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November 2006 Updates

Hungary Set To Pass "Strictest" GMO Crop Law

By Andras Gergely
November 27, 2006

Hungary is set to impose strict rules on genetically modified crops that would mostly block their cultivation even if the EU overturns the country's GMO ban.

The law, supported by the opposition as well as government parties, is expected to be passed on Monday in case the European Union forces Hungary to abandon its complete ban.

"This is Europe's, perhaps the world's, strictest GMO law," Agriculture Minister Jozsef Graf said.

Although the European Union permits cultivation of the MON 810 maize hybrid produced by biotech giant Monsanto, Hungary banned the crop in 2005.

Hungary, which has millions of tonnes of surplus maize, extended the ban in February, saying GMO’s were dangerous to health, the environment and to its position as one of Europe's biggest seed producers.

A simple majority of EU states supported a draft order in September for the Hungarian ban to be lifted, but that was not enough under the EU's complex voting system.

The issue is likely to be discussed next at a meeting of EU environment ministers in December, and if there is no agreement it could return to the European Commission for a default rubberstamp.

The new Hungarian law will prescribe a 400-metre buffer zone between GMO and conventional crops. Farmers will also need the approval of neighbouring landowners and users to plant GMO’s.

That will be too complicated in a country where many plots are small, rented or farmed in cooperatives with many members, farmers said.

Farmers See Discrimination

Farmers' group MOSZ said the law will exclude all but the biggest landowners from GMO production.

"Our main problem is not that it is stringent, but that it is not equally stringent towards everyone," MOSZ Secretary Istvan Toth told Reuters.

"In some respects it is discriminatory."

The law may also be ineffective because it only separates GMO and conventional crops at the growing stage, without any guidelines on harvesting, processing or packaging, Szent Istvan University Professor Laszlo Heszky said.

Graf said Hungary is erring on the side of caution for now but it may later reconsider its stance on GMO's, especially for use as biofuels, not for human consumption.

"We cannot bury our heads in the sand, we'll have to do something with GMO's," he said. Another reason Hungary does not want to allow GMO's yet is that there are not yet any varieties suited to local conditions, Graf's deputy, Zoltan Gogos said.

"We are not hindering research, but then let those be Hungarian types," Gogos said. "But that will take years."


GM Soya Fed Rats: Stunted, Dead, or Sterile

By Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
Novemver 28, 2006

Alarming findings dismissed by regulators

Female rats fed genetically modified (GM) soya produced excessive numbers of severely stunted pups with over half of the litter dying within three weeks, and the surviving pups are sterile.

These alarming findings came from the laboratory of senior scientist Dr. Irina Ermakova at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. The experiments began two years ago, and the initial findings hit the world press when Ermakova was invited to speak at the 11 th Russian Gastroenterological Week in Moscow in October 2005.

Preliminary results have been published in a Russian journal [1], in conference proceedings and official reports [2-7], and a fuller paper containing further results is in press [8]. Ermakova has also spoken at numerous public meetings and scientific conferences and in the popular media, both at home and abroad, but regulators have continued to ignore and dismiss her findings.

UK's Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) has been systematically biased in favour of studies that fail to show significant effects of GM food and feed right from the beginning. Not surprisingly, it continued to cite research that's seriously flawed as evidence against Ermakova's findings [9], and Ermakova has lodged her own protest [10].

One particular study cited by the ACNFP to bolster its GM bias [11] used a batch of GM soya harvested in a middle of a certain field in South Dakota, processed by a commercial company, and fed to mice of indeterminate age and body weight. These factors alone would make the experiments invalid and totally unreplicable. Furthermore, the remarkable similarities in the composition of the GM and non GM diet - both supposed to contain 21.35 percent soya meal – is simply beyond belief. There were no standard deviations to the figures provided; 59 out of 78 of the figures were identical to 2 - 3 significant figures, and the rest differed so slightly that they would have been within standard errors. Could it be that the researchers have been feeding both groups the same diet? There is no evidence that the two diets were different, no DNA tests on the food samples were performed to ascertain that one was GM and the other non-GM.

This contrasts with the investigations carried out by Ermakova, who has been updating her results on her website ( [12], and urging other scientists to repeat the experiments; all the more important now, as since publishing the initial results, her funding has been cut, and she is strongly discouraged from pursuing this line of research. Suppression and victimisation of honest, independent scientists has now become routine while obfuscation and misrepresentation are perpetrated at the highest levels, most recently by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who once again, blames the controversy over GM foods, along with MMR vaccine, stem-cells and BSE (!) on the "anti-science brigade" that "threatens our progress and our prosperity" [13]. Is Blair implying that BSE is not a hazard to human health? Ten years ago, the then UK government was forced to admit BSE was linked to the variant Creuzfeld Jacob Disease in humans, after having repeatedly proclaimed BSE-infected beef was safe for human consumption for 10 years previously [14] ( The Inside Story of BSE , SiS 32).

Excess stunting and deaths

In the first set of Ermakova's experiments, female Wistar rats weighing 180-200 g were fed their normal dry pellet diet alone, or pellet diet supplemented with genetically modified (GM) soybeans or non-GM soybeans beginning two weeks prior to mating and continuing afterwards through pregnancy and lactation. The female rats were housed three to a cage before delivery, and received 20 g soybeans ground up with 40 ml water each day (5-7 g soya beans per rat per day). Just before delivery, the pregnant rats were individually caged and given 5-7 g soy meal per day plus 1 g extra per pup delivered. When the pups were weaned, the ration of soy meal was increased to 2-3 g for every pup. All rats had free access to the soy meal as well as the pellet food.

There were three feeding groups: the ‘Control 1' given pellet food only, the ‘Control 2' given non-GM soya in addition to pellet food, and the ‘Experimental 1' group given GM soya in addition to pellet food. The GM soya was Monsanto's Roundup Ready (RR) 40.3.2 purchased from the Netherlands , the non-GM soya was Arcon SJ91-330 ADM from the Netherlands, a commercially available variety that was closest to the parental line of RR soya, to which Ermakova had no access.

The RR soya was analysed by PCR and confirmed to be 100 percent GM, while the non-GM soya was contaminated with traces of GM soya (0.08 + 0.04 percent)

The results were startling (see Table 1).

Table 1. Excess stunting and mortality in the progeny of rats fed GM soya

Groups / Weeks Pregnant females
Out of Total
Pups Pups dead
at three weeks
Pups stunted
at two weeks
Control 1
(Rat chow only)
4/6 44 3(6.8%) 6.0%
Control 2
(Rat chow + Non GM soya)
3/3 33 3(9.19%) 6.7%
Exptl 1
(Rat chow + GM soya)
4/6 45 25(55.6%) 36.0%

Thirty-six percent of the pups from rats fed GM soya were severely stunted, some 5 to 6 times the percentage in the controls. By three weeks, 55.6 percent of the pups from rats fed GM soya had died, the death rate was 6 to 8 times the controls. These results were statistically highly significant (p<0.00012).

Further experiments confirmed the results

Further experiments were done, and the results were similar. By then, Ermakova has included a second experimental group of female rats that were fed protein extract from the GM soya (from ADM in the Netherlands). The pooled results are given in Table 2.

Table 2. Pooled results including further experiments

Groups / Weeks Pregnant females
Out of Total
Pups Pups dead
at three weeks
Control 1
(Rat chow only)
7/9 74 6(8.1%)
Control 2
(Rat chow + Non GM soya)
5/6 50 35(10.0%)
Exptl 1
(Rat chow + GM soya)
4/9 64 38(51.6%)
Exptl 1
(Rat chow + GM soya protein)
4/6 33 5(15.1%)

Once again, the mortality rate at three weeks was more than 50 percent, 5 to 6 times the control values. The GM soya fed group differed significantly from either controls at p< 0.001. Interestingly, mortality rate in the pups of rats fed GM soya protein was 15.1 percent, 1.5 to 2 times the controls, though the difference was not statistically significant. The reduction in mortality rate in the group fed GM soya protein compared with the group fed whole GM soya meal was statistically significant at p < 0.01, suggesting that the GM soy proteins are probably not responsible for most of the deaths. But as there are no data on the purity of the protein extract, it is difficult to draw definite conclusions.

The excessive stunting and deaths from GM soya is clear, even though the cause(s) remain unknown without extensive further investigations. One possibility is poisoning from glyphosate herbicides and residues used with RR soya. Glyphosate - and more so in the Roundup formulation - is extremely lethal to many frog species [15] ( Roundup Kills Frogs , SiS 26), and is linked to late spontaneous abortions in humans, and toxic to human placental cells at one-tenth the recommended agricultural dosage [16] ( Glyphosate Toxic & Roundup Worse , SiS 26) and/or other causes general to the genetic modification process [17] (see most recent review, Genetically Modified Food Animals Coming ). These include toxicities and immunogenic reactions from the transgenes; unknown toxins and RNA transcripts from unintended genetic and epigenetic changes in the RR soya subsequent to the insertion of foreign DNA, and/or continuing transgenic instability [18, 19] ( Transgenic Lines Proven Unstable , SiS 20; Unstable Transgenic Lines Illegal , SiS 21); and unintended horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA from RR soya into the rat germ cells that give rise to the progeny, resulting in lethal and other harmful mutations [20, 21] ( Sense & Nonsense in Horizontal Gene Transfer , SiS 16, and many other articles on horizontal gene transfer on ISIS website).

The effects on the progeny of female rats fed GM soya were not limited to the first generation. It persisted into the next.

Surviving pups sterile

When the first generation (F1) pups from the feeding experiments were old enough to breed, they were mated with the intention of producing the next generation. But to Ermakova's surprise, the GM-fed F1 rats were completely sterile when mated with one another, whether they continued to be fed on GM soya or not. When the GM-fed F1 females were mated with non-GM fed males, fertility was restored, but the average size of the litter was about 75 percent of control mating in which neither males nor females were GM-fed (see Table 3).

Table 3. Sterility in surviving F1 rats

Groups / Weeks Feeding regime Pups
F1 x F1 GM soya supplement 0
F1 X F1 No GM soya supplement 0
F1 females x Control males No GM soya supplement 72 (~75% control)

The cause of sterility in the GM-fed F1 rats is unclear. The fact that mating with non-GM fed F1 males restored 75 percent fertility to GM-fed F1 females indicates that the GM-associated sterility is largely, if not exclusively, in the F1 males. Could it be a failure of spermatogenesis? This could be ascertained by direct examination of the animals, and in such a case, mating between GM-fed F1 males and control females would give no progeny. The failure of spermatogenesis in GM-fed F1 males could be the result of a physiological maternal effect, or a direct genetic mutation in the maternal germ cells that affects their male offspring only.

Another possibility is a genetic mutation that renders both GM-fed F1 males and females partially sterile. In that case, mating between GM-fed F1 males and control females would also be fertile.

Finally, the genetic mutation could be the result of a ‘directed mutation' [22] ( To Mutate or Not to Mutate , SiS 24) that occurs in a high proportion, if not all of the maternal germ cells under certain environmental conditions, or else a non-random insertion of transgenic RR soya DNA into the maternal germ cells [23] ( Living with the Fluid Genome ). The latter can be confirmed by probing the GM-fed F1 rat genomes for RR soya transgenic DNA.

A case of criminal negligence on the part of the regulators

Ermakova's findings need to be fully investigated as a matter of urgency. They must be seen against the backdrop of numerous scientific and anecdotal reports of illnesses and deaths in humans and many species of animals resulting from exposure to a variety of GM food, feed and other products, GM pollen, plant dust and debris (24-29] ( Cows Ate GM Maize & Died , Animals Avoid GM Food, for Good Reasons , SiS 21; GM Ban Long Overdue , Transgenic Pea that Made Mice Ill , SiS 29; More Illnesses Linked to Bt Crops , Mass Deaths in Sheep Grazing on Bt Cotton , SiS 30). (For more details, please read Making the World GM Free and Sustainable [30]). Weston A Price Foundation Keynote Lecture November 11, 2006, Westfields Marriott Hotel, Virginia, USA)

Evidence of GM hazards has been emerging since the 1980s, which should have halted the development of many GM crops. By now, our regulators should be answering a charge of criminal negligence at the very least in continuing with their campaign of denial and misrepresentation, while failing to impose a ban on further releases of all GM crops until and unless they have been proven safe by thorough independent investigations.


Rice Not Fit for Human Consumption in Ghana?
November 27, 2006

Although Germany does not allow use of genetically modified (GM) crops, yet a German firm, BayerCrop Science carries out extensive GM technology and recently its GM product was found in rice food aid to Ghana, where it will onstensibly be allowed.

The GM rice, not allowed for human consumption, originated from the United states and has been found in food aid and other rice supplies in West Africa.

The findings were revealed today by Friends of the Earth at simultaneous press conferences in Ghana and Sierra Leone where the environmental campaign group urged the governments of Sierra Leone and Ghana to immediately recall the contaminated products.

In August this year the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the presence of LLRICE601, an unapproved genetically modified rice variant owned by Bayer CropScience in the food chain. Contaminated rice has been found in more than 15 European countries, and supermarket chains including UK-based Tesco, and Sainsbury have withdrawn American rice from their shelves. The European Union is now testing all rice imports coming from the US.

In September/October 2006 Friends of the Earth Ghana and Friends of the Earth Sierra Leone collected samples of US long grain rice in their countries and sent them to a US laboratory for independent testing. The results show that there is LL601 contamination in Ghana and Sierra Leone.

"We are shocked that unapproved genetically modified long grain rice has been sent to our country through food aid channels," commented Arthur Williams, a GM campaigner with Friends of the Earth Sierra Leone.

"We are a nation just recovering from years of civil war and now to attack us in this manner is now making our people once more vulnerable."

Ghana is among the top 10 importers of rice from the USA and it is feared that the contamination may have spread across the West African sub-region and beyond. Ghana’s rice imports from the USA stood at 78.900 metric tonnes (MT) in 2001/2002, 117.600 MT in 2002/2003 and 166.400 MT in 2004/2005.

In 2002 East African countries such as Zambia rejected GM corn as food aid despite food shortages. In Latin America, contamination of the food chain through food aid was also found when illegal corn strain, such as Star Link, was found there in 2002 and 2005.

Friends of the Earth said that serious efforts must be made by governments and international agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) to endure that food aid does not become the popular channel for GM contamination around the world.

"We cannot accept a situation when food aid becomes a secret channel to ambush our peoples with illegal genetically modified food. We refuse to be used as guinea pigs in big business’s experimentations," said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Africa.

"With the confirmation of this contamination, it is very likely that a large number of African countries are already contaminated. Africa is facing a lot of challenges and cannot afford to add this man-made problem. It must be halted at its roots."

Reacting to the contamination, Cheryl Agyepong GM campaigner with Friends of the Earth Ghana said: "We don’t want genetically modified rice in our fields and we call on our Government to take all necessary measures to prevent any possible contamination of our seeds."

She further added that African governments must preserve "the African environment in order to secure the future of humanity." LLRICE601 is engineered to tolerate an herbicide called glufosinate which is sold under the brand name Liberty Link. This tolerance was introduced through a Streptomyces hygroscopicus gene that codes for phospinothricin acetyl transferase (PAT), a glufosinate-inactivating enzyme.

The GM rice, produced by German-based biotechnology company Bayer, was field tested between 1998 and 2001 but the contamination of commercial long grain rice has only just come to light. The US exported more than 3 million tonnes of rice in 2005.

Friends of the Earth Africa calls on the government to immediately halt untested long grain rice food aid and commercial imports from the USA. The public does not want this illegal rice and even rice growers in the USA were shocked to learn that they were cultivating an unapproved rice strain, the environmental group said. The USDA must take immediate steps to examine protocols for the containment of field trails and also to ensure that every shipment to Africa is adequately screened to ensure they are free of contamination.

Just In

Bayer AG (BAY GY): .... genetically engineered rice created by Germany's largest drugmaker, which was found to have contaminated commercial supplies in the U.S. this summer, has been labeled safe for human consumption by regulators, the Washington Post reported.


Monsanto Anti-Farmer Patents To Be Reexamined At Pubpat Request

Public Patent Foundation
November 30, 2006

Patent Office Finds "Substantial Questions" Regarding the Validity of Each of Monsanto's Four Widely Asserted Patents

NEW YORK -- In response to requests filed earlier this year by the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), the United States Patent and Trademark Office will undertake a comprehensive review of four patents related to genetically modified crops held by Monsanto Company that the agricultural giant is using to harass, intimidate, sue - and in some cases literally bankrupt - American farmers. In its Orders granting the four requested reexaminations, the USPTO found that PUBPAT had submitted new evidence that raised "substantial questions of patentability" for every single claim of each of the four patents.

Monsanto has filed dozens of patent infringement lawsuits asserting the four challenged patents against American farmers, many of whom are unable to hire adequate representation to defend themselves in court. The crime these farmers are accused of is nothing more than saving seed from one year's crop to replant the following year, something farmers have done since the beginning of time.

Now that PUBPAT's requests for reexamination proceedings have been granted, Monsanto has the opportunity to make opening statements to the Patent Office, to which PUBPAT has the right to respond. After opening statements, if any, the Patent Office will proceed to determine whether the four patents (U.S. Patents Nos. 5,164,316, 5,196,525, 5,322,938 and 5,352,605) are indeed invalid in light of the new evidence presented by PUBPAT in its requests. Third party requests for reexamination, like the ones filed by PUBPAT, are successful in having the challenged patent either changed or completely revoked roughly 70% of the time.

"We are extremely pleased with the Patent Office's decision to grant our requests to reexamine the patents Monsanto is using to bully American farmers," said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT's Executive Director. "This is the first step towards ending the harm being caused to the public by Monsanto's aggressive assertion of these patents, none of which would ever have been issued by the Patent Office had they known of the prior art that we uncovered and submitted as part of our reexamination requests."

Copies of the Patent Office's Orders Granting Reexamination of the four Monsanto patents can be found at

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