Genetically Manipulated Food News

21 May 1997

Table of Contents

Ireland High Court decision
Further News
US Paper on Food Safety
Monsanto swallows US Government Workers
Foreign DNA Absorption
Mad Pig Disease

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Ireland prevents Monsanto from planting GE sugar beets

Justice Michael Morriarty in the High Court today granted an interim injunction to Ms. Clare Watson, a founder member of Genetic Concern!, preventing the Monsanto multi-national chemical company from planting genetically engineered sugar beet in Carlow. The injunction has been granted pending a judicial review of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA)'s decision to grant Monsanto a licence for Ireland's first ever field test of genetically engineered plants.

The sugar beet has been doctored with genes from a bacteria, a virus and a flower rendering it immune to Monsanto's own herbicide, Roundup. The EPA's decision has received much criticism both from the public, and from political parties, including Fianna Fail, Progressive Democrats, the Green Party and the Natural Law Party.

According to the EPA's own report on the application, the lack of public debate was the most common complaint raised by public objectors. Other complaints included fears of increased use of herbicide, gene pollution, gene transfer to weeds, as well as ethical, moral and social implications.

"Most Irish people have no idea what genetic engineering is, much less know that the government are allowing multinational companies perform experiments here" said Quentin Gargan, spokesperson for Genetic Concern! "This whole issue has been sprung upon Irish citizens with no opportunity for public discussion, and a point blank refusal by the Government to allow a Dail debate. The public had only three weeks in which to inform themselves of the risks involved and to make submissions to the EPA".

"We have to learn from our experience with BSE that science is entitled to change the safety status of any process as new information comes to hand. Already genetic engineering has thrown up surprises, such as happened with genetically engineered ingredients in tryptophane which resulted in 37 deaths and 1,500 permanent injuries. Until genetic engineering is fully understood, the E.P.A. should be adopting a highly precautionary approach.", he added.

Further News (provided by Genetic Concern!)

Many people think that bodies like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) conduct independent research and satisfy themselves that a process is safe. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is common policy for regulatory authorities such as the EPA to accept research information from companies who have a heavy invested interest in the outcome. In the U.S.A. for example, Monsanto presented the Environmental Protection Agency with fraudulent and misleading research on the basis of which safe levels were adopted worldwide for dioxin. Those levels are now being reviewed. [affidavit of Cath Jenkins of USA EPA is available from us on request.]

More recently, a BBC documentary revealed that the U.K. Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries had been presented with misleading information on the safety of BST, a genetically engineered growth hormone produced by Monsanto. Scientists working at Sussex University found that figures subsequently published by Monsanto differed from the original tests, and that summaries of a fourteen week trial had only included the first eight weeks in a manner that would mislead regulatory staff into believing the product was safer than the full fourteen weeks show. [transcript of documentary available on request].

Beth Burrows, Director
The Edmonds Institute, 20319-92nd Avenue West, Edmonds, Washington
98020, USA phone: 425-775-5383 email: fax: 425-670-8410


Food and Drug Administration, U. S. Department of Agriculture, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 1997


(should say, "From Multi-national Corporate labs, or from test tubes to table--Peter)




Executive Summary
A New Interagency Strategy to Prevent Foodborne Disease
Foodborne Illness: A Significant Public-Health Problem
Sources of Foodborne Contamination
The Current System for Protecting Food
The Food-Safety System Must Be Prepared for the 21st Century
Immediate Actions to Improve Food Safety
A New Early-Warning System for Foodborne Disease Surveillance
Interstate Outbreak Containment and Response Coordination
Risk Assessment
Improving Inspections and Compliance
A Blueprint for a Better Food-Safety System
Appendix A - Budget Request for Food-Safety Initiative Activities: FY98
Appendix B - Microbial Pathogens

While the American food supply is among the safest in the world, there are still millions of Americans stricken by illness every year caused by the food they consume, and some 9,000 a year--mostly the very young and elderly--die as a result. The threats are numerous and varied, ranging from Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 in meat and apple juice, to Salmonella in eggs and on vegetables, to Cyclospora on fruit, to Cryptosporidium in drinking water--and most recently, to hepatitis A virus in frozen strawberries.

In his January 25, 1997 radio address, President Clinton announced he would request $43.2 million in his 1998 budget to fund a nationwide early-warning system for foodborne illness, increase seafood safety inspections, and expand food-safety research, training, and education. The President also directed three Cabinet members--the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency--to identify specific steps to improve the safety of the food supply. He directed them to consult with consumers, producers, industry, states, universities, and the public, and to report back to him in 90 days. This report responds to the President's request and outlines a comprehensive new initiative to improve the safety of the nation's food supply.

The goal of this initiative is to further reduce the incidence of foodborne illness to the greatest extent feasible. The recommendations presented in this report are based on the public-health principles that the public and private sectors should identify and take preventive measures to reduce risk of illness, should focus our efforts on hazards that present the greatest risk, and should make the best use of public and private resources. The initiative also seeks to further collaboration between public and private organizations and to improve coordination within the government as we work toward our common goal of improving the safety of the nation's food supply.

Six agencies in the federal government have primary responsibility for food safety: two agencies under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)--the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); three agencies under the Department of Agriculture (USDA)--the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES); and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Over the last 90 days, these agencies have worked with the many constituencies interested in food safety to identify the greatest public-health risks and design strategies to reduce these risks. USDA, FDA, CDC, and EPA have worked to build consensus and to identify opportunities to better use their collective resources and expertise, and to strengthen partnerships with private organizations. As directed by the President, the agencies have explored ways to strengthen systems of coordination, surveillance, inspections, research, risk assessment, and education.

This report presents the results of that consultative process. It outlines steps USDA, HHS, and EPA will take this year to reduce foodborne illness, and spells out in greater detail how agencies will use the $43.2 million in new funds requested for fiscal year 1998. It also identifies issues the agencies plan to consider further through a public planning process.

The actions in this report build on previous Administration steps to modernize our food-safety programs and respond to emerging challenges. As part of the Vice President's National Performance Review (NPR), the agencies have encouraged the widespread adoption of preventive controls. Specifically, the NPR report urged implementation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems to ensure food manufacturers identify points where contamination is likely to occur and implement process controls to prevent it. Under HACCP-based regulatory programs there is a clear delineation of responsibilities between industry and regulatory agencies: Industry has the primary responsibility for the safety of the food it produces and distributes; the government's principle role is to verify that industry is carrying out its responsibility, and to initiate appropriate regulatory action if necessary.

The Administration has put in place science-based HACCP regulatory programs for seafood, meat, and poultry. In late 1995, the Administration issued new rules to ensure seafood safety. In July 1996, President Clinton announced new regulatio ns to modernize the nation's meat and poultry inspection system. The Early-Warning System the President announced in January will gather critical scientific data to further improve these prevention systems. Additional actions outlined in this report will encourage the use of HACCP principles throughout the food industry.

The need for further action is clear. ...

(they think. I have droped the rest of the blah blah continuing with Enhance ... Equip ... Create ... should... must ... and so on)

Here some comments on the above paper:

"When children reach for a piece of food, parents deserve to have peace of mind" said the Vice President who heads the National Performance Review to make government work better and cost less. "This Administration is using the most modern science and a common-sense approach to increase the safety of our nation's food supply and protect the public health." -- -- Al Gore, May 12, 1997

"We have built a solid foundation for the health of America's families. But clearly we must do more. No parent should have to think twice about the juice they pour their children at breakfast, or a hamburger ordered during dinner out." ----- President Bill Clinton, Radio Address, January 25, 1997

"I didn't see anywhere in the food safety plan any mention of the fact that the U.S. government continues to support the genetic engineering of the global food supply. How will cross-species genetic engineering impact short or long-term food safety?

Opinions may abound. But nobody knows.

In fact, no mention AT ALL of the genetic engineering of the global food supply. They ASSUME and PRESUME that this will have no bearing on food safety. Very, very sad. And amazingly POOR science. Less than sixth-grade science.

Obvious political image-building, while ignoring, in fact posturing-in-defense-of their other actions, which directly create a imminently real and definite threat to the food supply."

--------- (Peter M. Ligotti)

U.S. Government Workers Continue To Get Privatized Into Monsanto

by Beth Burrows

The Edmonds Institute, a public interest, non-profit group in Edmonds, Washington, confirmed today that Mr. Mickey Kantor, former United States Trade Representative and, until January 21 of last year, the Secretary of Commerce for the United States, has been made a member of the board of directors of Monsanto Corporation, a leading transnational biotechnology firm.

The appointment was confirmed by a staff member of Mr. Kantor's Washington, DC law firm.

Mr. Kantor joins others in the US who recently changed job assignments from service in government to positions in the biotechnology industry. Marcia Hale, earlier this month, moved from assistant to the President of the United States for intergovernmental affairs to senior official with Monsanto to coordinate public affairs and corporate strategy in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Also putting on the industry hat this month was L. Val Giddings. Less than two weeks ago, Giddings' went from being a biotechnology regulator at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA/APHIS) to being the vice president for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). Giddings, who had been a member of the U.S. delegation at the first meeting of the Open Ended Ad Hoc Working Group on a Biosafety Protocol, attended last week's second meeting on the protocol as the representative of BIO.

For more information, contact:
Beth Burrows, Director
The Edmonds Institute, 20319-92nd Avenue West, Edmonds, Washington 98020, USA
phone: 425-775-5383, fax: 425-670-8410, email:

Foreign DNA Absorption

by Walter Doerfler


The German geneticist Walter Doerfler has just published results of studies in which he fed mice a diet to which foreign DNA was added. To his great surprise the DNA not only survived the instestine without much degradation but could be found in smaller fragments even in the blood, in white blood cells, liver and spleen cells.

The study appeared only in German: Doerfler W, Schubbert R (1994), Aufnahme fremder DNA nen in: Deutsches Aerzteblatt 91, C1166-C1169, but New Scientist 2063, Jan. 4, 97 has featured a short report on Doerflers findings that were presented at the International Congress on Cell Biology in San Francisco, December 1996.

Doerfler even speculates that this might be an evolutionary mechanism. So it seems to me that

  1. DNA is not degradated in the intestine as easily as anyone assumes (No wonder: most studies on DNA digestion have been done with artificial systems),
  2. There is not a very efficient barrier between the gut and the blood.
  3. Foreign DNA can enter not only blood but liver, spleen and white blood cells, too.

If recombination is possible no one knows. Doerfler thinks that this DNA uptake is very common and says he cannot believe this to be harmful - otherwise evolution would have provided us with much more effective shields against foreign DNA uptake. But this is only speculation.

Regards, Ludger
Dr. Ludger Wess, freelance science writer, Bei der Neuen Muenze 11, D-22145 Hamburg, Tel ++49-40-679 410 33, Fax ++49-40-679 410 34,

Date: 20 May 1997 18:07:32 -0600 From: Subject: Fwd: Mad Pigs in the USA

This Mad Pig Went to Market

In These Times (Chicago, Illinois) May 26, 1997

by Joel Bleifuss

Some pigs in the United States may be infected with a porcine form of mad cow disease, according to an alarming study by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists that has recently come to light. This previously unrecognized form of the disease in swine may be infecting humans, according to epidemiological studies that link pork consumption with mad cow's human equivalent, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

In late 1978, Dr. Masuo Doi, a veterinarian with the Food Safety and Quality Service, observed signs of a mysterious central nervous system (CNS) disorder in some young hogs that had arrived at the Tobin Packing Plant in Albany, N.Y., from several Midwestern states. For the next 15 months, Doi studied 106 of the afflicted pigs. He described their symptoms this way: "Excitable or nervous temperament to external stimuli such as touch to the skin, handling and menacing approach to the animals is a common characteristic sign among those affected with the disease." These symptoms, Doi now notes, are strikingly similar to those of British cattle infected with mad cow disease, which is scientifically known as bovine spongiform encephalapathy (BSE).

Doi sent the brain material from these pigs to Karl Langheinrich, the head pathologist at the USDA's Eastern Laboratory in Athens, Ga. In a November 1979 report, Langheinrich noted that one pig's brain exhibited what the veterinary reference work Pathology of Domestic Animals defined as "the classical hallmarks of viral infection of the central nervous system." Langheinrich went on to report that the damage in the pig's brain was similar to the damage observed in the brains of sheep afflicted with scrapie and of mink afflicted with transmissible mink encephalapathy, the two other variants of transmissible spongiform encephalapathy (TSE) known at the time.

In March of this year, Dr. William Hadlow, a retired veterinary pathologist who is one of the world's leading TSE researchers, examined the microscope slides of pig brain from Doi and Langheinrich's 1979 investigation. The pig "could have suffered from a scrapie-like disease," he reports, but adds that such a conclusion cannot be "justified by the limited microscopic findings, however suggestive of a TSE they may be."

The Government Accountability Project (GAP), a Washington-based organization that supports public-sector whistleblowers, has been working with Doi to alert the public that a porcine form of mad cow disease may be circulating in the American pig population. In a March 27 letter to Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, GAP points out that if we assume a similar incidence of central nervous system disorders in swine being slaughtered nationwide as that found among swine at the Tobin Packing Plant, "it is reasonable to question whether, since at least 1979, USDA has been allowing 99.5 percent of animals with encephalitis, meningitis and other CNS disorders into the human food supply."

And what happens once those thousands of diseased pigs are eaten by the American public? Two epidemiological studies found pork to be a dietary risk factor in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). A 1973 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology discovered that 14 of 38 CJD patients (36 percent) ate brains. Further, of those who ate brains, most (10 of the 14) preferred hog brains. Another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1989 looked at how frequently 26 CJD patients ate 45 separate food items. Nine of these foods were found to be statistically linked to increased risk of CJD. Of those nine, six came from pigs--roast pork, ham, hot dogs, pork chops, smoked pork and scrapple. (The three that were not pig-derived were roast lamb, raw oysters/clams and liver.) The authors of the study concluded: "The present study indicated that consumption of pork as well as its processed products (e.g. ham, scrapple) may be considered as risk factors in the development of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. While scrapie has not been reported in pigs, a subclinical form of the disease or a pig reservoir for the scrapie might conceivably exist."

The number of Americans who develop CJD in a given year is in dispute. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) claims that the human form of mad cow disease occurs at a rate of one in a million. Further, ignoring evidence of a new variant of CJD found in Britain, the CDC maintains that people who eat an infected animal cannot contract the disease. In January, CDC Assistant Director for Public Health Lawrence Schonberger told a Congressional hearing, "The bottom line from our perspective is that it's a theoretical risk... but it is not as yet a real risk."

But does the CDC really know how many Americans contract CJD? Evidence indicates that CJD may often be misdiagnosed, and thus go unreported. A 1989 study at the University of Pittsburgh autopsied the brains of 54 patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and discovered that three of the patients (5.5 percent of the sample) actually had CJD. A 1989 study at Yale University reported similar findings. Postmortem examination of 46 patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's revealed that six (13 percent of the sample) actually had CJD. The New York-based Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, argued in a paper presented to the USDA, "Since there are over 4 million cases of Alzheimers disease currently in the United States, if even a small percentage of them turned out to be CJD, there could be a hidden CJD epidemic."

Which brings us to the issue of what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is doing to address this food-borne threat to public health. In the past several months, in response to questions about Doi's 1979 pig research, USDA officials have put out a good deal of misinformation to public-interest groups, the media and even the National Association ot Federal Veterinarians. On repeated occasions, officials have said that the slides of the pig brains from the 1979 study were unavailable because they had been sent to scientists in England who were studying mad cow disease. But as it turns out, the USDA never sent any slides to England.

"Agency officials repeatedly misrepresented scientists' investigations and conclusions to consumer groups and government employees and neglected to keep other agencies also working on TSE issues informed," says Felicia Nestor of GAP. "The USDA had to be pushed to investigate scientific evidence which only they had."

The USDA's lackluster response to this public health threat comes as no surprise. For years, the agency has done its best to ignore evidence that a distinct American strain of mad cow disease may alrady afflict the U.S. cattle population. (See In These Times "The First Stone" May 31, 1993 and April 15, 1996.) Veterinary researchers in Mission, Texas in 1979 and Ames, Iowa, in 1992 found that cattle injected with brain matter from scrapie-infected American sheep developed BSE. However the brains of these infected cattle did not exhibit the spongy holes found in the brains of their BSE-plagued British cousins. Furthermore, cows afflicted with this American strain of scrapie-induced BSE do not go mad; they simply collapse and die.

The distinction is important because the American strain of the disease leads to symptoms that resemble what happens to the 100,000 American cattle that succumb to "downer cow syndrome" every year. Veterinary researchers fear that the widespread practice of feeding downer cows (in the form of rendered protein feed supplements) to other cattle, sheep and hogs could already be fueling a TSE epidemic in the United States like the one that plagued Britian. In fact, in 1979, before BSE was discovered in Britain, Doi pointed out in his study of deranged pigs that "many animals have been found to be 'downers' at first observation."

On January 3, the FDA finally drafted a rule that would ban the fortifying of animal feeds with "any Mammalian tissue." USDA researchers, critical of the government's foot-dragging, have been calling for a ban for seven years. But undercutting this important step, the FDA has played a taxonomical shell game and arbitrarily removed pigs from the class "mammalia." Consequently, if the FDA's proposed rule is adopted, animals being fattened for slaughter will stop eating cow renderings and instead eat only pig remains. Since mad cow disease in Britain was spread by feeding mad cows to healthy cows, the FDA's pigs-are-not-mammals proposal gives any porcine form of mad cow disease a point of entry into the human food chain.

On April 28, Consumers Union filed comments with the FDA on the agency's proposed regulations. The group advocates a complete ban on the use of all mammalian protein in all feed intended for feed animals, as is now the case in England. "The draft rule," says Consumers Union, "is not adequate to protect public health, because it would continue to leave the door open for a porcine TSE to contaminate pork and other meat."

It would be nice if the USDA were as concerned about protecting public health as it is about the financial health of the $30 billion-a-year pork industry and the $60 billion-a-year beef industry. Ditto for the Wall Street Journal, where editors have put on hold a story by a staff reporter on mad pig disease and the possible link between pork consumption and CJD.

ABC's World News Tonight has also sat on the information for a couple of weeks. On May 12, the network did air a story that examined the fact that CJD was being misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's. But the network failed to note that CJD is the human form of mad cow disease. The network also neglected to mention the possible connection to pork or the fact that the CJD patient featured in the story, Marie Ferris, had been employed at a packing plant where she handled slaughtered pigs.

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