Document Directory

18 Nov 00 - GMO - Blair turns his fire on anti-GM food protesters
18 Nov 00 - GMO - 'Biotech' is new darling of the stockmarket
17 Nov 00 - GMO - Blair promotes biotech industry
15 Nov 00 - GMO - Britain's biotech talent may flee 'hostile' climate
06 Nov 00 - GMO - GM maize is found in tortilla snacks
06 Nov 00 - GMO - Alert over 'GM tortillas'
04 Nov 00 - GMO - Scientists question safety of GM maize risk test
04 Nov 00 - GMO - US to test Japan-bound corn for unapproved grain
01 Nov 00 - GMO - Shortfall a setback to GM crop testing
30 Oct 00 - GMO - Dutch study: Starlink protein stimulated antibodies in lab rats
27 Oct 00 - GMO - Sara Lee Holders Reject Ban on Modified Food
27 Oct 00 - GMO - Federal Officials Blame Aventis For Biotech Corn Found in Food
19 Oct 00 - GMO - Inquiry warned over milk from GM-fed cows
15 Oct 00 - GMO - Food tests miss GM ingredients
15 Oct 00 - GMO - We find the Government's secret GM crop
15 Oct 00 - GMO - Health fear over GM cattle feed
14 Oct 00 - GMO - Call to develop GM 'terminator' genes
13 Oct 00 - GMO - Insurers get approval to use genetic tests
11 Oct 00 - GMO - Wrong beet grown at two GM trial sites
11 Oct 00 - GMO - Acceptable GM Contamination of Seed (MAFF)
11 Oct 00 - GMO - Acceptable GM Contamination of Seed (EU)



18 Nov 00 - GMO - Blair turns his fire on anti-GM food protesters

By Roland Watson, Mark Henderson And Alan Hamilton

Times ... Saturday 18 November 2000


The Prime Minister promised money and moral support for Britain's scientific community yesterday as he criticised sections of the Green lobby for standing in the way of progress.

The Government would not be "blackmailed" by opponents of GM crops or biotechnology that promised cures for a range of killer diseases.

UK Correspondents comment: Note the "spin doctor" element in the prime ministers stance throughout this article. In fact, most British are AGAINST GM crops but FOR medical bio-technology. Labour Party spin INCORRECTLY tries to depict anti GM crop citizens as NEO-LUDDITES against all forms of bio-technology.

GM crops are disliked because of inadequate testing as to the long term consequences of their use, doubts as to the motives of the bio-technology companies, increasing doubts as to any financial benefits, and the fact that GM crop pollen will inevitably "pollute" non-GM crops - thus removing the ability of consumers to choose not to eat GM crops - a moral issue as much as anything

Direct spraying of pesticides onto pesticide resistant GM crops has necessitated acceptable pesticide limits in food bein raised 2OO0 PERCENT, achieved by "greasing palms" in Brussels and Washington without any medical testing at all )


Tony Blair conceded that there were "legitimate concerns " about the pace and scope of scientific development, adding that there was "more than one morally acceptable outcome".

But in an unashamedly pro-science address to the European bioscience conference in London, which appeared to put him at odds with the Prince of Wales's recent remarks about man's hand being behind natural disasters, Mr Blair gave warning of the dangers of slipping unintentionally into an "anti-science" mindset.

Appearing to refer to anti-GM protesters and anti-vivisectionists, the Prime Minister said it was wrong to "make heroes of people who are preventing basic scientific research taking place; it is to substitute aggression for argument". He added that the Government would not tolerate "blackmail, even physical assault", by opponents of research.

St James's Palace said the Prince of Wales was not anti-science, he merely tried to persuade people to look more closely at the implications of an industrialised and scientific society.

The Prime Minister's defence of controversial research was welcomed by the scientific community. Some researchers, however, said that the true measure of his support would be found in legislative action rather than warm words.

In particular, they demanded that the Government do more to protect field trials of GM crops from destruction by protesters, and to simplify the bureaucracy involved in animal testing of new drugs.

Sir William Stewart, a former government chief scientific adviser who is now President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, said: "It is very good news that the Prime Minister is talking in this way. He has signalled to the scientific and industrial community that he is largely on their side. He has got to deliver financially, however, which he is starting to do, and he has got to deliver a broad policy that is friendly to science."

Sir Walter Bodmer, the leading geneticist and cancer researcher, said: "I applaud him for making this speech. It is very important that politicians speak up for the view that science and technology must be one's friend, not something to be seen as a threat."

Sir Vivian Moses, chairman of the pro-GM panel CropGen, "strongly welcomed" Mr Blair's warning to anti-GM protesters, but added: "If he is really serious about what he says, we have to see proper protection of GM trials against vandalism. The evidence in favour of GM foods is stacking up and it is time to begin to draw some conclusions. Being neither pro nor anti is not really good enough."

Lord Melchett, the executive director of Greenpeace who was acquitted of criminal damage to a field of GM maize, said: "Worshipping slavishly and unthinkingly at the seat of every new scientific fad is more damaging to science than the healthy, questioning scepticism that most other countries show towards untried, unpredictable and uncontrollable technologies like GM food."

Pete Riley, of Friends of the Earth, said: "What concerns us on the food front is that we do not regard science as sufficiently well advanced to make decisions on the future of farming ."


18 Nov 00 - GMO - 'Biotech' is new darling of the stockmarket

By Mark Court

Times ... Saturday 18 November 2000


Britain's biotechnology industry has a brief and erratic history, punctuated in turn by the tremendous promise of scientific discovery and the disappointment of clinical failure.

There is only a small chance of an innovative idea for a new drug succeeding in clinical trials and becoming a commercial product. But even so the British biotechnology industry, which is little more than ten years old, is finally beginning to deliver wonder drugs.The first biotechnology companies emerged in Britain in the 1980s, imitating an industry that was already thriving in North America. British companies, such as Chiroscience , were set up by scientist entrepreneurs such as Chris Evans, who has since become one of the wealthiest biotechnology investors in Europe and an adviser to the Government.

However, the biotechnology industry developed slowly until this year, partly because investors found biotechnology companies difficult to understand but also because it typically takes about ten years to take a drug through clinical trials and to launch it on to the market.

In 1992, British Biotech became the first biotechnology company in Britain to float on the stockmarket, but its key anti-cancer product failed in clinical trials, denting confidence in the sector. Since then many biotechnology companies have raised finance on the stock-market and now there are about 30 quoted companies. These new companies are involved in areas as diverse as making genetically engineered antibodies to fight disease and developing drugs from herbal remedies.

The decoding of the human genome this year has ignited a new enthusiasm for the biotechnology sector and investors have poured money in.

This enthusiasm for the sector has propelled Celltech into the FTSE 100 index, the stockmarket segment for Britain's top companies.

Celltech , Europe's biggest biotechnology company, has a stockmarket value of £3.5 billion and is credited with being the first British biotechnology company to produce an innovative new drug. The drug, Mylotarg , is a treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia, and is likely to generate peak sales of £140million.

Many of the companies are at the cutting edge of experimentation. ReNeuron has pioneered human stem cell research and hopes to implant them into the brain as a treatment for stroke , Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.


17 Nov 00 - GMO - Blair promotes biotech industry

Staff and agencies

Guardian ... Friday 17 November 2000


Prime Minister Tony Blair made an "unashamedly pro-science" speech when he addressed a biotechnology conference in London today.

In the speech, Mr Blair was stressing the importance of investing in science and assuring the biotechnology industry of the Government's support .

He told scientists, investors and industry executives that biotechnology could be to the 21st century what computers were to the last 50 years.

And he warned the country that it cannot afford to become anti-science without risking missing out on an industry which could provide huge economic benefits.

Mr Blair said it would be "crazy" not to back scientific progress, adding: "Biotechnology is the next wave of the knowledge economy and I want Britain to become its European hub."

In Europe alone he predicted the industry would employ up to three million people within five years and be worth millions as it catches up with the US.

But he also stressed that investment and research must take place within a framework which always puts human and environmental safety first.

"Science without judgment can be dangerous , progress without science is unlikely ever to happen," the Prime Minister said.

Mr Blair was holding out the prospect of biotechnology changing medicine forever, allowing doctors to move from an emphasis on treatment to an emphasis on prevention.

He claimed it will allow medical experts to fight back against epidemics likes Aids and genetic diseases which blight the lives of children.

While Britain has led Europe in the field of research it was now time for the country to lead Europe "in spreading its benefits".

The speech, however, risks a new clash between the Government and environmental groups.

There is already unhappiness as the stance taken by Labour over genetically modified food where ministers have been seen being too enthusiastic in their backing of the industry.

And new support for biotechnology could raise fears among many that the pressure for progress in the industry is being put ahead of risks to human health or harm to the environment.


15 Nov 00 - GMO - Britain's biotech talent may flee 'hostile' climate

By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent And Mark Court

Times ... Wednesday 15 November 2000


An "avalanche" of biotechnology firms can be expected to leave Britain because of public hostility to genetic engineering, animal rights extremism and regulatory red tape, scientists and business groups warned yesterday.

Lower costs and more positive attitudes to controversial fields of research are leading more and more companies to look to countries such as China and Brazil as centres for research and development, at the expense of Britain.

The warnings came after Sir William Castell, chief executive of the biotech company Nycomed-Amersham, said that he was considering investing in GM research in China and Brazil. His company could save up to £25 million a year by employing 1,000 PhD standard researchers in China, rather than in Britain, he said.

Sir William Stewart, President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, said that the need to compete in a global market could lead many similar British companies to move research abroad . "It's potentially the start of an avalanche really, if companies of this sort have to take things abroad," he said. "Small and medium-sized businesses, of the sort the UK is looking to develop and expand, are looking globally in a way only the multinationals have done before, and we have to realise that the UK must offer a competitive climate."

Nigel Halford, of the University of Bristol, a member of the biotechonology panel CropGen, said that public attitudes to science in Britain were "the worst in the world", and that research was suffering. "The UK is simply not seen as a country in which you can do research into biological sciences full stop," he said. "It is not just GM crops - there is also hostility towards animal testing, and a general Dr Frankenstein attitude.

"British science is losing out as a result: if scientists get an offer from abroad they are more likely to take it, and companies are becoming less likely to invest here," he added.

The recent acquittal of Greenpeace protesters who destroyed a field of GM crops, and attacks on employees at the research group Huntingdon Life Sciences, had contributed to a feeling that Britain was not a welcoming venue for scientific research, he said.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said that an exodus of biotechnology companies was "something we have feared for some time". Anti-GM protests have created an "atmosphere that is hostile to science", while the costs and bureaucracy surrounding clinical drug trials were persuading some manufacturers to conduct tests elsewhere, a spokesman said.

Sir William Castell said: "It takes about 1,000 people to run a genome research centre and you could achieve a saving of $30 million (£21 million) to $40 million a year in China compared with the UK."

His company, which makes the gene sequencing machines that helped to decode the human genome, sells equipment in China, but he could not confirm whether it would open laboratories there. He added, however: "In just two years the Beijing Gene Institute has become part of the Human Genome Project, which is quite an achievement."

Another chief executive considering relocation said: "Animal rights activists and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence could encourage the UK biotech industry to move offshore . Also the condition of the National Health Service is such that the ability of doctors to carry out clinical trials in a timely manner is in jeopardy because of patient workload.

"All this is making drug companies reconsider their options for carrying out medical research in the UK."


06 Nov 00 - GMO - GM maize is found in tortilla snacks

By Nick Allen

Independent ... Monday 6 November 2000


Four leading supermarkets launched investigations today after tests commissioned by Friends of the Earth detected banned genetically modified maize in the stores' own-brand tortilla chips .

The pressure group took a total of 20 foods from British supermarket shelves and sent them to a laboratory in Germany to be analysed for types of GM maize which cannot legally be sold in Europe .

Friends of the Earth said its tests found GA21 'Roundup Ready' maize, developed by the biotechnology firm Monsanto, in three products including Safeway's Band Asda's own-brand tortilla chips . Traces of another GM maize, DBT418, were found in own-brand tortilla chips sold by Sainsbury's and Tesco . GM traces were also found in two types of Phileas Fogg chips.

Both maizes, which have been genetically modified to boost their resistance to herbicides, are grown and sold in the United States but are not approved in the UK . Earlier this year the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes decided Monsanto had not provided sufficient information on whether GA21 could lead to allergic reactions .

The four supermarkets, who all say their own-brand products are GM-free, said they would investigate the findings but none removed their tortilla chips from sale immediately .


06 Nov 00 - GMO - Alert over 'GM tortillas'

Staff Reporter

BBC ... Monday 6 November 2000


Tests on supermarket own-brand tortilla chips suggest they may contain traces of genetically-modified maize .

(Most supermarkets have outlawed GM food and GM food must be labelled in the UK)

The environmental group Friends of the Earth sent a selection of 20 different foods from British supermarkets for analysis at a German food laboratory.

The group says that the results show two types of GM maize have been used to make the snacks sold by Sainsbury's , Tesco , Safeway and Asda .

All the shops voluntarily outlawed GM food after coming under pressure from customers.

European ban

Both the varieties of maize which are alleged to have been identified are manufactured by the biotechnology company Monsanto.

They are licensed for use in the USA but have not been approved by the UK government.

All four supermarkets have pledged to investigate the claims and carry out their own tests.

None of them has removed the chips from sale , despite appeals for them to do so by Friends of the Earth.

One of the products, known as GA21, is banned in the UK pending more information from Monsanto to prove that it does not produce allergic reactions .

And the other - known as DBT418 - has raised concerns that it could have an impact on the effects of antibiotics .

'Independent testing'

A spokeswoman for Asda said: "Since 1988 we asked suppliers to stop using GM ingredients. We have carried out regular and independent testing to ensure own label products are genuinely GM free."

Sainsbury's said it had removed GM food from 4,000 different product lines and would investigate the claims further.

And Tesco said that if the claims were confirmed it would discuss the issue with its suppliers.

Friends of the Earth's spokesman said: "Why is it down to a pressure group like ours to do these tests?"

"The government must learn the lessons of BSE and ensure our food is protected from illegal ingredients."


04 Nov 00 - GMO - Scientists question safety of GM maize risk test

John Vidal

Guardian ... Saturday 4 November 2000


The safety of the maize which the government hopes will be Britain's first commercially grown GM crop was last night in question after independent scientists checked corporate research and found that the animal food had a "suspicious" trend of killing chickens .

Steve Kestin and Toby Knowles, who have worked on chicken studies for the Ministry of Agriculture, were commissioned by Friends of the Earth to review a study by Aventis, the giant GM company, supporting its case to grow the maize in Britain.

The scientists, from the University of Bristol's department of clinical veterinary science, told a government hearing yesterday that they had found "a failure to investigate suspicious trends" in the death of chickens .

Ten male broiler birds out of 140 (7.14% ) who were fed the GM maize in a small trial died compared to five (3.57% ) who died after eating conventional maize.

This, they said, suggested "either a fault in the study or a real direct effect of diet and should act as a spur for further investigation" .

The Aventis study stated that the level of deaths was "normal for this fast growing strain of bird" and gave a normal mortality rate in broiler chickens of this age at "between 5 and 8% ".

But a source in the British poultry industry said yesterday this range of deaths was abnormal -"4% is the average. Anything over 5% and you have got a problem" .

The Bristol scientists also questioned the methods and conclusions of the Aventis study.

They said that the nutrition tests done by the company on the maize were "inadequate" and "not of a standard that would be acceptable for publication in a scientific journal" .

They further found the studies had not been repeated sufficiently to be of scientific validity . Only four repeats were used, as opposed to the minimum of 14 which they recommended .

Using such a small number of tests, they said, would be "one of the best methods _to show no effect". They also noted other flaws in the design of the Aventis study .

"It's astonishing that this study has not been assessed and found wanting by the government, and that it's been left to Friends of the Earth to have it properly reviewed ." said Dr Kestin.

During the hearing experts have already questioned Aventis's scientific evidence for the marketing of the GM forage maize.

In particular, they have expressed concern over the failure to test the GM maize on cows for which the maize is intended. Aventis has refused to produce evidence at the hearing.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Agriculture said that the official tests on the Chardon LL crop, carried out by the French authorities, had only been conducted for one year rather than the two required under EU law .

Yesterday's revelations were a further blow to the government's GM policy .

In April, it announced its intention to allow Chardon LL - which has been genetically modified to be resistant to Aventis' own herbicide - to be put on to the national seed list, the final legal barrier before the seed can be sold to farmers.

But a loophole in the law found by Friends of the Earth allowed the public the right to an ppeal against the decision.

A spokesman for Aventis last night said: "We are confident that Chardon LL is a variety eligible for entry on to the national list, having already complied with all of the prescribed relevant regulatory procedures."


04 Nov 00 - GMO - US to test Japan-bound corn for unapproved grain

Staff Reporter

PA News ... Saturday 4 November 2000


Corn being shipped to Japan to be used in food will be tested for the presence of StarLink grain, the gene-altered variety that slipped into the US food supply without being approved for human consumption.

As the largest foreign buyer of US corn, Japan accepted the testing plans on Friday, said Tim Galvin, administrator of US Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service.

The testing will provide "assurances that it's not going to find its way into the food supply in Japan," Mr Galvin said.

StarLink, developed by Aventis CropScience, was never approved for human consumption in the United States because of questions about its potential to cause allergic reactions , and it is not approved for use in any foreign country .

A consumer group said last month that it found StarLink corn in snacks sold in Japanese stores and in animal feed . The Japanese government asked USDA for assurances the corn wouldn't be in any further shipments to the country.

"It was a market that we were very anxious to continue. We wanted to be able to find a way to accommodate the Japanese concerns and keep the grain moving," said Susan Keith, senior director of public policy for the National Corn Growers Association.

Corn bound for Japan will be tested for StarLink residue when it is loaded on barges and railcars, which will then be sealed until the grain is moved on to ships.

Japan imports about 16 million metric tons of corn from the United States - about a third of total US corn exports - with about 5 million tons of that going for food use, primarily for corn starch.

The Agriculture Department, meanwhile, is still trying to track down all of the StarLink grown this year , an estimated 80 million bushels. About 1.2 million bushels has not been located ; the rest is being stored or has been put to approved uses, USDA officials say.

Aventis has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily approve the grain for food use in the United States to avoid further recalls of corn products or shutdowns of processors . Federal officials say that there is little, if any, health risk from the corn.


01 Nov 00 - GMO - Shortfall a setback to GM crop testing

John Vidal

Guardian ... Wednesday 1 November 2000


The likelihood of British farmers growing GM crops commercially in the near future receded last night after it emerged that the variety which is top of the list has not been tested to EU standards .

New information, passed yesterday to the Ministry of Agriculture from the French government, states that Chardon LL, a GM cattle feed maize, was tested in France for only one year, instead of the two required under EU law.

This leaves in deep confusion a continuing £500,000 public inquiry into whether Chardon LL seeds should be sold in Britain, and potentially puts back the first commercial growing of GM crops by at least a year.

The Ministry of Agriculture last night said it was consulting its lawyers. "We need to take advice as a matter of urgency on the implications of the new information and whether this has any impact on the hearings," a spokeswoman said. She declined to speculate on how long this might take.

The ministry said that the data on the herbicide-tolerant crop from French trials were based on one year's data from accredited breeders' trials and one year's data from government-run trials.

The ministry is also seeking further information from the French authorities and is consulting the European commission. "Chardon LL will only be added to the UK national list if all the legal requirements have been fully met ," the spokeswoman said. National listing is a requirement of EC directives, aimed at ensuring that only seed meeting minimum quality standards is sold to farmers.

Friends of the Earth's legal adviser, Peter Roderick, said last night: "This fiasco has only come to light because members of the public forced the government to hold public hearings on this GM seed. Only a week after the BSE report was published, we now find that the minimum official testing of this crop has not taken place. If the hearing had not happened, this vital information would never have come to light and the crop would have been given official approval.

"This is yet another humiliating blow to the biotech industry and their backers in government."


30 Oct 00 - GMO - Dutch study: Starlink protein stimulated antibodies in lab rats

UPI

UPI ... Monday 30 October 2000


Who would have thought such a small percentage of the U.S. corn crop could create so big a controversy .

StarLink, planted on just 352,000 acres and representing just 0.5 percent of the 10.4 billion bushel U.S. corn crop, was supposed to be just for animal feed or industrial use. Instead it has turned up in taco shells distributed by three companies including Kraft and sent ripples through the food processing industry .

It also has shown up in corn meal and chicken feed in Japan even though it was not supposed to be shipped overseas.

Now StarLink's developer Aventis CropScience, a subsidiary of the French firm Aventis SA, is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its earlier misgivings about approving StarLink for human use .

StarLink produces a protein - Cry9C - that is difficult for humans to digest.

Think of this as a giant clinical trial . Susan Hazen, deputy director of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, said Aventis submitted new data last week to support a request to allow the portion of the 4.8 million bushels of StarLink that remain unaccounted for to work their way through the food chain without forcing a recall.

"The data suggests three ways of looking at the problem," Hazen said. "First, they don't believe Cry9C is an allergen. They also suggested that even if it is an allergen, it would be present at such low volume that it would not be able to trigger an allergic response. You need a certain level.

"Their third argument is that for something to become a food allergen it has to be present long enough in the food supply for people to build up potential for an allergic reaction."

Hazen said all known food allergens exhibit certain characteristics. Among them are stability under heat and a lack of digestibility. Unlike other biotech proteins that are digested within seconds. Cry9C can hang around for 30 minutes , Hazen said.

At a meeting Oct. 20 of the EPA's Scientific Advisory Panel, Dutch scientist Hubert Noteburn presented a study indicating rats fed StarLink begin producing antibodies .

Hazen said she had not yet examined the data but that it would be taken into consideration in examining Aventis' request.

Hazen said the conditional registration granted Aventis in 1997 for StarLink made it clear it was the company's responsibility to track its corn and keep it out of the food supply .

"In cases where our registrant has not complied with terms and conditions, policy is to revoke or take away that license ," Hazen said. "In this case, we strongly urged Aventis that they should voluntarily request that their registration be canceled or the agency would take action .

"In all cases because Aventis is the registrant for this product it is Aventis who is the ultimate entity who is responsible. If this were mislabeled (as some farmers claim), that was a breach of the agreement. "

Though no penalties have yet been imposed against Aventis, the case still is under investigation by the EPA's Office of Enforcement.

The investigation so far has determined some 2,600 farmers planted StarLink and about 9.6 million bushels were shipped to 260 grain elevators . Of those 9.6 million bushels, Aventis has tracked 4.8 million that were shipped for feed .

Stewart Reeve of the National Corn Growers Association said the EPA should never have given StarLink a limited registration .

"This is a decision that should have been made two years ago. It should have gotten food and feed approval at the same time - or not," he said. "It's the right decision two years late.

"Corn growers have been firmly behind the regulatory system all along but it needs to be based on sound science. If sound science says 'no', then the answer ought to be 'no'. Let's move ahead."

He said though most of the focus has been on Aventis and the EPA, "there's enough of an afterglow to put farmers in that spotlight as well."


27 Oct 00 - GMO - Sara Lee Holders Reject Ban on Modified Food

By Ameet Sachdev, Tribune Staff Writer

Chicago Tribune ... Friday 27 October 2000


Shareholders of Sara Lee Corp. overwhelmingly rejected a stockholder proposal to ban genetically modified ingredients in foods made by the Chicago-based consumer product giant.

The recommendation received 51.4 million votes, or 8.5 percent, of the more than 638 million ballots cast. But before the tally was announced near the end of Sara Lee's annual shareholders' meeting Thursday, the subject of bioengineered food became a hot topic at an otherwise low-key gathering.

Laurie Michalowski, speaking on behalf of several shareholder groups including Harrington Investments of Napa, Calif., introduced the proposal and urged the company to back more testing of genetically altered ingredients.

Sara Lee's chairman, John Bryan, responded by saying that judgments about genetically modified foods are best left to government agencies. "Government regulators have determined that the ingredients we use are safe," he said.

The debate highlights the growing controversy over food safety after last month's discovery of an unapproved variety of bioengineered corn in taco shells .

The findings led Kraft Foods Inc ., based in Northfield, to voluntarily recall the Taco Bell brand of shells. Since then, a host of other foods companies, including Kellogg Co. and ConAgra Foods Inc. , have temporarily closed facilities to ensure their supplies aren't contaminated.

Sara Lee isn't the first food company to be targeted by anti-biotechnology groups seeking to appeal to shareholders.

"It's the issue of the moment," Bryan said.


27 Oct 00 - GMO - Federal Officials Blame Aventis For Biotech Corn Found in Food

By Sarah Lueck, Staff Reporter

Wall Street Journal ... Friday 27 October 2000


WASHINGTON -- Federal officials blamed the unauthorized appearance of geneticially engineered corn in the food supply solely on its manufacturer -- Aventis SA of France .

The company, which designed Starlink corn to be toxic to insect pests , failed in its responsibility for segregating Starlink from breeds of corn that might be eaten by humans , officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture said Thursday. The department is still trying to locate about 1.2 million bushels of the 80 million bushels of Starlink planted for the 2000 season.

Aventis "didn't live up to its side of the bargain ," said Jim Aidala, an official from the EPA, which approved Starlink only for animal feeds or industrial use because the agency couldn't rule out the possibility that humans would be allergic to it. The agency's approval was conditioned on Aventis's agreement to keep Starlink from being eaten by humans.

'Voluntary Actions'

Aventis declined to comment on the charge that it hadn't fulfilled elements of its agreement with the EPA. The company's crop-science unit has "taken unprecedented, voluntary actions to successfully contain Starlink corn," said a representative of the company.

The company had agreed to label seed packets of Starlink so farmers would know it wasn't for human food, EPA officials said. Farmers also were supposed to sign agreements , saying they understood the restrictions on planting , which include a 660-foot buffer zone to prevent cross-pollination . The officials, who leveled their charges during a meeting Thursday of the Senate's bipartisan biotechnology caucus, didn't specify how Aventis allegedly fell short of its commitments, but the EPA said the matter is under investigation.

Bill Christison, a Chillicothe, Mo., farmer and president of the National Family Farm Coalition, a Washington advocacy group, said some growers weren't asked to sign agreements and weren't told about the precautions they needed to take when planting Starlink. Aventis declined to comment on the allegations.

Aventis no longer sells Starlink and is buying it back from farmers who planted it . But the company submitted data to the EPA on Wednesday in an attempt to gain temporary approval to use the bioengineered corn in human food . The EPA plans to present the data at a public hearing before ruling on the request.

The antibiotech coalition Genetically Engineered Food Alert found Starlink in Taco Bell and Safeway taco shells , touching off a wave of recalls and production stoppages . Mission Foods of Irving, Texas, which makes Safeway taco shells, among other brands, recalled all of its yellow-corn products . Kellogg Co. and ConAgra Foods Inc. have temporarily closed their facilities to ensure their supplies aren't contaminated .

Export Ban Lifted

Such experiences make it "unlikely" the EPA will ever approve another genetically modified crop not meant for human consumption , said EPA official Steve Johnson.

The Agriculture Department Wednesday dispatched a team to Japan to investigate a consumer group's claim to have found Starlink in a food product . Government regulators Thursday lifted the prohibition on exporting Starlink corn, which initially was intended only for domestic use.

Exporters can ship the genetically modified breed if it isn't destined for human food, said a USDA official.

The Food and Drug Administration has received reports from people who said they had allergic reactions after eating foods that could have contained Starlink . But the agency hasn't confirmed that the genetically modified corn was the cause. During the Senate meeting, EPA and Agriculture Department officials continued to emphasize that they haven't confirmed any reports of allergic reactions in humans due to Starlink. The officials also briefed the White House budget office on the biotech-corn issue Thursday.

Antibiotechnology groups have criticized the government for not being tough enough on biotech food.

"Both government and industry are culpable here," said Richard Caplan, an environmental advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Write to Sarah Lueck at sarah.lueck@wsj.com


19 Oct 00 - GMO - Inquiry warned over milk from GM-fed cows

By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor

Independent ... Thursday 19 October 2000


A scientist giving evidence at a public inquiry into a genetically modified (GM) maize intended for animals has said he would not drink the milk of cows fed on it.

Professor Bob Orskov, of the independent International Feed Resource Unit, told a hearing yesterday that "if the GM maize was approved for commercial growing in the UK, then people would be justified in turning their back on consuming milk derived from it". He added: "As a scientist, I wouldn't drink milk from cows fed GM maize with the present state of knowledge."

Another expert witness, Dr Vyvyan Howard, who is head of the Foetal and Infant Toxico-Pathology group at the University of Liverpool, told the hearing: "My interpretation is that this GM maize has not been tested thoroughly." He said after examining data from the biotechnology company Aventis, which makes the GM maize, there appeared to be "statistically significant" differences between the fat, protein and fibre composition of its "Chardon LL" GM strain and non-GM varieties .

But Des D'Souza, for Aventis, said last night that "the requirements for testing are set by the Government, not industry. We have met those requirements." Chardon LL has also been grown commercially and fed to animals since 1997 in the US and Canada with no ill effects, he added.

Professor Orskov and Dr Howard were giving evidence at a public inquiry to examine whether Chardon LL should be added to the UK's "National Seed Listing". Being included on that list is an essential step towards the crop being commercially planted, although Aventis and other biotech companies producing GM crops have said that they will wait for the outcome of the Government's "farm-scale" trials of such crops before they consider their wide-scale use. The trials could take up to three years to produce results.

But if the trials said that GM crops did not harm the environment, then any GM product already included on the National Seed List could be planted immediately. The maize in question is genetically engineered to be resistant to a particular pesticide produced by Aventis. The crop would only be used as "forage" to feed animals, principally in winter.

But Professor Orskov attacked the lack of rigour that had gone into its production. "It has only been fed as grain to chickens, not as a crop to cattle, which have four stomachs rather than one," he said after the hearing. "We need to carry out proper long-term tests both on the effect of the maize silage on the microbes in the stomach of the ruminants which digest the feed, and on the host animals. This has not been done."

Dr Howard added: "In [Aventis's] testing they have taken a protein from another plant and fed it to rats. I do not feel that this can be used as a basis for making judgements about the safety of this GM maize with respect to cattle."

Aventis is refusing to present any evidence at the hearing, despite being warned by the presiding barrister that not to do so could endanger its case.

The hearings follow pressure by the green group Friends of The Earth, which used a little-known aspect of the seed legislation to force a public hearing. The Government received so many objections that it was obliged to hold a public inquiry, which has been running since 2 October.


15 Oct 00 - GMO - Food tests miss GM ingredients

Deborah Collcutt, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Sunday Times ... Sunday 15 October 2000


Genetically modified in-gredients could be getting onto supermarket shelves undetected because of serious flaws in the product testing system .

The first performance check of commercial testing methods has revealed that nearly 20% of laboratories failed to recognise the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in their analyses.

The investigation, by the government Food Analysis Performance Assessment Scheme (Fapas), found that another 60% of laboratories claimed to have found positive signs of GMOs when there was none .

The laboratories checked by Fapas are commissioned by retailers to test their products before they go on sale.

European laws on the labelling of genetically modified (GM) food introduced this April stipulate that ingredients containing soya, maize or their derivatives with levels of GM material higher than 1% must be labelled as containing GM ingredients .

Although laboratories are required to quantify accurately the level of GM material present in the product, Fapas's analysis of results from more than 80 laboratories in 19 European countries revealed widely varying determinations. One group of scientists found GMO levels 12 times higher than their colleagues.

The laboratories were sent samples of GM soya flour and GM soya isolate, a soya bean derivative, containing different levels of GMOs. Both are used commonly as binding agents in pastry, chocolate, cakes, sauces and ready-made meals .

Neil Griffiths, the chief executive of Law Laboratories, who set up a certification process and has analysed the findings, said: "This is very worrying as it means many products that do contain GM ingredients are not being correctly labelled. Consumers therefore cannot be certain of what they are buying ."

Professor Brian Heap, vice-president of the Royal Society, said it was difficult to rely on commercial tests to detect traces of GMOs.

"You cannot easily prove, unless somebody can invent a test that nobody has thought of previously, whether a product contains GM or not."

A spokesman for Fapas declined to comment because the results had yet to be returned to the participating laboratories.

The results have been passed to the Food Standards Agency. A spokesman said: "In terms of the current tests, we feel they are effective when correctly applied. Detection is only one method of enforcement; there are documentation checks and sourcing. The FSA is looking at the whole issue of GM testing."


15 Oct 00 - GMO - We find the Government's secret GM crop

By Cole Moreton and Geoffrey Lean

Independent ... Sunday 15 October 2000


I fear for my safety, says the Shropshire farmer who claims he is being paid just £72 for modified maize trials

We know where a genetically modified field of maize is growing in Shropshire, but we can't tell you.

The farmer says he has nothing to hide, but is worried for his own safety. We have chosen to respect his wish for anonymity, in order not to make him a scapegoat. Public accountability is the main issue at stake, rather than the actions of any one farmer.

The Government has repeatedly sworn to be open about GM trials - but still it refuses to reveal the location of this and at least four other experimental crops across England.

And it is fighting a proposed European law which would force it to put the sites of these experiments - and any future commercial GM crops - on a public register .

"There is no doubt that there is potential for harm , both in terms of human safety and in the diversity of our environment, from GM foods and crops," wrote the Prime Minister in this newspaper last February (see above). "The protection of the public and the environment is, and will remain, the Government's over-riding priority."

The environment minister, Michael Meacher, ordered map references to be published so that neighbouring farmers and protesters alike would know the locations of 25 farm-scale trials being carried out into the safety of GM crops.

But last Sunday we revealed the existence of a new - secret - clutch of GM trials in fields across England , authorised by the agriculture minister Nick Brown . Not even Mr Meacher knew where they were. Mr Brown was under no obligation to tell him.

On Monday the ministry revealed the parishes in which the experiments were being held to Friends of the Earth. They were Shirburn in Oxfordshire , Brockley in Somerset , Bramham-cum-Oglethorpe in North Yorkshire , Histon in Cambridgeshire and Rowton in Shropshire . But officials still would not give exact locations.

The Independent on Sunday set off to find the one which was said to be in "the parish of Rowton", in the quiet countryside near Telford. In fact no such civil parish exists , and the farm in question does not even fall within the boundaries served by Rowton parish church.

The small square of 8ft-high maize is an eerie and unexpected sight, rising from the centre of an otherwise uncultivated 30-acre field, on the side of a shallow valley. The crop is enclosed by a low electric fence, to keep rabbits out.

On Friday the farmer - we shall have to call him Mr G - said he had been "led to believe" that the trial taking place in his bottom field was on a register , and therefore public knowledge . No protesters came near the farm after the crop was planted in March, so Mr G assumed he was safe. But when the new list of secret trials was published, campaign groups began searching all over the county for the site. They have yet to find it.

Most of the 500 maize plants in the field are conventional, but about a tenth have grown from seeds genetically modified by the Franco-German company Aventis to withstand herbicides.

This GM maize is the same as that destroyed by Lord Melchett and 27 other activists who were acquitted by a jury in September, and is the subject of a current public hearing into whether it should be grown in Britain at all .

The crop in Mr G's field was planted by staff from Harper Adams College in Newport, Shropshire. At first Charles Murray, of the agriculture department there, denied the college had any involvement with GM testing. However, when pressed he said: "I can't tell you about it. It's not my job to. The whole thing is very secret." The college has grown and monitored the crop for the National Institute for Agricultural Botany, which is itself under contract to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The office from which Mr G runs his farm is difficult to find in the maze of country lanes between villages. The business established by his father now employs 120 people, with a turnover of £12m-£15m. The dairy herd was sold years ago, the pigs have gone, and the sheep will follow by the end of this year. The family makes its money by managing farmland for absent owners, using it for the large-scale production of eggs, cereals and potatoes for crisp manufacturers.

When the college approached Mr G in March there was much talk of farmers feeling too intimidated to offer trial sites, for fear of protesters. "It was a worry," he said on Friday. "But at the end of the day you have to have conviction. You can't just stand still. If someone's playing around in the lab, at some point you have to have field trials. To humanise it, at the moment people are having flu jabs - but who were the first guinea pigs for those? Someone has to do it. You have to trust good science."

The most he would earn from the trial was £72, he said, as compensation for the payment that would have been due if the land - less than an acre - had been set aside. "It's important to stress that, because people think we're getting up to £15,000."

He took the trial on out of principle, because the potential for GM crops being used for good was "colossal".

The maize would be harvested in the next fortnight, he said. "All they've told me is that they're taking it away, evaluating it, and the whole crop is destroyed at the end so there's nothing left on the farm."

The farmer was advised to put safety first in the event of a protest. "They've left me a couple of telephone numbers to ring if a whole load of people turn up in white suits, but they've quietly suggested that I don't put my family or my staff in jeopardy."

Mr G said he would not have agreed to the trial if any of his neighbours had been growing maize, or feeding their dairy cows on it. Likewise, he had decided against growing GM oil-seed rape because they farmed the ordinary version.

"Since all this media hype was drummed up I have been told that one of my neighbours is starting to go organic ," he said. "I believe he is something like six miles, 20 or 30 fields, three roads and a village and a half away."

Mr G insisted he had not known the trial was secret . "In the early stages I was led to believe that it was on a website somewhere. I believed I was on a national register."

Safety had now become a worry. "I have discussed it with my wife this morning. I'm not at home very much, like a lot of farmers this time of year, out in the fields. It is concerning not to know what you're going to be confronted with, and what some of these extremist youths and people actually do."

"If you could find me then I'm sure a lot of other people could."

Last night, Tim Yeo, the shadow agriculture minister, said that the Independent on Sunday's rapid discovery of the site showed it was "ridiculous to keep the trials secret". He said he was now calling for all five locations to be made public .

He added: "If ministers want to have any serious chance of getting this technology accepted, they have got to act in a more open and honest way."

But the Government is resisting a new European measure that would force it to be open about all its GM sites.


15 Oct 00 - GMO - Health fear over GM cattle feed

Antony Barnett, Public affairs editor

Guardian ... Sunday 15 October 2000


Key DNA fragments can enter the human food chain,reveals research by Commons committee

Large fragments of genetically modified DNA could be entering the human food chain , according to findings of a key Government committee obtained by The Observer.

An independent study by the Advisory Committee on Animal Feeding Stuffs reveals that alien genes used by scientists to modify crops are surviving the manufacturing process which turns GM crops into animal food .

The report heightens fears that products such as chicken, turkey, beef and pork may be contaminated with modified genes if the animals they are from were raised on GM feed . Until now Ministers and industry bodies have reassured consumers that a heating process kills any DNA in animal fodder.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Joyce Quin told the House of Commons last December: 'Ministry-funded work has confirmed that DNA is degraded during the processing of most animal feed.'

But the new disclosure that genetic material remains in the food chain will raise widespread concern . More than two million tonnes of GM crops are imported into the UK for animal feed.

The major concern will be that the DNA can transfer to bacteria in the gastro-intestinal tracts of animals fed on this material .

All animals, including humans, have bacteria in their gut which helps to fight disease as well as easing digestion. But some GM animal feed contains an alien gene which confers resistance to antibiotics. If this gene were to transfer to the bacteria in cows, it could make it harder for farmers to treat infections. Another concern is that farmworkers inhaling the dust from GM feed could be affected.

Environmentalists further fear that humans eating meat or dairy products from livestock fed on GM crops could be at risk , although so far there is no evidence that bacteria in human guts have been affected.

However, earlier this year, The Observer revealed the work of a German scientist who had found that genes from GM crops could be found in bacteria in the guts of bees .

Fears of this kind led the Government's independent advisory committee - which reports to the Food Standards Agency - to commission the consultants ADAS to monitor the manufacturing of animal feed.

The draft minutes of the committee, seen by this newspaper, state: 'The results indicate that DNA fragments large enough to contain potentially functional genes survived processing in many of the samples studied .'

Members of the committee had 'expressed surprise that so much DNA survived processing ', the minutes add.

Greenpeace has called on the Government to take immediate steps to stop the continuing import of GM crops from the US for use in animal feed .

A spokesman for the environmental group, Andy Tait, said: 'It is beyond belief that even in the wake of the BSE crisis, independent research into the potential for GM to cross into the guts of animals was not done before these crops were allowed to market.'

The GM firm Monsanto has always said the genes used in its soya crops are 'inactivated' by heat processing during animal feed manufacture.

Biotech companies argue that Britons have been happily eating and drinking milk, chicken, pork and beef from livestock raised on GM-rich diets since the early Nineties and shown no ill effects.

A Food Standards Agency spokeswoman said the findings had been a surprise but the body did not believe the study raised food safety issues. 'While we now know that DNA does survive the manufacturing process in some samples there is no scientific proof that this then crosses into the guts of the animals that eat it.'

The agency would go on pressing for the compulsory labelling of food from animals raised on GM feed, she added.

The possibility of the suspect DNA entering human food was first raised in the US in the early Nineties.


14 Oct 00 - GMO - Call to develop GM 'terminator' genes

By Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent

Independent ... Saturday 14 October 2000


Genetically modified (GM) crops with terminator genes, which will be unable to flower or reproduce without being "switched on", should be developed further by scientists, a committee of senior government advisers is torecommend.

The controversial advice, from the Department of the Environment's expert body on GM crops, will infuriate environmental groups who claim plants with "junkie genes" should be banned .

The report, to be published later this month, will suggest that there should be more research into "terminator" style technology.It will say that the potential of the technology has not yet been fully explored and is still in its infancy.

The government advisers also want scientists to do further work to create infertile crops to stop them reproducing themselves.

The report by the sub-group on Best Practice in GM Crop Design , part of the Advisory Committee on Releases into the Environment , will argue that such technology has great potential to protect the environment and stop the creation of cross-breed crops.

But Friends of the Earth said that the extension of such "discredited technology" would create huge dangers for the environment and risk making farmers reliant on companies such as Monsanto to "switch on" infertile crops with the use of chemicals. It said that there was no guarantee that the genes affecting plants' ability to reproduce would not spread to ordinary crops .

"I think these advisers are very naive to suggest advancing this kind of technology. This is inherently dangerous because it passes power from farmers to the companies ," said a spokesman for the environmental group, Adrian Bebb.

But a Whitehall source said the committee was considering the technology's potential for biosafety. "They are interested because it could restrict gene transfer to native species."


13 Oct 00 - GMO - Insurers get approval to use genetic tests

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Telegraph ... Friday 13 October 2000


The Government will announce today that Britain is to be the first country to allow insurers to use the results of genetic tests to identify people with hereditary illnesses .

Approval will be given first for the devastating neurological condition Huntington's chorea . Hereditary breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease are expected to follow.

Concerns that such tests could create a genetic underclass led Holland, France and Norway to ban the use of tests by insurers .

The Government has chosen to reject advice from the Human Genetics Advisory Commission which recommended a moratorium on the use of information from tests for genetic illnesses. Ministers have decided instead that insurers should be able to use the results subject to the Genetics and Insurance Committee agreeing a test's technical reliability.

The Genetics and Insurance Committee, an advisory body reporting to the Department of Health, believes some people at risk of Huntington's chorea may benefit. The test for the disease detects a genetic "stutter", a repeat of genetic code. Normal people have under 39 copies of this stutter. But sufferers have more than 39 - the longer the stutter, the earlier the disease will strike.

The committee argues that by allowing insurers to have access to this information, a member of an affected family who tests negative will be able to get insurance more easily than at present. Those with a version of the gene that is linked to the late onset of the disease should be able to obtain standard health insurance when they are younger.The overall level of premiums should be lower than if the use of tests by insurance companies was banned, said the committee.

Prof John Durant, chairman of the Genetics and Insurance Committee, stressed that nobody would be asked to take a genetic test by an insurance company. Rather they would be expected to disclose the results of any genetic tests they had undergone. This would not be a legal obligation, but insurance companies would have the right to refuse to offer insurance if a customer refused to reveal details.

Mary Francis, the Director-General of the Association of British Insurers, said that this was an extension of current practice, with companies already asking potential customers about family history of disease. Critics fear that vulnerable groups could find it difficult to get a mortgage or life insurance. Sue Watkin, chairman of the Huntington's Disease Association, said: "Our main concern is that people at risk of late onset genetic disorders should be able to get insurance of some kind up to a certain level."

The National Consumers' Council feared that people would be put off having tests in case the results might count against them - with a possible knock-on effect on their health. The Human Genetics Commission said that it would launch a public consultation about the use of genetic information, which would include insurance issues. The vice-chairman, Prof Sandy McCall Smith, said: "We will find out whether the insurance industry's use of genetic test results leads to genetic discrimination.

Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said genetic screening could put pregnant women under pressure to have babies aborted if they were found to be carrying a defective gene.


11 Oct 00 - GMO - Wrong beet grown at two GM trial sites

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor

Telegraph ... Wednesday 11 October 2000


Aventis, the biotech company, planted an unauthorised variety of GM sugar beet at two sites in England this year while carrying out authorised trials into a herbicide resistant beet , the Government said yesterday.

The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions ordered an investigation of the unauthorised release by the Central Science Laboratory, the enforcement authority for GM releases, which will advise whether the company should be prosecuted .

The Department's expert advisers, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, said that there was no threat to human health or the environment. Less than 0.5 per cent of an unauthorised kind of herbicide resistant sugar beet was planted in the two small-scale trials.

The company discovered a "background" level of the wrong GM variety when it came to destroy the crops . The department said that the trials were now finished and the sites had been cleared of all GM material. Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "This is yet another cock-up by the biotech industry."


11 Oct 00 - GMO - Acceptable GM Contamination of Seed (MAFF)

MAFF

MAFF ... Wednesday 11 October 2000


(UK Correspondents Note:

This "coded" press release is about the permissible level (0.5%) of GM seed contamination in batches of seed sold as non-GM. In other words, how much GM seed can be incorporated by Biotech companies without having to inform the purchaser.

This has three effects:

Firstly, it provides a mechanism for Biotech companies to infiltrate GM DNA into the UK bypassing the MAFF testing programme.

Secondly, as GM DNA can be introduced to the UK by the back door, possible objections to full scale planting are negated (i.e. what's the point of objecting to a GM variety if its genetic contamination is already here).

Thirdly, and most importantly as far as MAFF is concerned, it eliminates the possibility of consumer choice not to consume GM crops.

Note in the following EU meeting minutes that seed testing is only required for "large scale" planting, thus enabling MAFF & the Biotech companies to unlimited levels of GM contamination in "small scale" plantings.

Sadly, both MAFF and it's new subsidiary the Food Safety Agency are still in the pockets of the Biotech companies)


357/00

10 October 2000

EC INTERIM MEASURES FOR MONITORING SEED IMPORTS FOR THE ADVENTITIOUS PRESENCE OF GM SEEDS IN CONVENTIONAL SEEDS

The European Commission has published interim measures for dealing with the adventitious presence of genetically modified seed in conventional seed.

Commissioner Byrne has also confirmed to Baroness Hayman, Minister ofState at MAFF, that the Commission was working on proposals to amend the seeds marketing directives in respect of the adventitious presence of GM material.

He has given an assurance that these legislative proposals will come forward without undue delay. He notedthat the matter was complex, with a need to develop clear methodologyand testing methods as well as taking into account the implications for third countries. He confirmed that he is committed to making proposals which would be enforceable.

The Government will consult widely on the Commission proposals when they are available.

Notes for Editors

1. Earlier this year it was discovered that oilseed rape imported from Canada into several countries contained GM elements. It was agreed that there was a need for the EU regulatory framework to be clarified and strengthened to deal with such cases.

2. Meanwhile, the key elements of the interim measures are:

- Testing will apply to seeds of beet, maize, rapeseed, soya bean, cotton and tomatoes for processing, where GM presence is suspected. Member States are free to test other species.

- A zero threshold will apply to GM material which is not covered by an EU authorisation under Part C of Directive 90/220/EEC.

- A 0.5% threshold will apply to GM material which is covered by an EU authorisation under Part C of Directive 90/220/EEC.

- The measures apply to seeds which have been produced in the Community and to seeds from third countries .

3. The full details of the interim measures published by the Commission can be found on the web at: http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/rc/scsp/rap15_en.html. Hard copies can be obtained from the MAFF Press Office. (see following Mad-Cow article)

4. In the UK, the Government has in place an inspection regime to ensure compliance with GMO legislation. This includes inspections of seed imports into the UK. The Government programme for monitoring for the adventitious presence of GM material in non-GM seed is being carried out by the Central Science Laboratory in York on behalf of DETR.

END


11 Oct 00 - GMO - Acceptable GM Contamination of Seed (EU)

EU

EU ... Wednesday 11 October 2000


Health Regulatory Committees Standing Committee on Agricultural, Horticultural and Forestry Seeds and Plants

Short report of the meeting held on 10 July 2000

Chairman: Mr. Obst

All Member States present, except I.

Sole item of the Agenda: further Exchange of views on findings of adventitious presence of GMO seed in non-GMO varieties

1. The Committee discussed a plan for coordinated and harmonized interim action in respect of GMO impurities in seed of non-GMO varieties (conventional varieties), as outlined in the Short Report of the previous meeting held on 19 June 2000, with a view to immediate implementation and without prejudice to related legislative measures currently under preparation.

2. As a conclusion of this discussion, 13 of the 14 Member States present could agree to immediately organize testing of selected seed lots of conventional varieties to determine the presence of GMO impurities, until the coming into force of related new legislative measures and in accordance with the following criteria:

a) The testing would apply in particular to seeds of species grown in large scale in whole or part of the Community, and for which the presence of GMO's is suspected. This includes seeds of all categories (pre-basic seed, basic seed, certified seed of the different generations, commercial seed, standard seed). In the case of hybrid varieties, particular attention will be given to seeds of the parental lines.

(UK Correspondents Note: note the limitation of the requirement for testing to "large scale" use of seeds and the failure to define what "large scale" means, which effectively lets MAFF test only what it wants to.)

b) In the first phase, the species concerned would be those listed hereafter:

- beet (Directive 66/400/EEC)

- maize (Directive 66/402/EEC)

- rapeseed (Directive 69/208/EEC)

- soya bean (Directive 69/208/EEC)

- cotton (Directive 69/208/EEC)

- tomato, for processing purposes (Directive 70/458/EEC).

In addition, individual Member States may carry out the testing of seed lots of any other species, for which they suspect the presence of GMO's. These Member States would inform the other Member States and the Commission of their related intention and the reasons therefore.

(UK Correspondents Note: note that testing is optional!)

c) The testing would in principle apply to seeds which have been produced in the Community and to seeds from third countries. In a first phase, particular attention will be given to seeds produced in geographical areas in which GMO's not covered by an EU authorization under part C of Directive 90/220/EEC are grown.

d) The competent authorities of the Member States would seek information, through administrative cooperation, on the places where the seed lots concerned are stored or held, including seed lots from third countries. The testing of seed lots from third countries would be carried out by the Member State in which customs clearance takes place, or has been completed for marketing.

e) The competent authorities of the Member States would organize, with the participation of seed industry, appropriate sampling and testing for the presence of GMO impurities, in accordance with existing procedures and methods which have been internationally established or are otherwise available in the respective Member States.

f) Member States would take action where the results of the testing confirm the presence of GMO impurities which are not covered by an EU authorization under part C of Directive 90/220/EEC or which are not clearly identifiable as being covered by such an authorization.

g) Member States would take appropriate action where the results of the testing confirm that the level of GMO impurities which are clearly identifiable as being covered by an EU authorization under part C of Directive 90/220/EEC exceeds the respective standards laid down in the seed legislation for the varietal purity, and in any case amounts to more than a threshold applicable for consistency with labelling requirements established for foods and food ingredients produced from seed. In an interim phase until the coming into force of related legislative measures, a threshold of 0,5 % would be considered as appropriate , without prejudice to alternative levels which Member States do apply under current non-seed law. In this case, the requirement for a specific labelling would be considered as appropriate action.

h) Member States would inform the other Member States and the Commission of any finding as specified under f) and g) above. The information would include relevant references concerning the intercepted seed lots.

i) Further details of the plan would progressively be established. They may include a specification of the most appropriate types of actions to be taken under f) and g) above, but also of measures which might be envisaged in respect of crops growing in fields which were sown with seed used prior to its testing and in which GMO impurities have been found.

(UK Correspondents Note: note that seed batches can be planted BEFORE the seed is tested for GM contamination and that NO TIMESCALE is testing is specified. This effectively enables MAFF to permit GM seed to grow, flower, & disseminate GM modified genetic material before the seed is tested for genetic contamination!)

3. The Committee noted an information from A according to which this Member State has made use of Article 16 of Directive 90/220/EEC for three GMO events and therefore considers the varieties derived therefrom as unauthorised GMO's.

4. That the plan as outlined under point 2 above would be subject to regular review and to possible updating or extension.

5. The Committee was informed, by the Commission (SANCO E 1), of a number of technical and scientific aspects concerning available sampling procedures and testing methods for use under the above plan. It welcomed the proposal to set up a technical working group to identify appropriate sampling procedures and testing methods and to work out a system of harmonized use of such procedures and methods throughout the Community, account being taken of current work ongoing in this matter both in the Community (JRCs) and internationally. Each Member State will designate to the Commission two experts for this task, one concerning the sampling procedures and the other for the testing methods.

(UK Correspondents Note: no testing methodology has been defined and agreed, expect MAFF to specify visual inspection!)

6. Other Business:

- The Commission (SANCO E 1) reported on the results of the OECD Annual Meeting of the Designated Authorities for the OECD Schemes for the Varietal Certification of Seed Moving in International Trade held in Celle (D) on 4-6 July 2000, and in particular on the outcome of the discussions on the "International Seed Network Initiative on the Transboundary Movement of Seed and Biotechnology". The common position of the Community and its Member States, as previously established, was defended. A meeting of an OECD Working Group on "Genetically Modified Seed" is scheduled for 23-24 August 2000 in San Antonio/Texas (USA), for further examination of the aforesaid Seed Network Initiative.

- EL indicated that the reporting by MS on their respective situation concerning the introduction of seed lots with GMO seeds, as made in the meeting of 30 May 2000 (see point 2, third paragraph, of the report of that meeting) was not restricted to seeds of oilseed rape. Indeed, EL had also reported on a similar situation which had occurred in the case of cotton seed.

(UK Correspondents Note: MAFF were obviously unaware that GM contaminated cotton seed is available, otherwise they would have arranged a "small scale" planting in the UK!)

N.B: The measures on which the Committee has given an opinion are subject to the appropriate procedure for final adoption by the Commission

List of participants:

Member State Ministry or Organization Number of persons

BE Ministère Agriculture et des Classes Moyennes 3

DK Plantedirektoratet 2

D Ministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten 2

EL Ministry of Agriculture 1

E Ministerio de Medio Ambiente 1

F Ministère de l'agriculture et de la pêche sous direction de la foret + GNIS 2

IRL Forest Service, Department of the Marine and Natural Resources 1

L Administration des Service Techniques de l'Agriculture 1

NL Naktuinbouw 2

A Forstliche Bundesversuchsanstald, Bundesamt und Forschungszentrum für Landwirtschaft 2

P Ministerio da Agricultura - Direcção Geral de Protecção das Culturas 1

FIN Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry 1

S Swedish Board of Agriculture 3

UK Forestry Commission 2

N Ministry of Agriculture 1

ICE Ministry of Agriculture 1

CPVO Plant Variety Office 1

COM European Commission - SANCO 5

COM Other General Directorates 2