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The GE Information Bulletin

The GE Information Bulletin

An independent digest of widely-sourced information relevant to the GE debate


> Blair Adviser Attacks Labour GM Crops 'Fix'

> Kraft - Tougher Rules On Planting Drug Crops

> Huge Resistance To Blair Support For GM Crops

> Monsanto Barred From Selling Seeds In Bihar

> The Effects Of Information On Consumer Demand For Biotech Foods

> Firm Fined For Spread Of Altered Corn Genes

> Modified Canola Worries

> GM crops Will Destroy Farms

> Little Oversight Of GM Crops Beyond The Farm

> NGOs Oppose GM Food Dumping In Ira


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Over the past month in Britain a new survey has shown continuing opposition to GE; a key scientific adviser to Tony Blair has attacked the government's review of GE technology as "artificial"; and the Agriculture, Environment and Biotechnology Commission has reported that organic farming could be endangered by commercial GE crops. In the USA a report commissioned by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology has shown that the three government agencies charged with regulating GE are failing to do so; and the US Department of Agriculture has found that consumers are 14% less likely to buy GE foods if they are labelled as such. Meanwhile the GE food aid debate has moved to Iraq - three Bangladeshi NGOs are warning that GE food may be distributed as part of post-war humanitarian aid.


BLAIR ADVISER ATTACKS LABOUR GM CROPS 'FIX' The Observer, April 13, 2003 (UK) A key scientific adviser to Tony Blair has launched the most damaging attack yet on the Prime Minister's attempts to persuade the public to accept GM crops. Sir Tom Blundell, a Labour supporter appointed by Blair to chair the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in 1998, has effectively accused ministers of a fix. Blundell condemns ministerial efforts to have an independent scientific review of GM technology as 'artificial'. He warns that this will be completed before a public debate has even started. "It seems impossible that the values articulated in that process could inform the science review or the Strategy Unit's economic study which are still due to publish their results in May and June respectively". The Royal Commission sees "a real danger that their conclusion will already have been cast, or at least the public would be justified in perceiving that to be the case." Blundell's concern is given extra weight by the fact that completion of the farm trials - designed to discover whether GM crops affect the environment - has been delayed. Potentially controversial findings cannot now be discussed in the debate. Full item


KRAFT - TOUGHER RULES ON PLANTING DRUG CROPS Chicago Sun Times, April 4, 2003 (USA) Kraft Co-CEO Betsy Holden is calling for stricter rules for planting crops that are bio-engineered to produce pharmaceuticals. The usually tight-lipped and regulation-averse Holden told an agricultural forum that such crops, as well as genetically modified animals, pose a threat to the food supply. "Both share the same issue - the risk of commingling with the food supply, the same problem that led to the recall a couple of years ago of our Taco Bell products that were adulterated with StarLink corn," Holden said in a speech sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture. Asked to expand on Holden's comments, Kraft spokesman Michael Mudd said if the federal government refuses to outlaw pharmaceutical crops or to ban their planting in farm states, Northfield-based Kraft "wants there to be every regulation possible so commingling will not happen." Full item


HUGE RESISTANCE TO BLAIR SUPPORT FOR GM CROPS The Independent, April 28, 2003 (UK) Unpublished data from the pollsters Mori shows that Margaret Beckett and Tony Blair - both known supporters of GM technology - will struggle to convince the public they are right. Although the GM issue has faded from the headlines compared with three or four years ago, opponents continue to outnumber supporters solidly, by four to one, with 56 per cent of the population against, and only 14 per cent in favour. Among women, 61 per cent [are] against and only 10 per cent [are] in favour. Opposition to GM goes across all political parties 56 per cent of Labour voters, 57 per cent of Tories, and 60 per cent of Liberal Democrats are against. "The widespread extent of the opposition is surprising," said Philip Downing, Mori's head of environmental research. "If the Government thinks that people are coming round to GM technology, this clearly shows that the opposition to it is still remarkably stable." The poll results suggest that if the decision is favourable, it will be in the teeth of public opposition. Full item


MONSANTO BARRED FROM SELLING SEEDS IN BIHAR The Hindustan Times, April 5, 2003 (India) Monsanto India Ltd., a subsidiary of the US multinational, has been barred from selling seeds in Bihar for allegedly marketing substandard products. The action came after farmers complained that Monsanto's Cargill hybrid 900M maize seeds were substandard or contaminated as they failed to germinate and much of the winter crop failed, Agriculture Minister Shivshankar Yadav said. Monsanto is believed to have sold 700 tonnes of seeds for the winter crop, promising farmers yields of 80 to 85 quintals per acre. The actual yield was not even 10 percent of this, according to figures available with the government. Sources in the Bihar government said it was under tremendous pressure to cancel Monsanto's licence because thousands of farmers were demanding compensation after being reduced to penury following the failure of the winter crop. Full item


THE EFFECTS OF INFORMATION ON CONSUMER DEMAND FOR BIOTECH FOODS Economic Research Service, USDA, April 2003 (USA) Consumers' willingness to pay for food products decreases when the food label indicates that a food product is produced with the aid of modern biotechnology. The authors designed and conducted an experimental auction to elicit consumers' willingness to pay for "genetically modified" (GM)-labeled and standard-labeled foods under different information regimes. The evidence gathered for vegetable oil, tortilla chips, and potatoes shows that labels matter. In particular, under all information treatments, consumers discounted food items labeled "GM" by an average of 14 percent. Full item


FIRM FINED FOR SPREAD OF ALTERED CORN GENES Washington Post, April 24, 2003 (Hawaii) The Environmental Protection Agency imposed [a] $72,000 fine on Pioneer Hi-Bred after the company failed to promptly notify the government of tests showing that genes from experimental corn had spread to other corn grown nearby. The EPA was disturbed by the company's failure to notify it promptly when the experimental genes were found. That was a breach of an agreement made by EPA and the company in December, after Pioneer acknowledged separate violations on another nearby plot and was fined nearly $10,000. Full item


MODIFIED CANOLA WORRIES Daily Telegraph April 10, 2003 (Australia) Almost three quarters of Victoria's farmers dispute a finding by the nation's gene technology watchdog that genetically modified canola does not pose a threat or environmental risk. A survey, commissioned by ICM Agribusiness in consultation with the Network of Concerned Farmers, found 70 per cent were worried, with fears including GM canola's possible contamination of traditional crops. Full item


GM CROPS WILL DESTROY FARMS Western Morning News, April 22, 2003 (UK) The Government has come under fire from campaigners after a scientific commission revealed that cultivating genetically modified crops could devastate organic farming. In the light of new documents prepared by the Agriculture, Environment and Biotechnology Commission, more than 4,000 organic farmers nationwide could see their livelihoods endangered if their crops are contaminated by GM plants. The independent commission suggests that the spread of pollen from genetically modified crops means that certified produce would be forever tainted. A spokesman said "The AEBC is an independent body which analyses all data received on GM. It has been established to assess both the benefits and risks of the biotechnology." Full item


LITTLE OVERSIGHT OF GM CROPS BEYOND THE FARM Washington Post, April 25, 2003 (USA) The government has no effective system of overseeing genetically altered crops after they go to market, a regulatory gap that could pose acute problems as more such crops are commercialized, according to a new report. Two government agencies, the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department, don't even attempt to enforce rules on gene-altered crops after they're commercialized, and may lack sufficient legal authority to do so. The third agency that regulates such crops, the Environmental Protection Agency, has legal authority to set rules that apply after commercialization but has established no effective means of enforcing them. Government agencies often lack the ability to test for the presence of altered genes in food, said the report, commissioned by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. And there's evidence to suggest the minimal restrictions that government agencies are imposing are often ignored. Anonymous farmer surveys done by others suggest that compliance with EPA rules may be as low as 60 percent in some regions of the country, the report said. The government is not inspecting farms to verify compliance. Spokesmen at the Agriculture Department, the FDA and the EPA acknowledged that it's largely up to individual farmers and companies to obey government rules after a crop is commercialized. Full item


NGOS OPPOSE GM FOOD DUMPING IN IRAQ The Financial Express, April 13, 2003 (India) In a joint letter to the WFP, three NGOs of Bangladesh said [they] have obtained information that the beleaguered GM food industry are trying to move in [to Iraq] to distribute GM food as part of the humanitarian aid. [They] have written to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and other UN agencies not to use any GM food as aid to war victims in Iraq. They have also cautioned that the US after the war may try to introduce the GM wheat recently developed by Monsanto for cultivation in Iraq. They have urged that the reconstruction and rehabilitation work after the war should be supervised by the UN and not by US. Full item

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