Today in AgBioView: January 23, 2004
* Examining Benbrook’s Claim of Increased Pesticide Use with GM Crops
* Canadian Anti-Biotech Fraud Goes To Court
* How did we get here from there: Biotechnology is threatened in Canada
* Perils of the Precautionary Principle
* UK: No case for total ban on growing GM crops
* GM Science Review Final Report
* GM free food is a Garden of Eden fantasy, says Fischler
* USDA revamps policies on biotech fruits, vegetables and grains
* More approvals for GM canola
* Commissioners to plough through GMOs
Examining Benbrook’s Claim of Increased Pesticide Use with GM Crops
- From Wayne Parrott , January 23, 2004
Benbrook’s recent claim of increased pesticide use due to the advent of
genetically engineered crops
(http://www.biotech_info.net/Technical_Paper_6.pdf) does not hold up to
close scrutiny. Benbrook doesn't always provide all the pertinent
details, nor are all his assumptions necessarily valid. For beginners, he
consistently ignores the fact that amount of active ingredient and
environmental impact are not the same thing.
While there are definitely cases where the amount of active ingredient use
has increased, overall environmental impact has decreased. Readers are
invited to check out the USDA-ERS’s study at
http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/aer810/. The section on “Adoption
and Pesticide Use” is the most relevant to the topic.
The fatal flaw in Benbrook's argument is on page 19 where he states, "It
is assumed that an acre not planted to the GE trait would receive the same
level of pesticide use as acres planted to non-GE varieties." This is not
a valid assumption, as weed pressure varies greatly across locations,
particularly for crops like cotton. The USDA-ERS study takes such factors
into consideration, and therefore comes out with a different answer.
Other parts are simply misleading. By saying that insecticide reductions
brought about by biotech corn and cotton were cancelled out by increased
insecticide use in soybean, Benbrook intimates on page 5 that the
appearance of soybean aphids and the concomitant increase in insecticide
use of soybean insecticides has something to do with biotech. It doesn't.
As near as I can tell, charts 2, 3, 4, and 5 fail to account for the
effects of increased biotech acreage and decreased conventional acreage.
One has to get to Table 5 before an attempt is made to put data on a
per-acre basis. Interestingly, based on his Table 5, the average
pesticide use for an acre averaged across soybean, cotton and corn in 2003
was projected to be 1.78 lbs, compared to 2.20 in 1996. By the time he
gets back to Table 15, he is back to totals, again ignoring the effect of
I asked Bill Vencill, professor of Weed Science at the University of
Georgia, to provide some background information on Benbrook's claims:
“Benbrook states correctly that for a conventional soybean weed control
system, rates can be considerably lower today than 1996. Metolachlor was
a standard for preemergence herbicide used for annual grass and small
seeded broadleaf weed control. For years, both the R- and S-
stereoisomers were packaged together, although only S-metolachlor has any
weed control activity. In 1998, Novartis introduced Dual Magnum which has
only the S-metolachlor, resulting in a 50% rate reduction for the same
level of weed control. However, Benbrook fails to mention that
metolachlor is still a known groundwater contaminant and from a class of
herbicides with suspected toxicology problems.
“As far as the claim by Benbrook that glyphosate-resistant marestail is a
cause for increased herbicide use, this weed infests ~10,000 - 100,000
acres in DE and 100,000 acres in west TN and 100-1000 acres in MS, NC, AR,
MD, IN, OH, NJ. There are not enough acres of resistant marestail to
cause a shift in US glyphosate use (Heap, 11 Dec 2003, www.weedscience.com
). Incidentally, this weed had become resistant to glyphosate before the
advent of RR crops.”
Summary and conclusions:
Benbrook’s claims of increased pesticide use are primarily due to improper
assumptions about herbicide applications. On the whole, pesticide use has
declined, although pounds of active ingredient have increased in some
soybean acreage. However, pound for pound, the switch from metolachlor to
glyphosate in soybean production has had huge environmental benefits not
measured in terms of pounds of activeingredient. Instead, the benefits
are measured in declined use of groundwater contaminants and decline in
risk of human toxicity. In addition, the switch to glyphosate has helped
foster the use of low-till and no-till agriculture, leading to additional
benefits by preventing soil erosion, decreasing fuel consumption, and
improving wildlife habitat.
PS–Dr. Vencill also provided data on herbicide use in Georgia before and
after the introduction of RR soybean and RR cotton. The numbers speak for
themselves. Soybean A conventional system in 1996 would have had the
following 1. Soil applied metolachlor at 1.8lb ai/A (metolachlor is a
chloroacetamide herbicide which is a known groundwater contaminant and is
from a class of chemistry known to be possible human carcinogens (i.e.
alachlor). 2. Postemergence application of either chlorimuron at 0.008 lb
ai/A or imazethapyr at 0.063 lb ai/A. Both of these herbicides have clean
environmental and toxicology profiles. This is the core of Benbrook's
argument that glyphosate has largely replaced these herbicides.
Glyphosate rates are much higher (0.75 lb ai/A) and with weed shifts in
the Midwest, growers have had to shift towards two applications of
glyphosate. However, chlorimuron and imazethapyr have a long residual
that limits the type of crop that can be planted in subsequent years. Of
course, Benbrook does not mention that towards the mid-1990's
ALS-resistant pigweed (on a much larger scale than glyphosate-resistant
marestail) had forced many growers in the Midwest to change this practice
to add another herbicide to the mix to control resistant pigweed (i.e.
fomesafen applied at 0.38 lb ai/A).
A conventional system in 2003 would have the following
1. Soil applied metolachlor at 0.9 lb ai/A (rates are half of what they
used to be because now only the active s-metolachlor is applied; with the
old type both stereoisomers could contaminate groundwater and were equal
in their impact on human health)
2. Then, postemergence application of chlorimuron, imazethapyr, or
cloransulam. The latter (First Rate) would be applied at 0.024 lb ai/A..
In addition, those farmers in the midwest where there is ALS-resistant
pigweed would still need fomesafen or another similar product such as
lactofen or acifluorfen (which is in regulatory trouble for toxicology).
Current RR soybean glyphosate rates 0.75 lb ai/A for 1 application or 1.5
lb ai/A for two.
Current conventional soybean rates 0.908 to 0.963 lbs ai/A (assuming no
resistant pigweed) Growers flocked to RR soybean for the following
2) elimination of soil applied herbicide & ground water contaminant
3) elimination of carryover concerns associated with chlorimuron and
imazethapyr-- facilitates crop rotation.
In 1996, a typical grower in Georgia would have used the following
herbicide program Preplant incorporated application of trifluralin at 0.75
lb ai/A for grass control.
A preemergence application of fluometuron at 2 lb ai/A (fluometuron is a
suspected groundwater contaminant) An early cultivation (in the RR system,
most growers have moved toward conservation tillage eliminating this labor
intensive and potential soil eroding step). A early post-direct
application of MSMA of 2 lb ai/A (organic arsenical compound of dubious
toxicology). Another late-post directed application of cyanazine at 0.75
lb ai/A plus MSMA applied at 2.0 lb ai/A (cyanazine was cancelled by
Dupont in 2002 because of toxicology and groundwater contamination
issues). Total of 7.5 lb ai/A.
In 2003, most Georgia growers used the following RR cotton system
Preemergence application of pendimethalin at 0.75 lb ai/A Early
postemergence application of glyphosate at 0.75 lb ai/A. Late
post-directed application of glyphosate (0.75 lb ai/A) plus diuron applied
at 0.5 lb ai/A. Total of 2.75 lb ai/A If you look at crops other than
soybean, the benefits of RR system in relation to reducing herbicide rates
and eliminating older herbicides with poor environmental and toxicological
profiles are fairly clear. In addition, the RR system makes the adoption
of a conservation tillage system in cotton in the deep south easier
because of improved weed control.
Canadian Anti-Biotech Fraud Goes To Court
- Center for Consumer Freedom, January 21, 2004
What do you do when you've been caught stealing, and two judges have
already ruled against you? Take your case to the Supreme Court, of course.
That's the story of 73-year-old Canadian farmer/activist Percy Schmeiser,
a confirmed thief of genetically improved canola seeds who has become an
"international hero to anti-biotech forces" -- thanks to the efforts of
anti-business and anti-technology groups like Greenpeace and the Green
Party. At yesterday's hearing before the Canadian Supreme Court,
Schmeiser's lawyers didn't even try to defend their client against the
original charges. Schmeiser himself told reporters: "I don't like to get
into the facts."
Since his rise to the level of a "cult figure," Schmeiser's campaign of
misinformation has blossomed. As we've pointed out before, his website
claims he has "received donations of about $12,000 to help his legal bills
-- mostly in $50 and $100 checks from other farmers." But financial
documents show that he has in fact received more than $127,000. Asked to
explain the discrepancy, Schmeiser responds: "I don't think that's on my
website. I don't remember seeing that." But more than six months after
this bit of duplicity was revealed, that $12,000 figure is still on his
Peel this onion back one more layer, and Schmeiser's claim that he's
locked in a "classic David vs. Goliath struggle" looks even more
ridiculous. In this country alone, more than one hundred separate
organizations agitate against biotech crops. According to their tax
returns and annual reports, such groups spent over $400 million worldwide
in 2001 to campaign against modern agriculture.
And these very same groups are arguing Schmeiser's case for him. Instead
of defending Schmeiser's actions, they insist that the seeds he stole
shouldn't have been patented in the first place. In fact, they don't think
designer gene strands should ever be patented. If these anti-technology
zealots succeed, you can say goodbye to pharmaceutical development, in
addition to biotech crops.
Despite the deception and the horrific consequences if Schmeiser's Luddite
allies are successful, "check in with Schmeiser most any month and you can
find him hailing crowds in places as far-flung as Japan, Germany or South
Africa." Amazingly, "it matters nothing to his audiences that he was found
guilty of patent violations by the Canadian courts."
More related links at:
How did we get here from there: Biotechnology is threatened in Canada
- Checkbiotech, January 22, 2004, By Robert Wager
SASKATCHEWAN, Canada -- The story begins in a canola field in Bruno,
Saskatchewan and winds its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Biotechnology has engineered a variety of crops known as herbicide
tolerant (HT) crops. These HT crops are unaffected when sprayed with
particular broad-spectrum herbicides, such as the popular Roundup Ready
(RR) produced Monsanto. RR canola allows the farmer to spray a canola crop
with Roundup and only the weeds will die. If a farmer plants these HT
varieties, he can expect higher yields plus cheaper and easier weed
control. These are the claims of the companies that produced and sell the
HT seed producing company’s claims seem to substantiated since 70 percent
of Canadian canola farmers now grow herbicide tolerant canola varieties –
a rapid change given that HT canola has been available for only seven
years. Adoption rates argue these biotech seeds are a better product for
farmers. According to the Canadian Canola Growers Association, adoption of
biotech canola seeds has resulted in a reduction of chemical use by 29
percent and an increase in profits for the farmer of $5.80 per acre. Thus
HT crops have benefited the environment, while also providing financial
benefits to farmers.
Biotech seeds cost farmers more than other types of seed, and any farmer
who wants to grow these HT varieties must sign an technology use agreement
(TUA), that promises the farmer will not save and replant the biotech
seeds the following year. Over 30,000 Canadian farmers have signed on due
in part from the benefits and the fact that modern agriculture rarely
saves seed anymore. Most farmers buy hybrid seed varieties, which will not
breed true and, therefore, must be repurchased each year.
In 1997, Mr. Schmeiser sprayed “a good three acres” of his canola crop
(designated field number two) with Roundup. One might ask why a farmer
would purposely spray an herbicide that should destroy three acres of a
crop? Once it was clear that the canola in field number two was herbicide
tolerant, Mr. Schmeiser decided to harvest the seed from that field and
save it for planting the following year. Most farmers would realize that
the canola in field number two was roundup tolerant, since it survived
treatment with Roundup applied by Mr. Schmeiser.
The next year Mr. Schmeiser planted 1030 acres in nine fields with seeds
saved from the number two field, knowing that the use of such seed would
required a TUA payment. This planting resulted in 1030 acres of 95-98%
roundup tolerant canola. When this high level (equivalent to commercial
grade seed) was discovered by the manufacturer of Roundup Ready canola
(Monsanto), Mr. Schmeiser was asked to pay the TUA fee of $15 per acre. He
refused, and so the court cases began.
On March 29, 2001, the Federal Court of Canada found Mr. Schmeiser guilty
of patent infringement. Judge Mackay said in his judgment, “He [Mr.
Schmeiser] planted his crop for 1998 with seed that he knew, or ought to
have known, was Roundup tolerant.” Mr. Schmeiser appealed.
On September 4, 2002, the Federal Court of Appeals upheld the original
verdict of the previous court’s ruling. The panel of three judges rejected
all seventeen points of appeal put forward by the council for Mr.
Mr. Schmeiser’s lawyer appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. This time
with a twist. Instead of arguing that Mr. Schmeiser did not violate the
patent of Monsanto, his lawyer is now arguing that the patent held by
Monsanto on Roundup Ready canola is invalid. The grounds – no one should
be able to patent any life form.
What started as an obscure case between a farmer and a multinational
corporation, has blossomed into a show the entire biotechnology industry
in Canada is watching very closely. If the high court decides that the
patent on the Roundup-tolerant canola is invalid, the ramifications will
be huge. It would mean there is no longer patent protection for biotech
products in Canada, thus setting in motion an inevitable mass exodus of
biotechnology from Canada.
"You'll have this chilling effect, with severe economic and social costs,"
Anthony Creber told the high court for his client, BIOTECanada, which
represents biotechnology companies and researchers.
This potential outcome is a chance that critics of biotechnology have been
looking for. However, it would also mean farmers would not have access to
the best varieties of food crops. In addition, pharmaceutical crops, that
produce medicines for pennies on the dollar compared to present synthetic
supplies, would not be created. Hence, the cost of prescription medicines
would continue to spiral upwards. Healthier foods such as, trans fat free
canola and soy oils would never be brought to the market as well. The
reductions in pesticide spraying due to biotech crops would be reversed.
The bottom line – if a biotechnology company cannot obtain a patent for
their investment, then there will be no investment, at least not in
So we have a farmer in Bruno, Saskatchewan planting what “he knew, or
ought to have known, were roundup tolerant canola seeds,” leading
indirectly to the biotechnology industry being threatened in Canada. Lets
hope the judges see the forest for the trees.
Malaspina University College
Subject: Perils of the Precautionary Principle
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2004 16:55:07 +1300
The Perils of the Precautionary Principle.
The greatest peril of the precautionary principle is that it overturns the
traditional Anglo-American (classic liberal) relationship between the
citizen and the start.
The traditional constitutional position is that citizens are free to act
unless the state can prove harm. The precautionary principle turns this on
its head by claiming that the state prevents citizens from acting unless
they can prove perfect safety or the absence of harm.
Proving a negative is difficult and most cases relating to innovation is
impossible (if only because one persons "harm" can be another person's
This represents a massive shift in our constitutional relationships.
Given that so many environmentalists insist on the need for a new "world
order" we can reasonably wonder if this is an unintended or intended
UK: No case for total ban on growing GM crops
- THE TIMES (London), Mark Henderson, Jan. 23, 2004
A FURTHER barrier to the commercial planting of GM crops in Britain was
lifted yesterday when the Government's science review confirmed advice
that separate varieties should be considered as individual cases.
A report from the official panel ruled that the results of the
Government-supported farm-scale evaluations (FSEs) had strengthened its
opinion that there is no scientific case for a ban on GM crops.
Last summer, the expert panel recommended that the Government look at the
merits of individual GM crops one by one, rather than calling for blanket
approvals or bans, but promised a fresh report once the results of the
FSEs were known.
The committee chaired by Sir David King, the Government's Chief Scientific
Adviser, ruled yesterday that "none of the new research published since
the first report significantly altered the earlier conclusions".
Ministers are now expected to approve a herbicide- tolerant variety of GM
maize next month: the FSEs found that this is likely to have a beneficial
effect on farmland biodiversity, while herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape and
sugar beet may cause problems.
Sir David said: "The science review has systematically examined the issue
of GM crops in the UK and provides a comprehensive scientific analysis.
The exhaustive work of my panel will enable research and policy debates on
GM to be informed by the most up-to-date and sound scientific evidence.
"The science review has been widely regarded as a positive and useful
contribution to the Government's wider GM dialogue. The innovative process
of the GM science review, particularly the way it has been structured on
the issues and concerns raised by public and experts alike, provides
important lessons and a model for the future."
Anti-GM groups said that the verdict overlooked scientific uncertainties.
Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace, said: "The major uncertainties
highlighted by the first report have not been revised now the wider
science community has had a chance to comment."
The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment last week urged
ministers to approve a herbicide-tolerant GM maize after finding that it
would not affect wildlife if grown commercially.
Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, is expected to make a final
decision on a government licence within six weeks.
GM Science Review Final Report
The Science Review Panel's report is available for downloading from
The GM Science Review Panel's second report into GM crops and food was
published today. With the first report, published last summer, this
completes the independent review of current scientific knowledge on GM
crops and foods. The second phase of the expert panel's work has
considered the report of the public debate, new scientific developments
since the first report including the Farm Scale Evaluation (FSE) results,
and feedback on the first report.
Today's report has clarified a number of points and explores some issues
in more detail but has not altered the first report's original findings.
The first report found no scientific case for ruling out all GM crops and
their products, but nor did it give blanket approval. It addressed the
general characteristics of GM, but emphasised that GM is not a single
homogeneous technology and its applications should be considered on a
The second phase of the GM Science Review found that:
* none of the new research published since the first Report significantly
altered the earlier conclusions;
* the FSEs were of high scientific calibre. The panel found that if GM
herbicide tolerant crops are managed as in the FSEs, a significant
reduction would be expected in weeds with GMHT beet and spring oilseed
rape, whereas the opposite would be found with maize. These effects arise
from the herbicides and are not a direct consequence of the GM process.
The different findings for different GM crops reinforced the conclusion of
the first Science Review that GM crops must be assessed on a case-by-case
* the first report covered the issues raised by the Public Debate Report:
'GM Nation?' and the foundation discussion workshops provided a useful
framework for the Science Review.
The Science Review Panel's conclusions on FSEs were released in advance of
the second report so they could be submitted to the Advisory Committee on
Releases to the Environment (ACRE) for consideration before they put their
advice to Government.
The Science Review first report attracted wide interest, with over 20,000
copies downloaded from the web. At the subsequent four open meetings the
panel examined in detail the broad range of comments and questions on the
First Report, and considered any implications for the original findings.
The Science Review reports have been collectively produced by a panel with
a wide range of expertise and views on GM. The Government's Chief
Scientific Adviser Sir David King who chaired the panel said:
"The Science Review has systematically examined the issue of GM crops in
the UK and provides a comprehensive scientific analysis. The exhaustive
work of my panel will enable research and policy debates on GM to be
informed by the most up to date and sound scientific evidence. "The
Science Review has been widely regarded as a positive and useful
contribution to the UK Government's wider GM dialogue. The innovative
process of the GM Science Review, particularly the way it has been
structured on the issues and concerns raised by public and experts alike,
provides important lessons and a model for the future."
Notes to Editors
1. The GM Science Review was requested by the Secretary of State for
Environment Food and Rural Affairs with the agreement of Ministers in the
devolved administrations. The Public Debate "GM Nation?" and the Strategy
Unit report on the costs and benefits of GM crops have been the other
strands in the GM dialogue aimed at engaging the public and assisting the
Government with future GM policy decisions.
2. The GM Science Review Panel's First Report was published on 21 July
3. The full Science Review (including the first and second report), full
list of panel members and more information is available at
GM free food is a Garden of Eden fantasy, says Fischler
- Cordis News Service, 2004-01-23
Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler has warned delegates at a
conference on organic farming that food which is completely free of
genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is a thing of the past.
And when it comes to setting acceptable thresholds for the levels of GMOs
in organic and conventional products, the Commissioner said that Europe
must take guidance from scientists, rather than politicians.
'We have been banished from paradise. The idea of a zero per cent
threshold was no doubt possible in the Garden of Eden, but not in the real
world,' said Dr Fischler.
His views were echoed at the conference by a leading expert from the
Danish government's institute of agricultural sciences. Birte Boelt, head
of research within the institute's department of plant biology, said:
'Zero tolerance is not possible.'
Despite advocating isolation distances between GM, organic and
conventional farms, as well as the careful cleaning of farm equipment, Dr
Boelt warned: 'Even with the greatest care mistakes will happen.'
'The risk of GM contamination will grow over time,' she added.
Dr Fischler announced that the Commission intends to take steps to
increase organic food consumption within the EU. Currently, around three
per cent of all food consumed is produced organically, but he believes
this figure could be as high as 15 per cent. The Commission hopes to
produce an action plan on organic food in the coming months.
USDA revamps policies on biotech fruits, vegetables and grains
- USA TODAY,By Elizabeth Weise, Jan 22, 2004
In what is likely to signal a significant shift in U.S. policy, the
Department of Agriculture said Thursday it is beginning the process of
revamping its regulations for bioengineered fruits, vegetables and grains.
Biotech plants have been genetically engineered to boost production, fight
weeds, stand up to herbicides and even produce pharmaceutical and
industrial chemicals. Since 1987 USDA has conducted more than 10,000 field
trials of genetically engineered plants and organisms and approved 61
products, though fewer than 10 are in wide scale use by American farmers.
Under existing regulations, companies creating these new plants must
submit an application to USDA and undergo field tests to prove their
creation doesn't somehow introduce something that might directly or
indirectly pose a risk to other plants. The new rules would be broader,
incorporating not just threats to plants and agriculture, but also to the
environment and public health.
"The science of biotechnology is continually evolving," Agriculture
Secretary Ann Veneman said in announcing the move, "so we must ensure that
our regulatory framework remains robust by anticipating and keeping pace
with those changes."
One result would be the creation of That would also include a risk-based
categories, creating a tiered system of regulations: Plants that aren't
likely to escape into the wild, like soybeans and corn, or have
genetically engineered traits such as herbicide resistance that USDA has
lots of regulatory experience with, would be less stringently regulated.
Newly created plants such as human Food crops like corn or potatoes
genetically modified to contain pharmaceutical or industrial chemicals
would be more heavily regulated.
"The greater the risk and the less familiarity, the greater the regulatory
control," says Cindy Smith of USDA's Biotechnology Regulatory Service.
The regulations would likely also add a continuing review component for
the plants of highest concern. Today, USDA effectively signs off on
genetically engineered plants once its field testing process is complete.
One proposal would allow the agency to continue to regulate some
genetically engineered organisms considered high risk even after they have
been cleared for commercial use.
The proposal would give the government increased scope for its oversight
of a rapidly evolving technology, says Greg Jaffe, director of the Center
for Science in the Public Interest's Biotechnology Project, called the
announcement "both welcome and unprecedented. If they do these things,
we'll get a strengthened regulatory system," though he is concerned about
language that might allow USDA to exempt low-risk plants from the
"If they do the positive things, clearly the system will be strengthened.
But if they do the exemptions, they may be giving regulatory relief where
its not warranted," he said.
Since 1987 USDA has conducted more than 10,000 field trials of genetically
engineered plants and organisms and approved 61 products, though fewer
than 10 are in wide scale use by American farmers. All would be
grandfathered into the new regulations.
But as the pace of the science for bio-engineering plants has quickened
and the biotech industry has grown, the clamor from anti-biotech
activists, environmentalists, consumer groups and the industry itself for
better regulation has grown as well.
In back-to-back briefings of industry, activists and the press, Veneman
announced that the agency's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is
preparing an environmental impact statement concerning changes to the
present regulations. Officials will seek public input and then new
regulations will be written, probably by sometime next year, governing
genetically engineered organisms. Significant public input will go into
the statement which will then be used to write new regulations, most
likely by 2005, said Cindy Smith of USDA's Biotechnology Regulatory
The biotech industry has long supported stronger regulation, in part to
assure public acceptance of new technologies and products. Val Giddings,
vice president of agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization,
said in a statement that public participation in the process is welcome
"it is only appropriate that such a wide-ranging technology embrace
extensive public participation "to ensure that any concerns are addressed
by scientists and health experts."
More approvals for GM canola
- Canola Ink Vol. 29, January 22, 2004 (Via Agnet)
Roundup Ready canola has received approvals in Korea and Australia. The
Korean approval came on December 30, 2003 and the Australian approval in
The Korean decision is important because it allows use of genetically
modified (GM) canola meal in that country, says JoAnne Buth. Meanwhile,
approval of Roundup Ready canola for commercial release is just a first
step for Australia. Both Roundup Ready canola and the previously approved
Liberty Link canola face state bans before planting can begin.
Worldwide acreage of all GM crops grew by 9 million hectares to a total of
67.7 million hectares in 2003.
Commissioners to plough through GMOs
- EUPolitix.com, 23 Jan 2004
European Commissioners will on Wednesday tackle the sensitive issue of
genetic modification in Europe, for the first time in four years.
The discussion will take in a wealth of EU policies on genetically
modified organisms (GMOs), from the idea of identifying codes for GM
foods, mooted by the commission last week, to the controversy surrounding
the approval of new GM strains.
“We are having this meeting to take stock of progress made over the past
years and to look at proposals currently on the agenda,” said a commission
spokesman on Friday.
Of note on the agenda will be the possibility of approving a new GM crop –
a corn known as BT-11 - in the EU.
In June 2003 the USA issued a legal challenge to the EU over its refusal
to approve new GM products for the past five years.
This de facto moratorium would be ended if BT-11 was approved, but time is
Even if the commission does eventually come out in favour of BT-11, the
GMO then has to make it past EU governments at a council meeting, and many
have been strongly opposed to this in the past.
France in particular said last year that it was “not happy” with the BT-11
dossier, and may well continue to protest.
Industry insiders admit it is “very difficult to say” whether or not the
member states will change their minds now.
However, both France and Germany have said they are keen to move the GM
issue on once new EU labelling and traceability laws come into force this
Council would have three months to consider BT-11.
If a decision is not reached in this time period it will return to the
commission who, given that there is no legal basis for a refusal to ban
the product, will be obliged to approve it.
In this case the only hope of avoiding a full scale legal battle would be
the approval of another GM crop, NK603 for import from the USA.
This crop has not proved so controversial with the member states and might
more easily be passed after going to the regulatory committee in February.
Guidelines on the coexistence of conventional, organic and GM crops were
produced by the commission in July 2003 and will also be on the table.
The guidelines are not legally binding but are intended to help EU farmers
protect their chosen crop type.
And the tricky issue of establishing tolerable thresholds for the
accidental contamination of conventional and organic crops with GMOs will
also be on the table.
The biotechnology sector has been demanding a proposal on seed
contamination for the past five years and, although one now exists, it has
been delayed pending approval from the commission’s regulatory committee.
Farm commissioner Franz Fischler on Thursday said that a zero per cent
threshold was impossible and that scientifically viable thresholds will
have to be established.
However the scientific committee approved the thresholds of 0.3, 0.5 and
0.7 per cent currently contained in the proposal two years ago, and
industry is beginning to demand that things speed up.
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