ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

23 November 2001


items from AGNET NOVEMBER 22, 2001

Delta & pine merger suit vs. Monsanto to proceed
Mandatory labeling pushes GM foods off shelves
Stores strike early with GM ban
Delhi acts on genetically engineered crops
Mississippi farmer wins Monsanto appeal in faulty seed case

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Delta & Pine merger suit vs. Monsanto to proceed

November 20, 2001
Jeffrey Goldfarb
NEW YORK - Leading U.S. cottonseed producer Delta and Pine Land Co. (DLP), jilted two years ago in a merger deal with biotechnology firm Monsanto Co. (MON), was cited in this story as winning a court ruling to proceed with its breach of agreement damages claims of more than $1 billion. The story says that according to four signed court orders obtained by Reuters, a Mississippi state judge threw out Monsanto's attempts to dismiss the case and said there was enough evidence to signal a "material dispute on the factual issue of damages." The orders were signed on Thursday and are expected to be officially filed with the court shortly. The story says that the court ordered Monsanto to produce more documents related to the failed merger  and its seed business for the discovery part of the trial. Monsanto so far has "narrowly limited its responses" to Delta's requests in 37 categories, the court said.


Mandatory labeling pushes GM food off shelves

November 22, 2001
The Record (Sherbrooke)

Anna May Kinney writes that as someone who has fought for mandatory labeling on all genetically  engineered foods, she was thrilled to read that Health Minister Allan Rock said he believed these foods should be labeled. Yet, in October, when the measure was considered by Parliament and he had the chance to stand up and support such labeling legislation, Rock failed to even cast a vote as our Parliament rejected the legislation by a 126 to 91 vote.

Kinney says that according to the Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods  spokesperson Catherine Lappe, Rock still supports mandatory labeling. She also indicated that the health committee would be looking into the issue of future labeling, suggesting that legislation was not the only way to get labeling implemented.

In a statement to Reuters, Greenpeace campaigner Pat Venditti was quoted as saying that grocers, the biotech industry and the government "seem to be in bed together. They are taking a stick-your-head-in-the-sand approach, waiting till this all goes away. They do not have any justification for not labeling."

Kinney says that you may be wondering why industry and government are so reluctant to label these foods, and that from everything we have seen in the past, when consumers are given the option of buying food with or without GM ingredients, most people choose foods without biotech ingredients. Kinney says that wherever mandatory labeling has been enforced, foods containing GM ingredients have been forced off the shelves. Manufacturers would rather eliminate genetically engineered ingredients from their products than be required to label them.

Back in May 1998, the 15 European Union countries implemented mandatory labeling requirements for genetically engineered soy and corn. Beginning on Dec. 7, food manufacturers in New Zealand and Australia must have all processed food products containing genetically engineered ingredients labeled. Those products manufactured before the December deadline will not be affected.

It is estimated that between 40 and 60 of processed foods contain GM ingredients, and this new regulation will include foods that have already been approved, like GM cottonseed oil, canola, soybean, sugar beets, and potatoes. From Dec. 7 onward, all packaged food will have to list their GM ingredients, with the exception of highly refined oils, sugars and flavourings. Even though the industry says that some packaged foods will have to change their recipes to meet these tough new GM labeling rules, it does not expect these products to increase in price.

By the end of 1998, the same year that the EU made labeling mandatory, nearly all fast food restaurants and grocery chains in the 15 country union had eliminated genetically engineered ingredients from its products. Now, as a result of this new labeling requirement, Australia's largest food conglomerate, Goodman Fielder is eliminating genetically engineered ingredients from all of their products, while other grocery chains and manufacturers are following its lead. Kinney says that many people feel that genetically engineered foods should be tested before allowing these products loose on the unsuspecting population. Others ask what should these products be tested for?


Stores strike early with GM ban

November 21, 2001
The New Zealand Herald
Irene Chapple

New Zealand -- New Zealand supermarkets are, according to this story, ducking a potential food fight by pre-empting new labelling rules on GM products. They are already checking the GM status of food before the rules come into full force on December 7 next year. The move comes as the controversy over genetic modification heats up, with two local bodies declaring their regions GM-free.

Although the step has raised retailers' eyebrows, they believe such moves will not see products removed from shelves. The story says that Greenpeace has named five food manufacturers which it says do not have a written policy to be GM-free - Nestle, Pam's Products, Arnott's, Ingham Chicken and Kraft. Nestle and Kraft were cited as denying this, saying they have told Greenpeace of a GM-free policy and they are attempting to provide consumers with unmodified foods.  Arnott's says it is trying to find new products to replace soy products classified as genetically modified. Ingham Chicken did not respond by press time. Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey has declared his city GE-free - following the example of the Nelson City, which became GE-free in April.  To complicate matters, the Nelson City Council maintains that there is a difference between GM and GE (genetic engineering).  In its zone, GM is acceptable but GE is not because GE would include the crossing of genes.

Barry Hellberg of the Retail Merchants Association has, according to the story, taken up the issue after Woolworths raised concerns that the move could hurt sales.  The association has written to Local Government Minister Sandra Lee questioning the ability of councils to declare themselves GM-free.  "It is a concern if they can pass a bylaw. The supermarket industry would challenge that on principle," said Mr Hellberg. Brenda Cutress, of the Grocery Marketers Association, was cited as saying any ban would be "illogical and impractical" and that the association believed modified food was "as safe as any other food".

The chief public health adviser at the Ministry of Health, Bob Boyd, was cited as saying that local authorities could ban GM products if they were deemed detrimental.  They could also use registration rules to ban GM food from food premises, but such moves were likely to be contested in court. Woolworths marketing director Des Flynn was cited as saying few GM products were among the 16,000 product lines on supermarkets' shelves, adding, "We are actively seeking to get non-GM replacements for those that [are]." There was a "high possibility" that Woolworths, which also runs Big Fresh and Price Chopper, would be GM-free once the labelling requirement came into force. Woolworths has contacted hundreds of suppliers and asked them to provide assurances their products are GM-free.


Delhi acts on genetically engineered crops

November 22, 2001
Asia Times

NEW DELHI - Perturbed over the controversial Bt cotton flooding the markets of the western state of Gujarat, the Indian federal government was cited as sending a high-level team on Tuesday to the state to prevent further flow of
the genetically engineered crop into commercial centers and ensure its quick procurement.

The chairman of the High-Powered Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), A M Gokhale, was quoted as saying, "A two-member team has been sent to assess the situation and hold talks with Gujarat officials to impress upon them the need to accelerate field procurement of BT cotton and also its retrieval from market" adding that the team would try to ascertain the volume of Bt cotton that has already made it to the markets though unconfirmed reports indicate that about 1,200 quintals of the controversial crop have so far been obtained from farmers through middlemen. The story says that federal government officials would also take follow-up measures in connection with the complaint filed in an Ahmedabad court by Union Environment Ministry against the company which allegedly sold GM cotton seeds to some 500 farmers who grew them in about 10,000 acres of land, he said.

Gokhale said the state government is to retrieve the BT crop to the extent possible, either through Cotton Corporation or Gujarat Cotton Growers Association or any other agency of its choice. "While the lint has to be quarantined and preserved for testing, seeds are required to be destroyed," he said. "We're moving ahead too fast on this."


Mississippi farmer wins appeal in faulty seed case

November 21, 2001
Delta Farm Press

In late September the Mississippi Court of Appeals, according to this story, sided unanimously with Newell Simrall in his court case against Monsanto, but now the company is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court for a rehearing. The Court of Appeals finding was, the story says, in response to a Monsanto appeal of a ruling made by Circuit Court Judge Frank Vollor in December 1999. Vollor ruled that Simrall is entitled to nearly $166,000 from Monsanto.

Simrall's case centers on several Hartz Roundup Ready soybean varieties he planted in 1997. In July of that year, Simrall, who farms near Vicksburg, Miss., noticed that certain fields of his soybeans -- particularly 5164s -- weren't growing properly on about 800 acres. While the plants were normal in size and color, they were shedding blooms. The few pods that did appear, often fell off.

After noticing the problem, Simrall called in Hartz representatives and Extension personnel. By late July, all of the Extension Service employees concluded that the Simrall's fields of 5164 had seed-borne soybean mosaic virus (SMV). According to witnesses, Monsanto employees (Monsanto owns Stuttgart, Ark.-based Hartz) told Simrall not to worry about the pod shed because the plants would regenerate.

At harvest, the story says that Simrall found, as suspected from eyeballing the variety, that the 5164s cut about 6.5 bushels. Another variety planted right beside the 5164s cut 34 bushels. Other varieties on the farm cut 35 to 40 bushels. Simrall took the company to seed arbitration and then court. He has won at each step.

Monsanto's request for a rehearing focuses on several issues. First, the company says the suspect varieties' performance may or may not be a result of SMV. Second, Simrall's seed was not tested for SMV when that test was
available. Third, Monsanto claims it's very easy to see certain genetic characteristics of the suspect seed as symptoms of SMV. Someone not educated to the suspect varieties' parentage could have made a faulty diagnosis, says a company spokesperson.

Simrall's experts vigorously dispute each of Monsanto's claims, which they say were brought up in Judge Vollor's courtroom. In upholding Vollor's decision, Court of Appeals Judge Leslie King was cited as saying that it was up to Vollor to decide what expert testimony to believe, adding that, "The mere fact that testimony is disputed doesn't
render it incredible."

Alan Blaine, Mississippi Extension soybean specialist, was quoted as saying he's "very disappointed it's had to go this far. As with many of my colleagues, I believe this is a black and white issue and should have been fixed a long time ago. I'm happy for the Simralls."

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