10 October 99

Table of Contents

South Africa: Invitation to Talk by Dr John Fagan
BIOWATCH: The African Position on GE and Patenting of Life
Call for Support for African Group Proposal on TRIPS Article 27.3b on Patenting of Life
Joint NGO Statement of Support for the Africa Group Proposals on Reviewing the WTO TRIPS Agreement (Article 27.3b)
Bt cotton: open letter from Thailand
Terminator II - set for comeback
GE Soya beans ... what's in there?
UK Guardian Article "Biotech industry attacked"
GM CANOLA....a lesson from Ausralia
10 Reasons Biotech Will NOT Ensure Food Security

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Date: Mon, 18 Oct 1999 20:35:51 +0200
From: "Kerry"

South Africa: Invitation to Talk by Dr John Fagan

By Kerry Niddrie, Safe Food Coalition

TALKS IN GAUTENG (Johannesburg)

Dear Friends,

We are very fortunate to have one of the world's leading scientists and MUM professor, Dr John Fagan (see Dr Fagan's Background in Brief below), in South Africa for a short time this month. Don't miss this unique opportunity to hear an internationally respected molecular biologist who is also an expert on Maharishi's Vedic Science speak about his research into the cosmic potential of our DNA.

Gain insight into modern scienceís limiting perception of the genetic code and why technologies to physically manipulate the genetic code are so dangerously short sighted. Hear about the latest research into Maharishiís technologies to develop the total cosmic potential hidden in the structure of our DNA.

The Safe Food Coalition has organised Dr Faganís visit to SA to aid their campaign against genetically engineered foods. Dr Fagan has generously agreed to talk at TM Centres while he is here. A donation to help cover the costs of the tour will be greatly appreciated and can be made at the talks (R20 has been suggested). Thank you.


In 1994 Dr Fagan ended 25 years of research work into molecular genetic biology out of concern that his research might indirectly promote genetic engineering in humans. He returned more than $2 million in research grants and grant proposals to emphasise his concern about the application of genetic engineering technology to food production, and the health and ethical dangers of germ-line genetic engineering in humans.

For the past five years Dr. Fagan has focused on stimulating dialogue about national and international policy and regulations regarding the use of genetic engineering in agriculture and the food industry. This focus has taken him to more than 20 countries around the world where he has met with international regulatory bodies, national legislators, government representatives, the food and agricultural industries, the press, consumer representatives, the public, and leaders in the scientific community.

This work has had direct impact on national and international policy on genetically modified foods. The numerous newspaper articles, and TV and radio shows resulting from this work have contributed significantly to increased public understanding of the issues related to genetically engineered foods.

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Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 10:49:44 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay
From: Glenn Ashton

BIOWATCH: The African Position on GE and Patenting of Life

Hello all,

is is a technical and longish email that asks for support for the African Position. I know Biowatch has signed but suggest that other NGOs and Interested and Affected parties have a look at this and spread it to wherever it may be relevant.

This is an unprecedented challenge to the Global Status quo and is one of the first shining fruits to appear at the beginning the African Renaissance. This needs your support.

Below is the website link to access this and other important trade issue campaigns.

The internet is proving to be a boon beyond belief with many campaigns that would otherwise have been almost impossible (e.g. the Global outcry about GE food). I urge us all to use it to the max and expand its reach whilst remaining responsible netizens!

Go to for more info on; Sign-on Statement against a Millennium Round in the WTO

Sign-on letter against the MAI in the WTO

World Scientists' Statement Sign-on: Calling for a Moratorium on GM Crops and Ban on Patents

All the best
Glenn Ashton.

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Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 10:49:44 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay
From: Glenn Ashton
From: Martin Khor

Call for Support for African Group Proposal on TRIPS Article 27.3b on Patenting of Life

( * See Joint NGO statement below)

Dear friends and colleagues,

We would like to bring to your attention an important development at the World Trade Organisation.

On 6 August, Kenya - on behalf of the African Group of WTO Members - issued a proposal on TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property) as part of the preparation process for the Seattle Ministerial Conference. The paper can be found at the WTO website on its document dissemination facility.

Part of the African Group paper deals with comments on and proposals on Article 27.3b that deals with patenting of biological materials and of plant varieties. This is an issue of immense interest to many NGOs, farmers' groups and other social movements.

The proposals by the African Group are most significant, as they question the TRIPS' requirement for mandatory patenting of some life forms and some natural processes. It proposes a clarification that plants, animals and microorganisms should not be patentable. It also seeks a clarification that a "sui generis" system of plant varieties protection can include systems that protect the intellectual rights of indigenous and farming communities. It also asks that TRIPs be made to harmonise with the Biodiversity Convention and the FAO's International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources.

The tabling of a paper with such a positive position in favour of community rights by such a large group of developing countries is, we feel, a very significant event. It means that the issue of patenting of life is now on the table of the official WTO process of preparing for Seattle.

We feel it is crucial that NGOs and social movements show their support for the position and action taken by the African Group, in order that the issue be made a high priority for the Seattle Conference.

At a meeting of NGOs (organised by Third World Network and Tebtebba Foundation) held in Manila on 9-11 August, it was agreed that the NGOs would draw up and disseminate a joint statement in support of the African Group position.

We are attaching below, the Joint NGO Statement for your information and, we hope, for your action.

We would be pleased if you would consider the following actions:

  1. Sign on to the Statement by sending your name, organisation and address to the Third World Network at: For the French version of the statement, please send your signatures to: For the Spanish version of the statement, please send your signatures to:

  2. Ask others to sign on to it.

  3. Help to disseminate the Statement.

  4. Make use of the Statement, and the original African Group paper of 6 August, to lobby your Government to take note of and to support the African Group position.

    This support by your Government can be made in two ways:

    1. The issue is now on the table of the WTO General Council for the negotiations on what will be decided by Ministers in the Seattle Conference. In practical terms, this means that a paragraph or part of a paragraph of the Seattle Ministerial Declaration can include a reference to the review of Article 27.3b. Governments can be asked to support a position similar to the African Group proposals.

    2. The issue is also being discussed at the WTO's TRIPS Council, where a review of Article 27.3b is taking place. Support for a position similar to the African Group's can be given at the TRIPS Council. The next meeting of this Council is in October.

  5. It is possible that some developed countries will try to downplay, criticise or even undermine the ideas contained in the African Group paper. It is crucial that NGOs prevent this from happening. To enable this preventive action, it is important to first build and spread awareness of what is happening, among NGOs and the public in different countries. We hope you can play your role.

  6. Try to get your Government to formulate a position that could extend further the African Group's position, for example to propose specifically that WTO Members should not allow the patenting of any life forms and natural processes. This means that Article 27.3b should be amended, to say that WTO Members shall exclude from patentability all life forms, including plants, animals, microoragnisms and parts thereof; and also exlude from patentability all natural processes for the production of plants, animals, microorganisms and all living things.

Thank you for your patience for reading this long message. The Joint NGO Statement (with the initial groups signing on) follows.

With best wishes,

Martin Khor, Director
(Third World Network)
Penang, Malaysia, 26 August 1999.

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Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 10:49:44 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay
From: Glenn Ashton
From: Martin Khor

Joint NGO Statement of Support for the Africa Group Proposals on Reviewing the WTO TRIPS Agreement (Article 27.3b)


We the undersigned social movements, citizen groups and non-governmental organisations would like to express our warm support for the position taken by the Africa Group of countries in the World Trade Organisation on the review of the TRIPS Agreement, Article 27.3(b), relating to patenting of life forms and plant varieties.

According to the paper submitted by Kenya on behalf of the Africa Group to the WTO General Council (WT/GC/W/302, dated 6 August 1999) as part of the preparations for the WTO Seattle Ministerial Conference:

The review process (of this Article) should clarify that plants and animals as well as microorganisms and all other living organisms and their parts cannot be patented, and that natural processes that produce plants, animals and other living organism should also not be patentable.

The paper also puts forward the view that by stipulating compulsory patenting of micro-organisms (which are natural living things) and microbiological processes (which are natural processes), Article 27.3b of TRIPS contravenes the basic tenets of patent laws: that substances and processes that exist in nature are a discovery and not an invention and thus are not patentable.

It adds: "Moreover by giving Members the option whether or not to exclude patentability of plants and animals, Article 27.3b allows for life forms to be patented."

It calls for the review process to clarify why Article 27.3b does not provide Members with the option of excluding microorganisms and microbiological processes from patentability. The paper says an artificial distinction was made between what can be excluded from patents (plants and animals; biological processes) and what must be patented (microorganisms and microbiological processes).

The above points made by the Africa Group are very significant and crucial, and correspond to the concerns raised by many citizen groups, farmers organisations, environmental groups and development groups around the world. These groups have been campaigning against the patenting of life forms and biological materials because such patents would allow the private monopolisation of life and of biological resources, and would cause serious adverse effects on development, food security, the livelihoods of millions of farmers, on the environment. Such patents are also facing objections from the public on ethical, religious and moral grounds.

We congratulate the Africa Group for their principled and well thought out position on this issue, and we urge other Member states of the WTO to endorse their position on the review of this part of TRIPS Article 27.3b.

The Africa Group paper also gives a clear direction to the review of another part of Article 27.3b, which specifies that Members shall provide for the protection of plant varieties either through patents or an effective sui generis system.

The paper says that the review must clarify that developing countries can opt for a national sui generis law that protects innovations of indigenous and local farming communities (consistent with the Biodiversity Convention and the FAOs International Undertaking); that allows the continuation of traditional farming practices including the right to save and exchange seeds and sell their harvests; and that prevents anti-competitive rights or practices that thratens food sovereignty of people in developing countries.

It adds that the review should harmonise Article 27.3b with the provisions of the CBD and the FAOs International Undertaking, in which the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, the protection of rights and knowledge of indigenous and local communities, and the promotion of farmers rights are fully taken into account.

These points made by the Africa Group are very important in recognising the rights of people in developing countries (as well as in developed countries) to protect the traditional knowledge and biological resources of indigenous, farming and local communities.

These points in fact also correspond to the demands of civil society and farmers groups around the world, that patenting of plant varieties should not be allowed, and that a proper system of protection of knowledge on the use of biological resources should indeed protect the knowledge of local communities and should prevent the appropriation of such knowledge by private corporations (an act, known as biopiracy, that is now prevalent as more and more multinational companies are being granted patents on plants and other biological resources as well as for their traditionally-known uses and functions).

We believe that WTO Member states must have the option of a national system of plant varieties protection that protects the rights of indigenous, farming and local communities and their knowledge. The review process must clarify this so there is no mistake in interpretation on what constitutes an effective sui generis system. WTO Members must be allowed to introduce systems of their choice, including those that adhere to the principles of recognising the rights of these communities, in order to ensure food security, livelihoods and the development of sustainable agriculture.

We believe that the position of the Africa Group has contributed immensely to clarifying these demands, and we thus congratulate the Africa Group Members in the WTO for their stand on this matter.

We therefore:

  1. Endorse the positions taken by the Africa Group on both aspects of the review of Article 27.3b of TRIPS, i.e. the patenting of life, and the sui generis systems for plant varieties protection.

  2. Call on all other Members States of the WTO to support the positions of the Africa Group on the review of Article 27.3b.

  3. Call on the WTO Members to formulate a Section in the Ministerial Declaration of the forthcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle, that the positions of the Africa Group will be adopted in the review of Article 27.3b and that appropriate revisions will be made to the TRIPS Agreement to reflect this.

  4. Call on the WTO Members to amend the TRIPS Agreement as soon as possible to remove its present ambiguities and objectionable provisions and terms that now oblige Members to change their national laws to enable patenting of life forms and to romote biopiracy or the private appropriation of traditional knowledge and community resources. This should be a priority objective for the WTOs Seattle Ministerial Conference.

  5. Call on WTO Members to extend the deadline for implementing Article 27.3b of TRIPS from the present date of January 2000 to five years after the completion of the review of this Article (as has been proposed by the Africa Group).

Organisations supporting or endorsing the statement:

  1. Third World Network
  2. TEBTEBBA Foundation Inc, Philippines
  3. UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative), Bangladesh
  4. Instituto Latinamericano De Servicios Legales Alternativos (ILSA), Colombia
  5. Africa Trade Network, Ghana
  6. Public Interest Research Group, India
  7. Deccan Development Society, India
  8. Kalyanamitra, Indonesia
  9. International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), Indonesia
  10. KONPHALINDO, Indonesia
  11. EcoNews Africa, Kenya
  12. Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS), Korea
  13. Policy and Information Centre for International Solidarity (PICIS), Korea
  14. Korean Women Workers Association United (KWWAU), Korea
  15. Seoul Women Workers Association, Korea
  16. Hyundai Association of Trade Unions, Korea
  17. Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia
  18. Women's Development Collective, Malaysia
  19. Wayang, Thailand The Network, Pakistan (Association for Rational use of Medication in Pakistan)
  20. BEDARI, Pakistan
  21. GABRIELA, Philippines
  22. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Philippines
  23. Asia Pacific Forum Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Philippines
  24. IBON Foundation Inc. Philippines
  25. The Philippine Greens, Philippines
  26. Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Philippines
  27. Development Alternatives with Women of the New Era (DAWN)-South East Asia Forum-Asia, Thailand
  28. Assembly of the Poor, Thailand
  29. Project for Ecological Recovery (PER), Thailand
  30. Asian Indigenous Womens Network, The Philippines
  31. Institute for Sustainable Development, Ethiopia
  32. Anarchist Action of Rochester, USA
  33. Preamble Center, USA
  34. All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF), India
  35. The Corner House United Kingdom
  36. Basmati Action Group, Canada
  37. Campaign for Food Safety, USA
  38. Dana, A.C., Mexico
  39. Kalpavriksh Environmental Action Group, India
  40. Heritage Seed Curators, Australia
  41. Movimiento Autoridades Indigenas de Colombia, Colombia
  42. International Association of Educators for World Peace (IAEWP), Australia
  43. Cebu Environmental Initiatives for Development Center, Inc. (CEIDEC), The
  44. Philippines Friends of the Earth Netherlands
  45. United for a Fair Economy, USA
  46. Both ENDS, The Netherlands
  47. The People-Centered Development Forum, USA
  48. Urban Poor Consortium, Indonesia
  49. Bakti Pertiwi, Indonesia
  50. LBH APIK, Indonesia
  51. Tri Giri Asih, Indonesia
  52. Jakarta Legal Aid Office, Indonesia
  53. Yayasan Dinamika Indonesia, Indonesia
  54. Urban Poor Network, Indonesia
  55. Greater Jakarta Labour Union/Serikat Buruh Jabotabek, Indonesia
  56. Development VISIONS, Pakistan
  57. Focus on the Global South, Thailand
  58. ERA Consumer, Malaysia
  59. APS-CARE, Malaysia
  60. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), France
  61. LIFE (Youth of Friends of the Earth), Luxembourg
  62. Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Fiji
  63. Green Foundation, India
  64. Council for Responsible Genetics, USA
  65. Washington Biotechnology Action Council, USA
  66. Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN), Brussels
  67. Interface Trading, Senegal
  68. The Edmonds Institute, USA
  69. IRED, Chile
  70. Working Group on Traditional Resource Rights, United Kingdom
  71. Awami Committee for Development, Pakistan
  72. Red de Educacion Popular entre Mujeres (REPEM), Uruguay
  73. Research Foundation for Science and Technology and Ecology (RFSTE), India
  74. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, USA
  75. Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), India
  76. ActionAid Nepal
  77. ActionAid UK
  78. Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), Sri Lanka
  79. ECOS Design, Australia
  80. New Reef Foundation Environmental NGO, San Andres Island, Colombia
  81. Front Range Fair Trade Coalition, USA
  82. Ecologistas en Accion, Spain
  83. World Development Movement, UK
  84. Nairobi Peace Initiative-Africa
  85. Biowatch South Africa
  86. Helvetas Sri Lanka
  87. Ecological and Sustainable Farming Systems (ESFS), Sri Lanka
  88. Friends of the Earth-US
  89. Institute Justice Team, Illinois, USA
  90. Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Illinois, USA
  91. GATT WTO Campaign, Norway
  92. ActionAid Brazil
  93. Ecoropa, France
  94. Verts Maroc, Morroco
  95. Forum on Environment & Development, Germany
  96. South Asian Network On Food, Ecology And Culture (SANFEC), Bangladesh
  97. Society for Environment and Development (ENDEV), India
  98. Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, India
  99. ActionAid Ethiopia
  100. Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Sweden
  101. Swiss Coalition of Development Organisations, Switzerland
  102. The Open University & The Institute of Science in Society, England
  103. International Forum on Globalization, USA
  104. ATTAC France (Association pour une Taxation des Transactions financieres
  105. pour l'Aide aux Citoyens)
  106. Centre d'Estudis I Desenvolupament Rural (CEIDE), Spain
  107. CentpourSans Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF),
  108. Canada ATTAC Zurich, Switzerland
  109. Australian GeneEthics Network, Australia
  110. Daniel Peel, United Kingdom
  111. Dean Baker, USA
  112. Nicole Richards
  113. Brian White
  114. Nettie Wiebe
  115. David Morris
  116. Susan George, France
  117. Carol Medel-Anonuevo
  118. Tonya Lander, Seattle, USA
  119. Freja Joslin
  120. Geert Dhondt
  121. Catherine Stupar
  122. Crystal Kelliher
  123. Jenny Conathan
  124. Barby & Vic Ulmer, our developing world
  125. Alan Griffiths
  126. George Heron, Manchester, England
  127. Michael O. Nimkoff, California, USA
  128. Bascom Guffin, New York, USA
  129. Silvia Rodriguez, PhD, Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica
  130. Romano Odile
  131. Diethelm Kleiner, Germany
  132. Michel Caux, France
  133. Frederic Prat, France
  134. Damien Dupriez, Belgium
  135. Christian Gautier, France
  136. Valerie Caspar, France
  137. Quentin Gautier, France
  138. Claude Michaud, Professeur de Sciences Medico-Sociales, France
  139. Pierre Abbes, France
  140. Adrien Costa-Graglia, France
  141. Francois Lepine, France
  142. Jean-Marie Chosson, France
  143. Jos Karim
  144. Thierry Raffin
  145. Thierry Baussant, PhD, France
  146. Albert de Surgy, France
  147. Claudy Aubert-Dasse

(149 as at Tuesday, September 14, 1999)

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Date: Thu, 14 Oct 1999 14:53:47 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay
From: Biothai, Thailand

Bt cotton: open letter from Thailand

Open Letter

To: International Non-governmental organisations, media persons, concerned individuals

From: Biothai, Thailand

Monsanto's Bt Cotton violates Thai plant quarantine laws and farmer's rights

Bangkok, 26 September 1999

The large USA-based agribusiness transnational, Monsanto Company, has been introducing genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds having genes from the Bt bacteria which can kill some crop pests. The Bt cottonseeds are being planted in fields in some provinces in total violation of Thailand's agricultural and plant quarantine laws and without concern for biosafety measures.

The Bt cotton is listed in the quarantine list of GM plants that require biosafety testing before release to farmer's fields under Thailand's Plant Quarantine Law of 1964 (amended 1994).

The process of biosafety testing of the Bt cotton seeds has generated controversy in Thailand because of the potential environmental and health impacts. Field trials in other countries even in the USA point to the negative impacts of GM crops on the environment and farmers.

In 1995, the Agriculture Ministry established the Committee for Biosafety to investigate the environmental impacts of Monsanto Bt cotton. However, the neutrality of the committee's work is under question since it comprises three members of Monsanto (Thailand); senior officials in the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) also maintain close links with the company.

The Committee was set up to facilitate the approval of the biosafety trials for Bt Cotton. But the committee's biosafety trials are ongoing and have not concluded that Bt cotton is safe and can be introduced on a larger scale in the fields of farmers.

Meanwhile, Monsanto has poured a huge amount of money into public relations by running a series of full-page advertisements or special sections in Thai newspapers about the "miracle of GM crops". These advertisements, disguised as newspaper articles, appear as a "special issue" of the newspapers claiming that GM crops and technology would help alleviate the economic crisis in Thailand. The advertisements selectively quote leading Thai scientists as stating that GMs are necessary to increase food yields and decrease pesticide use. However, they do not mention the various harmful effects associated with GM crops.

As part of their aggressive lobby and public relations work, Monsanto has also conducted several meetings with local farmer's groups and some agricultural associations to introduce the Bt cotton. Monsanto is the only company that imports the Bt cotton seeds into the country and also distributes to the members of the Thai Cotton Industry Association.

In mid-September, the Monsanto representative from their head office in St. Louis, USA also met with Mr. Pongpol Adireksarn, Minister of Agriculture, and Mr. Newin Chidchob, deputy minister of Agriculture, to lobby the Ministry to remove Bt cotton from the GM plant quarantine list.

Farmer's groups have been concerned about the potential dangers to health, local crops, farming livelihoods and the natural environment caused by the GM crops. Farmer's groups are also concerned the GM crops will require intensive use of specific pesticides particularly "Round Up" produced by Monsanto.

During August and September 1999, farmer's groups have been monitoring the planting of cotton in several areas including two provinces in the central region, two provinces in the northeast, and one province in the north of Thailand.

Farmer's groups informed Biothai that a local company had leased fields to plant cotton early this year. In September, farmer's groups provided Biothai with two cotton crop samples (from a location that cannot be disclosed). The samples were taken on the suspicion that the seeds are Bt cotton.

The samples were sent to the DNA Technology Laboratory in the Kasetsart University in Nakhon Pathom, to test for the presence of Bt genes. The samples, tested by the Polymer Chain Reaction (PCR) technique that detects for the DNA fingerprint, produced the positive results for the Bt gene.

The evidence clearly points to the company's contempt for Thai laws and sovereignty by Monsanto. Monsanto's agribusiness practices are illegal and a violation of the rights of farmers all over the world.

Monsanto's Bt cotton will lead to the destruction of traditional cotton varieties and undermine the rights of Thai farmers to select, breed and plant crops suitable for their specific ecosystems and local economies.

By planting Bt cotton, Monsanto has posed severe and potentially irreversible damage to the health and natural ecosystems of hundreds of thousands of farming communities all over Thailand.

Monsanto has to take complete responsibility for their actions that contravene laws, farmer's rights, and the health of the natural environment of Thailand.

Biothai along with environmental, public health and consumer rights protection organisations call on the government to set up a National Committee to investigate the legal violations of Monsanto as well as government agencies responsible for monitoring the spread of GM crops.

We call for legal action against the Monsanto Corporation for posing severe long-term threats to the natural environment and farming ecosystems by the Bt cotton crop.

We call on the government to halt the biosafety trials of GM crops belonging not only to Monsanto but also of Pioneer Hybrid, Novartis, and Cargill companies.

The network of farmer's groups in Thailand will join hands in an international alliance with farmer's and non-governmental organisations all over the world to fight against the imposing of GM crops by agribusiness TNCs. NOTE: On 28 September, the country-wide coalition of farmer's groups and non-governmental organisations will hold a protest in front of Government House in Bangkok to oppose the introduction of GMO crops into Thailand.

SIGNED: Biothai
Alternative Agriculture Network
Foundation for Consumers
Foundation for Thai Holistic Health

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Date: Thu, 14 Oct 1999 14:54:44 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay
From: Glenn Ashton

Hello all,

for your information here is a copy of an article from last weeks Mail and Guardian for which I thank them.

All the best

Terminator II - set for comeback

by Cameron Duodu, Letter from the North
Mail & Guardian 8-15 oct. (terminator)

Those who have been gladdened by the news that Monsanto, the giant company that is developing genetically modified foods, has dropped its "Terminator Seed" programme, may be rejoicing too soon.

Terminator Seeds, as you may have read, are seeds of crops like rice, maize, wheat and cotton that have been specially modified to become impregnable to the attacks of pests, fungus and other diseases.

The problem is that instead of simply passing these enormous advantages to farmers, Monsanto has attached a terrible condition to them - you can only plant Terminator Seeds once. The harvest it produces is only for eating or processing. It has been programmed to be "sterile", so it does not produce fertile seeds.

According to The Guardian, "In Monsanto's version [of Terminator] seeds are soaked in the antibiotic tetracycline, which sets in motion a genetic chain reaction that ultimately instructs the plant to kill its own seeds." So, each time you need to plant a field, you must go to Monsanto and buy. If you don't have money to do that, you starve. That is what would have happened to many farmers in the developing countries, where the foreign exchange needed to keep buying Monsanto Terminator Seeds - at prices dictated, of course, by Monsanto - would have posed a perennial, insurmountable mountain.

That a company that has spent millions of dollars developing and patenting a product with such potential power - both over the imagination of farmers and over their pockets - would allow the idea to simply die, is unthinkable. The notion the company will try to sell to its shareholders, who ask it to justify the money "wasted" on the abandoned research, will be that the attempted "marketing" of the product was done in a hasty manner; or that the climate of opinion had not been softened enough; or that an inadequate budget was applied. But the company will never admit that the idea is intrinsically wrong or immoral.

Which means that the PR guys the company employs might already have begun redrawing blueprints for a new campaign that will whitewash Terminator. So, if we could hear Terminator speak right now, he would be barking at us: "I'll be back."

Indeed, Terminator could already be undergoing transmutations that would enable it to be unleashed on the world in one form or the other. For instance, there are already in existence "trait technologies" - dubbed "Terminator 2" or "Gene-switchers" - that give companies like Monsanto the capability to develop crops that can only grow if sprayed with a regimen of chemicals that include herbicides or insecticides manufactured by the company. Monsanto is believed to have 87 Terminator patents pending in developing countries.

Thirty-one Terminator patents have been granted to other companies. Monsanto says the introduction of the technology is five years away. It has also pledged not to "commercialise" the technology. But, according to The Guardian, "There are fears that Monsanto may simply be dropping the technology until the political climate improves." However, if Monsanto resumes work on the technologies, it will be fighting an uphill battle henceforth. Tens of thousands of individuals from 54 countries have written to the United States agriculture secretary, Dan Glickman, demanding the banning of the technology. The opponents of Terminator technology have tasted blood and will not be easily drawn away from the scent of the battle.

India, Bangladesh and the Phillipines are among the countries where the loudest fears have been expressed against Terminator technology. Neth Danos of the South-East Asian Regional Institute for Community Education is quoted as saying: "Farmers here know about the Terminator and are telling their governments to reject the patent. The Terminator could be the greatest threat to the well-being of poor farmers we have ever faced."

In India, a protest campaign has been launched against Terminator called "Cremate Monsanto". In one state, peasants with green shawls flung over their shoulders invaded one of Monsanto's experimental fields and uprooted hundreds of cotton plants being grown there. They believed, quite wrongly as it turned out, that the cotton plants were being grown from Terminator seeds. In another state, any field where genetic engineering was suspected to be taking place was torched into a giant funeral pyre.

The Indians' anger reflects the anxiety caused by the arrival of giant American seed and biotechnology companies like Monsanto. Indian scientists fear that the Terminator gene could make other crops sterile by inadvertent cross-pollination. This would threaten the diversity of seed stocks in India. Worse, it would make Indian farmers slaves to a few strains of imported seed. So it was that in August last year, a "Quit India" campaign was mounted against Monsanto by a coalition of 2 000 organisations representing farmers, environmentalists, scientists and church workers. The Indian government has already introduced a ban on Terminator, albeit in an indirect way: its customs department has been ordered to demand a testimonial from the governments of countries exporting seeds to India that all such seeds are "Terminator-free".

As far as other developing countries are concerned, the choice facing them is quite simple: do you want to add to the tight grip that developed countries already have upon your economic well-being - in the sense that they dictate the prices of the products you sell to them as well as the products you import from them - by also empowering them to dictate to you whether you should be able to plant food and cash crops? Any government that has resolutely banned harmful products like dagga and cocaine, but thinks Terminator and products of that ilk, on the other hand, are welcome, must have its head examined.

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Date: Thu, 14 Oct 1999 15:00:39 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay
From: Glenn Ashton

13.10.1999. Mouille Point.

... I do hope that you can help me with some factual information, which I urgently require.

In the GE Soya Bean, --which genes from which organisms have been manipulated into the soyabean.?? Was a bacterium used in this process as the 'carrier' .?? What was the objective ?? What was achieved by creating the GE Soya bean.??

I look forward to your response, and thank you in advance.

Greetings and regards,

Huib de Boer.

GE Soya beans ... what's in there?

by Glenn Ashton
Green Party of South Africa Spokesperson on GE.

The most common is the "roundup ready" type soybean. This offers resistance to herbicide enabling more of this herbicide to be used thus lessening the "drag" on the plant of surrounding weeds.

The roundup ready is made by Monsanto but Du Pont, Novartis and AgrEvo all have their own types that give resistance to their own proprietary brands of herbicide.

Recently application has been made in Europe and North America to increase the residual amount of roundup type herbicides on the harvested crop by 200 times. This means that 200 times more of traces of Glyphosate or similar compounds will be allowed on the harvested crops.

There is disquiet at this as studies have shown a link between Glyphosate type herbicides and non- Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of cancer. These herbicides have also been demonstrated to degrade more gradually than claimed and also have been shown to have a propensity to accrue in the soil. It has been shown that they are not as safe as claimed.

There is also concern in that applications of herbicide have been shown to increase significantly where these crops are grown. This flies in the face of the claim that these new GE crops will cut down on chemical use and demonstrates the duplicity of the Biotech lobby.

The use of these crops also locks farmers into using proprietary brands of chemicals through contractual obligation, thus increasing reliance on the company. Most of these companies are multinational and thus the profit accrued is destined offshore and will further increase the developing worlds (read; South Africa) debt burden.

As far as marker genes are concerned it is difficult to find out offhand exactly what genes are being used but often antibiotic marker genes are used. Concern of antibiotic resistance being induced has been voiced.

There is also doubt about the use of the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) which is used as a "splice" in many type of GM. It has been indicated that its use may be risky for various reasons.

I am unsure if these markers or splices are used in this particular case. I suggest contacting AgrEvo at 011-313-8361 or DuPont or Monsanto (all head offices in Gauteng (around Johannesburg, South Africa)) to ascertain exactly what splices, markers or other genes have been utilised.

The advantages of using this particular type of GE crop have yet to be proven. It has been suggested that with the increased input of agrochemical and the higher cost of seed that this technology has not yet proven to be financially viable. Yields have not been shown to be improved as yet.

A final concern is that in certain types of GE soya a reduction in phyto-oestrogen has been claimed. This is concerning because it is known that the lower rates in osteoporosis in women in the Far East is due to a large degree from the phyto-oestrogen content of their diet.

If you are unable to find out exactly what genes are used I would be happy to find out these details on a contractual basis.

All the best
Glenn Ashton
Green Party of South Africa Spokesperson on GE.

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Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1999 17:31:15 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay

The Guardian ran a useful piece yesterday on the Financial Pages (see below) resulting from the Press Briefing in the Rockefeller Centre on Tuesday.

UK Guardian Article "Biotech industry attacked"

By Jane Martinson in New York
UK Guardian Article, Wednesday October 13, 1999

International consumer activists accused the American biotechnology industry and US government of "bio-colonialism" yesterday and vowed to step up their campaign against genetically modified foods in the United States. In their first joint meeting, six international organisations accused the US government of backing big businesses such as Monsanto and Du Pont through its trade policy.

The organisations made a pledge to campaign intensively against the biotechnology industry and the American government in the weeks leading up to the November meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Seattle.

Sylvia Ribeiro, a campaigner for Rural Advancement Foundation International, said that a handful of companies were forcing farmers in poor countries to adopt their products.

"We see this technology as a new bio-colonialism," she said at the meeting in New York yesterday. "A group of companies are imposing it and its consequences on many billions of people."

Benedikt Haerlin, global co-ordinator on biotechnology for Greenpeace, said: "Monsanto is an ambassador for this technology, basically force feeding Europeans and not giving them the choice."

Share prices for big biotechnology companies have fallen sharply in the past few months as European lobbies have led consumers to reject GM foods.

Companies are terrified about the possible impact of the American consumer following the European example. Transgenic seeds are used in half of the soybean and a third of the corn crop in the US.

These seeds are used in the manufacture of some of the country's best-known foodstuffs - from Heinz ketchup and the syrup in cola drinks to McDonalds' hamburger buns.

In recent weeks Monsanto, one of the companies most affected by the European revolt, has called for those on both sides of the argument to attempt to reach some "common ground" on the use of the technology, which it claims has beneficial side-effects.

Mr Haerlin indicated that such accommodation is some way off, however. He said that Greenpeace needed much more scientific evidence about the effects on the environment of injecting genes into crops - as well as on health - before it could agree to its use. "You should never say never," he said.

However, he added that there was unlikely to be enough research "within the next five or 10 years".

The organisations' strategy group includes Britain's Intermediate Technology Development Group as well as campaigners from South Africa and Asia.

Patrick Mulvany, the food security policy adviser for the ITDG, said the campaigners would also reject the American government "dumping" any unwanted crop on the developing world. "It would be irresponsible and immoral simply to dump this stuff as food aid," he said.

The ITDG is a member of the genetic engineering alliance, which is proposing that there should be a five-year freeze on the use of genetically modified organisms.

The joint strategy group is planning a multi-pronged assault on the US consumer through a combination of press events and legal action.

However, with a limited budget at its disposal it is unlikely to be able to launch a large advertising campaign. Mr Haerlin said his annual budget for the issue at Greenpeace was just $250,000. "

Visit the UKabc HomePage - Agricultural Biodiversity: Sustainable Use for Food Security Updated 30 September 1999

Patrick Mulvany
Food Security Policy Adviser, ITDG
Schumacher Centre
Bourton, RUGBY, CV23 9QZ

Tel: +44 1788 661100 (Ext 169) & +44 1788 578958 (Home) Fax: +44 1788 661101
Email: or

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Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1999 17:41:48 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay

Organic Federation of Australia
C/- 452 Lygon St, East Brunswick
Victoria 3057, Australia

Ph 61 3 9386 6600    Fax 61 3 9384 1322

OFA MEDIA RELEASE - 16th October 99

GM CANOLA....a lesson from Ausralia

AgrEvo admits general release application for GMO canola.

Organic Federation of Australia Chair, Mr Scott Kinnear today revealed that AgrEvo in a meeting in Canberra on Wednesday this week, has admitted that they will be lodging a general release application for their herbicide resistant canola, as soon as possible and before the end of 1999.

"This is horrendous news for the organic industry in Australia, for bee keepers and anyone wishing to supply non-GMO canola to overseas or domestic markets", Scott Kinnear said.

"We have spent the last three months attempting to get the locations of the current GMO canola trials (up to 200) across Australia. This will allow the organic industry to conduct risk assessment, which may include testing, to establish the extent of contamination. Monsanto and AgrEvo along with the Federal Government Interim Office of Gene Technology Regulator (IOGTR) have refused to release this information. We have lodged a Freedom of Information request today with IOGTR", he said.

"Monsanto and AgrEvo claim we will pull their crops out, yet we think their real concern is that we will find contamination of crops at a time when they want their general release application to go through quietly over the Christmas period", he said.

"Farmers have a basic right to earn their income from organic and non-GMO crops. Both these crops are in huge demand world wide, and farmers need to know if their crops are to be polluted. We demand mandatory notification to farmers who are within 10km for all trials and general release plantings, similar to local council laws that notify affected parties if you lodge a planning use application", he said.

"Release of the locations is imperative if Minister Wooldridge allows general release. General release would see the disappearance of the 400m buffer zones that the regulators say will protect us even though UK research shows genetic pollution of canola at 5km", he said.

"While Australia moves blindly forward, the rest of the world is shutting down their GMO approvals pending introduction of strict regulations to control environmental risk, and in many cases genetic pollution. Switzerland says no to planting GMO corn because of contamination risk", he said today.

"We have called on the Federal Government to set up a compensation fund paid for by the GMO industry to pay for environmental problems similar to the Spanish model. Our plan includes compensation for farmers who suffer economic loss", he said.

"Our rural community will be torn apart if the Government allows this general release to go ahead in advance of the regulations from Minister Wooldridge which must cover genetic pollution", he said.

"We have told government how GMO and organic can coexist and we expect these issues to be resolved and an agreed strategy must be put in place before government goes any further", he concluded.

For further comment and copy of FOI request and submission to government please contact Scott on 0419 881 729 or 03 9384 0288.

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Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1999 18:01:47 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay

10 Reasons Biotech Will NOT Ensure Food Security

Ten reasons why biotechnology will not ensure food security, protect the environment and reduce poverty in the developing world

By Miguel A. Altieri, University of California, Berkeley and
Peter Rosset, Institute for Food and Development Policy, Oakland, California

Biotechnology companies often claim that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – specifically genetically altered seeds – are essential scientific breakthroughs needed to feed the world, protect the environment, and reduce poverty in developing countries. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and its constellation of international centers around the world charged with research to enhance food security in the developing world echo this view, which rests on two critical assumptions. The first is that hunger is due to a gap between food production and human population density or growth rate. The second is that genetic engineering is the only or best way to increase agricultural production and thus meet future food needs.

Our objective is to challenge the notion of biotechnology as a magic bullet solution to all of agriculture's ills, by clarifying misconceptions concerning these underlying assumptions.

  1. There is no relationship between the prevalence of hunger in a given country and its population. For every densely populated and hungry nation like Bangladesh or Haiti, there is a sparsely populated and hungry nation like Brazil and Indonesia. The world today produces more food per inhabitant than ever before.

    Enough is available to provide 4.3 pounds every person everyday: 2.5 pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of meat, milk and eggs and another of fruits and vegetables. The real causes of hunger are poverty, inequality and lack of access. Too many people are too poor to buy the food that is available (but often poorly distributed) or lack the land and resources to grow it themselves (Lappe, Collins and Rosset l998).

  2. Most innovations in agricultural biotechnology have been profit-driven rather than need-driven. The real thrust of the genetic engineering industry is not to make third world agriculture more productive, but rather to generate profits (Busch et al l990). This is illustrated by reviewing the principle technologies on the market today: a) herbicide resistant crops such as Monsanto's "Roundup Ready"soybeans, seeds that are tolerant to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, and b)"Bt" crops which are engineered to produce their own insecticide.

    In the first instance, the goal is to win a greater herbicide market-share for a proprietary product and in the second to boost seed sales at the cost of damaging the usefulness of a key pest management product (the Bacillus thuringiensis based microbial insecticide) relied upon by many farmers, including most organic farmers, as a powerful alternative to insecticides . These technologies respond to the need of biotechnology companies to intensify farmers' dependence upon seeds protected by so-called" intellectual property rights," which conflict directly with the age-old rights of farmers to reproduce, share or store seeds (Hobbelink l991). Whenever possible corporations will require farmers to buy company's brand of inputs and will forbid farmers from keeping or selling seed. By controlling germplasm from seed to sale, and by forcing farmers to pay inflated prices for seed-chemical packages, companies are determined to extract the most profit from their investment (Krimsky and Wrubel l996).

  3. The integration of the seed and chemical industries appears destined to accelerate increases in per acre expenditures for seeds plus chemicals, delivering significantly lower returns to growers. Companies developing herbicide tolerant crops are trying to shift as much per acre cost as possible from the herbicide onto the seed via seed costs and/or technology charges.

    Increasingly price reductions for herbicides will be limited to growers purchasing technology packages. In Illinois, the adoption of herbicide resistant crops makes for the most expensive soybean seed-plus-weed management system in modern history -between $40.00 and $60.00 per acre depending on rates, weed pressure, etc. Three years ago, the average seed-plus-weed control costs on Illinois farms was $26 per acre, and represented 23% of variable costs; today they represent 35-40% (Benbrook l999). Many farmers are willing to pay for the simplicity and robustness of the new weed management system, but such advantages may be short-lived as ecological problems arise.

  4. Recent experimental trials have shown that genetically engineered seeds do not increase the yield of crops. A recent study by the USDA Economic Research Service shows that in 1998 yields were not significantly different in engineered versus non-engineered crops in 12 of 18 crop/region combinations. In the six crop/region combinations were Bt crops or HRCs fared better, they exhibited increased yields between 5-30%. Glyphosphate tolerant cotton showed no significant yield increase in either region where it was surveyed. This was confirmed in another study examining more than 8,000 field trials, where it was found that Roundup Ready soybean seeds produced fewer bushels of soybeans than similar conventionally bred varieties (USDA l999).

  5. Many scientists claim that the ingestion of genetically engineered food is harmless. Recent evidence however shows that there are potential risks of eating such foods as the new proteins produced in such foods could: act themselves as allergens or toxins, alter the metabolism of the food producing plant or animal, causing it to produce new allergens or toxins, or reduce its nutritional quality or value as in the case of herbicide resistant soybeans that contained less isoflavones, an important phytoestrogen present in soybeans, believed to protect women from a number of cancers.

    At present there is a situation in many developing countries importing soybean and corn from USA, Argentina and Brasil, in which genetically engineered foods are beginning to flood the markets, and no one can predict all their health effects on consumers, most unaware that they are eating such food. Because genetically engineered food remains unlabeled, consumers cannot discriminate between GE and non-GE food, and should serious health problems arise, it will be extremely difficult to trace them to their source. Lack of labeling also helps to shield the corporations that could be potentially responsible from liability (Lappe and Bailey, l998).

  6. Transgenic plants which produce their own insecticides closely follow the pesticide paradigm, which is itself rapidly failing due to pest resistance to insecticides. Instead of the failed "one pest-one chemical" model, genetic engineering emphasizes a "one pest-one gene" approach, shown over and over again in laboratory trials to fail, as pest species rapidly adapt and develop resistance to the insecticide present in the plant (Alstad and Andow l995). Not only will the new varieties fail over the short-to-medium term, despite so-called voluntary resistance management schemes (Mallet and Porter l992), but in the process may render useless the natural pesticide "Bt," which is relied upon by organic farmers and others desiring to reduce chemical dependence.

    Bt crops violate the basic and widely accepted principle of "integrated pest management" (IPM), which is that reliance on any single pest management technology tends to trigger shifts in pest species or the evolution of resistance through one or more mechanisms (NRC l996). In general the greater the selection pressure across time and space, the quicker and more profound the pests evolutionary response.

    An obvious reason for adopting this principle is that it reduces pest exposure to pesticides, retarding the evolution of resistance. But when the product is engineered into the plant itself, pest exposure leaps from minimal and occasional to massive and continuous exposure, dramatically accelerating resistance (Gould l994). Bt will rapidly become useless, both as a feature of the new seeds and as an old standby sprayed when needed by farmers that want out of the pesticide treadmill(Pimentel et al l989).

  7. The global fight for market share markets is leading companies to massively deploy transgenic crops around the world (more than 30 million hectares in l998) without proper advance testing of short- or long-term impacts on human health and ecosystems. In the U.S., private sector pressure led the White House to decree "no substantial difference" between altered and normal seeds, thus evading normal FDA and EPA testing. Confidential documents made public in an on-going class action lawsuit have revealed that the FDAs own scientists do not agree with this determination.

    One reason is that many scientists are concerned that the large scale use of transgenic crops poses a series of environmental risks that threaten the sustainability of agriculture (Goldberg, l992;Paoletti and Pimentel l996; Snow and Moran l997; Rissler and Mellon l996; Kendall et al l997 and Royal Society l998):

    1. The trend to create broad international markets for single products, is simplifying cropping systems and creating genetic uniformity in rural landscapes. History has shown that a huge area planted to a single crop variety is very vulnerable to new matching strains of pathogens or insect pests. Furthermore, the widespread use of homogeneous transgenic varieties will unavoidably lead to "genetic erosion," as the local varieties used by thousands of farmers in the developing world are replaced by the new seeds (Robinson l996).

    2. The use of herbicide resistant crops undermine the possibilities of crop diversification thus reducing agrobiodiversity in time and space (Altieri l994).

    3. the potential transfer through gene flow of genes from herbicide resistant crops to wild or semidomesticated relatives can lead to the creation of superweeds (Lutman l999).

    4. There is potential for herbicide resistant varieties to become serious weeds in other crops (Duke l996, Holt and Le baron l990).

    5. Massive use of Bt crops affects non-target organisms and ecological processes. Recent evidence shows that the Bt toxin can affect beneficial insect predators that feed on insect pests present on Bt crops (Hilbeck et al l998), and that windblown pollen from Bt crops found on natural vegetation surrounding transgenic fields can kill non-target insects such as the monarch butterfly (Losey et al l999). Moreover, Bt toxin present in crop foliage plowed under after harvest can adhere to soil colloids for up to 3 months, negatively affecting the soil invertebrate populations that break down organic matter and play other ecological roles ( Donnegan et al l995 and Palm et al l996).

    6. There is potential for vector recombination to generate new virulent strains of viruses, especially in transgenic plants engineered for viral resistance with viral genes. In plants containing coat protein genes, there is a possibility that such genes will be taken up by unrelated viruses infecting the plant. In such situations, the foreign gene changes the coat structure of the viruses and may confer properties such as changed method of transmission between plants.

      The second potential risk is that recombination between RNA virus and a viral RNA inside the transgenic crop could produce a new pathogen leading to more severe disease problems. Some researchers have shown that recombination occurs in transgenic plants and that under certain conditions it produces a new viral strain with altered host range (Steinbrecher l996).

    Ecological theory predicts that the large-scale landscape homogenization with transgenic crops will exacerbate the ecological problems already associated with monoculture agriculture. Unquestioned expansion of this technology into developing countries may not be wise or desirable. There is strength in the agricultural diversity of many of these countries, and it should not be inhibited or reduced by extensive monoculture, especially when consequences of doing so results in serious social and environmental problems (Altieri l996).

    Although the ecological risks issue has received some discussion in government, international, and scientific circles, discussions have often been pursued from a narrow perspective that has downplayed the seriousness of the risks (Kendall et al. 1997; Royal Society 1998). In fact methods for risk assessment of transgenic crops are not well developed (Kjellsson and Simmsen 1994) and there is justifiable concern that current field biosafety tests tell little about potential environmental risks associated with commercial-scale production of transgenic crops. A main concern is that international pressures to gain markets and profits is resulting in companies releasing transgenic crops too fast, without proper consideration for the long-term impacts on people or the ecosystem .

  8. There are many unanswered ecological questions regarding the impact of transgenic crops. Many environmental groups have argued for the creation of suitable regulation to mediate the testing and release of transgenic crops to offset environmental risks and demand a much better assessment and understanding of ecological issues associated with genetic engineering.

    This is crucial as many results emerging from the environmental performance of released transgenic crops suggest that in the development of "resistant crops", not only is there a need to test direct effects on the target insect or weed, but the indirect effects on the plant (i.e. growth, nutrient content, metabolic changes), soil, and non-target organisms. Unfortunately, funds for research on environmental risk assessment are very limited. For example, the USDA spends only 1% of the funds allocated to biotechnology research on risk assessment, about $1-2 million per year. Given the current level of deployment of genetically engineered plants, such resources are not enough to even discover the "tip of the iceberg".

    It is a tragedy-in-the-making that so many millions of hectares have been planted without proper biosafety standards. Worldwide, such acreage expanded considerably in 1998 with transgenic cotton reaching 6.3 million acres, transgenic corn: 20.8 million acres and soybean: 36.3 million acres, helped along by marketing and distribution agreements entered into by corporations and marketers (i.e. Ciba Seeds with Growmark and Mycogen Plant Sciences with Cargill), in the absence of regulations in many developing countries. Genetic pollution, unlike oil spills, cannot be controlled by throwing a boom

  9. As the private sector has exerted more and more dominance in advancing new biotechnologies, the public sector has had to invest a growing share of its scarce resources in enhancing biotechnological capacities in public institutions including the CGIAR and in evaluating and responding to the challenges posed by incorporating private sector technologies into existing farming systems. Such funds would be much better used to expand support for ecologically based agricultural research, as all the biological problems that biotechnology aims at can be solved using agroecological approaches.

    The dramatic effects of rotations and intercropping on crop health and productivity, as well as of the use of biological control agents on pest regulation have been confirmed repeatedly by scientific research. The problem is that research at public institutions increasingly reflects the interests of private funders at the expense of public good research such as biological control, organic production systems and general agroecological techniques . Civil society must request for more research on alternatives to biotechnology by universities and other public organizations (Krimsky and Wrubel l996).

    There is also an urgent need to challenge the patent system and intellectual property rights intrinsic to the WTO which not only provide multinational corporations with the right to seize and patent genetic resources, but that will also accelerate the rate at which market forces already encourage monocultural cropping with genetically uniform transgenic varieties. Based on history and ecological theory, it is not difficult to predict the negative impacts of such environmental simplification on the health of modern agriculture (Altieri l996).

  10. Although there may be some useful applications of biotechnology (i.e. the breeding drought resistant varieties or crops resistant to weed competition) much of the needed food can be produced by small farmers located throughout the world using agroecological technologies (Uphoff and Altieri l999). In fact, new rural development approaches and low-input technologies spearheaded by farmers and NGOs around the world are already making a significant contribution to food security at the household, national and regional levels in Africa, Asia and Latin America (Pretty l995).

    Yield increases are being achieved by using technological approaches , based on agroecological principles that emphasize diversity, synergy, recycling and integration; and social processes that emphasize community participation and empowerment (Rosset l999). When such features are optimized, yield enhancement and stability of production are achieved, as well as a series of ecological services such conservation of biodiversity, soil and water restoration and conservation, improved natural pest regulation mechanisms, etc (Altieri et al l998).

    These results are a breakthrough for achieving food security and environmental preservation in the developing world, but their potential and further spread depends on investments, policies , institutional support and attitude changes on the part of policy makers and the scientific community, especially the CGIAR who should devote much of its efforts to assist the 320 million poor farmers living in marginal environments. Failure to promote such people-centered agricultural research and development due to diversion of funds and expertise to biotechnology, will forego a historical opportunity to raise agricultural productivity in economically viable, environmentally benign and socially uplifting ways.


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The Author:

Miguel A. Altieri, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley
ESPM-Division of Insect Biology
201 Wellman-3112, Berkeley, CA 94720-3112
Phone: 510-642-9802    FAX: 510-642-7428
Location: 215 Mulford, Berkeley campus

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