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GE - Global Resistance Mounts Against Monsanto & Genetic Engineering

Great run down of GE resistance events.

FOOD BYTES #17  March 2, 1999
News and Analysis on Genetic Engineering, Factory Farming, & Organics

Special Issue:

Global Resistance Mounts Against Monsanto & Genetic Engineering

Quotes of the month:

"Everybody over here hates us."

Dan Verakis, Monsanto PR spokesman in the U.K., quoted in the London
Observer 2/21/99.

"Tony,  Don't Swallow Bill's Seed."

Greenpeace banner on their delivery truck Feb. 18 in London as
they dumped four tons of US GE-tainted soybeans on the front steps of #10
Downing Street, Prime Minister Tony Blair's official residence.

In what the Financial Times of London characterized on Feb. 23
as a "public relations disaster for transgenic foods," global resistance to
Monsanto and genetic engineering (GE) has sharply intensified over the past 60
days. As reported previously in Food Bytes (#13 & #15 ), the international
anti-GE movement is rapidly developing into a serious threat to Monsanto and
biotechnology titans.

The growing crisis over gene-foods has reached the point where financial
analysts are warning the Clinton administration that the European Union will
not back off on efforts to label  untested GE foods. Many believe this
controversy could spawn a major trade war within the World Trade Organization
(WTO). In Britain commentators have similarly warned Prime Minister Tony Blair
that his cozy relationship with Bill Clinton and Bill's favorite corporation,
Monsanto, could do severe damage to Blair.

It has been a rough last several months for Monsanto and the ag biotech
interests. Here is a chronological blow by blow account:

* The Fall/Winter 1998 issue of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Gene
Exchange <<> warns of recent US research
showing that genetically
engineered Bt crops are building up Bt toxins in the soil,  thereby damaging
the soil food web and harming beneficial insects.

* On December 15, 1998 attorneys from the Center for Food Safety, on behalf of
a broad coalition, filed a legal petition in Washington, D.C. against the FDA
to have rBGH taken off the market. The legal action received major attention
from the mass media, including a widely-viewed segment on ABC TV national
The CFS petition
cites mounting evidence that the original testing of rBGH was flawed. In 1990
the FDA said BGH was "safe for human consumption." Part of its findings were
based on 90-day rat feeding studies in which they reported "no toxicologically
significant changes..." Based largely on this conclusion, FDA did not require
human toxicological tests usually required for a veterinary drug. However in
April of 1998,
researchers from Health Canada, the Canadian equivalent to FDA, issued a
which contradicted FDA's findings. Canadian researchers found studies showing
that rats were absorbing rBGH  after all. In fact, between 20 and 30
percent of
the rats were developing distinct immunological reactions. Additionally, cysts
formed in the thyroid of some male  rats and infiltrated the prostate--both
warning signs for potential cancer hazards.

"These are toxicologically significant changes in the rats and they should
triggered a full human health review, including  assessment of potential
carcinogenic and immunological effects,"
said Dr. Michael  Hansen, an expert on rBGH and a scientist with
the Consumer Policy Institute, a division of Consumers Union. According to CFS
attorneys it is "unclear" how or why these results were overlooked in the
original FDA review of rBGH.

Monsanto says it submitted the studies to the FDA, while the agency says it
only saw summaries of the rat tests.

"We're going to go to the courts and say--you were lied to," said Andrew
Kimbrell, lead counsel for the CFS. "Essentially it was
fraud by the agency and fraud by Monsanto in telling the court
that there were no human health effects possible from consuming
these products made with rBGH treated milk." The EU has already banned rBGH,
but this policy comes up for review later this year.
The US government has warned that they will file for damages under the WTO if
the EU continues to ban Monsanto's rBGH.

* Australian trade authorities announced on Jan. 8, the largest shipment of
canola (rapeseed) ever exported from Australia. The
$16.5 million dollar shipment is bound for oilseed crushing plants
in Europe. According to Graham Lawrence, managing director of the
New South Wales Grains Board, "Europe has moved to become a major buyer this
year because Australia is the only country to guarantee non-genetic modified
canola." Canada has lost $300-400 million in canola sales to Europe over the
last year because government authorities have followed the US model of
co-mingling GE and non-GE grains. This year over 50% of Canada's 13.4 million
acres of canola
are genetically engineered.

* The mid-January 1999 issue of the California Farmer magazine reports that Bt
resistance has emerged among pink bollworms, a
major cotton pest, in Arizona cotton fields   Biotech critics
have warned for years that genetically engineered Bt crops will
cause major crop pests to develop resistance to Bt, thereby destroying the
usefulness of the world's most important natural biopesticide.

*  On Jan. 14 Canadian government officials announced that they
were  going to allow Monsanto's controversial recombinant Bovine
Growth Hormone (rBGH or rBST) to be injected into Canada's dairy cows. The
ruling came after nine years of heavy lobbying by
Monsanto and a major nationwide debate. Although the Canadian government and
the media stressed that the permanent ban on rBGH
was based primarily on animal health concerns, the data posted on their web
site by the Canadian scientists who reviewed the drug made it clear that human
health hazards were also a consideration,
namely increased antibiotic residues and elevated levels of a
potent human growth hormone factor and cancer promoter called IGF-1 found  in
rBGH-derived milk and dairy products. (For further information on the hazards
of rBGH, see our web sites <<> and

* On Jan. 22, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that financial
difficulties were forcing Monsanto to slash 1700 employees from its global
workforce of 28,000. As indicated in previous Food Bytes, Monsanto now finds
itself strapped for cash in the wake of last fall's failed merger with the
American Home Products Corp.
Monsanto's recent aggressive multi-billion dollar acquisitions of seed
companies, research labs, and grain trading operations have increased their
power and control over world markets, but have drastically reduced their
available capital and lowered their stock values, leaving them potentially
vulnerable to an unfriendly
takeover by Dupont or Dow or another mega-corporation. Wall Street
investment analyst William Fiala told the St. Louis Post Dispatch, "It seems
like they (Monsanto) bit off more than they could chew after the merger
collapsed. They are taking a risk that they could cut too deep in terms of
personnel or could sell things out of necessity that are still good
investments. Their debt is beyond Monsanto's comfort level and beyond most
analysts' comfort level."

* Almost 200 cotton farmers in Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina are suing
Monsanto for damages after crop failures of Monsanto's Bt and Roundup Ready
cotton seeds, according to a news story in the Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on
Jan. 25. In a separate lawsuit 25 cotton farmers in Texas, Oklahoma,
Mississippi, and Louisiana are suing Monsanto for fraud and
misrepresentation--also in regard to Bt cotton crop failures.

* On Feb. 5, Carrefour, France's largest supermarket chain, announced that
were taking all genetically engineered foods off their shelves. A
representative from Greenpeace France, Arnaud Apoteker, told anti-biotech
activists at an conference in Cuernavaca, Mexico on Feb. 7 that Greenpeace and
their allies were planning on driving all GE foods and crops out of France by
the end of next year.

* On Feb. 12  front-page headline stories in the British press revealed that
Dr. Arpad Pusztai's explosive research findings on the potential human health
dangers of genetically engineered potatoes--first aired in the UK media last
August--had been verified by a panel of 20 international scientists. Dr.
Pusztai, a world renowned researcher on plant lectins, was fired last August
from the government-funded Rowett Institute in Scotland, under very
suspicious circumstances, shortly after he went public with
research indicating that laboratory rats fed genetically
engineered potatoes had suffered significant damage to their
immune systems, thymuses, kidneys, spleens, and guts. According to press
reports, Pusztai's firing and the ensuing scientific coverup by the UK
government were a direct consequence of ongoing White House pressure on Tony
Blair to keep the door open to Monsanto and  other biotech companies to market
and grow GE products in Britain and across the EU.

When Dr. Pusztai fed conventional potatoes and snowdrop lectin (GNA) to rats,
no damage occurred. But when Pusztai fed the rats an equivalent amount of
potatoes which were gene-spliced with the snowdrop lectin, significant and
startling damage became quickly evident. Despite deliberately false U.K.
government allegations that Dr. Pusztai's experiments were purely theoretical,
a number of biotech companies are currently carrying out similar lab and field
tests on gene-spliced potatoes, rapeseed, rice, and cabbage, calculating that
snowdrop-spliced food crops will repel crop pests.

Perhaps even more alarming than Pusztai's mutant potatoes,  scientists have
subsequently pointed out that Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a gene routinely
spliced into millions of acres of US corn, cotton, and potatoes is now
considered to be a form of  lectin. And more alarming yet, another scientist,
Dr. Stanley Ewen, said that a commonly used vector or production aid in
gene-splicing, the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus, may have caused serious damage to
the stomach and internal organs of the rats in Pusztai's study. If the
Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV) is confirmed as being hazardous to
mammals, this could literally become the "Chernobyl of Biotech"--since Roundup
Ready soybeans, Bt corn, and most other GE crops are produced using the
CaMV as
a genetic splicing vector.

* On Feb. 13, eight days after Carrefour's announcement in Paris, a major
British supermarket chain, Asda, announced that they were going to remove all
genetically engineered ingredients from their own-brand goods. Asda's move
comes in the wake of similar moves by other UK retail chains, including
and Marks and Spencer. As Sheila McKechnie of the UK Consumers Association
pointed out in the Daily Mail newspaper on Feb. 11, grocery chains banning GE
foods like Carrefour will now "have an enormous competitive advantage" in the

* Bloomberg News reported on February 13 that EU authorities had rejected
Monsanto's request to grow GE Roundup Ready and Bollgard Bt cotton plants in
Europe. Two days earlier the European Parliament voted to tighten GE
regulations, demanding that GE corporations be compelled to purchase liability
insurance to cover any and all damages resulting from gene-altered crops or
foods. The Parliament also demanded stricter measures for the prevention of
gene transfers from GMOs to other crops or wild species, as well as a ban on
antibiotic-resistance marker genes in genetic crops.

* On February 18, an international coalition of public interest organizations,
led by attorneys from the Center for Food Safety (Food Bytes and the Campaign
for Food Safety are affiliated with the CFS) filed a lawsuit in Federal
District Court in Washington, D.C. to have all Bt crops taken off of the
because of the hazards they pose to the environment and public health. The
February 18 Bt lawsuit was announced at a well-attended press conference in
Washington, and generated significant coverage in the US press. Last May  (see
Food Bytes #13) the Center  for Food Safety sued the FDA to have all
genetically engineered foods taken off the market on the grounds that they are
neither properly labeled nor safety-tested, and that lack of mandatory
illegally restricts the freedom of choice of those who would choose--on
religious or ethical grounds--to avoid GE foods.

"Genetically engineered crops are a threat to farmers, consumers, and the
environment," said Charles Margulis, a spokesperson for Greenpeace, one of the
plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of t he Center for
Food Safety stated, "EPA has shown a blatant disregard for federal law and its
own regulations by approving Bt crops without fully assessing their
environmental safety. Their continuing failure to regulate this untested
technology forces us to turn to the courts for protection."

For further information on these lawsuits see

* On Feb. 23, the Daily Mail newspaper in the UK reported that three of
Britain's fast-food giants--McDonald's, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried
Chicken--are responding to customer pressure by eliminating genetically
engineered soya and corn ingredients from their menus. According to McDonald's
spokesperson Jackie Graveny: "Our aim is to have McDonald's GM (genetically
modified) free as soon as possible." Similarly Burger King stated: "The
is set to ban GM food as soon as possible." In a related development the
Agriculture Minister in the UK, Nick Brown, announced on Jan. 31 that UK
restaurants will soon be required to start labeling "meals which contain
certain types of genetically modified food."

* With more and more major food retailers, restaurants, and  rocessors in
Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Scandinavia, the UK, and other nations
going "GE-free" a tremendous market now exists for certified "non-GE" and
organic products. This makes it increasingly difficult  for governments
such as
the US, Canada, and Brazil to keep telling  farmers that their "no labeling
no segregation" policies on co-mingling GE and non-GE grains and crops make
good economic sense.

* On Feb. 23 India's Supreme Court ruled that all field trials of
Monsanto's genetically engineered Bt Cotton must be halted. The court
ruling and temporary legal injunction came in response to a legal petition
filed by veteran Indian activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, director of the Research
Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.  According to Dr. Shiva, "This
case does not  merely have national significance, it has international
significance. Around the world scientists, environmentalists, consumer groups
and farmers are calling for a moratorium on commercial releases of genetically
engineered crops because of growing evidence of ecological hazards and threats
to food safety." The court ruling comes in the wake of months of protests by
Indian farmers and consumers, many of whom have organized  themselves into a
Monsanto "Quit India" movement. Dr. Shiva and other activists brought together
over 100 grassroots
organizations in Hyderabad on Jan. 7 to launch a nationwide campaign
against Monsanto. On March 9-10 Food Bytes will be attending an
international meeting of biotech activists in India organized by Dr. Shiva.

* A major backlash has developed against the United States and major
transnational biotech corporations after an international Biosafety
Protocol treaty was sabotaged in Cartagena, Colombia. The Biosafety
Protocol, supported by over 135 nations and public interest groups
worldwide, would have tightened regulations on the international ransfer and
trade of genetically engineered seeds, grains, and foods. In a vote on Feb. 24
the US and five of its allies, the so-called "Miami Group" (Canada, Australia,
Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile) managed to prevent the passage of the
internationally binding treaty. As US biosafety expert Beth Burrows of the
Edmonds Institute  told the New York Times,  "There was no moral high ground
here (on the part of the US). There was no scientific higher ground. It was
just cheap power politics."  According to the Financial Times of London and
other EU sources, the US' bully boy tactics at the Biosafety Protocol meetings
will only serve to exacerbate anti-biotech feelings in Europe. A recent
statement by George Monbiot in the London
guardian (Feb. 19) aptly sums up the mood of EU consumers:
"Food scares happen... because people feel they have no control over what they
eat. Our decisions are made for us by invisible and unaccountable

* On Feb. 25 a group of US activists in San Francisco calling themselves
fabRAGE (Fabulous Resistance Against Genetic Engineering) stripped off
their clothes and disrupted a conference panel on genetically engineered
cotton featuring a speaker from the Monsanto Corporation.  "We'd rather go
naked than wear genetically modified cotton!" shouted Biogrrl, a fashion
diva at the event, as half a dozen activists charged through the room and
stripped off their biohazglam gowns, chanting: "We don't want it, won't buy
it, and won't wear it. Super Gene Girl, in a biohazard suit shouted,
"Gene-spliced cotton is not sustainable!" Monsanto representatives appeared
apoplectic in the face of the action.

* On Feb. 27 Greenpeace activists in Mexico City hung banners protesting
"Genetic Imperialism" and the US sabotage of the Biosafety Protocol on a
historic monument, the Angel of Independence, in the center of the city.
Police arrested the demonstrators, but the banner-hanging generated
significant coverage in the Mexican media, where until recently there has
been very little discussion of the GE foods controversy.

* On March 2 the Reuters news agency reported that the UK's Advertising
Standards Authority wil soon "censure" Monsanto for a misleading series of
ads on the safety of genetically engineered foods which appeared last year
in the British press.

Global Days of Action Against Monsanto and Genetic Engineering April 15-30,

On February 7, 1999,  over 40 representatives of activist groups from
around the world met in Cuernavaca, Mexico to share experiences and to plan
a global grassroots campaign against the Monsanto Corporation and
genetically engineered foods. While mass-based grassroots campaigns have
partially blocked genetically engineered foods and crops thus far in
Western Europe and India, activists in North America, South America,
Africa, and much of Asia and the Pacific still have a long way to go in
terms of grassroots education, Movement-building, and mobilization.
Especially in the United States activists have been stymied by a powerful
Monsanto lobbying and PR campaign that has coopted or bought off the
Congress and the White House, intimidated the media, and forced several
dozen unlabeled, untested genetically engineered foods onto the
marketplace. At the present time 51.3 million acres (out of a global total
of 69.5 million) of US farmland are planted in genetically engineered
crops, including 45% of all cotton crops; 32% of soybeans; 25% of corn; and
3.5% of potatoes. In addition 700,000 dairy cows are being injected with
Monsanto's rBGH every two weeks. Most non-organic processed food in the US
now contains at least trace levels of genetically engineered ingredients.

To help build the kind of U.S. and global Movement required to bring
Monsanto and the other GE Giants under control, and to move global
agriculture and global economic development in a sustainable and organic
direction, food and agriculture activists at the February 7 Cuernavaca
meeting endorsed the call for Global Days of Action against Monsanto and
genetic engineering on April 15-30. The interim Monsanto Campaign steering
committee of Vandana Shiva (India), Mika Iba (Japan), Tony Clarke (Canada),
and Ronnie Cummins (USA) are calling on activists all over the world to
step up their activism against Monsanto and genetic engineering, using the
fourth annual April 15-30 Global Days of Action as a vehicle for amplifying
our message, building our local and national activist networks, and further
strengthening our international solidarity. Food Bytes was endorsed at the
Cuernavaca meeting as an international clearinghouse for anti-Monsanto and
Global Days of Action activities. If you are planning anti-Monsanto/GDA
activities during April 15-30, please send us the details at Food Bytes so
we can inform the media as well as activists all over the world. And of
course in Western Europe and India, where nearly every day has now become a
Global Day of Action against Monsanto and genetic engineering, keep up the
good work! Further details on the April GDA will be posted on the web at

### End of Food Bytes #17###

by: Ronnie Cummins & Ben Lilliston
Campaign for Food Safety & Organic Consumers Association               

Affiliated with the Center for Food Safety (Washington, D.C.)

Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 10:20:49 -0600
From: Ronnie Cummins <
Subject: Food Bytes #17: Global Resistance Against Monsanto & GE
Sender: owner-pure-food-action@MR.Net

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