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NEWS ABOUT GM ISSUES • March 2007

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31 March 2007

Philippines: Greenpeace statement on the withdrawal of the approval of the GMO MON 863

Infoshop News, 31 March 2007.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap this week stated that he ordered the disapproval of genetically-modified corn MON 863 which an independent study released earlier this month in France revealed to show signs of liver and kidney toxicity.

Press Release

Greenpeace Genetic-Engineering Campaigner Daniel Ocampo said:

"Secretary Yap's statement to withdraw the approval of genetically-modified corn, MON 863, shows that the administration is waking up to the dangers posed by genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Following his statement, the Secretary should act on it immediately. The logical next step for the DA is to assure the repeal and withdrawal of all other authorized GMO crops and products in the country, starting with rejection of Bayer's application for the LL62 GMO rice variety, which if approved will signal the entry of GMO rice in the country's food chain and will result in disastrous consequences to our most important food crop.

"Twenty-eight other GMO crops have been approved in the Philippines. But, as the MON863 case shows, a GMO's approval for human consumption is not a guarantee of its safety. No GMO has ever undergone long-term testing, nor has been conclusively proven to be safe for human consumption. Bayer LL62, for instance, is not approved anywhere else in the world except in the US where it contaminated long grain rice stocks now being rejected by the rest of the world.

"As with all other GMOs, Bayer LL62, genetically-modified to resist a powerful weed-killer, poses inherent risks to human health and the environment. GMOs threaten biodiversity, food security, farmers' livelihoods, and consumers' choice. Moreover, their long-term effects on soil, animals, plants and human health are still unknown. GE crops and seeds, when released into the environment, also inevitably lead to genetic contamination of non-GMO agriculture and the food chain.

"The clear message then is that the government must reject GMOs and instead look toward a future of farming and food production grounded on the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity, and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food."

Notes to Editor

MON 863 is corn genetically manipulated to produce its own insecticide called 'modified Cry3Bb1' to kill rootworm insects in the soil, and contains gene coding for antibiotic resistance. A French study entitled 'New Analysis of a Rat Feeding Study with a Genetically Modified Maize Reveals Signs of Hepatorenal Toxicity,' published earlier this month in the scientific journal "Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology" shows that significant health risks were associated with the GMO corn despite its approval in the European Union.

In the Philippines, 25 GMO crops (including corn, soybean, sugar beet, alfalfa, potato, and cotton) have been approved by the BPI for direct use in food, feed, and processing, while four GMO corn crops are approved for propagation. Twenty-four of the 29 GMOs approved in the country are owned by Monsanto.

An application for food, feed and processing for the GMO rice Bayer LL62 is currently being reviewed by the Bureau of Plant Industry, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture. Bayer LL62 is rice genetically-manipulated to resist the powerful weed-killer glufosinate which is meant to be used in conjunction with the said GMO crop.

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30 March 2007

Europe: MEPs put the breaks on organic-food law

EurActiv.com, 30 March 2007.

The Parliament has held back its opinion on a new EU regulation on organic production and labelling rules, aimed at buying more time to negotiate on legislative powers and restrict the GMO content of organic products.

Background:

A review of the EU organic production and labeling system was proposed in December 2005 by the Commission to repond to the increase of organic production since the adoption of the present regulation in 1991. The stated aim is to improve clarity for both consumers and farmers. (A Community logo for organic products was created in March 2000.)

The new regulation aims, for example, to clarify the GMO rules, notably that the general GMO thresholds apply (at least 95% of the final product will have to be organic to be labelled as such) and that GMO products cannot be labelled organic, except those containing up to 0.9% of GMO content through accidental contamination. Imports of organic products would be allowed, as long as they comply with EU standards.

It would also render compulsory either the EU organic logo or, in its absence, an indication 'EU-ORGANIC', which would impose restrictions on labelling and advertising claims.

The Council agreed on a general approach (general approach means a political agreement pending the European Parliament's opinion) on the dossier in December 2006 (16577/06, ADD1, ADD2 and ADD3).

This agreement supports the Commission's original proposal to maintain the status quo and current threshold allowing operators to determine the absence of GMOs in food and feed. Austrian, Belgian Checz, Greek, Hungarian and Italian delegations voted against as they consider that this does not guarantee that organic products are GMO-free.

As to the EU logo, the Council agrees on an obligatory EU logo for products containing at least 95% organic ingredients, but decided (Germany and Lithuania voted against) to allow the EU logo to be accompanied by national and private logos.

Issues:

The Parliament adopted, on 29 March 2007, an opinion report on 'Organic production and labelling of organic products', prepared by the Committee on agriculture and rural development. However, at the request of the rapporteur, French MEP Marie-Hélène Aubert (Greens/EFA) (who referred to the rule 53 of the rules procedure of the Parliament ) the plenary did not vote on the amended legislative resolution and the regulation was sent back to the Agricultural committee. The Council needs the Parliament's amended legislative resolution on the dossier before final adoption.

The reason for referring the regulation back to the Committee is that the Parliament insists on the new regulation being made subject to the co-decision procedure since it covers the production and distribution of processed food in the single market (which comes under co-decision) and not just agricultural products (which comes under the consultation procedure). "Referring the report back to Committee enables the EP to negotiate for co-decision rights with the Commission," said Aubert.

The key amendments (which are not binding on the Council) of the adopted report propose stricter overall rules on GMOs and ask farmers to "supply evidence that they have taken all necessary steps" to avoid an "adventitious contamination" with GMOs. The Commission is asked to draft up, by January 2008, a framework directive setting out measures to help avoid contaminating the food chain with GMOs and applying the 'polluter-pays' principle.

In addition, the MEPs backed an amendment (324 votes to 282, with 50 abstentions) seeking to reduce the threshold of accidental contamination from 0.9% to 0.1% in the case of organic products.

"Parliament has proposed a range of amendments, which improve the original proposal and the Commission will take them on board," promised Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.

However, the Commission disagrees with the Parliament's demand for more details in the regulation - the EU executive wants the the basic rules to be stipulated more clearly and logically.

The Commission also refuses to extend the scope of the regulation to cover other areas such as textiles, collective catering and cosmetics. "We can't take all steps in one go, we already extend the current regulation to cover wine and agriculture. Other sectors are in such early stages that regulating them now could hamper their development. We plan to look at these sectors in 2011," said Boel. Positions:

"Organic farming is an important sector with some ß13-14 billion turnover and the tendency is increasing. In order to the sector to reach its full potential, it needs an appropriate regulatory framework, and that is what we are trying to do with this new regulation," said Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel. "Following intensive Council and Parliament discussions on the regulation in 2006 some elements that proved to be very sensitive have now completely disappeared from the proposal. These include prohibition on higher claims, the mutual recognition of private standards by inspection bodies and the EU-ORGANIC indication.

"The EP is calling for the legal basis of the proposal to be changed both to provide coherency for EU organics rules (by including restaurants and caterers in the same legislation) and to ensure that the Parliament has a role in defining the crucial 'implementing rules', which will specify authorised substances and what practises can be allowed in organic farming. It is vital that the EP can keep an eye on these important rules to ensure that the high standards of organics in terms of health and sustainable production can be maintained," said Marie-Hélène Aubert (FR, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance), rapporteur of the Parliament report.

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) EU Regional Group welcomes the fact that initially proposed restrictions on private logos and standards have been dropped from the proposal, "as they are essential to maintaining a dynamic and expanding organic food and farming sector".

However, IFOAM adds: "A number of issues still do not reflect the opinion of the whole European organic sector. In particular, Commissioner Fischer Boel's promise to ensure better stakeholder involvement should be formally reflected in the procedures. The sector remains concerned about GMOs, the mandatory use of the EU logo, the inadequate link to the food and feed control regulation (882/2004) and the exclusion of catering and non-food products from the scope of the regulation."

Environmental NGOs, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have been urging MEPs, the Commission and member states to take all necessary measures to prevent genetic contamination of crops and condemn the fact that the new regulation "would allow traces of contamination and contains no measures to stop GM crops contaminating organic farms".

"People buy organic foods in the confidence that they are 100% GMO-free. Opening the farm gate to GMOs in organic food will be going against consumer choice and accepting that big business can contaminate our food and decide what we eat," said Marco Contiero, senior policy advisor on GMOs at Greenpeace's EU unit.

The NGOs welcome the Parliament's vote, but warn that "the 0.1 % GMO contamination threshold should under no circumstances be used as a bargaining counter in the resolution of this conflict over legislative powers".

Latest & next steps:

The German EU Presidency's objective has been to get the regulation adopted by July 2007. As the Parliament did not give its opinion, the adoption will be delayed.

The new regulation is set to take effect on 1 January 2009.

Links

EU official documents

Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development: Organic production and labelling of organic products (14 March 2007)
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/...

PreLex: Proposal for a council regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products
http://ec.europa.eu/...

European Parliament info: Proposed rules on organic food products sent back to Agriculture Committee (29 March 2007)
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/...

Commission: Organic farming
http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/qual/organic/index_en.htm

Commission stakeholder consultation/ Towards a European Action Plan for organic food and farming (March 2003)
http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/...

Business & Industry

International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) EU Regional Group press release: Organic sector on new regulation: Strong concerns about GMOs, EU logo and lack of stakeholder involvement But glad Council could be convinced to allow private standards (20 December 2006)
http://www.ifoam.org/...

International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) EU Regional Group Info page - Revision of Organic Regulation
http://www.ifoam.org/...

Soil Association: Revised EU regulation threatens to undermine organic sector (19 December 2006)
http://www.soilassociation.org/...

NGOs

Friends of the Earth - Greenpeace press release: European Parliament votes for organicsexternal (29 March 2007)
http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2007/March29_HH_Organic.htm

Friends of the Earth - Greenpeace press release: Keep GMOs out of organic food!external (26 March 2007)
http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2007/March26_HH_Organic.htm

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Canada: Pressure for GMO labelling legislation rises in Quebec

Truth about Trade and Technology, 30 March 2007.

Canada: Pressure for GMO labelling legislation rises in Quebec

A highly publicised Quebec government study has increased the likelihood of mandatory labelling for foods containing genetically_modified organisms (GMOs).

A coalition of Canadian farm, consumer and environmental groups made public the ministry of agriculture study, which confirmed labelling costs would be less than previously believed. The report says food sector costs will total some C$28m (US$24.25m), not industry's figure of C$200m.

The coalition says no significant negative impact is noted in countries with similar rules, and that the amounts pale in comparison to industry revenues. The government ordered the report after promising mandatory labelling four years ago. Local polls consistently show overwhelming support for the measure. <

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29 March 2007

Europe: European parliament votes for organics

Friends of the Earth Europe / European Environmental Bureau / Greenpeace / Press statement
29 March 2007

Brussels, 29 March, 2007 - Environmental NGOs have welcomed today's rejection by the European Parliament of a proposal to allow traces of genetically modified organisms in organic food [1,2]. The result of the vote, say Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, and the European Environmental Bureau, is a clear indication from European elected representatives that the right to GM-free food is non-negotiable. Parliament also voted in favour of requesting an equal say on the legislation with Member States, through the codecision procedure [3], so there will now be negotiations with the Council and Commission to resolve this conflict over legislative powers.

The NGOs warn that the 0.1 percent GMO contamination threshold should under no circumstances be used as a bargaining counter in the resolution of this conflict over legislative powers.

For further information please contact:

Helen Holder, GM Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe
Tel : +32 (0)2 542 0182, Mobile +32 (0)474 857 638 ; E-mail : helen.holder@foeeurope.org

Marco Contiero, Senior policy advisor, GMOs, Greenpeace EU Unit
Mobile: +32 (0)477 777 034 ; E-mail: marco.contiero@diala.greenpeace.org

Mauro Albrizio, Vice-president, European Environmental Bureau
Mobile : +32 479 940 257 ; E-mail : legambiente@skynet.be

Notes for editors:

[1] Proposal for a Council Regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products (COM(2005)0671 - C6-0032/2006 - 2005/0278(CNS))

[2] The proposed law, if adopted as such, would allow 0.9% GMO contamination in organic foods. The law only allows this contamination as long as it is "adventitious" and "technically unavoidable", however there is evidence that the European Commission and other risk managers, under pressure to adopt a lax attitude to contamination, are, in fact, interpreting the 0.9 percent threshold to mean 'acceptable' contamination. The organic sector currently works to a lower threshold (detection level), which EU laws must support, to enable organic farmers and retailers to maintain existing standards.

[3] The codecision procedure gives the European Parliament the power to adopt legislation jointly with the Council of the European Union, requiring the two bodies to agree on an identical text before any proposal can become law.

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UK: Soil Association welcomes European Parliament decision

Soil Association press release, 29 March 2007

Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, warmly welcomes the European Parliament decision to set the lowest possible threshold for GM contamination of organic food of 0.1 per cent. Peter says,

"David Miliband must now scrap the UK government proposal to allow almost 1 per cent GM contamination of organic food. His pro-GM position had been criticised by 74 major organic businesses, because people who eat organic food want to avoid all GM.

"The European Parliament has reached the right decision in line with what the people of Europe want. This decision guarantees a healthy, GM free future for the rapidly growing number of organic farmers in the UK."

The European Parliament position is mirrored by an all-party motion in the House of Commons tabled by the conservative front bench, which calls for the minimum, 0.1 per cent, contamination of organic.

Ends

For media enquiries contact the Soil Association press office 0117 914 2448 / mailto:press@soilassociation.org

Notes to editors:

Back in the 1990s, a Soil Association campaign to keep the UK GM-free attracted widespread public support and leads to a supermarket ban on GM ingredients from own-brand products. In 1998, the Soil Association challenged the government and GM seed companies in the high court to halt a GM trial threatening an organic grower, Guy Watson. Judges rule that the government has acted illegally.

Following widespread public opposition and negative impacts of GM field trials on the environment, the government announced in 2004 that GM crops will not be commercially grown in the UK in the foreseeable future.

For more information on GM visit www.soilassociation.org/gm

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India: Andhra Pradesh State Agricultural Department cautions rain fed farmers against opting for Bt cotton

Deccan Development Society, March 29 2007

The State Department of Agriculture, Government of Andhra Pradesh, India has finally conceded that Bt cotton is not beneficial to the rainfed farmers. http://www.hindu.com/2007/03/29/stories/2007032908040400.htm

In Andhra Pradesh, cotton is grown under rainfed conditions in around 78% of the total cotton acreage.

The Commissioner and Director of the State Department of Agriculture has also conceded that, 'the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops, engineered for a specific trait, was also resulting in new pest problems.' http://www.hindu.com/2007/03/29/stories/2007032908040400.htm

Deccan Development Society (DDS) have in fact brought out this fact through their season long studies in the cotton growing areas of the state as early as in 2005 that the incidence of sucking pests have been increasing on the cotton crop since the introduction of the GM cotton in the state http://www.ddsindia.com/www/PDF/BT_Cotton_-_A_three_year_report.pdf

Recently DDS has also brought out that new diseases started appearing on the cotton plants in the areas where Bt cotton is grown extensively. http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=140124

Not only the new diseases, even cattle on grazing the Bt plants are succumbing to Bt cotton http://www.hindu.com/2007/03/02/stories/2007030208990400.htm

Mr. Kiran and Mr. Abdul Qayuum
Consultants, DDS

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India: Alarming increase in minor pests causes crop wilting in many parts of State

The Hindu, March 29 2007. Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD: Significant climate changes over the past few years have led to 'alarming' increase in the hitherto minor or unknown pests that are causing wilting and other effects on the crops in different parts of the State.

For instance, paddy crop in over 45,000 hectares in East Godavari district was infected by stem-rot disease in just three days during the previous season.

"Moreover, since the pests are viral in nature, there is no alternative but to burn the affected plants to ensure that the disease does not spread to others," Agriculture Commissioner Poonam Malakondaiah said.

Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, she said the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops, engineered for a specific trait, was also resulting in new pest problems. This called for a regular monitoring and surveillance system to know the status of pests, which was a pre-requisite for effective implementation of integrated pest management.

To counter this, the department had cautioned the GM companies to indicate the problems on the labels of their products while they were also cautioned against spurious seed.

The department was planning to take up awareness programmes on the new pests during the Rythu Chaitanya Yatras between April 16 and May 5 wherein farmers would be educated on different aspects of crops and cropping pattern.

In addition, it was decided to prepare village agriculture action plans by April 5 and strengthen pest surveillance mechanism in every district through the seed testing labs to test genetic purity of the seeds.

The department had also cautioned farmers against opting for Bt cotton crops in rain-fed areas.

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28 March 2007

South Korea: S. Korean gov't orders labelling of all GMO products from late June

Yonhap News, March 28 2007.

The South Korean government said Wednesday that all products with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must be clearly labelled as such under a plan to enhance consumer rights.

The plan, which goes into effect on June 29, is an expansion of current identification requirements designed to protect the environment and consumer health. Under the current rules, it is only mandatory to identify genetically modified beans, bean sprouts, corn and potatoes.

Products containing GMOs, which have been artificially transformed in labs to improve output, taste and resistance to disease, have drawn criticism over their possible adverse effects on the ecosystem and human health.

"The changes call for all GMO products that are imported and manufactured for human consumption to be labelled," said Kim Young-man, head of the Agriculture Ministry's agriculture distribution bureau.

To encourage enforcement of the new rules, the official said people who report mislabeling will be given cash rewards of up to 2 million won (US$2,130).

Kim stressed that the move is not aimed to hurt imports of GMO products from such countries as the United States, and speculated that it will not cause complaints.

"The actions are not new and are only an expansion of existing procedures," he said.

In addition to GMO products, the ministry said it will start a nationwide probe to ferret out mislabeling of fresh and processed agricultural goods starting on April 1.

The latest actions are to cover both fresh produce like melons, watermelons, strawberries and peaches as well as manufactured products including bread, noodles and curry.

Because of higher prices and stronger consumer demand, some importers and retailers have intentionally mislabeled cheap imports as being produced in the country.

The ministry said those found to have tried to mislead consumers could face a fine of under 100 million won [US$106,000] or a jail term of less than seven years.

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Canada: Minority government needs to respect majority's opinion
GMOs: Let us choose, M.Charest!


MONTREAL, March 28 /CNW Telbec/ - Greenpeace this morning dumped five tons of corn in front of the office of the Quebec Liberal Party, to insist mandatory labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Mandatory labelling has consistently been supported by a majority of Quebecers, and with the first minority government since the 1800s, Greenpeace said it's time the National Assembly listened.

"Greenpeace wants no more electoral games," said Eric Darier, a Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner. "We've waited four years since Mr. Charest's last broken promises of 2003 and the election campaign. With a minority government elected, the majority shouldn't have to wait anymore-whether Jean Charest wants to dodge our right to know or not. Polls indicate that a large majority of Quebecers are united in their desire for mandatory labelling of GMOs and in their right to choose."

Greenpeace took the message directly to the party Quebecers chose to lead the minority National Assembly, and which has a duty to listen to all Quebecers. "It's time for our government to bring forward the mandatory labelling legislation that Quebecers want and see if our National Assembly will pass it," said Darier. "Indeed, we are asking that the new government tell us if this five tons of corn contains GMOs authorized in Canada. And if Monsanto's corn, Mon863, which a recent study says had potentially dangerous health effects, is one of them?

"If the government won't tell us, without labels, how will we know," he asked, pointing to polls that say 79 to 95 per cent of people support mandatory labelling.

On March 17, Greenpeace published an economic study on the costs of mandatory labelling, which the government hid for several months. This study, received last October but never published, laid out the economic costs of labelling-and showed they were not nearly as high as what industry claimed. Greenpeace and other groups analyzed the study and made concrete solutions to let Quebec practically move ahead. Darier urged Charest to move forward now the facts are clear.

"Other provincial governments can't remain inactive on the labelling of GMOs, either, now we know the costs are so low and the dangers of GMOs are so serious," said Josh Brandon, genetic engineering campaigner for Greenpeace in Vancouver. "Across Canada, public opinion will soon force governments to support mandatory labelling legislation. Particularly in BC, where polls show a majority intend to vote for candidates that will bring in labelling."

For further information: Jocelyn Desjardins, Greenpeace communications, (514) 212-5749

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Romania: 14 GMO-free localities

HotNews.ro, 28 March 2007. Ecologists' second strike secured a victory for the future of Romania's agriculture: 14 villages in the Cluj county (the Huedin region) followed the example of their Bihor county neighbors and declared this region as free from any genetically modified organisms.

The localities include the small town of Huedin and 13 villages, while the Bihor GMO-free zone includes two towns and 24 villages.

Local authorities say the reason for the move was part of their rural development strategy, agriculture-tourism and environmental protection.

Mayors demand the Government some regulation in this field, so that local autonomy may allow administration institution to forbid GMO cultures on their lands, as well as legal protection for farmers who refuse to grow GMOs.

Europe has 174 GMO free regions and 4,500 areas this far.

According to the Agriculture Ministry , Romania has been the largest GMO producer in Europe for the past 2 years.

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GM Potato Controversy - A case with disturbing implications for present day science

FoodConsumer.Org, Mar 28 2007. By Dr. Arpad J. Pusztai.

Two years after the release of the first GM plant, the FLAVR - SAVR tomato in the USA in 1995, there was still not a single publication in peer-reviewed journals probing into the safety of GM foods. As this was of public and scientific concerns..the Scottish Office Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries Department (SOAEFD, as it was called then) called for research proposals to investigate the safety of GM foodcrops; their possible effects on the environment, soil, microorganisms, animals, and whether they presented any risks for human consumers.

Of the original 28 proposals received by SOAEFD, ours was accepted as scientifically the most sound after peer-review by the BBSRC (Biological and Biotechnological Sciences Research Council). In our research plan we specified in detail what we wanted to do and how, with the design of all the experiments, and what we were going to deliver and when, etc.. The tasks of the project were divided between the three research units involved: The Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI), University of Durham, Department of Biology and the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen. At the request of the scientists participating in the programme, I co-ordinated it.

In our research to find suitable methods for the risk assessment of GM crops we used GM potatoes as a model for GM crops. These have been developed in Durham by scientists of Axis Genetics, a Cambridge biotechnology company and field-grown at Rothamstead Experimental Station for two years. The Rowett had a profit-sharing agreement with Axis Genetics should the GM potatoes be commercially released.

Artificial feeding trials with aphids at Durham and SCRI have established that the gene product, GNA (snowdrop bulb lectin) expressed in the potatoes did interfere with both the development and mortality of one of the main potato pests, the potato aphid. It was also revealed from previous nutritional-physiological studies that GNA would not pose major health problems for the animals.even at 800-fold concentration of that expected to be expressed in the potatoes. So we started off with a gene coding for a lectin that appeared to control insect damage but wouldn't harm the rat..

Nevertheless problems soon appeared. First, no correlation between the expression level of GNA in the potato plant and the protection against the aphids was found. This was worrying and difficult to understand. There were also disturbing indications that GM potatoes not only harmed the aphids but also non-target and beneficial insects, such as the two-spotted ladybirds which, in nature, control the aphid population.

At the same time the results of the feeding studies at the Rowett did not fit the ideas on which genetic engineering was based. Thus, although the gene product was safe when it was sprinkled on to the diet, it was not when expressed in the GM potatoes. The GM potato-based diets retarded the growth of the rats, particularly on long-term feeding, interfered with the normal development of vital internal organs and depressed the humoral immune system All.these suggested that there must be something wrong with this supposedly precise technology, for which it has been claimed that one can change the phenotype by inserting one gene by a 'neutral' technology. We had two successful lines of GM potatoes coming from the same transformation event, done at the same time and in the same vessel; yet they were different. We were beginning to suspect that the problems were likely to originate from our inability to direct the transgene to sites where it would not interfere with the potato's own gene expression.

These were controlversial ideas at the time. However, after my 150 sec TV interview in August 1998 the Rowett was first happy with the publicity and the Director congratulated me. The Rowett Press Releases on 10 and 11 August and by the Institute Governing Body Chairman to M. Jacques Santer and Frank Dobson were full of praise for our work "of strategic importance to our country and European Union consumers". "A range of carefully controlled studies underlie the basis of Dr Pusztai's concerns". "The testing of modified products with implanted genes needs to be thoroughly carried out in the gut of animals and humans if unknown disasters are to be avoided".

Unfortunately, the Director did not keep to our agreement of not releasing scientific details to the media and disastrously never checked with me about the accuracy of the press releases. He dealt with all enquiries and gave all the interviews resulting in major mistakes. Apparently, when the government instructed him on the afternoon of 11 August that as our results were against the government's pro-GM policy they should be suppressed and I must be silenced, he tried to extricate himself from the responsibility of telling the world about experiments which in fact had never been done. He claimed that I got "muddled" or that I "took" data from an absent colleague. In a further twist he hinted that we have never done any GM-potato experiments but just supplemented our ordinary potato diets with the poisonous Concanavalin A. The Director suspended me on 12 August, gagged me and instituted an illegal Audit even though I was not accused of scientific fraud. All our data were confiscated. My phone was re-directed to his office and my e-mails were intercepted. The Director then wrote a series of letters in which he explicitly threatened me with legal action if I spoke to anyone in or outside the Rowett about our work. Not only the Audit was illegal but also without a nutritionist on the board the composition of the Audit Committee was inappropriate to assess a mainly nutritional work on GM potatoes. The audit was over in less than 10 hours and I was not given a chance to explain our work to them, or the Governing Body or my scientific colleagues at the Rowett. None of the data in the Audit Report was primary and no statistical analyses were carried out by the Committee to validate the data. All this was so upsetting for some members of the international scientific community that 24 of them published a signed Memorandum (without giving away confidential data) and asked for my re-instatement to carry out further work into the safety of GM-foodstuffs. This publication in February 1999 dramatically re-kindled the GM debate.

After my TV interview I was violently criticised by the scientific establishment, including the Royal Society even though I gave no experimental details in the 14 sentences of the interview. However, I made a strong plea for proper scienific risk assessment to be done before the GM crops are released, so we should not need to use our own unwilling citizens as guinea pigs. Despite this, the Royal Society's main attack line was that our results were unreliable, obtained by a flawed experimental design and execution and as they were not peer‑reviewed they could only be 'publiished' on TV. Incidentally, the Royal Society never had the design of our experiments or the methods used by us. They only had an edited internal Rowett Report which, against my wishes, had been passed on to them by the Director. In any case, the Royal Society has never before peer-reviewed scientific results. Moreover, against natural justice, the Royal Society did not publish our data but only their criticism of it, that The Lancet Editorial called a 'breathtaking impertinence' against a senior scientist. As there was no work done on GM potatoes by the Royal Society or anyone else, their report must be regarded as a collection of opinions. However, in science opinions that are not based experimentation and published after peer-review have no scientific validity even if they come from the President of the Royal Society.

Our paper was accepted on both scientific merit and public interest, as explained by The Lancet Editor after having been refereed by six referees, instead of the usual two, and published in The Lancet (Ewen and Pusztai, 1999). As the Rowett still had the right to scrutinise our papers, the publication was a little delayed, that gave an opportunity for pro-GM people to try to stop it. The scientific establishment had to find some reason for rubbishing the paper to justify their rejection of our work. So that was probably the reason why the President of the Royal Society said, 'We still cannot accept this publication because Dr Pusztai did not use the right low protein controls'. But surely the six referees could not have missed something as important as this? You needn't be a Nobel Prize winner to read our paper and see that all diets contained the same amount of protein and energy. According to The Guardian, a senior fellow of the Royal Society who was involved with the biotech industry phoned Richard Horton and threatened him if he dared to publish our paper. Interestingly, when this became public the Royal Society washed their hands of the whole affair. Another Royal Society fellow told the Independent that the Lancet editor must have had political motives for publishing the paper, because 'the referees' did not accept it. Although not a nutritionist he claimed that the design of our experiment was so terrible that if it was presented by one of his students, he would fail him/her 'because what we did was wrong, by changing horses in mid-stream' i.e. started the feeding with the control diet and then we switched to GM and vice versa. It is difficult to judge whether he was scientifically incompetent or did he knowingly misrepresent our experiment? It appears that peoples' attitude profoundly changes when their interests are jeopardised or threatened by some scientific findings.

Unfortunately, ethics have low priority in science nowadays. Powerful scientific committees, such as the Nuffield Council on Bioethics take the side of the establishment most of the time, regardless the merit of the case. Additionally, most of the important decisions are taken by the wrong people who have long retired from active scientific work and these people on the committees have little time to properly read anything. Many of them also either directly or indirectly receive funding from the industry and/or the allied scientific establishment. It is thus not surprising that the whole industrial and political complex came down so heavily on me and on our findings. However, it may have become obvious by now even to those who condemned our work at the time because it was against their interest that suppression of 'unpleasant' but true facts uncovered by independent scientists is not only against the interest of society but in the long run also of their own. Hopefully, it is now generally realized that when academic freedom is denied to professional scientists progress in science becomes impossible .

References

1. Ewen SWB, Pusztai A. Effects of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine. Lancet 1999; 354: 1353-1354.

2. Flynn L, Gillard MS. Pro-GM food scientist 'threatened editor'. Guardian 1999; Nov 1: 1-2.

(Editor's note: We thank Dr. Arpad J. Pusztai very much for his article. Dr. Pusztai has been directly involved as a principal investigator in the researching of GM potatoes and what he told here is absolutely an insider story.

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27 March 2007

USA: US Biogiant wants to keep selling GMO alfafa

Legalbrief Today (Zambia), 27 March 2007.

While the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducts a court-ordered environmental impact study, Monsanto Co. has asked a San Francisco federal court to allow it to continue selling its genetically modified Roundup Ready Alfalfa.

According to a report in The Washington Post, Monsanto, its seed distributors and growers stand to lose up to $250m if the alfalfa, which was designed to survive the company's Roundup herbicide, is taken off the market for the two years it takes to complete the study, the company said in court papers filed recently. Earlier this month, US District Judge Charles Breyer halted the sale of the modified alfalfa at the request of farmers, environmentalists and consumer advocates who said that it could harm the US economy and the environment.

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USA: Vegetable Fallout From the New Manhattan Project
British Petroleum and the New Greenmail


CounterPunch, March 27 2007. By Iain Boal and Standard Schaefer.

British Petroleum's proposed biofuel research deal with the University of California has sparked a growing resistance from a coalition based in UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources, claiming the deal is essentially a continuation of BP's current greenwash campaign. After much unfavorable publicity surrounding the mismanagement of oil tankers, pipelines, and refineries, BP began airing commercials on business friendly television channels hyping their renewable energy projects with the slogan, "It's a start." It's a start all right, but a rather paltry one if you consider this: BP's net profit last year, in 2006, was $22 billion - roughly $600 per second. So the annual commitment to the UC Berkeley program represents 0.0005% of annual profits--just a few hours of the yearly take.

Still, the half-billion dollar windfall buys a lot of clout in a public university. Those who insist that BP's gift will not change the climate of research at UC Berkeley might consider BP's track record. It does not bode well for this partnership or for free and open inquiry. Here are the words of Greg Palast of BBC Newsnight:

"BP, which owns 46% of the Alaska pipline and is supposed to manage the system, had a habit of hunting down and destroying the careers of those who warn of pipeline problems. In one case, BP's CEO of Alaskan operations hired a former CIA expert to break into the home of a whistleblower, Chuck Hamel, who had complained of conditions at the pipe's tanker facility. BP tapped his phone calls with a US congressman and ran a surveillance and smear campaign against him. When caught, a US federal judge said BP's acts were 'reminiscent of Nazi Germany'. This was not an isolated case."

Given this history, the BP deal-whose specifics remain largely unknown-is bound to produce an atmosphere of secrecy in the research laboratories of a public institution which under the agreement will be staffed by scientist-entrepreneurs enriching themselves by way of private patents and stock options, in a direct conflict of interest.

One of the first casualties of the deal is already clear--the English language. The authors of this proposal have already begun a laundering operation, even before the deal is signed. Genetically modified organisms and biotechnology are nowhere to be seen. The brief era of "biotech" is over, it seems; a new age of "synthetic biology" is dawning. Oddly, we find ourselves back in a world of electricians, chemists and masons. Instead of living GMOs we are dealing with "DNA circuits"; instead of genes we find "biobricks". Plants no longer decompose; in this brave new science they undergo "depolymerization". These linguistic constructs are presumably an attempt to obscure the fact that the core of the BP project for growing fuel instead of food remains the global proliferation of new, reproducing, lifeforms that contain genes transfected from distant species, with very poorly understood results.

It is not by accident that the parties to the BP-Berkeley deal borrow their rhetorical strategies from their counterparts in the military and nuclear fields. The UC scientists and administrators begin the proposal by invoking, in the most effusive terms, the Manhattan Project. In fact, the whole initiative is to be modeled on the Manhattan Project's "team science" model. But that project is properly remembered for its secret, reckless decision-making. With its very first experiment, Arthur Compton, the head of the Chicago scientists involved, risked building a secret reactor in the middle of the city. Compton explained: "We did not see how a true nuclear explosion, such as that of an atomic bomb, could possibly occur"; still, as Richard Rhodes the historian of the Manhattan Project put it, he was risking "a small Chernobyl in the midst of a crowded city."

Here, then, are some questions: What is modern science that its shining hour was the Manhattan Project, a secret project to build a weapon of mass murder? What is modern science that it flourishes in secrecy? What is it that the biofuel boosters here at UC Berkeley like so much about Lawrence and the atomic bomb project?

Well, here's one possible explanation: science--and by this we mean 'actually existing' science--is capital's way of knowing the world, and furthermore, science is the handmaiden of empire. It's no accident that ballistics and the development of weapons of mass murder are at the heart of modern physics. Now the cult of the atom is mirrored and even matched by the cult of the gene. The stakes are high, they tell us, global warming and oil depletion loom. It is all rather plausible, even if promoted by known market manipulators such as BP-its history of machinations we shall address later-but for now it is worth asking: what does it mean, when the language of crisis is on so many lips? Suddenly, everyone is on board with biofuels as the answer to global warming--scientists, environmentalists, pundits, celebrities, politicians of all stripes-the Gores and Bransons and Blairs, and now the Bushes, with their ethanol deal with Brazil.

Global emergency, like communism and terrorism, is a very useful bogey man that brooks no dissent. It facilitates backroom deals, and in the BP case (an agreement put together, in the revealing phrase of the UC vice chancellor for research, "at warp speed"), it obscures the risks that university administrators and scientists are prepared to take not only with the local environment of Strawberry Canyon, but with the ecosystems of the planet and the lives of small farmers everywhere who face further dispossession for the purpose of biofuel monoculture. But risk, of course, is something our neoliberal masters are adept at "externalizing"; after all, its other face is profit. Formerly natural disasters were the work of the Fates and the Furies. Now, chance and contingency and cataclysm are the spectacular image both the nominal left and real right promote so that we will not look at their long history of harm and devastation, so that we will forgo all talk of prevention. But that seems to leave the Fates and the Furies unemployed. Are they then available to protect us from the fallout, no longer just nuclear but vegetable as well?

Iain Boal is a historian of technics and the commons, a member of the Retort collective, and a co-author of Afflicted Powers. He can be reached at: iboal@socrates.Berkeley.EDU

Standard Schaefer is a writer, teacher, and student in San Francisco. He can be reached standardschaefer@sbcglobal.net

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Europe: GMO Oilseed Rapes Authorised for Animal Feed in EU

FoodIngredientsFirst.com, 27 March 2007.

This decision is valid for 10 years and covers the use of the oilseed rapes for imports and processing into animal feed or for industrial purposes. It includes measures to be taken by the company who developed the GM oilseed rapes.

The European Commission has authorised the placing on the market of three oilseed rapes known as Ms8, Rf3 and Ms8xRf3, genetically modified for tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium. This decision is valid for 10 years and covers the use of the oilseed rapes for imports and processing into animal feed or for industrial purposes. It includes measures to be taken by the company who developed the GM oilseed rapes to prevent any damage to health and the environment in the event of accidental spillage. Processed oil derived from these GM oilseed rapes has already been approved for food use in 1999 and 2000 in the EU.

The authorisation covers the import and the use of Ms8, Rf3 and Ms8xRf3 oilseed rapes as animal feed, but not cultivation or food uses. These genetically modified oilseed rapes are tolerant to the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium and do not contain an antibiotic resistance marker gene. They have been subject to a rigorous pre-market risk assessment and have been scientifically assessed by the Member States, as well as the European Food Safety Authority, as being as safe as any conventional oilseed rape.

When put on the market, products containing Ms8, Rf3 or Ms8xRf3 will need to be clearly labelled as containing genetically modified oilseed rape. They will be covered by the strict labelling and traceability rules in force since April 2004. The labelling will provide operators and consumers with the information they need to decide whether to buy the product or not.

Robust post-marketing rules will ensure that the product can be traced and monitored once put on the market, thanks to a unique identifier assigned to the oilseed rape products. In addition, the authorisation includes a set of guidelines to Bayer, the company who developed the oilseed rape, on how to deal appropriately with accidental spillage should it occur.

During the past six years, the EU has put in place a clear, transparent and stringent system to regulate genetically modified food, feed and crops. The authorisation procedure under this new system ensures that only genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which are safe for human and animal consumption and for release into the environment can be placed on the European market. Individual authorisations are granted following appraisal of the GMOs in question on a case by case basis. Requests for authorisations which do not fulfil all criteria have been and will continue to be rejected.

This is the sixth authorising decision to be issued under the Directive of 2001 on the deliberate release into the environment of GMOs.

In January 2003, Bayer submitted a request to the competent authorities of Belgium for placing genetically modified oilseed rapes Ms8, Rf3 and Ms8xRf3 on the market. The initial request was for import, processing, feed use and cultivation, but not food use. The Belgian authorities came to the conclusion that Ms8, Rf3 and Ms8xRf3 oilseed rapes are as safe as conventional oilseed rapes and should be placed on the market for import and processing and for use as any other oilseed rape but not for the requested use of cultivation.

The European Food Safety Authority also appraised the application and focused on the scientific issues raised by competent authorities from the other Member States. Its opinion similarly concluded that Ms8, Rf3 and Ms8xRf3 oilseed rapes were as safe as conventional oilseed rapes.

The Regulatory Committee established under Directive 2001/18 on the deliberate release into the environment of GMOs did not give an opinion in December 2005. The Commission therefore submitted a proposal to the Council.

The proposal was considered by the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 18 September 2006. At that meeting the Council did not reach a qualified majority either for or against the Commission proposal. Consequently, under the legal "comitology" procedure, the Commission must adopt the Decision. The Commission's decision to approve Ms8, Rf3 and Ms8xRf3 is therefore designed to ensure that this legal framework is correctly and fully applied by Member States.

This includes post-market monitoring of the continued safety of the product once it has been placed on the market via the use of surveillance systems. This monitoring is required throughout the period of validity of the consent. Reports of this monitoring programme must be submitted to all Member States and the Commission on an annual basis.

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USA: Monsanto intervenes in RR alfalfa lawsuit

Farm Press, Mar 27, 2007. By Harry Cline.

Monsanto Co. has filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed by a group of anti-biotech radical groups and commercial seed companies who convinced a Northern California judge -- using questionable facts -- to challenge the governmental process in registering Roundup Ready alfalfa for commercial use.

Forage Genetics International and several farmers also plan to ask for intervenor status in this case, which was brought by the radical anti-biotech organization, Center for Food Safety, and similar groups and two well-respected alfalfa seed producers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture as Geertson Seed Farms Inc. et al. vs. Mike Johanns, et al.

The Center for Food Safety represented itself and the following co-plaintiffs in the suit: Western Organization of Resource Councils, National Family Farm Coalition, Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides, Cornucopia Institute, Dakota Resource Council, Trask Family Seeds, and Geertson Seed Farms.

Family-owned Geertson Seed Farms, Adrian, Ore., has been producing alfalfa seed since 1942, still farming the original 80 acres that was homesteaded by the family in 1939.

Trask Family Seeds is a seed producing company based in Elm Springs, S.D., that raises about 20,000 acres of conventional, common alfalfa. Pat Trask says biotech alfalfa threatens to contaminate standard varieties that are easily cross-pollinated by bees and wind.

Trask tried to get his home state legislature to ban biotech crops, but the South Dakota legislators rejected the ban.

Spokesman for Forage Genetics said 137 South Dakota growers had planted more than 4,000 acres of Roundup Ready Alfalfa by last fall. He said demand for the seed exceeds supplies.

Ongoing campaign

Several of the organizations that have joined in the fight with the two seed companies have staged an ongoing legal and public relations campaign against biotech crops. Many also were involved in trying to get genetically modified crops banned in several California counties. Their efforts largely failed.

Many of their arguments about cross contamination and contamination of organic crops used in the Roundup Ready alfalfa lawsuit were also used unsuccessfully to ban biotech crops in California.

In a decision issued in mid-February, a federal district court judge in Northern California ruled that USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) did not follow the proper process in assessing possible environmental affects of Roundup Ready alfalfa.

"Monsanto is asking to intervene because we believe it is important for hay growers to have the choice to use this beneficial technology," said Jerry Steiner, executive vice president for Monsanto. "Many alfalfa growers have expressed their desire to be heard, and we believe Monsanto's participation in the remedy phase will help bring forward important information that underscores how crucial this technology has become to forage operations from an economic and environmental point of view."

The lawsuit, according to the plaintiffs, may preclude further sales of RR alfalfa. However, by the end of this spring, an estimated 200,000 acres of California's 1.1 million acres of alfalfa will be planted to Roundup Ready varieties sold by several major alfalfa companies.

Apparently Trask and Geerston are not licensed to sell Roundup Ready alfalfa.

Steiner noted that the court has already accepted the fact that Roundup Ready alfalfa poses no harmful effects on humans and livestock. As part of its regulatory filing for Roundup Ready alfalfa in April 2004, Monsanto provided USDA with an extensive dossier that addresses a variety of environmental, stewardship and management considerations, including those raised by the plaintiffs in this case.

Systems can coexist

"The plaintiffs describe Roundup Ready alfalfa as a threat to the production of conventional and/or organic alfalfa production," Steiner said. "They project an either/or scenario when evidence and experience show that sensible stewardship practices make it possible for these different production systems to coexist."

Roundup Ready crops have been grown successfully alongside conventional and organic crops for more than a decade. In fact, the rapidly increasing demand for and adoption of the Roundup Ready system by growers has demonstrated the ability of alternative cropping systems to successfully co-exist.

USDA data for 2005 indicate that of the more than 22 million acres of alfalfa grown, roughly 200,000 acres of this total was certified as organic production.

In its news release hailing the court decision, the Center for Food Safety said the ruling ordered that a full Environmental Impact Statement must be carried out on Roundup Ready alfalfa.

"This is a major victory for farmers and the environment," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety.

"This is another nail in the coffin for USDA's hands-off approach to regulations on these risky engineered crops," said Will Rostov, senior attorney of The Center for Food Safety.

These "risky engineered crops" are now grown on 222 million acres in 21 countries, an 11 percent jump in one year. The U.S. acreage is about 123 million in biotech crops. When first introduced commercially in 1996, 4.3 million acres were in biotech crops in six countries.

The suit also cited the urgent concerns of farmers who sell to export markets. Japan and South Korea, who have "warned that they will discontinue imports of U.S. alfalfa if a GE variety is grown in this country."

Japan has approved importing hay from RR alfalfa fields.

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USA: Tell USDA no drugs in rice!

Eco-farm.org, 27 March 2007.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is close to approving a request to grow up to 3,200 acres of genetically engineered (GE) pharmaceutical rice.› The rice, developed by California-based Ventria BioScience, is set to be grown and processed in Kansas, after the company was chased out of other states, including Monsanto's stomping grounds, Missouri, and Ventria's home-state, California. Ventria has developed three varieties of rice, each engineered with a different modified human gene to produce one of three recombinant human proteins. Two of them -- lactoferrin and lysozyme -- are bacteria-fighting compounds similar to natural versions found in breast milk and saliva. The third makes recombinant serum albumin, a blood protein used in medical therapies. ›

Drug-producing food crops grown out-of-doors pose great risks to public health and the economic well-being of farmers because they are likely to contaminate the food supply.› In fact, while Southern rice growers were still reeling from last year's contamination of long-grain rice with an unapproved GE variety,› a second variety of rice was found to be contaminated with a second unapproved GE line this month, throwing the rice market into further turmoil.› As a result, Southern rice growers are facing a severe shortage of uncontaminated seed for planting this spring.› Incredibly, USDA appears poised to approve Ventria's request even though the pharmaceutical substances in Ventria's drug-producing rice have not been approved by the FDA. ›

Tell USDA enough is enough, and to reject this risky proposal! Please take a moment to send your comment today - we need to have your comments by March 28th to get them to USDA by the close of the comment period on the 30th! Click here http://ga3.org/campaign/Ventria_KS to take action now.

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USA: More trouble for Monsanto

PJ Star, March 27 2007. By Alan Guebert.

On March 6, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC] filed a civil complaint in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleging that in 2002 Charles M. Martin, then Monsanto Co.'s "Government Affairs Director for Asia, authorized and directed an Indonesian consulting firm to pay a bribe totaling $50,000 to a senior Indonesian Ministry of Environment official."

The payment, the filing said, "was made to influence the Senior Environment Official to repeal language in a decree that was unfavorable to Monsanto's business in Indonesia."

Later the SEC explains the "unfavorable" decree was a mid-2001 government ruling that required "bio-technology products . . . such as Monsanto's Bollgard Cotton . . . for the first time, to undergo an AMDAL process (environmental impact assessment) before they could be cultivated in Indonesia."

That assessment, the SEC continues, "posed a considerable obstacle to the success of Monsanto's existing Bollgard Cotton project and Monsanto's ability to successfully market other GMOs in Indonesia and elsewhere in the Asia Pacific region."

Especially so, notes the SEC, because in "February, 2001, Monsanto obtained limited approval from Indonesia's Ministry of Agriculture allowing farmers in South Sulawesi, Indonesia to grow Bollgard Cotton. . . . "

Shortly thereafter, however, a change in government brought a change in rules.

The $50,000 payment wasn't the only money Monsanto spent on Indonesian officials. As the Martin complaint explains in a paragraph labeled "Other Relevant Entities," the SEC already had moved against the St. Louis biotech company in early 2005 "for violating the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)..."

On Jan. 6, 2005, the SEC "filed two settled enforcement proceedings" against Monsanto whereby the company - "without admitting or denying the Commission's charges" - consented to pay "a $500,000 civil penalty" as "a final judgment in (a) federal lawsuit."

The suit, brought by the SEC, "charged that, from 1997 to 2002, Monsanto inaccurately recorded, or failed to record, in its books and records approximately $700,000 of illegal or questionable payments made to at least 140 current and former Indonesian government officials and their family members."

The settlement agreement adds, "The approximate $700,000 was derived from a bogus product registration scheme undertaken by two Indonesian entities owned or controlled by Monsanto."

But since the SEC "considered the cooperation that Monsanto provided the Commission staff during its investigation" important to connect the Indonesian dots, the U.S. Justice Department "entered into an agreement . . . to defer prosecution on charges of violating the anti-bribery and books and records provision of the FCPA."

The deal meant that if Monsanto paid a "$1 million monetary penalty" and retained "for a period of three years an independent compliance expert" to ensure such violations would not occur again, the company would face no other charges.

Russell Mokhiber, editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter, an authoritative weekly newsletter on white collar crime, describes deferred prosecution deals like the one Monsanto agreed to as "criminal activity without any criminals."

In a lengthy 2005 treatise on the rising use of deferred prosecutions (at www.corporatecrimereporter.com), Mokhiber explains it this way: "You can commit any crime you wish, from bribery to corruption to fraud. Just help us put the individuals in jail, and we will let you off the hook. No conviction. No record of criminal wrongdoing."

Under the 2005 deal Monsanto cut with Justice, its three-year compliance period will end just after it hopes to conclude its $1.5 billion buyout of Delta & Pine Land Co., a purchase that will give it a virtual lock on the U.S. biotech cottonseed market.

The buyout is presently undergoing an antitrust review at the same U.S. Justice Department that granted Monsanto the deferred prosecution in the Indonesian cotton scheme.

Alan Guebert's column appears on this page each Tuesday. His e-mail address is agcomm@sbcglobal.net.

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USA: Why Monsanto loves ethanol

Salon.com, 27 March 2007. Buy Andrew Leonard.

American farmers, spurred by ethanol frenzy, are planting the largest corn crop in more than 50 years.The demand is so high, reports Farm News, that seed companies are running out of the most popular varieties of corn seed.

At the top of the list are "triple stack hybrids" sold mostly by Monsanto-owned subsidiaries. A triple stack hybrid combines genetic modifications that result in three different "traits." In this case, the corn comes with built-in resistance to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, and built-in insecticides that target two of the corn plant's most fearsome foes, the dreaded corn borer and the equally devastating corn rootworm. (The corn borer and corn rootworm toxins are derived from two different subspecies of the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis -- triple stack hybrids thus include two different "Bt" genetic modification "events.")

For Monsanto, the apparent popularity of triple stack hybrid corn seed is an opportunity to tout the market's embrace of its latest products. For critics of GM corn, the rush to such varieties presages a future filled with weeds that evolve to resist Roundup and new generations of corn borers and rootworms that shrug off Bt toxins.

No doubt Monsanto plans to come up with new, "improved" corn seed products that will target new, improved pests, and will be able to resist new, improved herbicides. That is the treadmill that the human race has put itself on, and whether we'll ever be able to get off of it seems a highly doubtful proposition, unless food prices rise so high that biofuels become politically impossible. But that dreary quagmire is not the point of this post.

For some time, How the World Works has been convinced that the rush to biofuels will significantly boost the ongoing rollout of genetically modified organisms. There's just too much money at stake in the energy business for it to be otherwise. The popularity of the latest biotech crops is a perfect illustration of this. These seeds aren't cheap -- they are top-of-the-line products. But for well-financed farmers and industrial-scale agribusinesses aiming to cash in on ethanol demand, seed costs are not a significant barrier. It seems reasonable to expect, in the not-too-distant future, quadruple- and quintuple- and sextuple-stacked hybrids that do all kinds of fancy things such as incorporate herbicide resistance, targeted pesticides, and modifications that make the corn cheaper and easier to industrially transform into ethanol.

As more and more modifications are incorporated into a single organism, our ability to understand and predict how wide-scale proliferation of those organisms will affect the greater environment will become even more difficult than it already is. So maybe "treadmill" isn't the best metaphor to describe the current dynamic. A rocket launch into territory unknown might offer a more appropriate analogy.

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India: GM trials only after settlement of case

Press Trust of India, March 27 2006

Coimbatore, March 27 (PTI): Trials of genetically modified (GM) food or non-food crops would be carried out only after settlement of a case pending before Supreme Court, a senior official with Department of Biotechnology (DoB) said today.

Though the Department had decided to release GM brinjal [i.e. aubergine], followed by cauliflower and cabbage, the apex court has stayed fresh trials by its order in October last year and the case would come up for next hearing on April 16, K K Tripathi, Advisor, DoB, told reporters here.

Almost all trials, including toxicity, have been carried out with the regard to brinjal and only environmental safety and agro-climatic condition trials have to be conducted.

The department would release GM crops, after carrying all the safety trials, he said.

Similarly, research and trials were going on in many food and non-food crops in "greenhouse", Tripathi said, adding that the department has carried out trials in rice and started in maize for weed and stem-borer resistance.

Tripathi, here to participate in a 'Consultation on Safety Assessment of GM Food Crops', said there was no cause for apprehension for farmers to adopt BT seeds, which in real terms, were beneficial income wise.

However, "certain vested interests" were driving away innocent farmers from utilising the technology to increase production, Tripathi said.

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UK: If we want to save the planet, we need a five-year freeze on biofuels
Oil produced from plants sets up competition for food between cars and people.
People - and the environment - will lose


The Guardian, March 27 2007. By George Monbiot.

It used to be a matter of good intentions gone awry. Now it is plain fraud. The governments using biofuel to tackle global warming know that it causes more harm than good. But they plough on regardless. In theory, fuels made from plants can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by cars and trucks. Plants absorb carbon as they grow - it is released again when the fuel is burned. By encouraging oil companies to switch from fossil plants to living ones, governments on both sides of the Atlantic claim to be "decarbonising" our transport networks.

In the budget last week, Gordon Brown announced that he would extend the tax rebate for biofuels until 2010. From next year all suppliers in the UK will have to ensure that 2.5% of the fuel they sell is made from plants - if not, they must pay a penalty of 15p a litre. The obligation rises to 5% in 2010. By 2050, the government hopes that 33% of our fuel will come from crops. Last month George Bush announced that he would quintuple the US target for biofuels: by 2017 they should be supplying 24% of the nation's transport fuel.

So what's wrong with these programmes? Only that they are a formula for environmental and humanitarian disaster. In 2004 I warned, on these pages, that biofuels would set up a competition for food between cars and people. The people would necessarily lose: those who can afford to drive are richer than those who are in danger of starvation. It would also lead to the destruction of rainforests and other important habitats. I received more abuse than I've had for any other column - except for when I attacked the 9/11 conspiracists. I was told my claims were ridiculous, laughable, impossible. Well in one respect I was wrong. I thought these effects wouldn't materialise for many years. They are happening already.

Since the beginning of last year, the price of maize has doubled. The price of wheat has also reached a 10-year high, while global stockpiles of both grains have reached 25-year lows. Already there have been food riots in Mexico and reports that the poor are feeling the strain all over the world. The US department of agriculture warns that "if we have a drought or a very poor harvest, we could see the sort of volatility we saw in the 1970s, and if it does not happen this year, we are also forecasting lower stockpiles next year". According to the UN food and agriculture organisation, the main reason is the demand for ethanol: the alcohol used for motor fuel, which can be made from maize and wheat.

Farmers will respond to better prices by planting more, but it is not clear that they can overtake the booming demand for biofuel. Even if they do, they will catch up only by ploughing virgin habitat.

Already we know that biofuel is worse for the planet than petroleum. The UN has just published a report suggesting that 98% of the natural rainforest in Indonesia will be degraded or gone by 2022. Just five years ago, the same agencies predicted that this wouldn't happen until 2032. But they reckoned without the planting of palm oil to turn into biodiesel for the European market. This is now the main cause of deforestation there and it is likely soon to become responsible for the extinction of the orang-utan in the wild.

But it gets worse. As the forests are burned, both the trees and the peat they sit on are turned into carbon dioxide. A report by the Dutch consultancy Delft Hydraulics shows that every tonne of palm oil results in 33 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, or 10 times as much as petroleum produces. I feel I need to say that again. Biodiesel from palm oil causes 10 times as much climate change as ordinary diesel.

There are similar impacts all over the world. Sugarcane producers are moving into rare scrubland habitats (the cerrado) in Brazil, and soya farmers are ripping up the Amazon rainforests. As President Bush has just signed a biofuel agreement with President Lula, it's likely to become a lot worse. Indigenous people in South America, Asia and Africa are starting to complain about incursions onto their land by fuel planters. A petition launched by a group called biofuelwatch, begging western governments to stop, has been signed by campaigners from 250 groups.

The British government is well aware that there's a problem. On his blog last year the environment secretary David Miliband noted that palm oil plantations "are destroying 0.7% of the Malaysian rainforest each year, reducing a vital natural resource (and in the process, destroying the natural habitat of the orang-utan). It is all connected." Unlike government policy.

The reason governments are so enthusiastic about biofuels is that they don't upset drivers. They appear to reduce the amount of carbon from our cars, without requiring new taxes. It's an illusion sustained by the fact that only the emissions produced at home count towards our national total. The forest clearance in Malaysia doesn't increase our official impact by a gram.

In February the European commission was faced with a straight choice between fuel efficiency and biofuels. It had intended to tell car companies that the average carbon emission from new cars in 2012 would be 120 grams per kilometre. After heavy lobbying by Angela Merkel on behalf of her car manufacturers, it caved in and raised the limit to 130 grams. It announced that it would make up the shortfall by increasing the contribution from biofuel.

The British government says it "will require transport fuel suppliers to report on the carbon saving and sustainability of the biofuels they supply". But it will not require them to do anything. It can't: its consultants have already shown that if it tries to impose wider environmental standards on biofuels, it will fall foul of world trade rules. And even "sustainable" biofuels merely occupy the space that other crops now fill, displacing them into new habitats. It promises that one day there will be a "second generation" of biofuels, made from straw or grass or wood. But there are still major technical obstacles. By the time the new fuels are ready, the damage will have been done.

We need a moratorium on all targets and incentives for biofuels, until a second generation of fuels can be produced for less than it costs to make fuel from palm oil or sugar cane. Even then, the targets should be set low and increased only cautiously. I suggest a five-year freeze.

This would require a huge campaign, tougher than the one which helped to win a five-year freeze on growing genetically modified crops in the UK. That was important - GM crops give big companies unprecedented control over the foodchain. But most of their effects are indirect, while the devastation caused by biofuel is immediate and already visible.

This is why it will be harder to stop: encouraged by government policy, vast investments are now being made by farmers and chemical companies. Stopping them requires one heck of a battle. But it has to be fought.

You can join the campaign at www.biofuelwatch.org.uk - www.monbiot.com

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Australia: CSIRO: public resources for private profit

Gene Ethics, News Media Release - March 27 2007

CSIRO Plant Industry sacked leading soil and organic researcher Dr Maarten Stapper last week. His research on healthier soil systems and criticisms of crop Gene Manipulation (GM) upset CSIRO management.

"This travesty of justice shows again that priorities for taxpayer-funded research are grossly distorted by CSIRO contracts with companies, that direct public funds to private profits," says Bob Phelps, director of Gene Ethics.

"Stapper was sacked because GM giants like Bayer and Monsanto can't patent know-how on healthier soils," he says.

"Scientists who publish negative evidence about GM technology and its products are victimised, everywhere in the world," he says.

"Australian governments spent $1.29 billion on GM research from 2003 to 2005 alone (Warren Truss MP, Media Release, June 2005) and how this money is allocated should be the subject of public discussion," he says.

"Gene Ethics calls for a democratic system of funding policy and decisions to set research and development priorities. Our scarce R&D resources are now being misallocated by those who stand to gain most," he says.

"GM has failed to fulfill its promises so Australian taxpayers and producers are ripped off," Mr Phelps says.

"Even where success is claimed, the companies with patented genes benefit most. For instance, GM cotton was developed by CSIRO and Cotton Australia at taxpayer and grower expense, but Monsanto's technology fee is well over $150 for every hectare grown," he says.

"Billions are spent on GM, but research on the sustainable biological and organic farming systems needed to cope with climate change and the end of oil is under-funded," he says.

"CSIRO chief Jeremy Burdon's claim that environmentally friendly systems are 'not a long term viable strategy' is refuted by their success. Sustainable organics are the fastest growing sector of Australian farming and they will not use GM or synthetic chemicals," he says.

"Repairing Australia's systemic agronomic and environmental problems on farms is urgent. But the funds go to GM crop research that can't solve our core problems - salty, acidic, chemical polluted, drought affected, denuded, and waterlogged soils," he says.

"Public-good research is starved of funds as it does not enrich the companies or keep hi-tech lab scientists working on GM plants," he says.

"For instance, disbanding the CRC for Weed Management because it lacked corporate partners was another foolish, short-sighted travesty," he says.

"CSIRO is failing us badly. Gene Ethics calls on state governments to fund Dr Stapper's soil health research, increase his funding and recruit more staff for sustainable farming projects," Mr Phelps concludes.

More comment: Bob Phelps 03 9347 4500 or 0408 195 099

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Australia: CSIRO Scraps Research Program: Huge Loss for Organic Farmers

BFA Press Release, Tuesday, 27 March 2007

"The Biological Farmers of Australia is deeply concerned that CSIRO has decided to scrap the work of Dr Maarten Stapper an agronomist within CSIRO Plant Industry. This area of research that is critical not only to the organic sector, but also to the thousands of farmers around Australia right now developing better soil biology - specifically during a time of massive investment in finding sustainable and effective means of sequestering atmospheric carbon," said Scott Kinnear spokesperson for BFA.

Elaine Ingham and Arden Anderson have operated successful farm seminars that thousands of farmers have attended and the work of Maarten Stapper supported the principles put forward in their work.

"For Dr Burdon to say that CSIRO does not consider biological and organic farming to be "a long-term viable strategy" is extraordinary. At no time has CSIRO approached our organisation to discuss their views or to seek input on the technologies and processes undertaken on cutting edge organic farms. The BFA finds this statement akin to IBM's 1950s view of the world market for computers being a total of 5!"

"The rest of the world is getting behind research into organic farming and now looking at the quality characteristics of organic foods compared with conventionally grown foods. In addition most State Governments are actively developing research and development programs to support the growth of the organic sector to supply the demand coming domestically and from export markets in Asia, Nth America and Europe."

"We have for many years been concerned at the commercialisation of research within CSIRO whereby patentable technologies with income generation potential are favoured. This applies to their research into genetically engineered foods which has cost CSIRO many tens of millions of dollars for no commercial food product to show. Remember the failed CSIRO GE field pea that caused an allergic reaction in mice, shelved last year at a huge cost to the taxpayer.

"We believe that the States should look closely at employing Maarten Stapper, who by all accounts was one of the most sort after presenters at field days and seminars because his research was cutting edge and provided real immediate benefits. We are most concerned that CSIRO is prepared to say they see no future in organic farming, yet are prepared to waste extraordinary amounts of money supporting genetic engineering that the general public overall does not want. Demand for organic food is growing at about 15% per year globally and estimates put the market at more than A$50 billion."

"We must remember that European farming has been disastrous for our ancient and fragile soils in Australia and one of the fundamental keys to soil fertility under our unique conditions, which are so different to North America and Europe, is the healthy maintenance of biological activity in the soil. Farmers are aware that healthy soil biology increases carbon which improves structure and capacity to hold water and ultimately leads to an improved soil which will yield more food of higher quality."

"It seems that CSIRO has conveniently ended their one small research program supporting biological and organic farming while at the same time ending the employment of a scientist who was privately critical of genetic engineering. The fact that he was very much admired and supported by the farming community really adds insult to injury with this decision."

"The BFA calls on CSIRO to rethink their decision to drop this research and we will be seeking a face to face meeting with Dr Burdon and the relevant Minister to ask them to explain CSIRO's views."

The BFA is the largest organic organisation in Australia comprising of farmers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, consumers and exporters. Through its subsidiary certification organisations Australian Certified Organic (ACO) and Organic Growers of Australia (OGA) the BFA provides certification services to approximately 75% of the organic sector.

For further comment contact Scott Kinnear, mobile ph: 0419 881 729

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USA: USDA clarifies policy on low-level presence of genetically enginered material

USDA press release, 27 March 2007.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is clarifying the existing approach for handling situations in which regulated genetically engineered (GE) plant material becomes mixed at low levels with commercial seeds and grain.

This policy is not new, but rather a description of how APHIS currently evaluates and responds to these incidents. In light of continuing international discussions regarding low-level presence (LLP), APHIS is taking this opportunity to formally state our approach.

One of APHIS' roles is to protect plant health by overseeing the importation, movement and field testing of regulated GE material. A major focus is ensuring appropriate confinement of such material in field tests. Developers must comply with all APHIS regulations and permit conditions to prevent the release of regulated GE material. However, when LLP incidents occur, the agency's policy is to respond with actions appropriate to the level of risk, determined by a scientific assessment and warranted by the facts in each case. APHIS will initiate an inquiry whenever regulated material is mixed with commercial seeds or grain to evaluate any risk, to determine the circumstances surrounding the release and to determine whether remedial and/or enforcement actions may be appropriate.

If APHIS determines that an incident involving regulated GE plant material could pose a risk to plant health or the environment, APHIS will take appropriate remedial steps using its authority under the Plant Protection Act. In cases in which APHIS determines that remedial action is not necessary to mitigate LLP of regulated GE plant material to protect plant health and the environment, APHIS is not precluded from taking enforcement action against a company or individual for violations of APHIS regulations.

A 2002 U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy Federal Register notice outlined proposed actions to be taken by the three agencies that provide regulatory oversight of the development of GE organismsůAPHIS, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)ůaimed at strengthening the controls to prevent low levels of regulated materials from GE plants from occurring in commercial seeds and grain until appropriate safety standards have been met.

APHIS, in 2003, strengthened its field testing requirements for crops that produce pharmaceutical or industrial compounds to ensure that regulated materials from these plants are not found, even at low levels, in commercial seeds and grain. APHIS also initiated a process to amend its biotechnology regulations in 2004. In 2006, FDA published a Federal Register notice and guidance document for early food safety assessments and EPA published a Federal Register notice clarifying its guidance for field testing of plant-incorporated protectants (pesticides intended to be produced and used in a living plant). This clarification is consistent with those documents.

APHIS oversees the development and introduction (importation, interstate movement and environmental release) of GE organisms. The agency is committed to ensuring safety in the oversight of field tests and other activities involving GE plants. APHIS' approach is to apply precautionary measures to such activities which are commensurate with the risks posed by these crop varieties. This allows for research and development activities to take place, so that potential benefits can be realized, while still protecting agriculture, the environment and the public.

Notice of this policy document is scheduled for publication in the March 29, 2007 Federal Register.

To view the policy, go to the Federal Rulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov, select "Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service" from the agency drop-down menu; then click on "Submit." In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2006-0167 to view supporting and related materials available electronically. The policy may also be viewed at APHIS' biotechnology regulatory services website at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/brs_main.shtml.

Note to Reporters:

USDA news releases, program announcements and media advisories are available on the Internet. Go to the APHIS news release page at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/newsroom. Also, anyone with an e-mail address can sign up to receive APHIS press releases automatically. Send an e-mail message to lyris@mdrdlyriss10.aphis.usda.gov and leave the subject blank. In the message, type subscribe press_releases.

APHIS considers six safety-related criteria when determining a GE plant material's potential to pose a risk to plant health or the environment. The criteria are:

1. The plant is not a Federal noxious weed or considered a weed in the area of introduction.

2. The introduced genetic material must remain inside the living cell and replicate only with the plant DNA.

3. The introduced genetic material's function is known and does not create a plant disease.

4. The introduced genetic material does not create an infectious entity or unintended toxins, or produce products intended for pharmaceutical or industrial use.

5. The introduced genetic material does not cause the creation of a new plant virus.

6. The plant does not contain genes from animal or human pathogens, or contain coding sequences whose products are known agents of diseases in humans or nontarget animals

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26 March 2007

USA: Importers Question Purity of U.S. Crops

The Wall Street Journal, 26 March 2006

Recent breakdowns in the system meant to keep experimental genetically engineered plants from contaminating the hundreds of millions of acres of crops grown in the U.S. has farmers and import markets questioning the purity of U.S. goods.

Mexico, the largest foreign market for U.S. rice, sent tremors through the U.S. sector midmonth when it stopped shipments on the border out of concern the U.S. can't keep its experimental transgenic long-grain rice out of commercial crops.

California's medium-grain rice growers have demanded a statewide moratorium on any biotech field trials to avoid the contamination recently plaguing long-grain growers in the south.

Those contaminations, California Rice Commission spokeswoman Beth Horan said, prompted farmers and millers to say, "Whoa, this isn't as isolated as we thought and really the system isn't working the way that we thought."

California relies on countries such as Japan and South Korea to buy as much as 30% of the state's harvest each year, and producers want to keep the experimental crops as far away from their fields as possible.

That's getting harder, if not impossible, to do with so many field trials going on, said biotechnology experts at nonprofit consumer groups.

The U.S. is the largest producer of biotech crops in the world, with 135 million acres planted last year, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.

European Union countries, which were big long-grain buyers, stopped importing when they realized the U.S. couldn't keep biotech rice out of exports.

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Europe: EFSAs GM maize assessment to take several weeks

FoodNavigator.com, 26 March 2007. By Jess Halliday.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is consulting with EU member states to ascertain whether further data are available to help it with its renewed assessment of Monsanto's GM maize MON 863; its evaluation, based on this input and the work of its GMO panel, is expected to take several weeks.

The European Commission asked EFSA two weeks ago to examine the recently published CRIIGEN study on genetically modified maize MON 863, and see whether it has any consequences for the authority's existing opinion on the safety of Monsanto's transgenic maize.

CRIIGENII is a 90-day rat study conducted by researchers at the University of Caen and published in the peer-review journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. It indicated liver and kidney toxicity in rats fed the transgenic maize, as well as differences in weight gain between the sexes.

EFSA's GMO panel has the job of addressing the statistical analysis in this study and any possible implications for human safety. The matter was discussed at EFSA's GMO Panel meeting last Thursday and Friday.

This is not the first time that EFSA has been asked to evaluate the safety of MON 863 as a result of a published study. A 13-week rat study conducted in Germany in 2004 raised concerns over liver toxicity.

However in October of that year the EFSA GMO panel concluded that there was "no evidence presented in the report that changes the conclusions already reached by the GMO Panel earlier this year in its Opinions on the safety of the insect-protected genetically modified maize MON 863 (EFSA 2004a, b)."

The initial opinions stated that the results of the rodent toxicity study with MON 863 maize did not indicate concerns about its safety for human and animal consumption.

The researchers behind the new study, led by Professor Gilles Eric Séralini from the independent CRIIGEN (Committee for Independent Research and Genetic Engineering) based at the University of Caen questioned the methods used by Monsanto to initially show the safety and non-toxicity of the corn, saying that the statistical methods used were insufficient to observe any possible disruptions in biochemistry.

"Monsanto's analyses do not stand up to rigorous scrutiny - to begin with, their statistical protocols are highly questionable. Worse, the company failed to run a sufficient analysis of the differences in animal weight. Crucial data from urine tests were concealed in the company's own publications," said S»ralini during a joint press conference with environmental group Greenpeace in Berlin.

Monsanto has continued to defend the safety record of its corn. Spokesperson Lee Quarles told FoodNavigator.com earlier this month: "The important thing to note in all of this is the fact that the overwhelming opinion of expert authorities is that MON 863 is safe for human and animal consumption. This includes experts in Europe as the European competent authorities concur that MON 863 YieldGard Rootworm maize is safe for human and animal health and the environment.

MON863 is a transgenic maize genetically modified to express the Bt-toxin (Cry3Bb1) which enables the plant to be insect repellent against the corn rootworm pest. It is different from other GM corns of the market since these express the Cry1Ab toxin which is toxic to the European corn borer.

It has been grown commercially in the United States and Canada since 2003, and approved for import and food use in countries including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Russia and Mexico.

MON 863 received European approval for use in animal feed in 2005 and for human consumption in 2006.

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India: Bt cotton allegedly causes cattle deaths in AP

NDTV, March 26 2007. By Uma Sudhir.

(Hyderabad): Genetically modified Bt cotton in the midst of yet another controversy. And this time it could be the beginning of a head on collision between the animal husbandry and agriculture ministry in Andhra Pradesh.

The animal husbandry department in Andhra Pradesh is going to ask the agriculture ministry to stop the sale of genetically modified Bt cottonseeds in the new season.

This follows reports from several districts that sheep, goat and even cattle grazing on leftover Bt cotton fields have taken ill and even died.

"We have given this message that not just goat and sheep, even cattle are also affected with this poison, so better not to graze. We will also write to the commissioner, agriculture to give clear instructions not to sell Bt cotton seeds in the coming season," said Dr Laxmi Rajam, Additional Director, Animal Husbandry, Andhra Pradesh.

Immediate action

Shepherds and goatherds from 12 districts protested in Hyderabad on Monday to demand immediate action on the unusual deaths that are now being reported for the third consecutive year.

"After grazing on non-Bt fields, there is no problem. Only after grazing on Bt leaves, sheep and goat are dying," said P Jamalaiah, Secretary, AP Shepherds and Goatherds Union.

"It is not just us who are saying that. Even the animal husbandry department and veterinary doctors have said that in their primary reports," he added.

Independent study

The department had earlier this year issued an advisory to shepherds and goatherds to avoid Bt cotton fields but that did not reach people like Urimekala Kotaiah in Khammam who lost 10 of his 50 sheep just two weeks ago.

"The government is allowing the sale of these seeds, so only if they ban the seeds, this problem can be solved because our sheep necessarily graze in open fields," said U Kotaiah, Shepherd.

The agriculture department has initiated an independent study following the reports of animal mortality. However, it may not be easy

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Romania: Romania's GMO dilemma: who to side with - corporations or the EU?

Truth About Trade and Technology, 26 March 2007.

The Environment Ministry in Bucharest is due to push for public debate two new initiatives on genetically modified food - one for the introduction of GM soy testing and one for tests of GM plum trees. The Ministry recently authorized tests on GM corn. The moves come as agricultural experts are pushing hard to make Romanian citizens understand that GM crops are not harmful.

But environmental militants are redirecting the debate towards studies they say may help stop the expansion of non-conventional crops, while modified corn is the only GM plant allowed in the EU agriculture.

Romania is facing backbreaking decisions on aligning its agricultural legislation to the EU's and applying it wherever possible. But major companies are also pushing hard to have GM crops allowed at large-scale level.

"We're doing what the EU laws says and it says very clearly what can be cropped and what not", Environment Ministry official Catalin Cheran told HotNews.ro.

A short look over all notifications submitted on GMOs on EU territory (http://gmoinfo.jrc.it/gmp_browse.aspx) shows most come from US corporations such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta. Several other local players - state universities and companies covering national territories alone - are also profiled, but in a much lesser measure.

Pioneer, Monsanto and Syngenta have submitted documents asking to test GM crops in Romania. If applied, the groups may start putting up crops for testing GM soy, corn and plum trees.

They're also claiming that food is already insufficient and that "a solution to these crisis is the use of biotechnology in agriculture", as Clive James, a GMO supporter, put it during a Bucharest conference on March 2.

But anti-GM campaigners are also doing their best in preventing such pressure. Shortly after Hungary obtained an exemption from regulations on GM corn crops, a study was published claiming that GM corn damages human health.

And for the first time since GM corn was authorized for food production, a study recently published by Professor Gilles Eric Seralini of the University of Caen claims the only EU-approved GMO used on testing animals provides signs of toxicity in at liver and kidney level.

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USA: GMO in BASF Rice is Safe, USDA Says

Wallaces Farmer, 26 March 2007.

The unapproved genetically modified organism that contaminated BASF long grain rice seed is safe for human consumption, USDA said Thursday.

USDA confirmed BASF findings when it identified the GMO in BASF's non-biotech Clearfield 131 rice as Bayer's Liberty Link 604 rice, a biotech variety that USDA has determined to be safe for consumption but has not approved. The contaminants were experimental seeds, USDA says. The protein in the unapproved Liberty Link rice is USDA-approved in biotech corn, canola and soybeans.

Because Liberty Link 604 rice is still unapproved, farmers still may not plant Clearfield 131 this year. Rice produced from Clearfield 131 seeds in previous years will not be banned from processing mills, USDA Undersecretary Bruce Knight told Dow Jones Newswires, but it is still unknown if any contamination occurred in seed planted last year.

Knight says that U.S. farmers planted between 300,000 and 500,000 acres of Clearfield 131 last year, out of 2.84 million total acres of rice.

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India: 1,727 villages in Orissa declared GM free

Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security Press Release, New Delhi, Mar 26 2007

Seven hundred newly elected representatives of Panchayats in Orissa and the Governing Body members of Orissa Nari Samaj - a confederation of 53 block-level tribal women's organizations - resolved to protect nature, promote biodiversity, and also took an oath NOT to cultivate Genetically Modified (GM) crops.

The elected representatives declared 1,727 villages falling under 130 Panchayats in 12 districts as GM Free villages. These villages are in the districts of Koraput, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Nawarangpur, Kalahandi, Bargarh, Bolangir, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Mayurbhanj in Orissa.

This brings the total number of villages in the country, which have decided to remain GM free, close to 1,900. These GM Free villages are located in Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

The oath in Orissa was taken at a conference organized by the Team for Human Resource Education and Action for Development (THREAD) on "Model Panchayats in Orissa£ at Siddharth village, Khurda, near Bhubaneshwar on Mar 20. The State Election Commissioner, Shri Sanjib Chandra Hota was the chief guest at the conference and the Regional Coordinator of Institute for Social Studies Mr. K.K Pattnaik delivered the keynote address.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr G.John, Executive Director of 'Team for Human Resource Education and Action for Development' (THREAD) informed that the Panchayat leaders have also sent memorandums to the Prime Minister of India and the state Chief Minister stating clearly that they will not cooperate with any activities of either the National Biodiversity Authority or the State Biodiversity Board unless control over local biodiversity and related knowledge is passed on to the communities. Demanding protection of local knowledge against piracy, they insisted that people's access to natural resources should be given priority over commercial trade.

The leaders expressed hope that their action will be emulated by other villages, which will force Orissa to turn into a GM-free state. They resolved to work towards community control over biodiversity, to preserve and protect biodiversity for the sake of food sovereignty. These leaders have already launched a movement against GM seeds in the tribal belt.

Orissa Nari Samaj had continuously been opposed to the entry of GM crop seeds since 2005. Decrying the seed company«s agenda to lay siege to poor farmer«s livelihood, it had earlier sent thousands of letters from 2,500 villages in 53 blocks to the Chief Minister and the Chairman of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) against the large scale field trials of Bt Brinjal. In its endeavour to make the people of the state aware of the hazards of GM crops as well as the advantages of organic food, THREAD has so far printed and distributed about 40,000 posters throughout the state stating the same.

Photograph caption: 700 elected Panchayat leaders and members of the Orissa Nari Samaj (ONS) taking oath for establishing model GM free Panchayats. These panchayats represent 1,727 villages in 12 districts of Orissa

Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security
G-3F, DDA Flats, Munirka, New Delhi-110 067
Tel: 9811301857; 9811191335

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Europe: Keep GMOs out of organic food!
European Parliament to vote on new EU law


Friends of the Earth Europe + Greenpeace + European Environmental Bureau press release,
26 March 2007.

Brussels, 26 March, 2007 - Environment groups are this week appealing to the European Parliament to protect organic farming from contamination by genetically modified crops. MEPs will vote this Thursday on whether a new EU law should allow GMOs in organic food [1,2].

According to Mauro Albrizio, Vice President of the European Environmental Bureau: "Organic farming is the jewel in the crown of European agriculture. The European Parliament should support organic production rather than putting it at risk from contamination by genetically modified crops that citizens don't want to eat anyway"

Although the use of genetically modified (GM) crops is currently banned in organic production, the new draft law would allow traces of contamination and contains no measures to stop GM crops contaminating organic farms [3].

A large proportion of European citizens are opposed to GMOs in food and crops, and have been so consistently for the past ten years, as confirmed by the most recent EU opinion poll, published in June 2006 [4].

"People buy organic foods in the confidence that they are 100% GMO-free. Opening the farm gate to GMOs in organic food will be going against consumer choice and accepting that big business can contaminate our food and decide what we eat", said Marco Contiero, senior policy advisor on GMOs at Greenpeace's EU unit.

Helen Holder, GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, added: "Organic farming is the only farming sector in the EU showing growth. The sector provides quality jobs and a lifeline for rural economies, but it could be wrecked because of the biotech industry's inability to control its crops. We need strong laws that allow the organic sector to grow the crops and produce foods that European consumers want."

Environmental NGOs are urging MEPs, the European Commission and Member States to take all necessary measures to prevent genetic contamination. As well as the new law on organic production, strict laws on the commercial growing of GM crops and contamination (Žcoexistence') are urgently needed.

For further information please contact:

Helen Holder, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe
Tel : +32 (0)2 542 0182; Mobile +32 (0)474 857 638;
E-mail: _helen.holder@foeeurope.org_

Marco Contiero, Senior Policy Advisor, GMOs, Greenpeace EU Unit
Mobile: +32 477 777 034; E-mail: marco.contiero@diala.greenpeace.org

Mauro Albrizio, Vice-President, European Environmental Bureau
Mobile : +32 479 940 257 ; E-mail: legambiente@skynet.be

Notes for editors:

[1] Proposal for a Council Regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products (COM(2005)0671 ā C6-0032/2006 ā 2005/0278(CNS))

[2] EEB, Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace are calling on MEPs to vote for an amendment to the report that was supported unanimously by all political parties in the EP's Environment Committee:- "In this Regulation, the labelling threshold for GMOs as defined in Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 March 2001 on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms shall not apply".

[3] The proposed law, if adopted as such, would allow 0.9% GMO contamination in organic foods. The law only allows this contamination as long as it is "adventitious" and "technically unavoidable", however there is evidence that the European Commission and other risk managers- under pressure to adopt a lax attitude to contamination- are in fact interpreting the 0.9% threshold to mean "acceptable" contamination. The organic sector currently works to a lower threshold and EU laws must support and enable organic farmers and retailers to maintain existing standards.

[4] Eurobarometer study (Gaskell et al., June 2006)

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Nepal: Thirty Thousand People in Nepal Raise Their Voices for Rice!

WORA News, 26 March 2007. By Sarojeni Rengam, PAN AP.

The All Nepal Peasant's Association (ANPA) announced that to date 30,000 people have signed the WORA (Week of Rice action) statement, Save OUR RICE.

Balram Banskota of ANPA declared that out of the 30,000 signatures, 80 members of the Nepali Parliament including the Speaker of the house have signed on to the demands of WORA and the statement. He added, "This will send a strong statement to the Asian countries and particularly SAARC countries that we need to protect our rice culture and biodiversity from the onslaught of corporate control of rice production."

ANPA launched the WORA programme in Nepal at the inaugural event of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) People's Forum on 23 March and called on the 1000 delegates from different parts of the region to sign on to the WORA statement. Immediately after the announcement, the Chief Guest of the function, the Speaker of Parliament, signed the WORA statement.

Banskota stressed, "We, peasants are strongly asserting food sovereignty in Nepal. We do not want nor need genetically engineered (GE) rice and we do not want any technologies that deplete our rice diversity and culture". He spoke at the WORA seminar at the People's SAARC Forum to explain the 13 country campaign that is taking place throughout Asia to protect and celebrate rice diversity and culture.

Banskota stressed that rice is important for the culture of Nepal, and related how when a child is born the mother will celebrate her child's birth with the consumption of rice and when someone dies, rice is placed on the chest of the dead person and cremated.

At the culmination of the People's SAARC Forum three thousand people marched for justice, peace, and democracy on 25 th March 2007. At this rally, PAN AP Executive Director, Sarojeni V. Rengam, brought the strong message of WORA and called on the crowd to "Resist imperialist globalisation" that is driving peasants off their lands and reminded them of the struggles of rice peasants defending their land rights in Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal, India. She also called for South Asians to "Say no to GE rice" and "to assert our food sovereignty". She emphasised, "All SAARC countries and their governments must uphold the rights of food sovereignty and the right of peasants to land and productive resources".

The People's SAARC Forum was a gathering of South Asian people's movements, NGOs and civil society organisations raising their voices against the policies of the governments pursuing neoliberal policies. The forum took place from 23-25 March in Kathmandu, Nepal.

On the evening of 23 March, the participants were entertained by cultural dances and songs celebrating rice: the Chandinath dance, the harvest dance of the Rai, an indigenous community from the highlands of Eastern Nepal. Dynamic dancers also performed The Dhan dance related with the Newr community. During the Forum, the indigenous and local varieties of rice from across Nepal were displayed.

WORA 2007 will bring together farmers, rural communities, and other sectors of society to celebrate and protect rice culture. The main WORA events will take place in 13 countries across Asia from March 29 to April 4. From art competitions to seminars, food festivals to rallies, a myriad of activities will take place to showcase rice culture, farmers' wisdom and ecological agriculture, as well as the threats of landlessness and GE Rice. WORA will make a concerted stand against corporate control of rice and rice lands, unfair trade and laws, and genetically engineered (GE) Rice in Asia. Culminating in India and the Philippines, WORA will be an unprecedented mobilisation of Asians "Celebrating and Protecting Rice Culture"!

WORA is organised by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) and its partner organisations in thirteen countries in the region. Anyone interested in being a part of WORA 2007 can log on to the WORA page at www.panap.net.

For more on the 1-million Signature Campaign - "People's Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia", see: http://www.panap.net/221.0.html.

Contact at PAN AP: Ms Anne Haslam, PAN AP at wora2007@panap.net

Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP),

P.O. Box 1170, 10850 Penang, Malaysia.
Tel: 604-6570271 or 604-6560381 Fax: 604-6583960
E-mail: panap@panap.net Home Page: linkwww.panap.net

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is a global network working to eliminate the human and environmental harm caused by pesticides and to promote biodiversity based ecological agriculture. PAN Asia and the Pacific is committed to the empowerment of people especially women, agricultural workers, peasant and indigenous farmers. We are dedicated to protect the safety and health of people, and the environment from pesticide use and genetic engineering. We believe in a people-centered, pro-women development through food sovereignty, ecological agriculture and sustainable lifestyles.

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South Africa: South Africa rejects first GM maize for biofuels

African Centre for Biosafety & Centre for Food Safety

Johannesburg 26 March 2006

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) and US based Centre for Food Safety welcome the resounding rejection by South Africa's regulatory authority of Syngenta's GM maize for fuel ethanol.

During May 2006, the ACB and the Center for Food Safety (US) opposed, on food safety grounds, Syngenta's application for commodity clearance of its GM maize event 3272, the first GM industrial crop for which commercial approval (whether for cultivation or import) has been sought anywhere in the world.

South Africa's GM regulatory body, the Executive Council, rejected the GM maize application on the most damning biosafety grounds, namely, that Syngenta had failed to provide convincing proof of food and feed safety even if the primary intended use is ethanol production.

"The rejection by South African authorities of the world's first GM industrial crop confirms our long-standing concerns that GM crops can in fact be hazardous to human health, and that biotech company studies purporting to demonstrate safety are grossly inadequate," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety.

The EC expressed great concerns at Syngenta's failure to submit crucial biosafety data and found Syngenta's compositional studies, broiler chicken feeding studies, and its agronomic performance studies to be hopelessly inadequate.

The ACB especially welcomes the EC's finding that Syngenta had not adequately assessed the GM maize for its potential to cause allergies, based on the presence of a novel enzyme with allergenic properties. The EC urged Syngenta to adhere to methodologies for evaluation of allergenicity as developed by the FAO/WHO and conduct additional studies.

The final nail in the coffin for Syngenta was the finding that Syngenta's GM maize for ethanol would contaminate non-GM maize in SA and thus pose an unacceptable risk to South Africa's export market.

Bill Freese (US) 202-547-9359 x14
Mariam Mayet (SA) 083 269 4309
The full objection can be viewed at www.biosafetyafrica.net

Reasons for the rejection can be obtained from Mariam Mayet mariammayet@mweb.co.za

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25 March 2007

India: GM crops cause 'breakdown' in Indian farming systems

The Independent on Sunday (London), 25 March 2007. By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor.

Genetically modified crops have helped cause a "complete breakdown" in farming systems in India, an authoritative new study suggests.

The study threatens to deal a fatal blow to probably the most powerful argument left in the biotech industry's armoury, that it can help to bring prosperity to the Third World.

Professor Glenn Davis Stone, professor of anthropology and environmental studies at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, has spent more than 40 weeks on the ground in the biotech industry's prime Developing World showcase, the Warangal district of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

The industry claims that local farmers have adopted GM cotton faster than any other agriculture technology in history. It argued at the prestigious Biovision conference in Lyon this month that the rapid spread proves that the technology is working for farmers.

Professor Stone's study, published in the February issue of the journal Current Anthropology, demolishes this argument. Extensive interviews with the farmers proved that they are plumping for the GM seeds because they are new, hyped and locally fashionable, without having time to see if they produce better crops.

"There is a rapidity of change that farmers just can't keep up with," he says. "They aren't able to digest new technologies as they come along."

He adds that the rapid uptake "reflects the complete breakdown in the cotton cultivation system".

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India: GM mosquitoes - boon or bane?

Indo-Asian News Service. By K.S. Jayaraman (Staff Writer, IANS).

Indian public health experts are not at all excited by the news that American scientists have created genetically modified mosquitoes to help fight malaria, saying it had been tried here before and abandoned as a failure.

'We tried genetic control in the 1970s and abandoned it,' P.L. Joshi, director of the National Vector Borne Diseases Control Program in New Delhi, told IANS. 'It seemed to work in the lab but failed at field level.'

Scientists at John Hopkins University in the US announced this week that their GM mosquito is resistant to the malaria parasite, meaning that it cannot pass on malaria to humans via a bite.

Their 'cage' experiments also showed that the GM mosquitoes - because they were free of the malaria parasite - lived longer than the wild ones and laid more eggs.

Based on this finding, the scientists concluded that their GM mosquitoes released into the wild in large numbers would - over a period of time - displace the natural mosquitoes that transmit malaria.

While reports said that a field trial with GM mosquitoes could start in five years in Africa, Joshi said he is sceptical about genetic control approach after India's experience some 30 years ago.

In 1975 the Indian government called off the planned release of millions of altered mosquitoes in Sonepat in Haryana and closed down the US financed genetic control project in New Delhi. The authorities wanted to be sure that the modified mosquitoes did not become carriers of a disease that did not exist in India.

'We take up only safe, well tested, and proven methods in our control program,' Joshi said, adding that the best way to control malaria is reduction at the source.

'The recent epidemics of dengue and chickungunea have convinced us that mosquito population cannot be reduced unless there is concerted by the community as a whole,' he said. 'Genetic control is not the answer.'

'The biggest problem with genetic control is separating the male mosquitoes from the females,' P.K. Rajagopalan, a scientist who was associated with the abortive Indo-US project and who later headed the Vector Control Research Centre in Pondicherry, told IANS.

Female mosquitoes - and not males - are responsible for spreading the disease, he pointed out. 'Releasing only males is a difficult task as sexing is never 100 per cent accurate even with improved methods.'

Although the GM mosquitoes do not carry the malaria parasite, the presence of even one per cent females in millions of released mosquitoes adds to nuisance value because they can still bite. 'Uncontrolled release of GM organisms to wipe out traditional mosquitoes also raises serious questions on ecosystems and public health,' Rajagopalan said, adding he did not rule out the possibility of released GM insects becoming carriers of a human disease 'they were never before able to transmit'.

'I hope India does not once again become a testing ground for this dubious technology,' Rajagopalan warned.

The creation of GM mosquitoes by the US scientists builds on earlier work by a team at Imperial College in London in 2000 demonstrating for the first time the insertion of a foreign gene into the mosquito genome.

In any case, the work by US scientists is still far from being taken to the field. So far they have only managed to genetically engineer the mosquitoes to be resistant to a form of malaria that affects mice. This is different from the form that affects humans.

Major hurdles would remain even if the GM technology is perfected. Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, an independent organisation in the US, points out there are no guidelines about how transgenic insects will be regulated. 'The mobility and range of insects pose international regulatory challenges never faced with GM crops,' the report said.

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UK: Now scientists create a sheep that's 15% human

Mail on Sunday, 25 March 2007. By Claudia Joseph.

[image caption: Chimera: sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells]

Scientists have created the world's first human-sheep chimera - which has the body of a sheep and half-human organs.

The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells - and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.

Professor Esmail Zanjani, of the University of Nevada, has spent seven years and GBP5million perfecting the technique, which involves injecting adult human cells into a sheep's foetus.

He has already created a sheep liver which has a large proportion of human cells and eventually hopes to precisely match a sheep to a transplant patient, using their own stem cells to create their own flock of sheep.

The process would involve extracting stem cells from the donor's bone marrow and injecting them into the peritoneum of a sheep's foetus. When the lamb is born, two months later, it would have a liver, heart, lungs and brain that are partly human and available for transplant.

"We would take a couple of ounces of bone marrow cells from the patient,' said Prof Zanjani, whose work is highlighted in a Channel 4 programme [Animal Farm] tomorrow.

"We would isolate the stem cells from them, inject them into the peritoneum of these animals and then these cells would get distributed throughout the metabolic system into the circulatory system of all the organs in the body. The two ounces of stem cell or bone marrow cell we get would provide enough stem cells to do about ten foetuses. So you don't just have one organ for transplant purposes, you have many available in case the first one fails."

At present 7,168 patients are waiting for an organ transplant in Britain alone, and two thirds of them are expected to die before an organ becomes available.

Scientists at King's College, London, and the North East Stem Cell Institute in Newcastle have now applied to the HFEA, the Government's fertility watchdog, for permission to start work on the chimeras.

But the development is likely to revive criticisms about scientists playing God, with the possibility of silent viruses, which are harmless in animals, being introduced into the human race.

Dr Patrick Dixon, an international lecturer on biological trends, warned: "Many silent viruses could create a biological nightmare in humans. Mutant animal viruses are a real threat, as we have seen with HIV."

Animal rights activists fear that if the cells get mixed together, they could end up with cellular fusion, creating a hybrid which would have the features and characteristics of both man and sheep. But Prof Zanjani said: "Transplanting the cells into foetal sheep at this early stage does not result in fusion at all."

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24 March 2007

India: 84 more villages of UP pledge to remain free of genetically modified crops

Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security Press Release, March 24 2007.

Gonda (Uttar Pradesh): Nearly 5,000 farmers from 84 villages spanning eight blocks of Gonda district in Uttar Pradesh have pledged NOT to cultivate genetically modified (GM) crops and instead practice organic farming. An oath to remain GM free was administered by the organizing secretary of the Deendayal Research Institute (DRI), Mr Abhay Mahajan.

It may be recalled that 2,000 farmers from 64 villages of Chitrakoot and Banda districts in Uttar Pradesh took a similar pledge on February 7, 2007. Food and trade policy analyst Mr Devinder Sharma had then administered the oath on behalf of the 'Coalition for a GM Free India', a collective of citizen groups, mass based organization and farmer unions.

This brings the total number of UP villages, which have pledged to remain GM free to 148.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Mahajan emphasized on the virtues and relevance of organic farming. He asked farmers to come forward and take up sustainable farming methods, which is the only way to evade suicides and revert to healthy living. He said that DRI at Chitrakoot is showing the path to sustainable development, and has turned into a boon for the farmers in the surrounding areas.

The swearing-in event took place at a farmers fair organized at LBS Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Gopal Gram, Gonda, Uttar Pradesh on Mar 16 to draw attention to Organic farming. Scientists from the Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research (Lucknow), Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (Varanasi), State Agriculture and Horticulture Departments urged farmers to develop their own seeds and technologies suited to their local requirements.

Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security
G-3F, DDA Flats, Munirka, New Delhi-110 067
Tel: 9811301857; 9811191335

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USA: Monsanto Asks Court to Allow Sale of GMO Alfalfa

Reuters, 24 March 2007.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Monsanto Co. has asked a San Francisco federal court to allow it to continue selling its genetically modified Roundup Ready Alfalfa while the USDA conducts a court-ordered environmental impact study.

Monsanto, its seed distributors and growers stand to lose up to $250 million if the alfalfa, which was designed to survive the company's Roundup herbicide, is taken off the market for the two years it takes to complete the study, the company said in court papers filed late Friday.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer halted the sale of the modified alfalfa at the request of farmers, environmentalists and consumer advocates who say that it could harm the U.S. economy and the environment.

The judge voided the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2005 approval of Roundup Ready Alfalfa, finding the agency had not conducted a full environmental impact statement. Breyer banned seed sales and gave farmers until March 30 to plant seeds they had already purchased.

Judge Breyer has set a hearing for April 27 to consider the plaintiffs' request for a permanent injunction.

Alfalfa, a fodder crop pollinated by bees and wind, is among the most widely grown crops in the United States, along with corn, soybeans and wheat.

In its brief, Monsanto presented testimony from scientists who said there was an "extremely low" risk that Roundup Ready Alfalfa would pollinate conventional crops if "appropriate stewardship measures" were taken.

Those measures include making sure that Roundup Ready crops are grown as much as 3 miles away from conventional crops to prevent cross-pollination.

Monsanto argued that a continued ban on Roundup Ready seed would force farmers "to plant lower-yield alfalfa breeds that pose more complicated and costly weed control problems, and require the use of more toxic or environmentally problematic herbicides."

The Center for Food Safety, which is among the groups that sought the injunction, said Breyer's order marks the first time a federal court has overturned a USDA approval of a biotech seed and halted planting.

The Center and other plaintiffs have argued that the biotech alfalfa could create super weeds resistant to herbicides, cause farmers to lose export business and contaminate natural and organic alfalfa.

They also alleged that Monsanto could try to force farmers whose crops were contaminated with Roundup Ready Alfalfa to pay for the company's patented gene technology whether they wanted it or not.

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23 March 2007

USA: Is Monsanto Going to Seed?

The Motley Fool, March 23 2007. By Alyce Lomax.

Many people like to consider Monsanto part of the brave new world of biotech. However, the company has long been shrouded in controversy, and there could be more in store.

Several recent news headlines referring to its genetically modified products should give investors some reason to contemplate the risks that face this company.

Consumer sentiment against Monsanto's artificial-growth hormone, Posilac, seems to be increasing. Not only have many dairy co-ops notified their farmers that they want an increasing supply of rBST-free milk, but Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) recently said it was also bowing to consumer pressure and discontinuing the use of dairy produced with the substance.

Monsanto's latest 10-K disclosed: "We believe low milk prices and some processor requests for 'r-BST-free' milk are limiting our future sales" of Posilac. While Posilac doesn't represent a significant chunk of Monsanto's overall business, it's an interesting change in tune for the company.

Also, a federal judge has blocked Monsanto's genetically modified alfalfa, ordering that sales of the seed be halted and banning planting of the crop after March 30. The judge stated that the manner in which such crops have been approved by regulators has been a "cavalier" approach. Yep, the lack of an environmental impact statement before approval does sound pretty cavalier. (In fact, it's more than cavalier -- this actually violated the law, according to the judge.)

And, of course, environmental activist organization Greenpeace said recently that data shows that a strain of Monsanto's genetically modified corn has shown toxicity in rats, and some researchers have said GM potatoes are linked to cancer in the rodents.

These are the kernels of a controversy with no easy answers -- but I've got one that is simple enough for the way I feel about it: Monsanto's too risky for my money.

Critical masses

Fans of genetically modified crops contend that there is no scientific evidence that the practice yields crops that are any different from conventionally grown ones. And of course, the blessing of regulatory agencies like the FDA and USDA gives more credence for their standpoint.

Critics aren't so sure about the safety of genetic modification. They contend that not enough time has elapsed for them to truly know what the ultimate implications might be in terms of the environment or human health. Some believe that the influx of GM corn and soybeans has contributed to increased allergies in our population. (Soybeans and corn are in a lot of processed foods -- for example, high-fructose corn syrup is an extremely prevalent sweetener and preservative because of its low cost.) Some contend that perhaps these foods may contribute to cancer.

Last but not least, the ease with which genetically modified crops can cross-pollinate into conventionally grown crops could endanger genetic diversity. And many fear that since Monsanto has patents on its technology, it could force unwitting farmers to pay up if its strains show up in their crops even by accident.

Meanwhile, Europe has historically been very averse to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in its food supply. There's also the organic movement, which is gaining increased interest in the U.S., too -- and certified organic foods, by definition, do not include GMOs.

When consumers don't comply

Monsanto and its fans seem to sniff at the lack of scientific discrimination in some consumers' distaste for some of these products, calling it the effect of deceptive marketing. However, I find that an ironic stance in the grand scheme of things. First of all, Monsanto may be dismayed, but it probably shouldn't be surprised that consumers react to its products with distrust. (Monsanto's already a poster child for left-wing scrutiny of big corporations, although companies like Halliburton share the spotlight.)

The manner in which genetically modified crops have been introduced into the American food supply doesn't exactly elicit confidence. I get frustrated when I see references to the U.S. as a market that's open to genetically modified foods -- if by "open," one means "greeted with open arms by corporations and regulators," then sure. Surveys last year revealed that many American consumers didn't even know GM foods were already on grocery shelves, and I can only imagine that many still don't.

Corporations haven't been amenable to labeling their products as containing GM ingredients; if there was every reason to believe that these crops are safe, the right thing to do would be to label them as such and launch public education campaigns, perhaps. Given the stealthy way these crops have been introduced here in the States, is consumer distrust that surprising?

As for the regulatory argument, history shows that sometimes time will tell. Merck's Vioxx was approved by the FDA, and it was a common medication until deadly side effects came to light. Evidence that the company went out of its way to hide the risk of cardiovascular problems associated with the drug gave lawsuits credibility. And of course, how long did the tobacco companies insist there was no proof there was anything risky about their products?

Even if the only reason for a consumer backlash against a technology like genetic modification or cloning is that consumers deem it distasteful, unnatural, or suspicious, that's just part of the risk of the marketplace, isn't it? It's unreasonable to force consumers to choose a product that doesn't appeal to them. Whole Foods Market is a good example of a company that has capitalized on many consumers' decisions to switch to organics (it has advocated for labeling of GM ingredients, too). Obviously, there's plenty of demand for such choices. Companies that sniff about consumers' unscientific approach risk sounding like they're all about sour grapes.

Corporate culture shock

Last year, I wrote a commentary about Monsanto, wondering if maybe there's something unsavory in its corporate culture, given its history of controversies -- not to mention what appear to be cozy relationships with high-ranking government officials and regulators. I doubt consumers can be blamed for wondering if this is a company where the unspoken motto is the Machiavellian "the end always justifies the means."

Perhaps critics' fears about GMOs will prove unfounded, but given the big risks pertaining to possible regulatory changes and stepped-up oversight -- not to mention signs of increasing consumer backlash -- Monsanto strikes me as a risky investment.

Of course, regardless of any of these news headlines, investors remain excited about Monsanto's possibilities and seemingly unfazed by negative headlines or criticism of some of its business practices. It's not like any negativity has made it a beaten-up value -- Monsanto shares are up 26% this year alone, and its P/E is 42; over the past five years, its shares have appreciated 235%. And of course, it would be remiss not to mention that there are ancillary trends at work here, such as the interest in corn-based ethanol. Also, Monsanto just announced a partnership with BASF to develop more genetically modified crops, notably for the hot biofuel area, which CEO Hugh Grant described as akin to connecting a "fire hose" to the company's pipeline.

Fire hoses sure can come in handy -- sometimes, of course, to put out fires. Do what you will, but this Fool prefers investments with less bad mojo than Monsanto.

For related Foolishness, see some commentary from last year:

There's a genetically modified conundrum at hand:
http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2006/04/24/the-genetically-modified-conundrum.aspx

Catching up with Monsanto's interesting history:
http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2006/03/23/monsanto-monster-stock-or-just-plain-monster.aspx

Whole Foods Market and Starbucks are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. To find out what other companies David and Tom Gardner have recommended to subscribers, take a free 30-day test drive.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Whole Foods Market and Starbucks. Merck is a former Income Investor pick. The Fool has nothing to hide -- it's got a disclosure policy. http://www.fool.com/help/index.htm?display=about02

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India: Mangalore - Mittabagilu Farmers to Reject Genetically Modified Seeds

The Hindu, March 23 2007

Farmers of Mittabagilu in Belthangady taluk of Dakshina Kannada district have decided not to use genetically modified seeds for the next khariff crop. It is the first village in the State to make such decision.

President of Guruvainakere-based NGO Nagarika Seva Trust told press-persons here on Thursday that Mittabagilu was one of the few villages in the country that had sustained cultivation and protection of over 52 traditional varieties of paddy.

Campaign

The "Week of rice action" campaign would begin in village on Tuesday and the farmers would jointly give a call to reject genetically modified seeds of multinational companies, he said.

As a part of the campaign a one-day seminar would be held on Tuesday, he said, adding that NGOs working in the area of paddy protection in Tamil Nadu and Kerala would participate in it. Organic farming expert from Tamil Nadu Nammalvar would be the main resource person, Mr. Nayak said.

Economist B.M. Kumaraswamy said that the agreement on agriculture of the WTO had allowed multinational companies to patent most of the paddy varieties. The entire paddy production in the country would be in the domain of MNCs soon, he said.

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22 March 2007

Germany: Collapsing colonies: Are GM Crops Killing Bees?

Der Spiegel, 22 March 2007. By Gunther Latsch

A mysterious decimation of bee populations has German beekeepers worried, while a similar phenomenon in the United States is gradually assuming catastrophic proportions. The consequences for agriculture and the economy could be enormous.

Walter Haefeker is a man who is used to painting grim scenarios. He sits on the board of directors of the German Beekeepers Association (DBIB) and is vice president of the European Professional Beekeepers Association. And because griping is part of a lobbyist's trade, it is practically his professional duty to warn that "the very existence of beekeeping is at stake."

The problem, says Haefeker, has a number of causes, one being the varroa mite, introduced from Asia, and another is the widespread practice in agriculture of spraying wildflowers with herbicides and practicing monoculture. Another possible cause, according to Haefeker, is the controversial and growing use of genetic engineering in agriculture.

As far back as 2005, Haefeker ended an article he contributed to the journal Der Kritischer Agrarbericht (Critical Agricultural Report) with an Albert Einstein quote: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

Mysterious events in recent months have suddenly made Einstein's apocalyptic vision seem all the more topical. For unknown reasons, bee populations throughout Germany are disappearing -- something that is so far only harming beekeepers. But the situation is different in the United States, where bees are dying in such dramatic numbers that the economic consequences could soon be dire. No one knows what is causing the bees to perish, but some experts believe that the large-scale use of genetically modified plants in the US could be a factor.

Felix Kriechbaum, an official with a regional beekeepers' association in Bavaria, recently reported a decline of almost 12 percent in local bee populations. When "bee populations disappear without a trace," says Kriechbaum, it is difficult to investigate the causes, because "most bees don't die in the beehive." There are many diseases that can cause bees to lose their sense of orientation so they can no longer find their way back to their hives.

Manfred Hederer, the president of the German Beekeepers Association, almost simultaneously reported a 25 percent drop in bee populations throughout Germany. In isolated cases, says Hederer, declines of up to 80 percent have been reported. He speculates that "a particular toxin, some agent with which we are not familiar," is killing the bees.

Politicians, until now, have shown little concern for such warnings or the woes of beekeepers. Although apiarists have been given a chance to make their case -- for example in the run-up to the German cabinet's approval of a genetic engineering policy document by Minister of Agriculture Horst Seehofer in February -- their complaints are still largely ignored.

Even when beekeepers actually go to court, as they recently did in a joint effort with the German chapter of the organic farming organization Demeter International and other groups to oppose the use of genetically modified corn plants, they can only dream of the sort of media attention environmental organizations like Greenpeace attract with their protests at test sites.

But that could soon change. Since last November, the US has seen a decline in bee populations so dramatic that it eclipses all previous incidences of mass mortality. Beekeepers on the east coast of the United States complain that they have lost more than 70 percent of their stock since late last year, while the west coast has seen a decline of up to 60 percent. In an article in its business section in late February, the New York Times calculated the damage US agriculture would suffer if bees died out. Experts at Cornell University in upstate New York have estimated the value bees generate -- by pollinating fruit and vegetable plants, almond trees and animal feed like clover -- at more than $14 billion.

Scientists call the mysterious phenomenon "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD), and it is fast turning into a national catastrophe of sorts. A number of universities and government agencies have formed a "CCD Working Group" to search for the causes of the calamity, but have so far come up empty-handed. But, like Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, they are already referring to the problem as a potential "AIDS for the bee industry."

One thing is certain: Millions of bees have simply vanished. In most cases, all that's left in the hives are the doomed offspring. But dead bees are nowhere to be found -- neither in nor anywhere close to the hives. Diana Cox-Foster, a member of the CCD Working Group, told The Independent that researchers were "extremely alarmed," adding that the crisis "has the potential to devastate the US beekeeping industry."

It is particularly worrisome, she said, that the bees' death is accompanied by a set of symptoms "which does not seem to match anything in the literature." In many cases, scientists have found evidence of almost all known bee viruses in the few surviving bees found in the hives after most have disappeared. Some had five or six infections at the same time and were infested with fungi -- a sign, experts say, that the insects' immune system may have collapsed. The scientists are also surprised that bees and other insects usually leave the abandoned hives untouched. Nearby bee populations or parasites would normally raid the honey and pollen stores of colonies that have died for other reasons, such as excessive winter cold. "This suggests that there is something toxic in the colony itself which is repelling them," says Cox-Foster.

Walter Haefeker, the German beekeeping official, speculates that "besides a number of other factors," the fact that genetically modified, insect-resistant plants are now used in 40 percent of cornfields in the United States could be playing a role. The figure is much lower in Germany -- only 0.06 percent -- and most of that occurs in the eastern states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg. Haefeker recently sent a researcher at the CCD Working Group some data from a bee study that he has long felt shows a possible connection between genetic engineering and diseases in bees.

The study in question is a small research project conducted at the University of Jena from 2001 to 2004. The researchers examined the effects of pollen from a genetically modified maize variant called "Bt corn" on bees. A gene from a soil bacterium had been inserted into the corn that enabled the plant to produce an agent that is toxic to insect pests. The study concluded that there was no evidence of a "toxic effect of Bt corn on healthy honeybee populations." But when, by sheer chance, the bees used in the experiments were infested with a parasite, something eerie happened. According to the Jena study, a "significantly stronger decline in the number of bees" occurred among the insects that had been fed a highly concentrated Bt poison feed. According to Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a professor at the University of Halle in eastern Germany and the director of the study, the bacterial toxin in the genetically modified corn may have "altered the surface of the bee's intestines, sufficiently weakening the bees to allow the parasites to gain entry -- or perhaps it was the other way around. We don't know."

Of course, the concentration of the toxin was ten times higher in the experiments than in normal Bt corn pollen. In addition, the bee feed was administered over a relatively lengthy six-week period.

Kaatz would have preferred to continue studying the phenomenon but lacked the necessary funding. "Those who have the money are not interested in this sort of research," says the professor, "and those who are interested don't have the money."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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Brazil: Brazil Delays Vote on Gene-Altered Crop Amid Protest

Bloomberg, March 22 2007. By By Carlos Caminada.

March 22 (Bloomberg) -- Brazil postponed a vote on whether to approve Bayer AG's gene-modified corn seeds after Greenpeace International protesters stormed the meeting.

Members of the environmental group entered the closed-door session held by the government's biotechnology council and demanded to participate in the talks, said Gabriele Vuolo, coordinator of Greenpeace's campaign against gene-altered seeds.

"We believe these sessions must be open to the public because they will have an impact on people's lives,'' Vuolo said in a phone interview from Brasilia. "The transgenic corn will end up on the plates of Brazilians.''

Brazil, which allows farmers to plant gene-altered soybeans, hasn't yet approved corn engineered to resist bugs and weed killers. Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co., the world's leading developers of genetically modified seeds, are also pushing to get approval for their products in Latin America's biggest economy.

The South American country is the world's second-biggest soy producer and third-biggest corn grower.

Vera Canfran, the biotechnology council's spokeswoman, confirmed that the meeting was interrupted by protesters and said the vote will be postponed until April 18.

"It made no sense for them to be there,'' Canfran said in a telephone interview from Brasilia. "They were there to create turmoil.''

Biotech Crops

Brazil is home to a 10th of the world's genetically modified crops. Planting of biotech crops in the country, including herbicide-tolerant soybeans, jumped 22 percent last year to 11.5 million hectares, the non-profit International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications said in January.

Bayer's LibertyLink corn seed, already used by farmers in the U.S., Argentina and other countries, may help Brazilian growers boost yields because it produces plants that resist strong herbicides also made by the German company, said Andre Abreu, biotechnology manager at Bayer's crop science division in Brazil.

"We expect the seed to boost productivity in Brazil,'' Abreu said in a telephone interview from Sao Paulo. "It contains a protein that nullifies any effect of the herbicides on the corn plant.''

Abreu declined to comment on the incident in Brasilia today. Bayer is Germany's biggest drugmaker.

Approval Delays

Delays in approval of seeds and other research may thwart President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's plan to invest 10 billion reais ($4.9 billion) in biotechnology over the next decade to fuel growth in agriculture and other industries, said Alda Lerayer of the University of Sao Paulo.

Repeated protests and court injunctions have prevented the country from ruling on biotechnology developments and will likely discourage investments, she said.

"Companies and researchers will not run the risk of investing money and time when the rules don't work,'' said Lerayer, a biotechnology professor at the university. "This is bad for the country.''

Brazil's Senate on Feb. 27 passed a bill allowing the biotechnology council to approve new seeds by a simple majority, instead of the previous two-thirds majority, in a bid to speed up rulings.

To contact the reporters on this story: Carlos Caminada in Sao Paulo at at ccaminada1@bloomberg.net .

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New Zealand: Ban on seed imports from GE producers unworkable - growers

Radio New Zealand, 22 Mar 2007

Grain growers say a ban on all imports of seed from GE producing countries would be unworkable.

The Soil and Health Association wants soy, alfafa, corn and maize seed imported from the United States and other GE producers stopped.

It says in the past month US courts and independent scientific peer reviews have found flaws in previously accepted data from the US Department of Agriculture and the multi-national biotech and seed company Monsanto. The flaws include environmental and human health risks.

Colin MacKinnon, from Federated Farmers maize growers committee, says maize growers in particular would go bankrupt without certain strict GE-free contracts with countries such as Japan but any ban on seed imports from GE producing countries would weaken New Zealand's competitive edge.

Soil and Health spokesman Steffan Browning says New Zealand can no longer rely on food safety appraisals from countries where GE crops are grown. He says an outright ban on seed imports is the only way of countering the risk of contamination.

Mr Browning says with regular incursions of GE-contaminated seed New Zealand is risking its GE-free marketing advantage. He says the development of more markets that are keen for GE-free products would more than compensate for the loss of overseas seed technology.

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USA: Bee demise - Are GMOs the missing link?

Sierra Club press release, March 22 2007

Are honey bees the canary in the coal mine? What are honey bees trying to tell us that we should pay attention to?

One out of every three bites of food that we consume is due to the work of honeybees, serving as crucial pollinators. Yet food production may be severely impacted by the recently reported Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Beekeepers are reporting estimates as high as 80% loss of their honey bee colonies.

There's a link that's not being investigated. Highly respected scientists believe that exposure to genetically engineered crops and their plant-produced pesticides merit serious consideration as either the cause or a contributory factor to the development and spread of CCD.

Laurel Hopwood, Sierra Club's Chair of the Genetic Engineering Committee states, "In searching for the cause of massive honey bee losses nationwide, we must leave no stone unturned to find the answer. Is the release of genetically engineered organisms the smoking gun?"

This past decade we are seeing releases into the environment that we have never before seen on this planet. Genetic engineering involves the artificial transfer of genes from one organism into another, bypassing the protective barrier between species. Scientists admit that unintended consequences may occur due to the lack of precision and specificity in the DNA sites on different plant chromosomes where the inserted genes randomly end up. According to the prominent biologist Dr. Barry Commoner, "Genetically engineered crops represent a huge uncontrolled experiment whose outcome is inherently unpredictable. The results could be catastrophic."

Regulators don't look, so they don't find. The USDA and EPA have failed to adequately assess the potential for lethal and sublethal impacts of engineered crop pesticides on pollinators like honey bees and wild bees, including the larvae brood and young bees. They have failed to study the effects of the practice of feeding honeybee colonies genetically engineered (GE) corn syrup and parts of recycled hives containing additional GE food residues.

Considering that loss of honeybee pollinators can leave a huge void in the kitchens of the American people and an estimated loss of 14 billion dollars to farmers, it would be prudent to use caution. If genetically engineered crops are killing honeybees, a moratorium on their planting should be strongly considered.

In a letter sent to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees sent yesterday, Sierra Club urges our elected officials to initiate investigations to determine if exposure to genetically engineered crops or corn syrup is the missing link.

To read the letter see below

Contact:

Sierra Club
Laurel Hopwood
+ 1 216 371 9779
lhopwood@adelphia.net

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GE and bee Colony Collapse Disorder -- science needed!

Dear Senator Thomas Harkin,

We share similar concerns. The viability of a robust food supply is paramount to the American people.

One out of every three bites of food that we consume is due to the work of honeybees, serving as crucial pollinators in agriculture and farming communities. Yet agriculture and food production may be severely impacted by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a trend documented in honey bee colonies and prominently featured in a New York Times story(1). Beekeepers are reporting estimates as high as 80% loss of their honey bee colonies. Such a huge loss of the services of bees is extremely serious and beekeepers report it's a growing trend.

The cause of CCD is unknown. Although factors being considered include pesticides, mites, microbial disease and habitat decline, there's a possible link that's not being investigated. Highly respected scientists believe that exposure to genetically engineered crops and their plant-produced pesticides merit serious consideration as either the cause or a contributory factor to the development and spread of CCD.(2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10) In searching for the cause of massive honey bee losses nationwide, we must leave no stone unturned to find the answer.

This past decade we are seeing releases into the environment that we have never before seen on this planet. Genetic engineering involves the artificial transfer of genes from one organism into another, bypassing the protective barrier between species. Scientists admit that "unintended consequences" may occur due to the lack of precision and specificity in the DNA sites on different plant chromosomes where the inserted genes randomly end up. According to the prominent biologist Dr. Barry Commoner and pioneer in ecology, "Genetically engineered crops represent a huge uncontrolled experiment whose outcome is inherently unpredictable. The results could be catastrophic."(11) Dr. David Schubert has expressed similar concerns in pointing out some of the significant holes existing in current genetic engineering technology that raise serious questions about how well we understand it and how to apply such a new emerging science.(12) An issue Dr. Schubert raises is the "unpredictability" in the artificial gene splicing technology that is routinely performed in genetic engineering because it may lead to unpredictable consequences. Are the honey bees trying to tell us about the "unintended consequences" from large-scale genetic engineering in agriculture?

Investigators have raised the possibility that honey bees are experiencing a sublethal effect such as a "suppressed immune system" from an unknown toxin. However, sublethal effects have not been fully investigated. Dennis van Engelsdorp, a bee specialist with the state of Pennsylvania who is part of the team studying the bee colony collapses, said the "strong immune suppression" investigators have observed "could be the AIDS of the bee industry," making bees more susceptible to other diseases that eventually kill them off.(1) Nonetheless, a concern is that genetically engineered crops are being ignored as a possible culprit, especially with tens of millions of acres now being planted each year of cultivars producing large concentrations of pesticides that did not exist on such a scale just a decade ago.

Currently regulators fail to require adequate analysis of transgene insertion sites. This omission results from the failure to appreciate the magnitude of genetic damage sustained by transgenic plants.(11,12) Regulators have also failed to adequately assess the potential for lethal and sublethal impacts of engineered crop pesticides on pollinators like honey bees and wild bees, including the larvae brood and young bees. Studies are needed to evaluate the impact of GE crops on sublethal effects such as learning and feeding behavior. In addition, honey bee colonies are being fed GE corn syrups and parts of recycled hives containing additional GE food residues. The effect of these feeding practices on bees needs study.

Considering that loss of honeybee pollinators can leave a huge void in the kitchens of the American people and an estimated loss of 14 billion dollars to farmers, it would beprudent to use caution. If genetically engineered crops are killing honeybees, a moratorium on their planting should be considered.

Senator Harkin, as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, you are in a key position to initiate investigations to determine if exposure to genetically engineered crops is the missing link. Emergency funding for research on the pollinator decline needs to be available to researchers and the USDA.

Most sincerely,

Laurel Hopwood, Chair
Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Committee

References:

1. Alexei Barrioneuva, "Honeybees, Gone With the Wind, Leave Crops and Keepers in Peril," The New York Times, February 27, 2007:
http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F10B1FF8355A0C748EDDAB0894DF404482

2. Malone,L and Pham-Delegue,M. "Effects of transgene products on honey bees (Apis mellifera) and bumblebees (Bombus sp.)" Apidologie 2001,32,287-304.

3. Obrycki,J, Losey, J, Taylor,O, Jesee,L. "Transgenic insecticidal corn: Beyond insecticidal toxicity to ecological complexity." Bioscience May 2001/Vol 51 No. 5

4. Pham-Delegue, M.H., et. al. 2002. "Direct and Indirect Effects of Genetically Modified Plants on the Honey Bee," Honey Bees: Estimating the Environmental Impact of Chemicals, pp. 312-326.

5. Picard-Nioi, A.L,.et al. Pham-Delegue, M.H. "Impact of proteins used in plant genetic engineering: Toxicity and behavioral study in the honeybee." J. Econ. Entomol.997,90,1710-1716.

6. Ricarda A. Steinbrecher, "Risks associated with ingestion of Chardon LL maize, The reversal of N-acetyl-L- glufosinate to the active herbicide L-glufosinate in the gut of animals," Chardon LL Hearing, May 2002, London.

7. Mohr KI and Tebbe CC. "Field study results on the probability and risk of a horizontal gene transfer from transgenic herbicide-resistant oilseed rape pollen to gut bacteria of bees." Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2007 in press,DOI 10.1007/s00253, 007-0846-7.

8. Ramirez-Romero,R,Chaufaux,J and Pham-Delegue,M. "Effects of Cry1Ab protoxin, deltamethrin and imidacloprid on the foraging activity and the learning performances of the honeybee Apis mellifera, a comparative approach" Apidologie 36 (2005) 601-11.

9. Hilbeck,A and Schmid,J. "Another view of Bt proteins-How specific are they and what else might they do" Biopestic. Int. 2006,2,1-50.

10. Morandin,L and Winston,M. "Wild bee abundance and seed production in conventional, organic and genetically modified canola" Ecological Applications 2004,15,871-81.

11. Commoner, B. "Unraveling the DNA Myth: The spurious foundation of genetic engineering." Harper's Magazine, February 2002, 39-47.

12. Schubert, D. "Regulatory regimes for transgenic crops." Nature Biotechnology 23,785 - 787 (2005).

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21 March 2007

USA: Massive diversion of U.S. grain to fuel cars is raising world food prices

Earth Policy Institute Eco-Economy Update, 21 March 2007. By Lester R. Brown.

If you think you are spending more each week at the supermarket, you may be right. The escalating share of the U.S. grain harvest going to ethanol distilleries is driving up food prices worldwide.

Corn prices have doubled over the last year, wheat futures are trading at their highest level in 10 years, and rice prices are rising too. In addition, soybean futures have risen by half. A Bloomberg analysis notes that the soaring use of corn as the feedstock for fuel ethanol "is creating unintended consequences throughout the global food chain.

The countries initially hit by rising food prices are those where corn is the staple food. In Mexico, one of more than 20 countries with a corn-based diet, the price of tortillas is up by 60 percent. Angry Mexicans in crowds of up to 75,000 have taken to the streets in protest, forcing the government to institute price controls on tortillas.

Food prices are also rising in China, India, and the United States, countries that contain 40 percent of the world•s people. While relatively little corn is eaten directly in these countries, vast quantities are consumed indirectly in meat, milk, and eggs in both China and the United States.

Rising grain and soybean prices are driving up meat and egg prices in China. January pork prices were up 20 percent above a year earlier, eggs were up 16 percent, while beef, which is less dependent on grain, was up 6 percent.

In India, the overall food price index in January 2007 was 10 percent higher than a year earlier. The price of wheat, the staple food in northern India, has jumped 11 percent, moving above the world market price.

In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that the wholesale price of chicken in 2007 will be 10 percent higher on average than in 2006, the price of a dozen eggs will be up a whopping 21 percent, and milk will be 14 percent higher. And this is only the beginning.

In the past, food price rises have usually been weather related and always temporary. This situation is different. As more and more fuel ethanol distilleries are built, world grain prices are starting to move up toward their oil-equivalent value in what appears to be the beginning of a long-term rise.

The food and energy economies, historically separate, are now merging. In this new economy, if the fuel value of grain exceeds its food value, the market will move it into the energy economy. As the price of oil climbs so will the price of food.

Some 16 percent of the 2006 U.S. grain harvest was used to produce ethanol. With 80 or so ethanol distilleries now under construction, enough to more than double existing ethanol production capacity, nearly a third of the 2008 grain harvest will be going to ethanol.

Since the United States is the leading exporter of grain, shipping more than Canada, Australia, and Argentina combined, what happens to the U.S. grain crop affects the entire world. With the massive diversion of grain to produce fuel for cars, exports will drop. The world•s breadbasket is fast becoming the U.S. fuel tank.

The number of hungry people in the world has been declining for several decades, but in the late 1990s the trend reversed and the number began to rise. The United Nations currently lists 34 countries as needing emergency food assistance. Many of these are considered failed and failing states, including Chad, Iraq, Liberia, Haiti, and Zimbabwe. Since food aid programs typically have fixed budgets, if the price of grain doubles, food aid will be reduced by half.

Urban food protests in response to rising food prices in low and middle income countries, such as Mexico, could lead to political instability that would add to the growing list of failed and failing states. At some point, spreading political instability could disrupt global economic progress.

Against this backdrop, Washington is consumed with "ethanol euphoria." President Bush in his State of the Union address set a production goal for 2017 of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels, including grain- based and cellulosic ethanol, and liquefied coal. Given the current difficulties in producing cellulosic ethanol at a competitive cost and given the mounting public oppositon to liquefied cal, which is far more carbon-intensive than gasoline, most of the fuel to meet this goal might well have to come from grain. This could take most of the U. S. grain harvest, leaving little grain to meet U.S. needs, much less those of the hundred or so countries that import grain.

The stage is now set for direct competition for grain between the 800 million people who own automobiles, and the world•s 2 billion poorest people. The risk is that millions of those on the lower rungs of the global economic ladder will start falling off as higher food prices drop their consumption below the survival level.

In February 2007 the World Food Programme Director James T. Morris reported that 18,000 children are now dying every day from hunger and malnutrition. This daily loss of life is six times the number of U.S. combat fatalities in Iraq over the last four years.

There are alternatives to this grim scenario. A rise in auto fuel efficiency standards of 20 percent, phased in over the next decade would save as much oil as converting the entire U.S. grain harvest into ethanol.

One option that is gaining momentum is a shift to plug-in hybrids. Adding a second storage battery to a gas-electric hybrid car along with a plug-in capacity so that the batteries can be recharged at night allows most short- distance driving--daily commuting and grocery shopping, for example--to be done with electricity. If this shift were accompanied by investment in thousands of wind farms that could feed cheap electricity into the grid, then cars could run largely on electricity for the equivalent cost of $1 per gallon gasoline.

Encouragingly, three auto manufacturers--Toyota, Nissan, and GM--have announced plans to bring plug-in hybrid cars to market. Plug-In Partners, which is spearheading a national campaign to shift to plug- in hybrid cars already has 508 partners, including electrical utilities, corporations, state and city governments, and farm and environmental groups. Among its fast- growing list of partners are the American Public Power Association, Electric

Power Research Institute, American Wind Energy Association, American Corn Growers Association, and the cities of Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, and Boston. Already a number of Partners have collectively pledged to purchase for their own fleets more than 8,000 plug-in hybrids as soon as they reach the market.

Ethanol euphoria is not an acceptable substitute for a carefully thought through policy. For Washington, it is time to decide whether to continue with the current policy of subsidizing more and more grain- based fuel distilleries or to encourage a shift to more fuel-efficient cars and a new automotive fuel economy centered on plug-in hybrid cars and wind energy. The choice is between a future of rising world food prices, spreading hunger, and growing political instability, or one of stable food prices, sharply reduced dependence on oil, and much lower carbon emissions.

Notes:

Lester R. Brown is President of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble.

See also "Distillery Demand for Grain to Fuel Cars Vastly Understated" at www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2007/Update63.htm.

Additional resources at www.earthpolicy.org

For information contact:

Media Contact: Reah Janise Kauffman Tel: (202) 496-9290 x 12 E-mail: rjk (at) earthpolicy.org

Research Contact: Janet Larsen Tel: (202) 496-9290 x 14 E-mail: jlarsen (at) earthpolicy.org

Earth Policy Institute 1350 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 403 Washington, DC 20036.
Web: www.earthpolicy.org.

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Australia: New GM food study reveals safety fears

Government of Western Australia media statement, 21 March 07

Agriculture and Food Minister Kim Chance today said a recent French university study that had revealed the potential harm of GM food was further support for Western Australia's moratorium on the commercial production of GM crops.

Mr Chance pointed to an independent study conducted by French researchers and scientists from the universities of Caen and Rouen, which found that rats fed on Monsanto's MON863 genetically modified corn had significant reductions in growth and adverse effects on liver and kidney function after 90 days of consumption.

The Minister said the GM corn under scrutiny was not grown in Australia, however Australian people may have consumed the product through imported foods such as corn chips, tacos and products made with corn meal and corn syrup.

"Until we know more about GM crops, especially GM food crops, I believe it is a wise move to continue with the moratorium," he said.

"We want to take some time to understand the effect of GM crops and leave our options open. Advocates for adopting the technology now perhaps do not realise it, but by doing so we would close those options. This is because GM technology is effectively irreversible."

Mr Chance urged Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) to undertake thorough testing of the GM corn, and other GM products themselves, before they are approved.

"FSANZ should stop relying on the data supplied from the GM companies and conduct their own independent feeding trials and stringent analysis of the GM products that are proposed for human consumption in Australia and New Zealand," he said.

"The lack of independent data is the reason why the WA Government has funded its own independent long-term animal feeding trial to gain data on the safety or otherwise of GM food crops."

The Minister said the State Government was in the process of working through the full range of issues associated with GM technology with industry through the GMO Industry Reference Group.

The State Government's moratorium on GM crops runs for the term of Government and will, as with all government policies, be reviewed.

"The moratorium on GM crops supports the State's 'clean and green' status and will look after the lifestyle of our farming communities by protecting our overseas markets and environment," Mr Chance said.

"It will also ensure that WA consumers continue to have a choice about the food they wish to eat."

Media contact: Alicia Miriklis - 9213 6700 or 0428 911 240

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South Africa: Blow for first African trials of GM cassava

African Centre for Biosafety and Grain press release, 20 March 2007.

South Africa 20 March 2007 - The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) and GRAIN, congratulate the South African GMO regulatory authority, the Executive Council, for refusing to allow the experimentation of open field trials of GM cassava.

The Executive Council (EC), comprising of ten officials from diverse government departments, denied an application brought by the Agriculture Research Council (ARC), to release GM cassava into the South African environment. ARC's interest in the GM Cassava is to genetically improve its starch content to be used as feedstock for a burgeoning biofuels market.

According to the EC, it found that ARC provided inadequate information regarding the stability of the traits involved as well as the potential for gene flow and thus could not conduct a proper assessment of the risks posed by the GM cassava to the environment.

Cassava is one of the oldest cultivated crops and provides the primary source of calories for 600 million people in the tropics, especially tropical Africa.

"It is appropriate that the South African government should be concerned about gene flow of GM cassava as it has a responsibility to small-holder farmers all over Africa that depend on cassava to feed their families. The narrow and misguided focus on GM cassava and biofuels will exacerbate the destruction of biodiversity, loss of local markets, and the contamination of farmers' varieties and wild species of cassava," said Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss of GRAIN.

Late last year, the EC also rejected an application to conduct experiments involving GM Sorghum. Currently, South Africa also has a de facto moratorium on the approval of all new GM varieties for the purposes of import into South Africa.

"We are cautiously watching a small but significant change taking place in South Africa with regard to GM regulation and we will continue to exert pressure on the South African authorities," said Mariam Mayet of the ACB.

Contact details:

Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss, GRAIN, 082 413 0502
Mariam Mayet, African Centre for Biosafety, 083 269 4309

NOTES

1. For information about the GM sorghum rejection and the de facto moratorium, see 'Africa's Sorghum Saved: Applause for Second GM rejection' and 'Is SA in the US WTO Sights Over GM Import Ban?' www.biosafetyafrica.net

2. The ACB and GRAIN have submitted comprehensive objections to the field trials, supported by NGOs and individuals, and these can be viewed at www.biosafetyafrica.net

3. Last year the Donald Danfoth Centre's GM virus-resistant varieties of cassava, developed seven years ago, failed dismally when it lost resistance to the African Cassava Mosaic Virus Disease (CMVD), see 'GM Cassava Fails in Africa'. http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6979

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USA: BASF, Monsanto grow plant biotechnology

Associated Press, 21 March 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) - BASF AG, the world's largest chemical maker, and Monsanto Co. said Wednesday they will partner in a long-term plant biotechnology agreement to develop high-yielding and drought-resistant crops.

The companies will have a potential joint budget of up to $1.5 billion to fund a dedicated development pipeline of yield and stress tolerance traits for corn, soybeans, cotton and canola. The pipeline will include the companies' existing and planned yield and stress tolerance programs, as well as projects generated by independent plant biotechnology discovery and research from each company.

The first product to be developed from the joint effort is expected to be commercialized in the first half of the next decade. Agricultural products maker Monsanto will commercialize all products and receive 60 percent of the profit. BASF gets 40 percent.

The companies also signed a separate collaboration agreement to research methods to control the soybean cyst nematode, a parasitic pest that can reduce or destroy crop yields.

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USA: BASF and Monsanto Announce R&D and Commercialization Collaboration Agreement in Plant Biotechnology

Press Release, BASF; Monsanto Company, March 21 2007 The companies will dedicate a joint budget of potentially $1.5 billion to fund a dedicated pipeline of yield and stress tolerance traits for corn, soybeans, cotton and canola. Under this collaboration:

Each company will maintain independent trait discovery programs.

Each company will nominate specific candidate genes and the most promising candidates will be advanced for accelerated joint development and for commercialization in the Monsanto pipeline.

The two companies expect to generate a greater number of viable research projects than they could have done on their own, accelerate the development of new products, and bring a greater number of traits to the market at a faster speed.

The nominated projects will be jointly funded at a 50-50 cost sharing through each phase of development as the candidate gene works its way toward commercial status.

Products that emerge from the joint development will be commercialized by Monsanto. The companies have agreed to share profits associated with commercialized products, with Monsanto receiving 60 percent of net profits and BASF receiving 40 percent of net profits.

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The Philippines: GMOs unfit for consumption

The Manila Times, 21 March 2007. By Dan Mariano.

The work of press agents consists of not just getting the media to carry news favorable to their clients, but also to suppress information inimical to their business. Jargon in the traditional newsroom has an aptly descriptive phrase for it: "Kill story!"

One story that has suffered down playůas of this writingůcomes from a scientific study, which found that genetically modified (GM) corn approved by Philippine authorities shows signs of toxicity to mammals. The giant agribusiness multinational Monsanto markets the GM corn in several countries, including ours, for animal feeds, food processing and human consumption.

That the issue has a direct bearing on public health should be apparent. Yet many major news organizations failed to give it the prominence it obviously deservesůif they ran the story at all.

The study, written by a panel of three scientists in France, showed that laboratory rats fed with GMO corn Monsanto (MON) 863 YieldGard Root-wom displayed kidney and liver toxicity.

MON 863 is corn genetically manipulated to produce its own insecticide called "modified Cry3Bb1" to kill rootworm insects in the soil. It contains gene coding for antibiotic resistance.

Entitled "New Analysis of a Rat Feeding Study with a Genetically Modified Maize Reveals Signs of Hepatorenal Toxicity," the study was published in the scientific journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology (www.springer-link.com/content/1432-0703).

The study analyzed results of safety tests submitted by Monsanto to the European Commission (EC) when the company was seeking authorization to market MON 863 in the European Union.

Although data showed significant health risks associated with the GMO corn, the EC still granted licenses to market MON 863 for consumption by both humans and animals.

The incriminating data were obtained by Greenpeace following a court case, and was passed on for evaluation by a team of experts headed by Professor Gilles Eric S»ralini, a governmental expert in genetic engineering from the University of p Caen in France.

"This case is especially significant to the Philippines right now in the light of the Bureau of Plant Industry's claims [last] week that they enforce stringent regulatory systems for the approval of GMOs," said Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia genetic engineering campaigner.

MON 863 was approved in several countries around the world and in the Philippines by the BPI in October 2003. "However, the approval of a GMO is not a guarantee of its safety," Ocampo said.

According to Greenpeace, the genetic manipulation of organisms is dangerously unpredictable. No GMO has ever undergone long-term testing.

"The MON 863 case is the first time that a GMO product authorized for use as food for humans and animals has been shown to have adverse effects on internal organs," Ocampo said. "It is a clear warning of the inherent risks of GMOs."

MON 863 was approved by the EC, despite opposition from a majority of EU member states, which raised concerns over the GMO's safety.

Séralini's study validates these concerns. As the study points out, "with the present data it cannot be concluded that GMO corn MON 863 is a safe product."

At a press conference with Greenpeace in Berlin last week, S»ralini also questioned Monsanto's analyses of MON 863, which was used as a basis for its approval.

"Monsanto's analyses do not stand up to rigorous scrutiny," the French professor said. "To begin with, their statistical protocols are highly questionable."

Greenpeace demanded the complete and immediate withdrawal of MON 863 corn from the global market and is calling on governments to reassess all other authorized GE products and review current testing methods.

The environmental group also sought a moratorium on the approval of GMOs for human consumption.

In the Philippines, 25 GMO food cropsůincluding corn, soybean, sugar beet, alfalfa, potato and cottonůhave been approved by the BPI for direct use in food, feed and processing. The BPI has also permitted four GMO corn crops for propagation.

If this is the first time you got wind of this news, then the GMO propagators' PR gremlins have obviously been hard at work.

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20 March 2007

UK: GM maize ban call after damage to rats

Western Mail (Wales), 20 March 2007. By Steve Dube.

GENETICALLY-modified maize approved for human consumption by the European Commission has been found to cause serious damage to the liver and kidneys of rats.

A press conference in Paris last week revealed the findings of a study led by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini into the Monsanto GM maize MON863.

Professor Seralini immediately called for the suspension of EU approvals for the maize and for all other GM products pending further health tests.

He said, "These revelations are profoundly disturbing from a health point of view.

"They are certainly sufficient to require new and more carefully conducted feeding studies and an immediate ban from human or animal consumption of GM maize MON863 and all its hybrids. This maize cannot now be considered safe to eat.

"We are now calling urgently for a moratorium on other approved GMOs while the efficacy of current health testing methods is reassessed."

The report, published in the peer-reviewed journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, was conducted by the French committee of independent research and information on genetic engineering, CRIIGEN in Caen. It examined feeding experiments on MON863 that were suppressed by Monsanto but later obtained after legal action in Germany. Before the court ruling, Monsanto had refused access to the data on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.

The GM maize in question produces a new insecticide that has a capacity to kill a particular pest - and also contains a gene coding for antibiotic resistance.

It is one of a number of commercial GM varieties which produce new insecticides or are tolerant or resistant to herbicide. Almost all of these new varieties have been criticised by independent scientists on the grounds that their safety has never been fully established.

MON863 is actually classified as a pesticide in the United States because every cell is toxic to insects. It was formally approved for sale and consumption in Europe by the EU in August 2005, in spite of opposition by scientific and consumer organisations.

The French researchers discovered an increase of up to 40% in fatty acids in the bloodstream of female rats, and a more than 30% decrease in urine phosphorus and sodium in males.

GM Free Cymru spokesman Dr Brian John said, "Now we know why Monsanto wanted so desperately to keep this animal feeding study out of the public domain.

"Goodness knows how many other studies showing real harm to animals fed on GM crops and foods have simply been hidden away from independent scrutiny.

Dr John supported Professor Seralini's call for an immediate moratorium on all GM varieties until the establishment of "robust and independent health testing methods" that he said GM Free Cymru has demanded since 2001.

"There can now be no further doubt that GM crops and foods are damaging to health," he said.

Dr John accused the company of using methods designed to mask effects which they did not wish to get into the public domain.

"The French authorities were worried about scientific fraud from the beginning, as were the Germans," he said. "But Monsanto refused to release the whole rat-feeding study for independent scrutiny until forced to do so by a German court.

"Does that sound like the action of a company that has nothing to hide?"

Monsanto spokesman Tony Combes said Professor Seralini's study contained no new data.

"The authors redid a statistical analysis of the raw data from the existing MON 863 rat feeding study," he said.

"Different statistical tests can, and do, give different statistical results. This is not a new or significant finding."

Mr Combes added, "What is important to remember is how a statistically significant difference is not equivalent to a biologically relevant discrepancy.

"One would expect to see significant differences in some parameters in large studies such as a 90 -day rat-toxicity test. However, if the differences are within biological variation, they do not indicate a treatment effect."

He said over 30 countries have been importing the maize for food use while America and Canada have been growing the crop since 2003 and independent scientists, on behalf of regulatory authorities, had found it to be safe.

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Nigeria: "Hybrid Rice Can't Cure Diarrhea"

This Day, 20 March 2007.

LAGOS -- Attempts at introducing Genetically Modified (GM) rice as a pharmaceutical crop to treat diarrhea in African children is unnecessary, demeaning and a calculated move to distract from ongoing global programmes to save children suffering from the disease, the Friends of the Earth Africa (FOE Africa), has said.

A new variety of GM rice containing Human genes is set to be approved by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for large-scale planting in Kansas, United States after two other states barred such plantings. The Californiaābased biotech company, Ventria Bioscience, announced that the rice which had been engineered to produce recombinant human milk protein will be used in oral rehydration solutions to treat diarrhea and also as supplements in yogurt, sports drinks and granola bars.

Friends of the Earth groups in Africa, in a statement issued through Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), condemned the action, stating that barely few months after the illegal contamination of (GM) rice LL601 in Ghana and Sierra Leone; proponents of GMO are once again using Africa to propagate their illegal and unsafe crops.

The group added that despite refusal of the US Food and Drug Administration to approve the recombinant pharmaceutical product as safe, not only was Ventria going ahead with its massive planting of drug-containing rice, but 150 infants from age 5 to 33 months have been used to experiment this technology in Peru, one of Latin American's poorest countries.

According to FoE Africa, parents of the children were not adequately informed of the experimental nature of the treatment, and at least two mothers of infants in the clinical trial reported that their infants suffered serious allergic reactions, causing Peruvian government to launch an enquiry into the experiment.

"Africa does not need a genetically modified solution for diarrhea. The solution of diarrhea lies with its cause, not GMO. We are yet to get over the contamination in West Africa of GM rice as commercial imports and food aid from the United States and now this, we are becoming increasing concerned at diverse moves to permeate GMO in this continent,", said FoE Africa GMO campaigner, Nnimmo Bassey.

The first GM food containing human genes is set to raise many socio economic, cultural, religious as well as ethical questions besides the environmental and health concerns, the groups streesed.

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France: France Adopts Disputed EU Laws On GMO Crop Growing

Reuters, 10 March 2007.

France said on Tuesday it had brought its national legislation into line with European Union laws on growing genetically modified (GMO) crops, hoping to end a legal battle with Europe's top court.

The French farm ministry said in a statement it was publishing in the official journal the two main decrees converting into French law the European directive on GMO commercial and experimental crops.

The directive, agreed by EU governments in 2001, regulates how GMO crops may be grown and approved across the bloc.

It covers the cultivation of GMO seeds for crop or seed production and also includes imports of GMOs from other countries and their processing for industrial purposes.

In December last year the European Commission asked the Court of Justice (ECJ) to fine France for its failure to integrate the directive on the environmental release of GMOs.

The amount was based on a daily calculation for non-compliance since an initial ECJ ruling in July 2004, and has now grown to over 42 million euros, ministry officials said. "We're still at risk from this fine but hope it will now stop growing. We'll have to see what the court will decide," a French farm ministry official said, adding that a separate daily fine of 366,744 euros was likely to be dropped.

French consumers are well known for their scepticism, if not hostility, to GMO crops, often dubbed "Frankenstein foods." The biotech industry insists its products are perfectly safe.

More fields destroyed

France has only approved one type of GMO crop, the "MON 810" maize produced by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto, to be cultivated for commercial purposes.

In 2006, around 5,200 hectares were grown with the maize, which has been modified to resist certain insect pests, the French maize growers association AGPM said.

That is only a minor part of the total grain sowings in France which account for more than nine million hectares, including 1.8 million hectares of maize.

Under the new rules, farmers will be obliged to give precise details on their GMO sowings, which should enable France to create a national register of all GMO crops in the country, including their number, surface and location, it added.

The register will be available on the Internet.

Maize producers stressed the register would not give a precise location for the GMO locations in a bid to stop farmers having their fields destroyed by protesters in what has become a common practice in France.

"For us it was important that the name of (GMO-growing) farmers and villages should remain confidential to avoid new ransacking," Luc Esprit, director general of France's maize producers group AGPM, told Reuters.

But a spokeswoman for France's anti-GMO lobby said her fellow activists would continue destroying GMO fields to oppose the growing of the crops for commercial and experimental use.

"France has listened to the EU, we now ask it to listen to French citizens who massively reject GMOs," she said.

"In the meantime we'll continue symbolic actions. We'll be even more determined."

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USA: GM mosquito tipped to fight malaria

The Ecologist, 20 March 2007.

A genetically modified mosquito is being hailed as the route to tackling malaria, a disease which kills more than one million people every year.

Scientists at John Hopkins University in Maryland have created a GM mosquito which is resistant to the malaria parasite, meaning that it cannot be carried and transferred to humans via a bite. [So far they've only managed to genetically engineer the mosquitoes to be resistant to a form of malaria that affects mice. This is different from the form that affects humans.]

The researchers released 1,200 GM mosquitoes into a cage containing mice infected with malaria. The cage also contained normal, non GM mosquitoes. At the end of the experiment, the researchers found that the GM mosquitoes had become the dominant strain, forming 70 per cent of the total population within the cage. Although the GM mosquitoes were physically weaker, they lived longer and laid more eggs because they were free of the malaria parasite.

Genetic modification is now being hailed as the route towards managing the malaria epidemic, in preference to sprays or drugs. The scientists believe that a batch of GM mosquitoes released into the wild would eventually become dominant over their conventional cousins.

But the wide-scale, uncontrolled release of genetically modified organisms into the environment raises serious ecological questions. Jonathan Matthews, editor of GMwatch e-magazine, told the Ecologist that the key unknown was the consequences of wiping out traditional mosquitoes. He said: "Whatever the initial advantages of GM mosquitoes, their evolutionary sustainability in the longer term is simply an unknown, and this could have a devastating impact on the food chain."

He added: "Mosquito larvae can be at the base of the food chain for fish, while adult mosquitoes provide food for bats and birds. Mosquitoes are also important pollinators, as plant nectar forms a large part of their diet. So such a major human intervention could have worryingly unpredictable consequences."

The GM mosquitoes could be released in a African trial within five years.

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Europe: Biotech industry withdraws GM foods

Friends of the Earth Europe press release, 20 March 2007.

Brussels, March 20th, 2007 - The European Union is today discussing the official withdrawal by the biotech industry of five genetically modified (GM) foods and crops, including the first GM crop that was ever grown in Europe. [1] Friends of the Earth Europe has highlighted this as further proof that GM crops are failing. [2]

Helen Holder, GMO campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "There is no market for GM food and crops, and companies are even withdrawing them from the market. European citizens want GM-free food and EU leaders need to take the necessary steps to make this happen."

"These genetically modified foods should have never been allowed to be grown in the first place, as no one knows the long term effects to both people and the environment."

Bans by EU Member States on three of these five GM crops were central to the transatlantic trade dispute in the World Trade Organisations (WTO) which ended in 2006. The WTO ruled that counties did have the right to prohibit GM crops but that the bans in the EU had not followed WTO procedures.

Helen Holder continued: "It is an absolute disgrace that European taxpayers money was spent defending a trade dispute about products that biotech companies were about to withdraw. The biotech industry should be forced to pay the EU compensation for the time and money they have wasted."

The withdrawals will be discussed at a meeting today of Member States following letters from the biotech industry stating that they will no longer be marketed as they are not grown "on a global basis". [3] The products include a controversial GM maize that was initially grown in Spain but was stopped following health concerns because it contains a resistance gene to the commonly used antibiotic, ampicillin. It was also central to environmental concerns in the United States after research indicated that it could damage the Monarch butterfly.[4]

For more information, please contact:

Helen Holder, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe:
Tel : + 32 2 542 0182, Mobile + 32 474 857 638, Email : helen.holder@foeeurope.org

Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe:
Tel: + 32 25 42 61 05, Mobile: + 32 485 930515, Email: rosemary.hall@foeeurope.org

Notes:

[1] The first GM crop to be grown in Europe was genetically modified maize Bt176, produced by Syngenta.

[2] A recent detailed study shows that environmentally-friendly farming will create more jobs and make the EU more competitive than if it grows genetically modified (GM) crops: http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2007/FoEE_biotech_MTR_midlifecrisis_March07.pdf

[3] Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health: http://ec.europa.eu/food/committees/regulatory/scfcah/biosafety/agenda41_en.pdf

[4] The products being withdrawn are:

Genetically modified maize, Bt176 produced by Syngenta
Genetically modified oilseed rape, Ms1xRf1, produced by Bayer
Genetically modified oilseed rape, Ms1xRf2, produced by Bayer
Generically modified oilseed rape, Topas 19/2, produced by Bayer
Genetically modified maize, GA21xMON810, produced by Monsanto

European Commission proposals for withdrawals:

Withdrawal from the market of Bt176 (SYN-EV176-9) maize and its derived products http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/dv/614r1-/614r1-en.pdf

Withdrawal from the market of Ms1xRf1 (ACS BNØØ4 7xACS BNØØ1 4) hybrid oilseed rape and its derived products
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/dv/615r1-/615r1-en.pdf

Withdrawal from the market of Ms1xRf2 (ACS BNˇˇ4 7xACS BNˇˇ2 5) hybrid oilseed rape and its derived products
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/dv/616r1-/616r1-en.pdf


Withdrawal from the market of Topas 19/2 (ACS BNˇˇ7 1) oilseed rape and its derived products
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/dv/617r1-/617r1-en.pdf

Withdrawal from the market of products derived from GA21xMON810 (MON ˇˇˇ21 9xMON ˇˇ81ˇ -6) maize
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/dv/618r1-/618r1-en.pdf

Syngenta Bt176 maize
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/dv/614r1-/614r1-en.pdf

Bayer MS1/RF1 oilseed rape
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/dv/615r1-/615r1-en.pdf

Bayer MS1/RF2 oilseed rape
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/dv/616r1-/616r1-en.pdf

Bayer Falcon oilseed rape
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/dv/617r1-/617r1-en.pdf

Monsanto GA21 x MON810 maize
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/dv/618r1-/618r1-en.pdf

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Australia: CSIRO axes outspoken expert

The Canberra Times, 20 March 2007. By Rosslyn Beeby.

One of Australia's top organic farming experts, Dr Maarten Stapper, has been dumped by the CSIRO, amid allegations he was bullied by executive management for criticising genetically modified crops.

The chief of CSIRO's Plant Industry division, Dr Jeremy Burdon, confirmed Dr Stapper had recently filed complaints alleging instances of bullying and harassment but these had been " appropriately dealt with and dismissed".

Dr Stapper is researching carbon loss in soils, restoring soil fertility by improving soil microbiology and use of biological farming methods to improve wheat yields in south-western NSW. He has been retrenched from CSIRO Plant Industry in Canberra and will leave at the end of the month.

CSIRO sources say Dr Stapper, a farming systems agronomist and popular public speaker on soil biology and health, was "carpeted" by management after he was overheard explaining criticisms of some aspects of GM crops while mingling with audience members after a public forum.

They claim he received an official warning after the incident, but had argued he was entitled to express his views as a private citizen as long as he made the clear distinction they were his opinions and not those of the organisation.

Dr Burdon said he was unaware of any ill-treatment or antagonism towards Dr Stapper, and "as far as I'm aware he was not censured for commenting on GM during the 312 years I have been chief of plant industry".

In emails obtained by The Canberra Times, Dr Stapper wrote to a colleague that he had been "isolated" by CSIRO management and there was no support for his area of research. "The doctrine goes that genes will solve all the problems and CSIRO gets patents and payments from corporations etc through so-called sound science," he wrote. "It's difficult for me to work in the Commercial Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. However, I persist as I am working for the taxpayer and I have a lot of support outside."

Dr Stapper worked as an agronomist in Canada, the US and Iraq before joining CSIRO as a principal research scientist. He developed new irrigation scheduling programs and methods of calculating nitrogen in the soil before switching his focus to soil biology and health.

In a brief biographical statement on a conference website, Dr Stapper says working in irrigated wheat paddocks made him aware " most problems start with the soil, and thus solutions should commence there".

He argued that the use of "fertilisers, pesticides and other synthetic chemicals to address problems in agricultural production has been leading to poor soil health and resistance in insects, diseases and weeds".

Dr Burdon said CSIRO had a large national team working on sustainable agriculture issues such as integrated farm management systems but Dr Stapper's research had been " more at the organic end". He confirmed that Dr Stapper was the only CSIRO scientist working on organic and biological farming systems and the research program would end when he left.

Asked about further research on increasing carbon uptake of soils, Dr Burdon replied, "We won't be doing any more of that."

He said CSIRO did not consider biological and organic farming to be "a long-term viable strategy" and Dr Stapper's research was "not an area the division feels it can support any more".

Opposition primary industries spokesman Senator Kerry O'Brien said Australia's farmers could not afford to lose such valuable scientific expertise and dumping Dr Stapper's research showed "particularly poor planning" by CSIRO.

Australian Democrats leader Senator Lyn Allison described Dr Stapper's retrenchment as "an extraordinary loss of expertise on a critical greenhouse issue".

Senator Allison raised questions about CSIRO's continuing support for Dr Stapper's research at last month's Senate Estimates committee hearing, but was told by CSIRO representatives that they were unaware of any research being conducted on organic or biological farming systems within the organisation.

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19 March 2007

USA: Bees getting the wrong food

Chico Enterprise-Record, 19 March 2007.

Letter to the editor by Trish Puterbaugh, Cohasset.

I was very surprised to read that beekeepers feed their bees soy protein bricks mixed with pollen and honey. The soy protein brick is most likely a toxic mix containing "textured vegetable protein" (TVG). TVG is a manufactured, unnatural food. Soybeans are routinely treated with high heat, oxidizing agents, organic solvents, alkalis and acids to improve flavor, color and texture. This deactivates the natural anti-nutritional factors in soy and allows preparation of concentrated soy protein products like TVG and others. Most of the foods in the American supermarket contain these chemicals and unfortunately they are a large part of our children's diets in chicken nuggets, fast food hamburgers, spaghetti sauces, and baked goods contained in school lunches.

Traditionally, soy was eaten in small quantities along with small amounts of meats, eggs, and other proteins. Now, factory farms are displacing the rain forest in the Amazon to "feed the world" soy that is modified, textured, hydrogenated and more. Most soybeans grown in the world are also genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMO corn is known to negatively affect butterflies, so what about GMO soy? Add to this the tons of pesticides and herbicides used to grow this mega food and you have a food not worth eating.

Read "The Whole Soy Story" by Kaayla Daniel and "The Omnivores Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. What you may realize is that TVGs, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, GMOs and other factory foods are deadly to us, and our friends the birds and the bees.

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Italy: Squeezing Out The Juice

Slow Food International, 19 March 2007. By Cinzia Scaffidi.
First printed in La Stampa, 5 March 2007.

"Thanks!" Do you remember that TV ad? Those people who had just done their shopping, holding yellow bags and being thanked by passers-by. What was in those bags? Dioxin contaminated chicken, meat with hormones, GMO cereals, vegetables containing pesticide residues? It didn't matter, they had made their purchases, kept the economy moving and society was grateful to them.

This seems to be the logic guiding the actions of the European Union. Do people think that our European leaders should be looking after the wellbeing of the Community, understood as the sum of civil societies? That is a mistaken belief. Our rulers have to look after the market, understood as economic activity focusing on buying and selling.

There is no other way you can explain the Community Bill 2007 which, among many other issues, also deals with soft drinks. The bill amends legislation dating back to 1961 which required that non-alcoholic fruit flavored drinks had to have at least 12% fruit juice. That's right just 12%, not 99% or anything. Well, now we can do without that 12%.

It is not even necessary to do anything to avoid misleading the consumer: a soft drink may be orange, it can call itself orange drink or "orangewhatever", it can have a picture of an orange on the label. And it might not even contain a single drop of orange juice. We will have bottles and cans (which will certainly not cost less than they do now) with water, sugar, colorants, carbon dioxide and synthetic flavoring.

My love, are you thirsty? Have a drink: not a single vitamin will enter your young body, but in compensation you will be taking complex sugars you don't need, they will rot your teeth, change the pH of your mucous membranes, maybe affect your pancreas and set you on course to becoming diabetic and obese. Never mind the potentially carcinogenic synthetic flavuoring and colouring agents.

But there's no need to worry: the European Parliament has passed a law on adding vitamins and mineral salts to food and our Ministry of Health has drawn up a strategy called "Get healthy" aiming to "prevent and control chronic diseases". Our Ministers have given it the green light. The only thing is that they have also passed the legislation on soft drinks. Soft drinks... maybe to call them that is going a bit too far. But at least we can buy, sell and put them in a bag. Thanks a million!

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Europe: EU's new lobbyist register is out of date, NGOs say

EU Observer, 19 March 2007. By Andrew Rettman BRUSSELS - The 15,000 or so lobbyists working in Brussels will from Spring 2008 have to disclose information on clients and fees under new European Commission rules, but the scheme suffers from serious loopholes and lack of ambition, transparency campaigners say.

The commission's blueprint for a lobbyists' register due to be published Wednesday (21 March) foresees a website run by two EU officials that will list all PR consultancies, in-house corporate staff and public interest NGOs as well as their clients or donors and the fees or budgets they get to influence EU policy.

Lobbyists who opt not to join the voluntary scheme will be forbidden from taking part in formal EU consultation exercises on new EU laws and face professional stigma. A code of conduct for lobbyists will also be drafted in autumn this year, with a review of the whole scheme's success tabled for Spring 2009.

"The commission considers it neccesary and proportionate to require registrants to declare relevant budgetary figures and breakdowns of major clients and/or funding sources," the blueprint - seen by EUobserver - states, inviting other EU bodies such as the European Parliament to join the scheme.

The register is tougher than initial ideas put forward last May in terms of disclosing fees, sanctioning access to formal consultations and holding the review in Spring 2009 - which means the current commission will have to take responsibility for its success and potentially table "stricter measures" if the voluntary project fails.

"It's a sort of breakthrough," Olivier Hoedeman of Amsterdam-based NGO Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) said. "If a big PR firm uploads a budget that looks far too small then you will know where to start investigating [non-compliance]."

But Mr Hoedeman's CEO as well as other NGOs Transparency International (TI) and Greenpeace - who disclose their own funding sources already - say the register plan is riddled with loopholes and does very little to address wider problems of hidden corporate influence on EU policy-making.

To begin with, it is unclear who - except for investigative journalists - will monitor compliance with the register's rules, in the case of a company that discloses some but not all of its clients or which simply gives false data to the two commission men running the website. It is equally unclear what criteria will be used to measure "success" or failure in the 2009 review.

"[The register] is really no more than an appeal to people's consciences or reputations," CEO's Mr Hoedeman expained. "It's strange to keep it voluntary, as there are such predictable problems: those who have an interest not to disclose information will not do it."

"We will continue to push for a mandatory register," TI's Rune Rasmussen said, with the US and Canada as well as several EU states such as Poland and Lithuania already running mandatory registers, making the commission's much vaunted reforms look badly dated even before they are born.

The revolving doors problem

On top of this, the lobbyists' register and code fails to address the whole other side of the equation - the ethical behaviour of commission staff - especially in terms of "revolving doors" or the practice of senior EU officials securing well-paid jobs with major chemicals or energy firms weeks after they leave their EU posts.

The NGOs propose EU officials should keep logbooks of meetings with lobbyists during office hours to make sure firms which opt out of the register really do lose privileged access to policymakers. They also say EU staff should have a "cooling-off period" before taking industry jobs or before coming from industry to Brussels.

"I am looking at this from the wider perspective of an enlarging and increasingly powerful EU at the start of the 21st century and its stated ambition to increase transparency for citizens on how it works," Greenpeace Europe director Jorgo Riss said. "In these terms it's very weak...If this was 1976, you could say [the voluntary register] is a big step."

The EU has not had a scandal of the magnitude of Jack Abramoff - a Washington lobbyist exposed in 2005 for cheating clients and bribing US officials to the tune of $66 million - but several recent cases of shady dealings by the chemicals and energy lobbies are beginning to ring alarm bells in the EU capital.

In one case, a spokesman for industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen on two occasions told press that "two out of three" senior EU officials - Lena Perenius, Uta Jensen-Korte and Ralf Burgstahler - who had worked on the REACH chemicals law had no ties with the chemicals industry.

But Greenpeace later proved Ms Perenius moved to chemicals lobby CEFIC shortly after leaving the commission, Jensen-Korte had worked for CEFIC and chemicals firm Bayer before coming to the commission and Burgstahler had worked for chemicals giant BASF.

The EU Ombudsman queried the commisison's apparent dishonesty on the topic last year, but is still waiting for a reply.

Energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs in March sacked one of his senior advisors, Rolf Linkohr, after CEO demonstrated Linkohr also worked for energy firms EnBW and Vattenfall Europe. The revelation prompted the commission to publish a list of all 55 special advisors working for the Brussels team.

Transparency deficit

Mystery also surrounds Brussels lobbying on climate change, with no big oil or gas firms willing to admit they still fund think-tanks which try to debunk the consensus on the urgency of global warming, but with senior EU officials and MEPs regularly receiving "scientific papers" from obscure NGOs suggesting that human activity may not, after all, be a major factor in the problem.

Administration commissioner Siim Kallas first launched plans for the new lobbyists' register back in 2005 as part of a wider transparency initiative also embracing disclosure of who gets what from the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. The Estonian commissioner's plan received strong backing from Swedish communications commissioner Margot wallstrom and Danish farm commissioner Marianne Fischer-Boel.

But the project was reportedly watered down by commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and the powerful industry triumvirate of Guenter Verheugen, single market commissioner Charlie McCreevy and trade commissioner Peter Mandelson when it started looking "too radical" some veteran campaigners say.

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Europe: Rise and shine: the GM wake-up call

FoodNavigator, Weekly Comment, 19 March 2007. By Stephen Daniells.
[extract only: full article at
http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/ng.asp?n=75058-monsanto-gmos-mon-transparency]

[Stephen Daniells is the Food Science Reporter for NutraIngredients.com and FoodNavigator.com. He has a PhD in Chemistry from Queen's University Belfast and has worked in research in the Netherlands and France]

News that a variety of GM corn produced signs of liver and kidney toxicity in rats should be a wake-up call for better testing and more transparency from biotechs, if GMOs are to be accepted by increasingly sceptical consumers.

Last week, amid much media fanfare in France and media silence elsewhere, French researchers from CRIIGEN (Committee for Independent Research and Genetic Engineering) based at the University of Caen reported their findings from a 90-day rat study that indicated liver and kidney toxicity in the rats, as well as differences in weight gain between the sexes as a result of eating the transgenic maize, MON863 is a transgenic maize genetically modified to express the Bt-toxin (Cry3Bb1) which enables the plant to be insect repellent against the corn rootworm pest. It is different from other GM corns of the market since these express the Cry1Ab toxin which is toxic to the European corn borer.

The research was supported by Greenpeace Germany and published in the peer-review journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

The scientists also questioned the methods used by Monsanto to initially show the safety and non-toxicity of the corn, saying that the statistical methods used were insufficient to observe any possible disruptions in biochemistry.

And what is Monsanto doing to redress the balance and build confidence? Well, it has remained relatively tight-lipped and has not responded directly to the statements by the French researchers about possible shortcomings in their initial methodology, and suggestions of incomplete data collection. Instead it has stuck to the line "that the overwhelming opinion of expert authorities is that MON863 is safe for human and animal consumption."

But the opinion of these expert authorities was based on data provided by Monsanto, and led to approvals for the maize for animal and human consumption in, to name but a few, Australia, Canada, China, the EU, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines and the USA.

And according to the French researchers, this data does not stand up to rigorous scrutiny, with doubts raised over the statistical protocols used, questions over why no sufficient analysis of animal weight was performed, and why "crucial" data from urine tests were allegedly concealed in Monsanto's own publications.

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18 March 2007

Canada: Cost to label genetic food is overblown
Just $28 million a year: Quebec study. 87% want to know if food contains GMOs


The Montreal Gazette, March 18 2007. By Michelle Lalonde.

Mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods would cost much less than the food industry has claimed, a new study commissioned by Quebec's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food reveals.

The as-yet-unpublished study, obtained by The Gazette, estimates the yearly cost of such a program at $28 million to Quebec's food industry and $1.7 million to the provincial government.

Previous studies commissioned by the food industry - and cited by the federal and Quebec governments as reason not to act on the issue - pegged the annual cost of implementing such a system at up to $950 million (both government and industry) for the whole country, and up to $200 million in Quebec alone.

At a news conference planned for this afternoon, environment al groups, organic food advocates and consumer groups are expected to renew calls for mandatory labelling in Quebec and to denounce Jean Charest's Liberals for abandoning a 2003 election pledge to bring in a labelling system.

Eric Darier of Greenpeace says the new study, written by Martin Cloutier of the Universite du Quebec a Montreal, shows that the cost of mandatory labelling is reasonable.

"Thirty million is a much lower figure than what (the food industry) has been saying," he said.

Considering Quebecers spend about $30 billion on food every year, it is a cost that could and should be absorbed by the industry, Darier added.

Many commonly consumed processed foods - an estimated 70 per cent of the processed foods found on grocery store shelves - contain or may contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

GMOs are organisms with genetic material that has been altered using gene technology.

While there is uncertainty over whether genetically modified foods pose a long-term danger to human health and environmental threats are debated, polls have consistently shown that a strong majority of Canadians want to know whether there are GMOs in the foods they buy.

A 2004 survey by Leger Marketing indicated 83 per cent of Canadians - and 87 per cent of Quebecers - want mandatory labelling of GMO foods.

Canada is a major producer of genetically altered crops, such as corn and soy, along with the U.S., Argentina, China and Brazil.

Many countries require mandatory labelling of foods that contain GMOs, including the European Union countries, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand.

Labelling requires the implementation of separate production, harvesting, storage, handling and processing systems for genetically modified and completely natural foods, plus a validation system, and separate shelf allocations by retailers.

While some assume the costs of such a system would simply be passed to consumers through higher food prices, Darier said this has not proven to be the case in other countries where labelling is mandatory.

"The international experience shows there is no impact on consumers, because the entrepreneurs decided to change the way they do things to absorb the supplemental costs," Darier said.

Greenpeace and other anti-GMO groups argue that long-term human health effects of consuming genetically engineered food have not been studied, and cite such potential health risks as resistance to antibiotics and allergic reactions.

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16 March 2007

South Africa: Roundup is toxic

Cape Times, March 16 2007

Hans Lombard, media spinner for genetically modified crops and agricultural chemicals, provides several fine examples of the nonsense he claims others speak, in his letter "Herbicide safe for soil" (March 14).

He insists no information exists to indicate that the active ingredients of Roundup, the most widely used herbicide on earth, are either persistent in the soil or dangerous. He asks for peer-reviewed science to disprove him:

The Danish government banned the use of Roundup as it was found to have polluted groundwater, backed up by data in the Journal of Environmental Quality (issue 34, 2005). Monsanto, manufacturers of Roundup, attempted to dispel such fears. However it has been demonstrated that the components of Roundup are indeed persistent in ponds and water, having a half-life of nearly three months. The ingredients are also toxic to frogs, fish and other aquatic life, as many other peer-reviewed studies show.

The California Pesticide Illness Surveillance Programme found Roundup ranked as the highest cause of pesticide-induced illness or injury to people in California in 1997. It is not only the active ingredient, glyphosate, that is dangerous but also so-called "inert ingredients".

A letter in Nature ["letters" in Nature are peer reviewed scientific papers - ed] stated that POEA, one such chemical, constituting 15% of Roundup, was responsible for nine deaths in Japan. Lombard has much in common with the tobacco lobby in days of yore, with their tired insistence there was nothing wrong with their products.

His apparently solid facts are as full of holes as a mad cow's brain.

Glenn Ashton
Noordhoek

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South Africa: Multiple studies show Roundup toxicity

[Extract from another letter submitted to the Cape Times by Mark Wells]

Hans Lombard's claim as to the safety of Roundup Ready herbicide is a bad case of deja vu as Monsanto's spin doctors spun a similar yarn by claiming that the both PCBs and agent orange were safe, citing numerous self-sponsored 'scientific' studies in a multi-million dollar attempt to prevent these incredibly toxic chemicals from being banned. History is repeating itself with the glyphosate based roundup herbicide.

Monsanto first marketed roundup as environmentally safe until a New York court of law forced the company to withdraw this spurious claim in the 1990s. As to Hans claims that there is no peer reviewed evidence on roundups chronic and endocrine toxicity at low level exposure, there are numerous independent peer reviewed studies that have been published. These studies are conveniently summarised with detailed references in the Glyphosate Factsheet online at http://www.mindfully.org/Pesticide/Roundup-Glyphosate-Factsheet-Cox.htm.

More recently, the peer reviewed journal, Environmental Health Perspectives 113, 2005, published an independent scientific study entitled Differential Effects of Glyphosate and Roundup on Human Placental Cells and Aromatase by Richard, Moslemi, Sipahutar, Benachour & Séralinii of the Laboratoire de Biochimie et Biologie Moléculaire, Université de Caen, France, which shows that at concentrations of less than 100 times recommended for agricultural use, roundup is a disruptor of mammalian cytochrome P450 aromatase activity affecting human placental cells and aromatase gene expression. Further proof of the endocrine disrupting effects of roundup's glyphosate and its toxic surfactants are presented in another independent peer reviewed study which shows that extremely low level exposures of roundup may result in 90% less production of the male sex hormones (Roundup inhibits steroidogenesis by disrupting steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein expression, Welsh, L.P. et al. 2000, Environ. Health Persp. 108).

Of course Hans Lombard and Monsanto would rather not like consumers to know about this information as at least 70% soya that we eat and 20% of our maize is contaminated with GM crops that are likely to contain high concentrations of this roundup herbicide which can persist for up to two years in the soil and is absorbed by plants. The World Health Organisation (WHO) report (Mensink H. et al.1994. Glyphosate. Environmental Health Criteria 159, WHO, Geneva) shows that roundup herbicide is systemically absorbed into the seeds and fruits of plants and thus will enter the human food chain and furthermore that no amount of washing and baking will reduce these levels in contaminated food. The fact that the popular Nestle Nan baby feeding supplement is made from predominantly GM herbicide contaminated soya (in South Africa) is cause for alarm as babies are particularly at risk to permanent sexual, cognitive, physical and immune system developmental abnormalities when exposed to synthetic endocrine disrupting chemicals.

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Mexico: Mexico Halts US Rice Over GMO Certification

Reuters, March 16 2007.

Chicago Board of Trade rough rice futures took a nose dive Wednesday, falling nearly the 50-cent trading limit on talk of the trade disruption, traders said.

US export sales were already lagging about 20 percent from a year ago as business has been hurt since a biotech gene material LLRICE601 was found in the US rice supply last summer. The US government has said the variety, which was engineered to resist herbicides, is safe for human consumption, but many countries now require certification that US rice contains only trace amounts of GMO.

Three exporters of US milled rice had their shipments stopped, said Bob Cummings, the vice president of international policy at USA Rice Federation, a trade group. At least eight rail cars have been stopped at Laredo, Texas, he said.

Mexico is requiring certification from an approved laboratory that the grain is free of LLRICE601.

"We are working to make sure that Mexico understands this is a safe product," Cummings said. "We have been able to do that in countries like Canada where we are selling rice. We'd like to be able to do the same thing in Mexico."

Marco Antonio Meraz, who heads a federal biosecurity and GMO commission, said the Mexican government was testing for the LLRRICE601 strain which contaminated the US commercial supply last year. The Mexican Ministry of Health would publish the test results Friday or Monday, he said.

Mexico is the largest buyer of US rice and last year bought 805,500 tonnes of rice valued at US$205 million, USA Rice Federation said.

"Mexico would have to be considered the stumbling block for American rice today," said Neauman Coleman, an analyst and rice broker from Brinkley, Arkansas.

"Considering the magnitude of Mexico for American rice, any time you back up the flow, that just holds up overall consumption and tends to become a tad negative," Coleman added.

(Additional reporting by Christine Stebbins in Chicago)

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France: Anti-GM Stunt Targets France's Sarkozy

Agence France-Presse (Paris), March 16 2007

Greenpeace activists Friday unloaded a truck of maize outside the Paris headquarters of French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, urging him to back a moratorium on genetically-modified crops. The environmental group told AFP it targeted Sarkozy, head of the right-wing ruling UMP party, because he was "the only candidate in the presidential election who has not backed a moratorium on open-field GM crops." Fourteen protestors were arrested for holding an unauthorised demonstration and briefly held for questioning, Paris police said. Sarkozy's Socialist rival Segolene Royal has promised an immediate moratorium on GM crops -- opposed by a majority of the French public -- if she is elected in the April-May vote.

The centrist Francois Bayrou, in third place in the polls, has also said he backs a moratorium to allow for a national scientific debate on the question.

France's Green Party campaigns actively against GM crops, while the farmer-activist José Bové has served several jail sentences for ripping them up.

Sarkozy has said he is "sceptical about the real benefits of GMOs" but that open-field crop trials should continue for research purposes, to keep open the option of using GM crops "once all safety conditions have been met."

Opponents of the crops argue that their health and environmental impact is not yet fully understood, and warn of a risk of pollen contamination to conventional and organic farm produce.

According to French government figures, 23.19 hectares (57 acres) of open-field crops were cultivated for research purposes in 2005.

GM maize is the only commercial GM crop authorised in France, with some 500 hectares (1,235 acres) declared by farmers in 2005 compared to three million hectares for conventional maize.

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New Zealand: State won't help us, says GM wheat firm

West Australian (Perth), March 16 2007. By Torrance Mendez.

A Perth biotechnology firm says it faces closure after failing to secure State Government funds to finish developing a genetically modified salt-tolerant variety of wheat.

Grain Biotech Australia approached Alan Carpenter last April after it completed a field trial in Corrigin, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

Business development manager Alan Tough said GBA was encouraged when the Premier touted the resource prospects of biotechnology. Mr Tough sought State Government approval to boost GBA's credibility and fundraising.

The Premier redirected GBA to Agriculture Minister Kim Chance who, despite positive talks, redirected GBA to then science minister Fran Logan who rescheduled a February meeting to March 26, by which time the Premier had assumed the science portfolio from Mr Logan.

Shareholders and others had sunk $5 million into GBA since 2001 to develop GM wheat varieties of which $1.6 million was ploughed into the salt-tolerant wheat project. GBA needed $2 million a year to finish the program by 2010.

"We're winding up the company," Mr Tough said. GBA's work in the State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre at Murdoch University was patented. Its dream of starting a national centre in WA to design and build new grain varieties lay in tatters.

Promises of financial help had collapsed because of GBA's protracted dealings with the State Government, Mr Tough said. He saw little point in meeting Mr Logan if he was no longer the relevant minister. "I take the Premier's desire to be in the biotechnology industry at face value," Mr Tough said. "But you've got to understand there's no short-term, cheap, simple way into this."

GBA claimed its work was unique in Australia and could add $23 a tonne to WA grain prices.

Mr Tough said the benefits could see WA's moratorium on GM crops overturned in three to four years.

A spokesman for Mr Logan said he was driving the Beyond the Boom strategy as Minister for Industry and Enterprise, which included biotechnology. Mr Logan was the appropriate person for GBA to meet.

Opposition biotechnology spokesman Barry House accused the Government of paying lip service to science. "This is a missed opportunity for not only GBA but WA's wheat industry," he said. "The State Government has played a huge part in its failure."

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The Philippines: Group calls for recall of 'toxic' corn strain

Banyahan.org, 16 March 2007.

A multisectoral group opposing the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country on Friday called for the immediate recall from the market of a corn strain produced by biotechnology company Monsanto that allegedly contains toxic elements.

Eliezer Billanes, chair of the Socsksargends Agenda, said a study released by environmental group Greenpeace showed that Monsanto's (MON) 863 YieldGard Rootworm was affirmed by scientists to contain elements that may potentially cause liver and kidney toxicity.

Soccsksargends Agenda stands for South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos City, Davao del Sur Alliance for Genuine Development. Among the members of the Alliance are the Social Action Centres of the dioceses of Marbel, Kidapawan and Digos.

"This shows that we we're right all long with our calls for the immediate ban of the production and importation of all GMO crops and products for the fact that no conclusive studies could show until now that they are really safe," he told the Philippines News Agency.

He urged the national government to commission an independent study about the safety of MON 863 corn and other GMO products that are already in the market.

Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia's genetic engineering campaigner, said a study made by a panel of three independent scientists in France showed that laboratory tests made on rats fed with the genetically-modified organism (GMO)-based corn Monsanto (MON) 863 YieldGard Rootworm displayed kidney and liver toxicity.

He said the questioned product is reportedly being used in the country for the last three years for food, feed and processing.

Ocampo said the study, titled "New Analysis of a Rat Feeding Study with a Genetically Modified Maize Reveals Signs of Hepatorenal Toxicity" is coming out this week in scientific journal "Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology."

He said the study analyzed results of safety tests submitted by Monsanto to the European Commission (EC) when the company was seeking authorization to market MON 863 in the European Union.

Monsanto and government agriculture officials were not immediately available for comment but press statements published by Monsanto on its website confirmed that the alleged toxic genetically modified corn had been approved for commercial use in the Philippines in 2003.

"This product (MON 863 YieldGard Rootworm) has completed full regulatory review and has been grown commercially in the United States and Canada since 2003, and has also been approved for import and food use in many countries around the world, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Russia and Mexico," the company statement cited.

It contended that MON 863 Yieldgard (R) Rootworm, which "contains a protein that specifically targets corn rootworm larvae, allowing the corn plant to naturally protect its roots against the damaging pest" had been proven to be safe for human and animal consumption.

Ocampo said the "incriminating data" was obtained by Greenpeace following a court case, and was passed on for evaluation by a team of experts headed by Professor Gilles Eric Séralini, a governmental expert in genetic-engineering from the University of Caen in France.

"This case is especially significant to the Philippines right now in the light of the Bureau of Plant Industry's (BPI) claims this week that they enforce stringent regulatory systems for the approval of GMOs," Ocampo said in a statement emailed to MindaNews.

He said MON 863 was approved in several countries around the world and was approved in the Philippines by the BPI in October 2003.

But Ocampo pointed out that the approval of a GMO by the government is not a guarantee of its safety.

"The BPI may repeatedly assure the public that GMOs have passed their standards--but as this latest evidence shows, these remain empty boasts. Genetic manipulation of organisms is dangerously unpredictable; no GMO has ever undergone long-term testing. The MON 863 case is the first time that a GMO product authorized for use as food for humans and animals has been shown to have adverse effects on internal organs. It is a clear warning of the inherent risks of GMOs," he said.

Ocampo said Greenpeace is also demanding the complete and immediate withdrawal of MON 863 corn from the global market, for the government to undertake an urgent reassessment of all other authorized GMO products and a strict review of current testing methods.

He also urged for a moratorium on the approval of GMOs for human consumption.

Billanes said that aside from recalling the commercialization of GMO products, the government should also impose the mandatory labeling of all feed and consumer products that contain biotechnology-enhanced ingredients.

So far, at least 25 GMO food crops, including corn, soybean, sugar beet, alfalfa, potato and cotton have been approved by the BPI for direct use in food, feed, and processing, while four GMO corn crops are approved for propagation.

Records showed that 24 of the 29 GMOs approved in the country were developed by Monsanto. The BPI is reviewing an application for a GMO strain of rice, LL62, developed by Bayer Cropscience.

Scientists from the Departments of Agriculture and Health have repeatedly assured the safety of GMO crops and products that have been approved by the government for commercialization saying they all passed proper testing standards prior to their approval. (PNA)

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Europe: Regulatory systems for GE crops a failure: the case of MON863.

Greenpeace briefing, 16 March 2007.

New peer-reviewed evaluation [i] of Monsanto's data shows MON863 should not have been approved in EU or elsewhere.

MON863 is a genetically engineered (GE) insect resistant maize (corn) that expresses a Bt-toxin (Cry3Bb1). This toxin, which stems from a micro-organism (Bacillus thuringiensis), is meant to protect the maize against the corn rootworm pest. This GE maize is different from other GE maize plants (Mon 810, Bt11, Bt 176) already placed on the market, as they produce another toxin (Cry1Ab), which is toxic to the European corn borer. Further, GE maize MON863 contains an antibiotic resistance marker gene (ntpII conferring resistance to kanamycin).

Greenpeace and others have previously stated several times (see Chronology of MON863) that the data submitted in support of market approval for this GE maize gives rise to serious concerns regarding the food safety of MON863. However, significant findings found in a 90 day rat feeding study are generally dismissed by the regulatory authorities, e.g. by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) [ii], as "not considered as biologically relevant", or "incidental findings".

This new evaluation is the first independent evaluation of data submitted by a biotech company for regulatory approval of a GMO for food/feed published in a peerreviewed scientific journal. The new evaluation shows that, far from being not of biologically relevance, the statistical differences found should be grounds for a recall of the GE crop. This GE maize should not have been approved, for cultivation or food/feed, in the EU or anywhere else in the world.

New evaluation highlights MON863 poses risk to human and animal health

Scientists from CRIIGEN (Committee for Independent Research and Genetic Engineering, based at the University of Caen, France), have analysed the data obtained from a feeding trial submitted by Monsanto in support of its application to the EU to market MON863.

The independent scientists found that after the consumption of MON863:

There were "signs of toxicity" in the liver and kidney of the test animals. Analysis of blood, urine, liver and kidneys showed signs of disruption to kidney/liver function. The researchers conclude that "the two main organs of detoxification, liver and kidney, have been disturbed".

Weight gain was different. Rats showed slight but dose related significant variations in growth for both sexes, resulting in 3.3. % decrease in weight for males and 3.7 % increase for females.

1. Chemical data indicate disruption of liver/kidney function

Although some chemical differences did show up in the original Monsanto data, the European Food safety Authority (EFSA) stated "Whilst some statistically significant differences were observed, these differences were not considered as biologically relevant since they fall within normal variation ranges." [iii] However, a closer examination of the data in this new study shows differences in blood and urine chemistry between rats fed MON863 and rats fed non GE maize (including blood sugar and fats, urine phosphorus and sodium) that were either discounted or not recognised. The authors of this new evaluation state: "It appears that the statistical methods used by Monsanto were not detailed enough to see disruptions in biochemical parameters".

The new evaluation suggests that these results are of biological relevance as they suggest disruption to liver/kidneys, which indicate that MON863 is causing toxicity in rats.

2. Differences in weight gain between rats fed GE and non GE maize

The authors analysed the weight gain growth curves - something that Monsanto failed to do, even with their published data [iv]. The authors proved there were significant differences in the weight gains, with differences between male and females. Together with the indications of liver/kidney function, the authors suggest that this could be due to "endocrine disruption and/or hormonal metabolism differences". Although Monsanto did find some differences in weight gain, they simply discarded them by comparing to historical or population data, rather than the control (fed non GE maize), which is the normal and valid comparison. The cause of the differences in weight gain was never investigated by Monsanto. However, Seralini and colleagues (the authors of this new study) suggest that a further investigation into sexual hormones could explain some of the observations.

Cause of toxicity not known

It is not known whether the signs of toxicity are caused by the Bt protein, or from some changes in the plant's own DNA caused by the genetic engineering event.

MON863 cannot be considered safe for food/feed

The authors of this new evaluation have shown that there are serious concerns over the food and feed safety of MON863. These concerns have simply been dismissed where they should have been ground for the rejection of the GM crop. At the very least, the differences should have been investigated further.

The authors of this evaluation state "it cannot be concluded that GM corn MON863 is a safe product". This conclusion of the independent scientists is in stark contrast to those from regulatory authorities who have approved MON863 who deemed it is as safe as its non GE counterpart. In countries where MON863 is approved (Australia, Canada, China, the EU Japan, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Taiwan, United States), the regulatory authorities have failed to recognise the warning signs in a GE crop. They have recommended a GE crop that has potential to cause adverse effects on health for approval.

Greenpeace demands an immediate and complete recall of MON863 from the global market. We also call upon governments to undertake an urgent reassessment of all other authorised GE products and a strict review of current testing methods.

References

i S»ralini, G-E, Cellier, D. & Spiroux de Vendomois, J. 2007. New analysis of a rat feeding study with a genetically modified maize reveals signs of hepatorenal toxicity. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology DOI: 10.1007/s00244- 006-0149-5. Hepatorenal = of or pertaining to the liver and kidneys.

ii EFSA 2004. Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms on a request from the Commission related to the safety of foods and food ingredients derived from insect-protected genetically modified maize MON 863 and MON 863 x MON 810, for which a request for placing on the market was submitted under Article 4 of the Novel Food Regulation (EC) No 258/97 by Monsanto (Question No EFSA-Q-2003-121).Opinion adopted on 2 April 2004. The EFSA Journal 50: 1-25

iii Statement of the scientific panel on genetically modified organisms on an evaluation of the 13-week rat feeding study on MON 863 maize, submitted by the German authorities to the European Commission adopted on 20 October 2004. http://www.efsa.eu.int

iv Hammond, B., Lemen, J., Dudek, R., Ward, D., Jiang, C., Nemeth, M. & Burns, J. 2006. Results of a 90-day safety assurance study with rats fed grain from corn rootworm-protected corn. Food and Chemical Toxicology 44: 147-160.

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France: Seralini 90-day GM maize rat feeding study

Abstract: see below

Full paper available as

a pdf file from Agbios at http://www.agbios.com/docroot/decdocs/05-184-001.pdf

a pdf attachment from Dr Brian John, email: brianjohn4@mac.com

for those with a subscription, via http://www.springerlink.com/content/02648wu132m07804/

New Analysis of a Rat Feeding Study with a Genetically Modified Maize Reveals Signs of Hepatorenal Toxicity Journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

Publisher Springer New York
ISSN 0090-4341 (Print) 1432-0703 (Online)
DOI 10.1007/s00244-006-0149-5
SpringerLink Date Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gilles-Eric Seralini1 [2] , Dominique Cellier [1], [3], and Joel Spiroux de Vendomois [1]

[1] Committee for Independent Information and Research on Genetic Engineering CRIIGEN, Paris, France
[2] Laboratory of Biochemistry, Institute of Biology, University of Caen, Caen, France
[3] Laboratory LITIS, University of Rouen, Mont-Saint-Aignan, France

Received: 18 July 2006 Accepted: 20 November 2006 Published online: 13 March 2007

Abstract:

Health risk assessment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) cultivated for food or feed is under debate throughout the world, and very little data have been published on mid- or long-term toxicological studies with mammals. One of these studies performed under the responsibility of Monsanto Company with a transgenic corn MON863 has been subjected to questions from regulatory reviewers in Europe, where it was finally approved in 2005. This necessitated a new assessment of kidney pathological findings, and the results remained controversial. An Appeal Court action in Germany (Młnster) allowed public access in June 2005 to all the crude data from this 90-day rat-feeding study. We independently re-analyzed these data. Appropriate statistics were added, such as a multivariate analysis of the growth curves, and for biochemical parameters comparisons between GMO-treated rats and the controls fed with an equivalent normal diet, and separately with six reference diets with different compositions. We observed that after the consumption of MON863, rats showed slight but dose-related significant variations in growth for both sexes, resulting in 3.3% decrease in weight for males and 3.7% increase for females. Chemistry measurements reveal signs of hepatorenal toxicity, marked also by differential sensitivities in males and females. Triglycerides increased by 24ā40% in females (either at week 14, dose 11% or at week 5, dose 33%, respectively); urine phosphorus and sodium excretions diminished in males by 31ā35% (week 14, dose 33%) for the most important results significantly linked to the treatment in comparison to seven diets tested. Longer experiments are essential in order to indicate the real nature and extent of the possible pathology; with the present data it cannot be concluded that GM corn MON863 is a safe product.

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Bangladesh: Week of Rice Action Asia launches in Bangladesh

Pesticide Action Newtwork Asia and the Pacific press release, 16 March 2007.

Dhaka - The Week of Rice Action (WORA) 2007 was officially inaugurated amidst much colour, joyous celebration and excitement in the humble village of Nallapara in the district of Tangail in Bangladesh on 13 March. Three thousand farmers from several districts in the country converged in the village, 100 km from Dhaka, to participate in the launch.

The event was organized by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) with UBINIG and Nayakrishi Andolon. Holding dhan (paddy) seeds in one hand, Farida Akhter and Farhad Mazhar from UBINIG, and Clare Westwood and Usha S. from PAN AP, joined and raised hands with the villagers to launch WORA Asia.

'Rice is Life to three billion Asians. Bangladesh is seen as the ideal location to launch WORA as the famous Nayakrishi farmers are a model and inspiration to all farming communities in Asia in preserving the five pillars of rice wisdom and fiercely resisting the introduction of Golden Rice in their fields,' said Clare Westwood, Campaign Coordinator for PAN AP, the main organizer of WORA. Golden Rice is a genetically engineered rice promoted by its creators, Syngenta and IRRI (the International Rice Research Institute), in Bangladesh and India.

Usha S. from Kerala, India shared how rice was under threat from agri-business corporations all over Asia and why there was an urgent need to save AsiaŐs rice.

Children and youth from Tangail and indigenous communities performed cultural rice dances while men and women sang traditional songs. The women of the village proudly showed off their collection of 227 rice seeds from their village which they had saved and prepared various types of rice food.

It was a worthy launch for WORA - amidst the grassroots of Bangladesh; the very rice farming communities struggling bravely to save their traditional rice seeds and rice wisdom from the onslaughts of corporate agriculture.

Tangail is one of 18 districts in Bangladesh committed to Nayakrishi Andolan (New Agriculture Movement). Nayakrishi farmers practice the five pillars of rice wisdom as their way of life - rice culture, community wisdom, biodiversity-based ecological agriculture, safe food and food sovereignty. There is no use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or hybrid rice.

Farida Akhter, the Executive Director of UBINIG, the anchor organization for WORA in Bangladesh, said, 'Bangladesh had 15,000 rice varieties 40 years ago. Due to the Green Revolution and hybrid rice, most of these have been lost. Nayakrisni farmers have managed to retrieve 2,000 varieties. Each variety has a special nutritional and cultural value and ensures the well-being and food sovereignty of local communities. Rice sustains all life in the community including livestock and poultry.'

Farhad Mazhar, founder of Nayakrishi Andolon, said, 'Those who are practising ecological agriculture are preserving the local varieties and safeguarding them.'

Rabeya Begum, a woman farmer who is one of the key seed conservationists in the movement, called upon all farmers around the world to 'Keep seeds in your hand! If farmers are strong, then no one can take seeds from us.'

The Nayakrishi farmers - men and women and children - chanted slogans after every speech creating a vibrant atmosphere: 'Preserve local seeds!'; 'NO to corporate agriculture!', 'Farmers of the world - unite!'; 'No GMO!!'; 'We will give our blood but not our seeds!'

A special highlight of the launch proper was the official launching of the 1-million signature campaign for WORA. The oldest lady in the village, 81-year old Alladi Begum, was the first to put her signature to the 'People's Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia' to start the ball rolling. So far, at least 10,000 signatures have been collected.

The Nallapara celebration is the official launch for WORA 2007 as 13 countries in Asia march collectively towards the week itself - 29 March to 4 April 2007 - with various activities to celebrate and protect rice culture. An unprecedented mobilization involving millions from China, Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, WORA is Asia's concerted bid to save the rice of Asia.

The launch in Bangladesh is actually a three-day affair. After the launch proper in Tangail, there was a workshop at Nayakrishi Tangail Learning Space in the afternoon where NGO and government officials spoke on various elements of preserving traditional local rice varieties and the threats to rice. This was held in conjunction with an exhibition of paddy seeds, photographs, posters and a video presentation in the afternoon.

A press conference was held on 14 April followed by a cultural celebration on the 15th, both in Dhaka.

Contact at PAN AP
Ms Anne Haslam, PAN AP @ Wora 2007 @ panap.net
Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, P.O Box 1170, 10850 Penang, Malaysia. Tel: 604-6570271 or 6046560381

Pic Captions:

WORA is launched by PAN AP, UBINIG and the Nayakrishni farmers of Bangladesh
The children, women and men of Bangladesh joining in the launch of WORA. 81-year old Alladi Begum takes the lead to sign the 1-million signature statement in Bangladesh.
Seed exhibition and the serving of red rice at the WORA Workshop and Exhibition in the Nayakrishni Learning Space, Tangail.

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15 March 2007

USA: Judge Halts Planting of Genetically Modified Alfalfa

Associated Press, 15 March 2007.

A federal judge on Monday temporarily halted the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa across the country in response to a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Farmers who already have purchased the herbicide-resistant alfalfa seed must plant it by March 30. No new sales of the seed will be allowed, according to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer's preliminary injunction order.

Breyer ruled last month that federal authorities had failed to fully consider the public health, economic and environmental consequences before allowing the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa. The Center for Food Safety had sued on behalf of farmers who complained the genetically engineered seed could contaminate organic and conventional alfalfa.

"Roundup Ready alfalfa poses threats to farmers, to our export markets and to the environment," said Will Rostov, spokesman for the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group.

The genetically altered seed is produced by Monsanto Co. and Forage Genetics International. A call to the Idaho-based Forage Genetics seeking comment was referred to Monsanto, where a spokesman said he's disappointed by the temporary injunction but hopeful it wouldn't stand.

"We are hopeful that a reasoned approach in this matter will address questions about the regulatory approval process for Roundup Ready alfalfa," said Jerry Steiner, a Monsanto executive vice president.

Oral arguments on the Center for Food Safety's request for a permanent injunction were scheduled for April 27.

Monsanto spokesman Andrew Burchett said the company would not be hurt financially by the prohibition on the sale of the seed because "this is not one of our major crops."

About 200,000 acres of genetically modified alfalfa already has been planted across the U.S. The judge, in Monday's order, did not require those crops to be removed.

Roundup Ready Alfalfa can be grown only for hay and forage. Seed production is prohibited.

Alfalfa, which is used for livestock feed and can be planted in spring or fall, is a major crop grown on about 21 million acres in the country. California is the nation's largest alfalfa producer, growing the crop on about 1 million acres, primarily in the San Joaquin Valley.

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Brazil: GMO soy maker likely to be Brazil's new Ag Minister

Dow Jones, 15 March 2007. By Kenneth Rapoza.
[Extracts only. Full story at:
http://news.morningstar.com/news/...]

SAO PAULO - The president of Brazil's largest soybean seed company, Odilio Balbinotti, will likely become Brazil's new Agriculture Minister, according to political leaders with close ties to Balbinotti in congress.

Balbinotti owns Sementes Adriana, the largest individual seed company in Brazil and a licensed maker of Monsanto Co.'s (MON) Roundup Ready soybeans, a transgenic soy seed.

Balbinotti is a congressman from the Brazilian Democratic Movement, or PMDB, representing the state of Parana, the No. 2 soy-producing state behind Mato Grosso. Sementes Adriana is based in Mato Grosso.

If approved, he would be replacing temporary Agriculture Minister, Luis Guedes Pinto. Pinto stepped in for outgoing sugarcane farmer and agribusiness consultant Roberto Rodrigues in mid-2006.

Soy farming has made Balbinotti a millionaire. He owns one of the most modern private biotechnology labs in Latin America. He also owns about 25,000 hectares of farm land, well above what his counterparts in Parana own. Parana farmers tend to own under 400 hectares.

But there is another side to the would-be minister that could take him out of the running. He is currently being investigated for falsifying documents and consumer fraud in Mato Grosso. He says the charges are unfounded. That has some people in the market saying he is off to a bad start.

"He knows his stuff, but he is not as charismatic as Roberto Rodrigues and he is being investigated for fraud in Mato Grosso. That's somewhat of a problem," said a consultant from a leading agribusiness firm.

So far, all signs currently lead Balbinotti to the Agriculture Minister's post in the days ahead. This would give him the reins to one of the world's biggest farming markets outside the U.S., demanding the attention of thousands of farmers currently coming out of two consecutive years of serious financial crises.

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Europe: EFSA to review Monsanto maize concerns

FoodNavigator.com, 15 March 2007. By Stephen Daniells.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has revealed that it will review the new data presented by French scientists that revealed toxicity concerns in rats fed the MON863 variety of GM maize from Monsanto.

The new data, from a 90-day rat study and published in the peer-review journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, indicated liver and kidney toxicity in the rats, as well as differences in weight gain between the sexes as a result of eating the transgenic maize.

Alun Jones, EFSA spokesperson told FoodNavigator.com that the authority has not yet had the opportunity to look at the new study in detail but this will be done by their scientific experts before any decisions is made regarding the maize.

The GMO panel will meet on March 22nd and 23rd to consider and discuss the new study.

Jones also stated that this was not the first time that EFSA have been requested to look at MON863. Indeed, the authority released a statement in October 2004 following a request by the German authorities following a 13-week rat study that suggested kidney toxicity.

"Following [the GMO Panel's] investigation of the report, and of the retrospective evaluation of renal tissues and data derived from the 13-week rat feeding study performed by independent peer reviewers, the GMO Panel concludes that there is no evidence presented in the report that changes the conclusions already reached by the GMO Panel earlier this year in its Opinions on the safety of the insect-protected genetically modified maize MON 863 (EFSA 2004a, b)," read the October 2004 statement.

"These opinions state that the results of the rodent toxicity study with MON 863 maize did not indicate concerns about its safety for human and animal consumption."

The researchers behind the new study, led by Professor Gilles Eric S»ralini from the independent CRIIGEN (Committee for Independent Research and Genetic Engineering) based at the University of Caen questioned the methods used by Monsanto to initially show the safety and non-toxicity of the corn, saying that the statistical methods used were insufficient to observed any possible disruptions in biochemistry.

"Monsanto's analyses do not stand up to rigorous scrutiny - to begin with, their statistical protocols are highly questionable. Worse, the company failed to run a sufficient analysis of the differences in animal weight. Crucial data from urine tests were concealed in the company's own publications," said S»ralini during a joint press conference with environmental group Greenpeace in Berlin.

Monsanto have continued to defend the safety record of their corn. Spokesperson, Lee Quarles, told FoodNavigator.com: "The important thing to note in all of this is the fact that the overwhelming opinion of expert authorities is that MON 863 is safe for human and animal consumption. This includes experts in Europe as the European competent authorities concur that MON 863 YieldGard Rootworm maize is safe for human and animal health and the environment.

"Please also note that MON 863 YieldGard Rootworm maize has completed full regulatory review and has been grown commercially in the United States and Canada since 2003. This product has also been approved for import and food use in many countries around the world, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Russia and Mexico," he added.

MON863 is a transgenic maize genetically modified to express the Bt-toxin (Cry3Bb1) which enables the plant to be insect repellent against the corn rootworm pest. It is different from other GM corns of the market since these express the Cry1Ab toxin which is toxic to the European corn borer.

It received European approval for use in animal feed in 2005 and for human consumption in 2006.

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USA: Secrecy, danger surround genetic engineering of grapes

Napa Valley Register, Thursday, March 15, 2007. By Erica Martenson.

I'm writing to make visible an invisible and immediate threat to our local agriculture, economy, and environment ů researchers who may be conducting secret field tests on genetically engineered (GE) grapes in our own backyard.

As the coordinator for the organization Preserving the Integrity of Napa's Agriculture, or PINA, I discovered that UC Davis and Cornell University have permits to field test up to five-and-a-half acres of experimental GE grapes anywhere in California. The U.S. Department of Agriculture did not require applications or environmental assessments for these permits, only notification by the institutions. Are these universities conducting field trials in Napa County? Are they taking steps to ensure that commercial and native grapes are not contaminated through cross-pollination, and that the environment and public health are protected? One cannot find out this information unless the researcher agrees to make contact with you and is willing to tell you. There is a veil of secrecy around these field tests which prevents growers from being able to take measures to protect their vineyards from genetic contamination that could result in a tarnished image and market loss from consumers who reject GE products.

A 2005 U.S. Inspector General report criticized the USDA for not adequately overseeing field trials of GE crops. It stated that the USDA "lacks basic information about the field test sites it approves and is responsible for monitoring, including where and how the crops are being grown, and what becomes of them at the end of the field test." Last month, a federal judge ruled that the USDA cannot approve new GE field trials without environmental assessments. Unfortunately, this ruling applies to future tests and not to the permits currently held by UC Davis and Cornell.

UC Davis has permits to test grapevines in California that have been engineered using genes from pear fruit in an effort to create rootstock resistant to Pierce's disease. The head of this research team refused to make contact with me. However, through a third party, he or she stated, "We have not planted any grapes as yet. At some point, we will and, most likely, it will not be in Napa County. However, I would not like to disclose their location." The response was reassuring for our county, but since these permits are valid until 2014, they have much time to change their mind and have an experimental vineyard in Oakville where they can plant them.

Two groups of Cornell scientists are researching GE grapes in California. The head of one of them, Dr. Bruce Reisch, was willing to communicate with me, perhaps because he already completed his research in California. He said that they did their test in a "coastal county," but would not say which one. In that test, they inserted genes from Trichoderma harzianum, a fungus found in soil, hoping to develop grapes resistant to powdery mildew and botrytis. While they placed bird netting over the experimental grapes to prevent seed dispersal, they did nothing to prevent insects and wind from dispersing pollen. Researchers in South Africa wanting to do field trials on GE grapes have proposed bagging flowers to prevent pollen spread. When I asked Dr. Reisch if he had taken this precautionary step, he stated that bagging flowers "would add greatly to the expense of such trials." He believed that the distance between the experimental and commercial grapes, 500 feet, was sufficient to prevent cross-pollination. Was it?

The head of the other Cornell group refused to make contact with me. This group has a permit to test grapes genetically altered for fanleaf virus-resistance. On the permit, the foreign genes being used are designated "CBI," or Confidential Business Information, which raises a red flag. What type of genes are they using that they feel the need to hide that information from the public? Are they taking steps to ensure that birds, wildlife and passersby do not consume the grapes, which may not be safe to eat? Are they taking steps to prevent the dispersal of both seed and pollen? There are simply too many questions to not have our local agriculture commissioner overseeing what is taking place at the local level to ensure that our local interests are protected.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, whose district includes parts of Sonoma and Marin counties, recently introduced AB 541 ů a bill to protect farmers from problems associated with genetic engineering. It would require those wishing to plant GE crops to register with the agriculture commissioner and would allow farmers whose crops have been contaminated to seek compensation for any market loss and for the cost of testing and cleanup. Please consider going to our Web site, www.preservenapasag.org (on the bottom of the FAQs page), to read more about this important legislation and for a sample letter of support, which you can send to the Assembly Agriculture Committee within the next week and/or to our state representatives, Noreen Evans and Pat Wiggins, after that.

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USA: California Rice Commission supports moratorium on GE field testing

California Rice Commission press release, 15 March 2007.

SACRAMENTO, CA ā Following mounting concern over the discovery of trace levels of genetic material unapproved for commercialization in long grain rice seed outside of California, the California Rice Commission voted this morning to support a moratorium "on the field testing of all genetically modified (GM) rice cultivars in the State of California for the 2007 crop, and for future crops, until such time as research protocol and safeguards are acceptable to the California Rice Commission." ›

It is the position of the industry that a moratorium on GM field testing in California would allow for an opportunity to evaluate federal regulations that safeguard the rice industry. ›

Following the August discovery of GM traits in long grain rice produced in southern rice growing states, the California rice industry undertook a comprehensive review of the impacts on markets and potential impacts on commercially grown rice in the state. The announcement by APHIS within recent weeks that two additional GM traits had been discovered in a variety of long grain rice, the California rice industry voted for a moratorium to evaluate the federal regulations that are the basis for all GM rice research in the state.

"Based on the events of the last few months, it is clear that the federal regulatory process is not working for rice," commented Frank Rehermann, Chair of the CRC Board and a rice producer in Live Oak, California. "It is imperative that those systems are evaluated and approved."

California has tested is public seed four times since August, all with non-detect results for Liberty Link varieties LL601, LL62 and LL06. None of the GM events in question are present in California, and commercial production of GM rice is currently not occurring in California or elsewhere in the U.S.

As a precautionary move to further reassure it markets of the integrity of state's rice, the AB 2622 Advisory Board, as authorized by the California Rice Certification Act, has adopted the requirement that all California rice variety owners submit samples for laboratory testing and confirm a non-detect status to approve those varieties for production in California during the 2007 crop year.

California already has the strongest body of law in the U.S. to address market concerns. ›Passed in 2000, the California Rice Certification Act provides direction and establishes measures that enable the industry to regulate new rice variety introductions and research within the state.

On August 18, 2006, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that trace amounts of regulated, genetically engineered (GE) rice were found in samples taken from commercially produced long grain rice. The trace amounts in question have only been identified in Southern long grain rice, in a variety that is not present in California.

On August 18, 2006, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that trace amounts of regulated, genetically engineered (GE) rice were found in samples taken from commercially produced long grain rice. The trace amounts in question have only been identified in Southern long grain rice, in a variety that is not present in California.

For more information about the California Rice Commission and the California rice industry, go to http://www.calrice.org.

The California rice industry is based in the Sacramento Valley. ›Each year, California rice producers plant and harvest over 500,000 acres of rice, contributing a half-billion dollars to the economy and providing habitat and fodder for 235 species of wildlife along the Pacific Flyway.

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14 March 2007

France: Orleans Appeal for a GMO-free Spring

Because there is only one month left to convince the government to implement a moratorium on GM crops before the 2007 sowings.

A hunger strike for some, a protest fast for others has started this morning (Wednesday 14th March) to ask for a moratorium. It was launched by an action in the Natural History Museum in Paris. Above the gangway of the Great Gallery of Evolution where the activists had held their banniers "For a moratorium on GMOs", "No to GMOs", one could read:

"Evolution - 4 billion years of evolution have produced the current diversity of environments and of species. Yet, for 10,000 years, mankind's impact on nature has been increasing. What is the future of evolution?"

This is the question that the invasion of GMOs and its irreparable consequences is raising. GMOs are imposed by a minority of seed companies and are irresponsably supported by the government. The hunger strikers and the fasters will be staying for their action at la Maison Ouverte, 17, rue Hoche 93100 Montreuil.

They will welcome the support of the population, of the activists, of organizations, associations, from politicians and candidates to the president election everyday from 10:00 to 19:00. (Dominique Voynet - Green party candidate to the president election - already came to show her solidarity and her support, and other candidates have already announced they they will come).

You can contact them at the following phone number: +33 (0) 6 18 23 27 11 And follow the action on the website: http://idf.nogm.org You can sign the online petition for the moratorium on the website www.moratoireogm.fr You can send them support messages through mdupont@confederationpaysanne.fr

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USA: Mexico requires GMO Certificate on U.S. Rice; Trade Disrupted

USA Rice Daily, Wednesday, March 14, 2007.

Shipments of U.S. rice from several U.S. exporters are being held at the border by Mexican officials who are requiring a GMO-free certificate as a condition of entry into Mexico.

This trade disruption was reported to the USA Rice Federation this morning. USA Rice staff has been in contact with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials in Washington and the U.S. embassy in Mexico City to seek additional information and to develop steps to remove any impediment to U.S. rice sales to Mexico.

Mexico is the largest single export destination for U.S. rice, and in 2006 that trade was valued at a record $205 million on sales of 805,500 metric tons.

With today's reported action by Mexico, 63 percent of the value of U.S. rice exports have been affected by the presence of the Bayer CropScience LL601 genetically engineered trait in the U.S. long grain supply.

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Mexico testing US rice for GMO strain: official

Reuters, 14 March 2007.

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico is conducting tests on U.S. rice imports to ensure it is free of genetic material not approved for human consumption, a government official said on Wednesday.

Marco Antonio Meraz, who heads a federal biosecurity and GMO commission, said the government was testing for the LL Rice 601 strain, which contaminated the U.S. commercial supply last year.

The USA Rice Federation said on Wednesday Mexican officials had stopped rice shipments at the border and were asking for certification that the grain is free of the genetically modified material.

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USA: Mexico slams door on GM contaminated rice

Having previously accepted contaminated rice from the southern states of the USA, Mexico (the biggest importer of rice) has suddenly decided only to admit US export consignments if they are accompanied by GM-free certificates. This is probably a response to the news that there have been at least four contamination incidents in the rice growing districts, with rice now contaminated by LL06, LL62, LL601 and a mystery line suspected of being a Monsanto RR variety.

This means that 67% of the US rice export market is now affected by the contamination incidents.

Clearfield 131 rice (the variety in which most contamination seems to occur) cannot be planted again until 2009 at the earliest. This means desperate seed shortages across the rice growing districts, and yet more financial hardship for the farming community.

And today, in an unattributed statement from the GM industry (maybe by Yann Fichet, director external relations for Monsanto France), it was claimed that there had never been a recorded incident of a GM variety contaminating any other crop!! Which planet do these guys inhabit? The claim is here:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm_ (http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm) ? chanID=sa003&articleID=A1018BD684F0C6A62F01999A180E764B

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France: Strong Suspicions of Toxicity in a GMO Maize

Le Monde, March 14 2007. By Stephane Foucart.

Allowed to go on the market in France and Europe, MON 863, a transgenic corn invented by Monsanto, has been at the center of a controversy over its innocuousness for over two years (April 23rd, 2004, Le Monde). These debates could resume after the March 13th publication in "Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology" of a study suggesting this genetically modified organism (GMO) is toxic to the liver and kidneys.

According to this work, consumption of MON 863 corn disturbs numerous biological parameters in rats to a greater or lesser extent: weight of the kidneys, weight of the liver, the level of reticulocytes (new red blood cells), the level of triglycerides, etc. Urinary chemistry is also changed, with reductions in excreted sodium and phosphorus going as high as 35 percent. The effects vary with the sex of the animals. "Female rats exhibit an increase in blood fat and sugar levels, and an increase in body weight - all associated with greater hepatic sensitivity," says Mr. Seralini, principal author of this study and, moreover, president of the Research Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (Criigen). "Among males, the impact is opposite, with a drop in body and kidney weights."

The authors of this work used data drawn from an experiment sponsored by Monsanto, which bore on the study of 400 rats for 90 days. The statistical treatment applied to these data by the experts of the agrochemical firm was published in August 2005, by "Food and Chemical Toxicology." That work brought to light significant variations in biological parameters between animals fed MON 863 and those fed with its isogene - the same plant variety without the genetic modification.

Monsanto researchers, for their part, had concluded that those disparities were within the frame of the natural variability of the measured parameters. The effects produced by the GMO were therefore not considered pathological. As for the "natural variability," it had been established by measuring the same series of data on rats fed with other varieties of non-GMO corn, with different nutritional values from MON 863 and its isogene.

The raw experimental data - over a thousand pages - were kept confidential by the agrochemical firm until Greenpeace obtained an order for its publication in spring 2005 from the Appeals Court of Munster (Germany).

Criigen was thus able to examine the data in detail and to apply a new statistical treatment to them. According to Mr. Seralini, that, notably, consisted of extracting from the raw data the most significant effects specifically imputable to GMO absorption.

"Of the 58 parameters measured by Monsanto," the researcher details, "all those that were altered concern kidney or liver functioning." He continued, "furthermore, Monsanto had deemed that, because the males and the females responded differently, there was no reason for worry." He added, "Yet, the liver, for example, is an organ that reacts differently as a function of sex." In the same way, the fact that the measured biological response was not always in exact correlation with the dose of GMO received was interpreted by the company's experts as proof that the transgenic corn being tested was not the cause. Mr. Seralini contests that principle: "When the disturbances are hormonal, for example, the impact may not be proportional to the dose."

Toxicologist Gerard Pascal, a member, like Mr. Seralini, of the Committee on Bio-molecular Engineering, deems certain that Criigen's conclusions are erroneous. "I reject the analysis of the animals' weight curves, conducted without taking their feeding into account," says Mr. Pascal. "But I agree that the biological responses may vary between males and females and with the principle that the effects of a GMO corn must be compared with its isogene only and not take into account effects produced by other corn varieties."

According to Mr. Pascal, the lack of direct correlation between the GMO doses received and the impacts observed on the hepatic parameters disqualifies the conclusions about liver toxicity. Significant differences with respect to "kidney weight" and "urinary sodium, phosphorus, and potassium" suggest a renal impact. "However," Mr. Pascal recalls, "at my request, the CGB pressed for investigations of the kidneys and had not found any definitive evidence of toxicity" (December 15th, 2004, Le Monde). "The variations in the levels of reticulocytes and eosinophiles (white blood cells) remain," adds M. Pascal. "I don't know how to interpret that, but those are parameters that move around a lot in experiments." As far as Mr. Pascal is concerned, the information developed by Criigen is not of a nature to call into question the favorable opinions delivered with respect to MON 863. "All that is nothing but a personal interpretation," adds the toxicologist.

Criigen's work has been financed by Carrefour and Greenpeace, but, as Mr. Seralini explains, "Unfortunately, today there is no public budget for conducting this type of research." A situation all the more harmful, according to Mr. Seralini, in that, "the whole toxicological study ought to be redone, controlling for hormonal dosages" and, above all, the tests should be continued well beyond 90 days and on species other than the rat to reach a definitive conclusion.

[Translation: French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher]

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UK: FoE calls for GM spud trials to be scrapped after Dutch court ruling

Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) press release, 14 March 2007

Friends of the Earth and GM Freeze are today calling on the Government to suspend plans for experimental trials of GM potatoes in the UK. The call comes after a Dutch court ordered permits for trials in the Netherlands to be destroyed because the risks to the environment had not been properly assessed.

The UK trials of BASF's blight resistant potatoes are due to take place from this spring at two locations for a period of five years. One site is a research centre in Cambridge, the other is proposed for Hedon/Preston, East Riding of Yorkshire [1].

A Dutch court last week found that the Government had illegally permitted the experimental trials in the Netherlands of the same BASF blight resistant potatoes and ordered the permits to be destroyed [2]. The judge found that the insufficient evidence had been put forward to show that the potatoes had been properly tested in a controlled environment (like a greenhouse) before being released in the open, and that the Dutch Ministry had been unable to conduct the required environmental risk assessment because BASF had failed to provide specific information regarding the location of the trial sites. Friends of the Earth has discovered that in the UK, BASF has also not provided the Government with the exact site locations, and can wait until a week before planting before doing so.

Friends of the Earth and GM Freeze have written to David Miliband, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, calling on him to suspend the UK trials to allow his department to investigate the implications of the Dutch court decision and commission updated advice from its advisory committee, ACRE.

Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner Clare Oxborrow said:

"These new environmental concerns should prompt the Government to rethink plans to allow BASF to grow its GM potatoes in the UK. The trials are unnecessary and unwanted. Blight resistant potatoes are already available through conventional breeding and there is simply no market for GM spuds in the UK."

GM Freeze Director, Pete Riley, said:

"Mr Miliband must prevent GM potatoes being grown in Britain while he considers the Dutch court ruling that the BASF GM potatoes have not been sufficiently tested. There is clearly an urgent need to review the scientific evidence. These trials should not proceed as planned".

Friends of the Earth and GM Freeze have already raised concerns about the trials, including risks of contaminating future potato crops, absence of food safety data, lack of need and consumer rejection [3]

In a further development, it has been reported that BASF has abandoned its plans to trial GM potatoes in Ireland [4]. It had delayed starting the trial after strong public opposition and tough conditions imposed by the Irish Government last year. The UK Government has imposed much weaker restrictions, making it cheaper and easier for BASF to trial their crops here.

Contact:

Clare Oxborrow: + 44 20 7566 1716 / + 44 7712 843211

Pete Riley: + 44 790 3341065

Notes

[1] Following the withdrawal from the trials of the farmer in Derbyshire, BASF have found a new location in Hedon/Preston, East Riding of Yorkshire. The Government is currently conducting a public consultation over the change in location, but it is highly likely to grant approval. http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2007/070227b.htm

[2] http://www.gene.ch/genet/2007/Mar/msg00031.html

Court decision (Dutch): http://www.raadvanstate.nl/verdicts/verdict_details.asp?verdict_id=16397

[3] http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/government_slammed_over_gr_ 01122006.html

http://www.gmfreeze.org/page.asp?id=309&iType=1079

[4] http://www.gmfreeireland.org/news/index.php

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13 March 2007

Ireland: Irish food industry at a crossroads - Sargent

Irish Green Party press release, 13 March 2007.

Speaking this evening in Kinsale at a forum on 'Energy, Food and Tourism - What future for West Cork?', Green Party Leader Trevor Sargent TD said that the Irish food industry is at a crossroads: the Government can choose a clean, green image for Irish food or it can choose to sacrifice that hard-won image for a future in which GM food production becomes increasingly dominant.

Deputy Sargent said, "Here in Kinsale - the gourmet capital of Ireland - food and tourism businesses are particularly aware of the economic benefits that a clean, green image for Irish food offers. For several years, the Irish food industry has been at a crossroads. The Government has failed to open up the business opportunities offered by well-marketed Irish food. Instead, they are choosing to facilitate the growth of GM crops in Ireland.

"While yesterday's news that BASF have decided to discontinue its attempts to establish field trials in Ireland is welcome, it is no thanks to this Government, which tried to facilitate these trials last year in Meath.

"In 1997, the Fianna F∑il-PD Government, in their Programme for Government, pledged to keep Ireland GM-free. That is the mandate that the Government was given by the Irish people. It failed to fulfil that mandate. In doing so, Fianna F∑il and the PDs have also failed Irish food and tourism enterprises.

While Ireland accepts Austria's ban on GM crops and only last month supported Hungary in upholding its ban on GM maize, our Agriculture Minister refuses to support Irish local authorities and farmers who have declared GM-free regions here.

Under Minister Coughlan's watch, imported feed for Irish cattle has risen to almost 100% GM feed.

A recent study commissioned by the Minister to assess the economic costs of GM crops did not even consider the economic benefits of remaining 100% GM-free.

The Minister has failed to establish a thriving organic sector, despite rapidly-rising consumer demand. As a result, most organic produce consumed in Ireland is imported from abroad.

The Minister is now preparing coexistence guidelines so that GM crops can be grown in Ireland. However, according to her replies to recent Parliamentary Questions, it would seem that she does not intend to make them public until after the General Election. This is dishonest and unfair - the electorate deserves to know exactly what it is voting for.

"Many Irish farmers are presently working for less than half the minimum wage, and Teagasc [Ireland's Agriculture and Food Development Authority] estimates that Ireland will have fewer than 10,000 full time farmers by 2020. Instead of trying to compete with low cost economies to sell products such as skimmed milk powder, we should be moving towards artisan foods and selling added-value products to niche markets. Areas like West Cork need to focus on producing energy crops for local consumption and high added-value products if rural communities are to be kept alive. To take this direction, political will is necessary.

"The present Government is passing up opportunities and is sacrificing Ireland's clean, green image. This is costing Irish tourism, rural communities and Irish food producers dearly," concluded Deputy Sargent.

Contact

Trevor Sargent TD: + 353 (0)87 254 7836

Note for editors:

For more information on this evening's event, please see:
http://quentingargan.com/press-downloads-and-photos/public-questions-and-answers-forum

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USA: Court halt on GMO alfalfa shows USDA failure: critics

Reuters, 13 March 2007. By Carey Gillam - Analysis

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A court decision overturning U.S. government approval for a biotech alfalfa underscores complaints made for years that the USDA is failing to adequately oversee genetically altered crops, biotech crop critics said on Tuesday.

And the critics believe it sets a precedent that should prompt more stringent oversight of these controversial crops.

"It is a big deal for the court to do that. It is the first time it has happened in the U.S.," said Margaret Mellon, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists Food and Environment Program, which is not a party to the case.

There have been concerns for years about the USDA's lack of proper oversight. Indeed, other recent court rulings have leveled criticism against U.S. government oversight of biotech crops.

"There are some serious problems there," said Mellon. "They need to be fixed."

USDA officials would not comment Tuesday, a day after U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California issued an order on Monday that vacated USDA approval of Monsanto Co.'s (MON.N: Quote, Profile, Research) "Roundup Ready" alfalfa.

The crop, genetically altered to withstand treatments of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, was approved in 2005. But Judge Breyer immediately halted any more seed sales and ordered that any planting must cease after March 30 after he determined that the USDA violated the law in allowing unrestricted commercial planting of the crop.

The judge said the USDA should have prepared an environmental impact statement before deregulating the Roundup Ready alfalfa. Such a statement is designed to explore negative consequences that might result from a release.

In the case of biotech alfalfa, a perennial livestock feed crop, several farm, environmental and consumer activists groups said there were many potential problems, including contamination of organic and conventional alfalfa supplies with the biotech version.

Other crops, including most notably corn and rice, have already been contaminated with biotech varieties, forcing in some situations costly recalls and lost export sales.

"I challenged them over and over to give us any scientific evidence that they can control the gene flow from these crops. So far they haven't been able to do that," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of The Center for Food Safety, which led the lawsuit against the U.S. Agriculture Department.

"This technology was put out into the environment without any idea of how to control it," he said. "Now the agency for the first time will have to come up with some sort of answers as to how you can control this and be accountable for it."

Like USDA, Monsanto officials also declined to discuss the potential ramifications of the ruling on Tuesday, but company spokeswoman Lori Fisher said Monsanto was informing Roundup Ready alfalfa seed dealers of the court order and outlining actions they must take.

"Basically, this communication informs dealers to stop sales of Roundup Ready alfalfa under court order, to secure Roundup Ready alfalfa seed not sold in inventory and to expect further instructions as the situation develops," Fisher said.

Over the last decade, the USDA has approved applications for more than 70 genetically modified organism (GMO) crop lines, many of which have been embraced by farmers because they are easier and/or more profitable to grow.

Sharon Bomer, a vice president at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), said her group, which represents the interests of biotech companies, including Monsanto, said that the safety of alfalfa and other commercialized biotech crops was not an issue. And she said the court ruling on alfalfa appeared limited.

"We think this deals with only one situation," she said.

Still, the oversight, primarily handled by the USDA's Animal Health and Plant Health Inspection Service, has been repeatedly criticized as lacking. An Office of Inspector General audit of APHIS' and its biotechnology regulatory services unit found numerous holes in oversight efforts in a report issued in December 2005.

The government is currently reviewing and rewriting the regulations for field testing and for deregulation of genetically modified crops with a final report on the overhaul due out in the next few months.

In the meantime, Kimbrell said he was dismayed that the USDA appears to remain more focused on supporting Monsanto's commercial needs than on protecting the interests of others in agriculture.

"I have never seen a government agency so openly and unashamedly defend the interests of a corporation and not represent the interests of farmers," he said.

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USA: GMO corn causes liver, kidney problems in rats: study

Scientific American, March 13, 2007.

PARIS (Reuters) - Environmental group Greenpeace launched a fresh attack on genetically modified maize developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto, saying on Tuesday that rats fed on one version developed liver and kidney problems.

Greenpeace said a study it had commissioned that was published in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Technology showed rats fed for 90 days on Monsanto's MON863 maize showed "signs of toxicity" in the liver and kidneys.

"It is the first time that independent research, published in a peer-reviewed journal, has proved that a GMO authorized for human consumption presents signs of toxicity," Arnaud Apoteker, a spokesman for Greenpeace France said in a statement.

Campaigners against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) say that genetic modification technology is unproven and potentially dangerous and that GMO crops can contaminate other crops.

The industry says the technology offers vast potential benefits, poses no health risk and has never been shown to contaminate other crops.

"All the experts agree that the maize in question is as safe as traditional maize," Yann Fichet, director external relations for Monsanto France told France's TF1 television.

He said the maize had been authorized in more than 10 countries and in the European Union but he declined to comment specifically on the allegations raised by Greenpeace.

MON863 is a form of maize genetically modified to make it resistant to corn rootworm. It has been authorized by the European Union for use in animal feed since 2005 and for human consumption since January 2006.

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Germany: French Scientists Express Doubt About Genetically Modified Corn

Deutsche Welle, 13 March 2007.

[image caption: Dark days ahead for GM maize?]

The environmental protection organization Greenpeace has long said genetically modified maize could be a health hazard. Now, in a new study, a group of French scientists have also expressed their doubts about the corn.

Greenpeace has warned about the potential dangers of genetically modified (GM) produce and maize for some time. On Tuesday they presented a study in Berlin to backup their claims.

Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen said that according to studies by his group, CRIIGEN, Monsanto's maize type MON863 caused symptoms of poisoning and liver and kidney damage in rats that were fed the product during experiments.

Seralini's results call into question an earlier report by Monsanto that said genetically modified feed was harmless.

"There are significant deficits in the statistic evaluation of the Monsanto report," Seralini said.

Genetically altered maize could therefore not be deemed safe, Seralini said.

Greenpeace genetic engineering expert Christoph Then said the case shows that "German Consumer Affairs Minister Horst Seehofer must stop the sowing of GM seeds and the import of GM food in Germany."

Built in pest control

MON863 has been cultivated since 2003 in several countries, including the United States and Canada.

The GM maize, which can be legally imported into European Union countries since 2006 as a food and feed product, contains a protein to combat plant pests, allowing farmers largely to grow their maize crops without having to use pesticides.

Seralini, however, said he found that GM maize produced around one kilogram of poisonous substances per hectare. He said that is more than farmers would use in pesticides.

The scientist also pointed out that Monsanto ran tests with animals fed with MON863 for only 90 days. Long-term studies do not exist, he said.

As safe as unmodified corn

Andreas Thierfelder, spokesperson for Monsanto Agrar Germany, said Greenpeace had already been unsuccessful in several attempts to question studies done on the effects of MON863 in feed.

"But the allegations were refuted every time by competent authorities," Thierfelder said. He said the European Food Safety Authority and the German Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety had evaluated Monsanto's experiments with GM feed.

Monsanto Germany's spokesman said the authorities had found that "MON863 to be as unquestionable for health and the environment as conventional maize."

_______________________

Europe: New study reveals signs of toxicity of GE maize approved for human consumption
Greenpeace demands immediate withdrawal of high-risk GE products


Greenpeace International press release, Mar 13 2007

Laboratory rats, fed with a genetically engineered (GE) maize produced by Monsanto, have shown signs of toxicity in kidney and liver, according to a new study.(1) This is the first time that a GE product which has been cleared for use as food for humans and animals has shown signs of toxic effects on internal organs.

The study, published today in the journal "Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology", analysed results of safety tests submitted by Monsanto to the European Commission when the company was seeking authorisation to market its GE Maize variety MON863 in the EU. (2)

The data shows that MON863 has significant health risks associated with it; nonetheless, the European Commission granted licences to market the maize for consumption by both humans and animals. (3)

The incriminating evidence was obtained by Greenpeace following a court case (4), and passed on for evaluation by a team of experts headed by Professor Gilles Eric Seralini, a governmental expert in genetic engineering technology from the University of Caen. (5)

In a joint press conference with Greenpeace at Berlin, Professor SEralini said, "Monsanto's analyses do not stand up to rigorous scrutiny " to begin with, their statistical protocols are highly questionable. Worse, the company failed to run a sufficient analysis of the differences in animal weight. Crucial data from urine tests were concealed in the company's own publications."

Greenpeace is demanding the complete and immediate withdrawal of Monsanto's MON 863 maize from the global market and is calling upon governments to undertake an urgent reassessment of all other authorised GE products and a strict review of current testing methods.

"This is the final nail in the coffin for the credibility of the current authorisation system for GE products. Once it's known that a system designed to protect human and animal health has approved a high-risk product despite clear evidence of its dangers, we need to start "strip-searching" all GE products on the market, and immediately abort this flawed approval procedure," said Christophe Then, Genetic Engineer campaigner, Greenpeace International.

The data in question has been the subject of fierce debate since 2003, when significant changes were identified in the blood of tested animals fed on MON863. MON863 was approved by the European Commission, in spite of opposition by a majority of EU member states, who raised concerns over the safety of the maize. Professor Seralini's analysis now scientifically confirms these concerns.

As the study states, "with the present data, it cannot be concluded that GM corn MON863 is a safe product." And yet, MON863 has been authorised for markets in Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, the Phillipines, and USA, besides the EU.

"This is an international emergency alert, requiring a global response," concluded Then, "Only a complete withdrawal from all markets will curtail the possible damage."

Notes:

1. The article is due to be published online (http://www.springerlink.com/content/"k=1432-0703) by the American journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology; it will be printed in May. A copy can be faxed on request. A Greenpeace briefing on the study is available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/gp_briefing_seralini_study.

2. The tested GE maize named MON 863 produces a new insecticide called "modified Cry3Bb1" able to kill a pest insect in the soil (Diabrotica virgifera). This GE maize also contains a gene coding for antibiotic resistance.

3. The European Commission granted a license for MON 863 to be used in feed in August 2005, and subsequently approved it for human consumption in January 2006.

4. For details, please refer to the Greenpeace paper: "The MON863 case -a chronicle of systematic deception" http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/mon863_chronicle_of_deception.

5. The analysis team was headed by Professor Seralini from the University of Caen and included experts from the French independent scientific organisation CRI IGEN.

_______________________

UK: Revealed: why Monsanto suppressed GM maize feeding study
Independent analysis of data uncovers evidence of scientific fraud


Press Notice from GM Free Cymru, 13th March 2007

It has been revealed today, at a Paris Press Conference (1), that the Monsanto GM maize referred to as MON863 caused serious damage to the liver and kidneys of rats which consumed it during feeding trials. This is the first time in the world that a study on the health risks of a GM maize authorized for consumption shows signs of hepatorenal toxicity (2). The study is published today in the peer-reviewed journal "Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology".

The study, completed at CRIIGEN (Caen, France), contains an examination of the raw data on MON863 feeding experiments initially suppressed by Monsanto but later obtained in 2005 after a Court action in Germany. Prior to that court action, Monsanto had refused public access to the data on the spurious grounds of "commercial confidentiality", although it had been widely leaked that the feeding studies showed statistically significant negative health effects on animals fed with the GM maize (3).

The GM maize in question produces a new insecticide called "modified Cry3Bb1" which has the capacity to kill the coleopteran insect Diabrotica virgifera. The plant also contains a gene coding for antibiotic resistance. (There are many other commercial GM varieties which produce new insecticides, and many others which are herbicide-tolerant or herbicide-resistant. Almost all of these new varieties have been heavily criticized by independent scientists on the grounds that their safety has never been fully established.) In America the variety is classified as a pesticide since every cell is toxic to insects. In spite of widespread concern and protests from the scientific community and consumer organizations, MON863 was given formal approval by the EC on 8th August 2005.

The new study (4) involved a new and rigorous statistical analysis of all the raw data in the 1130 page document, concentrating on the blood and urine analyses of the test animals. The French researchers claim that the Monsanto statistics were not detailed enough and that their protocols were questionable. Real damage to test animals was therefore masked by the analytical methods chosen -- and there can be little doubt that Monsanto knew this.

Upon detailed analysis, the French team uncovered an increase of up to 40% in blood triglycerides in females, and a more than 30% decrease in urine phosphorus and sodium in males, specifically linked to the GM diet. The reasons for these changes are unclear, but they may provide clues to the deaths of many animals which have consumed Bt feed in other animal experiments (5).

Professor Seralini said: "These revelations are profoundly disturbing from a health point of view. They are certainly sufficient to require new and more carefully conducted feeding studies and an immediate ban from human or animal consumption of GM maize MON 863 and all its hybrids. This maize cannot now be considered safe to eat. We are now calling urgently for a moratorium on other approved GMOs while the efficacy of current health testing methods is reassessed."

Speaking for GM Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: "Now we know why Monsanto wanted so desperately to keep this animal feeding study out of the public domain. There is scientific fraud here, and this must now be apparent to all of us, including the regulatory bodies. Goodness knows how many other studies showing real harm to animals fed on GM crops and foods have simply been hidden away from independent scrutiny. We support Professor Seralini's call for an immediate moratorium on ALL GM varieties, approved or unapproved, while the regulators put into place the robust and independent health testing methods that we have been calling for since 2001. There can now be no further doubt that GM crops and foods are damaging to health."

ENDS

Contact:

Brian John
GM Free Cymru
tel: + 44 (0)1239 820470

NOTES

(1) From the Independent Committee for Research and Information on Genetic Modification:

Corinne LEPAGE, Presidente du CRIIGEN (Comite de Recherche et d'Information Independantes sur le Genie Genetique) vous convie a une conference de presse le mardi 13 Mars 2007 a 17h30 sur le theme : ī OGM : de nouvelles revelations ™ En presence du Professeur Gilles-Eric SERALINI, des Docteurs Dominique CELLIER et Joel SPIROUX de VENDOMOIS du Conseil Scientifique du CRIIGEN (www.criigen.org)
Au Pain Quotidien
18 rue des Archives 75004 Paris
Metro: Hotel de Ville
Merci de confirmer votre presence aupres de Celine ALONZO par telephone au 06 03 53 19 07 ou par mail calonzo@free.fr

Un cas grave : un maïs OGM autorisé est impropre à la consommation
Pour la premiere fois au monde, une étude des risques sur la santé d'un maïs transgénique autorisé à la consommation montre des signes de toxicité hépatique et renale. Des exigences et recommandations seront formulées.

(2) The article, entitled "New analysis of a rat feeding study with a genetically modified corn reveals signs of hepatorenal toxicity" is by Gilles-Eric Seralini, Dominique Cellier], and Joel Spiroux de Vendomois. It is published on line (www.springerlink.com/content/1432-0703) by the American journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. It will be printed in April.

(3) The peer review of the MON863 feeding study by Dr Arpad Pusztai was subject to a gagging order imposed by Monsanto as a condition for the report to be examined. Dr Pusztai also revealed statistically significant differences between the "GM-fed" group of rats and the control, group. See these items:
http://www.gmfreecymru.org/news/Press_Notice31May2005.htm
http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/monsanto.htm

(4) From CRIIGEN press release: Animal feed made from MON863 maize was given to rats in a laboratory over a period of 13 weeks. The associated tests on the GM-fed group and control groups were the longest and most detailed ones involving mammals which have consumed this plant, and they were used in support of its authorization throughout the world. These tests were controversial from the outset in France, and in 2003 they provoked a disagreement between experts, in particular in the French CGB (Commission du Genie Biomoleculaire). CRIIGEN (the Committee for Indepent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering) was concerned about possible scientific fraud, and asked the GM regulatory authorities for sight of of the raw data. These data were kept confidential until Greenpeace Germany won a Court verdict against Monsanto; this forced the company to make public the blood and urine analyses of rats fed with MON863 during the 3 month feeding trials. The data are contained within more than 1130 pages of tables of numbers and calculations. A group from CRIIGEN comprising Prof. Gilles-Eric Seralini (researcher on pesticides and governmental expert on GMOs, University of Caen), Dr. Dominique Cellier (biostatistician, University of Rouen), and Dr. Joel Spiroux de Vendomois (physician and specialist on environmental health), has now performed a re-evaluation of these data. The work has been done quite independently of Monsanto or any other GMO producer. The effects of the GM maize on animal weight variations were not studied by the Monsanto scientists. In 2006 the company published certain studies based on the feeding trials, but the scientists did not analyse animal weight or urine data. The statistics were not detailed enough and their protocols were questionable. Upon detailed analysis, the data are now shown to reveal an increase of up to 40% in blood triglycerides in females, and a more than 30% decrease in urine phosphorus and sodium in males, specifically linked to the GM diet. However, these effects were not picked up by the regulatory authorities including EFSA, and they did not request any repeat or prolongation of these experiments.

(5) http://www.gmfreecymru.org/news/Press_Notice16Feb2007.htm
http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/ermakova.htm
http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/toxic.htm

_______________________

Canada: Greenpeace petition drive demands GE food labelling
Greenpeace calls for immediate action from BC Premier Campbell on mandatory GE labelling


Greenpeace Canada press release, 13 2007.

VANCOUVER/BRITISH COLUMBIA -- (CCNMatthews - March 13, 2007) - Greenpeace today launched a petition calling on the BC government to legislate mandatory labelling before the next election. The petition drive comes as a study is released in Europe showing that biotech giant Monsanto used incomplete data to obtain approval of its genetically modified corn and that laboratory rats, fed with a genetically engineered (GE) maize produced by Monsanto, have shown kidney and liver toxicity, according to a new study.(1)

The study, published today in the journal "Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology", analysed results of safety tests submitted by Monsanto to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) when the company was seeking authorisation to market its GE Maize variety MON863 in Canada. The data shows that MON863 has significant health risks associated with it; nonetheless, the CFIA approved the maize for unconfined release into the environment and for consumption by both humans and animals in 2003. The incriminating evidence was obtained by Greenpeace following a court case(2), and passed on for evaluation by a team of experts headed by Professor Gilles Eric Seralini, a governmental expert in genetic engineering technology from the University of Caen.(3)

"Consumers are already skeptical when it comes to GMOs and this latest news about Monsanto will only confirm those concerns. GMOs are inherently risky, and we should not be releasing these untested products into the environment or into our food chain," said Josh Brandon, GE campaigner for Greenpeace. "If GE products continue to appear in our food, however, consumers need labels on these products so that they can make informed choices when it comes to what they buy."

The release of this latest data shows the urgent need for mandatory labelling of GE products in BC. The results also confirm the warnings raised by the Royal Society of Canada's expert panel on biotechnology.(4) In 2001, the panel of scientific experts found that the lack of independent verification of company produced data could lead to the approval of improperly tested and potentially unsafe products.

"As many as 70% of the processed foods on store shelves in BC could contain GE ingredients, and there is absolutely no way for consumers to know this important fact," said Eleanor Boyle of GE Free BC. "Consumers have a right to know what is in the food they eat, so that they can make the decision whether or not to consume this untested and risky technology. BC has the opportunity to lead the way on this issue in Canada and Premier Campbell should listen to British Columbians who want mandatory labelling of GMOs and take action before the next provincial election."

A recent Greenpeace poll, found that 79 per cent of BC residents support legislation requiring all GE food to be labelled, and indicated that the issue could be significant in the next provincial election.(5)

For more information contact:

Josh Brandon, Greenpeace Canada, GE campaigner, cell: 604-721-7493 Eleanor Boyle, GE Free BC, cell: 604-230-2561 Andrew Male, Greenpeace Canada, Communications, cell: 416-880-2757

Notes:

1. The article is published online (www.springerlink.com/content/1432-0703) by the American journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology; it will be printed in May. A Greenpeace briefing on the study is available on request.

2. For details, please refer to the Greenpeace paper: "The MON 863 case - a chronicle of systematic deception

3. The analysis team was headed by Professor Seralini from University of Caen and included experts from the French independent scientific organisation CRIIGEN.

4. RSC, Royal Society of Canada (Expert Panel on the Future of Food Technology) 2001. Elements of Precaution: Recommendations for the Regulation of Food Biotechnology in Canada. Ottawa: Royal Society of Canada.

5. The Stratcom poll of 601 BC eligible voters was conducted between November 23 and November 30, 2006. It has a margin of error +/- 4.0%. A copy of the report is available on request.

_______________________

New setback for biotech crops in Europe

Financial Times, 13 March 2007. By Andrew Bounds in Bonn.

The battle over biotech crops erupted again yesterday after members of the European parliament blocked a resolution calling for greater use of the technology.

MEPs voted to delay the draft motion to allow more time for the agriculture committee to scrutinise it.

The Socialist group, the second-biggest in parliament, said: "It needs more debate to be better balanced and flexible." The cross-party vote deals a blow to efforts by the European Commission to boost biotechnology at a ministerial meeting in June that will set new targets for its use.

The resolution by Kyösti Virrankovski, a Finnish MEP, called for the benefits of genetic modification to be recognised and for an end to discrimination between GM and conventional crops. Of 90m hectares planted worldwide in 2005, 65,000ha were in the EU.

Industry advocates say the delay in Europe is costing jobs and investment as the US and Asia plant crops. CBAG, an advisory group to the Commission of scientists and industry figures, said the Commission "should calculate the negative effect on employment and competitiveness of delay". It also called for compensation for patent holders who could not get national governments to allow planting.

A recent report by an outside consultant for the US Grains Council showed that farmers gained $5bn extra in 2005 by cutting down on pesticides and ploughing. The crops are resistant to weeds so ploughing is reduced, saving on fuel and the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Simon Barber of EuropaBio, the industry lobby group, said: "If they didn't work, why would 10m farmers plant them?"

However, Friends of the Earth said early benefits of new crops often evaporated within a few years as new diseases or pests adapted. The pressure group issued a report questioning the benefits of GM crops. Hundreds had been approved in the US but only 70 different ones had been planted.

"If we want to develop a competitive and dynamic economy in Europe, then it would be wise to quietly shelve the idea of genetically modified foods and put our political support and tax-payers' money behind green farming methods," said FoE.

All eyes are on the European Commission's joint research council of scientists' study, due next month. Early drafts say there is not enough data to assess but that GM crops accounted for just 0.08 per cent of gross valued added in the agricultural food industry and 0.02 per cent of jobs in the EU.

However, that is because few have been planted amid consumer resistance. Polls show seven in 10 Europeans oppose GM crops, causing governments to withhold approval and retailers to avoid stocking them.

_______________________

Virrankoski paper: EU parliament serving GMO lobby?

Analysis by Klaus Faissner, journalist, Vienna.

One of the most disputed papers of the past years is going to be voted at Strasbourg on Wednesday, march 14th 2007. Although it has been slightly mitigated, the pro-GMO course remains dominant - in some points it has even been accentuated. MEPs are not only going to vote about the future of agriculture, but also about their own credibility.

The initiative report, which has been introduced by the liberal Finish MEP Kyosti Virrankoski is nothing else than a paper procuced by GMO lobby, and now will be voted on by the EU parliament. The whole project is perfectly timed: In a few weeks the EU commission is going to publish its strategy on biotechnology and therefore a pro-GM manifestation of EU parliament would just come in handy.

The original document spoke a clear language: "Modern biotechnology" - very often embellishingly and therefore intransparently used instead of genetic engineering - could serve as a motor for employment and to meet poverty; "the present authorisation process" would be "slow and bureaucratic" and the "precautionary principle" could not "be used as an excuse to delay the process". Not least civil protests had resulted in 190 amendements having been proposed by members of agrarian committee. Several amendements were adopted and the report has finally been accepted on January 24th by a rather bare majority.

Schizophrenic

The result is to be read at several points like the product of a schizophrenic person. On the one hand, genetic engeneering could solve poverty, create an "economically and environmentally sustainable farming and food", and the "precautionary principle cannot be used as an excuse to delay the process". On the other hand, e. g. the "current precautionary approach to the approval of new biotechnology products" is supported and all "holdings whose 'GM free' quality label has given them a higher-priced market" should "not to be jeopardised" in "their economic stability ". But no word, that coexistence is impossible or that the GMO approval by the European Food Safetu Authority EFSA is inacceptable and that pharmacrops, once put onto open fields, have incalculable risks. The same can be said for GMO plants planted for purposes of alternative energy and their risks of contamination. Moreover, GM agriculture is presented as a means of salvation for poor countries and for environmental, energy and medical problems - often skillfully hidden under the veil of "modern biotechnology".

Aggravations

But those who think that only mitigating amendements would have been inserted into the document make a mistake: MEP Renate Sommer from CDU (Christian Democrates) passed through e. g. the following wordings,

that "there must be no discrimination against genetically modified organisms by comparison with conventional crops";

"farmers in the EU have a right to benefit from advances in modern biotechnlogy in exactly the same way as farmers in other states"; and

"in the case of GMOs too, liability rules based on the originator principle must be applied".

The latter would open a door to the planting of GMO groups, in a way that would prevent a farmer who wants to remain GMO-free would never be able to prove which of, say 10 fields of GM maize, had contaminated his produce.

The entire pro-GMO orientation of the text has not been changed significantly. Either every statement would have to be changed to its opposite, or the document would have to be rejected as a whole. Neither has happened. Just the opposite: By the mitigating corrections MEPs are enabled to consent to the report on March 14th with much more ease. They would not necessarely compromise themselves a priori as henchmen of the GM-industry. Also the appeasements that the report would be only an expression of the will of EU parliament without legislative effects are missing their purpose: MEPs are elected by the people and, in the case of their consent to this report, they would assist the EU Committee in its pro-GMO mind.

Initiatives

Numerous initiatives are fighting against the acceptance of the paper. Possibly the best help comes through the website of the Agrarian Group of Attac in Wuppertal at http://www.attac.de/wtal-agrar/aktionen.html. All postal, FAX and e-mail addresses of all German speaking MEPs are listed including very specific proposals for letters and postcards with references to actual quotation by every single MEP listed. MEPs had better not complain about the many e-mails and letters they arer receiving. It is their utmost duty to act in the interest of us citizens. Taking into considerration that the vast majority of all EU citizens do not accept experimental plants on their fields or plates, the EU Parliament must be warned not to welcome genetic engineering on Wednesday. This would not only fail the subject in substance, but it would also lead to a further loss of trust within the population.

_______________________

12 March 2007

Ireland: GM spuds have had their chips as Irish trials stopped

Irish Independent , 12 March 2007. By Aideen Sheehan.

CHEMICAL giant BASF has abandoned its plans to grow genetically modified potatoes in Ireland.

It is now opting to grow them in Britain where there are fewer restrictions.

A company spokesperson confirmed that the company would not be going ahead with field trials in Co Meath which received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year.

BASF delayed starting the trial last year citing the onerous monitoring requirements imposed by the EPA. The firm said at the time that it would assess whether it could find a way to proceed in 2007.

However, a spokesperson has confirmed to the Irish Independent that the company has decided to abandon the Irish experiment and has opted to trial the GM potatoes in Britain instead, provoking the ire of environmentalists there.

The potatoes are genetically altered to improve resistance to blight, the most serious potato pest, with opponents claiming they could contaminate conventional crops.

"We don't need GM potatoes and there is no consumer demand for them. The Government should promote safe and sustainable agriculture, not this half-baked GM potato plan," said Friends of the Earth campaigner Clare Oxborrow. Although the GM experiment is slow to take off in Ireland, the GM-Free Ireland network claimed last week that Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan is determined to legalise the release of GM crops after the general election.

Regulations on the co-existence of GM and conventional crops are expected to be finalised, but opponents want controls tight enough to make it almost impossible to grow GM food.

A number of county councils around the country have declared themselves GM-free zones, but this has no legal power as the EPA is the body charged with approving the cultivation of GM organisms.

However, official figures show that hundreds of thousands of tonnes of genetically modified (GM) animal feed are now being imported each year.

Up to 95pc of all the maize and soya brought into the country for use as animal feed is genetically modified, which is legal as long as it is correctly labelled.

Some 464,000 tonnes of GM maize, 204,000 tonnes of GM soya and 4,300 tonnes of GM rape-seed were imported last year.

_______________________

USA: Sales of genetically modified alfalfa seed to halt

The Oregonian, March 12 2007. By Alex Pulaski

A federal judge Monday ordered an immediate halt to sales of genetically modified alfalfa seed

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer follows his decision last month that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had not fulfilled a requirement to prepare a full environmental impact statement before approving the crop's commercial release in June 2005. The alfalfa seed, developed by Monsanto Co. and Forage Genetics International, is designed to resist Monsanto's popular herbicide, Roundup.

The Center for Food Safety, based in Washington, D.C., filed the lawsuit challenging the agriculture department's approval. Among the plaintiffs are Phillip Geertson of Adrian, Ore., an alfalfa grower and seed producer.

Conventional and organic alfalfa growers argued that the modified seed could crossbreed with conventional varieties, endangering export markets that prohibit genetically modified varieties.

Oregon ranks 11th among states in alfalfa production, with more than $230 million in sales.

_______________________

Europe: GM crops fail EU Lisbon Agenda goals
New research says green farming more competitive


Friends of the Earth Europe press release, March 12th 2007.

Brussels, March 12th 2007 ā Environmentally-friendly farming will create more jobs and make the EU more competitive than if it grows genetically modified (GM) crops, shows new research published today by Friends of the Earth Europe. The research coincides with the expected withdrawal later today of a European Parliament Resolution that promotes GM crops. MEPs are requesting that the text be rewritten because it attacks the precautionary principle and ignores research showing that GM food and farming has not lived up to expectations [1].

Helen Holder, European GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said:

"The genetic modification approach to farming is failing despite the hype, public funding and political will. Greener farming stimulates the economy, benefits the environment and the public loves it."

Today's report launched by Friends of the Earth Europe [2] highlights:

A lack of official data on how badly the agri-biotechnology sector is performing despite high levels of public funding and high political priority in key EU areas such as Enterprise and Research. After 25 years of public EU funding for research, only two GM traits have ever been commercialised on any scale.

Evidence of increased social cohesion, rapid growth and job creation in the environmentally-friendly farming and food sector, for example in organics; compared with virtually no jobs, de-investment and lack of profits by companies developing GM crops and foods.

The sidelining of greener farming due to political support for GM crops and foods, despite its better economic performance and environmental credentials such as using less energy, less water and fewer pesticides.

The threat of economic damage to green farming and food production from contamination by GM crops

The report comes as the EU is preparing new targets for biotechnology as part of the mid-term review of its Biotech Strategy, which will be adopted by the EU Competitiveness Council in June [3]. Friends of the Earth Europe insists that it is economically unjustified to further promote GM crops and foods and that this must be recognized in the revised EU Biotech Strategy.

"If we want to develop a competitive and dynamic economy in Europe then it would be wise to quietly shelve the idea of genetically modified foods and put our political support and tax-payers money behind green farming methods, which can deliver. Environmentally-friendly agriculture is not only being sidelined in the doomed quest for a biotechnology solution, it is even under threat due to the risks of contamination from GM crops," Ms Holder added

For more information, please contact:

Helen Holder, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe : Tel : +32 2 542 0182, Mobile +32 474 857 638, Email : helen.holder@foeeurope.org

Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +32 25 42 61 05, Mobile: +32 485 930515, Email: rosemary.hall@foeeurope.org

Notes

[1] Resolution A6-0032/2007 "Biotechnology: Prospects and challenges for agriculture in Europe", rapporteur: MEP KyĖsti Virrankoski

[2] "The EU's Biotech Strategy: Mid-term review or mid-life crisis? A scoping study on how European agricultural biotechnology will fail the Lisbon objectives and on the socio-economic benefits of ecologically compatible farming" Friends of the Earth Europe, March 2007

Executive summary: http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2007/FoEE_biotech_MTR_midlifecrisis_March07_execsum.pdf

Full report: http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2007/FoEE_biotech_MTR_midlifecrisis_March07.pdf

[3] The EU Biotech Strategy was adopted in 2002:
http://ec.europa.eu/biotechnology/pdf/com2002-27_en.pdf
The European Commission will issue its recommendations for the Mid Term Review in April 2007 and conclusions will be adopted by the June 2007 Competitiveness Council.

Rosemary Hall
Communications Officer
Friends of the Earth Europe
Rue Blanche 15
B-1050 Bruxelles
Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 542 6105
Mobile: +32 485 930515
Fax:› +32 2 537 5596
rosemary.hall@foeeurope.org http://www.foeeurope.org

_______________________

USA: Genetically Engineered Organisms Invade Our Planet - What's the Harm?

Epoch Times, 12 March 2007. By Gary Feuerberg.

A RISKY BUSINESS: Denise Caruso, innovation columnist for the New York Times, has written a new book on the risks of using genetically modified organisms.

For a long time now, Americans have been told by the scientists who developed genetically modified (GM) crops and organisms that GM is safe and wonderful.

This was done with the blessing of government regulators, such as the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It was alleged that GM crops, such as Bt and Roundup Ready, to use the best known biotech products, are good for biodiversity, increase yields, are resistant to pests, reduce the need for pesticides, are more profitable for the farmers, and less labor intensive.

But a close examination of the benefits of transgenic crops will reveal that the benefits, if they occur, are way overstated, and the costs are often ignored.

Denise Caruso devotes a chapter in her new book, Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering and Life on a Biotech Planet (2006), to assessing the evidence.

She cites a thorough study of Bt cotton in a state of India, funded by the government, where the results were less than stellar: farmers spent more than twice the money for Bt seeds than non-Bt seeds, and the reduction in pesticide use was only 12%.

Meanwhile, the farmers' net profits for Bt were less than non-Bt hybrids and yields were about the same. This transgenic cotton had been hyped up and so the results would be disappointing to the Indian farmers.

Potentially more disturbing than the economic side of the technology, the transgenic cotton had some peculiar "side effects." After two years, the primary cotton pests were developing resistance to the Bt toxin, which could have a devastating effect on other crops in the area.

Also, the Bt was somehow mysteriously infecting the soil so that no other crops would grow in the same soil. Apparently too, the advocates for Bt didn't consider that Indian farmers would make their own illegal hybrids of Bt, using their own seeds. This means that a substantial amount of Bt is being grown all over India with unknown consequences.

From this single example, we can ask the general question, should the scientists, the industry and the regulators have been more open to the possible problems with GM, and considered these before embarking on this course?

With so much unknown about this new technique, should there have been more caution before going pell-mell into the production and marketing of biotech products?

Denise Caruso thinks so. "There is no such thing as risk-free living, with or without genetic engineering. Progress has never been risk-free," says Caruso in Intervention. The book is written for the lay person, the non-scientist, who wants to understand better the nature and implications of genetic engineering.

Caruso is a veteran technology journalist, who from 1995 wrote the popular Digital Commerce column for the New York Times, and after leaving that position in 2000, co-founded the Hybrid Vigor Institute, a research and consulting practice. Beginning in January, she resumed writing for the New York Times.

It is short-sighted to place all the focus on the presumed benefits of Biotechnology, argues Caruso. On the surface, it sounds good to save human lives by a genetic alteration so that a pig organ could work in a human being, or a mosquito that doesn't transmit malaria, or to save human labor and expense by transgenic corn and soybeans that need less herbicide to grow.

But the problem, according to Caruso, is that important questions about the possible negative consequences of biogenetic engineering Ú the real risks Ú are not typically investigated or even asked by the scientists creating the technology or by the industry that is profiting from them. Furthermore, they greatly resent having their assumptions and approach to science questioned.

Biotechnology is far reaching and mind boggling in its implications. Scientists can now isolate genetic material of a cell and insert the "synthetic" genetic material into the natural genetic material of the cells of a different organism or even a different species, thereby creating genetically modified organisms Ú living hybrids with new "desirable" traits that could not be created by traditional breeding techniques.

An example of this technique, called "recombinant DNA," mentioned in the book is transgenic pig organs that scientist want to develop for human transplants. This transgenic pig would be one whose organs presumably are best suited for human use.

This technique should not be confused with the pig and cow heart values, used frequently nowadays in human patients, as these are no longer living tissue. If this new technology succeeds, living pig cells would be exchanging proteins and genetic material with human cells.

The most immediate concern posed by transgenic pig organs inside a living human being is the very real possibility that some "dormant retrovirus from the pig's cells would somehow reactivate inside the human body" and risk of this happening are "incalculable," says Caruso.

The rewiring of genetic material of living organisms is a monumental act Ú changing a species in the most fundamental way. This is man "intervening," to use Caruso's word in the title of her book, in a natural process at a very deep level of the organism.

To a religious or spiritual person it would seem to have tremendous moral and ethical meanings. Caruso doesn't dwell on this side much, but is content to point out the potential biological nightmare that such alterations could have for humans and the environment.

"It is not especially difficult to come up with scenarios whereby mucking around in the genes of living organisms leads to serious biological, social, and/or economic disruption," says Caruso.

When the transgenic technique of recombining DNA from different species was first discovered in the 1970s, geneticists worried that the powerful new technology might create new viruses and bacteria that cause diseases, and enhance antibiotic resistance to make infections untreatable, says the Organic Consumers Association.

As a result, at the Asilomar conference in Monterey, Ca. in 1975, scientists imposed on themselves a moratorium on these experiments until safety protocols in the laboratory could be designed. When nothing visible regarding these dangers appeared, the technique came to be regarded as safe.

The focus of Caruso's book is not the risks in the laboratory, whose outcomes are inert, but the products of transgenesis that create new kinds of living organisms.

"Billions of transgenics have already been released into the market place and thus into our food, water and the air that we breathe, breeding and exchanging their genetic material with each other and with us." Caruso says these organisms are alive and numerous and much less predictable than what is acknowledged.

Responsible Decision Making

In the pig organ example mentioned above, Caruso and Baruch Fischoff, a risk expert and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, convened a "diverse" group of six experts for a meeting, lasting less than a day to consider the risks. They developed various possible scenarios that scientists working directly on the problem might not even think about.

For example, how to dispose of the carcasses of which there would have to be in the thousandsÚall contaminated. And what about the manure that leaves the pig, entering the environment, where pig transgenic contamination is available to insect and rodent carriers? If you could manage to somehow "sanitize" the pig, what happens when the organ resides in the "dirty" human body and its viruses, which could kill the pig organ?

This kind of open discussion of the potential problems, "a weighing of the real risks against the real benefits," is the only way a responsible public policy decision can be made on the risks of this controversial medical process.

There is no precedent, no way to ascertain an exact answer, a probability based on past experience with this biotech product. Yet, the regulators from the FDA and the USDA, and the genetic scientists are disinclined to convene such a panel and have such expanded conversations about risk.

Caruso is not saying that human intervention into biological functions is wrong, a view that she believes is too extreme. But Caruso believes no one Ú not the scientists or the regulators Úknows the safety or danger of biotech products, because of the flawed methods that are used to assess their risks.

"Yet neither knowledge of history nor dark-side scenarios has tempered the zeal or the speed with which the products of genetic engineering are being dispatched into the global marketplace," Caruso writes.

It may already be too late to prevent untoward effects of biotechnology. Caruso cites USDA figures for 2006 that show that 68% of all soybeans planted in the U.S. were transgenic, as were 69% of the cotton planted, and 26% of corn acreage.

Now there are countless transgenic organisms out there, reproducing and evolving, without control or monitoring. The planet earth has become a giant genetics experiment, according to Caruso. It is troubling that this all happened without the risks of the products and processes of genetic engineering being rationally discussed and investigated.

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11 March 2007

USA: Rice Industry Troubled by Genetic Contamination

Washington Post, March 11 2007. By Rick Weiss.

When Fred Zaunbrecher heard in August that the popular variety of long-grain rice he was planning to grow had become contaminated with snippets of experimental, unapproved DNA, the Louisiana rice farmer took it in stride and ordered a different variety of seed for his spring planting.

But when federal officials announced last week that the rice he and many others switched to was also contaminated -- this time with a different unapproved gene -- irritation grew to alarm. The two sidelined varieties accounted for about a third of last year's Southern rice crop, and planting was set to begin within days.

"Everybody's been scrambling for seed," Zaunbrecher said. "I have no idea whether there will be enough or not."

The tremors going through the U.S. long-grain rice industry -- amplified by the decision of many biotech-wary nations to restrict imports of U.S. rice until questions of purity are resolved -- have revealed how vulnerable a $1 billion agricultural sector can be to the escape of something as small as a molecule of DNA. But rice is not the only crop being affected by genetic pollution.

Eleven years after the first gene-altered crops got the go-ahead for U.S. planting, biotech acreage is at a record high. Almost 90 percent of U.S. soy and corn, as well as about 60 percent of U.S. cotton, is spiked with genes from other organisms, mostly to confer resistance to insects and to make the crops immune to weed-killing chemicals.

Yet some of those genes have spread to weeds, making them tougher to control. Biotech crops approved only as animal feed have found their way into human food. And plants engineered to make medicines in their tissues have escaped from their test plots.

"Something's not working," said Al Montna, who grows 2,500 acres of rice in California. "Something's got to change."

Some farmers are pointing fingers at biotech-seed producers, whose carelessness, they say, has allowed experimental DNA to drift into commercial varieties, transforming U.S. rice into a global pariah and sending the industry into its biggest crisis in memory.

Others are fed up with the Agriculture Department, which in the past six months has been scolded in three federal courts for not keeping adequate tabs on the burgeoning business of genetically engineered crops.

Whatever the root cause, the string of recent missteps has sullied an industry that, though long controversial in much of the world, has mostly grown under the radar in the United States.

Advocates say the biotech revolution has improved productivity while reducing the consumption of pesticides and tractor fuel. A report commissioned by industry leader Monsanto Co., released last week, estimated that biotech crops in 2005 allowed farmers to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 9 million tons -- equivalent to removing 4 million cars from the roads.

But increasingly, farmers are concluding that early assurances that engineered varieties could be kept segregated from conventional crops were overstated.

So far, gene escapes have not had discernible effects on human or animal health, leading some proponents to suggest that the real problems are the strict rules in place from the early days of biotech, when safety was a major concern.

"Most of these issues have been issues of regulatory compliance and quality control," said L. Val Giddings, president of PrometheusAB, a Silver Spring-based biotech consulting firm. "These are important, but they aren't safety concerns."

Giddings and some others say it is time for more discriminating standards that would treat many biotech crops as environmentally friendly instead of criminalizing every smidgen of errant DNA.

Others see things differently.

"For years the industry said, 'This will never get out,' " said Joseph Mendelson III, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group that has won several legal challenges against the Agriculture Department's handling of biotech crops. "Now it's, 'It will get out, but what does it matter?' We can have a scientific debate about that, but in the meantime it certainly matters a lot economically, because so much of the world doesn't want this stuff."

U.S. farmers such as Zaunbrecher have been caught in the middle, fighting off domestic efforts to introduce gene-altered rice until international markets warm to the product. He was going to plant a conventional variety called Cheniere on at least 500 of his more than 2,000 acres, until he learned that it had become inexplicably tainted with a weedkiller-resistant gene created by Bayer CropScience of Research Triangle Park, N.C., that was unapproved for rice.

In its place, he ordered Clearfield131, another non-engineered variety, developed by BASF of Germany. But on March 5, the USDA put out an emergency call to prevent all planting of that variety. Tests had found two laboratory-made genes not meant to be in it, one belonging to Bayer and one that has yet to be fully identified.

"Everybody's frustrated," said Bobby Hanks, who employs about 100 workers at Louisiana Rice Mill near Crowley. "At this point, the industry has very little confidence in researchers to keep these things out of the food stream."

Cynthia Sagers, a plant ecologist at the University of Arkansas, said USDA rules on how to isolate experimental rice from other varieties have not been stringent enough. Textbooks say rice is a self-pollinating plant, meaning its pollen does not drift far. "But stand in an Arkansas rice field at 11:45 on a sunny day," Sagers said, "and you'll see a zillion billion pollen grains blowing around."

Even if the pollen is contained, accidental mingling of engineered and conventional seeds occurs easily, especially when biotech varieties are not restricted to dedicated equipment and distribution streams.

A string of recent court rulings has revealed regulatory shortcomings for other biotech crops. In August, a federal judge criticized the USDA, saying it had "utter disregard" for the risks posed by plantings of biotech corn and sugar cane that the agency had endorsed in Hawaii. Two rulings in February took the agency to task for not fully considering the risks posed by biotech alfalfa and turf grass.

In the absence of stricter federal rules, some states have taken matters into their own hands. When a company recently sought permission to grow rice endowed with human drug-producing genes in California, officials there said okay -- if the company stayed at least 500 miles from the nearest rice field and waited for a special ruling from the state's Department of Food and Agriculture.

When the company sought instead to plant in Missouri, that state's legislature withheld promised research money until the company gave up and moved to Kansas -- a state that welcomed the project in part because no other rice is grown there.

Cindy Smith, deputy administrator in charge of biotechnology regulation at the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said that oversight has improved considerably in the past two years and that other changes are coming. Central among them is a risk-based system that will streamline approvals of biotech crops that are similar to others with proven safety records while raising the bar for those that pose the greatest risks.

"The nature of our regulatory system is that it has to continually evolve . . . because we're regulating a technology that continues to evolve," Smith said. And though she said she "fully appreciates" the gravity of the occasional failing, Smith noted that the agency has overseen more than 13,500 field tests on nearly 80,000 locations nationwide, the vast majority without a hitch.

Yet in today's global market -- in which biotech food is largely shunned, in part as a matter of "green" philosophy and in part as a covert means of trade protectionism -- that may not be enough, said Montna, the California grower, who is chairman of the USA Rice Federation.

"Everything is about market acceptance," Montna said, noting that the rice federation has pushed for stricter testing of all seed to prevent future surprises.

That would help not only farmers but seed companies, too -- some of which are now suffering from decreased sales because their varieties have become contaminated, and others of which are being sued for misplacing their genes.

"I'm seeing a lot of very, very angry people," said Adam Levitt, a Chicago lawyer who is involved in a class-action lawsuit against Bayer that already includes hundreds of rice farmers and millers.

Bayer spokesman Greg Coffey said the company should not be blamed if the federal rules that it followed are inadequate.

"We do believe our work has adhered to USDA regulatory guidelines," he said, completing the circle of blame that on many farms today is as familiar as the seasons.

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10 March 2007

USA: Could genetically modified crops be killing bees?

San Francisco Chronicle, March 10 2007. By John McDonald.

With reports coming in about a scourge affecting honeybees, researchers are launching a drive to find the cause of the destruction. The reasons for rapid colony collapse are not clear. Old diseases, parasites and new diseases are being looked at.

Over the past 100 or so years, beekeepers have experienced colony losses from bacterial agents (foulbrood), mites (varroa and tracheal) and other parasites and pathogens. Beekeepers have dealt with these problems by using antibiotics, miticides or integrated pest management.

While losses, particularly in overwintering, are a chronic condition, most beekeepers have learned to limit their losses by staying on top of new advice from entomologists. Unlike the more common problems, this new die-off has been virtually instantaneous throughout the country, not spreading at the slower pace of conventional classical disease.

As an interested beekeeper with some background in biology, I think it might be fruitful to investigate the role of genetically modified or transgenic farm crops. Although we are assured by nearly every bit of research that these manipulations of the crop genome are safe for both human consumption and the environment, looking more closely at what is involved here might raise questions about those assumptions.

The most commonly transplanted segment of transgenic DNA involves genes from a well-known bacterium, bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which has been used for decades by farmers and gardeners to control butterflies that damage cole crops such as cabbage and broccoli. Instead of the bacterial solution being sprayed on the plant, where it is eaten by the target insect, the genes that contain the insecticidal traits are incorporated into the genome of the farm crop. As the transformed plant grows, these Bt genes are replicated along with the plant genes so that each cell contains its own poison pill that kills the target insect.

In the case of field corn, these insects are stem- and root-borers, lepidopterans (butterflies) that, in their larval stage, dine on some region of the corn plant, ingesting the bacterial gene, which eventually causes a crystallization effect in the guts of the borer larvae, thus killing them.

What is not generally known to the public is that Bt variants are available that also target coleopterans (beetles) and dipterids (flies and mosquitoes). We are assured that the bee family, hymenopterans, is not affected.

That there is Bt in beehives is not a question. Beekeepers spray Bt under hive lids sometimes to control the wax moth, an insect whose larval forms produce messy webs on honey. Canadian beekeepers have detected the disappearance of the wax moth in untreated hives, apparently a result of worker bees foraging in fields of transgenic canola plants.

Bees forage heavily on corn flowers to obtain pollen for the rearing of young broods, and these pollen grains also contain the Bt gene of the parent plant, because they are present in the cells from which pollen forms.

Is it not possible that while there is no lethal effect directly to the new bees, there might be some sublethal effect, such as immune suppression, acting as a slow killer?

The planting of transgenic corn and soybean has increased exponentially, according to statistics from farm states. Tens of millions of acres of transgenic crops are allowing Bt genes to move off crop fields.

A quick and easy way to get an approximate answer would be to make a comparison of colony losses of bees from regions where no genetically modified crops are grown, and to put test hives in areas where modern farming practices are so distant from the hives that the foraging worker bees would have no exposure to them.

Given that nearly every bite of food that we eat has a pollinator, the seriousness of this emerging problem could dwarf all previous food disruptions.

John McDonald is a beekeeper in Pennsylvania. He welcomes comments or questions about the bee problem at mcbee_77@yahoo.com. General comments to home@sfchronicle.com.

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India: GM crops get a subsidy boost

Financial Express, March 10, 2007. By Ashok B. Sharma.

NEW DELHI, MAR 9 : To promote genetically modified (GM) crops in the country, the government has announced a special subsidy package. The National Horticulture Board in its recent document has announced backed-ended capital investment subsidy for projects developing genetic modified organisms (GMOs) and bio-technology.

The NHB has also proposed similar subsidy for high-density plantations, micro-propogation or tissue culture for mass production of "true-to types", hi-tech cultivation under controlled climatic conditions like poly-houses, green houses and net-houses, rainfed production through efficient water management techniques, nursery management for quality seed and planning material production, hybrid seed production, organic farming, hydroponics for year-round quality production and for use of plastics in horticulture.

Priority areas have also been defined to include export-oriented units, projects in cooperative sectors, projects in Northeast, and those involving women entrepreneurs. No GM horticulture crops have so far been approved for commercial cultivation, while a number of them are in the pipeline.

Exporters have expressed apprehensions that the introductions of GM food crops are likely to affect exports.

Speaking to FE, executive director, Centre for International Trade in Agriculture Agro-based Industries (CITA), Vijay Sardana, said: "The government should formulate a uniform policy on genetic modified organisms, taking into consideration their trade aspects. A public interest litigation is pending before the Supreme Court and the apex court has imposed a temporary ban on any fresh approval of GM crop trials. The commerce ministry has already asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) not to approve field trials of GM crops in agri export zones. All these point to the need for a clear-cut policy on genetic modified organisms."

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9 March 2007

Europe: Are you ready for cloned meat?

The Ecologist, 9 March 2007.

Cloned meat moved a step closer to being a supermarket shelf reality yesterday when the European Union's food safety authority was asked to rule on the matter

The European Commission has asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to look at the environmental, animal health, animal welfare and food safety effects of cloning.

An EC spokesman has intimated that while the European Union's 27 member countries would be asked for their opinion, they would not necessarily have a formal role in the decision making process. This would leave the EFSA, a body that has consistently favoured technical innovation in foods and has consistently approved genetically-modified crops, free to decide on the matter.

A spokesman for the Commission said: "Animal cloning is a new breeding technique, which is currently used almost exclusively for research purposes in the EU. However, it appears likely to develop and expand both in the EU and internationally in the future."

The issue became more pressing in January after a British farmer revealed the birth of a calf born from a cloned father and surrogate mother. There are no rules covering whether its milk should undergo extra tests before being sold.

Jonathan Mathews, founder of GM Watch - www.gmwatch.org - and LobbyWatch - www.lobbywatch.org, commented:

"We know that cloned animals are genetically defective - with as many as 4-5% of their genes expressed incorrectly - but it would be no surprise if the EFSA, through its reductionist prism, failed to take account of the implications of that. What is inescapable, though, is that this technology is an animal welfare disaster, generating death and abnormality on a totally unacceptable scale."

He continued: "Given consumer aversion there will almost certainly be a boycott but to have a choice we'll need not just labelling but the ability to track back the exact origins of all milk and meat. A single bull whose semen is traded by brokers can produce more than 100,000 descendants in just four generations. And the trade in semen and embryos from cloned animals is already underway."

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Europe: GM Food Nightmare Unfolding in the Regulatory Sham

ISIS Press Release, 9 March 2007.

Regulatory agencies like the European Food Safety Authority and the UK FoodStandards Agency have been ignoring the precautionary principle, manipulating and corrupting science, sidestepping the law, and helping to promote GMOs in the face of massive public opposition and damning evidence piling up against the safety of GM food and feed.

These charges are made in a devastating report [1] (GM Food Nightmare Unfolding and the Regulatory Sham) released today by the Institute of Science in Society. The report has been submitted to the European Food Safety Authority, the World Health Organisation / Food and Agriculture Organisation Expert Consultation on GM Food Animals, and the UK Food Standards Agency, and it has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The 19-page report contains more than 130 references. It draws together evidence from all over the world indicating that GM food and feed may be inherently hazardous to health, regardless of the plant species or the genetic modification involved. For example,

Failure to issue any Food Alerts to local authorities.

Female rats fed Roundup Ready soybeans gave birth to many severely stunted pups, with over half of the litter dead by three weeks, and the surviving pups were sterile; Roundup Ready soya has been approved worldwide for food and feed since 1996.

Farmers and workers exposed to Bt cotton and Bt maize have suffered serious allergy-like symptoms.

Livestock feeding on Bt crops and crop residues became ill and died in large numbers.

"The evidence has stacked up to such an extent that our regulators should be answering a charge of criminal negligence at the very least in failing to ban GM crop and continuing with their campaign of denial and disinformation, and worse, helping to promote even more dangerous GM produce from the industry," said Dr. Mae-Wan Ho. Dr Ho is the Director of ISIS and lead author of the report co-authored with Joe Cummins, Emeritus Professor of Biology at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and Peter Saunders, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at King's College, London University.

That Bt toxins can cause serious immune reactions was known long before they were widely incorporated into maize and cotton crops. Similarly, evidence that pieces of genetically modified (GM) DNA can be taken up and incorporated into the genomes of other cells ā a process called horizontal gene transfer - has been steadily accumulating since the mid 1990s, when the ISIS scientists first sounded their warning to the regulators.

"GM DNAs often contain antibiotic resistance marker genes and other genes from bacteria and viruses that cause diseases. In addition, they have strong control signals - Žpromoters' - that force the cell to express a foreign gene at high levels," Dr. Mae-Wan Ho explains. "As a result, horizontal gene transfer not only spreads antibiotic resistance genes to harmful bacteria, it can create new bacteria and viruses that can cause epidemics. And if the strong promoter jumps into the wrong place in the genome of animal cells, it can boost the expression of oncogenes and cause the cells to multiply out of control, or cancer by another name."

Europe and the UK are required by law to abide by the precautionary principle. Both have signed up to the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety regulating GMOs, and a string of other international treaties for protecting health and the environment based on the precautionary principle. But systematic manipulation of scientific evidence and abuse of science by the regulatory authorities has meant that the precautionary principle is never invoked.

"GM food/feed looks like joining asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), BSE, tobacco and many others as yet another example of the government relying on bad scientific advice and ignoring the precautionary principle, with devastating consequences," said Prof. Peter Saunders.

In three recent cases, American courts have ruled that the US Department of Agriculture failed to carry out proper environmental impact assessment before giving approval for releases of GM crops to the environment, and that the releases are therefore illegal.

"Regulation of genetically modified food crops in North America is a complete sham. It's time for a shake up. The regulatory agencies must represent the law and the people not just corporate interests," said Prof. Joe Cummins.

For further information:

The Institute of Science in Society is a UK London-based not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing critical public information on cutting edge science, and to promoting social accountability and ecological sustainability in science.

References

1. Ho MW, Cummins J and Saunders PT.
GM Food Nightmare Unfolding in the Regulatory Sham, ISIS Report, March 2007.
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/pdf/GM_Food_Nightmare_Unfolding.pdf.

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USA: Corporate Ties Could Hide GMO Risks

Berkeley Daily Planet, 9 March 2007. Editorial by Becky O'Malley.

Why shouldn't public universities welcome big grants from big corporations? After all, times are tough, and they need all the money they can get to keep tuition costs down, right? Well, maybe, but let's take a look at the real costs of inviting the fox to sleep over in the henhouse.

In California the state-supported University of California is granted a privileged independent position under the state constitution. This was originally intended to protect the academic freedom of faculty members, but it's been used as the excuse for other more dubious claims of sovereignty. UC's branches now answer only to themselves, and claim that they don't have to follow any local laws regarding, for example, zoning. That's why the University of California at Berkeley plans to build a couple of big new labs and a gymnasium right on the Hayward fault while thumbing its august nose at local attempts to raise safety questions regarding disaster evacuation and other details.

These days only about a third of UC funding, depending on how you count, comes from the state, so all the rest is raised from outside sources. That includes grants from governments and foundations, and also big contributions from those with financial interests in what the university is up to. Barclay Simpson, a big time manufacturer of construction widgets, has both been board chair of the school's art museum and is lending his name and presumably his bucks to the proposed gym. Elsewhere in this issue you can read about Richard Blum's revolving door relationship with UC as regent, contractor, spouse of senator, and donor.

But the new deal with British Petroleum (now cozily called just BP) puts all of that in the shade. Presumably Mr. Simpson may put in a good word from time to time on behalf of a favorite artist or athlete, but he surely has acquired no contractual right to control the organizations he supports with his dollars. The BP deal, like others similar which have attracted less publicity, will have all sorts of links in it which give the corporation control over things they should never be allowed to influence. The proposal which won the prize for UC included an offer to bend the university's public relations effort to tout the virtues of the products produced by the joint venture. Corporate scientists will be working cheek-by-jowl with academic researchers in Strawberry Canyon, creating an atmosphere not conducive to reporting any bad news about the results.

Many years ago, courtesy of the National Science Foundation, I had the privilege of participating in a seminar at Stanford sponsored by what was then called the program on Ethics and Values in Science and Technology (EVIST). It had two major goals. The first was stimulating 'research on ethical aspects of contemporary issues involving scientific and technological research and development and on social values that influence and are influenced by the work of scientists and engineers.' The second was improving 'discussion, understanding, and policies and practices affecting and affected by science and technology.'

Seminar members came from many fields: medicine, history, business and ethics, to name a few. At that time I was a journalist at the Center for Investigative Reporting and recently admitted to the California Bar, so I looked at the several case histories we studied from both angles. Two of the most interesting were the crash program attempting development of an artificial heart, described by Wikipedia as one of the long-sought scientific Holy Grails, which is still not close to success, and the widespread use of the synthetic estrogen DES on pregnant women, which resulted in many problems for their offspring. The most striking lesson I learned from our studies was how often the profit motive contaminated the results of what should be scientific research.

The project produced one major book, Worse Than the Disease: Pitfalls of Medical Progress, written by principal investigator Diana Dutton with Thomas Preston and Nancy Pfund. I wrote a couple of magazine articles myself on related topics, and learned a lot in the process. One was about the role of drug companies in promoting dangerous kinds of birth control pills to doctors, and another was about how cigarette companies successfully avoided dealing with the fires caused by their products. They were hot news at the time, but now many people are well aware of the dangers posed by the involvement of what we've come to call Big Pharma and Big Tobacco in what should be unbiased scientific study. Many recent stories have exposed pressure put on researchers by both industries to conceal risks created by their products.

But it's a different story when it comes to Big Green. Intelligent people desperately wishing for an easy fix to the real problem of climate change are suckers for greenwashing, the practice of painting dubious for-profit projects and companies as environmental salvation. Our state university's new partner BP has frequently appeared on Top Ten lists of the world's worst greenwashers compiled by non-profit environmental watchdogs, but you didn't see that in the public relations blitz which accompanied the announcement of the deal. You also didn't see anywhere except in the Planet that the planned research was exclusively aimed at producing fuels from genetically modified organisms - GMOs - now causing almost as much concern in authentic environmental circles as global warming itself.

Politicians were quick to jump on the BP bandwagon, with both Mayor Bates and Assemblymember Hancock (who should know better) appearing on the platform at the press conference which led off the campaign. The mayor's city-funded publicity blog, the Bates Update, trumpeted the news on Feb. 27 that an organization called SustainLane Government 'analyzed U.S. cities to see which led in combining Cleantech investments, infrastructure and supportive policies into a physical 'cluster.' Berkeley was named the third best in the United States.

You had to click through the included link to discover that the award was given only because of the BP-UC deal, which didn't involve the city. 'The city of Berkeley's participation ... is in the planning stages,' the SustainLane report said.

Before those plans go much further, Bates and the City Council might want to consider whether their constituents are likely to be fans of one of the biggest GMO projects ever conceived. And if there are still people at the University of California - faculty, students, even administrators - who still care about the tattered remnants of what used to be called academic freedom, they might still think about whether taking half-a-billion dollars from Big Green could pose any ethical or environmental problems downstream. The contract technically still hasn't been signed, not that there's much doubt that it will be.

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Brazil: Snubbing Chavez and Seducing Brazil Are Two Sides of Same Bush Game

Brazil.com, 09 March 2007. By Raul Zibechi [Extracts only. Full article at http://www.brazzil.com/content/view/9830/80/]

George W. Bush's trip to Latin America this month is the most ambitious attempt to reposition the United States in the region since the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas died in Mar del Plata in November of 2005. The trip, which includes Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia has a dual purpose: to counteract the growing influence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the region and to form a strategic alliance with Brazil for the production of ethanol. Although it may not appear on the surface, the two objectives are profoundly related.

"We have 80 million hectares in the Amazon that are going to be converted into the Saudi Arabia of biodiesel," affirmed the Brazilian engineer Expedito Parente to the newspaper O Globo.

In Colombia, with his friend Alvaro Uribe, Bush will seek to strengthen Plan Colombia given Correa's recent announcement that Ecuador will not renew the agreement to allow the U.S. military base in Manta - a key piece of the Pentagon's strategy in the region.

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Namibia: Brazilians protest Bush visit

Nabibian.com, March 9 2007. By Stan Lehman.

SAO PAULO - Landless farmers invaded a mine, a bank and other corporate property in Brazil on Wednesday to protest the impact of big companies on the poor and US President George W Bush's upcoming visit to Latin America's largest nation.

Protesters, most of them women from the Via Campesina farmworkers movement, briefly shut down an iron ore mine, invaded an ethanol distillery and took over the Rio de Janeiro offices of Brazil's National Development Bank on the eve of Bush's visit.

Fresh graffiti reading "Get Out, Bush! Assassin!" in bright red letters popped up along busy highways near the locations in Sao Paulo where Bush will appear as he begins a Latin American tour that also includes stops in Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.

Bush says the United States does not get much credit for its generosity in the poverty-ridden Latin American region and plans during his tour to emphasise US programmes of health care, housing aid and job creation for the poor.

On Wednesday, Bush said US aid to Latin America has gone from US$800 million to US$1,6 billion - "and yet we don't get much credit for it" - during an interview with CNN en Espanol.

Protest leaders in Brazil plan to draw as many as 15 000 people for a three-kilometre march today before Bush arrives in South America's largest city to forge an ethanol energy alliance with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Bush has spoken approvingly of Brazil's ethanol programme, which converts sugar cane to fuel and powers eight out of every 10 new Brazilian cars.

The proposed accord would develop standards to help turn ethanol into an internationally traded commodity, and to promote sugar cane-based ethanol production in Central America and the Caribbean to meet rising international demand.

Joao Pedro Stedile, leader of the powerful Landless Rural Workers' Movement that helped organise Wednesday's protests, condemned the ethanol pact.

"Bush is coming to Brazil as a messenger boy for the multinational companies, the agribusiness companies, the oil companies and the automobile companies that want to control the biofuels," Stedile said.

Organisers denounced foreign investment in the vast sugarcane fields that are used to produce Brazil's ethanol.

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Europe: Cloned meat could be allowed in EU

Financial Times, March 9 2007. By Andrew Bounds in Brussels.

The prospect of cloned meat being sold in Europe drew nearer on Thursday after the European Union's food safety authority was asked to rule on the matter.

The European Commission said it had asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) look at the implications for food safety, animal health, animal welfare and the environment of cloning. The US approved in principle meat and milk from cloned animals for consumption last year.

EFSA, a technical body that tends to back scientific innovation, will report back within six months. "Animal cloning is a new breeding technique, which is currently used almost exclusively for research purposes in the EU. However, it appears likely to develop and expand both in the EU and internationally in the future," the Commission said.

An advisory group on ethics would also be asked to update its 1997 ruling. That found that there were potential benefits for agriculture from the process, though warned against reducing the gene pool too far.

The issue became more pressing in January after a British farmer revealed the birth of a calf born from a cloned father and surrogate mother. There are no rules covering whether its milk should undergo extra tests before being sold.

A Commission spokesman said no company had yet applied to clone animals commercially or to import cloned meat into the EU. He said the EU's 27 member countries would be asked for their opinion but might not have a formal role in decision-making.

Several are very wary of the technology. While EFSA has consistently approved genetically-modified crops, a majority of governments have combined to block the Commission's attempts to put them on the market. They argue that the public is not prepared to eat them.

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UK: Revealed -- how the biotech corporations use fear to kill off "inconvenient" GM research

GM Free Cymru press notice, 9th March 2007

An interview just published on a Russian news-based web site (1) has provided chilling evidence of how the biotechnology industry kills off "inconvenient" GM research and ensures that independent scientists are silenced.

The subject of the interview was Dr Irina Ermakova, whose published results arising from GM soya feeding studies hit the world headlines in 2005 (2). She showed that rats fed on GM soya had organ damage, a reduced bodyweight, a vastly increased death rate compared with rats in the control group, and also a dramatic decline in fertility linked to the GM feed. Immediately the GM industry and its supporters in GM regulatory bodies around the world dismissed her work as flawed and accused her of manipulating her results and of being a green activist. There were echoes of the vilification in 1998-99 of Dr Arpad Pusztai and the brutal attacks on his research findings by the scientific establishment, including the Royal Society (3). It is to her credit that Dr Ermakova is still fighting to defend her integrity and to repeat and improve her feeding experiments.

The article on the "MK" website reveals how independent researchers working in the GM field are systematically marginalized, threatened, intimidated, patronized, denied access to raw materials for their experiments, and starved of funds when they find things that are "inconvenient" to the GM corporations. Some are simply "encouraged" to move into other areas of work. Other scientists who have been targetted include Ignacio Chapela, Mae-wan Ho, Terje Traavik, Judy Carman, and Manuela Malatesta (4). The biotechnology firms operate in a shadowy way, often out of sight, leaving the dirty work to "respectable " academics and scientists who act nonetheless as stooges for the GM industry. Personal vilification via the pro-GM web sites and blogs is also par for the course.

Commenting for GM Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: "We are pleased to have assisted in bringing this Russian interview to the notice of the English-speaking world. That having been said, we were genuinely shocked by the information emerging through the interview about the tactics employed by Monsanto and other corporations in pursuit of their aim to push as many GM crops and foods into the market as possible, whatever the consequences may be."

Some quotes from the interview are appended below.

ENDS

Contact:

Dr Brian John, tel: + 44 1239-820470

Notes:

(1) http://www.mk.ru/numbers/2565/article90467.htm
http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/gmgenocide.htm

(2) http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/ermakova.htm
http://irina-ermakova.by.ru/eng/art/art15.html

(3) http://www.freenetpages.co.uk/hp/A.Pusztai/memo.txt
http://www.biotech-info.net/galanthus.html

(4) http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/manipulation.htm

Quotes:

"The authorities rapidly stopped the financing of my experiment. As soon as the work started, there was pressure on the Institute from the GM product lobby. And they recommended to me that I should not persist with this study. I was also told that in this interview I should not mention the full name of the Institute where I work"

"Two academicians, lobbyists for the GM industry, approached the presidium of RAS [Russian Academy of Science] with a requirement that I should terminate my studies. This was connected with the fact that there is already a large flow of transgenic products into our market, that nothing can be done to stop it, and that it is not desirable to disturb people. Their position is this: you are being targeted, and we will stand to one side. "

"That money (for new research) is already allocated, but our Institute has rejected our application for investigations on this theme. So now studies will continue in other scientific research institutes."

"It is almost impossible to obtain funding for such studies by grants, but even if it is possible to find resources and do the work, it is almost impossible to publish the results in the peer- reviewed scientific publications. Companies refuse to allow GM material for studies, or they require instead complete control over the experiments. When farmers buy in a company's GM seeds, they have to sign a contract saying that they may not pass them on for research purposes. "

"I have obtained many letters from scientists from the different parts of the world. And all acknowledge that they do not have the possibility to conduct truly independent studies. Thus, an Austrian scientist wrote: "I just wish you much luck in the future, because such results will mean that you will have a hard conflict with a lot of western industry interests. Industry-affiliated scientist will lobby against you - and for sure a lot of so-called scientific panels for food-safety and "competent" authorities will try to ignore your results or will try to hinder the publication of your papers."

"It was desirable to further investigate the heart, brain, spleen and other organs, but we did not have the resources at that moment. I did not expect that the results obtained by me would cause such stormy discussion. But it is still more surprising to me, that these simple experiments have not been repeated by anybody in one-and-a-half years. So I have been conducting a new series of experiments using again, mainly, my own money. "

"They put pressure not only on us as researchers, but also on those who supported us. But I do not want to speak about this."

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USA: Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods

GM watch review of the book by Jeffrey M. Smith

Publisher: Yes! Books, www.GeneticRoulette.com; hardcover; 336 pages; $27.95

In his foreword to Genetic Roulette, former UK government environment minister Michael Meacher says, "This is the authentic book on genetic modification that the world has been waiting for. . . . The case presented is absolutely a smoking shotgun that should stop in its tracks any dabbling with GM foods, whether by individual families, food companies, or indeed nations." Best-selling author John Robbins says, "Genetic Roulette is dynamite. It totally explodes the complacency and apathy that has been allowing genetically engineered foods to creep into our food supply." And GMO experts Arpad Pusztai and Susan Bardocz write, "Jeffrey Smith's Genetic Roulette destroys the myth that genetically modified organisms are safe and will give sleepless nights to uncritical supporters of GMOs. . . . It is a real treasure and the most important GMO source book for policy makers, scientists, and the public."

According to Molecules of Emotion author Candace Pert, PhD, Genetic Roulette's author "Jeffrey Smith is the leading world expert in the understanding and communication of the health issues surrounding genetically modified foods." Indeed, his first book Seeds of Deception became the #1 rated and best-selling book on GMOs. Seeds made a huge impact and is credited with influencing legislation and changing the global debate on the subject. Now, in Genetic Roulette, Smith has answered the human health risk question as he calls for an immediate ban on GM product by consumers and governments.

65 dangers at a glance read easily across two-page spreads

Joan Dye Gussow, author of This Organic Life and professor emeritus of Nutrition and Education at Columbia University, says Genetic Roulette is "remarkably thorough, well-written, brilliantly designed, and deeply disturbing." She urges people to, "Read this book, or skim it - a feat the author has enabled with a format that allows for scanning or thorough reading." The format Gussow describes consists of 65 two-page spreads, each dedicated to a different adverse finding or theoretical risk of GM foods. The left side's executive summary offers knowledge at a glance. Flip through the pages in a few minutes and you will be struck by reports of hundreds of people with toxic or allergic reactions, thousands of sick, sterile or dead animals, and countless ways in which GM foods are inherently dangerous and virtually untested.

Read the detailed explanations on the right side, to learn that lab animals fed GM soy had altered sperm cells and embryos, and a five-fold increase in infant mortality, or that genes might transfer from GM corn to turn your intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories - for the long-term. These and other meticulously documented revelations shred the baseless arguments used by the biotech industry to defend their products.

Masterful recipe for decision-making

Cancer Prevention Coalition chairman Samuel Epstein, MD, describes the book as "The most comprehensive, well-documented and highly readable expose on the serious health dangers of GM foods." Meacher says, "What has long been needed is not more polemic, but the facts, the unvarnished detail that provides the evidence on which people can make up their own minds. This book is it." In fact, it presents a masterful recipe for decision-making; the 65 two-page spreads offer a kind of safety checklist - risks and findings that must be responded to. Pediatrician and author Alan Greene of DrGreene.com says, "We ought either to satisfy ourselves with solid scientific answers to the concerns clearly laid out in Genetic Roulette - or we should change the way we eat."

The book sounds the alarm with parents and schools

The book explains why children and newborns are most at risk from potential allergens, toxins, and nutritional problems associated with GM foods. Jordan Rubin, best-selling author of The Maker's Diet, says, "As a health educator and parent of a young child, I will do everything within my power to keep these dangerous genetically modified foods out of the cupboards and refrigerators and off of the kitchen tables of those I care about. The best way I can do that is to strongly recommend the book." Robyn O'Brien, founder of AllergyKids and mother of four, says "The health risks associated with these new foods have the potential to impact every child in America-not just those with food allergies." She says the book is a "must read" for parents. And Dr. Richard Beall, director of the Carolina International School, says, "I urge school administrators to read Genetic Roulette and take preventive action to protect the long-term health of your students."

Genetic Roulette hits mainstream influence and may force GM food bans

Beginning in April 2007, organizations around the world will present Genetic Roulette to government officials as evidence that GM foods are unsafe and need to be banned immediately. The prominence of U.S. Senator Jon Tester's supporting quote on the back cover indicates that Smith is aiming for decision makers at the highest level. Meacher says, "I believe it will inspire leaders in many different arenas to take action."

Officials can't simply use the excuse that their national regulatory agencies ensure GM food safety, because part two of Genetic Roulette shows just the opposite. Government assessments are not competent to even identify most of the potential health problems. Furthermore, part 3 exposes in great detail how GM food producers rig their studies in order to avoid showing problems. And part four dismantles the "feed the world" argument as baseless PR hype.

Frances Moore Lappe, author of Democracy's Edge and Diet for a Small Planet, says thanks to Smith's "tireless investigations, we need wonder no longer why corporations spreading GMOs are so secretive, why they«ve spent hundreds of millions to keep us from even knowing which foods contain GMOs. They don't want us to examine the shoddy science, the suppressed evidence, and, most of all, the real health risks that GMOs present."

Meacher writes, "Jeffrey Smith is one of the great campaigners of our age, a relentless pursuer of the truth, a fearless advocate in the corporate world of secret influence, and a ceaseless promoter of the public interest across the world. He is the modern David against the GM Goliath. This book may well provide the slingshot to change the global course of events this century."

...............................

"I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it-unless it says organic. Genetic Roulette tells you why you must avoid genetically engineered foods to stay healthy."

- John H. Boyles, MD, ear, nose, and throat, and allergy specialist

"When I worked at Monsanto, I warned both scientists and executives that our GM foods may cause disease, but no one was even willing to listen, let alone investigate the unpredicted side effects. For them, it was all about profit. Now our whole population is threatened by the serious dangers described in Genetic Roulette."

- Kirk J. Azevedo, DC

Genetic Roulette will be available starting in April 2007. Pre-orders placed in March at www.GeneticRoulette.com will have free shipping. The official publication of the book will take place in June, in conjunction with a major consumer education campaign to be announced shortly.

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USA: An Unstable Concoction of Interests

The Daily Californian, March 9 2007. By Tadeusz W. Patzek.

In 1988 BP Amoco PLC became the first major oil company to destroy its U.S. research center. In 1998 BP acquired Amoco and in 2000 Arco, and proceeded to destroy their research centers too. Among the thousands of people who lost their jobs in both mergers were most of the acquired researchers. BP was not alone in raiding its precious resources and exchanging them for cash. I left the venerable Shell Development in 1989, the year it began falling apart; soon thereafter it disappeared altogether. This group gave us Hubbert's peak, modern geophysics, 3D seismic data acquisition, petrophysics, and computer memory, the patent to which was sold to a typewriter company called IBM for one dollar. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Steve Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, both boast about their AT&T Bell Labs heritage, yet we do not hear that this once formidable laboratory was spun off by AT&T around 1995, and became a mere shadow of itself within five years.

After dismantling their own idea-breeding grounds, large corporations in need of research expertise must invade public institutions and "extract value" from them. Their strategy, to direct the vital functions of the university to further their corporate goals, is analogous to that of cancer or viruses. Like their biological analogs, these invader corporations alter and often destroy their hosts. Many juicy examples litter the historical record, but now UC Berkeley is to be altered irreversibly through the BP-Berkeley Energy Biosciences Institute.

BP is eager to place 50 of its own researchers in UC Berkeley. It is doubtful that BP alone has people to fill these positions, but researchers can probably be extracted from their business partners. These BP-related employees would be housed in buildings funded and equipped by the public. The public would then be blocked from entering the BP-occupied buildings. Most information would flow through and be filtered by the BP personnel and their UC Berkeley affiliates, who would need to sign non-disclosure agreements, making it impossible to distinguish between their private and public roles.

For example, the chosen candidate to run the Berkeley side of the institute is Dr. Chris Somerville, CEO of Mendel Biotechnologies. Mendel Biotech is "completely aligned" (their own wording) with Monsanto and Savia Ltd. Monsanto controls most sales of GMO seeds worldwide. Savia is the world's largest dealer of non-commodity crops: trees, flowers, vegetables, grasses, etc., and is deeply vested in GMO manipulations. Dr. Somerville's company has received $46,000,000 from Monsanto and Savia to conduct research on genetically modified plants. If the BP-UC Berkeley contract were signed, Dr. Somerville would be busy genetically modifying plants at UC Berkeley to benefit Monsanto, DuPont, Savia and BP, while his wife, Dr. Shauna Somerville, would participate in finding new powerful pesticides and herbicides to protect the genetically modified plants from the environment. This effort would be led by another UC Berkeley professor, Brian Staskawicz, also with Mendel Biotechnologies.

To finish the job, the campus would register the new agrochemicals on behalf of the Somervilles, thus unburdening the corporate customers and producers from legal liabilities. As it may take decades to find out all deleterious effects of the new GMOs and their associated field poisons, these liabilities may be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

So if you think that Berkeley is getting a good deal here, think thrice or more, as this is how many times the public will pay for the activities of the happy new BP, UC Berkeley, Monsanto, Savia, DuPont, (and Cargill, and Mendel and Amyris) family. In the words of the social-sciences leader of the proposal, professor Dan Kammen: "new ecosystem of companies will be generated" by the deal.

What about the science of it all, you may ask. Well, briefly put, the Earth is too small to deliver the grandiose promises made by some of our faculty and administrators. Genetically altered organisms will be released into the global environment, probably starting from the poor tropical countries with no controls, but plenty of land and solar radiation. If we are lucky, these GMOs will die quickly outside of their controlled environments. If we are not so lucky, the Earth may be a different planet.

So cheers everyone, let's drink to this fabulous deal that would help the campus become a better corporation and a much worse public university. But if UC Berkeley becomes yet another corporation, will there be another great public university to take its place?

Tadeusz W. Patzek is professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley. Reply to opinion@dailycal.org.

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India: Genetically modified food set to be labelled in India before import

Financial Express, March 07, 2007. By Ashok B. Sharma.

NEW DELHI - The health ministry is set to amend the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955 to introduce the provision of mandatory labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods, likely to be imported or produced in the country.

An expert committee set up by the ministry under the chairmanship of the additional director-general of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Shiv Lal has recommended mandatory labelling of GM food and food ingredients, without any threshold limit. The committee has defined GM food as those composed of or containing genetically organisms obtained through modern biotechnology. Even the GM processed food would be labelled. The expert panel included representatives from the industry, Indian Council for Medical Research and farmer leader Yudhvir Singh.

The move has been initiated to fulfill the provisions of the foreign trade policy 2006, which said that all imported GM products should be labelled. If the consignment does not contain such a label and is later found to contain traces of GM material, the importer is liable for penal action under the Foreign Trade (Development & Regulation) Act, 1992.

Since the formulation of the policy in 2006, the regulator, genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC), was in a fix to regulate the imports of GM soybean oil. GEAC was awaiting the guidelines being framed by the health ministry. Since the work of the health ministry was delayed, the commerce ministry deferred the implementation of foreign trade polic

y norms. So far, no GM food product has been approved for consumption in the country. Bt cotton is the only non-food GM crop to be approved. GEAC is the sole regulator for production, transportation, distribution, import and export of all GM products.

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8 March 2007

Industry calls for action on biofueled price rises

Beverage Daily, 8 March 2007. By Ahmed ElAmin.

The EU's food and drink industry yesterday called on the bloc's governments to take action on halting price rises for their supplies, as more crops are diverted for biofuel production.

In particular the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) is concerned about the impact of the EU's 10 per cent legally binding target will have on the supply of agricultural raw materials in terms of both availability and price.

In a statement the CIAA is calling on the Commission for a detailed impact assessment of its bio-fuels support measures on the food sectors, taking into account the specific characteristics of the bio-diesel and bio-ethanol markets.

The food and drink industry is competing for the same raw materials that supply bio-fuels' companies.

The CIAA said food and drink operators are facing increased prices in a number of sectors as more crops are diverted toward the production of biofuels.

"In the oils sector for example, this trend can be explained by several factors, notably development of the biodiesel industry and the shift of food demand from soya oil to rapeseed oil because of a preference for non-GMO (genetically-modified organisms material)" the CIAA stated.

Biofuels have become an increasingly hot topic in the food and drink industry over the past few years. In 2003 the EU introduced a directive calling on member states to increase the share of biofuels in the energy used for transport to two per cent by 2005 and to 5.75 per cent by 2010.

A new energy strategy, announced on 10 January 2007, establishes that biofuels should make up at least 10 per cent of the energy used for transport in each country.

The CIAA is calling on policymakers to integrate, in a balanced way, the key challenges of promoting energy security through the diversification of energy and feedstock sources.

While the organisation acknowledges that the renewable energy sector plays a role in providing new outlets for agricultural production, it is concerned that the Commission's has taken for granted that second-generation bio-fuels will lessen the impact.

The CIAA says nothing in the report provides assurance as to their availability between 2010 and 2020.

"Given this uncertainty, a 10 per cent minimum-binding target of bio-fuels runs the risk of putting increased pressure on food markets, and most acute when supplies are tight," the CIAA stated. "It is worth noting that the Commission's assumption for availability of raw material does not seem to take into consideration the fact that similar developments are taking place in other countries."

CIAA calls on any policy to allow member states sufficient flexibility to promote the renewable energies most suitable to their specific potential and priorities.

The plans should also be able to differentiate bio-ethanol and bio-diesel development and targets.

"Furthermore, in the event of a serious crisis in the supply of feedstock for food and feed uses, member states must have the possibility to deviate from their bio-fuel targets," the CIAA stated.

According to a statement put out yesterday by researchers at Spain's Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, biodiesel cannot contribute to reducing the EU's high dependency on fossil fuels.

"The idea that biodiesel could be a solution for the energy crisis is not only false, but also dangerous," the researchers stated. "In fact, it might favour an attitude of technological optimism and faith in a technological fix of the energy problem."

The university noted that in 2005 the EU target was not reached and it will probably not be reached in 2010 either. In 2006 about 0.8 per cent of energy consumption in the EU is made by biofuels.

In Europe, biofuels are subsidised through agricultural subsidies, the total or partial exemption from taxes, and requirements that any fuels sold at the pump must contain a given percentage of biofuels.

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USA: Cal's biofuel deal challenged on campus
Critics say energy alliance with oil giant BP endangers school's integrity, independence


San Francisco Chronicle (page A - 1), March 8, 2007. By Rick DelVecchio.

Andrew Paul Gutierrez, a 67-year-old professor of ecosystems science in UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources, has a word for those who believe human ingenuity and productivity are boundless.

He calls them "cornucopians."

He thinks cornucopians are misguided and prone to taking big risks that can backfire.

That's one of the reasons he is upset that the university where he has spent his entire academic life is joining with oil giant BP in a $500 million, 10-year program to discover how to mass-produce clean, safe transportation fuels -- such as ethanol -- from biomass in an environmentally safe and cost-effective way.

The Energy Biosciences Institute is to create high-tech energy farms as productive as oil fields but without the carbon waste that adds to climate change. The harvests would be processed into sugar-based fuels for filling the gas tanks of vehicles.

Institute scientists "will be unified and propelled by a common purpose to solve a global problem of great magnitude and urgency," according to the proposal written by a UC Berkeley-led team and accepted by BP.

The BP deal has been presented as an environmental call to arms, but Gutierrez is among a loose-knit group of faculty members and students not falling in line. The critics don't agree on what they disagree about but share a fervor that contrasts with the administration's self-confidence at landing history's richest academic-industry research partnership.

The heretics fall into three camps: those who question the science program, those who feel the deal taints the university's independence, and those who fear it conflicts with UC Berkeley's time-honored collegial process for hiring and promoting faculty.

They're few in number on a faculty of more than 1,500 but have been so persistent since the deal's announcement five weeks ago, that time had to be set aside for everyone to speak. That time is from 4 to 6 p.m. today at a campus forum sponsored by Cal's Academic Senate.

"These are arguments that have to be taken seriously," said Bill Drummond, a journalism professor who is chairman of the Academic Senate.

To give the sponsors of the BP deal their due, supporters say, leaders of the giant petroleum company are considering the issue of global warming in broad ecological and socioeconomic terms. No previous effort has even attempted such a comprehensive approach.

"I've met a bunch of the VPs at BP," said Chris Somerville, a Stanford professor who is the top candidate for the Energy Biosciences Institute's top job. "They're people like you and me. They're trying to do the right thing. They want the right thing for their children and grandchildren."

Gutierrez, interviewed at his office in Mulford Hall, said he believes it's important to pursue alternative fuels but was hard put to find anything to cheer him up about the BP deal's approach.

"You'd think this proposal is exactly what we needed because it's promising a lot to reduce greenhouse gases," he said. "The problem is, how do you separate the hype from the facts?"

Another reason he's upset is he thinks the deal marks a step backward for the university's intellectual independence.

He criticized the administration for entering into a relationship in which 50 corporate researchers will work hand in hand with university scientists. Gutierrez said partnerships between individual faculty members and corporate sponsors have been common during his career, but a partnership on the institutional level is something new.

"There used to be deals between individual professors and industry -- they would provide funding, and they could provide any kind of relationship you wanted," he said. "But you didn't have people coming in from industry with all the rights of a professor who's been through the academic sieve."

What is being introduced in the BP deal, Gutierrez said, is a public-private hybrid he calls a "corporaversity."

BP's corporate scientists and engineers will be able to profit from what they learn on campus, which is not only normal but also desirable if the research is to have a rapid social impact, according to the sponsors. But they also will be encouraged to embrace campus intellectual life, including, as the BP sponsors suggest, helping design courses, mentor students and promote science careers to schoolkids.

"It's a harbinger," Gutierrez said. "As this big money starts coming in, first we'll become addicted to it, and secondly, in becoming addicted to it, they'll start demanding more things from the university in terms of what the relationship is all about."

Gutierrez, a New Mexico cowboy's son who worked nights at a gas station to help pay his way through college and grad school, comes to his critique as an expert in modeling natural systems. His recent work includes plotting the impact of climate change on the spread of the olive fly, and the ecological backlash from cotton genetically modified to kill bugs.

During his interview with The Chronicle, he returned again and again to the theme that natural systems are all about limits. Modern human systems, on the other hand, are all about consumption. So there's a battle.

Gutierrez does not bet on technology to win the battle. He says biological systems will strain to reach equilibrium and frustrate the cleverest of the cornucopians trying to adjust them to benefit humans' insatiable consumption.

"What do you know about all the pest problems that are going to be created when you start producing these plants that are going to be different?" he asked. "Pretty soon you start making a system that starts out with good intentions but becomes more complicated.

"That's what happened with bioengineered crops. In some areas it simplifies the system. But in others it makes it so complicated."

The biofuels push has been compared with putting a man on the moon. Gutierrez doesn't see the connection.

"As a scientific adventure and quest of man and all that good stuff, it's wonderful," he said, "and I recall exactly where I was when they stepped off onto the moon. This is different. We're messing with the whole environment."

The vision of rolling Midwestern fields of bioengineered fuel crops is, Gutierrez thinks, "nonsense."

He thinks of south-central Brazil, with its sugar-cane plantations in place of what had been a mix of forests and diverse croplands. The cane is harvested to make ethanol, a substitute for fossil fuels in transportation. "It's sugar cane as far as the eye can see," he said. "The rivers run red with the runoff."

He fears more such scenes around the world.

"At a certain point there's a carrying capacity to the environment," he said. "Even if you plant the last hectare with biofuels, the demand keeps growing. Then what?"

E-mail Rick DelVecchio at rdelvecchio@sfchronicle.com

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USA: USDA Halts Sales of GMO-Contaminated Rice Seed

About US Politics, 8 March 2007

USDA is issuing emergency action notifications (EANs) to seed distributors, advising them to hold a rice seed, Clearfield CL131, "because testing by a private company has revealed the possible presence of trace levels of genetic material not yet approved for commercialization." (tip)

This action comes on the heels of a USDA recommendation that California-based Ventria Bioscience be allowed to plant 3,000 acres of genetically-modified rice for pharmaceutical use.

You might think that USDA is putting a halt to sales of the contaminated seed because of public health concerns. You'd be wrong:

APHIS is taking this action because the genetic material detected in Clearfield CL131 seed might be regulated, in which case it would not be approved for commercial use.

That's because companies can patent genetically-modified seed. In this case, the contaminated seed is a registered trademark of German company BASF AG, the world's leading chemical company.

From CheckBiotech.org

Arkansas state officials say the Clearfield variety apparently carries the Liberty Link RICE601 gene material, a GMO strain made by Bayer CropScience. The rice variety disrupted the U.S. rice industry in the summer of 2006 after the material, which was not cleared for food use, was found in commercial bins in Arkansas and Missouri.

Bayer CropScience is also a German company.

With a track record like this, do we really want USDA to approve planting 3,000 acres of rice seed modified with human genes?

The public comment period on last week's draft Environmental Impact Statement runs until 30 March.

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UK: Toxic sites could cost a bomb

Western Mail (Wales), Mar 8 2007. Martin Shipton and Sally Williams.

TAXPAYERS may have to pay hundreds of millions of pounds to clean up toxic sites in Wales unless a claim is made on the assets of a bankrupt American company by the end of the month.

An expert who began monitoring two of the sites 40 years ago says it is vital that British authorities take action to hold the Monsanto group to account. The bankrupt company Solutia is part of the Monsanto group, which he accuses of being the major polluter.

The Environment Agency says Brofiscin quarry at Groesfaen, near Pontyclun, in Cardiff's commuter belt, contains up to 75 different toxic substances. They allegedly include Agent Orange derivatives and carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Now Douglas Gowan, a retired pollution consultant who monitored the quarry from 1967, warns it could take many of the contaminants up to 100 years to degrade. And he claims there are several other such contaminated sites in Wales such as those at Maendy, Penrhos, T-Llwyd, Pentyrch, Ruabon, Wrexham, and Newport.

In a hard-hitting statement filed with a Bankruptcy Court in New York, where one of the Monsanto companies is in reorganisation, Mr Gowan accuses the group of knowingly risking health and environment by dumping huge amounts of toxic chemicals.

Mr Gowan, 63, first became involved in the long-running Brofiscin saga working for the NFU in London. The NFU's Glamorgan branch asked him to investigate allegations of pollution, cattle and sheep deaths and unusual reproductive problems among livestock on farms in the Pontypridd area.

His statement, lodged with the court in New York, where all case documents are made publicly available, says, "The discharges sampled contained highly toxic pollutants and factual evidence suggests that the cattle deaths, reproductive problems and abortions, were a direct consequence of that pollution, and of the ingestion of PCB, which were found in the stream and well water."

He said subsequent tests at the Royal Veterinary College in London, using mice fed the Brofiscin stream and well water, caused flaccidity, tumours and death.

"The cattle that died or aborted at Brofiscin farm also exhibited similar symptoms of lethargy and flaccidity and loss of muscular control."

Mr Gowan estimates that in the seven years that Maendy and Brofiscin accepted these wastes, as much as 80,000 tons of contaminated waste were dumped.

In his statement, Mr Gowan asserts, "These sites were not authorised by their planning consents to accept hazardous, chemical wastes. What is not immediately clear is the sheer magnitude of the environmental problems now created."

Brofiscin alone may well cost up to GBP100m to clean up, claims Mr Gowan. He has provided detailed evidence to lawyers in the USA involved in the bankruptcy proceedings involving the Monsanto group, claiming that the group was responsible for the dumping. To have any chance of eventual success, claims on Solutia's assets "almost certainly" have to be submitted by the end of March. Up to now, the Environment Agency in Wales has declined to submit a claim to the court in America.

Monsanto, which was split into three corporate entities in 1997, said in a statement, "On behalf of Pharmacia Corp (a surviving part of Monsanto now owned by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer), Monsanto Company is handling issues related to the historical manufacture of PCBs in Wales.

"We continue to work with the Wales Department for Environment and other regulatory bodies to resolve these issues.

"While the people involved in the manufacture of PCBs at the time and quoted in various documents are no longer with the company and probably deceased, a thorough, non-selective review of all of the documents will show that Pharmacia did inform its contractors of the nature of wastes prior to disposal, and that Pharmacia did not dump wastes from its own vehicles."

Solutia, a spin-off firm from Monsanto, which now runs the Newport site, said it was giving Monsanto and regulatory agencies "information as requested".

A spokesman for Monsanto in the USA, responding to Mr Gowan's claims of cows dying from PCB poisoning, said, "The Ministry of Agriculture in Wales investigated at the time and concluded that PCBs were an unlikely cause. Derivatives of Agent Orange are mentioned. I am assuming it was something like dioxins but Agent Orange was never produced in the UK. I have no knowledge of the 80,000 tons of contamination referred to."

We sent the entire text of Mr Gowan's court statement to Monsanto, seeking a response. Last night, a company spokesman said, "We confirm all we have said previously, including that there is no connection with Agent Orange, which old Monsanto never manufactured in the UK.

"Everyone involved has been working with the Government for years to address whatever needs to be done.

"Indeed, the Government is in the best position to determine exactly how much waste may be present and what needs to be done about it, not others."

An Assembly Government spokesperson said, "Carwyn Jones, the Rural Affairs Minister, takes the issues raised in relation to Brofiscin extremely seriously and has asked the Environment Agency to carry out a thorough investigation into the situation.

"The agency is investigating liability of various parties for the clean-up of the site."

Mr Gowan points out that as long ago as 1988, a Welsh Office survey of contaminated land made findings about the PCBs in both Brofiscin and Maendy.

It said, "They are mobile, non-degradable and carcinogenic. They could present a hazard to users of local groundwaters."

_______________________

UK: Outrage as taxpayers face footing a huge bill to clean up toxic dumps in Wales
Now expert calls for action against US firm


Western Mail (Wales), Mar 8 2007. By Martin Shipton.

Pollution expert Douglas Gowan began monitoring two of the Welsh toxic sites 40 years ago. Here we publish compelling extracts from his statement for a court in New York investigating the bankruptcy of one of the companies allegedly responsible for the dumping

I FIRST saw the landfill sites at Brofiscin and Maendy in the late autumn of 1967, while the dumping by the Bridgend-based company, Industrial Waste Disposal (IWD) South Wales, was in progress. This company was then acquired by Purle Brothers Holdings (Purle) in early 1968. Purle were headquartered in Rayleigh, Essex.

The chairman and CEO of Purle was Tony Morgan, seemingly primarily assisted by a Mr Richard Hawkins, a Mr D Irlham and an industrial chemist named Henry Pullen. A "consultant" that Mr Morgan also had me contact after our first meeting in Rayleigh in mid-1968, was a Mr Hugh Berridge.

On information and belief, tipping and landfill activity had begun in late 1965 at Brofiscin, and in mid-1966 at Maendy. These sites were not subject to planning consents allowing for the dumping of chemical or hazardous wastes, and all discharges to watercourse or aquifer were expressly prohibited.

I was told by two landfill site operatives, one of whom I now know as a Mr Barton Williams; and another as a Mr S Bevan, who claimed to be the regional manager for Purle; that most of the chemical and hazardous wastes they handled were coming from Monsanto.

In early 1968 I instituted a sampling and monitoring programme at both quarry sites and I was assisted in this investigation by ICI at its Brixham laboratories, and a notable firm of civil engineers from Leicester, named Pick Everard Keay and Gimson. I had a greater emphasis placed on the investigations at Brofiscin, due to the regular cattle deaths, abortions, and reproductive problems that were being experienced at Brofiscin farm, which is sited below the landfill.

At this time Miss Evelyn Morgan owned the limestone quarry known as Brofiscin. I had met Miss Morgan through Mr William Miles and his son Mr Gwilym Miles. At the time it was evident that leachate and seepage from the quarry was running over and underground onto Mr Miles's land. Later, between 1968 and 1973, and following my investigations, it became clear that the pollution was also affecting the nearby wells, stream, springs and underground waters, and also the land on and adjacent to Mr Miles's farm.

The discharges sampled contained highly toxic pollutants, and factual evidence suggests that the cattle deaths, reproductive problems, and abortions, were a direct consequence of that pollution, and of the ingestion of PCB, which was found in the stream and well water, and then in the livestock.

In my opinion, and based on documented evidentiary proofs, some of which are now in the public domain, and various internal memos distributed in Monsanto in St Louis, it seems clear that Monsanto well knew of the dangers of PCB, and the related contaminants by 1965, and had substantial and specific knowledge of the risks to the environment by 1969.

As a result of tests on rats conducted for them in 1953 by a consulting laboratory called Scientific Associates in St Louis, they knew of the dangers to animals, wildlife, and livestock should there be any escape of contaminants from the Brofiscin quarry; which was an inevitability because of it being a porous limestone. On information and belief I believe that Monsanto expressly failed to inform IWD of the nature of the wastes that they were handling, and of the risks associated with the dumping of these wastes into landfill. Monsanto also knew that IWD were not sophisticated as to dealing with, let alone understanding, the nature of the very toxic wastes that they were hauling to landfill, and then dumping, and had no in-house technical capabilities.

Monsanto were also in public denial at this time (1965-1968) as to the toxicity of PCB, and the related contaminants. IWD was the very last entity that they were going to warn about environmental hazards that they were globally denying existed.

The Newport plant was also the last of the three global Monsanto PCB facilities to cease manufacture; in around late 1977 to early 1978. The aroclors (mixes of PCBs) produced were probably used in insulating fluids, carbonless carbon paper, and electrical equipment, and also in paints. In the seven years that Maendy and Brofiscin accepted these wastes I calculate, and I was also advised by Monsanto, that the landfill sites, mainly Brofiscin, received as much as 80,000 tonnes of contaminated PCB waste residues in one form or another. This figure refers to the total tonnage of the contaminated wastes and not to the amount of PCB manufactured, or in a raw form.

The nature of the wastes being tipped at the quarries greatly concerned me in 1968, as these sites were not authorised by their planning consents to accept hazardous, chemical wastes, liquid or semi liquid wastes, cyanide, mercury, toxic resins, arsenic, naphthalene, phosphorous, or explosives. This was because the Brofiscin quarry was a permeable limestone, and the Maendy quarry was sandstone. The planning consents issued required the wastes to be dry waste and for there to be no discharge overground or underground.

In my view it demonstrated then and now a blatant disregard for Miss Morgan, who was being exposed to liability; for the Miles family; the cows at Brofiscin; the cows and sheep at Maendy; and the environment itself; if only as exampled by the population of freshwater shrimps in the Brofiscin stream water, which all died. However, neither Purle nor Monsanto would do anything to mitigate or remediate the situation, despite promises made at various times.

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7 March 2007

Mexico: The plot against maize
Big biotechnology firms take advantage of corn crisis to force farmers to purchase genetically-modified seeds.


Latinamerica Press, Mar 7 2007. By John Ross.

World corn prices are currently at an all-time high due to burgeoning interest in ethanol production as a petroleum substitute. In Mexico the price of corn has been pushed upwards by the cost of diesel and petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides despite the fact that Mexico is a major oil producer.

Crop failures due to drought, flooding, and even ice storms have contributed to the price surge. But whatever the immediate causes, the dismantlement of government agricultural programs and the brutal impacts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have deepened the Mexican corn production crisis.

Competing with highly subsidized US farmers is driving Mexican farmers into bankruptcy. Guaranteed prices for farmers' crops is a thing of the past in Mexico, while corporate corn growers in the United States can receive up to US$21,000 an acre in subsidies from their government, enabling them to dump their corn over the border. The impact of this inundation has been to force 6 million farmers and their families to abandon their plots and leap into the migration stream, according to a 2004 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace study.

Problem will only worsen

This assault on poor farmers down at the bottom of the food chain will be exacerbated at the end of this year when all tariffs on US corn are abolished.

President Felipe Calderon seeks to tame tortilla price hikes, such as one early this year, by importing up to 2 million duty free tons to augment what Mexican farmers can or cannot produce. Such a solution is guaranteed to drive more farmers off the land. Even worse is that much of the new influx of NAFTA corn will be transgenic.

The environmental group Greenpeace estimates that of the 36 million tons of corn Mexico has imported from the US over the past six years, 40 to 60 percent is genetically-modified. The group reasons that US producers, barred from dealing genetically-modified corn in Europe and Japan are using Mexico as a dumping ground for the grain.

Transgenic corn began pouring into Mexico in 1998. By 2001 it was being detected in the remote sierras of the Oaxaca and Puebla states, where maize was first domesticated 7,000 years ago. Both BT and Starlink strains (Monsanto and Novartis brands) were found in Oaxaca«s Sierra de Juarez in 2001 and 2002.

Although Mexico imports millions of tons of transgenic corn, it remains a crime here to plant genetically modified seed.

In 1998, the National Biosecurity Commission, an interdisciplinary body that involves the health and agricultural secretariats, declared a moratorium on planting genetically modified corn until its impacts could be determined, and the ban remains in place although under heavy attack from big biotechnology and agricultural firms.

To keep the industry at bay, the Biosecurity commission now grants permits for "experimental" stations where the grain can be grown under government supervision - the Monsanto corporation is now testing its "YieldGuard" brand corn on hundreds of hectares in Sinaloa state, the most prolific corn-producing state in Mexico.

A spillover of YieldGuard in Sinaloa could contaminate a big chunk of the existing corn supply.

Although more and more licenses are issued every year for experimental planting, producers groups are now threatening to plant genetically-modified corn without government permission. "If the moratorium is not relaxed, we will start planting the transgenic corn in the spring cycle" warns Perfecto Solis, director of the US-Mexican agricultural giant Corn Products Systems.

But big corn growers have been sewing transgenic maize without government permission for years. Roberto Gonzalez Barrera, "El Rey de la Tortilla," or "The Tortilla King," whose Maseca-Gruma company, rules the corn flour and tortilla market, once boasted that he had thousands of hectares under transgenic corn.

During the administration of the now-reviled Carlos Salinas (1988-94), Gonzalez Barrera Gonzalez began marketing an instant corn flour mix milled from both genetically modified and natural corn.

Large agricultural companies are already petitioning the Biosecurity Commission to permit widespread planting in 2007.

"Bio-tech is the only solution to growing more corn and keeping the tortilla affordable," advises Jaime Yesaki, director of the National Agriculture and Livestock Council or CNA the principal agro-business federation in the country.

The CNA was joined in its petition to the agriculture secretary to vacate the ban on growing genetically-modified corn by the National Association of Supermarkets and Retail Stores which is controlled by the US transnational Wal-Mart, which is now Mexico's number one retailer of tortillas and other foodstuffs and, with 700 mega-stores, the nation's largest employer.

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USA: The promise and perils of tech transfer
Universities mull industry partnerships


San Francisco Chronicle, March 7 2007. By Tom Abate, Chronicle Staff Writer.

About 25 years ago, Congress encouraged universities to commercialize federally funded research by allowing both schools and scientists to profit when they patented discoveries and licensed them to private firms.

This week, hundreds of top university officials will gather in San Francisco as the Association of University Technology Managers meets to mull the promise and perils of this process known as technology transfer.

To Bay Area residents, tech transfer is as familiar as the myth of Silicon Valley: Take knowledge, add capital and create startups.

"This is not only good for the country, this is good for the communities around the universities,'' said John Fraser, president of the association and director of tech transfer at Florida State University.

The meeting, which starts tonight and runs through Saturday, comes as the controversy around university-industry partnerships is flaring up again, thanks to the proposed $500 million research partnership between the University of California and British Petroleum to develop fuels.

"I am deeply concerned that universities are continuing to run full speed down a path that is going to destroy the university as an institution for serving the public good,'' said author Jennifer Washburn, whose book title encapsulates her critique -- "University Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education."

Even academics who favor tech transfer acknowledge that the practice carries perils such as conflicts of interest. Officials from Harvard, Stanford, the University of California and other top schools are issuing a white paper today that boils down to this: Keep doing tech transfer, but be careful.

"On the one hand, we are very proud of our contributions to the Bay Area and the larger economy that have resulted from Stanford research,'' said Arthur Bienenstock, Stanford vice provost and dean for research and graduate policy, who co-authored the white paper. "On the other hand, we have to be constantly vigilant to ensure that the education of students and high-quality research remain the goals of the university."

Bayh-Dole Act crucial

The prod that drove the ivory tower closer to Wall Street was the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which the Economist magazine calls "possibly the most inspired piece of legislation to be enacted in America over the last half-century."

The act said that universities and other federally funded labs owned their discoveries. The law encouraged researchers to commercialize their work by letting both scientists and their institutions share in any profits.

The result has been a burst of academic entrepreneurship that in the Bay Area has spawned not merely companies, but industries. Workstations, scientific visualization, biotechnology, Internet routing and search engines are among the commercial developments that originated with inventions at the region's three premier universities: UC Berkeley, UCSF and Stanford.

"People have heard of the knowledge economy -- and that sounds wonderful -- but they don't know what it means in their everyday lives,'' said Fraser, adding that governors understand that university spin-offs create high-paying jobs.

In a booklet titled "The Better World Report," the association cataloged 100 products that grew out of tech transfer, including a blood-clotting agent discovered at the University of Santa Barbara now carried by Marines in Iraq; drought-resistant grass developed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for golf courses and lawns; and a process developed at UC Davis, still undergoing clinical trials, that may yield a new way to detect breast cancer.

But critics warn that the commercial winds blowing over academia have made researchers leery of sharing research, sparked legal battles over discoveries, and rewarded short-term payoffs in institutions that are supposed to take the long-term view.

"The university culture is supposed to be an open culture for sharing cutting-edge ideas that may not have any short-term utility,'' Washburn said, arguing that science is now following the money.

But Regis Kelly, former UCSF executive vice chancellor, challenged "the premise that the culture of the university has changed."

Kelly, who heads a special research institute called QB3 based at the UCSF Mission Bay campus, said QB3's 150 researchers were chosen because their studies were considered commercially relevant. But getting them to pay attention to tech transfer "is like pulling teeth," Kelly said.

Deal prompts misgivings

The deal that crystallized misgivings about university-industry collaborations was the 1998 agreement between UC Berkeley and the Swiss biotechnology firm Novartis. That $25 million deal, which ended in 2003, was intended to develop genetically engineered foods. It sparked campus protests and prompted many inquiries, including one commissioned by UC Berkeley's faculty and conducted by independent researchers at the Michigan State University.

Michigan State University sociologist Larry Busch, who led that inquiry, said the same concerns about conflicts of interest and undue influence raised in the Novartis deal have resurfaced with a proposed $500 million collaboration with British Petroleum. Under that proposal, a consortium of universities and research laboratories led by UC Berkeley will help BP develop clean, renewable fuels. Busch, without passing judgment on the proposal, said: "The general concern I have is that universities over the last 25 years have been more and more squeezed; state appropriations have not kept up with costs."

Washburn, the critic, is blunt: "The problem now is that universities are so desperate for industry money that they are allowing industry to dictate the terms."

On the flip side, tech transfer fans complain that universities can take too long to make deals and ask too high a price for their intellectual property.

"Universities have become, especially from industry's perspective, more difficult to interact with,'' economist Ross DeVol of the Milken Institute told the Scientist magazine in an article titled, "The Trouble With Tech Transfer."

Public universities like UC Berkeley, subject to political oversight, are even more likely to agonize over deals -- before and after they sign on the dotted line -- than are the private schools like Stanford that do not face the same outside scrutiny.

"Berkeley emerged as a lightning rod in part because it is public," said C. Judson King, director of the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC Berkeley.

"There is a public university role in helping the state to improve economically and socially," King said. "If we can do something with the federal government or BP, or even with Novartis, that makes the lives of Californians better. I think we're fulfilling our mission."

But Miguel Altieri, a professor of insect biology at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources, said that when universities take big industry grants, it pushes science down certain avenues of inquiry, while fields that can't make the case for an industrial payoff are likely to wither, irrespective of merit.

"To serve the public that can afford it, that's what these deals do,'' said Altieri, who studies ecological techniques that are not as marketable as patented technologies.

As the tech-transfer tribe gathers here, amidst complaints they're either writing deals too quickly or too slowly, it's easy to believe they could do things better. It's tougher to imagine them not doing such tech transfer at all -- especially now that the practices of university-industry partnerships, encouraged by the Bayh-Dole Act and exemplified in Silicon Valley, are being emulated by ambitious foreign competitors.

"When we developed this legislation, the Japanese and the Germans were eating our lunch," recalled former Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh, who is scheduled to address the association later this week. In a telephone interview from his law offices in Washington, Bayh said the incentives in the act "awakened the American genius that had been slumbering." But, he cautioned, this is no time to rest on laurels.

"Now we have an equally clear threat on the horizon that the Indians and Chinese are following the example we set and trying to make the same connections between industry and research,'' Bayh said. "That's the kind of competition we have to deal with in this day and age."

Chronicle reporter Rick DelVecchio contributed to this report. E-mail Tom Abate at tabate@sfchronicle.com

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USA: SEC Fines Ex-Monsanto Executive for Indonesian Bribe

Bloomberg, 7 March 2007. By David Scheer.

March 6 (Bloomberg) -- A former executive at Monsanto Co., the world's biggest developer of genetically modified crops, was fined $30,000 for bribing an Indonesian official in an unsuccessful bid to repeal an environmental rule, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said.

Charles M. Martin, Monsanto's former government affairs director in Asia, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in 2002 when he told a consultant to pay a senior Indonesian environmental official $50,000, the SEC said today. Martin arranged to book the bribe as part of the consultant's fee.

Monsanto paid $1.5 million in settlements with the SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice in 2005 for the bribe and other questionable payments in Indonesia. The St. Louis-based company sought repeal of a rule requiring it to assess environmental impact before planting genetically modified cottonseed, the SEC said. Even after the bribe, the official didn't change the law.

"The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act remains a significant part of our enforcement program, and we certainly intend to pursue not only entities but individuals," Christopher Conte, an SEC official overseeing the case, said in an interview.

In fining Monsanto in 2005, the SEC said the company's Indonesian affiliates also made at least $700,000 in illicit payments to at least 140 current and former Indonesian officials and their families. The payments were partially financed through unauthorized, improperly documented, and inflated sales of Monsanto's pesticide products in the country.

Martin neither admitted nor denied the accusations in agreeing to settle the SEC's civil lawsuit, filed at U.S. District Court in Washington today, the SEC said. His attorney, Richard Scheff in Philadelphia, didn't return a phone message seeking comment.

Monsanto resolved its part of the case more than two years ago, and today's action "is strictly between the individual and the SEC," company spokeswoman Lori Fisher said.

The case is SEC v. Martin, No. 07-CV-434, U.S. District Court, Washington D.C.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Scheer in Washington dscheer@bloomberg.net

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USA: Straus Organic Creamery Takes Bold Step to Prevent GMO Contamination
Being First in the U.S. to Participate in a Verification Program
Gives Assurance of Organic Integrity in All Straus Family Creamery Products


Straus Family Farm press release, 7 March 2007.

MARSHALL, Calif., March 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Straus Family Creamery, the first certified organic dairy and creamery west of the Mississippi River, will be the first certified organic manufacturer in the United States to verify that all of Straus' products are not contaminated by previously undetected genetically modified organisms (GMO).

"Certified organic crops are at risk of contamination by genetically modified crops," said Albert Straus, President of Straus Family Creamery. "We have rejected organic feeds for our animals because of GMO contamination. We need better controls over our feeds and ingredients, so we have established this relationship with The Non-GMO Project to ensure that all of our products are verified as non-GMO."

GMO crop contamination was ruled a violation of federal law in a case filed against the USDA, because it caused economic harm to both conventional and organic farmers. California Assemblyman Jared Huffman has introduced legislation that would make companies developing genetically engineered crops liable for damages when they contaminate other fields.

"This program will function as an additional quality-assurance program for our customers. We'll use The Project's verification and compliance seal on our product labels to help educate our customers," Straus added. "People want to avoid GMOs and know that GMOs are excluded from organic foods. We are making sure that our products meet this expectation fully. The integrity of the organic movement cannot be damaged by the presence of GMOs."

The Straus dairy farm began in 1941 along the beautiful shores of Tomales Bay and converted to organic in 1993, becoming the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi River. Albert launched Straus Family Creamery in 1994, to bottle organic milk and make organic butter, yogurt and ice cream under the family name. The Straus dairy farm and creamery are both dedicated to farmland protection and environmental stewardship. For more information about Straus Family Creamery, visit www.strausfamilycreamery.com.

The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing access to non-GMO foods & supplements. Its mission is to provide consumers with the ability to purchase non-GMO products produced in compliance with a rigorous Non-GMO Project Standard. For more information about The Non-GMO Project, visit www.nongmoproject.org.

Contact:

Nils-Michael Langenborg
nils-michael@strausfamilycreamery.com
Tel + 1 (415) 663-5464 ext.101
Website: www.strausfamilycreamery.com

. _______________________

6 March 2007

USA: U.S. tests for GMO in rice; seeks halt in some planting

MarketWatch, 6 March 2007. By Bill Tomson.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- There may be unapproved genetically modified material in a type of long grain rice seed produced by the BASF Corporation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a "hold" order on distributing or planting while tests are conducted this week.

Farmers may have already begun 2007 planting, USDA spokeswoman Andrea McNally said Monday night, so a small amount of BASF's Clearfield CL131 - the rice seed in question - may already be in the ground.

Ron DeHaven, director of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said in a prepared statement that the agency began sending notifications to seed distributors Sunday that the seed "must be held until APHIS can verify and identify the presence of additional genetic material. APHIS directed distributors to begin notifying producers yesterday."

BASF, in a statement released Monday, said it will work with the USDA to rid Clearfield CL131 rice "from the marketplace following discovery that some of the seed has been contaminated by an unidentified genetically modified ... event."

The company said Clearfield CL131 rice is not a genetically modified type of rice, but BASF scientists asked for USDA's help after detecting the presence of biotech rice produced by Bayer CropScience, a unit of Bayer AG.

The European Union now bans U.S. rice because unapproved genetically modified rice was found last year in commercial stocks. That GM rice - Liberty Link 601 made by Bayer CropScience - has since been approved and is now considered "deregulated" by the USDA.

Contact:

+1 201 938 5400.

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India: EU Ag Chief Sees Increased Indian Rice Imports

Dow Jones, 6 March 2007.

NEW DELHI (Dow Jones)--The European Union's rice imports from Asian countries such as India may increase after consignments from the U.S. were found to have traces of unauthorized genetic modification last year, European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said Tuesday.

"We have asked the U.S. to provide us with evidence that rice consignments to E.U. doesn't contain the unapproved genetic modification," Boel told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview." (Such U.S. consignments) become more expensive and therefore the E.U. is also looking eastwards at other markets (to buy rice)."

India's rice exports to Europe are mostly restricted to basmati in husked or brown form, a type of rice famous for its aroma, grain length and cooking flavor but grown only in small pockets of the Indian subcontinent, including Pakistan.

Last year the E.U. placed control requirements on rice imports from the U.S. after shipments were found to contain an unauthorized biotech strain made by Bayer CropScience, a unit of German biochemical company Bayer AG (BAY).

That GM rice - Liberty Link 601 - has since been approved and is now considered "deregulated" by the USDA but the E.U. has zero tolerance for such rice.

India's rice exporters smell an opportunity in this development to ship non-Basmati rice to the E.U.

"I don't exclude that possibility (of higher rice imports from India) but they have to be...not low quality," Boel said.

She said the E.U. won't relax its quality controls on GM crops including rice from the U.S. as it will harm consumer interests.

"We have to be stringent to maintain confidence of the European consumers that when they buy something and it is not labeled, it is not derived from the GM product. This is crystal clear," said Boel.

Boel said since Basmati is unique to the Indian subcontinent there needs to be strict tests to ensure there is no contamination in its shipments to the E.U.

She said discussions are ongoing with Indian authorities with regards to testing of basmati.

India undertakes quality tests on Basmati consignments before they are shipped out of the country. However, Boel said the consignments need to be tested for authenticity in the E.U. as well.

"We are looking into the possibility to be able to verify the value of the quality tests in the E.U.," said Boel.

Brown basmati is subject to import tariff concessions because of its unique origin in the Indian subcontinent.

To a query about whether the E.U. will consider granting such concessions on non-Basmati rice and white rice as well, Boel said such requests from India could be negotiated upon as part of a proposed comprehensive trade and investment agreement with India.

The E.U. and India plan to negotiate a broadbased agreement on trade and investment under which import tariff on 90% of the commodities will be reduced to zero over a period of seven years.

"Of course I am sure India will defend heavily to include rice in such an agreement," said Boel.

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No GMO Coffee Allowed in Hawaii!

Hawaii SEED press release, 6 March 2007.

On Tuesday March 6, 2007 the Hawaii State House of Representatives passed HB1577 which prohibits the outdoor planting and outdoor field trials of GMO coffee in the state of Hawaii. It allows for research in an environmentally controlled facility. HB1577 previously passed both the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, chaired by Hermina Morita and Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee, chaired by Robert Herkes. The vote on the House floor was 45 ayes and 4 nos with 2 excused. This comes on the tails of the historic vote last month in the Hawaii Senate passing SB 958 a ten-year ban on the planting and research on taro, the Native Hawaiian staple crop and the revered ancestor of the Hawaiian people. The first GMO crop moratorium to pass a body of the Hawaii State Legislature

"The coffee bill HB1577 is a reasonable, fair and prudent bill, which will help to protect the vibrant Hawaii coffee industry from the contamination that other crops in the U.S. have been affected with." Says Una Greenaway, from the Coaliton to Protect Hawaii Coffee and an organic Kona coffee farmer. "We applaud the foresight of the Hawaii State Representatives to behave in a proactive manner to control the risks that could devastate an industry's markets. The coffee industry in Hawaii, is a 175 year old industry. There are over 600 small family farms in Kona alone that could be affected. We say mahalo (thank you) to the legislature."

The bill crosses over to the Senate next week, where the dialogue continues.

Contact:

Sarah Sullivan + 1 808 331 1211
Una Greenaway + 1 808 328 8888

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USA: USDA bars planting of rice suspected of GMO taint

Reuters, 6 March 2007.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Agriculture Department ordered seed dealers on Monday not to sell a long-grain rice seed that may contain a genetic modification not approved for planting.

USDA issued "emergency action notifications" to distributors to prevent planting of Clearfield CL131 seed. Similar orders will be issued to farmers to prevent use of the seed until USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection tests the rice.

Arkansas state officials say the Clearfield variety apparently carries the Liberty Link RICE601 gene material, a GMO strain made by Bayer CropScience. The rice variety disrupted the U.S. rice industry in the summer of 2006 after the material, which was not cleared for food use, was found in commercial bins in Arkansas and Missouri.

BASF Agricultural Products, said late on Monday, that it is removing all Clearfield CL131 rice seed from the marketplace. BASF Agricultural is a unit of German chemical group BASF AG.

APHIS Administrator Ron DeHaven said his agency acted "because the genetic material detected in Clearfield CL131 seed might be regulated, in which case it would not be approved for commercial use." USDA was informed last week of the potential problem by BASF, which developed the seed, and by Ag Horizon, licensed by BASF to market the seed.

"BASF notified the USDA immediately after becoming aware of the laboratory findings and we continue to work cooperatively with USDA on this situation," Andy Lee, a director with BASF said in a statement.

Clearfield 131 was not developed as a genetically engineered variety. It is popular among U.S. rice growers because it is resistant to red rice weed.

USDA, through its own testing, is in the process of confirming the results reported by BASF, said DeHaven.

BASF said it remains committed to the Clearfield technology and is working with Bayer CropScience to "determine the scope and source of the GM presence in Clearfield seed."

Last week, APHIS said trace levels of a previously deregulated genetically engineered trait had been identified in Clearfield CL131.

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USA: More biotech woes for U.S. rice

Brownfield News Newtork, March 6 2007. By Peter Shinn.

Audio related to this story:
http://www.brownfieldnetwork.com/...

BASF Agricultural Products of Research Park Triangle, North Carolina, is pulling one number of its Clearfield rice seed off the market. USDA ordered the company to do so after BASF found trace amounts of a biotech event in the Clearfield rice following extensive testing.

Ray Gilmer is group communications manager for the company. He said the likely suspects for the contamination are Liberty Link rice biotech traits that escaped into the environment into the late 1990s. But Gilmer pointed out nothing is known for sure right now.

"We know we found a GM [genetically modified] event in a sample of Clearfield 131 rice," Gilmer said. "But we have not yet identified if it is in fact Liberty Link or anything else."

Gilmore said much detective work will have to be done before the source of the biotech contamination is known. But until it is, Clearfield 131 rice, a conventional variety, won't be sold.

"Regrettably, we're sort of the victim here, and subject to USDA's authority," said Gilmer. "We want to make sure that the rice that we are selling, because it is conventionally bred it has the greatest acceptability for export or domestic consumption, but these are the steps that are necessary to withhold the spread of that genetic material, until we at least know what it is."

Gilmer said most BASF Clearfield rice seed is not affected by the recall. He estimated losses to the company from the incident at between $1 million and $9 million dollars.

"We're probably talking about single-digit in the millions of a financial hit," Gilmer surmised. "Thankfully, we have lots of other Clearfield varieties that are available to help fill the pipeline this year."

The discovery last year that unapproved biotech traits had been found in U.S. rice in six states disrupted export markets and prompted several class action lawsuits against Bayer CropScience, which bought the company that, in the late 1990s, originally released the unapproved biotech events. USDA has since approved those biotech varieties for animal and human consumption, but international approval hasn't followed suit.

Related Links

BASF Agricultural Products:
http://www.agproducts.basf.com

USDA statement on Clearfield rice:
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/content/2007/03/ge_riceseed_statement.shtml.

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EU: MEPs back European organic logo

European Parliament, 6 March 2007.

With sales of organic goods growing by 30% a year and production expanding dramatically, MEPs have supported the creation of a European "organics logo" which would protect the special nature of organic food. Meeting last week, Parliament's Agriculture committee backed a report calling for a European logo for foods containing 95% organic ingredients. It also calls for organic food to be completely free of GMOs - current rules say that 0.9% of the product can be of GMO origin.

A need to "guarantee certainty for consumers"

The report adopted by MEPs is in response to a proposed regulation on organic production and food labelling that EU Agriculture Ministers are currently considering.

Marie-Hélène Aubert, the French Green MEP who acted as the rapporteur on the issue explained the need for action: "in the context of the ballooning demand for organic food in the EU and the resulting growth in supply, we need to guarantee certainty for consumers about the products they are buying".

The main thrust of her report is the call for a compulsory EU-wide logo for organic food on all products which satisfy the "organic" requirements. The report also calls for GMOs to be prohibited in the production of organic products.

Mrs Aubert would also like clearer labelling and closer inspection to determine the origins of goods so they can identified more accurately. For organic imported into the EU the report calls for an EU Agency or authority to independently certify the products.

The report would also like the proposed regulation legally changed so that the Parliament has a more powerful co-decision role instead of the existing consultative role. This is based on the fact it concerns food products which are sold in the EU's internal market.

What exactly is an organic product?

Organic products are those that are grown without fertilizers and pesticides and with respect to the environment and biodiversity. This involves crop rotation and the rearing of "free-range" livestock which are not force-fed hormones or antibiotics.

As well as the apparent health benefits of more natural food, the organic movement is a reaction against the perceived exploitation and intensity of post-war farming.

Although a booming industry, organic methods of farming occupied just 3.6% of the land in the European Union last year. In addition the practice differs widely in popularity across the continent - being much popular among farmers and consumers in Western Europe than in central and eastern European countries. Aware of the importance of the sector the EU adopted rules on organic farming in 1992 and in 2004 integrated it into the objectives of the reform Common Agricultural Policy.

The full Plenary of the Parliament will consider the Aubert report in March while EU Agriculture Ministers will further consider the regulation in June. As they consider the next steps to take Mrs Aubert reiterated the message of her report by saying "we need labelling rules that ensure the consumer knows both where the product comes from and under which quality standards it has been produced".

Further information:

27 Feb: In depth
12 Oct 06: GM crops: friend or foe
Parliament's Agriculture Committee
European Commission: organic farming

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UK: Government backs origin labelling campaign

MeatInfo.co.uk, 6 March 2007.

Lord Rooker backed the MLC campaign's for origin of meat labelling on menus in foodservice outlets yesterday at a MLC Symposium in London.

The minister of state for sustainable farming and food said the climate had changed dramatically in the last 10 years and the public had a greater interest in the origin of food.

However, he counselled against going down the legislative route on menu transparency as this could take up to three years. "It would be much better if the industry does this voluntarily and provides something the public has confidence otherwise there will be pressure to regulate."

Lord Rooker also warned foodservice outlets against defensive labelling which enterprises used for commercial reasons such as "free from GMO ingredients" when the government had not even approved the product.

Lord Rooker's comments followed new research unveiled by the MLC, which found that more than two-thirds of consumers want to be told where the meat they eat is from.

The MLC carried out a NOP survey in January 2007, which found that 60% of people want restaurants to provide clearer information on the country of origin of the meat they serve. A MORI poll carried out in 2006 showed similar results.

MLC CEO Richard Lowe called on foodservice establishments to follow the example of retailers who had been improving their labelling of origin.

He cited the example of the Aberdeen Angus label in restaurants as causing confusion through unambiguous labelling as 84% of consumers believe it comes from Scotland when less than 40% is produced domestically.

Lowe also pointed to menus that selectively put down the origin of meat on two or three dishes causing consumers to assume that the rest of the meat was also British.

"The relevance of origin is increasing not decreasing," said Lowe. "Over the last three years origin labelling on menu has improved slightly but it has some way to go."

The MLC campaign is hoping its campaign to extend origin labelling in foodservice outlets will pick up momentum following Scotland's decision to introduce mandatory labelling last month.

Other countries that have gone down this route are France, which in 2001 became the first EU country to introduce mandatory labelling for the origin of beef with all outlets having to state the origin either on menu or at the point of purchase.

This was followed by Northern Ireland in 2006.

Other countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, have recommended that catering outlets should voluntarily provide details of the origin of the beef they are serving.

Austria is currently considering voluntary or mandatory labelling.

Tony Goodger, MLC trade sector manager said: "The clear message in front of the consumer route, namely on the menu route, is in our opinion the preferred route. We believe that a consumer has a right to know the origin of all meat served when eating or at home."

A spokesman for the NFU said: "We must ensure that our customers are provided with the information they need to make an informed decision.

"We know that customers are requesting more information on where their meat comes from, so let's tell them.

It's a no brainer, our customers demand improved transparency in the food service sector so lets celebrate our food and label where it comes from."

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USA: GMO Research Dominates BP-UC Partnership

The Berkeley Daily Planet, 6 March 2006. By Richard Brenneman.

Critics of the proposed agreement between UC Berkeley and BP - the rebranded British Petroleum - should take their best shots now, because once the deal is signed not only Big Oil, but Big Academy and Big Government Lab will mobilize their own PR folks to fire back.

Should a final contract be signed as UC Berkeley proposes, the collective public relations efforts of academia and the corporation will be formally obligated to uphold the project as the world's leading research in alternative energy, implicitly holding up biofuels as the preeminent solution to world energy woes.

What's more, venture capital firms have promised to marshal their lobbying efforts to catch the ears of hesitant legislators and other government leaders.

All these efforts will target would-be critics of a project that proposes nothing less than to re-engineer living plant cells to toil away as microfactories, delivering the raw materials to other living cells toiling away to turn plantstuff into fuel to keep cars and trucks on the road.

These facts - and many more - emerge from a close reading of the 93-page submission, a copy of which was obtained by the Daily Planet, which was used by UC Berkeley, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana (UI) to win the promise of a half-billion dollars from the global oil giant,

One commonly understood phrase is missing though omnipresent throughout the first 56 pages of the document and appears only in the final and shortest item in the research program - and then only as a warning that "This research will profit from paying significant attention to the evolving regulatory and societal response to genetically modified organisms at the domestic and international level."

Genetically modified organisms - or GMOs - have provoked political firestorms, and bans in Europe and protests and suicides by Indian farmers have heightened the controversy around their creation and use.

But, as the document makes clear on page 56, "Synthetic biology is a core function with the EBI," with "synthetic biology" being the reframed and university-and-BP-preferred alternative name to GMO.

"Synthetic biology is the design and construction of new biological entities - such as enzyme, genetic circuits and cells - or the redesign of existing biological systems," states the proposal.

Still to be finalized is a basic legal document for the project, which is to be negotiated between and signed by UC Berkeley and BP, with the University of Illinois and LBNL serving as subcontractors to Cal.

BP itself would create a proprietary subsidiary to conduct its own research in separate quarters in the same building.

Designer genes

While some gene-engineered microbes are eating GMO plantstuff and excreting ethanol and other fuels, other microscopic forms of "synthetic biology" could be slaving away deep beneath the earth's surface, chomping down on hard-to-reach oil and rendering it easier to extract or digesting coal into cleaner forms of liquid fuel.

But most of the emphasis is on biomass - chopped up bits of cropped plants - as the likely source of the energy-creation efforts of the Energy Biosciences Institute, or EBI.

The proposal lists three potential sources of biomass to be used for fuels in addition to corn: fast-growing poplar trees, switchgrass and miscanthus - with the emphasis on the last, a tall, hardy perennial already being used in European pilot programs.

Experiments will focus on developing GMO strains tweaked to overcome biological factors that make it hard for microorganisms to digest.

Tasked with creating the new plants are the Biomass Engineering, Lignin, Feedstocks and Breeding laboratories. The Feedstock Pretreatment, Enzyme Discovery, Enzyme Evolution and Engineering and Biofuels Chemistry laboratories will explore processing the plants, and the Laboratory for Integrated Bioprocessing will focus on treating a single organism that would both produce enzymes to break down biomass and convert the resulting compounds to fuels.

The Pathway Engineering Lab, aided by the Host Engineering Laboratory, will identify the genes that produce critical enzymes and develop organisms that thrive in harsh industrial conditions in the presence of compounds that might otherwise destroy the microbes in their naturally occurring forms.

Several more labs will focus on enzymes.

The Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery and Fossil Fuel Bioprocessing labs will concentrate on petroleum and coal, respectively, while the Biological Carbon Sequestration lab will seeks ways to trap more carbon and keep it from the atmosphere.

Another lab will focus on harvesting, transport and storage.

The remaining labs will focus on marketing, social and environmental implications, and developing tools to implement, evaluate and regulate the emerging GMO-derived fuel industry.

Construction sites

The proposal sites the main offices and labs in a purpose-built facility at LBNL. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pledged $40 million in state funds for the structure, and the university has lined up $15 million in private contributions and $30 million in state lease revenue bonds, based on revenues anticipated from BP.

The structure, envisioned as a three-story building, will be located next to a planned new parking lot with 150 spaces - the same number as the anticipated number of staff positions.

Initially, the program would operate in two existing structures, Hildebrand Hall, a research building, and the Calvin Laboratory, a structure scheduled for demolition to make way for a new office and meeting complex joining the university's law and business schools.

Initial plans call for a three-story building at LBNL with special containment labs designed to prevent release of any of the organisms created at the lab. The lab rated Biohazard Safety Level 2 on a scale from one to four, with four covering the most lethal agents. BSL 2 is the level mandated for handling the HIV, influenza and hepatitis viruses.

The proposal accepted by BP last month declares that UC Regents are scheduled to approve the structure this month, with detailed design work to start by summer.

That schedule is dependent on approval of the Environmental Impact Report for LBNL's Long Range Development Plan, now the subject of public hearings, including an upcoming joint meeting of the city's Planning, Landmarks Preservation, Transportation and Community Health commissions. The session begins at 7 p.m. Mar. 14 in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave.

The City Council will add its own comments the following Tuesday.

The deadline for all public comments is March 23. A copy of the draft EIR is available on the lab's website at www.lbl.gov/LRDP/.

A smaller, 6,748-square-foot lab will be housed in an existing building at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana in the Institute of Genomic Biology building.

The project will use a variety of other facilities and scientific equipment at LBNL and will occupy some of the space in a new 11,600-square-foot Biomolecular Nanotechnology Center.

Plans also call for use of the university's Oxford Tract and Growing Field and yet another university-owned site three miles from campus.

In addition to controlling all of the research conducted by its own scientists, BP has the right to review all research conducted by faculty and students at the institute to make sure no trade secrets for corporate research leak out.

In addition to testing crops at sites provided by UI, the Biofuels Markets and Networks and the Biofuels Evaluation and Adoption laboratories will seek out test sites in Europe, China and Africa and field research sites in the U.S., Europe, China, India, Africa and Latin America - looking at both growing conditions and the political and regulatory climates.

PR and outreach

The public relations push is mandated on page 56 of the proposal, which calls for the combined PR efforts of BP, the two universities and the lab "to ensure that the EBI maintains national and international visibility as the world's premier energy research institute."

Implications of this massive PR push for other forms of energy research, including solar, wind, tidal and even nuclear, aren't mentioned. The universities have committed to pushing biofuels as the premier solution to the world's energy crisis - and as a lab representative told the Berkeley Planning Commission, the primary purpose of the fuels is to keep transportation moving.

The proposal also recruits the extension services of the two university systems to sell the institute to students at the universities and in public schools, and to grant access to both forms of academia to BP engineers and scientists to encourage the young to pursue careers in the field.

Scientists will also get to work on marketing their work with the help of MBA. students from UC Berkeley's Management of Technology Program, a joint effort of the Haas School of Business, the College of Engineering and the School of Information.

Senior industry executives and venture capitalists have pledged to support the program by:

* Investing in BP spinoff companies and other businesses needed to solidify the emerging industry.

* Bringing in new corporate partners in line with BP's interest.

* Mentoring EBI graduate and post-doctoral students looking for jobs in the industry.

* "Advocating for" federal and state policies supporting EBI and the biofuel industry.

The closest the proposal comes to a watchdog body is the Social Interactions and Risk Laboratory, which is staffed by two economists, a biologist, an MBA and a Harvard-trained lawyer. There is no provision for lay membership or an ombudsperson.

Rights

Patent rights to inventions and discoveries fall into two classes: BP-only and open research.

The first category involves the work of BP scientists in the half of the building they lease from the university, a space from which university staff are "excluded entirely in performance of their university activities."

However, BP will also contract with faculty and do research jointly with faculty members, resulting in more complex financial relations.

University-only research would belong to the university, but profits from discoveries by joint teams would be shared, as would the fruits of research by BP scientists using university or LBNL facilities.

[For more on the controversial Berkeley BP biofuel tie up see http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7601]

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EU: Hundreds of NGOs and thousands of individuals call on the EU Leaders Summit to say NO to biofuel targets

Joint Press Release from:

Rettet den Regenwald : http://www.regenwaldorg
Munlochy Vigil : http://www.munlochygmvigilorg.uk
GRR Argentina : http://www.grr.org.ar
Biofuelwatch : http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk
Watch Indonesia : http://home.snafu.de/watchin/Index-engl.htm

6 March 2007

On Thursday and Friday this week, the EU Summit will decide whether to endorse plans for high mandatory biofuel targets. Over 230 organisations and prominent individuals from across the world have asked European politicians to say no to biofuel targets [http://tinyurl.com/2vgtke]. Over the last ten days, more than 7,000 European citizens have emailed heads of states and ministers with the same message (see letter to Heads of State below).

Almuth Ernsting of Biofuelwatch says: 'If the EU Summit says yes to mandatory biofuel targets, they will be giving the green light to plans to convert millions of hectares of rainforest, grasslands and traditional farmland across Latin America, Asia and Africa into biofuel monocultures. This will be a disaster for forests, for the climate, for local communities, and for food security. The greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, peat drainage and from intensive agriculture will far outweigh any apparent carbon savings from using less fossil fuels. Far from slowing down global warming, biofuel targets are set to accelerate it.'

NASA have just published evidence that 2006 saw the second worst fire season on record in Indonesia. The only worse season was 1997/98, when carbon emissions from those fires were as high as 40% of global emissions from fossil fuel burning that year. Peat drainage and land clearance by plantation owners are the main causes of those fires. Annual emissions from Indonesia's peatlands far exceed all the emission savings which the Kyoto Protocol sets out to make globally from 1990 levels. The Indonesian government is now planning to convert another 20 million hectares to oil palm plantations, which will probably spell the end for most of South-east Asia's remaining rainforests and peatlands [http://tinyurl.com/33lb7r]. Those plans are a direct response to Europe's biofuel plans. This could double Indonesia's carbon emissions ā yet Europe classes palm oil biodiesel as carbon neutral, simply because the emissions are taking place outside Europe.

A recent study by Wetlands International, Delft Hydraulics and Alterra showed that producing one tonne of biodiesel from palm oil from South-east Asia's peatlands is linked to the emission of 10-30 tonnes of CO2 http://tinyurl.com/3cqjhr. Total emissions linked to a tonne of palm oil biodiesel from South-east Asia are estimated to be 2-8 times as much as from the equivalent of fossil fuel diesel http://tinyurl.com/2q2lwl.

Biodiversity losses, human rights abuses and high food prices have all been linked to biofuel production. Stella Semino, member of the Grupo de Reflexion Rural in Argentina, says: "The impact of soybean monocultures in the South America region has already been devastating. The expansion has been, and still is, at the expense of ancient forests and other biodiverse ecosystems. Rural communities are forced off their lands and into cities, either by violent means, or due to the loss of their traditional food production. Soybeans require large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers resulting in massive topsoil erosion, surface and groundwater pollution and harm to people's and animal's health. Europe's growing demand for biofuels will exacerbate the problem further, as soybean cultivation becomes more lucrative. Pressure to introduce other crops for ethanol production will push the agrarian borders even further into the forests. If the EU fuel obligations are imposed, the resulting expansion of intensive agriculture will create ecological and social havoc across Latin America".

Soya prices are expected to rise, not just because of greater demand for soya biodiesel, but also because other vegetable oils are increasingly used for biodiesel and because US farmers are increasingly switching from soya to corn for ethanol, thus pushing up the market price for soya.

The Open Letter is calling for strong measures which will reduce Europe's greenhouse gas emissions ā not biofuel targets, but real cuts in energy and fuel use, and support for truly renewable forms of energy, like wind and solar power. As ethanol demand grows, higher world corn prices will also provide an incentive for countries like Brazil and Argentina to expand their corn production, thus putting further pressure on land and ecosystems.

Contacts:

Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, Tel +44-1224-324797 or +44-1224-553195
Anthony Jackson, Munlochy Vigil, +44-1381-610740
Stella Semino, Grupo de Reflexion Rural, +45-46325328
Andrew Boswell, Biofuelwatch, T: +44-1603-613798, +44-7787127881;

Further Notes:

In November 2006, more than 100 groups from and individuals from across the world submitted a petition entitled Biofuels: A Disaster in the Making' to the United Nations http://www.wrm.org.uy/actors/CCC/Nairobi/Disaster_Making.html.

In January 2007, hundreds of Latin American groups which are part of five large networks wrote to the EU to demand 'We Want Food Not Biofuels' http://tinyurl.com/26ed49.

The Indonesian NGO Sawit Watch submitted their own declaration to the EU warning Palm oil for biofuels increases social conflicts and undermines land reform in Indonesia. For evidence that global oilseed demand is growing rapidly and pushing soya expansion in South America, see http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/j8126e/j8126e05.htm For evidence that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon correlates with the price of soya, see http://news.mongabay.com/2006/0919-amazon.html

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EU: Letter sent to EU Heads of State by over 7,000 people

Sent from http://www.regenwald.org with action alert at http://www.regenwald.org/protestaktion.php?id=138

Dear Head of State or Minister,

At the EU Summit on 8th/9th March, you will be asked to support proposals for mandatory biofuel targets of 10% by 2010. I urge you not to support these proposals, and use any veto that you can to prevent the proposals becoming mandatory across the EU. Reasons for not supporting a mandatory EU biofuel target are given below.

Large opposition from civil society in the global South

Well over 200 organisations from North and South have signed an Open Letter (available at web address: http://tinyurl.com/2vgtke) to call on the EU to abandon biofuel targets, because of the serious threats not just to the climate and rainforests, but also to food security, human and land rights and biodiversity. Recently the poor in Mexico have seen staple food prices rise steeply leading to civil unrest because of US ethanol production, and world grain reserves are now at their lowest level for over twenty years. Rising food prices and diverting land from food to energy crop« production undermine the EU's commitments with regard to the UN Millennium Goals. Please read this Open Letter that represents million of people from the Southern nations.

Biofuels are not a proven technology for climate change mitigation

The energy and carbon saving balances of biofuels are disputed by experts. Most studies are flawed in not covered the full production life-cycle and produce over optimistic estimates of gains. An increasing number of reports, looking at the full lifecycle, show the savings for carbon emissions to be minimal or even negative. Biofuels are then diluted with conventional fossil fuels to create the final blend at the pump - any minimal savings are further diluted. For example with 5.75% of biofuel in the blend, a raw biofuel saving of 17% of carbon emissions will be reduced to less than 1% in the fuel sold/dispensed at the pump. A study done for the European Commission in 2002 found that converting all 5.6 million hectares of set-asides to the highest-yield energy crops could reduce the EU's emissions by no more than 0.3%, whilst having a devastating impact on biodiversity.

EU imports of energy crops from tropical nations threatens the global climate

The EU doesn't have the capacity to grow sufficient crops to meet a 10% target within Europe, and proposes to import crops from tropical countries where production is known to damage rainforests, peatlands and other ecosystems. The proposals before the EU Summit will do nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but will instead threaten to further accelerate global warming by speeding up the destruction of tropical rainforests that are crucial in regulating the global climate.

Indonesia's biofuel plans, linked directly to Europe's policy, are set to expand Palm Oil production 43-fold (see report available at http://tinyurl.com/33lb7r) and destroy 20 million hectares of rainforest. If you allow this expansion to happen, most of that country's remaining rainforests and peatlands would be destroyed, releasing up to 50 billion tonnes of carbon. This is the equivalent of over six years of global fossil fuel burning and could well be enough to push us beyond the 2°C warming which the EU are officially committed to avoid.

A recent TV news item on the UK Channel 4 network explained how drained peatlands create these absolutely massive carbon emissions that add significantly to the global total of carbon in the atmosphere and hence contribute to climate change. The video clip uses simple graphics to explain these issues very clearly, and may be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/yv3bj7. Please view this news clip that clearly shows the risks to the global climate from mass-scale biofuels production in the tropics.

Devastating for biodiversity

Within Europe, biofuel plans require the abolition of compulsory set-asides. The European Environment Agency has warned that this will seriously reduce biodiversity in Europe. Many bird and insect species now only survive because of set-asides. Many of the pollinators are already in steep decline, and a further increase in intensive agriculture across Europe could have a disastrous impacts on those species on which much of agriculture depends. Habitat loss and intensive agriculture are amongst the main drivers of biodiversity losses worldwide, and Europe's biofuel plans are likely to drastically reduce biodiversity not just here but across the global South. Those plans will make it impossible for the EU to achieve its goal of ending biodiversity losses by 2010.

Second generation biofuels will be too late and not acceptable to consumers

Second generation biofuels based on ligno-cellulosic technology are still at the research stage and do not yet offer a viable commercial route to meeting the EU Biofuels target for 2020 either. These fuels are likely to be based on genetic engineering technology, both in the crops and their processing. The biotech industry hopes that consumers will accept GE food and feed crops when and if they are used for biofuels. However, it is unlikely that European consumers will accept the wide risks associated with GM technology and the potential threat of contamination to European food crops and biodiversity.

Biofuels should not be used to trade for reduced car emission standards

The EU Energy strategy from the Commissioners in January called for car manufacturers to make innovative gains in fuel efficiency. This was a good policy - stringent emission standards are one of the key measures needed to tackle transport emissions! I was shocked to learn that the industry has been lobbying the EU for higher biofuel targets to avoid making these stringent, but perfectly realistic, gains in fuel efficiency that would save significant carbon emissions. For every additional gram of carbon dioxide that European cars are allowed to emit per kilometer, hundreds of thousands of hectares of energy crop monocultures and grasslands will displace virgin rainforest, peatlands and indigenous croplands in the tropics, releasing massive additional CO2 emissions.

Strong demand reduction measures are needed in the EU transport sector

Europe needs strong measures that will truly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions: targets to increase energy efficiency, including in the transport sector, and significant reductions in overall energy use, plus policies which promote clean, decentralised and renewable energies, such as wind and solar power.

Your support against the EU Biofuels targets is essential to protect the South and future climate stability

I strongly hope that you will stand up against lobbying from both the car industry and biotech companies, and speak against EU Biofuels targets. This is the right decision for stabilising the climate, the global environment and the needs of those local communities the global South, whose livelihoods and food security are threatened by expanding biofuel monocultures.

Your veto of the biofuel target at the EU Summit will be crucial not just for the future of South-east Asia's rainforests and peatlands, and for the future of forests throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America, but also, critically, for the future stability of the climate.

Yours

_______________________

UK: Warning over GM pharmaceutical food crops
as USA palns to allow human genes in rice
Meanwhile another GM rice contamination incident hits US


Friends of the Earth Press Release, Tuesday 6 March 2007

Friends of the Earth is calling for the production of drugs in food crops grown outside to be banned after the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave preliminary approval to the commercial production of GM pharmaceutical rice containing human genes [1]. The environmental campaign group warned of the potentially devastating consequences if pharmaceutical crops end up on consumers« plates.

The warning comes as US authorities have confirmed that a third GM rice contamination incident in less than a year has hit the United States. In the latest incident a type of non-GM long grain rice (known as Clearfield CL131, produced by BASF) was found to contain unknown GM contamination. The USDA has stepped in to stop rice farmers planting the variety because of the likelihood that the GM trait is unapproved [2].

Last week, US authorities confirmed that Clearfield CL131 had also been contaminated by GM LL62 rice - produced by biotech company Bayer CropScience. Because this rice is legal in the US, farmers had decided to plant the variety this spring because of a shortage of seed. This follows the initial contamination incident with Bayer's LL601 rice which affected long grain rice exported around the world, including the UK [3].

Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner, Clare Oxborrow, said: "This latest GM contamination incident should set alarm bells ringing about the dangers of allowing GM pharmaceutical crops to be grown. Using food crops and fields as glorified drug factories is deeply worrying. The biotech industry has repeatedly failed to prevent experimental GM rice contaminating food crops. If pharmaceutical crops end up on consumers' plates, the consequences for our health could be devastating."

"The UK Government must urge the US to ban the production of drugs in food crops grown outside. It must also introduce tough measures to prevent illegal GM crops contaminating our food and ensure that biotech companies are liable for any damage their products cause."

[1]. The USDA has given preliminary approval for the first GM pharmaceutical rice containing human genes to be grown commercially. The rice, produced by a company called Ventria, has been engineered to produce human proteins to be extracted to produce anti-diarrhea medicine. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/01/AR2007030101495_pf.html

[2] http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/call_for_ban_on_us_imports_21082006.html

[3] http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/content/2007/03/ge_riceseed_statement.shtml

_______________________

USA: GM rice contamination disaster spirals out of control as a THIRD contamination incident is identified.

GM Free Cymru press release, 6th March 2007.

Today it is apparent that the GM rice contamination incident in the USA has spiralled out of control, in spite of the best efforts of rice farmers, millers and food packagers in a complex "damage limitation" exercise.› It has also been revealed that there have also been at least THREE separate GM contamination incidents, involving contamination by different "Liberty Link" varieties developed by Bayer CropScience.

Last year the US rice industry was rocked by the FIRST discovery that long-grain rice supplies were contaminated with a Bayer LL variety called LL601 (1).› By the time the US regulators announced the contamination, on 18th August 2006, contaminated rice was already in the food chain all around the world; and major disruption was caused as testing programmes were put in place and as "positive" test results came in from one country after another.› Contaminated rice had to be removed from supermarket shelves in many countries, and almost without exception these countries have banned further imports of US long-grain rice supplies.› The price of US rice plummeted, and there are now 13 court cases pending as growers seek to obtain compensation from Bayer for financial damage.› The contamination was traced to a rice variety called Cheniere, and the decision has been made by rice growers that this variety will not be planted at all in 2007 or 2008 (2).

That was bad enough.› But yesterday (3) it was reported that there had been a SECOND serious GM rice contamination incident in the southern states of the USA, this time involving the Bayer CropScience›variety called LL62: see our press release APPENDED below.››We also reported that rice farmers in Arkansas had decided that they would grow Clearfield 131 rice in spite of the fact that it is contaminated with› LL62 GM rice.

However, in a major new development, APHIS has stepped in today and ordered farmers NOT to plant Clearfield 131 rice anywhere in the southern states, in spite of the fact that there will now be severe shortages of seed stocks for the 2007 rice growing season.› It appears that there is widespread contamination in seed stocks from 2005 and 2006, meaning that the contamination dates back to at least 2004.

This move is prompted by more discoveries of contamination by LL62 as the GM testing programme proceeds.› It has not been revealed how many positive results have now come through the testing laboratories, but it is reasonable to assume that there must be more than a hundred.› ›Also, the millers and food processors (including Procter and Gamble) have been pleading with USDA, APHIS and the rice farmers to stay away from Clearfield 131 so that there is at least a small chance that most rice entering the food chain later this year will be kept GM-free (4).

In a bizarre further twist, the testing labs have now identified a THIRD GM contamination incident.› They have found LL contamination of Clearfield 131 which has nothing to do with LL06, LL62 or LL601.› These are the only three GM rice varieties deregulated (ie authorised) in the USA.› This means that the contamination is down to one (or more) of the other discontinued or experimental lines abandoned by Bayer probably at least a decade ago.››BASF (the breeders of the non-GM Clearfield 131 variety) is now seeing its own business damaged, and the company is desperately trying to obtain from Bayer the genetic makeup of all of these abandoned (and possibly very unstable and non-uniform) GM-LL varieties (5) so that contaminated stocks can be impounded and destroyed.››

Commenting for GM Free Cymry, Dr Brian John said:› "The worst possible scenario is that there are SEVERAL unidentified GM contaminant varieties out there in 2007 seed stocks, and that they have already outcrossed from Clearfield 131 into wild red rice.› Even if widespread environmental damage can be prevented, this is now an unmitigated disaster for the rice farmers of the southern states, and for the GM industry, on a much greater scale than previously admitted.› The genie is well and truly out of the bottle."

Contact:

Dr Brian John
Tel + 44 (0)1239 820470

For US verification of this story, contact:

Dave Bennett:››dbennett@farmpress.com
Bob Cummings:››rcummings@usarice.com

Notes

(1)››http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7106
http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2006/08/0307.xml

(2)››http://deltafarmpress.com/news/0761229-gm-rice/index.html

(3)› http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7592

(4)››http://deltafarmpress.com/news/070305-clearfield-131/

(5)››http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/news_press_release,69916.shtml

_______________________

USA: Rice Recalled Over Gene Contamination

Washington Post, March 6 2007. By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer.

The Agriculture Department last night took the unusual step of insisting that U.S. farmers refrain from planting a popular variety of long-grain rice because preliminary tests showed that its seed stock may be contaminated with a variety of gene-altered rice not approved for marketing in the United States

The announcement marks the third time in six months that U.S. rice has been found to be inexplicably contaminated with engineered traits, and it comes just weeks before the spring planting season

Adding to the potential disruption, the variety of rice affected is one that many farmers had planned to switch to this spring to avoid a different contaminated strain.

The new problem involves Clearfield CL131 seed, produced by BASF of Germany and marketed by Horizon Ag of Memphis. In an after-hours posting on the USDA Web site, agency officials did not say which unexpected genetic trait had been found in the rice.

In August, Cheniere rice was found to be contaminated with an herbicide-resistance gene that had been under study in 2001 but was never approved or brought to market. The discovery continues to disrupt U.S. rice exports, even though the trait won speedy approval in December.

_______________________

USA: BASF Cooperates with USDA on CL131 Rice

BASF Corporation press release, 6 Mar 2007

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, March 5 /PRNewswire/ -- BASF Agricultural Products announced today it is cooperating with the United States Department of Agriculture to remove all CLEARFIELD(R) CL131 rice from the marketplace following discovery that some of the seed has been contaminated by an unidentified genetically modified (GM) event. BASF is taking this action in conjunction with USDA's March 4 issuance of an Emergency Action Notification on CL131 variety seed. The order calls for no planting or distribution of CL131 seed.

CLEARFIELD is conventionally bred (non-GM) rice containing BASF technology that allows growers to control red rice and other tough weeds.

BASF asked for additional testing of CLEARFIELD rice following the recent discovery of trace amounts of LibertyLink(R) LL62 GM events in CLEARFIELD seed. LibertyLink technology is a product of Bayer CropScience. Ongoing testing of CL131 seed has been directed to detecting the presence of LL62, and another LibertyLink trait, LL601, both of which are deregulated and approved by federal authorities for human consumption.

On March 1, 2007, BASF notified USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of independent laboratory test findings on 2005 CL131 registered rice seed that indicated the presence of LibertyLink GM events, but tested negative for LL62 or LL601 - suggesting the presence of an unidentified and possibly regulated GM event. BASF is working with the USDA in an effort to identify the unknown event.

"BASF notified the USDA immediately after becoming aware of the laboratory findings and we continue to work cooperatively with USDA on this situation," said Andy Lee, Director of U.S. Business Operations, Crop Protection Products, for BASF. "BASF is steadfastly working to advance a clear and viable production environment for rice producers now and in future growing seasons."

BASF is in discussions with Bayer CropScience regarding technical assistance to expedite the identification of LL62, LL601 or other GM traits to help determine the scope and source of the GM presence in CLEARFIELD seed.

BASF remains firmly committed to CLEARFIELD technology and recognizes the substantial value that it offers rice producers. BASF is working with federal authorities and the seed industry to remove contamination from CLEARFIELD varieties as part of an ongoing responsible initiative to eliminate propagation of GM traits within those varieties.

Always read and follow label directions. CLEARFIELD is a registered trademark of BASF. LibertyLink is a registered trademark of Bayer CropScience.

_______________________

5 March 2007

USA: Monsanto biotech alfalfa lawsuit ratchets up

Eco-Farm.org, Monday, March 05, 2007. By Carey Gillam.

KANSAS CITY, Missouri - Biotech crop critics said they were asking for a permanent injunction to stop the planting of Monsanto Co.'s genetically modified alfalfa after failing to negotiate a settlement with U.S. regulators by a court-imposed deadline on Friday.

Also Monsanto said it was filing a motion on Friday to intervene in the closely watched case, which is one in a string of recent court rulings criticizing U.S. government oversight of biotech crops. Monsanto said several farmers also plan to ask to intervene in the case.

In a February 13 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California in San Francisco criticized the USDA as "cavalier" and said the department violated the law by failing to adequately assess possible environmental impact before approving the alfalfa developed by Monsanto.

The judge gave the parties until Friday to work out a mutually acceptable remedy, but those efforts failed, said Will Rostov, a senior attorney for The Center for Food Safety.

The center filed the lawsuit along with farmers, consumers, and environmentalists against officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The group alleged that biotech alfalfa could create super weeds resistant to herbicide, hurt production of organic dairy and beef products because alfalfa is an important cattle feed and cause farmers to lose export business due to risks of contamination to natural and organic alfalfa.

Contamination

The suit also alleged that contamination of conventionally grown alfalfa could force farmers to pay for Monsanto's patented gene technology whether they wanted it or not.

Alfalfa, a perennial fodder crop cross-pollinated by bees and wind, is among the most widely grown crops in the United States, along with corn, soybeans, and wheat.

The USDA, APHIS and EPA officials could not be reached for comment.

Monsanto has said its biotech alfalfa, which was genetically altered to withstand applications of weed killer, has been approved by numerous regulatory agencies and has a confirmed safety record.

"Monsanto is asking to intervene, because we believe it is important for hay growers to have the choice to use this beneficial technology," said Jerry Steiner, an executive vice president for the company, in a written statement

_______________________

UK: GM Rice: Second US contamination incident revealed

GM Free Cymru press release, 4th March 2007

It has emerged that the GM rice contamination scandal which caused massive damage to US rice producers last year was not an isolated incident. Now a second incident has come to light -- involving a different strain of GM rice and a different contamination history (1).

Statements which have been slipped out quietly by the US regulatory authorities have confirmed that a widely-used rice variety called Clearfield 131 is contaminated with a Bayer GM rice variety called LL62. In a major programme of testing, involving more than 500 samples, 20% of samples have been found to be contaminated with trace amounts of LL62, suggesting that the contamination incident may have occurred some years ago (probably in 2004) and was previously undetected because nobody bothered to do any GM testing.

Last year's contamination incident, which led to financial damage amounting to millions of dollars in the southern states of the USA, and which has caused much of the world to block off the once-profitable market for American long-grain rice, involved the contamination of a rice variety called Cheniere with Bayer's LL601 GM rice (2). As a result of that incident, there are thirteen pending lawsuits against Bayer CropScience in America, and it is rumoured that there will be further lawsuits in Europe, where rice importers, millers and food retailers have all suffered from major disruption, damaged public confidence and financial loss.

In the United States there has been no formal announcement of this second contamination incident, and indeed there is a concerted campaign to keep it under wraps as part of a long-standing "damage limitation strategy." However, there is turmoil in the rice industry, and rice growers are being forced to plant contaminated Clearfield 131 this year since Cheniere (which is very widely contaminated) cannot be planted for at least two years since the rice processors will not buy it. If the farmers do not plant Clearfield 131, there will not be enough rice seed to go round (3). So the decision has been made in Arkansas to plant contaminated Clearfield 131 specifically for the American market, bearing in mind that the GM variety LL62 does have US authorisation for growing and marketing.

In Europe neither of the varieties responsible for the contamination -- LL62 and LL601 -- has any authorisation in place, and the new revelations will inevitably do further damage to the US rice industry.

Commenting on the new revelations, GM Free Cymru spokesman Dr Brian John said: "It is now apparent that GM contamination of US rice supplies is endemic (4). Bayer, the US regulators, and the rice industry itself are all culpable. But hopefully some good will come out of this appalling situation, when farmers finally wake up to the fact that GM contamination (by out-crossing and other means) is impossible to control, and that the global market wants food that is clean and healthy, not genetically manipulated to increase sales of chemicals and the profits of the biotechnology corporations."

Contact

Brian John
Tel: + 44 (0)1437-820470

Notes

(1) APHIS Program Announcement: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/biotechnology/content/printable_version/ia_ge_rice.pdf.

Biotechnology Regulatory Services February 2007: Independent testing by the Arkansas Rice Board in January indicated the presence of genetically engineered (GE) material in non-GE Clearfield 131 (CL131) rice. As a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conducted its own CL131 testing, which detected trace levels of LLRICE62 in CL131 2004 headrow seed. LLRICE62 is a line of GE rice developed by Bayer Crop Science... The positive sample was pulled from 2004 headrow seed--an early step in the plant breeding process--and not from foundation seed.

NOTE: this "positive sample" has now been supplemented by many others. In Arkansas alone, 21 samples of Clearfield 131 have tested positive for LL62 contamination.

(2) http://www.guardian.co.uk/gmdebate/Story/0,,1884523,00.html
http://www.gmfreecymru.org/news/Press_Notice12Sept2006.htm
http://www.gmfreecymru.org/news/Press_Notice18Sept2006.htm
http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6973
http://www.saveourseeds.org/en/frame.php?page=../dossier/fact_sheet_bayer_LLRICE601

(3) http://deltafarmpress.com/news/070301-cl131-session/
Arkansas' third most popular variety in 2006, CL 131 was planted on 500,000 acres, and there remains an undeniable demand for the variety. With certified seed stocks already in the shortest supply in years, "any loss of CL 131 will make for a very short certified seed supply," warned Randy Woodard, speaking for the seed industry. "CL 131 and Cheniere represent 39 percent of the certified rice seed acres in the South. If we were to lose CL 131, it would cut our seed supply to 36,000 acres." (4) The contamination of Clearfield 131 by LL62 is particularly worrying from an environmental point of view, because Clearfield out-crosses very easily with red rice, which is a weed for the rice growers of the southern states of the USA. It has already been proved to pass herbicide tolerance to wild red rice -- and it is now virtually inevitable that it will pass on tolerance to the herbicide Liberty (glufosinate ammonium) as well. See this: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/LLRice_Petition_9.13.06.pdf

_______________________

UK: Sick people used like laboratory rats in GM trials

The Observer, 4 March 2007. By Geoffrey Lean, Envirionment Editor.

Genetically modified potatoes developed by Monsanto, the multinational biotech company, have been fed to sick patients in an experiment. Rats that ate similar potatoes in the research suffered reductions in the weight of their hearts and prostate glands.

Dr Michael Antoniou, reader in molecular genetics at Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, said use of humans was "irresponsible and totally unethical, especially when already ill subjects were enrolled. These people truly were guinea pigs." Other scientists said the trials were too short, on too few people, to give meaningful results of long-term effects.

Monsanto said the vegetables were safe, and the researchers conducting the experiment said effects on the rats were within "permissible" limits.

The experiment is described in a hitherto unpublished report by the Nutrition Institute of the Russian Academy of Medical Science, done "by agreement with Monsanto Company" in 1998.

The report says "10 patients suffering from hypertensive disease and ischemic heart disease" were fed a pound of the Russet Burbank potatoes - modified to resist Colorado beetles - every day for three weeks, and monitored.

It goes on: "A certain risk of GM food products for human health does exist, as there can be by-effects of inserted genes besides the designed ones." The report describes the patients as "volunteers" and says they liked the GM potato so much they all "expressed their intention to consume it at home".

After comparing them with 10 other patients fed conventional potatoes, the report concludes: "The genetically modified potato provided by Monsanto did not reveal toxic, mutagenic, immune modulating and allergic effects within the examined parameters of the present experiment".

It recommended the GM potatoes "can be used for human nutrition purposes in further epidemiological research". The report says the rats, tested over six months, suffered "increases of kidneys' absolute weight" when compared to ones fed conventional potatoes but that all changes were "within permissible physiological fluctuation".

But Dr Irina Ermakova, of the Russian Academy of Science, calls the GM potatoes "dangerous" for rats, adding: "On this evidence, they cannot be used in the nourishment of people".

Tony Coombs from Monsanto UK said in a statement: "Potatoes genetically improved to prevent Colorado beetle destroying the crop have already been consumed, as safely as conventional or organic ones, in North America for years."

_______________________

USA: Key Monsanto patent rejected
Analyst questions whether it's legal to protect plant technology


CommercialAppeal, March 4 2007. By Jane Roberts.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected a key patent in Monsanto's Roundup Ready arsenal, possibly stripping the agribusiness giant of its power to license the technology to farmers.

St. Louis-based Monsanto has the right to appeal the decision or try to reach a compromise by reducing the breadth of the patent. It has 60 days to respond.

"We believe the patent is still valid, and at the end of the process, we believe the patent will still be enforced," said Lee Quarles, company spokesman. If the patent is revoked, he said Monsanto holds additional patents to protect its intellectual investment.

The patent is one of four Monsanto patents the nonprofit Public Patent Foundation asked the patent office to review last fall, alleging they were granted without merit.

"We think there are several problems. One is the patents don't deserve to exist because Monsanto didn't come up with something new or unobvious," said Dan Ravicher, executive director.

The other issue, he said, is that Monsanto has used the patents to "aggressively try to bankrupt farmers or put them out of business."

The rejection -- while not a revocation -- "casts a substantial cloud of doubt on Monsanto. They will be less successful in their efforts to sue," Ravicher said.

The patents protect seed traits that make cotton and soybean plants immune to glyphosate, the generic name for the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup.

With the modified seed, farmers can spray glyphosate over the crop, killing the weeds but not the crop.

The practice has revolutionized row crop agriculture because it requires farmers to make fewer passes over their fields, saving time, energy and soil compaction.

Monsanto has had a monopoly on the trait since it introduced it in cotton in 1997. The company requires farmers to sign a licensing agreement saying they will not save the seed for future planting.

It has sued a number of producers in high-profile cases, including several in the Mid-South, for licensing breaches.

"The whole notion that a company can get a utility patent on a plant is new and very controversial," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit that focuses on ag biotechnology and supporting organic standards.

"A utility patent is for a mechanical invention. For decades, it didn't apply to plants because they are not inventions."

Seed germplasm contains advancements that have happened through evolution and breeding programs, some conducted in family-farm breeding programs.

Patenting the entire germplasm gives the patent holder control over enhancements that occurred in the public domain, Freese said.

Lisa Dry, spokeswoman for the American Seed Trade Association, said Monsanto is not alone in actively protecting its innovations.

"I know that it may sound odd to refer to a plant as an 'invention,' but patents are granted for all sorts of innovations where 'the hand of man' is involved in making a plant different in some manner.

"By preserving their intellectual property, seed companies and breeders can invest in research and development for new seeds to help farmers produce better yields or to provide solutions to farmers to reduce the impact of factors they cannot control -- temperature, moisture, weather and soil conditions -- to name a few."

--Jane Roberts: 529-2512

_______________________

UK: GM pesticide potatoes fed to hospital patients in bizarre feeding trial

GM Free Cymru press release, 4th March 2007.

Monsanto GM potatoes which are classified as pesticides in America were fed to Russian hospital patients in 1998 in a bizarre feeding trial.

The information is contained in› comprehensive Report from the Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, suppressed by Monsanto and the Russian authorities for 8 years but now available thanks to the determination of Greenpeace Russia.› The Report (1) is now translated into English.› In 1998 the Institute, with the full cooperation of Monsanto, conducted a trial in which Bt potatoes were fed to patients with different diseases in a Moscow clinic (2).› The feeding continued for 3 weeks, and according to the Institute no negative effects were found.› In other words, nobody got even more ill, or died.› On the other hand there were no examinations of patients' internal organs, or of the transfer of genetically modified DNA; and there were no follow-up studies.

On the basis of the human feeding study, and other studies involving mice and rats (3), the Institute of Nutrition concluded that "the studied types of potatoes can be used in human nourishment for the conduct of further epidemiological studies", i.e. during the study of the clinical picture of diseases and their distribution among the human population.› These conclusions have been heavily criticized by three independent reviewers on the basis that they do not accord with the data in the Report (3).

The potatoes used in the study were› Monsanto GM NewLeaf potatoes bred in 1988 -1995 from the Russet Burbank variety to be resistant to the Colorado Beetle.› The GM event was registered as 082, and the potatoes are included in the Bt group of GM crops.› It is probable that the variety code is› NL10-RBK.› The potatoes also contain an antibiotic resistance marker gene (4), and they are male sterile.› The potatoes were deregulated in the USA in 1998/1999, without any feeding studies being required.› Even earlier, in 1996,› Monsanto started to introduce the potatoes into Russia and Georgia, and probably into many other countries with lax approval regimes as well. › Partly on the basis of the 1998 feeding trials,› consent was duly given in 2000 by the Russian regulators for the GM potatoes to be grown and marketed for human consumption. However, the NewLeaf GM potato was a failure. It was nutritionally inferior to traditional Russian potato varieties; and it› proved to give poor yields and to be susceptible to disease in European environments.› Monsanto also knew (on the basis of this study and others) that it was dangerous.› The company pulled out of GM potato development in the USA and Europe in 2002 (5), but nonetheless cynically continued to work with the Russian authorities to develop a further GM (Bt) potato variety called Elizabeth (6).› This variety is now approved for human consumption in Russia.

GM plants that are engineered to be resistant to the Colorado Beetle and other insects through the insertion of the Cry3A and NPTII genes are referred to as Bt varieties, and they act as powerful insecticides.› All parts of the GM plant are toxic, and that is why the plants are classified as pesticides which come under the control of the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States (7).› Many GM-Bt› varieties, including cotton, maize and potatoes, have been found to be more dangerous than other GM varieties (8).› In 2004 twelve cattle in Hesse, Germany, died after being fed on Syngenta's Bt176 maize; thousands of sheep and goats have died in India after feeding on the foliage of Bt cotton plants; and many non-target organisms are killed on the leaves, in the leaf litter and among the roots of Bt plants in field conditions (9).› In addition, there are well recorded instances of human beings affected -- and sometimes killed -- by Bt crops, including workers in Bt cotton fields in India and the Philippines (10).

Another Bt variety, namely Bt10 maize, was at the centre of an international scandal in 2005 when it was discovered that at least 185,000 tonnes of contaminated maize› from the United States had entered the food chain after being grown "accidentally" among other maize crops.› It was later revealed that the Bt maize had never been tested, characterized, or approved for either animal feed or human food use (11).› There is now no way of measuring what damage the contamination might have done to human or animal health -- which is of course exactly what the biotechnology industry intended.› And it is certainly true that because of the erratic and even shambolic consent system in the US and Canada, many thousands of consumers have eaten GM New Leaf potatoes (prior to 2001) without any health testing whatsoever.›

Commenting on the revelations about the human feeding trials, Dr Brian John, for GM Free Cymru, said:› "We find it incredible that Monsanto should have allowed these feeding trials, using sick people in hospital, to go ahead, given that all GM-Bt plants are toxic and given that Bt potatoes are more toxic than any other commercialized GM food product.› It is unforgivable that pesticides -- for that is what Bt potatoes are -- should be fed to patients who probably had no idea what they were being asked to eat.› These trials would never have been allowed in the USA or in Europe.› But nothing surprises us any longer about Monsanto, which has been playing fast and loose with public health for decades (12)."

Following an examination of the Russian report, Prof Malcolm Hooper (13) said:›"I find it amazing that given the widespread evidence of the known toxicity of these potatoes any human trials have been allowed at all. The use of››the vulnerable and the weak in our society as experimental animals is unethical and must be resisted by anyone concerned for the future of humanity."›

Dr Michael Antoniou (14)› said:››"There is no logic whatsoever about this study, especially given the› fact that such a diverse group of subjects was chosen. The "desired› medical outcome" they were after was obviously "no adverse effects".››This was an irresponsible trial to carry out and totally unethical,› especially when already ill subjects were enrolled. These people› truly were guinea-pigs." (15)

Contact:

Dr Brian John
Tel: + 44 (0)1239 820470

Notes and references

(1) Medical-biological investigations of transgenic potatoes, resistant to the Colorado beetle (under agreement with Monsanto Co.) Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Institute of Nutrition Moscow, 1998.› Signed off by VA Tutelian, Deputy Director. Chapter 7. Clinical observation on patients with different diseases (pp 47 - 57) Full Report 62 pp, not including raw data.

(2)› Information from the translated version of the Report: In the contents list / list of research participants for the Clinical trials,› 27 people are listed as being collaborators involved in the work› -- physicians, junior doctors, nurses, laboratory assistants, catering staff, cooks, specialists in diet and heart pathology, technicians, and the director of the medical biology laboratory at the Clinic.› There is no doubt that this was a very serious and carefully planned study, backed up by a Monsanto››"Agreement on Medical Biological Studies of Genetically Modified Russet Burbank Newleaf Potatoes Resistant to Colorado Beetle to Assess Their Safety for Human Nutrition and Sanitary Certification in the RF". › The clinical trial took place over 3 weeks in 1998, at the medicinal nutrition clinic of the Institute of Nutrition, Russian Academy of Medical Science (RAMS).› The feeding trials involved 8 men and 12 women with different diseases including hypertonic disease, ischemic heart disease, and hyperlipoproteinemia (type 2 hereditary genesis). › The patients were not obese.››Of the 20 patients,› 10 were in the control group fed with normal potatoes (Monsanto Russet Burbank or› RB); and the other 10 were in the experimental group fed with GM-RB potatoes.› All of the patients were Volunteers, but we do not know as yet what they were told or how they were chosen.› The patients were on a 3-week hypo-sodium anti-atherosclerosis diet A1, and were›fed 400g potatoes (per day) which were included in the first course (soup) and in the second or main course of meals.››At the beginning and end of the trial patients were assessed, using clinical, biochemical, immunological, enzyme and instrumental methods.› The intention was to identify any effects specifically relating to the consumption of GM potatoes.› Patients were also asked to fill in a questionnaire.› According to the Report, no significant differences were found between the two groups of patients.› There were no tests relating to the survival or fragmentation of transgenic DNA in the bodies of the patients.

(3)› A commentary on the rat feeding study by Dr Irina Ermakova is here:
http://www.gmfreecymru.org/

›The Russian Institute of Pharmacology Review is here:
http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/Vilar_opinion.pdf

The review by Dr Arpad Pusztai is here:
http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/arpad.htm

All three reviews suggest that the study was inadequate in many respects, but that there were real signs of toxic damage to organs in the GM feeding group.
http://www.gmfreecymru.org/news/Press_Notice16Feb2007.htm

It is extraordinary that in spite of the findings of the animal studies, the human feeding trials went ahead in the full knowledge that the "volunteer" patients would be subjected to considerable risk.

(4) ›http://www.agbios.com/dbase.php?action=ShowProd&data=RBMT21-129% 2C+RBMT21-350%2C+RBMT22-082&frmat=LONG http://www.naturemark.com Two New Leaf varieties were given approval ›for cultivation›in Russia in April 2002 -- NL10-RBK and NL10-SUP As a Bt variety, the GM-RB potato is classified as a pesticide

(5) › http://www.mindfully.org/GE/Monsanto-Dumps-Potatoe.htm

(6)› http://www.gene.ch/genet/2006/May/msg00004.html

(7) › http://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/research/homepages/eclark/safety.htm
http://www.cathnews.com/news/409/doc/15colgm2.doc
http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html
http://www.epa.gov/oscpmont/sap/meetings/2000/october/brad3_enviroassessment.pdf
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/biopesticides/pips/bt_brad.htm
http://www.biotech-info.net/seeds.html

(8)› http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5783

(9)› Cows ate GM maize and died (BT176) http://www.i-sis.org.uk/CAGMMAD.php
25% death rate among sheep which grazed on Bt cotton plants in India: http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6499
http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6494
http://www.deh.gov.au/settlements/publications/biotechnology/gm- cotton/summary.html

(10)› Note also the effects on human health arising from contact with Bt varieties:
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/full/MILTBTFull.php
http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6472http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Bt11.php

NB The work of the Norwegian scientist Terje Traavik and his colleagues. "Filipino islanders blame GM crop for mystery sickness. Monsanto denies scientist's claim that maize may have caused 100 villagers to fall ill" John Aglionby in Kalyong, southern Philippines, The Guardian, Wednesday 3 March 3, 2004 http://www.guardian.co.uk/gmdebate/Story/0,2763,1160789,00.html

Allergic reactions and cattle deaths 2005 attributable to Bt cotton in India (Madhya Pradesh): http://news.webindia123.com/news/showdetails.asp?id=170692&cat=Health

Possible Human Health Hazards of Genetically Engineered Bt Crops Comments on the human health and product characterization sections of EPA's Bt Plant-Pesticides Biopesticides Registration Action Document>
By Michael Hansen, Ph.D. Consumer Policy Institute/Consumers Union>
Presented to the EPA Science Advisory Panel Arlington, VA, October 20, 2000>
http://www.organicconsumers.org/ge/btcomments.cfm
http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7219
http://www.biosafety-info.net/article.php?aid=413&PHPSESSID=9ead902ad24879cf9111558dbeecfea1

Genetic Engineering and Omitted health research:› Prof Terje Traavik and Prof Jack Heinemann, 12 pp

(11) › "I have confirmed with FDA that "BT10 never went through an FDA consultation process."› Therefore,› it was never reviewed for unintended human health effects, at least not by the U.S."› Doug› Gurian-Sherman, Ph.D.,› Senior Scientist,› Center for Food Safety,› 660 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 302,› Washington, D.C. 20003

(12)› "..... GM has no detrimental effect either on the environment or on human health."› Tony Coombes, Monsanto Deputy Chairman UK, in a letter to the Western Mail, Tuesday, 13th February 2007. That is a lie.'› › "Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." - Phil Angell,› Monsanto's director of corporate communications, quoted in the York Times, October 25, 1998 http://www.monsanto.com/biotech-gmo/asp/quickFacts.asp '›› The table entitled: Quick Facts on Biotechnology and Crop Production contains this extraordinary and patently untrue statement:› "Reliably documented human or animal safety issues - zero."› That is another lie.

(13)››Malcolm Hooper Ph.D., B.Pharm., C.Chem., MRIC
Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry
University of Sunderland


(14)››Dr Michael Antoniou, Reader in Molecular Genetics, Division of› Medical and Molecular Genetics, Guy's, King's & St Thomas' School of› Medicine in London. › His area of expertise is chromatin domains,› gene organisation and regulation of gene expression.

(15)› In a further bizarre twist to this episode, we have discovered that in 2003 Monsanto strongly criticised the "Newcastle Feeding Trial" of 2002 on the basis that it used people who were ill, rather than using fit and healthy volunteers!› http://www.fwi.co.uk/article.asp?con=10826&sec=2&hier=66 But the corporation is well used to facing in all directions at the same time. http://www.voteyeson27.com/monsanto.htm

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India: "Bt Cotton Poisoning" now reported by Animal Husbandry dept officials

Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 4 March 2007. By Kavitha Kuruganti.

So far, reports on livestock morbidity and mortality came from civil society groups including shepherd unions and the government discounted such reports consistently, other than making admissions here and there (including in the Parliament) under pressure.

For the first time, we have reports from the Animal Husbandry department officials from Adilabad district. If they are reporting 200 deaths so far, the actual mortality would be much higher and morbidity even higher. When will the GEAC and the DBT sit up and do a proper investigation? When will the GEAC and the DBT [India's GM regulators] sit up and do a proper investigation? Is this country incapable of doing a systematic, scientific study on what is the phenomenon here by quickly constituting a team to design a sound framework for the study and then go about implementing it?

It is also learnt that the issue of livestock deaths after grazing on Bt cotton came up in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly yesterday and the Animal Husbandry department responded that they have no such reports reaching them! How can that be when their own officials are recording the phenomenon in the districts and warning farmers not to graze their animals on Bt Cotton? How can that be when representatives of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and AP [Andhra Pradesh] Goatherds' & Shepherds' Union met with senior officials in the Animal Husbandry department in the month of February 2007, gave them our preliminary assessment report from a couple of villages and demanded immediate action?

The phone numbers of the Director, Animal Husbandry department are 040-23316855 and 23316848. The scientist who investigated the phenomenon last year too, after the Director-AH ordered an investigation is one Dr Sudarshan Rao, Animal scientist, Veterinary Biological Research Institute [VBRI], a public sector agency: +91-94-408-10709. It is the same institute which is supposed to have received the samples from the dept veterinarians from Adilabad this year for further investigations.

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3 March 2007

USA: USDA OKs plan to grow genetically modified rice
Grain harvested near Junction City to be used for diarrhea medicines


Associated Press, Saturday, March 3, 2007. By Sam Hananel.

Washington ů The Department of Agriculture has granted preliminary approval for a large-scale plan to grow genetically altered rice in Kansas, prompting some critics to raise safety concerns.

Sacramento, Calif.-based Ventria Bioscience wants to grow rice modified to produce human proteins on farmland near Junction City.

The pharmaceutical rice would be harvested and refined for use in medicines to fight diarrhea, dehydration and other illnesses that kill millions of infants and toddlers each year.

While Kansas officials have embraced the project as a boon to the state's emerging biosciences industry, environmentalists and some food groups warn that the proteins could find their way into the food chain, causing medical reactions or allergies.

"We're opposed to the production of pharmaceutical and industrial chemicals in food crops grown outdoors because we think there are too many ways contamination of the food supply could occur," said Karen Perry Stillerman, senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science advocacy group.

The USDA released a draft environmental assessment Wednesday concluding that planting the rice would pose virtually no risk. No commercial rice is grown in Kansas and Ventria would use dedicated equipment, storage and processing facilities to prevent seeds from mixing with other crops, the USDA said. The rice also would be milled on site.

"We have a product here that can help children get better faster," said Scott Deeter, Ventria president and CEO.

Any concerns, he said, are "based on perception, not reality" given all the precautions the company is taking.

"It's a dedicated supply chain all throughout the process," Deeter said. But Stillerman said weather events, like tornadoes, could carry seeds into other fields where contamination could occur. She also cited the possibility of human error in transporting and handling the rice.

Genetically modified crops are regulated by the USDA. State governments can review safety procedures and suggest more stringent regulation of the companies before a permit is issued.

Ventria has faced opposition to growing pharmaceutical rice in other states from farmers and environmental groups. When Ventria tried to grow the crop in southeast Missouri, beer giant Anheuser-Busch Cos. threatened to boycott all rice from the state if the plan was allowed. The company won approval in 2005 to grow its rice on smaller plots in North Carolina, which also has no commercial rice farming.

USA Rice Federation spokesman David Coia said his group opposed genetically engineered rice in Missouri, but is not taking a position on the Kansas plan.

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2 March 2007

India: Bt cotton spells doom for cattle?

The Hindu, March 2 2007. By S. Harpal Singh.

ADILABAD: Grazing on residual Bt cotton crop seems to have resulted in the death of over 200 animals in various mandals of the district in the last two months. The Animal Husbandry Department has sounded an alarm as the number of sick animals with somewhat classic poisoning symptoms has kept increasing.

It is a practice among the farming community, especially in the cotton-intensive areas, to use residual crops as fodder. As the area under Bt cotton had increased substantially this year, large tracts under the crop were available for use as fodder after harvesting ended in December-January.

Acute in many mandals

"In all the cases where animals were treated for suspected Bt cotton poisoning, the animals showed symptoms like convulsions, nasal discharge, vomiting, respiratory problems and diarrhoea," K. Shravan Kumar, veterinary assistant surgeon, said.

The problem is acute in mandals like Tamsi, Bazarhatnoor, Sirpur(U), Gudihatnoor, Talamadugu and Bela. A. Vinod, veterinary assistant surgeon at Tamsi, said the problem came to their notice in January. "We are opting for symptomatic treatment so long as the 'culprit' toxic substance is not identified. Timely treatment can save a few animals in our mandal," he said.

"Another bullock died in Talamadugu recently. We have sent the extracted feed material after a post-mortem on the animal and leaves, stem and other material from the suspected plants for analysis at the Veterinary Biological Research Institute in Hyderabad," Y. Sanjiv Reddy, veterinary assistant surgeon at Talamadugu, said.

Having noticed similar deaths of sheep from other districts, the Animal Husbandry Directorate issued a circular this month to veterinary hospitals asking them to send relevant material for analysis. "However, it needs more than an analysis to curb the occurrence of animal deaths due to suspected poisoning," a veterinarian observed.

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USA: Plan for lab-altered rice advances
A proposal that was rejected in California and Missouri is poised to proceed in Kansas


The Kansas City Star, March 2 2007. By Scott Canon.

A firm that abandoned growing genetically altered rice in Missouri after Anheuser-Busch Cos. threatened to boycott the state's crops is now on pace to plant in Kansas this spring.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in the Federal Register on Wednesday that it is poised to approve the planting of the pharmaceutically engineered rice on 450 acres in Geary County - about 80 miles west of Kansas City - as soon as next month.

Ventria Bioscience, based in Sacramento, Calif., dropped efforts to grow in California after objections from farmers there. It encountered similar resistance with plans to grow rice in eastern and southeastern Missouri. The Busch boycott eventually killed plans to plant anywhere in the state.

"There is a very strong feeling in Arkansas and Missouri against having Ventria grow its crops anywhere near their rice," said David Coia, USA Rice Federation spokesman. The group has not taken a position on the Kansas plan.

Because rice is not grown in Kansas, farmers are less likely to worry about crop contamination by experimental Ventria plants. The company says the state's embrace of biotechnology, not its absence of rice, drew it to Kansas.

The firm wants to grow lab-tinkered rice designed to produce lactoferrin, lysozyme and serum albumin - substances found in human tears, saliva and mother's milk. They could be a far cheaper way to produce drugs to treat digestive and dehydration problems, and less prone to cause allergic reactions than current methods.

Agriculture Department officials are taking public comment through March 30 on Ventria's permit.

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India: Thanal campaign against GM food

New India Express, March 2 2007

T'PURAM: At a time when more than 13 Asian countries are getting ready to kick off the 'Weak of Rice Action' (WORA) campaign against genetically modified food, 'Thanal,' a Thiruvananthapuram-based public interest research organisation, is all set to spearhead the campaign across India.

In Kerala, the campaign will be kicked off in Palakkad on March 29 in association with the National Farmers' Protection Committee. Being the prominent rice producing district in the state, the campaign will call for the government to declare Palakkad as the 'rice heritage' of the state.

As rice production in the state meets only 15-18 percent of the demand, the campaign will also call for more support to the farmers so that they can sustain and extend rice production.

Installation of an income commission intending to ensure an income for the farmers is another highlighting demand of the campaign. "Though the campaign is against genetically modified food, in Kerala it will be focussed on food security and protection of farmers. Being a consumer state both the consumers and farmers of the state should be aware of the GM food and its impact on the society and environment," said R Sreedhar, one of the coordinator of the campaign.

Apart from Kerala, Thanal is joining hands with social organisations of various rice growing states such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Orissa to co-ordinate and organise the week-long event.

All over the participating Asian countries, WORA-2007 is a focussed activity that will feature the gathering of farmers, communities, women and other sectors of society to highlight and discuss the value of rice culture, farmers' wisdom, ecological agriculture and the threat posed by Genetically Engineered (GE) rice.

One million signatures will be collected from the participating countries to protect rice against GE and GE rice as part of the campaign.

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USA: USDA Backs Production of Rice With Human Genes

Washington Post, March 2 2007. By Rick Weiss.

The Agriculture Department has given a preliminary green light for the first commercial production of a food crop engineered to contain human genes, reigniting fears that biomedically potent substances in high-tech plants could escape and turn up in other foods.

The plan, confirmed yesterday by the California biotechnology company leading the effort, calls for large-scale cultivation in Kansas of rice that produces human immune system proteins in its seeds.

The proteins are to be extracted for use as an anti-diarrhea medicine and might be added to health foods such as yogurt and granola bars.

"We can really help children with diarrhea get better faster. That is the idea," said Scott E. Deeter, president and chief executive of Sacramento-based Ventria Bioscience, emphasizing that a host of protections should keep the engineered plants and their seeds from escaping into surrounding fields.

But critics are assailing the effort, saying gene-altered plants inevitably migrate out of their home plots. In this case, they said, that could result in pharmacologically active proteins showing up in the food of unsuspecting consumers.

Although the proteins are not inherently dangerous, there would be little control over the doses people might get exposed to, and some might be allergic to the proteins, said Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science policy advocacy group.

"This is not a product that everyone would want to consume," Rissler said, adding that other companies grow such plants indoors or in vats. "It is unwise to produce drugs in plants outdoors."

Consumer advocacy groups, including Consumers Union and the Washington-based Center for Food Safety, have also opposed Ventria's plans. "We definitely have big concerns," said Joseph Mendelson, the center's legal director.

Ventria has developed three varieties of rice, each endowed with a different human gene that makes the plants produce one of three human proteins. Two of them -- lactoferrin and lysozyme -- are bacteria-fighting compounds found in breast milk and saliva.

A recent company-sponsored study done in Peru concluded that children with severe diarrhea recovered a day and a half faster if the salty fluids they were prescribed were spiked with the proteins.

Deeter said production in plants is far cheaper than other methods, which should help make the therapy affordable in the developing world, where severe diarrhea kills 2 million children each year.

"Plants are phenomenal factories," Deeter said. "Our raw materials are the sun, soil and water."

The company is also talking to the Food and Drug Administration about putting the proteins into health foods. Its third variety of rice makes serum albumin, a blood protein used in medical therapies.

Until now, plants with human genes have been restricted to small test plots. In October, Ventria sought permission to grow its rice commercially on as many as 3,200 acres in Geary County, Kan., starting with 450 acres this spring.

A previous plan to grow the rice in southern Missouri was dropped when beermaker Anheuser-Busch -- the nation's largest rice buyer, which has expressed concern about the safety and consumer acceptance of gene-altered rice -- threatened to stop buying rice from the state if the deal went through.

Because no other rice is grown in Kansas and because rice can only grow in flooded areas, the risk of escape or cross-fertilization with other rice plants is nil there, Deeter said. The company will mill virtually all the seeds on site -- using dedicated equipment -- to minimize the risk of seeds getting mistakenly released or sold.

On Wednesday, the Agriculture Department published its draft environmental assessment, which concluded that the project posed no undue risks. The public can comment until March 30.

Also on Wednesday, the agency revealed that a type of rice seed in Arkansas had become contaminated with a different variety of genetically engineered rice, LL62, that was never released for marketing. The error was discovered in the course of an ongoing investigation into the widespread contamination of U.S. rice by yet another gene-altered variety, LL601, which has seriously disrupted rice exports.

Those problems, along with the previous discovery of unapproved, gene-altered StarLink corn in food and the accidental release of crops that had been engineered to make a vaccine for pig diarrhea, undermine the USDA's credibility, critics said.

"USDA's record is not good," Rissler said, pointing to several recent court judgments against the department and a December 2005 inspector general report that savaged the department for its poor oversight of biotechnology. "We don't think they can enforce even the inadequate system that is in place."

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The Philippines: Working together for GM rice

The Philippine Star, March 2 2007. By Ray Gamboa.

The issue of genetically modified rice has finally reached our shores, but not without controversy. NGOs are now noisily blocking the bid of German multinational company Bayer Crop Science to bring genetically modified rice, which promises better yields, into the Philippines.

Bayer has applied to the Bureau of Plant Industry for the commercialization of GMO rice LL62 for direct use in food, feed, and processing in the Philippines. Its bid is currently being subjected to rigid evaluation by the bureau's scientific and technical review panel consisting of renowned and independent group of scientists. Its recommendation will have to be approved by the Agriculture Secretary.

Greenpeace, in particular, is leading the campaign to block Bayer's bid. It contends that the approval of GMO Bayer LL62, which was allowed in the US for food and feed use, would be disastrous for the world's food chain. While already huffing and puffing in public, Greenpeace, an international NGO, though still needs to submit a comprehensive dossier with concrete evidences to totally discredit GMOs, and in particular, Bayer's move to legalize LL62 for human consumption.

Earlier, Bayer got an approval for LL601, a similar variety to LL62, from the US Department of Agriculture. Although its approval is still pending in other countries including the Philippines, Greenpeace alleges that the variety is already being sold openly in local supermarkets.

Contaminating the world food chain

Greenpeace asserted that Bayer's LL601, a herbicide-resistant rice strain, figured in a controversy last year when it was found to have contaminated the world's food chain. LL601 reputedly could wipe out wild and native varieties of rice.

LL601 is also suspected to adversely impact on people's health because of glufosinate, a herbicide that had been observed to have caused adverse health reactions in animals. Greenpeace likewise says that the herbicide used in LL601 could poison beneficial soil micro-organisms.

The news supposedly elicited reactions from rice farmers and processors. Bayer faced a class-action suit filed by US farmers, while Japan, the European Union, and Russia responded with import restrictions. The incident also prompted rice producers and exporters in the United States, the European Union, and Asia to commit to GMO-free production and trade.

The allegations are pretty serious if substantiated. Unfortunately, going by the track record of NGOs like Greenpeace, there is an urgent need to collate pertinent documents and present these as evidence. Otherwise, these NGOs could simply be unfair in science's attempts to develop rice that has better yields.

RP's self-sufficiency target

On the other side of the fence, for a government obsessed in achieving self-sufficiency in rice production, GM rice could be the technological breakthrough that would provide the growing population of Filipinos with enough rice.

Bayer, who I suppose is spending billions of dollars for research on new rice seed technology, should act transparently and responsibly. Government, on the other hand, should be thorough in its studies so that lives are not endangered if it does allow commercialization of genetically modified rice. The process of approving such application could take at least five years, and government should wisely use the time to make sure this rice variety will be safe.

Still, all this hoopla being made by anti-GMO advocates will do the country and the world a lot of good in the long run. Multinational companies like Bayer and Monsanto will be forced to exhaust all means to make sure that the products they want put out in the market will be acceptable and safe. With the financial muscle they have, they should not be thinking twice about spending billions of dollars to ensure that farmers will buy their product, and that the farmers' produce gets to the end-consumer.

Reality check

There is an opportunity for opposing parties to work together and come to an understanding. The reality is that, with population boom worldwide and dwindling areas for food production, agriculture scientists are in a race to come up with new seed varieties that use up less water, fast-gestating and high-yielding.

NGOs should be allowed to counter-check ongoing experiments and trial productions. The government, on the other hand, could do its part by ensuring that protocols are enforced rigidly. This will be the first time ever for the country to be subjecting genetically modified rice to rigorous testing, and it should thus make use of all available safety assessment measures that are internationally accepted.

The government should also allow other companies to come in and participate. This way, there will be competition and monopolies are avoided. Bayer and Monsanto, after all, are not the only companies that can claim expertise in bringing food to the world's dining tables.

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India: PMK opposes use of genetically modified seeds

Chennai online, March 2 2007

Chennai, March 02: The PMK, an ally of the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu, on Friday urged the government to ensure that Genetically Modified(GM) seeds were not used in the state and asked the farmers to resist moves to put them in use.

Inaugurating an awareness yatra against GM seeds, organised by 'Pasumai Thayagam', an environment protection organisation here, PMK founder Ramadoss said "Farmers should fight against moves to make use of genetically modified seeds sold by multinational companies".

He assured his full support to the campaign against the "artificial seeds" and said the nation's natural wealth should be protected. He alleged that "self-seeking" scientists, bureaucrats and politicians were promoting "such dangerous" farm inputs.

Ramadoss said his party was against take over of farmers' land for any purpose, including creation of Special Economic Zones, and urged farmers also to oppose such moves.

The lands of some farmers of Tamil Nadu who had used gm seeds, have been "affected", he said without giving further clarification. He appealed to the state government to provide compensation for them.

State Agriculture Minister S Arumugham, in a recent address to the Assembly, had said the decision on whether to use GM seeds or not depended upon the opinion of scientists.

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1 March 2007

USA: Arkansas' emergency session on CL 131 rice

Delta Farm press, March 1 2007. By David Bennett.

It wasn't an easy decision for the Arkansas Plant Board seed committee. But a marathon emergency session Feb. 21 ended on a 5-1 vote in favor of allowing Clearfield 131 containing trace amounts of a genetically modified trait (Bayer's LibertyLink 62) to be planted in 2007.

Last year, another LL GM trait, 601, was found in Cheniere and resulted in the banning of the variety from Arkansas fields in 2007 and 2008 along with required testing of all other rice seed. It was during that required testing the problem with some CL 131 was discovered.

Since late last summer, there have been points of contention on how best to purge GM traits from the U.S. rice supply. Among the prickliest is how to interpret genetic lab tests (known as ≥35S-bar PCR≤) for LL traits below the 0.01 percent threshold.

Many claim positive hits below the 0.01 level - often from smaller ≥sub-pools≤ drawn from original 30,000-seed samples - shouldn't impact a variety's eligibility for planting. On the other side are those who want a ≥zero tolerance≤ approach to the GM traits.

'To date, inspectors have submitted 511 samples,' said Darryl Little, Arkansas Plant Board director. 'We've received the lab reports on 357 (and) 336 have produced no detection while 21 have had detections at some level. All the detections, to date, have been in one variety: Clearfield 131.'

Detection levels

'I'm speaking for the seed industry,' said Randy Woodard of Cache River Valley Seed. 'Whether you're a seedsman or a miller, we have the same thing in mind: making sure our rice industry stays safe. We just have different ways to interpret safe.'

By banning Cheniere, 'the South lost 22 percent of its certified seed supply. This, by itself, creates a very tight seed supply in 2007.

'We agreed to test all rice seed at the 0.01 percent detection level at 95 percent confidence. Any lot receiving a 'not detected' in the specified detection limits will be eligible for sale.'

Woodard said close to 80 percent of the CL 131 tested has shown no detections, or achieved a 'not detected' designation based on the 0.01 percent threshold.

Last fall, the USA Rice Federation held a meeting in Dallas to address the GMO issue. At that meeting, 'everyone agreed that zero tolerance for GMO would probably never be attained in the South. Threshold is a level of presence at, or below, at which the presence of a contaminant is acceptable. The only way to truly eliminate the contaminant from the system is to test every seed. The question is what level is achievable? Achieving a purity of 99.99 percent corresponding with a 0.01 level of impurity for any measurable parameter is impossible.'

Arkansas' third most popular variety in 2006, CL 131 was planted on 500,000 acres, and the re remains an undeniable demand for the variety.

With certified seed stocks already in the shortest supply in years, ≥any loss of CL 131 will make for a very short certified seed supply,≤ warned Woodard. ≥CL 131 and Cheniere represent 39 percent of the certified rice seed acres in the South. If we were to lose CL 131, it would cut our seed supply to 36,000 acres.'

Speaking for the Arkansas Rice Growers Association, Harvey Howington also believes banning CL 131 would be a bad idea.

'I want to refer to the law of consumers: buyers that don't want a commodity, for whatever reason, aren't compelled to buy it,' said Howington, a rice farmer in Lepanto, Ark. 'This isn't a health issue. No one will get sick over this (rice). If there's a buyer that doesn't want CL 131, all he has to do is tell his growers he doesn't want it. But there are a lot of buyers who are more than happy to take CL 131. We want them to be able to do that.

'Despite the doom and gloom you've heard about the amount of market we're losing, the European market is only a very small percentage of our total market. We seem to be jumping through hoops for a market that's already lost. We're not going to get it back anytime soon. It won't happen.'

Unlike Cheniere, there are no replacement varieties for CL 131, said Howington.

'Many farmers are in a continuous rice situation. What will farmers do with red rice problems or, even more troubling, rice behind Cheniere?'

Banning CL 131 will put a serious strain on an already strained rice industry. If done, Howington predicted, a dramatic rise in the price of rice seed will push farmers to bin-saved seed and a new set of potential problems.

GIPSA's up or down

Having heard arguments against banning CL 131, Keith Glover said there were reasons to do the opposite.

Forget the testimony about how seed samples are pulled, the way they're broken down into sub-lots, and the 0.01 percent threshold, suggested the Producers Rice Mill president. Instead, he said, the committee should focus on GIPSA's (Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration) approach to seed testing. GIPSA, under the USDA umbrella, set up the current testing procedures and advocates a zero-tolerance approach.

'Wherever we ship rice, an'up or down' test is being used,' said Glover. ≥The (LL trait) is either there, or not.'

'This has become an issue more over defining parameters and finding loopholes than it is of solving (the problem),' said Gary Sebree, a Stuttgart, Ark.-area rice farmer and chairman of Producers Rice Mill.

Further, said Sebree, 'It isn't just the European market (leery of U.S. rice). We could have substantial losses coming out of this.'

Robert Petter, a rice farmer from Prairie County, recently traveled to Europe as part of a U.S. rice delegation to European rice buyers.

'There's a huge demand for regaining trade with Europe,' claimed Petter. 'They're hurting as badly as we are and are just as interested in re-establishing the market.'

Some 'keep referring to the European market as being 10 percent of our business,' said Marvin Baden, Producer Rice Mill senior vice president for marketing and sales. 'But what few understand are all the other countries we have to deal with.'

'Let the market turn and you'll be sitting on a shipment of rice and you won't sell it. (The found trait) will be an out. They'll say, "I'm sorry. You've got GMO in your rice." We'll either have to renegotiate or not sell it. We can't continue every month having this hanging over our heads. It must be cleaned up.'

'When you say, "They won't buy it,' do you mean they won't buy it at the world market price or they're wanting cheaper rice?' asked George Tidwell, seed committee member and chairman of the Arkansas Plant Board.

'Some countries won't buy it at all,' replied Baden. 'We've had three tenders with the Philippines - money the government gave them, $50 million - and they won't take it. Price isn't a factor.'

The testimony from Peck Kerksieck, rice farmer from Stuttgart, began with a set of insistent questions.

'Do we want to get rid of this? Does everyone here want to get rid of it or not? If we don't, let's go home.'

From the podium, Kerksieck waved the latest lab report on tested seed varieties. 'The only variety with positives (for an LL trait) is Clearfield 131. There are zeros on everything else - zeros! Why are we going to plant something we know can hurt us?'

The bottom line?

Following lengthy testimony and discussion about testing protocols, levels of detection and statistics, Glover said, 'The bottom line is if you take a representative sample of a bin of seed rice and it comes back from the lab positive for LL traits, will you allow that rice to be planted?'

Fifty-five percent of the U.S. rice crop is exported, pointed out Jay Coker, a rice farmer in central Arkansas. 'We've got to provide a product the export market will accept. The U.S. consumer won't eat all the rice we're producing. What's been the impact of this to rice farmers?'

Glover said while it's hard to put an exact number on it, 'there's no doubt in my mind this GMO discovery has dealt a blow to the U.S. rice industry, especially here in Arkansas. Our production is down 18 percent from a year ago.'

'With the big run-up in grain prices, we should have had a tremendous year price-wise. We're the only grain commodity down on the CBOT.'

Having heard that answer, Coker said there's no better time to address the GMO/rice issue. 'We've got $8.30 soybeans, $5 wheat and $4.25 corn. If we're going to address this with the least amount of negative financial impact on farmers, this is the year to do it.'

Mills

The two largest Arkansas rice mills (Riceland and Producers) expressed a difference of opinion towards accepting CL 131 rice.

'Our board adopted the policy that we'd go by the government standard,' said Glover. 'That's the GIPSA definition that in order to be negative, all sub-pools have to be negative. Any rice that comes to Producers has to meet those criteria.'

'(Positives) at any level?' asked Tidwell.

'Like GIPSA says, if there's one positive, it's positive,' replied Glover. 'That's the same thing with all the customers we deal with. If they do the test and there's one positive in a sub-group, they'll reject it. They'll ask us to pick up the rice and take it home.'

'Riceland's position on CL 131 is "we're trying to follow Plant Board guidelines," said a representative of the Stuttgart-based co-op. 'If a lab report comes back saying (the seed) is negative even though a sub-sample is positive, we'll take it.'

Ray Vester then spoke on the difficulties rice farmers face.

'The EU is testing at (the 0.01) level,' said the rice farmer representative to the seed committee. If CL 131 seed with positive hits is allowed, 'when this crop is brought in, (the EU) will test at an even lower level. And they'll find the LL trait.'

Vester pointed to market prices.

'In August, the December Chicago futures price on wheat was $3.82. When it expired in December, wheat was $4.77 - a 25 percent increase in value.

'On Aug. 18, December corn futures were $2.33. When that contract expired, corn was $3.58 - a 54 percent increase.'

'On Aug. 18, January soybeans were at $5.72. When that contract expired, the price was $7.06 - a 23 percent increase.'

'On Aug. 18, when GMO problems hit, rice was at $10.30 for January. When that contract expired, it was at $10.10 - a 20 cent drop. This has already cost the Arkansas rice farmers a huge amount of money and opportunity.'

If the committee voted to go with no GM detection allowed in seed, 'what percentage of Clearfield 131 would be left (to plant)? Fifty percent or less?' asked Randy Veach, the seed committee's cotton farmer representative.

'Around 50 percent,' agreed Little. 'That's based on the first sampling and I'm assuming if there was re-sampling, some of the seed would (pass and be available for planting).'

'I heard (Glover) say if a farmer brings him a certificate saying there were no positive hits in any of the pools tested, (Producers) will take that rice,' said Noal Lawhon, seed committee member. 'I've heard (Riceland) say if there is a positive test, they'll take the rice. To me, if a guy wants to plant seed with a positive hit, he can haul it to one mill. If he wants to make sure he's covered, he can haul it to the other mill.'

Following another round of discussion on testing protocols and statistical esoterica, Howington pled with the committee. 'When we leave this room, we need to know what the rules are. Everyone from the seedsmen to the farmers needs to know what the rules are. The farmers barely understand what's going on as it is. Tell us up or down, and that's it.'

The farmer 'needs as much information as possible,' agreed Tidwell. 'I'm sympathetic to all sides but our number one priority is the farmer.'

With that, in a 5-1 vote (Vester the sole nay), the seed committee approved a motion allowing the planting of CL 131 seed with positive LL hits below the 0.01 testing level. Additionally, to help farmers know if there has been such a hit, testing documentation will follow seed.

The motion reads: 'The Arkansas State Plant Board will determine eligibility for sale of rice seed in the following manner: any rice seed which is represented by a lab report from an approved testing laboratory which indicates that LibertyLink presence is "not detected at or above 0.01 percent" at 95 percent confidence level (or an equivalent statement) shall be determined to be eligible for sale. Pool data shall be added to the LibertyLink testing documentation provided by the ASPB.'

The Plant Board's Seed Division also provided the following explanation for pool data: 'Pool data refers to the sub-samples when the laboratories test the 30,000 seed required in the testing method. For example, some laboratories test three sub-samples of 10,000 seed; some test four sub-samples of 7,500 seed; some test six sub-samples of 5,000 seed. The information from each pool, whether detected or non-detected, will be made available to the purchaser of the seed. According to the interpretation in the above motion, samples tested with less than half the pool samples testing positive will be eligible for sale.'

Editor's note: Sources say Riceland will soon clarify its position on CL 131. And more changes may be in store for CL 131 and the Arkansas rice industry. An emergency meeting of the Arkansas Plant Board has been called for March 1 to discuss the issue further.

_______________________

Zambia: Masebo Tables Markets, Bus Stations Bill

The Times of Zambia (Ndola). March 1, 2007

LOCAL Government and Housing Minister Sylvia Masebo yesterday presented to Parliament the Markets and Bus Stations Bill that seeks the establishment and regulation of markets and bus stations in Zambia.

Ms Masebo told the House that the Bill also sought, among other objectives, to provide for the establishment of management boards for markets and bus stations and to repeal and replace the Markets Act of 1937.

Her counterpart at Science, Technology and Vocational Training Brian Chituwo also presented to the House the Bio-safety Bill whose objectives include the regulation of research, development, application, import, export, transit, and use of genetically modified products.

"The Bill seeks to regulate the release or placing on the market of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) whether intended for use as a pharmaceutical, food, feed or processing, or a product of a GMO," Dr Chituwo said.

The Bill would ensure that any activity involving the use of any GMO or its product prevents any socio-economic impact or harm to human and animal health or any damage to the environment, non-GMO crops and biological diversity.

Dr Chituwo said the Bill would set and implement standards for the assessment, evaluation and management of any potential risk involving the use of any genetically modified organism or product of a GMO.

"The bill will establish the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) and prescribe its powers and functions, provide for the establishment of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and provide for public participation, information and consultation in the field of bio-safety," he said.

The Bill also seeks to provide for a mechanism for liability and redress for any harm or damage caused to human and animal health, non-GMO crops, socio-economic conditions, biological diversity of the environment by any GMO or its product.

Dr Chituwo said the Bill would also provide for the formation and registration of institutional bio-safety committees.

Speaker Amusaa Mwanamwambwa referred the Markets and Bus Stations and Biosafety bills to committees on local Governance, Housing and Chiefs Affairs and that of education, science and technology respectively.

The Speaker asked the two committees to submit their reports to the House on Tuesday March 20, 2007.

Mr Mwanamwambwa said members wishing to make any submissions or amendments to the two proposed pieces of legislation should do so within the time-frame provided.


Previous news re. Bayer's illegal GMO rice contamination scandal
may be found in our January and February 2007 archive. For related coverage in 2006 see August, September, October, November and December 2006 archives


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