THE BEST OF 2007
GM Watch's global roundup of resistance
The Bush-driven ethanol boom made 2007 a very profitable year for Monsanto. But its success was dependent on just one commodity - corn seed, which accounted for over a third of Monsanto’s sales and nearly 60% of its gross profits. And once you move beyond the unsustainable and environmentally devastating agrofuel boom, plus the recent decision of two Australian states to relax their bans on GM canola despite huge opposition, then 2007 was a year in which the biotech industry continued to face increasing global resistance on just about every other front right around the world. Most alarming of all for the industry were the signs of growing resistance within its US heartland.
Unsurprisingly, given the powerful aftershocks of the GM rice scandal - now estimated to have cost the grains industry over $1 billion, 2007 saw US rice producers calling not just for a ban on commercial GM rice growing but on all experimental outdoor plantings of GM rice. After all, it had been GM crop trials that had triggered the industry wide crisis - a lesson not lost on rice farmers and exporters in other countries.
And it wasn't only US rice farmers who were on the warpath. 2007 was a very bad year for the industry with the US judiciary. There were also worrying signs for the industry of growing consumer awareness and resistance with the biotech industry’s plans to introduce food from cloned animals into the food supply looking set to face major domestic opposition. And while surveys showed a majority of US consumers are still unaware that more than 70% of their processed foods contain GM ingredients, the call for labeling is growing - with even the likes of Hilary Clinton now backing it.
And Americans are increasingly aware of one GM product in their food. And they don't like it”¦
Around the world...
+ US TURNS AGAINST GM HORMONESurveys show over 80% of consumers would prefer to purchase dairy products produced without the GM hormone rBGH (aka rBST). And rising consumer demand prompted Starbucks to commit to making 100% of the milk supply free of the GM hormone by the end of the year in its 6,793 company-operated cafes. Grocery retailer Krogers followed suit. Safeway announced milk suppliers for its Northwest U.S. processing plants have stopped using rBGH. And a series of major dairies started requiring all their farmers to supply milk without using Monsanto's GM hormone. Meanwhile, Chipotle became the first national restaurant chain to eliminate rBGH entirely from the items on its menu.
+ 89% OF AMERICANS WANT GM LABELSA number of leading US presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, have gone on record as favouring mandatory labeling of GM foods as part of their election campaigns. A report funded by the USDA found 89% of Americans want mandatory labeling. And even a poll commissioned by the biotech industry showed only a minority of Americans view GM foods in a positive light, while a majority of American women find GMOs troubling.
+ CONSUMERS FLOOD FDA WITH CLONED FOOD OBJECTIONS
Consumers submitted over 130,000 comments to the Food and Drug Administration opposing the Agency's plan to introduce food from cloned animals into the US food supply. A poll found that nearly two-thirds of US consumers were unhappy with animal cloning and it looks set to become a major issue if the FDA and biotech industry push ahead.
+ NINE MASSACHUSETTS TOWNS VOTE AGAINST GM
+ US STATES INTRODUCE NUMEROUS BILLS TO REGULATE GM FOODS
US state capitols were filled with bills aimed at protecting small family farming systems and consumers from GM foods.
+ US COURT DECISIONS DAMN REGULATORY SYSTEM
The US promotes itself around the world as the model for GM crop regulation, but the judgments of its own judiciary tell a different story. It all started in late 2006 when a federal district judge ruled that the US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) broke the law by not conducting preliminary environmental reviews before permitting the cultivation of drug-producing GM pharma crops throughout Hawaii. US District Judge Michael Seabright also called USDA's regulatory heedlessness 'arbitrary and capricious' and 'an unequivocal violation of a clear congressional mandate.'.
+ US FEDERAL COURT ORDERS HALT TO NEW GM FIELD TRIALS
In 2007 a U.S. federal district judge ruled that the USDA must halt approval of all new GM field trials until more rigorous environmental reviews are conducted. Citing potential threats to the environment, Judge Harold Kennedy found the USDA's past approvals of field trials of herbicide tolerant GM bentgrass were illegal.
+ LANDMARK US FEDERAL RULING
In a separate ruling, another US federal judge ruled that the USDA violated the law by failing to adequately assess possible environmental impacts before approving Monsanto's GM alfalfa. Judge Charles R. Breyer said the agency had been 'cavalier' in deciding that a full environmental impact statement was not needed. The decision blocked commercial sales of GM alfalfa seeds nationwide.
+ GM CONCERNS HIT GLOBAL ENZYMES MARKET
Consumer concerns over GM have led to a surge in demand for naturally-sourced enzymes, that can avoid the GMO stigma.
+ PROTESTS IN FRANCE KEEP GROWING
Throughout 2007 activists in France kept trampling fields of GM crops. In 2004 45%of all Monsanto's field trials on GMO seeds suffered damage, in 2005 it was 55%, and in 2006 65%. There are also indications that French courts are starting to take a more lenient view. French farmer-activist Jose Bove was recently spared four months in prison for ripping up GM crops, after a judge converted his sentence to a fine.
+ GM BAN IN FRANCE
There was biotech industry outrage in October 2007 after France announced a ban on Monsanto's MON810 (Bt) corn, the only GM crop being grown in France. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he would suspend the planting of GM Bt crops until the results of an appraisal of the issue in 2008 - the appraisal has now led to the extension of the ban. Sarkozy also said that he personally doubted the benefits claimed for GM crops. Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe commented that, 'the precautionary shift now in Sarkozy's tone is a seismic one'. France's policy shift is expected to have implications for the rest of the EU.
+ EU COMMISSION DEFEATED FOR THIRD TIME ON GMOs
For the third time EU governments blocked a European Commission proposal to force a European country to accept the cultivation of GMOs on its soil. Only 4 of the EU’s 27 members voted in support of the Commission.
+ EU OFFICIALS PROPOSED BAN ON GM CORN SEEDS
European Union environment officials have determined that two kinds of GM maize (corn) could harm butterflies, modify food chains and disturb life in rivers and streams. They have proposed a ban on the sale of the seeds, which are made by Pioneer Hi-Bred, Dow Agrosciences and Syngenta.
+ CHINA SAID NO (AGAIN) TO COMMERCIALIZING GM RICE
China, the world's top rice producer, has shelved proposals for commercial production of GM rice for the fourth time since 2004.
+ CHINESE WARY OF GM FOOD
Among consumers surveyed in China's cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, 65% would not choose GM food and 77% would not buy GM rice.
+ INDIA: 6.5 MILLION FARMERS WANT TO JOIN LAWSUIT AGAINST GMOs
In another major development in the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) brought by Aruna Rodrigues and co-petitioners before India's Supreme Court, over 6.5 million farmers from every state in India asked the Court to let them join the case, saying GM crops risk irreversibly damaging India's farmland and biodiversity. This new move followed the application filed by the Association of the Rice Millers and Exporters in India, who want a GM moratorium to protect the rights of farmers and consumers to grow and consume GM-free crops, as well as to ensure that exports don't suffer because of GM contamination.
+ ONE MILLION SIGNATURES AGAINST GM RICE IN ASIA
Over a million peasant farmers, agricultural workers, rural women, activists and consumers in 13 countries across Asia signed a petition against GM rice launched as part of the Week of Rice Action (WORA) 2007 - a mass mobilization of over a million people organised by PAN AP.
+ THREE MILLION ITALIANS SIGNED ANTI-GM PETITION
+ 10,000 THAI CONSUMERS AND FARMERS SIGNED ANTI-GM PETITION
+ GM RICE - GLOBAL REJECTION GROWS
Forty-one of the world's biggest rice exporters, processors and retailers have issued written commitments to stay GM-free. This follows the major contamination incident when the world's rice supply was contaminated with an experimental and illegal variety of GM rice produced by Bayer.
+ ARCHBISHOP OF MANILA CALLS FOR GM MORATORIUM
Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales wrote to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo asking for a moratorium on US rice imports because of GM contamination and a stop on all GMOs in the Philippines.
+ ISLAMIC SCHOLAR SAYS TRADE IN GM FOODS IS 'CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY'
In Qatar, the prominent Islamic scholar Ali Mohyeedin al-Qurradaghi called upon dealers and consumers to boycott companies trading in tainted commodities and GM foods, saying that cheating in these goods is a 'crime against humanity'.
QUOTE FROM THE QU'RAN: 'Eat and drink of that which Allah has provided and do not act corruptly, making mischief on the earth.' (2:60)
+ LANDMARK COURT RULING IN THE PHILIPPINES
A judge stopped the Department of Agriculture from approving a GM rice strain in the Philippines. Bayer's LL62 rice has been approved for commercial distribution only in the United States.
+ NEW STATUTE PROTECTS DNA OF WILD RICE
The DNA of Minnesota wild rice gets special protection under a new state law adopted this year with the backing of Indian tribes.
+ BRAZIL: JUDGE BANS BAYER'S GM CORN
A federal judge banned the use of Bayer's GM corn. The judge also blocked the official biosafety agency, CTNBio, from approving Monsanto and Syngenta GM corn. As a result, not a single GM approval took effect in Brazil during 2007.
+ KOFI ANNAN - GMOs 'NOT THE SOLUTION TO FOOD CRISIS IN AFRICA'
Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who chairs the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra), ruled out the use of GMOs in the battle against food insecurity and poverty in Africa.
But plenty of doubts remained about Gates' style philanthropy in Africa.
+ SOUTH AFRICA REJECTED MULTIPLE GM APPLICATIONS
The South African GM authority - previously considered an open door for biotech interests - turned down a series of applications for experimental GM crop cultivation, including GM sorghum, GM cassava and the first ever application for GM bulbs and flowers outside a laboratory.
+ GM POTATOES EXPELLED FROM ANDES
The government of Cusco, a region in the Peruvian Andes, banned all GM varieties of potato. The area was the birthplace of many potato varieties, and is still home to thousands of kinds of potato.
+ INDIA: GOVT ADVISED AGAINST GROWING BT COTTON
The government of the Indian state of Maharashtra recommended that farmers in its main cotton belt of Vidarbha stop growing Bt cotton and switch to an alternative crop. This is because Bt cotton cultivation has proven unviable due to its high costs and unsatisfactory output. The take up of Bt cotton in Maharashtra’s cotton belt has been greater than in any other part of India, and the state government previously played a big role in hyping it to poor farmers. As a result, farmer suicides in the area have gone through the roof. Earlier in the year, The Times of India reported under the headline 'Bt cotton has failed in Vidarbha' how Maharashtra's agriculture minister had 'admitted that the much-hyped, and high-priced Bt seeds were only adding to the burden of Vidarbha's farmers.'
+ SOUTH AFRICA: MONSANTO NAILED TWICE
Monsanto was twice ordered by South Africa's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to withdraw advertising claims of there being no negative reactions to GM foods.
+ FRANCE: MONSANTO FINED FOR FRAUDULENT ADVERTISING
A French court levied US $19,000 fines on Monsanto and Scotts France for misleading the public about the safety of the herbicide Roundup.
+ GREECE EXTENDED BIOTECH BANS
Greece extended for two more years a ban on GM maize seed. It has also banned GM corn from being imported into the country. The ministry also blocked the import of 88 tons of GM-contaminated Chinese rice.
+ CYPRUS WANTS TO BE DECLARED GM-FREE
Cyprus wants to declare itself a GM-free zone, its agriculture minister said. The parliament also passed legislation to place GM food on separate supermarket shelves, although this was vetoed by the President. A previous attempt to introduce such legislation led the US to threaten Cyprus with the WTO.
+ GERMANY: PROTESTERS WRECKED 15,000 SQUARE METRES OF GM MAIZE
In one of a series of anti-GM protests, demonstrators wrecked about 15,000 square metres of Monsanto’s GM maize despite being confronted by a police helicopter and nearly 600 officers.
+ GERMANY CALLED FOR MORATORIUM ON GM CROPS
Germany has called for authorisations of new GM plants in the European Union to be temporarily halted to make sure that safety checks are thorough enough and free of influence by the biotech industry.
+ GERMANY: RIGHTS OF BEEKEEPERS UPHELD BY COURT OVER GM CORN
+ BLAIR QUIT!
GM evangelist Tony Blair finally stood down as Britain's prime minister. Blair will be remembered for kowtowing to George Bush on Iraq and GM crops, and failing to convince the British people on either issue.
+ PROTESTERS MADE BRITAIN GM-FREE AGAIN
In July a group of protesters converged on Britain's last remaining GM trial site, just outside Cambridge, scaled the security fences and destroyed the crop of GM potatoes. A similar trial planned in East Yorkshire was abandoned earlier in the year due to concerns from nearby farmers. With the destruction of the Cambridge crop, British fields were once again GM-free.
+ SCOTLAND TO MAINTAIN GM MORATORIUM
The new Scottish administration declared its intention to 'maintain a moratorium on the planting of GM crops in Scotland.' There are also political parties now involved in the new ruling administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland that have long been opposed to GM crops.
+ IRELAND AIMS TO BECOME GM-FREE
In the Republic of Ireland, following the Green Party agreement to form a coalition with Fianna Fail, the new coalition government revealed their policy of negotiating 'for the whole island of Ireland to become a GMO-free zone.'
+ KENYA COALITION WON FIGHT AGAINST BIOSAFETY BILL
The biotech industry and the US-backed pro-GM lobby in Kenya suffered an unexpected setback after the Kenyan Biodiversity Coalition, comprising more than 40 NGOs, was able to prevent the passage of an industry-friendly Biosafety Bill with the help of public protests and demonstrations in Nairobi.
+ 'ALTERNATIVE NOBEL' FOR SCHMEISERS
A 2007 Right Livelihood Award was given to Canadian farmers Percy and Louise Schmeiser, who fought Monsanto in court after the company sued them for having its Roundup Ready genes on their land (their crop was contaminated by GM canola). The Jury for the Awards, which are often referred to as 'Alternative Nobel Prizes', honoured the Schmeisers 'for their courage in defending biodiversity and farmers' rights, and challenging the environmental and moral perversity of current interpretations of patent laws'.
+ MONSANTO ANTI-FARMER PATENTS REJECTED AS INVALID
The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected four key Monsanto patents related to GM crops that the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) challenged because the agricultural giant is using them to harass, intimidate, sue - and in some cases bankrupt - American farmers.
+ PATENT OFFICE REVOKED MONSANTO PATENT
The European Patent Office revoked a species-wide patent on GM soy held by Monsanto.
+ MOST ROMANIANS REJECT GM FOOD
+ FINLAND: WIDESPREAD OPPOSITION TO GM FEED
According to a survey commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat, half of the population completely disapprove of GM feed, and more than 90 per cent feel that meat raised with such feed should have a label that informs the consumer of its use.
+ RUSSIA'S DUMA DRAFTS GM FOOD BAN BILL
The Security Committee of the Russian Duma (the lower house of the Federal Assembly) has drafted a bill banning the production and sale of GM food.
+ MOSCOW LABELS GM-FREE FOODS
+ INDIA: AGRI PANEL WANTS BAN ON GM TRIALS
Bengal's state agriculture commission recommended banning field trials of GM crops in the state.
+ 'ASIA's NOBEL PRIZE' FOR JOURNALIST WHO HELPED EXPOSE BT COTTON SCANDAL
The Indian journalist Palagummi Sainath was awarded the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay award (often considered Asia's Nobel Prize) for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts. Among the many stories about the plight of the rural poor that P Sainath has brought to light is the 'devastating' (his word) impact of Monsanto on debt-burdened farmers in states like Maharashtra (see above). Read one of his articles, which GM Watch chose as its 'Best of 2006', at
+ INDIA: FARMERS BESIEGED HOUSE OF KARNATAKA’S CHIEF MINISTER
Thousands of poor farmers from Karnataka State Farmers Association besieged the residence of the chief minister of Karnataka, with demands including a ban on GM crops in Karnataka.
+ DEMAND FOR A GM-FREE TAMIL NADU
A big rally in the South Indian city of Chennai - organised by South Against Genetic Engineering (SAGE) - called for GM crops to be made illegal in Tamil Nadu. More than 10,000 farmers in the state are said to have lost heavily by cultivating Bt cotton.
+ TAMIL NADU BANS SALE OF MONSANTO SEEDS
The sale of Monsanto-Mahyco seeds was banned by the Tamil Nadu government after its Bt cotton failed leaving thousands of farmers in distress. Tamil Nadu’s minister for agriculture also managed to extract compensation from the company for around a 1,000 farmers whose crop had suffered.
+ LOUD 'NO' TO GMOs FROM ORISSA
The Orissa government will not allow Bt brinjal (eggplant) inside the state because it fears that the GM crop may endanger the biosafety of native farm products. 'We are not for any genetically modified (GM) crop, let alone Bt Brinjal. There is no credible scientific study to stand by the GM crops. Nor are there reports from anywhere in the country about farmers welcoming it,' agriculture minister Surendra Nath Nayak said. 'On the contrary, public protests against GM crops are galore.'
+ FARMERS RANSACK MONSANTO-MAHYCO OFFICE
The Calcutta office of Mahyco) a subsidiary of Monsanto, was ransacked by farmers protesting GM trials in West Bengal.
+ POLITICAL PARTIES START CALLING FOR GM BANS
In 2007 several Indian political parties began calling for immediate bans on GM crops.
+ INDIA: GOVERNMENT FORCED TO DISCLOSE SAFETY DATA ON GM CROPS
India's Central Information Commission (CIC) ordered the department of biotechnology to disclose toxicity and allergenicity data on all GM food crops that are field-tested.
+ LANDMARK LAW BANS GMOs IN NEGROS OCCIDENTAL
The Philippines province of Negros Occidental has passed a landmark law that bans the entry of GM plants and animals.
+ REJECTION OF US FOOD AID SIGNALS CHANGE IN HUNGER POLICY
CARE, a top US aid organization, walked away from tens of millions of dollars in annual US federal financing in opting out of the mechanism by which the US donates food aid. The US food aid system is one that according to many takes advantage of the lack of regulation of GM foods and that undermines democratic decision making about food consumption.
We hope you enjoyed this small selection of the global resistance to GMOs that caught our eye in 2007.
Catch all the latest news at http://www.gmwatch.org/archive.asp
And check out our
GUIDE TO ALL THE LATEST RESEARCH (2007)
NON-GM BREAKTHROUGHS - 2007
BOOKS - 2007
FILMS - 2007