Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

30 January 2000

Table of Contents

NGO Position Statement
Study finds "little" cross-pollination.
GE compared with nukes
Genetic engineering 'most menacing', says scientist
Codex Food Labeling Meeting May 19
Thais resisting Monsanto's BT cotton
Alert on Biotech Industry using "Organic" as Trojan Horse
Talks on Biotech Food Turn on a Safety Principle
Genetic Engineeeing Using Prions
Gene Therapy Run Amok?
Profound Understanding of GMOs
Frito-Lay: Perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 acres
Re: Perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 acres
Favorable Outcome to Montreal Talks!
Green Groups Applaud Intl. Bio-safety Trade Pact
EU welcomes international bio-safety trade pact
Countries reach landmark GMO food agreement
Deal Reached on Biotech Foods
The bio-battle of words
GM Food Hazards and the Science War
No to GMOs -- Civil Society vs. Corporate Empire
Genetic Engineering: A Violation of Natural Law

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Date: 26 Jan 2000 05:22:58 U
From: GMOStuff@aol.com

NGO Position Statement

Extraordinary Conference of the Parties:
Biosafety Protocol Negotiations
25 January 2000

We, members of civil society from around the world, have high expectations for this meeting. We seek the adoption of a strong precautionary Biosafety Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity, as do millions of other world citizens. We are increasingly concerned about genetically modified organisms put in our food and being grown in our countries without anyone fully understanding the effects of these organisms on our ecosystems and food chains.

For these reasons, we expect governments to reach a final agreement on a Biosafety Protocol and ensure that the Protocol reaffirms and reinforces the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity by establishing rules to protect biodiversity. It would be irresponsible of our governments, our formal representatives, to ignore the obligations to protect our biological heritage and global food security undertaken when they ratified the Convention.

A minority of countries, only interested in protecting their industries' commercial investments in GMOs, stalled the Biosafety Protocol in Cartagena last year. These countries must not be allowed to obstruct our work again this week. Unfortunately, we do not see any change in their intentions.

  1. After years of dismissing the potential hazards of genetically modified organisms, these countries still attempt to render the Protocol meaningless by reducing its scope. We appeal to all governments to recognize that adverse impacts on biodiversity and human health may arise from any activities involving GMOs – including transboundary movements, handling, or use, especially centers of origin and biological diversity. Scientifically, all GMOs pose the same kinds of risks to biodiversity and human health, whether they are from transgenic crops, vaccines, artificial vectors, or other amplified nucleic acid sequences. Thus, there should be no exclusions to the Protocol's scope – all activities involving GMOs should be included in a single process for assessment and advanced informed agreement.

  2. We are extremely concerned that several negotiating groups are promoting an unworkable distinction between GMOs transferred for planting and GMOs transferred for direct use as food, feed, or processing. A maize kernel will not respect its legal status, nor will it respect political boundaries: once sown, it will grow intentionally or unintentionally, with or without approval.

    The intention behind a transfer is irrelevant; a Protocol must create a precautionary process to assure that the consequences of a transfer are acceptable. It is reasonable to expect that, at minimum, the Biosafety Protocol will set out three essential obligations for countries wishing to export GMOs: notably, to provide advance notification, to disclose full information, and to require explicit consent from the receiving country before any transboundary movement occurs. Without such a precautionary process, developing countries are likely to become the dumping ground for GMOs and products which cannot be sold anywhere else.

  3. We are disappointed that certain delegations continue to undermine the need for the Precautionary Principle, a principle which rightly seeks to prevent harm to the environment or human health from GMOs. The Precautionary Principle is consistent with sound science since it promotes rational and prudent decision-making in the absence of conclusive scientific knowledge. The lack of scientific consensus over genetic engineering's potential environmental and health impacts necessitates placing the burden of proof on those who want to introduce these organisms.

    Past experience with the overly hasty release of toxic chemicals and ozone depleting gases demonstrates the enormous effort and expense involved in cleaning up after ill-considered actions. Living organisms represent even greater risks; once released, GMOs cannot be recalled if they damage the environment – they multiply, migrate, and mutate.

  4. For ensuring biosafety, traceability is critical for governments serious about pursuing the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. There are no credible reasons to refuse to label and segregate these products. Labelling and segregation of GMOs in food and agriculture has already become the market reality in many industrialized countries. We must enable national authorities, farmers, and food buyers to identify GMOs at any stage of distribution.

  5. Despite being a non-party to the Convention, the United States government acts to subordinate this Protocol to international trade rules, such as those of the World Trade Organization. We offer our support to the vast majority of countries which, by ratifying the Convention, are committed to upholding environmental values.

    Even a member of the U.S. Congress recently observed that "when the health and safety of consumers and the environment is the price, free trade is just too expensive.=E2=80=9D These negotiations are not primarily about trade; they concern biodiversity and the life support systems for the world's people. Protection of biological

    diversity is an imperative, not a luxury or an afterthought.

  6. There is increasing evidence that introducing GMOs has significant socio-economic impacts. Without a strong liability regime, those suffering serious impacts – particularly indigenous and farming communities -- would be subsidizing the biotech industry. The Protocol must include mechanisms for all affected peoples to obtain fair compensation.

We welcome the delegates' determination to leave Montreal with a Protocol signed by the end of this week. We share their commitment to place the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity at the heart of this Protocol. Failure to establish a strong precautionary Protocol would betray the needs and expectations of citizens world-wide. We urge our representatives to adopt a strong precautionary Protocol mindful of the wisdom attributed to Chief Seattle:

"We do not inherit the Earth from our parents; we borrow it from our children."

German NGO Forum on Environment and Development
World Development Movement (U.K.)
Grupo de Reflexion Rural (Argentina)
Red Alerta Sobre Transgenicos (Argentina)
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (S.Africa)
RAFI – Rural Advancement Foundation International(Uruguay, Canada)
Council for Responsible Genetics (USA)
Tinker Institute on International Law and Organizations
Washington Biotechnology Action Council (USA)
Institute for Applied Ecology (Germany)
Institute of Science in Society (U.K.)
Friends of the Earth International
Third World Network
Biotech Action Montreal
Women's Environmental Network (U.K.)
Genetics Forum (U.K.)
Biolatina.org
Greenpeace International
Greenpeace Argentina
Australian GeneEthics Network
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (USA)
Council of Canadians
The Edmonds Institute (USA)
Sobrevivencia (Paraguay)
Biowatch (South Africa)


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Date: 26 Jan 2000 20:35:16 U
From: rickved@bellsouth.net

Isn't a "little" cross-pollination like saying a "little" nuclear war?
---Gerard Owmby

Study finds "little" cross-pollination.

CNN News, January 25, 2000, Web posted at: 11:51 AM EST

ORONO, Maine (AP) -- Researchers hope a study showing very little cross-pollination between genetically engineered and natural corn plants will ease fears that altered crops could taint conventionally grown crops.

A study done at the University of Maine's Cooperative Extension farm showed a small amount of cross-pollination with nearby conventional plants and no cross-pollination with conventional plants that are farther away from the altered ones, said James Jemison, an agronomist.

"This will give farmers information they can definitely use," Jemison said.

The study was launched after a group calling itself "Seeds of Resistance" destroyed about 1,000 stalks of genetically engineered corn being used for a herbicide study last August.

Genetically engineered crops are a source of controversy because many individuals, organizations and countries question the long-term environmental and health effects.

"Those who oppose growing GE crops made it look like there was going to be a cloud of genetically engineered pollen flying all over the state," Jemison said.

Seeds from conventional corn grown near the altered corn were grown in a greenhouse to determine if any cross-pollination occurred before harvest, Jemison said.

"The conventional corn was grown only 100 feet away from the GE corn, plus it was downwind," he said. "We figured this was a perfect example of the worst-case scenario."

Jemison said most corn breeders use a set distance of about 1,000 feet from other corn plants to ensure genetic integrity.

"Organic farmers are concerned about having their product not meet organic standards and potentially losing their organic certification if pollen from GE corn cross-pollinates their non-GE corn," he said.

The study showed there was a cross-pollination rate of about 1 percent in the first six rows when hybrid corn was grown about 100 feet downwind from genetically engineered corn, Jemison said. In the middle six rows, the rate of cross-pollination dropped to 0.1 percent. It dropped to 0.03 percent in the last six rows. No cross-pollination was found in corn planted 1,000 feet away, Jemison said.

© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.


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Date: 27 Jan 2000 02:21:13 U
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

GE compared with nukes

Gerard Owmby rickved@bellsouth.net wrote:

Isn't a "little" cross-pollination like saying a "little" nuclear war?

-- only a little.

A little nuclear war, such as the only one so far, is certainly less damaging than a big nuclear war (exploding thousands of nuclear warheads, provoking a nuclear winter and severely contaminating the whole biosphere for decades). But the two bombs exploded in war above Japan did have some limits on their effects.

By contrast, as the Prince of Wales keeps pointing out, no-one has the first idea of how to control some types of biologically-propagating genetic pollution. The scope for harm by GE is far worse, in time & in space, than the harm from a little nuclear war (awful tho' those were for 10E6 Japanese and some prisoners).

So, Gerald, I'd say a little GE pollution could, in some possible scenarios, be only a little like a little nuclear war.

R

------------------------
Robt Mann, consultant ecologist
P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand (9) 524 2949


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Date: 27 Jan 2000 05:31:46 U
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

I think many will find this story, with my comments, of considerable interest. It's not possible to attach my speech text, so if you want it I'm afraid you'll have to ask.

R

Sections:
Article
Response
Author

Article

Genetic engineering 'most menacing', says scientist

by Kelly McAra, Waikato Times (Hamilton N.Z.) 00-1-27

A scientist has warned dairy farmers the hazards of genetic engineering rival those of nuclear war.

Speaking to about 100 people in Hamilton today, ecologist Robert Mann said GE was the "most menacing of modern technologies" and a poor bet for dairy farmers.

Dr Mann, speaking at the Dairy Expo, compared GE to nuclear science and the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.

AgResearch and Dairy Board scientists have dismissed his claims as "absolute nonsense".

They say farmers cannot afford to ignore GE advances which will boost production and incomes.

Hamilton AgResearch scientists have permission from the Environmental Risk Management Authority to breed New Zealand's first genetically modified cattle herd.

The Dairy Board will invest $150 million over three years in GE projects. {Now that beats hands down the $18 M/y you quoted from Gov't funding}.

Dr Mann, a former Auckland medical school lecturer, said "some artificial genetic manipulations create the potential to derange the biosphere for longer than any civilisation could survive".

He said the Chernobyl meltdown occurred because critics were suppressed and the public kept ignorant of the dangers.

New Zealand Dairy Board research and development manager Kevin Marshall said claims the hazards of GE rivalled nuclear war were "absolute nonsense".

"Where's the evidence? There is absolutely no scientific evidence whatsoever that I'm aware of that support that statement."

Dr Mann said dairy farmers should focus on organic agriculture rather than the "junk science" of genetic engineering.

"The lower costs more than compensate for the cases of slightly lower yields," he said.

Dr Marshall said organic production would not lead to the production increases the industry needed if it were to retain its place in the market.

In response to Dr Mann's speech today, Phil L'Huiller, who leads the genetically modified dairy cow research at Ruakura, said "I actually agree with some of the things you have said. We have to take things on a case by case basis, and have to be careful the way we do it."

"However, there are a number of inaccuracies that need correcting."

He questioned data in Dr Mann's speech, which he said was based on emotion rather than hard fact.


Response

It remains to be seen whether any media report any more details of the participation of Phil L'Huiler, who stood up some way into question time and delivered a series of extremely revelatory utterances – in a confident, cheerful tone. Several journos were present; I would be grateful if any of them who receive this amateur note can improve on it.

For those who don't know, Pl'H is leader, with keen bovine cloner David Wells, of the Hamilton group within AgResearch (a 'Crown Research Institute') purporting to GE in cows' milk a human protein MBP (Myelin Basic Protein). The image in the media and in Parliament has been that drinking a glass of this supermilk could well be a good treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Actually, MBP if injected is liable to *cause* demyelination. The idea that oral MBP could cure MS does have some scientific basis, but one of the day's most significant revelations was that when I asked Pl'H whether he really claims it's likely to work he would say only that he HOPED it would work.

P's only question to me was: if genes are not like Lego modules, tell us what they ARE like.

We were already over time so I was constrained from winning a Nobel prize by answering comprehensively; I simply said genes generally act in complex interactions which are only very dimly understood. I reiterated that it is impossible to foresee many of the wonky behaviours that can be caused by GE.

P contradicted my statement that the NZ govt has lately been subsidising GE to the tune of $18M/y. I told him to take it up with Maurice Williamson, the then minister who had confirmed this figure. I also pointed out that it had been the Green party researcher who had laboriously winkled out the numerous projects (typically ca.$0.2M/y each) totalling this much.

Note this aspect of the modus operandi: a contradiction is asserted, but no facts are produced.

Similarly, he contradicted my statement that the main govt-owned animal research station, Ruakura, is largely given over to GE for foreign purchasers, but he didn't offer any figures. I simply said my informants were senior Hamilton scientists well placed to know. (Again I call upon journos to help.)

A further contradiction was: NZ is not easy but hard to get permission for GE. I pointed out all 21 ERMA decisions so far have been approvals. I also took the opportunity to sympathise with P over the long delay in his ERMA decision, and I queried the ERMA's stated basis (alleged Maori concerns).

But the most spectacular utterance was purporting to correct my statement that GE began only as recently as the mid-70s and had been only one decade on a serious scale. (The first part is simple fact; the second is vague enough to be hardly open to dispute.)

Dr l'Huiler's "correction" took the form of asserting that GE began with the 1953 double helix DNA structure. I responded that this structure is merely a postulate for the short-range folding (secondary structure) of 2-strand DNA, and has extremely little to do with GE which relates to the primary structure. He thus unconsciously amplified the evidence that gene-jockey science is junk science.

I think it's highly significant that such a prominent gene-jockey, alleged by the Waikato Times to be a genius, could be so wildly wrong - and so cheerily confident with it. I conclude that the gene-jockeys still think they're riding along on the crest of the wave and do not imagine their bubble of bullshit could be effectively pricked and collapse in the near future.

We'll see. I agree with Goldsmith's prognostications on this.

Finally I point out that the reporter Ms McAra was explicitly forbidden to use my embargoed advance text for any purpose but to prepare some account of it for publication (it was an 11am talk; the Times comes out at noon, she said). Her report implies that she used the embargoed text for much more than that. Mind you, the responses she thus procured could be seen as favourable to us, in that they are so crude & extremist. She didn't speak to me at the seminar.

Fiona Barber of the NZ Herald is another hack who has dishonoured the embargo contract.

Conclusion: don't trust hacks. They're treacherous. When in any doubt, give them nothing.

R

Author

Robt Mann, consultant ecologist
P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand (9) 524 2949
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Date: 27 Jan 2000 11:39:38 U
From: "j.e. cummins" jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

Codex Food Labeling Meeting May 19

Codex Alimentarius Commission
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS

JOINT OFFICE: Viale delle Terme di Caracalla 00100 ROME
Tel.: 3906.57051     Telex: 625825-625853    FAO I
Email: codex@fao.org    Facsimile: 39.06.5705.4593

14 January 2000 Invitation to the Twenty-eighth Session of the CODEX COMMITTEE ON FOOD LABELLING Ottawa, Canada, 9 - 12 May 2000 Reply requested by 10 April 2000

The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Director-General of the World Health Organization have the honour to extend an invitation to attend the above Session which will be held in the Main Conference Room, Government Conference Centre, 2 Rideau Street, Ottawa, at the kind invitation of the Government of Canada. The Session will begin at 10.00 hours on Tuesday 9 May 2000. Registration facilities will be open at 09.00 hours. The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Draft Guidelines for the Production, Processing, Labelling and Marketing of Organically Produced Foods will meet on Saturday 6 May and Monday 8 May 2000 at 10.00 hours. The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Proposed Draft Recommendations for the Use of Health Claims will meet on Monday 8 May 2000.

The Session is being convened under the authority of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, and is open to Member Nations and Associate Members of both Organizations, and to observers. Member Nations and Associate Members of both Organizations which are not Members of the Codex Alimentarius Commission may attend as observers. Expenses incurred in connection with attendance at sessions of the Commission and its subsidiary bodies and travel of the delegations of the Members of the Commission and of the observers, shall be borne by the governments or organizations concerned.

The Session will be conducted in English, French and Spanish. Simultaneous interpretation facilities will be provided in these languages. Interpretation will be the responsibility of the Host Government.

... The Provisional Agenda is enclosed. Further documents will be despatched as soon as they are available.

The Directors-General of FAO and WHO would appreciate being informed by 10 April 2000 of the names, official titles and addresses of the representatives or observers designated to attend. This information should be sent to the Secretary of the Committee, Mr. Ron B. Burke, Director, Bureau of Food Regulatory International and Interagency Affairs, Health Protection Branch, Health Canada, HPB Bldg, Room 200, Tunney's Pasture, Ottawa K1A OL2, Canada (Telefax N 613.941.3537), with a copy to the Chief, Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy.

This invitation is sent to addressees of invited countries in the official mailing lists of FAO and WHO, as follows:

For ACTION, as appropriate: For INFORMATION:

Ministries of Foreign Affairs or FAO Regional and Sub-regional Offices
Ministries of Agriculture, as appropriate FAO Liaison Offices
Ministries of Health FAO Representatives

Central Contact Points for FAO/WHO WHO Regional Offices
Codex Alimentarius Commission matters WHO Representatives
Permanent Missions to the UN Office at Geneva or to the Specialized Agencies
Permanent Representations to FAO/ Embassies, Rome

This invitation is also being sent to Heads of selected international organizations.


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Date: 28 Jan 2000 06:35:00 U
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

INTERVIEW – Thais resisting Monsanto's BT cotton

Thais resisting Monsanto's BT cotton

By Ekarin Petsiri, Reuters Story - January 28, 2000 07:14
http://www.marketwatch.newsalert.com/bin/story?StoryId=CojeIub8ZqKTlmtaZnJu2&FQ=c%25MTC%20&Title=Headlines%20for%3A%20MTC%0A

BANGKOK, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Monsanto Thailand said on Friday it faced resistance to its plan to introduce biotechnology (BT) cotton commercially in Thailand.

"It's one of the toughest tasks we have ever been through, attempting to convince the government on the safety standards of BT cotton. I think Thailand has set very tough rules on genetically modified organism (GMO) products," general manager for the agricultural sector, Sanya Bhumichitra, told Reuters.

"It would take some more time, perhaps a year or two, to go on with the BT cotton plan. Anyway, it totally depends on the authorities," he said in an interview.

Monsanto Thailand, a unit of the New York-listed Monsanto Co , wants to bring in pest resistant BT cotton seeds to try to help boost Thai cotton yields and cut expensive imports.

But the move has been roundly opposed by environmentalists claiming the introduction of BT cotton into the market would affect local varieties and possibly public health.

Opposition to GMO products in Thailand, a leading world commodities exporter, has led to import bans on over 40 BT agricultural items.

Sanya said Thailand imported about 95 percent of cotton worth about 16 billion baht consumed locally. It was paradoxical that Thailand, a leading world textile producer still had to rely largely on imported raw materials.

"Thailand is losing its competitive edge to China and Indonesia, where labour costs are much cheaper. Moreover, China has started planting BT cotton and will soon have an edge over us in term of material sourcing," he added.

"The environmentalists have never looked at the other side of the coin. This BT cotton is going to do more good than harm. Why do we keep on with cotton that returns lower yield?" he said.

Sanya said Monsanto also had plans to import seeds for BT corn, which is drought-resistant and requires small amounts of pesticide.

"Considering the lengthy process of screening BT cotton, I believe it would take years for the government to deregulate its existing ban on BT corn," he said.

Monsanto said it has 30 percent of Thailand's corn seed market, the second largest market share.

The Charoen Pokphand Group dominates about half of the market where demand was about 18,000 tonnes of corn seeds, worth 1.2 billion baht, last year.

Monsanto's seed sales in 1999 were worth about two billion baht, rising 10 percent from the previous year. The company has projected sales growth of about 15 percent this year. $1 = 37.5 baht

Bangkok Newsroom +66-2 637 5500 ext 417 e-mail:bangkok.newsroomreuters.com


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Date: 28 Jan 2000 12:12:23 U
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk
From: helena@gaianet.org (by way of GEN lists )

Here is a message from Vandana Shiva re biotech as organic in India. Please respond!

21.01.2000

Alert on Biotech Industry using "Organic" as Trojan Horse

Dear friends,

The biotech as organic stunt is being replayed in India after its defeat in the USA. Please send letters to UNDP chief in the US and the resident representative of UNDP in India to scrap this meeting and hold a meeting on sustainable agriculture and organic farming in association with full participation of the Agriculture Ministry and of the organic agriculture movements in India.

The address of UNDP Resident representative in India is

Dr. Brenda Gael Mcsweeney, United Nations Development Programme
55 - Lodi Estate, Post Box No. 3059, New Dlhi - 110003 -India
Tel: 0091-11-4628877    Fax: 91-11-4627612    Email: ind@undp.org    URL:  http://www.undp.org.in

UNDP Chief in USA

Mark Mallock Brown Chief of Administration UNDP
1, UN Plaza, New York, USA
Tel: 001 - 212 - 8262058    9065001    Email: registries@undp.org

______________________________________________________________________________

Let Organic     -     Stay Organic

Alert

The Biotech Industry uses "Organic" as Trojan Horse to enter Indian Market

On February 8th 2000, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is holding a meeting on "the Role of Business Partnership in Promoting Trade and Sustainable Development" to promote biotechnology as Organic. This attempt to sell Genetically Engineered (G. E.) as organic had earlier been used in USA, but failed due to the protests by thousands of organic farmers and consumers.

The fact that organic is being used as a Trojan Horse to launch G. E. products in India is evident from the total absence of the organic farming movement in the UNDP programme. In fact even the Agriculture Ministry is missing from the programme. Instead, it is officials of the Commerce Ministry who will be dealing with organic farming. Representatives of Mahyco, the Indian seed company bought up by the US Biotech company Monsanto, through whom Monsanto plans to launch its G.E. products in India, will be playing a leading role in the public private partnership.  While last year Monsanto was visible and aggresive imarekting G.E. crops in India, it now operates in biotech debates using MAHYCO using as a shield.

Indian  farmers organisation had uprooted Monsanto's G.E. field trials in December 1998. The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, New Delhi, has also filed a case in the Indian Supreme Court to stop the field trials since they violate Biosafety regulations at every level.

Since the global biotechnology industry is facing popular resistance in India, an attempt is being made to launch biotechnology via the public sector and as an organic option.  We are concerned that instead of promoting genuine organic agriculture and biosafety, the UNDP is helping the biotech industry by confusing G.E. as organic and use the public sector to launch G.E. products.

This is an attempt to hijack the organic label for the biotech industry. While using organic as a Trojan Horse, the unleashing of G.E. products in India will undermine organic agriculture by creating genetic pollution. This is yet another attempt by the biotech industry interests to undo the Biosafety Protocol negotiations currently underway in Montreal, and to reduce all biotech discussion to trade by taking them to WTO. This attempt to take Biotech to WTO was made at Seattle but failed because of protests by citizens, Third World countries and European Environment Ministers.

We want organic to stay organic and be kept totally separate from G.E. We want the public sector to play a public role in working with farmers to evolve farmers' varieties of the desired crops that India grows and needs so that our biodiversity, sustainable agriculture and diverse food systems can be kept alive.


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Date: 28 Jan 2000 12:17:33 U
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

Talks on Biotech Food Turn on a Safety Principle

By ANDREW POLLACK New York Times, January 28, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/news/world/biotech-food-gm.html

MONTREAL, Jan. 27 – Around midnight last night, Juan Mayr, who is chairman of the global biosafety talks here, told delegates after a long day of negotiations to go back to their hotel rooms and "dream about the precautionary approach."

It was a reference to one of the most important issues remaining in the effort to formulate the world's first treaty regulating trade in genetically modified products: Must a nation have scientific proof before it can ban a genetically engineered crop or animal? Or can it act even in the absence of scientific certainty?

The "precautionary principle," which allows erring on the side of safety in the absence of scientific certainty, has been enshrined in numerous environmental laws and treaties since the 1970's, but often more as a vague statement of philosophy than as a recipe for action. Depending on the outcome of negotiations here, an agreement on bio safety might contain a strong formulation authorizing the precautionary principle to be used in decision making, setting a precedent for other international agreements.

It could also set a precedent for domestic debates in the United States, where controversy over food made using biotechnology is growing. Virtually no evidence exists that such foods are harmful. But critics say there is not enough information about possible health effects, so the foods should be banned or more tightly regulated.

In negotiations over the biosafety agreement, the United States and several other big agricultural exporting nations say that incorporating the precautionary principle too strongly would allow countries to ban imports of genetically modified corn, soybeans or other crops simply based on fear or protectionism.

"There have been some proposals that we think would redefine the concept," Frank E. Loy, under secretary of state for global affairs, said today. "It would have the effect of justifying restrictions on biotechnology, including import bans, without any scientific basis."

But European countries and the developing countries, which have been pitted against the United States and a handful of its allies all week, say precaution is justified because not enough is known about the environmental effects of genetic engineering. And if a "superweed" or dangerous bacteria were to get loose in the environment, it could not be recalled like a defective car.

"Countries must be able to have the freedom, the sovereign right to take precautionary measures," said Christoph Bail, the lead negotiator for the European Union. Once damage occurs, he said, "it would be too late to do anything about it."

European officials say they are not advocating abandoning an approach based on science. "You cannot take action based on just fear," said Margot Wallström, the environmental commissioner of the European Union. "You need some evidence, you need some scientific basis for action."

Some officials point out that the United States itself has endorsed the precautionary principle in treaties such as the Kyoto agreement on climate change. Steps are being taken to control gases that contribute to planetary warming, even though it could be argued that the evidence that such warming will occur is not conclusive.

Washington wants to make sure any agreement on biosafety does not take precedence over the World Trade Organization rules. That is because under W.T.O. rules an import can be banned only on the basis of scientific evidence.


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Date: 28 Jan 2000 19:19:14 U
From: "j.e. cummins" jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

Genetic Engineeeing Using Prions

The absctract below is a study showing that the disease agents of mad cow disease, the prion, can be used as a vector for genetic engineering. Since the prion is a protein a new kind of genetic engineering is created. The new kind of genetic engineering is genetic engineering without DNA, genes or chromosomes.It can be used with animals, crops and yeast.Since the process was invented using yeast it should be called the "mad beer " disease process: Creating a Protein-Based Element of Inheritance

By Liming Li, Susan Lindquist S-Lindquist@uchicago.edu

Proteins capable of self-perpetuating changes in conformation and function (known as prions) can serve as genetic elements. To test whether novel prions could be created by recombinant methods, a yeast prion determinant was fused to the rat glucocorticoid receptor. The fusion protein existed in different heritable functional states, switched between states at a low spontaneous rate, and could be induced to switch by experimental manipulations. The complete change in phenotype achieved by transferring a prion determinant from one protein to another confirms the protein-only nature of prion inheritance and establishes a mechanism for engineering heritable changes in phenotype that should be broadly applicable.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Chicago, 5841 South Maryland Avenue MC1028, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.

Volume 287, Number 5453 Issue of 28 Jan 2000, pp. 661 - 664 Science


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Date: 29 Jan 2000 07:28:50 U
From: Colleen Robison crobison@mnsinc.com

Washington Post Editorial

Gene Therapy Run Amok?

Saturday, January 29, 2000; Page A18

THE DISCLOSURE of worse-than-shoddy research practices at the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Human Gene Therapy sends a cold shiver through the field. Even ardent supporters of gene therapy – the promising but as yet unrealized hope of curing people's inherited disorders by giving them new genes – are hard-pressed to explain why a well-regarded research institute would cut corners, ignore safety checks, fail to file required documents with the government and otherwise appear to disregard established procedures for the protection of human subjects in experiments.

Critics have long expressed concern (which we share) that gene therapy research is vulnerable to abuse because it is mostly backed by venture capital. Researchers who are also investors, such as Penn principal investigator James Wilson, may be tempted to oversell the promise of experiments and keep "adverse events" quiet lest they depress stock prices. Dr. Wilson has said financial interest plays no role in his research decisions. And no federal conflict-of-interest rule prevents public research money from being used together with private funding; such mingling is common.

The Food and Drug Administration, investigating after 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger died in a Penn experiment, has now shut down all seven pending trials in the institute, including attempts to cure cystic fibrosis and breast cancer. The FDA cites 18 violations that include failure to inform patients of risks, failure to follow the trial's own rules as to which patients (including Mr. Gelsinger) were healthy enough to qualify as subjects, failure to notify the FDA in timely fashion of serious side effects and failure to halt the experiment as required when four patients suffered those side effects.

This is all the more shocking when you consider that these researchers were working in an area where even the most meticulous and conscientious experiments carry risk: Experiments with gene therapy frequently involve people already suffering life-threatening conditions, who may be more vulnerable to unexpected side effects. All this calls, at the very least, for scrupulous reporting of risks to the patients concerned, backed up by strong oversight.

Further investigation – Penn has said it will form an outside committee, while Sen. Bill Frist intends to hold hearings – will likely probe the degree to which the FDA missed danger signs in confidential reports, waking up only when public reports emerged through NIH. Biotech companies have been calling for less disclosure to NIH, but this disaster argues for more.

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company


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Date: 29 Jan 2000 10:29:11 U
From: "Jon Campbell" jon@cqs.com

Profound Understanding of GMOs

Hi, folks,

On Wednesday Jan 26 I went to see Steven Druker, who you may know has a lawsuit against the FDA for ignoring its own scientists and declaring GMOs to be "substantially equivalent" to non-GMO foods, under the direction of Michael (?) Taylor, who subsequently became VP of PR for Monsanto. (Taylor was also responsible for FDA rulings on the Delaney Clause, which is supposed to prevent carcinogenic substances from food; Taylor's addition was a "de-minimus" ruling which allows for a small number of premeditated random murders by carcinogenic substances to take place, where small is not defined).

Anyhow, onto the topic at hand. Part of Druker's talk was a truly profound revelation for me, perhaps because I have not read Mae Won Ho's works yet, or did not fully grasp what the genetic engineers have done. I think Joe Cummins has talked about it, but for some reason I did not fully understand it before.

This is what they have done, and I believe this is what we need to explain to people. Normally, the genetic structure and interactions in the plant nucleus prevent foreign genetic material from having any effect; at most, a few interactions might cause recombination, but the effects would be very isolated. But what these "engineers" have done is to include the cauliflower mosaic virus as a genetic promoter. This FORCES the other genetic material to accept or promote the desired protein or enzyme expression, without any regard to the functioning of the plant organism, in every cell of the plant. The reason this works is that viruses are designed to do this - their role is to take over the host species and turn it into a virus factory - to kill the host. In this case, GE is much more like the Borg in Star Trek TNG - taking over the host organism but using it to produce the toxin (BT) or enzyme (RR) that they desire - but looking for all the world like the original grain. (Should we call it Borg-Soy and Borg-Corn, or would that be too obscure?)

In other words, this is not a "blending" of genes, and has nothing in common with traditional breeding, in which the interactions of the blended genetic material is determined by the interactions of every cell in the organism. Rather, genetic engineering makes the cell an accepting host for a foreign invader.

Jon


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Date: 29 Jan 2000 12:10:16 U
From: Sprinkraft@aol.com

Frito-Lay: Perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 acres

I didn't catch this one on the lists.

Buried on page 2 of the LA Times on 28 Jan. is a Bloomberg blurb about that little old chip maker in Dallas called Frito-Lay saying they would not contract GMO corn for any of their 1.2 billion pounds in 2000.

The quick-math of pounds to the bushel and bushels to the acre and so on leads you into an estimate of around 150 to 200 thousand acres that will not be used to produce GMO corn.

Now ... how much corn syrup does parent company Pepsico use in a year in all their drinks, and how many bushels and how many acres of corn is that and would that make Coca-Cola uneasy to see the rival making a move on the GMOs, and how much corn is in all the coke that flows each year?

Who needs a regulator when the market will do it for you. Just say no to the GMO.

Steve Sprinkel
OES, Ojai, CA


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Date: 29 Jan 2000 15:25:28 U
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

Re: Perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 acres

Steve Sprinkel wrote: (see previous article)

I realise this final para is very brief and may well not fully represent Steve's attitude on the matter, but just in case:

We in NZ have had about a year of internecine dispute between those who say that labelling GEF will lead to "market failure" - they claim the market for GEF will collapse if consumers are able to identify it by labels - and those such as myself who think labels will not suffice.

Why should labels on GEF affect sales much more than is now achieved by labels on organic food - which of course is all certified non-GEF?

Furthermore, 'food safe' does not equal 'environment safe' - we cannot safely permit the processes in the fields which produce GEF, because their ecological effects may be very harmful. We ought not to leave these issues to the fabled 'market forces'. They will no doubt help, but will not suffice.

The processes which lead to GEF on the shop shelf are, in general, so dangerous they shouldn't be permitted - even if the GEF itself were demonstrated safe.

R

------------------------------------
Robt Mann, consultant ecologist
P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand (9) 524 2949


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Date: 29 Jan 2000 16:18:43 U
From: GMOStuff@aol.com

Favorable Outcome to Montreal Talks!

Dear Health Freedom Fighters,

Great news! On Saturday it was announced that an agreement had been reached on regulating trade of genetically engineered foods. Groups such as Greenpeace and Friends and the Earth are pleased with the agreement. It appears the United States had to make the largest compromises. With consumer opposition to genetically engineered foods growing around the world, it would have been hard for the U.S. negotiators to continue to oppose the will of over 130 other nations.

Below are five articles. The first two are short reports on the reaction of environmental groups and the European Union countries. The next two go into details about the agreement.

The last article, "The bio-battle of words," is a long, but very interesting exposé about the behind the scenes activities at the Montreal conference. The sub-heading is "Activists won the propaganda war with clever words and images. The serious-looking guys in suits never stood a chance." It is enjoyable reading and highlights what a great job Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups did in fighting the biotech industry at the conference in Montreal.

Craig Winters
Executive Director
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

The Campaign
PO Box 55699, Seattle, WA 98155
Tel: 425-771-4049    Fax: 603-825-5841    E-mail: mailto:label@thecampaign.org    Web Site: http://www.thecampaign.org

Mission Statement: "To create a national grassroots consumer campaign for the purpose of lobbying Congress and the President to pass legislation that will require the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the United States."


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Date: 29 Jan 2000 16:18:43 U
From: GMOStuff@aol.com

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 said. And until the protocol has come into force all exports of GMOs should be

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 genetically

11:09 01-29-00


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Date: 29 Jan 2000 16:18:43 U
From: GMOStuff@aol.com

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 agreements 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 public concern

10:50 01-29-00


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Date: 29 Jan 2000 16:18:43 U
From: GMOStuff@aol.com

Countries reach landmark GMO food agreement

By Doug Palmer

Sections:
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.

11:01 01-29-00


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Date: 29 Jan 2000 16:18:43 U
From: GMOStuff@aol.com

Deal Reached on Biotech Foods

By MATT CRENSON, © The Associated Press

MONTREAL (AP) - U.N. talks here finally produced rules governing trade in genetically engineered products Saturday, nearly a year after previous talks collapsed in the face of international discord.

The new rules are complex, and many may be subject to legal challenges or interpretations. But for now they contain language letting a country ban imports of a genetically modified product if it feels there is not enough scientific evidence showing the product is safe.

It requires exporters to label shipments that contain genetically altered commodities such as corn or cotton. It also tries to dictate how those safety rules will coexist with free trade rules governed by the World Trade Organization.

The United States, a major producer of genetically engineered products, had opposed labeling and had fought import bans except in cases where the product is shown to be risky. It was forced to make concessions on those and several other points.

Fighting back tears, the conference's president, Juan Mayr, congratulated his colleagues on reaching a compromise. Mayr said.

The protocol is intended to protect the environment from damage due to genetically modified organisms. Environmentalists and some scientists worry that bioengineered plants, animals and bacteria could wipe out native strains or spread their genetic advantages to weeds and other undesirable species. There's fish genes in fruit, poultry genes in fish, animal genes in plants, growth hormones in milk, insect genes in vegetables, tree genes in grain and said Steve Gilman, an organic farmer in Stillwater, N.Y.

A first attempt to draw up a biosafety protocol ended last February in Cartagena, Colombia, when the United States and five partners blocked a pact that was acceptable to the other 125 countries.

Saturday's new agreement came after a week of intense negotiations that pitted the United States and its five allies in the talks - Canada, Australia, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay - against the European Union and a coalition of developing nations. As protesters stood outside in single-digit negotiators worked until just before dawn to hammer out the final details.

The EU and developing nations had argued that countries should be allowed to refuse imports of a genetically modified product if little is known about its environmental effect. The United States and its partners had disagreed, saying many of the proposed rules would restrict trade.

But the political situation changed in the last year, with major U.S. food producers like Archer Daniels Midland and Gerber either demanding that genetically modified products be segregated from other products or refusing to use them altogether. Scientific studies have suggested that monarch butterflies and other beneficial insects may be harmed by genetically engineered crops.

And protests at the WTO talks in Seattle last month also suggested that the American public has concerns about genetically altered food.

EU negotiators, whose constituency strongly opposes genetic modifications in food, used the changed climate to exact a number of concessions from the U.S. delegation. Nonetheless, U.S. negotiators said they were satisfied with the final agreement. The agreement that we achieved is a very substantial improvement over the U.S. Undersecretary of State Frank Loy said.

In the end, the sides' most serious differences turned out to be over how the biosafety protocol would relate to WTO rules, and whether shipments of genetically modified commodities should be labeled.

Environmentalists have complained in recent years that the WTO's free trade pact has overridden regulations meant to protect human and ecological health. But Saturday's agreement calls for the biosafety protocol and the WTO rules intended to subordinate this may to all shipments containing genetically altered commodities. The protocol allows for a revision of that labeling policy after two years.

In a legal question mark, the United States has neither signed nor ratified the biodiversity treaty that oversees the new protocol. So technically, the U.S. is not bound to honor it. U.S. negotiator David Sandalow said.

Genetically modified crops are already widespread. About 70 million acres of genetically engineered plants were cultivated worldwide in 1999. In the United States, genetically engineered varieties account for about 25 percent of corn and 40 percent of soybeans.

Biotechnology proponents point to the potential of the technology to increase yields and improve nutrition. said Robert M. Boeding, an Iowa farmer who has grown genetically modified corn for the last five years. He says the modified strain keeps him from having to use dangerous pesticides to protect his crop from insects.

AP-NY-01-29-00 1505EST


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Date: 29 Jan 2000 16:18:43 U
From: GMOStuff@aol.com

Activists won the propaganda war with clever words and images. The serious-looking guys in suits never stood a chance

The bio-battle of words

By Mark Abley, The (Montral) Gazette
http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/pages/000129/3512471.html

Sections:
Forceful Stand
Uphill Task

It was a classic David-vs.-Goliath battle. In one corner: a motley crew of activists and environmentalists from around the world, most of them crammed into a nondescript apartment hotel on Rene Levesque Blvd. In the other: businessmen and bureaucrats from the world's most powerful nation and a few of its close allies, most of them staying in the Delta or the Inter-Continental.

They had all come to Montreal to attend the contentious, drawn-out meetings that saw nearly 140 countries trying to hammer out a Biosafety Protocol under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity. The industry suits represented power and money; the activists represented public anxiety.

David vs. Goliath, then. But as the week wore on, it became crystal-clear just who, in terms of media savvy and public perception, was the beleaguered underdog: the suits of the biotech industry.

There were really two wars being fought in the meeting rooms of the Delta and the nearby International Civil Aviation Building. The first was over the terms of the Protocol: whether it would allow nations to say "no" to genetically modified products, and whether the agreement's prime goal would be to protect biodiversity or trade. The second was to win the consciousness of a North American public that has only begun to wake up to the urgency of the whole biotech debate.

Forceful Stand

In Europe, by contrast, the issue has been hot for years. Hot enough for European governments, nervous of an angry electorate, to take a surprisingly forceful stand this week against the pro-industry position of Canada, the U.S. and the four other grain-exporting countries in the "Miami Group."

The battle for public consciousness was dominated by the activists. They played the media like a Stradivarius. All through the week, each day saw them come up with a new tactic, a startling new image. It might be Greenpeace's massive inflatable corncob, complete with fangs and bloodshot eyes, or its human butterflies with six-foot plywood wings - in each case, a graphic illustration of the doubts about transgenic food and its impact on nature.

It might be Friends of the Earth's subversive menu of genetically modified food, given to the press a few hours before the politicians dined in the St. James Club, or their emerald-coloured poster asking citizens to locate Canada's environment minister, David Anderson, "who was last seen making excuses."

It might be Biotech Action Montreal's candlelight vigil in sub-Arctic temperatures "to enlighten Canadian negotiators," or the march it helped to organize as the meetings began.

Of course, the activists had no control over the way their demonstrations would be reported in the press. Last Saturday's march through the chilly streets, for example. Were there "more than 600" protesters, as The Gazette reported? Were there "about 1,000," as the Associated Press said? Or was it just a "troupe of 300," as a National Post columnist declared?

However many they were, the demonstrators were pictured in newspapers as far away as Hong Kong and Madrid. They got their point across to the world: whatever compromise deal the bureaucrats were trying to cook up, large numbers of ordinary citizens wanted nothing to do with it.

Admittedly, the industry did its best. To put their viewpoint across, their spokesmen were working hand-in-hand with National Public Relations, one of Canada's leading PR companies.

Uphill Task

John Wildgust, a former journalist and broadcaster, was among the NPR officials handling the file for the Global Industry Coalition. When a feature article appeared inThe Gazette on Jan. 20 that cast Canada's position into question, Wildgust drafted a letter-to-the-editor that reached the newspaper the same day and was published on Jan. 22.

The front man for the coalition - and the official writer of that letter - was actually a woman: Joyce Groote. The executive director of BIOTECanada (an industry group with more than 100 member companies), she also headed the Global Industry Coalition, a lobby group for more than 2,200 firms worldwide.

Despite NPR's efforts, however, the industry lobby often seemed a step behind the activists. Wildgust realized he was facing an uphill task.

"It's a crappy idea, I know," he confided on Tuesday, "but I've been thinking about bringing in all those studies that prove the safety of genetically modified food, and stacking them in a 7-foot-high pile. It would show the weight of the scientific evidence."

By Thursday, he had abandoned the notion.

"The problem is," Wildgust said, "you guys in the media would want to read them all."

Or take the case of the battling farmers. Early in the week, the Global Industry Coalition flew in four farmers from the North American Midwest - all of them white, earnest, middle-aged men in glasses and suits.

One of them, a Manitoba wheat-grower, offered the stunning non-sequitur: "I get up in the morning and use the margarine on my toast, so there's no reason not to use Round-Up Ready canola in my fields."

Next morning, Greenpeace countered. In co-operation with the Third World Network, it brought in "Farmers Against Genetic Pollution." There were five of them; they came from five countries on three continents, and spoke four mother tongues; but their pro-organic message was the same. To deadline-strapped journalists, here was a story already packaged and gift-wrapped.

One PR professional, speaking from his Toronto office on condition of anonymity, agreed that Greenpeace is "extraordinarily good" at conducting an emotional debate. The opinion polls he has seen over the last few months show that Greenpeace and other interest groups, such as the Council of Canadians and the Sierra Club, have succeeded in weakening "the inherent trust that Canadians have in their food." A large and growing percentage of the public is now uneasy about the food it buys.

This source - a former newspaperman - now advises major players in the biotechnology industry. He has trained many government scientists to deal with the media. But to his frustration, their pro-biotech message has not yet got across. Now the PR man is contemplating fresh tactics.

"I've been urging my clients to use women as spokespeople," he said, "so I'm glad to see Joyce Groote playing a prominent role in Montreal. Women spokespeople have more credibility with the people who actually buy groceries: other women.

"The industry should also collaborate more - part of the trouble with the pro-GM side is that lots of people have been coming at the issue from different directions. And they need to give the TV people something to show on the screens other than just Greenpeace ranting and blowing up inflatable ears of corn."

On Thursday, a sign of the industry's frustration mysteriously appeared on a table in the atrium of the ICAO Building. The table featured the usual barrage of statements and press releases from environmental groups and official delegations (the European Union took the unofficial prize for Most Boring Communique of the Week thanks to a statement titled "Commissioner Wallstrom urges all parties to do their utmost.")

But that morning, there were also multiple copies of a yellow sheet titled "The Growing Consensus: Greenpeace Values Rhetoric Over Real Progress on Environmental Issues." Call it anonymous agitprop from the biotech side: the page of anti-Greenpeace diatribes came with no attribution. Industry officials denied all knowledge of the matter.

Beyond the clear bitterness of the diatribe, you can see it as a backhanded tribute to the protesters' success. The authorized information coming from the industry side was often dull as ditchwater. Compare the prose in these two handouts offered to the media, one called "Capacity Building: The Biotechnology Industry Perspective," the other called "Warning: Unsafe Trade Partners on the Loose in Montreal."

The activists were fast as well as smart. On Thursday afternoon, Friends of the Earth were passing out a press statement, printed on their trademark green paper, less than 10 minutes after the chairman of the meetings, Colombia's Juan Mayr, had adjourned a plenary session in visible dismay at the tactics of the Miami Group - led, or at least represented, by Canada.

But the effectiveness of the protest movement went beyond rapid response, crisp prose and visually arresting devices like the huge corncob and the human butterflies. For the protesters at Montreal also included groups with a proven scientific track record. Their presence made it hard for the biotech industry to claim with any conviction that this was a battle between science on the one hand and superstition on the other.

The World Wildlife Fund, for example, issued a long report called "GM Technology in the Forest Sector." It pointed out that while at least 116 field trials have taken place around the world on genetically modified trees, little research has been done on the overall environmental impact of the technology. Pine pollen has been shown to travel as far as 600 kilometres, making genetic threats to the wild environment more than merely theoretical. A corn plant lasts but a summer; trees endure for years.

From Britain, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds weighed in with a draft discussion paper, aimed squarely at delegates to the conference, demolishing the arguments in favour of a "savings clause" that Canada and its few allies had made. Such a clause would leave the entire protocol at the mercy of World Trade Organization panels that could override the efforts of individual nations to decide against genetically modified products.

Yet it was Greenpeace, for better or worse, that symbolized the fight against the biotech industry. Greenpeace has branches in at least 30 countries, many of which sent a representative to Montreal - so that delegates from the Czech Republic or Argentina, say, could be pressured by activists from back home.

Steve Shallhorn, the campaign director of Greenpeace Canada, admitted that winning a strong protocol was only one of his three goals in Montreal:

"We also want to let consumers know what biotechnology has in store for them. And we want to expose the close relationship between the Canadian government and the biotech industry.

"One of the Canadian delegates admitted that they foresee a future in which regular food will be sold at a premium to a niche market, while the masses will be eating genetically modified food. I think that shows an incredible arrogance toward the public he's paid to represent."

Just as the biotech industry is unwilling to admit that the proliferation of genetically modified organisms has any dangers, Greenpeace is unwilling to admit that biotechnology has any real benefits. It's rare to find an environmental issue on which the positions are not only so harsh but so opposed. Common ground? Forget it.

"The public attention to what's going on here has had an enormous influence," said Michael Khoo, genetic engineering campaigner for Greenpeace Canada. "The sustained consumer interest in what a bunch of bureaucrats have been doing all week - this is something unique."

But in the end, the debate wasn't just about trade or science. It was also about values. Joyce Groote of BIOTECanada admitted as much when she said, "It comes down to something fundamental. We're in business to be accountable; the other side is not. And there's a very high ethical culture in the industry."

Greenpeace's Khoo was happy to talk about science. But he also wanted to evoke "a silent, moral majority, made up of people from all walks of life, that's running in our favour. There's a general moral feeling that it's not right to cross the species boundary."

Both sides insist that in the assessment of risk, impartial science is on their side. For a layman, it's hard to assess the rival claims. Yet if the question comes down to ethics, the biotech industry may have good reason to be running scared.


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Date: 29 Jan 2000 16:48:36 U
From: RickVed@bellsouth.net

For those of you still unfamiliar with Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, here is a classic introduction to the dangers of genetic engineering. One more article follows in another email.

---Gerard Owmby

GM Food Hazards and the Science War

by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
Consumer Choice Council, Seattle, December 1, 1999

Thank you very much for inviting me here and thank you all for being here. I am very honored, especially to be in a session moderated by Senator Dennis Kucinich who has introduced such an important bill for labeling genetic engineered foods to the US Congress. I am a senior academic in the Open University in UK, a geneticist and a biophysicist, also advisor to the TWN and other public interest organizations on biotechnology and biosafety since 1994. I have debated biotech issues in more than 20 countries and written a book, Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare? The Brave New World of Bad Science and Big Business.

I am here on behalf of more than 140 scientists from 27 countries to deliver an open letter to all government delegates at the World Trade Organization, calling for a moratorium on genetic engineered crops and products because they are dangerous, and for patents on life-forms and living processes to be revoked and banned because they are deeply immoral. As you have already heard, they give unaccountable corporations a monopoly on life and our life-support system.

There is a lot of misinformation and dis-information put out by the biotech industry and their supporters including our governments. Only yesterday, U.S. Senator Kit Bond gave a press conference in which four scientists, all biotechnologists and friendly to the industry, told reporters how,

Let me add that engineering crops to enhance nutrition ignores the root cause of malnutrition, which is the industrial monoculture crops that have led to a deterioration of the nutritional value of food within the past 50 years, and the destruction of natural and agricultural biodiversity on which a healthy balanced diet depends. We donit need vitamin A enhanced rice when we can eat carrots with our rice.

The latest surveys on genetic engineered crops in the U.S., the largest grower by far, showed no significant benefit. On the contrary, the most widely grown genetic engineered crops – herbicide-tolerant soya beans –yielded on average 6.7% less and required two to five times more herbicides than non-genetic engineered varieties.

Genetic engineering agriculture is a dangerous diversion and obstruction to the real tasks of providing food and health around the world. To put it bluntly: the existing technologies are crude, unreliable, uncontrollable, and unpredictable. They donit qualify as technologies, let alone patentable inventions. And they are inherently hazardous, more so because they are misguided by a scientific paradigm that is fundamentally flawed, out of date, and in conflict with scientific findings. They call that sound science. It is really the ultimate phony science.

That was the ruling paradigm before genetic engineering really got underway 20 years ago. It offers a simplistic, reductionist view that ignores interconnections and complexity of real processes. It has no concept of the organism as a whole, nor of societies or ecosystems -- only individuals as isolated atoms each competing against all the rest. The organism is seen as a collection of traits, each tied to specific genes which do not, by and large, interact with one another, nor with the environment, and these genes are passed on unchanged to the next generation except for very rare random mutations. If this were true then genetic engineering would be as precise and effective as is claimed.

Unfortunately, scientific findings within the past 20 years reveal an immense amount of cross-talk between genes which function in complex networks. Genes are nothing if not sensitive, dynamic, and responsive to other genes, to the cell or organism in which they find themselves, and to the external environment. They can mutate, multiply, rearrange and jump around in responding. Genes may even jump out of one organism to infect another one. This is called ehorizontal gene transferi, the transfer of genetic material directly to unrelated species, to distinguish it from the vertical gene transfer from parent to offspring which happens in normal reproduction. (Horizontal gene transfer across species barriers is the process exploited by geneticists in genetic engineering.) The genetic material is so flexible and dynamic that geneticists have coined the phrase "the Fluid Genome" to describe the situation.

Genetics has changed out of all recognition. It is more accurate to see the genes as having a very complicated ecology, and that for genes and genomes to remain constant, you need a balanced ecology. So the new genetics is radically ecological and holistic.

Now, what is genetic engineering? You know the children's joke of what do you get when you cross impossible things like a spider with a goat? Part of the joke is knowing you can't because there are biological barriers between species which only allows one to cross closely related species, such as horse and donkey. There are good reasons for keeping species distinct, they have to do with the balance of the ecosystem. When viruses cross species barriers, for example, we have outbreaks of infectious diseases. Genetic engineering bypasses all species barriers, and it is not a joke anymore. Genes are being transferred in the laboratory between any and every species, many of which would never interbreed in nature. Indeed, spider genes have been transferred into goats in an attempt to make the poor female goats produce silk in their milk, and human genes have been transferred into cows, sheep, mice, fish, and bacteria.

The most immediate dangers are random and unpredictable, basically because the genetic engineer cannot control where and how the foreign genes are integrated into the genetic material of the organism. Genetic engineering of animals is an act of cruelty. There are high failure rates and even the so-called successes are often monstrously deformed. Genetically engineered plants may end up having new toxins and allergens. Dr. Arpad Pusztai, an eminent scientist in the Rowett Institute of Scotland, lost his job when he released findings showing that two GM potato lines were unexpectedly toxic to young rats.

A more insidious danger is horizontal gene transfer. The genetic material, the DNA, can survive indefinitely in all environments after the organisms are dead. It can be taken up by other organisms and become incorporated into their genetic material. This has the potential to create new viruses and bacteria that cause diseases. Why?

In genetic engineering, new genes, many from viruses and bacteria, including antibiotic resistance genes that make infectious diseases untreatable, are introduced into our crops and livestock. They are combined in new combinations that have never existed, and introduced into organisms by invasive methods that make the foreign genes (or transgenic DNA) more unstable and more prone to transfer horizontally than the organismis own genes which have been adapted to stay together for hundreds of millions of years.

Another danger is that the transgenic DNA can jump into the genetic material of our cells and cause damages including cancer.

In its interim report (May 1999), the British Medical Association called for an indefinite moratorium on the release of GM crops pending further studies on new allergies, on the spread of antibiotic resistances, and on the effects of transgenic DNA.

These hazards are acknowledged by sources within our governments. U.K. scientists advising the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food are now calling attention to the same dangers.

Our regulatory system is still based on the old reductionist paradigm.

There is a science war on. It is between a reductionist, mechanistic science and an emerging holistic, organic science which is reaffirming and restoring the deep ecological perspectives of indigenous sciences around the world. Contrary to reductionist western science, these indigenous sciences have enabled people to live sustainably with nature for tens of thousands of years, but they are being destroyed and marginalized.

Intensive mechanised agriculture has taken the soul out of farming. It has turned farmers into tractor-drivers. Food is more than just the combination of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, or vitamins and other micronutrients. It is an emotional, aesthetic experience.

To really do us good, we have to know that our food is produced, not just without agrochemicals, but also without exploiting our fellow human beings, without cruelty to animals, and without destroying the earth. Most of all, we want to know that it is produced with love and creativity of farmers who are poets and artists at heart, who know how to work with nature to make both human beings and nature prosper. That is the real agenda for civil society.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 29 Jan 2000 16:48:36 U
From: RickVed@bellsouth.net

One more very inspiring classic article by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho to make you stand and cheer.

---Gerard

No to GMOs – Civil Society vs. Corporate Empire

By Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Talk presented in Progressive Farm Leaders Summit on Genetic Manipulation and Agriculture, Coalition of Family Farmers, USA, Mannassas, Virginia, September 11, 1999

Friends and colleagues!

It is great to be here with you. As has been made clear by speakers in the previous panel, the issue is not just whether we should accept GM crops. We are involved in the biggest, most inclusive, world-wide civil rights movement of the century, if not the millenium, and it is against the corporate empire that has ruthlessly exploited and ruined all of the earth's resources, to make the rich ever richer, and the poor ever poorer and hungrier.

And now, to top it all, the corporate empire is taking possession of life and our life-support system, to use as stakes in a final gamble with a Frankenstein science and technology that has the potential to destroy all life on earth. As some of you will know, the movement has been going on for well over twenty years. I am a late-comer, an ex-ivory tower academic who has been moved and inspired to join in the struggle since 1994.

There are very brave people in the movement, who are accepting arrest and harassment to put our case to our Governments. The destruction of GM field trials in the UK by Genetix Snowball and others has been grabbing the international headlines, but that kind of action started several years ago in Germany. It is now also happening in Ireland, France, India, Brazil, and I am told, in your country as well. The perpetrators are not the usual eco-warriors, but ordinary citizens like you and me, from all age groups and right across the social spectrum, literally from prince to pauper.

I was an expert witness helping to defend seven people who took civil disobedience action against Monsanto's GM test sites in Ireland. Among the seven was a journalist, a lawyer and 84-year old author and organic farmer, John Seymour, who compares the invasion of Ireland by Monsanto's "genetically mutilated" crops to the invasion by the Norman army, and sees it his duty to defend his country. "And if I have to go to prison because of it then I will go with a good will, and make the best of it, and when I get out I will try to stop them again!" The resistance to GM crops is world-wide.

In India, I met angry farmers calling for a ban on GM crops. They burnt the field trials in a "cremate Monsanto" campaign, followed by the "Monsanto quit India" campaign. In the region of South Asia, a large coalition of ngos representing millions of farmers launched a two-prong attack: a resistance campaign directed against all genetic engineering corporations and a seed-saving campaign to save and preserve traditional seeds, which alone can truly feed the hungry people in the world. Similar resistance and seed-saving campaigns are happening elsewhere. A coalition of Latin American ngos have declared they will not accept GM crops.

In Brazil, the agricultural minister of the State of Rio Grande do Sul was the first to declare his State GM-free, and a remarkable group of eminent judges and lawyers played a major role in getting Monsanto's GM soya banned from the whole country. Monsanto has appealed three times and failed to get the federal court decision overturned. At the same time, Brazil is drafting biodiversity/biosafety laws in order to protect their genetic resources and indigenous knowledge from biopiracy.

In Japan, three of the largest consumer associations, with membership running into millions and hundreds of thousands, succeeded in getting mandatory labelling of GM products.

Tewolde Egziabher of Ethiopia, leading spokesperson of the African Region, has rejected the technology as "neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically beneficial." The African Region has taken the lead in drafting the most comprehensive International Biosafety Protocol under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in order to regulate the use and transport of genetic engineered products.

The negotiations broke down in Cartegena, Columbia, this February, blocked by the US and its 5 allies of the Miami Group against the overwhelming majority of the 170 countries who have signed onto the Convention on Biological Diversity. Since then, African countries have been drafting Biosafety Law for the entire region, in order to protect themselves against the dumping of GM crops and products. The European Union has a de facto moratorium at least until 2002, but consumer resistance has already led to all major food chains and suppliers to declare themselves GM-free.

Although consumers reject GM products primarily on grounds of safety, farmers do so because of the threat of seed monopoly. Farmers have always depended on saving seeds and replanting them, and 85% of the farmers in the Third World still do so. It is the symbiotic linkage of the human life-cycle to that of crop-plants that perpetuates and propagates both.

Corporate patents are now preventing farmers from saving and replanting under penalty of heavy fines. This comes at a time when, within the past 10 years, many farmers in the Third World have gone back to cultivating and conserving indigenous varieties in all forms of organic, sustainable agriculture, doubling and tripling their yields and improving their livelihood, health, and nutrition. They have been reversing the environmentally and socially destructive trends of the so-called high-yielding monocultures of the green revolution, which have brought financial ruin and suicides to thousands in India alone, and for the same reasons it is now happening in US and Europe.

The liberalisation of trade and investment under the globalised economy of the World Trade Organisation has effectively allowed corporations to buy when and where it is cheapest and sell at inflated prices, and in addition, undercut farmers by getting the state to subsidise dumping of surpluses. Farmers are reduced to serfs in a feudal system run by corporations.

As a scientist, I have to say that reductionist western science has a lot to answer for. It has been working hand in glove with corporations to bring our planet to the edge of extinction in climate change and a string of ecological disasters. The reason people feel so passionately against genetic engineering biotechnology is because we know, intuitively and intellectually, that living organisms are our last resort, our last remaining hope for regenerating and saving the planet. I saw how organic farmers in India can regenerate land completely laid waste by agrochemicals and industrial chemicals and given up for good. And they did it in just two to three years.

In Japan, Takeo Furuno introduced the 'one-bird revolution' ten years ago by releasing ducklings into paddy fields which are complex ecosystems of rice plants, nitrogen-fixing duckweed, roach, daphnia, plankton, and innumerable species of so-called weeds and pests including insects and the golden snail on which the ducklings thrive. I am hopeful that we can reverse the destruction, and convinced that nature's harvest is bountiful to all who, instead of engaging in perpetual warfare against nature, learn how to work in partnership with her.

The corporations stop at nothing to protect their patents and to profiteer. They have even threatened to release the ultimate terminator –harvested seeds that do not germinate – thus breaking the very cycle of life. The terminator corporations and their scientists are playing dangerous games with the natural resilience and fecundity of life which are also needed to reverse the destruction and to regenerate the earth.

The power for regeneration is in the seed. It is also in the will of each and everyone of us who cares, who, for the love of life and nature, works for a better, more equitable and compassionate world. The power for regeneration is especially in the farmer who understands how to work with holistic, organic nature. Organic farmers everywhere are poets. Charles McGuire in Ireland tells me, "When I walk into my fields, I can feel the earth singing to me." Sultan Ismail in India says, "The soil is a living organism. We have placental connections with the soil." and "Trees are poems that the earth writes in the sky, But we cut them down to fill our emptiness."

What I find most encouraging as a scientist is that after centuries of reductionist, mechanistic thought, contemporary western science is finally re-discovering and re-instating the same view of holistic, organic nature that many indigenous cultures in the world have never lost touch with.

Unfortunately, mainstream biology is left far behind. It has no appreciation of interconnected nature. It has no concept of an organism as a whole. It thinks it can improve on nature by arbitrarily manipulating and transferring genes, and does not realize it has created monsters. It is a Frankenstein science in exactly the way Mary Shelley's genius portrayed it. A cloned human embryo has even been created by transferring the human genetic material into a cow's egg. Thankfully, they've destroyed it at day 14, the current legal limit. The original Dr. Frankenstein, at least, did not do it for money, while the Frankenstein science we have now is driven and blinded by profit.

Genetic engineering is a new departure from conventional techniques and introduces new hazards. Eminent UK scientist Arpad Pusztai was recently victimised for calling attention to the research findings of his group, which suggest that the GM potatoes they were testing are toxic and that the toxicities are in the genetic engineering process. Pusztai's findings are not the first to indicate that the hazards may be inherent to the technology. A large literature already exists, much of it described in my book, Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare. But the evidence has been ignored, or dismissed by the opponents.

Many ecological and health impacts are well-known. GM crops have created herbicide-tolerant weeds and insecticide-resistant pests. The broad-spectrum herbicides used with the herbicide-tolerant GM crops not only decimate wild species indiscriminately, but are toxic to animals. Glufosinate causes birth defects in mammals, while glyphosate is now linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. GM crops with bt-toxins kill beneficial insects such as bees and lacewings, and scientists in Cornell University have recently shown that pollen from bt-maize is lethal to monarch butterflies. You may not be aware, however, of the hazards inherent to the technology.

Genetic engineering introduces new genes and combinations of genes into crops whose ecological and health impacts have never been tested. Many of these genes are from viruses and bacteria that cause diseases, including antibiotic resistance genes that can compromise treatment for infectious diseases. Furthermore, the methods used to introduce foreign genes are uncontrollable. They give rise to random, unpredictable effects including new toxins and allergens.

Most dangerous of all, the foreign genes introduced can spread, not just by cross-pollinating related species, but to unrelated species by infection. This is called horizontal gene transfer, in which the genetic material itself is taken up. It has the potential to create new viruses and bacteria that cause diseases and spread antibiotic and drug resistance genes. The pioneers of genetic engineering called for a moratorium in the 1970s precisely because they were worried about this possibility.

Unfortunately, commercial pressures cut the moratorium short. Since then, drug and antibiotic resistant infectious diseases have come back with a vengeance. New viruses appear at alarming frequencies, while dangerous bacteria are becoming resistant to all antibiotics and hence untreatable. What we now know that they didn't in the 1970s is that DNA itself is infectious, and can remain indefinitely long after the organisms have died. Genetically modified DNA can spread to organisms in all environments, including bacteria in the mouth, the gut, and the respiratory tract of mammals. It can spread in pollen and dust.

Why is genetically modified DNA any more likely to spread than non-modified DNA? There are several reasons, the chief of which is that because genetically modified DNA has been designed to invade and jump into genomes, it may be more likely to jump again into other genomes. This involves an increased tendency of genetically modified DNA to break and join up with other DNA.

Indeed, foreign DNA jumping into the genomes of cells can itself give rise to many harmful effects including cancer. In its interim report published in May this year, the British Medical Association called for an indefinite moratorium on the release of GM crops pending further studies on new allergies, on the spread of antibiotic resistances and on the effects of genetically modified DNA. These concerns are shared by more than 100 scientists from 23 countries, including 37 from the US, who have signed a World Scientists' Statement calling for a 5 year global moratorium and a ban on patents of life-forms. It was launched this February in Cartegena, Columbia, during the United Nations Conference on the international Biosafety Protocol.

The biotech industry is being driven by the erroneous, outmoded belief that genes are the most important, constant determinants of organisms, so that by manipulating and transferring genes, new life-forms could be created to satisfy all our needs, and that by eliminating or replacing bad genes, we can get rid of all diseases. Instead, scientific findings for the past twenty years are demonstrating that the genetic material is fluid and dynamic, and can itself change in response to the ecological environment. Indeed, genes and genomes need a stable, balanced ecosystem to remain stable. Sustainable, organic agriculture is predicated on such balanced ecosystems. The conditions for genetic health, similarly, are no different from those for physiological health: unpolluted environment; wholesome organic foods free from agrochemicals; clean and socially satisfying living conditions. Those are the real choices for civil society.

It is symbolic that we have gathered in Washington. We are once again fighting for independence, this time from the transnational feudal lords. When we win, and I am confident we will. It will be the triumph of democracy over feudalism, of reason over stupidity, of love and compassion over exploitation, of life over death. It will be the end of the brave new world of bad science and big business. It will be the triumph of sustainable, responsible science and industry working together for the good of all.


Top PreviousFront Page

Date: 29 Jan 2000 17:12:14 U
From: RickVed@bellsouth.net

This is a very special article because it points to the real basis of the problem of genetic engineering and all bad science – the crisis of the world's collective consciousness.

-- Gerard Owmby

Genetic Engineering: A Violation of Natural Law

By Dr. Byron Rigby

Published in the Australian newspaper Living Now (Jan-Feb 1997 Issue No. 7). By Byron P. Rigby MBBS MRCPsych, President, Australian Association of Ayur Vedic Medicine.

Sections:
The Genetic Code: The Blueprint of Life
Invasion of the Source of Life: Breaking and Entering
Irreversible Damage to Life: Pandora's Box
A Hit-and-Miss Technology: Catastrophes Have Already Happened
37 Killed and 1500 Permanently Injured
It couldn't happen again?
Labeling and A Moratorium
Responsibility of Scientists
A Crisis of Consciousness

To people of scientific and medical training who are unfamiliar with the biotechnology industry, it seems completely incredible that governments, government departments, food scientists, biologists, and corporations could knowingly flood the whole world's food chain with genetic mutants. How could it happen?

It could only happen in a world society in which collective consciousness itself has become clouded and incapable of being awake to its own interest and survival. It is a symptom of a serious, urgent, and desperate need to create a world awakening to the future safety of all human beings.

Never before in history has such a dramatic, dangerous, new, and untested technology been implemented so instantaneously throughout the whole world. By comparison with this biological assault, the introduction of cane toads into the Australian ecology, the spread of feral animals and exotic weeds, the choking of the world's tropical waterways with water hyacinth, the wholesale destruction of the world's forests, and even mass desertification, are minuscule disturbances.

These are strong statements. To understand their essential truth, it is necessary to know something about genetics.

The Genetic Code: The Blueprint of Life

Life is found in layers. The Earth has an overall geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere in which life forms and evolves. Within this, there exists an ecosphere – the world of evolving life itself. Inside this in turn are established specific ecologies, within which there are families, classes, and species of living organisms. One can regard each of these layers as itself alive, and, in a sense, conscious.

The layers don't stop there, however. Within each organism are organs, tissues, cells, intracellular structures, and finally DNA, the genetic code of all life. Deeper than that lies only atoms and elementary particles.

Up to now, we have manipulated and interfered mainly with the individual organisms of our world. We have bred some, extinguished others, and transported yet others to new and unfamiliar environments, where they have become sometimes useful and sometimes pests.

In all of this manipulation and interference, we have not penetrated far into the structure of life. Occasionally, with the introduction of viruses or other living species, we have eliminated whole varieties of plant or animal. Sometimes, for example by the introduction of goats, we have created deserts. Sometimes we have spread plagues of disease in plants or animals, or among ourselves. These alterations may have seemed catastrophic, but except for extinctions they are in few cases truly irreversible. Human beings, and other species, remain essentially what they are, and have not interfered with, or polluted, the source of their own consciousness and intelligence.

Invasion of the Source of Life: Breaking and Entering

Now, for the first time in history, a new form of irreversible, self-spreading change is being launched, far more powerful and virulent than any that has ever before been attempted. This change is genetic engineering – penetration into, and irreversible alteration of, the very code of life itself.

In genetic engineering, new information and instructions, never before seen, are being spliced into the DNA of bacteria, plants, and animals in ways that could never, under any circumstances whatsoever, occur in nature.

Genes that synthesize scorpion toxin are being used to coat fruit with insect-killing venom; anti-freeze genes are being spliced from fish to fruit; herbicide resistance genes are being incorporated into tomatoes and other foods, allowing use of far higher concentrations of herbicides than would otherwise be possible; genetically engineered bacteria are being cultivated that synthesize hormones and other substances, some of which are fed to cows to force unnatural quantities of milk secretion that eventually destroy the cow; while other bacteria are being altered beyond anything that would normally occur to secrete substances used in medicine and food manufacture.

All this could seem dangerous but wonderful – just as other scientific advances have been, such as electricity and nuclear power.

But in the case of genetic engineering, there is a completely new element that makes the hazards inconceivably greater than those posed by any other technology – the fact that once released, genetically altered organisms are unrecallable, irretrievable, and above all self-replicating.

Irreversible Damage to Life: Pandora's Box

Once released, genetically altered bacteria and other organisms can never be recalled. Further, and most chilling of all, there exist processes whereby the genes that have been put into the altered organisms can actually be transferred to other species. As a result, new and virulent toxins can be spread to wild plants; herbicide resistance can be spread to weeds; rapid-growth capability can be spread to pests; and antibiotic-resistance can be spread to the world's most feared disease-producing organisms – staphylococcus, diphtheria, salmonella, plague, cholera, typhoid, and the whole range of diseases that have with such slow and painstaking care been reduced from their former epidemic proportions in the world.

Biotechnology companies would have us believe that normal plant-breeding is the same as genetic engineering. We select the genes of a plant, and combine them with others in cross-breeds. We even find mutants, and then cultivate these.

To anyone with the slightest biological knowledge, this type of statement is completely fraudulent. The very fact that it is made rings the strongest possible alarm bells warning that if such crass misconceptions are being deliberately spread, the perpetrators must have something very substantial and profoundly negative to hide. It is an obvious symptom of a profound and radical disconnection from the truth by a whole generation of scientists, technologists, and commercial interests. It is a disorder of consciousness.

A Hit-and-Miss Technology: Catastrophes Have Already Happened

The simple fact is that to create a genetic alteration by gene splicing, it is necessary to directly disrupt and reconstruct the genetic code by procedures that could simply never arise in nature. Far from being accurate, these alterations are highly hit-and-miss. In most cases, the total function of the gene being altered is not fully known, its interactions with other biochemical processes in the organism are obscure, and the long-term effects of the changes cannot be predicted.

As in the case of food irradiation, genetic manipulation can potentially produce a large number of unknown and exotic chemical substances that can have completely imponderable effects. These effects include direct poisoning through ingestion by other organisms (including ourselves); serious and even fatal illness through production of new and unknown allergens; spread by replication of the existing organism; and transfer of genetic information to other species, including to pests closely related to the altered organism.

Some genetic scientists warmly reassure that these things will not happen. But how can any scientist worthy of the name possibly declare that "something won't happen?" Have we not been sufficiently warned by DDT? Thalidomide? Dioxin? Plutonium? Chernobyl? Mad cow disease? Cane toads? Killer bees? Chlorofluorocarbons? Asbestos? Every single one of these has been a subject of warm and avuncular reassurance by scientists who were wedded to their pet idea, and by technologists and corporations that saw profit in them.

Again, the disorder here is not specific to genetic engineering. It is a blindness at the level of consciousness to the safety of human beings and to the serious consequences of playing the sorcerer's apprentice in a field that is totally imponderable from our current level of understanding.

We do not have to wait and see whether genetic engineering will kill or injure people, or damage our world. It has already happened.

37 Killed and 1500 Permanently Injured

Some years ago a Japanese firm manufactured tryptophan by genetically engineered bacteria for use in the treatment of depression. This substance occurs normally in dietary protein, and is the metabolic precursor for serotonin, the neurotransmitter whose depletion results in depression. By ingesting extra quantities of tryptophan, depression can be reversed.

What was not known, however, was that the organism that synthesized the tryptophan was also synthesizing another substance that stimulated the body's immune system, resulting in a disease known as eosinophilia. As a result 37 people were killed and 1500 permanently injured.

It couldn't happen again?

Genes from Brazil nuts were incorporated into transgenic soybeans. The combination proved to be highly allergenic to some people. They had no way of knowing that they would get an allergic reaction from the soybeans, even if they had known they were allergic to Brazil nuts -- because the genetically altered soybeans were by law exempted from labeling.

In another sphere, klebsiella bacteria were genetically altered to secrete alcohol from the digestion of wood pulp and other organic material. This organism escaped, infected soil in wheat farmland in the United States, and destroyed the nutritive bacteria that are responsible for the fertility of the fields. Whole fields were rendered sterile, capable of growing wheat only a few inches high.

In all these examples, the problem is not only the danger of the technology. It is the consciousness that allows such a mass form of human experimentation to be perpetrated without any consent and warning for the public, not even the labeling of genetically manipulated foods.

In some states of the United States, it has even been declared illegal to label food as NOT genetically engineered, lest it threaten the profitability of the genetic technology companies. This reversal of normal ethics is not a technical problem, it is a consciousness problem –a problem of collective, governmental and individual attitude and mindset.

Labeling and A Moratorium

The potential damage that could be caused by unforeseen effects of genetic engineering are vast, formidable, and impossible to predict.

The absence of knowledge of danger must not be mistaken for the absence of danger! Scientists only know what they know. They certainly don't know what they don't know. For this reason, simple common sense and responsibility dictate that before any genetically altered organisms are produced, a total halt on any releases must be called, so that sufficient knowledge can be accumulated.

Scientists around the world have proposed a 50-year moratorium on all genetic experimentation and technology sales. The Natural Law Party has proposed this in 40 countries, and in Western Australia in the recent election campaign was joined by all major parties in a multilateral televised statement urging extreme caution in authorizing any genetically engineered products in Australia.

Governments simply have to realize that they are legislating for other people's children – not just their own. "Probably safe" is just not safe enough – not for an intervention that cannot be reversed, and not for matters relating to food and children's development. "Proven to be safe" is the bare minimum. And true proof in science is very, very difficult. "Possibly safe" is an outrage.

Yet at this time, we are faced with the strongest possible lobbying by biotech companies to waive the requirement that genetically altered products even be labelled!

What an extraordinary suggestion! To remove all possibility that damage caused to human beings could even be traced to the offending source. To contrive that if illness or death should occur, whether by unforeseen toxicity or by the development of new allergens, offending corporations can never be identified or prosecuted, and further injury can never be prevented.

Responsibility of Scientists

In the past, scientists were motivated by the inspiration of scientific discovery. Even then, their enthusiasm led them at times to grotesque interference with human life – the high-voltage X-raying of children's' feet for fitting shoes; the overuse of DDT and its accumulation in mothers' milk; the persuasion of whole populations of mothers that commercial formulas were better than breast milk; even in ancient times, the use of lead pipes for plumbing, resulting in the poisoning of whole populations.

Now, however, the pressure on scientists is economic, and is of such a magnitude that geneticists with almost one voice have abandoned their primary concern for human life.

The patenting of new technologies is immensely profitable. The identification of human genetic traits, and their patenting and preservation in secret, has now reached such a level that whole populations of indigenous people on the verge of extinction are being raided for their unique genetic information, without the slightest assistance being offered to ensure their future survival.

A Crisis of Consciousness

The crisis of genetic engineering is not a crisis of biological science, it is a crisis of consciousness. What kind of consciousness can knowingly perpetrate the dangerous interventions in life that we have detailed in this article and in this edition? One can't talk to such people. Closed off, hermetically sealed from the world of other people's lives, concerns, rights, and safety, their response is unreachably self-interested and overconfident. The mind is blinkered, the imagination extinguished. Only by a transformation of consciousness can such a mind be awakened to the reality of what it is doing.

And it is not a matter of individual consciousness. It is a matter of collective consciousness. Genetic raiding is proceeding rapidly. The realization of the truth is proceeding at a snail's pace. Enlightened warnings are unheeded. At the present rate, by the time the true seriousness of the situation has been realized, it will be too late. The world will have been infected with genetic alteration, irreversibly. Even the consciousness of people themselves will be altered by what they ingest.

In this situation, and many like it, there is only one solution: to create a mass awakening of the collective consciousness of the world.

This is possible. It has been shown in over 47 studies that group practice of the TM-Sidhi program, in particular Yogic Flying, transforms the collective consciousness of whole populations within a matter of days. In Washington DC, in a formal experiment carried out in July-August 1993, this procedure reduced crime rate by 20%. In Mozambique its introduction resulted in the resolution of a bloody 20-year civil war. In cities throughout the world, including crisis areas, it has proven time and again that it is both possible and easy to transform the collective consciousness of a nation from violence, disorder, and insensitivity to survival, to harmony, order and farsighted consensus.

To this author, at least, it is obvious that the solution to the dangers of genetic engineering will come not through scientific and technical discovery, but through the transformation of our consciousness to a calm, life-loving, mature and wise awakening to the great potential and delicate responsibility for all future generations involved in all handling of scientific knowledge.