WINNIPEG (Reuters) A major Canadian farm organization has called for a national moratorium on producing, importing and distributing genetically modified foods.
"We need to pull back the reins and try to get some common sense and a good strong footing on the potential problems with this technology," Cory Ollikka, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) told CBC radio on Monday. The NFU, which represents 10,000 farmers in seven of the nation's 10 provinces, has demanded a federal moratorium on genetically modified (GM) foods until questions regarding consumer acceptance, health, the environment and ownership of the technology can be addressed.
The NFU requested the moratorium following its annual convention in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on the weekend. Many Canadian farmers are doubtful of the economic benefits of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and are disconcerted by the push toward biotechnology, Ollikka told CBC radio in Winnipeg. He said farmers are particularly concerned about the possibility of GM crops being rejected by food companies and importers, and they are also alarmed by the potential of genetic pollution.
"We see a lot of these types of products systematically shutting us out of markets in the world," said Ollikka, citing the examples of Japan and parts of Europe where there is growing skepticism about GMOs and a rising government resistance to importing them. In May of this year, Canadian-grown canola was embroiled in a scandal after genetically modified seeds, banned within the European Community, were discovered in seed stocks during routine inspections in Germany.
Advanta Seeds, the British company that produced the seeds, said the most likely source of contamination was pollen blown from GM canola crops grown in Canadian fields. The NFU is asking the Canadian government to launch a formal commission of inquiry, or at least initiate broad public debate, over the merits and risks of producing genetically modified foods. An August survey of 1,000 people by the Canadian Health Food Association found 95 percent believed they should have the right to choose whether or not they buy foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
The government said it continues to work on the issue of producing and labeling GM products. "Canada must continue to assure that the products and processes of biotechnology are subject to the highest standards of scientific testing for health, safety, and environmental impact," the government stated in a recent report.
The National Farmers Union represents thousands of farm families across Canada. At its Convention last week, the NFU passed a new policy calling for a ban on GM foods.
For more information, contact Darrin at the NFU (306) 652-9465 after Wednesday, December 6.
General policy and action plan
Ownership and control of GM food technology
Markets and consumer acceptance
The NFU believes that all Canadians-farmers and non-farmers alike-must engage in an informed debate on the genetic modification of food. Citizens must examine genetically modified (GM) food in the largest possible social, historical, environmental, economic, and ethical context. After that debate, citizens-not the corporations that promote these products-must decide whether to accept or reject GM food.
Squeezed by falling incomes, farmers look to technologies that claim higher returns or reduced costs. Over the past decades, however, farmers have embraced a wide range of technologies, only to watch net farm incomes fall. Between 1974 and 2000, gross farm income tripled. Net farm income, however, fell. Input suppliers were able to capture 100% of farmers' increased gross returns. Because fertilizers, chemicals, and other technologies failed to fulfill their promises of farm profitability, many farmers rightly question the economic benefits of genetically modifying crops and livestock.
While the benefits are questionable, risks and costs are real. Consumers are rejecting GM foods. Markets in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere are closing and domestic markets are likewise threatened. This is driving prices down. Closing markets and falling prices threaten to overwhelm any small, short-term economic benefits that GM crops or livestock may offer. Further, the proliferation of some GM crops has effectively deprived many organic farmers of the option to grow those crops.
Further, GM seeds and livestock give corporations increased control over family farms. Any initial economic benefits will be quickly outweighed as farmers are drawn further under corporate control. More than any previous technology-such as fertilizers or tractors-patented seeds sold through contract and multi-page technology use agreements clearly erode farmers' autonomy.
Turning to human health, there has not been a systematic, scientific investigation of the health effects of GM foods. The unscientific assumption of "substantial equivalence" is insufficient reason to forgo comprehensive, independent health testing.
There are also many unanswered questions about the environmental risks of GM crops and livestock. Genetic modification threatens to unbalance the biosphere, create "super-weeds," endanger beneficial insects, and erode bio-diversity. Bio-diversity is a vital source of raw materials for agriculture and an essential component of environmental well-being.
The NFU policy on GM foods recognizes that almost all of the questions surrounding this technology remain unanswered. The policy attempts to introduce precaution and prudence into a process of GM food proliferation driven by profit. Because this technology has the potential to threaten the environment, human health, and the economic wellbeing of farmers, Canadians should debate and study before we plant and eat.
Executive Secretary, National Farmers Union
2717 Wentz Ave., Saskatoon, Sask. S7K 4B6
Phone: (306) 652-9465 Fax: (306) 664-6226
By Julie Vorman Monday December 4, 1:08 pm Eastern Time
WASHINGTON, Dec 4 (Reuters) Aventis SA (NYSE:AVE news) , the maker of a biotech corn variety that contaminated vast amounts of the U.S. corn supply, sought to reassure grain handlers Monday that the company would compensate them for storage, freight and other extra costs.
John Wichtrich, an Aventis vice president, emphasized the giant Franco-German company's plan to spin off its agricultural biotech unit would have no impact on compensation for the tainted corn.
By Reese Ewing, Tuesday December 5, 3:24 pm Eastern Time
SAO PAULO, Dec 5 (Reuters) The French-German biotech firm Aventis (NYSE:AVE news) is paying reparations to Brazilian soybean farmers for a bad fungicide but farmers say it's too little too late, local industry officials said on Tuesday.
The life-science firm's local arm Aventis CropScience do Brasil pulled its Rhodiauram SC fungicide off shelves after it found a bad batch was blocking newly planted soybeans from sprouting and retarding growth in seeds that did germinate.
By Julie Vorman Tuesday December 5 2:59 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) An independent panel of U.S. scientists on Tuesday dealt a blow to Aventis SA's (NYSE:AVE news) bid to win temporary approval of StarLink bio-corn for human food by finding that the corn had a of causing allergic reactions.
The group of physicians, chemists and other scientists concluded that there were still many questions about the safety of StarLink, a type of corn engineered to repel pests.
Selected by Pro Farmer Editors, Agence France-Presse, December 04, 2000
RIO DE JANEIRO Avipal, Brazil's fourth-largest poultry producer, has been hit with a 250,000-dollar fine for not warning southern Brazilian consumers that the company's laying hens were fed with genetically modified corn, a Brazilian consumer safety agency said Monday.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes.
Thanks to Brewster Kneen email@example.com for posting the following information:
LeeAnne Murphy has left the Consumers' Association of Canada (CAC) to join Monsanto. At the CAC, Ms. Murphy was developing policy for GE foods, as noted below
by Eva Ann Dorris, Mississippi Farmer, a Farm Progress publication, 12-01-2000
Growers who want to plant varieties containing Monsanto's biotechnology traits in 2001 have some decisions to make.
Planting varieties with Roundup Ready or Bollgard traits comes at a price and not just a price that can be paid with dollars. Under the 2001 Technology Agreement, growers have to decide if they believe strongly enough in transgenic varieties to sign away their choice of legal recourse should the technology or the variety fail to perform.
On the heels of new seed laws enacted or in the works in some states, Monsanto has chosen to address the issue of seed and technology liability through its technology agreement rather than through the courts.
By signing the agreement, growers agree to binding arbitration as the sole method of settling any disputes that might arise involving performance of the seed or the technology traits within that seed. Taking Monsanto or the owner of the seed variety to court is no longer an option.
Government officials have denied an allegation that genetically modified crops on trial in the UK may contain an enzyme which could threaten human health.
Dr Mae-Wan Ho of the Institute of Science in Society said that an enzyme in the crops had been proved to damage rats' kidneys by causing cells to die.
However, a spokesman for the Department of Environment Transport and the Regions said the enzyme was not present in the crops in UK trials.
He said that "exhaustive" tests had been carried out to ensure that the trials would not hurt the health of humans, animals or the environment.
Dr Ho is in Edinburgh to give evidence at the trial of four protesters accused of destroying crops at a farm in Midlothian.
Mark Ballard, Alan Tolmie, and James MacKenzie, all from Edinburgh, and Matthew Herbert, from St Andrews, have been on trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court charged with vandalising crops at Boghall Farm, near Penicuik.
At a media conference organised by the Scottish Green Party, Dr Ho said that the barnase enzyme that makes pollen and seeds sterile was present in the crops being trialled in Britain.
She said that experiments in Germany had already shown it could damage rats' kidneys by causing cells to die.
Thanks to "NLP Wessex" firstname.lastname@example.org for posting the following article:
By Willie Vogt, E-Content Director, Farm Progress 12-06-2000
There have been rumblings for the past few weeks that a lawsuit, or many lawsuits, should be forthcoming in the StarLink fiasco. Last Friday, a suit was filed on behalf of growers who didn't plant StarLink corn on their farms.
Initiated by Raymond Mulholland, Marissa, Ill., the class-action suit defines the class of farmers involved as: "All persons and entitites (excluding Defendant Aventis and its officers, directors and employees, and governmental entities) who grew and harvested non-StarLink corn during the 2000 growing season inside the United States with the intent to sell the crop. The Class seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief under the common law."
Ronald Osman, the attorney who filed the action, says StarLink growers may have an action pending, but that Aventis - working with 16 state attorneys general - was addressing those issues of growers and elevators handling the grain. It's the farmers with non-StarLink corn grown near farms with the biotech crop that are suffering because of lost markets.
"I filed this suit for non-StarLink farmers because of Aventis' failure to control all the StarLink corn," says Osman. He notes that export markets are drying up and that this loss of markets could reduce the price of corn, injuring all farmers, adding: "We raised 10.4 billion bushels of corn this year and that is for domestic and foreign markets. Japan is already excluding our corn, Korea wants to exclude our corn. We still have the same supply of corn but with a lower demand."
Why Mulholland? "He's a large farmer in this area and a friend of mine, and he was concerned about this issue so he agreed to work on this," Osman says. Osman points out that this suit is not about biotechnology. "I'm not taking the position that the technology is good, bad or indifferent," he says.
According to Osman, Aventis did not tell farmers about the 660-foot buffer zone, they did not get growers to sign an agreement for the technology, the company didn't have farmers segregate the grain and this has contaminated grain with StarLink content.
A look at the court documents in the case shows that Mulholland (as well as other farmers who meet the description of the class) is seeking damages for the following (actual wording from the suit):
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages from Aventis for being a public nuisance, for negligence and for committing consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices.
While Aventis is the sole plaintiff listed in the case so far, the seed itself was sold by Garst and that firm is not named in the suit, so far. In preparing for the case, Osman says he was told that Garst was a key supplier of the seed and responsible for collecting signatures for StarLink agreements. "Garst is not included because it was not the company required by the EPA to fulfill the requirements of the product's registration," Osman says. "However, if it appears that Garst is also responsible they can be added to the suit later."
This case will take time to move through court. We'll keep you posted on its progress.
Thanks to Dr. Robert Mann email@example.com for posting his notes from the following radio interview from New Zealand. The interview is with Percy Schmeiser (PS), former mayor of Bruno, Sask., a farmer locked in a legal battle with Monsanto who claim he illegally grew their genetically engineered roundup ready canola. He testified 00-12-5 in Aukland, NZ to the Royal Commission (RC) on GM.
It needs to be kept in mind that some of the pollen that travels long distances is no longer viable on arrival.
Monsanto procured registration of Roundup using forged 'results' of animal tests from Industrial Biotest Inc, whose top executives served gaol sentences for fraud. Monsanto is, taken as a whole, such a persistent deceiver that it should not be treated like a normal person allowed to take part in public debates injecting facts as ordinary people are allowed to do. It is most regrettable that they have not been required to take the oath before the RC.
Radio NZ, National Programme, 00-12-6 0947h
Interviewer is Gordon Harcourt
GH (Gordon Harcourt):
This is one of the biggest issues to emerge in recent years. PS has been growing oilseed rape for about 60y. M (Monsanto) sued him for growing their RR canola without paying them for it. He doesn't want to get into the legal details. Neither does Murray Willock, Monsanto's GM for NZ.
PS (Percy Schmeiser):
M has sued me stating they've found some GM plants in my crops of canola. They say I've infringed their patent. They state it doesn't matter how the GM plants got onto my land. Some farmers next to me grow GM canola, and my farm is along some of the main roads to crushing plants, so I'm subject to seeds blown onto my land from whatever means. M has a patent and they claim it's their property wherever it goes.
We are countersueing saying if you can't control this thing then you haven't a right to a patent on a substance. If you have a patent you should be able to control it.
My many years of developing canola strains in organic farming are now ruined by this contamination. We ought to have a property right in growing seeds saved from last year.
The point is how GM genes can spread. If you bring GM seeds into NZ I guarantee you that within a half-decade they'll be widely spread by insects, direct seed movement, etc. It does a lot of damage to organic farmers, who have no protection.
MW (Murray Willock, of Monsanto, NZ):
All around the world, GM and organic can coexist. PS admitted in the RC hearing yesterday that Canada has both.
How can that be if they're right next door?
Some eminently qualified scientists have told the RC that at the very outside canola will go 400m. The likely limit for 1-2% cross-contam.
Dr Hugh Campbell, leader of a public-good research programme, says in the book 'Designer Genes' that it's very difficult for organic farming to coexist alongside GM crops.
Some crops there's absolutely no pollen flow from. The NZ seed industry is based in the middle of productions crops.
The gentleman is right to a degree. If you bring in GM canola, it will affect regular canola in NZ. The Canadian organic canola growers are ruined cannot guarantee GM-free so can't sell to Europe. But it won't affect all crops.
Only if grown close
Completely disagree; pure canola seed shipped into Europe, from fields 2mi away from GM; found to be contaminated. Anyone who says otherwise is not taking due account of floods, whirlwinds etc. We know from experience.
I guess Mr S has a view in conflict with the accepted scientific facts.
What steps does M take to prevent cross-contam?
We understand what cross-contam is all about; well reported in the sc lit.
If a farmer is trying to establish an organic crop and another tries to estab organic nearby, you can understand the terror . . .
Same as in NZ right now. A farmer growing pure seed wants virtually no contam; to get certified (not organic, but pure seed line), grow with well-prescribed buffer zones.
What you have forgotten to mention is bees . . .
All taken into account in the buffer zones.
Bees travel at elast 12mi. Our exports of honey to Holland have been returned as contaminated. Animals, birds, etc ...
Buffer zones are set on actual conditions.
How can you control a bee?
What we do know is what the effect of the bee is. With most crops, the viability of the pollen on the bee is known. All taken into account.
We have known canola to cross-contam because a bee can be carried on a whirlwind 20-30mi It will spread. We were told in Canada at first 20m, then 100m; but now scientists are telling us 100mi.
Can GM and coexist?
Absolutely shown in Canada, Argentina, USA.
read out a fax from Dr Hugh Grenfell, research associate, U of Auckland geology dept: as a palynologist I can certify that pollen travels thousands of kilometres. To say it can go only 400m is a load of [deleted].
[ end of broadcast]
Thursday December 7 12:13 PM ET http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20001207/sc/environment_biotechnology....
BRUSSELS (Reuters) Environmentalists who successfully steered public tastes in western Europe away from genetically modified (GM) foods said on Thursday they would now target the former communist countries of eastern Europe.
Friends of the Earth (news web sites) (FoE) said it would launch a public awareness campaign in countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic that are hoping to join the European Union (news web sites) in the next few years to rouse political support against new food technologies. e think the central and eastern European countries are being bulldozed by biotech multinationals and we should make them aware of the enormous FoE's Gill Lacroix told a news conference in Brussels.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes.
Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 23:31 GMT
An investigation by American scientists into the possible impact on human health of a genetically modified corn has found a medium likelihood of it causing allergic reactions.
A food scare involving the corn led to millions of taco shells, one of America's favourite fast foods, being withdrawn from supermarkets and restaurants earlier this year.
A panel of scientists, appointed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, said there were still many unanswered questions about the safety of the corn called Starlink, which is genetically engineered to repel pests.
Saturday December 9, 4:04 pm Eastern Time
DALLAS (AP) - Cheetos lovers, prepare for a crunch.
Supplies of the cheese-flavored snack are down by as much as 10 percent as maker Frito-Lay Inc. attempts to keep genetically engineered corn from the recipe. e've required all cornmeal to meet all tests, and that's slowed things company spokeswoman Lynn Markley said.
Frito-Lay is running thousands of tests a month to make sure its supplies don't contain the StarLink variety of bio-engineered corn.
By Anna Meldolesi
Nature Biotechnology December 2000 Volume 18 Number 12 p 1229
In his latest effort to undermine agbiotech (Nat. Biotechnol. 18, 919, 2000;MEDLINE), the Italian minister of agriculture Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio has, according to this story, explicitly told scientists they will no longer receive funding from the ministry unless they eliminate GMOs entirely from their experiments, even if it means abandoning research conducted over the past 4 years.
Urging the public and scientific community to oppose Pecoraro Scanio's unilateral decision, the story says that the Nobel Prize winner Renato Dulbecco of the Institute for Biomedical technologies in Milan, together with leading geneticists, stem cell researchers, anthropologists, and physicists, published a petition in the Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore (November 5) defending public research and freedom of scientific thought.
Since then, more than 500 international researchers have signed, including director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University CS Prakash, whose own petition in support of agbiotech http://www.agbioworld.org has more than 2,900 signatures worldwide.
Those wishing to endorse the Italian petition should email e-mail: appelloMipaf@hotmail.com
By DAVID BARBOZA,
New York Times,
December 11, 2000
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa At the Archer Daniels Midland Company's plant these days, the arriving truckloads of No. 2 yellow corn all need to pass the same test: they are checked for odor, damage, moisture, and something called Cry9C.
A seven-member crew divides, sifts, weighs, grinds and even sniffs the corn samples a practice that grew more complicated a few weeks ago, after Kraft Foods recalled millions of taco shells possibly containing StarLink, a genetically engineered variety of corn that produces the Cry9C protein. The corn is not supposed to be in the human food supply because of concerns it might trigger allergic reactions.
Now, after a series of recalls, nearly every major food and agriculture company is frantically testing for Cry9C. The result has been a costly disruption to the nation's grain-handling system. Scores of trucks, rail cars and river barges are being turned away daily by inspectors who say that a splotch of red dye has turned up on what looks like a home pregnancy test, meaning their corn is not fit for food.
"It's a logistical nightmare," said Steven Phillips, the grain merchandiser at East Central Iowa Co-op in Hudson, a supplier to the plant here. "We had 15 truckloads of corn rejected last week."
The costs for the corn's developer, Aventis CropScience, are huge. It has promised to find markets for this year's StarLink crop and to compensate farmers, elevator operators like Mr. Phillips and processors for some of their expenses. Aventis received less than a million dollars in licensing fees over the last three years on StarLink, but the controversy could cost the company several hundred million dollars to resolve.
The StarLink episode has also raised the decibel level in an already high-pitched debate over the agricultural use of biotechnology. Though most farmers seem to favor biotech crops, saying they deliver higher yields or cut down on chemical spraying, many here in Iowa say they are growing wary.
Grain processors are warning farmers about next year's harvest, with Archer Daniels running radio commercials emphasizing that its plants will not accept genetically altered crops that do not have worldwide approval. And some farmers are questioning whether to plant even varieties that have been approved for human consumption
"I don't know what I'm going to do," said Chris Huegerich, a farmer in Breda, Iowa, who grows Roundup Ready soybeans, a bioengineered variety that can be exported worldwide. "I want to do Roundup Ready beans but I'm worried something might happen. You just don't know."
Planting of StarLink, in any case, is moot; Aventis has already withdrawn its license for further sale. And no actual health hazards have been established from StarLink or any other bioengineered crops on the market. But some agricultural experts say they are worried that the StarLink case is simply a harbinger of more troubles to come.
Among other things, they say, the Cry9C mess shows how complicated the logistics of biotechnology can be for a grain-handling system that typically ships undifferentiated crops in bulk.
"We're not cut out to segregate," says Gary Alberts, a spokesman for the Iowa Institute of Cooperatives, a trade association for elevators. "We handle a lot of grain in a hurry. We're built to load a rail car in a day."
Yet now that farmers can choose between traditional and biotech seeds, new sorting, segregating and distribution needs are arising that may radically alter the dynamics of a grain-handling system built on economies of scale.
In the United States, a few big food makers have said they will seek conventional crops because of consumer concerns, but for the most part they have contracted directly with farmers to grow, say, nonbiotech corn for Frito-Lay chips. So there has been relatively little need for testing or segregation in the general grain supply.
But with increasing skepticism among consumers in Europe and Japan about bioengineered food, and in some cases new requirements for labeling, the need to separate bioengineered and conventional crops has grown. And so there may be more scenes like the roadblocks set up to stop any StarLink corn from getting into processing plants.
On a chilly morning in Cedar Rapids, a steady stream of semis was pulling up under a canopy at the inspection site to have their loads tested before entering the Archer Daniels corn processing plant, where raw corn is turned into high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch and other products.
Inspections have always taken place at processing plants, to check the quality, moisture and weight of crops, but these days two additional men are sitting by a coffee grinder, grounding up corn samples, shaking them up in water, dipping tiny strips into the solution and then waiting 10 minutes for the results.
By 9:45 a.m., the inspectors had rejected 9 trucks out of 213, each filled with about 950 bushels of corn. The number of trucks turned away is striking, since less than 0.5 percent of this year's corn acreage nationwide was planted with StarLink seed. The elevators that shipped the corn are then stuck with it until they can find an alternative buyer for another use.
The inspections have clearly slowed the process of shipping corn to market, and some farmers and truckers complain that the tests being used, intended to detect Cry9C in one kernel of corn out of 400, are flawed.
"It's all in the probing," said one trucker, who asked not to be identified. "You have 10 samples that test positive and then one that doesn't. It's all the luck of the samples."
Farmers and truckers say their loads could be rejected over the presence of just one StarLink kernel in a batch of grain sampled from the 950 bushels. And while the truckers, and farmers, have been promised compensation, they say the difficulty of finding new buyers, and possibly losing out in some markets, has been troubling.
To ease the situation, Aventis has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to approve StarLink for human consumption for four years, to allow the StarLink corn already harvested to work its way through the food chain. In the meantime, several processors are asking the E.P.A. and food companies to make a tiny percentage of Cry9C acceptable in food, as they do with many other impurities.
"When the handler makes the decision, they have to have realistic expectations," said an Agriculture Department official. "When they have zero tolerance, it's impractical."
Farmers may be the hardest hit by all the testing. Even some who knew nothing about StarLink say it has turned up in their harvest.
"I didn't grow any StarLink corn, but I got contaminated by a neighbor," said Keith Weller, 50, who farms near Westside, Iowa. "This issue of contamination is a real problem."
Some farmers who planted StarLink say they were not told about 660-foot buffer zones mandated by the E.P.A. between StarLink corn and corn grown for food, and they say pollen may have drifted even longer distances, leading to cross- pollination with a neighbor's crop.
Randy Kohorst, a 43-year-old corn and soybean farmer in Arcadia, Iowa, says he planted 200 acres of StarLink. But he says he was told nothing by the Garst Seed Company of Slater, Iowa, which sold him the seed, about buffer zones or marketing restrictions.
"We had it harvested before we heard it was a problem," he said. "And it was commingled, so now all my production is contaminated."
Now he is stuck with a StarLink crop and complaining about lost marketing opportunities.
A spokesman at Garst said that the company was informing farmers about the requirements placed on use of StarLink corn. "It's unfortunate some customers say they weren't informed about the program," said Jeff Lacina, the spokesman. "But we worked hard to get that message out."
And corn prices already in a slump may decline further this year because exports to Japan, the largest purchaser of American corn, are down because of concerns about StarLink, which has also been found in food there.
Mr. Kohorst and other farmers say the problem may be costing them more than the 25-cent premium Aventis is offering for the StarLink crop.
Elevator operators, who buy crops from farmers and then ship them to giant processors or feed lots, are also facing inconvenience, despite receiving extra transportation expenses from Aventis.
For Aventis, containing the spread of StarLink is not easy. The company says it has accounted for 90 percent of the 350,000 acres planted in 2000, but it admits that the 1998 and 1999 harvests are either buried on farms and elevators (in an undocumented fashion) or have already reached the market and entered the food stream.
To help deal with the problem, the company has supplied Cry9C test kits to grain elevators and processors around the country. It also says it will help farmers who did not plant StarLink but whose crops were contaminated by cross-pollination to find a market for their corn, and will consider additional compensation in some cases.
The bigger cost, though, could be borne by the biotech industry, which has spent billions of dollars over the last decade to develop genetically altered crops that mean higher yields for farmers and may some day deliver medicines and vaccines as well.
That effort, of course, could be upset if farmers decide not to plant biotech crops like Roundup Ready soybeans and corn, which are bioengineered to resist a common Monsanto herbicide called Roundup. Though the soybeans can be sold everywhere, the corn is unapproved in Europe.
"StarLink has definitely set back the biotech industry, maybe five years," said Lewis W. Batchelder, a senior vice president at Archer Daniels, which is based in Decatur, Ill.
Regardless of what farmers decide to plant, Jim Magnuson, general manager at the Sully Cooperative Exchange, an elevator in Sully, Iowa, says farmers need to pay more attention next year.
"For a producer, the lesson is to know exactly what you're planting," he said. "We as an industry have operated on the handshake. But what we know now is that in a big, bad world, those assurances no longer apply."
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes.
Selected by Pro Farmer Editors
By Jerri Stroud December 10, 2000,
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A week ago, Steve and Bernie Gordon thought they had nailed down a deal to sell a 50-car trainload of corn from their central Illinois farm at a premium price.
Then they got a letter from Garst Seed Co.
Now they may not be able to sell the corn for anything but a steep discount. "I've lost $40,000," said Bernie Gordon, 46, who has been farming with his brother for 22 years.
The letter, dated Nov. 29, informed the Gordons that some StarLink bioengineered corn had been mixed into bags of seed the Gordons purchased and planted last spring on five of 13 farms they cultivate near Rantoul, in the heart of the Corn Belt, about 180 miles northeast of St. Louis.
Not only was the corn seed the Gordons bought from Garst not supposed to contain StarLink - a type of genetically engineered corn not approved for human consumption - it was not supposed to contain any genetically engineered material.
The letter has put the deal for the 150,000-bushel trainload of corn on hold, and at least two nearby elevators say they won't buy the corn if it has StarLink in it.
The Gordons had decided this year to plant only conventional corn - avoiding genetically engineered corn throughout the 2,200 acres they farm.
Why? "I was afraid that something like this would happen," said Bernie Gordon, referring to a controversy that has prompted many buyers to refuse shipments of StarLink corn.
Hundreds of food products ranging from taco shells to snack foods have been recalled in recent months after traces of the unapproved StarLink have been found in the food supply.
The controversy has depressed the value of corn nationwide and forced farmers to seek testing to prove that their corn is StarLink- free. StarLink, developed by Aventis Crop Science and licensed to Garst and other seed companies, has been approved only for animal feed and industrial uses. Aventis genetically modified StarLink to produce its own pesticide, a protein known as Cry9C. The protein has been shown to cause allergic reactions in some people. Food processors and some foreign buyers are rejecting corn that contains the protein.
The Gordons planted the Garst seed on just 100 acres. But because they didn't know it contained StarLink, they made no effort to segregate the corn from the rest of their crop. The corn was mixed with corn grown from other seed when it went through the Gordons' grain-drying system.
"I didn't worry about it," said Bernie Gordon. Now, the Gordons are faced with the prospect of testing each of the 14 steel bins where the corn is stored. The bins - each as big as a small house - are scattered among 13 farms within a 20-mile drive of Rantoul. Even a trace of StarLink can kill a sale to local elevators. The tests being run can detect one kernel of Starlink in every 400 kernels - about a quarter of a percent.
Thanks to firstname.lastname@example.org for posting this:
Greenpeace France, Tel: +33 60757 31 60; 12th December, 2000. http://www.greenpeace.org
Central Soya, a subsidiary of Eridania-Beghin-Say, and one of the largest commodity processors and food producers in the world have confirmed to Greenpeace that they will convert their soybean facility in Bordeaux to exclusively GM-free production.
For more information: Greenpeace France, Tel: +33 60757 31 60;
Tuesday December 12, 4:36 pm Eastern Time
WASHINGTON, Dec 12 (Reuters) The head of the U.S. Food and Drug on whether there was a risk to humans from a type of biotech corn that triggered the recall of more than 300 foods.
Jane Henney, FDA commissioner, said there were still unanswered questions about StarLink, a corn variety engineered to repel pests that was not approved for use in human food.
Thanks to Luke Anderson for posting this:
Reuters ARGENTINA: December 13, 2000
BUENOS AIRES Agribusiness giant Monsanto Co may close some operations in Argentina if the government does not loosen restrictions on genetically modified (GM) food production, a company official said.
Argentina's policy of authorizing new GM products only if they have been approved in European Union endangers Monsanto's projects including an $8 million cotton seed processing plant joint venture, said Miguel Potocnik, Monsanto's agriculture director for southern Latin America. "This investment is in danger and if (the cotton seeds) don't get approved it could be yet another plant that closes in Argentina," Potocnik told Reuters in a recent interview.
U.S.-based Monsanto produces herbicides such as Roundup, seeds and related genetic trait products to help farmers grow crops with higher yields while controlling weeds, insects and diseases. The company's "Roundup Ready" cotton has not been authorized by Argentina's Agriculture Ministry, which is trying to balance local interests with the increasing hostility abroad toward GM products.
Organizations like Greenpeace have rallied public sentiment, especially in Europe, against what they derisively describe as "Frankenstein foods" on the grounds that not enough is known about gene-altered crops to deem them safe. Argentina is the world's second-largest producer of GM crops but concern has grown about their viability as its No. 1 trading partner Brazil has lately stiffened its ban on GM crops and their importation.
"The risk that we're running is that as a country we could be left behind in a technology that we had the opportunity to latch onto first, and now it seems like we want to give it up," Potocnik said. About 90 percent of Argentina's 10 million-hectare soybean crop sprouts from Monsanto's seeds. An Agriculture Ministry spokesman told Reuters recently that Argentina's GM policy had allowed it to gain the upper hand over the United States in exporting corn to Spain.
MONTPELLIER, France, December 12, 2000 (ENS) With concerns over genetically modified foods unabated around the world, officials from the 177 member
governments of the Convention on Biological Diversity are meeting in Montpellier to discuss practical steps for minimizing some of the potential risks of biotechnology.
The negotiators on the Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (ICCP)convened yesterday and will continue talks through Friday.
By CAROL KAESUK YOON, New York Times, December 14, 2000
Ever since genetically modified crops appeared, supporters and detractors of the plants have made competing claims about whether they are safe or harmful to the environment.
Tomorrow, in what some scientists say is the first comprehensive review of the published scientific data, researchers will report that simple conclusions cannot yet be drawn because the crucial studies have not yet been done.
Millions of acres of the crops have been planted in the United States, their way paved by studies conducted by industry and submitted to government regulators as evidence of safety but which typically were not published in peer-reviewed journals.
For this review, the researchers examined only studies that other scientists had determined were of high- enough quality to merit publication.
The researchers found that while genetically engineered crops hold potential for both risk and benefit, scientists still know little about the likelihood even of the environmental threats of greatest concern. Also, almost no studies have been published documenting ecological benefits.
The two authors of the study published in the journal Science are fellows sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest nonprofit scientific federation.
In their study, in which they call for new research, the authors say current data indicate that assessing ecological risks is likely to be complex, with risks varying among crops, even among strains of a single crop, between environments and over time. Some risks, they say, may be so difficult and time-consuming to assess as to be effectively unknowable.
"We're a ways away from really having answers," said Dr. LaReesa Wolfenbarger, an ecologist who is doing her fellowship at the Environmental Protection Agency and is co- author of the study with Dr. Paul Phifer, a conservation biologist doing his fellowship at the State Department. The authors emphasized that they had conducted the study independently and did not speak for the government.
"Some of these questions are very elusive," Dr. Wolfenbarger said, "but that doesn't mean that we stop studying them or make sweeping generalizations that they don't exist."
Scientists on both sides of the debate called the review fair and accurate, though each side interpreted the findings differently.
"It's a pretty reasonable summary and pretty well balanced," said Dr. Robert Fraley, chief technical officer of the Monsanto Company.
Dr. Fraley played down the findings, however, saying that in several years of commercial use, no ecological problems had yet been shown to be caused by genetically engineered plants.
Dr. Jane Rissler, senior staff scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group critical of the use of genetically modified crops, called the paper "very fair and clear."
Dr. Rissler said: "You come out of this with a strong sense that we don't know very much about the risks and the benefits. If we don't know, why are we doing this?"
A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture, which oversees regulation of genetically engineered plants, said scientists at the department were reviewing the study.
The researchers examined 35 peer-reviewed studies. They looked at risks including the production of "superweeds," the creation of new viral diseases and unintended harm to nonpest species, like monarch butterflies. They often found that while studies suggested a potential for risk, other studies presented conflicting results arguing against risk. In some cases, laboratory studies suggested risk, but no studies in the field were conducted to test if harm occurred.
And while some studies showed the potential for environmental benefits from these crops, the researchers found they fell short of documenting actual benefit.
For example, a Department of Agriculture study indicated a 1 percent decrease in the amount of pesticides used on corn, cotton and soybeans in 1998, as an apparent result of the adoption of genetically modified crops. Yet, Dr. Wolfenbarger said, it remains unknown whether this decrease in pesticides translated into any environmental benefit for wild species.
Thanks to Brad Duplisea for posting this:
from a press release, December 13, 2000
PORTLAND, Ore. - Gardenburger Inc. (Nasdaq: GBUR) announced today that it has begun making its famous Gardenburger(R) meat alternative products with traditional soybeans unaltered by genetic engineering, known as "non-GMO" soy. Gardenburger Inc. is the only food company among the major veggie burger producers to make such a commitment to consumers.
"Feedback from our customers and several national studies demonstrate a strong consumer preference for non-GMO ingredients," said Jim Linford, Interim President and CEO of Gardenburger.
"Our company has always been known for making products that consumers feel good about eating. As the leader and the last remaining major independent manufacturer in our category, we're responding by making the choice of non-GMO soy available to consumers who want it."
Soybeans have attracted considerable attention because more than half of the current domestic crop is planted with genetically modified seed, increasing the likelihood that soy products on store shelves contain these altered beans.
A 1999 poll by Time magazine showed that 58 percent of consumers would not buy genetically modified products if they were labeled as such. The impact is significant with soy burgers, a popular convenience product made almost entirely of soy.
Three manufacturers account for approximately 89 percent of the soy burgers sold in grocery stores in the United States: Gardenburger, Boca Burger from the Kraft division of Philip Morris, and the Morningstar Farms brand from Kellogg.
To ensure that the soy used in Gardenburger products is not genetically modified, the company is requiring its suppliers to certify that the entire supply - from the seed through the manufacturing process - meets strict non-GMO standards. In addition, Gardenburger randomly tests its raw materials as well as its finished product.
Note from Dr. Joe Cummins: The really frightening aspect of genetic engineering is, as shown below, that genetic engineers can and do willfully inflict pain and even death and , at worst, face bureaucratic winking and nudging. Where are the criminal courts?
Thanks to Dr. Cummins for posting this:
By Gretchen Vogel, Science Dec 15 2000: 2049-2051.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun proceedings that could disqualify gene therapy researcher James Wilson of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia from conducting any future clinical trials. Wilson, who is head of the university's Institute for Human Gene Therapy, oversaw the trial in which 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger died after a genetically altered virus was injected into his liver (Science, 17 December 1999, p. 2244).
Here is a story of plans to create a chicken with a human gene, which would turn the chicken in a drug factory, to may money for industry:
December 6, 2000 Web posted at: 3:28 PM EST http://www.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/cancer/12/06/health.chickens.reut
LONDON, England (Reuters) - The Scottish scientists who created Dolly, the world's first cloned mammal, announced a deal Wednesday with U.S. biotech company Viragen Inc. to breed chicken that produce life-saving drugs in their eggs.
Dr Helen Sang, of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute said the deal will combine the nuclear transfer technology used to make Dolly with Viragen's expertise in developing anti-cancer proteins.
"The essence of this project is to create chickens which produce eggs containing new drugs to treat many serious diseases, including cancer," Sang said in a statement.
Roslin scientists are already developing cows, sheep, goats and rabbits to provide proteins for drugs in their milk but birds provide a cheaper, faster and virtually unlimited production process through laying eggs.
"This collaborative effort is being undertaken to enable the production of a wide variety of drugs in greater volume and at a fraction of the cost when compared to conventional manufacturing methods," explained Gerald Smith of Florida-based Viragen.
News of the deal that was announced at Edinburgh Castle was leaked in British newspapers during the weekend, along with news that Britney, reportedly one of a flock of genetically modified birds, would make an appearance.
But it seems to have been a case of counting eggs before they are hatched.
"There is no Britney," a Roslin spokeswoman told Reuters.
"The announcement is about work to be done in the future. It is not done yet," she added.
"With the entire recent furore, and the complete lack of assurances concerning contamination and potential market, many farmers will be making personal economic choices against planting any GM crops next season.
The Archer Daniels grain processor has warned farmers via radio advertisements that it will not be accepting GM crops that have not gained worldwide approval ......"
--(justfood.com Report: 11 Dec, 2000) See below for full article
NLP WESSEX Footnote:
The article below refers to 'higher yields' from GM crops. However, the journalists concerned are clearly unaware that in reality GM crops frequently produce lower yields, so those farmers switching back to non-gm varieties are unlikely to lose out (for more information see: http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/gmnebraskasoycomment.h.... ).
Thanks to "NLP Wessex" email@example.com for posting the following:
Source: just-food.com editorial team,
11 Dec 2000
Hitting the farmers hardest
Set back the industry
Following a series of high profile and extremely costly food recalls, every major US agricultural/food processing company is becoming understandably obsessed with testing genetically engineered corn for the Cry9C protein, banned for human consumption due to fears it could prompt an allergic reaction. While testers forage for banned GM grains however, it is the US farmers that are feeling the pinch.
The majority of Iowa farmers still support GM crops in principle, as they deliver higher yields and reduce the need for pesticides, but when the impact of the StarLink debacle started to hit home farmers realised that they were among the parties who are losing out.
No actual health hazards have been officially associated with the protein and StarLink, but the risk is enough to prompt recalls, and the true extent of this is becoming apparent with the issue of contamination.
Grain is notoriously difficult to contain, and farmers are now beginning to find whole shipments of their non-GM grain produce rejected because tests carried out by food manufacturers have shown that somewhere along the chain, the grain picked up even just one stray StarLink kernel.
Maybe the transporting truck was not entirely cleaned out, or maybe kernels from fields belonging to neighbouring farms simply blew over. Many farmers are now claiming that they were not made aware of the government’s recommendation that a 660ft buffer zone be maintained between GM and non-GM fields.
It is turning out to be a logistical nightmare as engineers admit that the grain handling system that transports stock in bulk was built with economies of scale in mind, not minute segregation.
Compensation for the losses of this bio-technical debacle is immense. Not only must farmers be reimbursed for the costs of lost cargoes already shouldered, but also the loss of opportunities in potential markets. The EU and Japan are notoriously sceptical of GM foods and the extent of consumer concern is beginning to be reflected in the demand for GM labelling, which may lead to a huge drop in sales. Corn prices have already slumped drastically, and they could go further.
StarLink’s creator, Aventis CropScience, has now withdrawn its license for further sale, and while it received less than US$1m in licensing fees, it is stand to lose several hundred million dollars in attempts to resolve the issue. It admits that it is unable to account for 10% of the 350,000 acres planted this year and has already spent vast sums on supplying kits to test for the Cry9C protein to grain processors and elevators nation-wide.
For the biotech industry as a whole, StarLink may be a harbinger of multi-million dollar hassles to come. With the entire recent furore, and the complete lack of assurances concerning contamination and potential market, many farmers will be making personal economic choices against planting any GM crops next season.
The Archer Daniels grain processor has warned farmers via radio advertisements that it will not be accepting GM crops that have not gained worldwide approval and this is a huge blow for the companies that have spent billions of dollars developed higher-yield, insect resistant crops and hoped to deliver medicine and vaccines in the future.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.