ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

5 June 2002


*EU: EU Takes Steps to Require More Labeling for GMOs
*Kenya: Minister cautions on GM technology
*Malaysia: most firms shying away from genetic manipulation
*China: Row erupts over impact of transgenic cotton
*US/UK: Cancer boost fuels GM row
*US: lawsuit against BASF and Micro Flo
*Canada: bioJUSTICE-bioDIVERSITY 2002
*EU-US: Dispute Over Labeling Threatens Billions In Trade
*Germany: GE in retreat - less contamination found


EU Takes Steps to Require More Labeling for GMOs

June 5, 2002

BRUSSELS -- In a vote reflecting deep divisions over biotechnology, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted narrowly in favor of more extensive labeling of foods and animal feeds containing genetically modified organisms.

The committee voted to require the European Union to require mandatory labeling for meat, dairy products and highly refined goods such as sugar and soybean oil produced from biotech ingredients -- even if no remnants of genetic modification are detectable.

It also voted to lower the threshold at which mandatory labeling would kick in, setting it at 0.5% per ingredient instead of 1% per ingredient, and to forbid the sale of any products containing traces of biotech ingredients not authorized in the 15-nation EU, even if they are widely authorized and grown outside the EU.

The U.S., along with many food producers in both Europe and the U.S., has warned that such stricter labeling requirements would result in a de facto ban on all products with a biotech label. In fact, even in advance of the new rules, many supermarkets are declaring their shelves biotech-free zones. "This would cause huge problems," said one U.S. government official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Biotech products are subject to no special labeling at all in the U.S.

The committee vote is only preliminary. The European Parliament as a whole is scheduled to consider the committee's recommendations later this summer, and the draft law also faces review by European capitals, the European Commission, which has objected to many of the amendments, and then a second reading in the parliament.

Center-right politicians, who hold the majority in the parliament as a whole, in the committee voted overwhelmingly for less onerous rules, arguing that the amendments ultimately voted through by the committee would cause trade friction, confuse consumers and invite fraudulent and deceptive labeling. But a coalition of Socialist and Green members supported stricter rules, which they argued are needed to help rebuild confidence of European consumers grown skittish in the wake of a series of food scares.

Geert Ritsema, a lobbyist for the environmentalist pressure group Friends of the Earth, which had campaigned for stricter rules, called the outcome "quite positive" from an environmentalist point of view. "All foods derived from genetically modified organisms have to be labeled," he said.

If the amendments stick, that means labels will be required for highly refined soybean oils and sugars, along with meat and dairy products from animals fed on biotech corn and soybeans, although they contain no traces of genetically modified proteins. The committee voted to require labeling on the basis of a complicated traceability scheme -- essentially requiring a food ingredient to be labeled as biotech or non-biotech at each step of the food production process.


Minister cautions on GM technology

June 3, 2002
The Nation (Nairobi)
Lilian Nduta

Kenya will only adopt genetic modification in crops that has been tried elsewhere and found to be safe.

Agriculture Minister Bonaya Godana was cited as saying that locally, GM technology had been applied on sweet potatoes and bananas to increase yields, adding, "We are particularly cautious that genetic modification can have negative impact and we are working on a policy to govern administration of this technology."

Speaking to journalists after opening a regional agribusiness management training workshop, Dr Godana was further cited as saying the government was collecting views from farmers, seed manufacturers and research institutions to adopt a comprehensive policy to guide GM technology in Kenya.

The workshop was organised by the African Seed Trade Association and attended by officials from Kenya Seed Company, Simlaw Seeds, Seed Trade of Kenya, Harvest Farm and Uganda Seed Trade Association. Also present were Monsanto representatives from Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Central Africa and Zimbabwe.


Nation: Most firms shying away from genetic manipulation

June 4, 2002
The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia)
Debra Moreira

Malaysian research into genetic manipulation of plants may open the door to cheaper and better food products but local companies are not biting yet.

See Yee Ai, executive director of Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (Mabic), was quoted as saying, "At the moment, biotechnology research is almost 100 per cent funded by the Government and the private sector's involvement in commercialising the products remains minimal."

The private sector's involvement in biotechnology research and development (R&D) in Malaysia is currently confined primarily to plant tissue culture.

The story says that the annual production of orchids by tissue culture alone has been estimated to be worth RM50 million, with export earnings potential of RM33 million.

When it comes to investing in genetically modified (GM) food, the only people from the private sector who are interested are those who stand to make some money out of it, for example the palm oil related companies.

Ai was further cited as saying there is widespread misconception about biotechnology and not many people understand what it is all about, adding, "A solution would be that the private sector work with government agencies to take biotechnology to the next level."

There are valid reasons why manufacturers may want to steer clear genetically fiddling with their products.

For one thing, people are uncomfortable about food that may be 'artificial' as opposed to 'natural'.


Row erupts in China over impact of transgenic cotton

June 4, 2002
Dow Jones Newswires
Phelim Kyne

BEIJING-A Chinese government-funded report that alleges genetically modified Bt cotton strains introduced by U.S. agribusiness giant Monsanto (MON) have damaged the environment and provide few long-term agricultural benefits has, according to this story, provoked protest within China's scientific community.

The report, produced by a State Environment Protection Administration research institute in cooperation with international environmental lobby group Greenpeace, argues Monsanto's Bt cotton has destabilized China's insect ecology and caused continued farmer reliance on chemical pesticides.

The research study, cited in the official China Daily newspaper, found that genetically modified Bt cotton, designed to control bollworm, is encouraging the spread of other types of insect pests.

The study by the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences also concluded that cotton bollworm will possibly develop resistance to the genetically modified cotton within eight to 10 years.

The story says that China Academy of Sciences is understood to be currently preparing a paper for China's leadership that refutes the allegations in the Nanjing study and chastises the State Environment Protection Agency for working with Greenpeace.

The controversy is only the latest to affect China’s attempts to regulate genetically modified agricultural products and agricultural biotechnology. Since January, four government ministries in China have implemented or began formulating rules to regulate the import of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.


Cancer boost fuels GM row

June 1, 2002
The Scotsman
Alastair Dalton

A NEW row over genetically modified food erupted last night after scientists, according to this story, discovered unexpectedly high levels of an anti-cancer chemical in GM tomatoes.

The fruit was genetically manipulated by researchers at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Centre in Maryland to delay ripening and extend its shelf life.

The process was also found to produce four times the normal levels of an antioxidant that can protect against breast and prostate cancer and reduce hardening of the arteries, the journal Nature Biotechnology reported.

But anti-GM protesters said the discovery underlined the need for caution.

Dr Doug Parr, the chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, was quoted as saying, "This clearly illustrates what we have been saying about the unpredictable effects of altering genes."


United phosphorus lawsuit against BASF and Micro Flo for counterfeit pesticide sales moves forward

June 3, 2002
From a press release [shortened]

LAKE RIDGE, Va.-- The multi-million dollar case originally filed by United Phosphorus against Micro Flo and BASF Corporation (Micro Flo's parent company) has passed a significant milestone. That case alleges that Micro Flo and BASF imported and sold millions of pounds of illegal, unapproved pesticides in the United States. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia on May 28, 2002, denied Micro Flo's Motion to Dismiss United Phosphorus' civil case. As a result, the case can finally begin moving toward trial. The case originated when United Phosphorus ("UP") discovered that Micro Flo had registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"), under Micro Flo's own name, various pesticides produced by UP in India. EPA granted those registrations based on UP's pesticides, and Micro Flo's certifications that its products would contain only UP's pesticidal active ingredients.  Despite those certifications, extensive evidence shows that Micro Flo imported millions of pounds of illegal, unapproved pesticides from other foreign producers. EPA's own investigations confirmed that Micro Flo smuggled and then sold millions of pounds of counterfeit pesticides under false claims that they were registered by EPA and produced by UP. SOURCE  Wright & Sielaty, P.C.



Media Release
June 3, 2002

The fight to control life on the planet
Two conferences - Two opposing visions of the future of Biotechnology

(Toronto) As the biotechnology industry converges on Toronto for their annual international convention, BIO 2002 (June 9-12), scientists, academics, farmers, and activists from Canada and the US are coming together for, "bioJUSTICE-bioDIVERSITY 2002", the 6th international grassroots gathering on genetic engineering (June 7-9) organised this year by the Polaris Institute, the Council of Canadians, the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont and the BIOdevastation Toronto Coalition.

Biotechnology is heralded by corporations and governments as the key to a "brave new world" that will eliminate hunger and disease, not to mention turn a handsome profit for shareholders. "There are many serious issues that will never be mentioned at the industry conference but are of great concern to citizens and governments around the world", says Tony Clarke from the Polaris Institute.  "We need a counter event to present well researched analysis and expose the broader public to the hidden dangers of biotechnology," adds Nadège Adam of the Council of Canadians.

"Our grassroots conference attempts to reframe the discussion around biotechnology," says Brian Tokar from the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont. "We will raise profound political, ethical, and scientific concerns about biotechnology that are shared by many around the world." Tokar was involved in organizing similar events in Boston and San Diego, which drew hundreds of people to explore biotech hazards and protest BIO's conventions in those cities.

bioJUSTICE-bioDIVERSITY 2002 will cover a wide range of issues such as the patenting of lifeforms, international trade, agriculture, and public health.

"Biotechnology corporations are robbing the genetic commons of the world for profit, not for the benefit of humankind", says Dr. Vandana Shiva, Researcher, author and Director of the Research Foundation on Science, Technology and Ecology (India) and one of the Conference's keynote speakers.

The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, the National Farmers Union, and the US Farmer to Farmer Campaign against Genetic Engineering are fighting the introduction of GE wheat and will all be present at this gathering. Cathy Holtslander of Saskatchewan will represent the case of organic farmers suing biotech giants Monsanto and Aventis for contamination by GE canola.

Biotech companies have also created a climate of intimidation for scientists who dare challenge their scientific agenda. Dr. Nancy Olivieri, a conference keynote speaker and professor of Pediatrics at the University of Toronto, for example, faced intimidation for revealing her findings of risks with Apotex's new drug - at the time Apotex was negotiating its funding of the University. Ontario is also battling corporate control over new medical technologies in the case of Myriad Genetics [USA], "People are profoundly shocked that, because this corporation owns the patent, it is forcing our medical system to send all breast cancer analysis to their labs instead of using local lower cost methods" says Colleen Fuller, author of Caring for Profit and conference speaker.

bioJUSTICE-bioDIVERSITY 2002 begins Friday evening June 7th with a panel featuring Drs. Shiva and Olivieri at Toronto's St. Lawrence Centre, and continues through the day on Saturday with a series of workshops and an evening panel on the threat of biological warfare.  Saturday's events will take place at the University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).  On Sunday, June 9th an afternoon public gathering and picnic in Grange Park will feature geneticist and TV host David Suzuki, among others.

Our Media Advisory:

Media Advisory
June 3, 2002

Activists plan to challenge the biotech industry's annual convention

What: Activists from around the world will gather in the city of Toronto to participate in the "bioJUSTICE-bioDIVERSITY 2002" 6th International Grassroots Gathering on Genetic Engineering.

Who: This event is sponsored by the Polaris Institute, the Institute for Social Ecology (USA), the BIOdevastation Toronto Coalition, and the Council of Canadians.  Activists, academics, scientists, farmers, and ordinary citizens from Canada and the United States will come together to reframe the debate around biotechnology and shed light on the false promises of this industry.

Why: The aim is to challenge the biotech industry's agenda and vision for our future and to broaden the biojustice movement. Conference participants will learn, strategize, take action, and network about genetic engineering in agriculture and medicine, biowarfare, genetic and non-genetic discrimination, international trade, corporate exploitation, science for the public good, intellectual property, and more.

When and where: This conference will be held just before the biotech industry's annual international convention, BIO 2002, which will also
take place in Toronto.

The bioJUSTICE/bioDIVERSITY 2002 program will entail:

Public Forum:  A biotech future?  Exposing the truth
Friday, June 7, 2002
St-Lawrence Centre, 27 Front Street, E., Toronto
7:30pm to 10:00pm

A day of workshop exploring a variety of topics
Saturday, June 8, 2002
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)
252 Bloor Street, West, Toronto
8:30pm to 5:00pm

Panel Discussion:  Biowarfare - is the biotech industry fuelling a new arms race?
Saturday, June 8, 2002
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)
252 Bloor Street, West, Toronto
7:00pm to 10:00pm

A festival of alternatives: bioDIVERSITY GMO-free picnic
Sunday, June 9, 2002
Grange Park, Toronto
12:00pm to 4:00pm

Nadège Adam, Biotech Campaigner
Council of Canadians
502-151 Slater Avenue, Ottawa, ON   K1P 5H3
Ph: (613) 233-4487, ext. 245, Fax: (613) 233-6776


Dispute Over Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods Threatens Billions In Trade

New Issue Brief Looks at Economic and Cultural Factors Across the Atlantic; Key European Action Expected This Summer

Contact: DJ Nordquist/
Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology
Office: 202-347-9132 (direct) 202-256-3533 (cell)

Washington, D.C. (June 4, 2002) - Contradictory approaches to the regulation of genetically modified (GM) foods could ignite a major trade war with the European Union and cost U.S. farmers and food manufacturers billions of dollars in lost exports, according to a new report from the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. A proposal adopted today by the European Parliament's Environment Committee to require the labeling and tracing of all GM ingredients in food has deep cultural roots but could, if adopted, also have serious economic ramifications for American farmers who have adopted GM technology, the report finds.

This new issue brief summarizes the regulations under consideration by the European Commission, what effects they could have on agricultural trade between the U.S. and the EU, and looks at the background issues dividing the U.S. and EU on this topic. It also notes that the European Union labeling and traceability requirements are expected to continue to be hotly debated there this summer.

The U.S. accounts for the lion's share of GM crops grown worldwide, with three quarters of all GM crops in the world now being planted on American soil. American exports of corn, cotton and soybeans -- large percentages of which are genetically modified -- constitute a significant share of the $6.3 billion annual value of U.S. agricultural exports to the EU. Those exports could be severely impacted by a European proposal that advanced today to require strict labeling and traceability of all food and animal feed containing more than 0.5 percent GM ingredients.

European officials insist that the new regulations are needed to "restore consumer confidence" in the technology. While legislation was introduced in Congress last month to require labeling of all products which contain GM ingredients, current U.S. laws do not require GM crops to be labeled or traced because U.S. regulators do not believe that GM crops pose any unique risks over their conventional counterparts.

"In Europe, unlike in the U.S., a recent string of food crises such as mad cow disease outbreaks have created consumer apprehension about food
safety in general," said Michael Rodemeyer, executive director of the Initiative. "As a result, in part due to the novel nature of GM foods and cultural factors relating to food, European consumers are particularly wary of biotech crops. Strong European resistance to these crops has already wiped out a $200 million market for U.S. corn. Although the U.S. and European governments share the same goal -- the safe and environmentally responsible use of GM foods -- their approaches to regulating these products could not be more different, in part reflecting different histories, political philosophies and cultures. The question is whether the chasm across the Atlantic can be bridged before a serious trade clash erupts, which could not only cause major economic disruptions to American farmers but could also have a ripple effect around the world as other countries debate whether to follow the American or European regulatory model."

The full issue brief is available at
The Initiative also hosted a policy dialogue last year on the EU proposal which can be found at


Test: GE in food - Almost nothing in it

The German Stiftung Warentest has announced the latest results of its food analysis on GE ingredients. Their first impression: "Green genetechnology is on the retreat". In 2000, similar testing revealed up to 20% GE ingredients in food stuff. Two years later, Stiftung Warentest tried to buy the same products and performed tests on Roundup Ready soy and Bt maize, the two GE crops approved for human consumption in the EU, for which labeling rules are in place. The products which showed a high percentage of GE ingredients in the first round could not be found in supermarkets or are made with different raw materials now.

Stiftung Warentest could detect GE ingredients in 27 out of 82 products - but only in minor quantities below 0,1%. In 17 products, 0,1% RR soy or lower could be quantified, in a further five products RR soy content was detectable but not quantifiable. Bt maize (YieldGard Mon810 and/or Maximizer Bt176 and/or Bt11) could be quanitified in five products. In 2000, some of the food items contained GE ingredients between 0,1 and 1,0 % or even higher than 1%. 19 products were produced by biological agriculture and food production, three of them contained GE ingredients below 0,1% (two with RR soy, one with Bt maize Mon 810).

Stiftung Warentest is an independent foundation set up by the German Government in 1964. The work is financed by profits from sold publications and by funding from the Ministry for Consumer Protection, Nutrition and Agriculture.

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