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The GE Information Bulletin


The GE Information Bulletin

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

IN THIS ISSUE http://www.geinfo.org.nz/072003/bulletin14.html

> GM Crops Do Harm Surrounding Flora And Fauna, Farm Trials Likely To Reveal

> "Little Economic Benefit" From GM

> British Scientist Was Smeared For Anti-GM Stance On Government Panel

> European Parliament Adopts Biotech Regulations On Traceability And Labelling

> Co-existence Bar "Set Very High" In SA

> Dissenting Adviser Quits GM Panel

> Share Slump Brings Biotechs To Govt's Door

> Tests Find Traces Of GM Crops In US Wheat Supply

> Erma Review Raises Concerns Over Regulator's GE Capabilities

> WA Should Stay GM Free Until 2006 Report

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Download a PDF version of this newsletter from http://www.GEinfo.org.nz

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Editorial The GE debate is hotting up in the UK despite the fact that the 'National GM Debate' is now officially over. Hot off the press is the news that the UK's farm scale trials have shown that GE plants interact with other species in different ways to conventional plants, contrary to expectations. This follows a government report stating that there are few short- term benefits from commercially growing GE crops, although the technology should not be ignored. The credibility of another official report, which was more positive about GE, has been brought into question first by the resignation of one of its panel members and then by the news that another panel member was the subject of a smear campaign by a senior pro-GE scientist. Down at this end of the world two Australian states are considering regulations which are likely to maintain their GE-free status.

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GM CROPS DO HARM SURROUNDING FLORA AND FAUNA, FARM TRIALS LIKELY TO REVEAL The Independent, August 2, 2003 (UK) The Government's farm trial experiments have disproved the theory that GM plants would interact with other species in the same way as their conventional counterparts. In particular, the impact on insects, weeds and hedgerow plants has proved radically different, the trial results have revealed. One senior source close to the trials said "The null hypothesis is wrong, that's what's come out of the trials clearly. What is consistent is there are differences in the impact of GM crops and conventional crops." The three crops in the trials, GM maize, oilseed rape and sugar beet, have all behaved differently to the conventional varieties grown beside them. Some have destroyed more insects and weeds than conventional varieties, although one crop, believed to be maize, is thought to have had a more positive effect on killing unwanted common "weeds". Full item http://www.GEinfo.org.nz/072003/01.html

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"LITTLE ECONOMIC BENEFIT" FROM GM BBC Online, July 11, 2003 (UK) The commercial growing of genetically modified crops would bring little short-term benefit to the British economy, a government report has said. The first of three major reports into biotech plants says only a narrow range of existing GM crops is suited to British conditions. The report from the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit says the lack of demand for the GM foods from shoppers is likely to limit the extent to which farmers grow the controversial new varieties. But in a signal that Britain should not turn its back on GM technology, it argues future GM crops could offer wide ranging benefits to both farmers and consumers in the longer term. "However, the overall balance of future costs and benefits will depend on public attitudes, and on the ability of the regulatory system to manage uncertainties," it adds. Full item http://www.GEinfo.org.nz/072003/02.html

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BRITISH SCIENTIST WAS SMEARED FOR ANTI-GM STANCE ON GOVERNMENT PANEL AFP, July 26, 2003 (UK) A British scientist who voiced doubts over the safety of genetically modified crops was the target of a campaign to sabotage his career and funding, led by a senior pro-GM scientific figure. An official government website revealed that an unnamed individual in a "privileged academic or regulatory" position tried to get Andrew Stirling, a risk evaluation expert at Sussex University [who] took part an official GM science review panel set up by the government, dropped from a research project by approaching its funders and disparaging his work and professional standing. Sterling contacted David King, the government's chief scientific adviser, who also chaired the review panel, after he became aware of the smear campaign against him and the attempt to cut off his funding. Full item http://www.GEinfo.org.nz/072003/03.html

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EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS BIOTECH REGULATIONS ON TRACEABILITY AND LABELLING Bridges Trade BioRes, Vol. 3 No. 13, July 11, 2003 (Online) The European Parliament [has] adopted two Commission proposals on the labelling and traceability of GM food and feed. Specifically, the European Parliament approved a threshold of 0.9 percent, below which GM products would be exempt from labelling, and 0.5 percent for the adventitious presence of GM organisms that are unauthorised but have nevertheless been assessed as risk-free. They also amended the draft regulations to allow EU member states to impose "appropriate measures" to avoid the unintended presence of GMOs in other products. Under the new regulations, operators using or handling GM products would be required to retain the information at each stage of the placing on the market. [They] would require labelling for GM feed and products derived from but no longer containing GMOs. These are exempt from labelling under current rules [which] do not set a threshold for accidental presence of unapproved GMOs that have been assessed as risk-free. Under the new rules, the threshold would be 0.5 percent. Full item http://www.GEinfo.org.nz/072003/04.html

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CO-EXISTENCE BAR "SET VERY HIGH" IN SA ABC News, July 18, 2003 (Australia) A parliamentary committee has recommended that legislation be introduced delaying the commercial release of GM crops until it can be guaranteed that the state will not lose markets. Committee chairman Rory McEwan says the legislation will remain in place until a parliamentary advisory committee is convinced GM and conventional crops can co-exist. "As long as you can guarantee coexistence," he said, "and some very strict rules surround that, then it is possible to go through a process, and at least have a conditional release. Because trade and market issues depend on consumer sentiment, which is always changing, we must always have the options there. Now, the only way to have the options is to guarantee coexistence. Some people say that's not possible. We're not making that judgment, but we're saying you have to prove that's possible before you can have a release." Full item http://www.GEinfo.org.nz/072003/05.html

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DISSENTING ADVISER QUITS GM PANEL The Observer, July 20, 2003 (UK) Carlo Leifert, an expert in organic food production, stepped down from [the] GM science review panel amid allegations that he was facing fierce pressure to toe a pro-biotech line. Sources [said] that he felt increasingly isolated after raising repeated concerns about the safety and environmental impacts of GM crops and began worrying he might lose grants if he kept questioning the technology. There is no evidence to suggest any panel member threatened him over this. At that time, Leifert was seeking a share of a £14 million EU grant to research organic and sustainable farming in Britain. "The final straw came when he was told that Andrew Cockburn of Monsanto [was] commissioned to write the draft of its consideration of GM safety issues," said the source. Full item http://www.GEinfo.org.nz/072003/06.html

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SHARE SLUMP BRINGS BIOTECHS TO GOVT'S DOOR Nature 423, 908, June 26, 2003 (USA) The biotechnology industry met this week in the seat of the US government - Washington DC - and the location couldn't have been more fitting. Because while entrepreneurs claim to shun government as a slow-moving dinosaur, observers say it is currently biotech's best friend. But analysts say that an increasingly cosy relationship with the government won't save the biotech industry's skin. "Venture-capital firms measure cash flows in the billions of dollars," says Joe Cortright, a consultant based in Oregon. "The government just cannot invest on the same scale." Full item http://www.GEinfo.org.nz/072003/07.html

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TESTS FIND TRACES OF GM CROPS IN US WHEAT SUPPLY Reuters, May 30, 2003 (USA) Tests have revealed that traces of genetically modified grains are repeatedly creeping into US wheat supplies. Biotech soybeans and corn, the two most widely grown genetically modified crops in the world, are the common culprits. Traces of the GM crops have been found not only in unmilled wheat but also in flour and other foods, sources said. "We've already got GM contamination in wheat in small levels from non-GM sources," said one US milling source. "If we can't keep the corn and soybeans out of the wheat, how are we going to keep the GM wheat out of the wheat?" Full item http://www.GEinfo.org.nz/072003/08.html

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ERMA REVIEW RAISES CONCERNS OVER REGULATOR'S GE CAPABILITIES New Zealand Herald, July 2, 2003 (New Zealand) An independent review has questioned the capability of the Government's environmental watchdog to regulate GE crops and animals when commercial releases are allowed. There was poor oversight by Erma of compliance and monitoring of conditions set on GE approvals, and poor coordination between Erma and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry - which enforces the conditions set by Erma. There were also serious gaps in skills in both the authority and its staff - particularly in gene technology, microbial ecology, social science, bio-ethics, environmental effects assessment, and strategic foresight. Its organisational goals did not include effective environmental risk management - a key thrust of the HSNO Act. Full item http://www.GEinfo.org.nz/072003/09.html

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WA SHOULD STAY GM FREE UNTIL 2006 REPORT ABC Online, July 15, 2003 (Australia) The Western Australia government's Environment and Public Affairs Committee spent the last year investigating the consequences of growing GM crops, talking to farmers, surveying major markets in the Middle East and Asia and travelling to Canada and the US for a first hand look at GM technology. [The] report has found [WA] should maintain its moratorium on GM crops until 2006, and investigate the possibility of remaining GM-free into the future. Full item http://www.GEinfo.org.nz/072003/10.html


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