ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  8 March 2001

DAILY BRIEF:  TODAY'S HEADLINES FROM THE BIOTECH FOOD DEBATE - Reporting Breaking News in the Biotech Food Debate


 (1-a)   U.S. will Aid Companies Hurt by Genetically Modified Corn.
        By Marc Kaufman, Washingtonst Post
        and news.  8 March 2001,

The Agriculture Department will buy up to 400,000 bags of seed that contain a protein not approved for humans.

Washington - The Agriculture Department will pay up to $20 million this year to compensate seed companies for corn mixed with an unapproved genetically modified variety - the first direct federal bailout of food producers harmed by biotechnology.   Using funds normally lent to farmers faced with natural disasters such as drought and flood, the Agriculture Department will buy back between 300,000 and 400,000 bags of corn seed found to contain the protein engineered into StarLink corn, officials said yesterday.

Experts said the StarLink protein was most likely bred inadvertently into the seed corn through the drift of pollen from other cornfields. The genetically engineered protein does not pose an immediate health threat, officials said, but it is not approved for human consumption.

The buyback offer comes after reports last week that seed companies had detected small amounts of the StarLink protein in some corn. Agriculture Department officials said yesterday they believed that the seed with the StarLink protein had been found and segregated by distributors before
being sold to farmers, who begin planting corn this month. They said the problem would not affect spring planting.   StarLink was developed by Aventis CropScience and was planted on less than 0.02 percent of corn cropland last year.

(1-b)   USDA Buying Up Seed with GM Corn Variety
           by Sharon Schmickle  -Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7 March 2001

In the latest effort to corral a runaway gene in corn the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that it will buy up to $20 million worth of seed that shows traces of a genetically-modified
corn variety that isn't approved for human consumption.   Meanwhile,several Midwestern-based companies have begun screening seed anddestroying contaminated supplies. And the nvironmental ProtectionAgency announced Wednesday that it no longer will approve crop varieties that aren't considered suitable for human foods.  Farmers should have no trouble finding the seed they need for spring planting, government and seed company officials emphasized. And the many foods made from corn are safe to eat. But the seed recall adds to the already huge costs and headaches of hunting down the corn that shouldn't have reached food shelves in the first place. The federal government expects to purchase more than 300,000 of the 40 million bags of seed corn available for planting this year, said Ralph Linden, the USDA's assistant general counsel for international affairs and commodity programs. Taxpayers will foot the bill ...

(1-c)  USDA Purchasing Biotech Corn
          by Philip BRASHER, Farm Writer.AP, 8 March 2001, 

WASHINGTON  - As many as 400,000 bags of corn seed, or about 1 percent of the country's total supply, have been contaminated with a variety of biotech corn that prompted nationwide recalls of food products last year, the government says.

(1-d)  USDA to buy seed tainted with StarLink bio-corn
          By Randy Fabi.Reuters,7 March 2001

The U.S. government said Wednesday it would spend about $20 million to purchase American corn seed suspected of being contaminated with StarLink, a bioengineered corn variety banned from human food...  As a precaution to keep any contaminated seed off the market, the USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation will immediately offer small seed companies between $35 to $50 for each bag tainted with the StarLink protein.   Ralph Linden, USDA's assistant general counsel, told reporters the department estimated about 400,000 bags of corn seed would have to be purchased. Each bag contains about 80,000 kernels of seed. "If only one seed tested positive in a bag, we are buying the whole bag," Linden said. The cost of the buy-back was estimated at $15-$20 million.  The USDA said it would destroy the confiscated seed.  Dale Moore, USDA chief of staff, said Monsanto, Dow , Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Garst opted not to participate in the program since they have licenses to sell StarLink corn.  A Monsanto spokesman denied that it had a license to sell StarLink corn.  Moore said the USDA was not ruling out seeking reimbursement from Aventis for the buy-back program, although no negotiations were underway...

(1-e)   Food Security Jitters Boost U.S. Oat, Wheat, Soy Prices
           By Jeff Wilson Chicago, March 7 BridgeNews ) - Chicago Board of Trade wheat, oat and soybean futures continue to demonstrate signs of breaking short-term bearish patterns, and many analysts suspect that jitters across the Atlantic about food security in Europe are a big part of the reason...  The StarLink corn fiasco was just the tip of the iceberg, and foot-and-mouth disease will hasten the focus on food
security issues, he said.  "I don't think this is just a flash in the pan, but rather the start of something much larger," he said...

(1-f)   USDA to offer buy-back of Cry9c contaminated corn seed
        By Matt Snyder, Interactive Features Editor, @griculture Online.            ory_html___45091 or news.

uSDA announced Wednesday it will offer to purchase corn seed contaminated with the protein Cry9c, the protein found in the controversial StarLink corn, from small seed companies. The
purchasing program will be carried out by the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC); it will cost between $15 and $20 million, USDA reports. The department estimates it will buy between 300,000 and 400,000 bags of seed from various companies in the buy-back program.
Currently, USDA has not yet considered pursuing compensation from Aventis for the buy-back, but, "It's an option we'll have to look at," says Ralph Linden, assistant general counsel for International Affairs and Commodity Programs at USDA. For now, he's more concerned about
preventing contaminated seed from being planted. "We're trying to do theright thing now," Linden says.  Companies neither affiliated with Aventis nor licensed to sell the StarLink seed are eligible for the purchase offer if their seed contains any of the Cry9c protein. USDA will not purchase contaminated seed from companies licensed by Aventis.

(2)   EPA Awaits Rreport on Safety of GM Crops.
ite=email (Boston Globe, 7 March 2001. By Anthony Shadid)

After months of study, the Environmental Protection Agency soon will be wrapping up its first
comprehensive review of the country's major genetically engineered crops: corn, cotton and potato plants that deliver their own pesticides. The agency is awaiting a report this month by an independent panel of scientists on the safety of the crops, which represent a growing shareof the nation's farm production. The EPA then will decide for how long to approve their continued use and in what way those crops must be planted to make sure that pests such as the bollworm and corn borer don't build up a resistance.  "It's significant, and it's groundbreaking," said a spokesman for the EPA, which works with the Federal Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture to regulate biotechnology products. "It's a comprehensive review using the best available science to ensure that our decisions on these products are fully protective of public health and the environment."   Since their commercial introduction... The EPA's initial assessment has
determined that the corn, cotton and potatoes pose no threat to health or the environment, a finding that now awaits the determination of the independent panel this month.

(3-a)   Insecticides  Reduced  in  Runoff  from  Bt Cotton, per
USDA-ARS  7 March, 2001, ARS News.
Runoff water from Mississippi fields planted with genetically engineered cotton was virtually free of insecticides during a four-year Agricultural Research Service study.  To measure pesticide runoff, the scientists planted cotton that was genetically engineered to contain a toxin from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. Researchers planted the Bt cotton near Beasley Lake in Sunflower County--one of three watersheds within ARS' Mississippi Delta Management Systems Evaluation Area project. Because Bt cotton produces its own insect-inhibiting toxin, less pyrethroid insecticide is needed...

(3-b)  EPA Condemned Pesticides Still On Store Shelves (non-GM related)
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 7, 2001--Actress Jane Seymour announced
today that she is spearheading a national campaign to alert parents to the potential health risks children face from exposure to potentially dangerous pesticides....  Pesticides made headlines across the nation this past year with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) condemning
and phasing out two popular pesticides for home and garden use due to the potential health risks they pose, but allowing their sale through this spring and summer season. These pesticides are known as organophospates, which include Chlorpyrifos and Diazinon. Chlorpyrifos
can be sold until the end of 2001, Diazinon until 2004. At least 50 other pesticides are currently under review by the EPA and other announcements may follow...

(4)   Australia-NZ Authority Propose Release of four GM Crops after Scientists Prove they are Safe. news. 7 March 2001, editorial team.

GM crops such as corn, sugar beet, cotton and canola do not pose a safety threat to consumers or the environment, according to the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA), who today backed the sale of such crops to consumers.  Marion Healy, a chief scientist with ANZFA, revealed that the four crops, all of which were resistant to herbicides, were studied for their
nutritional values, increased allergens and toxicity. "All the GM foods we have looked at to date have all the benefits of the conventional foods and no disadvantages," he said.  The GM in question was produced by Aventis, but is not the same as the StarLink variety that caused the US fiasco.  The four products are now proposed for ...

(5)  Australian Beekeepers Fear Ruin with Potential GE Crop Contamination of Honey. news. 7 March 2001.

Tasmanian beekeepers apparently unaware of the risks involved in projects with Monsanto and Aventis are facing potential ruin amid fears that their bees are contaminated with genetically engineered canola pollen. The two major agribusinesses convinced many beekeepers to place
their hives close to GE-canola crops in a bid to facilitate pollination and increase production. The problem has now been raised following findings in Europe that honey can be contaminated with GE pollen. Health Minister Michael Wooldridge will investigate the situation after a report is prepared, and speculation as to the future for the beekeepers is rife.


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