29 June 2006
GM-free intentions defended
The Mercury (Tasmania), 29 June 2006
TASMANIA must maintain its freedom from genetically modified technology or risk valuable agricultural exports, the Primary Industry Minister has told a Budget estimates hearing.
Rowallan MLC Greg Hall asked Minister David Llewellyn whether the state was considering a policy of coexistence between genetically modified and traditional crops, as part of a national review of GM technology.
Mr Llewellyn said he could not support coexistence as it had major ramifications for Tasmania.
"We are positioning Tasmania as GM-free and we don't want to fall in with those who would target less-than discerning buyers," Mr Llewellyn said this week.
"There is a push at a national level to move the issue on by saying coexistence policies should be adopted by each state. I don't believe it's a viable alternative. I don't want us to lose our competitive advantage."
Mr Llewellyn said the managing director of a major Japanese importer of Tasmanian products said if the state moved down the GM line, it would cut its ties with the state.
Mr Hall said the potential for losses to Tasmania from the moratorium on genetically modified organisms had to be fully assessed by Mr Llewellyn.
"I urge the Minister to keep an open mind on GMOs and put Tasmania's future prosperity above politics in the lead-up to making a decision when the moratorium expires," he said.
But Mr Llewellyn said there was nothing stopping research, it was the application in the environment that the Government was concerned about.
28 June 2006
Patented GM Crops: Making Seed Saving Illegal?
The African Executive, 28 June - 05 July 2006.
By Teresa Anderson, The Gaia Foundation, UK
Among much talk of the future of GM crops in Africa, among the claims of higher yields, pest resistance and solutions to hunger, and the acknowledgement of the risks to health, environment and markets, there is a consistent and glaring omission from the GM debate. While ministers, scientists and policy makers talk of Biosafety frameworks, and the costs and benefits of GMOs, all seem blind to the issue which is of most concern to African farmers: the issue of patented GM crops and how this will affect farmersí rights to save seed.
GM crops are patented by multinational companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta. Patenting, or claiming of intellectual property rights (IPRs) means that farmers who buy GM seeds are forbidden from seed saving by law, and must buy new seed from the company each season. GM crops are significantly more expensive than conventional or hybrid crops. In India, for example, Monsanto's Bt cotton can be three times the price of conventional cotton seed.
The implications of patented GM seeds for African farmers should not be underestimated. Saved seed is the one resource that the poorest depend upon to carry them through the year. If they are forbidden to save their seed and must pay up to triple the costs of buying new seed each season, the costs of growing food will become prohibitive. The claims of lowered production costs do not stand up to scrutiny. Neither are the yields of GM crops sufficient to recover the costs.
It is ironic (or inappropriate) that while GM purports to help to solve hunger and poverty in Africa, it may instead place an impossible burden on the poorest farmers, the very people at whom this technology is supposedly aimed.
Very few African farmers are aware that patented GM crops will make seed saving illegal. Even policy makers seem largely unaware or uninterested in this fact. This glaring omission needs to be addressed, to help governments and farmers make policy from an informed position.
International NGOs working on food security issues are in agreement that patented GM crops present a serous threat to farmers and food rights. Organisations such as Action Aid , Christian Aid , Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN) and even the UK Government's own Commission on Intellectual Property Rights all warn of the negative consequences to seed saving, food sovereignty and farmers' rights should patented GM crops be accepted in developing countries. However, these warnings have been consistently ignored by the majority of the media and policymakers in Africa.
According to GRAIN, the patenting of crops "is an attempt to privatize Africa's innovative practices and biological resources and reorganize its seed markets for the benefit of foreign corporations. Africaís farmers and the abundant knowledge and plant diversity they have nurtured are bound to be trampled over in the process, threatening Africaís already fragile food security."
"Africa's farmers, like all small farmers around the world, will be affected most directly by any consequences. Social and economic risks from GM crops are equally weighty. They will increase dependence on outside technologies, marginalize farmers from R&D, and consequently exacerbate the social and economic difficulties already affecting Africa's small farmers."
Monsanto is evidently serious about ensuring that no-one saves their GM seed, and that farmers are forced to buy from them each season. The Center for Food Safety report "Monsanto vs Farmers" documents Monsanto's lawsuits against American farmers, revealing thousands of investigations, nearly 100 lawsuits and numerous bankruptcies.
"CFS found that Monsanto, the world's leading agricultural biotechnology company, has used heavy-handed investigations and ruthless prosecutions that have fundamentally changed the way many American farmers farm. The result has been nothing less than an assault on the foundations of farming practices and traditions that have endured for centuries in this country and millennia around the world, including one of the oldest, the right to save and replant crop seed."
According to CFS, "the largest recorded judgment made thus far in favor of Monsanto as a result of a farmer lawsuit is $3,052,800.00. Total recorded judgments granted to Monsanto for lawsuits amount to $15,253,602.82. Farmers have paid a mean of $412,259.54 for cases with recorded judgments." However this does not tell the full story, as many farmers have chosen to settle out of court and pay Monsanto rather than undergo trial. They are obliged to sign confidentiality agreements - which mean they are forbidden to talk about their experiences.
As disturbing as this may already be, the implications for patented GM crops go further than just forbidden seed saving. When Monsanto patents a GM crop, they are actually patenting the gene from a different species which they have transferred into the crop (e.g. the pesticide-producing gene from a bacteria, which is inserted into maize and cotton, to make Bt maize and Bt cotton.) Should a GM crop cross-pollinate with a neighboring crop through the movement of wind, insects, birds, or accidental seed mixing, the neighbouring harvest would be likely to carry the patented gene also. Monsanto could then claim that the neighbouring farm has infringed their patent. The farmer who was unintentionally contaminated by somebody else's GM crop, would be breaking the law if he saved his seed and planted it.
There is a well-known case where a Canadian farmerís canola (oilseed rape) fields were accidentally contaminated by pollen from someone elseís GM crops. Monsanto came onto his land to test his crops, and found that their patented gene had contaminated the canola that he had been developing for 50 years. They sued him. Percy Schmeiser is one of the few farmers who chose to fight his case in the courts, but according to Canadian patent law, he was found guilty of patent infringement, even though it was clear that there was nothing he could have done to prevent the contamination. Practically his only option to avoid breaking the law, was to stop growing his own seed, and buy Monsanto's GM seed himself.
North American law on patents and intellectual property rights is particularly favorable to Monsanto's interests, but currently not all African countries have similar patent and intellectual property laws on seed. This fact might, for a time, persuade African policymakers that they have nothing to fear. However, there is constant international pressure on countries to implement national IPR laws that are consistent with treaties such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), which allow for protection of seed companies' rights, but do not protect the rights of farmers to save seed.
South Africa is the only African country that currently allows GM crops to be grown commercially. Complementing their GMO Act (which has been criticized for facilitating GMO acceptance instead of implementing careful regulation), South Africaís patent laws protect Monsanto's interests and forbids the saving of GM seeds. South African farmers growing GM crops must sign a "Technology Agreement" that signs away their rights to save seed. Even illiterate farmers have been signing these agreements, although there is doubt that many of them understand what they are agreeing to.
Other African countries are currently in the process of debating GM acceptance, and develop their Biosafety laws for GM crop regulation. Parallel to this, foreign companies and institutions are calling for IPR legislation. There is chance that given sufficient influence from industry, new laws may be developed that will make seed saving illegal.
One country that chose to accept GM crops, whilst refusing to adapt patent law to meet Monsantoís wishes, was Argentina. Monsanto's GM Roundup Ready Soya, developed to be resistant to Roundup herbicide, entered the Argentine market at a time when the country had decided to focus its agriculture towards soya for exports. By subsidizing the Roundup, not patenting the crops, and allowing extensive contamination, GM soya took over 95% of the soya market. The social costs of this takeover were considerable -the herbicide-resistant technology was favorable to the largest Agribusiness farms whose farms expanded to tens of thousands of hectares, while hundreds of thousands of farming families were forced off the land to become unemployed in the cities.
Once Monsanto controlled the nation's soya economy in this way, they threatened to cut off the seed supply if the Argentine government did not implement patent law, help Monsanto to recoup their royalties, make GM seed saving illegal, and put an end to the black market. A government proposal for a "Technology Compensation Fund" that would levy a charge on farmers selling their soybean harvests, in order to return the equivalent of the royalty charges to the GM Company, is currently stuck in Congress due to resistance from farming groups. Now Monsanto's new strategy is to block exports when ships carrying exported soybeans arrive in a different country, until their demands for royalty payments are met. Argentina is currently planning to take legal action against Monsanto as the company blocks soya shipments to Spain from reaching the European Union.
The case of Argentina can also serve as a warning to African countries about how GM agriculture can grant a single company extensive control over a countryís food and seed supply. The fact that the Argentine government was willing to create the "Technology Compensation Fund" - essentially a new tax that would go directly into Monsantoís pocket - shows the political power that this control can afford.
Taken together, evidence suggests that GM companies like Monsanto and Syngenta are serious about enforcing their patent protection systems. They argue that they can only justify the many millions of dollars spent in developing GM crops, if they can ensure their continued profits. By patenting their seeds, charging high prices, and forbidding seed saving, they can certainly protect their own interests. But this will come at a heavy cost to farmers, particularly the poorest. Patented GM seeds present a significant threat to food security and livelihoods of the 80% of small farmers in Africa who use saved seed.
It is now time for policy makers to openly recognize and talk about the fact that GM crops are patented. They must consider whether such a system of agriculture will truly address the needs of the poor and hungry. Or will patented GM and illegal seed saving instead compromise Africaís food security, seed diversity, and the livelihoods of its farmers?
Austrian presidency fails to stop GMO approvals
EUOBSERVER, 28 June 2006. By Helena Spongenberg.
BRUSSELS - Austria's attempt at putting the thorny issue of genetically modified crops high on the EU agenda during its presidency failed as EU environment ministers only "exchanged views" at their last meeting before Finland takes over the rotating leadership.
Austria is one of the staunchest opponents of GM technology in the EU and is sticking to its own ban on modified plants within its territory.
Finland has no intention of discussing the issue during their six-month presidency starting next week, an EU official said.
The alpine country held a series of debates on the issue but these did not lead to any conclusions on GMOs in the EU at the last environment council under the Austrian presidency on Tuesday (27 June) in Luxembourg.
Greenpeace urged environment ministers to stop GMO authorisations and to develop instead detailed and legally binding procedures to ensure a proper evaluation of risks to health and biodiversity.
"Greenpeace urges Environment ministers to do their job, which is to ensure that the protection of the environment and public health are put ahead of the financial interests of a handful of agro-chemical companies," said Greenpeace campaigner Christoph Then in a statement.
European food security agency
The Austrian presidency noted that the ministers also exchanged views on the much criticised European Food Security Agency (EFSA) which plays a key role in the approval of new GMOs considered for cultivation or sale on the European market.
"It ignores major safety concerns raised across Europe and appears to protect the biotech industry rather then the public," said Adrian Bebb from Friends of the Earth.
He said even the European Commission did not know whether GM foods will cause allergies or cancer in the long term and what impacts on the environment of growing GM crops are.
Friends of the Earth Europe insists that member states, and not the Parma-based EU agency, should set the safety standards needed to protect their environment, farming industry and public from GM foods and crops.
Groups representing the European biotech industry, say EU member states and scientific bodies are already communicating closely with EFSA and that conclusions are based on scientific studies accepted worldwide.
But member states have so far never been able to agree on GMOs, which leaves it up to the commission to make the decision instead - the commission has so far approved all eight of them.
Five biotech food products are currently in the pipeline for approval by the commission for cultivation or sale, after member states could not agree on the GMOs, according to the executive office.
"We have bought together an overview of all EFSA GMO activities and outlined some new initiatives aimed at further developing and enhancing our co-operation," said the head of EFSA, Herman Koeter.
One EU official said it "does seem like EFSA recognises it could work better with member states' own food security agencies."
Flood risk prevention
While stuck on the GMO authorisations environment minister's agreed unanimously at the meeting to endorse a plan to combat floods.
EU member states will be required to identifying risk areas by 2012, which will be mapped out a year later, while flood risk management plans are set to be created by 2015.
The environment ministers also rubber-stamped draft regulation for the new and controversial EU chemicals law, REACH, which environmental and consumer groups fear is not enough to protect people and the environment from toxic chemicals.
Austrian environment minister Josef Proll said EU ministers had also agreed by a qualified majority to a new air quality directive. But the formal decision will only be taken in July because the European Parliament has postponed its first reading of the directive.
26 June 2006
Canadian farmer warns of GM 'plague'
The Irish Examiner, 26 June 2006. By Donal Hickey.
A CANADIAN farmer who was involved in a lengthy legal battle with the bio-tech giant Monsanto, has warned Ireland to beware of what he described as the 'new plague' of genetically modified foods.
Percy Schmeiser, now in his 70s, urged Ireland to stay GM-free, saying there was still time to learn from the experience of other countries.
Currently spending much of his time speaking to farmers and environmentalists, he addressed a meeting of the Growing Awareness group, in Clonakilty, Co Cork, last Wednesday.
Recently, the EPA gave permission to a German company, BASF, to conduct a five-year field trial on potatoes engineered for resistance to potato blight on a one-hectare site at Summerhill, Co Meath.
Mr Schmeiser, meanwhile, said there was no such thing as co-existence between natural plants and genetically modified plants, as was proven by what had happened to rape seed and soya bean, in Canada.
"You're talking about total destruction of biodiversity and heirloom seeds," he claimed.
"The seed will spread as it is not possible to contain pollen flow and seeds are also blown on the wind. It can be blown off trucks and farm equipment."
Mr Schmeiser told his audience that when such seed was used, yields dropped and the nutritional value of genetically altered crops was only about half that of organic crops.
"Genetically altered seeds also lead to a massive increase in the use of chemicals and the super weeds that develop are more powerful and toxic than anything we have ever seen before," he went on.
"Such seeds are also more difficult to control and spread quickly to urban areas, golf courses, cemeteries and other open spaces."
Mr Schmeiser's case was billed as a classic David-and-Goliath confrontation between a Saskatchewan family farmer and a corporate giant.
It was seen by some as a case of the rights of a farmer to continue a traditional way of farming, while others saw it a blatant attempt to take advantage of years of research and development of a better product, without paying for it.
For seven years, Mr Schmeiser argued that seeds from Monsanto's patented genetically modified canola (rapeseed) landed on his 1,400-acre farm near Bruno, east of Saskatoon, by accident.
Monsanto had altered the plant's genes to make the canola resistant to Roundup, a Monsanto weed killer. Monsanto patented the gene and the process of inserting it into the seed.
Farmers usually use seeds from one year's crop to plant the next year's crop. But when they buy Roundup Ready canola from Monsanto, they have to agree to buy new seed every year. They must also allow their lands to be inspected by Monsanto.
Monsanto says that's the only way they can recoup the money they've spent designing a better plant and the only way they can fund future research.
Mr Schmeiser, however, maintained big companies must not be allowed 'totally dominate' the seed business.
"There's a huge loss of rights to a farmer when his land becomes contaminated against his wishes and the corporate interests take over. The patent gives the corporate worlds more rights than the farmer has," he said.
"Farmers should be up in arms, but a lot of them don't realise what's going on. Farmers could lose their rights overnight to their seeds and plants."
He argued that a company can't patent a plant, relying heavily on a previous case involving the question of whether higher life forms can be patented.
Canada's highest court sided with Monsanto ó in a five to four ruling. The court, however, did agree with Mr Schmeiser that the plant is a higher life form and cannot be patented.
In the end, Mr Schmeiser called the legal battle a victory, in part because the court ruled that he would not have to pay Monsanto's legal costs.
"We did not expect this to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada," he said after the ruling. "We were fighting for the fundamental right of the farmer to save his seed and use it year after year."
20 June 2006
Comhhdháil feirmeoireachta ag éileamh cosciomlán ar bharra ghéinathraithe
Lá (Nuachtán Leaithúil na Gaeilge), 14 Meitheamh 2006.
Le Colm Ó Broin.
Ta gá le cosc iomlán ar bharra géinathraithe (GA) are fun na hÉireann de réir eahgraithe comhdháil feirmeoireachta a bheidh ar siúl ag an deireadh seachtaine.
Dar le Michael O'Callaghan ó Éire Saor ó GA (GM Free Ireland), ni féidir le barra GA agus barra neamh GA maireachtáil le chéile sa tir toisc go bhfuil sé dodhéanta traséilliú ag an sheachaint idir síolta an dá shagas barr.
"Deir na comhlachtai bith-thailmhaíochata agus Coimisúon na hEorpa nach bhfuil baol ann go dtruailleodh barra GA gnáthbharra nó barra orgánacha ach nil sá sin flor ar chor ar bith."
Beith an chomdhsáil, 'Green Ireland Conference', ar siúl i gCaislean Chill Chainnigh, Deá hAoine - Dsá Domhnaigh seo chugainn, agus beidh aoi-chaiteorsí ó Éirinn, an India, an Fhrainc, an Bhreatain, Ceanada agus Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá i láthair.
Dar le O'Callaghan, tá gá le cosc uile-Éireannach are bharra GA agus ní leor cosc sa Phoblacht nó sa Tuaisceart amháin.
"Murach cosc a bheith ann ó thuaidh, mar shampla, bheath na siolta GA are fud na tíre tar éis cúpla bliain. Ni féidir and traséilliú a stopadh.
"Ma tá barra GA ag feirmeoir ar thaobh amháin de chnoc, aistreoidh siad go dti an feirmeoir ar an taobh eile den chnoc ar an ngaoth nó ar éin nó beacha, sar if bhfad.
"Bionn paitinn ag na chomlachtaí talmhaiochta ar na síolta agus má théann siad isteach i do thalamh, is leis an gcomhlacht na barra a thagann uathu.
"Tharla sé seo do dhuine de na haoi-chaonteorí ag an gcomhdh&eaacute;il, Percy Schmeiser ó Cheanada, agus thug an comhlacht a bhi i gceist chun na cúirte é agus chuir ina leith go raibh se ag úsáid na síolta go midhleathach.
"Chinn an Chúirt Uachtarach i gCeanada gur leis an gcomhalcht na barra."
Beidh an gníomhaá cáiliúl frith-bhochtanais ón India, Vandana Shiva, ag an gcomhdháil, chomh maith le Deborah Koons Garcia, stiúrthóir an scannáin, The Future of Food, agus bean chéile le Jerry Garcia, iarcheoltóir de chuid an ghrúpa The Grateful Dead.
Tá na heagraithe ag iarraidh ar lucht feirmeoireachta, bia agus turasóireachta freastal are on gcomhdháil chun íomhá agus branda 'glas' na tíre a chosaint.
"Tugann an íomhá ghlan ghlas cháilúil atá ag Eirinn buntáiste iomaíoch do na hearnálacha feirmeoireachta, bia agus turasóireachta ach tá seans ann go gcaillfear an buntáiste seo de bharr truaillithe ó loiscneorí agus bia is talmhaíocht ghéinathraithe."
Beidh ionadhaithe ó Bhord Bia, Glenisk Ltd, O'Briens Sandwich Bars agus Cumann Feirmeoirí Eallach agus Caorach na hÉireann ina measc siúd a bheas ag freastal ar an chomhdháil fosta.
GM crops attacked
Irish Independent Farming Supplement, 20 June 2006.
Leading experts have warned Ireland's food producers and farmers that GM crops would destroy our green image.
Delegates at the Green Ireland conference in Kilkenny were told immediate action was needed to prevent our world-famous clean, green image being destroyed by GM animal feed, seeds and crops.
Canadian farmer brings fight to Cork
Irish Examiner, 20 June 2006. By Stephen Cadogan
Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser brings his international fight against genetic modification to West Cork this week.
Last month, he filed a complaint against the Government of Canada with the UN Commission on Human Rights, alleging violation of consumers' and farmers' rights, and attempts to force the use of GM seeds which are modified to be sterile, and to prevent farmers from saving and replanting seeds.
He faced a multi-million dollar patent-infringement lawsuit from Monsanto in 1996, after his crops became contaminated with the company's GM rapeseed. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that he no longer owned his seeds and crops, because they contained the patented GM genes.
On June 21, at 8pm in the Quality Hotel, Clonakilty, a presentation by Schmeiser should be of interest to anyone who wants to retain the integrity of Irish produced food, say the organisers, from the Skibbereen based Growing Awareness group, which supports food production that respects the earth, farmers and growers.
Friends of the Earth exposes EU for secret biotech industry bias
Incoming Finnish Presidency and European Commission organise closed doors,
pro-industry biotech meeting
Brussels June 20 - Friends of the Earth has condemned a high-level meeting
on Europe's future biotechnology strategy, that is taking place today behind
closed doors and from which environmental NGOs have been barred entry.
Helen Holder, GMO Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Meeting
in secret to discuss issues of high public importance is an absolute
disgrace and a bad sign of what is to come under the Finnish Presidency of
the EU. Once again, big industry has a permanent seat in
biotech strategy discussions whereas environmental groups are barred."
The meeting, taking place in Helsinki today, provides a platform for biotech
industry representatives to engage in discussion with Member States and the
European Commission. The biotech industry will be presented with preliminary
results of a major Commission study and they will be invited to comment,
even though the period for input from stakeholders like environmental and
consumer groups has not even finished yet. Friends of the Earth Europe
has already criticized the study's lack of independence and transparency.
The meeting has been organized by the Finnish and Austrian Governments in
collaboration with the European Commission and is part of a mid-term review
of the EU's biotechnology strategy. Issues such as competitiveness, the
impacts of biotechnology, regulation of biotechnology and public perceptions
of biotechnology, will be discussed.
"The review of the EU's biotech strategy should have been an excellent
opportunity for an open debate on how Europe handles new controversial
technologies such as genetically modified food. Instead it has turned into a
back-slapping exercise for the biotech industry whilst other stakeholders
are kept out. This makes a farce out of the attempts to make this review
transparent and open," Holder added.
Friends of the Earth Europe is calling for:
• all papers presented at today's meeting to be posted on the website
of the European Commission immediately
• participation of all stakeholders in the EU biotech strategy mid
term review (MTR)
• a timetable of all MTR meetings, agendas and minutes
• a meeting with the Commission's Joint Research Centre for
stakeholders excluded from today's meeting, to discuss the preliminary
results of the study
For more information, please contact:
Helen Holder, GMO Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe: +32 25 42 01
82; Mobile: +32 474 857 638; email@example.com
Adrian Bebb, GMO Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe: +49 80 25 99 19
51; Mobile: +49 1609 4901163; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe: +32 25
42 61 05; Mobile: +32 485 930515; email@example.com
Ritta Savikko, Chair of Friends of the Earth Finland: +358 4083 43997;
 Friends of the Earth Europe enquired anonymously into free places at the
event and were informed that several spaces were still available. When
attempting to register minutes later in the name of Friends of the Earth
Europe, conference organizers responded that unfortunately the event was
full. A second anonymous query to the hotel venue confirmed that this was
When Friends of the Earth went to the conference location this morning they
were refused entry.
 "Consequences, opportunities and challenges of modern biotechnology for
Europe", European Commission Directorate General Research, Joint Research
Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies.
 Friends of the Earth Europe participated in the first stakeholder
meeting in January 2006 and made a presentation at the second meeting in May
2006. Stakeholders have been given until June 30th to submit written papers
for the study.
 Biotech Round Table Discussion, June 20th 2006, Helsinki. Programme at
19 June 2006
Stay GM-free says campaign 'hero'
Irish Independent, 19 June 2006. By Aideen Sheehan.
A CANADIAN farmer who spent years fighting a David and Goliath battle against agricultural company Monsanto has urged Ireland not to open the door to genetically modified (GM) plants.
Once allowed into a country, GM crops could never be eradicated because they spread to other farms and contaminated conventional crops, Percy Schmeiser told a Green Ireland conference in Kilkenny this weekend.
Mr Schmeiser, from Saskatchewan, spent seven years fighting a million-dollar lawsuit brought by Monsanto.
It wanted compensation because GM rapeseed had been discovered on his farm. He said his rapeseed had been accidentally contaminated by the crop in neighbouring farms.
Monsanto won its case that it had the right to assert ownership of the modified gene, but lost its claim that Mr Schmeiser should pay compensation for profits from the crop.
"You are an island in a unique position to be GM-free and you should hold on to that," he said.
Deborah Koons Garcia, widow of Grateful Dead singer Jerry Garcia, and maker of anti-GM film 'The Future of Food', also spoke at the conference.
Call for State to become GM-free zone
The Irish Times, 19 June 2006. By Michael Parsons.
Ireland should become a GM-free zone, a Green Ireland conference in Kilkenny heard at the weekend. Irish food was at risk of "contamination" and the State's beef and dairy exports may be threatened by EU and World Trade Organisation (WTO) pressure to accept genetically modified (GM) seeds and crops, speakers said.
Irish and international delegates attended the conference, organised by environmental activist groups GM-Free Ireland Network and An Taisce. The chairman, Michael O'Callaghan, warned farmers they could "lose ownership of their seeds and crops" if the Government allowed the release of patented GM plants.
But the farming sector appears to be split on the issue, with the Irish Farmers' Association expressing cautious approval while smaller groups, such as the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association and the Irish Organic Farmers' Association, are strongly opposed.
Dr Vandana Shiva, director of the India-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, said: "The patenting of the world's traditional agricultural crop genes by agri-biotech companies is nothing less than bio-piracy. It is a blatant attempt to colonise the future of the world's genetic resources."
Fr Seán McDonagh, an environmental activist and author, condemned the "evil" being done by the WTO, and said the Republic should be "ashamed" of the Government's support for GM in international trade talks.
Clare Oxborrow, a Friends of the Earth Europe spokeswoman, told delegates the majority of EU consumers did not want GM food and 4,500 local government authorities in the EU - including the entire territory of Poland, Austria and Greece - have declared their opposition to GM. But she said despite "huge public opposition, the EU Commission was developing "pro-GM policies".
Deborah Koons Garcia, who showed her film documentary, The Future of Food, said there was growing "grassroots mobilisation" in the US against GM.
18 June 2006
Ireland urged to prevent GMO disaster
Contaminated farmers would lose ownership of their crops
Need to protect "Ireland - the food island"
WTO and EC slammed for collusion with corporate interests
GM-free Ireland press release, 18 June 2006.
Delegates from America, Asia and Europe attending the Green Ireland Conference at Kilkenny Castle over the weekend warned Irish farmers that they will lose ownership of their seeds and crops if the WTO and the European Commission succeed in forcing the Irish government to allow the release of patented genetically modified varieties here.
Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser told the conference that he faced a million dollar patent infringement lawsuit from Monsanto after his crops became contaminated by its patented GMO genes in 1996. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that because Monsanto owns the patent on the GMO genes, Mr. Schmeiser's seeds and crops now belong to Monsanto.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, the Director of the India-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, explained how the WTO's Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights agreement enables giant companies like BASF and Monsanto to secure patent rights on specific GMO genes, and then claim ownership of any farmers' crops that have been contaminated by them. "It's as if the company that created the furniture in this room got a patent on the design which then enabled it to claim ownership of Kilkenny Castle."
She said "the patenting of the world's traditional agricultural crop genes by giant agri-biotech companies is nothing less than biopiracy. It is a blatant attempt to colonise the future of the world's genetic resources."
The US film director Deborah Koons Garcia, whose film The Future of Food will be broadcast by RTE later this year, said US counties and states are fighting fierce legal battles against powerful biotech corporations to protect their right to ban GM seeds and crops, and have already done so in parts of California and Maine.
Dr. Stanley Ewen of the Independent Science Panel on GM said GMO genes can survive digestion, create food allergies and possibly increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. "I am very concerned that food made from Monsanto's "RoundupReady" GM crops (which are modified to survive that company's "RoundUp" weedkiller) may pose a particular threat to pregnant women and their unborn babies" he said.
Irish Food entrepreneurs Brody Sweeney (CEO of O'Briens Sandwich Bars) and Vincent Cleary (the Managing Director of Glenisk Organic Ireland) said the contamination of Irish farm produce by GM ingredients would destroy the credibility of our huge beef and dairy exports under Bord BÌa's branding of Ireland - the food island.
Mr Sweeny said his business strategy is based on producing the highest quality Irish foods for international consumers who refuse any product which contains GM ingredients. Mr. Cleary, said his organic milk and yoghourt company would be forced out of business if his produce contained any detectable trace of GM ingredients.
Eddie Punch, general secretary of the Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association, said Ireland should capitalize on its green image and called for the whole island to be declared GM-free.
Benedikt Haerlin, who convenes the annual European Conference on GMO-free Regions, emphasized that EU member states and their regions have the legal right to protect conventional and organic farming from GM contamination, including the right to ban GM crops where this is the only reasonable way to achieve this goal. He said "there is no such thing as the right to contaminate organic and conventional crops within EU legislation".
Mr Haerlin criticized the European Commission for trying to force GM crops into the European countryside. He said the EC recently tried to establish that protection of the countryside and non-GM farmers is only legal up to the arbitrary contamination threshold of 0.9% which it set for the mandatory labeling of GMOs in food and feed.
"The EC's empowerment of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to assess the environmental risks of GMOs is completely unacceptable. The EFSA is environmentally incompetent, does not have the capacity to conduct its own risk assessments and routinely rubberstamps flawed GMO risk assessments provided to it by the agri-biotech companies it is entrusted to regulate."
Bord Bia marketing director Muiris Kennedy said he will organize a meeting of the country's major food retailers, food producers and farming organisations to discuss the implications of GM food and farming as soon as possible.
Michael O'Callaghan, the coordinator of the GM-free Ireland Network who chaired the three-day conference said the so-called "co-existence" of GM crops with conventional and organic farming is not possible. "The best way forward is for Ireland to be declared a GMO-free zone, like Switzerland, Poland, Greece, and most of Italy, France and Austria."
The conference was hosted by the GM-free Ireland Network and An Taisce - the National Trust for Ireland. It was produced by Global Vision Consulting Ltd, and was sponsored by Glenisk Organic Ireland, the Irish Organic Farmers Association, the Irish Doctors Environmental Association and other groups.
17 June 2006
Conference told most farmers 'in the dark' about GM technology
Irish Times, 17 June 2006. By Michael Parsons in Kilkenny.
Farmers are being bullied into accepting genetically modified (GM) crops by the EU and the World Trade Organisation, according to speakers at the Green Ireland conference in Kilkenny yesterday.
The three-day event, co-hosted by the GM-Free Ireland Network and An Taisce, the environmental group, also heard that most Irish farmers were "in the dark" about GM technology.
Eddie Punch, general secretary of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association, accused the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) of "suppressing debate" and said his organisation called for the entire island of Ireland to become "a GM-free zone".
He said there was a huge demand from consumers in Europe for "more natural" food, either organic or free range, and Ireland should capitalise on its "green image".
The conference heard that beef and dairy farmers who avoid using GM animal feed could achieve higher prices, and that Baskin-Robbins, the world's largest ice-cream maker, recently signed an agreement with the Silver Pail dairy in Co Cork for GM-free ice-cream for outlets across Europe.
IFA president P·draig Walshe was invited to the conference but a spokeswoman said he could not attend "due to partnership talks".
She referred to the IFA policy on GM which states that "like science and technology generally, it can have many positive implications for agriculture and food production. These include control of animal and plant disease, reduction of costs and improved productivity." The conference chairman, Michael Tullaghan, said he was "horrified" that the Government was now supporting GM, and accused Fianna F·il of breaking a 1997 promise to keep Ireland GM-free.
He accused the IFA of "collusion" with the European Commission, and denounced the policy of "co-existence" which allowed GM crops to be grown in proximity to GM-free farms. This was "nonsensical" due to the risk of cross-contamination.
He claimed "victory" following a recent decision by German company BASE not to proceed this year with a field trial of potatoes at a farm in Summerhill, Co Meath. They had been genetically modified to resist blight.
Kate Carmody, representing the Irish Organic Farmers' and Growers' Association, claimed that the major political parties have "no policies on GM, and that things are happening by default".
However, Dr Pat O'Mahony, the chief specialist in biotechnology at the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, which was not invited to the conference, said food containing GM products which was on sale in Ireland "is as safe as its non-GM counterparts".
14 June 2006
Genetically Altered Corn May Cause Diabetes
DiabeticNews.com, June 14, 2006
New Zealand's governmental food standards board may approve a genetically altered type of corn used for animal feed. The Monsanto Corporation produces the new corn called High-Lysine Corn LY038.
Monsanto scientists have altered the corn to contain higher levels of the amino acid lysine than is found in other corn varieties.
While lysine itself isn't a health risk, if the LY038 variety is cooked with sugars also found in the corn, compounds called AGE's are produced which are implicated in causing Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and several other health conditions.
Even though Monsanto states that LY038 is intended only for animal feed, they made application for approval as a human food so they do not have to keep the altered corn separate from edible corn.
The real problem is the governmentÇs food agency made no effort to test what the health impact would be if the LY038 were to enter the human food supply. Numerous ways animal feed either can accidentally or deliberately end up eaten by humans is a serious risk.
There are many countries with diabetes epidemics, including New Zealand and the United States. Risking our food supply is not worth the risk of potentially increasing the sugar content of food in a diabetic diet or everyday foods
Food code not grounded on best available science
Press Release: University of Canterbury,
Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety, 8 June 2006
Proposed change to food code not grounded on best available science
The Centre for Research in Biosafety (INBI) is urging the food standards agency to reconsider its draft recommendation to approve a new type of GM corn.
INBI has recommended that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) should not approve MonsantoÇs genetically modified high-lysine LY038 corn until further safety studies have been conducted.
FSANZ is the agency responsible for protecting the safety and integrity of food sold in Australia and New Zealand.
Monsanto has applied to FSANZ for LY038 to be permitted in the food supply, but has declared that its intention is to market LY038 as animal feed. INBI believes LY038 is the first genetically modified crop plant substantially different in its nutritional profile to be considered for approval as a human food. INBI recommends that safety studies be conducted using GM corn that has been cooked and processed as it is in human food.
"The key difference between the use of corn as an animal feed and a human food is cooking and processing, and FSANZ has made no attempt to assess food hazards resulting from cooking or processing of LY038," said INBI Director and University of Canterbury Associate Professor Jack Heinemann.
He said LY038 corn was substantially different to conventional corn in that it has high concentrations of compounds that are known to produce food hazards when heated with the sugars found in corn.
"We've carefully examined the risk assessment done by FSANZ and its supporting materials, and we can't understand why FSANZ does not ask for the obvious scientific studies that would establish the safety of this product when it is cooked and processed, the way people - and not chickens - eat it," Heinemann said.
While the FSANZ assessment assumes that LY038 would enter the food supply only in small amounts and inadvertently, the INBI submission identifies a number of realistic pathways, both deliberate and inadvertent, through which the amounts of LY038 in the food supply could be much more significant.
In its submission to FSANZ, INBI makes over 90 major recommendations, most of which identify deficiencies in the supporting scientific studies and in the analysis conducted by FSANZ. INBI also notes ways in which the FSANZ standards deviate from those recommended by international food safety bodies such as Codex Alimentarius and the World Health Organisation.
"FSANZ is obligated to use the best scientific evidence available and conduct a case-by-case assessment. From our point of view, it hasn't consistently done either," said Heinemann. INBI has called on FSANZ to explain how it weighs competing costs and benefits when coming to its decisions.
"FSANZ is charged with maintaining public confidence in the quality and safety of food," said Billie Moore, an INBI researcher. "This is impossible without public confidence in FSANZ and its decision-making processes, which must therefore be transparent and open to public scrutiny and evaluation. It cannot expect the public to have confidence in unsubstantiated assertions and unexplained reasoning." For the INBI submission, please go to:
Contaminating the wild?
Note by GM Watch Daily: 14 June 2006.
A new report on gene flow from experimental GM field trials in the US to sexually compatible wild plants, has just been released by the Center for Food Safety in Washington, DC.
The report's author is Doug Gurian-Sherman, CFS's Senior Scientist, who was formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he was responsible for assessing human health and environmental risks from transgenic plants and microorganisms, and for developing biotechnology policy.
His report concludes that given the large number of field trials, some of which are on a massive scale and many of which contain genes that may spread in wild relatives, permanent escape of largely untested experimental genes is virtually inevitable given USDA's current leaky confinement requirements and inadequate safety testing.
Here's the apress statement from CFS - www.centerforfoodsafety.org - that accompanies Gurian-Sherman's report:
Center for Food Safety press statement
Before genetically engineered (GE) crops are marketed, developers conduct field trials of these
experimental GE varieties for several years. Field trials include all outdoor cultivation of
experimental GE crops, and thousands have been planted across the country since the mid-1980's.
Because research on these crops is incomplete, their risks are often largely unknown. But a new report, "Contaminating the Wild?," from the Center for Food Safety shows that despite unknown risks, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations cannot be relied upon to keep experimental genes from escaping from field trial crops into related wild plants. This process, called "gene flow," occurs when pollen from experimental crops fertilize wild species related to crops such as wheat, grapes or carrots.
Experimental genes that make their way into crop wild relatives may become a permanent part of the
landscape because, unlike most crops, these wild plant species can grow without cultivation by farmers.
Anyone who has seen fields of Queen Anne's lace (a wild relative of carrots) can understand how
prolific these wild relatives can be. And once they escape from crops, some of these genes could spread through the environment, where they may harm animals and plants.
As noted in a recent critical report by the USDA Inspector General (IG), for the vast majority of field
trials issued as "notifications," gene confinement measures are rarely reviewed by USDA prior to planting.
"Contaminating the Wild?" also shows that risk assessments are not generally performed, and
where risks are examined, the process is usually superficial.
USDA has assured the public that the risks from experimental genes are insignificant because they are confined to the field trial site. But the many cases of contamination from GE crops seriously challenge this assertion. Most startling was gene flow from a field trial of transgenic herbicide-tolerant creeping bentgrass that exceeded the 900 ft USDA-accepted separation from wild relatives by at least 13 miles.
"Contaminating the Wild?" asks whether gene flow could similarly occur from some of the thousands
of previous field trials, and by extension, whether gene flow may happen in the future. The report considers these questions through a detailed examination of the scientific literature and data from previous field trials, and concludes that untested genes from field trials of crops with wild relatives may breech their confinement and spread in the environment.
THE REPORT FINDS THAT:
• There have been at least 1,710 field trials of 20 types of crops in states where one or more wild relatives grow. These have included 170 for creeping bentgrass, 332 for wheat and 107 for rice, among other crops that have serious weeds as wild relatives.
• The USDA/APHIS containement standards cannot ensure that permanent gene flow will be prevented.
Review of the scientific literature and USDA Environmental Assessments shows that gene flow can occur beyond the confinement distances accepted by USDA.
• Many field trials contain genes that may provide an advantage to wild relatives, and can thereby spread through the wild population, even if initial gene flow occurs at low levels. For example, there have been about 600 field trials for biotic and abiotic stress resistance genes, identified by the National Academy of Sciences as having properties that may facilitate spreading through wild relatives.
• As with the escaped creeping bentgrass example, many field trials are large, often hundreds or thousands of acres, facilitating gene flow. These large trials produce much more pollen than small trials, and can cause more gene flow at longer distances. There have been 290 field trials of 50 or more acres for crops with wild relatives.
*The vast majority of field trials, currently about 95%, are conducted under simplified notifications that require no Environmental Assessment. These notifications require only that any problems noticed
during the field trials are reported to APHIS. But as widely recognized, without specific testing for
environmental harm, most problems may not be detected.
The risks from gene flow in the future may be even more troubling as multiple genes, genes with less
predictable consequences, and more powerful genes (for example designed to kill more types of pests), and new types of plants such as engineered forest trees, are developed.
USDA is currently revising its regulations of GE crops. This is an opportunity to strengthen the regulation of field trials to prevent gene flow or harm if gene flow occurs. The report therefore makes several recommendations for strengthening confinement requirements and improving risk assessment. Given the large number of field trials, many of which contain genes that may spread in wild relatives, and current leaky confinement requirements, permanent escape of largely untested experimental genes is virtually inevitable unless USDA substantially improves its confinement and safety testing requirements.
11 June 2006
The Future of Food
Slow Food International, 1 June 2006. By Carlo Petrini.
Among the many entertaining and thought-provoking films shown at the recent "Cinema Corto in Bra" film festival, there is one that I feel deserves particular attention. It should receive wide publicity.
The film - shown in Bra last Thursday, before its general Italian release - is a documentary with the succinct title The Future of Food. It was made by the American director Deborah Koons Garcia in 2004, but has only just made its way across to Europe (it was presented in Paris last week) and I hope that it will now enjoy the widest possible distribution.
I have often written about the complex question of genetically modified organisms in this column. It is never easy to explain why it is so necessary to oppose these technologies, or at the very least to exercise strong precautionary sentiments.
The Future of Food is extremely instructive and pulls no punches when it comes to the question of GMOs. Very simply and directly it relates the epic journey of American agriculture, from the advancing use of chemicals in the early post-war years, to the patenting of nature and the brazen biogenetic creations of some agribusiness multinationals. In the course of one and a half hours the Californian director tells us through the voices of experts and farmers how GMOs are produced, how they work and-very importantly-why they are produced i.e. what sort of system they are being made for. It is a description of the agricultural scene in the US, owned by a growing concentration of a few large industrial groups, with a paltry 2% of small farmers left on the land, who are losing their seeds, their liberty and their dignity.
They are the ones who give the strongest testimony: there is Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer fighting a long legal battle against Monsanto, who I have already written about in this column (but it is a very different matter to see his wife in tears), and Rodney Nelson, from North Dakota, who describes a case brought against him, again by Monsanto, for presumed illegal use of their seeds. Mr. Nelson protests R?that the work done by his family over generations in selecting their own seeds, has been ruined for ever in just a few years: 'It was heart-rending to see our reputation destroyed because of something we did not do'.
It will be interesting for Italian farmers to see what can happen in a production system that hides these personal tragedies behind those incredible cultivated expanses, the endless fields of corn, rape and soya stretching to the horizon. The impossibility of producing the way you want, being at the mercy of a highly subsidized market, not being able to look after nature the way your ancestors used to, as nature is now widely patented and belongs to someone else.
But the film says a lot more, because it talks about what could be the future of our food in Italy if traditional agriculture, biodiversity, seeds, and traditional knowledge were to be replaced by a system like that predominant in the US, consisting of agribusiness, GMOs, industrialized agriculture (an obvious oxymoron), ultra-centralized systems of distribution and production. Fortunately, after more than an hour of increasing concern and a growing sense of impotence as you follow the film, Deborah Koons Garcia provides us with important signs of hope and shows us the alternatives which can still offer a future for American food and also ours. Short chains, community-supported agriculture, a return to organic methods, local supply, seasonal produce, small markets in towns or farmer's markets in cities.
I feel the film should be shown in schools, the DVD should be on the shelf in the sitting room of every Italian farm: I hope Slow Food will be successful in its attempt to organize distribution in Italy. It would be unusual for our association to be involved in distributing a film, but given the content, I think it fits our mission perfectly and I can't wait. In the meantime you can find more information and a trailer on the website www.thefutureoffood.com.
First printed in La Stampa on May 2, 2006
Carlo Petrini is the president of Slow Food.
Note: the film director Deborah Koons Garcia will present the film at the Green Ireland Conference in Kilkenny on Saturday 17 June.
9 June 2006
FDA sued for lax regulation of GM foods
FoodNavigator.com, 9 June 2006.
A lawsuit filed against the US government aims to establish strict safety laws for all genetically engineered foods, and require these to be labeled once they are approved.
The suit against the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was filed by consumer and environmental advocacy group Center for Food Safety (CFS), which claims the move comes after an "unreasonable delay" by the FDA in responding to a petition filed in 2000.
The CFS now calls for rigorous testing on genetically engineered (GE) foods before they are marketed in order to ensure that these do not carry certain risks as a result of their different breeding techniques. These risks could include triggering unexpected food allergies, creating toxins in food, or hastening the spread of antibiotic-resistant disease.
In March 2000, the CFS joined forces with over 50 consumer and environmental groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Natural Resources Defense Council, to outline a "comprehensive approach" that the FDA should take to assess the health and safety issues from new GE foods.
But the FDA did not respond to the petition, said the CFS.
"Currently, there are no binding FDA regulations to protect the public from the risks of the genetically engineered foods that are found in thousands of products on supermarket shelves," it said
"FDA first adopted a hands-off policy on GE foods in 1992, and despite mounting evidence of health and environmental threats from GE crops, has never significantly changed its deregulatory stance."
In its Federal Register of May 1992, the FDA recommended that developers consult with the FDA about bioengineered foods under development. In June 1996, the agency provided additional guidance to industry on procedures for these consultations. These require that a developer who intends to commercialize a bioengineered food meets with the agency to identify and discuss relevant safety, nutritional, or other regulatory issues regarding the bioengineered food and then submits a summary of its scientific and regulatory assessment of the food. The FDA then evaluates the submission.
But the CFS says the FDA's policy "assumes that gene altered foods are safe based solely on scant information that biotechnology companies voluntarily submit in consultations with FDA. Since these consultations are voluntary, industry determines what information they submit and in what form."
"For too long, the FDA has let biotech companies set the table for deregulation of GE food," said Joseph Mendelson, legal director for the CFS.
According to the advocacy group, strict pre-market testing is required in order to address any unexpected changes in food that the genetic engineering process can create. An example occurred last year, when Australian scientists found that genes from a bean engineered into pea plants created a potentially dangerous allergen in the GE peas.
CFS said the tests that exposed this potential hazard have not been conducted on any of the GE foods currently marketed in the US, even though these GE foods contain genes from non-food organisms that have never been in the human diet and have never been adequately assessed for allergencity.
Indeed, pre-market approval regulations and labeling systems for genetically modified (GM) foods are much more stringent in a number of other countries, including China, Japan, Russia and Brazil.
And in Europe, general opposition to GM crops led to a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling in February this year that the EU and six member states had broken free trade rules by imposing a moratorium on GM imports between June 1999 and August 2003.
The decision, in theory, opened up the EU market to GM food.
The issue, however, remains contentious and strong public opinion against GM food in Europe has forced major food companies and retailers to issue non-GM guarantees to customers in recent years.
According to the CFS' lawsuit, filed in district court in Washington DC, the US has a lot to learn from policies adopted in other countries.
"While the rest of the world is rejecting these risky, untested foods, FDA's unscientific approach is making American consumers the world's guinea pigs in this genetic food experiment," said Mendelson.
"Americans deserve the right to know what's in their food. FDA must stop playing politics and start developing a science-based policy to protect Americans from these risky foods."
The FDA was unavailable for immediate comment.
Scientists see spike in kids' food allergies
Chicago Tribune, 9 June 2006. By Charles Sheehan.
CHICAGO - The treatment for a severe allergic reaction to food has not changed much since the late 19th century -- a quick shot of epinephrine and a rush to the doctor to stave off the rapid closing of airways, brain damage and possibly death.
Medical personnel, from school nurses to chiefs of hospital pediatric departments say such near fatal allergic reactions are becoming more common in children. So three Chicago medical institutions said on Wednesday they will collaborate on an extensive study to determine the cause of the increase and will plead for more federal research funding.
"I've been treating children in the field of allergy immunology for 15 years, and in recent years I've really seen the rates of food allergy skyrocket," said Dr. Jacqueline Pongracic, head of the allergy department at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "Where in the past it only represented a small proportion of my practice, now more than half of the children I care for have a food allergy."
Children's Memorial, along with University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, is seeking up to 900 families for an extensive study that may contribute to a cure, or at least better treatment.
Data on whether there are more children suffering from food allergies now than in years past remain sparse. Estimates have been that from 6 to 8 percent of children under 4 years old have food allergies, but some experts believe the percentage is growing.
Dr. Scott Sicherer, of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, participated in a study that found allergic reactions to peanuts had jumped to 1 in 125 in 2002 from 1 in 250 in 1997.
"There are no studies looking in this country at whether the rate of food allergies has increased over long periods of time," Sicherer said. "However there are studies showing increases in other allergic diseases... asthma, hay fever. If you put together all those sentences, or if you walk into any school and ask the school nurse if there has been more food allergies, all those things will lead to yes responses."
The accumulation of largely anecdotal evidence has prompted action in Chicago and elsewhere.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, announced last year it would spend $17 million over five years for a food allergy research consortium at Mt. Sinai in New York.
Spending on food-allergy research by the allergy institute more than doubled last year to $7.7 million.
But that remains a paltry sum, according to the researchers who gathered at Children's Memorial on Wednesday, who called on Congress to allocate $50 million annually for food-allergy research.
There are enough children with food allergies to do the thorough research needed to determine not only how many are now affected, but also to find better treatments, said Dr. Robert Schleimer, chief of the Allergy-Immunology Division at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
"We have the tools necessary for that type of development," he said. "What we really need right now is the funding."
For now, however, parents continue to discover that their child is allergic to certain foods much the way Kellee Konieczny did about five years ago.
About two hours after feeding her 9-month-old son Zachary soy milk in a bottle, he went limp in his father's arms, began vomiting profusely and turned blue.
"You can imagine how that feels when it is your child and you are responsible for him," she said. "It's something you never want to see." Zachary spent three days in the hospital, but recovered
Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors Moves to Safeguard Public and Environmental Health
by Restricting GE Food Crops
Ecological Farming Association Press Release for June 7, 2006
Contact: Kristin Rosenow, + 1 831 763 2111
Santa Cruz, California, USA -- On June 6th, The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support the adoption of a Precautionary Moratorium on the planting of GE crops in the county as recommended by the GE Subcommittee of the Public Health Commission in a briefing made public last week. Santa Cruz County attorneys have been instructed to draft language for the ordinance to enact restrictions on GE crops immediately.
"In light of what has been researched and found to be true about GE crops, the adoption of a precautionary moratorium is a conservative and restrained response," said Kristin Rosenow, Executive Director of the Watsonville-based Ecological Farming Association.
The GE Subcommittee, made up of a broad spectrum of community members including the county agriculture commissioner, Farm Bureau members, organic farmers, local food activists, and the director of the county Health Service Agency, among others, spent more than 10 months researching and analyzing the health, environmental, economic and social risks associated with the growing of GE crops in the county. Based on their research, they voted to recommend a Precautionary Moratorium to county supervisors.
The subcommittee's conclusions include:
• No long-term human health testing or assessments have been done on GE foods, so no claims can be made about the safety of GE.
• Health risks of GE crops include allergens, toxicity, carcinogens, altered fertility, increased antibiotic resistance, novel infectious diseases and adverse impacts on the human immune and endocrine systems.
• Pharmaceutical crops, plants used to produce components of pharmaceutical drugs, are grown in open-air trials, which can lead to contamination of food crop plants with GE toxins unsafe for human consumption.
• A federal audit found that the USDA is not following its own limited standards for these crops.
• California has no structure for regulating GE crops.
"The Santa Cruz GE Subcommittee conducted a thorough analysis of this issue and found that the state and federal governments have really dropped the ball with regard to oversight of GE crops. This lack of oversight is what convinced the Santa Cruz County supervisors to unanimously approve the subcommittee's recommendations," said Lisa Bunin, a community participant on the subcommittee.
"What legacy will we leave behind for our children and grandchildren?" asked Rosenow. "The decisions that we make now about genetic engineering in food crops will have permanent consequences on our local food production system and our families."
The Ecological Farming Association (EFA) is a 26 year-old Watsonville-based non-profit that is dedicated to educating farmers, policy makers and the public about practical and economically-viable techniques of ecological agriculture. EFA supports a vision for our food system where strengthening soils, protecting air and water, and encouraging diverse ecosystems and economics are all part of producing healthful food.
GE Subcommittee Recommends a Precautionary Moratorium
The GE Subcommittee recommends that the County Board of Supervisors add an addendum to Chapter 7.30 of the Santa Cruz County Code that would establish a Precautionary Moratorium on the growing of GE crops in Santa Cruz County. The recommended Precautionary Moratorium is consistent with Chapter 7.30 (.090), which states that the Chapter will be reviewed annually.
Conditions that Must be Met to Lift the Precautionary Moratorium on GE Crops
The Precautionary Moratorium on the planting and production of GE crops in Santa Cruz County will be lifted when the following conditions are met:
The State of California implements and enforces its own regulatory system that addresses the concerns and meets all of the following requirements set forth by Santa Cruz County's GE Subcommittee of the Public Health Commission.
1. Field trials of genetically engineered crops are contained to prevent contamination of organic and non-GE crops and weedy relatives.
2. Growing of genetically engineered pharmaceuticals and industrial compounds shall be done in state or federally licensed medical research institutions, medical laboratories, or medical manufacturing facilities engaged in a licensed medical production, and medical research involving genetically modified organisms provided such activities are conducted under secure, enclosed indoor laboratory conditions, with utmost precautions to prevent release of genetically modified organisms into the outside environment.
3. Liability regulations are promulgated that protect organic and conventional farmers and gardeners from contamination by genetically engineered crops, where the financial costs of contamination are borne by the producer of genetically engineered seeds and, only if negligence is found, by the grower of the genetically engineered crops.
4. GE seeds and root-stock shall be labeled so that farmers and gardeners can choose whether or not they want to grow GE crops.
5. The types and location of the GE crops currently being grown and tested in Santa Cruz County shall be communicated to the Agricultural Commissioner and available to the public upon request.
The cultivation of GM crops is due to be banned entirely in Romania from january 2007.
Romanian Ministry of Agriculture aPress Release, 3 Feb 2006:
NGOs: genetically modified soy endangers Danube Delta
Bucharest Daily News, June 9 2006
Non-government organizations Greenpeace Romania and Save the Danube and the Delta - Academia Catavencu yesterday held a conference aimed at drawing attention to the danger posed by genetically-modified soy in the Danube Delta area.
The organizations brought evidence that GM soy is illegally cultivated in the Delta region, habitat to over 1,600 species of plants and over 3,400 species of animals.
"Growing GM soy and using the extremely toxic herbicide Roundup Ready is a serious aggression" to the environment and people's health, said Greenpeace Romania spokeswoman Anamaria Bogdan.
A similar message was sent by the director of the Save the Danube and the Delta - Academia Catavencu, Dragos Bucurenci, who said it would not be long before cyanide is used in the Delta reserve.
"Before the Ukrainians bring to an end their Bastroe canal project, Romanians compete with each other in unconsciously destroying the most valuable treasure of the country," Bucurenci said.
Starting with January 2006, a government ordinance forbade the growing of genetically-modified plants in the protected areas and across on a perimeter of 15 kilometers around these regions. However, the NGO representatives said such plants were cultivated only 9 kilometers from the protected areas in the Delta. Samples of soy from the culture were taken to a certified lab in Austria and the results said the soy was genetically modified.
The head of the Administration of the Reservation in the Delta Danube Biosphere, Grigore Baboianu, said his institution will carry out controls in the area to make sure genetically-modified plants are not cultivated illegally.
8 June 2006
County eyes ban on genetically engineered crops
Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 8 2006. By Roger Sideman
SANTA CRUZ - The county is one step closer to seeing a ban on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops.
Supervisors unanimously agreed Tuesday to develop an ordinance that would place a "precautionary" moratorium on the use of crops that carry transplanted genes from other species to make them more nutritious or easier to grow. The ordinance is being drafted, and will come before supervisors on June 20.
There are no genetically engineered, or GE, crops in Santa Cruz County, but the supervisors' action was prompted by a nine-month study of the laws and risks associated with such crops, which are being planted on a growing share of the world's farmland.
The group that conducted the study suggested a moratorium because too little is known about the effects of genetically engineered organisms on human health and the environment. The future viability of organic agriculture is also at risk, the report states.
Some counties, including Trinity, Mendocino and Marin already have imposed bans on genetically engineered crops.
"There are too many concerns about the impact on crops and human health," said Peggy Miars, executive director of California Certified Organic Farmers in Santa Cruz.
A minority within the study group said in an unsigned letter that the technology "holds promise" and that a moratorium is unnecessary since there's currently no interest in planting GE crops in the county.
Indeed, a moratorium would be more of a preemptive move. Genetically engineered crops are typically corn, cotton and soybeans rather than the berries and lettuce crops that dominate the county's agriculture. Still, the potential exists for local GE crops, said Poki Namkung, county health officer and the report's lead author.
Genetic engineering research in other areas has begun on 13 of the 39 commercial crop and flower varieties grown in the county, including strawberries and apples, Namkung told supervisors.
The report was written by two appointees from each of the five supervisorial districts, as well as the county agriculture commissioner and two public health experts.
Among its findings:
• State and federal laws provide inadequate oversight. The USDA does not know the location of many GE test sites. Some crops not approved for human consumption have found their way into the food supply.
• Lack of safety testing leaves a potentially dangerous void in understanding long-term health effects of GE food, which is still largely unlabeled in the U.S.
• Farmers worldwide have reported their crops being tainted by stray GE pollen, subjecting some to patent infringement lawsuits from large biotechnology corporations.
The moratorium could be lifted once GE crops are better contained, tested and labeled.
"A ban places responsibility back on the industry," said Angela Flynn, an organic farmer in Bonny Doon.
Flynn was among about 15 people who spoke in favor of the ban Tuesday. No one was against it.
"I am one of the 76 percent of Santa Cruz residents who buys organic foods on a regular basis," said Gavilan College instructor Debra Klein, citing a well-publicized study. "The looming prospect of unregulated GE foods being sold in our grocery stores and farmers markets is horrifying to me, my family and friends."
Supervisor Ellen Pirie agreed, describing the report's findings as "scary." Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt said a ban would be "only prudent when 65 nations already have regulations."
"Hopefully other communities in California will see this," said Supervisor Mark Stone.
During the meeting, Supervisor Tony Campos, whose district spans most of the county's farmland, was quiet on the subject and did not return calls later Tuesday.
County Agricultural Commissioner Dave Moeller noted that supervisors already passed a law in 1988 that requires that the county be notified before genetically modified crops are planted. Down the road, additional regulations could hurt local farmers if GE technology takes off, Moeller said.
A anonymous minority within the study group disagreed with a moratorium. In their letter, they wrote:
"We do not want to close the door on those opportunities for increased yields, reduced pesticide use ... which results in cleaner water and air through reduced emissions."
The comments echo sentiments heard in counties where similar bans have failed and where GE crops have been touted by their producers and many scientists as the future of farming, improving agriculture and even human health.
Though the letter was unsigned, Moeller was later identified as one of its authors, along with Richard Nutter, Steve Bontadelli and Thomas Rider - all of whom participated in creating the report.
Moeller later said that the minority group agrees with the report's general findings.
The report can be found online at http://www.co.santa-cruz.ca.us
Contact Roger Sideman at firstname.lastname@example.org
7 June 2006
IFA hits back at 'Ming'
Roscommon Herald, Letter to the Editior, 7 June 2006
I must take issue with comments by Councillor Luke 'Ming' Flanagan published in your paper recently, which were ill informed, totally inaccurate and misleading.
IFA recently launched a policy document on 'Meeting the Challenges of WTO and CAP Reform IFA Submission to Government for a viable Farming and Food Sector and Sustainable Rural Economy'. In this document IFA sets out its strategy, among many other on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). This document is available on the IFA website, contrary to Councillor Flanagan's claims.
IFA's strategy on GMOs is as follows: As the decision on the use and release of GMO products, and the safeguard regulations, are taken at EU level, Ireland cannot adopt an independent national position. Irish regulatory authorities, including the EPA, have a crucial role to play in implementing these safeguard regulations in order to reassure consumers on the safety of the products.
Provided that the use and release of GMOs meet all detailed regulatory requirements, IFA's assessment of GM technology is that, like science and technology generally, it can have many positive implications for agriculture and food production. These include: control of animal and plant disease, reduction of costs and improved productivity. IFA would be concerned that the technology would only be available to one company and the Government should ensure that this does not happen.
I as a farmer produce good food, and will continue to do so. Farmers have to be guided by the National Authority Teagasc, who provides integrated research, advisory and training services for the agriculture and food industry in Ireland.
As IFA Rural Development Chairman, it is important that all land uses are explored and new technologies taken on board. An evaluation of the impact that GMOs could have, should be undertaken, so that society in general is informed of decisions that are taken.
IFA always believes that policy decisions should be based on fact and not perceived views without backup.
IFA Rural Development Chairman
Consumer group sues FDA over biotech foods
Reuters, June 7, 2006
WASHINGTON - A lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks to force the U.S. government to conduct mandatory reviews of genetically engineered foods and require labeling of such foods once they are approved.
The Center for Food Safety's suit against the Food and Drug Administration comes after years of lobbying by environmental and consumer groups for more stringent regulation and labeling of biotech crops, which biotech opponents fear can harm human health.
"We think the FDA should be the gatekeeper and should require... a mandatory process that has rigorous science behind it and public involvement and an actual approval process,â said CFS legal director Joseph Mendelson. "And we're asking that once these products are on the market that they be labeled."
The FDA had no immediate comment on the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Genetically modified crops, such as soybeans, corn, and canola, are grown widely throughout the United States, and the world leader in development and marketing of the gene-altered crops is St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto Co.
Yet the United States requires no independent testing of these crops or the food products they are used in, does not mandate what data companies must submit for review, and does not require that foods that contain biotech crops be labeled, CFS said.
Indeed, the United States has been pushing Europe, through complaints with the World Trade Organization, to open its markets to genetically modified food crops, despite widespread consumer opposition there.
"There has been a conscious effort on the part of the FDA and the administration not to create any kind of regulatory burden for agricultural biotechnology," Mendelson said. "They view this purely as an issue of economics rather than of human health."
CFS and more than fifty consumer and environmental groups, filed a legal petition with the FDA in March 2000, asking the agency to adopt a more rigorous approach to biotech food regulation, but the CFS said Wednesday that the FDA had ignored the petition.
At various times over the last several years, different scientists, including some within the FDA, have warned that altering the genetic makeup of a food plant by inserting genes from one organism into another, sometimes from an animal into a plant, for instance, could trigger unexpected food allergies, create toxins in food, or spread antibiotic-resistant disease.
Last year in Australia, scientists found that genes from a bean engineered into pea plants created a potentially dangerous allergen in the biotech peas.
CFS said the tests that exposed that potential hazard have not been conducted on any of the genetically modified foods currently marketed in the United States.
The FDA is one of three government agencies that monitor genetically modified crops. The U.S. Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service oversees bio-crop trials and the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for regulating plants engineered to produce pesticides.
17 outdoor field tests with transgenic organisms
Schweizer Landwirtschaft, 7 June 2006.
Translated by Mark Hutcko and Stephan Nyeki
The French minister of agriculture, Mr Dominique Bussereau, had authorized 17 new outdoor field tests with transgenic corn and tobacco.
This concerns two projects about producing pharmaceuticals from plant, three about herbicide tolerance, ten about insecticide resistance, one about drought tolerance and another about the onset of blossoming.
According to the ministry, field experiments will be conducted unger stringent safety conditions, reports the agricultural information service Agra-Europe.
Before the experiments were authorized, the Bio-Molecular Commission (CGB) had to give its OK. The CGB has the mandate to examine the public health and environmental risks of each application before the release of transgenic organisms.
Officials of the Ministry of Agriculture checked the technical feasibility of the individual projects on site. In addition, the permits were subject to public query which took place via the internet website www.ogm.gouv.fr.
Monsanto fails to get SC relief on seed row
Financial Express, June 06, 2006. By Arun S & Ashok B Sharma.
NEW DELHI, JUNE 5: Dashing hopes of the biotechnology giant Monsanto, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the order of the Andhra Pradesh government which directed the US company not to charge over Rs 750 on 450 grams packet of its genetically modified Bt cotton seeds.
The Andhra Pradesh agricultural commissioner had on May 29 directed Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech (MMB) and its sub licencees not to price more than Rs 750 per pack of 450 gm genetically modified Bt cotton seeds. MMB is the Indian joint venture of the US multinational, Monsanto.
MMB had appealed to the apex court as it felt the state government's order was "illegal and arbitrary". The company also challenged the May 11 order of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC), which asked the company reduce its trait value (royalty) from Rs 900 per 450 gm pack to a reasonable level as charged by its parent company Monsanto in China. While the matter was pending before MRTP, MMB reduced its trait its trait value from Rs 1250 per 450 gm pack to Rs 900 per same pack.
However, the vacation bench comprising Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice C K Thakker said they were "not inclined at this juncture" to interfere with the AP government's order. In a slight relief to the company, the bench said if it was found that the MRP was not adequately covered, the apex court or the MRTPC would decide as to who should cough up the additional amount which may be found due to the company.
The MMB managing director, MK Sharma, said : "Although we have yet to receive a copy of today's order, we are confident that the Supreme Court will ultimately give us a fair hearing in this matter." He said that a stay of the MRTP ruling is scheduled to be heard by the apex court during the first week of July with the merits of the appeal will be heard in last week of August.
The executive director of All India Crop Biotechnology Association, RK Sinha, said, "The apex court has exercised its prerogative in not granting a stay on AP government's order. But the matter is pending before the court for final decision. We would agree to whatever, the apex court finally decides."
6 June 2006
GM-free victory as trials are scrapped
Western Mail (Australia). By Steve Dube.
The world's largest chemicals company BASF has scrapped controversial plans to conduct trials of genetically modified potatoes in Ireland.
BASF said the decision was taken because of the conditions imposed in the provisional consent given by the Environmental Protection Agency in Ireland last month.
These included requiring the company to reduce the risk of contaminating neighbouring farmland and wildlife, to pay the costs of an independent monitoring of health and environmental impacts and to plant the 450,000 potato plants involved in May.
BASF complained that such conditions had not been imposed for similar experiments in Sweden and the company's chief executive Hans Kast responded with an extraordinary interview saying that countries that did not want GM food "should not be in the EU".
The Irish Government's decision to approve BASF's request for a five-year trial on land in County Meath provoked opposition from more than 100 farm and food industry groups and MPs from all the parties, two motions passed unanimously by Meath County Council, and the threat of further legal action on planning and constitutional grounds.
A poll by the Irish Times showed that 72% of respondents want Ireland kept GM-free.
Hans Kast, who chairs Europa- Bio, the umbrella group for the biotechnology industry in Europe, said they could not accept a situation where countries refused to take safe products.
"They should get out of the EU and say we want to be on our own," he said.
Asked about the campaign in Wales, he said he had not heard that the people of Wales did not want GM food.
"Would Wales be allowed to say we don't want to have cars?" he asked.
Dr Brian John of the GM Free Wales campaign group said Dr Kast was talking nonsense.
"The logic is so convoluted and contorted I don't know what he is trying to say," said Dr John.
"It's just garbled rubbish about the EU, but probably he's a bit miffed that they have been nasty to him in Ireland."
GM-free Ireland Network spokesperson Michael O'Callaghan said cancellation of the potato trials was a victory for European farmers who "refuse to surrender ownership of their seeds and crops".
He said the World Trade Organisation's Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement enables corporate owners of GM crop patents to claim ownership of contaminated farmers' produce.
Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser faced a million-dollar patent-infringement lawsuit from Monsanto after his crops became contaminated with its GM rapeseed in 1996.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that he no longer owned his seeds and crops because they contained the patented GM genes.
Last month Mr Schmeiser filed a complaint against the government of Canada with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights alleging violation of consumers' and farmers' rights and attempts to force GM terminator seeds - modified to be sterile and prevent farmers from saving and replanting seeds - on the rest of the world.
Mr O'Callaghan said the next step was for the Irish Government to join the European campaign for EC legislation that recognises the right of member states and regions to prohibit the release of GM seeds, crops, trees, fish and livestock.
"The time has come for the Irish Government and EC to stop surrendering our sovereignty and food security to the WTO," he said.
A total of 172 EU regions and provinces have now declared themselves GM Free zones, or - like Wales - passed policies to restrict GM crops.
3 June 2006
Biotech boss slams GM-free Wales
Western Mail, 3 June 2006. By David Williamson.
ONE of the world's leading figures in biotechnology has poured scorn on the aim of Welsh politicians to have a nation free of genetically-modified crops.
Hans Kast, chairman of EuropaBio - the political voice of the biotechnology industry in Europe - and CEO of the plant science group BASF, said European countries which did not want approved GM goods "should not be in the EU".
He said, "We cannot accept a situation whereby these products are proved safe and then countries say we do not want this product ... They should get out of the EU and say we want to be on our own."
When asked, in the interview for eupolitix.com, about the aspiration for a GM-free Wales, he said, "I have not heard that the people of Wales want to be GM free. Would Wales be allowed to say we don't want to have cars?"
Mr Kast believes that the US will have a more competitive agriculture industry unless Europe embraces biotechnology.
A Greenpeace spokesman said, "This shows once more how detached from reality the GM industry really is. Wales has quite rightly decided to declare itself a GM-free zone because these crops could cause irreversible environmental damage.
"Now GM companies are effectively sticking two fingers up to the people of Wales, telling them that they're going to have GM anyway. If that happens then organic farming in Wales could become a thing of the past."
Mick Bates, environment spokesman for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said, "Wales' growing reputation for green, clean, organic farming is a valuable niche for our farmers. It is up to the people of Wales to decide whether they want to grow GM crops in their fields - and overwhelmingly they do not."
Elin Jones, Plaid's Shadow Minister for Countryside, said, "We believe that growing GM crops in Wales would not offer any economic advantages to the farming industry. Consumers throughout Europe have expressed their opposition to GM produce, but what we are seeing is a growth in demand for organic produce.
"Plaid Cymru believes that producers in Wales can benefit from being able to market their produce as being GM-free."
Brynle Williams, Conservative countryside spokesman, said, "Our policy is to keep Wales GM-free... for the simple reason the agricultural industry has had too many food scares over the last 20 years."
An Assembly Government spokesman said, "[Our] policy is to take forward the most restrictive approach to the commercialisation of GM crops that is consistent with UK and EU law. This reflects concerns that have been expressed about GM commercialisation and we are determined to protect the rights of farmers and consumers in choosing what they grow and buy.
"We are therefore determined to take forward the most restrictive crop policy possible through the introduction of a strict co-existence regime between GM, traditional and organic forms of agriculture."
Parents and Greenpeace activists demand to enter ban on usage of GMO into safety requirements for children foodstuffs
Regnum.ru (Russia) -- On June 1 ‚ Children's Day, Greenpeace Russia activists, including young parents with children, rallied near the Russian Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development in Moscow, demanding to ban usage of genetically modified organisms (GMO) for children foodstuffs' production. The protesters erected gigantic image of genetically modified carrot before the ministry's building, as a symbol of potentially dangerous substances, which children food may contain. By the action's end the carrot was destroyed thanks to joint efforts.
In connection with the action, Greenpeace Russia released its Genetic Program Head Nataliya Olefirenko's comment. "Necessity of the state ban is caused by the fact that the Healthcare Ministry has not still published outcomes of GMO safety tests; the fact may lead to conclusion that either the test were not fully conducted or their outcomes do not prove GMO safety for human, and especially children health," she stresses.
At present, the healthcare ministry is developing special safety requirements to foodstuffs of children of various ages: "Sanitary-epidemiological requirements to production and turnover of children foodstuffs and their nutrition value." According to Nataliya Olefirenko, including an article, which bans using GMO for children food's production, into the requirements might be first step in the way of establishing of legal system, aimed at protecting of future generation's health.
About 10,000 activists signed appeal to Healthcare Minister Mikhail Zurabov and Russian President Vladimir Putin to introduce state moratorium on GMO in children foodstuffs. According to the Greenpeace, practically all biggest children foodstuffs producers consider usage of genetically modified components to be potentially dangerous. As it was informed earlier, the Moscow government started preparing a draft order on banning of genetically modified products at school and kindergarten canteens.
New study exposes Monsanto's Bt cotton hype
GM Watch alert, 2 June 2006.
This study into the growing of Bt cotton in India is very revealing, not least because even though it was commissioned by WWF, it was set up with the aim of getting away from the influence of Indian NGOs, who are referred to in the report in rather disparaging terms, and because it takes every opportunity to be positive about Bt cotton where it can.
The study was based on a cotton-growing area of India that was considered largely devoid of the "external influence by any NGO" and where the farmers were considered "progressive". Nonetheless, the study's findings seem to bear out exactly what the NGOs, as opposed to the industry and its supporters, have been saying about Bt cultivation.
Monsanto and its lobbyists claim that Indian farmers are growing Bt cotton on an ever-increasing area because it delivers "consistent benefits in terms of reduced pesticide use and increased income". They quote survey findings they've commissioned showing net profit increases for Bt cotton farmers of 60 per cent compared to those who grow conventional cotton. (Seeds of discontent, Frontline, 14-27 January 2006, K. Venkateshwarlu, Hyderabad)
Indian NGOs, on the other hand, say that the increased cultivation of Bt cotton has been the result of massive hype. And when it comes to issues of profit, the findings of this study largely confirm those of other independent studies. Farmers growing Bt cotton invested relatively more, got less yield and got far less income than non-Bt cotton growers. This despite the fact that the study found that those farmers growing both Bt and non-Bt cotton tended to reserve their best land for the Bt.
EXCERPTS FROM THE REPORT
BT Versus Non-BT Cotton
A Critical Analysis of On-farm data, Impressions and Opinions
"Study in Khammam district, Andhra Pradesh, India, 2005-2006"
C S Pawar, Shree Vivekanand Research and Training Institute (VRTI), Mandvi, Kutch 370 465, Gujarat, India
For World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
Patancheru 502 324, Andhra Pradesh, India
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF)... was interested to get an unbiased or rather uninfluenced report on BT cotton - trend in its adoption and change in resource requirements of cotton with BT. They decided to conduct a study in India through a person of wide experience in cotton production system, and this is the report.
In Andhra Pradesh, a compact cotton growing area of Khammam district (50 km radius with Khamman town in the center) with a fringe of Krishna and Guntur districts was chosen. This was largely to avoid external influence by any NGO or organization which is the case for Warangal and Guntur areas that often make the news for one or other happening in cotton cultivation and also for the farmers unrest, cry and suicides. Further, the Khammam farmers are progressive and known for making good assessment of
anything they try new in their fields.
The data collected through the season for the full, partial and non-adopters of BT revealed that there was really no benefit to farmers per se by adopting BT cotton (Table 1). Farmers invested relatively more, got less of yield and far less of an income from BT than non-BT cotton crops.
With BT cultivation, some farmers pointed out reduced risk of pesticide to their health and safety to animals and benefit in terms of reduced medical attention. However, there appeared not much change in their general behavior towards pesticide application.
The impression created by the seed companies that BT cotton requires less number of pickings than non-BT did not seem to hold good in this area.
(A) Few farmers... also reported that some labors complained of itching sensation and allergic skin reaction having worked for a long hours in the BT fields.
Farmers had incurred more expenses for growing BT than non-BT cotton. Farmers who grew both the materials had spent on average Rs. 9448/ac for BT as against Rs. 8401/ac for non-BT crops. Farmers with only BT had spent also relatively more and than the farmers with non-BT. The difference was mainly due to the cost of seed and the pest control.
Under the same farmer management, both BT and non-BT cotton were at par [as regards yield], rather non-BT showing a bit of tilt towards more yield, 826 kg/ac as against 819 kg/ac of BT. Rather, non-BT farmers harvested about 20% more cotton than BT farmers; they obtained average 1013 kg/ac as against 834 kg/ac of cotton by BT farmers.
With non-BT cotton, farmers realized a net income 20-60% more than BT cotton. Farmers with both BT and non-BT realized average net income of Rs. 8183/ac from non-BT as against Rs. 6493 from BT crops. Exclusive non-BT farmers realized far more income from cotton, average Rs. 10383/ac as against Rs. 6437/ac by exclusive BT farmers.
Farmers when asked about the impact on animal health, some reported to have observed cows and bullocks avoiding entering into BT fields, probably for some deterrent effect of BT plants. Farmers of one village pointed out that some sheep and goats that grazed in BT cotton were affected and a few had also succumbed in the earlier year. However, such effects were not confirmed by many others.
SA GM Ethanol Maize Risky and Inefficient
Gaia Mailout from Teresa Anderson - 2 June 2006
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Syngenta's recent application to import GM maize to South Africa for conversion into ethanol, signals the beginning of a trend that many suspect is the next step in industry's strategy for GM acceptance.
Industry evidently hopes to cast GM as the solution to climate change, by producing crops like Syngenta's maize event 3272, for conversion into ethanol which can be used as a supposedly environmentally-friendly biofuel alternative to petroleum oil.
But there are many reasons why the promotion of biofuels as an alternative fuel source may bring more harm than good. There is the likelihood that precious land in Africa will be used to produce car fuel for export instead of food. Forests in Malaysia are being cut down for palm oil plantations, even though the forests will absorb more carbon dioxide than the plantation trees. And patented GM crops will have a disastrous impact on African farmers and agriculture. (Please see Gaia Mailout "Biofuels - Bringing GM, hunger, and environmental destruction?" 27/04/06)
A new report from the Africa Centre for Biosafety (ACB) "South Africa, Bioethanol and GMOs: a heady mixture" looks at the new trends emerging for South Africa and the rest of the continent. ACB have also, together with the Center for Food Safety (based in the US) submitted comments to the South African registrar for GMO applications. (As Syngenta are also applying for event 3272 acceptance in the US, EU, South Africa and China, please feel free to forward and use this document elsewhere.)
It is interesting a comparison on Syngenta's application for GM maize event 3272 in Europe and SA shows that the applications are substantially different. The SA application claims that "extremely low levels" of contamination of the industrial GM maize may take place, but the EU application acknowledges that contamination may well take place into food and feed at much higher levels.
Furthermore, ACB point out in their report that ethanol for fuel production actually consumes more energy than it produces, due to the high energy costs of agricultural inputs, processing and transport of the fuel. Other studies in the US also demonstrate that much of the hype about ethanol being a green energy source are actually baseless.
The biofuels issue heralds the start of a new aspect of the GM debate, and one that we must be prepared for. Certainly strategies are urgently required to help society adapt to climate change and dwindling oil supplies. But policymakers need to carefully consider the implications of biofuels and GM before taking this path.
1. For Commodity Clearance of GM Maize Event 3272.
Notice from Syngenta in Business Day, South Africa. Date: May 12 2006.
2. South Africa, Bioethanol and GMOs: A Heady Mixture Briefing from Africa Centre for Biosafety. Date: May 2006
Mariam Mayet www.biosafetyafrica.net
3. Comments on Syngenta's Application for Commodity Clearance of Genetically Modified Maize, Event 3272.
Bill Freese, Center for Food Safety, USA & Mariam Mayet, African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa. Date: 29 May 2006
4. Warts and Ethanol.
Article from Grist. Date: 26 May 2006.
Amanda Griscom Little http://www.grist.org/news/muck/2006/05/26/unethacoal/index.html?source=weekly
5. Cornell Ecologist's Study Finds that Producing Ethanol and Biodiesel from Corn and Other Crops is Not Worth the Energy Article from Cornell University News Service, US. Date: 5 July 2005. Susan S. Lang http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/July05/ethanol.toocostly.ssl.html
2 June 2006
Dr Carrol harps on biotechnology
Daily Observer (Gambia, Africa), 2 June 2006. Written by Ousman Darboe
Dr Henry DR Carrol, deputy solicitor-general and environmental lawyer and consultant at the Attorney General's Chambers, has revealed that scientific and environmental terminologies are also found ever so often in The Gambia's national biosafety framework document, therefore the need to lucidly elucidate these mind bogling terminologies, just cannot be over-emphasised.
Dr Carrol made this statement at a one-day seminar on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and living modified organisms (LMOs) held yesterday at the Corinthia Atlantic Hotel, Banjul. He said: "It is of paramount importance, to right away, define the scientific or environmental terminologies, such as "biotechnology," GMOs and LMOs which collectively constitute the very basis on which this workshop is being organised today."
Dr Carrol said The Gambia has signed the convention on biological diversity, during the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), otherwise known as "the Rio summit," which was organised in 1992 in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. He noted that within the framework of the convention on biological diversity and the development of biotechnologies, an international decision was taken to draw up a protocol, for the management of biotechnological risks, adding that the international protocol that was eventually drawn up and signed by several countries, for the aforesaid purpose, is known as "the cartegena protocol."
Dr Carrol further revealed that "this first international legal instrument on the control of GMO's was adopted in montreal, Canada, in January 2000, but The Gambia signed the protocol on bio safety on 24 May 2000 and was ratified by the National Assembly September 7, 2004. He said more than 130 countries of the United Nations organisation, have officially accepted that GMO's present some danger to the environment, biodiversity and human health, and they must therefore be strictly regulated, with the avowed intention of pre-emptying or averting any potential negative effects on a large-scale globally.
Dr.Carrol said environmentalists and scientists authoritatively define GMO's as "bacteria, plants or animals genetically modified in the laboratory, by the additional foreign gene, which gives them new characteristics, and which is transmitted to their descendants."