12 January 2000 – South African News

Table of Contents

America backs down on GM foods
U.S. Accepts Trade Agreement for Altered Food
Green groups applaud intl bio-safety trade pact
EU welcomes international bio-safety trade pact
Countries reach landmark GMO food agreement
Monsanto drops tainted name
South Africa: Your chance to question GE promoters in SA
Genetic Modification: The Shocking Truth
Trouble in the Garden

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Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 22:27:27 +0200
From: "ekogaia Glen Ashton"

BIOWATCH: Fw: New global biosafety protocol/treaty signed/ Monsanto drops tainted name

In case any of you had not heard the news; here are some cuttings. This is good news in the whole but we shall still have to see if the WTO subverts or attempts to subvert this protocol. From my initial reading this would not seem to be a threat immediately but someone is bound to challenge this law. The new agreement is not perfect, make no mistake; however it is a great step forward and a victory for grassroots democracy and representative. We can make a difference and now we must just monitor the implementation. We definitely do live in interesting times.

If any of you are on more than one listserve or list and get duplicate copies of this email, pse advise which lists you are on and I will adjust my mailings.


America backs down on GM foods

by Ed Vulliamy, John Madeley and Anthony Browne
The Observer, Sunday January 30, 2000

The beleaguered industry in genetically modified foods suffered its most serious setback yesterday when 130 countries signed a treaty giving them rights, for the first time, to restrict imports of GM crops without breaking international trade rules.

The breakthrough came after the United States unexpectedly climbed down at the end of heated all-night negotiations at a United Nations summit in Montreal.

The US and half a dozen other GM-exporting countries had steadfastly blocked a consensus pact to regulate the trade in genetically modified food. The deadline for a deal passed on Friday night but the talks continued and, close to dawn yesterday, the US delegation agreed to a Biosafety Protocol.

After the agreement, the US Assistant Secretary of State, David Sandlow, said: 'On balance, we think this is an agreement that protects the environment without disrupting world trade.'

The European Union and many developing nations had argued that countries should be allowed to refuse imports of any genetically modified product. But the US had objected that restricting GM foods would be in violation of World Trade Organisation treaties and that free trade should take precedence.

The pact will allow countries to apply a 'precautionary principle' and reject imports of GM foodstuffs if they think there is a safety risk. It will oblige all shipments and trading in genetically modified foods to bear labels stating that the products 'may contain' GM organisms.

British Environment Minister Michael Meacher said for the first time countries will have the right to decide whether they want to import GM products or not when there is less than full scientific evidence. It is official that the environment rules aren't subordinate to the trade rules. It's been one hell of a battle.'

Trade in GM food was discussed at the WTO summit in Seattle in November but the talks collapsed.

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Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 22:27:27 +0200
From: "ekogaia Glen Ashton"

U.S. Accepts Trade Agreement for Altered Food

By John Burgess, Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, January 30, 2000; Page A1

MONTREAL, Jan. 29 - The United States today accepted under pressure a new international trade agreement that could speed the labeling of genetically engineered foods on the world market, a move that puts new pressure on U.S. farmers to separate the increasingly controversial foods from the overall supply.

The pact, adopted by delegates of 140 countries after being endorsed by the United States, would allow a country to ban the import of a genetically modified food without full scientific proof that it was unsafe.

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Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 22:27:27 +0200
From: "ekogaia Glen Ashton"

Green groups applaud intl bio-safety trade pact

BRUSSELS, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Environmental groups on Saturday applauded an agreement reached by international regulators in Montreal on regulating trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs) used in food. This is a historic step towards protecting the environment and consumers Benedikt Haerlin of Greenpeace said in a statement. he And until the protocol has come into force all exports of GMOs

Friends of the Earth in a separate statement also heralded the agreement. For the past week the United States and its cronies have been holding the rest of the world to ransom to protect the vested interests of a few it said. They have not succeeded and now we have a protocol to regulate

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Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 22:27:27 +0200
From: "ekogaia Glen Ashton"

EU welcomes international bio-safety trade pact

BRUSSELS, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The European Union said on Saturday that it welcomed an agreement reached by international regulators in Montreal on regulating trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs) used in food. This is a historical moment and a breakthrough for international Margot Wallstron, the European commissioner for environment, said in a statement. It reflects the common will to protect the world's environment and confirms the importance of the Convention on Biodiversity. This international framework eases

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Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 22:27:27 +0200
From: "ekogaia Glen Ashton"

Countries reach landmark GMO food agreement

By Doug Palmer

GMOs Spark Concern
Labeling Would Be Negotiated


MONTREAL, Jan 29 (Reuters) - More than 130 countries reached a landmark agreement early on Saturday to regulate trade in genetically modified organisms, a major part of the world's food supply that has raised environmental and health concerns and strained international trade relations.

The U.N.-sponsored agreement strikes a delicate balance between the interests of major exporters of genetically modified crops, such as the United States and Canada, and importers in the European Union and developing countries, which have expressed concerns about the health and environmental impact of the new food varieties.

The agreement, which still must be ratified by 50 countries before it goes into effect, establishes an international framework for countries to use when making decisions about genetically modified crops.

It also requires, for the first time under an international agreement, genetically modified foods. But there is no specific requirement that farmers or the grain industry segregate conventional and modified crops, which the U.S. government said could cost billions of dollars. On balance, we think this is an agreement that protects the environment David Sandalow, assistant U.S. secretary of state for oceans, environment and science, told reporters.

European Commission Environmental Minister Margot Wallstrom said the protocol, signed by more than 130 countries, was a victory for consumers and importers and an agreement of which all countries could be proud.

The pact also won praise from both industry groups and environmentalists, who each feared the other would have more influence over the final outcome of a pact on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

GMOs Spark Concern

refers to plants and animals containing genes transferred from other species to produce certain characteristics, such as resistance to certain pests and herbicides.

Although any genetically modified organism planted in the United States is subjected to U.S. government testing and approval, some groups feared the new varieties could have adverse environmental and health effects. Many EU consumers, suspicious of genetically engineered crops, favoured blocking their importation.

To reach an agreement, the United States and Canada had to accept stronger language than they wanted recognising the right of countries to use precautions in making import decisions. the proposed Biosafety Protocol agreement could set the stage for countries to close their markets to genetically modified crops without conclusive scientific evidence of harm. which emphasises the new pact does not override rights and obligations under other international agreements, including the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The United States, which negotiated along with Canada as part of the Miami Group bloc and therefore does not need congressional approval of the pact, insisted on that language to ensure science-based WTO rules would still apply to import decisions.

If a dispute arises over a country's decision to close its market to a food product, the WTO will review the protocol before making a ruling, Wallstrom said.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Frank Loy acknowledged the Make no mistake. Loy said.

Labeling Would Be Negotiated

Once the protocol goes into effect, which could take two or three years, may genetically modified organisms.

At that point, a new round of negotiations on more specific labeling requirements will also have to begin, with the requirement of finishing in two years.

Willy De Greef, director of regulatory and government affairs for Novartis, a Swiss-based company that produces genetically modified corn varieties, said the grain industry is already moving toward segregation. and the protocol provides that, De Greef said.

Steven Daugherty, director of government and industry relations for Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., a U.S. producer of genetically modified seed, also said the protocol's commodity provisions appeared to be workable.

Greenpeace, which had staged protests against genetically modified crops throughout the week of negotiations, also gave its blessings to the pact. This is a historic step toward protecting the environment and consumers the group said.

A previous attempt to craft the Biosafety Protocol failed last year in Cartagena, Colombia, mainly because the Miami Group feared it would block trade.

In contrast to the bitterness that pervaded that effort, participants praised the positive atmosphere of this week's negotiations in Montreal.

They also credited Colombian Environmental Minister Juan Myar, who chaired the talks, for forcing negotiators to resolve their many issues to reach an agreement.

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Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 22:27:27 +0200
From: "ekogaia Glen Ashton"
From List: Biotech Activists
Posted by:

OK OK - Didn't the bard say ? "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."


Monsanto drops tainted name

Monsanto's name radically modified

By Julia Finch, GUARDIAN (London) Friday January 28, 2000

The Monsanto company name, which has become synonymous with the genetically modified food business, is to be ditched, the company revealed last night.

The beleaguered American biotech company is merging with the US-Swiss drugs group Pharmacia & Upjohn and the $50bn corporation will in future be known as Pharmacia.

"We have chosen a name with power and global relevance," said Robert Shapiro, chairman of Monsanto, who will lead the new company. "This name and logo will create a strong new identity for our 60,000 employees and will build value with our existing customers worldwide."

Mr Shapiro, who championed GM food, was once regarded as a visionary who would mix nutrition, biotechnology, crop protection and medicine in one commercial venture. But the Monsanto name became tainted last year as the consumer backlash against GM food spread from Europe to the US.

In addition to food safety and environmental fears there were concerns that farmers in developing countries would never be able to afford the new Monsanto seeds.

Last month a shareholder campaign in the US unveiled a plan to target 24 companies, including Monsanto, demanding a moratorium on the use of GM food until independent testing had been completed. The campaign is being coordinated by 275 religious and other groups which claim to control $100bn of shares in US companies.

Monsanto, which had been a high-flying pharmaceutical stock and darling of Wall Street, fell swiftly from grace when its crop technology business, which little over a year ago was regarded as a world beater, turned into an albatross. Shareholders watched as their investments lost a third of their value.

The newly merged Pharmacia Corporation will use the names Searle, Pharmacia and Upjohn for its three sales divisions. Only an autonomous agricultural subsidiary will continue to use the Monsanto name.

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Whilst all articles are reproduced in good faith we cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies or misrepresentations. Take up such issues with the originator of the article. All articles are circulated for information and in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed for research and educational purposes only.

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Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2000 14:16:50 +0200
From: "Angus Durran"
From: Glenda Lindsay []

South Africa: Your chance to question GE promoters in SA


Please try to be at this industry meeting to raise your concerns about genetic engineering in South African and hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions. Please call me on (011) 803 5656 for specific issues that need to be urgently addressed.


Dear all

I have just received an invitation to attend the inaugural meeting of AfricaBio, to be held on Wed 9 Feb in Pretoria. I am not sure how widely this event has been publicised? There are to be three speakers at the meeting: Khotso Mokhele (President of the NRF)+ADs- Bongiwe Njobe from Dept of Agric+ADs- and one Professor Prakash from the Univ of Tuskegee in the States (who is quoted in the invite as saying "Anti-technology activists accuse corporations of playing God by genetically improving crops, but it is these so called environmentalists who are really playing God, not with genes but with the lives of poor and hungry people")

I think it is vital that there are voices present at the meeting to raise concerns+ADs- point out the fallacies of many of the arguments and raise questions as to why publicly funded institutions (ARC, CSIR etc) are joining a forum that explicity aims to promote the industry etc. etc. There is likely to be a high media presence so it is critical that alternative viewpoints are conveyed.

Details I have for the meeting are as follows:
DATE:Wed 9 Feb 2000
TIME:9.30 - 12.30pm: media and guests
9.30 - 4pm: AfricaBio members
PLACE:Agricultural Research Council Head Office (this in itself says a lot) at 1134 Park Street, Hatfield, Pretoria.
CONTACTLiana or Tanya-Lisa: (011) 784 1008

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Date: Mon, 07 Feb 2000 17:42:43 +0200
From: "taynton"


The pro-GM lobby (vested interests) are in full swing with a high profile media campaign whereby they cleverly try to make the reporting look balanced and then slip in statements such as: "not a single problem can be attributed to GM food", "no one has ever died from eating GM food", "fewer pesticides need to be used on crops, which benefits farm workers, farmers, consumers and the environment"..

We have to get truth out.

Genetic Modification: The Shocking Truth

Index Of Topics Covered In This Email:



NB. "Until the implications of GM food have been assessed beyond a shadow of a doubt, the old maxim 'better safe than sorry' should apply. No on e has the right to treat the public and the environment as guinea pigs." Natal Mercury, 23 December 1999.


Genetically modified tryptophan (used in a food suppliment) allegedly killed 37 people and permanently maimed 1500 others. This could never be proved as the evidence was destroyed in a laboratory fire, but the Japanese company concerned would not cooperate with the US government. It did pay out millions of dollars in compensation to the victims(relatives) and the product was withdrawn.


Genetically modified Bovine Growth Hormone (BST or rBGH) injected into dairy cows to increase milk production has been linked to prostrate cancer in men and breast cancer in women among those people who drink that mllk. This product is banned in over 100 countries around the world, but is licenced for sale and used on some dairy herds in South Africa.


Staff at Monsanto (the world leader in food biotecnolgy) headquarters in UK refuse to eat GM food and it has been banned from their canteen.


EPA Restricts Gene-Altered Corn in Response to Concerns;
Farmers Must Plant Conventional 'Refuges' to Reduce Threat of Ecological Damage

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer
January 16, 2000, Sunday, Final Edition
Copyright 2000 The Washington Post

The Environmental Protection Agency has placed new restrictions on the cultivation of genetically modified corn, a response to concerns that gene-altered crops may be causing ecological disruptions. The new restrictions, which were released late Friday and are effective immediately, make unprecedented demands on the producers of biotech seeds and on farmers who wish to plant so-called Bt corn, which has been endowed with a gene that allows the corn to make its own insecticide.

Among the new restrictions is a requirement that farmers plant 20 percent to 50 percent of their acreage in conventional corn, which some farmers have said would be burdensome and some experts said could lead to a decline in plantings of the high-tech seeds. Bt corn has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity among farmers since it was approved for sale in 1996, and was planted on more than one-third of U.S. corn acres last year...

A straw poll of 400 farmers conducted by Reuters last week at the annualmeeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation found that some farmers are planning to call it quits with biotech varieties. Farmers said demands by U.S. consumers that engineered food products be labeled, and ongoing European rejection of the crops, could depress the prices farmers will get at harvestfor the costly new varieties.

The poll results predict a 24 percent decline in plantings of Bt corn compared with last year, and a 26 percent decline in plantings of Bt cotton. They also predict a 15 percent decline in RoundUp Ready soybeans – gene-altered variety of soy that protects the plants against the popular weed killer made by St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. and was planted on more than half of all U.S. soy acres last year. And it predicts a 22 percent drop in RoundUp Ready corn.


A Single Genetically-Modified Fish Could Wipe Out Whole Fish Populations

PARIS, December 1, 1999 14:00 GMT, Copyright 1999 Agence France Press

A single genetically modified fish could wipe out local populations of the species if released into the wild, according to research published Thursday in the weekly New Scientist. Researchers William Muir and Richard Howard, of Indiana's Purdue University, inserted a human growth hormone (hGH) gene into embryos of a popular aquarium fish, the Japanese medaka.

Biologists in Britain and the United States are experimenting with hGH to breed big, fast-growing salmon, although no-one has yet begun commercial production. Medaka with hGH became sexually mature faster than normal fish and produced more eggs, they found. Under the laws of evolution, female fish are attracted to large males – which means that a large, modified fish would drive out wild rivals from the reproductive process and then spread their own genes across the local population.

The big problem with the hGH-engineered medaka, however, was that they were not hardy compared with wild ones. Most of them died before reproductive age, the researchers found. This means that the spread of the hGH gene could make populations dwindle and eventually become extinct. Running a computer model, the researchers estimated that by introducing 60 transgenic fish into a wild population of 60,000 fish, the population became extinct in just 40 generations. Even a single transgenic fish had the same effect, although extinction took longer.

The model could be an invaluable tool in assessing genetically modified organisms, which ecologists have long contended could be dangerous if released into the environment, the report said. The researchers now hope to test their theory in tightly-controlled fish-farm ponds.



New Research Results on Genetically Modified Organisms

The use of the Cauliflower Mosaic Viral promotor (CaMV) has the potential to reactivate dormant viruses or create new viruses in all species to which it is transferred. CaMV is known to be found in practically all current transgenic crops released commercially or undergoing field trials.

..........These research results will be published in an article by scientists Mae-Wan Ho, Angela Ryan, and Joe Cummins, researchers at The Open University in England and University of Western Ontario, Canada. The article, "Cauliflower Mosaic Viral Promotor - A recipe for Disaster?", will appear in the December issue of the international scientific journal Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease (no 4, 1999). See for pre-publication full text.

..........The Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Professor Tore Midvedt, who is head of Medical Microbiology and Ecology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, is willing to discuss the serious implications of this article with journalists who wish to obtain further information.

..........Background material for this new research can be found in an excellent article co-authored by Mae-Wan Ho, "Gene technology and Gene Ecology of Infectious Diseases". The article can be read in the same journal at Table of contents /Volume 10/ no. 1.


Cauliflower Mosaic Viral Promoter N A Recipe for Disaster? by Mae-Wan Ho?, Angela Ryan? and Joe Cummins?

The following page provides more information on the Caulflower Mosaic Virus promoter and links on articles and research:


24 October 1999

GM Foods CAN Be Tested Accurately and Inexpensively World's Leading GM Laboratory Refutes Claims in Wire Service Report

The most experienced and respected laboratory testing food for genetic modification (GM), Genetic ID of Iowa, USA, today refuted claims made in a wire service story that DNA tests cannot identify all GM foods and that DNA testing does not yield exact, quantifiable results.

"A good GM testing lab can identify every GM on the market," said John Fagan, the molecular biologist who founded Genetic ID, "and DNA testing through the PCR method is the most accurate way to quantify exactly how much GM is present, even at very low levels of contamination. Every DNA test needed to accurately label GM food is available now."

Dr. Fagan pointed out that precise testing information is vital to allow governments and retailers to respond to consumer demand for non-GM food. "Without accurate and reliable testing," Dr Fagan said, "there is no way to regulate or control GM food. And the accuracy and reliability of DNA testing is not a matter of opinion, but of scientific fact. As a method for quantifying GM foods, it was validated by a European Union ring trial in 1997."

In 1996, industry sources said that no tests could identify GM foods. On the basis of these assertions, the U.S. government told governments around the world that no tests were possible, and GM food would have to be accepted. In spite of such assertions, Dr. Fagan used his experience doing DNA research for the NIH to develop the first commercial PCR tests that could identify GM genes in crops and food products. He formed Genetic ID and licensed the Genetic ID technology to other laboratories in Europe and Australia, and other university and private labs began to develop their own tests. With valid testing methods available, governments in Europe, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand began to implement labeling regulations for GM foods.

Now, some industry sources say that tests do exist, but add that they can't measure all GM foods, they can't give quantitative results, and they don't work if the lab isn't told exactly what GM variety to look for.

"These statements are exactly the reverse of the experimental facts," said Dr. Fagan. "A good GM lab can test for all GM crops, can give quantitative results down to 0.01% GM contamination, and can find GM in any crop even if it doesn't know which GM to look for.

At Genetic ID, for example, we have an on-going research program to maintain our ability to detect any GM variety as it comes to market. We also give precise quantitative results so our clients know if the GM content matches their buyer's requests. And we can find GM contamination even if don't know which types of GM might be involved.

For more details visit


Date: 10 Nov 1999 14:38:24 -0600

Excerpt from Steve Druker's statement re: GMOs and the FDA.

Lawsuit Uncovers Disagreement Within FDA Over Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods

Agency Contradicted Its Own Experts in Granting Approval Misrepresented Facts in Order to Promote U.S. Biotech Industry

Statement by Steven M. Druker, JD, executive director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, coordinator of the lawsuit against the FDA to obtain mandatory safety testing and labeling of genetically engineered foods, and an attorney on the case (in collaboration with the legal department of the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C.)

Prying Out the Facts Through Litigation

In May 1998, an unprecedented coalition of public interest groups, scientists, and religious leaders filed a landmark lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to obtain mandatory safety testing and labeling of all genetically engineered foods (Alliance for Bio-Integrity, et. al. v. Shalala). Nine eminent life scientists joined as plaintiffs in order to emphasize the degree to which they think FDA policy is scientifically unsound and morally irresponsible. Now, the FDA's own files confirm how well founded their concerns are. The FDA was required to deliver copies of these files –otaling over 44,000 pages –o the plaintiffs' attorneys.

False Claims and a Policy at Odds with the Law

The FDA's records reveal that it declared genetically engineered foods to be safe in the face of broad disagreement from its own experts – all the while claiming that a broad scientific consensus supported its stance. Internal reports and memoranda disclose: (1) agency scientists repeatedly cautioned that foods produced through recombinant DNA technology entail different risks than do their conventionally produced counterparts and (2) that this input was consistently disregarded by the bureaucrats who crafted the agency's current policy, which treats bioengineered foods the same as natural ones.

Besides contradicting the FDA's claim that its policy is science-based, this evidence shows the agency violated the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in allowing genetically engineered foods to be marketed without testing on the premise that they are generally recognized as safe by experts.

FDA Scientists Protest Attempt to Equate Genetic Engineering with Conventional Breeding

The FDA admits it is operating under a directive "to foster" the U.S. biotech industry; and this directive advocates the premise that bioengineered foods are essentially the same as others. However, the agency's attempts to bend its policy to conform to this premise met with strong resistance from its own scientists, who repeatedly warned that genetic engineering differs from conventional practices and entails a unique set of risks. Numerous agency experts protested that the proposed Statement of Policy was ignoring the recognized potential for bioengineering to produce unexpected toxins and allergens in a different manner and to a different degree than do conventional methods.

For instance, Dr. Louis Priybl of the FDA Microbiology Group wrote, "There is a profound difference between the types of unexpected effects from traditional breeding and genetic engineering which is just glanced over in this document." He added that some aspects of gene splicing "...may be more hazardous." Dr. Linda Kahl, an FDA compliance officer, objected that the agency was "...trying to fit a square peg into a round hole .. .... [by] trying to force an ultimate conclusion that there is no difference between foods modified by genetic engineering and foods modified by traditional breeding practices." She summarized the input from the FDA's scientists by stating: "The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different, and according to the technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks."

Moreover, Dr. James Maryanski, FDA's Biotechnology Coordinator, acknowledged in a letter to a Canadian official that there is no consensus about the safety of genetically engineered foods in the scientific community at large; and FDA scientists advised they should undergo special testing, including toxicological tests.

Misrepresenting the Facts in Order to Approve the Foods

Nonetheless, so strong was the FDA's motivation to promote the biotech industry that it not only disregarded the warnings of its own scientists about the unique risks of gene-spliced foods, it dismissed them and took a public position that was the opposite. Its official policy asserts: "The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way...." Thus, although agency experts advised that genetically engineered foods should be subjected to special testing, the bureaucrats in charge of the policy proclaimed that these foods require no testing at all.

Violating Federal Law

Besides violating basic canons of ethics, the FDA's behavior flagrantly violates the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which mandates that new food additives be demonstrated safe through testing before they are marketed. While the FDA admits that bioengineered organisms fall under this provision, it claims they are exempt from testing because they are "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS), even though it knows they are not recognized as safe even by its own scientists, let alone by a consensus in the scientific community.

Further, the statute prescribes that additives like those in bioengineered foods can only be recognized as safe on the basis of tests that have established their harmlessness. But no such tests exist for gene-spliced foods. So, although the GRAS exemption was intended to permit marketing of substances whose safety has already been demonstrated through testing, the FDA is using it to circumvent testing and to approve novel substances based largely on conjecture –onjecture that is dubious in the eyes of its own and many other experts.

Consequently, every genetically engineered food in the U.S. is on the market illegally and should be recalled for rigorous safety testing. The FDA has deliberately unleashed a host of potentially harmful foods onto American dinner tables in blatant violation of U.S. law.


Toxic Food for Thought Suzuki Warns of 'UNCERTAIN' Hazards of Genetically Altered Products

Copyright 1999 Sun Media Corporation The Ottawa Sun
October 18, 1999, Monday, Final EDITION

Canada's pre-eminent pop scientist says Canadians have become unwitting guinea pigs in a nationwide study on the effects of genetically modified foods. "We are performing a massive experiment," Dr. David Suzuki said yesterday. "The results will only be known after millions of people have been exposed to (these foods) for decades." Suzuki's cautionary words wrapped up a four-day meeting of the Canadian Health Food Association, where the regulation of genetically modified foods has been a pressing concern.

It is estimated that 70% of food currently sold in Canadian supermarkets is genetically modified. Despite this, there are few labels to identify which foods have been altered. "Any politician or scientist who tells you these products are safe is either very stupid or lying," said Suzuki. "The experiments have simply not been done." In recent months, the potential ill-effects of genetically altered foods has become a hot potato for health officials around the world.

.......Suzuki called for a moratorium on genetically modified foods until more is known about the long-term health effects. In the meantime, he wants Canadians to demand mandatory labelling for altered foods.


Original report at

GM Industry Faces Collapse, Says Bank

Daily Mail via NewsEdge Corporation, August 25, 1999

THE City has turned against 'Frankenstein Foods' with a warning from a leading investment bank that genetically modified crops have no future. Deutsche Bank has produced a report for investors advising them to steer clear of companies associated with GM crops.

The influential report is a major blow to an enormously powerful industry which has previously tried to bully governments and consumers into accepting the tainted technology. The bank's report concludes simply that 'GM organisms are dead' because consumers are suspicious about their impact on human health and the environment.

It warns that farmers who plant GM crops could lose money, that the stock market value of GM companies could collapse and that food companies will not risk using such ingredients. The report admits that GM-free crops are already being sold at a higher price than their GM equivalent, which will encourage farmers to steer clear of the technology. ...

The report points out the saying they can be found in everything from soft drinks - with GM corn syrup used in some products - through to salads, with GM soya oil in the dressing. But the report warns this could be about to change: 'Perhaps we don't yet fully realise it, but genetically modified organisms have just crossed the line. Today the term GM has become a liability.

'We predict that GM, once perceived as the driver of the bull case for this sector, will now be perceived as a pariah.'

It adds: 'The message is a scary one - increasingly, GM organisms are, in our opinion, becoming a liability to farmers.'

Biotech companies and farmers who plant GM crops could be faced with expensive long-running court cases and 'a legal mess' if their pollen pollutes neighbouring fields, says the report.


(Prof Lacey successfully predicted Mad Cow Disease)

Professor Richard Lacey, microbiologist, medical doctor, and Professor of Food Safety at Leeds University has become one of the best-known figures of food science since his prediction of the BSE (mad cow disease) crises made more than seven years ago. Recently Professor Lacey has spoken out strongly against the introduction of genetically engineered foods, because of the essentially unlimited health risks. "The fact is, it is virtually impossible to concieve of a testing procedure to assess the health effects of genetically engineered foods when they introduced into the food chain, nor is there any valid nutritional or public interest reason for their introduction."


  1. Web site by "Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology (PSRAST)", (even if you have no prior knowledge of genetics or Genetic Engineering):

  2. The Natural Law Party international website: (GM food issues click on "Current Issues")

  3. The Genetically Manipulated Food News:

Andrew Taynton, Safe Food Coalition
P O Box 665, Linkhills, 3652, KwaZulu-Natal, Republic of South Africa;
tel: 083 662 0422, e-mail:

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Date: Mon, 07 Feb 2000 17:42:43 +0200
From: "taynton"

Trouble in the Garden

Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly, February 03, 2000,

Hardest hit was Monsanto, the St. Louis chemical giant that had spent 5 years and billions of dollars morphing itself into a "life sciences" company, betting its future on biotechnology in pharmaceutical drugs and agricultural crops. As the WALL STREET JOURNAL wrote December 21, 1999, "Billions of dollars later, that concept of a unified 'life sciences' company – using technology to improve both medicines and foods – has become an affliction itself for Monsanto. The crop-biotechnology half of the program has grown so controversial that Monsanto has agreed to a deal that is likely not only to push biotech to the back burner, but also to cost Monsanto its independence. And investors are reacting harshly."[3]

Monsanto agreed late in 1999 to merge with Pharmacia & Upjohn, Inc. and the combined company will be run not from St. Louis but from Pharmacia headquarters in Peapack, New Jersey. Monsanto's ag biotech business will be spun off into a separate company and as much as 19.9% of it will be sold.

Two other leaders in ag biotech, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG, and the Anglo-Swiss drug firm AstroZeneca PLC, announced during 1999 that they will combine their ag biotech divisions into one and sell it off, "effectively washing their hands of crop biotechnology," the WALL STREET JOURNAL said.[3]

Thus by the end of 1999, ag biotech companies found themselves in trouble, worldwide, for the first time. Here is a short list of reasons why:

  1. A lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forced the release of government documents showing that FDA scientists had expressed grave doubts about the safety of genetically modified foods even as the agency was publicly declaring such foods "substantially equivalent" to traditional crops.[4] It seems clear from these documents that the scientific integrity of the U.S. regulatory system has been compromised for political purposes, to provide a "fast track" for the rapid, large-scale introduction of genetically modified foods.

  2. The insurance industry has consistently refused to write policies covering liability for harm caused by genetically modified organisms. Steven Suppan, research director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) in Minneapolis, said last June, "It is worth asking what kind of regulatory system approves for commercialization a technology whose risks are so undetermined that the products developed from the technology have not been insur- ed? An intuitive response is that the U.S. rejection of liability suggests that U.S. agribusiness and the U.S. government have less confidence than is proclaimed publicly in the safety of the products approved and in the integrity of the product review process," Dr. Suppan said.[5]

  3. A growing body of literature has begun to show that genetically modified crops are creating new kinds of environmental problems for farmers, and that genetically modified crops are exacerbating already-severe economic problems on American farms.[6]

  4. Europeans and others overseas have continued to insist that the safety of genetically modified foods has not been sufficiently documented and that import of such foods must be prohibited, or they must be labeled. The doubts expressed by FDA scientists, and the growing list of economic and environmental problems are likely to stiffen European resistance to genetically-modified seeds, crops, and foods.

  5. It became apparent in 1999 that the public rationale for promoting genetically modified foods – that such foods would "feed the world" – was based on wishful thinking, not economics. It is now clear that U.S. genetically modified crops are too expensive to "feed the world."[6]

  6. The rationale for refusing to label genetically modified foods came unraveled in 1999 as biotechnology companies began to announce new crops with special traits (rice with increased vitamin A, for example). For years, biotech companies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and FDA have argued that labeling genetically modified foods was impossible because it would require food companies to segregate genetically modified crops from conventional crops and it simply couldn't be done. All the crops were mixed together in the grain elevator, so labeling would be impossible, they said.

This silly and disingenuous argument evaporated in 1999. As soon as biotech firms announced specialty foods created by genetic engineering, the labeling problem miraculously disappeared. Labeling is suddenly easy – indeed, required – because consumer's can't be expected to pay premium prices for specialty foods if those foods aren't clearly identifiable on the grocery shelf.

Polls have shown that more than 80% of American consumers want genetically modified foods labeled as such. Now that labeling is acknowledged as feasible, will the biotech industry, USDA, EPA, and FDA bend to the public will and start labeling ALL genetically modified foods? Not on your life. Government and industry argue with one voice that labeling is not necessary because genetically modified foods are "substantially equivalent" to the conventional foods they have replaced. They even say labeling would be "misleading" because it would imply that there are differences between biotech foods and conventional foods.

Federal regulations governing biotech foods are founded on the premise that there are no "material differences" between genetically modified crops and conventional crops. This argument, it turns out, was thoroughly discredited by FDA scientists before the regulations were issued.

The FDA spent 1989-1992 developing regulations governing genetically modified foods for humans and feed for animals. This was back when President Bush and Vice-President Quayle were advocating "regulatory relief" for industry.

FDA's rules – which were announced by Mr. Quayle in 1992 – allow a biotech company like Monsanto or DuPont to decide for itself whether its food products are "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS). If a company decides that its new genetically modified corn or soybean or potato or wheat is "generally recognized as safe" then no safety testing is required before the products are introduced into the food supply. FDA said these rules – like all their rules – are based on "sound science."

However, during 1999 a lawsuit filed by the Alliance for Bio-Integrity in Fairfield, Iowa, forced the FDA to release some 44,000 pages of internal documents for the first time.[4] Among them was a series of memos from FDA scientists commenting on the FDA's proposed "substantially equivalent" policy for biotech foods.

A key issue is whether "pleiotropic effects" will occur when new genes are inserted into plants to give the plants desirable new traits. Pleiotropy means that more than one change occurs in a plant as a result of the new gene. For example, a gene that allows a plant to grow better under drought conditions might also make the entire plant grow smaller. The smaller size would be an unexpected "pleiotropic" effect.

FDA regulations assume that pleiotropic effects will not occur when new genes are inserted into conventional foods such as corn or potatoes or wheat or soybeans. Therefore, FDA says, genetically modified crops are "substantially equivalent" to conventional crops.

Internal memos make it abundantly clear that FDA's scientific staff believes pleiotropic effects will occur when new genes are inserted into food crops. [In the following quotations, words inside square brackets have been added for clarity but words inside normal parentheses were in the original memos.--P.M.]

Commenting on the FDA's proposed biotech regulations in early 1992, Louis Pribyl, an FDA microbiologist, wrote March 6, 1992, "It reads very pro-industry, especially in the area of unintended effects.... This is industry's pet idea, namely that there are no unintended effects that will raise the FDA's level of concern. But time and time again, there is no data to backup their contention, while the scientific literature does contain many examples of naturally occurring pleiotropic effects.

When the introduction of genes into [a] plant's genome randomly occurs, as is the case with the current [genetic modification] technology (but not traditional breeding), it seems apparent that many pleiotropic effects will occur," Dr. Pribyl wrote. "Many of these effects might not be seen by the breeder [meaning Monsanto or DuPont or other biotech firm] because of the more or less similar growing conditions in the limited trials that are performed. Until more of these experimental plants have a wider environmental distribution, it would be premature for FDA to summarily dismiss pleiotropy as is done here," Dr. Pribyl wrote.

On the same subject, a memo from the Division of Contaminants Chemistry within FDA's Division of Food Chemistry and Technology said November 1, 1991, "Pleiotropic effects occur in genetically engineered plants... at frequencies up to 30%. Most of these effects can be managed by the subsequent breeding and selection procedures. Nevertheless, some undesirable effects such as increased levels of known naturally occurring toxicants, appearance of new, not previously identified toxicants, increased capability of concentrating toxic substances from the environment (e.g., pesticides or heavy metals), and undesirable alterations in the levels of nutrients may escape breeders' attention unless genetically engineered plants are evaluated specifically for these changes. Such evaluations should be performed on a case-by-case basis, i.e., every transformant should be evaluated before it enters the marketplace."

Instead of heeding the concerns of its scientific staff, FDA issued biotech food rules that assume no pleiotropic effects will occur, therefore no safety testing is required. All biotech foods are assumed to be safe. The stage was thus set for confidence in biotech foods to plummet as soon as word leaked out that the scientific underpinnings of the regulatory system had been compromised.

To be continued next week.

– Peter Montague (National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)


  1. I am indebted to Steven Suppan, research director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) in Minneapolis, who provided me with several brief, thoughtful summaries of the state of agricultural biotechnology. Contact: Telephone (612) 870-3413.

  2. Christina Cheddar, "Tales of the Tape: Seed Co. May Yet Reap What They Sow," WALL STREET JOURNAL January 7, 2000, pg. unknown.

  3. Scott Kilman and Thomas M. Burton, "Biotech Backlash is Battering Plan Shapiro Thought Was Enlightened," WALL STREET JOURNAL December 21, 1999, pg.A1.

  4. The FDA documents are available at And see Marian Burros, "Documents Show Officials Disagreed on Altered Foods," NEW YORK TIMES December 1, 1999, pg. A15.

  5. Steven Suppan, unpublished paper, "National Summit on the Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods, June 17, 1999, Capitol Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C. 2 pgs.

  6. Some of this literature is summarized in Charles M. Benbrook, "World Food System Challenges and Opportunities: GMOs, Biodiversity, and Lessons From America's Heartland," unpublished paper presented January 27, 1999, at University of Illinois. Available in PDF format at - IWFS.pdf .

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