GENET archive

[Index][Thread]

2-Plants: Update on GE pharma rice struggle in the U.S.



---------------------------------------------------------------------------
"We wonder why rice producers weren't involved in the discussions or
negotiations. Nobody included us in any of this, and that was
disappointing," said Williams, who hopes other big buyers like Riceland,
Gerber and Kellogg will continue to buy Missouri rice. We're pleased that
they're moving120 miles from us. We'd have been more pleased if it was
1,000 miles," said Sonny Martin, a Bernie rice farmer who is chairman of
the Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council."
---------------------------------------------------------------------------


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

TITLE:  Opposition KOs planned plot at Chaffee: Area farmers rally to
protest genetic rice
SOURCE: Daily American Republic, USA, by David Silverberg
DATE:   22 Apr 2005

------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


Opposition KOs planned plot at Chaffee: Area farmers rally to protest
genetic rice

Opposition to the proposed production of genetically modified rice near
Chaffee was expressed by Southeast Missouri rice farmers to state
legislators during a Saturday morning rally at Curtis Worley's farm
southeast of Poplar Bluff.

"We want to stop it for fear of contamination to our rice," said Worley, who
also is concerned about potential economic losses because of concerns
expressed by two large purchasers of Southeast Missouri rice.

State Sen. Rob Mayer, Speaker of the House Rod Jetton and Reps. Gayle
Kingery and Mike Dethrow were among legislators who participated in the
rally at Worley's farm. Mayer informed the farmers that Ventria Bioscience,
which is moving from California to Missouri, has agreed to not grow
genetically modified rice in Southeast Missouri.

"I am pleased the project is not going forward in Southeast Missouri because
of the risk of losing our markets," Mayer said. But he added that
"genetically modified seeds hold promise for mankind and increased income
for farmers. We need to continue to explore genetically modified seeds."

Riceland Vice President Bill Reed also spoke at Worley's farm and said he
was glad the project is not going forward in Southeast Missouri.

"We are trying to get legislation together to keep genetically modified rice
out of Missouri," Worley said. "We had a good turnout and it was a good
meeting."

Anheuser-Busch Co. of St. Louis and Riceland Foods of Stuttgart, Ark., had
urged federal regulators to deny a permit requested by Ventria to grow 150
acres of genetically modified rice on David Herbst's farm in order to
produce human proteins used in drugs.

Herbst maintained the project was worthwhile and that contamination could be
controlled. He said biopharming could have opened up new markets for rice.

Riceland Foods, the world's largest rice miller and marketer, is concerned
its customers don't want to risk buying genetically modified rice.
Anheuser-Busch, the nation's No. 1 buyer of rice and the largest brewer,
said it would not buy Missouri rice if genetically modified, drug-making
crops are allowed to be grown in the state.

According to the Associated Press, Anheuser-Busch dropped its threat to
boycott Missouri's rice crop after Ventria agreed Friday to grow its
genetically engineered rice at least 120 miles away from commercial rice
farms in Southeast Missouri.

"I am pleased that Anheuser Busch and Ventria have reached a fair compromise
that further cutting-edge life-sciences technology while protecting current
markets for Missouri rice farmers," Gov. Matt Blunt said in a press release
Friday.

The agreement was brokered by Blunt and U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.

"I am very proud that friends have come together in good faith and reached
an agreement that addresses all concerns while permitting this critical
technology to find a welcome home here in Missouri," Bond said in a press
release Friday.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau, who has been a strong supporter
of new technologies for value-added agricultural products, sent a letter to
Blunt earlier Friday.

"However, the market realities that have been presented to me by Riceland
Foods, Anheuser-Busch, my rice producers, lenders and suppliers dictate
that I must oppose the production of genetically modified rice in Southeast
Missouri in crop year 2005," Emerson said.

The Missouri Farm Bureau supports Ventria, which is moving to Northwest
Missouri State University to be the anchor tenant of a new center for
plant-made pharmaceuticals.

Ventria's president, Scott Deeter, has said fears of contamination are
overblown because the company intends to use "a totally closed system of
production" with a plant that pollinates itself. He also said the rice
could be engineered to produce proteins that have the potential to address
health issues like severe dehydration due to diarrhea, which kills more
than 1.3 million children under the age of 5 annually worldwide.

Mayer said Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Fred Ferrell is
working with Ventria to select a producer near Lamar north of Joplin to
grow genetically modified rice.

U.S. Rice Producers Association President Chris Williams, a Poplar Bluff
rice farmer, told the Southeast Missourian the agreement is a positive
development, but he still has concerns.

"We wonder why rice producers weren't involved in the discussions or
negotiations. Nobody included us in any of this, and that was
disappointing," said Williams, who hopes other big buyers like Riceland,
Gerber and Kellogg will continue to buy Missouri rice.

"We're pleased that they're moving120 miles from us. We'd have been more
pleased if it was 1,000 miles," said Sonny Martin, a Bernie rice farmer who
is chairman of the Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council.

Herbst is glad Ventria is staying in Missouri.

"This is a tremendous victory for the future of agriculture in Missouri,"
Herbst said.


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

TITLE:  Go-Ahead For Pharmaceutical Rice
        Compromise to allow planting with 120-mile buffer from food-grade
rice
SOURCE: Chemical & Engineering News, USA, by Marc Reisch
DATE:   21 Apr 2005

------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


Go-Ahead For Pharmaceutical Rice
Compromise to allow planting with 120-mile buffer from food-grade rice

A last-minute compromise will allow start-up firm Ventria Bioscience to go
ahead with a planting of genetically altered rice in Missouri.

Gov. Matt Blunt and Sen. Christopher S. (Kit) Bond (R-Mo.) helped work out a
compromise after beer maker Anheuser-Busch announced that it would not buy
rice grown or processed in Missouri if Ventria went ahead and planted 200
acres of rice altered to produce pharmaceuticals just seven miles away from
food-grade rice fields. Vertria has a pending permit to grow the rice with
the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Under the agreement, Ventria would plant its rice, engineered to produce the
human proteins lactoferrin and lysozyme, in fields at least 120 miles away
from other rice fields. The company says the proteins help boost the human
immune system. Though rice is self-pollinating, critics fear
cross-contamination through flooding, human error, birds, or insects.

For its part, Anheuser Busch agreed to continue to buy rice grown in
Missouri, the sixth largest rice-producing state. The rice is used to brew
beer.

Ventria is in the process of moving from Sacramento, Calif., to Maryville,
Mo., in a business incubator building managed by Northwest Missouri State
University. The university hopes to become a research center for plant-made
pharmaceutical production. Its president, Dean L. Hubbard, is on Ventria’s
board of directo픜ꆏ쉜䲤
                                  PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Deal met with Anheuser-Busch and Ventria
SOURCE: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, USA, by Bill Lambrecht
DATE:   16 Apr 2005

------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


Deal met with Anheuser-Busch and Ventria

WASHINGTON - The California company whose plan to sprout pharmaceutical rice
in Missouri's Bootheel triggered a boycott threat from the Anheuser-Busch
brewing company said Friday that it would seek a new Missouri planting site
removed from commercial rice fields.

After a meeting in St. Louis with brewery officials and political leaders,
the California company, Ventria Bioscience, said it would amend its
application with the U.S. Department of Agriculture so that its genetically
engineered rice would be planted at least 120 miles away from the prime rice
fields of southeast Missouri.

As part of the agreement announced by Gov. Matt Blunt, Anheuser-Busch
dropped its threat to stop buying rice from Missouri growers.

Blunt called the agreement "a huge step forward" for agriculture, Missouri's
plant-science industry and Ventria's goal of finding medicines that can help
children.

Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., said he was "very proud that friends
have come together in good faith and reached an agreement that addresses
all concerns while permitting this critical technology to find a welcome
home in Missouri."

Scott Deeter, Ventria's president and chief operating officer, said he
planned as early as this weekend to inform the Agriculture Department of a
new site for planting the pharmaceutical rice. He would not disclose
potential locations.

A government decision on Ventria's application is due any day, and Deeter
said his company still intends to plant its engineered rice this spring.
"We have to move pretty quickly," he said in a telephone interview, adding
that he was pleased with the agreement.

The announcement provided a new twist to a controversy that has embroiled
politicians, rice farmers, the food industry, environmentalists and
Missouri's plant-science researchers.

Fearing potential contamination of their crops and a loss of markets, rice
growers in southern Missouri responded with outrage to Ventria's plan to
genetically engineer rice to produce human proteins for use in drugs and
other products.

The proteins, lactoferrin and lysozyme, both occur in breast milk, saliva
and other bodily fluids. They are valued for their capacity to aid in
combating bacteria, viruses and other bodily invaders.

Leading food companies and environmental advocates - both of which oppose
open-air cultivation of plant-made pharmaceuticals - joined Missouri rice
farmers' campaign to derail Ventria's plan.

The momentum tilted this week to rice growers when Anheuser-Busch declared
that it wouldn't buy Missouri rice for its beer because of concern that the
pharmaceutical rice couldn't be kept separate from edible rice.

Among its concerns, the brewery stated, were that that the Food and Drug
Administration has not declared the pharmaceutical rice safe for
consumption and that no test exists for detecting the presence of the
gene-altered rice in conventional rice.

Although Anheuser-Busch dropped its opposition, the compromise was unlikely
to satisfy critics in the food industry and environmental groups. Rice
growers sounded wary.

"I guess we'll have to live with it for now," said Sonny Martin, a farmer in
Bernie, Mo., and a spokesman for the industry.

"But I do not think the rice will grow north of I-44. I think they're just
doing this so that they can stay in Missouri, and that they'll try to be
back down our way next year."

Bill Freese, spokesman for Friends of the Earth, which has coordinated
opposition in Missouri, said he welcomed the move away from the Bootheel
but added, "We believe that any outdoor cultivation of pharmaceutical crop
is ill-advised."

State Sen. Robert Mayer, R-Dexter, said he was pleased to hear that the
pharmaceutical rice would not be growing in his district. But he said
wanted to learn how rice customers other than Anheuser-Busch felt about the
compromise before offering his blessing.

Representatives of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center took part in the
meeting that produced the compromise.

Reversing her position before the compromise, U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson,
R-Cape Girardeau, on Friday sent a letter to Blunt declaring her opposition
to the Bootheel planting.

In an interview, Emerson said she had been torn by her support of genetic
engineering technologies and the growing likelihood that Missouri rice
farmers would lose markets if the pharmaceutical rice were planted.

"It's the only conclusion I could come to. I wasn't about to jeopardize a
$100 million rice market in southern Missouri," she said.

Gregory Cancelada of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.


                                  PART IV
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Hold Your Horses
SOURCE: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
DATE:   15 Apr 2005

------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


Hold Your Horses

IT'S UNDERSTANDABLE that Anheuser-Busch wouldn't want to brew its beer with
rice grown to produce anti-diarrheal drugs. Fairly or not, from a marketing
standpoint it's a no-brainer: Ick. But the brewery's threat to boycott
Missouri's rice crop is an over-reaction to a theoretical hazard. The
brouhaha in the Bootheel shows the need for reasonable, science-based rules
to assure safety in the new business of "biopharming."

Ventria Bioscience of California has genetically engineered rice to produce
human proteins used in drugs. Ventria wants to grow its rice on 200 acres
in Scott County, south of Cape Girardeau. It may expand to more than 20,000
acres.

Ventria has a laudable goal, since diarrhea and dehydration kill 1.3 million
children a year around the world. In fact, the infant industry of
biopharming holds the promise of better and cheaper drugs. But some
farmers, environmentalists and food companies fear that genetic traits of
the new rice may spread to rice used for food. That would saddle the
industry with the cost of testing and separating different types of rice.
And it would give Europe more reasons to discriminate against yet another
American ˙farm export. Just ask Monsanto.

It's not an unfounded concern. Traits of another type of rice, altered to
resist herbicides, spread to other rice plants growing in the same fields
in Arkansas. Could birds, wind or floods spread Ventria's altered rice to
other conventional rice fields? Maybe. For its part, Ventria says its rice
plot will be seven miles from the next nearest rice field.

Enter the 500-pound gorilla: Anheuser-Busch The brewery says it will stop
buying Missouri rice if the U.S. Department of Agriculture approves
Ventria's plan. Anheuser-Busch is the nation's biggest single consumer of
rice, so its threat sends a chill through Missouri's rice farmers -- and
the politicians who represent them.

Anheuser-Busch employs 5,000 of our neighbors and holds the affection of St.
Louis for its corporate largesse. It's almost as much a symbol of our city
as the Gateway Arch. But it has an unbecoming habit of throwing its weight
around in Missouri. Its threat against Missouri's $100 million rice
industry is premature. The wiser course would be for Anheuser-Busch to
monitor the Ventria project closely, to see if its worries are valid. Signs
of contamination can be spotted early.

In the meantime, it might lobby for regulations that will let biopharming
and conventional farming safely co-exist. American farmers have been
growing genetically-altered crops for more than a decade, without damage.
Much corn, soy and cotton grown today is bioengineered to tolerate
herbicides or ward off pests.

Much of that has roots in St. Louis, which has become an international
center for plant biotechnology, by the grace of Monsanto, the Donald
Danforth Plant Science Center and the Missouri Botanical Garden. In the
future, we may be known more for plants than for beer.

It would be a shame to see one industry hurt another. In making the call on
Ventria's proposal, the Agriculture Department should rely solely on good
science.




--
GENET
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinaeckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig
Germany

P: +49-531-5168746
F: +49-531-5168747
M: +49-162-1054755
E: coordination(at)genet-info.org
W: <http://www.genet-info.org>

-----------------------------
   GENET-news mailing list
-----------------------------