Thailand/El Salvador/India/Malta/Malaysia/Africa (28/6/2004)

1.Thailand: GM Crop commercial cultivation not likely but US/Monsanto trade pressure
2.El Salvador: anti-GM groups hope to block imports
3.India: new government wants New Green Revolution with GMOs
4.Malta: The monster Monsanto
5.Malaysia: Bio-piracy and law of jungle
6.Africa: No quick fix to Africa's food problems

1.Genetically Modified Crops; Cultivation for commerce not likely, says Suvit
by Ranjana Wangvipula
Bangkok Post, 17 June 2004

Thailand is unlikely to grow genetically modified crops on a commercial scale because of concerns about the economic and environmental impacts, said the Natural Resources and Environment minister.

Suvit Khunkitti said US efforts to persuade Thailand to grow GM crops were a problem, because the European Union, a major importer of Thai produce, is opposed to GM crops while the United States has showed no interest in importing Thai farm produce.

"If the US doesn't open its market, what would be the benefit [of us allowing commercial planting of GM crops]?" Mr Suvit said.

"If the US agrees to open its market for our GM and non-GM crops, it would be okay to talk [on its commercialisation]." Any agreement must also come under bio-safety laws, he said.

Mr Suvit was commenting after meeting the US trade representative on agro-biotechnology business before negotiations on a proposed Free Trade Agreement with the US later this month.

The government has banned commercial farming of GM plants and allows only tests in labs and controlled areas.

Mr Suvit also expressed concern about the possible spread of modified genes to contaminate conventional crops.

US agro-business giant Monsanto, meanwhile, is expected to ask trade negotiators to discuss GM crop issues during the talks to be held on June 28 in Hawaii.

Monsanto Thailand spokesman Kongtat Janchai said it was a usual practice that the government consult and gather ideas from businesses, including biotechnology firms, before it starts talks on a Free Trade Agreement. His company wanted the government to allow open-field trials of GM plants.

Monsanto would grow a test crop of GM corn in Phitsanulok. A local corn gene will be added to a gene obtained from another plant, to make the corn more resistant to pesticides.

Mr Suwit said research on GMO development could be allowed if it was well controlled.

http://www.checkbiotech.org/root/index.cfm?fuseaction=newsletter&topic_id=5& subtopic_id=25&doc_id=8003

2.Salvadoran anti-biotech factions hope to block food imports
Food Chemical News, USA, 21 Jun 2004

Recent attempts by anti-biotech organizations in El Salvador to block imports of bioengineered food products have underscored the country's legal vacuum regarding biotech policy.

Three years ago, a devastating earthquake disrupted the food supply chain in El Salvador, triggering a major influx of food aid, including biotech products. At the time, the need for assistance was so great that the concerns raised by anti-biotech groups took backstage. However, those groups have gained more public attention in this politically charged election year.

El Salvador's National Strategy for Biological Diversity allows experimental planting of biotech cotton but does not permit the planting of other biotech crops. The law does not establish guidelines for importing biotech food products.

Last month, a group of anti-biotechnology organizations calling themselves the Network of Citizens against Transgenics in El Salvador sent samples drawn from food aid and commercially imported food products to laboratories in the United States and Europe. They called for a biotech food ban after transgenic material was detected in samples of bread, cookies, corn flour, soy products and sweet corn.

The Network of Citizens claims that when they presented the agriculture ministry with proof that biotech foods were entering the country in an unregulated manner, they were told that the government does not allow such imports. However, while the government has no policy permitting biotech foods to enter, it also lacks a policy to ban them.

3.India intends to usher New Green Revolution with GM crops
Taja News, 28 June 2003

London: India intends to use Genetically Modified (GM) crops to usher in a new Green Revolution in the country, Kapil Sibal, Science and Technology Minister said today.

'We favour GM crops. This is our Government's policy and we will encourage GM,' Sibal said in an interview to BBC Hindi today.

'Our Bio-Technology department is carrying out large-scale research in this regard and we want the Foreign Venture capitalists to join us and invest in this field.<p align=justify> The research is so extensive that I am sure we will bring a new Green Revolution in India,' he said.

The minister said his ministry would take into confidence other concerned departments on the issue.

'This includes my ministry (Science and Technology) , Agriculture ministry and the Environment ministry. We will sit together, form an inter-ministerial group and then take a decision.

We will present GM seeds to our farmers only after all these concerned departments approve the new technology.'

Asked how the Government would handle the network a few multinational companies had built regarding GM seeds, Sibal said:

'Let the network be there. We will not buy seeds from them. We will develop our own technology and after approval Indian companies will be able to produce those GM seeds.' On the issue of patent, Sibal said, 'The problem is, this process takes a long time because there is not enough human resource. We will hire more people and try and give more patents. There will be trade facilitation so that anybody from inside or outside the country can come and apply for it.' http://www.tajanews.com/noqnews/nnqview.php?ArtID=4004

4.The monster Monsanto
Valletta Times, Malta, Jun 27, 2004

It is among the largest three corporations that are responsible for the development and distribution of 95 per cent of genetically modified organisms (GMOs http://www.timesofmalta.com/core/article.php?id=157716

5.Bio-piracy and law of jungle
New Straits Times, Malaysia - Jun 26, 2004

It's not always gold at the end of the 'green' rainbow. Lots of promises may not necessarily translate into lots of cash

...It is obvious that Malaysia is pinning its hopes on biotechnology. The sector was identified as the new wealth-generating technology under the Eighth Malaysia Plan.

Chee asks if anyone has done an economic viability study on the biotech industry and this is a valid question, considering that on a global scale, all is not well for biotech.

The landmark 1991 bio prospecting between pharmaceutical giant Merk and Costa Rica's National Institute of Biodiversity ended in 1999 after the failure to produce a single commercially viable drug, The Scientist reported last year.


6.No quick fix to Africa's food problems
David Dickson
28 June 2004

African countries require less of an Asian-style 'green revolution' than a 'cultural revolution' involving ideas, attitudes and institutions. This must include, but not be limited to, a belief in science-based innovation.

If United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan had expected a simple answer when he asked scientists two years ago what they could do about the food crisis in Africa, he will have been disappointed when he received their reply last week. The implication behind the way that Annan's question was phrased "how can a 'green revolution' be achieved in Africa?" is that the solution might be found in a set of relatively straightforward scientific and technical innovations in plant breeding. After all, it was the development of new, high-yielding strains of rice and wheat that lay behind the original 'green revolution' that was achieved in Asia and Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. Perhaps Africa could benefit in a similar way?

But, as the scientists' response, which was presented to Annan at a ceremony at the UN  headquarters in New York last Friday, makes clear, Africa is a different case. The response came from a panel established by the InterAcademy Council (IAC), a body set up by scientific academies across the world to provide expert advice to the UN system and other international bodies on science-related issues. As their report, Realizing the promise and potential of African agriculture: Science and technology strategies for improving agricultural productivity and food security in Africa, makes clear, many factors combine to make the alleviation of food shortages in Africa "both acute and chronic " significantly more complex than in Asia.

[the report] emphasises that creating a situation in which the continent is able to provide enough food for its population requires action at many levels.

Some of these are scientific; new, high-yielding crop varieties are certainly needed, and GM foods are likely to have their place, alongside new varieties produced by more conventional breeding techniques. Others range from the need to stem the brain drain of the best and brightest graduates in agricultural sciences, to the political measures required to ensure an adequate 'enabling environment'.

...M. S. Swaminathan, the 'father' of the Green Revolution in India, [was] one of the co-chairs of the IAC panel

see also: Africa urged to double support for agricultural research http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=1457&language=1


$12 million greenhouse signals Kenyan GM commitment http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=1452&language=1

The opening of a research facility in Kenya underscores the country's commitment to become a regional leader in biotechnology.

Brazil's biosafety law stalls in the Senate
Food Chemical News, USA, 14 June 2004

The biosafety bill, which was crafted by the executive branch in an attempt to eliminate the thriving black market in soybean seeds in southern Brazil, was passed as an urgent measure by Brazil's lower chamber in February (see FCN Feb. 2, Page 5). But the bill is now being handled under ordinary procedure in the Senate, opening the door to prolonged debate and discussion.

Plus, there is now increasing speculation that the Brazilian Senate has unofficially suspended debate of the biosafety law altogether. Legislators are reluctant to tackle biotech commercialization in an election year.

Negative impact on seed sales

The Brazilian Association of Seed Producers (Abrasem) predicts that by the end of this month growers will have placed orders for only 70% of the soybean seeds to be planted in the upcoming growing season in the southern hemisphere.

The delay is most pronounced in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where growers are concerned about inaction on the biosafety law. They fear that if the law is not passed, anti-biotech factions will use the court system and state legislatures to block commercialization of biotech soybeans as they have in the past (see FCN Oct. 20, Page 18). During the 2003-04 growing season, approximately 80% of the soybeans planted in that state were biotech varieties, all of which were procured from informal sources rather than legitimate seed companies.

Growers in southern Brazil are pressing hard for amendments to the draft biosafety law. They generally disapprove of the additional bureaucratic hurdles that the law puts in place for approving commercialization ofbiotech crops, including the  creation of a 15-member ministerial committee that can overrule the recommendations of the National Biosafety Commission.

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