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2-Plants: More about molecularfarming.com



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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Grow GE crops, says organic farmer
SOURCE: The Press, New Zealand, by Seth Robson
        http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,2284644a7693,00.html
DATE:   Feb 24, 2003

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Dear GENET-news readers,
an organic farmer gives land for growing GE crops for
molecularfarming.com? This seems to be a fake story, at least the bit on
the status of Richard Allison as "organic farmer". The information the
internet gives does not imply that he is an organic farmer (remember:
organic farmers do not only use no synthetic pesticides but follow a lot
more rules as defined by their national organic farming associations).

Regards,
Hartmut Meyer

*****


Waimakariri Irrigation Ltd
http://www.wil.co.nz/about-people.htm
"Richard Allison, B Ag., farms with his wife and three children at
Fernside. They lease out land at Mt Thomas where they grow a variety of
tree plantations. They are Licensees of Pepper Tree Pre-School in
Rangiora and Directors of Agtrade.co.nz. Richard is a MainPower NZ
Limited Trustee."

agTrade.co.nz
"is a free unrestricted, independent market place for primary producers,
cutting through the old marketing inefficiencies, and putting buyers and
sellers in direct contact with each other."
http://www.agtrade.co.nz/ut-about.asp
"Richard and Jeanette Allison farm near Rangiora in North Canterbury.
They have three young daughters. They met at Massey University where
Jeanette obtained a Business Studies and Richard an Agricultural Degree.
Richard is also a director of Waimakariri Irrigation Limited and a
trustee of Mainpower NZ. Richard worked for Wrightsons before their three
years OE in London. On returning in 1992 they purchased their farm. They
then leased it out, Richard worked six years as a rural lending manager
for Trust Bank before returning to the farm and to develop agTrade.co.nz.
Jeanette has worked as a Property Manager in Wellington, London and
Christchurch."

MainPower
http://www.mainpower.co.nz/index.htm
"MainPower provides and maintains the electricity distribution network
throughout the North Canterbury, Kaikoura, and Wigram areas. MainPower
leases and manages the distribution network of Kaiapoi Electricity Limited."

*****


Grow GE crops, says organic farmer

Organic farmers should consider growing genetically engineered (GE)
crops, says a Rangiora farmer marketing his land as a possible site for
commercial GE.

Sheep and beef farmer Richard Allison, who does not use agricultural
chemicals or drenches, recently listed his 201ha property on an
international database of farms available to grow GE crops.

The database is part of the website, molecularfarming.com, which allows
farmers to market their properties to the world's leading biotechnology
companies.

Companies that might be interested in leasing sites listed in the
database include Prodigene, Large Scale Biology, Agracetus, IDEC
Pharmaceuticals, Planet Biotechnology, CropTech, Epicyte, and Greentec,
the website claims.

Mr Allison, who has his own website, agtrade. co.nz, said New Zealand
farmers used far too many chemicals on their land and that GE could be a
way to reduce this.

"It costs a lot of money and it takes a lot of work to drench stock and
the end buyer is eating chemicals," he said.

Mr Allison and his family ate a leg of lamb grown on his property for
dinner last night.

"I am much happier feeding my family that. When I go to the supermarket,
God knows what I am buying."

Mr Allison said life was not easy for organic farmers.

"If they were open minded and wanted the best for their industry, they
shouldn't close their minds to people trying to do things to reduce
toxins and chemicals being added to what we eat."

Irish farmer Brian Marshall, who started molecularfarming. com, said he
expected molecular farming, for medical and industrial use, to take off
in New Zealand once the GE moratorium expires in October.

Mr Marshall, who also farms without the aid of chemicals, said organic
farmers could become some of the most skilful molecular farmers.

"If you are growing a medical protein, you don't want it contaminated by
weed killers, insecticides, and fertilisers that are not natural."

Biogro New Zealand chief executive Seager Mason said the organic farmers
certified by his organisation were open-minded about GE, but they were
not interested in the GE crops developed so far.

"What we are saying no to are the current crops that are there, which are
just ones that you spray more chemicals on," he said.

Molecularfarming. com has a link to the Life Sciences Network, which
lobbies on behalf of New Zealand's biotechnology industry.

Crop and Food Research Lincoln spokesman Howard Bezar, who did not know
of the Rangiora property, said the database was a good way for farmers to
get in touch with biotechnology companies.

Mr Bezar said Crop and Food recently met Central Plains Water, which has
proposed a massive irrigation scheme west of Christchurch, to discuss the
benefits that could arise from molecular farming in Canterbury.

Molecular farming would bring in at least 20 per cent more income than
conventional produce grown on irrigated land. In some cases the profits
for farmers could double.

Mr Bezar said not all molecular farming involved GE. Sometimes it
involved special management of a crop to harvest a valuable chemical.

New Zealand crop farmers should be looking at ways to take advantage of
new molecular farming markets and new technology.

"There are premiums out there, particularly if we can get uniquely Kiwi
technology that we own and control," Mr Bezar said.



                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Poor farmers warned against internet transgenic crop deals
SOURCE: Nature 421: 776, doi:10.1038/421776b, by Rex Dalton
        http://www.checkbiotech.org/root/index.cfm?fuseaction=newsletter&
        topic_id=3&subtopic_id=14&doc_id=4742
DATE:   Feb 20, 2003

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Poor farmers warned against internet transgenic crop deals

>From a farmhouse in Northern Ireland, a married couple is using the
Internet to tempt farmers in developing nations into planting crops that
are genetically engineered to produce commercially useful molecules.

Environmentalists and scientists have expressed concern at the couple's
attempts to get poor farmers from Asia to Africa to agree to make
thousands of hectares available to biotechnology companies.

Critics of the plan say that it could cause an ecological disaster if
local plants or crops became contaminated with transgenic strains, as
developing countries often have no governmental resources for monitoring
the spread of transgenes. They fear that farmers could be held
responsible in the event of any such outbreak.

Brian and Diane Marshall, who live on an 80-hectare farm in
Newtowncunningham near Londonderry, have used suggestions of huge
monetary returns to encourage farmers from around the world to sign up to
their year-old website, http://www.molecularfarming.com. They hope to
broker contracts between the farmers and biotech firms seeking new
regions to grow biopharmaceutical crops such as genetically engineered
maize and tobacco. They are also seeking land in developed nations, but
environmentalists are less concerned about countries that already have
strict regulations for monitoring transgenic organisms.

The couple, who are also seeking to collaborate with universities, insist
that they have no financial arrangement with any major pharmaceutical or
agricultural firm.

The Edmonds Institute, an environmental organization based near Seattle,
Washington, issued an alert about the enterprise last week. "I'm
concerned about the ecosystems where these crops may be introduced," says
Beth Burrows, the institute's director. She fears that "small farmers in
out-of-the-way places" will be held responsible if something goes wrong.

Brian Marshall retorts that the crops will not be grown for food and that
potential biopharmaceutical crops will be selected to minimize the
possibility of ecological damage.

But some academic scientists who are engaged in research on
pharmaceutical crops are steering clear of Marshall's enterprise, fearing
that the initiative could damage their research and development efforts.

"We wouldn't do anything with him," says Charles Arntzen, a plant
geneticist at Arizona State University in Tempe with whom Marshall had
attempted to forge a collaboration. Arntzen's research involves
genetically engineering plants to produce human vaccines. "This is
dangerous stuff to poor people in poor countries. And it would be
political death for getting research money in the future," Arntzen says.

Marshall also sought out the biotech company ProdiGene, based in College
Station, Texas, as a potential collaborator. ProdiGene was fined
US$250,000 by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) last December after
its biopharmaceutical maize in Nebraska and Iowa contaminated other field
crops. Anthony Laos, ProdiGene's chief executive, says that the company
is not currently collaborating with Marshall, but adds: "That's not to
say we wouldn't in the future."

Environmentalists in developing nations are shocked by the Marshalls'
plan. Devinder Sharma, a plant geneticist and chair of the Forum for
Biotechnology and Food Security in New Delhi, India, calls it "part of
the global design to translocate dirty industry to the Third World".

"We cannot allow this," Sharma continues. "Let us not put the poor farmer
in another trap that will land him in serious trouble."

Brian Marshall has no formal scientific training; Diane Marshall is a
business professor at the North West Institute of Further and Higher
Education in Londonderry. They launched their venture after changes to
European regulations reduced their income from their sheep and cattle farm.

"We are full-time farmers fed up with being squeezed out of traditional
farming income," Brian says. But Norman Ellstrand, a plant geneticist at
the University of California, Riverside, sees the Marshalls' plan as "a
frightening possibility" for the developing world's farmers.