ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

15 November 2002

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THE WEEKLY WATCH NUMBER 6
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from Andy Rees, the WEEKLY WATCH editor
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Here's all the latest news in brief on the GM issue.

Topic of the Week - inevitably! - is the bio-pharming accidents in Nebraska and Iowa but there's a lot more besides.

If you have friends or contacts finding it hard to keep up with all the news on this fast moving topic, please make sure they see WW6!

Look out for 'Article of the Week' on the solution to great the GM debate.

And please let me know what you think.

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

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WEEKLY WATCH number 6 - CONTENTS
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
TOPIC OF THE WEEK
ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
FACTS OF THE WEEK
SETBACKS TO THE GM INDUSTRY
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK
CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK
SUBSCRIPTIONS

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
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UK government 'debate' on GM foods on brink of collapse
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UK Government's 'debate' on GM foods is on the brink of collapse, according to The Observer, as the government's own Central Office of Information (COI) attacks the process, amid growing suspicion it is merely a propaganda tool. An influencial group of independent advisers said the Government should consider scrapping the debate entirely.
http://ngin.tripod.com/101102b.htm
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Monsanto man extolling virtues of non-gm biotechnology
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Monsanto's general manager for Northern Europe, in an article from Farmers Weekly, has joined the chorus of professionals extolling the potential of non-GM biotechnology. The most promising for plant breeding is Marker Assisted Selection (MAS), which the Soil Association supports.  The article doesn't even mention GM plant breeding.  Perhaps the biotech industry (currently in deep finacial trouble) realises that to prosper it has to pursue technologies acceptable to society as a whole? http://ngin.tripod.com/081102a.htm
SEE ALSO ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
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Biotech giants talk with arch-enemies
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In an unprecedented meeting, in Dublin, run by the World Bank, Monsanto and Syngenta sat down last week with arch-enemies, Greenpeace and organic farmers, to try to clinch a common position on world hunger.
http://ngin.tripod.com/101102a.htm
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African consumer leaders historic conference on biotech and food security
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At next week's conference, leading international and African biotech experts will come together with 22 African consumer organisations, farmers' organisations, research institutes, and key government representatives. They will address the urgent issues of food aid, food safety and GMO labelling, and the implications of biotech for African food security. http://ngin.tripod.com/111102b.htm
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EU drafting Polluter Pays laws
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European companies are fighting new EU Polluter Pays rules.  The liability directive is one of three of major new proposals that industry is desperate to soften, along with a plan to cap "greenhouse gas" emissions and new rules on testing chemicals. Under the proposal, industries, including the biotech sector, would be liable for incidents of pollution or harm to protected natural sites or species.
http://ngin.tripod.com/141102c.htm
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WFP joins US attack on UN human rights investigator
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The World Food Programme sharply criticised a UN human rights investigator this week for repeatedly questioning the safety of GM food donated to starving Africans. But this US-dominated agency stands accused of making no serious provision for non-GM supplies to Zambia, in order to force a climb down to suit the US.  And why is it now wasting time on pro-US GM-propaganda when it should be resolving the crisis by (a) getting hold of non-GM grain and (b) pressing the US to untie its aid?
http://ngin.tripod.com/141102e.htm
See also: Southern Africa: Genetically Modified Food Debate Erupts At UN
http://athena.tbwt.com/content/article.asp?articleid=1950
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US pushing for FTA in Southern Africa
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The Bush Administration is pushing for another free trade agreement (FTA), this time with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).  An intergovernmental letter makes clear the US's intention to advance its own trade interests, offset EU trade advantages with Africa, link trade to SACU development strategies, promote regional integration, push IPRs, combat restrictions on USA services firms, and augment TRIPS!
http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/091102b.htm
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US opposes strengthening Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)
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At this week's summit on biological weapons in Geneva, the US will resist strengthening the BWC, which is odd given the current US-led anti-terrorist hysteria.  Furthermore, Washington would oppose adding stringent enforcement measures, such as an international system of independent inspectors, allegedly due to pressure from their biotech industry, anxious to protect its military and commercial secrets from inspection.  Aren't the US threatening to go to war with Iraq for refusing the very same thing?
http://ngin.tripod.com/141102b.htm
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Britain's 'disgraceful' arms deal
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Britain has struck a secret £1 billion arms deal with Thailand in return for promoting food that has been linked to cancer-causing chemicals.  The deal was condemned as 'disgraceful' by opposition politicians and farmers.
http://ngin.tripod.com/101102bhtm
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IN BRIEF
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Schmieser attempts Supreme Court
http://www.producer.com/articles/20021114/news/20021114news09.html

Canadian researchers predict $400 million annual problem with GM contamination
http://www.producer.com/articles/20021114/news/20021114news06.html

EU gives Zambia pounds 15 million for non-GM food aid
http://ngin.tripod.com/141102e.htm

Almost 1/4 of calves and lambs cloned by AgResearch die within three months
http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com/story-nat.cfm?Id=1289

Australia considering US demands for unfettered investment access and relaxed GM food labelling in exchange for new markets
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/11/14/1037080851435.html

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TOPIC OF THE WEEK - The liability of biopharming
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THE NEBRASKA DEBACLE
The US government is ordering biotech company, ProdiGene, to destroy 500,000 bushels of soybeans contaminated with GM corn, engineered to produce a chemical not approved for human consumption (possibly trypsin to make insulin).  The USDA initially refused to reveal details.  "If a company cannot be relied upon to perform such a simple task as to keep pharm corn out of soybeans, how can it be trusted in the far more complicated process of keeping drugs out of corn flakes?" said Jane Rissler, senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
http://ngin.tripod.com/131102a.htm  &  http://ngin.tripod.com/131102d.htm

US FOOD SUPPLY PROBABLY ALREADY CONTAMINATED
The US food supply has probably been contaminated with GM pharmaceuticals already, but we have no way of knowing due to the extreme secrecy of the 300+ field trials across the country since 1991. The Genetically Engineered Food Alert coalition is once again calling on the USDA to prohibit open-air cultivation of all biopharm crops. For a comprehensive report on biopharming, see http://www.gefoodalert.org

IT HAPPENED IN IOWA TOO!  MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
A day later, the government disclosed that ProdiGene did the same thing in Iowa *back in September*.  Fearing that pollen from corn not approved for human consumption may have spread, the USDA ordered 155 acres of nearby corn to be incinerated.  Why the delay in telling the public; is the USDA hiding similar problems?  And if the Nebraska contamination had not been discovered by the media, would the USDA have disclosed the Iowa contamination?  The recent BIO agreement not to grow pharma crops in Iowa looks likes advanced window dressing in case this came out.  Is this regulatory collusion with industry?
http://ngin.tripod.com/141102a.htm

MORE SOYABEANS CONTAMINATED
North Dakota University's non-GM, Natto-type soybeans planted in 2002 may have been contaminated with GM beans. Two lots of non-GM Natto beans were found contaminated with Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybean genetics in 2000. http://ngin.tripod.com/131102d.htm

BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR THE PHARMA
Despite all this, it's business as usual for ProdiGene, with human clinical trials of its biopharm corn insulin set to begin next year.
http://ngin.tripod.com/141102a.htm

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
Maize, soya, rice and tobacco are among the crops genetically engineered to produce vaccines and contraceptives, plus drugs and chemicals to induce abortions, create blood clots, produce industrial enzymes and propagate allergenic enzymes. The majority of biopharmaceuticals are being incorporated into maize.  ProdiGene has the most biopharma plantings, projecting that 10% of the US maize crop will be devoted to biopharm products by 2010.  Far from supporting containment strategies such as buffer zones, ProdiGene has told its shareholders it is hoping to "gain regulatory approval to lessen or abandon these requirements altogether".
http://ngin.tripod.com/131102d.htm

TRADE GROUPS LOBBYING FOR TOUGHER REGULATIONS:
Meanwhile, politically powerful trade groups for the food sector are preparing to lobby federal regulators for new rules making life far more difficult for bio-pharming firms. Many food executives are afraid that vaccines, enzymes, antibodies and hormones might accidentally end up in their products, through mishandling or pollen drift, triggering expensive recalls.  They are pressing the biotech industry to make pharmaceuticals only from nonfood crops such as tobacco.
http://ngin.tripod.com/061102a.htm

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ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
a non-GM biotech future is possible - solution to the GM debate?
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A 1998 Farmers Weekly article, entitled "Non-GM Future is Mapped Out," identified the enormous potential of non-gm biotechnology, most promisingly Marker Assisted Selection (MAS), aka Genomics.  Diverse and high profile endorsements for MAS, have since highlighted its advantages over GM plant breeding.

The September 2002 newsletter of the UK's Arable Reseach Institute Association highlights the work with Syngenta on developing drought tolerance in sugar beet using MAS - far more productive than the increasingly self-defeating issue of herbicide resistance - the principal output of GM to date.  Head of global plant breeding at Monsanto states in the Farmers Weekly, 25 February 2000, "It's a numbers game and ultimately [non-GM] biotech [MAS] offers the greatest potential..." By contrast he confirms that GM technology is not adept at dealing with complex genetic interactions like these.

Later reports by Monsanto indicate that MAS can be expected to increase wheat yields (for example) at more than double the forecast rate without resorting to GMOs. Developments in  oilseed rape indicate similar advances can be expected in non-cereals.

Is it not time to leave genetic engineering, so all in the biotech debate can do something more constructive, like focusing on critical issues in world agriculture, such as sustainable soil and water management, where the long term productivity and economic gains are likely to be far greater than any contribution from genetic engineering?

Is the biotech industry preparing to make a seismic shift away from the GM paradigm - at least in Europe - with Monsanto's newly stated desire to "work closely with... interest groups"?  Is the unfortunate and unhelpful GM diversion reaching its long overdue expiry date?  Or in the words of Professor Bob Goodman, former head of R&D at Calgene, "From a scientific perspective, the public argument about genetically-modified organisms, I think, will soon be a thing of the past. The science has moved on and we're now in the genomics era."
http://ngin.tripod.com/081102a.htm

READ THE FULL REPORT:
http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/monsantoMASpossibilities.htm

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QUOTES OF THE WEEK
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"It is probable that contamination of the US food supply with genetically engineered pharmaceuticals has already occurred - we have no way of knowing due to the extreme degree of secrecy surrounding the locations of biopharm field trials and the nature of the drugs and chemicals they are engineered to produce." - GEFOODALERT 'Reckless USDA Policy Fails to Keep Biopharmaceuticals out of Food Supply'
http://ngin.tripod.com/141102a.htm

"ProdiGene should certainly be punished for this reckless lapse, but let us not forget that the USDA has irresponsibly continued to allow drugs and industrial chemicals to be engineered into food crops. It has to stop." - Mark Helm, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth, 'ProdiGene case prompts food industry to call for changes in biotech', The Associated Press, November 15, 2002

Roger Moore, "goodwill ambassador" for UNICEF, said, on visiting Zambia, that he believed it wrong for the US to refuse other aid to Zambia, because of its rejection of GM food. "That would be inhuman of them," he said. "We are dealing with a catastrophic situation here." http://ngin.tripod.com/1002ahtm

Jean Ziegler, the UN official already under fire from the US after previous anti-GM statements, persisted by issuing another statement in Geneva, "Genetically modified organisms could pose a danger to the human organism and public health in the medium and long term.  The argument that GMOs are indispensible for overcoming malnutrition and hunger is not convincing."
http://ngin.tripod.com/121102b.htm

"All some folks in the US government and business communities can think of is how to make even more money off [Africa's] suffering" - James Clancy, president of Canada's National Union of Public and General Employees.
http://ngin.tripod.com/131102de.htm

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FACTS OF THE WEEK
all taken from http://ngin.tripod.com/011102b.htm
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A recent survey of scientists working in government or recently privatised laboratories, found that 1/3 of respondents had been asked to change research findings to the customer's preferred outcome, while 10% were pressurised to bend their results to secure contracts.

In Britain's top research universities, dependence on private funding often amounted to 80-90% of the total budget.

In the US, from 1980 to 1998, industry funding for academic research expanded at an annual rate of 8.1%, reaching $1.9 billion in 1997, nearly 8 times the level 20 years ago.

In the US, the federally funded National Institutes of Health alone will spend more than $23 billion (of tax payers money) on research in 2002.

In the US, the drug giants funded the FDA to the tune of $162m in 2002.

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SETBACKS TO THE GM INDUSTRY - APART FROM THE US BIOPHARM DEBACLE!
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North Dakota senator Bill Bowman is going to propose a bill to give North Dakota farmers the right to sue biotech companies for damages if GM wheat contaminates conventional crops.  Bowman said many certified seed growers, organic farmers and conventional farmers don't want anything to do with the technology.  "All these people are affected by the potential to have cross pollination ruin their crops."
http://ngin.tripod.com/131102b.htm

Britain's top aid charities have told the Prime Minister that GM foods will not solve world hunger, but may actually increase poverty and malnutrition.
http://ngin.tripod.com/101102a.htm

The battle over GM wheat escalated this week when the Canadian National Farmers Union challenged Monsanto Canada to reveal the names of the farmers it has enlisted to promote the controversial crop, to see if there were conflict of interests.
http://ngin.tripod.com/141102d.htm

In India, Farmers' organizations and NGOs have appealed to the Central Vigilance Commissioner to investigate potential corruption and irregularities at GEAC, and other bodies concerning the approval of GM crops.  There is a complete lack of transparency in the functioning of these agencies, and a proclivity of multinationals to buy influence in governments.  In April 2002, the Federal Court in Houston, USA, found it perfectly all right for American companies to bribe officials abroad to market their products.
http://ngin.tripod.com/111102a.htm

The Greens have called for a GM poppy trial in northern Tasmania to be abandoned.  This follows concerns that special bird netting has failed to bee-proof the site and contain pollen flow. http://ngin.tripod.com/141102d.htm

The burst of realism about the prospects of genomics companies led to sharp falls in their share prices, with most down more than 90%.
http://ngin.tripod.com/141102b.htm

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HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the NGIN archive
http://ngin.tripod.com/nov02.htm
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14 November 2002
Nebraska - it's insulin
Problems in Iowa too-corn destruction ordered
13 November 2002
Pharmaceutical contamination of soybeans
More soybean contamination!
$200m+ loss on exports to China
Anti-GM wheat law
UK debate and Syngenta take over of CGIAR
Scottish Parliament GM inquiry starts today
Secret U.S. "biopharms" - more than an accident waiting to happen
US accuses UN food envoy of "placing millionsin greater peril"
US accuses EU
US urged to go to WTO
Re: Nebraska accident
Another Knowledge, AnotherWorld
12 November 2002
GM crops under fire after cotton venture fails
UN official says again GM foods pose a dangerand won't solve hunger
11 November 2002
Appeal for enquiry into corruption and irregularitiesin India's scientific
and regulatory agencies
African Consumer Leaders' Conference on Biotechnology& Food Security
10 November 2002
GM food will not ease hunger
007 says US "inhuman" over Zambia
Monsanto breaks bread with GM protesters
Blair's GM debate a sham
Minister to promote food products linked to cancer
9 November 2002
THE WEEKLY WATCH NUMBER 5
Devinder Sharma article
USA Trade Designs on Africa!
GE Crops rejected by the South
8 November 2002
The Third Way?
Lord Sainsbury - Master of science fiction!
African food for thought
Tanzanian lawmakers call for caution on GM plants

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

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CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK - Resist the GM or Die Ultimatum
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Please make sure as many people as possible know about the growing global alliance resisting the US's 'GM or die' ultimatum to the hungry
http://www.peoplesearthdecade.org/media/article.php?id=63
see also FORCE FEEDING THE WORLD - a primer on the food aid crisis http://ngin.tripod.com/forcefeed.htm

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