SnowBall archive


GE - GM bits 2nd April

1) Pharming Today - Private Eye 
2) PANUPS Action Alert: Comments Needed on NAS Biotech Panel
3) B-GE: More bad news for the GovernMent 
5) Amazon tribal leaders challenge U.S. patent 
6) Study Finds GM Crops Give Higher Yields

1) Pharming Today - Private Eye 
AS THE banana war between the United States and the European 
Union escalates into the "beef hormone war" with Washington 
threatening to block a further billion-dollars worth of EU exports to 
America, there is something very odd about the way Britain has 
suddenly become the odd man out - the only EU country which seems happy 
to allow the US to sell its hormone-implanted beef for European 
Until recently, along with the rest of the EU, the Labour 
government was implacably opposed to hormone-implanted meat. 
There are very good scientific grounds for this.
The hormones designed to fatten up the cattle in record time 
are implanted into the animals' ears. Trials with electronic ear 
tags. which are of a similar size and shape to hormone implants, 
have shown they have a nasty propensity to migrate round the 
animal's body. In the case of the EU's compulsory cattle identification
scheme, this was sufficient to convince Brussels that they 
should drop any plan for electronic ear-tagging, in favour of the 
cumbersome plastic double tags which are now giving such grief 
to farmers as the poor animals keep tearing their ears in an 
effort to remove them.
But since it seems just as likely that hormone implants will 
travel round the animal's body in the same way, this means the 
consumer could run the risk of consuming not just a slight 
residual trace of the hormones but the full whack when the 
implant re-emerges more or less intact in the middle of a beefburger 
or on the plate. The consequences could well be that the unfortunate 
burger addict starts to fatten up like a Texas steer. Or 
changes sex. Or worse.
The real mystery, however, is why Labour should suddenly have 
switched its position to support these imports. There was no 
sign of a change in policy when Dr Jack Cunningham was agriculture 
minister. He of course won his Phd for his work on OP 
pesticides - and as an MP declared a £20,000 a year retainer for 
representing the interests of the pharmaceutical company Albright and 
But now he has become the Great Enforcer, Dr Cunningham has 
been very much aware of the displeasure of the US chemical giant 
Monsanto over the sensitivity of some of his colleagues over 
genetically modified organisms (GMOs). So much so that the 
company has even hinted it might move its lucrative British operations 
to some other more hospitable country.
As a scientist Dr Cunningham knows almost as much about GMOs 
as he does about OPs. When he was last year opening a new laboratory 
for another GMO manufacturer, Zeneca, he proudly announced that 
his daughter had just won her own Phd for research on GMOs.
It just happens that one of the biggest manufacturers of 
hormone implants for cattle in the US is none other than Monsanto, 
which no doubt will be greatly consoled by Britain's decision to 
support the import of hormone-drenched US beef. In view of the obvious 
dangers to consumers of eating this stuff. it may, however, 
seem a little odd that no objections are now being raised to it by 
the same government which was so wondrously sensitive to the risks 
of eating beef on the bone that it made it a criminal offence to 
sell a T-bone steak. Come to think of it, the minister who put that 
law on to the statute book was none other than "Jack Boots" 
himself. As the lady said, it is a funny old world.
>From Private Eye 2/4/99 issue
- The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard -
P A N U P S 
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service 
2) PANUPS Action Alert: Comments Needed on NAS Biotech Panel
March 31, 1999
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently announced the 
formation of a panel to conduct an urgent new study regarding 
genetically modified crops containing pesticide genes, such as Bt 
crops. The Academy has asked for public comment on the proposed 
membership of the panel. There are serious problems with the 
panel's composition, and we urge you to send comments to the 
Academy by the April 6, 1999, deadline.
The stated purposes of this study are to review data which address 
the hypothesized risks and benefits of pesticidal crops; to examine 
the U.S. regulatory framework in light of identified scientific risks 
and benefits; to examine U.S. domestic regulatory framework to 
qualitatively assess social and economic impacts of existing statutes; 
and to provide recommendations on what research is needed to 
address scientific risks/benefits and, if warranted, the regulatory 
framework for genetically modified pest resistant plants.
Studies by the NAS usually take about 18 months, but this study 
will be conducted in a third of the time because of pressing 
questions in need of answers, according to the study's director, 
Michael Phillips. The urgency is apparently related to new 
regulations being developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA) on pesticidal plants, including Bt crops. Reportedly, 
a group of scientists who have been working in this field 
approached NAS and requested such a study because they fear that 
new EPA regulations may be too broad and restrictive. 
Environmentalists, consumer groups and sustainable agriculture 
organizations, however, feel that these regulations are not adequate 
to protect public health and the environment from potential negative 
Here are some general comments you can make in your letter to the 
National Academy: 
* The panel as it is currently constituted is weighted heavily in favor 
of the biotechnology industry. The panel should be re-constituted to 
reflect a full range of views of this technology. For example, the 
committee should include agroecologists, population geneticists, 
field ecologists and representatives of organic farming, 
environmental and consumer interests. As presently composed, the 
panel cannot address in a balanced manner the important and 
complex tasks it has been assigned. 
* The NAS must require panel members to divulge publicly conflict 
of interest relationships with biotechnology firms, including 
research contracts, consulting relationships, stock options and 
clients. These conflicts must be published as part of the report.
To view committee membership and to send comments online, go to 
the current projects page of the National Academy website:
Be sure to cite the project identification number: BANR-O-99-02-A.
You can also send comments by regular mail to:
Michael Phillips, National Academy of Sciences, Board on 
Agriculture and Natural Resources, Harris Bldg., Room 394, 2101 
Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20418
Sources: Council for Responsible Genetics Action Alert, March 30, 
1999. "Altered Crops Will Get Safety Review," St. Louis Post- 
Dispatch, March 19, 1999.
Contact: PANNA.
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) 
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA 
Phone: (415) 981-1771 
Fax: (415) 981-1991 
Web: <>
To subscribe to PANUPS, send email to 
with the following text on one line: subscribe panups 
To unsubscribe, use: unsubscribe panups 
From: (jim mcnulty) 
3) B-GE: More bad news for the GovernMent 

Tony Blair and his pals received more bad news. The National Trust 
owners of land and historic buildings have banned the planting of 
GM crops and are removing GM foods from their shops and 
The Daily Express had yet another GM Free 4 page pull-out today.
UK Daily Telegraph 1st April 1999 
National Trust bans GM crops from 700 farms 
By David Brown, Agriculture Editor
THE National Trust joined calls for a moratorium on the commercial 
production of genetically modified crops yesterday.
The trust said it was taking action to stop hundreds of its tenant farmers 
growing them. Farmers will need explicit permission to grow GM crops from 
now on, it said. The move affects more than 700 producers on 575,000 
acres of National Trust land in England and Wales.
It follows decisions by a string of supermarkets to exclude GM ingredients 
from their own-label foods and an announcement on Monday by the Co-op, 
Britain's largest farmer, that it would not be taking part in "flawed" 
Government trials in which whole fields are given over to GM crops. In a 
statement, the trust called for a moratorium on GM crops that could pose a 
risk to wildlife and the environment, although it accepted the need for
scale" trials to enable the risks to be assessed.
John Harvey, the trust's head of nature conservation, said: "The 
difficulty with 
GM crops is that we do not know the risks. A moratorium on the 
commercial growing of these crops is the only sensible way forward, to allow 
the risks to be scientifically assessed. It may take one year, it may take
There should be no commercial growing until the scientific judgment is 
The trust also said that it was removing all foods labelled as containing GM 
ingredients from sale in its 136 tearooms and restaurants and 127 shops, 
which sell a range of foods from jams to Christmas puddings. Inga Grimsey, 
managing director of National Trust Enterprises, said: "We are checking 
every food product on our shelves and every ingredient in our menus to 
ensure they are not labelled as containing genetically modified
ingredients, as

defined in recent legislation.
"Any GM-labelled products or those containing ingredients labelled as 
genetically modified are being removed from sale. We are requesting written 
assurance from our suppliers that all the ingredients and goods supplied to
are GM free."
She said the trust was not claiming that there was anything wrong with these 
products but felt that consumers would rather know what they were buying.
2) PANUPS Action Alert: Comments Needed on NAS Biotech Panel
3) B-GE: More bad news for the GovernMent 

Brussels / Athens 01/04/1999 -- Greenpeace International today welcomed 
the initiative of the Greek government for a European wide moratorium 
of all commercial releases of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) 
and of any trade in genetically engineered seeds.
The initiative was released yesterday by the deputy minister for the 
environment Theodoros Koliopanos in Athens. Koliopanos also announced 
that all experimental plantings of GMOs presently pending in Greece 
have been rejected. (1)
"This is another strong voice for precaution", said Greenpeace 
Internationals genetic engineering expert Benedikt Haerlin, "and it 
is a clear signal against the genetic contamination of Europe." 
Haerlin welcomed Kolliopanos' announcement that Greece will seek to 
form an alliance with like-minded European governments to at least 
block any further approvals of GMOs.
At the next meeting of Environmental Ministers on June 24/25th the 
revision of the European Directive on the deliberate release of GMOs 
(90/220) is expected to be discussed.
"We call upon member states, especially the German Presidency, to take 
swift action to stop further releases of GMOs in Europe as this 
appears to be the consensus of a great majority of member states, and 
as all European Institutions agree that the present regulations of 
Directive 90/220 are no longer adequate" said Haerlin.
Presently the only member state of the European Union where commercial 
releases of GMOs have taken place is Spain. According to the Swiss 
multinational Novartis, around 20.000 hectares of their antibiotic 
resistant and insect killing Bt-Maize had been planted there last 
year. Novartis announced it will try to sell GMO maize ain in Spain 
and Germany this year. Planting of the same maize had been banned in 
France last year. The maize is also banned in Austria and Luxembourg. 
In Great Britain a voluntary agreement seems to prevent any 
commercial releases and a similar agreement as been reached in 
For further information: 
Thomas Schweiger, Greenpeace EU Unit, +32 2 2801400 
Nikos Charalambidis, Greenpeace Greece, +30 1 380 63 74 
Benedikt Haerlin, Greenpeace International, +49 30 30889912 
(1) The field trails blocked by the ministry refer to two GE sugarbeet 
varieties (Novartis, AgrEvo), four cotton varieties (3 Monsanto, 1 
Rhone-Poulenc) and one maize variety (Monsanto).

Wednesday, March 31, 1999 - 6:00 a.m. 

5) Amazon tribal leaders challenge U.S. patent 
By Bill Lambrecht 
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- In this land of tailored suits, the scene Tuesday was 
extraordinary: Amazon medicine men adorned in shell necklaces and exotic 
bird feathers chanting a religious ceremony and sipping potions. 
The tribal leaders achieved the real purpose of their long journey just 
before their depiction of a ceremony. They visited the U.S. Patent and 
Trademark Office in suburban Washington to challenge the validity of a 
patent awarded a California entrepreneur for the main ingredient of 
their healing potion - the hallucinogenic plant ayahuasca. 
"Our ancestors learned the knowledge of this medicine and we are the 
owners of this knowledge," said Antonio Jacanamijoy, who heads a council 
representing more than 400 tribes and indigenous groups in South 
Ayahuasca (pronounced eye-yuh-WAHS-cuh) looks like any bushy tree 
sprouting in the jungle. But to indigenous peoples in South America, it 
is a sacred plant whose name translates to "vine of the soul." They 
likened the patent in question to patenting the Christian cross. 
The 13-year-old patent has become an issue of such magnitude that it has 
stirred physical threats, led to the cancellation of U.S. aid to South 
American tribes and all but shut down "bioprospecting" for valuable 
plants in Peru, Ecuador and the rest of the Amazon basin. 
The fallout has been felt in St. Louis. The Missouri Botanical Garden, 
Monsanto Co. and Washington University all have found it more difficult 
to arrange bioprospecting ventures to South America in recent years to 
collect plants for new drugs and for traits that can be genetically 
engineered into crops. Many of the world's best-selling pharmaceuticals 
and most of its cancer drugs are from the tropics. 
Jim Miller, who directs the Missouri Botanical Garden's global 
bioprospecting, said that many people in South America had wrongly 
associated the ayahuasca controversy with legitimate plant collecting. 
"It's sure got people fired up," he said. Miller, too, questioned 
whether the patent is valid. 
The events started unfolding in the mid-1980s when Loren Miller, then a 
graduate student in pharmacology, brought home a variety of the plant 
from Ecuador. Miller founded the International Plant Medicine Corp. in 
California and applied for a U.S. patent, which was awarded in 1986. He 
had no plans to sell it as a hallucinogenic drug; he says he believed 
that the plant might contain properties that would be effective in 
psychotherapy and possibly in treating cancer. 
Not until 1994 did the tribes learn of the patent. They decided it meant 
that Miller would control what had been part of their culture for 
centuries. Word even went out that shamans wanting to use ayahuasca 
would need his permission, which was untrue. 
By 1996, feelings ran so hot that the council of tribes declared Miller 
"an enemy of indigenous peoples." A statement by the group warned that 
if Miller or his associates returned to the region, tribes "will not be 
responsible for the consequences to their physical safety." 
The matter would not die down and last year, because of the threat, the 
U.S. government's Inter-American Foundation cut off aid to the tribal 
council after giving it more than $500,000 in recent years. 
Miller asserted Tuesday that he has been a victim of misdirected anger. 
He said that he had not stolen the plant; it had been given to him from 
the garden of a tribe that he wouldn't identify. He also said that tests 
had found no valuable properties in the plant and that he has no plan to 
use the patent. 
"If they say the patent is no good, I don't care. This is so ridiculous. 
... I've never sold anything," he said. 
Nonetheless, the tribal leaders say they have been violated. And they 
worry, they said, that the plant could be misused and cause harm. They 
likened it to coca, another South American cultural staple and the plant 
from which cocaine is derived. 
David Downes, a lawyer in Washington representing the group, contended 
that Miller's patent is flawed and therefore should be revoked. The 
patent was awarded after Miller reported finding a new variety with 
flowers differently colored. William Anderson, a University of Michigan 
botanist supporting the challenge, said he had concluded that no new 
variety had been discovered. 
Downes noted that several patents issued in the United States have 
infuriated people around the world. For instance, patents were awarded 
to companies on turmeric, a spice, and for basmati rice, both staples in 
"When people claim as private property something that is sacred 
knowledge of thousands of people, we fear that patents have gone too far 
into the public domain," Downes said.
AgBiotechNet News 31 March 1999 

6) Study Finds GM Crops Give Higher Yields
What is claimed as the first-ever analysis of biotechnology's impact on 
crop protection and benefits to the environment finds significant increases 
in crop yield, reductions in farming inputs such as pesticides, and a shift 
to farming practices promoting integrated pest management and conservation 
tillage. The study was conducted by Leonard Gianessi of the US National 
Center for Food and Agricultural Policy (NCFAP). 
Transgenic maize, cotton and soyabean crops were planted on 53 million 
acres of North American cropland in 1998. These products of biotechnology 
were planted on 25% of the USAís maize acreage, 38% of the soyabean acreage 
and 45% of the cotton acreage.
Gianessi, Senior Research Associate at the NCFAP, described some of the 
impacts of these new plants from the standpoint of crop protection. Bt 
maize has resulted in increased maize yields throughout the Midwest. 
Because there has been no effective pest control for insects that bore into 
plant stalks, maize plants typically had not been treated with chemical 
agents to control insects during the season. As a result, maize yields have 
been depressed for many years. Gianessi reported results showing in 1997 
that yields of Bt maize outperformed non-Bt maize by 13 bushels per acre. 
Four million acres of US cotton were planted with Bt cultivars in 1998. 
Typically, these acres had been treated with chemical insecticides before 
the genetically altered crops became available. Gianessi reported that a 
reduction of four to five insecticidal sprays per acre occurred in Alabama, 
Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Arizona. The genetically altered cotton 
provides control of budworms and bollworms, pests previously treated with 
multiple insecticide applications. Gianessi reported on results 
demonstrating that not only were insect control costs lower, but cotton 
yields were higher on the insect-protected cotton acreage. Cotton growers 
in the Southeast and Midsouth improved their net returns by about $40 per 
acre by planting the transgenic insect-protected cotton.
Soyabean growers have benefitted from the introduction of cultivars that 
can withstand applications of the herbicide glyphosate. Approximately 25% 
of the nationís soyabean acreage was treated with glyphosate in 1998 as 
farmers reduced their usage of other herbicides. The glyphosate 
applications provided improved control of many troublesome weed species at 
a reduced cost.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) sponsored the study. "The 
rate at which U.S. growers have embraced biotechnology has demonstrated 
their confidence in its ability to deliver benefits. Now we have evidence 
that growers' confidence was justified," said BIO President Carl Feldbaum. 
"Biotechnology is providing solutions to control damaging insect pests 
where none existed before for corn growers. For soyabean and cotton 
farmers, biotechnology provides more strategic choices for crop protection 
with herbicide tolerant varieties. As a result, growers deploy more 
effective weed controls and shift to conservation tillage farming that 
reduces topsoil erosion, greenhouse gas emissions and damaging runoff to 
vulnerable watersheds," Feldbaum said. 
"For growers, biotechnology products translate into reduced cost for 
inputs, increased yields per acre - a combination that equals greater 
productivity. For the rest of us in the non-farming public who enjoy the 
foods farmers produce, we can take satisfaction that biotechnology is 
advancing the trend toward more sustainable farming practices," Feldbaum 
2) PANUPS Action Alert: Comments Needed on NAS Biotech Panel
3) B-GE: More bad news for the GovernMent 
5) Amazon tribal leaders challenge U.S. patent 
6) Study Finds GM Crops Give Higher Yields
> __ 
> Dear all, 
> today, on a prees conference organized by the ministry of 
> environment, the Deputy Minister of Environment mr Theodoros 
> Koliopanos, stated that 
> "Greece will also undertake an initiative, in a european level and in 
> cooperation with Austria and Luxembourg to achieve a moratorium 
> on all GE commercial releases and on GE seed trade. It is clear 
> that it will not be easy to achieve this but, at least we should 
> achieve a blocking minority so to be able to veto. To this direction 
> Greece will also seek for the support of other EU countries, like 
> Italy. 
> Greece will also freeze all field trials for the whole of 1999." 
> 1. Koliopanos recognised that the situation on GE, both on the 
> market, on the field trials, on the commercial releases and the 
> relevant potential threats to the environment and human health is 
> chaotic. He could not deny the info about uncontrolled field trials on 
> GE cotton of Monsanto (revealed last week on the press), nor the 
> fact that GE food products illegally unlabelled can be found in 
> supermarkets (revealed by GP GR, march 15th). 
> 2.There are actually 7 pending applications for field trials in 
> Greece. 
> This is for sugarbeets (AgrEvo and Novartis), maize (Monsanto), 
> cotton (three applications for Monsanto and one for Rhon-Poulenc). 
> In most of the cases the local authorities have rejected the 
> applications and it is on Koliopanos to decide. So, he decided. Not 
> to mention that the Art 21 multiministerial committee supports all 
> the field trials!!! 
> 3. There is no commercial releases of GEOs in Greece. There is 
> strong pressure though for the cotton, the tomato, sugarbeets and 
> the maize.