SnowBall archive


GE - news mix march 23rd

1) USDA Millennium Speaker Series Remarks by Secretary of Agriculture Dan
Glickman 2) Altered crops will get safety review
3) Council To Act Within 30 Days On Food Labeling Measure
4) EU ban on Monsanto hormone likely to continue-
5) US fights hormone beef ban The Guardian
6) SWEDENVIRONMENT No 2-99 highlights:

1) USDA Millennium Speaker Series Remarks by Secretary of Agriculture Dan

Release No. 0117.99 
As Prepared for Delivery 
Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman 
USDA Millennium Speaker Series 
Washington, DC -- March 19, 1999
"Thank you very much, and welcome to our first installment in the 
Department's Millennium Speaker series. Thank you, Eileen, for those 
words. And thanks to our panelists for taking the time today to share 
"As all of you know, we are in the middle of a farm crisis. 
commodity prices and shrinking incomes are putting the squeeze on 
farmers and 
ranchers around the country. Naturally, I spend a lot of my time and 
Department devotes a lot of its resources to addressing and mitigating 
"But even as we are caught up in the dealing with the immediate 
situation, it's critical that we not lose sight of the big picture. We 
let the dialogue on ag issues become all trees and no forest. Prices, I 
confident, will rebound. The global economic recession will give way to 
recovery. The farm economy will bounce back. But then we will still 
have to 
answer vitally important questions about what agriculture will look like 
the next century. That's why I launched this speaker that 
could examine broad issues and developments affecting the long-term 
future of 
American agriculture.
"Our subject today is biotechnology, and you'd be hard-pressed to 
an issue that has more far-reaching implications for agriculture in the 
millennium. It presents both great challenges and enormous 
opportunities in 
just about every issue confronting this Department -- research, 
global competitiveness, conservation, concentration, and inspection.
"Biotechnology is a powerful tool in ensuring global food security. 
last fifty years are replete with stories of revolutionary innovations 
increased productivity and helped fight hunger. The wheat gene Norin 
10, for 
example, helped developing countries like India and Pakistan increase 
wheat harvests by 60 percent. At the wheat research center in Mexico 
conducted some of the Norin 10 research, there is an inscription on the 
that reads: "A single gene has saved 100 million lives." 
"Today, in a world of growing populations and shrinking farmland 
forests, biotechnology becomes that much more important. We have more 
more people to feed...more and more fiber to produce...and a limited 
amount of 
arable land to put into production. 
But biotechnology can allow us to generate higher yields, while putting 
of a strain on our natural resources.
"But some people, when hear the terms "biotechnology" and "genetic 
engineering" associated with things they put in their mouths, they get a 
little nervous. And all of us -- public policy leaders, the scientific 
community, and the private sector -- have an obligation to take their 
"Sound science has demonstrated time and again that many 
biotechnological advances are safe and reliable. But if consumers at 
home and 
abroad don't share our confidence, they will reject genetically-treated 
products, and we won't be able to get a return on the enormous public 
private investments we've made in biotechnology.
"In Europe, there has been real reluctance to open their markets to 
biotech corn varieties and other similarly-treated products, in part 
their people are still reeling from the mad cow scare and other public 
crises. We must continue to argue in multilateral forums like the WTO 
our biotech products have withstood the strictest scientific scrutiny. 
But we 
also have to keep this in mind: market access isn't enough if, when it 
right down to it, many European consumers fundamentally don't trust and 
buy the products. 
"What we need is some kind of public information and consumer 
effort domestically and internationally -- that will separate the 
myths from 
the realities and reassure people that our regulatory process is 
bioengineered food products are rigorously tested and deemed safe 
being brought to market. 
"On the other hand, we also need to understand that biotechnology 
a number of policy issues that the agriculture community needs to 
We must acknowledge that we are dealing with a new technology, and we 
continue to demonstrate our vigilance about safety and public health.
"To ensure that there is an open dialogue on all aspects of 
biotechnology, I'm announcing today the formation of an Advisory 
Committee on 
Biotechnology, which will examine the impact of biotechnology from every 
conceivable angle -- its creation, application, marketability, and so 
on. My 
goal is for everyone who has a stake in the future of biotech research 
scientists, social scientists, farmers, and consumers to be 
represented on 
the 25-member panel.
"One of the things the advisory committee will explore is the 
impact of 
biotech on the small family farmer. In an increasingly top-heavy and 
concentrated farm economy, some worry that biotech might further tilt 
playing field against the small operator. 
"The ownership issues are very tricky. There is a legitimate case 
to be 
made that farmers own the seeds they buy and are free to replant them as 
choose. But those rights are at loggerheads with the legitimate 
interest of the company that pumped millions of dollars into the 
research that 
developed that seed. And while we respect their rights, I think we're 
all a 
little concerned when we read about agribusinesses filing law suits 
small farmers, generating such an atmosphere of mistrust that small 
are actually turning each other in. Somewhere, there's got to be some 
for common ground.
"We have to ask: Will the next generation of biotechnology products 
to greater contracting practices between companies and farmers? And 
the government have a role in ensuring that farmers are treated fairly 
those contracts? 
"What is the role of public research? Are we doing enough to 
public access to germplasm and maintain seed diversity? 
"Let's remember too that there are people who have other food 
preferences, and USDA must be responsive to them. Last year, we heard 
280,000 organic consumers who do not want any genetically modified 
in their food. Are we at USDA doing enough to serve that market? As we 
discuss biotechnology issues, are we giving adequate consideration to 
biodiversity as well?
"We're not going to answer all these questions today. But what we 
do is have a frank dialogue, which will continue on our Advisory 
Committee and 
well into the new millennium. Working together, we can harness the 
of biotechnology to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of 
people. Thank you."
"Now it's time to hear from the real experts. Let me kick off the 
discussion by posing a very general and open-ended question: What are 
biggest challenges you see for the future in biotechnology? 
Date: 22 Mar 1999 12:10:37 -0600 
2) Altered crops will get safety review
Posted: Friday, March 19, 1999 | 10:20 a.m. 
Altered crops will get safety review 
By Bill Lambrecht 
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau 
The National Academy of Sciences is beginning an urgent study of the 
benefits and potential risks of genetically engineered crops with an eye 
toward recommending changes in government regulations. 
Over the next six months, a special committee of 13 scientists and 
experts chosen by the National Research Council, which is an arm of the 
National Academy of Sciences, will examine not only safety issues but 
social and economic implications of plants modified with pesticide 
genes. That includes most genetically engineered crops. 
Studies by the research council usually take about 18 months. But the 
new effort will be conducted in a third of that time because of pressing 
questions in need of answers, said the study's director, Michael 
"Because of the urgency of this matter, we can't wait two years to 
slowly put out a statement," Phillips said. "There are a lot of 
questions, and the longer something like this lingers, it creates 
concern in the industry and society in general." 
The science academy did not formally announce its study; a list of the 
members selected for the special committee appeared without fanfare on 
the academy's Web site this week. Members will gather in Washington to 
begin their work on April 8. 
The study is especially important for St. Louis-based Monsanto Co., the 
global leader in genetic technologies for farming and food. Philip 
Angell, Monsanto's director of communications, said his company welcomes 
the government's review. 
"We're confident in the science, we're confident in the technology," 
Angell said. "This is certainly a distinguished body that we believe 
will validate what we've always known about this." 
The National Academy of Sciences serves as a scientific adviser to the 
U.S. government, but it is not a government agency. It has about 1,600 
members chosen for their achievements. New members are elected by the 
full membership. 
Usually, Congress or government agencies request and pay for studies by 
the academy's research council, but occasionally - about 1 in 10 times - 
the academy initiates its own study and pays for it from its endowment. 
This study is one of the occasional exceptions. At a meeting on Dec. 9 
in Washington, the academy members agreed to conduct the genetic 
engineering study and to assume the cost of about $300,000. 
The academy has not issued a report on genetically engineered crops in a 
decade. During that time, plantings of such crops in the United States 
have soared to more than 50 million acres. The new study will examine 
field trials and laboratory studies that have taken place in the 1990s. 
Part of the urgency has to do with forthcoming Environmental Protection 
Agency regulations. Those rules, which have been in the works since 
1994, will govern farming with crops engineered to produce a protein 
that kills pests. For instance, farmers would need to maintain refuges - 
areas planted with conventional varieties - adjacent to the modified 
Recently, the EPA has said that it will apply the rules sparingly. 
Nonetheless, many scientists, among them Washington State University's 
R. James Cook, believe that the EPA rules and definitions are too 
broadly drawn and need to be scaled back. 
"Call us naive academics if you want, but many of us believe that they 
scooped up too much to regulate," Cook said. These scientists appealed 
to the national academy, which agreed to begin the study. 
In other words, the study was initiated not because of concerns that 
there may be too little regulation but because of worries about too much 
No matter how it came about, the study is certain to have broad 
implications. In Europe, Asia and parts of South America, a debate is 
raging about the safety, morality and politics of altering the genetic 
code of food. That debate is beginning to sound in the United States. 
To answer skeptics, Monsanto and rivals argue that good science and a 
sound regulatory system in the United States underpin their new 
technologies. Here and abroad, the new study could validate those 
arguments. Or, it might identify where more study is needed and better 
rules are needed. 
Margaret Mellon, of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, 
said her organization is pleased that the academy's study will take 
place even though it was generated by fears of over-regulation. 
"We have long been concerned that there is so little risk assessment 
being done and so few data being collected to see if the risks are 
present or not," Mellon said. "If this is a forum to see if there are 
risks, that is fine." 
For different reasons, Monsanto and environmental advocates want to keep 
the EPA rules that helped to generate the new study. The 
environmentalists want strict regulations because of what they see as 
unknown risks, such as the outcrossing - or escape - of genes into the 
Companies assert that their technologies pose little or no risk that 
would require any new regulations that might result from the study. But, 
Monsanto's Angell said, companies need reasonable regulations for their 
genetic technologies to take root. 
Date: 22 Mar 1999 12:16:40 -0600 

3) Council To Act Within 30 Days On Food Labeling Measure
March 19, 1999 
Webster-Kirkwood Times 
Webster Groves Council To Act Within 30 Days On Food Labeling Measure 
by Linda Jarrett
Webster Groves officials said Tuesday that a decision would be reached 
within 30 days on a proposed resolution in support of labeling 
genetically-engineered food. 
Supporters and opponents of the issue once again filled the Webster 
Groves City Council chambers. 
At the last meeting, members and supporters of the Gateway Green 
Alliance presented a petition asking the council to act on the 
Council Member Brad Goss expressed concern over whether or not the city 
had an obligation to put the issue on a ballot, or if it could be 
illegal. Mayor Gerry Welch asked City Attorney Helmut Starr to look into 
the matter. 
On Tuesday, Starr said the issue was still under review. 
"We will make a decision in 30 days," he said. 
Former state representative Marion Cairns said 14 years in the state 
legislature made her realize that some issues belong in certain forums. 
"I have a problem with this process. Some things should be local, some 
should be state and some should be federal," she said. 
Cairns suggested the labeling proponents take their issues to the 
International Center for Technology Assessment in Washington, D.C. 
"It's an advocacy group that is following this issue. Even if the 
council passes a resolution, it would go nowhere," she added. 
She said opponents of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) "got 
nowhere in the state legislature." 
In an interview, Don Fitz, representing the alliance, said the group was 
already affiliated with the Washington advocacy group. 
"We are co-signatories with them in a lawsuit requesting the Food and 
Drug Administration to rescind its approval for bovine growth hormone. 
We've been working with them for three years," he explained. 
Fitz said his group was "simply" asking for a resolution from the city. 
"The petition asks the council to act on an issue. They can either vote 
it up or vote it down. If they vote it up, it's over; if they vote it 
down, it goes to a vote of Webster Groves citizens," he continued. 
He said cities have been passing resolutions approving or disapproving 
issues for years. 
"Webster Groves was one of the first municipalities doing this by 
passing a resolution in 1996 opposing shipments of radioactive waste 
through the municipality," he said. 
"Webster has long stood for the democratic process and that these 
channels are kept open to the populous," said Steve Cassilly. "What we 
are getting from some members of the council is their wish to take this 
instrument of democracy out of our hands. This instrument has been 
demonstrated as a powerful tool to make our wishes known." 
Copyright (c) 1998-9, Webster-Kirkwood Times Inc., St. Louis, Mo.
Tuesday March 23, 2:25 am Eastern Time

4) EU ban on Monsanto hormone likely to continue-WSJ
NEW YORK, March 23 (Reuters) - The European Union's five-year ban 
on the sale of Monsanto Co.'s (NYSE:MTC - news) synthetic cow 
hormone is likely to continue because a government-appointed scientific 
panel is raising human health concerns dismissed by other governments, 
the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
The moratorium on the company's genetically engineered bovine somatotropin 
that aims to increase a cow's milk 
output by as much as 15 percent was scheduled to expire on Dec. 31.
An EU panel issued a report Monday that requested more study into whether 
cows treated with bovine somatotropin 
also produced an insulin-like growth factor in their milk in such 
quantities that drinking it raised the risk of cancer in 
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the growth hormone for 
injection into U.S. dairy cows six years ago.
Recently, an independent panel of Canadian scientists also concluded that 
there was no evidence that consuming 
insulin-like growth factor caused cancer.
An EU spokesperson told the newspaper that government officials were 
unlikely to end the ban on the product as long 
as questions were raised about its safety.
Monsanto told the newspaper it would contest the conclusions of the EU 
committee report. Its stock slipped 1-3/16 to 
47-7/16 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.

5) US fights hormone beef ban The Guardian
By Charlotte Denny and Mark Tran 
Tuesday March 23, 1999
The United States yesterday opened a second front in its trade war with the 
European Union, announcing a preliminary list of EU products that could be 
slapped with punitive duties unless Europe lifts its ban on imports of 
hormone-treated US beef.
Yesterday's list, announced by the US Trade Representative, Charlene 
Barshefsky, would apply to $900 million (550 million) of European 
products, mostly agricultural goods, including beef, pork and poultry.
The Clinton administration last month impose 100 per cent tariffs on $520 
million-worth of luxury European goods in the ongoing dispute over the 
European banana import rules. Scottish cashmere producers are already 
suffering from 
the duties which more or less hut the targeted products out of the 
American market. "This is the most effective way to leverage the EU to 
comply with its obligations," said Peter Scher, US special trade 
representative for agriculture. 
The Americans have twice won rulings from the World Trade Organisation, 
which polices global trade, that the EU ban on imports of meat treated with 
growth-enhancing hormones is illegal.
EU officials were anxious to strike a conciliatory note yesterday, 
insisting that they were already innegotiation with American officials over 
how to solve the beef dispute before the May 13 deadline imposed by the WTO 
for Europe to lift its ban.
Officials in Brussels accept the WTO ruling, but want extra time to conduct 
more scientific studie before complying. The EU has begun exploratory talks 
with American trade representatives over compensating US firms for loss of 
export earnings while the scientific studies are concluded. "We don't 
think a further dispute is in anyone's interest," said a European 
Commission official yesterday. "We will talk our way through this one." As 
an alternative to compensation, the commission has proposed allowing US 
beef imports into Europe as long as they are clearly labelled as 
hormone-treated, an option the Americans have previously rejected. Mr 
Scher insisted during a press conference yesterday that hormone-treated 
beef posed no risks, a conclusion, he said, that had be established by 
American and European scientists.
The WTO ruling, he argued, did not require such beef to carry any special 
labelling as there were no health risks. "The issue is not to force 
European consumers to buy US beef," he said. "We are simply asking for a 
chance for our producers to sell a produce that is healthy."
American and European companies now have two months to lobby the US trade 
representative's office before the final list of goods targeted for 
punitive tariffs is annnounced in June.
Brussels believes a compromise will be found before the deadline, unlike 
the stalemate in the banana dispute, in which the US imposed sanctions 
unilaterally without waiting for a WTO ruling on whether the EU was still 
in breach of trade rules.
"We are taking steps early to come into compliance," the official said. "As 
long as the US respects the rules and plays by them, it will be fine."
6) SWEDENVIRONMENT No 2-99 highlights:
Below you will find a brief summary of Swedenvironment No 2-99. 
The full text and contacts for further information are available on 
Swedenvironment is a newsletter from Ministry of the Environment, 
the Environmental Protection Agency and National Chemicals 
Inspectorate in Sweden. 
CONTENT No 2 1999:
Ethical funds in the Nordic market are growing. There is still 
a lack of knowledge about environmental impact among financial 
analysts, but environmental information from companies is 
Investments in water and sewage systems in St Petersburg 
and Kaliningrad imply raised charges if the systems are to 
become self-financed. But increased charges for households 
and industries are out of the question, according to the Russians.
More than a hundred thousand old refrigerators and freezers 
are probably exported every year. The Swedish EPA proposes 
a ban on this export, in line with the EU Commission's position.
The Swedish Government and the automotive industry are 
planning a joint programme on the development of sustainable 
Antibiotic-resistant GMOs should be gradually phased-out 
from the market, according to a common policy adopted 
by seven national agencies involved in GMO issues. 
Iza Kruszewska 
PO Box 12201 London SW17 9ZL U.K. 
Tel/Fax: 44 181 672 3454