GE NEWS ARCHIVE
Mothers for Natural Law
International News on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture
Biweekly News 00/05/04
Articles have been aggressively shortened. This issue is overweight because I thought you would be interested in items 1, 12, and 13, even though they are not directly germane to our mandate. - Editor
The revised organic rule is available as a PDF file at
The Organic Trade Association views it as too restrictive as it would exclude many products currently labeled "organic". In particular, some cheese, yogurt and tofu products would have to be relabeled because enzymes, fermentation materials and defoaming agents used in their production contain synthetic substances not on the National List. Furthermore, "the proposed rule carries the expectation that in products labeled as organic, the non-organic portion also is free of genetically modified organisms," the trade group said in a news release.
The Organic Consumers Association finds the rule too loose. In
particular, it appears (1) to allow the USDA to open organic to
GMOs when the USDA judges that public opinion on this issue has
changed, (2) to allow toxic sewage sludge ash in organic, (3) to
lack the details necessary to distinguish organic animal husbandry
from factory farming, (4) to set the USDA standards as the highest
rather than the base for certification and labeling, and (5) it
does not address abuses of the term "organic" in product names and
labels. For more details, please visit:
The USDA has not offered a simple email address for you to send in
comments. You can send them to email@example.com and OCA
will print them out and mail them to the USDA for you. If you
prefer to send your comments directly to the USDA you can go to
their web site:
When sending comments, identify your comments as referring to docket number TMD-00-02-PR.
Wall St Journal
Monsanto'S Biotech Spud is being Pulled from the Fryer at Fast-Food Chains
By Scott Kilman
Monsanto Co.'s genetically modified potato is falling victim to the consumer backlash over crop biotechnology.
Fast-food chains such as McDonald's Corp. are quietly telling their french-fry suppliers to stop using the potato from Monsanto, the only biotechnology concern to commercialize a genetically modified spud.
So many food concerns are shrinking from the Monsanto potato that J.R. Simplot Co., a major supplier of french fries to McDonald's, is instructing its farmers to stop growing it.
"Virtually all the [fast food] chains have told us they prefer to take nongenetically modified potatoes," said Fred Zerza, spokesman for closely held J.R. Simplot, headquartered in Boise, Idaho.
...U.S. farmers planted about 50,000 acres of NewLeaf potatoes last year, up from 10,000 acres in 1996. Total U.S. potato production last year was about a million acres.
(Copyright (c) 2000, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.).
Copyright 2000 The Financial Times Limited Financial Times (London) April 26, 2000, Wednesday London Edition 1
Japan to Screen Genetically Modified Produce
By Michiyo Nakamoto
Japan plans to require safety screening of genetically modified products in a development likely to add to the difficulty of importing agricultural produce from the US. Japan's Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday accepted a recommendation from a government panel that mandatory safety tests on genetically modified products should be required for approval in order to import those products into Japan. Currently, safety testing is voluntary...
The Japanese government's decision to require labelling, which has been spurred by growing consumer concerns about genetically modified foods, has already resulted in a rush by importers and retailers to seek non-GMO products...
The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it does not expect the mandatory safety tests to dramatically affect imports. However, "it has become very risky. From now on, if we import GMOs even without knowing it, we could be imprisoned," complains an official at Mitsui, the trading company which has about a 30 per cent share of the imported corn market. But given Japan's reliance on US produce, implementation of the new rules is likely to be very difficult, he warns.
Copyright 2000 FT Asia Intelligence Wire All rights reserved.
April 27, 2000
GM-Free Certificate Agreement Signed
The Agriculture Department yesterday signed an agreement with the Thai Food Processors' Association to co-operate in certifying shipments of non genetically-modified foods from Thailand. Ananta Dalodom, the department director, said certificates would be issued on a lot-by-lot basis. Exporters or producers must have products verified by surveyors or agencies authorised by the department. The department will soon select private surveyors to examine product samples. Using government laboratories, the department is ready to certify about 100 items of exported fruits and vegetables.
New Scientist April 15, 2000 SECTION: This Week, Pg. 17
Pockets of Resistance
A pest might make a comeback thanks to engineered "weeds"
FIELDS where genetically modified cotton plants spring up as weeds in other crops could provide refuge for the cotton boll weevil, warn entomologists in South Carolina. That could mean the return of this major pest to parts of the American cotton belt from which it has been eradicated. The state spent dollar 1.3 million eradicating the weevil, only finishing the job in 1995. Now growers are afraid the pest could make a comeback if farmers ignore GM cotton "weeds" growing among their other crops. Researchers in South Carolina first noticed the problem last year in a dozen fields of GM soybeans where GM cotton had been grown the previous year. Both the cotton and the soybeans are resistant to Roundup, the wide-ranging weedkiller made by Monsanto of St Louis, Missouri.
This means that when farmers apply Roundup to kill weeds in newly planted fields of GM soybeans, it doesn't destroy stray GM cotton plants left over from the previous year. "I could look across soybean fields and see hundreds of these cotton plants," says Mitchell Roof, an entomologist at Clemson University, South Carolina, who sits on a technical panel looking for an answer to the problem.
Sunday April 16, 2000
GM Firm Faked Test Figures
Poor crop results were replaced by a forgery, Ministry's internal paper shows
by Antony Barnett, Public Affairs Editor
Results from vital Government-backed crop trials to assess genetically-modified seeds have been falsified, The Observer can reveal. Internal minutes from the Ministry of Agriculture, obtained by this newspaper, show that an employee at a Suffolk-based firm, Grainseed, manipulated scientific data to make certain seeds in the trials appear to perform better than they really did. This will cast a shadow over the Government's programme of GM trials, and further undermine public confidence in the controversial crop technology. MPs and environmentalists want the trials suspended. Crucially, the trials involving Grainseed are being relied on by the Government to enable the first GM crop in Britain to be made commercially available to farmers.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)
Farmers Decry Dumping of Hazardous GMOs from Relief Agencies, Biotech Firms
MANILA -- THE militant peasant movement Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas says no thanks to food aid from the United States and agencies of the United Nations after biotechnology firms have been found to be dumping their unwanted stocks on international programs for malnutrition and famine relief.
According to the London Independent report by Declan Walsh, major producers and processors of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland have won contracts to supply projects run by the World Food Program (WFP) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) which may be tainted by ingredients being rejected by growing ranks of consumers worldwide.
Rafael Mariano, chair of the KMP, condemned the deal, saying "the agricultural monopolies are very cruel, knowing that starving people have little choice but to accept the food [and] be grateful even if our biological future is being slowly corrupted with dangerous technologies."...
Third World activists charge biotech firms of dumping GM products on the developing world because they have failed to convince European markets of their safety.
"Africa is treated as the dustbin of the world," said Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss of the South Africa-based advocacy group Biowatch. "To donate untested food and seed to Africa is not an act of kindness but an attempt to lure Africa into further dependence on foreign aid."
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)
Are Biotech Crops Necessary?
The rushed commercialization of existing genetically modified crops is unwarranted from an ecological point of view. That is the conclusion of 21 scientists studying the ecology of transgenic crops in research organizations in the US, Europe, and Latin America. The scientists met in early March at the University of California - Berkeley to discuss the ecological impacts of transgenic crops.
According to an executive summary of the conference proceedings, the scientists concluded that herbicide resistant and Bt crops "are not really needed to address the problems they were designed to solve. On the contrary, they tend to reduce the pest management options available to farmers."
The scientists stood behind alternative approaches, including rotations, strip-cropping and biological control, to regulate the insect and weed populations that are being targeted by biotechnology. Further, they said "to the extent that transgenic crops further entrench the current monocultural system, they impede farmers from using a plethora of alternative methods."
Conference participants were scientists from: Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Cornell, Guelph, Iowa State, Minnesota, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Elmhurst College and Open University; International Agricultural Research Centers CIMMYT and CIP; the Union of Concerned Scientists; Food First; Consumers Union; AS-PTA Brasil; and Dynamac Corp.
Herbicide resistant technology, does however, offer farmers the efficiency of making fewer passes over their fields than with traditional crops.
GMO Beans Mean a Lot Less Time in the Field, Reports NCFAP
By Lisa Foust Prater Commerce Content Editor @griculture Online
Before Roundup Ready soybeans were introduced, herbicide use for the crop had become increasingly complicated. Farmers found themselves using more and more active ingredients per acre and making more passes over their fields than in the past. However, in 1998, farmers made 16 million fewer herbicide applications to their soybeans than in 1995, indicating fewer passes over the field and/or the use of fewer active ingredients, according to a report recently issued by the National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy (NCFAP). The report compares yields, cost and herbicide use in 1995, the year before Roundup Ready soybean varieties were introduced, and 1998, the most recent year for which data is available. Janet Carpenter of NCFAP says this shift reflects a more simplistic method of weed control with the use of Roundup Ready soybeans. "What this means is that growers are spending a lot less time in the field, and thats one of the best features of this technology," says Carpenter. "Fewer active ingredients makes it easier."
Administration Says GM Foods Safe, No Labels Required
WASHINGTON, May 3 (Reuters) - Mandatory labels on foods containing gene-spliced ingredients are not necessary because there is no reason to believe the foods are more risky, the Clinton administration said on Wednesday. White House officials defended their decision to tighten some rules for the approval of biofoods without going so far as to require labels on the genetically-modified (GM) products. "The process of genetic engineering poses no inherent safety risk," said one senior administration official in a briefing with journalists. "In the United States, by law, mandatory labelling is associated with food safety issues." The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates most food products, requires special labels only when the nutritional content of a food has been changed or potential allergens introduced. Consumer and environmental groups have demanded that the agency follow the lead of the European Union, Japan and other nations by requiring labels on biofoods so shoppers know what they are buying.
Instead, the FDA will help the food manufacturing industry develop voluntary guidelines for companies that wish to market their foods as free of genetically-modified ingredients, the official said. "This is a response to an information need, not associated with any food safety concerns," she added. The administration's initiative to step up oversight of biofoods will force seed companies to submit scientific research and data to the FDA. Currently, the companies have considerable freedom to decide what, if any, data they provide to regulators before a new biofood is marketed. The administration official declined to identify what specific new information will be required of seed companies such as Pharmacia Corp's Monsanto and other firms developing new gene-spliced varieties of corn, soybeans, squash, potatoes and other crops. "There is no scientific evidence that foods produced through genetic engineering are any less safe than any other foods," said Neal Lane, the president's top science adviser.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Copyright 2000 Agence France Presse Agence France Presse
April 30, 2000, Sunday
Pinpoint Technique Helps Transgenic Crops
American engineers say they have developed a pinpoint technique that could revolutionise the effectiveness of genetically-modified plants. The first generation of altered crops, widely grown in North America, are mainly corn, cotton and soybean which have been made resistant to herbicides or exude insecticides to kill pests. These crops were made by taking genes from other species and introducing them at random positions in the plant's chromosome. The blunderbuss approach means that the imported genes sometimes perform below par or the plant is given genes that are unnecessary or unwanted. Scientists working for biotech giant Pioneer Hi-Bred International, publishing their work in May's issue of the peer-reviewed journal Nature Biotechnology, say they have devised a technique that could cure these problems.
The method, originally developed to repair genes in damaged cells in mammals, uses hairpin-shaped molecules of DNA and its workhorse, RNA. These molecules are used to make single changes in the bases, the letters that make up the genetic code. Using this approach, the team say they have successfully generated herbicide-resistant plants with just a single change in the genetic code. In a further success, the changes have been handed on in successive generations of the modified plants, which proves the results are long-lasting, they say.
If the technique can be enhanced, "a broad range of potential applications in crop improvement" can be expected, the team say.
April 23, 2000
Hi-Tech Crops are Bad for the Brain
Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent
"Miracle" crops, hailed as the answer to global famine, are contributing to widespread brain impairment in the developing world, a new report concludes. It says that the high-yielding rice and wheat varieties that brought about the much-heralded "Green Revolution" are among a range of environmental factors undermining human intelligence.
The study, which looks at environmental threats to human intelligence, is part of the £15m Global Environmental Change Programme, financed by Britain's Economic and Social Research Council. It is published tomorrow. It concludes that a deadly combination of soil erosion, pollution and inadequate diet is affecting the intelligence of millions of people, with effects ranging from severe intellectual disabilities to "sub-clinical decline" in whole populations.
The Green Revolution crops, introduced in the late 1960s and early 1970s, produce several times as much grain as the traditional varieties they replaced, and they spread rapidly. They enabled India to double its wheat crop in seven years, dramatically increasing food supplies and averting widely predicted famine.
But the report says that the new crops, unlike their predecessors, fail to take up minerals such as iron and zinc from the soil. So even as people consumed more calories, their intake of these key "micronutrients" fell. "High-yielding Green Revolution crops were introduced in poorer countries to overcome famine," the report says. "But these are now blamed for causing intellectual deficits, because they do not take up essential micronutrients." The report is written by Dr Christopher Williams, a research fellow with the Global Environmental Change Programme. Using already published UN data he has calculated that 1.5 billion people one quarter of the earth's population are affected by "Green Revolution iron deficiency". He claims the condition impairs the learning ability of more than half of India's schoolchildren. He concludes that, eventually, the evolution of the brain could go into reverse as humans develop more extensive digestive systems to cope with the lack of nutrients sacrificing intelligence in the process.
The professor's sources include the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations which has compiled evidence that the amount of the metal in people's diets fell throughout most of the Third World in the 1970s and 1980s, making iron deficiency the only form of malnutrition to increase over the two decades. The greatest drops in the intake of iron took place in South and South East Asia, the very areas where the Green Revolution was most successful. Other UN figures show that half the world's pregnant women are anaemic, because they have too little iron, putting both them and their babies at risk. The condition is thought to be responsible for 200,000 deaths a year. And the World Bank reckons that deficiencies of iron, iodine, and vitamin A together wipe out some 5 per cent of the GDP of developing countries, a crippling blow to poor economies.
Pollution 'Damages Intelligence'
Brain at risk from the environment
By environment correspondent Alex Kirby
Pollution and other environmental threats are harming the intelligence of millions of people across the world, says a United Kingdom review of the available evidence. The causes are poisons such as lead, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, synthetic compounds used in electrical equipment), and radiation. A further problem is the loss of micronutrients like iron and iodine through soil erosion, impoverishing food crops. And scientists say it is hard to know the full extent of the problem, because of the difficulty of gathering data. The author, Dr Chris Williams, a social scientist at the Institute of Education, London University, said one problem could compound another, with iron deficiency in children, for example, able to increase their lead uptake. "We only have single-substance science, which does not account for compounding effects. So the overall scale of the problem is far greater than previously estimated."
Dr Williams is a fellow of the Global Environmental Change Programme, a 15m social science initiative of the Economic and Social Research Council. He undertook a global review of science-based research into the impact of environmental factors on intelligence. One of his most disturbing findings is that epidemiologists have detected a statistically significant increase in the birth of children with Down's Syndrome which is linked to radiation from the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. The increase was dependent on rainfall in the period following the explosion. Excess Down's Syndrome births were recorded in parts of Germany, Scandinavia and the Lothian region of central Scotland nine months after the disaster. Dr Williams found a study by the Russian Academy of Sciences which said that radiation from a uranium mine had caused mental impairment in 95% of the children of one town in Russia.
In south east Asia 1.5bn people are affected by the iron deficiency of many Green Revolution crops, especially maize, and even more in the poor world are at risk from iodine deficiency. In parts of the Himalayas and China the problem is exacerbated when deforestation allows rain to wash the soil away, taking with it nutrients which are essential in the human diet.
Growing threat to children
The phenomenon is not new, but is becoming worse with increased logging and growing population pressure. Lead in the environment is a threat, with the blood-lead level of one child in 10 in the UK high enough for intelligence to be affected. In some African cities the proportion is nine children in ten. The intelligence of Inuit children in the Arctic is being damaged by PCBs which originate in the tropics and arrive in Canada within a week. Dr Williams told BBC News Online: "The big feeling I have about this is in the context of evolution. "The human brain is now at risk from its own behaviour, and nothing else in the ecosystem is harming itself in the same way. "Even lemmings don't really behave like lemmings. That's a myth. But we are acting like lemmings.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is compiled for educational use only.
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