ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

Date:  26 October 2000


The first article below, on how UK farmers are missing out on the huge organic boom here.  When combined with the report from Oz,  (repeated - item 5 below) of a big current trade advantage resulting from GM-free canola, despite the Oz Governmentís and industryís best efforts to encourage farmers down the biotech route, plus the reports we put out yesterday of the potentially enormous losses to both US corn export and home markets, due to the GM maize Starlink (see also latest articles below on the spreading crisis), these give the clearest possible indication that the political elite and the farming establishments in these countries are totally out of touch with the market realities they all claim to be ruled by.

The BSE report out in the UK today apparently exposes how a culture can develop within government, science and industry which can selectively blind them to what may, in retrospect, seem glaringly obvious.  The biobiz culture certainly seems to have done that in spades for many of our leaders who fervently preach market realism while pursuing GMís madhouse economics.

1. Organic farmers Ďcanít meet soaring demandí
2. Gene-Modified Corn Turns Up in U.S. Exports to Japan
3. Biotech Corn Traces Dilute Bumper Crop
4. Third brand of taco shells contains StarLink
5. Non Genetic Canola Trade Advantage

1. Organic farmers Ďcanít meet soaring demandí
 by Amanda Brown,  The Independent ? 26 October 2000

Farmers in Britain cannot keep up with demand for organic food, MPs were told yesterday.  In many cases, they can produce only small quantities, which in turn cost more to transport to the few plants certified to process chemical-free food.

Representatives of the supermarket chains Sainsbury and Iceland told the Commons Select Committee on Agriculture that they have to import organic food to overcome the shortage of home-grown produce.

Scares about bovine spongiform encephalopathy, genetically modified crops and E. coli bacteria in food have sparked a huge demand for organic produce in recent years.

Bill Wadsworth, technical director of Iceland Frozen Foods, told the committee: "The British farming community has reacted very slowly to this market, whereas other countries are modernising their farms to produce organic food."

Only 3 per cent of British farmland is organic - yet the market is forecast to grow by 40 per cent a year for the next five years, and is expected to be worth in excess of £500m by the end of this year. According to figures supplied by Iceland, 70 per cent of all organic food sold in British supermarkets already comes from overseas.

Mr Wadsworth said the company believed money could be targeted at farmers to allow them to convert from conventional farming to pesticide- and chemical-free farming.

Sainsbury said it would like to offer customers more British organic products but, like Iceland, was unable to do so because of limited supplies.

2.  Gene-Modified Corn Turns Up in U.S. Exports to Japan
By Stephanie Strom, New York Times, 25 October 2000
TOKYO, Wednesday, Oct. 25

The Consumers Union of Japan said today that it has found traces of a controversial genetically modified corn from the United States in snack foods and animal feed sold here.

The results of the unionís tests are likely to kick off a firestorm of protest here, where opposition to genetically modified foods is especially strong.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and two groups representing American grain producers are expected in Tokyo tomorrow to try to explain how the genetically modified corn, called StarLink, surfaced in Japan, according to one grain importer.

The Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare called an urgent meeting this morning to determine how it should respond to the consumer groupís revelations.
StarLink is not approved for import into Japan, although other genetically modified foods are allowed.

StarLink, which is manufactured by Aventis, touched off widespread protests and product recalls in the United States after it was found in taco shells, but now the controversy is going global.

Two days ago, John Richardson, the deputy chief of mission at the European Unionís mission in Washington, said after discussions with American officials that some of the gene-spliced corn may find its way to grocery shelves in Europe, where opposition to genetically altered foods is also very high.

The Environmental Protection Agency has refused to grant even temporary approval for StarLink corn, which the Food and Drug Administration fears may produce allergic reactions in some people.  Representatives from the food and biotechnology industries are expected to present new data to American regulators today in an effort to win approval for StarLink, but it will take several weeks for the agency to issue a ruling.

The controversy pits the agency against the Agriculture Department, which has argued that there is no evidence that StarLink causes allergic reactions.
"Though StarLink corn was only approved for use as animal feed or for industrial processes, some Starlink corn appears to have entered the food supply and might find its way into products oversea," a U.S.  government spokesman said today in Tokyo.  "I want to emphasize that even though the E.P.A. did not approve StarLink for use in food, the E.P.A. has no evidence that food containing this corn poses any threat to public health. Our scientists believe the risks, if any, are extremely low."

The spread of the genetically altered corn is difficult to contain because seed corn is cross-pollinated and it is extremely difficult to isolate modified corn from unmodified corn. Sifting through millions of tons of corn to separate natural kernels from those that have been genetically modified is an even bigger challenge.
"The type of handling in which we would separate the corn at every stage of transportation, shipment and import into Japan is very expensive," said Hyodo Makoto, who is in charge of grain and oil imports at the Tomen Corporation, which imports about two million tons of corn a year into Japan.

Japan grows almost no corn of its own, although corn soup is a staple of menus in many Japanese restaurants. The country imports about 12 million tons of corn for animal feed and 4 million tons for human consumption.

3. Biotech Corn Traces Dilute Bumper Crop
By William Claiborne, Staff Writer,  Washington Post - 25 October 2000

CHICAGO, Oct. 24 -- Anxiety is sweeping across farm communities throughout the Midwest because of fears that large amounts of this yearís corn crop may have been contaminated with a genetically engineered grain that was approved only for animals.

Grain elevators are bulging with shipments from this yearís bumper corn crop, but many distributors fear the grain may have inadvertently been mixed with the engineered corn, making it difficult, if not impossible, to sell.

At least one farmer in Iowa has lost money because a trainload of corn waiting to be shipped for processing into products that could wind up in food was found to contain the corn, known as StarLink, in testing last Thursday.

"I think weíre just hitting the tip of the iceberg here. We just donít know whatís in those elevators, and when we start letting this stuff go and itís tested, itís going to get worse," said Gary Strube, manager of the Superior Cooperative Elevator Co. in Dickinson County.

4. Third brand of taco shells contains StarLink
by Marcella S Kreiter, United Press International, 25 October 2000
CHICAGO, Oct. 25

A coalition of health, environmental and public interest groups Wednesday said it has found evidence a third brand of taco shells contains StarLink, a genetically modified corn approved only for animal consumption.

The Genetically Engineered Food Alert said StarLink was detected in tacoshells produced by Western Family Foods, based in the Portland, Ore., suburb of Tigard.

The company, which markets its 6,400 products under a variety of labels including Western Family, Shur Save, Better Buy, WF, Shur Saving, Market Choice, Valley Fare and Home and Garden, had no immediate comment.  The products are distributed to more than 3,500 stores in 23 states and overseas.

Japanís Health and Wellfare Ministry has asked Japanese importers to ban sale of food containing StarLink, which is not approved for import into Japan.  The finding is the third of genetically modified corn in a food product in a month.  In September, Friends of the Earth announced it had detected StarLink in taco shells produced by Kraft and sold to grocery stores under the Taco Bell name .

On Oct. 12, FOE said it had found StarLink in taco shells produced by Mission Foods Inc. of Irving, Texas, and distributed under various house brand names, including Safeway.  It was not immediately clear whether Mission Foods produces the Western Family taco shells.

StarLink produces a protein that helps repel pests but has not been approved for human consumption because that protein may be an allergen since it is difficult to digest.

Aventis CropScience of Triangle Research Park, N.C., admitted last week it cannot account for 9 million bushels of StarLink, about 12 percent of the crop.
FOE said one of its volunteers bought the Western Family taco shells at a store in Eugene, Ore.

"The product, found on the West Coast, further illustrates the nationwide extent of the contamination," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety.

Philip Clapp of the National Environmental Trust blamed the Food and Drug Administration for the apparent widespread contamination.
"The FDA is failing to warn the American public of genetically contaminated products that should be avoided," he said.

GE Food Alert and Greenpeace sent a letter Tuesday to President Clinton, asking him to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from "retroactively" approving StarLink for human consumption."

"For two years, the EPA had reservations about the safety of this corn," FOE spokesman Larry Bohlen said. "Approval for human consumption by EPA, FDA or any federal government body now would seem to be based on politics, not science."

StarLink is the only biotech corn that received a conditional approval.  All others are approved for both human and animal consumption.  Some farmers say, however, they never were told to keep StarLink segregated from the rest of their crop.

Iowa farmer Jim Norton told Wednesdayís Des Moines (Iowa) Register the fine print on a tag attached to the StarLink seed he bought last spring appears to say it can be used for food.

Aventis estimates 40 percent of 350,000 acres planted with StarLink, which represents 0.5 percent of the nationís corn crop, was planted in Iowa.
Since the contamination was discovered, Aventis has pulled its StarLink registration and said it would buy all of this yearís production.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has proposed legislation that would strengthen the governmentís oversight of genetic engineering, giving the FDA the power to approve genetically modified foods rather than the voluntary system of consultation between the companies and government that now occurs.
The measure also would give the FDA sampling authority to prevent unauthorized foods from entering the food supply.

"If it happened once, when environmental groups examined just a handful of foods, what might be found when thousands of food products are tested," Durbin asked.

The measure, however, falls short of demands by FOE and other groups that all genetically altered foods be labeled.

5. Non Genetic Canola Trade Advantage

The following is a transcript from the ABC National Rural News that is broadcast daily to all states on ABC Regional Radioís Country Hour and on ABC Radio National.

Non Genetic Canola Trade Advantage - Tuesday, 24/10/00

Australiaís status as a producer of non genetically modified canola has put it ahead of its main international competitor.

The European Union is planning to buy Australian canola this harvest, rather than the genetically modified product from Canada.

Clint Munroe, from Riverland Oilseeds, Victoriaís second largest canola crusher, believes Europe is looking to buy up to half a million tonnes from Australia.

Clint Munroe, "I think itís going to have a great impact for Australian farmers this season, having a GMO free canola crop, and the reason is that European supplies have fallen at the end of their season and they will require extra canola, they canít buy it from Canada because their crop is GMO, so I think Australia might export  between three and five hundred thousand tonnes to Europe this season. And thatíll have a great impact and increase prices for  Australian farmers."

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