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WEEKLY WATCH number 84 - and monthly review (5/8/2004)

from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor
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There's a subtle but interesting development in the way biotech proponents push GM for the third world. Like contaminated meat buried in a hamburger, GM is being bracketed with widely accepted or vaguely-defined "goods" like irrigation and "modern agricultural technologies" in the hope that the entire package will be swallowed without question. The increasing use of this grimy used-car salesman technique (get the customer to confirm their name is Smith, and to agree that the weather has turned cold, and they're more likely to acquiesce to your next suggestion that they buy the car) points to the lack of genuine success stories from the biotech camp and is testament to the industry's growing desperation (see FOCUS ON AFRICA).

In the US, a second county has voted to ban the production of GM crops and animals, and there are more ballots in the pipeline (see NORTH AMERICA). But industry's main focus is on the federal government. In the run-up to the election, the Democrats have recruited a former Monsanto man, lobbyist Toby Moffet, to bring down presidential candidate and people's champion Ralph Nader (see LOBBYWATCH: US ELECTION SPECIAL).

Finally, watch out for some encouraging reviews of Dr Ignacio Chapela's tenure issue and, relatedly, of the damage wrought by Berkeley's controversial academic-industrial partnership with the Swiss GM giant Syngenta - CORPORATE TAKE OVER OF SCIENCE

Claire [email protected]
www.lobbywatch.org / www.gmwatch.org

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CONTENTS
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PHARMING
FARMING
FOCUS ON AFRICA
FOCUS ON ASIA
NORTH AMERICA
EURO-NEWS
CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF SCIENCE
TALES OF TWO GENE SCIENTISTS
LOBBYWATCH: US ELECTION SPECIAL
REST OF THE MONTH'S TOP STORIES
DONATIONS

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PHARMING
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+ USDA TOLD TO DISCLOSE BIOPHARM LOCATIONS IN HAWAII
The federal government must reveal where companies grow GM pharmaceutical crops in Hawaii, a judge ruled on 4 August. Public interest groups are seeking the information to force the government to study the environmental impact of the crops. The government and industry contend public disclosure could lead to crop vandalism and corporate espionage of trade secrets.

US District Judge David Ezra ordered the US Dept of Agriculture to identify where four companies have received permits for open-field testing of pharmaceutical crops in Hawaii and to reveal the locations to the environmental group Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit.

"It's definitely a victory," said Isaac Moriwake, an attorney for Earthjustice. "It's basically an affirmation that the defendants haven't been able to show that this kind of information is confidential."

Ezra gave the USDA another 90 days to prove that releasing the locations to the public would cause irreparable damage to the biotech industry. That step could force biotech companies to look elsewhere to conduct their pharma crop tests, a biotech industry representative said.

Representatives for both sides of the issue said this would be the first time in the US that locations of biopharm tests would be revealed to an outside party. That could set a precedent for similar disclosures in other states and could pave the way for disclosing the locations of all GM crop research.
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4206

+ BAN PLANT-BASED GM PHARMACEUTICALS
Prof Joe Cummins and Dr Mae-Wan Ho call for a global forum and a ban on testing pharm crops, especially in Third World countries.

Excerpt:
There is an urgent need for proper international regulation on the testing and production of plant-based pharmaceuticals. The first step may be a wider discussion of the drawbacks and dangers of plant-based pharmaceuticals as well the "advantages" put forward by proponents in academe and corporations. The overlooked dangers of pharm crops include pharmaceuticals that are toxic, that could produce immune sensitization followed by anaphylaxis, or oral tolerance leading to loss of immunity to pathogens; and general loss of confidence in the food supply.
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Banpharmcrops.php
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4195

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FARMING
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+ GENETICALLY MODIFIED SCAM
An excellent article from Julie Newman, National Spokesperson of the Network of Concerned Farmers, looks at GM crops from an Australian farmer's viewpoint.

Excerpt:
...we have been reassured that consumers will be able to have a choice as coexistence is possible and farmers can market as non-GM if they want to. Wrong again! It has been proven that farmers cannot avoid unwanted GM contamination in our crops. Rather than expect the GM grower to contain their product, the GM industry expected farmers to all market on the consumer rejected GM market to remove opposition and deny consumer choice.

For those of us farmers wanting to market on the consumer preferred "GM-free" market we were expected to tolerate the costs and liabilities involved. We were expected to break the law and market contaminated produce after signing guarantees and indemnities declaring no contamination.
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4197

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FOCUS ON AFRICA
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+ GMOS THE WAY OUT OF HUNGER?
As Kenya faces another famine, "experts" are announcing in the press that irrigation and adoption of GM crops could be the way out of hunger.

An article in the East African Standard says: "Dr [Florence] Wambugu, who was behind the production of the first genetically modified sweet potato in Africa in the early 1990s, says that GMOs are the only way out of the food crises in less developed countries. She says that biotechnology can easily develop drought and pest resistant crops."

Biotechnology can easily develop drought resistant crops? Not according to Professor Tim Flowers, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sussex, who says, "Evaluation of claims that biotechnology can produce salt-tolerant crops reveals that, after ten years of research using transgenic plants to alter salt tolerance, the value of this approach has yet to be established in the field. Biotechnologists have reasons for exaggerating their abilities to manipulate plants. If 'biotechnology' is to contribute tolerant crops, these crops may still be decades from commercial availability. The generation of drought tolerant crops is likely to have a similar period of development."
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=1564

Note how Wambugu, who hyped the now failed GM sweet potato project for years, has to reach beyond GM for biotech success stories: "One example of successful application of biotechnology has been the experiment involving farmers growing tissue-culture bananas in East Africa. Farmers who have participated in the trials have trebled their incomes and doubled their yields."

Recently Wambugu trumpeted another biotech success with eucalyptus trees but the suspicion is that these are also most likely the product of tissue culture and not GM.

Note also that the article links irrigation and biotech as if the availability of water and GM were all part of the same wave of the future!
For more on Wambugu:
http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=131&page=W

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