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Cloned animals exhibit disastrous health effects

According to the French national institute for agricultural research (INRA), in a paper in The Lancet in late April 1999, a cloned animal has turned out to be deformed with no proper lymph glands. It also developed
severe and fatal anaemia.† Many of the other experiments in cloning farm animals have also resulted in malformed or sickly animals, or animals that have died shortly after birth.† 

In one of the most notorious cases involving the genetic engineering of animals, Beltsville pigs, produced by the U.S. government in the mid 80ís, given a human or cattle growth hormone gene to make them grow
faster, suffered from blindness, impotence and ulceration, quite apart from an inability to walk.†

Food giants control international food standards body

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, a U.N. agency that sets international food standards which are then interpreted by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), is under the control of industry according to consumer groups in spring 1999. North American delegations to the commission, for example, are loaded with representatives of companies whose products are affected by the commission's decisions. Peter Bleyer of the Council of Canadians says, "Codex has become more or less a prisoner or hostage to corporate  interests.'' 

While the agency - an amalgamation of the U.N. World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organisation - is supposed to make decisions on behalf  of consumers, represented by their governments, it is, in fact, packed with representatives of big industry . The Canadian delegation, for example, includes 6 government representatives and 13 non-government delegates. Filling 9 of those 13 non-government places, are representatives of Monsanto, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, and other food giants, as well as trade organizations representing food companies. The U.S. delegation includes 14 non-government advisers, 10 of whom represent multinational food companies or their trade organizations plus consultants who help get the products to market. 

Canada and the United States, needless to say, both oppose the compulsory labelling that would allow consumers to know whether the products they are buying have been genetically engineered. The U.S. has threatened to use the World Trade Organisation, and trade retaliation, against any country that introduces such measures.

Japan chokes on biofood as beef from cloned calves sold unlabelled

According to press reports in mid-April 1999, beef from cloned calves has been on the market in Japan for some time. The government announcement that beef from at least 18 - and possibly many more - cloned calves has been sold unmarked in Japanese grocery stores has triggered threats of a beef boycott by consumers.

In March the Consumers Union of Japan announced that 2300 of Japan's 3300 local government assemblies had now called on the Tokyo government to require mandatory labeling of GM foods. In addition two million Japanese consumers have signed a petition to the government on GM labeling. The CUJ and other citizen groups are especially alarmed about GM industry plans to grow gene-altered rice in Japan - where nine million tons are consumed annually. 

Swiss ban GM crop trials

On 16th April 1999 Switzerland  prohibited the release into the environment of GM maize and potatoes -- the first official ruling on the controversial issue of planting GMOs. BUWAL, the federal environment office, said it had turned down the applications for GM trials and cited health and environmental concerns. Hans Hosbach, head of BUWAL's biotechnology section, said the decision made non-EU Switzerland a unique island within Europe. "Switzerland has now said: 'No. We don't want this,' " Hosbach told Reuters. BUWAL said it turned down the maize request due to concerns over cross-pollination. It rejected the other tests out of concern the GM potatoes contained genes which could make some bacteria resistant to certain antibiotics. 

Greece stops crop trials and calls for Europe-wide moratorium

The Greek government on 31st March 1999 called for a Europe wide moratorium on the commercial release of GMOs and the Greek deputy minister for the  environment, Theodoros Koliopanos, announced that all experimental plantings of GMOs presently pending in Greece had been  rejected. Among other EU governments, Austria has still not allowed any GM trials to take place.

Cancer link with Monsanto's GM crop herbicide

In Sweden cancer researchers have linked agrochemicals to one of the most rapidly increasing cancers in the Western world, non-Hodgkins lymphoma - which has risen by 73% in the USA since 1973. This, research suggests, is probably caused by several commonly used crop sprays including glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide 'Roundup'. The Lund University Hospital has found that sufferers of the disease were  2.3 times more likely to have had contact with glyphosate.

An article in New Scientist points out, "Use of [glyphosate] sold as Round-Up by the US firm Monsanto, is expected to rocket with the introduction of crops such as Roundup-Ready soya beans that are genetically modified to resist glyphosate. The researchers suggest that the chemicals have suppressed the patients' immunity, allowing viruses such as Epstein-Barr to trigger cancer."

EU scientists warn against GM growth hormone

On March 21 an official scientific advisory panel in the EU recommended a continuation of Europe's ban on Monsanto's controversial recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH or rBST), a GM hormone injected into 5% of dairy cows in the US to force them to give more milk. The panel warned that the milk from cows injected with rBGH contains up to 4-5 times the levels of a potent chemical hormone messenger called IGF-1, which has been linked to increased human risks for prostate, breast, and colon cancer. An EU report has also thrown up serious animal-welfare concerns linked to the genetically engineered hormone.

Rotterdam Soya Bean Fest  predicted

On March 11th 1999  the Church of Scotland issued a five-year study in which they condemned the "unethical" practices of US and transnational biotech corporations. Donald Bruce, Church spokesman, stated in the Aberdeen Press and Journal: "There is indignation from people that they are not being given a choice. It smacks of imperialism - but instead of a Boston Tea Party, this time we could have a Rotterdam Soya Bean Fest with soya and maize dumped into the North Sea."

Entomoligists warn GE crops harming beneficial species

At an international meeting of entomologists (scientists who study insects) in Basel Switzerland in March, experts warned that genetically engineered (GE) Bt crops are exuding 10-20 times the amount of toxins contained in conventional (non-GE) Bt sprays, and are harming beneficial insects (such as ladybugs/ladybirds and lacewings) and soil microorganisms, and could well be harming insect-eating bird populations. The scientists called for a moratorium on commercial planting of Bt crops. Worldwide in 1998 there were 19.3 million acres of Bt crops under cultivation (representing 28% of all GE crops), including 45% of the US cotton crop, 25% of the corn, and 3.5% of the potatoes.  Silent Spring poem

Europe wide consortium to source GM-free food

A Europe-wide consortium of food producers has been established in an unprecedented move to source non GM-food, in particular soya, and to offer "a non-GM guarantee." This move by European food retail chains to eliminate GM ingredients and additives from their own-brand food products has been desribed as of "major significance" by the European Union (EU) supermarket association Eurocommerce (March 22nd 1999). Fernanda Fau of Eurocommerce was speaking after the announcement by seven supermarket chains. The consortium will include farmers and processors committed to offering GM free ingredients. The group includes the French hypermarket chain Carrefour, Superquinn of Ireland, Effelunga of Italy, Migros of Switzerland, Delhaiz of Belgium and UK food chains Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer. The powerful buying power generated by the group - including some of the biggest retailers in France, Italy and Ireland - will be used to break the stranglehold of US GM-soya producers.

"Stop developing GM crops!" - Korean Protest

In early March 1999 Korean students and environmental activists organized a  direct action against  the irresponsible  use  of  gene technology, at the center of Korean agricultural biotechnology -  the 
National Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology (NIAST).  NIAST, funded  by the Korean Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), proclaims itself to be the key research institute responsible for the development of sustainable agricultural technologies that are environmentally friendly. However, it was revealed  last year that NIAST  had secretly carried out the field  trials of GM crops even though Korea did not have any legislations regarding the release of GMOs into the environment. The protesters occupied and blockaded the greenhouse at the NIAST, where the  field trials of GM crops were being conducted. 

Brazilian state seeks GM-soy ban

During the Biosafety Protocol  negotiations - see below - Brazil was not among the small 'Miami' group of nations (Canada, Argentina, Australia, Chile and Uruguay) which supported U.S. interests against developing countries and so wrecked the talks. On Feb. 22nd 1999,  the Agricultural Secretary of Brazil's second-largest soybean-producing state, Rio Grande do Sul, Jose Hermeto Hoffamann, was cited as saying the state is trying to ban the planting of genetically modified soybeans, adding, "We have decided that they should be prohibited. What we are doing now is looking into the ways that this legally can be done." The government wants to respect the wishes of producers in Rio Grande do Sul, who fear that they, like American farmers,  may lose significant sales in European markets with the introduction of Roundup Ready soybeans.

Biodiversity Convention wrecked by U.S.

The 170 nations at the UN Biodiversity Convention in Colombia failed to agree on international rules for the safe trade in genetically modified (GM) food after a final round of talks on 24th February 1998. Delegates
decided to "postpone" the adoption of an agreement to protect biodiversity because talks could not resolve disagreements between countries which produce genetically altered foods and the rest of the world.

Their aim had been a legally-binding protocol on reducing the risks of cross-border movement of GMOs . The United States, which has not ratified the convention but was in Cartagena as an observer, used that restricted status to orchestrate a refusal to allow the meeting to include commodities like soya beans and corn in the negotiations. The two crops make up 90% of the world trade in GMOs. The U.S and its supporters - Canada, Argentina, Australia, Chile and Uruguay - did not want a  global agreement that would allow a country to stop the import of GMOs. If individual states do refuse, they will be liable to challenge at the World Trade Organisation where the U.S. has immense influence.  Developing countries had engaged in the† Biosafety Protocol negotiations with the aim of using the Protocol to† help them in developing domestic laws and regulatory frameworks for† biosafety. Many developing countries do not yet have biosafety laws in†place and will now be vulnerable to being swamped by the export of GMOs.

"Biotech companies are very keen to push genetically engineered organisms and products on the South. But the threats posed by the technology to the environment, health and livelihoods of farmers are too high in the midst of great uncertainties and absence of regulatory rules," according to Chee Yoke Ling, an environmental lawyer and member of the Independent Group of Scientific and Legal Experts on Biosafety.

Greenpeace accused  the Americans of threatening biodiversity in the name of profit. Greenpeace's political adviser, Louise Gale, said: "The U.S. has attempted to terminate the Biosafety Protocol. It seems that the U.S, driven by the commercial interests of companies such as Monsanto, is willing to threaten the world's biodiversity and forego any international safeguards on the trade in GMOs."

The biotech companies welcomed the collapse of the negotiations.

India's supreme court stops GM trials

On February 23rd 1999 India's highest court banned field trials of GM cotton "in the interim before a final ruling". The petition to the court was filed by Dr Vandana Shiva and others. The GM cotton in question has been altered by Monsanto to incorporate the bacterium bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), an insecticide. The Petitioners are also seeking a moratorium on trials of the genetically engineered cotton for three to five years unless biosafety regulations are in place and until the ecological risk assessment has been carried out on a scientifically sound basis. Dr. Shiva is a well known environmental campaigner whose  particular focus is biodiversity, the variety of earth's plant and animal life. She is especially concerned about international agreements allowing organizations to patent and have exclusive access to plants, seeds, and other natural resources not previously considered property. This has been termed biopiracy - see below.

U.S. lawsuit over GM crops

In the U.S. on February 18th 1999  an international coalition of public interest organizations, led by attorneys from the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. to have all Bt
crops taken off of the market because of the hazards they pose to the environment and public health. 

European parliament supports strict liability for biotech companies

On February 13th the EU rejected Monsanto's request to grow Roundup Ready and Bollgard Bt cotton plants
in Europe. On 11th February 1999 the European Parliament, meeting in plenary session, voted to impose strict corporate liability and mandatory insurance on companies that release genetically modified organisms into the environment and for much stronger rules to be applied on the segregation and labelling of GM foods. MEPs also voted in favour of prohibiting GMOs containing any antibiotic-resistant genes or traces of toxic 
substances.  The Parliament also demanded stricter measures for the prevention of gene transfers from GMOs to other crops or wild species. 

World's third largest retailer bans GM

France's Carrefour supermarket chain, the world's third-largest retailer, announced in February 1999 that it will take all genetically modified food products off its shelves, citing scientific uncertainties and French public opinion. The decision affects about a third food products the retailer sells under the Carrefour brand at its hypermarkets. Amongst other measures Carrefour will systematically test to make sure its products don't contain GMOs. In a move set to shake the European food industry, Carrefour said: "Experts world-wide are divided on the risks posed by the spread and release of GMO's for both consumer health and the environment. Many questions are still unanswered...For the first time man is crossing barriers between species. It seems impossible to us, at the present level of knowledge, to be able to measure the long term consequences. The lack of transparency which surrounds GMOs is contrary to our principle of traceability." 

New patents for Terminator seeds threaten farmers and food security 

The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) announced at the end of January 1999 that 
it has uncovered over three dozen new patents describing a wide range of techniques that can be used for genetic sterilization of plants and seeds. The disclosure follows on the heels of the Terminator patent, jointly owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a Monsanto subsidiary, which continues to generate worldwide protest and debate because it renders farm-saved seed sterile and forces farmers to buy commercial seed every year. A second form of "suicide seed" technology being developed by Zeneca, and nicknamed the Verminator, was also known about but according to RAFI, every major seed and agrochemical enterprise is now developing its own version of Terminator seeds or have seed technologies that could easily be turned into Terminators. 

"These technologies are extremely dangerous," explains Pat Mooney of  RAFI, "because over 1.4 billion farmers -- primarily poor farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America -- depend on farm-saved seed as their primary seed source. If they can't save seed, they can't continue to adapt crops to their unique farming environments, and that spells disaster for global food security."  To join the campaign of protest against the Terminator technology go to the "Monsanto and Terminator' section of ngin's links page.

Biopiracy worth $66 billion to U.S. economy

A statement on biodiversity issued by the 'OneWorld' organisation on  February 1, 1999 quotes the Indian physicist and environmentalist  Dr Vandana Shiva as saying, "The total contribution of  wild  genetic resources to the U.S.economy has been estimated at $66  billion. Little, if any, of this goes back to the peoples who have been safeguarding and sustainably using those wild resources for centuries."

Dutch research shows genes could jump to bacteria in gut

According to the New Scientist, January 1999, fears that genes for antibiotic resistance could jump from GM foods to bacteria in the gut are being fuelled by new research from theNetherlands. The results show that DNA lingers in the intestine, and confirm that genetically modified bacteria can transfer their antibiotic- resistance genes to bacteria in the gut. Using an "artificial gut", the Dutch researchers at the State Institute for Quality Control of Agricultural Products in Wageningen showed that DNA remains intact for several minutes in the large intestine. It had been claimed previously that DNA breaks down very quickly reducing the risk of genes introduced into edible crops migrating into gut bacteria.

Canada rejects Monsanto's controversial dairy hormone rBGH

Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH also known as rBST), has finally been rejected in Canada by an independent committee of scientists who decided the risks posed to cows were simply too great. "It's a decision that's based on more than nine years of comprehensive review," Joel Weiner, an acting director with the Health Protection Branch, said on the 13th January 1998. "When we take the findings of the animal safety committee and combine them with our own assessment, it's pretty clear we have to reject the request for approval to use rBST in Canada." For more on the rBGH controversy, see below.

NEWS OF '98(find out about this picture)

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