6 May 2000

Table of Contents

South Africa: R10 million to focus on SA's indigenous knowledge in 2000
BIOWATCH: Question MPs on GE releases
Insect Resistance and the Future of Bt Transgenic Plants
Is It Kosher?
A pest might make a comeback thanks to engineered "weeds"
Of Consuming Interest: Go Organic.
How old is GE? Phil the Oiler refuted
Retentive Canadian bureaucrats
Doctors seek ethical controls on centralized databanks
New Biotech Consequence
Antibiotic Resistance Gene Transfer In Gut
Keep homes secret, plead biotech chiefs
U.S. Anti-GM Farm Groups Launch New Web Site

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Date: Thu, 4 May 2000 11:24:10 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: "Rachel Wynberg"

South Africa: R10 million to focus on SA's indigenous knowledge in 2000

Issued by: Hilda van Rooyen, NRF Communication
Tel 012-481-4132, email
Media enquiries: Dr Prins Nevhutalu, NRF Director
Tel 012-481-4087, email

Focus areas of indigenous knowledge that will get research funding to the value of R10 million during 2000/2001, will be finalised at six workshops to be held during May.

"We encourage the broad community, including researchers, to give their inputs at these regional workshops in order to ensure that the R10 million funding will have the best impact," says Dr Prins Nevhutalu, Director: Corrective Action at the National Research Foundation (NRF).

"The broad research fields that will qualify for support have been identified - it's a case of out of Africa for Africa, focusing on indigenous knowledge that stands to benefit our people," he says.

The fields are:

"Key stakeholders at these workshops are researchers in higher education, science councils, industry, non-governmental organisations in partnership with communities, and traditional practitioners in indigenous knowledge," says Nevhutalu. The workshops will be held in the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and the Western Cape.

"We regard the indigenous knowledge programme as a long-term project, running for at least five years, in order to make its rightful contribution to the African Renaissance," says Nevhutalu.

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Date: Mon, 08 May 2000 09:16:25 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay

BIOWATCH: Question MPs on GE releases

Following is a letter from the Australian GeneEthics Network (a civil society watchdog group) We need to ask similar questions of our government decision-makers here....or be saddled with irreversible consequences.


May 5, 2000

Michael Wooldridge
Minister for Health
Parliament House, Canberra 2600

Fax: 02 6273 4146; 03 9822 1399

Dear Minister,

Re: The release of genetically engineered organisms

We request an urgent meeting with you and your advisers to discuss the following matters.

IOGTR/GMAC will soon recommend on proposals for more herbicide tolerant canola releases - PR-63X(5) 1200 hectares of Aventis's Libertylink; PR-77X(3) 1000 hectares of Monsanto's RoundupReady - at hundreds of unspecified sites throughout all canola growing areas.

We seek a freeze on these proposed releases, pending resolution of the following matters:

We also look forward to discussing the proposed release of 1000 hectares of Bt cotton in Northern Australia, that also raises many similar issues.

Yours sincerely,

Bob Phelps

Cc: Liz Cain - IOGTR/GMAC; shadow ministers; other MPs; ACA; Public Health Association; Organic Federation of Australia; Health Ministers.

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: (Bob Phelps)    WWW:

"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 organisation of society. "

Albert Einstein

"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)

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good people 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

"Knowing is not enough, you must also act"

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Date: 4 May 2000 07:42:52 +0100
From: wytze
Biotech Activists

Biotech Activists wrote:

Insect Resistance and the Future of Bt Transgenic Plants

A. M. Shelton, J. Z. Zhao
Cornell University   ISB News Report, May 2000

Pest resistance to insecticides is a worldwide phenomenon and current estimates indicate that over 500 arthropod species have developed strains resistant to one or more pesticides. These cases of resistance are not limited to synthetic insecticides, but also include a wide range of `natural products' including pathogens and insect growth regulators. Unfortunately, this also includes resistance to toxins from strains of the common bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

Bt products had been used for more than 40 years as insecticidal sprays without any evidence of resistance in field situations until a report from the Philippines indicated control failures of the diamondback moth (DBM), Plutella xylostella. Subsequent studies in Hawaii and Florida documented the genetic basis of resistance of Bt and further reports have documented control failures of Bt against DBM in other parts of the US, Japan, Central America and China. Laboratory populations of at least 10 species of moths, two species of beetles and four species of flies have been exposed to selection against Bt toxins and ten-fold increases in tolerance have occurred in nine of the 16 species (1).

These findings warn of the possibility of insects developing resistance to transgenic insecticidal plants containing Bt toxins. Although there are no cases of insects developing resistance to Bt transgenic plants in the field, laboratory populations of Cry1A-resistant DBM have been shown to be able to survive on transgenic crucifers expressing high levels of Cry1Ac (2). The development of resistance to Bt transgenic plants would negate the benefits of this new technology, now grown on ca. 11.8 million hectares worldwide. Some of the benefits of Bt plants can be illustrated with Bt cotton in the US. Since the commercialization of Bt cotton in 1996, insecticide spays on cotton have been reduced by approximately 3.8 million liters of formulated product per year in the US and this has led to a significant reduction in the use of more hazardous organophosphate and pyrethroid insecticides (3).

Can Bt plants be deployed so that resistance will be delayed or avoided? It has been suggested that Bt plants may, in fact, be more effective at managing resistance than Bt foliar sprays because one is able to regulate the dose more effectively in the plant than with a spray. While this may bode well for Bt plants, the question still remains about how to deploy them to reduce the likelihood of resistance developing. Various strategies have been proposed but the only commercially available approach is the use of a high dose of a single gene, producing 25 times the toxin concentration needed to kill susceptible insects, in combination with a refuge.

The refuge is composed of non-transgenic plants and is intended to generate sufficient numbers of susceptible insects to dilute resistant alleles, while at the same time allowing the non-transgenic plants to generate high yields. While this sounds like a good idea, there is considerable debate on the required size of a refuge. Presently, a 20% refuge is recommended for cotton and corn but some workers have called for refuges as large as 50%, if farmers are allowed to spray them. This allotment size presents a dilemma since farm profitability and reduction of pesticide use may come from larger proportions of transgenic crops, but long-term enjoyment of these benefits may be feasible only by limiting the percentage of the crops that are transgenic.

We have used DBM in combination with crucifers engineered to express a Cry1Ac toxin to study factors that influence the development of resistance (4). In greenhouse trials we introduced DBM that had an initially low Cry1Ac resistance gene (r) frequency into cages with various ratios of Bt broccoli and non-Bt broccoli plants. The insect populations were allowed to cycle for several generations and then the larvae were tested for resistance. Pure stands of Bt-expressing plants (0% refuge) resulted in rapid development of highly resistant DBM populations, and increasing the size of the refuge delayed the development of resistance.

Furthermore, the placement of the refuge plants significantly affected the development of resistance. When both plant types were mixed in a random spatial arrangement (`mixed seedling model') larvae were able to move between plant types. As they moved from refuge plants to Bt-expressing plants, they died and caused a decline in the number of susceptible alleles (S) in the overall population. This resulted in a more rapid development of resistance than when plants were separated by a distance that limited the movement of larvae.

We then took our studies into the field. For the first year of tests, we examined the effect of refuge size and refuge placement (mixed vs. separate refuges) on the distribution of the larvae within the plots as well as the level of resistance in DBM at the end of the season. Our results demonstrated that the cumulative number of larvae per plant on refuge plants through the season in the 20% mixed refuge was significantly lower (6.4 vs. 14.6) than the 20% separate refuge.

This finding indicates that, as in our previous greenhouse experiments, a separate refuge is more effective at conserving the number of susceptible alleles. This is because larvae on these refuge plants will be more likely to survive to adults (either SS or RS) that can mate with RR individuals and thereby reduce the number of RR offspring. This evidence supports the use of a separate refuge for Bt-transgenic crops susceptible to insects that can move between plants as larvae.

We then examined the effects of spraying plants in the 20% separate refuge and, as expected, spraying reduced the capacity of the refuge to dilute resistance in the larger field. Our results indicated that if the refuge were left unsprayed, it would give a larger number of susceptible insects a chance to survive. The short-term sacrifices of having relatively more insects in the unsprayed refuge would translate to seasonal reductions in resistance and in the total number of larvae per plot.

However, the critical question is whether such populations would result in unacceptable crop losses, and the answer to this will depend on the particular crop/insect system and the techniques used to manage the insects in the refuge. Our studies provided the first empirical data demonstrating the usefulness of the refuge strategy for Bt plants. However, they also indicate the need to effectively monitor and manage susceptible alleles on an individual field or farm basis as well as on an area-wide basis.

Within an individual field or farm, treating the refuge with a highly effective insecticide may dilute the abundance of susceptible alleles to such an extent that the refuge becomes less effective unless there is substantial immigration of susceptible alleles from wild hosts or from surrounding non-Bt crops. On the other hand, growers may be reluctant to sacrifice a large number of refuge plants to insects just to maintain susceptible alleles. Critical experiments need to be performed in the specific insect/Bt crop system to determine the correct balance between conserving susceptible alleles while providing acceptable crop yields.

The theory of resistance management has the potential to work in the field for the first generation of insecticidal plants. New technologies under development for the second generation of plants include Bt expression modes that subject insects to selection pressure for specified periods of time, and in particular, plant parts by using inducible and/or tissue specific promoters. These techniques may allow for larger refuges for susceptible alleles both within the field and within a region while at the same time minimizing crop loss. Other options are also possible. Theoretical models suggest that pyramiding two dissimilar toxin genes in the same plant has the potential to delay the onset of resistance much more effectively than single-toxin plants released spatially or temporally and may require smaller refuges (5). Other non-Bt genes may also aid in managing resistance to Bt crops.

The development and implementation of engineered insecticidal plants is currently in its infancy but is providing substantial benefits for growers and the environment. It is important that industry, public-sector scientists, and farmers work together to develop a second generation of technology and implementation strategies to ensure that insects do not rapidly develop resistance to Bt crops.


  1. Tabashnik BE. 1994. Evolution of resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis. Annual Review of Entomology 39:47-79.

  2. Metz TD, Roush RT, Tang JD, Shelton AM, and Earle ED. 1995. Transgenic broccoli expressing a Bacillus thuringiensis insecticidal crystal protein: Implications for pest resistance management strategies. Molecular Breeding 1:309-317.

  3. US Environmental Protection Agency. 27 May 1999, revisions 12 July 1999. [Online.] EPA and USDA position on insect resistance management in Bt crops. .

  4. Shelton AM, Tang JD, Roush RT, Metz TD, and Earle ED. 1999. Field tests on managing resistance to Bt-engineered plants. NatureBiotechnology 18: 339-342.

  5. Roush RT. 1998. Two-toxin strategies for management of insecticidal transgenic crops: Can pyramiding succeed where pesticide mixture have not? Philosophical Transactions Royal Society of London B 353: 1777-1786.

Mark Ritchie, President
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
2105 First Ave. South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404 USA
612-870-3400 (phone)    612-870-4846 (fax)    cell phone 612-385-7921

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Date: 4 May 2000 08:01:40 +0100

Is It Kosher?

Mix a pig in a poke with a fish in a Diet Coke and is that kosher? If Dr. Seuss were still alive, he might have been tempted to rewrite his classic and call it: "Blue fish, red fish, biotech? Dead fish." for the rest of the story.

Robert Cohen


Date: 4 May 2000 13:52:51 +0100
Subject: IS IT KOSHER? – according to the rabbi it is kosher.

Unfortunately, according to both the OU (strictest "Orthodox" Union) and the KoU kosher certifying groups GMOs are kosher regardless of their source (ie, a pig).

-- inquiry to "ask the rabbi" at the Orthodox Union --

Would genetic modification alter the kosher status of foods? For example, could genetically modified soy or corn be used in kosher products? What about the gene from a pig?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can give.

– response –

23rd Day in Adar I, 5760 Tuesday, February 28, '00

Send comments/questions to: Kosherq@OU.Org

Re: Generic Modification and Kashruth

Thank you for checking with the OU on your Kashruth question.

The past decade have seen a revolution in the production of food growing. Through gene splicing, scientists can now transfer virtually any characteristic of a living plant or animal to another organism. The new gene is introduced into the plant (or animal) tissue via bacterium.

Are there any Halachic ramifications involved in the permissibility of such bio-engineered foods?

For instance: Is there a problem with a potato that resists disease with the help of a chicken gene?

The Halachic implications of bio-engineered foods with possible genes from non-kosher sources has been studied at length by the Orthodox Union's Rabbinical Kashruth Advisory Board, headed by the renowned Rabbi Israel Belsky of Mesivta Torah V'daath and Rabbi Hershel Schechter of Yeshiva University.

The conclusion of this Rabbinical Board was that such genetic manipulation does not present any Kashruth problems whatsoever for the following reason.

The non kosher gene is not implanted into the potato plant itself. Rather the non-kosher gene serves as a chemical formulation which is on memory much like a magnetic tape.

This formulation is then reproduced onto materials taken from yeast and then introduced into the plant via bacterium. THE REPRODUCED GENE NOW IN THE PLANT IS THUS FROM A TOTALLY KOSHER SOURCE.

None of the original chicken material appears in the plant product, i.e. the potato. The term 'Botel' is therefor inadequate, because there is nothing there to become 'Botel'. There never was any chicken material in the potato in the first place.

Does this mean that all bio-engineered products are inherently Kosher?

Absolutely not. It is important that we differentiate between a gene-splicing technique, which is acceptable, and bio-engineered ingredients which require strict supervision. Whereby in the past, ingredients used to be made by either chemical synthesis or by extraction from fruits. These ingredients are now produced by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.

Industrial bio-technology products (also called fermentation products) can be grouped into three categories: enzymes, ingredients/additives, and cultures.

Briefly, all microbially-derived bio-technology products are produced by growing an appropriate microorganism in huge quantities. This is done in large vat-type equipment called fermentors. Growth takes place in the growth medium i.e. water, to which carefully selected nutrients are added. During or at the end of their growth, the microorganisms release their desired products in the growth medium.

Among the kashruth considerations involved are: the nutrients in the growth medium, the ingredients added during processing and previous uses of the equipment. In short. all enzymes, ingredients/additives, and cultures would require Kashruth certification.

Please don't hesitate to contact us again should you have any further questions. With best wishes for a healthy winter, and a prosperous year, we remain,


The Web(be) Rebbe 0a611

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Date: 4 May 2000 08:19:36 +0100
From: wytze
From: Biotech Activists

A pest might make a comeback thanks to engineered "weeds"

By Andy Coghlan New Scientist April 15, 2000 SECTION: This Week, Pg. 17

FIELDS where genetically modified cotton plants spring up as weeds in other crops could provide refuge for the cotton boll weevil, warn entomologists in South Carolina. That could mean the return of this major pest to parts of the American cotton belt from which it has been eradicated. The state spent dollar 1.3 million eradicating the weevil, only finishing the job in 1995.

Now growers are afraid the pest could make a comeback if farmers ignore GM cotton "weeds" growing among their other crops. Researchers in South Carolina first noticed the problem last year in a dozen fields of GM soybeans where GM cotton had been grown the previous year. Both the cotton and the soybeans are resistant to Roundup, the wide- ranging weedkiller made by Monsanto of St Louis, Missouri.

This means that when farmers apply Roundup to kill weeds in newly planted fields of GM soybeans, it doesn't destroy stray GM cotton plants left over from the previous year. "I could look across soybean fields and see hundreds of these cotton plants," says Mitchell Roof, an entomologist at Clemson University, South Carolina, who sits on a technical panel looking for an answer to the problem. South Carolina got rid of the boll weevil by setting up a state-wide eradication programme organised by the South Carolina Cotton Growers' Foundation.

Mark Ritchie, President
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
2105 First Ave. South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404 USA
612-870-3400 (phone)    612-870-4846 (fax)    cell phone 612-385-7921

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Date: 4 May 2000 09:55:48 +0100

An excellent mainstream news article from Canada

Of Consuming Interest: Go Organic.

Thats the Best Strategy for Shoppers who want to Avoid Genetically Modified Foods

By Stuart Laidlaw, The Toronto Star, May 3, 2000

According to this story, the next time youre buying sweet corn or potatoes or any other fresh produce, try something different. Buy the stuff with worms; its a good way, the story says, to make sure youre not buying genetically modified food. But if youre looking for a less protein-enhanced method (huh? – dp), read on. What follows is a rough guide to avoiding genetically modified foods, if you are inclined to do so. It isnt easy.

The stuff isnt marked, and perhaps never will be, despite talks between Ottawa and the food industry on voluntary labelling. You have to read between the lines of existing labelling and learn how to decipher an ingredient list. Randy Wittacker, manager of the Ontario Natural Foods Co-operative, was quoted as saying the lists can get pretty long and that he is frustrated that it isn t easy for grocery shoppers to sort out the genetically modified foods The consumer shouldnt be stuck with that problem. They ve been stuck trying to figure out what the hell to do.2

The story says that while pesticides left consumers worrying about chemical residues on their food, genetic modification has them wondering what agricultural mutants might be in their dinner.

The story also says that genetic modification differs from traditional plant breeding methods in one key way: it crosses the once unpenetrable species barrier, allowing scientists to cross plant genes with animals. The story says corn and potato plants are crossed (huh? – dp) with a type of soil bacteria in order to make the plants toxic to pests, while canola and soy plants are crossed (huh? – dp) with another bacteria to make them resistant to herbicides.

The easiest way to avoid genetically modified food is to buy organic. Virtually all organic guidelines, whether Canadian, American or the much cited California organic laws, all say basically the same thing: There can be no genetically modified (he probably means engineered – dp) crops in organic food. Other organic no-nos include pesticides and chemical additives. Sounds simple, sure, but nothing in life is ever so. Just ask the folks at The Big Carrot Natural Food Market, 348 Danforth Ave., Torontos biggest single health food store.

They plan to make their house brands completely free of genetically modified products by the end of the year. About 2 per cent of the stores shelf space is taken up by house brands. Julie Daniluk, the stores registered nutritional consultant, was cited as saying retailers have a responsibility to their customers to sell the best food they can and at The Big Carrot, that means organic foods free of genetic modification, adding, When they walk in the front door, they shouldnt have to read every package.2

But be warned, the story says, anybody in Canada can call anything organic, as long as at least one ingredient is organic. But calling something certified organic, well, thats another matter. To get nitpicky about it - and you must be nitpicky to stay away from genetically modified foods - only certified organic products meet Canadian government standards on what makes food organic. To make matters more confusing, there are some 90 North American organizations authorized to certify products as organic, and none of them are household names.

For the average shopper, a seal of approval from the Organic Crop Producers & Processors or the Organic Crop Improvement Association is largely meaningless unless you are familiar with the group. But it doesnt stop there. The certifying bodies are quick to say they are not guaranteeing that the contents of any package are organic, just that they believe the companies involved did all they could to make sure it is organic. The products themselves are not tested. And then there is the ingredients list. If going organic isn t an option, for whatever reason, you had better learn to decode an ingredient list if you want to avoid genetically modified foods.

Despite all the talk about fish genes in tomatoes or scorpions crossed with berries, there are relatively few types of genetically modified crops on the market right now - just corn, soybeans, canola and potaotes - but those ingredients find their way into most of the foods on grocery store shelves. Also, be warned: When it comes to ingredient lists, corn is not always corn and soy is not always soy.

Because ingredient lists need only include the products used to make the food, and not the crops used to make the ingredients, corn is often listed as anything from ascorbic acid to zein, and soy comes across as such things as lecithin and vegetable protein. Ingredients are listed in the order of their percentage presence in the final product. In other words, the more there is of something in a product, the higher up on the list it appears. Its up to you what to do about it.

Wittacker of the Ontario Natural Foods Co-operative was cited as saying he hoped consumers will reject foods containing any derivative of a genetically If enough consumers take that position, whats a farmer going to grow?

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Date: 4 May 2000 19:04:09 +0100
From: Robert Mann

How old is GE? Phil the Oiler refuted

"Genetic engineering started in 1975 . . . it has been going on for 25 years"

Prof Warren Tate, HOD Biochem,
U of Otago, RadioNZ 00-5-5

Contrast this with the claim of Phil l'Huiller, AgResearch Ruakura, telling the audience in my seminar at the NZ Dairy Expo 00-1-27 that GE began in 1953 (to imply it is so old that it must be OK).

Tate is certainly correct. He added that it is only this immediate past decade that has seen any widespread practice of such expts. He was previously in the public record this Jan:

(RSNZ daily email bull)

Caution urged over some aspects of genetic engineering Some radical new steps in the genetic engineering of crops should be approached "very slowly and cautiously"

University of Otago biochemist Warren Tate

Impressed by this statement, I approached him with a copy of an article of mine and a request to discuss. I got no acknowledgment.


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

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Date: 4 May 2000 19:02:04 +0100
From: "j.e. cummins"

Retentive Canadian bureaucrats

I wrote to the Ministry of Agriculture Canada for detailed information on field trials of pharmaceutical crops moidified with human genes to produce potent disease factors and drugs. I have found such field tests do not take into account pollution of ground and surface water with disease factors and their genes. Even pollen transfer is poorly managed.

Canadian Bureucrats are higly retentive and growing worse , in that regard, rather than better. The details I requested were not provided but it can be seen that extensive testing is being done!

Lyle Vanclief is Minister of Agriculture. He failed in farming and facing financial and personal disaster had to chose between suicide and a life of politics.That may explain his actions on pharmaceutical GM crops with human genes.

Professor Joe Cummins
London, Ontario

E-mail address:

Dear Professor Cummins:

Thank you for your e-mail of March 31, 2000 regarding the location and nature of field trials of crops which, through the use of biotechnology, are producing pharmaceuticals. I am pleased to have this opportunity to provide you with the following information.

As you may know, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for safety assessments of plants, livestock feeds, veterinary biologics, and fertilizers derived through biotechnology. The fundamental approach of the regulatory system is one that emphasizes human, animal, and environmental safety.

With regard to the information you requested on field trials, please find this in the attached annex. For further information on these trials, you may wish to contact the CFIA's Plant Biotechnology Office at the following address:

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Plant Biotechnology Office
59 Camelot Court, Nepean, Ontario, K1A 0Y9
(613) 225-2342

Professor Joe Cummins Page 2

You may also wish to visit the Plant Biotechnology Office's Web site at the following URL: plant/pbo/home_e.html

Again, thank you for writing.

Yours sincerely,

Lyle Vanclief


ANNEX: Summary of Submissions and Field Trials for Biotechnology-Derived Plant Material for 1997-2000

Year Breeding Objective Number of Submissions Number of Trials Provinces where Field Trials Took Place
1997 Pharmaceutical 4 9 Quebec, British Columbia, Saskatchewan
1998 Pharmaceutical 4 5 British Columbia, Saskatchewan
1999 Pharmaceutical 7 8 British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec
2000* Pharmaceutical 5 6 Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba

* As of March 31, 2000

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Date: 5 May 2000 05:08:03 +0100

Doctors seek ethical controls on centralized databanks

By CLARE NULLIS, Associated Press Writer, May 5, 2000

GENEVA (AP) via NewsEdge Corporation -

Doctors from around the world have sounded the alarm over centralized computer databanks with genetic information on millions of people, saying there is too much scope for abuse.

Many medical practitioners say they fear government-backed health databases containing information from DNA testing may violate patients' privacy and the confidentiality oaths of doctors. Anders Milton, chairman of the World Medical Association It is as important as the right to free speech

Some physicians, gathered at a conference organized by the World Health Organization and the World Medical Association to address doctor's concerns, wondered whether hackers could break into computer systems and sell patient records showing their genetic susceptibility to insurance companies. If patients are not sure what will happen to their medical information, then they may not share honestly their history, symptoms and contagious diseases with their said Nancy Dickey, a family practitioner in Texas and immediate past president of the American Medical Association.

Other doctors said they worried that pharmaceutical companies might unfairly exploit the databases for profit.

Dan Wikler, an ethics expert at WHO and former senior professor of ethics at Wisconsin university, said the U.N. health agency understood doctors' concerns and felt there The promise of therapeutic gains weighs heavily on the he added, in defense of government research plans.

Physicians and representatives of government groups agreed on the need for ethical guidelines but made no decisions on action at the conference Wednesday at WHO's Geneva headquarters. Further discussions are to take place in the coming days within the World Medical Association ethics committee.

Of most immediate concern is a national project in Iceland to collect DNA samples from its 270,000 citizens and link the genetic profiles with their health records and family trees.

The government has given the database license to a private company, DeCode Genetics, and hopes the end product will offer an unprecedented chance to discover genetic links to diseases, offering hope for future prevention and cure. said Kristjan Erlendsson, a former senior health ministry official now with DeCode Genetics.

The company and government both insist that access to the information will be stringently controlled and that it will be impossible to identify individuals in the database. They say that participation in the database is based on and that people can either opt out at the start or withdraw at a later date.

Erlendsson said a national survey published last month showed 81 percent of the population was in favor of the project. But he conceded that many Icelandic doctors were opposed because of fears that the database might reveal patients' identity.

Authorities in northern Sweden have launched a similar Biobank project, which is due to be funded in part by drug companies and to make data available for industrial research.

And the small Baltic state of Estonia, hoping to attract foreign investment and establish itself as a leader in gene research technology, hopes to start genetic testing of the population of 1.3 million in the next year. said Andres Metspalu of the Estonian Human Genome Heredity Project.

WMA council chairman Milton said the doctors' body was ready to cooperate with other agencies like the World but always with the freedom of the

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Date: 5 May 2000 10:13:29 +0100

This week's New England Journal of Medicine (April 27, 2000, Vol. 342, No. 17) is more proof of biotechnology's failure.

I have written about this story many times, but publication in a peer-reviewed journal now confirms what I have been saying for many years. This message bears repeating.

New Biotech Consequence

In 1989, Monsanto was aware that cows in test herds treated with the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone developed sores and lesions on their udders that were collectively called mastitis. Milk from rbST-treated cows contained increased levels of pus, blood, and virulent bacteria.

In order to deal with the problem, Monsanto's top dairy scientist, Margaret Miller, left the firm and became FDA's Monsanto "plant." Once at FDA, Dr. Miller arbitrarily changed the existing antibiotic standard. She increased by 100 times the allowable level of antibiotics that farmers could put into milk.

The consequences of her action were that new strains of bacteria developed in dairy cows that were immune to existing antibiotics, which no longer worked when they were needed. People drank milk containing increased amounts of antibiotics and new species of bacteria with immunities to those antimicrobials.

The latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine contains a study by Paul Fey, et al, confirming the emergence of a new strain of salmonella that was isolated from a 12-year-old boy who was admitted into a hospital with fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

That salmonella strain is resistant to a new wonder drug, Ceftriaxone, which has also been used on dairy cows. We wonder why few scientists have previously noted why wonder drugs are no longer so wonderful.

Sophisticated methods of plasmid analysis were performed on the bacteria obtained from the child and from the cattle, and they were found to be indistinguishable. In addition to the resistance to Ceftriaxone, the bacteria had developed resistance to thirteen other antibiotics.

The study raises extreme health concerns, and provides evidence that disease is directly related to antibiotic-resistant strains of salmonella that have resulted from overdosed farm animals. Such errors do not develop in the natural scheme of things. This error is a direct result of Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.

How much more evidence must FDA and Congress examine before government regulators once again show concern for the health and safety of the American people?

Robert Cohen

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Date: 5 May 2000 09:54:44 +0100
From: "j.e. cummins"

The article below deals with the danger of antibiotic gene transfer in the gut.l It ignores such gene transfer from GM crops to bacteria in the gut! It is a cleare case of tunnel vision a common disease amoong promoters of GM crops.

Dan Ferber is a writer in Urbana, Illinois.

Antibiotic Resistance Gene Transfer In Gut

ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE: Superbugs on the Hoof?

Ba Dan Ferber

FDA approved
Fomenting resistance
Culling the antibiotic herd


Disturbing new findings have provided a key link in the chain of evidence connecting antibiotics used on livestock to outbreaks of disease caused by antibiotic-resistant human pathogens

When the severe diarrhea didn't stop after nine awful days, the 62-year-old Danish woman dragged herself to the emergency room at Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen. The diagnosis was a cinch: food poisoning from Salmonella. Doctors rolled out their big gun, an antibiotic called ciprofloxacin that can vanquish the nastiest Salmonella strains in a few days.

But as the hours passed, the infection worsened – becoming so bad that the Salmonella punched a hole in her colon, allowing it and other bacteria to invade the rest of her body. As the situation grew desperate, doctors blasted her with heavy doses of two more antibiotics and stitched up her damaged colon. The drugs knocked off the Salmonella, but other escapees from the gut sent her into septic shock; one by one, her organs failed. Four days after doctors realized the Salmonella was impervious to ciprofloxacin, she was dead.

The Danish woman was not the first person to succumb to a superbug resistant to antibiotics. But she and another Salmonella victim in the summer of 1998 put a human face on an alarming trend: pathogens rapidly acquiring resistance to drugs that are similar to antibiotics used for years to treat livestock. In a nice piece of detective work, a team led by microbiologist Henrik Wegener of the Danish Veterinary Laboratory in Copenhagen traced the drug-resistant strain of Salmonella to infected swine.

To fight Salmonella outbreaks, some farmers had been dosing herds with enrofloxacin. It turns out that this drug and ciprofloxacin belong to a class of compounds called quinolones that gum up bacterial machinery for replicating DNA. The researchers traced the deadly strain to contaminated pork products from a single Danish herd. The findings, reported last November in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), are the strongest indictment yet implicating livestock antibiotics in human deaths. Says microbiologist Abigail Salyers of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign: "It's the closest that anybody has come to a smoking gun." And just last week, researchers reported evidence linking a case involving a resistant Salmonella strain in the United States to the use of animal antibiotics.

For decades farmers have mostly had free rein in dosing livestock with antibiotics to treat illnesses, prevent infections, and fatten animals on less feed. With evidence mounting that this unfettered practice can spawn new superbugs, agencies worldwide are beginning to clamp down on antibiotic use in agriculture. The European Union has issued new rules limiting the use of several livestock antibiotics, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed similar regulations.

The moves have riled industry officials, who argue that antibiotics are essential to keeping animals healthy and the food supply safe. They contend that regulators and public health activists are blowing the problem out of proportion. The most serious threat, they point out, comes from indiscriminate use of antibiotics in people, not livestock. "We're not saying there isn't any concern," says Richard Carnevale of the Animal Health Institute, which represents U.S. animal-drug producers. "But in the whole scheme of things, we believe that it's relatively minor."

A growing number of scientists, however, are taking the threat quite seriously, as is the British Royal Society of Medicine, which brought experts together in Washington, D.C., this week to brainstorm on the issue and to educate the public. Although drug use on the farm may have little to do with drug-resistant tuberculosis or other pathogens transmitted from person to person, it "has everything to do with bacteria acquired through the food supply," says medical epidemiologist David Bell of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Gut reaction The case against antibiotic use in livestock rests largely on drug resistance observed in food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella or Campylobacter, which often infect animals without causing symptoms. First, microbial sleuths must link a livestock antibiotic to a drug-resistant strain. Next, they must show that the strain can survive the slaughterhouse. Finally, to cement the connection to human illness, they must prove that eating tainted meat leads to an infection that defies antibiotic treatment. The last link is the hardest to verify. "That's where the chain of evidence starts to get frayed," Salyers says.

Luckily for the Danish team, the deadly bug did not take them by surprise. It's a variant of Salmonella typhimurium DT104, a strain that resists five common antibiotics and had flared up in many European countries – but rarely in Denmark. Hoping to keep it at bay, Danish officials set up in 1997 what Wegener calls the world's most aggressive surveillance system for resistant Salmonella. They test for drug resistance in every Danish patient who sees a doctor for a Salmonella infection, about 3200 people a year; in roughly 1 million samples of meat shipped each year to grocery stores; and in nearly every flock of chickens and herd of pigs – the usual sources of Salmonella that infect people – raised for the market.

When word came on 18 June 1998 that a quinolone-resistant strain had shown up in a hog slaughterhouse on the island of Zealand, K=E5re Malbak of Copenhagen's Statens Serum Institute leaped to action. By coincidence, earlier that day his team had identified samples of a vicious DT104 strain in five Danish patients. This strain, and the one in the slaughterhouse, beat back the same seven drugs – two more than other DT104 strains. Malbak's team started phoning patients, slaughterhouse workers, and meat wholesalers. By nightfall they learned that all the patients had bought pork from shops supplied by the Zealand slaughterhouse.

"That made the hypothesis simple," says Wegener, who was consulting with Malbak throughout the day: The pork was the source of the super DT104. Records later showed that just one of the 37 herds slaughtered for that shipment was infected by the resistant strain. Although the herd had not been treated with quinolones that year, others on nearby farms had, and Salmonella can easily jump from herd to herd, Wegener says. What's more, DNA fingerprinting showed that the drug-resistance genes in the patients were identical to those in the pigs.

Now, another case, reported in last week's NEJM, suggests that a second new drug against Salmonella has been compromised by a livestock antibiotic. Bacteriologist Paul Fey of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and his colleagues described how a 12-year-old Nebraska boy became infected by the same Salmonella strain as had cows on his father's ranch. Apparently, says Fey, the cows had contracted the resistant Salmonella from a ceftiofur-treated herd on another ranch.

When the boy became ill, doctors treated him with ceftriaxone, an antibiotic similar to ceftiofur. The boy recovered – but not thanks to the ceftriaxone, which hardly dented the Salmonella. The strain was resistant. That worries Fey, as doctors already have their hands tied when treating childhood Salmonella: Front-line quinolones can't be used because they impede bone development. That's why Fey predicts "dire consequences" for children's health if the ceftriaxone-resistant strains spread.

Deadly pas de deux. Usually a kind of bacteria called enterococci dwell peaceably in our gut. But new findings suggest that drug-resistant bacteria in contaminated food or water can slip enterococci the genes conferring resistance. For people with weakened immune systems who are susceptible to enterococci infection, the drug-resistant enterococci pose a grave threat.



FDA approved

Even in the absence of a direct link between farm and table, circumstantial evidence can be damning. Spurning the CDC's advice, the FDA in 1994 approved the use of quinolones for preventing infections of an intestinal bacterium, Campylobacter jejuni, in poultry. Since then, the percentage of quinolone-resistant Campylobacter cultures in routine sampling in people has skyrocketed from 1% to 17% in just 7 years, Kirk Smith of the Minnesota Department of Public Health and his colleagues revealed last year in NEJM. Campylobacter very rarely kills people, Smith says, "but it's a severe enough illness that you're just hating life." And it shows that Salmonella isn't the only bug to worry about.

Fomenting resistance

A more insidious threat comes from pathogens passing their genetic know-how to bacteria in our gut. Resistance develops like this: Under an antibiotic blitz, a tiny fraction of any population of otherwise-susceptible bacteria can survive, because they possess mutations – acquired randomly or from other bacteria that slip them rings of DNA called plasmids – that counter an antibiotic's effects. Because different strains swap genes routinely, and even different species exchange genes from time to time, one bug can gird itself with another's resistance genes.

In a particularly troubling example, gene transfer appears to have turned gut-dwelling bacteria called enterococci into a public health threat. Most of the time, people and their intestinal bacteria get along fine, but enterococci can infect hospitalized patients with weakened immune systems, replicate like mad, and trigger the immune system to go haywire, which poisons organs. Because enterococci have developed resistance to most antibiotics, systemic infections often rage unchecked, killing thousands of people each year. A powerful drug called vancomycin can stop susceptible enterococci in their tracks. But vancomycin-resistant strains are spreading in Europe – even though the antibiotic is new to the European scene.

Vancomycin resistance already is a huge problem in the United States. The drug has been used for years in hospitals, allowing bugs to develop resistance. But that doesn't explain why resistance is cropping up in healthy people in Europe, says microbiologist Wolfgang Witte of the Robert Koch Institute in Wernigerude, Germany. The evidence suggests another reason:

In 1974, the European Union approved the use of avoparcin, an antibiotic that, by an unknown mechanism, makes livestock grow fatter on less feed. Avoparcin and vancomycin kill bacteria by blocking an enzyme essential for building the cell wall. Not surprisingly, enterococci in livestock that resist avoparcin also can withstand vancomycin. Despite strict procedures, enterococci from the gut on occasion infect meat during slaughter. If a person eats undercooked meat tainted with resistant enterococci, the livestock strain can transfer to the human strain the genes conferring resistance to vancomycin. Alarmed by the potential link between avoparcin and vancomycin resistance, the European Union banned avoparcin in 1997.

A team led by molecular microbiologist Rob Willems of the Dutch National Institute of Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven has evidence that such gene transfers are occurring. The researchers found identical sequences of transposons – DNA snippets that can jump from one bacterium to another – with identical resistance genes in enterococci from people and from pigs. These transposons are different from ones found in resistant enterococci from cows, chickens, and turkeys, the researchers report in the March 1999 issue of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. That suggests the resistance moved from pigs to humans, Willems says.

One obvious question is whether cutting down on antibiotics on the farm can throttle resistant pathogens. New research suggests that's the case. In a report in the March issue of the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, a group led by veterinary microbiologist Anthony van den Bogaard of the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands showed that by 1999, 2 years after avoparcin was taken off the market in Europe, the prevalence of vancomycin-resistant strains in pigs, chickens, and people in the Netherlands had dropped to half the 1997 levels.

Culling the antibiotic herd

To guard against the nightmare of animal enterococci or other bugs planting the seeds of resistance in more dangerous pathogens, governments worldwide are cracking down on the use of drugs in livestock. The first moves came after a British panel in 1969 recommended banning growth-promoting antibiotics that spur resistance to drugs used in human medicine. The panel's advice was partly heeded in Europe, where key antibiotics like penicillin and tetracycline were taken out of agricultural use in the 1970s.

But it has been mostly ignored in the United States, where industry officials insist that antibiotics keep animals healthy and thus safeguard the food supply. "While there's a theoretical link [between resistant strains in livestock and people], we think that there's so many things that need to happen that the risk is diminishingly small," says the Animal Health Institute's Carnevale. Even if antibiotic use on the farm does pose a threat, it pales in comparison with the scourge of resistance from human medical practices, says Robin Bywater, a Reigate, U.K., consultant for Pfizer, which produces animal antibiotics. Besides, Bywater says, the drug-resistant pathogens most dangerous to people – such as Staphylococcus aureus or the tuberculosis bacterium – do not infect livestock.

The main skirmishes now are over the practice of using low doses of antibiotics to make livestock fatter on less feed. Three years ago, the World Health Organization argued for phasing out use of antibiotics for this purpose, if the animal drugs are used in people or breed resistance to human drugs that work by a similar mechanism. The European Union agreed and banned the use of avoparcin and four other drugs as growth promoters.

The FDA, meanwhile, has given mixed signals regarding so-called subtherapeutic uses – growth promotion and illness prevention – of animal antibiotics. In a series of actions since 1994, the agency has approved the use of quinolones to treat and prevent infections in poultry and beef cattle. But in 1998 it floated draft regulations that would raise the bar for all uses of new animal antibiotics.

The regulations would require companies to carry out resistance studies before and after a drug's approval, and to pull any drug from the market if the target bacteria develop resistance to human antibiotics. "We're most concerned about those pathogens for which the disease is serious in humans and for which the drug we're considering may be the drug of last resort," such as quinolone-resistant Salmonella and vancomycin-resistant enterococci, says Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine. "The only scientific way we have to do it is to look at it on a case-by-case basis."

Congress, however, may prod the FDA into a more aggressive stance. A bill introduced last year by Representative Sherrod Brown (D-OH) would order companies to discontinue using seven antibiotics for any reason other than to treat illness in animals – unless the industry proves that the drugs won't harm human health. Brown hopes the bill, opposed by the agriculture industry, will pass in 2 or 3 years. "The burden should be on the drug industry to prove that they are safe, not on the FDA to prove 100% that they are unsafe," he told Science.

Researchers are also trying to provide industry with alternatives to antibiotics that can keep livestock healthy. These include probiotics, in which healthy gut bacteria are infused into animals before they are weaned to crowd out pathogens; vaccines; and animal husbandry practices that prevent infections from spreading from farm to farm. Although these possibilities hold promise, "there is no one magic bullet" in the pipeline, says microbiologist Paula Fedorka-Cray of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Russel Research Center in Athens, Georgia.

Wegener and others believe that U.S. regulators must follow the lead of their European counterparts and act quickly to get livestock antibiotics off the market for uses other than treating sick animals. Otherwise more outbreaks like the one in Denmark could occur, he says, adding, "I have difficulty understanding why we should take that risk."

Science Volume 288, Number 5467 Issue of 5 May 2000, pp. 792 - 794

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Date: 5 May 2000 16:28:40 +0100

Keep homes secret, plead biotech chiefs

By Andrew Clark The Guardian, Friday May 5, 2000

Directors of Britain's biotechnology companies have asked for a relaxation in the law, to allow them to keep their home addresses secret from animal rights protesters.

The BioIndustry Association, which represents the industry, has written to the trade secretary, Stephen Byers, asking for an exemption in disclosure requirements in cases where there is a threat to life and property.

At present, the law requires all directors to list their addresses in accounts, which are available to the public at Companies House.

Drugs companies which test their products on animals are concerned at a sudden increase in the activity of protest groups targeting executives and shareholders.

A spokesman for the BioIndustry Association said: "There has been a resurgence in animal rights activism and certain of our members have received threats. There have been a lot of intimidatory-type phone calls."

She said the association was "not seeking a blanket change" but wanted dispensation where there was a genuine security risk.

A high-profile campaign against one testing company, Huntingdon Life Sciences, led to a fall in the share price as institutions bowed to pressure and sold their shares. Shareholders found demonstrators outside their homes.

Most companies prefer to keep quiet about their activities in animal testing, although nearly every drug development firm does carry out some such research.

Rolf Stahel, chief executive of Shire Pharmaceuticals, said his company did little in the field. He said he had been exposed to protesters some years ago while working for Wellcome.

"It was not a pleasant experience," he said. "Petrol bombs were thrown into private resi dences and surveillance equipment had to be installed in the houses of executives. We were advised that we should check our cars for bombs all the time."

He supports a relaxation in disclosure rules: "If you've gone through that kind of experience, you certainly don't want to expose your family to risks."

A different view was taken by Glyn Edwards, chief executive of the biotech firm Antisoma, which does test drugs on animals. He said he felt that the requirement for freedom of information overrode the danger from protesters, although he added: "As an individual, you do sometimes have fear for yourself and your family.

"None of us wants to harm animals but, if it comes down to finding out whether a drug can cure cancer, I think it's worth it."

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said the government was taking a fresh look at the laws. Previous reviews have concluded that the need for directors to be accountable to shareholders outweighed other factors.

The Association of the British Pharmaceuticals Industry, which represents large drugs groups, is backing calls for a change. Last week, the ABPI warned that attitudes towards animal testing could drive some firms abroad.

The British Union Against Vivisection said it would oppose widespread relaxation of the rules. "The general principle of public accountability of companies, and therefore directors and shareholders, remains important," a spokesman said.

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Date: 5 May 2000 18:15:23 +0100

U.S. Anti-GM Farm Groups Launch New Web Site

By Reuters news reporters

Several grassroots grower groups that oppose biotech crops launched a new Internet site on Thursday, saying farmers need a source of information about genetically modified crops that is not sponsored by large agribusiness companies.

The new Web site, , does not accept advertising from seed or pesticide companies and related industries.

Some of the groups behind the new site include the Organic Farmers Marketing Association, National Family Farm Coalition, the American Corn Growers Association and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Farmers without Internet access can sign up to receive the site's news stories through regular mail.

"Farmers have lots of well-justified concerns about biotech crops," said Ellen Hickey of Pesticide Action Network.

"With worldwide resistance to biotech crops on the rise, farmers need to know what the future has in store."

Last month, the U.S. biotech and agribusiness industries launched a $50 million public relations campaign that includes a web site,

Leading biotech seed companies also have a Web site,