ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
21 March 2003

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THE WEEKLY WATCH NUMBER 20
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from Andy Rees, the WEEKLY WATCH editor
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Dear all

As Bush and Blair push ahead with their illegal and divisive invasion of Iraq - see CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK - WW20 brings you all the latest news in brief on Uncle Sam's other war.

As you'll see from this week's SETBACKS TO THE GM INDUSTRY, the problems for the biotech industry and their supporters get worse on an almost daily basis.

We've also brought you several REPORTS OF THE WEEK covering GM food safety, crop economics, the collapse of confidence in GM cotton in India, and the disturbing story of how the UK's Royal Society is working hand in glove with a shadowy group of politically-motivated lobbyists to try and fix the GM debate.

Please spread WW20 far and wide!

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

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WEEKLY WATCH  number 20 - CONTENTS
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SETBACKS TO THE GM INDUSTRY - multiple!
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
REPORT OF THE WEEK 1 - Strange Bedfellows
REPORT OF THE WEEK 2 - Broom Barn Economics Critique
REPORT OF THE WEEK 3 - Indian farmers likely to shy away from Bt cotton
REPORT OF THE WEEK 4 - A user's guide to your GM future
REPORT OF THE WEEK 5 - Newcastle Feeding Trial; Comments by Dr Antoniou
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK
CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK - Resistance not futile - next steps against the war
SUBSCRIPTIONS

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SETBACKS TO THE GM INDUSTRY
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HUGE DROP IN GM TRIALS - GM PROJECTS CANCELLED:
"In the four years since European governments introduced a moratorium on the commercial growing of GM plants, the number of applications for field trials of new GM varieties has fallen by two thirds, while 61 per cent of private companies and 39 per cent of research institutes and universities said they had cancelled GM projects."
http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/story.jsp?story=388849

ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH JOINS ANTI-GM CORN DRIVE:
The Roman Catholic Church is firming up its opposition to the impending distribution of Monsanto's genetically engineered Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn in teh Philippines by sending at least one million signatures to the presidential palace.  According to Sister Susan Bolanio, chairperson of the justice and peace desk of the Diocese of Marbel, "The awareness and opposition to this biotech crop is overwhelming and we hope the government will yield to the voice of the people". Some groups in the coalition against Monsanto have also stepped up their campaign against Bt corn, by educating local farmers and they say they will not hesitate to launch their version of "people power", which led to the fall of the previous government in the Philippines, if necessary.
http://bworld.net/weekender/environment/environment4.html

ACADEMICS & FARMERS STRONGLY OPPOSE MONSANTO'S GM CORN:
University of the Philippines doctors, professors and private practitioners expressed their strong opposition to the commercialization of Monsanto's GM Bt corn, saying the government has practically reneged on its mandate to protect the peoples' right to health and a healthy environment.  A farmers' association has asked the Department of Agriculture to revoke the commercialization license of GM Bt corn, claiming the crop will contaminate non-Bt corn fields and entangle non-Bt corn farmers in legal suits. http://ngin.tripod.com/150303b.htm

CHINA PRAISED FOR ANTI-GM ROLE AS US SOY IMPORTS FALL BY 3.5M TONNES:
China's leaders are looking to Europe and implementing labelling regulations on food and restricting GM crops.  For a developing economy, the legislative moves are so startling that they have won the applause of usually critical environmental groups. With potential markets in Europe in mind, plans are well advanced to produce the world's biggest non-GM soya crop in the northeast within the next five years.  GM imports from the US have fallen dramatically, with GM soy imports falling by 3.5 million tonnes in 2001.  Dr Xue said. "Genetically modified soya beans are not grown because people are worried about contamination to other crops."  In China, no commercial GM food crops are known to exist. http://ngin.tripod.com/170303f.htm

MOST EU CITIZENS SKEPTICAL ABOUT FOOD-RELATED GENETIC ENGINEERING:
While most citizens of the European Union are in favor of medical applications of biotech, they are still skeptical about agricultural and food-related biotech, a survey shows.  A new Eurobarometer survey reinforces past findings. "A majority of Europeans do not support GM foods.  These are judged not to be useful and to be risky for society," the survey reported. Despite the lure of five hypothetical possible benefits, ie if GM was cheaper, tasted better, contained less pesticide residue, was more environmentally friendly, or contained less fat, most Europeans said they would not buy or eat GM foods.  These findings will be a blow to GM seed developers who have been hoping that if new GM varieties were to offer benefits to consumers that resistance to GM food would fall away.
http://ngin.tripod.com/170303a.htm  &  http://ngin.tripod.com/200303c.htm

EUROPE'S TOP LEGAL ADVISOR OK's ITALY'S RIGHT TO BAN GM
Advocate General Siegbert Alber said Italsy's ban can continue on GM products made by Monsanto Co. although it needs to detail the evidence on the products' suspected risks.
http://biz.yahoo.com/djus/030313/1006000708_1.html

GM SOY SHIPMENT STOPPED IN AUSTRALIA:
15 Australian Greenpeace activists halted the offload of a GM soy shipment in Port Melbourne by leaping aboard the ship Despina and locking themselves to equipment used for offloading the cargo.
http://ngin.tripod.com/170303c.htm

JUSTICE DEPT OPENS MONSANTO ANTI-TRUST PROBE:
The Justice Department is investigating Monsanto for possible antitrust practices in the herbicide industry.  Monsanto said the probe involves "possible anti competitive conduct in the glyphosate-based herbicide industry."
http://ngin.tripod.com/150303a.htm

SYNGENTA CFO QUITS:
Following the biggest bioteh company Syngenta's announcement of its first financial loss at the end of last year, its Chief Financial Officer has just quit, claiming "personal" reasons.  This follows Monsanto's Chief Executive Officer's sudden departure in December, which has left Monsanto without a CEO. According to Syngenta's outgoing CFO, the world's largest agrochemicals firm remained cautious on the global agricultural industry.  The Wall Street Journal concluded more than two years ago that it was "hard to see those companies as a good investment, even in the long term."
http://ngin.tripod.com/190303c.htm
Syngenta's new CFO from June 1 2003 will be Domenico Scala who joins from F. Hoffmann-La Roche and who has previously worked for Panalpina - Milan and Nestle.
http://ngin.tripod.com/200303c.htm

NESTLE THREATENED WITH GM BOYCOTT IN THAILAND:
The Anti-GMOs Network says it will campaign for a boycott of Nestle food products, if the company does not adopt a GM-free policy in Thailand by April 30.  They accused the company of 'double standards' in its dealings with Thai consumers, compared to Europe, where Nestle has promised to sell only non-GMO products.  Nestle also stands accused of conspiring with companies such as Monsanto and Novartis to promote the use of GMO products.
http://ngin.tripod.com/170303b.htm

THAI RICE FARMERS PROTEST US INTERFERENCE IN BIOPIRACY BILL:
About 100 rice farmers rallied in front of the US embassy, calling on the US government to stop interfering in the drafting of Thailand's Geographical Indication Protection Bill.  They claimed some animal and plant varieties were excluded from the draft bill because certain agencies had been lobbied by American officials.  They claimed the US government was worried about economic losses if the bill was passed into law. Farmers are already bitter about the effort to develop jasmine rice from Thai varieties for cultivation in the US.  For them, this is a plain case of bio piracy.  Their resentment has grown stronger since the US government supported a trademark which encourages American consumers to believe they are buying Thai jasmine rice.  And since the US tried to use a debt swap programme to gain free access to the rich biodiversity resources in Thai forests.
http://ngin.tripod.com/190303c.htm   &  http://ngin.tripod.com/200303c.htm

THAI PARLIAMNET WITHHOLDS BILL, WILL PLUG LOOPHOLES:
The House voted unanimously to withhold the Geographical Indication Protection bill, saying it inadequately protected animal and plant varieties which come from Thailand.
http://ngin.tripod.com/200303c.htm

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OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
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John Verrall challenges FSA to put up or apologise
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A recent article in the Sunday Herald reported concerns that the head of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Scotland was both pro-GM and "a friend of big business".  The article drew on a 35-page report by Dr John Verrall, a member of the Government's Veterinary Products Committee who is on the Codex Alimentarius Consumer Group of the Food Standards Agency.  Dr Jon Bell, acting chief executive of the UK FSA, dismissed the report as containing 'spurious and malicious allegations'.  Verrall has now written to the paper to say he takes the gravest exception to Bell's claim and that Bell must either produce evidence that the report is untrue or else "apologise for the accusations he has made against me".
http://ngin.tripod.com/170303d.htm
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Credibility of UK GM debate hangs by a thread
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The credibility of the independent public debate on the commercialisation of genetically modified (GM) food and crops is in the balance following today's open meeting of the Debate Steering Board [1]. Members of the Debate Steering Board expressed concern at the meeting that a DEFRA private briefing of media correspondents earlier in the week (Tues 18th March) had resulted in articles stating that: "GOVERNMENT officials have confirmed that this summer's debate on GM crops will not influence whether they are grown in the UK  ."   ( Farmers'Weekly Interactive 19 March 2003)
http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/credibility_of_gm_debate_h.html
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Rabobank favours investments in transgenic technology
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Europe's major cooperative bank, Rabobank, has openly supported investments in Indian industries engaged in developing GM seeds.  Shantu Sharma comments, "Of course, our experiences in India show that Rabobank is behaving much like a multinational company in this country.  It does not work with the vast network of cooperative credit structure or cooperative movement in India.  It is rather engaged in financing big companies, particularly the MNCs."
http://ngin.tripod.com/170303e.htm
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German could face standards watchdog over GM crops row
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Welsh Deputy First Minister, Michael German, could be called before standards watchdogs over claims he broke Assembly protocol, by blaming officials over a Government report into GM crops.  The complaints centre on a GM report sent to Mr German by Defra, which he denied receiving.  Mr German apologised to the Assembly for inadvertently misleading it over his knowledge of the report.  Controversially, he dragged civil servants into the row by claiming they failed to bring the document to his attention.
http://ngin.tripod.com/190303b.htm

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REPORT OF THE WEEK 1 - Strange Bedfellows
by Andy Rowell and Jonathan Matthews, The Ecologist, April 2003
http://www.theecologist.org/
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For 300 years, not meddling in politics was a key principle of the Royal Society, so why is it working so closely with an unlikely alliance of political fundamentalists and corporate lobbyists to twist the public debate on GM?

Lord May, head of the Royal Society, has spoken out about the danger of its being "hijacked by fundamentalist lobby groups" but the Royal Society has itself been working hand in glove with a shadowy group called Sense about Science to manage the media and lobby for GM.

The phone number for Sense about Science, it turns out, is the same as that of a charity called Global Futures. Global Futures' official contact person works out of a PR company that helps clients Bayer, Aventis CropScience and the  like Bio-Industry Association deal with "an environment of unprecedented scepticism... and sophisticated anti-business and anti-technology activism."
 
Global Futures' trustees turn out to be part of the Living Marxism network to which the Director of Sense about Science also seems to belong.  As well as supporting GM, they have adopted such distinctive positions as the denial of genocide in Rwanda, opposition to any legal restraints on child pornography, and the downplaying of Serbian atrocities.

What is going on?

READ ON...
http://ngin.tripod.com/190303d.htm

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REPORT OF THE WEEK 2 - Broom Barn Economics Critique
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Analysis and critique of Broom Barn's Research Station research report: 'Economic consequences for UK farmers of growing GM herbicide tolerant sugar beet,' from FARM.  FARM has taken a closer look at the figures used in the research and found that the greatest proportion bear little or no relation to normal farming practice.  Further, it contains fundamental inaccuracies that question its scientific validity and raise concerns more widely as to the independence and objectivity of other papers making similar claims for GM crops.

"The direct impact on yield likely from adopting the sorts of management practices needed to deliver these environmental benefits [The much-ado-about-a-skylark research] have been suggested to be 10% by Monsanto, with other research suggesting this figure could be as high as 31%.  Given typical yields of sugar beet at 50 tonnes per ha and an adjusted value of £28 per tonne, this suggests a cost of  £140 to £430 per hectare in loss of yield alone, quite aside from the increased costs incurred through applying sprays in this way."

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REPORT OF THE WEEK 3 - Indian farmers likely to shy away from Bt cotton
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Despite that Mahyco-Monsanto could be planning to increase the area under Bt cotton in India, the mood of the cotton farmers in the country seems to be different.  According to a survey done by the Andhra Pradesh Department of Agriculture, not many farmers who have sown Bt cotton this year were inclined to cultivate the transgenic crop again.  2500 out of 3000 farmers questionned were unsure whether they would cultivate Bt cotton next year, while about 335 farmers stated they would not.  25% of the farmers stated the incidence of bollworm was high, while an additional 40% claimed the incidence of the pest was moderate. This is despite Bt cottonseed containing "Cry 1 AC" gene that makes the crop resistant to bollworm pest.  There were also higher costs of cultivation. And over 78% stated that the Bt cotton yields were low compared to indigenous hybrids.  All the farmers claimed that the quality of Bt cotton was poor compared to hybrid varieties. Consequently, most of the farmers got less market value for their produce.
http://ngin.tripod.com/200303b.htm

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REPORT OF THE WEEK 4 - A user's guide to your GM future
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A report about Superbacteria, Supergeezers, Supertrees, and Superpharma.
ON SUPERBACTERIA:
*The Promise: The list of potential uses is enormous: processing oil at the well, breaking down cellulose for paper, turning cornstarch into plastic, even helping home sink-disposal units treat sewage.  But to gain the public trust, needed to achieve its potential, the industry will need to move slowly and transparently - something it has shown no inclination to do.
*The Peril: Containing bacteria in a lab is relatively straightforward, but when bioengineered bugs end up on the factory floor, they'll be under the care of Homer Simpson.  Accidents will be inevitable.  Environmental activists fear we could enter a new era of infectious disease - one due entirely to our own folly.
*The Prediction: Superbugs will be common - and so will bug accidents. For more, see:
http://ngin.tripod.com/190303a.htm

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REPORT OF THE WEEK 5 - Newcastle Feeding Trial; Comments by Dr Antoniou
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The Newcastle Study shows that intact gene DNA survives the acidic environment of the stomach and enters the small intestine.  Once in the small intestine, there was also evidence found that intact (and functional) GM gene DNA enters bacteria. Yes, they did not find it in the faeces of normal volunteers suggesting that it ultimately gets degraded in the large bowel. However, the major individual health problem is not what "comes out at the other end" but what goes on inside the gut!  So the risk of a health problem arising from the transfer of GM genes such as antibiotic resistance and Bt toxin to gut bacteria still stands.

...the Newcastle study entailed only ONE GM soy containing meal, which can hardly be called statistically significant but which yet showed up these very worrying findings, all of which were hotly denied as possible in the past.

Finally, the Newcastle study failed to carry out experiments with simulated diarrhoea conditions (eg administering a laxative) to assess whether bacteria containing GM genes would then be present in the faeces and released into the environment to pose a yet further problem for us all by for example spreading antibiotic resistant pathogenic bacteria into the environment.

Follow-up work to this initial investigation clearly needs to be initiated involving the monitoring of a proper large cohort of people over a prolonged period of time (at least 6 months) where GM foods form a dominant component (>50%)  of their diet, including foods containing antibiotic resistance marker genes (which the GM soya used in the Newcastle study did not contain).  Simulated diarrhoea trials must also be carried out.
http://ngin.tripod.com/150303c.htm

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HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the NGIN archive
http://ngin.tripod.com/mar03.htm
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19 March 2003
Your genetically modified future
German could face standards watchdog over GMcrops row
Now Syngenta boss quits!
Thai rice farmersprotest U.S. interference
18 March 2003
Angel of Death lingers on/Uniting for Peace
GM Potato Cannot Solve Malnutrition Problems:Experts
17 March 2003
Most EU citizens skeptical about food-relatedbiotechnology: survey
Nestle threatened with GM boycott
GM soy shipment stopped in Oz
FSA challenged over 'spurious and malicious allegations' claim
Rabobank Favours Investments In Transgenic Techin India
China praised for GM-food role as U.S. soy importsfall by 3.5 million tonnes
15 March 2003
Justice Department Opens Monsanto Antitrust Probe
Doctors, professors and farmers strongly oppose Monsanto's GM corn
Newcastle Feeding Trial - Comments by Dr Michael Antoniou
14 March 2003
Uncle Sam's Other War: Biotech vs. the European Union
Bayer faces 8,400 lawsuits/Shares in Bayer at 10-year low
Polluter pays principle should apply to GM
THE WEEKLY WATCH NUMBER 19
13 March 2003
GM crop trial blocked by Federal Court
Report finds GM crops are good for environment
Biotech wheat may cut US exports in half - study
New FSA board member - adding insult to injury in Scotland
Leading consumer groups unite to condemn FSA
12 March 2003
Scottish Executive lied about BMA
Bayer's Headache: So much for keeping this quiet
Industry group created bogus websites to hijackbrowsers
Monsanto should be "blacklisted" - Congress
Indian state compensate cultivators of Monsanto's Bt cotton
Finnie's "unbelievable smugness and arrogance"
Could Bt crops help pests?

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

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CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK
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Greenpeace: Resistance is not futile - next steps against the war

In the last 2 days, more than 18 thousand people from 119 countries have sent letters to their UN ambassadors asking them to support a "Uniting for Peace" resolution in the UN General Assembly to make clear the world's opposition to a devastating and illegal war in Iraq waged by the United States and a small group of allies.

This is the fastest response to any Greenpeace international action alert ever. Our team at the United Nations would like to thank you for your support.

If you haven't sent a letter to your UN ambassador yet, please do so now from:
http://act.greenpeace.org/aas/e?a=ufp&s=amb_s

Now we ask you to take a second step by calling on as many of your friends and colleagues as possible to write to their UN ambassadors to support this resolution. Even if a war has broken out by the time you read this, we are going to continue to push for a resolution to set in the historical record the world's opposition to this illegal war.

Please send this e-card:

http://act.greenpeace.org/ecs/s2?i=730&sk=std

to as many of your friends and colleagues as possible. A short personal message from yourself and a Greenpeace call to action will be included with each e-card. Our e-card system allows for the sending of 6 e-cards each time, and in this time of emergency, we'd like you to think of at least 6 people to send this to.

You can find more information about the Uniting for Peace resolution here:

http://greenpeace.org/news/details?item_id=179491

and follow the Greenpeace No War campaign here:

http://nowar.greenpeace.org

Thank you for your continued support.

VISIT THE CYBERCENTRE

Please don't forget to visit the Greenpeace Cyberactivist Community at:
http://act.greenpeace.org

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