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Genetic Engineering Newsletter No. 38



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Genetic Engineering Newsletter 38
January 2003

supported by Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft and Triodos-Stichting

Contents
Legal and political developments
Europe
North America
International
Science News
Business News
News From Organic Farming


Legal and political developments


Europe


GM-derived Cottonseed oils notified for marketing in the EU

For the first time since 1999, new GM-derived products are notified for 
marketing in the EU. On the 19th of December 2002, the European 
Commission circulated the notification of two cottonseed oils under the Novel 
Food Regulation EG/258/97 currently effective. Both GM-cotton varieties, a 
herbicide GM-cotton variety and a insect-resistant Bt-cotton variety, are 
placed on the market by Monsanto. The notification is based on the evaluation 
of substantial equivalence. That means the GM-cottonseeds oils is 
indistinguishable from conventional cottonseeds oils with respect to 
composition, nutritional value, metabolism, intended use and level of 
undesirable substances. To assess foodsafety, the principle of substantial 
equivalence as a risk assessment itself does not exist under the future 
regulations on GM food and feed any more, but as a part of a risk 
assessment. Under the future regulations the GM-derived cottonseed oils will 
have to be labeled, which is not the case under the present Novel Food 
Regulation EG/258/97. The favourable opinion of the UK Advisory Committee 
on Novel Foods and Processes can be downloaded from following website: 
http://www.food.gov.uk/science/ouradvisors/novelfood/assess/substantialequiv
alencenotific/gmcottonseedoils (Midday Express 12/19/02, cited from 
GENET 12/22/02). 
A Commission official explained that the cottonseed oils were not covered by 
the de-facto moratorium, which only affects the deliberative release of GMOs 
and not products derived from them (Reuters – 12/20/02, cited from GENET 
12/22/02). A list of the other eleven substantially equivalent food products 
approved for marketing in the EU is available under: 
http://europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/guesten.ksh?p_action.gettxt=gt&doc=MEM
O/02/160/0/RAPID&lg=EN&display=-annex4.


European Commission resumes approval procedure for marketing of GMOs

On the 22nd of January 2003, the European Commission published three 
notifications of GMOs for import and processing in the EU. The three product 
notifications, all submitted by Monsanto, concern herbicide (glyphosat) 
tolerant oilseed rape (GT 73), herbicide (glyphosat) tolerant maize (NK 603) 
and a hybrid (NK 603 x MON810) of insect resistant Bt-maize (MON 810) and 
herbicide tolerant maize (NK 603). A summary of the notification and the 
assessment reports under Part C of the Directive 2001/18/EC on the 
deliberative release of GMOs are available under 
http://gmoinfo.jrc.it/partc_browse.asp. After the circulation of the notification 
and assessment reports, the public has the opportunity to make comments. 
This step of the authorisation procedure under Part C of the Directive 
2001/18/EC for public comments is planed for a period of 30 days (Dan 
Leskien, Green Party/EFA 01/24/03).
EU Environmental Council agreed on traceability and labelling of GMOs
The EU-Environmental Ministers reached a political agreement on detailed 
rules for labelling and traceability on the 9th of December 2002 and thereby, 
completed the decision of the EU-agriculture ministers (see Genetic 
Engineering Newsletter 37).
- Labelling will be required for all food and feed produced on the basis of 
GMO material, irrespective of whether transgenic DNA or protein may be 
detected in the final product. 
- GMOs have to be traceable along their processing chain; food, feed and 
food ingredients consisting of, containing or produced from GMOs can be 
followed across all stages till the final product.
- GMOs will be labeled by unique identification codes, during trade and 
processing the labelling has to include all GMOs, that were present in the first 
delivery of placing on the market. This is called an operator-to-operator 
labelling. 
In contrary to the European Parliament, the Environmental Council refused 
amendments that commit producers and users of GMOs to take effective 
measures to prevent contamination. Neither EU-member states are free to 
impose measures to ensure co-existence and the consumer choice (Dan 
Leskien, Green Party/EFA 12/11/02; 
www.biosicherheit.de/aktuell/181.doku.html)
A European network of 45 laboratories was founded by the European 
Commission. The laboratories will be responsible for the development and 
evaluation of detection methods for genetically modified food ingredients. The 
German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is founding member (BfR 
Press Release - 12/10/02).


German farmers demand GM-free feed

Farmers in Lower Saxony demand that the main agriculture co-operative in 
the North of Germany, Raiffeisen Hauptgenossenschaft Nord, guarantees GM-
free production in at least one of their feed-factories. Under the current 
regulation it is very difficult to obtain GM-free feed. In order to ensure GM-free 
production, the farmers offer to assure by contract not to use GM-seeds on 
their farms at all (taz 12/07/02; Unabhaengige Bauernstimme No. 252, 
January 03). 


Germany: First field trail of GM-wheat applied

Syngenta Seeds Company applies for the first field trial of GM-wheat in 
Friemar, Thuringia. The field trial is to start in March. It is planed to plant the 
fungus-resistant wheat on 8,084 square meters (= 320 sq yards) 
(http://www2.rki.de/cgi/lasso/fsl/liste_d.lasso?-database=SNIF&-
layout=www_summary&-response=display.lasso&-recordID=36635&-search).


North America


Canada: CFIA doubts on approval of GM-wheat

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CIFA) delays the approval of 
Monsanto`s GM-wheat that is resistant to the herbicide Roundup Ready. The 
CFIA sees major problems in the potential for crossbreeding and the spread 
of volunteers. GM-wheat volunteers getting into other cultivations would be 
difficult to control. In conventional wheat, GM-volunteers would be a main 
source for contamination. This would be the first time, the CIFA is rejecting an 
GMO-approval for environmental issues (The Western Producer 01/10/03, 
cited from GENET 01/16/03). Environmental groups are worried about that 
according to the patent law, farmers are not allowed to reuse part of the GM 
crop to seed it the following year without paying a license fee. Farmers also 
could be fined in case of using contaminated crop to seed (Council of 
Canadians 01/09/03; 
www.canadians.org/news_updates.htm?COC_token4@@97df3183fb3ed6fa
02dd07a3c60c6814&step=2&id=62, cited from www.ngin.org 01/11/03).


U.S. state Washington banned GM-salmon

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, working with the Washington 
Department of Fish and Wildlife, banned transgenic Atlantic salmon, 
genetically engineered to produce growth hormones round the year so that a 
salmon grows four to six times faster then unmodified salmon. The ban is 
effective immediately. Furthermore, the Washington Commission stated, that 
it does not plan to ban any GM-fish, but would agree to approve sterile GM-
fish. The ban concerns GM-salmon in marine farms because cultivated Non-
GM-Atlantic salmon very often escaped from fish farms in the last years 
threatening the native Pacific salmon. However, the U.S. Food and Drug 
Administration (FDA) is considering right now an application to approve this 
GM-salmon, submitted by the U.S.-Canadian company Aqua Bounty 
(www.checkbiotech.org 01/09/02). (Natural Law Party Essex 12/16/02).


International


Annual Report of ISAAA for 2002

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications 
(ISAAA) has published the annual report on the development of the global GM 
crop area. Accordingly, the area of GM crops increased of 12% on now 58.7 
million hectares (= 145 million acres). GM crops mainly cultivated are still 
soybean, maize, cotton and oilseed rape. Herbicide tolerance, deployed in 
soybean, corn and cotton, occupied 44.2 million hectare (75% of the GM crop 
area). Like in 2001, the four principle countries growing 99% of the GM crops 
are the U.S.A. (39.0 million ha), Argentina (13.5 million ha), Canada (3.5 
million ha) and China (2.1 million ha). Especially the cultivation of herbicide 
resistant soybean increased of 10% up to 36.5 million hectares. GM-maize 
increased of one quarter up to 12.4 Mio ha (Bt-maize on 7.6 million ha). India 
commercialised Bt-cotton for the first time in 2002. Colombia (Bt-cotton) and 
Honduras (Bt-corn) grew pre-commercial hectarage of GM crops for the first 
time (www.isaaa.org).


Science News


Waterhemp as another resistant weed to glyphosat

Scientists from the Iowa State University have tested waterhemp (Amaranthus 
rudis) from a number of locations around Iowa. Individual selected plants 
survived an average of 2.6 times the labelled rate of glyphosat. The 
mechanism, how the plants can tolerate glyphosat, is not revealed yet, but the 
tolerance is heritable. In similar waterhemp studies conducted by weed 
scientist from the University of Missouri, waterhemp plants from Missouri and 
Illinois survived up to eight times the recommended dose of glyphosat 
(Glyphosat-resistant waterhemp moves into the corn belt, Plant Health 
Progress 12/13/02). The scientists stated that the glyphosat resistant 
waterhemp is not a weed causing economic damages because waterhemp 
does not spread very fast, in contrary to the first case of glyphosat-resistant 
weed, that is horseweed (or marestail, Conyza canadensis). Horseweed 
seeds are spread by wind over long distances due to a long feathered 
appendage. Glyphosat-resistant horseweed first appeared in a few fields in 
the U.S. states Delaware and Tennessee in 2000. In 2001, already 100,000 
to 1,000,000 acres in Tennessee and the neighbour state Kentucky were 
infested. In 2002 five U.S. states were affected 
(http://weedscience.org/Case/Case.asp?ResistID=5086).
The reason for the development of resistance is the use of one single 
herbicide mode of action (Pacific Northwest Conservation Tillage Handbook, 
chapter 5, series #18, December 2002; 
http://pnwsteep.wsu.edu/tillagehandbook/chapter5/index.htm). In Delaware, 
where glyphosat-resistant horseweed appeared for the first time, Roundup 
Ready soybeans alone are cultivated. In Tennessee Roundup Ready cotton 
and Roundup Ready soybeans are planted alternatively in crop rotation (s.a. 
Plant Health Progress 12/13/02). To treat cultures affected by glyphosat-
resistant weeds, Monsanto recommends a tankmix of Roundup Ready and 
the doubtful herbicide 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic-acid. On the other hand, 
Syngenta recommends a rotation of chemicals (www.biotech-
info.net/dominating.html). An internal company ´s study quested farm manager 
in the U.S.A. and farmers in Australia and results that 63% of the farm 
manager see glyphosat-resistant weeds becoming a bigger problem in the 
future (Syngenta: Glyphosat -Resistant Weeds - Will They Decrease Land 
Value?, cited from GENET 12/23/02).


Short notes

Functions of inserted genes in GM-trees often not stable: A study of the 
German Environmental Agency (UBA) reveals great uncertainties in the risk 
assessment for transgenic trees. The characteristics of inserted gene are 
often not stable in GM-trees due to e.g. gene silencing. As long living 
organisms, it is difficult to test and to control woody plants. Therefore, the 
UBA claims that a placing on the market would not be responsible at the 
present time (German Federal Environmental Agency, UBA-Texte 53/02). 


Genetic Engineering and Organic Farming”: Under this title, the Institute for 
Applied Ecology (OEko-Insitut) and the Research Institute for Organic 
Farming (FibL) published a study showing that the use of GMOs in European 
agriculture would endanger organic farming (German Federal Environmental 
Agency, UBA-Texte 01/03). The study will also be published in English by the 
German Federal Environmental Agency in Berlin. 


Business News


EPA fines crop companies for GM-contamination

For the first time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined two 
companies, Dow AgroScience und Pioneer Hi-Bred International (DuPont), to 
pay each about 10.000 USdollar. The two companies failed to take anti-
contamination measures for GM-maize imposed by the EPA (Associated 
Press Biotechnology -12/13/02, cited from www.ngin.org.uk 12/13/02, see 
Genetic Engineering Newsletter 35). In December 2002, the U.S. Department 
of Agriculture (USDA) fined the company ProdiGene for 250,000 USdollar. 
ProdiGene had planted pharmaceuticals producing GM maize, that 
contaminated other maize fields by pollen transfer and a cultivation of 
soybeans by volunteers. The destruction of the soybean harvest costs another 
2.8 million USdollar (Reuters 12/06/02, cited by GENET 12/06/02; see also 
Genetic Engineering Newsletter 37). After the ProdiGene scandal, American 
environmental groups demanded again a ban for so-called biopharm crops, 
GM crops producing pharmaceuticals (U.S.A. Today – 12/18/02, cited from 
GENET 12/22/02, see also http://www.gefoodalert.org).


Syngenta announces a new GM-cotton to control insect pests

On January 2003, Syngenta announced that Vip Cotton” has been submitted 
for registration, anticipating registration for U.S. commercial sales in 2004. 
The VipCotton is named after the inserted gene coding for a vegetative 
insecticidal protein. The novel mode of action is not specified further. Vip 
affects lepidopteran insects. Among these the cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa 
armigera) and the tobacco budworm (Heliothis virescens) are target pests 
(Syngenta, USA, Media Release 01/07/03, cited from GENET 01/13/03).


News From Organic Farming


Association for biological plant protection founded in Darmstadt, Germany

Producers of applications for biological plant protection from Austria, 
Germany and Switzerland founded an association called Industrieverband 
Agrar (IVB) producing and retailing applications with e.g. plant extracts, 
pheromones or mineral and microbiological solutions. The perspectives for a 
share of the market is to correspond with the percentage of organically 
cultivated land. In Germany, 4,5% of the cultivated land runs organic (Science 
Information Service, IDW – 01/23/03).


Retail trade sales in organic food production well placed

The Association for Organic Food Economy (BOELW) reports good results 
for the production and trade of organic food in 2002. The turnover in 2001 had 
increased enormously, but the high level could be stabilized in 2002 (BOELW 
Press Release - 01/16/03). While the turnover in conventional food industry 
decreased slightly, the turnover for organic food increased of 10% 
(ECOreporter – 01/16/03). A survey of the Ministry for Consumer Protection, 
Nutrition and Agriculture (BMVEL) showed that 80% of the interviewees think 
that organic food is in”. Consumers between 30 and 60 years old even say 
organic food is trendy” (BMVEL-Information No. 50/51, 12/20/02). One 
reason of the positive image and the good turnover is the EU Bio-label. The 
label, introduced in 2001, helps the consumers to identify easily organic food 
in the range of goods for sale (BMVEL-Information No. 45/46, 11/15/02).

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Jannik Schulz
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OEko-Institut e.V.
Bereich Biodiversität, Ernährung & Landwirtschaft (BE&L, ehem. Gentechnik)
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