Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

8 February 2000

Table of Contents

Trouble In The Garden
"Prices rise, but the GM uncertainty won't go away"
In Japan, It's Back to Nature
Open discussion; is the raison d'etre of a university
Biosafety Talks End On Mixed Note
Greenpeace Claims 'Victory For Consumers' as British Chickens go GM Free!
Prince Charles wins Green award, Redwood panned
Book: Genetically Engineered Food: Changing The Nature Of Nature
Book: Beyond Evolution
Montreal agreement puts brakes on "frankenfoods"
Cartagena Protocol Adopted!
What consumers should know -- and can do -- about "Frankenfoods"
Frankenfoods Fight in North America: Consumers Organize & Industry Strikes Back
Blows Against the Empire: From Oakland to Montreal
Counterpunch: The Biotech Industry Strikes Back
What's Next on the FDA Frankenfoods Agenda?

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Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2000 15:11:11 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY #685
---February 3, 2000---
HEADLINES: TROUBLE IN THE GARDEN
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Trouble In The Garden

Wall Street investors lost confidence in agricultural biotechnology during 1999.[1,2,3] Agricultural biotechnology is by no means dead, but investors drove down stock prices of ag biotech companies during 1999 in a stunning reversal for the industry. The WALL STREET JOURNAL said Jan. 7, 2000, "With the controversy over genetically modified foods spreading across the globe and taking a toll on the stocks of companies with agricultural-biotechnology businesses, it's hard to see those companies as a good investment, even in the long term."[2]

Hardest hit was Monsanto, the St. Louis chemical giant that had spent 5 years and billions of dollars morphing itself into a "life sciences" company, betting its future on biotechnology in pharmaceutical drugs and agricultural crops. As the WALL STREET JOURNAL wrote December 21, 1999, "Billions of dollars later, that concept of a unified 'life sciences' company – using technology to improve both medicines and foods – has become an affliction itself for Monsanto. The crop-biotechnology half of the program has grown so controversial that Monsanto has agreed to a deal that is likely not only to push biotech to the back burner, but also to cost Monsanto its independence. And investors are reacting harshly."[3]

Monsanto agreed late in 1999 to merge with Pharmacia & Upjohn, Inc. and the combined company will be run not from St. Louis but from Pharmacia headquarters in Peapack, New Jersey. Monsanto's ag biotech business will be spun off into a separate company and as much as 19.9% of it will be sold.

Two other leaders in ag biotech, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG, and the Anglo-Swiss drug firm AstroZeneca PLC, announced during 1999 that they will combine their ag biotech divisions into one and sell it off, "effectively washing their hands of crop biotechnology," the WALL STREET JOURNAL said.[3]

Thus by the end of 1999, ag biotech companies found themselves in trouble, worldwide, for the first time. Here is a short list of reasons why:

This silly and disingenuous argument evaporated in 1999. As soon as biotech firms announced specialty foods created by genetic engineering, the labeling problem miraculously disappeared. Labeling is suddenly easy – indeed, required – because consumer's can't be expected to pay premium prices for specialty foods if those foods aren't clearly identifiable on the grocery shelf.

Polls have shown that more than 80% of American consumers want genetically modified foods labeled as such. Now that labeling is acknowledged as feasible, will the biotech industry, USDA, EPA, and FDA bend to the public will and start labeling ALL genetically modified foods? Not on your life. Government and industry argue with one voice that labeling is not necessary because genetically modified foods are "substantially equivalent" to the conventional foods they have replaced. They even say labeling would be "misleading" because it would imply that there are differences between biotech foods and conventional foods.

Federal regulations governing biotech foods are founded on the premise that there are no "material differences" between genetically modified crops and conventional crops. This argument, it turns out, was thoroughly discredited by FDA scientists before the regulations were issued.

The FDA spent 1989-1992 developing regulations governing genetically modified foods for humans and feed for animals. This was back when President Bush and Vice-President Quayle were advocating "regulatory relief" for industry.

FDA's rules – which were announced by Mr. Quayle in 1992 – allow a biotech company like Monsanto or DuPont to decide for itself whether its food products are "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS). If a company decides that its new genetically modified corn or soybean or potato or wheat is "generally recognized as safe" then no safety testing is required before the products are introduced into the food supply. FDA said these rules – like all their rules – are based on "sound science."

However, during 1999 a lawsuit filed by the Alliance for Bio-Integrity in Fairfield, Iowa, forced the FDA to release some 44,000 pages of internal documents for the first time.[4] Among them was a series of memos from FDA scientists commenting on the FDA's proposed "substantially equivalent" policy for biotech foods.

A key issue is whether "pleiotropic effects" will occur when new genes are inserted into plants to give the plants desirable new traits. Pleiotropy means that more than one change occurs in a plant as a result of the new gene. For example, a gene that allows a plant to grow better under drought conditions might also make the entire plant grow smaller. The smaller size would be an unexpected "pleiotropic" effect.

FDA regulations assume that pleiotropic effects will not occur when new genes are inserted into conventional foods such as corn or potatoes or wheat or soybeans. Therefore, FDA says, genetically modified crops are "substantially equivalent" to conventional crops.

Internal memos make it abundantly clear that FDA's scientific staff believes pleiotropic effects will occur when new genes are inserted into food crops. [In the following quotations, words inside square brackets have been added for clarity but words inside normal parentheses were in the original memos.--P.M.]

Commenting on the FDA's proposed biotech regulations in early 1992, Louis Pribyl, an FDA microbiologist, wrote March 6, 1992, "It reads very pro-industry, especially in the area of unintended effects.... This is industry's pet idea, namely that there are no unintended effects that will raise the FDA's level of concern. But time and time again, there is no data to backup their contention, while the scientific literature does contain many examples of naturally occurring pleiotropic effects.

When the introduction of genes into [a] plant's genome randomly occurs, as is the case with the current [genetic modification] technology (but not traditional breeding), it seems apparent that many pleiotropic effects will occur," Dr. Pribyl wrote. "Many of these effects might not be seen by the breeder [meaning Monsanto or DuPont or other biotech firm] because of the more or less similar growing conditions in the limited trials that are performed. Until more of these experimental plants have a wider environmental distribution, it would be premature for FDA to summarily dismiss pleiotropy as is done here," Dr. Pribyl wrote.

On the same subject, a memo from the Division of Contaminants Chemistry within FDA's Division of Food Chemistry and Technology said November 1, 1991, "Pleiotropic effects occur in genetically engineered plants... at frequencies up to 30%. Most of these effects can be managed by the subsequent breeding and selection procedures. Nevertheless, some undesirable effects such as increased levels of known naturally occurring toxicants, appearance of new, not previously identified toxicants, increased capability of concentrating toxic substances from the environment (e.g., pesticides or heavy metals), and undesirable alterations in the levels of nutrients may escape breeders' attention unless genetically engineered plants are evaluated specifically for these changes. Such evaluations should be performed on a case-by-case basis, i.e., every transformant should be evaluated before it enters the marketplace."

Instead of heeding the concerns of its scientific staff, FDA issued biotech food rules that assume no pleiotropic effects will occur, therefore no safety testing is required. All biotech foods are assumed to be safe. The stage was thus set for confidence in biotech foods to plummet as soon as word leaked out that the scientific underpinnings of the regulatory system had been compromised.

To be continued next week.

==============

[1] I am indebted to Steven Suppan, research director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) in Minneapolis, who provided me with several brief, thoughtful summaries of the state of agricultural biotechnology. Contact: ssuppan@iatp.org. Telephone (612) 870-3413.

[2] Christina Cheddar, "Tales of the Tape: Seed Co. May Yet Reap What They Sow," WALL STREET JOURNAL January 7, 2000, pg. unknown.

[3] Scott Kilman and Thomas M. Burton, "Biotech Backlash is Battering Plan Shapiro Thought Was Enlightened," WALL STREET JOURNAL December 21, 1999, pg.A1.

[4] The FDA documents are available at http://www.bio-integrity.org/list.html. And see Marian Burros, "Documents Show Officials Disagreed on Altered Foods," NEW YORK TIMES December 1, 1999, pg. A15.

[5] Steven Suppan, unpublished paper, "National Summit on the Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods, June 17, 1999, Capitol Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C. 2 pgs.

[6] Some of this literature is summarized in Charles M. Benbrook, "World Food System Challenges and Opportunities: GMOs, Biodiversity, and Lessons From America's Heartland," unpublished paper presented January 27, 1999, at University of Illinois. Available in PDF format at http://www.pmac.net/IWFS.pdf .

Descriptor terms: biotechnology; monsanto; dupont; novartis; pharmacia; astrozeneca; agriculture; hunger; fda; regulation; labeling; alliance for biointegrity; pleiotropy;

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Date: Sun, 6 Feb 2000 12:54:57 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

(Extract)

"Prices rise, but the GM uncertainty won't go away"

By Alan Guebert, Farmers Weekly, 4 February 2000

[Despite some improvements in agricultural commodity prices]

...................

US farmers are wondering if they should even bother to plant the genetically- enhanced maize and soyabean seed this spring because all last year's questions over the selling of GM crops still linger.

Will buyers test the maize for GMs? Will buyers pay less for GM maize next harvest? Can it be exported? Does it need to be segregated from non-GM maize?

Despite reassurances from most US farm groups, the majority of US grain growers have deep reservations about GM seeds this year.

A January poll conducted by Reuters at the annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation's largest farm group with more than 4m members, showed farmers retreating from GMs: farmers plan to cut GM maize plantings by 23%, GM soyabeans by 15% and GM cotton by 26%.

The reduced GM maize planting number is stunning, given the fact that the dry, mild winter is likely to encourage severe insect problems for the 2000 crop - - a perfect use for the magic seeds. Despite this likelihood, the worry about selling the GM crop later appears to overwhelm the agronomic advantage of using them now.

In fact, rumours are surfacing in key US maize-growing areas that seed companies are already severely discounting the price of GM maize seed to encourage farmers to buy it.

Most seed companies charge an average of $30 (19) a bag more for GM seed than conventional seed. Farmers report some of the companies are eliminating the extra charge entirely just to sell what now appears to be an oversupply of GM seed.

Some farmers will buy the bargain; most will balk and stay with plans to switch back to conventional seeds.


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Date: Sun, 6 Feb 2000 12:54:57 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

In Japan, It's Back to Nature

By Kathryn Tolbert, Washington Post Foreign Service, Monday, January 24, 2000; Page A08

Consumers Add Non-Modified Products to Shopping Carts

TOKYO-Japan, the world's largest food importer, is in the midst of a struggle over how to treat genetically modified foods. The government has gone along with consumer demands for labels on such products starting next year. This has prompted a rush toward non-genetically modified tofu, beer and soy sauce in local markets, and a jump in import orders for non-genetically modified soybeans and corn from the United States, the source of most of Japan's food. The action also has generated anger among U.S. business and trade officials.

"The Ministry of Agriculture is quite cynically using the GMO [genetically modified organism] issue for internal political reasons," said Dennis Kitch, Japan director of the U.S. Grains Council. In the five months since the labeling requirement was announced, a major supermarket chain has started identifying its genetically modified products. The Asahi and Kirin Beer companies said they will switch entirely to non-genetically modified ingredients. And Japanese soybean farmers, who do not use any genetically modified seeds, are enjoying a huge demand for their beans ...


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Date: Sun, 6 Feb 2000 12:54:57 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

Dick Beames, Professor Emeritus University of British Columbia Vancouver

Open discussion; is the raison d'etre of a university

By Prof. Dick Beames, The Toronto Star, 2000.02.04, SECTION: NEWS

I must commend the balanced reporting of Stuart Laidlaw (Your Business section, Jan. 19) on the response by Dean Rob McLaughlin and Douglas Powell (both of the Agriculture College, University of Guelph) to the report by Ann Clark (also a faculty member of the same college) on the safety of genetically modified foods.

The dean is reported to have said that Clark should not give opinions on subjects outside the area of expertise (pasture management) in which she is currently employed by the university.

If this is true, I would say (to put it mildly) that it was imprudent for him to have made this statement, particularly since he apparently did not bother to check his own records first.

Had he done so, he would have discovered that Clark gained an M.S. in agronomy at the University of California, Davis, in 1975 and a Ph.D. in crop production and physiology at Iowa State University in 1980. Even a person with absolutely no expertise in agrology would realize that such training would provide a solid basis for the preparation of a review of the various aspects of the safety of genetically modified foods. A basic policy of every university, as the dean should know, is to encourage open discussion, because that is the raison d'etre of a university. If he is not willing to accept this principle, he should, as the saying goes, step down.

Dick Beames, Professor Emeritus
University of British Columbia
Vancouver


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Date: Sun, 6 Feb 2000 21:34:12 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

SUNS (South-North Development Monitor) #4596
(publisher: third world network http://www.twnside.org.sg )

Tuesday 1 February 2000

Biosafety Talks End On Mixed Note

By Lim Lin, Montreal, SUNS at suns@igc.org

Montreal, 31 Jan (TWN/Lim Li Lin) – After almost five years of painstaking negotiations, Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) finally reached agreement in the early hours of Saturday morning on a Biosafety Protocol to the CBD.

The majority of countries had mixed feelings when the Chairman of the Biosafety Protocol negotiations, Juan Mayr Maldonado, Minister of Environment for Colombia, announced the conclusion of the week-long negotiations in Montreal.

The agreement will enable importing countries to limit import of genetically modified foods, and use the precautionary principle (of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit Declaration). While the agreement speaks of the biosafety protocol and the WTO agreements being mutually supportive, it does not override rights and obligations under the multilateral agreements of the World Trade Organization.

[While the protocol includes the 'precautionary principle' and some labelling requirements, and thus perhaps a plus for environmental groups, it may turn out to be much less than made out. For any 'trade restrictions' will be tested through the WTO dispute settlement process - in terms of the health exception of Art.XX of the GATT and the WTO Agreements on Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) measures and the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), with the obligations on importing countries interpreted cumulatively, by panels and the appellate body. Given the difficulties that developing countries will face in assembling and conducting scientific assessments of their own that would be tested in terms of Art.5.7 of the SPS agreement, they may find their particular individual measures easily declared illegal by the WTO panel system which is weighted against the developing world - SUNS]

The week spent in Montreal to conclude the negotiations had seen the deadlock over the core outstanding issues finally resolved at the end of the week, after many late night and early morning negotiating sessions, and under immense political and public pressure to reach agreement on the draft text.

Agreement to regulate the transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) - also referred to in some literature as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) - should have been reached in Cartagena, Colombia last February. However, the US-led Miami Group (comprising Canada, Australia, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay as well) scuttled agreement by refusing to allow any provision in the Protocol that would impede their free export of genetically modified (GM) commodities.

Three core outstanding issues had been identified by Juan Mayr and adopted by delegates at an informal consultation in Vienna last September. There were long-drawn discussions at Vienna to reach an understanding on concepts relating to the general scope of the Protocol, the relationship of the Protocol to other international agreements (particularly the WTO agreements), and the system for obtaining consent from importing countries to the entry of GM commodities destined for food, feed and processing.

As delegates arrived at the Montreal convention centre for the final plenary session at 9.00 p.m. on Friday, they were greeted by lively protesters, dancing and chanting, "Shame! Shame! Shame on the Miami Group!" The protesters had spent the night outside the convention centre in a tent, in temperatures below 20 degrees centigrade, keeping a candlelight vigil begun the night before. They had vowed to stay there until a strong Biosafety Protocol was concluded.

By 9 pm on Friday, the last day of the negotiations, it was common knowledge that the disagreement over the Precautionary Principle and the relationship clause, considered to be the most difficult hurdle, had been resolved. Delegates and observers were expecting the plenary session to be called at any time to adopt the Biosafety Protocol. As hour after hour dragged by with sporadic announcements from the Secretariat that the plenary session would yet again be postponed for a few more hours, word began to filter through that, in the closed door negotiations with the spokespersons of the negotiating groups, the issue of segregation and identification of GM commodities had become a major sticking point.

Finally, the chief spokesperson of the Like-Minded Group of Developing Countries (comprising almost all the G77 countries and China), Dr Tewolde Egziabher gathered the group at the front of the conference hall, and announced that the Miami Group did not want GM commodities to be identified as such in shipping documents.

The issue, he explained, was that the Miami Group only wanted shipments of commodities to be documented as "may contain" LMOs. As murmurs of dissatisfaction rippled through the hall, Dr Tewolde went on to explain that all the other negotiating groups, including the European Union, had accepted this clause, and that the Like-Minded Group was the last to agree to it. If the Like-Minded Group agreed to this clause, there would be a Protocol, but if they could not agree to it, there would be no Protocol, he explained.

The delegate of Antigua and Barbados stated that this clause was unacceptable, but indicated that he would not stand in the way of consensus. No other delegate registered their opposition to the clause, but there were many almost tearful faces among the dejected Group.

At the eleventh hour, the Miami Group had, yet again, held the world hostage to its demands, playing their cards so carefully that there was nothing else to be done but to agree to their rules. Minutes later, at 4.45 am, Juan Mayr announced to exhausted delegates that the Biosafety Protocol was now adopted. The euphoria among delegates and observers at the conclusion of almost five years of hard work was dampened by the final compromise that they had been forced into.

The issue of commodities had been the most important issue to the Miami Group, since these currently comprise the bulk of their exports of LMOs (soya, canola, maize). Pressure from the Like-Minded Group, with support from the EU and the Compromise Group (Norway, Switzerland, Japan, Mexico, South Korea) amidst public condemnation for the hardline position of the commodities exporters, forced the negotiations of a separate procedure for commodities.

With the procedure for the transboundary movement of GM commodities resolved, the one other issue that many delegates and observers had thought was also agreed upon was the segregation and identification of GM commodities. With the requirement to only document commodity shipments as "may contain" LMOs, the Miami Group was, in effect, declaring that they did not intend to segregate GM commodities from non-GM commodities, as that would obstruct the free movement of their export commodities. The Protocol now provides for rules to be established for such documentation, within 2 years from the entry into force of the Protocol.

But many non-governmental observers commented later that exporters of LMOs will eventually have to bow to public pressure, whatever the rules, to segregate and label LMOs as such. Public opposition to LMOs and their products has already forced many countries such as Japan and Australia to pass labelling laws. The European Union already has a law requiring segregation and labelling of LMOs and their products.

When talks resumed in Montreal, positions on the core outstanding issues had changed very little, and as the days stretched on with little agreement on any of the these issues, there were real fears among delegates and observers that there would be no Protocol yet again. By Wednesday, as the deadlock continued, hopes began to be pinned on the arrival of around 40 Ministers to pave the way for a political push towards securing agreement on the key issues.

The Canadian Minister of Environment, David Anderson, whose appearance had been much touted after he caved in to public pressure to attend the negotiations, was noticeably in hiding. The Minister of Environment for France was reported to have been stood up at a meeting scheduled between them.

On the general scope issue, the Like-Minded Group went against all odds to re-open discussion on pharmaceutical for human consumption which had been excluded completely in the Cartagena draft, as well as the contained use and transit of LMOs which had also been effectively left out. The LMG had argued, since the Vienna consultations, for a comprehensive scope, namely, that all LMOs should be covered by the Protocol.

Parties could then, at their discretion, waive the requirement of advance informed consent for pharmaceutical.

Persistence and finally support from the Compromise Group (with some reservation from Switzerland and Japan) swung the tide. The general scope of the Protocol now covers all LMOs, with exclusions, under certain conditions, in the subsequent articles on the three disputed areas. Though far from what the Like-Minded Group had wanted, the scope of the Protocol now does not explicitly exclude any category of LMOs, an achievement that many had privately felt was impossible to arrive at.

On commodities, a separate article deals specifically with the procedure for the export of GM commodities destined for food, feed and processing. Global public pressure and opposition to genetic engineering, amidst increasing scientific evidence of its risks and hazards, had forced the Miami Group to agree to some sort of procedure for regulating GM commodities, when they had resisted all such attempts at Cartagena to include commodities at all.

The provisions were hard fought, but still place the onus on importing countries to initiate procedures regulating the movement of GM commodities into their countries, and do not, as such, place an international obligation on exporters to first notify importers of specific shipments, followed by informed agreement.

This is in contrast to first shipments of LMOs for release into the environment (example, planting in the fields) which would be subject to the Advance Informed Agreement procedure. Under this, the responsibility lies with the exporter to first notify the importing country of an intent to export. Provision of full information (particularly risk assessment), followed by express consent must occur before any export can take place.

None the less, at the very least, information relating to domestic approvals of GM commodities can now be monitored through the Biosafety Clearing-House mechanism. It is then up to the other Parties to inform the potential exporter of their national requirements. However, express consent is still required from importing countries.

The one victory, if it can be called that, was the inclusion of the Precautionary Principle in the Protocol. This Principle, as included in the Protocol, states that, "Lack of scientific certainty due to insufficient relevant scientific information and knowledge regarding the extent of the potential adverse effects of a LMO on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in the Party of import, taking into account risks to human health, shall not prevent that Party from taking a decision, as appropriate, with regard to the import of that LMO...."

Though not as strongly worded as all the negotiating groups, with the exception of the Miami Group, would have liked, most delegates and observers were pleased with the fact of its inclusion.

The Precautionary Principle was negotiated in a cluster with the relationship clause as it became increasingly difficult to discuss one without the other. All but the Miami Group were advocating the position that any action to restrict or ban the import of a LMO in accordance with this Principle should not be regarded as a trade-restrictive measure.

The Like-Minded Group had consistently insisted on the precautionary principle as an operative provision for decision-making in the advance informed agreement procedure.

In Cartagena last February, observers were shocked when the European Union was prepared to concede to the Miami Group on this crucial point even though EU law is rooted in this principle. Since then, public rejection of GM foods and crops in Europe and increased evidence of environmental and health hazards have raised the demand for the precautionary principle to prevail.

Attempts by the USA, Canada and Japan to shift the biotechnology issue to the WTO last December at Seattle also saw vocal protests by developing countries and several European environment ministers. The same group of ministers, joined by others turned up in full force last week. At a meeting with NGOs, the message was clear: the precautionary principle is needed, and the biosafety protocol will not be subordinate to the WTO. Ministers included those from Denmark, France, Portugal, the UK and the Netherlands.

When the precautionary principle was discussed at plenary, the European Union made its clearest statement since the negotiations started almost 5 years ago. The spokesperson for the European Union, Christoph Bail, declared that in cases of scientific uncertainty "governments must be able to have the freedom and sovereign right to take precautionary action, as risks that may arise may be long term and irreversible."

Many had feared that, given the strong opposition of the Miami Group to the inclusion of the Principle and its insistence that the Biosafety Protocol should be subordinated to other international agreements, namely the WTO agreements, a trade-off on either of the provisions would have to be accepted.

But the provision on the relationship of the Protocol to other international agreements was finally deleted, and statements relating to such relationship were added into the preamble of the Protocol. Most contentious among the preambular language was, "Emphasising that this Protocol shall not be interpreted as implying a change in the rights and obligations of a Party under any existing international agreements".

However, this statement relegated to the preamble carries far less weight than if it were included as a substantive provision. A paragraph also follows that the previous recital does not imply a hierarchy amongst the agreements.

In the end, the conclusion of the biosafety negotiations turned on the issue of commodities. Once again international negotiations became a platform for the US and the European Union to play off their growing trade war on genetically modified organisms and their products.

Fortuitously for developing countries, public concern and opposition to genetic engineering in most of the European countries swung the political resolve of their governments to resist at all cost the free and unimpeded trade in LMOs.

In their statement at the closing plenary, France offered to host the preparatory meeting for the first meeting of the Parties before the end of this year. Many issues still have to be resolved, including those specifically provided for in the Protocol. In the end, in the urgent rush to conclude the Protocol by this session in Montreal, many issues left open since Cartagena were never addressed. Parties and negotiating groups were forced to allow these issues to remain as in the Cartagena text, in order to see a conclusion to the negotiations.

In the statement on behalf of civil society groups at the closing plenary, Chee Yoke Ling from the Third World Network said that it was a historical agreement, being the first time that international law recognised GMOs as distinct and inherently different, thereby requiring a separate regulatory framework. However, she said that the last change pressed upon the rest of the world by the Miami Group in the final hours, to avoid segregation and identification of commodities as GMOs was disappointing. "Nevertheless, civil society - consumers, farmers and scientists - will continue to be vigilant. The demand for segregation and labelling will not stop".

The statement also noted that the Protocol provided for an international liability regime to be negotiated, and that governments should work on that as soon as possible.

The Protocol will be opened for signature at the fifth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in May 2000 in Nairobi.

According to an UNEP press release, under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, governments will signal whether or not they are willing to accept imports of agricultural commodities that incorporate LMOs. This is to be done by communicating their decision to the world community via an Internet-based Biosafety Clearing House. In addition, shipments of these commodities that may contain LMOs are to be clearly labelled.

Stricter Advanced Informed Agreement procedures will apply to seeds, live fish, and other LMOs that are to be intentionally introduced into the environment.

In these cases, the exporter must provide detailed information to each importing country in advance of the first shipment, and the importer must then authorize the shipment. The aim is to ensure that recipient countries have both the opportunity and the capacity to assess risks involving the products of modern biotechnology.

"The Biosafety Protocol is the first new environmental treaty of the 21st century, a century that will be dramatically shaped by biotechnology," said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which administers the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. "Last Saturday's agreement in Montreal empowers the international community to build an effective regime for ensuring that the planet's biological diversity will be able to coexist with this powerful technology," he said.

One of the most contentious issues that negotiators had to resolve involved the relationship between the Protocol and other international agreements, notably those under the World Trade Organization. While environmental agreements are premised on the precautionary principle (which states that potentially dangerous activities can be restricted or prohibited even before they can be scientifically proven to cause serious damage), decisions under trade law require "sufficient scientific evidence". Under the agreement reached in Montreal, the Protocol and the WTO are to be mutually supportive; at the same time, the Protocol is not to affect the rights and obligations of governments under any existing international agreements.


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Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 14:42:58 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

Greenpeace Claims 'Victory For Consumers' as British Chickens go GM Free!

Monday 31st January 2000

The consumer revolt against genetically modified foods claimed another success today as Sun Valley, Britain's largest chicken producer, admitted that it has banned the use of GM Soya in its chickenfeed in response to public demand.

"This is a really significant victory for consumers, as up until now Sun Valley has been one of the main users of Monsanto's GM soya here in Europe" said Jim Thomas, Greenpeace Food Campaigner 1 "Sun Valley are a huge player in British livestock production, supplying chicken to such well known companies as McDonalds, Marks and Spencers, Sainsburys and Iceland. Their decision now opens the way for others to also remove GM crops from animal feed - particularly others in the poultry industry who gobble up much more GM soya than anyone else."

For more info, see http://www.greenpeace.org.uk or call the Greenpeace Press Office on 0171 865 8255/6/7.


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Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 14:42:58 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

Prince Charles wins Green award, Redwood panned

LONDON (Reuters) - Prince Charles was named on Tuesday "most inspirational figure worldwide" in an award by an environmental magazine panel. But John Redwood, environment spokesman for Britain's opposition Conservative Party, will be less delighted to win the booby prize for the politician who has done most damage to the green cause in the last year. Britain's heir to the throne was praised by Green Futures magazine for taking a stand against genetically modified food and backing organic farming, although the government is keen to remain at the forefront of cutting edge biotechnology. "It takes courage for someone in his position to keep breaking ranks," one judge said.


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Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 14:42:58 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

Here are two recent excellent books on genetic engineering

Book: Genetically Engineered Food: Changing The Nature Of Nature

by Martin Teitel, PhD., and Kimberlly Wilson.
Forward by Ralph Nader (Park Street Press, 1999 $12.95)

"This book is the best I have ever read on the complex subject of genetic engineering - the best because it makes the whole issue quite simple. It is very easy and interesting to read and geared to the general public. The history of the ge industry is discussed, as well as its evolution and present day status. One gets a very clear picture of the possibly catastrophic situation that is unfolding and yet the authors leave us with an optimistic outlook - with a concerted effort we really can save the food supply, the earth and ourselves. I would highly recommend this book to everyone - high school students doing a project, elected officials, retailers and to every single person who eats."

- D Hiscott, Consumer Right to Know Campaign, Canada


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Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 14:42:58 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

Book: Beyond Evolution

by Michael W. Fox, DSc, PhD, BVet Med, MRCVS. (Lyons Press, 1999, ISBN 1-55821-901-3)

This book presents the full picture of genetic engineering. Dr Fox has an incredible talent for synchronizing how this radical technology has the potential to effect the health and spirit of the ecology and her creatures. This book needs to be on the best seller list!!

Laurel Hopwood The Publishers Weekly wrote this starred review:

"From bioiethicist and animal-rights activist Dr. Michael W. Fox comes an eloquent and scathing indictment of the biotechnology industry that could trigger a national debate. Whereas biotech's supporters welcome pigs bioengineered to produce human hemoglobin, transgenic plants that secrete their own insecticides and 'supercrops' that presumably will feed the world's hungry, Fox views the creation of these transgenic animals and plants (made by inserting a gene from a dissimilar organism) as fundamentally unethical and unnecessary...Blasting the FDA for its failure to implement labeling requirements, Fox warns that 'genetic pollution' is inevitable as bioengineered crops, bacteria, fish, and other organisms spread their anomalous transgenes into the Earth's life-stream. Fox's succinct book is the most cogent and persuasive to date on a global issue that, if he is right, has already reached nightmarish proportions."

Dr. Michael W. Fox is a professor, bioethicist, veterinarian, and Senior Scholar (Bioethics) with the Humane Society of the United States. He has spearheaded the movement to foster the ethical treatment of animals since 1976. He has authored and published over 40 books. He lectures worldwide, has been extensively interviewed by the press, and had appeared on numerous television and radio shows.


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Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 14:42:58 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

Montreal agreement puts brakes on "frankenfoods"

The Straight Goods, Sunday, February 06, 2000
http://www.straightgoods.com/item27.asp

Canadian government lets down its own consumers but fails in attempt to derail treaty on GMOs By: Ish Theilheimer

A landmark treaty on international trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was finalized at 5:00 AM, Saturday January 29 after an all-night session in Montreal.

The treaty recognizes the right of a country to assess the risks posed by GMOs before they enter its territory. It is intended to reduce risks that GMOs or their constituent genes will disrupt ecosystems and biodiversity. This marks the first time that environmental concerns have been given equal status to free trade in an international agreement.

Canada, opposed by nearly all other countries, persisted until the last minute in its attempts to insert language in the agreement that would have recognized the supremacy of the World Trade Organization in these matters. Canadian agribusiness already produces large quantities of genetically modified corn, soybeans, canola, and other crops, despite concerns that there has been no assessment of health risks of consuming these crops. Canadian negotiators also failed in attempts to have these commodities excluded from the treaty. Their argument that genetically modified seeds intended for human consumption wouldn't end up in the environment was rejected by other nations, as it ignored the fact that up to 10% of seeds imported for food are planted by farmers.

Environmental groups rallied outside in bitterly cold weather throughout the week-long negotations. They were peaceful, well-organized, well-informed, and highly entertaining. They deserve much credit for presenting a clear and simple message to the media: don't let corporate interests block a strong agreement protecting the public from harmful effects of GMOs.

Get More/Do More For complete information on the GMO conference in Montreal, please see the remarkable website http://www.iisd.ca


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Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 14:42:58 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

Cartagena Protocol Adopted!

from www.iisd.ca website Mon Jan 29, 2000 http://www.iisd.ca/biodiv/excop

Plenary reconvened at 4:30 a.m. and at approximately 5:00 am on Saturday 29 January 2000, the Resumed Extraordinary Meeting of the Conference of the Parties for the Adoption of the Protocol on Biosafety to the CBD officially adopted the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Final debates centred around a provision stating that minimum documentation clearly state that LMOs for food, feed or processing "may contain" LMOs not intended for introduction into the environment. The provision further states that detailed requirements, including specification of their identity and any unique identification, be decided no later than two years after the Protocol's entry into force.


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Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 14:42:58 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

(Spanky Horowitz is Food Critic with the Montreal Mirror)

What consumers should know – and can do – about "Frankenfoods"

By Spanky Horowitz , Straight Goods, Sunday, February 06, 2000

Miracle or monster?

As you load your shopping-cart with the best-looking tomatoes, the freshest cuts of meat and your favourite canned goods, you don't worry about the quality or safety of your groceries. The food looks fresh, and if something were awry, you trust that the government would do something about it.

When they announced that hockey would be subsidized with your tax dollars, you spoke out and the deal was declared "dead" inside of a week. Now you must use that same voice to ask your government what is going on with the food you buy and eat every day.

The research is promising, but this research is no longer in the lab. You are now the guinea-pig

The eyes of the world are watching Montreal this week as delegates from over one hundred countries meet to decide the fate of our food supply. The debate is actually over international agreements concerning LMOs (living modified organisms), and how they should or should not be regulated –r even identified.

This means that some very big companies are "designing" seeds that can grow faster, bigger and attract less pests than traditional seeds. The research is promising, and some very interesting things are being discovered and developed, but this research is no longer in the lab.

You are now the guinea-pig that will eat their new seeds because there has been no long-term testing on most of these products.

Several countries, including Japan and parts of the European Union (EU), have stopped importing certain products (corn and soybeans) from the United States because there is no way to know what is or is not genetically modified. They are nervous because these products, which have not yet been properly-tested, could contaminate their environment should they turn out to be dangerous in the future.

What the experts are saying...

The industry people (Monsanto, Novartis, Global Industry Coalition) are saying that everything is OK, that there is absolutely nothing to worry about. They claim their products are government approved and thereby, safe. They do not tell you that several industry board-members are tied to government officials, including Mickey Kantor, Monsanto board-member AND personal attorney to US President Bill Clinton.

The farmers are split down the middle. Two separate press conferences were held yesterday to let the press know how the "average farmer" feels about the situation; one sponsored by Greenpeace and the other by the Global Industry Coalition. Well-coiffed "farmers" in business suits contradicted each other, leaving us with absolutely no confidence in either group.

The Canadian government has already approved Living Modified Organism varieties of canola, corn, soybeans and potatoes, with many other varieties on the way. The bulk handling and transportation systems in Canada do not easily allow for the segregation of LMO and non-LMO varieties, so crops are lumped together and sold without labels or identification. Canada (this means you and me) has considered it impractical to follow the proper export regulations set out in the UN protocol, stating that every country has the right to regulate imports. This leaves "other" countries with the problem of regulating imports that cannot be identified for regulation.

Are "Frankenfoods" evil? Several days of scouring websites and interviewing industry-reps, farmers and government officials from all over the world has led me to believe that the industry is not "evil", but way ahead of the general public. They need to slow down and tell us what is going on. We need to ask.

What can you do about it? There seem to be a few ways of going about this.

  1. Continue living our lives and hope for the best.

  2. Send the industry a message by not buying genetically-modified foods. This option is impossible, though, due to the lack of any mandatory labeling laws, prohibiting us from differentiating one product from another.

  3. Send a message to the government. If enough Canadians let the government (theoretically our employees) know that we are concerned, they will listen.

If enough people demonstrate their concern, someone will listen. Write today. If you believe Canada should impose a moratorium on the use of new genetically-modified foods and species, here are some places you can write to:


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Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 10:04:46 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson
From: BioDemocracy Campaign http://www.purefood.org

BioDemocracy News #24 February 2000 (formerly CFS News)
News and Analysis on Genetic Engineering, Factory Farming, & Organics
by: Ronnie Cummins
BioDemocracy Campaign From: BioDemocracy Campaign http://www.purefood.org

A Project of the Organic Consumers Association

Frankenfoods Fight in North America: Consumers Organize & Industry Strikes Back

Quotes of the Month:

"Gene Grabowski [US Grocery Manufacturers Association] described December [1999] as a month of conflict with genetic engineering's opponents. 'They hit us with everything they had, and they couldn't put us down,' said Grabowski... 'Now, we strike back.' "

Quoted by Bill Lambrecht
in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 9, 2000.

"With the controversy over genetically modified foods spreading across the globe and taking a toll on the stocks of companies with agricultural-biotechnology businesses, it's hard to see those companies as a good investment, even in the long term."

The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 7, 2000.

Corporate Target of the Month:

Frito-Lay (corn chips). In the US call their toll free line 1-800-352-4477. Tell them you'll boycott their products unless they can guarantee you in writing that their corn chips do not contain genetically engineered ingredients.


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Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 10:04:46 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson

Blows Against the Empire: From Oakland to Montreal

Less than two weeks after "The Battle of Seattle," on December 13, 1999 the Organic Consumers Association managed to organize, with the support of a new national coalition called GEAN (Genetic Engineering Action Network), a noon street protest of over a thousand people outside Food and Drug Administration hearings on genetically engineered foods in Oakland, California.

The New York Times (Dec. 14) correctly identified the protest as "the largest rally ever in the United States against the use of genetic engineering in food." In the week leading up to the protest the OCA telephone bank called 10,000 contacts in the San Francisco Bay area, while GEAN volunteers handed out 20,000 leaflets to consumers in front of supermarkets and natural food grocery stores. Both over the telephone and in the streets, the reaction of Californians to our "Say No to Frankenfoods" message was overwhelmingly positive. There is no longer any doubt that the global controversy over genetically engineered foods and crops has spread to the USA.

Five weeks later on Jan. 22 in sub-zero temperatures, a thousand spirited demonstrators marched through the streets of Montreal, denouncing the governments of the so-called "Miami Group" (the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay) for trying to subvert a Biosafety Treaty that would regulate the multi-billion dollar international trade in genetically engineered foods and organisms. Chanting "Life before profits!" and "We will not be guinea pigs," an internationalist contingent, mobilized by Greenpeace and the Council of Canadians, called for a global moratorium on gene-foods and crops. At a news conference the day before, a protester threw a pie in the face of Joyce Groote, the genetic engineering industry's top lobbyist in Canada.

But street protests in Oakland and Montreal are just the most visible signs of increasing resistance in North America. Since the last issue of BioDemocracy News, the Gene Giants and the Miami Group have suffered a number of setbacks, including the following:

  1. On Dec. 14 headline news stories reported that Jeremy Rifkin's Foundation on Economic Trends, joined by the National Family Farm Coalition, had filed a federal lawsuit against the Monsanto corporation, alleging that Monsanto had engaged in monopolistic business practices and had commercialized genetically altered crops without first ensuring they were safe for consumers and the environment.

  2. In late-December Credit Suisse First Boston, one of the world's largest and most influential financial advisors, categorized the agbiotech industry as suffering from "negative momentum," pointing out that major food corporations are running scared and that "if anyone is in control it appears to be environment and consumer groups."

  3. In a long-anticipated move, Monsanto's major stockholders forced the company in December into a planned merger with pharmaceutical giant Pharmacia & Upjohn and to spin off its controversial, debt-ridden agbiotech division into a separate company. As the Wall Street Journal stated Dec. 21 the planned merger "is likely not only to push biotech to the back burner, but also to cost Monsanto its independence..." The Monsanto-Pharmacia merger comes on the heels of a similar move by European life science giants Novartis and AstraZeneca last year, who combined their agbiotech divisions together in order to sell them off, "effectively washing their hands of crop biotechnology," according to the Journal. For more information see: http://www.purefood.org/Monsanto/pharmagedon.cfm

  4. Reuters news service reported on Jan. 13 in a straw poll that US farmers plan to "cut back sharply" on planting genetically engineered soybeans, corn, and cotton this year, in response to the growing global backlash against GE foods. Farmers told Reuters to expect reductions of 15% in RoundUp Ready soybeans, 22 % for RoundUp Ready corn, 24 % for Bt corn, and 26 % for Bt cotton.

  5. Media coverage of the gene-foods controversy continued to increase substantially in both the United States and Canada (as well as other nations) in the last quarter of 1999. Estimates last fall, based on computer-based searches of news articles, indicated up to a six-fold increase in news stories on genetically engineered foods in North America in 1999 as compared to 1998.

  6. On Dec. 30 Bloomberg News reported that Whole Foods and Wild Oats, the two largest natural food supermarket chains in the US, plan to ban genetically engineered ingredients from their hundreds of private-label products. The two companies have combined sales of almost two billion dollars annually. Whole Foods owns 103 stores in 22 states and Washington, D.C., and has more than 600 products carrying its own brand name.

    Wild Oats operates 110 stores in 22 states and British Columbia, with 700 products under its own brand. The move puts pressure on other major US food chains and manufacturers to offer GE-free or certified organic products. Organic food – the only US food currently guaranteed to be GE-free – is the fastest-growing and most profitable segment of American agriculture, with projected sales this year of $6.6 billion, representing 1.5% of all grocery retail sales in the US. In a 1997 poll by Novartis, 54% of American consumers said they would like to see organic become the predominant form of agricultural production in the US.

  7. In late-January leading US corn chip manufacturer Frito-Lay, a subsidiary of PepsiCo Inc., announced that they were sending out new contracts to their corn suppliers, asking them not to use genetically engineered corn. The news unnerved the pro-biotech Farm Bureau, who accused Frito-Lay – like Gerber and Heinz baby foods last July – of "caving in" to US anti-biotech activists.

    Frito-Lay's move also disturbed their competitors, one of whom was quoted in the Washington Post on February 6: "If you're one of Frito's competitors you're saying, 'what are they up to?... Are they getting ready to jump out from behind a bush and bash us with a label,' boasting that they are free of genetically engineered ingredients?" Frito-Lay is one of the primary targets of a new "Frankenfoods 15" boycott campaign being organized by the Organic Consumers Association and Friends of the Earth. For a copy of our Frankenfoods 15 leaflet in printable format see: http://www.purefood.org/ge/supermktleaf.pdf

    According to Simon Harris, California field organizer for the OCA, Frito-Lay's recent moves are "a sign that they're getting nervous." But Harris also warns that "Frito-Lay has gone only half way. They've admitted that their corn contracts are only applicable to 95% of their suppliers, that they can't guarantee that their cooking oils are GE-free, and have stated that they have no plans for labeling their products. Until Frito-Lay goes all the way and announces that they will start enforcing 'no-GE contracts' with all their suppliers and labeling their products as free of genetically engineered ingredients, they will remain at the top of our Frankenfoods 15 boycott list."

  8. Farmers Weekly (a UK newspaper) reported on Feb. 4 that a US expert on potatoes, Oscar Gutbrod from Oregon State University, speaking at the Agra Europe Potato 2000 conference in Rome, stated that USA fast-food giants McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's were refusing to accept genetically engineered potatoes for their french fries.

    Informed sources have told BioDemocracy News that McDonald's has binding contracts with at least some, and perhaps all, of their US potato suppliers prohibiting the use of Monsanto's Bt-spliced potatoes. However, McDonald's, another of our Frankenfoods 15 boycott targets, has refused to send the OCA their policy on GE potatoes in writing. And as Gutbrod noted in his speech in Rome, even if America's fast-food giants have quietly banned Frankenfries from their kitchens, the grease that they're fried in is routinely derived from GE corn, cottonseed, and soya.

  9. A federal judge ruled on January 19 that the US Environmental Protection Agency must "respond" within 60 days to the charges in a lawsuit on Bt-spliced crops filed by attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS). In February 1999, CFS, Greenpeace, and a coalition of over 70 plaintiffs, including the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements, sued the EPA, charging the agency with the wanton destruction of the world's most important biological pesticide – Bt.

    Non-GE Bt sprays have been used sparingly by organic farmers for years, but are now under threat from "superpests" engendered by genetically engineered crops. The lawsuit calls for all Bt crops to be pulled off the market. Bt corn, cotton, and potatoes make up approximately 25% of the global acreage of GE crops. See: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org

  10. The US, Canada, and Argentina – who produce almost 99% of the world's GE crops – failed in their efforts to prevent any regulation whatsoever of international trade in genetically engineered foods, crops, medicines, and organisms at the Biosafety Treaty meeting in Montreal in January. However the Biosafety Protocol that emerged from Montreal is at best a partial victory.

    Bulk commodities shipments, seeds, and animal feeds will have to be labeled as containing GMOs (genetically modified organisms), but not for at least two years, and even then vague labels will say "this product may contain" rather than giving specific information. GE and non-GE crops will not be required to be segregated in growing areas and in shipping and packaging, and individual food products (cooking oils, meat) – as opposed to bulk grain or seed shipments – will not have to be labeled at all. In addition the Protocol will have to be balanced and made congruent – in legal terms – with WTO trade regulations. Countries will be allowed to impose import restrictions on GMOs, but only on the basis of so-called "sound science."

  11. North American liquor giant Seagram announced on January 21 that they will not be accepting any genetically engineered corn or other grains next year.

  12. US Under Secretary of Commerce David Aron stated at an international trade conference in the Netherlands on Jan. 21 that US exporters are willing to meet the EU's one percent threshold on labeling food products containing genetically engineered ingredients, although he told Reuters "labeling will actually undermine confidence in products, in government, and in the regulatory process."

  13. Direct action. The clandestine Earth Liberation Front sabotaged an agbiotech lab at Michigan State University on Dec. 31, causing $400,000 in damages. On Jan. 21 "Anti Genetix" activists uprooted genetically engineered strawberries in a test plot near Watsonville, California. The Watsonville "decontamination" incident is the 21st known action taken against genetically engineered crops and multinational biotechnology corporations in the last year in North America. It occurred just a week after a raid on a Federal Biotech facility in Albany, California in which transgenic wheat was destroyed.

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Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 10:04:46 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson
From: BioDemocracy Campaign http://www.purefood.org

Counterpunch: The Biotech Industry Strikes Back

As we mentioned in the last issue of BioDemocracy News, the agbiotech industry has launched an unprecedented multi-million dollar PR campaign to counteract the growing power of the anti-GE movement across the globe. As Edward Shonsey, CEO of Novartis told the New York Times last year, anti-genetic engineering campaigners have "crossed the boundaries of reasonableness, and now it's up to us to protect and defend biotechnology." To protect and defend Frankenfoods, Novartis has launched a new website http://www.webackbiotech.com where, among other things, you can send off for a bumper sticker and auto license plate holder inscribed with the slogan "We Back Biotech."

As Canadian activist Brewster Kneen points out in his excellent newsletter, The Ram's Horn http://www.ramshorn.bc.ca the biotech industry has "turned hysterical over the loss of control over the media" and has launched an all-out effort to discredit its critics and brainwash the public. As the Ram's Horn (Jan. 2000) puts it: "The flood of well-programmed letters-to-the-editor, op-ed pieces, and planted articles spewing the party line on the wonders of biotech and decrying what they describe as the malicious intentions of those who resist it, is obviously not spontaneous."

In addition to its PR and media campaign, the agbiotech lobby has recently gone on the offensive:

  1. Reuters reported Jan. 28 that agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. had reversed its four-month-old company position on requiring farmers to segregate genetically engineered corn and soybeans. ADM Chairman G. Allen Andreas told the Chicago Tribune that "the pendulum is beginning to turn back" on the controversy surrounding GE crops.

  2. The US Chamber of Commerce, which represents 3 million businesses, announced in early January that they were becoming a member of the pro-biotech trade association, the Alliance for Better Foods. Bill Kovacs, the Chamber's vice-president for environmental and regulatory affairs, told the Omaha [Nebraska] World-Herald Jan. 5 "We are trying to raise the awareness of the business community that if you permit an assault on this technology, you are really opening the door for an assault on all technology."

  3. Thirty-five powerful industry groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the Farm Bureau, the National Food Processors Association, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, told a US Congressional subcommittee Jan. 28 not to require labeling or safety-testing of genetically engineered foods. Mandatory labels would "send the misleading message that the government is not confident of the safety of the U.S. food supply," the groups stated. Specifically the 35 groups told Congress not to support a mandatory labeling bill introduced last year by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat. Kucinich's bill currently has several dozen Congressional co-sponsors.

  4. Cargill, the nation's largest grain buyer, reaffirmed in December that it would accept genetically engineered crops at all of it grain elevators across North America. Cargill's announcement "settled down the market," according to Sano Shimoda of BioScience Securities, a brokerage and investment banking firm in the San Francisco Bay area. "Farmers are [now] feeling a lot more comfortable planting genetically enhanced seed varieties," Shimodo told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Jan.17. According to the Tribune "some analysts who advise farm-commodity traders in Chicago are softening predictions they made last fall that farmers would back away from the new varieties. This GMO acreage may not be down as much as we had thought when the hype and concern was intensifying last fall," said Rich Feltes, an analyst for Refco Inc. of Chicago.

  5. Monsanto announced Jan. 17 major plans for expanding GE cotton cultivation in China. According to a Monsanto press release there are already two million farmers in China growing Bt cotton, while 2000 scientists in 137 labs across the country are working on new biotech crops.

  6. The Farm Bureau published poll results on Jan. 11 – reprinted in newspapers all across the United States – which supposedly found that "Nearly three-fourths of American consumers would support genetically modified crops if the technology means farmers can reduce pesticide use." Of course as BioDemocracy News has previously pointed out, even official USDA statistics for 1997-98 show that farmers planting GE crops have not reduced their use of pesticides, and in fact in many cases are using more.

    See http://www.biotech-info.net The Farm Bureau poll follows in the wake of a number of other rather dubious polls purporting to prove that American consumers support agbiotech. For an expose of the American biotech industry's favorite pollster Thomas Hoban, see http://www.purefood.org/ge/hoban.cfm

  7. On Jan. 12, at a public meeting in Spokane, Washington, Dr. Michael Phillips, a spokesperson for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, announced that legislation will be introduced in Congress to make it a federal crime to trespass on or damage experimental agricultural test plots of genetically engineered crops.

  8. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman reaffirmed on Jan. 10 that the federal government is not likely to require U.S. food companies and grocery stores to put labels on genetically engineered foods. At a press conference in Washington, Glickman stated "I, at this stage, do not see any of what I call mandatory or regulatory activities taking place from the government which will order anybody to do anything with respect to these issues, whether it's labeling or anything else."

  9. On Feb. 4, ABC national TV aired a program attacking the safety of organic food, alleging that animal manure-based compost fertilizers used on organic farms are contributing factors to America's ongoing E-coli food poisoning epidemic, and that claims that organic foods are safer and more nutritious than conventional foods are fraudulent. The "20-20" news program was directed by the infamous anti-environmental TV journalist, John Stossel, aided and abetted by agbiotech's favorite "scientific expert," Dennis Avery. For an expose of Dennis Avery see the back issue of this newsletter on our website (CFS News #16) or else the current issue of PR Watch http://www.prwatch.org/99Q4/avery.html

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Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 10:04:46 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson
From: BioDemocracy Campaign http://www.purefood.org

What's Next on the FDA Frankenfoods Agenda?

After reviewing recent industry documents as well as talking with our sources in Washington, BioDemocracy News expects the Clinton Administration – possibly within the next 60 days – to unveil a new three-pronged program of proposed federal regulations on gene-foods. These regulations will be carefully packaged so as to confuse the public, blunt growing anti-biotech activism, and create the false impression that Washington and the biotech industry are willing to respect consumer choice and safety concerns over genetically engineered foods. Our predictions are that Clinton and Gore, backed by the giants of the food industry, will soon:

  1. Call for "voluntary" industry labeling of genetically engineered foods. In other words food manufacturers and supermarkets will be allowed to tell you – if they want to – that "this product may have been improved through modern biotechnology" or something like that. In addition some companies, following the pattern of Frito-Lay, will issue vague statements that their products, or most of their products, are GE-free, even if they aren't.

  2. Current voluntary "consultations" between US regulatory agencies and genetic engineering companies preparing to commercialize GE foods and crops will be made "mandatory." Of course mandatory consultations are no better than voluntary consultations unless they require strict, precautionary safety-testing, including stringent compositional analysis, toxicological testing, and environmental impact analyses.

  3. Some or all of the company data in these soon-to-be-mandatory consultations will be placed into the "public domain" for public scrutiny. Again unless strict pre-market safety-testing is required, including long-term feeding studies for animals and humans, public disclosure of company data will be meaningless.

In any case, the Frankenfoods controversy will continue, both in North America and across the world. Stay tuned to our website and BioDemocracy News for the latest developments.

###

Ronnie Cummins
BioDemocracy Campaign/Organic Consumers Association 6114 Hwy 61
Little Marais, Mn. 55614
Tel. 218-226-4164    Fax 218-226-4157
email: alliance@mr.net     http://www.purefood.org


Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596 email: rwolfson@concentric.net

Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering as well as previous genetic engineering news items. Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 (USD for those outside Canada) for 12 months, payable to "BanGEF" and mailed to the above address. Or see website for details.