UK: Monsanto quizzed by Greenpeace over unidentified
16 Aug 2001
Source: just-food.com editorial team
Belgian scientists have discovered a fragment of unidentified DNA in Monsanto's genetically modified Roundup Ready
soya, and environmental group Greenpeace is now putting pressure on the UK government to ban the sale of the crop.
The discovery, which was reported in the European Journal of Food Research Technology, points to the existence of
"a DNA segment of 534 bp DNA for which no sequence homology could be detected" and Greenpeace argues that this
should be enough to prompt regulatory bodies to withdraw the soya from sale immediately.
Monsanto is adamant however that the discovery is not new to its scientists and that it poses no safety risk. From the
company, Tony Combes told BBC News Online: "[the unidentified DNA] would have been a constituent of the Roundup
Ready soyabeans used in all the safety assessment studies [...] There is no discrepancy. The sequence information
provided originally has not changed; it's just that now we know more detail about it."
The UK government is counselled on GM crop safety by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, which
said it was satisfied with Monsanto's revised risk assessment in light of the Belgian find.
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Protesting farmers block government offices in Mexico
By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press
August 8, 2001
Farmers by the thousands marched through the Mexican capital
Wednesday demanding subsidies and an end to free trade - the most direct challenge yet to President Vicente Fox's 8-month-old administration.
The march, on Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata's birthday, was a show of force for the "old Mexico," opposed to the new, entrepreneurial nation that the businessman Fox has promised.
Even the protesters' rhetoric harked back to Zapata's 1910-1917 Revolution, which created the communal farms that served as the political backbone of the former ruling party, whose 71-year reign Fox ended in last year's elections.
Streams of farmers in straw hats and cowboy boots chanted "Zapata Lives! The struggle continues!" as they fanned out across the world's second-largest city to blockade government offices and shut down a half-dozen major boulevards.
"Rural Mexico could explode," said protest organizer Alvaro Lopez Rios, leader of the Agrarian Congress farm group. "This could take us to the edge of anarchy."
The farmers are suffering from a prolonged drought that has withered crops in northern Mexico and low prices for coffee, basic grains, sugar and tropical cash crops like bananas.
They complained that Fox has abandoned any pretense at making Mexico self-sufficient in food production, something to which the former ruling party at least paid lip service - largely to ensure farmers' political support.
"With the trade opening and in the framework of globalization, the government took the easy way out, saying, 'It's easier to buy cheap imports than to support expensive domestic production,"' Lopez Rios said.
Fox drew the battle lines sharply Tuesday, when he encouraged farmers to modernize, adopt new crops and rely less on government. He said he wanted to end "corruption, paternalism, political favoritism and bureaucracy" in farm policy.
But he showed no sign of stepping away from the two things that angered protesters most: his commitment to free-trade agreements that have let in cheap foreign grain and his close relationship with the United States.
"The United States and Canada protect their farmers with tariffs and subsidies," Martin Altorre, a 51-year-old banana and sugarcane farmer from southern Morelos state, said at a protest at Mexico City's Revolution
"In Mexico, the farmers are getting hit hard, and Fox likes that."
Fox said Mexico doesn't have the money to compete in a subsidy race with developed countries, and that farmers should leave behind corn and change to crops where they have an advantage - like the winter-vegetable exports that made Fox's family wealthy.
Fox's administration says past policies encouraged farmers to waste scarce irrigation water on marginal land and to cut down the nation's forests.
He has offered to clear up Mexico's historic land-title problems so farmers can qualify for loans to modernize. But such measures may also tend to break up communal farms, whose owners were only recently allowed individual titles to their lots. Such policies may prove difficult to implement in a country where corn is king and small farms are viewed as the prized legacy of the revolution, where "socialist agricultural schools" dot the countryside and the 19th-century agrarian movement still holds fast.
Indeed, Fox's pro-business, pro-U.S. policies seem to have awakened a thirst on the nation's left for a return to the old Mexico of rebellion and rural radicalism.
When farmers on the outskirts of Mexico City beat a man to death in June for allegedly trying to steal a religious image from their church, leftist Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador almost wistfully described the act as "the deeply rooted Mexico, the Mexico we still haven't lost."
There were also hints that farm groups want Fox to return to the political past, when they served as the government's coddled allies in containing rural rage.
"We want to place our group at the head of this social movement," said Lopez Rios, "so it doesn't get out of hand and lead us to the threshold of anarchy."
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