ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

7 December 2002


from Andy Rees, the WEEKLY WATCH editor
Dear all

Welcome to WW9 from the NGIN/GMWATCH team bringing you all the latest news in brief on the GM issue.

One item that's not so brief but which repays careful reading is our COMMENTARY OF THE WEEK from Dr Arpad Pusztai. It's a summary of his damning submission on the health effects of GM crops.

We've recently been hearing from people who as well as circulating WEEKLY WATCH to friends and colleagues electronically are also printing it off to send to friends who aren't online and need updating on all the latest news or just awakening to the critical nature of these issues.

Either which way, please spread WW9 far and wide!

Andy <>

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:  trade war/crimes against
humanity/biopiracy/cyberwar/Bt resistance/free the Harvard mouse!
TOPIC OF THE WEEK: pharmageddon getting worse...
ARTICLE OF THE WEEK: how BIO manufactured the poor
COMMENTARY OF THE WEEK: Dr Pusztai's damning submission
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the archive

US threatens trade war with EU
The U.S. is threatening to launch a World Trade Organization action against the EU, because of the EU's new proposed tolerance levels on GM
U.S. farmers are being advised to avoid GM crops unapproved in the EU or they could face losses of a $1 billion or more
There's even talk of EU rules making it "impossible for the United States to export to Europe"
Canadian agribiz is also highly concerned about the new rules
US officials hope a WTO action could send a strong message to other weaker countries to fall into line and stem the growing world wide resistance to GM foods.
US calls GM food aid refusal a crime against humanity
African leaders who refuse to accept food aid due to fears of genetically modified products are committing crimes against humanity and should be put on trial, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday. They "should be held responsible...for the highest crimes against humanity in the highest courts in the world," Tony Hall, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations food agencies, told reporters. His words were principally directed at Zambia, which has banned GM food.
U.S. Policies Contribute To African Famine - Report
According to a new report by the Institute for Food and Development Policy, the United States together with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have exacerbated famine in Africa through economic structural adjustment programmes that fatten the coffers of multi-national firms at the expense of local economies and poor people. The eport also notes how GM food aid is driven by economic necessity. U.S. corn exports to the EU dwindled from 426 million dollars in 1995 to one million dollars in 1999 because of GM contamination. "The U.S. GM grain stockpile, created through the vast, ongoing subsidy of U.S. agriculture, needs a home", says Dr Raj Patel, the report's author.
Syngenta caught in the act of biopiracy
Plans are afoot in India to secretly hand over the rights of research on 23,000 rare varieties of rice plasm to gene giant Syngenta. These can then be patented and sold.  The proposal is a violation of the 1993 Ritho agreement, signed by 156 countries, including India, which states that germ plasm should be protected at local level, with the consent of local communities to be sought before it is taken anywhere.    &
Monsanto's dirty cyberwar - a 'denial"
Monsanto's former head of Public Affairs in a letter to the Guardian  fails to directly deny any of the allegations George Monbiot made in his recent article showing Monsanto's direct involvement in a dirty tricks campaign of character assassination against its scientific and environmental critics.  Not only that but within 24 hrs of Monbiot's article, the website of a fake agricultural institute that can be linked to Monsanto was hurriedly pulled from the net. Find our more:
Corn could make cotton pests Bt resistant
According to a report in the journal Nature, new research shows moths in the US may be feeding on GM (Bt) corn all summer before flying south to munch GM (Bt) cotton in the autumn. This could stymie future efforts to slow down the inevitable development of pest resistance to GM crops.
Monsanto's GM Corn Approved for Planting in the Philippines
After a campaign of black propaganda against GM critics, including outright lies about what GM crops can do for farmers, from Monsanto's PR proxy CS Prakash and associates, and within 24 hrs of the announcement of a $15-million USAID funded 'Center To Develop GM Crops' for the Philippines, Monsanto gained commercial approval for its GM corn. For more on the Prakash campaign:
Prakash lies proliferate
Prof Prakash - sent to lie abroad?
Free the Harvard mouse! No patents on life!
A genetically engineered mouse developed by Harvard University for use in cancer research cannot be patented under current Canadian law, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday.
The Canadian Catholic Organization for DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE (CCODP) has called on Canada to extend this rejection of patents on higher life forms in order to defend the right of developing countries to resist pressure from the international agribusiness lobby to allow patents on all life forms including staple crops. In the developing world, some 1.4 billion farmers depend on free access to seeds of staple crops for their food security. Recently CCODP delivered 180,000 petition postcards to Canada's International Trade Minister urging the federal government to take a public stand against the patenting of living organisms, especially seeds.
Reporting from the World Food and Farming Conference
Reporting from the Inaugural World Food and Farming Conference, nlpwessex notes a growing recognition that genetic engineering requires the broad approval of society as a whole, a position unimaginable just 2 or 3 years ago. The report provides summaries of key contributions to the conference.

TOPIC OF THE WEEK: Pharmageddon getting worse!
The 500,000 bushels of previously-quarantined soybeans that had been contaminated by GM corn engineered to produce a pharmaceutical are being sold off to Prodigene, the company facing a federal inquiry over two such pharma contamination incidents.
BIOTECH COMPANIES BACKTRACK - US Corn Belt opened for 'pharming': Biotech companies are weakening a self-imposed moratorium on growing GM pharmaceutical crops in major corn-growing states such as Iowa which experienced one of the recent pharma-corn contamination incidents.
The US food industry is pressurising USDA to deliver tougher regulations on GM crops and US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has indicated her department is about to get stricter on the planting of pharma crops.
Dow chemical company has further strenghtened its work on plant-based biopharmaceuticals with a recent collaboration with Wageningen, the Netherlands-based Plant Research International BV (PRI).
The world's biggest biotech corporation has done a deal with U.S. drug developer Diversa Corp to get in on pharming. (Source - Reuters Securities News, December 04, 2002)
U.S. and German companies plan "pharma" crop trials in Ukraine

The biggest march that took place during this year's Earth Summit in Johannesburg involved 20,000 members of the poor, evicted and landless peoples.  But the march that grabbed headlines in 5 continents was a very different affair involving a few hundred demonstrators with a very different message.

The articles claimed it was a protest in support of free trade and GM crops staged by the poor and that it marked a passionate rejection of the "eco-agenda" supported by many NGOs at the summit.  Val Giddings, President of the Biotech Industry Organization (BIO), even used the November issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology to argue that this pro-GM march was an act of momentous importance, marking a "turning point" in the acceptance of GMOs.

For the very first time, Giddings claimed, the world saw "real, live, developing-world farmers" speaking for themselves and rejecting the "empty arguments" of the industry's critics.  Giddings quoted an Indian farmer on the march who denounced organic farming as the cause of India's hunger and who pleaded for farmers to get GM crops.  Giddings also wrote that the farmers on the march gave a "Bullshit Award" to those in the "protest industry" who were keeping them in poverty by denying them biotechnology.

But as NGIN's Jonathan Matthews uncovers in this article, the fingerprints of the biotech industry and its PR proxies are all over the Johannesburg march which was orchestrated by interests far removed from those of poor Third World farmers.

*The key figures in the network that organized the rally work out of offices in Washington and London.  Their Washington address is that of the Competitive Enterprise Institute - a far right corporate lobby that enjoys a multi-million dollar turnover thanks to major US corporations, such as BIO member Dow Chemicals.

*The Indian farmer that the President of BIO singles out as an example of farmers from the poorer world "speaking for themselves" has featured prominently in Monsanto's promotional work in India for at least a decade.  He's an affluent right-wing politician who fronts a lobby for big commercial farmers and he has admitted to having never farmed in his life!

*The "Bullshit Award" didn't come from poor Third World farmers but from a far right group closely associated with Monsanto's campaign to win approval for its products in India.

*The media contact on the press release for the award is a young American who has worked for a number of far right NGOs, such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute.  The daughter of a US lumber industrialist, her specialty is helping pro-corporate lobbyists to mimic popular protest.

As well as dissecting the actors and messages of the Johannesburg march, the article also takes a look at how the biotech industry is covertly using the internet to project its soapbox as that of the Third World.

*For more information about Monsanto's cyberwar:

Dr Pusztai's submission to the Scottish Parliament's Health Committee
1. Health impact of GM crops:
"The Scottish Executive should prevent the continuation and the starting up of further new GM crop trials so as not to jeopardize the health of the peoples of Scotland and also to prevent the Scottish countryside from irreversible genetic contamination."
2.  Regulatory framework:
The current regulatory process is fundamentally flawed, because:
* GM foodstuffs are presently accepted on the basis of their "Substantial Equivalence" to non-GM counterparts.  This is an unscientific construct, made up by the biotech industry for their own convenience.  It is also potentially dangerous, because it doesn't allow for the discovery of new antinutrients, toxins and allergens.
* This is compounded by the almost exclusive reliance on unpublished results of "in house" work by the biotech companies, which are neither transparent nor peer reviewed.
3.  The lack of proper scientific basis of GM crops:
* The dominant technique of gene transfer is based on the fundamentally flawed principle of Genetic Determinism, requiring that one gene expresses only one protein but without influencing the expression of other genes, or them inflencing it.  However, the human genome project has proved this is not true; therefore all GM crops are the products of an imprecise and unpredictable technology.
* The use of naked viral DNA promoters (known hotspots of recombination and possible inducers of horizontal gene transfer), the inclusion of antibiotic resistance genes in the gene-transfer construct, and the unpredictability of the site of insertion and its consequences for the plant genome makes this method unacceptable.
* GM crops, designed for increased pest resistance, are not sufficiently selective, thereby damaging beneficial insects and destroying the natural balance between pests and useful organisms.
* There is good evidence to show that Bt toxins have profound influence on the immune systems of mammals.  They also effect the small intestine.
4. Comparison of the potential health risks of GM vs conventional foods:
* That GM crops are just another cultivar is simply untrue.  No viral, bacterial or mammalian DNA found in GM crops could have been introduced by natural means or traditional cross-breeding.  GM food therefore contains foreign genes that may never before have been eaten, thus the effects on mammalian health are unknown, unpredictable and untested.
*Most published articles have come from biotech industry scientists.
*The possible health effects on the human digestive tract and its bacterial population have never been tested and published.
*An unpublished FSA study showed evidence that horizontal gene transfer is a reality.
5.  The results of our GM potato studies and possible consequences for human health:
* Our studies revealed that the field-grown GM potatoes were not Substantially Equivalent in composition to the parent line (non GM) potatoes, nor to each other.  The feeding of rats with GM potatoes had in some instances interfered with the growth of young rapidly growing rats, including their vital organs, the gut structure and function; it also reduced their immune efficency.  See:
* Our findings have been attacked by many, but never materially disproved by repeating our work.  Thus, the protractors have only voiced their own personal opinions, which have no scientific standing.  Our work has clearly demonstrated that the safety of GM foods must be established in short- and long-term feeding, metabolic and immune-response studies.
* As we used GM technology almost identical to most GM crops released to date, our results suggest that:
* all GM-foodstuffs produced by the same/similar GE methodology ought to be withdrawn from human food products and animal feeds until rigorous safety tests are carried out.
*no further field trials of GM crops, or releases of GM foods, must be allowed until they are shown to present minimal risks for consumers and the environment by commonly agreed, independently carried out and transparently reported nutritional, metabolic, toxicological and immune safety tests. This should equally apply to so-called second generation GM-crops.
*In addition, the possible long-term adverse effects of GM crops on animal reproduction must be established, with particular attention to the effect of viral and bacterial promoters, plasmids, antibiotic resistance genes, etc, on horizontal gene transfer, DNA recombination and incorporation into the genome.
*We need a full and transparent debate on GM, with independent and publicly-funded scientists, together with the industry, religious, political leaders, NGOs, etc, and the general public, keeping the precautionary principle as our guiding light always.  To date the debate has been non-factual and opinion-based.

Forcing starving countries to accept GM food in aid is "wicked, when there is such an excess of non-GM food aid available, for GM to be forced on countries for reasons of GM politics," Michael Meacher, the environment minister, said late last week. He called for "anger to be harnessed" against the policy, which is being vigorously pushed by the US government. The US refused to supply the non-GM grain they requested.  A top American official said: "Beggars can't be choosers."

The EU's refusal to help persuade those African governments to accept US GM food aid meant "more people are going to die", US deputy secretary for international trade, Grant Aldonas said last month. EU trade commissioner Lamy said Aldonas's comment was an "abuse" of the situation for political ends. "This is not acceptable," Lamy said. "We understand their policy and they have to understand ours."

The OECD and the World Bank criticised USAID's self-serving agenda: "Among the big donors, the US has the worst record for spending its aid budget on itself - 70 percent of its aid is spent on US goods and services."

Refering to the recent Consumer Conference in Lusaka, ISIS reported that Webster, a biotech industry scientist 'staged repeated outbursts and "walkouts" whenever anyone said anything she did not like. She "behaved like a petulant child", according to many of the delegates.

"we are concerned that the recent call from the British Medical Association for the Scottish Executive to halt GM field trials should not be taken to reflect wider medical opinion."  - Professor Sir Peter Lachmann, and others, in a letter to The Times, 4.12.02. As the BMA represent 80% or more of doctors, how much wider does Lachmann want it to go?  Lachmann also talked about the importance of "scientific trials," which is rich from someone who in 1999 threatened the editor of The Lancet with the loss of his job if he went ahead and published Dr Pusztai's peer-reviewed research.

"...the Scottish Executive should prevent the continuation and the starting up of further new GM crop trials so as not to jeopardize the health of the peoples of Scotland and also to prevent the Scottish countryside from irreversible genetic contamination that may threaten the health of future generations of the land." - Dr Arpad Pusztai in his damning submission to the Health Committee of the Scottish Parliament.

Donald White, a University of Illinois plant pathologist, on why US farmers have gone for GM corn, "...what happens is there is a herd mentality. Everyone has to have a biotech program." A University of Iowa study on why farmers were growing GM soya concluded, "It is interesting to note....that increasing crop yields was cited by over half the farmers as the reason for planting GMO soybeans, yet yields were actually lower".

US farmers export 30% of their crops. They are a key constituency for the Bush administration, which recently passed a farm bill giving them an additional $180bn in aid.

A third of US maize is genetically modified to resist pests and plant diseases.

8.98 million farmers in Africa and Asia have now adopted sustainable agriculture on 28.92m hectares.  In 45 sustainable agriculture initiatives in 17 African countries, some 730,000 households have in the past 20 years substantially improved food production and household food security.  In 95% of the projects, cereal yields have improved by 50%-100%.  In Ethiopia, an area once reliant on emergency food aid is able to feed itself and produce surplus crops for sale at local markets.  This is the real answer to hunger in the poor countries.

Recent research by the UK's Institute of Professionals, Mangers and Civil Servants showed that 1 in 3 government-funded laboratories has been asked to modify their conclusions or advice to: suit the customer's preferred outcome (17%); obtain further contracts (10%); or prevent publication (3%).

Japan is to stop all cooperation with Monsanto on GM rice. Research cooperation started in 1996 in order to develop a Roundup herbicide tolerant rice strain in Japan. This follows a ten-month movement campaign led by the 'NO GMO' campaign, an organization opposing genetically modified crops in Japan, consisting of 148 consumer and farmer organizations.
(GMO Information Service Japan  -

In the first ever case of the sort in Pakistan's legal history, food rights groups have sought a court order to stay the import and sale of GM food in the country -- GM  soybeans from the United States. Source:

U.S. farmers are being advised to avoid GM crops unapproved in the EU or they could face losses of a $1 billion or more

The Illinois Farm Bureau also urged growers in the state to avoid all GMO corn varieties not approved for the EU market - the first state bureau to do so.  The farm bureaus are normally highly supportive of the agrochenical industry. &

More than 80% of customers of the Canadian Wheat Board, which has a monopoly on wheat exports, have said they do not want to buy GM wheat.  Chief among these are European customers, who on average buy more than 1 million tonnes of Canadian wheat per year.

A rant in the Sunday Telegraph based on the views of the President of the Royal Society that those opposing GMOs are "fundamentlaists": Those in the anti-GM lobby have become like African villagers who reject innoculation but vanish into the jungle for their witch-doctors to smear them with emotionally-reassuring but medically-useless monkey blood. Modern GM presents none of the dangers the anti-GM lobby talk about. It precisely inserts the required gene into the host DNA, accompanied by no other genetic material.  Intellectually, the GM argument was won thousands of years ago. The only barrier to it now is the one that existed then: pagan superstition. Didn't you know the contents of your garden centre are much more of a threat to Britain than GMOs?

HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the NGIN archive
5 December 2002
url for Chapela on Farmers' Rights, and the University-Industrial Partnership &
url for report on World Food and Farming Congress
Biosafety treaty worries producers
4 December 2002
$1 billion loss predicted if corn growers don't avoid new GMOs
Quarantined soybeans sold
Company blames government for GM delay
Shameless hypocrite of the day - Sir Peter Lachmann FRS
BIO backtracks on pharmageddon policy
The Fake Parade
Pusztai's on the Health Impact of GM Crops
3 December 2002
Famine in Africa: Controlling their own destiny
So whose rice is it anyway?
Twists in the maize - Famine in Africa
GMWATCH number 4
Buying Seed? Pay Attention to Biotech Traits/F-F-F-F-Fashion!
2 December 2002
Monsanto's dirty cyberwar - a 'denial'
US policy on aid is 'wicked'
Syngenta caught in the act
Letter from Prof David King on GM Science Review
Debate fails to satisfy
EU trade commissioner backs African stance on GM aid
New US-EU trade war looms
1 December 2002
Mumbo-jumbo from The Sunday (Bush) Telegraph
30 November 2002
ISIS on the GM food aid crisis


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