ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

14 February 2003


from Andy Rees, the WEEKLY WATCH editor
Dear all

Welcome to WW16 bringing you all the latest news in brief on the GM issue.

Hope you enjoy it and let me know what you think.

Andy <>

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - Royal Society accused of rigging GM Science Debate/'Slow start' to GM debate/Organic and conventional crops set to win protection/UK mulling DNA bar code for GM products
TOPIC OF THE WEEK - How can you trust an industry with this kind of record?
REPORT OF THE WEEK - Media swallow Monsanto hype about Indian GM cotton
QUOTE OF THE WEEK - US has lost billions through GM says economist
FACTS OF THE WEEK - lots of interesting ones!
CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK - Join the debate!

Is US food safe?
Americans are continually toldwe have the safest food supply in the world. But recent revelations about genetically engineered food crops raise serious questions about the safety and future of US food. Biopharming is being touted as the agricultural biotech industry's next bonanza, the savior that will bring chronically broke commodity grain farmers not only desperately needed profits, but riches. And in today's harsh rural landscape of bankruptcies and broken dreams, promises of generating $2 million an acre -- the figure commonly bandied about in the farm belt -- are enticing indeed. This particular dream, however, is more likely to turn into a nightmare -- for both farmers and the eating public. If the government allows biotech companies to test and grow experimental drug- and chemical-producing food crops in the open environment, we better get used to the idea of  eating those pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals in our food. As Dirk Maier, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering points out in a Purdue University fact sheet: "Whenever new genetic material is introduced into the agricultural crop mix, trace contamination of non-target crops is unavoidable. This fact is common knowledge in the seed industry."
US authorities, shaken by the ProdiGene case, laim they will impose stringent guidelines.
Brokering Iffy Biotech to Out-of-the-Way Farmers
Meanwhile, biopharm's mad scientists are preparing to move their operations overseas, to the developing world, where they hope to be able to pay farmers a pittance, operate in total secrecy, and pollute the environment and food chain with impunity. On their website, , the biopharm industry have put out a call to farmers worldwide, especially in the Third World, to make good money and serve a noble cause by getting in on the ground floor of what they call a "future $50 billion a year, industry".
Devinder Sharma, award-winning journalist and food system analyst, commented:  "This is shocking indeed...  This is part of the global design to translocate the dirty industry to the Third World."
Dumping of US ag commodities hurting farmers in US and abroad
Five primary farm commodities are being dumped onto international markets by the US, in violation of World Trade Organization agriculture rules, according to a new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  In all cases, the commodities were sold below the cost of production, a practice known as export dumping.
French MPs demand commission of enquiry into industry links of pro-GM report authors
'Attac de L'Assemblee Nationale' is a group of French MPs casting doubt on the objectivity of two reports  published in Dec 2002, one by the French academy of  sciences and the other by the academies of medicine and pharmacy.  "We are questioning the conditions upon which these reports, which advocate lifting the European moratorium on GMOs, were drafted, in the context of strong pressure from  the US and multinationals," explains Yves Cochet.
Banana-republic style police raid on Belgium anti-GM organisation
The federal police of Ghent raided the offices of 'Collective of Action GénEthique' (CAGE), removing computers and documents.  Further police raids were reported in Flanders at the offices of two environmental associations, as well as  at the Ministry of the Environment, where documents on the cultivation of GMOs were seized.  The heavy-handed police raids are linked to pro-GM interests concern that the number of experimental GM releases in Belgium has fallen from 144 in the year 2000 to just 1 in 2003!  The multinational corporation Bayer-Aventis has called a halt to all its releases in Belgium.  This story says much about the corporate future that beckons.
Consumers call on WHO not to seek industry funding for its food standards work
Consumers International (CI) is urging the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to re-consider the implications for consumers worldwide of accepting industry funding to support their food standards work.
India set to embrace GM rice????
India's apex body of agricultural scientists has given the go-ahead for the widespread introduction of GM varieties of rice.  Swiss-based Syngenta, which has a major rice program in India, will be pleased with the recommendations. The company is working in collaboration with as many as 35 institutions in India, including the Pant University of Agriculture and Technology at Pantnagar and the Konkan Agricultural University in Dapoli.
Grains industry statement says no to GM canola
In Australia, an Alternative Grains Industry Statement (AGIS) launched by the Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) calls for a moratorium on the commercial release of GM canola.
Watchdog condemns GM milk
Genewatch UK said scientists in New Zealand who had cloned cows, to give altered milk composition to produce cheese, had embarked on an inhumane and unecessary experiment. Half of the calves born from GM cloned embryos died before weaning.  "This research is driven by a desire to industrialise animals in a completely unjustfiable way," said Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK's Director.  "Making milk processing easier for cheese or other products to increase profits cannot legitimise suffering on this scale".
NZ govt using terrorist hysteria to fast-track GE medicines?
The Government is speeding up the approval of animal and human medicines, vaccines and pesticides containing GMOs or hazardous substances, to counter emergencies such as a bioterrorist attack.  Normally, these substances would be fully assessed by the Environmental Risk Management Authority, which includes public notification and consultation.  The new fast-track system would allow decisions to import products without detailed information or full formal processes.
The NZ GM package
The full GM package comprises 16 separate announcements covering the background and how the government intends to implement the recommendations of the Roal Commission on Genetic Modification. The link below provides access to each of the statements.,2106,2259487a11,00.html
Proposed GM liability laws weak, Greens say.
Researchers who break new rules governing the conditional release of GMOs could face a civil law suit or a fine of up to $10 million.
Successes of modern and traditional non-GE crop varieties
Eastern Canadian producers can now benefit from a new wheat cultivar with increased tolerance to Fusarium head blight, a fungal disease which has cost the Canadian agri-food industry hundreds of millions of dollars.  Also covered in the article: traditional drought resistant rice varieties in India; non-GE nematode resistant pepper developed in the US.
Royal Society accused of seeking to rig GM Science Debate
A number of NGOs have accused, the once august, Royal Society of attempting to rig the current GM Science Debate, and that senior RS figures are undermining its former good name and reputation by using crude propaganda techniques (instead of good science) to attack scientists who have the temerity to question the safety of GM foods and crops. Spokesman for GM-free Cymru, Dr Brian John says: "We are gravely concerned about what is happening within the Royal Society.  For an organisation which supposedly exists to promote all that is best in British science, and which supposedly supports integrity and interaction, its direct involvement in pro-GM propaganda and in bad science is a disgrace. The Society's behaviour is certainly damaging its own credibility and its international reputation; more to the point, it is turning the "science strand" of the GM debate into a farce."
'Slow start' to GM debate
Environment Minister Michael Meacher has admitted that the GM debate has got off to a slow start.  But he insisted there was sufficient funding for the consultation, despite claims to the contrary by its independent chairman, Professor Grant, who urged the government to delay the start of the debate because of his "deep concerns" about the amount of cash behind the study.
Organic and conventional crops set to win protection
Organic and conventional farmers should have the right to compensation if their crops are damaged or made unsellable by cross pollination from neighbouring GM fields, according to Michael Meacher.  He said the government was considering changing the law.  The EC was drafting legislation to make farmers and GM seed companies liable if they damaged biodiversity or human health, but this did not cover the fact that GM crops might affect the economic interests of non-GM farmers, he said.
UK mulling DNA bar code for GM products
GM foods and organisms could soon contain DNA bar codes to make it easier for regulators to spot contaminated crops or foods. The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), a charitable company in Cambridge, has applied for a patent on the technology.  The Government is considering forcing biotech companies to use DNA bar-coding to identify GMOs.

TOPIC OF THE WEEK - Is US food safe?
With tales like this, how can we trust the biotech industry?
The FDA is investigating the unauthorized sale since 2001 of piglets raised by researchers at the University of Illinois.  As many as 386 offspring of GM pigs may already be in the nation's food supply.  Critics say this proves the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not adequately regulating biotechnology.

Pork from GM pigs stolen from the University of Florida showed up in sausage served at a funeral in High Springs.  For months, university officials said they had recovered and incinerated all of the meat from the stolen experimental pigs.  The stolen pigs were genetically engineered to develop a disorder similar to diabetic blindness in humans. University officials do not know what effect the treated meat could have on humans.  This is one in a series of mishaps at the university's Animal Resources department.

Federal authorities are investigating the disappearance of GM bacteria, fatal to pigs (but harmless to humans), that appear to have been stolen from a research laboratory at Michigan State University.  The researcher was attempting to make a "nonpathogenic" strain to use as a vaccine, but ended up with a deadlier version instead.

Walter Fehr, agronomist and director of the Office of Biotechnology at Iowa State University, says GM varieties of staple crops like corn and soybeans have contaminated seed stocks all the way to the "breeder seed," the purest version of a crop variety.  According to Fehr, transgenic contamination of breeder and other seed stocks "happens routinely."  Last autumn, two lots of North Dakota State foundation seed stocks for Natto soybeans, a non-GMO variety, were found to be contaminated with Roundup Ready genes.

REPORT OF THE WEEK - Compliant (or lazy?) media faithfully report Monsanto claims about Indian GM cotton harvest
Following the well-documented disaster of Monsanto's GM Bt cotton crop in India last year, with poor yields, widespread crop failures, many poor Indian farmers facing ruin, and others calling upon the Indian government for compensation, Monsanto-Mahyco produced their own figures to show the Indian government that it had really been a great success!  Unfortunately for Monsanto, Greenpeace-India sent its own researchers to check on the data. They collected testimonies from farmers who had been advised by the company to inflate their yield figures!  Many other irregularities were also found. Monsanto's findings have been roundly criticised for using flawed and incomplete methodology.

The results with Bt cotton have been so dure that India's former Agriculture Minister has warned Indian farmers to avoid Bt cotton. He questioned the company's claims on yields and bio-safety.

But despite this Monsanto-Mahyco Bt cotton data is being hyped via research to an uninformed western media: *BBC News:  GM cotton crops in India - developed to resist insects - have a dramatically increased yield, scientists say...

*New Scientist:  Field trials in India suggest that GM crops have far greater benefits in developing countries, than the developed countries for which they were developed...

The Bt cotton results have just been published in Science (Vol. 299, p.900) and hyped via press releases from the Center for Development Research (CDR) in Germany.  The CDR research was based on a long distance analysis of Bt cotton performance in trials conducted by, wait for it... Mahyco-Monsanto! And guess what?  The results are absolutely spectacular. "In the study the researchers found that average yields for Bt cotton were a remarkable 80% greater than their non-Bt counterparts, and 87% greater than the local cotton hybrids." (Center for Development Research, Germany, Press Release No. 2

The press releases also talk generally about GM crops, claiming if this can work with cotton, then food crops will be just the same.  Which is exactly like the industry hype in North America, which has been undermined by many thousands of independent controlled trials showing significantly decreased yields with GM crops.

India's food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma dismissed the "research" as, "A Scientific Fairytale: Providing a Cover-Up to the Bt Cotton Fiasco in India".

Charlie Kronick, Chief Policy Advisor at Greenpeace UK, was not impressed by media coverage, as he states in: ''   Sent: Friday, February 07, 2003. "In coverage of reseach into genetically modified cotton (Indian Farmers reap benefit of GM cotton crops, 7 February), The Times has uncritically accepted the findings of the business interest with most to gain from the sale of GM technology to India. To clarify, the paper published in Science this month, which your reporter found to be so impressive, is in fact a long distance analysis of trials conducted by Mahyco - a Monsanto subsidiary in India.

"If Monsanto conducted field trials in the UK with little or no oversight, one would not expect reputable media outlets to give those results much credibility.  Instead you might look at independent research which has found that the commercial planting of GM cotton in the same regions covered by the Mahyco study have suffered from poor yields as well as widespread crop failures, leaving many small farmers calling upon the Indian Government for compensation ranging up to GBP60 million."  For multiple items on this extraordinary confidence trick, see:

"Consumer attitudes are the driving force in markets, regardless of whether or not they are scientifically valid.  In the past four years the US has lost over a billion dollars of corn and soybean meal exports because of foreign GMO concerns," said Dr Robert Wisner, University Professor of Economics at Iowa State University.

Five primary farm commodities are being dumped onto international global markets by the US, according to a new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).  In all cases, the commodities were sold below the cost of production, a practice known as export dumping. Levels of dumping hover around 40% for wheat, 25-30% for corn, around 20% for rice, and (have risen steadily over the past four years to) nearly 30% for soybeans. For cotton, the level of dumping for 2001 rose to a remarkable 57%.

The nearly $1 billion discount, documented in this report, for exported wheat comes out of the pockets of US producers. Brazil is considering a case against US cotton before the WTO. "Dumping is a gross distortion of commodity markets. It undermines the livelihoods of 70% of the world's poorest people.  Trade rules provide the tools needed to address agricultural dumping. Now is the time for governments to act," said IATP Trade Director Sophia Murphy.

Unable to compete with more than $20 billion in annual subsidies to US agribusiness, most of which goes to large farms, 2 million Mexican corn growers, cane-cutters, and indigenous subsistence farmers have been driven off the land.  Once self-sufficient in food production, Mexico now spends 78% of its oil exports to purchase food imports from the US.

While industrial food revenues are flat, growing 1-2% a year, organic sales are booming, with yearly growth rates of 20-25%.  By 2020, at current rates of growth, most food sold at the grocery store retail level in the US, Canada, and the EU will be organic.  Farmers in 110 nations will produce more than $25 billion worth of organic foods and fiber in 2003.

Worldwide sales of GM crops have stalled at $4.25 billion a year, with only four countries, for all practical purposes, producing GMOs on a commercial scale (US-corn, soybeans, cotton, and canola; Canada-corn, soybeans, canola; Argentina-soybeans only; and China-cotton only).

As Greenpeace organizer Jeanne Merrill told the Associated Press (1/16/03) "The reality is that the biotechnology revolution has not happened.  The majority of these crops are going into animal feed. Farmers are rejecting biotech food crops." In 2002 there was essentially no increase worldwide in the commercial plantings of the four major GE crops, soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton- with the sole exception of GE cotton in China and India

This is backed up by the following facts: globally, GM crops were grown on 58.7 million hectares in 2002 (1) - which is only equivalent to just over 5% of the total land area of the US.  The US accounts for 74% of the world's GM production; Canada, Argentina, and China about 25%; Australia and South Africa  1%.  In other words, only 4 countries account for 99% of global GM production.  (2) (1) (2)

Merrill Lynch said analyst Donald Carson cut his investment rating for Monsanto to "neutral" from "buy," based on an absence of "any near-term catalysts  for the stock."

The number of experimental GM releases in Belgium has fallen from 144 in the year 2000 to just 1 in 2003!

A public-relations firm, SS+K, is dealing with a PR nightmare after unintentionally e-mailing journalists, and others, documents about one of its clients, Seattle-based Cell Therapeutics.  A summary of interviews conducted by SS+K, cites 'skepticism' and 'outright cynicism' about Cell Therapeutics, both from within and outside the biotech firm.  The company's chief drug in development, Xyotax, an anti-cancer drug, 'risks being over-hyped and overpromised,' the report says.

The price of spring wheat could drop by about 1/3, if a GM variety is introduced commercially into Montana or North Dakota in the next two to six years, according to an agricultural economist.  This is because many European and Asian grain buyers will likely refuse to buy any spring or durum wheat from states or regions that grow GM wheat.

Brazil's exports of GE-free soybeans have doubled to $7.6 billion over the last four years, while US soybean exports (75% of which are GE) have declined by 30%.  In a national survey in July 2001, 67% of Brazilians said that GM crops should continue to be banned.

War or no war, Republican senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate committee that oversees US trade policy, is determined that the US must push ahead with a World Trade Organization complaint against the EU's GMO policy. "I don't understand why any American public official would mind offending the French and the Germans right now," he says. Here are Grassley's funders:

 all info from

 Detailed Contributor Breakdown

 1997-2002 election cycle
 among the top contributors were
 Eli Lilly & Co    $13,000
 GlaxoSmithKline    $13,000

 Totals from Agribusiness $15,000
 Totals from Health (includes pharmaceutical companies)  $127,997

 Detailed Contributor Breakdown2000 ELECTION CYCLE

 Health (Pharmas) total $313,659
 Glaxo Wellcome Inc     $10,000
 Bayer Corp     $4,500
 Bristol-Myers Squibb     $4,000
 American Home Products     $3,000

 Crop Production/Processing total $68,400
 Cargill Inc     $4,000
 American Sugarbeet Growers Assn     $4,000

 Agricultural Services/Products    total $131,968
 Eli Lilly & Co     $5,000
 Pharmacia Corp (division of Monsanto)    $5,000
 Merck & Co     $4,000
 Novartis Corp     $4,000
 Dow Chemical     $3,000
 Pfizer Inc     $3,000

 Food Processing & Sales    total $56,270
 ConAgra Inc     $10,000

 Tobacco    total $12,166
 Philip Morris     $4,000
 RJ Reynolds Tobacco     $3,000

HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the NGIN archive
14 February 2003
Former Ag Minister warns farmers to shun Bt cotton
Cover-Up to the Bt Cotton Fiasco
13 February 2003
Brokering Iffy Biotech to Out-of-the-Way Farmers
U.S. Dumping Hurting Farmers in U.S. and Around the World
GM Wheat Won‚t Make Dough, Warns Economist
Grains Industry Statement Says No to GM Canola release
Global Grassroots: Gaining Ground
Who's funding Senator Grassley
12 February 2003
Minister pledges redress for GM harm/'Slow start'to GM debate
Seeds of Domination/Non-GE successes
Govt fast tracking GE medicines/PR nightmarehits biotech firms
Royal Society backs nukes
More on Belgian police raids
11 February 2003
Consumers call on WHO not to seek industry funding
Police raid Ministry of the Environment and  groups in Belgium
10 February 2003
Research piglets sold as food hard to find
Royal Society accused of rigGING GM sciencedebate: please get involved!
Monsanto shares ALERT
India set to embrace GMrice - claim
French MPs demand "commission of enquiry" intoindustry links of  pro-GM
report authors
8 February 2003
GMWATCH number 6
India's Bt cotton disaster reported as colossalsuccess!!!
7 February 2003
Catholic Bishops cite dangers posed to humansby GM crops
US Makes Non-GM Food Donation
Scientists puzzled by sudden death of clone
Ten U.S. food industry groups urge halt to "bio-pharm"crops
The Fake Parade comes to Brussels
6 February 2003
Hundreds more GM pigs in US food supply
Question raised over next-generation GM technology
Monsanto on the ropes - takes GM crusade to Brazil
Brazil environment minister seeks GMO ruling delay
'Stalinist' Royal Society reported to Charity Commissioners
Suppressing criticism - Science's biggest tragedy
Non-GE plant breeding starved to death
Jumping genes
5 February 2003
Dawkins wrong on GE/Food for activists
UK GM debate 'to include crop trials'
4 February 2003
Bumpy Road for Biotech
US slinks away from WTO action against EU
3 February 2003
'Zero Tolerance' on Farm Subsidies
Heinz goes green in Canada, guarantees baby food GMO-free
EU backs poor farmers' seed use
Bayer share price at lowest since 1993 - Bayerface 15,000 lawsuits


From: Brian John <

Hello folks

In case you have not registered the fact, the Government's great GM Debate is now under way.  It is a shambles, with Wales and Scotland reluctant to cooperate, and with nobody very clear as to when the whole thing starts and stops, but the important thing is that the Government seems to be taking it seriously.  So we need to get involved. If we don't, we can be sure that there will be a concerted campaign to "flood" the debate with messages from the GM multinational employees and scientists working on GM research projects.

The Royal Society (you thought it was a respectable and rather dusty outfit?!!) is coordinating a massive media campaign with a pro-GM agenda, involving many of the top scientists in the country. Lord May, the President, has called his troops into action:

"It is important that discussions about the potential benefits and risks of GM technology include a similar consideration of modern agricultural practices and novel foods.

*** For this reason, it is vital that scientists from a wide range of disciplines participate, not just those who have traditionally been involved. Otherwise there is a risk that the debate will be swamped by a  well-orchestrated campaign involving those having special interests. We will  also need to utilise the expertise of those of you who are outside the UK." (From his recent letter on the Royal Society web site)

*** What this actually means is "Modern agricultural practices are totally appalling.  Cultivation with GM crops may be slightly less appalling. Therefore we can sell GM crops to the public by saying that by comparison they are absolutely wonderful."

Remember -- a lot of these guys stand to lose their jobs and their research funding when the GM industry collapses, as it surely will.  So they are highly motivated.  That means we must get involved instead of looking in from the outside.

The debate has three strands:

*    A public debate - go to:

*    A review of the scientific issues - go to:

*    A study by the Strategy Unit into the overall costs and benefits of GM crops - go to:
There is an attempt on the web sites to discourage non-specialists from participating.  Don't be fooled by that one! It is vital that the commonsense views of non-specialists are given due respect.

For example, on the Science Debate you will see that contributions  are already beginning to build up on the "GM Debate" web site.  Go to this page: follow the guidance and send them an Email.  The moderator should paste your contribution, and if he Emails you to say he won't use it, give him hell! A healthy lack of respect is appropriate in the circumstances.  You can send Email contributions on any of   following "science" topics:

GM Food safety
Gene flow, detection and impact
Environmental impact of GM crops
Future developments
Regulatory process

Please give a few minutes of your time to get something on the record -- this may be your last chance to get involved before the Government makes come very crucial decisions regarding GM crop commercialisation.

If you have friends and relatives who feel strongly on this issue, and who want to get involved, please pass this Email on to them.


RS supports nukes: wouldn't you know it!
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