from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor
It's been an emotional rollercoaster of a week in the UK. On 24 March we heard the bad news: that by a narrow majority the Welsh Assembly had voted against the Lib Dem motion to veto the addition of Bayer's Chardon LL GM maize to the UK seed list.
Although not a single Assembly Member spoke in favour of GM in the debate, some Labour members who oppose GM voted to defeat the motion because it was critical of the actions of the Westminster Labour government in approving the GM maize. GM Free Cymru had pleaded with Assembly Members not to allow "a matter of such great importance for the environment and people of the UK [to] force disagreement on party political lines" - but to no avail.
However, Environment Minister Carwyn Jones was forced, under threat by some Labour members to vote with the Lib Dems or abstain, to allow the matter to be decided not by the ministerial Cabinet but by a free vote in the Assembly. If Carwyn Jones keeps his promise, the vote will go against Chardon LL and because the support of Wales is necessary for national seed listing this would prevent commercialisation of Chardon LL throughout the UK.
Note that a free vote in the Assembly was one of the requests made by many of you who lobbied the Assembly Members prior to the vote, so well done everyone!
Meanwhile, in Australia the States are treating the Federal Government's desire for GM commercialisation with equal contempt. Look out for lots more of interest in HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - GLOBAL.
www.ngin.org.uk / www.gmwatch.org
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - UK
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - GLOBAL
JOKE OF THE WEEK
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - UK
+ GM MAIZE SUNK BY WELSH ASSEMBLY
In an extraordinary victory for democracy, on 24 March Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Assembly's Environment Minister, agreed that he will not add Chardon LL maize to the National Seeds List without the authorization of the Assembly through a free vote.
The Minister has a UK veto on the listing of GM seeds, and on this matter he has given up his delegated powers and agreed to follow the majority wishes of Assembly Members (AMs).
Chardon LL will not now be added to the Seeds Register, and there is no hope that it could be grown anywhere in the UK before its current Part C consent expires in October 2006.
In a debate on GM on 24 March, instigated by the Lib Dems, the Minister was forced to make his statement on a free vote by a threat from a number of Labour AMs to abstain or vote for the Lib Dem motion. In the event the motion was defeated by 26 votes to 29, and the significance of the Minister's pledge went almost unnoticed in the welter of party-political points scoring.
Significantly, not a single AM spoke in favour of GM generally, or for the seed listing of Chardon LL maize.
Speaking for GM Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said this evening: "This is fantastic news for Wales and for the rest of the UK. There is not the slightest chance that when - if ever - the listing of Chardon LL comes up for debate in the Assembly, it will be approved.
"Whatever their party politics may be, Assembly members are remarkably well informed on GM issues, and there are many problems related to Chardon LL which are only just coming to light. The science which has brought Chardon LL this close to commercialization is corrupt, and we hope that Bayer CropScience will now withdraw the various applications for GM maize and for Liberty herbicide which are still on the table."
GM Free Cymru, which has lobbied hard for this decision along with many other organizations across the UK, feels that the thousands of messages that have poured in to Assembly members over the past week have not only reflected public opposition to GM technology but have sent a raspberry in the direction of Margaret Beckett. On 9 March she flouted the wishes of the British people and the advice of the Environmental Audit Committee by announcing that Chardon LL would be commercialized.
In concluding the GM Free Cymru statement, Dr John said: "We applaud what Carwyn Jones has done here. He is a very brave politician. It is not often that a Minister passes a small part of his delegated responsibilities back to an elected chamber, but that is what he has done. This is a triumph for democracy, and if the Westminster government now tries to by-pass or over-ride this decision by the Assembly Cabinet, it will have a massive political crisis on its hands." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3074
+ TT RAVES FROM THE GRAVE
Anti-organic/pro-GM enthusiast Tony Trewavas garnered headlines back in the autumn by announcing he was retiring from the GM debate in the face (he claimed) of threats and intimidation.
But since then Edinburgh's answer to Lazarus has been quoted supporting GM in the press and given a talk on organic farming. Rumours of TT's demise have obviously been greatly exaggerated and, as ever, it's TT that has supplied the misinformation!
Recently, TT attacked a new book by Dr Colin Tudge, 'So Shall We Reap, an analysis of world food production'.
You can catch the flavour of the review from this excerpt: "Tudge reserves his venom for GM crops, condemning the scientists who produce such 'monstrosities' as obviously corrupt, as well as mad, bad and dangerous. I found this chapter to be a muddle of politics and naturalism, failing to adequately distinguish objective scientific knowledge from subjective assessments of Western agribusiness and nature."
The "muddled" Dr Tudge is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Philosophy at the London School of Economics and a three-time winner of the Glaxo/ABSW Science Writer of the Year Award, as well as the former features editor of New Scientist. He is, in fact, a scientifically conservative critic of the technology, who has written, "The prime task for people seriously interested in humanity's food problems is to help the world's small farmers. Technical up-grading is desirable, and could include GM." It is the current wholesale transition to this type of agriculture that Colin Tudge, like many development groups and experts, argues could prove disastrous for poor farmers.
Yet Tudge is dismissed by TT as a species of zealot and with jibes such as, "Antipathy to economics is common among those of Tudge's persuasion"! Antipathy to economics? Here is an excerpt from one of Colin Tudge's recent articles:
"...extra productivity can be harmful, while profit is achieved primarily by cutting labour, which is the most expensive input. In Britain and the US, only about 1% of the labour force works on the land. In India, as in the third world as a whole, it's 60%. If India farmed as the British do, 594 million people would be out of work. India's IT industry, flaunted as the hope for the future, employs 60,000 - which falls short of what would be required by 10,000 to one. To replace the status quo with hi-tech, low-labour, industrialised agriculture would create social problems on a scale that mercifully has not yet been seen. For the foreseeable future the world's economy has to be primarily agrarian." http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/opinion/story/0,12981,1152631,00.html
This is not antipathy to economics but caution about the wholesale application of the brand of free market economics to which TT and the publishers of his review, Truth About Trade, clearly subscribe.
Unusually for a book review, TT's review not only fails to give any publication details, it doesn't even name the book being reviewed! Could it be that TT was worried someone might actually compare what he'd said to the content of 'So Shall We Reap' and draw their own conclusions? http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3070
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - GLOBAL
+ NEW WITCH-HUNT UNDER WAY
Prof Terje Traavik's research showing health dangers of GM foods and crops (http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?ArcId=2712) was bound to raise the usual hackles after it was announced at Kuala Lumpur.
Predictably, some of the criticism of Traavik's work has hinged around his public announcement of his findings prior to peer review and publication. This, you will recall, was also a key criticism deployed by the biotech brigade to vilify Dr Arpad Pusztai after he went public with his results prior to publication.
It seems that the biotech industry and their pet scientists are the only ones who have the right to tout unpublished (and even imaginary) results. Witness, as just one example, the Monsanto/Wambugu GM sweet potato saga, where both company and scientist touted the wonderful projected results of the trial as if they were reality -long before the real results revealed the sweet potato to be an utter dud!
See Terje Traavik's explanation of his decision to go public with his results, in the interests of precaution and the public interest, prior to peer review at http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2966
+ LACHMANN CHIEF WITCH-FINDER?
The following email suggests the kind of witch-hunt that marked the Pusztai affair may now be under way, this time with Traavik as the quarry. In the former instance, apart from Dr Pusztai's gagging and sacking, there were allegedly attempts to obtain data by underhand means, and according to the editor of The Lancet, threats were made against him in an effort to prevent Pusztai and Ewen's research being published. The man named by The Guardian as having threatened the editor was Sir Peter Lachmann FRS. More about Sir Peter is available in the directory at www.gmwatch.org
Note that Terje Traavik's second point in his email is prompted by Lachmann's apparent (mistaken) belief that Arpad Pusztai had been made scientific director of Genok, the Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology, a position actually held by Terje Traavik.
THE TRAAVIK EMAIL
To: Arpad Pusztai and Susan Bardocz
The Pres of the Royal Norwegian Academy of Sciences, prof. Lars Walloe, rang me up yesterday and warned me that Peter Lachmann was out hunting
He had contacted Walloe and wanted him to take action with me:
1. Because of the Kuala Lumpur talk etc.
2. Because we had made Arpad scientific director of Genok (sic!).
I explained to him that we proudly had included Arpad in our KL [Kuala Lumpur] delegation, but otherwise I neither knew I was sacked, nor that Arpad was out for my job.
For a piece contributed by Arpad Pusztai to the Spiked Online debate on public perception of risk concerning GM foods, see http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3072 Telling quotes:
"Unfortunately, while in most instances it is society that has to face the consequences of the hazards, the industry will take most of the benefits."
"When [Helene Guldberg, managing editor of Spiked] describes all the wonderful inventions, such as antibiotics, drugs generally, in vitro fertilization, etc which, according to her, could have never come about if we had not taken risks, she misses one crucial point, i.e. that the law stipulates that these inventions had first be rigorously tested in animal and then in human clinical trials before most people would ever hear about them."
"Although zero risk does not exist, as we are constantly and painfully reminded by cases like the thalidomide catastrophe, this should not absolve us from doing everything possible to eliminate or minimize it... people have a negative attitude to GM foods as they know that, unlike new drugs, the FDA does not require their rigorous testing."
+ OPPOSITION GROWING TO GE WHEAT, SAYS CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
World wheat buyers are increasingly opposed to GM wheat, says the Canadian Wheat Board, one of the world's largest wheat sellers. The CWB, which has a monopoly on wheat and barley exports from Canada's main Prairie growing region, said buyers of 87 per cent of its wheat in the 2002-03 marketing year required guarantees that the wheat was not genetically engineered. That's up from 82 per cent two years ago.
The CWB's 10 highest volume markets all required the guarantee, including Japan, Mexico, Britain, Italy, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as domestic millers. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2949
+ ONE MILLION JAPANESE SAY NO TO GM WHEAT
Representatives from Japanese consumer and industry groups have said that Japanese consumers will not buy wheat from Canada if GM wheat is introduced. Japan is one of Canada's largest wheat customers. The Japanese groups presented a petition from Japanese consumers and food manufacturing companies representing over 1,000,000 people, to Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister, Bob Speller. The petition calls for a ban on GM wheat in Canada.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is currently reviewing an application from Monsanto for the Canadian release of their Roundup Ready wheat. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2949
+ US: BIOTECH BATTLE FLARES IN VERMONT
Monsanto has raised anger in Vermont by sending its representatives to lobby against the state's attempts to regulate GM seeds and crops.
A decade ago, battles raged in Vermont over the use of GM growth hormones in the state's dairy herds. That's the last time Rep. Robert Starr, D-Orleans, remembers such rancor in the usually quiet House Agriculture Committee. Now the debate over the introduction and labeling of GM seeds has pitted farmer against farmer. Starr, who has served in the Legislature for more than a quarter-century, sees similarities in the two issues.
"It was Monsanto then, and it is Monsanto again," Starr said. "They brought in their big guns and worked over the legislators in the conference hearings. It's the same players. They weren't only talking in the hallways or the cafeteria like most of the lobbyists. That really bothered me. I've never witnessed anything like that in Vermont." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2950
+ NEW PROFILE OF US AG SECRETARY ANN VENEMAN
Excerpt: "Veneman is someone who's told the story repeatedly about growing up on her family's peach farm, in the central valley of California. She grew up at a time when farm workers were organizing for their rights, and the first-ever female Agriculture Secretary of California, Rose Bird, angered growers no end by actually granting farm workers the right to organize, and banning these back-breaking, short-handled hoes that were ruining the lives of farm workers in the fields.
"Ann Veneman, from her very first years out of college, took the side of the growers, and teamed up with those who were out to make sure that nobody like Bird would ever have power in California agriculture again." - Laura Flanders, author of Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species. The book Bushwomen reveals how the Bush female cabinet members are used to give the appearance of inclusiveness, while they carry out the Bush/Cheney radical right-wing agenda.
+ ANGOLA MOVES TO BAN GM PRODUCTS
Angola's agriculture minister has said GM foods should be banned from the country as their impact on human and animal health is unknown. Gilberto Lutucuta said more effort must be made to check if products entering Angola were genetically modified.
An aid worker said that a total ban on GM foods could complicate World Food Programme food aid coming from the US, as the US does not differentiate between GM and non-GM foods. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2947
+ WESTERN AUSTRALIA TO BAN PRODUCTION OF GM FOOD CROPS
Western Australia will become the first state in Australia to officially ban the production of GM food crops. The decision by the State Government will ensure farmers can continue to market GM-free produce, in a sector that contributes more than $9 billion to the state's economy.
Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said, "... there is no reason for us to adopt GM technology at this stage, and there are still so many questions unanswered as to the market aspects of GM technology." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2987
+ AUSTRALIA: VICTORIA EXTENDS MORATORIUM ON GM CROPS
The Victorian State Government has extended its moratorium on GM crops for another 4 years. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3076
+ IOWA LEADER BACKS US - NZ "PHARMA" CROP TIE-IN
A man who might be the next Vice-President of the United States would like to see New Zealand growing GM "pharma-crops" in the American off-season.
Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who may be a running mate for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, visited New Zealand leading a delegation of Iowa biotech businesses.
He said farmers in New Zealand, as in the Iowa cornbelt, needed new high-value products to replace low-value agricultural commodities.
"As Brazil and South America and Africa and some of the other parts of the world get their agricultural act together, our farms are going to be at a serious disadvantage," he said.
"The only way we in the US and you in New Zealand are going to continue to have prosperity is to figure out something new to add value to the food we're producing.
"One way to do that is to have a value-added crop designed for a particular application, such as growing crops that are designed to convert to ethanol, or for medicines or nutraceuticals." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3075
LOGIC AND WISDOM OF TOM VILSACK
1. In February 2004 Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack gave Monsanto (Muscatine, Iowa branch) two awards, part-sponsored by his own office, for "environmental excellence" - one a "special recognition for energy efficiency/renewable energy", and the other a "special recognition for air quality".
Monsanto Muscatine manufactures glyphosate herbicide and enjoys a permit from the Iowa Dept of Natural Resources to emit 13.2 tons per year of volatile organic compounds http://www.iowadnr.com/air/prof/oper/tv/final/04-TV-006.pdf
Greenpeace comments: "Monsanto's Muscatine, Iowa plant, which produces alachlor, butachlor and other highly toxic compounds, releases at least 265,000 pounds of chemicals per year directly into the Mississippi."
"According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service: 'the combined effect of the Monsanto discharge with other discharges may severely stress and degrade the [aquatic] habitat.' Agricultural chemicals in the discharge were of particular concern." http://www.greenpeaceusa.org/media/publications/criminaltext.htm
2. "In Iowa, the US Department of Agriculture has forced the biotech company, ProdiGene Inc. of College Station, Texas, to pay for burning 155 acres of conventional corn that may have cross-pollinated with some of the firm's biotech plants [corn GE'd to produce pig vaccine] .... The USDA did not disclose the location except to say it was in north-central Iowa. "...Vilsack said, 'we should not overreact and hamstring this industry or limit Iowa's ability to participate in this emerging industry.'"
- Philip Brasher, "ProdiGene Biotech Firm Under Fire has Link to Iowa", Des Moines Register, 14 Nov 02 http://www.mindfully.org/GE/GE4/ProdiGene-Under-Fire14nov02.htm
Is this how Vilsack plans to "add value" to Iowa's crops and make farmers more competitive - irreversibly contaminating corn with drugs??
+ MONSANTO INDONESIAN PROBE WIDENED INTO IMPROPER PAYMENTS
US authorities have widened an investigation into whether Monsanto engaged in improper business dealings in Indonesia. The new issue is whether a former outside consultant to Monsanto made an improper $50,000 payment in early 2002 to an Indonesian government official at the direction of a former Monsanto employee, the company said.
Both the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission were already looking into issues involving Monsanto's work in Indonesia.
Monsanto has had trouble getting some of its biotech crops approved in foreign countries, including a biotech cotton introduced in Indonesia in 2001. Monsanto closed down the biotech cotton sales operations in 2003 after two unsuccessful years that came amid complaints over yields and pricing.
Monsanto shares were down 1.6 percent at $33.69 on the New York Stock Exchange on March 22. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3000
+ NZ: LOCAL BODIES MAY HAVE RIGHT TO COMPENSATION OVER GE ERRORS
New Zealand councils may have the right to demand millions of dollars in compensation if things go wrong with GM crops, says a legal expert. Rebellious Northland councils paid the Sustainability Council, an anti-GM group, to explore their rights in regard to the release of GM plants in their areas.
The Sustainability Council's report contains advice from top environmental lawyer Dr Royden Somerville that councils may be able to impose GM no-go zones and their own liability regimes.
"A community can put in place a liability regime requiring those engaging in a GM release to pay compensation for harm caused by an approved release," Dr Somerville said.
He also found that councils might be able to use the Resource Management Act to impose GM-free zones. His findings on liability contradict the controversial clause in the Government's Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO), which demands compensation from people growing and releasing GMOs only if they flout the rules. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3001
+ INDIA: GENE CAMPAIGN OPPOSES IMPORT OF GM RICE INTO EU
Gene Campaign and Friends of the Earth have objected to a proposal by the European Commission for granting permission to Bayer to import GM rice into the EU as cattle feed. They petitioned the EC that such a move would have grave implications for the natural rice germplasm in the rice-growing regions of the developing world.
Bayer has sought permission to import and process GM herbicide-resistant rice (LLRice62) into the EU, though not for cultivation. It does not intend to grow this rice in Europe, even though rice is cultivated in five EU member States.
The fear is that this rice would be imported from India, paving the way for the cultivation of GM rice in its centre of origin, i.e., India, leading to genetic contamination of native gene pools and jeopardising world food security. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2988
JOKE OF THE WEEK
+ BIG PO (SON OF PRAKASH) STRUTS HIS STUFF FOR BIG NORM
Prakash, Avery & co. are busy milking Green Revolution pundit and pro-GM scientist Norman Borlaug's 90th birthday - and how!
Rohan Prakash - Big Po
My name is Rohan Prakash. I am 11 eleven years old, and live in Auburn, Alabama, USA. I have been rapping since about a year now.
I am a hip-hop artist and very much committed to being a rap singer. I have made several demo songs of my rap music and hope to post them soon on this website. Right now, I am proud of making 'The Norman Borlaug Rap" as a tribute to this great scientist, whom my dad admires very much. http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech_info/topics/borlaug/borlaug-rap.html
My music producer is DJ Redd of Tuskegee, AL. Many of my songs are written by Rick Sanders, my daycare instructor although I write my own songs and also collaborate with Rick on many. Both have inspired very much and I am really thankful that I have such good mentors who help and encourage me.
EXCERPT FROM THE NORMAN BORLAUG RAP (THANK YOU, NORMAN)
[To listen to the song (MP3): http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech_info/Borlaug_Rap160.mp3
For a picture of the artist: http://rohanraps.bravehost.com/]
Norman Borlaug, you may be
the greatest man in history.
Using science and your brain
to stamp out hunger, woe and pain.
Creating new varieties
of plants with new technologies.
You're the man we look up to.
That is why we're thanking you.
But then some people started to panic,
telling the farmers to go organic.
Technophobes started making a mess
of Norman Borlaug's great success.
Green groups thought they found the cure
in stinky piles of cow manure
GM WATCH PROFILES: NORMAN BORLAUG http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=24&page=B
C S PRAKASH http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=106&page=P
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HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the GMWATCH archive
25/3/2004 GM maize sunk by Welsh Assembly / Pressure grows to stop GM in Scotland
25/3/2004 GM PR spreading falsehoods down-under
25/3/2004 More on Traavik witch-hunt + Pusztai on risk aversion
25/3/2004 US-NZ 'pharma' crop tie-in urged / NZ risks squandering opportunity of the century
25/3/2004 Victoria extends moratorium on GM crops
24/3/2004 Assembly still on course for a GM Free Wales
24/3/2004 Big Po (Son of Prak) struts his stuff for Big Norm
24/3/2004 Welsh plea to avoid party politics goes unheeded
23/3/2004 TT raves from the grave!
23/3/2004 Witch-hunt underway against Prof Traavik?
22/3/2004 India's Gene Campaign opposes import of GM rice into E.U. / Europe urged to reject modified rice
22/3/2004 Japanese consumers tell Canada to stop GM wheat / Local bodies may have right to compensation over GE errors
22/3/2004 Monsanto Indonesian Probe Widened Into Improper Payments
22/3/2004 Western Australia to officially ban the production of all GM food crops / Moratorium sought in Bulgaria
21/3/2004 Action Alert - Lobby Welsh Assembly members now to stop GM in UK
21/3/2004 Crucial vote on GM crop this Wednesday
20/3/2004 87% of buyers say "No!" to GM wheat / 1 million Japanese say no to GM wheat! / New GM wheat ads
20/3/2004 Biotech battle flares in state - "It was Monsanto then, and it is Monsanto again"
19/3/2004 Angola moves to ban GM products
19/3/2004 New profile of the US ag secretary Ann Veneman
19/3/2004 Prof Terje Traavik in his own words
18/3/2004 Embarrassing upset for Scottish Executive - only parliamentary peculiarity prevents GM being blocked across the whole UK
18/3/2004 THE WEEKLY WATCH number 64
18/3/2004 Wambugu wambuzling again - says GM sweet potato a resounding success!
FOR THE COMPLETE GMWATCH ARCHIVE: http://www.gmwatch.org/archive.asp