News Updates--March through August 2000
Click on a headline to read the story.
August 2000: Monsanto grants free use of golden rice technology
July 2000: Coalition launches campaign against GM food
July 2000: Colorado petition drive for labeling GM food
July 2000: Scientific groups urge support for biotech crops
June 2000: Bt pollen safe for black swallowtails
May 2000: U.S. government announces plans for regulation
May 2000: "Golden rice" will be available in three years
April 2000: Environmental groups try to quash transgenic squash
April 2000: Science panel says GM food is safe
March 2000: Coalition asks FDA for mandatory labeling and safety tests
March 2000: Antibiotic resistance genes pose less problem than believed
August 2000: Monsanto allows free use of transgenic technology for
The Monsanto Company announced on August 3 that it will not charge
licensing fees for the use of its patented transgenic technology for
producing "golden rice." Golden rice is modified to produce beta carotene,
a precursor of Vitamin A, and may benefit Vitamin A deficient consumers in
developing countries. Source: New York Times, Aug. 4, 2000.
July 2000: Consumer and environmental groups launch new campaign
A coalition of consumer and environmental groups announced plans to
pressure food companies to stop using genetically modified ingredients in
their food products. The coalition will seek consumer letters, phone
calls, and petitions to convince companies, starting with the Campbell
Soup Company, to abandon GM crops. Source: New York Times, July 19, 2000.
July 2000: Colorado petition drive to require GM food labeling
A Colorado petition drive to require the labeling of genetically
modified food began collecting signatures July 7. If 62,500
valid signatures are submitted by Aug. 7, the initiative will
appear on the November ballot. Meanwhile, two bills have been
introduced in Congress to require labeling at the national
level: H.R. 3377 in the House of Representatives and S. 2080
in the Senate. Both are known as the Genetically Engineered
Food Right to Know Act. Labeling of GM foods is a complex
issue; extensive information on labeling is provided at the
Canadian Food Inspection Agency Office of Biotechnology, http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/sci/biotech/tech/labetie.shtml.
Postscript: Sufficient signatures for the Colorado ballot
were not submitted by the August 7 deadline.
July 2000: Academies of Science urge crop biotechnology for developing
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences together with six academies of
science from other countries called for increased government and industry
support for crop biotechnologies that benefit developing countries. The
report cited the potential of transgenic crops to address plant pest and
disease problems and to improve human nutrition, and urged increased
research funding and freer use of patented technology.
Source: New York Times, July 11, 2000
June 2000: Bt corn pollen not toxic to black swallowtail
Results of an Illinois field study showed no harmful effects of Bt corn
pollen on black swallowtail butterfly larvae. Researchers placed potted
plants that were infested with first instar larvae at intervals from the
edge of a Bt corn field, and monitored mortality rates and amount of
pollen deposition on the leaves. No relationship was seen between larval
mortality and distance from the field or amount of pollen on the plants.
Source: Wraight et al.,
May 2000: Clinton Administration announces initiatives on ag biotech
A series of steps to strengthen science-based regulation of ag biotech
products was announced by the Clinton Administration on May 3. These
The text of the initiative is available at http://www.useu.be/ISSUES/biotech0503.html.
- A 6-month assessment of federal environmental regulations
pertaining to agricultural biotechnology, to be conducted by the Council
on Environmental quality and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
- A proposed requirement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
that it be informed at least 120 days before GM crops or products are
placed on the market. This will replace the current voluntary consultation
- Development of FDA guidelines for voluntary labeling of foods
containing or not containing transgenic ingredients.
- An expanded competitive grants program by USDA and FDA on health
and safety issues.
- Improved public education activities on the nature of the US
May 2000: AstraZeneca will sell transgenic "golden rice" in three
AstraZeneca, a multinational agricultural/pharmaceutical company,
announced that it will sell a strain of "golden rice" in developing
countries within three years. Golden rice is transgenically
enhanced to produce beta carotene, the precursor of Vitamin A. The crop
may benefit millions of people in rice-eating countries who suffer from
Vitamin A deficiency, and is viewed as a symbol of the benefits offered by
Source: New York Times, May 16, 2000.
April 2000: Environmental groups petition USDA to withdraw approval of
USDA was asked to withdraw its approval for two transgenic virus-resistant
squash varieties developed by Asgrow Seed Co. The petition by the National
Resources Defense Council and several other environmental groups
questioned whether USDA had adequately evaluated the potential risk of
transgene spread through cross-pollination to weedy squash relatives. If
the new gene made the wild relatives more vigorous, it might increase weed
control problems for Southern farmers.
April 2000: NAS panel considers GM food safe, but calls for regulatory
In a long-awaited report, a U.S. National Academy of Sciences panel
concluded that foods from transgenic crops currently on the market are
safe for human consumption. At the same time, the report called for more
coordinated regulation among the three federal agencies that have
responsibility for approving transgenic crops, and the collection of more
data prior to and following approval. The report, "Genetically Modified
Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation", was authored by the
Committee on Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants, National Research
Council (http://books.nap.edu/catalog/9795.html). For more
see the Evaluation and Regulation
section of this web site.
March 2000: Organizations petition FDA for testing and
A coalition of 54 consumer, farmer, and environmental groups petitioned
the US Food and Drug Administration to require safety testing and
labeling of transgenic crops. Currently, neither of those measures is
mandatory, although plant developers do consult with FDA to
review safety and nutritional data and to determine if additional testing
is required. FDA has 180 days to respond to the petition, after which the
petitioners may proceed to court.
March 2000: Risk of antibiotic resistance transfer less than
At the annual meeting of the British Society of Animal Science
this month scientists from the University of Leeds, UK, reported
that they had tried and failed to get bacteria to pick up
an antibiotic resistance gene used in transgenic crops. The
gene bla, which confers resistance to ampicillin, is used
as a marker in transgenic maize, leading to concerns that
it could be accidentally transferred to pathogenic bacteria
which would then become resistant to the antibiotic. However,
John Heritage and his colleagues reported that so far they
have been unable to detect bla in the gut bacteria of chickens
or cattle fed on transgenic corn. Further tests are planned,
but British scientists are now saying that the risk of antibiotic
resistance transfer from transgenic crops may be less than
Source: New Scientist, 25 March 2000.
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Page last updated : January 10, 2006
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