21 June 2000

Table of Contents

Researchers Who Implicate Safety of GM Lose Funding
natural remedy more effective than GM?
Farmers Stick With Biotech Soy
Iowa Farmer Today – Signs & Story On Drift In Iowa
Pusztai on OECD. Plus Iceland website update
Genetically Modified Foods 'Super Site' Debuts
Contaminated Seed Accidentally Planted on `GM-free' Site
More on Our Man Percy Schmeiser

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Date: 19 Jun 2000 09:29:26 +0100
From: "jcummins"

Researchers Who Implicate Safety of GM Lose Funding

Researchers who implicate GM crops tend to lose their funding. The large grants flowing from such studies seem to go to "safe" investigations with experts in obfuscation. It seems corrupt to transfer original studies away from the originators of the experiments to "safe" institutions. It is a form of government sanctioned theft of intellectual property.


The Perilous Politics of Science

Kristi Coale is an associate with the San-Francisco based Center for Investigative Reporting. Her work is supported by the Fund for Investigative Reporting on the Environment (FIRE).

Native Son Science
Of Monarchs And Straw Men
Funding Conundrums
A Silver Lining
Keeping Perspective

Until the last year, concerns about the survival of the monarch butterfly were confined to a large but quiet group of researchers, environmentalists, hobbyists and school children. But now the monarch is a potent symbol in the pitched battle over the safety of genetically modified crops. Just how this Lepidoptera wound up at the center of this controversy is a matter of the politics of science – and politics in a field of science that has given rise to a multi-billion dollar global industry in pharmaceutical and agricultural products led by U.S. researchers and companies. Consider the following episode:

In May 1999, John Losey published a letter in the journal Nature that described how pollen from corn genetically engineered to produce its own pesticide – Bt corn – killed monarch butterflies and their larvae in laboratory tests. The publication pushed the Cornell University entomologist into the spotlight as the most prominent example of an independently funded researcher probing the safety of these products. The report grabbed front-page headlines around the world and invigorated the debate over the safety of genetically engineered foods just as the U.S. public was waking up to the issue. More importantly, Losey's work had a ripple effect – it led directly to a formal change in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policy. Companies developing Bt corn must now submit data to the EPA that demonstrates their corn will not harm the monarch butterfly, its larvae, or other friendly insects before they can put their corn on the market.

With such research leading to federal policy changes, one might think Losey would have little trouble obtaining a grant from the one federal program dedicated specifically to funding research into the environmental impacts of agricultural biotechnology. Unfortunately, this program turned down Losey in late summer 1999.

If independent researchers like Losey are not encouraged to investigate the safety of these products, then who is? According to the current federal law, the companies that develop genetically engineered crops conduct the environmental safety tests at the request of the EPA. With agricultural biotechnology worth between $1.2 and $1.5 billion in global sales (as of 1998), is it in the public interest to allow companies to evaluate their own product's environmental safety when the results of those tests have a direct effect on the company's bottom line? Public confidence in the agricultural system and food supply rests on the credibility of the efforts of the EPA and other regulatory agencies to test new products before they go into the fields and on the market.

But an examination of the events touched off by the publication of Losey's findings – which were blown out of proportion to suit the purposes of the different factions involved in the safety debate – reveals a regulatory system that is struggling to gain the public trust. This public trust has been hurt by a paternalistic posture adopted by scientists, inequities in funding between general biotechnology research and research that investigates environmental impacts, and a regulatory system that has largely put the industry in charge of policing itself.

Native Son Science

Serendipity led Losey to the writing the Nature letter. He was working on a funded project to see how the toxin in Bt corn was affecting the intended victim, the European corn borer, a pest that is responsible for roughly $1.2 billion in annual crop damage. At the same time, the corn borer is a relative of the beautiful and benign monarch butterfly. So when Losey looked down from the corn to see that pollen was dusting nearby milkweed – the staple of the monarch diet and the prime location for its larvae – the Cornell University entomologist was concerned. If that pollen contained the Bt toxin, how would it affect the monarch and its caterpillars, if at all? Losey did this research as an extracurricular activity – with no extra funding. He simply took the pollen-laden milkweed into this laboratory and watched what happened to the monarch and its larvae.

When he wrote up his results, Losey made clear that his findings were preliminary – he had spent only four days watching the monarchs and the milkweed in his laboratory – and he called for additional studies. In short, the Nature report was an open letter from Losey to the scientific community that the effects of Bt corn pollen on the monarch needed further examination.

But what ensued upon publication of Losey's letter was nothing short of a firestorm. "[Biotechnology] is the baby of the U.S. scientific community and they want it to succeed. So there's a personal defensiveness on this issue that one doesn't see on other issues."

Predictably, anti-GM foods activists took to the streets at various protest rallies dressed as monarch butterflies. Activism also cropped up within the scientific community with many harsh words directed at Losey's report. Industry scientists and academics immediately pointed out that Losey's work was published in Nature's letters section and not as a full-fledged, peer-reviewed scientific paper.

Others took issue with the attention Losey's paper received. Cornell University entomologist Anthony Shelton, writing in the September 1999 issue of Nature Biotechnology with Richard Roush of the University of Adelaide, opined: "We believe that few entomologists or weed scientists familiar with butterflies or corn production (and the control of milkweed) give credence to the Nature article, but the public and its policy makers have reacted in knee-jerk fashion."

This bracing reaction can be chalked up – in the view of ecologists and environmentalists like Rebecca Goldburg – to the unique status of biotechnology within the scientific community. Biotechnology is U.S. born and bred. The science that gave rise to this industry, microbiology, was created and fostered by chemists and physicists at the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1930s. Microbiology's native-son status has created an atmosphere that is very protective of the science and the industry it spawned, noted Goldburg, senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund.

"[Biotechnology] is the baby of the U.S. scientific community and they want it to succeed. So there's a personal defensiveness on this issue that one doesn't see on other issues," said Goldburg.

This defensiveness stems from the optimism that sprang from the birth of microbiology, the notion that all of life's problems –chronic disease or crop loss due to pests or drought -- could be solved by manipulating genes or chemicals. It is normal for many scientists to have a protective relationship with this technology and to believe that it is a means to do well. After all, the scientific community welcomed the discovery in 1939 by Paul Hermann Muller that the chemical DDT could be effective as an insecticide. This work by the Swiss scientist was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1948.

So when a scientist like Losey discovers a potential negative side effect of a technology created by a science that is so protected, hackles are raised. "[Losey has] taken a fair amount of criticism from his colleagues at Cornell and elsewhere, but he never oversold the article even in the text of the article," noted John Obricky, an entomologist at Iowa State University who has teamed with Losey to conduct follow-up research.

If nothing else, the tenor of the criticism and activity that have followed Losey's paper show that many people – from all sides of the genetically engineered crop debate – are taking these findings very seriously.

Of Monarchs And Straw Men

Perhaps the most prominent party to give credence to Losey's work is the industry that is developing these crops. In the month following the publication of Losey's work, they formed the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Working Group – a consortium that includes Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred, and organizations like the Biotechnology Industry Organization -- for the expressed purpose of studying the effects of Bt corn pollen on the monarch butterfly.

The goals of this consortium were many. First, it needed to provide U.S. farmers with an answer to the question of whether there would be enough of a market to support their investment in Bt corn for the 2000 growing season. In 1999, Bt corn made up nearly one-third of the U.S. corn acreage. But with countries from Europe to Asia to Latin America calling for trade restrictions on genetically engineered crops, U.S. farmers felt the activity that ensued from the monarch findings provided just another piece of evidence to cast doubt on the economic viability of Bt corn. So one immediate goal of the consortium's study was to define a research project that could be completed and presented by the end of 1999.

Another major aim of the consortium was to answer the questions raised in Losey's report – and to do so not with private industry scientists, but by helping to fund a panel of highly reputable public researchers, said Val Giddings, vice president for food and agriculture with the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The group was sincere in this pursuit; in fact, it invited Losey to join in the effort to study general issues such as the distance traveled by the Bt pollen from the cornfield and the distribution of the milkweed in and around cornfields. But Losey respectfully declined and continued his pursuit of funding for his own follow up work. "It's not like [the industry group] was trying to put us on something that's not important," explained Losey. "It's just that we felt if they were doing X, someone should do Y, and so we're doing Y."

In presenting its panel's findings at the Chicago symposium, the consortium clearly wanted the media – and by association, the public – to have as strong reaction in favor of their results as it had demonstrated with Losey's publication.

But in shaping the experiment, the working group chose to answer certain questions while omitting others that stemmed from Losey's report. One major question in the minds of scientists following the monarch was how much milkweed is in the corn fields and to what extent do monarchs use this milkweed for their larvae and diet compared to milkweed in other locations. The consortium was not interested in funding this, noted Chip Taylor, an entomologist with the University of Kansas who did join the research panel.

"To give them some credit, it was partly because the [larval development] season was late and things had moved along pretty fast. But I think there was another concern that they weren't certain what answer would come out of that work," explained Taylor, who is also the director of Monarch Watch, an international project he helped launch eight years ago that is dedicated to the conservation of the monarch.

When the consortium presented its findings in November 1999, another agenda surfaced. Losey's report proved to be quite a magnet for media attention and the public reactions that stemmed from the coverage put the industry on the defensive. In presenting its panel's findings at the Chicago symposium, the consortium clearly wanted the media – and by association, the public – to have as strong reaction in favor of their results as it had demonstrated with Losey's publication.

(And the industry's effort to promote a favorable reaction continues. Just as this story was being published, this reporter received a call from a BIO spokeswoman pointing out the study in the June 5, 2000 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that pollen from a strain of Bt corn did not appear to harm black swallowtail butterflies. In a clear reference to Losey's work, the spokeswoman emphasized that the PNAS findings were the results of, "field studies done under field conditions as opposed to a laboratory study done over a few days.")

The consortium got off to an early start at the symposium. On the November morning of the meeting, before any findings were presented, the working group issued a public statement that scientists were expected to conclude that Bt corn pollen did not harm the monarch.

But when researchers were allowed to speak for themselves at the symposium, their findings on the monarch were less than conclusive. Several scientists made bold statements that the summer's field testing had demonstrated that Bt corn was safer than had been feared. "It's not this toxic pollen cloud out wiping out monarchs and other species," said Stuart Weiss, a Stanford University scientist and a member of the research panel.

Others would raise the issue that these new findings were -- like Losey's – preliminary. Taylor from the University of Kansas pointed out that it was not possible to draw conclusions from any of the data presented on this day. Taylor also brought up the questions left to be answered, including his research proposal to look into how much the monarch used milkweed in cornfields, which was turned down by the industry-backed consortium.

Still, the industry ended the symposium by putting their spin on the situation. "It's been largely reassuring that the worst case scenario has taken a number of body blows today," said Giddings of the Biotechnology Industry Organization. "It's very difficult to find any data today that would suggest any problem that wasn't already addressed."

Despite the industry efforts, the day's events left the public with a clear picture that scientists were not in agreement on the issue of the environmental safety of Bt corn. The events also left Losey with a firmer resolve to go about his own follow-up work – with or without funding.

Funding Conundrums

When scientists want to look into the environmental impacts of agricultural biotechnology, where can they go? For public money, a scientist can turn to various general research grants through the National Science Foundation, the EPA, and the USDA. But most often, researchers investigating the environmental risks of genetically engineered crops turn to the one federal program that is dedicated specifically to this purpose.

The initiative, the Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grant Program, provides modest-sized grants – ranging from $30,000 for a one-year project to $260,000 for a two- to three-year project – to fund about ten research projects annually. Projects that have received funding over the eight years of the program's existence cover a range of agricultural issues including the impact of pesticide-producing crops on soil ecology, the potential for the spread of genetically engineered viruses between plants, and even the behavior of genetically modified fish.

The program is very small relative to other research money the government spends on agricultural biotechnology. The biotechnology risk program was created through a provision in the 1990 farm bill that requires the administrating agency -- the USDA – to set aside 1 percent of its annual research budget for biotechnology for the risk research. This means that of the $88 million it will spend on agricultural biotechnology research in fiscal year 2000, the USDA had to set aside $880,000 to award as grants in this program. In any year, biotechnology makes up about 10 to 11 percent of the USDA's research budget, said John Radin, program leader for plant physiology and cotton in the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

Just about every scientist that looks into the environmental risks of biotechnology knows about the USDA program. That's because it is the only program dedicated to funding this type of research, and so it is very competitive. The reasons why a researcher may be turned away vary, but mostly USDA administrators say the reasons a proposal gets turned down have to do with its scientific merit and the relevance of the work to regulatory scientists looking into the environmental risks of biotechnology. Losey was turned down in 1999 because the review panel felt he needed to look not only at the effects of Bt on the monarch but also at the effects of pesticides on the butterfly.

But there can be other reasons such as the one Joy Bergelson was given last year when her proposal was rejected a second time by this USDA program. Bergelson is the University of Chicago scientist whose August 1998 paper in the journal Science made a big splash because it highlighted the fact that pollen from herbicide resistant mustard plants passed their genetically engineered genes to nearby weeds – the intended victims of the herbicide – rendering the weeds immune to the herbicide.

Bergelson's first proposal was rejected in 1998 because the review panel felt Bergelson needed to look into other factors beyond field research. Bergelson, who has received grants from this program in the past, addressed these concerns and resubmitted her proposal in 1999 only to be rejected again. The reason: The review panel felt that the mustard plant, Arabidopsis, was not interesting enough for such a study.

Ironically, the U.S. government does find Arabidopsis interesting enough to make it one of the major plants that will be sequenced as part of the National Plant Genome Initiative. This public endeavor – funded by the National Science Foundation – began in late 1998 and has been given $320 million for its first five years. This averages out to $64 million per year just to sequence crops like Arabidopsis, research that should benefit biotechnology companies and agribusiness but won't necessarily find the downside of biotechnology.

So industry has been willing to fund research into risks, but it has its problems. ... "I'm basically solving a problem that will be of benefit to them, but we both know that any work I do with their money is tainted," explained Snow.

Where does this leave researchers like Losey and Bergelson after they have been turned down, sometimes twice, for research they want to conduct on the environmental impact of biotechnology? They can turn to industry, which has been willing to spend a lot on agricultural biotechnology research. According to figures from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agriculture-Biotech Applications, the major agrochemical companies spent $983.2 million on research to develop new crop traits between 1995 and 1998.

This money has been spent on in-house endeavors as well as on funding university research. Just how much industry spends investigating the environmental risks of biotechnology is unknown. For the working group research last summer, Giddings of the Biotechnology Industry Organization put the industry contribution to the research panel at $125,000, and that included not only funding but also seeds and other materials provided to scientists.

So industry has been willing to fund some research into risks, but it has a perception problem. Scientists like Allison Snow of Ohio State University say industry understands it can benefit from research that reveals the warts of biotechnology. "I'm basically solving a problem that will be of benefit to them, but we both know that any work I do with their money is tainted," explained Snow, an ecologist who has received funding from the USDA program and who has served on several government panels on agricultural biotechnology.

Industry money to scientists at universities and non-profit research centers also raises the question of whose interests are served by that research. The potential for conflict of interest in industry-funded research is an increasingly popular area of study. For example, researchers in the October 20, 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association compared the outcomes of studies on cancer drugs funded by the pharmaceutical companies to the results of studies funded by non-profit organizations. They found that private industry funding was eight times more likely to influence the results of the studies to conclusions that are favorable to industry.

And the same questions arise in other fields, including agricultural biotechnology where industry is, by law, supposed to run the tests that are used by federal regulators to determine whether a product can come to market.

A Silver Lining

While Losey continues his pursuit of funding, he can find solace in the fact that his one-page study in Nature has, in effect, brought to the attention of a large audience the problems with the regulation of genetically engineered crops.

The publication put the burden on industry to defend its safety testing. "The industry has always asked for regulation, and there are twenty years of scientific studies, including numerous field studies, that ask whether these are safe," said Biotechnology Industry Organization spokesman Charles Craig.

Was this hyperbole? No. Back before genetically engineered crops were put on the market, the EPA looked at data from both the companies and a community of independent researchers that evaluated the potential risk of Bt crops on a host of friendly species including various insects, birds, and even fish. At the same time, it was well known that the target insect of crops like Bt corn, is a relative of the butterfly, and that includes the monarch. So for several years, the USDA has dedicated $100,000 annually to its own in-house research into the effects of Bt corn on butterflies, but this research hasn't focused specifically on the monarch.

But through all of this examination, neither industry nor federal scientists had found quite what Losey did. So when Losey's report hit the presses, industry did not confidently point to the cache of data that existed because they knew they didn't have an answer. Federal regulators knew this, too.

"The Cornell study was one that we took very seriously, and it raised some important scientific questions," explained Stephen Johnson, deputy assistant administrator in the EPA's office of prevention, pesticides, and toxic substances. "There were not studies, there was nothing in the literature that we could rely on that could fully address the questions that Losey's report showed."

Thus, Losey's report became the impetus for the EPA's new data call-in that will affect not only new Bt corn varieties but also the renewals for existing varieties currently on the market. The registrations for the Bt corn currently on the market – issued in 1995 – are set to expire in 2001. To be sure, environmentalists, ecologists, and other scientists looking into the risks of agricultural biotechnology will be watching the EPA to see what the agency does with these registrations.

Losey's work has also brought about a vast cooperative research effort. Amid the acrimony that took place at the industry-funded symposium last fall, researchers like Losey and Chip Taylor of the University of Kansas had a chance to meet in person and exchange ideas. Out of this exchange has come a coordinated effort to conduct follow up research in a variety of areas pertaining to the monarch and Bt corn pollen. Researchers will work independently on various projects that will receive grants from a one-time pool of money that is being jointly funded by industry and the federal government.

What happens to other environmental issues that might not come wrapped in one of nature's most beautiful packages?

For this new pool of funding, industry and the USDA are each giving $100,000, and this pool is going to be divided into about twelve different grants. But what's different this time around from the studies that were presented at the Chicago symposium is that industry will have no say in what research is to be done nor in who will receive the grants, said USDA spokeswoman Karen Kaplan.

Keeping Perspective

What is cheering about the events surrounding Losey's report is that they put a user-friendly face – the monarch butterfly -- on the complex world of biotechnology regulation; what is disturbing is that these same events raise questions about what happens to other environmental issues that might not come wrapped in one of nature's most beautiful packages.

Clearly, large sums of money and research muscle are being employed to look into the plight of the monarch. But will this really help the monarch? For the University of Kansas' Taylor, Bt corn pollen is a problem that does need immediate attention, but in the whole world of threats to the monarch, Bt corn does not rate among the top problems. Human-created destruction of the monarch's habitat is the biggest problem by far, said Taylor, and it comes in many forms ranging from mass urbanization to industrial waste.

And what about other environmental consequences of agricultural biotechnology – how might the issue with the monarch affect research into these other areas?

The attention given the monarch studies has also focused attention on the shortcomings of agricultural biotechnology regulation and underscored the need for more research, independent of industry influence.

So Losey's study and the reaction it received set the stage for the recent report from the National Academy of Sciences on genetically engineered plants that produce their own pesticides. This report has called specifically for further research into environmental questions including potential harm to the ecology and beneficial species as well as whether intended target pests are building up a resistance to the Bt toxins. The report also asked for the regulatory agencies to better coordinate the safety testing and the data and to make all of this open to the public.

The agencies are ready to comply. In fact, the EPA, which has been working from a set of proposed regulations since 1994, plans to make changes and finalize this regulation within a matter of weeks. Among the key changes is that the agency will include consultations with the public sector regarding decisions on what crops will be allowed onto the market.

Still, the question remains whether the public will decide that these changes, and the actions of industry, are sufficient to protect the food supply and the environment from any adverse effects of genetically engineered crops.

© Copyright 1999-2000 The Florence Fund

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Date: 19 Jun 2000 10:00:24 +0100
From: "jcummins"

An interesting experiment with a herbal remedy. The next step may be GM Wort!

natural remedy more effective than GM?

Published online before print June 13, 2000
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073/pnas.130155097

Medical Sciences

St. John's wort induces hepatic drug metabolism through activation of the pregnane X receptor

Linda B. Moore*, Bryan Goodwin*, Stacey A. Jones*, G. Bruce Wisely*, Cosette J. Serabjit-Singh, Timothy M. Willson, Jon L. Collins, and Steven A. Kliewer*,¤

Departments of * Molecular Endocrinology, Strategic Technology Exchange, and Medicinal Chemistry, Glaxo Wellcome
Research and Development, 5 Moore Drive, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709

Edited by Ronald W. Estabrook, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, and approved April 26, 2000 (received for review April 6, 2000)

St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is an herbal remedy used widely for the treatment of depression. Recent clinical studies demonstrate that hypericum extracts increase the metabolism of various drugs, including combined oral contraceptives, cyclosporin, and indinavir. In this report, we show that hyperforin, a constituent of St. John's wort with antidepressant activity, is a potent ligand (Ki = 27 nM) for the pregnane X receptor, an orphan nuclear receptor that regulates expression of the cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 monooxygenase. Treatment of primary human hepatocytes with hypericum extracts or hyperforin results in a marked induction of CYP3A4 expression. Because CYP3A4 is involved in the oxidative metabolism of >50% of all drugs, our findings provide a molecular mechanism for the interaction of St. John's wort with drugs and suggest that hypericum extracts are likely to interact with many more drugs than previously had been realized.

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Date: 19 Jun 2000 11:39:18 +0100

Examine the logic. They cost more, produce less, earn no more in profits than conventional beans, so, (scratching head profusely), what do we need them for? The reason that soya unlike maize, has held with the US farmer's is because the home market has remained strong, for one reason, animal feed, the greater proportion of soybeans used in the US are for feedstuff, and as the home market hasn't had to tread the same shaky path as the foreign one, there is still market demand in the US. However if the uproar over GM stock feed in Europe passes onto the US consumer, these markets will also be threatened. So to me, soon all g/e options will be gone.
Jim Mc Nulty

Farmers Stick With Biotech Soy

Dayton Daily News, 2000-06-18

Engineered plants remain popular

THURMAN, Iowa - Virtually unheard of a few years ago, genetically engineered soybeans now account for more than half the U.S. production. They are in munchies (candy bars), spreads (margarine), soups and breads.

To understand this explosive growth, consider how the biotech crop has changed the lives of farmers like John Askew.

Vacation in June or July? Out of the question - at least in the past - because of the work needed to keep his soy crop free of yield- robbing weeds.

Yet at the end of this month, he is taking his two sons to Colorado for a week. He even is planning a second getaway in August.

Growing gene-altered soybeans is a snap. A spraying or two of the powerful herbicide glyphosate, known as Roundup, and Askew's weed problems are gone for the year. The chemical would kill conventional soybeans but it is harmless to the biotech variety.

"It's here. It won't go away. It never will. . . . Farming is so much easier," said Askew, who planted 1,000 acres of the gene- altered soybeans this year. Not a single weed is in sight between the rows of young soy plants that stretch in every direction.

For other farmers, the time savings of the biotech crop mean they can farm more land or take an off-farm job to supplement their income.

"Fifteen to 20 years ago, farmers would be going across a field five to seven times a year to control weeds, whereas now they can do it once or twice across the field. With the large acreages they're farming now that's a very important factor," said Bob Hartzler, an agronomist at Iowa State University.

Critics of biotech food say not enough is known about the possible environmental or health risks from genetically altered soy and other crops, and they want tougher testing standards and mandatory labeling of the products.

U.S. farmers are cutting back this year on plantings of biotech corn, which is designed to be toxic to an insect pest. But the herbicide-tolerant soybean - by far the most widely grown of the genetically engineered crops now available - is as popular as ever, according to an Agriculture Department survey of farmers.

Some 39 million acres of biotech soybeans were expected to be planted this year in the United States, accounting for about 52 percent of the nation's crop.

The gene-altered soybeans do not necessarily save farmers money. The seed costs more and sometimes yields less than conventional varieties. A recent USDA study found no significant difference in income between farmers who planted biotech and conventional soybeans.

Askew used to harvest as many as 65 bushels of soybeans off of each acre a year. With biotech seeds, he gets as few as 52 bushels per acre.

But Askew also used to cultivate his fields planted with conventional soybeans twice a year and hire crews of teen-agers to hand-spray or cut individual weeds that the herbicides or cultivator did not get.

The USDA study found that overall herbicide use on soybeans had dropped 10 percent because of the biotech crop.

Publication date: 2000-06-18 © 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.

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Date: 19 Jun 2000 13:19:30 +0100
From: "Ericka "

Iowa Farmer Today – Signs & Story On Drift In Iowa

(Thank you Dan Zinkand - beautiful job!) front page - ---> Mrs. BellyBeans and Ericka, in color!! <--- Main story - Wayne Bott interviewed on drift drift statistics in Iowa - pesticide dep't. reading the labels

Thanks for a minute to check this out & read the stories -

-- The Mighty Oak was once a little nut that held its ground.

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Date: 20 Jun 2000 10:34:28 +0100
Originated from: (Jonathan Matthews)

Pusztai on OECD. Plus Iceland website update

Pusztai on OECD

Norfolk Genetic Information Network


There is a sustained attempt to persuade us all of the safety of GM foods in which internationally the OECD, and in the UK Sir John Krebs' Food Standards Agency are emerging as key players.

The past week has seen a statement from OECD that all approved GM foods are safe. Krebs' FSA has adopted the same viewpoint from day one despite making much of labelling issues and now "monitoring".

The following is Aarpad Pusztai in his own words on the OECD Meeting on GMOs Feb. 29 - March 2, 2000. It gives a very clear picture of the OECD/Krebs agenda both in terms of who was invited, who chaired, what was said, and above all how the only scientist sceptical of GM food safety to be invited was actually treated.

--------------------- OECD Agenda: "There is no evidence that GM-food is harmful"

Pusztai on OECD Meeting on GMOs Feb. 29 - March 2, 2000

Dr. Arpad Pusztai was the only scientist sceptical of GM food safety to be invited to the much publicized OECD's intergovernmental Conference on GMOs. Here is his personal account, slightly edited.

After the meeting was opened by a number of politicians, Prof. Charles Arntzen from the Boyce Institute, USA, kicked off with the virtues of edible vaccines in potatoes. He made no comment on whether they would be tested rigorously; nor on the fact that they have to be eaten raw as heating would destroy the vaccine. Next, Dr Suman Sahai from Gene Campaign, India, argued convincingly that GMOs offer no benefit for developing countries. Instead, it was a means of exploitation, of robbing the poor to enrich the rich in the First World.

Then came the darling of the Conference, Professor Zhangliang Chen (Vice President of Beijing University, China) who said China is slowly replacing everything with GM-counterparts and they have also tested their health effects on rats. However, no details on design or methodology or publications in peer-reviewed journals were given. This did not stop him from giving a glowing certificate of health and worth to all the GM-crops he tested. I was attacked for publishing our results in worthless rags such as The Lancet and The Journal of Nutrition when we should have done like Professor Chen and not published anything at all. I have a feeling that I was expected to ask for the forgiveness of the new God of GM-biotechnology.

After coffee came Professor Gordon Conway (President of Rockefeller Foundation) who gave his totally "unbiased" views on the benefits, risks and ownership of GM-crop biotechnology. The "balance" was redressed by the panellist who had 5 min each: both Benedikt Haerlin (Greenpiece International) and Mrs Marilena Lazzarini from the Institute for Consumer Defence, Brazil spoke well but made no great stir in the GM-biotechnology-dominated audience. In contrast a Novartis employee, Dr Andreas Seiter, did go through the biotech industry routine and was acclaimed by the audience.

The afternoon session on GM Food and Human Health should have been very short, as we have no data on this topic at all but that did not deter the Organisers. The first speaker, Prof. Ambroise Martin (University Lyon) had 20 min but did not say much. The next speaker was in Geriatric Medicine at Cornell University. He talked a lot about medical aspects of the old and at the end he waxed eloquently about the work of Arntzen who is a genius and is going to solve all the problems of the old by making them eat potatoes, bananas, etc with edible vaccines in them.

The last speaker of the session before coffee was Prof. Hans Gunter (Darmstadt Technical University) who gave all the possible health risks of GM-food. There is obviously a subtle change in the air on GM-food in Germany - he sounded a warning note of caution. He advocated post-market monitoring of the effects of GM-food although he did not specify how to do this.

After coffee there was a presentation on Food Allergy and GMOs by Prof. Carsten Bindslev-Jensen (Denmark) who said that they tested all GM-food they could lay their hands on for allergy (skin-prick test with human subjects) and found that none of them was any worse than the non-GM counterparts. My problem with this is that I do not believe in these tests for a start so I am not so sure whether his message was a good one or not or just simply means that he used a technique, which is severely limited and found no problem.

Then came the panel discussion. As a special favour granted by Sir John Krebs, I was given 10 min to give my slides on my protocol (now on my homepage) which was cut to 8 min by the Chairman. It would not have made much difference if I had been given 1 hour, the effect would have been the same. Nobody made the slightest reference to it then or later. As Prof. Chen from China had such a "poor" opportunity previously to give his views he was allowed another bite of the same cherry. The message was still the same and the audience loved it. Prof. Alan McHughen (University of Saskatchewan), another GM enthusiast, said that we must introduce all his GM-crops but must also be vigilant. He could not say how, in 5 mins. Finally, Dr James Maryanski of FDA told us of all the great safety tests the FDA had done and also how generously they were with public hearings, and made 44,000 pages of their files available to the public. Of course, this is not really needed because GM-food is the best and most rigorously tested food in the history of mankind.

He was refuted by US Lawyer Steven Druker from the Alliance of Biointegrity. The FDA had not revealed those 44,000 pages out of the goodness of their hearts -they were made to do so by a Court Action. The files revealed how the FDA had completely ignored the advise of their own scientists about safety, especially, that there was no substantial equivalence between GM and nonGM crops. You can find Steven's contribution on the biointegrity website .

I would like to say something about the personal attacks on me from the floor. I had some exchanges with Phil Dale from the John Innes Centre in Norwich. He said (remember that we ought to have discussed my slides!) that I am a particularly unfair person because I never discussed the results of our nutritional work with the SCRI and Durham scientists, although they were involved in the research. Actually, as I have coordinated the whole programme, I made sure that we had 3-6 monthly workshops with written minutes of the events.

The next bits of exchange was with Monsanto and other biotech people who got upset about my remark that when we started in 1995 there was not a single paper published in peer-reviewed journals on the nutritional/physiological testing of any GM-food. They kept jumping up, one after another. to say that there were lots of papers; the Monsanto guy, Fox, said that he himself must have produced them by the dozen. I kept challenging them as to where these were published but they were not forthcoming in their replies. Eventually a number of people like Joan Ruddock tried to defend me from the floor. In fact, she later confronted the Monsanto guy in private when, as always, he admits that they must have misunderstood me.

The truth is that they count anything, even their memos, as publications. It is no wonder that the Chinese scientists" talk went down so well with them.

On Tuesday the GM- propaganda machine got into a higher gear. Kuiper chaired the sessions throughout the whole day. Needless to say, he never allowed me to take part in the discussions. The first speaker was Prof. Bernard Chevassu-au-Louis (President of the French Health and Food safety Agency). He gave his lecture in French which even with the translation was a little difficult to follow. Generally, he did seem to be good.

His most memorable contribution was that, on the basis of substantial equivalence one could not differentiate a mad cow with BSE from a healthy one, that has put the substantial equivalence principle in the proper context, no matter how much Dr Peter Kearns (OECD) tried to salvage it. He said we must use it as our guiding principle. This just showed up that these people do not understand (or do not want to) that science is quantitative. It is not much use to say that you are a little mad; one needs to know how little?

Dr Calestous Juma (Director, Science Technology, Development Programme, Harvard University) could not come, so we had a real treat, a Professor of Microbiology, who doubles up as the S. African regulatory authority stepped into his shoes. She was enthusing all the time and according to her, the greatest triumph of the GM technology is that one S. African woman farmer, by planting GM-cotton took 30,000 rands (£3,000) to the bank at the end of the season. We were all duly impressed and many biotechnologists during the rest of the meeting referred to her example.

Unfortunately, even this was not documented but the believer of the new faith swallowed it nevertheless. Next was Dr Alan Randell (Codex Alimentarius, FAO) who gave a very good factual account of the work of the Codex people.

Obviously, he was in favour of GM but he also recognised that we need to do our homework and carry out proper testing according to strictly agreed protocols. We shall see!

After coffee unquestionably the best talk of the session was given by Prof. John Durant (Head of Science Communication, Science Museum UK).

He explained to all the blockheads of the GM-biotech industry representatives that it was no use to blame the GM fiasco on the press, on maverick scientists (I expect the likes of me), the gullibility of consumers, sinister green pressure groups, etc. The fault lies with the proponents. So from there on, the motto of the Conference was borrowed from him: "openness, transparency and inclusiveness". In the best example of hypocrisy, the Conference went on and referred constantly back to him. The Consumer Perspective was then given very lucidly and forcibly by Mr Julian Edwards, which was good and to be expected.

The following panel and plenary discussion was quite something. I have never heard such extreme and sometimes disgraceful views expounded in public as was done by Dr Val Giddings (Vice-President for Food, Agriculture, Biotechnology Industry Organisation (BIO) US). To give you some of the flavour of what he said - the only way to solve allergenicity, once for all, was via GM-technology. It was pointed out that we only escaped by the skin of our teeth the brazil nut allergen transfer into soya. But he then used this as an example of how well the regulation worked.

He went on - when he was in Brazil he was told by some of the politicians there that even if there were some deaths due to anaphylaxis it is a price well worth paying if they could at the same time feed the population with this GM-soya. To show up how impartial the Chair was, nobody had a chance to reply to this once the people regained their breath after Dr Giddings great intervention. Mr Martin van Zwannenberg (ex-Divisional Director of Food Technology, Marks & Spencer, UK) had the distinction to almost physically attack me for my views, which disgraced science, etc...

Just imagine what sort of crowd they assembled here in Edinburgh? Clearly the creme of the society and "science".. Dr Michael Hansen (Consumers Union, USA) pointed out that (what I said above) science is quantitative and the present woolly definition of substantial equivalence is only a cop-out for the biotech regulators because how small is small. In fact the best would be to totally abandon this stupid thing.

Needless to say, 90% of the people at the Conference would not agree with him. There was one very gung-ho GM person, who was absolutely impervious to any argument that was to her dislike. She was flatly opposed even to the idea of labelling. So much so that her views got into the final draft rapporteurs" report as something we "all agreed about". In fact, she was probably the only one who totally opposed the idea of labelling and nobody else made a great deal of it, even those from the GM-biotech industry kept reasonably quiet.

Sir John Krebs chaired the Wednesday session and this was somewhat of an eye-opener for me. The only speaker of the morning was Dr Ismail Serageldin (Vice-President, World Bank). He referred a lot to the South African farmer woman with her GM-cotton. Professor Chen from Zimbabve also extolled the virtues of GM for the developing world and so on. Unfortunately, the Organisers forgot to invite people such as Tewolde Egziabher and others to counterbalance this open enthusing on the great value of the GM-technology.

Obviously, the World Bank will be giving big loans to the poor Third World Countries to buy the technology or even more the seeds in order to increase their dependency on the First World multinational companies and increase their financial debt. After this Dr Peter Tindemans (The Netherlands) and Dr Ian Gillespie (UK) - the rapporteurs, introduced their draft report which was then discussed by the participants under the Chairmanship of Sir John Krebs. Half of this was taken up by personal attacks on myself and other sceptics. I must say that this was too much even for people like Kuiper, Tom Sanders and some other scientists and the remainder of the Consumer, green groups (most of them left by this time).

Needless to say, I was not given any chance to defend myself. But this is in the great British tradition. After all, I was gagged for seven months before so what"s the difference now? I am not going to say anything about the draft report because it is supposed to be confidential. However, I have already made my protest about some of the points in the report. The most blatant of which stated that there was general agreement on the point that there is no evidence at all to show that GM-food has a harmful effect on health. I believe this was the main purpose of the Conference: to state this clearly so that the Government's hands will be untied, and they can go ahead to legalise the whole GM-business. I gave them a very strongly worded protest on this point because even if they disregard all of my work, how can they make such a sweeping statement when there has never been any experiments with humans to show whether GM-food is good, bad or indifferent. When the final report of Sir John is published, it will give me the opportunity to put my comments on my homepage. I know that it is regularly visited by people from all over the world and if there are many like me, then they will not be able to get away with this.


"A time to chose"

Check out the following excellent briefing on the risks of GM foods by Henry Brighouse of the Stroud Campaign.. It's called "A Time to Choose". Its very clear and to the point, and can be downloaded from Iceland's website at:


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Date: 20 Jun 2000 10:54:28 +0100

Northern Light Cooks Up Web's Most Comprehensive

Source for Information and Links on the Heated Subject

Genetically Modified Foods 'Super Site' Debuts

Northern Light Cooks Up June 20, 2000

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., June 19 /PRNewswire/ – Northern Light Technology, Inc., a leading Internet search engine, today introduced a comprehensive Web site devoted to the subject of genetically modified foods. The Northern Light Special Edition(TM), located at provides links to information available electronically from several different perspectives on this much-debated topic.

The Special Edition was compiled by the Cambridge-based researchers and librarians of Northern Light Technology and features links to relevant sources of information across the entire spectrum of the debate. David Seuss, CEO, Northern Light Technology, Inc., said "The public is growing increasingly aware of how much of our food has been genetically modified and many people want to understand this trend better. We hope our Web site contributes to the looming public debate on this issue."

The Special Edition includes links to sites that are opposed to genetically modified foods such as the Alliance for Bio-Integrity ( and Campaign to Label Genetically Modified Foods, as well as to sites that support the use of bio-engineered foods such as Better

Foods ( and Life Sciences Knowledge Center ( It also provides links to leading genetically modified food companies such as Monsanto, Novartis (, and Dupont (

In addition, Northern Light's Live Queries(TM) feature allows users to search for the latest news and research on genetically modified foods from the search engine's real-time news sources and database of over 240 million Web pages and over 50 million pages of business information not generally available on the Web.

The Special Edition is organized into diverse topical sections and includes an Overview, News Sources, Recent Editorials & Journal Articles, Concerns & Alternatives, Genetically Modified Food Industry, Government & Public Policy, Major Industry Players, Farming & Food Security, Ethics & Religion and Health & Safety. Under each section, there is a list of specific sources of information to which the user can link.

Special Editions have become a principle line of business for Northern Light. In addition to the publicly available Special Editions on Northern Light's Web site, Northern Light builds privately available custom Special Editions for large enterprise customers on topics selected by the customers. These Special Editions are then often linked to the enterprise's intranet (or in some cases extranet) and made available widely within the enterprise or to selected audiences within the enterprise. Northern Light can also provide an enterprise customer with content for an extranet or Internet site by providing Special Editions of interest to the enterprise's customers.

About Northern Light

Northern Light Technology, Incorporated, headquartered in Cambridge, MA, was founded in 1997 by a seasoned team of librarians, software engineers, and information industry professionals who recognized the need to fill a void left by other search engines and online research services. The company first introduced its research engine (located at for businesses and researchers) in August 1997.

Northern Light has received multiple Editors' Choice awards for superior search capabilities from PC Magazine and recently won three Codie Awards for "Online Business/Professional Service – Best Product," "Online Research Information – Best Product," and "Best Online Information Service of the Year" from the Software & Information Industry Association. Today, Northern Light's search engine is among the world's most comprehensive, indexing more than 240 million Web pages as well as over 50 million pages of business information not generally available on the Web from approximately 6,700 licensed business and news sources.

SOURCE Northern Light Technology, Inc.

CONTACT: Susan Stearns of Northern Light Technology, Inc., 617-621-5194 or; or Peter Himler, 212-614-4082 or, for Northern Light Technology, Inc.

Web site:

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Date: 20 Jun 2000 11:15:59 +0100

This really does make you realise how the tests are just a time gap, to fill in until all seeds are G/E whether we like it or not. Soon they will hold meetings to announce that as there is no 100% seed left in the world, we now HAVE to have GE.

Surely there are definate groumds to bar even testing in sufficient quantites and areas to allow non comprimised food alternatives to exist.

Jim Mc Nulty

Contaminated Seed Accidentally Planted on `GM-free' Site

By PA news reporters

A crop of supposedly GM-free oil seed rape being used in a scientific trial in Scotland was planted instead with contaminated seed, rural affairs minister Ross Finnie said today.

The disclosure came as the latest twist in the controversy over seed from the Canadian company Advanta sold in Britain, which is now known to have been contaminated with genetically-modified seeds. plot of oil seed rape, supposedly GM-free, that was being grown at a farm at Daviot, Aberdeenshire, alongside a GM crop, had been planted with contaminated material from affected Advanta batches.

But he said there was no risk to public health or the environment, the discovery would not affect the scientific validity of the trial, and there was no need to halt it.

When the research is completed both the control crop and the trial crop will be destroyed and will neither be marketed nor enter the food chain, he added.

The latest disclosure came in a reply from Mr Finnie to a Scottish parliamentary question from Nora Radcliffe, Liberal Democrat MSP for Gordon.

The trial at Daviot, being conducted by the private sector, involves growing a crop of GM oil seed rape which is resistant to herbicide, and comparing it to a conventional crop.

It is the supposedly conventional crop which now turns out to have been planted with Advanta seed. I am satisfied that the validity of the trial has not been compromised, and our scientific advisers have confirmed there are no

He said that the strict conditions under which the trial was taking place meant the site would be carefully and rigorously monitored. The contamination of the control crop with a GM variety does not affect the scientific merit of the trial."

He said the genetically-modified crop was not itself being assessed, as it had already had to pass numerous safety checks before it could be grown as part of the trial. The purpose of the farm trials is to assess the possible impact on the environment of growing a GM crop in commercial conditions and in particular using the herbicides necessary to give the GM plant its

He said that the two different crops were being treated with different herbicides. As the GM contaminant in the conventional crop will not be treated with the herbicide to which it is tolerant, its presence will make no difference to the

He said that as the GM varieties in both crops were different, it would still be from the trial crop.

Mr Finnie described this and the previous contaminations reported in a . We are already working at a UK level to introduce measures which will minimise said Mr Finnie.

But he insisted that the strict controls already in place at Daviot ensured that neither of the two crops posed a safety threat to the public or the environment.

Mr Finnie acknowledged today that the latest disclosure was a fresh blow to public confidence. I have no doubt public confidence will be dented. But I hope if we are going to have a rational and reasonable debate about whether or not we are going to

He said the affair underlined the importance of ministers not trying to second the experts, but rather heeding the best scientific advice.

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Date: 20 Jun 2000 17:52:42 +0100
From: Robert Mann

More on Our Man Percy Schmeiser

Farmer's Plight Shows GM Trouble (Technology 3:00 a.m. PDT),1282,37088,00.html?tw=wn20....

A Canadian farmer battles agribusiness giant Monsanto over the use of the company's rape oil seed. The case reveals pitfalls associated with controlling patented, genetically engineered technology. From the Environment News Service.

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