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CFS News #18: Global Action Intensifies Against Monsanto & the Gene Giants
(Information on Global Days of Action April 15-30 at end of this issue.)

CFS News #18 (formerly Food Bytes) April 16, 1999
News & Analysis on Genetic Engineering, Factory Farming, and Organics
By: Ronnie Cummins & Ben Lilliston
Campaign for Food Safety <http://www.purefood.org>
Affiliated with the Center for Food Safety <http://www.icta.org>
and the Organic Consumers Association <http://www.organicconsumers.org>
__________________________________________________________________
The Campaign for Food Safety is happy to announce our formal affiliation
with the Center for Food Safety in Washington,D.C. Beginning with this
issue we are changing the name of Food Bytes to CFS News (Campaign for Food
Safety News).
__________________________________________________________________

Quote of the Month:
"This is the beginning of the end of trying to force-feed consumers
unwanted and unneeded genetically manipulated food."

Benedikt Haerlin, Greenpeace International Press Release, March 17, 1999
__________________________________________________________________

Monsanto and the Gene Giants suffered through another disastrous 45 days
from March to mid-April. If the biotech industry thought that the worst of
their public relations nightmares were over (see Food Bytes #12, 13, 15, &
17), they were wrong. By the ides of March, even the most stalwart
promoters of Frankenfoods, the grain cartels and the Clinton
administration, were showing signs of strain. Among the most notable
developments:

* At an international meeting of entomologists (scientists who study
insects) in Basel Switzerland in March, experts warned that genetically
engineered (GE) Bt crops are exuding 10-20 times the amount of toxins
contained in conventional (non-GE) Bt sprays, and are harming beneficial
insects (such as ladybugs/ladybirds and lacewings) and soil microorganisms,
and may likely be harming insect-eating bird populations. The scientists
called for a moratorium on commercial planting of Bt crops. Worldwide in
1998 there were 19.3 million acres of Bt crops under cultivation
(representing 28% of all GE crops), including 45% of the US cotton crop,
25% of the corn, and 3.5% of the potatoes. For further information on the
Basel meeting contact <fkoechlin@datacom.ch> For info on the Center for
Food Safety & Greenpeace lawsuit filed in the US Feb. 18 to remove Bt crops
from the market see <www.icta.org>.

* Attorneys from the Center for Food Safety are contributing to a
strategic, precedent-setting seed patenting lawsuit in US federal court. A
small farm supply and seed dealer in Iowa, Marvin Redenius, is suing
Pioneer Hi-Bred International (the largest seed company in the world, now
being bought out by Dupont), claiming that agricultural seed and
biotechnology patents issued by the US Patent Office since 1985 are illegal
because the US Congress never intended that key food crops be patented.
Traditionally the US Congress has held that seed companies have a right to
use one another's seed for breeding purposes and that farmers have the
right to save and replant seeds. According to the March 3 Wall Street
Journal, "Biotech Industry Shivers at Threat to Seed Patents" the lawsuit
has thrown Monsanto and the other biotech corporations into a panic. As the
WSJ puts it the lawsuit "places at risk much of the billions of dollars in
investments by companies such as Monsanto Co., Dupont Co., and Novartis."
Stay tuned for further developments.

* British poll results announced March 11 in the Daily Record found that
"nine out of 10 shoppers would switch supermarkets to avoid genetically
modified (GM) food," and would be willing to travel "up to double the
distance" to a supermarket which banned gene-foods.
On the same day the Church of Scotland issued a five-year study in which
they condemned the "unethical" practices of US and transnational biotech
corporations. Donald Bruce, Church spokesperson, stated in the Aberdeen
Press and Journal: "There is indignation from people that they are not
being given a choice. It smacks of imperialism--but instead of a Boston Tea
Party, this time we could have a Rotterdam Soya Bean Fest with soya and
maize dumped into the North Sea."

* On March 11, leading scientists and activists from over a dozen nations
(Europe, North America, Japan, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India) meeting at a
"Biodevastation" conference in India vowed to "bring down" Monsanto and the
other biotechnology transnationals and build a global mass movement for
sustainable and organic agriculture. Ronnie Cummins summed up the battle
that civil society faces at a well-attended press event in New Delhi: "We
stand on the edge of a Biotech Century where a runaway technology wielded
by Monsanto and other transnationals threaten food security and
biodiversity in both the North and the South." The India "Biodevastation 2"
conference was organized by Dr. Vandana Shiva, as a follow-up to last
year's "Biodevastation 1" conference in St. Louis (see Food Bytes # 11). On
May 19-20 in Seattle, Washington the Edmonds Institute will be sponsoring
"Biodevastation 3," which will coincide with the annual convention across
town of America's trade association of genetic engineering corporations,
BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization). For further details on
Biodevastation 3, contact Beth Burrows at <beb@igc.apc.org>.

* On March 11, the Consumers Union of Japan issued a report on increasing
anti-GE food activities in Japan. The CUJ announced that 2300 of Japan's
3300 local government assemblies have now called on the Tokyo government to
require mandatory labeling of GE foods. In addition two million Japanese
consumers have signed a petition to the government on GE labeling. Despite
mounting public concern, Tokyo has already approved the importation of 22
GE foods and six food additives. The CUJ and other citizen groups are
especially alarmed about GE industry plans to grow gene-altered rice in
Japan--where nine million tons are consumed annually. For more info contact
<nishoren@jca.ax.apc.org>. On March 14, the Los Angeles Times ran a major
story entitled "Japanese Choke on American Biofood," in which they noted
increasing alarm by US authorities over growing Japanese opposition to $11
billion of unlabeled American food exports, much of it containing
genetically engineered ingredients. The LAT story called attention to a
1997 government survey in which 80% of Japanese consumers expressed
"reservations" about GE foods, with 92.5% supporting mandatory labeling.

* Another major GE food safety controversy erupted in the UK on March 12,
when researchers at the York Nutritional Laboratory announced that soy food
allergies among the British public unexpectedly rose 50% in 1998,
coinciding with a large increase in imported foods from the US containing
genetically engineered soybeans. Last year Monsanto's Roundup Ready
soybeans constituted 32% of the US soybean crop. Scientists have warned for
years that foreign proteins, most of which have never been consumed by
humans, gene-spliced into common foods could set off an epidemic of food
allergies. In the US, eight percent of children, and two percent of adults
already suffer from food allergies--with symptoms ranging from mild
unpleasantness to sudden death. British biotech expert Dr. Mae-Won Ho of
the Open University has warned that Monsanto's RRS soybeans could pose
serious food allergy problems. As Ho stated in a legal affidavit last
August, Monsanto's RRS soybeans: "contain genes from a virus, a soil
bacterium and from a petunia (plant), none of which have been in our food
before... The soil bacterium, Agrobacterium sp. (CP4EPSPS)... is unlike any
other protein that humans have eaten. And there is no reliable method for
predicting its allergenic potential. Allergic reactions typically occur
only some time after the subject is sensitized by initial exposure to the
allergen."

* The newspaper, the Independent, reported on March 14 that the UK
government had entered into secret negotiations with biotech companies for
a voluntary three-year ban on growing GE crops in Britain. The Independent
noted that the Tony Blair government was wary of forcing Monsanto and the
other biotech companies into an involuntary ban for fear of trade reprisals
by the US. And on March 17, the giant Sainsbury's supermarket chain in the
UK announced that they were joining forces with six other leading EU
grocery chains--Marks and Spencer (UK); Carrefour (France); Effelunga
(Italy); Migros (Switzerland); Delhaize (Belgium), and Superquinn
(Ireland)--to form a consortium to buy non-GE foods and food ingredients.
This move, characterized by the EU business association Eurocommerce as
"very significant," comes in response to increasing consumer demands for a
ban on GE foods. Other major chains and food and beverage producers in the
EU (Asda, Iceland, and Waitrose in the UK; Unilever in Germany; 90% of all
supermarkets in Austria; Carlsberg beer in Denmark; among many others) have
already announced bans on GE products.

* The UK New Scientist stated in its 2/29 issue that increasing demands for
certified GE-free soya, corn, and rapeseed (canola) oil are bringing world
market prices down in most cases to within 6-10% of the price of
conventional (co-mingled) grains and oils. This in turn has alarmed
American grain exporters and agribusiness representatives, who have begun
to warn US farmers that "intense opposition" to GE foods in the EU and
Japan threatens the US export market and may soon lead to requirements for
crop segregation, GE residue testing, and labeling. At the National Grain
and Feed Association convention in San Francisco on March 20, according to
Reuters, farmers were warned that despite pressure from the US government
on the EU, Japan, and other nations for open markets and no GE labeling,
opposition to GE crops around the world was increasing. (See the CFS web
site
<www.purefood.org> for more information).

* In a related development, grain export giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)
announced in early March a program for segregation and extensive marketing
of GE-free "identity preserved" soybeans. ADM emphasized that their new
GE-free soybean program was in response to global "customer demand." In
this context of increasing public controversy and market volatility, German
biotech company AgrEvo announced in mid-March that they were postponing
commercial planting of GE Liberty Link soybeans in the USA because of the
lack of "import clearances" or approvals in overseas markets. The American
Soybean Association said they approved of AgrEvo's precautionary move,
voicing concern about the loss of $4.5 billion in US annual soy exports. Up
until now the US has been able to export shipments of unlabeled,
non-segregated soybeans worth $2.5 billion to the EU every year, as well as
$1billion to Japan.

* The heavily indentured US scientific establishment--personified in this
case by the National Academy of Sciences--announced in March that it would
set up an "expert panel" to evaluate cuurent EPA regulations on GE crops
(such as Bt crops) containing their own pesticides. After publishing the
proposed list of scientists who would make up this NAS "expert panel"
(almost all of whom are rabid supporters of genetic engineering), the NAS
came under heavy fire from public interest groups such as the Consumers
Union, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace, the Pesticide Action
Network, RAFI, and the Campaign for Food Safety. In response the NAS has
made overtures to a well-known biotech critic, Dr. Rebecca Goldburg, to be
added to the panel. Of course this token gesture is not enough. Until the
proposed expert panelists publicly reveal their ties to the biotech
industry, and the panel is reconstituted with at least 90% of scientists
being truly "objective," the NAS advisory panel will continue to be
criticized for what it is, a "scientific greenwash" of a dangerous and
currently out-of-control technology.

* On March 15 leading French non-governmental organizations (NGOs),
including Greenpeace and Ecoropa, called for the French government to
follow the lead of the UK and Denmark and impose a national ban on the
planting of all GE crops. Etienne Vernet of Ecoropa told Reuters that the
French public demand "a moratorium on all types of genetically modified
food for three to five years." In response to growing public pressure, the
French government recently implemented a ban on growing transgenic beets
and rapeseed. Other EU nations with partial or comprehensive bans on
growing or importing GE crops include Austria, Greece, and Luxembourg. GE
crops are also banned in Norway. On April 1, the Greece government
announced a ban on planting GE crops and vowed to join with other EU
nations to prevent further approvals of GE foods. EU authorities have
rejected all new applications for GE products since April 1998, much to the
chagrin of the US government and biotech transnationals. Four biotech
applications are currently deadlocked--a Monsanto corn, a Zeneca tomato,
and two Monsanto Bt cotton applications. On March 22, a leading Spanish
farmers organization, COAG, with 200,000 members, called for a complete
moratorium on GE foods and crops

*South Korean students and environmentalists occupied and blockaded a
government-funded biotech greenhouse on March 12. Hanging a large banner
and chaining themselves to the entrance, activists told the Korean press
that they wanted an immediate ban on the cultivation or importation of GE
foods and crops. Before being arrested by police, a demonstrator told the
media: "We're here today to let the government and those researchers
involved know how the public feels about their incompetence, arrogance, and
lack of responsibility." Since December 1998--facing mounting public
pressure--the South Korean government has begun developing national
regulations for mandatory labeling of GE foods and crops. On March 25 the
Malaysian government directed an advisory committee to come up with a draft
for national biosafety legislation within three months. For further info on
anti-biotech and safe food activism in the Asia and Pacific region see the
Pesticide Action Network's web site <www.poptel.org.uk/panap/>.

*On March 16, Brazil's main commercial newspaper, Gazeta Mercantil,
reported that Monsanto had withdrawn its patent applications for five
varieties of Roundup Ready soybeans. Although Monsanto said its withdrawal
was merely for "technical" reasons, Gazeta Mercantil pointed out that
Monsanto is losing the biotech debate in Brazil. Among recent reverses for
Monsanto: a statement by SBPC, the national association of scientists, as
well as Brazilian consumer protection agencies, opposing RRS; a ban on
growing RRS soybeans in the large soya-growing state of Rio Grande do Sul;
and the decision of the enforcement agency of the Environment Ministry,
IBAMA, to join Greenpeace and the NGO IDEC in a court battle to ban RRS
soybeans. Meanwhile Brazil continues to export increasing quantities of
GE-free soybeans to the EU, in effect taking market share away from the US.
With 160 million people, Brazil represents the most strategic market for GE
production and consumption in Latin America. In a related development,
informed sources have told CFS News that the government of Chile--stung by
criticisms that it sided with the US in the recent sabotage of a Biosafety
Protocol treaty in Colombia--has begun deliberations to develop a set of
mandatory labeling regulations for GE foods.

* On March 21 an official scientific advisory panel in the EU recommended a
continuation of Europe's ban on Monsanto's controversial recombinant Bovine
Growth Hormone (rBGH or rBST), a GE hormone injected into 5% of dairy cows
in the US to force them to give more milk. The panel warned that the milk
from cows injected with rBGH contains up to 4-5 times the levels of a
potent chemical hormone messenger called IGF-1, which has been linked to
increased human risks for prostate, breast, and colon cancer. The US is the
only country in the industrialized world to have approved rBGH, despite
widespread consumer opposition and continuing charges of conflict of
interest in the FDA. For information on the Center for Food Safety legal
petition to have rBGH banned in the US see <www.icta.org> On a related note
award-winning US TV journalists Steve Wilson and Jane Akre's lawsuit
against Fox TV (who fired them last year after they produced a hard-hitting
series on rBGH for Fox TV) begins on May 10 in Tampa, Florida. See
<www.foxbghsuit.com>

* The Wisconsin State Journal revealed on March 24 that a Wisconsin-based
organic food manufacturer, Prima Terra, had located the source of "genetic
pollution" in a shipment of 80.000 bags of organic corn chips which were
destroyed in Holland earlier this year after "testing positive" for traces
of GE corn. According to Prima Terra, one of its suppliers, an organic corn
farmer in Texas, was the victim of genetic drift, after GE corn pollen blew
onto the farm's certified organic corn fields from a neighboring farm.
Genetically altered corn pollen can travel for miles in the wind and
integrate its DNA into the genome of conventional plants.

*According to 3/30 posting on the internet by ASEED, the EU youth activist
network, Hungarian authorities have at least temporarily denied permission
for Monsanto, AgrEvo, and Novartis to conduct field tests of GE corn and
sugar beets. Anti-GE public awareness and activism are slowly but steadily
increasing in Hungary and Eastern Europe. For further information contact
ASEED <aseedeur@antenna.nl>

* The English folk band "Seize The Day" have released a new song on the
internet called "Food 'n' Health 'n' Hope," a scathing satirical attack on
Monsanto. To hear the song, copy it, and distribute it, copyright free,
tune your internet browser to <www.seizetheday.org>.

* In late-March Amazon tribal leaders, wearing shell necklaces and bird
feathers, carried out a protest at the US Patent Office in Washington,
D.C., demanding a revocation of a "bio-pirated" patent granted to US
scientists for a traditional medicine and hallucinogenic plant called
Ayahuasca. According to a March 31 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
by Bill Lambrecht, universities and biotech companies such as Monsanto are
finding it harder and harder to "bioprospect" in indigenous areas due to
increasing opposition by Native groups.

* In a major, perhaps precedent-setting victory for the anti-GE movement
in Britain, UK prosecutors on March 29 dropped all charges against two
defendants, Jacklyn Sheedy and Liz Snook, who were on trial for destroying
a test plot of AgrEvo's GE corn last year. The AgrEvo test site threatened
to contaminate a field of organic corn planted nearby. According to
informed sources, the prosecution and the British government feared that if
the two campaigners were put on trial they would likely have been found
innocent by the jury, thereby setting a "dangerous" precedent for those
contemplating future direct action. Sheedy and Snook faced up to ten years
in prison for "conspiracy to commit criminal damage." And in a related
development, an Irish judge on April 1 granted probation to six of seven
activists accused of destroying a test plot of Monsanto's GE sugar beets
last June in County Wexford. Meanwhile in early April a 1700 square meter
test plot of GE rapeseed was sprayed with pesticides and destroyed by
activists in Giessen, Germany. This was the fourth time since 1997 that
this particular test site had been destroyed.

* Portugal's Burger King restaurants announced a ban on GE foods on April
7. A number of major UK fast-food chains (McDonald's, Burger King, and
Kentucky Fried Chicken) made similar announcements in February. Informed
sources have told CFS News that even McDonald's USA has the jitters over
GE--with McD's franchise owners in Wisconsin and Minnesota telling potato
processors and their growers not to deliver Monsanto's Bt potatoes to them.
Farmers also report that Monsanto's miracle Bt potatoes aren't doing that
well in the fields, with Minnesota potato growers complaining the mutant Bt
spuds won't germinate until the temperature hits 50 degrees Fahrenheit, as
opposed to 40 degrees for conventional varieties.

* On April 8 biotech and anti-organic propagandist Dennis Avery of the
Hudson Institute (see Food Bytes #16) got a pie in the face as he was
delivering a lecture on biotechnology at Grinnell College in Iowa.
According to a press release, the Central Iowa Anarchist (CIA) cell of the
Biotic Baking Brigade carried out "Operation Avery's Savory" as a "response
to Avery's shameless and flagrant support of biotechnology and industrial
factory farming." A week earlier in Somerset, England, Novartis PR man
Steve Smith was hit by a custard pie at a meeting on GE foods. As Smith
rushed to the toilet to gain his composure, he was creamed by yet another
custard pie.

* The US mass media are finally starting to wake up to the controversy over
genetically engineered foods and crops. Beginning last Oct. 25, when the
New York Times Sunday Magazine ran a major feature story, "Playing God in
the Garden," critical of Monsanto and ag biotech, the American news
blackout appears to have lifted--at least partially. In recent months
objective, and even a few hard-hitting investigative articles, have started
to appear in the NYT; the Washington Post (a series by Rick Weiss); the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch, headquarters for Monsanto (an excellent series of
articles by Bill Lambrecht); the Los Angeles Times; Harpers magazine; the
Christian Science Monitor; Penthouse magazine; E magazine; and other
magazines and papers. Even national TV networks, especially CNN and ABC
News (November 9 and December 15, 1998) have started to begin to address
the issue. In addition the progressive media--the Nation, Mother Jones, the
Progressive, the Progressive Populist, Earth Island Journal, Multinational
Monitor, among others--and community radio stations have recently begun to
publish and broadcast articles on the GE controversy. In Canada ag biotech
media coverage has been more widespread than the US, partly as a result of
the major national debate over rBGH. With increased media coverage in North
America there is now a steadily increasing awareness on the part of the
general public, as well as a number of hopeful signs that a new grassroots
mass movement--anti-GE, anti-industrial agriculture, pro-organic,
pro-sustainable--is starting to develop.

* Global Days of Action Against Monsanto and Genetic Engineering April
15-30. For the fourth year in a row we at the Campaign for Food Safety are
serving as an international clearinghouse for the Global Days of Action
(GDA). In 1996-98 the GDA have helped to stimulate coordinated global
protests and actions, generate significant media coverage, and strengthen
global solidarity and campaign capacity. This year of course nearly every
day has now become a Global Day of Action, at least in places like Western
Europe and India. GDA 1999 will try to place a major focus on the Monsanto
corporation. To spearhead the growing global opposition to Monsanto,
genetic engineering, and industrial agriculture, we at CFS--along with our
NGO allies--recently have coordinated a series of US and international
conference calls as well as international activist meetings in Cuernavaca,
Mexico and New Delhi, India. So far we know of planned GDA (and Earth Day
Week) activities scheduled for the following countries and local areas:

USA: A variety of teach-ins, street theater, and leafletting/petitioning
activities are scheduled, especially around the week of Earth Day April 22.
Over 125 natural food stores in 75 cities and towns are participating in a
petition drive in support of the Center for Food Safety lawsuit (filed May
27, 1998--see Food Bytes #9) to have all GE foods and crops taken off the
market, as well as to head off industry and government attempts to
eliminate mandatory labeling requirements for irradiated foods. For CFS
petition materials contact our Duluth, Minnesota office at
<safefood@cp.duluth.mn.us> A partial list of other USA GDA/Earth Day
actions includes:

Seattle, Washington; Austin, Texas; Santa Cruz, California--April
22--contact National Campaign to Label GE Food <craig@craigwinters.com>
<www.thecampaign.org>
Boston, Massachusetts April 17-24 contact <jasonab@mediaone.net>
St. Louis, Missouri Protest at Monsanto's Shareholders Meeting 4/23 and
other events contact <T4shea@aol.com>
Burlington, Vermont and Amherst, Mass. contact <briant@earth.goddard.edu>
Cleveland, Ohio April 22 contact <es004@cleveland.freenet.edu>
Chicago, Illinois April 17 teach-in <hpcoop@hpcoop.org>
San Francisco, California (supermarket actions April 18) contact:
<hexterminators@artactivist.com>
Boulder, Colorado Alliance for Democracy activists conference "Challenging
Corporate Control of Food and Agriculture" April 29 contact
<avkrebs@earthlink.net>

A partial list of other nations and contacts for GDA 1999 include the
following:

France--action on April 22 in Paris-- contact <ecoropa@magic.fr>
UK--actions in 12 cities on April 17 by Genetix Snowball contact
<holly@gn.apc.org>
additional actions planned as well by other UK groups April 15-30
India--actions planned--contact <vshiva@giasdl01.vsnl.net.in>
Japan--actions planned--contact <mika@mb.kcom.ne.jp>
Malaysia--contact Jennifer Mourin <panap@panap.mo.my>
Australia--contact Bob Phelps <afcgenet@peg.apc.org>
Canada--contact Tony Clarke <tclarke@web.net>

Please email us other events & activities taking place during GDA April 15-30.
And finally let us resolve to make every day a Global Day of Action Against
Genetic Engineering and Industrial Agriculture.

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