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Date:

June 15, 2003

Subject:

EU Misrepresented; Can't We All Just Get Along?; End This Phoney

 

Today in AgBioView: June 16, 2003:

* EU Biotech Strategy and the Precautionary Principle
* The Trans-Atlantic Gulf: Can't We All Just Get Along?
* End This Phoney War
* Biotech and Hunger - Empty Promises?
* Moving Forward on GM Crops
* Philippines: Bt Corn Debate Highly Emotional, Say Savants
* Re: Scottish Agricultural College Study on GM technology?
* Survey Shows Public Divided on Food Safety Concerns
* Wake Up and Smell the Science
* Geneticists Aim for Dream Lawns
* Vedic City Bans the Sale of Non-Organic Food
* Glyphosate is Hazardous but Not Copper?
* EFB Biodiversity Section
* From Plants to Genes and Back Again
* Keck Award For Science Reporting
* Bioengineering Plants Scary Seeds
* Vandana - Biotech Wars: Food Freedom vs. Food Slavery

EU Strategy for Life Sciences and Biotech; and the Precautionary Principle

- Mark.Cantley@cec.eu.int

Two misrepresentations are gaining ground in AgBioView, which I'd like to
correct.

First, we in Europe are strongly committed to biotech, and have a clear
strategy for its promotion and diffusion.

Second, we are keen on the precautionary principle, but not on seeing it
misrepresented and misapplied, as in the July 1999 letter to Nature by
Sřren Holm and John Harris, reproduced in AgBioView of 14 June.

First, on the strategy: the European Union has a strong commitment to the
life sciences and biotechnology, and is implementing the 30-point Action
Plan published with that strategy, in February 2002. The full text is
available online at
<http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/com/cnc/2002/com2002_0027en01.pdf>; or
for a decently printed version, email me at .

The "first year progress report and future orientations" was published
March 2003, and is available at
<http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/com/cnc/2003/com2003_0096en01.pdf>. This
strategy, based on a year's
inter-service work and widespread consultation through 2001, is now
overseen by a Biotechnology Steering Committee with wide representation.
We could argue details, e.g. on the weight of regulation, but there is no
doubting the basic positive thrust. And the strategy, formulated by the
European Commission, received wholehearted backing from the European
Parliament, and (on behalf of the 15 Member Countries of the EU), the
Council of Ministers.

Second, on the precautionary principle: or, if American readers prefer the
phrase, the "precautionary approach": the European Commission spelt out
its understanding of this in a 27-page communication in January 2000,
available in full at
<http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/com/cnc/2000/com2000_0001en01.pdf>.
There's a three-page summary at the front; but the
core of it is given in the following six-point quotation from that
summary:

"Where action is deemed necessary, measures based on the precautionary
principle should be, inter alia: 1) proportional to the chosen level of
protection, 2) non-discriminatory in their application, 3) consistent with
similar measures already taken, 4) based on an examination of the
potential benefits and costs of action or lack of action (including, where
appropriate and feasible, an economic cost/benefit analysis), 5) subject
to review, in the light of new scientific data, and 6) capable of
assigning responsibility for producing the scientific evidence necessary
for a more comprehensive risk assessment."

Please note the inherently DYNAMIC character of this statement, as new
scientific data emerges from research, and experience increases. In fact,
the classic example of the precautionary approach in action was the
international debate on the safety of recombinant DNA which took place
from 1973 to 1986, culminating that year in the publication of the OECD
"Blue Book" ("Recombinant DNA Safety Considerations: Safety considerations
for industrial, agricultural and environmental applications of organisms
derived by recombinant DNA techniques"); still available online at the
OECD website.

By no coincidence, that was also the year when the US confirmed its
"Coordinated Framework" - basis since then of their regulatory strategy
for biotech. Critics of biotech please note: we have had a 30-year-long
international public debate on the safety of modern biotech.

- Mark Cantley, Adviser in the Research Directorate-General, of the
European Commission

**********************

The Trans-Atlantic Gulf: Can't We All Just Get Along?

- Julian Kinderlerer

I write to agree with Mark Tepfer, not to ask Prakash to censor that which
is said, but rather to try to convince those who advocate the technology,
and argue that science and common sense is on their side, ensure that
their arguments are scientific and not polemic.

Let us be civil and win by being true, honest scientists. To step into
polemic and in some cases provide a biased assessment of that which has
been said does nothing but turn ones own supporters against one. It
certainly adds little to knowledge or respect for one another

A favourite trick of those who feel strongly is to tell 'the other side'
what that side believe and then criticize it. This has to be wrong. I have
watched with dismay, for example, Europeans who have worked in their
system being told a garbled view of how their system works (or doesn't
work), followed by a critique of that view. We all do this to some extent,
but should be careful and accept that in some instances those working in a
particular system know how it works

This debate has shown me how different perceptions are on the two sides of
the Atlantic. Let's try to understand each other, not believe that either
side is necessarily absolutely right

- Prof. Julian Kinderlerer, Sheffield Inst of Biotech Law & Ethics, Law
Dept, Univ of Sheffield, UK

*****************

The Role of AgBioView and the Issue of Civility

- Andrew Apel

The "debate" over the use of biotechnology in agriculture has become
undeniably ad hominem. Not formally, but factually. Farmers have seen
their crops ripped from their soil; they and their children have been
threatened with bodily harm. Researchers have seen their life's work go
up in flames, with their laboratories torched and their greenhouses thrown
into disarray. Anti-biotech protestors hurl bags of urine and feces, and
Molotov cocktails. Eco-faminists work tirelessly to block food aid. It
would be difficult to think of things more ad hominem than these things.

Uncivility in discourse may be distressing, but it is by no means the
greatest sin committed in the course of prosecuting the "debate."

Dying to sustain Europe's farm and food protectionism is probably the most
"ad hominem" of all.

**********************************************

End This Phoney War

- New Scientist, June 14,2003

'The dilemma we're being told we face over modified food is a fiction'

A national debate on genetically modified crops sponsored by government
ministers is never going to be an entirely thrilling experience - as
Britain's attempt to launch one revealed last week. Such debates are not
wrong in principle. The key problem in the UK lies in the way the debate
is being framed. Everything about it including the title, "GM Nation?",
suggests that the country faces a stark choice. Either it welcomes GM food
with open arms, or it turns its back on the technology for good. But this
dichotomy is a fiction designed to suit the dogmatic agendas of those on
both sides of the argument.

The question that ought to be driving the debate is not whether GM crops
should or should not be grown, imported or eaten. Rather, it is what
regulations need to be attached to these activities to protect the
environment and consumers.

Without convincing evidence that GM crops are harmful to health or the
environment - and as yet there isn't any - governments will struggle to
find a long-term legal basis for banning imports of GM seeds and produce.
Pleas that their electorates don't like the smell of the technology won't
get them very far in international trade talks. The long-term options for
Europe will be more honestly served by debating how, not whether, GM crops
should be grown and sold.

Few technologies are all good or all bad, and GM crops will be no
exception. What ought to matter is how we manage the risks to ensure that
the technology delivers more of the good than the bad. If there are fears
about herbicide-resistant genes spreading to create superweeds or farmers
overusing herbicides to the detriment of wildlife, let's have rigorous
environmental monitoring and get the seed manufacturers and farmers to pay
for it via a licence fee.

If people are worried about GM crop patents being concentrated in a
handful of greedy multinationals, let's spend more public money on crop
genetics. If there are concerns about GM pollen contaminating organic
crops to a meaningful degree, let's make the seed manufacturers and/or GM
growers responsible for compensating the organic growers. If people want
to shun GM food, let's follow through with the EU's plans to make
labelling and traceability mandatory.

There are logical policy responses to virtually all the major concerns
people have about GM crops and the companies that own them. But are they
likely to get a decent public airing? Not in a debate framed around a
false choice, dominated by two camps that appear to enjoy shouting
entrenched views at each other over and over again.

**********************************************

Biotech and Hunger - Empty Promises?

'Critics will confront scientists on genetic modification of food'.

Sacramento Bee, June 15, 2003

Since Belinda Martineau stopped manipulating plant genes eight years ago
and began pondering agricultural biotechnology's effects on society,
nothing has riled her more than the assertion that biotechnology will cure
world hunger.

"They're making these claims, and they're just promises. At this point,
they look like empty promises," said Martineau, a plant biologist who used
to work for Calgene in Davis, where she helped invent the first commercial
biotech crop, the "Flavr Savr" tomato. Martineau's perspective helps
explain why an international agricultural meeting coming to the Sacramento
Convention Center this month is causing a stir.

The Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and
Technology, taking place June 23-25, is billed by the U.S. government as
an opportunity to show how technology, including genetic engineering, can
help ease world hunger and famine. While no one argues with the noble
goal of feeding hungry people, a fierce difference of opinion exists over
the best means to do so.

Thousands of people - a diverse group of activists, academics and members
of nonprofit organizations - plan to mobilize in Sacramento during the
conference to express alternative points of view. The conference is
invitation-only - dignitaries from 180 nations have been invited - so
demonstrators will speak out from the streets and other public venues. One
of their hopes is to deflate the argument that genetic engineering is the
key to continued necessary improvements in crop yields.

In the United States, the world leader in farm biotechnology, many growers
have welcomed genetically modified crops for their ability to fend off
pests, resist disease and survive herbicide treatment. About 75 percent of
U.S. soybeans and 34 percent of the country's corn are genetically
altered. Proponents say the technology also may be used to produce more
nutritious foods, and even medicines.

But how much the technology will contribute to alleviating world hunger is
an open question. Martina Newell-McGloughlin, director of the University
of California Systemwide Biotechnology Research and Teaching Program,
summarizes the pro-biotech position this way:

"Human population continues to grow, while arable land is of finite
quantity. So unless we will accept starvation or placing parks and the
Amazon basin under the plow, there really is no alternative to applying
biotechnology to agriculture."

Critics take exception to the notion that no alternative exists. To them,
agricultural biotechnology represents corporate-driven farming methods
that depend on intensive uses of synthetic chemicals. They argue the
world's environment and societies are better served by lower-tech methods,
such as organic farming, that try to work with nature rather than against
it, and are more easily practiced by small-scale and family farmers.

They also contend that improved food distribution is more important to
alleviating hunger than higher crop yields. The subject is complex enough
to fill a book. In fact, Martineau, the former Calgene scientist who's now
an independent researcher, is tackling just that: a book examining whether
genetically modified crops truly can contribute to global food security
and sustainability.

In researching the topic, Martineau has assumed the rare posture of a
fence-walker on a subject in which players typically fall hard on one side
or the other. Martineau maintains that agricultural biotechnology may
turn out to be a helpful tool against hunger but that its promoters have
yet to demonstrate how.

In 2002, an estimated 145 million acres of farmland around the world were
planted with genetically modified crops. The biotech acreage is dominated
by four moneymakers: soybean, corn, cotton and canola. None is considered
particularly useful for nourishing hungry people in developing countries.

Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, a philanthropic
organization interested in applying biotechnology to farming problems in
Africa, offered this analysis in a speech last month: "The field is
dominated by ... five very large multinational corporations. For these
corporations, there is no profit to investing in expensive research on new
products that can only be purchased by subsistence African farmers with
little money. "So quite logically, these companies are not focused on
improving the basic crops of the developing world such as millet, sorghum,
cowpeas, yams or cassava."

The dominance of big business has complicated the situation further:
Corporations control the legal rights to fundamental aspects of plant
biotechnology, including the only two tried-and-true methods for
introducing foreign genes into plants, according to Larry Fox, director of
the Technology Transfer Center at the University of California, Davis.

Broad rights to the "ballistic gun" method, in which a plant is bombarded
with tiny balls coated with genetic material, are held by DuPont. A
second method, employing a microbe called Agrobacterium tumefaciens to
infect a plant with outside DNA, is entangled in a legal dispute involving
Syngenta, Monsanto and other parties.

At UC Davis, the intellectual property thicket effectively has stopped
plant biotechnology inventions from leaving the laboratory. "Because it
is such a mess, people have been shying away," said Fox, whose job is to
help move campus inventions and discoveries into the hands of the public,
usually as commercial products.

In recent years, however, biotech corporations have begun donating
intellectual property for humanitarian purposes. A case in point is
"golden rice." The grains are engineered to produce beta carotene, a
precursor of Vitamin A. According to the World Health Organization, more
than 100 million children are deficient in Vitamin A, a condition that
causes between 250,000 and 500,000 to become blind each year.

Golden rice was invented by scientists in Switzerland and Germany with
funding from the Swiss government, the European Union and the Rockefeller
Foundation. After the invention was announced publicly in 1999, biotech
corporations took interest. By 2002, more than 30 patent holders
reportedly had agreed to donate roughly 70 relevant patents to make golden
rice available in poor countries.

As with so much in agricultural biotechnology, these acts are viewed by
critics with skepticism: a public relations grab on a project that big
business had nothing to do with. There's also a school of thought that
says the problem of Vitamin A deficiency would be better solved by helping
malnourished people get access to foods that naturally produce beta
carotene.

Another important question in the debate over hunger and biotechnology is
how much more agricultural productivity is really needed. In a recent
study of food production and hunger, the United Nations' Food and
Agriculture Organization concluded, "Globally, there is enough land, soil
and water, and enough potential for future growth in yields, to make the
necessary production feasible."

And yet, 826 million people in the world are hungry. Glenn Davis Stone,
an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said an
underlying problem is that food production today largely is disconnected
from human subsistence needs. Instead, he said, it's driven chiefly by
economics.

"For instance, a natural gas company wants to sell as much gas to the
fertilizer factory as possible, not 'just enough to feed people.' The
fertilizer company wants to sell as much fertilizer as possible; the
tractor company as many tractors as possible; same for the pesticides,
herbicides ... and so on."

The FAO researchers found also that certain regions of the world lack the
infrastructure for productive farming - things such as irrigation systems
in semi-arid areas, or credit for farmers of limited means. So while food
production is not a problem globally, in some instances, low farm
production does cause food scarcity, the FAO researchers said. By their
analysis, biotechnology "offers promise" as a means of improving food
security, provided questions about whether that food is safe to eat and
safe for the environment are adequately addressed.

At the same time, organic agriculture and similar methods that emphasize
environmental conservation also show promise in offering both increased
production and better environmental protection, the FAO researchers said.
If that's the case, then biotechnology may offer some solutions to hunger,
but cannot automatically be assumed to be the answer, Martineau said.

"Everything should be (evaluated) on a case by case basis - every country,
every ecosystem, every product," she said. "It's not black and white;
there are all kinds of shades of gray."

**************

Moving Forward on GM Crops

- David Dickson, scidev.net, June 16, 2003

Two new reports on genetically modified crops paint a convincing picture
of their relevance to the needs of the developing world. But neither is
likely, on its own, to convince the sceptics.

If politics was a rational process, in which emotion, subjective judgement
and ideological commitment were consistently laid aside in the interests
of knowledge-based decision-making, then it is highly unlikely that the
debate over genetically modified (GM) crops would have taken on its
present intensity. Both sides of the debate would have recognised that
both dangers and uncertainties exist. But both sides would also be forced
to acknowledge that what is known (as opposed to just surmised) about
these dangers and uncertainties is substantially less weighty than what is
known about their potential benefits.

Doubters of the technology might well be persuaded by two reports that
appeared virtually simultaneously last week. One, prepared by Gabrielle
Persley of The Doyle Foundation for the International Council for Science
(ICSU), provides a valuable overview of what is accepted by the scientific
community, what remains in dispute, and where gaps in knowledge continue
to exist; in a rational world, this should be sufficient to decide what
practices should and should not be allowed, and under what regulatory
conditions (see GM crops 'could reduce poverty').

The second – still in draft form – was published by the Nuffield Council
on Bioethics, Britain’s equivalent to a national ethics committee. This
essentially revisits – and confirms – the conclusion of an earlier report,
published four years ago, that there is a “moral imperative” for making GM
crops readily available to those in developing countries who want them. As
with the ICSU report, Nuffield’s balanced conclusions provide little
support for those many groups in both the developed and developing world
demanding, if not an outright ban, at least a moratorium on the
development of GM crops until more is known about their impacts on both
human health and the natural environment.

So why is neither report likely to have the impact that it deserves? The
short answer is to remember that while science, in the words of the late
immunologist Peter Medawar, can be characterised as “the art of the
soluble”, politics will always be what an earlier British politician
described as “the art of the possible” – in other words an activity whose
limits are defined by what might be true, not what is likely to be true.
The longer response is that the worldwide dispute over GM crops has become
a symbolic battleground for a wide range of contemporary disputes – from
the privatisation of scientific knowledge to the marketing practices of
global corporations – that each embody beliefs and commitments that cannot
be neatly packaged into cost-benefit arguments.

No meeting of minds
Take, for example, a report produced the previous week by the
international development organisation ActionAid under the eye-catching
title ‘GM-Crops – Going Against the Grain’ (compare that to Nuffield’s
earnest ‘The Use of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries’).
The press release announcing the report – which claims to take "a balanced
look at the impact of GM crops in developing countries” – carries the
unequivocal headline ‘No evidence that GM will help solve world hunger’.
The report comes up with the conclusions that such crops “are at best
irrelevant to poor farmers”, and that “rather than alleviating world
hunger, the new technology is likely to exacerbate food insecurity,
leading to more hungry people, not less”. (See GM crops 'will not solve
world hunger')

It would be relatively easy to take the authors of this report to task for
its quick fire conclusions. These are taken, not from any systematic study
of the issues, but primarily from anecdotal evidence and press reports,
where evidence that supports their conclusion is given a heavy weighting,
and evidence that appears to contradict it, is downplayed, if not ignored.
For the Nuffield working party, for example, the fact that GM seeds are
currently better suited to large- rather than small-scale farmers is a
reason to demand more research into how they could meet the needs of the
latter; for ActionAid, it is quoted as a reason “why GM crops will not
feed the world”.

Clearly the ActionAid report is not based on evidence and arguments that
could be described as scientific. Equally clearly, however, is that its
conclusions resonate with those who would wish, for whatever reason
(personal, political or otherwise), to see such conclusions emerge. It is
no accident, for example, that that GM issue has become a key focus of
anti-globalisation campaigns. For it neatly encapsulates many of the
concerns – both conscious and unconscious – that form the core of such
campaigns.

Loosening the boundaries of debate
There is no easy path through this quagmire, even if the elements of such
a path are beginning to emerge. The British government, for example, is
currently experimenting with a nationwide “public debate”, being conducted
primarily through a series of regional public meetings at which
scientists, environmentalists, business representatives and others are
being asked to state their case. Elsewhere (for example in India and parts
of Africa), there is talk of developing political ‘frameworks’ that will
promote and regulate GM technology simultaneously, using more
sophisticated political mechanisms.

Part of the task is undoubtedly to ensure that those (such as the authors
of the ActionAid report) accept the need to locate their arguments within
the realm of what is likely, rather than what is possible. This is the
strength of both the ICSU and the Nuffield reports. The first of these,
for example, is sanguine enough to potential problems arising from the use
of GM crops that have not been given sufficient attention, such as whether
their use can be integrated safely with pest management systems. “This is
an area requiring further action,” it states.

But there is a comparable need for those arguing the case for GM crops
primarily on scientific grounds to be equally sanguine about the
non-scientific issues that arise. Neither the Nuffield nor the ICSU
reports, for example, spend much time discussing the implications of the
way in which the intellectual property system helps to increase the
control of developing-country agriculture by multinational corporations –
one of the key planks in the critics’ case. Neither do they address the
belief systems that underlie much of the current condemnation of GM foods
as “unnatural”.

It may be tempting to dismiss such arguments as “unscientific”; doing so,
however, risks not only losing sight of issues that lie at the heart of
the current arguments, but also undermining their ultimate effectiveness.

**********************************************

Philippines: Bt Corn Debate Highly Emotional, Say Savants

- Tessa R. Salazar, Philippine Daily Inquirer June 13, 2003

For years, Filipino scientists were content to silently work in their
laboratories, and occasionally publish their research findings in
scientific journals.

But the Bt corn issue has prompted several of them, especially
biotechnology proponents, to speak up. They want to help the public
understand the science behind the emotional, and thus controversial,
topic.

"We have not been trained to communicate the way anti-biotech advocates
have been doing. But since this Bt corn issue emerged, we have been trying
to learn how to communicate more effectively," Biotechnology Coalition of
the Philippines research director Dr. Nina Gloriani Barzaga told the
Inquirer. "Gone were the days when we would just stay in the laboratory
to work on our experiments" and report the results in a scientific
journal, she said.

Teaching the public. Barzaga said scientists were not trained to
"popularize" their findings. But the public cannot keep up with rapidly
emerging technological advances, and need the help of scientists to
understand them fully. "More needs to be done in terms of educating the
public about the use and misuse of such advances," Barzaga said.

When asked if scientists who favored Bt corn cultivation were partly at
fault for not being in touch with the public, former Science Secretary
William Padolina, now director general for partnerships of the
International Rice Research Institute, said it would not be productive to
point accusing fingers at anyone.

Padolina described the arguments of anti-Bt corn advocates as "veering
toward the emotional side." He noted that the "scare tactics" they
employed "capitalized on the public's lack of familiarity with the
issues." He added that attempts to initiate rational debate and civil
discussion have been "extremely difficult."

Debates to continue . "Unfortunately, this issue has acquired an
ideological dimension and thus debates will continue. For how long, we do
not know," he said. "All studies comparing conventional breeding with
that of GM (genetically modified) crops have concluded that the risks for
both methods are the same. Furthermore, oppositors to Bt corn accept GM
pharmaceutical products like insulin and other vaccines, but reject GM
food crops," Padolina pointed out.

Sonny Tababa of the Searca Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research
in Agriculture said having a rational discussion on the issue would
benefit the public. "The public deserves the right to correct information
and the current media blitz against Bt corn only causes unfounded and
unnecessary fear," he said.

Answer to questions. In a letter sent to the Inquirer, Benigno D. Peczon,
president of the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines, answered some
major issues on Bt corn. Part of his answers were based on the AgbioWorld
statement "Sound Science Not Silence."

Anti-Bt corn advocates claim that the Bt corn pollen, which carries the
poison gene, will cross-pollinate to native corn varieties and once
released into the environment, would be difficult and expensive to
eradicate, if it could be eradicated at all.

But Peczon said studies on Bt corn have not established any significant
risk in an agricultural system. Also, Bt corn carries "selective toxicity"
that is specific to pests and is harmless to humans, fish, wildlife and
beneficial insects. "The source of the Bt gene has been safely used for
almost 40 years in microbial insecticides," he stressed.

Anti-BT corn advocates say there is no need to plant Bt corn because there
are sustainable alternatives to the control of the corn borer. Peczon,
however, said Bt corn was just another option that is a safer alternative
to chemical pesticides. He also said a group of scientists from the
University of the Philippines at Los Banos and Diliman have noted that
none of the alternative solutions proposed by anti-Bt corn advocates is
feasible during the rainy season.

Developing immunity. Another issue raised was that Bt corn would initially
have a high yield, but eventually the corn borer will develop immunity and
destroy a substantial part of the crop. But Peczon said that during
actual farming, there have been no documented cases of insect pests
developing resistance to Bt crops. Management practices were instituted
with the introduction of Bt crops to sustain their performance and to
delay pest adaptation.

Peczon stressed that in eight years of use on more than 100 million acres,
there have been no confirmed cases of pest resistance to Bt crops. The
only cases of field resistance to Bt proteins have occurred with the
extensive and unregulated use of Bt microbial sprays in organic production
systems-old technologies that involved no gene transfer, he said.

********************************************

Re: Scottish Agricultural College Study on GM technology?

- Denis Murphy, Biotechnology Unit, Univ Glamorgan, UK

This is a response to the request of Drew Kershen of Univ Oklahoma in the
last Agbioview (14 June) for more info about the SAC study.

Last week the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) announced to the UK
press that a new report showed that "GM technology is safe, compatible
with conventional farming and has the potential to boost the income of UK
agriculture by at least GBP 50m". An account of this report was published
on Agbioview on 12 June.

Like many others with an interest in GM crops, I was keen to see the
report, especially as I am currently involved in public debates and media
events as part of the ongoing UK GM crops consultation. I thought that
data compiled by an authoritative body like the SAC would probably be of
use in these discussions. However, when I contacted SAC I was surprised
to be told that: "The analysis is done and the client was keen to get to
press. However, the final report remains in draft form and we are
currently negotiating its confidentiality."

I was puzzled by this because the ABC press releases and interviews given
by their spokesman had already presented details of the data. Also, the
Agbioview piece on 12 June had stated: "According to a report published in
Edinburgh this week...", ie nothing about a draft but definitely implying
a real published report was available.

So I contacted ABC & was told by a helpful spokesman that: "as mentioned
below the final report, is just being written, and we expect this task to
be complete in a matter of weeks. I have placed you on this list to
receive it as soon as it is publicly available. Naturally we are working
to make this report as robust as possible in these highly charged times."

This is fine and I am sure that the eventual report from an institute as
prestigious as SAC will be scientifically rigorous - but why the premature
press release in what ABC admit are "these highly charged times"? Also if
there are confidentiality issues in the report, how will we know whether
we will be told the whole story?

I come away from this feeling rather troubled at the way a reputable
institute has apparently been dragged into a very polarised debate and at
how a supposedly scientific study may not end up being fully reliable,ie
parts may be witheld from the final version and it will not be peer
reviewed.

We must maintain the highest standards of scientific and academic rigour
in confronting the GM crops/food issue. It was such an approach that has
demonstrated deficiencies in aspects of the previous studies by the groups
of Pusztai (GM potatoes), Losely (monarch butterflies) and Chapela (GM
maize). The same standards should apply to any studies that make
scientific claims on this or other subjects. Otherwise we scientists will
be placed on the same level as many of the anti-GM activists who are the
subject of so much opprobrium in these pages.

P.S. An ABC representative can be contacted on
bernard.marantelli@lexcomm.co.uk

**********************************************

Survey Shows Public Divided on Food Safety Concerns

- Ag Answers, June 6, 2003

People who rely more strongly on the news media tend to have higher
concerns regarding food safety, Ohio State University researchers have
found. But interestingly, issues that receive the most media attention
generally don't top people's list of food safety concerns.

Mark Tucker and Sherrie Whaley, assistant professors of agricultural
communication, analyzed results of a survey of 4,014 Ohioans conducted
last summer. Both are researchers with the Ohio Agricultural Research and
Development Center.

The survey asked respondents to rank seven perceived risks to food safety.
Pesticide residues in food topped the list, followed by contamination of
drinking water; growth hormones in meat or milk; bacterial contamination;
bioterrorist attacks on the food supply; mad cow disease; and genetically
modified foods.

"As much coverage as there is on salmonella, E. coli and other bacterial
concerns, I would have thought that would have ranked higher," Whaley
said. But that could be explained in a closer look at the findings, the
researchers added: There was very little variance between the seven
concerns. The highest-ranked concern -- pesticide residues in food --
averaged 5.3 on a seven-point scale, and the lowest-ranked concern --
genetically modified foods -- averaged 4.6.

"The fact that all of these concerns ranked a medium to moderate level of
risk, despite how different they are from each other, shows that people
are watching these concerns closely," Tucker said. "Nothing is being
dismissed as unimportant."

Respondents also indicated they remain undecided or are severely divided
on several food safety issues. For example, 41 percent of respondents said
they aren't sure whether organic foods are safer than conventionally
produced foods, compared with 37 percent who believe they are safer and 22
percent who believe they aren't. Also, 41 percent of people believe they
have little or no control over the safety of their food, while 40 percent
believe they do and 19 percent remain undecided.

In addition, a whopping 59 percent of respondents said they were undecided
about whether biotechnology has a negative impact on the safety of the
food supply. Those who did have an opinion on biotechnology were evenly
split: 21 percent said they believe it does have a negative impact and 20
percent do not think so. In a more detailed analysis, the researchers
found that people who trust in biotechnology generally have less concern
about food safety issues, while those who don't trust biotechnology have
greater food safety concerns. This could indicate that people who trust
science to solve problems generally have less concern about food safety,
Tucker said.

"The fact that the majority of people haven't made a decision yet on
biotechnology tells us that we need to make an effort to provide
research-based information to them, so they can make a decision based on
the merits of research," Tucker said.

The study revealed that people have strong regard for university
scientists, listing them high on the list of trustworthy sources of
information about environmental and food safety issues. First on the list
were physicians and other health professionals, followed by university
scientists, farmers or growers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Extension educators or agents, the Food and Drug Administration, friends
or family, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and consumer advocacy
groups.

Whaley said the findings should give university researchers a boost of
confidence in discussing biotechnology issues with the public. "There's
already a lot of information out there, but so much of it is biased,"
Whaley said. "That's where university scientists can step in, offering
information somewhere between, for example, what groups like the
Environmental Working Group say and what companies like Monsanto might
say."

**********************************************

Wake Up and Smell the Science

'Longer-Lasting Perfume Is One Promise As Biotechnology Heads for Store
Shelves'

- Michael Barbaro, Washington Post, June 15, 2003

Tiffany & Co. says its latest perfume, Pure Tiffany, "distills the
incomparable beauty of Tiffany jewels in a fragrance of great clarity and
femininity." Which seems all well and good to Karin Peterson, except she
can't smell the $80 eau de parfum spray at the end of an eight-hour
workday. "If I'm going out after work, I need to go home for another
spritz," said the 26-year-old Ritz-Carlton wedding concierge.

It is one of the oldest beefs in cosmetics: Perfumes and colognes peter
out too quickly, forcing consumers to reapply a fragrance all day or lose
their scent.

For 2,500 years, scent makers have been concocting fragrances. Ancient
Egyptians used them to anoint the heads of kings. The French gave birth to
a perfume industry to mask an early-modern era that was not filled with
people hopping in and out of the shower. The most recent preoccupation of
what is now a $3 billion industry: producing a longer-lasting smell. So
far, though, no one has been able to avoid the fact that bacteria on the
skin eventually consume fragrance molecules.

But these essences and oils, associated more with romance than with
science, may have found an answer in biotechnology. Federal regulators
will soon award a patent to Spherix Inc., a small technology and biotech
firm in Beltsville, for a chemical process that the company says can
double a fragrance's lifetime on human skin.

Biotechnology has long been synonymous with lifesaving medicines. But now
many companies, like Spherix, are taking aim at the consumer-goods market,
employing many of the same technologies used to develop pharmaceuticals.
Chemical companies have practiced product manipulation for decades, of
course, but the past few years have seen a burst of sophisticated new
techniques.

Consider cleansers. Scientists at Genencor International Inc. of Palo
Alto, Calif., have engineered bacteria in common soil to produce an enzyme
that attacks the grime on contact lenses, dishes and laundry. Novozymes AS
of Denmark sells enzymes produced inside fungi for use in an industrial
prewash for khaki trousers, terry-cloth towels and stone-washed jeans. The
enzymes, which slice up cotton molecules without eating through the
fabric, are used for softening and, in the case of stone-washed jeans,
fading.

And Cargill Dow LLC of Minnetonka, Minn., sells plastics, now used in
pillows, carpet tiles and food packaging, that are derived from corn
sugar. The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates that by 2010, chemical
sales from biotechnology will top $140 billion, up from $50 billion today,
figures that include the biotech business of giants DuPont Co., Archer
Daniels Midland Co. and Dow Chemical Co.

Brent Erickson, a vice president at the Washington-based Biotechnology
Industry Organization, has dubbed industrial biotechnology the sector's
"third wave," after medicine and bio-agriculture. Adds Roger E. Wyse,
managing director at Burrill & Co., a San Francisco venture capital firm,
"The opportunities here could be as big as [in] the health care industry."
Of course, industrial biotechnology was no accident. It grew directly out
of the intensive drug-development research underway at biotechnology
companies throughout the past two decades. The industry's first commercial
product -- human insulin, made by Genentech Inc. -- was produced by
genetically altered bacteria, the same process later used to produce
enzymes for household cleansers.

Indeed, it was scientists at Genentech the drugmaker who launched Genencor
International Inc., the industrial enzyme maker, in the mid-1980s. Designs
on Detergents One of Genecor's first successes was with laundry detergent.
Traditional detergents consisted largely of surfactants, soapy substances
that allow water to pierce fabrics and lift up dirt. The surfactants were
helpless against proteins, which create strong chemical bonds with fabric
molecules. The result: Grass, milk, tomato sauce and other protein stains
ruined clothing.

Using a technique perfected in drug development, Genencor scientists
genetically engineered soil bacteria, which already produced proteases, to
make laundry enzymes. To everyone's surprise, the enzymes survived the
bruising 30-minute cycle of a washing machine. "It's a very hostile
environment -- actually it's worse than the environment that a drug
experiences in the body," said David A. Estell, Genencor vice president
and co-founder. Today Procter & Gamble Co. uses the protein-eating enzymes
-- as well as others that break down sugars and oils -- in more than $7
billion worth of detergent sold each year.

**********************************************

Geneticists Aim for Dream Lawns: Weed-resistant grass could hit market
next year

- Jonathan Leake and Lauren Quaintance, Times of London, June 15, 2003
(via Calgary Herald)

One suburban dream could become a reality -- scientists have plans to sell
a weed-resistant grass that could herald a new era for the lawn.

Monsanto, the biotechnology giant, has applied in America for permission
to sell genetically modified (GM) extra-smooth grass to golf courses. The
grass may in future be sold to gardeners. It is resistant to a Monsanto
weedkiller, so herbicides sprayed on it to destroy other plants leave the
grass unscathed. But it is likely to prove controversial because it is the
first "recreational" use of GM technology.

Other grasses under development will produce Wimbledon-quality lawns with
minimum effort. They include a "low-mow" variety that needs less cutting.
Another would stay green in droughts. Novelty grasses could even be
multi-coloured or glow in the dark. Golfers, and tennis and football
players will also enjoy playing surfaces that are smoother and cheaper to
maintain.

The companies want to tap into what they see as a multi-billion dollar
global market and boost the public image of GM technology by appealing to
gardeners. Britain, where the perfect lawn is an integral part of
suburban respectability, is likely to be a key market. Experts say
gardeners will see the benefits but are likely to be wary of GM
technology.

"The idea of a grass that stays green in drought, needs mowing less and
looks as good is appealing," said Pippa Greenwood, a panellist for
Gardeners' Question Time on Radio 4. "But I don't think the average
gardener would like the idea of a GM lawn."

Environmental campaigners say GM grass could cross-breed with other
species, freeing alien genes into the environment. "It would be a
disaster, with herbicide-resistant grass potentially invading farmland,"
said Pete Riley, the GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth. The first
step in bringing GM technology to lawns was taken in April when Monsanto
and Scotts, a garden products company, applied for permission to market
the new grass.

The new grass, which could be available in America next year, is a version
of creeping bentgrass, which grows naturally at locations including
Augusta National club, Georgia, home of the Masters golf tournament. In
its natural form, creeping bentgrass is susceptible to weeds. The GM
variety has a gene from a soil bacterium that makes it resistant to
Roundup, a Monsanto weedkiller. Greenkeepers can spray Roundup without
damaging the grass.

Low-maintenance grass could enable humble hackers to play on the kinds of
surfaces at present found only at the richest clubs. Scott MacCallum of
the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association in York said
that it could end what greenkeepers call "Augusta syndrome."
"Greenkeepers get (hassled) after the Masters in Augusta, where everything
is green and pristine. Golfers look at what they're playing on and say,
'This isn't the same as Augusta - what's wrong?' " he said.

The grass is the first of a range of Monsanto products designed to
transform gardens and sports grounds. In addition to the "low-mow"
variety, another would retain its colour in shady spots -- ideal for
sports stadiums where little sunlight reaches to the pitch, which have to
replace their turf every few months. Another idea is for a grass which
would temporarily change colour when stepped on, in addition to the
glow-in-the-dark variety.

**********************************************

Vedic City Ordinance Banning the Sale of Non-Organic Food

- The Associated Press, June 13, 2003

The ordinance banning the sale of non-organic food in Vedic City was
unanimously adopted by the City Council on Jan. 29. It reads:

"In order to protect the health and safety of residents, the sale of
non-organic food is banned in the City. In additional to food labeled as
certified organic under the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP), food
may be sold that is not genetically modified (GMO) and has been grown
without the use of chemical pesticides.

The City shall establish an Organic Committee consisting of five members
to be appointed by the City Council to assist sellers of food products in
Maharishi Vedic City in compliance with the text of this +ordinance+ by
reviewing and identifying specific products that meet these standards. The
Committee shall publish on the City's website a listing of approved foods
and food products and update that listing on a regular basis.

**********************************************

Changing Definition of Glyphosate Hazards but Not of Copper?

- From: Piero Morandini

Do you remember that a few years ago somebody posted in AgBioView (can't
remember who) that:

>>"The Environmental Defense fund's Scorecard site gives glyphosate
(Roundup) a "Less hazardous than most chemicals in 9 of 10 ranking
systems."
http://www.scorecard.org/chemical-profiles/hazard-indicators.tcl?edf_substance_id=1071%2d83%2d6

By contrast the EDF says this about copper sulphate: "Data lacking; not
ranked by any system in Scorecard".
http://www.scorecard.org/chemical-profiles/summary.tcl?edf_substance_id=1344
http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/htmlgen?HSDB tells me that COPPER
(II) HYDROXIDE SULFATE causes liver disease and that two children have
been killed from copper sulphate residues on grapes. "

Now, what is strange is that the EDF has changed the definition (in the
hazard rankings) about glyphosate: More hazardous than most chemicals in 1
out of 10 ranking systems.
http://www.scorecard.org/chemical-profiles/summary.tcl?edf_substance_id=1071%2d83%2d6
which is a curious definition, isn't it? It seems they don't want to admit
that it is relatively benign.

Moreover it is still lacking a hazard ranking for Copper sulphate DESPITE
THE FACT THAT there are more than 160 commercialized products that contain
more than 80% of copper sulfate and around 150 with decreasing amount
(0.1-80%). These are rough numbers based on looking their listing
http://www.scorecard.org/chemical-profiles/pesticides.tcl?edf_substance_id=7758%2d99%2d8


Can anybody give me an explanation for this change? Were they scared of
making too much publicity to to Glyphosate? Copper sulphate is toxic and
it is muuuch more toxic than glyphosate, at least on the LD50 basis,
(keeping in mind that the > sign indicates that the 50% mortality was not
reached): LD50 mg/kg Glyphosate >10.000 (pure substance - formulated
products are usually more toxic)

http://ace.ace.orst.edu/info/extoxnet/pips/glyphosa.htm

Aspirin 1.100; Copper Sulphate 472 The lowest dose of copper sulfate that
has been toxic when ingested by humans is 11 mg/kg; see again the extonet:
http://ace.ace.orst.edu/cgi-webglimpse/mfs/services/data/info/extoxnet?link=http://ace.orst.edu/info/extoxnet/pips/coppersu.htm&file=/services/data/info/extoxnet/pips/coppersu.htm&line=37#mfs


Keep also in mind that you use little Glyphosate (I believe in the range
of 1 l/ha) and that is not persistant while copper is basically impossible
to destroy. You either remove it from the soil (don't know how you can) or
dilute it, but it will never be degraded (don't know the amount used by
farmers, but I guess is in the ranke of 1 Kg/ha. See for instance

Copper usage will be reduced after 2002 to max 8 kg/ha per year (on a
rolling average basis), or less according to national laws or private
label standards. IFOAM has petitioned the EU to consider this rate
restriction rather than the planned total phase-out of copper use in 2002;
(around line 112 of:
http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NationalList/TAPReviews/cprsulfte.pdf)

Why don't they bother to classify it?
--
Piero Morandini, Dipartimento di Biologia "L. Gorini", Sezione di
Fisiologia e Biochimica delle Piante via Celoria Milano (Italy)

********
Response From John Cross:

When I worked at the California Department of Food and Agriculture for a
short while twelve years ago, I developed a prioritization for the
Department's Pesticide Residue labs based on acute toxicity (LD50) and on
food crop acres applied in California/year. Basically, glyphosate was near
the bottom of the list because of its lack of acute toxicity.

Info from the Monsanto MSDS for ROUNDUP ORIGINAL[TM] Herbicide: Acute oral
toxicity; Rat, LD50 (limit test): > 5,000 mg/kg body weight Other effects:
breathing difficulty, decreased activity, soft stools Practically
non-toxic.; FIFRA category IV.; No mortality.

And for a "similar formulation"
Rat, LD50: 5,000 mg/kg body weight; Slightly toxic.; FIFRA category III.
http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto/us_ag/content/crop_pro/roundup_orig/msds.pdf


Other MSDS show similar result with rats and mice for oral toxicity. An
MSDS from Monsanto Australia shows the following:

Active ingredient: Glyphosate (present as the isopropylamine salt)
[Isopropylamine salt of N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine] Environmental
Toxicity Information: Oral LD50 Dog: >5 mL/kg, Practically Non-toxic Oral
LD50 Goat: 4,860 mg/kg, Slightly Toxic 48-hr Oral LD50 Honeybee: >100
micrograms/bee, Practically Non-toxic 48-hr Dermal LD50 Honeybee: >100
micrograms/bee, Practically Non-toxic 48-hr EC50
Daphnia magna (with aeration): 37 mg/L, Slightly Toxic 48-hr EC50 Daphnia
magna (no aeration) 24 mg/L, Slightly Toxic 48-hr EC50 Gammarus
pseudolimnaeus: 42 mg/L, Slightly Toxic 96-hr TL50 Carp: 19.7 ppm,
Slightly Toxic 96-hr LC50 Bluegill Sunfish (static): 14 mg/L, Slightly
Toxic 96-hr LC50 Bluegill Sunfish (flow-through): 5.8 mg/L, Moderately
Toxic 96-hr LC50 Rainbow Trout (static): 15-26 mg/L, Slightly Toxic 96-hr
LC50 Rainbow Trout (flow-through) 8.2 mg/L, Moderately Toxic 96-hr LC50
Channel Catfish: 16 mg/L, Slightly Toxic 96-hr LC50 Fathead Minnow: 9.4
mg/L, Moderately Toxic 96-hr LC50 Coho Salmon: 22 mg/L, Slightly Toxic
96-hr LC50 Chinook Salmon: 20 mg/L, Slightly Toxic 96-hr LC50 Crayfish:
>>1,000 ppm, Practically Non-toxic
http://www.monsanto.com.au/images/Roundup_brands/msds/round.pdf

Copper Salts:
It is worth noting that Cu sulfate is commonly used in swimming pools and
landscape pools as an algacide. Here is some info from the MSDS for one
such product, "Omni Algae Terminator":
http://www.conelyco.com/omni/423500.pdf "ORAL LD50: 3501 mg/kg of body
weight in rats"

"ECOTOXICOLOGICAL INFORMATION: This pesticide is toxic to fish and aquatic
organisms. Do not disharge effluent containing this product into lakes,
streams, ponds or estuaries, oceans, or ther waters unless in accordance
with the requirements of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
(NPDES) permit and the permitting authority has been notified in writing
prior to discharge. Do not discharge effluent containing this product to
sewer systems without previously notifying the local sewage treatment
plant authority."

"OSHA HAZARD COMM. RULE: Product is hazardous by definition of the
Hazardous Communication Standard."

However, when applied to the soil, although Cu is elemental and therefore
not destroyed, speciation is important. In an alkaline soil, the Cu will
shortly become highly bio-unavailable because of formation of insoluble
hydroxides, complexation and gradual incorporation into insoluble mineral
salts, such as carbonate and phosphates. Acidic soils would be a different
matter, and Cu might become toxic with repeated applications. One would
need to do a search of the soil science literature to see what is actually
observed.

**********************************************

EFB Biodiversity Section

http://www.efbweb.org/sections/biotec3h.htm

The Section on Biodiversity is the most recently established EFB Section.
Priority topics of the Section are: Benefits and threats from GMO's. How
can Biodiversity help in research? Enhance the knowledge about soil
microbiology. Biodiversity and Population Genetics: Active participation
in the development and outlining of research programmes on an European
level.

For further information, please contact the Chairman of the Section: Prof.
Dr. Klaus Ammann, klaus.ammann@ips.unibe.ch

**********************************************

From Plants to Genes and Back Again

- South Dakota Plant Physiology/Plant Biochemistry Symposium

August 6-8, 2003, South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota

Accepting abstracts for poster in all areas of plant research. The
deadline is June 20, 2003.

http://plantsci.sdstate.edu/conferences/plant_symposium/

**********************************************

Keck Foundation's Communication Awards For Reporting Science

The National Academies and the W.M. Keck Foundation announce the "call for
nominations" for new Communication Awards recognizing excellence in
reporting and communicating science, engineering and medicine to the
general public.

The Academies will present three $20,000 prizes to a book author; a
newspaper or magazine writer/journalist; and a television, radio or film
producer who, in the preceding two years, have made significant
contributions to the public's understanding of science. Nominations will
be accepted until Aug. 1, 2003.
http://www4.national-academies.org/news.nsf/isbn/05272003?OpenDocument

**********************************************

Bioengineering Plants Scary Seeds

- Amy Brown, Greensboro News & Record, June 12, 2003

My blood is still boiling from Cal Thomas' column about how Europeans are
spreading fear in Africa over the United States' bioengineered seeds
("Europe feeds fear, lies to Africa," May 30).

Bioengineering is one of the fastest-growing industries in our country.
The European Union has clearly stated that it will not purchase
bioengineered seeds of any kind. Europeans believe strongly in the safety
of food. Can you blame them? The choices a farmer makes directly affect
our food supply, water and environment. Once you contaminate one or more
of these things, how much money you have in your bank account becomes
pointless.

Thomas talks about President Bush and other politicians striking out
against the World Trade Organization to stop the Europeans' "miseducation"
about these seeds. Obviously, Thomas has not done his homework.
Bioengineered seeds are created by combining two species together to
create a so-called "super species." This isn't creating hybrids such as
cross-pollinating two kinds of corn. This is something much scarier -
creating something that nature does not recognize.

For instance, they have combined the genes of a tomato and genes of a fish
to create a tomato that can grow in cold weather. Plans are in the works
to combine the genes of trees with the DNA of humans. These seeds grow
into plants that do not regenerate, meaning that farmers must continuously
buy these seeds each season.

This is what we are trying to feed starving Africans in the name of saving
them from starvation. If our government was truly concerned about
starvation in Africa, we would have not convinced these poor African
countries years ago to stop growing their own food to plant crops that
Americans wanted to buy. Stop feeding your family and plant coffee and
we'll give you cash! Then, you can go to the store and buy American food
from your local stores. Oops, the cost of coffee is now down. Sorry.

Here, try this. We call it bioengineered seeds. You will love it. We
guarantee that you will be a customer for life. Does President Bush care
about ending starvation in Africa? I don't know. Is he putting the profit
of American bioengineering companies ahead of the long-term good of
Africans? Yes.

Let your vote (meaning cash) count by not supporting politicians and
companies who seemed obsessed with forcing these seeds down the throats of
starving Africans. --- The writer is a resident of Greensboro who is
producing a documentary on sustainable agriculture titled "Tomorrow's
Harvest."

****************

Biotech Wars: Food Freedom vs. Food Slavery

- Vandana Shiva, ZMag, June 15, 2003
http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2003-06/15shiva.cfm

Monsanto through the U.S. government, is trying desperately to reverse its
failing fortunes by creating markets for its genetically engineered crops
(GMOs) through coercion and corruption.

The E.U. has not yet cleared GM crops for commercial planting or GM food
for imports. Brazil has had a ban on GM crops. And India has not cleared
GM food crops and has stopped the spread of genetically engineered Bt.
Cotton to Northern India after its dismal performance in Southern India in
the first season of commercial planting in 2002. E.U., Brazil and India
are all under attack overtly and covertly, for not rushing into adopting
genetically engineered crops without caution and ensuring biosafety.

The U.S. has threatened to initiate a dispute against the E.U. in the
W.T.O. for not importing genetically modified foods. The U.S. trade
representative, Mr. Zoellick was in Brazil at the end of May to force
Brazil to remove the ban on GM crops. The U.S. Secretary of State tried to
bully Southern African countries to the Earth Summit in Johannesburg to
accept GM food and, but Zambia refused to be bullied. In India, the U.S.
Embassy tried to pressurize the Ministry of Environment through the Prime
Minister's office to clear imports of GM corn, but a major mobilisation of
women's groups organized as the National Alliance of Women for Food Rights
under the movement of Diverse Women for Diversity, was successful in
sending back two ship loads of 10,000 tons of GM corn. Since then the
Chairman of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee which rejected GM
crops and imports has been removed and the Agricultural Ministry has been
changed.

Free people with free information are saying no to genetically engineered
food for both ecological and health reasons. However, genetic engineering
is being imposed on the world by a handful of global corporations with the
backing of one powerful government.

Commercial crops produced through genetic engineering are not producing
more food nor are they reducing the use of chemicals. While the hunger
argument is the most frequently used argument to promote and push genetic
engineering, GMOs have more to do with corporate hunger for profits than
poor people's hunger for food. As a news item in the international Herald
Tribune of May 29, 2003 titled, "Biotech war recast as hunger issue"
reported,

President George W. Bush is framing his attack on European resistance to
genetically modified crops as part of a campaign against world hunger.
Bush and his aides are making an emotional plea, saying the
administration's stance is part of the fight against world hunger. In a
speech last week be accused Europe of hindering the "great cause of ending
hunger in Africa" with its ban genetically modified corps." (IHT, May 29,
2003)

The technology of genetic engineering is not about overcoming food
scarcity but about creating monopolies over food and seed, the first link
in the chain and over life itself. After having pressurized Lula's
government in Brazil to temporarily remove the ban on GMOs, Monsanto is
now claiming royalties for genes in the Round up Resistance Soya crops,
showing once again that profits through royalty collection are the real
objective of spreading GM crops.

India has been forced to change its patent laws under TRIPS and the main
beneficiary of the Second Amendment to India's Patent Act of 1970 are
biotech corporations like Monsanto, seeking patents on genetically
engineered crops.

Patents also criminalise and make illegal the human work of life's
reproduction. When seeds are patented, farmers exercising their freedom
and performing their duty of saving and exchanging seeds are treated as
"intellectual property thieves". This can reach absurd limits as in the
case of Percy Schmieser whose canola field was polluted by Monsanto's
Round up Resistant Canola, and instead of Monsanto compensating Percy for
pollution on the "polluter pays principle", Monsanto sued him for $200,000
for theft of their genes. Monsanto uses detective agencies and police to
track farmers and their crops. Patents imply police states.

Genetic engineering is not merely causing genetic pollution of
biodiversity and creating bio-imperialism, monopolies over life itself. It
is also causing knowledge pollution -- by undermining independent science,
and promoting pseudo science. It is leading to monopolies over knowledge
and information. The victimisation of Dr. Arpad Putzai who showed the
health risks of GM potatoes and Dr. Ignacio Chapela who showed that corn
had been contaminated in its centre of diversity in Mexico are examples of
the intolerance of a corporate controlled scientific system for real
science.

The fabrication of the data by Monsanto on Bt. Cotton India is an example
of the promotion of an unnecessary, untested, hazardous technology through
pseudo science. While yields of GM cotton fell by 80% and farmers had
losses of nearly Rs. 6,000/acre. Monsanto used Martn Qaim (University of
Bonn) and David Zilberman) University of California, Berkeley) to publish
an article in Science to claim that yields of Bt. Cotton increased by 80%.
Qaim and Zilberman published the paper on the basis of data provided by
Monsanto from Monsanto's trials not on the basis of the harvest from
farmers fields in the first year of commercial planting.

The fabricated data that presents a failure of Bt. Cotton as a miracle
hides the fact that non-target insects and diseases increased 250-300%,
costs of seed were 300% more and quantity and quality of cotton was low.
This is why on April 25, 2003, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee
(GEAC) of the Government of India did not give clearance to Monsanto to
sell Bt. Cotton seeds in Northern India.

The false claims of Monsanto were also proved with a total failure of
Hybrid maize in the state of Bihar and a black listing of the company by
the government. In Rajasthan, Monsanto gave itself an award for miracle
yields. While the brochures claimed 50-90 Q/acre, farmers harvested only 7
Q/acre, 90% lower than the promise. Farmers of the Udaipur district of
Rajasthan have started a campaign to boycott Monsanto seeds. Report