Please see articles below reporting GE contamination in India and Mexico. In India ten thousand hectares of unauthorized transgenic cotton have been found while in Mexico plots of transgenic corn have been discovered in the states of Oaxaca and Puebla. Oaxaca, a rural southern Mexican state where maize is revered by indigenous people, is the global centre of corn diversity, and the place of origin of strains grown commercially around the world. Please see below to register your name against this contamination.
NATURE| VOL 413 | 11 OCTOBER 2001 | www.nature.com 555
Illicit GM cotton sparks corporate fury
K. S. Jayaraman, New Delhi
Ten thousand hectares of unauthorized transgenic cotton have been found in India. The news has angered firms waiting to grow genetically modified (GM) crops in the country, and raises serious questions about the ability of developing nations to regulate the introduction of GM varieties.
The discovery - made by researchers from a company seeking to win legal authorization for the cultivation of a crop carrying the same gene - comes hard on the heels of the revelation that transgenic corn is growing in the wild in Mexico (see Nature 413, 337; 2001).
Scientists at the Mumbai-based Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco), in which US transgenic- crop giant Monsanto holds a 26% stake, discovered the cotton on farms in the western state of Gujarat, and informed the regulatory authorities. Monsanto holds a patent on the transgene involved, from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This encodes an insecticidal protein that allows the cotton to resist bollworm pests.
Mahyco has been conducting field trials of the crop in India with a view to obtaining permission for its commercial use as early as next year. The farmers in Gujarat had purchased the transgenic seeds from Navbharat, a company based in the state capital, Ahmedabad. Nav-bharat is thought to have developed the seed as a hybrid from transgenic seed imported from the United States. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) - a branch of the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, whose permission is required for any large-scale use of genetically modified organisms has demanded an explanation from the company of how it came to be selling the seed without permission.
The discovery that the bollworm-resistant seeds are already available in Gujarat has infuriated Mahyco, which has spent US$8 million on preparing to commercialize Bt cotton in India. Mahyco's managing director, Raju Barwale, says his company wants "strong and immediate action" against Navbharat for its "blatant contravention of the legal and regulatory processes".
D. B. Desai, managing director of Nav-bharat, says his company will reserve comment on the allegations until he meets with GEAC officials. He declines to say where the seeds came from, although sources close to the company say they were brought from the United States (where Monsanto's GM seeds are freely available for sale) two-and-a-half years ago, and crossed with an Indian cotton variety to produce the hybrid. The sources add that Navbharat is likely to argue that it uses seeds from many sources, and lacks the technology to detect the transgenic strain in seed imported from the United States.
E. A. Siddiq, chairman of an Indian Department of Biotechnology committee that monitors transgenic crops, says: "This is a foretaste of a frightening situation where transgenics will be out of control and all over the place." Arvind Kapur, vice-president of the All India Biotech Association, says that law-abiding biotechnology companies will suffer unless the government establishes tighter control of the sale of transgenic seeds. To address the problem, argues P. K. Ghosh, a senior official at the biotechnology department, India needs to spend Rs100 million (US$2 million) on six national laboratories equipped to monitor genetically modified organisms more closely.
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TITLE: GM cotton in Gujarat alarms regulatory body
SOURCE: The Times of India
DATE: October 8, 2001
GM cotton in Gujarat alarms regulatory body
NEW DELHI: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in the ministry of environment has been shaken by the revelation that a genetically modified (GM) variety of cotton is growing in some 10,000 hectares of land in Gujarat without its knowledge. GEAC whose permission is required for commercial growing of GM crops has so far not approved cultivation of any such crop. So the disclosure has made a total mockery of Indian regulations regarding import and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GEAC Chairman A M Gokale was not available to comment. The environment ministry has learnt that cotton farmers of Gujarat had purchased the hybrid seeds from an Ahmedabad-based seed company that has been marketing its as a variety resistant to "bollworms". The GEAC has sent a notice asking the company to appear before the committee on Tuesday, October 9. Sources in the environment ministry said the company could be punished under Environmental Protection Act (1986) if the seeds they sold were confirmed to be genetically modified. India has so far not permitted cultivation of GM crops or consumption of GM foods due to uncertainties over their safety to environment and to humans. The company did not deny allegations that it sold GM seeds to farmers but a top official, when contacted on telephone, declined to make any comments until after his meeting with GEAC.
The cultivation of GM cotton in Gujarat was not detected by any regulatory body, as one would have expected. It was detected by scientists of the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Limited (MAHYCO) in Mumbai who reported their findings to GEAC and the department of biotechnology (DBT). MAHYCO Managing Director Raju Barwale said in a statement that "tests carried out in our laboratories established that they are transgenic seeds". He said the seeds in fact carried the same gene that his company is using in its "boll-guard" cotton variety that is currently undergoing field trials.
MAHYCO - in which the US company Monsanto has a 27 per cent stake - has developed its GM cotton variety by incorporating bacillus thuringicnsis (BT) gene it purchased from Monsanto six years ago. This gene protects cotton against bollworms. ( PTI )
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig
Whereas the genetic diversity of our crop plants is essential for the future of world agriculture, and Whereas landraces and wild relatives growing in centers of diversity of crop plants play a particular role in the conservation of crop genetic diversity, and
Whereas genetically engineered organisms may pose a particular threat to centers of diversity, and
Whereas genetically engineered corn may pose a special risk to the corn genetic diversity found in Mexican landraces (criollo maize) and teosinte,
We call upon all governments to employ all means possible to prevent the contamination of Mexican maize and its wild relatives by genetically engineered corn varieties.
Signatories (affiliations noted for identification purposes only):
Peter Rosset, Ph.D., Institute for Food and Development Policy, USA
Gary Nabhan, PhD. Center for Sustainable Environments, Northern Arizona University, USA
Bruce G. Ferguson, Ph.D., University of Michigan, USA
Doreen Stabinsky, Ph.D., College of the Atlantic and Greenpeace,
From: Biotech Forum
Sent: 04 October 2001 1109
This is the most disturbing article I have read in many years of study of the genetic engineering issue. What this means is that an entire species in its native state may soon become, in effect, genetically engineered. That is, it will no longer be possible to find non-genetically engineered corn growing in the wild anywhere.
Trees may be the next victims of genetic engineering. Scientists are engineering into trees genes from various plant and animal species, in an effort to "improve" the trees.
In fact, rather than improving organisms, genetic engineering should be classified as genetic damage. The "transgenes" engineered into an organism are a new form of pollution that, for all practical purposes, cannot be cleaned up. Even radioactive pollution eventually decays. But transgene pollution will reproduce for as long as there will be life on this planet.
Genetic Modification Taints Corn in Mexico
By CAROL KAESUK YOON
In a finding that has taken researchers by surprise and alarmed environmentalists, the Mexican government has discovered that some of the country's native corn varieties have been contaminated with genetically engineered DNA. The contaminated seeds were collected from a region considered to be the world's center of diversity for corn exactly the kind of repository of genetic variation that environmentalists and many scientists had hoped to protect from contamination. The result was unexpected because genetically modified corn, the presumed source of the foreign genes, has not been approved for commercial planting in Mexico.
Scientists expressed concern that the foreign genes could act to reduce genetic diversity in the country's native corn varieties and in the wild progenitor of domesticated corn, known as teosinte. If any of the foreign genes are very advantageous, plants carrying those genes could begin to dominate the population. In such cases genetic variation will be lost as the diversity of plants not carrying the foreign genes decreases or disappears. Whether that will happen or has happened remains unknown. In addition to being one of the world's most important crops, corn is viewed with a near religious reverence in Mexico, with seeds of native varieties passed down from generation to generation. Until now, scientists said researchers had assumed that these varieties, some of which are grown only by subsistence farmers in remote areas, were pristine. "These are the extremes, the places where you would really not expect to find contamination," said Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist at the University of California at Berkeley, saying the results are an indication of widespread contamination. "The only reason they found it there is because that's the only place they've looked."
Scientists said the results also indicated that crop genes might be able to spread across geographic areas and varieties more quickly than researchers had guessed. "It shows in today's modern world how rapidly genetic material can move from one place to another," said Dr. Norman C. Ellstrand, evolutionary biologist at University of California at Riverside. He said the real worry was that other foreign genes like pharmaceutical-producing genes being developed in crops could also find their way quickly and unnoticed into distant food sources. Genetically engineered corn, known as Bt corn because it produces the insecticide known as Bt, has been in use by farmers in the United States since 1996.
Mexico's Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources made the announcement on Sept. 18 that contaminated corn had been found in 15 different localities. The announcement credited Dr. Chapela with the initial discovery but described only the results from government-led research. Neither Dr. Chapela's team nor the Mexican teams' work has yet been published. Scientists assume the native corn became contaminated through interbreeding with Bt corn, but how Bt corn may have come to be planted in Mexico remains a matter of speculation. While not approved for planting, biotech corn is legally imported into Mexico for use in food. Greenpeace, calling the contamination a form of genetic pollution, is calling on Mexico to ban all importation of genetically modified corn.
The Mexican government has not disclosed exactly what genes were found. Exequiel Ezcurra, the director of the National Institute of Ecology, which worked on the study, did not respond to requests for an interview. But Dr.Chapela, who is familiar with the Mexican work, said the researchers had identified the presence of DNA sequences from the cauliflower mosaic virus. This DNA is used nearly universally in genetically engineered plants and does not produce Bt insecticide. As a result, it is still unclear whether any of the contaminated corn has the ability to produce the Bt insecticide. Scientists may eventually be able to quantify the biological effects of the contamination, but some say the cultural cost in a country where corn is a symbol of the Mexican people may be harder to measure. "The people are corn," said Dr. Chapela, who is Mexican, "and the corn is the people."
27 September 2001
GM threat to maize gene bank
By FWi staff
GREENPEACE has urged Mexico to adopt emergency measures to combat the first serious outbreak of genetic "pollution" in the gene bank of maize, in the state of Oaxaca. Testing of maize varieties from 22 communities in the area has revealed genetic contamination in 15. Thirteen of these samples show between 3-10% contamination with the remaining two at higher levels. The contamination originates from genetically engineered (GE) maize grains imported from the USA to Mexico to be used for food. Bacillus thuringiensis genes have since been found in varieties in Oaxaca, and Greenpeace is concerned the toxin may affect beneficial insects.
Greenpeace has appealed to governments participating in the next meeting of the Biosafety Protocol in Nairobi, Kenya, to help Mexico protect the food crop and speed the implementation of protocol. Raul Benet, executive director of Greenpeace Mexico said, "Mexico is the steward of global maize diversity. "It is Mexico's responsibility to take all necessary measures to protect this crop."
"This diversity ensures global food security now and in the future. We cannot afford any more delays," he added. Dr Doreen Stabinsky from Greenpeace USA this contamination of traditional varieties as "only the tip of the iceberg".
"All maize affected by genetic contamination, including wild plants, needs to be identified."
"The international community must now agree on immediate preventative measures to avoid further outbreaks of contamination into other centres of diversity," added Dr Stabinsky.
If Mexico accepts Greenpeace's plea, the first step in eliminating the source of contamination would involve banning all GE and GE-contaminated maize imports to the country.
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TITLE: Transgenic corn found growing in Mexico
SOURCE: Nature 413, 365, by Rex Dalton
DATE: September 27, 2001
Transgenic corn found growing in Mexico
[SAN DIEGO] Genetically modified corn (maize) has been found growing in Mexico, raising sensitive environmental and cultural issues in the part of the world where the crop was first cultivated centuries ago. Transgenic corn is widely sold for consumption in Mexico, where more than five million tonnes of corn are imported annually from the United States. But none of the corn is grown commercially there following a 1998 government moratorium.
The disclosure of scattered plots of transgenic corn in the states of Oaxaca and Puebla was made by a government official earlier this month. A research team at the University of California at Berkeley, which is preparing work on the topic for publication, has subsequently accused the official of breaching confidentiality by his disclosure. Preliminary results from a government study appear to confirm the transgenic corn. Oaxaca, a rural southern state where maize is revered by indigenous people, is the global centre of corn diversity, and the place of origin of strains grown commercially around the world. Environmentalists claim that the arrival of trangenic strains there could disrupt the genome of naturally bred corn.
Reports released in Mexico City last week say that the existence of growing genetically modified corn was discovered by a team led by Ignacio Chapela, a plant molecular biologist from the University of California at Berkeley who has long worked in Oaxaca. A native of Mexico, Chapela confidentially shared preliminary results of his research earlier this year with Mexican government officials. The officials then set up a research team to conduct similar studies.
On 4 September, at a subcommittee meeting of an international food-safety organization, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, Chapela's discovery was revealed publicly by Fernando Ortiz Monasterio, director of Mexico's biosafety commission. Within days, the information had reached the Mexican Congress and the press.
Chapela says he had told Ortiz and other Mexican officials that he was planning to publish his research, and that public disclosure would undermine this. He adds that Ortiz's "breach of confidentiality" will "degrade the quality of information" his team was compiling. Ortiz denies breaching confidentiality, but acknowledges that he did reveal Chapela's research results in a public forum. On 17 September, the Mexican environment ministry released partial results of its own study, which revealed that transgenic corn was found in 15 of 22 areas tested in Oaxaca and Puebla.
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig
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TITLE: Transgenic contamination of landraces of corn, one of the three ost important agricultural products of the world
SOURCE: Greenpeace Mexico, Press Release
edited and sent by Agnet, Canada
DATE: September 24, 2001
TRANSGENIC CONTAMINATION OF LANDRACES OF CORN, ONE OF THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS OF THE WORLD
The Mexican government, by means of the Commission for Genetically Modified Organisms and Biosecurity, has announced that there is scientific research That shows contamination of corn landraces (indigenous varieties) from the Mexican State of Oaxaca (world center of origin and diversity of corn), with transgenic varieties imported from the United States. During several years, the Mexican Gov. has authorized the importation of millions of tons of transgenic corn from the USA as grain for food and industry purposes, pretending to have restricted its use as seed. During more than three years, Greenpeace has been alerting Mexican Gov. about the high risk of transgenic contamination of the landraces and wild relatives of the most important grain of the American Continent. As a response, the authorities, together with the transgenic companies, have denied the risk of contamination, arguing that it would be impossible to occur. Now the contamination is there, and this implies an important risk for food security and without any doubt an important environmental impact over agricultural and wild ecosystems related with corn.
With this irresponsible contamination, the Mexican Gov. is incurring in violation of international agreements, mainly the Biological Diversity Convention and the Cartagena Protocol, signed by the Mexican Gov., and is putting in risk the whole genetic structure of the corn populations. Corn have been domesticated by Mexican Indigenous communities during several thousands of years, and embraces a deep cultural, nutritional and economic meaning for them. After three years of presence of transgenic corn the whole species is at high risk. Greenpeace is urging the Mexican Gov. to develop an emergency plan for coping with this contingency, including: * the assessment of the magnitude of the contamination and the involved transgenic varieties * the responsibilities of authorities that permitted the contamination to occur by neglecting the risk or refusing to implement effective measures to avoid it
*a de-contamination plan
*immediate stop to the importation of trangenic corn
*ratification of the Cartagena Protocol
*establishment of regulation and legislation to guarantee that this contamination will not occur again
*the filing of legal action over transgenic companies responsible of the production and disemination of transgenetic organisms
*inform immediatly to the country members of the Cartagena Protocol, and countries that could be facing the same risk
for more information, please contact me
Raul Benet Keil
People's Caravan 2000