GENET archive


2-Plants: Philippine farmers to plant Bt corn despite protests

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Farmers to plant Bt corn despite protests
SOURCE: MindaNews, Philippines, by Allen Estabillo
DATE:   Mar 10, 2004

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Farmers to plant Bt corn despite protests

GENERAL SANTOS CITY -_ A group of farmers here plan to plant at least
2,000 hectares of the controversial Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) corn this
year despite the continuing protests by some local groups opposing the
commercialization of the genetically-enhanced crop.

Felix Cordero, chair of the Sinag Multipurpose Cooperative, said they
would continue to increase their production of the corn borer-resistant
crop that was approved for commercial distribution by the government
since last year.

Cordero said they are now working out a financing scheme with the
government that would allow them to expand to at least four main corn-
producing villages in the city.

"We are now maintaining at least 60 hectares but we are targeting to
expand this to 2,000 hectares once our loan would be released," he told

He said the Bt corn production areas now cover barangays Lagao, San
Isidro, Sinawal and Katangawan.

Bt corn was earlier developed to resist Asiatic corn borers, a major
cause of declining yield in local corn production. A genetically modified
or transgenic crop is a plant that contains a gene or genes that had been
artificially inserted to create a desired trait.

The transgenic crop, produced by in the Philippines by US-based seed
company Monsanto, was the first biotech crop to be approved for
commercial planting in the Philippines, and is one of the first biotech
food crops to be approved for planting in Asia.

In deciding to plant the transgenic corn that is now marketed under
Dekalb's YieldGard 818 brand, Cordero said they considered the
significant increases in yield and a reduced need for insecticide
applications based on various field tests conducted here and nearby South
Cotabato since 1999.

"Our tests then resulted to a net production of seven tons per hectare.
This is a big gain considering that our average of only over five tons
per hectare," he said.

Cordero cited that some local farmers who have started to plant Bt corn
have posted average yields of six to seven tons per hectare.

Francisco Camacho, Monsanto's technology development executive here, said
the crop's acceptability among farmers has been increasing in the area
due to its claimed benefits, especially in resisting corn borers.

"We simply cannot stop farmers from using (Bt corn), particularly those
who have experienced its benefits," he said.

Camacho, however, could not immediately give the exact figures how much
of the area's farmlands are already planted with Bt corn.

Last week, the production of the controversial crop was questioned anew
by the local Catholic church and militant farmers following the release
of a study claiming the exposure of several local residents of Polomolok,
South Cotabato to a toxin allegedly coming from Bt corn planted in the
area last year.

Dr. Terje Traavik, a scientist from the University of Tromso in Norway,
confirmed that at least 38 lumads (indigenous peoples) who were taken
with blood samples last year were found positive of exposure to the Bt toxin.

At least 106 residents, mostly elderly and children, of Sitio Kalyong in
Barangay Landan, Polomolok were treated in August last year for alleged
infections caused by the pollen of 60-day-old Bt corn planted in at least
two sites in the area.

The Justice and Peace Desk of the Diocese of Marbel and the South
Cotabato Movement against Genetically-Modified Organisms called on the
government to immediately recall its commercial approval for the Bt corn
until its safety to the environment and human health is established.

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

TITLE:  Open Letter to Terje Traavik
DATE:   Mar 8, 2004

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Open Letter to Terje Traavik

Contact: Rick Roush
(+1-530) 752-8350

March 8, 2004

Dear Professor Traavik: 

In the last week or so, there has been some coverage in the media of your
claims on health risks from GM crops, particularly in connection with
your recent work in the Philippines. We understand from media reports
that you consider that these results are too important to wait for peer
review and publication.

We believe that bypassing the peer review process is counterproductive
and ill-advised. It short-circuits the ability of science to be self-
correcting. It fosters public misinformation and miscommunication in the
complete absence of data. Public debate must be based on accurate
information. In that context, we write to request immediate, open, easy,
world-wide and detailed access to your team's data and methods, published
in an accessible site on the web, in English and other languages as

Providing public access to your experimental methods and data (not just
summaries) will make it possible for other scientists to have a chance to
review your work, attempt to repeat it, and look for similar examples
elsewhere. We assume that both you and your supporters will want this
research to be as widely distributed as possible, and to have maximum
influence on the scientific community. Potentially inaccurate second hand
accounts and possibly exaggerated claims in the news media are no
substitute for the presentation of solid scientific evidence.

There are guidelines for the responsible conduct of science. Your turn
has come to follow them. Note that failure to release your data and
methodology immediately will prevent any and all legitimate scientists
and health authorities from taking your claims seriously.

Dr. Rick Roush, University of California, Davis
Professor Charles Arntzen, Arizona State University
Professor Bruce Chassy, University of Illinois
Professor James DeGregori, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
Professor Thomas R. DeGregori, University of Houston
Dr. Judith A. Kjelstrom, University of California, Davis
Dr. Peggy G. Lemaux, University of California, Berkeley
Professor Martina McGloughlin, University of California, Davis
Dr. Alan McHughen, University of California, Riverside
Professor Wayne Parrott, University of Georgia
Professor C. S. Prakash, Tuskegee University
Dr. Chris Preston, University of Adelaide
Professor Tony Shelton, Cornell University
Professor Steve Taylor, University of Nebraska

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

TITLE:  Maize 'allergy' raises hackles
SOURCE: New Scientists, sent by AgBioView, USA
DATE:   Mar 6, 2004

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Maize 'allergy' raises hackles

DEEP scepticism has greeted claims that pollen from genetically modified
maize caused allergies in 39 villagers in the Philippines. The claims
were announced at a fringe meeting of anti-GM campaigners during last
week's convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to discuss the Cartagena
protocol on biosafety. Terje Traavik of the Norwegian Institute for Gene
Ecology in Tromsoe said the 39 villagers developed fevers, respiratory
problems and skin ailments late last year. Traavik blames exposure to
pollen from a nearby field of Dekalb 818 YG, a GM maize developed by
Monsanto. In blood samples from the villagers, he found antibodies to Bt
toxin, the pesticide Monsanto engineered into the maize to protect it
from weevils and moth larvae. Though Traavik's findings are only
preliminary, he says he has publicised them because it is in the public
interest to do so. But Monsanto condemned his action as premature. "We
think researchers should refrain from alarming the public until results
like this can be carefully examined and peer reviewed by other
scientists," Eric Sachs, Monsanto's director of scientific affairs, told
New Scientist. Sachs says the same maize has been grown for seven years
all around the world without any reports of adverse effects. Exhaustive
tests in the lab and on volunteers have drawn a blank too. "An immune
response is not evidence of an illness either," he says, adding that
antibodies to Bt have been found before in farm workers who apply natural
Bt sprays and who show no signs of being unwell.


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