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News from Romania, Thailand, Philippines, USA, Chile, Finland and Australia (29/8/2007)

NOTE: All the following items are taken from the excellent news page of GM-free Ireland.

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Who sells GMO's in Romania?
Hot News (Romania), 29 August 2007
http://www.gmfreeireland.org/news/index.php

29 August 2007 
[Extract:]

Most Romanians (67%) refuse to consume genetically modified food with the highest rates of rejection reported in the southern regions of Oltenia, Muntenia and Dobrogea, according to a recent survey commanded by Greenpeace Romania.

Regardless of the fact that the Romanian law requires that all the food products containing more than 0.9% GMOs should be labeled as such, and that some supermarket chains in Romania claim they're not selling such products, the sale of GMO products is not excluded.

Read the article: http://english.hotnews.ro/Who-sells-GMO's-in-Romania-articol_45761.htm
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Thailand: Let rationality decide GMO debate
The bio-safety law must be enacted before field trials on genetically modified crops can resume
The Nation (Thailand), 29 August 2007.
[Extract:]

The Agriculture Ministry has said it would, at a later date, submit a proposal to the Surayud Cabinet to lift the ban on field trials of genetically modified organisms (GMO), which has been in force for the past six years. The ministry, which was earlier scheduled to table the proposal at yesterday's Cabinet meeting, withheld it without giving a reason why. Officials at the ministry insisted that Thailand, one of the world's major food producers, must restart field tests of genetically modified crops to keep up with advances in global research and to maintain the country's competitiveness.

Read the article: http://nationmultimedia.com/2007/08/29/opinion/opinion_30046911.php
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The Philippines: Help enforce GMO ban, Negrenses urged

The Visayan Daily Star, 29 August 2007. By Nanette Guadalquiver.

The Province of Negros Occidental, together with the Negros Island Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Foundation, is urging Negrenses to take part in the enforcement of the ban on living genetically-modified organisms in the province, a policy vital to its goal to make the island the "Organic Food Basket of Asia."

"We want to give notice to the whole world, to the entire country that we ban GMOs in Negros Occidental," Aleta NuÒez of the Provincial Legal Office said at the orientation on the GMO ban ordinance at the Capitol Social Hall in Bacolod City yesterday.

GMO is an organism whose natural genetic material has been modified with synthetic material inserted into it.

NuÒez, who presented the features of Provincial Ordinance No. 007-2007, said that, for now, the important thing is to disseminate the information on the policy of Negros Occidental to prohibit living GMOs within its jurisdiction.

"The first value of this ordinance is to provide information and to insulate the island from any GMO activities," she said. The key LMO bans under the ordinance are: entry of living GMOs and experimentation and/or field testing related to it, as well as planting or growing and selling or trading of living GMOs. Part of the information campaign is the installation of "notice to the public" billboards in 30 strategic locations across the province.

Patrick Belisario, executive director of NISARD, said only patches of agriculture areas in Negros Occidental use GMOs, and these are still unverified.

With the ordinance, they are focusing on the non-entry of living GMOs for the first year.

For now, non-living GMOs, which are usually found in animal feeds, will still be allowed in the province, he said. Living GMOs specifically banned are crops, including corn which, so far, has 23 GMO varieties.

Aside from corn, also included in the Initial Watch List are:, six varieties of cotton, three varieties of potato, two varieties of sugarbeet as well soybean 40-3-2, canola RT73, and Alfalfa Events J101 and J163.

Majority of these living GMOs have been developed by Monsanto, particularly corn, soybean, cotton, potato, sugarbeet, canola and alfalfa while other corn varieties are by Pioneer, Syngenta, and Bayar Cropscience.

"It's no joke implementing this ban. We don't want to be like the other provinces (which also did this), only to fail. We're realistic so we we start with the living GMOs, those that can be easily propagated," Belisario said.

Phase-out The ordinance states that all persons in Negros Occidental who have already planted living GMOs, in whatever quantity or stage at the time of the effectivity of the ban, are given the remaining growing period of 120 days from July 19, 2007, when the ordinance took effect, to completely and permanently terminate the growing of living GMOs. They will also dispose of the living GMOs harvested outside the province.

Persons engaged in planting or trading of living GMOs are also required to make full disclosure of their activity to the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist and Office of the Provincial Veterinarian.

Those who are engaged in the selling or trading of living GMOs are given 30 days to dispose of their products.
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USA: Monday morning corn comment
The Linn Group Inc., 27 August 2007.
[Extract:]
27 August 2007

Exports remain very strong and many cash traders are saying that European buyers are chasing every type of non-GMO feed grain, which will make US corn more in demand from new sources.

Read the article: http://www.etvfutures.com/futures/Text/ShowStory.jsp?id=12792
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Thailand: NGOs protest against GMO crops
Bangkok Post, 27 August 2007.

Nine tonnes of papaya were dumped at the gates of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives on the capital's stately Rajdamnoen Avenue Monday in protest of the ministry's plan to promote fruit allegedly grown as genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Led by Nutthawipa Iwsakun, a Greenpeace Southeast Asia coordinator, a group of NGO demonstrators and other activists unloaded the papaya from trucks at the ministry's gates and called on Agriculture Minister Thira Sutabutr to stop pushing for a cabinet waiver on a nationwide ban on GMO farming.

The agriculture minister reportedly planned to seek a waiver of the ban on genetically-modified fruit in a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

Ms. Nutthawipa charged the ministry's promotion of GMO papaya was merely aimed to help a few firms at the cost of the country's fruit exports, because world markets will not accept GMO products.

Though the Agriculture Ministry had destroyed genetically-modified papaya trees at a demonstrative farm in Khon Kaen, others have been grown in Kalasin, Maha Sarakham, Chaiyaphum, Kamphaengphet and Rayong provinces while papaya seed from the GMO demonstration farm in Khon Kaen had been distributed to more than 2,600 farmers in 37 provinces, the activist said.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia earlier litigated at the Administrative Court against the Agriculture Department for failing to keep papaya a GMO-free fruit.

Meanwhile, Deputy Commerce Minister Oranuch Osathanonda said she disagreed with the government plans to promote genetically-modified papaya farming because importing countries would cut back their orders for fruit and other farm products from Thailand.

Mrs. Oranuch commented that experimental GMO projects should be terminated, because, she said, their output might otherwise be leaked to farmers.

Rice Exporters Association chief Chukiat Ophatwong urged the government to call off all research and development projects on any GMO product because it would impact rice and other farm commodities bound for world export markets. (TNA)
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Chile Transparency Law just a fig-leaf, says critic
The Santiago Times / El Mercurio, 24 August 2007. By Ashley Pandya (
editor@santiagotimes.cl)

Government spokesman Ricardo Lagos Weber announced Wednesday that Chile will soon have a new law guaranteeing citizen access to information. While this may appear to be good news to some, critics of the legislation doubt the law Lagos praised will be very effective.

"Chile is pushing for the new transparency law as part of its bid to join the prestigious Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)," said critic Miguel Fredes, an environmental attorney who is suing Chileís government to get access to public papers. "But if the law is passed as it now stands, the holes and ambiguities in it could benefit both the government and large corporations by giving them transparency in name, but not in practice."

According to Fredes, the law concerns four broad areas: civil society, which has been unsuccessfully requesting information for years; private corporations, which would be like the faÁade of transparency without the corresponding obligations; the government, which approves of the law but does not want to be subject to it; and the judicial branch, which wants to keep some information secret.

"The law creates a Transparency Board, but the chief of the Board, who will oversee the lawís provisions, will be appointed by the president without consent of the Senate," Fredes told the Santiago Times. "This means the chief will have very little political independence and that others will be reluctant to challenge him."

Fredes also said the bill allows third parties (i.e. corporations) to refuse information requested by an applicant by arguing their trade secrets and intellectual property could be violated.

Fredes first became interested in Chileís transparency and public access policies when he requested the names of the companies producing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the locations where the GMOs were growing.

"The government refused to give me the information, saying that the names could harm the interest and the secret business policies of the GMO companies," said Fredes. "Names and locations are not intellectual property ‚ if I am an organic farmer, I should have the right to know where GMOs are being grown."

"The information that we would like to make public is already in the hands of public agencies, so clearly the information is not harmful to Chileís national interest," added Fredes. "There is already plenty of legislation that protects trade secrets and intellectual property, so that is not the issue."

Fredes sued and won the case. A national association of GMO producers appealed the case, which is now being reviewed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The decision could be monumental - this case is the first of its kind to be determined by an international body.

Fredes has proposed a number of amendments to the legislation, including the requirement that public bodies conform to obligations of the law and the creation of a single working definition of the word "information."

"There are a number of serious shortcomings in the draft which threaten to defeat the original objective," said Fredes. "I do not think this law will pass or be approved this year."
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Finland: GMO Food Products Not On Offer In Country
Namnews, 23 August 2007.

According to local media, the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira has said that currently, there are no licensed GMO food products on sale in the country. The report also said that retailers Kesko Food and S Group have also declared that no GMO products will be offered in their stores in the near future.

Local civic organisations maintain a website, www.gmovapaa.fi, which lists products that should be boycotted as they are likely to contain meat that has been produced with GMO feed. The list includes products by Finnish food companies HK Ruokatalo and J”rvi-Suomen Portti, among others. However, J”rvi-Suomen Portti's MD Kari Tillanen has said it does not presently sell any products that contain meat from animals that have been fed with GMO soy
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Australian Government's GM report 'dishonest': BFA

Rural Press weekly agricultural papers, updated daily on FarmOnline. Thursday, 23 August 2007. By Lucy Skuthorp.

The Federal Government's latest report on genetically modified (GM) crops is "dishonest" and "bordering on hysteria" according to organic farm lobby, Biological Farmers Australia.

While the push is on at a Federal level, to have the State bans on GM crops lifted, Biological Farmers Australia (BFA) says a review of the North American and Canadian experiences with GM canola supports the continuation of the moratoriums.

Earlier this week, BFA lodged a submission with the South Australian, NSW and Victorian governments which said the premiums Australian farmers were receiving for non-GM canola "could not be denied".

They averaged US$68/tonne more over two years than over the previous 10 years.

Federal Minister for Agriculture, Peter McGauran, has launched a third major report on GM crops, on canola, this week, which found GM canola can co-exist with conventional crops.

Mr McGauran said that, with moratoriums currently under review in four States, GM canola could potentially be grown in Australia from 2008.

"Australian farmers should be able to grow GM crops in parallel with conventional crops," Mr McGauran said.

"If these bans are not lifted, farmers will be denied the opportunity to grow crops that will increase their international competitiveness."

But BFA spokesman, Scott Kinnear, says the Federal Government is behaving like an agency of one of the big global GM corporations.

Mr Kinnear said the latest round of reports from the government were 'fantasy, pie-in-the-sky stuff".

"It's so far from commercialisation it's not funny," Mr Kinnear said.

"Why would you want to adopt second rate genetic-engineering technology that's been around for 20 years?

"It's unstable, unproven, unsafe, and poses huge issues for our export markets."

Mr Kinnear said he held grave fears for what a regulatory regime might impose, with suggestions of "forced" or accepted contamination up to 0.9 per cent.

"That's what the supply chain, or segregation system will allow - contamination up to 0.9pc.

"Our markets require nil-detectable, which is to 0.01pc ‚ one in every 10,000 seeds can be detected.

"It's entirely possible, theoretically on paper, to design a segregation system that will keep contamination below 0.9pc, but it's not going to be practically possible because of human error."

Mr Kinnear said, "None of these GM canola crops that they're looking at have any drought tolerant capabilities.

"We're looking at the facts and saying the North American experience has cost their economy a lot of money, and the only reason that North American farmers are still growing crops is because the government there is bailing them out with direct subsidies to the tune of billions of dollars."

More information:

The government's report can be found at www.daff.gov.au/agriculture-food/biotechnology

BFA's report can be found at www.bfa.com.au

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