Today in AgBioView: May 29, 2002
* Commission accused of keeping study on GMOs secret
* Lies from New Zealand
* Fitzsimons asked to name sources
* GE furore a storm in a teacup?
* ORGANIC FARMS IN SCANDAL OF ILLEGAL HERBICIDE
* GERMAN SHOPS PULL ORGANIC EGGS IN HERBICIDE SCARE
* USA: GM foods pose no additional risk to health - report
Commission accused of keeping study on GMOs secret
May 17, 2002
A study on the possibility and consequences of co-existence of GMO and
non-GMO crops has been carried out by the EU joint Research Centre, but it
has not been made public yet. It highlights the practical difficulties and
the costs of co-existence. Greenpeace has claimed that the results are
kept secret because of its sensitive content.
One of the main issues in the debate on genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) is the question of co-existence of GMO crops with non-GMO crops
(conventional and organic). Consumers demand to have a choice between GMO
and non-GMO derived products, but since it is difficult to segregate
different types of agricultural production, with the introduction of GMO
crops it might be impossible to guarantee GMO free food.
DG Agriculture requested a study on co-existence of the Institute for
Prospective Technological Studies of the EU Joint Research Centre. The
study, which has still not been officially released, though it was
completed in January, draws the following conclusions:
To enable co-habitation in one area (with 10%-50% GMOs), farming practices
at each individual farm have to be changed in order to segregate systems
better. Cooperation might also be needed on a community level to e.g.
introduce different sowing dates for GMO and non-GMO crops. A 0,1% limit
of GMO (as is required for organic farming according to EU rules) in a
co-existing area, will be extremely difficult to meet, even with
significant changes in farming practices. To comply with a 1% or 3%
maximum threshold of GMOs, the costs for changes of farming practices,
introduction of monitoring systems and insurances would cost an additional
1%-10% of current product price. The costs depend on the crop, and for
some, such as oilseed rape, the costs might amount to 41%. In general,
organic farms face higher costs, though the greater price premium on
organic products might even it out. Cultivation of GMO and non-GMO crops
on the same farm will be unrealistic even for large farms.
Greenpeace has accused the Commission of keeping the results of the study
secret. Lorenzo Consoli, Greenpeace EU policy advisor, said that "the
Commission has tried to keep this study secret because it was afraid of
its political implications. The question is, if the introduction of GMO
crops on a commercial scale in Europe increases costs of production for
all farmers, makes them more dependent on the big seed companies, and
require complicated and costly measures to avoid contamination, why should
we accept GMO cultivation in the first place?".
The European Commission has responded that the study was not kept secret
and that it will be published on the EU Joint Research Centre's website
More info at:
Date: Wed, 29 May 2002 09:17:25 -0400
From: "Alex Avery"
Subject: Lies from New Zealand
Fellow Agbioviewers who are pro-GM.
The following story comes out of New Zealand, where it looks like the
greenies are lying through their teeth again (remember Elaine Ingham's
bogus testimony to the NZ Royal Commission? She claimed she was a
professor at Oregon State University -- NOT! She peddles organic compost
teas and has only a "courtesy appointment" to OSU which allows her to use
the library -- and she submitted a non-existent "paper" to the Royal
Commission. Her entire testimony to the commission was eventually
tossed). The Green Party should be held accountable for such
misinformation and the public should be reminded of the lying of the
anti-GMs at every opportunity.
Fitzsimons asked to name sources
NZ Life Sciences Network
May 30, 2002
A week ago Green Party Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons told Parliament pigs fed
on GM corn in Iowa couldn't get pregnant. She said "...every possible
variable was tested and eliminated...when they [the farmers] switched back
to GE-Free corn the sows began producing piglets again..."
Fitzsimons did not produce any references or sources for her assertion so
the LSN asked key people in the US if they'd heard the story and could
source any credible support for it. They couldn't.
Now we've asked Fitzsimons to front up with a reference or citation which
shows the events she referred to have been reported to the appropriate
authorities or published in any scientific journal. A copy of our letter
is available below.
At this time we are reminded of the apology the Green Co-leader had to
make to the Royal Commission for presenting false evidence to it about the
so-called dangers of a soil bacterium klebsiella planticola.
See the apology here:
GE furore a storm in a teacup?
Suburban Newspapers www.stuff.co.nz
May 30, 2002
By AMY PATTERSON
Do you suspect the furore over genetic engineering is nothing more than a
storm in an eggcup? If so, you are not alone. AMY PATTERSON reports on a
fresh study into the public perceptions about modified food.
New Zealanders are more concerned about pesticides in their food than
genetic engineering, a national survey has found. HortResearch consumer
scientist Jo Gamble conducted research into people's attitudes towards
genetic engineering (GE) of food and the results of her national surveys
of 400 people from May and October last year have just been released. "
All you hear about is how much people hate GE, my survey didn't really
show that," says Mrs.Gamble.
Although 61 per cent of people surveyed said they were concerned about GE
food to some degree, they admitted to more pressing issues with their
diets. Concern for GE is on a par with artificial additives, at 62 per
cent, and of less concern than pesticides, at 86%, and microbial
contamination, at 87 per cent. " To me it says that two-thirds of the
public are OK with GE as long as they understand where the source of the
gene came from," says Mrs Gamble.
Only 30 per cent of respondents had changed their shopping behaviour since
they knew some foods could be genetically modified. Of these people 20 per
cent looked more closely at labelling and 10 per cent were more inclined
to buy organic food or food labelled GE free.
People who oppose GE food are a vocal minority, says Mrs Gamble. In the
surveys one-third of the respondents strongly disagreed with it.
Auckland's GE Free Coalition spokesman says the results are "PR spin". "I
think the question that needs to be asked is how much do they know about
GE to show they are concerned or not concerned," says Mr Carapiet, a
market researcher. He says earlier research shows the more informed people
are, the more concerned they are about GE. "
The biggest question now is not whether 60 per cent of people like it or
not, but whether there's going to be any choice."
Mr Carapiet says the shift in attitude is that people want GE in the
laboratories, not on the shelves. "There has been a shift. People are
really clear that what they don't want is it in the open field, especially
if it means no choice."
The HortResearch results show people are not concerned with the gene
technology, as 80 per cent of he respondents thought it is acceptable to
develop an apple by selecting genes for good flavour and not change the
genetic structure. This acceptability dropped to 63 per cent when the
apple had been modified using a gene from a different kind of apple to
improve the flavour. Mrs. Gamble says people weigh up the benefits and
ethics of the genetic change to come to a conclusion.
"I was quite surprised with how many people were OK about genetically
engineering an apple," she says. Nearly equal to the response about the GE
apple, 60 per cent of respondents think it would be acceptable to
genetically modify milk from a cow so it could produce human insulin. Mrs
Gamble says this suggests the benefit to humans is sufficient for many
people to be comfortable with the gene technology process.
Respondents were asked how well trusted different information sources on
GE are. Both Greenpeace and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry were
reasonably well trusted by respondents. Only two-thirds of the respondents
had heard of the Royal Commission on Genetic modification in May last
year. That had increased to more than three-quarters last October. But 20
per cent of respondents had little faith in the recommendations, while
another 20 per cent had some or complete faith.
Mrs Gamble says the surveys showed people want to know more on GE but were
at a loss about how to get more information. "People want more
information, they know there's so much out there but they don't want to
get it themselves," she says.
"Normally you'd say 'go ask a scientist', but the scientists aren't
necessarily the good guys in this." She says this is because scientists
have different, sometimes polarised, views about GE. Mr Carapiet says it
is difficult for people to find a trusted source of information. " I think
that's because the science community is divided; who do you listen to? The
ones who are making money out of it or the independent scientists?"
ORGANIC FARMS IN SCANDAL OF ILLEGAL HERBICIDE
May 28, 2002
Organic farming in Germany is, according to this story, suffering what one
politician has called its biggest scandal with the discovery of a
carcinogenic herbicide in animal feed. A regional agriculture official was
cited as saying on the weekend that the feed could have been sold in other
European countries. The affair is the latest in a string of mishaps for
Chancellor Gerhard Schr–der whose government, which faces elections in
September, has made the "greening" of agriculture a centrepiece of its
programme. The Prince of Wales is due to visit Germany next month to see
the progress being made towards a more environmentally sensitive farming
system. But, the story says, tests carried out earlier this year show
that wheat used for feed on some organic farms contained more than 600
times the lawful level of nitrofen. The herbicide has been banned in
Germany for more than 10 years, but because traces remain in the
environment a (very low) legally acceptable level has been set. The tested
samples were from a batch that had been delivered to more than 100 farms
GERMAN SHOPS PULL ORGANIC EGGS IN HERBICIDE SCARE
May 29, 2002
Agence France Presse (Via Agnet)
BERLIN - Supermarkets in Germany were cited as pulling eggs from organic
farms off their shelves Wednesday as a precaution following the discovery
of a dangerous herbicide in hundreds of tonnes of chicken feed. The Metro
supermarket chain halted sales of eggs from organic farms and two kinds of
sausage made from poultry meat, with a spokeman quoted as saying, "The
safety of our clients comes first." Edeka supermarkets and the distributor
Wal-Mart had taken similar action, with the latter ordering its suppliers
to submit to tests. The moves come following a report from the agriculture
ministry in the state of Lower Saxony that some 450 tonnes of wheat used
to feed chickens on organic farms had come into contact with the herbicide
Nitrofen. Nitrofen, which is banned in the European Union, is believed to
cause cancer and affects the blood and central nervous system. Tests on
animals show that it could be harmful to human reproduction. The source of
the contaminated wheat, reports about which began surfacing late last
week, was still unclear Wednesday. The state ministry has said that some
100 organic farms could have been affected and that Nitrofen may have
entered the food chain in meat and eggs.
USA: GM foods pose no additional risk to health - report
29 May 2002
just-food.com editorial team
The investigative arm of the US Congress said that genetically modified
foods pose no greater threat to health than conventionally produced foods.
A study prepared for Congress by the US General Accounting Office found
that consumers of genetically modified foods are at no greater risk of
allergies or toxic reactions. Researchers found that the US Food and Drug
Administration had carried out sufficient tests on to ascertain the safety
of biotech foods before clearing them for the market. The average risk
assessment by the FDA for a new genetically modified food product takes
between 18 months and three years.
The study, which did not address the environmental impact of GM foods,
nevertheless had some recommendations for how the government could improve
its procedures. For example, the FDA should more frequently validate the
accuracy of safety data provided by food companies.
The FDA said it agreed with the studyís findings but said it should not be
obliged to check data on a regular basis. The agency said the risk of
criminal penalties for submitting false data was a significant deterrent
for biotech companies, reported Reuters.
A number of governments around the world are currently drawing up
labelling requirements to inform consumers about biotech foods. A
widespread antipathy towards genetically modified foods in Europe has not
been imitated in the US.
Date: Wed, 29 May 2002 02:15:31 -0500
From: "Andrew Apel"
Subject: Science Colleagues,
I have recently spent some time participating in the gen.free.de
discussion list. It is mainly a pro-anti-biotech listserv, but its content
is instructive. I would advise anyone wishing to attempt what I did to
first read ěHeart of Darknessî by Joseph Conrad. See the text at
As you read ěHeart of Darknessî note both the topic--the journey--and the
reinterpreting narrative; which is a too-smooth, grammatically correct
recitation of contact with what is untrammeledly natural and vicious.
The main contributors on the anti-biotech side of the gen.free.de list are
either paid servants of the anti-biotech movement or volunteers. When it
comes to rhetoric, the difference between servants and volunteeers is very
nearly impossible to distinguish. Those paid to be anti-biotech tend to be
better-informed and they use that facility for fanciful distortions; while
their volunteer counterparts use fanciful distortion in lieu of facts.
That criticism is too easily made, however. These people, like all of us,
confront questions greater than any of one us can solve, much less address
piecemeal. There are those who repose a degree of trust in the scientific
enterprise to make up the difference between personal knowledge and the
wide world. Others think broad-based democracy and regulation can bridge
the gap between the personal and the cosmos. Yet others hark back to
archetypes of racial purity and national boundaries as a means to make a
large world into pieces small enough to comprehend. Some see Gaia, the
goddess who impartially imposes planetary harmony using all means from
illness to catastrophy, as the notion which bridges personal experience
with the vastness. Others see the state of nature as anarchy and envision
a return to the fall of government as the only return to nature.
Whoever these people may be, in all groups, there is a bright line
One group believes that that the questions which lie beyond personal human
ken will eventually be answered through their favorite medium and further
approaches to the answers they offer will be beneficial.
The other group believes that all the answers which lie beyond their
personal ken are artiiacts invented by those who seek answers--false
prophets. Others believe that Gaia in her many guises will destroy those
who peek under her skirts.
Everyone who seeks serious answers to serious questions is stuck with
answering those questions in the context of something larger than
themselves, and those not delusional will seek an institution with a
belief structure and its processes. Some institutions and processes
involve assaulting officers of the law and destroying family businesses,
while others involve carefully comparing research results with others in
The gap between experience and truth is as great as that between faith and
God; a gap which has yet to be bridged. Many try to close that gap in many
ways; but I have never seen violence or falsehood serve that purpose, and
if the Creator has not made us cruelly malformed, we will some day grow so
see that violence and falsehood can never serve the continuing act of
creation that sustains the universe.
My personal belief is that the continuing act of creation that sustains
the universe is a continuing mystery which should be a perpetual source of
awe and admiration, and that scientific inquiry into that mystery, if
honest, is homage; and that we, made in the image of God, should rejoice
in our ability to discover and continue the process of His creation. Let
us all dance, love and study.