ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

4 April 2003

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GMWATCH number 8
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From Claire Robinson, GMWATCH editor
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Dear all,

As America fights its war for world domination on two fronts - ownership of Iraq’s oil stocks and of the world's food stocks through patented GM seeds ­ it’s exhilarating to see resistance to both moves rising across the world. It’s becoming ever harder for corporate and political bullies to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. And those of us with knowledge of the issues may feel we have a special responsibility to speak out and get involved. So this month’s campaigning section is expanded, with something for every activist, whether they be bold or shy, brazen or polite, energetic or wiped-out.

As ever, keep giving us your feedback and send GMWATCH to all your friends.

Claire Robinson <claire@gmwatch.org>
www.ngin.org.uk

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CONTENTS
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FOOD SAFETY/HEALTH
CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF SCIENCE
IMPR0PAGANDA
GM AND WAR/CAMPAIGNS OF THE MONTH
EASTER PRESENT TO YOURSELF: KNOW YOUR ENEMY
ENVIRONMENT
FARMING
THIRD WORLD/DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
COMPANY NEWS
RESISTANCE TO GM
SUBSCRIPTIONS

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FOOD SAFETY/HEALTH
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NEWCASTLE FEEDING TRIAL - COMMENTS BY DR MICHAEL ANTONIOU
Below are comments from Dr Michael Antoniou, senior lecturer in molecular genetics at King's College Medical School, London, on research conducted at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne showing for the first time that genes inserted in GM crops find their way into human gut bacteria. GM crops have antibiotic-resistant marker genes inserted in them, and there are fears that if material from these marker genes passes into humans, people's ability to fight infections may be reduced.

The research was commissioned by the UK Government, as part of a project entitled "Evaluating the risks associated with using GMOs in human foods." It was published by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA). FSA released the research, involving feeding volunteers with a burger and a milkshake containing GM soya, with a press release saying it "showed in real-life conditions with human volunteers, no GM material survived the passage through the entire human digestive tract... the research concluded that the likelihood of functioning DNA being taken up by bacteria in the human or animal gut is extremely low".
http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/science/sciencetopics/gmfoods/gm_archive/gm_reports

But although the scientists at the University of Newcastle did not find DNA from GM food in the faeces of normal volunteers they had found that bacteria in the human gut can take up GM DNA. They found transgenic DNA had survived in the wastes from seven subjects with ileostomy bags and that for one in three of the seven, the gut bacteria had taken up the DNA. In a separate experiment on colonies of intestinal cells, the Newcastle team showed that loops of GM DNA called plasmids can be taken up directly, but only by one gut cell in 3000.

The design of the experiment has been criticised as being biased against finding positive results - for instance, using a probe for GM DNA that detects only 5% of the entire length, and not monitoring the blood of the volunteers. In experiments dating back to the early 1990s, German scientists have found that transgenic DNA fed to mice can pass through the gut and also through the gut wall into the blood stream, ending up in blood cells, liver and spleen cells.

Dr Michael Antoniou comments:
The Newcastle study shows that intact gene DNA survives the acidic environment of the stomach and enters the small intestine. Once in the small intestine, there was also evidence found that intact (and functional) GM gene DNA enters bacteria. Yes, they did not find it in the faeces of normal volunteers suggesting that it ultimately gets degraded in the large bowel.

However, the major individual health problem is not what "comes out at the other end" but what goes on inside the gut! So the risk of a health problem arising from the transfer of GM genes such as antibiotic resistance and Bt toxin to gut bacteria still stands.

Also, please note that the paper quoted in the response to Arpad Pusztai is in "human intestinal simulations"; i.e. test tube experiments and NOT real people at all! Interesting but hardly physiological!

We should also not stop reminding people that the Newcastle study entailed only ONE GM soy containing meal, which can hardly be called statistically significant but which yet showed up these very worrying findings all of which were hotly denied as possible in the past.

Finally, the Newcastle study failed to carry out experiments with simulated diarrhoea conditions (e.g. administering a laxative) to assess whether bacteria containing GM genes would then be present in the faeces and released into the environment to pose a yet further problem for us all by for example spreading antibiotic resistant pathogenic bacteria into the environment!

Follow-up work to this initial investigation clearly needs to be initiated involving the monitoring of a proper large cohort of people over a prolonged period of time (at least 6 months) where GM foods form a dominant component (>50%)  of their diet, including foods containing antibiotic resistance marker genes (which the GM soya used in the Newcastle study did not contain). Simulated diarrhoea trials (e.g. administering a laxative) must also be carried out.
http://ngin.tripod.com/251002d.htm

ORGANIC FOOD HAS MORE HEALTHY COMPOUNDS - US REPORT
US researchers led by Alyson Mitchell of the University of California, Davis have found that organically grown crops contain more healthy compounds than conventional crops, perhaps because they are not exposed to pesticides. Tests on organically and sustainably grown berries and corn showed they contain up to 58 percent more polyphenolics, compounds that act as antioxidants and may protect cells against damage that can lead to heart disease and cancer. Sustainably grown and organic produce also had more ascorbic acid, which the body converts to vitamin C, Mitchell's team reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
http://ngin.tripod.com/100303a.htm

CHILDREN WHO EAT ORGANIC HAVE LOWER PESTICIDE RESIDUES
A study by scientists at the University of Washington published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institutes of Health, found that children fed predominantly organic produce and juice had only one-sixth the level of pesticide byproducts in their urine compared with children who ate conventionally farmed foods.
http://ngin.tripod.com/250303c.htm
 
SPUDCO ACCUSED OF HIDING SALE OF GM POTATOES
In Canada, several hundred thousand pounds of GM Bt potatoes were sold to unsuspecting buyers as "regular potatoes" in 1999 by the government potato company known as Spudco, according to various officials involved. A former Spudco employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "Yeah, it did occur. They were loaded up. They were shipped. They had potatoes they needed to get rid of."

The former employee, who was involved in the loading of the Spudco potatoes, was further cited as saying the companies who bought them had no idea the product was genetically-altered, adding, "None of them knew. You can't tell. There's no stamp on them saying 'GMO', so the potatoes were just sold as regular potatoes." The former employee said they were told by Spudco senior managers, "Don't say on the bill it's GM potatoes."
http://ngin.tripod.com/260303c.htm

US TAXPAYERS TO SUBSIDIZE CLEANUP OF ALTERED CORN
The U.S. Agriculture Department's settlement with Prodigene, the Texas company that allowed GM pharmaceutical corn to contaminate food grain, portrayed three months ago as a stringent crackdown designed to send a message to other potential violators, actually involved a no-interest $3.5 million government loan. In other words, American taxpayers will subsidise cleanup efforts. The Agriculture Department did not release this information at the time it announced the settlement with ProdiGene.
http://ngin.tripod.com/260303c.htm

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CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF SCIENCE
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SCIENTIST VERRALL TELLS FSA TO RETRACT ALLEGATIONS
A recent article in the Sunday Herald reported concerns that Sir George Paterson, head of the Scottish Food Standards Agency, was pro-GM and "a friend of big business". The article drew on a 35-page report by John Verrall, a pharmaceutical chemist and a member of the government's Veterinary Products Committee who represents the Food Ethics Council on the Codex Alimentarius Consumer Group of the Food Standards Agency.

Dr Jon Bell, acting chief executive of the UK Food Standards Agency, dismissed the report, in comments to the Sunday Herald, as containing "spurious and malicious allegations".  John Verrall has published a letter in the paper issuing a public challenge to Bell to either produce evidence that any part of the report is untrue or else to "apologise for the accusations he has made against me".
http://ngin.tripod.com/170303d.htm

CSIRO CLINCHES BAYER CROPSCIENCE ALLIANCE
On the day of the announcement of the commercial approval for Bayer's GM canola in Australia, guess what? We get an announcement that Bayer will be extending its lucrative investment in CSIRO - Australia's pre-eminent public scientific research body.

"For Bayer CropScience," we are told, "the alliance with CSIRO is regarded as a model for global cooperation." Indeed it is. It a model of everything that's wrong in the relationship between public science and private interests. In the immortal words of John Stocker, CSIRO's former chief executive, "Working with the transnationals makes a lot of sense...Yes, we do find that it is often the best strategy to get into bed with these companies" (Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1992).

A report in The Age in 1994 commented: "CSIRO bears a close resemblance to that other great Australian corporation, the ABC [equivalent to the UK’s BBC]. Both are layered with discontent . . . but most importantly, both seem to be increasingly motivated by the corporate dollar."

Alert NGIN/GMWATCH readers may recall that CSIRO scientist and Prakash/AgBioWorld supporter Dr Malcolm Livingstone angrily denied ANY connection with industry: "OK first of all I am not part of the INDUSTRY. I work for CSIRO (a publicly funded organisation with a rich history of good science) and before that with the University of Queensland. I don't know ANYBODY who works for agricultural companies and never have."

Although ostensibly "publicly funded", CSIRO is, in reality, encouraged to get 30% of its funding from business, with CSIRO top management encouraging its staff to go to 40%. As a point of comparison, only about 10% of the funding of Europe's leading plant biotech institute, the John Innes Centre, is thought to come directly from industry.
http://ngin.tripod.com/030403d.htm

MINISTER "BUYING" LABOUR AND CORRUPTING POLITICAL PROCESS
Tony Blair’s science minister Lord Sainsbury has written a cheque to the Labour Party for £2.5 million to keep it afloat. He is the government's most prominent backer of GM technology in agriculture.

Lord Sainsbury's personal, political and financial interests span biotech, food retailing, and driving UK government policy in relation to technology and trade. He is simultaneously:
* the multi-billionaire science minister in charge of promoting biotech at the UK's Dept of Trade and Industry
* a member of the cabinet biotech committee responsible for national policy on GM crops and foods
* a major personal investor in GM
* a leading member of the UK supermarket giant ‘Sainsbury’ family (former chairman and major shareholder of J Sainsbury plc - personal and immediate family annual share dividend estimated at £36m in 1998)
* a multi-million pound donor to the Labour Party (giving Labour its biggest single donation in September 1997 and much more since) and made a life peer by Tony Blair 3 October 1997

Even senior members of Blair's ruling Party are dismayed at the corrupt relationship between Lord Sainsbury and Labour. Mark Seddon, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, claimed such donations were causing Labour to lose members amid criticism from the grassroots that the party was now "in the pockets of the powerful and the rich".

He told the Today programme: "In any other country I think a government minister donating such vast amounts of money and effectively buying a political party would be seen for what it is, a form of corruption of the political process."
http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/LordSainsbury.htm
http://ngin.tripod.com/030403c.htm

CHAPELA FEARS HE WON’T GET TENURE
In a squabble that raises new questions about corporate ties to universities, some academics are wondering whether Ignacio Chapela, the UC Berkeley professor who has become a leading biotech industry critic, can get a fair hearing in a tenure review that has already gone on twice as long as usual.

In 1998, Chapela led a fight against a controversial research partnership between biotech firm Novartis and Berkeley's Dept of Plant and Microbial Biology. He also co-wrote a journal article in 2001 in which he reported finding gene fragments from GM corn in the genomes of native Mexican maize. Now Chapela's allies say Berkeley Professor Jasper Rine, who sits on a nine-member tenure review committee, has such close ties to Novartis and the biotech industry that he can't be trusted to give Chapela a fair hearing. "What we're talking about is a conflict of interest as naked as it gets," said David Noble, a science historian at York University in Toronto.
http://ngin.tripod.com/240303a.htm

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IMPR0PAGANDA
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STRANGE BEDFELLOWS
"The Royal Society is the most respected scientific institution in the UK, explicitly committed to open and unbiased scientific debate. So why is it working so closely with an unlikely alliance of ex-Marxists and corporate lobbyists to twist the public debate on GM?"

Thus begins a riveting article by Andy Rowell and GMWATCH‚s very own Jonathan Matthews, published in the Ecologist, May 2003. The article contains revelations about a shadowy new group working with the Royal Society, called Sense About Science, which claims to be independent but is weighing in on the pro-GM side in the government’s "public debate". SAS’s director is one Tracey Brown, who previously worked for Regester Larkin, a PR group which numbers among its clients the Bio-Industry Association, Aventis CropScience, Lilly, Pfizer and Bayer, i.e. some of the very corporations most likely to benefit if GM crop commercialisation gets the go-ahead.

Brown’s phone number at SAS is the same as that of Global Futures, where Brown used to work, as did ex-Monsanto man Harry Swan. Global Futures, which claims to be a publishing house, has links with the extreme right-wing libertarian organisation Living Marxism, which opposes any restrictions on corporate activities.

The attempts of the government/science establishment/industry coalition to railroad us into swallowing GM leads them into strange and sleazy company. Find out more at
http://ngin.tripod.com/190303d.htm

'INDEPENDENT' GROUPS SHARE PRO-GM COMMON GROUND
Another article by Andy Rowell, from the Guardian, gives a Who’s Who of industry-funded lobby groups, thinktanks, websites and extreme right-wing libertarians. Many of these are linked and all are pro-GM, in spite of claims of "independence". Get the rundown on such groups as Sense About Science, the Scientific Alliance, Institute of Ideas, Science Media Centre, International Policy Network, and the Agricultural Biotechnology Council.
http://ngin.tripod.com/260303a.htm
It‚s worth remembering, while reading the article, that the supposedly independent and publicly funded body, the Royal Society, is spending our tax money to work in collaboration with at least two of these groups.

BIOTECH’S HALL OF MIRRORS:  A VERY DIRTY GAME
An article by GMWATCH’s Jonathan Matthews (published in the February edition of GeneWatch, the magazine of The Council for Responsible Genetics) reveals how Monsanto has sought to exploit the food aid crisis in Zambia, even deploying fake citizenry and fake organisations that are not all they seem.

That’s not all. Learn also how:
* Monsanto's public relations company, Burston-Marsteller, paid a Baptist Church from a poor neighborhood to bus in seemingly pro-GM "demonstrators" to a Washington FDA public hearing;
* Monsanto used fake people to conduct internet smear campaigns against GM-critical scientists and circulated lies that anti-GM activists caused deaths in India (actually due to a cyclone);
* Industry body BIO hyped a march in support of GM crops at the Johannesburg Earth Summit, seemingly consisting of poor third world farmers. BIO’s Val Giddings cited one of the marchers, Chegal Reddy, as denouncing organic farming in India and demanding access to GM. Problem: Reddy is not a farmer but a politician who has long featured in Monsanto promotional work in India. He was brought to Johannesburg by AfricaBio, a group that, like others at the march, is aligned with Monsanto.

Some of this material may be familiar to old hands of the NGIN/GMWATCH list but it‚s great to have it easily accessible in one article.
http://ngin.tripod.com/080303b.htm

INDUSTRY GROUP CREATED BOGUS WEBSITES TO HIJACK BROWSERS
An article from the British Medical Journal says the panel that settles disputes over internet domain names has found that an industry backed "consumer" group in the United States deliberately created bogus websites to hijack internet traffic from a health advocacy group. The National Arbitration Forum ruled that the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) set up websites in bad faith, to "create confusion" among internet users seeking access to sites of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

CCF, a vocal supporter of GM foods, is run by Washington DC-based PR lobbyist "Tricky" Rick Berman. PR Watch describes CCF as a corporate "front group funded by tobacco, booze and food companies".

According to PR Watch, "Berman says there are two things that set his firm, Berman & Co., apart from others in the trade. The first is that Œwe always have a knife in our teeth.‚ The other is that ‘we don't chase the smaller issues... Our work is restricted to and focused on issues that affect shareholder value… Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger. Given the activists' plans to alarm beyond all reason, we've got to attack their credibility as spokespersons.’"
http://ngin.tripod.com/120303c.htm
http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/2001Q1/berman1.html
http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/2001Q1/berman2.html

MONSANTO & CARGILL GENETICALLY ENGINEER SURVEY RESULTS
'farm', the new campaigning group for farmers and the public, has discovered that employees of biotech giants Monsanto and Cargill have been seeking to exert undue influence over its website poll on GM crops.
Following environment minister Michael Meacher's statement that we have always fed ourselves adequately and that GM is not necessary, farm put up the poll on its website asking, "Do you agree with Michael Meacher's comments that GM crops are not necessary?"

For the first few days, responses to the poll averaged at 90% agreeing with Meacher, 10% disagreeing. Latterly, opinion shifted gradually a little more against him - with around 82% agreeing, 18% disagreeing. Then - wham! - in the space of a day, responses to the poll lurched violently away from the minister, reducing from 80% to 60% to just over 50%. It seemed that some alien DNA had been inserted into the poll - and indeed it had. On analysing those responding to the website poll, farm discovered that 72% of all the 'No' votes had come from Monsanto and Cargill IP addresses.
http://ngin.tripod.com/240303c.htm

FOOD STANDARDS AGENCY SPINS SCHOOLS DEBATE ON GM
Because of the high level of suspicion about the UK's Food Standards Agency's proclaimed neutrality in the GM public debate, Robert Vint of Genetic Food Alert contacted the organisers of the Schools Debating Competition which this year has been sponsored by the FSA to debate the following motion, 'This house would eat GM food'. The organisers, the Durham Union Society, assured Robert that the competition wasn't about the merits of the motion but designed to assess the debating skills of the school teams that participated. For this reason, the schoolchildren were not even given a choice as to which side of the debate they were on and were only told on the day which view they would have to argue.

However, the FSA didn’t let that stand in the way of their obsession with spinning GM food down our throats. The FSA has been busy getting the word out to the media and the public that, to quote its headline, "SCHOOLS DEBATING COMPETITION VOTES TO EAT GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD".

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GM AND WAR/CAMPAIGNS OF THE MONTH
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Remember the infamous Reuters headline, 'Eat GM or starve, America tells Africa', and how Andrew Natsios of USAID told us the US couldn't help hungry southern African countries who wanted non-GM grain because, however desperate the situation, the US wasn't allowed to untie its aid - it could only provide US grain?

Well, now Mr Natsios is happily standing on his head.

The war in Iraq is expected to be devastating for the country's rural economy with consequences on farmers' capacity to produce food, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today. The winter grain harvest, set to begin in a few weeks, and the spring planting could both be affected.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced that it is donating an additional $200 million to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) *to purchase regional food aid* for Iraq. Of course, $200m is pretty small beer compared to the current $74.7 billion war budget being spent on destroying Iraq.
---
From: Teresa at Gaia    gaia@gaianet.org

As was feared by many opponents to the war on Iraq, the real intentions of the US "liberators" have not taken long to appear.  Already, major construction and port management contacts have been handed to US corporations, instead of Iraqi companies.  Even British officials have hinted at their disapproval.  This means that instead of supporting a regeneration of any local economy, profits will fly out of the country into the foreign corporations.  Some of the corporations already named have previous members among the US government.  Perhaps this is why there are suspicions about Monsanto also benefiting from this war, considering that ex-Monsanto employee Ann Venemen is Secretary for Agriculture.

In protest at War on Iraq and the exploitation of GM Food Aid, farmers' organisations in the Philippines have called for a boycott of Monsanto products, tying into the growing global boycott of US goods. [GMWATCH NOTE: I am sure none of our wise subscribers is still using Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate weedkiller Roundup. But many of you will have friends/relatives/neighbours who do. Now is a good time to persuade them to stop, if only for the selfish reasons that glyphosate has been linked in studies to Parkinson’s and certain cancers - not to mention its horrific effects on some who live near sprayed areas and must breathe in the vapour. Commonly reported effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, disorientation, neurological symptoms, wasting, headaches, chronic fatigue, etc. etc. For the latest on pesticides and Parkinson‚s from the unexpected source of the American Chemical Society,
see http://ngin.tripod.com/250303c.htm]

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It may well be that if Saddam's regime falls there will be dancing on the streets of Basra. But then, if the Bush regime were to fall, there would be dancing on the streets the world over. - Arundhati Roy [GMWATCH NOTE: this article is a must-read for anyone concerned about the war‚s effects]
http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,927712,00.html

CAMPAIGN OF THE MONTH NUMBER ONE:
PROTEST THE WAR - PROTEST THE CORRUPTION OF THE POLITICAL PROCESS!
From Schnews:  The Labour Party have a Freepost address, which means they have to pay the postage on anything you send them. Please don't send bricks or heavy phone directories to: The Labour Party, FREEPOST LON 10417, London, SW1P 4UT. All the local party offices also have freepost addresses that can be found on election leaflets.
IN THE POCKETS OF THE POWERFUL AND RICH
Mark Seddon, a member of Labour's National Executive Committee, claimed massive donations such as science minister Lord Sainsbury recently gave were causing Labour to lose members amid criticism from the grassroots that the party was now "in the pockets of the powerful and the rich". He told the Today programme: "In any other country I think a government minister donating such vast amounts of money and effectively buying a political party would be seen for what it is, a form of corruption of the political process."
http://ngin.tripod.com/040403b.htm
leave Labour - why it's time to quit the Party if you're a member - Labour takes no notice of members until they stop paying their contributions!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,921188,00.html
boycott brand America:
http://adbusters.org/campaigns/boycott_america/
Crucial peace opportunity
http://act.greenpeace.org/1048719593/index_html

CAMPAIGN OF THE MONTH NUMBER TWO:
SPREAD THE WORD
A leaflet explaining some of the problems with GM foods and crops has been produced by the following organisations: Action Aid, Christian Aid, Five Year Freeze, Friends of the Earth, Farmers Union of Wales, GeneWatch, Greenpeace, Henry Doubleday Research Organisation, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, National Federation of Women's Institutes, Soil Association and UNISON.

Over 60,000 of the 100,000 that have been printed have been given out. However, the rest need to reach the public over the next few months.  They could be put in wholefood shops, libraries etc., but they also need to be handed out in town centres/outside supermarkets, to reach people who don't normally see anti-GM info. To obtain leaflets, contact Becky Price of GeneWatch UK at 01298 871898  email: becky.price@genewatch.org   or Rachel at Five Year Freeze 020 7837 0642  email: rachel@fiveyearfreeze.org

CAMPAIGN NUMBER THREE - URGENT!
**Please take a few minutes to email your Members of the European Parliament by Tuesday 8th April.**

On the 10th of April, MEPs will be voting on seven amendments that, if adopted, would prevent seeds being contaminated by genetically modified organisms.

Current proposals by the European Commission would allow between 0.3% and 0.7% GM contamination in conventional seed. These figures were obtained by working backwards from the current labelling threshold of 1%. They are not based on any considerations for protecting the environment and have been criticised by English Nature. They would lead to widespread contamination of the environment and our right to choose GM-free food would disappear.

Although the status of the Parliament vote next week is only advisory, this may be the last chance we have to influence EU decision-making on seed contamination. If these amendments are adopted it will send a very strong signal to decision makers that genetic contamination of seeds is unacceptable.

What to do:

1. Go to the website of the UK office of the European Parliament and click on your region. This will give you all the MEPs in your region and their email addresses.
http://www.europarl.org.uk/uk_meps/MembersMain.htm

2. Copy the letter below and email it to all your MEPs by Tuesday 8th April, urging them to go along and vote for these amendments. If an MEP has two email addresses, use both! If you have time, personalise the letter and add in your own concerns.

Sorry about the short notice ˆ the report has only just become available. More information on this vote is pasted below the letter. If you would like to see the full report containing the amendments (26 pages) let me know and I can email it to you.

Thank you!

Clare Oxborrow
GM Campaigner
...
Dear (name MEP - see above for how to find this information),

Please vote against genetic contamination of seeds - 10 April

I am writing to you to urge you to attend the European Parliament vote on the 10th of April on the marketing of seeds, and to vote for amendments that would prevent seeds being contaminated by genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

I understand that the European Parliament will vote on a report drafted by Danielle Auroi (A5-0078/2003).  Amendments have been included that deal with the presence of traces of GMOs in conventional seeds.

Please support amendments 1, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20 and 21 in the Auroi report.

These amendments will prevent genetic contamination of seeds and set the threshold for the adventitious presence of GMOs in conventional seeds at the lowest detectable level, in line with the latest scientific and research findings.

Current proposals by the European Commission would allow between 0.3% and 0.7% GM contamination in conventional seed. These levels would lead to widespread contamination and would pose a serious threat to the environment. Our right to choose GM-free food would also be taken away, as once seeds become contaminated the whole food chain will be affected and eliminating the problem is impossible.

These amendments are crucial to ensure a GM-free food supply, to maintain consumer choice and to protect the environment, please support them on the 10th April.

Yours sincerely,

[you should include your postal address at the end of the email to each MEP to show you are a bona fide constituent, they tend to ignore emails without one!]

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EASTER PRESENT TO YOURSELF:
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
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BIOTECH FAMILY TREE POSTER AVAILABLE
As 3 corporations, Bayer, Monsanto and Syngenta, push for the commercial growing of GM crops in the UK, Corporate Watch brings you the biotech family tree poster.  The family tree shows the complex tangle of name changes, spin-offs, joint ventures and acquisitions woven by the biotech industry during 10 years of rapid expansion, consolidation and crisis.  It shows how a handful of old European and US chemical and pharma companies have invested heavily in seed companies, ridden out the hype and failure of the 'life science' concept, and become today's Gene Giants. They seek to change the way our food is produced forever. Some name changes are inevitable as companies change hands, but others mark deliberate attempts to fake fresh starts and escape the notoriety of an old name.  It is important to connect today's shiny new innovators, with their talk about sustainable development and feeding the world, to the parent companies that for years have manufactured hazardous chemicals, and even helped to develop weapons of mass destruction.  Full colour folded A2 poster available now free (but donations welcome) from  Corporate Watch, 16b Cherwell Street, Oxford OX4 1BG, UK    Tel 01865 791391   email@corporatewatch.org

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ENVIRONMENT
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INSECT PESTS GROW FAT ON BT TOXIN
Researchers from Imperial College, London have shown, in a forthcoming article in the journal Ecology Letters, that insect larvae can use the GM Bt toxin (Cry1Ac) as a supplementary food source. They found that toxin-resistant larvae of the Diamondback Moth developed faster and had a greater pupal weight in the presence of the toxin. This could be a genetic effect, but could be due to resistant insects enhancing their ability to survive and digest the toxin. The results are of particular interest because of the widespread use of crops expressing the toxin. These crops could, therefore, have unforeseen nutritionally favourable effects, increasing the fitness of resistant insect populations.
http://ngin.tripod.com/120303f.htm
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/environment/story.jsp?story=392044

NEW REPORT ON EXORCIST TECHNOLOGY
ETC Group, formerly RAFI, has released a report on "Exorcist Technology," the biotech industry's recent attempt to develop GM crops that shed their foreign DNA before harvest - with the help of chemical inducers - as a means of silencing anti-GM critics. "Exorcist is a new technology, but the basic strategy is the same - the biotech industry wants to shift all the burden to the farmer and society. If gene flow is a problem, the farmer will be obliged to apply a chemical inducer to excise the offensive transgenes. It's the newest bag of genetic tricks to fix the biotech industry's leaky genes and public relations problems," explains Hope Shand of ETC Group. "But it won't make agriculture more profitable for farmers, nor will it be more sustainable or safer for society. Why should society accept a new, unproven technology to fix a defective one?"

What happens to the chemically excised DNA is unclear. Transgenic DNA has been found to survive in soil for at least 2 years, and in fact to replicate during that time. So the industry’s hope to market this technology as environmentally friendly would seem to be just another cynical lie.

ETC’s report also features an update on Terminator Technology, which makes plants produce sterile seeds. Marketed as an environmentally friendly system of preventing GM pollen transfer, its value to industry is that it prevents farmers saving seeds - a practice which keeps most third world farmers afloat and undoubtedly saves lives.
 
See ETC’s full report at
http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=389
http://ngin.tripod.com/020403b.htm

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FARMING
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ECONOMICS CRITIQUE OF BROOM’S BARN FINDINGS ON GM CROPS
Recent findings published by the Broom’s Barn Research Station enthusiastically suggested vast savings for farmers growing GM Herbicide Tolerant crops. But farmers‚ campaign group ‘farm’ has taken a closer look at the figures used in the research (part sponsored by Monsanto) and found that most bear little relation to normal farming practice.

Œfarm‚ says: "The direct impact on yield likely from adopting the sorts of management practices needed to deliver these environmental benefits have been suggested to be 10% by Monsanto, with other research suggesting this figure could be as high as 31%. Given typical yields of sugar beet at 50 tonnes per ha and an adjusted value of £28 per tonne, this suggests a cost of  £140 to £430 per hectare in loss of yield alone, quite aside from the increased costs incurred through applying sprays in this way."
http://ngin.tripod.com/200303d.htm

Another mentally deranged study showing that farmers can benefit wildlife by deliberately growing weeds in their fields of GM crops is reported at:
http://ngin.tripod.com/130303b.htm
 
FARMERS REJECT PLAN TO RELEASE GM CANOLA
In Australia, farmers‚ group Network of Concerned Farmers are opposing Bayer‚s application for the release of GM canola. Mr Sam Statham, a New South Wales NCF member explained that the Canadian and American grain belts demonstrate that once GM canola is released, it is the dominant gene in the natural environment and GM free grain growing rapidly declines, as herbicide resistant volunteers start to dominate non GM crops.

"The pro-GM lobby says that farmers seeking to protect their rights are denying farmers choice, but what choice exists for farmers wishing to grow GM free crops, five years after the GM canola release?" Mr Statham said. Mr Scott Kinnear, VFF and NCF member said, "It’s extraordinary that the Risk Assessment of the release of GM canola not only fails to assess economic and social impacts but fails to consider herbicide resistance and the health and environmental issues of increased herbicide use by farmers."
http://ngin.tripod.com/020403d.htm

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THIRD WORLD/DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
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BT COTTON: MONSANTO’S SCIENTIFIC FAIRYTALE
A storm has blown up in India about the paper published in Science by Qaim and Zilberman extolling the yield of Monsanto's GM Bt cottonseed. The basis on which these claims were made - using data provided by Monsanto ˆprompted some to term the findings a scientific fairytale. Shanthu Shantharam, a former US Dept of Agriculture scientist, said, "This kind of shoddy publication based on meagre and questionable data in reputed journals does more harm to science and technology development".

Now Abhijit Sen, professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and chairman of the High-Level Committee on India's Long-Term Grain Policy, has said the data has such high standard errors that Qaim and Zilberman "have simply not been able to establish the main case that yields are 80% higher."

If the thesis is so full of holes, why the rush to press? It may have something to do with the fact that Monsanto is trying to shake off a year-long profit slide (the firm lost $1.75 billion or $6.67 per share, compared to a profit of $399 million or $1.51 per share a year ago). The slide was in part due to deeper concerns worldwide over biotechnology and a drought at home. Thus analysts say the company needs to sell aggressively.
 
INDIA'S ANDHRA PRADESH TO COMPENSATE CULTIVATORS OF BT COTTON CROPS
Andhra Pradesh government has promised to compensate the farmers whose Bt cotton crops failed even as the Opposition demanded that Monsanto, which introduced the crop, be "blacklisted".
http://ngin.tripod.com/120303d.htm

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COMPANY NEWS
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MASS EXODUS OF EUROPE'S BIOTECH COMPANIES FROM GM
Europe's biotech firms have cancelled millions of pounds worth of research into GM crops, sending the industry into a steep slump, a new study has found. The European Commission has admitted that nearly two thirds of the EU's biotech companies have cancelled GM research projects over the past four years, mainly because of the controversy over the safety and labelling of GM crops, and continuing consumer resistance.

The Commission also found that the number of GM field trial applications fell by 76 per cent last year, from the 250 submitted in 1998 to a level not seen since 1992. By comparison, US field trial bids have remained relatively stable at about 1,000 a year. The Commission's gloom deepened after an opinion poll of 16,500 people showed deep-rooted disquiet about GM crops. Although 44 per cent of Europeans believed medical biotechnology would improve their lives, only 36 per cent supported GM foods.
http://ngin.tripod.com/240303d.htm

NOW SYNGENTA BOSS QUITS!
Following Syngenta's announcement of its first financial loss at the end of 2002, Chief Financial Officer Richard Steiblin has just quit, claiming "personal" reasons. This follows Monsanto's Chief Executive Officer's sudden departure in December which has left Monsanto without a CEO. According to Syngenta's outgoing CFO, "the world's largest agrochemicals firm remained cautious on the global agricultural industry, its bedrock market" - in short, it ain’t going to get better any time soon. The Wall Street Journal concluded more than two years ago that it was "hard to see those companies as a good investment, even in the long term."
http://ngin.tripod.com/190303c.htm

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RESISTANCE TO GM
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MOST CONSUMERS WORLDWIDE DON‚T WANT GM FOOD
A Global Poll on genetics run by the Discovery Channel shows that a majority of those polled in all countries (58%) are unwilling to eat GM food. Even consumers in the United Arab Emirates (a country not known for its consumer militancy) are calling for the enforcement of a new law to label GM food, following the example of other countries.
http://ngin.tripod.com/010403b.htm

PROTESTS BUILD AGAINST GM FOOD
Protests were held around the world March 15 against genetically modified foods on World Consumer Rights Day. Protest meetings were held by about 250 consumer organizations under the wing of the London-based Consumers International. Meetings reportedly were held in many cities across Europe, Africa and Asia.
http://ngin.tripod.com/020403a.htm

CORNWALL GOES GM-FREE
Cornwall County Council has voted to go GM-free, joining a growing protest against GM crops at local authority level across the country. Pressure to go GM-free is strong in the south west of England, with South Gloucestershire and South Hams District Council voting to go GM-free in February this year. Devon County Council has stated its opposition to GM trials, and called on the South West Regional Assembly to take a position on GM. North Radstock Town Council has also voted to go GM-free.

In a full meeting, Cornwall County Council voted to keep the County of Cornwall free of GM crops and GM food and feed, and to call on the Secretary of State to provide legal protection for this County as a GM free area, under European law. Under this law, councils can request legal protection of their areas from particular GM crops. http://ngin.tripod.com/020403a.htm

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JOIN THE VIRTUAL SIT-IN OF DOW OVER BHOPAL
http://dowethics.com/bhopal.com/go/visit.html
Bhopal protests move online
http://act.greenpeace.org/1047305452/index_html
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