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Date:

February 24, 2004

Subject:

Poverty Merchant; Mendocino County; Asian Rice Crisis; GM in China; GMO Maize

 

Today in AgBioView: February 25, 2004

* The merchant of poverty
* Activists Around the World Watch Mendocino County:
* Asian rice industry facing crisis: IRRI
* The Future of Food - new feature film
* US defends GM foods
* China eyes GM food crops to cut costs: academic
* China opens GM market on approval for soy from Monsanto
* China Mulls GM Applications From Four Firms After Monsanto
* Brussels backs Berlin crop plan
* Bio-pharm crops: Proceed with caution
* EU presidency has yet to rule on GMO maize request

/> After reading the Guardian article by Colin Tudge, I still have a nagging feeling that he was just trying to be funny. Those who have not read it are encouraged to give it a go.

After a day of hard work in the lab, its a lot of fun to be exposed to some comedy. I was surprised however, to read at the bottom of the article that Trudge has actually written a book. I do hope, sincerely, that in the book, Trudge did not forget the logic of presenting an argument in the way he did in this article. The man literally trashed himself! After all that gobbledygook trying to explain how bad GM foods are, Trudge makes a U turn saying "Technical up-grading is desirable, and could include GM." Thats what all of us have been saying, and we thank Thomas DeGregory for reminding him that!

But his Green peers will probably be very green. According to Trudge, "The arguments for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that have been dinned into us for 15 years are based on an almost sublime misreading of the world's food problems." Wrong Trudge! Even if world foopd production was good (which it isn't, I don't want to keep getting string-tied handouts from America!!) I'd still argue for GM technology. It will always be good to achieve higher production efficiency and use resources more sparingly even under conditions of great comfort.

GM technology would still be needed in allowing us to fight disease and in helping us understand life better. I do not expect Trudge to understand the later part though, that would be expecting too much from a person who thinks that "technological innovation becomes pertinent only when the traditional ways have been given half a chance, and shown to be lacking." Technology is needed whenever there is a need to do things better, more efficiently and that need will probably always be there. Traditional methods are what we have been using all along, and we know their limitations.

Trudge probably has no knowledge of poor farming systems, except what he gets through newspapers, which usually have a political agenda. "Indeed, GMOs are part of a political and economic trend that is threatening all humanity."

I guess we are now on globalisation here with Trudge! Obviously he would like to have 99% of Britain involved in other activities that advance his nation, but is comfortable with India, Africa and Latin America having 60% of their population concentrating on subsistence. Now this is no longer funny. He's brave enough to attempt to illustrate his mispoint. "If India farmed as the British do, 594 million people would be out of work." Really Trudge! You rekcon they wouldn't find themselves other things to do right? You probably think they are too stupid to do anything else, right? Thats why most of them are in farming, I see, they can't or do not want to do anything else.

Unfortunately this is not Trudge alone. We hear this argument quite often. It is based on a racist philosophy that we cannot do anything better than live from hand to mouth. I find arguments that technology will throw people out of work really disgusting. What technology does is to release people to more productive and less routine activities, and Trudge thinks Africa does not deserve this. We have ourselves the merchant of poverty here.
------------------

The Tudge article is available at: http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0220-09.htm
********************************

Activists Around the World Watch Mendocino County:
An Example of Corporate vs Activist PR

- Ross Irvine, ePublic Relations Ltd, February 2004, http://www.epublicrelations.ca

It's corporate PR versus activist PR in California's Mendocino County where the two forces are in a battle over biotechnology. On March 2, county voters will decide the future of biotechnology in their community. The outcome will have repercussions in communities around the world.

What's drawing the battle lines is Measure H that, if approved by voters, would make it "unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow genetically modified organisms in Mendocino County." Voter approval would make Mendocino Country the first genetically-modified-organism-free (GMO-free) county in the country. Approval will inspire and encourage activists in other American communities and threaten the biotech industry in countless communities around the world.

In typical corporate fashion, the biotech industry is running a well-financed, centrally controlled PR campaign to defeat Measure H. As of Feb. 20, CropLife America - the trade association for agricultural chemical and biotech companies - had poured $300,000 into the Mendocino County. That's roughly $7 per voter. The money has been spent on public opinion polling, an intensive radio advertising campaign, public relations consultants, legal advice, and a mailer to all voters. In command-and-control style the biotech industry has anointed "designated spokesmen" to talk to the media.

Mendocino anti-biotech activists have far fewer financial resources, are structured differently, and have numbers of their side. They have collected approximately $67,000 from an estimated 1,400 contributors. The largest donation, $24,000, came from the Center for Food Safety (CFS), a Washington, DC-based activist group. According to its web site, the CFS "works to protect human health and the environment by curbing the proliferation of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS engages in legal, scientific and grassroots initiatives to guide national and international policymaking on critical food safety issues."

Many activist voices

While leaders of the anti-biotech forces in Mendocino County can be identified, activists do not insist on "designated spokesmen" as being primary or sole sources of information. As result, there are numerous anti-biotech "voices" to be heard and quoted in the media. Among the groups and individuals who have spoken out in favour of Measure H are the county sheriff, local doctors, the county's public health director, numerous local vineyards and wineries, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association with membership from San Diego to Alaska, Salmon Trollers' Marketing Association, and Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

This multiplicity of voices has an impact of news coverage and other reporting. A Google search turns up more references to the anti-biotech message than the pro-biotech one. There are simply more people talking about their support for the measure than their opposition to it.

Not only are there more spokesmen, they are autonomous and independent. They don't have to funnel questions to a centralized, designated spokesman. As a result, they can respond more quickly and more efficiently to media and other inquiries. This has made it easier to spread the anti-biotech message.

Just as importantly, the anti-biotech forces have a simple message for
voters: Measure H protects human health, farms, the local economy, the environment and private property. All of which are praiseworthy goals. Activists have also raised public fears by stating GMOs may trigger allergies, create new toxins, lead to anti-biotech resistance, and be linked to a resurgence of infectious diseases. By sticking to simple, fear-mongering messages, activists have largely avoided scientific debate on biotechnology.

A spokesman for Fetzer Vineyards said: "Fetzer doesn't proclaim to know all the answers in the GMO debate. However, as Mendocino County's largest winery and the US's organic vineyard leader, Fetzer supports Measure H as appropriate action until such time as the long-term consequences of genetically modified crops and animals in the food chain are fully understand." This statement reflects that precautionary principle activists use to curtail the development of new technologies.

Anti-business sentiment

Activists have also used growing anti-business sentiment to garner support. In response to an industry sponsored lawsuit that challenged the wording in a pamphlet explaining Measure H, a supporter of the measure
said: "This is the first salvo in a David and Goliath struggle, in which Measure H - which will benefit the people and the environment of Mendocino County - is under attacked by unprincipled multinational corporations that care only for their own profits. They have no qualms about subverting the democratic process." Another supporter said: "Regardless of how you feel about GMOs, this is a local issue that should be decided by local people. And not by a national lobbying organization representing the likes of Monsanto and DuPont."

On the surface, the conflict in Mendocino Country is between organic and non-organic farmers, or people who support one method of farming over the other. The president of Fetzer stated: "We feel strongly that organics is an important part of the system we have ourselves to in our long-term farming practices here in Mendocino County. And GMOs have the potential to threaten that position." Only about 20 per cent of the county's farmers are organic farmers. If the Measure passes, the other 80 per cent would be denied access to the advantages GMOs may offer.

When one looks behind the organic versus non-organic conflict, one sees activists are using Measure H to promote many other issues. These include concerns about multinational corporations, global trade, democracy, technology, capitalism, transparency, and corporate governance, to name a few.

Beginning of many local battles

For the biotech industry, Mendocino County is the first in an endless list of local battles. The activist group, Institute for Food and Development Policy, says: "If the measure is successful, not only will this be the first countywide ban on GMOs in the country, but Mendocino will open the way for other local efforts to push for a ban on GMOs. Proposals are already being organized from Vermont to Hawaii."

Regardless of the outcome of the March 2 vote in Mendocino County, anti-biotech activities around the globe have been inspired. They will adapt the Measure H experience to their local communities. For example, an Australian activist group is already spreading the word about Mendocino Country to its supporters.

The challenge for the biotech industry is to find ways to handle hundreds of Mendocino counties in hamlets, villages, cities, states and provinces around the globe simultaneously.

Perhaps industry can adapt activist strategies and tactics. That, however, would take a willingness to take a fresh look at all aspects corporate PR including its institutionalized structure.
**********************************************

http://www.epublicrelations.ca

Asian rice industry facing crisis: IRRI

- Reuters, February 25, 2004

The Asian rice industry is facing a crisis as the region faces growing shortages of water, land and labour, a rice expert said on Tuesday.

“The Asian rice industry is in trouble. It is facing a crisis in the supply of essentials resources such as water, land and labour,” said Ronald Cantrell, director-general of the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Rice yields would have to rise at least one percent annually over the next 30 years to keep up with an expanding population, he told Reuters in an interview.

The institute projects the number of people eating rice by 2025 will almost double to 4.6 billion from 2.5-2.8 billion now.

Rice is the staple food for most people in Asia, home to 60 percent of the world’s population, providing about half of their daily calories. But the grain, Asia’s biggest water user, consumes two to three times more water than wheat or maize.

About 55 percent of rice fields are irrigated and account for 75 percent of production.

But water is already scarce in several parts in Asia, some of them major rice-growing areas, Mr Cantrell said.

“If you look at the type of productivity we are going to have to have in the future, it does not look promising,” he said. “There is no doubt that we have to figure out a new way to grow rice.”

Varieties being developed: IRRI scientists are working on “aerobic” types of rice able to grow without being flooded and Mr Cantrell said he was optimistic a less thirsty variety would make it to the market within years.

“I am quite sure that we can develop a variety that is more drought-tolerant. The critical thing is to be able to produce enough rice,” he said.

A series of funding cuts, totalling several million dollars over the past five years, have hit the institute’s research and development of new varieties, Mr Cantrell said.

“While IRRI still has some very committed donors, there is no doubt that the institute could do a lot more if it had more support,” he said.

IRRI, a non-profit organisation funded by private and public donors, has also been working on more nutritious types of genetically modified (GM) rice.

“Poor people deserve the best that modern science has and that is one of the things that IRRI is interested to do,” Mr Cantrell said.

GM Golden rice, developed in China and India but not yet grown commercially, could be available in the next three to four years, he said.

Golden rice — which has a yellowish grain due to beta-carotene which human bodies convert to vitamin A — includes three new genes, two from daffodils and one from a bacterium.

Many environmental and consumer groups have opposed GM foods and many governments have imposed tight on imports, saying more research is needed to ensure they are safe.
************************************

Date: Wed, 25 Feb 2004 08:39:28 +1030
From: "Chris Preston"
Subject: The Future of Food - new feature film

The following ad for a new film called The Future of Food was passed to me by John Harper of California.

What intrigued me is the claim that this film is being presented in the interests of honest dissemination of information. I expect that the makers of the film believe this statement, but what is the evidence:

---------------

UNDECIDED ABOUT MEASURE H? AGAINST MEASURE H? FOR MEASURE H?

The use of GMO's--genetically modified organisms-- in agriculture has many implications on family farmers, public health, the world food supply, our economy and environment. Come and see the new, as yet unreleased, feature documentary film, "The Future of Food" courtesy of Deborah Koons Garcia, director, and Lily Films This beautifully made and entertaining film provides startling information. It's presented by Skip Gibbs Co and associates in the interest of honest dissemination of information about GMO's in food production. There is no connection with Measure H and the production of this film.

---------------

A quick trawl of the web revealed the following detail from Todd Boekelheide's web site (http://www.tobomusic.com/news.html):

January 28, 2004

I'm currently working on "The Future of Food", a feature-length documentary about genetically modified foods. This is an urgent issue, in the news almost every day. Here's a link to an article that showed up in the San Francisco Chronicle a few weeks ago that illustrates this. Ignacio Chapela, one of the four scientists mentioned in the article, is interviewed in our film.

Also, last month the Mendocino County (California) board of supervisors authorized an initiative that would ban all genetically modified organisms from the county. Organic farmers in the county are concerned that their crops will be tainted by the drift of GMOs onto their land, and that they'll lose their organic certification as a result. This is a major concern for organic farmers everywhere, and that makes the coming March vote on the issue an important bellweather. The multinational GMO companies are watching the situation closely, and there are already accusations that Monsanto has been using "push polls" to try to influence voters' opinions against the measure.

Deborah Koons Garcia [former wife of Grateful Dead member Jerry Garcia] is the director, Catherine Butler is producing, and my old friend and frequent collaborator ("Senorita Extraviada", "Hot Summer Winds") Vivien Hillgrove is the editor.

---------------------------

So one of those who is involved in making the film indicates that the real purpose of the film is to support political action to get GMOs banned. The article in the San Francisco Chronicle refers to the 'conversation' held with Chapella, Losey, Putzai and Hayes at Berkeley last year (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/01/11/INGHT44JFS1.DTL).


Christopher Preston Senior Lecturer, Weed Management University of Adelaide
***************************

US defends GM foods

- Agence France Presse, 25/02/2004 15:30

Kuala Lumpur - The United States on Wednesday vigorously pressed its case for genetically-modified food at an international conference debating the potential risks of biotech products and trade guidelines.

The US, the top producer of GM crops in the world, defended their safety and urged delegates attending the first Conference of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to allow smooth trade in the products to help ease world hunger.

Deborah Malac, biotech division chief in the US State Department, said bio-technology might not cure world hunger but it was an important tool to boost global food security.

"It is not the silver bullet nor the answer to solve world hunger but we do believe it is a critical element that needs to be applied," she said.

"By simply closing the door on this technology and saying we can't use it, you shut off the possibilities of great potential benefit because there is demonstrated improvement in crop yields which can lead to improved farmers' income, better food security and productivity."

She cautioned against proposals to impose trade sanctions and other strong measures against those who failed to comply with regulations, saying this was "not rational".

Washington has not signed the UN accord governing cross-border trade in GM organisms, which has been ratified by 86 countries and the European Union and came into force last September, but is lobbying hard on the sidelines of the meeting for the acceptance of GM crops worldwide.

It is already embroiled in a row with Europe over GM crops in the World Trade Organisation, where it is contesting the EU's de facto embargo on importing and planting bio-engineered food.

In a pre-emptive move towards an expected easing of these restrictions, EU nations have infuriated the US by passing tough laws on identifying and labelling food that has GM ingredients.

The protocol generally supports the EU's more conservative approach, but details on shipment labelling, liability and compliance came under heavy negotiation this week.

The EU wants the meeting here to follow its line for exports of GM commodities - mainly wheat, corn and soya - while Washington wants minimal labelling requirements.

US officials argued there was no scientific evidence that GM products were a threat to human health or the environment, and called for the protocol to be implemented effectively to ensure the continued smooth flow of trade.

Britain's Environment Minister Elliot Morley meanwhile urged all countries to work together to address an "urgent need for progress at a practical level."

The conference offers the "chance of an agreement" with major producing states like Canada to settle differences, he said.

London also hopes for a consensus on a liability and redress process, and the adoption of a compliance mechanism that "facilitates solutions rather than blame those countries that are currently not meeting their obligations," he said.
***************************

http://www.forbes.com/markets/newswire/2004/02/23/rtr1272670.html

China eyes GM food crops to cut costs: academic

- Reuters, By Roberta Rampton, 02.23.04

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Feb 23 (Reuters) - China is set to commercialize genetically modified rice and is testing biotech wheat varieties as it looks for ways to cut farmers' costs, an expert from the University of California, Davis said on Monday.

Starting next year, China plans to spend $500 million per year researching crops modified to withstand insects, diseases and herbicides, Scott Rozelle told a Canadian outlook conference.

"That's going to mean by 2005, China is outspending the U.S. government in plant biotech research," Rozelle said, noting private companies spend much more on crop biotech research in the United States.

Rozelle is part of a task force advising the Chinese government on farm and rural policies.

GM cotton has become the "miracle crop" of China since it was commercialized in 1996 because it has helped farmers cut costs by 28 percent and reduce their exposure to chemicals, Rozelle said.

Chinese researchers have developed promising GM rice varieties, with field trials showing boosted yields and less chemical use, he said.

Chinese consumers seem to accept the crops, he said.

GM rice should be commercialized within three years, he said, noting he expects 20 percent of Chinese rice plantings in 2010 to be GM varieties.

"I think if they release GM rice, you should certainly expect to see the genetically modified wheats follow," Rozelle told Reuters.

"Little is known about the state of (wheat) experiments," Rozelle said, adding he knows of field trials of GM wheat that resists pests and diseases and greenhouse trials of GM wheat that resists Monsanto Co.'s
(nyse: MON - news - people) Roundup herbicide.

Monsanto is awaiting government approvals of its herbicide-tolerant wheat in Canada and the United States.

CHINESE APPETITE FOR CANADIAN WHEAT TO RISE

Rozelle said he believes Chinese wheat imports will rise over the next decade before stabilizing, with demand strongest for high-quality, high-protein wheat.

"I think that they're going to be in the market more and more for Canadian wheat or for high-quality U.S. wheat," said Rozelle, who discussed trade and relative prices with 250 Chinese traders and port officials for a study.

"I think they're maturing to the point where they aren't going to be in and out of the market like they have in the past," he said.

U.S. markets were buoyed on Monday by news China has imported more wheat, bringing its total to close to 3 million tonnes since 2003.

China's state trading agency signed a deal to buy 500,000 tonnes of Canadian wheat in December, along with 1 million tonnes from Australia.

On Monday, the Canadian Wheat Board forecast total Chinese wheat imports of 6 million to 8 million tonnes in 2004/05.
***************************************

http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/news-NG.asp?id=50160

China opens GM market on approval for soy from Monsanto

- Food Navigator, Feb 25, 2004

The biggest potential consumer market in the world has flung open the doors to GM foodstuffs. Approving a handful of biotech soybeans and corn from US biotech giant Monsanto, China’s permanent approval – the first ever issued by the country – breaks down a key trade barrier for US companies eager to tap into this emerging economy that last year saw soybean trade from the US touching $3 billion.

After a series of environment and food safety tests on seven genetically modified crop strains – all from Monsanto - China’s ministry of agriculture on Monday awarded its first batch of safety certificates for foreign genetically modified crops used for processing purposes in China.

‘This announcement is good news for American farmers. China is the top foreign customer for US soybeans and cotton,’ said agriculture secretary Ann M. Veneman and US trade representative Robert B. Zoellick in a statement this week.

The introduction of US GM crops into new markets has met with opposition the world over, most notably in Europe which last week failed to reach a decision on import access for Monsanto’s NK603 maize. But approval from the Chinese – that opted not to clear NK603 - is a coup which will certainly lead to a major boost in earnings for the country’s suppliers and processors of soybeans and maize.

For the first five months of the current marketing year, US soybean sales to China reached 8.3 million metric tons, more than a third of total US soybean sales to all export destinations.

But the recent outbreak of bird flu in Asia – this week also discovered in Texas, US – has been overhanging figures for US soy processors such as Cargill or Bunge as soybean exports used for bird feed came under threat with increasing worldwide bans on poultry from Asia. Chinese approval this week looks set to brighten the bottom line.

According to Chinese press reports the ministry, out of seven applications, granted safety certificates to five of Monsanto strains: Roundup Ready soybeans, one version of Roundup Ready corn, YieldGard Corn Borer, Bollgard cotton and Roundup Ready cotton. The certificates are valid for three to five years.

The other two - NK603 maize and Mon863 maize - were denied certificates for the time being, due to lack of necessary information, ministry officials said.

Processing is under way for another 11 applications from DuPont, Dow AgroSciences in the US, Bayer of Germany and Syngenta in Switzerland for exporting genetically modified rapeseed crops and maize, according to the ministry, write the reports.

Seen by some as a strategy to control its import trade, China previously required traders to obtain temporary safety certificates, usually valid for only a few months, if they wished to import biotech grains.

In 2003, US agricultural exports to China reached a record of nearly $5 billion, mostly due to exports of soybeans that brushed the $2.9 billion mark.
***********************************

http://www.cropdecisions.com/show_story.php?id=23738

China Mulls GM Applications From Four Firms After Monsanto

- Yahoo News, Feb. 24, 2004

China is pondering applications to import genetically modified organisms
(GMO) from four other foreign companies after Monsanto won approval for five of its transgenic crops, the Agriculture Ministry said.

The four companies are Switzerland's Syngenta; the United States' DuPont Co.; Dow AgroSciences, a unit of U.S. firm Dow Chemical Co.; and Germany's Bayer AG, the ministry said.

So far, five of Monsanto's GMO crops, including soybeans, corn and cotton, have received final safety certificates from China, valid for three to five years, the ministry said.

"We have received applications for safety certificates for 18 types of products used in processing, including one for GMO soybeans, eight for GMO corn, seven for GMO rapeseed and two for GMO cotton," the ministry said.

The ministry has completed environmental and food safety testing on seven of Monsanto's products. But two did not receive approval due to a lack of necessary data, the ministry said.
***********************************

http://www.eupolitix.com/EN/News/200402/9c053aa7-151e-4c55-b7b2-578955ff0d45.htm


Brussels backs Berlin crop plan

- EUPolitix.com, 25 Feb 2004

The European Commission on Tuesday came out in favour of Germany’s plans
for the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops.

Farm commissioner Franz Fischler at a meeting of agriculture ministers on Tuesday said that he fully supported German proposals to protect conventional and organic farmland from contamination by biotech crops.

His comments came after a presentation by Berlin laying out the current state of play for German GM farmers, who are financially liable if they contaminate other non-GM crops.

“In the commission’s view the German initiative on co-existence is a good one.”

“We are currently checking whether the legal principles of community law have been taken into account.”

He said that other member states wanting to legislate on co-existence will have to first present their proposals to the commission, so that it can make sure they are compatible with community law.

Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark and Germany again said that they would prefer community level laws to this piecemeal approach.

But Italy said that the German law was “an important point of reference”.

Meanwhile Irish minister Joe Walsh said he had not yet decided when and if the council will have to discuss the approval of Syngenta-developed GM corn BT-11.

He said he would make a decision “before the council meeting” of agriculture ministers in March.

BT-11 was approved by a meeting of commissioners in January and now has to get past the scrutiny of national governments.

If a decision is not reached by the end of April it will return to the commission who, given that there is no legal basis for banning the product, will have to allow it.

If therefore Walsh decides not to schedule BT-11 for an Irish presidency agriculture council, it will be approved by default and without member state approval.
**************************************

Bio-pharm crops: Proceed with caution

- Patrick Byrne, BioScience News and Advocate (NZ), 17 February 2004

In my home state of Colorado, the ongoing battles over agricultural biotechnology seemed to be calming down about a year ago. Attempts to require labeling of genetically modified (GM) food had lost steam, and a policy adopted by Boulder County promoted the co-existence of GM and organic crops. One could begin to look forward to an era of continuing compromise and mutual respect between the opposing camps.

The relative peace was shattered in spring of 2003 by a request from Meristem Therapeutics, a French company, to grow a plot of corn that produces lipase, an enzyme used in the treatment of cystic fibrosis patients. This was the first field trial proposed for Colorado involving a "bio-pharm" or "plant-made pharmaceutical" (PMP) crop. Immediately after the Meristem application became public knowledge, the protests began: demonstrations at the state capitol, op-ed pieces in newspapers, and worried letters to state officials.

What was notable in this round of the biotech battles was that it was not just the usual suspects (Friends of the Earth, the organic foods lobby,
etc.) who were voicing concern. This time family farmers, nutritionists, the grocery industry, and the "person in the street" expressed apprehension, if not downright alarm, at the prospect of medicines in their cornflakes.

Meristem's application to grow the trial was tentatively approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was forwarded to the state Department of Agriculture for concurrence. The state had a mere 30 days to evaluate the application and respond to USDA.

To make a long story short, the state convened a technical advisory panel, which raised a series of concerns and questions of Meristem and the contracted farmers. After the concerns were deemed to be adequately addressed, the state issued its concurrence with USDA, and the company was issued its permit. However, by the time the permit was granted, optimal planting dates for corn had passed, and Meristem decided not to plant the crop.

The attention on bio-pharm crops, however, has not abated. State government, university think tanks, entrepreneurs, farmers' groups, and environmental organizations are all studying the issue and discussing their next moves. At the national level, USDA has announced its intentions to review the way it regulates field release of GM organisms. About the same time, the National Research Council released a report questioning the adequacy of any single gene containment strategy, instead calling for redundant levels of containment.

All this ferment adds up to a clear message, at least in the Colorado
context: Now is not the time to forge ahead with PMP field trials. There is too much public anxiety about producing pharmaceuticals in food crops, too many policy reviews underway, too many questions about gene containment. A misstep now (a la Starlink) could derail the infant industry for years.

In the interests of long-term benefit to medical patients and rural economies, it's time to slow down, carefully analyze risks and benefits, explain bio-pharming to the public, and consider alternative PMP strategies in non-food crops like algae or tobacco. Proceeding with caution now will pay ample dividends in the future.

--

Patrick Byrne, Associate Professor Department of Soil & Crop Sciences, Colorado State University
**********************************

EU presidency has yet to rule on GMO maize request

- Reuters, February 24, 2004, By Jeremy Smith (Via Agnet)

BRUSSELS - EU president Ireland has not yet, according to this story, decided whether to ask the bloc's farm ministers to consider authorising a genetically modified (GMO) type of canned maize, a move that might see the EU lift its five-year ban on new biotech products. Ireland's Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh was cited as saying at a news conference on Tuesday that the matter was still under consideration and a decision would be made over the next month, adding, "We're still reflecting on the issue and we'll be in a position before the March council meeting (of ministers) to make a decision on it. But I haven't made up my mind yet." The ministers are next due to meet in Brussels on March 22.

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