EU lifting biotech crop moratorium
(From: "Cindy Lynn Richard, CIH" )
Following is a bit more detail on EU's action last week to lift their
moratorium on biotech crops.
Controls on planned release into the environment of GMOs: David Robert
BOWE (PES, Yorkshire and the Humber). Report on the joint text approved by
the Conciliation Committee for a European Parliament and Council directive
on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified
organisms and repealing Directive 90/220/EEC Procedure : Codecision
procedure (3rd reading) Debate : 13.02.01 Vote: 14.02.01
The compromise reached at conciliation on genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) has been endorsed by 338 votes to 52 with 85 abstentions. Details
are as follows:
At its second reading Parliament had wanted to exclude GM pharmaceutical
products for human use from the scope of the new directive (which repeals
and replaces Directive 90/220). The compromise now agreed states that the
directive will not apply to GM medicinal substances and compounds,
provided that their voluntary release is not carried out for the purposes
of placing them on the market. However, if these GM products are released
for research purposes, the directive will apply and certain conditions
will be required, including a risk assessment, consent prior to release, a
surveillance plan and the provision of information.
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety has an important bearing on the new
directive. Thus, Parliament wanted not only to mention the protocol, but
to call on the Commission to bring forward a legislative proposal for
implementing it. Council did not want to concede any ground here at first
but under the compromise now reached the Commission is asked to bring
forward a legislative proposal by July 2001. The key issue is the export
of GMOs to third countries, as the protocol states that the importing
country should be notified of any imports and provided with accurate
information about them and that its consent should be obtained.
At second reading, the House had asked for public registers of GMOs
released for both research and commercial purposes. This point remained
difficult to resolve within both Parliament and Council. British
experience showed the potential for conflicts with such registers. It was
finally agreed that GMOs released in the trial period should be registered
and details made available to the public. As regards the release of GMOs
for commercial purposes, their locations will have to be notified to the
competent authorities and made known to the public in a manner deemed
appropriate by the authorities.
In GMO research, antibiotic resistance markers are used to make the
organisms easier to handle. When such GMOs are released, there is a risk
that the resistance gene will cross over into other species and that the
resistance will spread. The Parliament delegation successfully demanded
that antibiotic resistance markers should be phased out by 31 December
2004 for GMOs placed on the market as products; GMOs released
experimentally are now due to be phased out by 31 December 2008.
Labelling and traceability of GMOs
The Commission is expected to commit itself in a written declaration to
bring forward a proposal on labelling and traceability, which are
essential for consumers as they can only take decisions on what they know.
The Commission is likely to say that the proposal will be presented in the
course of 2001 and will provide appropriate traceability for products
derived from GMOs, as well as supplementing the labelling regime in
accordance with the White Paper on Food Safety.
EU 90/220 Deliberate release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
(Posted by: Shane Morris )
DECISIONS ADOPTED BY WRITTEN PROCEDURE ENVIRONMENT PRESS RELEASE Brussels,
15 February 2001 5931/01 (Presse 50) Subject: EU 90/220 repeal
Deliberate release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) Pursuant to
the agreement reached by the European Parliament and the Council in the
follow-up to the Conciliation Committee meeting on 8 November 2000, the
Council formally adopted today, with the French and the Italian
delegations abstaining, the Directive repealing Directive 90/220/EEC on
the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified
organisms. The European Parliament having voted in favour of the joint
text at its plenary session on 14 February 2001, the Directive is now
definitively adopted. The provisions of the Directive will have to have to
be implemented by Member States 18 months after its publication in the
The Directive deals with experimental releases of GMOs (for research and
development purposes) as well as with the placing on the market of GMOs.
In accordance with the precautionary principle, the new Directive requires
an environmental risk-assessment to be carried out before the
authorisation procedure is initiated. The Directive also provides for the
identification and phasing out of GMOs containing genes expressing
resistance to antibiotics used for medical or veterinary treatment.
Phasing out shall take place by the end of 2004 in the case of GMOs placed
on the market and by the end of 2008 in the case of GMOs released for
experimental purposes. GMOs may only be deliberately released or placed on
the market in conformity with the procedures laid down in Part B of the
Directive (release for purposes other than for placing on the market) or
Part C (placing on the market).
Each Part comprises a standard procedure at the end of which the "lead"
competent authority (i.e. the one in the Member State having received a
notification) gives its consent for the deliberate release or the placing
on the market. Whilst only one national competent authority is responsible
for granting a consent for the standard procedure under Part B, all the
competent authorities are involved for the differentiated (simplified)
procedure under Part B and the standard procedure under Part C. For the
placing on the market, which involves all the Member States, consent is
given only where possible objections have been answered or a decision has
been taken by committee procedure and if the lead competent authority is
not opposed to the proposed placing on the market. Consent is given
following extensive consultation (public, scientific committees) and for a
maximum period of 10 years for the initial consent. After 10 years a
renewed application has to be submitted, which, in principle, is subject
to the same time-limitation, i.e. 10 years. The consent specifies
mandatory monitoring and labelling requirements.
Labelling, at all stages of the placing on the market, is mandatory and it
must be stated clearly that "this product contains genetically modified
organisms". Thresholds may be established for each product below which
products containing adventitious or technically unavoidable traces of GMOs
are not to be labelled. Labelling requirements are complemented by
provisions on the traceability of GMOs whereby competent authorities are
to keep track of GMOs through the various stages of their market life.
The Directive provides for a mandatory consultation of the public under
Part B and Part C both for standard and differentiated procedures.
Information on all Part B releases, including their location, shall be
made available to the public through public registers. Registers shall
also be established to record the location of GMOs grown following Part C
authorisation. These shall be made known to the public in the manner
deemed appropriate by the competent authorities and in accordance with
national provisions. Under Part B, the standard procedure is complemented
by a differentiated one in terms e.g. of information requirements or
time-periods whereby, following mandatory consultation of scientific
committees and the public, a committee defines differentiated procedures
which could subsequently apply to releases meeting certain safety criteria
where sufficient experience exists. Whenever decisions by committee are
called for, they follow the Regulatory procedure.
Additional procedures are foreseen for the renewal of consents and the
handling of consents given under the existing Directive, and for
monitoring and handling of new information and objections to GMOs which
have already received consents.
Part C requirements do not apply to products authorised by other Community
legislation which is "equivalent" to this Directive as regards risk
assessment, risk management, monitoring as appropriate, labelling,
information to the public and safeguard clause. A similar derogation from
Part B requirements is applicable to medicinal substances. A certain
number of statements have been made by the Commission, individual and
groups of Member States which are available from the Press Office upon
FOLKE KARL SKOOG, 92, (of Murashige and Skoog fame) WHO HELPED TRANSFORM
UNDERSTANDING OF PLANTS, DIES
February 21, 2001 New York Times Wolfgang Saxon (Via Agnet
According to this story, Dr. Folke Karl Skoog, a biochemist who helped
identify the hormonal forces that prompt plants to sprout and flourish,
died on Thursday in Madison, Wis., where he was a professor emeritus at
the University of Wisconsin. He was 92.
The story says that Dr. Skoog was in the forefront of the research that
transformed the field of plant physiology over the past half century and
had profound implications for farming and horticulture. He established his
reputation early in his career with his investigations of an organic
substance called auxin that promotes and directs the growth of plant cells
in roots and buds. It had been isolated by a fellow physiologist, Dr.
Kenneth V. Thimann, and at the time was the only recognized plant growth
Dr. Skoog and Dr. Thimann then worked out the interaction between auxin
and another growth hormone, kinetin, which Dr. Skoog and other associates
found in 1954 to be a factor in cell division. Working further in that
direction, Dr. Skoog played a major role in discoveries about compounds
called cytokinins that are involved in cell division
(Dr. Skoog is the father of plant tissue culture and whose pioneering work
on this field helped spawn many plant biotechnology applications including
plant micropropagation, virus elimination, protoplast culture and
germplasm conservation. Development of GM plants relies on the in vitro
culture of plant cells, and thus Dr. Skoog's work help underpin the
development of this field. We shall miss him ----Prakash).
From: Tony Jackson
Subject: Re: gene patents
Dear All, You are no doubt familiar with the "open letter from world
scientists to all governments" posted at www.i-sis.org. The opening
paragraph contains the following clear statement:
"We, the undersigned scientists, call for ...... patents on living
processes, organisms, seeds, cell lines and genes to be revoked and
One of the signatures on this letter is from Dr Michael Antoniou of Guy's
Hospital London, who has been quite active in the broader campaign against
GMOs and gene patenting.
On searching the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) database
(http://ipdl.wipo.int), I discovered two very interesting patents: "a
polynucleotide comprising a ubiquitous chromatin opening element (UCOE)"
(PCT/GB99/02357). and: "self-replicating episomal expression vectors
conferring tissue-specific gene expression" (PCT/GB97/02213).
A co-applicant on both of these patents is er....Dr Michael Antoniou from
Guy's Hospital London.
From: Roger Morton
Subject: FAO - what they actually say
Thankyou to NLP Wessex for informing me that the
FAO has a new report out (FAO Report - feeding the world without GMOs)
Thanks for "filtering" the info too. For those who might like to read what
the FAO actually had to say about GM crops without the filter the
following is taken from
http://www.fao.org/es/ESD/at2015/chapter8.pdf (page 13) Seems a bit
different to the natural law party spin on the issue!
Genetically modified crops The use of genetically modified (GM) crops
(primarily maize, soybean, cotton and tomatoes) quadrupled in area between
1996 and 1997 from 2.8 to 12.8 million ha (James, 1997). The technology
involved can speed up plant breeding, increase crop yields by up to 20
percent or more, improve pest resistance or pest control methods, produce
cultivars that can tolerate saline soils and thereby help to reclaim
degraded land. However, there is also the risk that some of the new
attributes will eventually pass to closely related wild species, e.g. red
rice, and lead to the development of super weeds. It is clear from
experience to date that GM crops can have a number of environmental
benefits: reduced need for pesticides, particularly insecticides (e.g. Bt
maize and cotton) and herbicides (e.g. Roundup ready soybean), though
these gains are not necessarily permanent as pests can overcome the
resistance of GM crops; lower pressures for crop land development and
deforestation because of higher yields from the existing land; and
increased opportunities to take marginal land out of production for
set-aside or to cultivate some crops less intensively. On the other hand,
there are a number of environmental impacts and risks (Soil Association,
1999). These include: overuse of herbicides with herbicide tolerant
varieties killing plants, insects and birds in or dependent on field
margins; death of beneficial insects feeding on GM crops; crossing of GM
crops with wild relatives and particularly with related weed species;
reduction of biodiversity because of the proximity of crops to
semi-natural habitats or the use of multi-species intercropping or relay
As a consequence, there are widely differing views (particularly between
North America and Europe) about the net benefits of GM crops and the
seriousness of the environmental risks they pose. The future spread of GM
crops and their environmental impacts remain therefore very uncertain. If
one assumes that they will continue to be important in those countries
that already have large areas under GM crops (e.g. Canada, USA, Argentina
and China), and that public concerns or infrastructural weaknesses slow
down their adoption elsewhere for the next 10-15 years, then the main
impact will be post-2015, when some of the scientific uncertainties
regarding the environmental risks of GM crops probably will have been
resolved, and hopefully overcome in terms of technologies available to
farmers. One could therefore envisage a rapid uptake of GM crops in the
latter part of the projection period, with net environmental benefits in
terms of reduced pesticide use and lower pressures for cropland
From: Roger Morton Subject: FAO - more of what
they actually say
Further to may previous post re FAO:
More of what the FAO is actually saying in their reports: Chapter 5 -
Livestock production http://www.fao.org/es/ESD/at2015/chapter5.pdf page 14
5.6 Do we have the technology?
If the developing world is to meet its growing demand for animal products,
this has to be achieved in the first place through greater efficiency and
improved productivity. It has been argued that small scale animal
production and its associated industries could be an important driving
force for rural development. If this is to happen it must be accompanied
by the adoption of new and improved technologies. The technological
challenges for livestock development therefore are: (1) to develop, adapt
and disseminate appropriate existing and/or new technology and production
systems to the developing regions that eliminate the endemic causes of low
productivity, and (2) to extend the limits of technologies and production
systems to further increase efficiency while addressing emerging
environmental and public health issues.
The aim must to be improve the lifetime performance of animals and the
cornerstones of increasing animal productivity will remain: maintaining
animal health; improving nutrition and feed utilization; maintaining an
optimum ambient environment; improved reproductive performance and genetic
improvement. In addition, technologies will be required for the protection
of animal welfare, conservation of genetic resources, management of
livestock-environment interactions, efficient marketing and processing,
and to enhance the safety of animal foods for the consumer.
A broad range of biotechnologies are becoming available and are relevant
to all areas of animal production and processing. There are potentially
huge benefits but equally there are risks involved and care is needed in
moving forward. The issue of ethics, animal welfare and public
acceptability will increasingly have a bearing on which biotechnologies
can be adopted in practice. It is essential therefore that technological
development takes place within a policy environment that encourages
responsible development whilst safe-guarding the consumer and the welfare
of the animal
From: Julian Morris
Subject: gene patents
I am looking into the gene patenting issue at the moment and wondered if
anyone on this list could enlighten me as to what happened in the
Neem, Basmati rice, Turmeric
Also, any other examples of attempts to patent indigenous crops/plants (or
some part of the genome of such plants) would be of interest. references
to intelligent articles on the subject would also be most welcome. thanks
very much for your help!
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON GLOBALIZATION OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT:
Challenges and Opportunities for Developing Countries
Trieste, Italy 11-13 September 2001
(Forwarded by : firstname.lastname@example.org)
One of the key features influencing the use of new technologies in
developing countries is the changing character of research and development
(R&D), especially in the industrialized countries. To better understand
this process, the Science, Technology and Innovation Program, a joint
effort of Harvard University's Center for International Development and
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, is co-organizing with
the Third World Academy of Sciences a two-day conference on Globalization
of Research and Development: Challenges and Opportunities for Developing
Countries. The Conference is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.
The growing importance of private sector research, as well as the changing
role of universities, has led to new R&D priorities and patterns of
cooperation. Many of the policies being pursued by the developing
countries and promoted by international organizations are based on
outdated assumptions about the global patterns of R&D, neglecting the role
of local knowledge and the importance of information technology in
promoting research and knowledge networks even in marginal areas. A better
understanding of the current R&D patterns, especially those arising from
the impact of globalization, will assist developing countries and
international institutions to design and apply realistic policy approaches
towards technology development. This conference will begin by examining
the new global organization of R&D, as well as the continually changing
policies in the industrialized world and the political institutions that
support them. Case studies will be analyzed, documenting the
marginalization of developing countries with respect to R&D-inspired
innovation. Finally, attention will turn to the policy challenges and
opportunities for developing countries, presented by this globalization
process. The goal will be to understand how to harness these opportunities
and to outline some initial steps to realize them.
For further details, please send email to email@example.com.
FUTURE IS BLEAK WITHOUT GM FOOD
February 21, 2001 Canberra Times
Former National Party leader Tim Fischer is, according to this story,
right to draw the attention of government and the public to the
frightening problem of an ever-rising world population and the pressure
this places on land resources and food production. In his new role as
chairman of the Crawford Fund, a body concerned with international
agricultural research, Fischer has, the story says, made a plea for
increased spending on genetic and other biological research. The opponents
of genetically modified plants and food can talk all they like about
'Frankenstein' foods and scientists playing God, but it is likely that the
future will be very bleak for most of the world's population without GM
The story says that it is dangerous, over the longer term, to build more
dams and apply more chemicals to boost food production. You don't have to
look overseas to see the environmental damage being done by land clearance
and the intense pressure being put on waterways to provide irrigation.
Just look at the appalling state of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers and
the salt-encrusted land that is eroding productivity.
Australia has enormous environmental problems as more land is being
brought into production and clear-felled to make farming more profitable.
Also in Australia we have the spread of hobby farms that are taking good
land out of agriculture and concentrating the industry in drier, more
vulnerable, areas. As bad as things are in Australia, they are much worse
in many other countries.
If feeding people means we have to rip down more forests, silt up more
streams and apply increasing quantities of fertilisers and insecticides
the situation will worsen. It is possible that GM plants and livestock
will increase food production substantially using the same resources. Many
eminent scientists believe this to be true.
The story says it is not just a case of GM research boosting output but by
making plants resistant to major pests, viral and fungal diseases, we
ensure that harvest losses are kept to a minimum. When crops are bred to
resist disease and insect pests there is a lower use of chemicals, like
insecticides. This should please many wary of GM research because the less
chemicals used the safer the environment and the less risk to the health
of farmers and consumers.
The story goes on to say that organic foods are fine for those who can
afford them and for countries that have the space to grow them. However,
they are not a solution to world hunger aggravated by a rising population
and less arable land. Nothing is risk-free, but researchers must make GM
foods as risk-free as possible and consumers must know what they are
eating. Public confidence is vital if the GM revolution is to fulfil its
Vitamin rich Swiss rice to arrive in India soon
NEW DELHI: An agreement betweeen Indian and Swiss scientists is to be
signed soon for the transfer of technology for Vitamin A-rich Golden rice
to India, co-invetor of Golden rice Dr Ingo Potrykus has said.
The draft agreement was discussed at the Indo-Swiss International
Symposium in Biotechnology', Potrykus told PTI on Tuesday. During the
discussions, some changes were suggested which would be incorporated in
the agreement before it is signed by him reprsenting the Swiss side and Dr
Manju Sharma, secretary, department of biotechnology, from Indian side, he
According to sources in the department of biotechnology (DBT), the
agreement is likey to be signed in a couple of months. Technology transfer
for Golden rice is the part of Indo-Swiss collaboration in biotechnology.
Golden rice gets its name from its golden colour which is due to the
presence of beta carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A.
Potrykus said he had free licenses to transfer technology for rice rich in
Vitamin A for humanitarian purposes. However, he was not allowed to
transfer technology for other rice lines like those rich in iron and those
rich in both Vitamin A and iron. After the agreement is signed, seeds of
the rice lines rich in beta carotene would be imported by India from
Switzerland. Before that permission from Indian and Swiss authorities
would be needed, Potrykus said.
Once these seeds are imported, Indian scientists would modify them to suit
Indian conditions before these are introduced for general use. The
scientists would try to introduce gene for Vitamin A in the Indian
varieties of rice, he said. Potrykus said talks for transfer of technology
had begun in 1999. The rice rich in Vitamin A is important for India
considering the fact that 400 million children here suffer from Vitamin A
Genetic improvement of crop plants is an important way to fight
micronutrient deficiency in India, he said, adding it was "criminal" to
delay introduciton of nutrient-rich varieties for common use.
For the Golden rice, there are 70 patents which belong to 32 patent
holders including many multinational companies. Studies on the biosafety
and toxicity aspects are still taking place and they would take at least
three years to complete, Potrykus said. According to DBT sources, under
the proposed agreement about 50-60 grams of the seeds would be imported.
Swiss scientists would also give genetic constructs.
The sources said experiments would be conducted in Delhi University,
Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Central Rice Research Institute in
Cuttack, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, and Directorate of Rice
Research in Hyderabad. The experiments would be done so as to introduce
the gene for Vitamin A in Indian variety of rice, oryza indica, using
genetic engineering and cross breeding. Potrykus had introduced the gene
for Vitamin A in oryza japonica variety of rice.
India would have to bear the cost of only conducting these studies as the
material from Swiss side would be provided free of cost, they said. The
DBT sources said entire process would take at least four years. The
experimentation would take into account all the safety guidlines and once
the Indian rice lines rich in Vitamin A are produced, clearance would be
taken from environment ministry for conducting field trials.
After the field trials, the new variety would be registered as seed, they
said. A mechanism would be then needed to make available this rice to the
target population - poor people and those living in the rice belt in
south, north-east and West Bengal, they said. The new varieties are likely
to be in public domain and protected under the plant variety laws, they
added. They are likely to be provided only to poor farmers.
Golden rice was developed jointly by German and Swiss scientists. There
have been objections to genetically modified crops from environmentalists.
They say that there are alternatives to Golden rice which can be used to
fight Viatmin A deficiency. .......(gibberish here)......three last the
experiments would be done so as to introduce the gene for vitamin a in
indian variety of rice, oryza indica, using genetic engineering and cross
breeding. Potrykus had introduced the gene for vitamin a in oryza japonica
variety of rice.
More than Half of Americans Favor Biofood Labels - Industry survey
By Julie Vorman
(Forwarded by: Katie Thrasher )
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than half of American consumers surveyed said
genetically modified foods should be routinely labeled as such even though
the Food and Drug Administration believes special labels are not needed,
according to a food industry group.
The survey of 1,000 adults was prepared by the International Food
Information Council Foundation, a group funded by food and beverage
companies which generally oppose labels on gene-spliced foods as expensive
and raising unnecessary concerns in the minds of shoppers.
The FDA last month decided to maintain its long-standing policy of not
requiring special labels for biotech foods unless the nutritional content
is changed or an allergen is introduced.
The industry poll also showed many Americans were aware of last autumn's
recall of hundreds of foods containing the unapproved variety of biotech
corn known as StarLink. Vast amounts of the U.S. corn supply were
accidentally contaminated with StarLink, which can be used for animal feed
but not human food because of government concerns about possible allergic
58 PCT AGREE WITH BIOTECH CRITICS
The food foundation said the most surprising results in the survey came
from a question about whether consumers agree with the FDA's labeling
position or with critics who say all biotech foods should be clearly
identified as such. Some 58 percent of respondents said they agreed with
critics, up from 43 percent when a similar question was used in a poll
"This question represents the most significant shift in the survey,
perhaps the result of the StarLink episode," the food foundation said in a
statement. "However, when consumers were presented with information
resource alternatives to the food label in the next question, 75 percent
affirm that information should be provided through toll-free numbers,
brochures and Web sites 'instead of labeling'," the foundation added.
The food group said consumers had "mixed feelings" on the labeling issue.
Another question on the survey asked if consumers supported the FDA's
current food labeling policy. Some 70 percent of respondents said they
The labeling issue is a crucial one for American foodmakers, who already
face growing international pressure to identify biotech foods. Japan,
South Korea and and European Union members require gene-altered foods to
be clearly marked so consumers know what they are buying. U.S. foodmakers
have long maintained that bioengineered foods are safe and no different
from conventional foods.
Greenpeace, an environmental group opposed to biotech foods, said the
survey showed more Americans are growing wary of genetic tinkering with
their food. "Even industry can't hide the fact that Americans want labels
on genetically engineered food," said Charles Margulis, a spokesman for
Greenpeace. "Food companies that use genetically altered ingredients are
looking for trouble from consumers who want to eat safe, healthy food."
FDA FOCUS GROUPS FAVOR LABELS
The FDA spent much of last year studying how to change its nearly
decade-old biotech food approval process. As part of that process, the
agency held consumer focus groups in Seattle; Kansas City; Burlington,
Vermont; and Calverton, Maryland. In a report summarizing comments from
the focus groups, the FDA said most consumers told interviewers that
gene-spliced foods should be labeled.
"Virtually all participants saw value in having 'mere disclosure'
labeling. They thought it would allow them to make more informed decisions
about whether or not to buy a product," the FDA said in its report, which
was recently published on the agency's Internet home page.The FDA last
month said it would issue voluntary guidelines for any companies that wish
to use labels on biotech foods, but would not require them.
The agency said that to ease consumer concerns it would ask foodmakers to
notify FDA scientists at least 120 days before marketing new bio-foods, a
mandatory review that will replace what is now a voluntary consultation.
The FDA also plans to publish food companies' biotech safety test results
on its Internet site, but it remained unclear whether companies could
request that such data be kept secret for competitive reasons.
17:31 02-21-01 Copyright 2001 Reuters Limited.