ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

1 May 2002


More hi-tech precision:
"If the male calf shares the DNA of the recipient cow, which it shouldn't unless the bull got to her, then the next two clones should be female from the donor cow's ear cells like we intended. If the bull calf is mistakenly from the male bovine fetus cells in the lab, then the next two clones when they are born will be bulls, too, and his identical brothers." (item 4)

1. Scotland: Anger grows over failure to stop GM crop test
3. Brazil: Sowing the seeds of resistance
4. Brazil: Bull Clone Stumps Brazil Scientists Expecting Cow


1. Trials and tribulations
Anger grows over failure to stop GM crop test in Highlands

Kirsty Scott, The Guardian (Society Guardian), Wednesday May 1, 2002,7843,707634,00.html

In the big field above the small Easter Ross village of Munlochy, in the Scottish Highlands, small yellow flowers have started to appear. In a matter of weeks, villagers expect to find a thick layer of pollen coating windowsills and car roofs, as happened last year.

Munlochy is the site of one of the UK's biggest GM crop trials ­ 15 hectares of oil seed rape, an experiment that has roused a community and split Scotland's parliament.

Last week, under cover of darkness, someone entered the field at Roskill Farm and ripped out some five acres of plants. And on Saturday, five people were arrested after tearing up more plants.

A spokesman for Scottish GM protesters says the movement has been forced to take matters into its own hands.

"The Scottish executive has ignored our plea not to endanger the economy of the Highlands, with its reputation for pure and natural food production," says the spokesman. "They have taken no heed of the growing body of scientific evidence of the unpredictable and irreversible risks of GM crops. So we have taken responsibility for our own safety and environment."

The damage was done just days after Holyrood's transport and environment committee had called on the Scottish executive to have the crop trial ploughed up. It voted 5-4 in favour of a recommendation that the trial could harm the environment and the food chain.

But the call was ignored by the rural redevelopment minister, Ross Finnie, a Liberal Democrat, who has held to the line that there is no new evidence the trial poses any harm and that he is bound by a European directive to allow the test to continue.

But he is becoming increasingly isolated in his stance. On the same weekend protesters were destroying parts of the crop, the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference voted 2-1 to end the trial. The party's UK leader, Charles Kennedy, is one of 4,000 people to have signed a petition calling for a halt to the experimen. And this week, in the Scottish parliament, a Lib Dem colleague of Finnie's will lodge a private member's bill that would make it illegal to grow GM crops in Scotland.

Last Thursday, the Scottish National Party joined Holyrood's only Green MSP, Robin Harper, in his fight to persuade the executive to back down. Harper says: "I am no longer a lone voice in the parliament. We have got to keep pressing on this. The executive has the power to plough the crop in, and we have the evidence that should persuade them this is the best thing to do."

That evidence centres on a new European environment agency report, which Harper says warns of a high risk that growing GM oilseed rape will result in genetic contamination between different varieties of GM plants, and between GM plants and their wild relatives. And a study from New Zealand, he says, concluded there should be no further development or field-testing of GM organisms because of uncertainties about the risk they present.

But Finnie insists that, having received advice from the UK advisory committee on releases to the environment (Acre), the executive was bound by law to allow continuation of the trial - although Acre pointed out at the weekend that Finnie is not bound by its advice.

"The Scottish executive will not take risks with the health of Scotland's people or with its environment, and it would be irresponsible for it to ignore the unequivocal assurances of our expert advisers and withhold consent on the basis of doubts or concerns which are not supported by the evidence," he says.

Up at Munlochy, protesters have been mounting a vigil for almost 10 months at the site, which was first earmarked for GM trials by the seed company Aventis in 2000.

Campaigner Anthony Jackson says Finnie's excuses don't wash and that, under the Environment Protection Act of 1990, he has the ability to revoke consent. He says: "The minister has been told to act by a parliamentary committee, his own party has voted to stop this, and he has the powers to do so. What more does he need?"


2. Scientists oppose Bt cotton

The Times of India April 30, 2002

GUNTUR: Several senior scientists and farmer leaders participating at a seminar in Guntur on Sunday came down heavily on the Centre for according permission to Monsanto-Mahyco to market the Bt cotton in the country. They lamented that government gave its consent though there was no indepth study of implications of the genetically modified (GM) crops. Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) former director Pushpa M Bhargava said," Ironically central government gave permission to most dangerous seed variety - Bt cotton - when the developed nations are preparing to ban it."

He said that even the United States had decided to ban the produces made with Bt cotton seed and European countries have also going against the Bt seed after conducting careful studies on the usage. He wanted to know why the central government allowed only Monsanto to produce the Bt seed when there were more than 50 seed companies that had the capacity to do so. He appealed to the farmer leaders and farmers to be cautious about the usage of Bt seed as it would not only damage the crops but the environment as well. Agro-economist professor K R Chowdary opined that it was not possible to implement the regulations imposed by the central government for using the Bt seed and it would become detrimental to the farmer. Former MLA and Guntur district president of Rythu Sangham Nimmagadda Ramamohana Rao presided over the meeting. Former Parliament member Yalamanchili Sivaji, CPM's Koratala Satyananrayana attended the meeting.


3. Sowing the seeds of resistance
The battle rages to prevent Brazil caving in to pressure to authorise GM crops

SUE BRANFORD,  The Mail & Guardian, South Africa, April 30, 2002
(previously in Guardian Society)

Brazil is coming under increasing pressure to authorise genetically modified (GM) crops in the wake of India's decision last month to open its doors to this technology.

For four years a small group of underfunded Brazilian environmentalists and consumers has succeeded against all the odds in keeping a GM ban in place, but many observers now believe it is only a matter of time before Brazil, too, follows the worldwide trend. Brazil is a key piece in the global biotech jigsaw. The area under GM cultivation throughout the world rose from 1,7-million hectares in 1996 to 52,6-million hectares last year. About two-thirds of this area was planted with a variety of soya beans genetically engineered by the bio-technology multinational Monsanto to be resistant to the company's herbicide Round-Up. Both the United States, which is the leading soya producer, and Argentina, which is in third position, have authorised GM crops. Only Brazil, the second-largest producer, is still holding out against GM crops. The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies is expected shortly to approve a Bill that will authorise the cultivation and consumption of GM products. As a first step the chamber's special commission on GM foods approved a highly favourable report on GM products last month. If Brazil gives the go-ahead, it will become increasingly difficult for Europe and Asia to purchase non-GM soya beans at normal prices.

They will become a niche product, for which health-conscious and environmentally aware consumers will have to pay a hefty premium. The GM crop will be the norm.

Bob Callanan, from the American Soybean Association, which is fervently pro-GM products, said last year: "We are hopeful that the last domino will fall shortly. That's why the environmentalists are putting up such a stink in Brazil. They know that, if that goes, it's all gone."

Brazil's stubborn resistance to GM crops took the biotech companies by surprise. Four years ago Monsanto expected Brazil to authorise GM crops on the nod, just as had happened in neighbouring Argentina. As part of its global strategy Monsanto had bought up seed companies in Brazil and was poised to dominate biotech farming. The Brazilian government had expressed its support for GM crops and was helping to fund a $360-million factory that Monsanto was building in the north-east of the country to supply the whole of South America with the raw materials for Round-Up.

In early 2000 Monsanto even imported GM seeds to sell to farmers in the following planting season, after the anticipated authorisation. But Greenpeace and the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defence (Idec) had other ideas. They jointly appealed to the courts that the government had no authority to allow Monsanto to produce GM seeds when the country's environmental legislation demanded that studies must first be carried out into the long-term health and environmental impacts of transgenic crops. In a historic ruling in May 2000 a Brazilian judge found in favour of the plaintiffs. Monsanto immediately appealed, and is waiting for a final decision, expected shortly.

Until recently the anti-GM product lobby had little support from Brazil's powerful farming community. Enticed by reports of high GM yields and low production costs, farmers in the south of Brazil began to purchase GM seeds smuggled over from Argentina. According to some reports, up to half of the soya planted in Brazil's most southerly state, Rio Grande do Sul, may be transgenic. However, over the past year some of Brazil's farmers have been having second thoughts. A massive soya front has been moving north, taking over first the plains of Mato Grosso and now moving into the Amazon basin. These farmers have been very successful with their non-GM exports, with some soya beans now going directly to Europe through the new port of Itacoatiara on the Amazon river. Over the past two years Brazil's share of the world soya market has risen from 24% to 30%, while the US's slice has declined from 57% to 46%. A farming association recently said that it would be "very foolish" for Brazil to authorise GM crops, because "we would risk throwing away a market we have worked very hard to win".

However, Brazil's Agriculture Minister, Pratini de Moraes, is a firm advocate of GM crops. On two occasions he tried unsuccessfully to authorise some GM varieties. On a trip to the US last year he said that Brazil was planning to invest heavily in GM crops. "We must not run the risk of being left behind in the technological race," he said. Over the past few months the battle over GM crops has become more heated. In January Anthony Harrington, former US ambassador to Brazil and now a lobbyist for Monsanto, held a private meeting with President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, now in his eighth and final year in office. Shortly afterwards Cardoso called together all ministers involved in the GM debate and imposed what amounted to a gagging order on the Environment Minister, José Sarney Filho, who had openly aligned himself with the environmentalists. Since then the minister has resigned, apparently over an unrelated issue. Attention has now turned to Congress. As the Chamber of Deputies prepares to vote, several Monsanto directors, including chief executive Rodrigo Almeida, have been seen lobbying deputies. "Time is on our side, for the problems with GM crops are becoming much clearer," says Flavia Londres from the anti-GM umbrella group. "The battle is far from lost.


4. Bull Clone Stumps Brazil Scientists Expecting Cow

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - A healthy bull calf born on a ranch in southeast Brazil astonished scientists who were expecting a female cloned from an adult cow. Although not Brazil's first cloned calf, it may be the first cloned from somatic, or adult, cells. And scientists have yet to explain how they got a bull from ear cells of a cow. The project's chief veterinarian, Jose Visintin, said on Monday the experiment "either erred in the laboratory or in the field." "Of my two hypotheses, I hope we erred in the lab, which means we cloned a calf from somatic cells -- a first for Brazil," Visintin told a news conference at the University of Sao Paulo. "He may not be the clone we hoped for but he'd at least be a clone." Visintin dismissed the possibility of the as-yet unnamed bull calf being from the cells his team took from the ear of an adult cow, which were supposed to be the genetic material used to create cloned embryos in the project. "Adult cells are already sexually defined. So there is no way I can believe the bull came from the cow's ear," he said. Visintin said there were also male bovine fetus cells in the laboratory that may have been accidentally used to create the project's embryos. "In the scientifically less interesting hypothesis, the recipient cow may have been covered by a bull," said Visintin, who added that the cow was isolated from the herd on the farm but may have dallied with a bull without the team knowing it. A DNA, or genetic identity, test on the calf should reveal later this week which of the two hypotheses is true. Visintin will compare the DNA of the calf with that of the male fetus cells in the lab, the recipient cow. The true parentage of the bull calf should predict the sex of the next two cloned calves, due in four and seven months. "If the male calf shares the DNA of the recipient cow, which it shouldn't unless the bull got to her, then the next two clones should be female from the donor cow's ear cells like we intended," said Visintin. "If the bull calf is mistakenly from the male bovine fetus cells in the lab, then the next two clones when they are born will be bulls, too, and his identical brothers."

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