from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor
This week's issue is a LOBBYWATCH SPECIAL, simply because there's so much of it about! I've introduced the section with excerpts from one of the best articles I've read in a long time, by media expert David Miller, which goes a long way towards explaining how a world for the most part full of well-meaning people can end up being governed by a network of liars and con-artists. It's well worth reading in full if you can visit our web archive, and watch out for Miller's use of GM WATCH research in the article.
One reason the industry is shouting so very loudly is because the great GM exodus is continuing, with Anglo-Swiss firm Syngenta withdrawing from the UK and slinking off to the US (GM MELTDOWN CONTINUES). Naturally, this GM debacle is being painted by the usual suspects as a tragedy for plant science.
www.ngin.org.uk / www.gmwatch.org
GM MELTDOWN CONTINUES
GM WATCH DISCLOSURE PROJECT
(SHOW US YER DATA!)
BAD-IDEA VIRUS LATEST: INDIA
OTHER GLOBAL NEWS
REST OF THE MONTH'S TOP STORIES
+ Article of the Week: CAUGHT IN THE MATRIX
A superbly perceptive article by David Miller of Stirling University's Media Research Institute. Miller analyses the way today's neo-liberal system of governance is held together by a web of spin, lies and deception, which Miller calls the Matrix, after the movie: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4010
Excerpts: Political debate in the US and UK mainstream increasingly resembles the dystopian vision encapsulated in the film the Matrix, where the reality of human bondage to the system is disguised by a sophisticated virtual reality - the matrix - from which it is difficult to break free.
In matrix world, Iraq had and may still have Weapons of Mass Destruction; in the real world, it did not. In matrix world, there were links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, in the real world there were not. ...
To many people who have witnessed the lies and deception of the past couple of years, our leaders seem deranged. Blair and his clique seem to have a tenuous grip on reality. How can it be - people wonder - that they can go on and on and on about Weapons of Mass Destruction when even the head of the Iraq Survey Group has concluded that they probably never existed? How can they appear to take so seriously statements that most of us now know are built on foundations no more secure than the shifting sands of the Iraqi deserts, which they no longer even pretend to search?
The attack on Iraq has revealed as never before the yawning gulf between the political elite and the rest of us. It discloses an increasing separation between 'matrix world' - where official pronouncements are treated with some seriousness, even if subject to criticism - and 'real world' where their lies are transparent and their crimes recognised. Matrix world and real world exist in a kind of parallel universe. But the matrix is not entirely hermetically sealed from the real world. Every so often, the distance between the two becomes too great and the matrix has to readjust. In the film itself, this is denoted by a glitch in the matrix where the character played by Keanu Reeves sees the same black cat twice within seconds. '
... Wholesale lying and misinformation by the political elite has been learned in part from the private sector and the PR industry, which has done so much to advance the interests of mobile global capital. Unsurprisingly, the PR industry is now being welcomed into the heart of government in the UK. ...
... We live in an age of fakery; spin in government and PR manipulation in business are used to force through unpopular policies or undermine democratic decision making. All over the world our rulers are attempting to hold the matrix together with ever extending propaganda programmes. The GM food lobby leads the way. In Johannesburg, the Third World farmers demonstrating at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in favour of GM foods were "fake": bussed in, marshalled, press released and given T-shirts with English slogans, a language they didn't speak. On the Internet, GM interests have created "fake persuaders" to manipulate debate on scientific discussion groups and marginalise their critics. In the US, the Bush administration pays actors to produce fake news reports in favour of its policy on Medicare. In Turkey, BP's consultation on the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline included a telephone survey of a Turkish village of Hacibayram that, "had been deserted for many years, its houses having fallen into ruins. There were neither telephones nor anyone to answer them." In the UK, the Blair government "consultation" on GM simply ignored the overwhelming opposition of the public. It was, in other words, a fake consultation.
... The lies ... will not end when Blair or Bush go, they are the necessary product of the neo-liberal political system. The necessity to lie will only be undermined when governments start to enact the will of the people - in other words, after the current system is fundamentally reformed.
+ MEACHER REMINDS US GM FOODS NOT PROVEN SAFE Ex-environment minister Michael Meacher has written another spot-on piece in the Guardian about the health risks of GM food and lack of safety studies thereof.
Excerpt: The safety of GM food remains a very open question. And one is not encouraged when the guardian of our food safety, the Food Standards Agency, and particularly its chairman, John Krebs, is so strongly pro-GM. They naively rely on company data to prove the safety of GMOs, despite numerous reports which have revealed the dubious credibility of company studies. The FSA has also focused mainly on the safety of inserted GM material, and neglected the inherent risks of the gene insertion process itself, such as the production of new toxins and allergens.
... Against this background it is almost incredible, but true, that there have been no peer-reviewed clinical studies on the human health effects of GM food. Instead, when the biotech companies manufacture a new GM product, they compare it with its non-GM counterpart in terms of nutrients, toxins and allergens, and if they allege it to be "substantially equivalent", they deem it to be safe.
Such an assumption would never be allowed in the regulation of pesticides or drugs. It is simply a device to circumvent direct trials of the effects of GM foods on human health, and ensures that GM crops can be patented without even animal testing. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3922
+ PRO-GM LOBBYISTS GUNNING FOR MEACHER
Naturally, the biotech brigade's lobbyists did not let Meacher's article pass without comment. A letter duly appeared in the Guardian from Prof Sir Colin Berry, who is part of the industry-friendly pro-GM lobby group, the Scientific Alliance, as well as being on the advisory council of another pro-GM lobby group Sense About Science. Berry was recently profiled in a piece attacking the precautionary principle put out by Spiked-online, the main conduit of the pro-GM LM network. http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=136&page=S http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/about.htm
Prof Berry complained of Meacher's "unproven claims" but then trotted out the usual litany of inaccuracies about Pusztai's experiments. He went on to speak of GM foods being approved "after rigorous testing over many years", claiming, "after many years, we have no evidence of harmful effects from genetically modified foods on human health." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3974
The Guardian also published another letter defending GM foods - http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3974 - this time from Tony Combes of the UK's Agricultural Biotechnology Council. Most readers will be unaware that Combes also works for Monsanto. Monsanto, along with Bayer, BASF, Dow, Dupont and Syngenta, set up this UK lobby group which operates with the help of PR firm Lexington Communications. http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=138&page=A
+ GM WATCH SQUASHES BERRY
We couldn't allow Berry's balderdash to go unchallenged and wrote the following letter to the Guardian, which was published on 30 June:
Professor Colin Berry worries that "unproven claims" in Michael Meacher's article on the risks of genetically modified food are "misleading the public". Yet he makes the false claim that the ill effects seen in the GM-fed rats in Pusztai's experiments may have been due to "severe shortage of protein". In fact, both the GM-fed and the non-GM fed rats had identical amounts of protein in their diet. Only the GM-fed group developed problems.
Pusztai is a respected nutritional scientist whose design for this study was peer-reviewed by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and won a GBP1.6m grant of public money. There is no evidence that he departed from the approved study design. Indeed, I wonder if Professor Berry has read the study. He is the one misleading the public.
He writes of genetically modified foods being approved "after rigorous testing over many years". Yet a study by Professor Ian Pryme and Rolf Lembcke published in the journal Nutrition and Health found only 10 published studies on the health effects of GM food or feed, over half of which were undertaken in collaboration with the biotech industry. While these found no negative effects, several of the independent studies did. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4005
+ LOBBY ASSAULT ON UK PARLIAMENT
Note that Berry is one of the panel in the planned pro-GM lobby of the UK Parliament billed as, "GM Question Time".
This session has been arranged by Ian Gibson MP and David Curry MP. The panel includes the following rabid pro-GMers:
*Professor Sir Colin Berry, Queen Mary, University of London
*Dr John Pidgeon, Broom's Barn Research Station, Rothamsted Research
*Professor Michael Wilson, University of Warwick
*Kimball Nill, Agriculture Commodity Coalition
*Bob Fiddaman, Farmer and participant in the FSE's
Note the involvement in setting this up of Ian Gibson, chair of the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology. Gibson recently made a highly deceitful speech on GM in the Commons, which was full of scientifically unsupportable assertions, not to say inventions. Much of the speech was lifted almost word for word from an article by GM 'godfather' Derek Burke. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3741 http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3822
Gibson also, at the behest of Sense About Science, asked Tony Blair in the House of Commons to respond to Derek Burke's letter calling for more government support for GM. It subsequently emerged the letter was also the work of Sense About Science.
"GM Question Time" panellist, Kimball Nill is billed simply as from the "Agriculture Commodity Coalition". ACC, in fact, is paid by the biotech-industry backed Council for Biotech Information to run a pro-GM public information campaign. Nill is also employed by the American soybean association to proactively deal with technology "issues that could impact U.S. soybean exports". Monsanto is notable among the ASA's backers, and prior to joining ASA in 1996, Nill served "in several positions supporting Monsanto Company's venture capital and biotechnology R&D efforts". http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=283&page=N
Panellist Dr John Pidgeon is a keen supporter of GM and heads Broom's Barn Research Station, which is part of Rothamsted Research, both of which undertake research for Monsanto, Bayer etc.
For more info on the other panellists: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4004
+ SPECIAL LOBBYWATCH RESOURCE ON SENSE ABOUT SCIENCE AND THE LM BRIGADE
Our sister site - www.lobbywatch.org - has a whole new LM WATCH section, full of useful links on the Living Marxism political network, who connect to pro-GM lobby group Sense About Science.
The LM network promote an extreme libertarian ideology - no restrictions on paedophilia, race hate etc. - and eulogise technologies like nuclear power, genetic engineering and human cloning. In order to punch above their weight, they often hide their affiliations and engage in infiltration of media organisations; or operate via front groups or by colonising existing lobby groups.
Colonised lobby groups include Sense About Science, the Genetic Interest Group, Progress, the Pro-Choice Forum, and the Science Media Centre. http://www.lobbywatch.org/p1temp.asp?pid=39&page=1
+ PANTS ON FIRE AWARD FOR SENSE ABOUT SCIENCE
See why we gave the Smelliest Newcomers accolade in our coveted Pants on Fire Awards (for services to lying, spin and deception in the cause of corporate science) to Sense About Science:
Pants on Fire Brigade leader Jean de Bris commented on Sense About Science head, Lord Taverne and his LMer colleagues Tracey Brown and Ellen Raphael, "The stench from the undergarments of Lord Dick and his techno-jackbooted pals has to be amongst the most noxious ever to billow out of the lingerie-conflagration department. I have no hesitation in bestowing the Smelliest Newcomer award on the incendiary Sense About Science."
Don't miss our pic of the lucky winners (suitably attired!) acknowledging the applause for their award! http://www.gmwatch.org/p2temp2.asp?aid=60&page=1&op=2
+ ACTIVISTS PUT CHILDREN'S HEALTH AT RISK, SAY KENDRA & A SURPRISING NUMBER OF OTHERS
Now here's a funny thing. An article appears in (LM-connected) Spiked-online in which Prof Sir Colin Berry of the Scientific Alliance attacks the precautionary principle, making specific reference to the dangers of over-precaution in relation to children.
The article refers to an upcoming World Health Organisation conference on "Children's heath and the environment" in Budapest, where ministers from 52 countries will negotiate regulations to protect people, especially children, from environmental health risks. And, as it happens, children's health is also the focus of a campaign from the International Policy Network (IPN), a group that lobbies for de-regulation and what it calls "sound science".
Recent IPN press releases include "Excessive 'precaution' puts children's lives at risk; WHO and governments must prioritise, say experts" and "Wealth means health".
One press release on the IPN's website promotes a new book edited by Julian Morris and Kendra Okonski: Environment & Health: Myths & Realities ("New book debunks environment, health myths Issues exaggerated by activists for political agendas, say scientists").
Kendra, it may be remembered, came to fame at the World Summit on Sustainable Development when she served as principle cheerleader to The Fake Parade. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?ArcId=288
Since then she has continued as Julian Morris's sidekick, winning fame for her attacks on climate change science, sustainable development and fair trade.
Dr Ignacio Chapela comments on Okonski's and Morris's new IPN book: "It seems, from the description of its wisdom, that the main risk to human health and survival in our times is the little bunch of crazy activists who are planting scare stories that are more destructive than dirty nukes. Take note.
"As explained in the press release, 'issues' are exaggerated by activists for political agendas, which is why the book is published to set the record straight - the fact that its publication and media campaign was timed to coincide with the 'Future of Children' meeting of the WHO in Budapest is a mere coincidence and NOT related to furthering political agendas, of course."
For more on the IPN, Kendra, etc., see
+ WHY INDUSTRY'S FIGHTING FOR SOULS OF CHILDREN
Children's health is the latest flashpoint between pro-corporate interests and environmentalists. There are at least 4 reasons:
* toxicologists now say that children are more vulnerable than adults to toxic insult. This is because they consume more air, water and food and thus more toxins per pound of body weight, and because their immune systems are undeveloped;
* children are perceived as the future innocent victims of decisions we make now, and thus their image carries a powerful emotional punch;
* many adults who take little care of their own health are far more careful of that of their children;
* today's children will grow up into either tomorrow's unthinking consumers (industry hopes) or tomorrow's saviours of the environment (the rest of humanity hopes). Hence the battle for their souls begins now.
+ US IMPOSES NEW LIMITS ON SCIENTISTS
The US government is making it harder for scientists to speak to their global colleagues and restricting who can attend an upcoming major AIDS conference, a congressman charged. Rep. Henry Waxman said he has a letter showing that the Health and Human Services Department has imposed new limits on who may speak to the World Health Organization.
Under the new policy, WHO must ask HHS for permission to speak to scientists and must allow HHS to choose who will respond.
"This policy is unprecedented. For the first time political appointees will routinely be able to keep the top experts in their field from responding to WHO requests for guidance on international health issues," the California Democrat wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. "This is a raw attempt to exert political control over scientists and scientific evidence in the area of international health," Waxman wrote. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4011
+ US: READING, WRITING AND ROUNDUP READY
Monsanto will donate $50,000 to the Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) Consortium. AITC is a "grassroots program coordinated by the United States Department of Agriculture," designed "to help students gain a greater awareness of the role of agriculture ... so that they may become citizens who support wise agricultural policies," according to AITC's website. Monsanto said their donation will support "science education and grassroots efforts that improve the understanding and acceptance of biotechnology."
Other AITC "Partners," who are encouraged to make annual contributions, include the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Mining Association, National Pork Producers Council, CropLife America and Dole Food Company. SOURCE: Monsanto Company press release, June 23, 2004 More web links related to this story are available at: http://www.prwatch.org/spin/June_2004.html#1087963200 http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4014
+ MATRIX VISION FOR GM EUROPE
If you've read our lead story on the Matrix world vs real world, this item will make complete sense to you.
On CS Prakash's AgBioView listserv a little while back, following the usual complaints about European rejection of GMOs, a response was posted by an Adviser in the Directorate for Life Sciences (Biotechnology, Agriculture and Food) in the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission. Mark Cantley was able to assure his fellow AgBioViewers that, "we in Europe are strongly committed to biotech, and have a clear strategy for its promotion and diffusion".
As this is a technology that has been overwhelmingly rejected by the peoples of Europe and where the biotech corporations are in flight, the question arises as to who exactly this European technocrat could mean by "we in Europe". If anyone's in doubt about this, or about the yawning gulf between the political/corporate/technocratic elite and the rest of us, they need only look at the press release on the "European vision for plant biotechnology towards 2025"
In the press release about this EU project, funded by a largely anti-GM public, you will find not a whisper of dissent. Indeed, you might never guess that the great biotech juggernaut was doing anything but gliding purposefully towards our corporate destiny in the "new era for plant biotechnology in Europe".
To fully understand what (or who) within this Matrix world is meant by "we in Europe", here are some of the people who drew up this "long term vision" for plant science in Europe, developed by biotech industry lobby group EuropaBio with the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO) "in the framework of an EU-supported project that started on 1 June 2004":
Simon Barber of EuropaBio
Simon Bright of Syngenta
Bernard Convent of Bayer
Dick Flavell of Ceres (US), formerly head of the John Innes Centre
Hans Kast of BASF
Chris Lamb, director of the John Innes Centre
Vincent PÅ½tiard of Nestle
Ralf-Michael Schmidt of BASF
Welcome to the Matrix where, as with the Iraq war, no public mandate is required for what is to be implemented in our name and with our financial support!
GM MELTDOWN CONTINUES
+ SYNGENTA EXITS UK, GOES TO US
Large-scale commercial research into GM crops in the UK is to end after Syngenta, the Anglo-Swiss biotech company, on 30 June said it would close its laboratories because of the poor business outlook for the technology. The company plans to move its research efforts from Jealott's Hill in Berkshire to North Carolina, in the US, where there is a more favourable business and regulatory climate.
Syngenta was the last biotech company to retain a significant GM research presence in the UK after decisions by Monsanto, Dupont and Bayer Cropscience to withdraw.
Michael Wilson, a professor of plant biology at Warwick University, said: "Anyone who isn't about to retire will leave the country. We are all feeling, 'what the hell is the point?'"
Julian Little, a spokesman for the Agriculture and Biotechnology Council, said: "The whole industry understands Syngenta's decision. The UK is a difficult place to work."
Pete Riley of Friends of the Earth said, "This decision shows the biotech industry misjudged the market in the UK and Europe. Rather than retreat to the US, they should rethink the products they offer sustainable agriculture."
+ GM PESTICIDE "SECRETS" TO GO PUBLIC AS BAYER DROPS COURT CASE
Bayer CropScience, the agro-chemical and biotech corporation, has dropped its court action against Friends of the Earth. It had tried to prevent the environmental group from telling the public how to access safety data on pesticides - including a weedkiller for use on GM herbicide tolerant crops in the UK, Glufosinate Ammonium.
Bayer started legal action when Friends of the Earth told them it had legally obtained copies of safety data from the Swedish pesticide regulator KEMI and said it was going to tell the public how they could obtain the information in the same way. The information at the centre of the row is of interest to people exposed to pesticides.
FoE told Bayer it intended to use its website to tell people how to get data from regulators in Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and the USA. Bayer had previously taken the UK government to court to stop them releasing the same information to FoE.
Last October Bayer applied to the High Court for an injunction to stop FoE: telling people that KEMI or any other regulator held Bayer's pesticide data; telling people that FoE had obtained copies of Bayer's pesticide data from foreign regulators; from making any more requests to KEMI or to any other foreign regulator for access to Bayer's data.
Bayer has now signed up to a settlement promising never to sue FoE again for doing these things, and in particular not to sue FoE for telling the public how to access such data or for requesting data from regulators. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4006
+ MONSANTO GM MAIZE NOT AUTHORISED BY EU
EU environment ministers on June 28 failed to reach an agreement on a proposal by the European Commission to authorise the import of GM maize NK 603, produced by Monsanto. Eight EU ministers (from Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg) voted against the proposal and three countries (Germany, Spain and Slovenia) abstained. Eleven countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden and UK) voted in favour.
Friends of the Earth Europe's GM Campaign Coordinator Geert Ritsema said: "This is the sixth time in a row that the European Commission has failed to convince the member states to approve a genetically modified organism. The Commission wants to show the public that there is a thorough safety assessment for any adverse impact on public health. What they achieve is the contrary. It is becoming more and more clear that the authorities in Europe are deeply divided over the subject of GM."
GM WATCH DISCLOSURE PROJECT
(SHOW US YER DATA!)
+ SHODDY SCIENCE IN GM APPROVAL
GM WATCH has suggested that if the research used to justify the approval for commercialisation of GM crops were disclosed, the entire case for such foods would collapse. But because the data is withheld as commercially confidential, the industry can forge ahead under a cloak of secrecy and hype.
A case in point is the "missing data" on Bayer's Chardon T25 maize, which was recently given the go-ahead by the UK govt, only subsequently to be withdrawn by Bayer. The govt claimed that an animal feeding study had been done on the maize, but the study never appeared, in spite of determined attempts by campaigners to obtain it.
Now, the study, sponsored by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), has finally turned up. In the latest Science in Society mag, Dr Mae-Wan Ho tells the incredible story of the data on T25. She reveals that, among other failings:
1. The feeding study on T25 maize apparently used to justify its approval was actually not on T25 maize at all, but on 2 quite different GM crops!!
2. The GM crops used in the study formed only a small proportion of the total diet, decreasing the probability that GM-related changes would show up.
3. A weird study design seems to have been used, in which the groups of 3 cows alternated between GM and non-GM diets. You don't need a PhD to realise that this design is likely to smooth out any effects relating to GM foods.
An important point is that the UK govt and the FSA would have been quite happy to allow this maize to be grown and eaten by animals and people - it was the company that voluntarily withdrew it, probably due to consumer resistance.
BAD-IDEA VIRUS LATEST: INDIA
"This notion that you lure biotech to your community to save its economy is laughable," said Joseph Cortright, a Portland, Ore. economist who co-wrote a report on the subject. "This is a bad-idea virus that has swept through governors, mayors and economic development officials."
+ INDIA AND US TO COOPERATE IN AGBIOTECH
India and United States have decided to increase cooperation in agricultural biotech research and development. A Letter of Intent to this effect was signed by the Minister for Science and Technology and Ocean Development Shri Kapil Sibal and the Ambassador of the United States to India Mr David C Mulford.
The Dept of Biotechnology of the government of India and USAID are the coordinators of the two countries. The programme will encourage the creation of partnership to bring together India and US institutions to pursue "research projects of mutual interest including technology development, technology diffusion, biosafety and related policy activities".
OTHER GLOBAL NEWS
+ IT'S PEST-PROOF: INDIAN SCIENTISTS DEVELOP NEW NON-GM COTTON VARIETIES
Public sector researchers at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi have developed new types of cotton which can be sown in spring and harvested before the monsoon, thus making them free from pest attacks. These varieties can also be grown in non-traditional areas. These new genotypes of cotton are not GM varieties, but have been developed from conventional breeding practices.
+ "BIOTERROR" CHARGES DOWNGRADED TO "MAIL FRAUD"
Professor Steve Kurtz, raided by the FBI on suspicion of bioterror activities (he's an artist who had a GM test kit and some non-hazardous bacteria which he used for his art), was charged on June 29 by a federal grand jury in Buffalo, New York--not with bioterrorism, as listed on the Joint Terrorism Task Force's original search warrant and subpoenas, but with "petty larceny". . Also indicted was Robert Ferrell, head of the Dept of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Public Health. The charges concern technicalities of how Ferrell helped Kurtz to obtain $256 worth of harmless bacteria for one of Kurtz's art projects.
This is a far cry from the bioterrorism charges originally sought by the District Attorney. To make a "federal case" out of such minor allegations, the District Attorney will have the burden of proving criminal intent. "There was very obviously no criminal intent," said Kurtz attorney Cambria. "The intent was to educate and enlighten."
The US District Attorney attempted to cast the issue as one of public health and safety in a public press conference called without the knowledge of either defendant's lawyers, thus eliminating the chance of rebuttal. During the conference, US Attorney William Hochul and US District Attorney Michael Battle repeatedly alluded to "dangerous" and "bio-hazardous material," even though the charges have nothing to do with such issues, and scientists universally regard the materials in question as safe.
Many believe the attempt to cast the $256 technicality as a public health and safety issue is a face-saving measure by the government, which has already expended an enormous amount of time and money in their fruitless pursuit of this case.
REST OF THE MONTH'S TOP STORIES
+ NEW GM WATCH RESOURCE ON AFRICA, THE NEW BIOTECH FRONTIER
African countries are being targeted by the biotech industry and its lobbyists in collusion with the US administration. Even food aid has been used to push GM into Africa. We've launched a new GM WATCH section, FOCUS ON AFRICA, as a resource on who's pushing GM in Africa, what their strategies are, who pays them, who's resisting and what the alternatives are. http://www.gmwatch.org/p1temp.asp?pid=37&page=1
+ US BIOTECH BASH IN BURKINA FASO
Delegates from 15 West African nations gathered in Burkina Faso on 21 June for a three-day US-backed conference on GM crops. The US Department of Agriculture says, "It is a response to the needs of hundreds of millions of people who don't have enough food."
What hypocrisy! The following quotes give a truer picture of the motives of the conference organisers:
***"This is being promoted by the US. The US has just been in trouble with the World Trade Organization over its massive subsidies to cotton, which of course are hitting West Africa. So if they really wanted to do something to help Africa, there are very simple things that they could do which do not involve an introduction of very sophisticated and expensive technology with a number of risks associated with it." - Jonathan Matthews of GM Watch, in an interview with Voice of America
***"The W.T.O. report, which was not made public, upheld a preliminary ruling in April... that the more than $3 billion in subsidies the United States pays its cotton farmers distorts global prices and violates international trade rules. If Washington scrapped the subsidies... [it] would lead to a 12.6 percent increase in world cotton prices, helping struggling cotton farmers from Brazil to West Africa." - New York Times
***"We will defend U.S. agricultural interests in every form we need to" - Richard Mills, a spokesman for the United States trade representative, Robert B. Zoellick
Read press coverage of the Burkina Faso biotech bash at http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3857
+ AGREEMENT WILL GIVE AFRICAN RESEARCHERS ACCESS TO "TECHNOLOGIES"
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed at the Burkina Faso conference June 21 by the United States and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) will help give farmers in Africa access to existing agricultural technologies [read: GM] to farmers in Africa, J.B. Penn, US under secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services says. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3880
+ WHO'S BEHIND AATF
For more on who's really behind the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), see the GM WATCH profile: http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=163&page=A
Funding for the MOU initiative comes from the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID and the UK Department for International Development. All three are known for their big financial support for GM projects - DfID alone is said to have quietly sunk over 13 million pounds into such projects - but this is also only part of the story. AATF's full and undisclosed list of backers is said to include Monsanto, Dupont, Dow Agro Sciences and Syngenta. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3901
+ COURTING BIOTECH IS A "BAD-IDEA VIRUS", SAYS ECONOMIST
Governors and mayors from across the country were in full force at the biotech industry's annual BIO convention in San Francisco in June, offering tax breaks, government grants - even help with parking - to lure biotech companies.
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom told biotechnology executives during a lunchtime speech: "You need parking requirement changes, we'll take care of it. You need tax incentives? You got it. Whatever you need."
Yet biotech remains a money-losing, niche industry firmly rooted in three small regions of the country. "This notion that you lure biotech to your community to save its economy is laughable," said Joseph Cortright, a Portland, Ore. economist who co-wrote a report on the subject. "This is a bad-idea virus that has swept through governors, mayors and economic development officials."
BIOTECH AS RELIGION - NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY
An excellent article in the journal Nature Biotechnology makes clear that religious fanaticism, far from being the preserve of anti-GM activists, is chiefly the domain of the pro-GM brigade: ""Biotech, in a similar manner to many religious movements, has its charismatic prophets, enthusiastic evangelists and enrapt audiences. Like religions, it offers a comforting message of salvation. Instead of imagining a day of rapture when the dead rise from their graves to begin eternal life, biotech enthusiasts imagine the era when medical technologies provide a renewable, largely imperishable body."
+ NEW STUDIES CONTRADICT FAO REPORT, SHOW GM BT COTTON FAILS TO BENEFIT FARMERS
Following the recent UN Food and Ag Organisation (FAO) report hyping GM crops for the third world, GRAIN has released a report saying, "the FAO report ignores what is actually happening on the ground, as Bt cotton fails to deliver benefits to small-scale farmers around the world."
Excerpt from the GRAIN report: Today, two new studies on Bt cotton in India and West Africa by the Andhra Pradesh (AP) Coalition in Defence of Diversity and GRAIN provide more evidence of Bt cotton's failure in the fields and of the FAO's failure to defend the interests of small-scale farmers. They come at a time when FAO's Director General received a letter signed by over 1500 organisations and individuals, expressing their outrage and disagreement with the FAO report. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3829
For the full GRAIN report: http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=184 GRAIN has developed a website on Bt cotton that provides a more balanced picture of farmer experiences - http://www.grain.org/research/btcotton.cfm
+ NEW EUROPE BLOCKS GM OILSEED RAPE
European Member states on 16 June blocked the approval of a GM food from the biotech giant Monsanto. The twenty five member states of Europe, voting together for the first time on a GM food, failed to support the application to import Monsanto's GM oilseed rape into Europe.
Remarkably, 6 new EU member states voted against Monsanto's oilseed rape. The GM oilseed rape, called GT73, has been modified to resist the company's own chemical herbicide. The vote was the first test for the newly expanded EU following the European Commission's decision last month to force through the first GM food in over 5 years http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3830
+ FOE ON DOUBT OVER SAFETY OF THE GM OILSEED RAPE
Although the European Food Safety Authority (ESFA) has given GT73 the all-clear some countries are concerned about its health and environmental safety.
A Monsanto feeding study on rats that was hidden from the public showed that rats fed the GM oilseed rape had a 15% increase in liver weights. The UK government's scientific advisors, usually known for their pro-GM stance, have demanded "a satisfactory explanation for this potentially adverse response observed in the rat feeding study...". In addition the French Commission on Genetic Engineering has criticised the design of Monsanto's feeding trials and highlight that the trials were only conducted during a 28 day period instead of the usual 90 days.
EFSA verdict: increase in liver weight is "incidental". Friends of the Earth verdict: further sub-chronic toxicity tests or long term tests are necessary. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3794
+ TRACES OF GENETIC ENGINEERING DETECTED IN MILK
On 21 June Greenpeace published the results of a study showing for the first time the detection of GM contamination in milk samples. The scientists found parts of the gene substance of biotech soya and biotech maize in the milk of a farmer in Bavaria who had fed these plants to his animals.
"Scientific research finding this impossible so far now has to be re-evaluated", says Henning Strodthoff, biotechnology expert at Greenpeace. So far it has been assumed that GMO plants are degraded during digestion and that they do not find their way into meat or milk. According to the EU labeling regulation for genetically modified food there is no labeling requirement for animal products. "This gap on the labeling must be closed immediately", demands Strodthoff.
The study of the Research Center for Milk and Foodstuffs in Weihenstephan, Bavaria, was kept under lock and key for three years. Greenpeace is demanding further research and labeling of animal products fed with GMO feed.
In the milk samples that were analysed, DNA from genetically modified Roundup Ready Soya and genetically modified Bt176 maize were detected. Furthermore, the research report points out several possibilities as to how the gene segments may have found their way into the milk: Via the GMO feed that was fed to the animals, or via the dust from the feed in case the air was contaminated with it. So far, no further studies have been conducted in order to clarify the exact way of the DNA fragments into the milk.
+ MEXICO: GM-CONTAMINATED MAIZE FOUND IN NINE STATES
Conventional maize contaminated with GM material has been detected in nine Mexican states, says Greenpeace. The contaminated maize was found in the highest volumes in Chihuahua, the Federal District, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxcala and Veracruz http://www.just-food.com/news_detail.asp?art=57899
+ CANADIAN STUDY CONFIRMS ALL PESTICIDES ARE HARMFUL
One of the biotech industry's favourite claims - that GM plants allow growers to use "safer" pesticides - is given the lie by new research from Canada. The Ontario College of Family Physicians has released the most comprehensive study ever done in Canada on the chronic effects of pesticide exposure at home, in the garden and at work.
After examining 12,000 studies dated 1990-2003 and winnowing them down to the soundest 250, the researchers said there is no evidence that some pesticides are less dangerous than others. Instead, they have different effects on health that take different periods of time to show up. "The review found consistent evidence of the health risks to patients with exposure to pesticides," the study said, naming cancer of the brain, prostate, kidney and pancreas, as well as leukaemia, among many other acute illnesses.
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