Today in AgBioView: May 29, 2003:
* Regarding Action Aid Report
* LET’S CLEAR THE AIR ON BIOTECH SAYS EURO FARM LEADER
* NPR/PRI's 'to the point' program on GMOs
* Philippine Ad
* Support for Geldof's attack on Euro aid
* Geldof Lauds Bush Administration Over African Aid
* European governments - let starving Africans eat
* Green Groups Making Big Bucks Pushing Environmental Agenda
* Public domain versus private ownership
* PM fights for genetically modified food
* Australia close to GM canola production
* Australia: NSW Forum on Risks from Release of Genetically Engineered
* Battle Over Biotechnology Intensifies Trade War
Regarding Action Aid Report
May 29, 2003
By C.S. Prakash
Regarding Action Aid's comment on soybean yield, they use one report by
Roger Elmore et al from the University of Nebraska, compiled from 1998
harvest, where there is an incorrect allegation that the reduced yield is
due to the herbicide tolerant gene. The real explanation is that there are
differences in the soya germplasm that result in the observed yield
difference. Soy breeders have successfully moved the glyphosate-tolerant
gene into high yielding soybean germplasm and there are no differences in
yield between GM and non-GM in the same germplasm. AA's assertion runs
contrary to soy grower satisfaction throughout America and Argentina, and
proof lies in the statistics: since the introduction of Roundup Ready, the
soybean yield in Nebraska has increased every year and reached record
yields. In addition, the better weed control offered by the system has
allowed Nebraska growers to expand their soybean acreage over that same
Finally, this is more of the same from their last report - so nothing new.
If modern science and technology really are as bad as they allege, why are
we living longer?
And the follow-up, how many people could Action Aid have saved from hunger
if instead of their anti-biotech report and publicity, they had donated
that money to help feed those in developing countries.
28 May 2003
LET’S CLEAR THE AIR ON BIOTECH SAYS EURO FARM LEADER
A former president of the European Parliament has welcomed the US decision
to launch a World Trade Organisation case against the European Union’s ban
on new genetically modified crops.
Lord Henry Plumb a former President of the National Farmers Union and one
of 38 agricultural leaders from industrialised, developing and
least-developed countries who together make up the International Council
for Food and Agricultural Trade Policy said that the case provided a
welcome opportunity for the vast scientific evidence supporting
biotechnology to prevail in what has been a highly emotional debate in
“Politicians and consumers should be made aware of the evidence confirming
the safety of biotechnology,” he said. “The anti-biotech campaigners must
not be allowed to reiterate unsupported arguments and rekindle unwarranted
Lord Plumb, who chaired the European Parliament’s committee overseeing
relations with developing countries, said the need for biotechnology in
poor countries is clear. “New technology can help these countries overcome
environmental challenges, including drought and salinity, and fight the
diseases and pests such as viruses and worms which destroy their crops,”
But the benefits of biotechnology are not confined to developing
countries. “Farmers and consumers in Britain and Europe can benefit from
reductions in crop pests, a diminution of the need for farm chemical use
and enhanced nutritional value from food,” he said. “For example,
biotechnology can protect wheat—one of Europe’s major crops-- against
viruses, funguses and toxins that can destroy harvests and make wheat
unfit for food.”
Lord Plumb challenged those who say the US case will deny European
consumers and farmers the opportunity to use biotech products. “It is the
European ban on genetically modified foods which is keeping advanced
products out of the hands of farmers and consumers – and that is denying
the essential freedom of consumer choice,” he added.
NOTES TO EDITORS
This release reflects the opinions of Henry Plumb. It does not necessarily
reflect the views of other individual members of the IPC, nor of the IPC
as an organization. IPC membership includes high-ranking government
officials, farm leaders, agribusiness executives and agricultural trade
policy experts from around the world and throughout the food chain to
build consensus on practical solutions to food and agricultural trade
problems. Its 38 independent members are chosen to ensure the Council’s
credible and impartial approach. For more information see:
For further press information, please contact:
Washington, DC Tel: 202 328 5001
Washington, DC Fax: 202 328 5133
UK Tel: +44 20 7824 8681
UK Fax: +44 20 7730 1390
Regarding the recent NPR/PRI's 'to the point' program on GMOs. It was
implied by one of the speakers (David Byrne) that a simplistic
Notification process is essentially giving the de-regulated (=permission
to commercialize) status for GM crops in the US. That is not true. The
Notification process is for experimental field testing (=confined field
testing) only and NOT for commercialization! An applicant has to submit in
writing that certain criteria are met in order to be considered for the
The APHIS' Biotechnological Regulatory Services web page has detailed
information on field testing under Notification/Permits for confined field
testing versus petition requirements for requesting a de-regulated status
for a GM crop.
Hanu R. Pappu, Ph.D., Associate Professor,
Washington State University,
Pullman, WA 99164
(Dr. Pappu was a former regulator at USDA/APHIS)
>> Genetically Modified Foods: The New Transatlantic Fight
>>- To the Point, National Public Radio, May 21, 2003
>> You can listen to this program at http://www.moretothepoint.com/
The following Ad appeared in several Philippine newspapers this morning.
In the midst of false claims and misleading information, scientists now
We, members of the scientific community, uphold the science-based and
transparent safety assessment of bioengineered plant and plant products.
We believe in the integrity and objectivity of the Scientific and
Technical Review Panel members and technical personnel of the Department
of Agriculture who assessed the safety of this particular Bt corn variety
(Transformation event MON 810) and who concluded that this Bt corn is as
safe as ordinary corn.
We deplore the scare tactics used to sow public fear and to stop the
commercialization of Bt corn that reduces pesticide use and minimizes
mycotoxins in corn grains.
Bt corn is not poison. End the malicious misinformation campaign. Let
sound science serve the needs of the Filipino farmers and the consumers.
Dr. Ruben N. Caragay, MD, PhD, Dean, College of Public Health, UP Manila
Dr. Carmencita D. Padilla, MD, Director, Institute of Human
Dr. Nina Gloriani Barzaga, MD, PhD, Director, Inst. of
Dr. Gemiliano D. Aligui, MD, PhD, Executive Director, PCHRD– DOST
Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, Director, Philippine Rice Research
Dr. Eugenio D. Orpia, Jr., Administrator, Cotton Development
Dr. Ernelea P. Cao, Director, Natural Science Research Institute, UP
Dr. Teresita M. Espino, Director, UPLB Biotech
Dr. Saturnina Halos, President, Women Scientists Association of the
Dr. Lydia Tansinsin, President, Phil. Association for the Advancement of
Dr. Desiree Hautea, Director, Institute of Plant Breeding, UP Los Baños
Dr. Celia Aurora T. Torres Villanueva, Associate Dean, Student & Public
Dr. Evelyn Mae Tecson Mendoza, Academician, National Academy of Science
Dr. Virginia Monje, Director, NIMBB-UP Diliman
Dr. Marina P. Natural, Professor and Chair, Dept. of Plant Pathology
Dr. William G. Padolina, Academician, National Academy of Science and
College of Public Health, UP Manila
Dr. Ofelia P. Saniel, Professor and Chair, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Dr. Caridad Ancheta, MD, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Dr. Lydia Leonardo, PhD, Professor of Medical Parasitology
Dr. Pilarita Tongol-Rivera, MD, PhD, Professor of Medical Parasitology
Dr. Lilian Delas Llagas, PhD, Professor of Parasitology
Professor Lolita L. Cavinta, MSPH, Professor of Medical Microbiology
Professor Teresita de Guzman, MSPH, Professor of Medical Microbiology
Dr. Lilen C. Sarol, PhD, Professor of Medical Microbiology,
Dr. Lucila B. Rabuco, PhD, Professor Ma.
Teresa Valdez, RMT, University Research Associate
College of Medicine, UP Manila
Dr. Godofreda Dalmacion, MD, MSc., Professor and Chair, Pharmacology
Dr. Cynthia I. Valencia, MD, Professor of Pharmacology
National Institutes of Health - UP Manila
Dr. Ruth H. Florese, PhD, Research Faculty
Dr. Catherine Lynn Silao, MD, PhD, Research Faculty, Human Genetics
Dr. Joy Lee, MD, Research Faculty
Dr. Cirie S. Alcantara, PhD, Research Faculty
Ann Florence Victoriano, MSPH, Research Associate, IBMB
Sorietta Ramos, RMT, Research Associate, IBMB
Rubelia Baterna, RMT, Research Associate, IBMB
Cotton Development Administration
Dr. Edison C. Riñen, Director II
Dr. Aida D. Solsoloy, Scientist II
Dr. Victoria B. Cosico, Scientist I
Dr. Teodoro S. Solsoloy, Scientist I
Philippine Academy of Microbiology
Dr. Priscilla C. Sanchez, Chair
Dr. Cynthia T. Hedreyda, Secretary, Associate Professor, UP Diliman
Dr. Enrique Carlos, Auditor
UP Diliman-National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology
Dr. Cynthia P. Saloma, Associate Professor
Dr. Amerfina D. Santos, Professor
Ms. Inez Ponce de Leon, Instructor
Virryan B. Banzon, University Researcher
Mr. Glenn G. Oyong, Instructor
Ms. Jennifer Lising-Roxas, Researcher
Mr. Boris San Luis, Researcher
Ms. Katrina Canlas, Research Associate
Mr. Adrian Constantino, Researcher
Mr. Kristopher T. Anting, Research Associate
Ms. Jenne Liza V. Relucio, Research Associate
Ms. Anne Marie Moran, University Research Associate
Ms. Jacqueline Judith Joson, University Research Associate
UP Los Baños Scientists
Dr. Pablito Magdalita, Research Scientist
Dr. Antonio Laurena, Research Associate Professor
Dr. Jorge Gil Angeles, University Researcher
Dr. Roberta N. Garcia, University Researcher
Dr. Stephen C. Reyes, Assistant Professor
Dr. Agnes Zamora, Professor
Dr. Rina G. Opulencia, Assistant Professor
Dr. Narceo B. Bajet, Professor
Dr. Reynaldo C. Mabesa, Professor
Dr. Erlinda I. Dizon, Associate Professor
Dr. Jinky B. Brown, Research Associate Professor
Dr. Vicky Migo, Research Associate Professor
Dr. LC Trinidad, University Researcher
Dr. Elsa M. Luis, University Researcher
Dr. Rosario S. So, University Researcher
Dr. Francisco Elegado, Research Professor
Dr. Fe G. Torres, University Researcher
Dr. Eduardo C. Fernandez, University Researcher
Dr. Virginia Padilla, University Researcher
Dr. Marilou Calapardo, University Researcher
Dr. Rowena H. Oane, Assistant Scientist
Dr. Artemio M. Salazar, Research Associate Professor
Dr. Romy Rejesus, Adj. Professor
Dr. Romy Labios, Research Associate Professor
Dr. Peter De Guzman, Research Associate Professor
Dr. Ma. Tavanlar, University Researcher
Dr. Edwin P. Alcantara, University Researcher
Dr. Teofila O. Zulaybar, University Researcher
Dr. Ma. Immaculada Torres, University Researcher
Dr. E. C. Marfori, University Researcher
Dr. Leo E. Padoa, Professor
Dr. Teofila S. Santos, University Researcher
Dr. Ma. Lourdes Q. Sison, University Researcher
Dr. Virginia M. Padilla, University Researcher
Dr. Fidel Nayve, Research Associate Professor
Ms. Fe G. Torres, University Researcher
Ms. Irene A. Papa, University Research Associate
Ms. Lea A. Matanguihan, University Research Associate
Ms. Marites P. Lantican, Lab Technician
Mr. Leonardo Scadleney, University Research Associate
Ms. Ma. Jocelyn Ramirez, University Research Associate
Ms. Margarita A. Mercado, University Researcher
Ms. Precy Rasco, University Researcher
Ms. Maria Teresa M. Perez, University Researcher
Ms. Marie Antonette Ruth V. Guerra, University Research Associate Ms.
Mylele L. Bool, University Research Associate
Philippine Society for Microbiology, Inc.
Dr. Rhodora S. Carlos, President
Dr. Wilfredo Barraquio, Vice-President, Professor, UP Diliman
Prof. Roslyn Rodriguez, Board Member, Head, Micorbiology Section, UP PGH
Dr. Rosario Monsalud, Auditor, Researcher, Biotech UP Los Baños
Mr. Vitto Butardo, Secretary, Researcher, MSI, UP Diliman
Mr. Benigno Glenn Ricaforte, Business Manager
Philippine Rice Research Institute
Dr. Rhodora Aldemita, Chief, Science Research Specialist
Dr. Antonio A. Alfonso, Supervising Science Research Specialist
Ms. Evelyn H. Bandonill, Sr. Science Research Specialist
Ms. Ma. Jophine C. Ablan, Sr. Research Analyst
Ms. Sheryl Ann T. Ramos, Research Assistant
Ms. Rosaly V. Manaois, SRS II
Mr. Henry F. Mamucod, SRA
Ms. Juliet P. Rillon, SRS II
Ms. Mina M. Antolin, S.A.
Ms. Gilely C. Santiago, Sr. SRS
Ms. Evelyn F. Javier, Sr. SRS
Ms. Filomena S. Grospe, SRA
Ms. Patria Gonzales, Assistant Scientist, International Rice Research
Dr. Ponciano M. Halos, Vice President for Agriculture, Philippine
Association for the Advancement of Science
Dr. Bibiano Ranos, Chief Research Agriculturist, Ecosystems Research and
Development Bureau, DENR
Dr. Aida B. Lapis, Chief Research Agriculturist, Ecosystems Research and
Development Bureau, DENR
Dr. Ma. Fita Guzman, MD, Medical Specialist, BFAD-DOH
Support for Geldof's attack on Euro aid
May 29, 2003
By KEITH SINCLAIR
LEADING charities yesterday backed Bob Geldof's praise of America as one
of Africa's best friends in its fight against hunger and Aids, but warned
that the US and other countries needed to do more to help avert
The Irish musician, who staged Live Aid, the world's biggest rock concert
to help Africa's starving in 1985, used a return trip to Ethiopia to claim
that the contribution of the Bush administration in Washington contrasted
with the "pathetic and appalling" response of the European Union to
Africa's humanitarian problems.
Speaking at the start of his trip, which is aimed at putting Africa on the
agenda of the G8 summit in France this weekend, Geldof said the Bush
administration was "the most radical - in a positive sense - in its
approach to Africa since Kennedy", and contrasted its contribution with
that of Bill Clinton, the former president, who he said had not helped the
Some of Britain's leading charities yesterday supported Geldof's comments,
which were reported as George W Bush signed into law a plan to spend £9bn
over the next five years to fight Aids in Africa and challenged Europe to
match the commitment.
Andrew Pendleton, a trade campaigner with Christian Aid, said: "America
has responded quickly with a lot of food aid to Ethiopia which has helped
head off the worst disaster there . . . Britain, in terms of Africa in
general, has raised its aid budget over the last five or six years so it
is perhaps not as intransigent as some of the other European countries."
Paul Chitnis, chief executive of the Scottish Catholic International Aid
Fund, who has recently returned from a trip to Zambia, said: "Africa needs
lots of friends, including the UK. The Bush administration is doing well
but could do better still. However, it is good that Geldof is contributing
to the debate and raising the profile of these important issues."
Geldof Lauds Bush Administration Over African Aid
May 28, 2003
By Kate Holton
LONDON (Reuters) - Live Aid founder Bob Geldof shocked the international
aid community on Wednesday by praising George W. Bush's administration as
one of Africa's best friends in their fight against AIDS and famine.
"You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush
administration is the most radical -- in a positive sense -- in the
approach to Africa since Kennedy," Geldof told the Guardian newspaper
during a visit to Ethiopia.
Ireland's Geldof, who staged the world's biggest rock concert to help
Africa's starving in 1985, made his comments on the first day of a
five-day trip intended to highlight the plight of the Ethiopians.
Aid agencies estimate 14 million Ethiopians are at risk of starvation
after the worst drought in nearly two decades. HIV/AIDS has made the
country's plight even worse.
The Irish musician and activist said Bush's predecessor Bill Clinton had
talked passionately about Africa, but done little, while the European
Union had provided a "pathetic and appalling" response to the continent's
Lord Alli, a British aid activist accompanying Geldof on the trip
organized by the UN children's agency UNICEF, agreed.
"Clinton talked the talk and did diddly squat, whereas Bush doesn't talk,
but does deliver," he told the paper.
On Tuesday, Bush signed into law a $15 billion plan to help fund the fight
against AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, a move which aid agencies
But critics said the plan fell far short of what was needed at a time when
AIDS kills one person every 10 seconds.
Christian Aid Trade Campaigner Andrew Pendleton told Reuters there were
always strings attached with aid.
"The Bush administration have increased massively the subsidies that they
give to U.S. farmers so there will be huge amounts of cheap surplus food
available," he said.
"That makes it harder for African farmers to compete."
Justin Forsyth, Oxfam's director of campaigns and policy, said Geldof's
comments should not be taken out of context.
"The international trade rules are a major obstacle to developing
countries and America is a big impediment to resolving these," he said.
"The harm that trade rules do to the developing world is worth much more
to African countries than the American aid budget will ever be."
European governments - let starving Africans eat
May 28, 2003
By Cal Thomas
If Americans need another reason to intensely dislike certain European
governments that undermined American policy to liberate Iraq from the mass
murderer Saddam Hussein, here is one.
Those same governments are not only opposing the sending of donated
American bioengineered food to starving African nations, they are
spreading disinformation and lies so that African governments will not
In a May 21 speech to graduates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New
London, Conn., President George W. Bush "outed" the Europeans when he
accused them of perpetuating starvation in Africa by lying about biotech
food and subsidizing their agricultural exports, thus preventing poor
nations from developing their own crops. The United States has filed a
lawsuit with the World Trade Organization, complaining about the European
moratorium on bioengineered crops.
Former Rep. Tony Hall, D-Ohio, who now serves as the U.S. ambassador to
the U.S. Mission to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome,
tells me, "Any leader who denies food to their people and they die
deserves to be brought up on charges of crimes against humanity in the
world's highest court."
Hall, who championed the cause of the hungry in Congress with mixed
results (his Congressional Hunger Commission was eliminated a decade ago,
and Hall went on a 22-day hunger strike to get it reauthorized), says that
the European media are helping to spread fear and lies to African nations
so that they refuse our food aid.
Among the myths being spread are that Americans won't eat the
bioengineered food they want Africans to eat. Not true. Hall says 80
percent of the U.S. soybean crop and 38 percent of the corn crop are now
biologically engineered. "Whether it's corn-on-the-cob, soy sauce, canola
cooking oil or Fritos, we have been consuming bioengineered foods
regularly since 1996 ... all with no ill effects," says Hall.
Another myth perpetuated by Europeans and their media is that biotech
foods have not been adequately tested for safety. Hall says, in fact,
foods that come from commercially produced bioengineered crops in the
United States "have met rigorous safety standards - the most rigorous in
What about the charge from Europeans and their media that this isn't
really about the hungry but about enriching multinational companies and
the biotech industry? Hall says food research has been a collaborative
effort of land grant colleges, private foundations and some corporations,
much of which is directed at helping poor nations with starving people
feed themselves. Why would other countries oppose such a magnanimous
humanitarian effort unless their own greed got in the way?
While the United States is preoccupied with terrorism and the relatively
few who have died from it (compared to the toll taken by starvation around
the world where many live on $2 a day and one of three children is
affected by malnutrition), a different kind of terrorism stalks the poor
nations of Africa. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has raised
our awareness with some profound and timely columns from poor African
In a May 23 column, Kristof wrote, "In the best of circumstances, about
100,000 boys and girls ... will die of malnutrition-related ailments this
year in Ethiopia. If the drought continues and the West doesn't provide
more assistance, the number of deaths will rise to several hundred
There may not be much that can be done about the drought, but there is
plenty that can be done about starvation if the Europeans will stop lying
about biotech and their media will report the truth.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick wrote in the May 21 Wall
Street Journal that European food policy in Africa is having a "dangerous
effect." He said, "some famine-stricken African countries refused U.S.
food because of fabricated fears - stoked by irresponsible rhetoric -
about food safety."
President Bush should continue to shame the Europeans and force them and
their media to confront the consequences of what they are doing in Africa.
As Hall suggests, this is nothing less than genocide, and there are laws
against such things and consequences for breaking them, aren't there?
Green Groups Making Big Bucks Pushing Environmental Agenda
WASHINGTON, DC, May. 28 -/E-Wire/-- These days, greens aren’t advocating
change just for the good of the planet. They’ve figured out how it can be
good business – big business – with big bucks involved.
The attached column by Tech Central Station editor Nick Schulz examines
how groups such as CERES – Coalition for Environmentally Responsible
Economies – are part of a growing corporate social responsibility movement
that is making big money from companies who will profit from a radical
Consider the following examples of CERES members who stand to make gains
from the environmental initiatives and shareholder resolutions being
aggressively pushed by CERES:
--- Recycled Paper Printing Inc., -- Would reap financial windfall if
CERES "Green Hotel Initiative" which encourages hotel chains to purchase
recycled paper products.
--- Astro Power – A company that would be poised to thrive if state and
local governments mandate that taxpayer dollars be redirected to subsidize
renewable energy industries.
--- Green Century Capital Management – A fund by which CERES can advance a
radical environmental agenda for the profitability of its members.
Advised by Executive Director of CERES Mindy Lubber
* Large holdings in United Natural Foods, one of the largest distributor
to the organic food industry
* Recently pressured Campbell’s Soup Co. to reconsider its use of
genetically modified ingredients in its foods
* Recently released "Sleeping Tiger, Hidden Liabilities", a report that
criticized ExxonMobil for not doing enough to address climate change. Not
surprisingly, many of CERES members will profit handsomely from the Kyoto
Protocol and other regulatory changes that global warming alarmists are
To view the full article by Nick Schulz, go to
To schedule an interview with TechCentralStation, please call Sally
Anderson at 202-572-6231.
Sally Anderson, 202/572-6231
Public domain versus private ownership
By Dave Wood
May 28, 2003
Jerry Cayford [AgBioView 22 May] suggests that `monopoly control of the
world's food supply' by a limited number of seed companies came with GM
patenting. This is not so: the trend to concentration in the seed industry
started long before GM crops were a reality. Some time ago, RAFI reported
with concern that 10 companies control 30% of the world's seed supply. For
most people that shows extremely healthy competition rather than monopoly.
Up-to-date figures would be useful.
There are other problems in trying to use patents as a stick to beat
biotechnology. Plant patents have been just that - patents on varieties
permitted for many years under, for example, US law. Such plant patents
need have nothing to do with biotech. Also, as the word `biotechnology'
indicates, we are not talking always, or even often, about patents on
living organisms, but on associated technology (of the type widely
accepted and protected in food processing and medicine). Knowledge HAS TO
be moved into the public domain in detail to validate a patent claim: in
exchange the originator gets a licence for a limited period.
And is the present focus of GM seed companies the `world's food supply'?
Regrettably not yet. Most GM crops are industrial (cotton); or feedstuff
(corn and soybean); or northern attempts to become more independent of
tropical oil crops (canola and soybean again). No threat to the world's
food supply there. My suspicion is that highly subsidized exporters in GM
countries want to block competition from the growth of GM in tropical
competitors. This is `trans-national Luddism': `We've got the technology,
but you can't have it'. As an example, the $4billion a year subsidy for US
cotton producers could be recovered faster through increased exports if
India had no GM cotton. There are signs that anti-GM `Fifth Columns' are
active in developing countries. I am not suggesting that this is wrong -
it seems economically sensible - but we need to aware of the arguments.
Rather than a monopoly, the spread of Bt cotton in India is a good example
of monopolies not working. It was private enterprise Indian-style and
smart farmers, rather than any Monsanto monopoly, that led to the rapid
spread of GM cotton in India. And the Government of India is actively
working on public domain GM crops (so too is China). These may be state
monopolies, but they will benefit farmers. And the more valuable the
monopoly, the bigger the incentive to design around it (or pirate it) to
Jerry compares Plant Varietal Certificates unfavourably to the
International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
My assessment is exactly the opposite. I can live with protected varieties
(which supply most of my staple food), but the Seed Treaty is a ticking
bomb under our food security that will set country against country.
The main problem is the very practical one of Material Transfer Rights: a
restrictive monopoly established through Material Transfer Agreements
(MTAs). For some time, the effective core of the Seed Treaty will be the
staple food crop genebank collections of the CGIAR institutes such as the
International Rice Research Institute (rice is the world's most important
food crop). The Seed Treaty requires 40 ratifications to come on line.
Under the UN `one country one vote' rules, countries representing in total
less than 1% of the world population could control access to, and use of,
the most important genebanks in the world. This to me is a real and
dangerous monopoly, and a real denial of public domain. These tiny
countries with no significant genetic resources of their own would make
the rules on how global samples were used by the rest of us, and the level
of payments by non-Parties to the benefit of themselves.
Notably, there is no provision in the Seed Treaty (see Article 15.1.a from
http://www.fao.org/ag/cgrfa/itpgr.htm) for returning samples to the
country of origin without strings attached. For example, China, if a
non-Party, under new MTAs would be denied hitherto free access to
thousands of samples of Chinese origin deposited in the IRRI genebank
(most CGIAR samples end up in the Treaty by default, although the CGIAR
cannot negotiate and cannot be a Party). Restrictions through MTAs (and
financial penalties) could be imposed on China by a minority of tiny
countries. China (or the US, or Mexico, or Ethiopia and all the rest with
significant national genetic resources) could, with reason, regard this as
a sell-out to monopoly restrictive control (and not a good example of
benefit-sharing, as Jerry implies).
This is a gross departure from the previous rules that we developed 10
years ago to gave priority for such an unrestricted repatriation from the
CGIAR genebanks (needed as countries lose their original samples). When
the Treaty kicks-in, the majority of countries will be non-Parties. Such
countries will have no rights whatever over samples from their country
deposited in the Treaty by the CGIAR. They cannot `invent round' this
restriction, as they could under former MTAs. In fact, countries will be
far better off for species excluded from the Treaty (groundnut, soybean
and lots more) where samples repatriated from the CG can still be used in
whatever ways countries wish.
The Seed Treaty is an attempt to monopolize control over the global seed
supply by stealth (no more than a handful of countries understand the
restrictive implications of Article 15.1.a of the Treaty). India, a
country that does understand the negative implications of the Treaty, has
quickly moved to remove their hitherto `public domain' varieties into a
more secure legal framework. For example, Indian farmers can protect their
own varieties as property under the new ‘Protection of Plant Varieties and
Farmers’ Rights Act’ (http://agricoop.nic.in/seedssf.htm), which allows
protection of `extant varieties'.
I agree with Jerry that more debate is needed around restrictions of
access to `life'- but this debate must be far wider than GM- and
patent-bashing. Public domain is under threat on a wide front, notably in
the `Seed Treaty'.
PM fights for genetically modified food
Globe and Mail
May 29, 2003
By SHAWN McCARTHY
Athens — Prime Minister Jean Chrétien met stiff political resistance as he
sought to push the door open for exports of Canadian genetically modified
food to Europe yesterday.
Canadian officials said the Europeans are using "phony science" to exclude
North American agricultural products that come from genetically modified
Despite continuing pressure from both Canada and the United States, Greek
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday it is politically impossible
for European governments to allow imports of genetically modified
"This is a problem because the public in many European states think the
genetically modified products will change the environment," Mr. Simitis
said yesterday. "They think it will have a negative impact on the
environment, and this is unacceptable."
Mr. Chrétien met yesterday morning with Romano Prodi, head of the European
Commission, and Mr. Simitis, who holds the rotating presidency of the
Canada, the world's third-largest producer of genetically modified foods,
has seen its $400-million-a-year market for canola disappear, partly
because of European concern about genetic manipulation of the Canadian
Both Canada and the United States are concerned about global resistance to
high-tech foods as more and more farmers in North America turn to them.
At his meeting yesterday, Mr. Chrétien argued that the EU should take what
he called a scientific approach to genetically modified foods and
acknowledge that they pose no danger to human health, officials said later
in a briefing.
But senior Canadian officials said the EU and its member countries are
unwilling to show leadership on the issue for fear of a public backlash.
"It's political," said a senior Canadian official, who was briefing
reporters on condition he not be named.
"You can't get elected in Europe unless you're against it. . . . But they
have to show a little leadership. We're not trying to shove this down
their throats; we're trying to keep them from hiding behind phony
Mr. Simitis suggested the jury is still out on the environmental impact of
genetically modified agriculture. Europeans worry that genetically
modified organisms could contaminate native crops and that multinational
conglomerates will put patents on seeds and farmers will be forced to buy
"We need scientific proof that it won't [be harmful.] And this takes
time," he said.
Australia close to GM canola production
By Sarah Clarke
May 27, 2003
KERRY O'BRIEN: After years of debate, Australia is just weeks away from
entering the brave new world of genetically modified food production.
The Government's Gene Technology Regulator looks set to approve the first
application for a commercial crop of genetically modified canola.
But if consumers are still divided about the benefits of GM food, so are
farmers, as Sarah Clarke reports.
SARAH CLARKE: It's one of the most fundamental and divisive issues ever
faced by Australian farmers.
After years of carefully controlled crop trials, the Federal Government
must soon decide if it will allow the production of genetically modified
food, and if the comments of the country's gene technology regulator are
any guide, Australia's first commercial crop of GM canola may soon be in
SUE MEEK, GENE TECHNOLOGY REGULATOR: We've come to the conclusion that the
release of this GM canola would present no additional risks to those that
are presented by ... the minimal risks that are presented by non-GM or
SARAH CLARKE: As well as being one of the country's most important export
crops, canola is found in almost every Australian pantry, usually as
margarine or cooking oil.
After reviewing scientific studies from around the world, Sue Meek has
concluded that consumers have nothing to fear from genetically modified
SUE MEEK: We look at the modification to the genetically modified canola
and determine whether or not it has increased risks of toxicity or
allergenicity over and above non-GM canola.
The other two areas that ... so that's essentially in the context of human
health and safety, and then the other two areas that we look at are
looking at environmental risks and in that sense we have still concluded
that we believe that there are no risks that are greater than anything to
do with non-GM canola.
SARAH CLARKE: Around the world, the GM issue has sparked heated debate.
Opponents such as Scott Kinnear of the Organic Federation of Australia are
not convinced the long-term benefits of GM food have yet been proven.
SCOTT KINNEAR, ORGANIC FEDERATION OF AUSTRALIA: There's certainly no
satisfaction of the long-term safety risks for humans and the environment.
That's why consumers and environmental groups around the world, and the
majority of consumers, are opposed to eating genetically engineered foods.
SARAH CLARKE: Even if fears of domestic consumers can be allayed, some of
Australia's major export markets such as Europe, the Middle East and
China, want GM-free grain.
SCOTT KINNEAR: If we issue a commercial canola GM licence in Australia
this year, that will ultimately have an enormous impact on the perception
of Australian product, not just canola ... wheat, barley, oats, honey ...
any product that's exported from Australia will be tainted as potentially
contaminated with GM.
SARAH CLARKE: It's a concern shared by the Wheat Board.
As Australia's major wheat exporter, it's keen to protect those valuable
GM-free export markets.
MARCUS KENNEDY, AUSTRALIAN WHEAT BOARD: Our customers are increasingly on
behalf of their end consumers wanting a GM free certification.
SARAH CLARKE: To maintain that certification, farmers growing conventional
crops will have to ensure their grain is not mixed with GM grain once it
leaves the farm gate.
So once the GM canola crop has been harvested, how will you keep the
non-GM and the GM segregated?
JULIE McFARLANE, CANOLA GROWER: Well, with enormous difficulty.
We'll have to have serious clean-downs for everything, augers ... they're
really difficult to clean down ... silos, trucks all have to be cleaned
down, everything will have to be perfectly labelled and human element here
is always problematic.
SARAH CLARKE: Julie and Don Macfarlane have been growing canola for 20
DONALD McFARLANE, CANOLA FARMER: And even the conventional growers, if
they stay conventional after the introduction, will be up for all these
costs for segregation and testing.
SARAH CLARKE: Even before it's harvested, GM canola poses another
challenge for farmers.
Once the plant flowers, pollen spreads.
Buffer zones might be enough to separate the different crops, but they
won't be mandatory under the gene regulators' conditions.
DONALD McFARLANE: Bees travel up to 4 kilometres and they could very
easily come from a neighbouring paddock or anything within that distance
and contaminate this crop.
KEITH PERRETT, GRAINS COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA: There is a small chance of
cross pollination once you move beyond that original 5-metre zone the
possibility is very limited.
There has been extensive work in Australia to see the levels of cross
contamination, and it is very, very minimal.
SARAH CLARKE: As head of the Grain Council of Australia, Keith Perrett
sees GM canola as an opportunity rather than a risk.
He believes genetic technology will boost farm incomes through
drought-resistant, more productive crops, requiring less pesticide and
KEITH PERRETT: Yes, we definitely need the approval to go ahead.
Farmers need to assess those crops out in the field conditions, to see how
they go in their own environment, to assess the costs of those crops,
whether it's a reduced cost, because of the different farming technologies
which can be adapted through GM crops.
We also need to assess the supply chain, because that's going to be very
crucial, especially in the first few years of GM crops in Australia.
SARAH CLARKE: Even if the Federal Government gives genetically modified
canola the all-clear, Australia's first commercial crop faces other
All States except Queensland intend to impose a moratorium on the planting
of GM crops until they're convinced about their safety.
Governments, like farmers, remain deeply divided over the new age of food
JULIE McFARLANE: Growers will realise that we have a very good product on
the market now, and we will come out hard and fight to maintain the good
product with complete market acceptance.
If it's not better, then there's no reason for us to be taking it up, and
it needs to be demonstrably better and it's not yet.
KEITH PERRETT: I think we're seeing, around the world, those trends which
are anti-GM starting to break down and Australian farmers need to be in a
situation where they can use the technology, they can compete with their
If they don't have that access to that technology, then we're going to be
left behind our producers over in Canada and America.
Australia: NSW Forum on Risks from Release of Genetically Engineered Crops
Monday 14 July 2003 - 2 pm at the Duxton Hotel, 88 Alfred Street, Milsons
Please register interest to attend with Roger Fitzsimmons at [
Legislation, which the Government says will provide for a three-year
moratorium on the release of genetically engineered food crops, is poised
to pass New South Wales Parliament today.
But what will be the consequences of implementing the moratorium in its
final form, and the eventual release of GE crops on environmental and
health health, crop productivity, farm incomes and trade?
A focused debate is now needed to understand and communicate these risks
and the proposed way(s) forward for better understanding and managing
The Eastern NSW Branch of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science
& Technology (AIAST) is holding a forum to enable this debate in a
science-based, yet practical context.
The forum is titled "Release of Genetically Engineered Crops in NSW - What
are the Human Health, Environmental, Commercial, and Trade Risks?"
Presenting at the forum will include:
• A leading gene technologist from CSIRO Division of Plant Industry
• Industry experts on environmental and human health effects from of
release of GE crops
• A corporate grower demonstrating the commercial risks
• A farmer representative giving their concerns
The forum is open to all AIAST members and other stakeholders interested
in this critical issue.
It will be held on Monday 14 July 2003 from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm at the
Duxton Hotel, Milson's Point. Refreshments will be provided during the
forum and drinks will be provided (after the wrap-up) from 6:30-7:00 pm.
Cost for attendance at the Forum will be $70. Cost for AIAST Members
($55), retired AIAST Members ($40) and students ($20). Further details on
program, the location, getting there by public transport, parking, will be
forwarded in June.
Given there will be limited seating available, we ask that you please
email your interest to register to the Secretary Treasurer of the Eastern
NSW Branch of the AIAST, Roger Fitzsimmons, at [
mailto:email@example.com ]firstname.lastname@example.org asap and by
Monday June 16 at the latest.
Battle Over Biotechnology Intensifies Trade War
New York Times
By ELIZABETH BECKER with DAVID BARBOZA
May 29, 2003
WASHINGTON, May 28 — President Bush said last week that Europe's
opposition to genetically altered crops was a threat to efforts to end
But even many critics of Europe's stance say that the president's argument
does not stand up and that the dispute needs to be understood for what it
is: a multibillion-dollar cross-Atlantic battle over agricultural trade.
The disagreement will be played out this week at the meeting in France of
the leading industrial countries. It pits European leaders, who say they
are worried about the safety of importing genetically altered crops from
the United States, against the Bush administration, which insists that
Europe's attempts to block the crops are an illegal trade tactic.
The trade dispute heated up after an intense lobbying effort here in
Washington, where some of the nation's most powerful interest groups —
farmers, the food industry and giant biotechnology companies — have been
pressing the administration to take on their case at a time of heightened
tensions between the United States and Europe.
Lawyers and lobbyists for some interest groups have descended on the White
House and Capitol Hill over the last few weeks to influence policy makers
and lawmakers, and in some cases, to simply remind them of the importance
of the Farm Belt in the next election.
Some of the biggest agriculture and biotechnology companies have invested
billions of dollars over the last decade to develop genetically altered
crops. Nearly 100 million acres of farmland in the United States are now
planted with genetically altered crops, and agriculture officials say
farmers have lost at least $1 billion over the last five years because
they have been unable to export some biotechnology crops to Europe.
"We've been very patient with the Europeans, but their use of this ban as
a trade barrier sets a precedent for countries around the world," said
Mary Kay Thatcher, director of public policy at the American Farm Bureau
"We rely on export markets for one-third of our crops; this is a
nightmare," she added.
Last week, the United States filed the equivalent of a lawsuit at the
World Trade Organization, arguing that Europe's effort to block some
genetically altered crops violated international trade rules.
At the Group of 8 summit in France this week, the Bush administration is
expected to press its case that Europe accept genetically altered crops.
But instead of arguing in the name of Monsanto — the giant of agricultural
biotechnology companies — or American farmers, Mr. Bush and his aides will
raise the issue of fighting world hunger.
In a speech last week he accused Europe of hindering the "great cause of
ending hunger in Africa" by banning genetically modified crops.
Administration officials say that such moves by Europe encourage African
nations to reject technology that could save millions of lives.
That has upset European diplomats who are negotiating a compromise on
"It is quite shocking of Mr. Bush to tell us to follow his lead on African
aid when the United States gives one of the smallest proportion of its
gross domestic product for global development than any other wealthy
nation," said a senior diplomat here. "This has not helped us."
Pascal Lamy, the top European trade official, even challenged the notion
that Europe has a moratorium, saying that Europe is on the verge of
completing new regulations that could open up the Continent to more
genetically modified crops. Europe approved the sale of genetically
altered soybeans in the 1990's, but then in 1998 Europe instituted a
moratorium on approving new biotechnology crops like certain varieties of
genetically altered corn. So while soybeans have been largely unaffected
by the moratorium, corn exports have been harmed.
Several agriculture experts who want to lift European restrictions said
that the problem would not be solved by opening up Europe's market.
"It's quite a stretch to tie the problem of the ban against genetically
modified food in Europe to starving children in Africa," said Dan
Glickman, who served as secretary of agriculture in the Clinton
administration. "It is also a bit provocative to say the Europeans don't
care about world hunger."
Scientists also agree.
"In general, that is not the case at all," said Pedro Sanchez, director of
tropical agriculture at the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
"The main problems in Africa have to do with soil fertility," he said.
"Until you solve the soil problems, it doesn't matter whether you use
conventional or genetically modified seeds."
Backers of genetically altered crops say that they have been properly
tested and that there is no scientific evidence that they pose a risk to
humans or the environment.
Mickey Kantor, the first trade representative for President Clinton and a
lawyer whose firm represents Monsanto, says the trade dispute has grown
beyond complaints from biotechnology companies.
"It's not just about the industry anymore," he said. "It is a technology
that can have a positive effect on world hunger."
If the biotechnology companies had done more for poor countries, that
argument might hold, said Peter Pringle, author of the coming book, "Food,
Inc.," (Simon & Schuster 2003).
Instead, he writes in his study of biotechnology, "while the industry
claimed that their products would save the world from malnutrition, seed
companies created only crops that made money for themselves and the
wealthier farmers who could afford the premiums."
The current trade debate centers on opposing views about food safety and
the need to test a product before it is put on the grocery shelf. How this
dispute is resolved could determine the future course of agriculture,
according to many agriculture economists.
Genetically altered crops, which have been biologically altered to do
things like release their own insecticide, are already planted on more
than 140 million acres worldwide, mostly in North and South America.
But consumers and regulators in Europe worry that the crops could pose a
threat to humans or the environment.
Five years ago, Europe placed a moratorium on approving biotechnology
crops. In preparing to end the moratorium, Europe is planning to impose
new rules and regulations to trace crops back to their origin and label
all genetically modified products, a move that could make it more
difficult for Americans to export their biotechnology crops to Europe.
America's two biggest agricultural exports — corn and soybeans — could be
greatly threatened by the new regulations to label the product, industry
"We think that's the equivalent of putting a skull and crossbones on the
packages, saying these things are bad," said Bob Callanan, a spokesman for
the American Soybean Association in St. Louis.
American exports of corn to Europe have virtually dried up because corn
farmers have widely adopted a form of biotech corn that kills pests.
"We went from about a 1.5 million metric ton market in 1998 to 23,000
metric tons, so it's pretty much been obliterated," said Hayden Milberg,
director of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association, which
is based in St. Louis.
The corn industry estimates that it has lost more than $1 billion since
Some farmers are questioning the administration's strategy for opening the
Harvey Joe Sanner, the director of the Soybean Producers of America, said
Europe was the largest export customer for soybeans last year and he
criticized some of the stronger remarks made by Robert B. Zoellick, the
United States trade representative, in the current dispute.
"We are very concerned with the harsh rhetoric of late by Mr. Zoellick,"
he said in a statement today. "I am wondering how brilliant it is for a
key government official, who should be promoting sales of U.S. soybeans,
to use such derogatory terms in describing our largest single buyer."