"Susan Finston of the Institute for Policy Innovation, a conservative research group based in Texas, is just the sort of opinion maker coveted by the drug industry," writes Philip Shenon. "In an opinion article in The Financial Times on Oct. 25, she called for patent protection in poor countries for drugs and biotechnology products.
Swiss citizens backed a five-year moratorium on commercial release of genetically modified plants and animals, despite opposition from their government and industry groups. Fifty-five percent of the voters backed the moratorium. The ballot initiative followed the collection of 100,000 signatures opposing a 2004 law approving commercial release of genetically engineered crops. "All the farmers' organisations were behind this proposal, which they see as a chance for Swiss agriculture," Daniel Ammann, a spokesman for the pro-moratorium coalition, told Reuters.
"One large and important producer of genetically modified (GM) crops - Monsanto - has engineered public opinion to reduce critical scrutiny," writes a group of South African, Mexican and American academic researchers.
"Saying their livelihoods are threatened, powerful forces that drive California's $27 billion agricultural economy are mobilizing to defeat a November ballot initiative to ban biotech crops in Sonoma County, and possibly even prohibit such county bans with new legislation in coming days," reports the Sacramento Bee.
" The PR exploitation of drought and hunger in Zambia shows that for the [genetically modified (GM) food] lobby there are no limits, even when it involves rewriting history and manufacturing crimes against humanity," GM Watch's Jonathan Matthews writes. In 2002, Zambia sparked a firestorm when it refused to accept U.S. donations of GM corn to offset a looming famine. The Zambia government had concerns about the safety of GM foods.
"Close to 100 New England towns have passed resolutions opposing the unregulated use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms); nearly a quarter of these have called for local moratoria on the planting of GMO seeds.
U.S. agribusiness giant Monsanto recently announced it was raising its earnings expectations. "Monsanto's genetically engineered seed sales are booming - a 20 per cent increase last quarter - and the company expects the growth to continue as it expands outside the U.S.," AP reported. One reason may be Monsanto's extensive use of PR.
Dr. Ignacio Chapela, whose research revealed contamination of native Mexican corn with genetically engineered DNA, taught his last class at University of California, Berkeley. Chapela was denied tenure at Berkeley, despite "overwhelming support from his own department and from his academic peers," GM Watch founder Jonathan Matthews writes. Chapela had also been a critic of a $25 million research deal between UC Berkeley and the Swiss biotechnology company Novartis (now Syngenta).
The debate around genetically modified organisms "is fragmenting global food markets and putting political pressure on food exporters to choose between producing natural" or GMO crops. As "big biotech companies ... are looking for growth opportunities in Asia to compensate for the problems they have encountered in European markets," Thailand developed "a seven-year plan to ... [become] a regional biotech hub." The Thai government "commissioned a team of U.S.