ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  6 December 2000


Four items

1.    Indians being used as guinea pigs
2.    Reuters on Canadian NFU moratorium call
3.    Terminator in UK controversy - BBC online
4.    Insufficient land for organics, Dow AgroSciences forum told

*  *  *
1.    Untested GM food given to cyclone victims - Scientist  [shortened]
    - Press Trust of India - 4 December 2000
Hyderabad, Dec 3 : A scientist of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has alleged that "untested genetically modified food" was supplied to the survivors of the cyclone in Orissa last year.

"Soyabean distributed by an aid agency was genetically modified," Dr Umesh Kapil told the 33rd annual meeting of the Nutrition Society of India in a symposium on the genetically modified food.

"What was more alarming was that the food was not tested even in the country of its origin," he claimed alleging "Indians are being used as guinea pigs to test such foods". Senior scientist and chairperson of the session, Dr C Varadarajan too agreed that genetically modified food did
find its way to Orissa's cyclone victims. Dr RP Sharma of the Department of Biotechnology, who presented a paper on bio-safety of genetically modified foods, said that such an incident might have taken place "as we have no mechanism to check which is genetically modified food and which
is not".

*  *  *
2.     Reuers News Service

CANADA: December 6, 2000 [shortened]

WINNIPEG - A major Canadian farm organization has called for a national moratorium on producing, importing and distributing genetically modified foods.

"We need to pull back the reins and try to get some common sense and a good strong footing on the potential problems with this technology," Cory Ollikka, president of the National Farmers Union told CBC radio on Monday.

The NFU, which represents 10,000 farmers in seven of the nation's 10 provinces, has demanded a federal moratorium on genetically modified (GM) foods until questions regarding consumer acceptance, health, the environment and ownership of the technology can be addressed.

The NFU requested the moratorium following its annual convention in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on the weekend.

Many Canadian farmers are doubtful of the economic benefits of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and are disconcerted by the push toward biotechnology, Ollikka told CBC radio in Winnipeg.

He said farmers are particularly concerned about the possibility of GM crops being rejected by food companies and importers, and they are also alarmed by the potential of genetic pollution.

"We see a lot of these types of products systematically shutting us out of markets in the world," said Ollikka, citing the examples of Japan and parts of Europe where there is growing skepticism about GMOs and a rising government resistance to importing them.

In May of this year, Canadian-grown canola was embroiled in a scandal after genetically modified seeds, banned within the European Community, were discovered in seed stocks during routine inspections in Germany.

Advanta Seeds, the British company that produced the seeds, said the most likely source of contamination was pollen blown from GM canola crops grown in Canadian fields.

The NFU is asking the Canadian government to launch a formal commission of inquiry, or at least initiate broad public debate, over the merits and risks of producing genetically modified foods.

An August survey of 1,000 people by the Canadian Health Food Association found 95 percent believed they should have the right to choose whether or not they buy foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

*  *  *

Government officials have denied an allegation that genetically modified crops on trial in the UK may contain an enzyme which could threaten human health.

Dr Mae-Wan Ho of the Institute of Science in Society said that an enzyme in the crops had been proved to damage rats' kidneys by causing cells to die.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Environment Transport and the Regions said the enzyme was not present in the crops in UK trials.

He said that "exhaustive" tests had been carried out to ensure that the trials would not hurt the health of humans, animals or the environment.

Dr Ho is in Edinburgh to give evidence at the trial of four protesters accused of destroying
crops at a farm in Midlothian.

Mark Ballard, Alan Tolmie, and James MacKenzie, all from Edinburgh, and Matthew Herbert,
from St Andrews, have been on trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court charged with vandalising crops
at Boghall Farm, near Penicuik.

At a media conference organised by the Scottish Green Party, Dr Ho said that the barnase
enzyme that makes pollen and seeds sterile was present in the crops being trialled in Britain.

She said that experiments in Germany had already shown it could damage rats' kidneys by causing cells to die.

The enzyme is used in so-called "terminator technology" preventing reproduction and cross contamination, although Dr Ho questioned its effectiveness.  She said she was angry that the UK Government's own advisory committee on releases to the environment had apparently begun
consultations on the technology after the crops were planted.

The DETR spokesman said that it was the barnase gene and not the enzyme which was present in a few oil seed rape crops currently being trialled.  He said that where the enzyme would be poisonous, the gene was not harmful.

*  *  *
4.     Insufficient land for organics Dow AgroSciences forum told

[whatever happened to market-led economics -- when it's not in the corporate interest, the market can go hang!]

Insufficient land to meet organic trend [shortened] - The Scotsman

THE rising demand for organic food is flying in the face of real trends towards more intensive agriculture as more and more land is needed for urban development, woodlands and amenities, according to a European farm policy analyst.

Only the current increase of around 1.5 per cent a year in agricultural productivity is able to compensate for the decline in farmland area in Europe, claimed Brian Gardner, a Brussels consultant.

Speaking at a London forum staged by Dow AgroSciences, Gardner  said: "A total organic solution dreamed up by the extreme Greens would lead to tighter home food supplies in Europe which could only be met by a large increase in imports.

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