Genetic Concern! takes on Monsanto's GE Sugar Beet

Legal Challenge to Monsanto in Ireland

The Case So Far

On May 1st, 1997 the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted Monsanto the first licence in Ireland for a deliberate release of genetically modified organisms - in this case Round-Up Ready sugar beet. Monsanto had applied for the license to test-plant in three locations, but had later narrowed their application to one site at a research centre on government owned land in Carlow.

Clare Watson, a founder member of Genetic Concern! immediately sought a High Court Judicial Review of the EPAs decision to grant a license. An interim injunction prevented the planting from going ahead, and leave to seek a Judicial Review was granted.

The injunction was later overturned, and although the planting has gone ahead, the Judicial Review Hearing will be held in December. If the Court finds that the licences were improperly granted, Monsanto will have to abandon the 4 year test. We have recently received a list of discovery documents from the EPA.

We need Help!!

We need help with compiling evidence.

Ideally we need to gather evidence from eminent scientists who can help, particularly with results of research in this area. Other evidence may also be useful - especially any relevant reports that are clearly referenced and published in reputable journals.

We also need assistance with funding. There are considerable expenses associated with taking a case to the High Court, and even more if we end up in the Supreme Court. If you are able to help us in this area, you will find a form for VISA donations at the end of this mail, we will gratefully accept donations in any format that can be converted, but oddly enough, credit cards are a fairly cost-effective way of doing foreign exchange transactions.

Importance of this case.
Monsanto's own affidavits state that "If it becomes apparent that approvals have been suspended by the courts in Ireland, this may affect the approach adopted by regulatory authorities in other Member States. Thus, there is a risk that, if the injunction is maintained in force, there might be a snowball effect throughout Europe with serious consequences for Monsanto in terms of the loss of advantage of the patent life".

Let us hope this is true.

The legal challenge is very important for Ireland. The Monsanto test is the first deliberate release of genetically engineered seeds in this country. The outcome of the case will therefore have a strong bearing on how future test applications are dealt with.

Media coverage is helping to ensure that our concerns are aired publicly - thereby providing another angle from which to inform, educate - and to mobilise people. The case is also attracting a lot of international attention, and we are aware that our progress is helping to inspire others in their efforts to stop the spread of GMOs.

But we cannot do this alone. We need your help.

The Basis of the Case.

There are a number of grounds for taking the case - some of these are technicalities associated with procedures, and some are scientifically based on safety and ecology. At the injunction stage, Mr. Justice O'Sullivan said there was a substantial case to be heard by the court, but refused to grant the injunction as there was insufficient evidence that Clare Watson would suffer damage arising from the proposed release, whereas Monsanto Plc. would suffer damage. This was an interim decision until the hearing of the action.

What is the "substantial case" that is to be heard?

The 1994 Genetically Modified Organisms Regulations in Ireland say that before granting a license the EPA must be satisfied that there can be *NO RISK* to human health or the environment arising from such a release.

In the light of such clear regulations, we plan to examine any possible risks:

1) Potential damage to soil micro-organisms. It is not clear what (if any) environmental impact studies were carried out in other sites where sugar beet has been test-planted. In the documentation presented to date, we have seen no evidence of an impact study that involved soil analysis.

2) There has been much talk of horizontal gene flow, but does anybody know of clear evidence that this can and does take place? What potential hazards are there that should be tested before genetically engineered seeds are planted outdoors.

3) Potential danger to human health arising from eating rabbits or other wildlife which has grazed on genetically modified organisms which have not yet been tested for consumption.

4) Gene spill caused by sugar beet plants bolting and producing pollen. The trials take place in a 1 acre plot within a 50 acre field of conventional sugar beet, and although there are fortnightly checks for bolting plants within the 1 acre site, we have received evidence on affidavit that sugar beet *CAN* bolt and produce pollen in less than two weeks, further evidence of this may be of use.

5) Gene spill caused by birds, rodents or animals removing seeds from the site either ingested or on their feet etc. (Darwin sites beet as a seed that migrated by being carried in the stomach of animals).

6) Potential risks to animals feeding on the sugar beet (or animals feeding on those animals etc. as may happen with rabbits being shot and consumed).

7) One Monsanto affidavit is critical of the cocktail of different herbicides in use, compared to the benefits of spraying with a single herbicide. Evidence that there are adverse effects to using one herbicide and/or evidence of the potential development of immunity to glyphosate would be useful.

8) Roundup Bioactive is claimed to have a new surfactant with "an excellent safety profile in terms of operator safety and absence of toxicity to aquatic organisms". Declaration of ingredients is not mandatory in Ireland. Does anybody have fuller information on this new surfactant?

9) There are all the usual claims that glyphosate is biodegradable, bound to soil particles, metabolised by soil micro-organisms and benign etc. There are various unreferenced claims to the contrary on the net, but does anybody have any clear referenced research with clear examples of glyphosate in ground water or glyphosate appearing on subsequent crops? Their affidavits claim no residual activity.

So, that is it. If you can help us, please do. If you have any useful evidence that would stand up in court, now is the time to do something useful with it. If you don't have any evidence, but can spare some funds to help us do this work, please fill out the following donation slip and mail it or e-mail us.

Lastly, please visit our site at
which will be updated with the latest information on the case. We would really appreciate messages of support.

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Our new address is Genetic Concern!, Room 13a, Dame House, 24-26 Dame Street, Dublin 2.
Phone: + 353-1-670 5606
Fax: +353-1-670 5561

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