12
Mai
2005

WEEKLY WATCH 123

from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor

Yet again, inspiring news comes from India, this time in the form of a public interest lawsuit to stop the release of GMOs (ASIA).

We have an update on the catalogue of failure, death and illness that is MEDICAL BIOTECH. And a revealing report from America that completely squashes the old biotech claim that growing pharma drugs in open fields of food crops is cheaper than producing them in the traditional way, in contained conditions (THE AMERICAS).

Claire claire@gmwatch.org
//www.gmwatch.org / //www.lobbywatch.org


CONTENTS
LOBBYWATCH

ASIA
THE AMERICAS
EUROPE
MEDICAL BIOTECH
QUOTE OF THE WEEK


LOBBYWATCH

+ GM CROP USE "LIMITED" IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES - UN REPORT
In contrast with the usual industry hype, the use of GM crops by developing nations is very problematic and has been limited, says a recent UN report. The US accounted for a hefty 59 percent of of GM agriculture in 2004. Only 16 other countries grew GM crops, led by Argentina (20 percent of the total area), Canada and Brazil (6 percent each), China (5 percent), Paraguay (2 percent), and India and South Africa (a mere 1 percent each), according to the report.
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5227

+ DISPELLING MYTHS?
In 2003, the American Soybean Association (ASA) published "Correcting the Myths" to counter the "misunderstandings, half-truths and sometimes blatant falsehoods" spread by the critics of "ag biotech".

Two years later, according to ASA's Technical Issues Director, Kimball Nill, "we realise our document needs to be updated - because the facts just got better." The result is a new ASA report, "Dispelling the myths".

According to Nill, "We wanted to add the rational, independent farmers' voice to the world's biotech debate."

Independent? Prior to joining the ASA, Nill served "in several positions supporting Monsanto Company's venture capital and biotechnology R&D efforts". His current employer, ASA, has also enjoyed a close relationship with Monsanto, receiving a significant part of its multi-million dollar budget from the likes of Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred, BASF, and others.

Nill also works for the Agriculture Commodity Coalition which is funded by the biotech-industry backed Council for Biotech Information (CBI) to run a coordinated pro-GM public information campaign under the slogan "Farmers for the benefits of Biotechnology".

Part of Nill's ASA role is to "proactively" deal with "threats & opportunities" arising from "emerging international technology related issues that could impact U.S. soybean exports".

Being backed by the biotechs to protect American farm exports gives a whole new meaning to adding the "independent farmers' voice to the world's biotech debate"!
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5231

Meanwhile the American Corn Growers Association is reporting how biotech arrogance is losing U.S. farmers important exports. (see THE AMERICAS)

+ BLAIR APPOINTS BIOTECH LOBBYIST TO GOVT
British prime minister Tony Blair has just placed in the Ministry of Defence the man who has been tipped to be Lord Sainsbury's successor as science minister - Lord Drayson, the former head of the BioIndustry Association - motto: 'Promoting UK Biotechnology'. Like Sainsbury, Drayson is a major donor to the Labour Party and has been given a peerage by Blair in highly controversial circumstances.

Drayson made a substantial donation to Labour while the Ministry of Defence was deciding who should be awarded a smallpox vaccine contract. Drayson gave a further donation of half a million pounds to Labour just six weeks after the PM made him Lord Drayson. The Blair government awarded Drayson's company the GBP32million smallpox vaccine contract without any competition.
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5220

The Guardian comments on the Drayson appointment: "... one's eye is caught by the appointment of Lord Smallpox, aka Paul Drayson, whose enoblement last year was swiftly followed by a cheque to party funds of half a million pounds. The noble lord is now a minister at the Ministry of Defence. It may be unkind to Lord Drayson to suggest that he effectively purchased a seat in parliament, but if the same thing happened in an African kleptocracy we might find it altogether less amusing."
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5224

+ GM PHARM FIRM CLAIMS GREENPEACE SUPPORT
Eric Murphy, chief scientist with Agragen, a North-Dakota based company that wants to genetically engineer flax, has been claiming that Greenpeace favours GM plant-made pharmaceutical production of a form of omega-3 fatty acid. It's not the first time that desperate GM companies have made spurious claims about Greenpeace support. False stories have been circulated by the biotech lobby that Greenpeace dropped its opposition to GM crops in the case of Golden Rice. Murphy also claims that the European public is becoming more relaxed about pharma plant production!
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5215

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ASIA
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+ IMPORTANT LEGAL CHALLENGE LAUNCHED IN INDIA
A new legal challenge to the release of GMOs was launched in India on 12 May with a press conference attended by three TV channels and other media organisations. The challenge calls for a moratorium on the release of all GMOs into the Indian environment and for biosafety testing.

The legal action looks set to throw up some extremely interesting material and issues that are as important to the rest of the world as they are to India.

EXCERPT from the press release:
Dr Arpad Pusztai... in a prepared statement to the Supreme Court says: "No comprehensive health and environmental risk assessment has been carried out with Bt cotton and even less published in peer-reviewed science journals. With a potentially toxic crop [which goes into the food chain via animal feed] whose anti-nutrients, (toxins such as gossypol, cyclopropenoid fatty acids or the potent carcinogenic aflatoxins, are well-known to accumulate in the subcutaneous fatty tissues of consumers... In the absence of conclusive evidence for the lack of toxicity, responsible GM regulatory authorities must prevent the cultivation, commercialisation and food use of GM cotton and its products".
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5230

+ SEIZE ILLEGAL GM COTTON SEEDS - NGOs
Farmers' organisations and NGOs have urged India's regulatory body to direct state governments to seize stocks of illegal and unapproved varieties of Bt cotton seeds before the sowing season.
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5217

+ WHY SEEDS BILL IS DISASTER FOR INDIA'S FARMERS
Critics say that India's proposed Seeds Bill will destroy farmers' livelihoods. "It is a Bill drafted under pressure from seed manufacturing MNCs like Monsanto. It has the potential to spell doom for Indian agriculture. Most of the seed varieties used in Indian agriculture today are farmer-produced. If farmers are not allowed to save and sell their own seeds, there can't be any agriculture here. The only aim of this Bill is to force the farmer to buy seeds from the market," says Vandana Shiva of Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5214

+ URGENT RETHINK NEEDED OVER GOLDEN RICE
Dr Md Shahjahan Ali, Professor in the Department of Agricultural Chemistry, Bangladesh Agricultural University, has warned that the experimental cultivation of golden rice in Bangldesh "may cause deformity of other varieties of rice. It is a matter of great concern to us that if this variety starts polluting the environment it would be very difficult to take remedial measures".
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5214

+ INDIA'S NATIONAL BIOTECH DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY NEEDS RADICAL OVERHAUL
In a powerful critique, Dr Suman Sahai says the draft report lays out a biotech policy tfor India that "will be more lax and negligent than almost any other in the world. This is even more frightening when one thinks that this is being proposed in a country where agriculture and food are sensitive issues, where small farmers are vulnerable and where the agricultural research system and the regulatory systems have large question marks hanging over their performance."
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5214

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THE AMERICAS
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+ HEALTH CANADA WHISTLEBLOWERS WIN REVIEW
Three Health Canada scientists who say they were fired for raising questions about the way that the agency approves veterinary drugs have won another round in their years-long battle in their campaign for reinstatement.

The Federal Court quietly released a decision on April 29 ordering the public service integrity office (PSIO) to reconsider complaints from Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon, and Gerard Lambert that they, and the late Cris Bassude, had been pressured - and then sacked - for speaking out about the dangers of mad cow disease and about the use of Monsanto's GM growth hormones and antibiotics in the food supply. The PSIO had decided in 2003 that the allegations submitted by the applicants were unfounded.

The PSIO has no idea when the review will take place. "They are trying to starve us out," one of the fired scientists, Shiv Chopra, said. "But if that's what they think, they are wrong." Chopra, who is now 70, has no income and is trying to sell his house. "What are they going to do? They've fired me once, they can't fire me again." Chopra is using his time to finish a book he's calling Corrupt to the Core - Memoirs of a Whistleblower, which he expects to finish this summer.
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5213

+ U.S. DERAILS GM LABELLING
The international Codex Committee on Food Labelling on 11 May deferred a decision on the mandatory labelling of GM food after the US and four other countries tried to derail global support for an international standard for labelling of GMOs from European, African and Asian countries.

Forty countries have mandatory labelling of GM and this accounts for one third of the world's population. Despite this, a handful of countries tried to terminate discussions on the GM labelling guidelines at Codex, namely the US, Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, Philippines.

In two cases - Australia and Thailand, governments of countries that already have labelling sought to help the US block labelling spreading!//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5228
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5232

Report by US Public Interest Research Group on the US's role in stalling the 12-year-old effort to achieve labelling:
//pirg.org/ge/GE.asp?id2=7253&id3=ge&

+ BIOTECH ARROGANCE IS LOSING U.S. EXPORTS - AMERICAN CORN GROWERS
The American Corn Growers Foundation (ACGF) and the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) are warning US corn farmers that key US corn gluten exports are being lost due to unapproved GMO varieties that are unacceptable in various markets.

"Blundering biotech companies and their arrogance toward world buyers and consumers cost the US the valuable, cash paying European Union (EU-25) corn market since 1996, and caused substantial corn export reductions to Japan. Now, adding insult to economic injury, some biotech companies and their carelessness is putting the EU-25 import market for US corn gluten feed and meal in serious jeopardy, with the EU-25 now testing every cargo," says Dan McGuire, CEO of ACGF.
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5222

+ VENTRIA'S GM PHARMING NO CHEAPER THAN CONTAINED PRODUCTION
The lure of GM pharma plants is supposed to be that you can manufacture expensive pharmaceuticals more cheaply in plants. But it now seems that the human proteins which the California based bio-pharma firm, Ventria Bioscience, is wanting to grow in rice, can be produced just as cheaply in contained conditions!

Indeed, according to an article at
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5218
another firm is already doing just that. "Our actual costs," says Rick Barsky, chief executive officer of Agennix Inc, "are comparable to [Ventria's] best guess of their projected costs."

+ MOMMY, IS AUNT SALLY IN THE RICE PUFFS?
A very readable article with the above title on the craziness of Ventria Bioscience's plan to put human DNA into rice is at
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5221

EXCERPTS:
Pharmaceutical rice could be spread by cross-pollination, floods, rice-eating birds, rice grains in farm equipment, or human error in distribution. Risks from pharmed rice include allergic reactions, aggravation of bacterial infections, and autoimmune disorders.

Farmers might be less nervous if Ventria had liability insurance. But instead of purchasing enough insurance, Ventria has its public relations artists spin the yarn that dangers are too little to worry about. "It can't happen here" is the essence of its message. But it has happened. The StarLink corn incident of 2000 led to a $1 billion recall...

... When Grandpa is spliced into a pollinating plant, he just keeps blowin' in the wind forever. His DNA becomes part of the diet of all who eat the plant. Unlike exploding gas tanks, Grandpa's genes can't be recalled.

+ BIOLOGY PROF RESIGNED OVER GOVT USE OF GM RESEARCH
Dr Martha Crouch, a former biology professor at the University of Indiana, ran a lab dedicated to plant research but decided to end her career when she found that biotech companies were co-opting her research for profit. See interview at:
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5209

EXCERPT:
Dr Crouch: This was 15 years ago, about 1990, and it was at the very beginning of genetic engineering in agriculture... I could see the writing on the wall, from the consulting that I was doing that genetic engineering was going to promote industrial agriculture. And I feel industrial agriculture is one of the major reasons that the environment is in the sad shape it is today. So, I couldn't, in good conscience, continue that kind of research.

...I was doing work on canola... We didn't have any particular application in mind, but we were doing some consulting with Unilever in Great Britain, and they were using oil palm plantations around the world to make edible oil. They used some of our research to make the trees more genetically uniform so that they could grow larger plantations, and in the process, they cut down a lot of rain forests, kicked Indians off their land, polluted the rivers with the waste products of the processing of the oil. I was horrified by that because my own allegiance is with the small farmers and with the rain forests, and the idea that the kind of knowledge we were generating about how genes work was primarily being used to promote that kind of destruction, really sent me back to the basics of why research is funded... I shut down my lab.

+ ALASKA: BILL REQUIRES LABELLING OF GM FISH
In an important setback for the biotech industry, GM fish will need to be labelled as such when sold in Alaska. The Alaska House approved the measure unanimously.
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5223

+ NEW CAMPAIGN: STOP FEEDING KIDS GMOs!
The Sierra Club has announced the release of its new campaign to Stop Feeding Kids GMOs! The campaign aims to get GMOs out of school meals and replace them with safe food. The Club is offering school meal campaigners a packet of materials, which includes the video, Hidden Dangers in Kids' Meals, and a CD titled, You're Eating WHAT? produced by Jeffrey Smith, director of the Institute for Responsible Technology.
www.sierraclub.org/biotech
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5223

+ DEMAND FOR ORGANICS SOARING
In the US, the market for organic foods has soared from $3.57 billion in 1997 to $10.38 billion in 2003, according to Organic Trade Association.
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5223

+ U.S. GOVT MUST COME CLEAN ON SECRET DEALINGS WITH SYNGENTA
Environmental and food safety groups have demanded in a letter to the heads of three US regulatory agencies that the government remove unapproved GM corn from the nation's food and seed supply pending a thorough risk assessment. The groups also called for the public release of details surrounding the government's secret dealings with the crop's developer, Sygnenta.

Several hundred tons of the unapproved Bt10 corn, enough to plant 37,000 acres, were mistakenly sold to US farmers under the name of an approved variety from 2001 to 2004. The resultant harvest of an estimated 165,000 tons have been sold as food or feed in the US and abroad.

Syngenta first informed the US government of the mix-up in December 2004, but federal regulatory officials did not inform the US public that they were eating the untested corn until the story leaked four months later. US trading partners were also kept in the dark about possible importation of the corn.
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5229

+ "FATHER OF GENE THERAPY" STILL FACING SEX ABUSE CHARGES
A judge has dismissed two of six sex abuse charges against William French Anderson, because they fell outside the six-year statute of limitations. Anderson still faces one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child under age 14 and three counts of committing a lewd act upon a child.

Considered the "father of gene therapy," Anderson has been placed on administrative leave as director of the Gene Therapies Laboratories at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. He was Time magazine's runner-up for man of the year in 1995.
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5219

Quote from French Anderson on gene therapy: "...we realised that, that we just didn't know enough about what was going on, that the body had reactions, had defences that we didn't really understand, and it really required going back and really rethinking everything we were doing."
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5226

Biotech and porn:
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=155
//ngin.tripod.com/071101b.htm

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EUROPE
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+ "SECRET" DEALS SPLIT BEE ASSOCIATION
A bitter dispute is tearing the British beekeeping world in two. There has been dark talk of secret deals with big business, pickets of meetings, open rebellions by infuriated bee- keepers and now a plot to form a breakaway association. The controversy centres on a series of deals agreed behind closed doors between the British Beekeepers' Association (BBKA), and four of the world's largest agro-chemicals companies.

To the dismay of many beekeepers, the BBKA has agreed to sponsor several pesticides that can be lethal to bees. Firms such as Syngenta, FMC, Bayer and BASF now boast they are endorsed as "bee friendly" by the BBKA. In return, the association has earned tens of thousands of pounds, funding a Syngenta-sponsored beekeeping book for schools, a beekeeping display, and roof repairs to the BBKA's Warwickshire headquarters.

According to the rebels, these are deals with the devil. Furious at the association's decision to make them without consulting its members, they allege these pesticides are to blame for wiping out hives. The Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD), the official government agency, recorded 372 suspicious poisonings of honey bees, some involving entire hives of thousands, between 1994 and 2003, with pesticides to blame in more than 120 cases.
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5212

For more on the privileged role played in the BBKA by scientists from institutions (like Rothamsted Research) with strong links to agrochem companies:
//www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=188

For how agrochem company Zeneca (now part of Syngenta) established links with the Medical Toxicology Unit, London which deals with cases of human pesticide poisoning:
//www.pan-uk.org/pestnews/pn50/pn50p3.htm

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MEDICAL BIOTECH
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+ GRIM TALLY OF GENE THERAPY
An article in The Scientist says investors are still interested in gene therapy, in spite of its appalling record.

EXCERPT:
The tally is grim: three high-profile cancer cases, including one death, in French boys who underwent pioneering gene therapy for X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency (X-SCID). Yet Edward Lanphier is upbeat about the future of gene therapy.

"It's a very, very broad field," says Lanphier, CEO of Sangamo BioSciences, a Richmond, Calif., biotechnology company focused on gene regulation. "It's sort of like saying there's been an awful auto accident, is there a future for the transportation industry? Is there a future for gene therapy? Categorically yes. Will companies pursue this from a commercial perspective? Categorically yes. And the outcomes in France in some of the SCID trials, as tragic as they are, are extremely informative."

PROF JOE CUMMINS COMMENTS:
Comparing gene therapy to the transportation industry is very nutty. In spite of the billions poured into the industry it has never produced anything that works! Biotech is rather like the invention of a square wheel, it really does not work!

There seems to be a sickening philosophy among the gene therapy researchers that the death of a few children and injury of others is a small price to pay for large grants and high salaries among the elite researchers.
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5226

+ DEATHS, ILLNESS, UNEXPLAINED SIDE-EFFECTS: GM INSULIN
An excellent article from the Daily Mail (2002) on the disaster that is GM insulin is at
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5225

EXCERPTS:
Tony Blair, for one, has hailed human insulin as a shining example of the benefits of GM technology.

Since its introduction 20 years ago this summer, genetically engineered insulin has been linked not only to an increasing number of unexplained deaths but to a range of side-effects that some patients say have destroyed their lives. These range from unexpected hypos to massive weight gain, violent mood swings, memory loss, joint pains, mental confusion and crippling exhaustion.

SEE ALSO QUOTE OF THE WEEK BELOW.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK
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"It ticks you off. You begin to have serious doubts. You say to yourself, 'Maybe I should chuck this and go buy a gas station.'"
- Former Seattle medical biotech researcher Bob Schroff, on wasting 12 years of his life working on one failed GM drug after another
//www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5216
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