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Concerns in the UK and New Zealand Over GE Release

Concerns in the UK and New Zealand again dominate the Bulletin - both countries may soon allow GE release.

The Guardian reports on leaked details of the results of the farm- scale GE trials held in Britain over the past three years. Two of the three trials reportedly highlight environmental damage. This comes as the final report on the UK’s ‘National GM Debate’ shows little support for commercialisation. Meanwhile in New Zealand the second largest insurer won't give liability cover to farmers for use of GE technology; a new study using economic modelling suggests GE crops will not benefit NZ producers; and it has been reported that ‘critical’ safety research on GE crops will not be completed for another five years. *Stop Press Our website has a follow-up report from The Guardian indicating that GE crops could be banned in Britain at http://www.GEinfo.org.nz/092003/12.html

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BRITISH PUBLIC SAYS 'NO' TO GMO CROPS Reuters, September 25, 2003 (UK) A six-week national debate over genetically modified (GMO) crops and food has found that British people are still highly skeptical of the controversial technology and mistrust the government and the industry that has to power to introduce it. This was the overwhelming conclusion from a report on this year's government-sponsored national dialogue, "GM Nation?" The debate also found that the more people were informed about GM technology, the more skeptical they became. Only two percent said they were happy to eat GM food, while 86 percent were not. "There is little support for the early commercialization of GM crops... Even when people acknowledge potential benefits of GM technology, they are doubtful that GM companies will actually deliver them," the report said. "They seek varying periods of delay so that new information, tests or research can identify and eliminate, or at least reduce to an acceptable level, the potential risks," the government-backed report concluded. Full item http//www.GEinfo.org.nz/092003/01.html

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BIG INSURER REFUSES GE FARM COVER New Zealand Herald, September 27, 2003 (New Zealand) New Zealand's second-biggest insurer, Vero, will not cover farmers for liability against damage or injury from the use of genetic modification technology. "We perceive that the use of genetic modification technology in farming will present liability risks that we do not wish to insure," the memo said. Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons warns that other insurance companies are likely to follow suit and says the decision reveals "just how big a risk insurers believe the GE industry to be. The combined result of the liability regime and the lack of insurance is that the full risk for any GE organism that goes wrong will be borne by the victim." Environment Minister Marian Hobbs, Federated Farmers and the Insurance Council agreed that other companies would follow the lead set by Vero, formerly Royal & SunAlliance, in refusing cover. But they played down the significance, saying it had been predicted and simply reflected the newness of the technology. Full item http//www.GEinfo.org.nz/092003/02.html

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GM CROPS FAIL KEY TRIALS The Guardian, October 2, 2003 (UK) Two of the three GM crops grown experimentally in Britain, oil seed rape and sugar beet, appear more harmful to the environment than conventional crops and should not be grown in the UK, scientists are expected to tell the government next week. The third crop, GM maize, allows the survival of more weeds and insects and might be recommended for approval, though some scientists still have reservations. The results of the field scale trials - the largest scientific experiment of its type on GM crops undertaken anywhere in the world - will be published next Friday. The[y] are expected to be a jolt to the enthusiasts and will be studied across the world. The political fall out from the three year [long] trial results is potentially enormous. It would give the government every excuse to refuse permission outright for two of the three crops on environmental grounds. Almost all of northern Europe, with similar farming conditions, would be expected to follow any British ban. Full item http//www.GEinfo.org.nz/092003/03.html

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UK FACES BIG SETBACK OVER GM CROP RULES The Financial Times, September 10, 2003 (UK) Tony Blair's hopes of advancing the cause of GM technology are set to be dealt a significant blow because the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission, set up by the government to advise on GM issues, is struggling to reach consensus over two crucial issues how GM and non-GM crops can co-exist and how disputes over contamination can be resolved. Fundamental differences inside the commission mean attempts to find a "middle-ground", enabling the planting of GM crops while protecting organic farmers, are likely to fail. A much-delayed AEBC report, to be published next month, is expected to be accompanied by a dissenting minority report. Full item http//www.GEinfo.org.nz/092003/04.html

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EUROPE CAN BAN BIOTECH FOODS, COURT RULES St. Louis Business Journal, September 9, 2003 (USA) Although the European Parliament lifted its five-year ban on genetically modified foods in July, the court ruled Tuesday that Italy and other EU countries can temporarily ban the[m] if they feel there is a threat to public health or the environment. Full item http//www.GEinfo.org.nz/092003/05.html

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GMO IMPORT BAN CAUGHT IN CROSSFIRE NewScientist.com news service, October 10, 2003 (UK) >From tomorrow, countries will have a right under inter-national law to ban imports of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that they think could be unsafe. The UN's Biosafety Protocol allows bans where governments fear imported GMOs in food may have an "adverse effect" on biological diversity or human health. Tewolde Egziabher, one of the architects of the Biosafety Protocol, [will] mark its coming into force by speaking at the upper house of the British parliament. Egziabher, director of Ethiopia's Environmental Protection Authority, will [say that] African countries want to use the protocol to set up their own systems for regulating imports of GM food, including US food aid. Before leaving Addis Ababa, Egziabher said "We resent the way that the image of the hungry in developing countries has been used to force a style of agriculture that will only exacerbate problems of hunger and poverty." Full item http//www.GEinfo.org.nz/092003/06.html

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GOVT. COMES UNDER FIRE FROM ANTI-GM GROUPS SwissInfo, September 19, 2003 (Switzerland) Environmental groups, consumers and farmers have called for a nationwide vote on the use of GM crops. The group collected over 121,000 signatures supporting a five-year moratorium on GM crops, after parliament threw out the proposal in June. By law, if a citizen can collect over 100,000 signatures within 18 months of a parliamentary decision, they can force a nationwide vote on the issue. It took the Stop GMO (genetically modified organisms) initiative only seven months to gather the required amount. Full item http//www.GEinfo.org.nz/092003/07.html

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USDA SURVEY BIOTECH RULES BREACHED The Associated Press, September 10, 2003 (USA) The Agriculture Department found that almost 20 percent of the Midwestern farms growing a pest-resistant biotech crop have failed to comply with federal planting requirements. Only about four-fifths were complying with an Environmental Protection Agency requirement that farmers grow Bt corn in fields surrounded with conventional corn. This perimeter is meant to be a refuge to prevent pests from developing resistance to the Bt variety. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, said EPA needs to implement a system that would give companies an incentive to ensure farmers to follow the rules. "They don't have an incentive to penalize and fine noncompliant farmers because those farmers are their customers," said Gregory Jaffe, the center's director for biotechnology. Full item http//www.GEinfo.org.nz/092003/08.html

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NO POINT TO GM SAY ACADEMICS NZoom, September 7, 2003 (New Zealand) A new study from Lincoln University shows that release of GM crops will have no financial benefit for producers. Professor Caroline Saunders from [the] agribusiness and economics research unit says GM food releases have not benefited producers anywhere in the world, and economic modelling shows the situation for New Zealand is no different. Saunders says producers will only benefit from GM crops when consumers demand them, and New Zealand producers do not have anything to gain from growing GM food. Saunders warns that any potential for increased productivity from GM crops would not lead to higher producer returns, saying it is better to have greater demand through shorter supply. Full item http//www.GEinfo.org.nz/092003/09.html

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GM RESEARCH NEEDS ANOTHER FIVE YEARS Sunday Star Times, September 14, 2003 (New Zealand) Research into the safety of genetic modification will not be finished until five years after the "genie in the bottle" is approved for release. The research has been described as critical by those who want the moratorium on the release of GM postponed for another five years. Among the subjects scientists are studying are The effect GM plants will have on the environment. The economic impact GM will have on New Zealand. How Maori feel about the introduction of GM. The results are expected in 2008. Full item http//www.GEinfo.org.nz/092003/10.html

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INDIAN FARMERS TARGET MONSANTO BBC news online, September 11, 2003 (India) Angry farmers in southern India have stormed a building that formerly housed the global biotech giant, Monsanto. More than 40 farmers ransacked the corporation's former Bangalore facility on Thursday, after staging noisy demonstrations. They were protesting after more than 70 farmers committed suicide in the last three months. Their deaths are being blamed on debt and drought and on the introduction of GM crops. Full item http//www.GEinfo.org.nz/092003/11.html

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