DAILY BRIEF: TODAY'S HEADLINES FROM THE BIOTECH FOOD DEBATE
11 Items from FarmPowerNews@Starpower.net
(1) Biotech Wheat Getting Cool Reception
Des Moines, Iowa, 6 March, 2001 (United Press International 6 March 2001).
Withfarmers still suffering from the financial hangover caused by the
contamination of last year's corn crop by the genetically engineered StarLink
variety, few are anxious to embrace biotech wheat. A spokeswoman for the
Wheat Growers Association says farmers don't want to
plant the altered seed until all customer countries have approved it.
"We don't want to start growing this stuff until we know we can export it," Amy Bowland, communications director for the wheat growers, told Tuesday's Des Moines Register. "We have heard from major customers in Europe and Asia," said Dawn Forsyth, public affairs director for the export promotion group U.S. Wheat Associates. "European buyers have point-blank informed us: 'Don't send this.'
(2) PHILIPPINES: Farmers Petition to let GM Experiment
Source: just-food.com editorial team - 7 Mar 2001
President of thePhilippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was asked yesterday
to review her
anti-GM stance and allow field experiments with GM crops to take place. The call for reconsideration came from farmers who argued in a two-page letter that the crops would prove beneficial. "We farmers," the letter read, "want to be liberated from the use of toxic chemicals and shift towards the use of environment-friendly biotechnology (crops) like the use of pest-resistant Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) corn."
(3) Colorado Farmer Sees Transgenic Threats to Family
by Robert Schubert, Cropchoice.com editor - 6 March 2001
One try with transgenic crops was enough for David Dechant. "I
don't trust it," says Dechant, who grows wheat, corn and alfalfa on 3,000
acres in northern Colorado with his father and brother... The technology
has affected the lives of family farmers in numerous ways. They've
lost money to foreign markets that don't want transgenic corn or soy.
Major European grocery store chains, such as Tesco and Asda/Wal-Mart, have
cleared their shelves of foods containing such ingredients. The Japanese
and South Koreans cut their corn imports following the StarLink corn
debacle.... the corn that scientists suspect may be allergenic contaminated the human food supply, spawning a slew of food recalls. Despite consumer rejection and lost markets, Monsanto plans to push ahead with a 2003 introduction of Roundup Ready wheat, which it has engineered to resist the Roundup herbicide (glyphosate).
Meanwhile, the St. Louis-based biotechnology company is suing hundreds
of farmers. It accuses them of violating its patents by saving seed
to plant on their own farms. An alternative to this technology that benefits
mainly big agribusiness companies, says Dechant, is more public
investment and research into crops that help the family farmer.
Transgenics Get the Boot on the Dechant Farm - The first and last time David Dechant tried growing transgenic crops was 1998, when he planted Roundup Ready corn on 60 acres. The plants yielded almost the same amount of corn as his conventional varieties, but he had a tough time getting Roundup to kill a weed called lambs quarter. But it's what happened late that summer that turned Dechant sour on transgenics.
(4) Greenpeace Founder Moore Supports Biotech
AUBURN, ALABAMA March 6, 2001
http://www.agbioworld.org & http://www.agbioworld.org/pr/moore.html
Moore Criticizes Colleagues for Opposing Agricultural Biotechnology.
-Dr. Patrick Moore, ecologist and co-founder of Greenpeace, stated today that "the campaign of fear now being waged against genetic modification is based largely on fantasy and a complete lack of respect for science and logic."
(5) Greenpeace Founder Moore on Morality, Precautionary
Approach, Golden Rice, and More. AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org;
Archived at http://agbioview.listbot.com 6 March 2001.
The debate that now rages about how many bowls of rice might be required
to prevent the various health effects of Vitamin A deficiency could be
a healthy sign of inquiry and problem-solving. But it is not. The detractors
are just that, bent on discrediting the science, the scientists, and the
entire biotech innovation. If there are issues and hurdles to be
addressed in bringing Golden Rice to market then they should be treated
as challenges, not as proof that the technology is deserving of condemnation.
This is the nub of the moral issue around biotech. As Indur Goklany has
so clearly expressed, there are consequences to not doing things as much
as there are to doing things.
The PrecautionaryApproach cuts both ways.
(6) Organic Food Retailer Urging Mandatory GM-Food Labeling
by Julianne Johnston.
http://www.joefarmer.com/farm_news.htm 6 March 2001. ((Also see: http://just-food.com/news_detail.asp?art=26748&app=1 and
The world's leading natural and organic food retailer - Whole Foods
Market - has launched a
consumer write-in campaign to the FDA, opposing the agency's new rule and guidance on labeling of genetically modified foods. The company is urging FDA to amend the new voluntary labeling rule. Margaret Wittenberg, vice president of governmental and public affairs for Whole Foods Market believes that voluntary labeling actually does nothing for the consumer's right to know and that it is no substitute for mandated labeling. "Only mandatory labeling fulfills our customers' desires to make conscious choices about buying GE foods," said...
(7) Gene Research Finds New Use in Agricultural Breeding
By ANDREW POLLACK, 7 March 2001.
As the controversy surrounding genetically modified foods intensifies,
scientists are trying to use the
rapidly growing knowledge about genes to enhance conventional breeding of crops and livestock rather than implant genes from one species into another. Many say such an approach is less likely to arouse the public objections that have been raised by the development of genetically altered plants and animals. The enhanced breeding approach involves testing which genes are in a plant or animal, allowing researchers to select more easily which ones to cross. That can shave years off the breeding of a new variety.
"Before we knew where the genes were, we were still breeding in the
dark," said Dr. Steven Briggs, head of genomics for Syngenta, a Swiss seed
and agrichemical company. Compared with genetic engineering, this
enhanced breeding has technical advantages and disadvantages. But its
biggest advantage is political. Many opponents of bioengineered foods do not object to the technique because it avoids artificially transferring genes between organisms. It is that transfer that opponents say is unnatural and poses risks to human health and the environment. Indeed, some opponents of genetically altered plants and animals even champion the approach as a way for society and companies to reap some of the benefits of genetic science and avoid the risks... a number of companies are turning to the approach because it avoids the regulatory reviews required of genetically modified foods and is not expected to stir resistance from consumers. The approach is called marker-assisted breeding because it uses genetic markers to guide the process.
(8) Thai Ministry Confirms Position on Trade in GM Products.
http://www.checkbiotech.org/root/index.cfm# 7 March 2001.
The Agriculture Ministry has reaffirmed Thailand's stand on not allowing
any commercial trade of genetically modified (GM) products in the country.
"Since the international forum of the World Trade Organisation has not
yet stated clearly its position on transgenic products, permission for
the products in Thailand may benefit some companies," said Nathee Klipthong,
the deputy agriculture minister. He has instructed the Agriculture
Department to study the pros and cons of GM
products and world trends, and to provide more timely information for consumers so that they can make their own decisions... Monsanto Thailand, a major promoter of GM products worldwide, said it understood the concerns of the new government, which echoed those of its predecessor. Sanya Bhumichitra, the company's country manager for Thailand, said Monsanto would continue to educate people ...
(9) Garst: 'We Caught StarLink Before it Ever Got Bagged'
www.AgWeb.com news . by Julianne Johnston. 6 March 2001.
Back in January, the Garst Seed Company was reassuring their seed customers that 2001 seed was properly tested for StarLink contamination and "a very limited number" of seed lots were confirmed positive for StarLink contamination. Today, Jeff Lacina, public relations manager, told
AgWeb.com that he doesn't know exactly how many seed lots were affected because nothing left their warehouse that tested positive for StarLink. "Every seed company has inventory that doesn't go out for quality reasons and we caught it (StarLink) before it ever got in the bag. We started our testing in November," he said. "The bottom line is that it had a negligible effect on our for-sale
inventory," said Lacina. "The hybrids that we did find StarLink contamination were not major parts of our sales lineup. We've got over 140 different hybrids. We even held up shipping until our testing was complete. We went that far and that is how much priority we put on it." When asked if StarLink would be a seed problem in 2001, Lacina answered that Garst is doing their best and following all procedures to assure that. He said at last week's USDA meetings regarding the StarLink seed corn issue, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) was there representing the seed industry. "We specifically weren't there because we've kind of gone through that already with Aventis and the EPA and the other groups. I think it points out, though, that it's an industry
issue. People need to be thinking of this same type of thing with not just StarLink, but the other technology that is out there - like pollen flow," he said...
(10) StarLink- Senator Grassley: Don't Want More StarLink Problems
www.AgWeb.comk news, 6 March 2001. by Julianne Johnston.
Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Tuesday morning he
hopes StarLink concerns will not multiply. Referring to the ongoing
seed corn supply concern, the only working farmer in the Senate said he's
urging seed companies to take every precaution they can. "I surely
we don't multiply the problems of the last year on StarLink, and what ever seed might be contaminated is thoroughly checked out so that the farmer knows what he's buying is a pure seed that the company is selling," he said. Grassley said half of his Butler County, Iowa, farm is going into corn and the other half into soybeans.
(11) UK: GM Crops Row at Meden Vale.
www.OrganicTS.com news, Mansfield Chad OnLIne, 7 March 2001.
GM crops are continuing to cause a stir at Meden Vale. Environmentalists
have hit out at a Government decision to continue testing genetically-modified
crops in the village. Farm-scale evaluations (FSE) of herbicide tolerant
oil seed rape and sugar beet developed by GM food
companies Aventis - formerly AgrEvo - and Monsanto are to take place at the ADAS Gleadthorpe Research Centre, it was announced last week. Crop sowing should begin later this month. Environment Minister Michael Meacher explained that the purpose of the trials is to see if the planting of GM crops and the use of weedkillers associated ...