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WEEKLY WATCH number 136 (11/8/2005)

from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor
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Dear all:

In a mystery worthy of investigation by Sherlock Holmes, the GM contamination of native Mexican maize varieties found four years ago and confirmed by Mexican government studies since has, er... vanished, according to controversial new research (THE AMERICAS).

But far from vanishing, there's yet more evidence this week of GM contamination of China's rice market (ASIA), while Australia is facing "the most serious genetic contamination event" in its history (AUSTRALASIA).

Don't miss news of a new study on Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, which shows its astonishing efficiency in wiping out frogs and tadpoles (NEW RESEARCH), even at very low concentrations. But it's proving far less effective against weeds! (THE AMERICAS)

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

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CONTENTS
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THE AMERICAS
AFRICA
EUROPE
ASIA
AUSTRALASIA
NEW RESEARCH
LOBBYWATCH
FOOD SAFETY
CORPORATE CRIMES
QUOTE OF THE WEEK

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THE AMERICAS
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+ GM GENES IN MEXICAN MAIZE JUST DISAPPEAR!
Four years ago, researchers David Quist and Ignacio Chapela found that native Mexican maize in Oaxaca had been contaminated by GM genes. Now, new research has apparently found that the contamination has simply "disappeared".

After analyzing seeds from about 870 plants in Oaxaca in 2003 and 2004, researchers from Mexico and the US say in a paper that appeared online this week in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that they found no evidence of transgenes in these indigenous varieties.

The research has been heavily spun with the lead researcher, Allison Snow, a professor at Ohio State University, claiming that findings based on 870 plants from one part of Mexico mean, "Mexican farmers who don't want transgenes in their crops will be relieved to find out that these uninvited genes seem to have disappeared."

+ HOW COME THE DOG DIDN'T BARK?
Allison Snow says the researchers were surprised by their results. And well they might be!

When Quist and Chapela's research was first published, it was attacked for all kinds of reasons but few critics sought to deny that the contamination was a reality. In fact, some of Chapela's critics sought to attack his research as merely a statement of the blindingly obvious.

Nick Kaplinsky who was reckoned Dr Chapela's toughest critic described the claim that there was transgenic corn growing in Mexico as a "no-brainer."

And according to referees for the journal Nature, who looked at the criticisms of scientists like Kaplinsky, "none of the comments has successfully disproven their [Chapela and Quist's] main result that transgenic corn is growing in Mexico and crossing with local varieties".

But now, it seems, as Allison Snow puts it, "these uninvited genes seem to have disappeared."

Ignacio Chapela says, "It's very difficult to believe that contamination has disappeared. Barely two years after we said we found it, they say it's gone. One of those two statements has to be wrong."

And it wasn't only Chapela who said the contamination was there. Two other studies pointed to widespread contamination.

And such contamination is hardly surprising. US GM corn has poured across the border as Allison Snow admits, "There is great potential for transgenes to come across the U.S. border, with millions of tons of GM grain imported each year for processed food and animal feed."

And yet we're asked to believe that Mexican farmers have stopped planting any of the imported seed even though it's so much cheaper (20-30%) for them to use than any local seed.

Allison Snow and her co-researchers have also suggested that perhaps the GM grain found there just wasn't that hardy and so died out. It's hard to take at face value a statement that claims that you can weed-out a "gene" from a population within a single generation or two.

What's also surprising is that among the researchers saying the contamination has simply disappeared are people who only a year ago were publicly saying there was contamination!

Quist and Chapela have pointed out, "three of the authors in this paper have made many categorical public representations prior to this paper which lie in diametrical contradiction to the negative results paper presented in PNAS. Although their statements were never published in a peer-reviewed journal, we must presume that those contradictory categorical statements were based on real samples and analyses."

Abstract of the paper
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5599
Articles and press releases:
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5597
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5586
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5589
Quist and Chapela's initial reponse:
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5599

+ INDUSTRY SPIN ON NEW MAIZE STUDY
The industry's spin on the latest Mexican maize study was syndicated across America on the day of publication, thanks to an article authored out of Monsanto's home town rag - the St Louis Post Dispatch.

According to the paper, "Barbara Schaal, a Washington University plant biologist, said the study raised doubts as to whether there ever was gene flow in the first place."

So now the contamination hasn't just disappeared int

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