ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

1 November 2002


from Andy Rees, the WEEKLY WATCH editor
Dear all

Welcome to WEEKLY WATCH no 4 from NGIN bringing you all the latest news in brief on the GM issue.

Two of the big stories this week are Monsanto's dire financial predicament - net losses tripled - and Zambia's confirmation of its refusal of GM food aid. Those stories are more intertwined than at first might appear as the Bush administration pushes the interests of a financially desperate US corporation whose demise would have massive consequences for US corporate agribiz. More about this in TOPIC OF THE WEEK and in LIES FROM THE GM INDUSTRY.

REPORT OF THE WEEK also repays careful reading.

Please circulate WEEKLY WATCH far and wide!

Andy <>


Monsanto losses triple
USDA unleashes has unleashed yet another Monsanto GM product onto US agriculture - a GM corn to resist cut worms
But Monsanto's shares have come down from $36.35 to $16.87 in the last 12 months
Why the meltdown? Pharmacia took away Monsanto's profitable drug divsion, Monsanto's best selling herbicide has gone off-patent, the mass of loans Monsanto pushed onto Argentinian farmers to sell their GM seeds has ended up as bad debt... and most of what Monsanto's got left are GMOs! "Monsanto has been seeking to shift its reliance from RoundUp, which has gone off-patent, by spending heavily on genetically modified traits, which accounts for the bulk of its research and development spend." 'Monsanto losses triple on drought in US', Financial Times, October 31, 2002
Ex-biotech worker cool on GM products
Farmers were never asked if they wanted genetically modified crops, yet the acreage is increasing at an alarming rate, says a North American university professor who used to work in the biotech industry. Elizabeth Abergel, assistant professor of multidisciplinary studies at York University, said innovations came from labs staffed by people like her, who know nothing about farming work. "We never asked farmers what they need," she said recently at the University of Regina. "We don't actually give them a choice."
1000 farmers rally vs IRRI in Philippines
1,000+ farmers from the Philippines and seven other countries joined a rally to protest the International Rice Research Institute's (IRRI) "disregard of workers rights, and its involvement in bio-piracy and genetic engineering."
Farmer fined for destroying GM crops
French farmer Jose Bove has been fined GBP1,900 for mowing down GM crops in southern France two years ago. He was among 200 people who damaged a five-acre field of colza.

Starving Africa into submission
'US denounces Zambia's refusal to accept genetically modified food aid' - Agence France Presse headline, October 30th, 2002

'Eat GM or starve, America tells Africa' - a Reuters headline, July 26, 2002

On the 29th October 2002 the Government of Zambia announced that, after consideration of a report by scientists it had sent around the world to investigate the issue, it had decided not to reverse its earlier rejection of GM food aid "in view of the current scientific uncertainty surrounding the issue".

The US immediately made clear that it would only provide aid to Zambia if its decision on GM food aid was reversed.

More astonishingly, it has also been reported that UN agencies dominated by the US had made no move to remedy the situation since the Zambian Government first formally announced its rejection of GM food aid back in July. The reason for the dangerous delay? According to a report in Afrol News:

"Only now, further supplies of food aid had been ordered, "expected to arrive in Zambia in December." UN agencies had been expecting a change in government mind until the last moment. The decision not to order non-GM food aid until now has been observed as direct pressure against the Zambian government."  "Continued pressure against Zambia on GM food", 30th October 2002

Eating GM or starving is a false dilemma. The US has the ability to supply non-GM food but is refusing to do so. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of non-GM grain are available, both in America and elsewhere, and it should be sent to where it's needed most. Instead the Bush Administration is exploiting famine in Africa in an effort to support America's ailing biotech industry. It's just the latest twist in a long and cynical marketing campaign that takes in USAID.

Even the OECD has urged the US to stop forcing aid recipients to buy American exports
But the five-day meeting of the WFP resisted pressure, from Barcelona-based Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN), to adopt a policy against the supply of GM foods to areas of hunger, particularly Southern Africa. As the debate rages, the WFP has had to admit it has been shipping unsegregated GM 'contaminated' food aid for years.

A former consultant to the World Food Programme, Dr Wilma Salgado, has attacked the US's use of "food assistance" as in reality "a support to its own (US) farmers to expand their market, just as the strongly promoted "free trade" in third countries has enabled them to expand their market. At the same time the US has increased its non-tariff barriers to limit the import of products that could compete on the US market."

And a report by the World Development Movement (WDM) has concluded that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank forced policies onto the Government of Malawi that were responsible for turning a food shortage into a famine.

"...[African] government subsidies on maize production have been discontinued under pressure from the WTO [but] it now seems that it's OK for the starving here to eat subsidised maize, just as long as it is GM and grown in America." Andrew Clegg, Windhoek, Namibia in a letter to New Scientist

see also LIES OF THE WEEK for how Monsanto and its lobbyists are seeking to exploit the tragedy of Southern africa

Speaking at the BioMalaysia 2002 Symposium, Prof Arthur Kornberg, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine noted the tendency to quickly commercialise new ideas without a thorough understanding of the discovery, and the pressure on scientists to perform for business instead of knowledge. This opened the door to exaggeration of findings and fraud, he said in his keynote address.

"According to WHO (World health Organisation), all GM foods currently used have been assessed for safety and "are not likely to present risks for human health". But exactly how sound is this evidence base? Consumers are probably right to be sceptical at present." - How safe is GM food? THE LANCET, Vol 360, Number 9342, October 26, 2002

"We're going to talk about GMOs here today, one of the most serious international wheat and grain marketing issues to face wheat growers, ever.  After all, the WTO is being used by giant, concentrated, powerful, transnational agribusiness corporations to control the future of farm policy, trade policy, GMO policy, food production and the price you get for your commodities and they're agenda is primarily to enhance their economic bottom line, not yours..." - Dan McGuire, of  the American Corn Growers Association, speech to the annual convention of the Montana Farmers Union.

"GMOs do not provide a quick fix solution to the economic problems of US farmers. As time goes on the technology is proving to be more of a hindrance than a help." - John Kinsman, vice-president of the National Family Farm Coalition and dairy farmer in Wisconsin

'We simply do not have enough reliable scientific evidence on their safety (GMOs) to be able to make a valid decision as to whether there are potential health effects or not.'' - Charles Saunders, chairman of the British Medical Association's public health committee

"Genetic engineering is the biological equivalent of splitting the atom and has equally, if not greater, hazardous consequences for humankind. The [outdated] Lego block model of 'one gene equals one property' concept is still fiercely assumed [as] the mainstay of genetics - whether human animal or plant. It has spawned a head-long rush to patent any part of the DNA helix that may look profitable in the fields of medicine or agriculture; a dog-eat-dog atmosphere where scientists no longer share their knowledge for fear of losing out.  Patents on seeds have enabled corporations to sue farmers for saving seed, a time-honoured right.  It has generated a rampant global greed for genomic information and a disgraceful behaviour among corporations and scientists that work for them.  Gene pirating has become a world-wide phenomena." - Dr Robert Anderson Member Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics (New Zealand)

Major polls conducted last year by Rutgers University and ABC News both found that 90% of American consumers support GM labels.

In the US, 20-25% of farmers traditionally save their seed - something that's illegal with GMOs.

The organic industry is the fastest growing US agricultural sector, expanding by 20% annually, with sales expected to reach $11 billion in 2003, more than double the amount 5 years ago.

for many more FACTS see REPORT OF THE WEEK below

'Biotech debacle in four parts'
This report from ISIS is an amazing roundup of the scientific and economic collapse of the GM enterprise. It was prepared as a special briefing paper as part of the ISIS response to the UK Prime Minister's Strategy Unit on its planned economic review of GM crops.

For a summary, see also ISIS Condemns PM's Scoping Note.

A summary of this summary (!) follows:

Biotech market shares peaked in 2000, but have been failing sharply since, performing well below the industrial average on both sides of the Atlantic. Thousands have lost their jobs in mass layoffs from the genomics and pharmaceutical sector. Most companies are reporting double-digit losses, including many of the 199 spin-off companies in the UK that Lord Sainsbury is so proud of.

The UK Soil Association September study found GM crops an economic disaster. They have cost the US an estimated $12 billion in farm subsidies, lost sales and product recalls due to transgenic contamination.

Catastrophic failures of GM cotton, up to 100%, have been reported in several Indian states, including failures of germination, root-rot and attacks by the American bollworm, for which the crops are supposed to be resistant.

Monsanto has been teetering on the brink of collapse since the beginning of 2002 as one company after another spun off their agricultural biotechnology. It has suffered a series of setbacks: drastic reductions in profits, problems in selling GM seeds in the US and Argentina.

Biotech giant Syngenta is deserting Britain's top plant biotech research institute, John Innes Centre, even as the latter's publicly funded Genomics Centre is being unveiled.

The hazards inherent to GM are accumulating. The latest are:  GM soya flour eaten in a milk shake and hamburger meal was found to transfer GM DNA to gut bacteria of human subject, confirming that antibiotic resistance genes might spread to pathogens, and new disease viruses and bacteria might be created.

Gene therapy has claimed its first cancer victim. ISIS has also warned of this from other exposures to transgenic DNA - GM honey, pollen and  dust.

Multi-herbicide tolerant GM canola appeared rapidly in Canada and the US, constituting serious weeds. Roundup-tolerant super-weeds are plaguing GM soya and cotton fields in the US.

Transgenic contamination of both established seed stocks and indigenous landraces is widespread, threatening both agricultural and natural biodiversity.

The body often treats proteins from gene drugs as foreign, producing antibodies against them that compromise their effectiveness, and in a minority of cases result in serious illnesses and death. Quality control is impossible.

Not surprisingly, there is worldwide rejection of GM crops. Zambia rejected GM-food aid, and has galvanised African countries to unite towards self-sufficiency and sustainability.

Meanwhile, the evidence in favour of a non-GM, organic, sustainable option is now firmly documented. There is little or no reduction in yields in developed countries, with yields improving in successive years. In developing countries low-input, organic, or agro-ecological approaches are working miracles. Three to four fold increases in yield are frequent.  Plus improvements to soil fertility, increased sequestration of carbon in the soil, health, cleaner environment, reduction in food miles, self-sufficiency for farmers and both financial and social enrichments of local communities.


This week Luiz Lula has been successful in his bid for the Presidency of Brazil. His election could be a major victory in the battle to restore the GM-free status of the global food supply as Lula's government is committed to keeping Brazil, one of the largest growers of soya outside the US, GM-free. Lula's agricultural policy advisor, Jose Graziano da Silva, says, "We want to establish a reputation as GM-free. We get premium prices on specialty markets that our competitors - the U.S. and Argentina - don't because they plant GM." Monsanto had made ending the GM-free status of Brazil one of its principal targets.
see also: GM-free soybeans help boost Brazil's economy
Brazil GM-free corn exports seen at record high

Formerly enthusiastic China has imposed restrictions on domestic varieties of GM crops like rice, soybeans, vegetables and tobacco, and required lengthy safety tests and cumbersome labeling rules for GM imports.  The go-slow approach reflects rising domestic concerns about food safety and growing consumer resistance around the world, which might mean losing important export markets by pushing ahead too quickly.  China now appears more inclined to support a cautionary stance like the EU.  This could slow the trade of GM food globally. "The general sense is that the risks are too high and the market is too small'' for most genetically modified plants, said Wu Kongmin, who heads a panel of experts conducting safety tests for the agriculture ministry

"GM canola has, in fact, spread much more rapidly than we thought it would.  It's absolutely impossible to control... It's been a great wake-up call about the side effects of these GM technologies." - Martin Entz, professor of Agronomy at the University of Manitoba.

Feedback from farmers, and data from six years of commercial growing, show that GM soya and maize crops deliver less income on average to farmers than non-GM crops.  Furthermore, farmers producing GM-free produce have been able to command price premiums.  RR soya and RR rape produced lower yields than non-GM varieties on average, and although Bt maize produced a small yield increase overall, it was not enough over the whole period to cover the higher production costs.  RR soya, RR maize, Bt maize, and HT rape have mostly resulted in an increase in agrochemical use.  Farmers growing GM crops now receive lower market returns than previously.

The UK Soil Association study released in September found GM crops an economic disaster. They have cost the US an estimated $12 billion in farm subsidies, lost sales and product recalls due to transgenic contamination.

In the week that Zambia confirmed its rejection of GM food aid, Monsanto's electronic newsletter, "The Biotech Advantage', had as its main headline 'Academics Say Africans Going Hungry Because of Activist Scare Tactics'. The article was based round a report by "scholars" attacking Zambian Catholics for supporting Zambia's refusal of food aid containing GMOs.

Monsanto's "activists", however, turn out to be the staff of a Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection and an Agricultural Training Centre! And its report by "academics" and "scholars" turns out to have been produced by the AgBioWorld campaign - something not made clear in the Monsanto article, which also did not disclose just who some of these disinterested "scholars" were.

The disinterested "academics" include:

*CS Prakash of Tuskegee University, USA, who as well as co-founding the AgBioWorld campaign to lobby for GMOs is also an advisor to USAID while his university enjoys multi-million dollar contracts with the agency. Prakash also, according to a series of newspaper articles in The Guardian and elsewhere, works hand in glove with Monsanto's PR operatives who use his listserv to initiate attacks on the company's critics.

*AgBioWorld co-founder Gregory Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute - an organisation described by PR Watch as "a well funded corporate front".

*Andrew Apel, the editor of a biotech industry newsletter, who has called on the US to bomb Zambia with its GM grain if it continues to reject it. On a discussion list Apel recently wrote of the crisis, "I can almost picture the darkies laying down their lives for the vacuous ideals... their death throes, how picturesque, among the baobab trees and the lions!"
AgBioWorld previously issued a press release implying that "mistakes" by "activist organisations" over US food aid in the Indian state of Orissa had resulted in 10,000 deaths. Indian food and trade policy analyst, Devinder Sharma, condemned this fabrication, pointing out that the deaths in Orissa were caused by a super-cyclone and were totally unconnected with the food aid controversy.

The deceit and lies of the GM lobby serve only to distract attention from the urgent need to resolve the problems in Southern Africa and get some of the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of non-GM grain that's available to where it's  most needed.

Dr. Raj Patel of Food First has commented, "The tragedy is that while these well monied types try to filibuster the democratic process in Zambia, people are starving. And there's safe food in the region which USAID will not buy, because it doesn't support U.S. business, and doesn't involve loans from the World Bank"
For more on the role of the GM lobbyists during the crisis in Southern Africa:

For more on Monsanto's dirty tricks:

"There are 800 million hungry people in the world; 34,000 children starve to death every day. There are those who consider this a tragedy, and then there are the  biotech companies and their countless PR firms, who seem to consider it a flawless hook for product branding. It is an insult of the highest and most grotesque order to turn those who live from day to day into the centerpiece of an elaborate lie.  ...the companies who make [GE foods], and the flacks who hawk their falsehoods, offer us a new definition of depravity, a new standard to plunge for in our race to care least, want more, and divest ourselves of all shame."
- Michael Manville - Welcome to the Spin Machine

HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the NGIN archive
30 October 2002
1,000 farmers to rally vs IRRI
Grappling with a mutated vision
US criticised by OECD over forcing aid recipients to buy American exports
29 October 2002
GM DNA in human gut - questions from ISIS
Munlochy appeal
The dangers of GM food
Health committee agrees to investigate GM
World Food Body Fails to Take Stand on GM Food Aid
Gene pioneer urges dream of human perfection + comment
Famine-hit Zambia rejects GM food aid
IMF blamed for Malawi famine
28 October 2002
Contaminated Choices
Support Oregon!
Europe's Biotech Madness
>From Jo'burg to Des Moines
27 October 2002
Universities should be biased in favour of agbiotech
26 October 2002
GM Fall-out from Mexico to Zambia - The Year of Playing Dangerously
Return of Craig Sams to AgBivingsView
25 October 2002
Nature's refusal to publish - press release
Organic foods may be more contamination-prone
ISIS Condemns Prime Minister's Scoping Note
Biotech Debacle in Four Parts - ISIS
Re: Organic foods may be more contamination-prone
Greenpeace on PM's Scoping Note - "worse than useless"
The Lancet - How safe is GM food?
24 October 2002
Farmer Income - Seeds of Doubt
USDA approves Monsanto corn
Monsanto only in it for the women
WFP, food aid and GMOs
Molecular Empires
Peasants Scientists' Unity Statement
Paul McCartney endorses Measure 27, records radio commercial
Deja Vu All Over Again
Monsanto's $1bn write-off
Farmer fined
China cools on GMOs


In response to a petition from the Munlochy GM Vigil the Health Committee of the Scottish Parliament is launching an enquiry into the health effects of GM. This is a huge opportunity to highlight many of the issues around GM, and to start political action on them.
**Submit your concerns to **
More information on the enquiry:
Excellent information on the health dangers of GMOs:

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