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GENET GE free Newsletter 03/03



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------------------------------ April 01, 2003 ---------------------------

                      GENET GE free Newsletter 03/03

- MONSANTO "BUYING GOODWILL" TO GAIN SUPPORT FOR GE WHEAT
- OPPOSITION AGAINST GE COWS IN NEW ZEALAND SUCCESSFUL
- SOUTH GLOUCESTERSHIRE (UK) DECLARED GE FREE ZONE
- PHILIPPINE GROUPS INTENSIFY STRUGGLE AGAINST BT CORN
- GE TREES FACE DIFFICULTIES
- BRAZIL LEGALIZES GE SOY HARVEST
- THAI MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE PROMISES TO PROMOTE GE FREE PRODUCTS
- FAO SEES LITTLE GE CROP BENEFITS FOR SMALL-SCALE FARMERS
- AUSTRALIAN STATES AND FARMERS OPPOSE GE CANOLA
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MONSANTO "BUYING GOODWILL" TO GAIN SUPPORT FOR GE WHEAT

When leaders of the U.S. wheat industry gathered in New Mexico, they
toasted their partnership with Monsanto. Monsanto has opened its
checkbook, providing training, trips and parties for wheat industry
leaders, and giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to universities
where researchers talk up the advantages of biotech crops. The campaign
has been so successful that critics have been effectively silenced.
"They're buying goodwill," said Arthur Schafer, University of Manitoba's
director of ethics studies. Critics have long questioned corporate
funding of research at public universities. "The research follows the
dollars, so who is this benefiting?" said Stephen Jones, a wheat breeder
at Washington State University, one of Monsanto's partners. "Are they
just coming in to these institutions and using the public-financed
infrastructure to their benefit? The pressure is tremendous from Monsanto
and these other corporations." On Mar 11, US wheat farmers filed a legal
petition to prevent economic, environmental or social damage resulting
from the deregulation of GE wheat. They call for a moratorium on the
commercial introduction until the USDA completes a full environmental
impact statement. On Mar 15, the U.S. Agriculture Department said it may
impose strict requirements on Monsanto to ensure it was abiding by its
pledge not to sell GE wheat until foreign markets accepted it. Even if
the wheat is approved by the U.S., Monsanto has promised not to sell it
until at least Canada and Japan accept it. Canadian Farmers spoke out
against GE wheat on Mar 19 as a panel of experts tried to explain how GE
wheat will make it to market. Monsanto replied it will continue with its
research until the marketplace is ready for its product. "One day the
world will change. That may take a while. That may take less time than
one might think." On Mar 25, John Culley, program director with
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research branch announced that a GE
wheat trial at its Indian Head experimental farm had been stopped two
years ago due to "the low probability" seed might mix: "We were just
concerned that there might be a small chance that the seed might get
mixed up . . . If it's not there, it can't happen." On Mar 25, Akira
Miki, assistant director for biotech food safety under the Japanese
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare's Inspection and Safety Division,
that Japan will subject U.S. wheat imports to testing if the U.S.
commercializes GE wheat before Japanese approval is given, and that for
the moment, Japan will continue to maintain a zero tolerance level for
GMO wheat. The South Dakota Senate Agriculture Committee is suggesting a
study into the compatibility of traditional, biotech and organic crops.
South Dakota lawmakers rejected a bill this year that would have required
the state Agriculture Department to regulate genetically modified wheat.

  Mar  3: Monsanto courts farmers on GE wheat
  Mar 11: U.S. wheat farmers file legal petition against Monsanto's GE wheat
  Mar 12: U.S. farmers push for economic analysis of GM wheat introduction
  Mar 19: USDA mulls rules for Monsanto RR wheat
  Mar 21: Farmers urge Monsanto to shelve GE wheat
  Mar 26: Contamination fears halted Canadian GM wheat trial
  Mar 27: South Dakota (USA) legislators asked to study GE crops


OPPOSITION AGAINST GE COWS IN NEW ZEALAND SUCCESSFUL

On Mar 20, Mothers Against Genetic Engineering in Food and the
Environment (MAdGE) pushed ahead with their court case against a decision
to allow trials with GE cows producing medical proteins in their milk.
MAdGE opposed the application along with 855 others and filed an
application for a judicial review of Erma's decision in the Auckland High
Court on 15 January 2003.

  Mar 25: Mothers Against Genetic Engineering say No to GE milk


SOUTH GLOUCESTERSHIRE (UK) DECLARED GE FREE ZONE

On Mar 20, Councillors agreed to declare South Gloucestershire a GE free
zone and to ask the Secretary of State to press for a moratorium on all
GE crop trials. The move was warmly welcomed by Friends of the Earth UK,
which launched its own GE-free campaign in October 2002. Now the
organisation hopes Bristol will become the next council to ban GE
products completely.

  Mar 20: South Gloucestershire (UK) declared a GM free zone


PHILIPPINE GROUPS INTENSIFY STRUGGLE AGAINST BT CORN

University of the Philippines doctors, professor and private
practitioners expressed their strong opposition to the commercialization
of Monsanto's YieldGard Bt corn. Their move was supported by the
Ecological Society and International Union for the Conversation of Nature
and Natural Resources, Service Lingkod Tao-Kalikasan, Miriam Peace and
several other environmental organizations. The organic farming sector has
also expressed their concern that their organic produce will be
threatened with contamination and other effects on the spread of GE
crops. The farmers' association Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahang Magsasaka
(PKSM) has asked the Department of Agriculture to revoke the
commercialization license of Bt corn, claiming the crop will contaminate
non-Bt corn fields and entangle non-Bt corn farmers in legal suits. PKSM
said Bt corn may also implicate non-Bt farmers in a similar case in the
US for violating patent rights of Bt corn seed producer Monsanto. The
Department of Environment and Natural Resources will conduct studies on
the impact of GE crops on the environment. Environment Secretary Elisea
Gozun made the commitment to members of Greenpeace and Network Opposed to
GMOs (NO GMOs, a group of 12 organizations). The pro-biotechnology group
Southeast Asia Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture
(Searca) said the first GE crop approved for commercial planting is now
grown in Pangasinan, the Ilocos region and Isabela. "Bt corn will further
improve corn production efficiency in Thailand," said Manop Khamsitti, a
farmer-leader from Nan province in northern Thailand, who visited
recently the Bt corn farms in Luna, Isabela. The Roman Catholic Church is
firming up its opposition to Bt corn by sending at least one million
signatures to the Malacanan presidential palace. The Catholic Bishops
Conference of the Philippines' National Secretariat for Social Action,
Justice and Peace, chaired by Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, is represented
in the government's GMO oversight committee. "The awareness and
opposition to this biotech crop is overwhelming and we hope the
government will yield to the voice of the people," said Ms. Bolanio,
chairperson of the justice and peace desk of the Diocese of Marbel.
Meanwhile, the militant Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Timog Kutabato (Samatiku)
and the South Cotabato Movement Against Genetically Modified Organisms
(Smagmo) have also stepped up their campaign against Bt corn, by
educating local farmers. Eliezer Billanes, Samatiku chairman and Smagmo
convenor said: "We're gaining some ground in this fight and there is
really a legitimate opposition to this crop," he said, adding that the
group will not hesitate to launch its version of "people power" if needed.

  Mar 14: University of the Philippines academics oppose Bt corn
  Mar 20: Philippine Ministry of Environment conducts new assessment of GMOs
  Mar 24: Filipino Roman Catholic Church joins anti-Bt corn drive


GE TREES FACE DIFFICULTIES

The Forest Certification New Zealand published a draft National Standard
for Certification of Plantation Forest Management that says: "Field use
of genetically modified organisms by the certificate holder is
prohibited. [...] Research on GMOs where the intent is for release is
prohibited." On Mar 11, Kinkos, the U.S. photocopy giant, announced that
it would not align itself with suppliers using GE trees. "We laud this
decision by Kinkos and congratulate Rainforest Action Network and the
Dogwood Alliance on this important victory," said Brad Hash, Campaigner
on Genetically Engineered Trees for Action for Social & Ecological Justice.

  Mar 19: Forest Certification New Zealand goes for GE tree ban
  Mar 25: U.S. photocopy company Kinkos does not support GE trees


BRAZIL LEGALIZES GE SOY HARVEST

On Mar 26, the spokesman of the Brazilian President said that a
provisional measure would allow GE soybeans to be sold until the end of
Jan 2004, the harvest must be certified and labelled. "It won't be easy
to fulfill the provisional measure because nobody is ready to segregate
the harvest," said Rui Polidoro Pinto, President of the Agricultural and
Livestock Cooperatives of Rio Grande do Sul.

  Mar 31: Brazil GM soy move sparks green fury and farmer doubt


THAI MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE PROMISES TO PROMOTE GE FREE PRODUCTS

The Thai Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry will promote the export of
food products without GE ingredients, Deputy Minister Newin Chidchob
announced on Mar 5. Mr Newin has been wooing public acceptance for GE
research in laboratories, and has urged cabinet to lift a ban on open-
field trials of GE crops. He said there would be eight research stations
to certify and label food products free of GE ingredients for export, in
order to help boost their value in world markets. Witoon Lianchamroon
from the NGO BioThai warned that was risky to lift the ban because
Thailand was still without a code of practice dealing with biosafety,
patent protection, benefit-sharing, and liabilities from contamination.

  Mar 24: Thailand to promote exports of GMO-free food products


FAO SEES LITTLE GE CROP BENEFITS FOR SMALL-SCALE FARMERS

"With the increasingly limited amount of new land available to
agriculture, modern biotechnologies could complement and improve the
efficiency of traditional selection and breeding techniques to enhance
agricultural productivity," says Mahmoud Solh, Director of FAO's Division
of Plant Production and Protection. But GE products are usually developed
and used for large-scale commercial interests, and with a few exceptions,
small-scale farmers have so far not benefited from the technology.

  Mar 21: FAO Focus: Agricultural biotechnology: will it help?


AUSTRALIAN STATES AND FARMERS OPPOSE GE CANOLA

The Kondinin Group, a Western Australia based farm group, found 45 % of
respondents to its national survey on the use of GE crops were opposed to
their release, just 19 per cent of respondents said they wanted GE crops.
Of those opposed to GM crops, almost half said they feared they would
jeopardise Australia's non-GM crop markets and the nation's image as a
producer of clean, green produce. On Mar 3, the Labor government of
Australia's most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), vowed to impose a
three-year ban on the commercial release of GE canola if it was re-
elected on Mar 22. Premier Bob Carr said this would make NSW the second
of Australia's six states to propose such laws following South
Australia's lead, while Tasmania and Western Australia are considering
declaring their entire states to be GM free. On Mar 5, the Federal
Agriculture Minister Warren Truss warned that a ban on growing GE canola
in New South Wales state would harm Australia in competitive world
markets. Truss acknowledged that state governments had the legal right to
impose bans on the growing of GE food crops. Australia's present GM crops
are confined to the non-food products of cotton and carnations. On Mar
18, the Victorian Farmers Federation's grains conference has defeated a
three-year moratorium on the release of GE crops. But Ultima farmer
Stuart King says the conference heard only from speakers in support of GM
technology, and the defeat was no surprise: "There's been no opportunity
for a professional speaker from the other side of the debate, whether it
be science-based or emotive-based to come forward and give their point of
view." Grains group deputy president Gerald Feeny rejects claims the
Federation sold out to biotechnology companies by allowing them to
sponsor the conference. On Mar 26, Mr Wayne, National Farmers' Federation
(NFF) Vice President and Chair of the NFF Biotechnology Taskforce
released the NFF Biotechnology Position Statement. Mr Cornish reaffirmed
NFF's view that Australian farmers stood to gain significant benefits
through GE crops. On Mar 27, Agrifood Awareness Australia, including the
National Farmers' Federation, embarked on a GE promotion campaign. The
NSW Shepherds Producers Cooperative surveyed almost half of its 300
members on the issue of GE crops, those who responded unanimously opposed
GE crops.

  Mar  7: Australian farmers reject GE crops
  Mar  7: New South Wales (Australia) announces 3-year GE crop ban
  Mar 20: Victorian Farmers Federation (Australia) rejected GMO moratorium
  Mar 28: Farmer division over GM crops grows in Australia
  Mar 31: Australian Farmers' Federation backs GE crops