GENET archive


9-Misc: Global biotech food fight moves to California

genet-news mailing list

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

TITLE:  Global Biotech Food Fight Moves to California
SOURCE: Reuters, by Richard Cowan
DATE:   June 23, 2003

--------------------- archive: --------------------

Global Biotech Food Fight Moves to California

WASHINGTON - The global debate over genetically-modified foods moves to
California, where the Bush administration will tout the technology to dozens of
agriculture and health ministers from developing nations.

The three-day conference beginning Monday in Sacramento will be led by U.S.
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.

Veneman has argued that biotechnology can go a long way toward feeding the
world's 800 million people who consistently suffer from hunger by boosting
global production of grains and other crops.

"To meet the goal of food security, agriculture productivity must be
accelerated in areas where hunger and malnutrition are worst," Veneman told
reporters this week.

USDA will spend about $3 million on the Sacramento conference, largely to
showcase agricultural biotechnology.

Also on Monday, President Bush is due to address a biotech industry
conference in Washington. In a May 21 speech, Bush took on the European Union and its
5-year-old ban on approving new biotech products.

Bush argued that policy has rippled across the globe, stirring opposition to
biotech foods and hindering anti-hunger efforts in Africa.

Bush's remarks stirred biotech opponents, who viewed his speech as another
attempt to globalize American products to the detriment of human health, the
environment and small farmers in developing countries.

Protest marches, "teach-ins" and other anti-biotech events are scheduled for
Sacramento by activist groups including Friends of the Earth and the Sierra

"It's a false promise to say that current engineered crops will feed the
world when U.S. officials are saying current crops would not perform well under
African growing conditions," said Larry Bohlen, spokesman for Friends of the

Amadou Kanoute, regional director for Consumers International Office for
Africa in Zimbabwe, told reporters in Washington that the spread of U.S.
biotechnology would put small-scale African farmers, the backbone of the continent's
farm sector, at a disadvantage.

"You will plunge Africa into greater food dependency," Kanoute said.


Biotech crops now grown are mostly for animal feed. But with Missouri-based
Monsanto Company's recent move to commercialize a human food staple, biotech
wheat, the debate has become more emotional.

Genetically-modified seeds are engineered to repel predatory insects and to
withstand weed killers. The result, according to proponents, is higher
yielding crops that are easier to grow and maintain.

In the 1990s, American farmers began embracing the new technology and now 75
percent of soybeans, 34 percent of corn and 71 percent of cotton come from
gene-altered seeds.

A May 2002 USDA report concluded that biotechnology reduced total pesticide
use by about 6.2 percent in 1997. Those savings can be significant in a
country that used 164 million pounds of herbicides on corn fields alone, according
to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The USDA report said that for crops such as soybeans that did not see much
decrease in chemical use, the environmental benefit of biotech crops was that
farmers could use less toxic chemicals.

But some consumers, especially Europeans, argue that not enough is known
about the health and environmental impact of biotech food, even if chemical use
is reduced.

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

TITLE:  Californian Protesters March on Global Food Conference
SOURCE: Reuters, by Andrea Orr
DATE:   June 24, 2003

--------------------- archive: --------------------

Californian Protesters March on Global Food Conference

 SACRAMENTO - Chanting "Beat Back the Corporate Attack," thousands of
demonstrators protested against genetically engineered foods outside an
international agriculture conference yesterday while a small army of police looked on.

 The crowd, including some people dressed as ears of corn, marched from the
steps of California's capitol building to the nearby convention center, where
delegates from more than 100 countries were attending a conference on
agricultural science and technology.

The protests remained mostly peaceful. Police made three arrests and
confiscated some flammable liquids, pointed sticks and wooden shields from

The city's downtown was crowded with officers patrolling on foot, on
bicycles and on horseback, who said they were taking every effort to prevent a
repeat of the protests in Seattle that turned violent four years ago when the
World Trade Organization convened there.

On Sunday some 47 demonstrators were arrested on a variety of charges
including vandalism, trespassing and assault. One had to be forcibly removed from a

Inside the conference, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman kicked off the
talks Monday with remarks about the ways technology could improve crop yields
and help to ease food shortages in an ever more crowded world.


"Technology alone is not a solution," Veneman said. "It is merely a tool,
and without supportive policies and regulations, its benefits will not be fully

Several protesters, however, argued that technology like bioengineering was
being misrepresented as a panacea to the world's food shortage, with little
regard for potential dangers.

"We really don't know what the impact of genetically engineered organisms
will be," said a student from a nearby university who came to join the march.
"We now can breed corn that produces its own pharmaceuticals or its own
pesticides, and the thought of eating a tortilla that makes me sick concerns me."

Genetically engineered seeds can now be modified to repel predatory insects
and weed killers, helping produce higher-yield crops. Over the past decade,
genetic engineering practices have been rapidly adopted by American farmers,
and today some 75 percent of soybeans and 34 percent of the corn produced in
the U.S. comes from seeds that have been genetically altered in some way.

Much of the protest Monday centered on Monsanto Co., the St. Louis,
Missouri-based company which has recently moved to commercialize a bioengineered
wheat. Among the signs waved by the protesters were some bearing messages like
"Seeds Belong to the People," and even "Monsanto Is Nazi for the Devil."

Some protesters, however, conceded that they did not yet know how dangerous
genetically altered foods might be. They said they were mainly concerned by
widespread adoption of such foods with little research to support their
safety. And they said they were worried the growing power of large corporate farms
would squeeze out small family farmers in the United States and around the

                                  PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Bush urges Europe drop resistance to biotech foods
DATE:   June 24, 2003

--------------------- archive: --------------------

Bush urges Europe drop resistance to biotech foods

 WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush renewed his criticism of European
nations on Monday for refusing to accept genetically modified foods and
contended the ban was contributing to famine in Africa.

 "For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European
governments to end their opposition to biotechnology. We should encourage the
spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger,"
Bush told a biotechnology conference.

European countries are concerned about the safety of genetically modified
foods. The EU also says it provides more aid to African countries than the
United States and that it has done nothing to turn African countries away from

Reacting to Bush's comments, European Commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen
said: "The fact is that we in Europe have chosen to do some things differently
from the United States. As regards GMOs, we simply believe that it is better
to be safe than sorry."

"This is a highly sensitive issue in all our member states. The European
Commission respects that and so should the United States," Kemppinen said.

Last week, a final round of negotiations between the United States and the
European Union failed and the administration announced it would file a formal
complaint with the World Trade Organization to overturn Europe's ban on new
biotech foods.

An initial WTO ruling in the case could come next spring.

"Acting on unfounded, unscientific fears, many European governments have
blocked the import of all new biotech crops. Because of these artificial
obstacles, many African nations avoid investing in biotechnology, worried that their
products will be shut out of important European markets," Bush said.

U.S. corn farmers say they are losing about $300 million in sales to the
European Union each year because of the five-year-old trade barrier on
genetically modified foods.

The issue is also attracting new attention as agribusiness giant Monsanto
Co. prepares to bring the first gene-altered wheat to commercial markets,
possibly as early as next year.

The European Commission had tried to repeal a moratorium on biotech foods,
with officials publicly fretting about ceding a burgeoning biotech industry to
the United States. But with consumer sentiment in many European countries
running high against biotech foods, it has failed so far.

The United States is the world leader in biotech crops, with gene-spliced
varieties accounting for 75 percent of U.S. soybeans, 71 percent of cotton and
34 percent of corn.

American environmental groups, worried about bio-crops' long-term impact on
human health and the environment, have demanded more inspections by the
federal government. 


 Hartmut Meyer       
 Kleine Wiese 6         
 to contact me from
 Jun 16 - Jun 23, 2003
 please use:

+++ GMX - Mail, Messaging & more +++
Bitte lächeln! Fotogalerie online mit GMX ohne eigene Homepage!