martes, enero 31, 2006

African farmers say NO

MEDIA RELEASE From the International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED)

African farmers say GM crops are not the way forward

Ordinary cotton-growers and other farmers have voted against introducing genetically-modified crops in a "citizens jury" in Mali, which is the world's fourth poorest country. Instead, the jurors proposed a package of recommendations to strengthen traditional agricultural practice and support local farmers.

The five day event (25-29 January) took place in Sikasso in the south of the West African country, where two-thirds of the country's cotton is produced. Mali is the largest producer of cotton in sub-Saharan Africa, largely grown by smallholder farmers whose livelihoods depend on it.

Birama Kone, a small farmer on the 43-strong jury, said: "GM crops are associated with the kind of farming that marginalises the mutual help and co-operation among farmers and our social and cultural life."

Basri Lidigoita, a woman farmer on the jury, said: "We do not ever ever want GM seeds. Never."

Brahim Sidebe, a medium-size farmer on the jury, said: "Farmers do not want GM crops and do not want public research to work on GM technology in Mali."
The jurors cross-examined 14 international witnesses representing a broad range of views on this controversial issue. These included biotech scientists, agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation and farmers from South Africa and India with first-hand experience of growing GM crops.

African countries are under increasing pressure from agribusiness to open their markets to GM crops and industrialise their farming sector, but the continent remains divided in its response. South Africa and Mali's neighbour Burkina Faso have allowed the introduction of GM, but Benin has said no.

Though the jurors' decision is not binding, it is expected to influence the future direction of agricultural policy in Mali and across the region where most people rely on subsistence farming.

The citizens jury was hosted by the regional government (Assemblee Regionale de Sikasso) and, to ensure a fair process, it was designed and facilitated by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and RIBios, the University of Geneva's Biosafety Interdisciplinary Network, together with a wide range of local partners in Mali.

IIED's Dr Michel Pimbert said: "This initiative is about making the agriculture agenda more directly responsive to African people's priorities and choices. It is vital that we redress the current democratic deficit in which governments and big agri-food corporations have far more say than farmers and other citizens about how land is used, and what crops are grown. We must all recognise that local people have the right to decide the food and farming policies they want. This citizens jury has provided a safe space for farmers to reach an informed, evidence-based view on this complicated and often controversial issue, which can then be amplified to policy-makers."

Kokozie Traore, President, Assemblee Regionale Sikasso, said: "This citizen space for democratic deliberation has allowed farmers to learn about the potential risks and benefits of GM in the context of Malian farming. As a learning process it has created many synergies between all actors in our province, from the very local to the regional level. The citizens jury has been an eye-opening process and has made possible a cross-fertilisation of local, regional and international opinions on GM and the future of farming."

One of the local organisers, Dr Togola, Research Director of the Sikasso Agricultural Research Station, said: "I am very satisfied. I know that during the last five days our farmers have been sufficiently informed and empowered to make the choices that best suit them on GM and farming options."


lunes, enero 30, 2006

Biopirates in Africa

Edmonds Institute (USA) and African Centre for Biosafety (South Africa)


Contact: Beth Burrows (in USA): 1 - 425 - 775 - 5383,
Mariam Mayet (in Granada, Spain): 34 - 958- 817- 401,,
Melody Emmett (in South Africa: 27 - 082 - 868 - 6581,

EMBARGOED until Monday, January 30, 2006

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Monday, January 30. A shocking report on Africa-wide biopiracy debuted today as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) resumed international negotiations on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) in relation to genetic resources. The report, entitled "Out of Africa: Mysteries of Access and Benefit Sharing", was released by the Edmonds Institute and the African Centre for Biosafety, public interest, non-profit groups in the United States and South Africa, respectively.

Edmonds Institute president/director Beth Burrows described the 42-page document as " a littany of cases of suspicious biodiversity acquisition, " but report author Jay McGown contended that, "It's not about suspicious acquisition. It's about cases of biopiracy, or, to use the more old-fashioned term, 'theft'."

"It's a free-for-all out there," McGown added, "and until the CBD solves the problems of access and benefit sharing, the robbery will continue."

"Biopiracy", according to Burrows, is a term that refers to "the acquisition of biodiversity, i.e., biological material (plants, animals, microorganism, and their parts), or of traditional knowledge related to that biodiversity, without the prior informed consent of those whose biodiversity or traditional knowledge has been taken."

One of the best known and most recent cases of biopiracy had to do with Hoodia, an appetite suppressant that capitalized on the traditional knowledge of the San people. Developed and patented by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), exclusive rights were sold to a British company. It was only after worldwide outcry that a percentage of the royalties - a miniscule percentage - came to the San in the form of a trust. The Hoodia case is still cited as a prime example of inadequate benefit sharing and questionable prior informed consent.

Executive Director of the African Centre for Biosafety, Mariam Mayet, " said, "When you look at what has been taken in the recent past from Egypt to South Africa, it runs the gamut from biodiversity used for medicine to biodiversity used for agriculture, horticulture, cosmetics, and industrial purposes. It's unbelievable how much has been taken without a public accounting and probably without any permission from the communities and peoples involved . "

"There's a huge amount to be accounted for," Burrows noted. "It's not easy to prove biopiracy. Where contracts are not published and national rules of access and benefit sharing may not exist or are not attended to by bioprospectors, or the companies and institutions they represent, it is difficult to verify claims of theft, even when you catch the thieves with the booty in hand, . . . or in their patent portfolios."

Mayet added that, "For ABS according to the vision of the CBD, one should be able to verify that in each instance of use, particularly where biodiversity and/or its derivatives have been patented, the whole process began in prior informed consent and a benefit sharing agreement from the people whose biodiversity has been accessed."

Although the CBD addressed the terms and conditions for access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing in the original treaty that came into force in 1993, it was not until 1999 that efforts were made to operationalize the treaty's provisions. The process was taken forward in negotiations at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, and continues at the Fourth Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Access and Benefit Sharing, being held in Granada, Spain this week.

"Out of Africa: Mysteries of Access and Benefit Sharing" is available Monday morning on the Edmonds Institute website:

For more information contact:

Beth Burrows - Edmonds Institute, in the U.S.
Tel.: +1-425-775-5383, email:, website:

Mariam Mayet - African Centre for Biosafety
Until 7 February, Tel: +34 958 817 401 in Granada, Spain.
After 7 February, in South Africa at +27 11 646
0699, e-mail:,

Melody Emmett in South Africa for the African Centre for Biosafety
Tel.: +27 -082-868-6581, email:


domingo, enero 29, 2006

Terminator at the Granada 8J meeting

ETC Group
Ban Terminator Campaign
News Release
27 January 2006

Granada's Grim Sowers Plow up Moratorium on Terminator, Clear the Path for its Approval at UN

Terminator Opponents Prepare for Battle at COP8 in Curitiba, Brazil March 20-31, 2006

Indigenous peoples were betrayed and Farmers' Rights trampled at a UN meeting this week when the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian governments - guided by the US government and a brazen cabal of corporate Gene Giants - took a major step to undermine the existing moratorium on Terminator technology (i.e., plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest). The damaging recommendations from the meeting in Granada, Spain, now go to the upcoming 8th biennial meeting of the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil, March 20-31.

The CBD's "Working Group on Article 8(j)" that met in Granada this week was established to protect the traditional knowledge, innovation and practices of Indigenous peoples and peasant farmers. Civil society groups and Indigenous peoples watched in disbelief however as governments ignored the profoundly negative social, economic and environmental impacts of "suicide seeds" highlighted in numerous CBD studies as well as in official submissions from Indigenous peoples and farmers' organizations. The outcome now threatens biodiversity and the future of seed-saving and locally adapted agriculture worldwide.

"Terminator poses a threat to our welfare and food sovereignty and constitutes a violation of our human right of self-determination," said Mariano Marcos Terena of Brazil on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity.

Although the meeting "reaffirmed" the fragile UN moratorium on Terminator, new recommendations adopted in Granada now may be used to block the CBD's precautionary approach when governments meet in March in Brazil. Not only did the meeting fail to condemn Terminator as immoral and anti-farmer, Australia and the United States falsely claimed that Terminator, which creates sterility, would "increase productivity."

With a US government official consulting at her side, the Australian negotiator insisted on deleting reference to the "precautionary approach" and used this as a bargaining chip to win controversial wording for a "case-by-case risk assessment" of Terminator. "The new reference to case-by-case assessment is shocking and extremely damaging because it suggests that national regulatory review of Terminator is possible - it undermines the CBD moratorium, opening the door to Terminator approval," warns Hope Shand of ETC Group.

"Australia's brazen move confirms that an alarming government-industry strategy is in play to overturn the UN moratorium on Terminator," said Lucy Sharratt of the Ban Terminator Campaign. "The process and outcome dismiss the contributions of Indigenous and local communities."

Despite the unscrupulous push by a handful of rich countries to put industry profits before Farmers' Rights, the majority of governments at the meeting remain solidly opposed to Terminator technology and committed to the existing moratorium. In her welcoming address the Spanish Minister of the Environment acknowledged the dangers of Terminator technology. During the meeting, the African Group, Egypt and the Philippines made impassioned speeches about the potentially devastating impacts of Terminator on biodiversity and food security and the need for national bans. Norway, Pakistan, Kenya and the European Union defended the existing moratorium. India and Brazil both referred to their national laws prohibiting genetic seed sterilization technology. Despite this strong opposition to Terminator, Australia's extreme position and its determination to block consensus left governments little room to negotiate.

In the Halls of Shame: Despite public pledges not to develop Terminator technology, Gene Giants Syngenta and Monsanto lobbied aggressively on Terminator throughout the week. Harry Collins of Delta and Pine Land, the world's largest cotton seed company which is now testing Terminator plants in greenhouses, attended under the auspices of the International Seed Federation. Monsanto's Roger Krueger moonlighted as a representative from the International Chamber of Commerce. They were joined in the corridors by CropLife International, a pesticide lobby group representing the "plant science industry."

Outside the UN meeting Spanish people of all ages gathered to remind governments of the strong public resistance to Terminator technology. Ecologistas en Acción organized public events, street protests, and educational street displays throughout the week as part of the International Ban Terminator Campaign ( When news of the Granada outcome reached the plenary of the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela last night there were howls of anger from thousands of assembled farmers.

"Allowing case-by-case approval of Terminator means a slow death for farmers coffin-by-coffin," explained Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group speaking in Caracas.

The Ban Terminator Campaign will work with groups and movements across the world to strengthen the global resistance to stop Terminator. The fight now moves to the COP8 meeting in Brazil March 20-31.

A transcript of the Draft Recommendation submitted by the Working Group can be read here on ETC Group's web site.

For more information:

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Ban Terminator Campaign
mobile: +1 613 252-2147

Hope Shand or Verónica Villa
ETC Headquarters, Ottawa
tel: +1 613 241 2267

Pat Mooney and Silvia Ribeiro in Caracas
mobile: +1 613 261 0688
tel: Hotel El Cid (+58212) 263 2611


jueves, enero 26, 2006

Un nuevo estudio científico mostró que más de la mitad de las crías de ratas de laboratorio cuyas madres fueron alimentadas con soya transgénica durante la gestación murieron en las tres primeras semanas de vida. Esto significa un promedio seis veces más alto que otras ratas que recibieron alimentación normal. Es altamente probable que el maíz y la soya transgénica que se han colado en nuestra alimentación produzcan alergias y otros daños a la salud. No es necesario que un producto sea bueno, en ningún sentido, para llegar al mercado. Alcanza con el poder de las trasnacionales para pagar propaganda mentirosa y comprar gobiernos y legisladores corruptos


Transgénicos, ni cien años bastan

David Lorente Pérez

Quizás se acaba de prohibir por 5 años el cultivo de transgénicos, Asturias se ha declarado 'zona libre de transgénicos', mientras que el País Vasco está pensándoselo. ¿Son unos alarmistas, o simplemente están adoptando el principio de precaución antes de poner en riesgo a sus ciudadanos y a su medio ambiente?

En la Unión de Agricultores y Ganaderos de La Rioja UAGR vemos correctas estas actitudes respecto a los transgénicos, un avance tecnológico innecesario para los agricultores y los consumidores.

En cambio, hay quien piensa que «diez años sin crisis» bastan para «comenzar a ser flexibles en la valoración de los OGM». Pero basta recordar lo sucedido con el DDT para refutar esta tesis: usado masivamente durante décadas porque no se habían demostrado efectos en el ser humano, durante los años 60 y 70 se confirmó que este producto no se degrada sino que se acumula en los tejidos grasos con un efecto bioacumulativo. Es decir, que aunque no causa daños por toxicidad inmediata, su persistencia es muy preocupante. Pero para entonces varias generaciones de agricultores y de consumidores habíamos convivido con él. En estos diez años varios estudios han demostrado los peligros de soltar transgénicos en los campos. En Australia, por ejemplo, acaban de cancelar el desarrollo de legumbres modificadas con un gen de alubia resistente al gorgojo, ya que dañaban a los ratones que con el se alimentaban.

También hubo contaminación de transgénicos en cultivos no modificados. En el 2001 se descubrieron en Navarra dos campos de maíz ecológico contaminados de genes transgénicos por polinización cruzada, lo que conllevó su descalificación. En el 2003 una finca de maíz convencional aragonesa, situada a 200 metros de otra transgénica, sufrió también los efectos de la polinización cruzada. Un año después resultó contaminada otra finca en la que su propietario llevaba 17 años intentando recuperar una variedad casi desaparecida de maíz rojo. Y la finca transgénica estaba a 700 metros de distancia. En las semillas ocurre lo mismo. En 2001 se descubrió contaminación por material transgénico en una partida de soja utilizada como pienso en una finca ecológica de crianza de pollos navarra. Esta semilla era ilegal en España, ya que el cultivo de soja transgénica no está autorizado. En cuanto a los piensos, desde el 2001 se han detectado cinco casos de contaminación en Vizcaya y uno en Cataluña.

Por si esto fuera poco nos encontramos con noticias que descubren la verdadera cara de las multinacionales que nos quieren imponer los transgénicos: «Syngenta introdujo en Europa mil toneladas de un maíz transgénico prohibido» (El Correo, 2-4-2005). Además, entre los agricultores franceses hay fundadas sospechas de que ciertas multinacionales están introduciendo un insecto en el maíz, la chrysomela, para presionar con los transgénicos a la UE.

Con estos antecedentes, los agricultores no necesitamos esta tecnología, pues no observamos sus supuestas ventajas, agronómicas, medioambientales, nutricionales, para la salud e incluso para resolver el hambre en el mundo. Diez años después de los primeros cultivos transgénicos estos no han mostrado ventajas frente a las variedades convencionales ni han cumplido ninguna de sus promesas. Por el contrario, cada vez son mayores los temores acerca de los riesgos que entrañan.

En la UAGR no estamos en contra del avance tecnológico, de la investigación, ni de la búsqueda de beneficios por parte de cualquier empresa. Pero sí nos oponemos a que prevalezcan los intereses económicos de cuatro multi- nacionales por encima del principio de precaución y del derecho de los agricultores y países a elegir libremente su alimentación.

La Rioja, Internet, 20-1-06

Ban Terminator

Date : 24 January 2006


Dear Friends and colleagues,

Governments are gathering from 23-27 January for the fourth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Intersessional Working Group on Article 8(j) and related provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Granda, Spain. One of the key items on the agenda is with regards to the potential socio-economic impacts of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) on indigenous and local communities (Item 1).

Terminator Technology, which is one of the GURTs under development, is an extremely controversial application of genetic engineering. It renders seeds sterile at harvest, thus preventing farmers from saving and re-using seed, and forcing them to return to corporations to buy seed every season.
Although the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has a "de facto" moratorium on the field-testing and commercialization of GURTs, it is under threat, as there have been increased efforts by industry and some governments to overturn this.

Moreover, industry is now presenting the technology as suitable for "biological containment", to prevent gene flow. However, this is a false argument as Terminator is not a reliable gene containment system for both technical and practical reasons (Item 2).

For example, Terminator crops will still produce pollen and could cross with neighbouring non-genetically engineered or organic crops. So gene flow could still occur, with potentially catastrophic impacts on agrobiodiversity and biodiversity, and on seed saving.

It is crucial that the Working Group on 8(j) makes strong and conclusive recommendations against GURTs. Civil society groups are calling for an international ban on Terminator Technology.

For more information, please visit

With best wishes,

Lim Li Ching
Third World Network
121-S Jalan Utama
10450 Penang
Website: and


miércoles, enero 25, 2006

Cummins on Biodemocracy

Biodemocracy Bytes #1, Jan.22, 2006
By Ronnie Cummins

What is Biodemocracy and Why Does it Matter?

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has tried to popularize the term "Biodemocracy," as a key concept or goal in our work, ever since we started organizing a national network back in 1998. I first used the term "Biodemocracy," on the anniversary of Gandhi's birthday, October 2, 1994, to coincide with a demonstration I helped organize in Minneapolis to protest the World Trade Organization's policy to allow corporations like Monsanto, Cargill, and W.R. Grace to obtain monopoly patents on living life forms and indigenous knowledge, including plants, seeds, animals, and even human cell lines.

"Biodemocracy" was meant to describe what the global grassroots stands for, democracy, and reverence for all living creatures, in opposition to Biotechnology or Bioimperialism, rule by the corporate technocrats, who basically believe that living live forms are just "a bag of chemicals," as the head of the Biotechnology Industry Organization put it. OCA's first electronic newsletter, which focused mainly on food safety and genetic engineering, was called Biodemocracy News.

Now the OCA network, which started out with 800 people on our email list, has grown to 350,000 subscribers, many of whom forward Organic Bytes, our bi-weekly online newsletter, to their friends and family members. As we've expanded our network, we've also expanded our focus and the definition of Biodemocracy. So here's a new working definition of Biodemocracy: democratic control by the global grassroots over the policies and institutions that impact our health and environment, as well as the health and environment of the future generations.

Vandana Shiva, a leading writer and activist from India, and a member of OCA's international Policy Advisory Board, uses the term "Earth Democracy," in her new book, Earth Democracy, to describe this concept. As Shiva puts it, "Earth Democracy is both an ancient worldview and an emergent global political movement for peace, justice and sustainabilityŠ a People's Project for a New Planetary Millennium." You can order this inspiring new book off our website:

As readers of this website and OCA's newsletters and Alerts are well aware, we are living in a dangerous and frightening time. Our health, food, water, and climate are under continuous assault by a corporate technocracy that apparently can't tell the difference between a "suicide economy," as Vandana Shiva describes it, and business as usual. Unless we nurture and build up our strength as healthy and sovereign individuals, and build up a powerful online and on the ground culture and politics of resistance and affirmation, most likely we, and certainly our children's generation, are doomed.

As Lester Brown from the World Watch Institute bluntly pointed out on January 6, (AFP, French News Service) the growth of a global economy in China and India based upon the hyper-consumer model of the USA spells disaster for the planet. "If China continues imitating the American dream, between now and 2031 its 1.45 billion inhabitants will consumeŠ two-thirds of the world's grains, and more than double the world's current paper supplies. At this rate, all of world's forests will be destroyed." Brown adds that India, following a similar path of non-sustainable corporate globalization and industrialization, will likely have an even larger population than China within 25 years. And as other analysts point out, global oil production has peaked, or will soon peak, meaning that there will simply not be enough oil to supply the accelerating transportation, manufacturing, heating, refrigeration, and agricultural needs of the industrialized nations, not to mention the newly emerging economic tigers, China and India.

Increased market share for organic, Fair Trade, and green products in an era of Armageddon and climate chaos will provide little consolation. In the era of Katrina, climate change, and Iraq-style resource wars, we are literally in a race against time to turn our nation and the global community toward health, justice, and sustainability. This turning will likely require nothing short of a Second American Revolution, carried out on a global scale.

In the ultimate sense Biodemocracy means survival. As Vandana Shiva puts it,
Biodemocracy means embracing "ancient concepts of living together: connected to the Earth locally and globally, reintegrating human activities into the Earth's ecological processes and limits." It means, as OCA's current campaign says, "Breaking the Chains" and moving beyond the din of commercial advertising and mindless consumerism to put our money where our values lie, to choose food, products, and lifestyles which are healthy and sustainable.

But it also means collectively raising our political voices, and getting organized, as organic consumers and responsible citizens, to stop the out-of-control corporations, politicians, and technocrats who are driving us toward disaster. Stay tuned to this website and Organic Bytes for news, analysis, and ongoing opportunities to get involved in our campaigns. And please send us your thoughts on Biodemocracy, and where we should go from here.

Jugar a ser Dios

Ana Muñoz

Más de 90 millones de hectáreas están hoy dedicadas a los cultivos transgénicos. En diez años este tipo de cultivos ha crecido un 11%, a pesar de las críticas de las organizaciones ecologistas

Durante el último año, cuatro países más que en 2004 permiten el cultivo de este tipo de semillas modificadas genéticamente. Estados Unidos, con el 50% de la superficie dedicada a estos cultivos, y Argentina, con cerca del 20%, son los países donde la legislación es más permisiva y las trasnacionales agrícolas encuentran menos problemas para utilizar semillas transgénicas. La soja, el maíz y el algodón son los principales cultivos modificados. Sin embargo, organizaciones como Greenpeace afirman que este tipo de cultivos son una “bomba de relojería” que ponen en riesgo nuestro planeta ya que los efectos sobre el medio ambiente y sobre las propias personas no son predecibles.

Los cultivos transgénicos contaminan genéticamente a otras variedades. Los insectos y el viento hacen que las semillas se “contagien”. El caso del maíz en México es el más claro. Este país latinoamericano es el centro de diversidad y origen del maíz, pero las semillas modificadas están acabando con las variedades tradicionales. Las causas de la polinización son impredecibles y es imposible poner ‘puertas al campo’.

Los transgénicos, por tanto, acaban con la diversidad agrícola y con los cultivos tradicionales. En la India, por ejemplo, se han perdido casi 50.000 arroces distintos, según Greenpeace, y en Indonesia, más de 1.500 variedades de este cereal en los últimos 20 años. Además, las modificaciones en los genes de las semillas están provocando la aparición de “supermalezas” y de plagas resistentes.

Los defensores de los cultivos modificados explican que el rendimiento es mucho mayor ya que se hacen resistentes a determinadas enfermedades y que el problema del hambre desaparecería. Sin embargo, varios estudios han constados de que no es así. La soja transgénica en EEUU, por ejemplo, ha sufrido pérdidas de un 7% en su rendimiento. En España, es estudio Al grano: impacto del maíz transgénico en España pone de manifiesto que los maíces modificados producen menos que las variedades equivalentes tradicionales.

La Tierra, además, produce alimentos suficientes para alimentar a toda la población mundial. La pobreza es la consecuencia de la mala distribución de la riqueza y los recursos naturales de la Tierra. Así, mientras dos terceras partes de la humanidad pasan hambre, el resto vive en la opulencia, hasta el extremo de que la obesidad se ha convertido en uno de los problemas más graves en cuestiones de salud en los países enriquecidos del Norte. Y los transgénicos, en el ámbito comercial y económico, no hacen más que beneficiarse de esta situación. Tan sólo un pequeño número de empresas, como Syngenta, Dupont, Bayer o Monsanto, que controla el 90% de los transgénicos, comercializan este tipo de semillas. Estas grandes multinacionales patentan las semillas y le ponen precio a la biodiversidad, que como Greenpeace aclara “siempre ha sido patrimonio de los pueblos”.

Los pequeños agricultores están siendo desplazados de sus tierras. En cambio, aparecen millones de hectáreas de plantaciones de cultivos transgénicos que dejan fuera a los campesinos y destruyen los ecosistemas. En Argentina, por ejemplo, más de 160.000 familias han tenido que abandonar sus tierras en los últimos diez años.

Los problemas que los cultivos modificados genéticamente tienen para la salud todavía no han sido evaluados. No obstante, están apareciendo nuevas alergias y resistencias a los antibióticos debido al consumo de alimentos modificados o carnes o pescados que han sido alimentados con semillas transgénicas.

El “arroz dorado” protagoniza uno de los casos más conocidos. Se trata de un arroz enriquecido de vitamina A y que hoy se cree provoca enfermedades como la ceguera. Además, su aporte vitamínico está puesto en duda ya que para ingerir los 500 microgramos de vitamina A que recomienda la FAO es necesario comer casi cuatro kilos de este arroz, lo que supone que son más de nueve kilos de arroz hervido. Y lo cierto es que la misma cantidad de esta vitamina se consigue comiendo 200 gramos de arroz normal, cien gramos de zanahorias y cien de mango.

La ciencia es uno de los motores del desarrollo de nuestras sociedades. Sin embargo, jugar a ser Dios puede ser un juego demasiado peligroso para la Humanidad.

Analitica, Internet, 20-1-06

lunes, enero 23, 2006

Rechazada la introducción de maíz transgénico en BOLIVIA
La Paz, 20/Enero/2006
En fecha 14 de noviembre de 2005 fue emitida la Resolución Administrativa VRNMA Nº 135/05 que en su articulo segundo resuelve: “Rechazar toda solicitud sobre introducción de maíz genéticamente modificado al territorio nacional, para la realización de pruebas de campo, siembra, producción o liberación deliberada en el medio ambiente”.
La Empresa Dow AgroSciences Bolivia S.A. presentó, en agosto del 2004 una solicitud para la realización de ensayos con maíz genéticamente modificado (resistencia al gusano cogollero y al herbicida glufosinato de amonio con maíz Bt, evento TC 1507). Los hechos políticos de junio precipitaron la salida de Erwin Aguilera, el ex ministro que aprobó la liberación comercial de soya transgénica de Monsanto y que probablemente hubiera también aprobado el maíz transgénico.
La primera solicitud de Dow AgroSciences Bolivia S.A. fue anulada por no cumplir procedimientos. Posteriormente la empresa presentó una segunda solicitud, que fue analizada en base a la normativa legal y tomando en cuenta las recomendaciones técnicas que establecen la alta probabilidad de contaminación genética de las variedades criollas de maíz debido a sus características de reproducción cruzada y el potencial de riesgo que esto presenta a la diversidad genética de este cultivo, ya que Bolivia es centro de diversidad genética del maíz. Asimismo determina, rechazar toda solicitud sobre introducción de maíz genéticamente modificado al territorio nacional para la realización de pruebas de campo, siembra, producción o liberación deliberada en el medio ambiente y encarga la ejecución y aplicación de la misma a la Dirección General de Biodiversidad. (Resolución Administrativa VRNMA Nº 135/05)
En Octubre de 2005 organizaciones de la sociedad civil se dirigieron a la Ministra Bozo para recordarle que: La región andina en su conjunto, es centro de diversidad de este cultivo; incluso para algunos investigadores, el centro de origen sería la zona chaqueña de Bolivia-Paraguay, por la presencia de maíces tunicados.
La liberación del maíz transgénico implica la seguridad de contaminación de la gran variedad de semillas utilizadas en todo el país. Ello significa afectar un patrimonio genético y cultural desarrollado en miles de años por las diferentes culturas y pueblos que los habitan, así como poner en riesgo el material genético que se encuentra en los bancos de germoplasma de instituciones y de los agricultores. Mas allá de esto, pone en riesgo toda la región andina como centro de diversidad del maíz, lo cual es absolutamente irracional tomando en cuenta los problemas que atraviesa en la actualidad el maíz en México, considerado el centro de origen.
Por la información existente, las características de la polinización, manejo, selección e intercambio de maíz, extensión del cultivo en todo el país, así como las evidencias de contaminación en México; permitir el inicio de pruebas con maíz transgénico sería atentar contra uno de los principales patrimonios genético-culturales del país. Pondría en riesgo no solo el cultivo en los llanos, en la región andina, en los valles y en la amazonía, sino las propias políticas nacionales y regionales de recursos genéticos y de biodiversidad destinadas a la protección de estos recursos compartidos en la región andina.
Nuestros pueblos manejan una gran variedad de maíz, de diversos tamaños, sabores, consistencia. Así, cada plato tiene su tipo de maíz y cada región tiene su propia tradición, desde el Altiplano, los Valles, la Amazonía, el Chaco, la Chiquitanía, la Llanura Beniana, hasta el Pantanal. La diversidad de platos y formas de preparar el maíz es un reflejo de la cantidad de variedades cultivadas en todas las bioregiones y de las culturas que las habitan, pero es al mismo tiempo una muestra de la biodiversidad del país.
Foro Boliviano sobre Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo
Tel. 2421221
Fax. 2422105

Campaña global contra Terminator

Campaña Internacional "Terminar con Terminator"

Con el nombre de tecnología Terminator se conoce la manipulación genética de plantas para que sus semillas sean estériles. Esta tecnología vulnera claramente los Derechos de los agricultores, socava la soberanía alimentaria y representa una grave amenaza para la subsistencia campesina y para la biodiversidad.

Ecologistas en Acción ha iniciado una campaña que tiene como objetivo conseguir la prohibición de la tecnología Terminator. Esta tecnología vulnera claramente los Derechos de los agricultores, socava la soberanía alimentaria y representa una grave amenaza para la subsistencia campesina y para la biodiversidad.

Con el nombre de tecnología Terminator se conoce la manipulación genética de plantas para que sus semillas sean estériles. La tecnología Terminator -llamada también Sistema de Protección de la Tecnología, o TPS por sus siglas en inglés o Tecnología de Restricción del Uso Genético (TRUG)-, fue desarrollada para evitar que los agricultores guardaran y resembraran las semillas cosechadas. En la actualidad todas las grandes multinacionales de ingeniería genética están desarrollando este tipo de tecnología, y aunque Terminator no se comercializa aún, ni hay ensayos de campo, ya se han llevado a cabo pruebas experimentales en invernaderos estadounidenses y se están tramitando más de 30 patentes en diferentes países, incluido el nuestro.

La tecnología Terminator ha sido condenada en todo el mundo debido a sus graves repercusiones para los agricultores, los pueblos indígenas, la biodiversidad y la seguridad alimentaria. Su único objetivo es maximizar las ganancias de la industria, impidiendo que los agricultores utilicen semilla de su propia cosecha para la siembra, sin ninguna contrapartida beneficiosa. Con ello se amenaza no sólo el medio de vida de 1400 millones de campesinos que dependen de sus semillas, sino el mantenimiento de la enorme diversidad de variedades agrícolas conservadas en los campos de los agricultores y fundamentales para la producción mundial de alimentos.

Las multinacionales de las semillas y de biotecnología están promoviendo el falso argumento de que Terminator puede usarse para frenar la contaminación no deseada provocada por los cultivos manipulados genéticamente. Pero esta tecnología es compleja y poco fiable, no siendo posible garantizar su estabilidad ni evitar la transferencia y dispersión de genes. Los genes Terminator pueden introducir nuevos riesgos, pudiendo pasar a otros cultivos o incluso a parientes silvestres del entorno a través del polen. La diseminación de genes estériles podría convertirse en una catástrofe ecológica. Además, los agricultores que guarden semillas de variedades contaminadas con el fin de replantarlas pueden encontrarse que algunas de sus semillas ya no germinan, ocasionándoles pérdidas significativas.

Aunque desde el año 2000, existe una moratoria internacional de facto sobre Terminator en el Convenio de Diversidad Biológica (CDB) de Naciones Unidas, esta situación puede cambiar en la próxima reunión del CDB, que se celebrará en marzo de 2006 en Brasil. Por ello, es de suma importancia la reunión del Grupo de Trabajo del CDB sobre el Artículo 8 (j), que se reunirá del 23 al 27 de enero en Granada (Andalucía). De dicha reunión saldrán recomendaciones sobre esta tecnología a discutir en Brasil.

En consecuencia Ecologistas en Acción pide al Gobierno español que proponga y apoye la prohibición de las pruebas de campo y la comercialización de la Tecnología Terminator en el Grupo de Trabajo sobre el Artículo 8 (j).
20 de enero de 2006

Más información: Isabel Bermejo 686 47 23 57
Ecologistas en Accion


sábado, enero 21, 2006

Terminator looms

ETC Group

News Release
20 January 2006

Terminator Threat Looms
Intergovernmental meeting to tackle suicide seeds issue
CBD's Working Group on 8(j) Meets in Granada, Spain 23-27 January

Indigenous peoples, farmers' organizations and civil society representatives are bracing to defend a de facto United Nations' moratorium on seed sterilization technology - the moratorium is now under attack by the multinational seed and biotech industry. A meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, where "suicide seeds" are on the agenda, gets underway in Spain next week. The UN moratorium - which recommends against the field-testing and commercial sale of seed sterilization technology - is under attack. Delta & Pine Land (a multinational seed company) and the US Department of Agriculture recently won new patents on Terminator in Europe and Canada.(1)

Terminator (a.k.a. "genetic use restriction technology" - GURTs) refers to plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest. The technology was developed by the multinational seed/agrochemical industry and the US government. If commercialized, Terminator would prevent farmers from saving seeds from their harvest, forcing them to return to the commercial market every year and marking the end of locally-adapted agriculture through seed selection. The vast majority of the world's farmers routinely save seed from their harvest for re-planting.

Bombshell in Bangkok: Almost one year ago, the Canadian government and its seed industry allies made a scandalous bid to dismantle the United Nations' moratorium on Terminator seed technology at a February 2005 meeting of a scientific advisory body to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bangkok. A leaked memo revealed that the Canadian government was prepared to push for language allowing for field-testing and commercialization of Terminator. Ultimately, the Canadian government was forced to publicly distance itself from Terminator in response to citizen protests back home, and due to key interventions from other governments that support the moratorium.

"The promise of increased profits is simply too enticing for industry to give up on Terminator seeds," explains Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the international Ban Terminator Campaign . "Terminator seeds will become a commercial reality unless governments take action to prevent it," agrees Hope Shand of ETC Group.

The Ban Terminator Campaign, launched in response to attacks on the CBD moratorium, seeks to promote government bans on Terminator technology at the national and international levels. It also supports efforts of civil society, farmers, Indigenous peoples and social movements to campaign against suicide seeds.

National Bans: In March 2005 the Brazilian government passed a national law that prohibits the use, sale, registration, patenting and licensing of Terminator seeds. The Government of India has implemented a national ban on Terminator through its legislation governing plant variety registration.

One More Round in Granada: Governments will meet in Granada, Spain next week (January 23-27) to consider the social, economic and cultural impacts of Terminator seeds on indigenous and local communities, and on peasant farmers. The meeting will review an expert report on Terminator (known as the AHTEG Report) and make recommendations to the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8) in Curitiba, Brazil, 20-31 March 2006, where Terminator is on the agenda.

"Terminator technology is an assault on the traditional knowledge, innovation and practices of indigenous and local communities," said Debra Harry of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, and member of the expert group that examined the potential impacts of GURTs (Terminator) on indigenous peoples, smallholder farmers and Farmers' Rights. "Field testing or commercial use of sterile seed technology is a fundamental violation of the human rights of Indigenous peoples, a breach of the right of self-determination," said Harry.

The Ban Terminator Campaign urges the Working Group on 8j to unambiguously advise that genetic seed sterility threatens biodiversity, indigenous knowledge systems and food sovereignty. The AHTEG Report on GURTs should be forwarded to COP8 for its consideration, and the report's recommendation that governments adopt national regulations to prohibit the field-testing and commercial use of GURTs should be strengthened.

For more information:

Lucy Sharratt, Ban Terminator Campaign
mobile: +1 613 252-2147

Hope Shand or Verónica Villa

1. Delta & Pine Land and USDA, EP775212B, (European Patent), issued 5 October 2005;Delta & Pine Land and USDA, CA2196410, (Canadian Patent), issued 11 October 2005.


A statement from the TACD

News reports indicate that early in 2006, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is expected to rule in favor of the United States on a Bush Administration challenge to European delays in approving new types of genetically modified (GM) foods and various European Union member state bans on specific GM varieties.

The current U.S. case does not challenge present European Community (EC) regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which include rules on safety testing, labeling and traceability, but concerns the EU’s delay in granting new approvals of GM crops while the European-wide policies were being put into effect.

The Bush Administration claims that the EU’s delay in granting new GM crop approvals has resulted in lost markets for American farmers. But clearly consumers’ preference for non-GM food is the true engine of the market collapse for American crops. Even before the delay in GM crop approvals began in 1998, U.S. corn sales to Europe had dropped by more than half.

“The US effort to force GM foods upon unwilling consumers is offensive and misguided,” said Jim Murray of the European consumer organization BEUC. “Consumers cannot be forced to buy and eat food that they do not want.”

TACD has vigorously protested the United States suit and has repeatedly urged the US and the EU to resolve disputes over consumer, public health and environmental matters outside of the WTO where public interest regulations are regularly ruled against in the name of free trade.

If the WTO panel rules against the right of individual governments to regulate the use of GM products, the shock waves will be global. The number of countries that regulate GM products in the public interest is growing rapidly and today half of the world’s population lives in countries that require premarket approval of these products. Even in the United States, three California counties ban growing of all GM crops.

“This suit can be seen as a preemptive effort to chill the development of new policies for regulating GM crops around the globe,” said Rhoda Karpatkin representing the US-based Consumers Union. “Ironically, the US may have won the battle but it is losing the war. A WTO ruling in favor of the U.S. will only increase consumer suspicion of GM crops and of a global trading system that subsumes the public interest to the interests of giant biotechnology firms.”

In a similar WTO case, in 1996 the US launched a case on behalf of the US Cattlemen’s Association against Europe’s ban on hormone-treated beef. Yet while the U.S. “won” the beef-hormone dispute in 1999, Europe has still not opened its markets to U.S. beef, because European consumers do not want hormones in their meat. The repercussions of this case are still being felt almost ten years later as the EC continues to pay a ransom in the form of $116 million dollars worth of punitive trade sanction for the privilege of maintaining their public health policy on hormones. The EC recently counter sued in the WTO to get these sanctions lifted.

TACD, which includes all the major consumer organizations on both sides of the Atlantic, supports labeling and safety testing of GMOs, and consumer choice about consuming them.

viernes, enero 20, 2006

France: GMOs are unconstitutional

GMOs Are Unconstitutional

By Francine Bavay, Yves Contassot, Renaud De Wreden, Francois Dufour, Fabienne Glasson, Philippe Matet, Annette Rimbert, and Xavier Timoner
Le Monde, 18 January 2006

December 9, 2005, is a historic date: it's the political birthday for the Charter of the Environment which was entered into the Constitution in February of the same year. GMOs became literally unconstitutional. On December 9th, in an unprecedented decision, the Orleans criminal court - followed by the Versailles court on January 13 for other deliberate reapers - discharged us for having deliberately reaped Monsanto's transgenic corn crops in 2004. The court recognized the "necessity" of our action. This necessity, according to the court, results from the "present danger of the uncontrolled spread of GMO genes, the dissemination of which had been authorized, contrary to the constitutional right to a healthy environment."

In consequence, this is the beginning of the end for the impunity of France's transgenic industry; it's a subpoena addressed to the French State; it's an indictment of its cowardice. The illegitimacy of GMOs was established before; their illegality is finally recognized because their destruction is legally qualified as a necessity. By virtue of the Charter of the Environment inscribed in the Constitution, a right to neutralize GMOs planted in the field has just been affirmed by the French legal system. This decision finally forces all actors, beginning with the state, to take an irreversible position.

The French authorities have shown themselves over time to be extraordinarily weak, hypocritical, and inconstant. Successive governments have abandoned the GMO question to contradictory winds from Europe, scientists, public opinion, and, as punishment for this cowardice, the justice system!

First of all, the European Union, which imposed a moratorium in 1999, then its lifting in 2004, but also a protective directive France did not respect; then, scientists whose opinions followed one another with no similarities, proving daily the extent of uncertainty; finally, the labor and union movements, since France - one of the leaders in experimental GMO agriculture as of the end of the 1980s - experienced no public debate on the subject until 1996 and that, only thanks to citizen vigilance.

The Orleans decision allows us to make up for lost time and to go still further. Let's look around us: numerous governments, scalded by great public health scandals and paying attention to their citizens' opinion, have taken the lead and demonstrated extreme caution. Germany is a case in point, with a very protective and deterrent November 2004 law that invests total responsibility in the case of contamination with the producers and cultivators of GMO. Also in November 2004, Italy published a decree on the coexistence of crops and imposed a moratorium until the end of 2005. Quite recently, Denmark provided for the constitution of an obligatory national indemnification fund GMO cultivators must subscribe to, at the rate of 13.4 Euros per hectare [2.47 acres] per year, in order to compensate for the absence of private insurance for contaminations. Finally, the Swiss - already endowed with the very strict 2004 Genlex - have just voted by referendum in favor of a five year moratorium on GMO cultivation, repudiating their present government's position. Austria, which took over the Union presidency and which will organize the first European conference on GMO, finally deigned to consult its citizens in 1997 and prohibits transgenic crops.

In all the great democratic countries, governments have taken the measure of the GMO stakes: nothing less than an attempt to privatize the global food base (soy, rice, corn, wheat) and genetic patrimony via brand names. Unique in its kind, France promoted GMO in retreat, through a series of faits accomplis. Now that's all finished. Nature is a whole that imposes choices. We invoke a state of necessity everywhere GMO plants are cultivated or tested in the field. From now on, every citizen has the right to destroy them, and the government has a duty to prohibit them. We demand the creation of an indemnification fund for proven contaminations, a citizen reorientation for research grants, prohibition of any new GMO planting and the neutralization of any existing crops, and finally, organization in the coming months of a national referendum on the question of GMO.

For Gandhi, the function of non-violent action was to make the hidden violence of institutions, of the "established disorder" visible; in the same way, we have wanted to make visible the violence done to peasants, citizens, science, democracy, and to the simple duty to govern. The French legal system has finally understood that so that we may all grasp the consequences.

Francine Bavay, Yves Contassot, Renaud De Wreden, Francois Dufour, Fabienne Glasson, Philippe Matet, Annette Rimbert, and Xavier Timoner are deliberate GMO crop reapers.

Papa Bt en Africa

La forma en que piensan llegar al público sudafricano con esta papa transgénica, es a través de los comercializadores de semillas de papa, que venden sus semillas tanto a productores comerciales de papa como a pequeños productores. Los socios de este proyecto se han propuesto también desarrollar un sistema de comunicación al público, con el fin de evitar oposición a la papa Bt y conseguir una aceptación del público sudafricano. Las instituciones involucradas en este proyecto planean usar el caso de Sudáfrica como un modelo a ser implementado en otros países del Tercer Mundo

Aunque las organizaciones que desarrollaron la papa Bt en Sudáfrica hablan de las bondades de este tipo de papa transgénicas, las organizaciones de la sociedad civil sudafricana tienen una percepción muy distinta. El Servicios de Certificación de Papa ha expresado su interés en participar en el desarrollo de guías para incorporar a la papa Bt en el esquema de certificaciones que hay en ese país.

En un informe realizado por organizaciones de la sociedad civil sudafricana, ellos describen que Consejo de Investigación Agrícola, quien ha estado haciendo las evaluaciones de campo con esta variedad transgénica reconoce que aunque las hojas de las papa no transgénicas son infestadas de manera más significativa que las GM por la polilla del tubérculo, esto no afecta al rendimiento del cultivo. En todo caso, los tubérculos no son infestados por esta plaga.

Los autores añaden que la plaga tiene otros huéspedes a más de la papa y con una liberación a gran escala de la papa Bt se puede dar un desplazamiento de la plaga a otras plantas.

Encontraron además que algunas líneas transgénicas son mas susceptibles a virus que las líneas convencionales.

La modificación genética es más importante durante el almacenamiento. En un sitio donde se realizó la evaluación, no había poblaciones naturales de polillas de tubérculo, por lo que los investigadores liberaron 100.000 polillas al ambiente, es decir, se introdujo una plaga que estaba ausente en el sitio. Estas polillas también se alimentan de otras plantas Solanaceae (muchas de ellas con importancia económica) por lo que esta liberación podría constituir un riesgo grave a las especies agrícolas y silvestres.

Durante dos años, los investigadores no han proporcionado datos que han obtenido sobre flujo de genes ni otros aspectos ecológicos ni sobre seguridad alimentaria. El material de desecho genéticamente modificado ha sido descargado en el suelo sin ser autoclavado y sin que haya un estudio sobre el efecto de esta materia transgénica en el biota circundante ni en la microbiota del suelo. Aunque han hecho estudios a especies no objetivos, su ámbito ha sido muy limitado, y no ha incluido por ejemplo su impacto en artrópodos ni si ocurre o no transferencia horizontal de genes.

Dado que la polilla del tubérculo afecta principalmente a los tubérculos durante el almacenamiento y que hay preocupación sobre los riesgos ecológicos sobre el alimentarse con cultivos genéticamente modificados, los autores de este estudio recomiendan que se paren los estudios de campo con papa de GM y sugieren a los investigadores que trabajen en otras alternativas para mejorar las condiciones de almacenamiento de la papa, para prevenir la infección de los tubérculos después de la cosecha.

Durante la realización del estudio, añaden los autores de este informe, no se ha cumplido con la regulación sobre bioseguridad del país. Por ejemplo, los desechos transgénicos no fueron tratados adecuadamente (no se fumigó, por ejemplo), ni se dejó un espacio de 2 metros alrededor de los cultivos transgénicos. Una contravención a la norma de bioseguridad es una ofensa que debe ser penalizada, dicen los autores del estudio.

Tampoco cumplieron con el requerimiento de elaborar un reporte con la participación de un consultor que no tenga ningún tipo de relación con la firma que quiere evaluar los OGM en el país.

Ellos también tienen preocupaciones desde el punto de vista socioeconómico, especialmente en relación con los pequeños productores de papa, por la siguientes razones:

-Ellos no pueden comprar semillas de papa a un precio tan alto, y las podrían adquirir sólo si ellos compraron fiado (lo que duplica normalmente el precio)
-Diez empresas tienen derechos de propiedad intelectual sobre la papa Bt, las mismas que esperan obtener beneficios financieros a partir de estas patentes
-Como se explicó antes, la papa Bt será liberada en un contexto Derechos de Propiedad Intelectual, lo que favorece a la industria comercial de la semilla
-Ellos no pueden utilizar la papa para producir su propia semilla
-Los consumidores con toda probabilidad no comprarán estas semillas

Los autores concluyen que se debe suspender todo intento de liberación de la papa Bt en Sudáfrica porque hasta el momento, las organizaciones involucradas en el proceso han incumplido con la legislación sudafricana, y por los riesgos que esta tecnología significa.

Etiquetas: ,

miércoles, enero 18, 2006


1.EU offers GM web advice
2.Tossing the hot potato: Member States, the European Commission and GMOs


Feel confused about what's going on with GMOs in the EU?

You are not alone - and that includes most Europeans!

Although no new GMOs have so far been approved for cultivation in the EU since 1998, there have of late been a series of approvals of GMOs for import for consumption, even though these GMOs are very unlikely to end up being directly incorporated into food products in shops (at least, intentionally!) because of labelling and consumer opposition to GMOs.

The recent approvals of GMOs for import have not been made as a result of decisions by a clear majority of EU member states, but rather courtesy of the EU Commision, which is headed by non-elected bureaucrats who appear to see public attitudes and EU Member States' positions as something to be got around in an effort to free up the development of biotech.

In the context of what now looks very like an EU Commission GM propaganda effort (item 1), it's interesting to consider what the Commission's exact agenda is on this issue and how it fits into the wider picture of decision making within the EU.

Below (item 2) is a commendably clear article on this by Helen Holder of Friends of the Earth Europe. Helen also sent us the following comments in reply to a query from a subscriber about why the Commission was making decisions that were so out of step with the views of the overwhelming majority of the European public not to mention the position of many Member State governments.

Helen: "the Commission [is] very sensitive to issues of competitiveness and job creation (Lisbon Agenda), and industry have been able to manipulate this very effectively. The recently published Commission Industry Policy refers to a "bio-economy" in Europe as a way of fighting the threat from China and other developping countries (textiles etc).

The Commission, and particularly the current Barroso Commission, has a neo-liberal approach and take averything from the free tade angle with obviously additional pressure because of US pressure which in recent years has been focussed on the GMO dispute at the WTO.

Attached is a general article I wrote for FoE Czech republic - it doesn't really answer the question but gives an overview of the Commission approach and EU legislation.

The Commission does bully member states on this issue but countries also need to take a clear position which most are not doing. They have a responsibility here which they are not taking and are quite happy for the Commission to do the dirty work.

There will be a policy debate on GMOs at an EU Council (Environment) in the coming months where the decision making process (comitology) which allow the Commission to take a decision when the member states have not reached a qualified majority will be discussed as some countries at least are not happy about this."

Pusztai on GMO risks

National Regulations Should Reflect Risks of GE Crops

Arpad Pusztai
Scientific Consultant to GenOk, Tromso, Norway
BioSpectrum, January 06, 2006

Engineered artificial gene constructs may undergo mutation and evolution to an end, therefore making the safety assessment of GE crops an exercise without a firm predictive scientific basis.

Acceptance of products and associated agricultural practices of the biotechnology industry is running into problems, probably due to the perception held by many scientists that the technical ability of biotechnology industry to produce safe genetically engineered (GE) crops has developed faster than the understanding of the underlying scientific principles of gene splicing. Consumers and scientists alike feel that the possible consequences for health and environment of the spread of GE crops are not properly understood and that without sufficient research funding and having generally agreed methodologies for assessing the unique risks of GE crops, we shall never be able to properly address them. It should not be surprising that societal concerns about genetic engineering of something as basic as our food and how they are produced are high and no matter of patronizing platitudes by the scientific, political and industrial establishments will make these concerns to go away.

Bizzare approach

The approach of the biotechnology industry to the safety of its products or the understanding how society perceives risk is bizarre. The harsh treatment of sceptics and dissident scientists does not demonstrate the establishment's great willingness to listen to views not in tune with their pre-set ideas. Openness is not much helped either that due to the high cost of biological testing, biotechnology companies only do minimal and superficial environmental and health risk assessments. Cost will also be a major factor in their reluctance to finance research to develop scientifically sound methodologies but rather they prefer to declare the present agricultural practices to grow GE crops as safe and that foods prepared from them present no risks for the consumer. The fact that in the decade since the introduction of GE crops only one human feeding study has been conducted and basic academic animal nutritional/toxicology studies published in peer-reviewed journals are also few and far between gives plenty of ammunition to those who oppose GE crops.

Presently there is an intensive scientific and legislative debate in many countries, including India, about the possibility of the large-scale growing of GE crops without jeopardizing the GE-free status of organically or conventionally grown crops. Pro-industry scientists advocate that even with cross-pollinating crop species only a few metres of separation distance between GE and non-GE crops will be adequate to prevent genetic pollution. However, in the laboratory to prevent the escape and proliferation of untested experimental GE organisms, all developmental work is strictly contained. Moreover, to guarantee the purity of certified seeds even the industry specifies considerably larger separation distances. Thus, for contract growers of certified hybrid seeds, such as hybrid corn, distances of 400 m or more are demanded. In contrast, the biotechnology industry proposes to release GE crops into the environment without adequate biological controls to prevent their dispersal or the artificial transgenes they express. According to their proposals, the strict safety guidelines that apply to GE organisms in the laboratory are not deemed to be necessary when these are grown in open fields, but without scientifically justifying this double standard in safety conduct. One might consider that even more stringent safety controls should be enforced in the natural environment than in the laboratory, particularly as we do not have a backup with products of this irreversible technology. Moreover, there is already sufficient evidence to show that engineered artificial gene constructs may undergo mutation and evolution to an end that we are not aware of, and therefore making the safety assessment of GE crops an exercise without a firm predictive scientific basis. Indeed, one cannot safety assess something that has not yet evolved.

Genetic contamination

In the absence of adequate methods to remove inserted transgenes, once the seeds are genetically contaminated, it will be nearly impossible to recover the original uncontaminated seed stock. Under the regulatory systems of most countries, testing of seeds for genetic contamination is done after the event and not before. In the USA and Canada the whole seed system has become contaminated after ten years of large-scale commercialisation of GE crops. Thus, even though only about one percent of the corn seeds sown in Iowa (USA) was StarLink, in the absence of adequate separation between the GE and non-GE cornfields and segregation of the seeds after harvest, about 50 percent of the corn produced contained the StarLink transgene, demonstrating that coexistence of GE and non-GE crops is impossible. The proposal by the MS Swaminathan Task Force that regions in India representing either primary or secondary centres of genetic diversity for major crops such as rice should be conserved for posterity as "agro-biodiversity sanctuaries" and "organic farming zones", is manifestly impractical and will not stop the genetic contamination of rice crops in other areas. In a democracy once the floodgates are opened it is impossible to control who grows what. It also means that other parts of the country will be opened up for GE crops. This therefore is nothing but a back door entry to introduce them by a slight of hand which, on the face of it, appears to give false assurances to people that there is no threat at all that genetic contamination will spread in the country.

Risks of GEOs

In order to satisfy the legitimate demands of the scientific community and society any large-scale growing of GE crops and their coexistence with crops grown using traditional and organic agricultural practices must be based on or at least take into account the scientific guidelines as laid out very recently in the authoritative ESA (Ecological Society of America) Report on the possible risks of GEOs (genetically engineered organisms) because these may create new, and more vigorous pests and pathogens; exacerbate the effects of existing pests through hybridisation with related transgenic organisms; harm non-target species of organisms; disrupt biotic communities, including agro- ecosystems; cause irreparable loss or changes in species diversity or genetic diversity. Therefore GEOs require greater scrutiny than crops produced by traditional breeding.

We shall also have to consider that GEOs may pose risks to the environment because we have little or no prior experience with the trait and host combination; GEOs may proliferate and persist without human intervention; genetic exchange is possible between a transformed organism and non-domesticated organisms; trait confers an advantage to the GEO over native species in a given environment.

If these principles are not taken into account in proposed legislations, the large-scale growing of GE crops can irreversibly harm our environment by genetic contamination of our traditional crops and weeds by cross-fertilization and by horizontal gene transfer respectively. Moreover, in the absence of science-based regulation of the cultivation of pesticide-producing (i.e. Bt-toxin) GE crops, the development of resistance in pests to biopesticides which are also used in organic or traditional agriculture will be speeded up. The uncontrolled large-scale cultivation of herbicide-resistant GE crops will not only contaminate our environment but also lead to the creation of herbicide-resistent superweeds and thus increase rather than reduce the chemical-load of the land and endanger our clean water supply.


It is therefore not unreasonable to suggest that the environmental and health risks or safety assessments of GE crops/foods should not be carried out only by biotechnology companies but it must also be verified by independent scientists through a transparent funding system. Any controlling legislation must also be based on these assessments and debated by all stakeholders in the society. The basic rule must be that, since we all want to live in a healthy and natural environment and eat foods which will not endanger our health, we are all entitled to scrutinise the evidence relating to the safety of GE crops. Secrecy is therefore against the public interest and unjustified. GE technology is irreversible and therefore we have to seriously weigh up the pros and cons of its introduction. In democracies it is the people's inalienable right that they should be able to decide whether society can afford to take on the very real risks and the possibly dangerous consequences of genetic engineering for the possibly vain hope of some future benefits for society.