ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  12 March 2001



ngin comment:  Two items on golden rice, and one on the Canadian Royal Society which looks interesting.

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DAILY BRIEF  for  Monday, 12 March, 2001   ( Ten Items)

(1)  CBS Program Tonight -- Modifying Food Via Biotechnology -  Is It Really Safe?
       (CBS) 60 Minutes II, 13 March 2001, 9-PM ET.  (Please e-mail us transcripts or highlights
       of program, if possible. Thanks.)

(2)  Legal:  Patent Battle over Genetic Engineering. Pioneer vs J.E.M.
       (By SABRA CHARTRAND - New York  Times, 12 March 2001.)

Excerpts: When Pioneer sued J.E.M. AG Supply for infringing its patents, J.E.M. countersued, arguing that the patents should not have been awarded in the first place.  At the heart of that
argument is the question the Supreme Court will take up: Are plants created from seeds eligible for utility patents? The two lower courts heard the case in 1998 and 2000, and said yes.

AFTER agreeing last month to hear a dispute between two corn-seed companies struggling for economic advantage in the lucrative market for genetically engineered plants, the United States Supreme Court is preparing to settle whether such seeds should be awarded the kinds of
patents that usually cover mechanical, electrical or chemical inventions.  Customarily, the court has supported a broad interpretation of federal patent law, but with key exceptions for inventions based on mathematical algorithms and products of nature. Under the current law, just about anything else is eligible for a patent if it meets invention requirements. But last year, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that shaved away at the exception for math algorithms, and some say that the
court's willingness to hear the corn-seed case may indicate that it wants to take another look at the exclusion for products of nature. That idea gained force from the court's having agreed to hear the case even though two lower courts had ruled that nothing in current law makes the kind of corn-seed inventions in question ineligible for what are known as utility patents.  The Supreme Court's consideration of the matter is likely to focus attention on the role of patents in what has become a fierce, often international political battle over scientific, environmental and health issues raised by genetically engineered crops. The fight centers on the efforts of one company to protect 17 corn-seed ...

(3)   In UK, GM Experimental Crops to be Grown Again
       Doncaster Free Press On-Line, 8 March 2001 news.
"Armthorpe Parish Council chairman Chris McGuinness said no-one had approached the council about the trial."
CONTROVERSIAL genetically modified crops are to be grown on a Doncaster farm for the second year running.  Altered fodder beet will be grown in one field in Armthorpe as part of continuing Government research into the crops. Last year green protesters called on residents of the village to object to the trials in a bid to have them scrapped.  But a public meeting organised then by Armthorpe Parish Council was attended by very few residents. The owner of Westfield Farm, Nutwell Lane - who did not wish to be named - said he believed genetically modified crops were no different to crops which had been cross-bred over many years to produce higher yields...

(4)  GM Fly to Kill Its Own. Deadly fly to aid farm crops.
       The Mirror (UK), 11 March 2001.
BRITISH scientists have developed the world's first unnatural born killer - a genetically modified fly that seeks out and destroys its own  species. It will be used to wipe out the larvae of moths and flies which attack crops mirroring a story in cult sci-fi series The X-Files. Geneticist Dr Luke Alphey, who heads the project, said: "It's a bit like that episode where Mulder and Scully discover a swarm of bees used to spread an alien virus."  The GM flies are created by inserting a normally fatal strand of DNA into insect eggs before adding an antidote. When the genetically modified swarm is released, the ...

(5)   GMO's found in Organic Feed.
        (Swisinfo news 12 March 2001) news.

Switzerland's agriculture ministry has announced the discovery of genetically modified organisms (GMO), in organic animal feed. Meat from animals fed on the contaminated fodder was then sold under an organic label by Switzerland's two main food retailers, Migros and Coop.   The agriculture ministry spokesman, Jürg Jordi, confirmed the report in the Swiss newspaper, "SonntagsZeitung".  Jordi said that 17 per cent of the soja in the animal feed was genetically modified. While genetically modified soja is not illegal in Switzerland, the legal limit for animal feed to be certified as organic is three per cent.  The inspection ...

(6)   Canada moved too fast on GM foods.
        By: Stephen Leahy  ( news, 12 March 2001).

Spin control doesn't change message of expert panel. .  A Royal Commission in New Zealand is currently investigating whether that country should grow genetically modified crops. Experts from around the world are participating in a full and open public debate about the benefits and risks of GM crops.   And yes, this is before such crops are grown there. We do things a little differently in Canada.  Last year, five long years after Canadians began growing and eating foods with GM ingredients, the Federal government asked the Royal Society of Canada to form an independent panel of scientists to evaluate the regulation and safety of these new food products. This was the first-ever independent assessment. Nearly a year later this Expert Panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology slammed government regulators at Health Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) who allowed GM crops to be grown. Secrecy about biotechnology is "a truly profound issue of democracy." "We have run the experiment for five years", said Brian Ellis of the University of British Columbia, a molecular biologist and one of the 14 scientists on the panel. "The fact that these foods haven't hurt us may be due to careful scrutiny, but may also be plain luck," Ellis has been reported as saying.   The panel found that GM crops were not scientifically assessed for their safety, results of studies kept secret, and none have been evaluated independently. Reactions to the report were swift - and predictable.   Health Canada rejected the Panel's findings saying that the panelists didn't understand how biotechnology is regulated. In the pages of the National Post, researchers Douglas Powell and Shane Morris of the University of Guelph - which receives substantial funding from the biotech industry - declared that panel members were biased against biotech. Some of Powell's and Morris' work at Guelph's Centre for Food Safety is directly funded by industry giants like Novartis and Monsanto.  "The panel's report was very fair and balanced," says Mark Winston, a professor at Simon Fraser University and one of Canada's preeminent biologists.

(7-a)  Greenpeace to oppose Field Trials of 'Golden Rice'
 Germany & Philippines.
          12 Mar 2001, editorial team.

Greenpeace has said it plans to oppose field trials of golden rice, a genetically modified rice variety enriched with vitamin A.   Greenpeace had previously said that it would not attack trials planned in The Philippines, but has now indicated that it will treat the rice like any other GM organism.  Developers of the rice say that the crop could alleviate blindness and diet deficiencies in developing countries.
"Although we do not have any immediate plans to take direct action against 'golden rice' field trials, we reserve the right to take direct, non-violent actions against any releases of GMOs into the environment," said Benedikt Haerlin, Greenpeace international co-ordinator. "The fundamental environmental safety issues remain unresolved for golden rice just as for any other genetically modified organisms."  Haerlin repeated comments he made at a speech in Lyon last month where he stated that the rice would not be effective in combating ...

(7-b)   Greenpeace renews its opposition to GM Rice
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor, (Daily Telegraph) 12 March 2001.
GREENPEACE has renewed its opposition to field trials of "golden rice", a GM crop being
developed to combat blindness and malnutrition in the Third World. Greenpeace International said last month that it would not attack trials planned in the Far East following claims that 50,000 people would go blind for each month that the rice, enriched with vitamin A, was delayed. Greenpeace, whose representatives will visit the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines next week, has now said it will treat the rice like any other GM organism.  Benedikt Haerlin, Greenpeace international co-ordinator, based in Berlin said: "Although we do not have any immediate plans to take direct action against 'golden rice' field trials, we reserve the right to take direct, non-violent actions against any releases of GMOs into the environment.  "The fundamental environmental safety issues remain unresolved for golden rice just as for any other genetically modified organisms," he said, adding that ...
(8)  NZ $5000 Reward for the MP who Introduces Liability Bill for GE Crop Companies.
       12 March 2001, editorial team.

MPs have been offered a reward of NZ$5000 to create legislation that forces companies to pay up for any damages caused by their genetically engineered crops. Details of the reward were provided by an advertisement in Saturday's edition of The Dominion, when organic farmer
and businessman Andrew Martin explained that a "Protect New Zealand Bill" was essential in standing up to exploitative multinationals. Martin maintains that companies were too often willing to harvest the profits of their genetic engineering without accepting the responsibility for the costs of any damages caused by their crops to the environment, agriculture, wildlife, tourism or New Zealand's clean green image.  "New Zealand is probably one of the most highly regarded
countries in ...

(9)  Philippines --  Angara's pro-GMO Stance Hit

OPPOSITION senatorial bet Edgardo Angara was accused yesterday by a rival of putting the health of Filipino consumers in danger for fast-tracking the importation of genetically manufactured food or GMO. Quoting a report of Greenpeace International, Wigberto Tañada of the People Power Coalition (PPC) lambasted Angara (PNP) for endorsing the importation of tons of unhealthy processed foods in the forms of hybrid rice, corn and peanuts sometime in August last year.    END.

(10) N.Dakota - Monsanto threatens Pull Plug on GMO Research
By Tom Rafferty, Associated Press Writer, Saturday, March 10, 2001

MinotDailyNews, BISMARCK - Monsanto officials said Friday if a bill to prohibit farmers from growing genetically modified wheat for two years passes in the Legislature, the company may stop funding research of GMO wheat in the state.  House Bill 1338, if passed in the Senate, would
prohibit farmers from growing GMO wheat for the next two years, but would allow research to move forward.  "If this legislation passes, I simply cannot ask them (Monsanto) to continue to fund and develop the research that is necessary to develop biotech wheat in North Dakota," said Michael Doane, the industry affairs manager for Monsanto.  The chemical giant is a global corporation that specializes in finding new ways for farmers to grow their crops. Monsanto officials made their case in front of the Senate Agriculture Committee.    "Are you saying that because of this we're not worth enough in this area for you to continue research on these areas with this legislation in place?," Sen. Ronald Nichols, D-Palermo asked Doane.    The audience that was packed into the small Roosevelt Park room of the Capitol applauded after Nichols questioned Doane.   "The perception of this legislation is that, unfortunately, whether we like this or not, that
North Dakota is not for biotechnology," Doane said. He added, Monsanto spends more than $1 million per day in research globally.  The main argument against growing GMO wheat in North Dakota is that eight of 11 of the state's top buyers of wheat will not accept GMO wheat.  Some
legislators and farmers are concerned that even if a few fields of GMO wheat are produced, the plants will eventually cross-pollinate with non-GMO wheat and eventually ruin North Dakota's standing in the wheat market.   Some grain buyers around the world will not accept wheat that
has traces of genetically modified plant varieties.  Commissioner of Agriculture Roger Johnson, said if North Dakota allows GMO wheat to be grown, and Canada continues to ban it, then the state would be at a severe disadvantage in selling wheat to world markets.   "This bill is about what the customer wants," Johnson said. "We run a huge risk if we say yes to GMO wheat and Canada says no."  Johnson said he is not opposed to biotechnology in agriculture, but thinks the state should wait a while until more is known about GMO wheat and more countries accept it.  Opponents of the bill say that banning GMO wheat for two years will stifle technology and could eventually put North Dakota at a disadvantage.   Greg Daws, who farms near Michigan, in Nelson County, said he doesn't like the idea of government intervention in growing small grains.   "I'm asking you to trust me as a producer that I know what my customer needs," Daws said. "I don't need to have the government telling me that I can't use something, and I think it's the wrong
message to the companies."   The House passed the bill last month by a vote of 68-29.    Now it is up to the Senate to decide what to do with the bill.  The Senate Agriculture Committee is not expected to make a recommendation on the bill for about a week.  END of article.


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