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GENET Mail Out 2/99



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 GENET Mail Out 2/99
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GENET Mail Out 2/99 will focus on an increasingly important topic: the maintainance and strengthening of gentech-free food markets. While the US promotes the slogan "agricultural trade without GMOs is no trade", other countries with export interests in agricultural commodities seem to recognize their chance in producing and selling certified, gentech-free commodities for aware costumers. During the biosafety negotiations in Cartagena (Feb. 14-23), the struggle between political and ecomonical interests and the fight of some governments to withstand the influence of TNCs became obvious.


THE PRODUCERS

During the biosafety negotiations, BRAZIL left its traditional position defending US interests and joined the strong biosafety positions of the majority of developing countries. On Feb. 22, the Agricultural Secretary Jose Hermeto Hoffamann of Brazil's second-largest soybean-producing state Rio Grande do Sul was cited as saying the state is trying to ban planting of genetically modified soybeans produced by a local unit of Monsanto Co., adding, "We have decided that they should be prohibited. What we are doing now is looking into the ways that this legally can be done." The government wants to respect the wishes of producers in Rio Grande do Sul, who fear they may lose sales to transgenic-wary European markets with the introduction of Roundup Ready soy beans, and that the state saw an opportunity to create a speciality market with the transgenic-free soybean crop, which would help offset shrinking profit margins as world prices slide.

On January 8, AUSTRALIAN trade authorities announced the largest shipment of non-GE rapeseed ever exported from Australia. The $16.5 million dollar shipment is bound for oilseed crushing plants in Europe. According to Graham Lawrence, managing director of the New South Wales Grains Board, "Europe has moved to become a major buyer this year because Australia is the only country to guarantee non-genetic modified canola." While celebrating this economic success, Australia is member of the Miami-Group, fighting any efficient biosafety regulation and defending trade interests of US and European biotech companies. 

When CANADA started growing transgenic rapeseed in 1995, an "identity preservation" system was in place to insure segregation of GE- from non-GE-rapeseed. After approval of the transgenic plants for food purposes in Japan and Europe, Canada followed the US system of mixing conventional and transgenic harvest and thus could not any longer garantue GE-free commodities. In 1998, Canada has lost $300-400 million in rapeseed sales to Europe because the exporters were not able to react on the European consumer demands. In NGO talks at the Cartagena meeting, the CEO of the Canadian Grain Council, Mr. Mutch, had to admit that neither the Canadian harvesting system nor the GE-free acreage reflect consumer demands. In contrast to earlier talks, in which he called segregation impossible, Mr. Mutch explained that Canadian exporters now are thinking about segregation systems which might work in 3 to 5 years. In Cartagena, the Canadian delegation spoke for the Miami Group and was one of the!
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 main players in the US efforts to wreck the negotiations.


THE RETAILERS

In GENET Mail Out 1/99, activities of the Austrian supermarket chain SPAR and the BRAZILIAN CARREFOUR stores to offer GE-free brands and to ban GE-food from their shelves were reported. On Feb. 5, CARREFOUR FRANCE, the largest national supermarket chain, announced that they were taking all genetically engineered foods off their shelves. On Feb. 11, Sheila McKechnie of the UK Consumers Association pointed out in the Daily Mail that grocery chains banning GE foods like Carrefour will now "have an enormous competitive advantage" in the marketplace. On Feb. 13 ASDA, a major British supermarket chain, announced that they were going to remove all genetically engineered ingredients from their own-brand goods, following the example of the British ICELAND company.

On Feb. 23, the Daily Mail reported that three of Britain's fast-food giants, McDonald's, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, are responding to customer pressure by eliminating genetically engineered soya and corn ingredients from their menus. According to McDonald's spokesperson Jackie Graveny: "Our aim is to have McDonald's GM (genetically modified) free as soon as possible." Similarly Burger King stated: "The company is set to ban GM food as soon as possible.". According to further GENET investigations only the announcement of McDonald's and Burger King can be taken for serious.


FUTURE MARKETS

On Feb. 23 India's highest court, the Supreme Court, stopped deliberate releases of Monsantošs  genetically engineered Bt cotton. The petition was filed by Dr. Vandana Shiva, director of Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, which allows citizens to move the highest court over issues of violation of fundamental rights. The court gave Notice that in the interim before a final ruling no permission can be granted to conduct open multicentric trials of this cotton on a large scale unless the rules and guidelines are amended ensuring protection of the environment, biodiversity and human health. The Petitioner is also seeking a moratorium on trials of the genetically engineered cotton for three to five years unless biosafety regulations are in place and until the ecological risk assessment has been carried out on a scientifically sound basis. Dr. Shivašs comment: "This case is the first of its kind in this country on the!
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 new generation of environmental issues, related to risks of genetic pollution from environmental releases of genetically engineered organisms.". Farmers fear that insect resistance to the Bt insecticide caused by genetically engineered Bt plants would make Bt sprays ineffective. The field trials were performed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, Ltd. (MAHYCO). Through Monsanto-MAHYCO Biotech (India) Pvt. Ltd. - a joint venture with Monsanto - the activities of MAHYCO arre closely linked to Monsantošs interests.


LAST BUT NOT LEAST: CLOTHS

On Feb. 25 a group of US activists in San Francisco calling themselves fabRAGE (Fabulous Resistance Against Genetic Engineering) stripped off their clothes and disrupted a conference panel on genetically engineered cotton featuring a speaker from the Monsanto Corporation. The "Field to Fashion" conference was sponsored by Levi-Strauss. "We'd rather go naked than wear genetically modified cotton!" shouted Biogrrl, a fashion diva at the event, as half a dozen activists charged through the room and stripped off their biohazglam gowns, chanting: "We don't want it, won't buy it, and won't wear it.". Super Gene Girl, in a biohazard suit shouted: "Gene-spliced cotton is not sustainable!". Monsanto representatives appeared apoplectic in the face of the action. The members of FabRAGE explained: "There is a revolving door between the FDA, the Clinton Administration and Monsanto Corporation. We are not fooled by their advertising campaigns or by the complicity of the Clinton administrati!
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on in covering up the dangers of genetically engineered foods and products, or by the U.S. media blackout on US resistance to GE products." FabRAGE is a project of Artists for Responsible Genetics, an organization exposing the dangers posed by genetically engineered products and agriculture in the United States.


some relevant GENET-news:
2-Plants:  Brazilian actions against RR-soya (Jan-27)
2-Plants: Canada loses EU oil seed market thanks to GMOs (Feb-3)
2-Plants: Australian Canola Sales To Europe Rise (Feb-7)
3-Foods: Carrefour supermarket chain bans GM (Feb-8)
GENET Mail Out 1/99 (Feb-9)
BIOSAFETY: UK and US will block India and others to ban GE-food (Feb-9)
BIOSAFETY: Monsanto field trials in India failed (Feb-16)
2-Plants: Key Brazilian state to ban GM soy (Mar-2)
2-Plants: Monsanto plans for selling RR soybean seeds in Brazil (Mar-2)
2-Plants: India's High Court Stops Field Trials of Biotech Cotton (Mar-2)
BIOSAFETY: Canada played the bad guy for the US (Mar-3)
2-Plants: COMMENT on "Monsanto plans for RR soyabean in Brazil" (Mar-4)


===================================================
-| Hartmut Meyer
-| Co-ordinator
-| GENET
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
-|
-| Reinhaeuser Landstr. 51
-| D - 37083 Goettingen
-| Germany
-| 
-| phone: #49-551-7700027
-| fax  : #49-551-7701672
-| email: genet@agoranet.be
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