SnowBall archive


GE - last news until Monday

1) Guess what's coming to dinner!
2)  following title: "Sarney Filho [Brazilian Ministry of Environment]
the plantation of transgenics - Ministry says Brazilian exports may be
3) Pesticide Action Network Updates Service 

PUBLICATION The Spectator 
DATE Fri 12 Mar 1999 
BYLINE Laurent Belsie 
1) Guess what's coming to dinner!: We are what we eat. But what are we 
eating? Gene-spliced plants and hormone-treated beef raise serious 
ethical questions about the way the world is fooling with Mother Nature 
Geneticists are on the verge of revolutionizing agriculture and medicine 
in much the same way that computers have transformed business. Labs 
around the world are working on crops that could feed a growing planet, 
plants that could clean up contaminated soils, and pigs whose organs may 
one day get trans-planted into people. 
But to do these things, scientists are fooling with nature's basic 
building blocks. As they do, they are kicking up dissent around the 
world as one nation tries to sell its genetically altered foods to 
another's grocers. 
The current food fight between the United States and Europe -- over 
hormone-treated beef and genetically altered soy beans -- could be just 
a prelude of arguments to come. 
That's because the greatest risks probably don't lie with today's simple 
genetic alterations. Future rounds of exotic agriculture pose bigger 
threats because they will put organisms to completely new uses. 
The fundamental question: How much should science manipulate nature to 
care for mankind? 
And there's no going back, scientists say. 
Consider the U.S. experience. While Europeans debate how far to proceed 
with the new technology, North Americans are quietly ingesting the new 
foods, often without knowing it. 
``The genie can't be put back,'' says Marshall Martin, an agricultural 
economist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. ``Anyone who eats 
pizza or cheese on their hamburger has consumed genetically modified 
food ... We pulled the cork out of the bottle in a sense with the 
discovery of DNA.'' 
For example, three-quarters of America's cheese gets its start with a 
bio-engineered enzyme. Nearly one out of six dairy farmers injects his 
cows with a genetically engineered growth hormone to boost milk 
And genetically modified crops are increasingly taking over farmlands -- 
with some 70 million acres planted worldwide, 60 million of it in North 
This planting season promises more inroads. For example, half of 
America's soybeans, perhaps more of its cotton, and a third of its corn 
could be genetically modified -- a remarkable adoption rate in the four 
years since the new seeds were introduced. 
Other countries are also moving rapidly to incorporate the technology. 
Last year, some 650,000 farmers in China planted genetically modified 
And this year Monsanto, which produces the cotton seed, expects to 
double that number. 
Even the European Union has approved bio-engineered soybeans and corn. 
Small quantities of corn, genetically modified to resist pests, are 
being grown in Spain and, if approved by France's high court, could 
start showing up in the fields of Europe's largest corn producer. 

Biotech companies such as Monsanto hope that resistance to the 
technology will crumble once European farmers begin to adopt the new 
strains. That move is likely, companies say, because the new-fangled 
crops typically improve yields and cut costs. 
``It's likely to be adopted because the value of the benefits will be 
recognized,'' says Philip Angell, a Monsanto spokesman. 
Take cotton, one of the world's most pest-prone crops. By incorporating 
the genes of a natural insecticide, scientists have created a 
pest-resistant strain that requires fewer chemicals. 
It ``has been massively beneficial,'' says Val Giddings, a vice 
president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington. 
In the three years since they began using it, U.S. farmers have saved 
the equivalent of 850,000 gallons of pesticides -- the equivalent of 48 
railroad tank cars of chemicals. 
Cutting pesticide use saves money. 
According to newly released figures by one of Britain's leading 
plant-research centres, bio-engineered soybeans saved farmers an average 
$30 US a hectare (because they used 40 per cent less herbicide. 
Pest-resistant corn saved $42 per hectare. (A hectare represents some 2 
1/2 acres.) 
Doug Powell, associate professor in the department of plant agriculture 
at the University of Guelph sees genetic engineering as ``one additional 
tool that allows farmers and food processors to provide nutritious, 
low-cost food. 
``We always need to be vigilant but I am confident there is a system in 
place for this.'' 
Despite these benefits, environmentalists worry the new crops pose a 
bigger hazard to human health and the environment. They've caught the 
ear of many Europeans. 
The environmental group Greenpeace, for example, has mounted an 
effective campaign across Europe to block the sale of genetically 
modified food. 
In February, it persuaded biotech giant AgrEvo (Hoechst) not to conduct 
field trials of such crops in Austria. 
In January, it organized anti-bio-engineering protests at the national 
offices of three European food companies in nine countries. 
Thanks to a Greenpeace suit, France's highest administrative court in 
December upheld its preliminary ban on genetically modified corn from a 
Swiss firm. 
The debate rings loudest in Britain, where memories of the government's 
mishandling of ``mad-cow'' disease remain fresh. 
The issue has gone all the way to the top: Prime Minister Tony Blair is 
risking his popularity to support genetically modified foods, while 
Prince Charles says he will never eat any of them. 
Further confounding the issue have been the findings of Arpad Pusztai, a 
Scottish researcher who ignited the whole controversy. 
Last summer he was quietly feeding potatoes to rats. Then he went public 
with concerns about the genetically modified rations he was using. 
On one hand, the researcher claims he's enthusiastic about 
bioengineering's potential. 
But he warns that it has to be done right because genetically modified 
potatoes stunted the growth of rats and depressed their immune system. 
Pusztai has not released his full results for review by other scientists 
-- a traditional practice. 

And when an internal audit committee evaluated his study, it disputed 
the findings. 
But 20 scientists, including one from Canada, have come forward since, 
saying Pusztai may have a point. 
Whatever the outcome, even biotech executives acknowledge the 
controversy is likely to continue. ``I think we have to be very, very 
careful about how these technologies are applied,'' says Richard Gill, 
senior vice-president and general manger of BTG International Inc., a 
tech-transfer company with offices in the US, Britain, and Japan. 
``There needs to be ... more information shared with people in a form 
that can be understood.'' 
Even in the United States, activists remain hopeful they can slow down 
the technology. Dairy farmer associations and consumer groups, for 
example, continue to battle the milk-boosting growth hormone. 
``Americans are expressing their concern with genetic engineering and 
agribusiness in general, not in a political way but in the 
marketplace,'' says Ben Lilliston of the Center for Food Safety. 
That's why organic products are growing so rapidly, he says, and why 
some 200,000 citizens complained when U.S. agricultural officials 
proposed including bio-engineered food as organic. 
Concern is justified, scientists say, because no one can predict how 
nature will react when new organisms appear. 
``We're not talking about killer tomatoes. We're talking about plants 
that will pick up genes,'' says Norm Ellstrand, a geneticist at the 
University of California at Riverside. 
Genes can only transfer to relatives. So genetically modified corn in 
Iowa doesn't pose much danger because it has no wild relatives there. 
But planted in central America, it could create super-weeds that could 
out-compete the corn. And the risks increase as more of these 
genetically modified plants get released into the wild and interact. 
The biggest question hangs over plants containing many new genes so they 
can take lead out of contaminated soil or create ingredients for 
``The next generation of crops is going to be engineered for truly novel 
traits ... and we don't know how those combinations are going to play 
out,'' says Louis Myers, a biotech specialist at a U.S. law firm. 
The Spectator 
> today there is a report in one of our main newspaper with the 
following title: "Sarney Filho [Brazilian Ministry of Environment] 
> condemns the plantation of transgenics - Ministry says 
> Brazilian exports may be damaged". The ministry has also given 
> his support to the Landless Movement's request for a public statement 
> from the government against the GMOs. 
> I hope this information is useful for you. 
> Cheers, 
> Renato 
> ================================== 
> Renato Guimaraes 
> Gerente de Comunicac|o/Communications Manager 
> Greenpeace Brasil

P A N U P S 
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service 
Resource Pointer #199 
March 9,1999
For copies of the following resources, please contact the appropriate 
publishers or organizations directly. 
*Getting Food on the Table: An Action Guide to Local Food Policy, 1999* 
Dawn Biehler, Andy Fisher et al. Provides an overview of city and county 
government policies in the U.S. and programs that affect community food 
security. Profiles nine organizations working in the area, highlighting 
their efforts and successes. Offers basic organizing information, 
identifies potential project funders and recommends additional 
resources.75 pp. US$12. Contact Community Food Security Coalition, P.O. 
Box 209, Venice, CA 90294; phone (310) 822-5410; website 
*Holding Our Ground: Protecting America's Farms and Farmland, 1997* Tom 
Daniels and Deborah Bowers. Discusses reasons for protecting farmland as 
well as methods to advocate for farmland preservation. Analyzes federal, 
state, and local farmland protection efforts and techniques. Explores 
land protection options such as purchasing develoment rights and private 
land trusts. 420 pp. US$34.95. Contact Island Press, Box 7, Dept. 2AU, 
Covelo, CA 95428; phone (800) 82801302; fax (707) 983-6414. 
*Final Results of the Third Biennial National Organic Farmer's Survey, 
1999* Compiles survey findings from 4,638 organic farmers. Prioritizes 
their perceived needs for organic farming research, ranks usefulness of 
production resources, ranks products grown as well as marketing outlets. 
Gives an overview of organic management strategies utilized and examines 
constraints and challenges to organic production. 126 pp. Contact 
Organic Farming Research Foundation, P.O. Box 440, Santa Cruz, CA 95061; 
phone (831) 426-6606; fax (831) 426-6670; email 
*Making the Transition to Organic Farming, Conference Proceedings, 
University of Guelph, January 29-31, 1999* Workshops include weed 
management, soil fertility, getting your farm certified, permaculture, 
community supported agriculture and more. 70 pp. US$10. Contact Tomas 
Nimmo, Conference Coordinator, Box 116, Collingwood, Ontario, Canada, 
L9Y 3Z4; phone (705) 444-0923; fax (705) 444-0380; email; website
*Organic Consumer Association (OCA) Website*
Provides an overview of OCA's programs including its campaign to support 
strong organic standards. Provides resources on why to buy organic. 
Addresses food safety issues such as genetically engineered food and 
rBGH. Provides a calendar of relevant events, book reviews and 
resources on where to buy organic products. 
We encourage those interested in having resources listed in the PANUPS 
Resource Pointer to send review copies of publications, videos or other 
resources to our office.
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) 
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA 
Phone: (415) 981-1771 
Fax: (415) 981-1991 
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