ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
18 December 2002

MONSANTO AND MAIZE SEED SHORTAGE IN MALAWI/FRANCE DOES NOT EXPECT END OF GM BAN

The country in southern Africa least resistant to the importantion of whole grain GM maize has been Malawi. Now come reports (item 1)...

"We have reached a point where farmers are laying their hands on any seed they can find and planting of GM maize cannot be ruled out."

PTC group general manager Jerry Buskies said on Monday all its shops had run out of maize seed because its supplier, Monsanto - formerly known as National Seed Company of Malawi (NSCM) - is unable to fulfil its orders.

"We make huge sells of maize seed this time around [around this time of year] but now we simply don't have any of it on our shelves," said Buskies, adding: "We are yet to get an explanation from the supplier."
...
"Asked if people were going 'too far' by saying that gene-altered humanitarian exports were part of a strategy to spread the crops around the world, [Neil E. Harl, a professor of economics at Iowa State University] said: 'I'm not sure that is going too far.' "  http://ngin.tripod.com/forcefeed.htm

1.Maize seed shortage hits the country
2.France does not expect ending of GM ban in 2003
3.UK government advisers say GM maize variety safe - Reuters

***

1.Maize seed shortage hits the country

By Thom Khanje - 17-12-2002
The Nation, Malawi
http://www.nationmalawi.com/articles.asp?articleID=3846

A critical shortage of maize seed has hit the country, raising fears that some farmers may be forced to plant genetically modified relief aid maize donated by United States government for drought stricken people.

Two of the country's major seed producers confirmed on Monday they had since last week been out of stock of hybrid maize seed because of "unusual" demand on the market and the Starter Pack Programme under which they had been contracted to supply maize seed.

Although Ministry of Agriculture officials said measures to address the problems were being explored, experts doubted whether anything could be done now considering that other countries in the region were facing a similar problem and importation could not be a quick alternative.

The National Smallholder farmers Association (Nasfam) said the situation was worrying because many farmers in the country usually wait for rains before buying maize seed.

"Right now, farmers are flocking to our offices and warehouses throughout the country looking for seed," said Nasfam business operations manager Ronald Ngwira. "We have reached a point where farmers are laying their hands on any seed they can find and planting of GM maize cannot be ruled out."

He said the association had been informed of some vendors in Kasungu who were selling fake maize seed which they had just coloured and packed to take advantage of the desperate farmers' situation.

PTC group general manager Jerry Buskies said on Monday all its shops had run out of maize seed because its supplier, Monsanto - formerly known as National Seed Company of Malawi (NSCM) - is unable to fulfil its orders.

"We make huge sells of maize seed this time around but now we simply don't have any of it on our shelves," said Buskies, adding: "We are yet to get an explanation from the supplier."

Monsanto blamed the problem on unexpected demand of the seed on the market.

"Because of the drought, even farmers who traditionally don't use hybrid seed are looking for it because the ate everything they harvested without reserving some for replanting," said Monsanto Limited regional manager Charles Price on Monday.

"The uptake this year is just extraordinary and we can't explain it," said Pannar Seed Limited country office manager Frank Samidu. "Usually, we carry over stocks to preceding years but this time around, we have sold out everything, including last year's remains."

Both companies confirmed they were supplying to the Starter Pack Programme but did not think this was the main causing factor to the seed shortage.

Price said Monsanto had planned for the Starter Pack "so its effect on the market supply isn't that much" while Samidu said Pannar seed was supplying a different type of seed to Starter Pack which cannot be sold on the market.

***

2.France does not expect ending of GM ban in 2003

Reuters
Tuesday, December 17, 2002  23:09

PARIS, Dec 17 (Reuters) - France will not back the lifting of an effective ban by the EU on new genetically modified crops until new labelling and traceability laws are in place, which could take until the end of 2003, it said on Tuesday.
 
European Union ministers last week agreed new labelling controls for genetically modified (GM) goods which will have to carry a code identifing the origin of the crops, enabling products to be withdrawn from the food chain if problems arise.
 
The rules still have to be approved by the European Parliament.
 
"We are going to transpose (into national legislation) the EU law in a few months. The Parliament will have to pass the two new regulations and there will be all kinds of procedures," French Environment Minister Roselyne Bachelot told the French National Assembly.
 
"Then, and only then, will be able to envisage a lifting of the moratorium (on new GM crops), which brings us very likely to the end of 2003," she said.
 
The EU has had a virtual ban on most GM crops since 1999 when a number of EU states vowed not to authorise any new GM crops for use in the bloc, pending tougher rules on what the media has sometimes dubbed "Frankenfoods" after Frankenstein's monster of Mary Shelley's novel.
 
France has always maintained a tough line, saying it wanted consumer protection laws in place before changing its stance.
 
Washington has called the ban illegal, dismissing European fears of potential environmental and health risks.
 
Last week a study commissioned by the French government urged the EU to end its ban on GMOs (genetically modified organisms), finding no proof of health or environmental risks.

French Research Minister Claudie Haignere said the report was "as a whole very reassuring about the safety of GMOs" but did not say it justified an end to the ban.

***

3.UK government advisers say GM maize variety safe

Reuters

LONDON, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Britain could be back on track towards approving the country's first gene modified seeds for sale, after government advisers found that a variety of GM maize seeds were as safe as conventionally grown varieties.
 
Britain's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) held a hearing on the stalled decision to approve sale of maize seeds, called Chardon LL and owned by biotech firm Bayer CropScience Ltd, after concerns raised about testing by green group Friends of the Earth (FoE).

Britain had said in 2000 that it would allow Chardon LL seeds, to go on its National Seed List, which would allow them to be sold to British farmers for commercial use.

But the decision was stalled after independent scientists presented evidence showing that the maize variety had been tested for only one year instead of the necessary two.

"ACRE has carefully considered the scientific points made in written representations and submissions for the Chardon LL public hearing...No evidence was presented to alter ACRE's previous risk assessment," the committee said in a statement published on its website.

However, the government's Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs (ACAF) have asked for information from Bayer CropScience confirming that that silage from the GM maize is the same as conventional maize silage.

No GM crops can be approved for commercial growing in the UK until completion of a three-year test planting programme, designed to measure the impact of such crops, but the final stages of those trials are approaching.

Environmentalists say GM crops will contaminate traditional varieties and change the countryside, while some scientists argue that they could solve world hunger.

The government called a public debate on the issue earlier this year, but that has already drawn criticism as the budget and time-scale for discussion is tight.

Bayer said it was delighted with ACRE's assessment.

"Never before has a seed variety been under such scrutiny -- a variety of forage maize which we believe farmers in the UK should not be denied the use of," Bayer CropScience spokesman  Julian Little told Reuters.

"We are delighted that ACRE has considered all of the evidence given... we are pleased that ACRE agreed that this variety of maize is as safe as any conventional non-GM variety," he added.

But FoE said ACRE's findings were a face saving exercise.

"This GM crop should never have been approved in the first place," the group's spokesman said.

"The result is that a GM crop with serious safety question marks hanging over it is allowed on to our plates and to be grown in our countryside," he added.
---
"One of USAID's stated objectives is to "integrate GM into local food systems". Earlier this year, it launched a $100m programme for bringing biotechnology to developing countries. USAID's "training" and "awareness raising" programmes will, its website reveals, provide companies such as "Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto" with opportunities for "technology transfer" into the poor world. Monsanto, in turn, provides financial support for USAID. The famine will permit USAID to accelerate this strategy. It knows that some of the grain it exports to southern Africa will be planted by farmers for next year's harvest. Once contamination is widespread, the governments of those nations will no longer be able to sustain a ban on the technology.

All that stands in the way of these plans is the resistance of local people and the protests of environment groups." George Monbiot
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,842999,00.html
 


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