Advanta Company Profile

Advanta is a seed company, which has been involved with GM crops. In 2006 the company was acquired by United Phosphorous Ltd.

You can find our 2002 company profile of Advanta and other articles in the right hand column of this page.

Click here for details of Advanta’s latest financial results from the Bloomberg website.

There is also lots of useful information on Advanta’s website:

  • Click here for Advanta’s head office and other basic information.
  • Click here to find out which agricultural products the company is selling.
  • Click here to find out who’s on Advanta’s board of directors.
  • Click here to download Advanta’s latest annual report and accounts.

For a more critical perspective on Advanta’s work try Powerbase’s company profile.

Who, Where, How Much?

Ownership:

Advanta BV [18]

Postal address:

P.O. Box 1

4420 AA KAPELLE

The Netherlands

Visiting address:
Dijkwelsestraat 70

4421 AJ KAPELLE

The Netherlands

Electronic addresses:
phone: +31 113 347900

fax: +31 113 330110

e-mail: jan-krijn.coppoolse@advantaseeds.com
web site: www.advantaseeds.com see also www.advantacan.com

Advanta B.V.’s major Shareholders:
Cosun (NL) + AstraZeneca (UK) both own 50% of Advanta BV

Board of Directors for Advanta B.V.
Hopefully, their web site will reveal something: www.advantaseeds.com. At the time of writing (August 2001) Advanta’s web site is under construction and therefore not available. Advanta produces no annual report.

President of Advanta
Ad Huige

Advanta Operations and Locations in the UK
Advanta UK is primarily a plant breeder using classical methods. Advanta UK has conducted field trials of GM crops using technology licensed from other companies, it has also hosted both National Seed Listing Trials and Farm Scale Trials for other companies at its research station at Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire. It sells no GM products in Europe.

Advanta Seeds UK Ltd
Registered offices recorded with Companies House

Advanta Seeds UK Ltd Company No. 00024499 Date incorporated: 28,05,1887

P.O.Box 1

South Gate,

SLEAFORD

Lincolnshire

NG34 7HA

Telephone: +44 1529 304 511

Fax: +44 1529 303 908

www.advantaseeds.co.uk

Advanta Seeds UK Limited

Station Road

DOCKING

Kings Lynn, Norfolk

PE31 8LS

Telephone: +44 1485 518 501

Fax: +44 1485 518 741

Board Of Directors for Advanta Seeds UK Limited [19]

Secretary

Peter Richard Thompson

Director

Dr David James Buckeridge [20]

Educated at the University of Aberystwyth, Wales. After a period working with Zeneca Crop Protection in the UK, he became the Marketing Director of the Garst Seed Company (part of the Advanta Group) in Des Moines, Iowa, USA. He is also a member of the Board of Management of ExSeed Genetics LLC, a US-based plant biotech company in which Zeneca holds a minority interest. He is currently responsible for Advanta’s European operations.

Director

Dr Thomas Howard Jolliffe. Dr Jolliffe is listed as a ‘General Manager’ in the companies Annual Return. At the time of the controversial GM field trial at Hood Barton in Devon in summer 1998 he was a spokesperson for Sharpes/Advanta on technology.

Director

Michael John Ruthven (General Manager of Advanta UK)[21]

Director

Graham John Walker

Shareholders for Advanta Seeds UK Limited [22]

9,209,469 shares issued all owned by Advanta Holdings (UK) Limited

Advanta Holdings (UK) Ltd
Registered offices recorded with Companies House

Advanta Holdings (UK) Ltd Company No. 02572345 Date incorporated: 08,01,1991

South Gate,

SLEAFORD

Lincolnshire

NG34 7HA

Board of Directors for Advanta Holdings (UK) Ltd [23]

Secretary

Peter Richard Thompson

Director

Dr David James Buckeridge

Director

Dr Thomas Howard Jolliffe

Director

Michael John Ruthven

Shareholders for Advanta Holdings (UK) [24]

10,371,893 shares issued 6300000 owned by Advanta Holdings International and 4071893 owned by Zeneca Lamboa BV

Advanta Technology Ltd (formerly Zenco)
Registered offices recorded with Companies House

Advanta Technology Ltd Company No.02908082 Date incorporated: 14,03,1994

South Gate,

Sleaford,

Lincolnshire

NG34 7HA

Board of Directors for Advanta Technology Ltd [25]

Secretary

Peter Richard Thompson

Director

Dr David James Buckeridge

Director

Dr Thomas Howard Jolliffe

Director

Steven Guy Quast [26]

Member of the Board of Ascoiacion Semilleros Argentinos

Director

Graham John Walker

Shareholders for Advanta Technology Ltd [27]

100% owned by Advanta Holdings UK Limited

Advanta Seeds Trustees Ltd
Registered offices recorded with Companies House

Advanta Seeds Trustees Ltd Company No.03612469 Date incorporated: 10,08,1998

South Gate,

SLEAFORD

Lincolnshire

NG34 7HA

Board of Directors for Advanta Seeds Trustees Ltd [28]

Secretary

George Philips

Director

Dr Keith Stuart Fox

Director

Hazel Joan Fredericks

Director

Roy Edward Hackford

Director

Dr Thomas Howard Jolliffe

Director

Michael John Ruthven

Director

Peter Richard Thompson

Shareholders for Advanta Seeds Trustees Ltd [29]

2 shares issued both owned by Advanta Holdings (UK) Limited

Advanta Research Limited
Registered offices recorded with Companies House

Advanta Research Limited Company No.02076041 Date incorporated: 20,11,1986

South Gate,

SLEAFORD

Lincolnshire

NG34 7HA

Board of Directors for Advanta Research Limited [30]

Secretary and Director

Peter Richard Thompson

Director

Dr David James Buckeridge

Director

Dr Thomas Howard Jolliffe

Director

Michael John Ruthven

Director

Graham John Walker

Shareholders for Advanta Research Ltd [31]

12000100 shares issued 12000098 owned by Advanta Technology Ltd and 2 owned by Advanta Holdings (UK) Ltd.

Advanta Subsidiaries Worldwide

(listed are only those companies which do not carry the Advanta name): (Information from the RAFI ‘The Seed Giants-Who Owns Whom?’ briefing available online at www.rafi.org)

AgriPro Seeds (USA) (www.agripro.com/body.htm)

AgriPro Seeds is a member of Garst Seed Company (see above) and an integral part of an expansive seed network that includes the United States and other countries throughout the world. In the United States, this network is comprised of Garst Seed Company, AgriPro Wheat, and Interstate Seeds.

AgriPro Seeds delivers ‘one of the most diversified seed line-ups directly to large growers’. Seed products include, hybrid corn, soybeans, alfalfa, sorghum, sunflowers, and cotton.

Garst seeds ( http://www.garstseed.com/)

Garst is the developer and marketer of G-STAC(r) corn hybrids and other industry-leading technology corn hybrids. Other seed products offered include: soybeans, alfalfa, sorghum, sunflowers, and ECOSYL Products. ICI PLC acquired Garst Seed Company in 1985. In late 1991 the Garst Seed Company announced a name change, and became ICI Seeds. When ICI implemented a corporate de-merger among its North American holdings (1993) and formed the corporate entities ICI PLC and Zeneca, Inc., ICI Seeds became a business unit of Zeneca, Inc. In 1996, ICI Seeds changed its name back to Garst Seed Company. Garst claims to have earned a reputation as the AgriLeader(r) in the seed industry. Garst Seed Company is an integral part of an expansive seed network that includes the United States and other countries throughout the world. In the United States, this network is comprised of Garst Seed Company, AgriPro Seeds, AgriPro Wheat, and Interstate Seeds. From a worldwide perspective, Garst is the largest member of the Advanta family of companies.

Interstate Payco (www.interstateseed.com )

In 1917 two families founded Interstate Seed. Interstate Seed remained a family owned corporation until purchased by VanderHave B.V. in 1983, who through their international network had the ability to better expand Interstate’s sales and expertise internationally. In 1988, VanderHave purchased Payco Seed Company. In 1991 the two companies were merged and formed Interstate Payco Seed Company. Interstate Payco is currently referred to as Interstate Seeds and is a business unit of Advanta USA, Inc.

Other Advanta USA business units are Garst/AgriPro and AgriPro Wheat.

Shamrock Seed
Listed in the RAFI ‘The Seed Giants-Who Owns Whom?’ briefing as owned by Advanta but no further information available.

Contact details:

Tech. Rep: Estella Barajas, Jim Davis

3 Harris Place,

Salinas, CA 93901

Ph: (800) 351-4443

Fax: (408) 771-1517

Sharpes International (http://www.emnet.co.uk/clients/s/SharpesSeeds/)

Sharpes International has a history that stretches right back to 1560. Acquired by Advanta/Vanderhave in 1998. Sharpes International Seed are a UK based seed company specialising in the development and supply of cereals, peas, beans, oil seeds (particularly linseed), grasses and root and forage crops. Prior to their acquisition Sharpes International Seeds were undertaking field trials of GM maize, sugar beet and oilseed rape.

VanderHave (www.interstateseed.com/sugarbeets/vanderhave_index.htm)

VanderHave is a Dutch seed company, formerly a direct subsidiary of Suiker Unie. In 1996, VanderHave and Zeneca seeds merged to form Advanta [32].

VanderHave currently is a wholly owned subsidiary of Advanta. (VanderHave sugarbeet seed is marketed in the US through Interstate Seed Company of West Fargo, N.D., a member of the Advanta business group)

Zenco
Zenco Limited UK owns many patents [33], amongst others, Patent Number 5866763. Broadly this invention provides inbred corn line ZS01220. The methods for producing a corn plant by crossing the inbred line ZS01220 are encompassed by the invention.

Advanta offices are based in 24 countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Rep., Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Netherlands (HQ), Poland, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, UK, USA.

Turnover by region:[34] Personnel by region:[35]
North America: 52% North America: 40%
Europe: 38% Europe: 40%
South America: 7% South America: 6%
Other: 3% Other: 13%

References
[18] www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm199900/cmselect/cmagric/812/0071802.htm
-Advanta Fact Sheets, 2000 (instead of an annual report, Advanta produces a few fact sheets)

[19] (correct on 17,09,2001 Companies House list of Current Appointments)

[20] www.syngenta.com/en/media/article.asp?article_id=24
www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm199900/cmselect/cmagric/812/0071802.htm
[21] www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm199900/cmselect/cmagric/812/0071802.htm
[22] (information from Companies House Annual Return 5,10,2000)

[23] (information from Companies House Annual Return 19,12,2000)

[24] (information from Companies House Annual Return 19,12,2000)

[25] (Information from Companies House list of Current Appointments correct on 17,09,2001)

[26] www.asa.org.ar/cdasa.htm
[27] (information from Companies House Annual Return and Accounts for Advanta Holdings UK Limited 13,12,99)

[28] (Information from Companies House Annual Return correct on 25,07,01)

[29] (Information from Companies House Annual Return correct on 25,07,01)

[30] (information from Companies House Annual Return correct on 2,12,2000)

[31] (information from Companies House Annual Return correct on 2,12,2000)

[32] www.astrazeneca.com/newssection/newsreleases/1996081200.htm
[33] See for example:

www.sciweb.com/features/patents/patents_800_3_15_99.cfm (source: The Life Science Home Page) – www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/seed/spring01.pdf (Items of Interest in Seed Control, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Spring 2001)

[34] Some sheets containing information about Advanta produced by the company itself (Advanta, Key figures and addresses 2000)

[35] Some sheets containing information about Advanta produced by the company itself (Advanta, Key figures and addresses 2000)

Products/Projects

Main products:
-fodder crops (fodder maize, grass, forage sorghum)

-oil crops (sunflower, oilseed rape)

Advanta Seeds Canada produces Hyola hybrid oilseed rape; Hysyn Polish synthetic oilseed rape; HyLite apetalous oilseed rape; Option open pollinated oilseed rape; Garst corn hybrids; and Interstate sunflower hybrids. The company claims it is the first company in the world to develop and market higher yielding hybrid oilseed rape [13].

-sweetener crops (sugar beet)

-grain crops (corn, cereals, grain sorghum)

Advanta produces, amongst others, corn hybrids that combine multiple herbicide tolerances with Bt derived insect resistance, and high pH tolerant corn hybrids

-amenity grass crops (grass for lawns, sport fields, verges and dikes)

-other crops (green manuring, soya-bean, onion)

Turnover by crop:[14]
Maize 42%
Sugar beet 16%
Oil seeds 10%
Grasses 10%
Other 22%

GM Crops

Advanta and their subsidiaries are currently conducting field trials of GM crops in the EU. Their focus appears to be incorporating GM technology licensed from other GM companies into their own hybrid crop lines developed through conventional plant breeding techniques. A list of their UK GM crop trials appears below. Outside of the EU Advanta subsidiaries are marketing GM crop lines, for example, Advanta Canada sell HYOLA 454RR oilseed rape/canola. This crop line combines the traits of Advanta’s Hyola hybrid with Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready herbicide tolerance technology [15]. Garst seeds (an Advanta Subsidiary) are developing G-Stac technology which will enable the combination of multiple GM traits in one crop line, including multiple Bt insect resistance and multiple herbicide tolerance [16].

UK GM Crop Trails [17]
Advanta have made 10 applications to conduct GM crop field trials in the UK: nine under the name Sharpes International Seeds (a wholly owed subsidiary of Advanta BV) and one as Advanta Seeds UK Ltd.

DEFRA Reference Code Crop Primary Trait Secondary Trait Technology Licensed From
94/R13/1 Sugar Beet Herbicide Tolerance (Glyphosate/RoundUp) Resistance to beet virus Monsanto
94/R13/2 Sugar Beet Herbicide Tolerance (Glyphosate/RoundUp) Resistance to beet virus Monsanto
95/R13/3 Spring Oilseed Rape Herbicide Tolerance (Glyphosate/RoundUp) N/A Monsanto
95/R13/4 Spring Oilseed Rape Herbicide Tolerance (Glyphosate/RoundUp) N/A Monsanto
95/R13/5 Sugar Beet Fructan Production N/A N/A
96/R13/6 Maize Herbicide Tolerance (Glufosinate Ammonium/Liberty) N/A Aventis/ AgrEvo
97/R13/7 Spring Oilseed Rape Herbicide Tolerance (Glyphosate/RoundUp) N/A Monsanto
97/R13/8 Sugar Beet Herbicide Tolerance (Glufosinate Ammonium/Liberty) N/A Aventis/ AgrEvo
97/R13/9 Sugar Beet Herbicide Tolerance (Glufosinate Ammonium/Liberty) N/A Aventis/ AgrEvo
00/R13/10 Sugar Beet Herbicide Tolerance (Glufosinate Ammonium/Liberty) N/A Aventis/ AgrEvo

Facilities and R&D:

-Advanta/Vanderhave has a network of 15 crop research and breeding centers across the world. Their UK plant breeding centre is near Boothby Graffoe Lincolnshire.

-Advanta has partners in applied research; universities and institutes all over the world

-In the Advanta group as a whole, one in three of the more than 2,500 employees worldwide works in R&D. About 15% of the company’s annual seed sales are invested back into R&D (Vanderhave Seed Facts)


References
[12] Some sheets containing information about Advanta produced by the company itself (Advanta, Key figures and addresses 2000)

[13] www.advantacan.com/Advmission.html
[14] Some sheets containing information about Advanta produced by the company itself (Advanta, Key figures and addresses 2000)

[15] www.advantacan.com/WPHyola454.html
[16] garstseed.com/research/research_overview.htm
[17] Public Register of Releases to the Environment www.defra.gov.uk/environment/acre/pdf/exper.pdf

Corporate Crimes

Advanta shrouded in secrecy

 

It’s hard to identify the real nature and extent of corporate influence and control in agriculture because of the rapid changes taking place. The names and ownership of corporations change frequently due to a unprecedented level of (de)mergers and acquisitions. Since the 1970s there has been an intense monopolisation of the seed industry worldwide, with big corporations (e.g., pharmaceutical, chemical and agribusiness companies) taking over small and medium sized seed companies. Cross-linkages between companies complicate the picture further. Biotech and seed companies make cross-licensing agreements to be able to supply a full technology ‘package’ to clients. Even at the basic level of sales, it is difficult to get a clear picture. Advanta adds to the confusion. The company does not produce an annual report, but only a few sheets with figures. And the company does not reveal any specific data about seed sales. (At time of writing, the Advanta website has been under construction for at least two months)

GM contamination of UK and European landscape

 

Last year (2000), Advanta made headlines in Europe when oilseed rape seeds it had sold were found to contain small amounts of genetically modified material unapproved in the EU [47]. On April 17, Advanta Seeds UK told the UK Government that GM contaminated oilseed rape seed had been sold to farmers across the country. It claimed that the GM contamination happened in Canada, when pollen from a GM ‘Roundup’ resistant crop was blown onto conventional oilseed rape being grown for seed.

The seed was also used in Sweden, France and Germany. Dominique Voynet, France’s Environment Minister, immediately called for the destruction of the crop. Sweden’s government also considered this. But British Agriculture Secretary Nick Brown — in the face of similar demands from environmental groups — said the government had no plans to destroy the contaminated crops. In addition, the government was accused of sweeping the scandal under the carpet.

After the food scandal had come to light, Conservative MPs claimed that the planting of GM seeds in the UK was covered-up by the government. When Advanta went to the government to make a clean breast of their blunder –one month before the information was eventually made public– they were asked not to say a word about it. Conservative agriculture spokesman Tim Yeo said Advanta had told him that they would have liked to warn their customers about the contaminated oilseed rape. ‘The only reason they did not do so is that they were asked by Ministry of Agriculture officials to keep the whole matter secret’, Tim Yeo said [48].

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown denied the allegations, ‘Advanta had no advice from government not to tell their customers what had happened.’ Mr Brown then sought to reassure the public over the crops, some of which were planted in 2000 and some in 1999. ‘There is no risk to public health in this accident. There is no risk to the environment in this accident.'[49] However, there seem to be little support for this statement. The GM seeds have been released over thousands of acres of the UK countryside, and it is impossible to guarantee that there are no risks involved.

It remains unclear whether the UK government tried to keep things in the dark. It is clear though that it took a long time before the UK government used the information Advanta had given them to inform farmers and the public – a gap long enough to allow seeds to planted which might otherwise had been destroyed prior to planting.

The newly established Food Standards Agency (FSA) issued a press release stating that there was no risk to public health. However, no consultation with consumer or producer groups preceded this [50] and their detailed advice to ministers on the issue was not made publicly available, despite a pledge that this would happen. The release also made no reference to consumer choice [51].

Bryan Johnson, English Nature’s top GM expert, has said:

‘None of the statutory consultation agencies knew anything about this until the story broke on Radio 4. We were not asked for our advice in advance of the decision being made and were not consulted at all, I am afraid. We are not very happy about it, as you can imagine.'[52]

The UK government was obviously greatly inconvenienced by the scandal, which meant bad publicity and a blow to the its ambitious biotechnology project. The government tried hard to trivialise the contamination and its consequences. Initially both Advanta Seeds (claiming the GM contamination was not their fault) and the government said they were not willing to help or compensate the affected farmers.

But before the farmers could undertake legal action -the only option open to them-Advanta decided to deliver the goods and prevent any more bad publicity, although the company still does not admit legal liability.

Advanta plays down contamination scandal, and blames external factors, such as lack of regulations, the media hysteria and the wind!

‘Lack of guidance’
Instead of putting on the hair shirt themselves, Advanta probably thought it was more convenient to blame external factors (like the regulatory authorities in the UK and EU, journalists, and the wind!) for the contamination fiasco (see above). Advanta Seeds UK criticised British and European authorities for failing to set legal guidelines on seed purity. The company stated:

‘Early political action to create a comprehensive regulatory framework would have at best prevented this incident from occurring or at worst managed public expectations about seed purity and averted further media hysteria.’ [53]

Advanta urged the government to ‘create a regulatory framework with no further delay’. ‘At a minimum, thresholds for accidental GM impurity need to be set, standard testing methods need to be stipulated and results should be analysed by an approved and consistent statistical method'[54].

‘Whatever the standards, they need to be reasonable,’ says Klaas van der Woude, senior sugarbeet breeder at Advanta. ‘If standards are reasonable, we can work on it, and at least we know what we’re up against. But we cannot guarantee zero risk. Seed companies cannot guarantee GMO pollen is not flying around in the air’ [55].

Advanta blames journalists
Advanta not only criticised the British and European authorities, the company also lashed out at the media and pressure groups.

‘From our perspective, the incident serves to demonstrate that communication of the facts, allowing individuals to make informed decisions, is virtually impossible in our society today. This is especially true where the subject matter is highly technical. Advanta believes that a lack of understanding of the basics of agriculture existed in some quarters of the Ministry and most quarters of the media (…). In addition, pressure groups deliberately sought to distort the facts in order to boost their position against GM'[56].

Advanta has its facts straight: ‘the contaminated seeds pose no threat to the environment or health’. People who think otherwise, and bring up evidence to support their views, are seemingly ‘distorting the facts’.[57]

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Control of the Seed Market

 

Advanta, currently the world’s fifth biggest seed company, is a major player in the game of dividing the world seed market amongst big multinational corporations. Since the 1970s there has been an intense monopolisation and consolidation of the seed industry worldwide. This process has taken place through the acquisition of small and medium sized seed companies, regionally or locally based, in various countries by huge pharmaceutical, chemical and agribusiness companies. Consolidation of the seed market (and consequently the strengthening of corporate control of the entire food chain) has many harmful consequences [58].

Advanta possesses life (through ownership of patents)
Consolidation in the agrochemical and seed industry continues to reduce the list of owners of the important ‘enabling’ intellectual property for plant genetic modification and plant molecular genetics.

There are now six major industrial groups that between them control most of the technology that gives freedom to undertake commercial R&D in the area of GM crops [59].

These are:

AgrEvo/Plant Genetic Systems (PGS) (subsequently Aventis CropScience, now Bayer CropScience);

DuPont/Pioneer;

ELM/DNAP/Asgrow/Seminis;

Monsanto/Calgene/Dekalb/Agracetus/PBI/Hybritech/Delta, Pine Co;

Novartis;

and Zeneca/Mogen/Advanta [60]

A technical and profit-driven approach to nature
Advanta thinks of seeds as ‘technology carriers’. ‘Accept no limits’, is their credo, referring to the elimination of limits on technological interventions in the genetic make-up of nature. Advanta aims to produce seeds which lead to ‘stable and increasingly uniform’ yields.

Advanta is eager to use biotechnology in order to create ‘seed that sells’. ‘Seed that excels is seed that sell'[61] says the company.

‘GMOs of vital importance to secure global food safety’
Advanta is among the first to promote biotechnology in agriculture, since they expect to benefit from it enormously. Ad Huige, president of Advanta, spreads the familiar but seriously flawed story that, ‘GMOs will help food production capabilities in a world with limits of land and water resources and an ever-increasing population’, says Huige. ‘The unfortunate and ironic point about biotech is that it results in less inputs and chemicals, making it environmental friendly. It’s a real pity that the argument against biotechnology is based on emotional fear and not scientific facts’ (Vanderhave Seed Facts [62]).

Because this story is repeatedly being spread around by the biotech stakeholders (and the industry is very well able to reach the public through their multi-billion PR machines and the corporate controlled media), the danger exists that this reasoning becomes part of public consciousness. In other words, that it becomes a myth hard to discredit, in spite of all the solid arguments against it. Comprehensive critiques can be found on the Internet [63].

Giving Inadequate Details of GM Field Trial Locations
A survey of trial licenses (Vergunningenoverzicht, 07/05/2001) showed that Advanta had obtained more than a quarter of all licenses being issued by the Dutch government. However, in June 2001 the Ministry of the Environment cancelled six trial permits. Consent for the trials was withdrawn after a legal challenge was mounted by Greenpeace Netherlands claiming that the location details given by Advanta for each of the trials were too vague [64].

The six trial permits, already suspended in November 2000, would have involved 40-50 GM field trials. This has reduced the number of Dutch GM field trials taking place in summer 2001 to only 11 [65].

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Ignoring the public, intimidation and lying.


In July 1998, the DETR and Sharpes International Seeds (then recently acquired by Advanta) were taken to the UK High Court by an organic farmer, Guy Watson. He was seeking a Judicial Review of the decision to allow a National Seed List trial of GM maize to be grown adjacent to his farm in Devon. The crop line being trialed was T25 (glufosinate ammonium tolerant or ‘Liberty Link’) maize developed by AgrEvo (subsequently known as Aventis CropScience and now Bayer CropScience), and grown under licence by Sharpes International Seeds Ltd (now Advanta Seeds Ltd). The trial was conducted by NIAB at their field trial station at Hood Barton near Dartington. Guy Watson was concerned that the growing of GM maize on land adjoining his property would lead to cross-pollination with his organic sweetcorn thus threatening the organic status and accreditation of this crop. There had also been massive outcry from local people opposing the trail. A rally at the trial site immediately prior to planting had attracted over 600 people calling on NIAB and Sharpes/Advanta to call off the trial. The central issue raised in the Judicial Review was whether the continuation of the trial was contrary to law and the remedy sought was the destruction of the crop before flowering.

On 15th July the High Court found against Guy Watson, and the trial was allowed to continue. On the night of 8th August 1998 the trial was decontaminated, just days before pollination, by members of the public [66]. This was one of the first high profile GM crop decontaminations to take place in the UK. Both the GM industry and the UK government seem have been keen to make examples of those arrested in connection with the decontamination. Of the 12 people arrested, 2 women who were actually arrested on the trial site were charged with committing £605,000 of criminal damage and were placed under stringent bail conditions including a curfew, daily signing at a local police station and restrictions on their movements. These draconian conditions lasted for over 6 months. The reason for these bail conditions being that Sharpes/Advanta claimed that a substantial proportion of their research data had been destroyed and that consequently not only should the physical value of the crop destroyed be taken into account when estimating the amount of damage caused but also a proportion of their research costs for that crop line. The implication for the two women arrested was that they now faced trial in a Crown court and, if convicted, a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Both Sharpes/Advanta and NIAB claimed that the GM portion of the trial had been totally destroyed. On the basis of this information the Soil Association (the UK organic certification body) allowed Guy Watson to retain the organic status on his sweetcorn.

In April 1999, just days before the case was due to begin in the Crown court, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), eager to limit the amount of anti-GM publicity the case was attracting, dropped all charges. Mike Schwartz, barrister for the two women, commented on the CPS withdrawal “This was a political, and, in my experience, unprecedented, decision…By withdrawing the case from the jury, the Crown have accepted there was compelling evidence that the defendants had a lawful excuse to remove the genetically modified maize……..The last thing the Crown wanted was to see a jury … acquit people who took direct action against genetically modified organisms.”[67]

In the Crown court when the case was being officially withdrawn it was revealed that the value of the ‘criminal damage’ caused by the decontamination was close to £5,000 – significantly less than the £605,000 first initially claimed by Sharpes/Advanta. This amount would have been likely to have resulted in lesser bail conditions, as well as trial in a magistrates court and the prospect of lesser sentences had the case ended in convictions.

Data from the summer 1998 National Seed Listing trial at Hood Barton formed part of the submission made by Aventis CropScience in September 2000 in support of their application to have Chardon LL (or T25/Liberty Link) GM maize added to the UK National Seed List. However, rather than ending in early August 1998 when the entire GM trial had supposedly been destroyed by members of the public (costing Sharpes/ Advanta and Aventis £10,000s in lost research) Aventis’ submission included data from the trial dated late August 1998 and September 1998 [68]. This suggests that either the GM crop had not been entirely destroyed, as had been stated at the time by Shapes/Advanta and NIAB to both the Crown Court and the Soil Association, or that the data submitted as part of the application had been falsified. Peter Roderick legal advisor to Friends of the Earth UK commented

“Let me give a flavour of some of the questions that need to be answered. What went on at Dartington? How many trials were planted? One or two? What about the other trial centres? And if there’s two, how do you decide which one’s the real National List Trial, and which one’s the ‘decoy’? And if the ‘decoy’ doesn’t get damaged, how do you decide which one to accept for decision-making purposes? Is there any valid consent for these secret trials ? Or has there been a criminal offence in planting secretly? How come a company employee told the High Court on oath in 1998 that one of that year’s trials was being discontinued, but now we see no such thing?”[69]

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References
[47] www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/contaminated_gm_crops.html
[48] BBC News, 08/06/2000, ‘GM seeds cover-up denied’

( http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk_politics/newsid_783000/783269.stm )

[49] Ibidem

[50] Nick Brown did not consult the Government’s own statutory nature bodies – English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Countryside Council for Wales or the Joint Nature Conservation Committee

[51] www.fiveyearfreeze.org/news5.htm (source: Five Year Freeze, campaign on genetic engineering, date viewed: 11/9/01)

[52] The Independent on Sunday, 21/05/2000 ( www.envoy.dircon.co.uk/dig-it-up/detail.htm )

[53] (Reuters, July 18, 2000).

[54] (Advanta Statement)

[55] (Vanderhave Seed Facts).

[56] (Advanta Statement).

[57] (Advanta Statement)

[58] See, for example, the article by Dave Brian Butvill about corporate control of the food chain, Food First, Summer 2000 ( www.foodfirst.org/media/news/2001/corpcontrol.html ). Or take a look at: www.pan-uk.org/pestnews/pn44/pn44p7.htm (a report by Barbare Dinham on the life sciences take-over of agriculture and its implications. Source web site: Pesticide Action Network (PAN), date viewed: 11/9/01)

[59] Journal of Commercial Biotech, January 2000 figures

[60] Again, be aware that corporations change name and ownership frequently!

[61] VanderHave Sugar Beet Seed, ‘Proof. Not Promises’, March 2000

PDF: www.vdhbeets.com/2001/Vanderhave%202000%20NL.pdf
Source: VanderHave sugar beet seed. Date viewed: 20/8/2001

[62] VanderHave Sugar Beet Seed, ‘Proof. Not Promises’, March 2000

PDF: www.vdhbeets.com/2001/Vanderhave%202000%20NL.pdf
Source: VanderHave sugar beet seed. Date viewed: 20/8/2001

[63] Among good sources are, for example, RAFI (the Rural Advancement Foundation International) and GRAIN (Genetic Resources Action International). At www.fiveyearfreeze.org/news5.htm, [source: Five Year Freeze, campaign on genetic engineering, date viewed: 11/9/01] you can find some interesting statistics and quotes challenging the industries’ push that GE will feed the world and that more sustainable methods will not.

[64] www.greenpeace.org/pressreleases/geneng/2000nov16.html
[65] www.connectotel.com/gmfood/w1180601.txt
[66] www.netlink.de/gen/Zeitung/1998/980804.htm
[67] Crown drops case against two ‘who wrecked GM crop’ by Geoffrey Gibbs

(The Guardian – 29 March 1999) http://www.bindmans.com/data/29_3_99_gua.htm
[68] www.thecampaign.org/newsupdates/oct00h.htm

[69] www.foe.co.uk/pubsinfo/infoteam/pressrel/2000/20001003150048.html

Influence/Lobbying

Government (UK)

It is hard to illustrate direct links between the UK government and Advanta. However Advanta have benefited considerably from the UK government’s favourable attitude towards agricultural biotechnology. The handling of the GM contamination case in spring/summer 2000 (see section on Corporate Crimes) exemplifies/illustrates the nature of the UK government-Advanta relationship. The UK government first tried to cover the up the contamination, and then waited until after the seeds were planted before informing farmers and the public.

Through their membership of the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB)[36] Advanta exert influence over the running of GM Farm Scale Trials. The trials are a government funded project co-ordinated by DEFRA (Department For Rural Affairs) with considerable input from SCIMAC (Supply Chain Initiative on Agricultural Crops). SCIMAC was founded in June 1998 ‘to support the responsible and effective introduction of GM crops in the UK’.[37] It is made up of representatives from 5 agricultural organisations. British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB), British Agrochemicals Association (BAA), National Farmers Union (NFU), United Kingdom Agricultural Supply Trade Association (UKASTA) and British Sugar Beet Seed Producers Association (BSBSPA). As mentioned above Advanta have hosted Farm Scale Trials at their Boothby Graffoe test station [38].

Alongside the farm-scale trials, the UK government (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) carries out National Seed List Trials. In the UK these trials are administered by NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Botany). With few exceptions all agricultural seeds species must be included on the National List or the EC Common Catalogue before seed can be sold in the UK and European Union. Once a valid application for National Listing is made, seed of the variety will be requested for tests and trials designed to assess whether the variety is distinct, uniform and stable (DUS), whether it has value for cultivation and use (VCU). It is these trials that account for many deliberate releases of GM crops in the UK. Advanta have hosted National Seed Listing Trials for GM crops at their Boothby Graffoe test station [39].

NIAB – National Institute of Agricultural Botany (http://www.niab.com/cgi-bin/index.cgi)

NIAB is a nominally independent charitable body specialising in plant research, especially testing the performance of new seed varieties. NIAB not only conducts research for the National Seed List Trials, but also for life sciences and seed companies including Advanta. Friends of the Earth UK accused both NIAB and Advanta (member of the NIAB Association) of illegally planting a GM crop, making a false statement and committing perjury following the public decontamination of the controversial GM National Seed List trial at Hood Barton, Devon, UK (see corporate crimes section below).

Government (US)

The USDA, FDA, EPA and a few other federal institutions share responsibility for agricultural biotechnology and food safety.

Marc Lefebvre, biotechnology research manager for Advanta, talking about a project aiming to improve sugar beet output traits: “There is relatively few researchers in the world working on transgenic beets. That’s why it is important to collaborate with others. We have a nice relationship with USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and others from a technical perspective.”[40]

Government (India)

 

Deepak Mullick wears two hats. He is the president of the Association of Seed Industry (ASI, the national association of the seed planting industry in India). He is also the managing director of Advanta India Ltd (formerly ITC Zeneca Ltd). Deepak Mullick is thus in an ideal position to talk about India’s seed policy, its constraints and what can be done to set things right. This January, he received the Worldwide Business Award from the British minister for trade and industry for his company’s contribution to promoting sustainable development in India [41].

Europe:

 

Ad Huige, CEO Advanta: “When you talk with (European) politicians privately, they support GMO because it will help food production capabilities in a world with limits of land and water resources and an ever-increasing population.”[42]

Lobby Groups

Advanta is part of the following seed industry associations and lobby groups, either directly or indirectly, for example, through membership of national associations:

BSPB (British Society of Plant Breeders) Advanta Seeds UK is a member of the BSPB. Tony Guthrie of Advanta Seeds is a member of the board of the BSPB and was formerly chairman [43].

As well as participating in SCIMAC BSPB activities have included lobbying for reforms to the UK seed certification process (including national seed listing trials) to reduce cost to plant breeders, lobbying both the UK government and EU for the acceptance of traces of GM material in supplies of non-GM seed. The BSPB have also lobbied hard for the introduction of a scheme whereby seed producers are remunerated by farmers for farm saved seed (i.e. seed not purchased from seed companies)[44].

ISTA (International Seed Testing Association) (www.seedtest.org/)

Advanta BV is a member of the ISTA. The primary purpose of the International Seed Testing Association is to develop, adopt and publish standard procedures for sampling and testing seeds and to promote uniform application of these procedures for evaluation of seeds moving in international trade.

FIS (The International Seed Trade Federation) FIS was established in 1924. It is a non-profit group of national associations as well as individual seed companies. With members spread over 66 developed and developing countries of all continents, it represents the mainstream of the world seed trade and serves as an international forum where the general problems of the seed industry are discussed.

FIS represents the international seed trade, notably in the international governmental organisations and NGOs (OECD, ISTA, ICC, WIPO, UPOV, FAO, etc.). It maintains regular contacts with these bodies in order to promote the viewpoint of the seed industry. This essentially means defending the general interests of its members, notably in improving the conditions of international seed trade, in resisting trade barriers and regulations of protectionist nature, and in fighting against the illegal trade in farm-saved seed. Advanta UK is represented at FIS through its membership of the British Society of Plant Breeders.

ASSINSEL (http://www.worldseed.org/assinsel.html)

ASSINSEL, the International Association of Plant Breeders for the Protection of Plant Varieties, was founded in 1938. Today it is composed of 45 individual organisations involved in plant breeding spread over 31 developed and developing countries, which in turn represent more than 1000 companies world-wide. Advanta Seeds UK is represented at ASSINSEL through its membership of the BSPB

Mission: ‘To represent at the international level and to promote through national organisations the interests of plant breeders and others who may share a common and active major interest in the creation of new plant germplasm; to establish and protect the intellectual property rights which follow from investments in such activities and to take all necessary steps to achieve these goals.’

The General Assemblies of both the FIS and ASSINEL adopted a motion in Rome on May 25, 2000 for the merger of the two associations. Whilst seed trade and plant breeding were dealt with by different companies in the past decades, they are now more and more integrated in companies dealing with all activities. This justified integration of FIS and ASSINSEL in a single structure. The name of the new association will be the “International Seed Federation (ISF)”.

Web site ISF: www.worldseed.org/merger.html

Links with Universities, Research and Education

 

Marc Lefebvre, biotechnology research manager for Advanta, collaborates with a Dutch University on a project aiming to improve sugar beet output traits (e.g. manufacture a beet that would produce fructose instead of sucrose). He says: “There are relatively few researchers in the world working on transgenic beets. That’s why it is important to collaborate with others. We have a nice relationship with USDA [United States Department on Agriculture] and others from a technical perspective.” Lefebvre adds: “It’s important to the crop and the sugarbeet sector to maintain good basic research progress at the public level.”[45]

Suiker Unie (Vanderhave –the Dutch seed company owning 50% of Advanta– is a subsidiary of Suiker Unie) helps support public sugarbeet research within its nation by joining with other processors, seed companies and the Dutch government to fund the IRS –the Institute for Rationalisation of Sugar, which conducts sugarbeet research in The Netherlands [46].

NEODIET (Nutritional Enhancement of Plant-Derived Foods in Europe) (http://www.ifrn.bbsrc.ac.uk/neodiet/)

The priorities for NEODIET are ‘to focus on examining the potential need for improving a selected range of essential nutrients and beneficial factors present in plant foods but where the levels are possibly inadequate for health.’

Dr Rindert Peerbolte of Advanta is part of NEODIET’s Task Group 1 on biosynthesis and genetic manipulation of nutrients and protective factors in foods. NEODIET believes biotechnology offers great potential to improve the nutritional content of food crops. For example, the controversial Vitamin A enhanced ‘golden rice’.


References [36] www.bspb.co.uk/visitors/who-is-bspb/who-info.html [37] A critique of the SCIMAC Code of Practice and Guidelines for Growing Genetically Modified Crops by Friends of the Earth SCIMAC: www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/scimac.html [38] www.gm-info.org.uk/gm-info/briefings/aventis5.html [39] www.gm-info.org.uk/gm-info/maps/morinfo.cfm?site_id=542,266,22 [40] www.sugarpub.com/march00_art4.htm [41] Reference: www.economictimes.com/250500/25opin03.htm [42] (Vanderhave Seed Facts)

[43] www.bspb.co.uk/visitors/news/annual-review_2001.pdf [44] www.bspb.co.uk/visitors/licensing/licensing.html [45] www.sugarpub.com/march00_art4.htm [46] www.sugarpub.com/nov_dec_art4.htm

Links, Contacts & Resources


 

Campaigning groups on GMOs:

Genewatch www.genewatch.org/
Policy research group, evaluating genetic technologies from the perspective of human and animal health and welfare together with environmental protection.

Totnes Genetics Group www.togg.org.uk
A resource for campaigning and taking non-violent direct action against GMOs

Friends of the Earth www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/food_and_biotechnology/
What’s wrong with GE from health and environmental perspectives plus FAQs, news and press releases

Norfolk Genetic Information Network (NGIN) www.members.tripod.com/~ngin/
FAQs: intro on GM and a simple guide to genetic engineering

Greenpeace www.greenpeace.org.uk
Bio -tech information and Campaign Highlights

Aseed Europe www.groundup.org/
European youth environmental and social justice campaigning network. Also working on GM issues

GM info www.gm-info.org.uk
The Corporate Watch GM website. Interactive maps of where GMOs are being produced, handled or sold in the UK. Take Action against the biotech beast

GEN (Genetic Engineering Network) www.geneticsaction.org.uk/
Fantastic GM campaigning resource includes up to date information on UK GM-crop trials, with info on each individual trial and its current status.

DEFRA GMO Public Register www.defra.gov.uk/environment/acre/pdf/exper.pdf
The official government list of which GM crops have been licensed for field trials and where they are being grown.

Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) www.rafi.org
Excellent organisation working on conservation and sustainable improvement of agricultural biodiversity, and to the socially responsible development of technologies useful to rural societies. Great briefings!!!!!


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