Battered Gene Giants Seek to Conquer Asia

Battered Gene Giants Seek
to Conquer Asia

The Hindu (India)
January 19, 2002

BY: Harichandan A.A.

BANGALORE, JAN 18. Opposition to genetically modified (GM) food is
strong in the European Union and is gaining ground even in the U.S., which
accounts for close to 70 per cent of all GM crops grown, owing to concerns
on effects on health and environment, says GeneWatch, an NGO in the U.K.,
which is for more open debate on GM technologies.

So, are agri-biotech companies focussing on Asia to expand markets?
Yes, says Sue Mayer, Director, GeneWatch, and member of the Agriculture
Environment and Biotechnology Commission. Dr. Mayer, who was part of
the British delegation which participated in the recently-concluded India-U.K.
Science Festival, spoke to The Hindu on the developments in the E.U. and
the U.S. that have a bearing on the future of GM crops in Asia.

While no new GM foods were given approval for cultivation, import, or
consumption in the year 2000 in Europe, India will soon see large-scale
commercialisation of Bt cotton (Monsanto's transgenic cotton variety,
said to have pest resistance).

India is strategically important'' to Monsanto for cotton, says Dr. Mayer.
India, Indonesia, China and Thailand are among the Asian countries that
are very important to GM food companies.''

While GM crops are selling well in the U.S., there is evidence that
resistance is growing, especially in the absence of a strong monitoring
system. This was demonstrated when StarLink, a GM maize variety
from Aventis, was found in taco shells, meant for human consumption
while it was approved only for animal feed. Starlink also contained a
toxin that shared characteristics with many human allergens. Public
distrust of governments in the EU has been stoked by the fact that the
governments have been dominated by an unquestioning commitment
to biotechnology as a key driver of industrial competitiveness.''

Yet, the slowdown in large-scale cultivation is apparent from the fact that
in 2000, the cultivation of commercial GM crop grew by 11 per cent globally,
compared to 1999 when cultivation had increased at a rate of 44 per cent
from 27.8 million hectares in 1998 to 39.9 million hectares in 1999. The
trend continued in 2001.

Finding markets in Asia then, would take priority.

The fact that there is little informed public debate on such issues is
perhaps another reason that India is strategic to the GM crops companies.
In the E.U., for example, concerns about health have led to a demand for
labelling of GM food and ensure traceability - knowledge of where a GM
food product was coming from and where it was going. There is a demand
now to include derivatives'' too - for example, soyabeen oil, which by itself
contains no GM material but could have been extracted from GM soyabeen.
The GM crop companies have lobbied hard to make use of GM food a
consumer choice.

Home | News | Organics | GE Food | Health | Environment | Food Safety | Fair Trade | Peace | Farm Issues | Politics
Español | Campaigns | Buying Guide | Press | Search | Donate | About Us | Contact Us

Organic Consumers Association - 6771 South Silver Hill Drive, Finland MN 55603
E-mail: Staff · Activist or Media Inquiries: 218-226-4164 · Fax: 218-353-7652
Please support our work. Send a tax-deductible donation to the OCA

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.