Say No To GMOs! logo

Busch to Boycott State's Rice
if Genetic Alterations Allowed

By Scott Canon
The Kansas City Star
April 12, 2005

Commodity-buying behemoth Anheuser-Busch Cos. has vowed to boycott Missouri's 30 million-bushel rice crop if genetically altered, drug-making plants are grown in the state.

The beer maker, the country's single largest rice buyer, last week told Missouri growers it would not buy their rice if a firm that recently moved from California wins permission to plant about 150 acres of pharmaceutical grain in the rice-rich Bootheel region.

"Anheuser-Busch holds the trump card. If they say they're not going to buy any rice if this (pharmaceutical) rice is planted, then don't plant," said Dan Jennings, a grower from Sikeston, Mo., who had previously supported the experimental crop. An Anheuser-Busch boycott "puts pressure on everybody else who buys Missouri rice to defend it."

The brewer has long opposed Ventria Bioscience's plans.

Ventria wants to grow rice genetically engineered to produce lactoferrin and lysozyme — substances found in human tears, saliva and mother's milk and used for digestive problems. Currently they can be extracted from mother's milk for up to $30,000 a gram or drawn from chicken eggs with the chance of triggering allergic reactions. The rice is not yet approved for human consumption.

Anheuser-Busch contends too many ways exist — from human error to flooding to the movement of animals — for the pharmaceutical rice to invade commercial varieties.

"Given the potential for contamination of commercial rice production in this state, we will not purchase any rice produced or processed in Missouri if Ventria introduces its pharma rice here," said Jim Hoffmeister, Busch's group vice president for procurement, logistics and agricultural resources.

"It freezes the rice grower in Missouri out of selling to this huge customer," said Paul Combs, a grower and implement dealer near Kennett. "We think it's indicative of the pattern other companies will take."

The beer company is joined in opposing Ventria's plans by the USA Rice Federation, the U.S. Rice Producers Association and Riceland Foods Inc., a farmer-owned cooperative and the world's largest rice miller and marketer. Anheuser-Busch, however, is alone in its boycott.

The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has said Ventria's plan "should not have a significant impact, either individually or cumulatively, on the quality of the human environment" but has not weighed in on the economic impact.

The firm still must get federal approval for its plans. States are consulted during such permit processes, and Missouri has been solidly behind Ventria. A spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Blunt said Monday that he supports Ventria's plans despite Anheuser-Busch's position, saying the "science is sound."

Last year the company decided to move its headquarters from Sacramento, Calif., to Maryville, Mo., to form a partnership with Northwest Missouri State University, which offered free office space and a promise of investment in plant research. The university's president, Dean Hubbard, has since joined Ventria's board of directors without compensation.

Hubbard speculated that opposition from Riceland Foods comes from worries that the cooperative won't be able to pay farmers as much as Ventria promises. He said Anheuser-Busch's worries about contamination are unfounded. The university president said any risks — he characterized them as minimal as "anything when you're dealing with nature" — should be weighed against how the cheap production of drugs promised by pharmaceutical rice could save children in developing countries.

"What this boils down to is beer or babies," Hubbard said.

The company now has a proposal pending with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grow its rice in the southeast Missouri counties of Cape Girardeau, Scott and Mississippi — within 5 miles of some commercial paddies.

The company chose self-pollinating crops such as rice and barley to prevent wind from carrying the pollen to other crops.

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently studied the breeding of drugs into corn and soybeans — soybeans are self-pollinating, corn is not — and concluded that contamination is virtually inevitable.

Missouri's rice crop in 2004, nearly all of it grown on 200,000 acres in the rich and soggy soil of the Bootheel, was worth about $95 million to farmers. Those fields sit next to 1.6 million acres of rice in Arkansas — or about half the nation's crop.


New Report Reveals Increasing Experimentation on Biopharm Crops While Many Genetically Engineered Crops Grown for the First Time

Contact: Richard Caplan or Liz Hitchcock (202) 546-9707
April 12, 2005

Experiments threaten Public Health, Environment, and Farmers

The number of applications for open-air experiments on crops engineered to produce drugs and industrial chemicals more than doubled in 2004 over the previous year, while many genetically engineered crops were planted in the environment for the first time, according to a new report released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).

Although the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has yet to amend its regulations after being excoriated by the National Academy of Sciences for inadequate expertise, PIRG's analysis reveals that USDA continues to rubberstamp applications and fails to collect adequate data on environmental impacts.

The report, Raising Risk: Field Testing of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., highlights potential health and environmental risks associated with the release of genetically engineered plants. The results of large scale field trials conducted over many years were just published in the March 2005 Proceedings of the Royal Society in the United Kingdom, demonstrating adverse effects on wildlife, but experiments conducted in the U.S. continue to be piecemeal and short term. Many independent scientists have criticized research in this country as deliberately designed to hide any harm.

"Our environment has become a laboratory for widespread experimentation on genetically engineered crops with profound risks that, once released, can never be recalled," said U.S. PIRG environmental advocate Richard Caplan. "Until proper safeguards are in place, this unchecked experiment should stop."

Findings of the new U.S. PIRG report include:

As of January 2005, the fourteen states and territories that have hosted the greatest number of field test sites are: Hawaii (5,413), Illinois (5,092), Iowa (4,659), Puerto Rico (3,483), California (1,964), Nebraska (1,960), Pennsylvania (1,707), Minnesota (1,701), Texas (1,494), Indiana (1,489), Idaho (1,272), Wisconsin (1,246),Georgia (1,051), and Mississippi (1,008).

Since 1991, USDA has received 240 requests for 418 field releases of crops engineered to produce pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, or other so-called biopharmaceuticals; the number of requested field releases of "biopharm" crops increased from 22 in 2003 to 55 in 2004.

The ten crops authorized for the most field releases are corn, soybean, cotton, potato, tomato, wheat, creeping bentgrass, alfalfa, beet, and rice. USDA authorized field tests on several crops for the first time in 2003 and 2004, including American chestnut, American elm, avocado, banana, eucalyptus, marigold, safflower, sorghum, and sugarbeet. Nearly 70% of all field tests conducted in the last year now contain secret genes classified as "Confidential Business Information," which means that the public has no access to information about experiments conducted in their communities.

These experimental genetically engineered crops are growing in the open environment primarily to determine whether or not an engineered seed successfully grows and expresses the desired trait. U.S. PIRG charged that field testing genetically engineered crops in such a widespread way poses serious threats to the environment, public health, and neighboring farmers.

"Evidence continues to mount that the regulatory system in place in this country is based on the principle of 'don't look, don't find,'" said Caplan. "Poorly designed field tests take large risks with no benefits."

Another goal of the field tests is to obtain information about potential ecological risks associated with genetically engineered organisms. However, independent reviews of the data collected by the Department of Agriculture demonstrate that very little data has been collected. As a result, despite the large number of field experiments that have occurred, fundamental questions about their impact remain unanswered, including long-term impacts on the soil and non-target species.

U.S. PIRG renewed its call for a moratorium on genetically engineered foods unless:

  • Independent testing demonstrates safety;
  • Labeling for any products commercialized honors consumers' right to know; and
  • The biotechnology corporations are held accountable for any harm resulting from their products.

"Genetically engineered foods have no place on our dinner tables or in our environment until proper safeguards are in place," added Caplan. "This rush to market without regard for human health and the environment could be disastrous."

U.S. PIRG is the national lobbying office for the state Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations.


Anheuser-Busch Drops Threat to Boycott Missouri Rice

Associated Press
April 16, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Anheuser-Busch Cos. has dropped its threat to boycott Missouri's rice crop after a biotechnology firm agreed to grow its genetically engineered rice farther away from commercial rice farms in the state.

The agreement reached Friday ends a dispute between the beer giant, the state and California-based Ventria Biosciences, which wants to grow about 200 acres of genetically modified rice to produce human proteins used in drugs.

"I am pleased that Anheuser-Busch and Ventria have reached a fair compromise that furthers cutting-edge life-sciences technology while protecting current markets for Missouri rice farmers," Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Anheuser-Busch said it was concerned the genetically modified crops could contaminate rice grown in the southeastern part of the state. Under the agreement, Ventria's rice would be planted at least 120 miles away from commercial growing areas.

It was not clear whether the agreement with Anheuser-Busch would resolve similar safety concerns raised by Arkansas-based Riceland Foods Inc., the world's largest rice miller and marketer and the largest purchaser of Missouri rice. Both companies had urged federal regulators to deny a permit for Ventria's project.

Riceland did not return repeated calls from The Associated Press.

The practice of growing engineered crops to produce drugs -- known as "biopharming" -- has angered environmental groups, the food industry and farmers, who fear modified crops could contaminate soil or food and crossbreed with other plants.

Ventria's request to plant rice enhanced with synthetic human genes to produce the proteins lactoferrin and lysozyme is pending with the Agriculture Department. The company hopes to harvest and refine the proteins for use in medicines to fight diarrhea and dehydration.

The USDA can either deny Ventria's permit or issue a permit with additional conditions.

Shame on Anheuser-Busch

Perhaps Anheuser-Busch customers should start a boycott of their own! Tell Anheuser-Busch how you feel about their 'compromise' with Ventria and whether you will boycott their products if the Ventria permit is granted and they buy Missouri rice.

Anheuser-Busch Response to Consumers

Representatives of Governor Matt Blunt's office, the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Ventria Bioscience and Anheuser-Busch met on April 15, 2005 in St. Louis. In that meeting Anheuser-Busch voiced its continuing support for advances in the life sciences in Missouri as well as its support of Ventria Bioscience's goal of producing medicines by growing pharmaceutical rice, while explaining its concerns for the safety of Missouri's rice crop. Those concerns were based on the fact that Ventria's pharmaceutical rice has not yet received approval by the US Food and Drug Administration as safe for human consumption, that there is no commercially viable test for detecting the presence of this rice and that the location where Ventria proposed to grow the rice was too close to Missouri's commercial rice growing regions. Ventria also voiced concerns about the impact on the Missouri rice market if Anheuser-Busch discontinues purchasing Missouri rice.

As a result of the discussion, Ventria has agreed not to proceed with its plans to grow rice in Scott County and the group agreed that Missouri government, Ventria, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Anheuser-Busch will work together to find other locations in Missouri where Ventria can grow its rice and continue its commercialization effort. Such areas will be 120 miles or more away from commercial rice growing areas, which, along with the containment protocols that Ventria had already offered to follow, will ensure that Missouri's existing rice crop will be unaffected. The members of the group will also work together to resolve the federal approval and testing issues as quickly as possible. As a result of the agreement reached at the meeting, Anheuser-Busch will be able to purchase rice grown and processed in Missouri as long as Ventria's growing areas remain sufficiently far from commercial rice production.

Anheuser-Busch, Inc.


Filmmaker Challenges Monsanto to Debate on Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods

U.S. Newswire
Contact: Deborah Garcia, 415-383-0553
April 14, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO -- Responding to charges from a Monsanto spokesman that her highly acclaimed film "The Future of Food" isn't factual, Deborah Koons Garcia is challenging Monsanto to a debate on the safety of genetically engineered foods.

"Let's debate the facts in a public forum and see who is lying to the American public about the safety of these risky crops," Garcia says. "Monsanto probably won't want to engage in a public debate because they know that my film is telling the truth. It appears that Monsanto has been trying to keep the American public in the dark about the dangers of genetically engineered foods for years."

Garcia says she and many of the experts in her film are willing to debate Monsanto in a public forum in St. Louis, Washington DC, or anywhere in the country.

Garcia was responding to charges by Monsanto spokesman Chris Horner, reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that "The Future of Food" "rehashes a lot of old claims and presents them as fact when they're not the least bit factual."

"Everything in 'The Future of Food' has been very carefully documented," Garcia says. "In making the film, we relied on a tremendous group of prestigious advisors from many walks of life, including scientists, professors and farmers. It's disingenuous for Monsanto to allege that the movie is not telling the truth, without backing up the claims."

"The Future of Food," released in 2004, offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade.

From the prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada to the fields of Oaxaca, Mexico, this film gives a voice to farmers whose lives and livelihoods have been negatively impacted by this new technology. The health implications, government policies and push towards globalization are all part of the reason why many people are alarmed by the introduction of genetically altered crops into our food supply.

Shot on location in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, "The Future of Food" examines the complex web of market and political forces that are changing what we eat as huge multinational corporations seek to control the world's food system.

Further information about the film can be found at


EU Nations to Ban Suspected GMO Corn Imports

By Raf Casert
Associated Press
April 15, 2005

BRUSSELS -- European Union nations voted Friday to ban U.S. shipments of suspect corn gluten animal feed unless the bloc has full assurance that the imports are free of genetically modified corn.

The move could affect millions of dollars' worth of corn gluten exports. The dispute centers on a batch of Bt10 genetically modified corn that Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta inadvertently sold in the United States and exported to Europe without approval.

"This is a targeted measure which is necessary to uphold EU law, maintain consumer confidence and ensure that the unauthorized GMO Bt10 cannot enter the EU. Imports of maize products which are certified as free of Bt10 will be able to continue," said EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

The ban will effectively shut out all imports of U.S. corn gluten, since there is currently no effective way of testing for Bt10, which has not been approved by American or European regulators. EU spokesman Philip Tod said Syngenta was working to develop and validate such a test, but they could not say when it would be ready for use.

U.S. shipments of corn gluten feed to the EU totaled 347 million euros ($450 million) last year.

The United States said the ban was exaggerated.

"We view the EU's decision to impose a certification requirement on U.S. corn gluten due to the possible, low-level presence of Bt10 corn to be an overreaction," said Edward Kemp, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the EU.

"U.S. regulatory authorities have determined there are no hazards to health, safety or the environment related to Bt10," Kemp added. "The small amounts of Bt10 corn that may have entered the EU have had no proven negative impact."

The ban is to come into force early next week, pending formal approval by the EU's head office.

Environmental campaigners welcomed the move. "Europe now has a de facto ban on the import of many US animal feeds," said Friends of the Earth spokesman Adrian Bebb.

However, Greenpeace warned that stricter controls are needed to prevent more cases of unauthorized biotech imports.

"Europe is currently helpless to defend itself from contamination by GMOs that are suspected to harm human health and the environment," said Christoph Then, genetic engineering expert for the campaign group.

"As long as EU authorities have no means to test imports for all the GMOs being released in the U.S. and elsewhere, it must say 'no entry' to the EU for any food, feed or seeds that are at risk of contamination."

The EU said it is in continuous contact with U.S. authorities on the issue, but its decision to ban suspect corn gluten imports further strains trans-Atlantic trade relations.

Syngenta said last week it has reached a settlement with the U.S. government over the inadvertent sale to farmers of Bt10.

The company said in a statement that under the settlement reached with U.S. authorities, it would pay a fine of $375,000 and teach its employees the importance of complying with all rules.

However, the EU has been annoyed that U.S. authorities allowed the export of Bt10 to Europe after it was mixed up with an authorized biotech Syngenta maize labeled Bt11.

About 1,000 tons of animal feed and food products such as oil and flour containing the corn are thought to have entered the EU since 2001.

The case has underscored European concerns about biotech foods, coming shortly after the EU relaxed restrictions on genetically modified organisms.

top of page