ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

15 March 2002





This week's SchNEWS:
[SchNEWS 346, Friday 15th March 2002]

ISSUE 346, March 15th, 2002

Monster Munch Inc. | Mexico | Philippines | India | Resistance is Fertile |


Since genetic engineering manipulates the basis of life, the risks involved are more frightening than any other developed so far... We feel it is unjust of the richest of the world to expect us to bear the risks of their experimentation. - Tewolde Egziabher, Ethiopian Delegate (CBD).

In April UN delegates will be yapping about the state of the world's biodiversity resources over two-headed salmon and champagne at the sixth meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Holland. Set up during the UN Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the CBD have only just agreed on the useless Biosafety Protocol and The Law of the Seed. Neither will have the power to stop the legal or illegal spread of GMOs, protect farmers rights or stop finite resources being plundered for profit. This is because these UN organisations didn't have the power or force of will to fight powerful biotech corporations and the World Trade Organisation.


"What's frightening is how fast it has spread" said Yolanda Lara, spokesperson for Oaxaca's non-governmental Rural Development Agency about the spread of GM corn in Capulalpan, a village in the hills of Mexico's Oaxaca State. Normally locals might be thankful for this new source of corn, the staple food of villages in the area. But they now know this corn is GM, which is surprising because GM crops have been banned in Mexico since 1998. Berkeley scientists have confirmed that this new corn is the spawn of Monsanto: it has the same DNA as the biotech giant's commercial GM maize. David Quist, responsible for the study suggests that "It's more likely that the contamination came from food aid brought into these regions. A lot of it comes from the United States and a lot of it is transgenic." So under the guise of offering support to poverty stricken villagers in remote parts of Mexico, the US has managed to off-load tonnes of subsidised GM maize on unsuspecting shopkeepers and subsistence farmers. Locals are worried that the GM corn, which they say has been around in their shops for several years, will out-compete native varieties. The Berkeley study confirms their fears, suggesting that GM corn is likely to dominate local corn and may also threaten the research of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, home to the largest variety of endangered maize in the world. Quist believes a well-enforced ban on imported GM corn and a programme to encourage traditional habits of swapping and testing wild seeds is the way forward.


In February this year Greenpeace Asia activists blocked the unloading of 17,000 tonnes of GM soybeans from the United States. The Philippine government buys about 300,000 tonnes of soybeans and over one million tonnes of soymeal annually, mainly from the United States. Last October, Swiss corporation Novartis AG confirmed allegations from Greenpeace that some samples of baby food it sold did contain genetically modified soybean. Beau Baconguis of Greenpeace Asia said, "We should not be forced to feed our children with food the rest of the world is increasingly rejecting."


India is the biggest cotton producer in the world so it was big news when, in 1998, 500 farmers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh because of the failure of their cotton crops. Dr. Pushpa Bhargava, an Indian biologist, told the Indian Science Congress that the failure of the cotton seed in Andhra Pradesh in 1997 and 1998 should be investigated since Monsanto could have been using local seed companies to market bad seed in order to destroy the supply system. "The destruction of the seed supply and Monsanto's purchase of Indian seed companies would have ensured that Indian farmers had no option but to buy Monsanto's Bt. cotton and in future Monsanto's terminator crops." The Indian farmers ain't taking this lying down and in 1998 the Karnataka farmers union occupied and burned down the three fields of GM cotton and 500 farmers occupied Cargill, the biotech multinational offices, throwing loads of their processing kit out of windows. They did loads of other actions too as part of 'Operation Cremate Monsanto' and hundreds of farmers and activists took part in the Intercontinental Caravan, which toured through Europe.

The struggle against biotech giants in India continues today and on Monday 18th Indian women farmers will be in London to challenge British Government aid to the state of Andhra Pradesh's "Vision 20\20" programme, which will displace 25 million rural people, and corporatise agriculture in the state. This action opposes the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Chief Minister of AP and Monsanto, which will give the company free rein to plant GM crops throughout Andhra Pradesh. They will present the findings of a Citizen's Jury at 2pm in the House of Commons.



While 9 EU states have a legal postponement of genetically modified organisms, countries such as Sri Lanka and India have been forced to bow to the 'superior' power of US backed World Trade Organisation and sign the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement which limits their ability to deny access to Monsanto and the like. That said, anti GM and anti-capitalist actions are growing, so get yer arse in gear and see what you can do to stop the greedy corporate elite (and their government chums) from controlling our food supply.

The first GM crop bashing of the year kicked off in Warwickshire last weekend. Following a procession about 100 people pulled up some plants in a field of GM oil seed rape for half an hour before police made five arrests. Despite the non-violent protest a police spokesman said "We were treating it as a peaceful protest, but it did go beyond that." - probably unaware of cops enjoying tea and cakes provided by the local Women's Institute, in the village hall, with the protesters after the event.

* To see if there's any farm scale trials in your area contact: 020-7272-1586,

* After suing Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser for infringing patent rights when his fields were contaminated with GM oil seed rape, even though he was unaware of the contamination and was unable to prevent it  (SchNEWS 300) Monsanto are now threatening other farmers. See the threatening letters at

In a separate case two Canadian organic farmers are trying to sue Monsanto and Aventis. They seek compensation for damages caused by GM oilseed rape, and an injunction to prevent Monsanto from introducing GM wheat into the region. The local organic farmers group said "losing wheat to genetic contamination would devastate organic farming - our very future is at stake. Info:

* On 27th March is a Genetic Futures in Food and Farming CDB talk, 12-4 pm, Main Lecture Theatre School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Contact:
And running alongside the UN Conference in Holland, Resistance is Fertile are organising actions, workshops and activities for a world without GMOs and patents on life April 6th-19th.



Web version:

Immediate Release:  Thursday 14 March

The Government today announced the location of the latest round of GM maize sites in England.  Friends of the Earth warned that the sites will pose a pollution threat to neighbouring conventional and organic crops. There are 35 sites in England, but none in Wales.  The Scottish Executive will make an announcement on any Scottish trials later today.

The list of sites was expected to include over 20 sites in South West England, to meet the scientific requirement for the distribution of the sites to represent the areas in which fodder maize is grown.  There are in fact only 11 sites in the South West, all but one of which is in Dorset.  One village has four sites.

A new report by the European Environment Agency on pollen transfer from GM crops [1] concludes that "evidence suggests that GM maize plants would cross-pollinate non-GM maize plants up to and beyond their recommended isolation distance of 200m ." It states that maize pollen has been shown to cross with other maize plants up to 800 m apart and "it is estimated that small quantities of pollen are likely to travel much further under suitable atmospheric conditions ." The current separation distances between GM and non-GM are 200m for sweet corn and organic maize but only 80m for conventional fodder maize.

Last month the Secretary of State for the Environment, Margaret Beckett, admitted that the current separation distances for GM trials may not be enough to adequately stop GM crops cross-pollinating other crops.  She said:  "the separation distances for the [ farm scale trials]  have been set to ensure that cross-pollination is a maximum of 1%.  However... there is a case for separation distances to be greater so as to ensure a maximum of, for example, 0.1% cross-pollination".

Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "These new crop trials will be deeply unpopular.  They threaten the livelihoods of neighbouring farmers who want to grow conventional and organic crops. The separation distances are clearly inadequate, but despite the scientific warnings the Government is pressing ahead in an irresponsible way.  They have clearly failed to convince many new farmers to join in this great uncontrolled experiment.  The Government should abandon these unwanted trials for once and for all."
The English sites are (reference Parish County/Authority)
NZ 206 363 Oakenshaw Durham
SE 448 422 Bramham cum Oglethorpe Leeds
SJ 573 381 Whitchurch Shropshire
SJ 602 214 Ercall Magna Telford and Wrekin
SJ 619 473 Sound Cheshire
SJ 683 254 Hinstock Shropshire
SJ 714 870 Lymm Warrington
SK 963 898 Hemswell Cliff Lincolnshire
SO 556 486 Felton Herefordshire
SO 561 479 Felton Herefordshire
SO 915 565 Tibberton Worcestershire
SP 154 403 Chipping Campden Gloucestershire
ST 587 164 Over Compton Dorset
ST 626 380 East Pennard Somerset
ST 785 091 Ibberton Dorset
ST 813 082 Turnworth Dorset
SU 362 990 Hinton Waldrist Oxfordshire
SU 748 692 Shinfield Wokingham
SY 667 857 Bincombe Dorset
SY 669 864 Bincombe Dorset
SY 680 822 Bincombe Dorset
SY 681 836 Bincombe Dorset
SY 764 938 Athelhampton Dorset
SY 775 926 Tincleton Dorset
SY 901 853 East Holme Dorset
TA 020 010 North Kelsey Lincolnshire
TA 225 374 Aldbrough East Riding of Yorkshire
TF 040 173 Witham on the Hill Lincolnshire
TF 195 974 Thorganby Lincolnshire
TF 934 241 Horningtoft Norfolk
TG 090 173 Lyng Norfolk
TM 051 221 Elmstead Essex
TM 068 897 Old Buckenham Norfolk
TM 106 873 Winfarthing Norfolk
TM 168 215 Weeley Essex

There are no new GM maize sites in Wales.  The Scottish Executive is due to make an announcement on GM maize sites in Scotland later today.

1.  Genetically modified organisms:  The significance of gene flow through pollen transfer.  Katie Eastham and Jeremy Sweet.  European Environment Agency 2002:

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