DAILY BRIEF: TODAY'S HEADLINES FROM THE BIOTECH FOOD DEBATE
(1-a) Is Your Seed Supply GMO-Free?
3/15/2001, Tom J. Bechman, Indiana Prairie Farmer, a Farm Progress Publication. Related Article: http://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/articles.01/GMO_Issues-0312.htm
l The only time you want genetically modified organism(GMO) seed
is when that's what you choose to plant. If you think you're planting a
non-GMO hybrid or variety, then that's what you want- GMO-free seed. Unfortunately,
volunteer tests by seed companies all across the country
this winter confirm that through cross-contamination, small amounts of the StarLink Bt protein (Cry9C) show up in a very small percentage of commercial hybrids or breeding lines that are not StarLink corn. The StarLink trait, produced by Aventis, is the GMO trait that caused the
furor last fall and this winter after it was found in human food supplies in the U.S. StarLink was approved for use in animal feed in the U.S., but not for human consumption. Aventis has since voluntarily pulled registration for the product.
So StarLink is gone but the ramifications remain. In the March 23 issue
of Purdue University's Pest Management & Crop Production Newsletter,
Purdue agronomist Bob Nielsen and extension ag engineer Dirk Maier provide
common-sense advice for farmers worried about the GMO issue.
Their entire article is available now on the Web at: http://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/articles.01/GMO_Issues-0312.htm
l Here's their advice on minimizing your chances for planting seed containing GMO traits when you intend instead to plant non-GMO seed this spring. "At a minimum, corn farmers should 'verify before they buy' and insist on receiving the results from the USDA-recommended seed testing
plan for the Cry9C (StarLink) transgene," they write. "Ask for the results in writing, keep this documentation for your records, and to help assure the integrity of the 2001 harvest." Nielsen and Maier don't stop there, however. "Consider saving a sample of seed from each lot of supposed non-transgenic hybrid or variety for purity re-testing in the event that you need to re-verify the non-transgenic integrity of a particular seed lot," they add. That's the least they would do if they
were buying non-GMO seed and planting it. Here's the other extreme- how far you could go. "Ask for written assurance for any transgene contamination in any non-GMO corn or soybean variety (not just StarLink)," they note. Apparently, some companies are testing for any GMO contamination in non-GMO seed lots, not just for the StarLink protein. If such information is available, ask for it.in writing!
(1-b) GMO Issues Facting Farmers (13 March 2001, Chat'n.ChewCafe)
What if a farmer elects not to use transgenic crop varieties, but is concerned about the risk of contamination of his/her grain by transgenic grain? In other words, what are the possible means by which one can end up with transgenic grain interspersed with that produced from a non-transgenic variety? . . .
(1-c) Uninsured Crops Not A Risk Worth Taking This Year
Seed isn't yet in the ground but farmers quickly must decide whether
they'll insure the crop it will produce. The deadline for purchasing crop
insurance is March 15. Crop insurance is a better bargain this year,
thanks to legislation passed by Congress last year, says James Pritchett,
Purdue University assistant professor of agricultural economics. The Agricultural
Risk Protection Act of 2000 increases coverage level subsidies, making
insurance more affordable, he says. It's still up to producers to determine
which insurance options are best for them. "Every farm's financial position
is different, and operators must choose a strategy that best fits their
needs," Pritchett says. "Some farm-level strategies reduce risk while giving
up returns, and others increase returns but mitigate little risk. This
is particularly true when crop insurance is combined with preharvest marketing
strategies. "Types of insurance and coverage levels vary, Pritchett says. Two common insurance plans are Crop Revenue Coverage (CRC) and Multiple Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI). CRC plans protect farmers from crop revenue losses, while MPCI insures against poor crop yields. As a
general rule, CRC premiums are higher than MPCI premiums but provide greater revenue protection per acre. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency, a central . . .
(1-d) Articles Related to Above, See
(2) GM Trials Provoke Controversy in New South Wales;
"the scientists saying trust us, everything's going to be alright."
01-35.inp - Australia Broadcasting Corporation,
Concern is rising in the central west of New South Wales about genetically modified (GM) crops. Cowra Shire Council is one of the first in the state to allow agrochemical giant, Monsanto, to trial GM canola. Local organic producers say the council has put at risk the area's clean-green image and questioned why Monsanto keeps secret the locations of the trials. Monsanto spokesman Brian Arnst says the locations are not released so as to protect those farmers involved from
vandalism. "I know this is an issue for a lot of people, the concern that we are hiding something. There is nothing to hide," he said. But local Federal Independent MP Peter Andren, who was on a parliamentary committee looking at GMOs, says local councils are not in a position to be making decisions on trials. "They have to make decisions based on the sort of thing that our committee was faced with which is the scientists saying trust us, everything's going to be alright."
(3) Norman Borlaug-- The Green Revolution's Irascible Champion
Financial Times of London, 13 March 2001, by Michela Wrong
Excerpts: Having originally believed the GM backlash was a temporary
"hiccup", Mr Borlaug now recognises he underestimated the phenomenon that
has played its part, he says, in a drop in funding to the agricultural
research institutes he works alongside. But it would not take much, he
believes, for a western world that appears to have forgotten the potato
famines to discover the joys of GM: "Two or three crop failures and it
would disappear real fast," he comments
sardonically. On the other, he ticks off the biotechnology companies whose gung-ho marketing of genetically engineered crops triggered what he sees as understandable concern about market centralisation and excessive corporate control. "They handled things atrociously, giving the
impression they were bigger than God. It was some of the worst public relations I've ever seen and it provoked a fear of monopolies. We are now paying a high price for that."
Colleagues of Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Prize winner, sometimes joke
that three different sorts of human exchange exist: there is dialogue,
there is monologue and then there is Borlaug. At 86, the agronomist
has certainly earned the right to have strong opinions. But being on the
receiving end of them can prove a sobering experience. When he is roused,
his voice suddenly loses the quaver that gives his sentences a staccato
quality, like a needle skipping across a vinyl record. Belying his benign
appearance as a white-haired patriarch, the man hailed as the father of
the Green Revolution unleashes the testiness amassed during a lifetime's
labour. "Ridiculous," he snorts, dismissing suggestions that organic
farming could hold the key to agriculture's future. "Hogwash," he snaps
at environmentalists' criticisms of the Green Revolution. "Oh come now,
this is plain nonsense. I've had to listen to this for years." The intellectual
cuffs are administered across the board, although with varying degrees
of sharpness. On the one side, he harrumphs over the
"extremists" he feels have turned the phrase "genetic modification" - the aim of plant breeders since Mendel experimented with pea varieties in the mid-nineteenth century - into something frightening and alien. . .
(4) Philippine Consumers Unwittingly Buy GM Food
MANILA 15 March 2001 (Dow Jones)--Philippine consumers are unwittingly being exposed to genetically-engineered food products after laboratory tests confirmed the presence of genetically-modified organisms, or GMOs, in food items sold in local supermarkets. In a press conference marking the celebration of World Consumer Rights Day, Greenpeace International
said multinational and local companies have been denying Filipino consumers their right to be fully informed about products they buy due to improper labeling. "It's shocking to know that these
genetically-engineered food items are already ending up on our food tables without the public's knowledge or consent," said Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace campaigner on genetic engineering. Greenpeace said laboratory tests commissioned by the group on 30 consumer food products
bought from a Metro Manila supermarket showed 11 products contained GMOs. These products include Bonus Vienna franks, Rica Protina hotdogs, Campo Carne Moby hotdogs, Purefoods Beefy hotdogs, Quality Foods budget franks, Crab Cake by Foodmart Enterprises, Yung Ho soya drink, Doritos Smokey Red Barbecue, Nestle Nesvita Natural Cereal Drink, Isomil Soy infant formula and Knorr Cream of Corn Soup. Greenpeace said manufacturers of these products, which include multinational firms like Nestle, Unilever and Abbot, are practicing double standards for rich and poor countries, claiming that in developed nations, these companies are
implementing a genetic-engineering-free policy in the production of their food commodities. Greenpeace added that local food firms like San Miguel Corporation, Swift, JAKA Food Processing Enterprises and Purefoods admitted to having no knowledge or policy about using GMOs in their products.