GM maize cultivation. But even if that were not so, the Government cannot remotely claim that the trials - simply comparing the management of different weedkillers - constitute a proper assessment of the environmental impacts of GM crops. They included nothing about soil residues or soil bacteria, nothing about gene flow or transgenic contamination, nothing about "superweeds" or "superpests". Until these are fully investigated, the Government cannot claim it has any systematic knowledge of the most serious environmental consequences of GM pollution.
Even worse, no analysis has been done of the health impact of eating GM foods. The Government cites the absence of evidence of harm to show that GM is safe when no evidence has been sought. The biotech companies rely on the spurious principle of "substantial equivalence" whereby a new GM product is simply assumed to be safe if its toxins, allergens and nutrients are judged broadly similar to those of a non-GM counterpart. But when a new gene is inserted crudely into a plant out of a sequence that has evolved over hundreds of millions of years, it will interact with other genes in unknown ways and with unpredictable results."
Read in full
Feb 21 ~ "..a complete reversal of Meacher's view that there is no scientific case for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which should therefore remain banned.
Reuters The cabinet committee minutes also made it clear that the government, which is pushing for an end to the European Union's ban on imports of genetically modified maize from the United States, was in favour of allowing commercial planting. The government promptly denied that any decision had been taken. "It is interesting to note that despite the leak of these supposedly confidential minutes, the government has not announced any inquiry," Meacher said....Friends of the Earth has said it could lodge a legal challenge to any decision to allow commercial planting of GMOs on the grounds of inadequate scientific testing...."
Feb 20 ~" It is disingenuous to argue that GM technology is being promoted to support developing countries.
Not long ago, consumer leaders from 20 African countries issued the Lusaka declaration, which clearly rejects GM technology as a solution for food security in Africa. What is it about the word "no" that this government doesn't understand?
Caroline Lucas MEP
Green, SE England " See Guardian letters
Feb 20 ~ Critics of GM crops furious at ministers' approval
Times "... leaked Cabinet minutes indicating that ministers have decided to approve their cultivation. An announcement on the commercial planting of GM maize could come as early as next week.
Michael Meacher, the former Environment Minister, said that there was no .moral, scientific or political authority. for the move and green campaigners said the leaked minutes showed that big business had triumphed over public opinion.
The minutes show Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, arguing that there was .no scientific case for an outright ban on cultivation of GM crops.. The public, she said, wanted .more information and a strong regulatory regime., not a ban. She said that GM crops should be considered on a case-by-case basis. In discussion, the minutes record, the point was made that while a ban .was the easy way out, it was an irrational way for the Government to proceed, particularly given the symbolic importance of the decision for the Government's science policy and the UK science base..
Mr Meacher was unconvinced. .Why is the Government going ahead?. he asked. .It is not because of the science, it is because of the Bush Administration applying pressure and because of big companies like Monsanto who want to make a big profit out of cornering the world food supply. It has nothing to do with feeding the world.. ..."
20 February 2004 ~ GM-free' rebellion grows as ministers give crops backing
Independent "Dozens of regions across Britain are preparing to declare themselves "GM free" after leaked cabinet minutes confirmed the Government is poised to give the go-ahead for genetically-modified crops. At least 20 local authority areas - and the whole of Wales - are preparing to oppose the planting of GM maize. Another 20 regions have voiced opposition and may also refuse to allow them to be grown.
Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, has conceded the Government may have to allow GM-free zonesbecause of public opposition. Her department is also secretly planning a compensation fund to pay farmers whose fields are contaminated by neighbouring GM crops.
A government "spin" campaign to sell the benefits of GM is being prepared by cabinet ministers. Pro-GM Labour MPs and government scientists will be alerted in advance of the announcement on GM crops which is to be made "shortly", according to the minutes.
David King, the Government's chief scientific adviser, John Krebs, the chairman of the Food Standards Agency, and pro-GM MPs will be given advance warning. "The statement should be supported by briefing, prepared jointly by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Chief Scientific Adviser, and the Chairman, Food Standards Agency, based on solid science and illustrated with examples of practice overseas," the minutes say. "The ground should be prepared with key MPs with an interest in science or food security in developing countries."
The minutes record discussions between senior cabinet ministers including Ms Beckett, and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary. Yesterday a spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said no final decision had been reached. The policy had to gain approval of the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament and to be approved by "cabinet colleagues", he said. Patrick Holden, of the Soil Association which promotes organic food, said pressing ahead with GM crops would be a "tragedy for our country". Tony Juniper, of Friends of the Earth, accused the Government of caving into "big business". "
Cows Ate GM Maize & Died
I-Sis org.uk site press release "This latest incident in a German farm raises tough questions for our government's scientific advisors who have persisted in ignoring scientific evidence that GM food is far from safe. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Sam Burcher call for a public enquiry.
Sources for this report are available in the ISIS members site. Full details here
GM maize and dead cows
Twelve diary cows died after being fed GM maize and silage. This happened on a farm in Woelfersheim in the state of Hesse, Germany. According to the report by Greenpeace Germany, "common errors in feeding and infections had by and large been ruled out as the cause of death", and the farmer involved, Gottfried Glvckner, a supporter of GM crops, now suspects that Syngenta's GM maize Bt 176 is to be blamed. ..."
Feb 9 2004 ~ Wales blocks go-ahead for Britain's first GM crop
Paul Brown The Guardian
"The government has been forced to postpone plans to announce today the go-ahead for GM crops in Britain after Wales and Scotland refused to cooperate. The announcement was supposed to allow, in principle, the first GM crop in Britain, a strain of GM maize called Chardon LL or T25 and patented by Bayer. The crop came out well in the three-year crop trials.
The Welsh executive, which is keen to foster organic farming, was eager to safeguard farmers and declined to give permission for the crop.
Scottish opposition to Chardon LL was more muted because maize is a warm weather crop, so none would be grown north of the border. But the Scottish executive has also refused permission.
The government was considering giving the green light for maize to be grown in England alone. But the Welsh executive pointed out that UK regulations stipulate that a particular crop can be grown in one country only if the other two agree.
The postponement of today's announcement comes at an awkward time for the government. On February 18 there is a key vote in Brussels on whether to end the EU moratorium on GM crops.
The government believes Europe should be opened to GM imports and cultivation of crops and had hoped that an announcement of the go-ahead for the first British crops would precede the vote.
The devolved administrations of Wales and Scotland are not the only obstacles to the early introduction of GM maize. Government lawyers have discovered wording in the EU rules for cultivation of GM crops that means the Department of Environment's intention to allow the maize to be grown close to conventional crops might be open to legal challenge because they will not sufficiently safeguard neighbouring farmers from contamination.
To deal with the crisis, a key cabinet sub-committee on biotechnology has been convened for tomorrow to try to resolve the issues. It is chaired by Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and includes John Reid, the health secretary and Andrew Smith, minister for work.
Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, who was due to make the policy state ment to parliament, will explain the problems to the committee dominated by pro-GM ministers, including Lord Sainsbury, the science minister, although he excludes himself from voting. Two pro-GM advisers, David King, the government chief scientist, and John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, will also attend.
An unexpected lifeline has been thrown to the opponents of GM in the wording of EU regulations on cross-fertilisation between GM crops and conventional varieties. In order to sell produce as non-GM it must contain less than 0.9% of GM content.
The government believed that because maize pollen does not spread easily, GM maize could be grown fairly close to conventional varieties without risk of breaching this threshold. However, the EU rules say that member states must set the rules of co-existence so as to endeavour to keep contamination to zero or below 0.1% which is the detectable level of GM.
Government lawyers believe the government would be open to a probably successful legal challenge if they did not set the separation distances accordingly."
Feb 6 ~ Ministers were warned of .widespread unease. over .incremental. steps being taken towards introduction of GM crops.
Andrew George, for Liberal Democrats said such a .momentous and irreversible. decision was supported by just 2% of the public. But Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett denied the Government was trying to pre-empt the outcome of ongoing research .through stealth...... The Scotsman
Feb 3 ~ EU on line to prohibit GM oilseed rape crops
"Greens hail an environmental victory for biodiversity as Belgium rejects Bayer application and urges all member states to follow suit." John Vidal, environment editor Tuesday February 3, 2004 The Guardian
".... Despite heavy lobbying by biotech companies, Belgian ministers followed the advice of their bio-safety advisers, which drew heavily on several years of evidence from GM crop trials in Britain.
This showed, broadly, that herbicide-tolerant GM oilseed rape reduces biodiversity. .......
Weed seeds are an important source of food for small mammals and birds, particularly during the winter. ............ The decision was softened, however, by the Belgian government's decision to let GM oilseed rape be imported and processed. A health ministry spokesman, Karim Ibourki, said the imported rape would be used for fuel, not for human or animal consumption.
Arian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe,..... "It is inconsistent to ban the cultivation yet allow it for import."
.... Bayer CropScience has two applications for similar GM oilseed rape varieties before the German government, and Belgium and Denmark must soon rule on whether to allow GM sugar and fodder beet to be grown.
Meanwhile there is a host of applications before EU countries from various GM companies to grow different varieties of GM maize. "The Belgian decision is very significant," said Sue Mayer of the British group Genewatch. ".... This is another body blow to the biotech industry."
Jan 29 ~ UK pressed to take GM crops
Western Morning News ".... EU governments have been given 90 days to decide on lifting their five-year moratorium on GM foods. If they do not act by then, the European Commission will be able to make the decision for them, spokeswoman Beate Gminder said yesterday.
The news came despite a new study which shows that science is not yet ready to answer all the questions about genetically modified crops.
The report is sponsored by the Economic Social Research Council, the UK's largest research funding agency. Dr Ruth Levitt, senior visiting research fellow at the ESRC, said: "The underlying question - what are the potential benefits of GM crops and foods, and the possible risks to human health and to the environment - cannot yet be answered 'factually' because the necessary evidence simply does not exist."...
....Last night, North Cornwall Liberal Democrat MP Paul Tyler said: "I have a particular interest in organic farming, and what people fail to realise is that in our part of the country any GM production alongside organic crops will be very damaging. It would be extremely difficult to maintain the integrity of organic crops.
"I subscribe to the precautionary principle, that until we are absolutely certain that there are no risks at all, we have to be careful. It is better to be safe than sorry, and under these circumstances there is no surety that there isn't going to be a really devastating effect on organic crops, and the ability of the consumer to distinguish between what is and what is not affected by GM crops." ....
Jan 28 ~ Science 'does not know all GM crop facts yet'
Scotsman ".... Dr Ruth Levitt, a senior visiting research fellow at the Economic and Social Research Council, at the University of London, the UK's largest research-funding agency, says many questions are not about hard facts but about values and arguments that are construed very differently by the interested parties. .... "The underlying question, what are the potential benefits of GM crops and foods, and the possible risks to human health and to the environment, cannot yet be answered "factually", because the necessary evidence simply does not exist."
...if the government genuinely relied on specially gathered scientific facts to make a decision, as knowledge stands at the moment it would not seem to have sufficient grounds for supporting immediate commercialisation of the three test crops..
......Mark Ruskell, the Green Party environment spokesman, said: "The very nature of GM makes it difficult to assess conclusively all of the hazards that the technology poses. The fundamental question is, what is the point? Should we not be focusing on other approaches to food and farming that can meet societies needs such as organics?"
But Professor Anthony Trewavas, of the Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology at Edinburgh University and a leading exponent of the benefits of GM crops, said: "People can always say that there is not enough known to stop change, but that is the same with any technological advancement. "We do know a lot about some of the (GM) crops on offer. If you ask anyone in the drug industry they will tell you that no matter how many tests you conduct you have to, at some point, throw it out into the population and see what happens. "This indicates that you can never in fact find out all the likely difficulties. At the end of the day you have to try things out otherwise you don't get any progress at all."
Jan 27 ~ EU REPORT on coexistence between genetically modified crops and conventional and organic crops
(This has been availableon the internet for some time. Apologies) 2003/2098(INI))The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy calls on the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following points in its motion for a resolution:
- Believes that, in view of the current legal uncertainties and the lack of regulatory measures for coexistence, there is no sufficient legal basis for the authorisation of GM crops in European agriculture;
- It is regrettable that, having hosted a Round Table on 24 April of this year to review the results of research into coexistence, the Commission did not consult the stakeholders and organisations affected, Member States or the European Parliament on the substance of the Commission Recommendation of 23 July 2003 on guidelines for the development of national strategies and best practices to ensure the coexistence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming (2003/556/EC). The European Parliament points out that more than 70% of Europe's population are opposed to GM crops, and that a genuine democratic debate must be held with European citizens.
- Bearing in mind the 'polluter pays' principle, it is encouraging that the Commission recommendation states that 'during the phase of introduction of a new production type in a region, operators (farmers) who introduce the new production type should bear the responsibility of implementing the farm management measures necessary to limit gene flow.'
- More... See Conclusions in full and link to report
Jan 23 ~ " But who needs to validate anything when you have the Royal Society on your side?"
From The Royal Society Under Fire by Claire Robinson " The Royal Society, UK's national academy of science, has come under fire for its perceived pro-GM bias. Some NGOs have complained to the Charity Commission about its conduct. Claire Robinson investigates and raises serious questions about the august body"
"......The Royal Society (RS) publishes the paper in its own journal, which, according to The Guardian (29 January 2003) does not require stringent peer review.
The RS hypes the paper in a press release to the media - on the very day, as it happens, that the Health Committee of the Scottish Parliament publishes a highly critical report on GM safety. The RS claims the research shows how GM crops can help save endangered farmland birds, including the skylark - despite the fact that the study contains no data on bird life!
Establishment-friendly media correspondents dutifully report that the research shows how GM crops can help save the skylark with no yield loss - despite the fact that neither claim is validated by this research, which is based on a few small plots.
In fact, Professor Sir David King, the UK Government's Chief Scientific Advisor, admitted on BBC Radio Four (15 January 2003) that more research would be needed to validate the claims of environmental benefit.
But who needs to validate anything when you have the Royal Society on your side?..."
Jan 23 ~ "The exhaustive work of my panel will enable research and policy debates on GM to be informed by the most up-to-date and sound scientific evidence. .." David King
No case for total ban on growing GM crops Times
"....Last summer, the expert panel recommended that the Government look at the merits of individual GM crops one by one, rather than calling for blanket approvals or bans, but promised a fresh report once the results of the FSEs were known.
The committee chaired by Sir David King, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, ruled yesterday that .none of the new research published since the first report significantly altered the earlier conclusions..
Ministers are now expected to approve a herbicide- tolerant variety of GM maize next month: the FSEs found that this is likely to have a beneficial effect on farmland biodiversity, while herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape and sugar beet may cause problems. ..."
Jan 23 ~ "considering our policy.."Hansard
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Government will decide their GM food policy. 
Mr. Morley: We are considering our policy on GM food and crops generally in the light of all the information we have gathered. That includes the reports of the public debate and the science review, the Strategy Unit's costs and benefits study, the AEBC's report on coexistence and liability, and now ACRE'S advice on the FSE results. We will set out our conclusions in due course. "
GM corn to be approved for one year only
Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor of the Independent "GM crops will be given the go-aheadfor a single season in Britain, in a move largely crafted to save the Prime Minister's face....
The Government is preparing a very limited approval for just one crop, GM maize, which will effectively mean that it will only be able to be grown in 2005 and then under strict conditions that may make it uneconomic.
The plan, which will be announced next month, is designed to save Tony Blair from abandoning the technology, while placating public outrage by ensuring that few controversial crops are actually planted in British soil.
In a policy statement to be published next month, the Government will, in effect, reject the growing of GM beet and oilseed rape in Britain, on the grounds that official trials published last autumn showed that growing them was much more damaging to nature than their conventional counterparts.
But they will announce a green light for GM maize because the trials showed that growing it was less destructive of wildlife than the traditional crop. This will appear to validate the Prime Minister's desire to introduce the technology to Britain, but it will provide little comfort to the biotech industry.
In the meantime, as The Independent on Sunday exclusively reported last October, atrazine, the pesticide used on conventional maize, will be banned. The chemical, which effectively sterilises the soil, is entirely responsible for the poor performance of the maize against its GM counterpart in the official trials.
If it is to get permission for GM maize beyond 2006, the industry will have to prove its case all over again with a new set of studies, to show that growing its product remains more beneficial than traditional cultivation even after atrazine has been replaced.
Ministers will insist that the GM maize is grown under the same conditions as in the official trials. Critics say that conditions were designed to give the modified crop the best possible environmental performance, making it uneconomic in the real world. Senior officials expect that there will be no market for GM maize, and believe it will only be grown if biotech firms give farmers "offers they cannot refuse".
Jan 16 ~ Ministers to approve commercial growth of GM crops next month
Independent The Government will next month approve the commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) crops in Britain for the first time.
But ministers will impose strict conditions on the cultivation of GM maize and ban commercial GM sugar beet and oilseed rape after trials showed that they could be more damaging to the environment than conventional crops. The decision to go ahead follows this week's recommendations by experts on the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre).
Opponents furiously attacked the prospect of GM plants entering mainstream farming last night but said that supporters of the technology still faced a long battle before the first crops could be planted. They criticised farm-scale tests as flawed and said more research was needed before GM varieties were licensed for widespread use. ........
......Michael Meacher, the former environment minister, said that questions over health risks had still to be resolved. He said: "I do not believe the Government has a mandate to proceed with the commercialisation of any GM crop." Pete Riley, a senior GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth, claimed that low demand from consumers would leave few farmers prepared to invest in the new technology. A spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds also called for more research. Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, said: "It seems the only time the Government wants to do something on the environment is when it wants to damage it."..."
Jan 15 2004 ~ partial, hasty science
WMN "...... Lib-Dem rural affairs spokesman Andrew George urged ministers to postpone any decision on commercial growing of GM crops until more was known about their long-term impact.
Mr George, MP for St Ives, said: "Decisions on GM must be based on sound science but I fear that Government ministers will base it on partial, hasty science. It would be foolhardy to give the go-ahead now, especially while the public remain unconvinced there is sufficient benefit in taking the risk.
"The trials considered here were narrow and focused only on very specific crop management techniques which may not be used in practice."
Jan 14 2004 ~ Britain braced for GM crops in spring
Robert Uhlig in the Telegraph
Genetically modified crops could be sown this spring, the Government's advisers on the environment said yesterday.
In the face of widespread opposition to GM food, they delivered a report giving the final verdict in the Government's assessment of the modified crops. They supported the growing of GM herbicide resistant maize and gave qualified approval to GM herbicide resistant varieties of oilseed rape and sugar beet.
GM rape and beet were found in extensive trials to reduce farmland biodiversity and endanger birds, butterflies and insects.
Elliot Morley, the environment minister, told MPs that the Government would decide within weeks whether to approve commercial cultivation of the three GM crops. The report was the work of Acre, the Government's advisory committee on releases to the environment...."
Jan 9 ~ "....For bare-faced cheek, the prize goes to the pro-GM members of the Government's Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission
who, when faced with the fact that it would be impossible to stop GM crops contaminating organic farms, simply decided that the definition of "organic" must be changed. Out would go the consumer-supported "organic food means no GM" definition; in would come the new, GM-friendly definition of organic food where almost one in a hundred mouthfuls can be GM.
Out of the 26 scientists appointed to the Government's Science Review Panel, groups like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Soil Association were between them allowed to nominate just two scientists. One resigned saying he feared for future funding of his work if he continued to speak out against GM on the panel. ..." Peter Melchett read in full
Jan 6 2004 ~ Winning the GM debate
Chaired by Noel Lynch (Green Party Member of the London Assembly) The Panel:
Monday 19th January 2004, 2- 4 pm
- Prof. Peter Saunders (King's College, London University)
Science & Precaution
- Dr Mae-Wan Ho (Director, Institute of Science in Society)
GM Inherently Unsafe
- Dr Arpad Pusztai (Consultant, formerly Rowett Institute, Aberdeen)
What GM Feeding Trials Reveal
- Dr Vyvyan Howard (University of Liverpool)
Anti-precautionary Risk Assessment
- Dr Eva Novotny (Scientists for Global Responsibility)
Winners and Losers in the GM debate
Assembly Chamber, City Hall, London SE12AA
Organised by the office of Noel Lynch in conjunction with the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) and the Independent Science Panel (ISP) Entry to the briefing is by list ONLY. To reserve your place on the list please contact Orla Hurst on 202 7983 4411 or e-mail email@example.com
This article can be found on the I-SIS website at http://www.i-sis.org.uk/events.php
Jan 1 ~" the first salvo in a David and Goliath struggle"
California's largest consortium of biotechnology and agri-chemical corporations has launched a lawsuit against the local effort to make Mendocino County the first county in the nation to ban the growing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).....
"....Regardless of how you feel about GMOs, this is a local issue that should be decided by local people," said Redwood Valley farmer Tim Buckner. "And not by a national lobbying organization representing the likes of Monsanto and DuPont. If they want to start suing people, then they are going to have to sue all 4,000 residents who signed the initiative and all the people who will vote for this," Buckner said.
If approved by voters, Measure H will prohibit the "propagation, cultivation, raising and growing of genetically modified organisms in Mendocino County." .... The initiative has drawn the support of local farmers, physicians such as Dr. Marvin Trotter, and families concerned about the unknown health risks of GMOs. In addition, some of the County's leading grape growers - both organic and conventional, endorse the measure ... Among their concerns is the likelihood that the introduction of GMOs will contaminate local crops making them unmarketable in the many countries now rejecting GMOs....." See Network of Concerned Farmers website (new window)
Dec 28 ~ 'We are not saying GM technology will save the world on its own,'
added Sandy Thomas, director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. 'Measures to limit the effects of climate change and war are probably going to be more important. However, modified crops clearly have a key role to play. We have to judge each plant's use on an individual basis, of course, but it is clear this technology has an awful lot to offer.' (Guardian)
'The Use of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries' will be available at www.nuffieldbioethics.org
Dec 3 ~ GM crops: EU moratorium faces vote next Monday
EUbusiness.com Members of the European Union on Monday will cast their votes on the future of a de-facto moratorium on importing genetically-modified (GM) crops,. ... The EU's executive Commission has proposed allowing the import of a form of GM sweetcorn, Bt-11, made by Swiss firm Syngenta, Beate Gminder, spokesman for European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne said.
The corn type, which is insect- and herbicide-resistant, is sold in the United States as tinned sweetcorn or popcorn. If the standing committee for the food chain, which gathers scientific representatives from the 15 member states, gives its approval, a de-facto ban on importing GM food that has prevailed since 1999 will effectively be overturned.
At least 62 out of the 87 votes on the panel, under the EU's system of qualified-majority voting which shares out votes according to the size of national populations, are needed to give Bt-11 authorisation.
The last time the experts' panel met to discuss Bt-11 was on November 11, but members chose not to cast a vote.
The moratorium, while not formally decreed as such, took effect after Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg individually banned GM imports unless these foods were clearly labelled as such and their source could be traced. The EU passed laws in July to address these demands, thus paving the way for lifting the bar, although the restrictions still fall short of what green groups want. ..."
Nov 28 ~ GM industry is annoyed by new EU rules
"Greenpeace.org In a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick this week, a collected front of 22 US agribusiness lobby groups and organized farm interests called on Washington to "take every possible action" against coming EU rules on labelling and traceability of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), including to open another World Trade Organisation (WTO) case against European GM policy.
It is hardly surprising that the GM industry is annoyed by new EU rules that will be costly and burdensome for GM crop exporters. What is more remarkable is the fear demonstrated in the letter that the EU rules would set a precedent around the globe and discourage GM food acceptance. That is of course exactly what should - and probably will - happen...."
Nov 27 ~ "With expanding slums of unemployed and starving people already encircling many cities in the developing world,
is it efficient to displace several hundred million farmers in poor countries and replace those farmers with tractors, Roundup, and genetically-modified crops?...." CNFU's report pdf
Nov 27 2003 ~" Ministers will be left with a tough choice over whether to back organic farmers or the biotechnology industry
after official advisers failed to agree on clear guidelines for growing genetically-modified and non-GM crops alongside each other. In a much-delayed report, the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission agreed general principles for a legal regime to govern any introduction of GM crops. However, its members failed to agree on specific issues such as how organic farming could be protected or who should pay the compensation bill for farmers suffering economic loss from "contamination" by the spread of GM pollen. Professor Malcolm Grant, commission chairman, said hard political choices still had to be made by ministers. "There is a difficulty for the government over its support for organic and GM agriculture," he said..." FT
Nov 26 ~ Bayer CropScience; BASF; Dow Agrosciences; Dupont; Monsanto; and Syngenta conclude " GM Crops can and should Co-Exist in the UK"
The companies funding the case study report on co-existence of genetically-modified and non-GM crops, based on UK Farm Scale Evaluation trials include: Bayer CropScience; BASF; Dow Agrosciences; Dupont; Monsanto; and Syngenta. " GM Crops can and should Co-Exist in the UK" they said yesterday
"If highly onerous GM crop stewardship conditions are applied to all farms that might wish to grow GM crops, this would be disproportionate and inequitable. .....Conventional farmers, who account for 99.76% of the current, relevant UK arable crop farming area could be discouraged from adopting a new technology, that is likely to deliver farm level benefits and provide wider environmental gains."
Nov 25 ~ Results of GM farm trials have been misrepresented, says Lord May
Both industry and campaigners have misrepresented the results of the farm scale evaluations (FSEs) of GM crops, which were published last month, Lord May of Oxford, President of the Royal Society, said ahead of a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) about the research. Announcing the publication of the submission from the Royal Society to a consultation by ACRE on the implications of the FSEs, Lord May said the results have been represented in a biased and selective way by some members of the GM industry and anti-GM campaigners. http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/templates/press/showPressPage.cfm?file=488.txt
Nov 22 ~ "... Last month the EU commissioner for the environment, Margot Wallström, told journalists in London that the US biotech companies had tried to lie to Europe
in an attempt to force GM crops on us. Far from developing these crops to solve the problems of starvation in the world, as they claimed, they had done it to "solve starvation amongst their shareholders", she said...." Tom Griffith-Jones in the Cumberland News
Nov 20 ~ The Government's public debate on genetically modified (GM) crops was severely hamstrung by the "absurdly tight deadline" and "insufficient resources"
allocated to it by ministers, MPs warned last night. (WMN)
".....In a critical report the Commons rural affairs committee said that although the aim of engaging the public in the debate on controversial GM technology was a "laudable" one, it had been undermined by the decisions taken by ministers. "Although the public debate was imaginative and innovative, and was modestly successful in some areas, overall it was an opportunity missed," the report concluded. "The principal blame lies with two decisions made by the Government - the insufficient resources it allocated to the debate, and the absurdly tight deadline set for its conclusion - which affected the conduct of the debate, particularly the publicity it was able to obtain and the information that was available to it." ....it had a budget of just £500,000 and ran for only six weeks. Critics also pointed out that it was held during the summer before major studies into the economic, scientific and environmental impact of GM were published. Respondents to the debate came out overwhelmingly against GM crops with 54 per cent saying they never want to see GM crops grown in the UK and a further 18 per cent said they would find the crops acceptable only if there was no risk of cross-contamination. The Westcountry was the region most opposed to GM. ....... Nevertheless the report said it was "critically important" that ministers took notice of the debate's conclusions in their decisions on GM. Lib Dem rural affairs spokesman Andrew George last night described the GM Nation debate as a "fig leaf" for ministers who never had any intention of taking account of hostile public attitudes towards GM. ......"
Nov 15 ~ GM wheat a bad idea: U.S. study
Western Producer "....The study found that consumers overseas have a myriad of concerns about GM wheat, including food safety, environmental impacts, the concentrated private ownership of GM seed patents, inadequate legal controls and the feeling that once GM wheat technology is introduced, there is no going back. "It is obvious that many foreign consumers see no benefit to themselves from consuming GMO wheat," said Wisner. With the growing trend toward GM labelling - now required in 37 countries and expected to reach 50 within a couple of years - those consumers have the ability to choose whether to buy products containing GM wheat. And all the evidence indicates they will choose not to..."
Nov 15 ~ Improving water supplies in struggling African countries is a more urgent need than building up GM crop technologies
according to the head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization Jacques Diouf has stated that while the US has argued that the EU's ban on GMOs stands in the way of alleviating hunger in Africa, GMOs are less important than water and infrastructure in the struggle against hunger. "Irrigation and road-building are higher priorities in improving Africa's weak agriculture sector than fostering the growth of biotechnology on the continent," Mr Diouf said...." FWi
Nov 14 ~ Vatican accused of skewing conference on food production
Guardian "...A thumbs-up from the Vatican would have far-reaching repercussions in the developing world, on a par with those generated by its teaching on birth control.
...two American priests who work in Zambia accused the organisers of skewing the composition of the event in favour of an endorsement. The environmental group, Greenpeace, made a similar claim. The development seminar was attended by experts from the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa. Father Roland Lesseps, a senior scientist at the Kasisi agricultural training centre in Lusaka, and Peter Henriot, the director of Lusaka's Jesuit Centre of Theological Reflection, said: "We are concerned that several voices of church leaders around the world are not represented." Roman Catholic prelates in Brazil, the Philippines and South Africa, have all expressed doubts about the use of GM crops. The American priests said these were "deep concerns based on practical experiences". They said GM crops, as currently marketed, would "introduce a serious dependency of small-scale and mostly poor farmers on multinational corporations for seeds and complementary necessities". They added that there also was a risk that alternative agriculture, such as organic farming, would suffer.
Nov 14 ~ A secret briefing to the Canadian government has warned that the country's massive food exports are at risk from its continued use of GM crops.
Guardian yesterday "The paper, which has been obtained under the Access of Information Act, warns the cabinet of the "pressing need to immediately address these concerns".
Such fears contrast with the government's repeated endorsement of GM crops and technology as a great opportunity for Canada. The paper, which was drafted by a senior civil servant, says that "producers are becoming worried about losing markets and losing choice over what they produce", while consumers are becoming more worried that they cannot distinguish between GM and non-GM products. "These concerns could precipitate a loss of confidence in the integrity of the Canadian food system, which could be very disruptive to the domestic system as well as Canada's ability to export to demanding markets." Some pages of the secret document, which have been blanked out, concern advice on how to deal with the growing public fears and the potential loss of further export markets for Canadian goods. ..."
Nov 13 ~ International activist warns about food security
US Times Argus "Food will be a weapon in future political, economic and strategic conflicts, an international activist warned at a public forum Wednesday. Indian journalist, author and critic Devinda Shawa said control of the world's staple crops by a handful of multinational corporations already poses significant threats to world stability and the fight against hunger. He said wars of the future could be fought without weapons by using food as leverage instead.
"Those who control the staple foods don't need any weapons," he said.
.... Shawa participated in a broad discussion about global trade and biotechnology in agriculture and their impacts on the environment and human health. He urged Vermont farmers to continue to oppose the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that pose a significant economic threat to organic producers. He said there is growing evidence GMOs are harmful to the environment and contribute to hunger in Third World countries. ..... "The more we learn about the ecological consequences of GMOs, the more it confirms our worst fears," said Tokar.
...... In Africa, he said attempts by American companies to deal with famine are actually making the problem worse. He said GMO grain does not reproduce, forcing poor farmers to buy new seed each year, with millions facing starvation as a result. ....Studies have shown that GMOs may pose serious health hazards, such as allergic reactions, immune system damage, digestive tract irritation and harm to the growth of vital organs. He also said GMOs might lead to harmful changes in the environment, leading to mutations and severely increasing antibiotic resistance to medicines to treat illness. ..."
Nov 11 ~ The Vatican opened a symposium yesterday into genetically modified organisms (GMO), which critics claim is a smokescreen for eventual endorsement of the crops.
"......Pope John Paul II has in the past been a strong opponent of GM crops, but in August Cardinal Renato Martino, the head of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, told an Italian newspaper the Pope was interested in the new technology for food development, as part of a policy of sustainable agriculture. The cardinal added that 24,000 people around the world died from starvation every year. Opponents of GMO hope their allies at the Vatican's seminar will point out that, while herbicide resistant GM crops make it easier for farmers to control weeds, there is no proof they bring larger yields...."
See also GMCropsAfrica.pdf
Nov 10 ~ UK to fight European embargo on GM corn
Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday "....Britain will try to break a five-year Europe-wide moratorium on new GM foods tomorrow by attempting to give the go-ahead for a modified sweetcorn to be put on sale to shoppers. ...The Food Standards Agency, which represents Britain on the committee, is pushing for it to be given the green light, against the wishes of environment and agriculture ministers. No new GM foods have been approved ..Pete Riley, of Friends of the Earth, said last night: "The report clearly shows that safety testing is a sham. Yet the Food Standards Agency is over-ruling ministers by planning to give this new GM food the go-ahead. "The agency was set up on the basis of putting the consumer first and should respect the clearly expressed view of the British people rather than flouting them in favour of its own prejudices." The FSA declined to comment." Read in full
Nov 10 ~ UPPER Austria has announced it will appeal against a decision not to allow the region to declare itself a GM free zone
GM Watch reports.
Oct 26 ~ Blair will ignore public opposition to GM technology
Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday
"Tony Blair has signalled that he is ready to ignore the public campaign against GM crops and to proceed with the technology. In language reminiscent of his pronouncements in the run-up to the Iraq war he said that his only interest was in trying "to do the right thing". ...... Asked by the Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George whether he accepted their conclusions, he acknowledged that the crops posed "problems" for wildlife, but added: "I know that there is a huge campaign against GM but, to be frank, the Government have no interest in the matter one way or the other, other than to try to do the right thing.".... Exasperated officials also point out that Mr Blair seems unable to distinguish between the biotechnology industry as a whole, which has immense potential in developing medicines and industrial products, and the relatively tiny proportion of it devoted to GM agriculture, which employs only about 1,150 people in Britain.
Senior officials say that Mr Blair's reponse shows he is still determined to press ahead with the technology despite massive public opposition. Downing Street hopes that GM maize could be given the go-ahead, as the trials suggested it was less harmful than its conventional counterpart. But as The Independent on Sunday reported two weeks ago, the results would not apply to GM maize grown in Britain, where conventional maize was formerly treated by a now-banned herbicide. ...."
Oct 25 ~ "the proposed thresholds for seed lots will lead to contamination of the whole of the food and feed supply chain and will considerably reduce the freedom of choice available to consumers"
Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford): Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Europe next week there will be a meeting of the Standing Committee on Seeds and Propagating Material of Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry to consider the contamination levels of non-GM seeds by GM seeds? May I draw his attention to the statement made by Eurocommerce, which consists of Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury, Boots and others that
"the proposed thresholds for seed lots will lead to contamination of the whole of the food and feed supply chain and will considerably reduce the freedom of choice available to consumers"?Given that this Government have consistently supported those thresholds for contamination, may I tell him that we cannot wait until the Government have considered all the evidence? There is a need for a debate now. Things are happening and decisions are being taken that will determine the future of GM in this country for ever." Hansard for Oct 23
Oct 25 ~"... the Co-op, as the biggest farmer in Britain, is sending a clear message to its suppliers - don't grow GM.
The only surprise is that there is still uncertainty about whether the Government will allow the growing of GM crops or not. ... The Government's GM science review, which came out in July this year, stated that there are many gaps and uncertainties in our knowledge of GM crops and food. There have only been ten studies looking at the health effects on animals of GM. Five of these projects were done by biotech companies and, predictably, none of these found any negative effects. However, each of the remaining five studies found that GM foods did have a negative effect. The most famous of these is the study done by Dr Arpad Putzai, (see here for Dr Putzai's research) at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, which found that rats developed stomach lesions after eating GM potatoes. ..."
"...To witness the effect of GM crops first-hand, earlier this year I accompanied Michael Meacher, the former environment minister, on a brief tour of Canada - where GM crops have been grown commercially for six years. ... The contamination of non-GM crops, conventional and organic, continues unabated.
Spread of GM canola (rape seed) has become such a problem that it is rated as one of the top ten weeds by the Canadian Wheat Board. The CWB, which is responsible for the marketing of Canada's $4bn (£2.36bn) annual wheat harvest, is now actively lobbying the Canadian Government to prevent the commercialisation of the next major proposed GM food crop, GM wheat. ....."
"The Soil Association has organised a tour of the UK by two Canadian farmers, who will argue against GM crops with two local British pro-GM farmers. The tour reaches Edinburgh on November 5, with a debate at the Royal Highland Centre in Ingliston at 7.30pm. To book a free place, contact James Cleeton on 0117 314 5180 or firstname.lastname@example.org"
Oct 23 ~ Calling on the Government to make time for a Parliamentary debate on GM, David Lidington MP, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural said:
"The recent results from the GM Field Trials prove that more research must be done on GM crops. British farmers need further evidence on GM, before their minds are made up, but all this Government gives them is talk and inaction.
"The Government must take more action and give time for a Parliamentary debate on GM issues following the results from the Field crops trials, and the so-called 'public debate'. Whatever Britain and the EU decide, other countries are already selling GM products into the market place, and we must make sure that clear labelling laws are in place. More research needs to be done to follow the trials, and ministers should explain how they intend to respond to EU commission's proposals on co-existence.
"The crop trials did not address the question of how GM and non-GM varieties could both be grown in Britain. There are other important issues, including separation distances of which we need clear scientific evidence"
Oct 21 ~ Co-op bans GM from shops, farms and bank
Times THE Co-op, which is Britain's biggest farmer, has decided to ban the growing of GM crops on its land - even if ministers approve the technology. It will also ban the sale under its own brand label of any products that contain GM ingredients. As owner of the Co-operative Bank, which has two million customers, the Co-operative Group has also decided against investing savers' money in GM development.
..... Martin Beaumont, the Co-op chief executive said: "On the strength of scientific knowledge and the overwhelming opposition of our members, the Co-op is saying no to the commercial growing of GM crops."
Oct 19 ~ The plans would in effect bring in GM agriculture by the back door, and seriously compromise organic farming across Europe.
Geoffrey Lean's article in the Independent on Sunday "...government reports concluded that growing the sugar beet could drive the skylark to extinction within two decades, and that just one season of the oilseed rape would contaminate the countryside for more than 16 years. Both crops are now likely to be banned in Britain but this ban could be negated by the European proposal, which recommends contamination levels of up to 0.3 per cent in rape seed, 0.5 per cent in maize, sugar beet, tomato and potato and 0.7 per cent in soya. These apparently tiny figures, experts say, would lead to the widespread growing of GM crops, even by organic farmers. They would mean that one in every 200 apparently conventional or organic maize or sugar beet seeds, could in fact be GM. Seed packets would not have to mention the contamination unless it had been deliberately introduced...."
Oct 19 ~ Michael Meacher: Science backs consumers' rejection of GM food - are you listening Tony?
Independent on Sunday "....Where does this all leave us? Most of the testing needed has never been done, and where some has been - in the case of the environment - that highly restricted element has beenwholly negative. So not only does the GM case fail the test of public acceptability, it also fails the scientific test. That should settle the matter. If the public and the science are against, who is for? Only, it seems (unless they have changed their minds), the Prime Minister, ministers on the relevant cabinet sub-committee, Defra officials, and the Government's chief scientific advisers. But we are told the Government is listening. We await evidence that it has heard. "
Oct 17 2003 ~ GM decision kicked into long grass for the time being
See the Times and Telegraph this morning. The government is likely to delay any decision on the commercial planting of genetically modified crops until after the general election.
Meanwhile, the Independent publishes an article in which Michael Meacher and Paul Rylott put the case for and against GM in the UK
: For: It is time to let both farmers and consumers benefit from the flexibility of GM technologyRead the Independent article in full.
Against:Not only do the crops fail test of public acceptability, they also fail scientific test
Oct 16 ~ GM tests show danger to wildlife
"...Scientists tested three biotech crops and found the cultivation of two - an oilseed rape and a beet crop - to be more harmful to many groups of wildlife than their conventional equivalents. The production of a third biotech plant - a maize - was shown to be kinder to other plants and animals than the normal crop. ...Link to Royal Society Publications page with full text of the report in sections The Farm Scale Evaluations of spring-sown genetically modified crops
....The outcome of the £6m three-year study conducted at some 60 sites across Britain was reported on Thursday in eight lengthy papers in the journal Philosophical Transactions Of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences..."
Oct 16 ~ "Although the results remain a closely guarded secret, many observers are expecting a largely mixed verdict on Thursday
most likely pointing out that in trials of GM rapeseed and sugar beet varieties, insect and weed numbers fell, while those in GM maize fields were much less affected.
The trials, which tested GM rapeseed and maize produced by Bayer CropScience, the UK arm of German biotech giant Bayer, and sugar beet made by U.S. agrochemicals producer Monsanto, did not investigate whether conventional or organic crops could co-exist safely alongside GM crops.
A full report by the government`s Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC) is expected to report on this, and the question of liability, later this month. .....research papers published by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Development (DEFRA) earlier this week failed to show GM crops in a positive light. In two separate studies, researchers found that bees carrying GM rapeseed pollen had contaminated conventional plants more than 26 kilometres (16 miles) away and that if farmers grew GM rapeseed for one season, impurities could stay in the soil for up to 16 years if not "rigorously controlled."
Once published, Thursday`s trial results will immediately be forwarded to ACRE, the government`s statutory advisory body on the release of GMO, which will advise the government on the implications of the results for any existing or pending or future releases of GM crops. But before ACRE members formulate their advice, they will be holding two open meetings, to be held in London and Edinburgh on November 25 and December 4, respectively. " Reuters
Oct 16 ~ Monsanto, the huge American biotechnology company which has pioneered GM crops, is withdrawing from many of its European operations and laying off up to two thirds of its British workers.
Independent "....One industry insider said the international biotechnology business was becoming disillusioned with Europe's anti-GM stance. "If there's no market for something, you go elsewhere," he said. "The big companies are looking to China, South-east Asia and South America." Monsanto said its decision to pull out of conventional cereal crops in Europe was not related to the continent's moratorium on commercial growing of GM crops. But a spokeswoman added: "Monsanto is obviously frustrated by the amount of time it has taken for GM crops to be accepted in Europe, but this decision is part of a much bigger global realignment."
...."Monsanto will remain in the UK as a streamlined crop protection and oilseed rape business, with our flagship plant protection product - Roundup - continuing to lead the market," Mr Cox said.
Oct 15 ~ Michael Meacher says, "This is the freedom movement in our country now.
" There is no more basic human right of people than to decide what food they are going to eat. I think we are well on the way to winning." In a message to Mr Blair, he added: "You have told us Tony that you are listening. What we want to know is have you heard?"
On Thursday the results of the GM crop trials will be published. Reports already suggest that they will raise serious concerns about at least two of the three crops being tested." Western Morning News
Oct 14 ~ Curb on GM crop trials after insect pollution
Robert Uhlig in the Telegraph "Stringent new rules for trials of genetically modified crops are to be imposed after Government researchers found that insects carried pollen more than six times the distance previously known. They also found one sowing of GM crops could contaminate non-GM and organic crops for more than 16 years. The research, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, came as thousands of people protested in London against GM crops and delivered a 70,000-signature petition to Downing Street yesterday.
.... Yesterday's findings by Government scientists give further cause for concern as well as grounds to back down on the Prime Minister's favoured plan of licensing GM crops next year.... ....
The findings played a part in leading the Government to stipulate new restrictions on test plantings after a biotech company supplied impure, genetically-modified oilseed rapeseed at 12 trial sites."
( The biotech company was BayerCropScience, formerly Aventis. Defra Prosecution Division has advised against prosecution)
See DEFRA site)
Oct 14 2003 ~ US firms 'tried to lie' over GM crops, says EU
Independent "..Margot Wallstrvm, the European environment commissioner, said yesterday. Far from developing GM crops to solve the problem of starvation in the world, as they claimed, the biotech companies did so to "solve starvation amongst their shareholders", said the European Union's leading green politician. Speaking to journalists in London, the 49-year-old Swede followed her broadside over GM with an attack on the US over the so-called ghost fleet of rusting and polluted American ships being sent to Britain for dismantling, saying they should be kept in America. She further suggested that the US government had been putting pressure on Russia not to ratify the Kyoto protocol...."
Oct 13 ~ Scientists show GM DNA not degraded in gastointestinal tract as expected
- Genetically modified corn has been approved as an animal feed in several countries, but information about the fate of genetically modified DNA and protein in vivo is insufficient.
- These results suggest that ingested corn DNA and Cry1Ab protein were not totally degraded in the gastrointestinal tract, as shown by their presence in a form detectable by PCR or immunological tests.
Oct 12 ~ "The science minister Lord Sainsbury could make millions of pounds from his investments in firms researching genetically modified (GM) crops
including one company closely associated with Monsanto, the controversial American biotechnology company.
Sunday Times "...As the government prepares this week to announce the results of its GM crop trials in Britain, an analysis of the billionaire minister's holdings shows that Innotech, one of his companies, has a 12.4% stake in a US firm called Paradigm Genetics. Paradigm is involved in a joint venture with Monsanto to develop novel genes that could be used to modify the DNA of crop plants. Such crops could earn biotechnology companies millions of pounds in extra profit if the farm trials show that they can be grown safely in Europe. There is no suggestion that Sainsbury has acted improperly. All his commercial interests, including those in biotechnology, were placed in a blind trust soon after he became a minister so that he has no influence over or knowledge of them. However, some senior Labour party colleagues are uneasy. This weekend Ian Gibson, the chairman of the Commons select committee for science and technology, said it was wrong for ministers to retain investments in areas where they were also influencing policy. ..... Companies behind GM technology such as Monsanto have claimed that the crops do no harm to the environment and may even benefit wildlife. But when British researchers examined the literature they found nothing to substantiate the claim...."
Oct 12 ~ Flaw in crop trials destroys government case for GM
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor. Independent 12 October 2003 " ...Michael Meacher - who as environment minister set up the trials, the results of which are due to be published on Thursday - said yesterday that the three-year tests will have to be done all over again, and that until then the Government "could not responsibly license GM crops". The tests have been rendered invalid by a new European Union ban on a toxic weedkiller called atrazine, which is used on maize but is suspected of causing cancer and "gender-bender" effects. The use of the chemical - which was employed in the tests - is central to the Government's case that growing modified maize is relatively benign to the environment.
Oct 12 ~ How GM crop trials were rigged ".. the GM trials, whose results will be reported on Thursday, were always more political than scientific"
Ministers knew of the environmental dangers, but the tests were designed not to focus on this. Geoffrey Lean reports in the Independent on Sunday
" ..... the results show that the weedkillers applied to two of the GM crops - oilseed rape and sugar beet - actually did more damage to the environment than the ones used on conventional crops. This would be a devastating conclusion, because there is no way the farmers can change them: the GM crops are specifically bred to tolerate them. But the leaks also suggest that the herbicide used on the third GM crop, maize, was actually less damaging than the one used on its conventional counterpart. So ministers started preparing plans to approve GM maize, while banning or postponing modified sugar beet and oilseed rape. .....EU's ban on atrazine, the weedkiller used on conventional maize..... invalidates the tests, because they no longer reflect the real conditions under which crops will be grown. Unless they carry out new trials with an alternative to atrazine, ministers cannot claim that growing GM maize is safe...."Read in full
Oct 10 ~ GM hybrids seen as 'inevitable'
BBC "...The researchers conclude: "We infer that widespread, relatively frequent hybrid formation is inevitable from male-fertile GM rapeseed in the UK... the substantial numbers of predicted long-range hybrids means physical isolation would tend only to suppress rather than prevent hybrid formation." But they add: "The presence of hybrids is not a hazard in itself and does not imply inevitable ecological change... an estimate of hybrid abundance represents only the first step toward a more quantitative assessment of risk at the national level." Oilseed rape has other wild relatives, but most are sterile and B. rapa is the one thought likeliest to cross-pollinate with the domesticated crop. The researchers say they think their findings are probably applicable to almost all GM crops. The oilseed rape fields they studied were not a GM crop. "
Oct 8 ~ Insurers in New Zealand and Australia will not cover GM
Genet News "New Zealand's second-biggest insurer, Vero, will not cover farmers for liability against damage or injury from the use of genetic modification technology. Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons warns that other insurance companies are likely to follow suit and says the decision reveals "just how big a risk insurers believe the GE industry to be".
GRAIN GROUP CONCERNED OVER GM LIABILITY Australian insurance policy not to cover GM trials Wesfarmers Federation Insurance Rural Plan 2003
Liability that might arise from experimenting, trialling, the manufacture or import of any genetically modified substance or organism."
Oct 8 ~ "When insurers quantify GM crops in the same category as thalidomide, asbestos and terrorism, no thinking farmer should risk their business and public reputation by taking on this unproven, unwanted and unnecessary technology."
Telegraph "...Fifty years ago, insurers were writing policies for asbestos without a care in the world. Now they are facing claims of hundreds of millions of pounds," one underwriter told the farmers. "The insurance industry has learned to be wary of new things, and there is a real feeling that GM could come back and bite you in five years' time." Rural insurers are so concerned at the scope for liability claims if the Government approves GM crops that they are even refusing to insure non-GM farmers against losses or liability due to contamination by GM pollen...."
Also from the Evening Standard GM 'could be another Thalidomide' October 7, 2003
Oct 7 ~ "The field trial results have been manipulated. They are utterly worthless."
Western Mail report today Government accused of fixing GM maize trials The claim, from the watchdog GM Free Cymru, came on the eve of a major debate on the issue in the National Assembly today, and 10 days before the Government plans to publish the trial results. GM Free Cymru spokesman Brian John said the farm trials of GM maize, which have been running for the past three years, have involved deliberate scientific fraud on the part of the Government. They involved the use of a highly toxic chemical on the non-GM crop, while the GM crop was treated just once with another chemical, so allowing weeds and insects to thrive. "The Government are either corrupt or incompetent and probably both, and the maize trials are worthless," said environmental scientist Dr John. ........A Defra spokesman declined to comment on the group's allegations...."
Oct 7 ~ ".. nothing threatens science more than the government departments that distort the research agenda
George Monbiot "...Because they cannot persuade us to eat what we are given, many of Britain's genetic engineers are turning their attention to countries in which people have less choice about what or even when they eat. The biotech companies and their tame scientists are using other people's poverty to engineer their own enrichment. The government is listening. Under Clare Short, Britain's department for international development gave £13m to researchers developing genetically engineered crops for the poor nations, on the grounds that this will feed the world.
Earlier this year, Aaron deGrassi (warmwell note: see his report here) , a researcher at the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, published an analysis of the GM crops - cotton, maize and sweet potato - the biotech companies are developing in Africa. He discovered that conventional breeding and better ecological management produce far greater improvements in yields at a fraction of the cost.
.........The best improvement the GM sweet potato can produce - even if we believe the biotech companies' hype - is 18%. But conventional techniques are of no interest to corporations, as they cannot be monopolised. If the corporations aren't interested, nor is the government. Those of us who oppose the commercialisation of GM crops have often been accused of being anti-science, just as opponents of George Bush are labelled anti-American, and critics of Ariel Sharon anti-semitic. But nothing threatens science more than the government departments that distort the research agenda in order to develop something that we have already rejected. "
Oct 5 ~ 'Humanising' pigs, if anything, will increase the risks of viral infections
A new generation of genetically modified pigs has been bred to provide organs for humans. The idea is that the pigs' organs can provide transplants for patients with heart, kidney and liver failure. However, quite apart from any questions about the ethics of using animals for spare parts, we read in a paper Genetically Modified Organisms 25 Years On originally delivered as plenary lectures to the 1st National Conference on Life Sciences, Selangor, Malaysia, 21-22 May 2002. that
".. One of the main problems is immune rejection of the xenograft, especially hyperacute rejection, which takes place within minutes. Hence, we are told, it is necessary to genetically modify pigs to 'humanise' them, so as to overcome this rejection, while dealing with the longer term immune reactions with immune suppressive drugs. Biotech giants like Novartis had invested billions hoping to profit from the sale of organs and drugs.The sale of organs and drugs is a mulitibillion pound industry. Put crudely, experiments with genes evidently hold a fascination that can suppress the conscience. The Campaign for Responsible Transplantation suggests alternatives
Many scientists have expressed concerns, especially over the possibility of endogenous pig viruses crossing species to infect humans. These endogenous viruses are present in all genomes. Most of them are inactive or dormant. There are many copies of such viruses in the pig genome and it is impossible to breed them out. By 2000, there was already clear evidence of cross-species viruses from xenografts infecting human subjects. 'Humanising' pigs, if anything, will increase the risks of viral infections because the pig viruses will, in effect, be wearing a disguise to escape immune detection. ..."
Oct 5 ~ Government prepares to back down over GM crops
Exclusive by Severin Carrell and Geoffrey Lean Independent
Ministers are .... preparing a compromise that would prohibit the growing of GM oilseed rape, the most damaging of the crops to the environment, while approving GM maize, which is thought to be the least hazardous, under strict conditions.
They are also expected to postpone the introduction of GM sugar beet, whose cultivation has been found to endanger insects and other plants, pending further research.
The plan is heavily influenced by the long-awaited results of the Government's three-year programme of trials on GM crops, to be published on 16 October. Ministers were confident the tests would give all three crops the all-clear, and were planning to give them all the immediate go-ahead. Leaks suggest, as first reported in The Independent in August, that the trials will show that growing GM oilseed rape and sugar beet harms weeds and wildlife more than growing conventional crops. .... The results are particularly devastating because they did not test the greatest concern about GM crops: that their genes will escape, creating superweeds and contaminating other crops........ The results come after a summer of setbacks for the Government's GM plans. A Cabinet Office report concluded in July that it could detect no benefits for consumers or the country. Days later a group led by the Government's chief scientist, Sir David King, said it would be impossible to grow modified crops without their genes escaping, raising the possibility of future health risks. An official public consultation last month involving nearly 40,000 people revealed a nine to one majority against the technology. Despite this, ministers hope their new plan will square the circle by pleasing Tony Blair, who wants to go ahead with the technology." (Read in full)
Oct 5 ~ Reminder of (Ananova 23rd July 2003 ) GM crops gene leakage 'could wipe out wild relatives'
"....Some scientists fear GM crops containing herbicide-resistant genes might give rise to resistant superweeds, or damage the environment in other ways. Dr Haygood said growers around the world had already planted 145 million acres of genetically modified crops. ....Dr Haygood's team found that crop genes rapidly took over wild populations. Sometimes just a small increase in the rate at which pollen was blown on the wind or carried by insects made a big difference to gene spread. Researchers say affected wild plants could have their genetic make-up changed for the worse, or suffer a population meltdown.""bees were found carrying GM pollen at a hive 4 km from a GM oilseed rape test site"
(According to Friends of the Earth "..Oilseed rape pollen can be carried great distances by the wind; low levels of pollen have been detected up to 2.5 km from fields . Bees are very attracted to oilseed rape fields. In Scotland bees from one hive were reported to fly 5 km to get to a rape field, and in research commissioned by Friends of the Earth, bees were found carrying GM pollen at a hive 4 km from a GM oilseed rape test site.")
Sept 30 ~ Michael Meacher has called for a referendum on whether genetically modified crops should be grown in the UK.
Farmers Weekly interactive reports that " Mr Meacher told a fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference the GM Nation? public debate had shown overwhelmingly people didn't want GMs. But if the government failed to listen and learn from that message the only way to expose it to the full strength of public opinion was to hold a referendum, he said. "I do think on matters of overriding national interest it is a policy option that we should not reject," he said..."
Sept 28 ~ Bayer, has decided to halt UK trials of genetically modified plants.
Observer "The move is seen as a major blow to the industry. Bayer was the last company carrying out GM trials in the UK, though it said yesterday it hoped to start up again soon when conditions were 'more favourable'. The company blamed Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett for its decision. Her insistence that the locations of all trial sites be made public had forced its hand, a spokesman told The Observer.
Until last week, Bayer CropScience, Bayer's crop subsidiary. believed it was close to a deal that would allow GM crop test sites - which are regularly destroyed by protesters - to be kept secret. Instead of having to publish exact map references for fields, companies would only have to name the county in which it was holding a trial.
The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment had said this vaguer notification was 'acceptable in terms of risk assessment', while the police have always complained that explicit disclosure of test site locations has been a major factor in aiding 'crop-trashers'. But at the last minute the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told Bayer it would not support this change in regulations. ..."
Sept 28 ~GM crops could be new 'green' fuel
Independent on Sunday by Geoffrey Lean.
Extract: "Pete Riley of Friends of the Earth said: "Having failed to persuade the British people and UK supermarkets that it has got a product worth buying, the industry is shifting its attention to growing crops for fuel. But there is absolutely no difference at all in the risks that will be posed to the environment.''
Sept 25 ~ we want to summarize, for the benefit of the public, the major areas of disagreement between scientists like ourselves and those who advise our government.
See full email from ISIS
Some main points of contention that remain unansweredread in full
There are both a priori and empirical evidence suggesting that GM is inherently unsafe and unpredictable, which remain to be refuted.
1. GM is distinct from conventional breeding methods, including mutations induced by X-rays or chemicals. It is unreliable, uncontrollable, unpredictable and unstable; and introduces new risks (see below). .....
2. GM DNA is definitely not the same as non-GM or natural DNA.
ACRE still maintains that transgenic DNA is no different from other DNA. This is at best an untested, unjustified hypothesis........
3. Many GM DNAs possess 'recombination hotspots' making them extra-unstable, and hence extra-prone to horizontal gene transfer and recombination, with all the attendant risks
4. Direct evidence of hazards inherent to the technology is swept aside and misrepresented.
5. Positive evidence of horizontal gene transfer denied and dismissed as "very low frequency". It is remarkable that there has been only one single field monitoring experiment after millions of hectares of GM crops have been planted, and just one human feeding trial involving 19 individuals fed a single meal containing GM soya flour. ......
Sept 25 ~ "Evidence from Canada and the US suggests that cross-contamination is indeed a risk.
Yet there is currently no coherent proposal to protect organic farmers by restricting where GM crops could be grown, or to compensate farmers whose products are made unsaleable by proximity to GM crops. This deficiency needs to be reviewed. The report also found a public suspicious that biotechnology companies could use ownership of GM technology to monopolise the food chain by patenting genes, buying up competing seed merchants, and turning farmers into sub-contracted agents. Many felt that this danger would be acute in developing countries..." part of an article in today's Times
Sept 24 ~ Public says "No" to GM crops
Reuters "A six-week national debate over genetically modified (GM) crops and food has found that the public are still highly sceptical of the controversial technology and are mistrustful of the government and the industry that has to power to introduce it. This was the overwhelming conclusion from the report on the government-sponsored national dialogue, GM Nation? published on Wednesday. The debate also found that the more people were informed about GM technology, the more sceptical they became. .."
The report can be accessed here (pdf file)
Extract: "103. By far the commonest theme in "uncommitted" letters is the desire for more reliable information about GM from some trusted independent source. There is also a degree of support for some kind of mechanism to remove GM research, development and profits from the hands of multi-national companies."
Sept 23 ~"There is growing interest from the scientific community over possible negative health and environmental effects of genetically engineered crops."
says Craig Winters: Executive Director The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods "..the letter from Institute of Science in Society signed by scientists worldwide recommending a global moratorium on genetically modified crops has grown from 144 scientists as of the WTO meeting in Seattle to the current 231."
Sept 23 ~ Blair backs move to remove councils' right to veto GM crops
Telegraph "Local authorities face losing their powers to block the planting of genetically modified crops under new European Union rules that are to be agreed by Tony Blair. According to leaked ministerial letters, the Government is ready to accept a Brussels proposal that would ban GM-free zones and allow GM crops to be planted alongside conventional crops...."
Sept 22 ~ In an attempt to ensure this is not the last GM-free harvest
consumers, farmers and environmentalists are joining together in a parade through the centre of London on October 13th 2003 organised by Friends of the Earth, the Five Year Freeze, Genetic Engineering Network and GM-free Cymru.
You can sign up for this peaceful and good humoured event on the Friends of the Earth site. Information about the parade (pdf file) See also this news release from FARM
Sept 22 ~ Beckett letter on GM crops sparks anger in Scotland
The Herald ".....Robin Harper, the Green Party MSP, said: "I'm horrified at the prospect of uncontrolled planting of GM crops before we are all fully aware of the possible implications. We don't even have the results of the GM trials that have been carried out in Scotland, trials which only looked at a fairly limited range of consequences." He said that the Beckett letter should concentrate the minds of both the Scottish Parliament and the general public on what could be achieved by his MSP colleague Mark Ruskell's GM liability bill, aimed at making GM seed companies liable for any environmental or economic damage.
Dan Barlow, head of research for Friends of the Earth in Scotland, said it was now essential that Scotland moved rapidly to address the issue of liability.
"Given that the public debate on GM crops has yet to conclude, then the fact that the government appears to have already made up its mind means that it is treating the debate as a joke. It is riding roughshod over what public opinion might be," he added.
See also Independent today Leaked letters show Government backs commercial growing of GM crops
Sept 21 ~ Royal Society rejects 'anti-GM' report
The Government's GM crop trials have been hit by a scientific row after the Royal Society refused to publish a crucial report on the tests.
In one of the most eagerly awaited scientific announcements for decades, the official results of the exhaustive farm-scale tests on three GM crops are due to be published by the Royal Society on 16 October. The results, after three years of trials of GM maize, oilseed rape and sugar beet at some 200 sites, are expected to reveal that GM crops can harm wildlife. The results will play a crucial role in dictating government policy on GM foods. But the society has infuriated the scientists who ran the trials by rejecting one of their reports, which explains and summarises the complex results of the eight technical reports that it will be publishing next month. The row will reignite allegations that the Royal Society is biased in favour of GM foods. A senior source familiar with the trials said this paper was the most important and accessible document of all. The society insisted that Professor Samir Zeki, who edits its journal, was advised by the scientists who peer-reviewed the controversial paper not to publish it because it contained no new data.
Michael Meacher, the former environment minister who originally set up the crop trials, said the refusal to publish the overview paper would "arouse suspicions" about the society's motives.
Sept 21 ~ Government 'to back GM crops'
Western Mail "The Government plans to back EU rules which would give the green light to the commercial growing of genetically modified crops, according to reports.
A leaked exchange of ministerial letters demonstrated that ministers will support Brussels moves to ban GM-free zones and allow the "co-existence" of GM with conventional crops.
The correspondence, detailed in The Sunday Times, comes ahead of the publication next month of the long-awaited results of GM crop trials in Britain. A September 5 letter from Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett to Cabinet colleagues indicated that she will support EU proposals at a meeting of EU agriculture ministers at the end of the month. She wrote: "I am proposing that we broadly support the (European) Commission's guidelines as providing a reasonable basis to address the issue." ...... A Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman declined to comment on the leaked correspondence.
Farm-scale evaluations results presentation arrangements
See DEFRA website "...On 16th October, the Scientific Steering Committee and the research team will hold an afternoon meeting at the Royal Institution in London at which the results will be presented. This will be followed by a question and answer session. Copies of the scientific papers will be made available at the event, as will a short non-specialist summary of the results written by the research consortium and approved by the Scientific Steering Committee.
This initial meeting will be followed by a second open meeting, provisionally planned for the evening of 28th October, again at the Royal Institution. This will also be hosted by the Scientific Steering Committee and will again consist of a presentation of the results by the researchers and an opportunity to ask questions.
Anyone wishing to attend either meeting will need to apply in advance. Further details of how will be given on the FSE website in due course (www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/fse/index.htm). The events will be by invitation only and places may be limited. If demand is high preference will be given to people who have regularly corresponded about the FSEs...."
Sept 20 ~Argentina's GM Woes
Proponents claim that GM crops are necessary for fighting hunger in developing countries and decreasing the use of pesticides. The evidence shows otherwise. GM crops have exacerbated poverty and hunger, increased herbicides use, brought new health hazards, destroyed agricultural land and livelihoods, and resulted in deforestation. Report by Dr. Lilian Joensen in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho in London, UK. http://www.i-sis.org.uk/AGMW.php
Extract:"Although direct seeding has reduced the rate of erosion, new diseases and pests have emerged, and the levels of nitrogen and phosphates in the soil were markedly reduced. Most recently, herbicide-resistant weeds have appeared requiring the use of more poisonous herbicides as mentioned earlier.
Development of land for RR soya plantations has led to deforestation in Argentina, with serious impacts on biodiversity and water resources. "We have already lost more than 130,000ha of forest," says the director of the Argentina's Fundacisn Vida Silvestre (Wildlife Foundation), Javier Corcuera. "If we carry on like this we can expect more flooding and less natural resources for the population."
Sept 19 2003~ A culture of bullying and intimidation...
The Today programme reported this morning on why some scientists question whether the commercial and political interests tied to biotechnology can tolerate scientific dissent.(Listen again) "It is very worrying that individuals feel they cannot speak out on issues...... Dr Vivian Howard argues that the commercialisation of science and the political capital invested in areas like bio-technology puts intense pressure on scientists to conform: "The main force which is trying to push forward rapid change - these are commercial forces and there is a very big vested interest in this technology and a bunch of scientists that are wedded to it - so when a threat comes along - I think that's the underlying reason why there is such an enormous reaction"
We are relieved to hear that the Environment Audit Committee will be examining both the design and operation of GM trials and the implications for future commercialisation of GM crops in the UK.
Sept 18 ~ GM Crops Irrelevant for Africa
Damning report concludes GM crops do not address the real causes of poverty and hunger in Africa. Jonathan Matthews writes.
"Careful analysis of the evidence from the biotech industry's flagship projects in Africa shows that GM crops are irrelevant for Africa. The analysis comes in a damning report from Aaron deGrassi, a researcher in the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The flagship projects analyzed include Monsanto's GM cotton in the Makhitini Flats in South Africa, Syngenta Foundation's GM maize project in Kenya, and another Kenyan project with GM sweet potatoes involving Monsanto, the World Bank and USAID. All have been showcased by the industry as huge successes for small-scale African farmers. Significantly, deGrassi shows that the benefits from GM crops are much lower than can be obtained "with either conventional breeding or agroecology-based techniques" from just a tiny fraction of the investment in research. The excitement over GM crops, the author shows, stems in reality from a PR strategy by the biotech industry trying to give itself the public legitimacy to help reduce "trade restrictions, biosaftey controls, and monopoly regulations." DeGrassi's analysis receives corroboration from a surprising quarter. An Associated Press article in June profiling ..."
This article can be found on the I-SIS website at http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GMCIFA.php
Sept 18 ~ Transgenic Trees Spread Mercury Poisoning
Is moving mercury from place to place really remediation? Prof. Joe Cummins asks.This article can be found in full on the I-SIS website at http://www.i-sis.org.uk/TTSMP.php
The mercury "remediation" project will, however, simply move the pollution to the atmosphere, from which it will be redeposited over the cities of the Northeast and the lakes and waterways of northern USA and Canada. Once deposited in the waterways and streets of cities, elemental mercury will be converted by microbes into organic mercury that will cause nerve damage and birth defects in humans and animals alike. ......."
Sept 14 2003~ The European Union has delivered two body blows to the efforts by the American-based trans-national biotech companies to sell their unwanted genetically modified food in Europe.
The first laws on the cross-boundary movement of GMO came into effect yesterday and the EU High Court ruled that member states have the right to ban GM food if they think it might affect health or the environment. The new laws are contained in the Cartagena Protocol, which aims to guarantee countries full information about the goods they are importing....." Western Mail
Sept 11 ~".. the potential for transmissible GMOs to spread to other countries is just one of the safety issues.
What if the mouse virus- a modified mouse cytomegalovirus- jumps species and starts infecting one of Australia's own endangered rodents, or even people? "You can't assume that the modified virus will act like the parental strain," warns Adrian Gibbs, an expert on viral evolution formerly at the Australian National University in Canberra.
So far PAC-CRC has shown only that the mouse GMO does not infect rats, and that three species of native rodents are immune to the unmodified virus. It is gearing up to conduct safety experiments that will test the virus's ability to infect a wide range of species, including some rare mouse species in the US. The ultimate experiment will be releasing the virus. If it turns out that PAC-CRC has got it wrong, there may be little anyone can do about it."
Part of an article from the New Scientist that calmly examines the potential benefits and potential disasters of using transmissible GMOs New Scientist website is at http://www.newscientist.com
Sept 11 ~ Conrad Lichtenstein, professor of molecular biology, Queen Mary College, London University, ... he is actually a member of CropGen, a group funded by Monsanto and other biotech corporations.
Just so there could be no mistake, two representatives from Monsanto accompanied Lichtenstein and stayed by his side the whole day, and at a press interview, answered questions on his behalf.
The Monsanto reps had arrived early to demand repeatedly that the organisers of the debate remove a quote from me posted on their website, on grounds that it was "inaccurate". During question time, Lichtenstein, unable to defend his position, tried to launch a personal attack accusing me falsely of not being able to provide scientific references proving transgenic lines are unstable.
At the end, one Monsanto rep congratulated Lichtenstein, "You were very good to-day!"
We boarded the same train back to London, Lichtenstein and Monsanto reps in first class, I in economy. Why had Lichtenstein allowed Monsanto to be so intimately associated with him in public? And why had Monsanto allowed itself to be so publicly visible as a controlling influence on a scientist, thus severely undermining his credibility?
Was it intended to intimidate the opponents?...." Read article by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho.
Sept 2003 ~ Leading Indian scientist launches attack on corruption between multinationals and bureaucrats
Resisting the Push Pushpa M Bhargava, a leading Indian scientist, has launched a devastating attack on the corrupt nexus between multinational corporations like Monsanto and India's politicians and bureaucrats, not least its scientist bureaucrats. Dr Bhargava asks why India continues "permitting foreign seed companies blindly and without adequate checks and controls, to exploit our trusting farmers and dominate our seed business even when numerous other better local alternatives exist". He says roadblocks have been deliberately placed in the way of those alternatives while farmers have been fooled into buying expensive GM seeds that have failed to fulfil the claims made for them, and for which there is "no evidence that any reasonable risk assessment was ever done".
"In a country where the majority of the population depends wholly on agriculture and agro-related activities for livelihood and survival, seeds and agrochemicals are critical inputs, whose control must lie with the people. .... never looked at the poor credibility of Monsanto and its widely known and documented habit of misleading and exploiting people and even going against the law. Monsanto had manufactured Agent Orange that was responsible for defoliating plants in Vietnam during the country's war with the US, which the US lost. The company has paid enormous amounts of money as fine in its own country for contravening laws: these fines would have probably been orders of magnitude greater if the company had not found ways and means of keeping the regulatory authority in the US on its side. Our government did not take any note also of the fact that a severe indictment was passed in the summer of 2000 against Monsanto (and three other MNCs) by the People's Permanent Commission on Global Corporations and Public Harm (the successor to the Bertrand Russel War Crimes Tribunal) following a public hearing in England.Today, we can identify a whole range of risks entailed by the release of GMOs --specially, plants. animals and microorganisms -- in the environment and the damage such a release can cause to human and animal health and the environment. I have listed these risks . ....no farmer was told during the trials that resistance to Bt will gradually develop in the pests and that the farmers would need to put in some 50 per cent refuge of pest-susceptible crop at the end of five years or so of use of Monsanto-Mahyco's Bt cotton seeds. ..." (Summary)
Sept 2003 ~ Canadian TV news has reported on GM oil seed rape (OSR) which has become a weed in Canada
-- it is out of control and will not die even when sprayed with various herbicides. The presence of GM OSR in fields where the farmers have never touched GMOs has raised fears that GM OSR is being spread through manure -- the seed passing right through the animal and into the manure. ( Soil Association)
Sept 2003 ~ Schmeiser prepares for final battle against Monsanto
- "It's an absurd situation, akin to someone dumping junk on your land and then accusing you of stealing it," says Brian Helweil, agricultural expert with the non-governmental Worldwatch Institute, based in Washington. - "Monsanto will lose either way the case turns out," says Helweil. If Schmeiser wins, it means Monsanto cannot stop farmers from saving seeds. If he loses then Monsanto must take responsibility for its seed and the genetic contamination it is causing. A Farmer Prepares for Final Battle Against Monsanto By Stephen Leahy
Aug 27 ~ ISIS rejects GM Science Review Report
"The GM Science Review has failed to answer the charge that GM technology is inherently unsafe and unpredictable. The ISP rejects the conclusion that there is "no evidence" that GM crops pose a threat to health and the environment, and the recommendation to effectively commercialise GM crops on a "case by case" basis.
There is no case for growing any GM crops in Britain (or anywhere else in the world). On the contrary, when all the creditable scientific evidence and concerns are accurately taken into account, there are many reasons to ban the environmental release of GM crops to make way for organic farming, agroecology and other forms of non-GM sustainable agriculture." See http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GMSRDF.php
Aug 25 ~"The whole biotech enterprise, from GM crops and gene drugs to human cloning, is a phenomenal waste of public finance and scientific imagination."
Dr Mae-Wan Ho, Director of the Institute of Science in Society, editor of Science in Society magazine and author of Living with the Fluid Genome.
"...The story of the 'fluid genome', the main subject of this book, tells how geneticists came face to face with scientific findings that completely undercut the genetic determinist paradigm. It makes nonsense of all the eugenicist claims and promises, and exposes the futility as well as the hazards of genetic engineering. This important story is still largely untold, and is actively suppressed and misrepresented by the scientific establishment with its vested commercial and non-commercial interests in gene biotechnology...."
".....Genetic engineering greatly enhances horizontal gene transfer and recombination, the very processes that create new viruses and bacteria that cause outbreaks of infectious diseases and spread drug and antibiotic resistance. An 'academic-industrial-military complex' has matured with the rise of gene biotechnology that is increasingly active in suppressing scientific dissent in the genetic engineering debate, threatening the survival of science and endangering lives. ..... Nature has a way of fighting back, of puncturing our illusions. It is futile to think that we can go on ruining our ecosystem and stay healthy so long as we have 'good' genes. Genes, unlike diamonds, are not forever..."
Aug 24 ~ Blair forced to scale back his plan to introduce GM farming
By Geoffrey Lean and Jo Dillon Independent on Sunday 24 August 2003
" Tony Blair is drastically scaling down his plans to introduce GM farming in Britain in the wake of the Hutton inquiry, the Independent on Sunday can reveal.
Senior officials at the centre of the issue concede that the Prime Minister has accepted that it would be politically "too risky" to force through widespread commercial planting of GM crops in the teeth of public opposition, following the catastrophic collapse in public trust following the Iraq War and Dr David Kelly's apparent suicide.
The Government's formal decision on the technology, expected next month, will now not be taken before the end of the year "at the earliest", official sources say. And ministers and officials are now going out of their way to insist that the Prime Minister is not "gung-ho" about it, even though his personal enthusiasm - coupled with attacks on GM sceptics as "anti-science" - has long defined the Government's position..."
Aug 19 ~ US escalates GM food row with Europe
"Europe's dispute with America over genetically modified food escalated yesterday after Washington asked the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to force the EU to lift its five-year-old ban on new GM food products. In a move which raises the prospect of a fresh trade war just a month before crucial world trade talks in Mexico, America requested the formation of a WTO dispute settlement panel to decide once and for all who is right on GM technology. The call was backed by Argentina and Canada. Washington said it hoped that the panel - which could take up to 18 months to pronounce - would rule that the EU's failure to allow the sale of 30 US biotech products on precautionary grounds was illegal.
The EU response was immediate and curt. It said it regretted the move, blocked the formation of the panel (something it is allowed to do only once), and claimed that the case would confuse already sceptical European consumers. ..."
GM CROP FARMERS 'WILL END UP SERFS'
....Michael Hart, chairman of the Small and Family Farms Alliance, has recently obtained copies of agreements which Canadian and American farmers have to sign when deciding to grow the genetically engineered plants - and he believes that the terms and conditions of the contracts are "enslaving". ....growers who choose to adopt the plants will not be allowed to keep the seeds for the purpose of replanting, selling, giving or transferring.
The Canadian agreement further states: "The grower shall purchase and use only Roundup branded herbicide labelled for use on all Roundup Ready canola (oilseed rape) seed purchased."
Another condition stipulates that any farmer who grows GM crops for a year but then decides to switch to conventional farming must have his fields inspected by experts working for the biotechnology company. Over a three-year period they will check to see if any GM plants have inadvertently grown amongst the conventional crop. If they have, the farmer faces being sued by the companies for using the gene without paying for the royalty...."
"...Monsignor Velasio De Paolis, a professor of canon law at the Pontifical Urban University, is quoted in the article as saying that it is "easy to say no to GM food if your stomach is full."
http://just-food.com/news_detail.asp?art=54973&dm=yes The news has shocked some environmental activists who feel that the Vatican is, perhaps unwittingly, using its considerable weight to back a misguided campaign that will leave the power over food supply in the hands of multinational corporations. Unlike conventional seeds, GM seeds are non-reproducible, so farmers have to keep going back to the companies that hold the patents to buy more seed..."
Aug 4 ~ Food Producers in China announce their decision to go GM-Free
Thirty-two food producers operating in China, the largest food market in the world, announced their official commitment not to sell GM food. In what amounts to the first public rejection of GM food by food producers, the 32 companies, with 53 brand names, sent formal statements to Greenpeace in July, confirming that they do not use GM ingredients in their products sold in China. See ISIS (The Institute of Science in Society) news release.
Aug 2 ~ GM crops do harm surrounding flora and fauna, farm trials likely to reveal
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/environment/story.jsp?story=429820 GM crops can be more damaging to neighbouring flora and fauna than ordinary strains of sugar beet, maize and oilseed rape, the Government's farm trials have shown. The experiments have disproved the theory that GM plants would interact with other species in the same way as their conventional counterparts. In particular, the impact on insects, weeds and hedgerow plants has proved radically different, the trial results have revealed.
GM enthusiasts have argued that the crops will not affect the countryside. But sources close to the trials say that the findings, now being assessed by experts, prove that the "null hypothesis" about GM crops is wrong.
The three crops in the trials, GM maize, oilseed rape and sugar beet, have all behaved differently to the conventional varieties grown beside them. Some have destroyed more insects and weeds than conventional varieties, although one crop, believed to be maize, is thought to have had a more positive effect on killing unwanted common "weeds".
One senior source close to the trials said: "The null hypothesis is wrong, that's what's come out of the trials clearly. What is consistent is there are differences in the impact of GM crops and conventional crops."
..... Whitehall experts believe ministers will give the green light to grow one variety of GM crop in Britain, possibly maize, to send a signal to the Americans that they are not anti-GM. But two other varieties are expected to be rejected because they may damage the environment. The secret results, which will be sent to a government advisory committee on environmental contamination, are being checked by scientists. Biotechnology firms have been given a "licence to pollute" because of a loophole in the law that allows them to escape prosecution, critics say. The law on growing GM crops will allow such companies to escape fines or even prison if they do not "deliberately" release GM material into the environment. The get-out clause has incensed environmentalists, who say it proves controls are not tough enough to stop GM crops spreading into the wild across Britain. .....
Aug 1 2003 ~ co-existence between the GM sector and the organic or conventional sector? What Canada shows... is that it is absolutely impossible.
WMN report ".... Under EU regulations the threshold of pollution with voluntary crop seeds is 0.5 per cent, but results from new research had shown that crops which emerge from land where GM plants had been grown would have a contamination of up to 5 per cent. "The problem is massive," said Mr Meacher. "I have spent the whole day seeing several farms and several examples where there has been very extensive contamination, particularly of oil seed rape. The fact is that it goes everywhere. There is no question of separation distance - that is clearly not the case.
"The buzz word in Britain is that we can have co-existence between the GM sector and the organic or conventional sector. What Canada shows, who have been trying to do this for the last seven years, is that it is absolutely impossible....are we going to go for GM for which there is no market, and no one wants to buy at the expense of organic, which people want to buy and for which there is such a tremendous market?"
Aug 1 ~ 'protein-rich potato' hoax
"At the start of Britain's public GM debate in June, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said that approval for commercial growing of a genetically modified potato is expected in India within six months. Indian scientists were reported to have said that the protein-rich genetically modified potato could help combat malnutrition in India. This is reminiscent of an earlier attempt by pro-GM scientists to convince critics that GM 'golden rice' is needed to cure vitamin A deficiency among the poor in the Third World, a 'potential benefit' that's being hyped by the pro-GM British scientific establishment to this day. At the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE), we have shown that fruits and green vegetables that could be grown in every backyard provide hundreds of times more Vitamin A than 'golden rice'. Now the people of India and the rest of the world are sold a 'protein-rich potato' hoax by our scientists as part of an anti-hunger plan, formulated jointly with government institutes, the biotech industry and charities. The potato, it is claimed, contains a third more protein than normal, including essential high-quality nutrients, and has been created by adding a gene from the protein-rich amaranth plant. .." full article at http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GMPEM.php
July 29 ~ On 9th July Sheepdrove arranged a meeting with three Canadian Farmers and Michael Hart of The Small and Family Farmers Alliance.
The purpose of this was for the Canadian Farmers to describe their experiences of growing GMOs in North America and allow local farmers to ask questions. The main points raised at this meeting were:
See the article in full on the Sheepdrove website
- 100% of Canadian Farmers now did not want GM wheat to be licensed after their experiences with rape and other GM crops (loss of world markets etc.). The president of the NFU Canada was at the meeting and he felt that US farmers were of the same opinion and very concerned.
- Volunteers in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years had become the biggest issue leading to more herbicide usage and 'tank mixing' of combinations of chemicals (incidentally Monsanto has taken out a patent on tank mixes).
- Gene stacking is occurring so that herbicide tolerance included all the GM related herbicides - so another company's herbicide - Liberty - would not help with an RR crops volunteers.
- Widespread contamination of seed from suppliers of conventional supplies of grain - and pollination contamination for non adopters (conventional) of GM is averaging 20% with some as high as 50%. A neighboring farmer does not have to reveal if they are growing GM rape next to your conventional rape so you don't know until a test is done. It is now not possible to grow conventional rape in Saskatchewan - an area of Canada many times larger than the UK.
- BT crops - mostly maize in Canada - is now causing insect resistance but more concerning is the build up in the soil with the Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) which is a real concern for soil bacteria and the likelihood of new resistant strains. You may not know that GM Maize - now that this trait is recognized - has to be planted with 50% conventional to try to prevent this resistance building - hardly a GM success story!
- Questioned on the pharma use of GM to create drugs there seemed to be more hype than actuality but Starlink BT maize is still showing up in crops even after it was banned in September 2000.
July 26 ~ The GM plot: Scientist tried to sabotage work of top academic who is a sceptic
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor of the Independent
"Secret moves were made by a senior pro-GM scientist to sabotage the career of another academic who was sceptical about GM crops and food, it was alleged yesterday.
The pro-GM scientist tried to get the sceptic, Andrew Stirling from Sussex University, dropped from a research project by approaching the project's funders and rubbishing Dr Stirling's work. He failed, and Dr Stirling was later informed of the approach.
The source of the allegation was remarkable. It came from the website of the government's official GM science review, in minutes endorsed by the review chairman and the Government's chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir David King.
The accusation is one of the most serious in the past five years of bitter public and scientific disputes about genetically modified organisms. It has sometimes been suggested that pressure has been brought to bear on GM sceptics to moderate their views, by senior GM-supporting scientists...." link to Independent story
July 22 ~ Sceptics unconvinced as agribusiness welcomes opportunity to move forward
"...The Agricultural Biotechnology Council, which represents the six main GM agribusiness firms in Britain, said it hoped "that this in-depth review of the science will now provide confidence for the UK to move forward with those other major developed and developing countries in the rest of the world that are already enjoying the benefits of this key technology." The Royal Society, Britain's national scientific academy which has disparaged claims for food risks from GM produce, also welcomed the food all-clear. "The Royal Society supports the report's findings that the risks associated with GM in terms of food safety and the creation of so-called superweeds are minimal," said Professor Jim Smith, who chaired the Royal Society working group on GM foods. "The report shows that recent attempts to create public anxiety about GM food safety, supported by sections of the media that are openly campaigning against GM, have been ignoring the scientific evidence. Of course, the safety of each novel food, whether GM or otherwise, needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis."This sort of assertion - that anti GM lobbyists are concerned only about the food safety angle - is deeply misleading. It is the "debt and dependency" angle that is so deeply disturbing.
July 21 ~ Today's report
can be found at http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2003/07/21/gmsci-report1-full.pdf
"The report, by a panel of 25 experts, says that there is "no scientific case for ruling out all GM crops and their products". Its authors stress that their findings should not be taken as "blanket approval" for GM crops, which "need to be considered on a case-by-case basis". However, critics said that the panel's research had not been rigorous enough to provide a solid foundation for GM policy. The former environment minister Michael Meacher called the report a "public scandal". The review is one of three strands of research - the others being a national consultation and an economic study - aimed at helping the government to decide whether or not to allow GM crops to be commercially grown in the UK. A decision is expected later this year."
July 21 ~ "Africa needs GM like a hole in the head.
Western Morning News " aretired scientist living in Cornwall yesterday urged the Government not to be "blackmailed" into supporting the production of genetically modified crops for the benefit of starving, debt-ridden countries in Africa. Philip Gordon said he had spent 20 years in Africa and witnessed famines in Sudan and Ethiopia which, like the current crisis in Zimbabwe, were primarily caused by politicians.
"My message to the Government is: Don't be blackmailed into GM because it would be helping Africa. "If we do that, we will not be helping Africa. We will be destroying Africa."
Mr Gordon was echoing the views of the Soil Association on world hunger.
The Soil Association says GM seeds are expensive, can reduce yields and depend on specific chemicals.
Small farmers in Africa would need loans to buy them, as they had done to purchase chemicals. Their debt and dependency on agro-chemical giants such as Monsanto in the USA and Bayer in Germany, who were lobbying governments, would therefore continue.
Oxfam and Christian Aid have both warned that the marketing of GM crops could intensify world poverty.
July 21 ~ BBC Science Correspondent, Pallab Ghosh reports on the findings of the GM Science Review which will be announced later today.
July 19/20 ~ "Confidence was badly shaken last week by the Cabinet Office strategy unit's forecast of civil unrest
unless the strictest rules were enforced to prevent contamination of conventional and organic crops.
Tony Blair, who has been unswerving in his enthusiasm for GM technology, is said by government sources to have changed his mind about the early introduction of crops in the light of public hostility.
He remains concerned about the potential loss to the UK's scientific research and development base if the country turns against GM. But that is set against fears that the real impact of GM on a sceptical public would come in two years - just as he may be facing a general election.
Ministers' doubts have been fuelled by the results of a nationwide debate, GM Nation, which ends today. They show that despite huge efforts from the science lobby and the industry the public still believes that not enough is known about the risks to both health and the environment for the government to go ahead with the technology. ..." Guardian
July 19/20 ~ "Mrs Beckett promised to "listen" to the conclusions - but not necessarily to take any account of them. ..."
...people did not trust the agricultural research done by what they saw as private, profit-making companies such as Monsanto, rather than Government's agricultural research stations. It was also because the GM crops proposed - oilseed rape, maize and beet - did not appeal to people. "There is no perception of potential benefits on a consumer level," he said. Professor Grant's comments will be especially unwelcome to Mr Blair, and to other pro-GM ministers such as Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, and Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the Science minister, as it comes hard on the heels of another official GM exercise which did not go the way the Government may have wished, the Cabinet Office study of GM costs and benefits. This concluded last week that economic benefits from growing GM crops in Britain were likely to be limited. A third official GM exercise, a review of GM science conducted by a panel led by Professor Sir David King, the Government's chief scientific adviser, will report on Monday. Whether or not the debate has an influence on the decision to authorise the commercial growth of GM crops in Britain, expected in the autumn, remains to be seen. Mrs Beckett promised to "listen" to the conclusions - but not necessarily to take any account of them. ..." Independent
July 19/20 ~ Plaid Cymru will be launching a national petition to Keep Wales GM-Free at the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd next week.
The petition calls on the National Assembly for Wales to pass strict new rules on GMOs in Wales. It reads:3We the undersigned, call upon the Welsh Assembly Government to use the power given by the European Directive 2001/18 on the Deliberate Release of GMOs Article 16 and new Articles 26 (a) and 28 (a) to keep Wales GM-free.4Earlier this month Plaid MEP Jill Evans successfully put forward amendments in the European Parliament to strengthen the new EU regulations on GMOs. These new European laws will now allow Wales to take appropriate measures to prevent GM contamination of conventional and organic crops.Plaid Cymru environment spokesperson, Simon Thomas MP, has also led a cross-party attack on the government's proposal on GM foods in the House of Commons. He has expressed his concerns over the government's haphazard and rushed policy and public debate on the introduction of GM foods in Britain. (Source News Wales co.uk)
July 18 ~The government's eight-week national dialogue on genetically modified organisms draws to a close today amid widespread criticism of the way it was organised.
But Unilever, the Co-op and the Consumers' Association and Greenpeace are to launch their own public forum; an "independent GM citizens' jury". See Reuters report: " The alliance said the jury would have two groups of 30 members each, all of whom were handpicked from a wide mix of social backgrounds, ages, ethnic groups and genders. .... Meeting twice a week, jurors will expect to hear "witnesses" - to include members from the farming, science and retail communities - present their views on the technology. Jurors will also have an opportunity to call in further witnesses at the end of the period if needed, Consumers Association spokeswoman Samantha Flack said. Flack said a special monitoring panel had been appointed, which included members of the biotechnology industry, to ensure that the results from the GM jury are reliable. Once finished, the jurors will produce a report at the end of September outlining its conclusions and overall verdict, which will be then presented to food, farming and environment ministers to review.... "
July 18 ~"It is an open secret in Westminster that the Prime Minister and his colleagues in DEFRA have already made up their minds before the public debate even began - I doubt this report will deter them."
Cornwall Today "..Local farmers would be best advised "not to touch GM crops with a barge-pole" says St Ives MP, Andrew George.... His advice follows the publication at the weekend of a Downing Street study which shows any economic benefit to the UK is likely to be limited if GMs are grown here. Mr George wrote to farming organisations in England before the report was published, urging farmers to be cautious about GMs because of poor consumer demand and other concerns.
He is also urging people in West Cornwall to make their views known as the Government's GM Nation public debate ends tomorrow (July 18). A feedback form is available at www.gmnation.org.uk or on 020 7261 8616.
Mr George said: "The Downing Street report is only a surprise in that it does not reach the conclusion that Tony Blair wants, which is to go full steam ahead with GM crops. It is an open secret in Westminster that the Prime Minister and his colleagues in DEFRA have already made up their minds before the public debate even began - I doubt this report will deter them. ..... it would set farmer against farmer, especially where growers wish to remain GM free or organic but find that one of their neighbours wants to grow GMs. .......This week is the last opportunity the public will have to air their concerns and I would advise anyone with an opinion on GMs, good or bad, to let the Government know what they think while they still have the chance. Whether the Government will take a blind bit of notice, we will have to wait and see."
July 18 ~ " the biotech empire is now desperately grasping for support from the taxpayer by hyping genetics and bio-defence. "
ISIS news release "Bad science and dangerous medicine are bringing down the biotech empire, but our governments are throwing more good money after it. .....The MRC was earlier heavily criticized by the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology for "capricious funding decisions", especially for its "politically driven" BioBank project to amass DNA samples from 500 000 UK citizens in a bid to identify gene variants for susceptibility to a range of major diseases, such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
These latest spending sprees are symptomatic of the lack of scientific imagination in the corporate establishment after decades of mind-numbing genome sequencing and genomics research have produced so little of the promised benefits. ..."
July 17 ~ How Monsanto's policies have become US policy
In 1994, Monsanto Agricultural Company gained approval for their genetically engineered bovine growth hormone. That hormone became the most controversial drug application in the history of America's Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Monsanto's hormone caused cancer in laboratory animals, and was banned in Europe and Canada.
Prior to being the Supreme Court Judge who put G.W. in office, Clarence Thomas was Monsanto's lawyer. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (Anne Veneman) was on the Board of Directors of Monsanto's Calgene Corporation. The Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) was on the Board of Directors of Monsanto's Searle pharmaceuticals. The U.S. Secretary of Health, Tommy Thompson, received $50,000 in donations from Monsanto during his winning campaign for Wisconsin's governor. The two congressmen receiving the most donations from Monsanto during the last election were Larry Combest (Chairman of the House Agricultural Committee) and Attorney General John Ashcroft. (Source: Dairy Education Board's Robert Cohen, author of: MILK A-Z )
July 17 ~ "Monsanto is suing Portland, Maine-based Oakhurst Dairy for labeling their milk "Our Farmers' Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones."
According to Monsanto, manufacturer of the genetically engineered recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (known as rBGH or rBST), Oakhurst Dairy does not have the right to let its customers know whether its milk is laced with genetically engineered hormones.
Oakhurst says they've been labeling their products like this for four years, in response to consumer demand.
Although rBGH has been banned in every industrialized nation in the world except for the United States, Monsanto continues to claim that rBGH-derived milk is no different from the natural stuff, despite documentation that rBGH milk contains substantially higher levels of a potent cancer tumor promoter called IGF-1. Monsanto sued two dairies and threatened several thousand retailers in 1994 for labeling or advertising milk and dairy products as "rBGH-free."
Despite Monsanto's intimidation tactics, more than 10% of U.S. milk is currently labeled as "rBGH-free," while sales of organic milk and dairy products (which prohibit rBGH) are booming.
In recent months a Monsanto-funded front group, the Center for Consumer Freedom, has launched a smear campaign against organic dairies, including Organic Valley, claiming they are defrauding consumers." http://www.organicconsumers.org
For a full discussion on the rBGH controversy, see the rBGH section on the OCA website: http://www.organicconsumers.org/rbghlink.html
July 14 ~ "the stranglehold that the big companies will have on the third world growers, should GM take off, is immoral, and will cause poverty, hardship, and the break up of rural communities..."
Anne Lambourn's letter (read in full) :" .....the big companies are going to make enormous amounts of money for themselves out of GM, and that their activities are not primarily concerned with helping to feed the poorer countries, and other like issues. The claims that have been made for the benefits of GM have been shown in Canada to have been misleading, and they are 6 years down the road with GM trials. (Canadian NFU visit to UK).
......I consider there are enormous risks and problems associated with GM crops/technology, and that far from resulting in better yields, and less and fewer insecticides/weedkillers, the opposite is happening, with the rise of all sorts of unwanted side effects e.g. the superweeds, the need to revert to the "old" style of chemicals in large amounts. The repercussions in human health may be enormous, for example, the possible rise of further superbug resistance to antibiotics.
I consider that the stranglehold that the big companies will have on the third world growers, should GM take off, is immoral, and will cause poverty, hardship, and the break up of rural communities. The farmers will become slaves of the biotech companies - have we really advanced from colonial days?...."
July 13/14 ~ "Dozens of the Government's most influential advisers on critical health and environmental issues have close links to biotech and drug corporations"
according to a dossier of Whitehall documents obtained by The Observer (external link) .
- A key member of the committee advising Ministers on the safety of GM products has received research funding from biotech giants Monsanto and Syngenta. Professor Phil Mullineaux also works for the John Innes Centre - the GM research centre funded by Science Minister Lord Sainsbury;
- More than three-quarters of the members of the committee which advises Ministers on food safety have direct links to major food companies and drug giants including Novartis, Astra-Zeneca and Syngenta. Its chair, Professor Ieuan Hughes, has personal interests in Pharmacia - which in April was bought by Pfizer to create the biggest drugs company in the world - and owns shares in BP Amoco where his daughter works.
- A former deputy chairman of the committee which examines the safety of pesticides, Professor Alan Boobis, received research funding from GlaxoSmithKline for his department at Imperial College but never declared it. Other members of this committee have links to agrochemical firms like Aventis, Astra Zeneca and Monsanto. The current head of the body, Professor David Coggon, was a close friend of Esso's chief medical officer and received a gift from the oil giant.
- The chair of a group examining air quality in Britain, Professor Stephen Holgate, is a consultant to drug giant Merck. His university department has received grants from Glaxo and Astra Zeneca. Others work for biotech and drug giants like Novartis and Schering-Plough.
- Almost three out of four members of the committee advising Ministers on the cancer risks of chemicals in food and other consumer products either own shares in or work for major biotech and drug corporations ..."
July 12/13 ~ GM foods: unloved, unwanted and a rush to grow crops could cause civil unrest
Minsters try to put gloss on bleak view from strategy unit Paul Brown The Guardian
A bleak picture for the future of genetically modified crops in Britain was outlined by the Cabinet Office strategy unit yesterday, which said there was currently no benefit to the UK consumer or farmer in growing such foods because there was no market.
The unit also warned if there was a rush to grow GM crops the government was in danger of further damaging the trust between the public and food regulators, which could lead to civil unrest and the destruction of crops.
Before the report was published ministers and officials were out in force putting a "gloss" on the report, suggesting that existing GM crops could "offer some cost and convenience advantages to UK farmers".
However, the report makes clear that apart from the very limited possibility of selling crops for animal feed, UK farmers would have to export their crops if they were to find a market, since supermarkets and consumers had rejected GM food. (more)
July 9 ~ The article in yesterday's Mail claims that the sacking of Dr Pusztai was the result of "manoeuvring at the highest political level" and questions the network of relationships between senior Labour figures and the biotech industry.
(says the Farmers Weekly Interactive article) " the paper publishes parts of Don't Worry (It's Safe to Eat) by Andrew Rowell. The Mail's headline says the extract is about the "sinister" sacking of the world's leading GM expert - and the trail that leads to Tony Blair and the White House. The expert is Arpad Pusztai who lost his job after questioning the safety of GM food. ........it questions the network of relationships between senior Labour figures and the biotech industry. Within 48 hours of Dr Pusztai's interview he was suspended, after demanding tighter rules over GM food. "Breaking his long silence over the affair, he now claims he was fired as a direct consequence of Tony Blair's intervention." Two phone calls between his boss, Philip James and Number 10, were made. The following day he was fired.
Dr Pusztai remains convinced he was punished for following his conscience. He is quoted as saying: "I spoke out at a very sensitive time. Things were coming to a head with the GM debate and I just lit the fuse."
July 8 ~ Schmeiser received hundreds of phone calls from farmers who have been contacted by Monsanto representatives and received demand letters saying that they have unauthorised GM crops growing in their fields and must pay so many thousands of dollars to avoid lawsuit.
"... Percy Schmeiser has been tireless in travelling the world to tell his story. Everywhere, farmers are fighting for their lives and livelihoods. Monsanto winning would be the very last straw, not just for farmers, for everyone. Schmeiser has come to symbolise our collective struggle against corporate serfdom. Just as independent scientists are oppressed and victimised, farmers are subject to the same or worse treatment.
Monsanto's tactics are well known. The company gets farmers to sign away all their rights in an unbelievable technology contract. The farmer must not use his or her own seed, must buy seed and chemicals from Monsanto. Monsanto can send inspectors onto your fields for three years even if you grow the company's crops for only one year.
Monsanto also openly advertises for people to tell on their neighbours if they are suspected of having GM crops without licence. The company's representatives can trespass onto your fields even when you are not at home, or fly over your field and spray Roundup to see if the crop dies.
Immediately after Monsanto had obtained its judgement against Percy Schmeiser, the company had declared war on all Saskatchewan farmers. Schmeiser received hundreds of phone calls from farmers who have been contacted by Monsanto representatives and received demand letters saying that they have unauthorised GM crops growing in their fields and must pay so many thousands of dollars to avoid lawsuit. Many of the farmers who called Schmeiser were in the same circumstances: they never bought any seed from Monsanto or signed any contract...." Read full press release
July 6 ~ UN food body calls for strict new rules on GM crops
By Severin Carrell of the Independent
"A powerful United Nations safety body has warned that the failure to carry out full health checks on GM foods could lead to toxic reactions, allergies and increased resistance to antibiotics.
The food standards body, part of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, has called for strict worldwide safety checks and scientific studies to stop dangerous GM foods being sold.
Its decision - seen as the legal standard for GM food regulation worldwide - will increase pressure on ministers and the Food Standards Agency to introduce tougher, more up-to-date safety checks on new GM crops and foods...." Independent http://news.independent.co.uk/world/environment/story.jsp?story=422089
July 1 ~ Lord Robert May accuses Michael Meacher of "half-truths"
In his article in today's Independent, the President of the Royal Society says, "........Mr Meacher appears uninterested in considering how the public might benefit nutritionally from GM. Instead his article dwelt on the conceivable unintended adverse impacts that we identified in our report. He was right that our report highlighted babies as being particularly vulnerable to any changes in the nutritional content of their food. ....perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Mr Meacher's article was that it missed the opportunity to consider what role GM crops might play in the future of the UK countryside. The intensification of agriculture through conventional practices has had demonstrable adverse effects on the diversity of wildlife species over the past couple of decades, with the well-documented decline of wildflower and farmland bird populations. Depending on how we use it to grow crops, GM technology could make this situation better or worse.
Like so many applications of science, GM technology is a double-edged sword. It offers us, on the one hand, the chance of a "Doubly Green Revolution", in which we grow our food efficiently but in ways that work with the grain of nature. On the other hand, it could offer us the opportunity to ramp up the intensification of agriculture, wrenching the environment into a form that suits our needs and in doing so clearing our countryside of its rich diversity of wild animal and plant species, creating an ever more silent spring.
Making a choice between such options involves values and beliefs, set against the background of a realistic understanding of the possibilities that tomorrow's agricultural biotechnology may offer. That is the debate we should be having, Mr Meacher."
July 1 ~ Zac Goldsmith "Mr Blair takes counsel from his Science minister, Lord Sainsbury, who is Labour's biggest donor and a man with financial interests in GM; from a Food Standards Agency that spends more time attacking organic food than examining GM; and from a Royal Society awash with vested interest.......
Today's Independent (extract) "... In the US, the revolving door between industry and regulators is moving so fast that the two are indistinguishable, with President Bush tying pharmaceutical aid in the Third World to acceptance of GM. In Britain, Mr Blair takes counsel from his Science minister, Lord Sainsbury, who is Labour's biggest donor and a man with financial interests in GM; from a Food Standards Agency that spends more time attacking organic food than examining GM; and from a Royal Society awash with vested interest.
Regardless of the outcome of the Government's consultation on GM, which even some ministers admit is a "PR offensive", the debate will continue. In characteristic doublespeak, Mr Blair demands that we "proceed according to the science". But consumers smell a rat in his "science". And if it emerges that the only viable avenue for opposing contamination of Britain is civil disobedience, then I would wager that a lot of people will oblige."
July 12003 ~ " instead of this finding being regarded as a serious discovery which should be checked and re-che ked, the spin was that this was nothing new and did not involve any health risk"
(Latest from Isis)
"The only Government-sponsored work ever carried on the health impacts of GMOs was Dr Pusztai's work on rats and GM potatoes, Meacher said, .and then, when it found negative effects, it was widely rubbished in government circles, even though his paper had been peer-reviewed six times before publication..
Meacher points out that the UK Royal Society had said in its reports last year, that the potential health effects of GM foods should be rigorously investigated ... The Royal Society, of course, is hardly a model of scientific independence. It has been severely criticised for its pro-GM stance, and for its persistent efforts to discredit the work of Arpad Pusztai and colleagues. It also draws funding from the biotechnology industry as do a number of the Fellows most prominent in shaping its position on GM.
Meacher further drew attention to .the only human GM trial, commissioned ironically by the Food Standards Agency., which found that GM DNA did in fact transfer to bacteria in the human gut. .Previously many scientists had denied that this was possible.. Meacher said, .But instead of this finding being regarded as a serious discovery which should be checked and re-checked, the spin was that this was nothing new and did not involve any health risk - a Nelsonian putting the telescope to the blind eye if ever there was one.. ...(More)
June 29 ~ GM threatens a superweed catastrophe
English Nature says the new crops could lead to farmers using toxins that would devastate the countryside Severin Carrell Independent on Sunday Genetically modified farming will lead to a new generation of herbicide-resistant crops which could devastate the countryside, says English Nature. The Government's chief conservation agency says the inevitably far stronger weedkillers that would be needed would devastate hedgerows and verges and produce "superweeds" unless strict controls are imposed.
.... These superweeds will emerge because it is "inevitable" that weedkiller-tolerant genes will escape from GM crops such as sugar beet, maize and oilseed rape into normal plants, English Nature states. The dangerous genes will be carried by the pollen of GM crops, spread by the wind, by insects and by farmers moving between fields. Dr Brian Johnson, a co-author of the English Nature report , said: "If you hit them with most of the conventional herbicides they just smile at you. They certainly don't die....." Read in full
June 27 ~ Two letters in the Telegraph "Curious Consultation" "Making the rich wealthy and the poor destitute"Extract:
"....My experience of advising on environmental problems in many Third-World countries (I was a consultant to the World Health Organisation on water pollution) makes me sceptical of the Prime Minister's claim that GM food is the answer to starvation. It is well known that the Irish potato famine of the 19th century would probably not have been so disastrous if a range of potato varieties had been cultivated instead of a monoculture. Many varieties of maize are grown in Africa and India, but if GM maize is planted, the advantages associated with biodiversity will be lost.
Sadly, it is increasingly evident that the precautionary principle, adopted by Britain on the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, is being thrown overboard in this field of research. It is particularly telling that the National Academy of Sciences, in America, has stated that the tests on GM foods carried out for the American regulatory mechanism "fall far short of what should be done". Also, the British Medical Association, in a submission to the Scottish Parliament, demanded a moratorium on commercial planting of GM crops because "insufficient care is being taken to protect public health and there has been a lack of public consultation about crop trials despite the steady increase in the number of them".
June 23 ~ Police seize Bové in airborne raid for destroying GM crops
Independent News, 23 June 2003
The French small farmers' leader and anti-globalisation campaigner, José Bové, was starting a 10-month jail sentence last night for destroying genetically modified crops, his third spell in prison in four years.....gendarmes broke open the door of his farmhouse in the southern Auvergne early yesterday and bundled him into a helicopter.... "They forced his door and dragged him away like a criminal. He didn't have time to gather personal possessions, not even a toothbrush."
June 23 ~ 'Superweeds' signal setback for GM crops
Independent News : UK, 23 June 2003
The dispute over genetically modified crops will intensify today with news of the evolution of "superweeds", which are resistant to the powerful weedkillers that GM crops were engineered to tolerate....It means that bigger quantities of weedkillers - not less, as the biotechnology companies have claimed - will be needed in GM-crop fields, adding to the already intensive agriculture that has wiped out much of Britain's farmland wildlife in the past four decades....The paper, by Professor Bob Hartzler of the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University, reveals that in the past seven years, up to five weed species have been found with resistance to the herbicide glyphosate, best known by the Monsanto trade name Roundup. The resistance has come about not through gene transfer from GM herbicide-tolerant crops, as some have feared, but through natural evolution.
Government accused of prejudging GM debateThe Journal
"The Government has already come out in favour of GM crops, despite the national consultation exercise on their future use, Liberal Democrat Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Andrew George claimed yesterday. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has been spending 26 times more promoting GM technology in the UK than it has on its GM public debate according to Mr George. He described the GM public debate as "window dressing" and argued that because it concludes long before the final reports of the Government's farm scale trials are completed, public contributions can effectively be dismissed.
"Why doesn't the Minister admit that although consumers don't want the stuff; although it could give biotech companies a stranglehold across the whole food chain; although we need to base decisions on sound science rather than quick science the fact is that the Government are already in the pocket of the GM lobby?"..."In reply to this question from Andrew George last Thursday, Elliot Morley said that he "utterly refuted" the charge.."we should not rule out new developments simply on the basis of prejudice."
So informed worry about GM=prejudice Mr Morley?
June 22 ~ Blair buried health warning on GM crops, says sacked minister
Meacher says PM dismissed evidence on bacteria so that modified crops could be sold to public says Andy McSmith Political Editor of the Independent
"Michael Meacher, the former environment minister, has accused Tony Blair's spin doctors and ministers of systematically ignoring or rubbishing the evidence that genetically modified crops could be a health hazard or could harm the environment.
Mr Meacher's warning is calculated to ignite the public debate on genetic modification as the Government prepares an official report that is expected to clear the way for GM foods to go on sale on supermarket shelves. .... he says: "The only human GM trial, commissioned ironically by the Food Standards Agency, found that genetically modified DNA did in fact transfer to bacteria in the human gut. Previously many scientists had denied that this was possible. "But instead of this finding being regarded as a serious discovery which should be checked and re-checked, the spin was that this was nothing new and did not involve any health risk."
In a television interview to be broadcast this morning, Mr Meacher suggests that the push to have GM foods on sale in the UK has been backed by "senior people in government who are committed to the biotechnology industry". ..... Mr Meacher also confirms what most observers had suspected, that he was sacked by Mr Blair, although the official Downing Street announcement said that he had "resigned"...."
June 21 ~ Last-ditch talks to avert an escalation of the trade dispute between the US and the EU over genetically modified crops have failed, US officials said on Thursday.
Friends of the Earth say, "The US decision to attack the right of countries to regulate the trade in GM is bully-boy undemocratic behaviour. The corporate-led US administration wants to force feed GM food to Europe and the rest of the world. The WTO is not the right place to decide what people should eat. Environmentalists, farmers and consumers around the world will resist the Bush administration and the WTO."
June 21 ~ American taxpayers were effectively sponsoring "some of the richest companies on earth in a trade fair".
Guardian The Killer Tomatoes head for California crop summit ".....American taxpayers were effectively sponsoring "some of the richest companies on earth in a trade fair". Apart from the £1.8m cost of the conference, £600,000 is being allocated for security to combat wide-ranging plans for non-violent protest.
One group planning to demonstrate is The Killer Tomatoes. Member Mary Bull said yesterday: "The United States is trying to coerce poor African nations into taking [GM foods]. It is a really significant conference from that point of view and we have to show that food can be distributed in a just and equitable way and not in the form of corporate-controlled and pesticide-driven agriculture." She added: "Knowing the Sacramento police, I'm sure there's going to be lots and lots of arrests." ....
June 21 ~"The balance of forces in the GM battle is not defined yet"US takes battle over GM crops to Brazil (Financial Times - external link) "...the US government and the American biotech industry are focusing on Brazil, one of the world's leading agricultural producers. Washington this week is helping pay for a group of 20 Brazilian politicians, scientists and environmentalists to study the use of GM crops in the US and South Africa. The study trip includes dinner with executives of Monsanto......
.....Backed by public opinion surveys showing most Brazilians sceptical of GM crops, Greenpeace and the Consumer Defence Institute (Idec) obtained two court rulings that annulled the authorisation Monsanto obtained from CTNBio, the biotechnology regulator, in 1998, to plant and sell its GM Roundup Ready soybean. The rulings also ordered Monsanto to conduct an environmental impact study.
In an unusual move, two out of three judges on a court of appeal in February last year went into recess after the third judge voted in favour of Monsanto. They have not returned since, some believe under political pressure.
With Greenpeace and Idec pledging to fight Monsanto all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary, a judicial solution seems unlikely in the short term..."
June 21 ~ he shouldn't want to be remembered for leaving behind him an unnaturally green and unpleasant land.
Alice Thompson in the Telegraph "...The charity ActionAid has just published research from four continents, involving nine million farmers, suggesting that GM crops could actually threaten their livelihoods, pushing them deeper into debt with American companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and DuPont. Farmers are not allowed to save GM seed from one harvest to the next, and there is no evidence that GM crops need fewer chemicals. ...The Government is holding a national GM debate this month, but it hasn't advertised it. It knows the public is against GM food (opponents outnumber supporters by four to one). It can block the introduction of GM food if it decides there is enough evidence of harm to the environment from trials being completed this August, but, as Mr Meacher points out, we haven't even bothered to monitor the effect on our own health. This is why we need a five-year freeze. A weary Mr Blair looks as though he is beginning to plan his retirement. But he shouldn't want to be remembered for leaving behind him an unnaturally green and unpleasant land.
June 21 ~ "It is not poverty in Africa that is the most important issue for the administration but business considerations on behalf of the U.S. technology and agricultural sector,. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's global trade watch
"....Only Zambia, citing health concerns, rejected GM corn in both grain and milled forms. One year later, President Levy Mwanawasa announced last week that this year Zambia will nearly double the 600,000 tonnes of grain it harvested last season, providing new fuel to the argument that GM technology is not necessary for reducing hunger in Africa. Some 35 countries, including EU member states, Australia, Japan, China, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, accounting for up to one-half of the world's population, now refuse to use GM technology..." http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=18890
June 20 ~"...ask Dr Suman Sahai about resolving famine through genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and she's dismissive."
"Dr Sahai is part of the Gene Campaign in India, an organisation dedicated to protecting genetic resources, strengthening self-reliance in agriculture and sustainable food production.
According to Dr Sahai, the first commercial Bt cotton in India, grown under normal local conditions, either did poorly or failed altogether. Even so, a report published in the reputable journal Science hailed the crop a huge success.
Now here's the really disturbing part. The article, which is being widely quoted, is based exclusively on data supplied by the company that owns the Bt cotton, Mahyco Monsanto. To make it worse, the figures were based on a few selected trial plots belonging to the company, not farmers' fields. ..."
Part of Unresolved issues in GM debate leave potential for disaster by Barbara Sumner Burstyn in the New Zealand Herald last month
June 19 ~ Seeds more risky than pollen for GM escape
New Scientist "Seeds are more likely than pollen to spread genes from genetically-modified sugar beet into wild relatives, researchers have warned.
Previously, concern about the leakage of genes from GM crops into the environment has focused on pollen, which can blow for long distances on the wind. But new research in France reveals ... "Accidental transport of seeds within soils carried on motor vehicles, or by other normal agricultural activities provide the best explanation." Arnaud's team ... found that the weedy hybrids, which produce more seeds that the commercial sugar beets, had somehow migrated 1500 metres from the fields and were mingling with wild sea beet. The far-flung hybrids must have come from seed because they had maternal genes, rather than the paternal ones carried by pollen. ... Arnaud thinks that soil transported from beet growing areas to assist with dyke reconstruction might have carried the seeds, or that seeds might have been dropped in dirt from lorries transporting harvested beet to factories.
June 18 ~ press release GM STUDY HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR URGENT RETHINK OVER GM CROPS
Friends of the Earth press release today " A new study by Royal Society, published today (Wednesday), highlights the role of seed dispersal - inadvertently assisted by human activity - in the potential wide scale dispersal of transgenic material. The author of the paper, Dr Jean-Francois Arnaud, says "our findings are consistent with the hypothesis of human-mediated long-distance dispersal."
Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner, Pete Riley, said: "This research shows once again that we are still only beginning to learn about the potential long term impacts of GM crops on the environment. It also shows that human activity plays a significant role in spreading GM material over long distances. There must now be a major re-think on the impacts that GM crops may have on our food, farming and environment. The Government must take note and refuse to allow GM crops to be commercially grown in the UK".
Jun 15 ~ The Case for A GM-Free Sustainable World
The press release (to be released on Sunday) 1. GM crops failed to deliver promised benefits, 2. GM crops posing escalating problems on the farm 3. Extensive transgenic contamination unavoidable 5. GM food raises serious safety concerns 4. GM crops not safe 6. Dangerous gene products are incorporated into crops 7. Terminator crops spread male sterility 8. Broad-spectrum herbicides highly toxic to humans and other species 9. Genetic engineering creates super-viruses 10. Transgenic DNA in food taken up by bacteria in human gut 11. Transgenic DNA and cancer 12. CaMV 35S promoter increases horizontal gene transfer 13. A history of misrepresentation and suppression of scientific evidence
Jun 12 ~ Fischler announced that growing GM crops would soon be legal throughout the EU. There was no opportunity for questioning or debate.
We read in this week's Muckspreader (Private Eye) "One of Britain's most active GM campaigners recently received by mistake an invitation to a GM "consultation" meeting in Brussels. Delighted to have the chance to put her case directly to the EU's agriculture commissioner, Frans Fischler, she was intrigued to see the great man take the platform, flanked by representatives of companies concerned with pushing GM crops.
Fischler announced that growing GM crops would soon be legal throughout the EU. There was no opportunity for questioning or debate. "It was a 'consultation,'" as she put it, "only in the sense that Stalin was 'consulting' with the Soviet people when he announced one of his five-year plans".....
....Mrs. Beckett and Lord Whitty, the farms minister, are reduced to behaving these days like bullying traffic wardens; they have no more power to decide what goes on in British farming than a jobsworth from the local social services office. (Read in full)
June 10/11 ~ The extensive contamination of certified canola seed with transgenes for herbicide tolerance is staggering.
Extract from ISIS press release "....The Canadian canola crop extends over some 5 million hectares, of which roughly 60% are planted with transgenic varieties. The extensive cross contamination by transgenic varieties could have been foreseen and predicted at the time field trials of transgenic crops were carried out. By now, it seems unlikely that transgene- free canola can be produced in western Canada. It is disturbing that CFIA appears to be totally unconcerned over the extensive contamination, which is evidence of gross negligence in oversight on its part. "
June 10 ~The principal issue, perpetually and deliberately ignored by government, many scientists, most of the media and, needless to say, the questionnaire being used to test public opinion, is the corporate takeover of the food chain.
George Monbio in the Guardian"... By patenting transferred genes and the technology associated with them, then buying up the competing seed merchants and seed-breeding centres, the biotech companies can exert control over the crops at every stage of production and sale. Farmers are reduced to their sub-contracted agents. This has devastating implications for food security in the poor world: food is removed from local marketing networks - and therefore the mouths of local people - and gravitates instead towards sources of hard currency. This problem is compounded by the fact that (and this is another perpetually neglected issue) most of the acreage of GM crops is devoted to producing not food for humans, but feed for animals.
The second issue is environmental damage. Many of the crops have been engineered to withstand applications of weedkiller. This permits farmers to wipe out almost every competing species of plant in their fields. The exceptions are the weeds which, as a result of GM pollen contamination, have acquired multiple herbicide resistance. In Canada, for example, some oilseed rape is now resistant to all three of the most widely used modern pesticides. The result is that farmers trying to grow other crops must now spray it with 2,4-D, a poison which persists in the environment.
The third issue, greatly over-emphasised by the press, is human health. There is, as yet, no evidence of adverse health effects caused directly by GM crops. This could be because there are no effects, or it could be because the necessary clinical trials and epidemiological studies, have, extraordinarily, still to be conducted. .." Read in full
June 8 ~ "....It is utterly, inescapably obvious that we don't need GM in the UK and in Europe..."
Observer "Our agriculture is already over industrialised and over productive. We have millions of acres 'set aside' for non-production. What possible benefits could accrue from another step down the road of 'efficiency'? The good news is that most of us are already persuaded by this argument - and by fear of GM safety, of which more in a moment. In Europe at least, democracy has said no to GM.
The only conceivably acceptable pro-GM argument, that it might help us feed the starving in the poorer parts of the world, turns out to be the most cynical and reckless of all. Far from offering hope and independence to Third World farmers and growers, GM represents the new economic enslavement of the Third World - neo-colonialism by proxy. Everybody who works at the hard end of the aid business will tell you that it is politics, war, poverty and drought, and most often pernicious combinations of these factors, that conspire to create famine. Which of them precisely can be cured by a genetically modified seed? I believe they don't yet have one that grows without water, or produces fruits that pacify dictators. ..."
June 8 ~ 'Knives out' for Meacher in row over GM crops
Telegraph "Michael Meacher's position as environment minister was at risk last night after he was accused by a leading member of the powerful pro-GM lobby of boycotting the field trials for the controversial plants....The GM lobby regard him as an obstacle to the development of such crops in Britain..."
June 6 ~ Percy Schmeiser, who found his fields heavily contaminated by Monsanto's GM canola volunteers
was ordered to pay fines and costs when taken to court by the company accusing him of stealing their patented seeds. Schmeiser broke down in tears in court; he has built up his own high-yielding canola variety by saving seeds for years, which has now been totally ruined by transgenic contamination.
A letter today in the Guardian (external link) from Elliot Long
"....Since Monsanto owns the patent, they own his canola, and there's nothing he can do about it. This is the scenario that opponents of GM foods are afraid of - and if not, they should be. Whatever the reasons the EU has used until now to block GM food production, it should be wary about giving up this status. I agree that consumers should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to buy GM food, but I wonder how long this choice will exist when the propagation of patented crops is governed only by the wind. "Baroness Dr. Susan Greenfield is one of the major architects of a set of 'guidelines' for science journalists and scientists, discouraging them from reporting unpublished findings and from questioning the safety of GM. The Royal Society, the House of Lords and a transmogrified PR company known as the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) funded by the food industry were the major bodies promoting the guidelines. Sir John Krebs, head of the Food Standards Agency, was also involved. According to this article from I-SIS, the guidelines formed part of a concerted campaign to suppress scientific dissent after Dr. Arpad Pusztai alerted the world to possible harmful effects of GM foods.
Food Standards Agency Hides Unanimous Findings Of Citizens' Jury That GM Crops Should Not Be Grown In The UK Now - GeneWatch UK Challenges The FSA To Come Cleanhttp://www.genewatch.org/Press%20Releases/pr42.htm GeneWatch UK has written to Dr John Bell, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency (1), asking why it has failed to reveal the unanimous finding of its Citizens Jury that (2):
"More time is needed to understand the long-term environmental implications of GM crops before farmers start to grow them in the UK
growing GM crops in the UK would be irreversible and might eventually reduce choice". This part of the Jury's verdict, only revealed in a report circulated to witnesses yesterday, was excluded from the FSA's Press Release on 7th April announcing the results and headlined "FSA Citizens' Jury says GM food should be available to buy in the UK". Dr John Bell, in a debate with Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch's Director, on the BBC programme 'You and Yours' on 8th April also failed to refer to this finding (4).
"I have written to Dr John Bell to ask why the FSA was so selective in its representation of the verdict of its Citizens' Jury. The imminent decision on the commercial growing of GM crops in the country is of great importance and the views of the public should be represented fully," said Dr Mayer. "The FSA seems to be more interested in spin than full presentation of the facts".
"I gave evidence to the Citizens' Jury in good faith and am disturbed that the findings are being distorted. This selective presentation of the verdict undermines all the hard work and effort the Jury put into its deliberations. The Jury was unanimous that GM crops should not be grown in the UK at present and split on whether GM foods should be available to buy in the shops. Why did the FSA headline only the majority and not all the unanimous findings?" said Dr Mayer. - ends -
June 5 ~ When someone asked if anyone in Govt. would listen, the facilitator replied "Margaret Beckett said she will respond and I'm taking her at her word".
We have been sent this report from the GM Nation public debate in Birmingham. "My feeling was that the whole thing was a charade to give us the impression that the public's views counted. This was summed up by one of the reporters. The Prime Minister is in favour of GM and the majority of the public is against. What assurances can you give us that our views will not be ignored as they were before the Iraq War?" This was greeted by loud applause...."
"Farm Scale Evaluations (FSEs) of GM crops in the UK have been called fraudulent..
"..because they compared a commercially-grown non-GM crop with a GM one grown to maximise wildlife rather than yield. The GM crops were grown with the minimum possible amount of herbicides to maximise the amount of wild plants (weeds) - whereas in America the farmers growing these same crops spray them more often and with a range of herbicides in order to kill the weeds and maintain yields.
Related research at Brooms Barn in Suffolk was widely criticised for similar inadequacies and its results were dismissed by the RSPB and the Government's own Chief Scientist as inconclusive." (See GM pros and cons)
June 4 ~ "What is not explained is that children do not suffer from vitamin A deficiency because rice contains too little vitamin A, but because they eat little else besides rice.
A child would need to eat about 7kg a day of cooked golden rice - about 20 bowlfuls - to obtain the required amount of vitamin A." "The UK public should not be duped into accepting GM in the name of developing countries. Hunger can only be addressed by tackling poverty and inequality. GM does not provide a magic solution and its expansion is more likely to benefit rich corporations than poor people. " Guardian today
June 4 ~ A farmer friend writes, "Some time ago, you highlighted an article on techniques of massaging public opinion in so called 'consultation meetings'
- with advice on how participants in the meetings could respond and deal with them. Can you remember? It was given a fancy name. With the highly dubious 'GM debate' in progress, now might be a very useful time to remind us of the techniques and what to do about them..."
Yes indeed. Its name is the Delphi technique. This is precisely the sort of public relations exercise in which we should expect to see its use. The technique an unethical method of achieving consensus on controversial topics. It requires well-trained professionals, known as facilitators or change agents who deliberately escalate tension among group members, pitting one faction against another to make a preordained viewpoint appear "sensible," while making opposing views appear ridiculous.
June 3/4 ~ Western Morning News publishes 2 opposing views on GM
They are worth looking at side by side - we notice that the "pro" article, by Biotech expert Bernard Marantelli, relies on the Brooms Barn research - criticised by farm as fraudulent, and on "golden rice". But see Jeremy Rifkin's article below: "...The biotech industry has been singing the praises of the "miracle" rice for years, despite articles in scientific journals that say it simply doesn't work. To convert beta-carotene into vitamin A the body requires sufficient body protein and fat. Undernourished children lack the body protein necessary for the conversion."
Bush's Evangelizing About Food Chills European HeartsThe Fight Over GM Crops Exposes the Weaknesses of Globalization by Jeremy Rifkin (Guardian)
".... The White House has made a bad situation worse by suggesting that European opposition to GM food is tantamount to imposing a death sentence on millions of starving people in the third world. Denying poor farmers in developing countries a European market for GM food, says the White House, gives them no choice but to grow non-GM food and lose the commercial advantages that go hand-in-hand with GM food crops. President Bush's remarks on the many benefits of GM food appear more like a public relations release than a reasoned political argument.
Hunger in the third world is a complex phenomenon not likely to be reversed by the introduction of GM crops. First, 80% of undernourished children in the developing world live in countries with food surpluses. The hunger problem has more to do with the way arable land is utilized.
Today, 21% of the food grown in the developing world is destined for animal consumption. In many developing countries, more than a third of the grain is now being grown for livestock. The animals, in turn, will be eaten by the world's wealthiest consumers in the northern industrial countries. The result is that the world's richest consumers eat a diet high in animal protein, while the poorest people on earth are left with little land to grow food grain for their own families. And, even the land that is available is often owned by global agribusiness interests, further aggravating the plight of the rural poor. The introduction of GM food crops does nothing to change this fundamental reality. ..."
June 3 ~ The Independent Science Panel on GM Final Report
(See ISIS report) "Dozens of prominent scientists from seven countries, spanning the disciplines of agroecology, agronomy, biomathematics, botany, chemical medicine, ecology, histopathology, microbial ecology, molecular genetics, nutritional biochemistry, physiology, toxicology and virology, joined forces to launch themselves as an Independent Science Panel on GM at a public conference, attended by UK environment minister Michael Meacher and 200 other participants, in London on 10 May 2003.
The conference coincided with the publication of a draft report, The Case for a GM-free Sustainable World, calling for a ban on GM crops to make way for all forms of sustainable agriculture. This authoritative report, billed as "the strongest, most complete dossier of evidence" ever compiled on the problems and hazards of GM crops as well as the manifold benefits of sustainable agriculture, is being finalised for release 15 June 2003...."
June 3 ~ NFU Mutual refuse to insure against GM contamination
NFU Mutual says it will not underwrite potential losses for organic or conventional farmers even if the technology gets the go-ahead, claiming it would be "irresponsible to provide insurance when working in the dark". See Western Morning News (external link)
June 3 ~ GM: " Franz Fischler's suggestion (of "co-existence") - that each European nation creates its own voluntary code and that farmers voluntarily tell their neighbours if they are growing GM crops - was widely ridiculed.Article in Western Morning News Such "co-existence" has failed expensively in the USA and Canada on many occasions. But what are the supposed benefits for which we are expected to pay this price?
...There are still only four GM crops of any commercial significance - soya, maize, canola and cotton. There was no evidence that GM increased overall yields. Africa's food and agriculture spokesmen and western aid charities agree that GM crops are irrelevant to solving world hunger. Only one nation in Africa (South Africa) has chosen to commercialise any GM crops. In India, GM cotton has failed catastrophically and there is fear that a major GM cotton project will clear up to 20,000,000 cotton smallholders off their land to make way for vast automated farms that employ few people and only benefit the richest farmers.
ActionAid recently campaigned against a GM coffee designed to do away with the need to employ the 60,000,000 coffee pickers who work in many of the world's 50 poorest nations. Farmers' unions from India to the Philippines to Brazil have organised the destruction of GM crop trial sand protests against Monsanto, while African farmers at the Earth Summit issued a joint declaration against GM crops.
Farm Scale Evaluations (FSEs) of GM crops in the UK have been called fraudulent because they compared a commercially-grown non-GM crop with a GM one grown to maximise wildlife rather than yield. ...." More See farm critique -- Broom Barns' GM sugar beet research
June 3 ~ "There has to be a genuine debate. The Government must not spin its way to a decision it has already reached before that debate has taken place"
press release from Shadow DEFRA Secretary David Lidington says: "The public deserves a clear scientific assessment of the environmental consequences of allowing GM crops to be grown in their country. It would be quite wrong for Ministers to sweep those issues under the carpet with a poorly advertised 'national debate', and then press ahead without even waiting for the results of its own field trials." "As for GM food, it's a matter of consumer rights. Customers have the right to know if the food they are buying has GM ingredients. That means a clear, honest system of labelling."
June 2 ~"It's obscure. It's small scale. It's been starved of funds. It has not been nationally advertised. In fact, it hasn't been advertised at all. You could be forgiven for thinking the Government doesn't want you to know about it."
The Independent today "Yet this is the National GM Debate. Starting tomorrow, it will be the only official chance people will have to make their views known over whether genetically modified crops should be commercially grown in Britain.....One of the crops intended for Britain, Bayer's GM fodder maize, already has its EU approval. Under current Brussels law, the only way Britain could now prevent its commercial use would be to find new evidence of harm either to people or the environment.
The farm-scale trials could provide this; if they do, commercialisation of GM may be prevented. But if they do not, sometime this autumn the Government is likely to give the go-ahead for the GM age to begin in our countryside.
But tomorrow it is finally going ahead, and people can have their say on one of the most important decisions that will ever be taken about the environment in Britain.
Whether or not the Government takes heed is another question"
June 2 ~ GM - the arguments
Some of the main arguments for and against GM
June 2 ~ "GM critics are convinced that Mr Blair and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, are anxious to appease the US biotechnology industry
which wishes to establish the commercial planting of GM crops throughout the EU. The US claims it loses £188 million a year due to the EU ban on the technology." The Times Ministers briefed to back off GM crops by Valerie Elliot
June 2 ~ One chance to voice a protest, but will ministers listen?
Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor of the Independent Extract: "Britons will get their first and perhaps only chance to tell the Government what they think of genetically modified crops and food from tomorrow with the start of the national GM debate. .... in conferences, meetings and discussions across Britain - if enough people take part.
The debate has been unadvertised, only modestly funded and, some critics allege, organised with great reluctance by the Government. For an issue of this magnitude, its public profile is extremely low. ..... one of the main political problems with the GM issue, the "democratic deficit". .... The debate will be launched tomorrow by Professor Malcolm Grant.... a planning expert who is a former professor of land economy at Cambridge University,... has promised that he will take account of public opinion in his report to the Government. It is far from clear, however, that the Government will take it into account when making its decision. Asked if she would do so, Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who is believed to be a strong supporter of GM food, merely says that she will "respond publicly" to Professor Grant's report.
June 1 ~ "The Bush case is either fuelled by Machiavellian concerns or deep humanitarian motives, depending on how you interpret the man who leads the world's most powerful nation...."
(From the Sunday Herald) ".....Professor Jean Ziegler, the United Nations' special rapporteur on the right to food, recently said: 'I am against the theory of the multinational corporations who say if you are against hunger you must be for genetically modified organisms.'
Ziegler, professor of sociology at the Sorbonne and Geneva University and the man who famously exposed how Swiss bankers grew rich on Nazi gold looted from Jews, added: 'There is plenty of natural, normal, good food in the world to nourish the whole of humanity.'
However, the GM food-African starvation issue is becoming one of the great moral dilemmas of the early 21st century. US President George Bush, prior to his current visit to Europe for the G8 summit, accused European nations of impeding US efforts to reduce hunger in Africa by opposing the use of GM crops. 'Our partners in Europe have blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears,' Bush said. 'This has caused many African nations to avoid investing in bio-technologies for fear that their products will be shut out of European markets.'
The Bush case is either fuelled by Machiavellian concerns or deep humanitarian motives, depending on how you interpret the man who leads the world's most powerful nation....."
June 1 ~ Ministers try to stop labels for GM food
"MINISTERS want to kill off plans by Brussels to bring in a comprehensive regime for labelling genetically modified food. They fear "negative fall-out" from Washington if they back the consumer friendly policy, leaked cabinet papers reveal. The documents, including a memo from Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, show that ministers are desperate not to antagonise America, the world's largest producer of GM crops....."(Sunday Times)
May 28 2003 ~ Egypt Withdraws from WTO GM Complaint - FOE press release
Attempts by the United States Administration to force Europe to accept GM food and crops received a serious blow after Egypt announced that it would not be part of a WTO challenge to the European Union's de facto moratorium on approving new GM licenses. The Egyptian Government says that it has taken its decision because it recognises "the need to preserve adequate and effective consumer and environmental protection."
May 27 ~ "eligibility to receive aid under the program may be affected by a country's acceptance of Genetically Modified Organisms"
"WASHINGTON - A major international environmental group is calling on Washington to stop using hunger in Africa as a marketing tool for genetically modified (GM) crops produced by U.S. agribusiness.
In a report released Friday, Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) charged that the U.S. government, including the Congress, was increasingly making acceptance of GM crops by developing countries a condition of U.S. aid and food donations.
The report follows the announcement earlier this month that Washington is filing a formal complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the European Union (EU) in order to overturn a moratorium on GM food crops in Europe, and a major row that pitted the U.S. against the EU and several African countries over the shipment of GM maize as emergency food aid to Southern Africa to the help the region cope with a crippling drought..."
U.S. Exploiting Hunger to Promote GM Crops, Group Charges by Jim Lobe Oneworld.net May 26 2003
May 27 ~ Scientists urge close scrutiny of GM crops' impactBy Robert Uhlig, Farming Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph
"We advised the Government almost five years ago that it needed to carry out a review of the way in which the environmental impact of GM crops is monitored in the long term, but it still hasn't taken the necessary action. If the decision is taken to allow commercial planting of GM crops, it is essential that regulators in the UK and EU monitor the environmental impact to pick up any potentially beneficial or harmful effects over a long period. It will not be enough to make best estimates at the start and then assume that everything will turn out as expected." Professor Patrick Bateson, vice-president and biological secretary of the Royal Society
May 22 2003 ~ EU Parliament votes for stricter GM labellingFrom the Friends of the Earth website (external link)
" Brussels, 22 May.
The European Parliament Environment Committee today voted for stronger laws governing GM labeling and traceability. The vote, one week after the United States started a WTO complaint against the EU, paves the way for better consumer choice and action to protect organic and non-GM farmers from genetic contamination. The vote by the Environment Committee called for stricter rules on the labelling and traceability of GMOs and for legally binding rules to secure non- genetically modified (GM) agriculture and non-GM food in Europe. ..."
Ethical or moral reasons do not countMay 20 2003 Guardian "Meacher admits GM crops threaten organic output"
Mr Meacher is all too aware that "....Though consumers might be opposed to GM crops .. it was impossible under EU rules for Britain to stop them being grown commercially, unless it found health or environmental evidence they were harmful. Ethical or moral reasons did not count. "
"Mr Meacher said the government was awaiting a report from an advisory body, the agriculture and environment biotechnology commission, on how to make it possible to combine GM, organic and conventional farming. This included the issues of the distance between crops, to avoid cross contamination by pollen, and compensation for farmers whose crops might be made unsaleable as a result of their proximity to GM crops. .."
"..the move to set up an Independent Science Panel (ISP) was precipitated by the interview with (Michael) Meacher, published in the March issue of The Ecologist
in which Meacher suggested that GM technology is not necessary to solve world hunger and could prove dangerous over the longer term, something that the scientists have been saying for years.
The twenty-five strong ISP on GM was officially launched 10 May in King's College, London University, at a special public conference, GM Crops: Do We Need Them? Are they Safe? The launch coincided with the release of their much awaited draft report, The Case for a GM-Free Sustainable World , published on the ISIS website (www.i-sis.org.uk), which calls for banning GM crops to make way for all forms of sustainable agriculture.
The mayor will oppose commercial or experimental release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment in London
London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, has included the following statement in London's Biodiversity Strategy: "The mayor will oppose commercial or experimental release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment in London". The Greens in the Assembly are now lobbying determinedly for the Mayor to declare London a GM-free zone (2may20isp)
GM trade war(From Friends of the Earth website)
The US Government has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding the European Union's policy on genetically modified (or GM) food. It follows heavy lobbying by big US-based biotechnology multinationals like Monsanto. ..... the US will argue that the EU reluctance to take GM foods is a illegal barrier to free trade. And given the secretive WTO's pro-business bias - its likely to agree. Friends of the Earth believes that it's just the latest Bush government-led attempt to bulldoze over other countries' rights to protect their people and the environment. .....
Email your US Ambassador
GM crops may be given go-aheadPress Association Monday May 19, 2003 8:48 AM
Licences for growing genetically-modified crops in Britain may be approved despite public opposition, the Government has indicated. Environment Minister Michael Meacher said that refusing a licence for the GM crops might not be an option under European Union legislation.
A public consultation exercise on GM crops is due to begin in a fortnight's time. Although trials have not come up with evidence that the crops are harmful, opinion polls suggest that fewer than 15% support GM.
"We have to act in accordance with the law," Mr Meacher told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme. "And the law at the present moment is set down in the EU directive, and the key and sole criteria for taking action in regard to GM crops is: are they a harm, a risk to health or the environment?"
The United States administration has announced that it is bringing a case in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the European Union over genetically modified food.Friends of the Earth Press Release May 13
The US has been joined by Australia, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Uruguay. The US will argue that the current EU moratorium on the commercial development of GM foods is an "illegal" trade barrier under WTO rules. But environment pressure group Friends of the Earth is warning the move is the latest in a series of attempts by the US to block other countries' decisions to protect their environment, human health and social standards. The move could bring the full force of WTO sanctions to bear in order to force GM food into European markets regardless of the wishes of European consumers. The US is likely to attempt to prevent any effective labelling of food derived from GM ingredients.
Genewatch has written to the FSA complaining about the way it presented the results of a citizen's jury into GM foods.Farmers Weekly Interactive article"Genewatch said that the FSA had failed to report that the jury had unanimously agreed that GM crops should not be grown in the UK yet. The jury said that more time was needed to understand the long-term environmental implications of GM crops and growing them would be irreversible. Director Sue Mayer said this conclusion should have been highlighted by the FSA...." May 12 2003
Unravelling the DNA Myth
"the biotechnology industry is not required to provide even the most basic information about the actual composition of the transgenic plants to the regulatory agencies. No tests, for example, are required to show that the plant actually produces a protein with the same amino acid sequence as the original bacterial protein. Yet this information is the only way to confirm that the transferred gene does in fact yield the theory-predicted product. Moreover, there are no required studies based on detailed analysis of the molecular structure and biochemical activity of the alien gene and its protein product in the transgenic commercial crop. Given that some unexpected effects may develop very slowly, crop plants should be monitored in successive generations as well. None of these essential tests are being performed, and billions of transgenic plants are now being grown with only the most rudimentary knowledge about the resulting changes in their composition. Without detailed, ongoing analyses of the transgenic crops, there is no way of knowing if hazardous consequences might arise. Given the failure of the central dogma, there is no assurance that they will not. The genetically engineered crops now being grown represent a massive uncontrolled experiment whose outcome is inherently unpredictable. The results could be catastrophic....."
The National Trust is to ban its 2,000 tenant farmers from growing genetically modified (GM) crops on its land.
The decision will be a serious blow to the GM lobby. With 3m members representing much of middle England, the trust's move will worry ministers who must soon decide whether to allow the planting of commercial GM crops.Times May 11 2003
May 10/11 ~ ....a monopoly on the word "organic" itself, making it illegal for independent producers to adopt higher standards and create their own labels.
In the light of news that DEFRA is now inviting comments "on the future format and content of the standards for organic food production in the UK, following the planned replacement of the UK Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS) with new arrangements for implementing the European Community requirements for organic food and farming " http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/organic-compend/index.htm we are reminded of Michael Manville's 2001 article: "Welcome to the Spin Machine" Extract: "...In 1998, on the day before Thanksgiving (one of the year's slowest news days), the U.S. Department of Agriculture released draft standards for organic quality. The standards were part of an effort begun eight years before, when Congress had passed the National Organic Foods Production Act, officially recognizing organic agriculture. As part of that law, the USDA had appointed a National Organic Advisory Panel to determine what the government definition of "organic" food should be.
The definition, as it turned out, would be broad. Observers, and particularly organic growers, were stunned to find that the USDA had almost completely ignored the recommendations of its own panel, and instead drafted guidelines that eviscerated the existing benchmarks for organic quality. Under the proposed measures, genetically altered foods, irradiated food, foods grown on fields fertilized by sewage sludge, crops doused in pesticide, and beef from taken from perpetually confined farm animals could all be called organic. Also dropped into the guidelines was a clause that gave the USDA a monopoly on the word "organic" itself, making it illegal for independent producers to adopt higher standards and create their own labels."
DEFRA briefing to MEPs claims thresholds below one per cent are unenforceable.
(May 9 2003) But the Government's own Central Science Laboratory has confirmed that a limit of detection of 0.1 per cent is verifiable...http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/government_urges_meps_to_v.html
The Government is asking UK Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to vote in favour of the GM contamination of our food and against the widespread labelling of food containing traces of GM materials, Friends of the Earth revealed today. The advice comes ahead of the Government's 'public debate' on GM foods.
Independent Science Panel for a GM Free Sustainable World
"In a surprising move, dozens of prominent scientists have joined forces to form an Independent Science Panel (ISP) on GM, to counteract what they see to be a concerted campaign by the government and the scientific establishment in the UK to promote GM under the guise of 'sound' science...." See Press Release from I-sis.org.uk
Scientist who pressed GM panic button raises new food health fearsSunday Times May 4th 2003
Pusztai brings together all the scientific studies carried out into the safety of GM foods and subjects them to rigorous statistical and scientific scrutiny.
This weekend he said: "We found that there are only a few such studies and they show many problems. In particular, they illustrate that GM foods have never been publicly tested for their safety and wholesomeness. There is increasing research to show they may actually be very unsafe."
According to the latest MORI poll, 64 per cent of people living in Devon and Cornwall voted against GM, while only seven per cent were in favour.Aura Sabadus in the Western Morning News 02/05/03
"...Sceptics feared that in the light of Whitehall reports Tony Blair and Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett may already have made up their minds in favour, preparing to force the issue through. But campaigners' faith in a balanced debate has been restored after unpublished data from MORI showed that the Government will have to struggle to convince the public to back the commercialisation of GM. Robert Vint, Totnes-based director of Genetic Food Alert, said the Government had to accept the public's determination to reject the introduction of the crops.
He said: "It's already clear that the majority of people don't want to see GM crops grown in this country. The figures nationwide, and particularly the percentage in the Westcountry, showing an overwhelming opposition to the technology highlights the fact that Whitehall was wrong when claiming that public resistance to GM was declining..."
Far from being an answer to world hunger, genetic engineering could be a major contributor to starvation."Engineering Hunger" The Ecologist
"...There are currently more than a dozen patents on genetically engineered 'terminator' technology. These seeds are engineered by biotech companies to produce a sterile seed after a single growing season. This ensures that farmers cannot save their seed and that they will have to buy from corporations every season instead. Does anyone believe that the solution to world hunger is to make the crops of the world sterile? With more than half of the world's farmers relying on saved seeds for their harvest, imagine the mass starvation that would result should the sterility genes escape from the engineered crops and contaminate non--genetically engineered local crops, unintentionally sterilising them. According to a study by Martha Crouch of Indiana University, such a chilling scenario is a very real possibility. ..."from Fatal Harvest: the tragedy of industrial agriculture, edited by Andrew Kimbrell, distributed by Island Press, www.islandpress.org.
Blair faces huge resistance to his support for GM cropsBy Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor of the Independent (28 April 2003)
"....Margaret Beckett and Tony Blair are both known supporters of GM technology and some reports from Whitehall have suggested that they have made up their minds in favour, and are prepared to force through the issue. But unpublished data from the pollsters Mori shows that they will struggle to convince the public they are right. Although the GM issue has faded from the headlines compared with three or four years ago, opponents continue to outnumber supporters solidly, by four to one, with 56 per cent of the population against, and only 14 per cent in favour.
GROWING GM CROPS IS AN IRREVERSIBLE ACT OF ECOLOGICAL FOLLYAn article by Susan George on genetically modified organisms comes from Le Monde diplomatique
"the ultimate aim of effectively controlling farming around the world...In the US, five firms led by Monsanto control almost 90% of GM seed, together with associated pesticides and herbicides. And they will stop at nothing to silence their opponents. ...
The fake persuaders
"...On November 29 last year, two researchers at the University of California, Berkeley published a paper in Nature magazine, which claimed that native maize in Mexico had been contaminated, across vast distances, by GM pollen. The paper was a disaster for the biotech companies seeking to persuade Mexico, Brazil and the European Union to lift their embargos on GM crops.George Monbiot Tuesday May 14, 2002 The Guardian
Even before publication, the researchers knew their work was hazardous. One of them, Ignacio Chapela, was approached by the director of a Mexican corporation, who first offered him a glittering research post if he withheld his paper, then told him that he knew where to find his children..."
Terrorism As CannibalismVandana Shiva
"The violator becomes the violated, the violated becomes the violator in the perverse world of patents on genes, seeds and living material. Such perverse laws are transforming agriculture into police states and farmers into criminals. They are the invisible cages which are holding humans captive to market processes and corporate rule. The Privatisation of water is another threat to human freedom....."
"Welcome to the Spin Machine"Michael Manville
"...Biotech is the planet's best hope for supplying food to a growing population. Genetic engineering can let us make plants that will grow in deserts, that will have vaccines built into them, that will be fortified with extra vitamins. While we waste time debating labeling, the poor starve, and if you oppose genetically-modified food, then you oppose feeding the world, too. So good luck sleeping at night.
Good luck indeed. Before plunging into a sea of guilt, we should first figure out just who is sending us these fine missives. BSMG is, as my first return email noted, one of the world's larger public relations firms. Its regular clients include Monsanto, Dow, Baxter Bayer, the Grocery Manufacturers of America (an ardently pro-biotech group) and the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America. In addition, in March of 2000, Monsanto, Dow, Aventis, Novartis, DuPont and BASF entered a multiyear contract with BSMG, for the purpose of taking American doubts about biotech and nipping them in the bud. The contract was originally signed for $50 million, but the companies expressed a willingness to spend up to $250 million to get their message out..."
The knowledge of the poor is being converted into the property of global corporations, creating a situation where the poor will have to pay for the seeds and medicines they have evolved and have used to meet their own needs for nutrition and health care. Such false claims to creation are now the global norm, with the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement of World Trade Organisation forcing countries to introduce regimes that allow patenting of life forms and indigenous knowledge.
Vandana Shiva Reith Lecture 2000
"Monsanto sues farmers who use seeds derived from plants grown from its own patented GM seeds instead of buying fresh supplies each new planting season. Canadian and American farmers are being ruined when they fall foul of this patent trap. ActionAid, Greenpeace and other organisations have accused Washington of using GM food both as a Trojan horse for aggressive GM seed companies like Monsanto and DuPont and also as subsidies to US farmers whose surplus GM crops could not otherwise find a market. Monsanto, trigger hair-ready to leap to litigation, already controls a staggering 91% of the world's GM seed markets. " Sunday Herald
Friends of the Earth - Real Food Campaign
Greenpeace has created a guide to help people get involved in the debate. It highlights the crucial issues the public and government must consider before any decision on commercialising GM crops is made. Download the GM Public Debate Toolkit.
Biotech Family Trees - corporatewatch.org.uk
- Re - "Response to Pusztai and apology", Dr. Arpad Putzai
- Dr. Arpad Putzai response to Morton claim that GMO foods are well tested.
- Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine, Lancet, October 16, 1999
- Pusztai responds to the Royal Society, Press Release, May 18, 1999