WEEKLY WATCH number 191 (7/9/2006)

from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor

Dear all:

As if America's gift to the world of illegal GM rice weren't enough (GM RICE CONTAMINATION SCANDAL), now it seems another illegal GM rice, this time from China, has appeared on our shelves. And if Chinese media reports are to be believed, it's all down to the arrogance and ambition of one man. (EUROPE)

Farmers are paying a heavy price for GM contamination. US rice farmers are said to have lost $150 million in just the first 2 days of the GM rice crisis, and they're far from alone when it comes to GM.

There have long been complaints from US corn farmers about GM leading to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars a year in exports to the EU. And now a report out of Iowa State University says US soybean exports to the EU have also "dropped to almost economically insignificant levels." Before GM, the EU was the US's largest overseas customer for its soybeans. (THE AMERICAS)

Finally, yet another major GM showcase project for Africa has gone belly up. A much hyped GM cassava has unexpectedly lost the virus resistance that it had been claimed would increase harvests by 50% and deliver food security to Africa. (AFRICA)

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




The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center has announced it has received a $15 million gift from Monsanto. The article announcing the donation in Monsanto's home-town newspaper, the St Louis Post-Dispatch, is a perfect illustration of how public relations triumph over reality when it comes to GM.

The article says half Monsanto's money will be used to "fuel work in Africa".

The example of such work given in the article is the Danforth Center's work on cassava - "the most important food security crop in Africa, one that keeps farmers from starvation when the main crop fails."

The article goes on: "But in the last decade, a plant virus has swept across eastern Africa and decimated the cassava crop. Danforth Center scientists have engineered a virus-resistant cassava, but have not yet surmounted political hurdles that have kept them from field testing the engineered cassava."

The conclusion could not be clearer - Danforth Center scientists have genetically engineered resistance to a virus that devastates a crop vital to Africa's food security, and only misplaced political hurdles are standing in its way.

But this is a complete fiction. As Mariam Mayet of the Africa Centre for Biosafety recently revealed (see next item), the Danforth Center's GM cassava unexpectedly lost any resistance it had to the virus some time ago. In other words, the Center's flagship project for Africa had come to a grinding halt not because of any political obstacles but because it's turned out to be a dud (more details below). That, however, hasn't stopped its continuing use for public relations purposes!

Mariam Mayet of the Africa Centre for Biosafety reports on the failure of the Monsanto-backed Danforth Center's research on GM cassava. The Danforth Center has been heavily involved in a Disease-Resistant Cassava for Kenya Project, with funding from USAID, for the past seven years.

However, on the 26 May 2006, the Danforth Center quietly announced that it had discovered that its GM virus-resistant varieties of cassava had lost resistance to the African cassava mosaic virus (CMVD).

This failure demolishes the claim on the Danforth Center's website that "transgenic plants developed at the Danforth Center have demonstrated strong resistance to the disease in greenhouse trials over multiple years."

It also undermines plans to push Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to test GM cassava under field conditions. Clearly, the promises held out by the Danforth Center are no longer credible: "the project will help 200,000 Kenyan cassava farmers and their families and increase cassava harvests by 50% on a sustainable basis." Similar benefits are promised to neighbouring Uganda and to millions of farmers throughout Africa.

And this isn't the first big GM showcase project to fail in this way. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6979

"Can science feed Africa?" was one of the big events at the British Association's Festival of Science this week in the UK. But looking at the contributors to Tuesday's event, you might think Africa deserves better.

Speakers included Prof David Baulcombe of the Sainbury Laboratory of the John Innes Centre, who claimed to be helping the audience "discover the technology that promotes environmental sustainability and the development of rural economies."

It was Prof Baulcombe who was the inspiration for our character Prof Bullsh*t. This was after Baulcombe misled another meeting with a series of wildly inaccurate claims about GM.

Baulcombe's misinformation included a claim that US government research had shown that Bt crops brought "enormous environmental benefits", including "an increase in the diversity of insect life, ... a corresponding increase in the diversity of small mammal life and a corresponding increase in the diversity of birds of prey in those areas of the United States [where Bt crops were grown]."

All of this turned out to be a complete fiction. What Baulcombe presented as offici

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