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December 2000: GM
food can't be labeled 'organic'
Trans-Atlantic panel recommends labeling
Risk-benefit studies called incomplete
Labeling lawsuit dismissed
September 2000: EPA deems
Bt crops environmentally safe
UK protesters acquitted of destroying GM crops
September 2000: Bird
populations may drop due to herbicide-tolerant crops
December 2000: GM foods cannot
be labeled "organic"
Transgenic crops cannot be labeled "organic," according
to the federal government's rules regulating organic
foods. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman announced
the final rules on December 20. Crops created by "gene
deletion, gene doubling, introducing a foreign gene,
and changing the position of genes when achieved by
recombinant DNA technology" are specifically prohibited
from carrying an "organic" designation. This is a major
change from the rules originally proposed three years
ago, which would have allowed crops created by transgenic
techniques but grown under organic conditions to be
labeled "organic." The rules become effective after
60 days. A New York Times article on the organic regulations
is available at http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/21/science/21ORGA.html.
The USDA announcement is available at http://www.usda.gov/news/releases/2000/12/0425.htm.
The complete text of the rules is available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards.html.
For the list of methods that are not permitted in organic
foods, go to http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards/DefineReg.html
and scroll down to the entry "excluded methods." For
the paragraphs specifying that foods produced using
these excluded methods may not be labeled "organic,"
December 2000: U.S.-European
panel recommends labeling of transgenic foods
Genetically modified foods should be labeled so consumers
can make informed choices, according to the EU-US Biotechnology
Consultative Forum. The panel of representatives from
the United States and the European Union, established
by U.S. President Bill Clinton and European Commission
President Romano Prodi, made 23 recommendations in a
report issued December 18. The report called for "content-based
mandatory labelling requirements for finished products
containing novel genetic material." The panel also suggested
that farmers in developing countries should be free
to plant seeds they have saved from patented crops.
The full report, in pdf format, is available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/us/biotech/
December 2000: Risk-benefit
studies called incomplete
Published studies evaluating the environmental risks
and benefits of transgenic crops are incomplete and
more research needs to be done, according to an article
in the journal Science (Wolfenbarger and Phifer, 2000). Dr. LaReesa Wolfenbarger
and Dr. Paul Phifer examined 35 published studies and
found them insufficient to demonstrate either risks
or benefits. The New York Times story announcing publication
of the article can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/14/science/14BIOT.html
September 2000: Labeling
A lawsuit to require labeling of foods made from transgenic
crops was dismissed by a U.S. federal judge on September
29. In dismissing the suit, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly
stated that the Food and Drug Administration "lacks
a basis upon which it can legally mandate labeling,
regardless of consumer demand", unless FDA finds that
transgenic foods differ significantly from conventional
Source: Los Angeles Times
September 2000: EPA report considers
Bt crops environmentally safe
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a
report Sept. 20 stating that Bt insect-resistant corn
and other crops cause "no unreasonable adverse effects"
on non-target organisms, including Monarch butterflies.
Attention had focused on the effects of Bt corn pollen
on Monarch larvae following a Cornell University laboratory
study published last year. Source: Washington Post
The report, entitled Biopesticides Registration Action
Document: Bt Plant-Pesticides, is available at http://www.epa.gov/scipoly/sap/
September 2000: UK protesters
who destroyed GM crop trial found not guilty
Twenty-eight environmental activists, including the
executive director of Greenpeace UK and 13 fellow members
of Greenpeace, were acquitted of charges of trespass
and criminal damage in a crown court trial in Norwich,
UK. The protesters destroyed a field trial of transgenic
maize on a private UK farm in July 1999, claiming that
cross-pollination from the GM crop would contaminate
other crops in the area and posed an environmental threat.
More information can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,371076,00.html.
September 2000: British scientists
warn of bird population decline due to herbicide-tolerant
Herbicide-tolerant crops might reduce supplies of
weed seed to the point where seed-eating bird populations
could be seriously affected, according to a simulation
study by British researchers. The study was published
in Science (Watkinson
et al., 2000), along with a commentary by Firbank and Forcella, 2000.
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