ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
23 November 2002


from Andy Rees, the WEEKLY WATCH editor
Welcome to WW7 from the NGIN/GMWATCH team, bringing you all the latest news in brief on the GM issue - everything from Monsanto's cyberwarfare to US pharmageddon!

Our 'campaign of the week' is for the release of Jose Bové and René Riesel. Not everyone supports this goal, of course. A US PR front called 'Consumer Freedom' reported Thursday, "This week, one Internet opinion website is featuring a ‘Make Jose Bove Serve His Time’ petition."

Go to the petition and you'll discover the petition's organised by AgBioWorld and "written by Andura Smetacek".

Now, where've I heard that name before?*

Enjoy it!

Andy <>

*to find out read 'commentary of the week'

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK: Oz/Pakistan/Zambia/BMA/Grandmas/Kiwis/Canada...
TOPIC OF THE WEEK: pharmageddon!
COMMENTARY OF THE WEEK: biotech's covert war
FACTS OF THE WEEK: fascinating facts
SETBACKS TO THE GM INDUSTRY: multiple as usual
LIES FROM THE GM LOBBY: Avery over London!
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the archive
CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK: release Jose Bové!

British Medical Association say GM crop trials must stop
The British Medical Association (, representing 80% of UK practising doctors, has called for a moratorium on GM crop trials in Scotland in a submission to the Scottish Parliament's health committee this week.  It said that "insufficient care" has been taken over public health and concerns are "serious enough" to justify an immediate end to the trials.   The BMA says:
*"Extension of the current farm-scale trials would be ill advised and potentially irresponsible until the health and environmental impact is fully assessed and in the public domain."
*"There has not yet been a robust and thorough search into the potentially harmful effects of GM foodstuffs on human health."
*"The BMA would like to see more public consultation on the growing of GM crops"
*"The BMA does not support the argument that GM foods can solve the problems of feeding the starving millions worldwide."
A Scottish National Party MSP commented, "Mr Finnie [the Minister] has continually used European rules as his excuse for not taking action. Yet the BMA have made it clear that the European Court would back a ban on GM crop trials based on the precautionary principle.  And the minister is going against his own party policy."  Bayer Cropscience ducked out of appearing in person at the enquiry, "Due to illness" - of their entire staff???!
THE BMA's SUBMISSION: "Submission of the British Medical Association to the Health And Community Care Committee On The Impact Of GM Crop Trials" can be downloaded as a pdf.  Here's an HTML version. The link to the complete PDF document is at the bottom of the page.
Press articles: &
For more on the mystery of the missing research on GMOs see:
Dollar value placed on GM contamination
According to research at the University of Manitoba, some bags of conventional certified canola seed contain more than 5% of GM, with almost none free of GM contamination. That means that over time canola growers may develop large seedbeds of herbicide resistant volunteer canola. If Roundup Ready wheat was widely grown, the volunteer herbicide-resistant wheat could cost zero-till farmers $400 million per year across the prairies to clean up with chemicals.
Biotech industry pollutes organic produce
The Soil Association has discovered that organic soya, used in UK livestock feed, has been contaminated with GM organisms.
GM wheat could devastate Canadian farmers
Canada's wheat growers could suffer devastating market losses and farm management problems, and consumer and environmental safety could be compromised, if GM wheat is approved, according to the most comprehensive report to date on the subject.
Download the report:
Top consumer official commends Zambia's stance on GM food
At the African consumers conference on biotechnology and food security, the African head of Consumers International commended the Zambian government's rejection of GM food aid.
No one dying because of GM rejection
Zambian academic, Obed Lungu, dean of the school of agriculture at the University of Zambia, stated during an Ottawa conference on trade and development that Zambia was united in rejecting GM products. He also said non-GM food is available and despite news reports inspired by GM promoters, "Nobody is starving. There is alternate food available." The head of the World Food Programme also says he's "optimistic we will find a way to get around this" but he did not rule out some deaths. If there are such deaths then the WFP will bear a heavy responsibility. Zambia informed the WFP of their choice back in June, which has left half a year for the WFP to source alternative non-GM food aid. Instead of taking action, the WFP chose to spend those months pressurising Southern African countries to accept GM grain. The suggestion that the choice is between GM or death has always been false. It's been a question of whether the US, USAID and the WFP would risk, or even actively engineer, starvation in pursuit of their own agenda.
for a primer on what's going on in southern Africa:
Black market in GMOs forces Pakistan to lift ban
Pakistan says it is being forced to lift its GM seed ban in order to try and control the use of GMOs coming in on the black market that are giving rise to serious agricultural problems.
Oz going all the way with the USA
Australia is willing to consider US demands for unfettered investment access and relaxed labelling for GM food, in exchange for opening new markets for Australian farmers under a free trade deal.
Kiwis march to retain GM moratium
About 10,000 people, carrying anti-GM banners and placards, protested in central Auckland on Saturday, to prevent the government's proposed ending of the moratorium on GM next October.
Grandmas arrested in US campaign against GE food
2 grandmothers, petitioning outside a supermarket in Alabama, were arrested by police.
French farmer's inordinate jail sentence for destroying GM crops
French farmer Jose Bové will be sent to jail for 14 months for two offences of destroying GM crops.  The people who should be jailed are those imposing this technology on us in the absence of either a scientific or public consensus and without any genuine choice or debate.

TOPIC OF THE WEEK - further fallout from pharmageddon
The USDA has refused to reveal what chemical or drug was grown in either the Nebraska or Iowa pharma-contamination incidents. The contaminants could be: an Aids vaccine, a blood-clotting agent, a digestive enzyme, or an industrial adhesive(!).
Two Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner on the Nebraska silo containing the 500,000 bushels of contaminated soybeans, reading, "This is your food on drugs. Ban genetically engineered drug-crops."
SEE THE SILO! - images at:
user id: media   password: pharm
Officials at ProdiGene face a possible one-year jail term if the government finds they broke laws in the GM corn contamination
Even the American Soybean Association has chastised ProdiGene.  Soybean growers have reason for concern: nearly 1/3 of the US crop is exported, with key markets, like Europe and Japan, increasingly concerned about the industry's apparent inability to segregate GM crops.
In the very month that the Iowa contamination occurred, George Bush was honouring ProdiGene's President by personally appointing him to America's 'Board on International Food and Agriculture Development', the sole advisor to USAID.
US food companies urged the government to temporarily ban the use of food crops to produce pharmaceuticals till it could get a better regulatory grip on the situation. "We don't want to lose international markets because we can't assure the safety and integrity of the food supply," said the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
The GM drug that contaminated soybean stocks is a protein, intended to vaccinate pigs. No human health tests have been conducted on the pig drug to date.  Environmentalists and scientists, including the US National Academy of Sciences, have repeatedly warned that growing drug-producing crops in open fields, rather than laboratories, would contaminate our food supply. "We must stop taking chances with untested drug-crops that could poison our corn flakes, tacos, and baby food," said Charles Margulis of Greenpeace.
Prof Norman Ellstrand, a world-renowned corn geneticist at the University of California, Riverside, says the US government has been lucky. "What if the GM corn had come up inside a corn field, instead of a soybean field?  It could have cross pollinated and you'd have no idea where it was."

George Monbiot's column in the Guardian this week tackled two issues - the Zambian food aid crisis and the biotech industry's dirty cyberwar.

Monbiot revealed evidence uncovered by the NGIN/GMWATCH team that Monsanto had been directly involved in a series of poison pen attacks that played a key part, for example, in the hate campaign against Berkeley scientists Ignacio Chapela and David Quist during the industry's push for retraction of their Nature article on Mexican maize contamination.

The poison pen postings, as Monbiot notes, also triggered a libel case that reached the High Court in London after an e-mail attack on Greenpeace by an "Andura Smetacek" got printed in a Scottish newspaper.

The campaign of smears, involving attacks posted on messageboards, listservs and front websites had been previously attributed only to Monsanto's PR proxies, in particular to a Washington based internet PR firm called The Bivings Group. Bivings are known to have made such postings via a front e-mail "Mary Murphy" as well as being involved in black propaganda websites.  However, in this article - the third in a series - Monbiot disclosed that the IP addresses on a number of Smetacek mails showed Smetacek's attacks had been posted from in St Louis, Missouri.

Monsanto's chief internet strategist, Jay Byrne, told a PR industry workshop on Monsanto's internet tactics, "think of the internet as a weapon on the table.  Either you pick it up or your competitor does, but somebody is going to get killed".

On Zambia Monbiot marshalled a daming series of statistics from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation to show that "all the starving people in southern Africa, Ethiopia and the world's other hungry regions could be fed without the use of a single genetically modified grain."

Monbiot also showed how USAID was pursuing an aid agenda which involved not only massively subsidising US farmers but directly promoting the interests of the biotech industry.  Earlier this year, USAID launched a $100m programme for bringing biotechnology to developing countries, providing, its website reveals, companies such as Syngenta and Monsanto with opportunities for "technology transfer" into the poor world.

Part of the US biotech strategy, argues Monbiot, is the contamination of local crop production to the point where governments will no longer be able to sustain a ban on GMOs.

"All that stands in the way of these plans is the resistance of local people and the protests of environment groups, " says Monbiot, and for several years Monsanto has been waging a covert war to marginalise and destroy that resistance.

For more on Monsanto's dirty tricks campaign, including 2 earlier articles by George Monbiot:

For more on what's happening in southern Africa:

According to the World Bank, 1.2 billion people in the world are suffering from extreme poverty, 75% are subsistence farmers.

Biotechnology is expensive to develop, estimated at $1 million per gene, with companies not only expecting to recoup costs, but make large profits on sales.  Biotech seeds also have to be bought each year. 2 billion people in developing countries currently rely on saving their own seeds - what possible benefit will GMOs be to them?

Between now and March, southern Africa will need up to 2m tonnes of emergency food aid grain.  The FAO says there are 1.16m tonnes of exportable maize in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa.  Europe, Brazil, India and China have surpluses and stockpiles running into many tens of millions of tonnes. Even in the US, more than 50% of the harvest has been kept GM-free.

India is saddled with 65 million tonnes of unmanageable food stocks (ie surpluses), much of it already rotting and turning into cattle feed.

Evidence from 20 countries has found more than 2 million families farming successfully sustainably on more than 4-5 million hectares.

About 300 acres were planted with pharm-crops this year in the US, according to the industry.

The British Medical Association points out that the number of crop trials in the UK has increased steadily, without public consultation, since their introduction in the early 1990s. Trials are being held at 178 sites in the UK, 17 are in Scotland.  &

The Robert Koch Institute website shows the number of new applications for GM field trials in the EU per year from 1991-2003.  If things had gone well for the biotech industry, the graph should show a steady increase in the number of new applications. Interestingly, the number of trials rise until c1998 and then fall away sharply.  A graphic representation of the success of anti-GM campaigning in Europe.

Monsanto has been exposed as directly breaking all its pledges to openness, dialogue, and respect for its critics, by conducting a covert cybercampaign of character assassination against critical scientists and environmentalists. (see COMMENTARY OF THE WEEK above)

NZ Government-owned AgResearch, the most efficient animal cloning institute in the world, achieves a mere 6% survival rate of embryos through to the first three months of life.

A coalition of farmers and environmentalists (The Farmers' Union of Wales, Friends of the Earth Cymru, GM Free Cymru, the National Federation of Women's Institutes in Wales) launched a campaign to keep Wales GM-free.

The Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) is against the promotion of GM basmati rice and has urged the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to immediately impose a ban on its cultivation.

Pro-Agro, part of Aventis, is seeking commercialisation in India of its GM mustard.  Pro-Agro had claimed that the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) had conducted trials at 69 sites. ICAR has categorically denied this, saying that only 4 field trials have been conducted under it's supervision, and the data generated on crop yield so far 'does not substantiate' Pro-Agro's claims of increased yields. This is not the first time the company's claims have been shown to be misleading

Dennis Avery is in London to lead round table discussions on GM food aid at the US embassy on Monday the 25th of November, 2002 - an event boycotted by UK NGOs in disgust at such a role being given to someone like Avery in relation to such an important and sensitive issue. Avery's also speaking at the ferociously pro-GM World Food and Farming conference being held at Olympia on 25th and 26th November - tickets 1,000 pounds plus.
Avery's already been slagging off organic agriculture at a meeting of the British Crop Protection Council in London, claiming that, if widely adopted, it will lead to "an environmental catastrophe". Avery, whose work is supported by Monsanto, DuPont, Novartis, ConAgra, DowElanco and others who profit from the sale of products prohibited in organic production, also previously claimed organic farming will lead to mass starvation, and that it is more likely to poison you, giving rise to such newspaper headlines as "Organic food--'It's eight times more likely to kill you'" and "Organic food link to E. coli deaths."  - see:  'Dennis Avery: Big Daddy of the!'
Avery's claims on organic are so ludicrous that even Greg Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the co-founder of AgBioWorld, has criticised his grasp of statistics. Conko told Avery on Prakash's pro-GM list, AgBioView, that the extreme selectivity of Avery's statistics on killer organics, "doesn't seem to be convincing anybody who doesn't already have a predilection to believe you in the first place".
In contrast to Avery, a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report concludes organic practices actually reduce the e-coli infection that causes food poisoning and they also reduce the levels of contaminants in foods.
With regard to feeding the world, Prof Jules Pretty of Essex University, an expert on farming in the Third World, has reported evidence from research in 20 countries on how more than 2 million families are farming successfully and sustainably with low inputs or fully organic systems and without GMOs. And this is often occurring in remote and resource-poor areas assumed incapable of producing food surpluses.
Londoners anxious to avoid any heightened risk of Avery-contamination during the period of the London Dennathon, can see multiple mug shots of the master statistician here:
for more on the organic attackers:

Pesticide Action Network Updates Service #299
Reviews market and product status of genetically engineered (GE) cotton, since its market introduction in 1996. Notes that glyphosate-tolerant GE cotton has not lead to a reduction in herbicide use in the U.S., meanwhile sales of glyphosate have greatly increased. Warns that Bt-cotton may soon become obsolete, as pests continue to develop resistance to the Bt toxin. 34 pages.  Contact PAN UK, Eurolink Centre, 49 Effra Road, London SW2 1BZ, UK; phone (44-20) 7274 8895; fax (44-20) 7274 9084; email; Web site

'Off message', from Eco Soundings, The Guardian, November 20, 2002:
The great British GM debate got off to a messy start last week, with a secret focus group meeting in Manchester designed to come up with the kind of questions that need to be asked. But does the government actually want any questions?  Marcus Williamson, the editor of GM Food News has been emailing the hapless central office of information, which is supposedly handling the debate, to find out who certain people are and what the desired outcome of the debate might be. He was surprised when he got back a tetchy email clearly not meant to have been sent to him, but about him. "This man is a pain. He seems to communicate only by email," it reads. "I have three times sent him answers to his tedious questions.. Maybe he has no telephone. Tell him he has to deal with me if you get him again." Not a good start for the people trying to communicate the government's message.,7843,843232,00.html

HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the NGIN archive
21 November 2002
Loony Trewavas attacks the BMA
BMA report leads to call for halt on GM crop trials
Tobacco industry tinkers with biotech cigarettes
20 November 2002
Senior medical figures call for GM ban to safeguard public health
GM cotton
Rrejecting GM crops is profitable
GM basmati ban
19 November 2002
The covert biotech war
Doctors say GM crop trials must stop
GM contamination of organic animal feed
Fighting hunger/Thousands march against GM
Top consumer official commends Zambia's stance
Bove jailed
Avery in London - Organic Farming Environmental Catastrophe
Sustainable highlights
18 November 2002
GM Mustard: ICAR refutes Pro-Agro's claims
Health Committee Enquiry on GM crops - submission from Munlochy
Dennis Avery to lead US embassy discussion concerning GM food aid
Grandmothers Arrested in Campaign Against GM Food
17 November 2002
Tainted crops cast doubt on gene altering
15 November 2002
ProdiGene officials may face jail
Contamination could be AIDS vaccine or blood thickener
Deaths at AgResearch
Southern Africa
OZ goingall the way with USA
Schmeiser latest
Researchers place dollar value on GM contamination
Rise and fall of GM crops in Europe
CEO of Prodigene a Bush appointee
GM crop scare hits USA - again
14 November 2002
Dennis Avery in London for pro-GM fest
Ill effects from smuggled GMOs force Pakistan to lift ban


There is an online e-mail that can be sent in French to the President
via the confederation paysanne web site

A letter gets transferred to your e-mail outbox for sending direct to Chirac.

OR IN ANGLAIS! c/o Martin Wallis
May I count upon your support, please, in the campaign to release Jose Bové and René Riesel from prison? Please send the letter below to Jacques Chirac, and notify Jean-Marc Desfilhes at .

Thank you for your solidarity. For further information, please consult

Martin Wallis
on behalf of Confédération paysanne

First name

for the attention of:
The President of the Republic of France
Palais de l'Elyseé
55, rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris France

Mr President

By virtue of the powers conferred upon you by Article 17 of the French Constitution, may I respectfully request that you grant a free pardon to Jose Bové and René Riesel with regard to the 14 months terms of imprisonment handed down to each of the defendants by the Court of Appeal in Montpellier on December 21 2001, sentences which were made final by the Supreme Court of Appeal on November 19 2002.

In common cause with other activists and numerous unions and associations, they protested against the introduction of GMOs in food and agriculture. This spirit of resistance continues to be shared by the great majority of the French and European populations.

These sentences will have serious consequences for the legitimate union activities of M Jose Bové, who is national spokesperson for the Confédération paysanne, whose citizens' actions in France and elsewhere in the world have been very warmly received by public opinion, which is concerned about food quality and food safety and the consequences of the liberal globalisation of our economies.

Their incarceration will deal a heavy blow to the image abroad of France, to public liberty and in particular to union rights, and will create uneasiness among French citizens.

It is for these reasons that I request that you exonerate Jose Bové and René Riesel from having to serve these sentences. Thank you.
Yours sincerely

ngin bulletin archive