Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

7 April 2000

Table of Contents

Monsanto: Scientists Achieve Major Breakthrough in Rice
Biotech rivals team up in effort to sell altered food
Organic Farming Increasing, USDA Reports
royal society guidance for editors
Biotechs Getting Cold Feet
Farmers unite
Population Quiz
Robert Cohen article
Misuse of Southern hemisphere Hunger and Poverty as an argument for GE
GM foods and the luxury of choice
Greenpeace: Melchett tells court of his fear of GM crops
GM foods as human experimentation
US firm announces big step in genome research
De-toxification: Phytoremediation Market Report and Industry Directory

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Date: 4 Apr 2000 11:48:35 +0100
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

Such knights in shining armour. In their world nothings for nothing, so it shows you how desperate they are to get back in to good books.
Jim Mc Nulty

Monsanto: Scientists Achieve Major Breakthrough in Rice

Data to be Shared With Worldwide Research Community

PR Newswire - April 04, 2000 00:56

Sections:
Breakthrough
Meeting New Needs For Improved Rice
Benefits to Other Crops
SOURCE Monsanto Company

Breakthrough

ST. LOUIS, April 4 /PRNewswire/ – Monsanto (NYSE: MTC) today announced a major scientific breakthrough in decoding the genetic make-up of rice, and that it will share its data with researchers around the world. This will enable the world's scientific community to greatly accelerate the development of more nutritious and higher yielding rice. It is also expected to lead to similar developments in other major crops such as corn and wheat.

The rice genome sequence has been decoded to the level of a 'working draft.' This is the first crop genome to be described in such technical detail, and will provide a new level of understanding of almost all the genes in rice, but leaves certain details yet to be determined.

A new gene sequencing approach produced the data primarily in the laboratories of Dr. Leroy Hood, at the University of Washington in Seattle, under contract for Monsanto.

Monsanto's data will be made available to the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP), a ten-member consortium of rice genome sequencing projects around the world. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), the lead agency in the IRGSP, confirmed at a press conference in Tokyo today that it will distribute a set of the company's data to members of the IRGSP.

Earlier today in Tokyo, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), speaking on behalf of the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP), said this initiative is the first time a private enterprise will share a large volume of genome information globally in this way. The initiative is "to be highly applauded," the Ministry stated.

The Ministry added that "the use of this data by the international consortium will significantly accelerate decoding" of the entire rice genome.

Monsanto also will make its data available to researchers outside the international rice sequencing program. Hendrik Verfaillie, President of Monsanto Company, said, "we want to facilitate and encourage basic research to improve rice and other crops. This is a concrete example of our support for global agricultural research." No fees will be charged to scientists for the use of this information, he added.

Meeting New Needs For Improved Rice

This new body of information will provide countries and research institutions with the ability to accelerate development of improved types of rice. In the years ahead, rice with better nutritional value, greater yields, and more adaptable to seasons, climates and soils will be developed, both through traditional methods of crop improvement (breeding) and biotechnology.

This research may also lead to the development of rice varieties that require less environmental resources, including land and water, and utilize natural resources more effectively.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) estimates that a billion new rice consumers will be added in Asia by 2020. By that date, four billion people – more than half the world's population – will depend on rice.

"We hope that sharing this data will lead to many discoveries that enhance food security throughout the developing world," said Mr. Verfaillie.

Benefits to Other Crops

In addition to being one of the most important world food crops, rice serves as a research model. The availability of detailed information about the rice genome will likely lead to advancing global efforts to improve other major food crops, including corn (maize), wheat, barley, sorghum, millet, and others.

Monsanto undertook this rice genome sequencing project in support of its ongoing crop research and development programs.

Monsanto Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pharmacia, is a leading provider of agricultural solutions to growers worldwide. Its 12,000 employees provide top-quality, cost-effective and integrated approaches to help farmers improve their productivity and produce better quality foods. For more information on Monsanto, see: www.monsanto.com .

SOURCE Monsanto Company

/NOTE TO EDITORS: The contents of this press kit, including some photos and graphics, are available at www.monsanto.com. /

/CONTACT: Gary Barton of Monsanto, 314-694-7233, 314-694-3971 or 314-694-4382/

/Company News On-Call: http://www.prnewswire.com/comp/114341.html or fax, 800-758-5804, ext. 114341/

/Web site: http://www.monsanto.com


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Date: 4 Apr 2000 11:55:44 +0100
From: T4shea@aol.com

Biotech rivals team up in effort to sell altered food

By Bill Lambrecht , Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau
St. Louis Post Dispatch, Front Page - A section

WASHINGTON - Monsanto Co. and its biotechnology rivals began a $50 million campaign Monday to sell Americans on the benefits of genetically modified food.

With television and print ads along with a Web site and toll-free number, the newly formed Council for Biotechnology Information is seeking to raise awareness and reduce worry at a critical juncture for a powerful new technology.

The council says it may spend as much as $250 million on the campaign over the next five years toward shaping opinion in the United States and Canada.

Monsanto spokesman Jeff Bergau said the campaign is designed to tell consumers something they don't know a lot about.

"From the conversations that we've had with people, the more access they've had to information and the more exposure they've had to biotech form a variety of sources, the more likely they are to embrace the technology," he said.

A television ad that started airing nationally on Monday likens the potential of genetically modified crops with the more widely accepted use of biotechnology in medicine.

Interspersing views of farms and labs, the 60-second ad proclaims: "A patient has a medicine she needs. A boy can survive a childhood disease. A cotton crop helps protect itself from certain pests because discoveries in biotechnology, from medicine to agriculture, are helping doctors and farmers to treat our sick and to protect our crops."

The campaign opened on Monsanto's first day of business as a subsidiary of Pharmacia Corp.

The companies announced in December that Monsanto would combine with Pharmacia & Upjohn in what was described by both sides as a merger of equals.

In its new campaign, the industry is bringing in global muscle to combat perception problems that have threatened to derail the burgeoning business of genetically engineered food.

In addition to Monsanto, companies in the Council on Biotechnology Information include DuPont; Dow Chemical; Swiss-based Novartis Corp.; BASF of Germany; and Aventis CropScience and Zeneca Ag Products, both of Britain. Also taking part is the Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade association

The companies are committed to spending $50 million a year during an effort that is planned for three to five years. The new entity has been incorporated and will open an office in Washington.

Companies work together in trade associations, but seldom do competitors like Monsanto and DuPont become allied in such an aggressive campaign. In fact, DuPont recently sued Monsanto in U.S. District Court in Delaware alleging that that Monsanto had stolen genetic technologies.

Their willingness not only to work together but also to spend as much as $250 million over five years shows a fierce commitment to preserving a technology that has been buffeted by controversy.

Most of that controversy has swirled in Europe, where a consumer backlash against modified food has stalled acceptance of gene-altered crops in the 15-country European Union. American corn growers have been unable to export to Europe since the fall of 1998 because of the furor.

In recent months, the debate has begun to sprout in the United States in the form of protests and legislation in Congress and in states calling for more stringent regulation of modified foods.

Last week, the Agriculture Department announced that American farmers intend to plant slightly fewer acres this spring in seeds that are modified for production ease or to help plants ward off pests.

Despite consumers' safety worries in Europe, and to a lesser extent in Japan and Brazil, polls show that the public in North America remains generally unworried and unknowledgeable about modified food. The industry campaign aims to increase that knowledge and to halt any concerns that may be developing.

The council's Web site is at www.whybiotech.com. On the Internet and in the ads, the companies assert that:

The effort could be risky, judging by the experience in Europe. In 1998, Monsanto canceled a multimillion-dollar ad campaign in the United Kingdom and France after a public outcry. While there was polling evidence that a revised campaign might have worked, at least in France, Monsanto bailed out amid the clamor. Other companies had declined to join with Monsanto in that effort.

Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists said she was "taken aback" by the potential commitment of $250 million.

"You have to ask why they are doing it. And one reason has to be that most people in America can't see benefits on the horizon to them or to their families," she said.

Bergau, the Monsanto spokesman, replied that, "It is a lot of money, but it's an important commitment. The scope of the program demonstrates the level of commitment the companies have to giving people easy access to information about biotechnology."


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Date: 4 Apr 2000 16:09:59 +0100
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

Organic Farming Increasing, USDA Reports

Business Wire Press Release, 2000-04-04
http://cnniw.yellowbrix.com/pages/cnniw/Story.nsp?story_id=980638....

TOPIC: As consumer demand for organic food increases, U.S. farm acreage for organic cultivation more than doubled from 1992 to 1997, the Department of Agriculture recently reported, according to The Washington Post. Surveys from individual states show double-digit annual growth rates continuing through 1999, according to the USDA.

Organic farming prohibits the use of pesticides and herbicides and encourages soil conservation through the use of natural waste and crop rotation. USDA officials say they are increasing promotion of the environmental benefits of organic farming to convention farmers. Despite the recent growth, organic farms still comprise only an estimated two-tenths of one percent of the nation's 828 millions acres of farmland, according to the report.

EXPERTS: ExpertSource can offer several highly qualified experts to comment on this story:

ExpertSource cannot guarantee the immediate availability of these experts or their familiarity with this specific issue. ExpertSource, a collaboration of Business Wire and The Round Table Group, provides academic and industry experts to the media at no charge. Journalists are encouraged to submit queries to ExpertSource when seeking experts on specific subjects. An online registration form is available at http://www.businesswire.com/expertsource

Business Wire's Media Resource Center provides working journalists many free media services. Please visit the BW Media Resource Center at http://www.businesswire.com/media for more information.

Publication date: 2000-04-04 © 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.


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Date: 4 Apr 2000 18:24:19 +0100
From: "j.e. cummins" jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

Royal Society Guidance for Editors

April 4, 2000

Prof. Joe Cummins
738 Wilkins Street, London, Ontario N6C4Z9, Canada
Telephone 519 681 5477    e-mail: jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

Trust me, I'm an expert The Royal Society's Guidance for editors

On April 3 I posted Maiwan Ho's article on the Royal Society's effort to set a list of scientists who would guide media in presenting information on science. Members of the list would, presumably , veto the comments of those whose views differ from their own. For example, the Royal Society review of the research of Dr. Pusztai on potatoes modified with lectin gene falsely concluded that only one gene had been added to the altered potatoes while it is very clear that the potatoes were altered by adding a battery of genes including promoter, enhancer, transcription terminator and antibiotic resistance gene along with the lectin structural gene. The Royal Society review was an elementary faux pas. Presumably the Royal Society is committed to spreading blunder and excellent twitishness.

The Royal Society scheme seems to have been inspired by George Orwell's Ministry of Truth. Should the Royal Society gain control of print , radio and television we would still have the net! The next move would be, of course, for them to censor the net. I am not sure how they will be able to control the net, however, it seems likely that they will have unlimited funds to squander on the project. Life will be so bland surfing the Royal Society net!


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Date: 4 Apr 2000 19:23:52 +0100
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

Biotechs Getting Cold Feet

Biotechs Getting Cold Feet (Business Monday) http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,35376,00.html?tw=wn2000.... Just a few months ago, biotech companies were all the rage among investors. But the recent dramatic downturn is causing many of them to question whether they should go public now, if at all.

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


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Date: 4 Apr 2000 19:35:58 +0100
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

We must NEVER lose sight of the alternative to not only GEF but also agribusiness generally: organic agriculture, as propounded by HRH the Prince of Wales and many worthy realistic groups around the world.

R

Farmers unite

ENN Multimedia , Full Story:
http://www.enn.com/enn-multimedia-archive/2000/04/04042000/eart_1....

Farmers interested in sustainable agriculture have had a difficult time finding useful information. So they've created their own network of communication and education. Earthwatch Radio (2:06)

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


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Date: 4 Apr 2000 20:45:05 +0100
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

All ecological issues are played out over a ground-bass of overpopulation which gets only sporadic, superficial mention. But it affects the GE issue, if only in that it facilitates the "we're deeply concerned to feed the world" bullshit.

R

Population Quiz

ENN Feature, Full Story:
http://www.enn.com/features/2000/04/04042000/popquiz_11494.asp

The issue of world population has many points of view and few certainties. But one aspect of the argument is clear: Knowledge is the key to solving population problems. How much do you know about world population? Test your knowledge by taking ENN's population quiz.

* Interactive Poll Should U.S. foreign policy promote slowing population growth around the world? Read the feature story and then take today's poll.

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


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Date: 5 Apr 2000 10:33:48 +0100
From: "Ericka & Rich Dana" doodles@netins.net

Today is the 151st day of my hunger strike.

The average Gannett newspaper has a circulation of 50,000 readers, and at least two people per family read each edition. Conservatively, 10,000,000 Americans read the following story yesterday.

Robert Cohen article

By GREG BARRETT, Thursday, March 30, 2000, Gannett News Service
http://www.hungerstrike.com/diary04.html#151

Sections:
Hungry and Angry
Risks Are Always Hyped
Cohen Not Alone
Milk's Safety Reaffirmed
Labeling Would Be Enough

Hungry and Angry

WASHINGTON – If you meet Robert Cohen as he stalks the halls of Congress spreading his anti-milk message, please excuse him if he interrupts you or talks loudly or behaves, as he concedes in his Bronx accent, "like an obnoxious son of a gun."

Cohen is hungry. And angry. Perhaps a tad desperate. He is nearly five months into a food fast that he says will last until the Food and Drug Administration revokes its 1993 approval of an animal drug that accelerates milk production in cows – or at least labels the milk that comes from pumped-up Bessies. In support of this curious crusade, 403 people spread through the 50 states and several nations have pledged on Cohen's Web site (www.hungerstrike.com) to fast for at least one day.

"Feeding hormones to the cattle is just another insult to the human endocrine system," says Elizabeth DeFeo of Honolulu, who fasted for a week. "I am against what they are doing to the milk. People should at least know what they are drinking."

The recombinant bovine growth hormone, manufactured and sold as Posilac by St. Louis-based biotech giant Monsanto Co., has long had critics in a tizzy about the potential health risks – perceived or real – of "nature's wholesome drink." Congress does not require this milk to be labeled because it says there is no "significant" difference to it.

If true to his word, Cohen, 48, a stout father of three who claims to be surviving only on distilled water and freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, is not likely to eat solid food anytime soon, if ever. By all accounts, the FDA and Congress have no plans to re-examine Posilac. The drug has survived 15 years of scientific research and bureaucratic scrutiny, and Monsanto says it is being injected into nearly one-third (13,000) of U.S. dairy herds. For all the fuss, it represents the nation's first successfully mass-marketed food product from biotechnology.

But whether it is the canary in biotech's mineshaft or a linchpin to better agriculture, Posilac is an obvious target for critics – many of whom worry its use won't stop with cows. For an experiment at the University of Idaho it is being injected into trout and catfish that are maturing into full-size filets two and three times faster than normal.

Risks Are Always Hyped

At issue is the growth hormone's Insulin-like Growth Factor called IGF-1. In its natural form, this protein hormone is abundant in man and beast. Medical research has linked highly elevated levels of it to the growth of prostate and other cancers, and the milk from hormone-injected cows shows an increase in the IGF-1's synthetic twin.

This is significant or insignificant, depending on your perspective. The FDA says that even if the increase in the milk's IGF-1 were 50 percent, as some research claims, it is insignificant because only a trace amount survives digestion.

Former American Association for Cancer Research president Donald Coffey, who is not connected to opponents or proponents of Posilac, says IGF-1 in the blood serum "is only a weak marker" for prostate cancer. And when ingested, says Coffey, director of research laboratories for urology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, levels of it are extremely low. "Imagined risks are always hyped," he says. "Science and people's perceptions are not always the same."

This does not stop Cohen, a real estate developer living in Oradell, N.J., from a steady attack. He is to Monsanto what documentary filmmaker Michael Moore was a decade ago to General Motors – a pest.

The only thing Cohen dislikes more than milk is the multibillion dollar Monsanto. In his self-published book, "Milk: The Deadly Poison," he accuses Monsanto of bribery and fraud and all manner of deceit in gaining Posilac's FDA approval. On Capitol Hill, he hands out his $25 book like it's a business card. "Tell Monsanto to sue me," he says loudly, causing heads to turn. "I daaaaare them to sue."

Monsanto has the book. So does Barnes and Noble, Borders Books and Amazon.com. Monsanto has not sued. "I find it sort of incredible to make these types of statements when the company has worked through the regulatory process," says Monsanto spokesman Gary Barton. "We let the facts of the marketplace speak for themselves and those clearly demonstrate the value of (Posilac) for the dairyman."

Cohen Not Alone

A citizen petition to the FDA signed by 19 organizations, including the Center for Food Safety, the Humane Society, Greenpeace International and the North American Farm Alliance, questions Posilac's health effects on humans and cattle. The petition, which has a goal similar to Cohen's, was filed with the FDA on Dec. 15, 1998. It has not been answered.

If the FDA fails to answer or does not take Posilac off the market or at least label the milk, petitioners will file a lawsuit this spring or summer in federal court to remove Posilac, says Joe Mendelson, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit environmental and consumer group based in Washington, D.C.

Mendelson cites the results of a Health Canada (FDA equivalent north of the border) review last year that found evidence of thyroid cysts and cell growth in the prostates of male rats fed Posilac. In banning the drug last year, primarily for reasons of animal cruelty, the 15 nations of the European Union and Health Canada reported gaps in scientific research and said questions were "not adequately addressed" by the FDA.

The European Union, a coveted market for Monsanto, concluded that Posilac injections cause cows "a substantial increase in levels" of foot problems and udder infections.

Canada chided the FDA for taking some of the "manufacturer's conclusions at face value." Specifically, it referred to a rat study commissioned by Monsanto that should have shown the FDA that the manmade hormone survives human digestion. As such, Canada concluded, chronic toxicity tests should have been conducted.

"That's all any of us have been saying: We don't have the evidence to say this stuff is hazardous to drink, but neither do we know for sure that it is safe," says biologist Michael Hansen, a researcher with Consumer Policy Institute and a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture advisory committee on agricultural biotechnology. "All we want are long-term toxicology studies."

Milk's Safety Reaffirmed

The FDA has refused. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala dismissed Canada's report by saying it "did not interpret relevant data correctly." She says the FDA did a page-by-page audit of its Posilac approval, including data outside of the Monsanto rat study, and reaffirmed last year that the treated milk is safe for human consumption.

"The amount of (Posilac) being fed to the rats would equal about 70 tank truckloads of milk a day that you or I would have to drink in order to achieve the exposure the rats were receiving," says Robert Collier, an animal scientist who worked on Posilac from 1985 to 1999 for Monsanto and is now a professor at the University of Arizona.

"I'm telling you, this stuff is safe. My own kids grew up on milk from cows who were treated with it."

The Department of Agriculture, the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, among others, have backed the FDA. The Joint Food and Agricultural Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives says there is "an extremely large margin of safety" for people consuming milk from hormone-injected cows.

Additionally, the drug is approved for dairy cattle in 15 countries including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and South Africa. "Not a major country among them," Hansen says.

This winter, Monsanto has put the finishing touches on a 150,000-square-foot manufacturing site in Augusta, Ga., the nation's first Posilac plant. It is scheduled to begin production this summer, pending federal regulatory approval. The drug is currently made in Austria.

Monsanto's Barton, who's been in the trenches with Posilac for 21 years, sounds weary from the battle. He calls it the most studied animal drug in U.S. history. It's certainly the most debated.

Labeling Would Be Enough

So confused are some dairy farmers in upstate New York, they are crossing the border to buy cheese from Canada. "I don't want my own family to consume the stuff, so I'm certainly not going to put it out myself, just as a matter of principle," says dairyman Bruce Krug of Constableville, N.Y., whose herd of 60 dairy cattle does not use Posilac.

"For me, at least, there are still just too many unanswered questions." Through the crossfire of conflicting analysis, one fact stands: A staple of American life as common as baseball and apple pie has been synthetically changed. The difference is invisible to taste or touch, and Congress has decided it does not warrant our knowing.

"Any labeling bill ... has to be based on science and there is absolutely no scientific evidence that (Posilac) has a significant impact on the composition of milk," says Rep. Cal Dooley, D-Calif., a member of the Dairy Committee of Agriculture that failed to pass a labeling bill for Posilac in 1994.

Labels, however, would be enough to make most dissenters happy. They'd even make Cohen eat solid food again.

"What it comes down to is Americans have a right to know," he says. "Every container of milk and every package of dairy that has this genetically modified organism should be labeled. It can even be something obscure, like a little sticker with the double helix symbol. Is that too much to ask?"

Robert Cohen

***************************************************************

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Date: 5 Apr 2000 12:59:25 +0100
From: jill davies rivercare@blackfoot.net
From: The Australian GeneEthics Network, Council for Responsible Genetics (USA) and Washington Biotechnology Action Council (USA).

The BioSafety Working Group
Policy and Science Updates #36
April 3, 2000

To: BioSafety Working Group Delegates.

Dear Delegates,

We are pleased to publish the following letters by our friend and colleague Tewolde, in which he criticises the unscrupulous misuse of Southern hunger and poverty as an argument for genetic engineering and its products.

The 'feed the world' argument is a constant theme of corporate propaganda. It appeals to the misguided altruism many Northern citizens, exploiting their ignorance and denial of the causes of inequity and poverty.

Tewolde wrote the critique 'Using Third World poverty to sell GE crops/food' following the screening of a program which tried to blackmail opponents of GE into feeling guilty and ending their opposition.

We hope you and your colleagues will join in unmasking this fraud.

Best wishes,

Bob Phelps

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Misuse of Southern hemisphere Hunger and Poverty as an argument for GE

Update Compilers:

"Bob Phelps" geneethics@acfonline.org.au
"Prof. Phil Bereano" phil@uwtc.washington.edu
"Dr Doreen Stabinsky" doreen@hornacek.coa.edu

Contents:
1. Using Third World poverty to sell GE crops/food, by Tewolde
2. Draft Letter of protest to Channel 4 and The Times, UK
3. GM foods and the luxury of choice, by Joe Joseph, The Times, UK,
21/3/2000

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LETTERS FROM TEWOLDE: USING THE SOUTH TO PROMOTE GE IN EUROPE – ONCE AGAIN!

Dear Colleagues,

Whilst I was in the UK recently, I watched a documentary on British Channel Four Television, which portrayed Africa's poverty and implied that the average British housewife's resistance to genetically engineered (GE) food would prevent the South from receiving the benefits of GE. The argument was that biotechnology could solve Africa's rural poverty and could eliminate malnutrition and undernutrition if the development of their genetic engineering were not rejected in Europe. Interviews with scientists from Kenya, India and Mexico were used to show what wonderful solutions to these problems would come from genetic engineering. This was supported by the enclosed article in The Times newspaper.

We, as informed Southerners, know that the South's poverty is caused by deep-seated structural economic imbalances which were established during the periods of slavery and colonialism and are continuing now. We know that though individual technological inputs can help in food production, given that other conditions are equally as important, those single technological inputs are insignificant on their own.

Since it is the transnational corporations which are the beneficiaries of the long history of inequity that has plagued us in our position of disadvantage, I believe that it is our responsibility to reject such a misleading oversimplification of the solution to our problem; especially the use of our condition, by those very beneficiaries of the inequity, to justify the continuation of the benefits that they derive.

Action: For this reason, I have drafted the attached letter of protest and request that you please sign on to this. The advantage of a joint letter is that we can use it in other fora should it be necessary to counter such misinformation.

** To sign on please send a note to me: sustain@telecom.net.et and copy to The Gaia Foundation gaia@gaianet.org and include your name, profession and Country.

** If you have time please also send your own letter to the Editor of The Times Newspaper letters@the-times.co.uk.

Best wishes, Tewolde Behran Gebre Egzhiaber
Spokesperson for Africa and the Like-Minded group in the Biosafety Negotiations

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Joint Letter to Channel Four Television and the Times Newspaper, UK: In Protest to Documentary, (equinox, 19th March 2000) And Article (GM Foods and the Luxury of Choice, 21st March 2000), Using Southern Scientists to Make Europeans Feel Guilty for not Supporting Genetic Engineering.

Dear ....................

We the undersigned, are appalled at the use made of the poverty of the rural people of the South to justify genetically modified food to Northern consumers. We are appalled for the following reasons:

  1. Poverty in the South is structurally rooted in the prevalent North-South relationships. The present systems of international resource control, commodity pricing, education, training, research, finance, banking, insurance, transportation etc. are all components of the system that controls wealth and poverty, and which started being put in place during the slavery and colonial periods and have matured in this post-colonial period. Southern poverty, especially rural poverty, is a consequence of this.

  2. As such, the solution to rural poverty lies in a multidimensional corrective measure that would enable sufficient local control of the appropriation of the benefits that arise from the use of and trade in resources, as well as the application of labour.

  3. The assumption that the complex rural poverty that afflicts the South, would be amenable to solution through single technological inputs is grossly incorrect and totally objectionable since it would misdirect efforts.

  4. Though technological inputs have a role to play in rural development, and genetic engineering could be a technology to consider, it would remain but one technology among many. For example even if potential yields of food crops were to be dramatically improved, if storage, transportation, marketing, distribution, and the ability to buy the food were not simultaneously improved, the effort would still remain ineffective. In fact, as we keep pointing out, it is not shortage of food that is the problem, but it's distribution. More GE food is not the point: it is improving access and local food security. But corporations do not profit from such solutions.

  5. There are high yielding varieties in rural areas but their impacts remain limited by the bottlenecks imposed by many of the other variables. The agricultural research stations that are found in Southern countries have also produced many such varieties and the potentials of these varieties remain unrealised because of the other negative factors. But research must continue so that there will always be higher yielding varieties to have their potential impacts realised as and when conditions allow it. It is a gross oversimplification to state that such seed would solve rural food problems. The picture is the same with seed of improved nutritional quality such as vitamin A rice.

  6. At the heart of the inequity that maintains the present poverty of the South is the inherited positive advantage that the Northern transnational corporations enjoy. We consider the use of the South's rural poverty to justify the monopoly control and global use of genetically modified food production by the North's transnational corporations, not only an obstructive lie, but a way of derailing the solutions to our Southern rural poverty. It is the height of cynical abuse of the corporations' position of advantage. Channel Four Television and The Times newspaper should be ashamed for allowing themsleves to be so manipulated into trying effectively to emotionally blackmail the UK public into using GE.

Yours sincerely,


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Date: 5 Apr 2000 12:59:25 +0100
From: jill davies rivercare@blackfoot.net
From: The Australian GeneEthics Network, Council for Responsible Genetics (USA) and Washington Biotechnology Action Council (USA).

GM foods and the luxury of choice

By Joe Joseph, The Times, UK, 21 March 2000

I know this is a little unscientific, but look at Monica Lewinsky, think of Marlon Brando's waistline, look at even the slimmed-down Vanessa Feltz: I don't know what these people eat, but just how much scarier could they possibly look if fed on a diet containing genetically-modified ingredients? How much unhealthier could it make them? Supermarkets are stacked with genetically-unmodified food items that are as nutritious as roofing tar. So what is it exactly that we are risking with GM?

The debate about GM foods has been conducted most noisily among well-off Westerners, such as you and me. Are we keen to eat genetically-modified tomatoes? Not especially. There seem to be plenty of the other variety about. Why take the risk: even if there isn't one?

But when you ask people in developing countries, you hear loud voices pleading for GM crops. The problem is that this isn't a decision those countries can take in isolation.

If the West won't grow GM crops and won't buy GM foods, then Africa and Latin America can't grow them, either; because while developing countries would reap bigger harvests using GM seeds, they wouldn't be able to export any surpluses to GM-averse Europe or America. Bang goes a source of foreign income, leaving them poorer than they were before.

So are we in the West, by spurning GM foods even though there is no scientific evidence to suggest they are dangerous to eat, condemning millions in the Third World to starve, and condemning the children of those nations to staying ill-educated because they have to skip school to help their parents weed the fields, since local farmers can't afford pesticides and herbicides?

Scientists and farmers in developing countries seem to think so, at least on the evidence of Equinox: The Rise and Fall of GM (Channel 4). You can hardly blame them. How many of us, given a choice, would reject GM technology in favour of totally natural starvation? "It is nice to be romantic about not using chemicals, not using fertilisers, not using transgenic technology," Dr Cyrus Ndirtu, director of the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute, said in Martin Durkin's sober and uncomfortable film. "But just remember, for some people in the rural areas of Africa, and maybe even Asia and Latin America, the choice is between life and death."

And anyway, just how rigid are we Westerners, who can afford the luxury of choice, in our abhorrence of GM crops? What if, say, tobacco could be genetically-modified so that cigarettes were no longer carcinogenic? Would we be in favour of that?

Without much of a doubt, I'd guess. Cigarettes are killing us anyway, so we'll consider anything that allows us to retain the pleasure of smoking without at the same time propelling us to an early grave. That must, surely, be the way hungry people in developing countries think when they see their children going blind through vitamin deficiency: we're in a bad way as it is, so how big a risk can GM foods be?

Very big, insists Mae-Wan Ho, a biologist from the Open University, who told us that: "Organic farmers are artists and poets. They have a certain relationship with their land, and the trees are poems the earth writes to the skies. They have a love affair with their land. Peruvian farmers adopt plants in their garden as familty members." Yeah, but those poor Peruvian farmers have been chewing coca leaves all day to dull the tedium of not being able to go to the movies, or to phone for a takeaway when they're feeling too lazy to cook. "What intensive agriculture does is to mechanise the whole thing," Mae-Wan added. "They convert these poets into taxi-drivers."

Give me strength. South American farmers understandably think that this is romantic tosh; that Westerners like to keep the Third World as a savage, natural tourist park which they can visit before returning home to enjoy the benefits of bounteous agriculture and full bellies. This was an intelligent, unhysterical documentary. Pilger without the piousness. We may still be right to reject GM technology. But we are now more aware of the moral burden that decision puts on our Western shoulders.

PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR NEW EMAIL ADDRESS IS: geneethics@acfonline.org.au

NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Bob Phelps, Director
Australian GeneEthics Network
PO Box 2424, Fitzroy MC 3065 Australia
Tel: (03) 9416.2222    Fax: (03) 9416.0767 {Int Code (613)}
email: geneethics@acfonline.org.au (Bob Phelps)    WWW: http://www.zero.com.au/agen

"If it is left to me I would certainly not eat it (GE foods). We are putting new things into food which would not have been eaten before. The effects on the immune system are not easily predictable and I challenge anyone who will say that the effects are predictable."

Professor Arpad Pusztai (fired for speaking out)

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

George Orwell

"Non-cooperation with injustice is a sacred duty."

Mahatma Gandhi

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good people (men) do nothing."

Edmund Burke

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist."

Dom Helder Camera

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Margaret Mead

When spiders unite, they can tie down a lion.

Ethiopian proverb

"Knowing is not enough, you must also act"


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 5 Apr 2000 14:40:33 +0100
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

Greenpeace: Melchett tells court of his fear of GM crops

GM food: special report Thew Guardian, Wednesday April 5, 2000
http://www.newsunlimited.co.uk/gmdebate/Story/0,2763,155952,00.ht....

Lord Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace, told Norwich crown court yesterday that genetic modification of crops was one the most frightening things he had come across, and he was convinced the government was keen to pursue the technology.

Melchett criticised chemical company scientists for "not living in the real world". He is accused with 27 other supporters of the environmental campaign group of criminal damage and theft after a trial GM crop of maize in Lyng, Norfolk, was destroyed last July.

The former Labour minister said that meetings with Tony Blair in late 1998 and early 1999 had left him feeling that the prime minister was determined that GM crops would be grown.

All 28 defendants deny the charges and argue that they had a lawful excuse to destroy the crop because they genuinely believed that neighbouring organic crops were in immediate need of protection.

"GM is one of the most serious issues Greenpeace has ever tried to tackle," said Melchett, 52, a farmer of Hunstanton, Norfolk. "GM means putting things into the environment which are alive. You cannot recall it."

The case continues.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 6 Apr 2000 09:39:03 +0100
From: "j.e. cummins" jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

GM foods as human experimentation

6 April 2000

Prof. Joe Cummins
739 Wilkins Street, London, Ontario N6C4Z9
Telephone 519 681 5477    e-mail: jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

Genetically Modified (GM) Foods as Human Experimentation

Humanist Meetings
557 Clarke Road, London, Ontario, 7:30 PM

Genetically Modified (GM) foods derived from crops that have been genetically altered in the laboratory. Genes from bacteria, distantly related crops, animals or even humans have been introduced into crop plants. The traits most commonly employed with GM crops include tolerance to a particular herbicide or resistance to insect pests through introduction of a gene for a toxin from a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The Canadian government allows production of GM crops and their sale in Canadian markets based on a concept , substantial equivalence, that is simply an assumption that GM crops are grossly similar to their unmodified counterparts in nutritional quality.

The government uses that assumption to justify marketing crops that are unlabelled and tested in a cursory manner. The GM crops should be tested to a level equivalent to the tests required for pharmaceutical drugs or pesticides . Such tests include animal studies and tests involving volunteer human subjects.

Even though the government claims to regulate GM crops based on substantial equivalence , they simply ignore evidence that certain crops are not substantially equivalent. When it is found that crops are not substantially equivalent , as for example, peer reviewed and published studies showing that herbicide tolerant soy are deficient in important nutrients, the phytoestrogens, or studies showing that the Bt toxin in insect resistant corn, potato and cotton is an allergen the government does not remove the crops from the market. The government definition of substantial equivalence seems to include a caveat requiring that studies showing that GM crops are not substantially equivalent should be ignored and withheld from public scrutiny.

It is very clear that the Canadian public is being used as test organisms evaluating the impact of GM foods. These foods are unlabelled so that the organisms will not chose to avoid them. Essentially all the processed foods contain components of GM soy, corn, canola or cotton seed oil while GM potatoes are encountered in fast food and supermarkets. However, the unlabelled foods that are consumed by unidentified individual organisms cannot generate data that is useful in evaluating the health effects of the food on the population. Thus the government's experiment is not one that will yield objective findings but one that justify more extensive introduction of GM food. Proponents of GM crops frequently crow that the opponents must produce a count of those injured by eating GM food even though they are fully aware that the unlabelled crops cannot be studied using epidemiology.

Even though the experiment feeding GM crops to test Canadians is a poor one because the foods cannot be traced in the population it is still an experiment. Genetic engineering includes gene therapy experiments along with crop genetic engineering. Gene therapy experiments have been going on for over a decade and during that period over 400 humans have been used as subjects. Recently the program has been criticized because it has not resulted in useful cures and many subjects have died under questionable circumstances. There is one or more cases where the informed consent was not obtained appropriately and subjects died from the experiment. Punishment for the experiment seems to have consisted of mild bureaucratic restrictions on the experimenters and their academic superiors all who benefited from the experiments. Frequently both experimenters and their academic or administrative superiors had financial interests in the companies profiting from the therapy agent ( like a drug) .

Like the gene therapy experiments the GM crops should be considered experiments on human subjects and should meet the ethical and moral standards for experiments on humans. The modern foundation for the rules for conducting experiments on humans was the Nuremberg Convention of 1946(see below). The convention was designed to set the legal requirements for research on human subjects so that the Nazi doctors who conducted research on humans could be tried in a court of law. Based on the convention over a dozen Nazi doctors were hanged and a number others were given life terms or long prison sentences. In the United States and Canada violation of the rules for conducting experiments on humans do not appear to be considered criminal offences at the present time. The offences seem to result in mild bureaucratic restrictions .

GM food distribution without labeling and adequate testing is a form of human experimentation and should follow the guidelines for research on human subjects. In fact the public would likely welcome criminal charges for those implicated in distributing products harmful to people or to the environment. Gene therapy experiments violate the guidelines for research and which result in human death or sever injury should lead to criminal charges and face trial with judge and jury. GM crops that can be shown to kill or injure people or to severally damage the environment should lead to criminal charges and face trial with judge and jury. The lax manner in which humans and the environment are considered and the network of academic bureaucrats and their counterparts in business and government act to protect each other has led to erosion in public confidence. In Canada the biotechnology committee lobbies for and obtains growing government grants, tax concessions and other privileges. Certainly with the cornucopia of gifts and benefits from government there should be responsibility and recognition that ignoring the principles of human experimentation should lead to criminal charges.

In conclusion, GM crops and gene therapy experiments should both follow guidelines for experimentation on human subjects. If failure to follow those guidelines leads to severe injury or death both experimenters and their academic deans and directors or company and government bureaucrats should face criminal charges and face judge and jury.

References on impacts of GM crops

There are peer reviewed publications showing that GM crops are not substantially equivalent and should be withdrawn from commerce.

References

Allergy and immunity of Bacillus thruringiensis toxin

Phytoestrogen and GM Soy

Bt crops and desirable insects

See The Nuermberg Code for Permissible Human Experiments
Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 6 Apr 2000 12:24:44 +0100
From: MichaelP papadop@peak.org

US firm announces big step in genome research

Agence France Presse Friday, April 7 12:33 AM SGT

WASHINGTON, April 6 (AFP) --

A US-based private firm said Thursday it had taken a major step forward in the race to map the genetic makeup of the human body.

Celera Genomics, a company based in Rockville, Maryland, just outside Washington, said in a statement it had identified, or sequenced, all the chemical letters that make up the genes in one human being.

It is an essential step towards the goal of mapping the humane genome –the scientific name for the 100,000 or so genes that make up the human body.

Decoding the human genome, or "book of life" is the holy grail of genetic research and experts say it will lead to major advances in medical research and health care, providing cures for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, AIDS, cardiovascular problems and some former of cancer.

In a statement, the firm said: "With the announcement today, Celera is on target to complete the assembly and annotation of the human genome later this year."

Assembly and annotation are the next arduous steps to perform – all the chemicals identified must be assembled in the correct order, then each individual gene must be identified.

The firm began its gigantic human genome-mapping task using a revolutionary technique that has speeded up the process and also proved its capability.

The method of sequencing the genome by fragments, then joining the fragments together, was successfully used to map the genome of the fruit fly recently.

"Now that we have completed the sequencing of one human being's genome we will turn our computational power to the task of ordering the human genome," said Craig Venter, the former government scientist who set up Celera, which began to sequence the human genome in September 1999.

Venter told a congressional panel studying genome research that he would finish the assembly stage within six weeks.

"We announced this morning that we have now completed the sequencing phase," he told the House of Representatives panel on Thursday.

"It is a very exciting milestone for Celera, an exciting milestone for all of us ... We are going on now to the assembling stage, to assemble the human genome and we think that will take three to six weeks."

A more difficult undertaking is the long process of identifying each individual gene and determining what role each of them performs in the human body and how genes interacts. Three genes, for example, are thought to be involved in the development of cancer in the human body.

The project also is seeking to determine what genes are responsible for such differences between individuals as eye color, and susceptibility to certain illness.

For that reason, Celera Genomics is already well on the way to sequencing the genomes of five other people, men and women of different ethnic backgrounds.

With its latest announcement, the first time scientists have claimed to have sequenced the human genome, the Rockville company places itself in the vanguard of the increasingly crowded field of genome research.

Rivals include The Human Genome Project, a government-funded consortium of 16 institutions in Britain, China, France, Germany, Japan and the United States, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Celera has pledged to put the broad findings of its research at the disposal of the international scientific community once it has completed the assembly stage of genome chemical components.

The pledge is in line with a joint statement from British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President Bill Clinton last month that called on scientists to make all data on the human genome available.

The two leaders said scientists should make available to the public the raw data on the human genome, though researchers should still be able to acquire patents for inventions based on that raw data.

Venter said he hopes to use the data to find genes capable of developing molecules for new treatments and then patent them, a strategy followed by many biotech firms.

His firm has already signed an agreement with pharmaceutical giant Rhone-Poulenc Rohrer for the development of treatments for cancer and asthma.

On Wall Street, Celera gained a whopping 35 dollars to 150 dollars, a 30 percent rise, after the announcement.

======================

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Feel free to distribute widely but PLEASE acnowledge the source. ***


Top PreviousFront Page

Date: 6 Apr 2000 15:39:31 +0100
From: wytze geno@zap.a2000.nl
From: DGlassAssc@aol.com

De-toxification: Phytoremediation Market Report and Industry Directory

D. Glass Associates, Inc. announces the availability of a market report and a new industry directory on phytoremediation - the use of plants and trees to remove contaminants (e.g., hazardous wastes) from the environment. Included in our definition of "phytoremediation" are metal hyperaccumulating plants, deep-rooted trees used for hydraulic control of polluted groundwater or runoff, vegetative landfill covers (alternative caps), tree plantations used with spray irrigation of wastewater, integrated ecosystems containing plants (e.g., constructed wetlands), and other uses of plants in the environment for simlar purposes.

The market report, "U.S. and International Markets for Phytoremediation, 1999-2000", is the first comprehensive description of worldwide commercial and academic phytoremediation activities. It includes technology descriptions, profiles of over 40 U.S. companies and 25 foreign firms offering phytoremediation services, capsule summaries of leading non-profit research groups and international research consortia studying phytoremediation, case studies of several dozen phytoremediation projects, and in-depth analyses of market sectors to which phytoremediation is applicable. The Executive Summary of this report is available at http://www.channel1.com/dglassassoc/INFO/phy99exc.htm

and the Table of Contents can be found at http://www.channel1.com/dglassassoc/INFO/phy99tbl.htm

"The 2000 Phytoremediation Industry", published February 2000, is a directory of the U.S. and international phytoremediation industry including company profiles. Adapted from the 1999-2000 market report, but updated with several new company profiles, this new Industry Directory is perfect for site owners, regulators, consultants, students or job-hunters seeking contact information for the key players in the phytoremediation industry. The Directory is 100 pages long, includes over 70 company profiles and 18 tables summarizing the phytoremediation activities of companies, governments and academic research labs around the world, and includes complete contact information for phytoremediation companies, including names, addresses, phone, fax, e-mail and web addresses. More information can be found at http://www.channel1.com/dglassassoc/INFO/directory.htm

Price and ordering information on both reports can be found at the above URLs or at http://www.channel1.com/dglassassoc/INFO/phytrept.htm Feel free to contact me with any questions.

David J. Glass, Ph.D.
D. Glass Associates, Inc.
124 Bird Street, Needham, MA 02492, USA
Phone (617) 726-5474    Fax (781) 449-8045
DGlassAssc@aol.com     http://www.channel1.com/dglassassoc

~~~~~ Jill Davies ~~~ River Care ~~~~
rivercare@blackfoot.net
To study the Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self
and to be enlightened by all things.