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Date: Sat, 21 Nov 1998 13:54:40 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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France's Ag Minister Favours Caution Over Gene Crops
FRANCE'S GLAVANY FAVOURS CAUTION OVER GENE CROPS
PARIS - French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany on Tuesday defended
France's stance over genetic crop engineering, saying he would opt for
over-prudence rather than throwing caution to the wind.
"If there is a risk to be taken, I would take that of over-precaution over
that of being blind or unworried," he told French newspaper Le Monde in an
interview to be published on Wednesday.
Glavany said a proposed bio-vigilance committee, made up of plant
scientists as well as consumers and environmental groups, would decide the
parameters necessary to gauge the safety of different types of
gene-modified seeds and pass its conclusions on to the relevant government
Where necessary the ministers would then question the authorisation of the
crops in question, he said.
France, torn between angry environmental lobbyists and foreign firms eager
to import gene modified seeds, is facing legal proceedings from the
European Commission over delaying authorisation for a number of genetically
A decision by France's highest administrative court to freeze authorisation
of three strains of genetically modified maize seeds in France came in
response to a plea by Greenpeace.
While based on procedural irregularities rather than safety grounds, the
move added to public unease over gene-crops.
Glavany, who took office a month ago, said concern among French citizens,
who earlier this year gave lukewarm support to the introduction of two U.S.
corn varieties to France, was understandable.
"I find it quite healthy that public opinion shows a will to control the
progress of science," he said.
He said the bio-vigilance committee would send an annual report to
parliament to ensure transparence.
(C) Reuters Limited 1998.
Thanks to: email@example.com (jim mcnulty) for forwarding these article:
this is from the APPA conference a bit like PGA but focussed on Asia.
By Suria Prakash and Jennifer Mourin
Genetic Engineering - corporate tool for food security erosion and
enslavement of farmers.
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific's Safe Food Campaign
1998 was launched at the Asia Pacific People's Assembly in Kuala Lumpur by
a panel of scientists, health, environmental and consumer activists. The
theme of the Campaign, "Say NO! to Genetic Engineering in agriculture and
food production", aimed to debunk corporate propaganda that genetic
engineering was the panacea for all our food needs into the next century.
There is ever increasing evidence that this technology has more problems
than solutions for us all.
Launching the campaign, Sarojeni Rengam said "genetically engineered foods
involved too many problems and unresolved issues, and these issues were of
concern to the whole of Asia. This was because more and more genetically
engineered foods were being imported into Asian countries, ostensibly to
meet the food needs of the region. "We can feed ourselves without
genetically engineered foods", she said. "It is an unnecessary technology.
Our farmers do not want it, our consumers do not need it". Only
agrochemical and seed corporations will benefit from it.
PAN Asia and the Pacific is collaborating with its network partners in the
region to carry out this campaign. "Growing concern over these 'miracle'
foods and the lack of information has prompted coordinated action over this
issue", said Jennifer Mourin, the Campaign coordinator. "Corporate
dominance of our food production is being propelled by trade liberalization
via trade blocks like APEC, and free trade agreements like the GATT. This
calls for concerted action against genetically engineered foods in the
region," she said.
The panel of experts, which included Dr. Vandana Shiva, Dr. Micheal Hansen,
Dr. Romeo Quijano, Barbara Dinham and Mika Iba, talked about how
genetically engineered food was being forced upon countries by corporations
and the various issues involved. Dr. Vandana Shiva said Monsanto, which was
the biggest player in the game, was the "worst global terrorist". It was
forcing the "hazardous food" on all countries, using tremendous pressure
and misleading promotional campaigns. Monsanto has, in fact, "held the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration captive", she stated. "It is a terrorist in
not allowing people to have the food they want, by refusing to segregate
genetically engineered food crops and to label genetically engineered
foods. And through force, coercion and terror, Monsanto is trying to
control the world's food production but we must try to make the food system
more democratic by relating closely with farmers".
She also said that, significantly, insurance companies were refusing to
cover liability on genetically engineered foods, which reflected on its
safety. The trade agreements do not talk about liabilities. "We must force
the exporting countries to accept liabilities. If there is no liability,
there is no trade or biosafety protocol, either".
Dr. Michael Hansen, of the New York based Consumer Policy Institute warned
that genetically engineered foods can cause severe, potentially fatal,
allergies. Genetically modified peanuts, dairy products and shellfish were
particularly dangerous, and there have been tested cases of allergy from
soyabeans. "Without labelling, it is even impossible to trace what food you
are reacting to. Europe and India are demanding labelling, and other
countries should put pressure".
"One of the greatest dangers of genetically engineered foods is the
development of antibiotic resistance in consumers because of the antibiotic
maker genes used in the process of modifying genes", he said. This is
particularly worrisome in the context of the already increasing antibiotic
resistance in the case of several infections diseases. Genetically
engineered crops could also cause ecological disruptions as the modified
genes can cross-over to other, non-engineered crops, creating 'superweeds'.
As resistance to genetically engineered foods mounts in the US and Europe,
"there is a danger that it will be dumped on the South", he warned. There
were already 'significant imports' of soyabean in countries such as
Singapore and South Korea. In Europe, anger caused among the people by the
'mad cow' disease has been stoked further by genetically engineered foods,
said Barbara Dinham, of the Pesticides Trust based in London. "There is
resistance in Europe because consumers feel genetically engineered foods
are unsafe and their effects irreversible". One food chain in England has
refused to buy genetically engineered foods. And there are movements
opposing the import of genetically engineered foods and the planting of
genetically engineered crops, which may force the European Commission to
rethink its stand on these issues.
Health and environmental activist, Dr. Romeo Quijano pointed out that small
and poor farmers in the Asian region will be affected by the monopoly
corporate control of genetically engineered seeds through patents. "This
will worsen their dependence", he said. "Governments in the region are
collaborators in pushing genetically engineered crops. National committees
to regulate genetically engineered crops and foods are actually
facilitating their entry instead of regulating. And there are no safety or
In Asia, most countries look up to Japan in matters of food issues, but
Mika Ika said Japan did not have statutory regulation of genetically
engineering foods, and there was also a lack of information. "There are
only voluntary safety guidelines, and much of the information comes from
Monsanto itself". In fact, the US Department of Agriculture, which has a
high stake in promoting genetically engineered foods, had been leading
'intensive education' programmes on the safety of genetically engineered
foods in Japan. Japanese consumers are now demanding labelling of
genetically engineered foods, she said.
As part of the Campaign, PAN AP had also organized a lecture tour of Dr
Hansen to several countries in Asia, including Thailand. One major outcome
of his trip there came on November 6 when the Thai Biotec Centre admitted
that "genetically engineered foods and agricultural products may pose a
health hazard." Dr. Suthat Sriwathanapong (National Centre for Genetic
Engineering and Technology, said to protect consumers against this possible
health risk, the Thai Food and Drug Administration should issue a more
comprehensive rule to regulate genetically engineered drugs and products.
The issues of genetic engineering as a tool of corporate control over our
resources, increasing farmers dependency on foreign technological inputs,
and threats to human health and environment will be discussed at the Forum
on Land, Food Security and Agriculture.
- end -
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (PAN Asia Pacific)
You Can't Feed the World on Greed
By Suria Prakash and Jennifer Mourin
Kuala Lumpur, Thursday 12th Nov. Transnational companies are increasing
their control over agriculture production and trade all over the world, and
this is creating new dependencies in the Third World, said participants in
a workshop on TNCs at the Forum on Land, Food Security and Agriculture at
the Grand Olympic Hotel. The workshop said it was necessary to monitor the
actions and strategies of TNCs, inform the people about them, and counter
these actions and strategies with alternative community based strategies.
TNCs have pushed, and will benefit most from, globalisation. They are now
in a frenzied process of 'consolidating and restructuring' themselves to be
able to gain monopoly control over agricultural production, pesticide
marketing, seeds, etc. For example, the top 10 pesticide companies now
control 80% of the world's pesticide sales, and the top 10 seed companies
control 23% of the world's seeds market, and the trend in seeds is towards
greater concentration. Agrochemical, seed and food processing companies are
merging and integrating, and soon five or six companies will be dominating
the world'' food supplies. They will be telling us what to grow and where,
and deciding what food we should eat. This is an alarming trend, the
participants said. Monsanto, Cargill and Novartis came in for special
mention. To make themselves more acceptable, the TNCs are now projecting a
'green' and 'environment friendly' image. The constant message, by both
pesticides and genetically engineered food companies, that they were trying
to 'feed the world' and 'protecting the environment', are part of this
promotional exercise. But "more bio-diversity has been lost to industrial
and chemical agriculture than to any other cause", said Barbara Dinham, of
Pesticide Trust, London. "And more and more old pesticides are being pushed
to developing countries".
TNCs are also using government structures, and international and national
development agencies to promote their products. Monsanto's recent effort in
Bangladesh to provide 'micro credit' to farmers in collaboration with the
Bangladesh Grameen Bank (rural bank) is a case in point. "The micro credit
system is a part of globalisation and Monsanto's effort to expand its
markets", said Farhad Mazhar, of UBINIG, Bangladesh.
"In this process, the farmers lost both ways. They had to pay high interest
to the bank for the loan, and also had to buy Monsanto's propriety
technology with the money", he said. On the other hand, Monsanto projected
deal worldwide as an example of how an 'advanced genetic engineering
technology' could help farmers in a poor country. However, because of
world-wide protest, the Grameen Bank later withdrew from the project. But
several other such dubious 'rural development' programmers" go through in
the developing countries with active support from politicians and
bureaucrats, who are co-opted into TNC game plans. NGOs are also often
co-opted into these programmes.
Dr Romeo Quijano, of the Philippines, narrated how he was bullied by TNC
(Hoechst) for talking publicly about the harmful effects of the pesticide
endosulphan. Such 'bullying tactics' by TNCs against critics, farmers and
even against governments are quite common, pointed out other participants.
Dr Quijano characterised TNCs as "insensitive, amoral, unethical, unable to
appreciate the truth, and inherently unscientific and greedy. With the
strength of their capital, they use brute power to satisfy their greed".
TNCs were also heavily influencing the Codex, the forum that sets world
food safety standards, in their favour. "It is therefore important for the
South to lobby hard at the Codex", urged Dr Michael Hansen, of the Consumer
Policy Research Unit, USA. "If there is enough lobbying from the South, it
help quite a lot", he said.
The workshop recommended the support and development of campaigns against
TNCs and also to create alternatives to TNC strategies at the community
level to counter their growing power. These actions included:
- Research company strategies, actions and products. - Create awareness at
the local level
- Monitor practices and impact of the company - Expose corporate abuses and
practices at all levels, e.g. through action alerts, and demands for
accountability and ethical practices
- Ensure compliance with codes and international instruments - Initiate
boycotts, legal suits, shareholder demands, etc. - Strengthen international
networking and monitoring for advocacy against TNCs
- Participate in UN or inter-governmental conferences to bring abuses to
the notice of the international community. Alternatives at the community
level included : - Organising at local level
- Undertaking specific actions like monitoring health effects of
pesticides, or monitoring pesticide free villages; global seed network;
community level conservation, breeding and seed exchange
- Study and publicise successful sustainable farming initiatives with
details of yields and economic returns - Promoting breastfeeding as the
basic food security at the household level.
- end -
Saturday November 21 12:17 AM ET
India Farmers Oppose Monsanto Seed Experiment
BANGALORE, India (Reuters) - Activist Indian farmers Thursday threatened to
protest against U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto Co (NYSE:MTC - news) if
it did not make public the details of ''terminator gene'' experiments it is
conducting in the country.
The terminator gene refers to a new technology patented by a Monsanto
subsidiary. The gene switches off the reproductive cycle of a plant after a
generation leaving farmers to buy new seeds to sow a fresh crop.
``Monsanto should immediately announce the list of locations where they are
conducting experiments involving the terminator gene seed,''
M.D.Nanjundaswamy, President of Karnataka State Farmers' Association
(KSFA), told a news conference in the southern Indian city.
``Otherwise we will resort to direct democratic action,'' he said.
Nanjundaswamy said according to local media reports, Monsanto has been
allowed to conduct experiments involving the terminator gene seeds at 40
centers in five Indian states.
``They should make these centers known so we can go and inspect the sites
and assess the impact of the experiments,'' he said.
Monsanto officials were not available for comment.
KSFA said it opposed the introduction of these seeds in the country as it
could damage farmers' interests and threaten the country's food security.
Monsanto has an office in Bangalore and is involved in research at the
Indian Institute of Sciences in the city.
Thanks to : "Wainwright Churchill" <email@example.com> for posting
The Independent 22-11-98
Revealed: how US bullies nations over genetic food
Documents show how trade muscle was used to make New Zealand water down new
labelling rules, writes Marie Woolf
THE UNITED States, the world's biggest producer of genetically modified
food, has been accused of "bullying" foreign governments to protect the
global ambitions of the agri-chemical firm Monsanto.
Cabinet documents from New Zealand, seen by The Independent on Sunday, show
that the US government threatened to pull out of a potential free-trade
agreement with New Zealand over its plans for labelling and testing
genetically modified food.
The documents also reveal that the US was concerned that curbs on selling
genetically modified food in New Zealand could set a precedent for European
countries, including Britain.
New Zealand's labelling rules, which were due to become law this week, are
set to be reviewed next month.
Opposition MPs have accused the New Zealand government of backing down on
GM food under pressure from the US. British MPs say the documents give the
first clear evidence of the lengths to which the US will go to defend the
American bio-technology industry.
They believe that Tony Blair has privately come under similar pressure from
President Bill Clinton and the US government.
They want him to publicly reveal what discussions the British Government
has held with the White House, which has close links with Monsanto, about
the growth and sale of GM crops in Britain.
BIOPIRACY OF EPIPEDOBATES TRICOLOR
A new active principle called epibatidine has been patented by Abbott
Laboratories in the United States. Epibatidine is a chemical mixture
secreted from the skin of a poisonous neotropical frog called Epipedobates
tricolor, which lives in the rainforest spanning from the west of the
Ecuadorian Andes to the north of Peru.
This species, of great interest to science, has been used since ancient
times by indigenous Ecuadorians in their hunting activities: spears
dressed with the poison cause immediate death once they enter into contact
with the blood system of the catch.
US National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientist John Daley has identified
the chemical structure of the frog's secretion, thanks to the information
given to him by indigenous and local communities about the physiological
effects of this substance. To isolate the active principle, he illegally
obtained a sample of 750 frogs which we believe left Ecuador by diplomatic
pouch since there is no proof that the Ecuadorian Institute of Natural
Forests and Wildlife (INEFAN) granted a license for the frog to be
This kind of license is a basic requirement of Ecuadorian law, since the
frog appears in the annex to the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species (CITES), to which Ecuador is party since 1975.
Furthermore, INEFAN banned any bioprospecting activities involving this
species in 1996. Yet it was through such bioprospecting that Abbot
Laboratories in the United States was able to market its drug ABT-594,
derived from epibatidine. ABT-594 is an analgesic two hundred times more
potent than morphine. Abbott Laboratories obtained the patent on
epibatidine after Daley isolated it.
This recent act of biopiracy involves illegal access to genetic resources,
negating the rights of the country of origin and the rights of the
indigenous communities which generated the knowledge being claimed in the
For more information:
Tel: (593-2) 52 75 83
Fax: (593-2) 54 75 16
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
Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 for 12 months
See website for details.
--Dan in Sunny Puerto Rico--
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