25 May 2000

Table of Contents

BLOW to Monsanto: Roundup Ready
UK Government claims over 'sterile' crops proved false
Canadian Food Inspection Agency -- The Biology of Oil Seed Rape (Canola)
CaMV promoter is dangerous
Western Australia bans genetically modified crops for two years
Questions and Answers on Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV)
More Minnesota Farmers Turn to Genetically Modified Seeds
PSRAST article and ZDF news release
Debate 2000'0522 a: 'New Risks' of transgenic crops.
USDA Attache: Monsanto ends herbicide-canola seed link in Canada
Biotech Companies Fear Public Resistance Could Hurt Industry

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Date: 22 May 2000 05:03:50 +0100
from: (Jean Saunders - UK)

BLOW to Monsanto: Roundup Ready

Date: 21/05/00 17:25:46 GMT Daylight Time

Hi All

In the applications lodged by Monsanto for consent to release Roundup Ready GM sugar beet and fodder beet (respective references: 99/R22/16 & 99/R22/17) as part of the [UK] farmscale trials the company state under a section headed:

"Risk Assessment of 'over the top' application of Roundup Biactive to Roundup Ready beet

"Glyphosate data summaries have been provided to the Competent Authorities under the Directive 91/414 procedure. The German Competent Authority, on behalf of the European Community, has reviewed the safety data and prepared a monograph for review by the European Community.

The data have now been circulated to the other Member States, including the UK (Pesticides Safety Division, MAFF). A summary of ecotoxicological studies conducted with the Roundup formulation, which is to be used over the top of the RR beet,is provided in Appendix III.

It is concluded that this glyphosate formulation is practically non- toxic to birds, fish, aquatic invertebrates, algae, honey bees, beneficial arthropods and earthworms. No adverse effects to non- target organisms are expected from the use of the formulation".

THIS STATEMENT IS NOT TRUE - I pointed this out to DETR (February 00) before ACRE issued the consent and DETR still haven't replied.

As Caroline pointed out - Glyphosate is toxic to earthworms, fish and certain arthropods. The German Competent Authority has already raised concern about listing the use of this pesticide and one of the recommendations is "to postpone the decision regarding the inclusion of the active substance glyphosate in Annex 1 of Directive 91/414." They go on to say that submitted documents show that "after application for the intended uses and in the correct manner harmful effects on arthropods... cannot be excluded." The arthropods affected are predatory mites and parasitoids where there is a "high risk". A report entitled

Glyphosate Part 2, Human Exposure and Ecological Effects
(C.Cox 1995) shows that Monsanto's Roundup is toxic to earthworms.

Fish and aquatic invertebrates are more sensitive to glyphosate and its formulations. Its toxicity is increased with higher water temperatures and pH.

Some soil invertebrates including springtails, mites and isopods are also adversely affected by glyphosate.

Of nine herbicides tested for their toxicity to soil microorganisms, glyphosate was found to be the second most toxic to a range of bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes and yeasts.


At 11:39 21-05-2000 +0100, Caroline Clarke wrote:

To everyone who has Roundup as their FSTrial herbicide, the news items below are as relevant now, even more so, as they were last year.

[NB: Roundup, predominantly glyphosate, comes in different forms - as "garden friendly", but not to fish etc., so not near water; and in an agricultural formulation. According to Dr.Mike May from IACR Broom's Barn, Suffolk, (the part of the consortium overseeing GM Sugar & Fodder Beet), the latter for GM crops is Roundup Biactive and, consisting mostly of common salt, could kill a child (presumably it would have to be a very large amount)

Although not mentioned, shouldn't it be assumed that in that case, freshwater fish, like rainbow trout, would also find it toxic ? Perhaps we'll find out at Diss].

CHANNEL 4 News [Tuesday 12 October 1999]

BLOW to MONSANTO – Glyphosate

So far all attention has been on the (GM) plants themselves, much less on the weedkillers that go with them. But a second battlefront could be opening up for Monsanto, this time with a herbicide called glyphosate. Glyphosate kills the weeds but spares the GM crops such as soya and maize; but a confidential report from the European Commission obtained by Channel 4 News reveals the growing concern about glyphosate.

John McGhie reported: Weeds have always been the farmer's enemy, getting in the way and lowering crop yields, but the age-old struggle to be rid of them is soon to be embroiled in a new conflict, genetic engineering. So far protests have concentrated on the safety of modified plants. There has been less focus on what crops are being engineered to do, and that's to withstand herbicides. Once crops are resistant, entire fields can be sprayed so that only weeds are killed. It's those herbicides which are now coming under scrutiny.

One of the main ones used in GM technology is the chemical glyphosate, American giant Monsanto producing the majority of the world's supply, mostly under the name Roundup. Glysophate's sales increased hugely in America last year, thanks to Roundup Ready seeds engineered to withstand Monsanto's herbicide. When farmers buy the seed they sign a contract which obliges them to spray Roundup.

Experts here believe glyphosate use in Britain will also rocket, perhaps by 60%, if GM crops get the go-ahead. The safety of glyphosate is therefore crucial, not only because it's the world's biggest herbicide but because its use is central to the whole genetic engineering programme in Britain.

But some scientists are now posing serious questions about the chemical's effects on human health and the environment. Channel 4 News has learnt that the herbicide which manufacturers claim is amongst the most benign in the world is starting to trouble some regulators. We've exclusively been leaked a confidential EC report that could torpedo glysophate use across Europe because of its impact on wildlife.

They may not match the whale in terms of high environmental visibility, but a series of tiny insects are holding the key to glyphosate's future use in Europe. An EC committee has decided that although the herbicide is only meant to kill weeds it also poses a significant risk to various predatory mites and arthropods.

David Buffin - Pesticides Trust: 'Beneficial arthropods are things like insects and spiders that consume or parasitize insects that we consider as pests, and if you are knocking the beneficials off you may actually result in an increase in the insect pests. Then you have to go in with a very invasive insecticide to normalise the situation.'

JMcG: The draft report comes from the committee which is deciding which herbicides Europe will be allowed to use. It reviewed the scientific evidence, and concludes that after applying glyphosate in the correct manner, harmful effects on arthropods cannot be excluded. It therefore recommends the chemical NOT be included on its Approved Annex, pending further studies. These recommendations are potentially dynamite for Monsanto's Roundup. Until now, European countries decided for themselves which herbicides could be used, and all have given the ok to glyphosate. Now it could be a different story.

'What is the significance of glyphosate not being on the Annex?'

DB: 'Ultimately you won't be able to use it across Europe, and that will have huge impact on this most popular herbicide, and clearly on genetically modified herbicide crops as well.'

JMcG: Monsanto is confident of getting onto the Approved Annex, and said in a statement "Because the Report is only a confidential draft based on 1995 documents it would be improper to comment." It added "Since that time more appropriate tests have been completed for assessment."

However the regulation issue is resolved, glyphosate is now facing another set of concerns on its possible impact on human health. In Sweden, farmers, gardeners, and local authorities have been spraying glyphosate on their weeds for more than 20 years. But now Channel 4 News has learnt that serious concerns are being voiced about the safety of the world's no.1 herbicide.

Earlier this summer a glyphosate controversy erupted in the Swedish press, centering on work emerging from Orebro Hospital. Professor Lennart Hardell specialises in possible environmental causes of cancer. He has investigated herbicides and their association with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, one of the fastest rising cancers in the western world.

Professor Hardell: 'We have made 2 studies with consistent findings of an increased risk. The pool of these studies, putting together the 2 non-Hodgkin lymphoma studies, then there is a significant increased risk of nHL with exposure to glyphosate'

JMcG: Professor Hardell's conclusions are controversial. He accepts that the numbers exposed to glyphosate - 4 in each study - are low, and acknowledges that the risks of contracting nHL are also small. However he does believe the risks are sufficient to warrant much further research.

Prof.H: 'Based on our two studies we see a consistent pattern of an association. There is some experimental evidence, but to say that this causes nHL is definitely too early. We need to study this more. We need to study if there is some combined effect with other exposures, virus or whatsoever.'

JMcG: In a statement Monsanto said that because the Hardell studies were old and had been discussed by others, they didn't wish to give them credibility by responding. What Monsanto scientists have said is that the number of people researched by Hardell was statistically insignificant. The company also points out that the World Health Organisation recently said that glyphosate wasn't carcinogenic.

Professor Hardell published his studies this year and last, and said his studies were relevant, because for the first time they looked at herbicides and cancer in real life rather than the laboratory. It's a view shared by other herbicide experts.

DB: 'I think there is a level of concern with the studies that have been carried out in Sweden. They do raise some question marks over the impact of the use of glyphosate and nHL. We have to look fairly closely at this. There has to be more epidemiological research done, because a lot of the basis on which chemical safety is derived is basically looking at laboratory animals, and clearly human data is very significant when it crops up.'

JMcG: In another part of Sweden they have been taking Professor Hardell's work very seriously. (?) Council used to spray herbicide on its streets to keep them weedfree, but when environ- mental health officers learnt of the Hardell studies they commissioned their own investigation into whether glyphosate was in its water supply. They found the chemical in 4 different places, and in June this year (?) became the world's first local authority to ban glyphosate from its town.

Its action could prove significant. If a local authority and the EU consider curbing the chemical, it must remain a possibility that other regulators could follow suit. The question that Monsanto and other glyphosate manufacturers must now face is what effect this might have on the already troubled future of genetically modified crops in Britain. END

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Date: 22 May 2000 10:38:23 +0100


UK Government claims over 'sterile' crops proved false

Immediate release 18th May, 2000.

Greenpeace calls for GM contaminated crops to be pulled up

Greenpeace today called on the Government to immediately recall and destroy genetically modified oil seed rape seeds mistakenly planted across Britain.

The call came as evidence emerged that the GM seeds are not 'male sterile' as claimed by Government.

Charlie Kronick, Greenpeace GM Campaign Coordinator said, "All the farms which have planted contaminated crops must urgently be traced, the crop pulled up and farmers fully compensated for any losses, by the seed company Advanta who were responsible for this contamination.

Documents from the Canadian Government [1] tracked down by Greenpeace indicate that the Monsanto seed involved is only genetically modified to have glyphosate (herbicide) tolerance and not male sterility. This means there is nothing to stop the crops cross pollinating and contaminating oil seed rape crops across Britain.

Greenpeace is also calling on the Government to implement an immediate ban on imports of rape seed until suppliers can guarantee GM free. They are also calling for legal moves to be taken against the seed company Advanta for illegally selling the seeds in breach of European and UK law. Advanta should be held liable for the costs of tracing and destroying the contaminated crops.

"This fiasco will affect farmers, animal feed mills and honey producers who are faced with a contaminated product that is both illegal and potentially unsafe. Government must take immediate action to protect their interests", said Mr Kronick.

Greenpeace is taking legal advice on whether the GM oil seed rape planting was illegal. The Government have stated in the media that the seeds have 'Part B' consent. This means that it has only been approved for experimental field trials. This release is clearly not part of any controlled experiment and as such appears to contravene European law (the 90/220 directive).

Furthermore this variety of oilseed rape has not been approved for use in animal feed, which is a major outlet for oil seed rape in this country (in the form of OSR meal). This means that animal feed stocks across the UK could have been contaminated.

Greenpeace also strongly criticised the role of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the fiasco. The FSA had an opportunity to act, to be open and transparent and to liase with consumer and environmental groups, yet did none of these. Instead they spent their time consulting with industry. The Food Standards Agency should be taking immediate action to implement a range of measures such as:

Charlie Kronick added,
"The Food Standards Agency have failed in their role as consumer watchdogs. They should have responded strongly and taken the opportunity to ensure no GM contamination was allowed to occur. Instead they are effectively allowing the commercial introduction of GM to go head. This makes a mockery of the GM farm scale trials". "This is exactly the sort of accident that will keep happening with such an unpredictable and uncontrollable technology as GM. It is clearly time to ban it".


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Date: 22 May 2000 10:38:23 +0100

Canadian Food Inspection Agency – The Biology of Oil Seed Rape (Canola)

15 October 1999

B2.0 Brief Outlook of Agronomic Practices for the Oleiferous B. napus (based on the Canola Growers Manual of the Canola Council of Canada, 1994 edition)

The oleiferous B. napus, a cool-season crop, is not as drought-tolerant as the cereals. It is widely adapted, and performs well in a range of soil conditions, providing that moisture and fertility levels are adequate. Air and soil temperatures influence canola plant growth and productivity. The optimum temperature for maximal growth and development is just over 20¡C, and it is best grown between 12¡C and 30¡C. After emergence, seedlings prefer relatively cool temperatures up to flowering; high temperatures at flowering will hasten the plant's development, reducing the time from flowering to maturity.

Due to an increased awareness of soil conservation issues, minimal or no till canola production is advised, where most of the crop residue and stubble are left on the soil surface to trap snow, reduce snow melt run-off, stop erosion and increase soil water storage. Reduced tilllage techniques, however, are only effective when they are combined with a good systematic weed control program.

Weeds can be one of the most limiting parameters in rapeseed production. The closely related cruciferous weeds (wild mustard, stinkweed, shepherd's purse, ball mustard, flixweed, wormseed mustard, hare's-ear mustard and common peppergrass) are often problematic. Oilseed rape does not compete with weeds in the early growth stages, because it is slow growing and slow to cover the ground.

Weeds must be controlled early to avoid yield loss due to competition. Although rapeseed crops can be attacked by a number of insect pests, insect control must be carefully designed to reduce unnecessary and costly pesticide applications, chances of resistance buildup in insects, and damage to honeybees and native pollinating insects. Flea beetles are the most important pests of oilseed rape. Diseases can be severe in large production areas, and are greatly influenced by cultivation practices and environmental factors, so that disease management programs are advisable.

When the first pods begin to shatter, B. napus is usually cut just below the level of seed pods and swathed. The use of dessicants allows a reduction of shattering, thus allowing direct combining.

Oilseed rape should not be grown on the same field more often than once every four years, to prevent the buildup of diseases, insects, and weeds. Volunteer growth from previous crops (buckwheat for example), and chemical residues from herbicides, are also important factors to consider when selecting sites.

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Date: 22 May 2000 17:36:00 +0100
From: "j.e. cummins"

CaMV promoter is dangerous

Prof. Joe Cummins, May 22, 2000, e-mail:

Pararetroviruses move in and out the plant genomes

One pararetrovirus, cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV), is important in plant genetic engineering. Almost without exception the genetically modified (GM) crop plants now planted in the millions of acres are constructed using the promoter gene and its associated enhancer from CaMV. The CaMV gene proved useful in genetic engineering because its role in virus replication gives it a powerful ability to initiate synthesis of RNA messages from any gene and to maintain the flow of messenger RNA in plant tissues during widely variable environmental conditions. However, the pararetroviruses have properties that have not been thoroughly considered in evaluating the risk of the use of their genes in crop plants.

Pararetroviruses are viruses that are transmitted as DNA molecules in protein capsids. On infection the DNA virus chromosome is transferred to the cell nucleus where it normally forms a nuclear plasmid. The plasmid replicates by making two kinds of RNA copies, one to be reverse transcribed to make the viruus chromosome in the cytoplasm, the other is processed to make messages for producing virus protein. The replicated DNA virus is assembled with protein then ejected from the cell cytoplasm as infecting virus. Animal pararetrovirus, such as hepatitis B virus , sometimes integrate as single virus molecules into the host chromosome where they may iniate liver cancer. Plant pararetroviruses were, until quite recently, believed to replicate similarly to animal pararetroviruses but were not known to integrate into the genome.

However, it was then found pararetrovirus not only integrate into plant genomes but often form multiple copies within the plant chromosomes (Jakowitsch et al 1999) and virus infection may result from endogenous pararetrovirus in plants (Ndowora et al 1999 and Harper et al 1999).

A recent study shows that the integrated (endogenous) virus is transmitted vertically ( from parents to off springs) through sequences integrated into the host genome and activated to produce infecting virus following hybridization with a recipient that lacked integrated virus sequences. The virus was transmitted through the pollen parent (Lockhart et al 2000). Thus it is clear that the pararetrovirus can integrate into the plant genome and duplicate repeatedly within the genome. The endogenous virus can be induced to form infecting virus. It is widely recognized that introduction of genes from outside the established genome frequently stimulated integrated virus to leave the genome as infecting virus.

In the debate over crop genetic engineering the safety of CaMV and its genes are claimed to be assured by the fact that people may eat cauliflower infected by the virus. Certainly that argument should not be taken to be a serious final debating point particularly as it is put forward by those promoting crop genetic engineering. Tragically, it seems to have been taken seriously by those charged with regulation who now ignore problems associated with release of novel virus and the behavior of genes on the chromosome associated with the CaMV promoter. As it is now clear CaMV replicating from nuclear plasmid is distinctly different from integrated viral genes and endogenous virus. Overbearing academics and government scientists are wrong in imposing simple wrongness in a serious matter effecting millions, I am sorry they have been allowed to do that.


  1. Harper,G.,Osuji,J.,Heslop-Harrison,J and Hull,R. Integration of banana streak badnavirus into the Musa genome:molecular and cytogenetic evidence Virology 255,207-13,1999
  2. Jakowitsch,J.,Mette,M.,van der Winden,J.,Matzke,M. and Matzke,A. Integratedf pararetroviral sequences define a unique class of dispersed repetitive DNA in plants Proc. Natnl. Acad. Sci. USA 13241-6,1999
  3. Lockhart,B,Menke,J,Dahal,G and Olszwewski,N. Characterization and genomic analysis of tobacco vein clearing virus, a plant pararetrovirus that is transmitted vertically and related to sequences integrated in the host genome. J Gen Virol 81,1579-85,2000
  4. Ndowora,T.,Dahal.G.,LaFleur,D.,Harper,G.,Hull.R.,Olszwewski,N. and Lockhart,B. Evidence that badnavirus in Musa can originate from integrated pararetroviral sequences Virology 255,214-20,1999

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Date: 22 May 2000 22:09:06 +0100
From: Robert Mann

Western Australia bans genetically modified crops for two years

*******Items Web-mounted on Monday, 22 May 2000**********

Western Australia bans genetically modified crops for two years Australia's biggest grain-producing state follows New Zealand in moratorium on GE crops

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

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Date: 23 May 2000 12:29:10 +0100
From: "j.e. cummins"

I am still working on how to comunicate this new and important stuff.

Questions and Answers on Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV)

Prof. Joe Cummins, May 23, 2000 e-mail:

Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV) a Pararetrovirus: Q&A

  1. What is a retrovirus?
    A retrovirus is a virus that is transmitted as RNA in a protein coat, on infection the RNA is replicated into DNA using reverse transcriptase then inserted into the chromosomes of the cell it infects. It replicates by transmitting RNA to the cytoplasm where virus particles are assembled. Retrovirus have been detected in plants but they are quite rare in plants but common in animals i.e.HIV.

  2. What is a pararetrovirus?
    A pararetrovirus is related to a retrovirus but the pararetrovirus is transmitted as DNA in a protein coat. Normally the paraetrovirus infects the cell, then transmits its DNA to the cell nucleus where it becomes a nuclear plasmid (a small circular virus chromosome unattached to the cell chromosomes). The virus replicates by sending an RNA copy of the chromosome to the cytoplasm along with an RNA copy used as a message for the coat protein and other virus components. The RNA copy of the chromosome is converted into DNA in the cytoplasm then assembled with protein to make infecting virus to be released from the cell. Parareterovirus are common in both plants and animals. The pararetrovirus Hepatitis B normally replicates in the conventional way but may integrate into the chromosome where it may initiate cancer. Plant pararetroviruses have been found to integrate into the nuclear chromosomes ( the genome) in multiple copies but once integrated mainly remain dormant (as endogenous virus).

  3. What is Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV)
    ? CaMV is a pararetrovirus that attacks cauliflower and its relatives. In my experience virus infected plants may be eaten but are not very palatable.

  4. What is CaMV promoter?
    The promoter is a gene needed by genes that produce proteins. The promoter signals the attachment of an enzyme, RNA polymerase, that transcribes the associated gene into an RNA message. The promoter determines the activity in producing message but is itself not transcribed. The promoter has associated genes called enhancers that modulate its activity. CaMV promoter also initiates replication of the pararetrovirus. The CaMV promoter is used in most genetically modified (GM) crops because it has a high level of activity and its activity is little influenced by environmental triggers such as light and temperature. The CaMV promoter gene is patented as is its associated enhancer.

  5. What are retrotransposons?
    Retrotransposons are essentially retrovirus or pararetrovirus that are integrated into the genome (among the genes on chromosomes) they lack the envelope gene needed to make a protein coat and for that reason cannot produce infecting virus. However, retrotranspsonons can and do slowly ( that is in evolutionary time) move about in the genome replicatively ( leaving behind the original template for the copy). Retrotransposons are present in all animals and plants. In higher plants such as corn they make up over 80% the genome while plants with smaller genomes have fewer retrotransposons.

  6. What are endogenous virus?
    Endogenous virus are similar to retrotransposons but contain an envelope gene and can be activated to produce infecting virus. Endogenous viruses are found in may crop plants. Such viruses are normally dormant (sleeping) but can be activated usually by introduction of foreign gene by hybridization or genetic engineering. Environmental gene damage may also activate endogenous virus. The exact conditions for virus release have not yet been established because the virus have not been recognized for a long time. The newly released endogenous (sleeping) viruses are threatening because the viruses are new to the defenses of the plant or animal.

  7. Why have endogenous viruses been ignored in safety evaluation of GM crops?
    That is a perplexing question, most researchers in the GM crops should be aware of the threat of endogenous viruses but the topic has not entered the review of regulation apparently. Many reviewers from prestigious universities claim that such viruses do not exist may never exist but such claims seem to be hyperbole designed to protect academic turf. Unfortunately, academic goofs of that breed tend to remain influential because they communicate at the level of politicians and bureaucrats.

  8. Can CaMV promoter effect endogenous viruses or retrotransposons?
    Sure, CaMV promoter is a recombination hot spot, meaning that the gene is hyperactive in genetic exchange. Such genetic exchange can easily lead to activation of sleeping viruses or mobilize retrotransponsons.

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Date: 23 May 2000 15:57:41 +0100

Lost export markets, third world countries muscling in on traditional US trade, no one in the world will buy this stuff and still they plant it, how far will they go with this fiasco? I feel a major confrontation brewing, another long long summer ahead, and plenty of country walks too, I reckon the biggest exodus since Moses is about to hit the British countryside. Wanted eight million mutant plants. Jim Mc Nulty

I wonder what the Canadian Canola Board are making of this?

More Minnesota Farmers Turn to Genetically Modified Seeds

Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, Publication date: 2000-05-23

May 23 – The controversy over genetically modified seeds appears to have had little impact on farm planting decisions this year as the spring planting season draws to a close in the Upper Midwest.

Interviews with farmers and seed sellers suggest that Minnesota and Wisconsin farmers are planting about the same percentage of modified seeds as they did in 1999. That means more than 50 percent of the soybeans and more than one-third of the corn will be grown from seeds that were modified to help the farmers cope with insects or weeds.

Concerns over genetically modified organisms have centered on issues of trade, big business and science. But for Duane Adams of rural Hutchinson, the decision to plant GMO seeds didn't take much head-scratching. Most of the corn in his area between Hutchinson and Cosmos in central Minnesota is used as cattle feed by local farmers, he said, or is used to process ethanol fuels.

"There's a lot of emotionalism over new science, but I haven't heard anyone say they won't drive around with GMO corn in their gas tank," he said.

Late last year, a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey of early planting intentions suggested that American corn farmers would slightly reduce GMO planting for corn, soybeans and cotton. The modest retreat from GMO planting likely changed as farmers lined up their last seed purchases, said Joe Schieber, a farmer and Pioneer Hi-Bred seed dealer in Caledonia in southeastern Minnesota.

Some of the early planned cutbacks came from farmers opting for lower-cost, nonmodified seed, he said. But as the winter progressed, weather concerns around the world strengthened corn and soybean prices in futures contracts traded at commodity exchanges.

With prospects improved for making money on corn and soybeans, "farmers started going for the yields," Schieber said. They began ordering more seed varieties that were insect resistant or compatible with efficient weed killing chemicals.

In Golden Valley, preliminary marketing results show that 65 percent of the corn seed bought from Novartis Seeds this year contained the Bt gene to help farmers fight corn borer infestations. That's down 2 percentage points from last year's 67 percent Bt market share at Novartis, the company said.

Des Moines-based Pioneer, the largest seed company and now a unit of the DuPont chemical and life sciences firm, hasn't assembled sales data for this year yet, company spokesman Doyle Karr said. But preliminary queries of the sales department show only a slight decline from last year's GMO use, he added.

Farmers began planting GMO crops in 1996. That year also saw multinational chemical and pharmaceutical companies consolidate most of the major North American seed companies into life science companies to combine seed genetics with related biology and chemistry fields.

Perhaps more than the introduction of new science itself, the global mergers and acquisitions attracted public attention, and people began wondering what biotechnology was all about, said Doug Magnus, a soybean farmer from Slayton, Minn.

Consumer, environmental and other groups began pressuring the European Union to block imports of agricultural commodities produced from genetically modified seeds. EU regulators have given approval for importation of about half the GMO-produced crops grown in North America, South America and parts of Europe itself.

Members of the Union of Concerned Scientists have raised questions about proper government regulation and the release of GMOs into commercial use. Chief among concerns are proper testing to see if modified foods create allergen problems or if modified plants might cause mutations in other plant life surrounding the crops.

Magnus, vice chairman of the United Soybean Board national trade association, said farmers indicated they were concerned last fall that they might lose markets if they grew GMO crops.

That concern largely ended, however, when Cargill Inc. issued a statement last December saying its policies hadn't changed; it would buy corn and soybeans at its country grain elevators and mills regardless of the seeds the farmers used. "That pretty much ended the debate for farmers, for at least another year," Magnus said.

Linda Thrane, spokeswoman for Minnetonka-based Cargill, said the December announcement was issued because the company was growing weary answering media questions about its GMO policy. Many of the inquiries were coming from media that doesn't usually cover the company and didn't know Cargill's previous positions, she said.

Looking back, the company's statement did give farmers confidence about markets when they sat down during the winter months to make seed purchasing decisions, she said.

Farmers are restricted in how they use the seeds so they will never have 100 percent use of the GMOs. For instance, the Bt corn must have a 20 percent "refuge" around the fields to protect other insects and help prevent insects from mutating into Bt resistance.

Seed salesman and farmer Schieber said farmers are not likely to pay the higher cost for enhanced seeds if they haven't had historic problems with corn borers or problems managing their weeds.


To see more of the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to

© 1999, Saint Paul Pioneer Press, Minn. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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Date: 24 May 2000 09:39:33 +0100
From: wytze
From: "C. S. Prakash"
From: Jennifer Thomson

Note from the editor:
Jennifer Thomson is Professor for Microbiology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She is Pro-GE.

PSRAST article and ZDF news release

AgBioView wrote:

Date: May 23 2000 19:24:20 EDT
From: "C. S. Prakash"
Subject: From Jennifer Thomson Re: PSRAST article

From: Jennifer Thomson

Response to the group of ten scientists and physicians calling themselves Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology (PSRAST) put out a document entitled "The safety of GE foods - reasons to expect hazards and the risk of their appearance" They conclude that there is no doubt that genetic engineering of plants and animals may potentially cause them to unexpectedly contain substances harmful to people who eat them. Therefore GE foods are inherently unsafe and they call on governments to withdraw GE foods.

  1. Reasons why GE may cause the appearance of unexpected substances

    It is impossible to guide the insertion of a gene into a particular part of the plant's genetic material. This will perturb the normal close control of DNA over metabolic processes resulting in unpredictable effects on the plant's metabolism. The scientists also claim that there is no way of knowing what the presence of a foreign protein will have on the metabolism of an organism and that genes are context dependent and in a foreign environment might have unpredictable effects.

    While it is true that scientists cannot guide a gene into a particular region of DNA there is absolutely no evidence that the GM crops approved for use have abnormal metabolism, nor do the authors provide such evidence. Indeed, one of the aspects that developers of GM plants monitor very carefully is any alteration in metabolism.

    The paper goes on to discredit the use of the promoter that is often used to allow a foreign gene to be "read" by the plant. They claim that these promoters also stimulate the activity of surrounding native genes with potentially deleterious consequences.

    Again no example of such an effect has been given because the statement is not correct. Certainly strong promoters are placed in front of the gene to enable it to be read efficiently and produce its protein product at high levels, but the gene also carries a "termination signal" at the end of it. So the promoter can only direct the reading of that particular gene.

    Most of the foreign proteins that are used in genetic engineering have never existed in food and the authors therefore claim that without extensive food safety assessment there is no way of knowing that it is safe to eat food containing such proteins.

    As discussed above extensive food safety assessments are made before the approval of the release of a GM crop.

    The authors then claim that regulatory genes may inadvertently be included in the inserted gene causing unpredictable complications.

    One of the first pieces of information required by regulatory authorities is the complete sequence of the gene and any other pieces of DNA inserted into the plant. There is simply no way another gene could be inadvertently included.

    The paper then rather vaguely refers to "so called fusion proteins" and concludes that these could become allergenic.

    Presumably by fusion proteins they mean that the DNA inserted into the plant codes for more than one protein fused together. Because the constructs inserted in plant DNA contain a termination sequence, as discussed above, they cannot mean that the inserted DNA may result in the formation of a protein fused to one of the plant's own proteins. The claim of potential allergenicity flies in the face of the evidence regarding the properties of known allergens. Regulatory authorities are confident that the allergenicity of untested proteins can usually be reliably predicted by structural analysis and testing. Most allergenic proteins tend to be small (note, fusion proteins will usually be far bigger), often contain "signature" sequences of amino acids, and are resistant to heat and the acidic and protein degrading conditions found in the stomach. However, in the rare cases that scientists do, in fact, insert DNA that could result in a fusion protein, such proteins could be rigorously tested.

  2. Is it possible today to estimate the risk of appearance of harmful substances due to genetic engineering?

    The authors claim that it is not possible to assess the risk of harm from eating GE food with a high degree of accuracy for the following reasons.

  3. Problems with food safety testing

    Safety testing of GE foods is problematic because genetic engineering may give rise to unexpected and unpredictable substances. The authors then compare testing of GE foods with testing of medical drugs.

    I will deal with both of these concerns together. I disagree that genetic control of cell function is not well understood. I agree it is not fully understood, but an enormous body of knowledge exists on the subject. I also agree that feeding trials with GM crops have been done on short-term effects as most toxic compounds act in the very short term. If, as the authors suggest, we treat GM crops and foods derived from them as pharmaceuticals and subject them to double blind tests in human volunteers over decades then we can say goodbye to GM crops. The cost would be totally prohibitive. I suggest that this is precisely the motivation behind this article – the complete abandonment of the use of GM crops. I believe the advantages of the use of GM crops, especially in developing countries, far outweigh the largely hypothetical risks due to unexpected substances proposed in this article.

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Date: May 23 2000 19:26:43 EDT
From: Klaus Ammann

Debate 2000'0522 a: 'New Risks' of transgenic crops.

Risks and dangers of transgenic crops must be reconsidered. The story tells about a study presented [sic!] by Prof. Hans-Hinrich Kaatz from the Institute of Apiculture of the University of Jena. Transgenes can be transferred to microorganisms such as bacteria or yeasts and can be spread by those organisms further. The results of the study have been presented in 'planet e.' on Sunday, May 21, 13 30 MEZ.

Dear friends,

here a news release from the ZDF (zweites deutsches Fernsehen, second TV channel of Germany) which describes in a distorted way the work of Prof. Dr. Hans-Hinrich Kaatz from Jena.

some first remarks:

  1. The press release is based exclusively on an interview given by the author Prof. Kaatz in the framework of a feature for the activities on scientific research in Jena. Kaatz only shortly mentioned the study and when he noticed the growing interest of the TV reporter, he committed the reporter to wait for the full release of the study in July at the earliest, and he also told him that there are more details such as long term studies showing no harm to bees carrying the transgenic microorganisms. Prof. Kaatz tried to stop the TV show announced some days earlier, but he did not succeed. The study has now been released in a very simplified and distorted way against the will of the author. I consider this to be a clear case of intellectual TV news press piracy.

  2. It is appalling that Secretary of State Riedl and also Dr. Tappeser are commenting on a study they never have seen, and from which they only know scanty and erroneous bits and pieces from the TV show. This shows again their negative agenda in its whole size.

  3. If it reveals to be correct (and the data in the manuscript seem to show this), then horizontal gene transfer seems to be proven for a special case, namely a microorganism which can take up the PAT gene. The study also proves that honey bees do not show any harm according to long term observations done in the same project.

Still, it is again another case for careful monitoring.



Here first the translation of the German text given below:

Thursday May 18, 2000, 14 11 hours
ZDF news release / ZDF feature 'planet e.' talks about new risks through transgenic crops. see texts below in English and German.

Mainz (ots) - Risks and dangers of transgenic crops must be reconsidered. The story tells about a study presented [sic!] by Prof. Hans-Hinrich Kaatz from the Institute of Apiculture of the University of Jena. Transgenes can be transferred to microorganisms such as bacteria or yeasts and can be spread by those organisms further. The results of the study have been presented in 'planet e.' on Sunday, May 21, 13 30 MEZ.

In an experiment running now in the third year honey bees collect pollen and nectar from transgenic rape. He analyzed the contents of the gut of the insects and was able to show for the first time that the transgenes could jump from plants to foreign organisms. In order to judge the results in their full consequences, more studies are required.

Comments from Ulrike Riedl, secretary of state of the Ministery of Health of Germany are clear: These results will be the reason to thoroughly reconsider security clearance of transgenic crops and to commission new safety studies. Priority should be given to human health and environmental safety and commercial interests have to be set aside. Riedl also requested strict labelling of all transgenic food components. Each consumer must have free choice whether or not he wants to eat transgenic food.

Until now there are no commercial field releases approved by the Robert-Koch Institute for transgenic crops. Some of the applications date back to several years already.

For Beatrix Tappeser from the Freiburger Oekoinstitut the study is alarming. The study shows that transfer of transgenes occurs much more frequently than anticipated up to now. The study also suggests the possibility that such sequences of transgenes could be transferred to the human genome with all its far reaching health consequences.

see also

Klaus Ammann
Botanical Garden, University of Bern
Altenbergrain 21, CH - 3013 Bern, Switzerland
Tel. +41 31 631 49 37    Fax +41 31 631 49 93

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Date: 24 May 2000 13:21:24 +0100

USDA Attache: Monsanto ends herbicide-canola seed link in Canada

By Charles H. Featherstone, BridgeNews, May 24, 2000, Tel: 202-220-3729

Washington – May 23 – Monsanto will no longer link sales of Roundup to the sale of Roundup Ready canola seed to Canadian farmers, though alternative glyphosate herbicides will not likely be available until spring 2001, according to a USDA attache report dated May 17 and released Tuesday.

* * *

Monsanto's decision follows an investigation by Canada's Competition Bureau into the company's marketing practices. The attache said the bureau has dropped its investigation.

While Canadian farmers will now be able to purchase glyphosate herbicides from producers other then Monsanto, the attache said Monsanto currently has the only glyphosate registered for use with herbicide resistant canola with the Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

Dow Agrosciences is expected to have two or three glyphosate herbicides registered by late spring of 2001, according to the attache.

© Copyright 2000 Bridge Information Systems Inc. All rights reserved.

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Date: 24 May 2000 15:19:17 +0100

Biotech Companies Fear Public Resistance Could Hurt Industry

Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, 2000-05-24

May 24 – AURORA, Colo. – Colorado's biotech leaders worry that fear of genetically modified organisms might hamper industry growth.

"People think scientists make genes in labs and insert them into food," said Carl Feldbaum, president of Washington, D.C.-based Bio, a national biotechnology trade group, to about 50 people at a Tuesday meeting.

"Most people don't really know that living things are made of genes," he said. "There's a lot of ignorance out there. Frankly, we have been eating this stuff for about 10 years."

Feldbaum's talk was part of an industry celebration at Aurora's Fitzsimmons Army Base, which is being redeveloped. Gov. Bill Owens declared Tuesday as Colorado Biotechnology Day.

Fitzsimmons' redevelopment will include the Colorado Bioscience Park Aurora, and University of Colorado Health Sciences also is moving there.

The research park bodes well for the state's industry, Feldbaum said. "I don't see any obstacles," he said. "I think it's going to develop. The pace at which it's going to develop is the question."

A handful of biotech leaders - such as Kim Middleton, president and chief executive officer of Denver-based Cytoskeleton - met with Gov. Owens on Tuesday to discuss their concerns.

"The governor's support for our industry is extremely important," Middleton said. "Declaring this Tuesday biotechnology day sends us all an unmistakable message. Owens is behind us."

The state's industry is divided among medical and agricultural companies. Feldbaum said the negative feelings toward bio-engineered foods could have some effect on the medical technology.

Genetically modified organisms, also called GMOs, have one or more genes inserted into their DNA in the laboratory. The genes are often taken from bacteria, viruses, insects and animals. This produces a new trait that a farmer might find desirable, such as a crop that could ward off bugs.

Some activists argue these might have long-term problems that haven't been studied. For example, they might trigger allergic reactions, they say.

Feldbaum told the crowd the Bio group tries to educate as many people as possible, so it focuses on lobbying and educating media. Despite the some of the strong oppositions to genetically modified foods, Feldbaum said fearing them is "rubbish."

"I would respectfully ask that folks in Boulder, who can shop where ever they please, to think about GMO crops elsewhere," he said.

For example, some African farmers have lost between 70 and 80 percent of their crops to pests, Feldbaum said. He contends these farmers hanker for a bug-resistant crop.


© 2000, Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

Publication date: 2000-05-24 © 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.