FOOD BYTES #15 December 7, 1998
News and Analysis on Genetic Engineering & Factory Farming
by: Ronnie Cummins, Campaign for Food Safety/Organic Consumers Action
alliance@mr.net http://www.purefood.org
http://www.icta.org
___________________________________________________________
Special Issue on Monsanto

*** "Cremate Monsanto"-- Global Opposition Intensifies
___________________________________________________________
Coming up in the next issue of Food Bytes:
Organic Standards: USDA Strikes Again--Organic Community Regroups
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"Monsanto's [Bt Cotton] field trials in Karnataka [India] will be reduced
to ashes in a few days. These actions will start a movement of direct
action by farmers against
biotechnology, which will not stop until all the corporate killers like
Monsanto, Novartis, Pioneer etc. leave the country. We know that stopping
biotechnology in India will not be of much help to us if it continues in
other countries, [but] if we play our cards right at the global level and
coordinate our work, these actions can also pose a major challenge to the
survival of these corporations in the stock markets. Who wants to invest in
a mountain of ashes, in offices that are constantly being squatted (and if
necessary even destroyed) by activists?"

Prof. Nanjundaswamy <swamy.krrs@a world.net>
President, Karnataka State Farmers Association, November, 1998
================================

As reported in Food Bytes #13 ("Monsanto Under Attack") things have not
been going so well for the gene engineers at Monsanto. In fact lately their
situation seems to have degenerated from bad to worse. Besides slipping
stock prices and persistence rumors of an unfriendly takeover by Dupont or
another corporate giant, the Biomasters of Biotech have suffered from a
rash of recent reversals including:

* Destruction of several heretofore secret test plots of Monsanto's Bt
"Bollguard" Cotton in India. On Nov. 28 and again on Dec. 2 contingents of
Indian farmers in the Karnataka region, chanting "Cremate Monsanto" and
"Stop Genetic Engineering," uprooted and burned Bt cotton fields in front
of a bank of TV cameras and news reporters. Once again Indian national and
provincial governments came under fire for secretly collaborating with
Monsanto and other agri-chemical transnationals. In the wake of the
controversy, government officials in New Delhi were forced to reiterate
that "Terminator Technology" seeds--patented by the USDA and Monsanto--will
not be allowed into the country. NGOs (non-government organizations)
including the Karnataka State Farmers Association have called on Monsanto
to get out of India, and for the government to ban field tests and imports
of genetically engineered seeds and crops. On Dec. 3 the Andhra Pradesh
provincial government was forced to ask Monsanto to halt all field trials
of Bt "Bollgard" cotton going on in seven districts in the state.

* Informed sources in Thailand and South Korea report that government
advisors and officials have begun discussions and deliberations to require
mandatory labeling and safety-testing of genetically engineered foods and
crops, despite anticipated objections from the US Embassy. On November 6
the influential Thailand Biotech Centre admitted that "genetically
engineered foods and agricultural products may pose a health hazard." Dr.
Suthat Sriwathanapong, of the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and
Technology, said that to "protect consumers against this possible health
risk," the Thai Food and Drug Administration should issue a more
comprehensive rule to regulate genetically engineered drugs and products.

* The Consumers Union of Japan and other NGOs continue to call for
mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and crops. With several
million petition signatures already in their hands, Japanese government
officials are finding it increasingly difficult to ignore the demands of
consumers. In a national survey in 1997, 91% of Japanese consumers stated
their desire for "safety information" on GE foods. Despite Japanese
consumers concerns, US trade officials have repeatedly warned Tokyo that
mandatory labeling of GMOs is unacceptable, and could lead to a US/Japan
trade war.

* The Southeast Asia Regional Institute for Community Education
<searice.c@philoline.com.ph> and 12 other environmental NGOs organized a
militant mass demonstration outside of Monsanto's corporate offices, near
Manila, on Dec. 8 under the slogans of "Stop the Terminator Seeds" and "Put
a Face on the Enemy." The genetic engineering controversy has recently been
covered prominently in a number of major Phillipines newspapers, and two
senators have introduced government resolutions to hold hearings and
investigations on field trials and imports of GE foods and crops into the
country.

* In New Zealand, a major controversy has developed over revelations that a
US government official threatened serious economic reprisals if the country
went forward with a law on mandatory labeling. Former associate Health
Minister Neil Kirton revealed in an interview in the national press that
the United States Ambassador, Josiah Beeman, visited him twice in February
and March and "bullied" him over the testing and labeling of genetically
modified food. Kirton was later fired and replaced by another government
official who was willing to go along with the US "no labeling" position.
Polls in New Zealand and Australia show that consumers overwhelming support
mandatory labeling. In one 1993 poll in Australia, a full 89% of citizens
said they wanted labeling and would reject foods that were unlabeled. A
recent nation-wide
survey conducted by Central Queensland University researchers found strong
resistance to genetically altered food among Australian consumers,
particularly women.

* In mid-November the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) of Asia and the
Pacific launched a Safe Food Campaign at the Asia Pacific People's Assembly
in Kuala Lumpur. PAN is collaborating with its network partners in the
region to carry out this campaign. "Growing concern over these 'miracle'
foods and the lack of information has prompted coordinated action over this
issue", said Jennifer Mourin, the Campaign coordinator. Indian activist
Dr. Vandana Shiva, speaking in Kuala Lumpur, described Monsanto, the
biggest player in the ag biotech industry, as a "global terrorist,"
forcing "hazardous food" on countries, using "tremendous pressure and
misleading promotional campaigns" to prevent people from choosing "the food
they want," and refusing to segregate and label genetically engineered
foods and crops.

* In Mexico City, national parliamentary representatives of the Green Party
have begun work on federal legislation that would require mandatory
labeling and safety-testing of GE foods and crops. The Greens expect to
receive support from other opposition political parties as well.

* In Brazil, one of the nation's largest supermarket chains, Carrefour, has
come out against the commercialization of Monsanto's herbicide-resistant
"Roundup Ready" soybeans. Brazil is the second largest producer of soy in
the world, second only to the United States. At this time, Brazilian
soybean growers are benefiting from the higher prices that many buyers in
the U.S. and Europe are willing to pay for non-genetically engineered
crops. A lawsuit filed earlier this year by the Brazilian Institute for
Consumer Defense (IDEC) <idec@uol.com.br> has temporarily halted the
Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture's approval of Monsanto's "Roundup Ready"
soybeans. Brazilian NGOs including Greenpeace are gearing up to make their
presence felt at the final session of the Convention on Biodiversity's
Biosafety Protocol negotiations in mid-February in Cartagena,
Colombia--where citizen groups and developing nations will try to push
through a legally binding international treaty to regulate genetically
engineered organisms.

* At a November international conference of IFOAM (International Federation
of Organic Agriculture Movements) <ifoam@t-online.de>, at Mar del Plata,
Argentina, delegates from more than 60 countries, representing the world's
leading organic farming organizations, called for governments and
regulatory agencies throughout the world to immediately ban the use of
genetic engineering in agriculture and food production because of threats
to human health, the environment, and farmers rights.

* In Europe the controversy over gene foods continues unabated. Consumer
studies by Monsanto's American polling firm recently leaked to Greenpeace
International showed that public opinion in Great Britain and Germany has
turned even more strongly against GE foods in recent months. According to
the poll, conducted by Stanley Greenberg, "the broad climate is extremely
inhospitable to biotechnology acceptance. Over the past year, the situation
has deteriorated steadily and is perhaps even accelerating, with the latest
survey showing an ongoing collapse of public support for biotechnology and
genetically modified (GM) foods." The report goes on to state that even the
"media elites are strongly hostile to biotechnology and Monsanto. They
think the Government is being too lax and believe they must expose the
dangers..."

* In Ireland a major row has developed after a national television network,
RTE, ran a program entitled "Safe Harvest," critical of genetic
engineering. Monsanto and the Irish biotechnology industry immediately
complained that the program was "unfair and inaccurate," and demanded a
retraction. Although threats by Monsanto will undoubtedly force Irish TV to
grant "equal time" to biotech proponents on a later program, the incident
has once more served to discredit Monsanto, already notorious in Europe for
their strong-arm tactics in trying to suppress dissent.

* In October SPAR and all of Austria's major supermarket chains declared
that they will not sell GE-derived products and intend to take them off
their shelves. Meanwhile Greece has decided to ban the import of GE
rapeseed (canola). In addition the Scientific Committee on Plants of the
European Commission ruled against the release of a GE potato containing
antibiotic-resistance marker genes.

* On Oct. 12 the European Parliament's Environment Committee called on the
EU Commission to impose a moratorium on new GMO releases across the
continent. Shortly thereafter the UK government announced a de-facto
three-year moratorium on insect-resistant plants (e.g. Bt crops) and a
de-facto one year moratorium on herbicide-resistant plants. The British
government has apparently come to an agreement with the biotech industry in
the UK that they will not apply for authorisation of Bt or
herbicide-resistant plants during this time period.

* In late-October Greenpeace Germany released an internal memo issued by
the Raiffeisen Co-operative in Baden Württenberg. Raiffeisen, one of the
EU's biggest grain merchants, announced that they will refuse to accept
deliveries of genetically modified maize from farmers. Grain handlers,
animal feed dealers, and cooking oil suppliers all over Europe are coming
under increasing pressure from supermarkets, consumer groups, and food
producers to supply them with guaranteed "GMO-free" ingredients.

* In a speech delivered at a sugar industry trade meeting in the U.K.
experts warned that the forthcoming export of non-segregated (GE mixed with
non-GE) sugar from the US by Cargill and other commodity traders will
likely set off a major controversy. "Current regulations in the sugar
trade Associations make no mention of genetically modified quality," said
Jonathan Drake, of Cargill's Geneva-based sugar trading office. In a speech
prepared for an International Sugar Organization seminar, Drake warned that
"Whether it [American sugar] will be freely accepted at destination is
still unknown and perhaps dependent on labelling restrictions. EU officials
may be quick to impose some restrictions in the wake of all the food scares
in Europe."

* Hungarian protesters took to the streets on November 18, in front of the
Ministry of Agriculture to pressure government authorities drafting final
implementation legislation
for Hungary's genetic engineering law (coming into force January 1, 1999).
Chanting "Ne Kukoricazz a Kukicoret!" ("Don't Cream the Corn!),
Environmental activists from five NGOs (including ELTE Nature Conservation
Club and Energy Club) inflated a 6-meter high helium balloon of a corncob
with bar-code, in front of the Ministry of Agriculture. Protesters are
demanding a complete moratorium on the growth, use, and importation of
genetically-modified plants, animals, and foodstuffs in Hungary.

* In the United States there are recent reports among agronomists of
problems with Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" Cotton in Mississippi, North
Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona. In addition informed sources in
Arizona report that Bt cotton is failing to repel pink bollworms, a major
cotton pest. Lagging sales of Monsanto's Bt corn seeds in the Midwest have
already forced the company to slash prices by 30%.

* In the US, according to the April 1998 journal, Cotton Grower, Bt-cotton
growers in Arkansas had less than a banner year last season. A University
of Arkansas study of several Bt and non-Bt cotton fields showed that on
average Bt cotton yielded fewer pounds and lower income per acre. One farm
showed a remarkable difference in yield--Bt cotton produced 168 fewer
pounds per acre than the non-Bt variety. Bt cotton, on the farms studied,
yielded an average of 24 fewer pounds per acre. Also, the new varieties
required more growth regulator to synchronize plant development and had to
be picked twice. Non-Bt cotton is typically picked only once.

Also in Arkansas, on Nov. 24, seven farmers filed legal complaints against
Monsanto, claiming that they were sold soybean seed with low germination
rates. The complaints, filed with the Arkansas State Plant Board, involve
several seed varieties that utilize Monsanto's Roundup Ready gene
technology.

* In Maine on Nov. 20, pressure from the Green Party and other citizens
groups caused Monsanto to withdraw its application to register and grow its
genetically engineered corn in the state.

* Beginning October 31, more than 140 restaurants nationwide joined
Greenpeace USA in calling on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to
require labels on genetically engineered foods. These restaurants will
distribute information on the dangers of transgenic foods, including a
postcard that customers can send to the FDA to support a lawsuit calling
for labeling.

"As a chef who is concerned about food quality, I want to be able to serve
my customers the purest foods I can find," said Peter Hoffman, chef of the
New York restaurant Savoy and board member of the national organization
Chefs Collaborative 2000. "This means locally grown food from farmers I
trust, not untested foods which may harm my customers." Chefs Collaborative
is a non-profit membership organization of 1500 chefs across America who
are dedicated to the ethic of sustainable cuisine.

* On Nov. 26 activists calling themselves the "California Croppers"
destroyed a test plot of Novartis Bt corn on the campus of the University
of California at Berkeley. In a communique the Croppers warned Novartis and
other biotech companies that further GE test plots were likely to come
under attack. The Biotic Baking Brigade also struck again on November 23,
throwing pies at a University of California official and an executive from
Novartis.

* On November 18, the industry journal Chemical Week reported that
cash-strapped Monsanto is trying to sell its controversial chemical
sweetener, NutraSweet. Although the artificial sweetener has generated
enormous profits for Searle, Monsanto's drug subsidiary, over the years, it
has also generated thousands of complaints from consumers who claim that
NutraSweet has damaged their health. Chemical Week also cited Wall Street
analysts who report that Monsanto is also trying to sell its even more
controversial genetically engineered animal drug, the recombinant Bovine
Growth Hormone. So far there are no companies willing to buy rBGH.

* In yet another public relations setback for Monsanto (and Rupert
Murdock's Fox Television network), fired Florida investigative reporters
Jane Akre and Steve Wilson were presented a prestigious Ethics Award from
the US Society of Professional Journalists for their investigative
reporting on Monsanto's Bovine Growth Hormone. Akre and Wilson were fired
by the Fox network last year after Monsanto claimed the two had produced a
bias report on the controversial animal drug. On December 16, Wilson and
Akre will be receiving the Joe Callaway Award from the Shafeek Nader Trust
for "civic courage" in Washington, D.C.

* In addition to receiving continuing adverse publicity in the US from
harassing and prosecuting 480 farmers for the "crime" of saving seeds (see
Food Bytes #13) Monsanto now faces an a potentially even more explosive
situation in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada. According to a
Saskatchewan newspaper, the Western Producer, Monsanto has filed legal
charges against a Saskatchewan farmer, Percy Schmeiser, for growing Roundup
Ready canola without a license. But Schmeiser claims he's innocent and that
Monsanto is the guilty party. He says that his farm has been contaminated
by genetic material which has drifted from the fields of adjoining farmers
who are growing genetically engineered canola. "It's in the ditches and the
roadsides; it's in the shelter belts; it's in the gardens; it's all over,"
said Schmeiser. If Schmeiser ends up facing Monsanto in court, he says he
going to be putting the company's genetically altered crops and patents on
trial.

* And finally in Canada, the government announced on December 4 that it
will not be giving approval to Monsanto's rBGH--at least for the
foreseeable future. In an enormous controversy that will simply not go
away, federal Health Canada officials have been exposed in the national
media for conspiring with Monsanto to get the drug approved, despite
objections by the government's own scientists--who warn that the drug has
not been proven safe--and strenuous objections by farmers and consumer
groups. Previous reports in the media have pointed out that Monsanto
offered two million dollars to government health officials in exchange for
speedy approval of rBGH, while shortly thereafter dissident scientists
files' were burglarized and documents damaging to Monsanto were stolen.
Several years ago Monsanto threatened to pull all investments out of Canada
if rBGH were not approved, and has threatened the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation for airing stories critical of the company's strong-arm tactics.

Pressure continues to build across the globe for an internationally
coordinated anti-Monsanto Campaign. Stay tuned to Food Bytes for further
details.

### End of Food Bytes #15###