Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

18 May 2000

Table of Contents

PANUPS: Action Alert: USDA Seeks Comment on GE Policies
People who Lived in the Area did NOT KNOW
Important GE food safety documents
Aventis - "corporate criminals" - resources
Evolution of a Revolution
Biopiracy: the slavery of the new millennium? surely not
GM Trials Threaten UK Honey.
Biotech Is Still Where It's At
(US) 'Golden Rice' To Be Donated to Poor
Anti-greenie on our Side: Risk of escaped GM food genes
Protesters cleared over crop damage
How the Neem patent fight was won
Lateral Gene Transfer in Bacteria (genes like antibiotic resistance)
EU accused of lax approach to GM foods
Misuse of Pioneer Seed Material Costs Cargill Corp. $100 million

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Date: Sun, 14 May 2000 00:50:36 +0100
From: "Ban-GEF" Ban-GEF@lists.txinfinet.com Digest for 5/14/00
From: "Ericka " doodles@netins.net
From: PANUPS panupdates@panna.org

===========================================
P A N U P S
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA
Phone: (415) 981-1771    Fax: (415) 981-1991
Email: panna@panna.org    Web: http://www.panna.org
===========================================

PANUPS: Action Alert: USDA Seeks Comment on GE Policies

May 12, 2000

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) recently established Advisory Committee for Agricultural Biotechnology has been given a far-reaching mission by USDA Secretary Dan Glickman. Glickman has asked the Committee to address societal and ecological implications of agricultural biotechnology, as well as the performance of USDA's various policies and programs related to genetic engineering (GE).

The Committee is currently the only high-level U.S. government committee with both a broad mandate on biotechnology and diverse representation. Its 38 members include scientists, seed company executives and farmers, as well as representatives of groups such as the Organic Farming Research Foundation, Rural Advancement Foundation International and Union of Concerned Scientists. Its work constitutes an important opportunity to raise the social, economic and environmental dimensions of the biotechnology debate and to influence USDA's future course on this and related issues.

The Committee, authorized for two years, held its first meeting in March in Washington DC. Written comments, which may be submitted at any time, can provide much needed input to help the Advisory Committee for Agricultural Biotechnology prioritize issues. Write to the Committee and tell them to take up the following items:

  1. "Terminator" technology and the role of publicly funded agricultural research.

    USDA is co-holder of "Terminator" patents covering seed sterilization technologies. This application of genetic engineering is a highly inappropriate expenditure of public research dollars. USDA should develop a policy prohibiting the expenditure of any further public funds on testing and developing this technology. Urge the Committee to investigate how the USDA can withdraw from the three Terminator patents it now holds and from all genetic seed sterilization research.

  2. Re-allocation of USDA funding among agricultural technologies.

    Secretary Glickman has asked the Committee to make suggestions about USDA budget priorities. Urge the Committee to look for ways to give a fair share of the budget to alternatives such as organic production, whole farm management, biointensive integrated pest management, and non-GE seed breeding.

  3. Accountability for gene pollution.

    One the major issues posed by the transgenic crop technologies is "genetic pollution," the inadvertent cross-pollination of neighboring non-GE crops due to pollen drift. A related problem is contamination of seed stocks when transgenic seeds are mingled with non-GE supplies. This is an emerging problem for both organic and those conventional farmers who want to capture non-GE markets in Japan and the European Union. Urge the Committee to investigate ways to place responsibility for genetic pollution on the companies who sell and retain intellectual property interests in GE crops.

  4. The Family Farmer –n Endangered Species.

    In a food system dominated by transnational conglomerates, family farmers in the U.S. are an endangered species. Urge the Committee to examine USDA biotechnology policy in the context of the industrialization of U.S. agriculture and to examine the relationship between GE technology and corporate consolidation.

  5. Rigorous Evaluation of Environmental Risks.

    USDA is one of three federal departments responsible for regulating GE crops. USDA's role is to determine if transgenic crops pose a hazard to the agricultural environment. This review has been notoriously lax, and USDA has rubber-stamped thousands of releases of genetically modified organisms into the environment. Ask the Committee to examine USDA's regulatory program in detail and recommend ways to strengthen it.

Written comments should be submitted to:

USDA/ACAB
Dr. Schechtman, DFO
Office of the Deputy Sec,
202A Jamie Whitten Federal Building, 12th and Independence Ave, SW, Washington, DC 20250
Email michael.g.schechtman@usda.gov

USDA's press release announcing the Committee and listing members can be viewed at http://www.usda.gov/news/releases/2000/01/0023

Source/contact: National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, P.O. Box 396, Pine Bush, NY 12566; phone (914) 744-8448; fax (914) 744-8477; email Campaign@magiccarpet.com; http://www.SustainableAgriculture.net

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

You can join our efforts! We gladly accept donations for our work and all contributions are tax deductible in the United States. Visit our extensive web site at http://www.panna.org to learn more about getting involved.


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Date: 14 May 2000 16:36:44 +0100
From: wytze geno@zap.a2000.nl

People who Lived in the Area did NOT KNOW

The Netherlands

The disastrous explosion in an artificial firework company that took place in Enschede yesterday actually could not have happened, according to specialists. The company was known as a good and reliable one, all safetymeasures were met, a safetycontrol had happened as recent as 4 days ago and anyway, under no circumstances could it happen that all storagebunkers could catch fire. According to rules and regulations, this factory was SAFE! Well at this moment, 200 people are missing, 15 people have been found dead and more than 500 injured, of whom 10 really serious. 400 houses are completely blown away and a 1000 more are damaged. The area looks like an aftermath of a bombardment.

Another similarity with our subject. The people who lived in the area did NOT KNOW that this factory was next to their houses! From the outside it seemed a paper-recycling company.


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Date: 15 May 2000 01:55:01 +0100
From: Jaan Suurkula m-25430@mailbox.swipnet.se

Important documents on the safety of Genetically Engineered Foods

(GE= genetically engineereed which is the same as GMO= genetically modified)

Important GE food safety documents

Sections:
1. Important Scientific Article On Food Safety
2. Open Letter To Governments
3. Sponsorship Needed

1. Important Scientific Article On Food Safety

An important document on the safety of GE foods has now been prepared by us in cooperation with a team of 10 scientists. Its title is "The safety of GE foods – Reasons to expect hazards and the risk for their appearance". This is the first document in the world by a highly competent interdisciplinary team of independent scientists, that thoroughly discusses the safety problems with GE foods. Its conclusion is that "GE foods are inherently unsafe and we neither have enough knowledge to estimate the risk for harmful effects nor fully reliable testing methods."

This document is a key reference in our Open letter to governments demanding withdrawal of GE foods (see below).

The document has on purpose been written in a non-academic style as we find it most important that governmental and media people as well as the general public understands the issue. It is found at: http://www.psrast.org/defknfood.htm

We hope now to find time and resources (sponsorship needed) to edit an academic version.

2. Open Letter To Governments

An open letter demanding withdrawal of improperly tested GE foods will soon be sent to governments all over the world. Over 170 physicians and scientist from all over the world have signed it. It is found at http://www.psrast.org/psrlet.htm

3. Sponsorship Needed

We want to make the food safety article and the open letter known all over the world (world-wide press release and Press conferences). To manage this we are in a great need for sponsorship as our funds are empty presently. For a full scale campaign we need minimum 10.000 USD including mailing governments + follow up, world wide press release, press conference costs, salaries and travelling expenses.

If you have contacts who might want to support this project, please contact me. If you can sponsor by yourself please read the instructions at sponsor http://www.psrast.org/sponsor.htm .

Sincerely,


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Date: 15 May 2000 05:54:10 +0100
From: RBBAX@aol.com
from: mail@icsenglish.com (Jonathan)

Aventis - "corporate criminals" - resources

Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin): http://members.tripod.com/~ngin

Sections:
Corporate Watch report on Aventis
AgrEvo – Aventis
Other eco-crimes (AgrEvo, Hoechst, Rhone-Poulenc)
Bribing Doctors

Corporate Watch report on Aventis

Below please find an excerpt, 'Corporate criminals: GMO crimes', from the comprehensive Corporate Watch report on Aventis (April 2000) . (This report, incidentally, is a significant update on the previous Corporate Watch report on AgrEvo so it's worth checking out even if you read the earlier report.)

Like all Corporate Watch reports everything is carefully researched and referenced and so it provides an excellent resource for those seeking specific information about what is now the world's largest Life Science company, and also campaigning information to provide to local communities, and others, as to the character of the corporation behind the majority of the GM crop trials in the UK

The Aventis strategy has been to keep a very low profile and let others take the flack and so it is particularly important to make the evidence as to how Aventis is trying to achievee the rapid introduction of GM crops by highly questionable means as widely available as possible, as also the fact that: "The constituent companies of Aventis have a history of causing severe pollution with scant regard for public health and the environment" [Aventis report p.12 ]

For this reason the NGIN website has a specific Aventis page with links to the Corporate Watch report plus other information relevant to the activities of this company: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/agrevodiary.htm

Here are some of the items on the NGIN page:

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

AgrEvo – Aventis

In 1999 AgrEvo conducted a secret trial of GM forage maize near Wellington in Shropshire. The trial was for the National Seed I.ist, authorised under Part C of EU directive 90/220 (which covers marketing authorisation), meaning AgrEvo could legally get away without notifying the public of the trial. When local vicar Reverend Paul Cawthorne approached the company and government officials to raise his concerns about the trial he was given the run-around. AgrEvo lied and denied that the site existed, and it was only after months of badgering that Mr Dick Stayward of the MAFF Plant Variety Rights Office, Cambridge, finally confirmed that there was a GM crop site in the area. [75 - http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/agrevodiary.htm]

Government / Aventis collusion on farm-scale trials was found illegal in late 1999, when the government decided to allow Aventis (then AgrEvo) to change the GM crop (from spring oilseed rape to winter oilseed rape) on some of its farm-scale trial sites without submitting a new application. A letter from the company to the regulators at the DETR stated: "I have discussed the option of submitting a completely new application... but a more efficient route would appear to be a small variation to add the new sowing dates to... the current consent". Friends of the Earth challenged the government in the High Court. Eventually the government backed down, but the crops remained in the ground. Furthermore, AgrEvo asked to increase the number of sites for each crop from 25 to 50 sites a year [76].

Although Aventis is pushing forward with the commercialisation of its unwanted crops, the company is unwilling to accept responsibility for any damage to health and the environment that may result from the inadequately tested mutant plants. In February 2000 NFU Mutual, the UK's leading farm insurer, announced that it does not offer cover for GM crop contamination risks and recommends that farmers taking part in GM trials ensure the company takes full responsibilitv for the crop and any liability claims. Reuters news agency asked Aventis whether or not they took such responsibility. Their response was: "Aventis do not believe that this technology will cause harm to people, other crops or the environment and therefore this doex not give rise to a question of liability." [77]

AgrEvo and its subsidiary Plant Genetic Systems were both among six companies "named and shamed" by thc government's Advisory Committee on Releases to the En\ironment (ACRE) in 1998 for failing to comply with conditions of its consents tor GMO test.s. AgrEvo failed to implement measures to limit escape of pollen on its herbicide-resistant wheat site, while PGS failed to notify conservation officials or the public about its trial of herbicide-resistant rape [78].

On planting oilseed rape for a farm-scale trial at Lushill Farm near Swindon, AgrEvo failed to meet the requirement to publicise thc trial in the local newspaper. Instead, the company advertised it in the Gloucestershire Echo, which did not cover an area within 15 miles of the farm. When local campaigners brought the omission to light, AgrE;vo was forced to re-advertise in the Swindon Evening Advertiser [79]

Rhone-Poulenc developed the herbicide bromoxynil (Buctril) for use on BXN cotton, genetically modified by Calgene Inc to be resistant to it. The two companies sell seed and chemical as a "package". This was the first commercialisation of a GM herbicide-resistant crop. According to Pesticide Action Network (PAN), bromoxynil causes developmental abnormalities in mammals, is highly toxic to fish, and is carcinogenic and can cause birth defects in humans. It is banned in Britain [80].

In April 1999, Brazil's National Biosecurity Technical Committee (CTNBio) ordered that AgrEvo's experirnental herbicide-resistant transgenic rice be burned. The company had failed to take compulsory biosecurity measures [81].

Friedrich Magge, an organic cabbage farmer in Gehdren-Niedersachen in Germany, has taken the Robcrt-Koch Institutc (the agency responsible for giving permission for field trials) to court along with 3 other farmers. His sales have dropped since an AgrEvo field trial began 2km from his farm [82].

Other eco-crimes (AgrEvo, Hoechst, Rhone-Poulenc)

6 45am, 27 January 1996: An explosion at an AgrEvo pesticide p]ant in Griesheim in Germany contaminated at least 50 hectares of a residential district with hazardous levels of herbicide. AgrEvo took until 8.30am to warn residents of the leak. People were told not to eat locally grown produce and to stay indoors with the windows shut. Schools were also closed [83].

...etc. etc etc.

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

Bribing Doctors

Date: 15 May 2000 14:41:25 +0100
From: Paul & Katrin Davis devatalk@mcmail.com
Subject: Re: B-GE:Aventis - "corporate criminals" - resources

RBBAX@aol.com wrote:

Aventis - "corporate criminals" - resources Originated from: mail@icsenglish.com (Jonathan)

Interesting that Ron posted this report about Aventis today. In the German press one of the stories today concerns Aventis and Smith Klein Beecham... accussed of bribing doctors and tax avoidance in the promotion of their blood pressure drug Teveten!!!!!! Offices raided and 'incriminating' evidence removed....

Nothing new, I know, but just another example of how they work..


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Date: 15 May 2000 11:05:19 +0100
From: i4crob@idt.net

Evolution of a Revolution

These are the times that try men and women's souls, and a few courageous people seek to change things for the betterment of all mankind.

This past week, I read a book called "The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson," by Adrienne Koch. Two years before the American Revolution began, Jefferson wrote (in my opinion) the single greatest essay in American history.

Jefferson's "Summary View of Rights of British America" cited the many injustices of British rule and laid the foundations for the American Revolution.

Jefferson's argument for independence addresses tyranny and misrepresentation, the likes of which America is again witnessing at the hands of federal regulatory agencies like the FDA. Jefferson wrote:

"Single acts of Tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematical plan of reducing us to slavery."

Two ex-FDA commissioners have gone to work for Monsanto, and FDA has not fairly treated the review process for Monsanto's genetically engineered hormones. These conflicts of interest place the health interests of Americans secondary to the financial interests of those who compromise the integrity of government officials.

We are in prison. Bars and shackles, favors traded for laws and policy now prevent us from enjoying our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

These basic truths that were deemed to be self evident to the founding fathers HAVE been taken away by a series of tyrannical acts.

Until FDA labels foods containing genetically engineered organisms, I will continue to protest my loss of liberty. FDA'S tyranny protects pharmaceutical companies and food manufacturers. The rest of the world does not allow such betrayal. Only in America. We deceive ourselves by beliving that we are land of the free. Our media will not tell us the truth, relying upon ad revenue from the betrayors.

While I continue my hunger strike, joined by nearly five hundred people who have fasted for one day or longer, another hunger strike continues as protest to one of America's great injustices.

In 1997, ex-Attorney General Ramsey Clark spoke of a man that few Americans have heard of, a man who happens to be the most well-known political prisoner on this planet. Clark said:

"Until Leonard Peltier's rights are respected, there can be no peace in our hearts and our minds, or if we have courage, in our bodies...it is imperative that we, you and I, secure the freedom of Leonard Peltier."

Leonard's tragic story, and those who fast to bring justice: http://www.capecod.net/~spiral

Millions of people have come to know of his case and support his freedom. His supporters included the late Mother Theresa, 50 members of the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament, the Dalai Lama, and Amnesty International.

Leonard Peltier, a Native-American, is 54 years old, and has lived in a federal prison for the past 24 years. In 1995, US prosecutor Lynn Crooks testified that no evidence exists against Peltier.

Remarkably, this testimony came during a parole hearing. Leonard Peltier has a new parole review hearing scheduled for June 12th. He is long overdue for release through parole, and it is one of two remaining options for freedom. The second is executive clemency.

A group of 84 people are now fasting for Leonard Peltier. I am fasting for Leonard, in spirit. Each day, for the remainder of my hunger strike, I will spend a few moments and re-visit those principles that made America strong. I will consider the imprisonment of Leonard Peltier.

I will consider the spiritual imprisonment of all Americans.

An American president can offer clemency and free political prisoners.

After reviewing Peltier's story, let Mr. Clinton know how you feel.

Peltier's struggle and my struggle are your struggle too. Together, we are all innocent victims to tyranny.

Write, phone, fax, and email:

President William Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC 20500
(202)456-1111 (hit 0 to avoid survey)
FAX (202)456-2461    president@whitehouse.gov

Regards,

Robert Cohen
http://www.hungestrike.com


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Date: 15 May 2000 22:02:00 +0100
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

This 'whose genes are they anyhow?' issue borders on GEF so I hope we can keep it in perspective. So far, it has probably absorbed more money than the whole movement to control GE.

This brief article by a grad student far surpasses anything I've seen from graduates Vandi, Aroha, Meremere, or any other jet-setting exponent of rage at 'biopiracy'.

R

Biopiracy: the slavery of the new millennium? surely not

By Graham Dutfield

Recently I came across a statement from a well-known and highly-esteemed activist who condemned biopiracy as "the slavery of the new millennium" and even as "intellectual and cultural rape".

In a world where real slave markets exist (e.g. in Southern Sudan), where debt bondage condemns millions to lives of misery in quite a number of countries, and companies – including transnationals – hire children as factory labour in appalling conditions, such rhetoric should offend all of us and actually undermines the cause since it is so patently (pun not intended!) absurd.

The TRIPS Agreement was a serious setback for developing countries. If we just consider patent law, history shows that the most successful laws were made by countries that were allowed to design them with strategic ends in mind. For example, the German patent law of 1877 apparently played a large role in helping that country's chemical firms to become the world's most advanced and to dominate global markets. Chemical processes were patentable but not products.

The French patent law of the time was a bad law: it led to stifling monopolies and drove France's best chemists to Switzerland – where there was no patent law. The TRIPS rules make such strategies as followed by Germany and Switzerland very hard because they lack flexibility – deliberately so, since they were written by the US, EU and industrial associations. Also, patents protect "inventions" considered to be so according to certain criteria which can justifiably seem arbitrary, inflexible and reductionist unless one accepts whatever happens to be the current Western paradigm of creativity. In the past it was individual genius; more recently the flash of genius concept has been replaced by the idea that technological breakthroughs depend on the collective inventiveness of research teams.

On the other hand, as we well know, the knowledge of indigenous communities tends to be considered as part of the global intellectual commons until it has been validated by scientists who may be able to acquire a patent by describing a shaman's herbal formulation and "proving" its efficacy. This is not only exploitative, but commoditising what may be deemed to be sacred by the community concerned deserves condemnation for other reasons too. When traditional knowledge is transferred across cultures the customary intellectual property rules of the donors are treated as if they do not exist while those of the recipients become "the rules of the game".

This is of course unfair. Indigenous customary law needs to be respected as well so that indigenous peoples transfer their knowledge on their own terms and only if and when they so desire. But those of us who see TRIPS as mostly a bad deal, and would like to see all countries enjoy the right to design IPR systems that are culturally appropriate and most conducive to the interests of their citizens, need to come up with sophisticated critiques and prescriptions. Now that over 130 countries are WTO Members, somehow ways must be found to implement the Agreement in imaginative ways and this requires constructive thinking.

Unfortunately what we get too much of are diatribes of the sort that middle class European intellectuals might love to hear but which will not convince the neutrals who we need on our side. And while we rant and rave the clock ticks away. If countries wish to remain in the WTO they must introduce a system for plant varieties. It is, after all, one of the rules. Yet how many countries have actually implemented alternatives to UPOV? None as far as I know. Also, how far has any country reached in implementing _sui generis_ systems to protect traditional knowledge? Again, little has been achieved.

So critics of TRIPS need to be constructive. A lot more needs to be done than just reacting to the latest biopiracy scandal – whether genuine or bogus – with ever more inflammatory rhetoric.

First, let's not blame the United States for everything. Yes, the US government can be a bully and yes, the US patent law needs to be changed, but the US did not invent biopiracy and is probably not the worst offender. The US patent law needs to be changed because it discriminates against undocumented foreign knowledge, but it is not unique.

According to a translated version of the Japanese Patent Law, Article 29 contains the following language: "(1) Any person who has made an invention which is industrially applicable may obtain a patent therefor, except in the case of the following inventions: (i) inventions which were publicly known in Japan prior to the filing of the patent application; (ii) inventions which were publicly worked in Japan prior to the filing of the patent application; (iii) inventions which were described in a publication distributed in Japan or elsewhere prior to the filing of the patent application." And when we consider that Japan is a huge consumer of foreign natural products, and also the propensity of Japanese firms to patent the most trivial "inventions", I cannot help wondering why it is that the ICBGs get so roundly condemned for biopiracy while the far less transparent and accountable Japanese firms never seem to get attacked.*

And let's not forget European companies and the European Union which nowadays seems keen to raise global IPR standards still further. The database directive which privatises compilations of facts is, remember, a European initiative. The UK was one of the last developed countries to abandon the 'local novelty ' conception which means that anything is new if unknown in Britain but known (and published) elsewhere. This was as late as 1977.

In some accounts I read, it is the US that gets condemned all the time for this. Is it simply fashionable to blame the US for everything wrong with the world or is it just laziness? Either way it's way too simplistic. It may be fun to take pot shots at Shaman Pharmaceuticals and the ICBGs, and they certainly shouldn 't be immune to criticism. But is there anything better on this capitalist planet of ours?

In any case, TRIPS is not strictly speaking a US model even if it was first conceived by US firms. If it were there would be no references to ordre public or morality and precious few other exceptions. Neither would there be geographical indications. Hollywood, software firms, French wine producers, and chemical and pharmaceutical companies got what they wanted; biotech firms did not – at least not entirely. Probably this is because the EU was reluctant to go beyond the provisions of the European Patent Convention.

Second, let 's not equate a neem patent with slavery. It isn 't the same thing. If this is slavery who are the slaves and the slave owners? Neither is there any good reason to single out WR Grace for condemnation when there are well over 150 neem-related patents some of which are held by Indian firms. The selective indignation that denounces WR Grace because it 's a US corporation does not get us very far because it is so obviously either misinformed or bogus.

Besides, I tend to think that stealing somebody else 's knowledge and treating it as your own by patenting it is worse than taking public domain knowledge, applying some extra intellectual effort and then patenting the result. So while the turmeric patent is an example of the former, most of the neem patents are probably instances of the latter. Whether others agree with this distinction or not, I am convinced that the term 'biopiracy' is often used without much thought as to what it really means.

Third, IPRs were not dreamed up by some evil genius to rip other people off. Most if not all cultures have IPR systems of some kind though of course proprietarianism is particularly strong in Western countries, and this is an obvious cause for concern, especially now that Western IPRs are becoming global standards. Copyright can protect individuals from exploitation by companies. Trademarks and geographical indications could be used to protect locally made products. There 's nothing wrong per se with the idea of protecting creative works and expressions. In fact it 's good. And TRIPS is here to stay, like it or not – at least for the time being.

So being fundamentalist about all this may make us feel good and look cool. But it doesn't actually get us anywhere.

Fourth, let's not forget who the real radicals are. When industrial associations want copyright protection for software they insist that programs should be treated as literary works (and nowadays inventions). Semiconductor firms in the 1980s proposed a sui generis right for semiconductor chips, and that's what they got. In the 1960s European plant breeders asked for a convention to create a sui generis IPR for plant varieties. The result was UPOV.

Is it actually all that radical to jet-set round the world denouncing TRIPS, criticising WIPO for addressing issues that just a few years ago they were condemning for not addressing, and attacking every bioprospecting project good and bad; and after all that to offer no realistic counter-proposals whatsoever, only lots of self-righteous but basically empty rhetoric?

One thing we urgently need to do is to persuade governments that there's no necessary connection between strengthening private rights and "improving" the IPR system. This is really a task that we in the North have the responsibility to work on. (And I know there are groups working in this area already so this is hardly a new idea). Both the EU and Japan submitted communications to the WTO General Council which seem to accept this assumption.

The EU submission stated in part as follows: "It should of course be kept in mind that the TRIPS acquis is a basis from which to seek further improvements in the protection of IPR. There should therefore be no question, in future negotiations, of lowering of standards or granting of further transitional periods." In similar vein, a submission from Japan to the General Council stated that: " taking into account the nature of the TRIPS Agreement, that is, a minimum standard of intellectual property protection, we should not discuss the TRIPS Agreement with a view to reducing the current level of protection of intellectual property rights. To the contrary, the TRIPS Agreement should be improved properly in line with new technological development and social needs.

For example, the TRIPS Agreement should deal with higher protection of intellectual property rights which has been achieved in other treaties or conventions in other fora appropriately." Being realistic, it is the industrialised countries that set the IPR standards for the rest of the world to follow. So while industrial/corporate associations seek to persuade governments to give them ever stronger rights, we need to come up with even stronger reasons to convince them that some rights may be too strong and might need to be weakened; that the public domain needs to be defended from those who seek to enclose parts of it; and that some innovators (e.g. indigenous peoples) get a raw deal and deserve better.

I should conclude by saying that this article is not meant to sow divisions but to try and find a way forward. I would love to see a debate about how we might do this including from those who disagree with everything I say! It is because of NGOs like RAFI that there is a global debate on farmers ' rights and the terminator technology patent was exposed and condemned worldwide. Other groups like GRAIN and Third World Network have also done great work in terms of awareness-raising and campaigning. But we should never forget that truth is the best weapon of all. Biopiracy is not the slavery of the new millennium.

* For those interested in searching on the Japanese Patent Office database of published patents and patent applications, here is the URL -- http://www.ipdl.jpo-miti.go.jp/homepg_e.ipdl

----------------------------------------------------------
Robt Mann, consultant ecologist, P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand (9) 524 2949


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Date: 16 May 2000 15:09:59 +0100
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk
From: FOE Internet System nsuser@foe.co.uk

GM Trials Threaten UK Honey.

Bee Keepers Move Hives away from GM Sites

Friends of the Earth is calling for an immediate ban on the outdoor testing of genetically modified oilseed rape and maize after shop-bought honey was found to contain GM pollen [1]. The honey was purchased in an area where GM crops had been grown last year.

The British beekeeping industry is taking steps to ensure that its honey is free from GM contamination, and has advised its members to move hives at least 6 miles from the nearest GM trial site. However, if GM crops get full commercial approval the location of the GM sites will not have to be made public and beekeepers won't be able to move their hives.

The honey purchased by FOE was sent to Austria for analysis. Two samples (one from a jar of honey and one honeycomb) were found to contain genetically modified components from the biotech company Aventis (formerly AgrEvo) which tests its GM crops in the UK and is taking part in the Government's farm-scale trials programme. Last year Friends of the Earth discovered GM oilseed rape pollen in beehives over 2 and a half miles from the nearest GM trial site.

The discovery of honey containing GM pollen confirms fears that GM crops threaten the livelihoods of neighbouring farmers and bee keepers. Despite this, GM farmers are under no obligation to consult neighbouring farmers and beekeepers about the trials, and the Bee Farmers Association of the UK (which represents 350 commercial bee farmers throughout the country) has not been consulted about the siting or potential impact of GM sites.

As well as the failure to consult, liability for any GM pollution of honey has not been resolved. Beekeepers are not compensated for the extra work and expense of moving their hives or for the loss of any contracts. The UK beekeeping industry produces an estimated 10 million worth of honey annually - but the value of pollination of fruit and other crops is 20 times more valuable. By forcing beekeepers to pull out of areas near GM test sites the biotech industry may also cause damage to fruit and vegetable farmers [2].

Pete Riley, Senior Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said:

Friends of the Earth now has evidence that GM crops can contaminate honey. It is essential that the Government takes immediate action to protect this multi-million pound industry from the GM threat. Trials of GM oilseed rape and maize should be halted immediately.

Honey is seen as a pure and natural product. The public has already made it clear that they do not want GM food - they won't be happy if the Government allows GMOs to threaten their honey. Friends of the Earth welcomes the swift action taken by the beekeeping industry in protecting our food from GMOs. Taking these steps should ensure that UK honey will be GM-free. However, if GM crops are given commercial approval, GM pollen will inevitably undermine the purity of British honey.ftr

Local beekeeper Roger Holdy is moving his hives away from a GM oilseed rape farm-scale trial in Kempley, Gloucestershire to avoid GM pollen affecting his honey. He said: A GM trial site has been given the go-ahead very close to my hives, yet I wasn't even consulted. Now I have to go to the expense and trouble of moving my hives to ensure that my honey will not contain GMOs. I'm prepared to do this to keep my honey pure but I am angry that the Government has let this situation happen.

  1. Friends of the Earth purchased jars of honey and honeycombs from near a GM trial site in November 1999 and February 2000. Samples were selected with the aid of a pollen expert (to ensure that the samples contained pollen) and 2 batches of honey - (eight jars of honey and one honeycomb) - were sent to the Austrian Federal Laboratory in Vienna for DNA scanning. Two of these samples were found to be positive for GM herbicide resistant genes. A copy of the report is available on request to Dr Andreas Heissenberger.

  2. In addition to producing honey, professional beekeepers also provide a vital pollination service for the fruit industry, both for top fruit (apples, pears, plums and cherry) and soft fruit (strawberries and raspberries). This is an important source of income for beekeepers who transport their hives to particularly sites on request. The value of the service to fruit growers is put at 200 million per annum. Loss of bees from an area because of the presence of a GM test site could have serious consequences for local fruit growers.

The Bee Farmers Association of the UK has produced a statement on the GM trials. They can be contacted via: Fiona Campbell or Brain Stenhouse Secretary of the BFA.


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Date: 16 May 2000 19:45:33 +0100
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

Biotech Is Still Where It's At

Biotech Is Still Where It's At (Technology 3:00 a.m. PDT)

http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,36335,00.html?tw=wn20.... Biotech professionals convene for a little education and a lot of mingling. Despite negative market response of late, experts say things are still looking up for biotech. Kristen Philipkoski reports from Philadelphia.

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Robt Mann, consultant ecologist, P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand, (9) 524 2949


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Date: 16 May 2000 19:58:52 +0100
From: "Maynard S. Clark" vrc@tiac.net

(US) 'Golden Rice' To Be Donated to Poor

"LONDON (AP) - In a move aimed at combatting blindness, two biotech companies said Tuesday they have reached agreement with the inventors of a genetically modified rice to donate seeds to poor nations." ... There's a huge amount of public relations going on at the moment in the biotech industry, which is in crisis and desperate to improve its image said Sue Dibb of The Food Commission, an independent British organization."

http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20000516/bs/britain_golden_rice_1.... There's a huge amount of public relations going on at the moment in the biotech industry, which is in crisis and desperate to improve its image with investors -->


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Date: 17 May 2000 03:21:13 +0100
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

This Prof Jones was Reith lecturer some years ago and has become one of the main popular writers on genetics.

He believes the same narrow caricature we've seen so often, regarding conservationists, but he nevertheless, as one of the best-known genetics experts, says the same as I've said all along about transgenic organisms in general.

Anti-greenie on our Side: Risk of escaped GM food genes

By Sarah Hall, The Guardian February 26 1999

GENES from genetically modified foods could evade scientists' control, "leak out" and infect other organisms, an eminent genetics professor warned yesterday.

Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College, London, said evolution was " predictable" and organisms' genetic make up altered naturally as they developed resistance.

He added: "The genes you put in may actually leak out and get to places where we can't control them ... Genes can leap in the most extraordinary and alarming way. There's no reason to say the same thing cannot happen in genetically modified plants. It only has to happen once. The dangers are really quite real."

Prof Jones was speaking last night at a Guardian debate – GM Foods: Where does the truth lie? – at Westminster Central Hall, central London.

Likening the Green movement to Nazism in its reactionary ignorance and emotiveness, he said he [nevertheless] supported a moratorium on growing GM crops in Britain.

"I definitely think we need more knowledge before we make the same mistakes with GM foods that we made with penicillin – and I most clearly think we should stop doing this until we know more about it," he said.

Guardian columnist and visiting professor at Green College, Oxford, George Monbiot, warned there was a major gulf between the manufacturers' claim for GM foods and what they really intended to do: rather than increase food production in the next century, they would be "the hunger merchants of the new millennium. "

He said the aim of genetic engineering was to wrest control of "the biggest commodity market of all – namely food".

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Robt Mann, consultant ecologist, P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand, (9) 524 2949


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Date: 17 May 2000 14:18:43 +0100
From: James Mackenzie jamesmackenzie@geocities.com

Protesters cleared over crop damage

Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/scotland/newsid_750000/750518....

They were cleared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court Six environmental protesters have been cleared of obstructing police during a demonstration at a test site for genetically modified crops.

They had faced trial on charges of vandalism and obstruction after allegedly destroying crops at Boghall Farm near Penicuik, Midlothian, last March at a test site for the Scottish Agricultural College.

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie found Catherine Johnson, 32, a librarian from Fife, and Stokely Webster, 29, a researcher from London, not guilty of obstructing police.

The four others, Mark Ballard, 28, a graphic designer from Stockbridge, Edinburgh, Matthew Herbert, 29, a researcher from St Andrews, Alan Tolmie, 33, a professional busker from Edinburgh and James MacKenzie, 27, a press officer from Stockbridge, were also found not guilty of the same charge.

However, they must return to court in August over the charge of vandalism.

Outside court Ms Johnson and Ms Webster said they were pleased to have been cleared.

Ms Johnson said: "I feel we have made a point, the whole process of GM crops in Britain is undemocratic and to make a demonstration against something isn't wrong.

"I have been found not guilty of obstructing the police and I agree with that, justice has been done.

"I am glad we have highlighted the situation and the fact that GM crops are a cause for concern.

"They are being grown in open countryside but we don't need them. There's no benefit from them so it doesn't matter whether they are safe or not. I would like to see a return to traditional organic agriculture."

An earlier court hearing was told the protest had left bald patches on a field but caused damage estimated at only £1.50.

It was also claimed protesters missed genetically modified oil seed rape at the site and tore up conventional plants planted as a decoy.

The case against Ballard, Herbert, Tolmie and MacKenzie on charges of vandalism continues on 28 August.


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Date: 17 May 2000 14:50:42 +0100
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk
From: "Desh Pal S. Verma" verma.1@osu.edu

The following was provided by Ajay Phadke from Ajay Biotech Pune.

How the Neem patent fight was won

Pune, May 17, 2000 :

At the conclusion of a two-day Oral Proceedings and on the basis of "Evidence submitted by Mr. Abhay Phadke of Ajay Bio-tech (India) Ltd., Pune, the Opposition Division of the European Patent Office (EPO) completely revoked a controversial patent which had been granted to Secretary of Agriculture, USDA, represnting The United States of America and the multinational corporation W.R.Grace for a fungicide derived from seeds of the Neem tree. The Legal

Opposition to the patent had been lodged five years ago by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy directed by the renowned Indian scientist Vandana Shiva, Ms. Linda Bullard of. IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) and Magda Aelvoet, former Green Group Member of the European Parliament and current Environment Minister of Belgium.

On December 12, 1990 the multinational agribusiness corporation W.R.Grace of New York and the United States Department of Agriculture, Washington DC, filed a European Patent application with the European Patent Office (EPO) on the basis of a U.S. priority application of December 26, 1989, covering a method for controlling fungi on plants by the aid of a hydrophobic extract of neem oil.

After a relatively difficult controversial examination procedure, the grant of a European patent for this "invention" was published on September 14, 1994, the main claim having been restricted by the EPO to:

"A method for controlling fungi on plants with a neem oil formulation containing 0.1 to 10% of a hydrophobic extracted neem oil which is substantially free of Azadirachtin, 0.005 to 5.0% of emulsifying surfactant, and 0 to 99% water."

In June of 1995 a legal opposition against the grant of this patent was filed by Magda Aelvoet, MEP, on behalf of the Green Group in the European parliament, Brussels, Dr. Vandana Shiva, on behalf of the Research Foundation for Foundation for Science, New Delhi, and Linda Bullard on behalf of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), Tholey-Theley, Germany.

On 27th October 1996 Mr. Abhay Phadke of Ajay Bio-Tech (India) Ltd., filed an affidavit with EPO through opponent's lawyer Professor Dolder of Zurich. The affidavit claimed that Mr Phadke, who was earlier Director of Rhone Poulenc Agro-Chemical (India) Ltd., had informed the Pesticidal properties of Neem to officials in Rhone Poulenc Agrochimie, Lyon, France in early 80's, urging them to investigate the same further and consider introduction of a product based on Neem in the International market. The evidence was accepted as preliminary ground alongwith the evidence from literature submitted by the opponents.

In the first preliminary statement of September 30, 1997, the Opposition Board of EPO held that in summary, it appeared that "the present patent cannot be maintained" in view of the 'evidence supplied by the Opponents] for lack of novelty and inventive step. Moreover, the content of additional evidence filed by the Opponents] could "possibly form a very relevant prior art with regard to the inventive step."

Subsequently on14th May 1998 Mr. Phadke submitted another affidavit with details regarding experiments and demonstrations with Neem based products to disprove the "Originality" claims of Dept of Agriculture, United States of America and W.R.Grace.

In a second preliminary statement of June 15, 1999, the Opposition Board of EPO held that according to evidence supplied by the Opponents (Mr. Phadke's affidavit) it appeared that "all features of the present claim (of the patent) have been disclosed to the public prior to the patent application during field trials in the two Indian districts of Pune and Sangli" of Maharashtra, Western India, in summer 1985 and 1986' and therefore, "the present subject-matter was considered not to involve an inventive step."

Oral Proceedings in the European Patent Office (Opposition Board) took place on May 9 and 10, 2000, in Munich, Germany where Indian team with supporters from IFOAM, OXFAM, Greenpeace and other European and American Supporters made efforts to put Moral, Ethical and Cultural pressure on the European Patent Office. These tactics generated sympathetic backdrop for the Indian case.

On 9th May after presentation of arguments by attorney, which were not accepted as sufficient grounds to quash the patent, Mr. Phadke was called upon as main witness. He presented details of the work done during 1985-86 on neem oil formulations in the laboratory and in the field. On cross examination he successfully defended minute details of laboratory experiments using different solvents, and emulsifiers including Shikekai ( Acacia concina) which fascinated the audience and convinced the opposition board of overwhelming evidence of Prior art and Inventive steps taken in India before the United States claimed to have "invented" neem properties. The entire testimony was recorded and will be published by EPO shortly.

On 10th the EPO started with the proceedings with consideration of "relevance of the evidence of the witness" and accepted the oral evidence presented on 9th of May and declared that the trial conducted in 1985-86 with the foliar spraying of the Hexane extracted 85% emulsified Neem oil proves "Prior art" with regard to Inventive Step. Mr. U. P. Singh, a scientist from BHU was not heard at all and the Mr. Phadke submission was enough to prove the "prior art".

On the issue of Novelty and Auxiliary Request (submitted on that day by the proprietors) related to concentration of neem oil, which claims that 0.25% concentration controls 81% of diseases. While Mr. Phadke's claim of 0.4% to 0.8% gave the same results of 60% to 80% control of diseases (fungi). Hence the EPO declared that the Patent challenged lacks Novelty and claim as given in Example 1 and 2 of the patent is marginally lower than the Indian claim of Mr. Phadke.

Finally at 2.30 PM, Mr. Tzschoppe. D, the Chairman of the Opposition Division of EPO declared that the " ON THE BASIS OF EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY MR. PHADKE , THE PATENT IS REVOKED AND THE PROCEEDINGS STAND TERMINATED".

Immediately afterwards IFOAM President Linda Bullard declared "This is a great achievement not only for India but for all people throughout the world, especially from the Third World, who have been fighting to take back control of their resources and knowledge systems from the patent regimes of the North," "We are gratified about the decision's recognition of the intellectual achievements of the South and urge the patent office to reject the 11 Neem patent applications which are still under examination. We hope that our victory will mark a turning point in the struggle against Bio-piracy."


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Date: 17 May 2000 18:46:12 +0100
From: "j.e. cummins" jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

Lateral Gene Transfer in Bacteria (genes like antibiotic resistance)

Nature 405, 299 - 304 (2000) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

Lateral gene transfer and the nature of bacterial innovation

Howard Ochman, Jeffrey G. Lawrence & Eduardo A. Groisman

Unlike eukaryotes, which evolve principally through the modification of existing genetic information, bacteria have obtained a significant proportion of their genetic diversity through the acquisition of sequences from distantly related organisms. Horizontal gene transfer produces extremely dynamic genomes in which substantial amounts of DNA are introduced into and deleted from the chromosome. These lateral transfers have effectively changed the ecological and pathogenic character of bacterial species.


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Date: 17 May 2000 19:18:28 +0100
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

EU accused of lax approach to GM foods

The Irish Times, Publication date: 2000-05-17

The new EU testing regime for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in foods is not sufficiently stringent, according to a lawyer mounting a legal challenge to US policy on GM foods.

At present, the policy of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is based on the assessment that GMOs are as safe as their conventional counterparts.

Speaking during a visit to the Republic, Mr Steven Druker of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity said Europe was also mistaken in believing there were relatively small amounts of GM foods in circulation within the EU.

Insufficient account was being taken of the amount of GMOs people were consuming via animals fed on huge amounts of GMO-containing feed, he added. The reality was that most GM soya and maize was being used in animal feed, which indicated, in his opinion, that EU labelling regulations were "weak".

Mr Druker, a public interest attorney, who assembled a coalition of scientists, consumer bodies and religious groups to bring a case against the FDA in a Washington DC court, said he was confident the judge would support the alliance's position. This was because of what he claimed was "unassailable factual evidence", much of which was not contested by the FDA.

Regardless of the outcome, Mr Druker will be noted for exposing a divergence of opinion within the FDA on the risks of GMOs. Since the early 1990s, the FDA's official stance has been strongly supportive of GM foods. But Mr Druker obtained internal documents by court discovery which indicated disagreement among the FDA's own experts in 1992, when the first GM food was due to come on the market. The significance of that divergence of opinion is at the heart of the case, and the judge is now due to give her decision.

Mr Druker has alleged in court briefs that the FDA's position amounted to deception, but the world's most authoritative food safety agency submitted that it was simply examining various points of view before a final determination of safety. The alliance is claiming that "genetically engineered food entails unique risks and cannot be assumed as `substantially equivalent' to other foods".

"In our view, substantial equivalence is a disgraceful sham," he told The Irish Times before a lecture in Dublin hosted by the Natural Law Party. and potentially risk between GM foods and conventional produce.

The alliance is calling for mandatory and rigorous testing and labelling of GM foods, as exists for food additives.

Given the absence of "well-controlled toxological feed studies and broad-based biochemical investigations on GM foods", Mr Druker said, it would be appropriate for the judge in the FDA case to "pull all genetically engineered foods off the market". foods".

Asked what current US consumer thinking was on GM foods, he said public concern there focused on environmental risks. As to food safety, "most Americans believe there are no legitimate concerns" in relation to GM foods, except those being aired by "crazy extremists and uninformed European consumers who . . . have no sound knowledge of science".

The attorney said he believed the Government had "backtracked a lot" from a position of caution on GM foods, and was now supporting the stance of "biotech boosters", who put the burden of proof on those with concerns rather than on the GM food-developers themselves.

Publication date: 2000-05-17 © 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.


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Date: 17 May 2000 19:30:36 +0100
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

Misuse of Pioneer Seed Material Costs Cargill Corp. $100 million

from The Agribusiness Examiner #74

Agreeing to pay DuPont Co.'s Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. seed unit $100 million, Cargill, the nation's largest private corporation, has settled a lawsuit over its alleged misuse of material from Pioneer.

As part of the settlement, Dow Jones News reports, Cargill also agreed to destroy misappropriated material in its corn-breeding program and to resolve rights to use genetic material that was in dispute. It also agreed not to engage in the practice of isolating parent seed from bags of Pioneer's hybrid seed corn, a practice known as "chasing selfs."

Cargill said it now will proceed with plans to sell its North American seed business after putting the sale on hold more than a year ago when, in the course of investigating Pioneer's claims, it discovered that at least one line of its corn seed sold in the U.S. contained Pioneer material.

Pioneer, based in Des Moines, Iowa, is the nation's biggest corn-seed company. After it filed the lawsuit in October 1998, Cargill began an internal investigation that uncovered problems in its corn-breeding program and cooperated with Pioneer in resolving the situation.

"This has been a painful period for Cargill," Fritz Corrigan, Cargill's executive vice president, said in a statement prepared jointly by Cargill and Pioneer. "We were shocked that our investigation into Pioneer's allegations revealed that our seed business hadn't always lived up to our high ethical standards. But we have learned from this experience, we have honored our commitment to make things right and we have emerged with a solidly respectful and stronger relationship with Pioneer and DuPont," Corrigan added.

While the investigation was under way, DuPont, based in Wilmington, Delaware, acquired Pioneer, which created an alleged conflict with a noncompete clause signed when DuPont sold its Intermountain Canola business to Cargill in 1994. As part of the discussions and to avoid litigation, Cargill has released DuPont from the noncompete commitment in return for some technology and other nonmonetary considerations.

The fact that Cargill did misuse Pioneer material shocked the once-staid seed business in 1999 and dealt a blow to Cargill's planned sale of its domestic and international seed businesses. Cargill's admission prompted AgrEvo GmbH, a German crop-biotechnology concern, in February 1999 to back out of its $650 million pact to buy Cargill's North American seed business.

The admission also forced Cargill last October to reimburse the former Monsanto Co., now a subsidiary of the Pharmacia Corp., at least $200 million of the $1.4 billion Monsanto had paid for Cargill's overseas seed business in October 1998.

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Robt Mann, consultant ecologist, P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand, (9) 524 2949