DAILY BRIEF: TODAY'S HEADLINES FROM THE BIOTECH FOOD DEBATE
FROM: FarmPowerNews@Starpower.net - ( 11 Items )
(1) American Corn Growers Association issues warning about Biotech
(March 14, 2001 --Cropchoice news) ww.cropchoice.com
The American Corn Growers Association warned farm and government leaders
today that pushing transgenic crops onto export markets that don't want
them will harm family farmers. "Japan and South Korea are buying
non-GMO corn from Brazil and China instead of buying U.S. corn," said
Keith Dittrich, Association president and corn farmer from Tilden, Neb. "USDA lowered its corn export forecast by another 50 million bushels. We expect they will lower the forecast again and it's doubtful that U.S. corn exports will even reach 2 billion bushels this year. The reduction is a direct result of GMOs in general and their unacceptability with world buyers. It's good to see that USDA and other farm groups recognize the problem with StarLink in the seed supply, but the problem is bigger than StarLink." After Brazil's large sale of non-transgenic corn to the European Union last week, the USDA predicted that the South American agricultural powerhouse would be a net exporter of corn for the first time since 1982.... What's more, the USDA projected that farmers would receive an average of $1.85 per bushel for their corn, the lowest since the farm recession of the mid-1980s. At the same time, farmers are spending more money on inputs, including fertilizer, pesticides and transgenic seeds. Foreign markets' search for corn that doesn't contain StarLink is fueling the shift away from the United States as a supplier. Regulators had ...
(2-a) Kellogg's unit recalls Corn Dogs with GM Corn
14 Mar 2001 Source: Reuters NEW YORK, March 13 (Reuters)
Food giant Kellogg Co.'s Worthington Foods Inc. said on Tuesday it is
voluntarily recalling its meat-free corn dogs after a sampling was shown
to contain genetically-modified corn that has not been approved for human
consumption. The move, which the company called a "precautionary
measure", comes less than a week after the environmental group Greenpeace announced it had found traces of StarLink corn in the Kellogg corn dogs. Regulators have not approved StarLink, engineered by life sciences firm Aventis SA , for humans because of fears it may trigger allergic reactions. The recall applies to corn dogs under the Morningstar Farms and Loma Linda brands. Consumers who have these products are directed to call Kellogg at 1-877-924-4247 for further
information. "While StarLink corn has not ...
(2-b) Kellogg's Corn Contamination Confirmed
for more information go to www.truefoodnow.org Kellogg's forced to recall product after finding of StarLink contamination is verified. Washington-- A nationwide recall of Morningstar Farms meat-free Corn Dogs was announced yesterday by Kellogg's, after the company acknowledged that the products contained StarLink corn, a variety of gene- altered corn that is not approved for human consumption. Last week, Greenpeace revealed that an independent laboratory found the
StarLink contamination, but Kellogg's refused to follow other food companies who immediately pulled products that tested positive for the illegal corn, instead waiting nearly a week before issuing the recall. "Kellogg's slow response to this corn crisis is a warning to consumers who don't want genetic experiments in their food - be wary of all Kellogg's corn products," said Charles Margulis, a Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Specialist. "Kellogg's admits that it uses genetically...
Contact Heather Whitehead Greenpeace - Genetic Engineering Campaign 965
Mission, Suite 625 San Francisco, CA 94103 (415)512-9024.
(3) Check GE Farming - Don't Repeat StarLink Experience
3/14/2001, Rod Swoboda, Wallaces Farmer, a Farm Progress publication.
Excerpts: Know before your grow. Verify before you buy. "That's
what we're asking corn growers to do regarding their corn hybrid choices
they'll plant this spring," says Rod Williamson, program director for the
Iowa Corn Growers Association. "We want farmers to ask any seed
company they buy seed from to verify that the seed the farmer is purchasing and taking delivery of this spring does not contain the Cry9C gene," says Williamson. "That's the so-called StarLink gene that got a lot of people into trouble when they tried to market their 2000 corn crop. USDA has recommended that seed companies test and verify whether or not this gene is in the seed that is being sold to farmers for 2001 planting.". . . "It's to your benefit to ask the seed company to
verify, in writing, whether the StarLink gene is contained in the seed you are purchasing," he told farmers. That is not normally a question farmers ask seed companies. "But don't be shy. You can't expect anyone else to look out for your interests if you don't," he says. Whenever you are handling biotech crops and you are uncertain about some of the issues, please be sure to document everything you do, says Williamson. Also keep records of the financial requirements as to additional trucking, price docks that you took at the local elevator, any added handling. Be sure to document so you can verify what you did, when you did it and how you did it, should you be required to produce that documentation later on... Secondly, verify before you buy. Ask your
seed company to verify whether or not the StarLink gene is contained in the hybrid you are preparing to plant this spring. "In many cases farmers have already bought their seed so this is probably going to be verify after you buy," says Williamson. "But even if you've already bought and paid for your seed, you should ask your seed company for written verification anyway.". . .
(4-a) Australia - Llewellyn Refuses to say if Staff knew about
Secret Uncontained GE Crop Trials (14 March 2001)
http://just-food.com/news_detail.asp?art=27492&dm=yes just-food.com editorial team.
Primary industries minister David Llewellyn was attacked by the opposition in the House of Assembly yesterday, after refusing to reveal whether his departmental staff knew about the 58 secret uncontained GE crop trials carried out through 1997 and 2000 by Serve-Ag for agri-giants Aventis and Monsanto. Sue Napier, leader of the opposition, pointed out that Llewellyn could have found out about the trials through his powers under the Quarantine Act and that he had access to more information than he has previously admitted. The commercial confidentiality previously referred to would have been overridden by the act. Llewellyn admitted a fortnight ago that the trials were completed before the state moratorium was implemented last year, but maintains that he believed there to be only 14 trials, which he found out about because some of his departmental staff were involved with seed certification. "He insisted on clinging to the line that
privacy legislation intervened and prevented him from finding out," said Napier. A censure motion put against Mr Llewellyn was ...
(4-b) Australia - Tas Government to Reveal GM Crop Locations
5: 02 PM AEST March 14, Australia Broadcasting Corporation
The Tasmanian Government plans to reveal the secret locations of some
genetically modified (GM) crop trials. Last month, it was revealed
two multinational companies allowed GM canola crops to regrow at 11 of
58 secret crop trial sites in Tasmania, breaching Federal Government guidelines.
The Tasmanian Environment Minister, David Llewellyn, has told State Parliament
the companies have since provided details of the sites. Mr Llewellyn says
he will reveal the locations of 11 sites where escapes of GM plant material
occurred. "We have the indication of where the sites are, from
the point of view of Monsanto and Aventis, who have written to us about
the issue, and I intend to make public the sites that are problem sites
that I believe have a legal right to do
within the act," he said. End.
(5) Text of CBS Program on GM Foods. What Have They Done
To Our Food?
13 March 2001. See full text at:
Excerpt: Scientists Engineer Corn With Gene To Kill Pests. Add A Flounder Gene To Tomatoes To Withstand Cold. But Consumer Advocates Ask If U.S. Regulation Is Too Lax. Gene splicing technology results in bigger fish. How much food at the supermarket is the product of gene
splicing? Up to 70 percent of processed food in the American market contains products of genetic engineering, including soft drinks, catsup, potato chips, cookies, ice cream and corn flakes. Genes are the building blocks of DNA, the blueprint of life. People have the same DNA as a redwood tree. the difference is in the genes. Each gene expresses a trait, say, tallness in the redwood or the brown eyes of a child. Six years ago, science began plucking genes out of organisms and splicing them into food crops. Now, Americans are beginning to ask questions
about genetic engineering: Is it healthy? Scott Pelley investigates for 60 Minutes II. Salmon are expected to be the first genetically engineered animal approved for consumption. "It is not that existing salmon aren't OK," says Elliot Entis, who runs Aqua Bounty Farms that is producing the genetically engineered salmon. "They are. The problem is that we have to feed ever increasing numbers of people in the world today." Farmers In the Middle. Kentucky farmers speak to 60 Minutes II of their difficulties selling StarLink corn last fall, in a Web-exclusive video package. Within the first year of growth, a bio-engineered salmon is more than three times larger than a normal salmon. "They grow faster; they get to their full adult size in roughly half the time than they otherwise would," says Entis, who grew up in Boston sure that he would never go into the fish business like his father. His super salmon were created by splicing in genetic material from ...
(6-a) Greenpeace Renews Opposition to Golden Rice - Representatives
will visit Int'l Rice Research Institute Next Week - http://www.planetrice.net/newspub/newstory.cfm?id=718
13 March 2001. Greenpeace International has renewed its opposition to field trials of the genetically modified "golden rice," reported Roger Highfield, science editor for the Electronic Telegraph on March 12. Last month, Greenpeace announced that it would not attack trials of
golden rice, after claims that 50,000 people would go blind for each month that release of the vitamin A-enriched rice was delayed. Greenpeace, whose representatives will visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines next week, now says it will treat the rice like any other GM organism. "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 coordinator, based in Berlin. "The fundamental environmental safety issues remain unresolved for golden rice just as for any other genetically modified organisms," he said. Haerlin added that ...
(6-b) Markers Speed Rice Breeding at Beaumont, NY Times Reports
http://www.planetrice.net/newspub/newstory.cfm?id=719 14 March 2001
Related Articles at www.planetrice.net news.
Texas breeder Dr. Anna McClung uses marker-assisted breeding. The intensifying controversy
about genetically modified foods is leading to increased use of the rapidly growing knowledge about genes to enhance conventional breeding of crops and livestock, rather than implant genes from one species into another, Andrew Pollack wrote on March 7 in the New York Times. The
rationale is partly because such an approach is less likely to arouse the public objections that have been raised by the development of geneti cally altered plants and animals. The enhanced breeding approach involves testing and marking 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. This enhanced breeding has technical advantages and disadvantages when compared with genetic engineering. Its biggest advantage is political. Many opponents of bioengineered foods do not object to the gene marker technique because it avoids artificially transferring genes between organisms. Opponents often consider such ...
(7) Eating Well: The Truth Behind the Feel-Good Labels
agewanted=all By Marian Burros, 14 March 2001.
Excerpts: "Consumers Union has just opened a Web site, www.eco-labels.org,
that is useful in sorting out the standards and claims of various certifying
agencies. Otherwise shoppers have to call or send e-mail to a company to
ask what a claim means and what proof there is for it."
Bird-Friendly, shade- grown and cage-free are just a few of the new marketing labels being plastered on food packages, and if you do not have a clue about what they mean, you are not alone. Even when you do, what proof is there that the claims are accurate? Now that organic
labels have become commonplace, a new kind of feel-good labeling is making its way to the grocery store. In its broadest terms, this "green shopping" movement deals with man's relationship to the environment, and the treatment of farmworkers, just two topics that led to riots last year at the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle. Doing well by doing good is not a new idea, of course. Ben & Jerry's and Newman's Own are the most obvious success stories. Ben & Jerry's
mentions its use of recycled paper for its ice cream cartons, and Newman's has famously donated its profits and uses organic ingredients in its salsas and other products. Stonyfield Farm has taken things a step further. Its yogurt containers boast: "We give 10 percent of our profits to the planet." But a more narrow comparison can be drawn to the early days of organic food, when anyone could claim a food was grown organically without any evidence, and to the days before nutrition
labeling was regulated, when a product like vinegar could be labeled cholesterol-free. Once again, the watchword wherever food is sold is: buyer beware. Federal law requires all labeling and advertising to be "truthful and not misleading," but regulatory agencies admit they do not have the resources to monitor compliance unless someone discovers life-threatening claims. As a result, a new certification industry has sprung up, following the example of the organics industry, which has
established independent certification. Organizations like the Rain Forest Alliance charge for their seal of approval. It took almost 10 years for the alliance to certify that Chiquita Brands International, one of the largest marketers of bananas in the world, had met its criteria for the Eco-OK Better Banana label. The program requires conservation, pollution control, worker safety and less use of pesticides.
Pacific Rivers Council's Salmon- Safe has certified some 40 farms, dairies and vineyards in the Pacific Northwest for improving farming practices to restore water purity to salmon habitats. Some wine labels already carry the Salmon-Safe logo. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center is certifying coffee that is shade-grown, a method that does not require clear cutting of forests and is bird-friendly, as it does not destroy the habitat of migratory birds...
Gerald Celente, editor of the newsletter Trends, said that "eco-friendly
is going to be a huge business, particularly when outbreaks of foot-and-
mouth disease and mad cow disease hit us." And he is convinced they will.
Sunspire, which makes certifiably organic chocolate chips, claims
on its labels that it supports rain forest ecosystems. Asked what that means and how it can be verified, Maggie Puertas, the company's sales office coordinator, said, "That's a good question." She added that only the president of the company could answer it, and he did not return two
phone calls. Sea Bear, a smoked-salmon processor, claims its fish is wild and caught by hook and line, which suggests that it is of better quality than salmon that is farmed and netted, and environmentally more desirable. A company representative said it does its own verification of how the salmon is caught and where it comes from.
Egg cartons offer some of the most interesting reading, although the
words are seldom enlightening. One company says there is no animal fat
in the feed. Does that mean there are other animal parts in the feed? Other
egg cartons claim that the hens are "cage-free." Is that meant to suggest
that the chickens are free- range or simply that they are not in cages
but in large enclosed areas where they stand beak to beak? One of
my favorite labels is from a chicken producer that says its birds
have "no artificial hormones." A double asterisk beside the statement leads to this notice: "U.S.D.A. regulations prohibit the use of artificial growth stimulates and hormones in this product." The company is making a virtue out of not doing what it is not permitted to do.
Tensie Whelan, executive director of the Rain Forest Alliance, calls that kind of labeling the ecological version of whitewashing "Green-washing schemes make a company that does not have a good environmental record look better," she said.
Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, who has spent many years making order out of chaos in the organic world, sees such claims as a threat. "If consumers lose faith in product labeling, we'll be affected by that," she said.
(8) Thai Clarification Sought over GM presence in Food.
- Reports Bt Cotton Smuggled from China. - http://www.bangkokpost.com/today/140301_News21.html
The government should clear the air about the presence of genetically modified food in the Thai food supply, especially soybean, said a scientist yesterday. "GM contamination is a major problem for Thailand because it may lead to a loss of market opportunity," said Assoc Prof Wanchai Cherdshewasart of Chulalongkorn University's science faculty. He was speaking at a meeting on GMOs and environmental impact, organised by the National Centre for Genetic
Engineering and Biotechnology. Canned tuna had been rejected by foreign importing countries for fear that soybean oil might have contained GMOs. Inquiries were made after Saudi Arabia rejected the goods but the result had not been made public, he said. While state agencies such as the Agriculture Department argued that no transgenic plants were grown on commercial basis and therefore domestic soybean oil was GM-free, Assoc Prof Wanchai said he believed otherwise. The growing of soybean containing GM was accidental. Soybean imported for the food production process was planted in the open environment by "innocent" farmers. "The problem is we are in no position to separate transgenic from non-transgenic produce."He said labelling should be required "not only for processed products but also for raw materials to make things clear".
He believed Bt cotton had been smuggled from China, referring to reports
of vast areas being planted with cotton species genetically modified to
produce toxins against the bollardvirus. Weak law enforcement made
control of transgenic plants impossible, he said. As a major food
exporter, Thailand should opt for GMO-free status to open up export opportunities, Assoc Prof Wanchai said. Scientific research on GMOs should continue but under strict control. "We should brace for a difficult time next month when Japan begins measures against GM products," he warned. The Thai Food Processors' Association admitted that ...
(9) Genetic Study Aims to Protect Beans Against
May Impact on Other Crops. March 14, USDA-ARS. Syngenta.
A research agreement between the Agricultural Research Service and Syngenta (formerly Novartis Seeds, Inc.) seeks to breed snap beans that fare better against white mold, the most serious disease threatening bean production. White mold--caused by the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum--destroys up to 15 percent of the world's snap bean crop each year. In the United States alone, the disease costs bean growers $18 million annually in lost yield and fungicide sprays. The fungus also infects many other crops, including lettuce, soybean, alfalfa, potato, pea, canola and sunflower. Some bean breeding lines already have partial resistance to white mold. ARS geneticist Phillip Miklas is working with Syngenta scientists to isolate the genes responsible for that
resistance. Miklas is at the ARS Vegetable and Forage Crop Research Unit in Prosser, Wash. Each team will use a partially resistant breeding linedeveloped at Cornell University as one of the parents. For the other parents, they'll use different commercial snap bean varieties that are
susceptible to white mold. By comparing the offspring of these crosses, they hope to narrow down the location and number of genes responsible for the resistance. While the genes themselves would probably apply only to beans, it is possible that information obtained by Miklas may
help researchers working with other crops affected by the disease. An article on this research appears ...
(10) Jumping Genes' Make Insertion of DNA Easier Univ. California-Berkeley,
14 March 2001.
http://www.checkbiotech.org/root/index.cfm# (U-WIRE) BERKELEY, Calif.
New technology utilizing genes that hop from one place to another can make cereals safer to eat and beer faster to produce, said a study by University of California-Berkeley scientists. A team of researchers led by UC Berkeley plant biology professor Peggy Lemaux has found that transposons -- also known as "jumping genes" -- can help send a sequence of DNA into a cozy niche in the plant genome, where it can be active for generation after generation. The finding, published in this month's Plant Physiology, will help boost ...
(11) Ecological Impact of GM Crops, by M.J.Chrispeels,
Diector, UC San Diego Center for Molecular Agriculture. www.latimes.com
13 March 2001. Letters. The Times calls for more public debate about genetically modified crops (editorial, March 9).
Allow me to examine your statements that GM crops are popular "because they alter natural ecology" and that there are "distant risks" that they will "alter ecosystems." Agriculture is an ecologically destructive industry. On millions of acres, natural ecosystems have been replaced by
managed ones. Long before GM crops came on the scene, natural plant and animal communities were replaced by crops genetically quite different from their wild ancestors and grown largely as monocultures. Wide hybridization between crops and weeds produced some troublesome weeds.
Human population growth and, by extension, traditional agriculture (and that includes organic farming) are responsible for the tremendous loss of biodiversity we have experienced in the past 100 years. Will GM crops lessen or heighten the environmental impact of agriculture? They
will almost certainly lessen the impact. Crops genetically engineered with genes that make proteins to kill only specific insects require fewer pesticide applications; as a result, fields of these crops have more insects and a greater diversity of insect species, including beneficial ones. Crops engineered with herbicide-tolerant genes require less tilling of the land (hence there is less dust and soil compaction). These crops are used in combination with the more biodegradable herbicides, rather than the nastier ones that persist in our ecosystems. The biggest advantage will come from raising crop productivity (whether through GM crops or by other means), because it will mean that more wilderness can be preserved when, in 50 years, there are 9 billion of us.
Our Post Script
This message comes to you from Farm Power News, a
GM-Food news service in the United States. We report
only breaking news in the bio-tech food debate. This
service is for the benefit of farmers, senior association
representatives, media reps, investigators, farm activists,
and others concerned with genetically engineered foods.
In addition to our Daily Brief messages, we offer an
abbreviated Weekly Summary, with one long message
each week, only headlines, no detail. If you would like
background on who-why this news service exists, send
a note to FarmPowerNews@Starpower.net requesting
"background." To add or remove from the mailing list,
send us a note, specifying either Daily Brief, Weekly
Summary, or Both. We wish you well... and standby
for breaking news.