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Date:

May 25, 2000

Subject:

Canola Seeds and Hysteria

 








Subject: Canola Seeds and Hysteria

 

Friends

 

As you probably read it or watch it at TV, we face actually in
France , UK, SWeden, Germany a surrealist situation, the word "hysteria" being
an understatement  to describe the situation.

The facts:

Rapes seeds GM are banned at present time in Europe since 2 to
3 years and until 2001 at the earliest for reason of fear of gens flow- gens
escape.

Rapes is a major crop with close to 2.5 millions hectares or
more in the mentionned countries.

GM rapes and GM canola is routinely approved in Canada, USA by
the concerned authorities. Canada grows several millions hectares of canola, 80%
is GM.

 

Advanta Seeds, affiliate of Zeneca, produces spring canola
seeds in Canada and sell it in various countries in Europe, along with other
competitors. Respectuous of the rules they reported in april a small
contamination with GM canola ( less than 1%) for some lot numbers produced in
Canada. The concerned acreage is 600 ha in France, 15000 ha in UK ,
a few thousands hectares in Germany and Sweden.

You must know that in seeds business, we have percentage of
tolerance higher than 2% ( by the way the OCDE certification scheme does not
mention any rate of purity, but "obligations of means" like repect of isolation
distances or elimination of fields that contain too many off-types
etc...

As GMO's ist a touchy subject and because they fear the
attitude of their own customers, some Advanta customers ( seed distributors
and oilseeds collectors ) made some PCR tests and identify traces of GM ,
Advanta had to make control and identify that for some reasons there was minor
percentage of off types , nearly immaterial from the classical variety purity
point of view well known by the european seedsmen, (less in the US where seeds
certification is not a mandatory prerequisite) and reported it to
governments.

The concerned variety, to my understanding is a spring
variety , seeds are produced with the scheme of male sterility, which means that
the seeds sown by the european growers will not generate any pollen , the
pollination ( necessary for the plants to developp grains) being made by an
added pollinator. Therefore, the so called gens flow risk is zero. Objectively A
"non Event".

 

The crisis came by the end of last week( around may 18), it
was reported in all national newspapers on the front page , like a worldwide
war, as well as  TV in France , as a top event , "comparable to Chernobyl
in terms of medias coverage", or as a major "health issue" mentionning that the
country was contaminated by uncontrolled GMO pollution, the ministry of
environment  Dominique Voynet ( who is one of the leader of the green
party), strongly requesting the eradication of the fields ( 600 hectares),
the Ministry of Agriculture, the socialist Jean Glavany trying to cool down the
situation: a "storm in a glass of water".Last News , Govenment orders ( may 25)
destruction of the 600 hectares.

Most popular journalists at TV news of TF1, at 1.00 P.M.and
20.00 PM; Jean Pierre Pernod  and Patrick Poivre d'Arvor , when the case
started made insidious additonnal comments ( in addition to the strict
description of the event ) like:

     ".... and this is the way to be
invaded by GMO's even when they are  prohibited and you do not want
it..." 

  or

" .....as another big health concern ( besides this GMO
scandal) of today we must now speak about prohibition of bovine intestine to
make sausage..."  

 implying that this rapes seeds issue is as serious
or comparable ( a health problem?? ) to the BSE or major health problems -
( mixing up health and environment issue ).These 2 journalists have a
reputation of great honnesty and professionalism. Therefore the situation is
really a matter of concern.

 

I mention in details that exemple because it is very
significant of the manipulation of the public opinion:

 germs of intoxication being thrown, then inflated, then
moving from the status of conjectures to revealed truth ), in order to increase
the fear and doubts that people have against transgenetically improved plants
and because the "market of the fear" is a real profitable business to capture
shares of the communication business market. In our affluent western countries
we do not spend anymore much less  for health and cares services -
roughly  12% or more nearly as a  percent of the national
consumption of households- than for food and beverage expenditures -less
than 18% .

 

I personnally have followed the situation nearly on a day to
day basis since mid 80ties and more especially since winter 94/95 when we in my
former company , Asgrow , independant at that time from Monsanto , but
closely associated with them in the soybean research program got approval
of  EPA for the first transformed soybeans , and therefore I can witness
how from a situation of "interested curiosity" and sympathy of the medias and
the public, the public opinion has been manipulated very cleverly by the
opponents to GMO's.

The opponents, Greenpeace and the other NGO at that time
were developping their image by focusing on the  anti nuclear ( civil
and military ) and lost in our country a lot of grasp when they opposed in 1995
to the nuclear submarine trials in the Pacific , well accepted by the public
opinion ). They are now surfing on GMO opposition. They inherit of the screaming
opposition to free  Entreprise which is severe and traditional here,they
have also inherited of a lot of people who believed to the sovietic
paradise on earth, and when that "Ideal" collapsed started to join those new
forms  of expression against the capitalist system ( that we have to become
familiar with).

On the other side, I am fascinated by the imprudent attitude
of our companies , I do not mention any name , because nearly all of the
companies in some way  are involved . Everyone wanted to demonstrate that
he is better than the next door competitor, not understanding that the
fight is not a fight against the business neighbour , not only a fight
"obscurantism against science", but a political fight "anti capitalism against
capitalism", so called "dirigism" again free trade ( I do not agree personnaly
100% with Adam Smith and still consider that  K Marx
has contributed to build the Economic Science )
size=2>;this is a fight to  dilute ties within the Atlantic Alliance as the
"common ennemy" collapsed.

We must not be candid enough by forgetting that it is also
an economic fight ( internal to our western system) using the weapon
of protectionnism inside our Alliance.Obviously european companies ( with one or
2 or 3 very well known exceptions) are laggards by far behind the US firms in
the plant biotechnology industry.In their intimacy why should they cry about a
ban of 3 or 4 years?

All these ingredients explain what is presently cooking,
including , since a few month ,on the american continent.

"Our companies" , the biotech developpers, engaged themselves
in individual fights, in adressing to the public, like middle age tournaments
warriors, uncovered, with unadapted discours,at high costs, in a situation where
you have to be specialist of the guerilla and the jungle fight ( does this
remember  something to you ?), more than specialist of a tanks battle, a
guerilla which has for name "conquest of the public opinion by
intoxication".

And the Advanta Canola episode is just a pure example ,of
public opinion intox until the next one......

 

In such a situation, the members of the independant scientific
community , have a big role to play, the duty to enwide their information and
Knowledge with high scientific expertise and strong sense of citizenship ,
realism, commitment; and sense of the common Good; the duty to react in any
country to any falsification of the Information. They may represent the
only third party with real jokers in hand.

 

Jean Bernard Bonastre, France, former manager Asgrow in
Europe, now retired , independant.