ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

8 March 2003


A curious thing about the push by US aid agencies to get the Indian government to accept GM food aid (third item), aid which the US won't guarantee not to contain Starlink - a GM grain not approved for human consumption even in the US, is that they show not an iota of interest in helping to distribute the 48 million tonnes of Indian foodgrain surpluses that are being left to rot in the open while the poor go hungry. For more on these issues:

*Election turns into GM-free zone
*Govt says no to GM food aid from US


Election turns into GM-free zone
ABC News Online, Monday, 3 March 2003

The New South Wales Government has promised to ban commercially grown genetically modified food crops for at least three years.

A similar promise has been made by the Opposition.

The ban would override applications to the federal gene technology regulator by Monsanto Australia and Bayer CropScience to grow GM canola.

Currently there is no commercially grown genetically modified food in New South Wales but there are trials of crops including canola, clove and mustard.

Premier Bob Carr says more information is needed about the safety of genetically modified crops.

"This is effectively pressing the pause button while we're able to take further advice. Once released these organisms could cross different species and it's appropriate for us to legislate to say we will pause on this for at least three years."



March 6, 2003
Reuters [via agnet]

BRASILIA, Brazil - Brazil's new government was cited as confirming on Thursday genetically modified plantings of key crops like soy were illegal but said it would seek legal ways to market what has been planted so far.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's spokesman Andre Singer was quoted as telling reporters that, "The government considers that, as a result of a control fault by the previous government, there have been plantings of transgenic soy, which represents an illegality."

But Singer, who spoke after a government meeting to discuss the issue, said the agriculture sector was facing a social and economic problem with tens of thousands of farmers depending on this year's harvest, part of which is transgenic.

He did not say whether the plan was to sell existing genetically modified crops at home or abroad. Brazil is the world's No. 2 soybean producer and exporter. The decision should at least partly satisfy producers.


Govt says no to GM food aid from US

Times News Network 39498133

NEW DELHI: At the end of a marathon four-hour meeting, the genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC) on Thursday rejected the US case for permitting import of corn-soya blend suspected to contain genetically-modified corn and meant for government aid schemes.

"They were unable to satisfy our queries," said one official. GEAC wanted a certificate from the US and the aid agencies involved, CARE and Catholic Relief Services, that each consignment of corn-soya blend brought in as food aid would not contain StarLink, a variety of corn banned for human consumption.

The thrust of the US argument was that food is evaluated for safety in the US and Americans consume the same varieties but certification is against the country's policy of not differentiating between GM and non-GM crops.

In the absence of a certificate, ruled the inter-ministerial GEAC, it saw no reason to review its November decision to refuse import of corn-soya blend which might contain obsolete or banned varieties of GM corn. CARE and CRS had initially applied for permission to import a total of 23,000 metric tonnes of corn-soya blend.

On Thursday, for the second time, "serious apprehensions" were voiced, particularly since StarLink corn is supposed to have surfaced in a recent shipment from the US to Japan. The Indian Council of Medical Research representative warned about long-term exposure to corn-soya blend containing GM corn, particularly since food aid is meant for people already vulnerable. ICMR also cautioned that there was no mechanism for post-aid disbursement surveillance. Nobody, quite simply, would know what really happens.

But given the keenness with which this case has been pursued at the official and political level, GEAC heard USAID, CARE and CRS officials for about an hour and a half. A power-point presentation led them through the US process for approval of GM crops, the varieties approved for human or animal consumption, the results of food safety evaluations, the names of beneficiary organisations and arrangements for monitoring health impacts,both in the US and under the Integrated Child Development Scheme.

Through it all, three problem points remained. One, the US does not believe in segregation or in differentiating between GM and non-GM crops so there is no question of certification - a policy which has also led to political duels between the US and countries in Europe and Africa.

Two, it is understood, the US does not voluntarily disclose whether a food aid consignment contains GM ingredients or not. Indian rules, however, do demand that the importing agency and the exporting country declare this.

Three, despite assurances that food aid consignments so far have tested negative for StarLink and that the probability is minimal, officials could not deny the possibility of obsolete varieties of corn creeping into a consignment undetected - there is a basic threshold level for detection.

StarLink registration, it is said, was withdrawn voluntarily in 2000. Just 0.4 per cent of the corn area was apparently under Starlink but it created a major controversy in the US when traces of this corn surfaced in tacos there.

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