ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

14 January 2002


1. suspect GE crop planting claims
2. Advanta stops GE testing in NL


1. suspect GE crop planting claims

Last week we were told, "American farmers will shrug off European and Asian concerns about genetically modified food and boost U.S. biotech corn plantings by more than 13 percent this year..." [Reuters survey: US bio-corn plantings to soar in 2002 (Reuters)]

This emerged from a straw poll conducted by Reuters at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting, which "found no slowdown in American agriculture's embrace of gene-spliced corn and soybeans despite concerns abroad about unknown risks to health and environment."

We were also told last week that the "Global GM Crop Area Continues to Grow and Exceeds 50 Million Hectares for First Time in 2001". This arose out of "The Annual Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic (GM) Crops, conducted by Dr Clive James, Chairman of the ISAAA Board of Directors" (ISAAA Press Release)

The press release, which even led to an article in the UK's Daily Mail, also reported on the many benefits to farmers around the world and the fact that "The number of farmers that benefited from GM crops increased from 3.5 million farmers in 2000 to 5.5 million in 2001."

But anyone who's ever wondered about the accuracy of such polls suggesting farmers can't plant GE crops fast enough, and relating vast acreages grown and still vaster acreages pending in the light of farmer benefits, might like to consider the following.

1. The Reuters story was based solely on a sample of 321 farmers at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting - not the kind of place you'd find many farmers with doubts about GE crops!

2. As for the credibility of what the farmers apparently told Reuters, consider the implcations of this later Reuters piece correcting one of the poll's findings:

"WASHINGTON - Monsanto Co. was cited as saying on Friday that an unapproved genetically engineered soybean variety had never been sold to U.S. farmers despite a survey of growers that indicated some 1,775 acres of the beans were planted last year.

Kimberly Magin, Monsanto soybean director for industry affairs, who added that the variety was still in an experimental phase, was quoted as saying, "Bt soybeans are not commercially available and they are not being planted in the United States."
Reuters [via Agnet], January 11, 2002]

The Reuters poll also found farmers who said they intended to plant 1,515 acres of the unavailable Bt soybeans for the 2002 crop!

3. As for the Annual Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops, the author, Clive James is the Chairman of the ISAAA - an organisation largely supported by cash from the GM industry. Donors include Aventis, Monsanto, Novartis, and Pioneer Hi-Bred. Novartis are on the board as were Monsanto previously. In no sense, then should the report be considered as coming from an independent source.

4. Indeed, in many respects the report reads rather like a sales pitch for GM crops with an especial emphasis on the extent to which GM crops have been enthusiastically taken up and the apparent benefits.

But these turn out to be based largely on producer estimates. How much these estimates may be worth can be readily gauged by contrasting producer estimates with more objective assessments.

For instance, the 1998 Annual Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops reported GM soy yield improvements of 12% for American farmers. Yet the results of over 8,200 US university-based controlled varietal trials in 1998 showed an almost 7% average yield reduction in the case of the GM soya crop. In other words, the controlled trials findings were diametrically opposite to the estimates in the report. [for more on this see:]


2. Advanta stops GE testing in NL

source: Wytze de Lang

NRC Newspaper Saturday 12 january 2002 page 1
From the science editors

Rotterdam 12 jan. Seed breeding company Advanta Seeds BV  from Rilland closes definitely the doors of its laboratory for tests  with genetically manipulated crops. Since Advanta was by far the biggest in this area, the decision means that there will be a virtual end of this kind of testing in the Netherlands.

According to spokesperson Cees Noome of Advanta it is an  "economic decision". The company estimates that the coming 5 to 10 years no money can be made with GE agrarial products in Europe. "The consumer in general here is not interested at all in genetically manipulated products. This also shows from the conclusionsof the Terlouw committee this week. That means these  products will not be in the shop soon and thus we must watch out".

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