ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

13 November 2002


Just how complex and risk laden does the US want its agricultural system to be?

Item 1 is a completely different story to the pharma contamination scandal.

1. Soybeans contaminated with modified stocks
2. losses of more than $200m on US GM soy exports to China


1.Soybeans contaminated with modified stocks, group says

Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald

FARGO - North Dakota State University's Foundation Seed-stocks Program has been contaminated with genetically modified crops and cannot be trusted to segregate GM and non-GM wheat seed, a group critical of genetically modified crops said.

Theresa Podoll, executive director of the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society, sent out a news release Monday, saying NDSU's non-GM, Natto-type soybeans planted in 2002 may have been contaminated with GM beans.

Natto beans are specialty soybeans destined for premium food grade markets in Japan, typically unwelcoming to genetically modified products.

Podoll's group has been a strong opponent of commercialization of GM wheat, which also would have to be marketed to some countries and buyers who don't want it.

NDSU officials acknowledge a problem occurred but say it was properly handled.

Rogue seeds

Two lots of non-GM Natto beans were found contaminated with Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybean genetics, Podoll said.

NDSU officials say that sufficient steps have been taken to minimize the problem and avoid repeating it.

"In soybeans, we make every effort to prevent contamination and - if it occurs - we correct it," said M. Dale Williams, director of NDSU Foundation Seedstocks.

"Roundup Ready are two different animals," Williams said. "Roundup Ready soybeans are not regulated. Small amounts of it, or tolerances of amounts, are allowed in most markets. It's not approached with the same amount of diligence as Roundup Ready wheat."

The soybean contamination occurred in the winter of 2000 when the Natto beans were planted in Chile for seed increase.

The seeds then were harvested and shipped to North Dakota in 2001 and planted at NDSU's Agronomy Seed Farm near Casselton, N.D. Those fields produced some off-type plants, but GMO was not suspected, Williams said.

Later, when some of the larger, off-type seeds were "scalped" off to be discarded, some of them tested positive for GMO. Natto beans are characteristically small.

Foundation seed from "rogued" 2001 fields were tested and no GMO was detected, Williams said. In 2002, seeds from those fields were sold to about 10 growers who would plant them for export or seed increase.   When the Agronomy Seed Farm produced its own seed in 2002, it again was screened for size, and again there were GMO positives in the large seeds. In late October, Williams phoned the 2002 customers to inform them "there could be a minor presence" in lots they were sold.

"Although we did not anticipate that the minor amounts . . . we'd found in our fields would ever be enough to be detected in very sensitive tests, we wanted them to know so that the Œscalpings' of the very largest seed should not be saved because they might have the presence of the transgenics in them."

Williams said the response from the growers was "very positive," and that they were glad to be informed.

Careless combines

Williams says any contamination was in the seed from Chile. NDSU suspects the Chilean company that produced the seeds failed to clean its combines.

"The seed we got from Chile had the contamination in it. They could have been careless in a number of steps," Williams said.

He said NDSU has changed Chilean cooperators and is beginning to test advanced breeding lines as a potential precaution.

Podoll said Williams told her there would be more on-site inspections of cooperators.

"That raises the issue of who's going to pay those costs," Podoll said.

Podoll said Foundation Seedstocks should develop its own set of protocols on how to avoid such contamination and how to handle contamination when it occurs.

Foundation seedstocks are literally the "foundation for the entire seed system," Podoll said. She said contamination "strikes at the very heart of the segregation argument."

Podoll said she's troubled by the fact that the "decision to destroy these foundation lots has not been made," despite statements made early this spring that if foundation seedstocks were to become contaminated with transgenic varieties, they would be destroyed.

"It looks like they intend to go ahead with putting them on the market and not recalling them, and/or destroying any seedstocks they have in their possession at this time," Podoll said.

Purity important

Ted Helms, an NDSU soybean breeder who developed NDSU's Natto bean varieties, said such drastic measures probably would not be applied to soybeans, as they would to wheat seeds. GM wheat seed cannot be legally exported.

Robert Sinner, president of SB&B Foods Inc. of Casselton, who specializes in "identity preserved" shipments of food grade soybeans, acknowledged contamination is a problem. He said the North Dakota State Seed Department must take precautionary measures when certifying and registering seed to "not only verify purity of the variety but also whether it's free of contamination of transgenics."

NDSU, from its initial varietal work, needs to take very strict management procedures and do regular testing to maintain purity, Sinner suggested.

"All the money that is spent to send those increases to Chile are all for naught if it's contaminated," Sinner said.

Sinner said he would be disturbed if NDSU planned to continue to market contaminated seed as certified or registered.

"That, to me, goes against the principles of certified and registered seed. You've lost your purity," Sinner said.

Pates reports on agriculture. Reach him at (701) 297-6869 or



Dow Jones , November 7, 2002 [via Agnet]

BEIJING - China Country Director of the American Soybean Association, Phillip W. Laney, was cited as saying Thursday that China's quarantine authority is violating World Trade Organization obligations by using technical procedures to impede U.S. soybean imports.

Laney was cited as saying on the sidelines of an international soybean conference that the quarantine inspection permits are a defacto import licensing system that is not permitted under China's World Trade Organization agreement, adding, "Very explicity...(AQSIQ) is letting the big crushers import soybeans for their own use, but have basically cut out giving permits to traders who would bring in soybeans and then wholesale them to smaller buyers ...the smaller guys can't get imported soybeans and thus (are) forced to use domestic soybeans, and that of course is the whole objective, to support the price of domestic soybeans (and) force buyers to use domestic soybeans, people who would maybe prefer to use imports."

The story explains that the U.S. soybean industry's problems with AQSIQ started when China imposed new import rules for genetically modified agricultural products, or GMOs.

The U.S. and China in October negotiated a nine-month extension to an interim agreement that has permitted soybean imports to continue, while China clarifies its GMO import safety certificate rules.

The new safety rules were introduced in January by the Ministry of Agriculture and AQSIQ and have been criticized by growers and shippers as vague and unpredictable.

Approximately 70% of the U.S. soybean crop is genetically modified. The extension will help the U.S. to take about a 50% market share of China's estimated 12 million metric ton soybean import market next year, Laney said. But Laney said that the rules created months of uncertainty that resulted in losses of more than $200 million for U.S. soybean growers, shippers and traders in the 2001-2002 marketing year.



Western Producer, November 7, 2002

An American politician has, according to this story, joined the campaign against genetically modified wheat, but he's not interested in trying to prevent the GM crop from being introduced.

Instead, North Dakota state senator Bill Bowman has turned his attention to what happens once the technology arrives in farmers' fields, as he is sure it will, stating, "I don't think in my honest-to-God feeling that we're going to stop this from happening. That's why I wanted to address some of the legal issues before it does happen."

When the state legislature reconvenes in January, Bowman is, the story says, going to propose a bill that will give farmers in North Dakota the right to sue biotechnology companies for damages if GM wheat contaminates their conventional crops.

He made his intentions clear at a recent meeting of the state's agriculture committee Bowman said many certified seed growers, organic farmers and conventional farmers don't want anything to do with the technology.

"All these people are affected by the potential to have cross pollination ruin their crops," said Bowman, who used to farm.

The legislation would limit the damages a farmer could seek to the value of affected crops plus court costs. Producers who lost the litigation would have to pay their court costs plus those of the defendant, which is a way to deter baseless allegations.

Debbie Miller, administrator of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, was cited as saying SOD is attempting to launch a class action lawsuit against the introduction of GM wheat. The organic farmers are also seeking damages caused by the introduction of GM canola.

Miller approves of the North Dakota initiative, but would like to see the senator take it one step further, adding, "We would prefer a moratorium against GMO. We don't want it out there at all. But that's better than nothing making the people that manufacture it responsible for where it ends up."

In related news, Monsanto has established a Roundup Ready Wheat Grower Advisory Panel, made up of directors and executives from prairie farm organizations.

Panel members have signed confidentiality agreements with Monsanto and receive $150 plus expenses for each day they attend meetings. However, Jordan recently said that doesn't mean they are obliged to endorse or promote Roundup Ready wheat.

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