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9-Misc: Mixed news on Sacramento conference

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

TITLE:  Veneman hails biotech conference success
SOURCE: Associated Press / Mercury News, USA
DATE:   Jun 25, 2003

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Veneman hails biotech conference success

SACRAMENTO (AP) - The largest gathering of international agriculture
ministers to discuss biotechnology was hailed today as a success for
uniting agribusiness with developing countries and researchers overseas.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said partnerships that foreign
countries forged with corporations and researchers will improve
technology and lead to better ways to irrigate drought-stricken lands.

"A seed has been planted," Veneman said. "Out of these discussions, a
seed can grow into more discussions."

But critics of the talks claimed the seed was genetically altered and
would harm human health. Demonstrators who attempted to derail the
conference staged mostly peaceful protests that drew attention away from
foreign ministers and to the streets of the state capital.

More than 1,000 people rallied over three days, proclaiming that
genetically modified foods weren't the answer to the world's food
problems. At least 70 demonstrators were taken into custody. Critics also
said the United States was attempting to lower trade barriers and push
risky science on struggling nations.

The show went on without problems, but it was overshadowed outside by a
huge police presence to quell potential disturbances. Downtown seemed
like a ghost town at times, with police in riot gear on bikes, horseback
and foot outnumbering people on the streets.

The conference was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to
discuss ways to end world hunger and poverty. It focused largely on
biotechnology as a means of reducing starvation, improving nutrition and
boosting economies through bigger harvests and less pesticide use.

Agriculture ministers, scientists and health care experts came from more
than 100 countries to attend. Veneman said she received thanks for giving
corporate officials, researchers and agriculture officials access to the
delegates of the Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science
and Technology.

Veneman said the next steps are to expand research to farmers, continue
partnerships with scientists in developing countries and possibly start
regional conferences.

Veneman denied accusations that the conference was a plan to open trade
talks before the World Trade Organization's ministerial conference in
Cancun, Mexico, in September. But she said trade can help aid developing

On Tuesday, Tito Barbini, regional minister for agriculture in Tuscany,
Italy, criticized the United States for hosting an international
conference without representation from the European Union.

EU ministers were notably absent at a time when the United States is
demanding that the WTO force the EU to end its ban on genetically
modified food.

The EU's agriculture representative in Washington said EU ministers were
invited but canceled because the union is closing talks on agricultural
reform. He said Germany, France, Spain have sent delegates.

Like European consumers, some agriculture ministers at the conference
questioned the health risks of genetically altered crops and voiced
concern about corporations creating a monopoly by controlling seed supply.

But some farmers and biotech companies that participated said
bioengineered crops such as pest-resistant corn have produced higher
profits for farmers in the Philippines and other countries because it
reduced the need for pesticides and labor.


On the Net:

Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology:

International Forum on Globalization:

Protest information:

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

TITLE:  Agriculture secretary pushes new crops
        She counters critics at biotech meetings in Sacramento
SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle, USA, by Glen Martin
DATE:   Jun 24, 2003

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Agriculture secretary pushes new crops
She counters critics at biotech meetings in Sacramento

Sacramento -- As hundreds of protesters swarmed the state capitol beating
drums and waving signs denouncing genetically modified food crops, U.S.
Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman convened a conference at a nearby
convention center that pushed the opposite message:

Gene-spliced crops are here to stay -- and what's more, they're good for
both people and the planet.

Addressing delegates from 120 countries at the federally sponsored
Ministerial Conference and Expo of Agricultural Science and Technology,
Veneman said high technology -- including genetically engineered food
plants and livestock -- would be necessary for the world's burgeoning
population to avoid famine.

Opponents of genetically modified crops say they benefit corporations --
which obtain patents for specific seed strains and animal varieties -- at
the expense of small farmers and consumers.

"This conference is for those most in need," Veneman said. "It (hunger)
has to become a global agenda. One in seven people in the world face
chronic hunger, and a child dies every five seconds from (starvation or
malnutrition). Progress to end hunger is seriously lagging, and new
approaches are needed."

At the same time in Washington, President Bush urged European governments
to abandon a boycott of genetically manipulated crops, an action he said
was based on "unfounded scientific fears." If they relented, he said,
African farmers could develop new markets for their agricultural
products, allowing them to alleviate the continent's crushing poverty.

Veneman said gene-spliced crops had boosted yields while reducing pesticide,

fertilizer and water requirements by enhancing disease and drought resistance.

Veneman basically was preaching to the choir, cheerleading foreign
ministers who shared her view that the world food supply can only be
secured through both biotechnology and free trade.

Luis Lorenzo, Jr., secretary of agriculture for the Philippines, said
some opponents of biotechnology have unfairly vilified scientists who
work in good faith to develop genetically engineered crops that minimize
farmer exposure to pesticides and maximize production. And he warned that
governments must resist scientifically unsupported populist attacks on
bioengineering. "Could not (minimal) resistance in governance signal a
clear and present danger to breeding softspots for terrorism?" he asked.

The opening of the three-day conference Monday brought some minor
skirmishes between protesters and police, but nothing like Sunday, when
about 2,000 protesters took to the streets as a countercultural greeting
to the ministers on their arrival. Forty-six demonstrators were arrested

After holding an extensive rally at the capitol steps Monday, the crowd
again marched the streets. Many had donned monarch butterfly costumes --
monarch larvae are considered by some scientists to be threatened by
genetically modified corn that contains a natural toxin fatal to many

By mid-afternoon, there had been little if any violence and only a few
arrests, which isn't to say passions weren't running high.

Leni Battaglia, a demonstrator who came from San Francisco, said it was
"utterly illogical and inhumane to force genetically modified organisms
on the world. They haven't been adequately tested. Entire populations are
being put at risk simply for corporate economic benefit."

But John Marburger, the science adviser to President Bush, characterized
the resistance to new technologies as "a vicious cycle of ignorance and
poverty." Technology is an aspect of civilization, said Marburger, and
"if we are to have any hope of feeding the 8 billion people who will be
here 30 years from now, we must harness biotechnology."

But demonstrators characterized Marberger's comments as both patronizing
and untrue.

"Third World people are not stupid," said Anuradha Mittal, a co-director
of FoodFirst, a food policy lobbying group in Oakland. "Monsanto holds
patents on its genetically engineered soybeans until 2014. That means
farmers can't save seed for their next year's crop -- it's the property
of Monsanto. How can corporations expect farmers to believe this
technology is in their best interests? It's about maximizing corporate
profits, not ending world hunger."

Byakola Timothy, a Ugandan citizen and the director of Pesticide Action
Network for East Africa, said that a talk given at Monday's conference by
Uganda Minister of Agriculture Wilberforce Mugerwa was based of a false
premise. Mugerwa said that Uganda needed bioengineered crops to assure
its population wouldn't suffer famine.

"The problem in Uganda isn't production," Timothy said. "It's
distribution. Western Uganda is very fertile and very wet, and produces a
tremendous surplus of crops. But our roads are horrible -- we have no
infrastructure, so we can't move the food around. That's why a stalk of
bananas that costs 300 Uganda shillings in the western part of the
country costs 3,500 shillings by the time it gets to Kampala (in the
country's eastern section)."

Regardless, many at the conference said, bioengineered farming -- and the
global trade agreements that are spreading it -- are going to remain the
engines that drive the world's food supply.

"The world has changed, and farmers must adapt to new models," said
Roberto Newell Garcia, undersecretary of agribusiness development for
Mexico. "Trade liberalization isn't going to be reduced. Farmers must
think of themselves not as farmers anymore, but as businessmen and

Besides, said Garcia, "There is an enormous smugness from those who say,
'We who live in bounty and do well will prevent the rest of humanity from
catching up.' It's time we got our share of the goodies."

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

TITLE:  1,000 pack theater for public debate on biotechnology
SOURCE: The Sacramento Bee, by Mike Lee
DATE:   Jun 24, 2003

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1,000 pack theater for public debate on biotechnology

The heavily policed event was spirited but mostly civil.

An eclectic crowd of nearly 1,000 filled the Crest Theater Monday night
for the only public debate in conjunction with this week's international
agriculture conference at the Sacramento Convention Center.

The spirited but mostly civil event attracted approximately as many
people as the U.S. government-sponsored invitation-only meetings of
agriculture ministers and showed the depth of public interest in
genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Adorned by piercings, body art, bandannas and anti-GMO signs, the crowd
provided a stark contrast to the dark suits down the street.

Attendees paid $5 and put up with a heavy police presence outside the
theater to listen to six panelists with widely divergent views about

David Hegwood, a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, applauded
the attention to issues raised by the international conference.
"(Biotechnology) is worthy of much more debate of this kind," he said.

Organized by groups opposed to biotech crops, the forum highlighted
differences in approaches to the use of genetic engineering to alleviate
starvation in the Third World.

Proponents of biotechnology say it holds great promise for introducing
vitamins, vaccines and higher-yielding or drought-tolerant crops for
developing countries in the future.

Opponents say it's doing nothing now to improve conditions for the
world's hungry because the technology is locked up in patents by a few
large companies that don't see commercial value in poor nations.

"This whole debate about biotechnology reminds me very much of the debate
about nuclear technology," said panel moderator Mark Hertsgaard, a San
Francisco author.

"Each of the technologies has such enormous power for good and ill," he said.

Anuradha Mittal, a native of India and co-director of the Institute for
Food and Development Policy -- better known as Food First -- raised the
crowd to its feet when she said the United States should stop pushing
biotech crops as food aid to nations that reject it.

"The Third World can think for itself and ... says no to genetically
modified foods," she said.

Martina Newell-McGloughlin, director of the University of California's
biotechnology program, said genetic engineering won't solve every Third
World problem, but that its possibilities are too great to dismiss. "The
advantages of biotechnology for Africa is that it's packaged technology
in a seed," she said.

While current commercialized GMOs don't include crops grown widely in
developing countries, Newell-McGloughlin said university research is
addressing many crops important to the Third World.

"The real issue is not biotechnology," she said. "The real issue is

Silvia Ribeiro, an anti-GMO author and researcher in Mexico, responded:
"This is not about visions of biotechnology. This is about reality."

And the reality, said Ribeiro, is that biotechnology is controlled by a
few corporations that should not be trusted with the food supply of
entire nations.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

phone:  +49-531-5168746
fax:    +49-531-5168747
mobile: +49-162-1054755
email:  genetnl(at)