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Date: Tue, 4 Aug 1998 10:15:38 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson <email@example.com>
Subject: GE News
Thanks to Jim Mcnulty for posting this:
France Imposes Moratorium on Biotech Crops
PARIS, France, August 3, 1998 (ENS) - The French government has announced
a partial moratorium on the introduction of genetically modified crops for
the next two years. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said last week that no
approvals would be given for the commercial-scale growth of oilseed rape,
also called canola, or any other modified crop which poses the risk of gene
transfer to related species.
Applications to the French government for other modified crops - including
maize - will be assessed on a case-by-case basis for their risks to human
health and the environment.
Monsanto Doses EU with Biotech Ad Blitz
By Zadie Neufville
LONDON, UK, August 3, 1998 (ENS) - All-out war over acceptance of
genetically engineered foods has broken out across Europe. Some are
calling it the new colonisation. For others it is a battle for the
control, or the protection, of the world's food supply. The threat is not
bombs or guns - it is hunger.
At the heart of the war over the genetic engineering of plants are the
rights of peoples worldwide to grow the foods they want to eat.
This week, United States based multinational company Monsanto begins a
major media blitz in Europe aimed at winning the hearts of Europeans and
overcoming the European public's opposition to genetic engineering of
foods. The company comes armed with the declarations of leading African
personalities wooing consumer support.
Monsanto is the second largest agrochemical company in the world. One of
the leading manufacturers of genetically-engineered seeds, the company has
asked prominent Africans to endorse genetic engineering as an essential
contributor to the world's food supply in the next century.
Endorsements for the genetically-modified plants are expected to come from
former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere and Gracia Machel - wife of the
late Samora Machel who just married President Nelson Mandela of South
The Monsanto statements supported by the African signatures will be
prominently placed in the European press in the coming week.
The Monsanto ads, entitled "Let the Harvest Begin," include these
statements. "We all share the same planet - and the same needs. In
agriculture, many of our needs have an ally in biotechnology and the
promising advances it offers for our future. Healthier, more abundant
food. Less expensive crops. Reduced reliance on pesticides and fossil
fuels. A cleaner environment. With these advances, we prosper; without
them. we cannot thrive...Biotechnology is one of tomorrow's tools in our
hands today. Slowing its acceptance is a luxury our hungry world cannot
A counter-attack has been mounted. A media alert distributed by the Panos
Institute of London, a non-governmental organisation that works to
stimulate debate on global environment and development issues, said Friday
that senior African politicians, scientists and agriculturists have
released counter-statements to the European press.
African delegates to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation
(FAO) in a counter-attack on the planned Monsanto ads said in a joint
statement. "We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from
our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a
technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically
beneficial to us."
The delegates who included representatives from all African nations in the
UN except South Africa, accused Monsanto of "threatening and jailing" U.S.
farmers who save seeds for planting the next year's crop.
The delegates denounced Monsanto's interest in the environment. "Its major
focus is not to protect the environment, but to develop crops that can
resist higher doses of its best-selling chemical weed killer "Roundup."
Maize, called corn in some parts of the world, is one focus of the battle
over biotech crops.
Monsanto's European advertising campaign reportedly cost $1.6 billion,
Panos said, and is aimed at winning consumer support for genetically
modified food. Millions more could be spent in a climate where consumer
groups and environmentalists, speaking out against the use of genetically
engineered seeds for human consumption, appear to be winning.
Several European countries - Austria, Luxembourge and Italy - have
attempted bans on the planting of genetically modified seeds. Consumers
have picketed grocery stores protesting biotech foods.
One major UK supermarket chain, Iceland, has refused to sell genetically
modified food products.
In March, Britain's sugar barons refused to accept any
genetically-engineered sugar beet through their factory gates. They did not
want a repeat of what happened in Holland in 1997 when a tiny amount of
sugar from genetic-engineering trials was accidentally introduced into bags
of Dutch sugar. Once discovered, there was a public outcry, and all 12,000
tonnes of the mixed sugar had to be disposed of at great expense.
The argument gained momentum a few weeks ago when Britain's Prince Charles,
spoke out in a newspaper article against genetic engineering, accusing the
multinationals of "playing God."
Monsanto and their supporters claim genetically engineered seeds will solve
world food supply and many medical problems. But, large numbers of
farmers, scientists and environmentalists see genetic engineering as
"tampering with God's creation "with little regard for possible
side-effects," a sentiment echoed by Prince Charles in his article.
The prince called for additional testing to ensure that bio-engineered food
products are safe for human consumption, and refused to eat these foods.
Monsanto's Technical Manager, Dr. Colin Merritt, responded to the prince's
comments by saying no one should be denied the choice of food modified by
Dangers to the environment, some scientists warn, include the loss of
biodiversity, potential dangers to human health, loss of income and
opportunities for small farmers, and the control of the world food supplies
by a small number of people.
According to recent reports from the biotechnology sector, over the next
year chemical companies will release 75 million hectares of genetically
altered grains onto the world market - more than three times the amounts
from 1996 trials.
Tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers are some of the products now being produced
on a vast scale. According to recent newspaper reports, 1.25 million
hectares of carrots and the first potato crops will be reaped in 1998.
Estimates are that more than 150 million hectares of genetically engineered
foods will be available on the world market by the year 2,000.
The dilemma of the world's poor farmers was highlighted recently when an
Australian company attempted to patent rice seeds developed through
research of wild plant material. Indian farmers recently lost the right to
grow one variety of "basmati" rice, a traditional crop on the
sub-continent for over 2,000 years. In June a variety of the chick pea was
In response to Monsanto's Africa-endorsed European campaign, African
delegates to the United Nations have expressed fear the company is working
towards controlling the world's crop production. The company which produces
one of the world's largest selling agro-chemicals, the herbicide Round-up,
also produces seeds which can only be used with this brand of chemical.
Genetically modified seeds reportedly produce higher yields. They also
enable plants to repel attacks from pests and weeds. But the seeds must be
bought anew for each year's crop. Poor farmers can no longer save seed from
last year's harvest to plant the following spring.
While they are expected to reduce the amount farmers must spend on
pesticides, the seeds need intensive farming and will be too expensive for
small and subsistence farmers. Many genetically engineered crops need more
water than most small farmers can afford
DOMINATING THE WORLD'S FOOD SUPPLY
Six chemical companies: Monsanto, Enimont, Du Pont, Sandoz, Zeneca and Ciba
Geigy , dominate research and development in plant genetics. The big six,
together with Shell, WR Grace and Cargill, the world's largest grain and
oilseed trader, dominate the international seed market.
Important crops for which genetically engineered seeds already exist
include maize (corn), soya, sugar beet, and cotton. Biotechnology to
modify other crucial food crops such as rice, wheat, potato and cassava is
now being explored.
These crops are among the most important of the 20 crops that provide the
world's population with 90 percent of its food. Just four crops: rice,
wheat, maize and potatoes, account for 50 percent of all food worldwide.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) was a chief
supporter of the 1960s Green Revolution which increased food production
worldwide with improved seeds, pesticides and fertilisers, but also left
degraded land and disrupted communities behind. Now the FAO emphasises
that "intensified food production can be achieved by the sustainable use
of a broader range of genetic material."
The genetic modification of food is already a multi-million dollar global
business. This year alone, 3.5 million hectares of genetically modified
soya have been planted in the U.S. Monsanto expects another 1.4 million
hectares to be reaped in Argentina.
In 1996, Monsanto earned $9.26 billion in revenue. The company is growing
rapidly through a number of mergers. It is now involved in farming, food
processing and distribution in addition to its seed and agro chemical
Monsanto sent ripples of fear through the agricultural sector in March when
it merged with the Delta and Pine Lands Company, developer and patentee of
the "terminator technology" which robs plants of their reproductive
Monsanto further shocked the international community when it attempted a
merger last month with the Grameen Bank, Bangladesh's world-famous
microcredit agency. The merger was aimed at "bringing technology to the
poor" reports said. Grameen Bank President Muhammad Yunus has since
announced that his organisation is abandoning the idea of a
On June 29, Monsanto Company and Cargill, Incorporated, announced that they
have signed a definitive agreement for Monsanto to purchase Cargill's
international seed operations in Central and Latin America, Europe, Asia
and Africa for US$1.4 billion.
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign,
for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term
Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html
contains more information on genetic engineering as well as
previous genetic engineering news items
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See website for details.
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