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    February 2003

  • Corn and Wheat Export Sales Remain Weak (2/28/2003)

  • Brazilian grain harvest to set another record this year (2/28/2003)
    EFE News Service via NewsEdge Corporation : Rio de Janeiro, Feb 27 (EFE).- This year's Brazilian grain harvest is expected to increase 10 percent and top 2001's record, government forecasts released Thursday revealed.

  • USA: USDA requests $1m to audit four largest US beef packers (2/28/2003)

  • AUSTRALIA: Tasmania introduces most rigorous GM controls in Oz (2/28/2003)

  • Up, down on bio-pharm (2/27/2003)
    Thursday, February 27, 2003 - MONTROSE - Plant-based pharmaceutical crops are a cost-effective way to put drugs on pharmacy shelves, supporters said Wednesday at a public meeting co-sponsored by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

  • EU states opposing GM cite lack of crop mix rules (2/27/2003)
    BRUSSELS, Feb 27 (Reuters) - A call by several EU states for tighter rules to prevent gene-modified seeds from contaminating other crops may be their next tactic to delay an end to the bloc's virtual ban on GM food, officials said on Thursday.

  • Bunge North America to idle production at Cairo, Illinois plant (2/25/2003)

  • Canary in the corn field (2/23/2003)
    I HAVE STUDIED the monarch butterfly since 1954, and it is not unusual for me to receive inquiries about the biology and conservation of this wonderful insect. None was more fateful than a phone call in September 1998 from Linda Rayor telling me of a discovery made by her and her Cornell University colleagues, John Losey and Maureen Carterthat a genetically engineered strain of corn, the so-called Bt corn, produced pollen that could kill monarch caterpillars. Shortly afterwards Losey, Rayor, and I had a discussion about the implications of their study; the forces behind biotechnology are powerful ones, and it was obvious that the Cornell findings had serious scientific, political, and economic implications. Yet none of us could have predicted the firestorm that was about to descend.

  • Farm Payments: Decoupled Payments Increase Households' Well-Being, Not Production (2/22/2003)
    Nearly all industrial countries provide subsidies to their farmers, often for the purpose of maintaining income from farming or reducing income variability. Traditionally, subsidies in the U.S. and elsewhere have linked payments to current prices and production so as to compensate producers more when market prices for key commodities are low. Such subsidies distort, or alter, the signals sent by market prices alone because, depending on the eligibility rules of specific programs, producers can garner more payments or reduce their revenue risk simply by producing more of the supported commodity.

  • Undermining organic (2/20/2003)

  • Kernels of truth in the case of corn (2/20/2003)
    John Krouse wrongly said that burning corn to heat homes is "agriculturally impossible, environmentally preposterous and morally scandalous" [letters, Feb. 7].

  • WTO plan shakes Canadian position (2/20/2003)
    The chair of agricultural negotiations at the World Trade Organization has published controversial proposals that Canadian critics say would lead to the destruction of supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board.

  • U.S. Official Cites Progress in Trade Ties With China (2/19/2003)
    HONG KONG, Feb. 19 The top United States trade official gave a generally favorable assessment of China's first year in the World Trade Organization today, saying that progress had been made on many issues even as China's annual trade surplus with the United States approaches $100 billion.

  • Brazil's biotech ban means farmers make no premium on non-GMO (2/17/2003)
    Soybean Digest via NewsEdge Corporation : The agronomist on the other end of the line laughed aloud. "Paid extra for non-GM soybeans?" he asked, incredulous. "Tell me who's paying, because we'll take it."

    Until Brazilian farmers have incentive to grow non-biotech soybeans, many continue to illegally plant Roundup Ready (RR) varieties, according to agronomists from that country.

  • Minnesota farmers experimented with soybeans to make snack food (2/17/2003)
    Knight-Ridder / Tribune Business News via NewsEdge Corporation : Feb. 6--DRAYTON, N.D.--Two Hallock, Minn., farmers decided they wanted to add value to their soybeans.

    Rather than sell them to the elevator for $5.50 per bushel, they decided to roast them and sell them for 25 cents an ounce and make $240 per bushel.

  • Who owns organic? (2/15/2003)

  • Opportunities on the Web: Shifting the risks of biopharming (2/14/2003)
    Brokering Iffy Biotech to Out-of-the-Way Farmers

    Taking a "Dirty Industry" South?

    Edmonds, Washington, Wednesday, February 12. The Edmonds Institute, a public interest, non-profit known for its work on biosafety, today warned about use of the Internet to find farmers in out-of-the-way places willing to grow pharm crops. "With bioengineered piglets going unapproved to market, with experimental crops contaminating 150 acres of corn and half a million bushels of soybeans, with an engineered corn unapproved for human consumption turning up all over the world, at a time when the environmental and human health problems posed by the so-called pharm crops* desperately need the clear scientific light of day, people are brokering contract pharming deals on the web, " cautions Beth Burrows, Edmonds Institute President and Director.

    Burrows is referring to "biopharming", the genetic engineering of organisms, such as crop plants, to enable them to produce substances they don't ordinarily produce, such as pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals. Because of the contamination dangers to food and feed supplies, "pharming" was the subject of a recent call for comment by the US Food and Drug Administration.

    "The web middlemen tells companies to 'contact us if you see anyone (on our website list of growers) who might be in the right place to safely contract grow your crop for you'," notes Burrows, "and then they tempt farmers with the thought that, "(w)e would expect in order to get exactly the right location and conditions, Pharmaceutical Companies to lease land at up to 20 times 'commercial' rates for normal food crops."

    Burrows adds, "The web brokers are offering what seems to be a perfect deal. Perfect, until you begin to wonder whether they're not shifting the risk and liability burden from pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies to those much less able to address and bear the potential health, environmental, and legal burdens of pharm crops."

    Burrows points to Molecularfarming.com, a website that came to her notice via Indusfarming, an electronic digest that originates in India and focuses on the problems of agrarian peoples in the South Asia and Indus basin region. Late January, an article in Indusfarming heralded "Molecular farming. Contract growing opportunity".

    The article announced a "global project, based in Europe," that aimed to "enable the future SAFE production of Biopharmaceuticals, Biodegradeable plastics, New Fibers and New Polymers in transgenic, NON-FOOD USE, genetically engineered molecular crops ." The article acknowledged that "there will be cross-contamination and Environmental risks" but foresaw a "huge future industry" for contract farmers able to grow "molecular crops" in greenhouses or in "'isolated', 'non-native', 'away from related food crop'" places. The article announced a "free to join Global Database of future potential growers, with the idea of introducing Biopharmaceutical companies with crops to grow to contract growers and farmers in safe locations."

    Mentioning that they already "have a few Indian growers", the article called attention to the project's website and enjoined the reader to "explore the potential for you."

    Burrows points out that, "This is an inducement to exactly the kind of 'pharming' that FDA and all the rest of us are concerned about,* and doing it in out of the way places doesn't guarantee the safety of anything. "

    Devinder Sharma, award-winning journalist and food system analyst based in New Delhi, saw the same article Burrows did, and commented:

    "This is shocking indeed...This is part of the global design to translocate the dirty industry to the Third World. First, it was the translocation of toxic and hazardous waste recycling to developing countries (mainly South Asia and Africa). . .Then came the translocation of the flower industry, one of the dirtiest farming systems...to India, Kenya and Colombia...Now, it is the turn of bio-pharma crops. Even in the United States, there is tremendous problems with bio-pharma crops. So what do you do? Translocate this dirty industry to countries of South Asia."

    According to the website - Molecularfarming.com - its "worldwide molecular farming database" was started in February, 2002. Since then, "potential growers" for "pharm" crops have been found in Canada, Ireland, Australia, Argentina, a dozen states of the USA, Scotland, England, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Korea, Greece, Turkey, Panama, Romania, Nigeria, and South Africa. The website owners also "have leads to a farmer's group in the Baltic Sea Islands" and" a contact for 147,000 acres in Guinea (in West Africa)."

    Not surprised by the website, Sharma notes, "I am sure we will have a number of 'farmers' waiting on line to encash this opportunity."

    Burrows admits that the website "offers an attractive package" but, she notes, "If you read it carefully, you see many, many safety problems. At best, they are talking about hoped-for solutions. They talk 'protection' but it's mostly talk about protection from gene flow in the field. That is not the only problem, not even the only environmental problem, posed by pharm crops."

    In its recent draft Guidance for Industry regarding Drugs, Biologicas and Medical Devices Derived from Bioengineered Plants for Use in Humans and Animals, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised industry to "consider the potential environmental impact of all aspects of the manufacturing process, including but not limited to transport of seeds and plants, growing, harvesting, processing, purifying, packaging, storage, and disposal."

    Looking at the molecularfarming website, Burrows worries that, "Aside from the risks that may be engendered by handling these crops, what about the risks from transporting these crops or accidents while processing these crops? Whose is the liability for the child in an out of the way place that picks and eats one of these strange new crops? And who is going to be sure that the farmer in out-of-the-way places are told all they need to know about pharm crops and their problems and how to handle them. Who is going to help those out-of-the-way farmers obey whatever relevant laws may exist in their own counties? I find it noteworthy that one of the key questions the website asks farmers is, 'Has your property public liability insurance?'"

    Molecularfarming.com does offers its readers translations into Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese but it admits that the translations are "not exact". Burrows wants to know, "Exactly what things aren't exactly well-explained, and what about the farmers who speak Hindi, or Parsi, or Arabic or Swahili? Who will explain to them the implications of the deal they are being offered? The unknowing farmers who find this website may not be so much bridging the digital divide as walking a digital plank. "

    Devinder Sharma warns further, "It is time the civil society wakes up to these ecological dangers. We cannot allow the West to clean up its house and even its backyard and turn us into a rubbish bin."

  • U.S. industry urges slow approach to GM wheat (2/14/2003)

  • Seeds of Domination (2/12/2003)
    Americans have been eating genetically engineered foods every day for several years, though many remain unaware of that basic fact. Consequently, the question of whether our food should be manipulated with genes from foreign species may already be moot.

  • Australia studying ways to segregate GMO crops (2/12/2003)
    AAP News via NewsEdge Corporation : CANBERRA, Feb 10 AAP - A system to segregate genetically modified crops from traditional grains will be studied, Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said today. Mr Truss said four case studies would look at the effectiveness of separating different varieties of GM crops and tracing them through the supply chain. Tasmanian Quality Assured will conduct four case studies covering the cotton, canola and poppy industries and the connection between GM pastures and the dairy industry.

  • As world soybean consumption quickens, US loses export market share (2/12/2003)
    Southeast Farm Press via NewsEdge Corporation : U.S. farmers are in the midst of a dynamic period in the soybean industry, a period of competition never seen before. That presents not only problems but also enormous opportunities, says John Baize, president of John Baize and Associates, an international agriculture policy and trade consulting firm.

  • Thai farm officials plan GM field experiments (2/11/2003)
    Bangkok Post via NewsEdge Corporation : The Agriculture Department plans to conduct field experiments on genetically modified crops this year after the Agriculture Ministry's biosafety committee agreed on Thursday to relax the ban on such trials.

  • GM food programme causing indigestion in Beijing (2/4/2003)
    EIU ViewsWire China via NewsEdge Corporation: Since China threatened to implement strict safety and labelling restrictions on some genetically modified (GM) agricultural imports in 2001, exporters to China have questioned the country's motives. While Chinese officials claim the requirements are aimed at protecting consumers, foreign traders denounce the measures as protectionist. Indeed, the move appears to counter government efforts -- begun by Deng Xiaoping in 1985 -- to develop a domestic biotech sector, including the engineering of GM crops.

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