Betreff: GM WEEKLY WATCH 116
Datum: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 23:08:19 +0100

WEEKLY WATCH number 116
from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor

It looks as if Monsanto & co. ordered a distraction campaign in the run up to last week's Bad News Week - publication of the GM farm scale trial results, generating headlines like "The end of GM crops" (LOBBYWATCH SPECIAL - UK FARM SCALE TRIAL RESULTS), and the admission that tons of rogue GM corn has gone into the food chain worldwide (NEW CONTAMINATION SCANDAL).

The industry will have had time to prepare for both and surely it cannot be coincidence that, on one side of the Atlantic, we've had a wave of invective against critics of GM as "extremists", "fundamentalists", etc., while on the other, AgBioView's attack dogs, chief among them Andrew Apel - have suddenly been let off the leash. These attack dogs have been pretty much kept out of the fray since the media revelations in 2002 as to how AgBioView was being used as a front for Monsanto and its poison pen attacks. (

Apel's latest article hypes the NEW "healthier" GM plants - ignoring the fact that the "healthy" trait of Monsanto's new low-linolenic acid soybeans owes nothing to GM (LOBBYWATCH - OTHER STORIES)! Doubtless many more such pieces will follow, even if AgBioView puts Apel back on his chain.

Finally, an extraordinary uprising of wisdom in the Indian state of Orissa: around 3000 women have made a bonfire of GM and hybrid seeds and demanded that the state be declared organic (ASIA).

Claire / ------------------------------------------------------------------------- CONTENTS ------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEW CONTAMINATION SCANDAL LOBBYWATCH SPECIAL - UK FARM SCALE TRIAL RESULTS LOBBYWATCH - OTHER STORIES ASIA EUROPE AFRICA THE AMERICAS MIDDLE EAST AUSTRALASIA NEW RESEARCH CAMPAIGNS OF THE WEEK ------------------------------------------------------------ NEW CONTAMINATION SCANDAL ------------------------------------------------------------ + US LAUNCHES PROBE INTO SALES OF UNAPPROVED SYNGENTA GM CORN Between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta inadvertently produced and distributed "several hundred tonnes" of an unapproved corn, called Bt10. About 150 square kilometres of the crop was planted over the four years in the USA. Syngenta officials declined to list the countries that accidentally received the wrong seed. But it looks like there was far more of it going into the food chain than Syngenta are owning up to. Dr Brian John points out that while Syngenta says that "some hundreds of tonnes" went into the food supply, they also say that over 4 years farmers planted 37,000 acres of the stuff. Average yields are around 150 bushels per acre, which translates to about 5 tonnes per acre. And that translates to *185,000 tonnes* of unauthorised Bt10 maize going into the food supply -- into corn oil, cornflakes, sweeteners, starch, many dairy products, and even medical products. Syngenta claims it only discovered the mistake in mid-December. Syngenta and the USDA say they didn't publicize the situation "because of the ongoing investigation"! A report in Nature says, "Regulators and the company have since been involved in months of discussions over what should be done about the error, and how and when information should be released to the public. White House officials have also been involved in these sensitive talks, partly because the United States and the European Union are locked in a fierce trade dispute over whether tough European rules to trace the flow of genetically modified crops are scientifically necessary." "Instead of building international confidence in genetic engineering, the industry continues to shoot itself in the foot," said Greg Jaffe of Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington DC. But on top of that, it's becoiming increasingly clear that the initial claims that Syngenta's rogue corn (maize) - Bt10 - was almost identical to an approved corn - Bt11 - are bogus - like the claims that only small quantities were involved. In particular, Bt10 has an antibiotic resistance gene which is not present in Bt11, and it also has a different promoter. There are also concerns that Bt10 contains certain synthetic genes and proteins which are not easily broken down by stomach enzymes. "It's a massive failure of the U.S. regulatory system," said Sujatha Byravan, executive director of the Council for Responsible Genetics, a nonprofit biotechnology interest group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "They didn't know about this until the end of 2004 and they only found out quite by chance. That tells you how poorly companies are monitoring the experiments they do." + JAPAN TO MONITOR US CORN CARGOES FOR UNAPPROVED GM STRAIN Japan has said it will monitor US corn cargoes to check if they contain the unapproved strain of GM corn. ------------------------------------------------------------ LOBBYWATCH SPECIAL - UK FARM SCALE TRIAL RESULTS ------------------------------------------------------------ + GM CROPS TAKE ANOTHER KNOCK The latest results of the UK GM crop trials show commercial use of some GM crops could alter the balance of weed species that thrive on British farmland, reports Nature. Such a shift could harm bees and butterflies. Butterfly numbers were cut by up to two-thirds and bee populations by half in fields of transgenic winter oilseed rape (canola), according to the final results of a three-year study commissioned by the UK government. Researchers behind the GBP6 million study say that the project's weed-control system is to blame. The crops are engineered to resist a particular herbicide, which hits broad-leafed weeds harder than grassy varieties. Bees and butterflies suffer because they prefer the former type of weed. The scientists add that this would have a knock-on effect on animals higher up the food chain. "If this crop were commercialized we'd be concerned about the implications for birds such as sparrows and bullfinches," says David Gibbons, a conservationist from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and a member of the committee that oversaw the experiment. The results will be felt as a further blow to advocates of transgenic crops. In 2003, two of the three other transgenic varieties covered by the study, spring oilseed rape and beet, were shown to harm biodiversity by reducing overall levels of weeds. Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth said: "These results are yet another major blow to the biotech industry. Growing GM winter oilseed rape would have a negative impact on farmland wildlife. No wonder Bayer tried to withdraw its application to grow GM winter oilseed rape." [See next item] The trial results have led to several distinctly unimpressed media articles - The Independent gave us "The end for GM crops: Final British trial confirms threat to wildlife". The article says, "[the] results make it even less likely that other big agribusiness firms will want to come forward and go through the extensive testing process - and public opposition - that bringing a GM crop to market in Britain would involve." + CONSERVATIVES SPOT POLITICAL OPPORTUNITY (FINALLY!) The Conservative environment secretary, Tim Yeo, will pledge to prevent commercial planting of GM crops until science shows it to be safe for people and the environment, and there is a liability regime in place to deal with cross-contamination. + BIOTECH FIRM REJECTS GM CROP Biotech giant Bayer no longer wants to grow the GM winter oil seed rape trialled in the GM farm scale evaluations in Europe. The results of the crop trials of GM winter oil seed rape - the final results of the farm scale evaluations - were unveiled 21 March. Bayer has told the European Commission (EC) that it wishes to withdraw its application to grow the GM oilseed rape trialled in the FSEs, and only seek permission to import it into the EU for use in food and animal feed. The U-turn came after widespread European opposition; Friends of the Earth discovered that 23 out of 25 EU countries, including the UK, objected to the GM crop being grown because of concerns about the impact on the environment and human health. But, in a bizarre twist, the EC has refused to allow Bayer to alter its joint application (to grow the GM oil seed rape and import it for use in food and feed). A decision is likely to be taken later this year. + GM LOBBY TRIES TO DISTRACT FROM DISMAL GM CROP TRIAL RESULTS AND CONTAMINATION SCANDAL Now here's a funny thing. On the eve of the publication of the GM farm scale trials last year, up sprang a series of media stories about vandals and extremists disrupting British science. These all traced back to Lord Taverne's biotech/pharma industry-backed lobby group Sense About Science. And now, with this week's publication of the GM winter oilseed rape farm scale trial results (not very positive for industry), up pops another wave of such stories. These have been made fresh by coming from the institutes rather than direct from Taverne's lobby group. The John Innes Centre, whose head is quoted in the Daily Telegraph bemoaning the publication of details of where GM crop trials are being held, is listed as a backer of Sense About Science - see profile at Note also in this article that Bayer CropScience's PR man, Julian Little, tells The Telegraph: "We are hoping that new legislation which clamps down on animal rights protesters may be used to apply to us as well..." If not that then the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill might do the job. Why the need for new legislation? It's not that there aren't laws under which those who pull up GM crops can be prosecuted. The problem is that any case that goes near a jury is likely to lead to a not guilty verdict on the grounds that the defendants' actions were justifiable. In the case of the Greenpeace prosecution, it may be remembered, the jury even stayed on afterwards to congratulate the defendants on their acquittal. Clearly the law needs changing! (1) "FEAR OF EXTREMISTS DRIVES OFF CROP TESTS" According to an extraordinarily credulous article in The Observer, the failure of genetic engineers to come up with any successful product is all down to activists trashing crops. The scientists gnashing their teeth at "environmentalists" in this article are Chris Lamb, head of the part-industry-funded John Innes research centre in Norwich, and Ian Crute, director of the part-industry-funded Rothamsted Research in Herts: EXCERPT: Research on crops that can withstand climate change, provide allergy-free foods and give consumers cheap sources of nutrition have been abandoned by British scientists. This country's leading plant scientists have told The Observer that the threat of 'field-trashing' by environmental activists is now so high, they had given up all attempts to grow new varieties of genetically modified crops here... (2) TAVERNE SAYS GREEN GROUPS "DECEIVE" PUBLIC TO STOP GM CROPS An article in The Sunday Telegraph predictably puffs Lord Dick Taverne's book The March of Unreason: EXCERPT: Aid agencies and environmentalists have deceived the public over genetically modified crops by deliberately ignoring scientific evidence that supports the technology, according to a new book. The March of Unreason, by Dick Taverne, the Liberal Democrat peer, accuses Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and other green groups of turning their opposition to GM plants into a "religious crusade", based on "blind faith and deep bias" rather than serious research. RESPONSES TO TAVERNE Some fantastic responses to Taverne's article in the Scotsman, "Beware blind faith of food fundamentalists" ( have been sent to the paper by members of the public. Read the letters at As if to prove the point of the letter writer who says, "No-one knows what the long-term effects will be, and public concern is backed by science", the European Commission has just published "a call for tenders for a study on the cumulative long-term effects of genetically modified (GM) crops on human/animal health, and environment: risk assessment methodologies." A little bit late to start thinking about that now, isn't it? TAVERNE - DAT OL' TIME TECHNO-RELIGIONIST In an article in the UK Guardian, "Believe in facts not fads: If we don't trust science, we risk putting our faith in something far more dangerous", Lord Dick Taverne brands those who, on the one hand, refuse to swallow intensive farming, GM crops and conventional medicine wholesale and, on the other, refuse to reject the alternatives unequivocally, as dogmatists, ideologues and new religionists whose faddy faith makes them anti-science and anti-technology. But when Taverne talks about "facts not fads" he leaves out of account that facts come theory-laden, that science has its own fashions, that scientists are often at the mercy of institutional pressures, and that researchers are often forced to follow fashionable, and these days often commercially viable, lines of work if they want to remain within the bounds of academic respectability. He also, as others have pointed out, conflates science and technology. A respect for biology does not mean one has to favour every bio-technology any more than a respect for physics requires an endorsement of nuclear weapons. It is Taverne and his pals at Sense About Science who are the dogmatists, ideologues and ol' time techno-religionists. (3) REAL EXTREMISTS EXPOSED: UK MPs SAY LIFT BAN ON REPRODUCTIVE CLONING The creation of a creature that is half-man/half-animal may be thought to be the stuff of a science fiction novel, but an influential group of MPs is said to have recommended that the government considers overturning its ban on such experiments. In a report into human embryo research in Britain, the commons science and technology committee suggests that human embryos could be implanted into animals for research purposes. It says parents should be allowed to chose the sex of their child for 'social reasons' and that the cloning of human embryos should be allowed for medical purposes. Needless to say the key individuals pushing this are also allies of the GM foods lobby. ------------------------------------------------------------ LOBBYWATCH - OTHER STORIES ------------------------------------------------------------ + APEL'S "MONEY AND BLOOD" In GM attack dog Andrew Apel's latest offering on the pro-GM AgBioView listserv, "Money and blood", he vilifies the "infamous Oxfam" and the "execrable Zambian Jesuits" who pretend, he says, to be the voice of the poor in criticizing GM. Apel says that activists opposing GM crops enjoy "plush lifestyles", courtesy apparently of payments from "Europe" and "Britain". Apel also seems to say the British government fixed the UK public debate on GM and the reporting of the farmscale trials in order to block GMOs. Clearly, prime minister Blair and his science minister Lord Sainsbury are playing a much deeper game than any of us ever realised. As Apel says, "Such a vast chess game..." APEL AND MONSANTO'S "HEALTHY" GM SOYBEANS Apel's article also refers to "healthier" plants courtesy of GM, citing Monsanto's low-linolenic acid soybean. An article in New Scientist also hypes this GM product with "direct benefits for consumers". But the low linolenic acid trait in the soybeans that Monsanto wants to market is actually... non-GM! Monsanto has simply added a GM trait - Roundup Ready resistance - that has absolutely nothing to do with consumer benefits. Moreover, Iowa State University has conventionally bred an even lower linolenic acid variety that would be better than the Monsanto one and which hasn't had any GM traits added to it! As it is better than the Monsanto product, it would be interesting to know what has happened to it and whether it is going to be made available - given that Monsanto and like-minded corporations now own so many seed companies. + AVERY CHALLENGED OVER "BLOOD OF STARVATION VICTIMS" SMEAR We've published an interesting exchange of correspondence between AgBioView's other main attack dog, Alex Avery, of the Hudson Institute, USA, and Robert Vint of Genetic Food Alert over the GM food aid crisis in Zambia in 2002, at It's well worth reading in full! Avery has been accusing various people who have pointed out problems with GM, including agronomist Dr Charles Benbrook, Prof Terje Traavik of the Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology, and Robert Vint, of having "the blood of starvation victims" on their hands. The 'crime' that these people committed was to meet a Zambian delegation of scientists and tell them their views on the state of GM safety research. The Zambian scientists reported their findings to Zambian President Mwanawasa, and he subsequently refused GM food aid from the US on safety grounds. But alternatives were found and there is no credible evidence that anyone died in Zambia as a result of the country's refusal of the GM food. That inconvenient fact hasn't stopped Avery and others in the GM lobby from repeatedly claiming that Western extremists caused mass deaths from hunger in Zambia as a result of their ideological opposition to GM! EXCERPT FROM ROBERT VINT'S REPLY TO AVERY: ...the people you are accusing committed the offence of participating in a consultation exercise organised by the US and UK Governments for Zambian scientists. Discussing scientific matters as part of a dialogue in which opposing views were heard hardly constitutes murder. The Zambian scientists listening to these various views were doctors and professors - mainly educated in American universities. Surely you don't believe that because they were black they could be easily brainwashed by Westerners? My specific crime, by the way, was to suggest to the Zambian delegation that they obtained and reviewed the original safety research on GM foods. I'm a great supporter of sound science and empirical research. Oddly both the US and UK Government representatives refused to provide this data - or even to confirm its existence. Maybe you could provide it? + THE ZAMBIAN RESPONSE TO AVERY CLAIM Clement Chipokolo from Zambia also takes issue with Alex Avery who has talked about the "blood of the starvation victims" in Zambia being on the hands of those with concerns about GMOs. Clement writes: " mentioned that there were several deaths that resulted from the decision that the government took. May I put it to you that the only recorded deaths that we know of were before the GM saga came to the fore... your statements are typical of a well funded lobbyist who would do what ever it takes to achieve his mission, in this case promotion of GMOs." ------------------------------------------------------------------------- ASIA ------------------------------------------------------------------------- + GM SEEDS BURNT BY MORE THAN 3000 TRIBAL WOMEN IN INDIA Demanding Orissa be declared an Organic State, more than 3000 tribal women on 23 March made a bonfire of hybrid and GM seeds of cotton and hybrid crops. Walking through the streets of the city, the tribal women shouted slogans damning the GM seeds and the hybrid crops that had pushed them into a cycle of poverty, indebtedness and hunger. The tribals announced that they have already declared 200 villages in the tribal belt of the State as "organic vilages" and are presently cultivating indigenous seeds in more than 17,000 acreas in Orissa. The charter of demands that the women presented emphasised that "due to the rampant use of chemical inputs in agriculture and mechanization of agriculture, the unemployment problem has become acute, which in turn may precipitate extremism and violence in our beautiful peace-loving state of Orissa". The demand for organic foods, forest produce and herbal products is increasing at the rate of at least 20 per cent annually in the world market. So, there is a great scope for earning foreign exchange by promoting organic farming in the state and exporting the produce. The women said that the New Seed Bill in the offing runs counter to the Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers' Right Act (PVPFA), 2001... [Farmers'] rights are now being taken away through the Seed Bill. This clearly demonstrates that the government is being run by the multinational seed companies. Orissa Nari Samaj (ONS), the tribal women's organisation with a membership of close to 200,000 demanded the scrapping of the proposed Seed Bill, and wanted to government to recognise the rights of the people in respect of indigenous seeds. + JAPAN: PEOPLE SAY NO TO GMOs People from all over Japan gathered in Sapporo, Hokkaido, on Feb 18, and held a gathering to oppose GM farming in Hokkaido. The NO! GMO Campaign and Hokkaido's NO GMO Network met with the Hokkaido government and handed in a petition opposing GM soybean cultivation in Hokkaido with 188,366 signatures. In total, 203,405 signatures plus 542 NGOs with over 1,000,000 members have signed on against GMO farming in Hokkaido. ------------------------------------------------------------ EUROPE ------------------------------------------------------------ + EU TO PUSH GM FOODS THROUGH DESPITE PUBLIC OPPOSITION The EU executive plans to press ahead with approving more GM foods regardless of public opposition, a leaked draft document reveals. The new European Commission agreed to: * push through new approvals of GM foods regardless of the lack of consensus over their safety by EU member states * submit to the Environment Council proposals to get countries to lift their bans on GM products * approve GM crops for cultivation without proper (so-called "coexistence") legislation to avoid the contamination of the countryside by GMOs. This proposed position for the EU executive comes in the face of surveys that show 70% of European consumers oppose GMO foods, usually on health and environment grounds. Friends of the Earth said the policy marked "a bad day for consumers, democracy and the environment." + EUROPEAN "COEXISTENCE" RECOMMENDATION LEGALLY FLAWED A European Commission Recommendation guiding member states on "coexistence" of GM crops with conventional and organic crops is legally and fundamentally flawed, say NGOs after taking legal advice. The Recommendation guidelines would encourage contamination and make the 'organic' label non-viable. + EC ACCUSED OF "ONGOING CONSPIRACY" TO SUPPRESS RESEARCH ON GM HEALTH HAZARDS The EC has been accused by community groups of an ongoing conspiracy to keep sensitive information on GM safety studies out of the public domain. It has also been accused of turning a blind eye to inconvenient scientific findings and approving potentially dangerous GM varieties to please the Americans and the WTO. Wales-based GM Free Cymru has been trying without success to obtain sight of a secret dossier relating to Monsanto's MON863 maize, already listed for use in Europe. The dossier contains the full application submitted by Monsanto for EC approval, details of a 90-day rat feeding study commissioned by the seed owners, a critique of that study commissioned from Dr Arpad Pusztai by the German Environment Ministry, and other material sent to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) by its own GMO Scientific Panel. None of this material has been released for public perusal, in spite of many requests from NGOs. According to GM Free Cymru this conspiracy extends back at least five years. Members claim that the holding of "secret dossiers" is against the public interest and unlawful. With respect to MON863, there are now strong indications that the rat feeding study completed five years ago (and still not peer reviewed or released to the public) has thrown up physiological changes which show the crop to be unsuitable for animal or human consumption. + EU REJECTS NEW CALL FOR GM BAN The European Commission has rejected a fresh call for an EU-wide ban on GM crops in the face of new evidence that the use of the technology can cause hazardous genetic mutations in crops. Green Euro-MP Caroline Lucas called for the ban last year in light of a report published by EcoNexus ("Genome Scrambling - Myth or Reality? Transformation-Induced Mutations in Transgenic Crops"). + WELSH FARMERS DISMISS CLAIM BY GM FIRM'S BOSS The Farmers' Union of Wales hit back at Monsanto boss Hugh Grant after he claimed that most British farmers want to grow GM crops. FUW President Gareth Vaughan said, "This may come as a blow to Mr Grant, but surveys have shown that 90 per cent of the British public don't want GM crops and it is our experience that the vast majority of farmers don't want them either." + POLAND TO BAN MONSANTO'S GM CORN Poland plans to ban the import and planting 17 varieties of Monsanto's GM corn seed for two years. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- AFRICA ------------------------------------------------------------------------- + ZAMBIA REAFFIRMS GM BAN, LOOKS TO ALTERNATIVES Zambia has reaffirmed its stand against the importation of GMOs, even at a time when the country is once again facing a severe drought which could force it to import food. The current drought is reminiscent of the food security problems in 2000 and 2002, and once again this is being exploited by GM proponents as a way of pressurising the Zambian government to review its position and legalise the introduction of GMOs. Instead of going down the GMO route, however, Zambia is looking to sustainable alternatives. + GMOs CAN CAUSE FOOD SHORTAGES GMOs could lead to food shortages, a network of about 40 civil society organisations have warned. GMOs reduce small-scale farmers into slaves of big companies which monopolised the technology, thus laying the ground for diminished food production, the organisations said in a statement released in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. +How US AG POLICIES DEVASTATE AFRICA + BIOWATCH APPEALS AGAINST HEFTY COURT COSTS When environmental lobby group Biowatch SA won a court case against the government and Monsanto over access to information on GMOs, the court agreed Biowatch was acting in the public interest but took the unusual step of ordering Biowatch to pay Monsanto's costs! Now Biowatch has applied for leave to appeal against the costs order. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- THE AMERICAS ------------------------------------------------------------------------- + GM FOODS "NOT ON THE RADAR" OF AMERICANS A Rutgers Food Policy Institute survey shows that nearly a decade after GM foods were introduced, they are not even "on the radar" of a majority of Americans, in spite of the fact that GMOs are thought to be in 75% of processed foods. On that note here are some quotes from a recent interview with the American novelist Gore Vidal: "...let us say that the old American republic is well and truly dead. The institutions that we thought were eternal proved not to be.... So we're in uncharted territory. We're governed by public relations. Very little information gets to the people, thanks to the corruption and/or ineptitude of the media... ...we are totally censored, and the press just follows this. It observes what those in power want it to observe, and turns the other way when things get dark. ...the Republican Party as it now is funded, is the party of corporate America, which is no friend to the people of America. + MONSANTO "HOODLUM-LIKE" SAYS ARGENTINE GOVT The Argentine government was cited as slamming Monsanto for having a "hoodlum-like attitude" in its effort to ensure that local farmers pay royalties for using its GM soybean seeds. Monsanto has had trouble collecting royalties since the seeds were introduced in 1996. In a renewed collection effort, Monsanto recently began telling exporters that it would impose a $15-per-metric-ton fee on soybean exports. If exporters decline to pay the fee, they will face the prospect of being sued in the courts of European countries that import Argentine soybeans, Monsanto says. The Agriculture Secretariat was quoted as saying, "Unfortunately, and despite all the meetings and conversations we've had while trying to come up with a legal framework for the sale of seeds, Monsanto persists in its hoodlum-like attitude, one which stands afar from normal business practices." + PHARMA RICE IN MISSOURI THREATENS FOOD SUPPLY Field trials of GM pharmaceutical-producing rice would result in contamination of the food supply and should not be allowed to proceed in Missouri, consumer and environmental groups told federal and state authorities. Pending state and federal approval, up to 204.5 acres of pharmaceutical rice could be grown this year in rice-growing southeast Missouri, the largest planting of a pharmaceutical crop yet attempted anywhere in the world. The pharmaceutical rice was developed by Ventria Bioscience. + BOYCOTT WARNING - FARMERS PROTEST PHARMA RICE When Ventria brought their pharma rice project to Missouri - home of Monsanto and the Monsanto-supported Donald Danforth Plant Science Center - they probably thought that after the opposition they'd faced in California, they were on safe territory. Looks like they made a mistake! "These [biotech industry] people say they can contain it," said Sonny Martin, a Butler County rice farmer who is chairman of the Missouri Rice and Merchandising Council. "But they are not going to net this rice to keep birds out. They can't contain the water runoff here. "I'd say 95-97 percent of the farmers here are against this. Those who are for it are looking to fill their pockets off it." In a letter to Gov. Blunt of Missouri, farmer Donald Dunklee warns, "Should Missouri approve the open field planting of pharmaceutical rice (PHARMA RICE) I intend to boycott the purchase of any product made in Missouri. Considering the economic climate of our country and the pending financial troubles on the horizon, can your state afford any boycotts?" Nearly all of Missouri's $100 million rice crop is grown in southeast Missouri. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- MIDDLE EAST ------------------------------------------------------------------------- + ORDER 81 - A "CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY" Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award, the 'alternative Nobel Prize', have demanded of the US and Iraqi governments that they repeal Order 81, which the Laureates call a "crime against humanity". Order 81, passed by Mr. Paul Bremer, the US official in charge of reconstruction of Iraq, will effectively prevent Iraqi farmers from using their ancient varieties of seeds and crops, and is forcing them to depend on corporate patented and GM seeds. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- AUSTRALASIA ------------------------------------------------------------------------- + NZ GOVT POURS TAXPAYER MILLIONS INTO GM The New Zealand government will contribute $15-20 million of taxpayers' money to a "life sciences fund" focusing on agricultural, biotech and food sectors - in spite of massive public opposition to GM. Around $175 million of the government's research investment in 2003-04 was put into research in biotech, the highest proportion invested of any OECD country. + NEW ZEALAND: DEFEAT OF GM MORATORIUM BILL The New Zealand Parliament has voted against reinstating the moratorium on GMOs. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEW RESEARCH ------------------------------------------------------------------------- + STUDIES FIND PLANTS SELF-CORRECT GENETIC FLAWS Plants inherit secret stashes of genetic information from their long-dead ancestors and can use them to correct errors in their own genes -- a startling capacity for DNA editing and self-repair wholly unanticipated by modern genetics, researchers said. The research was led by Robert Pruitt, a professor of botany and plant pathology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and Susan Lolle. The discovery of how little we know in this young field only seems to have fed some scientists' hubris! "Scientists predicted that by harnessing the still mysterious mechanism they would be able to control plant diseases and create novel varieties of crops." ------------------------------------------------------------------------- CAMPAIGNS OF THE WEEK ------------------------------------------------------------------------- + PLEASE SIGN URGENT PETITION: AGAINST EUROPEAN BIOTECH RESEARCH/FOR PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY The European Commission will publish its draft Euros 40 billion plans for scientific research in the Community from 2007 - 2012. It will be heavily biased towards biotechnology and related sciences. Please sign the petition at to reverse these priorities and make publicly-funded European research more democratically accountable and more engaged with sustainability and social justice. + VENEMAN TO TAKE OVER UNICEF - PROTEST! In May 2005, after secret negotiations, Ann Veneman, Bush's former Secretary of Agriculture, will take office as executive director of UNICEF. Veneman previously worked for biotech company Calgene, which was taken over by Monsanto. She is a strong supporter of GM. She was also US negotiator for the GATT/WTO agreement pushing US interests and she appointed Dan Amstutz to head Iraq's agricultural "reconstruction". As Oxfam's Kevin Watkins put it, "Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission. This guy is uniquely well placed to advance the commercial interests of American grain companies and bust open the Iraqi market, but singularly ill equipped to lead a reconstruction effort in a developing country." The idea that she will lead the UN agency overseeing children's health, welfare and rights is, to say the least, disturbing. To sign a letter of protest, go to