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GENET mail out 04/00



---------------------- GENET-mail out 04/2000 ---------------------

                           March 3, 2000

- GERMAN MINISTER OF HEALTH BANNED NOVARTIS Bt-CORN
- BRITISH GOVERNMENT BECOMES UNEASY OF ITS RADICAL PRO-GE
  POSITIONS
- EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE GRANTED PATENT ON HUMAN CLONING
- GE-FOOD LABELLING BILL INTRODUCED IN US-SENATE
- SCIENTISTS DEVELOP "NATIONAL" GE-CROPS -  TO THE RELIEF OF
  TRANSNATIONALS
- PEASENT MOVEMENT OF THE PHILIPPINES REJECTS Bt-CORN

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/ -------------------


GERMAN MINISTER OF HEALTH BANNED NOVARTIS Bt-CORN

The German health Minister Andrea Fischer called a last minute halt 
to national authorisation for the Novartis Bt-maize variety 
"Windsor". Germany has invoked article 16 of the deliberate release 
directive to stop the authorisation. This allows EU member states to 
prohibit use of a GE crop variety if there is new scientific evidence 
of risk. Austria and Luxembourg both banned the same GE crop in 
February 1997. France, Portugal, Italy and the UK have all 
subsequently introduced restrictions, though none is thought to have 
invoked the article 16 procedure. According to the German government, 
the "new evidence" justifying a ban is recent scientific work 
suggesting that crops expressing the Bt toxin gene could harm Monarch 
butterflies, lacewings and soil microfauna. A health ministry 
spokesperson said that a report by the independent Oeko Institute had 
also raised new fears over the antibiotic resistance marker genes in 
event 176. "This is a step in the right direction and an important 
signal to industry and the public and also to the European 
Commission", Benedikt Haerlin said, "we are confident that we will be 
able to prevent the planting of GE maize also in the rest of the 
European Union. Nobody wants this GE maize on the fields, except 
Novartis."

  Feb 16: Germany suspends Novartis GE maize
  Feb 21: Germany bans Novartis biotech maize


BRITISH GOVERNMENT BECOMES UNEASY OF ITS RADICAL PRO-GE POSITIONS

- The UK Environmental Agency suggests to adopt a more cautious GE 
policy starting its 2020 Vision Series with the paper "Genetic 
Modification and Sustainability" (http://www.naturalstep.org.uk/
update1a.htm).
- The UK Department of Trade and Industry sticks to the industry-
supporting course laid down in the "Genome Valley" paper (http://
www.dti.gov.uk/genomevalley). DTI has invited GE firms to an 
"innovation seminar". Furthermore, a leaked draft copy of a White 
Paper shows that Ministers are intent on promoting the "benefits" of 
genetically-modified food and genetic engineering to the public.
- Prime Minister Blair for the first time told the public that "there 
is no doubt that there is potential for harm, both in terms of human 
safety and in the diversity of our environment, from GM foods and 
crops. [...] But there is no doubt, either, that this new technology 
could bring benefits for mankind. Some of the benefits from 
biotechnology are already being seen in related areas such as the 
production of life-saving medicines." By the way, he did not see GE-
crops linked to "already seen" but to "potential" benefits!

  Feb 24: UK Ministers to promote GE
  Mar  1: Blair moves away from absolute support of GE industry (1-3)


EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE GRANTED PATENT ON HUMAN CLONING

After six years of examination, the Munich-based EPO granted 
Edinburgh University a patent on altering cells and human embryos. 
The decision came to public attention after Greenpeace issued a 
critical statement. EPO spokesman tried to calm down public 
indignation: "It's a mistake, yes. It could be seen to embrace the 
cloning of humans. What's missing is the disclaimer that it does not 
refer to humans." EPO could not immediately reverse the decision, but 
would have to wait for third partiesÔ challanges of the decision. It 
could take years before the review process comes to an end. Germany's 
Ministers of Health and Justice will protest formally against the 
decision.

  Feb 24: EPO patents human cloning


GE-FOOD LABELLING BILL INTRODUCED IN US-SENATE

Sen. Barbara Boxer (Democrat) introduced a bill to require consumer 
labels on GE foods. She said the proposed legislation would also 
include $5 million for research into whether GE food poses any health 
risk, especially for children, infants, the elderly and other 
vulnerable consumers. The U.S. food industry has launched a lobbying 
campaign to fight any legislation requiring labels and to "educate 
America's consumers about the benefits of biotechnology."
- BIO: "BIO supports the right of consumers to have all information 
allowing them to make informed choices regarding the foods they eat, 
[...] making sure the information that appears on labels is accurate, 
truthful and relevant to the health and safety of consumers.Ó
- Sen. Bond (Republican): "The real risk is that without scientific 
basis, the naysayers may succeed in their goal to subvert 
biotechnology and condemn the world's most unfortunate to unnecessary 
malnutrition, blindness, sickness and environmental degradation."

  Feb 24: US Senate bill on labelling  GE food
  Feb 28: BIO opposes US GE-food  labelling law
          35 major trade groups oppose  US GE-food labelling law
          Senator Bond attacks on US GE -food labelling law
          GE-food labelling law introduced in US Senate


SCIENTISTS DEVELOP "NATIONAL" GE-CROPS -  TO THE RELIEF OF 
TRANSNATIONALS

The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) will field test Bt-
cotton and -rice. "The ICAR breakthrough is to face up to competition 
from Multi National Companies (MNCs) like Monsanto,Ó ICAR Director-
General Dr. R. S. Paroda said. The gene cannot be patented 
immediately in the absence of a suitable legislation. ICAR has 
launched a Rs. 914-million World Bank-aided National Agricultural 
Technology Project to develop GE cotton, rice and pigeon pea.
The Russian Academy of Sciences' Bioengineer Center Moscow will 
perform Bt-potato releases. Deputy Director Irina Solovyova: "This is 
Russia's first patented genetically modified potato. There are 2 more 
varieties on which we are still working and we expect to patent them 
soon."
The Chinese Rice Research Institute has develped herbicide-resistant 
GE rice. The Xinhua report concluded by noting scientists have 
"unequivocally shown the genetically altered rice is harmless to
people's health." Some lawmakers have called for improved control of 
GM foods.

  Feb 17: Indian scientists announce own GE-crop trials
          Russian scientists announce own GE-crop trials
  Feb 19: Chinese scientists announce first GE-rice


PEASENT MOVEMENT OF THE PHILIPPINES REJECTS Bt-CORN 

The Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KPM) campaigns for a 
moratorium on the field testing of Bt-corn. KPM rejects the use of 
these GE-crops because infestation by the Asiatic corn borer is not a 
major problem and Filipino peasants are very concerned about the 
unknown long-term effects that the proliferation GMOs will have on 
soil bacteria, gut bacteria, the physiology of human and animal 
biological processes. The 50 million peasants have already suffered 
from introductions of so-called high-yielding varieties because the 
temporary improvements in yields did not address their basic problem 
of injustice and landlessness, but increased the incomes of 40,000 
landlords. The entry of GMOs certainly intensify landlessness, hunger 
and injustice in Third World countries which are bound to suffer the 
most from the eventual exposure of the biological and economic costs 
of GMOs.

  Feb 14: Filipino peasants write OECD on GMOs
  Feb 21: GE corn questioned at Supreme Court of Philippines

--

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