10 February 2000

Table of Contents

BIOWATCH: Something to think about.
South African NLP Member Thrown off Premises at Africa Bio Meeting
Biowatch: Triple-resistant Canola Weeds Found In Alta
GM Potatoes on Hold in US.
Reply to a Pro-GE Letter to the Editor
Nearly one in three now eats organic products
Bad genes (Gene Therapy)
(GM) Wheat Trails in NZ Suspended.
"US farmers fear liability over GM crops"
Only just waking up to the implications
little-used Dyer review article
Labelling Rule Sets GM Food Exports Back Several Years
U.S. FDA FILES: Objections to Use of Antibiotic-Resistant Marker Genes
GM Crops: Government to Give Go Ahead to Commercial Licensing
firms jockey for DNA detection contracts
Irish firm to play a key role in GM labelling
more on organics
New: Intercropping Principles and Production Practices
A note for those who confront the GE dukes

Top NextFront Page

Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 15:49:53 +0200
From: "ekogaia"

BIOWATCH: Something to think about.

"We should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society."

-- Albert Einstein , May 1949.

Relate this to the issue of GE where we have so many punting the pros of GE whilst they have a vested interest.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 17:25:24 +0200
From: "Angus Durran"

South African NLP Member Thrown off Premises at Africa Bio Meeting

By Agnus Durran, Safe Food Coalition

In the inaugural meeting of Africa Bio in Pretoria on February 9 Mr Kolbe Anema of the Natural Law Party was asked to pack his bags and leave the premises.

The occurrence took place in the Agricultural Research Council foyer after he displayed various video tapes and books portraying the possible dangers of genetic engineering (GE).

Africa Bio was set up last year by bio-tech interests to give the public "unbiased" information on genetic engineering.

However "this type of organisation, it would appear, is not impartial by any means", said Mr Anema.

Africa Bio's members consist mainly of companies that have a vested interest in GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Publicly funded government institutions such as the CSIR and the Agricultural Research Council are also members.

"The organisation is here to put over one side of the story" said Anema, spokesman for the Natural Law Party. "It is not proper for government to take sides." He added.

"We are living in a supposedly democratic country. Members of government have a responsibility to be impartial particularly on this highly controversial subject of genetically modifying the food we eat. They (the government) have been wooed by companies such as Monsanto to put out their side of the story. This is totally unacceptable and unconstitutional. It's time the government realised this. For Professor Brink to to throw me out of government premises where I had permission to display my goods is a clear indication of whose side the government is on when it comes to GMOs", said Anema.

"Until such time as the supermarkets have labelled these foods we are being used as guinea pigs. The food has not been sufficiently tested and could give rise to toxins allergens and even to cancer" he added.

According to a spokesman for the Safe Food Coalition, Angus Durran,"Woolworths were in high level discussions on February 9 with an international group who is facilitating procedures to enable farmers and suppliers to detect whether food has been contaminated with GMOs. This would enable shoppers to avoid GM food by means of simple food identification" he said.

For further information contact:

Angus Durran
Tel 011 3181399    Fax 011 3181872    email:

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2000 13:30:54 +0200
From: "ekogaia"

So the scientists say we are all worried about nothing re GE. It looks like the chickens are coming home to roost.

And, dear Scientists, you dont have to be a chicken to recognise an egg, rotten or otherwise.


Also note; The herbicide 2,4D mentioned in the piece below which they imply will sort out the problem is one of the ingredients of our old favourite, agent orange. Remember that wonderful chemical which caused and continues to cause so much suffering in Vietnam and elsewhere? It has been shown to raise the chance of carcinomas six fold according to Swedish studies.

So we are also shown how the lie that GE will cut down on chemicals is another big lie; as resistance builds so too will the apparent necessity to use more potent chemicals.

Biowatch: Triple-resistant Canola Weeds Found In Alta

By Mary MacArthur, Camrose bureau, Western Producer, February 10, 2000

Scientists have long said the use of herbicide-tolerant canola would eventually, according to this story, result in super-resistant plants. Now they've been proven right.

The story says that volunteer canola resistant to three herbicide-tolerant canola systems has been found in a field in northern Alberta. Alberta Agriculture canola specialist Phil Thomas was quoted as saying, "We knew it was going to happen. It was only a matter of when." A series of chemical and DNA tests confirm the weeds in Tony Huether's field near Sexsmith are resistant to Roundup, Liberty and Pursuit chemicals. Denise Maurice, agronomy manager with Westco Fertilizers, a fertilizer sales company, was cited as saying it's the first official case of natural gene stacking in canola since genetically modified canola was adopted by farmers five years ago.

Canola scientist Keith Downey, who created modern canola, was cited as saying the triple-resistant canola isn't a great problem, adding, "We haven't created a superweed or anything like that." He said that adding 2,4-D or a similar herbicide to a chemical mix will kill any wayward weeds, noting, "I don't think it means anything to consumers."

Jenny Hillard, vice-president of the Consumer Association of Canada, was cited as saying this will just be another "horror story" tossed about to frighten consumers, adding, "The backlash now is so little based on fact, I know it won't make it any worse. The general public hasn't a clue of what's going on. They're frightened with so little science behind their fears. They need to get a handle on this or we'll lose the whole damn technology." Still, the story says, farmers like Huether have begun to question the technology that led to the canola stew in his field. The gene crossings have prompted him to stop growing genetically modified canola, adding, "I wouldn't say I'd never do it again, but the way I feel, it's for the best interest of the consumer that I don't."

The story says that Huether seeded two fields of canola in 1997. On the west side of a county road he planted Quest, a canola tolerant of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. On the east side of the road he planted 20 acres of Innovator, a canola tolerant of Aventis's Liberty herbicide. The rest of the 140-acre field was planted to 45A71, a Smart canola tolerant to Cyanamid's Pursuit and Odyssey herbicides. All are Argentine types. The two fields are about 30 metres apart. The year after he planted the field, he discovered volunteer weeds resistant to Roundup where none had been planted. Double resistance was confirmed the first year. The next year, triple resistance was confirmed. Triple resistance can't happen in one year, said Downey.

The mixing of all three herbicide-tolerant types has been blamed on a combination of bees and wind that carry pollen between plants in fields too close together. Researchers now recommend at least 200 metres between genetically modified canola varieties and any other canola field to prevent gene crossing.

Huether was further cited as saying he is bothered by the secrecy surrounding the field tests adding, "Many plants were taken and a lot of seeds taken and grown out in the lab and sprayed with herbicide, and DNA tests done on it, and the results are not being made public. I feel that should be made public." Huether points his finger at the close relationship between chemical companies and government scientists, stating, "It's hush hush because research is funded to a large extent by big business. I'm losing more and more confidence in the whole system of research and how things are approved." Carman Read, with Monsanto, was cited as saying the company had nothing to do with the Alberta Agriculture study and hasn't influenced Alberta Agriculture to withhold the results. John Huffman, an Alberta Agriculture crop specialist who worked with Huether to identify the problems, was cited as saying the report will likely be released in two weeks.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 7 Feb 2000 17:45:32 U

GM Potatoes on Hold in US.

Framers Weekly Feb 4th 2000 (UK).

Genetically modified potatoes are on hold in the US, as major processors and consumers turn their backs on the new technology.

Speaking at Agra Europe Potato 2000 Conference in Rome,Oscar Gutbrodfrom Oregon State Universitysaid growers had been forced to drop GM potatoes in response to consumer demands.

"About 80% of our production is in the US for processing", he said. "Mc Donalds, Burger King and Wendy have all said no to GM fries and the whole indusrty has had to back off".

Commercially approved varieties had included resistance to colorado beetle and potato virus Y. As with soya and maize they had cut chemical use. "While soya and maize go into vegetable oil, the perception of eating GM potatoes is different even though they may be cooked in GM oil", said Professor Gutbrod. Cees Van Arendonk, Agrico, believed GM potatoes would not be accepted in the E/U for at least fifteen years."Modification which makes plants tolerant to chemical treatments is obvoiusly against European consumer demands to strongly reduce the use of chemicals in food production', hesaid.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 8 Feb 2000 03:21:42 U
From: Robert Mann

I'd be grateful to learn if anyone knows whether this was pubd by Anyhow I hope it may provide listees with a handy phrase or two.


Reply to a Pro-GE Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

I notice you invite responses, so I hope the following will be suitable. I would be grateful to be informed on its fate.

Canon Baker writes
As a church commissioner, I will soon have to decide whether to allow the use of Church of England land for trials of genetically modified crops.

My inclination is to support these trials. After all, genetic modification is only a logical extension of the long-established processes of selective breeding of animals and the development of high-yielding species that has gone on for centuries.

Genetic modification uses nature's own God-given techniques for improving crops.

As a fellow Anglican, I find it sad that Canon Baker has been so misinformed. The gene-splicing experiments which have been invented just these past couple of decades transfer genes artificially between species which do not, in nature, swap genes. This is not at all a 'logical extension' of breeding & selection; it is a radically novel man-made mechanism overwhelming the natural barriers between species. Toad genes never naturally get into potatoes; jellyfish genes never show up in sugar-cane; human genes are not naturally found operating in cows.

Moreover, the methods used in these experiments are far from well controlled or understood. In typical recent GE of plants, there is no control over where the foreign genes (always plural) are inserted. Most of the target cells are killed. Among the small minority of surviving cells, some manifest antibiotic-resistance (used as a 'marker' failing any test for the desired property of insect-poisoning etc.). It is hardly surprising that the plants then grown from these selected cells show lower yields – e.g. herbicide-resistant soybeans averaging 6% lower yields in the USA this year.

Worse, the process of gene-insertion can cause unpredicted side-effects. This appears to have been demonstrated by the preliminary tests of Dr Pusztai (a leading expert on such matters) who showed that a certain GE potato caused harm to rats when they ate it.

GE crops may cause irreversible ecological damage. This is not being looked for with scientific care as big chemical companies rush to deploy commercially their GE crops. But lack of knowledge is not proof of safety!

Canon Baker also says

There may also be some environmental gain if their development reduces the need for chemical pesticides.

I am glad this is expressed as a hope rather than fact. The fact is that Roundup-Ready soybeans are receiving several times MORE chemical spray in their actual growing. This is as desired by the manufacturer of Roundup(r), who also sells the R-R(r) soybeans, but it is the opposite of what Canon Baker hopes for.

Unfortunately, the Canon has adopted someone's claim that

genetically modified foods have a better safety record than mobile phones, eggs, holidays in Florida or the M25 motorway.

On the contrary, a highly-purified food supplement (the natural amino-acid L-tryptophan), when produced by Showa Denko from a bacillus GE'd for higher yield, contained trace impurities which killed dozens and maimed thousands. I doubt that eggs or even radiophones are that harmful; Florida may be more arguable, but is at least avoidable, whereas unlabelled GE food is not.

Canon Baker correctly remarks that

fears about the long-term risks underlie most of the objections.

However, he is wrong in then saying

And the frustrating fact is that the only way to test that is through long-term use.

Pharmaceuticals are subjected to testing on a variety of organisms before approval for human use. GE food has not been comparably tested. This is the current practical point. There is no monitoring of people who eat RR-soy products; indeed, the distributors have been careful to mix these alien beans with nonGE beans, preventing any monitoring for harm.

I would urge thoughtful reading of _Genesis 3_ and contemplation that GE may be THE example of rebellion against God – the human pretending to know better than God how this world should be run.


Robert Mann MSc PhD
Auckland, New Zealand

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 8 Feb 2000 12:30:47 U

Nearly one in three now eats organic products

Source: The Independent – London, © 1999, NewsReal, Inc.

MORE THAN one person in four now eats some organic food, although higher prices are still dissuading many customers, according to a survey published today.

Organic food is seen as healthier, safer and tastier in the light of the BSE crisis and fears over genetically modified ingredients.

The survey of 2,000 people for Health Which? magazine, published by the Consumers' Association, found that 29 per cent of people now replace some of their staple food with organic alternatives.

Fruit and vegetables are the most popular organic purchase, with 18 per cent of those questioned saying they sometimes buy them. One in 10 people occasionally buys organic meat, dairy products and bread, the survey found.

Of those who did opt for organic alternatives, 60 per cent gave health as their main reason, while half said they were attracted by the lack of pesticides in such products.

Just under half (46 per cent) thought organic food contained more vitamins and minerals, while 9 per cent were worried about genetic modification, and 6 per cent by the link between BSE, mad cow disease, and its human form, Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD).

More than a quarter – 29 per cent – thought that organic alternatives simply tasted better. The higher price of organic food was the main reason for customers sticking to other products; 45 per cent were put off by the cost.

Supermarkets insist that they do not mark up prices on organic foods to make extra profits, saying the higher cost is because farming methods are more expensive.

Mary Weston, co-ordinator of the Organic Lifestock Marketing Co- operative said: "Availability is quite low and it does cost more to grow and farm things organically. But demand is shooting up, and while it may take a long time, if customers stick with it prices will come down."

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 8 Feb 2000 12:38:36 U

Bad genes (Gene Therapy)

By James Meek, The Guardian, Tuesday February 8, 2000,3605,133639,00.html

A decade ago, gene therapy was the holy grail of medicine. Doctors hoped that by tinkering with our DNA they could cure the incurable. Now, in the US, they stand accused of covering up deaths during experiments. So could the same thing be happening in Britain?

It has been a bad few months for the pioneers of gene therapy. The frontier medical technology has been in the news for the wrong reasons. A little over a decade ago, when the first gene therapy trials involving human subjects were sanctioned, the more optimistic scientists and biotech investors hoped that by now the first effective treatments for previously incurable diseases would have appeared on the horizon.

It hasn't happened. Not one of the hundreds of past or present gene therapy experiments has yet turned up anything resembling a cure. And a series of disturbing revelations from the US, following the death last September of one gene therapy guinea pig, 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger, has exposed the entire field to accusations of negligence, expediency and putting profit before safety.

The response of gene therapy's backers – dogged researchers, biotech firms and thousands of people desperate for sick and dying family members to have their raised hopes met – is the same: be patient, and don't damn the whole programme over the reckless behaviour of a few US scientists.

Gene therapy covers a multitude of techniques with one thing in common. They all involve manipulating a cloned version of a naturally-occurring gene and introducing it into the human body in order to combat a disease.

The techniques have something else in common: they are all extremely difficult. The principle is simple enough – often, it is a case of trying to replace abnormal genes in a patient with normal ones. The very vocabulary used to try to explain the process for lay people, filled with words like "delivering" genes and "packaging" genes, makes it sound like a straightforward postal operation. The reality is more extreme – something like trying to replace a single component in all the cars and trucks in a city a thousand miles away while the vehicles are moving.

There are between 5,000 and 8,000 diseases, ranging from the well-known such as cystic fibrosis to obscure ailments affecting a handful of people, for which a defective gene or set of genes is responsible. As scientists first began to tie particular gene mutations with particular illnesses, hopes soared that a way would be found to swap faulty genes for good ones. The hopes remain, but they have now been tarnished by experience.

Cystic fibrosis seemed like one of the prime candidates for successful gene therapy, and since the defective gene was identified in 1989, about 150 volunteer sufferers – including dozens in the UK – have been administered with doses of "proper" genes. On a molecular level, researchers measured slight, short-term improvements, but as one commented last year: "A cure is not around the corner." The problem is getting the replacement genes to the cells in the lungs that are malfunctioning. The disease generates a thick mucus that forms a barrier to delivery, which is often by means of a spray.

"Thus far, the level of correction hasn't been strong enough or lasted long enough to get clinical benefits," says Dr Martin Scott of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust in the UK.

The difficulty of getting "good" genes to the place in a patient's body where they are needed, and the sheer frustration of researchers at the slow pace of research, seems to have been behind Gelsinger's death.

Scientists at the previously respected Pennsylvania Institute for Gene Therapy violated a string of federal and in-house rules to recruit and use the unsuitable Gelsinger as a volunteer in their studies of gene therapy treatment for a liver disorder. And they used a particularly risky technique of delivering the "good" genes – putting them inside a modified cold virus and injecting it into Gelsinger's bloodstream.

Last month federal regulators shut down all the institute's gene research trials. Last week, it emerged that 652 out of 691 cases of "serious adverse events" in US gene therapy trials had not been properly reported. Most of those whose illness worsened or who died were terminally ill. But there is concern that, in the US at least, commercial pressures on scientists to get results is leading them to use the inevitable deaths of guinea pigs as an excuse to cut corners.

In Britain, scientists seeking to carry out gene therapy research on patients have to get permission from two agencies – the gene therapy advisory committee, GTAC, and the medicines control agency, the MCA.

Since it was set up in 1992, GTAC has consented to 40 gene therapy studies, involving 260 volunteers, most of them linked to treatment for cancer. Researchers are required to report to GTAC on any death or deterioration in a trial patient's condition whether the gene therapy itself was thought to be the cause or not.

A department of health spokesman says there has never been "unexpected serious side effects" from British gene therapy trials. None of the British gene therapy studies has used the method tried by the Pennsylvania researchers, although viruses have been used as packages to get genes to their destination. Indeed, many of the British scientists have less ambitious aims than that of actually replacing faulty genes with working ones.

In Glasgow, they are trying to treat head, neck and ovarian cancer by modifying a virus's own genes to turn it into a cancer killer. At Guy's Hospital in London, trials have been completed in a four-country study of gene therapy for breast cancer. The idea is to give patients injections of a virus modified to carry two human genes. One gene labels tumour cells as enemies; the other marshals specialist cells to destroy them.

A British biotech company, Oxford Biomedica, is funding research at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford into what are called "prodrugs". Again, the aim is not to replace faulty genes, but to use genes as part of treatment – in this case, to trigger an anti-cancer chemotherapy drug exclusively in a tumour, rather than having it reach the tumour after travelling through the rest of the body first.

The work at Guy's and the Churchill highlights the irony of gene therapy's current stained reputation –that up until now, whether it worked or not, it has always seemed like a relatively safe, uncomplicated treatment. As one researcher put it, "Patients love it." Compared to standard chemotherapy drugs, which provoke side effects like baldness and nausea, the quick injection or spray of a gene therapy medium is a breeze. The question is whether some researchers did not become too casual in their assumption that delivery of the genes was always going to be harmless.

But British scientists insist that, whatever happened in the US, it isn't happening here. "We have a very high level of monitoring and control," says Oxford Biomedica's chief executive, Dr Alan Kingsman. "The important thing to get out of what's happened in the US is that the bad things which have happened there are much more to do with procedure than with the technology. What we really must not do is sacrifice the field because of bad procedures in the US."

The inherited diseases that gene therapy could cure

  1. Cystic fibrosis
    Affects about 7,000 people in the UK. One in 25 people is a carrier of the faulty gene. The disease causes a thick mucus to build up in the lungs which, along with other symptoms, impairs breathing. Medical improvements have pushed average survival age up to adulthood, but the disease still cuts life drastically short, usually from respiratory failure.

  2. Muscular dystrophy
    A family of disorders caused by abnormal genes. The most common form affects about one in 15,000 male births. Muscles progressively waste away, with death normally in the late teens or early 20s. Identification of the gene responsible has made diagnosis straightforward even before symptoms develop but scientists are wary of seeking a gene therapy to treat it; it appears that working genes would somehow need to be introduced into every affected cell, a daunting task.

  3. Huntington's disease
    About one in 10,000 people have the faulty gene that causes this degenerative nerve disease. It usually appears between the ages of 35 and 40. Involuntary muscle movements and dementia usually lead to death within 10 years.

  4. Haemophilia
    A disease that prevents normal blood clotting, causing a major crisis even from the most minor injury. The defective gene that causes the disease is passed by father to daughter; the daughter doesn't suffer from it, but becomes a carrier. Researchers have recently announced encouraging results from gene therapy trials to combat haemophilia.

  5. Epidermolysis bullosa
    One of thousands of extremely rare genetic disorders waiting for a gene therapy miracle, the faulty gene here fails to hold skin together properly. Skin comes off when rubbed; parents cannot pick up their children. One in every 20,000 UK babies is affected.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 8 Feb 2000 12:59:35 U

(GM) Wheat Trails in NZ Suspended.

Bridge News, Tel: +644-471-2228

This is another piece of very pertinent information. Bioetch's loss of favour is passing down through the ranks. This is very important for a few reasons.

Wheat is the world's number 1 crop. Monsanto were depending on this one particularly. Also New Zealand was chose for the site of testing because of the UK's reputation for direct action. New Zealand has for the last couple of years, exploited the fact that as the UK is red hot then another place must be favoured instead. New Zealand today is I would say, the most freindly nation to G/E outside of the US, apart from China that is.

For the N/Z branch of yours truely to be backing off now is surely a accurate sign of where the approval process is, noew totally defunct. No GM potatoes in the US, and now more wheat trials in NZ, two very major setbacks

MONSANTO: Global biotechnology company Monsanto has withdrawn an application for New Zealand field trials of genetically engineered wheat. Public opposition to the plan to grow Roundup-ready wheat in Canterbury involved 1418 submissions to the Environmental Risk Management Authority. As Monsanto had agreed last year to a voluntary moratorium on general releases of genetic crops it was appropriate to put the field test on hold too, a spokesman said. The government proposes a Royal Commission into engineered foods and other biotechnology.

Send comments to Internet address:

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 8 Feb 2000 14:58:46 U

"US farmers fear liability over GM crops"

Farmer's Weekly articles (UK).

US farmers fear over GM crops MORE than 30 farm groups in the USA have told their members they are vulnerable to massive liability by planting GM seeds.

The organisations representing tens of thousands of farmers include the National Family Farm Coalition and the American Corn Growers Association.

They claim poor safety testing of GM crops could leave farmers legally liable for damage caused by pollen drift and other environme

They claim poor safety testing of GM crops could leave farmers legally liable for damage caused by pollen drift and other environmen- tal impacts.

"Our big fear is neighbours suing neighbours," says Gary Goldberg of the Nebraska-based AQGA. "What happens when a farmer plants a non-GM grain crop but testing at the elevator finds GM content?" he asks. "We know there is potential pollen transfer by insects up to four or five miles. If a farmer loses his non-GM premium as a result, he is going to sue neighbours plant- ing GM crops," he says. Organic growers are likely to do the same.

US grain buyers are now devel- oping contracts including GM-con- tent assurances, which farmers will have to sign this year. Those will keep US lawyers even busier. "Growers will have to pay lawyers to review these contracts to make sure they are not going to be held liable for contamination," says Mr Goldberg.

Farmers may have to test their seed, because even non-GM seed has contained some GM material, he adds. With the Japanese looking for less than 0.1% GM content in non-G M certified crops, this could be a major hurdle. Mr Goldberg says members of his organisation are not opposed to GM crops, but do not believe the risks of growing such crops have been adequately explored. The farm organisations are call- ing on the seed companies to pro- mote the sale of traditional vari- eties until independent assess- ments of the environmental, health and economic impacts are studied.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 8 Feb 2000 14:58:46 U

Only just waking up to the implications

Farmer's Weekly articles (UK).

North American farmers are only just waking up to the risks and implications of using GM crops says John Kinsmen, a Wisconsin dairy farmer and NFFC vice-president.

"Ignorance about GMOs among farmers here is very high," he says blaming the media, government agriculture officials and universities for presenting a one-sided pro-biotech viewpoint. Farmers did not realise that the Food and Drug Administration declared GM crops safe solely on the basis of research provided by biotech companies, he says. "We need a moratorium on GM crops and animals so their risks can be explored." He believes family farmers have much to lose and little to gain from GM crops.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 8 Feb 2000 15:27:15 U
From: Robert Mann

little-used Dyer review article

The article below is by a 3-decade-experienced Canadian journo. Dyer has been perhaps best known for his writing on military matters, including a book on war.

The rag which published this article, the NZ Herald, has been generally biased pro-GE. That the NZ Herald now publishes such a good article while a main media-prowler for our lists can't find it elsewhere is a puzzling anomaly.

I note the Herald did not give any hint of syndication - many of their feature articles are labelled 'The Observer', or 'Bloomberg' etc. That may make it all the more important for us to spread it around.

It is obviously not perfect, notably in asserting that opposition to GEF is "hardly at all about science". His summary of the Precautionary Principle is far less accurate than Meacher's which he quotes. And Yanks with their quaint Imperial units will have to put up with Dyer's "300kg gorilla" instead of their "800 lb gorilla".

But more important is that Dyer's article is one of the very best lately and is worthy of wide circulation. And it certainly features several quotable quotes!

Over to youse. (next Article).

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

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 8 Feb 2000 15:27:15 U
From: Robert Mann

Labelling Rule Sets GM Food Exports Back Several Years

By Gwynne Dyer, NZ Herald 00-2-3, pA15

Game, set, and match. The Protocol on Biosafety, agreed by 130 countries last Saturday in Montreal afer frantic overtime negotiations, sets the seal on a year that saw genetically modified organisms (GMOs) go from a technology set to sweep the planet to a discredited experiment with a rapidly shrinking future in international trade.

Over the bitter opposition of the United States and a few other GMO-exporting countries (the US, Canada and Argentina account for more than 90% of the world's GM food crops), the Montreal conference decided that all international shipments of food or seeds that may include GMOs must be labelled as such.

Even more importantly, it agreed that countries can bar imports of such foods on the "precautionary principle" - just because they're worried about their safety - without breaking international trade rules.

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

So why did the US back down at the last moment? After all, 300kg gorillas usually sit where they want.

A big part of the reason was that the United States has been deeply unpopular on too many other international issues recently. From the 1997 treaty banning land mines, to the 1998 International Criminal Court, to last year's Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty, the US has been virtually alone among the industrial democracies in refusing to sign.

Washington had already refused to sign the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity that provided the framework for the protocol on biosafety being negotiated in Montreal.

Now it was determined to strangle that protocol in its cradle - manifestly in the service of the interests of US agribusiness. This pattern of behaviour has annoyed even America's closest allies to the point where more and more often they just go ahead without US assent.

If the negotiations in Montreal had broken up inconclusively, many countries would have gone ahead and banned GM imports anyway: consumer pressure to do so would have been irresistible. That might cause a trade war, but it wouldn't help the American farmers who have fallen for the promises of GM giant Monsanto and its rivals to sell their GM crops abroad.

Besides, the home front is now crumbling; consumer resistance to genetically modified foods is beginning to awaken in North America as well. If you're going to lose anyway, you might as well lose gracefully.

In the end, after two all-night sessions, US Assistant Secretary of State David Sandlow backed down and accepted the new rules. Companies planning to export GM seeds or crops to other countries will have to inform their governments in advance; they must be labelled; and the governments have the right to refuse the imports on environmental or healthgrounds - even without conclusive scientific evidence that GM products are dangerous.

It is effectively the death knell for international trade in GM products, at least for five or 10 years, and North American farmers will react fast; this spring's planting will show a dramatic collapse in the use of GM seeds. It is one of the great public relations disaster stories of all time, for it is all about public perceptions and hardly at all about science.

The one more or less scientific element in the story was British scientist Dr Arpad Pusztai's August 1998 claim that GM potatoes damaged the immune system of rats, for which he was hounded from his job. But a February 1999 protest by 20 international scientists demanding that Pusztai's findings be reinstated galvanised popular anxiety about GM foods in Britain.

Within weeks, most of the major British supermarket and fast-food chains were promising to phase out all products with GM ingredients as fast as possible, and the revolt against GM foods was apreading like wildfire in the rest of Western Europe.

To some extent Europeans were hypersensitive because of other recent food scares, but a critical element in the response was European resentment at the incredibly naive and arrogant strategy adopted by Monsanto, and loyally enforced by the American and Canadian Governments.

North American producers deliberately mixed GM and non-GM products in their food exports, while their Governments threatened legal action under international free trade legislation if the export markets tried to bar shipments containing GM material, or even to label them GM.

It did amount to shoving the stuff down people's throats. They were bound to be resentful, and suspicious, too.

By May, Europe's biggest bank, Deutsche Bank, was warning(in a report titled GMOs Are Dead) that "increasingly, GMOs are . . . a liability to farmers." By July it was bluntly warning large institutional investors to unload their shares in companies involved in the development of GMOs.

Meanwhile, Third World governments that foresaw millions of peasant farmers being driven off their lands by the high capital requirements of farming with GM seeds were making common cause with European governments worried about consumer safety.

The result was the coalitin tht basically killed he GM revolution in Montreal last Saturday. And the lesson is not that GMOs are a menace to human health, genetic stability in other plants, or the welfare of poor peasants (though they may be all of those things). It is that arrogance makes people stupid.


Gwynne Dyer is London-based independent journalist.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 9 Feb 2000 09:57:02 U

U.S. FDA FILES: Objections to Use of Antibiotic-Resistant Marker Genes

By Jason Boehk, Alliance for Bio-Integrity,

Four Categories:
One Example, From Category B:


More U.S. Food & Drug Administration internal memoranda about the hazards of genetically engineered foods have been added to the Alliance for Bio-Integrity's web-site at:

View a total of 60 pages of the FDA's internal memoranda on the hazards of genetically engineered foods. The index page for 25 FDA documents is:

The main home page for the Alliance for Bio-Integrity web-site:

The FDA internal memoranda about genetically engineered foods are now organized in

Four Categories:

  1. FDA Scientists Discuss Various Safety Concerns
  2. Specific Objections to Use of Antibiotic-Resistant Marker Genes
  3. Safety Questions Raised by Tests on the Flavr Savr Tomato – the Most Thoroughly Tested Bioengineered Food
  4. Additional Evidence of Improprieties In The Formation Of FDA Policy On Bioengineered Foods

One Example, From Category B:

(Specific Objections to Use of Antibiotic-Resistant Marker Genes) HERE'S AN EXCERPT from one file, viewable at:

In a cover memo dated December 17, 1992 and attached to a consult from Dr. James Maryanski, FDA Biotech Coordinator, and Dr. Eric Flamm of the Office of Biotechnology, Dr. Murray M. Lumpkin (of the Division of Anti-Infective Drug Products) wrote [italics added]:

Re: The tomatoes that will eat Akron

Bruce [Dr. Bruce Burlington]: You really need to see this consult. The Division comes down fairly squarely against the kan' gene marker in the genetically engineered tomatoes. I know this could have serious ramifications. If you are uncomfortable or if you feel we need more input, please let me know. As this is an area no one has great expertise in, I am more than happy to get as many opinions as we need on this. Take care.

Note: The consult referred to by Mr. Lumpkin begins at:

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 9 Feb 2000 11:39:59 U

GM Crops: Government to Give Go Ahead to Commercial Licensing

By FOE Internet System

Government officials have informed Friends of the Earth that they will advise Ministers in a meeting tomorrow not to block the commercial licensing of genetically modified (GM) seeds. The meeting is taking place after the European Commission wrote to Member States last week urging them to give the go-ahead for GM seeds to be put on the EU register - the Common Catalogue. This would allow farmers to buy GM seeds throughout Europe before the completion of the farm scale trials.

The proposal quite clearly puts the Commission at odds with the European Parliament which has declared a de facto moratorium on the further commercial development of GM crops until stricter rules are put in place.

Friends of the Earth is leading the campaign to stop GM seeds being given commercial licences whilst research into their environmental effects is incomplete and issues such as cross-pollination lie unresolved. FOE is also concerned that if GM seeds are put onto the proposed EU Common Catalogue it will bypass UK citizens' right to demand a public hearing to object to any seed listing in this country.

Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Food Campaigner said: It appears that the Government is happy to go along with the Commission's plan to speed up the commercial growing of GM crops. Ministers should refuse to accept these demands outright. It is quite clear that many of these crops pose a threat to the environment, farmers and beekeepers. Allowing commercial licences before these issues are resolved shows that the biotech industry is still calling the tune.

Next week a Government committee will consider an application for GM maize to be added to the UK's National Seed List - the first time a GM crop has been put forward for commercial licensing in this country. National Seed Listing is the final regulatory hurdle that a GM seed has to clear before it can be commercially grown in the UK. FOE revealed last week that eight varieties of GM seed could be added to the National Seed List in 2000, and that at least 24 GM varieties are in the pipeline for approval before the completion of the Government's farm scale trials.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 9 Feb 2000 15:35:11 U
From: Robert Mann

firms jockey for DNA detection contracts

The story below is relevant to NZ because

  1. it gives a glimpse of the technical difficulties in enforcing label requirements
  2. it is likely to help those who claim labelling would cost enormously.

My tentative assessment of those issues is that his 'double the cost of food' etc remains ridiculous, but the corporations lining up to do the testing have reason to foresee big profits for themselves.

Always remember the impurities in the Showa Denko L-tryptophan were not DNA and could not have been detected by PCR or any other DNA detection. The dangers of GEF are not mainly the DNA in the food; it's the novel proteins and other biochemicals that generally are the worry, and usually one would not even know what to look for.

The 'informed consent' mentality fails drastically in this context. A government is not taking proper care of its citizens if it allows GEF to be created. Monitoring DNA in GEF and derived oils, sugars, amino-acids etc is little better than an elaborate charade of pseudo-protection. Among the objections to the policy 'sell it if you wish, but label it' is the impossibility of adequate enforcement.

I see no reason to believe that labelled 'nonGEF' would force GEF out of the market, causing 'market failure' collapsing the market for GEF, as claimed by a particularly stupid politician, than to expect that organic food now available will promptly supplant agribusiness products.

And in any case, 'food safe' cannot be equated with 'environment safe'. The processes leading to GEF on the market shelves are, in general, so ecologically dubious that they should be prohibited. Leaving consumers to bring about 'market failure' is a stupid policy.

R     (Next Article)

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

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 9 Feb 2000 15:35:11 U
From: Robert Mann

Irish firm to play a key role in GM labelling

Source: The Irish Times, © 1999, NewsReal, Inc.

An Irish company based at Trinity College Dublin, which has developed advanced techniques to detect GMOs in food, has been approved by the EU and will play a major role in facilitating the labelling of GM foods sold in Europe.

IdentiGEN has successfully emerged from a validation programme aimed at harmonising GMO testing standards across the EU. Of 22 laboratories from Europe and North America, it was one of only nine to score 100 per cent efficiency in all product categories tested.

Reliable testing is crucial to effective labelling of GM foods and will be required in Europe and elsewhere. Labelling, seen as the best means of offering consumer choice, is about to become mandatory for products with greater than 1 per cent GM material per ingredient under new EU regulations.

Determining if a product contains GM material can be complex, according to Dr Ronan Loftus of IdentiGEN. Most tests look for specific genes engineered into the crop, using a technique known as the polymerase chain reaction. This can detect trace amounts of stretches of DNA in complex food mixtures.

"However, obtaining DNA of sufficient quality and quantity to facilitate detection is not always easy. The degradation caused through food-processing can damage or even destroy DNA, making it very difficult to detect," Dr Loftus said.

The company has been providing a commercial GMO testing service over the past year to customers in Ireland, Britain and the US.

Given that up to 60 per cent of processed food products may contain soya or corn derivatives - a large percentage potentially of GM origin - validation of IdentiGEN's detection methods will aid considerably their monitoring of GM foods, Dr Loftus said.

Publication date: Feb 09, 2000

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 9 Feb 2000 15:57:02 U
From: Laurel Hopwood

more on organics

  1. more info on organics: Source: ACRES USA Has large library of books/resources available for sale. Some probably have info re: studies showing that organic is more nutritious. 800-355-5313 or

  2. OP ED ST Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/4/99 by Evan Vallianatos (writer of "Fear on the Countryside: The Control of Agricultural Resources in the Poor Countries by Non-Peasant Elites" and "Harvest of Devastation")

Organic Farmers Would Be Better Than One-crop Plantations

(This went in print the week the Missouri Botanical Garden was hosting the 16th Internatl Botanical Congress. See the following info about the Missouri Botanical Garden.)

edited article in Scientific American by Tim Beardsley in St. Louis: Paul Raven is the director of the Missouri Botanical Garden. His wife, Katherine E. Fish, is Monsanto's director of public policy. Paul Raven is firmly in the camp that believes biotechnology can contribute to solving the world's problems by producing better crops.

He says he understands that many people are fearful about some possible products of biotechnology, such as so-called terminator seeds that could be planted only once, to protect the developers' intellectual property. But objectors are probably reflecting underlying concern about who will control agriculture in the next century. Likewise, recent public anxiety about the effects of a common bioengineered pesticide, Bt, on monarch butterflies reflects a misunderstanding.

Monarchs and many other insects are killed by the billions by conventional chemical sprays, he observes, so to suppose that Bt is a big new problem is "absurd"; nothing suggests that monarchs consume significant amounts in the wild. One of his frequent opponents in biotechnology debates, Rebecca J. Goldburg of the Environmental Defense Fund, suggests that Raven's connections with Monsanto amount to a conflict of interest.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 9 Feb 2000 18:12:49 U
From: wytze

New: Intercropping Principles and Production Practices

Steve Diver wrote:

Announcing this new web item from ATTRA.

Intercropping Principles and Production Practices


Intercropping offers farmers the opportunity to engage nature's principle of diversity on their farms. Plant spatial arrangements, planting rates, and maturity dates must be considered when planning intercrops. Intercrops can be more productive than growing pure stands. Many different intercrop systems are discussed including mixed intercropping, strip cropping and traditional intercropping arrangements. Pest management benefits can also be realized from intercropping due to increased diversity. Harvesting options for intercrops include hand harvest, machine harvest for on-farm feed and animal harvest of the standing crop.

The author is Preston Sullivan, agronomy specialist.

Here's another sample, from the "Introduction."

Sustainable agriculture seeks, at least in principle, to use nature as the model for designing agriculture systems. Since nature consistently integrates her plants and animals into a diverse landscape, a major tenet of sustainable agriculture is to create and maintain diversity. Nature is also efficient. There are no waste products in nature. Outputs from one organism become inputs for another. The death of one organism becomes food for other organisms. Since we are modeling nature, let us first look at some of the principles by which nature functions. By understanding these principles we can utilize them to reduce costs and increase profitability, while at the same time sustaining our land resource base.

From: Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas - ATTRA


To Unsubscribe: Email with the command "unsubscribe sanet-mg". If you receive the digest format, use the command "unsubscribe sanet-mg-digest". To Subscribe to Digest: Email with the command "subscribe sanet-mg-digest".

Top PreviousFront Page

Date: 10 Feb 2000 01:04:27 U
From: Robert Mann

A note for those who confront the GE dukes

The boy David who went on to much greater things is our model, no?

Which five small stones do we take into the field against Goliath? Here's a draft list -

  1. is its authorship clear?
  2. is it intelligible to the intended audience?
  3. is it internally consistent?
  4. is it consistent with established science?
  5. does it meet accepted moral standards?

This has been put to a court in NZ in a case of 'a few stirrers' v. Shell, BP, and a few others. The judge was persuaded by this (and a lot of science).


Robt Mann
Mulgoon Professor emeritus of Environmental Studies, U of Auckland consultant stirrer & motorcyclist
P O Box 28878, Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand (9) 524 2949