Global Genetic Engineering Campaign Update 10/17/97
A new report and factsheet are now available from Greenpeace.
The report is entitled "Genetic Engineering: Too Good to go
Wrong", detailing accidents and problems with genetic engineering,
and was published by Greenpeace UK The factsheet is from Greenpeace
Germany, concerning significantly higher levels of fat found in the
milk from cows who had been fed Roundup Ready soybeans (the testing
was originally performed and published by Monsanto). Both of these
documents are available (in English) from Paul Clarke of USA Greenpeace
<email@example.com via e-mail as a MS Word 6.0 document, or by
US mail, by request.
Also of interest:
* A report was released on October 9 by the World Bank and the
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR),
entitled "Bioengineering of Crops". This report hails GMO crops as
the solution to world hunger problems by producing higher yields
while using less land and water. Copies of this report are
available by contacting Danielle Lucca at <Dlucca@worldbank.org;
* At the UN Convention on Biodiversity, Working Group on Biosafety
meetings in Montreal this week, mention was made of a German report
from 1994 which demonstrated changes in plant estrogen levels in
beans exposed to glyphosate (Roundup), which may have an effect on
human and animal health. The study was not performed on transgenic
soybeans, however; further investigation is under way.
* Leaders of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) at a
meeting in late July, in Ontario, decided to restrict the discussion
on the patenting of life to issues of trade and marketing advantage,
particularly because the U.S. does allow the patenting of life
forms. In his address to the delegates, Garth Sundeen, CFA policy
analyst, stated that he believes the issue is whether Canadians want
to have access to such genetically altered products. He also
commented that the controversy will gather steam within the next
year and that farmers have a stake in deciding where they stand on
the issue. CFA president, Tony Morris, suggested that the issue of
patenting genetically modified life forms may become one of power
and growing farmer disadvantage. Issues of animals rights would be
considered at some point in the future after the organization has
the opportunity to investigate the implications. (clipped from Barry
Wilson, "Patents on Life Forms Thorny Questions for Farmers," THE
WESTERN PRODUCER, August 14, 1997.)
* Prince Charles makes personal plea for no GMOs: HRH The Prince of
Wales made a personal plea via video message at The Future Agenda
for Organic Trade [Sept/97] to keep GMOs out of organic agriculture.
"A great many consumers simply do not want to eat food containing
ingredients produced in this way," he said "I certainly don't."
The Prince said people who bought organic food were supporting
farming systems which produced safer and more nutritious food.
EU Commissioner Franz Fischler said, also via video message, that
consumers' concerns could not be dealt with by general prohibition,
but instead by exhaustive information: strict labelling enabling
consumers to make their own choice. Following his subsequent public
promise for new legislation to enforce labelling of GMOs, the EC has
announced that, from November 1, food made from GM soya and maize
which already had EU marketing clearance must now be labelled as GM.
(clipped from ORGANIC FOOD NEWS UK, 10/4/97)
* On Wednesday 8 October Brazil authorised the importation of 1.5
million tons of US soybean containing at least 15% of Monsanto's
transgenic Roundup Ready Soya -- effectively overturning Brazil's
import ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The decision by
the Brazilian National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio),
was made under an atmosphere of intense pressure both from the
Brazilian processing industry and the US Department of Agriculture
Global demand for Brazil's GMO free crop soared this year
causing commodity prices to go through the roof. In the scramble to
cash in, Brazil exported far more than usual and has been caught
short in the process. The Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil
Industries (ABIOVE) has been demanding the importation of GMO
contaminated stocks from the US to replenish the industry during the
scarce period. Representatives of the USDA met with their Brazilian
counterparts early in October to back up ABIOVE's demands.
The aggressive US arm twisting of countries into accepting imports of
its mixed soybean follow two arguments. Firstly pushing
its "principle" of mutual recognition -- that countries accept that
genetically modified foods already approved in the country of origin
are safe. Secondly, arguing that it is not possible nor economically
feasible to segregate the transgenic beans from conventional ones.
The Brazilian decision authorising the crushing and processing of the
beans did not go so far as to allow the planting of the transgenic
soybeans in Brazil. (clipped from GRAIN press release, 10/10/97)
* BIOTECHNOLOGY NOT INTERESTING TO FARMERS - (clipped from
Agrarisch Dagblad (Dutch Agricultural Daily) - October 8, 1997)
KOPENHAGEN - Regarding the introduction of biotechnology, farmers
should consider that it's the industry and research institutes that
mainly profit from it and not the agricultural sector. In fact,
biotechnology is economically not interesting at all to the
agricultural sector. This is the opinion of the Danish agricultural
scientist Scren Kjeldsen Kragh. He spoke during a conference on
genetic engineering in plant-breeding. During this conference, that
was held at the agricultural university in Kopenhagen, he warned the
farmers saying that, due to biotechnology, the prices of crops will
raise and as a result of that this pressure will be put on the
market prices. "Again the agricultural sector will experience that
technological developments will cause lower food prices. At most, on
very short term, the first few farmers that grow genetically
engineerd crops will benefit financially from it for a short period
GREENPEACE GENETIC ENGINEERING UPDATE as of October 17, 1997
1. UK - OCTOBER 14
A report "Genetic Engineering: Too Good to go Wrong" was published by
GP UK and internationally released October 14th in preparation for
World Food Day. Press coverage in a number of countries was received
for this report which is also a useful background document.
2. WORLD FOOD DAY ACTIONS - OCTOBER 16
GP undertook actions in Luxembourg and Paris on October 16 in
connection with the European environment ministers meeting in
Luxembourg and World Food Day. We called for the protection of the
right of European nations to refuse genetically engineered crops.
In Luxembourg GP activists displayed a cartoon showing the Statue of
Liberty with European Commission President Santer's face. At the same
time in Paris, activists hung a banner (in the form of an apron) at
the French Statue of Liberty on the Seine, with the words "Protect
Europe's right to ban genetech maize". A chef's hat was also put on
The Council of Ministers discussed the controversial genetically
engineered Novartis maize, which Austria and Luxembourg have banned
on health and environmental grounds. Under pressure from the United
States, the European Commission is trying to overrule their national
On November 5 all EU member states will hold a special meeting to
decide to/not to support the national import bans. Issues relating to
trade blocks and national sovereignty are implicated.
3. EUROPE IN BRIEF
Under GP Austria's auspices an industry, supermarket chains and NGO
coalition created a "GE-free"-labeling scheme. It is planned to be
launched in mid November.
On October 15. there was a press conference in the Parliament with
the Austrian Government expert on GE. GP Denmark was there as well -
they talked to journalists and there was some coverage. The Danish
market is still GMO-free - no products containing GE-soy have been
The next GP-Report to the supporters will also ask more people to
become GE-detectives (monitoring supermarkets and food processors).
GP Finland is member of the Citizen forum against genefood which
contacted Finnish Unilever and asked their CEO a meeting which they
declined! He especially singled out GP campaigner Mika Railo and said
that he doesn't want to meet the delegation if "that GP fellow is in
it". The forum made a press release about it which got modest
The campaign intends to continue meetings with corporations. Nestlé
GP France met with Danone, one of Europe's major food processors.
They said that they're not using GMOs yet, but are reviewing all
literature on it and did not find cause for concern. They had the
milkfat story and forwarded it to Monsanto to get an explanation.
They did not want to reveal how they get GE free soybeans (industrial
secret). When they will use them, they'll publish a press release.
They also manufacture products for Carrefour for the Carrefour brand
who have asked them not to use any GMO in their products, so they're
going to give them an estimate of the overcost. Carrefour is a major
retailer in France and internationally.
Much of the food in France is GE-free. The 5 products that have been
tested in Germany were all negative.
Media and public interest in GE is high again.
GP Germany was present at the world's largest food exhibition - the
ANUGA in Cologne - from October 11.-21. While the big TNCs wanted to
keep genetic engineering out of the discussion, GP was able to
dominate many press reports which all concentrated on gene technology
in food stuff, with some TV-covering including GP. GE was also main
topic in the daily fair-newsletter, which made clear that the issue
is still a hot topic in the producers and retailers community.
6 out of nearly 30 producers from the German 'grey list' (producers
that did not give a clear statement whether they use GE or not)
declared that they are GE-free, another two are expected to declare
GP Greece collected more than 22.000 signatures from
customers asking for GE-free food. The two biggest supermarket-chains
will ask their suppliers not to use GE in their products. GP Greece
will meet with the board of the National Supermarket Association next
Preparing for a tour starting November 10th, where campaigners will
visit supermarkets throughout the country to inform consumers what
products may or do not contain RR soybeans, and putting pressure on
retailers. GP will use protestcards where consumers sign if they
don't want GE food in their supermarket. GP will also spread the
Genetic experiment stickers at the size of a guilder so people can
put them on their money which they spent in the same supermarket.
GP Netherlands is also preparing a report on the ecological risks of
GMO's. The report will be in dutch but we will send out an English
translation. Preparations will take at least another month.
GP Netherlands met with Minister of Environment prior to the meeting
of the Environmental Council in Luxembourg; the Minister is not
planning on supporting Austria and Luxembourg's import bans, but
rather wishes to focus on labeling.
Without much input from GP, on October 1 Norway banned all GMOs which
are presently approved by the EU. This will be a major stumbling
block for further GMO imports to Europe and another institutional
GP Switzerland together with associations of small farmers, organic
farmers and other organizations sent out order forms for signs to be
placed in their fields reading "gene-protection area" to 4.000
organic farmers. They received 600 orders until now.
GP campaigner Paul Clarke is still busy with collecting
co-petitioners for the Bt-petition against the EPA. He has also
spent the last couple of weeks in meetings and speaking engagements
with retailers and consumers in the organic and natural foods
sectors, in Oregon and Washington.
This campaign update was prepared by:
Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaign
457 Washington St, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10013
tel: (212) 807 9420
fax: (212) 941 6203