LABB News Archive 2006-2007

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This archive includes some of the more significant news items which have previously appeared on the What's New page. These web-links are not regularly updated now and may well be out of date, so if you find a later link, please let us know. Some items (particularly those marked +) may be described in our Learning Links or Hot Topics pages.
10/1/06  + 'Who benefits from GM crops?' - report published by Friends of the Earth International, analysing GM industry claims and practices world-wide.  (available as PDF file [1787K])
13/1/06  European Commission approves the import and use of three types of Monsanto GM maize.  FoE condemns decision.
22/1/06  UK survey of local authority departments by GM Freeze shows enforcement procedures are inadequate to ensure accurate GM labelling or to safeguard the food chain. The attitude of the Food Standards Agency to enforcement is described as "luke-warm".
23/1/06  Austria bans Monsanto GT73 GM oilseed rape due to the risk of genetic contamination and the inadequate risk assessment.  Friends of the Earth welcomes the decision and calls on the UK Government to follow suit.
26/1/06   Early Day Motion 1488 on enforcement of GMO traceability & labelling regulations
30/1/06  Greece extends its ban on Monsanto MON810 GM corn seed, despite a European Union order to lift the ban. The Agriculture Ministry says cultivation of the seeds "poses an immediate threat to the environment" by disturbing biodiversity and spreading GM pollen to traditional crops.
7/2/06   Early Day Motion 1599 on GM contamination of organic products
7/2/06  World Trade Organisation issues draft ruling, in the dispute over Europe's cautious approach to GM imports.  The document remains confidential, but reportedly says the EU broke trade rules. The original complaint was lodged in 2003 by the US, Canada and Argentina.  Friends of the Earth issue press statement.
24/2/06  Over ninety Texas farmers file a lawsuit against Monsanto and two affiliated companies. The farmers claim 'Roundup Ready' GM cotton did not tolerate the weed killer, as intended, suggesting an inserted gene malfunctions during extreme heat and drought.
28/2/06  + Friends of the Earth publish leaked copy of confidential draft ruling in the World Trade Organisation dispute over GM imports to Europe.  Analysis by FoE  [175K] shows the US-led coalition failed to win many of their arguments; and while the WTO declared national bans illegal, this does not prevent countries from restricting or banning GMOs.
5/3/06  News reports show the UK government and the Scottish Executive now regard 'Terminator' technology (where GM results in sterile seeds) with less caution.  Applications are to be assessed "in the same way as any other GMO", on a "case by case" basis - this is the UK view to be put forward at the March meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
8/3/06  + Contamination report from Greenpeace and GeneWatch reveals worldwide illegal spread of GM organisms. 113 incidents are documented - "a disturbing picture of widespread contamination, illegal planting and negative agricultural side effects" - citing GM pig meat on sale, pharma-crop contamination, and smuggling.
16/3/06  Trial of GE drug causes unforeseen reaction in six volunteers, leaving them fighting for their lives in intensive care.
17/3/06  Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in Curitiba agrees on labelling of GM products being moved between countries.  This will only become mandatory among signatory countries in 2012.
31/3/06  In Curitiba, UN Convention on Biological Diversity upholds the international de facto moratorium on Terminator technology ­ plants that are genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds at harvest.  ("genetic use restriction technologies")
18/4/06  + Friends of the Earth publish documents revealing that the European Commission has been approving GM foods and crops despite having serious doubts over their health and environmental impacts.
30/4/06   Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had denied GM trees were ever grown in the open in Britain - until given details by Independent on Sunday.  Only GM elms are now grown, "at a secret indoor location" in Dundee.
18/5/06  Polish President Lech Kaczynski signs parliamentary act introducing a ban on the trading of GM seeds in Poland.
25/5/06  German firm BASF Plant Science decides against planting GM potato crops in Ireland  this year. The Environmental Protection Agency had granted a licence, but Meath County Council unanimously passed two motions against on 8 May.
7/6/06  US consumer group, Center for Food Safety, files lawsuit against regulator FDA, calling for rigorous testing on GM foods before they are marketed.
13/6/06  French government condemned for licensing open-air trials of GM pharmaceutical crops.
21/6/06  + Soil Association policy document "New research on the impact of GMOs on health" lists several studies showing serious effects on animals.
24/6/06  Walls / Unilever apply to Food Standards Agency to use a synthetic protein, manufactured using GE, in low-calorie ice creams.
18/7/06  European Commission found guilty of maladministration by Ombudsman, for withholding documents outlining scientific concerns over safety of GM food and crops.
20/7/06  + 'Public consultation' announced by Government on 'coexistence' of GM and non-GM crops in England. Closed 20 Oct 2006. Proposals are biased in favour of industry. Friends of the Earth published a guide to taking part. (While this exercise related to England, the Scottish consultation is scheduled for "Summer 2007", and may follow a similar format.)
21/7/06  Cornell University study shows Chinese Bt cotton farmers lose out on profits after seven years, as new pests attack.
31/7/06  A new study shows that even small amounts of pollen from the GM maize Bt176 have a negative impact on the life history of the European swallowtail butterfly.
18/8/06  US Agriculture Secretary belatedly admits supplies of US long-grain rice are contaminated with an experimental GM variety, LLRICE601, developed by Bayer but not approved for human consumption. Independent on Sunday reveals serious delays in acting on "widespread" contamination.
19/8/06  Marks and Spencer publicise their non-GM food policy and avoidance of GM animal feed.
23/8/06  BASF Plant Science applies for permission to conduct two field trials of GM potatoes, in Derbyshire and Cambridge. DEFRA invites comments on these before 19 October. Soil Association briefing available. (See 25/5/06)
5/9/06  + Food products in UK and Europe found to be illegally contaminated with unapproved GM rice from China.
6/9/06  + Survey by Friends of the Earth reveals most meat and dairy products sold in supermarkets come from animals fed on GM feed. Opinion poll shows 87 per cent of the public want foods from animals fed on GM feed to be labelled. (See 19/8/06)
11/9/06  Rice from the US contaminated with an unauthorised GM variety LLRICE601 (see 18/8/06) has been detected in imports and barred from entry into the EU.
11/9/06  + US Department of Agriculture initiates fast-track market approval of the illegal GM rice LLRICE601 that contaminated long-grain rice exports worldwide.
17/9/06  UK Press reveals that the Food Standards Agency has advised supermarkets that they can flout the law and continue to sell existing stocks of contaminated GM rice from the US. Sunday Herald and Independent give details of the private deal.
21/9/06  + GM Free Cymru points out that the 15 September statement by the European Food Safety Authority on the safety of GM contaminated rice was "scientifically irresponsible", being based only on selective data from Bayer CropScience, with key scientific documentation blanked out.
29/9/06  + Ebro Puleva, the world's largest rice processing company, stops all imports of rice from the US to the EU due to the threat of contamination by unauthorised GM rice.
29/9/06  + North Dorset District Council passes motion that opposes DEFRA's coexistence proposals [119K] (see 20/7/06) and "calls upon the Government to adopt much more stringent measures to protect the non-GM interests of the whole community." Similar motion was recently passed by South Hams District Council. (GM Free Dorset Campaign 01258 817262)
11/10/06  Two permit applications have been lodged with the Registrar of GM Organisms that could result in GM ingredients in South African wine - one application is for GM grapevine field trials at Stellenbosch University, the other is for GM yeast.
17/10/06  + Following extensive reports of rice contamination in Europe and the UK (see above), Friends of the Earth sets up a website to document all the incidents.
19/10/06  + Tests in France find another type of unapproved rice contaminating US imports, LL62, also developed by Bayer Cropscience (as was LL601).
19/10/06  + A new legal opinion [791K] is published on the Government's 'coexistence' proposals for England (see 20/7/06), stating that the proposals are legally and fundamentally flawed.
27/10/06  Friends of the Earth files a legal challenge against the Food Standards Agency over its failure to act to prevent UK consumers being exposed to illegal GM rice in their food. (see 17/10/06)
29/10/06  + GM Freeze is to write to the Scottish Executive this week about the forthcoming Scottish consultation on 'coexistence', warning ministers not to make the same mistakes as DEFRA in the light of the legal flaws uncovered in the English proposals. (see 19/10/06)
15/11/06   Early Day Motion 48 calls for 0.1 percent GM labelling threshold and ban on commercial growing until safety and coexistence concerns are met.
16/11/06  + The Scottish Executive (Government) quietly announces that the Scottish consultation on GM 'coexistence' (first scheduled for Spring 2006) will take place in Summer 2007 - after the Scottish Parliamentary elections. (See earlier news.) The Scottish Green Party comments.
1/12/06  DEFRA opens public consultation (England, Wales and N Ireland) on the implementation of the Environmental Liability Directive. This will determine whether biotech companies have to pay for environmental damge caused by GMOs. GeneWatch says the Government's proposals are the weakest possible and will fail to protect important sites and species. Closing date for submissions 22 February 2007.
1/12/06  DEFRA gives BASF permission to carry out field trials of GM potatoes in Cambridgeshire and Derbyshire. (see 23/8/06) These were earlier proposed for Ireland. The decision was criticised by makers of chips, and food scientist Arpad Pusztai expressed concern.
21/12/06  Scottish Executive opens public consultation on the implementation in Scotland of the Environmental Liability Directive. (c.f. England, see 1/12/06) This covers laws that will govern whether biotech companies have to pay for environmental harm caused by GMOs. GeneWatch has provided a guide to taking part, and says the Government's proposals are the weakest possible and will fail to protect important sites and species. Closed 23 March 2007.
28/12/06  + US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) rules that milk and meat from cloned animals are safe to eat and need not be labelled. (see 21/3/07)
5/1/07  Report published by Institute of Science in Society on potential hazards of GM wine yeast advises against drinking US wines.
9/1/07  + Friends of the Earth publishes analysis of the global performance of GM crops [579K] from 1996-2006, showing significant disbenefits overall. Summary available [76K].
11/1/07  + It is revealed in the media that the calf of an American cloned cow has been born on a farm in Shropshire, and that no food safety assessment is required under current regulations.
14/1/07  Scientists at Roslin Institute announce the creation of a GM chicken line carrying human genes. Their eggs are said to produce human proteins, offering the prospect of mass-producing cheaper drugs to treat cancer and other diseases.
16/1/07  + ETC group of Canada publishes "Extreme Genetic Engineering" - an introductory report on 'Synthetic Biology', which involves the construction of DNA sequences that do not exist in the natural world.
22/1/07   Early Day Motion 692 calls for strict liability for environmental damage by GMOs
5/2/07  + Greenpeace presents the European Commission with a petition of one million signatures calling for mandatory labelling of food, such as milk, meat and eggs, from animals fed on GM products. Download publicity leaflet.[611K]
5/2/07  Tory environment minister Peter Ainsworth meets organic industry delegates and expresses concern over Government proposals for 0.9% GM contamination of organic food (9 times the detectable level).
2/3/07  US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) gives preliminary approval to Ventria Bioscience for commercial production of GM pharmaceutical rice containing human genes. (see 29/3/07)
13/3/07  New study published, revealing signs of toxicity of MON863 GM maize, already approved for human consumption. [139K] Greenpeace is demanding its complete withdrawal from the market.
14/3/07  Friends of the Earth and GM Freeze call on the Government to suspend trials of GM potatoes in England after a Dutch court ban, due to flaws in the environmental safety assessment. Yorkshire-based coalition has a petition against the trials, and the Mutatoes campaign is opposing both trial sites, in East Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire. (see 1/12/06)
21/3/07  + Report by Center for Food Safety exposes flaws in US government risk assessment and shows that milk and meat from clones are untested and may pose health risks. (see 28/12/06)
29/3/07 USA Rice Federation submits comments to USDA on the pharma-rice application (see 2/3/07) calling "in the strongest possible terms" for the permit to be denied.
28/4/07  + Greenpeace scientists find illegal variety Herculex and significant amounts of other GM maize in "GM-free" ship's cargo imported to Europe from US.
3/5/07  European Patent Office revokes Monsanto's species-wide patent on GM soybeans - "a patent unprecedented in its broad scope" - after 13 years.
3/5/07  Federal judge bars planting of Monsanto's GM alfalfa across the US, since the government regulator did not correctly assess the cross-contamination potential.
10/5/07  GM Freeze submits complaint to European Agriculture Commissioner that the short public consultation period (until 5 June) on GM contamination of seeds will impede farmers from participating. A short guide to taking part [65K] has been prepared.
14/5/07  Government approves East Yorkshire site for GM potato trials, but BASF is not going to plant there this year due to concerns of local borage growers. (See 14/3/07)
8/6/07  + Report by GM Freeze analyses the rising risks of GM contamination of UK imports (by origin) and concludes this is most likely from maize and rice. The special hazards of crops grown to produce pharmaceuticals are outlined. Substantially improved controls are suggested.
12/6/07  EU ministers decide to allow 'accidental' GM contamination of up to 0.9 percent in organic food before labelling is required.
13/6/07  New Dublin government agrees a policy to negotiate for the whole of Ireland to become GM free.
14/6/07  Study by French research institute of tests on Monsanto GM maize NK603 (approved for human consumption) reveals what "could be warning signs of toxicity". Greenpeace demands its withdrawal and a regulatory review. (cf. 13/3/07)
14/6/07  Results of 5 year research project reveal that large parts of human DNA previously thought inactive - such as 'junk DNA' - are in fact highly active.
6/7/07  Activists destroy trial crop of BASF GM potatoes just outside Cambridge. (See 14/5/07)
10/7/07  New findings by University of Michigan "refute the long-standing claim that organic farming methods cannot produce enough food to feed the global population."
17/7/07  + The new Scottish Government confirms that it will maintain a moratorium on the planting of GM crops in Scotland.
25/7/07  Food Standards Agency opens public consultation (until 17 Oct) on methodology for sampling food and feed for GM material - criticised by GM Freeze for ignoring latest research.
27/7/07  US study shows a GM virus used in human gene therapy trials causes liver cancer in mice.
1/8/07  Walls / Unilever now have permission to use a genetically engineered protein in low-calorie ice cream. (see 24/6/06)
9/8/07  GM Free Ireland accuses Canadian Government of a covert campaign against Ireland's policy to become GM free. (see 13/6/07)
6/9/07  Survey by Trading Standards officers in Yorkshire reveals one in four caterers using GM cooking oils illegally by not informing customers (as required by law).
10/9/07  + UN report suggests a worldwide shift to organic agriculture could combat world hunger and climate change.
16/9/07  Government statement contradicts earlier press report that ministers were backing a campaign to introduce GM crops to the UK.
24/9/07  Irish City of Cork declares itself a GMO-free zone, with the release of GM seeds and crops prohibited.
8/10/07  US study shows a common variety of GM Bt corn has potential to harm aquatic ecosystems.
21/10/07  Land activists in Brazil shot by militia linked to biotech multinational. Friends of the Earth expresses concern over involvement of Swiss firm Syngenta [39K].
26/10/07  President Sarkozy announces France will suspend planting of GM insect-resistant crops while a new authority investigates.
28/10/07  Investigation by 'The Independent' reveals the UK government provides disproportionately large funding for GM agriculture and gave preferential treatment in approving GM potato trials. Friends of the Earth report [511K] provides further detail and calls for Government action.
30/10/07  Early results of four year EU study show organic food has substantial nutritional benefits relative to non-organic.
31/10/07  + Ground-breaking report by FoE Europe analyses the relationship between the biotech industry and the European Commission [610K], particularly the power of the corporate lobby.
6/11/07  Early Day Motion 15 calls for a GM food labelling threshold of 0.1% (0.9% now) and a ban on commercial GM planting until issues of safety, liability and segregation are resolved.
6/11/07  Early Day Motion 82 notes public concern over GM cross-contamination and calls for protection under the Environmental Liability Directive.
8/11/07  + DEFRA publishes results of public consultation on 'coexistence' of GM and conventional crops, showing 95 per cent of 11,000 respondents oppose Government plans. Soil Association calls for much tighter controls.
13/11/07  A petition signed by over three million Italians calls for a ban on all GM foods in Italy.
20/11/07  + Researchers claim to be able now to create versatile human stem cells from ordinary body cells. These 'induced pluripotent stem cells' could potentially avoid the problems of other techniques that involve cloning.
25/11/07  Environment Minister announces Scottish Government will back a bid by European Commissioner Dimas to block the cultivation of two types of GM maize. More on Dimas proposal
26/11/07  Early Day Motion 383 notes the concerns over GM animal feed, and calls for better labelling to allow consumers to choose GM-free animal products.
28/11/07  Early Day Motion 425 expresses concern at misrepresentation of research on potential GM problems.

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