Per un Mondo OGM FREE- RASSEGNA WEB
October 16, 2003 05:34
Dear News Update Subscribers,
On Thursday, The Royal Society in the United Kingdom released their
long-awaited report on the environmental effects of genetically
The report was made up of eight lengthy papers printed in the journal
"Philosophical Transactions Of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences."
As anticipated from leaks over the past few weeks, the report shows that
genetically engineered rapeseed (also known as canola) and sugar beet
are harmful to the environment.
Genetically engineered corn (also know as maize) was reported to be less
harmful to the environment than regular corn. However, there is
speculation that the corn field tests were not accurate because the
neighboring fields were sprayed with a highly toxic chemical named
Atrazine. Many countries in Europe have banned Atrazine including
France. So the insects may have found the genetically engineered corn to
be favorable to the more toxic neighboring corn fields sprayed with
Posted below are two articles about the new report. The first article is
from Reuters called "Trials show two GM crops harm environment." The
second article from the BBC is titled "GM trials give mixed results."
The Campaign has set up a special web page where you can read the
lengthy Press Release from The Royal Society and access all eight
In related news, Monsanto announced on Wednesday that they are closing
their European cereal business headquarters. Posted below are two
articles on this development. The first from The Guardian is titled
"Monsanto to quit Europe." The second is from The Independent titled
"Crops giant retreats from Europe ahead of GM report."
- LONDON (Reuters) - Field trials into the effects of
genetically modified crops on their local environment have shown that
GMO rapeseed and sugar beet are more harmful to wildlife than
conventionally grown plants, scientists say.
In contrast, some groups of wildlife fared better in fields grown GM
maize, the scientists said.
"Growing conventional beet and spring rape was better for many groups of
wildlife than growing GM herbicide-tolerant beet and spring rape," the
scientists concluded in a report published on Thursday.
"Some insect groups, such as bees and butterflies, were recorded more
frequently in and around the conventional crops because there were more
weeds to provide food and cover," they said.
But in GM maize fields, local wildlife was much less affected,
"There were more weeds in and around the GM herbicide-tolerant maize
crops, more butterflies and bees around at certain times of the year,
and more weed seeds," the Scientific Steering Committee said after more
than three years of testing.
The results of world's largest-ever experiment into the effects of
transgenic crops on local ecology, laid out over eight peer-reviewed
papers, should bring the government a step closer to a decision on
whether or not to give the go-ahead for commercial plantings.
It is expected to make up its mind later this year or early in 2004.
- GM trials give mixed results
BBC NEWS Thursday, 16 October, 2003
The biggest environmental-impact study of genetically modified crops
conducted anywhere in the world has produced largely mixed results.
Scientists tested three biotech crops and found the cultivation of two -
an oilseed rape and a beet crop - to be more harmful to many groups of
wildlife than their conventional equivalents.
The production of a third biotech plant - a maize - was shown to be
kinder to other plants and animals than the normal crop.
The results of the trials will be used by the UK Government, along with
other information, to make a decision on whether or not to allow the
engineered plants to be commercialised in the country.
The outcome of the £6m three-year study conducted at some 60 sites
across Britain was reported on Thursday in eight lengthy papers in the
journal Philosophical Transactions Of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences.
The head of the research team, Dr Les Firbank, said: "The results are
clearly important to the debate about the possible commercialisation of GM crops.
"But, they also give us new insights that will help us conserve
biodiversity within productive farming systems."
The so-called farm-scale evaluations (FSEs) set out to look at a narrow
set of issues related to the impact on the environment of
herbicide-tolerant GM crops.
These plants can be sprayed with a particular weedkiller and still
prosper while other "pest" plants in the field are killed.
The FSEs tested the idea that the alternative management practices
involved in the production of these crops would make no difference to
biodiversity in the field.
The scientists' work rejects this.
They grew the GM plants and their conventional equivalents side by side,
and then observed the wildlife in among the crops and at the field margins.
Birds and bees
The FSEs showed that some insect groups, such as bees (in beet crops)
and butterflies (in beet and rape), were recorded more frequently in and
around the conventional crops because there were more weeds to provide
food and cover.
There were also more weed seeds in conventional beet and rape crops than
in their GM counterparts.
Such seeds are important in the diets of some animals, particularly some
birds. However some groups of soil insects were found in greater numbers
in the GM beet and rape crops.
In contrast, growing GM maize was better for many groups of wildlife
than conventional maize. There were more weeds in and around the biotech
maize crops, more butterflies and bees around at certain times of the
year, and more weed seeds.
"The results of these Farm-Scale Evaluations reveal significant
differences in the effect on biodiversity when managing genetically
herbicide-tolerant crops as compared to conventional varieties," Dr Firbank said.
"One of the key points to remember is that the results are only
applicable to the three crops studied, and only under the regimes of
herbicide usage which were employed."
The trials, which tested GM oilseed rape and maize produced by Bayer
CropScience, the UK arm of German biotech giant Bayer BAYG.DE AG, and
sugar beet made by US agrochemicals producer Monsanto, did not
investigate the plants' impact on human health.
Neither have the trials looked at how GM traits might flow into the
wider environment through pollen spread - although another team will
report on this at a later date.
There were protests against the FSEs, and crops in some trial fields
were pulled up.
The trial results will now be assessed by Acre (Advisory Committee on
Releases to the Environment), the agency that will advise the government
on their implications.
A decision by ministers on whether to commercialise the crops could come
later this year, or early in 2004.
The rape tested was a spring variety. A winter rape is also being
investigated and the results of its evaluation will be published next
Monsanto to quit Europe
Paul Brown and Mark Oliver Thursday October 16, 2003
Monsanto, the world's largest GM seed company, is pulling out of the
European cereal business in a surprise move that raised hopes of victory
among anti-GM campaigners.
The firm, the American pioneer of GM, confirmed yesterday that it is to
close European cereal business headquarters at Trumpington,
Cambridgeshire, which employs 125 people.
The decision follows the failure to introduce genetically modified
hybrid wheat to Europe, and the company has decided to cut costs.
Monsanto bought the business from Unilever in 1998 at a time of high
optimism for GM, when wheat was considered the big money spinner.
The company said yesterday that the growth in hybrid wheat had "failed
Jeff Cox, Monsanto's general manager, said: "We've made great progress
over the past few years in realigning the cereals business to make it
more competitive in a much tougher European seed market.
"Our lack of success in hybrids means this is no longer a good strategic
fit for Monsanto."
The company is reorganising its UK herbicide oil seed rape operations.
Breeding stations in France, Germany and the Czech Republic will also be
Monsanto announced its decision on the eve of today's publication of the
results of the government's farm-scale evaluations of GM crops.
A mixed verdict on the technology is anticipated in what is being seen
as a crucial part of the government's research into whether to allow
commercial GM crops.
It also follows last month's confirmation of unease among the public
when the widest formal public debate ever conducted in Britain found
that an overwhelming percentage of people were uneasy, suspicious or
hostile to GM crops.
More than 650 public meetings were held around the country and about
37,000 people responded to questionnaires, with 54% saying they never
want to see GM crops grown in the UK.
Pete Riley, of Friends of the Earth, said the firm was "pulling out
after five years with no products to show and no test sites for Monsanto
GM cereals in Britain this year."
- Crops giant retreats from Europe ahead of GM report
By Steve Connor, Science Editor 16 October 2003
The Independent (UK)
Monsanto, the huge American biotechnology company which has pioneered GM
crops, is withdrawing from many of its European operations and laying
off up to two thirds of its British workers.
The announcement came on the eve of the publication of the Government's
GM crop trials today.Tony Blair is thought to be in favour of GM crops,
stressing the need for Britain to be in the vanguard of new industries
that could be worth billions of pounds.
But ministers will be under pressure to limit, or scrap, further
development of GM crops in the face of public opposition. One industry
insider said the international biotechnology business was becoming
disillusioned with Europe's anti-GM stance.
"If there's no market for something, you go elsewhere," he said. "The
big companies are looking to China, South-east Asia and South America."
Monsanto said its decision to pull out of conventional cereal crops in
Europe was not related to the continent's moratorium on commercial
growing of GM crops. But a spokeswoman added: "Monsanto is obviously
frustrated by the amount of time it has taken for GM crops to be
accepted in Europe, but this decision is part of a much bigger global realignment."
Monsanto said it was closing its multimillion-pound research centre in
Cambridge with the loss of up to 80 highly skilled jobs.
Employees heard of the decision for the first time yesterday afternoon
even though the plan had been circulating among analysts outside the
company earlier this week.
On Tuesday, a company spokesman denied there was any intention to close
some British operations. But 24 hours later Monsanto confirmed that it
was to shut its European cereals business. "This results from a
strategic decision ... to realign the company's core businesses in order
to focus on those projects that will best capitalise on its market and
technological strengths," a spokesman said.
Today the results of the Government's farm-scale trials of three GM
crops will be released. These could give European governments the
ammunition to ban the commercial growing of some varieties if they can
be shown to damage the environment.
Last month, a test of public opinion in Britain found that the majority
of people did not want GM food in their supermarkets. In a series of
questions that formed part of the "GM Nation" debate, 85 per cent of
respondents said they believed GM crops would benefit producers rather
than consumers, 86 per cent said they were unhappy with the idea of
eating GM food, 91 per cent said they thought GM crops had a potentially
negative effect on the countryside and 93 per cent said GM was being
driven by profit rather than public interest.
Monsanto said its closure could affect up to 80 of its 125 British
employees, who mostly work on the breeding of conventional varieties of
winter wheat, spring wheat and spring barley. Crop breeding centres in
France, Germany and the Czech Republic will also be hit by the cutbacks.
Monsanto said it was reducing its global workforce of 13,200 by between
7 and 9 per cent, but the precise number of jobs lost in Britain would
not be announced until the end of the 90-day consultation period
required by law. Jeff Cox, Monsanto's UK general manager, said the company hoped to find
a buyer for its conventional cereals business which could save some of the jobs.
"Monsanto will remain in the UK as a streamlined crop protection and
oilseed rape business, with our flagship plant protection product -
Roundup - continuing to lead the market," Mr Cox said.
ABANDONS PHARM CROPS
The New York Times,
According to an article in Thursday's edition of The New York Times,
Monsanto is "abandoning efforts to produce pharmaceuticals in
genetically engineered crops..."
Monsanto claims this move was "purely a business decision" and had
nothing to do over the controversy over these crops.
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods has stated repeatedly
that if the biotech industry moves forward with the commercial
development of pharmaceutical drugs in corn, it is only a matter of time
before the food supply gets contaminated with drugs.
Several studies have recently documented how easy genes move around
in the environment. Perhaps Monsanto finally realized that if genes from
their pharmaceutical crops got into the food supply, it could be devastating
for the company?
The New York Times article titled "Monsanto Overhauling Businesses" is
NEW SURVEY SHOWS 94% OF U.S. WANTS LABELING
One of the most detailed surveys on genetically engineered foods ever
produced was released on Wednesday. It contains some shocking statistics
indicating how little the American public knows about genetically
The research project was conducted by the Food Policy Institute in
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. It was funded by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. The study reflects a telephone survey of
1,200 randomly selected people. A previous study was conducted by the
Food Policy Institute in 2001.
Some of the findings include:
* When asked directly, the vast majority of Americans (94%) agree that
GM ingredients should be labeled as such, a 4% increase from 2001.
* Only half of the respondents (52%) were aware that genetically
modified food products are currently for sale in supermarkets.
* Despite the prevalence of such foods, only one-quarter of Americans
believe that they have eaten them.
* Forty-three percent had heard or read "not much" or "nothing at all"
about genetic engineering or biotechnology, while 45% had heard or read
"some." Only 12% had heard or read a "great deal" about it.
* When asked how often they discuss the topic of biotechnology or
genetic modification, almost two-thirds (62%) of the respondents
reported that they had never discussed it at all. Of the 38% who
reported having at least one conversation about biotechnology, 89% had
discussed it "occasionally" or "only once or twice," while only 11% of
this group had discussed it "frequently." Overall, only 20% of the
entire sample had a conversation about the topic more than once or twice.
* Reactions to the technology depends on what it is called. The term
biotechnology evokes the most positive responses, while genetic
modification is perceived most negatively and genetic engineering is
most often associated with cloning.
We have posted the entire 32-page report titled "Public Perceptions of
Genetically Modified Foods: A National Study of American Knowledge and
Opinion" on our web site. It is a rather large PDF document, so it may
take a minute or two to load, depending on your Internet connection
Posted below is an article about the survey from Reuters titled
"Most US consumers unaware of GM crops in food-study."
Monsanto Overhauling Businesses
By ANDREW POLLACK
The New York Times October 16, 2003
Monsanto, the world's leading agricultural biotechnology company, says
it is abandoning efforts to produce pharmaceuticals in genetically
engineered crops to focus on businesses that could pay off sooner.
The company, based in St. Louis, said that its decision was not related
to the controversy that has surrounded such efforts. Rather, it said,
the move was part of a broader overhaul announced yesterday that would
result in layoffs of 7 to 9 percent of its work force, or as many as 1,200 people.
Scientists are experimenting with putting genes into plants that cause
the plants to produce proteins for use as drugs, like growth hormone or
various monoclonal antibodies. This approach, called pharming or
biopharming, is not done commercially yet but may prove to be cheaper
than the current method of producing such drugs in genetically modified
animal cells grown in vats.
Pharming has attracted opposition not only from the environmental groups
that usually oppose genetically modified foods, but from food companies,
which worry that pharmaceutical-containing corn might wind up in corn
flakes, forcing product recalls and undermining public confidence in the
safety of the food supply.
Such concerns were stoked by a couple of incidents last year in which
pharmaceutical-containing corn developed by ProdiGene, a small biotech
company, intermingled with food crops, though the problem was discovered
before any of the food was eaten. Regulations have since been tightened
in a way that could make it more difficult to grow pharmaceutical-containing corn
- the crop Monsanto was concentrating on- in the Corn Belt.
In a conference call with analysts yesterday, Hugh Grant, the chief
executive, said that the decision was based on the "uncertainty of the
longer-term reward from a highly capital-intensive business." He said
the company was trimming research and development spending and focusing
on projects that had a nearer-term payoff.
Bryan W. Hurley, a spokesman for Monsanto, said in a subsequent
interview that the move was "purely a business decision" unrelated to
the controversy. The company's plant-based pharmaceutical division,
known as Monsanto Protein Technologies, employed about 70 people.
Monsanto remains committed to genetically modified crops, he said. The
company is suffering from generic competition to its Roundup herbicide
and is focusing more than ever on seeds and biotechnology.
The company said yesterday that it would trim its work force, largely in
the agricultural chemical business. It also said that it would exit the
European breeding and seed business for wheat and barley, though it will
continue to develop genetically engineered wheat resistant to its
It announced a loss for its fourth quarter of $188 million, or 72 cents
a share, largely because of a settlement of a lawsuit tied to
decades-old pollution in Alabama. Revenue rose 10 percent, to $1.31 billion.
Most US consumers unaware of GM crops in food-study
By Randy Fabi, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Despite the omnipresence of biotechnology in U.S.
agriculture, the vast majority of Americans believe they have never
eaten genetically modified food and want them labeled, said a
government-sponsored study released Wednesday.
A study by Rutgers' Cook College found most Americans know very little
about GM food, and that only 26 percent believe they have ever eaten
such products. About 80 percent of processed food in the United States
contain some GM ingredients, mostly corn or soybean products.
"Most Americans have no idea that foods with genetically modified
ingredients are already for sale in the United States," said William
Hallman, lead author of the study. "But bottom line, if you eat
processed foods, you're probably eating GM ingredients."
About 80 percent of this year's U.S. soybean crop and 40 percent of the
corn crop were from GM seed.
The United States is the world's largest producer of crops that are
genetically modified to make them resistant to pests, or to withstand
herbicides used to kill nearby weeds.
But the United States does not require labels on GM food, which could be
one reason for the scant consumer knowledge, the study said.
Funded by the U.S. Agriculture Department, the study reflects a
telephone survey of 1,200 randomly selected people.
About 94 percent said they would want GM food to be labeled, the study
However, the authors said the respondents' position on GM food labeling
were unclear. Before being asked about their opinions on GM foods, most
respondents said no additional information on food labels were necessary.
"Most Americans have yet to firmly make up their minds about GM foods.
This has not changed from two years ago," the study said.
Although consumer awareness in the United States remains low relative to
the 2001 survey, the study said Americans know more about GM foods than
Europeans -- one of the most vocal opponents of the technology.
Cloned meat a step nearer US menus
Food agency gives the all clear, but it will be years before test-tube animals are cheap enough to eat Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington Saturday November 1, 2003
America moved a step closer to serving meat and milk from cloned animals or their progeny yesterday when the government's food regulation agency said they would be as safe to eat as conventional foods. The risk assessment by the FDA concluded that adult barnyard clones - cattle, sheep, goats and pigs - are virtually indistinguishable from traditionally bred livestock.
"The finding means that food products derived from animal clones are likely to be as safe as corresponding products from non-clones, or as safe as foods that we eat everyday," the study says. It does not address animal welfare, environmental safety, or ethical questions.
A summary of the 300-page study on the FDA website minimises the impact of cloning on animal health, although it points out that clones tend to be oversized at birth and suffer health problems in infancy.
It said the existing food regulations would ensure that malformed and unhealthy clones did not reach the slaughterhouse or milking shed.
Therefore, the study concluded, the only potential hazard that could arise would be clones which appeared outwardly normal but carried physical anomalies. The assessment falls in line with the prevailing view in the scientific establishment in America, and was guided by a study by the National Academies of Science which arrived at a nearly identical conclusion last year.
"As a member of the [NAS] committee, it was my recollection that no one on the committee had any concerns about the consumption of food from cloned animals," said Michael Roberts, an animal scientist at the University of Missouri. "There were no substantial concerns resulting from consumption of cloned animals as long as those animals were not genetically modified."
Yesterday's announcement does not mean that Americans will be pouring cloned milk over their cornflakes in the immediate future. Following the study's release, the FDA is beginning 60 days of public consultation on animal clones. It has yet to contemplate the rules for marketing clone products. But the study does hasten the day when it will free farmers from a two-year voluntary ban on the sale of products of cloned animals: meat, milk, genetic material and offspring.
The move has been impatiently awaited by US breeders who have been freezing the embryos and sperm of clones and their offspring for more than a year, with a view to selling elite specimens.
Meanwhile, the products of clones are simply too
expensive to eat.
"The farmer is spending $15,000 or $20,000 for an animal, so he is not going to turn it into tenderloin," said Kim Waddell, scientific director of the NAS study.
He predicts that it would be a couple of barnyard generations before clones entered the food market.
Nevertheless, the study could prompt a debate about food and animal safety in the US, where people have been largely indifferent to genetically modified foods - or at least that is the hope of environmental campaigners.
"I think they have realised that consumers are going to be concerned at this issue, and there is probably widescale public resistance to eating products of cloned animal," says Joe Mendelson, the legal director of the Centre for Food Safety, which is opposed to cloned food products.
But that would need Americans to reconsider their attitude towards biotechnology and food.
As much as 80% of their processed food is believed to contain a component from a genetically modified crop: there are no labelling requirements to confirm or confound the belief.
Only 52% of Americans are even aware that genetically modified food products are sold by their local supermarkets, according to an opinion poll two weeks ago from the Food Policy Institute at Rutgers University.
Only 41% are in favour of GM food. It also found that only 27% of Americans approved of animal-based GM food.
7 NOV 03
Dear News Update Subscribers,
On Monday, the 15 nations that make up the European Union (EU) may vote
on whether or not to allow a particular variety of genetically engineered corn
to be sold.
This vote is considered important because it is the first attempt to
remove the ban on genetically engineered foods since the EU passed their
new comprehensive labeling legislation. The vote may be postponed until
December or January if the EU Commission feels the outcome of the vote
would be to reject the genetically engineered corn.
The corn being considered is from Syngenta and would be sold in a can.
It is unlikely that many grocery stores would stock it since there is a
lot of consumer opposition to genetically engineered foods in Europe.
The bigger question is whether the EU will allow genetically engineered
crops to be commerically grown in Europe. That won't be considered until
Posted below are four articles that discuss the developments in Europe
from several different perspectives.
A e first article is titled "EU prepares for test vote on five-year GMO ban."
B The second is titled "EU D-Day looms over GMO ban, consumers still wary."
C The third article is titled "Austrian region to go to court for GMO-free zone."
And the fourth article is titled "Canadian
growers warn UK farmers of GMO crop risks."
EU prepares for test vote on five-year GMO ban
By Jeremy Smith, Reuters
BRUSSELS, Nov 7 (Reuters) - A bitter transatlantic trade row over
gene-spliced crops may be nearing its end as the European Union
considers ending a five-year ban on biotech products -- due to a type of
Representatives of the bloc's 15 member states meet on Monday to discuss
whether to approve a genetically modified (GM) sweetcorn variety,
despite continued consumer scepticism about the controversial
If they vote 'yes', the EU's unofficial blockade on new GM imports would
end, clearing the way for a range of GM products and pleasing key EU
trade partners like the pro-biotech United States.
But even if the EU lifts its ban next week, farmers have many months to
wait before getting a green light to plant biotech crops: the acid test
of whether the EU moratorium is over, diplomats say.
Farmers would then have to convince overwhelmingly sceptical consumers
to buy their GM produce, taking the economic gamble of sowing some of
their land with biotech, not conventional, seeds.
European consumer opposition to GM produce, estimated at more than 70
percent, still deters many supermarkets from stocking gene-spliced
foods. Many retailers say they have no reason to offer more for sale
until they see a rise in demand.
But while a 'yes' vote would be a watershed for GM imports for use in
food production, another battle lies ahead: when EU governments are
asked to authorise live genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that can
be planted and grown in Europe's fields.
"Given that this is a food that we are looking at, it is different. It's
the least contentious. There isn't a direct crossover (with live GMOs),"
one EU diplomat said.
"Some might say the moratorium is lifted (with an approval). But until
we get a live GMO for planting, it will be difficult to draw anything
from the debate. It's far from the endgame."
DEBATE, MAYBE A VOTE
The discussion to be held by one of the EU's myriad specialist
committees will address Bt-11 maize, marketed by Swiss agrochemicals
giant Syngenta. This is a food product to be eaten straight from the
can, and not for planting.
The dossier has been ready for months, and the EU's executive Commission
has been waiting for the right moment to test its view of EU country
voting loyalties. If approved, retailers would not be able to sell Bt-11
maize until mid-April.
Whether there is a vote on Monday or not will depend on which way the
mood of the debate is running. If the Commission senses opposition to an
approval, it is likely to postpone a vote until the committee's next
meeting in December or January.
"The Commission will certainly not propose a vote if it feels there is
too much concern or if they may get a negative vote," said Eric Gall of
environmental group Greenpeace.
"But they want to show the U.S. they are trying hard to approve new GM
products," he said. Farmers in the United States say the ban costs them
millions of dollars a year in lost sales.
The United States, along with Canada and Argentina, has challenged the
EU's de facto ban at the World Trade Organisation, saying the EU is
The ban was triggered when a handful of EU countries said in 1998 they
would refuse new GMO authorisations until there were stricter laws on
testing and labelling.
If these countries are out-voted on Monday, it could at least lend some
political momentum to the Commission's drive to reopen the whole GMO
approvals process, diplomats said.
D-Day looms over GMO ban, consumers still wary."
EU D-Day looms over GMO ban, consumers still wary
By Aine Gallagher, Reuters
BRUSSELS, Nov 5 (Reuters) - For five years, the European Union has been
in legal limbo over genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
It hit the panic button in 1998 as public opposition to biotechnology
exploded, calling a halt to trade in biotech products.
Green activists hogged the headlines, destroying fields planted with
what they dubbed "Frankenstein foods," while consumers baulked at buying
genetically modified foods in supermarkets across Europe.
But the period of grace is fast coming to an end.
The European Commission, the EU's executive, says it could be asking
member states to vote on introducing new genetically modified crops and
food products by the end of the year.
"It could be as early as November," said an official.
In just a few weeks, the 15-nation bloc could be faced with a major
political decision -- whether or not to banish the ban and give new GM
varieties the green light.
The EU is under intense international pressure as the pro-biotech United
States is challenging the ban in the World Trade Organisation.
EU officials have indicated that member states could vote first on
allowing imports of two new types of GM maize for use in food
production, though the formal agenda has yet to be set.
Green groups say a 'yes' vote would find favour with the United States,
where maize farmers are the most vocal critics of the EU ban and claim
that the closed European market costs them nearly $300 million a year in
Five EU states -- France, Greece, Luxembourg, Italy and Denmark --
triggered the unofficial ban in 1998 by refusing to endorse any new GM
This meant that no new GMOs pending approval could be imported or grown
in the EU. Joined later by Austria, Belgium and Germany, the group of
GM-sceptic states dictated events.
They insisted that the ban had to remain until the EU agreed tough rules
on planting GM crops and ensured the traceability and labelling of all
GM food and feed.
Consumer champions, they said it was vital to give the wary European
public the choice between GM and non-GM products on supermarket shelves.
FINAL PIECES IN PUZZLE?
The Commission says all the major pieces in the GMO puzzle are now in place.
Rules for growing GM plants are already in operation, while legislation
for labelling food and animal feed containing GMOs is now being
rubber-stamped and should apply by early 2004.
Non-biotech food products will be allowed a maximum 0.9 percent
genetically modified organism (GMO) content.
But the Commission plan for agreeing rules on seed purity -- it has
proposed a GMO content of up to 0.7 percent for conventional and organic
seeds -- before the end of 2003 has been dashed due to member state
demands for extra safety checks.
The earliest date for adoption of rules setting the permitted level of
GMO content in seed for organic and conventional crop cultivation is in
the first part of 2004.
Environmentalists say this would be a licence to pollute.
"Without seed purity, it will be impossible to prevent the genetic
contamination of organic and conventional crops," said Mauro Albrizio,
vice president of the European Environmental Bureau.
NOT IN MY BACKYARD
It is increasingly clear that while states may be prepared to allow new
GMO imports for use in food production in the near future, growing
biotech crops on a large scale in Europe's fields is still a long way away.
So far, Spain is the only EU country to grow GM crops commercially.
Simon Barber, director of the plant biotechnology unit at biotech lobby
group Europabio, is pragmatic.
"We should be able to offer products to the marketplace but I don't
think the end is in sight for consumers," he said. "We might have
approval of products but we're not going to see a massive influx. It's
going to be slow and steady."
Farm ministers are currently debating Commission guidelines on limiting
the spread of GMOs from biotech plants to organic and conventional crops
in Europe's fields.
Green groups want GMO-free zones to be created. While Italy and Austria
favour this approach, the Commission has already taken a tough stance.
It threw out a request from the region of upper Austria for a three-year
ban on GM crops in September.
Biotech campaigners fear GM-sceptic states are using the issue to delay
ditching the ban.
The Commission insists that its GMO policy aims to give wary European
consumers enough information to decide for themselves whether or not to
buy GM products.
But the consumer is king and a farmer's decision to grow a GM crop is
made at the supermarket checkout.
According to a Commission survey, more than 70 percent of EU consumers
do not want to buy GM products.
"It's ultimately down to the market," one senior Commission official said.
Austrian region to go to court for GMO-free zone
BRUSSELS, Nov 4 (Reuters) - An Austrian region that wants to declare
itself free of genetically modified (GM) crops said on Tuesday it would
take its fight with the European Commission to court.
"It's David standing up in front of Goliath," Upper-Austria's regional
farm minister Josef Stockinger told a news conference in Brussels. "It's
a very important legal step to bring attention to our concerns."
Upper Austria, which wants to ban its farmers from using the controversial technology,
said it would go to court to challenge the Commission's rejection of its request to create the first GM-free zone in the 15-nation European Union.
The region will lodge a case in the European Court of First Instance,
the EU's lower court based in Luxembourg, officials said.
As the EU nears lifting a five-year de facto ban on most GM crops and
products, countries and regions opposed to biotechnology are
intensifying their efforts to keep the ban in place.
The Austrian region argues that the Commission, the EU's executive arm,
did not properly evaluate the scientific evidence it presented about the
danger GM crops pose to the environment -- threatening wildlife and
The Commission rejected this argument.
"We took the decision based on sound science," a Commission spokesman
said. "If farmers in Upper Austria want to establish a GM-free zone,
we've no problem with that once it's done on a voluntary basis with
freedom of choice."
However, the widespread cultivation of biotech crops in Europe remains a distant prospect
and the EU is concentrating on resuming GM crop imports for use in food production.
The Commission will ask member states to vote next week on introducing a
new type of GM maize -- BT11 GM sweet corn made by Swiss agrochemicals
firm Syngenta .
EU farm ministers are also discussing Commission guidelines on how to
limit the spread of GM organisms from biotech crops to conventional and
Austria and Italy want strict EU rules rather than leaving it up to each
country and region to decide individually the best way to protect
Canadian growers warn UK farmers of GMO crop risks
LONDON, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Canadian farmers with first hand experience
growing genetically modified (GMO) crops say the technology will damage
Britain's booming organic food sector and leave fields strewn with
"super weeds" grown from stray, leftover seeds.
"I took the decision to stop growing GM canola (the Canadian variant of
rapeseed) because it was impossible to stop it spreading to other fields
-- the seeds cling to the machinery and are easily transferred, even
with intensive cleaning," David Bailey, a Saskatchewan-based farmer told
Reuters on Monday.
"My neighbours all had the same problem," he added.
But suppliers of GM seeds say the majority of Canadian growers are not complaining.
"Conservative estimates indicate that 65 percent of the Canadian canola
crop in 2002 was genetically modified. It can only capture this portion
of the market if it offers significant advantages to Canadian farmers,"
a spokesman for the London-based Agriculture Biotechnology Commission
(ABC), which represents major biotech firms like Monsanto, said.
Bailey, who grew herbicide-tolerant rapeseed on around 350 hectares (865
acres) in the late 1990s, said he also found few economic benefits in
growing the gene-spliced variety.
"The only party to profit was the chemical company that charged me a
licence fee," said Bailey, who was invited to Britain to tell local
growers of his experiences by the pro-organic UK Soil Association.
Jim Robbins, a Canadian grower who is converting from conventional to
organic farming and who is also talking with UK farmers this week, said
GMO crops would ruin the livelihoods of organic farmers.
"You can't grow organic canola in Canada anymore, simply because the GM
variety exists," Robbins said.
"The potential problems with GM crops have been well documented in the
UK -- our experiences bear out these concerns."
A group representing 1,000 organic farmers in the Saskatchewan province
has already taken out a class-action suit against two major
manufacturers of GMO crops for making it impossible for them to grow
rapeseed on their land, since they can no longer guarantee that it is GM-free.
GM WHEAT WORRIES GROW
But David Bailey said Canada's farming sector is now facing an even
bigger GM threat, this time from wheat, which U.S. biotech giant
Monsanto is keen to introduce.
"With GM canola, we lost a C$300-400 million (a year) market share
because Europe stopped importing it. If Canada grows GM wheat, we stand
to lose much, much more than that. It will shut off even bigger and more
important markets for us," Bailey said.
Monsanto has been conducting field trials in western Canada to develop
GM "Roundup Ready" wheat for around three years. The plants are
genetically altered to be unaffected when the herbicide "Roundup" is
used on the fields to control weeds.
The U.S. agricultural sciences firm has said it will not move to
commercially release GM wheat until concerns about segregation and
market acceptance are fully addressed, although it still argues that GM
wheat will cut costs and increase yields by simplifying weed control.
The UK government has said it will decide whether GM crops should be
commercially grown in Britain once it has weighed up all the scientific
and economic evidence it has at its disposal, as well as the results of
a recent public consultation.
However, research papers published last month by scientists who carried
out the government's three-year-long GMO crop trials failed to show GMO
crops in a positive light, concluding that two crops were harmful to the
environment, while another was not.
And in two separate studies, UK researchers have found that bees
carrying GM rapeseed pollen had contaminated conventional plants more
than 26 kilometres (16 miles) away and that if farmers grew GM rapeseed
for one season, impurities could stay in the soil for up to 16 years if
not "rigorously controlled."
Britain's public are also highly sceptical of GM crops. There are no GM crops
in the ground in the UK at present and no imminent plantings.
Led by the U.S., GM crops are now grown in more than 16 countries outside Europe.
In 2002, farmers around the world planted 60 million hectares of land
with GM crops.
2) 12 11 03
Dear News Update Subscribers,
The vote on Monday by the European Union (EU) about whether or not to
allow new genetically engineered food to be imported was postponed until
According to a European Commission spokesman, "A fierce discussion took
place today." When asked to predict the outcome of the December vote,
she said, "I can't do that. People do get quite worked up about this."
The first two articles posted below will provide further details on the
meeting that took place on Monday in Brussels.
Articles three and four discuss a recent two-day conference on genetic
engineering held by the Vatican titled "GMO: Threat or Hope."
It appears the Vatican conference was dominated by supporters of
biotechnology. However, there was vocal opposition as the two articles
Postpones Decision on Allowing GM Foods 10.11.2003
http://www.dw-world.de Deutsche Welle
After contentious debate, the European Union has put off decision that
would allow genetically modified sweetcorn to return to store shelves.
The EU is under pressure to end its ban on GM foods, but consumers are
In Brussels on Monday, environmentalists placed a giant inflatable
tomato in front of EU buildings, driving home their message that
genetically modified (GM) foods should have no place on European store
shelves or in farmers' fields. That message got through to members of a
committee studying the possibility of allowing biotech crops into the
EU, who decided more time was needed before making a decision on
authorizing the import of a genetically modified sweetcorn. The
committee postponed the decision until December.
"A fierce discussion took place today," said European Commission
spokesman Reijo Kemppinen, who briefed reporters about the debate that
took place in an EU specialist committee set up to examine giving the
green light to GM foods and crops.
The debate was over whether to allow Bt-11 maize, marketed by the Swiss
agrochemicals company Syngenta, to be imported into the EU as a food
product to be eaten from the can. While a dossier laying out the pros
and cons of importing the maize into Europe has been ready for months,
the EU's executive commission had been waiting for Monday's debate to
see where member countries fall on the issue and to gauge the public
mood concerning the issue.
The mood does not seem to be improving. Surveys show 70 percent of
Europeans oppose GM foods and crops.
An unofficial ban has been in place since 1998, when the EU approved its
last batch of GM food products. The next year, France and Germany led
calls for a de facto moratorium on new GM food approval and won the
backing of several other EU states. They formed a minority block that
has been able to block any vote on a new approval.
But the EU is under pressure from other trading partners, including the
United States, Canada and Argentina, to drop the ban. The U.S. filed a
complaint with the WTO this year, saying the moratorium is illegal and
without any scientific foundation. Farmers in the U.S. say it costs them
millions of dollars a year in lost sales.
For the planned December vote, the European Commission will need a
qualified majority of members states to approve or reject the Bt-11
maize. A 'yes' vote next month would put an end to the unofficial
blockade and clear the way for a variety of new GM products. France is
seen as playing a crucial vote, since Paris was part of the most vocal
anti-GM campaigners. However, it has been softening is opposition to
biotech food over the past several months.
But opposition to GM crops among European consumers continues to run
high. Genetically modified foods are popularly referred to as "Frankenstein
Food" and consumers say they are extremely wary about buying food
products whose genes have been spliced in laboratories. Retailers say
they see no reason to offer more GM foods for sale until demand rises.
Farmers, even those not specifically opposed to biotech crops, are also
reluctant to go the biotech route, since sowing land with GM seeds is an
economic gamble few are willing to take in the current environment.
Others do not trust the science.
"I'm afraid we simply don't have enough information to make the right
decision. I'm also concerned that the tests we have so far are not
conclusive enough to judge the long-term consequences," said Carsten
Fedder, a farmer who chooses to grow a conventional rapeseed crops, even
though several GM varieties have built-in insecticides.
Proponents of GM foods say the fear among consumers is unfounded, since
other countries, namely the U.S., have been growing and eating biotech
crops for years. They point to the many advantages modern genetic
technology can provide, such as maize varieties which flourish even in
the midst of drought or picture-perfect tomatoes that are extremely high
in vitamin content. Scientists are even exploring creating foods that
contain agents that are helpful in preventing diseases like uterine cancer.
"We've basically shown that a potato can produce a vaccine," said Sophie
Biemelt, a researcher the Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant
Research in Gatersleben. "One could imagine one day getting vaccines
from the food you eat."
But such arguments have thus far failed to sway a majority of Europeans.
Farmer Carsten Fedder said he prefers the genetics that nature gave his
potatoes, or the rye that he also grows. If he chose to grow the
generically modified version of the grain, he would have higher yields,
such as American farmers enjoy. Still, Fedder, whose children influence
his views, insists he is not concerned.
"The market here in Europe is large enough, really. As long as it's
protected against genetically modified seeds, our opportunities are
good," he said.
delays vote on lifting bio-engineered food ban
10 November 2003
The European Union postponed Monday a vote on a request to import
genetically-modified (GM) foodstuffs and thus end a five-year ban on
such products, as demanded by the United States and others.
The European Commission announced that a vote will be held in December,
after a number of EU countries sought "clarification" before taking a
decision on the admission of a bio-engineered form of sweetcorn.
The environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the delay. "There is no
benefit from GM tinned sweet corn, only environmental and health
concerns," said Eric Gall of Greenpeace.
"It is not a one month delay that is required but a rejection of this
The bloc's decision is being closely watched by its trade partners,
notably by the United States which claims that the de facto ban violates
global trade rules.
The EU introduced a moratorium on GM foodstuffs in 1999, at the
initiative of five countries -- France, Italy, Greece, Denmark and
Luxembourg, who were later joined by Belgium and Austria.
After political pressure failed, the United States, Canada and Argentina
asked the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in August to rule over the de
facto EU moratorium.
That action came just weeks after the commission introduced two new
directives on GM foodstuffs, which it said would open the way to lifting
the five-year-old moratorium on the import and cultivation of bio-engineered food.
One directive required that foods and animal feed be labelled if they
contain at least 0.9 percent of GM ingredients; the other required that
GM foods' origin can be traced. The two directives passed into EU law in October.
Monday's test involved a commission proposal to allow the import a form
of sweetcorn, known as Bt-11, by Swiss firm Syngenta. The insect- and
herbicide-resistant strain is currently sold in the United States.
Experts from the 15-nation bloc's member states discussed the issue with
the commission in Brussels, but a vote on the issue was put off until
December, said a commission spokesman.
"A short debate took place where member states sought clarifications on
the text," said a spokesman, adding that the vote is expected during the
week beginning December 8.
"It's totally reasonable. They've only just had the first discussion,"
added spokeswoman Beate Gminder. "We obviously want to give people the
opportunity to reflect on this."
Public opinion in Europe remains largely hostile to GM foods.
British field trial data announced last month showed dramatic effects on
wildlife from two of the three GM crops tested. The research came on the
back of a nationwide consultation that revealed high levels of public
mistrust of the technology and its consumer benefits.
Greenpeace urged Brussels to focus on "European consumers, farmers and
the food industry and take action to ban the cultivation of
genetically-modified organisms, for which there is already evidence of
irreversible contamination of our food and of our agriculture.
"It would be a shame to authorise this maize for the sole purpose of
appeasing the US administration and the WTO. Member States should rather
make clear that narrow corporate interests promoted by the WTO will not
be allowed to decide which environmental and health standards the EU
The commission spokeswoman declined to predict the outcome of the
December vote. "I can't do that. People do get quite worked up about
this," she said.
concludes conference on biotech foods with discussion of moral
NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican concluded a two-day conference on
genetically modified organisms Tuesday with a discussion of the moral
implications of tinkering with creation by splicing genes to make new
plants and animals.
Supporters of the new technologies said they offer great promise to
mankind and deserve to be encouraged, while critics said biotech foods
will not alleviate world hunger. The two camps clashed at a
Vatican-sponsored conference entitled "GMO: Threat or Hope."
The Vatican is expected to make a pronouncement on genetically modified
organisms in the future, based on the data gathered during the seminar.
Some participants have questioned whether the Vatican was getting a
balanced view, since speakers in the pro-biotech camp dominated the
discussions, reflecting the views of its organizer, Cardinal Renato Martino.
Martino has spoken out about the potential benefits of genetically
modified foods in alleviating world hunger -- a prime concern of the Vatican.
Martino has said the Vatican's aim was to find some common ground for
the benefit of mankind, particularly the poor.
The issue of poverty and hunger is a major concern for the Vatican,
which rejects arguments that limiting family size by using contraception
is one way to improve food security in the developing world.
But two Jesuits, the Rev. Roland Lesseps and the Rev. Peter Henriot,
said in a joint paper to the conference that endorsing the use of
genetically modified organisms disturbed "the awesome goodness of God's Creation."
Lesseps and Henriot, who both are based in Zambia, said church teachings
requiring respect for human rights and the natural world mandated that
the Vatican take a precautionary approach concerning GMOs.
"Nature is not just useful to us humans, but is valued and loved in
itself, for itself, by God in Christ," Lesseps and Henriot said in prepared remarks.
Lesseps, who has a doctorate, is a senior scientist at the Kasisi
Agricultural Training Center in Lusaka. Henriot is director of the
Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection.
A Vatican endorsement of biotech foods likely would draw praise from the
United States, where biotech companies have been at the forefront of
extolling the virtues of genetically modified organisms, which can be
made to resist insects or disease.
But it would no doubt ruffle feathers in Europe, which has imposed a
moratorium on growing or importing genetically modified organisms
because of fears about their environmental and health risks, and in
African countries such as Zambia, which has rejected biotech food aid.
Greenpeace science adviser Dr. Doreen Stabinsky also challenged
Martino's argument, telling the conference that genetically engineered
crops were not alleviating world hunger and posed environmental risks.
For example, Argentina harvested enough wheat during its 2001 economic
crisis to meet the needs of both China and India, but many of its own
people still went hungry, she said.
"There is no direct relationship between the amount of food a country
produces and the number of hungry people who live there," Stabinsky said
in prepared remarks. Rather, political and economic issues over hundreds of years have
contributed to world hunger, she said. The problem will be solved only
by addressing inequalities in land distribution, improving access to
markets and dealing with cheap imports of staple foods, she said.
Italy's health minister, Girolamo Sirchia, told a press conference that
the technology offers hope to mankind.
"There is no data that shows that transgenic foods are harmful to one's
health," Sirchia said. "Four-fifths of humanity doesn't have enough food
or medicine. Science favors the development of humanity and health."
Dr. Harry Kuiper, a food safety expert at Wageningen University in the
Netherlands, said current methods adequately ensured the safety of
genetically modified foods, even if questions remained about the
"unexpected effects" of modification.
"Scientists and colleagues, we think we have the methods to identify
unexpected effects using new technologies," he said. "And although I
must say there is no 'zero risk' in life -- everything is risky -- we
can provide with our methods a very high level of safety assurance."
Thandiwe Myeni, a small-scale South African farmer and chairwoman of the
Mbuso Farmers' Association, said she had a positive experience with
genetically modified cotton. The genetically modified seeds cost more
than regular ones, but she saves money by using less pesticide and
harvesting bigger crops.
"We need this technology," she told a press conference after speaking to
the symposium. "We don't want always to be fed food aid."
"We want access to this technology so that one day we can also become
priests criticise Vatican GMO conference
ROME, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Organisers of an international Vatican seminar
on genetically modified foods came under fire from their own on Tuesday
when priests from Africa said it should have included more Church
members critical of the crops.
The development seminar, attended by experts from the United States,
Europe, Asia and Africa, was meant to help the Vatican decide whether
GMOs (genetically modified organisms) will get its backing -- a decision
that could affect the views of millions of Catholics.
At a concluding news conference Cardinal Renato Martino, president of
the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, which deals with
development, said the seminar had shown GMOs "should not be abandoned,
even if they still need a lot of cures."
Earlier, two Jesuit priests questioned the make-up of the seminar.
"We are concerned that several voices of Church leaders around the world
are not represented on these panels," they said said in a joint written
They said the assertion that GMO crops would lessen the problem of world
hunger through increased productivity "is open to direct challenge."
The priests were Roland Lesseps, senior scientist at the Kasisi
Agricultural Training Centre in Lusaka, Zambia, and Peter Henriot,
director of Lusaka's Jesuit Centre of Theological Reflection.
Both Americans have worked in Africa for years.
They pointed to recent statements by Church leaders in the Philippines,
Brazil and South Africa, which they said had expressed "deep concerns
based on practical experiences" and were not reflected at the seminar.
In their paper, the priests quoted Pope John Paul, who has said the
world was not ready to assess the biological disturbance that could
result from what he called "unscrupulous development of new forms of
plants and animal life."
The two priests said the current design of commercially promoted GMOs
was based on an industrial model of agriculture that favours large farms
at the expense of family farms.
They said it would "introduce a serious dependency of small-scale and
mostly poor farmers on large multinational corporations for seeds and
They said there also was a risk that alternative agriculture, such as
organic farming, would be severely limited.
The two-day gathering had already come under fire on its opening day
from two speakers, including one from the environment group Greenpeace,
which said it was biased with scientists who favour GMOs.
Vatican organisers and scientists rejected such assertions.
Organisers said all sides would be taken into consideration when the
Vatican position was eventually formulated.
Release November 14, 2003 www.etcgroup.org
Terminator - or genetic seed sterilization - has been on the agenda of the
United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for five years.
If the Gene Giants and governments get their way, the CBD will be
conducting studies on Terminator for years to come - long after
suicide seeds are commercialized and show up in farmers' fields.
At the ninth meeting of the CBD's scientific advisory body (SBSTTA 9)(1)
held November 10-14 in Montreal, four governments - Canada, New Zealand,
Argentina and Brazil - were allowed to highjack debate and stall action on
Terminator by insisting that the CBD postpone consideration of an expert
technical report on the impacts of genetic seed sterilization, arguing that
the report lacks scientific rigor.(2) While the report will be forwarded
to next February's Conference of the Parties (COP7) in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia, it will go with a recommendation that COP7 forego action and
re-direct the report to the next meeting of the scientific body (SBSTTA10)
- in late 2004 or 2005 - with the aim of providing advice to COP8 in 2006!
"It's an appalling tactic to delay action against Terminator seeds,"
said Yoke Ling Chee of the Malaysia-based Third World Network. "The Gene Giants
know that CBD has already accepted a weak and partial moratorium on GURTs
[the CBD refers to Terminator as GURTs - genetic use restriction
technology] and this is an underhanded maneuver to prevent debate from
moving forward at COP7."
The move to discredit the Expert Group's report is especially disingenuous
because the explicit mandate of the Group was not to conduct a scientific
assessment of Terminator - which was done several years ago - but to
examine the impacts of Terminator on smallholder farmers, indigenous
peoples and local communities. Accordingly, the Expert Group included
representation from indigenous peoples' and farmers' organizations, as well
as civil society, scientists, industry and governments.
”SBSTTA9's decision is wrong and dangerous," said Alejandro Argumedo of the
Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity Network. "Giving four governments the
right to derail a report on the impact of Terminator on indigenous peoples
and local communities is like saying that the voices of these communities
are not important, and that the social and economic impacts of Terminator
can be dismissed," said Argumedo.
Seed Industry Coup at SBSTTA9: The presence of Monsanto and Delta & Pine
Land at SBSTTA9 may very well have something to do with the surprise
objection by four governments to the Expert Group's report on Terminator.
A Monsanto employee attended SBSTTA9 as the representative of the
Biotechnology Industry Organization and Delta & Pine Land's Vice-President
for Technology Transfer represented the International Seed Federation.
Earlier this year, these industry representatives co-authored a paper
defending GURTS and extolling the theoretical virtues of Terminator for
small farmers and indigenous peoples.(3) Both Monsanto and Delta & Pine
Land have vested interests in Terminator technology. (Delta and Pine Land
jointly holds three patents on genetic seed sterilization with the US
government. Although in 1999 Monsanto's then-CEO publicly pledged not to
develop Terminator seeds, there is growing evidence - including the
championing of Terminator by one of its employees - that the Gene Giant is
changing its tune.)
Sterile Harvest Coming Soon:
"While CBD is chasing paper and conducting endless studies, multinational
Gene Giants are winning new patents and planning to field test sterile seed
technology soon. If delays such as the one we just saw in Montreal
continue, we'll have sterile harvests in farmers' fields within a year or two.
CBD fails to take decisive action to prevent commercialization of
Terminator seeds, it will be a profound betrayal of its mandate to protect
biodiversity," said Hope Shand of ETC Group.
The governments gathering in Kuala Lumpur at COP7 need to muster the
political will to put an end to delays and to take decisive action to stop Terminator.
For further information, contact: Hope Shand, ETC Group (USA) firstname.lastname@example.org
tel: 919 9605223 Pat Mooney, ETC Group (Canada) email@example.com tel: 204 4535259
The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, formerly RAFI,
is an international civil society organization headquartered in Canada.
The ETC group is dedicated to the advancement of cultural and ecological
diversity and human rights. www.etcgroup.org. The ETC group is also a
member of the Community Biodiversity Development and Conservation Programme
(CBDC). The CBDC is a collaborative experimental initiative involving civil
society organizations and public research institutions in 14 countries. The
CBDC is dedicated to the exploration of community-directed programmes to
strengthen the conservation and enhancement of agricultural biodiversity.
The CBDC website is www.cbdcprogram.org
(1) Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice. For
more information on the meeting, see http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.asp?mtg=SBSTTA-09
(2) The "Report of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert
Group Meeting on the
Potential Impacts of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies on Smallholder
Farmers, Indigenous and Local Communities and Farmers' Rights, is available
on the Internet: http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meetings/sbstta/sbstta-09/information/sbstta-09-inf-06-en.pdf
(3) The full text of the paper is available here: http://www.etcgroup.org/documents/collins_kreugerISF.pdf
Oggetto: "No agli OGM". Uno studio di scienziati indipendenti denuncia
i rischi degli organismi geneticamente modificati di Mae Van Ho ed altri*
Nov 2003 Da: "kowalski" firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbabietola da zucchero e colza modificate geneticamente sono dannose
per l'ambiente: queste sono le recenti conclusioni del rapporto
commissionato tre anni fa dal ministro dell'ambiente britannico Michael
Meacher a un gruppo di scienziati sugli effetti degli organismi
geneticamente modificati, la più grande sperimentazione scientifica mai
realizzata per un Governo sugli ogm, una materia segnata da enormi interessi
Debate Grows Over Biotech Food
Efforts to Ease Famine in Africa Hurt by U.S., European Dispute
26 11 03
Dear News Update Subscribers,
In a wonderful example of grassroots activism, citizens in Mendocino
County, California have gathered enough signatures to get a initiative
on the ballot. The initiative would ban the "propagation, cultivation,
raising, and growing of genetically modified organisms" in Mendocino
Posted below is an article from today's edition of The Mendocino Beacon.
As the saying goes "All politics are local politics" and this is a
Congratulations to the activists in Mendocino County! You are setting
a fine example for the rest of the nation. And with the power of the Internet,
concerned citizens from around the world will be watching and reporting
on this exciting development!
By Dan Hamburg Wednesday, November 26, 2003
The Mendocino Beacon
A citizens' initiative to ban the "propagation, cultivation, raising,
and growing of genetically modified organisms" in Mendocino County was
officially certified today, announced County Clerk Marsha Wharff.
Proponents gathered more than 4,000 signatures of county voters to
qualify the measure.
"We're ready to take this to the people," said Els Cooperrider of the
Mendocino Organic Network. "Why should the biotech corporations control
our local food supply?" she said. "If Monsanto has its way, genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) will cause irreversible harm to the economy
and the environment of our county. It's up to the citizens to protect
our property rights from unwanted GMOs."
If local voters approve the initiative, all crops grown within Mendocino
County would be GMO-free. People could still buy GMO-containing food
products at local stores, according to Cooperrider.
The campaign's goals are both local and global preventing genetic
contamination of Mendocino County's robust organic produce industry and
countering the worldwide spread of genetically engineered crops,
The initiative has the unanimous support of the Mendocino-Lake Chapter
of the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). "The hope is that a
GMO-free Mendocino, coupled with our reputation as an
organically-focused growing region, will benefit the local economy, and
promote the health of local residents," according to Tim Bates, chapter
In addition, vintners from among Mendocino County's largest wine
producers have lined up to support the initiative. They include Jeriko's
Danny Fetzer, Frey Vineyards' Katrina Frey, Jim Fetzer from Ceago
Vineyards, Paul Dolan, former President of Fetzer Vineyards, Roederer
Estates Vineyards and Germain-Robin Fine Alambic Brandy.
The vintners say they support the measure in part because they are
concerned that crops grown using GMOs will contaminate their vines and
harm the county's expanding organic wine market. Wind and insect-borne
GMO pollen can pollinate with natural grapevines and threaten the
viability of both organic and conventional grapes making the wine unmarketable.
GMOs are man-made organisms, whose native intrinsic DNA has been
intentionally altered or amended with non-species specific DNA.
Cooperrider said that she fully expects the bioengineering industry to
spend large sums to defeat the local measure. "They are fearful that we
will set a precedent here in Mendocino County. And that's exactly what
we intend to do."
The Board of Supervisors will determine the date for a vote on this
measure at their meeting of Dec. 2.
2 12 03
Dear News Update Subscribers,
Posted below are two articles that provide a lot of
excellent food for
A) The first one is from Wired News titled "Food Biotech Is Risky
Business." This article explains that insurance companies are refusing
to insure genetically engineered foods. This is a good in-depth article
that sheds a lot of light on the topic of liability from genetically
One of the most revealing statements in the article comes from Robert
Hartwig, chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute, an
industry trade association located in New York. Hartwig states,
"Genetically modified foods are among the riskiest of all possible
insurance exposures that we have today. And there's a good reason. No
one company knows where this path of genetically modified foods is
ultimately going to take us in terms of either human health or
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't even require biotech
companies to notify the agency if a company is bringing out a new
genetically engineered food unless the product contains a known allergen
or has a significant nutrient change. And the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) is turning a blind eye to the potential damage genetically
engineered crops are posing to the environment. Further, organic crops
are being contaminated by cross pollination from genetically engineered
crops and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is acting like this
contamination of organic crops is not even taking place.
When these three government agencies are doing such an incredibly
inadequate job in regulating biotech crops, it should not be a huge
surprise that the insurance companies are staying away from providing
coverage for genetically engineered foods.
B) The second article is from The New York Times titled "When Fish
Fluoresce, Can Teenagers Be Far Behind?" This is a science essay that
poses some great ethical questions.
Science and science fiction seem to be coming together with genetic
engineering. No one knows what the outcome will be. But there are plenty
of reasons why citizens should be more than a little alarmed about what
is taking place. This article by author James Gorman will get you
thinking about some issues of real concern that will most likely be
developing in the not-too-distant future.
Food Biotech Is Risky Business
By Kristen Philipkoski Wired News Dec. 01, 2003 PT
The genetically modified food industry has battled opposition from
consumer and environmental groups to get its food on the table. Its
lobbyists have cajoled skeptical politicians; its scientists have
produced studies contradicting other studies suggesting the food is
Now the industry faces another hurdle with long-range, dire
consequences: It may be uninsurable.
The reason, industry representatives say, is that the Food and Drug
Administration does not regulate GMO products. Without government
regulation, no one knows the rules, and that troubles insurers.
"When it comes to a drug or medical device, what underwriters look to as
most important is FDA oversight," said Thomas Greany, senior vice
president and national practice leader for medical technology at Marsh,
a risk-management firm. "It gives a great deal of comfort that FDA has
high standards, and if something happens, a method or standard operating
procedure is in place to handle adverse outcomes."
The genetically modified foods currently on the market are likely safe,
said Michael Taylor, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future. But
with the industry evolving toward more significant genetic changes, he
said, FDA oversight would help ensure safety as well as encourage wider
public acceptance. A recent study found that 89 percent of Americans
believe the FDA should regulate genetically modified foods.
Groups concerned about the long-term health and environmental effects of
genetically modified organisms agree, and empathize with insurers.
"Insurers should be concerned about this," said Craig Culp, a spokesman
for the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C., promoting organic
and sustainable agriculture. "It doesn't take much in terms of the
regulatory landscape for them to suddenly find themselves in a position
of paying out a lot of money because of genetic contamination."
Now, when agricultural biotech companies can get coverage, it's limited
and expensive. Even if genetically modified crops prove to be safe for
humans and the environment, the perception of risk can be enough to do
damage, because insurers know all too well how that can influence a jury.
The top five insurers in Great Britain recently declared they'll have
nothing to do with the genetically modified crop industry. Despite fewer
protests by American consumers against agricultural biotech products
than Europeans, U.S. insurers also express fears about class-action
suits against GMO producers.
"Genetically modified foods are among the riskiest of all possible
insurance exposures that we have today," said Robert Hartwig, the chief
economist for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade
association in New York. "And there's a good reason. No one company
knows where this path of genetically modified foods is ultimately going
to take us in terms of either human health or environmental
Agricultural biotech companies say insurers should treat their products
in the same way they do conventionally grown crops.
Researchers worldwide recognize GMO products as "substantially
equivalent to their conventional counterparts," said Lee Quarles, a
spokesman for Monsanto, a leading agricultural biotech company based in
the United States. "Therefore, there is no justification that would
establish why the insurance model should be any different for a biotech
versus a nonbiotech product -- when both are recognized as safe and
substantially equivalent to one another."
The FDA's website says its job is to "see that the food we eat is safe
and wholesome, the cosmetics we use won't hurt us, the medicines and
medical devices we use are safe and effective, and that
radiation-emitting products such as microwave ovens won't do us harm."
That's no small order, and a labyrinth of legislation determines how
these tasks are executed. The agency must first determine what is a risk
and then whether the product requires approval of a product before it
hits the market.
The FDA decided in 1992 that genetically modified foods are
"substantially equivalent" to regular food, and therefore do not require
pre-market approval. Instead, companies voluntarily provide the FDA with
a statement that their products are safe.
In January 2001, members of the FDA filed a proposal calling for some
pre-market FDA oversight of genetically altered foods, but it was never enacted.
"The FDA is still looking into mandatory reporting," said Michael
Herndon, a spokesman for the agency.
Without the FDA setting guidelines for consumers and insurers, critics
believe insurers are more likely to face large payouts in various
scenarios. Cross-contamination of conventional or organic crops from
genetically modified fields is one potentially litigious scenario. Some
farmers have already filed such lawsuits. In other cases, Monsanto has
sued farmers for patent infringement.
Others fear genetically modified foods could pose a health threat to
humans when eaten directly, or when consumed indirectly from livestock
fed with genetically modified grains.
Every insurance company is in the business of risk, but it's not a topic
companies enjoy talking about with the press. Representatives from Chubb
insurance, which has a large life science unit, and Prudential declined
to comment for this story. A representative from American International
Group, which covers some biotechs as well as malpractice, flood, and
terrorism, did not respond to requests for comment.
"Some insurers view it as potentially one of the biggest long-term
problems this industry might face," said the Insurance Information
Genetically modified foods can be found in 75 percent of processed foods
-- everything from cornflakes, bread, pasta and soy sauce to ice cream
and candy, making the potential reach of a class-action lawsuit
far-ranging. Millions of people eat genetically modified foods every day
without knowing it -- because the FDA considers them "substantially
equivalent" to regular foods, they're not labeled. But a recent study
found that only 24 percent of Americans believe they have eaten GMO foods.
Companies cannot count on juries to rule in their favor, even taking
into account that most Americans' knowledge of GMO foods remains low.
"The real risk that you're running is the capricious and arbitrary
behavior of a jury," Greany said.
In 2000, the industry got a glimpse of what biotech companies could face
in terms of liability. A genetically modified corn product called
Starlink, made by Aventis CropScience, was approved only for animal
feed, but it accidentally made its way into Taco Bell tortillas. Courts
awarded farmers a $110 million settlement, and a $6 million settlement
to individuals claiming they suffered severe allergic reactions.
Meanwhile, a man who won $10,000 in a Starlink lawsuit claiming he
suffered allergies is apparently not allergic to the corn after all,
according to a study published recently in the Journal of Allergy and
"In today's litigious climate, where people seem to sue for things both
real and imagined, (liability) can be a very costly proposition for
companies and their insurers," said David Zoffer, an attorney in Chapel
Hill, North Carolina, who runs a litigation management and outsourcing consulting practice.
In other cases, farmers claiming their fields have been contaminated by
nearby genetically modified crops have been unable to win judgments.
Monsanto sued Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian canola farmer, for growing its
genetically modified version of the grain, although Schmeiser says the
seeds drifted onto his land from a neighboring farm, ruining a crop he
spent 40 years perfecting. Monsanto won two lower court rulings in
Canada on the matter. The Canadian Supreme Court will hear the case in January.
The high court's decision "could be precedent-setting for North
America," the Center for Food Safety's Culp said.
With the number of acres of genetically modified crops worldwide up to
145 million in 2002 and growing, cross-contamination -- and the
potential for lawsuits resulting from it -- will likely increase in the
coming years. The burden of liability could be heavily influenced by the
outcome of these early lawsuits.
With so much uncertainty, it's not surprising insurance companies are
When risky businesses get insurance, a significant gap exists between
how much coverage they can get and the amount of damage they may incur,
A company the size of Monsanto would likely buy insurance with coverage
for between $200 million and $300 million in assets. But lawsuits could
result in settlements in the billions, experts said.
One option for difficult-to-insure companies is to self-insure by
setting money aside for themselves. Or they can set up what's called a
captive insurance company, often in Bermuda, where the tax situation is
particularly favorable. Companies can establish captives individually or
as a group within the same industry. But these options are much less
efficient than a traditional insurance plan, Greany said.
There is always a limit to the amount of insurance coverage available to
an industry at any given time. Marsh tracks those numbers closely. It
can change day to day, and has been steadily decreasing over the past
three years, according to the company's 2003 "Limits of Liability" report.
"For biotech, the most that would be available today is about $700
million," Greany said. "Three years ago it would have been about $1
Despite the concerns from insurance industry representatives, Monsanto
officials insist coverage is not a problem.
"Monsanto has had no difficulty getting commercial insurance," spokesman
Quarles said. "This is not something that we are concerned about at this
When Fish Fluoresce, Can Teenagers Be Far Behind?
By JAMES GORMAN
The New York Times December 2, 2003 ESSAY
Sometime in the future, when the distinction between cosmetologist and
molecular biologist has faded and gene shops dot the seedier urban
streets like tattoo parlors, the philosophers, moralists and historians
of science will try to pin down the moment when the new age began.
Science historians will probably say it started with the discovery of
DNA, or the mapping of the human genome. Others will claim it started
when Dolly was cloned and it became clear that the tools of
biotechnology had moved out of the high church of pure research and into
the unpredictable hands of people who bred sheep for profit.
I think the moment is now. And the creature that embodies the escape of
biotechnology into the world at large - a movement that will never be
reversed - is an aquarium fish that glows in the dark.
Genetically modified GloFish, developed by injecting genes from sea
coral into zebrafish eggs, will go on sale Jan. 5 in this country,
according to Yorktown Technologies LP in Texas. The GloFish are red in
regular light and glow fluorescent red under ultraviolet light. Similar
fish, but with different genes for luminescence have been sold for
several months in Taiwan.
This is the tipping point, when the world irrevocably turns toward the
science-fiction fantasies of writers like Philip K. Dick and William
Gibson, who envision biomedical technology permeating every corner of
the marketplace, from global corporations on down to small-time illegal
operations like stolen-car chop shops.
Imagining futures, much less predicting them, is a risky business, but
there's a nugget of truth in these fantasies, and that is that once
technology reaches the marketplace, it is transformed for mundane and
apparently frivolous purposes and spreads everywhere, legally or not.
Many groups and government agencies stand poised to confront abuses in
medicine, to protect the food supply and the environment from big
agriculture. Meanwhile, who is watching the pet stores? Or the beauty parlors?
The science involved in creating the fish is not new. Genes for
bioluminescence were introduced into tobacco plants and carrots in the
1980's. Mice have been made to glow. No doubt humans could be made to
glow if parents with foresight knew that one day they would be
desperately trying to find their middle school child at a dark and
crowded school dance.
The fish were first developed to be indicators of polluted water.
Scientists set up the genes for the proteins that produced light to be
turned on by the presence of toxins.
The original fish were hobbled genetically to prevent their spread in
the wild. And there is not much worry about the new pets creating a new
crisis of global glowing. Zebrafish have long been sold without
establishing themselves in the wild.
But biotechnology itself cannot be successfully hobbled, despite the
best intentions of governments or the self-appointed guardians of our
health and food supply. The Center for Food Safety, a private consumer
group that has been keeping an eye on genetically modified fish for use
as food, has urged the Food and Drug Administration to regulate genetic
adventurism like the GloFish project. But it is far from clear that
bioengineered pets count as food or drugs.
There is no doubt about the human appetite for modifying the bodies of
their plants, their pets and themselves. Witness dogs, cats, parakeets
and canaries, pigeons, tulips, roses and plastic surgery.
"I think this is just an expansion of what's always been done with
ornamental plants and flowers," said Dr. Lee Silver, a professor at
Princeton in molecular biology and at the Woodrow Wilson School of
Public and International Affairs. "It may introduce a lot of people very
quickly to the power and wonders of biotechnology."
It may also suggest further advances, or outrages, depending on your
point of view. What we do with our own bodies is pretty open territory.
Plastic surgery is often, as they say, elective. So, imagine if you
will, that you could pay to have genes for glowing in the dark inserted
into your own body. How many glowing teenagers would there be? And who
would stop them, once they reached age 18? After all, one's own body is
one's own business.
"I think there's a distinction between what you do to yourself and what
you do to the larger environment," Dr. Silver said. Society looks
askance at any attempt to change human evolution or tweak human nature
in a way that will be passed on to posterity. But if you could engineer
only yourself, there would be few limits.
The technical problems are serious because this is different from using
genetic engineering to create new strains of mice and other creatures.
To create these strains of mice, scientists start at the beginning, with
an egg cell. The difficulty comes in sending genes into the body once it
is fully grown to try to get the body's cells to express them.
Dr. Silver said this had been tried for medical uses but with little
success. "Somatic cell gene therapy is extremely inefficient," he said.
It's hard to get the cells to take up genes and express them.
Researchers have, however, succeeded in getting mice to take up and
express luminescent genes in lung cells.
That's a beginning. And there's going to be big money in cosmetic
genetic enhancements once scientists do find a good way to send genes
into a human being and get skin, and other cells to express them. Skin
may glow, of course. Or people could choose a skin color they like.
Baldness could disappear. Fur may make a comeback - one's own fur.
Certainly any genes that make one more sexually attractive will find a
market no matter what regulations applied.
Athletes, who seem willing to indulge in self-experiment with relatively
little concern for their long-term health, would push biotech in another
direction. The Olympic Committee would have to look for genetic
enhancements for, say oxygen metabolism, buried in the genome. And pets.
The pets will be beyond belief. Just find a picture of the hairless
sphynx cat to see what we've perpetrated without stirring the genome
with our fingers. Then let your imagination run riot.
I'm not suggesting that this is a good thing. But like it or not, the
fish has left the barn. This is not going to stop no matter what anyone
There will, of course, be holdouts - people who cling to the old ways.
They'll insist on living with the bodies they were born with, carrying
around cairn terriers in little baskets like Dorothy in "The Wizard of
Oz." But even if they stay in Kansas, they won't be in Kansas anymore.
GMO moratorium maintained
GM decision a victory for food safety and consumer protection
The Green/EFA Group in the European Parliament today welcomed the decision of an EU regulatory committee to reject the marketing of a type of genetically modified sweetcorn known as Bt11. Only six countries - Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK - were in favour, but as they were in minority the de facto moratorium on new approvals for GM marketing licenses has been maintained.
Monica Frassoni MEP, Co-President of the Green EFA Group, said:
"This decision is a victory for consumer protection and food safety. It is a good thing that this GM sweetcorn - which has been modified to produce its own insecticide and be resistant to a herbicide - will not be allowed into shops in Europe. The public does not want to eat GM food and question marks remain over its safety. There was no toxicological testing for the whole plant, for instance. The safety of Bt11 is based on theoretical argument rather than evidence and the precautionary principle has paid off in this case.\"
Belgian Ecolo MEP Paul Lannoye said:
\"Scientific justifications are only one aspect to consider when taking decisions about GMOs. There are many questions still to be answered on the subject of liability.\"
German MEP Graefe zu Baringdorf warned the European Commission and Member States in his report on GM co-existence that liability provisions are still insufficient. His report was adopted in the Parliament\'s Agricultural Committee last week (2 December).
UK MEP Caroline Lucas said:
"Given the overwhelming opposition to GM crops in Britain, it is quite unacceptable that the UK government voted to lift the moratorium. But in the overall decision we have received a boost in our endeavours to put the well being of European citizens before business interests. The Green/EFA Group calls upon the Commission to accept and maintain the moratorium on GMOs.\"
) 9 12 03
News Update Subscribers,
We have good news to report. The European Union failed to gain enough
votes on Monday to remove the ban on genetically engineered crops.
Austria, Denmark, Greece, France, Luxembourg and Portugal voted against
removing the ban. Belgium, Germany and Italy abstained from voting.
Britain, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden voted to
remove the ban.
EU ministers will most likely consider this issue in January. If the ministers
fail to make a decision in three months, then the European Commission
will decide. The United States is putting a lot of pressure on the European
Union to remove the ban.
Posted below are two articles. The first is from the EU Business web
site and provides a good overview on the recent developments.
The second article is from Reuters and contains an informative chronology on the EU ban.
Even if the ban is removed, it is unlikely that European countries are
going to begin selling significant quantities of genetically engineered
foods anytime soon. They will all need to be labeled and consumers are
quite opposed to them in the EU countries. Any grocery stores that
attempt to stock foods labeled as containing genetically engineered
ingredients are likely to be in for a lot of consumer protests.
Executive Director-The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods
- 08 December
2003 EU business
The European Union postponed again Monday a decision on lifting a
four-year ban on bio-engineered crops which has angered the EU's trading
partners, in particular the United States.
EU experts handed over to ministers a decision on allowing the import of
import a type of a form of genetically modified (GM) sweetcorn, Bt-11.
Under EU rules, ministers will have three months in which to make a decision.
EU health commissioner David Byrne's spokesman said the required
majority was not secured on the standing committee for the food chain,
which gathers scientific representatives from the 15 member states.
"We've always realized that this is a difficult decision," said
spokesman Beate Gminder. "It's a difficult situation for the member
states, it's something that's difficult to explain to citizens and consumers," she added.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth welcomed the decision.
"There is clearly no scientific consensus over the safety of this
modified sweet corn. The decision not to approve it is a victory for
public safety and common sense," said Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth Europe.
Six countries of the 15-member bloc -- Britain, Finland, Ireland, the
Netherlands, Spain and Sweden -- voted in favour. Three countries
abstained -- Belgium, Germany and Italy -- while six voted against:
Austria, Denmark, Greece, France, Luxembourg and Portugal, she said.
The EU had already delayed the vote last month, after a number of EU
countries sought "clarification" before taking the decision.
The decision is likely to be put to ministers in January, the European
Commission, the EU's executive body, said. Chief spokesman Reijo
Kempinnen noted that if ministers fail to agree on action within three
months, the file returns to the Commission for a decision.
If the EU experts had agreed to allow Bt-11, it would effectively have
lifted a de-facto moratorium in place since 1999 against the import and
cultivation of GM products in the EU.
The EU decision -- against a backdrop of public disquiet in Europe on
the issue of "Frankenfoods" -- is being closely watched by its trade partners,
notably by the United States, which has the world's biggest biotech industry.
Along with Argentina and Canada, the United States has appealed to the
World Trade Organisation to overturn the EU ban.
The European Commission has proposed approving Swiss firm Syngenta's
application to import Bt-11 as part of a campaign to encourage the GM
industry in Europe.
Syngenta's hopes were raised last week when the EU's Food Safety
Authority (EFSA) said another type of GM maize made by US giant
Monsanto, NK 603, was entirely safe for human consumption.
The EU health commissioner last week appealed to the member states and
Europe's public to base their perception of food safety on science rather than fear.
"If we fail to make progress, there is a very real danger that an
anti-science agenda may take root in European society leading to a
society hampered and restricted by a collective neurosis," Byrne said last Thursday.
But opponents of GM crops say much more research needs to be done to
gauge their impact on health and the environment.
The EU's moratorium was imposed in 1999 at the initiative of five
countries -- Denmark, France, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg, which were
later joined by Austria and Belgium.
The bloc has made some progress on the issue, enacting two directives in
October on labelling and tracing of GM directives that the Commission
said would open the way to lifting the ban.
But Washington has attacked the directives as protectionism in disguise,
and a "no" vote on Monday will only keep one transatlantic trade row
rumbling on just as the two sides bury a bitter dispute on US steel tariffs.
CHRONOLOGY-EU ban on gene crops and foods
BRUSSELS, Dec 8 (Reuters) -
European Union officials failed to agree on Monday on approving a new type
of genetically modified (GM) maize, referring the matter to EU ministers for discussion
over the next three months.
If the ministers authorise any new GM product, it would end the EU's
unofficial ban on growing or importing biotech foods and crops, which
began in 1998. Before that, 18 GM plant varieties were approved,
including maize, rapeseed and soybeans.
Following is a short history of the bloc's unofficial ban on new
genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
EU'S MORATORIUM ON GMOs:
APRIL 1998 - EU's last approvals of new GM food products.
OCTOBER 1998 - EU authorises two biotech carnation varieties to improve
vase life and modify flower colour, the last live GM plants to win EU approval.
The United States sees this as the point when the EU closes its doors to new GMOs.
JUNE 1999 - France and Greece lead calls for de facto moratorium on new
GMO approvals at a meeting of EU environment ministers and win backing
from Italy, Denmark and Luxembourg.
They are later joined by Belgium and Austria, forming a minority of EU
states that can block any vote on a new approval.
JANUARY 2000 - European Commission adopts regulation that additives and
flavourings have to be labelled if DNA or protein of GMO origin is
present in the final product.
JUNE 2000 - French environment minister insists on the need for a
liability scheme for biotech products.
JULY 2000 - EU environment ministers say they will support the
moratorium at least until proposals are presented for labelling and
tracing GMO content in biotech products.
JULY 2001 - European Commission presents labelling and traceability
OCTOBER 2002 - Updated "deliberate release" directive enters into force,
regulating the release of live GMOs into the environment. This repeals
previous legislation dating from 1991.
The updated directive sets down a step-by-step approvals process for
GMOs or products containing GMOs, and tightens controls on traceability
MAY 2003 - United States announces its intention to file a complaint
against the EU's unofficial ban on GMOs at the WTO.
JULY 2003 - EU adopts strict rules on labelling and tracing all GM food
and feed, which will apply in member states by mid-April 2004 at the latest.
The labelling threshold for GMO content in non-GM food is set at 0.9 percent.
JULY 2003 - Commission issues guidelines on how to grow and
separate GM crops in Europe's fields to minimise the spread of GMOs to
organic and conventional crop cultivation.
AUGUST 2003 - United States, Canada and Argentina challenge the EU over
its de facto moratorium at the WTO, saying the ban is illegal and
without any scientific foundation.
SEPTEMBER 2003 - Commission rejects a request by the regional government
of Upper Austria to ban the cultivation of GM crops and create a
OCTOBER 2003 - Commission delays debate on its proposed seed purity
rules setting GMO content in conventional and organic seeds after EU
states demand stricter safety checks. The proposed thresholds range from
0.3 to 0.7 percent. A vote is now expected for early 2004.
NOVEMBER 2003 - Government of Upper Austria says it will challenge
Commission's ruling on its proposed GMO-free zone at the Court of First
Instance: the EU's second highest court.
NOVEMBER 2003 - European Union officials postpone a decision on
approving imports of Bt-11 maize, a GM herbicide-tolerant food product
whose seeds are manufactured by Swiss agrochemicals manufacturer Syngenta.
DECEMBER 2003 - The European Food Safety Authority gives clean bill of health
to NK603 maize, genetically engineered by U.S. biotech firm Monsanto
for resistance to chemicals used to kill weeds, saying it is safe for human and animal consumption.
Key EU committee fails to agree on approving Bt-11 maize, passing
decision to EU ministers.
10) Israel: Genetically engineered foods to remain unmarked
December 10, 2003 Haaretz Daily - Ora Coren
Isreali Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert was cited as announcing yesterday that he would not order that food produced using genetic modification techniques be marked as such because there is no explicit evidence indicating that genetically modified food constitutes a health threat, adding, "There is no need to require that products whose production process or some of their ingredients included genetic engineering be marked as such, as this additional information will not serve the public in the least."
The minister also announced his support for regulations recently recommended by the Health Ministry with regard to testing, recording and approving genetically modified species
W. AUSTRALIA may adopt GM crops ban
ABC News December
The Western Australian Government could, according to this story, impose a blanket ban on all commercially grown genetically-modified (GM) crops in the State within months after changes to the legislation passed through State Parliament.
The story says that Upper House MPs have accepted a report from a committee chaired by Greens' MP Christine Sharp, which says there are major advantages for WA if it can market its exports internationally as totally GM-free.
It recommended that the Minister for Agriculture adopt a gatekeeper approach to GM crops to give certainty to WA farmers.
Dr Sharp says closing the gate now is the only way to ensure the State's crops are not contaminated.
Dear News Update Subscribers,
The current issue of Time magazine has an article titled "Got Hormones?"
that discusses the lawsuit Monsanto has filed against Oakhurst Dairy in Maine.
As you may be aware, many dairy cows in the United States are injected
with a genetically engineered growth hormone called recombinant bovine
somatotropin (also referred to as recombinant bovine growth hormone or rBGH).
Oakhurst Dairy only buys milk that comes from cows not
injected with these growth hormones and advertises that fact.
Monsanto does not like such labels and advertising because they feel
consumers will get the impression that dairy products from cows not
injected with rBGH are safer and healthier.
Indeed, many experts feel that rBGH was not adequately tested by the FDA
before approval and could be linked to increased rates of breast and
prostrate cancer. One major concern is the link between these diseases
and the increased presence of Insulin-Like Growth Factor or IGF-1 in
milk from cows injected with rBGH.
A few companies like Ben & Jerry's ice cream advertise that they oppose
and do not use rBGH. But they put a disclaimer on their packaging that says:
"The FDA has said no significant difference has been shown and no
test can now distinguish between milk from rBGH treated and untreated cows."
Oakhurst Dairy refuses to include such a disclaimer stating
"We are in the business of marketing milk, not Monsanto's drugs."
The article below from Time will explain more about the lawsuit.
For further information on the controversies regarding rBGH, you may
want to read the 29-page chapter titled "Spilled Milk" in author Jeffrey
M. Smith's exceptional book, Seeds of Deception. It does an excellent
job in pointing out the many concerns over rBGH.
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods encourages everyone
on this News Update e-mail list to get a copy of the book Seeds of Deception.
As an added incentive for you to purchase a copy of Seeds of
Deception, we are offering $5.00 off and FREE shipping through the end
of the year. You can order your copy now for only $12.95 on our web
site at: http://www.thecampaign.org/seeds.php
The simmering issue of milk labels boils over when an agrochemical giant
sues small farmers in Maine
By Margot Roosevelt Leeds
Time Magazine Monday, Dec. 22, 2003
Down a dirt road, tucked in rolling fields, John Nutting's farm is a
picture of tranquillity. A wintry breeze sighs through the forest.
Black-and-white Holsteins chew their cuds in a lazy rhythm. Only the
large sign hammered onto a red barn attests to the defiant mood in Maine
dairy country: OUR PLEDGE - NO ARTIFICIAL HORMONES.
Hormones are a hot issue in these parts. As do at least 85% of Maine's
milk producers, Nutting signs an affidavit each year vowing not to
inject his cows with recombinant bovine somatotropin (RBST), a
genetically engineered growth hormone. "We're proud of the way we farm,"
says the third-generation dairyman. "Consumers have the right to know
how their milk is made."
Not necessarily. A food fight has erupted in New England between those
who would label their produce as they see fit and those who argue that
some of those labels give customers a false impression. Chief among the
latter is Monsanto Corp., the agrochemical giant that markets RBST and
is fighting a rearguard action to quell consumer resistance to its product.
The St. Louis, Mo., multinational demanded last year that Maine suspend
its official Quality seal, which is granted only to milk from uninjected
cows. When the state refused, Monsanto took another tack, suing one of
Maine's leading dairies in federal court in Boston. The suit charged
that Oakhurst Dairy, the company that buys Nutting's milk, is misleading
consumers by advertising a no-artificial-hormone pledge, implying that
its milk is safer and healthier. "Milk is milk," says Janice Armstrong,
Monsanto's director of public affairs.
That sets the stage for the latest chapter in a battle that has raged
for more than a decade. Critics claim - although studies are
inconclusive - that using synthetic bovine growth hormone could lead to
such health problems as premature puberty or even cancer.
But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) studied the issue before it approved RBST
in 1993, when it reported that tests showed no significant difference
between the milk from treated and untreated cows.
Several groups, including Consumers Union and the Center for Food
Safety, say the tests did in fact reveal worrisome differences and that
the FDA incorrectly interpreted the data. Activists campaigning against
genetically modified (GM) food want the U.S. to ban RBST outright, as
Europe and Canada have. As for Maine, "we would rather be safe than
sorry," says assistant attorney general Francis Ackerman, who is
preparing the state's brief to intervene on Oakhurst's behalf.
Today one-third of U.S. dairy herds are injected with RBST, which
stimulates cows to produce as much as 15% more milk. Lawsuits over
labeling have forced the repeal of a Vermont hormone-disclosure law and
stopped dairies in Illinois and Texas from touting their milk as
RBST-free. Earlier this year the FDA took up the fight, warning
producers in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Minnesota against using
labels that say "no hormones" or "hormone-free." The agency has said
nothing, however, about labels like Oakhurst's that refer only to
farmers avoiding "artificial" or "synthetic" hormones. Monsanto would
like Oakhurst to emulate Ben & Jerry's and Stonyfield Farm, whose
no-synthetic-hormone labels also carry language noting the FDA's
approval of RBST. But Stanley Bennett, whose family built Oakhurst from
a two-horse outfit in 1921 into an $85 million modern processor, says he
won't be "bullied" by the $4.7 billion biotech behemoth. "We are in the
business of marketing milk," he says, "not Monsanto's drugs."
Is the battle over the milk of Maine about free speech? Or is it about
dairies using scare tactics to sell more product? "Oakhurst's marketing
campaign is based more on fear than on facts," says Monsanto's
Armstrong. Consumer groups say if farmers can't label their milk as
coming from cows free of artificial hormones, it could set a precedent
for challenging such popular labels as "MSG-free," "no artificial
flavors," "free-range" and "GM-free." Maine attorney general Steven Rowe
plans to ask Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts to help him fight
Monsanto when the suit goes to trial in January. "We in New England are
into purity," he says. "The FDA may not have a problem with artificial
growth hormones, but many consumers do." That's what farmers like John
Nutting are counting on.
News Update Subscribers,
Posted below are two interesting articles.
The first article is titled "Can new wheat be separated from the chaff
of uncertainty?" It reports on comments made at a recent forum called
"GE Wheat: Is America Ready?" held in Washington, DC by the Center for
Science in the Public Interest.
Of particular note are the comments at the end of the article by a
spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). She explains
that the FDA does not have the authority from Congress to make actual
safety declarations on genetically engineered foods. Instead the FDA is
simply reviewing the limited data that the biotech companies present to the agency.
These admissions by the FDA further document the position of The
Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods that the regulatory
scheme in place in the United States for biotech crops is totally
inadequate to protect the safety of the American public.
It is time for the Congress to pass legislation that will force the FDA
to require both labeling and adequate safety testing of genetically
Such legislation is currently before Congress, HR 2916, the Genetically
Engineered Food Right to Know Act, and HR 2917, the Genetically
Engineered Food Safety Act:
The second article is titled "Brazil's controversial cash crop: illegal
genetically modified soy is boon to farmers." This article paints a
disturbing picture of the situation in Brazil regarding genetically
One point to keep in mind is that the increased yields and profits that
are pleasing some Brazilian farmers will probably be short-lived. It is
likely that over the next few years, the yields will begin to drop and
the need to use more pesticides will increase dramatically cutting
deeply into their profits per acre. Evidence from the United States
suggests that in a few years weeds will become herbicide resistant and
the farmers will need to use more herbicides to kill the weeds.
For further reference on the increased need for pesticides required over
time for genetically engineered crops, please review the recent paper
from Dr. Charles M. Benbrook titled "Impacts of Genetically Engineered
Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Eight Years":
- Can new wheat be separated from the chaff
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Washington Bureau 12/20/2003
WASHINGTON - As Monsanto Co. pushes genetically modified wheat toward
the market, the food industry and farmers are wondering if consumers
will accept genetic engineering with their daily bread.
Kraft Foods North America, the nation's biggest food company, said last
week that it doesn't know if it will use engineered wheat in its
products because of consumer unease.
"Many, many people are not quite sure what the benefits are, and this,
to us, presents something of a problem," said Ronald Triani of Kraft
Foods North America, referring to the company's internal polling.
Triani, along with other industry officials, also criticized the Food
and Drug Administration's evaluation process for wheat and other
products as being only voluntary rather than required.
The industry officials spoke during a Washington forum called "GE Wheat:
Is America Ready?" exploring issues related to genetically engineered wheat. It was sponsored
by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a watchdog group in Washington.
FDA action on Monsanto's proposal to commercialize Roundup Ready wheat
is expected soon. An FDA official said Wednesday that the agency has
exceeded its 180-day internal time limit for such reviews.
Monsanto, based in Creve Coeur, faces several regulatory barriers along
with self-imposed hurdles. It could take many months and even years
before engineered wheat reaches farm fields.
But the prospect is drawing scrutiny because engineered wheat poses
consumer issues weightier than those accompanying the arrival of
modified soybeans and corn. Unlike the plans for wheat, most engineered
soybeans and corn is grown for animal food or ends up in human diets
only in small amounts.
"Wheat is the first human food crop, and genetically modified wheat will
be going into flour used in bread, cakes and cookies," said Greg Jaffe,
biotechnology director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Reviews of modified wheat have turned up no known safety concerns. But
industry officials are encouraging caution on Monsanto's part and
beefed-up regulations because of pockets of concern in the United States
and deep suspicion of modified food around the world.
Jerry Steiner of Monsanto said that because of wheat's sensitivity, his
company had imposed a half-dozen conditions that must be met before it
would sell modified seeds. They include regulatory approval in Canada,
Japan and the United States as well as systems in place for segregating
the gene-altered wheat from conventional varieties.
Daren Coppock, who heads the National Association of Wheat Growers, said
wheat farmers see themselves "on the horns of a dilemma." On one hand,
engineered seeds could mean easier production and possible cost savings.
But, Coppock said, global opposition could threaten exports for an
industry that has seen exports and commodity prices plummet.
"It could be the greatest product in the world, but if the customer
doesn't buy it, it's not worth anything to us," he said.
Triani, of Kraft, said his company continues to detect concern about
genetically modified food in opinion surveys. He said 11 internal polls
in recent years produced similar results: Of the roughly 70 percent of
people aware of genetically modified food, about one-fourth are uneasy
about the prospect of eating it, he said.
The industry officials argued that the FDA might alleviate some of the
fears with a more aggressive review that ended in a declaration that
products are safe.
Under its policy of voluntary review, the FDA reviews company studies
rather than conducting tests. A letter from the FDA indicating that it
has no more questions is tantamount to approval.
The FDA has resisted pressure from all sides to make its process
mandatory. Jeanette Glew, who supervises a six-member team examining
Monsanto's application, argued that her agency lacks congressional
authority to approach the review differently.
"We feel that the process works," she said. "Sometimes people don't
understand the authority under which we are looking at this data, which
companies bring to us voluntarily. A safety declaration is not something we make."
Brazil's controversial cash crop: illegal genetically modified soy is
boon to farmers
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Date: Sunday, December 21
JULIO DE CASTILHOS, Brazil -- They're counting on another bumper soy
crop in southern Brazil, where a new breed of rebel farmers work the
fields in air-conditioned tractors and run to town in big new pickups.
The seeds being sown -- and making the farmers rich -- are genetically
modified to provide healthier yields at lower costs than conventional soy.
They were originally smuggled in during a longstanding legal ban on
so-called transgenic seed.
While Brazil's ban didn't stop many farmers, it made it impossible for
Monsanto Co. to collect seed revenues or crop royalties, as it does from
farmers in the United States and elsewhere.
American farmers are livid, but growers in towns like Julio de Castilhos
"Every year it's just getting better," said Rodrigo Martins. Now 24, he
started farming soy at age 17 and gave up plans to go to law school
because he was making so much money. "With GM soy, you produce lots
more profits in six months instead of a year, and it's not as much work."
In response to soaring world demand for soy used in products ranging from
animal feed to processed food, Brazil's production has skyrocketed. It is
expected to surpass the United States as the world's top soy exporter next year.
An estimated 10 percent to 20 percent of Brazil's soy crop is grown with
seeds smuggled in from neighboring countries and replicated locally. In
Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's third largest soy growing state, transgenic
seeds are used to produce up to 90 percent of the annual harvest,
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, accuses Brazil's government, which
rarely enforced the ban on transgenic soy, of letting the situation get out of control.
Brazil's soy farmers are getting what amounts to an indirect subsidy, he
contends, and are robbing Monsanto of money to develop new seeds that
would help American farmers become more competitive.
"It's unfair competition," said Grassley.
Brazilian farmers acknowledge using illegal seed, but claim their
actions are forcing the government to legalize transgenic soy. Brazil
permitted the planting of transgenic soy for the first time this season,
and a bill is winding its way through Congress that would create the
country's first rules allowing biotechnology in agriculture.
Monsanto's soy seeds are spliced with a bacterium's gene that makes the
plants immune to the company's popular herbicide Roundup, which farmers
can then use to kill weeds while the soy plants flourish.
Nearly 80 percent of the soy crop in the United States is genetically
Critics are worried about long-term environmental effects. Brazil's ban
was in line with that of most European countries, which do not permit
genetically engineered crops.
Smuggled transgenic seeds were introduced in Julio de Castilhos by an
Uruguayan trucker in 1996, and skeptical farmers were amazed at the
results. Oli Amadeu Facco planted five acres with the seeds, and they
produced 50 percent more than his land cultivated with conventional
"I couldn't believe it, but it came out more green, just beautiful,"
said Facco, a burly 35-year-old who also travels from farm to farm as an
agricultural specialist for the local soy farmers cooperative.
In an area where cattle long was king, there now are more than 100,000
soy growers in Rio Grande do Sul state, a land of gentle rolling hills
and flat "pampas" larger than Kansas and Iowa combined.
Soy production in the Julio de Castilhos area has doubled to nearly
250,000 acres. Cattle farmers reduced their herds and hired legions of
workers to clear rocks from pastures so they could be planted.
Shifting from beef cattle ranches was a no-brainer. A farm of about
2,500 acres in the town producing genetically modified soy generates
some $155,000 in yearly profit -- compared to $45,000 for cattle.
The new money is coursing throughout Julio de Castilhos, population
25,000. Farmers and farm workers used to bake under the relentless sun
in open-air tractors, but virtually everyone is buying air-conditioned
tractors from local dealers these days.
Land prices have tripled in five years, as have sales of $155,000
combines. Once-vacant storefronts are filled with new businesses ranging
from cell phone vendors to a natural food shop.
In what has become a local spectator sport rivaling soccer in
popularity, townspeople cluster on street corners to watch a road crew
laying the first asphalt over the bumpy, cobblestoned main street.
When the workers quit for the day, farm families in the town's new
vehicle of choice -- Ford F-250 turbo-diesel pickups sporting "100%
Transgenico" bumper stickers -- speed up and down the street to test the
latest smooth stretch.
Many residents are the descendants of poor German or Italian immigrants.
Some farmers and business owners are having family trees prepared,
contemplating trips to Europe for the first time to see the old country.
But most are plowing their profits back into their farms, aiming to
increase productivity amid growing competition.
As he supervised farm workers loading seeds into a planter that
efficiently injects them into the soil without plowing furrows, Martins
said he doesn't regret his decision to forsake law school for soy
farming on his family's land.
With soy profits, the family has invested $344,000 to buy better farm
equipment and build a dormitory for farm workers.
They also put in a few ponds to raise carp, which the family sells to
locals seeking a change from their daily "churrasco," or barbecue in
"We can't give this up, so my younger brother will go to law school, and
we'll still have a lawyer in the family," Martins said.
Martins and other Brazilian soy producers brush off criticism from
American farmers, who they say benefit from generous U.S. crop subsidies.
Julio de Castilhos' soy farmers also insist they want to pay Monsanto as
soon as they can buy the company's seeds -- and they support the bill in
Brazil's Congress that would allow the government to legalize transgenic
But experts and farmers predict it could take years before a new law
goes into effect, and for Monsanto's contractors to provide the seeds
needed to fulfill Brazil's insatiable demand.
Monsanto declines comment on how much money it has lost or how much it
could make in Brazil from the country's soy producers, and it won't say
how much it would charge.
Lucio Mocsanyi, the Monsanto's Brazilian division spokesman, said the
company sets prices at a level that won't discourage farmers from
planting. In other countries, Monsanto's fees never surpass 5 percent of
the price that farmers get for their soy, he said.
"We want to reach agreements that are good and fair for both sides,"
Mocsanyi said. "Growers are our customers."
Farmers in Julio de Castilhos would still come out ahead even if
Monsanto set up a system whereby Brazilian farmers lost half of their
newfound profits, said Antonio Abreu, the town's deputy mayor and a soy
grower himself. Though the windfall of recent years would be reduced,
there would still be plenty of prosperity in town, he said.
"Right now, we've got a gold mine," Abreu said. "It'll probably become a
silver mine, but we can live with silver."
Dear News Update Subscribers,
The December issues of both the "American Journal of Agricultural
Economics" and the "Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics"
report on a research study on genetically engineered foods done by Iowa
The study involved 300 consumers and was designed to determine consumer
acceptance of genetically engineered foods. It found that consumers
wanted to pay on the average 14 percent less for genetically engineered
This study provides evidence that there is little incentive for companies to
voluntarily label foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients.
We can also surmise that when mandatory labeling is eventually required,
most companies will choose to use non-genetically engineered ingredients
since consumers will most likely be reluctant to purchase them. This is
not good news for the biotech industry.
The article below will provide further details on the study.
Iowa State University researchers test consumer
acceptance of GM food
- December 26, 2003
By Susan Thompson
Iowa State University
How willing are consumers to buy genetically modified (GM) foods? What
effect does labeling have on food purchases? Who do consumers trust to
provide objective information on genetic modification? Those are three
questions Iowa State University researchers sought to answer in a
project involving 300 people.
Wallace Huffman, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of
Agriculture and economics professor, led the research. Results are
published in the December issues of both the American Journal of
Agricultural Economics and the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
Workers in the ISU Statistics Laboratory recruited randomly chosen
people, telling them they would be participating in research looking at
consumer decisions on food and household products. They were invited to
come to locations in Des Moines and St. Paul, Minnesota, in April and
December of 2001.
Two types of food labels were used in the experiments. One label
provided nothing more than the contents of the package and its weight.
The other provided the same information, plus a statement that the
product had been made using genetic modification.
Participants received different kinds of background information. Three
statements on genetic modification were written that were typical of
those made by environmental groups that oppose the practice, by industry
groups that approve of the practice, and by an independent third party.
Participants were divided into small groups. Each group was presented
with a different combination of background information and food labels.
Each person was given $40 and asked to bid on three food items -
vegetable oil, tortilla chips and russet potatoes.
"In general, when consumers saw the GM label, they bid less by an
average of 14 percent," Huffman said. "This is an indication the
industry won't voluntarily label GM foods of the type tested, because
consumers would pay significantly less for them."
Huffman said the research also showed consumers are willing to pay the
most for food items that might be genetically modified if they hear only
the industry perspective, and the least if they hear only the
environmental group perspective. "The independent, third-party
perspective is a significant moderating force against the extremes of
either of the other two perspectives," he said.
Participants were asked who they trust to provide information on genetic
modification. The groups mentioned most often were universities,
scientists or other third-party entities, followed by government. "We
found information does affect the decisions consumers make about foods
that might be genetically modified," Huffman said.
resounding "No" to GMOs. Sam
response to GM crops in the UK’s GM Nation? public debate is an
overwhelming "No". A total of 36,557 people returned the questionnaire
accompanying the debate. The vote is one of the largest ever to be returned by
the public. The results are as follows:
asked if they were happy to eat GM food:
Nation? organisers also conducted a sub-survey of members of the general
public who didn’t take part in the debate to see how different their views on
GM were. They found a consensus on seven
This latest poll confirms that the public is as
hostile as ever towards GM. But the government may still push ahead with
commercialisation of the crops because UK ministers are keen to avoid upsetting
EU-US relations. Trade secretary Patricia Hewitt is mindful of the recent US-launched
legal action against the EU under World Trade Organisation rules.
a question mark too over how much leeway individual EU countries will have to
ban GM imports and cultivation. This summer, EU agriculture commissioner Franz
Fischler said that EU Commission guidelines allowing the co-existence of GM and
conventional crops meant that GM-free zones were illegal.
some critics suggest that the EU’s "ban on GM bans" may itself be
illegal. They point to an EU directive that seems to leave some room for
countries or regions wishing to avoid GM. Article 19.3.c of the EU Deliberate
Release Directive (2001/18/EC) states that particular geographical areas,
ecological habitats and zones can be excluded from GM marketing consents if an
environmental case can be made. Local councils in the UK have taken up Article
19 and will employ it on a case-by-case basis.
declare GM-free zones
Throughout the UK local councils recognise that
GM technology is a relatively new branch of science and that there is still
scientific debate about its safety. The following local authorities and their
services will, as far as possible, be free of GM crops, food and feed: Bath and
North East Somerset, Brighton and Hove, Bristol, East Riding or Yorkshire,
Chesterfield, Cornwall, Cumbria, Devon, Dorset, Lake District National Park,
Lancashire, South Hams, Shropshire, South Gloucestershire, Somerset, Ryedale,
Warwickshire, Wales (entirely), Wokingham and York.
any case, the EU Commission seems to have modified its pro-GM attitude in the
light of emerging evidence. After lacklustre reports on GM’s prospects in the
UK government’s scientific and economic reviews, EU Commissioner Fischler told
EU farm ministers that he now favoured setting up voluntary zones that would
allow farmers, businesses and councils in an area to declare themselves GM-free.
since two of the GM crops in the UK Farm Scale Evaluation (FSE) trials were
found to damage wildlife, EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David
Byrne conceded that the UK could ban GM crops without breaching EU rules.
The threat to biodiversity posed by
the crops would be treated as "a matter of subsidiarity," meaning that
individual member states could make their own decisions.
and Trolleys march against GM
Further proof of public rejection to the introduction of GM crops was displayed at the Tractors and Trolleys March Against GM in London on October 13. A clear blue sky provided the perfect backdrop for the 1,000 or so protestors who drove their tractors, cycled and marched from all over the country to deliver signatures to 10 Downing Street, the National Farmers’ Union, and the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Some 68 235 signatures had been collected by the Five Year Freeze campaign for a continuation of a five year moratorium on GM crops. Friends of the Earth delivered 13 000 messages of opposition to GM and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes handed in 500 personal letters of objection to GM.
The demo, organised by Friends of the Earth,
wended its colourful way past Parliament to pounding drums sounding the death
knell for GM crops.
were able to rest their trolleys and their weary feet at the Emmanuel Centre on
Great Smith Street where a Harvest Fair Tea was laid on. In the beautiful
auditorium, three of the most powerful speakers against GM delivered their
addresses to a near-capacity audience of 1,000.
Former environment minister Michael Meacher roused the house with messages aimed at the prime minister: "Tony, if you’re listening, this is a battle we are winning!" The atmosphere was electric. GM crops were failing, he said, and there’s lots of demand for organic foods both from producers and consumers.
Physicist and ecologist Vandana Shiva said that Monsanto’s track record of wreaking destruction amongst farmers in India should not be repeated in Europe. Thousands of farmers had taken their own lives because the promises of the Monsanto salesmen were lies. "Monsanto salesman never visit the same farm twice," she said. But the fault is with the GM seeds, not the farmers. She did not forget the Korean farmer who committed suicide in Cancún, Mexico during the recent World Trade Organization talks in order to bring the plight of family farmers everywhere to the world’s attention.
Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, supported the previous speakers by affirming that this is a battle that can be won. He said that if we act now there is time to keep contamination of crops and wildlife by GM to a minimum.
If the government does go ahead with GM commercialisation, then it will have to deal with several thousand people who have signed the Green Gloves Pledge to don gardening gloves and pull up GM crops wherever they are planted [www.greengloves.org].
Liz Snook is one campaigner who is prepared to resort to direct action. Liz, one of three campaigners who cycled from Totnes, Devon to the Tractors and Trolleys demo, once faced charges of criminal damage over the destruction of £500,000-worth of GM crops at a trial site in Devon. She said: "I will continue to pull up GM crops if necessary. Time after time it has been shown that there is a lawful excuse for the destruction of GM crops because they cause criminal damage to the crops of neighbouring farms."
biggest farmer will not sell or grow GMOs
The Co-op chain of supermarkets has also said "no" to GM food and crops. The chain sells £5bn worth of food annually and is Britain’s biggest farmer. The Co-op took its decision after conducting a survey of its customers. The survey conducted by NOP found that 55% of Co-op customers were against GM and a further 38% were not convinced that GM had any benefits. And 78% were against the commercial growing of GM crops in the UK.
Co-op has said it will not sell GM food under its own brand or grow GM crops on
its own land. Animals on its 85 000 acres
of farms will not be given GM feed, and
the Co-op Bank will not invest customers’ money in GM technology. "Too
little is still understood about this technology and how it would impact on our
environment in future generations," said Martin Beaumont, Co-op
French researchers call for public debate on GM
In France more than 700 researchers from the French public sector and universities have signed a petition calling for a public debate on GM research. This initiative follows the collection of over 1,500 signatures defending GM research, which itself was a response to the destruction of 25 GM crop trials over the summer.
Other French researchers and supporters of Jose Bové, veteran anti-GM campaigner and crop-trasher, responded by signing a petition in support of Bové’s direct action methods, saying, "random acts of sabotage can be regarded as the implementation of the precautionary principle."
GM Nation www.gmpublicdebate.org
Friends of the Earth www.foe.co.uk
Weekly Watch http://www.ngin.org.uk
2 GM Crops Harm Wildlife (8 11 03)
The UK’s farm scale evaluations have shown conclusively that the herbicide regime linked with GM spring oilseed rape and beet is damaging to biodiversity.Lim Li Ching reports
The three-year farm scale evaluations (FSEs), results of which were published on 16 October in the Royal Society’s house journal, examined three spring-sown GM crops – oilseed rape, beet and maize. They were undoubtedly the largest experiments of their kind, involving over 200 plots.
The FSEs were a compromise from the start. They did not focus on the many other key questions regarding environmental safety – gene flow, transgenic contamination, creation of ‘superweeds’ and ‘superpests’, but looked only at the impact of managing GM herbicide-tolerant (GMHT) crops on farmland biodiversity.
About 60 to70 fields each were planted to beet, maize and spring oilseed rape. Each field was split, with half planted with a conventional variety managed according to the farmer’s normal practice, and the other half sown with a GMHT variety. The GM beet was tolerant to glyphosate, the GM maize and oilseed rape were tolerant to glufosinate ammonium . These allow farmers to indiscriminately spray the crops with herbicides, killing weeds and not the crop itself.
But killing weeds adversely affects biodiversity. Weeds provide food and habitat for countless animal species, including threatened birds. Populations of the skylark, corn bunting and other birds have declined over the past 30 years, partly due to intensive agricultural practices that suppress weeds.
The FSEs thus recorded levels of weeds and invertebrates in the fields and surrounding field margins. The researchers concentrated on the plants and more-or-less sedentary herbivores and detritivores that react rapidly to any major change in field management . Selected groups of other organisms with wider foraging ranges (e.g. carabid beetles, bees, butterflies) were studied for comparison.
The key question was: would the changes in management associated with GM crops exacerbate the trends perpetuated by conventional agriculture, of reduced weed levels and wider impacts on farmland biodiversity?
on GMHT spring oilseed rape and beet
In general, the GMHT crops received less herbicide-active ingredient per crop, with later and fewer applications than the conventional varieties , and this, GM corporations have long claimed, means that GM crops could benefit the environment. But the FSEs found otherwise. Overall results showed that GMHT oilseed rape and beet would reduce farmland biodiversity, as the stronger broad-spectrum herbicides used with GM crops control a wider range of weeds more efficiently.
In beet and oilseed rape, after the first application of broad-spectrum herbicide, weed densities were lower in the GMHT crop, reversing initial higher densities . The biomass (weight of weeds collected from a fixed area) in GMHT beet and oilseed rape was one-sixth and about one-third, respectively, of that in conventional plots. The effects on weed diversity were transient and mostly small, but the researchers concurred that, “it is only a matter of time before resistant plants become widespread” . Then diversity is likely to drop, as evolved herbicide tolerance increases the dominance of a few species.
reduction or removal of the visible flora temporarily reduces the food available
to farmland animals, the key to longer-term impacts is the ‘seed rain’
(seeds falling from weeds) and its contribution to the seedbank (weed seeds left
in soil). The
GMHT beet and oilseed rape fields had one-third and one-fifth, respectively, of
the seed rain of conventional fields . The reduced seed
rains had demonstrable effects on the seedbanks in the following year: densities
in GMHT fields were about 20% lower than in conventional fields.
in the short term, any resulting decline is buffered by existing seedbanks, and
the loss of one year’s seed return itself did not produce a large difference
in future weed populations, relatively small differences could sum to produce
a large effect if sustained over several crop rotations. The unavoidable
conclusion was that GMHT crops would have a large impact on weed populations in the longer
researchers looked closely at 12 individual weed species, which are frequent and
abundant in British agriculture, and important in the diet of farmland birds,
they found that biomass in the GMHT
fields was significantly reduced for five species in beet and oilseed rape .
Subsequent survival was significantly lowered for eight species in GMHT beet and six in GMHT oilseed rape. In general, reproductive rates were lower (by about 50%) for most species; and for many species (19 out of 24 cases), seed densities were lower in the seedbank after GMHT cropping.
They concluded, “These differences compounded over time would result in large decreases in population densities of arable weeds”. And, “With a few exceptions, weed species in beet and spring oilseed rape were negatively affected by the GMHT treatment” .
Correspondingly, the abundance of invertebrates on the soil surface is generally lower in GMHT beet and oilseed rape . Such invertebrates are food for mammals, birds and other invertebrates, and many are important for controlling pests or recycling nutrients within the soil. The distribution of invertebrates is affected by weeds in the field, and hence mirrors that of weed levels.
Specifically, there were less carabids that feed on weed seeds in GMHT beet and oilseed rape. However, collembolan detritivore counts were larger under GMHT crop management, most likely due to additional detritus produced following efficient and later application of herbicides in the GM crops [6, 7].
While Collembola are part of the diet of some farmland birds, the long-term effects are uncertain.
If GMHT crops lead to long-term decline in weed abundance, there would be less biomass to produce detritus and subsequent reduction of the effect on Collembola.
also examined epigeal (species that spend most of their life on plant and
soil surfaces) and aerial (those whose main activity in the crop involves
a substantial proportion of time spent in flight) species . These
invertebrates play important roles in pollination and recycling of detritus;
many are dependent on flowering weeds and flowering crops for nectar or pollen,
or have larvae that feed directly on plants.
Most taxa were insensitive to management regimes. However, actively foraging taxa, such as bees and butterflies, showed lower abundances in GM fields. The abundances of all bees, honeybees and bumblebees in GMHT beet crops were 55%, 27% and 58%, respectively, of those in conventional crops. Similarly, there were 22% less butterflies in GMHT oilseed rape than in conventional. Butterfly numbers were also lower in GMHT beet, especially in August when the abundance was 68% of that in conventional fields. These smaller counts were associated with lower abundance of flowering weeds.
Within-field findings are mirrored in the field margins . Field margins can support a high diversity of plant species and are important for conservation within farmed landscapes. They are habitat for numerous invertebrates, a food resource for mammals, and a refuge for beneficial parasitoids and predators. Margins provide resources for birds and may be the only source of nectar and pollen in arable landscapes through much of the season.
However, field margins receive direct and indirect applications of chemicals. Scorching of vegetation by herbicide-spray drift was on average 1.6% on verges beside conventional crops and 3.7% beside GMHT crops . Less plant cover (by 25%), which produced fewer flowers (by 44%) and less seed (by 39%), were found on tilled margins of GMHT halves of spring oilseed rape fields. The tilled margins of GMHT halves of beet also had less flowering and seeding (34% and 39% lower, respectively).
All this had pronounced knock-on effects on
butterflies. There were 24% fewer butterflies in margins of GMHT oilseed rape .
The likely cause is the lower nectar supply. If sufficient forage is available
elsewhere, then populations of this mobile group will be buffered, but not if
forage reductions occur over large contiguous areas. Of the butterfly species
common to arable ecosystems, those with lower dispersal ability are likely to be
effects may be expected for other flower- and nectar-feeding groups
such as solitary bees, moths, hoverflies and other flies, as well as less
frequent nectar feeders such as beetles and wasps. Effects on such a range of
species groups could have implications for the pollination of arable plants.
The FSEs also looked at the effects on invertebrate trophic (or functional) groups . Where the weeds were less abundant in GMHT beet and oilseed rape, there were fewer herbivores, pollinators and natural enemies (predators and parasitoids). Detritivores increased under GMHT management across all crops due to the greater input, later in the season, of dead weeds on which they feed. This shift in resources from the herbivore to the detritivore food web resulted in a general trend of greater increases in the ratio of detritivores to herbivores under GMHT than under conventional cropping. The reduced number of pollinators may influence seed production of insect-pollinated weeds, amplifying direct effects of herbicide on the weed flora.
All these negative impacts of GMHT beet and oilseed rape on biodiversity are so conclusive that several NGOs demanded an immediate ban on GM crops. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds agreed that the risks are too great for wildlife and called for the two GM crops to be banned. Many farmland birds rely on seeds from weeds for their survival and GMHT beet and oilseed rape may be the final nail in the coffin for some species.
In trying to downplay the negative impacts, some alleged that the effects are not due to the GM crops per se, but to the herbicide regime, and hence can be somehow ‘managed’ away. However, the GM crops are inextricably linked with the proprietary herbicides they are engineered to tolerate, and it is the GMHT practice - the modified plant and the herbicide as a package – that has been damaging to the environment. Moreover, the FSEs’ herbicide regime was recommended by the GM seed companies, so presumably is realistic under commercial conditions.
The effect of growing the third GMHT crop - maize – seemed to be positive, with higher weed density throughout the season, as well as higher late-season biomass and seed rain [4, 5]. This had a corresponding effect on invertebrates, with higher abundance on the soil surface, specifically of carabids , and more butterflies during some months . There was greater plant cover and flowering in field margins of the GMHT field, but no butterfly differences were observed .
However, the apparent harmlessness of the GMHT
maize is primarily accounted for by the relative toxicity
of the herbicide atrazine used on most of the conventional maize,
which resulted in lower weed densities.
In contrast, the GMHT maize allowed farmers to spray with a different, albeit
weaker, herbicide, leading to more weeds. Compared to the conventional, the
biodiversity measurements in GMHT maize thus looked relatively good.
A week before the publication of the FSE results, the EU announced a ban on atrazine in agriculture. This means that atrazine would have to be phased out in Britain within 18 months and that it would probably be withdrawn from use before GM maize - if it mustered approval - was grown commercially. This effectively invalidates the maize trails, which no longer reflect the real conditions under which non-GM crops will be grown.
researchers were only confident that their findings represent what would
actually happen “unless the management regimes altered somewhat, for example
if... atrazine was no longer allowed on maize crops...”. They acknowledged
that the results might need to be ‘recalibrated’ and that extra field
research might be needed to gather new data on whatever regime replaces atrazine
in conventional maize.
there’s more to this story than has been alluded to by the media or admitted
by the researchers (see “Cynical & dishonest science” in GM maize
The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) will now consider the FSE results and advise the UK government on their implications. ACRE will likely suffer some well-deserved embarrassment, as it had blithely approved, in 1997, the GM oilseed rape tested in the FSEs, saying that it “did not pose a risk in terms of human health and environmental safety for the United Kingdom”. On their recommendation, the UK Government had agreed to marketing of the oilseed rape, but this was prevented because other European countries opposed it.
If ACRE’s advice had been followed, farmers could have been growing this damaging crop for the last five years. It was only public opposition that forced more research on environmental effects.
public have made their opinion on GM crops clear. The GM Nation? debate found widespread unease about GM crops and
scepticism about its benefits. An overwhelming 86% of the 37 000 people who
responded said they would not be happy to eat GM food, and 54% said they never
want to see GM crops grown in the UK.
Additionally, a report into the economics of GM crops by the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit forecast found that the overall economic benefit to the UK, at least in the short term, was “likely to be limited”.
The GM Science Review report, flawed as it is, also failed to give blanket approval for GM crops and instead highlighted the gaps and uncertainties in our knowledge.
Moreover, while the FSEs showed up the damaging effects of GMHT crops, they were still narrow, and say nothing about impacts on human or animal health or agronomic performance. They also failed to ask any questions about the transgenic nature of the crops, choosing instead to focus only on a secondary effect, the impact of changing patterns of herbicide use. But neither did the FSEs compare the GMHT crops with ecologically-managed crops that use no herbicides, nor did they study effects on below-ground biodiversity (and thus soil fertility). They say nothing about gene flow, coexistence with other forms of agriculture and liability if anything goes wrong.
The UK government simply has no case for approving the commercial growing of GM crops.
The GM maize used in the FSEs is Chardon
Link) developed by Aventis (now Bayer CropScience), and engineered to
be tolerant to its Liberty herbicide (glufosinate
The GM maize herbicide management regime in the FSEs thus used Liberty, a herbicide less powerful than that used in the non-GM halves of the fields (see later).
research and farmers’ experience have shown that the GM maize cannot be grown
viably unless Liberty is mixed with other more aggressive herbicides.
A Texas Agricultural Extension Service report, Weed Control in Liberty Link
Corn 1996 to 1999 by Brent Bean and Matt Rowland, concludes that a single
Liberty application should not be relied upon for season-long weed control and
that control was greatly improved with the addition of atrazine. Similarly, a
1998 paper by Berzsenyi et al. concluded that in Hungary, “the results of
field experiments showed that a weed management strategy with glufosinate must
include multiple applications, residual herbicides or mechanical control”.
Of US farmers growing Liberty Link GM
maize, 75%-90% now need to use Liberty ATZ (a more powerful and environmentally
harmful tank mix of Liberty and atrazine)
rather than plain Liberty to obtain adequate weed control and maintain yields.
Aventis/Bayer has marketed Liberty ATZ in the US for use on Liberty Link maize
at least since 12 March 2001, as indicated on their product data sheet.
According to Pesticide Action Network
UK, maize farmers in the UK have been using increasing amounts of atrazine in
recent years. It seems highly likely that if UK farmers grow GM
maize, they would want the same mixed formulations as US farmers - if not mixed
with atrazine then with other powerful herbicides.
Furthermore, the spread of
glufosinate-resistant weeds is a potential problem likely to make the use of
Liberty ATZ almost essential in areas where GM maize has been grown for several
US researchers have documented the emergence since 1996 of heritable glufosinate-resistance in ryegrass, goosegrass, horsetail and waterhemp in areas of high glufosinate (Liberty) use.
In the absence of any UK research on Liberty-resistance in weeds, this must be assumed to be a likely problem to emerge in the UK. If Liberty ATZ or any other Liberty-based herbicide mix was ever licensed for use in the UK, it would have a much more dramatic effect on biodiversity than the FSEs suggest.
decision to use Liberty alone on the FSEs’ GM maize, rather than Liberty ATZ
or a mixture of Liberty and another herbicide, ensures that there will be more
weeds and wildlife in the GM fields than would be likely under commercial
cultivation and makes it unlikely that a commercially viable yield could be
It also means that the GM maize plots were subjected to a herbicide management regime that is likely to quickly become obsolete.
flaw was highlighted as early as 25 June 2002 in a BBC Newsnight
programme ‘Weeds fight back’, and subsequently in The Times
and Farmers Guardian, but no action seems to have been taken by
the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) overseeing the FSEs to correct this or
even to discuss the matter. Furthermore, Aventis/Bayer must have known that
Liberty on its own was ineffective, as it was already recommending in other
countries that its Liberty ATZ be used in conjunction with its GM maize.
Brian Johnson, biotechnology adviser to the Government’s advisory body English
Nature, commented, “If I were being cynical I would say that Aventis told
the government that only GA [glufosinate ammonium] would be used on these crops
in the hope that more weeds would survive in the LL [Liberty Link] crops in the
FSEs. If so, and I have no idea that this is right, then they could argue that
the GM crops were better for the environment! They might then gain marketing
consent for LL crops, only for the company then to change the pesticide
recommendations to ATZ-type tank mixes.”
non-GM control crops in the FSEs were cultivated commercially by the farmers for
sale or for feeding to their own dairy cows. In
the overwhelming majority of cases, atrazine - a particularly toxic and
persistent herbicide - was used on the conventional maize plots.
However, atrazine is now to be banned by the EU, a decision expected for several years because of its environmental impact. It was already banned in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden. This destroys the validity of the maize trials, as they no longer reflect the real conditions under which non-GM crops will be grown. Atrazine’s replacement is likely to be less harmful to the environment.
The use of atrazine on the non-GM crop thereby misleadingly gives the impression that the GM crop is relatively benevolent.Michael Meacher, who as Environment Minister commissioned the trials, said “The ban on atrazine means that the trials are no longer valid because they no longer make a true comparison between the herbicides that would be used on GM and conventional maize… I do not see how the Government can now responsibly license GM crops.”
suitability or otherwise of the herbicide regime used on the GM crop cannot be
assessed because the crop yield was not measured.
The FSEs were supposedly designed to mimic expected future UK commercial farming
practice with GM crops, but FARM, the Independent Farmers’ Union, argues that
because no attention was paid to yield the maize trials cannot be shown to
reflect normal commercial practice. Furthermore, there is no way of knowing
whether commercial farmers would have been satisfied with this level of weed
control or with the starch or dry matter yield of the resultant crop.
measurement of biodiversity, which the FSEs studied, is a complex and
time-consuming task. But the measurement of yield - which could be as simple
and quick as weighing the crop or the cobs - was not even attempted in these £5.5
million trials. The farmers hosting the trials were merely asked to
‘estimate’ the success of the crop without providing any evidence!
Independent observers of the FSEs have reported low yields and fields full of
weeds in the GM maize plots, raising suspicion that the GM crops were managed to
limit adverse effects on wildlife, and not to maximise commercial yields. The
results are thus irrelevant to farmers, who would not accept such yield
penalties. The absence of yield measurements further increases suspicion that
a deliberate attempt was made to conceal the commercial unviability of the
herbicide regime selected.
principal measurements of yield and dry matter reported for Chardon LL are
derived from the National Seed List trials, which, in common with non-GM
varieties, were grown using atrazine.
However, as Chardon LL was engineered for use with Liberty, these figures are
irrelevant and almost certainly misleadingly high. Most of the GM maize trials
were treated with only one spray of Liberty at rates averaging just 3.5 litres
of glufosinate per hectare (FSE report, p. 1815), allowing weeds to flourish,
whereas a maximum total dose of 8 litres of glufosinate per hectare was
permitted in the efficacy trials to efficiently kill weeds (PSD Notice 1123).
Sherrell, FARM founding member and South West dairy farmer, said: “These
trials are completely useless for working farmers. Not only have they been
invalidated by the use of the now banned herbicide atrazine, but they also
provide no evidence of how these crops would perform under practical commercial
conditions. It is amazing how the Government are trying to force farmers to grow
these crops without providing the information farmers need.”
GM Free Cymru has accused the SSC, which oversaw the FSEs, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and its scientific advisor, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE), of scientific fraud in the GM maize trials. In their view, the SSC should have recommended the cancellation of the maize trials as soon as it discovered that they were not replicating commercial management regimes.
to say, the maize trials did not assess other important questions such as the
threat posed to organic and other non-GM maize crops via pollen contamination,
or the rate of emergence of Liberty-resistant weeds.
flaws, in combination, render the FSEs of GM maize misleading and worthless. Ian
Panton of GM Free Cymru said, “It would be an act of gross irresponsibility
and negligence should the Government seek to authorise the commercialisation of
GM maize on the basis of this cynical and dishonest science.”
4) Announcing Science in Society 20 Autumn/Winter
2003 (27 11 03)
Science rules against GM
debate ended with a resounding "no" to GM crops on the weight of
Much of the damning evidence is detailed in the widely circulated report, The Case for a GM-Free Sustainable World, compiled by an Independent Science Panel of 24 scientists from 7 countries. It has now received ample corroboration from surprising sources.
The long awaited results of the UK Government’s three-year Farm Scale Evaluations (FSEs), released October 16, showed two of the three GM crops were harmful to wildlife. The third appeared to do better only because the conventional crop was sprayed with a deadly pesticide atrazine that Europe had banned a week earlier. These findings are highly significant, if only because the FSEs were intentionally restricted in scope, and biased in methodology. Most culpable, perhaps, is the failure to monitor the stability of the GM crops. For years, I have challenged the scientific advisory committees on this issue, only to be met with persistent denial and personal attacks.
Two laboratories in France have
recently produced clear evidence that five out of five commercially approved GM
crops were unstable. This
invalidates any safety testing done on the GM crops, and raises continuing
safety concerns as the crops are grown in the field. It is indeed the process
of genetic modification itself that is unsafe.
light of all the evidence, the pro-GM scientists advising our governments
ought to be publicly humiliated at the very least, for having abused science and
public trust. Instead of which, they are among the hundred or so who have
to write to Tony Blair blaming their defeat on "anti-GM groups"
"hi-jacked meetings" and on "misleading" reports in the
press. Interviewed on the BBC, one
of them, Derek Burke said he wanted "arguments based on evidence"
instead of "opinion". He should be reprimanding himself and
his cosignatories on that very point. And how dare he and Chris Leaver presume
to speak on behalf of the "scientific community"? Many scientists do
not share their pro-GM stance, and molecular geneticists are but a minute
minority of all scientists.
the scientific community is disaffected, as they claim, it is because scientists
like them are unashamedly pushing the corporate agenda,
and compromising all the traditional standards of good science. The corporations are deserting biotech
research as a financial dead-end. Monsanto is decamping from Europe as losses
mount and its downward slide in the stock market continues. More importantly,
genetic modification has been discredited, and is a scientific dead-end. It
would be a sin for Tony Blair to allow GM crops to be grown in Britain. It would
be adding insult and injury to the scientific community and the public by
continuing to support this line of research at the expense of many other
infinitely more deserving, socially promising and financially rewarding
GM crops bad for developing countries
If the effects of GM crops for Canada and the US are bad enough, they have the potential to be far worse for developing countries. Third World governments should be wary as the biotech giants, forced out of Europe, are aggressively targeting their countries. Scientists in Argentina, the third largest grower of GM crops, are just now discovering the devastating impacts of GM crops on the health of their children and on their agricultural and natural biodiversity. A detailed study on flagship projects of corporate giants in African countries, meanwhile, has pronounced GM crops "irrelevant" for the continent. All the GM projects showcased by the industry as huge successes for small-scale African farmers in fact yield much less benefit than can be obtained with either conventional breeding or agroecology-based techniques, and for just a tiny fraction of the investment in research.
Another sign that biotech research is going nowhere comes from Nobel Laureate genome sequencer Sydney Brenner, who has recently called for a new appraisal of public healthcare instead of going in the direction of the human genome banks and personalised medicines.
There are good reasons for Brenner and other scientists to break rank with the pro-GM brigade.
Diet is found to affect genetic
imprinting, a developing process in which genes are marked to become silent,
resulting in immediate and longer-term health impacts on the unborn. The
malnutrition of teenage mothers with too little to spend on food is a potential
time bomb for the already overstretched public health service.
bright side, while inadequate diet can compromise the health of the unborn and
cause them to become obese as adults, appropriate dietary supplements may
reverse the damage. Obese mice given dietary supplements were found to give
birth to lean, healthy offspring.
Another unexpected burden on public
health is coming from assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro
fertilization, which are linked to a range of birth defects, developmental
abnormalities and ectopic pregnancies. Some of the birth defects appear to be
due to stresses experienced by manipulated germ cells and embryos, and are
similar to those resulting from poor diet.
The trend towards turning birth into a
medical procedure is also compromising the health of both mother and infant.
It is significant that where measures have been taken to reverse this trend, as
in the Netherlands, practically all the health indicators have improved.
precaution keeps Bt crops at bay
The Dutch have the reputation of being the most sensible among Europeans, and their precautionary safety assessment of GM crops containing the biopesticide Bt is exemplary. Questions are raised about the effects of Bt crops on the entire food web, and special consideration is given to the much smaller size of fields in the Netherlands compared to those in the United States. The contrast between safety assessment in the United States and the Netherlands is like night and day. And still, false reassurances are being handed out on the lack of Bt-resistance evolving in insect pests.
We continue to bring exciting new developments in the on-going paradigm change in science. SiS review introduces the work of remarkable architect Chris Alexander who spent a life-time in quest of beautiful architecture, and comes up with the surprising finding that all nature is alive, even "empty space" itself.
brings us to the star mini-series, Life of Gaia, dedicated to our planet earth,
who is indeed alive, so we may better appreciate how she lives and sustains all
creatures large and small, that we may learn to dance to the complex rhythms of
her life music without stopping her in her tracks.
Order your copy from the ISIS online
From the Editor
the GM Debate
- GM Crops Harm Wildlife
- Lead Us Not into GM
- "Cynical & Dishonest Science" in GM Maize Trials
- World Against GM
- GM Crops Irrelevant for Africa
- Argentina’s GM Woes
- Dutch Precaution Keeps Bt Crops At Bay
- The Fall & Fall of GM Giant Monsanto
- Farmers Want Review of Publicly Funded Science
- Back to the Future for Gaia
- Abrupt Climate Change Happening
- Why Gaia Needs Rainforests
- How Iraq Benefits US Oil Companies
- Soya Destroying Amazon
- Global Warming & then the Big Freeze
- Why the United States Needs the Amazon
- Bush Vulnerable to Climate Change
- More CO2 Could Mean Less Biodiversity & Worse
- No Bt Resistance?
- Transgenic Lines Proven Unstable
- Transgenic Trees Spread Mercury Poisoning
- Independent Science Panel Rejects Conclusions of GM Science Review
- Diet Trumping Genes
- European Directive against Vitamins & Minerals
- Nobel Geneticist Spurns Gene Drugs & DNA Biobanks
- What’s Wrong with Assisted Reproductive Technologies?
- Eating for Two –Badly
- No Place for Birth
- Patients are "Guinea Pigs" for New IVF Treatments
- Lest We Forget
- Behind the Collapse of the Ministerial
- Architect of Life
5) Round-up Ready Sudden Death Syndrome (30 11 03)
Prof. Joe Cummins finds evidence that Roundup Ready causes sudden death and other diseases by boosting fusarium in the soil.
For several years, scientists have investigated the impact of herbicides, particularly glyphosate (Round-up) on soil microbial communities. These investigations revealed increased colonization of the roots of Round-up Ready (RR) soya with the fungus Fusarium in midwestern fields during 1997 to 2000. At the same time, large scale cropping with herbicide-tolerant cultivars was found to increase soil-borne plant pathogens; Brazilian soils showed increased microbial activity for several seasons. There is clear evidence that repeated glyphosate applications over several seasons increases soil-borne pathogens.
During the first year of glyphosate application on RR soya, a severe sudden death syndrome epidemic occurred in several RR cultivars. The RR cultivars were susceptible to sudden death from infection by the fungus Fusarium solani. Sudden death syndrome of soya is a disease of economic importance in North America. Follow-up studies showed that different cultivars of soya showed different levels of resistance to the sudden death fungus and suggest that glyphosate tolerant and non-tolerant cultivars responded similarly to infection by Fusarium solani.
to Jeremy Bigwood (www.mycoherbicide.net),
a scientist from Agriculture Canada, Myriam Fernadez, had reported as yet
unpublished studies showing that wheat fields that had been treated with
glyphosate had elevated levels fusarium head blight, a serious disease of
Andy Coghlan of the New Scientist further reported:
"The potential problem was spotted a few years ago by Myriam Fernandez of the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre run by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
She noticed that in some fields where glyphosate had been applied the previous year, wheat appeared to be worse affected by fusarium head blight - a devastating fungal disease that damages grain and turns it pink. In Europe alone, fusarium head blight destroys a fifth of wheat harvests. The fungi that cause the disease also produce toxins that can kill humans and animals. In a follow-up study, Fernandez measured levels of the blight in wheat fields. "We found higher levels of blight within each tillage category when glyphosate had been used in the previous year," says her colleague Keith Hanson. And his lab study showed that Fusarium graminearum and F. avenaceum, the fungi that cause head blight, grow faster when glyphosate-based weed-killers are added to the nutrient medium." Unfortunately, Agriculture Canada has not fast tracked publication of such important results when they are advocating registration of RR wheat.
conclusion, there seems to be a clear link between the use of herbicide and
accumulation of pathogenic fungi in the soil. The RR soya cultivars fared
poorly under the impact of the sudden death fungus. Wheat fields treated
with Round-up appear to be sensitive to the head blight disease. Such
findings should have triggered prompt and extensive reviews on the use of
Roundup and Roundup tolerant GM crops by our North American regulators. Instead
of which, the two governments of North America appear to be advocating
registration of RR wheat.
6) Regulatory Sham on Bt-Crops (1 12 03)
Prof. Joe Cummins exposes the regulatory sham involved in GM crops containing a range of biopesticides
At 80 million planted acres, corn is the largest crop grown in the US and accounts for one fifth of total agricultural cropland. Over the past years, conventional insecticides have been applied to between 14 to 18 million acres of corn to control corn root worm (CRW). This single corn pest accounts for over 14% of insecticide applications to agricultural crops. Infested acreage is increasing due to extended diapause and change in the insect’s behaviour as the CRW lays its eggs in soybean fields, which are planted in rotation with corn.
Currently, the main genetically modified (GM) corn contains the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin gene Cry1Ab to control corn borer, but does not control CRW. CRW control has been the recent focus among the corporations developing GM crops. All candidate crops are being raced to market with the cooperation of regulatory authoritatives in the US and Canada. The emphasis is on speedy evaluation and keeping down costs rather than to ensure safety to consumers and to the environment. Safety testing is done using toxins produced in bacteria acknowledged to be somewhat different from those produced in the corn plants. This is deemed to be "sound science" by the regulators.
GM corn with genes providing protection against
CRW will soon reach the market.
Monsanto corporation has focused on the Bt toxin Cry3Bb and has recently
Bt toxins that combine amino acid sequences from native Cry1Ac and Cry1F crystal
protein, which have enhanced broad range specificity lacking in
either toxin individually. Dow
corporation has been developing corn with Cry34Ab/Cry 35Ab combined toxin.
Monsanto’s Cry3Bb-corn is ready for commercial release and the others will
Patents describing the production of Bt-Cry3Bb describe the production of the synthetic Bt genes both used to produce the toxin produced in bacteria and the toxin produced in corn plants. The synthetic Bt-cry3Bb is altered from the bacterial gene by insertion of the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) promoter and enhancers, the leader sequence of wheat chlorophyll a/b binding protein, the rice actin intron, and the 3’ transcription terminator sequence of wheat heat shock protein 17.3. Along with the sequences above, many code words for amino acids were altered to enhance translation in the plant cell, and some amino acids were changed to enhance performance in the plant cell. An antibiotic resistance marker nptII, also with the CaMV promoter and the NOS transcription terminator from Agrobacterium tumefacians nopaline synthetase gene was inserted into the corn chromosome along with the Bt-cry3Bb construct. The genetic insert in corn was called MON 863. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) noted that the Bt toxin in Mon 863 differed from the bacterial toxin by seven amino acids and by an additional amino acid, alanine in the second position from the start of the protein.
US Environment Protection Agency has considered a
large number of documents on human health and environmental impacts of
Mon 863 corn.
The petition to establish a tolerance exemption for Bt-Cry3Bb argued that it
was not necessary to set a tolerance level because the toxin was not toxic to mammals. But the studies supporting
the exemption were done with toxin produced in bacteria that are not identical
to the product in Mon 863 corn. The biopesticides registration action
document for event MON863 Bt-Cry3Bb1 corn
provided information on product characterization. The action document on
environmental assessment included evidence on non-target wildlife, but reviewed
data from the bacterial
Bt- Cry3Bb1 toxin, and not the toxin produced in MON863
corn. EPA has also provided a fact sheet on Bt-Cry3Bb1 protein
and the genetic material necessary for its production.
Canada approved MON863 corn for livestock feed
on March 5, 2003. Limited information was provided in the Canadian decision
document, and the fact that the safety investigations had been based on a
product significantly different from the toxin in MON863 corn was not mentioned.
The approval of
GM crops bearing toxins whose safety tests have been based on tests of surrogate
products appears to have grown so commonplace among regulators that it is not
worthy of mention.
Agroscience Corporation has been developing a binary toxin mixture containing Bt- Cry34Ab1 and
Bt-cry35Ab1 effective against CRW.
Initial safety tests using toxins produced in bacteria showed that the mixture
was digestible by mammals and for that reason unlikely to be
allergenic. The petition to EPA for tolerance exemption, and the granted
temporary exemption noted that the
proteins were obtained from bacteria
but believed to be similar to the proteins produced in corn (the product
being regulated) because the products had similar gel electrophoresis mobility.
The actual differences between the
synthetic genes in corn and the protein they produce and the protein toxins
produced in bacteria from the native gene have not yet been disclosed.
recently (Nov. 11,2003) disclosed methods for the construction of B. thuringiensis
hybrid delta-endotoxins comprising amino
acid sequences from native Cry1Ac
and Cry1F crystal proteins.
These hybrid proteins, in which all
or a portion of Cry1Ac domain 2, all
or a portion of Cry1Ac domain 3, and all
or a portion of the Cry1Ac protoxin segment is replaced
by the corresponding portions of Cry1F, possess not only the insecticidal characteristics of the parent delta-endotoxins,
but also have the unexpected and
remarkable properties of enhanced broad-range specificity not displayed by
either of the native delta-endotoxins. The
hybrid toxins incorporated into
transgenic plants express broad-spectrum insecticidal activity against a variety
of coleopteran, dipteran, and lepidopteran insects. Presumably, the deployment
of the synthetic genes, described above, is meant to provide protection
against all of the major insect pests of corn.
It seems likely that the mammalian toxicity tests and the test of impact on non-target animals will be done with the protein produced in bacteria not the one produced in corn plants.
spite of the clear differences between the genes and the insecticide toxin
proteins produced in bacteria and those produced in transgenic plants the US and
Canadian regulators have agreed
with the corporations manufacturing the GM crops that
the products are substantially equivalent.
So long as the final toxins are similar the bacterial toxins can be used as
surrogates for the crop toxin in safety testing.
The regulators made little or no effort to directly test the validity of their presumptions. They are placing the burden of proof that the toxins in the GM crops are unsafe for mammals and the environment on the shoulders of the public, not the corporations who profit from the GM crops. In the final analysis, the regulators are providing essential public relations benefits for the corporations but not adequately protecting the public. And so long as GM crops are not labeled in the market, the errors of the regulators will go undetected.
bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), has proven to be a rich
source of toxins for killing insect pests. Most of the toxin genes
now being used in genetically modified (GM) crops are produced in sporulating
Bt, and belong to the Cry family:
designated Cry1, Cry 2 etc. up to at least Cry 41. The Cry genes are further distinguished as Cry1A, Cry1B etc for
substantial sequence variations, and labeled Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab etc for very small
differences in sequence. The Cry gene
toxins target specific insect cell receptor proteins and create pores that lead
to osmotic lysis of the insect gut cells. Only a few Cry genes
have found favour in GM crops. Along with
the Cry genes, Cyt genes have been characterized that are distinct from
Cry genes and act by breaking open the insect’s blood cells.
recent years, vegetative insecticidal
proteins (VIP) have been found to have potent, broad-spectrum activity against
VIP genes are not homologous to
Cry and Cyt genes, and bind to cell membrane proteins different from the
producers of chemical and biological pesticides, has patented
the VIP genes for use in transgenic crop plants and microbes.
Syngenta’s United States patent 6 429 360 covers the use of Bt-VIP
genes and their synthesis and alteration to improve performance in crop
plants. Syngenta’s patent provided evidence that VIP3A toxin produced apoptotic type of cell
death, including the production of membrane-bound apoptotic bodies and
activation of endonuclease enzymes that
cleave chromatin into discrete fragments.
(meaning petals falling from a flower) is a form of programmed cell death common
to all cells with discrete nuclei. It is a part of normal development, but the
VIP3A toxin uses
programmed cell death to destroy the cells of the insect gut. In
order to function fully in the plant cells, the Bt-VIP3A gene is modified in
its coding sequence; a strong promoter added, as well as an intron to
facilitate transfer of the pre-messenger RNA from nucleus to cytoplasm; and
the usual transcription terminator and polyA addition sequences.
VIP3A receptor was identified and its characteristic "death"
recognition sequence was characterized.
Organisms whose cells have nuclei generally have receptors with death signals
and the insect VIP3A receptor is a unique member of the class of sequences.
has petitioned the United States Environmental protection Agency (EPA) for
commercial release of event COT102 cotton
containing a synthetic VIPA3 gene.
Presumably, corn containing the VIP3A gene will be proposed for commercial
release. The EPA report of the
Syngenta petition for tolerance in or near food reported that the VIPA3 toxin
was homologous to the VIP3A toxin in numerous Bt strains. However, the petition failed to mention the numerous
change in DNA sequence including promoter, introns, terminator and polyA signal,
which were reported in the Syngenta patent for VIP genes. Mammalian
acute toxicity studies were done using the VIPA3 toxin produced in bacteria, not
the toxin produced in modified corn or cotton. The VIPA3 toxin in
cotton is assumed to be substantially equivalent to the toxin produced in
bacteria but, as in the case of most other commercial Bt cry toxins, the
toxin protein is allowed to diverge significantly from the bacterial toxin so
long as the protein remains active against insect cells and is immunologically
similar to the toxin produced in cotton. The toxin tested by Syngenta showed
no overt acute toxicity and there was no indication that it was allergenic.
Sequence analysis showed no overt similarity to known toxins. The practice of putting forward Bt toxins produced in bacteria as
equivalent to the Bt toxins produced in crops was criticised earlier. The
practice is unsound and should, at least, be made very clear in the government
announcements on the safety testing of GM crops bearing genes for Bt toxins.
report notes: "Once in the insect gut, the VIPA3 protein binds to
specific receptors (different from those by Cry 1A proteins) and forms
ion specific pores." There was no discussion, in the EPA report of
the apoptosis and binding to death sequences receptors mentioned in the Syngenta
the claim that the VIP3A toxin had no obvious homology to mammalian toxins
seems to have ignored the homology of all
apoptosis receptor death sequences. The contrast between
the Syngenta patent and the EPA report is perplexing because the patent document
was well supported with experiments while the EPA report provided little
scientific evidence for its claims.
conclusion, the Bt toxins of the VIP gene family provide potent broad spectrum
insect control. The toxins have been reported to act by binding to death
sequences and triggering apoptosis in insect cells. At the very least, the
potential impact of such toxins on the receptors and death sequences in
mammalian cells should be fully evaluated before GM crops bearing the toxins
enter the mammalian food chain.
8) Unstable Transgenic Lines Illegal (3
Further evidence that most if not all commercially approved transgenic lines are genetically unstable and non-uniform has come to light. The transgenic lines fail to satisfy the current EU Directive requirements for proof of genetic stability and uniformity, and are hence illegal. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho reports.
In a recent study  on five commercially approved transgenic lines carried out by two French laboratories , all five transgenic inserts were found to have rearranged, not just from the construct used in transformation, but also from the original structure reported by the company.
This was clear evidence that all the lines were genetically unstable.
evidence has come to light since. The
Service of Biosafety and Biotechnology (SBB) of the Scientific Institute
of Public Health (IPH) in Brussels has published on its website (http://biosafety.ihe.be/TP/MGC.html)
reports on the molecular characterisation of the
genetic map of six transgenic lines, four of which overlap with
those analysed by the French laboratories: Bt
176 maize (Syngenta), Mon 810 maize (Monsanto), T25 maize (Bayer CropScience)
and GTS 40-3-2 soybean (Monsanto).
is a Scientific Institute of the State, linked to the Belgian Federal Ministry
of Social Affairs, Public Health and the Environment.
Brussels reports are an overview of data presented at a meeting of the Belgian
Biosafety Advisory Council. The data come from different scientific
institutions, the applicants and from published papers. The reports found
evidence of genetic instability similar to those described in the French study.
there are small and large discrepancies when the two sets of data are compared.
In one case, Bt 176, there may even have been a misreporting or
misidentification of the Bt transgene present, which the company claimed to be crylAb.
Comparison with the public database revealed that the transgene has only 65%
homology with the native crylAb, but 94% homology with crylAc.
Bt toxins are potential allergens and immunogens; crylAc, in particular, was identified as a potent systemic and mucosal immunogen, as potent as cholera toxin .
The studies also revealed a discrepancy
in regulatory practice.
UK’s Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) and the Belgian authority both appear to have allowed Monsanto to submit new molecular data on Roundup Ready soybean when independent analysis revealed its insert had rearranged.
Most of the discrepancies involve the structure
of the insert, the number of insert(s) and locations within the
genome; suggesting that the transgenic lines are not only unstable
but also non-uniform. Consequently, the results of the molecular
characterisation could differ from sample to sample of the same transgenic line.
In other words, the transgenic lines may well not pass the DUS (distinctness,
uniformity and stability) test, which is required by European legislation.
new EU Directive 2001/18/EC on deliberate release of GMOs also requires
information documenting genetic stability (Annex IIIB) as a condition for market approval.
Genetic stability can only be demonstrated by ‘event specific’ molecular data of the kind carried out in the two studies. In view of the finding that practically every transgenic insert has rearranged from that reported in the company’s original dossier, it would indicate that the transgenic lines have failed the test of genetic stability, and are no longer the same lines that were risk assessed, and in some cases, placed on the market. This has important safety implications. Rearrangements and deletions are signs of structural instability, which enhances horizontal gene transfer and recombination, with all the attendant risks . This is particularly relevant as the molecular analyses have so far revealed a strong tendency for transgenic inserts to land in mobile genetic elements, such as retrotransposons and repeat sequences. Four out of six transgenic inserts analysed for flanking sequences identified repeat or retrotransposon sequences.
For either or both those reasons, it
would be illegal, under European legislation, to grant those transgenic lines
commercial approval; and the lines that have been approved must surely now be
detailed comparisons on the findings in the four transgenic lines from the two
studies are presented below, followed by comments on the additional transgenic
lines investigated separately in the two studies.
lines analysed in both studies
Bt 176 maize (Syngenta)
The Bt176 maize dossier was first submitted in 1994 by Ciba Geigy (Novartis) and approved under the old EU Directive for growing, seed production, import, processing and food/feed purposes since 23 January 1997 . It was modified for tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate, male sterility and insect resistance. Two constructs were used to transform maize (see below).
Only the simpler construct was analysed. Company data showed single insert containing the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter (hereafter referred to as P35S) driving the bar gene (glufosinate tolerance) terminated by the CaMV 35S terminator (hereafter referred to as T35S) followed by the ampicillin resistance (bla) gene plus a bacterial promoter, and the plasmid origin of replication, ori.
revealed several fragments, all containing P35S: one with P35S joined to T35S, a
second with P35S joined to an unknown sequence, and a third with P35S joined to
the bar gene, with the T35S deleted (that means P35S could drive the
expression of downstream maize genes).
At least three insertion sites were found for this construct.
This study  describes the line as being obtained by microprojective bombardment into immature embryos of inbred corn line CG00526 (Zea mays L.) using two different transforming plasmids. The plasmid pCIB4431 contains two copies of a synthetic truncated crylA(b) gene, having approximately 65% homology at nucleotide level with the native gene of Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki strain HD1.
The first copy is under the regulation of the maize phosphenlopyruvate caboxylase (PEPC) promoter (PPEPC) and the T35S.
The second copy is under the regulation of the maize calcium-dependent protein kinase (CDPK) promoter(PCDPK), resulting in pollen-specific expression, and terminated with T35S.
In addition, both copies were combined with the intron #9 derived from the maize PEPC gene to enhance expression in maize. The plasmid pCIB3064 contains the bar gene derived from Streptomyces hygroscopicus under the regulation of P35S and T35S. Both plasmids also contain a copy of the bla gene for amipicillin resistance under the control of a bacterial promoter.
There are still uncertainties about the copy number of the insert in event Bt176. Published results from Koziel et al  indicated that there may be as many as five copies of the crylA(b) gene present.
Data from Centrum Landbouwkundig Onderzoek, Mell, Belgium (CLO) revealed that the cry coding sequence showed 94% similarity with Genbank accession no. AF537267 for synthetic construct of crylAc gene. In comparison, the cry transgene showed only 65% homology at nucleotide level with the native gene of Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki strain HD1. This suggests the company may have misreported or misidentified the transgene present.
company’s dossier claimed one single copy of transgene insert (P35S-bar-T35S),
and gave no information on 5’ or 3’ flanking sequences.
For the second transgene insert (T35S-int#9-crylAb-PPEPC-PCPDK- cry1Ab-int#9-T35S), it claimed 2 to 5 copies were present, but no information on flanking sequences was provided.
sources report that first transgene insert is present in at least 4 truncated
copies, and depending on the source, the number of truncated
copies differs. This is an indication of
non-uniformity of the transgenic line as well as genetic instability. The
second transgene insert is present in at least 5 copies.
are basic agreements between the two studies on the rampant rearrangements that
have occurred. There is also evidence of non-uniformity from the Brussels study
Mon 810 (Monsanto)
Mon 810, modified for resistance to lepidopteran insects (butterflies & moths), was submitted by Monsanto in 1995 and approved under the old Directive for growing, import, seed production and processing into animal feeding stuffs and industrial purposes since 22 April 1998 . In December 1997 food and food ingredients derived from Mon 810 maize were notified under Article 5 of the Regulation (EC) 238/97 (for novel foods). Several hybrids of Mon810 are still pending approval for marketing:
Company data showed that the insert has a P35S driving a crylAb synthetic gene with terminator T-nos. Maize heat shock protein intron is located between P35S and crylAb. Analysis revealed however, that T-nos and part of the 3’ (tail) end of the crylAb gene have been deleted. T-nos is detected elsewhere in the genome, indicating that it may have moved from its original position.
The 5’ (head) end of the insertion site shows
homology to the long terminal repeats (LTR) of the maize alpha Zein gene cluster, but no homology to the maize genome was detected at the 3’ site,
indicating that there had been scrambling of the maize genome at the insertion
site. The strong P35S promoter
could therefore be driving the transcription of an unknown gene downstream.
Mon 810 was produced by transforming maize genotype HiII with two plasmid vectors, pV-ZMBK07 and pV-ZMGT10. The plasmid pV-ZMVK07 contains the crylAb gene isolated from Bacillus thuringiensis ssp. kurstaki, placed under control of the enhanced CaMV 35S promoter (e35S) and the T-nos. An intron from the maize heat-shock protein (hsp70) is located between the e35S promoter and the crylAb gene. The second plasmid pV-ZMGT10 contains the CP4 EPSPS gene from Agrobacterium strain CP4 and the gox gene cloned from Achromobacter strain LBAA. Both plasmids contain the nptII gene under control of a bacterial promoter. Molecular analysis by Monsanto showed that the nptII gene and the backbone sequences of pV-ZMBK07 are not integrated and that none of the DNA sequences from vector pV-ZMGT10 are present.
to the company dossier, Mon 810 contains a single copy of the e35S promoter, the
hsp70 intron and the crylAb gene. The absence of the 3’T-nos sequence
was confirmed by CLO.
determined the 5’ junction, upstream from the e35S, and found that the DNA
shows 88% identity with the 22kDa alpha Zein gene of maize.
rearrangement of the insert was confirmed in both studies. A potentially serious
discrepancy is that the French study found the insert flanked by the LTR of the
Zein gene cluster at its 5’end, and not by the Zein gene, as found in the
Brussels study. A minor discrepancy is in the P35S reported in the French study
as opposed to e35S in the Brussels study, and the detecting of T-nos elsewhere
in the maize genome in the French study.
Liberty-link maize event T25, modified for tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate, was submitted by AgrEvo (Bayer CropScience) in 1995 and approved for marketing since 22 April 1998 . Products derived from T25 have been notified under Article 5 of the Regulation (EC) 258/97 on 21 October 1999.
of T25, still pending approval for marketing, T25 x Mon 810, was submitted 29
April under the old Directive, and the Scientific Committee gave a favourable
opinion on the dossier 6 June 2000.
Company data showed that the insert includes a truncated ampicillin resistance bla gene in the plasmid vector pUC18, a P35S driving a synthetic pat gene (glufosinate tolerance) terminated by T35S.
On analysis, the insert was found to have undergone further rearrangement, so that a second, truncated and rearranged P35S has been joined to the 5’ (left, or head) end of the insert, while additional pUC18 sequences were found at the 3’ (right, or tail) end.
Edges flanking the insert show
homologies (similarities) with Huck retrotransposons (a class of mobile genetic
elements) in the maize genome.
T25 was obtained by protoplast transformation of the parental line He/89 using plasmid pUC/Ac containing the pat gene from S. viridochromogenes Tu494 and controlled by P35S and T35S. The plasmid includes the bla gene for ampicillin resistance.
company dossier claimed there was a single insert, and this was confirmed by
CLO’s analysis. The pat gene is "surrounded" by sequences
from the plasmid vector pUC18. According to the dossier, a 2187 bp pUC fragment
is present upstream of P35S. This fragment ends up in the bla gene
followed by a 353bp fragment of the P35S, probably resulting from a
duplication/recombination event. CLO confirmed these data, except that a
shorter, 298 bp P35S promoter fragment was found. According to both the
applicant and CLO, a fragment from pUC plasmid was found at the 3’ end
downstream of 35S terminator; but differences in length were reported.
submitted data that describe the host flanking sequences of the T25 line. A
151p(5’) and a 121 bp (3’) fragment show homology (94% identity) to maize
alcohol dehydrogenase adh1 gene.
This differs from the findings of the French study, which detected flanking sequences homologous with Huck retrotransposons. Apart from this discrepancy, the nature of the rearrangement in the insert was confirmed in both studies.
GTS 40-3-2 (Monsanto)
This line was modified for tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup Ready variety). According to UK’s Advisory Committee for Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) , the Committee considered Monsanto’s RR soybeans line 40-3-2 under its "voluntary scheme" in 1994 and gave it clearance for food safety on 20 February 1995. The event has been approved for planting and/or consumption in a number of countries worldwide and products from it consumed for a number of years.
The company’s original data showed a single insert with P35S driving a composite gene containing the N-terminal chloroplast transit peptide (CPT4) joined to modified EPSPS gene with T-nos terminator. Analysis provided by the Ministry of Midclass and Agriculture, Belgium, published by Windels et al  revealed that a 254bp piece of DNA homologous to the EPSPS gene and 534bp of unknown DNA have been joined to the 3’end of the insert. It was not possible to identify the insertion site, indicating that substantial genome scrambling or deletion had taken place at the insertion site.
This study merely referred out to the ACNFP website. It appears that Monsanto was allowed to submit new data in 2000, and again in 2002. The first confirming that a 254bp piece of the EPSPS gene has been joined to the 3’ end of the insert, the second claiming that "large portions" (29bp + 420bp) of the 543bp of unknown DNA found by Windels et al  was identical to soybean genomic DNA from the company’s own "proprietary database", that has undergone rearrangement.
While the French study emphasized the rearrangement of the insert, both the UK ACNFP and the Brussel report have accepted Monsanto’s new data and not questioned why they should differ so substantially from those presented in the company’s original dossier.
was modified for tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup Ready). Company
data indicated that the insert contains multiple copies of the cassette with the
rice actin gene promoter (P-ract) driving the composite gene containing the
N-terminal chloroplast transit peptide (CPT4) joined to modified EPSPS gene and
T-nos. There were three complete cassettes flanked by a cassette with P-ract
partially deleted at the 5’ end, and one cassette with 3’ deletion of EPSPS
plus a lone P-ract at the 3’end. Analysis found partial deletion of
P-ract and deletion of T-nos in two different cassettes.The insertion site at the 3’end is flanked by
sequences of pol polyprotein gene belonging to a PREM2-retrotransposon.
On 15 September 2003, Monsanto informed the
European Commission that it was withdrawing its application for GA21 Roundup
Ready maize and GA21 x MON810 MaisGard/Roundup Ready maize, for "commercial
11 maize (Syngenta) – Brussels study
notified in 1996 and approved under the old Directive for import and processing
since 22 April 1998 . The notifications for cultivation submitted in 1996
and 1998 are still pending. On 30 November 2000, the EU Scientific Committee on
Plants gave a favourable opinion for cultivation. Up till now, the Commission
has not received an updated version of these two notifications according to the
requirements of Directive 2001/18/EC. In February 1999, Novartis submitted a new
application, which is still pending. On 13 March 2002, the SCP gave a favourable
food ingredient products derived from Bt11 crossed with the Northup King Company
inbred line #2044 maize were notified on 20 Jan. 1998.
plasmid used for transformation contains a synthetic truncated crylAb,
isolated from Bacillus thuringiensis spp. kurstaki HDI, and a
synthetic pat gene, isolated from Streptomyces viridochromogenes
Tu494. Both coding sequences were placed under the regulation of P35S and the
T-nos terminator from Agrobacterium tumefaciens.
In addition, the promoter sequences of the pat and cry1Ab gene
were combined with respectively intron Int II and Int VI derived from maize
alcohol dehydrogenase adh1S gene to enhance expression. The event Bt11
maize was obtained by protoplast transformation with plasmid pZ01502 after
digestion with restriction enzyme Not1 to remove the bla gene
encoding ampicillin resistance.
whole sequence of the insert was determined by TEPRAL, Strasbourg, France. The
insert consists of a single copy of the vector fragment carrying both the crylAb
and pat gene. "It
was found that rearrangements have taken place into the insert compared to the
original insert and that several parts of the plasmid have been truncated or
unexpected inserted, e.g., t35S sequences….The presence of t35S fragments into
the insert was confirmed by INRA."
analysis done by CLO with PCR using P35S specific primer in combination with a
3’T-nos specific primer, proved that the DNA segment present in between the
two expression cassettes of the Bt11 insert is similar to the pUC vector
Zimmermann et al  showed that next
to the 5’ P35S border of the crylAb, a maize 180bp knob-specific repeat
sequence is present. In addition, CLO analysed the sequence that is present
between the P35S sequence and the maize plant and demonstrated that a 1099 bp
segment is present, homologous to the pUC backbone sequence and contains part of
the lacZ coding sequence.
junction regions at the 3’ T- nos terminator border were amplified by CLO
using a specific anchor primer. A 244 bp junction was amplified that contains
149 bp plant DNA that on BLAST sequence analysis, showed similarity to the maize
180bp knob associated tandem repeat. Independently from CLO, the 3’ T-nos
border region was also amplified by Ronning et al , confirming this finding.
The remaining part of the amplified 3’T-nos junction is homologous with the
pUC backbone sequences.
data provide evidence that the Bt11 insert is integrated in the Zea mays
180bp knob associated tandem repeat locus. At
the P35S border, an extensive piece 1099 bp of pUC backbone DNA was observed
between the plant DNA and the P35S promoter, while at the 3’nos border only a
small stretch of pUC backbone DNA is present.
According to TEPRAL, it is not certain if only one copy of the insert is present.
Preliminary data of INRA showed that a set of primers designed on the edge fragment of Bt 176 amplified sequences from both Bt176 and Bt11. These data were obtained on six different Bt11 plant seeds received by Syngenta, suggest contamination of Bt11 by Bt176.
Bt 11 is therefore neither genetically stable
nor uniform, and should on no account be approved.
Event Ms8xRf3 canola (Aventis, Bayer)
This ‘event’ is really a composite of two different transformations, and was first notified in 1996 (C/BE/96/01) from PGS (now Bayer Cropscience) under the old Directive 90/220/EEC for cultivation, import, seed production and processing into animal feed stuffs and industrial purposes . On 24 Jan 2003, the European Commission received an updated version according to the requirements of the new Directive 2001/18/EC. Oil derived from Ms8xRf3 products has been notified under Article 5 of the Regulation (EC 258/97) on 21 October 1999.
It is not clear whether the company’s data were provided in the original 1996 dossier or in the updated version submitted 24 January 2003.
produced by Agrobacterium mediated transformation using plasmid pTHW107. This
plasmid contains the barnase gene derived from Bacillus
amyloliquefaciens and the bar gene derived from Streptomyces
hygroscopicus. Barnase under regulation of a tapetum specific
promoter PTA29 isolated from Nicotiana tabacum and the T- nos terminator
of Agrobacterium tumefaciens. The bar gene is regulated by the
PSsuAra promoter isolated from Arabidopsis thaliano and by the 3’ end
of the T-DNA gene 7 of A. tumefaciens.
The transgenic fertility restorer line Rf3 was obtained using plasmid pTHW118 containing a barstar gene derived from Bacillus amyloliquefaciens under regulation of the PTA29 promoter and the T-nos together with the same bar cassette as described for pTHW107.
According to the company dossier, the Ms8 insertion contains a single T-DNA copy. At the left border (3’end of the T-DNA) a 357 bp host sequence was retrieved. At the right border junction (5’ of the TDNA) an 864 bp host sequence was retrieved. PCR amplification from the parental line showed co-linearity with the sequences found on both sides of the T-DNA insert. Molecular analysis done by the CLO confirmed that the adjacent DNA is plant DNA. Search in the database showed that part of the 5’ flanking regions has over 82% similarity with Arabidopsis sequences.
Determination of the pre-insertion site was done by the applicant using DNA isolated from wild type oilseed rape. Alignment of wildtype sequence with the Rf3 transgene locus revealed that a fragment of 51 bp is present at the wildtype locus but missing from the transgene locus. At the right border 5 nucleotides (filler-DNA) are inserted. Alignment of the wildtype sequence with the Ms8 transgenic locus revealed that 19bp are missing at the target site. At right border junction 3 nucleotides of unknown origin are inserted.
Both Rf3 line and Ms8 line transgene is integrated in a single genetic locus. But the Rf3 event resulted in the insertion of one-TDNA copy arranged in an inverted repeat structure with a second incomplete T-DNA copy. Event Ms8 contains an intact single T-DNA copy. During insertion, typical rearrangements have occurred at the pre-insertion site. In both lines, the dossier claimed, the inserts are flanked by plant DNA showing high similarity with Arabidopsis DNA.
analysis confirms data in dossier (1996) for the right border (RB) of the Rf3
insert, but no data were available for the truncated left border (LB) and the
plant DNA rearrangement. For Ms8, CLO confirms data in dossier.
I cannot ascertain from the report whether rearrangement had occurred in the original inserts in the two events Ms8 and Rf3, as it is unclear if the company’s data were provided in the original 1996 dossier or in the updated version submitted 24 January 2003. The characteristic inversions, duplications and deletions, insertions and scrambling of host genome DNA at the sites of insertions are evident.
We have explained why this line is unacceptable in other respects  and should not be approved for commercial release. This is a ‘terminator’ crop, engineered for male sterility, ostensibly to prevent transgene escape, but in reality to protect patented herbicide tolerant trait. It also prevents farmers from saving seeds, compelling them to buy the fertile hybrid every year. In reality, the crop spreads both the male sterility ‘suicide’ gene barnase in its pollen – which is highly toxic to all cells, mammalian included - as well as the herbicide tolerance trait, with potentially large impacts on agricultural and natural biodiversity including the soil biota.
The results of UK government-sponsored Farm Scale Evaluations, recently released, have documented negative impacts on biodiversity from growing this transgenic crop .
are outstanding issues of seed purity, contamination or coexistence, and
liability and redress, which have yet to be addressed satisfactorily. In the
meantime, efforts by local authorities to
establish GM-free zones have met with difficulties. Upper
Austria’s attempt to declare itself
GM-free in September 2003 was rejected by the European Commission (EC), on
grounds that no new scientific evidence had emerged to support a ban, and that
Upper Austria had failed to prove the existence of a problem specific to the
region that justified such an approach. The Upper Austrian parliament
will appeal this decision.
Nonetheless, Friends of the Earth is currently spearheading a campaign on
Activists are lobbying local authorities to declare their areas GM-free, using Article 19 of Directive 2001/18/EC, which allows authorities to specify conditions of consent including the protection of particular ecosystems/environments and/or geographical areas. This implies that such zones can be excluded from GM marketing consents if a scientific case is made demonstrating that the GM product in question poses a particular risk to the area.
To date, more than 20 local authorities in the UK have adopted GM-free policies.
the federation of ecological living and producing – launched its ‘GMO-free
communities’ campaign in Belgium last year. It has been urging all 308 Flemish
local authorities to declare their territories GM-free. While the Federal
Government has jurisdiction on this issue, it has assured Velt that the opinion
of local communities who want to stay GM-free will be taken into account. Thanks
to the campaign, public debates on GM have taken place in several villages and
cities for the first time.
It is crucial that the terms of
such public debates are defined in consultation with civil society.
This is what CCC-OGM – the French Collective for a Citizens’ Conference – is demanding.
CCC-OGM, consisting of fifteen French NGOs, was created in late 2002 to demand that the French government initiate a public debate on GM before any political decision is made, particularly with regard to lifting the de facto moratorium on GM. It recommends using citizens’ conferences, the results of which would be used to stimulate parliamentary debate. The collective hopes to mobilise European partners to organise similar debates throughout Europe.
introduced the ISP report and called for independent science and research, and
funding thereof. Particularly, we
need independent biosafety research, which looks at the risks associated
with genetic engineering, as many questions remain unanswered. In the
meantime, scientific evidence of hazards to date has
to be taken seriously. There are also areas of research that are
severely under-funded, such as sustainable alternatives to GM agriculture, which
would include learning from farming communities and indigenous peoples. Other
kinds of western science (e.g. gene
ecology, genome fluidity) that would greatly inform on biosafety
should be supported. Yet the bulk of research funding is directed to
reductionist technological options such as GM, that’s overwhelmingly rejected
by the citizens of Europe.
In developing countries where research
capacity is limited and pulled in many directions to meet basic needs, there is
pressure to invest in GM. Yet any inappropriate
choice would result in devastating consequences, economically, socially and
ecologically, as well as for public health. This has already happened
in Argentina, as Jorge Rulli from Grupo
Reflexion Rural testified. Argentina’s
experience of GM crops has been largely negative and is linked to the
neo-liberal economic paradigm adopted by the country. Hence, the
science policies of a nation also need to be addressed.
Technology assessment, which includes good science as well as environmental, health, social and economic assessment, should precede technology transfer.
Europe GM-free will be no easy task, as exemplified by the realities in Central-Eastern
and South-Eastern Europe. Iza Kruszewska from Clean Production Action and the Northern Alliance for Sustainability,
ANPED talked in particular about the situation in Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and
Serbia. Some progress has been made in these countries, with Slovenia
part of an initiative to create a GM-free transboundary bioregion that includes
parts of Austria and Italy.
Previous attempts by Croatia to ban production of GMOs and restrict the import of GM food were met with threats of a WTO complaint from the US government.
Nonetheless, new legislation has recently come into force requiring authorisation and labelling for all GM food and feed placed on the market, and banning the release of GMOs in protected areas and their buffer zones, and in areas of organic farming and of importance to ecotourism.
Serbia and Montenegro has a policy of keeping its agriculture GM-free, with a comprehensive law regulating the conditions for deliberate release and placing on the market. However, its potential GM-free status is threatened by smuggling of GM soybeans, field trials and US food aid donations to Kosovo.
Contamination in the region is a pressing issue, as Romania and Bulgaria grow GM crops commercially, and smuggling of GM seeds allegedly occurs from these two countries. Furthermore, the chances for successful GM-free initiatives in pro-US countries - Poland and Czech Republic - are unfortunately slim, for this is where the biotech industry has most influence.
NGOs there are valiantly struggling to stop the commercialisation of GM crops.
NGOs in Albania are also facing challenges, according to Skelzen Marku from the Centre for Rural Studies. Twenty-four organisations had sent a letter to the Albanian Parliament demanding a 5-year moratorium on GMOs (seeds, food aid and experimentations), working via the Socialist Parliamentary Group. The proposal has however been postponed due to resignations within the Socialist government. In the meantime, 16 000 tonnes of maize and soya (for animal feed) arrived in Albania from the US in October 2003. Demonstrations were held to protest these aid shipments, which, protesters suspect, is genetically engineered.
Citizen and consumer action can turn the tide. Gerard Vuffray from Stop OGM/Uniterre, Switzerland spoke on the Swiss referendum initiative, where 120 000 signatures were collected to demand a 5-year moratorium on GM crops. Friends of the Earth’s ‘Bite Back’ campaign urges citizens’ to protest the US government’s complaint against the EU in the WTO regarding the EU’s biosafety regulations. The US complaint, if successful, will take away the right of Europeans to decide what they can eat.
Euro Coop, a consumers’ group in Brussels, is also trying to ensure consumers’ right to refuse GMOs. The new labelling and traceability regulations might be a good start, but Euro Coop is concerned that lifting the moratorium without stringent measures on co-existence, or addressing contamination (especially in seeds) and liability, would be disastrous. If these issues are not addressed satisfactorily, consumers could enforce a ‘commercial moratorium’ (i.e. boycott).
The lifting of the de facto moratorium in Europe seems imminent, and groups throughout the region are thus employing various strategies to ensure Europe is GM-free, both in name and in practice.
It will be a difficult battle, as there is already commercial GM plantings in Spain, Romania and Bulgaria, with numerous field trials in different countries.
All the more reason for us to step up our efforts - strategies include calling for the moratorium to remain until all scientific questions on biosafety are answered and until a proper public debate is held; declaring GM-free zones both via local authorities and lobbying the EU to allow regions and countries to declare themselves GM-free; getting the public to say ‘no’ to GMOs, including by effecting a ‘commercial moratorium’; and lobbying for satisfactory and adequate EU legislation on co-existence, liability and seed purity.
And if all else fails, there is direct action advocated by the Green Gloves Pledge in the UK to pull up GM crops if commercial growing is approved.
report from Dr. Charles Benbrook, director of the Northwest Science and
Environmental Policy Center, Idaho, concludes that the 550 million acres of GM corn, soybeans
and cotton planted in the US since 1996 has increased pesticide use (herbicides
and insecticides) by about 50 million pounds. Benbrook is a respected
agricultural economist and was Executive Director of the US National Academy of
Sciences Board on Agriculture from 1984 to 1990.
The report is the first comprehensive study of
the impact of all major commercial GM crops on pesticide use in the US over the
first eight years of commercial use, 1996-2003.
Most studies to date have only focused on the first three years of GM crop adoption (1996-1998), and no study has estimated impacts in 2002 and 2003.
draws on official US Department of Agriculture (USDA) data on pesticide use by
crop and state to calculate the overall impact of GM crops on the volume of
pesticides applied on corn, soybean and cotton. These three crops account for
nearly all the area planted to GM crops in the US.
The analysis focuses on herbicide tolerant (HT) corn, soybeans and cotton; and corn and cotton genetically engineered to produce the natural insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
HT crops allow broad-spectrum
herbicides to be sprayed over growing plants, controlling weeds while leaving
crops unharmed, making them popular with farmers.
Despite increased seed prices, HT systems have
become less expensive, largely because the price of herbicides containing
glyphosate (Roundup) has fallen by half since HT crops were first introduced.
(Crops tolerant to glyphosate - known as Roundup Ready varieties - are the
largest share of acreage planted to HT crops).
But the fall in price has meant farmers
can spray more herbicides without feeling the economic pinch. In particular,
farmers are spraying substantially more herbicides on HT soybean.
Soybean accounts for about 75% of the 400 million acres of HT crops and 54% of
all GM acres that have been planted since 1996. While total pounds of pesticides
applied to Bt corn and cotton have fallen modestly (see later), the increase in
herbicides applied on HT soybeans has been far greater. This, combined with the
dominance of HT soybean, has led to dramatic change in overall impact of GM
crops on pesticide use.
Benbrook calculates the difference between the average pounds of pesticides applied on acres planted to GM crops, compared to the pounds applied to otherwise similar conventional crops. In their first three years of commercial sale (1996-1998), GM crops reduced pesticide use by about 25.4 million pounds, but in the last three years (2001-2003), over 73 million more pounds of pesticides were applied on GM acres.
increase in overall pounds of pesticides applied across the three crops is due
mainly to the need to apply more herbicides per acre planted to HT soybeans.
USDA data show a marked increase in the per acre rate of glyphosate applied to
HT soybeans between 2001 and 2002 – about a 22% increase, from 0.85 pounds per
acre to 1.04 pounds.
This 22% jump was caused by a major price reduction in glyphosate, the need to control more difficult weeds, and the emergence of resistance and/or lessened sensitivity in weed species that were once fully controlled by one glyphosate application. So for HT soybeans, the difference in average herbicide pounds applied per acre between GM and conventional crops shifted from a reduction of 0.36 pounds per acre in 1996 to an increase of 0.47 pounds per acre in 2003.
Pesticide use estimates for 2003 in the report are preliminary, since USDA will not release these data until May 2004. However, estimates for 2003 are based on 2002 levels and trends in recent years. Benbrook is of no doubt that average glyphosate application rates per acre of HT soybeans continued rising in 2003 due to:
HT corn technology reduced herbicide
use per acre from 1996 through 2001, but increased use thereafter.
The difference in average herbicide pounds applied per acre between GM and
conventional crops shifted from a reduction of 0.8 pounds per acre in 1996 to an
increase of 0.58 pounds per acre in 2003, due to:
difference in herbicide application rates on HT and conventional cotton changed
much like that of HT corn and soybeans, shifting from a reduction of 0.64 pounds
per acre in 1996 to an increase of 0.17 pounds per acre in 2003.
The report acknowledges that the other major category of GM crops – Bt corn and cotton – continues to reduce insecticide use by 2 million to 2.5 million pounds annually. The reduction in insecticide pounds applied per acre planted to Bt corn and cotton ranges from 0.33 pounds in 1996 to 0.06 pounds in 2003, and from 0.38 pounds in 1996 to 0.2 pounds in 2001-2003, respectively. However, the increase in herbicide use on HT crops far exceeds the modest reductions in insecticide use on Bt crops, especially since 2001. The calculations also don’t take into account the volume of Bt toxin that is continuously expressed in the Bt crops’ plant cells. This amount is significant compared to the rates of application in today’s low-dose pesticides.
In short, over the last eight years, HT crops have increased pesticide use an estimated 70.2 million pounds, while Bt transgenic varieties have reduced pesticide use an estimated 19.6 million pounds. Thus, total pesticide use has risen some 50.6 million pounds over the eight-year period.
The increase in pesticide use, largely due to increased use in HT crops, especially HT soybean, is of no surprise, given that scientists had warned that heavy reliance on HT crops and a single herbicide (in this case, glyphosate) for weed management might lead to changes in weed communities and resistance. This triggers the need to apply additional herbicides and/or increase application rates to achieve the same level of weed control. Many farmers have had to spray more herbicides on GM acres in order to keep up with shifts in weeds toward tougher-to-control species, coupled with the emergence of genetic resistance in certain weed populations. "For years weed scientists have warned that heavy reliance on herbicide tolerant crops would trigger ecological changes in farm fields that would incrementally erode the technology’s effectiveness. It now appears that this process began in 2001 in the United States in the case of herbicide tolerant crops" said Benbrook.
According to Prof. Bob Hartzler, an extension weed management specialist from Iowa State University, glyphosate-resistant marestail in Roundup Ready soybeans first appeared in Delaware in 2000, spreading since as far west as Indiana, and identified in the Southeastern US where Roundup Ready cotton is grown. Other records of glyphosate- resistant weeds (not necessarily linked to HT crops) are rigid ryegrass in an orchard in Australia and in wheat production systems in Australia and California, Italian ryegrass in Chile and goosegrass in Malaysia. Furthermore, waterhemp populations with individuals capable of surviving ‘normal’ user rates were identified in Iowa and Missouri the first year Roundup Ready soybeans were marketed. While Hartzler doesn’t think that waterhemp can as yet be considered glyphosate resistant, the potential exists and should be closely monitored.
Since the first report of glyphosate resistant rigid ryegrass in 1996, four additional resistant species with this trait have been identified. According to Harztler, this rate of development suggests that new resistant biotypes will continue to arise.
Prospects for GM crops leading to reduced pesticide use in the long-term don’t bode well either. The pounds of herbicides required to achieve acceptable weed control is rising on most farms planting HT varieties, compared to the rates of application common between 1996-1998.
In contrast, the amount of herbicides and insecticides applied per acre on conventional farms continue to trend downward as a result of incremental shifts toward newer low-dose pesticides and regulatory restrictions phasing out high-dose herbicides.
As a result, the difference in total pounds of herbicides applied on HT versus conventional acres has increased steadily since 2000. Given the emergence and spread of weeds resistant or less sensitive to glyphosate, this difference is likely to widen further if HT technology continues to be relied on as heavily as in recent years.
Benbrook CM (2003) Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Eight Years, BioTech InfoNet, Technical Paper No 6, Nov 2003,
Hartzler B ‘Are Roundup Ready weeds in your future II’, Submission to UK GM Science Review, 28 February 2003, http://www.gmsciencedebate.org.uk/topics/forum/0051.htm
course of preparing a submission to the public hearing on a genetically modified
(GM) maize that the UK government wanted to put on the National Seed Register, I
had the opportunity to review evidence on how animals respond to GM food. The
evidence makes interesting reading.
Chardon LL experiments
Chardon LL is a GM maize engineered for tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate. The whole plant is intended as cattle-feed, but no experiments on whether this is safe or suitable has been carried out.
of the application of Aventis for commercial growing of this maize in the UK was
granted on the basis of two animal-feeding experiments, one on feeding kernels
to chickens and the other on feeding the isolated GM protein to rats. In both
experiments, the investigators concluded that the tested animals consumed
food and gained weight normally. However, reanalysis of the data led to a
first experiment fed Chardon LL maize kernels to 280 young broiler chickens over
42 days, purportedly to detect differences in nutrient quality of corn samples.
All the chickens were allowed to eat at will.
The official report said: “Results of live bird traits … show that source of corn … had no effect on body weight, feed intake, … or percent mortality over the experimental period …” and “Glufosinate tolerant corn from the U.S.A. is comparable in feeding value, for 0-42 day broilers, relative to the commercially available corn hybrid. Therefore, the nutritive value of glufosinate tolerant corn hybrid is equivalent to a commercially available corn hybrid.” The mortality rate was judged to be normal.
Closer examination of the data shows up many unexplained anomalies.
chickens on the GM diet have, on average, weights only 1% below the average
weight in the control group, the error bars are much wider for chickens fed GM
maize; and they grow progressively wider as the experiment progresses. During
the first phase of the experiment (days 0-18), the test group eating GM maize
consumed 9 gm more than the control group; during the second phase (18-32 days),
consumption had dropped to 7 gm less; and in the final phase (days 32-42)
consumption by the test group had fallen to 63 gm less than that of the control
group. Again, the error bars are much greater for the test group and
increase with time.
Average body weights and feed intakes of the chickens do not vary significantly, as concluded in the study. Nevertheless, the much larger error bars for both these quantities give concern that the weight gains and the feeding patterns were erratic in the treated group, indicating that at least some of the chickens were not thriving on the glufosinate-resistant maize.
Information on deaths during the study is given only in the form of mortality: 7.14 ± 5.47 % for chickens eating the glufosinate-resistant maize and 3.57 ± 4.29 % for those fed commercial hybrid corn. Although the former values are twice those of the latter, the study points out that values of 5 to 8 % in male broilers are normal at that laboratory. Nevertheless, it may be significant that the mortality rate was twice as high among the chickens eating the GM maize as compared with those fed commercial non-GM hybrid maize.
Another experiment involved feeding PAT-protein
to rats. This study on rats, like that on chickens, has little relevance to
cattle, as the digestive systems of these animals are very different.
Furthermore, it was not the Chardon LL maize itself, but the isolated
PAT-protein it contains that was tested; and the effects of feeding the isolated
protein must be expected to differ from the effects of feeding the whole maize.
Also, the very short time during which the experiment was pursued (14 days) gives no indication of possible long-term effects of feeding over a lifetime, especially when the maize is to be fed to a very different animal species. Only five male rats and five female rats were used in each of the four groups, and the individual rats had substantial differences in weight even at the start of the experiment.
Nonetheless, the studies claimed, “Average mean food consumption over treatment was in the same range for treated groups and controls”, “Occasionally recorded differences between controls and treated groups were generally small, showed no dose-relationship or consistent trend…” and “Mean body weights were similar for treated groups and controls. There were no differences which could be attributed to treatment with the test article.”
Although the purpose of the study was to test for toxicity, the data provide evidence that the animals may not be thriving on a diet including the PAT-protein. The evidence for this suggestion comes from data on body weights and food consumption.
The 40 young, rapidly growing rats were divided into two control groups and two test groups, each containing 5 males and 5 females. All animals were allowed to eat at will.
Tables provided, separately for males and females, the average weight of each of the four groups as measured on several days of the experiment. For males eating a small amount of PAT-protein, weights remained nearly the same as for one of the control groups; while for those eating the high dose of PAT-protein, weights fell progressively below those of all other groups, even though these rats were marginally the heaviest group at the beginning of the experiment. Females in both groups consuming PAT-protein had weights falling gradually below those of the two control groups, although the females fed the high dose were the heaviest group at the beginning. For both males and females consuming high-doses of PAT-protein, weight gain per day, averaged over the duration of the experiment, was distinctly lower than for either control group.
During the latter half of the experiment, data for individual animals show that 2 males and 2 females on the low-PAT-protein diet were rapidly falling behind in weight as compared with other rats in the same group and in both of the two control groups. Of the rats on the high-PAT-protein diet, 3 males and one female were falling behind in weight during the latter half of the experiment.
While these data are not conclusive because too few animals were studied over too short a time, the low rates of weight-gain in several of the animals eating PAT-protein suggest that some individuals were not thriving on the diets that included PAT protein.
The data also showed unusual patterns in the food intake, averaged over the group, of animals consuming the high dose of PAT-protein, suggesting that the diet did not suit the rats. In the middle of the experiment, both males and females on this diet had an increase in food intake followed by a dip, unlike the other groups; then, over the last five days, their food consumption showed a sharp rise, again unlike other groups.
cattle did not eat GM maize
The following press release -‘Damage To Gm Maize National List Trial Site’ - was issued by the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on November 10, 2000:
NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology) have notified MAFF of
damage to a national list trial of GM forage maize taking place in Somerset. The
damage was caused by cattle straying onto the site in October. There is no
evidence that the cattle ate any of the maize.
“Sheridan - the maize in question - has full approval under European GM legislation to be marketed for both animal and human food use. The undamaged maize at the site has since been harvested.”
Sheridan is a GM forage maize that contains the same genetic construct (conferring herbicide tolerance) as Chardon LL. It is interesting to note that the cattle did not wish to eat any of the maize.
the Corn Hits the Fan’
American journalist Steven Sprinkel wrote an article with the above title in an ACRES, USA Special Report dated 19 September, 1999 (reproduced on the Natural Law Party Wessex website, http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/), which contains the following excerpt.
“After four months of retrieving anecdotes from Kansas to Wisconsin, I think its high time to sample the producer community more thoroughly to see how many stories are out there. About the hogs that wouldn’t eat the ration when the GMO crops were included. About the farmer who said “Well, if you want your cattle to go off their feed, just switch them out to a GMO silage.” About the farmer who said that his cattle broke through an old fence and ate down the non-GMO hybrids but wouldn’t touch the Round-up ready corn, and as a matter of fact “They had to walk through the GMOs to get to the Pioneer 3477 on the other side.” About the cattleman who saw the weight-gain of his cattle fall off when he switched over to GMO sources. About the organic farmer with a terrible deer problem on his soybeans, and when he drives out at night there are forty of them mowing down his tofu beans while across the road there isn’t one doe eating on the Round-up Readies. About the raccoons romping by the dozen in the organic corn, while down the road there isn’t one ear that’s been touched in the Bt fields. Even the mice will move on down the line if given an alternative to these “crops”. What is it that they know instinctively that most of us ignore?”
incidents of cattle refusing to eat Bt maize
Various scientists working actively with the farming community in the United States have reported difficulties feeding GM maize to cattle. In April 2000, one of them (who has asked to remain anonymous) sent the following information:
“There have been dozens of such reports over the last two years. Generally, the reports are concerned with Bt maize. Many farmers feed maize to their cattle just as it grows, without mixing in other feedstuffs. Typical reports are that the farmer buys a new shipment of maize, which his cattle either refuse to eat or eat with reduced consumption. Upon making enquiries, he discovers that the maize is a genetically modified variety. When he replaces it with a non-modified maize, the cattle start eating again.”
Scientific evidence for animal preferences
Although it may be difficult to credit animals with the ability to distinguish between GM and non-GM feed, this anecdotal evidence is supported by scientific evidence that they can indeed distinguish between organically- and non-organically-produced feed; moreover, they have a definite preference for the former (see “Do animals like good food?” this issue).
Re-analysis of experiments on chickens and on rats fed Chardon LL GM maize suggest that, contrary to the official conclusions, at least some individual animals do not gain weight as rapidly as they should when given a diet including GM feed. Furthermore, there appear to be irregularities in the feeding habits of at least some animals given GM feed. In the experiment on chickens, mortality was twice as high among those fed the GM maize as among those fed non-GM maize.
Existing scientific evidence indicates that farm animals prefer organically produced over conventionally produced feed; while a substantial amount of anecdotal evidence on both domestic and wild animals indicates that, given a choice, they will avoid GM feed and, if forced to eat GM feed, they do not thrive.
(This is an edited version of Report for the Chardon LL Hearing: Non-suitability of genetically engineered feed for animals, by Eva Novotny, Scientists for Global Responsibility, May 2002.)
for the new year
The tiny zebra fish that lives in aquariums, a popular laboratory animal, was genetically modified to produce a fluorescent red pigment, and is being promoted for sale as a household aquarium pet, the "glofish". The glofish caused a stir in the United States because regulation of such transgenic pets is murky and none of the major regulatory agencies: FDA, USDA or EPA has been willing to take the lead in regulating the glofish (even though USDA does deal with pet animals). The glofish is set to go on sale January 5, 2004 without regulatory approval.
FDA announced: "Because tropical aquarium fish are not used for food purposes, they pose no threat to the food supply. There is no evidence that these genetically engineered zebra danio fish pose any more threat to the environment than their unmodified counterparts which have long been widely sold in the United States. In the absence of a clear risk to the public health, the FDA finds no reason to regulate these particular fish."
The FDA position that transgenic glofish are substantially equivalent to unmodified fish is hypothetical and no effort has been made to test the transgenic fish in contained, but wild-like environments. Fish pigmentation with "poster" colors is an aphrodisiac to wild fish and may even provide protection from predators in certain light conditions, or the pigment fluorescence may signal toxic defence as in the stinging sea anemone from which the glofish transgene was prepared and in that way discourage predators. FDA was presumptuous in washing its hands of the regulation of the transgenic zebra fish, which is likely to become a major pest of warm water areas.
transgenic fish to follow in droves
The release of glofish may signal relaxation of the regulation of transgenic fish now being promoted for commercial release. To ensure that transgenic fish do not overpower or seriously pollute the gene pool, both promoters and regulators stress the safety of "sterile" transgenic fish released to bodies of water.
Previously, "sterile" fish are produced using synthetic triploid strains of fish produced from treatment of eggs pressure or temperature shock and with sex hormones. As ISIS reported, the sterile triploids were "leaky" and tend to produce a few fertile progeny, which can establish transgenic populations.
of these problems, the
transgenic fish are being promoted as the first marketable transgenic animals
for human consumption. More effort seems to have been spent on promoting the
existing defective transgenic fish than on improving them so that
they can be safely released for commercial production. Muir and Howard defined
conditions under which
transgenic fish can cause rapid extinction to wild fish stock, thus posing
extreme risk; but this has been ignored in the rush to
of transgenic fish has focused on a few species including salmon, trout,
carp, tilapia and a few others. Salmon and trout are cash crops while the
others primarily provide sources of protein. The salmon nearest to commercial
release is the
Atlantic salmon engineered with a pacific salmon growth hormone driven by
the arctic antifreeze promoter gene. The rapid growth of
that transgenic salmon is achieved, not so much by the transgenic growth hormone
as by the antifreeze gene promoter that functions in the cool water
desirable for salmon flavor. The commercial release of transgenic
salmon, even in somewhat contained fish farms, is likely to lead to problems
similar to those experienced in the Atlantic salmon farms of the northwest
Pacific. A number of studies indicate that salmon
produced in sea pens escape and breed with native species, introducing new
disease and spreading pollution from the culture pens. These
problems will probably be amplified in the fast growing transgenic stocks.
fish, native to Africa, are cultured world wide as "poor man’s
food", second only to carp as warm water food fish, and exceeding the
production of Atlantic salmon (whose market value is twice that of tilapia). Tilapia
has been extensively genetically modified and promoted as a transgenic fish
exclusive for isolated or contained production. Transgenic tilapia, modified with pig
growth-hormone, were three times larger than their non transgenic siblings.
genetically modified with human insulin grew faster than
non-transgenic siblings, and
could also serve as a source of islet cells for transplantation to human
subjects. Trout growth hormone was used to produce transgenic
carp with improved dressing properties. Such transgenic carp are recommended for
production in earthen ponds.
Giant mud loach was produced by linking the mud loach growth hormone with its actin promoter. These giant fish are not, technically speaking, "transgenic", as they contain no foreign genes even though the inserted construct is artificial, and pose a paradox for regulators.
Silk moth genes were introduced into Medaka fish to create resistance to bacterial pathogens. Some commercially desirable fish and crustaceans have been difficult to genetically engineer because embryonic tissue is difficult to manipulate. But it has been found that the parental gonads of such animals could be modified using replication defective pantropic retroviral vectors. Pantropic vectors can transform an array of species they are modified forms of the Moloney mouse leukemia virus used extensively in gene therapy. Such vectors have proven useful in modification of a range of edible marine animals including mollusks. Animals produced using modified mammalian leukemia viruses will require extensive testing and long-term evaluation prior to release for human consumption. This is particularly important in view of the leukemia cases found among the handful of successes in human gene therapy, which were done with a retroviral vector
(see "Gene therapy risks exposed", Science in Society 19)
cultures of transgenic fish
The current generation of transgenic fish has not passed the test of complete sterility if released or escaped to the environment. Fish production in inland earthen ponds may prove acceptable for contained transgenic fish culture. But such facilities should be provided with fail-safe destruction of the pond animals in the event of flooding and adequate protection from theft. Pond commercial culture is effective for carp and tilapia, but more difficult with salmon and trout. Currently, pond culture is suitable for carp and tilapia because the fish are vegetarians, carnivorous salmon and trout depend on a diet of fish and fishmeal but the worldwide stock of feed fish has diminished and suitable vegetable meat substitutes must be found. Atlantic salmon (as typical cold water carnivores) cannot thrive on a diet of rapeseed oils but the fish can achieve maturity if finished with fish oils at least 20 weeks near the end of their maturity cycle. GM oil rape seed with enhanced production of long chain fatty acids are proposed to serve as feed for pond cultured fish. And glyphosate-tolerant GM canola meal has been pronounced substantially equivalent to non-GM canola as feed for rainbow trout.
Aquaculture can help feed the world
without diminishing ocean resources, but premature releases of transgenic
fish stocks will do more harm than good.
Bad decisions have plagued aquaculture, resulting in pollution and extensive
damage to native stocks. International agencies such as the World
Bank, the International Development
Bank and the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations have created harm by ill- advised
projects that led to damage to native resources and pollution. Scientists Julio
E. Pérez and Mauro Nirchio of Venezuala along with Juan A. Gomez of Panama
commented in Nature: "However, if the aquaculture industry is going
to reduce the pressure on wild fish stocks and provide food for the world’s
growing population, substantial changes must be made by governments, the private
sector and international funding agencies. They must protect coastal
ecosystems; promote research and development of native species; and encourage
farming of low-trophic-level fish — those low on the food chain.
International technical funding agencies can exert great influence in changing
practices". Without such constructive thinking, the aquaculture industry
poses a threat, not only to ocean fisheries but also to itself.
13) Winning the GM debate Briefing for the London
Assembly (29 12 03)
19th January 2004 Assembly Chamber, City Hall, London SE12AA 2-4pm
leading anti-GM scientists join forces to educate and inform on the dangers of
Chaired by Noel Lynch (Green Party Member of the London Assembly)
Conjunction with The Institute of Science and Society andThe Independent Science
Entry to the briefing is by list ONLY. To reserve your place on the list please contact Orla Hurst on 202 7983 4411 or e-mail email@example.com
Rimandato fino alla prossima primavera il voto che doveva definire le soglie
delle quantità di OGM permesse nei cereali e nei semi delle piante.
Lo ha stabilito l'Unione europea, che prende tempo così su un tema spinoso,
al centro attualmente di roventi polemiche. La Commissione europea aveva
infatti proposto di etichettare le sementi che contenessero tra lo 0,3%
e lo 0,7% di materiale GM, a seconda della coltura.
Per l'industria biotech questi limiti sono troppo restrittivi; al contrario,
per le organizzazioni ambientaliste e le associazioni contadine queste soglie
di tolleranza sono fin troppo generose.
Greenpeace, ad esempio, ha indicato nello 0,1% il limite massimo consentito.
Fonte originale: Just-food, 29 ottobre 2003, segnalata da Consortium
Dopo il Paranà, anche il Mato Grosso (76% della soia brasiliana) vieta la
coltivazione di OGM
La decisione del presidente brasiliano Lula da Silva, che aveva concesso
nei mesi scorsi un permesso temporaneo per la coltivazione di soia geneticamente
modificata, trova contrari alcuni Stati della nazione sudamericana.
Dopo il governatore del Paranà anche quello del Mato Grosso ha infatti vietato
la coltivazione della soia ogm.
Dal Mato Grosso viene il 76% della produzione di soia del Brasile, che da
quest'anno è il maggior produttore mondiale.
Informatore agrario, 7 novembre 2003
Le società sementiere non hanno mantenuto le promesse: gli agricoltori hanno
ottenuto un prezzo più basso del previsto
La vicenda del mais geneticamente modificato che la scorsa estate aveva
coinvolto 46 aziende agricole della Bassa (in tutto 150 ettari) e complessivamente
450 ettari in tutta la Lombardia, sembra definitivamente chiusa.
Il prodotto transgenico raccolto in tutta la Lombardia - più di cinquemila
tonnellate - è stato stoccato nei magazzini della Cerealcom di Lograto,
e quasi tutti i coltivatori hanno già provveduto a venderlo alle ditte sementiere
al miglior prezzo di mercato.
Ma proprio sul prezzo è nata l?ultima polemica dell?infuocata stagione agraria.
Al momento della raccolta (iniziata il 3 settembre a Trenzano e conclusa
il 10 a Paderno Franciacorta ), che aveva coinvolto ventidue paesi, le aziende
sementiere avevano promesso un acquisto (entro il 31 dicembre 2003) al prezzo
stabilito dalla Camera di commercio di Milano. Ma quando nei giorni scorsi
diversi coltivatori bresciani hanno deciso di vendere, hanno spuntato solo
quello stabilito dalla Camera di commercio di Brescia.
«Non è la stessa cosa - commenta un agricoltore trenzanese -: le quotazioni
del mercato milanese sono superiori anche di un euro al quintale rispetto
al nostro mercato; è sempre stato così».
Confrontando le quotazioni di giovedì scorso, il granoturco giallo era venduto
a Milano a 165.4 euro alla tonnellata, a Brescia a 160 euro. Per la Coldiretti
bresciana non è comunque il caso di aprire ulteriori polemiche: «Non c?era
nessun documento scritto che imponesse alle ditte sementiere di pagare al
prezzo del mercato di Milano. Certo, inizialmente tutti pensavano che fosse
quello il prezzo di riferimento, ma in un secondo momento ci è stato comunicato
che il valore sarebbe dipeso dalle locali camere di commercio».
Ma sempre la Coldiretti ricorda che «si sarebbe potuto pensare a una forma
di rimborso per i danni morali, viste le traversie subite dagli agricoltori».
Va infatti ricordato che diversi coltivatori avevano acquistato e seminato
incosapevolmente quelle qualità di mais (J24 e D12 della Pioneer ed Mon810
della Monsanto) risultate poi transgeniche allo 0.1 per cento grazie agli
esami effettuati dall?Asl.
I primi accertamenti erano stati effettuati già in aprile, «quando era possibile
effettuare una eventuale risemina - commenta un addetto ai lavori - mentre
non ci è stato detto nulla fino a metà luglio, quando i campi sono stati
messi sotto sequestro».
L?Asl di Brescia aveva replicato ricordando di aver agito sempre sotto indicazioni
della Regione. Certo è che gli agricoltori non hanno dovuto sostenere spese
aggiuntive: la mietitura era a loro spese, ma il trasporto del raccolto
nel magazzino di Lograto è stato pagato dalle ditte sementiere. Non sempre,
però. Spiega infatti la Coldiretti che «più di un operatore ha dovuto provvedere
personalmente al trasporto, rimborsato solo in un secondo tempo dai distributori
Così più di 5 mila quintali di mais ogm sono ancora stipati nei magazzini
della Cerealcom, e sono sempre sotto sequestro. Quest?estate, lo ricordiamo,
era nata un?accesa polemica sulla destinazione del mais in questione: secondo
Franco Ferrari, presidente della Coldiretti, avrebbe dovuto essere distrutto
in campo (la scelta fatta da Enzo Ghigo, presidente della Regione Piemonte).
La Regione Lombardia, invece, indicò due destinazioni: o la distruzione
in campo o la raccolta per la produzione di carburante ecologico (bioetanolo,
biomassa). Ma di fatto la distruzione sul posto non era più possibile a
metà agosto, in quanto il mais aveva già raggiunto la maturazione cosidetta
«cerosa»: l?operazione avrebbe moltiplicato i rischi di contaminazione.
Così il mais è stato raccolto e messo sotto sequestro. In attesa di essere
trasformato in carburante?
Macchè: le aziende che distribuiscono sementi hanno realizzato a proprie
spese nuove analisi sul materiale sigillato, e se non fosse riscontrata
la presenza di organismi geneticamente modificati chiederanno alla Regione
di poterlo mettere in commercio.
Dalla associazioni agricole, intanto, arriva l?invito a guardare al futuro:
«Entro breve la commissione Agricoltura dell?Unione europea approverà la
famosa soglia massima di ogm che le sementi potranno contenere - spiegano
dalla Coldiretti -; potrà variare dallo 0.2 allo 0.6 per cento. Il problema
delle prossime annate agricole non sarà quello di opporsi a una legislazione,
ma di poter far convivere diverse realtà agricole».
Cambierebbero le cose anche in Italia: da noi vige ancora il decreto Amato
del 2000 che vieta la coltivazione di sementi ogm, e si registra il no deciso
all?ingegneria genetica del ministro dell?Agricoltura Gianni Alemanno e
del suo rappresentante in Commissione europea, Enzo Ghigo.
Intanto una controprova sull?efficacia del mais ogm arriva da Trenzano:
stando alle valutazioni degli agricoltori della zona, i campi di mais transgenico
hanno fruttato 40 quintali al piò, contro i 25-30 quintali di resa dei terreni
vicini, nei quali la produzione è stata ridotta dalla prolungata siccità).
Bresciaoggi, 5 novembre 2003
Monsanto non va in paradiso
Poteva essere la beatificazione degli ogm. Le alte gerarchia sono favorevoli, ma la chiesa sociale ha detto no. E così il Vaticano prende tempo
LUCA FAZIO (Il Manifesto 12 11 03)
Minaccia o speranza? Interrogativo facile da formulare, ma difficile da sciogliere. Anche per il Vaticano. Dopo due giorni di convegno sugli organismi geneticamente modificati, infatti, la chiesa non ha saputo, o meglio non ha potuto, pronunciarsi con un «sì» o con un «no». E dire che l'ala manageriale della chiesa ha fatto di tutto per invitare a Roma gli scienziati più favorevoli agli ogm; del resto, anche per strappare il consenso della santa sede, lo scorso giugno il segretario di stato americano Powel si fece ricevere da Wojtyla. Allora perché non ha funzionato l'operazione di lobbying? La verità è che la chiesa sugli ogm è spaccata e per non scontentare nessuno (i missionari di Mozambico, Zambia e Filippine, i vescovi brasiliani, l'agenzia dei missionari d'Africa) i cardinali sono stati costretti a sorvolare, nonostante la «scienza» abbia cercato in tutti i modi di tirarli per la sottana. «Io - ha mandato tutti in pace il cardinale Sodano - rispetto sia le tesi degli ecologisti che rendono un grande servizio alla natura, sia di coloro che vedono negli ogm una risorsa per combattere la fame nel mondo». Morale, perfino il cardinale pro ogm Renato Raffaele Martino al termine del convegno si è dovuto arrampicare sui vetri per mantenere aperta la strada alla beatificazione degli ogm: «Il campo dell'ogm non va abbandonato anche se ha bisogno ancora di molte cure, si deve continuare a lavorare». In che direzione è presto detto, perché per Martino la chiesa avrà il compito di «illuminare le coscienze affinché le biotecnologie vegetali siano un'opportunità per tutti e non una minaccia, dentro un quadro politico e giuridico di rinnovata solidarietà nei rapporti commerciali tra le nazioni, di sicurezza sanitaria e ambientale per tutti, di ritrovata intesa tra mondo scientifico, società civile e responsabili politici».
E' bizzarro che proprio i prelati ormai rappresentino l'ultima spiaggia per le multinazionali del biotech che stanno perdendo su tutti i fronti. Quanto alla chiesa, ancora una volta ha dimostrato la sua ipocrisia: da una parte lancia anatemi contro l'inaccettabile tecnologia del preservativo, e dall'altra si fa tentare dal business della biotecnologia applicata all'agricoltura.
Eppure, tutti gli scienziati che lavorano per il potere temporale delle multinazionali si aspettavano qualcosa in più. Magari parole chiare, «salutate con entusiasmo», come quelle che il ministro per la salute Sirchia ha ripetuto anche ieri, dimenticandosi di dare un'occhiata ai risultati delle ricerche sugli ogm appena pubblicati in Inghilterra dalla Royal Scientific Society: «Non c'è nessun dato che dimostri che i cibi transgenici nuocciano alla salute», ha detto. Gli scienziati, invece, sono stati costretti ad ascoltare anche il gesuita Roland Lesseps che ha lamentato un «totale sbilanciamento delle posizioni degli ospiti che tendono troppo a favore degli ogm». Per Lesseps, che come un contadino della Coldiretti ha invocato il principio di precauzione, le biotecnologie sono in pieno disaccordo con la dottrina sociale della chiesa e sono contro il «rispetto dei diritti umani e l'ordine del creato». Anche Ivan Verga, vice presidente di Verdi Ambiente e Società, pone una questione teologica degna dei dottori della chiesa: «Sul piano teologico, che è lo specifico su cui deve interrogarsi la santa sede, emerge invece una grande contraddizione: la modificazione genetica della vite e del grano è conciliabile con il sacramento eucaristico? I fedeli si nutriranno del corpo e del sangue di Cristo, oppure del corpo del sangue di Technos?».
Quella che apparentemente sembra una provocazione, mostra invece quanto per la chiesa sia complicato riuscire a giustifare una dottrina che ammette la modificazione genetica del vivente. E proprio per questo, nonostante si sia inginocchiata davanti ai cardinali, la scienza targata Monsanto non ha ottenuto la benedizione che sperava. Il Vaticano non ha potuto dire altro che il percorso sarà lungo e tortuoso. Un documento ufficiale sembra ancora lontano. E' lo stesso cardinale Martino ad allargare le braccia: «Arriverà il tempo in cui la Santa Sede vestirà l'abito della mater et magistra per essere fedele alla sua missione religiosa e morale di portare la luce del Vangelo in tutte le situazioni umane in cui è in gioco il benessere spirituale e materiale degli uomini». Amen.
MADE IN ITALY. La Regione Piemonte stanzierà un finanziamento di
almeno 500.000 euro per incentivare la produzione di sementi nazionali Ogm
free Attiverà inoltre un sistema di controlli preventivi che partirà prima
della nuova campagna sementiera. La lotta agli Ogm prevede un bando di gara,
e la concessione di un contributo sarà subordinata all'adesione ad un disciplinare
di produzione di qualità. La Stampa 15/11/03
- DuPont, il secondo maggiore gruppo chimico statunitense, ha ceduto le
attivita' nelle fibre
sintetiche a Koch Industries per un controvalore di 4,4 miliardi di dollari, interamente cash.
La divisione di DuPont operativa in questo comparto lo scorso anno ha avuto un fatturato pari a
6,3 miliardi di dollari ed e' a sua volta il maggior gruppo mondiale nella produzione di nylon ed altre fibre sintetiche. L' operazione e' destinata ad essere completata entro il primo trimestre del prossimo anno. La decisione presa da DuPont rientra nella strategia adottata dal gruppo chimico finalizzata a concentrarsi sulle attivita' piu' redditizie. Al tempo stesso, la vendita di Invista - questo
il nome della consociata del gruppo che opera nel comparto delle fibre sintetiche - significa un addio ad un pezzo importante di storia di DuPont. Con la scoperta del nylon, fatta nel lontano
1935, infatti, DuPont fu in grado di produrre calze per donna alla portata di milioni di persone. La fibra sintetica venne inoltre utilizzata per produrre i paracadute utilizzati nella seconda Guerra Mondiale, ed inoltre rappresenta la materia prima per produrre tappeti.
ANSA-BLOOMBERG)- ROMA, 17 NOV
"Le altre regioni sono tutte contro gli Ogm, per questioni politiche o per
convinzione. Noi abbiamo l'ambizione di fare crescere la ricerca".
Milano, 15 nov. - (Adnkronos) - ''La Regione Lombardia si e' posta in modo innovativo sulla questione Ogm''. Lo ha detto Viviana Beccalossi, vice presidente e assessore all'Agricoltura della Regione Lombardia a margine di un convegno organizzato a Expo dei Sapori a Milano. ''Le altre regioni -ha ricordato- sono tutte contro gli Ogm, chi per questioni politiche, chi per convinzione.
La regione Lombardia ha l'ambizione di fare crescere la ricerca. Siamo gli unici dotati di un Comitato scientifico con autorevolissimi ricercatori''.
Al convegno annuale sulla comunicazione della scienza Agnes Allansdottir
(Università di Siena): "Gli italiani non vogliono gli OGM, ma non sono tecnofobi"
Contraddittorio. Si potrebbe definire così l'atteggiamento degli italiani
nei confronti delle biotecnologie: tendenzialmente negativo quando si parla
di applicazioni in campo agroalimentare, positivo se il campo è quello biomedico.
Lo dimostrano i dati resi noti il 12 novembre scorso dal Censis nell'ambito
delle indagini condotte dal Monitor Biomedico. Il 57,3 per cento degli intervistati
si è dichiara favorevole agli interventi di ingegneria genetica se finalizzata
alla prevenzione delle malattie.
Ma la situazione si ribalta quando si parla di alimentazione: il 56,6 per
cento del campione è contrario e il 30,6 per cento è favorevole. Dati che
in parte confermano ciò che è emerso nell'indagine condotta dell'Eurobarometro:
largo consenso per test genetici e clonazione di cellule e tessuti a scopo
terapeutico, in tutti i paesi europei e soprattutto in Italia, dove ben
il 59 per cento degli intervistati si è espresso a favore.
Ma sugli alimenti geneticamente modificati l'atteggiamento è ben diverso:
in questo caso, lo scetticismo è molto maggiore e addirittura 1 italiano
su 2 (49 per cento) li rifiuta. E, in controtendenza rispetto al resto dell'Europa,
la sfiducia verso i cibi biotech è aumentata: se nel 1996 il 47 per cento
era favorevole, nel 2002 è risultato ottimista soltanto il 26 per cento degli intervistati.
Bocciati anche la clonazione di cellule animali e gli xenotrapianti, ritenuti
non solo rischiosi ma inutili e moralmente poco accettabili. I risultati
della ricerca europea sono stati illustrati da Agnes Allansdottir dell'Università
di Siena, durante il II Convegno Annuale sulla Comunicazione della Scienza,
tenutosi dal 6 all'8 novembre scorsi a Forlì. A lei abbiamo chiesto un commento.
Dott.ssa Allansdottir, il pubblico italiano è forse tecnofobo?
"No, tutt'altro. I cittadini, al contrario, credono nella ricerca scientifica
e tecnologica. La sfiducia, infatti, coinvolge soltanto le biotecnologie,
ma non le altre nuove tecnologie, verso le quali l'ottimismo è più alto
e largamente condiviso. Inoltre, anche le biotecnologie stesse non sono
percepite come un tutt'uno: il pubblico si è dimostrato perfettamente in
grado di distinguere tra le diverse applicazioni ed esprimere giudizi ragionati.
Per esempio, se l'opposizione nei confronti del cibo geneticamente modificato
è in Italia ancora molto elevata, sono invece giudicate positivamente le
applicazioni in campo medico".
Perché questa spaccatura tra applicazioni biomediche e agroalimentari?
"Il problema, in realtà, non sta soltanto nel tipo di applicazione, ma anche
negli attori coinvolti. È stato chiesto di esprimere un giudizio sull'operato
di diversi soggetti che si occupano di biotecnologie e il dato che emerge
è eclatante: la fiducia è molto elevata nei confronti di medici e associazioni
di malati, ma anche verso i ricercatori universitari, dei quali si fida
il 60 per cento del pubblico. I ricercatori del settore privato finiscono
invece all'ultimo posto, insieme all'industria in genere che registra appena
il 24 per cento dei consensi. Il timore del pubblico è che alcune applicazioni
soddisfino quasi esclusivamente gli interessi economici dell'industria,
con pochi benefici per il cittadino. Mentre nelle scoperte in campo medico
il pubblico riconosce il progresso della scienza e le ricadute positive
sulla salute dell'essere umano, la ricerca in ambito agroalimentare è vista
come un'attività con finalità esclusivamente di tipo commerciale".
Termini come "clonazione" e "organismi geneticamente modificati" fanno ancora
"No, anche in questo caso il pubblico è in grado di distinguere, in base
alla finalità e ai potenziali benefici delle varie applicazioni. Gli intervistati
infatti hanno mostrato un ragionevole sostegno nei confronti dell'utilizzo
di Ogm per la produzione di enzimi con impatto ambientale positivo, per
esempio per la produzione di detersivi "ecologici". Non è la modificazione
genetica in sé a suscitare rifiuto, ma il suo utilizzo. Allo stesso modo,
nel 1999, mentre la clonazione di cellule umane per la riparazione di organi
veniva incoraggiata, quella di cellule animali era vista come rischiosa
e non direttamente utile per l'essere umano".
Galileo, 15 novembre 2003
Coordinamento Comuni Antitransgenici (Comunicato
stampa del 21/11/03)
"No all'impossibile coesistenza con gli OGM"
Il Coordinamento dei Comuni Antitransgenici si trova nella condizione di denunciare il definitivo cedimento da parte della maggior parte delle associazioni che ci hanno fiancheggiato nella battaglia per la libertà di scelta, per la difesa delle produzioni tipiche, per la promozione dell’agricoltura biologica, per la necessità di salvaguardare la biodiversità, la salute, in una parola, per il principio di precauzione… a favore del principio della coesistenza tra agricoltura transgenica (??) convenzionale e biologica.
Nei recenti meeting a carattere nazionale ed europeo a cui abbiamo preso parte, abbiamo constatato la sostanziale convergenza da parte delle più importanti Organizzazioni Non Governative ed associazioni ambientaliste internazionali, nei confronti dei suggerimenti della Commissione Europea con i quali si consiglia agli Stati Membri di promuovere una legislazione che faccia convivere appunto gli OGM con il resto dell’agricoltura. In massimo spregio della volontà
della assoluta maggioranza dei cittadini italiani ed europei contrari agli alimenti contenenti OGM.
Consapevoli del fatto che un simile evento non potrà che aprire le porte alle multinazionali proprietarie delle sementi Ogm brevettate, permettendo un inquinamento voluto od accidentale, comunque irreversibile, danneggiando biodeversità, e soprattutto limitando la libertà sancita dalla Costituzione, di esercitare la propria attività in particolare per coloro che verrebbero a trovarsi in zone dedicate alla coltivazione di OGM .
Ci domandiamo, e ci rivolgiamo al Ministro Alemanno, con quale criterio verranno considerate le decisioni delle Amministrazioni Pubbliche, i Comuni, le Province e le Regioni che hanno scelto di tutelare il proprio territorio dalla diffusione di coltivazioni transgeniche. Con quale diritto si potrà impedire ad una azienda biologica di proseguire nella propria scelta di conduzione con metodi che per legge non possono contemplare presenza di OGM, a quelle filiere di produzioni Tipiche e Tutelate che nei loro disciplinari non ammettono OGM, nelle zone eventualmente scelte a destinazione transgenica? E con quale diritto si potrà impedire la nascita di nuove realtà agricole che desiderano praticare in tali territori le anzidette produzioni, ovvero praticare la scelta di conversione dal metodo convenzionale a quello biologico?
Lanciamo quindi un appello a tutti coloro che, pur dalle differenti posizioni culturali e politiche potrebbero considerare la scelta della COESISTENZA come IL MALE MINORE, si colga il senso della grande ingiustizia, della grande lesione del diritto personale, senza contare tutte le altre motivazioni che ci hanno portato a promuovere la campagna per un Comune Antitransgenico,
qualora venisse adottata una simile, inconcepibile, illegale, legislazione: i consumatori rifiutano gli OGM, agli agricoltori è provato che non servono, non risolvono il problema della fame nel mondo, non esiste la prova scientifica che siano innocui bensì molte ricerche dimostrano la loro pericolosità per l’uomo e l’ambiente. Per quale ragione li dobbiamo accettare?
Lanciamo infine il nostro appello al Ministro Alemanno affinchè non venga promosso ALCUN DECRETO LEGGE sulla "COESISTENZA CON GLI OGM", in quanto in aperto contrasto con la Costituzione dove nei suoi Principi Fondamentali sancisce, con l’Art. 4, che La Repubblica riconosce a tutti i cittadini il diritto al lavoro e promuove le condizioni che rendano effettivo questo diritto. Ogni cittadino ha il dovere di svolgere, secondo le proprie possibilità e la propria scelta, una attività o una funzione che concorra al progresso materiale o spirituale della società.?
Confidiamo quindi sulla determinata convinzione del Ministro che l’introduzione degli Ogm sarebbe davvero una soluzione pessima per gli Italiani ed il mondo intero: in particolar modo per quelle popolazioni che guardano all’Europa come ultimo baluardo nella speranza di arginare il problema posto dalla introduzione in agricoltura di sementi transgeniche, di proprietà di pochissime
multinazionali, diper sè un enorme problema di concentrazione di potere.
Come richiesto dalle Regioni, Provincie, Comuni che hanno già invitato il governo a prendere le distanze da questo inutile ed irreversibile danno, auspichiamo davvero che il Ministro Alemanno si faccia forte della volontà espressa dalla quasi totalità degli Italiani, per arginare, per ora in Italia,
il problema della contaminazione da Ogm. Il nostro Paese e l'Europa non potranno che essergli grati, peraltro, vista la "trasversale" opinone negativa che cittadini, tecnici e scienziati hanno su questo argomento.
NO alla "coesistenza con gli Ogm", SI alla Agricoltura Biologica, SI alla salvaguardia delle Produzioni Tipiche Italiane riconosciute dal mondo intero, per una Produzione Agricola Italiana libera da Ogm.
Coordinamento Comuni Antitransgenici,
Gianfranco Torelli, v.sindaco di Bubbio
Renato Bologna, portavoce
«Se Illy ama gli OGM è libero di abbuffarsene, ma chi non li ama deve avere
la possibilità di non mangiarli.».
Era il 16 settembre quando i carabinieri del Noe sequestrarono, nelle province di Pordenone, Udine e Gorizia, 13 mila quintali di mais transgenico. Oltre 140 ettari di appezzamenti finirono sotto sigillo. Complessivamente nell'operazione erano coinvolte 59 aziende delle tre province. Fu un blitz
"annunciato" dopo le polemiche di agosto e i controlli avviati dalla Regione.
Nell'operazione si era perfezionato un sequestro cautelativo dal punto di
vista sanitario che rendeva impossibile qualsiasi tentativo di inserire
il prodotto nella filiera alimentare umana e animale. Gli agricoltori si
sono trovati davanti a una raccolta obbligata sotto la vigile sorveglianza
dell'Arma che ha permesso di stoccare il quantitativo sequestrato. Non era
poi mancata la polemica politica.
Il governatore Riccardo Illy affermò: «Mangerei con tranquillità una polenta
all'ogm». Replicò un piuttosto seccato Claudio Filippuzzi, presidente regionale
di Coldiretti: «Io, invece, non berrei con altrettanta tranquillità un caffè
Ora, dopo alcune settimane, arrivano le accuse della Colomba.
«Dov'è finito il mais contaminato posto sotto sequestro?». A chiederlo è
la Colomba con il suo "Osservatorio sulla Giunta amica".
Mario Puiatti non esita a parlare di "un grande inganno sugli Ogm". «Nel
nostro Paese - sostiene il coordinaotre dell'Osservatorio - la coltivazione
di piante geneticamente modificate è vietata. Si può discutere a lungo su
questo, sta di fatto che non è possibile seminare Ogm. Ciò premesso, quando
l'estate scorsa sono stati individuati, anche nella nostra regione, circa
cento ettari di mais contaminato, l'assessore regionale all'Agricoltura
Enzo Marsilio - diversamente da quanto fatto in altre regioni - non ha ritenuto
di ordinare la distruzione delle coltivazioni Ogm. Prima - ricorda l'ex
consigliere regionale dei Verdi - si è limitato a porre sotto sequestro
le piantagioni e poi ha fatto un accordo con gli inquinatori per garantire
il reddito ai coltivatori truffati. Gli inquinatori, cioé le multinazionali
delle sementi, si sono poi impegnati ad acquistare tutto il mais inquinato
al massimo prezzo di mercato, con la soddisfazione dei coltivatori e delle
Ma la vicenda non è stata lasciata cadere nel dimenticatoio dall'Osservatorio
dei Verdi Colomba. «Su quei fatti - va avanti Puiatti - è calato l'assoluto
silenzio e ha preso forma il "grande inganno"».
A questo punto la Colomba illustra quello che sarebbe accaduto nelle settimane
successive. «Sia l'Arpa che l'Ersa - sostiene ancora Puiatti - sono attrezzati
per effettuare le analisi relative agli Ogm, ma stranamente queste vengono
affidate a un istituto privato di Bergamo. Questa scelta non è mai stata
spiegata. Resta il fatto che se alla fine la percentuale di granella inquinata
risulterà inferiore allo 0,9% il prodotto verrà messo regolarmente in commercio».
Secondo la Colomba è proprio questo il grande inganno: «La Regione - sottolinea
l'ex consigliere - ne è complice. In Italia è vietata la coltivazione di
Ogm, ma la commercializzazione dei prodotti è tollerata se la parte inquinata
non supera l'1%. Un meccanismo truffaldino che inganna i consumatori e favorisce
le grandi multinazionali».
Puiatti chiude con un attacco: «Chi, come Illy o il professor Tirelli, ama
gli Ogm è libero di mangiarseli, ma chi non li ama deve avere la possibilità
di non mangiarli. Ciò è possibile solo pretendendo l'etichettatura dei prodotti
Gazzettino, 4 dicembre 2003
OGM: L'EPISTOLARIO MONSANTO / GREENPLANET
Postato il Friday, 05 December @ 19:11:41 CET di redazione PT
Un carteggio sui massimi sistemi in quattro puntate. Adattamento da Grant Wood: American Gothic,
olio su tavola, 1930 Potete leggere qui l'editoriale di Bollettino Bio n.123 che ha indotto Ferri
con rispetto, La pregherei di non rubarci le idee.
Siamo stati noi sementieri i primi a chiedere i controlli a tappeto su tutte
le sementi importate.
Se questo non è possibile non è certo colpa nostra.
Le chiederei quindi un minimo di fair play.
Questo non potrà negarlo nemmeno a degli annosi faccia di tolla (definizione
decisamente più simpatica di criminali)!
Sarebbe inoltre così gentile quando parla dei nostri tirapiedi di fare nomi
Questo aiuterebbe molto noi e anche chi sta cercando di capire di più sulla
Ho un'ulteriore domanda per Lei: quando parlate di essere liberi da OGM
intendete dalla coltivazione o anche dall'import?
E' molto importante essere coerenti.
Non si può rifiutare la coltivazione ed importare al contempo oltre 2 milioni
di tonnellate di farine di soia OGM.
Le tornano i dati?
Come intendete spiegarlo ai consumatori?
Le sarò grato di una risposta.
2 dicembre 2003
Messosi alla tastiera, il diretùr rispondeva:
Carissimo dott. Ferri,
la ringrazio per la Sua cortese lettera.
Sapevo che tra i lettori di Bollettino bio annoveriamo anche gli uffici
di Pioneer® e di Syngenta®, ma non avevo idea di contare anche su Monsanto®.
Nell'editoriale del Bollettino n.123 non ho sostenuto che da parte di Monsanto
si sia espressa soddisfazione per il pernicioso decreto del Mipaf che limita
le analisi per la determinazione di inquinamento OGM al 20% delle sementi.
Ho solo affermato che l'azienda dei cui Publics Affais Lei si occupa (obiettivamente
in modo egregio, tant'è che, nonostante consumatori, produttori agricoli
e imprese agroindustriali non ne vogliano sapere, è riuscito a portare sulla
Sua sponda qualche membro del Governo e qualche prelato di rango), mezza
dozzina di altre e i relativi tirapiedi, sono le uniche forze a sostenere
la necessità degli OGM.
Il Devoto Oli (la mia bibbia) alla voce tirapiedi riporta due definzioni:
La prima è: Anticamente, l'aiutante del boia che tirava piedi all'impiccato
per affrettarne la morte.
La curiosa definizione mi sembra adattarsi discretamente al nostro caso:
gli OGM hanno in sè il potenziale di uccidere l'agricoltura di qualità,
la possibilità di scelta del consumatore, la biodiversità. Chi li sostiene,
tira i piedi -in via metaforica- all'agricoltura, alle scelte del consumatore
e all'ambiente, per accelerarne la fine.
La seconda definizione è "Chi asseconda in tutto e per tutto i voleri e
i desideri del suo superiore".
Tutto sommato, mi sembra vadano benone ambedue.
Anche se non c'è nulla di diffamatorio nell'attribuire a dei tirapiedi la
qualifica di tirapiedi che loro spetta, evito di far qui nomi e cognomi
(in tre anni di bollettino di nomi ne abbiamo fatti, eccome: l'archivio
è on line).
Venendo alla domanda se per "essere liberi da OGM" s'intende solo dalla
coltivazione o anche dall'import, sono costretto a darLe una notizia veramente
grama: i consumatori italiani non vogliono essere costretti a mangiare alimenti
con ingredienti OGM prodotti in Italia, ma neppure prodotti altrove, convinti
come sono che il business degli OGM agro-alimentari sia nocivo ovunque.
Stesse a me, la soia OGM RR potrebbe restare in eterno nei magazzini dei
produttori, anche se ciò aggraverebbe il Vostro già disagiato conto economico.
Punto e a capo.
Il Devoto-Olio non mi viene in aiuto con "facce di tolla".
Per estensione, riferiamoci pure a "faccia di bronzo", che si dice di chi
non prova vergogna alcuna.
La definizione Le è più gradita di "criminali".
Il "criminale" , come Lei sa, è il colpevole di delitti nei confronti di
singoli o della collettività.
Dato che coltivare e vendere sementi geneticamente modificate secondo la
legge italiana è un delitto, e sapendo le imprese produttrici che le loro
sementi erano illegali, non avrei certamente compiuto un arbitrio sintattico
se "delinquente" o "criminale" avessi definito chi ha infranto le norme
sulle quali si basa la pacifica convivenza della collettività.
Ma mi rendo conto del peso delle parole e, rinunciando alle sfumature di
malvagità e perversione insite in altri termini, ho fatto ricorso al meno
impegnativo facce di tolla.
Le confido un segreto.
La mia personale contrarietà agli OGM deriva prima di tutto dalla mia formazione
Da almeno trent'anni sono convinto (con altri, grazie al cielo) che il ruolo
delle aziende sia nella determinazione e nel soddisfacimento dei desideri
del consumatore, offrendogli dei vantaggi reali.
Di fronte a un consumatore che non vuole OGM, non è lecito inquinare le
sementi per porlo di fronte al fatto compiuto, non si può ingozzarlo a forza
con alimenti che rifiuta, nè raccontargli panzane come "sono un toccasana
per la fame nel mondo", "sono più sicuri e controllati", "ci liberano da
pesticidi e tossine" ecc.
Non è etico.
Non c'è onore in tutto ciò.
Per non dar adito a incomprensioni, Le stralcio da un vecchio editoriale:
"- quando fosse ragionevolmente dimostrato che gli Ogm sono innocui per
- quando si trovasse il modo per garantire che coltivazioni geneticamente
modificate non inquinano coltivazioni limitrofe condotte da agricoltori
che (nella piena libertà d'impresa che è loro attribuita dalla logica e
dalle nostre leggi) avessero deciso di tenere gli Ogm fuori dalla loro azienda;
- quando fossimo certi che le coltivazioni ingegnerizzate non contribuiscono
a selezionare infestanti e parassiti resistenti, costringendo a chissà quali
in tutta onestà e coscienza, non me la sentirei di proibire gli Ogm.
Magari, personalmente, continuerei a evitare come la peste i prodotti loro
derivati, ma non mi sentirei proprio di proibire di farne uso a chi ne avesse
Dimostrino al di là del ragionevole dubbio che gli Ogm non causano rogne
e, per quanto mi riguarda, possono pure farci il bagno, come Paperon de'
Paperoni fa con i suoi fantastriliardi di dollari.
Finchè non lo dimostrano, abbiano la cortesia di tornare nei loro laboratori,
e di uscirne solo sventolando la prova provata che (assieme alla maggioranza
dei consumatori europei) ho il diritto di attendermi".
Con simpatia e viva cordialità,
3 dicembre 2003
Seguiva la risposta di Ferri:
La ringrazio dei Suoi complimenti e del tempo che ha impiegato per rispondermi
Le sarei grato ora se fosse così gentile da indicarmi i link con i nomi
e cognomi di quelli che lei chiama nostri tirapiedi poiché Le confesso non
ho la pazienza per fare una ricerca.
Le sarò ulteriormente grato se vorrà rispondermi all'altra mia domanda.
Poniamo che l'Italia scelga di non importare più gli oltre 2 milioni di
tonnellate di soia OGM per i prodotti zootecnici (anche tipici e di qualità).
Quali sono le fonti alternative di reperimento di soia OGM free?
Nel caso non esistessero sareste allora d'accordo nel bloccare le produzioni
Sarebbe inoltre così gentile da definire una volta per tutte cos'è un prodotto
di qualità e perché gli OGM non sarebbero mai tali?
Grazie per la sua pazienza.
Questo carteggio potrebbe essere degno di ulteriori sviluppi.
3 dicembre 2003
Concludeva (per ora) la corrispondenza il diretùr:
Dott. Ferri, eccomi qua.
Ragionando di qualità, conviene riferirisi alle norme ISO.
Le ISO (8402, 9000) definiscono "Qualità" come l'insieme delle caratteristiche
di un'entità che ne determinano la capacità di soddisfare esigenze espresse
Si basa, quindi, sulla percezione da parte dell'utilizzatore di quanto l'entità
sia in grado di soddisfare i requisiti desiderati.
Nello specifico italiano, le esigenze espresse dal consumatore sembrano
non comprendere i prodotti agro-alimentari OGM.
Credo che anche Lei percepisca questo dato di fatto; così non fosse, potrebbero
essere d'aiuto l'adesione di tutte le associazioni dei consumatori alla
coalizione "Liberi da OGM", la recente indagine Observa (sembra che il 68%
dei consumatori li ritenga rischiosi, con un sensibile aumento dal 49% del
2001), le diverse ricerche presentate nel corso dell'anno, secondo le quali
i consumatori "disposti" a consumarli -e alla rigorosa condizione che il
prezzo fosse notevolmente inferiore del prodotto convenzionale- rappresentano
una sparuta minoranza.
In sostanza, le caratteristiche dei prodotti OGM percepite dal consumatore
sembrano negative, non c'è l'espressione dell'esigenza del prodotto, nè
la si coglie come implicita e non espressa.
Tecnicamente, il prodotto OGM, che evidentemente ha proprie specifiche "caratteristiche",
non esprime una "qualità per il consumatore".
Trattandosi di un prodotto non destinato all'autoconsumo dei biotecnologi,
ma destinato al largo consumo, appare evidente che non avrebbe -in un mercato
libero- alcuna opportunità di successo.
Credo che una delle cause dei toni accesi che circondano il tema stia nel
fastidio che provocano le iniziative volte a sconvolgere la libertà del
mercato (che dovrebbe basarsi sul confronto tra la domanda e l'offerta).
Scelgo a caso:
- la distribuzione di sementi inquinate da materiale OGM illegale (è del
tutto ininfluente che sia, come sostenete, "tecnicamente inevitabile": un'azienda
seria, preso atto che i propri prodotti non possono ottenersi in conformità
alla legge, deve porre in essere gli investimenti in ricerca e in processi
che le consentano di rientrare nella norma, non può limitarsi a infischiarsene.
Scherziamo? Se ogni azienda mettesse in circolazione prodotti fuorilegge
-pretendendo pure di aver ragione, da cui il "faccia di tolla"- adducendo
a giustificazione che le leggi sono troppo "strette", dove andremo a finire?);
- le pressioni lobbistiche nei confronti della chiesa cattolica (per sfruttarne
ai propri fini mercantili l'autorità morale) e dei i decisori politici per
ottenere norme che -di fatto- impongano prodotti sui quali consumatori,
parti sociali, una parte non minoritaria della scienza (a meno che non s'intenda
attribuire il monopolio della scienza ai biotecnologi) esprimono contrarietà
o quantomeno pesanti perplessità;
- la diffusione di informazioni manifestamente infondate (la capacità di
eliminare la fame nel mondo, per dirne una) per tentare di costruire simpatia;
- il ricorso a sigle fittizie e anodine (con il povero Theodore Trancu costretto
a inventarsi un finto "Centro di documentazione sulle agrobiotecnologie"
per fornire ai Vs. convegni una patina di inesistente indipendenza e obiettività);
- la protervia nel pretendere di aver ragione.
Preciso che nei miei interventi non troverà mai termini come "multinazionali",
"Usa", "imperialismo" e simili, utilizzati da altri non-sostenitori dell'ingegneria
Non si tratta di una ricerca stilistica: considero queste caratteristiche
del tutto ininfluenti.
A essere stigmatizzabili non sono certamente la composizione del Vs. azionariato
o la localizzazione della Vs. sede legale, ma, al di là della simpatia che
posso riservarLe, alcuni biasimevoli comportamenti che ponete in essere.
Mi scusi, mi son fatto prendere dalla foga, torniamo al Suo messaggio.
Sistemata la "qualità" oggettiva (e ISO), si possono fare alcune considerazioni
sulla "qualità alimentare".
Qui possiamo ragionare di DOP, IGP ecc.
Secondo le norma comunitarie, la DOP (denominazione di origine protetta)
può essere attribuita agli alimenti le cui peculiari caratteristiche dipendono
essenzialmente dal territorio in cui sono prodotti. Sono a DOP il prosciutto
di Parma, quello di San Daniele, il Parmigiano Reggiano ecc.
Il "territorio" comprende fattori ambientali e climatiche, ma anche fattori
umani, come l'adozione di tecniche tramandate nel tempo (anche da molti
secoli), artigianalità e "skills". Dal cocktail di questi fattori scaturisce
(dovrebbe scaturire) un prodotto inimitabile da altre zone produttive.
Proprio questo è il motivo che mi porta a ritenere che i disciplinari dei
Consorzi di tutela delle DOP dovrebbero prevedere l'esclusione di materiali
OGM, che sono assolutamente estranei alla tradizione secolare e all'apprezzamento
e alla fama pubblica che i prodotti si sono guadagnati in virtù anche (talvolta
soprattutto) della loro ingredientistica.
E prima o poi cercherò di coinvolgere i grandi Consorzi sulla scelta chiara
di produzione OGM-free: non vedo coesistenze possibili tra "qualità" (come
sopra descritta) e materia prima transgenica; inoltre la dichiarazione di
OGM free costituirebbe un ulteriore vantaggio competitivo. Non c'è molta
compatibilità neppure con la materia prima non OGM proveniente da fuori
area, ma questo è un altro discorso.
Quando mi domanda se sarei d'accordo nel buttare a mare la produzione zootecnica
italiana a fronte dell'accertata indisponibilità di materia prima OGM free,
mi tende un trabocchetto.
Considero innanzitutto che il disastro di aver inquinato sementi e granella
di una parte considerevole del pianeta è da attribuirsi alla responsabilità
di altri e non mia.
Se non avessi interesse a mantenere questa corrispondenza in toni cordiali,
Le direi che trovo la domanda arrogante, oltre che un chiaro esempio della
negazione della libertà di scelta dei metodi di produzione insita nella
A me non passa nemmeno per la testa di costringere tutti gli agricoltori
terrestri a coltivare secondo il metodo biologico, che pure considero il
più sostenibile dal punto di vista ecologico (e, quindi, economico).
Non Le sembra bizzarro che a un'azienda (la Sua o un'altra, è ininfluente)
sia consentito imporre a tutti gli agricoltori del pianeta come coltivare,
perché ha voluto/potuto commercializzare il proprio prodotto in grado di
contaminare "inevitabilmente" le altre produzioni?
Se nell'avverbio "inevitabilmente" non coglie il senso drammatico che colgo
io, è segno che le nostre sensibilità sono molto diverse.
Tornando alla domanda: sì, eliminerei le granelle OGM dalle razioni zootecniche
(in alternativa propongo che nelle vaschette in atmosfera modificata di
Prosciutto di Parma sia impresso a chiare lettere "proviene da maiale alimentato
con mangime OGM", e che negli spicchi del Parmigiano Reggiano sia stampigliato
un indelebile "Sappiamo cosa mangiano le nostre vacche: mangime OGM", solo
per rendersi conto della misura in cui ciò trainerebbe le vendite).
Il che non significa mettere sul lastrico migliaia di produttori, significa
solamente che è ormai improcrastinabile la costruzione di filiere OGM free.
Posto che tra gli errori della programmazione agricola nazionale c'è lo
sviluppo di un'agroindustria non supportata da una sufficiente produzione
primaria, e posto che i raccolti nazionali di mais e soia non sono sufficienti
e che sarà necessario acquistare granella dall'estero, pazienza, la si acquisterà
dall'estero: nulla vieta la costruzione di filiere internazionali.
L'estero, grazie al cielo, non è solo Stati Uniti, Argentina, Cina o altri
Paesi con produzioni OGM. Una filiera che coinvolga Paesi in via di sviluppo
nella produzione OGM free consentirebbe (questa sì) di contribuire a risolvere
la diseguale distribuzione delle risorse nel mondo.
Qualche mese fa, il signor Veronesi (Aia) dichiarava che l'opposizione agli
OGM è una battaglia di retroguardia.
A sostegno della sua tesi, rilevava che acquistare soia OGM free comportava
un aumento di prezzo di 20 dollari a tonnellata.
A casa mia, fanno 1,7 centesimi di euro al kg.
La soia entra nella razione dei polli del signor Veronesi per il 15%, dal
che discende che l'economia per un chilo di mangime è di 0,3 centesimi di
Calcolando quanto mangime viene consumato nel breve ciclo produttivo, l'economia
è di 1,3 centesimi per ogni pollo.
Ho l'impressione che non valesse la pena di trovarsi costretti a paventare
chiusure di interi comparti produttivi e a parlare di contaminazione "tecnicamente
inevitabile" per risparmiare 1,3 centesimi per pollo.
Sempre, beninteso, che in questo modo non si elimini la fame nel mondo,
sarebbe tutto un'altro discorso.
p.s.- a me danno fastidio le monetine da 1 e 2 centesimi.
Quando rientro a casa, le tolgo di tasca e le metto in una ciotolina in
Non ho idea di quante siano (non mi chieda anche di contarle), ma -a spanne-
ho già risparmiato (senza sforzo) un importo sufficiente a coprire la differenza
di prezzo di un centinaio di polli OGM free.
Qui sotto Le indico un po' dei link che mi chiedeva. Sono in ordine cronologico
inverso (dal più recente al più vecchio).[...]
4 dicembre 2003
MASTER UNIVERSITARIO in Tracciabilità
e Monitoraggio di Geni e Transgeni in Matrici Alimentari e Ambientali
Marzo 2004 ? 31 ottobre 2004, milano,
si articola in lezioni, esercitazioni tecnico-pratiche, seminari
e tirocinio formativo per un totale di 700 ore. Il Corso, comprensivo dello
stage, si svolgerà, con sospensione in Agosto, presso la Facoltà di Agraria
dell?Università di Milano. La domanda di ammissione potrà essere presentata
dal 10 novembre al 19 dicembre 2004 all?Ufficio Dottorati, Master, Corsi
di perfezionamento e Studenti stranieri dell?Università degli Studi di Milano,
via Festa del Perdono n. 7. Il modulo è disponibile sul sito Internet dell?Ateneo
(http://studenti.unimi.it/master). Il contributo di iscrizione è fissato
in 2600 Euro da versare entro il 25 febbraio 2004. Per ulteriori informazioni:
Prof. D. Daffonchio, Dr.ssa A. Adami, Dr.ssa A. Rizzi, Dipartimento di Scienze
e Tecnologie Alimentari e Microbiologiche (DISTAM), via Celoria 2, 20133
Milano. Tel. 02-50316730-25-15 Sito web: http://www.monigen.it E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
13 - Ingente quantitativo di mais transgenico, 1.500 quintali di granella contaminata, e' stato sequestrato da agenti del Corpo forestale dello Stato in un centro di stoccaccio di Camerino, su ordine della procura della Repubblica di Camerino. (ANSA) - CAMERINO (Mc) 16 Dic)
lotti di granella Ogm (per qualche centinaio di quintali) sono risultati
positivi ai test dell' Istituto zooprofilattico di Fermo anche in alcuni
capannoni agricoli di Pollenza e Urbisaglia, in provincia di Macerata, e a Porto
d'Ascoli e in una cittadina del fermano. In questi ultimi casi Il
Cfs attende disposizioni delle procure di Macerata, Fermo e Ascoli prima di eseguire i sequestri.
Dopo mesi di indagini, gli agenti avrebbero individuato in un ibrido di mais commercializzato dall' azienda cementiera multinazionale Pioneer Hi-Bread Italia la presenza di Ogm, riscontrata nel mais stoccato a Camerino attraverso l' analisi del patrimonio genetico dei campioni prelevati. Nel deposito di Torre del Parco (ora sigillato), uno dei piu' grandi della zona, viene conferito il prodotto di numerosi agricoltori, destinato poi ad essere rivenduto per uso alimentare animale.
I 1.500 quintali contaminati sarebbero il frutto di vari conferimenti, ed erano ammassati senza copertura in un locale del deposito, lontano da altri prodotti. A carico dei produttori e dello stoccatore non e' stata individuata alcuna responsabilita', essendo di fatto parti offese nella vicenda,
mentre la multinazionale produttrice della semente e' stata denunciata per frode in commercio.
Per quanto riguarda invece gli altri quintali di prodotto transgenico scoperti nel maceratese e nell' ascolano, erano distribuiti fra centri di stoccaggio e granai di singoli agricoltori. Una circostanza che fa alzare la soglia dell'allarme Ogm proprio in una regione come le Marche che e' stata
fra le prime a dotarsi di una legge contro gli organismi geneticamente modificati e a istituire un Nucleo operativo di prevenzione e intervento contro la diffusione di questi prodotti.
Una linea dura, che ha gia' portato la giunta a pagare di tasca propria la distruzione delle prime coltivazioni di granoturco Ogm scoperte nei mesi scorsi nel territorio, a Sant'
Elpidio a Mare, e termodistrutte nell' inceneritore 'Consmari' di Macerata. Anche stavolta, sotto il controllo del Cfs, il mais verra' distrutto.
(ANSA) - ANCONA, 16 DIC - Gli ultimi sequestri di mais transgenico nelle Marche ''confermano l'esigenza di controlli accurati per garantire agli imprenditori agricoli la sicurezza
di poter piantare sementi Ogm free''. E' il commento del presidente di Coldiretti Marche Giannalberto Luzi, al blitz condotto dagli uomini del Corpo Forestale a Camerino e al
ritrovamento di lotti contaminati in altre citta' delle province di Ascoli e Macerata.
Quanto e' avvenuto, dice Luzi, rappresenta ''l' ennesima conferma che le multinazionali stanno mettendo in atto una strategia sempre piu' aggressiva, per mettere le autorita' dinanzi al fatto compiuto, specie in una regione, come la nostra, che ha gia' dichiarato la propria scelta Ogm free''. La Coldiretti conferma il suo appoggio alla linea tracciata dell' assessore Silenzi e della giunta D'Ambrosio, ribadendo che ''far convivere coltivazioni transgeniche con quelle tradizionali e biologiche sarebbe impossibile in un territorio come le Marche''. L' associazione chiede inoltre alla Regione di attivarsi per risarcire gli imprenditori truffati. (ANSA).
(ANSA) - ANCONA, 16 DIC - Per scongiurare la proliferazione di coltivazioni geneticamente modificate i Verdi delle Marche invocano una legge che imponga il controllo preventivo di tutte le sementi, prima che siano messe in vendita, e non soltanto, come avviene oggi, il divieto di coltivare piante Ogm. Lo ribadice il capogruppo del Sole che ride Marco Moruzzi, esprimendo soddisfazione per i sequestri di granella di mais contaminata condotti oggi nella regione dal Corpo forestale dello Stato. L' operazione (1.500 quintali di mais bloccati in un centro di stoccaggio di Camerino e altri quantitativi individuati nelle province di Macerata e Ascoli Piceno) rappresenta anche un successo di bandiera per i Verdi, che il 16 settembre scorso avevano presentato un esposto alle procure maceratese e camerte segnalando la commercializzazione di 11 dosi di mais geneticamente modificato in comuni all' epoca non precisati della collina di Macerata.
La circostanza, scriveva Moruzzi nell' esposto, era emersa nel corso di un' audizione presso la terza commissione consiliare delle Marche del dirigente dell' ispettorato repressione frodi di Ancona. Il quale aveva parlato della vendita delle 11 dosi, appartenenti al lotto n. 287175 Piooner
Hi-Bred Italia Lotto Ense 4630/08D ibrido di mais PR32D12, dal quale provenivano anche le sementi utilizzate per la semina dei campi di mais sequestrati il 29 luglio scorso dalla procura di
Fermo nel comune di Sant' Elpidio a mare. ''Purtroppo il nostro allarme era fondato - commenta oggi il capogruppo verde - e gli ettari di mais Ogm coltivati nelle Marche erano molti di piu' di quanto sembrava dalle prime indagini''. La semina di questo tipo di prodotto ''e' vietata dai decreti legislativi 92/1993 e 224/2003, ed essendo avvenuta all' insaputa degli agricoltori rappresenta una frode in commercio''. Il rischio, conclude l' esponente ambientalista, e' molto alto, perche' ''l' emissione in ambiente non confinato di sementi transgeniche comporta il pericolo di un inquinamento del terreno e delle colture circostanti attraverso il fenomeno della semina naturale dei chicchi eventualmente rimasti in campo e dell' impollinazione''. (ANSA).
14 COMUNICATO STAMPA GRUPPO VERDI/ALE- Strasburgo, 18 dicembre 2003
Relazione F. W. Graefe zu Baringdorf (eurodeputato verde e vicepresidente
della Commissione agricoltura del PE) sulle colture geneticamente modificate
e le colture convenzionali e biologiche
OGM: il PE vuole garantire la libertà di scelta
All'iniziativa del gruppo dei Verdi/ALE al Parlamento europeo, la proposta
di risoluzione relativa alla coesistenza di colture geneticamente modificate
e colture convenzionali e biologiche è stata adottata oggi da una grande
maggioranza di parlamentari europei con 327 voti a favore e 52 contro.
"Questa risoluzione è cruciale per il futuro di un'agricoltura sostenibile
e soprattutto sul piano democratico", ha dichiarato al termine del voto
Monica Frassoni, presidente dei Verdi/ALE al PE. sic sic sic
"Infatti questa risoluzione considera che la coesistenza tra varietà geneticamente
modificate e varietà convenzionali e biologiche costituisce la base della
libertà di scelta sia dei consumatori sia degli agricoltori ed è anche la
condizione della gestione dei rischi ambientali e di salute pubblica legata
alla dispersione di organismi geneticamente modificati."( sic sic sic)
"Sul piano ambientale, la risoluzione riconosce che attualmente le conoscenze
scientifiche relative alla contaminazione genetica delle colture convenzionali
e biologiche da parte di colture OGM sono limitate e insufficienti per permettere
una valutazione precisa delle sue conseguenze" ha continuato l'europarlamentare verde.
"Per questo, per limitare il più possibile la probabilità di contaminazione
delle colture convenzionali o biologiche da parte degli OGM, la risoluzione
chiede alla Commissione europea di fissare la soglia dell'etichettatura
degli OGM nelle sementi a un livello tecnicamente affidabile che sia il
più basso possibile." sic sic sic
Monica Frassoni ha continuato: "Di fronte ai pareri contraddittori degli
ambienti scientifici per quanto riguarda i costi della coesistenza, il Parlamento
europeo chiederà una relazione sulle conseguenze economiche delle misure
necessarie per assicurare questa coesistenza." sic sic sic
"In base al principio "chi inquina paga", gli operatori agricoli (produttori
di sementi, agricoltori...) che volessero produrre delle piante modificate
geneticamente saranno responsabili della messa in opera delle misure necessarie
per affrontare i problemi della contaminazione genetica. Nello stesso ordine
di idee, la risoluzione chiede alla Commissione di presentare una proposta
relativa ad una responsabilità civile a livello comunitario per far fronte
a eventuali danni legati alla coesistenza." sic sic sic
"Per il gruppo dei Verdi/ALE è importante sottolineare che questa risoluzione
invita anche la Commissione e gli Stati membri a non procedere all'approvazione
della disseminazione di specie geneticamente modificate fintanto che non
saranno state accettate e messe in opera delle regole obbligatorie sulla coesistenza,
accompagnate da un sistema di responsabilità civile solidamente
fondato sul principio "chi inquina paga".sic sic sic
"Infine, dato che un rifiuto, volontario o limitato regionalmente, di coltivare
OGM in certe zone e in certe condizioni di coltura costituisce la misura
più efficace e più redditizia per garantire la coesistenza, il gruppo dei
Verdi/ALE insiste sul fatto che gli Stati membri devono avere la possibilità
legale di vietare del tutto la coltivazione di OGM in zone geograficamente
limitate, per garantire la coesistenza" ha concluso Monica Frassoni.
Deputata al Parlamento Europeo
Presidente Gruppo dei Verdi/ALE
Bureau ASP 8G202
Parlamento Europeo, Rue Wiertz
Tel. +32 2 2847932, Fax +32 2 2849932
(Strasburgo) Tel. +33 3 88177932, Fax. +33 3 88179932
Website Gruppo parlamentare: www.verdi-ale.org
VISITA IL MIO NUOVO SITO: www.monicafrassoni.it !!!
OGM: FINALMENTE RATIFICATO IL PROTOCOLLO DI CARTAGENA
Roma, 18 dicembre 2003 Greenpeace esprime soddisfazione per la ratifica
da parte dell?Italia del Protocollo di Cartagena sulla biosicurezza, avvenuta
questo pomeriggio, dopo la relazione introduttiva del Senatore Francesco Martone.
Anche il nostro Paese si muove nella direzione dell’applicazione piena
del principio di precauzione e della lotta alla biopirateria- afferma Federica
Ferrario, campagna OGM di Greenpeace speriamo ora dalla prossima Conferenza
delle Parti di portare un apporto positivo
In concomitanza con la ratifica italiana, un segnale positivo è arrivato
per Greenpeace anche dal Parlamento europeo, che ha preso oggi una posizione
chiara sulla contaminazione genetica con l’adozione di un rapporto che evidenzia
i problemi legati alla coesistenza di agricoltura convenzionale, Ogm e biologica,
sottolineando, in particolare, la necessità di salvaguardare le sementi
convenzionali dalla contaminazione genetica. Il rapporto è passato a Strasburgo
a stragrande maggioranza, con 327 voti a favore e 52 contrari.
OGM-VATICANO: RAGION DI STATO
O RICERCA DELLA
Roma, 11 novembre 2003
di Ivan Verga, vicepresidente VAS
Chi è ben introdotto nella discrezione delle stanze vaticane sa, e ammette con imbarazzo, che sul convegno promosso dalla Santa Sede pesano più le attuali difficoltà della Chiesa statunitense che la ricerca di una serena e oggettiva valutazione del problema OGM.
Che la ricerca della verità, radice e scopo della dottrina cattolica, non sia proprio il fine del confronto in corso sugli OGM, lo dice il carattere predefinito del dibattito, caratterizzato da un affollamento di ricercatori fra i più estremisti sostenitori dell'agricoltura e dell'alimentazione transgenica.
Sul piano del confronto scientifico, il simposio vaticano è tuttavia rivelatore della pochezza delle ragioni dei sostenitori degli OGM, chiamati ad un confronto monocorde: sostenere che gli OGM non fanno male poiché milioni di statunitensi se ne nutrono da anni è quanto meno superficiale, mentre la scientificità dei dati, fortunatamente, è ben altra cosa.
Sul piano del confronto sociale, al problema OGM la Chiesa ha già dato risposte precise con i missionari di Mozambico, Zambia e Filippine, i vescovi brasiliani e l'Agenzia dei Missionari d'Africa.
In equilibrio fra la contrarietà delle proprie Chiese e le esigenze della ragion di Stato, c'è chi in Vaticano scommette che dalla Santa Sede verranno pronunciate solo parole di circostanza sugli OGM: parole atte ad aiutare gli anemici titoli di borsa delle multinazionali statunitensi, ma incapaci di smentire il no agli OGM delle Chiese, soprattutto del Terzo Mondo.
Sul piano teologico, che è lo specifico su cui deve interrogarsi la Santa Sede, emerge invece la grande contraddizione che Mons. Sgreggia dovrà argomentare ora e in futuro: la modificazione genetica della vite e del grano è conciliabile con il Sacramento Eucaristico?
si nutriranno del corpo e del sangue di Cristo, oppure del corpo e del sangue di
OGM: COMMISSARIO BYRNE CONTESTATO A ROMA 14/11/03
della conferenza stampa del Commissario UE alla Salute e alla Protezione del
Consumatore, svoltasi nella mattinata odierna all'Hotel Sheraton di Roma,
attivisti dell'Associazione Verdi Ambiente e Società (VAS) hanno contestato a David
Byrne le sue continue e indebite ingerenze verso il Governo italiano per
ottenere la revoca del Decreto Amato che, dall'agosto del 2000, ha sospeso la
commercializzazione di quattro varietà di mais OGM autorizzate senza preventiva
valutazione di sicurezza d'uso.
"E' dal giorno successivo l'emanazione del Decreto Amato - dichiara Simona Capogna, dell'ufficio biosicurezza di VAS - che il Commissario Byrne ha cercato in ogni modo di intimidire il nostro Paese per costringerlo alla revoca del provvedimento di sospensione dal commercio dei quattro mais OGM illegittimamente autorizzati al consumo alimentare dalla UE."
"Le recenti minacce di procedura di infrazione da Lui rivolte al nostro Paese - prosegue Simona Capogna - costituiscono un precedente istituzionale gravissimo, tanto più che la recente sentenza della Corte di Giustizia UE ha affermato il diritto dell'Italia ad intraprendere proprie misure cautelari sui quattro mais OGM, dando con ciò il via libera all'esame di merito sulla sicurezza d'uso dei quattro mais transgenici".
"Sul fronte interno è noto - dichiara Simona Capogna - che da oltre un anno il Comitato Biosicurezza e Biotecnologie (CNBB) della Presidenza del Consiglio, in luogo di promuovere gli accertamenti scientifici e di laboratorio sui quattro mais OGM, opera semplicemente nel tentativo, anch'esso, di favorire la revoca del Decreto Amato"
"Ci sembra - conclude Simona Capogna - che sulla questione dei quattro mais le istituzioni, Europee e Italiane, stiano operando in senso contrario alle loro prerogative di garanzia e di controllo su un tema nodale come quello degli OGM. Non è una bella notizia per l'opinione pubblica che, notoriamente, di OGM non intende nutrirsi. Da che parte deciderà di schierarsi il Presidente del Consiglio del nostro Paese?".
ogm fanno male all'ambiente
"The Independent" - tratto da "Internazionale" 511, 24 ottobre 2003
La prima, grande sperimentazione compiuta sulle coltivazioni transgeniche parla chiaro: l'impatto sulla biodiversità è negativo. Il commento dell'Independent.
I risultati delle coltivazioni sperimentali di ogm (organismi geneticamente modificati) sono sorprendentemente chiari. In due dei tre casi studiati (mais, barbabietola da zucchero e colza a semina primaverile) gli erbicidi adatti alle colture ogm hanno danneggiato gli animali e le piante selvatiche dell'ambiente circostante. Un effetto che non dovrebbe stupire: tra le altre cose, uno degli
obiettivi di queste biotecnologie è consentire l'impiego di erbicidi e pesticidi più efficaci per tenere a freno le piante infestanti e i parassiti senza danneggiare la coltura. Meno erbacce vuol dire meno
insetti, e quindi meno uccelli, come gli zigoli o le allodole.
Ma i fautori degli ogm sostenevano che le cose sarebbero andate diversamente: le nuove colture avrebbero permesso di usare erbicidi più efficaci e mirati invece dell'attuale cocktail chimico, e quindi gli agenti impiegati sarebbero stati meno nocivi per la natura. Ora però questa teoria è stata confutata.
Nel caso della barbabietola e della colza, la coltivazione di varietà modificate ha ridotto la biodiversità dell'ambiente circostante. Nel terzo caso, quello del mais, la biodiversità è aumentata, ma l'effetto potrebbe dipendere dal fatto che il mais convenzionale è stato trattato con un erbicida molto potente il cui uso sta per essere proibito, dopo altri paesi, anche in Gran Bretagna.
Tre questioni in sospeso
che questi esperimenti erano circoscritti all'impatto sulla biodiversità. Ma ci
sono altre tre questioni da tenere presenti. La prima è se sia pericoloso mangiare alimenti che contengono ogm.
(...) La seconda è se queste colture possono andare incontro a
un'impollinazione incrociata con altre piante, incluse quelle infestanti, con
conseguenze "imprevedibili", che in realtà sono già previste, come
la creazione di supererbacce resistenti agli erbicidi.
(...) L'ultima questione è se le biotecnologie possano determinare un aumento significativo dei raccolti. Finora ci sono riuscite grazie a un controllo più efficace sugli infestanti e sui parassiti, ma compromettendo la biodiversità, come ha rivelato la sperimentazione.
In parole povere, la scelta si riduce all'alternativa tra raccolti abbondanti e biodiversità. Si tratta insomma della stessa alternativa offerta dall'agricoltura intensiva dalla rivoluzione industriale in poi, e negli ultimi decenni è stato generalmente riconosciuto che la politica agricola dovrebbe andare nella direzione opposta a quella indicata dagli ogm: bisognerebbe allontanarsi dall'agricoltura intensiva e spostarsi verso la tutela della biodiversità.
Non bisogna essere fanatici dell'agricoltura biologica per capire che il prezzo ambientale delle moderne tecniche agricole è troppo elevato. La priorità non dovrebbe essere assegnata a un'ulteriore intensificazione delle monocolture e degli allevamenti intensivi, bensì all'interruzione dei sussidi e delle barriere tariffarie, alla protezione e al ripristino degli habitat originari e alla promozione del benessere degli animali (...)
Tolleranza Zero Per Gli Ogm
''Noi possiamo tutelare l'agricoltura biologica solo attraverso il principio
della tolleranza zero rispetto alla possibile contaminazione Ogm''.
detto il presidente della Regione Piemonte, Enzo Ghigo, nel corso del suo
intervento al Forum internazionale dell'agricoltura e dell'alimentazione che
si e' tenuto a Cernobbio. ''Io non credo - ha aggiunto Ghigo - che con la
diffusione degli Ogm l'agricoltura italiana potra' essere concorrente
rispetto, ad esempio, a quella argentina o a quella statunitense. E' dunque
necessario che durante il semestre di presidenza italiana della Ue si parli
chiaro in Europa, perche' l'Europa possa parlar chiaro al mondo''.
COMITATO SANTI: GARANTE DEL CITTADINO
O DELLE MULTINAZIONALI DEGLI OGM? 21 11
I V A N V E R G A
Vicepresidente Associazione Verdi Ambiente e Società (VAS)
Mentre il Presidente Berlusconi si è preso una pausa di riflessione sulla riabilitazione dei quattro mais OGM, sospesi dal commercio in Italia dal Decreto Amato dell'agosto 2000, il Prof. Leonardo Santi -
Presidente del Comitato Biosicurezza e Biotecnologie (CNBB) della Presidenza del Consiglio - marcia imperterrito utilizzando le prerogative di garanzia che dovevano essere del CNBB per promuovere,
invece, il pensiero e gli obiettivi delle multinazionali degli OGM.
L'odierno convegno sulle Scienze della Vita, in corso al Ministero degli Affari Esteri è, purtroppo, l'esempio di come le finalità del Comitato Biosicurezza e Biotecnologie siano state manomesse, al
limite di ogni decenza.
Le multinazionali degli OGM non riescono a far accettare i loro prodotti all'opinione pubblica? Ci pensa il Prof. Santi, che si propone la realizzazione di campagne di informazione (con soldi
pubblici, ovviamente) per meglio comunicare le biotecnologie ai cittadini.
quali esperti ha invitato al convegno odierno il Prof. Santi per tracciare le
linee guida delle campagne di comunicazione? Ovviamente i capitani e i
consulenti delle industrie biotech.
Le multinazionali degli OGM intendono, come già avvenuto negli USA, mettere le mani sulla ricerca pubblica in italiana ed in Europea? Ci pensa ancora il Prof. Santi, che nel convegno odierno da fiato alla grancassa di una scienza capace di essere redditizia, attraverso il sistema dei brevetti sul vivente, e che si affida per la fase di sviluppo dei prodotti alle multinazionali, che sentitamente
ringraziano visto che le ricerche sugli OGM, verrebbero pagate dai soldi dei contribuenti, che di OGM non vogliono nutrirsi.
Da oggi almeno una cosa appare chiara: il Comitato Biosicurezza e Biotecnologie (CNBB) della Presidenza del Consiglio è il punto di garanzia per le strategie delle multinazionali degli OGM. L'opinione pubblica ringrazia il Prof. Santi per il profondo senso dello Stato che lo contraddistingue.
Roma, 21 novembre 2003
NO agli OGM Fuori gli organismi geneticamente modificati dalle nostre
Lodi 29 novembre
Piazza della Vittoria Lodi-Mobilitazione contro gli organismi geneticamente modificati nelle produzioni agricole
Gli organismi geneticamente modificati (OGM) sono un fenomeno mai visto in natura, le cui conseguenze sull'intero mondo naturale sono incalcolabili e incontrollabili. Nessuno oggi può garantire che non vi saranno conseguenze sulla salute e sull'intero ecosistema. Chi lo fa, mente sapendo di mentire.
Gli OGM non sono necessari. Non risolvono il problema della fame nel mondo, che è problema politico (chi produce a vantaggio di chi) e sociale (come si distribuisce la ricchezza nel mondo) e non tecnico (si produce già abbastanza cibo per sfamare tutti).
Gli OGM aprono la strada alla privatizzazione del patrimonio naturale universale, che passerà nelle mani di pochi gruppi multinazionali: è l'espropriazione del patrimonio costitutivo della natura stessa, a danno di ogni essere umano.
Dobbiamo essere consapevoli che le decisioni che si prendono in questi anni avranno conseguenze irreversibili. Le modificazioni introdotte dagli OGM nella vita di tutti non sono affare dei tecnici o degli agricoltori soltanto. È una grande questione democratica. Tutti noi non abbiamo il
diritto di decidere se concedere o meno a pochi privati la proprietà della natura?
Lodi è, suo malgrado, la sede della Monsanto e dunque la testa di ponte dell 'invasione degli OGM in Italia. Ma i cittadini non sono stati messi nella condizione di conoscere la gravità del problema e quindi sono stati espropriati dal diritto di parola.
Dobbiamo affermare con forza che la sicurezza della salute pubblica è un bene supremo, che non può essere subordinato ai disegni dei monopoli agricoli multinazionali.
Chiediamo l'intervento dei NAS a tutela delle semine prossime venture, affinché controllino se la Monsanto stocca e vende sementi OGM; se sì, chiediamo che l'autorità giudiziaria disponga la sospensione della licenza di vendita alla Monsanto su tutto il territorio nazionale.
Saranno presenti produttori biologici
Comitato Liberi dagli OGM
Prime adesioni: Associazione Italiana Agricoltura Biologica (AIAB) Lombardia; Casa del Popolo di Lodi; Coldiretti Milano Lodi; Cooperativa Valli Unite; Foro contadino Altragricoltura; Lodi Social Forum; C.S.A. Il barattolo di Pavia; Verdi di Pavia; Lega Ambiente di Pavia; Associazione
Campocarlo; Associazione Ya basta; Associazione Manifesta
RAINEWS 24: OGM NEI BALCANI -Notizie Est - http://www.notizie-est.com
La puntata di oggi di Scenari Verso Est, trasmessa da RaiNews 24 e condotta da Angelo Saso, parlerà del pericolo della diffusione dei prodotti geneticamente modificati (OGM) nei Balcani, partendo dal caso dell'Albania. Nel corso della trasmissione interverrà Xhemal Mato, giornalista e animatore dell'Associazione Mass media e Ambiente. La trasmissione andrà in onda oggi, giovedì 4 dicembre, alle 17.40, con repliche alle 23.10 e il venerdì mattina alle 7.10, quest'ultima anche su Raitre (terrestre e satellite). Gli orari delle trasmissioni possono subire qualche variazione - potete comunque trovare il palinsesto aggiornato sul sito di RaiNews 24