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BioDemocracy News #33 (May 2001) Biotech Bullies: The Debate
Intensifies
by Ronnie Cummins.
A publication of the Organic Consumers Association
<www.organicconsumers.org>

QUOTES OF THE MONTH

"The hope of the industry is that over time the market is so flooded
[with genetically engineered organisms] that there's nothing you can
do about it, you just sort of surrender." Don Westfall,
vice-president, Promar International, Washington-based food and
biotech industry consultants. Cited by
<www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex> (4/5/01).
"Our investigations thus far from the 2000 harvest lead us to believe
that virtually all of the seed corn in the United states is
contaminated with at least a trace of genetically engineered material,
and often more. Even the organic lots are showing traces of biotech
varieties." David Gould, Farm Verified Organic, a leading US organic
certifier. <www.cropchoice.com> (5/1/01).

"Why let Ronnie Cummins and his gang trample on your business? Why not
turn to valid scientists and food technologists." "The activists'
attack on Starbucks is an example of organized crime," says a food
industry insider. "It's called a shakedown. They attack a business;
threaten to shut it down in exchange for a payment-attention. And that
raises funds. This is illegal.". "Starbucks surrendered to thugs and
now suffers from battered socially responsible syndrome." Excerpts
from letters to Starbucks from the biotech industry. Quoted in the PR
trade industry newsletter, Ragan's Interactive Public Relations,
<www.ragan.com> 5/01.


BIOTECH BULLIES

The global battle over genetically engineered (GE) foods has reached a
new level of intensity. While in Europe and Asia strong resistance
continues, and in Africa and Latin America a debate has begun, in
North America the gene-foods issue has moved from being a back-burner
item for most people to a major topic in the media. Under attack on
all sides, frustrated by growing global marketplace and activist
opposition, agbiotech corporations and the White House have been
forced to go on the offensive.

*Regulatory Arrogance On January 17, the FDA announced a set of highly
controversial proposed regulations on genetically engineered foods and
crops. The regulations, disregarding the overwhelming sentiment of
consumers, require neither pre-market safety testing nor labeling--nor
do they require biotech corporations to assume financial liability for
damage to public health and the environment. Nearing the close of the
public comment period on May 3, the FDA had already received over
100,000 negative comments from irate consumers (including nearly
30,000 comments from the Organic Consumers Association), but
Washington insiders predict that the Bush administration will ignore
this avalanche of public criticism and proceed with the industry's
favored "no labeling, no safety-testing" policy. Underlining public
rejection of the FDA's "Shut Up and Eat Your Frankenfoods" policy, 75%
of Americans stated in a poll released by the Pew Charitable Trust on
March 26 that they wanted mandatory labeling of all gene-altered
foods, with 58% saying they would not buy them.

*Propaganda Barrage The North American mass media recently have spewed
out an unprecedented number of stories and fluff pieces on the wonders
of "bioengineering" and the willful arrogance of anti-biotech
Luddites. Even PBS, the Public Broadcasting System, supposedly the
most liberal TV network in the US, aired a biased two-hour special
program on April 24 called "Harvest of Fear," which praised the
supposed virtues of genetically engineered crops (fewer pesticides,
better nutrition) and attacked activist and so-called "eco-terrorist"
groups for falsely maintaining that GE foods are unsafe. "Food
companies have learned that the [anti-genetic engineering] groups are
not intent on having a reasoned debate about biotech or helping
consumers find out about biotech," stated Gene Grabowski of the
Grocery Manufacturers of America. "It seems that their motive is to
scare people."

*Suing Farmers Monsanto has now sued or threatened thousands of
farmers across the US and Canada for the "crime" of saving seeds or
for having the company's patented Frankencrops growing on their land
without paying royalty fees. On March 29, in a troubling and likely
precedent-setting case, a Federal Court judge in Canada ruled that a
70 year-old, fifth generation Saskatchewan farmer, Percy Schmeiser,
was guilty of growing herbicide-resistant canola in 1998 on his farm
near Bruno, Saskatchewan without paying Monsanto. Schmeiser, now
liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines to Monsanto,
claimed the seed for his crop came from his own fields, which were
contaminated by genetic drift from neighboring farms. According to a
Washington Post story filed on April 30, the Court ruled that
Schmeiser was liable for damages, even if he didn't deliberately plant
the GE canola. Monsanto's legal victory comes at a high cost however,
in terms of enraging the majority of the world's farmers who are not
using genetically engineered seeds. A spokeswoman with the National
Farmers Union, which represents 300,000 small farmers and ranchers in
the United States, told the Post "the organization has been following
the Schmeiser case with apprehension. We're extremely concerned by
what liabilities may unfold for the farmer, particularly with
cross-pollination of genetically modified plants." The National
Farmers Union of Canada, where two-thirds of all canola acreage is
genetically engineered, has called for a moratorium on all GE crops.
Canada previously exported $400 million dollars of canola each year to
Europe. Now that market has been lost, due to EU rejection of GE
crops. Analysts warn that Canada may soon lose most of its canola
markets in Japan and Asia as well.

*Manipulating Statistics Last spring BioDemocracy News reported on a
USDA survey that acreage of the two largest GE crops in the United
States was in decline (GE soybeans were down from 57% of all soy
planted in 1999 to 54% in 2000; corn was down from 25% to 19.5%).
Monsanto and the USDA had previously even claimed that the 1999
acreage of US corn was 33% GE-suggesting a massive decline in Bt and
herbicide-resistant corn varieties in 2000. But apparently after
hearing from Monsanto, Aventis, and Novartis (now Syngenta) that
projections like these were bad for their bottom line, the USDA
recently recalculated the figure for last year's GE corn crop--now
claiming that GE corn constituted 25% of all corn acreage last year
and will amount to 24% this year. The USDA also maintains that GE soya
plantings will increase in 2001, even as global export markets shut
down. Before swallowing media stories that biotech is booming, it's
important to keep in mind that current government or industry figures
on biotech crop acreage are all estimates, thereby subject to
manipulation. But in the wake of the StarLink debacle, which has
contaminated 10% of all the corn in storage in the US, you don't need
a PhD to understand that a projected figure of 24% of all US corn
acreage in 2001 planted with Frankencorn is ridiculous. The real
figure will undoubtedly fall below 15%. Harder to conceal for the USDA
and the biotech industry is the fact that Monsanto has ceased
production of genetically engineered tomatoes (taken off the
commercial market in 1996) and potatoes (earlier this year), and that
global acreage of all genetically crops has leveled off. According to
the public interest group RAFI, <www.rafi.org>, global "demand for GM
seeds almost flattened in 2000 with an increase of only 8% after years
of doubling and redoubling. Analysts predicted that, at least until
2003, demand would remain flat or decline." Perhaps even more
significant, the two most important GE crops in the
pipeline--herbicide-resistant wheat and rice-may never even reach the
marketplace, due to global opposition.

Another big lie repeated ad nauseam by Monsanto since 1995--faithfully
regurgitated by the media--is that their genetically engineered
recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (now banned in every industrialized
country except for the US) is being injected into 30% of all US dairy
cows. Dairy farmers and analysts tell BioDemocracy News that the real
figure is closer to 10%. In 1998 Dow Jones reported that Monsanto was
anxious to sell rBGH to any company willing to take this product off
their hands. There were no takers, however-- not surprising since
rBGH has been linked to increased cancer hazards as well as to an
increase in pus, bacteria, and antibiotic residues in rBGH-derived
milk and dairy products.

*Fostering Fatalism The Gene Giants have been forced to change their
marketing and regulatory strategy over the past several years. Having
utterly failed to convince a significant number of consumers or
farmers around the world that genetically engineered foods and crops
are safe, "substantially equivalent," or that they have any beneficial
characteristics whatsoever, the industry has adopted a new hard-line
attitude. Basically the chilling new message is that agricultural
biotechnology is inevitable, that genetically engineered crops, food
ingredients, and drift are everywhere, and that anyone who labels
their products as GE-free is lying. As former USDA Secretary Dan
Glickman stated on the PBS special, "Harvest of Fear" (4/24/01) "We
will not be able to stop this technology. Science will march forward."
Or as John Wichtrich, a top Aventis executive, admitted to a Knight
Ridder news service reporter on March 19, "the food supply will never
be rid of the new strain of corn (StarLink) that the company
genetically engineered." And since the genetic pollution caused by
hundreds of thousands of acres of this likely allergenic Bt corn will
be permanent, Wichtrich and Aventis have called "for a change in
federal regulations to allow some level of the engineered corn, known
as StarLink, in human food." With former biotech lobbyists such as
Monsanto's Linda Fisher occupying prominent roles in the Bush
administration. Aventis will very likely soon get their wish for an
"allowable limit" of genetic contamination.

In a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal on April 5, Scott
Kilman and Patricia Callahan report that many leading US natural food
brands with "GMO-Free" labels are contaminated with significant
quantities of genetically engineered ingredients. The WSJ tested
top-selling brands such as Yves, Health Valley, Hain's, Clif Bar,
Whole Foods, White Wave, and Gerber-and found that they were all
contaminated with GE ingredients. As Frank Palantoni, chief executive
of the North American consumer-health businesses for Gerber parent
Novartis put it, "I don't think anybody in the U.S. can guarantee
zero." Gerber, the nation's largest baby food manufacturer, announced
in 1999, under pressure from Greenpeace, that they were going GE-free.

THE HARDER THEY FALL

The bluster and bullying of the agbiotech industry are, at least in
part, an attempt to cover up the fact that they are losing ground all
over the globe-not just in the marketplace and in the court of public
opinion, but also in terms of mounting scientific evidence that GE
foods and crops are unsafe for public health and the environment.

On the political and marketplace fronts agbiotech interests are taking
a beating

* Asia and Pacific On April 6, the government of Thailand issued a ban
on all GE crops. On May 1, a similar ban came into effect in Sri
Lanka. On March 19, a million farmers marched in New Delhi, calling
for, among other things, an end to the World Trade Organization and a
ban on genetic engineering and life form patents. In Japan and South
Korea government inspectors have continued to test for StarLink and
other unapproved varieties of GE foods, while importers are steadily
turning away from the US and Canada to other suppliers such as Brazil,
China, and Australia for GE-free corn, soybeans, and canola. On April
20 consumer groups in Japan called for a halt in all corn imports from
the US. In the Philippines, a bitter debate has erupted over
field-testing GE rice and corn varieties. Protests against GE cotton
have erupted in Indonesia. Mandatory GE labeling laws begin coming
into effect in New Zealand and Australia in July, while labeling laws
are already being enforced in Japan and Korea. Labeling laws are under
discussion in the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, as well as in the
Philippines and Taiwan. Perhaps most significant of all was the
announcement on April 18 that the government of China was banning the
cultivation of GE rice, corn, soy, and wheat-out of fear of losing its
major export markets. Monsanto and the biotechnology industry had
previously held out hope that China would be the "promised land" for
biotech expansion. Despite all the hoopla about how great biotech is
doing, the same three countries most heavily promoting the technology,
the US, Canada, and Argentina, are still producing almost 99% of all
GE crops.

* Latin America A mounting controversy is developing over Cargill and
other US exporters dumping genetically engineered corn in
Mexico-despite a supposed ban by the Mexican government on the import
of GE corn varieties. On March 2, indigenous groups from all over
Mexico, spearheaded by the Zapatistas, signed a document calling on
the Mexican government to recognize the autonomy and legal control of
the nation's 10 million indigenous people over their land and
resources, including a ban on bioprospecting and biopiracy by
transnational genetic engineering companies. Hoping to head off a
mandatory labeling bill making its way through the Mexico federal
legislature, on February 4, the American Farm Bureau and 20 other
agribusiness groups sent a letter to US officials urging them to
intervene "at the most senior levels" to "prevent this legislation
from becoming Mexican law." The letter urged Washington officials to
use President Bush's "upcoming visit to Mexico" to pressure the
Mexicans. The Farm Bureau and biotech industry warned that "The
ramifications (of mandatory labeling) to US farmers, grain handlers,
food companies and biotechnology providers would be enormous and
threaten our favorable relations with Mexico as an ally and NAFTA
trading partner." The letter also warned that labeling "would not
only confuse and mislead Mexican consumers about the safety inherent
in biotech foods but also create a negative precedent for NAFTA."

In Brazil, the ban on planting GE soya remains in effect, considerably
boosting exports to the EU, Japan, and other nations. Meanwhile the
press in Argentina has reported that the country is losing corn export
markets, as well as soy markets, to Brazil. Corn acreage this year is
up 27% in Brazil, partly due to the demand for GE-free corn. A ban on
planting GE crops remains in effect in Paraguay. Meanwhile a
preliminary but growing debate over GE crops has emerged in other
Latin American nations as well, including Ecuador, Chile, Colombia,
and Peru. A similar debate is emerging in Africa and Eastern Europe.

Europe Confronted with growing public alarm about food safety, the
European Parliament is preparing to implement a resolution that will
impose tough labeling and tracing requirements on genetically
engineered foods. Labels will be required for any food item that
contains genetically engineered ingredients, even when these GMOs
(genetically modified organisms) cannot be detected because of
processing. According to William Drozdiak of the Washington Post
(4/11/01) these new regulations "could trigger a major trade dispute
with the United States and deal a serious setback to the booming
biotech industry." American grain and food exporters are increasingly
concerned about their apparent inability to segregate out GE and
non-GE food ingredients-reflected by the continued contamination of
seed stocks and food exports with unapproved varieties of corn,
soybeans, or canola. Once strict labeling laws go into effect in the
EU, it will become nearly impossible for US food exporters to sell
GE-tainted products in Europe, the world's largest agricultural
market.

North America On May 4, the powerful Grocery Manufacturers of America
trade association, heretofore staunch supporters of biotech food, told
the Bush administration that new varieties of genetically engineered
food should not be approved "unless there is a way to test for them."
In a similar vein, the American Millers Association, a trade group
representing the nation's grain millers, told farmers in the US in
April to stop planting GE seed varieties unless these varieties are
approved in the US's overseas markets. According to a story by Anthony
Shadid, of the Boston Globe (5/2/01), "Of 16 bioengineered varieties
of canola, for instance, 14 are approved in Canada, but only 10 are
sanctioned in Japan and three in the European Union. Corn, whose
exports earn the United States nearly $4.5 billion a year, is similar:
While 16 varieties are allowed in the United States, only 10 have
received approval in Japan and just four in the EU."

Recent corn and soy export statistics reported by the Agribusiness
Examiner #109 (3/19/01) by Al Krebs:

*USDA recently lowered its forecast of corn exports for the marketing
year by 90 million bushels, a cut private analysts say is largely due
to the impact of the contamination of the corn crop by the genetically
modified corn StarLink (Des Moines Register: 2/25/01)

* Europe is buying non-GMO soybeans. From 1995-2000, the US has lost
14.3% of its export market share in soybeans, while Brazil's market
share has climbed 10.7% (USDA PS&D Database)

* As of the third week in February, the combined total of accumulated
U.S. corn exports and outstanding U.S. corn export sales to Japan is
65 million bushels less then at this time last year. (USDA- FAS
online, U.S. Export Sales as of 2/22/01)

* In related news, according to the Wall Street Journal U.S. sugar
refiners and food companies such as Hershey are telling farmers not to
grow genetically engineered sugar beets sold by Monsanto and Aventis
SA, even though the seed has been cleared by regulators for commercial
planting.

* The Canadian Wheat Board, the world's largest distributor of wheat,
reiterated on April 3 that they want the Canadian government to ban
the growing of GE wheat for fear of losing overseas grain markets. In
a dispute with Monsanto, who are frantically trying to get approval to
grow GE wheat in North America, the Wheat Board said that since
industry currently lacks the ability to properly segregate GE and
non-GE grains, the government should not allow the planting of GE
wheat varieties. In a related story, Monsanto lobbyists in April
successfully killed a bill in the North Dakota state legislature that
would have imposed a moratorium on GE wheat. Monsanto's aggressive
lobbying angered many US wheat farmers, who fear losing their one
billion annual export sales to Europe and Japan. "We could create a
train wreck in our own markets," said North Dakota Wheat Commission
administrator Neal Fisher. "The concerns are mounting, rather than
diminishing. There are producers out there, certainly, who are
clamoring for the technology. But we can't afford to lose 40 percent
of our markets." (Reuters 4/29/01)

* Maryland passed a bill on April 12 that bans the raising of
genetically engineered fish in ponds that connect with state
waterways. The law requires that fish farms be able to guarantee that
GE fish cannot escape from their facilities. The law is the first of
its kind in the US.

* Monsanto suffered another major blow in Canada April 26 when it was
forced to recall a massive amount of Quest brand genetically
engineered canola seed, which was contaminated with an unapproved
variety. Last year Canadian farmers planted Quest on 1.2 million acres
of farmland. Total canola exports were worth $1.8 billion. A federal
official speaking on condition of anonymity described the Monsanto
recall as "a fairly significant development," saying, "this has the
ability to compromise exports of the Canadian canola crop." The
Canadian Health Coalition compared the recall to "a canary in a mine
falling down dead" and said it highlights the lack of control over
genetically modified foods. (The Edmonton Journal 5/25/01)

NATURE STRIKES BACK
MORE BAD NEWS FOR AGBIOTECH

Noted biotech expert Dr. Charles Benbrook, of the Northwest Science
and Environmental Policy Center, released an explosive report on
herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans May 2. The report,
based upon recent USDA and university research,
<www.biotech-info.net/troubledtimes.html> not only reaffirms previous
studies that RR soybeans produce less of a yield (5-10% less) than
conventional soybeans, and that weeds are growing resistant to
Roundup, but also that farmers growing the GE soybeans are using
considerably more herbicide than farmers who are cultivating non-GE
varieties. As Benbrook points out, RR soybean growers are on the
average using one-half pound more of herbicide (in this case Monsanto'
s broad-spectrum Roundup) per acre-which amounts to 20 million more
pounds of toxic herbicides being sprayed this year on American soybean
fields. "You just can't say with a straight face that the Roundup
Ready system reduces herbicide use if the measurement you're talking
about is pounds per acre," Benbrook said. (St. Louis Post Dispatch
(5/3/01)

Even more alarming for Monsanto are Benbrook's observations that RR
soybean plants, due to damage to an important chemical plant pathway,
are more susceptible to plant diseases such as sudden stress syndrome.
The American Soybean Association (ASA) immediately attacked Benbrook's
report, calling it "sowing seeds of distrust" in a national press
release.

Interestingly enough, the ASA had nothing credible to say in terms of
disputing Benbrook's central thesis (less yield, growing weed
resistance, and more use of pesticides), but rather relied on the
well-worn argument that RR soybeans must be great since so many
farmers are planting them. Of course the main reason hapless US
soybean farmers (who generally receive less money per bushel for their
beans from ADM and Cargill and other wholesale buyers than it costs to
produce them) are planting RR beans, besides the massive "price
support" subsidy the USDA provides to soybean growers, is to save them
time. It takes less time to spray several applications of Roundup than
it does to spray several of the 15 or so different herbicides which
non-GE soybean grower's use. With 88% of the average farm family's
income now derived from off-farm employment, soybean farmers are
desperately searching for anything that will save them time-which in
this case turns our to be genetically engineered soybeans. But as
Benbrook's report indicates even this "benefit" will likely be
short-lived as weeds develop increasing resistance to Roundup and as
the herbicide-resistant plants themselves degenerate in terms of
hardiness and resistance to disease over time. "There's a clock
ticking now for Roundup," Benbrook stated. A press release from the
University of Missouri in Columbia 2/5/01 reported that soybean seed
germination rates were "down sharply" this year, a likely reflection
of the lack of hardiness and susceptibility to disease of genetically
engineered plants. Roundup and other glyphosate products made up $2.6
billion of Monsanto's $5.5 billion in sales last year.

More bad news for Monsanto The Australian Broadcasting Corporation
April 19 reported that insects are becoming resistant to Monsanto's
genetically modified Ingard cotton. The New South Wales Department of
Agriculture has been monitoring crops and has discovered a noticeable
increase in the survival of cotton bollworms this season, indicating
the worms are less susceptible to the Bt spliced cotton. Monsanto
denies that there is a problem.

Bio-Pharm hazards-the next StarLink disaster
A group of Canadian scientists warned in the Toronto Globe and Mail
newspaper 5/2/01, that genetic drift or pollution from plants
gene-spliced to produce medical drugs or industrial chemicals is a
disaster waiting to happen. The letter--signed by retired Agriculture
Canada scientist Bert Christie, former McMaster University science
dean Dennis McCalla, McGill University animal-science professor Dick
Beames, and Dr. Hugh Lehman, an expert in agricultural ethics at the
University of Guelph--warns that there is a "high probability" that a
StarLink-type contamination incident could occur because of open-air
testing and cultivation of crop varieties spliced to produce
pharmaceutical drugs or industrial chemicals. In other words, a person
could be eating corn or soybeans or some other common food and instead
get a dose of a powerful medical vaccine or drug, or a toxic dose of
an industrial chemical.

Aflatoxin levels in Bt corn in Texas In 1999, researchers in Corpus
Christi, Texas were surprised and alarmed to find that aflatoxin
levels in Monsanto's Bt corn were significantly higher than in non-GE
varieties. Aflatoxins, created by bacteria, appear in warm, humid
environments on fungus spores on corn or other grains and vegetables.
It is illegal to sell corn or other grains containing toxic levels of
aflatoxins, since they are powerful agents for causing liver cancer.
One can only imagine, if aflatoxin levels in Texas Bt corn were
reaching alarming levels, what's happening with Bt corn in the more
tropical and humid environments overseas (the Philippines, Thailand,
Latin America) where the biotech industry is working overtime to
convince farmers to grow Bt corn.

GRASSROOTS - ANTI-BIOTECH CAMPAIGNS IN THE US -
STARBUCKS AND TRADER JOE'S
After several years of preliminary consciousness-raising on the GE
foods issue, two of the leading grassroots groups in the US,
Greenpeace and the Organic Consumers Association, have gone on the
offensive. As outlined in the last issue of BioDemocracy News, (and
detailed on our website) the OCA has launched a national leafleting
and pressure campaign in over 130 cities across the world against
Starbucks, which began on March 20. Starbucks has 2400 cafes located
across the entire US (and another 1100 cafes globally). The OCA,
supported by five other groups, is demanding that Starbucks remove
rBGH and all genetically engineered ingredients from its foods and
coffee drinks, start brewing and seriously promoting Fair Trade and
organic coffee, pledge never to use GE coffee beans, and fulfill its
longstanding promise to raise the wages and improve the working
conditions of coffee plantation workers in Guatemala and other
nations.

Greenpeace, meanwhile, with the support of the OCA and other groups in
local areas, launched a national campaign on 4/17/01 against the
upscale Trader Joe's supermarket chain, which has outlets in 13
states. In response to pressure from Greenpeace, Trader Joe's has
announced that they are contacting all of their food suppliers for
their brand name products, to inquire about the availability of
GE-free ingredients. According to Heather Whitehead of Greenpeace, the
Trader Joe's campaign will continue until the company agrees to follow
the lead of its EU parent company, Aldi, and removes GE ingredients
from all of its brand name products.

Starbucks meanwhile apparently has begun moving part way in terms of
meeting the demands of the OCA's Frankenbuck$ campaign. The company
has begun telling reporters that it will, as soon as possible, be
eliminating all rBGH-derived milk from its cafes and offering
rBGH-free milk instead. Starbucks purchases 32 million gallons of milk
a year in the US. This announcement by Starbucks on rBGH has provoked
the ire of the biotech industry and angered Monsanto, who have accused
the company of being "cowards" and "caving in" to the pressure
campaign of the OCA. In terms of brewing and seriously promoting Fair
Trade coffee, the company has begun a limited (as of yet, one day)
trial program of brewing Fair Trade coffee as its flavor of the day in
its 2400 US cafes and offering Fair Trade coffee beans to its hundreds
of restaurant and university retail accounts. In terms of GE coffee
beans, the company has stressed that it does not use them. But in
regard to raising the wages and improving the working conditions of
coffee plantation workers, Starbucks has made no public statements,
other than finally admitting to the Chicago Tribune 4/22/01, that they
can't apply their company's Code of Conduct standard in Guatemala,
since their coffee wholesaler in that country will not divulge the
names and locations of the sweatshop plantations which supply them. In
addition, Starbucks has remained silent on whether or not it intends
to remove GE ingredients from its chocolates and baked goods. In
response to Starbucks going "half-way" in terms of meeting consumer
demands, the OCA and its allies will continue to pressure Starbucks
until all Frankenbuck$ demands are met. Stay tuned to BioDemocracy
News and the Daily News and Starbucks sections on our website
<www.organicconsumers.org> for the latest developments. If you are
willing to help distribute Starbucks leaflets in your community send
an email to the OCA <simon@organicconsumers.org>

And please check out the "Participate Locally" section of our website.
If you are willing to join 25,000 other volunteers who have signed up
online to work with the OCA in your local community on food safety
issues, please go to <www.organicconsumers.com/statevol.htm> and sign
up now.

### End of BioDemocracy News #33 ###


Organic Consumers Association
6101 Cliff Estate Road
Little Marais, MN 55614
www.organicconsumers.org
info@organicconsumers.org
218-226-4164

========================================================

BioDemocracy News #42 (Feb. 2003) Global Grassroots: Gaining Ground
by: Ronnie Cummins
Organic Consumers Association <www.organicconsumers.org>

Quotes of the Month:

"The deal would be this: if the Americans would stop lying about us,
we would stop telling the truth about them." European Union
Development Commissioner Poul Nielson, referring to the increasingly
bitter EU/US conflict over genetically engineered food, Reuters,
1/20/03

"There is no need for GM (genetically modified) crops; no one wants
them, not famine-stricken African nations, and very possibly, not even
the biotech corporations themselves, judging from the spectacular
cutbacks and spin-outs of agricultural biotechnology and major
retreats from funding academic research over the past year." Dr. Mae
Wan-Ho, Institute for Science and Society www.i-is.org.uk 1/14/03
___________________________________________
Globalization and Biotech under Fire

On the eve of an increasingly unpopular war, US government policies,
including globalization, genetic engineering, and subsidies to
industrial agriculture, are under fire as never before-from Iowa to
India, from London to Latin America. On New Year's Day, the ninth
anniversary of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, a stone
's throw from the Mexico office of the OCA in Chiapas, 20,000
indigenous protestors are marching through the streets. Wearing masks
and bandanas, armed with machetes, and holding aloft hand-made signs,
Zapatista farmers and rural villagers are rising up in resistance. In
an evening rally, illuminated by the flames from hundreds of torches,
Zapatista leaders denounce NAFTA and rural poverty; as well as
biopiracy, the theft and patenting of native resources and knowledge
by biotech scientists, and transgenic pollution, the contamination of
Mexico's traditional corn varieties by genetically engineered (GE)
corn being dumped on the country by US-based grain giants, Archer
Daniels Midland and Cargill.

A thousand miles to the north, Mexican farmers organize a parallel
protest, blocking the US/Mexico border in Ciudad Juarez. Since the
advent of NAFTA in 1994, the country has been flooded by cheap, US
taxpayer-subsidized grains and foods, including six million tons a
year of GE corn and high-fructose corn sweetener for soft drinks.
Unable to compete with more than $20 billion in annual subsidies to US
agribusiness, most of which goes to large farms, two million Mexican
corn growers, cane-cutters, and indigenous subsistence farmers have
been driven off the land, forced to migrate to the already overcrowded
cities, or to make a long and dangerous journey to the US to find
work. Once self-sufficient in food production, Mexico now spends 78%
of its oil exports to purchase food imports from the US.

Not since the revolution of 1910 has the US's neighbor to the south
experienced such a wave of unrest. In the past two months, hundreds of
thousands of Mexican farmers organized marches, blocked highways, and
seized government installations. In one dramatic protest, a group of
ranchers blocked the streets outside the Congress in Mexico City with
their farm tractors, and then rode up the steps of the building on
horseback. Desperate to defuse the mounting crisis, Mexican President
Vicente Fox has promised to renegotiate the NAFTA agreement, much to
the chagrin of the White House. Similarly hammered by NAFTA and
subsidies to large corporate farms, the National Family Farm Coalition
in the US and the National Farmers Union in Canada have extended their
solidarity, calling for economic justice for farmers, North and South,
a rollback of international trade agreements, and an end to the
dumping of GE corn and other crops on the Mexican and world market. On
Jan. 31 over 100,000 irate farmers marched through the streets of
Mexico City and rallied in front of the National Palace.

Further south, in Brazil and Ecuador, new Presidents have been swept
into office, riding a wave of anti-globalization and a demand for
peace and economic justice. In Brazil left-wing President Lula da
Silva has made "Zero Hunger" and food security his number one
priority, at the same time pledging to maintain Brazil's moratorium on
GE soybeans. Brazil's exports of GE-free soybeans have doubled to $7.6
billion over the last four years, while US soybean exports (75% of
which are GE) have declined by 30%. In a national survey in July 2001,
67% of Brazilians said that transgenic crops should continue to be
banned.

Manifesting the growing power of the global grassroots, from Jan.
23-28 over 100,000 farmer, labor, consumer, and environmental,
activists gathered in Porto Alegre, Brazil for the third annual World
Social Forum-denouncing war, corporate globalization, and food
insecurity, under the overall theme, "Another World is Possible."
Among the notable street demonstrations in Porto Alegre was a Jan. 27
protest at Monsanto's headquarters, where Greenpeace activists scaled
the building and hung a banner denouncing Frankencrops.

The economic crisis in Latin America has grown worse. Besides reducing
consumer-buying power by 30% in 2002, Argentina's economic
strangulation by the International Monetary Fund has reduced the
ability of Argentina's farmers to buy GE Roundup Ready soybeans-a
significant factor in Monsanto's recent economic downturn. One of the
few glimmers of hope in the Argentina rural economy is the increasing
demand overseas for non-GM corn and grass-fed beef. Meanwhile in
Venezuela, increasing poverty, capital flight, empty supermarket
shelves (50% of the nation's food is imported), and a business-led
sabotage of the oil industry, have brought the country to the verge of
civil war.

In Colombia, the collapse of world coffee prices and a generalized
agricultural crisis have increased poverty and hunger, driving many
desperate farmers to grow drug crops, fueling an ever more violent
civil war. Seemingly drunk with power, emboldened by what it believes
is the popularity of its "war on drugs and terrorism," the Bush
administration has moved aggressively into Colombia. US troops are now
directly involved in counter-insurgency operations, guarding oil
pipelines and working hand in hand with the Colombian army and
right-wing death squads. Among the tactics being employed by the US
are the indiscriminate aerial spraying of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide
over vast areas of the Colombian countryside, poisoning rural
communities and destroying food crops, as well as coca and poppy
fields. US biowar proponents are advocating the aerial spraying of an
even more dangerous herbicide, genetically engineered fusarium
bacteria. www.organicconsumers.org/ge/GEherbicide.cfm

Biotech Bullying Backfires

Across the globe, as reported in BioDemocracy News, and updated daily
on OCA's website www.organicconsumersw.org, an enormous "food fight"
has intensified. While developing nations sound the alarm over hunger,
food dependency and declining biodiversity, and resent the recent
dumping of GE-tainted corn on impoverished nations; in the
industrialized world, consumer concerns over food safety, nutrition,
and environmental sustainability have reached an all-time high. Both
North and South there is an increasing distrust of "industrial food"
and GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and a growing appetite for
organic products. While industrial food revenues are flat, growing
1-2% a year, organic sales are booming, with yearly growth rates of
20-25%. By the year 2020, at current rates of growth, most food sold
at the grocery store retail level in the US, Canada, and the EU will
be organic. Farmers in 110 nations will produce more than $25 billion
worth of organic foods and fiber in 2003.

Worldwide sales of transgenic crops have stalled at $4.25 billion a
year, with only four countries, for all practical purposes, producing
GMOs on a commercial scale (US-corn, soybeans, cotton, and canola;
Canada-corn, soybeans, canola; Argentina-soybeans only; and
China-cotton only). As Greenpeace organizer Jeanne Merrill told the
Associated Press (1/16/03) "The reality is that the biotechnology
revolution has not happened. The majority of these crops are going
into animal feed. Farmers are rejecting biotech food crops."

In 2002 there was essentially no increase worldwide in the commercial
plantings of the four major GE crops, soybeans, corn, canola, and
cotton- with the sole exception of GE cotton in China and India. And
even the expansion of Bt-spliced or herbicide-resistant cotton is
likely to be short-lived, with reports from the fields of pest
resistance and declining yields. In order to speed up the demise of Bt
cotton, as well as to fight sweatshops and increase the market demand
for organic cotton and sustainable fibers, the OCA is launching a
major new campaign called Clothes for a Change. Among other tactics,
this campaign will pressure leading brand name companies such as Gap,
Levi's, Ralph Lauren, Nike, and Wal-Mart to go "sweatshop-free," to
stop using GE cotton in their garments, and to blend in organic and
sustainable fibers instead. For more information see
www.organicconsumers.org/clothes/

The Bush administration's bullying tactics on GMOs have backfired
badly. US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick's belligerent threats
to file a WTO challenge against the EU for its moratorium on GE crops
have simply hardened European attitudes toward Frankenfoods and
increased global market demand for organic and non-GMO crops.
Similarly Washington's denunciations of African leaders for "starving
their people" by refusing shipments of US food aid contaminated by
genetic engineering, have angered Africans who believe that America is
trying to shove unwanted GMOs down their throats. Charges by US trade
officials that Europe had manipulated gullible Africans into believing
that GMOs were unsafe prompted a blunt response from EU Development
Director Poul Nielson on Jan. 20 that the US "was lying."

Compounding White House and biotech industry woes, the GMO-tainted
food aid controversy has spread to Asia, with India recently refusing
part of a $100 million shipment of GE-tainted corn and soy from the
US. At the same time Japanese importers once again rejected a shipment
of US corn, contaminated with the banned StarLink variety. USDA
officials said they were "surprised" by the news, since they believed
all remaining StarLink corn was destroyed last year. On 1/18 the
Brazilian government impounded a GM corn shipment from the US,
demanding that it be returned or incinerated. Meanwhile protesters
pulled up GM crops and took to the streets in the Philippines after
the government bowed to US pressure and approved Bt corn. In
Australia, shipments of US GM corn were confronted by protests in
Melbourne, Brisbane, and Newcastle.

On the eve of an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, anti-US
sentiments are rising. Mounting anger toward the US overseas, combined
with Bush administration bullying on trade and GMOs, may well deliver
a fatal blow to the Gene Giants, already on life-support after several
years of setbacks.

The View from Porto Alegre: Another World Is Possible

Before reviewing several recent major developments on the biotech
front, let's step back for a moment and look at the "Big Picture" of
agriculture, food security, war, and peace, as articulated at the
recent World Social Forum in Brazil. Several of us from the OCA were
fortunate enough to be delegates at this annual gathering, which is
attempting to unite activists worldwide, creating a global grassroots
alternative to the elite-based WTO and the World Economic Forum. Among
the major concerns of global civil society, as expressed in Porto
Alegre are the following:

. Genetic engineering and industrial agriculture pose a mortal threat
to public health, the environment, and the economic survival of the
world's 2.4 billion farmers and rural villagers, 1.4 billion of whom
are "seed savers."

. Even as GE crops and foods are finally driven off the market,
chemical and energy-intensive industrialized agriculture and
globalized food production and distribution still pose a mortal threat
to public health and the environment and the survival of rural
communities worldwide.

. Organic and sustainable agricultural practices (coupled with
sustainable practices in energy, transportation, water, housing,
health, education, and industrial production) are the only road to
health, sustainability, peace, and justice. Nutritious and safe
food-preferably organic food--and a clean environment are among people
's basic human rights. Organic production systems must embody the
principles of Fair Trade and social justice.

. A thousand billionaires and multi-billionaires, along with a
thousand large transnational corporations, are poisoning the planet
and our bodies and undermining democracy. This global elite's
stranglehold over our politics, commerce, media, and culture-including
our choices regarding food, fiber, and health care-must be broken and
replaced by a system of participatory democracy and sustainable
development.

. We'll never stop having wars, we'll never stop the proliferation of
nuclear bombs and biowarfare weapons, we'll never stop having
dictators like Saddam Hussein, and dangerous demagogues like George
Bush as leaders, until we decide that it's a priority to feed, house,
and clothe the world's 830 million starving people. In addition we
must provide employment and living wage jobs for all, especially the
2.8 billion people currently struggling to survive on less than $2 a
day. And finally we must make it a global priority to allow the world'
s 2.4 billion farmers and rural villagers to remain on the land,
producing the world's food and fiber, safely, sustainably, and
equitably.

Biopharm Blunders-Another Nail in the Coffin for Agbiotech

"We're very sorry for the mishap." Anthony Laos, CEO of the biopharm
corporation, ProdiGene.

Among the most hazardous and unpredictable new products in the biotech
pipeline are the so-called "pharm" crops. These are crops, most often
corn or tobacco, that are gene-spliced to produce powerful
pharmaceutical drugs and industrial chemicals. Drug and chemical
companies are excited about biopharming, since using plants or animals
as "bioreactors" can reduce their manufacturing costs. The downside is
that these mutant bioreactors will undoubtedly pollute the environment
and contaminate the food chain.

Over the past few years more than 300 fields of biopharm crops have
been planted in the US--in secret locations, in the open environment.
Approximately 200 of these experiments have been conducted with corn,
notorious for spreading its wind-blown pollen to surrounding fields.
Although no pharm crops have been approved for commercial production,
regulations and enforcement of test plots are notoriously lax.
Biopharm companies are not even required to give the USDA the exact
gene sequences of the experimental crops, making it impossible to
verify whether or not particular pharm crops have contaminated the
food chain. As Larry Bohlen of Friends of the Earth put it, ""If the
USDA continues to allow biopharm food crops to be planted, someone is
going to get prescription drugs or industrial chemicals in their corn
flakes." Recent events suggest that this contamination is already
taking place.

In Nov. 2002 the USDA was forced to admit that at least two
experimental corn crops in Nebraska and Iowa, grown by ProdiGene, had
already polluted the environment. Not only had a least one, and
possibly both, of the mutant corn crops pollinated, thereby spreading
their mutant genes into the air, but several hundred "volunteer"
ProdiGene corn plants had sprung up the following year, contaminating
over 500,000 bushels of soybeans in Nebraska, and 150 acres of corn in
Iowa. ProdiGene at first tried to deny there was a problem, but then
issued an apology. The USDA imposed $3 million in penalties on
ProdiGene, but brushed off demands by OCA's public interest coalition,
Genetically Engineered Food Alert www.gefoodalert.org for a complete
moratorium on biopharm experiments.

According to USDA records, and an FDA memo posted on the OCA website,
ProdiGene holds permits to grow corn which has been genetically
engineered to express a pig vaccine, as well as corn gene-spliced to
produce a controversial AIDS drug called HIV glycoprotein gp120, a
blood-clotting agent (aprotinin). ProdiGene, under pressure, admitted
that some of the plants cited in their violation were designed to
express a pig vaccine, but a November FDA memo strongly suggests that
it was the AIDS drug or some other human drug-not the pig virus-that
was being grown by ProdiGene in Nebraska. See:
www.organicconsumers.org/gefood/121002/_genetically_engineered.cfm

ProdiGene's biopharm blunder was the most serious biotech scandal
since the StarLink controversy in 2000, when a likely allergenic
variety of feed corn contaminated the US food chain and generated
major controversy in the press, both in the US and worldwide. For the
first time since the advent of GE foods and crops in 1994, major US
grocery store chains, represented by the Grocery Manufacturers of
America, and food corporations, represented by the National Food
Processors Association, clashed with the USDA and the biotech
industry, demanding that biopharm companies stop experimenting with
food and animal feed crops such as corn. Even the Biotechnology
Industry Organization (BIO), the trade association for medical and
agbiotech companies, briefly called in October for a moratorium on
biopharm experiments in the Midwestern corn belt, no doubt having been
tipped off that the ProdiGene scandal was about to erupt. However BIO
reversed itself shortly thereafter, caving in to pressure from biotech
and agribusiness lobbyists.

More Frankenpharm horror stories loom on the horizon. Pressed as to
whether or not other biopharm violations have occurred, USDA
bureaucrats have been evasive, admitting there have been other
"infractions," but claiming nothing else has occurred on the scale of
ProdiGene. Although US Senator Richard Durbin from Illinois has
formally requested a full accounting of biopharm violations, the USDA
has dragged its heels. Meanwhile biopharm's mad scientists are
preparing to move their operations overseas, to the developing world,
where they hope to be able to pay farmers a pittance, operate in total
secrecy, and pollute the environment and food chain with impunity. On
their website www.molecularfarming.com the biopharm industry have put
out a call to farmers worldwide, especially in the Third World, to
make good money and serve a noble cause by getting in on the ground
floor of what they call a "future $50 billion a year, industry". But
as Monsanto can attest, outsourcing genetic pollution and treating
people as human guinea pigs does not always work out as planned.

Monsanto Meltdown

Despite heavy advertising and PR greenwash, despite a cozy
relationship with the White House, Monsanto's image, profits, and
credibility have plunged. Its aggressive bullying on Frankenfoods, its
patents on the Terminator gene, its attempt to buy out seed companies
and monopolize seed stocks, and its persecution of hundreds of North
American farmers for the "crime" of seed-saving, has made Monsanto one
of the most hated corporations on Earth.

Monsanto will likely soon be broken up, with its parts sold off to the
highest bidder. The New York Times reported 1/14/03, that "With its
stock price low, Monsanto is considered a takeover target. by
investment banks. and could be bought and sold off in pieces." On
December 19, Monsanto shocked the biotech industry by forcing the
resignation of its CEO, Hendrik Verfaillie, a 26-year veteran with the
company. The sudden move came as Monsanto reported losses of $1.75
billion for the first three quarters of 2002, despite cutbacks,
including layoffs for 700 employees. Monsanto's stock has fallen
nearly 50% since January 2001.

But Monsanto is not the only Gene Giant downsizing. Last year, biotech
giant Syngenta closed down its plant genome lab in San Diego,
terminated its controversial research partnership with the University
of California in Berkeley, pulled out of its planned collaboration
with the Indira Gandhi rice research institute in India, and canceled
its contract with the John Innes Center in the UK

Major transnational corporations in the food and life sciences sector
are unlikely to shed any tears over Monsanto's demise. It's no secret
on Wall Street that Monsanto, in its present form, has become a major
liability for transnational food corporations and the
biotech/pharmaceutical giants, who are much more concerned with the
potential for hundreds of billions of dollars in sales from biotech
drugs, nutraceutical foods, and nanotechnology, than the declining
fortunes of agbiotech crops, whose total sales in 2002 were $4.25
billion.

One of the major reasons for Monsanto's decline, besides the growing
worldwide opposition to its GE crops, is the growing resistance of
weeds to Monsanto's flagship product, Roundup herbicide. Roundup, up
until now the top-selling weed killer in the world, making up 50% of
Monsanto's sales and 70% of their profits, has recently begun to lose
its effectiveness against major crop weeds such as mare's-tail,
waterhemp, and ryegrass. GE Roundup-resistant soybeans presently
account for more than 75% of all the soybeans planted in the United
States and Argentina, as well as the majority of rapeseed or canola in
Canada. According to a recent report by Syngenta, herbicide-resistant
superweeds will soon reduce the economic value of farmland on which
Roundup Ready soybeans are grown by 17%. Forty-six percent of farmers
surveyed in Syngenta's study said that weed resistance to glyphosate,
the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, is now their
top concern. www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/roundup011403.cfm


According to industry experts, Monsanto has no alternative in the
pipeline once glyphosate starts to fail. Syngenta, which also sells
herbicides containing glyphosate, has criticized Monsanto for
encouraging its customers to overuse the relatively cheap herbicide,
as well as for not warning farmers to avoid mono-cropping, growing the
same Roundup Ready crops, year after year, on the same plots of land.

Leading scientific critics such as Dr. Michael Hansen and Dr. Charles
Benbrook have warned for years that weeds would inevitably develop
resistance to GMOs. The reason for this is that GE herbicide-resistant
plant varieties are designed to be able to survive heavy doses of the
companies' broad-spectrum weed killers, which in turn cause resistant
strains of these weeds to survive and eventually predominate. Similar
warnings have been leveled at the use of Bt-spliced crops, which are
engineered to express high doses of a soil bacteria called Bt. Now
that Bt crops such as cotton and corn have been commercialized on
millions of acres, major insect pests such as bollworms, bud worms,
beetles, and corn borers are also expected to become resistant to Bt
over the next 5-10 years.

The shaky bottom line for agbiotech is that almost 100% of all
Frankencrops today, the so-called "first generation" GE crops, are
either herbicide-resistant or Bt-spliced. Once these genetically
engineered traits lose their effectiveness, which is now happening,
the first generation of biotech crops will be dead, period. Here's a
toast to the speedy breakup and demise of Monsanto and the other Gene
Giants. RIP. In future issues of BioDemocracy News we'll look at the
so-called second, third, and fourth generation of Frankenfoods and
crops, including the absolutely frightening advent of nanotechnology,
or "atomtechnology." See www.etcgroup.org

Poisoning Pigs and Humans

In July 2002 a number of hog farms in Iowa reported that pigs were
suffering extraordinary rates of reproductive failure-outward signs of
pregnancy but no births.
www.organicconsumers.org/ge/pigfertility012703.cfm
What the farms had in common was feeding their pigs Bt corn (or corn
which was both Bt-spliced and Roundup resistant), which turned out to
have a high level of fusarium mold. When one of the farmers switched
back to non-GE corn, the reproductive problems disappeared. A memo by
USDA researcher Dr. Mark Rasmussen dated 8/5/02 stated, "A possible
cause of the problem may be the presence of an unanticipated
biologically active, chemical compound in the corn." Previous research
at Baylor University in Texas found similar problems in rats exposed
to "chipped corncob bedding" made from Bt corn. As indicated in
previous issues of BioDemocracy News, it is likely that human guinea
pigs (i.e. the general public), as well as pigs, are now suffering
from allergic reactions as well as damage to their immune systems and
guts from ingesting Bt corn. A number of scientists believe that the
Iowa incident may be the result of a sort of toxic synergy between Bt
corn and Roundup Ready soybeans. More on this in an upcoming issue.

The Next Step

The OCA has made a commitment to double the size of our 500,000-member
network over the next 12 months, and to step up the pressure by
helping grassroots activists pass laws that alter public policy at the
local and state levels. This is in addition to carrying on our
marketplace pressure campaigns against Starbucks and supermarket
chains and stepping up our public education efforts. If you are
willing to help us with network building in your local area, or work
with us to pass pro-organic legislation against sweatshops,
Frankenfoods, irradiated food, or slave labor coffee and chocolate,
send an email to simon@organicconsumers.org. In your email, please
include your telephone number and street address so we can have the
appropriate OCA regional field organizer get back in touch with you.

And last, but not least, if you want to get involved in the growing
anti-war movement and put pressure on the US Congress, you should
consider joining one of the most exciting and powerful new internet
networks in the world www.moveon.org

For a weekly expose of Bush administration lies and propaganda on the
war, biotech, the environment, and other issues check out
<www.prwatch.org> published by OCA policy board member John Stauber.
To sign up for PR Watch's free weekly email report go to:
http://www.prwatch.org/cmd/subscribe/sotd.html

Stay tuned to BioDemocracy News and www.organicconsumers.org for the
latest news and Action Alerts.

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