05 Oct 99 - GMO - Relief Across Third World As `Fearful Threat' Recedes
05 Oct 99 -
GMO - Monsanto To Face Its Critics As Gm Markets Shrink
05 Oct 99 - GMO - Monsanto
rules out 'terminator'
04 Oct 99 - GMO -
GM food critic set to reopen safety debate
03 Oct 99 - GMO - GM crop ban to
02 Oct 99 - GMO - Expert on GM
01 Oct 99 - GMO - New controls
on genetic crops
30 Sep 99 - GMO
- GM plants grow crop of plastic in their seeds
30 Sep 99 - GMO -
Gene experts create a half-size fruit fly
27 Sep 99 - GMO
- Monsanto in talks with 'greens' over GM crops
20 Sep 99 - GMO - GM brings menu
20 Sep 99 -
GMO - EU is warned by America over curbs on GM foods
20 Sep 99 - GMO -
Food chains cut out GM to meet label law
19 Sep 99 - GMO - Row over
Sainsbury's GM patents
19 Sep 99 - GMO -
Confusion Over GM Rules In Restaurants
18 Sep 99 - GMO -
Ministers Admit To `Illegal' GM Trials
18 Sep 99 -
GMO - We broke law on GM crop trials, minister admits
18 Sep 99 - GMO - Caterers
put GM labels on the menu
18 Sep 99 - GMO
- GM trials doubt after planting ruled illegal
18 Sep 99 - GMO - GM potato
may aid burns victims
18 Sep 99 - GMO - Meacher
admits GM crops illegal
17 Sep 99 - GMO
- Destroy Unlawful GM Crop Trials - Campaigners
17 Sep 99 - GMO - By
Valerie Elliot And Robin Young
16 Sep 99 - GMO -
Novartis to rethink its role in GM foods
16 Sep 99 - GMO - Seeds of
trouble 'sown before GM'
05 Oct 99 - GMO - Relief Across Third World As
`Fearful Threat' Recedes
Independent ... Tuesday 5 October 1999
Scientists across the developing world see Monsanto's
decision not to exploit commercially "terminator technology" as the removal of a
fearful threat to hundreds of millions of poor farmers
- despite the industry's assurances that the technology is needed to feed a global
population soon to reach 6 billion.
"Terminator technology" would prevent crops from producing fertile seeds and
would therefore have been "a disaster for Indian farmers ,"
said Afsar H Jafri of Delhi's Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.
"As many as 80 per cent of them save their seeds and plant them the following season
and they would face ruin if they had to buy seeds each year," Dr Jafri said.
Pushpa Bhargava, an eminent biologist and founder of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular
Biology in Hyderabad, said: "In the case of terminator technology, the only one who gains is the company producing it . Farmers
would become completely dependent on their seed suppliers."
As in India, the most powerful argument for genetic modification technology in Africa is
the potential to develop seeds that are resistant to drought or fungicide and whose
products could help to fill the continent's 600 million bellies.
Terry Watson, a British biotechnologist who is working for the Council for Scientific and
Industrial Research, funded by the South African government, said: "Genetic
modification offers advantages to the African farmer, who is often short of money for
pesticides or whose health is threatened by them. If he can buy seeds which offer a higher
yield without the need to use pesticides, he will.''
Monsanto's involvement in India began nearly
20 years ago and, as the country runs out of options for increasing its food yield, the
company has identified big potential.
Famines no longer occur in India thanks to the "Green Revolution" of the 1960s
but with two million extra tons of rice and of wheat needed each year merely to keep up
with the population growth, some experts argue that the biotechnology revolution has more
relevance here than in the West.
But it holds just as many terrors, and maybe more. The agricultural scientist M S
Swaminathan, who was one of the brains behind the Green Revolution, calls terminator
technology unethical and fears that such a development could "endanger the country's
05 Oct 99 - GMO - Monsanto To Face Its Critics As
Gm Markets Shrink
Independent ... Tuesday 5 October 1999
Farmers count cost as decision to shelve `terminator gene' welcomed around the globe The
pledge by the giant biotechnology group Monsanto
not to market the so-called "terminator" gene was welcomed yesterday by the
Rockefeller Foundation, which had complained that the new technology could place developing countries in thrall to the big agricultural concerns .
Crops grown from seed with such a gene would produce sterile seeds that cannot be
replanted, requiring farmers to buy new seed year after year.
While it welcomed the company's decision, the Rock-efeller Foundation again stated its
concern about the commercial applications of biotechnology and reissued
its call for labelling of genetically modified products "where there is a
public demand for it".
The foundation also wants to phase out the use of antibiotic
resistance markers , and is seeking more favourable treatment of developing
countries in the transfer of biotechnological expertise.
Bob Shapiro, the chief executive of Monsanto,
will "face" some of his critics at a meeting in London today organised by
Greenpeace - via a satellite telelink to his office in St Louis, Missouri. Mr Shapiro was
originally expected to appear in person as Monsanto
sought to recast its environmental image to stem its steep and continuing decline in
fortunes. The path he has now chosen, for whatever reason, will make questioning more
Monsanto's public relations machine,
concerned about the flood of negative publicity, has been working overtime, and has held
conciliatory talks with the Soil Association and other critics. The decision to back-track on the much-hated "terminator gene" technology
is the latest move in its effort to restore its image.
While the decision appears to be directed primarily towards its critics in Europe and the
developing countries, it also reflects growing disillusionment among already hard-pressed
farmers in the United States. After embracing new developments in biotechnology with
characteristic American enthusiasm, they are now discovering that GM
crops may become an expensive liability .
One of the country's biggest millers, Archer-Daniels- Midland (ADM), caused dismay when it
faxed its suppliers throughout the US Midwest, advising them to start separating GM crops
from conventional crops, a move aimed at pleasing its foreign customers.
The advice confirmed the worst fears of US farmers - that GM crops produced at higher cost
might in future command lower prices than conventionally grown crops. With the European
Union banning imports of GM crops, Japan threatening a
labelling requirement and Mexico - one of the bigest
importers of US crops - also balking at unlabelled produce ,
it appears that the international market for the new crops is shrinking.
The advice from ADM followed undertakings from the biggest US babyfood company, Gerber,
that it would guarantee its products GM-free. Other companies, including Heinz, are
following suit, and polls show growing consumer pressure in the United States for all GM food to be labelled .
05 Oct 99 - GMO - Monsanto rules out 'terminator'
By Nigel Hawkes, Science Editor
Times ... Tuesday 5 October 1999
Monsanto, the leading international company
involved in genetically modified crops, has said that it will not
develop the controversial "terminator technology" .
The technique could make it possible to create GM plants that do not produce viable seeds.
This would protect the investment made by the seed company as farmers would have to buy
fresh every year.
Farmers in the Third World depend on seed saved from one year's crop to sow the next. If
GM crops were equipped with the terminator gene, their usefulness to poorer countries
would be greatly reduced, as farmers might not be able to afford new seed every year.
Monsanto has come under strong pressure from many agencies involved in world
development to abandon the terminator gene. In a letter to Gordon Conway, chairman of the
Rockefeller Foundation in New York, Robert Shapiro, chief executive of Monsanto, has undertaken to do so.
The company remains committed to biotechnology "as a safe, sustainable tool for
farmers and an important contributor to the future success of agriculture in meeting the
world's need for food and fibre", Mr Shapiro writes in the letter, made public by Monsanto. But it will not
commercialise "sterile seed technologies , such as the one dubbed
terminator", he says. "We are doing this based on input from you and a wide
range of other experts and stakeholders, including our very important grower
The company always had mixed feelings about terminator. It did not develop the technique
itself, but is in the process of merging with the company that did, Delta and Pine Land.
Actual commercialisation of the terminator gene is at least five years away, and Monsanto scientists were uncertain if it would
work. Given these uncertainties and the public opposition it aroused, the company has
decided it is not worth pursuing.
Mr Shapiro does leave the door open for a more subtle approach. He says that Monsanto needs to protect its gene patents if it
is to make a return on investment, and is studying a technique that would not inactivate
the whole seed, but only the gene responsible for the introduced trait. That would mean
that for the first year, the plants would possess the ability, say, to resist the Monsanto herbicide RoundUp. But seeds taken from
those plants and sown the following year would produce normal plants without this trait.
Mr Shapiro says that Monsanto is not
spending any money developing such seeds, "but we do not rule out their future
Jim Thomas, of Greenpeace, the environmental group that campaigns against GM crops, said
that the company had stepped back from its most "odious" piece of technology but
remained committed to GM agriculture.
04 Oct 99 - GMO - GM food critic set to reopen
By Aisling Irwin
Telegraph ... Monday 4 October 1999
The row over the safety of genetically modified food is
set to enter a new phase as the scientist at the centre of the controversy publishes his
Dr Arpad Pusztai ignited the GM row last August when he claimed that GM food might
directly harm human health . He is now to publish
research on rats fed GM potatoes in The Lancet.
The research is believed to show that rats which ate GM potatoes developed a thickening of
their stomach linings, not seen in control rats which received ordinary potatoes. The
linings also became inflamed . The results may support
the contention that, while a foreign gene inserted into a plant may theoretically be
innocuous, the "constructs" used to insert and control it could be harmful .
Publication, if it goes ahead, would represent a milestone for the Aberdeen-based
scientist, whose failure to publish his original GM potato research in a peer-reviewed
journal left him open to potent criticism. A source in The Lancet said that it was one of
the most heavily reviewed papers ever accepted, and it
is thought to have passed through three sets of experts.
The controversy over GM food began last February, when scientists connected with
environmental groups across Europe claimed that Dr Pusztai's work had been suppressed by his employers at the Rowett Research
Institute. He has since retired. His work involved feeding rats raw potato carrying a gene
found in snowdrops. It instructed the potato to produce an insecticide, GNA, from the
The work caused alarm as the rats appeared to develop problems with
growth rate , immune response
and organ weight . Others fed potatoes
merely spiked with GNA did not develop these problems. This implied that the process of
genetic modification could cause health problems.
The research came in for scathing criticism at the Royal Society, where scientists formed
a self-appointed committee to review it.
The work now to be published is believed to be based mainly on analysis of the same rats
by Dr Stanley Ewen, a pathologist at Aberdeen University. He studied their intestines and
claims to have shown that they had thickened because lining cells were multiplying much faster than usual . He found little or no change in
rats fed only spiked potatoes.
Dr Ewen presented a summary of his work at a conference in Lund, Sweden, last November. He
did not release detailed data because this would jeopardise publication. He has suggested
that the blame may lie with a piece of genetic material known as the 35S cauliflower
mosaic virus promoter. Promoters are little stretches of genetic material whose function
is to switch genes on or off.
The 35S is popular as it can be easily manipulated. It has been used to perform genetic
modification on bt-maize, resistant to the corn-borer moth, and Roundup-Ready soya beans,
resistant to a common herbicide. The fear is that switches can end
up in the wrong place and switch on the wrong genes .
This has been ridiculed by scientists who say there are simple explanations for Dr
Raw potatoes are full of toxic compounds. The research was thought by critics to lack
sufficient quality controls, making the results meaningless. As the new research was
performed on the same rats, some of the same criticisms will apply.
Dr Pusztai said of the new paper: "I think it is in the public interest that it
should come out."
Charles Secrett, director of Friends of the Earth, said: "The
Government attempt to rubbish Dr Pusztai could be about to backfire . The
Lancet is an important scientific magazine which does not publish without a reason."
03 Oct 99 - GMO - GM crop ban to be extended
Sunday Times ... Sunday 3 October 1999
The government is expected to announce a three-year extension to
a voluntary ban on the commercial planting of genetically modified crops .
The agreement will extend the biotechnology industry's existing voluntary moratorium on
planting, which runs out at the end of this month, to at least 2002 and possibly further.
In return the government will support moves within the European Union to extend approval
for wide-scale commercial planting of GM crops - although the voluntary ban would prevent
planting here. The ban is intended to allay safety fears. The government says it will not
allow commercial planting until it has the results of trials into the effect of the crops
on the environment.
Even these are controversial. Last week Friends of the Earth revealed that pollen from a
field of GM oilseed rape was being carried three miles by bees. Researchers also
discovered that pollen had travelled up to 475 metres from the test site - well beyond the
standard 50-metre zone separating trials from normal crops.
At last week's Labour party conference, demonstrators dressed as cows halted traffic in
Bournemouth as they called for the removal of GM crops from animal feed. The protesters
handed in a petition with a claimed 15,000 signatures against "Frankenstein"
Trial crops have been attacked. In July, 28 Greenpeace demonstrators were charged for
damaging GM maize at Lyng in Norfolk. In the same week in north Norfolk, hundreds of
genetically modified sugar beet, part of an experiment funded by Monsanto
into the impact of GM crops on insects, were ripped up.
02 Oct 99 - GMO - Expert on GM danger vindicated
By Geoffrey Lean
Independent ... Saturday 2 October 1999
The scientist who suggested that genetically modified foods could
damage health - and was comprehensively rubbished by Government ministers and
the scientic establishment as a result - is to have his reputation
dramatically vindicated .
Britain's top medical journal, The Lancet is shortly to publish Arpad Puzstai's research
showing changes in the guts of rats fed with GM potatoes. This will reignite fears that eating GM foods may endanger human health .
The Government has sought to discredit Dr Puzstai's work on the grounds that it has not
been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Other scientists have made similar
claims and attacked it as "flawed" and unpublishable.
Publication of the article will encourage other scientists to try to repeat the
experiments, kickstarting further scientific investigation into whether GM foods pose a
threat to health or not.
Galley proofs of the article have already been sent to Dr Puzstai, and his co-author Dr
Stanley Ewen, SeniorLecturer in Pathology at Aberdeen University. Late last week David
McNamee, the journal's Executive Editor, said that it will be published "soon."
The research is important because few papers have so far been published on the health
effects of GM foods, despite the rapidity with which they spread onto supermarket shelves.
Indeed Dr Puzstai - who was travelling in europe last week and unable to comment on the
news - began his experiments becuise he could find only one previous peer-reviewed study,
led by a scientist from Monsanto, the GM
food giant, which had found no ill-effects.
He started three years research - funded by the Scottish Office to the tune of £1.6
million - at Aberdeen's Rowett Research Institute as a self-confessed "very
enthusiastic supporter" of GM technology, who fully expected his experiments to give
it "a clean bill of health."
The 68 year-old scientist, who has published 270 scientific
papers and is acknowledged as the leading authority in his field, fed rats on
three strains of genetically engineered potatoes and one ordinary one. In his first full
interview, after being gagged by his institute, he told the Independent on Sunday last
March; " I was absolutely confident I wouldn't find anything. But the longer I spent
on the experiments, the more uneasy I became."
His findings sparked public concern, and ignited a furious row about GM foods, after he
briefly mentioned them, with the Institute's permission, on a television programme last
year. They contradicted repaeted assurances from the Prime Minister down, that GM food is
safe, and undermined the assumption behind the regulation of
genetically altered crops that there is no substantial difference between them and their
conventional equivalents .
Despite his eminence, Dr Puztai - who came to Britain after the suppression of the 1956
Hungarian rising beacuse of the country's "tolerance" - underwent one of the
most extraodinary treatments ever meted out to a reputable scientist.
He was suspended from his work on the experiments, his
computers were sealed , his data
confiscated and he found himself "sent to
Coventry" by his colleagues. He was forced into
retirement and forbidden to talk about his
He came under comprehensive attack from ministers and the scientific establishment. Sir
Robert May, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, accused him of violating
"every canon of scientific rectitude". The Royal Society claimed that his work
was "flawed in many aspects of design, execution and analysis" and said that
"no conclusions could be drawn from it." And Professor Tom Sanders, of Kings
College, London. said that none of the major scientific journals would publish the
Ministers enthusiastically joined in. Cabinet enforcer Dr Jack Cunningham, who is in
charge of the Government's GM strategy, said Dr Pusztai's work had been
"comprehensively discredited", and top Downing Street advisers consistently
stressed it should be disregarded because it had not been published in a peer-reviewed
Dr Pusztai retorted that he was eager to publish, and pointed out
that the scientific criticism was based on incomplete information that he had put on the
internet at the Institute's request, while being denied full access to his data, which was
only released to him this spring.
01 Oct 99 - GMO - New controls on genetic crops
By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor
Times ... Friday 1 October 1999
New minimum distances between genetically modified crops and other fields are being
examined by the Government. The new rules could be in force before the start of next
year's programme of trials on 75 sites.
At present there is a 50-metre separation distance between GM and conventional crop fields
and 200 metres between GM and organic crops. But organic farmers are calling for a minimum six-mile distance .
Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, confirmed yesterday that the issue was on the
agenda. "I do accept that we should look further at this again and we may well have
to extend those distances in order to minimise still further the proportion of any
possible cross pollination."
He was speaking after Friends of the Earth disclosed that scientists had found GM pollen 4.5km from an official trial site in
Mr Meacher made clear, however, that the purpose of the trials and the work of the
Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment was to monitor the escape of pollen.
"We have an independent committee of scientific experts who are overseeing the
farmscale trials, who are certainly concerned about the isolation distances.
They are now examining what are the consequences of growing GM crops as opposed to non-GM
crops in neighbouring fields."
The first published monitoring results of the trial at Model Farm, Watlington, which has
been the scene of numerous anti-GM protests, showed that the
pollen had travelled further than previously detected .
Friends of the Earth claimed immediately that the discovery underlined the scale of the threat the trials posed to conventional and organic farmers,
bee-keepers and the wider environment.
30 Sep 99 - GMO - GM plants grow crop of plastic
in their seeds
By Aisling Irwin
Telegraph ... Thursday 30 September 1999
Plants that grow plastic in their seeds could sprout in farms across Britain after a
breakthrough in genetic engineering.
Oil seed rape and cress plants have been engineered to convert
air into biodegradable plastic suitable for goods ranging from credit cards to
carrier bags. The genetic engineering, reported in Nature Biotechnology, could lead to one
crop that produces oils, plastics and animal feed.
Scientists have been seeking ways to make plastics without using
petroleum products . These either do not break down or release harmful
substances if they do. Researchers have tried taking starch from plants and feeding it to
genetically engineered bacteria which convert it into plastic, but this is five times more
costly than plastic from petroleum.
Plants are far more efficient at converting carbon into plastic because they take their
raw material from the atmosphere. Scientists from Monsanto
have inserted four genes from bacteria into plants, which convert
carbon into PHBV - a degradable plastic - at three per cent of their weight.
However, this yield must be improved if it is to be a commercial crop.
Prof Yves Poirier of Lausanne University, said: "This experiment represents one of
the most complex feats of metabolic engineering yet performed in plants." It could
prove "an excellent method of increasing the value of crops by adding novel
characteristics to plants. A crop like soya bean could be used to produce oils,
protein-rich meals for animals and bioplastics".
30 Sep 99 - GMO - Gene experts create a half-size
Telegraph ... Thursday 30 September 1999
The first miniaturised version of a living organism has been created by geneticists. By
manipulating a single gene they created a half-size replica of a drosophila fruit fly.
The breakthrough could lead to new treatments for cancer and aid organ transplants in the
long term. The bonsai fruit fly is the same as its full-size brethren in every way but
size, said Prof George Thomas, an American scientist who created the fly at the
Friedrich-Miescher Institute, in Basel, Switzerland, with Prof Ernst Hafen, of Zürich
"What is amazing is that the half-size fruit fly has exactly the same number of cells
as a full-size fruit fly," Prof Thomas said. "Size is usually determined by the
number of cells that make up an organism. In this case, there are as many cells as a
full-size fly, but each is only half the usual size."
Prof Thomas said he was surprised to find that a single fruit fly gene which controls the
signalling molecule drosophila S6 kinase, or DS6K, was responsible for controlling the
speed at which all cells developed. In fruit flies and mammals, DS6K is part of a complex
pathway linked with insulin in regulating growth rate.
Writing in Science, the scientists say that removing any other molecule from the pathway
affects cell numbers and size, but removing DS6K seems only to slow growth and limit
maximum cell size. It did not affect the ability of cells to reproduce by division. Prof
Thomas compared the physiology of the shrunken and full-sized flies' wings, eyes and
dorsal bristles under the microscope. Both had the same number of cells.
The breakthrough has implications for cancer treatments and organ transplants in humans
because by slowing the growth of targeted cells, scientists could retard the development
of malignant tumours. Slowing cell growth in mice or humans will be much more complicated,
Prof Thomas said that manipulating the DS6K gene worked in fewer than two per cent of
fruit flies, but they expected to improve the technique. In mammals, where the time taken
to reach maturity is much longer than a fruit fly, many more redundant genes would have to
be manipulated to control cell size and growth rates.
27 Sep 99 - GMO - Monsanto in talks with 'greens'
over GM crops
Telegraph ... Monday 27 September 1999
The American bio-technology company Monsanto
is in talks with environmental groups over genetic modification ,
it confirmed yesterday.
The firm was in discussions with organisations such as the Soil Association and hoped
further talks would take place, it said. Monsanto
issued a statement as it was reported that it was looking at ways to meet the concerns of
environmentalists over GM food.
It is said to have offered its vast databases to help plant breeders to create new
varieties of crops using traditional methods. The company hopes that by combining
traditional techniques with its knowledge of plant DNA it can reverse the opposition to
biotechnology that is sweeping Britain and Europe.
Monsanto's president, Hendrik Verfaillie, is
said to have presented the plan to Patrick Holden of the Soil Association, asking if it
would meet environmental and consumer concerns. Mr Holden described the meeting as
"hugely significant" and said it represented a change in policy for the
20 Sep 99 - GMO - GM brings menu troubles
By Alex O'connell
Times ... Monday 20 September 1999
The latest delicacy on the British menu is giving restaurateurs an upset stomach. Starting
today, caterers whose dishes contain, for example, genetically modified soya or maize will
be breaking the law if they do not label menus accordingly.
Some larger restaurant chains said last night that they had made plans, but many smaller
restaurants were not prepared. Some said it would be impossible to conform.
In West London, Stefano Magni, the manager of Biagio Café at Piccadilly, had heard about
the law on the radio, but said it would be unrealistic to think they could label
everything. "Maybe this coffee is modified," Mr Magni, pointing to a large urn
of dark-roasted grains, said. "But if it is, they do not say so on the box."
Next week the restaurant takes delivery of a fresh pastamaker. Mr Magni has no idea if a
batch of fine Italian flour ordered specially will be genetically modified. "Our
melons come from Chile, our strawberries from England, our peppers from Spain and our
artichokes, well, nobody knows."
The ruling applies to all genetically modified crops - believed to be an additive in up to
90 per cent of processed food. The labelling amendment regulations were announced in
March, giving businesses six months to investigate their sources and make changes. Local
authorities say that the law will be difficult to enforce.
In nearby Burger King, Sam Siddig, the acting manager, knew nothing of menu alterations,
adding: "We didn't get memos from head office." George, a Regent Street hotdog
seller, thought that his sausages, rolls and onions were GM-free because he trusted his
Garfunkel's, owned by City Centre, produced a written statement saying: "No items for
sale on any of our menus contain either GM soya or GM maize as an ingredient."
20 Sep 99 - GMO - EU is warned by America over
curbs on GM foods
By Charles Clover, Environment Editor, in Geneva
Telegraph ... Monday 20 September 1999
America will challenge EU curbs on genetically modified food if
they are "unscientific" under world trade rules.
The food labelling scheme for restaurants , introduced
by Britain, is one of the likely targets for complaint. Frank
Loy, deputy to Madeleine Albright and United States under secretary for global affairs,
said at a high-level private forum at the weekend that America had been "relatively
patient" in waiting for EU approval of new GM crops.
However, it would not wait forever and was not prepared to see further restrictions on
imports, such as GM soya, that had already been approved. Mr Loy said: "We have two
problems: a failure to approve importation of certain new products and a number of
products which have been approved under a process the Europeans set up themselves with, so
far as I know, no ill-effects whatsoever. If that [process] were tampered with, we would
have a much, much more serious situation."
The US has sent papers to the World Trade Organisation saying that the mandatory labelling
of food, such as that now imposed unilaterally by Britain at restaurants, can amount to a
barrier to trade. Trade experts believe that labelling of GM products by the EU is now the
most likely issue to form the subject of a complaint to the WTO dispute panel - the most
powerful sanction any country can resort to short of war.
Mr Loy, a former conservationist and one of the most sensitive in the administration to
the charge that free trade can be harmful to the environment, warned nevertheless that the
United States was concerned about the EU's effective two-year moratorium on the approval
of GM crops while an EU directive on the release of GM crops is updated.
"The EU needs to look at its regulatory mechanisms," he said. "In the past
it has approved a lot of products. It has more lately not approved anything, just sat on
them. I think that a sound, science-based transparent process of looking at these
questions and coming to conclusions about them would be a step forward." Mr Loy said
that the different attitude to GM crops in Europe and America "might be a cultural
thing" but it "doesn't seem to be consistent with any of the rules we
If countries were unable to find scientific reasons to justify banning products on
environmental or health grounds, they should admit that they could not comply with the
rules and pay compensation or face up to trade sanctions, he said.
Mr Loy was talking at a one-day forum in Geneva attended by Michael Meacher, the
environment minister, senior EU officials and Klaus Töpfer, head of the United Nations
Environment Programme. The forum was set up in an attempt to head off a major row over the
use of environmental standards as barriers to trade which threatens to overwhelm the World
Trade Organisation's meeting in Seattle in December.
Michael Meacher said: "There are certain issues which are clearly potential or actual
conflicts. This probably is the best opportunity that we have to try to resolve
them." He defended the testing procedures Britain had set up, saying that they were
scientific but would take time and were not imposed as blocking measures, unlike those
introduced by some other European countries.
Ministers and trade experts spent the weekend exploring a number of "win-win"
measures likely to appeal to the three power blocks that will need to be appeased at the
Seattle talks - the North Americans, the EU and the developing world.
They decided that fisheries subsidies, agriculture subsidies and subsidies on fossil fuels
should all be reduced.
20 Sep 99 - GMO - Food chains cut out GM to meet
Guardian ... Monday 20 September 1999
McDonald's and Burger King are among the fast food chains that have removed
genetically modified ingredients from their menus in time for labelling laws
that came into force yesterday. However, many smaller food establishments may be unaware
of the requirement to label any GM soya or maize used in dishes. The environmental group
Friends of the Earth has questioned 11 leading chains and all said they did not use GM
soya or maize and therefore would not have to label any of their food. Restaurants, pubs,
and canteens must henceforth clearly identify dishes that contain GM ingredients.
Alternatively, Britain's 500,000 catering premises can choose to indicate simply that some
dishes on the menu contain GM soya or maize, in which case staff when asked must be able
to inform customers which dishes are affected. However, Friends of the Earth highlighted
what it said was a loophole in the legislation: outlets can supply meals that contained GM
derivatives, such as lecithin and soya oil, without having to tell their customers, as
derivatives are not covered by the new rules. Two of the companies questioned by FoE -
Pret a Manger and Domino's Pizza - said they had removed GM
derivatives from their food , while a further six chains said they were in the process of removing them . Whitbread said it was actively
reducing derivatives. Pete Riley, a food campaigner at FoE, said: "This survey shows
that restaurants recognise that customers do not want to eat food containing GM
ingredients or derivatives, and that most are now removing them as fast as they can.
"However, restaurants might well ask why they have to go to all the trouble and
expense to ensure that their meals don't contain ingredients that neither they nor their
customers want. Surely the bill should be picked up by the big biotech companies who stand
to make vast sums of money from this new technology." Mr Riley added: "Once
again the government is failing the public. Despite the introduction of these new food
regulations, people will still unknowingly be buying and eating food containing GM
ingredients and derivatives." He said that, rather than introducing labelling schemes
that were unlikely to be enforced, the government should listen to consumers and back
calls for a five-year freeze on GM food and crops .
McDonald's, Perfect Pizza, KFC, Pizza Hut and City Centre Restaurants - which includes
Caffe Uno and Deep Pan Pizza - said they were removing GM derivatives. Wimpy said it would
be free of the derivatives by the end of the year ,
while Burger King and Granada said they were monitoring and reviewing the situation. A
government spokeswoman said it was a "commercial decision" for restaurants and
other food outlets whether to label their dishes containing GM ingredients or to remove
them from the menu. She added: "It's important that consumers have choices about the
food they eat, and they need adequate information so they can make informed choices. She
said ministers were already pressing for additional European legislation to require the
labelling of GM ingredients to be extended to additives and flavourings as well as GM soya
and maize. The new regulations will be enforced by local authorities as part of their
routine enforcement of food laws, with a maximum fine of £5,000 for outlets failing to
19 Sep 99 - GMO - Row over Sainsbury's GM patents
Antony Barnett, Public Affairs Editor
Guardian ... Sunday 19 September 1999
Campaigners attack Science Minister as US documents reveal Labour
peer's biotech 'goldmine'
Science Minister Lord Sainsbury stands to make substantial
profits from a company which now owns the rights for three biotech products
integral to the future of GM food technology, The Observer can reveal.
Sainsbury indirectly owns a firm, Diatech,
that controls the patents based around a collection of genes taken from the tobacco plant,
known as the Omega sequence. The process makes genetic modification more than 100 times
more effective and scientists claim it has the potential to make millions
of pounds in royalties .
Documents filed at the US patent office, which have been seen by The Observer, show Diatech was granted three patents for its GM
products in February 1996, March 1997 and April this year. Diatech was transferred to Sainsbury's blind trust
last July after he became a Minister. This month he donated £2m to the Labour
Earlier this year The Observer revealed how Diatech
was helping to pay contractors to refurbish Sainsbury's £3 million country home .
The revelations piled further pressure on Tony Blair to sack the Science Minister after
MPs and environmental campaigners claimed his financial links to the GM industry made it
impossible for him to act impartially and accused him of a significant conflict of
Adrian Bebb, director of Friends of the Earth, said: 'It is now clear that if GM
technology takes off in Britain Lord Sainsbury will make so much money that even he will
notice. This huge potential goldmine makes the idea of avoiding
conflicts of interest through a blind trust completely ridiculous .'
Sainsbury has not declared ownership of the patents in the House of Lords' register of
interests because they are technically owned by his blind trust. Before he became a
Minister he simply listed in the register that he owned a 'licence on a biotechnology
Shadow Environment Secretary John Redwood said: 'Lord Sainsbury must give a clear and full
statement of his past and present interests in the GM industry. He cannot
hide behind his blind trust because if you own assets and investments that are
not easily tradeable the blind trust does not offer protection. It also appears he only declared one patent in the past when he may have owned more .'
Sainsbury funded the research that led to the Omega sequence being discovered during the
1980s. His chief scientific adviser, Dr Roger Freedman, approved the payment for the work
through Diatech which sponsored the research
that was carried out at the John Innes Centre in Norwich.
Dr Michael Wilson, chief executive of Horticultural Research International and the
scientist who discovered the sequence, said: 'The unique thing is that it can be used in
virtually all GM processes. Put simply, it dramatically boosts the levels of protein
produced in GM plants which is necessary to make the gene function. This could be very
useful in GM foods as well as in developing medicines.'
A researcher at the Scottish Crop Research Institute who worked with Wilson said: 'The
view was that the Omega sequence could be a huge commercial success in the future with
companies like Monsanto licensing it for use
in their products.'
The Observer has also established that under Sainsbury's ownership Diatech
struck a deal with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US to jointly market
the patent of another translational enhancer taken from the alfalfa plant.
Diatech refused to
reveal who was paying for its products, although it is understood that genetically
modified papayas being grown in Hawaii are paying royalties to the firm. Earlier this year
the Japanese signed a deal with Hawaiian papaya growers to import GM fruit. Such a deal
could be highly profitable for Diatech and
In February, Sainsbury angrily dismissed claims he owned the patent to the cauliflower
mosaic virus. He refused to comment, but a spokesman for the Department of Trade and
Industry said the Minister had no idea what he did or did not own in his blind trust and
that, in any case, he was not involved in policy decisions relating to GM foods.
However, earlier this year Sainsbury travelled to the US with members of the the
Bio-Industry Association to investigate biotechnology clusters. The association is viewed
by campaigners as a lobby group for the GM industry and Diatech
is a member. The DTI helped fund the trip.
19 Sep 99 - GMO - Confusion Over GM Rules In
Observer ... Sunday 19 September 1999
Restaurateurs across the country have expressed bemusement at
labelling laws on genetically modified ingredients that came into force yesterday.
Out of the 20 restaurants surveyed by The Independent, one-third were not aware of the government regulations that require them to
identify dishes containing GM soya or maize . All but
two said they did not plan to modify their menus. Judith Wakeham, proprietor of the White
House restaurant in Prestbury, Cheshire, said: "Could you imagine the state of the
menus? Reading them would be impossible. It was simply not practical."
Most owners said they would not go as far as advertising their cuisine as GM free. While
16 said they did not use any genetically modified ingredients, four admitted they could not guarantee their dishes did not contain biotech
Raffaele De Martino, manager of Casa Mamma in central London, echoed the view of many when
he said: "To be honest, we don't know if we use any. All the ingredients we buy don't
have labels. You can only take the suppliers' word for it."
And Roberto Cimelli, owner of Sasses Restaurant in Norwich, added: "We have to rely
on what the suppliers say but we are the ones at the end of the line. This new regulation
is a complete mess."
While most owners said they understood people's concerns over GM foods, some questioned
the necessity of such a law which, they said, would penalise them and could prove as
difficult to enforce as the beef on the bone ban.
Angela Davies, owner of Quay 35 in Newcastle, said: "If we have to label everything,
it is going to be a huge exercise. At the moment it's only soya and maize but soon there
could be more. That means we will have to check each ingredient. And we don't even know if
there is a danger to the public."
Britain's biggest fast-food chains, including McDonald's and Burger King, had removed
genetically modified ingredients from their menus in time for yesterday's deadline,
according to Friends of the Earth.
The environmental group surveyed 11 leading chains and found that all said that they did
not use GM soya or maize and would not have to label any of their food to comply with the
However, the group highlighted a loophole in the legislation, which meant food outlets
could supply meals that contained GM derivatives such as GM lecithin and GM soya oil
without having to tell customers, as derivatives are not covered by the new rules.
18 Sep 99 - GMO - Ministers Admit To `Illegal' GM
Independent ... Saturday 18 September 1999
Government trials of genetically modified crops were plunged into
chaos yesterday when the Environment Minister Michael Meacher had to admit the
latest series of plantings were illegal .
Government lawyers, in a highly embarrassing climbdown,
conceded the claim by the Friends of the Earth, in a judicial review case in the High
Court, that this autumn's large-scale trials programme on four farms had been wrongly licensed .
Environment Department officials had allowed the company involved, AgrEvo,
to obtain a variation of an old licence when they should have insisted it seek a new one,
which would have been more expensive and time-consuming for the company.
Although the case is based on a technicality, it is a big embarrassment for the
Government, as it gives an impression of incompetence in
the management of a hot political issue, and of special treatment for the agribusiness
companies promoting GM technology. "It is a bad day for us," a government source
Mr Meacher, insisting that it was a "narrow, technical matter" with no health,
safety or environmental issues involved, said that the Government still wished the
environmental trials of winter oilseed rape to continue on the three sites already
He accepted, however, that if Friends of the Earth returned to court and won an order for
the trial sites to be destroyed, they would have to be dug up.
Friends of the Earth said it would seek such an order, accusing the Government of hypocrisy . "How can they admit they have broken the
law over these trials and then do nothing about stopping them?" said the group's
campaigns director, Liana Stupples.
"How can the Government expect people to trust them if this is their attitude? We are
calling for these crops to be dug up immediately . The
trials are completely discredited."
Mr Meacher said he was concerned at the possibility that green activists might in the
meantime attack the three remaining sites, the locations of which, in Lincolnshire and
Hertfordshire, are well known. Crops on a similar site in Norfolk were destroyed by
members of Greenpeace last month.
"We are concerned about their protection and the police are obviously concerned that
they should not be damaged or destroyed or violated in any way," he said.
But he claimed that the majority of members of the public had reacted adversely to
Greenpeace's attack and he hoped that this would "give others due cause to think very
carefully." He added: "I am sure the courts will act vigorously with those who
behave in this way."
However, Mr Meacher said he still believed that in the cause of open government the
location of the sites should continue to be published.
Jack Cunningham, overseer of the Government's GM policy, hinted last week that if attacks
continued, the sites might be kept secret .
The dispute concerns the four-year series of farm-scale trials, begun under government
supervision this year, to test the effects of growing GM crops on the local environment,
the first such trials in the world .
The GM plants involved, oilseed rape and maize, are genetically engineered to be tolerant
of a new generation of powerful weedkillers and there are fears that these may have a devastating effect on wild flowers, insects and birds.
The plantings this year are a dry run to establish the methodology for the full series of 75 trials to run from 2000 until the end of 2002. Six plantings of spring-sown rape and maize are now coming
to an end, and are being followed by four sites of
It is these four which are the subject of Friends of the Earth's successful High Court
challenge. They were authorised by a variation of the licence for the spring sowings, but
the Government now accepts that under EU law and the Environment Protection Act it should
have been the subject of an entirely new licence application. Mr Meacher said that the
Government would no longer be contesting the judicial review proceedings. "We are
accepting that we acted illegally ," he said.
"We acted in good faith, but we made a mistake and as soon as that became clear, we
have sought to put it right." The testing programme would continue. "It is
absolutely vital that we have these trials."
18 Sep 99 - GMO - We broke law on GM crop trials,
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Telegraph ... Saturday 18 September 1999
The Government is to press ahead with trials of genetically modified crops despite being
forced to admit yesterday that it had wrongly given permission for
a series of tests.
Michael Meacher, the environment minister, said that permission for the trials of GM
oilseed rape on three fields in Lincolnshire and Hertfordshire was "technically unlawful ". He said there were "no health, safety
or environmental issues involved".
Friends of the Earth had been granted leave for a judicial review after the Government
allowed AgrEvo UK Ltd to change the GM crop
being tested from spring-sown to autumn-sown GM oilseed rape without submitting a new
The move enabled the crop to be grown for 12 months rather than
six and quadrupled the area of the trials
from about 3,000 acres to 12,000 acres . The
"narrow, technical" matter that caught out the Department of Environment
concerned whether it had the power to allow the GM trial by varying an existing consent
rather than seeking a new one.
Even though the crops are effectively the same, the Government found that the
"variation order" was insufficient and a fresh application was required under
the EU Deliberate Release Directive. Mr Meacher said he would not contest the judicial
review over the trials of the herbicide-tolerant GM oilseed rape.
He said: "We are accepting that on this point we acted illegally
." But he stressed that it was a mistake made in good faith and that it
"would not be right" to pull up the crop. He said: "The Government's
programme of farm-scale crop trials will continue."
The impact of GM crops on the environment needed to be assessed and, until then, the GM
crop industry "fully understands that it is not possible to achieve full-scale
commercialisation in this country, given the current state of public opinion".
Tony Juniper, policy director for Friends of the Earth, described Mr Meacher's
announcement as a "humiliating climb-down "
and said that the pressure group would seek legal advice on how to take further action to
ensure that the offending crop was dug up.
He said: "We caught the Government fiddling the law. They have admitted their
responsibility and will not contest our legal challenge. But they will let the farm-scale
trials go ahead anyway. It is nonsense to pretend that this is a technical matter."
AgrEvo said the issue was a matter for the
Government and Friends of the Earth although it remained committed to research and
Mr Meacher said the practical effect of the admission "will be very little, if
anything. It does mean that AgrEvo will not
proceed with the planting of a fourth field on Sunday as they had planned to do. Otherwise
there will be no practical effect and the farm-scale trials will continue next year as
Mr Meacher said: "It is absolutely vital that we have these trials. They will tell us
what effect, if any, growing GM crops may, or may not have, on Britain's wildlife."
Tim Yeo, shadow agriculture spokesman, said: "There has been a collapse in public
confidence in the Government's handing of GM crop trials and this will make things
18 Sep 99 - GMO - Caterers put GM labels on the
By David Brown, Agriculture Editor
Telegraph ... Saturday 18 September 1999
Pubs, restaurants and other catering establishments face fines up to £5,000 from tomorrow
if they fail to identify genetically modified ingredients on
Even the owners of hot-dog stands will have to comply with new GM labelling regulations,
announced by the Government in March, which come into force at midnight. The Food
Labelling (Amendment) Regulations 1999 will force an estimated 500,000 catering premises
in Britain to show which dishes on their menus contain GM soya and maize.
The declarations, which can be either on menus or on notices displayed where customers can
see them, are designed partly to ensure that staff can inform customers accurately which
dishes are affected. It will be the responsibility of owners and managers to find out
whether they are using GM products.
Baroness Hayman, the food minister, said yesterday: "The Government is committed to
ensuring that consumers are able to make an informed choice about the food they eat. We
have led the way in Europe by extending the labelling regulations."
The Government was now pressing for extra European legislation to require the labelling of
GM additives and flavourings, she said.
18 Sep 99 - GMO - GM trials doubt after planting
Guardian ... Saturday 18 September 1999
Three fields of genetically modified crops in Lincolnshire and Hertfordshire could be ploughed up and any further trials postponed
for at least a year after the government admitted yesterday that their planting
last month had been illegal.
Caving in to pressure from environmental campaigners, the department of the environment
conceded that it had been wrong to allow changes to rules governing the trials of GM
crops. It said the concession was not on grounds of the safety of the trials but simply
over a technical mistake.
The climbdown by the environment minister, Michael Meacher, was none the less hailed as a
victory by Friends of the Earth and led to opposition calls for his resignation.
The announcement could result in a costly delay to the trials .
Tomorrow's proposed planting of a field of oilseed rape in Lincolnshire will now not go ahead .
Mr Meacher said he would not contest judicial review proceedings recently brought by FoE,
but he was adamant that the trials - 75 fields are proposed for next year - would
continue. FoE will seek legal advice on whether it should ask a court that the fields be dug up because they were unlawfully planted.
FoE had claimed that the government was wrong to allow AgrEvo
UK Ltd to make changes to the crop being tested without seeking new permission from the
department of the environment. AgrEvo changed its application, quadrupled
the area of land used, doubled the length
of the trial from six months to one year and switched one
of the tests from spring to autumn planting.
Mr Meacher said he was conceding defeat on only one point - whether the government had the
power to vary a consent to allow for the planting of oilseed rape in the autumn - and
there were "no health, safety or environmental issues involved".
"As soon as we were satisfied that we should not contest this point, we acted swiftly
and told the court," he said. "We will not require AgrEvo
to end the trials concerned because at the time of sowing AgrEvo
acted in good faith on the strength of the consent which they had."
Mr Meacher conceded that the trial programme could, however, be hampered
by further legal moves by FoE.
FoE had originally hoped to delay the planting of the new trials beyond September 25 but
the sowing went ahead after Mr Meacher said he saw no legal reason why there should be any
The group condemned the decision to allow the trials to continue as "scandalous ". FoE policy and campaigns director Tony
Juniper said: "This humiliating climb-down puts the whole GM trials programme into
complete chaos. We caught the government fiddling the law. They have admitted their
responsibility and will not contest our legal chal lenge. But they will let the farm-scale
trials go ahead anyway. It is nonsense to pretend that this is a technical matter. The
trials should of course be stopped at once."
Tim Yeo, the Conservative spokesman for agriculture, called for Mr Meacher to resign . "His reaction to this shocking case - to call
it a technicality - is an insult to the public's intelligence. To say that a trial that
involved a different crop for twice the time and on four times the area of land was
legally flawed because of a technicality shows that he is no longer a responsible guardian
of Britain's environment," Mr Yeo said.
Mr Meacher took back threats made last week that the
trials might have to be conducted in secret because of the threat of sabotage. He said he
now believed openness was the best policy.
Regulations requiring all restaurants to identify dishes containing GM ingredients
come into force tomorrow. The regulations, which also apply to pubs and canteens, require
some 500,000 catering premises to show which dishes on their menus contain GM soya or
maize. Alternatively, the restaurants must indicate that some meals contain GM ingredients
and staff must be able to inform customers which dishes are affected when asked.
18 Sep 99 - GMO - GM potato may aid burns victims
Guardian ... Saturday 18 September 1999
Potatoes genetically engineered to produce a natural chemical found in pineapples could
soon be helping burns victims, James Dunwell, a plant biotechnologist at the university of
Reading, told the British Association festival of science.
Pineapples, like papaya, could "digest" flesh: both were used for tenderising
tough meat. Researchers had identified the enzyme in pineapple juice that did the work,
and the gene that produced it.
A product was already being extracted from pineapple stems and used in hospitals to
"clean up" damaged skin before grafts. But the action was too acidic; the
Reading team proposed to modify the gene so that its action was not too powerful, and then
get plants such as potatoes to produce huge quantities of a better pharmaceutical product.
"This is linking an understanding of genetics, proteins and plants for the benefit of
human health," Prof Dunwell said. He was speaking at a meeting on public concern over
biotechnology in general and genetically modified crops in particular.
Bill Fullagar, UK chief of Novartis,
commissioned a Mori survey of 1,000 adults who were asked about scientific advances: 90%
approved of the transplant of human organs; 86% wanted a permanent cure or vaccine for
Alzheimer's disease; 82% wanted medicines which would work without side effects, and 62%
wanted new agricultural methods which would benefit the environment.
Only 31% approved of experiments on live animals, but when the same question was linked
with medical advances, approval went up to 48%. Only 16% approved of cloning animals; once
again, when the question was linked to Alzheimer's disease treatment, approval rates
doubled. Scientists argued that better information about benefits might alter public
attitudes to genetically-modified crops.
Novartis is testing
genetically-modified sugar beet in Britain , and has produced an
insect-resistant maize. Both meant less pesticide use, Mr Fullagar said.
"With this technology comes the obligation for responsibility and we accept willingly
that the technology raises great questions," he said. The Mori survey was one small
step towards a wider public debate on the risks and benefits.
"Biotechnology has this great potential impact on our lives, but what we do with it
should depend upon the debate we should all be engaging in," he added.
18 Sep 99 - GMO - Meacher admits GM crops illegal
By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor
Times ... Saturday 18 September 1999
The future of genetically modified crop trials was in chaos last
night after the Government admitted that the planting of this autumn's three test sites
was unlawful .
Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, admitted that the Government may be forced to dig up illegally planted fields of GM winter oilseed rape if
a legal challenge to be mounted in the High Court by Friends of the Earth, possibly as
early as next week, is successful.
Ministers have already told AgrEvo, the
giant biotechnology company responsible for these trials, that it must now cancel plans
for the planting of a fourth site in Lincolnshire tomorrow. Despite its admission, the
Government infuriated anti-GM campaigners by insisting that the three other trials - two
near Lincoln and one near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire - should continue.
The confusion immediately prompted a Tory call for Mr Meacher's
resignation . Tim Yeo, Shadow Agriculture Minister, said: "Michael Meacher
has now lost all credibility and should step down ." The Government was clearly embarrassed by
the bungle but a defiant Mr Meacher took pains to
emphasise that the Government had acted at all times "in good faith", but he
accepted there was a possibility they would be forced to dig up the crops. He said that if
the court told them to pull up the crops they would obey the order and added that it would
not be a serious consequence for the farm-scale trials. The embarrassment followed a
decision to bow to the legal challenge from Friends of the Earth which claimed this
autumn's crop planting was illegal. The High Court had already given the campaign group
permission to bring a judicial review on the issue.
But Mr Meacher sought to play down the incident and said the Government had made a mistake on just one narrow, technical issue. He
insisted there were no health, safety or environmental issues at stake and the Government
was taking steps to ensure that the error was not repeated. But he admitted that he was
worried about the security of the three remaining trials and said: "They should not
be damage or destroyed or violated in any way."
A Whitehall spokeswoman also emphasised that anyone damaging the seed or land would be at
risk of prosecution for illegal trespass and criminal damage. The Government's mistake was
uncovered by lawyers at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions who
realised that AgrEvo's application for
planting this winter's oilseed rape trials had been unlawful.
The company had applied for a £700 variation order of an existing approval for the
planting of spring oilseed rape. But the lawyers discovered the use of such an order was
wrong under EU law and could only be made in limited circumstances.
The application for the autumn planting also differed from the spring one because it quadrupled the land being used from 1,250 hectares to 5,000 hectares ,
and doubled the length of trials from six to 12 months .
The proper course would have been for AgrEvo
to make a new £3,000 application for consent to plant from the Advisory Committee on
Releases to the Environment.
Mr Meacher said: "We will not require AgrEvo
to end the trials concerned, because at the time of sowing AgrEvo
acted in good faith on the strength of the consent which they had. This error is on a
purely technical point." He also said that if the company had applied for the full
consent it would have received it.
Tony Juniper, Friends of the Earth director, claimed the climbdown had thrown the GM
trials programme into complete chaos and the trials
should be stopped at once . He said: "We caught the Government fiddling the law . They have
admitted their responsibility and will not contest our legal challenge. But they will let
the farm-scale trials go ahead anyway. We know that the law will be bent to suit the big
biotech companies. "We also know that the Government will do nothing to put matters
right even when they are caught red-handed. The public can no longer have any confidence
that the Government is neutral on the GM issue, or even vaguely competent."
AgrEvo said the issue was a matter of
interpretation of the law between the Government and Friends of the Earth. The firm
reiterated its commitment to the research and development of GM technology and said it
believed "it has many benefits for the consumers, growers and the environment".
The unlawful GM crop sites are at Home Farm, near Glentham; The
Old Rectory, Croxby, Market Rasen, both in Lincolnshire; and Wood Farm, Dodds Lane,
Piccotts End, Hemel Hempstead.
17 Sep 99 - GMO - Destroy Unlawful GM Crop Trials
Evening Standard ... Friday 17 September 1999
Jubilant green campaigners are to ask a judge to order the latest wave of genetically
modified crop trials to be dug up , following a Government legal climbdown .
Environment minister Michael Meacher has admitted his officials
acted unlawfully in extending permission for trials after initial approval had
Friends of the Earth, which brought a court challenge to the decision, said the
Government's admission meant there was no legal authority for the planting, on two sites
in Lincolnshire and one in Hertfordshire, and they should be pulled
17 Sep 99 - GMO - By Valerie Elliot And Robin
Restaurants face law on GM dishes
Times ... Friday 17 September 1999
New laws to force the labelling of all genetically modified
additives and flavourings contained in food in restaurants, canteens, schools,
hospitals or railway buffets are being planned by ministers.
The move would apply to many common foods containing chocolate or vegetable oils which are
derived from GM soya, maize and other crops. Up to 90 per cent of
processed food is believed to have GM additives and flavourings .
The new laws could also extend to products containing enzymes produced by a GM process,
such as chymosin, the rennet used in vegetarian cheese. Lecithin, an emulsifier derived
from soya, is used in nearly all chocolate products, including cakes and puddings.
Baroness Hayman, the Food Minister, confirmed that she was urging the EU to introduce new
regulations to cover these items. She told The Times: "The key issue now for
consumers is whether there is GM material in food .
There is a real issue about additives and flavourings which are not covered at the
She believed that some supermarket chains were already planning to label the products.
"I think a lot of this is going to be consumer-driven. There is definite evidence
that people do not want food to contain GM ingredients .
People welcome labelling and can make their own choices." The minister pledged to
consult widely with the food and retail industry before the new laws were introduced.
Her views on GM emerged as hotels, restaurants, take-aways and catering firms appeared to
be in disarray over new rules governing the labelling
of all food containing GM soya and maize. Some establishments have said they will ignore
the rules; others say that they do not know about them or claim that the laws are
Lady Hayman is to meet environmental health and trading standards officers next week to
discuss how they should enforce the new laws, which come into force on Sunday. A fine of
up to £5,000 could be imposed on anyone failing to
Prue Leith , a leading authority on the catering
industry, yesterday believed the rules were unworkable .
"There is no chance that overworked restaurateurs will check the prov-enance of up to
30 ingredients for every recipe. Most will ignore the directive and
the rest will say they are GM-free without checking."
Ian McKerracher, chief executive of the Restaurant Association, said that the new
regulations were "absurd and a nonsense" .
16 Sep 99 - GMO - Novartis to rethink its role in
David Teather and Julia Finch
Guardian ... Thursday 16 September 1999
Agribusiness division's fate hangs in balance
Drugs firm Novartis last night said it was
considering spinning off its ailing agribusiness division which includes the company's controversial research into genetically modified foods.
Novartis, which is the world's number two
pharmaceuticals company and the biggest maker of crop protection products, is considering
"a number of options" for the troubled agribusiness division including
separating it from the main company or seeking an alliance.
The Swiss company's decision to rethink its involvement in GM
foods comes just one month after Britain's AstraZeneca
warned that it too might sell its agrichemicals business.
AstraZeneca is a high profile GM company
which has already put genetically engineered products on British supermarket shelves. It
has also been the target of high profile demonstrations by environmental campaigners.
At the same time Monsanto, the large US
company has seen its share price fall from $62 (£38)
to $40 in the past 12 months.
Analysts increasingly believe the GM foods research has the potential to inflict serious
damage on the lucrative global pharmaceuticals business and are keen to see the
controversial division put at arms length.
"The market would like to see the life sciences business separate from the
agribusiness," one analyst said. "There is little synergy."
But they also believe that agribusinesses are unlikely to attract buyers in the current
The business has been hit by a slump in the price of commodities, decreasing subsidies for
farmers and a drop in the number of acres under crop production worldwide. It is also
suffering from the growing backlash against so-called "frankenfood
Agribusiness chief Heinz Imhof also called called on European authorities to set up a body
similar to the US food and drug administration to reassure consumers that genetically
modified products are safe. He also suggested that clearer labelling laws would help quell
the growing controversy around the products such as modified seeds, which some critics say
may be unsafe or may damage the environment.
"We are convinced that GM crops in the future will bring tangible benefits to the
consumer," Mr Imhof said.
Earlier this year Novartis announced that
1,100 jobs were to be axed in its agricultural division after the drop in sales which make
up 25% of the company's revenue.
Half of the sales come from North and South America.
Yesterday Mr Imhof said that the job losses would now exceed the previous estimate.
GM foods have become a battleground for British supermarket companies, with each
struggling to establish their GM-free credentials.
Iceland and Waitrose have recently reported Sainsbury to the Advertising Standards
Authority over its claims to be the first major supermarket to have eradicated all GM
products from its own-label products.
Marks & Spencer has become the latest to join the skirmish with its own advertising
campaign. Food giants like Unilever and Nestle have now also pledged to remove GM
ingredients from their products.
A spokeswoman for Novartis admitted that GM foods had failed to win widespread public acceptance but
insisted the decision to review the future of the agribusiness division was not connected.
16 Sep 99 - GMO - Seeds of trouble 'sown before
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Telegraph ... Thursday 16 September 1999
The ecologist occupying the hottest seat in science - chairing a revamped committee that
oversees trials of genetically modified crops - admitted yesterday that more than 120 species of "superweeds" had emerged worldwide ,
though as a result of conventional agriculture.
Prof Alan Gray heads the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, which meets
for the first time in London today to discuss environmental safety of pilot trials of GM
strawberries and oilseed rape. Its aim was to "defend the science" and not GM
crops, he said.
He highlighted the problem of "superweeds" to
illustrate how the GM furore had distracted attention from the key environmental issue of
how to halt the decline in Britain's biodiversity - the number and range of countryside
species - caused by intensive agriculture. Dozens of "superweeds"
had emerged from the use of herbicides over the past three decades.
As susceptible weeds were wiped out by chemicals, only strains with natural herbicide
resistant genes remained to multiply. Yet the impact of these weeds on the environment was
unknown because conventional agriculture was under nothing like the same scrutiny as GM
Prof Gray said: "We are treating GM crops in a way we have never treated any other.
We are looking at the safety of them in a way that we have never looked at other types of
agriculture." As one example, a former committee member voiced concerns that using a
GM herbicide-resistant oilseed rape could allow a bacterial gene to
"contaminate" wild habitats.
The committee agreed that there were weeds, notably wild turnip, capable of crossing with
GM oilseed rape to spread the pesticide resistance gene. Studies suggested that it
happened infrequently. But Prof Gray's committee believed that the theoretical risk could
be dealt with by farmers because they already had to deal with "superweeds"
resulting from conventional agriculture.
Traditional methods had drastic effects on bird diversity, notably the declining
populations of turtle dove, reed bunting, sparrows and skylarks. Reasons were likely to be
different for different birds but one factor was the planting of winter crops, instead of
spring crops, that removed weeds and insects from the food chain of some birds.
He said: "No one sat down in a committee and said, 'What would be the impact of
winter crops?' Maybe we should have." Environmentalists have voiced fears that bees
could spread GM pollen and genes to other plants. Prof Gray said the problem was faced by
Plant breeders separated crops by a given distance to reduce "gene flow" to
ensure 99.9 per cent pure varieties and there was no reason for GM crops to be treated
differently. An oilseed rape containing herbicide resistance genes had been developed by
alternative methods to GM.
If the non-GM herbicide resistant crop were introduced, "it would be possible to
introduce a lot of these herbicide resistance genes into the market without any fuss,
providing safe use of the herbicide was approved". Prof Gray would not be drawn on
the question of whether all conventional crops passed the same regulatory process as GM
But he quoted Prof Derek Burke, former head of a food advisory committee, who said that
the potato would have been banned if his committee had been present when Sir Walter
Raleigh imported the first one. Prof Gray said: "It is a nasty, poisonous plant you
have to prepare carefully that is full of glycoalkaloids, horrible substances which can
make you very unwell."
Although GM crops were better regulated than the rest of agriculture, they had become a
target to unify a range of concerns: "multi-nationals, profits, government,
white-coated scientists doing unpleasant things and so on".
GM crops were being blamed for a malaise already present in modern agriculture. The revamp
of his committee will shift the emphasis from molecular biology to ecology,
wildlife/biodiversity and farming practice to a more strategic view of environmental
He said: "What we are focusing on is science-based risk assessment." A sub-group
was studying the effects of the farm scale trials of GM crops on biodiversity. Prof Gray
believed that British GM crop regulation was the toughest in the world. The regime
"is incredibly thorough". He said: "It is the most regulated aspect of our
agriculture and is admired by many other countries."
There were expectations that a herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape had been due for commercial
release in 1994. Prof Gray said: "Five years later and the Government's own advisers
are still saying hang on." A pressing issue would be how to restore public confidence
in GM crops against hostility and environmentalists' attempts to vandalise trials.