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February 2006 Updates

Leaked World Trade Organization Ruling Shows That U.S. Misled the World on Biotech Foods "Victory"

Friends of the Earth
Press Release
February 28, 2006

WTO ruling does not prevent countries from restricting or banning GM foods

BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) / WASHINGTON DC (US) 28 February 2006 * Friends of the Earth International made available online today a confidential World Trade Organization ruling on the trade dispute on biotech, or genetically modified organisms(GMO) foods. [1]

The 1000-page report, which was distributed earlier this month only to the countries involved in the dispute, was leaked to Friends of the Earth, which published today February 28 a preliminary analysis in the briefing 'Looking behind the US spin'. [2]

The leaked report reveals that:

  • despite claims of victory by the U.S. Administration and the biotechnology industry * widely reported in the media in February 2006 * the three countries that started the trade dispute against the European Union (U.S., Canada and Argentina) failed to win most of their arguments;
  • the World Trade Organization (WTO) did not rule on two of the most important questions, namely whether GM foods are effectively the same as non-GMO foods and if they are safe.

"Once again, the Bush administration has tried to contradict reality," said Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth * U.S. "The WTO ruling is not a victory for the biotech food giants. Countries around the world should continue to enforce tough legislation protecting their citizens and the environment from the risks of genetically modified crops."

According to Friends of the Earth International the WTO is not and should not be the appropriate body to deal with conflicts between trade rules and environmental protection since it considers only trade principles and has no particular competence in environmental or health issues.

According to the leaked WTO report ruling:

  • Europe's 4-year moratorium on GM Organisms (GMOs) only broke trade rules because it caused "undue delay" in the approval of new GM foods. The WTO dismissed eight other complaints in relation to the moratorium, and did not recommend any further action, since the moratorium ended in 2004.
  • There was also an "undue delay" in the EU's approval procedures for over 20 specified biotech products. However, eleven other claims of the complainants related to the product-specific EU measures were dismissed by the WTO Panel.
  • Safeguard measures by EU member states broke trade rules only because the risk assessments used by the countries in question did not comply with the WTO requirements.

"This is the report that the WTO didn't want the public to see. It reveals that the big corporations that stand behind the WTO failed to get the big win they were hoping for. Biotech proponents needed a clear victory in this dispute to be able to push governments in the EU and the developing world to accept genetically modified food. They failed and now is the time to build a consensus that the WTO, with its business-only agenda, is the wrong place to decide on what people eat and how we protect our environment." said Adrian Bebb, GMO campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels.

Friends of the Earth Europe today launched an online campaign urging the public to call on their Governments to reject the WTO as a forum to decide on environmental trade disputes and to support the right of countries to ban GMOs.

  1. The Friends of the Earth preliminary analysis in the briefing 'Looking behind the US spin'

Monsanto May Commercialize Terminator

By Ban Terminator
News Release
February 21, 2006

Biotech Giant Revises Pledge on Sterile Seed Technology as Global Alliance Calls for a Ban.

Monsanto, the world's largest seed and agbiotech company, made a public promise in 1999 not to commercialize 'Terminator Technology' - plants that are genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds. Now Monsanto says it may develop or use the so-called 'suicide seeds' after all. The revised pledge from Monsanto now suggests that it would use Terminator seeds in non-food crops and does not rule out other uses of Terminator in the future. (1) Monsanto's modified stance comes to light as the biotech and seed industry confront peasant and farmer movements, Indigenous peoples and their allies in an escalating battle at the United Nations over the future of Terminator.

In 2000 the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted a de facto moratorium on sterile seed technologies, also known as Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs). But at next month's high-level meeting of the CBD in Curitiba, Brazil (20-31 March 2006) the biotechnology industry will intensify its push to undermine the six-year old de facto moratorium.

In response, over 300 organizations today declared their support for a global ban on Terminator Technology, asserting that sterile seeds threaten biodiversity and will destroy the livelihoods and cultures of the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm-saved seed.

"The world's farmers and Indigenous peoples cannot trust Monsanto," said Alejandro Argumedo from Asociacion ANDES - Potato Park in Cusco, Peru "Monsanto's broken promise is a deadly betrayal because Indigenous peoples and farmers depend on seed saving for food security and self-determination."

Terminator technology was first developed by the United States Department of Agriculture and US seed company Delta & Pine Land to prevent farmers from saving and re-using harvested seed, forcing them to buy new seeds each season. (2)

In October 1999, in response to worldwide opposition, Monsanto publicly pledged not to commercialize Terminator seeds. Then-CEO, Robert Shapiro, wrote an open letter to the Rockefeller Foundation, stating, "I am writing to let you know that we are making a public commitment not to commercialize sterile seed technologies, such as the one dubbed 'Terminator.'"

Now, Monsanto has revised its commitment, pledging to keep Terminator only out of food crops - opening the door to the use of Terminator in cotton, tobacco, pharmaceutical crops and grass with sterility genes. Referring to new versions of GURTs, Monsanto's 'pledge' now says, "Monsanto does not rule out the potential development and use of one of these technologies in the future. The company will continue to study the risks and benefits of this technology on a case-by-case basis."

"Monsanto's revised pledge resonates closely with the actions of a few rich governments that have been promoting Terminator at the UN recently," points out Chee Yoke Ling of Third World Network. "It looks like Monsanto and other corporations are behind the strategy to unleash Terminator at the upcoming meetings of the CBD".

Monsanto's new stance on Terminator is part of an industry-wide attempt to undermine the de facto moratorium. In the past year, government delegates from Canada, Australia and New Zealand, working hand in hand with the biotech industry, have used UN meetings to introduce new text that will be considered at next month's CBD meeting in Brazil. (3) This text recommends Terminator technologies be approached on a "case by case risk assessment" basis - echoing the language of Monsanto's new 'pledge.' The intention behind the 'case by case' approach is to regulate Terminator just like any other genetically modified crop. This would ignore the uniquely devastating societal impacts of genetic seed sterility.

"Terminator is a direct assault on farmers, Indigenous cultures and on the food sovereignty and well-being of all rural people, primarily the very poorest," said Chukki Nanjundaswamy of India from La Via Campesina, an organization representing tens of millions of peasant farmers worldwide. "If Monsanto bullies the UN into allowing 'case by case' assessment of Terminator, it means farmers will be carried off the land coffin by coffin."

"These companies have a clear and simple vision that nothing should be grown without a license from Monsanto and a few other masters of sterility and reproduction," explains Benny Haerlin of Greenpeace International. "They pursue this strategy step by step or 'case by case' as they now call it. If governments at the CBD give in to Monsanto and erode the Terminator moratorium we will all have to pay the bill tomorrow and the collateral damage will be the integrity and fertility of nature."

The Ban Terminator campaign today announces the names of over 300 organizations worldwide that are demanding a ban on Terminator technology. The list of organizations is available at These organizations are from every region of the world and include peasant farmer movements and farm organizations, Indigenous peoples organizations, civil society and environmental groups, unions, faith communities, international development organizations, women's movements, consumer organizations and youth networks.

"We are particularly alarmed that Monsanto's edited pledge no longer rejects commercialization of this dangerous technology." said Lucy Sharratt of the international Ban Terminator Campaign. "We are calling on national governments to dismiss Monsanto's tactic in favour of an all-out ban on Terminator. We invite all civil society and social movements to join with us for the battle against Terminator next month in Brazil."


  1. 1. Monsanto's new pledge on Terminator and GURTs is online. A full copy of their new and old pledges is available at
  2. 2. Delta and Pine Land refer to Terminator as Technology Protection System (TPS). Terminator is currently being tested in greenhouses and Delta and Pine Land vowed to commercialize it within the next few years.
  3. 3. In February 2005 at a meeting of the CBD's Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Assessment (SBSTTA) in
  4. Bangkok, Canadian government delegates made a surprise attempt to overturn the moratorium by allowing Terminator to be field tested and commercialized. Last month, at another preparatory meeting in Granada, Spain (known as the Working Group on 8j), the Australian government, coached by a US State Department representative, also attacked the moratorium. See ETC Group news release on 27th January 2006: "Granada's Grim Sowers Plow up the moratorium on Terminator" available at

Monsanto Apologizes

A 21 February news release from the Ban Terminator Campaign reported on Monsanto's revised pledge on Terminator. Whereas the company made a public commitment in 1999 not to use Terminator technology, its new pledge suggests that it would use Terminator seeds in non-food crops and does not rule out other uses in the future. Now Monsanto's Director of Public Policy has written an apology to the Ban Terminator Campaign and concedes that it didn't really mean it would consider using Terminator in non-food crops.

In ETC Group's view, Monsanto's modified text was not a mistake or an accident. When Hope Shand of ETC Group spoke to Monsanto representative Roger Krueger in January, he indicated that Monsanto's position was not to use Terminator in food crops. After a series of communications between Lucy Sharratt of the Ban Terminator Campaign and Monsanto, the company has officially backed down. Monsanto's apology and related email correspondence appear below. Despite Monsanto's renewed pledge not to develop or use "genetic engineering methods that result in sterile seeds," ETC Group notes that the company's pledge leaves the door open and does not rule out future development of the technology. Monsanto's pledge still allows the company to change its position on any aspect of its pledge at any time. ETC Group will continue to monitor Monsanto's pledge and actions related to Terminator.

The full correspondence between Ban Terminator Campaign and Monsanto is available here:

The text of the apology from Monsanto follows:

From: "HERNDON, DIANE B [AG/1000]" Date: February 27, 2006 4:23:37 PM EST To: Subject: FW: Request for further clarification from Monsanto.

Dear Ms. Sharratt,

We apologize for any confusion caused by the added language "in food crops" that appeared in the discussion of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) in our last Pledge Report. We stand by our commitment to not use genetic engineering methods that result in sterile seeds. Period. The intent of the article was to distinguish the "terminator" technology -- which as you know is one type of GURT -- from other GURTs that can use biological means to address important stewardship and business mandates -- such as the type that would turn off the expression of the biotech trait in the next generation of seed while not affecting all other characteristics of the seed and keeping the seed viable in subsequent generations (specifically, the T-GURTs, as you point out). The 2005 Pledge Report now appears as a PDF of the printed book, but we are in the process of reworking our Web site and will be able to remove the confusing language as part of the redesign.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Please reaffirm our commitments with those in your networks.

Sincerely, Diane Herndon Director, Public Policy Monsanto

Note: copies of the email above sent to: Hugh Grant, CEO Monsanto Company. Judith Rodin, President, The Rockefeller Foundation. Gordon Conway, Chief Science Advisor, UK Department for International Development, and Former President, The Rockefeller Foundation


Europe Rejects Genetically Engineered Drug

By Andrew Pollack
Capital Press Staff Writer
February 24, 2006

European regulators declined yesterday to approve what would have been the first drug produced in the milk of genetically engineered animals, dealing a setback to a fledgling industry that aims to convert cows, goats and rabbits into low-cost pharmaceutical factories.

The decision was closely watched because companies developing drug-producing animals need an approval from either the United States or Europe to persuade pharmaceutical companies to try the production method.

The drug's developer, GTC Biotherapeutics, said it would appeal the decision, adding that the ruling was based mainly on a problem with its clinical trial, not on the fact that the drug was made in goats.

"With a new technology there is a conservatism that is not inappropriate," Geoffrey F. Cox, chief executive of GTC, said in a conference call with analysts. But he added, "There is no way with this company and what we have achieved over 15 years that we will let this block us from getting the product to market."

Shares of GTC, which is based in Framingham, Mass., fell 90 cents, or 40 percent, to $1.35.

GTC and a few other companies put human genes into animals so they produce a human protein in their milk. The animals can be milked and the protein purified for use as a drug.

The companies say the method is a cheaper and easier way to produce biotechnology drugs. Many biotech drugs, like cancer-fighting monoclonal antibodies, are made in vats containing cultures of genetically engineered animal cells. Such factories can cost several hundred million dollars.

Other protein drugs, like the one GTC is developing, are extracted from donated blood, but are found in such minute quantities that they are often in short supply. GTC said it would take 90,000 blood donations to obtain as much of the protein as one of its goats can produce in a year.

But drug companies have been reluctant to use the technology, in part because they were unsure how readily regulators would approve drugs developed that way. So GTC decided to seek an approval by itself, even if sales of the drug would be small.

It tested an anticlotting protein called antithrombin on patients who have a rare inherited deficiency of the protein and are at risk of potentially fatal blood clots. The company tested the drug on 14 people who were undergoing surgery or giving birth. At those times, because of the risk of bleeding, such patients cannot take the blood thinners they usually use to prevent clots.

The European Medicines Agency said yesterday that its advisory committee recommended against approval because too few patients undergoing surgery were tested. Also, the drug tested was not made in exactly the same way as the drug that would be sold, because a filtration step was added after the trial began.

GTC executives said the committee decided not to count pregnant women included in the test, because the dosing of the drug was not optimal. They also said the regulators had concerns about possible immune reactions to the drug, though none were seen.

The company is doing another trial aimed at applying early next year for approval in the United States.

Another company, Pharming, has asked the Food and Drug Administration to certify its human lactoferrin protein, made in transgenic cows, as "generally recognized as safe." That designation would allow Pharming to sell the protein for use in food products. Human lactoferrin is naturally found in mother's milk.

Pharming, a Dutch company that has recovered from a financial collapse a few years ago, is also in late-stage clinical trials of a protein called C1 inhibitor, produced in rabbits, to treat hereditary angioedema.

PharmAthene, based in Annapolis, Md., is trying to win a contract from the Defense Department to supply a protein, butyrylcholinesterase, to help treat people exposed to nerve gas. The protein is found in blood plasma but in such small amounts it would be impossible to make as much as the military needs, the company said.

"It would take approximately 500 liters of plasma to produce a single dose," the company's director for education, Stacey Jurchison, said. "We have about 250 goats. The milk they would produce in a year's time would be sufficient to produce 100,000 doses."

Production of drugs in transgenic animals is not the only part of barnyard biotechnology that has suffered setbacks. So has cloning, which involves making copies of desirable animals, rather than putting foreign genes in them. The F.D.A. has continually put off making an expected decision that the meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring are safe to consume.


Cotton Farmers Sue Monsanto, Others, for Crop Loss

By Carey Gillam
February 24, 2006

KANSAS CITY, Missouri - More than 90 Texas cotton farmers have sued Monsanto Co. and two affiliated companies, claiming they suffered widespread crop losses because Monsanto failed to warn them of a defect in its genetically altered cotton product.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Marshall, Texas, seeks an injunction against what it calls a "longstanding campaign of deception," and asks the court to award both actual and punitive damages.

In addition to Monsanto, the suit names Delta & Pine Land Co. and Bayer CropScience L.P., producers and retailers of Monsanto's biotech cotton. A Delta & Pine Land spokeswoman said the company had no comment and no one for Bayer, a unit of Bayer AG, returned phone calls seeking comment.

Monsanto, which denies the allegations, wants the complaints removed from the court system and handled through arbitration. About half of the farmers agreed this week to enter into arbitration, but others have not. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Monday in Austin.

The farmers' essential claim is that Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" cotton did not tolerate applications of Monsanto's Roundup weed killer as it has been genetically altered to do.

The farmers claim there is evidence that the promoter gene inserted into the cotton seeds in the genetic modification process does not work as designed in extreme high heat and drought conditions, allowing herbicide to eat into plant tissue, leading to boll deformity, shedding and reduced yields.

The plaintiffs claim Monsanto knew this but did not disclose it so the farmers would continue to buy and use Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.

"We feel like Monsanto's been lying to us all along," said B.B. Krenek, a Wharton, Texas cotton consultant who is working with a number of affected farmers.

Monsanto spokesman Andrew Berchet said there is no evidence that anything other than the weather is to blame for the technology that caused the crop losses.

"As far as we can tell this is weather related. The month of June was one of the driest and hottest in more than a century," said Berchet. "We don't see evidence that this is related to our product."

But farmer Alan Stasney said he has evidence in his fields. A strip of cotton four rows across and 3,000 feet long that inadvertently was not treated with Roundup yielded 1,051 pounds of lint per acre at harvest, while on either side of those rows, cotton that was treated with Roundup yielded only 675 pounds per acre.

Stasney said the lost yield cost him more than $250,000 in sales and forced him to refinance his farm.

"It is just a real sad situation," said Stasney. "There are a lot of people in a world of hurt because of that."

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