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August 2005: Mexican landraces of corn no longer contain GM genes

December 2004: Two seed companies fined for mistakes

November 2004: GM corn genes not detected in blood or flesh of piglets

November 2004: Committee issues recommendations on maize and biodiversity in Mexico

November 2004: Vermont requires labels on GM seeds

October 2004: Starlink payments to begin soon, including back interest

October 2004: GM canola reduces pesticide use in Canada

September 2004: Latest figures on GM crops grown in the U.S.

September 2004: Study finds long-distance gene flow via pollen from creeping bentgrass

September 2004: EU commission approves GM seed for cultivation, sticks to zero tolerance for contamination of conventional varieties

August 2004: Growers association disputes USDA figures on GM corn

July 2004: U.S. science organization calls for testing of GE and conventional foods

July 2004: EU approves a second GM crop for import

May 2004: Monsanto wins fight against Percy Schmeiser

May 2004: EU ends de facto moratorium on GE food

May 2004: Gene flow from GE maize to refuges may undermine the refuge strategy

May 2004: U.N. wants GE technology to reach small farmers

May 2004: Monsanto decides to wait on GE wheat

March 2004: EU food safety agency declares a GM rapeseed variety safe for consumption

February 2004: Shipments of GM seeds will be labeled under new rules

February 2004: USDA to review its regulation of genetically engineered organisms

February 2004: European Union still cautious as deadline approaches for labeling GM food

January 2004: 18% of Canada's Bt corn farmers break the rules

January 2004: U.S. panel recommends closer attention to possible escape of GMOs

January 2004: Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred say they didn't illegally fix prices

 

News Updates--StarLink corn in the food supply

Archive: News Updates for July through December 2003

Archive: News Updates for January through June 2003

Archive: News Updates for July through December 2002

Archive: News Updates for January through June 2002

Archive: News Updates for April through December 2001

Archive: News Updates for January through March 2001

Archive: News Updates for September through December 2000

Archive: News Updates for March through August 2000

August 2005: Mexican landraces of corn no longer contain GM genes

Scientists who sampled maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2003 and 2004 did not find evidence of GM genes. Samples were taken from the same area in which GM genes were discovered in 2000 and 2001 by Quist and Chapela. The genetic composition of maize is important in Mexico because southern Mexico is the center of origin of maize and contains a large reservoir of diverse maize genes. In order to protect its prized landraces from acquiring transgenes, in 1998 Mexico imposed a ban on commercial planting of GM maize. U.S. corn, about 40 percent of which is transgenic, is imported into Mexico for food but is not supposed to be planted. The discovery in 2000 and 2001 of transgenic material in samples from fields in southern Mexico caused great concern among government scientists and Mexican farmers. Additional surveys were conducted in adjoining regions and the Mexican government initiated a public information campaign to warn against planting corn imported from the United States. A joint Mexico-U.S. team of scientists conducted follow-up testing in Oaxaca and reported their findings (Ortiz-García et al., 2005) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For more information on the topic of GM maize in Mexican landraces, see our page GM Maize in Mexico.

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December 2004: Two seed companies fined for mistakes

Seminis Inc., a producer of seeds for fruits and vegetables, and the Scotts Company, a producer of grass seed, have been fined for separate incidents in which they failed to properly contain GM genes in their products. Seminis was fined $2,500 for mistakenly sending GM tomato seeds to the seed bank at the University of California at Davis. Over the course of seven years the improperly identified seeds were shipped as conventional seeds to researchers around the world. The Scotts Company was fined $3,125 for failing to report that genetically engineered grass had escaped from a testing field.

More information on this story is available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/12-2004/agnet_dec_1.htm#story2 and http://www.ebfarm.com/News/NewsStories/BiotechFines120104.aspx

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November 2004: GM corn genes not detected in blood or flesh of piglets

GM genes in corn that was fed to piglets were not detected in the blood or flesh of the animals, suggesting that the genetically modified DNA is mostly broken down during the digestions process. Researchers in Illinois tested the stomach contents, small intestine contents, blood and flesh of piglets that were fed GM corn. GM DNA was detected in stomach and intestinal contents, but not in blood or flesh. A previous study of larger pigs found no traces of the GM DNA in the small intestine or the feces. There have been concerns about incompletely digested transgenic materials being introduced into the environment via animal waste, and GM DNA has been found in the blood of other species of animals fed on GM food.

More information on this story is available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/11-2004/agnet_nov_8.htm#story1.

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November 2004: Committee issues recommendations on maize and biodiversity in Mexico

Labeling of GM maize imports into Mexico, milling of GM maize before import, or education programs warning Mexican farmers not to plant maize imported from the United States are among the recommendations made by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation in response to the discovery several years ago of genetically engineered genes in Mexican landraces of maize. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a group jointly supported by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, looked at issues involving gene flow, biodiversity, human health, and sociocultural matters after researchers discovered that GE maize had been planted in Mexico despite an official ban on commercial planting. GE maize is imported from the United States into Mexico for food and feed, but it is not supposed to be planted in Mexico because of the likelihood that GE pollen will spread foreign genes to Mexico’s landraces of maize.

In addition to much stricter enforcement of the ban, the commission recommended:

  • additional research to determine the extent of foreign gene flow into Mexico’s landraces.
  • the evaluation of methods for eliminating foreign genes from the landraces.
  • additional research into the effects on human health and the environment.

The U.S. government has been critical of the report, calling it “fundamentally flawed and unscientific.”

The committee’s report, titled Maize and Biodiversity: The Effects of Transgenic Maize in Mexico, is available on the commission’s web site at http://www.cec.org/files/pdf//Maize-and-Biodiversity_en.pdf. More information about this story is available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/9-2004/agnet_sept_29-2.htm#story1 and http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/11-2004/agnet_nov_8.htm#story0.

For more information on the topic of transgenic maize in Mexico, see our page on GM Maize in Mexico. The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology (PIFB) and the U.S.-Mexico Foundation for Science (FUMEC) held a two-day public conference in September 2003 in Mexico City, titled Gene Flow: What Does It Mean for Biodiversity and Centers of Origin? Proceedings from the conference are available at http://pewagbiotech.org/events/0929/Proceedings-English.pdf. A description of the conference is available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/10-2004/agnet_oct_21-2.htm#story6.

Responses from the U.S. government are available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/11-2004/agnet_nov_9htm#story0 and http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/11-2004/agnet_nov_9-2.htm#story0. Another view focusing on the lack of negative effects from the accidental contamination is available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/11-2004/agnet_nov_9-2.htm#story1.

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November 2004: Vermont requires labels on GM seeds

Genetically engineered seeds sold in the state in Vermont must carry a label specifying the GE traits that they contain. The new law, the first of its kind in the United States, went into effect in early October. Steve Kerr, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, added that he wants to see a “plain English disclosure” that such seeds are genetically engineered.

More information on this story is available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/11-2004/agnet_nov_1-2.htm#story3. The text of the law is available at http://www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/fullsection.cfm?Title=06&Chapter=035&Section=00644.

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October 2004: Starlink payments to begin soon, including back interest

Farmers who suffered economic losses as a result of the StarLink corn scandal can expect to begin receiving payments soon, including 4 percent interest dating from September 2002. Farmers who did not grow the GM StarLink corn but suffered from loss of consumer confidence after the scandal broke will receive money from the settlement reached with companies that produced and distributed the corn. StarLink was a GM variety that was approved only for use as animal feed, not for use as human food. In violation of that limitation, StarLink corn was sold for human food. The discovery of StarLink corn in products on supermarket shelves in 2000 prompted a recall of several brands of corn products and affected the market price of corn. The level of StarLink contamination in the nation’s corn supply dropped rapidly following clean-up efforts, but grain handlers still test for StarLink in loads of corn. Farmers in Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and other major corn growing states will share a settlement of $110 million.

More information on this story is available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/8-2004/agnet_aug_24-2.htm#story2 and http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/10-2004/agnet_oct_27-2.htm#story3. A short history of the StarLink scandal can be found on the StarLink News Updates page on this site and a discussion can be found on our StarLink Corn page.

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October 2004: GM canola reduces pesticide use in Canada

As Canadian farmers have increased their plantings of herbicide-tolerant canola they have reduced their use of pesticides, according to a report by Brimner et al. in the journal Pest Management Science. The decrease in herbicide use is attributed partly to the use of single pesticides rather than mixtures of pesticides and partly to the ability to spot-spray weed-infested areas while the crop is growing rather than spraying entire fields before planting. Brimner et al. found that both the pounds of active ingredient applied and the environmental impact of the herbicides used were lower in fields planted with herbicide-tolerant varieties than in fields planted with conventional varieties.

More information on this story is available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/10-2004/agnet_oct_20-2.htm#story0.

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September 2004: Latest figures on GM crops grown in the U.S.

Government figures for GM crops grown in the United States in 2004 are available on the Pew Agbiotech. The percentage of GM versus conventional varieties of soybeans, corn, and cotton increased from 2003 to 2004. About 85 percent of the soybeans grown in the United States are GM varieties, as are 45 percent of the corn and 76 percent of the cotton. The United States Department of Agriculture surveys farmers each year to estimate how many acres of each crop are grown. Since the advent of GM varieties, the government has included questions about the percentage of conventional versus GM varieties in its survey.

For more information, visit the Pew web site at http://pewagbiotech.org/resources/factsheets/crops/ or http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/9-2004/agnet_sept_23-2.htm#story1.

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September 2004: Study finds long-distance gene flow via pollen from creeping bentgrass

A GM turfgrass proposed for use on golf courses spread its pollen up to 21 kilometers (about 13 miles) away, in tests carried out in central Oregon, according to a report by Watrud et al. published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The test location in Oregon is significant because much of the U.S. commercial crop of cool season turf grass seed is produced in Oregon. The long-distance spread of transgenes from creeping bentgrass could contaminate conventional varieties of bentgrass being grown in the region. Creeping bentgrass also frequently cross-pollinates with closely related wild grasses. The spread of herbicide-tolerance transgenes into wild grasses would increase the difficulty of eradicating some weeds from farmers’ fields and could complicate efforts by the U.S. Forest Service to keep commercial grasses out of national forests. Herbicide-tolerant bentgrass has been under development for several years because it would allow golf course personnel to spray herbicides to kill weeds without killing the turf. The potential danger of spreading the transgene to nearby plants has been raised before, but the distance over which the pollen could spread had been previously believed to be much smaller.

More information on this story is available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/9-2004/agnet_sept_20.htm#story10 and http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/9-2004/agnet_sept_21.htm#story0.

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September 2004: EU commission approves GM seed for cultivation, sticks to zero tolerance for contamination of conventional varieties

The European Commission approved 17 varieties of GM seed corn for cultivation in Europe, ending the ban on GM varieties that began in 1998. The European Union halted importation and cultivation of GM plants because of concerns about damage to the environment and to human health. Import of a few varieties has been approved gradually in recent years. David Byrne, Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner for the Commission, said years of assessment show that GM corn is safe. However the approved varieties will be clearly labeled as GM because public sentiment in Europe runs against GM food. In a related move, the European Commission refused to approve low levels of GM contamination in batches of conventional seeds, maintaining the standard of absolute seed purity.

More information on these stories is available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/9-2004/agnet_sept_8.htm#story0, http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/9-2004/agnet_sept_9.htm#story0, and http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/09/business/worldbusiness/09seed.html.

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August 2004: Growers association disputes USDA figures on GM corn

Estimates by the United State Department of Agriculture overstate the percentage of GM corn grown in the United States, according to the American Corn Growers Association. A survey sponsored by the growers’ association found that U.S. farmers planted about 34 percent of their corn acreage with GM varieties in 2004, while the Department of Agriculture survey reported that 45 percent of the corn acreage was GM. The survey asked 500 farmers from the nation’s top corn producing states about their corn acreage in 2003 and 2004. The respondents reported planting 32 percent of their corn acreage with GM varieties in 2003 and 34 percent with GM varieties in 2004. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. The Department of Agriculture’s survey covers more states but does not include from all 50 states. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent. The American Corn Growers Association is one of two such associations in the U.S., the other being the National Corn Growers Association.

More information on this story is available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/8-2004/agnet_aug_20-2.htm#story0.

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July 2004: U.S. science organization calls for testing of GE and conventional foods

Both genetically engineered foods and conventional foods should be evaluated for potential unintended health effects before being marketed and in some cases should be tracked after marketing has begun, according to a report published by the National Academy of Sciences. All techniques for modifying crop plants carry some risk of unintended results, according to the NAS report, and testing of the final products is needed. The NAS committee recommended that safety assessments be done on foods that show either intentional or unintended changes in composition. Information about the nutrients, anti-nutrients, toxicants and allergens in genetically engineered foods should be made available to the public along with typical levels found in conventional foods, the committee said.

The full NAS report is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10977.html. A story in the New York Times is available at http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/28/science/28study.html? ex=1092110400&en=37e9be32f76623e4&ei=5070&8br. A story in the magazine The Scientist is available at http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040729/02.

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July 2004: EU approves a second GM crop for import

The European Union has approved a second GM corn variety for importation, but not for cultivation. Following the decision in May to allow a variety developed by the Swiss company Syngenta to be used for human food and animal feed, this month’s decision allows a corn variety developed by the American company Monsanto to be imported for animal feed.

A story on the decision is available at http://www.iht.com/articles/530211.htm. The press release by the European Union is available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health_consumer/library/press/press341_en.pdf.

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May 2004: Monsanto wins fight against Percy Schmeiser

The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that farmer Percy Schmeiser violated Monsanto's patent rights when he grew Roundup Ready canola without paying Monsanto royalties. Schmeiser's case has been in the court system for years and Schmeiser has become a hero to some opponents of GE technology. Monsanto hailed the 5-4 decision as protection for intellectual property rights. The dissenting judges argued that the court's own recent ruling against patenting higher life forms negates Monsanto's claim to patent protection.

A news story on the decision is available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/5-2003/agnet_may_21-2.htm#story0.

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May 2004: EU ends de facto moratorium on GE food

The European Union has approved the importation of a GE sweet corn. Syngenta's pest-resistant corn is the first such product to be approved since 1998. In the absence of decisions by both the GM Regulatory Committee and the Council of Ministers, the European Commission ruled that importation for use as human food would be permitted as long as the corn is labeled as genetically modified. Cultivation of the GE corn in Europe is still not permitted.

More information is available at http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/04/663&format =HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en and http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1220460,00.html.

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May 2004: Gene flow from GE maize to refuges may undermine the refuge strategy

The "refuge strategy," advocated as a way to delay the development of resistance to pesticides used in GE plants, may be undermined by gene flow from GE crops to nearby refuges, according to recent research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. In experiments done in Texas, the Bt gene was found in kernels as far as 30 feet inside a non-GE refuge, raising the possibility that seed-feeding insects such as the corn earworm in the refuge were being exposed to low levels of Bt. The refuge strategy is intended to provide a non-Bt environment that will foster the presence of pesticide-susceptible genes and delay the development of pesticide resistance in the insect population. Proximity of refuges to GE fields has been considered advantageous until now. The U.S. government recommends that farmers plant refuges within a quarter mile of GE fields, and many farmers plant their refuges immediately beside their GE plantings. The researchers involved in the Texas study recommend that refuge requirements be modified to avoid gene flow from GE fields to refuges.

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May 2004: U.N. wants GE technology to reach small farmers

GE technology has the potential to help small farmers in poor countries, but has so far fallen short, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, an arm of the United Nations. While calling for effective regulation and more research into environmental impacts, the FAO encouraged governments to provide incentives that will direct research toward efforts that help the poor as well as the rich.

A summary of the report is available at http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/focus/2004/41655/index.html.The full report is available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/Y5160E/Y5160E00.HTM.

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May 2004: Monsanto decides to wait on GE wheat

Faced with widespread opposition to its proposed GE wheat, Monsanto has announced plans to concentrate on other products until the market is more favorable. Exports of wheat from the United States and Canada to Europe and Japan would have been threatened by the introduction of GE wheat in North America. Some millers announced that they would refuse all North American wheat shipments if GE wheat were introduced, because of worries that mixing of GM and non-GM wheat would inevitably occur.

More information is available from http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1213958,00.html, http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto/layout/media/04/05-10-04.asp, and http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/05/11/tech/main616811.shtml.

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March 2004: EU food safety agency declares a GM rapeseed variety safe for consumption

Monsanto's GM rapeseed variety GT73 has been declared safe for consumption by humans and animals. This is the second GM food to win the approval of the European Union's food safety agency. The first was a GM maize, variety NK603. The agency approval is for consumption only, not for cultivation within EU countries. Importation of the GM rapeseed will require approval by other EU bodies. Stories on the safety assessment by the EU are available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/3-2004/agnet_march_2.htm#story2 and http://www.checkbiotech.org/root/index.cfm?fuseaction=news&doc_id =7251&start=1&control=201&page_start=1&page_nr=101&pg=1. The agency's announcement is available at http://www.efsa.eu.int/science/gmo/gmo_opinions/174_en.html.

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February 2004: Shipments of GM seeds will be labeled under new rules

Members of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety have adopted labeling requirements for trade in genetically engineered organisms, including bulk shipments of seeds such as maize and soybeans. Under the new rules, a "may contain LMOs" label must accompany such shipments. LMO stands for living modified organism, another way of referring to genetically modified organisms or genetically engineered organisms. Importing countries may also ask for more details about the nature of the genetic modification that is present. The United States, the world's biggest producer of GM crops, is not a signatory to the protocol and is not bound by the new rules. However, the U.S. sent a delegation to lobby for weaker rules than those that were eventually adopted. An official speaking for the Cartagena Protocol said the new system will allow countries to enjoy the benefits of biotechnology while avoiding potential risks. More information on the rules adopted under the Protocol on Biosafety is available at http://www.checkbiotech.org/root/index.cfm?fuseaction=news&doc_id=7249 &start=11&control=202&page_start=1&page_nr=101&pg=1, http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/2-2004/agnet_feb_27-2.htm#story0, and http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/2-2004/agnet_feb_27-2.htm#story1. An announcement by the United Nations Environment Program is available at http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp? DocumentID=383&ArticleID=4373&l=en.

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February 2004: USDA to review its regulation of genetically engineered organisms

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced its intention to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement concerning potential changes in its regulation of genetically enginered organisms. Issues to be studied include expanding APHIS's role to include regulation of genetically engineered organisms that are biocontrol agents or pose a noxious weed threat, allowing post-release monitoring of genetically engineered organisms, strengthening regulation of genetically engineered organisms that produce pharmaceutical or industrial compounds, and relaxing regulation of organisms considered to pose low risk. Public comments on this action are solicited until March 23, 2004. The Federal Register notice is available at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html. Enter 04fr03271-APHIS_USDA_04-1411 in the Search window.

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February 2004: European Union still cautious as deadline approaches for labeling GM food

The possible negative consequences of growing and eating GM foods continue to worry European countries even as they prepare for strict labeling laws. The farm-to-fork system for tracing and labeling foods that contain or were derived from GM ingredients, including animals that were fed GM products, was intended to alleviate consumer concerns about lack of information and lack of choice. With the rules due to take full effect in April, EU officials have begun reviewing applications by biotechnology companies eager to gain approval for commercialization of their products in one of the world's major markets. But concern about environmental effects is limiting the scope of acceptance even as the applications move through the system.

Two GM corn varieties, one that is resistant to insects and one that tolerates exposure to the herbicide RoundUp, have received favorable reviews from committees and may be officially approved for importation within three months, but they will not be grown in the EU. A corn variety that carries both these GM traits has been released in Spain and will be labeled accordingly. A British newspaper, claiming advance knowledge, predicted that the British government will soon approve the cultivation of GM corn for one year only, but will ban cultivation of GM beets and GM oilseed rape on the grounds that they may harm the environment. Belgium has approved the importation of GM oilseed rape, but not the cultivation of it, citing the British studies showing environmental effects.

Although a few GM foods were approved for import or cultivation in Europe during the early days of commercialization, no approvals have been given since 1998. European consumers are largely opposed to GM foods. U.S. experts warn that the new labeling laws may be just as hard to surmount as the unofficial ban on approvals has been. Food producers have been arranging for non-GM sources, even to replace approved GM ingredients, rather than place GM labels on their products. Supermarkets in Austria have announced that they will be GM free when the laws go into effect. And many EU countries are exploring the possibility of declaring GM-free agricultural zones to avoid gene flow from GM crops to non-GM or organic crops, which are quite popular in Europe.

Only one food producer is seeking to turn the GM label to advantage. A Swedish beer that contains GM corn debuts this month amid a flurry of publicity aimed at profiting from the public controversy over GM food. Consumer preference surveys show that Swedish consumers, like consumers all over the EU, are wary of GM food, so some observers are eager to see whether the GM beer will meet with consumer approval.

Stories on the recent developments in the European Union include:
EU on line to prohibit GM oilseed rape crops http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1137416,00.html
GM crop closer to European growing ban http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/2-2004/agnet_feb_3-2.htm#story1
EU sees GM import soon, Belgium bans rapeseed http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/2-2004/agnet_feb_2.htm#story0
Austrian supermarkets to ban gene-altered foods http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/1-2004/agnet_jan_30-2.htm#story4
'Modified' label will make debut: GM beer http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/1-2004/agnet_jan_30.htm#story7
GMOs: commission takes stock of progress http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/1-2004/agnet_jan_28-3.htm#story9
State of play on GMO authorizations under EU law http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/1-2004/agnet_jan_28-2.htm#story2
Questions and answers on the regulation of GMOs in the EU http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/1-2004/agnet_jan_28-2.htm#story3
EU commission backs GM maize http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/1-2004/agnet_jan_28.htm#story0
Eu's new biotech-crop laws may raise, not lower, barriers http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/1-2004/agnet_jan_21.htm#story3
Monsanto notified GM maize released in Spain http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/1-2004/agnet_jan_16-2.htm#story2
Ministers to approve commercial growth of crops next month http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/1-2004/agnet_jan_16-2.htm#story4.

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January 2004: 18% of Canada's Bt corn farmers break the rules

Eighteen percent of farmers who grew Bt corn in Canada failed to comply with the requirements for an insect refuge, according to a survey done in the summer of 2003. An insect refuge is a place where insects do not encounter the toxic Bt protein that is built into insect-resistant Bt corn. Scientists believe that insect refuges are essential to delay the development of resistance to Bt among insects that damage corn. Farmers are required to plant 20 percent of their total corn acreage to non-Bt varieties, and to locate the non-Bt acreage within a quarter mile of their Bt corn fields. Interviews with 762 growers in Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba indicated that 82% of farmers were heeding the requirements, a slight increase over the 79% who followed the requirements in 2001. In the United States, 92% of Bt corn farmers complied with similar requirements in 2003. The high compliance rate in the U.S. was achieved after several years of aggressive publicity campaigns about the need for insect refuges and after government warnings that Bt corn seed would not be sold to farmers who continued to break the rules (see our story on the U.S. compliance rate).

Results for the three Canadian provinces are available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/1-2004/agnet_jan_26-2.htm#story0 and at http://www.cornpest.ca/lib/news.cfm. The full report is available at http://www.cornpest.ca/documents/btcorncomplianceStudy-2003.pdf. The study was done on behalf of the Canadian Corn Pest Coalition at the request of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

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January 2004: U.S. panel recommends closer attention to possible escape of GMOs

Protection of the environment may require that some genetically engineered organisms be restricted by several different systems to ensure that escape is impossible, according to a report from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. Methods to prevent escape are called "confinement" methods. They include physical restrictions such as isolated ponds for growing fish and greenhouses for growing plants. Scientists are also experimenting with biological containment methods such as sterilization, that prevent the genetically engineered organism from disseminating its genes. The panel concluded that multiple methods should be used to guarantee confinement in some cases, since no single biological containment method is fool-proof. The panel also recommended that some industrial compounds should be produced in nonfood organisms rather than in plants that are commonly used as food. Stories on the report are available at http://archives.foodsafetynetwork.ca/agnet/2004/1-2004/agnet_jan_21-2.htm#story0 and at http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040121/02. The full report is available at http://www.nap.edu/books/0309090857/html.

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January 2004: Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred say they didn't illegally fix prices

Executives from two of the biggest biotechnology companies say their price discussions in the 1990s were legal business talks concerning their genetically engineered seed products. An investigative report in the New York Times alleges that the discussions raise questions about attempted price-fixing. Scientists at Monsanto were among several groups that developed genetic engineering techniques in the mid 1980s. Monsanto later licensed some of its technology to Pioneer. Together Monsanto and Pioneer now sell about 60 percent of the GE corn and soybean seeds in the United States. The questions raised by the NY Times touch on the larger issue of potential for control of seed markets. Some farmers both in the United States and worldwide have accused the big biotechnology companies of attempting to control markets and raise seed prices, thus threatening the livelihood of farmers. The New York Times report is available at http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/06/business/06SEED.html. A short version is available at http://www.checkbiotech.org/root/index.cfm?fuseaction =news&doc_id=6871&start=41&control=120&page_start=1&page_nr=101&pg=1.

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Archive: News Updates for July through December 2003

Archive: News Updates for January through June 2003

Archive: News Updates for July through December 2002

Archive: News Updates for January through June 2002

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