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New Report Finds That Herbicide-Resistant Crops Have Increased Pesticide Use

October 27, 2004

(Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- The following comes from the conclusions and future prospects section of a new report by Benbrook Consulting Services -- "Genetically Engineered Crops and Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Nine Years".

"While the discovery and adoption of GE crop technology has changed American agriculture in many ways, reducing overall pesticide use is not among them. Bt transgenic crops have reduced overall insecticide use, but HT crops have increased it by a far greater margin. Moreover, the performance of HT crops appears to be slipping.

The average acre planted to glyphosate-tolerant crops is requiring more and more help from other herbicides, a trend with serious environmental and economic implications.

Resistance to glyphosate has emerged as a serious concern across most of the intensively farmed regions of the U.S. The number of resistant weeds and their rate of spread is not surprising given the degree of selection pressure imposed on weed populations by farmers applying glyphosate herbicides multiple times per year, and sometimes year in and year out on the same field.

Resistant weeds typically emerge first on just a few isolated fields, but their pollen, genes, and seeds can travel widely and spread quickly, especially if glyphosate continues to be relied on as heavily has it has been in recent years. This is why both universities and some herbicide manufacturers are calling for more aggressive, prevention-oriented management of resistance to glyphosate. In the case of the weed marestail, the recent focus on resistance management has come too late.

No substantial change in the intensity of glyphosate use in the U.S. is expected in the foreseeable future, given the continued popularity of HT crops dependent on glyphosate, the limited supply of non-HT seed in some popular varieties, and the increasingly aggressive promotions offered to farmers relying exclusively on Roundup Ready technology. As a result, marestail will almost certainly be the first of several glyphosate-resistant weeds that emerge and spread, triggering the need for additional herbicide applications and eroding the cost advantage and popularity of HT technology.

The future of Bt transgenic crops is brighter, especially in the case of Bt cotton. Several university and USDA researchers are closely monitoring efficacy in Bt cotton, which appears to have changed little over the last nine years. The attention focused on resistance management, and the issuance of mandatory resistance management plans, has proven effective thus far in delaying the emergence of resistance. Indeed, some experts now think that the emphasis on resistance management in Bt cotton can be relaxed. History suggests that lessened diligence in cotton insect resistance management efforts would be premature, given that it has taken 10-15 years for cotton insects to develop resistance to each new type of insecticide applied to control them. This cycle began with the organochlorines in the 1960s and 1970s, and then repeated itself with the carbamates in the 1970s and 1980s and the synthetic pyrethroids in the 1980s and 1990s. Prudence dictates waiting until about 2010 before determining whether contemporary resistance management plans are indeed working and might possibly be simplified.

Bt corn for control of ECBs and SWCBs remains highly effective but is also almost certainly overused. Many farmers are planting these varieties as an insurance policy against potentially damaging insect populations. In 2004, Monsanto introduced its new Cry 3Bb Bt corn for rootworm management and by 2005, several corn varieties will express both the Bt toxin targeted toward the ECB/SWCB and the new toxin designed to manage corn rootworms.

There has been virtually no field research or regulatory review of the ecological and food safety implications when widely planted Bt corn varieties are simultaneously expressing dual Bt genes. Current USDA and EPA approvals are based on the assumption that the two Bt transgenes in corn plants will operate exactly as they do in varieties engineered to express a single Bt gene, and that the impacts of the dual transgenes will not in any way be additive or decrease the stability of gene expression. These are significant and questionable assumptions that if incorrect, could lead to major, unintended consequences. For this reason, these assumptions should be subjected to empirical study before widespread planting of dual- Bt varieties is authorized."


Rice at Risk

16 October 2004
China - Yunnan Province

Rice has been a grown around the world for over 10,000 years, it is cultivated in 113 countries and 3000 million people rely on it as a staple food. All of this is in danger as the spectre of genetic engineering creeps up on the planet's most important food crop.

It appears the Chinese government could start the planting of genetically engineered (GE) rice as early as 2005. What is for sure is that the GE industry must be cheering on the Chinese Government on GE rice as this will no doubt encourage the rest of Asia to go GE.

So why are they taking this risky step, are they tackling a major problem with their domestic rice crops? Not that we can see. Will it increase yields? Not if it follows the patterns of current lower yielding GE crops. Will it endanger the thousands of strains of non-GE rice in China? Certainly.

China is home to rice and still possesses one of the richest genetic diversities of rice in the world - boasting some 75,000 strains. Not only is rice vital to China's food supply but it is also at the heart of its culture - as with most of Asia. GE rice threatens all of this.

So it seems ironic that while China develops GE rice, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is celebrating 2004 as 'The International Year of Rice' and World Food Day under the slogan that 'Rice Is Life'.

"No one, except a few GE scientists and government officials, knows that GE rice may reach their rice bowls soon," said Sze Pang Cheung, Campaign Manager of Greenpeace China. "This is scandalous as rice is the staple diet for most Chinese people and it is the source of livelihood for more than 100 million farmers."

If GE rice is grown in the field, it will contaminate local varieties. Research by Chinese scientists has found that the pollen of GE rice may spread as far as 110 meters.

"If rice is life, GE rice is a gamble with our life. Moreover, GE rice can multiply and spread once released into the environment. It is a gamble with no way back," Sze commented.

To make matters worse, under Chinese regulation, there is no requirement for the public to be informed and consulted before a GE crop is approved for commercialisation. Once an application reaches the Ministry of Agriculture, the ministry will commission research institutes to carry out environmental and safety assessments, which usually last from three to six months.

Commercialisation of GE rice in China would have regional and global impact. It is widely believed that India, the second largest producer and consumer of rice, and other rice producing countries (Thailand and Vietnam), may follow China's footsteps if it commercialises GE rice. The GE industry also hopes that commercialisation of GE rice will open up the gate to other GE crops in Asia, the most important global market for the GE industry.

The way ahead

During this International Year of Rice the UN has called upon different stakeholders in the world to promote the sustainable future of rice. Here at Greenpeace we are taking this very seriously and have already organised a cyberaction sending letters to officials at the FAO to remind them that rice needs to be protected from GE at all costs - over 5400 letters have been sent.

"The future of rice should stay in the hands of those for whom rice is life, not a few GE scientists and officials," said Sze. "If we are to promote the sustainable future of rice farming, GE rice is simply not the answer."

As well as the cyberaction the "The Rice is Life Tour" in Yunnan province is taking place between 16-24 October, which has the richest diversity of rice in China. For eight days we are travelling the province with journalists, rice experts and people concerned about GE rice from Denmark, UK, Hong Kong and mainland China. During the tour we will be looking for the best ways to ensure the sustainable development of rice and safeguarding cultural traditions in the heart of one of the world's homelands of rice.

Rice farmers need to understand that the short-term productivity gains from new technologies - such as GE - are not sustainable and have will have a serious economic and cultural impact on their lives.

Despite what the biotech cheerleaders say alleviating poverty and feeding the world requires more than a technological solution. GE rice does not solve these problems. The environmental release of artificial life forms into the environmental will lead to inevitable and irreversible damage, which will in turn undermine food security and sustainable agriculture in the future.


Pope Hints At Thumbs-Down For GM Food

Catholic News
October 18, 2004

In a message for Saturday's World Food Day, Pope John Paul II stressed the need for biodiversity, suggesting reservations about the production of genetically modified foods.

The US Embassy to the Holy See has recently been lobbying the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to secure Vatican endorsement for GM foods. Church experts, including Irish Columban environmentalist Fr Sean McDonagh have cried foul, accusing the US Government of profiteering under the guise of fatuous claims that GM food is the solution to world hunger.

Catholic World News reports on the Pope's message, titled Biodiversity at the Service of Food Security, was addressed to Jacques Diouf, the director of the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation.

Biological diversity, wrote the Holy Father, is needed to ensure the supply of a wide variety of foods, and also to preserve the rights of farmers engaged in widely different types of agricultural progress. He also said that that mankind has a "God-given duty of stewardship over creation", and our respect for the created world should forbid "challenges to the natural order".

"Unfortunately there are today many obstacles that are placed in the part of international action undertaken to safeguard biodiversity," the Pope writes. He calls for a proper balance between the rights of developers and those of societies, arguing that control of "the resources present in different ecosystems cannot be exclusive nor can it become a cause for conflict."

Catholic World News suggests the Pope's emphasis on preserving diverse crops, and his argument against monopoly control of different food products, "could be interpreted as cautions against an overly energetic development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for agricultural purposes".

Although the Vatican has indicated sympathy for GM food production as a means of alleviating food shortages, Catholic experts have argued that reliance on the technology would put control of food supplies in the hands of a few powerful corporations, and that it fails to recognise the inextricable link betweek world poverty and world hunger.

Anne Lanyon of the Columban Centre for Peace Ecology & Justice in Sydney said in a statement ahead of Saturday's World Food Day: "Hunger and poverty have more to do with social injustice than with access to genetically engineered super seeds. The world produces enough food for everyone, yet 840 million people suffer malnutrition and about 1.2 billion people endure extreme poverty trying to live on less than US $1 per day."

The Pope's message concludes with the observation that solidarity is the key to proper development of agricultural resources. Solidarity, he explains, should be understood as "a model of unity capable of inspiring action by individuals, governments, international organizations and institutions and all members of civil society," united to promote the common good of their society and their world.


Schmeiser Wants Monsanto To Cough Up $140

By Sean Pratt
October 22, 2004

For those who thought Percy Schmeiser had exhausted all legal avenues in his battle with Monsanto Canada, think again.

The two combatants were back in court on Oct. 18, only this time it was over small potatoes.

Schmeiser again faced down his long-time foe at provincial court in Humboldt, Sask., representing his wife Louise in a small claims case she filed July 28.

She is seeking $140 from the multinational biotech firm for the removal of Roundup Ready canola plants from her organic garden and surrounding shelterbelt. She also wants to reclaim a $20 fee for filing a summons against Monsanto.

Percy Schmeiser said his wife suffers from high blood pressure, so the Bruno, Sask., farmer, who earlier this year saw Canada's Supreme Court uphold a guilty judgment against him for violating Monsanto's patent on Roundup Ready canola, is representing her in the small claims case.

In her statement of claim, Louise Schmeiser said she found volunteer canola weeds in her organic garden and shelterbelt in 2002 and requested Monsanto remove them in a timely manner according to company policy.

"Although they were notified at least two or three times by mail to do this, they failed to come and remove the plants," she alleged.

She subsequently hired a student to pick the canola plants by hand before they reached the seed stage and burned the material.

On Nov. 30, 2002, she forwarded a bill for $140 to Monsanto, representing the amount she paid the student.

Percy Schmeiser said the small plot of land was a special place for his wife.

"That field that got contaminated, she had it all plucked out. It has been organic for 50 years."

He said his wife's case is closely related to his much publicized battle with Monsanto, which came to an end on May 21, when the Supreme Court of Canada found in favour of the biotech company, ruling that Monsanto's patent on Roundup Ready canola was valid and enforceable.

"The liability now follows the flow of the gene," said Schmeiser.

He believes the case could be precedent setting if the judge finds in favour of his wife.

It could potentially assist a group of Saskatchewan organic growers attempting to mount a class action lawsuit against Monsanto and Bayer CropScience Inc. for alleged damages to organic crops related to the commercialization of genetically modified canola.

Schmeiser said the judge in Humboldt ruled the case could proceed, but Monsanto has asked for a delay in the trial until March 21.

"In the court they said it was a very important case and asked for an adjournment," he said. "To me that's a long time to ask."

Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan said her company is aware of the claim, but insisted it has no merit.

She said the company offered to address Louise Schmeiser's concerns, but Schmeiser didn't follow its recommendations.

"Why it's an issue two years later, I'm not sure," Jordan said.


GE Canola Class Action Suit Moves Forward In Canada

Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News
Vol. 6, No. 209
October 28, 2004

Court to hear GE canola class action suit arguments

An attempt by organic farmers in Saskatchewan, Canada, to file a class action suit against developers of genetically engineered canola moves into a courtroom in early November.

Justice Gene-Ann Smith of the Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon will hear lawyers representing Monsanto Canada, Bayer Crop Science and two organic growers argue the merits of the suit. Class actions are relatively new in Canada, and the plaintiff has to convince the court the action should be allowed to go forward. If the judge agrees to certify the suit, then a trial would be held later.

Farmers Larry Hoffman and Dale Beaudoin, on behalf of a group called the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, wants to be able to sue Monsanto and Bayer for an as-yet-undetermined amount in compensation for being unable to grow organic canola. They say the companies' GE varieties spread into fields of conventional canola, making it almost impossible to grow and sell organic canola that must be free of GE seeds.

Monsanto spokeswoman Trish Jordan said her company will argue that the suit should be dismissed. She said the farmers are being put forward by the Directorate, Greenpeace, and the British Soils Association "as a platform to advance their anti-GE position in the public arena and this is not an appropriate use of the court's time and resources. These groups are engaging in a scientific, social and political debate concerning GE foods rather than having a legitimate legal dispute."


European Commission OKs Transgenic Corn for Human Food

by Environmental News Service
International Herald Tribune
October 27, 2004

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission, in one of its final acts before handing off to new commissioners next week, has authorized the import and marketing of foods and food ingredients derived from Monsanto's genetically modified maize line NK603. The approval came Tuesday over the objections of environmentalists, who fear it will sicken sensitive consumers and contaminate organic crops.

This maize, or corn, has already been approved or import and for use as animal feed and for industrial processing. With both approvals in place, it is now possible to place on the market NK603 maize and derived products such as starch, oil, maize gluten feed and maize meal for food and feed use. The crop will be grown and harvested outside the EU.

NK603 maize has been modified to make the it tolerant to Monsanto's own herbicide, glyphosphate, marketed under the trade name Roundup. The authorization of NK603 maize for food use is valid immediately and will stay valid for 10 years.

David Byrne, the outgoing commissioner responsible for health and consumer protection, said, "During my time as commissioner, we put in place a clear and strict system for the authorization and labeling of GMOs, based on clear scientific advice. We are now seeing the system work in practice.

"The clear labeling system guarantees consumers what they have asked for - the information they need so that they can choose whether or not to buy any genetically modified products," he said.

The Commission took the decision to authorize NK603 following the failure of the Council of Ministers either to approve or reject the Commission proposal for authorization. Only 11 out of 25 member states supported it in an indicative vote taken in June.

Friends of the Earth charges that the Commission caved in to the pressure from the Bush administration in the United States, which brought a complaint at the World Trade Organization against Europe's biotech policy.

Geert Ritsema, coordinator of genetically modified food issues for Friends of the Earth Europe said, "This is a shameful final act by the outgoing European Commission. Despite scientific disagreements over its safety and huge public rejection the Commission decided instead to put the interests of corporate America before the safety of Europeans."

Friends of the Earth is critical of the Monsanto application which fails to look at the corn's effects on subsequent generations, cumulative toxic effects and the effects on the health of sensitive consumers as required under EU food law.

There has not been sufficient investigation of the possibility of the genetic modification causing more allergies, the environmental group says.

But Monsanto says the genetically modified maize, marketed in the United States as Roundup Ready Corn 2, is good for the environment. Jerry Hjelle, vice president of regulatory affairs for Monsanto, said, "This decision not only reaffirms the findings of regulatory bodies throughout the world, it also reinforces the profound benefits and potential of this technology for growers and the environment."

The Roundup Ready system encourages the adoption of conservation tillage practices, which reduces soil erosion, improves water quality and wildlife habitat, while optimizing yields, Hjelle says.

The NK603 maize will be imported from the United States where corn growers are delighted with the Commission's decision. Leon Corzine, president of the National Corn Growers Association, called the move, "a welcome step forward, although long overdue," and said it "supports the National Corn Growers Association's goal of providing information about and promoting acceptance of biotechnology."

"Biotechnology continues to be one of National Corn Growers Association's key priorities and this decision is certainly encouraging for U.S. corn growers," Corzine said.

Monsanto's year-end sales data for 2004 show that acres planted with Roundup Ready corn rose for a seventh consecutive season in the United States. Roundup Ready corn technology is estimated to have been planted on more than 16 million acres this season, up from 12 million acres in 2003.

The European Commission's decision does not include the approval of NK603 maize for cultivation in the EU, which is the subject of a separate submission.

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