Wire story on Organics & GMOs
Mark Lipson (email@example.com)
Wed, 11 Aug 1999 15:03:14 -0700
>Gene-Altered Crops Are Trouble in the Wind for Organic Foods
>Gene-Altered Crops Are Trouble in the Wind for Organic Foods
> Hudson, Wisconsin, Aug. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Organic food maker
>Terra Prima Inc. got a sour taste of modern food technology late
> After a test by an importer in the Netherlands found a trace
>of genetically engineered corn in Terra tortilla chips, company
>officials decided they couldn't sell the product as organic. More
>frustrating was lack of accountability for the ``contamination''
>of its product. The organic farmer who sold Terra the corn said
>he was unaware of the problem, explaining wind probably blew corn
>pollen from a neighboring farm into his field.
> The explanation is plausible, though most corn pollen
>doesn't travel more than 60 feet, said Bob Nielsen, an agronomist
>with Purdue University. Still, the possibility troubles not just
>organic producers but also farmers who don't want to be penalized
>for growing genetically modified food.
> ``You bet it raises concern,'' Nielsen said. ``But it's
>going to depend on how well or how thoroughly grain will be
>tested for contaminants at the point of sale.''
> Grain processors such as Archer Daniels Midland Co., food
>makers such as Novartis AG's Gerber baby-food unit and organic
>food companies such as Terra have responded to consumer concerns
>by demanding farmers provide corn that's not genetically
> DuPont Co., Monsanto Co. and even Gerber's parent company,
>Novartis, have staked part of their futures on genetically
>engineered food. They are treading carefully to promote the
>technology without contributing to consumer fears.
> Food Safety Scares
> European consumers, shaken by food safety scares such as the
>1996 outbreak of mad-cow disease in the U.K and more recently
>dioxin-tainted chicken in Belgium, are especially distrustful of
>the technology, which involves altering genetic traits of corn,
>soybeans and other crops so they can resist pests or withstand
>greater doses of weed killer.
> The Terra chips tested in Europe contained genetically
>modified corn that included the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis,
>or Bt, a toxin that kills the destructive European corn borer.
> Terra, based in Hudson, Wisconsin, decided to destroy 87,000
>bags of the contaminated chips at a cost of $147,000. For a
>company with about $2.5 million in sales, the loss was sizable,
>said Melodi Nelson, vice president of the closely held food
> She doesn't blame the organic farmer who sold Terra the corn
>and said the source of the contamination wasn't clear.
> ``I'd like to see a moratorium on genetically modified crops
>until they can reassure us that we won't have cross-
>pollination,'' Nelson said.
> Monarch Butterflies
> Bt corn moved into the spotlight in May, when a Cornell
>University researcher found that monarch butterfly larvae that
>feed on its pollen could die. The findings contributed to
>investor apprehension about Monsanto, which has borrowed heavily
>to acquire seed companies to market its genetically-modified crop
> Shares of Monsanto have fallen 17 percent this year and
>traded this week as low as 38 3/4, down from a high of 50 13/16
> The issue is not likely to blow over. An estimated 38
>percent of this year's U.S. corn crop and nearly half of the U.S.
>soybean crop was planted with genetically engineered seeds.
> ``This is really indicative of how this biotechnology is
>going to change how we grow food in the United States,'' said
>Scott McFarland, director of industry relations for the National
>Corn Growers Association. ''There's a lot more risk than farmers
>have taken on in the past.''
> Insurance Questions
> Farmers who use the technology are concerned about
>liability, if they are accused of contaminating other crops,
>because crop insurers haven't addressed the issue.
> John Nelson, president of Acceptance Insurance Cos. in
>Omaha, Nebraska, said his company doesn't offer a policy to cover
>a lawsuit related to genetically engineered seeds. The company's
>American Agrisurance unit is the third biggest U.S. crop insurer.
>Nelson said he's studying the issue.
> Some farmers are looking to the seed companies for guidance,
>which so far, they haven't offered. ``We couldn't get to any
>resolution,'' said Kyle Phillips, a corn grower in Knoxville,
> Doyle Karr, a spokesman for Des Moines-based Pioneer Hi-Bred
>International Inc., said, ``We're looking at it but we haven't
>given any guidance. The difficult thing is it's hard to
>prevent.'' DuPont plans to buy Pioneer, the world's largest seed
>company, in the next two months.
> A Novartis official said organic farmers could reduce the
>risk of contamination if they follow standard farming practices
>like creating a buffer between neighboring fields and planting at
>different times than their neighbors.
> If an organic farmer ``wishes to ensure no corn pollen in
>his fields, he needs to take the necessary precautions,'' said
>Jeff Stein, director of regulatory and government affairs for
>Novartis' U.S. crop business.
> Some organic farmers may be considering lawsuits against
>their neighbors, said Bob Scowcroft, spokesman for the Organic
>Farming Research Foundation. The issue was top of the agenda at a
>San Francisco-area organic food conference earlier this month.
> Others would ``prefer to be more proactive'' and work out a
>compromise with their neighbors, said Ken Rosmann, marketing
>director for Heartland Organic Marketing Cooperative,
>representing 140 organic farmers in Iowa and Missouri.
>--Brett Chase in Chicago (312) 692-3728 /mfr
>Story illustration: to graph Monsanto's stock performance, MTC US
>Company news: News by industry:
>MTC US <Equity> CN Monsanto NI BTC Biotechnolgy
>DD US <Equity> CN DuPont NI AGR Agriculture
>NOV SW <Equity> CN Novartis NI INS Insurance
>AIF US <Equity> CN Acceptance Ins. NI GRN Grains
>PHB US <Equity> CN Pioneer NI DRG Drugs
> NI CHM Chemicals
>News by category: Regional news:
>NI COS Companies NI WI Wisconsin
>NI BMRFER Fertilizers-Res. NI DE Delaware
>NI FOD Food NI MO Missouri
> NI IA Iowa
> NI US U.S.
> NI SW Sweden
> NI EUROP Europe
>For more stories about Monsanto and biotechnology: MTC US
><Equity> TCNI BTC
>-0- (BN ) Aug/11/1999 15:20
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Mark Lipson, Policy Program Director
ph: 831-426-4006 or -6606; fax: 831-426-6670
PO Box 440, Santa Cruz, CA 95061
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