St. Louis Biodevastation Conference

Genetic engineering critics organize against modified crops

07/20/98 01:05:45 PM

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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Critics of genetic engineering say they have come up
with a plan aimed at stirring debate about the development and sale of
genetically modified crops and foods.


About 150 delegates from around the world spelled out the tactics Sunday
at the closing of a three-day anti-genetic engineering conference at
Fontbonne College here.


Twenty-one delegates from Japan said they will ask American farmers to
stop exporting modified corn and soybeans. Minnesota activists intend to
set up a national database from the names of the 275,000 people who
contacted the Department of Agriculture to protest new rules for organic
foods. In St. Louis, biotechnology critics want to build bridges with
environmental groups in Missouri.


``People came and met each other. They drank beer together. They
connected. The success will be judged by the work that follows,'' said
Beth Burrows, director of the Edmonds Institute, a nonprofit
organization in Washington state.


The conference was billed as the first of its kind in the United States,
bringing together international groups that question the aims of genetic
engineering. Delegations came from Asia, Canada, Europe and South
America.


Participants from consumer, health, environmental and farm organizations
contended that Americans do not understand the scope of the changes
looming in farming and the food supply. They raised concerns about
potential environmental damage. They worried about a lack of government
oversight, and they questioned the recent practice of securing patents
on genetic materials and living things.

The events were coordinated by Gateway Green Alliance, a local advocacy
group. The Missouri Coalition for the Environment was among the groups
that declined to be a sponsor.

Vandana Shiva, a physicist from India and the keynote speaker at the
conference, asserted that life science companies like St. Louis-based
Monsanto are vulnerable because of conflicting goals. On one hand, she
said, companies claim that insect resistance being bred into plants will
reduce the need for pesticides.

But on the other hand, most modification has yielded herbicide-tolerant
crops that enable the sale of more herbicides.
``They (Monsanto) are expanding their chemical empire and pretending to
be a green company,'' she said.
On Saturday, participants held a rally at Monsanto's corporate
headquarters. Some said they planned to hold regular demonstrations
there.

Spokesman Gary Barton said Monsanto does not worry that the gathering
might mushroom into a potent political movement.
``What did they have, 120 people? We have 2,000 scientists working at
Chesterfield'' at the Monsanto research facility, he said.
Some of the attention received by activists came through mischievous
means. A small group at the demonstration Saturday called themselves
Concerned Residents About Cows and Kids (CRACK) and pretended to be
Monsanto supporters.
``We're pushing our local supermarkets to carry only genetically
engineered items,'' the group said in a fake news release.
``Frankenstein is only a book.''
AP-CS-07-20-98 1401EDT

Ben Lilliston
Sustain: The Environmental Information Group
920 N. Franklin, Suite 206
Chicago, IL 60610
312-951-8999
ben@sustainusa.org

Ronnie Cummins
Pure Food Campaign/SOS (Save Organic Standards)
860 Hwy 61
Little Marais, Mn. 55614
Tel. 218-226-4164
Fax 218-226-4157
email alliance@mr.net
http://www.purefood.org
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Organic Consumers Association (OCA)
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Activist or Media Inquiries: (218) 226-4164,  Fax: (218) 226-4157
Ronnie Cummins E-mail: alliance@mr.net    http://www.purefood.org

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