THE WEEKLY WATCH number 11 (19/12/2002)

19 December 2002


from Andy Rees, the WEEKLY WATCH editor
Dear all

Welcome to WEEKLY WATCH no 11, bringing you all the latest news in brief on the GM issue.

WEEKLY WATCH has come a long way in just 11 issues, and your support and feedback have played a vital role in that.  Please keep it up!  The GM WATCH team have lots of interesting developments in the pipeline that we will be sharing with you in the New Year, so stay tuned...

There won't be a WEEKLY WATCH next week because of the holidays, so the next WATCH will be around January 3rd. This will be the GMWATCH roundup of the last month's news because in 2003 WEEKLY WATCH subscribers will be getting this around the end of each month instead of that week's WEEKLY WATCH.

I hope that's clear! And that you enjoy WW11. As always, please try and circulate it far and wide.

Enjoy the holidays!
Andy <[email protected]>

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - Monsanto's meltdown/Malawian farmers/EU GM ban
ARTICLE OF THE WEEK - Roundup resistance threatens land values
QUOTE OF THE WEEK - Dear Ambassador

Monsanto's president resigns; shares fall
The Monsanto meltdown continues apace. Hendrik Verfaillie has just resigned as the corporation's President, because of its poor performance. Apparently, for the first nine months of the year, Monsanto lost $1.75 billion, or $6.67 per share, compared to a profit of $399 million, or $1.51 per share, a year ago. Sales for the nine months declined 19 percent to $3.45 billion from $4.25 billion. In October, Monsanto lowered its forecast for earnings for all of 2002, citing a continued decline in U.S. sales of Roundup (see also ARTICLE OF THE WEEK on Roundup problems) as well as lower-than-expected sales and bad debt in Argentina, where the economy has been in collapse. Verfaillie created the "New Monsanto Corporation" with its pledge to transparency, integrity, and respect for the company's critics, while in reality presiding over probably the worst period of covert dirty tricks operations even Monsanto has ever seen.
on Monsanto's dirty tricks campaign:
Chardon LL maize given the all clear by ACRE & ACNFP
Britain could be back on track towards approving the country's first GM seeds for sale, after 2 UK advisory committes, including the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE), gave Chardon LL GM maize seeds, the all clear.  Friends of the Earth said, "This GM crop should never have been approved in the first place.  The result is that a GM crop with serious safety question marks hanging over it is allowed on to our plates and to be grown in our countryside."
France won't back the lifting of EU GM ban
France will not back the lifting of an effective ban by the EU on new GM crop approvals, until new labelling and traceability laws are in place, which could take until at least the end of 2003.
Fears of Malawian farmers planting GM relief-aid maize
A critical shortage of maize seed has hit Malawi, raising fears that some farmers may be forced to plant GM relief aid maize donated by the US. It was widely suspected that when USAID only offered GM maize and refused to mill it that the hope was that it would end up being planted - as had happened in Mexico. Now Monsanto, who own most of the seed industry in the region, mysteriously seems to have run out of conventional maize seed in Malawi (how  convenient!). According to an article in Malawi's paper, 'The Nation', "We have reached a point where farmers are laying their hands on any seed they can find and planting of GM maize cannot be ruled out." It also quotes seeds sales group PTC's general manager as saying all its shops had run out of maize seed because its supplier, Monsanto is unable to fulfil its orders. "We make huge sells of maize seed... [around this time of year]," he says, "but now we simply don't have any of it on our shelves. We are yet to get an explanation from the supplier."
Guardian columnist, George Monbiot is among those who have predicted just this type of scenario.
Washington State bans GM salmon
Washington State has taken a bold step to protect the environment by permanently banning genetically engineered fish. Scientists from Purdue University determined that if just 60 transgenic salmon escaped from fish farms, the wild population could become extinct in 40 generations.  Several hundred thousand Atlantic salmon have escaped from fish farms in Washington State in recent years," said Friends of the Earth. "Simply engineering designer fish and dropping them into our public waterways puts already endangered salmon at greater risk of extinction."
Philippine politicians sniff corruption over approval of Bt corn
In the Philippines, opposition party Bayan Muna will appeal to the Agriculture Secretary to place his final approval of the commercialisation of Monsanto's Bt corn on hold, until an independent study on its safety is carried out.  They noted that persistent questions on the impartiality and transparency of the evaluation process, and mounting opposition from the public, merit a probe into the government regulators who evaluated and approved its commercialisation. "The evaluation process was shrouded with charges that the government based its recommendations mainly on data supplied by Monsanto, while totally ignoring the train of scientific evidence showing that Bt corn may trigger a variety of environment food and health hazards," they said.
http://ngin.tripod.com/191202c.htm ??

Roundup resistance threatens land values in US
The US is being hit by Roundup Ready resistant weeds, and the GM WATCH team has exposed how an independent market research study is warning that Roundup Ready resistance is set to hit the economic value of farmland, wiping around 17% off US land rentals. What's more, 46% of the farm managers surveyed in the study said weed resistance to glyphosate is now their top weed-resistance concern. As the report notes, "The high volume of glyphosate being used across the country, as a result of RR technology adoption [arising from Monsanto's herbicide resistant GM crops], makes this a very real concern for growers, professional farm managers and the owners of farmland."

Glyphosate-resistant marestail has already been found in Delaware, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio; marestail is a prolific seed producer whose seeds are easily blown around by the wind.  Glyphosate-resistant rigid ryegrass has been reported in California.  Waterhemp seems to be showing more tolerance to glyphosate in Iowa and Missouri. There are also complaints about control of velvetleaf, ivyleaf morning glory and lambsquarters with glyphosate.

An article reporting on the Weed Science Society meeting concludes Roundup resistance could spell big problems for this type of farming, "With few, if any, new blockbuster chemicals in the pipeline, the question may become whether there will be alternative programs to switch to if glyphosate loses its effectiveness."

Among the other conclusions in the report commissioned by Syngenta are:
* 63% of these professional farm managers expect the importance of glyphosate tolerance to increase in the future, when determining rental values and land appraisals, because of the increasing adoption of RR technology in corn, soybeans and cotton.
* 47% now require practices to manage weed resistance... This is expected to grow to 54% in the future
* 70% said the use of weed resistance-management practices already influence their tenant selection.

Syngenta's 10-page 'White Paper' describing the research and the results is available as a pdf (requires Acrobat) on line:

We're giving this spot over this week to part of a very powerful open letter to Tony Hall, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The full statement can be read at the following link where there are also details of how to sign on to it:


Dear Ambassador Hall,

We the undersigned citizens of many countries on every continent deplore your inflammatory remarks (Reuters News Service, December 9) suggesting that African leaders who reject genetically engineered food aid should be tried "for the highest crimes against humanity in the highest courts of the world."

This reckless comment reeks of hypocrisy and bad political judgment and has no legal basis in international law. It serves only to further damage the reputation of the U.S. government already suffering for its unilateral, aggressive and abusive foreign policy. An apology is in order.

The U.S. has never supported the highest court in the world, the U.N.-sponsored International Criminal Court. To the contrary, it sought to prevent its existence and since its establishment in July 2002, the U.S. has used intense diplomatic pressure to weaken its implementation by other countries. To invoke this institution now in challenging Zambia and other African nations over their sovereign right to reject foods that European countries and many others have similarly rejected is utterly disingenuous.

In fact, the only country depriving Africans of much-needed food relief is the U.S., when it insists that its donation of $51 million be spent ONLY for U.S.-sourced grains. The purchase of non-genetically engineered food from other African countries, Brazil, China, Hungary, Russia and other regions as yet free of genetic contamination would readily alleviate the impending famines and at the same time stimulate agricultural productivity and economic development in these regions. In fact, some 70% of all corn produced in the U.S. is still not genetically engineered - so we could even procure what the Africans prefer from our own farmers.

You criticize African leaders for protecting their people, while our government sends food aid containing StarLinkTM, a variety of genetically engineered corn that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved for human consumption in this country. Perhaps the U.S. should be tried for this crime against humanity.

Why should Zambians be expected to eat food that Americans, Europeans and others will not? Why should any people be expected to eat food that has not been adequately tested by the manufacturers or the U.S. government for safety in humans, especially if this untested food will comprise two-thirds of their daily caloric intake?  Why should Zambians ingest genetically engineered corn that may affect the stomach lining and cause allergies, and contains an antibiotic-resistant gene - when their immune systems are already weakened by malnutrition?

Your crude remarks seem intended to divert attention from a far more troubling issue: the political reasons that the U.S. government is foisting genetically modified corn on people in need around the world, not just in drought-stricken Africa, when supplies of conventional grain are available.
The U.S. has a corn surplus here, because genetically engineered foods are rejected in many commercial markets. Do you also propose that the leaders of these countries be tried for high crimes against the U.S.?

A cynical food aid strategy that dumps unsaleable corn in vulnerable communities, relieves the U.S. of these burdensome stocks while giving Monsanto and other biotechnology companies a boost by destroying competing sources of non-genetically engineered grains from the world marketplace.

[Read the rest here: http://ngin.tripod.com/191202d.htm]

According to a recent study in the US consumer opinions are not what agribiz would have us believe:

* More shoppers purchased organic foods in 2002 than ever before; with just under 40% purchasing the organic version of their favourite foods.

* Nearly half American shoppers from the baby boom generation find GM foods unacceptable - 46% found them unacceptable, 37% acceptable.

* 65% still feel that scientists don't know enough yet to control the effects of genetic engineering.

* 60% would like to know if the foods they eat have GM components. http://ngin.tripod.com/171202a.htm

Other stats:

The US produces some two-thirds of the world's GM crops.

30% of US corn in 2002 was GM. Some 71% of US cotton is GM and 75% of US soybeans.

New EU GM labelling regulations could affect more than $4 billion in US agricultural trade.

Mexico allows GM foods to be imported as long as they are labelled, but the planting of GM crops has not been allowed. The fear that GMOs could end up affecting the native corn is a paramount concern. Corn has it origins in Mexico and is the staple food for much of the population. A recent survey indicated 40% of Mexicans are opposed to GM crops with 20% undecided.

Sex selection, 'Designer babies,' and Human cloning
This is based on information from Human Genetics Alert and from the newsletter of the Center for Genetics and Society

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates some reproductive technologies, is currently consulting the public about sex selection.  The consultation covers all three types of sex selection: 1) pre-natal testing and termination of pregnancy, 2) pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and selection of embryos (PGD), and 3) sperm sorting - the selection of sperm carrying either an X or Y chromosome.  The HFEA does not currently allow PGD for non-medical sex selection. No legislation in the UK addresses sperm sorting, and UK fertility clinics are now marketing it to Indian communities. The HFEA is considering three options: that sperm sorting be banned, be allowed but regulated, or be allowed to continue without regulations.  In the US, no federal laws or regulations cover sex selection.

Human Genetics Alert believes that sex selection should not be permitted. It is important to realise that this is not 'just another government consultation'.  If sex selection is permitted in the UK, it will be impossible to draw a clear line against the use of genetic technology to select or engineer human beings for other characteristics such as appearance, height, IQ, etc.  The door to 'designer babies' will have been thrown wide open.  Sex selection by sperm sorting, is the main focus of concern, as it will be impossible to logically oppose the use of PGD for the same purposes, even though two previous HFEA consultations have explicitly rejected this.

More countries, including Australia and Norway, have prohibited human cloning. Canada and other countries are considering legislation to establish comprehensive oversight of new human genetic and reproductive technologies.

And the UN has taken the first steps towards an historic international convention banning unacceptable applications of human cloning technology.

At the same time, the development of technologies that pave the way for new forms of genetic discrimination and high-tech eugenics continues. Important efforts to craft responsible social policy have been delayed.  Of special concern, are repeated claims by rogue scientists like Severino Antinori that the births of cloned children are imminent. If these claims are true and a cloned child is born sometime soon, world leaders and world civil society will need to ensure that laws prohibiting further human cloning are enacted in short order.

A group of 15 mostly European academics and bioethicists has released a signed statement declaring their belief that it would be ethically acceptable to create genetically modified children, provided the procedure was "safe and effective."

We urge you to visit Human Genetics Alert's web site at
http://www.hgalert.org/whatsnew/ for more information on sex selection and the HFEA consultation, and for an electronic postcard to the HFEA to express your views on sex selection.

India's Environment Minister has just claimed the Bt cotton crop a success, that it had shown 'encouraging' results in the first year of planting.  What he didn't divulge was that the 'teams' appraising the crop comprised the same people who were part of the approval process; how can the officials of Department of Biotechnology be asked to monitor the performance of the crop in which they have such a vested interest?  However, within days, the president of the Indian Seed Industry Association has accepted that the "performance of Bt cotton has not been up to the mark."  The Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security has from the very beginning dubbed the entire exercise as 'the greatest scientific fraud' in independent India's history.

Prof CS Prakash has launched a financial appeal for the pro-GM AgBioWorld listserv, "HOW YOU CAN HELP AGBIOVIEW CONTINUE" (Dec 17 2002).  In it he states, "The AgBioWorld network has quickly mobilized scientific experts to add rational and informed participation and content to fast-breaking news and hot topics including the Monarch Butterfly and Mexican Maize media frenzies with such dramatic results as the disavowal by one prestigious scientific journal of published research demonstrated to be flawed."  This is doubly interesting as (a) AgBioView didn't become an active list till the spring of 2000 while the Losey Monarch Butterfly research was published in the spring of 1999, and (b) what was quickly mobilized on AgBioView re the Mexican Maize study was not the "rational and informed participation" of "scientific experts" but a hate campaign orchestrated via 2 e-mail fronts traced directly to Monsanto and its PR firm Bivings, with the likes of Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute in support.  If you would like to support those working to expose this kind of hype and deceit, please see the very end of this newsletter.  For more on AgBioWorld: http://ngin.tripod.com/deceit_index.html

"Labelling is not knowledge nor a surrogate for food safety... nor is it a reflection of consumer values" - Karil Kokenderfer of the Grocery Manufacturers of America.

The European approach (to GM labelling), said Terry Medley, vice president of global regulatory affairs for DuPont Agriculture and Nutrition, will not enhance public confidence as it is intended.  "It will cause more trouble and distrust," he said.

HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the NGIN archive
18 December 2002
Monsanto and Maize seed shortage in Malawi
France does not expect end of GM ban
Human genetics - news and a call for action
Monsanto meltdown - Roundup resistant weeds threaten major cash impact on land values in US
17 December 2002
Almost half US shoppers find GM foods unacceptable
GM corn and US aid
GM rice off the menu
Chardon LL maize
Tewolde on Ethiopia's predicted food crisis
13 December 2002
FrankenFish Ban/Dow/Syngenta/Brazil
Farmers' rights/Farmers' varieties
Malawi should have rejected GM maize - experts
Greenpeace founder calls extremists 'anti-human'
The Three Mile Island of Biotech?

FOR THE COMPLETE NGIN ARCHIVE: http://ngin.tripod.com/nginlist.htm

Please see the end of REPORT OF THE WEEK for details of the important campaign on sex selection by Human Genetics Alert.

Please see quote of the week for a sign on statement re the food aid crisis.

To subscribe to the 'GMW daily' list
send an e-mail to [email protected] with the message:
'subscribe GMW daily'
You'll receive up to 30 mails a week

To subscribe to the 'WEEKLY WATCH'
send an e-mail to [email protected] with the message:
'subscribe WEEKLY WATCH'
You'll receive 1 mail a week with a news roundup
Those subscribed to the daily list will receive the WEEKLY WATCH

To subscribe to 'GMWATCH' (monthly)
send an e-mail to [email protected] with the message:
'subscribe GMWATCH'
You'll receive 1 mail a month with a news roundup
Those subscribed to the daily bulletins and WEEKLY WATCH will receive
GMWATCH automatically

To unsubscribe to any of the the NGIN lists:
just mail us saying 'unsubscribe' and specifying which list

archived at:

NGIN website:

How to contribute to NGIN's anti-viral marketing!

Please just print off the information below and send it with your cheque or International Money Order made out to 'NGIN' to this address: NGIN, 26 Pottergate, Norwich, NR2 1DX, United Kingdom

I enclose a cheque for ___________



Please send a postal acknowledgement of this donation:  YES/NO

To save costs please acknowledge electronically only:   YES/NO

If you would prefer to make a bank transfer, please e-mail us for details.


Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive