Document Directory

30 Mar 00 - GMO - America finds ready market for GM food - the hungry
23 Mar 00 - GMO - Farmers Withdraw From GM Crops Trial
23 Mar 00 - GMO - Farmers Withdraw From GM Crops Trial
23 Mar 00 - GMO - Prince's GM 'superstition' attacked by Nobel winner
18 Mar 00 - GMO - Meacher backs more GM sites
14 Mar 00 - GMO - Hostility to GM food may cause new brain drain
13 Mar 00 - GMO - Wales set to throw GM policy into chaos
08 Mar 00 - GMO - GM crops use 'in decline'
25 Feb 00 - GMO - Greenpeace Activists Pledge To Halt GM Cargo
25 Feb 00 - GMO - Greenpeace intercepts and boards GM cargo boat off Welsh coast
20 Feb 00 - GMO - Ministers to promote genetic engineering
15 Feb 00 - GMO - Big US firms face investors' revolt over GM foods
30 Jan 00 - GMO - Summit agrees to block rogue GM crops as US drops its opposition
30 Jan 00 - GMO - GM import ban breakthrough
28 Jan 00 - GMO - Monsanto's name radically modified
23 Jan 00 - GMO - Why the West must swallow Gene Foods
23 Jan 00 - GMO - Secret deal will bring a flood of GM
21 Jan 00 - GMO - GM summit to debate new treaty on food laws
17 Jan 00 - GMO - Scientists bypass GM route
17 Jan 00 - GMO - Washington restricts use of GM corn
17 Jan 00 - GMO - By Mary Dejevsky in Washington
07 Jan 00 - GMO - GM ban is extended by Tesco
07 Jan 00 - GMO - Tesco Rejects Gm-test Site Vegetables
07 Jan 00 - GMO - How supermarket sowed seeds of a PR disaster
21 Dec 99 - GMO - GM food banned in Monsanto canteen
18 Dec 99 - GMO - Mowlam promises tougher GM rules
05 Dec 99 - GMO - Church bans GM crop trials on its land
03 Dec 99 - GMO - EU man accused over GM deal with Americans
03 Dec 99 - GMO - Britain loses GM food trade dispute
02 Dec 99 - GMO - GM crop toxins are leaking into soil
02 Dec 99 - GMO - Modified fish 'a threat to species'

30 Mar 00 - GMO - America finds ready market for GM food - the hungry

By Declan Walsh

Independent ... Thursday 30 March 2000

Embattled American farmers facing rejection of their genetically modified crops still have one unquestioning market - emergency aid for the world's starving and displaced.

The US Department of Agriculture is exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of GM maize to the Third World through the United Nations and American aid agencies. Aid is the last unregulated export market open to US farmers as worried European and Asian consumers shun GM grain and introduce strict import and labelling rules.

Last year the US donated 500,000 tons of maize and maize products worth $111m (£70m) to international relief programmes. It is "safe to assume" that 30 per cent of this aid was genetically modified , according to Usaid, the US government's aid wing.

Lucrative maize contracts were awarded to giant GM grain merchants such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill, which won one-third of all contracts by volume last year. When other sales are included, Cargill and ADM won aid contracts worth at least $140m last year.

The UN's World Food Programmes (WFP) received just under half of the US maize donations. But the UN does not know how much of the aid it receives is genetically modified; nor does it have a policy on the issue.

"We have many issues to face and GM is way down the list," said a WFP spokeswoman in Nairobi. WFP accepted only those food donations that fully met the safety standards in the donor countries, she added.

The safety standards are hotly contested by others, such as Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss of the South African organisation Biowatch. "Africa is treated as the dustbin of the world . The US does not need to grow nor donate GM crops. To donate untested food and seed to Africa is not an act of kindness but an attempt to lure Africa into further dependence on foreign aid ," she said.

The export of GM crops as food is something WFP should be "very concerned with" , according to Li Lin Lim of the Malaysia-based Third World Network. She said it was "very likely" that UN policy was influenced by its dependence on the US.

Last year the US contributed $711m to WFP, almost half its global budget. WFP's executive director is Catherine Bertini, a former Department of Agriculture official who hails from the Illinois cornbelt region.

The massive backlash against the use of GM crops in Western food products started last year in Europe and spread to Japan and the US. Multinationals as diverse as McDonald's and Heinz banned GM ingredients from their products and the EU introduced a two-year moratorium on GM imports.

Strict restrictions on the labelling and export of GM crops were agreed in Canada earlier this year. Dr Tewolde Gebre Egziabher of Ethiopia led the group of Third World countries fighting for stricter regulation . "Countries in the grip of a crisis are unlikely to have the leverage to say, 'This crop is contaminated, we're not taking it'," he said. "They should not be faced with a dilemma between allowing a million people to starve to death and allowing their genetic pool to be polluted."

But esoteric arguments about the genetic make-up of a bag of grain mean little to those for whom food aid is a matter of life and death.

Some 4,000 people have arrived in Kafurumaye, a village on the edge of the vast forests of eastern Congo. They are part of an estimated 130,000 people that have fled the militia attacks that fuel the Congo war.

No aid agency has yet visited. The GM debate doesn't feature as even a blip on their consciousness. "We haven't enough food or even pots too cook with," said the village chief.

Congo is just one of many famine hot spots competing for the attention of Western aid agencies: there are crises in such places as Burundi, Angola, Mozambique and Sudan.

A WFP information officer, Brenda Barton, was so moved by the 1998 famine in southern Sudan she fed starving twins with her breast milk. "It would be pretentious to say that GM foods matters to these people," she said. "When people are dying they don't question where the food is coming from."

23 Mar 00 - GMO - Farmers Withdraw From GM Crops Trial

From the Press Association

Guardian ... Thursday 23 March 2000

Environmental group Greenpeace is claiming that two farmers have backed out of farm-based GM crop trials only six days after the Government unveiled the scheme

Andrew Roughton, of Friskney Tofts, Lincolnshire, was said to have pulled out because of opposition from local producers and other agricultural businesses, while Carl Clayton a farmer in Ulleskelf, North Yorkshire, also withdrew.

The Government announced last week that it had signed up 31 farmers, who would provide 25-acre sites to test GM variants of oilseed rape, sugar beet and other crops.

Greenpeace spokesman Andy Tait said that Mr Roughton had faced a barrage of local opposition. "The opposition was from local farmers and businesses. Even agricultural machinery suppliers said they didn't want to supply to the farm anymore because they didn't want their machines contaminated .

"Everyone was concerned about cross contamination and losing business. Supermarkets have made it quite clear they don't want GM crops ."

Mr Clayton refused to expand on his reasons for backing out of the scheme but confirmed: "The trial has been abandoned ."

23 Mar 00 - GMO - Farmers Withdraw From GM Crops Trial

Staff Reporter

Evening Standard ... Thursday 23 March 2000

Environmental group Greenpeace is claiming that two farmers have backed out of farm-based GM crop trials only six days after the Government unveiled the scheme

Andrew Roughton, of Friskney Tofts, Lincolnshire, was said to have pulled out because of opposition from local producers and other agricultural businesses, while Carl Clayton a farmer in Ulleskelf, North Yorkshire, also withdrew.

The Government announced last week that it had signed up 31 farmers, who would provide 25-acre sites to test GM variants of oilseed rape, sugar beet and other crops.

23 Mar 00 - GMO - Prince's GM 'superstition' attacked by Nobel winner

By Richard Eden

Telegraph ... Thursday 23 March 2000

The Nobel prize winning scientist James Watson criticised the Prince of Wales yesterday over his opposition to GM technology. The scientist, who discovered the structure of DNA, accused the Prince of "pandering to superstition" and siding with "Left-wing agitators" .

Dr Watson, in London to attend the Princess Royal's official opening of a university science building at King's College, said the Prince appeared "not to like science". He said the Prince risked fanning the flames of republicanism in Britain by attaching himself to a movement which "history would prove wrong".

Dr Watson, 70 , said: "Basically, people don't like science. And I suspect your prince is like that. He needs to be very careful. The sort of groups he is attaching himself to, with his opposition to GM technology, such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, were the same ones who 25 years ago were trying to stop us making our DNA discoveries that are now helping scientists carry out vital research into cancer and HIV."

Dr Watson is president of America's leading molecular biology institute, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, in New York State. The Prince voiced his doubts about GM technology in June last year in an article in The Telegraph. He also defended Arpad Pusztai, the scientist who claimed that GM foods threatened human health.

18 Mar 00 - GMO - Meacher backs more GM sites

By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor

Independent ... Saturday 18 March 2000

The Government was set on a new collision course with anti-GM protesters last night after giving the go-ahead for farmscale crop trials on 31 sites in England and Scotland.

Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, went on the offensive with a brusque message to anti-GM groups in which he warned them that if they tried to block the trials by trashing crops or declaring GM-free zones, they would be "shooting themselves in the foot".

He criticised the campaigners who were taking "a Luddite view of science" and said that the only way the Government could prove the safety of GM technology to the environment and wildlife was to proceed with rigorous testing.

But Lord Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace, accused the Government of "genetic tyranny" . He said that Britain would be "bombarded with GM pollen with no regard for wildlife, the public or GM-free farmers" .

Pete Riley, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, claimed the Government was gambling on the future of the British countryside. Another 34 sites are being considered for trials and these could join the programme by the end of May. The go-ahead was given yesterday for 14 trials of spring oil seed rape, five of GM maize, nine of sugar beet and three of fodder beet.

Some farmers were disappointed that the Government had decided to publish full six-figure grid references for the 25-acre trial sites without offering any extra security to the property. Ministers were keen to insure the trials remained as open as possible.

But Mr Meacher insisted that while no specific extra protection was on offer, he expected the police to provide additional assistance to the trial sites. Any damage caused by protesters is to be paid out by the biotechnology companies involved. They have offered landowners a contract with a guarantee of indemnity.

In a further move which will infuriate protesters, Mr Meacher admitted that GM maize being planted this year might be used as animal feed . He said the possibility was "slight" because the seed would require a pesticides approval. He emphasised that any meat from livestock fed on this GM crop and which later entered the food chain would be properly labelled.

Ronald Duguid, of Home Farm, Spittle-in-the-Street, Lincolnshire, is to try GM maize and admitted he would be paid about £9,000 by Aventis. The amount represented the sum he would have expected to get from sales of 500 tonnes of ordinary maize crops, at £18 a tonne.

Department of the Environment officials are to hold public meetings from next month to discuss the trials.

14 Mar 00 - GMO - Hostility to GM food may cause new brain drain

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Independent ... Monday 14 March 2000

Public hostility to genetically modified food and other areas of scientific endeavour may drive industrial investment overseas and cause a new brain drain, according to a report by a House of Lords committee.

There is a crisis of public confidence in science that could be damaging for British jobs and for children who are being dissuaded from pursuing a scientific career, the Select Committee on Science and Technology says in its report on science and society. "Many people are deeply uneasy about the huge opportunities presented by areas of science including biotechnology and information technology, which seem to be advancing far ahead of their awareness and assent ," the select committee says.

"In turn, public unease , mistrust and occasional outright hostility are breeding a climate of deep anxiety among scientists themselves."

The committee identifies public resistance to GM technology, cloning for medical purposes, food irradiation and the deep-sea disposal of offshore installations as examples where Britain could ultimately suffer if public hostility results in a lack of investment in research.

13 Mar 00 - GMO - Wales set to throw GM policy into chaos

By Fran Abrams, Westminster Correspondent

Independent ... Monday 13 March 2000

The Government's policy on genetically modified crops is likely to be thrown into chaos this week when Wales is expected to move towards declaring itself a GM-free zone .

In a test case to come before the Welsh Assembly's Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee this week, a new variety of GM maize is likely to be blocked , a decision that will in effect scupper the approval of GM crop seeds across Britain. In a quirk of devolution that will infuriate Downing Street, seed listing and marketing cannot go ahead in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland unless all parts of the United Kingdom agree separately .

The move is being led by Christine Gwyther, the vegetarian Welsh Agriculture Minister, who wants to keep Wales GM-free .

Ms Gwyther has put the decision on the GM maize - the T25 strain from Aventis Crop Science - to the Assembly committee. She is likely to be backed by a majority grouping of Liberal Democrat, Tory and Plaid Cymru members on the committee but opposed by the Labour minority. Eight more varieties of maize, oil seed rape and fodder beet are likely to be considered later this year.

Although biotechnology companies have agreed to a three-year moratorium on commercial planting, they say the placing of the seeds on the national list of those approved for sale is vital. Some firms want to grow the crops under controlled conditions to build up seed stocks for sale when the moratorium ends in 2003.

The T25 maize will not be grown here yet, but its developer says it must go on the list as a signal to farmers that high-quality varieties are available. T25 has already been approved by the English, Northern Irish and Scottish agriculture ministers.

Cardiff's rebellion is being backed by Friends of the Earth. The head of campaigns for the group's Welsh branch, Gordon James, said a GM-free Wales would bring economic advantages. "Welsh farmers and food growers would gain a market advantage by being clearly GM free . Wales can lead the way," he said.

Westminster MPs said they would vigorously oppose any attempt to remove Cardiff's right to block GM crops. Joan Ruddock, the Labour MP and former minister who is spearheading a women's campaign against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), said ministers would have to thrash out a solution. "It is the right of any country, however small, to protect its environment and its biodiversity. At the moment no one can be certain that GM crops are entirely safe , and so I would very much support any decision taken by representatives in Wales," she said.

Lawyers for the Welsh Assembly and for Friends of the Earth have been preparing opinions on whether Wales is legally entitled to impose a GM ban . However, a Cabinet Office spokeswoman confirmed that the responsibility for seed listing was devolved and would remain a joint decision between the four parts of the UK.

A spokesman for Aventis Crop Science said politics should not come into the listing process, which was designed simply to show that seeds were distinct, uniform and stable, and that they had a value for cultivation and use in the UK.

08 Mar 00 - GMO - GM crops use 'in decline'

By Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor

Times ... Wednesday 8 March 2000

Leading food and drink companies are starting to remove all genetically modified ingredients from their products after pressure from consumers .

Of 21 leading companies asked for their policy on GM ingredients and derivatives in food sold in Europe, 16 said that all their products were from GM-free crops.

Among the GM-free top brand labels are Pepsi Cola, Coca Cola, Heinz, Mars, Kelloggs, Campbell Foods and Cadbury Schweppes. McDonald's made clear that it had asked suppliers to concentrate on sourcing non-GM ingredients.

Friends of the Earth said that it showed food manufacturers were "being forced to listen to European consumers".

However, despite the decline in GM ingredients, companies are still using derivatives such as lecithin, an emulsifier found in chocolate, and other oils, from GM crops. Campaigners want to see the EU rules extended to derivatives . They are excluded at present because they do not contain DNA or protein.

25 Feb 00 - GMO - Greenpeace Activists Pledge To Halt GM Cargo

From the Press Association

Guardian ... Friday 25 January 2000

Environmental activists have ambushed a ship loaded with genetically modified soya and vowed to stay on board until the cargo is returned to the United States.

Five Greenpeace volunteers got onto the bulk carrier Iolcos Grace as it lay anchored at Point Lynas, three miles off the coast of Anglesey, north Wales.

The Liverpool-bound vessel was waiting for a pilot launch from nearby Amlwch when the activists clambered aboard. It is thought the ship could be carrying up 60,000 tonnes of the GM crop .

Speaking from a boat alongside the hijacked vessel, a Greenpeace spokesman said the stand-off will continue until the boat, which left New Orleans earlier this month, turns back.

He added that three volunteers are aboard the vessel while two others are suspended from the anchor chain preventing it from setting sail. Greenpeace is attempting to persuade the owners of the cargo - US agribusiness giant Cargill - to return the GM soya to America , claiming the GM soya will mostly be used for animal feed, which will end up in meat and dairy products for human consumption.

But a spokesman for the Government's GM unit rejected the safety concerns. He said: "There are no food safety concerns associated with GM ingredients used in animal feeds in the UK."

In a statement, Cargill, which operates the UK'S only GM soya mill at Liverpool's Gladstone Dock, confirmed the vessel is carrying US soybeans, some of which are genetically modified .

"Our first concern is for the safety of all the people on the vessel, including the crew and the protesters. For safety's sake we would urge the protesters to leave the vessel as soon as possible."

The statement concluded: "We can confirm that imports of genetically modified soybeans are fully regulated and have been approved as safe for use in food and feed in the UK and the rest of the EU since 1996."

25 Feb 00 - GMO - Greenpeace intercepts and boards GM cargo boat off Welsh coast

By Amanda Brown

Independent ... Friday 25 January 2000

A ship thought to be carrying up to 60,000 tonnes of genetically modified soya into Britain was intercepted by Greenpeace yesterday. The Iolcos Grace was boarded off Anglesey, north Wales.

Last night activists were still on the vessel, preventing further movement , while Greenpeace tried to persuade the cargo owners, the American Cargill company, to return it to the US.

Speaking from a boat alongside, Sarah North, a Greenpeace activist, said she believed five people were on the ship, which they intercepted using an inflatable boat.

"They asked if they could take samples of the cargo. But the skipper gave orders to lock all the holds so the samples couldn't be taken. They have denied us access.

"It is a very civil situation but at the moment there is a stand-off going on. We have contacted the company to ask themto tell the skipper to give us access."

Ms North said two activists were on the anchor of the ship. "It means the ship is not going anywhere. It was due to get into Liverpool port at lunchtime. The next high tide is not for another 12 hours. It is certainly not going anywhere today and we are happy to stay here as long as it takes."

North Wales Police said: "Our prime concern... is the safety of all individuals."

Cargill, which operates Britain's only GM soya mill, at Liverpool, confirmed that the cargo contained a mixture of conventional and GM soya .

The Greenpeace action is part of a campaign to prevent GM crops being imported. Jim Thomas, a GM campaigner at the organisation, said: "There's no demand for GM crops and it's pointless bringing in thousands of tonnes of stuff only to contaminate the food chain. Cargill have already proven that they can get GM-free soya and could easily shift the balance towards a GM-free Britain."

20 Feb 00 - GMO - Ministers to promote genetic engineering

By David Cracknell, Political Correspondent

Telegraph ... Sunday 20 January 2000

A leaked Government document shows that ministers are intent on promoting the "benefits" of genetically-modified food and genetic engineering to the public. A draft copy of a forthcoming White Paper on science and innovation, obtained by Telegraph, concludes that more needs to be done to reassure people about so-called "Frankenstein food" and other scientific breakthroughs.

The White Paper, to be published this summer, focuses on the need to reassure the public following the furore over GM food. The controversy is said to have caused a rift between the Prince of Wales and No 10, and even Tony Blair and his wife Cherie are said to disagree about whether GM food is safe .

Britain's major supermarkets have already responded to public concerns by banning GM products or labelling goods with modified ingredients. But the White Paper argues that such "public anxiety" about new science is "nothing new", comparing worries about GM food to the violent protests which met the introduction of cowpox vaccine to prevent smallpox in 1799.

The document says that ministers and their advisers should be much more open in their deliberations about whether to sanction new scientific processes. It concludes: "In a period of rapid change in which we live, there is a great need for scientists and the public to debate more openly the destinations of science and move forward with a shared understanding of those benefits which only science can bring."

The document acknowledges that the arrangements for advising ministers on the risks and benefits of scientific breakthroughs should be tightened up. There has been criticism of too many people with commercial links to biotechnology companies advising the Government.

There are more than a 100 scientific committees which give the Government advice on issues including GM food, development in genetic cloning and the handling of radioactive waste. The document says that "perceived conflicts of interest" should be eliminated.

It states that ministers have decided to introduce a new code of practice covering the hundreds of scientists advising the Government. This would require appointments to advisory committees to be "open and transparent" and a mechanism found for identifying conflicts of interest .

Ministers have also decided to strengthen the role of the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Robert May, giving him the power to oversee the code and recommend disciplinary action if it is broken.

The document says that Sir Robert has agreed to identify new areas where "the scientific uncertainty, the risk, or the level of public concern" justifies setting up a detailed investigation carried out by a special commission.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville is expected to thrash out some of the ideas in his White Paper at a key meeting in London next month. The Trade and Industry Minister has invited leading biotechnology firms to an "innovation seminar".

Recent food scares over BSE and concerns about human cloning have contributed to the growth in the Government's army of scientific advisers. More than 100 powerful committees , usually meeting in secret , have been created over the years.

They include advisory bodies on the risks to human health of BSE in cattle, the implications of genetic cloning technology, trials of GM crops and the disposal of radioactive waste.

15 Feb 00 - GMO - Big US firms face investors' revolt over GM foods

By Mary Dejevsky in Washington

Independent ... Tuesday 15 January 2000

More than a dozen United States corporations, including such household names as McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Heinz and Safeway, are facing a revolt from shareholders concerned about policy on genetically modified (GM) food. The movement is being described as the biggest example of "social issue shareholder activism" since company boards were taken to task for doing business with South Africa under the apartheid regime.

According to the USA Today newspaper, companies have been deluged with written demands from religious and environmental groups and socially conscious investment funds calling for shareholder votes to halt the development , use and sale of GM crops and food until long-term testing shows they are safe, both for human consumption and for the environment.

The Investor Responsibility Research Center, an independent Washington group that monitors corporate and shareholder behaviour, says this is the first time the GM issue has figured among shareholder concerns, and that the firms attacked are those holding their annual meetings this spring.

However, the existence of the challenges is no guarantee that they will reach a vote. The companies can request a review by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the companies watchdog, on the grounds that the proposals unfairly affect their capacity to manage, or are irrelevant. All but one of the companies is taking this route. The exception is Monsanto, the pharmaceutical company that has pioneered the development and marketing of GM crops.

30 Jan 00 - GMO - Summit agrees to block rogue GM crops as US drops its opposition

By David Harrison, Environment Correspondent

Telegraph ... Sunday 30 January 2000

Genetically modified crops suspected of posing a risk to public health were yesterday banned from being imported into Britain and 166 other countries under an international agreement struck at a summit in Montreal.

The summit overcame opposition from the United States to adopt a protocol giving governments the right to block GM crop imports if there is "reasonable doubt" that they could endanger public health or the environment. Previously imports could only be blocked if there was concrete scientific evidence that GM crops used in food production could be dangerous.

Anti-GM food campaigners last night celebrated "a great victory" at the summit which was attended by 130 government delegations, including Michael Meacher, the environment minister. Opponents of the pact - the United States, (home to most of the world's big GM producers), Canada, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile - capitulated early yesterday after negotiations through the night.

The "Biosafety Protocol" ends seven years of wrangling over GM crop imports and was welcomed by campaigners as "a very important step forward" in their efforts to control the spread of the crops and so-called "Frankenstein food" . Mr Meacher, a strong supporter of the protocol, said the world's attitude to GM foods had changed and that had forced the United States to shift its position.

He said: "The financial markets are changing. The stock rating of Monsanto [an American company developing GM crops] has fallen so much that Deutsche Bank has advised it to get out of biotechnology." He added that the Americans had wanted the minimum impact on free trade but more than 160 nations, led by the EU, had demanded - and won - "the right to say no".

A Greenpeace spokesman said: "This is an historic step towards protecting consumers and the environment from the dangers of genetic engineering. Common sense is starting to prevail. We are happy that the US and other opponents failed to force upon the world this untested and risky technology."

Sarah Finch, of the World Development Movement said: "The precautionary principle has been established after a long hard fight. There are more battles ahead but this an excellent start." Ms Finch said the 10 EU ministers at the summit played "a crucial" part in defeating opponents of the deal.

Pete Riley, of Friends of the Earth's Real Food Campaign, said: "It's great news that the world's governments are finally starting to take control in this very sensitive area by introducing the precautionary principle we have been campaigning for. Until today the agenda had been dictated by giant companies, mostly American, but now the American view has been marginalised by the weight of public opinion."

The United States-led group, known as the Miami Group, blocked the proposal last February arguing that it would be an unfair obstacle to free trade. The US now agrees to the principle but cannot sign the protocol at the moment.

Crop imports lacking sufficient scientific data to convince governments that they pose no threat to the public or the environment will not be allowed in to any of the countries adopting the protocol.

30 Jan 00 - GMO - GM import ban breakthrough

By Geoffrey Lean

Independent ... Sunday 30 January 2000

Nations will for the first time be able to ban imports of genetically modified seeds and crops , after a last-minute breakthrough in international talks yesterday.

The unexpected agreement - after two all-night sessions and six years of deadlocked talks - is a triumph for Britain's environment minister Michael Meacher against entrenched opposition from US multinationals and the Clinton administration.

It also marks a comprehensive defeat for an attempt by EU officials , led by Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, to scupper the negotiations in return for the US dropping pressure to reform Europe's notorious Common Agricultural Policy.

The new Biosafety Protocol, agreed at 4am yesterday morning by 130 governments meeting in Montreal, was hailed by environmental and Third World development pressure groups as a "historic step" in the battle against the dangers of GM crops.

The protocol lays down that companies who want to start exporting GM seeds and crops to other countries for planting, food, animal feed or processing will have to tell their governments what they are planning.

The governments will, in turn, have the right to refuse the entry if they believe that it threatens the environment or health of their people. Crucially, they will be empowered to do this as a precautionary measure, without having to wait for scientific proof which could take years to materialise. Imports of commodities will have to carry warning labels saying that they may contain genetically modified organisms. And, in a vital move led by European environment ministers, the delegates agreed to delete a clause that would have made the treaty subordinate to the controversial World Trade Organisation, which would have negated much of its provisions.

The agreement is a sharp setback to the drive by Monsanto and other GM giants, backed by the US government, to spread their products worldwide. Fearing this, the US and a handful of other food-exporting countries had consistently blocked agreement in the past, leading to the collapse of the last talks in Cartagena, Colombia, a year ago. But this time they were forced to give ground in the face of a combined onslaught from the rest of the world.

Yesterday Benedikt Haerlin, Greenpeace International's campaigns co-ordinator, called the agreement "a historic step towards protecting the environment and consumers from the dangers of genetic engineering".

Pressure groups point out that it is only a first step towards controlling the GM trade, but praise Mr Meacher for bringing it about.

Mr Meacher called the agreement "a huge breakthrough". He said: "For the first time countries all over the world will have the right to decide whether they will allow imports of GM products."

28 Jan 00 - GMO - Monsanto's name radically modified

Julia Finch

Guardian ... Friday 28 January 2000

The Monsanto company name, which has become synonymous with the genetically modified food business, is to be ditched , the company revealed last night.

The beleaguered American biotech company is merging with the US-Swiss drugs group Pharmacia & Upjohn and the $50bn corporation will in future be known as Pharmacia.

"We have chosen a name with power and global relevance," said Robert Shapiro, chairman of Monsanto, who will lead the new company. "This name and logo will create a strong new identity for our 60,000 employees and will build value with our existing customers worldwide."

Mr Shapiro, who championed GM food, was once regarded as a visionary who would mix nutrition, biotechnology, crop protection and medicine in one commercial venture. But the Monsanto name became tainted last year as the consumer backlash against GM food spread from Europe to the US.

In addition to food safety and environmental fears there were concerns that farmers in developing countries would never be able to afford the new Monsanto seeds.

Last month a shareholder campaign in the US unveiled a plan to target 24 companies, including Monsanto, demanding a moratorium on the use of GM food until independent testing had been completed. The campaign is being coordinated by 275 religious and other groups which claim to control $100bn of shares in US companies.

Monsanto, which had been a high-flying pharmaceutical stock and darling of Wall Street, fell swiftly from grace when its crop technology business, which little over a year ago was regarded as a world beater, turned into an albatross. Shareholders watched as their investments lost a third of their value.

The newly merged Pharmacia Corporation will use the names Searle, Pharmacia and Upjohn for its three sales divisions. Only an autonomous agricultural subsidiary will continue to use the Monsanto name.

23 Jan 00 - GMO - Why the West must swallow Gene Foods

Staff reporter

Guardian ... Sunday 23 January 2000

Consider the tomato - so much a part of everyday life that we hardly notice it. Yet it has a murky past, and it is one that scientists should note carefully.

In the nineteenth century, the tomato was known as the wolf's peach, and Europeans and Americans believed it was deadly poisonous. In 1820, New York forbade its consumption and only relented when Colonel Robert Johnston announced that he would eat an entire bag of them outside the courthouse in Salem, New Jersey. Two thousand people turned up to watch him die, while a band played a funeral march. But Johnston ate the lot and announced: 'This luscious, scarlet apple will form the foundation of a great garden industry.'

For such prescience, Johnson deserves canonisation as the patron saint of hothouses, though his story has far more than historical importance, for it shows there is nothing new in misplaced hysteria about food.

As David Aaron, US Under-Secretary for Commerce, warned a conference on 'Biotechnology: The Science and the Impact' in The Hague last week: 'Last century it was the tomato, this time it is biotech food.'

But there is a crucial difference today. We no longer have the time to indulge in fantasies and misconceptions about food, and in particular about gene foods. One billion people - more than the combined population of the United States and Europe - now survive on $1 or less a day, and are starving.

The UN has pledged to halve that number by 2015, a startlingly ambitious goal - for it means farmers will have to match mankind's entire food production of the past 10,000 years in the next one and a half decades.

There is only one way to achieve this dramatic goal, experts warned delegates, and that is by exploiting biotechnology, the science of manipulating the genes of living organisms.

However, this route is now being seriously hindered by Western consumers who, with increasing vehemence, are rejecting biotechnological products, mainly GM foods, and blocking their testing and funding.

These are the killer tomatoes of today, they claim. 'Unfortunately, consumers think products like genetically modified foods pose risks and offer no benefits,' said Sir Robert May, the Cabinet's chief scientific adviser. 'It is the attitude of a privileged élite who think there will be no problem feeding tomorrow's growing population.'

Such prejudices form the background for this week's international talks in Montreal when nations will discuss imposing limits on the safe handling, transfer and use of genetically modified organisms that could have an adverse effect on the environment. At issue is the fear that the US and its partners are trying to monopolise trade in GM crops, a bid that has made many other countries, includ ing Third World nations, suspicious of such products.

The irony is that without biotechnology, there will be no salvation for developing nations, delegates heard. To save 500 million people from starvation, they will have to increase meat production by an estimated 114 per cent, and milk output by 133 per cent.

For mighty conglomerates, that would be a tall order. For poor smallholders, the main providers of Third World crops, it would be impossible without the geneticist.

The aim is to develop techniques best suited to the Third World, ideas that include modifying crops so that their stems, used as animal feed in developing nations, are more nutritious, thus boosting livestock quality, or adding genes that will improve the vitamin content of maize or rice.

A perfect example of this type of technology was provided by Tony Irvin, of the International Livestock Research Institute, who has discovered a breed of sheep called the Red Masai, herded by East African nomads.

'These animals have developed a unique resistance to parasitic worms,' he said. Such parasites take a terrible toll of sheep in farms throughout the world, and Irvin and his colleagues believe they can develop techniques to transfer resistance to other breeds.

But this raises other headaches. How can politicians ensure the Masai people will benefit? Will they not suffer the fate of other indigenous peoples whose products have been pilfered and exploited without financial return?

Consider another fruit: the Chinese gooseberry, grown for centuries by Chinese farmers. Then a group of wily New Zealanders adopted, marketed and renamed it: the Kiwi fruit. They made a fortune. Chinese farmers got nothing.

There are scores of other examples, with developing countries accusing Western corporations of trying to patent the genetic codes of dozens of their native plants, including basmati rice, turmeric, black pepper, cotton - even the 'sacred' neem tree.

And such cases worried Irvin, as well as the World Bank vice-president Ismail Serageldin. 'We have got to make sure this does not happen with the Red Masai,' said Serageldin. 'Perhaps we will have to license the gene and use the proceeds to set up a trust fund for the Masai. Whatever else, we have a moral obligation to these people.

'Essentially, we are seeing a scientific apartheid being established between the Northern and Southern nations. It is not the science that divides them but the intellectual property rights that underpin products. We have got to find ways to make these available - perhaps by shortening the lifetime of patents from 17 to five years, or only asking for low, flat fees for access to technologies.

But there were encouraging signs, the delegates heard. Pharmaceutical giant Merck recently gave away its river blindness drug to the Third World, as did Novartis with its leprosy medicine.

Far more important for the question of feeding the world, however, has been the development of 'golden rice', a genetically modified strain that can impart doses of vitamin A , which standard rice lacks. 'Four hundred million people suffer from serious vitamin A deficiency, of whom one million die every year,' geneticist Chris Somerville of Stanford University told delegates. 'However by using genes from the daffodil, we have created rice that is not only yellow, but contains vitamin A. That crop was created with Rockefeller Foundation cash and will be distributed throughout the Third World in the next couple of years.'

But Somerville added that it took 12 years to develop golden rice. In that time, the world's population increased by another billion to its current six billion.

'In other words, if we want to make breakthroughs we are going to have to develop a lot more products like golden rice and do it a lot more quickly than we are doing at present.'

Yet the West, and in particular Europe, is now dragging its heels more and more in the face of intense customer hostility to genetically modified foods, the continent's killer tomatoes.

'I think Europeans are going to have to carry a very heavy moral burden over their attitude to biotechnology,' Somerville added.

In the end, what is needed is a glamorous GM product that would change the image of biotechnology, May concluded. 'We need a GM apple that will make you thin and wicked. I suspect that would do the trick.'

23 Jan 00 - GMO - Secret deal will bring a flood of GM

By Jonathon Carr-Brown, Jo Dillon and Geoffrey Lean

Independent ... Sunday 23 January 2000

Leading European Union officials are trying to broker a secret deal which could result in Britain being flooded with imported GM foods.

Pascal Lamy, the Trade Commissioner, is determined to pursue the deal with the United States, despite being explicitly forbidden to do so by ministers of his member states, including Michael Meacher, Britain's environment minister.

A spokesman for Mr Lamy confirmed that he was keen to get the deal "on the agenda".

If he succeeds, Britain and other European countries could lose their power to block imports of GM foods and seeds from the US, which is aggressively pushing them.

In return, The Independent on Sunday has learnt, White House officials have promised to drop a US campaign to force cuts in the subsidies paid to European farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). That would be particularly important to France, Mr Lamy's own country. But it will be regarded as a double betrayal by environmentalists and by the British government which has been pressing for reform of the CAP, blamed for doing much to destroy wildlife and the countryside by promoting intensive agriculture.

The revelation of Mr Lamy's intentions is bound to create a row at international negotiations on the GM trade which open, under the auspices of the United Nations, in Montreal tomorrow.

The talks are likely to be scuppered by the US's insistence that any agreement under a proposed UN Biosafety Protocol would be subordinate to a future WTO deal. Similar talks took place last year when the US and five other grain exporting countries, called the Miami group, blocked agreement by 160 nations on controls which would have allowed governments to refuse to import GM foods and seeds.

The Miami group, which includes Canada , Australia , Argentina , Uruguay and Chile , want all grains and other foodstuffs (90 per cent of GM food ) excluded from any biosafety agreement.

A confidential US State Department memorandum, obtained by The Independent on Sunday, also reveals that America has been putting unrelenting pressure on European governments to accept American GM products. It says that US corn exporters alone "stand to lose $220m in sales " because of European delays in approving GM crops and says that the Clinton administration will need to keep up the pressure "to find a way to speed approvals".

Mr Lamy first proposed the deal at the turbulent World Trade Organisation (WTO) conference in Seattle last month. He accepted US demands effectively to transfer discussions of controls on the GM trade from the United Nations negotiations - where it was heavily outnumbered - to the WTO, which would take a much more permissive attitude. In return the US agreed to drop plans to ensure that the WTO forced reform on the CAP, which it regards as competing unfairly with US agriculture.

His move was immediately rejected by EU trade, food and environment ministers at the conference. Mr Lamy backed down, but only after reminding the politicians that the commission, which he represented, was responsible for trade negotiations. His spokesman said: "This type of deal does not necessarily mean that we are going to open up markets to American GM foods." But his plans are still bound to run into intense opposition from ministers.

Mr Meacher said yesterday: "Unfortunately, and without authority, the commissioner made a serious mistake in Seattle. He was comprehensively repudiated by ministers. There can be no question of trying to resuscitate the proposal."

Tony Juniper, Policy Director of Friends of the Earth said: "It is an absolute scandal that an unelected bureaucrat is taking it upon himself to make up policy as he goes along, directly against the wishes of governments who are seeking to protect their consumers and the environment."

21 Jan 00 - GMO - GM summit to debate new treaty on food laws

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Correspondent

Independent ... Friday 21 January 2000

The bitter debate over genetically modified crops and foods will flare up on the world stage next week when ministers and officials from 175 countries meet in Montreal to try to reach agreement on international trade in GM products.

The proposed treaty, known as the Biosafety Protocol, would allow national governments to restrict GM trade on environmental or health grounds and lay down rules for labelling and product liability .

This, to take an example, would make it much easier for Norway or Nigeria - or indeed Britain - to stop imports of GM soyabeans from the United States , if a particular worry about them arose.

However, the last attempt to reach agreement, at a meeting in Cartagena, Columbia, last year, was torpedoed by the US and a group of five other big growers and exporters of GM crops - Canada, Australia, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay - on the basis that the treaty would have restrained free trade.

It is feared the US and its allies - the "Miami group" - will continue to be hostile to the treaty next week, demanding that it should be subject to the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) - which many observers feel would be to undermine it entirely.

The Biosafety Protocol stems from the Convention on Bidodiversity , the world wildlife treaty signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It has been in negotiation for the past five years, but has now risen to the top of the diplomatic agenda because of the recent controversy surrounding GM foods and crops, and the furious dispute over world trade rules that broke out at the WTO meeting in Seattle last November.

American domestic opinion has shifted in the year since the collapse of the talks in Cartagena, and there is now arecognition by the Clinton administration that opposition to GM technology and products cannot simply be dismissed .

But this still may not be enough to allow the US to give way over its previous objections, in particular to the principle of "advanced informed consent" - which means that before a GM product could be exported, the importing country would have to be told exactly what the product was, and explicitly give its agreement to the importation.

Britain is backing the treaty and the Environment minister Michael Meacher is travelling to Montreal next Wednesday to take part in the final stage of the negotiations.

17 Jan 00 - GMO - Scientists bypass GM route

By Nick Nuttall, Environment Correspondent

Times ... Monday 17 January 2000

Pest-resistant oilseed rape has been bred by British scientists, casting doubt on the need for genetic engineering to generate future super-crops.

The new crop, developed by conventional breeding methods , produces large amounts of a chemical called mustard oil that "acts like a beacon" to lure aphid-killing wasps into a field from surrounding areas. It may also repel pigeons ; millions flock here from Scandinavia in the winter.

The researchers believe the technique could be used against a wide range of pests to reduce damage and boost crop yields. It should also dramatically reduce the need for farmers to spray environmentally questionable pesticides.

CPB Twyford, one of Britain's leading seed companies, is to commercialise the breakthrough and hopes to have the new pest-resistant oilseed rape strains on the market in about six years' time.

The Cambridgeshire-based company pulled out of testing genetically modifed rape last year after attacks by activists and mounting public concern over genetic engineering.

The development has been welcomed by environmental groups. Adrian Bebb, of Friends of the Earth, said yesterday: "This shows we do not need genetic engineering."

17 Jan 00 - GMO - Washington restricts use of GM corn

From Ian Brodie In Washington

Times ... Monday 17 January 2000

The United States Government has imposed new restrictions on growing genetically altered maize in response to concerns about damage to the ecology .

The constraints will require farmers to plant between 20 to 50 per cent of their acreage in conventional maize, known in America as corn.

These unprecedented demands will cut back on growth of so-called "Bt" corn , which has been altered with a gene that allows it to make its own insecticide. There have been worries that Bt corn may speed up the evolution of "superbugs" - insects that are resistant to insecticides. Another concern has been that pollen from Bt corn can blow on to other plants nearby and prove fatal to the Monarch butterfly , known as the "Bambi of the insect world".

The new rules, which take immediate effect in time for this year's growing season, were released in Washington by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA said that the biotechnology industry and farmers had agreed to the agency's conditions.

The changes have been announced amid uneasiness about the effects of biotechnology on crops . No credible evidence has been found that "Frankenstein" foods cause harm, but the European Union has withheld approval of new genetically modified crops pending the outcome of stringent testing. There is strong opposition among European shoppers.

Genetically altered Bt corn made up more than a third of the American crop last year, but some farmers were already deciding to cut back as a result of demands in the United States that genetically engineered food be labelled as such and because European scepticism had cost American farmers more than $200 million (£123 million) in lost exports last year.

17 Jan 00 - GMO - By Mary Dejevsky in Washington

US limits GM maize to save monarch butterfly

Independent ... Monday 17 January 2000

The US government is toughening the regulations that govern the planting of genetically modified maize in its first acknowledgement that there may be environmental risks associated with GM crops.

The decision is the response of the Environmental Protection Agency to a study at Cornell University that showed the proliferation of the maize - known as Bt corn - could endanger the monarch butterfly because its pollen can kill the butterfly's larva.

Under the new restrictions, farmers will have to plant at least 20 per cent conventional maize in most places, and 50 per cent in areas where cotton is also grown. Seed companies will be required to increase their monitoring of the fields to check whether insects develop resistance to the GM crop. They have also promises voluntary action to protect the monarch butterfly.

The new regulations were agreed by the seed companies, including Monsanto, before they were published. Environmental campaigners said that the safeguards were an improvement, but not sufficient. For the Environmental Defence Fund, Rebecca Goldburg said that the new measures confirmed that Bt corn could pose risks.

About 30 per cent of maize grown in the US last year was genetically modified to incorporate pesticide-producing genes from a bacteria. The proportion had been forecast to increase, but concern about the European embargo on GM crops is causing US farmers to scale back their GM crops.

The new EPA regulations are the first significant breach in official US insistence that GM crops are fully safe. It is unlikely to have any bearing on one of the chief European demands: that food containing GM ingredients - as most processed food produced in the US does - be labelled. The US Agriculture Secretary, Dan Glickman, indicated last week that labelling was unlikely to be required.

07 Jan 00 - GMO - GM ban is extended by Tesco

James Meikle

Guardian ... Friday 7 January 2000

Tesco has banned its fresh fruit and vegetable suppliers from growing food on sites used previously for trials of genetically modified crops .

The supermarket chain said yesterday that it needed to be able to assure customers no GM material has come into contact with its produce. Its decision was welcomed by eco-campaigners Greenpeace, but criticised by the government for being a marketing ploy.

Other supermarkets may consider following Tesco's lead, but it remains to be seen whether farmers are deterred from volunteering for trials of GM oilseed rape, beet and maize; most involved so far are cereal producers.

Tesco has already pledged not to stock any GM crops , and is also trying to ensure that all feed for animals that supply its meats is GM free .

It is probably the biggest single user of produce in Britain, with 130 large suppliers. Justifying its latest step, Tesco said that some scientists had raised concerns about DNA and toxins in post-harvest waste from GM trial sites remaining in the soil and changing its ecology . A spokesman said: "We are not telling farmers to not get involved with trials but saying, if they do, make sure it is separate and don't grow a Tesco crop on top of them."

Peter Melchett, the Greenpeace executive director, said the announcement was a blow to government efforts to find farmers willing to host GM crop trials. The GM unit at the cabinet office denied it would be a significant deterrent, and said: "This is a marketing ploy. Tesco has admitted there is no scientific foundation for the policy."

07 Jan 00 - GMO - Tesco Rejects Gm-test Site Vegetables

From the Press Association

Guardian ... Friday 7 January 2000

Leading supermarket chain Tesco is instructing its fruit and vegetable suppliers not to grow crops on sites used for testing genetically modified crops .

The move comes as the Government is proposing GM farm-scale trials for three crop varieties at over 60 sites.

Greenpeace claims the letter from Tesco is a blow to ministerial efforts to find farmers willing to host the GM trials this year. But the Cabinet Office dismissed it as a "marketing ploy" which has no basis in science.

The latest controversy over GM crops was sparked by the Tesco letter from the company's Cheshunt, Hertfordshire headquarters to 130 field vegetable and salad crop suppliers.

It told them: "We need to be able to assure our customers that no material from GM crop trials could come in contact with our crops ".

"Therefore any crop grown for Tesco MUST NOT be grown in a field that has been used for GM trial crops. "

Executive director of Greenpeace Peter Melchett said: "This dramatic move will be welcomed by everyone who shops at Tesco and we warmly congratulate Tesco for taking a lead on this vital environmental issue.

"We expect that every supermarket and food retailer in the UK will now have to follow Tesco's lead."

Alan McLaughlin, spokesman for Tesco, said: "Yes, we are writing to a number of our suppliers because we have been getting questions asking for clarification about what will happen to field sites and crops.

"We are not saying you cannot get involved in a government trial if you supply Tesco. We are saying that you cannot plant a Tesco crop in the same field, which to us is common sense."

07 Jan 00 - GMO - How supermarket sowed seeds of a PR disaster

Staff Reporter

Independent ... Friday 7 January 2000

In what seemed to be a PR coup in the war between the supermarkets, the giant Tesco said it would instruct its farmers not to grow any normal crops on fields previously used for tests of genetically modified (GM) plants.

The pressure group Greenpeace crowed with delight, saying it was a "blow to Government efforts to find farmers willing to host GM crop trials this year" , while the Daily Mail called it a "Tesco ban on GM farmers" and hailed "another victory for consumer power and the Daily Mail's GM Food Watch campaign".

But was it? Within hours the PR spin was unravelling. Other supermarkets said they would not follow suit - a big flop for any PR effort. Scientists ridiculed the pseudo-scientific concerns raised by Tesco, and pointed out that if the company took its own concerns seriously it should ban all its organic produce from its shelves, and many products imported from the US.

Critics also wondered why Lord Melchett, the head of Greenpeace, announced the move, rather than a Tesco executive. The answer is simple, suggested Professor Chris Leaver, an expert in plant science at Oxford University. "I think that they [Tesco] are simply trying to use this as a marketing ploy."

As the spin unwound - with rival chains Iceland and Safeway saying that Tesco had not removed GM ingredients from all of its own-brand products - the retail giant, under pressure from a furious Cabinet Office, was forced to say that actually it did support the farm-scale trials of GM crops, and had only been trying to clarify the issue for farmers.

By yesterday evening, Tesco was in full retreat. Crops could be grown on former GM test sites if there was "at least one year's separation", and this advice "would be reviewed in the light of further scientific evidence". The Cabinet Office was delighted.

The incident highlights the increasing tendency by supermarkets to exaggerate consumer concerns over GM food into fears - with serious effects, Professor Leaver said. "What really worries me is the worries it puts into the minds of little old ladies, who may then wonder what they can afford to eat," he said. "And it also leaves farmers wondering how to earn a livelihood."

The draft letter from Tesco, to be sent to its 130 vegetable and salad providers, said "some scientists have now raised concerns about DNA in post-harvest waste from GM trial crops" and added that an article in New Scientist magazine on 4 December had shown "concerns" about "toxins from GM Bt maize migrating into the soil and affecting soil ecology".

"Bt" maize has extra genes inserted so that it secretes the toxin normally made by the bacterium Bacillus thuriengensis, usually known as Bt. The toxin kills many pests - and is also the single pesticide most widely used by organic farmers. "They get vats of the bacterium, mix it up with talc and spray it on fields," said Professor Leaver. "If Tesco really take these claims to their logical conclusion, the organic people would have real problems." Also, one-third of the US maize crop is GM.

Tesco said yesterday that it will not extend the ruling to organic farmers. "It's because the toxin comes from GM plants," said a spokesman. And how was that different from the one used by organic farmers? "It's GM, you see."

Except that, though the plants are genetically modified, the protein itself isn't. "The genes added produce exactly the same protein - the toxin - as the farmers are using," said Professor Leaver. "Really, it beggars belief. It's reached the stage where it's almost absurd."

21 Dec 99 - GMO - GM food banned in Monsanto canteen

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Correspondent

Independent ... Tuesday 21 December 1999

Monsanto, the biggest promoter of genetically modified food, was hoist with its own petard when it was disclosed that it has a staff canteen in which GM produce is banned .

The firm running the canteen at Monsanto's pharmaceuticals factory at High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, serves only GM-free meals , Friends of the Earth said. In a notice in the canteen, Sutcliffe Catering, owned by the Granada Group, said it had taken the decision "to remove, as far as practicable, GM soya and maize from all food products served in our restaurant. We have taken the above steps to ensure that you, the customer, can feel confident in the food we serve."

Monsanto confirmed the position. "Yes, this is the case, and it is because we believe in choice," said the company's spokesman, Tony Coombes. But employees at Monsanto's agribusiness plant at Cambridge were happy to eat GM produce, he said. "The notice in the restaurant there says some products may contain GMOs [genetically modified organisms] - because our staff are happy to eat food sprayed with fewer chemicals."

Monsanto says crops engineered to be tolerant of its own weedkillers need less pesticide, but critics say that though the dosage may be less, the impact on the environment of these pesticides is much greater. Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth's food campaigner, said: "The public has made its concerns about GM ingredients very clear - now it appears that even Monsanto's own catering firm has no confidence in this new technology. "

18 Dec 99 - GMO - Mowlam promises tougher GM rules

By Martha Linden

Independent ... Saturday 18 December 1999

Mo Mowlam, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, has pledged to reform the "haphazard" labelling system for genetically modified foods at the launch of a new government website on GM crops.

Ms Mowlam said the Government was committed to introducing "common sense" in the debate over GM foods and was working hard in Europe to tighten regulations on labelling. She was speaking at the launch at an Internet shop in central London of the website - .

Ms Mowlam said the Government was using information provided through the Internet to combat fears about GM foods. She added: "At the moment, labelling is pretty haphazard and we want to work with the retail and business sectors and the consumer groups to get a system that the consumers feel happy with and which is scientifically meaningful and people buy into."

The Government has already introduced labelling rules for GM foods sold by retailers, caterers and restaurants. Early next year, new rules on labelling of additives and flavourings will be introduced. The Food Standards Agency, which is due to be up and running next year, will also work on food labelling, including GM products.

In an article in The Express newspaper, Ms Mowlam said the Government had created one of the toughest regulatory systems in the world for GM foods. She wrote: "If Elizabethan England had the sort of regulatory system we have now, there is no way the potato would ever have been introduced into this country."

05 Dec 99 - GMO - Church bans GM crop trials on its land

By Jonathan Petre

Telegraph ... Sunday 5 December 1999

Government trials of genetically modified crops on land owned by the Church of England have been vetoed by a top-level Church committee.

The decision, which comes amid continuing controversy over the safety and morality of GM testing, will be a blow to ministers, who had hoped to lease some of the Church's 123,000 acres. The Central Science Laboratory, the main research arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, applied for permission to use the land at a meeting with Church Commissioners earlier this year. But The Telegraph has learned that the Church's influential Ethical Investment Working Group decided last week that the request should be turned down .

The group's conclusion has to be ratified by the commissioners's board of governors in the New Year, but observers are confident that they will not overrule what is described as a "very strong" recommendation. An insider said that the group's decision had been unanimous. Members fear that the long-term value of Church land could be adversely affected if it was used for GM testing , particularly if it had been targeted by protesters. "They also explored the theological issue of being a good neighbour , both in terms of the possible effects on neighbouring farmers and on the whole environment ," the insider added.

The group's decision further highlights the Government's problems in finding landowners prepared to allow GM trials on their property following a series of attacks on crops by environmental activists. The ethical criticism could also embarrass Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, who is a practising Christian. The group, which met in private on Wednesday, began its inquiry into the issue in the summer and took evidence from a range of organisations including Christian Aid, English Nature and Friends of the Earth.

It is understood that the commissioners do not have the legal power to prevent farmers currently leasing their land from growing GM crops and can only include the ban in future tenancy agreements. In practice, however, tenant farmers are unlikely to defy the Church's official stance on the issue. At present, no Church agricultural land is used for genetically modified crops .

03 Dec 99 - GMO - EU man accused over GM deal with Americans

By Charles Clover in Seattle

Telegraph ... Friday 3 December 1999

An American attempt to overturn Europe's regulations on GM cropswas denounced last night by Michael Meacher, the environment minister, and other European Union ministers.

They were infuriated by an attempt to subject rules on the import, labelling and regulation of genetically modified organisms to the World Trade Organisation . They accused the EU trade commissioner, Pascal Lamy, of acting without authority from ministers.

An EU working paper, drawn up by Mr Lamy to express the EU's common negotiating position at the talks, offered what America has long wanted: to make European rules on genetically modified organisms subject to WTO rules on barriers to trade .

During a three-hour meeting, ministers from all 15 EU member states expressed "robust" opinions to Mr Lamy. But ministers admitted last night that the proposal was still on the table . Stephen Byers, the Trade Secretary and head of the British delegation, said Mr Lamy's paper went against the instructions of the European Council of Ministers.

A source close to him said setting up a biotechnology working group would be "a classic example of what offends people about the WTO. It would be seen as a body like the WTO being able to ride roughshod over policies of the European member states in a very sensitive area ". Other sources said there was "a tension which isn't always creative" between the commission and EU ministers.

Mr Meacher said that setting up a kind of biotechnology forum within the WTO on "this most contentious issue" would mean overriding a global environmental treaty on biotechnology, the Biosafety Protocol , talks on which broke down in Cartagena, Colombia, earlier this year because of US intransigence.

If ministers could not remove the proposal from the negotiations, said Mr Meacher, then Europe would insist that a WTO working group on biotechnology should be made dependent on the successful negotiation of the Biodiversity Protocol.

Friends of the Earth said that including biotechnology in the remit of the WTO would enable such companies as Monsanto to force technology into European markets against Government and consumer resistance . It "showed the democratic deficit at the heart of the WTO".

The world trade talks were in trouble last night on two other highly contentious issues, agriculture and labour, with the US at loggerheads with the EU on both.

President Clinton's insistence on labour and environmental standards being applied to the developing world has been met with opposition from developing countries such as India and has caused concern in the EU that the talks may collapse without any agreement.

His call for the abolition of export subsidies for agricultural products has been met with diehard opposition from Mr Lamy, who continues to insist that agriculture must be considered differently from other areas.

Sources close to the British delegation said that America was under greater pressure than ever before to agree a deal this week as a result of the embarrassment of its handling of the anti-WTO demonstrations on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, outside the political arena weary police again used tear-gas, flash bombs and pepper spray to disperse demonstrators and the number of arrests rose to more than 400.

Toby Harnden in Washington writes: Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader, has hinted that he failed to attend the WTO conference in Seattle because he feared he might be arrested and charged with murder. A US State Department official had suggested that he risked being held for directing the shooting down of three light aircraft in 1996.

03 Dec 99 - GMO - Britain loses GM food trade dispute

By Andrew Marshall in Seattle

Independent ... Friday 3 December 1999

Britain has lost the battle to stop biotechnology being considered under the rules of the World Trade Organisation , a move that opponents fear is a backdoor way to negotiate the entry of genetically modified foods into Europe .

British officials concede that the offer made by the European Commission on Tuesday at the WTO summit, is probably unstoppable, though they were trying to redraft it yesterday. Some EU ministers argued with trade commissioner Pascal Lamy on Wednesday that the commission had exceeded its brief, but the proposal stands.

"We don't feel that a working group of the WTO would be a helpful development," said a British source. The row is "a classic case of what offends so many people" about such negotiations, he added. However, EU sources said Britain's opposition was stronger in public than in private .

The commission insists that creating a working party to study the relationship between trade, development, health, consumer and environmental issues in the area of biotechnology is not a step towards GM imports - it is a fact-finding mission. Parallel UN negotiations on biosafety will also be considered, but there will be no deal until every other trade issue was resolved.

The EU made the offer in exchange for US concessions over the use of the precautionary principle , which could allow the EU to halt imports of food and other goods where there is concern about the potential health effects, eco-labelling and other environmental issues.

Michael Meacher, the British environment minister, was still seething yesterday. The issue is "the most contentious in the world trading system today," he said. There was a fear that "trade rules would be used to chip away on any existing rules to limit GMOs," he said.

02 Dec 99 - GMO - GM crop toxins are leaking into soil

By Nick Nuttall, Environment Correspondent

Times ... Tuesday 2 December 1999

Some genetically modified crops are leaking powerful toxins from their roots into the soil , scientists have found.

Researchers described the findings as "surprising and unexpected" , raising fresh fears about the environmental impact of such crops.

Companies have modified plants to produce poisons or toxins to combat the pests that eat their stems and leaves. But that the same plants are also leaking toxins into the soil has not, until now, been considered an issue. It will raise fears that beneficial soil organisms might be killed and that insects living in the soil might become resistant to the poisons.

The findings, published today in nature, have been released by a team at the university of New York.

Several crops, from maize to corn and potatoes, have been genetically modified to kill insect pests using a gene derived from a bacterium called bacillus thuringiensis (BT).

In the United States 15 million acres of corn modified with the BT gene were planted in 1998 or just under 20 per cent of the total crop. GM maize has also been planted in europe although the acreage is far smaller.

Guenther Stozky, of New Uork University's laboratory of microbial ecology, said yesterday that previous research showed the toxin was released from pollen. "Now we have found it is also continuously released from the roots into the soil ," he said.

Professor Stozky said that the BT toxin was a large protein molecule considered too large to cross the root membrane. It is feared that one consequence could be that pests in the soil might become immune to the poison, triggering new, resistant , strains.

Penny Hirsch, a soil expert at IACR-Rothamsted in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, said that field tests were needed to see whether the effects in the laboratory were happening in the real world.

Doug Parr, of Greenpeace, said that the findings underscored the "ability of GM crops to wrong-foot their creators and produce unexpected and unwanted effects" .

02 Dec 99 - GMO - Modified fish 'a threat to species'

By Nick Nuttall

Times ... Tuesday 2 December 1999

Super salmon, genetically modified to grow faster and bigger, could make the species extinct if they escaped into the wild.

Studies indicate that the GM fish, engineered with a human growth hormone gene, are more successful at attracting mates. But large numbers of their offspring die before they are sexually mature.

Scientists claim that the impact of such fish getting into the wild could be catastrophic , with the growth hormone gene spreading rapidly throughout salmon populations which would then quickly die out.

The findings come from a team at the University of Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana. They have dubbed the growth hormone gene the "Trojan gene" because it "gets into the population looking like something good and it ends up destroying the population". They tested their hypothesis using Japanese medaka. Tests found that the genealtered males, being bigger and thus appearing fitter, attracted four times as many females as their smaller, unmodified rivals.

The team, whose findings are published in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also found that only two thirds of the GM medaka survived to reproductive age.

The scientists then used a computer model to see what would happen if 60 of the GM fish got into a population of 60,000 wild ones. The population became extinct within 40 generations .

It is claimed to be the first finding that a genetically modified organism can have a catastrophic effect on its own species. They claim that even one escaper could have the same effect, although extinction would take longer.