GENTECH archive 8.96-97
From: Reclaim The Streets <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: GEN meeting minutes
Cc: <email@example.com>Glenn, <firstname.lastname@example.org>Helena,
<email@example.com>Judy and David,
Below are the minutes from the last GEN meeting.
Apologies that they are so very late but I sent them off to be checked and
they never came back to me so hope that I have not missed too much out or
got anything wrong! Another case of too few people taking too much on. Can
we not start cloning each other!
As I am not able to attend the meeting on Tuesday and a few people may still
be up at the evictions on the camps in the path of Manchester's proposed 2nd
runway I hope we can all be updated as to what goes on in the meeting as we
will also be working on the GEN newsletter in the next few days in the hope
that the first one will be out by the first or second of June in time for
actions! So please send in any contributions ASAP see below!
PS Do you all know about Sharon? She is on hunger strike at Risley after
being arrested during Manchester evictions. She has been on hunger strike
since Wednesday and will continue until she can be guaranteed a GM free
diet! This woman is incredible! More details to follow soon. If anyone can
make the time to show support her address is: Sharyn Locke, BE4262, HMP
Risley, Warrington Road, Risley, Warrington, Cheshire.
APPEAL for updates on whatever you think should go into the GEN Newsletter.
Please send in any significant dates, particular letters to be written and
to whom, action possibilities, changes in legislation etc. Do not presume
that the editorial team are up to date on everything, for example the
incoming emails are a very limited view of what is happening in the UK and
globally on these issues. We will be depending on you all to make sure
everything that could be useful in initiating action is covered. Keep
updates to 250 words max. and if necessary give info on where to find out
more about a particular subject.
GEN MEETING - 29th April 1997
Present: Ricarda Steinbrecker, Becky Price and Zoe Elford all from WEN, Jim
Thomas, Jacklyn Sheedy, Ian Taylor, Jim McNulty, Judy and David Steel,
Millie, Helena Paul, Ali, Jan Reitma, John Ackers, Glynn, Sarah, Simon,
Charlotte, Chloe, Dave, Phil, Adam, Joyce, Anna, Brian, Ben,
Kate......apologies to others whose name I may have missed.
The Patent Directive
Helena from the Gaia foundation explained again the basics of this issue.
The first plenary - vote of MEP's, is possible at the end of June as the
MEP's would like this to take place before the end of the end of summer
session in European Parliament. World Trade Organisation will find it a
useful benchmark if it is passed. Without the directive the Biotech
companies will have no incentive to carry on with genetic engineering as it
will mean that it is totally non-competitive.
Global 2000 and Greenpeace discussions are going on right now to lay down
some principles for votes. There is to be a draught letter to MEP's put
together by G2000 to get out to as many people as possible, as soon as
possible. If anyone knows of any mailouts please get in touch with Helena.
As many groups as possible that may have an interest in the implications of
this are being approached e.g. Women's groups, Animal Rights groups and
The European Directive on the Legal Protection of Biotechnological
Inventions (The Patent Directive) is available and makes interesting reading.
What is super 301?
Meeting With Monsanto
Peter (Genetics Forum) went to the meeting with Monsanto about a month ago
and reported back. Transcript of meeting available from Robin Maynard (FoE)
who also went along.
Monsanto employed PR people as well as having employees over from the US.
Most groups that had been invited decided to stay away. Peter wanted to make
sure someone went along to listen and not talk at all but to find out how
they would justify their BT business.
It was all about Monsanto and their idea of 'sustainability'. Interesting
that Monsanto are not just ignoring the opposition anymore but have changed
tactics and are now playing the sustainability game instead.
* There is seen to be a need for an Ecological information sheet!
Monsanto were told that there could be no talks until they were at least
prepared to segregate GM crops and were told that that was the only way
* Monsanto did NOT say that they could not do this!
Monsanto are planning to split into two. One arm being the life sciences
(agricultural products, pharmaceuticals, consumer products and a number of
other things. The other being the chemical side.
The DoE are preparing brief on Maize for new minister.
An immediate decision is needed on maize. Letters to minister and MP's are
needed and could actually help. They should say that Environmental
Protection Agency should actually support Austria and UK should also ban
maize. Could be quite timely.
* If you write to the Minister of Environment through your MP there is a
helpful rule that means he has to reply in person within two weeks.
Big Gene Gathering
Around 100 campaigners and concerned people turned up at Cannon Frome Farm,
an organic farm in Hereford, on the 19th & 20th April for what was to be a
very productive weekend. Saturday was spent in talks with various
distinguished speakers and Sunday was planning for campaigns and actions.
Minutes from all the workshops will be put together by Becky and will be
available as soon as possible.
* During the weekend a group of people with scientific backgrounds got
together to form a sub-group to see how their expertise could be put to best
use within the campaign e.g. ploughing through the scientific papers etc.
Global Days of Action
From the BGG around fifty people went on to occupy the Monsanto HQ in High
Wycombe where there was a surprise appearance from the Super Heroes Against
Genetics. The entire office was taken over for four hours and while there
lots of interesting dialogue went on with Monsanto employees from the crop
People that had been at the weekend used their new found knowledge of the
subject to great effect in constructive arguments with Monsanto employees
and great fun was had by all. Mysteriously one telephone answering machine
had a very strange message on it informing callers that Monsanto were
pulling out of GE!
While there a phone call was made to Ronnie Cummins at the Pure Food Office
in the US (reverse charges of course) and he was able to tell everyone that
at exactly the same time the Monsanto HQ in the US was also being occupied
by anti-GE activists! There would have been many more people on the action
but IRA bomb scares in London meant that people were stuck on tubes when
they should have been on the special coach to High Wycombe. By the way,
because of this an individual is greatly out of pocket so if anyone can help
them out it would be greatly appreciated, contact Becky at WEN for their
Farming Today had good story on GE with a great interview with Theo live
from the occupation. Morning Star also had article and Bucks free weekly
loved it. Chemical weekly also covered it.
Soya Info Hotline
Wednesday saw the offices of the Soya Information Hotline manned by the
Super Heroes and Captain Chromosone (they have been very busy) for one and a
half hours. This is an information line about Roundup Ready Soya and Roundup
sponsored by...... Monsanto! The PR company involved is in Russell Square
and they also do other work for Monsanto in the same building which is also
shared by The Meat and Livestock Commission.
They had copies of various leaflets that have been given out on anti-GE
actions as well as press articles about actions and comprehensive lists of
who has called the hotline the date they called, where they live and their
telephone numbers etc.!
An article appeared in the Big Issue about the occupation on Monday 28th.
Friday and Saturday saw over 35 supermarket actions around the UK including
London, Bath, Andover and Oxford. Many different approaches were used and
many consumers not having known anything about the subject previously were
immediately demanding labelling from their supermarkets. An interesting
quote from one Sainsbury's manager was that nothing in the store contained
genetically modified soya! One good tip for the future is to have a stall
set up outside and petitions for people to sign there against the sale of
products containing GE ingredients.
* Tesco policy statement needs following up on as it simply untrue as it
says that they will label when this is impossible the way things stand with
no segregation. Their freephone number is: 0800 505555. They are in the
process of putting a new information leaflet together at the moment due to
the number of enquiries they are receiving on the subject.
Saturday was also the day of the press conference sponsored by The Natural
Law Party. Again actions by the IRA meant that it did not get the deserved
coverage though it was a very useful day with lots of good contacts being
made. Joyce De Silva was there to speak from Compassion in World Farming as
was Ricarda from WEN, Chloe from The Green Party.
Main Political Parties.
* The Liberal Democrats have come out against genetically engineered food.
The Labour and Tory parties are simply promising to set up an independent
food standards agency.
Gene Net is a European Network working on the issues of GE and The Patent
Directive. They co-ordinate actions Europe-wide, (apply if you want to
become a member). There are a lot of active German Groups.
They had a meeting in Switzerland, with workshops and a press conference on
the same weekend as the BGG and afterwards held a demonstration outside
Novartis where there was an interesting discussion with a plant scientist!
* Novartis have huge sickening 'we love the environment style' ads all over
Heathrow airport and on Virgin Airlines tv channels on aircraft!
Eurotoques (similar to Pure Food in the US)
These 'Chefs for Real Food' met in Spain for their AGM. They are seen as the
most highly regarded chefs from around Europe. Anthony Worral-Thompson is a
British representative and is on side in the campaign against GE food. They
were spoken to about GE and their decision is that they want labelling and
that they will not use GMO products in their cooking. Though they will see
what happens in the next few years! Although this is not as strong as some
people had hoped it was sufficient to have Monsanto "pissed off" and calling
many of the chefs individually to talk. Their presidency is in Sweden and
they want more information. Joyce from Greenpeace is working on that and on
building closer links with them on this issue.
* She will also be trying to get articles in catering magazines.
A debate ensued as to the pros and cons surrounding the use of this acronym.
It was generally agreed that it should not really be used as an acronym but
is much better used in full i.e. Super Heroes Against Genetics. Against its
use was the fact that it was offensive to some people, others saw it as
trivialising the issue and it has in fact put some press off using it as the
press attn; warrants using a 'recognised' and/or 'respectable' name. Local
press want lots of explanations because of the name problems and some people
do not want to have to go into that and would rather spend time explaining
On the other hand it is not for anyone in GEN to say that any name can or
cannot be used especially when we have no control over when and where these
super heroes may appear next!
Super Heroes Against Genetics Website
The other consideration was the use of the name for the website. The press
releases and publicity have now gone out and it would be difficult to change
it at this stage. There are many serious web-sites around on the subject
(Becky has a list of them and they went out with a WEN mailout) and as this
web-site was seen mainly to inspire actions and would possibly contain 'The
X Files' these would warrant anonymity and that fits in with the image of
the super heroes.
An appeal is to go out telling people about the SHAG website and appealing
for action reports and photographs etc. They should be sent to 48 Leighton
Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 2QE or email them at
There was concern that unchecked, and therefore possibly inaccurate,
material could appear on the web-site, though some felt that this was the
case with any web-site and any emails sent out, articles written etc.
Talking about the Super Heroes website led onto the possible need for a GEN
****The SHAG website is now up and running with some very interesting
information. The address is http://www.envirolink.org/orgs/shag/genetix.html
GEN - How it works
This is the third GEN meeting with the main aim of GEN to share information
and there was a discussion on how best to do this.
Many people think that there should not be a central GEN office. The main
objections being against centralisation, doubling up on work, more people
stuck behind computers and a phone line, added cost, etc.
One idea is to have one static phone line with a set message on an answering
service guiding people to other groups that will hopefully be able to deal
with their enquiries as well as a facility for messages to be left if none
of the given numbers seem appropriate to their query.
It was agreed that there should be a regular newsletter going out to the GEN
database. There was talk of how to do this while keeping costs to an
absolute minimum. As many people as possible should receive the newsletter
electronically only and they can print up and distribute to others wherever
possible. There will also be regional GEN nodes where the newsletter would
be distributed from. Almost a 'newstree' Adam and Becky are working on
building up this regional list. The regional groups could hopefully hold GEN
The newsletter should contain: Plant, Animal, Human related GE, Patents,
info for action, diary dates, latest legislation etc. European and
There was also the idea of getting lots of quotes from various groups and
celebs even as to their views on GMO's.
McSpotlight are offering DTP.
Agreed that it would need continuity rather than constant change of
editorial groups. Possibly something along the lines of SchNEWS or Action
So far the people that have agreed to take it on are Chloe, Adam, Ricarda,
Charlotte and Jacklyn though they may be others round the country interested
in working on it and that should be looked into.
There is also a European version planned. Play Fair's 'Food for Thought'
exists already and people should look at that. (There is also an action pack
planned from ASEED soon - contributions needed!)
Information sheets to be made available (and go out with initial copy of GEN
newsletter) on various things such as Patents Directive, Supermarket
Actions, Contact Sheet with details on who is doing what and why and where.
Adam will be working on pulling these together and various people have
already agreed to write certain ones.
They will play a big part in putting people in touch with each other. They
are building up the Genetics Engineering Information Network. Groups and
individuals will send in lists of the genetics information and resources
that they have available and also a list of things that they would like to
get hold of. This will also mean that Corporate Watch will be able to let
possible volunteers know which groups may need them.
There was a go around as to how GEN can most effectively operate. Many of
the above points came out of that. Suggestion for more effective meetings
were also put forward such as having a focus for each meeting e.g. to
discuss the next gathering. Agreed that we need to spend less time going
over the same things and the meeting needs to be more structured. More
varied people need to at the meeting e.g. representative from the
organisations of chefs etc.
There was however agreement that the meetings are going very well so far and
that we need not spend so much time worrying about how we are going to run
things and more time just doing!
Press Database and Press info Point.
These things have to be discussed further. Everyone should have access to
the press database including journos that are interested in the subject.
So - ideas being worked on (or to start working on):
Newsletter - Chloe, Adam, Ricarda, Charlotte and Jacklyn
Regional Contacts - Adam, Becky and Jim
Information Sheets - Adam
Minutes from BGG - Becky
Patent Directive - week of action - Helena and Phil
GEN database - Becky and Sharon
GE free cooking and Ethical debates - Joy to work on
Press database - doesn't a comprehensive list already exist at GP?
Field Trials - complete list Becky again!
Next Gathering - to run during summit in Amsterdam and possibly on Genetics?
National Road Show petition - David willing to take that on.
Positive shopping List - Sarah and ? to work on
Health food shops - a relevant person hopefully coming to next meeting.
Chat with MEP
Letter writing to Meacher via local MP -everyone.
Tackle Labour about Maize -Ian?
Allegiances to be built with church groups etc.
* There was full agreement that another week of action is needed very soon.
The unfortunate thing about this one was the timing and having to compete
with a general election and numerous IRA bomb threat! Many journalists have
shown a lot of interest with many good contacts being made with tips to try
again after the Election.
The week of action may concentrate on the patent directive as that is imminent!
* Jan has agreed to be a contact for students interested in becoming active
on these issues.
* Jim McNulty has been invited to talk to students at the Agricultural
College and also after visiting his County Council has been invited to
attend one of their meeting where he will be able to talk about GE with
attendees both before and after the meeting.
RTS now run a genetics information email list.
If you would like to be on it (and are not already) reply putting 'Subscibe
Genetics' in the subject box.
If you have anything to contribute to the list then send it in and it will
be forwarded - unedited wherever possible.
Please do not send attachments (so as to avoid virus), instead just add text
to emails main body. Many thanks.
Reclaim the Streets
PO BOX 9656
0171 281 4621