ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

19 March 2002


2. IT'S all Mary Shelley's fault says SIRC-us man
4. Got cloned milk? Coming soon to US breakfast tables



Press & Journal, 09:00 - 19 March 2002

One of the Highlands' leading organic farmers yesterday became Scotland's first anti-GM crop campaign martyr.

Donnie MacLeod, of Kylerona Farm, Ardersier, was jailed for 21 days for contempt of court after he repeatedly refused to name fellow campaigners who had trampled an oilseed rape crop in a field used for GM crop trials.

MacLeod's conviction at Dingwall Sheriff Court led to a storm of protest from politicians and environmental campaigners who claim the Scottish Executive has betrayed them by allowing GM trials to threaten the livelihoods of other Highland farmers.

MacLeod, a reluctant prosecution witness at the trial of fellow campaigner Matthew Herbert, yesterday continued to insist he had been responsible for causing damage in a Black Isle field in which GM oilseed rape had been sown. He rejected suggestions from depute fiscal Neil Allan that he had really been "safely tucked up in his bed" at the time of the incident, and also refused consistently to tell Mr Allan whether others involved in causing the damage were present in court.

After MacLeod was led away, the fiscal abandoned further proceedings against Herbert, who was formally found not guilty.

MacLeod, 53, who is also a leading distributor of organic products, and chairman of Highlands and Islands Organic Association, was originally called on Friday to give evidence against Herbert, 31, of Oxford, who had been charged with recklessly flattening an area of rape at Rhives Farm, Munlochy, early on the morning of June 7.

The crop had been sown as part of farm-scale evaluation trials by Rhives tenant and owner of neighbouring Roskill Farm, Jamie Grant, on behalf of research company Aventis Cropscience.

In the course of Friday's examination, when assured that any statement he made would not incriminate himself, MacLeod claimed that he, not the accused, had been responsible for trampling the crop in the form of an X on the morning of the General Election.

He also claimed he had written an early-morning e-mail message to media outlets, referring to the damaged crop, stating: "The first vote of the election has been cast at Munlochy."

After his initial refusal, MacLeod was sent home for the weekend by Sheriff James Fraser, with orders to think again about his refusal to answer.

The sheriff warned him he would be in contempt of court if he failed to answer, and spelled out the penalties which include imprisonment for up to 21 days.

Yesterday morning, MacLeod remained adamant he would not tell the court of others involved in the incident, despite pleas from the sheriff to recant. He said: "I wish no disrespect to the court. I have answered the questions so far truthfully."

MacLeod denied he was offering himself for martyrdom after one of his refusals.

He told the fiscal: "I have thought a lot about it but I feel I have to do what I think is right. I find it difficult to incriminate other people here in court.

"The stance I have taken is on behalf of independent farmers in the Highlands which is why the protests were carried out in the first place - and on behalf of the health of our children and their environment in the future.

"I have to take a stand I feel is right and I feel it's not right to incriminate other people in this court."

Offering MacLeod a last chance to answer, the sheriff warned him he faced a period of imprisonment, saying: "If I was going to impose a fine, I would do so now - but I don't think it would be a matter of significance as far as you are concerned."

Imposing the maximum 21-day period, the sheriff pointed out: "This is not a sentence, it is a penalty."

After being found not guilty, Herbert claimed: "For Donnie to get 21 days for standing up for his beliefs and for his livelihood is a farce. There is a huge dilemma between what is legal in this country and what is right." Fellow campaigner Jane Smith, from Grantown, said: "I find the whole thing outrageous if we can no longer stand up for our moral principles in this country. It leaves really bad feeling."

MacLeod's MSP, Fergus Ewing, said: "It appears that Mr MacLeod is prepared to go to prison to stand up for his beliefs, and this act on his part illustrates the strength of feeling against GM crop experimentation."

Green Party Highland branch convener Eleanor Scott said: "This is an atrocious decision. Highland residents were forced to take direct action against an experiment which makes local people into guinea-pigs and which threatens the livelihoods of local organic producers.

"This is an ongoing struggle, and Donnie MacLeod is the first Highland martyr."

Green MSP Robin Harper said: "There's something wrong when an organic farmer ends up being branded a criminal and going to prison for trying to defend the countryside against the threat of genetically-modified crops.

"Like other organic farmers, he would stand to lose his organic certification and his livelihood if his farm was contaminated with pollen from a GM crop.

"Only a few weeks after the First Minister makes a so-called groundbreaking speech on environmental justice, a community activist is jailed for defending the local environment. So much for environmental justice."

SNP shadow environment minister Bruce Crawford said: "It's totally ironic that on the day Ross Finnie makes an announcement encouraging farmers and growers to go organic, a member of the public is sent to jail for trying to do just that.

"The GM crops, which Ross Finnie has the powers to halt, carry the risk of contaminating nearby organic crops, making them unmarketable as organic and ensuring a loss of livelihood for organic farmers and growers.

"Following this court decision today to jail a GM protester, Mr Finnie is obviously putting multinational big business before the interests of local people. This as a very sad day for democracy."

An Executive spokesman said: "This is a matter for the sheriff and the court to decide."


2. IT'S all Mary Shelley's fault says SIRC-us man

 The day after SIRC- Press Complaints Commission man Lord Wakeham stood down permanenly from his PCC post because of his involvement in the Enron scandal, here's news of another SIRC-RS stalwart, Lewis Wolpert. Wolpert complains about scientists being depicted as middle-aged men with emotional problems. If the cap fits Lewis...

The Evening Standard (London) March 12, 2002
IT'S all Mary Shelley's fault, apparently.

Eminent biologist Professor Lewis Wolpert railed against the hysteria over human cloning last night at an LSE/Imperial College lecture on the topic 'Risk and  Society - Is science dangerous?'. "Mary Shelley is the unintentional evil fairy godmother of genetics," he remarked. "Name me one English novel where the scientist comes out well - they're all middle-aged men with emotional problems. It's impossible to discuss genetics without Frankenstein (pictured) coming up - the newspapers love genetic pornography and Frankenstein foods, but when people see genetically modified foods will make them healthier, they'll gobble them up."



The Food Standards Agency is consulting on plans to protect the term 'Basmati' - the fragrant rice grown for centuries at the foothills of the Himalayas.


4. FDA to rule on whether America's kitchens should get cloned milk

The Associated Press March 17, 2002, Sunday,
Business News
By PAUL ELIAS, AP Biotechnology Writer

Got cloned milk? Infigen Inc., a DeForest, Wis. biotechnology company does. With 34 of its 170 cloned cattle currently in a "milking barn," Infigen is ready to place bottles of the herd's output on America's breakfast tables. Instead, executives at Infigen say they dump hundreds of gallons of the milk a day awaiting a Food and Drug Administration decision on the safety of cloned- derived products for human consumption, the environment and the animals themselves. Ranchers already "selectively breed" their herds, plucking out the best milk- producing, the healthiest and biggest animals as breeders. Infigen and at least two other competitors - ProLinia Inc. of Athens, Ga. and Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester, Mass. - say cloning can more quickly improve upon the herds' gene pools. Infigen's cloning process involves activating the unfertilized egg of a standout bovine by removing the nucleus, fusing the egg with a cell from the same animal's ear, then triggering the egg to divide and grow. The resulting embryo is then implanted in a surrogate cow. The other two companies use similar techniques. A tangled intellectual property dispute over rights to the process is before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. All three companies have voluntarily withheld their cloned-derived food and drink from the market until the FDA decides the issue. "We are awash in a river of milk," lamented Infigen head Michael Bishop, who said he himself even drank the milk without harm. Food activists, though, are having a cow over all the genetic tinkering. They argue that not enough research has been done on biotechnology's affect on the environment and human health and argue for a complete ban on all genetically modified products. They derisively term the experimental products "Frankenfood," and fear that tinkering with genes could lead to mutated and weakened species. The FDA expects to soon receive a report it commissioned from the National Academy of Sciences on cloned-derived goods and other animal biotechnology issues such as genetically engineered fish and poultry. The report is widely expected to help set the tone at the FDA for regulating cloned-derived food. Concerned about the welfare of the cloned animals as well as their safety for humans and the environment, the FDA has said it probably won't rule on cloned- derived food until sometime in the fall.

The agency is essentially deciding whether cloned animals should be treated like genetically engineered animals, which are regulated by the FDA, or like animals bred through in-vitro fertilization, which don't require FDA regulation. Meanwhile, scientists around the world continue to genetically engineer everything from fish to loaves.

They hope biotechnology can create better foods faster and cheaper. Fish researchers are stitching genes into salmon that trigger faster growth. Wheat farmers are working with pesticide-resistant crops. Other genetic engineers work to perfect juicier dinner-table chickens, fatter pigs and drought-resistant tomatoes. The cloning companies argue that their technology is not genetic engineering and should be considered separately - a position that appears to have received support of some academy members writing the report. The companies are hopeful the agency will allow cloned-derived products into the food chain without restriction. "We clone without genetic enhancement," said ProLinia President Mike Wanner. ProLinia, backed by a $1 million investment from the country's No. 1 pork producer, hopes to sell its cloning technology to the beef and pork industries. "It's the same as having an identical twin."

 But even if the FDA allows cloned-derived products with minimal oversight, the biotechnology companies still have to win over a skeptical public while convincing agricultural companies the technology will improve their bottom lines. An increasing number of consumers are become wary of genetically engineered and biologically altered food. Some already avoid purchasing milk produced by cows injected with bovine growth hormone, which is approved by the FDA. The dairy industry's largest trade organization said it is waiting for the academy's report and does not have a position on cloning. "Any new technology needs to be deemed safe," said Susan Ruland of the Washington D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association, which represents 85 percent of the dairy-based companies in the $70 billion-a-year industry. What's more, each company generally charges between $12,500 and $25,000 to clone a single animal. Studies have shown that only 5 percent of cloning attempts lead to a live birth. Other studies have suggested that cloned animals also suffer more health problems than naturally born ones. Bull semen for artificial insemination, in contrast, costs about $50 per unit and is the industry standard for breeding better animals. -- On the Net: Infigen:

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