Genetically Manipulated Food News

25 March 1997

Table of Contents

Letter from Foundation on Economic Trends
Global Day of Action: 21 - 26 April 1997
Against Gene-Foods: Suggested Plan of Action
Austria Bans Frankencorn
Swedish consumers urge importers to boycot US G-E soy
Swedens Largest Food Store Expels GE Food

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Jeremy Rifkin, President, Foundation on Economic Trends

January 15, 1997

Dear NGO,

On behalf of the Foundation on Economic Trends and the Pure Food Campaign we would like to thank you for signing on to the petition against Monsanto's genetically engineered "Roundup Ready" soybeans. Over 300 consumer, health, trade, environmental, and farm organizations from 48 nations joined with you in signing this joint declaration

With your support we were able to launch successfully on October 7 our formal USA boycott of RRS soybeans (and Ciba-Geigy's gene-spliced "Maximizer" corn) with well-publicized press conferences and protests in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Illinois, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. These events generated major coverage in the US media (CNN, CNBC, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune) as well as coverage abroad (Canada, U.K., Germany, Japan) and have energized consumer and farm activists to advance forward in what will undoubtedly be a protracted and difficult battle.

Because of global opposition to Monsanto's RRS soybeans, significant economic impacts are already being felt in the US. A growing number of grain dealers have already broken ranks with the grain cartels and are filling orders for certified non-genetically engineered soybeans at the request of major European and US buyers. On December 5, the first shipload of these GMO-free soybeans arrived in the Belgian port of Antwerp, destined for delivery to customers in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Sweden.

Several more shiploads are already in route. Because of strong opposition by consumers and the European business sector association, Eurocommerce, in the first four weeks of the boycott US soy exports to Europe fell by over 10% ($150 million). With the recent launch of a parallel boycott in Japan and other countries, the White House and the US Department of Agriculture are in a panic--warning that a trade war may erupt if nations refuse to purchase America's genetically engineered grains.

The RRS boycott is shaping up to be one of the first serious challenges of GATT and the WTO. If resistance continues to grow, the out-of-control biotech express train can be brought to a halt. Already in the US, one major supermarket chain with annual sales of one billion dollars, Whole Foods, has begun to demand non-genetic engineering certification from its soy and corn suppliers, and other chains and food retailers are soon to follow.

So again thank you for your support. In this era of corporate globalization and increasing industrialization of the food supply, green and progressive-minded people have no choice but to organize and campaign on a transnational basis. Isolated and fragmented, civil society is no match for the Monsantos and the grain cartels. But together we can win.

In Solidarity,

Jeremy Rifkin, President, Foundation on Economic Trends


Global Day of Action: 21 - 26 April 1997

Dear NGO and Activist Friends,

The Foundation on Economic Trends, the Pure Food Campaign, and the undersigned activists from around the world would like to invite you and your organization to join us and participate in the April 1997 Global Days of Action against genetically engineered foods and crops. During the week of April 21-26, consumer, farm, and public interest organizations from over two dozen nations will be holding simultaneous "grain dumps" and press conferences in front of grocery supermarkets, corporate headquarters, and government offices to strengthen the growing global boycott against the forced commercialization of unlabeled, untested gene-altered corn and soybeans (Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" Soybeans, Ciba-Geigy's "Maximizer" Bt Corn) and other biotech foods and crops.

With the participation of activists from many different nations we look forward this April to the first coordinated, global joint Days of Action against this dangerous, out-of-control technology, agricultural biotechnology.

Corporate-driven biotechnology poses a mortal threat to biological and cultural diversity, and severely undermines the potential for food security and agricultural sustainability in both the North and the South. Properly coordinated and publicized, we expect these April events to generate major media coverage throughout the world--getting across the message globally that consumers and farmers are saying no to genetically engineered foods and crops, getting across the message that out-of-control globalizing corporations can be disciplined and brought under control by coordinated grassroots global citizen action. By staging simultaneous "grain dumps" and press conferences, we will underline our joint determination to boycott the products of those transnational corporations who are attempting to force these gene-altered food products down our throats.

Because of global opposition to Monsanto's RRS soybeans and Ciba-Geigy's Bt corn, significant economic impacts are already being felt in the US and Europe. A growing number of grain dealers and supermarket chains have already broken ranks with the biotech companies and the grain cartels and are now filling orders for certified non-genetically engineered grains.

On December 5, the first shipload of certified non-genetically engineered soybeans arrived in the Belgian port of Antwerp, destined for delivery to customers in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Sweden. Because of strong opposition by consumers, in the first four weeks of European protests, US soy exports to Europe fell by over $150 million. With the recent launch of parallel boycott campaigns in Australia, Japan, and other countries, the White House and the US Department of Agriculture are having to revert to intimidation tactics--warning that a "trade war" may erupt if nations listen to "irrational" consumers and refuse to purchase genetically engineered grains from the United States.

The gene-soy and corn boycott is shaping up to be one of the first serious challenges mounted by global civil society against the New World Order of GATT and the WTO. If international resistance against gene-foods continues to grow, grassroots forces could win one of our first major battles against the transnational corporations, and for the first time in modern history could stop a new, non-sustainable technology before it wreaks havoc on the environment, the food chain, public health, and the survival of rural and traditional communities.

In this era of intensified economic exploitation and corporate globalization, consumers worldwide are being subjected to an increasing industrialization and contamination of the food supply. In this context, progressive-minded people have no choice but to organize and campaign on a transnational basis. Isolated and fragmented, civil society is no match for Monsanto, Ciba-Geigy, and the other giant chemical and agricultural corporations who are tampering with our food and destroying our environment. But by campaigning and organizing together on an international basis we can win.

So let us accelerate this "peoples grassroots globalization" process now by carrying out joint actions April 21-26, which will coincide with Earth Day activities in the US as well as the formal reevaluation by the United Nations of the state of the global environment "5 Years after the Rio Summit." Attached you will find a suggested plan of action, as well as sample materials produced by the Pure Food Campaign for grain dumps and press conferences held in the United States in 1996.

If you want to organize a joint action/press conference in your country or local area during the week of April 21-26, please contact the USA Pure Food Campaign office at:

Telephone (218) 226-4164 or (218) 226-4155, Fax (218) 226-4157 e-mail: purefood@aol.com

In Solidarity,

Jeremy Rifkin, President, Foundation on Economic Trends

Ronnie Cummins,Director, Pure Food Campaign

(other co-sponsors of April events)_April 21-26 Global Days of Action


Against Gene-Foods: Suggested Plan of Action

Note: These are just tactical suggestions that have arisen out of the Pure Food Campaign's experiences over the past few years in the USA. Many of you no doubt have already organized successful actions and media events of this type before.

Contact the USA Pure Food Campaign by telephone, fax, or e-mail and let us know your plans for anti-gene-foods action during the week of April 21-26. To do our international press work properly, the PFC needs this information at least one full month in advance. Most groups in the USA are planning major events for Tuesday, April 22. You may wish to consult with the PFC staff about the specific tactics and logistics of your event, as well as get an update on what groups in different countries are planning.

Select a media contact person for your April events so that the international press can be told who to call in your country for information and interviews. Prepare leaflets and a press release well in advance so that these can be shared with campaigners and sympathetic media in other countries. Also it's important to have a complete list of news organizations in your city or country (including reporters' contact names, telephone numbers and fax numbers) so they can receive not only your press release, but perhaps other international press releases as well.

Select a suitable time, place, speakers (we recommend a range of speakers with pre-prepared written remarks, including a consumer advocate, a farmer, a progressive businessperson, a chef, a labor and/or religious activist, and a scientist) and location for your "grain or gene-food dump" and press conference. We recommend that these 30-45 minute well-choreographed events (speakers first, followed by the dumping of the foods and grains) be held in front of grocery stores, corporate headquarters (Monsanto, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Coiba-Geigy/Novartis, etc.), or government offices (regulatory agencies, the US Embassy, etc.) Previous experience has taught us that it's usually better to publicize our events as something other than "protests," (unless we are certain beforehand we can turn out a large number of protestors), and that we need events that are visually graphic (with everyone carrying signs or banners and a dramatic "finale" of dumping grains and food products into a garbage barrel on onto the streets or sidewalks for TV and print photographers), as well as informative and interesting.

You need a minimum of 15 people (of course the more the better) to stage your event, you need certain "props" (large sacks of corn and soybeans to dump, sample tainted or "suspect" consumer food products containing soy or corn ingredients, a plastic or metal garbage barrel plastered on its outside with boycott posters, signs or banners, leaflets, etc.), and you need to alert the media beforehand by fax and telephone so that they cover your event and broadcast and amplify your message to thousands and hopefully millions of people. Due to the fact that this is the first global protest of this nature, and due to the fact that food safety, agriculture, trade, and genetic engineering are "hot button" issues, we expect to see major national and international news coverage of the April actions.

Finally we hope that by cooperating together on these April events we will solidify an ongoing global activist network that can continue to work together in the future.


Austria Bans Frankencorn

10:34 12-23-96

BRUSSELS, Dec 23 (Reuter) - Environmental group Greenpeace welcomed on Monday an Austrian government ban on imports of genetically modified U.S. maize developed by Swiss Ciba-Geigy .

"Austria has given the lead to other member states (of the European Union)...Greenpeace urges them to follow the Austrian example and challenge the Commission's decision," campaigner Michelle Sheathert said in a statement.

Following scientific advice, the European Commission last week approved the sale of the maize with as-yet unspecified labelling conditions, although only France and Spain had supported the move.

Austrian Health Minister Christa Krammer told Austrian radio that the government will ban imports from early January because insufficient work had been done on the antibiotic gene in the maize.

The maize, which will be imported from the United States, carries an antibiotic "marker gene" and has been genetically modified to resist a herbicide and the corn borer pest.

Under EU rules, member states can challenge the Commission's decision if they think it poses a risk to human health or to the environment.


Swedish consumers urge importers to boycot US G-E soy

WE DEMAND A BAN ON GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD

This heading appeared today, october 23, 1996, in Sweden's largest national newspaper, Dagens Nyheter on top of a sharply formulated proclamation against genetically engineered food in general and the unlabelled genetically engineered soy and corn products that now are arriving in Europe in spite of widespread protest from consumers all over the continent. Its heading was:

The proclamation was signed by 15 presidents of Sweden's most important organizations, including the Consumers council and all important consumers organisations, the Labour Union (organizing over 80 % of all labourers), Sweden's Cooperative Food store chain (one of the largest in the country), the two Retired Peoples' Societies (organizing a very large proportion of all retireds), the Nature Protection Society (very influential in Sweden) and others. These represent a very large part of the population of Sweden.

The proclamation urged:

All food importers and food manufacturers not to buy soy beans from USA until the genetically engineered beans are labelled and segregated from natural beans.

The Swedish government and the European Union (to which Sweden belongs)

IMMEDIATELY TO CREATE RULES THAT FORBID GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD AND FOOD ADDITIVES AND ALSO RULES THAT FORBID THE RELEASE OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED ORGANISMS INTO THE ENVIRONMENT UNTIL THE PRODUCERS HAVE CLEARLY PROVEN THAT THEY CONSTITUTE NO RISK AT ALL F+R PEOPLE AND FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.

An absolute minimum requirement that immediately should be satisfied is that the genetically engineered food must be labelled. Also the purpose of the engineering must be declared on the label.

It is pointed out that the soybeans that now are about to be imported Europe are engineered to withstand larger doses of toxic herbicides and that the only ones that benefit from this are the producers, but not the consumers nor the environment.

It is pointed out that there are many potential hazards with genetically engineered organisms and that the scientific knowledge about this is very incomplete. Therefore a thorough evaluation of genetically engineered foods must be done.

Many potential hazards with genetically engineered foods are enumerated, a o:

The concluding sentence was:

IT IS NOT WE, THE CONSUMERS, WHO SHALL PROVE THE RISKS. IN STEAD IT IS THE PRODUCERS WHO MUST PROVE THAT THE FOOD IS NOT HAZARDOUS. UNTIL THIS HAS BEEN DONE WE DON'T WANT ANY ENGINEERED GENES IN OUR FOOD NOR IN THE ENVIRONMENT.

(This proclamation was largely based on information material from the Natural Law Party. The medical advisor of the party is also member of the expert council on genetic engineering of the National Consumers Council that took the intitative to write this proclamation).


Swedens Largest Food Store Expels GE Food

In september 1996, Sweden's largest food store chain, SABA, with stores in almost every town above 10.000 inhabitants, has declared that it will be very careful not to allow any genetically engineered food or food components to enter the products they sell.

CONCLUSION:

There is a strong and opinion against genetically engineered food in Sweden. The indignation is very great among the consumers that the producers do not label the genetically engineered products. There is a clear realization that the knowledge about the hazards is still so incomplete that it is unreasonable and irresponsible to produce such organisms for eating and to release them into nature. It is very clear to the consumers that there exists no evidence proving that the genetically engineered have benefits that justify taking any risks at all with the health of people or with the environment.

The next step, if the producers do not show responsible behaviour will be for the consumers organizations all over the world to boycot other products by the producers. This means for example that the medicines produced by companies owned by for example Ciba and Monsanto will be listed all over the world and doctors and patients are urged not to use them. As the companies are obviously irresponsible, there are good reasons not to trust any other product manufactured by them.

THE SUCCESSFUL LOBBYING OF BIOTECH COMPANIES AGAINST LABELLING OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD HAS GREATLY HELPED TO AWAKEN THE AWARENESS AMONG CONSUMERS ABOUT THE DANGERS OF SUCH FOOD. THE RAPIDLY GROWING INDIGATION AND ANGER AMONG CONSUMERS ALL OWER THE WORLD OF BEING FORCED UNWITTINGLY TO EAT POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS FOOD IS NOW INSPIRING FIRM AND INCREASINGLY EFFICIENT ACTIONS THAT PROBABLY WILL CAUSE THE COMPANIES MUCH GREATER LOSSES THAN IF THE FOODS HAD BEEN LABELLED.

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