1.MORE INFO FROM SYNGENTA - Bt10 likely in human food chain
2.BT10 NOT THE SAME AS BT11
3.Kiwi International Seed Federation president opposes low minimum thresholds for contamination
4.Australia Threatens Sanctions over NZ Biosecurity Measures
The Bt 10 contamination scandal grows and grows and at the heart of it is Syngenta's inability to control its GM seed production and marketing over a four year period and its persistent failure to release full and adequate information once the scandal came to light.
It was exactly the same corporation that, we now know, was very active in the Brazilian delegation in Montreal which played a key part in helping global genetic contamination to escape unnoticed and unscathed.
The very corporations that imperil are biosafety are calling the shots when it comes to establishing international regulations over the movement of GMOs around the globe.
1.BT10 SCANDAL -- MORE INFO FROM SYNGENTA
Bt10 is likely to be in the human food chain
In an Email to DEFRA, obtained by GM Free Cymru through the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, Syngenta has admitted that all of the five Bt10 breeding lines involved in the infamous "contamination incident" were yellow field corn lines. This type of corn is unlikely to have been used as fresh corn on the cob or as canned or frozen sweetcorn, but it is used in a wide range of processed foods with maize ingredients intended for human consumption (see below).
This admission directly contradicts the assurances given by FSA in this country and by the EC that all of the BT10 went into animal feed and is therefore relatively harmless.
The company is still holding 19,000 sacks of Bt10 seed "in quarantine". Why this material has not been destroyed is a mystery -- maybe Syngenta is waiting for all the fuss to die down before simply slipping the seed into the food chain?
The Email confirms that one of the breeding lines "was commercialized in a very small amount" -- which would have been illegal even in the USA, since consent for Bt10 lines was never requested or given.
It also confirms that 37,000 acres of the Bt10 varieties were planted over a four-year period; as we have pointed out earlier, that could mean that around 185,000 tonnes of Bt10 maize has gone into the food chain. Most will probably have been used in the US, and the biggest export quantities would have gone into South Korea and Japan. But in the period 2000-2003 (when most Bt10 would have come into the food chain) a total of c 685,000 tonnes of maize and maize products (excluding seed and popcorn) was imported by the EU from the USA.
We cannot accept that the Bt10 maize will have been diluted evenly through the food chain. Since maize is bought in the market place in batches and shipped to food processors in Europe, there is a chance that some food products on supermarket shelves will have high concentrations of Bt10 in them. Is any testing of human food products going on, or have the food manufacturers and the EU food safety agencies simply accepted the nonsense fed to them by Syngenta -- namely that all of the Bt10 has gone into animal feed?
Source: Email from Syngenta to DEFRA, dated 5 April 2005
1. Field corn (as distinct from sweetcorn) is picked at a mature, predominantly starchy stage, dried to a more hardened state, and used in a multitude of ways--as livestock feed and, after refining, in a wide array of processed foods and drinks, from cornstarch to whiskey (as well as in many nonfood products, such as fuel, paper, and plastics).
2. The full range of manufactured maize products is enormous, including packaged sweetcorn, corn on the cob, baby food, corn oil, corn flour, corn starch, polenta, maize meal, maize pasta, maize based snacks and tortillas (including tortilla chips and tacos). How much will GM components be "degraded" in these products?
2.BT10 IS NOT THE SAME AS BT11
THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
8 June 2005
Dear Friends and colleagues,
In mid-May, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), responding to increasing public pressure, released several documents that purport to support the FSANZ view that Bt10 is virtually identical to Bt11, according to Greenpeace Australia. Bt10, an unapproved and experimental GM corn, was inadvertently mistaken for Bt11, approved in some countries, and released by Syngenta from 2001-2004.
FSANZ has argued that "the two varieties have been modified in the same way and produce the same novel proteins. The presence of a non-functional antibiotic resistance marker gene (BLA) in Bt-10 corn, that is not present in Bt-11, has no impact on the safety of food produced from Bt-10 corn."
FSANZ has argued that because Bt10 is for all intents and purposes the same as Bt11 and Bt11 has been deemed safe for human consumption, then FSANZ is justified in taking no steps to remove potential Bt10 products from Australian supermarket shelves or to prevent possible continuing imports of Bt10 corn products.
However, as the Syngenta documents released by FSANZ and the critique by Dr Jack Heineman of the NZ Institute of Gene Ecology at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand as well as the leaked documents received by the Institute for Science in Society (ISIS) show, these claims do not hold water.
The Heinemann critique makes it clear that based on these documents some differences between Bt10 and Bt11 can be established.
"The Syngenta documents you have provided indicate that there are additional and possibly substantial differences between BT10 and BT11."
Further, claims relating to the similarity of Bt10 and Bt11 cannot be ascertained from the materials released.
"The report SSB-112-05 indicates that there were differences in the profiles of PAT and Cry1Ab proteins and thus there may be other undetected differences."
The Syngenta documents are now available on the Greenpeace Australia website at http://www.greenpeace.org.au/features/features_details.html?site_id=45&news_id=1672
In a separate analysis, ISIS came to a similar conclusion after studying leaked documents that Syngenta sent to the US Environment Protection Agency earlier this year. The data suggested that "Bt10 is completely different from Bt11".
It also noted that the detection method for Bt10 which has been adopted by the EU authorities is flawed.
Bt10 has been recently found in US shipments in Japan, the biggest buyer of US corn, and in Ireland. Countries should demand that US corn exports be tested before shipment, and for assurance that the shipments do not contain Bt10.
With best wishes,
Chee Yoke Heong
Third World Network
121-S Jalan Utama
For Dr Heinemann's analysis
For "Bt 10 Detection Method Unacceptable"
3.Kiwi chairs seed meet
Rural News, June 7, 2005
Seed traders want the level of genetically modified material allowed in seeds set at a minimum threshold of 1%.
Agriseeds New Zealand managing director Selwyn Manning made the call at the 2005 World Seed Congress in Chile last week.
Manning, the first New Zealander to hold the International Seed Federation presidency, says for several years the ISF has argued the case for "realistic tolerance levels".
However, Manning says that absence of official thresholds creates uncertainty and has already caused some trade disruption between North America and Europe.
"Some countries are proposing thresholds significantly lower than 1% and this would adversely affect international seed trade, as achieving those levels at a reasonable cost is extremely difficult, and not practical for large quantities," he says.
He urged ISF members to continue working for effective change, before trade bans on the grounds of adventitious presence "become the norm, rather than the exception".
Manning says he is humbled to be the first ISF president from the Southern Hemisphere.
"Traditionally, our industry has looked to the other half of the world - the Northern Hemisphere - for much of its growth, direction and influence."
"But today developments in the Southern Hemisphere are increasingly shaping our future."
Manning says Chile's progress in the production and export of seed during the past decade "clearly illustrates the growing potential of countries in this region".
The ISF oversees the world seed trade in cereals, cotton, oil crops and forage.
It has 70 member countries representing approximately US$30 billion in international trade.
About 1000 delegates attended the congress.
4.Australia Threatens Sanctions over NZ Biosecurity Measures
GE free NZ press release, 7 June 2005
New Zealand's future is at risk as a result of Australia's threats of sanctions over biosecurity measures designed to prevent new pests gaining a foothold here.
A report in Farmers Weekly says that NZ Government ministers have admitted Australia had threatened New Zealand with punitive sanctions if steps were taken to prevent inadvertent imports of glyphosate-resistant ryegrass as contamination in grain. [Australia has the worst resistance problems in the world]
The letter signed by Jim Sutton's press secretary said that in rejecting the testing the Australians pointed out there were more weed seeds in grain imports from New Zealand, and said that "no country in the world has measures for Roundup-resistant plant seeds. If we took measures against them these measures would be unfair (aimed only at one country) and unprecedented (nowhere else in the world).They (the Australians) proposed punitive measures on New Zealand products in response".
"The measures they proposed for our exports to Australia were potentially disastrous for our industry here and so further steps were not taken," the Minister's letter is reported to have stated.
"If this kind of blackmail is allowed it will make a shambles of our bio-security standards," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.
It is a cause of great concern that growers were told some years ago that the biosecurity measures were being put in place but were grossly misled.
It is also damaging to international relations that New Zealand representatives have betrayed our national interests by playing a 'spoiler' role at the recent Conference on the Cartegna Protocols and blocked moves for an international system of similar protections around GMO's.
"It makes it hard for New Zealand to defend it's own biosecurity needs when we are trying to block other countries from doing so," says Jon Carapiet. "Basically this shows what a mess is being made of balancing New Zealand's biosecurity and trade interests."
Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681
contact details: NZ FARMERS WEEKLY 0 800 85 25 80
fax: 06 323 7101
MAF failure to act on ryegrass threat exposed
by Annette Scott
Categories: Lead Story; Animal Health;
Publication: NZ Farmers Weekly; Date: 2031-05-20
NOT HAPPY: Grain growers are surprised and disappointed MAF did not stop herbicide-resistant ryegrass entering the country when it was notified of the biosecurity threat in 2003, Grain Council chairman Hugh Ritchie says.
Agriculture leaders have back-tracked over a biosecurity threat from herbicide-resistant ryegrass which could decimate sectors of New Zealand's agriculture industry.
Grain growers are angered by the discovery the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is allowing Roundup-resistant ryegrass into the country.
This is because two years ago MAF gave assurances action would be taken on the issue.
Stakeholders in the New Zealand arable industry have serious concerns about all weeds exotic to New Zealand, and in particular to the herbicide resistant strains of Lolium rigidum found in Australia.
They fear a gut-wrenching outcome if the threat from the herbicide-resistant strain of imported grasses is not taken seriously.
Despite a series of letters in August 2003 between MAF and plant biosecurity authorities in Australia, and the assurance to the NZ Grains Council that action was being taken - nothing was followed through.
The Government now says it is dangerous for New Zealand to make its own rules, while the Grains Council says weed seeds are at risk of entering as a contaminant in imported grain used for processing into animal feed, flour and other products.
The herbicide-resistant grass is a widespread problem weed in Australian wheat crops and could decimate New Zealand's herbage seed industry if it became established here.
Livestock farmers would also have difficulty spraying out ryegrass paddocks with glyphosate, forcing them to use more toxic, expensive and in many cases less effective alternatives such as paraquat. Wheat and barley growers would also face increased costs and weed competition from the vigorous ryegrass strains.
The MAF letters, which Farmers Weekly has sighted, acknowledge resistant ryegrass is a notifiable weed and should not be allowed into the country under any circumstances.
MAF advised Australian authorities in a letter dated August 20, 2003 that glyphosate-resistant strains of ryegrass were immediately regarded as being new organisms to New Zealand and would be treated as regulated weed seeds or contaminants unless additional entry conditions were met.
The letters stated MAF was going to urgently modify standards to reflect the new status.
A letter was duly forwarded to Grains Council chairman Hugh Ritchie on August 27, 2003 advising of the remedial action which was to be followed.
MAF assured Ritchie it would not permit entry of consignments of the chemical resistant seeds.
But industry stakeholders have discovered the glyphosate resistant strain of ryegrass is still not on the New Zealand list of regulated weed seeds and Australian grain continues to arrive uncleaned.
That discovery is at odds with the advice provided in the August 27, 2003 letter.
"It is with surprise and disappointment that we learned recently that MAF did not add the weed to the list. The grains council was never officially notified of this," Ritchie said.
The first step now was to obtain more information on the risk imposed by the weed, he said.
The Grains Council had formally requested Biosecurity New Zealand assess the risk by undertaking a "grow out" test of weed seeds in imported grain processes into finished products.
"This will allow us to better understand the actual risks imposed by this import pathway," he said.
South Canterbury Grains Council vice-chairman Jeremy Talbot in a letter to agriculture minister Jim Sutton this month called for immediate action by MAF to gain guarantees all grain exported from Australia to New Zealand would be cleaned prior to shipping.
Talbot questioned why MAF was allowing wheat and barley contaminated with wild oats and chemically resistant weeds and grasses to be imported from Australia.
He also asked why New Zealand was not allowed to export feed and milling grains to Australia.
"Surely Mr Sutton we need to have fair-trading before free trade," Talbot suggested.
Sutton sidestepped the issue, with Talbot receiving a letter of reply from associate agriculture minister Damien O’Connor.
The letter from O’Connor was brief, stating the current import health standards were considered to be effective by MAF in managing the risk of establishment of regulated pests including weed seeds.
On questioning the reply with the minister’s office, Talbot expressed his disappointment Sutton himself had not replied and indeed that the reply was not acceptable given the circumstances of the 2003 MAF letters. He was advised from the office he had received the wrong letter, even though it was correctly addressed and referred to Talbot’s questions.
Within two days Talbot received another reply.
This time communications from the minister revealed Australia had threatened New Zealand with punitive sanctions if steps were taken to prevent inadvertent imports of glyphosate-resistant ryegrass as contamination in grain.
The letter signed by Sutton’s press secretary Cathie Bell said when approached the Australians pointed out there were more weed seeds in grain imports from New Zealand.
"Also no country in the world has measures for Roundup-resistant plant seeds. If we took measures against them these measures would be unfair(aimed only at one country) and unprecedented (nowhere else in the world).
They (the Australians) proposed punitive measures on New Zealand products in response.
"The measures they proposed for our exports to Australia were potentially disastrous for our industry here and so further steps were not taken," the letter stated.
Despite the Australian threats, MAF has contracted AgResearch to study the risk to the New Zealand industry from herbicide-resistant seeds.
The letter stated the government was working hard to get the rules of the international trading system to be fairer and to be based on honest science.
"We don’t believe the best way to react is by making our own rules unfair and not science-based."
Growers are prepared to fight to the end.
"We will not give up on this now. We have been grossly misled once and we will get this sorted this time. We will fight until we get what was promised because the consequences of not are unthinkable," Talbot said.
Ritchie said the Grains Council did not want to see this weed become established in New Zealand and would take whatever steps were necessary to ensure the risk was as close to zero as possible.