ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

3 April 2002


most items via AGNET APRIL 3, 2002:
*Head of Uni of Nairobi's biotech dept warns over cassava poison
*US blasts European barriers to biotech produce
*Greenpeace slams Nestle's use of "unknown DNA" in food products
*India's ag minister wants to ban GM soyoil
*Pure 'pro-science' claims demand closer scrutiny
*Japan scandals rich pickings for organic exporters
*Philippines to regulate import of GMOs
*Greens Infiltrate Boardrooms To Urge Corporate Surrender


Head of Uni of Nairobi's biotech dept warns over cassava poison

From: Chuck Benbrook <>
Subject: Heard About This?
Kenya; Don Warns Over Cassava Poison
(SRC:The East African Standard via -- ATH:)

Professor James Ochanda, the head of the University of Nairobi's biotechnology department, warned farmers in western Kenya that tissue-cultured cassava, if not properly processed, can be poisonous.

According to the article, ten people recently died from eating tissue-cultured cassava in Kenya. Ochanda explained to journalist at a workshop on biotechnology issues in the media that tissue-cultured cassava was developed by the Biotechnology Trust Africa and the Kenya Agricultural
Research Institute to revive cassava cultivation. Cassava cultivation significantly decreased in Kenya following an outbreak of the Africa Cassava Mosaic Virus. The piece notes that Ochanda is also the managing director for the Africa Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum.



April 3, 2002
Agence France Presse English

WASHINGTON - The United States was cited as charging Tuesday in an annual trade review that Europe is excluding US hormone-treated beef and biotechnology farm produce without justification.

The US Trade Representative (USTR) office was quoted as saying after issuing the report that, "Several European Union polices continue to create significant barriers to US economic interests. Among these barriers are unjustified bans on US beef from livestock treated with hormones and US poultry treated to minimize bacterial risks."

The story goes on to say that the USTR complained that it has lost "over 200 million dollars in US corn exports" annually since 1998, when several EU members imposed a "de facto moratorium" on the imports of agricultural biotechnology produce as there was no functional approval process. "Restarting the approval process is a high priority for the United States," the trade body said.



April 3, 2002
Agence France Presse

HONG KONG - Greenpeace Wednesday was cited as slamming Nestle for including "unknown DNA" in two of the firms' popular food products on sale in Hong Kong, claiming it could pose a risk to humans and the environment. Greenpeace said tests had found the "unknown DNA" in Nestle's Pak Fook Beancurd Dessert and Pak Fook Fresh Soya Milk, both of which use genetically engineered (GE) "Roundup Ready" soya patented and sold by US multinational giant Monsanto.

It is the first discovery of "unknown DNA" in Hong Kong food products since its existence was brought to world attention by a group of Belgian scientists last August, Greenpeace said.

Scientists have raised concerns the "unknown DNA" could unexpectedly alter the protein chemistry of plants.



April 2, 2002
Julianne Johnston

According to the latest U.S. ag attache report from India, the country's ag minister wants to ban genetically modified soybean oil. The issue is causing some concern and confusion in the trade, as it's not clear what the reason behind the ban would be.

'The minister's action is affecting the market as palm oil traders sense an opportunity to increase their already dominant position,' states the attache.



April 3, 2002
Guelph Mercury

Jennifer Sumner, PhD, Guelph, writes that two recent letters have championed science as the answer to the question of the cosmetic use of pesticides.

Rob Witherspoon, Director of the Guelph Turfgrass Institute, argues (March 20, The Guelph Mercury) that he and his colleagues are "primarily interested in expanding knowledge through scientific investigation."

Keith Solomon and Len Ritter of the Department of Environmental Biology (March 26, The Guelph Mercury) declare the Ontario Agricultural College and the University of Guelph to be "pro-science and pro-scientific method."

While these arguments sound convincing, they bear closer scrutiny.

Sumner says that historically, a great deal of scientific research in Canada was publicly-funded and publicly-owned.

During the 1990s, under neoliberal cuts to higher education, universities were forced into more and more alliances with transnational corporations in order to survive.

During that period of structural adjustment, research policy changed so that half of much of the research funding is now required to come from private interests. Without the input of private funding, public funding is not forthcoming.

This change in the research agenda means that little, if any, research is done for the public good, in spite of the input of public money, because no private interest will fund such research.

For example, no research is being carried out on the effects of genetically modified organisms on human health and ecosystems because no private interest would fund this research. And scientists who have engaged in such research in other parts of the world have had their careers destroyed.
The results of such research can become the property of the private funder, and the scientists involved are forbidden to release the results to the public, even if they represent a threat to public health.

We only need to remember the case of Dr. Nancy Oliveri of the University of Toronto to understand what happens to scientists who are part of these private-public "partnerships" and release scientific findings that could have a negative effect on the profit margins of private funders.

While Witherspoon stereotypes environmental activists as biased and ill-informed, and Solomon and Ritter decry "junk science," they should recognize the biases that have come to taint the scientific community. It is sad to say, but many scientists have become hostage to one interest group on the pesticide issue.

Any responsible research agenda serves the public good by following the precautionary principle and banning the private use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes.



April 3, 2002
Tim Large

TOKYO - Ugly vegetables at twice the price. Organic food has long had a bad rap in Japan, where polished apples and flawless melons wrapped in ribbons adorn supermarket shelves. Such perfect bounty, grown with agrichemicals and pesticides, is notoriously pricey. If an exquisite cantaloupe costs $20, why pay even more for the gnarly organic version? Until recently, few did. But, the story says, thanks to a string of health scares and mislabelling scandals that have gnawed away at confidence in "conventional" produce, the world's most finicky food market is getting back to basics.

Sniffing big opportunities in Japan's long-cosseted agricultural sector, foreign exporters in particular are finding it pays to ditch the chemicals.

Thai farmer Sermpong Taptipakorn, who grows spinach, onions, edible burdoch and Japanese radishes in the rolling hills near Thailand's northern city of Chiangmai, was quoted as saying, "Organic vegetables aren't at all popular at home. But demand in Japan looks set to take off, so I switched my fields over."



April 3, 2002

MANILA - The Philippine Department of Agriculture was cited as saying on Wednesday that the government has approved guidelines to regulate imports of genetically modified plants and plant products by July 1 next year. The department said Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Montemayor signed the administrative order governing the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for field testing, propagation and for direct use as food or feed in the southern Cagayan de Oro City while attending a food congress in that area.

The story says that the issuance of the guidelines was approved by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the Cabinet on Tuesday. Under the administrative order, the government would prepare by June 30 next year a list of approved commodities that will be allowed entry into
the country.

After that date, any company importing a GMO not included in the list of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) will be required to secure a permit, it said.


Greens Infiltrate Boardrooms To Urge Corporate Surrender

Investor’s Business Daily
April 2, 2002, p. 16

The corporate perception of the anti-globalization movement is of unkempt, youthful demonstrators taking to the streets to disrupt every gathering of international commerce. They are seen as naughty children with little real influence over the "suits" running multinational corporations. But it’s not street mobs posing a major danger to business; instead, it is the roosters in the henhouse of economic prosperity - anti-capitalists in pinstripes. The anti-globalization crowd is making major inroads into corporate business practices by marching right through the front door. Radical greens in business suits are now employed at some of the largest public relations firms in the world - firms that counsel multinational corporations on how to deal with environmentalists. Under the guise of "corporate communications counseling," radical activists employed at two of the world’s foremost PR firms are offering "capitulation counseling" - selling out by shutting up. In December 2000, one worldwide PR firm launched its Non-Governmental Organization Practice Group and hired Jonathan Woodcliff to manage it. Woodcliff used to be Greenpeace International’s director of communications.

Hiding Behind Rhetoric

Last month another top U.S.-based public relations firm hired the former executive director of Greenpeace U.K., Peter Melchett, a radical tied to acts of property destruction while waging the Greenpeace campaign against genetically modified foods. Hiding behind public relations rhetoric such as "dialogue" and "beneficial relationships," these consultants will advise corporate clients to surrender to their critics, pure and simple. They are counseling companies to spend millions on becoming more green on the assurance that the consultants will in turn persuade the radicals to say nice things about the company. Corporate implosion through infiltration - very clever.

Scripted Surrender

This professionalization of corporate appeasement will grow at an alarming rate if left unchecked. For one thing, salaries offered to these protectors of the poor and downtrodden are apparently too high to be resisted, and appeasement is too easy for midlevel managers charged with silencing the opposition. This plan works against the interests of the CEO with a fiduciary responsibility to his or her shareholders. It also harms consumers, who must fund this extortion through limited product choice and the inflated cost of goods and services. Scripted corporate surrender has many fundamental flaws. It presumes the attacker is motivated by a local grievance or passing difference of opinion. In reality, these groups are not mere dutiful watchdogs. They are driven by a four-square opposition to the fundamental mission of business itself - to grow, prosper and introduce new products and services. These organizations are run by extremists with an unalterable belief that the intelligent and moral person is opposed to capitalism and corporate entities. Thus, long-term appeasement cannot work, as it is the very existence of the corporation that forms the raison d’etre of the opposition of these organizations. The flagrant ironies of their positions would be humorous if they were not so damaging and dishonest. Since the 1960s, environmental NGOs and other anti-prosperity agents have morphed into a multimillion dollar, anti-corporate shakedown industry of their own. After reaching the pinnacle of their success during the Age of Aquarius, these crusaders have shifted into opportunistic, self-indulgent highs of sorting the world into victim groups. Jesse Jackson increases his net worth by extorting corporations over fabricated transgressions of racial etiquette, while the urban poor continue to struggle to feed their families and educate their children in failing schools. One of Jackson’s partners in the $ 176 million shakedown of Texaco showed up later to bring a $ 5 billion suit against Microsoft at great expense to taxpayers and consumers. Environmentalists waged a campaign against Mitsubishi that left unions and women’s groups with millions of extra dollars jangling in their pockets. And the beat goes on.

Antipathy To Capitalism

It is critical that company executives wake up and smell the shakedown. They have the cash and the clout to face down people possessed of an incoherent antipathy to capitalism and who are primarily interested in perpetuating their own organizations while presenting themselves as populist watchdogs. One Washington, D.C.-based crisis management firm, Nichols-Dezenhall Communications, has taken this mission to heart and is barnstorming the country alerting company executives to the true nature of their critics. For 15 years, this group has been teaching execs how to fight the encroachment of this destructive fringe. It will take others following the lead of this prescient company to battle the self-serving infrastructure and cash reserves of left-leaning, Gucci-wearing, ideological holdovers from the "Laugh-In" era. Surrender indicates weakness, and with appeasement will come copycat lawsuits and decreased investment capital. Increased prices and job losses are first to appear when businesses must send money elsewhere, and as always it will be low-income citizens getting whacked the hardest. Ultimately it is up to CEOs to remove corporate capitulation from their business plans - hopefully before further attempts by these infiltrators to save us from ourselves.

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