Date: 28 May 2000 03:56:48 +0100
By Antony Barnett, public affairs editor,
Sunday May 28, 2000
A leading zoologist has found evidence that genes used to modify crops can jump the species barrier and cause bacteria to mutate, prompting fears that GM technology could pose serious health risks.
A four-year study by Professor Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a respected German zoologist, found that the alien gene used to modify oilseed rape had transferred to bacteria living inside the guts of honey bees.
The research which has yet to be published and has not been reviewed by fellow scientists is highly significant because it suggests that all types of bacteria could become contaminated by genes used in genetically modified technology, including those that live inside the human digestive system.
If this happened, it could have an impact on the bacteria's vital role in helping the human body fight disease, aid digestion and facilitate blood clotting.
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, who was yesterday advising farmers who have accidentally grown contaminated GM oilseed rape in Britain to rip up their crops, confirmed the potential significance of Kaatz's research. He said: 'If this is true, then it would be very serious.'
The 47-year-old Kaatz has been reluctant to talk about his research until it has been published in a scientific journal, because he fears a backlash from the scientific community similar to that faced by Dr Arpad Pustzai, who claimed that genetically modified potatoes damaged the stomach lining of rats. Pustzai was sacked and had his work discredited.
But in his first newspaper interview, Kaatz told The Observer: 'It is true, I have found the herbicide-resistant genes in the rapeseed transferred across to the bacteria and yeast inside the intestines of young bees. This happened rarely, but it did happen.'
Although Kaatz realised the potential 'significance' of his findings, he said he 'was not surprised' at the results. Asked if this had implications for the bacteria inside the human gut, he said: 'Maybe, but I am not an expert on this.'
Dr Mae-Wan Ho, geneticist at Open University and a critic of GM technology, has no doubts about the dangers. She said: 'These findings are very worrying and provide the first real evidence of what many have feared. Everybody is keen to exploit GM technology, but nobody is looking at the risk of horizontal gene transfer.
We are playing about with genetic structures that existed for millions of years and the experiment is running out of control.'
One of the biggest concerns is if the anti-biotic resistant gene used in some GM crops crossed over to bacteria. 'If this happened it would leave us unable to treat major illnesses like meningitis and E coli .'
Kaatz, who works at the respected Institute for Bee Research at the University of Jena in Germany, built nets in a field planted with genetically modified rapeseed produced by AgrEvo. He let the bees fly freely within the net. At the beehives, he installed pollen traps in order to sample the pollen from the bees' hindlegs when entering the hive.
This pollen was fed to young honey bees in the laboratory. Pollen is the natural diet of young bees, which need a high protein diet. Kaatz then extracted the intestine of the young bees and discovered that the gene from the GM rape-seed had been transferred in the bee gut to the microbes.
Professor Robert Pickard, director-general of the Institute of the British Nutrition Foundation, is a bee expert as well as being a biologist and has visited the institute where Kaatz works. He said: 'There is no doubt that, if Kaatz's research is substantiated, then it poses very interesting questions and will need to be looked at very closely.
'But it must be remembered that the human body has been coping perfectly well with strange DNA for millions of years. And we also know many people have been eating GM products for years without showing any signs of ill health.'
Date: 28 May 2000 08:34:23 +0100
From: wytze firstname.lastname@example.org
From: Biotech Activists email@example.com
Speech by Martin Khor, Director of the Third World Network, at the Opening Session of the Millenium Forum, UN General Assembly Hall, New York, 22 May 2000.
We are meeting at the beginning of the new century, facing the serious crises handed over from the last century. A few years ago someone predicted the "end of history", the end of conflicts of ideas or physical conflicts as all countries and people embrace the single goal of free markets and liberal democracy.
But the end of the Cold War did not usher in universal prosperity or brotherhood. The scandal of poverty remains more entrenched, and there are rising inequalities between countries, social classes, men and women, indigenous people and those who want to colonise their resources. Instead of peace and security, there are conflicts and insecurities, some of them resulting from global pressures and from inequities and poverty. There is the environmental crisis, raising questions about survival of Earth and humanity. There are the threats of technology gone wrong, such as nuclear power, toxic chemicals and genetic engineering. In the area of health, scientists are predicting the end of the antibiotics era as disease-bearing bacteria and viruses overcome overused antibiotics and pose the threat of new epidemics.
Our age is also defined by the process of globalisation. There are different approaches to this phenomenon. Some say it is inevitable and basically good, you just have to adjust to it and learn to reap the benefits. Others worry about the costs and advocate some safety nets to catch the losers as they fall. In truth, the essence of globalisation is the push by big companies and financial institutions to have more power, to grow bigger through taking over others, and make more profits. They have lobbied their governments, of the rich countries, to break down the national barriers that prevent them from totally free access to markets across the world, especially in the developing countries.
These countries' economies had suffered during colonialism, so in the first phase of independence, governments of many of these countries instituted measures to boost their weak domestic economy, domestic firms, banks and farms. They had affirmative action policies in favour of the local economy and firms, and defended them from predatory big foreign firms. These big firms now want to break down the barriers so that they can take over the local firms and farms of the developing world and increase their monopoly.
Thus we now see the liberalisation of trade, finance and investment. But in areas where the big companies and their governments would lose from liberalisation, they practise protectionism, for example the imposition of high intellectual property standards throughout the world which is protectionist, in creating monopoly of technology by the big compaies and hindering technology transfer.
Globalisation as practised today is a kind of apartheid, a term mentioned by Juan Somavia, director-general of the ILO in his speech just now. It is misleading and it skirts the issue to talk only in terms of "sharing better the benefits of globalisation" and helping the "marginalised." This presumes that globalisation only produces benefits, but some gain more than others. In reality, globalisation creates benefits for some, losses for others, and worse, the same process that generates benefits also generates losses. So, part of the benefits of the gainers is at the expense of the losses of the losers.
Globalisation is a process that can be called re-colonisation, a term created by Mr Raghavan of the SUNS Bulletin, when he wrote a book on Gatt, the Uruguay Round and the South. A new form of colonialism is operating. When the people fought against slavery, or apartheid, or colonialism, they did not speak in terms of sharing better the benefits of slavery or apartheid or colonialism. They fought the systems of slavery, apartheid and colonialism themselves. So too we cannot just talk of sharing better the benefits of globalisation. We have to fight the system of the globalisation we have today.
The crux of the problem is the unequal distribution of power and wealth in the world. We must recognise this and not skirt the issue. Those that hold power and wealth want to keep it and protect it. Thus we see the double standards that exist between what is preached towards others and what is protected for themselves to maintain the monopoly of power and wealth. There has been the successful campaign to ban land mines, a victory of the people's movements. But the nuclear powers still refuse to ban nuclear weapons. There is much talk and conditionality to get transparency and democracy going at the national level, and we NGOs have been part of this campaign in our countries.
But the major countries refuse to democratise at the international level, where the global decisions are taken mainly by the G8 or the OECD or the Bretton Woods institutions and WTO, without the adequate participation of smaller nations, let alone the civil society. There has been the great pressures of the rich countries to get the poorer countries to liberalise their economies, but the North practises protectionism when they insist on patenting their technologies, when they practise bio-piracy, when they do not open their doors to labour coming from the South.
One of our central issues at the Forum is how to revitalise the influence of the UN. In truth, as we all know, the UN has been disempowered not because it is inefficient or useless but because it is too transparent and too democratic, and its decisions are taken with the participation of all countries. The Security Council is the exception. The developing countries have too much influence in the UN since decisions are on the basis of one country, one vote. So the major powers decided in the early 1990s to reform and reshape the UN, and transferred its authority on economic and social issues over to the IMF, World Bank and WTO, institutions which they control. The IMF and World Bank's decisions are on the basis of one dollar one vote. The WTO has a system of decision-making that at crucial moments has excluded most developing countries, including through the notorious "green room negotiating process."
Thus, we need a democratisation of global institutions, and to inject people's rights into them. For that to happen, the big powers have to agree to loosen their grip on internatiional institutions and relations. They will do this only when the people's movements and civil society let it be known that this is their wish.
We need democratisation and transparency in the private sector, in the financial institutions and markets, the transnational companies, we need to voice our ncojncern about their concentration of wealth through takeovers and mergers, their ability to destroy the wealth of small countries through financial speculation.
We need transformation of the financial system and institutions. The protests in Washington, in Chiengmai, have shown that people are now aware of the tremendous damage done by the policies imposed by these financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank. Their governance system must change and their role and policies must change, or else the change in the financial system must include their marginalisation to a proper, narrow and small role.
We need change in the multilateral trading system. The WTO's operating principle of liberalisation at all cost is misleading and has caused dislocation. Many of its agreements are flawed and should be changed. For example the agriculture agreement that leads to import liberalisation in developing countries threatens millions of rural livelihoods and threatens food security. Food products of developing countries for locazl consumption should be excluded from the agreement's obligations on import liberalisation and domestic subsidy. The TRIPS agreement on intellectual property will raise prices of medicines, prevent technology transfer and facilitate biopiracy. Many NGOs have concluded it has no place in a trade organisation which furthermore is supposed to promote liberalisation, not protectionism over technology. And there should be a moratorium on introducing new issues like investment, competition, governmeht procurement, which would further enormously empower the yet unreformed WTO and have disastrous consequences.
We need the UN to have more power. Yes the UN should also reform, especially in the decision-making structure and system of the Security Council. It should be more efficient and effective to serve "we the peoples." But we all recognise it can do so only if the United States pays up its dues to the UN, and not make its payment contingent on reforms that emasculate the UN further, for that is the tactic of blackmail. Rich countries should not hold back their payment to the UN. The UN can also be empowered only when the major powers agree to return to it its legitimate role in policy making and programmes in economic and social matters. Yes the World Bank, IMF and WTO may have important roles to play, but these roles must be the appropriate ones promoting the right policies, and their current oversized roles have to shrink to appropriate sizes and functions. There must be a return transfer of power and authority from these institutions (and from rich-country exclusive mechanisms like the G8 and the OECD) to the UN.
And so, We the Peoples face a divided world of inequality and conflict. We must go beyond the nice words of diplomats and bureaucrats, for it may be their job to use nice and cautious language. We of the civil society are not expected to use such cautious and polite language. We must strive to identify and remove the sources of poverty and conflict and the inequality of wealth.
In doing so, we must first hoonour and pay homage to the heroes and champions of the people who have come before through the years and centuries of social struggles. Those who fought to overthrow the big oppressive forces of slavery, feudalism and colonialism. Who fought to give rights to ordinary and poor people, the small farmers and peasants, the workers in factories, the jobless and homeless. Those who fight for people's rights to a good environment, the local communities who fought against toxic waste dumps, the indigenous people and their supporters who fight against destruction of their forests and rivers, the farmers who resist the poisoning of their lands.
Those who fight for safe and democratic use of technologies, against nuclear and chemical pollution, against genetic engineering and biological pollution. Those who are struggling, with their lives on their line, for lqand reform and land rights, for workers' rights to decent pay and work conditions, for the destitute in slums and squatter areas and plantations. Even those in national and international bureaucracies, including the diplomats and those in the the UN, who try their best to hold the fort and turn the tide on the diplomatic front.
We pledge to absorb the spirit and lessons of these champions and courageous fighters of the centuries and to take on the struggles of the modern age, the 21st century, and to use innovative and effective methods, to serve the people, and in doing so we serve the world and ourselves. We the peolple can survive and bring forth a better world that is socially just and ecologically sustainable and as a result a world of peace and security. We invite the UN and the governments to join us, just as the Secretary General of the UN this morning invited us to join the UN in its activities. But with the UN or without it, we the people will have to do it, to carry out our mission of bringing about a better world.
Date: 28 May 2000 14:57:19 +0100
Source: Tulsa World, 2000-05-26
WASHINGTON Congress Thursday gave final approval to a $15 billion package of farm assistance to compensate growers for a third straight year of low commodity prices and to make it much cheaper for growers to buy crop insurance.
The Senate approved the measure 91-4 after the House had passed it on a voice vote earlier in the day. It now goes to President Clinton for his signature.
The package includes $5.5 billion in direct payments that would reach farmers by Sept. 30, in the midst of the congressional campaigns. The Senate was expected to give final approval to the legislation later today and send it to President Clinton for his signature.
Some $8.2 billion would go toward reducing premiums on federally subsidized crop insurance over the next five years, and the legislation makes a series of changes in the insurance program designed to get more farmers to buy the coverage.
"While the economy as a whole has been booming, farmers have faced low prices for nearly three long years," Rep. Bill on a voice vote. "Agriculture is vital to every American and every congressional district."
Grain prices collapsed in 1998 in the wake of the Asian financial crisis and have yet to recover.
Congress has given farmers $15 billion in extra income assistance over the past two years, and the Agriculture Department estimates that net farm income this year would drop $7.6 billion, or 16 percent, without another round of aid.
Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman praised the insurance overhaul, saying it would "improve our farmers' ability to manage the risk that is inescapable in their line of work." But he criticized Congress for refusing to alter the 1996 farm law, which was designed to wean farmers from government support.
"Stopgap, quick-fix emergency assistance is not the most effective or efficient way to help struggling farmers," Glickman said.
Glickman also objects to the way that the direct farm payments would be distributed, contending the money is not targeted to producers who need it the most, but he has stopped short of recommending that Clinton veto the measure.
The extra money for crop insurance could pay for itself by making farmers less dependent on federal disaster assistance and other government programs, USDA officials say.
The government splits the cost of crop insurance with farmers. Under the legislation, the federal share of the premium for the most popular type of insurance would jump from 40 percent to 59 percent.
The measure also would offer coverage for the first time to livestock producers and expand coverage for fruit and vegetable growers.
The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Texas Republican Larry Combest, said the insurance system will give farmers "comprehensive protection to manage risk from low market values and weather losses."
Date: 29 May 2000 02:44:21 +0100
Reuters Saturday May 27 3:40 PM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - British farmers who unwittingly planted genetically modified seeds are considering legal action against the government after it advised them to destroy their contaminated crops but refused compensation, officials said.
The National Farmers' Union (NFU) said it was also considering what legal steps farmers could take against Advanta Seeds, the company that mistakenly supplied them with the cross-pollinated oilseed rape seeds. We are taking legal advice because we want to look into the position NFU spokesman Ian Gardner told BBC radio. If farmers had been told early enough, a large part of this crop would not he added, referring to the fact that the government knew about the mistake for a month before making it public.
Hundreds of farms have been affected. Around 9,000 hectares were sown with the affected seeds in 1999 and 4,700 hectares in spring 2000.
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown ruled out any compensation for farmers, placing the blame squarely on Advanta, and said on Saturday that were he a farmer, he would destroy the crops quickly. he told the BBC. The responsibility lies with the people who sold them the defective
Advanta, a joint venture between Anglo-Swedish group AstraZeneca Plc and Dutch co-operative Cosun, believes its rape seed was contaminated by pollen from a GM crop in a neighboring field in Canada in 1998.
Date: 29 May 2000 12:43:13 +0100
Veronica Brown, BridgeNews, Tel: +44-20-7832-9081
Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
By Veronica Brown, BridgeNews, May 29, 2000
London May 26 A UK government official told BridgeNews Friday that any decision on the fate of accidentally planted oilseed rape containing genetically modified material would be "purely commercially driven." The statement comes amid rising suspicion that supplier Advanta Seeds may change its policy and offer compensation to farmers that destroy the crops.
* * *
A spokesman from Advanta he Dutch-based company responsible for importing the seeds, that were planted on up to 600 farms efused to comment Friday on legal advice from Greenpeace, which says selling the crop is illegal.
The spokesman said Advanta is still encouraging farmers to keep the crop in the ground. However, he refused to comment when asked whether the company might be about to change this advice.
The government is also facing increasing pressure to make a swift decision on the crops, after seed crushing representatives told Agriculture ministry officials that there is no market for the product. They said their customers are unwilling to accept products "from a co-mingled crop."
And 33 U.K. members of parliament signed a motion Friday calling for Advanta to compensate farmers who planted the crop.
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, who is facing increasing calls for his resignation over failure to disclose details of the rogue crop for a month, has insisted there is no risk to human health or the environment.
A ministry official said it is still government policy, "for the moment," not to destroy the plants. End [Begin BridgeLinks]
Date: 29 May 2000 13:32:05 +0100
From: "Maynard S. Clark" email@example.com
There is an interesting publication devoted to GMO's on the web by the New Scientist. It has a series of articles on GMO. The URL below refers you to an interesting article by Jeremy Rifkin that is very interesting.
Excerpt from New Scientist http://www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/gmworld/gmfood/rifkin.....
The obvious first problem is build-up of herbicide resistance in weeds. Instead of spraying here and there infrequently, you actually have that herbicide-resistant gene in your crop so you can spray and kill everything in sight without killing your crop. If you are putting a herbicide-resistant gene in every cell of every plant over millions of acres, you certainly up the ante for the emergence of resistant strains of weed.
That is the most simple, the build-up of resistance. But what if genes jump between species? The scientific community once said that was absurd. Now we are beginning to weigh the evidence. Danish studies of a herbicide-resistant gene show that during pollination it will jump easily over long distances. It is fixed in the genetic code of weedy relatives and is passed on to future generations. If you pass herbicide resistance to weeds, how do you recall that to the laboratory?
Look at the landscape. There will be plants over millions of acres producing biodegradable plastics, chemicals and vaccines, all encoding for specific genes that can jump and fix for herbicide, pesticide and viral resistance in weedy relatives. I don't think you even have to be an alarmist. If just a small fraction of these introductions turn out to be long-term pests, then we have irreversible damage to ecosystems.It could be devastating.
And who would pay if there is a catastrophe? No insurance company will provide cover. The insurance industry quietly let it be known early on that it would insure only for short-term crop damage and negligence. There is no long-term insurance. If one of their genes jumps nd it is easy to spot because if you have weeds fixing for herbicide and pesticide resistance and they proliferate, you will be able to identify whose gene that was ou will have a problem that could last for generations. There is no insurance company that will touch it.
I've said that companies should go to Congress for a Price Anderson Act [the Act protecting the nuclear industry from catastrophic liability] but they would never do that because if they went for a Price Anderson Act then everyone would be alarmed. So they made the decision to go out without long-term catastrophic insurance. Why aren't members of Parliament and Congress asking who is going to be liable for losses? Will it be the government, home-owners, farmers?
The reason the insurance industry and the reinsurance industry will not touch this is that they say we have no way of assigning risk. There is no predictive ecology. There is no ecological risk assessment science. I have been saying this for 15 years. Every government says it is regulating scientifically the introduction of genetically engineered organisms into the environment. But all the players know that there is absolutely no risk-assessment science by which to do it.
The liability issue is the industry's Achilles heel. My own bet is that agricultural biotechnology is going to be one of the great disasters of corporate capitalist history. There are two reasons I think that. First, the life sciences industry has misjudged where the consumers are moving in terms of their food preferences. The middle class sets the trends in Europe, Japan and North America. I shuttle back and forth every three weeks, and I can tell you that the middle class is moving towards organic foods.
Date: 29 May 2000 17:29:16 +0100
From: Robert Mann firstname.lastname@example.org
Rifkin's generally excellent article 'Apocalypse When', in New Scientist, to which Maynard referred us with excerpts, has just one part that I think wrong:
My own bet is that agricultural biotechnology is going to be one of the great disasters of corporate capitalist history.
It may well turn out so; but why imply that it is a peculiarly capitalist failure? By all accounts the govt of China is at least as eager & permissive on GE crops & trees as any capitalist govt. From what I can gather China is doing at least as much uncontained GE as any other country, and I for one have no confidence in the claim (expressed at the OECD Edin confab) that they are testing GEF thoroughly.
Similarly, the monstrous error of creating thousands of nuclear weapons, originating in the capitalist nations (USA, UK, France), was very soon aped by the USSR and later by China.
Rifkin may dislike capitalism; so do many others, at least when it goes in for hypertrophied industries. But communism has done likewise whenever it can.
Robt Mann, consultant ecologist, P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand, (9) 524 2949
Date: 29 May 2000 13:33:56 +0100
From: "Maynard S. Clark" email@example.com
These are some of the issues in class notes at Ohio State University. They are from some notes for biotechnology lectures there
Note the belief/claim that if people accept the flavr savr tomato they will accept any genetically manipulated food item.
Ecological disruption is not noted as an issue though.
http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biocon.html FDA "Consultations"
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotech/98may-1.gif APHIS Regulated Field Releases http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotech/petday.html
Current Status of Petitions to APHIS for release of bioengineered organisms
Date: 29 May 2000 13:39:45 +0100
From: "Maynard S. Clark" firstname.lastname@example.org
By Gary Stix
Will natural selection outwit the king of biopesticides?
The soil bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, has remained the cornerstone of natural pest-control efforts for more than three decades. It's not hard to understand why. The bacterial toxins generally kill the bad guys (corn earworm and Colorado potato beetle, among others) and spare the good guys (humans, other mammals and beneficial insects).
But the rapidly growing acreage of corn, cotton and potatoes that are genetically engineered to produce Bt's pesticidal toxins highlights fears about emerging insect resistance. Genetically engineered Bt crops provide exposure to the toxins throughout the growing season, leading to selection pressures that might enable only resistant pests to survive. In contrast, Bt sprays, which are used by home gardeners and organic and other farmers, degrade quickly, making resistance less likely.
A recent report by six prominent entomologists called on the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt more stringent requirements for Bt resistance management. "If Bt is lost in the next five years, there's a question about whether there will be a replacement or not," says Fred L. Gould, an entomologist at North Carolina State University and one of the authors.
The report for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)--Now or Never: Serious New Plans to Save a Natural Pest Control alls for strengthening requirements for the centerpiece of resistance management, a strategy called "refuge/high dose." Insects must be exposed to sufficient levels of Bt toxin from the plants to kill almost all pests. The rare resistant survivors are then apt to mate with susceptible pests bred in selected areas (refuges) that are not planted with Bt crops. Hybrid offspring then remain susceptible to Bt toxins.
The report's scientists call for expanding the size of existing refuges for cotton and corn, ensuring that these areas are close enough to the Bt crops to be effective, and for making establishment of refuges mandatory. (The EPA requires refuges only for Bt cotton and has asked seed producers to submit plans for protecting corn crops this year.)
The report notes that the need for expanded refuges o as much as half of the planted acreage s underlined by Bt cotton's ability to kill only 60 to 90 percent of cotton bollworms, a situation that became apparent during a large outbreak of the pests in the south during the summer of 1996. An EPA scientific advisory panel, some of whose members were authors of the UCS document, was scheduled to release a series of resistance-management recommendations to the agency sometime this spring.
So far no resistance to genetically engineered Bt crops has been documented. But several pests have shown resistance in the laboratory, and a vegetable pest, the diamondback moth, has demonstrated resistance after intensive field exposure to Bt sprays. "I call it the moth that roared," says Bruce E. Tabashnik of the University of Arizona about his work with diamondbacks. "It has sent a clear message that Bt resistance can evolve in open-field populations of a major crop pest."
Monsanto, the biggest marketer of Bt crops, does not foresee any need for strengthening existing protective measures nor for federal regulation of resistance-management plans. Officials cite the company's mandate that farmers should establish refuges for Bt corn and potatoes, even in the absence of an EPA requirement.
Eric Sachs, business director for YieldGard, the company's Bt corn product, says scientists who demand larger refuges fail to take into account the potential for improving genetically engineered crops. "Resistance is unlikely to happen within five years, and within that time frame we'll offer new technology that will further reduce the likelihood of resistance," Sachs comments.
One way for insects to develop resistance is by altering receptors in the gut where the toxins bind. Monsanto and others are working on "gene stacking": engineering of plants that express multiple toxins that bind different classes of receptors or, alternatively, combining Bt toxins with other proteins that disrupt the insect's life cycle.
Even these approaches may not be foolproof. Tabashnik, Gould and others have shown that some pests can evolve resistance to multiple Bt toxins that target different receptors and that resistance can evolve as a dominant trait. Pests can also develop new mechanisms of resistance. Brenda K. Oppert and William H. McGaughey, along with other U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers, reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in September that one pest, the Indianmeal moth, can become resistant if it lacks a key enzyme, a proteinase, that is needed to activate Bt toxins.
Over time, biopesticides that serve as alternatives to Bt crops may be needed. A study presented at the Entomological Society of America meeting last December by researchers at the University of Wisconsin adison discussed the cloning of genes for a toxin from a bacterium that inhabits the guts of nematodes. Just a few cells of Photorhabdus luminescens can kill some insect pests. A bacterial enzyme has the unusual property of making the dying insect glow blue, perhaps to scare off mammalian predators. Dow AgroSciences is now trying to insert the cloned genes into a variety of plants, which can then produce their own pesticide.
Even if Bt alternatives can be found, the bugs may ultimately win. Some 500 insect species have developed resistance to synthetic pesticides. Natural selection may ultimately prove a match for natural pesticides as well.
Date: 30 May 2000 06:18:49 +0100
From: "Maynard S. Clark" email@example.com
"BERLIN (Reuters) - A top German zoologist has found that genes used to modify crops can jump the species barrier and cause bacteria to mutate but he stressed Monday that the potential risk to human health was minimal."
Date: 30 May 2000 07:38:12 +0100
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jean Saunders)
This statement should strengthen your resolve to get transgenic crops banned.
"12 out of 20 random American consignments of conventional maize contained detectable traces of GM maize."
By Andy Coghlan , New Scientist, 27 May 2000
CONCERN over the accidental planting of genetically modified seed on several farms in Europe reached fever pitch last week. And now a company in the US has warned that the problem is probably commonplace. "My guess is that it happens all the time," says Jeffrey Smith, vice president of marketing and communications at Genetic ID of Fairfield, Iowa. The company, which screens agricultural produce for GM material, found that more than half of 20 random samples of conventional seed taken from American distributors contained some GM seed.
The latest European furore began with the news that farmers throughout the continent have planted conventional oilseed rape containing traces of a sterile GM variety known as RT 73, which has not been approved for commercial planting in Europe. In Britain alone, 9000 hectares were sown with the adulterated seed in 1999, followed by 4700 hectares this spring.
In other European countries, including France and Sweden, ministers have considered ordering the destruction of affected crops. Opponents of GM crops accused governments of allowing the release of such crops before their environmental impact had been properly evaluated.
But this week, Genetic ID told New Scientist that such contamination might be just the tip of the iceberg. It says that in tests done last year, but not widely publicised, 12 out of 20 random American consignments of conventional maize seed contained detectable traces of GM maize. Two of these contained almost 1 per cent GM maize.Pioneer Hi-Bred, the largest supplier of both conventional and GM seeds in the US, acknowledged that low levels of mingling are inevitable. "Absolute zero purity is not achieved in any agricultural produce anywhere in the food chain," says Doyle Karr, a spokesman for the company.
Karr says Pioneer's conventional maize seeds exported to and grown in Europe could well contain traces of Bt maize, a GM variety that makes a toxin lethal to larval pests. But he adds that European governments have already approved this variety.
But other GM crops that have not been approved have probably been planted on European farms. In 1998, Britain imported a total of 491 000 tonnes of soybeans for sowing from the US and Canada. If an estimated 1 per cent were GM, roughly 5000 tonnes of GM soybeans were unwittingly imported. The Ministry of Agriculture does not break down statistics according to how much imported seed is used directly in food, and how much is planted on farms.
Many in the industry believe the solution lies in internationally agreed testing procedures and limits on contamination. Smith thinks a 0.1 per cent limit should be set for accidental contamination. "You can't offer 0 per cent, because it's not scientifically feasible or defensible," he says.
But such limits would raise another dilemma ho shoulders the responsibility if the threshold is breached? Farmers think seed suppliers should carry the can. "The seed suppliers need to guarantee what that seed is, and bear social and economic responsibility for that," says Gary Goldberg of the American Corn Growers Association. But segregating crops won't be easy. Farmers in the US send their seed to elevators, companies that pool seed from many farmers and then sell it on for distribution and export. A survey of almost 1200 elevators by Pioneer shows few are willing to test their deliveries and segregate GM from non-GM crops this autumn. However, Smith is confident that the companies are already taking the lessons on board. "My guess is that when harvest comes around, the percentage testing and segregating will be much higher."
Date: 30 May 2000 07:38:12 +0100
From: email@example.com From New Scientist magazine, 27 May 2000.
© Copyright New Scientist, RBI Limited 2000
The emergence of the facts around genetic pollution in European canola seed sends the alarm bells ringing. More anxiety is raised when both Greenpeace and seed companies admit that the problem is more widespread than previously admitted, possibly existing in maize and cotton as well as canola and goodness knows what else.
It is worth investigating whether this is inadvertent genetic pollution or whether it is intentional. If it is inadvertent then another warning of the dangers of genetic engineering becomes reality.
If it is intentional then the duplicity and the true intentions of the seed companies and trans-national corporations involved in genetic engineering will be revealed for all the world to see. The machiavellian machinations of these corporations in making the availability of GE free products more and more difficult, if not impossible would for once and all show thier true colours. This would yet again demonstrate the anti-democratic nature of corporate power and hegemony.
Is anybody pursuing this avenue of investigation in Europe?
"All policymakers must be vigilant to the possibility of research data being manipulated by corporate bodies and of scientific colleagues being seduced by the material charms of industry. Trust is no defence against an aggressively deceptive corporate sector,"
The Lancet, April 2000
"When a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, it can cause a hurricane in New York".
Date: 30 May 2000 14:51:04 +0100
By: The Independent - London, 2000-05-30, © 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.
THE FALKLAND Islands is close to becoming the first food exporter able to guarantee that all its agricultural products are farmed using sustainable organic methods, it was claimed yesterday.
The remote location of British Dependent Territory in the South Atlantic and its cool maritime climate make it unnecessary for farmers to use pesticides.
Sheep and cattle range free throughout the year, and the animals' diet consists of natural pasture, or improved pasture which is sustained by clovers. It is these unadulterated grasslands that provide the meat with its distinctive flavour.
Bob Reid, director of agriculture in the Falklands, said: "The islands now have a virtual ban on importing new stock and this has helped to protect the country from severe animal diseases."
Certified organic meat products will be exported by the end of the year, following completion of the islands' European Union- approved abattoir.
The purity of the lamb, pork and beef is ensured because farmers do not use antibiotics as feed additives, or hormone implants as growth promoters. Neither do they use pesticides or genetically modified grazing plants.
Falklands produce will be on display at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh from 22 to 25 June, together with background material on other aspects of the islands' agricultural industry.
Mr Reid said: "We are in an advanced stage of development in areas including organic fertiliser and export and research into cashmere and goose meat production."
The stand will also give an insight into life on the Falklands. Sukey Cameron, the islands' representative to the UK, said: "Visitors will, I hope, be pleasantly surprised at the beauty of the islands and gain an understanding of how a modern society is adapting to the challenges of the 21st century."
Date: 30 May 2000 11:59:47 +0100
From: wytze firstname.lastname@example.org
Norfolk Genetic Information Network http://members.tripod.com/~ngin
Apart From That It's A Perfectly Safe Technology, Of Course
Scotland on Sunday, May 28 2000
When the world's leading bio-technology company, Monsanto, bid for permission to market the first genetically modified agriculturalcrop,RoundupReady soybean, it was sure it knew what it had created. The bean, the company told US regulators in 1993, contained a single new strand of DNA designed to make it resistant to Monsanto's brand of weed killer, Roundup.
Seven years on, however, Monsanto has realised it was wrong. New research by the company, due to be published in the next few weeks, will reveal the discovery of two rogue fragments of DNA in the soybean, the world's most widespread GM crop. The disclosure has already prompted concern among genetic scientists and alarm from environmentalists.
They point out that such surprise pieces of genetic material could have unknown effects on human health and the environment. There could also be similar unexpected bits of DNA in the relatedgenetically modified-contaminated oilseed rape inadvertently planted by hundreds of Scottish farmers this spring.
"These results demonstrate that genetic modification is a clumsy process, not precise as is often claimed," said Dr Sue Mayer, director of Genewatch, an independent research group. "There is no control over how many genes, in what order, or where they are inserted.
"It has taken Monsanto almost a decade to provide what they now say is an accurate analysis of the DNA in Roundup Ready soybean. Additional copies or fragments of genes may affect the operation of the other inserted genes, which could have consequences for the performance and composition of the plant. This may have implications for human and environmental safety."
Last Friday, Monsanto's international headquarters in St Louis, Missouri, told the Sunday Herald it was about to submit the first full analysis of the genetic sequences in Roundup Ready soybean for publication in a scientific journal. "We've identified two inactive pieces of the Roundup Ready gene in addition to the complete Roundup Ready gene within Roundup Ready soybeans," said Dan Verakis, a spokesman for the company.
Monsanto has been informing regulatory agencies around the world of the discovery. "Those two pieces were present within the soybeans used in all original safety tests and hence do not change the conclusion by global regulatory authorities that Roundup Ready soybeans are as safe and nutritious as conventional soybeans," claimed Verakis.
"What we've achieved is the ability to see the genes and DNA within Roundup Ready soybeans more clearly, just like putting a telescope in orbit makes it easier for astronomers to see the stars."
But Charlie Kronick, head of Greenpeace's anti-GM campaign in the UK, argued that the company's findings heightened worries about safety.
"Imports of contaminated seeds have left the UK and the rest of Europe reeling from further revelations of the biotechnology industry's failure to control their pro ducts," he said. "Now Monsanto announces a new discovery concerning the genetic make-up of their first GM product. After years on the market, Monsanto reveals that neither the industry or the regulators actually know what genes are in it. What else don't we know?
"The complacency of government and industry must have surely reached a limit. These cropsareunpredictable, uncontrollable and unnecessary. It is time to ban their use andstoptheircontinued gene tic pollution."
Although Monsanto's GM soybean is not involved in the contamination of oilseed rape planted by 600 farmers over 11,600 acres of Britain, one of the company's related products, Roundup Ready oilseed rape, is implicated. Advanta, the com pany which distributed the contaminated seed in Europe, says its problem was originally caused by Roundup Ready rape growing nearby in Canada.
Date: 30 May 2000 18:27:35 +0100
Here's yet another attempt at pro GM spin, trying to sell us the idea of GM tomatoes which contain more vitamin A. This is the same "spin cycle" as the golden rice with more vitamin A, except here they're trying to go for the "fight cancer" angle.
What absolute nonsense...! If Peter Bramley and his team want to fight cancer then they should look at the causes of cancer including smoking, alcohol, stress, untested GM foods, pesticides/herbicides in foods, etc, not at producing a tomato which nobody needs or wants... (You'd have thought they would have learned from the disastrous Zeneca tomato, which was launched here but has not been sold in the UK for over 2 years!)
If you'd like to tell Peter Bramley what you think about the prospect of more GM tomatoes, here is his email address :
For ideas on issues to raise with him, see :
Marcus Williamson http://www.gmfoodnews.com
Tomatoes genetically modified to contain three times the usual amount of vitamin A producing compounds can help stave off cancer and heart disease, claim scientists.
Professor Peter Bramley at the University of London, working with colleagues in Japan and Germany, has developed the tomatoes which are rich in beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is turned by the body into vitamin A, which is thought to be crucial in preventing serious disease.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that each year between 1m and 2m deaths of children aged between one and four could be prevented if they received more Vitamin A.
The researchers said that increasing the amount of beta-carotene, and other carotenoids, in foods was generally though to be more effective than taking supplements in the form of pills, as other nutrients in the food act alongside the carotenoids.
Professor Bramley said processed and tinned tomatoes had been found to be more healthy because they improve the take up of carotenoids.
They said in the journal Nature Biotechnology that the genetic changes would last for at least four generations, making the vitamin-packed fruit available long-term.
As well as fighting off cancer and heart disease, vitamin A has also been linked to preventing macular degeneration, and eye condition that can lead to blindness.
They altered the carotenoid biosynthesis pathway by inserting a gene from a bacterium. The gene converts the compound phytoene into lycopene, which in turn is involved in the production of alpha and beta-carotene.
The resulting tomatoes contained up to 3.5 times the normal levels of beta-carotene, although overall levels of carotenoids - of which there are several, including lycopene - did not change.
The researchers said they had expected the gene to also cause the tomatoes to produce extra lycopene, but it did not.
Lycopene is also important to health and tomatoes are the main source of that nutrient in most people's diets.
Dr Sue Meyer, of Genewatch, was not convinced by the benefits of the genetically modified fruit.
She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If we can prove it was safe and a genuine improvement, it would be welcome.
"But if you change the basic biochemistry, you could alter the levels of other nutrients which are very important for health."
Professor Bramley told the BBC that trials were now underway to ensure the tomatoes were safe for human consumption.
He added: "Nobody is suggesting right now that we are going to feed this to the population."
Date: 30 May 2000 19:09:09 +0100
From: "Gerard Owmby" email@example.com
See also From Major Hallett to Biological Warfare on Farmers Terminator Technology
and TRAITOR TECHNOLOGY: "Damaged Goods" from the Gene Giants
Dr. Ricarda A. Steinbrecher is a geneticist and biologist. She is coordinating the Test Tube Harvest Campaign of the Women's Environmental Network, is Science Director of the Genetics Forum, UK and is biotechnology advisor to many non-governmental organisations.
Pat Roy Mooney has worked for more than 30 years with civil society organisations on international trade and development issues related to agriculture and biodiversity and is the author of several books on the subject. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where he is Executive Director of RAFI.
by Ricarda A. Steinbrecher and Pat Roy Mooney
Reprinted from The Ecologist, Vol 28, No 5, Sept/Oct 1998
To feed the Hungry
How hybrids work
How the Terminator Technology works
Terminator meets the "Monster"
Terminating the Terminator
References and Notes
In 1860, fully five years before Abbe Gregor Mendel published his obscure tome on the genetics of peas, launching so-called "modern" plant breeding, a certain Major Hallett, F.L.S., of Brighton was warning farmers and fellow seedsmen that any abuse of his "pedigree" trademark for cereals would be "severely dealt with".(1) But his seeds were not patentable and there was little he could do to keep farmers from buying his wheat varieties, sowing them, selecting the best seed for the next season, and breeding their own varieties uniquely adapted to local soils, slopes, and weather.
It was only in 1908 that George Shull came up with what Major Hallett really wanted "a biological weapon to keep farmers from saving and developing their own seeds. Called "hybridization", a wonderfully euphemistic term that led farmers to think that crossing two distant plant relatives could create a "hybrid vigour" that so improved yield as to make the resulting seed sterility meaning it could not be replanted financially worthwhile.(2) Today, almost every ear of corn grown from California to Kazakhstan is a hybrid controlled by any one of a handful of very large seed companies.
Exactly 90 years after Shull's revelation, one of the biggest and most powerful of those companies, Monsanto, is fighting for control of the most important seed monopoly technology since the hybrid. But unlike 1860, this piece of life control can be patented. On March 3rd, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a little-known cotton-seed enterprise called Delta and Pine Land Company, acquired US patent 5,723,765 or the Technology Protection System (TPS).
Within days, the rest of the world knew TPS as Terminator Technology. Its declared goal is to promulgate plants that will produce self-terminating off-spring suicide seeds. Terminator Technology epitomizes what the genetic engineering of food crops is all about and gives an insight into the driving forces behind the corporate campaign to control and own life.
The Terminator rides to the rescue of long-suffering multinationals who have been unable to hold farmers back from their 12,000 year tradition of saving and breeding seeds. Farmers buy the seed once and do their own work thereafter. Patents and Pinkerton detectives have been employed to stop farmers from doing so. The Terminator though provides a built-in biological "patent", enforced by engineered genes. Small farming communities of the Third World especially, rely upon their own plant breeding since neither corporate nor public breeders show much interest or aptitude in breeding for their often difficult environments. Old-fashioned hybrids and the Terminator Technology with its terminated seeds force farmers back to the market every season. Terminator also scuttles community conservation of agricultural biodiversity. There's nothing to conserve. It is the "neutron bomb" of agriculture.
Following the rediscovery of Mendel's Laws in 1900, money-minded plant breeders pursued strategies that would force farmers back to the marketplace every season to spend their hard-earned money on seeds. Although the concept of hybrids evolved with George Shull in 1908, the first hybrid maize was not commercialized until 1924 by Henry A. Wallace. Two years later, Wallace formed Pioneer Hi-Bred the world's largest seed company and still largely controlled by the founding family.
Wallace went onto become US Secretary of Agriculture and, finally (in 1941), Vice-president of the United States. Wallace's championship of hybrids made it an immutable, if unscientific, Act of Faith to argue that "hybrid vigour" made maize the "bin-busting" bonanza it is today. More recently, however, respected scientific and economic critics like Jean-Pierre Berlan of France's INRA and Richard C. Lewontin of Harvard, as well as Jack R Kloppenburg Jr. of the University of Wisconsin, have challenged this assumption insisting that conventional maize-breeding programmes would always out-perform hybrids given the same research investment. According to these critics, the only advantage to hybrids lies in their profitability for companies.
Hybrid seeds are the first generation (F1) progeny of two distinct and distant parental lines of the same species. The seed will incorporate and express the desired genetic traits of each parent for just one generation. Seeds taken from an Fl hybrid may either be sterile or, more commonly, fail to "breed true", not express the desirable genetic qualities found in F1. Farmers in industrialized agricultural systems rarely attempt to replant a hybrid because of the exacting requirements of machine-harvesting and food-processing for crop uniformity.
Resource-poor farmers in countries such as Brazil, on the other hand, will often take F2 (second generation) hybrid seeds as a source of breeding material to be blended with their traditional varieties. In this way, skilled local breeders, mostly women, be they in Brazil, Burundi or Bangladesh, isolate useful genetic characteristics and adapt them to their immediate market. The most commonly hybridized crops are maize, cotton, sunflowers and sorghum.
Until recently, small grain cereals such as rice, wheat, barley, oats, and rye and leguminous crops such as soy beans, have defied such commercial hybridization. Now this is changing. Public breeding initiatives led by governments such as China and institutions such as the Rockefeller Foundation and Cornell University have developed commercial rice hybrids. The seed multinationals are hot on their heels. Most recently, giants like Monsanto and Novartis have been waxing poetic over the prospect of F1 hybrid wheat. With more land sown to wheat than any other crop on the planet, a new hybrid monopoly for this crop would be a windfall for seed companies.(3)
The Terminator as Biological Warfare on Farmers and Food Security
The Terminator does more than ensure that farmers can't successfully replant their harvested seed. It is the "platform" upon which companies can load their proprietary genetic traits o patented genes for herbicide-tolerance or insect-resistance o and get the farmers hooked on their seeds and caught in the chemical treadmill. The Terminator is a guarantee that even Brazil's innovative farmers will have to buy access to these traits every year.
The target market for the Terminator is explicitly the South's farmers. Beginning with company news releases announcing the patent, Delta and Pine has trumpeted that its Technology Protection System will make it economically safe for seed companies to sell their high-tech varieties in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The company has even estimated that 405 million hectares will be sown with Terminator seeds within a few years. This is a land mass almost equal to South Asia. Although Terminator Technology has only been tested in cotton and tobacco, its designers are convinced that it can be applied to any species. Delta and Pine has specifically suggested that rice and wheat farmers in countries like India, China and Pakistan are a priority market. According to the company, Terminator Technology's value could run as high as $4.00 per hectare for upmarket garden crops. The patent could be worth a billion dollars.(4)
"The centuries old practice of farmer-saved seed is really a gross disadvantage to Third World farmers who inadvertently become locked into obsolete varieties because of their taking the "easy road" and not planting newer, more productive varieties." o Dr. Harry B. Collins, Delta and Pine Land Co, Vice-President for Technology Transfer (June 12, 1998)(5)
The Terminator Technology is the main application of a broadly framed patent for the "control of plant gene expression". The Terminator is basically a genetically engineered suicide mechanism that can be triggered off by a specific outside stimulus. As a result the seeds of the next generation will self-destruct by self-poisoning. The preferred trigger is the antibiotic tetracycline applied to seeds. The main version of the Terminator consists of a set of three novel genes inserted into one plant [see Box 1]; another version divides two or three genes on to two plants, which are later to be cross-pollinated. The end-result is always a dead seed in the following generation.
Terminator Technology is the Trojan Horse for the spread of genetically-engineered crops in the South. In the absence of "effective" patent regimes, companies can still market their wares and enforce constant returns for their investments. In the absence of adequate biosafety legislation, countries might be persuaded to accept the Terminator on the assumption that the technology is safe and that transgenic traits can not survive to a second generation, even by cross-pollination. This assumption is ill-founded. As with all genetic engineering, its direct effect and its side-effects are unpredictable and carry all the risks inherent in this technology. The gene-cocktail of the Terminator increases the risks that new toxins and allergens will show up in our food and animal fodder.
Most alarming though is the possibility that the Terminator genes themselves could infect the agricultural gene pool of the neighbour's crops and of wild and weedy relatives, placing a time-bomb. Temporary "gene silencing" of the poison gene or failed activation of the Terminator countdown enables such infection [see Box 2].
Between 15 and 20 per cent of the world's food supply is grown by poor farmers who save their seed. These farmers feed at least 1.4 billion people. The Terminator "protects" companies by risking the lives of these people. Since Terminator Technology has absolutely zero agronomic benefit, there is no reason to jeopardize the food security of the poor by gambling with genetic engineering in the field. Whether the Terminator works immediately or later, in either instance it is biological warfare on farmers and food security.
The Terminator also portends a hidden dark side. As a Trojan Horse for other transgenic traits, the technology might also be used to switch any trait off or on. At least in theory, the technology points to the possibility that crop diseases could be triggered by seed exports that would not have to "kick in" immediately o or not until activated by specific chemicals or conditions. This form of biological warfare on people's food and economies is becoming a hot topic in military and security circles.(6)
Scarcely two months after USDA and Delta & Pine Land announced the receipt of the Terminator patent, Monsanto bought the company. The announcement of the $1.76 billion purchase came on May 11th even as parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity were meeting in Bratislava. The Terminator had already elbowed its way into conference debates when press stories reached delegations. Overnight the US delegation, who had not uttered a word when even the USDA was under attack for its Terminator involvement, came out fighting for Monsanto. With former Clinton White House staffers on Monsanto's lobby payroll and Mickey Cantor, the US Trade Representative for much of the Uruguay Round, on Monsanto's board, the American government's zeal was less than surprising.[See Ferrara in this issue]
Seed technology has moved a long way since 1860 and the proprietary passions of Major Hallett. Short months before the Major trade-marked his pedigreed seed, the keynote speaker to the Wisconsin agricultural fair warned the farmers and scientists to beware of new technologies that distance farmers from their crops. Although his immediate concern was the steam engine's use in agriculture o he wasn't against it, just worried about whose interests it was serving o the speaker opined that the task of agricultural technology is to provide a decent living for farmers and to feed people. Clinton's administration might do well to heed Abraham Lincoln's advice before allowing the Terminator to enslave the world's farmers today.(7)
People's organizations and governments can halt the Terminator. Legal means are available through International Law and existing intergovernmental convention to outlaw the technology. Here are a few possibilities.