GE Update October 1999

....French Agricultural Minister Jean Glavany attacked a US decision to impose 100% tariffs on $116.8 million of European goods- an effort to punish EU's decision to ban US beef produced from cattle treated with hormones. Glavany said, "The US is the country that has the worst food in the world."

....As many as 500 protesters recently trampled one of Britain's largest genetically modified crop trial sites. The protesters, dressed in white chemical protection suites, pushed past police into the 25-acre field in Watlington, Oxfordshire and spent two hours destroying the oilseed rape. Five people were arrested for alleged criminal damage, and a sixth for alleged violent disorder.

...The president of the pro-biotechnology Rockefeller Foundation recently warned Monsanto that its strongarm tactics and promotion of the Terminator Technology are creating a dangerous public backlash against genetic engineering. Reports claim that Gordon Conway told Monsanto to drop the controversial Terminator Technology and stop their opposition to the labeling of GE foods.

... Activists from Greenpeace delivered several hundred pounds of GE cornseed, purchased in Mexico to Mexican health authorities to prove that corn imports coming into the country do contain, gene-altered DNA, despite the ban by the government on imports of GE corn.

...EU environmental ministers moved to implement the legal equivalent of a three year moratorium on any new approvals of GE foods or crops. The moratorium will remain in effect until more stringent EU safety regulations are put in place in 2002.

...A Brazilian Judge ruled that Monsanto can't sell Roundup Ready soybeans there until the company prepares a study showing that the genetically modified beans are safe. This decision means Brazilian farmers won't be able to plant bioengineered seeds during the planting season. Brazil is the second largest producer of soy in the world.

...Belgium is still reeling from the shock of food revealed to be contaminated with dioxins and high levels of PCB's. Worse yet, the contaminated produce has probably already been eaten, suggesting from estimates of likely doses that young children may be at risk from the poison.

...Anti-GMO activist groups recently attacked California's central valley. One group, known as the Lodi Loppers, attacked a commercial crop of DeKalb's Roundup Ready corn. A second group, knows as the Cropatistas, destroyed acres of Seed-Tech's Roundup Ready corn.

...The largest German Supermarket chain has pulled all French Poultry off its shelves because of reports that sludge from municipal water treatment plants is being used as chicken feed. The British Poultry Meat Federation also called on the UK to ban all imports of French Poultry.

Monsanto & the Seeds of Patent Disputes:

The Financial Times reported that a landmark trial in Canada will set a precedent for Monsanto's ability to protect its patents on GM crops. In this landmark case Monsanto is taking a 68 year old Farmer to court after he was discovered to be growing a variety of Monsanto's genetically modified canola (rapeseed) without its consent.

Percy Schmeiser, the farmer in the case, says it is about privacy and a farmer's right to choose. Schmeiser says the wind blew Monsanto seeds into his field, which are planted with conventional canola. Because it is impossible, without the use of genetic testing, to tell the difference between a normal and a GM canola plant, Schmeiser says, he was not even aware that GM canola was growing in his property. Monsanto says it is a simple case of patent infringement.

U.S. Farmers Return GE Corn Seed:

Farmers Weekly recently reported that after major U.S. corn buyers Archer Daniels Midland and A.E. Staley announced they would no longer purchase GE corn which was unapproved for sale in the EU, up to 20% of the U.S. corn farmers returned their unapproved GE corn seeds to their seed distributors.

Federal Court May Determine GE Labeling

According to Andrew Kimbrell and Joe Mendelson, attorneys for the International Center for Technology Assessment, a federal court will ultimately decide whether the FDA is required by law to mandate pre-market testing and labeling of GE foods. Additionally, they suggest that the court is to decide whether the entire US regulatory regime regarding GE foods regulated by the FDA has to undergo an environmental impact statement.

Japan Mulls GM Labeling by 2000

Japan's ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries settled on a draft version of a law governing the labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms. Soybeans, corn or potatoes grown with gene-altering technology, and processed products using them, will have to be labeled as such. The same rule will be applied if the presence of GMOs or altered protein can be detected. By April 2000, the majority of foods containing plant protein, incl. tofu and corn snacks, will have to bear such labels.

Landmark Suit Reveals FDA Controversy

As part of an ongoing lawsuit demanding mandatory labeling and safety testing of GE foods and crops, heretofor unpublished federal FDA documents obtained by the International Center for Technology Assessment and the Alliance for Bio-Integrity show that even the FDA's own scientist had serious differences over the FDA's "no-labeling"and "no-safety-testing" policy on gene-altered foods.

The Alliance for Bio-Integrity reported that agency scientists repeatedly cautioned that foods produced through recombinant DNA technology entail different risks than do their conventionally produced counterparts and that this input was consistently disregarded by bureaucrats who crafted the agency's current policy, which treats bioengineered foods the same as natural ones.

National Organic Guidelines to be Released by 2000

The USDA hopes to have its second proposal for national organic guidelines released by 2000. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman made the statement to the Congressional Economic Leadership Institute. The US organic industry sold more than $4 billion in products in 1998 and is expected to grow by more than 20% this year.

European Buyers turn to Brazil for Soybeans

British and Brazilian press have reported that buyers in Europe are turning to Brazil rather than the US, where GE and non-GE soybeans continue to mingle, for their soybean imports. This promotes further alarm to US soybean farmers, who are experiencing a 14% decline overall in exports since last year. Compounding this, prices paid to farmers for US soybeans have dropped to a 27-year low, with overall US soybean exports declining by 38%, reported the Campaign for Food Safety.

UK Doctor links GM Soya Milk to Virus

A leading British surgeon has suggested a link between genetically modified soya milk and the triggering of a herpes-related virus. The Telegraph reported recently that the surgeon, who wished to remain anonymous, found that cold sores repeatedly erupted on her 2 year old's face when she regularly drank the GM product and that they immediately cleared when she stopped. The ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food is investigating the surgeon's claims, which coincide with worries expressed by the prince of Whales earlier this year and a number of leading geneticists who believe that some GM products can trigger viruses in humans. Plant biotechnologist Jim Dunwell, from the University of Reading, has been involved in producing GM plants and said it is highly unlikely that plant viruses could provoke reactions in human beings.

Roundup Ready Soybeans Contain Lower Phytoestrogens

A recent issue of the Journal of Medicinal Food published a study from Dr. Marc Lappe, of the Center for Ethics and Toxics, and two other scientists pointing out that Monsanto's Roundup Ready Soybeans contain 12-14 % lower levels of beneficial, naturally occurring phytoestrogens than conventional soybeans. Phytoestrogens provide natural protection against breast cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. Monsanto has vehemently the study's claim.

France says Will Pay for GE Impact Research

The NewsEdge Corporation has reported that France recently announced it was willing to pay up to 10 million francs for research on the possible impact and risks of genetically modified crops. France's education ministry said it was looking for studies geared towards transgenetic plants used in agriculture and their eventual impact on both the environment and human and animal health. The ministry said the goal of the research was to use specifications on which genetically modified crops were acceptable in terms of security and also to develop a "code of conduct" that set rules of usage on GM crops. The ministry said they wanted the research to focus as well on the changes in farming practices or industry organization that will be tied to the introduction of one or more GM crops.

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