Greenpeace's GE Report 12/4/97
GENETIC ENGINEERING CAMPAIGN UPDATE 12/4/97
Several notable things have occurred since the last update on 11/14,
particularly on the European side. US media-wise, I should also
point out for anyone who missed it, the lengthy New York Times
Business article on 11/19, titled "Breeding Seeds of Discontent",
regarding Monsanto's RR cotton problems and the impact it is having
on seed sales and investor confidence. Due to the length of the
article, I am only including a small clip here; if you need to see
the full text, please let me know and I can fax or e-mail you a
copy. Also, additional labeling regulations in the EU have been
established, and there is an increasing controversy over EU imports
of US corn, regarding the current EU approval status for only one
variety, while four varieties were grown in the US this year, and
were not segregated. It should be interesting to see how this plays
out in coming days.
VARIOUS NEWS CLIPS
* (clipped from The New York Times 11/19/97) Breeding Seeds of
Discontent; Cotton Growers Say Strain Cuts Yields By ALLEN R.
MYERSON DATELINE: CLARKSDALE, Miss: Monsanto calls the genetically
engineered cotton it developed with the Delta and Pine Land Company
the most successful product introduction in farming history --
likely to make cotton the nation's first crop in which genetically
altered varieties predominate. But in the Mississippi Delta, the
revolution has produced enough casualties that officials are
warning farmers to hold off until further testing proves the
technology's reliability. About 46 of the 200 farmers who planted
Roundup Ready seed in Mississippi have asked the Seed Arbitration
council to have the companies cover their losses on almost 30,000
acres. They say they lost as much as 40 percent of their Roundup
Ready cotton when it failed to resist spraying with Roundup.
Bill Meredith, a geneticist and research manager for the United
States Agriculture Department in Stoneville, Miss., asked for a pound
of seed last year [for testing], enough for just a tenth of an acre.
The companies said they could not spare it, he recalled, even though
farmers chosen by the companies planted Roundup Ready cotton on
thousands of acres. The result has been a rare breakdown in the
usually cordial relations between agribusiness and government. Mr.
Meredith publicly suggested that the companies recall their seed,
prompting Delta Pine to ask his bosses to shut him up. Roger Malkin,
Delta Pine's chairman, says that one of Mr. Meredith's supervisors
apologized; Mr. Meredith says a manager merely asked him to tone his
* RESPONSE #1 TO TIMES ARTICLE (11/24, NYT Letters to Editor)
'Improved' Plants Can Threaten Gene Pool
To the Editor: "Breeding Seeds of Discontent; Cotton Growers Say
Strain Cuts Yields" (news article, Nov. 19) recounts the problems
farmers have had with the Monsanto Company's genetically engineered
cotton. Agricultural biotechnology companies need to be held to
product-testing standards, as are drug companies. As the Monsanto
story shows, rushing a product into production, shortcuts on
scientific and regulatory oversight and enthusiasm to market the
"most successful product introduction in farming history" can lead to
disappointment, ruinous financial loss and possibly worse. The
potential benefits of genetically engineered crops and medical
products are enormous, but so are the risks.
Just as we would not dream of introducing a medicine without years
of testing, we shouldn't be sanguine about introducing bioengineered
organisms and crops onto millions of acres. Genetically altered
plants, once introduced, cannot simply be recalled.
TIM SCHERBATSKOY Shelburne, Vt., Nov. 19, 1997
The writer is an assistant professor of natural resources, University
* RESPONSE #2 TO TIMES ARTICLE (11/ 25, NYT Letters to Editor)
To the Editor: "Breeding Seeds of Discontent" (Business Day, Nov.
19) raises issues that deserve fuller explanation. This year, more
than 800,000 acres were planted with genetically engineered cotton
seed incorporating Monsanto's technology, which makes the plant
tolerant to the herbicide Roundup. The benefits to the 4,000 farmers
using the seed are significant: less time in the field, fewer
applications of herbicides and reduced fuel use. A few dozen cotton
growers in the Mississippi Delta, cultivating 10,000 acres, reported
that cotton plants were shedding their bolls, which can be caused by
a variety of factors, including weather.
When Monsanto learned about these problems, it sent teams of
scientists and agronomists to investigate peculiarities of this
year's growing season and agricultural practices, including variety
selection and the use of Roundup. Knowing the answers to these
problems is critical to a company whose livelihood depends on repeat
customers. We feel confident, based on our initial investigations,
that the problem is not in the seed or in the biotechnology.
HENDRIK VERFAILLIE President, Monsanto Company
* (clipped from FWN, 11/19) DEKALB'S ROUNDUP READY CORN RECEIVES
CLEARANCE Dekalb, Ill.--DEKALB GENETICS CORP. TODAY announced that
its newly developed corn seed, resistant to the herbicide
glyphosate, has received necessary clearance from the U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA). DEKALB and Monsanto Company have been
consulting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to
confirm that there are no issues raised by these products that would
require pre-market review by the FDA. Following receipt of such
confirmation, DEKALB will proceed with plans to commercialize up to
six DEKALB Brand Roundup Ready corn hybrids for sale to U.S. farmers
next spring. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already
approved the application of Roundup Ultra herbicide on corn
resistant to glyphosate.
* (clipped from Agence France Presse, 11/19) US to talk Internet
trading, biotechnology at APEC SUMMIT
The United States will call for a long-term joint program on Internet
trading and biotechnology in agriculture at the APEC summit of Asian
nations in Vancouver next week (week of 11/24). United States Trade
Representative Charlene Barshefsky cited the approval process for
genetically altered food products, which is currently sowing division
among countries in the European Union. The APEC nations are
Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan,
South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the
Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.
* (clipped from Reuters, 11/20) Pioneer seen in deal for Roundup
corn By Patricia Commins CHICAGO: Despite an apparent standoff, a
deal is expected to be reached to allow Pioneer Hi-Bred
International Inc <PHB.N> to offer seed corn that is resistant to
Monsanto Co's <MTC.N> Roundup herbicide, analysts said. The standoff
became public last week when Pioneer said talks with Monsanto had
broken down over technology rights to Roundup Ready corn. Both
Pioneer and Monsanto said they are open to further negotiations, but
offered no details.
* (clipped from Financial Times (London) 11/20/97) Shops set to
label genetically modified food By Alison Maitland Food
manufacturers and retailers will today announce a voluntary
agreement to label food containing genetically modified protein when
it appears in supermarkets and shops in January. The joint decision
to label products voluntarily comes as the food industry is pressing
the government and the European Commission to speed up legislation
on the controversial issue.
A joint statement from the federation, the British Retail
Consortium and the Institute of Grocery Distribution, said: "If no
agreement is imminent by January, the industry will start labelling
products containing the protein from this year's US harvest
voluntarily." Labels will be put on products containing the added
protein which makes the crop resistant to herbicide. Soya oil, where
the protein has been removed in processing, will not be labelled even
if it was made from modified soyabeans. The Consumers Association
said labelling was a step forward but crop segregation was "the only
way to guarantee consumer choice". Following consumer research, the
industry has decided the labels should state that the product "does
contain" genetically modified soya rather than "may contain" it. The
latter option was found to confuse consumers. Some supermarkets are
drawing up lists of soya-free foods for consumers keen to avoid it.
* (clipped from AFP-Extel News, 11/24) HEADLINE: Monsanto enters
plant genetics development alliance NEW YORK (AFX) - Monsanto Co
said it entered a broad technological development alliance with
Empressas La Moderna SA of Monterrey, Mexico, and with Mendel
Biotechnology Inc of San Francisco to develop genetic agricultural
products for many plants, including soybean, fruits and vegetables.
Financial terms were not disclosed. Monsanto said it and
Empressas La Moderna will each acquire a substantial minority
interest in Mendel and help fund a five-year research and
* (clipped from GAZETA MERCANTIL ONLINE 11/25) HEADLINE: Monsanto
buys Agroceres seed company Sao Paulo - The largest seeds company of
the Southern hemisphere is changing hands. As from yesterday, the
vegetable division of Agroceres, which produces hybrid corn, sorgo
and vegetables, is under the control of Monsanto, the world's
largest complex of research and application of products developed by
biotechnology. The amount involved in the operation was not
disclosed by the parties, but market sources estimate the operation
at between $60 million and $70 million. "This is a company of
strategic importance for whoever operates in the area of
biotechnology. Brazil is currently Monsanto's second largest market
after the United States and it is of strategic importance for the
development of the company's business," Queiroz said.
* (clipped from Financial Times (London) 11/27/97) Genetically
modified foodstuffs may go on probation By Neil Buckley Brussels
Genetically modified products such as corn and soyabeans sold in the
European Union could be put on probation for seven years and would
be constantly monitored for harmful effects, under proposals from
the European Commission. The plans, published yesterday, would
require such products to be relicensed for sale every seven years,
and to be clearly labelled as containing genetically modified
materials. The licensing proposals must be approved by EU ministers.
The Commission said it expected the rules to be "welcomed with
open arms" after pressure from EU states, environmental campaigners
and the biotechnology industry for clearer procedures. Existing EU
rules do not allow for an automatic review of licences, though they
do allow products to be removed from circulation if they pose a
health risk. The new rules would introduce mandatory monitoring of
licensed products, arranged on a case-by-case basis with national
authorities, to ensure they did not harm the public's health or the
environment. Under the proposals, there would be compulsory
consultation of one of the EU's scientific committees on all licence
applications. Brussels would be allowed for the first time to consult
expert committees on the ethical implications of biotechnology
* (clipped from Reuters, 11/27) France clears gene-maize
cultivation PARIS, France on Thursday authorised farmers to grow
genetically-modified maize designed to resist the corn borer pest,
reversing a ban by the previous conservative government.But it
refused to clear the marketing and production of other gene-crops,
notably rapeseed and sugar beets, saying it wanted to move
cautiously on a complex issue.
At a press conference held by farm,education, health and
environment ministers, the government said it had wanted to move
carefully on the controversial issue of gene-crops. The environmental
organisation Greenpeace had called for a ban on the import and use of
all genetically-modified organisms as long as their safety had not
France, which is the largest maize producer in Europe Union, is
expected to harvest a record crop this year of nearly 16 million
* (clipped from Reuters, 11/27) EU agrees controversial rules on
biotech patents By Suzanne Perry BRUSSELS, - The European Union
moved one step closer to resolving an emotional debate over genetic
engineering on Thursday as ministers agreed rules on patents for
biotechnology inventions. The new rules, which must be approved by
the European Parliament before final adoption, allow patents for
inventions such as tomatoes that have been genetically altered to
resist decay or animals that have been engineered for medical
But, after much wrangling with critics who raised ethical concerns
about the "commercialisation of life," including Eurodeputies, the
ministers inserted several safeguards. For example, patents are not
allowed for procedures to clone human beings, commercial use of human
embryos, genetic engineering that causes animal suffering without
"substantial medical benefit" or therapies that would transmit
genetic changes to a person's descendants. They are also barred when
scientists simply discover a body part such as the specific makeup,
or sequence, of a gene. But, in one of the most controversial
provisions, patents are allowed for body parts when researchers find
a way to reproduce them outside the body.
EU officials said they expected smooth sailing in the European
Parliament since the ministers took on board the bulk of the
assembly's proposed amendments.
* (clipped from Reuters, 12/3) EU plans to label gene-altered
maize, soya By Gillian Handyside BRUSSELS, - The European
Commission recommended on Wednesday the labelling of foods
containing or derived from genetically-engineered maize or soya. If
the decision is approved by foodstuffs experts from the 15 EU member
states -- maybe as early as next week -- the rules will come into
force on February 1, 1998, the Commission said. Labels will be
compulsory on all foods which are "no longer equivalent" to
conventional ones because they contain genetically-altered DNA.
The label must say "produced from genetically modified
maize/soya." If it is unclear whether or not a foodstuff or one of
its ingredients contains genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) --
like cornflakes made from maize imported into the European Union as
part of an unsegregated bulk shipment -- manufacturers will be
obliged to label the product to show it "may contain" GMOs.
The environmental group Greenpeace criticised the Commission's
proposals as too weak, saying they would only require 20 percent of
GMO foods to be labelled. "These are products where the
manipulated DNA itself or proteins altered by the manipulation can be
traced with present methods of analysis. This would not include major
supermarket items such as soya oil, margarine and chocolate,"
Greenpeace said in a statement.
The planned measure is designed to close a loophole in the EU's
so-called Novel Foods Regulation on the marketing of foodstuffs
produced in unconventional ways, including GMO foods. If approved,
the new labelling rules for GMO maize and soya should be used as a
model for deciding how to label other products covered by the Novel
Foods Regulation, such as GMO tomato ketchup, a European Commission
official told Reuters. This is unlikely to satisfy Greenpeace, which
complains that the Novel Foods Regulation does not in any case
require food additives, flavourings and extraction solvents to be
* (clipped from Reuters, 12/3) US friction on gene crops seen
threat to trade ROTTERDAM, A festering conflict between Europe and
the United States on genetically-modified crops poses a threat to
the grain sector, a Dutch grain trade group said on Wednesday. So
far the impact has been limited, but future consequences could be
serious, said Rudolf Hoeffelman, chairman of the Royal Dutch Grain
and Feed Trade Association.
Any restrictions by the EU have been labelled unfair trading
practices by the U.S.
Grain traders, importers and feed manufacturers are caught in the
middle, said Hoeffelman, retired Benelux president of agribusiness
giant Cargill. European Commission President Jacques Santer is
expected to raise the issue during a meeting in Washington with U.S.
President Bill Clinton this week, another Het Comite official said.
Het Comite, which groups 124 members in the Dutch grain trade, is
not in principle against separation and labelling of GMOs, but there
are practical issues that must be addressed.
* (clipped from Reuters, 12/3) Monsanto gene sugar beet refined by
mistake By Eric Onstad AMSTERDAM, - A test batch of Monsanto
genetically-modified sugar beets was mistakenly sent to a Dutch
refiner and mixed with normal sugar, company and government
officials said on Wednesday. Monanto took responsibility for the
error and notifed Dutch food group CSM before the refined sugar was
Monanto had been issued a permit by the Dutch Ministry of
the Environment to do trials of the beet, which was engineered to
resist herbicides, but not process it for consumption. But some pulp
from the beets was sold for use in animal feed before CSM learned
about the error, Peter Dek, commercial director of CSM's sugar
division, told Reuters.
"It was only a few hundred kilos, maximum 400 kilos," he said.
The Environment Ministry has launched an enquiry, which could result
in a fine for Monsanto, a spokeswoman said. "They are actually
breaking the law on GMOs (genetically modified organisms) ...those
beets should never have been processed at all," she said in a
telephone interview. Since the genetically-modified beets were mixed
with normal beets, it was impossible to identify the 300 kg of
refined sugar and CSM had to isolate about 10,000 tonnes of processed
sugar, Dek said. The sugar has been set aside and sealed pending a
decision by Dutch officials on whether it can be used. The
Environment Ministry spokeswoman said Monsanto may propose that it be
shipped to another country where genetically modified crops have been
approved for consumption.
* (clipped from Reuters, 12/3) U.S. wants gene beans to top trade
talk agenda By Jason Webb BUENOS AIRES, - The United States wants to
push the debate on genetically-modified crops to the center of world
trade talks as it launches an offensive for what it says is the
world's best hope to feed its growing population.
"It's my hope that biotechnology will be at the top of the agenda
in the 1999 Uruguay Round talks," Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman
told a breakfast meeting in Buenos Aires Wednesday. Glickman, who
recently came face to face with feeling on the issue when he was
confronted by nude European anti-"gene bean" protestors, said that
objections to genetically-modified crops were mainly irrational. "As
long as they do prove safe, science must prevail over emotion when it
comes to our trade rules, " he said.
His Argentine audience could hardly have been more sympathetic.
Local Agriculture Secretary Felipe Sola has said that Argentine
farmers will plant 1.5 million hectares with genetically-modified
soybeans this season, and would have planted more if seeds had been
available. Next season, the government estimates that half
Argentina's soybean crop will be genetically modified.
* (clipped from Reuters, 12/2) Wheat, biotech laggard, plays genetic
catch-up SALINA, Kan., Dec. 2 - Wheat remains the laggard in
biotechnology among the major grains because it proved more
difficult to modify genetically, but industry experts say it is
finally catching up. "Wheat is really behind in the biotech race.
It took longer to perfect the (gene) transfer process," Dr. James
Mock, a Monsanto Co. <MTC.N> vice president, told a gathering of
Kansas growing associations Tuesday. "Genetically modified wheat is
commercially viable...It is here to stay and is in fact creating
value for the growers who use it," he said, noting that there are 16
different wheat hybrids on the market, producing consistency and
yields between 10 and 15 percent better than standard wheat
The hybrids have generated additional income opportunities of $20
to $50 an acre, Mock said. Further, important new wheat types will be
widely available by the year 2003, including Roundup Ready wheat,
resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, and fungal disease control
wheat, containing a special gene to generate proteins that ward off
fungal diseases such as head scab, he said.
1 EUROPEAN ISSUES
On Nov. 27 the Council of Trade and Industry Ministers gave its
support to the Patents Directive, with only NL against, Italy and
Belgium abstained. It's a proposal which will allow patents to be
granted on animals, plants, human genes and cells. The Council's
position will now go to the European Parliament for its second
reading. Greenpeace has called on MEPs and EU countries not to let
their moral concerns be overridden by the greed of industry and
offices are doing intensive lobby work. While we had lost our
general opposition arguments in the first reading of the EP already
it remains to be seen whether the MEPs will insist on some of the
changes not carried by the Council, especially the demand for
consent of the Country of Origin as a prerequisit for patenting
1.1 GREENPEACE LAUNCHED GENETIC HAZARD PATROL
The Genetic Hazard Patrol is targetting shipments of genetically
altered soya and maize coming from the US into the EU. As their
first activity on Nov. 11 a shipment of GE maize at the ADM (Archers
Daniels Midlands) terminal in Rotterdam was blocked from being
unloaded. In a stepping up two days later activists challenged a
barge containing material from the same shipment at the Dutch/German
border one week later.It was marked as carrying genetic cargo. A few
days later GP activists continued with protests at an oilmill in
Mainz/Germany. In Austria activists blocked a tanker truck loaded
with GE soya-oil coming from the oilmill in Mainz.
1.2 EUROPEAN NROs
A newly formed alliance of retailers and food producers, who are
working closely with GP, have presented a concept and label for GE
free food supplies.
The GE work in Sweden is still focusing on the black list of
"undecided" consumer products. The public interest is very high.
Glyphosate - the herbicide to which several GE crops are being
designed to resist - was found in the groundwater at several points
in southern Sweden. Two of the findings are just near the two
biggest Swedish GE companies (Hilleshoeg-Novartis and
Svaloef/Weibull). GP Sweden is trying to find out whether it has to
do with their field experiments with glyfosate resistant GE crops.
GP Italy took part at a panel of NGOs appealing the Prime
Minister to refuse the Patent Directive at the European Council - as
the results show with some success.
At least three of the main Italian food retailers are really willing
to go GE free and thus are strongly supporting GP's request for
As a result of GP Switzerland's action-week targeting the
fodder-industry at the end of October the main players in the animal
fodder business will now join a round table to look for a way to buy
ge-free soya on the world market. Participants are among others Swiss
farmer associations, fodder-industry groups, the 2 biggest retailers
(Coop, Migros), oil mills, and Greenpeace.
On Nov. 25 the Swiss GE-food-lobby announced the foundation of a new
pressure group called 'Inter-Nutrition' with a press conference in
Berne. Their goal is to rise the acceptance of GE-food amongst
consumers. Members are Nestlé, Kraft Jacobs Suchard, Unilever,
Wander, Novo Nordisk, Novartis Seeds, Monsanto, Roche and the
Federation of the Swiss food industry. Swiss GP activists disturbed
the press conference with a funeral ceremony mourning for the dead
of consumer's free choice. The action was well covered by tv news
GP Germanys grey list of food producers possibly using GE soybeans
is becoming shorter and shorter. The only remaining bigger company,
the soup-producer Erasco which is a Campbell-subsidiary, declared
7th Nov to produce without GE-soya. This happened few days after the
GP consumer network supporters started to write letters to a major
retailer in Germany and ask them to take Erasco-products out of the
After the oilmill-actions 27 Nov GP Germany started to label
food-stuff in SPAR supermarkets in different towns. They are
labelling products of companies that are still on their grey list
(for example Delacre and Appel) and also meat, eggs and milk. The
animal products are labelled with an additional sticker that reads:
'From animals fed with GE fodder ??'. Media interest is high.
On Nov. 12 GP together with industry people, journalists and
some other NGO's attended a conference about GE and food safety
arranged by the Danish Ministry of food. The idea of the conference
was basically to tell the public how safe GE is. But in contrary,
the questions to the experts revealed how much they actually don't
know, especially about allergies and transfer of antibiotic
2 LATIN AMERICA
Argentina: Hopefully GE free lecithin samples have been supplied to
GP for testing by an oilmill, who is interested in getting into that
UPCOMING / RECENT EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES
Dec. 1: Meeting with EU-Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler in Brussels
Dec. 5: Art. 21 Committee could vote on Monsanto maize.
Dec. 16: Meeting of the Standing Committee for foodstuff. They could vote on
the revised regulation for the labelling of GE maize and soya at this
meeting if the Commission manages to make a proposal in time. To
adopt it the Commission needs a qualified majority in the committee,
otherwise it will go to the next Council of Industry Ministers.
Dec.16/17: Council of Environmental Ministers. Novartis maize and
90/220 revision could be on the agenda. January: the EC will vote on
Austria & Luxembourg's Article 21 import ban on Novartis' corn.
THE CORN QUESTION
Of the four varieties of GMO corn grown in the US this year, only
one has been granted authorization for import into the EU (Novartis'
Bt & herbicide tolerant corn #176); approval for Monsanto's Bt corn
(variety 810) should be decided soon, and approval for Novartis'
Bt11 and AgrEvo's "t25" herbicide tolerant corn should be decided by
the EC in the next few months. This leaves only Monsanto's 80100 Bt
corn as having been grown in the US in 1997, but with no pending
application for EU approval. Consequently, due to lack of
segregation, all US corn from the 1997 harvest cannot be imported
into the EU, even if Monsanto receives approval for variety #810.
Should Monsanto file for approval of #80100 immediately, it would
still take at least one year before authorization would occur.
Greenpeace broached this topic with the EU Ag Commissioner on 12/1,
and is pursuing it with the European commission and all competent
Also, at a meeting this week by the Article 21 committee members,
they discussed corn gluten, and agreed that it is covered by
Directive 90/220/EEC as gluten feed pellets may contain up to 15%
whole kernels. In other words, gluten pellets (such as those
imported a couple of weeks ago into Rotterdam) could contain kernels
of unapproved GMO corn varieties, and are subsequently banned under
existing EU authorizations. We reminded the Dutch authorities (and
media) of this today, in anticipation of tomorrow's arrival into
Amsterdam of a shipload of US corn and feed. Dutch authorities
allowed the previous import to enter the country, since the corn was
in the form of gluten pellets; the Article 21 committee's decision
has now clarified how the authorities should react. I'll let you
know how it goes.