Bangor Daily News, Bangor, ME: 2000-05-03
CRYSTAL Worldwide protests of the use of genetically modified foods have forced the closure of the NatureMark facility in Crystal, [Maine] a transgenetic laboratory and greenhouse operation owned by Monsanto that first opened in late 1992. ...
The operation in Crystal was involved in the growing of genetically modified seed potatoes that would repel Colorado potato beetles, which eat the leaves of potato plants. ...
Each of the plants contained a gene from the microbe Bacillus thuringiensis (abbreviated as Bt), a common soil microbe that was introduced into a potato chromosome in a process known as transgenetics.
When the potato cell carrying the Bt chromosome is grown into a new plant, the entire plant is able to produce the Bt protein, which controls the Colorado potato beetle.
The beetle has to eat only a small portion of a leaf before the ingested Bt protein causes its digestive system to malfunction. The beetle then can't eat, and it dies. ..
Last November, the company [McCain] announced it would no longer buy genetically altered potatoes because of what a spokesman said was months of pressure from consumers who feared that genetic modifications to potatoes used for french fries and other processed potato products could damage the environment and human health.
That decision has spilled over into Maine, where farmers most likely won't be planting any of the modified seed this year. ...
Other companies such as Gerber and H.J. Heinz Co. have stopped using produce from genetically modified plants in their baby foods.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2000
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today plans to refine its regulatory approach regarding foods derived through the use of modern biotechnology. The initiatives unveiled stem in part from input received during FDA's public outreach meetings held late last year and build upon programs already underway at FDA to help ensure the safety of all foods.
"FDA's scientific review continues to show that all bioengineered foods sold here in the United States today are as safe as their non- bioengineered counterparts, "said Jane E. Henney, MD, Commissioner of Food and Drugs. "We believe our initiatives will provide the public with continued confidence in the safety of these foods."
FDA will publish a proposed rule mandating that developers of bioengineered foods and animal feeds notify the agency when they intend to market such products. FDA also will require that specific information be submitted to help determine whether the foods or animal feeds pose any potential safety, labeling or adulteration issues.
Although the current consultative process has worked well, and the agency believes it has been consulted on all bioengineered foods and feeds currently on the market, FDA will propose to strengthen this process by specifically requiring developers to notify the agency of their intent to market a food or animal feed from a bioengineered plant at least 120 days before marketing. After reviewing the company's submission, FDA will issue a letter to the firm describing its conclusion about the regulatory status of the food or animal feed. To make sure that consumers also have access to product information, FDA will propose that submitted information and the agency's conclusions be made available to the public, consistent with applicable disclosure laws, by posting them on the FDA Web site for easy viewing.
Wednesday May 3 5:37 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday criticized the Clinton administration's plan to reassure consumers that gene-spliced foods are safe, saying the initiative did not go far enough.
California Sen. Barbara Boxer urged the White House to abandon its plan for voluntary labeling guidelines on foods containing genetically modified ingredients such as soybeans, corn or potatoes.
Boxer introduced legislation earlier this year that would require mandatory labels on all biofoods as a way to give American consumers more information at the grocery store. The voluntary labeling guidelines now under administration consideration would be a hollow step because the decision to label is left up to the Boxer said in a statement.
"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rare U.S. animals and wildlife could be threatened by transgenic fish and plants being developed in laboratories unless the federal government provides safeguards, a senior Interior Department official said on Thursday."
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 it for research and educational purposes.
By Jennifer Friedlin,
NYTimes.com Staff Reporter
TheStreet.com, 5/4/00 3:08 PM ET
A growing global backlash against gene-altered food has found a new battleground: the annual corporate shareholder meeting.
Twenty-one resolutions calling for restraints on the use of genetically modified ingredients are on the annual meeting agendas at some of America's leading food and seed manufacturers this year, up from zero a year ago.
The resolutions vary in severity, but many call for more long-term research before genetically altered animals and plants are used in food. Others propose mandatory labeling of any products with genetically altered ingredients.
None of the resolutions are expected to pass, and the few that have been put to a vote so far have been overwhelmingly defeated. But even in defeat, all of the resolutions have garnered the minimum 3% of the shareholder vote required to automatically reappear on the annual meeting agenda next year, under Securities and Exchange Commission rules.
Moreover, experts in shareholder activism say the resolutions are already making an impact by putting a sensitive consumer issue squarely in the faces of American corporate executives.
Some activists draw a parallel to the initially slow momentum of the anti-apartheid shareholder resolution movement 30 years ago, which pressured American companies to quit doing business with South Africa. That movement ultimately played an important role in the downfall of South Africa's white minority racist regime.
Update on Dr. Shiv Chopra, the Health Canada Scientist who was suspended for five days without pay after he testified to a Senate Committe about the hazards of genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.
A few days earlier, Senator Jack Austin sent a letter to the newspaper saying that his Committee would be stopping its investigation of the suspension. This letter is in response.:
by Helen Forsey, National Farmers Union
Ottawa Citizen, May 5, 2000, Page A13 Letters to the Editor
I appreciate Senator Jack Austin's explanation of the role of the Privileges Committee in its investigation of the case of Health Canada scientist Dr. Shiv Chopra ("Senate committtee hearing was only about privilege," April 28).
All Canadians owe the Senator and his colleagues a debt of gratitude for the diligence and effort they have devoted to this extremely complex and perplexing matter.
As Senator Austin points out, the mandate of the Privileges Committee is to ensure full respect for the rights and immunities that are fundamental to the working of parliamentary democracy. It is for precisely this reason that I believe the Committee should delay a final report until it has heard from all the witnesses who could throw light on this possible breach of parliamentary privilege.
At the end of the February 29th committee hearing, Senator Austin announced that the next witness would be Dr. Andre Lachance, the man directly responsible for Dr. Chopra's suspension. "From all the references we have had, his determination is clearly of importance to the work of the committee," he stated.
However, the Committee's attempt to call that witness was thwarted when Dr Lachance suddenly went on "stress leave". To anyone familiar with recent goings-on at Health Canada, this looks far too much like another desperate tactic by management to avoid embarassment or worse. That tactic could itself be a further instance of Health Canada's senior bureaucrats thumbing their noses at Parliament. And that is exactly what the Privileges Committee is trying to prevent.
To close the Chopra file at this point could allow such a tactic to succeed, and could open the door for future harassment of witnesses in parliamentary investigations. If Health Canada is indeed guilty of such a breach, and is now evading responsibility for it by making a key witness unavailable, they must not be allowed to get away with it.
With all due respect, I would suggest that the Senate ask the Privileges Committee to hold its report on this case until it has heard from Dr. Lachance and any other relevant witnesses. To accept the report before that happens would be premature, and would put in jeopardy the very rights and immunities that the Committee is mandated to defend.
Here is a further letter to the editor submitted by George Neville, PhD, retired Health Canada scientist
To: The Ottawa Citizen (Letters to the Editor)
Senator Jack Austin has written that the "purpose and scope" of the Senate committee on privileges, standing rules and orders hearing the testimony of Dr. Shiv Chopra and that of six scientists from the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs (BVD), "was very specific and narrow: It was whether parliamentary privilege had been breached. This privilege applies to persons who appear before parliamentary committees. The only issue before the committee was whether a breach of privilege occurred". (A15, Ottawa Citizen, Senate committee hearing was only about privilege. 28 April 2000.)
Readers, and perhaps the Chair of the Committee, need to be reminded that none of the seven BVD witnesses requested these hearings. These arose because of an expression of concern initiated by Senator Kinsella, Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senate), over disciplinary measures meted out to Dr. Chopra that had been reported in the press. Senator Carstairs, Deputy Leader of the Government (Senate), supported Kinsella in a joint motion to initiate an investigation. Senator Kinsella, who sponsored the call for Chopra to appear before the Committee on privileges, standing rules and orders, took great pains in his lengthy introductory statements to stress to fellow members of the Committee that in cases such as this, it is very rare to ever find evidence of direct causal action and that it is necessary to seriously consider the circumstantial evidence surrounding such events.
During the appearance of each of the other six scientists from BVD before the Committee, the Chair, Sen. Austin, asked if he or she had any direct evidence of any disciplinary action against Dr. Chopra as a result of his appearance before the Senate Agriculture Committee. Although each replied that they had not seen or heard anything directly linking the five-day suspension of Chopra to the Senate appearances, each did provide a wealth of corroborating circumstantial evidence.
Not only they and Dr. Chopra, but others present at the hearings knowledgeable of the management practices at the Health Protection Branch and BVD, had no doubts that the two were related and fully expected the Committee to see through the veil, especially if it had continued to call other pertinent witnesses, such as Dr. AndrÈ Lachance, the offending Director of BVD, a man with no training in veterinary science, microbiology, pharmacology, or physiology as required for the position held.
Likewise the Committee appeared inclined to relate Chopra's suspension to his invited participation (on his own time and not as an employee of Health Canada) in a forum hosted by Heritage Canada; yet the Committee aborted its hearings without calling pertinent witnesses from Heritage Canada to discover the origin and purpose of a mysterious tape recording the BVD management obtained unofficially and held as unexamined evidence against Chopra.
Sen. Austin says that "after carefully reviewing all [sic] of the evidence, the committee was unable to say with certainty that Dr. Chopra's suspension was related to his appearances before the Senate agriculture committee. Our conclusion was not a complete exoneration of the department." In addition he said, "we were not satisfied to the degree that [we] must be in order to make such a finding. The standard of proof required in order to determine that a contempt of Parliament has occurred has not been met, but this is not to say that there is no evidence."
It was abundantly clear to spectators of these hearings that the Committee needed to continue the hearing by calling Director Lachance, one or two persons from Heritage Canada, as well as higher officials within Health Canada including the Assistant Deputy Minister, Dr. Joseph Losos, and Marie Fortier, Associate Deputy Minister of Health Canada, both of whom examined the evidence and dismissed Chopra's grieveance, which is why it is now before the Public Service Staff Relations Board (PSSRB). With the approach of the Easter recess, the Committee Chair, like Pilote, chose to wash his hands of this distasteful and revealing bureaucratic entanglement. In so doing, seven highly educated, principled, and conscientious veterinary reviewers, intent on serving the public well being, were cast adrift by the semblance of a mock trial before sufficient and complete evidence had been heard.
Shame on you Senator Austin and your fellow committee members for daring to take this easy way out at the expense of the seven brave BVD witnesses. You Senators, the most privileged persons in the country with nothing to fear from reprisals or loss of income, have abdicated the honour and accountability that is expected of your hallowed appointments for Canadians.
In conclusion, Sen. Austin states that "the safety of our food system, the processes for approving drugs, and the work environment at Health Canada are concerns that are shared by senators as well as other Canadians. These are issues that need to be considered by the appropriate bodies at the appropriate time. An investigation into parliamentary privilege should not be a pretext for such a study." What an admission! If Senate Committees will not delve into these pressing issues affecting the well being and health of Canadians, who or what means remain to do so? No, the Senate committee report tabled on April 13 remains a copout, and it will continue to remain so unless Sen. Austin and his committee reconvene and adopt the (face-saving) recommendation of the National Farmers Union to redesignate that report as an 'interim' report, continue the hearings, and call the necessary additional witness that should have been its objective from the beginning.
George A. Neville, Ph.D.
Retired research scientist, Health Protection Branch
By Danielle Knight
WASHINGTON, May 4 (IPS) Following the outcries against genetically engineered crops, environmental groups are beginning to take aim at plans underway to alter the genes of trees grown for pulp and paper products.
While forest-related biotech research is still in its infancy compared with that taking place in agriculture, field trials of GM trees have proliferated around the world during the second half of the 1990s.
Now environmentalists are starting to pay attention to research links made between large biotechnology companies and the paper and pulp industry to develop faster growing trees that could be designed to work together with herbicides.
Ecologists worry that the drive for profit is causing these companies to overlook the overall impact genetically modified trees could have on the complex workings of ecosystems.
The economic incentive for these companies to produce trees more quickly cannot be overemphasised, say groups which estimate the value of the world's total annual timber harvest is in excess of 400 billion dollars.
Environmentalists fear, for example, that new GM traits such as herbicide resistance could possibly spread to other trees through cross fertilisation. This could cause certain trees to take over ecosystems and cause other native species to go extinct.
"We feel that this is a very dangerous trend in industrial forestry and a real threat to bio-diversity, forest ecosystems and the planet," says Patrick Reinsborough, outreach co-ordinator for the California-based Rainforest Action Network.
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 it for research and educational purposes.
By Michael Doyle, Bee Washington Bureau, (Published May 4, 2000)
WASHINGTON Critics of genetically engineered foods expressed skepticism Wednesday about a new Clinton administration plan to increase oversight of lab-generated edibles.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who has submitted legislation seeking more labeling of genetically modified food, denounced the latest move as a "hollow step" because it leaves the labeling decision up to manufacturers.
by Francesca Noceti, 5:00 p.m. May. 5, 2000 PDT Wired News
MILAN, Italy After this week's war declaration against genetically modified products, Italy's Green agriculture minister on Friday revoked next month's sponsorship for Tebio, an international exhibition and congress on biotechnology.
Plant biotechnology, which at is the crux of the recent controversy about the production and diffusion of GM foods, will be one of the main topics discussed at the Tebio exhibition in Genoa on May 24-26.
Agriculture Minister Pecoraro Scanio said that in light of the new philosophy of the ministry, which favors precautionary principles when related to biotechnology, the sponsorship would have been inopportune.
THE ARTICLE appeared last week as a one paragraph brief in a Toronto newspaper. It was, in a pure journalistic sense, old news. In fact, it was almost a verbatim reprint from a February edition of the prestigious New Scientist magazine.
Still, in the ongoing and increasingly bitter war over genetically modified foods, it was an intriguing bit of old news. An Alberta farmer, New Scientist reported, had made history. His geneticallymodified canola crop had created mutant weeds that are now resistant to not one, not two but three common herbicides.
The unnamed Alberta farmer hadn't set out to do this. He planted his geneticallymodified canola in three separate fields and, as directed, sprayed them with broad-application herbicides.
One of the main selling points about geneticallyaltered crops, it should be remembered, is that they are supposed to require fewer toxic herbicides. Geneticallyengineered canola, for instance, includes an alien gene that makes the crop resistant to specific common broadapplication garden herbicides, such as Monsanto Co.'s Roundup. If the farmer sprays his crop with Roundup, the theory goes, everything except the canola will be killed. Otherwise, the farmer might have to use a cocktail of more toxic, weed-specific herbicides, including the very potent 2,4D.
This, backers say, is why geneticallymodified crops are such a boon to the environment.
Surprise, surprise. As New Scientist reports, the Alberta farmer began growing geneticallymodified canola in 1997. He planted one field with seed resistant to Monsanto's Roundup. Another was immune to Cyanamid's Pursuit herbicide, while the third resisted Aventis' Liberty herbicide.
But the alien genes in his canola refused to stay still. They migrated to the very weeds they were designed to control. By 1998, the farmer found he had weeds resistant to two of the three garden variety herbicides he was using. By 1999, his weeds were resistant to all three.
It was, New Scientist reported, the first officially confirmed case of its kind.
So now the Alberta farmer has to use 2,4D to control the new superweeds created by his genetically modified crops the same crops that were supposed to require no 2,4D.
What, you might ask, is the point?
An excellent question, one which no one seems able to answer. Back in March, The Star's Stuart Laidlaw reported on an Ontario government study being flogged by the province's biotechnology lobby. The study showed that insecticide use had dropped off in Ontario over the past 15 years. The biotech lobby hoped to tie this development to the use of genetically modified organisms or GMOs.
But, as Laidlaw reported, the study demonstrated the opposite. The dropoff in toxic insecticide use predated the introduction of genetically engineered seed. Rather, it resulted from better use of routine techniques, such as crop rotation.
By contrast, herbicide use has increased by more than 50 per cent, caused largely by the introduction of you guessed it genetically engineered crops.
Keep all of this in mind this week as the GMO lobby begins to air commercials aimed at winning the public over to its cause. The GMO lobby is desperate. Consumer resistance has spread to North America. One can now find some items in Canadian supermarkets labelled GM-free and more are sure to follow as the big food chains move belatedly to meet public opinion.
Biotech stock prices have suffered. Monsanto, the pioneer of genetic engineering, is hiving off its troubled agricultural division and changing its name, in order to avoid the negative publicity associated with GMO products.
Even some of the biotech lobby's best political friends are abandoning ship. In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair, until now one of the staunchest defenders of genetically engineered food, is voicing doubts. Blair, no fool, has sniffed the wind.
Here in Canada, the federal government has quietly decided to abandon research into genetically engineered durum wheat for pasta.
But the GMO lobby, including the biotech multinationals, as well as public institutions, such as the University of Guelph, has sunk too much of its money and reputation into this endeavour to give up easily. It is fighting back with a vigorous propaganda war.
The biotech lobby has already prepared kits for use in schools to persuade children that genetically engineered foods are good for them. Its television ads will be aimed primarily at their mothers.
The ads will laud biotechnology in general, and genetically engineered foods in particular. They are to include soft focus shots of Canadian farms, canola fields blowing gracefully in the breeze.
Presumably there will be no closeups of the new Alberta superweeds.
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 it for research and educational purposes.
May 8, 2000
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ The European Union will remain prudent to genetically modified foods, the union's top agriculture official said Friday.
Franz Fischler, the EU's Commissioner on agriculture, also warned east and central European applicants to brace for tough talks on common agriculture policies. Biotechnology and genetic engineering is of major importance to all of In agriculture I don't principally exclude genetic
He said EU members are trying to agree on a common approval system about genetically modified foods _ an issue souring trade ties with the United States, a major exporter of such foods. It is necessary also to put labels on genetically modified products, so And third _ it is important to have a fair information policy in place ... both about
OTTAWA, May 10 (AFP) - Agence France Presse, Thursday, May 11 7:33 AM SGT
Representatives of UN member countries agreed Wednesday on guidelines for labeling genetically modified foods, by standardizing the definitions of words that can appear on labels.
The agreed-upon definitions themselves may not offer consumers much guidance, but if the proposals are adopted by the UN agency that sets voluntary food regulations, it could lead to international labels that will mean something.
For example, the 23-member committee agreed that: "Genetically modified means an organism in which the genetic material has been changed through gene technology in a way that does not occur naturally by multiplication and/or any natural recombination."
If the 164 members of the Codex Alimentarius, a UN food agency, accept that definition and the others agreed to here, it would become part of the general standards for pre-packaged food labels.
In countries that do use the labeling system, the agreement would help consumers navigate between genetically modified foods and traditional ones even if the food came from another country.
Canada presided over the committee's two-day meeting here, and has sought to balance consumers' food safety concerns with the benefits that big agricultural producers like Canada and the United States have received from biotechnology.
European countries have been vocal in demanding regulations on genetically altered foods, especially after a series of food safety scares in Europe over the last few years....
Environmental and consumer groups have urged Canada to move toward the European stance and to call for tougher regulations on genetically alerted foods.
Canada and the United States have said that the process of separating altered foods from traditional ones would be enormously expensive.
"Difficulties of segregation cannot be used as an excuse to allow high thresholds of genetically engineered products in non-GE (genetically engineered) foods," said deputy director of the Sierra Club, Angela Rickman.
"It will take years before we would know the consequences of the engineered organisms, so we demand immediately mandatory labeling and long-term testing," said Richard Wolfson, of the Consumer Right to Know Campaign.
An alternative news service for American farmers
SOURCE: Environmental Data Services (ENDS), Novartis S. A., Neptuno.net
(10 May - Cropchoice News) Europe's only commercial GMO corn crop is under attack by the food industry. The Spanish association of corn food starch producers, HUMAIZ, has told government officials that Bt corn is costing it money. Quoted by ENDS, a British media service, HUMAIZ chief Felipe Albert said "we have made clear to the agriculture ministry that the current situation is unsustainable" and "we hope the new minister will move quickly to solve our problems."
According to HUMAIZ, GMO corn is causing two major difficulties. Food processors in other European countries are hesitant to accept Spanish corn starch for fear of GMO content. HUMAIZ also says that testing and segregation costs are hurting their competitiveness.
Some US food-grade corn farmers are getting a similar message. Some corn starch companies have asked midwest farmers to avoid GMOs, while the costs of testing and segregation - which many US farmers pay out-of-pocket - are looming large in the fall.
Here is a message from "NLP Wessex" email@example.com
We recently reported on the poor economic performance of Bt cotton in North Carolina as a result of an increase in 'stink bug' attacks compared with crops managed using conventional insecticide spray regimes (see http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/btcottonnoprofit.h.... ).
There is now confirmation from scientists in Georgia and neighbouring states that the 'stink bug' problem arising with Bt cotton crops is not confined to North Carolina, with farmers being advised to deploy new chemical pesticide regimes to combat the problem - see: http://www.farmsource.com/News_Trends/newsarticles.asp?ID=16099 This latter article - posted on the Monsanto Farmsource web site - advises:
“Organophosphorus insecticides such as dicrotophos (Bidrin), methyl parathion, Penncap-M and acephate (Orthene 90S) provide good control ...... Generally, an insecticide application is recommended at one bug per six feet of row. Because bugs occasionally are difficult to detect, most states now recommend a threshold for treatment based on a percentage — 10 or 20 percent — of bolls damaged by stink bugs... Pyrethroids also give us pretty good suppression, but that won’t be good enough if the stink bugs are over-running you..."
The article confirms that the widespread adoption of Bt cotton has helped the stink bug emerge as a major pest in US Southeastern cotton production areas.
'Solve' one problem and create another - the perfect business scenario to keep 'life science' companies' bank balances bulging and farmers pockets empty. Buy Bt cotton AND our sprays! (the 'OR' option will soon be history).
Ottawa May 9, 2000 . The Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy (CIELAP), Council of Canadians, Professor E. Ann Clark of the University of Guelph and Professor Bert Christie of the University of Prince Edward Island, represented by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, today filed a petition under the Auditor General Act against the federal government for failing to protect public health and the environment in regulating genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Under the Act, the government is required to respond to the challenge within 120 days.
The petition requests a review of all federal laws and regulations governing genetically modified foods, animals, fish, trees, insects and animal feed. The petitioners charge that the current regime is inadequate to protect public health and the environment, fails to meet Canada's international environmental obligations to protect biological diversity, and is inconsistent with the principles of sustainable development.
"The current regime is constructed on a foundation of inadequate legislation and regulations, deficient science, and institutionalized conflict of interest. It is simply not good enough to protect the health and environment of Canadians. Fundamental reform is required" said Dr. Mark Winfield, Director of Research with the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy.
"The existing framework was not created to deal with the multitude of human health, environmental, social and ethical problems cropping up, because these issues are new and unique to GMOs, said Melanie Steiner, project lawyer with Sierra Legal Defence Fund. We are asking the federal government to address these issues and to promulgate laws that are more protective and comprehensive."
Under the Auditor General Act, a petition can be filed about environmental matters. The Auditor General is obliged to forward the petition to the responsible federal department within fifteen days of the date on which it is received. After considering the petition, the appropriate Ministers (including Health Canada and Environment Canada) are under a duty to respond.
"It is unbelievable that common food additives such as sweeteners have to be labelled, but foods that are being tampered with at the genetic level do not," said Jennifer Story, Health Protection Campaigner for the Council of Canadians. "Consumers are paying the price by being denied the right to choose what they want to eat."
But it is not just the lack of labelling that is problematic; the entire risk assessment process for GMOs is flawed. "The government has chosen to rush products to market prematurely without ensuring their safety," said Dr. E. Ann Clark. "There is no way that the government in good conscience can say that it is protecting the health of its citizens and the environment." Furthermore, "the federal risk assessment process is based entirely on data provided by industry, like big seed companies. This lack of independent government testing is a serious abdication of public responsibility," added Dr. Bert Christie.
The citizens' petition requests that the relevant federal departments: enact new legislation specifically to deal with GMOs; remove all institutional conflicts of interest; undertake rigorous, thorough, independent and transparent assessments of GMOs before they are allowed to enter the marketplace; and provide mandatory labelling of foods derived from GMOs.
The government must respond to the Petition by September 4, 2000.
For more information, please contact:
Mark Winfield, CIELAP (416) 923-3529, ext. 25;
Jennifer Story, Council of Canadians (613) 233-2773;
Melanie Steiner, Sierra Legal Defence Fund (416) 268-7533, ext. 25;
Posted on May 9, 2000
Forum Sponsored by U.N.
The Toronto Star/ The Montreal Gazette/ Ottawa Citizen May 10, 2000
OTTAWA Delegates from around the world are, according to this story, struggling to reach a compromise on the controversial issue of labelling genetically modified foods at a conference this week and the man chairing Codex Alimentarius, a United Nations commission on food standards, said an international agreement is crucial and may come out of the Ottawa meeting. Establishing international consensus and that food producers and processors need international standards to compete in global markets and consumers need to know the food they eat is safe and properly labelled.
The stories say that officials are considering two options: Labelling only genetically altered foods known to pose a risk to health, for example, foods that include something that might trigger an allergic reaction. Labelling all genetically altered foods that are different from the original or contain protein or DNA resulting from gene technology. The United States has led arguments for the first proposal, while European Union countries prefer the broader second option. Canada - a leading player in the international biotech industry - has aligned itself with the Americans in the debate. But Canadian officials sounded more conciliatory yesterday.
Bart Bilmer, an official with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, was We recognize that there are good elements in both proposals. Canada has always been open to
The stories note that the Codex commission, responsible for international food standards, has been grappling with the labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) since 1966. About 165 countries are represented at the conference.
Brewster Kneen of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network was quoted in Initially, industry thought they could just put this stuff out there and it would be taken up. They've been pushed further
Kneen was further cited as saying that Japan has moved toward mandatory labeling and Australia is expected to follow while the European Union has Three years ago, the U.S. had a whole grouping of countries together; now the U.S. doesn't have any unequivocal
Michael Phillips of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a U.S. trade There is no reason to put information on a and that there is no difference between genetically altered food and food produced by conventional means. Joyce Groote of BioteCanada was cited as denying that the industry fears labeling would result in rejection of its products in the marketplace, We believe that if labels are abused in any way, consumers may
Groote was further cited as not commenting on whether the industry is It's not a question of winning or losing. It's
Richard Wolfson of Ottawa-based Consumers' Right to Know was cited as saying the UN process is slow but much more democratic than Canada's national mechanisms for dealing with food-safety issues.
In related news, Canada's auditor general will intervene in a public application aimed at forcing a sweeping overhaul of the system for regulating genetically modified food.
Auditor General Denis Desautel's office has, the Citizen story says, agreed to act as ombudsman in the country's first formal challenge of the federal regulations used to study and approve gene-spliced food, animals, fish and trees.
The challenge was launched by a group of scientists and environmentalists concerned about what they describe as alarming gaps in the existing system used to regulate genetically engineered food.
They are demanding the government set higher scientific standards for testing the potential environmental and health hazards of these products. In particular, they are calling on the six federal departments responsible for overseeing genetically modified food to publicly account for a system that's based, they say, on shoddy science and a cozy relationship with the biotechnology industry that government is supposed to regulate.
Melanie Steiner, a lawyer with the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, was quoted as
A similar challenge was launched in the United States last year with a lawsuit filed by a citizen's coalition against the Food and Drug Administration, the agency in charge of safeguarding what Americans eat. In addition to seeking tougher regulations for genetically modified food, the suit demands that laws be put in place to force manufacturers to clearly label foods altered by biotechnology. The case, which ended hearings last July, is now in the hands of a judge.
Supporters of the challenge see the auditor general's involvement as a first offensive that could eventually trigger a full-scale review of the how adequately the federal government carries out its regulatory duties aimed at protecting the environment.
But industry representatives defended the present regulatory system and dismissed the public challenge as unnecessary. Joyce Groote of BIOTECanada, an industry association was quoted as saying, "These products have been more closely assessed for risk than most products."
Under federal law, Canadians concerned about the government's role in environmental protection can appeal to the auditor general. After reviewing the application, the office's environment commissioner then has the power to compel the appropriate government agencies to respond within 120 days. If applicants are not satisfied with the government response, they may launch a followup appeal.
Since the Canadian Environmental Protection Act was enacted in 1996, the provision has been used 23 times, but this is the first application to deal specifically with biotechnology. It is a very thoughtful petition in that sense. What they (the coalition) have
Public attacks on the credibility of the country's food-safety system has not diminished since last fall, when 200 scientists from Health Canada's Health Protection Branch signed a petition that, among other things, raised alarm at the acute shortage of scientists for evaluations and risk assessments of genetically modified foods.
Please post widely sorry for duplicate posts
Native Forest Network, as part of its newly launched program against the genetic engineering of trees, has established a listserve on the topic.
This listserve is intended not to be a discussion group, but an information resource. NFN will post informative articles and reports and hope that others on the list will do the same.
GE trees pose a serious threat to the world's remaining native forests and indigenous peoples. At this time there are very few plantations actually in place. Now is the time to stop this technology before the industry is able to develop the millions of acres of GE plantations that they have planned for the next few years.
To subscribe to this list serve write:
By Jim Ritter Staff Reporter,
May 9, 2000,
Celebrated Chicago chefs Charlie Trotter and Rick Bayless were cited as joining on Monday the movement against genetically engineered foods, even as a new survey found declining consumer support for biofoods.
Joined by other top chefs from around the country, Trotter and Bayless were cited as calling on the Food and Drug Administration to require labels and stricter testing for genetically engineered foods. Trotter was quoted as saying, "I have concerns that this untested technology diminishes the purity and taste of food." In a letter to the FDA, the chefs were cited as writing that GE foods pose "numerous risks" to human health and the environment.
Ottawa Stumped again.
GLOBE AND MAIL, Canadian Press, MAY.11,2000, page A8
The United Nations body that sets international standards for trade in food has again failed to reach agreement on how to label genetically modified foods.
Delegates to the Codex Alimentarius Commission, representing 167 countries, agreed yesterday to refer the issue to a committee headed by Canada for further study. That is exactly what they did last year.
The debate has been going on since 1992. But delegates say the balance of opinion has clearly shifted toward mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods.
Among countries that have moved to mandatory labelling or plan to do so: Norway, Japan, New Zealand, Korea, India, Brazil and members of the European Union.
The United States inists there is no need to label foods unless they differ significantly from existing foods in composition, nutritional value or intended use. That position, known as Option One, was supported by Canada until last year. [note: Canada still seemed to be siding with the USA supporting Option One]
The European Union position, known as Option Two, is that foods should be labelled if they contain protein or DNA resulting from gene technology.
Now there is a new proposal, known as Option Three, that would require genetically modified foods to be labelled even if they don't contain any detectable protein or DNA from an altered product.
For example, a plant may be altered to make it resistant to pesticides, but the cooking oil extracted from it may be identical to oil from a natural plant.
Here is an article on biopiracy, the patenting of genetic material. Thanks to Dr. Arun Goyal firstname.lastname@example.org, Department of Biology, University of Minnesota-Duluith, and Dr. D. P. S. Verma FRSC, email@example.com Professor, Molecular genetics, Ohio State University for posting this:
Full Story: http://www.timesofindia.com/120500/12home5.htm
RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY #696|
---May 4, 2000---
BIOTECH IN TROUBLE PART 2
Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403
Fax (410) 263-8944; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
We saw last week that the genetically-engineered-food industry may be spiraling downward. Last July, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman a big supporter of genetically engineered foods began comparing agricultural biotechnology to nuclear power, a severely-wounded industry. (Medical biotechnology is a different industry and a different story because it is intentionally contained whereas agricultural biotech products are intentionally released into the natural environment.)
In Europe, genetically engineered food has to be labeled and few are buying it. As the NEW YORK TIMES reported two months ago, "In Europe, the public sentiment against genetically engineered [GE] food reached a ground swell so great that the cultivation and sale of such food there has all but stopped." The Japanese government also requires GE foods to be labeled.
Americans in overwhelming numbers (80% to 90% or more) have indicated they want GE foods labeled but the GE firms consider a label tantamount to a skull and crossbones and the Clinton/Gore administration has sided with the biotech corporations against the people. To be fair, there are no indications that a Republican president would take a different approach. The biotech firms have invested heavily in U.S. elections and the resulting government represents their interests at home just as it does abroad. On this issue, to an astonishing degree, the biotech firms ARE the government.
Since the early 1980s, biotech corporations have been planting their own people inside government agencies, which then created a regulatory structure so lax and permissive that biotech firms have been able to introduce new genetically modified foods into the nation's grocery stores at will. Then these same "regulators" have left government and taken highly-paid jobs with the biotech firms. It represents an extreme case of the "revolving door" syndrome.
The U.S. regulatory system for GE foods, which was created in 1986, is voluntary.[3,pg.143] The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates genetically engineered plants and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates foods made from those plants. If any of the plants are, themselves, pesticidal then U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gets involved. But in no case has any long-term safety testing been done.
As the NEW YORK TIMES reported last July, "Mr. Glickman [U.S. Secretary of Agriculture] acknowledged that none of the agencies responsible for the safety of genetically modified foods the Agriculture Department, the F.D.A., and the Environmental Protection Agency had enough staff or resources to conduct such testing." At the time Mr. Glickman made his statement, 70 million acres in the U.S. had already been planted with genetically modified crops and 2/3rds of the food in U.S. grocery stores contained genetically modified plant materials.[3,pg.33]
The importance of safety testing was emphasized by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in its latest (April 2000) report on biotech foods. The NAS [pg. 63] said safety problems might include these:
The mechanism for creating unexpected proteins or unexpected toxins or allergens would be pleiotropy, the NAS explained [pg. 134]. Pleiotropy is the creation of multiple effects within an organism by adding a single new gene. In other words, putting a new gene into a tomato, intending to make the tomato more resistant to cold weather, might by chance, and quite unexpectedly, make some people allergic to the new tomato. "Such pleiotropic effects are sometimes difficult to predict," the NAS said. [pg. 134] The NAS said that FDA, USDA and EPA all need to pay attention to such "unintended compositional changes" of genetically modified foods.
Unfortunately, as the NAS pointed out, current tests are not adequate for determining all the problems that might occur because of pleiotropic effects. For example if a new protein is created that has not previously been found in the food supply, then there is no reliable basis for predicting whether it may cause allergic reactions. Allergic reactions are not a trivial matter, the NAS pointed out: "...food allergy is relatively common and can have numerous clinical manifestations, some of which are serious and life-threatening." [pg. 67]
New tests should be developed to test for allergenicity of genetically modified foods, the NAS said several times (see, for example, pg. 8, where the NAS called such new tests "highly desirable"). Specifically, the NAS recommended that tests be developed that actually measure reactions of the human immune system, which is the human system in which allergic reactions develop. The genetically modified foods on the market today have not undergone controlled experiments on real human immune systems. (Putting such foods into grocery stores is an uncontrolled experiment of sorts, but with no one collecting the data.)
In addition to human health problems, the NAS report discussed some of the agricultural and environmental problems that might occur from genetically modified (GM) plants:
In sum, agricultural biotechnology has raced ahead at lightning speed (going from zero acres planted with GE crops in 1994 to 70 million acres planted in 1999) without any long-term testing, and with minimal understanding of the consequences. The NAS refers to these politely as "uncertainties" and it acknowledges that these uncertainties "often force agencies to base their decisions on minimal data sets." [pg. 139]
So 2/3rds of the food in U.S. grocery stores contains plant materials that were genetically engineered. If they were subjected to government approval at all, it was on a strictly voluntary basis, and the government "often" approved new plants and new foods based on "minimal data sets," according to the National Academy of Sciences. Some of the most important aspects of these new foods had to be ignored because there is no way at present to test for them.
In sum, the biotech industry and its acolytes in government are flying blind and we are all unwitting passengers in their rickety plane. This is not a historical record that inspires confidence. No wonder the Clinton/Gore administration and the biotech corporations do not want anyone to know which foods have been genetically engineered. None of the biotech firms are even CLAIMING that there are taste or nutritional benefits in the biotech foods being sold today, so, to put it bluntly, consumers would have to be out of their minds to eat this stuff or serve it to their children.
Given the serious problems that the NAS said may occur as thousands of new genetically modified foods are introduced into the U.S. food supply without labels, naturally one wonders about liability insurance for the biotech industry. You will not find liability insurance discussed on the biotech industry's web site, http://www.whybiotech.com , so it is probably one of the industry's most serious problems.
Recently the Swiss company, Swiss Re, issued a report on GE foods. Swiss Re is a re-insurance company it insures insurance companies against catastrophic loss. Swiss Re said genetic engineering "represents a particularly exposed long-term risk" and "genetic engineering losses are the kind which have not yet, or only rarely, occurred and whose consequences are extremely difficult to predict."
Swiss Re then asked (and answered) the question, "...so how can genetic engineering risks be insured?" Here is Swiss Re's answer:
"It is currently not possible to give a direct answer to this question. A lot depends on whether consensus can be reached on the relevant loss scenarios in a dialogue involving the genetic engineering industry, society, and the insurance industry. This will make genetic engineering risks more calculable and more interesting to traditional insurance models. From the point of view of the insurance industry, WE ARE AT PRESENT A LONG WAY OFF. [Emphasis added.]
"Today we must assume that the one-sided acceptance of incalculable risks means that any participants in this insurance market run the risk not only of suffering heavy losses, but also of losing control over their exposure."
Without intending to do so, the Swiss Re report brings to mind an agenda for citizens who oppose the expansion of ag biotech:
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 it for research and educational purposes. Environmental Research Foundation provides this electronic version of RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY free of charge even though it costs the organization considerable time and money to produce it. We would like to continue to provide this service free. You could help by making a tax-deductible contribution (anything you can afford, whether $5.00 or $500.00). Please send your tax-deductible contribution to: Environmental Research Foundation, P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403-7036. Please do not send credit card information via E-mail. For further information about making tax-deductible contributions to E.R.F. by credit card please phone us toll free at 1-888-2RACHEL, or at (410) 263-1584, or fax us at (410) 263-8944.
Peter Montague, Editor
By Sarah Hall, The Guardian February 26 1999
GENES from genetically modified foods could evade scientists' control, "leak out" and infect other organisms, an eminent genetics professor warned yesterday.
Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College, London, said evolution was " predictable" and organisms' genetic make up altered naturally as they developed resistance.
He added: "The genes you put in may actually leak out and get to places where we can't control them ... Genes can leap in the most extraordinary and alarming way. There's no reason to say the same thing cannot happen in genetically modified plants. It only has to happen once. The dangers are really quite real." ...
"I definitely think we need more knowledge before we make the same mistakes with GM foods that we made with penicillin - and I most clearly think we should stop doing this until we know more about it," he said.
Guardian columnist and visiting professor at Green College, Oxford, George Monbiot, warned there was a major gulf between the manufacturers' claim for GM foods and what they really intended to do: rather than increase food production in the next century, they would be "the hunger merchants of the new millennium. "
He said the aim of genetic engineering was to wrest control of "the biggest commodity market of all - namely food".
Thanks to Marcus Williamson email@example.com for posting the following GE articles/links from BBC news website
16 May 2000 - GM pollen found in honey http://news2.thls.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid%5F751000/751203.....
For more links and articles see http://www.connectotel.com/gmfood
Friends of the Earth
For Immediate Release: Wednesday 17th May 2000
The Government has now confirmed that Canadian exporter Advanta Seeds sent GM oilseed rape seeds to both Sweden and the UK by accident.
The Swedish Government has admitted that 14 tonnes of spring oilseed rape were imported for the 1999 growing season, of which 9 tonnes were planted on 1,200 hectares. The remaining seeds were planted on around 600 hectares this year. The crops went into animal feed and rapeseed oil.
The UK Government has known that GM crops were also imported into the UK in this way for over two weeks. It has claimed that only 1% of Adventa's imports contained GM rapeseed, but has failed to give any details of total tonneage. The notably vague and feeble Parliamentary Answer (PQ 1549, from Agriculture Minister Joyce Quin to Judy Mallaber) fails to deal with at least seven key questions
FOE food campaigner Adrian Bebb said:
The Government is now making the outrageous claim that GM crops have been imported, sown and presumably harvested and sold commercially in the UK, but that this poses 'no risk to human health and the environment'. How on earth can this claim be made, when finding the extent of any risk was supposed to be the whole point of the Government trials programme?
Instead of coming clean about this fiasco, the Government has sat on the truth for over two weeks. Genetically modified food is a gigantic experiment with human health and the environment. The Government has lost control of the experiment altogether. Worse, it now seems to have decided the results of the experiment before it has even been conducted. Yet again, the interests of the biotech companies have been put before the safety of the environment and the public.
BBC news Wednesday, 17 May, 2000 http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid_751000/751925.stm
Prince's speech may prompt further rift with the government
'Nothing held sacred'
Tampering with God's work?
Mankind 'part of nature'
Prince Charles, a long-standing opponent of genetically-modified food, is to warn the scientific community that tampering with nature could cause great harm to the world.
We need to rediscover a reverence for the natural world, irrespective of its usefulness to ourselves
The Prince of Wales is to voice his concerns during a contribution to the Reith Lectures, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday.
He speaks of the need to "work with nature" and will warn of the dire consequences of ignoring the "essential unity" of the living and spiritual worlds.
The 2,300-word essay was written by the prince during a recent pilgrimage to a remote Greek monastery.
He says his concerns are rooted in the need to safeguard the divinely-created Earth. But the prince's swipes at biotechnology may prompt a further rift between St James's Palace and the government, which continues to support GM technology.
The prince will argue it is because of humanity's "inability or refusal to accept the existence of a guiding hand that nature has come to be regarded as a system that can be engineered for our own convenience".
He will go on to say: "We need to rediscover a reverence for the natural world, irrespective of its usefulness to ourselves, to become more aware of the relationship between God, man and creation.
"If literally nothing is held sacred any more - because it is considered synonymous with superstition or in some other way 'irrational' - what is there to prevent us treating our entire world as some great laboratory of life with potentially disastrous long-term consequences?"
He welcomes a "precautionary approach" to scientific advances and mocks those who portray this as a sign of weakness or an attempt to halt progress.
"I believe it to be a sign of strength and wisdom," he says in the lecture, which was recorded three weeks ago at his home, Highgrove House in Gloucestershire.
He counsels against reducing the natural world to a mechanical process.
Prince believes in divinely-created Earth
"In this technology-driven age, it is all too easy for us to forget that mankind is part of nature and not apart from it, and that this is why we should seek to work with the grain of nature in everything we do," he says.
Science, he says, should be used to understand how nature works but not to change what it is.
"Only by rediscovering the essential unity and order of the living and spiritual world will we avoid the disintegration of our overall environment," he concludes.
The prince's lecture will be discussed on the programme by the five Reith lecturers, former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, BP Amoco chief executive Sir John Browne, Indian ecologist Vandana Shiva and Tom Lovejoy, chief bio-diversity adviser to the World Bank.
Beekeepers have to move their hives
Beekeepers are being warned to move their hives away from GM crops sites after traces of genetically-modified pollen were found in honey.
The Bee Farmers Association is advising its members their hives should be at least six miles from any trial sites.
Experiments carried out on nine pots of honey brought from shops near GM sites revealed traces of genetically-modified pollen in two of them.
Thanks to "Desh Pal S. Verma" firstname.lastname@example.org posting this biopiracy victory: How the Neem patent fight was won in Europe.
Pune, May 17, 2000 :
At the conclusion of a two-day Oral Proceedings and on the basis of "Evidence submitted by Mr. Abhay Phadke of Ajay Bio-tech (India) Ltd., Pune, the Opposition Division of the European Patent Office (EPO) completely revoked a controversial patent which had been granted to Secretary of Agriculture, USDA, represnting The United States of America and the multinational corporation W.R.Grace for a fungicide derived from seeds of the Neem tree.
Associated Press 2000-05-17
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Consumer resistance to genetically modified crops is likely to persist for at least another five years in Europe, according to a top U.S. farm-trade official.
Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman's senior trade adviser, told a group of food-industry leaders in Minneapolis on Tuesday that European food-industry executives have made one thing clear: They won't even try to sell foods made from the crops.
European grocers and food processors told Glickman in recent meetings that they don't want to face picket signs and boycotts, Siddiqui said.
U.S. Newswire 2000-05-17
ROSEMONT, Ill., May 17 /U.S. Newswire/ In a move aimed at protecting the public from the potential health and environmental effects of GE foods, Friends of the Earth will attend the annual shareholder meeting of McDonalds (NYSE: MCD) tomorrow. A representative from the group will speak in favor of a shareholder resolution that calls on the company to eliminate genetically engineered ingredients from its products untillong-term safety testing proves they are safe.
NZ Herald, 00-5-18, London, Reuters
Prince Charles warns that the world faces environmental disaster unless it starts accepting that tampering with nature is an affront to God.
The Prince has already lambasted genetically modified foods but he will use the BBC radio lecture today to make a wider attack on some methods employed by modern science.
"We need to rediscover a reverence for the natural world, irrespective of its usefulness to ourselves - to become more aware of the relationship between God, man and creation" he will say.
"If literally nothing is held sacred any more, what is there to prevent us treating our entire world as some 'great laboratory of life' with potentially disastrous long-term consequences?
"Only by rediscovering the essential unity and order of the living and spiritual world and by bridging the gap between cynical secularism and the timelessness of traditional religion will we avoid the disintegration of our environment."
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596 email: email@example.com
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering as well as previous genetic engineering news items. Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 (USD for those outside Canada) for 12 months, payable to "BanGEF" and mailed to the above address. Or see website for details.