1.Mandelson wants to fast-track GM (EU)
2.GM cotton costs up 20% (Oz)
3.Watchdog set to probe new contamination claims (Thailand)
Tony Blair shocked even his New Labour colleagues when he appointed his most trusted lieutenant, Peter Mandelson, to the European Commission despite his track record of failure and sleaze.
The twice-disgraced former minister is now apparently leading the charge at Brussels to have GM approvals fast-tracked even where that doesn't enjoy majority support among the countries of the EU.
Michael Meacher, the former UK environment minister has commented, "Having a group of unelected bureaucrats deciding what food should be eaten is fundamentally undemocratic. It is intolerable that they can ride it through roughshod over the objections of member states. This is the very kind of thing that the peoples of France and the Netherlands were objecting to in their referendums last week." (item 1)
1.Mandelson wants to fast-track GM
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
05 June 2005
Peter Mandelson is pressing for new GM foods and crops to be eaten and planted across Europe, even though governments cannot agree on whether to introduce them, top officials from the European Commission have told The Independent on Sunday.
They say that the controversial trade commissioner's department wants to speed up their use, despite widespread public opposition, and is insisting on their being imposed by the Commission on unwilling governments.
The Commission lifted a six-year moratorium on approving new modified foods and crops last year, and biotech firms have been queuing up to have their products officially cleared for use across the Continent.
Two types of GM maize have already been passed for human and livestock consumption over the past year, and more than 30 GM versions of maize, rice, potatoes, sugar beet, soya beans and other foods and crops are awaiting approval.
They are being nodded through by the Commission, over the heads of governments, because ministers cannot agree on whether to approve them. European countries are almost equally split into pro-GM and anti-GM camps, and every time a new product comes before ministers for clearance they are deadlocked. It then passes to the Commission itself for approval, in a procedure denounced by campaigners as "profoundly undemocratic".
Now the Commission's Health and Environment directorates are pressing for the system to be changed to give governments greater control.
Markos Kyprianou, the health and consumer protection commissioner, has also come out against it, and Hervé Martin, head of the biotechnology and pesticides unit in the EU Environment Directorate, says that it is "not sustainable to continue the system". He believes commissioners and governments should meet "before the summer" to work out a better one.
But, Mr Martin adds, the Trade Directorate wants to speed up the approval of more modified crops and products. He says it is insisting on sticking with the present arrangements, even if this means overriding the wishes of some governments.
Michael Meacher, the former UK environment minister, said yesterday: "Having a group of unelected bureaucrats deciding what food should be eaten is fundamentally undemocratic. It is intolerable that they can ride it through roughshod over the objections of member states.
"This is the very kind of thing that the peoples of France and the Netherlands were objecting to in their referendums last week."
Mr Mandelson's office failed to take up the opportunity to comment.
2.GM cotton costs up 20%
03 June 2005
Some Queensland cotton growers are considering abandoning the genetically modified Bolgard cotton because of a significant price increase. Monsanto confirms that it will be putting up the cost of its GM seed by at least 20 per cent which growers believe will eat into a forecast price rise for the fibre. Monsanto says it always intended to charge a higher price after the trial period of the new two-gene resistant cotton was completed. Monsanto says the reduction in a farmers' chemical bills will outweigh the increased cost of seed.
GM cotton seed price rise
Report: Angus Peacocke
In this report: Steve Ainsworth, Monsanto's commercial manager; Hamish Millar, Emerald-based cotton farmer.
Source: ABC Queensland
3.Watchdog set to probe cross-breeding claims
Bangkok Post, 5 June 2005
The National Human Rights Commission will probe alleged cross breeding of genetically modified and ordinary papaya plants found in Khamphaeng Phet province, said a commissioner on Thursday.
Vasant Panich, the NHRC's commissioner, said the organisation would set up a special sub-committee to probe the case after international environmental group Greenpeace submitted a letter asking it to follow up on the government's clean-up operations to stop the spread of GM papayas in several provinces.
''We wish to get the facts and make sure of them,'' said Mr Vasant.
Greenpeace visited the province in late-April and collected samples of papaya seeds it claimed to be of an ordinary papaya variety, the Florida Tolerance, to test along with other samples of Khakdam Tha Phra papayas in Rayong province as part of its follow-up probe.
In the middle of last year, Greenpeace also sent samples of the Khakdam Tha Phra variety grown in the Agriculture Department's research station and nearby farms in Khon Kaen province to Hong Kong-based lab GeneScan to test before confirming they were indeed GM.
Environmental activists later demanded the department investigate the GM papaya spread as it had sold the seeds to more than 2,600 farmers in 34 provinces.
Farmers in Khamphaeng Phet and Rayong had also bought the seeds, Greenpeace claimed.
Thailand does not yet allow open field trials, commercial production and the sale of GM crops.
The department later collected 8,912 samples from farmers growing the station's seeds. It found 329 samples from 85 farms were GM, and ordered them destroyed without publicising detailed findings.
Greenpeace, along with other independent organisations, launched their own follow-up probes. On Wednesday, Greenpeace revealed that three samples of papayas it collected from Rayong were GM, whereas the sample of the Florida Tolerance plant also contained GM genes. It demanded that the department more effectively contain the GM spread.
Surawit Wannakrairoj, assistant professor in biotechnology for crop improvement at Kasetsart University, said cross breeding of GM and ordinary plants was the worst-case scenario in terms of environmental protection as scientists did not know what the results would be.