ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
14 March 2003

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THE WEEKLY WATCH NUMBER 19
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from Andy Rees, the WEEKLY WATCH editor
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Dear all

Welcome to WW19 bringing you all the latest news in brief on the GM issue.

It may be of particular interest to any friends or contacts finding it hard to keep up with all the breaking news on this hot topic, so please circulate widely!

There's been a lot more setbacks for the industry this week but they're really piling on the pressure on one of the world's biggest agricultural producers - Brazil.  As Dow Jones reports, "With the Brazilian government in frantic policy discussions over genetically modified organisms, agribusiness is cranking up its lobby in favor of the technology..."  As Monsanto flies in, look out for the latest news in HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK and see CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK for how you can help counteract the industry's campaign of pressure.

Hope you enjoy it - let me know what you think.

Andy <andy@gmwatch.org>
www.ngin.org.uk

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WEEKLY WATCH  number 19 - CONTENTS
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SETBACKS TO THE GM INDUSTRY - multiple!
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK  - pro-GM lobby cranking up pressure on Brazil
TOPIC OF THE WEEK - SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE LIED ABOUT BMA
REPORT OF THE WEEK 1 - An update on the UK 'Public Debate' on GM crops
REPORT OF THE WEEK 2 - More on biotech brigade's dirty tricks
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK
CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK - Brazil under renewed pressure - ALERT!
SUBSCRIPTIONS

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THIS WEEK'S SETBACKS TO THE GM INDUSTRY
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GM CROP TRIAL STOPPED BY SWITZERLAND'S HIGHEST COURT
Switzerland's highest court has stopped an outdoor trial of GM wheat due to go ahead later this month.  The Federal Court decided that the environment ministry had not taken into account the opinions and concerns of those opposing the trials when it made its decision.  The trial may never take place now.
http://ngin.tripod.com/130303a.htm

ECONOMICS REPORT SAYS GM WHEAT COULD COST U.S. BILLIONS
According to new research by an Iowa State University economics professor, there is a "high risk" that the US wheat industry will lose 30 to 50% of its foreign markets for spring wheat, if Monsanto releases its controversial GM wheat in the next few years.  Last year alone, the US exported $3.6 billion worth of wheat.
http://ngin.tripod.com/130303c.htm

GM CROPS BOOST PESTS!
Researchers from Imperial College, England have just shown in a forthcoming article in the journal Ecology Letters, that insect larvae can use an engineered toxin (Cry1Ac - present in genetically engineered Bt crops) as a supplementary food source.  These crops could, therefore, have unforeseen nutritionally favourable effects, increasing the fitness of resistant insect populations!
http://ngin.tripod.com/120303f.htm

ALL MAIN PARTIES IN OZ ELECTION WANT TO BE GM FREE
The New South Wales (NSW) Government has promised to ban commercially grown GM food crops for at least three years, including applications from Monsanto and Bayer Crop Science to grow GM canola.  A similar promise has been made by the Opposition.  Currently there is no commercially grown GM food in NSW, but there are trials of crops including canola, clover and mustard.
http://ngin.tripod.com/080303a.htm

INDIA SAYS 'NO' TO GM FOOD AID - AGAIN
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has rejected the US case for permitting the import of the corn-soya blend suspected to be GM-contaminated.
http://ngin.tripod.com/080303a.htm

CONSUMER GROUPS AROUND THE WORLD TAKE ACTION ON GM FOOD
In celebration of World Consumer Rights Day 2003, on the 15th March, Consumer groups around the world are taking action on GM foods and the methods used by agribusiness to control the food we eat.  "The pressing issue now facing consumers is the way in which agribusiness is using GM technology to consolidate its control over global food production", says Dr Sothi Rachagan, Asia Pacific Regional Director, Consumers International.
http://ngin.tripod.com/100303c.htm

STOPPING GM CROPS BEING PLANTED IS REASONABLE AND LEGAL, SAYS UK COURT
The magistrate at Sherborne Magistrates Court in the UK accepted the defence of all four 'Littlemoor' defendants that they were acting reasonably by obstructing tractors being used to plant GM crops as they were seeking to prevent damage to property - ie all property: bee hives, maize crops, fields.  The Four were arrested under the charge of Aggravated Trespass and their solicitor has said the acquittal is a first and a landmark legal victory.
http://ngin.tripod.com/080303c.htm   &   http://ngin.tripod.com/100303a.htm

ORGANIC FOOD HAS MORE HEALTHY COMPOUNDS
US researchers have found that organically grown crops contain more healthy compounds than conventional crops, including more ascorbic acid, which the body converts to vitamin C. Tests on organically and sustainably-grown berries and corn showed up to 58% more polyphenolics, antioxidants that may protect cells against damage that can lead to heart disease and cancer.
http://ngin.tripod.com/100303a.htm

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OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
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India's Andhra Pradesh to compensate farmers for GM cotton failures
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The Andhra Pradesh government has promised to compensate farmers whose GM (Bt) cotton crops failed, and the Opposition has demanded that Monsanto, which introduced the crop, be "blacklisted".  In some parts of India, 95% of Bt Cotton farmers have reported losses. In the Vidharba region of Maharashtra alone, farmers had demanded Rs 5000 million as compensation for the loss suffered on account of the inferior seeds that did not match the claims made by Mahyco-Monsanto.
http://ngin.tripod.com/120303d.htm
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Brazil under pressure from US, Monsanto and agribiz to release GMOs
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Brazilian President Lula is under a lot of pressure to release GMOs, from Monsanto who are coming from the US to lobby him personally, and the US administration which has tied a relaxation of Brazil's ban on GM crops to food aid.  Brazilian research shows 71% of those that are aware of GMOs prefer not to eat them, and 91% believe they should be labelled.
http://ngin.tripod.com/110303b.htm
But according to a Dow Jones report of 12 March, 'BRAZIL'S AGRIBUSINESS INTENSIFIES PRO-GMO LOBBY' - "With the Brazilian government in frantic policy discussions over genetically modified organisms, agribusiness is cranking up its lobby in favor of the technology. Representatives of 24 agribusiness associations met in Sao Paulo Tuesday to articulate a common pro-GMO position. The groups will now draw up a seven-point joint letter that will be sent to the Brazilian government's GMO policy committee, led by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as well as judges and legislators."
COUNTER THE INDUSTRY CAMPAIGN - SEE CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK (BELOW)
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Brazil addresses illegal GM crops
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Brazil's new government confirmed that GM plantings of crops like soy were illegal and that it is moving towards enforcement though for the moment it would seek legal ways to market what has been planted so far to avoid economic hardship.
http://ngin.tripod.com/080303a.htm
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Jury trial of GM-free Wales crop pullers
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On 31 March to 3 April, two women will stand trial by jury at Chester Crown Court for their part in making Wales a GM-free zone.  This is a great opportunity to put GM on trial and to celebrate nonviolent resistance to GM crops in Wales.  Please come along to watch the trial and support.
http://ngin.tripod.com/080303c.htm
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A majority of UK farmers don't expect to benefit from GM crops
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533 family farmers were asked a series of questions on a number of subjects, by FARM.  30% do not belong to any farming organisation; 60 would welcome a new organisation; and 80% want a campaign/lobby organisation.  87% of farmers want to farm without subsidies; what they do want is a fair farmgate price.  51% of farmers do not expect to benefit from GM crops whilst 31% do.
http://ngin.tripod.com/090303c.htm
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EU tables 'dreadful' initial ideas on GM crop contamination debate
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The European Commission says no form of agriculture should be excluded in the EU and there could be no general ban on GM crop cultivation by using GM-free zones as suggested by some EU member states.  The Commission suggested various options to control the risk of cross- contamination, such as buffer zones, pollen barriers and crop rotation arrangements for differing flowering periods.  "The clear choice (to consumers) will be given by the new laws on traceability and labelling," a Commission spokeswoman told reporters.  As yet, the EU has no rules to protect traditional and organic farming from the risk of contamination by GM crops.  Commission officials say they suspect that co-existence may still be used by the bloc's anti-GM states - about 8 of the EU's 15 - to delay approving new authorisations. Friends of the Earth said the cost to combat cross-contamination would just be handed to the non-GM sector.  "These dreadful proposals would give the biotech industry a licence to pollute our food, farming and the environment. The Commission must make it absolutely clear that the cost of GM pollution must be paid by biotech firms and those growing GM crops".
http://ngin.tripod.com/100303b.htm
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EU minsters start to water down Liability Directive
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The scope of the EU's future Directive on environmental liability has been curtailed, with reluctance about a mandatory insurance system, exemptions for business, and a limited definition of the scope.  Germany, France and the UK (as always) are seeking the flimsiest cover possible, whereas Spain, Luxembourg, Austria and Sweden want exactly the opposite.  This is by no means the end of the debate.
http://ngin.tripod.com/100303a.htm

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TOPIC OF THE WEEK - Shenanigans in Scotland
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SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE LIED ABOUT BMA:
The Scottish Executive has completely dismissed the report on GM crop trials by the Health Committee of the Scottish Parliament.  This is the first time the work of a parliamentary committee has been categorically rejected by ministers.  Committee member Mary Scanlon said, "The minister [Ross Finnie] is acting with unbelievable smugness and arrogance. He has also called into question the committee system in the Scottish Parliament, which was always hailed as one of its great strengths."

The Scottish Executive is engaging in disinformation, intended to unfairly undermine the British Medical Association's position, saying, "The British Medical Association (BMA) has recently acknowledged that there has been a 'lot more science' since their position statement on GM was published in 1999."  But the BMA never said this! The Executive has put in the BMA's mouth a comment by Sir Peter Lachman, an outspoken critic of the BMA's GM policy and a highly controversial figure whom the editor of the Lancet accused of threatening him with the loss of his job in an effort to suppress the publication of Pusztai's research.

From the day of the Health Committee's publication of its report, there has been a well-orchestrated series of pro-GM press pieces in the media intended to eclipse news of the report and undermine those scientists whose views the Health Committee found most persuasive.
http://ngin.tripod.com/120303a.htm

NEW SCOTTISH FSA BOARD MEMBER - ADDING INSULT TO INJURY:
One of the very scientists whose evidence the Health Committee of the Scottish Parliament found least persuasive - Prof Andrew Miller of the Royal Sociey of Edinburgh - has now been appointed by the Scottish Executive to the board of the Food Standards Agency.  He will now be amongst those official advisers in whom Ross Finnie sets such store.  Ever get the feeling that the public oversight of this technology is just a private conversation amongst a tiny group of like-minded individuals?
http://ngin.tripod.com/130303d.htm

REPORT CLAIMS SCOTTISH FSA BOSS IS PRO-GM AND FRIEND OF BIG BUSINESS:
The credibility and independence of Scotland's food safety watchdog have been thrown into doubt as its top official, Dr George Paterson, is accused of being in favour of GM food and a friend of big business.  A 30-page report sent to ministers and the FSA recounts how Paterson - in his previous job as head of food safety in Canada - rejected expert advice from his own scientists questioning the safety of two hormone growth promoters, Revalor-H and [GM] Bovine Somatotropin (BST). Some of the scientists later filed a formal complaint alleging that they had been 'pressured to pass drugs of questionable safety'.  There was 'unhealthy collaboration' between Paterson's directorate and Monsanto over the company's failed attempts to win approval for BST.
http://ngin.tripod.com/090303b.htm

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REPORT OF THE WEEK 1 - An update on the increasingly farcical UK 'Public Debate' on GM crops
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GOVERNMENT HAS ALREADY DECIDED TO INTRODUCE GM CROPS IN THE NEXT YEAR:
A furious row has broken out between scientists and the Government, over claims that Ministers have already decided to introduce GM crops within the next 12 months, and are embarking on a sophisticated campaign of manipulation designed to railroad Britons into accepting GM products.  The Government recently decided to press ahead with licensing the commercial use of GM crops before the debate is completed in September.  In the past month, biotech companies including Monsanto have applied to import GM crops.

Beckett decided that 18 applications to the EU for growing and importing GM maize, oil seed rape and sugar beet will be granted.  Malcolm Bruce, chairman of the committee organising the debate, will write to the pro-GM Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett demanding an answer to how the debate will actually influence the final decision.  "What is the point in proceeding if decisions are already made?" said Clare Devereux, spokeswoman for lobby group Five Year Freeze and member of the debate's steering board.
http://ngin.tripod.com/090303a.htm

FARM-SCALE CROP TRIALS CONVENIENTLY DELAYED:
Anger is fuelled by news that completion of the farm-scale crop trials has also been delayed, ensuring their potentially controversial findings cannot be discussed in the debate.
http://ngin.tripod.com/090303a.htm

GM SCIENCE REVIEW SIDESTEPPING IMPORTANT ISSUES:
Concern also continues to escalate over the Government's GM Science Review. Its panel of experts have met only twice since last October, amid accusations it has sidestepped topics such as potential health effects.  One member of the review, Dr Andrew Stirling, of the science policy research unit at the University of Sussex, said: "I am concerned that a number of uncertainties and unknowns like potential cross-pollination are in danger of being neglected. It's not a very balanced format."
http://ngin.tripod.com/090303a.htm

LEADING CONSUMER GROUPS CONDEMN FSA:
Three of the largest consumer groups in the UK, Consumers' Association, National Consumer Council and Sustain (the alliance for better food and farming) have joined forces to condemn the FSA over its approach to the public debate on GM.  Sheila McKechnie, Director, Consumers' Association, said: "The FSA is failing in its remit to protect consumers.  Our research shows that over half of consumers have concerns about GM, yet the regulator has failed to give any consideration to these concerns."
http://ngin.tripod.com/130303e.htm
FSA accused of pro-GM bias
Consumer groups say website fails to address risks
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,913922,00.html

SEE FIVE YEAR FREEZE NEWSLETTER FOR MORE:
The next Five Year Freeze newsletter, due out this week, will have more information on the debate.  If you do not currently recieve this (in hard copy not electronic) then email rachel@fiveyearfreeze.org with your postal details.

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REPORT OF THE WEEK 2 - More dirty tricks from the biotech brigade
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BIOTECH'S HALL OF MIRRORS
From Berkeley to Johannesburg, from India to Zambia, biotech's deceivers are playing a very dirty game
By Jonathan Matthews
GeneWatch, Volume 16 Number 1, January - February 2003

This article reveals how Monsanto has sought not only to manufacture support for its products in the Third World and to initiate and fuel attacks on scientists and others by the use of front groups and individuals, but how the company and its allies have even sought exploit the food aid crisis in Zambia, even deploying Monsanto's infamous "fake citizenry" tactic.

"The cynical antics of the biotech industry's lobbyists during the crisis in southern Africa is the ultimate manifestation of the shamelessness seen in their use of fake citizens, fake organisations, and even fake public protest.  It's not just a question of using "fronts" for malicious corporate attacks, but of the exploitation of situations where it's important - on a life-or-death level -  that we are able to discern the truth.

It matters what poor farmers and people in the Third World really want, and it matters what actual scientists and real citizens are trying to say; and this becomes difficult to discern within a hall or mirrors where industry's facade is reflected from a dizzying array of sources that in the end turn out all to be just one and the same."
http://ngin.tripod.com/080303b.htm

MORE DIRTY TRICKS CAMPAIGNS:
The panel that settles disputes over internet domain names has found that an industry-backed "consumer" group in the US 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).

The finding is not the first time the CCF has been caught engaging in dirty tricks. Last January, the National Arbitration Forum ruled that the CCF had in bad faith sought to disrupt the business activities of Chef's Collaborative, a group committed to such goals as sustainable food production and imparting cooking skills to children. However, this is the least of their crimes... According to Michael Jacobson, the director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, "The so called Center for Consumer Freedom deceives the American people every day of the week by posing as a consumer group, when it's really a front group that does PR dirty work..."
http://ngin.tripod.com/120303c.htm
SEE ALSO:
Corporate Phantoms, George Monbiot, The Guardian, Wednesday May 29, 2002
http://ngin.tripod.com/deceit7.html

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK
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"This is a staggering situation. The minister is acting with unbelievable smugness and arrogance. He has also called into question the committee system in the Scottish Parliament, which was always hailed as one of its great strengths." - member of the Health Committee of the Scottish Parliament (see TOPIC OF THE WEEK)

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HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the NGIN archive
http://ngin.tripod.com/mar03.htm
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12 March 2003
Scottish Executive lied about BMA
Bayer's Headache: "So much for keeping this quiet"
Industry group created bogus websites to hijack browsers
11 March 2003
Disinfopedia - from PR WATCH
URGENT - action on Brazil/action on Iraq
10 March 2003
Pink Castle - indymedia report
Organic food has more healthy compounds
Ministers start to water down liability directive
EU tables first ideas on crop contamination debate
Corporate Control of the Food Chain - the GM link
9 March 2003
Fury over spin on GM crops
Report claims FSA boss 'is pro-GM'
A majority of UK farmers don't expect to benefit from GM crops
8 March 2003
Election turns into GM-free zone
NO to GM foodaid
Brazil addresses illegal GM crops
Biotech's hall of mirrors:  a very dirty game
Pink Castle Victory:  Littlemoor Four Acquitted
Jury trial of GM-free Wales crop pullers

FOR THE COMPLETE NGIN ARCHIVE: http://ngin.tripod.com/nginlist.htm

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CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK
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ACTION ON BRAZIL - counter the campaign of pressure. e-mail addes and fax numbers below.

Here's a request for urgent support from Brazil

Dear friends,

Lula, Brazilian President, is getting lot of pressure to release GMOs. Monsanto President is coming from US to lobby personally. Today Lula has a meeting with the main Ministers to decide "politically" the issue. A final decision will be taken [by] March 20. So, manifestation from abroad are welcome. Brazilian campaigners will certainly thanks any Fax NGOs and POs can send to the Ministers bellow showing that there is no interest [in buying] GMO food.

Thank you for your support and your help to spread this information through your network.

Contacts:
josedirceu@planalto.gov.br
- Min. Civil House - José Dirceu - fax:(55-61) 321-1461 -
(He is the Chair of the Ministerial Commission that will decide about the issue)

gm@agricultura.gov.br
- Min. of Agriculture - Mr. Roberto Rodrigues - fax: (55-61) 225-9046 -

marina.silva@mma.gov.br
- Min. of Environment - Ms.Marina Silva - fax: (55-61) 322-8469 -

Abraços,
Angela Cordeiro.

IF SHORT OF TIME, HERE'S A SAMPLE LETTER - PLEASE PERSONALISE

Dear [José Dirceu or Roberto Rodrigues or Marina Silva]

I am writing to express my concern about the campaign of pressure on Brazil to approve GM crops.

This appears to be coming both from the US administration, which I understand has tied a relaxation of Brazil's ban on GM crops to food aid, and also Monsanto - leading representatives of the company are reported to be coming from the US to lobby personally for such a relaxation.

As you will know, the US and Monsanto are desperate. The US is trying every means it can to put pressure on Europe to end its five year de facto GM moratorium because not only are more and more countries are resisting GM- contaminated food but US farm organisations are complaining about the hundreds of millions of dollars (some analysts say billions) of exports that they are losing.

But agriculture ministers from EU countries opposed to the authorisation of new GMOs, which include Germany, France, Greece, Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria, have restated their objection to the lifting of the moratorium. And even if the moratorium is lifted at some point in the future, it will only be after very strict rules on the origin and labelling of GMOs have been introduced throughout Europe making it next to impossible for countries exporting GM contaminated grain to find a market.

As for Monsanto, it has been promising that it will get regulatory approval of its GM products by Brazil, and Europe, for so long that nobody believes it any more. As Sergey Vasnetsov, a senior analyst with Lehman Brothers in New York recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (02/22/2003)

" '[Monsanto] is a company that has been optimistic on the borderline of lying. Monsanto has been feeding us these fantasies for two years, and when we saw they weren't real' its stock price fell."
http://ngin.tripod.com/240203a.htm

Monsanto's shares traded above $30 in early 2001 but have since fallen by nearly half, to around $17.07 a share. Syngenta, the world's biggest GM company, has also recently reported a net loss. Syngenta was only created to stop the damage the worldwide concern about GM products was doing to the reputation of its parent companies, AstraZeneca and Novartis.

Amongst Monsanto's many problems is the fact that they and the US administration are trying to push products for which there is no real market. In Brazil itself reserarch shows 71% of those that are aware of GMOs prefer not to eat them and 91% believe that they should be labelled. The same is  true worldwide. For instance, in Europe consumers overwhelmingly reject GMOs. In the UK no major supermarkets allow GMOs in their own brands and there is labelling of GM ingredients.

No food companies want to label their foods as containing GMOs. This means if Brazil approves GM crops, the European food industry will look elsewhere for its supplies. Recently Japanese buyers turned to Brazil for the very first time to buy corn to import because of the comntaminsation of U.S. shipments.

Food aid is the last unregulated export market open to US farmers as worried European, Asian and other consumers shun GM grain and introduce strict import and labelling rules. But even with regard to food aid, there is growing resistance to GM contamination.

India has recently refused US food aid because of GM contamination. The Zambian government has rejected GM food aid, and other countries in southern Africa are only accepting US aid where the grain has been milled. In Colombia, testing conducted by Consumidores Colombia (COCO) forced the withdrawal of donated GM soya from national food aid programmes aimed at young people.

The EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy has openly accused the US of using its foreign aid programme as a means to "dispose of its genetically modified crop surpluses. The simple solution is for the US to behave as a real aid donor." Oxfam is among the aid agencies that have called for food aid to be kept GM free. It says, "Oxfam stresses the need to guarantee human health and biodiversity, and respect the social and cultural context of food aid recipient countries" and it has called for "food aid standards that prevent the distribution of GMOs in food aid."
 
Please do not endanger the health and welfare of the Brazilian people or the economic future of your famers and your country by surrendering to the campaign of pressure from the US and Monsanto.

[your name]
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