info4action archive


GE - Sunday's GE news

1) Sunday, September 26, 1999 Business: The Company File Monsanto bows to
pressure BBC online
2) Sunday, September 26, 1999 - Blair denies interest in GM BBC online
3) Monsanto hints at U-turn on GM food in Britain  The Observer
Oliver Morgan  - Sunday September 26, 1999 

401, 322 (1999) 
6) Sacramento Bee Foes stalking genetic engineering of crops 
By Edie Lau and Paul Schnitt Bee Staff Writers (Published Sept. 25, 1999)
7) Frankenstein's Harvest -- North American Farmers Face Catch 22 - Canada
Newswire TORONTO, Sept. 23 /CNW/ 

1) Sunday, September 26, 1999 
Business: The Company File Monsanto bows to pressure BBC online
The US biotechnology giant Monsanto has bowed to consumer concerns about
genetically modified food and wants to help plant breeders create crops using
traditional methods. 
The company, a major player in the genetically-modified food industry, has
offered its databases to help plant breeders create new varieties of crops
using traditional cross-breeding methods. 
This would allow them to exploit Monsanto's knowledge of plant DNA, while
avoiding the use of genetic engineering. 
This way, the company hopes to reverse the widespread opposition to
biotechnology in the UK and Europe. 
In a statement, the company said: "We now have a much better understanding of
the issues. We hope further dialogue will take place." 
Consumer welcome 
Monsanto has already presented the idea to environmental and consumer groups
who have welcomed it. 
Patrick Holden of the Soil Association told BBC Radio 5 Live the decision
represented a change in policy for the company based in St Louis, Missouri. 
" I felt that they had been shocked and completely taken by surprise at the
strength of public reaction against genetic engineering in Europe. 
"I did emerge from the meeting with a very clear impression that they are
prepared to rethink their position fundamentally out of an awareness that
Europe has said no to genetic engineering and perhaps a fear that the North
America public might follow suit," he said. 
The British government has come under fire from the anti-GM lobby in recent
months after agreeing to limited test trials of GM crops to determine whether
the technology is safe. 
It is unclear if these trials will now continue. 
Consumer outrage was such that several major supermarket chains, including
Sainsbury's and Marks and Spencer, are removing all GM ingredients from
own-brand ranges.
2) Sunday, September 26, 1999 - Blair denies interest in GM BBC online

Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended his stance on genetically-modified
after criticism from within his party. 
In a question and answer session at the start of the Labour conference, he
argued against the perception he had "got it wrong" on GM foods. 
The hostile question won a smattering of applause from the conference floor. 
In his reply, the prime minister admitted the issue had caused great public
concern, but insisted he had not taken any rash decisions. 
"I'm not on either side of the debate," he told delegates. 
"I'm on the side that says let's proceed on the evidence and have a proper and
open debate and let the evidence decide it." 
He stressed the government had not approved any new GM foods for sale in the
United Kingdom since it took power. 
Mr Blair tried to counter the perception his government favours the GM
companies over opponents of the new technology - some of whom had already
staged a protest in Bournemouth. 
"We've got absolutely no interest in it at all except that we're trying to do
the right thing," he said. 
"I don't stand here saying GM foods or any other type of foods are a good
"All I'm saying is that it's important we proceed on the evidence." 
He added that the advice to the government from the chief scientist, which
listed the potential benefits of GM crops as well as the dangers, was widely

3) Monsanto hints at U-turn on GM food in Britain  The Observer
Oliver Morgan  - Sunday September 26, 1999 

Monsanto, the US biotech corporation, has indicated that it is considering a
major climbdown over genetically modified food in Britain. It has offered to
use its vast gene databases to help plant breeders create new varieties of
crops using traditional cross-breeding techniques. 
The aim is to exploit biologists' newly obtained knowledge of plant DNA while
avoiding the highly controversial use of genetic modification which has
embroiled the industry, and in particular Monsanto, in widespread protests
the planting of GM crops. The company believes that by combining old
plant-breeding techniques with modern biological knowledge it can defuse the
surge of 'bio-angst' now sweeping Europe. 
The idea was put forward this month by senior Monsanto executives at a series
of secret meetings with environmental groups. At one session with the Soil
Association, Monsanto president Hendrik Verfaillie presented the alternative
use for the company's genetic expertise, and asked if this would satisfy
environmental and consumer concerns. 
Environmentalists say the move is a significant change in policy for the
company based in St Louis, Missouri. Up to now it has been the strongest
advocate of GM agriculture and food science in Britain, mounting a vigorous
campaign in favour of the technology. 
The new technique centres on exploiting 'genomics' - the ability to map out
genetic make up of organisms. Instead of splicing genes, genetic profiles of
hundreds of different varieties within a species of plant - such as corn -
would be fed into a computer. 
Farmers could then go to companies like Monsanto, tell them what soil type,
pests and other environmental problems they faced, and scientists could use
database to cross-breed varieties to meet the problems and provide seeds. 
Cross-breeding has been accepted practice by farmers for decades, but was
commercially impractical because without detailed genetic information it has
been a process of trial and error. 
Patrick Holden of the Soil Association said: 'What was said has huge
significance. It shows that Monsanto is thinking about reversing their whole
strategy. We believe Monsanto is open to a full rethink of what it is doing.'

Roger Gosden, the academic who has pioneered the science behind the latest 
fertility breakthrough, is, according to this story, joining the brain 
drain across the Atlantic because he believes that Britain is turning 
against biotechnology. 
Professor Gosden is flying to Australia today and then on to 
Canada, where he hopes to find the freedom to reach the next 
stage in the medical breakthrough in fertility. Unassuming and 
quietly spoken, Professor Gosden believes that the intellectual 
climate in Britain is moving against biotechnology, creating an 
atmosphere unsympathetic to his speciality, the development 
of the ovary and eggs. 
He is alarmed at the failure of the Government to confront 
those who, he believes, wish to set the clock back, particularly 
at the way it has blocked the use of "therapeutic cloning" in 
which embryos are cloned to make tissue for transplant. 
"With all the fuss over GM food and so on, it is difficult to be a 
scientist in Britain," he said. "One does not feel proud of being 
a scientist any longer and I fear it is very discouraging for our 
young people." 
He has seen several promising graduates opt out of scientific 
research. "I have lost a number of really good people, future 
leaders in academia, to industry and overseas. That really 
hurt," he said.
401, 322 (1999) 
> Manfred Philipp of the City University of New York, writes that it is 
> surprising that representatives of an organization that is reported to use 
> acts of destructive force to achieve social and political goals are given 
> a forum in Nature on the subject of how to restore public trust in 
> science. Philipp refers to the Commentary by Greenpeace's Benny Haerlin 
> and Doug Parr (Nature 400, 499; 1999). One such act is the destructive 
> attack on fields of genetically modified crops by a group that included 
> the head of Greenpeace UK, as reported by The New York Times (23 August). 
> Press accounts indicate that this was only the latest in a series of 
> attacks by Greenpeace and allied organizations. How can we now tell if a 
> future refusal by farmers to grow genetically modified crops will not 
> really be based on fear disguised as conviction instead of genuine 
> conviction? 
> European political and religious history is replete with groups that have 
> found the use of apparently peaceful propaganda together with the 
> selective use of brute force to be an effective tool to change public 
> opinion. It is sad that this seems to be happening today in Britain. 
> Haerlin and Parr suggest that the values of society should be paramount in 
> the debates they discuss. This would have been an interesting suggestion 
> to give to Galileo. Is the use of force in civil discussions one of the 
> values they have in mind? 
From: "Jeffrey Francis Tufenkian" <> 
The following article ran today in the Sacramento Bee with photos.
Jeffrey Francis Tufenkian Genetix Alert

6) Sacramento Bee Foes stalking genetic engineering of crops 
By Edie Lau and Paul Schnitt Bee Staff Writers (Published Sept. 25, 1999)
The vandals who knocked down corn and lopped the tops off sugar beets in 
research fields in Davis might have trashed the wrong plants. Their message, 
though, was unmistakable: Genetically modified crops will not fill America's 
grocery shelves without a fight. 
A passionate and sometimes sharply ideological debate over food with altered 
DNA has been developing for years, but mostly confined to Europe. 
Product advocates figured Americans would be an easy sell. After all, 
changing the genetic makeup of crops potentially could reduce the use of 
chemical pesticides, increase yields and make foods more nutritious. 
Now the debate, which traces its roots to the Flavr Savr tomato invented in 
Davis, is catching the attention of the American marketplace. At stake are 
hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate and government research and 
investment, scientists' careers and the very gene pool of future 
agricultural ecosystems. 
Challenges to so-called transgenic crops are coming from multiple fronts:
* Recent evidence suggests that genes engineered into crops may have 
unwelcome side effects, including killing good insects as well as pests and 
transferring herbicide resistance to weeds. 
* The European Union requires labels on food derived from transgenic crops. 
Under pressure from European retailers and consumers, Campbell Soup Co. 
decided late this summer to forgo selling transgenic food products there at 
all. Gerber Products Co. intends to eliminate transgenic ingredients in its 
baby foods worldwide -- even though Gerber's parent, Novartis Corp., is a 
bioengineering giant. Consumer resistance to genetically modified food is 
rising in Japan and India, as well. 
* Vandalism of presumed transgenic crops, first seen in Europe, reached the 
United States this summer. Activist groups Reclaim the Seed and Cropatistas 
claim they've damaged fields in Maine, Vermont and California. The incidents 
include crop destruction at the University of California, Berkeley, and on 
two private farms near Lodi.
At UC Davis, vandals struck twice recently. The researchers involved said 
they lost about 1 1/2 acres of conventional corn and about a half-acre of 
sugar beets, a fraction of which were transgenic. 
"Many of us are somewhat surprised at how the situation has turned in the 
past year," said Kent Bradford, a UC Davis plant physiologist and director 
of the Seed Biotechnology Center, a new program to streamline the making of 
transgenic plants.
What surprises Bradford is the timing of the protests, starting just when it 
seemed transgenic crops would become an agricultural staple. Perhaps 
unknowingly, Americans routinely eat food made with genetically modified 
ingredients. "People are still healthy, nothing dramatic has happened," he 
said. "We assumed we were sort of over the hump."
Genetically modified crops penetrated the marketplace swiftly. In 1995, the 
entire U.S. corn and soybean crops were conventional. This year, 54 percent 
of soybeans and 33 percent of corn, growing on almost 66 million acres of 
farmland, are genetically altered.
Though the Midwest grows vastly more of such crops than California, the 
technology took root here. Calgene, a biotech company in Davis now owned by 
Monsanto, in 1994 introduced the first genetically modified consumer crop: 
the Flavr Savrtomato, a fruit long on shelf life but, it turned out, short 
on flavor. 
This year, cotton was the top genetically engineered crop in the state, with 
the planting of 50,000 acres, 5.5 percent of the total. Farmers also planted 
genetically modified corn -- about 11,000 acres, less than 3 percent.
Promoters of genetic engineering argue that agriculture has relied for 
generations on selective breeding to enhance desired traits and eliminate 
undesirable traits, and that the new technology merely does the job faster. 
But gene-altering techniques are fundamentally different because they enable 
people to give plants DNA from outside the plant kingdom.
The most common altered crops either make their own insecticide, are 
resistant to specific herbicides or both. The insecticidal plants, for 
example, contain toxins naturally produced by a soil bacterium that are 
lethal to specific insects and no others.
The research pipeline is full of possible new products. AgrEvo is testing 
herbicide-tolerant rice on the UC Davis campus and at about a dozen private 
paddies in the Sacramento Valley. Among numerous other UC Davis biotech 
studies are projects to make apples crunchier and juicier; to retard rot in 
melons; and to grow fruit and nut trees in compact sizes so that they 
require less water and are easier to pick.
If the ideas seem endless, the appetite for them, suddenly, does not.
"Do we really want to have this in our environment?" Jeff Tufenkian, an 
environmental consultant in San Diego, said he began this year to explore 
that question, and decided the answer was no. So he volunteered to be a 
media liaison for the underground protesters who destroy the plants they 
call "Frankenfoods."
Tufenkian said he considers gene-altered crops a form of pollution worse 
than chemical contamination because the alteration is systemic. "When you're 
spraying (pesticides), it's just going more on the outside," he said. 
"You're not eating it with every bite."
Farmers are wary of environmental side effects, too. Joe Carrancho, a rice 
grower in Colusa County, worries that genes in herbicide-resistant rice 
would spread to surrounding weeds, rendering the spray useless. "What I'm 
afraid of is what happens down the road," he said.
The "wake-up call" for U.S. activists on genetically modified plants was a 
Cornell University study published in the journal Nature this spring showing 
that pollen from insecticidal corn can kill monarch butterfly caterpillars, 
Tufenkian said.
Linda Rayor, a co-author of the caterpillar study, said she is not opposed 
to biotechnology, per se, unlike many who cite her research. "It's clear 
that fanaticism on both sides is really craziness," she said. 
At UC Davis, Sharon Kessler's doctoral thesis work was set back six months 
by this month's cornfield vandalism. Kessler said hers was ordinary corn and 
her study involves finding naturally occurring mutations that affect the 
size and shape of leaves.
"My corn's definitely not scary," Kessler said. "I understand the concerns 
that people have about transgenic crops. I want to make it clear that 
they're just hurting innocent people doing non-transgenics."
With controversy and negative publicity rising, the agriculture industry's 
initial rush to designer crops is slowing distinctly.
Tim Johnson, manager of the California Rice Commission, said he doesn't 
expect genetically modified rice to be introduced commercially in the state 
until 2002 -- if then. "We will grow (altered) rice in California if and 
only if the people who buy our rice say they want it," he said.
Leaders of the California Crop Improvement Association, a nonprofit group 
that provides certification for seed type, quality and purity, decided last 
week to begin a new program identifying for processors which crops are 
genetically altered and which are not.
"We're not taking a political stand that genetically modified varieties are 
bad," said Chip Sundstrom, the executive director. "We are simply respecting 
the consumers' concern and right to know what they are purchasing and 
Farmers are stuck in the middle. No commercial grower of transgenic crops 
this season could be reached for comment. Seed dealers guard the names out 
of concern for their security.
Carrancho, the Colusa County rice grower and president of Rice Growers of 
California, isn't growing transgenics and doesn't know if he will. "I 
certainly don't want to get caught with a rice dryer full of genetically 
altered rice that can't be sold for anything other than dog food," he said.
"If we can prove that this is the way to go, and we can overcome perception 
... I would like to think, yes, that we are at the point that we can use it. 
But I'm not sure yet."

7) Frankenstein's Harvest -- North American Farmers Face Catch 22 - Canada
Newswire TORONTO, Sept. 23 /CNW/ - Bug-infested crops or 
genetically engineered seeds? From a farmer's perspective, the 
latter undoubtedly holds greater appeal. But public opinion 
battles against genetically modified (GM) foods are prevalent 
and North American farmers are caught in international 
What began as a concern for health risks related to GM seeds has in the 
past year transpired into a 
costly disruption of international food markets. Most of the controversy 
to date has occurred 
outside North America. However, 60% of food on Canadian shelves contains 
GM components, 
meaning it's just a matter of time until domestic manufacturers find 
themselves targeted.
[ Monsanto Co. ] -- which had US$8.6 billion in net sales in 1998 and 
makes 88% of the GM 
seed sold in the US -- is the leader in its field, sharing the market with 
Novartis, DuPont and 
other multinational companies. As Canadian Business reveals in its October 
8, 1999 issue, 
Monsanto is taking most of the heat as international backlash by consumers 
and advocates 
ensues. Adding insult to injury, Monsanto has responded to the challenge 
with aggression and 
confrontation - so much so that it is alienating its own customers - 
specifically farmers who are 
fearful that Monsanto's poor PR job will prove detrimental to the entire 
GM industry.
Most fearful are the Prairie farmers, many of whom generate canola crops 
with Monsanto's 
Roundup Ready seeds. This year, the GM giant has accused more than 16 
Prairie farmers of 
growing Roundup Ready canola without signing the company's unique 
technology use agreement 
(TUA). Farmers fear for their rights, and exacerbating those fears is the 
knowledge that 
Monsanto has hired a private investigation firm to pursue leads on 
suspected patent infringers and 
TUA violators.
Looking beyond Monsanto, the GM controversy poses an enormous threat to 
all Canadian 
farmers. In Frankenstein's Harvest, staff writer Cynthia Reynolds explores 
all sides of the 
controversy around this FDA- and Health Canada-approved product.
Also in the October 8, 1999 issue of Canadian Business, features editor 
Margaret Craig-Bourdin 
presents the first-ever listing of Canada's 100 Top Women Owned 
Businesses. Ranked by gross 
revenue for the most recent complete fiscal year, and exploring the how, 
where and why of 
women bosses, this top 100 list offers insight into the extent of women's 
involvement in the 
Canadian economy.
The October 8, 1999 issue of Canadian Business will be available on 
newsstands on September 
24, 1999. Visit <> for the text-only
The editorial staff of Canadian Business is available for comment and/or 
more information.
(Copyright Canada Newswire)
_____via IntellX_____
Pub date: 23rd Sep 99.