Globe and Mail (Canada),
POSTED AT 12:06 PM EDT Saturday, July 22,
Reuters News Agency
Okinawa, Japan - World leaders failed on Saturday to find common ground on an issue that will affect the lives of almost everyone on earth the vexed question of how to proceed on trade in genetically modified (GM) food.
The Group of Eight (G8) powerful nations, which had to call for expert advice after failing to agree at their annual meeting last year, only agreed in principle to set up a new panel to tackle problems linked to GM foods, Japanese officials said.
But the leaders still appeared unable to narrow gaps on how to proceed with discussions on health and environmental risks, an issue more divisive than ever thanks to a rising tide of public concern following several high-profile food safety mishaps.
"There are still big gaps between various countries' positions," a Japanese official said.
The talks were heated, Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato said, but he hinted Europe may have got its way over the United States with a mention in the final communique to be issued on Sunday of the "precautionary principle" that allows countries to block GM imports whose safety they doubt.
"It is very probable," he told reporters.
Few had expected the G8 the United States, Japan, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Russia to reach agreement on genetically modified food during this three-day meeting on the southerly Japanese island of Okinawa.
But the discussion on GM food, which contains a gene from a different organism to give plants resistance to herbicides or disease, exposed deep rifts among the participants.
U.S. bio-tech firms are already smarting from the adoption this year of the Biosafety Protocol, the first agreement regulating GM trade, that includes the precautionary principle.
Some leaders wanted to focus on the scientific guidelines in a new panel and others to concentrate on consumer and social matters, Japanese officials said. Domestic media said the issue virtually dominated their Saturday afternoon session.
It was unclear whether the panel would meet pre-summit ambitions to coordinate research and study based on the findings of a report last year's summit asked the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to draw up.
The United States, the world's biggest GM producer and home to a $4-billion a year GM food industry, is concerned coordinating further research could be just another way of delaying acceptance of the technology.
However, some experts say the United States may have to soften its stance in the face of European and Japanese demands for more stringent checks as there is growing acceptance that public concern is the biggest single barrier to GM trade.
By Andrew Pollack,
The New York Times,
July 20, 2000
A coalition of consumer and environmental groups were cited as announcing yesterday what they hope will be the biggest and best-organized effort yet in the United States to pressure food companies to abandon the use of genetically modified crops.
Starting with the Campbell Soup Company, the coalition said it would target well-known food companies and try to generate thousands of consumer letters, phone calls and signatures on petitions urging them to stop using genetically modified foods until more testing was done. The group also wants all companies to label products that contain such ingredients.
Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, one of the groups in the coalition, the Genetically Engineered Food Alert, was quoted as saying, "This is going to be the first sort of sustained effort on the European model," adding the coalition could spend $1 million, or more, considerably below the $50 million a group of agricultural biotechnology companies committed in April to spend over several years on television advertising and other measures to defend their products.
Jean Halloran of Consumers Union, which is cooperating with the coalition though not a member, was cited as saying the coalition would choose other "corporations that have food products that Americans really regard as staples of their kitchen, that they feed to their kids." Besides soup, Campbell makes Pepperidge Farm cookies, V8 juice, Prego pasta sauce and Godiva chocolates.
Tasmanian Govt brands GM crops as forbidden pests
By Geoffrey Lean, in Sydney, 23 July 2000 UK Independent on Sunday
Genetically modified crops will today suffer a new indignity. They are to be officially classified as pest species.
The classification, by the government of the Australian state of Tasmania, is another blow to the GM industry world-wide. It will blow a hole in the pro-GM policy of the Australian government which has been perhaps the US administration's closest ally in pushing the technology.
It is also likely to provoke a constitutional crisis in Australia. The federal government is threatening to take legal action against the state for exceeding its powers but Tasmania claims that other states will follow its lead as local resistance to the central government's policy grows in the face of popular revolt. ...
Tasmania, traditionally an independent-minded and environmentally conscious state, has now put this strategy at risk. In public notices issued this weekend it has classified GM crops as forbidden "pests" under its quarantine laws, thus prohibiting them being brought into the state or grown there.
Tony Reichhardt writes from Washington for Nature
By Tony Reichhardt, Nature 06 July 2000
The Effects Of Growth-Hormone Genes
William Muir: Trojan Genes
A growing problem?
Swimming against the tide
MICHAEL ROGGO/STILL PICTURES AND AQUA BOUNTY FARMS
Scaled up: the effects of growth-hormone genes (right) may find use in fish farms (above).
A few years ago, when Garth Fletcher's office telephone rang, it was usually another scientist wanting to talk about aquaculture or fish genetics. Nowadays, it is just as likely to be a news reporter asking barbed questions about 'Frankenfish'. "We're getting hit every day in the press," he says.
Fletcher is president of the Canadian arm of Aqua Bounty Farms, a company based in Waltham, Massachusetts, that hopes to bring genetically modified (GM) salmon to the dinner plates of North America. At the company's experimental hatchery on Canada's Prince Edward Island, its aquaculturists are raising Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) modified to carry a growth-hormone gene from the Pacific chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), which is hooked to a powerful promoter sequence. This boosts the fishes' growth rate, so that they reach market size quicker 1.
Aqua Bounty Farms, formerly a subsidiary of the company A/F Protein, has applied to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for permission to market its salmon. And ever since this application was picked up by the media, the company has been plunged into the thick of the controversy surrounding GM foods — which, after a slow start compared with the furore in Europe, is now beginning to register in North America. Some ecologists have even warned that transgenic salmon could wipe out natural populations of related fish should they escape into the wild.
So far, the only things that have been wiped out are the business plans of two companies that licensed A/F Protein's gene-insertion technology in the 1990s. Both Otter Ferry Salmon in Scotland and the New Zealand King Salmon Company scrapped their GM salmon research after unfavourable publicity. But with Aqua Bounty Farms still pressing ahead, ecologists warn that the current state of scientific knowledge is inadequate to provide a full assessment of the risks posed by the company's fish.
"There's just so much speculation compared to the amount of data," says Robert Devlin, a researcher with Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans, based in West Vancouver. Much of the research only started in the past decade. Because it can take 10 years to produce a stable line of transgenic salmon, says Devlin, the dearth of experimental studies is hardly surprising.
Research on transgenic strains is currently under way for some 35 species of fish worldwide, including Pacific salmon such as the chinook and coho ( Oncorhynchus kisutch), various other members of the salmonid family, and other economically important fish including catfish and tilapia. Most of the work is being done by commercial fisheries and involves growth-hormone genes.
The one certainty is that conventionally farmed salmon, typically raised in netted pens in shallow coastal waters, will escape. Where there are salmon farms, farmed fish tend to turn up in salmon streams — in some cases outnumbering their wild counterparts. In western Canada and in Washington state, south of the US border, ecologists are becoming particularly concerned about the effects of escaping Atlantic salmon — which number tens, if not hundreds, of thousands — on already declining Pacific salmon populations.
The salmon run Whether transgenic salmon pose a special risk is uncertain, but the potential problems are clear enough. One worry is that escaped GM fish will breed with their wild counterparts and release their added growth-hormone genes into wild populations, with unpredictable consequences. Proponents of the technology counter that it is possible to make the transgenic fish sterile — and if Aqua Bounty Farms' Atlantic salmon were farmed off the Pacific coast of British Columbia and the northwest United States, they would be unlikely to breed successfully with native Pacific salmon species.
Even if fast-growing GM fish do not spread their genes to their wild counterparts, they could disrupt the ecology of salmon streams by competing with native fish for resources. The consequences will depend on many factors, including the health of the local population, the number and specific genetic strain of the escaped fish, and the local environment.
Trojan genes: Muir's research has raised fears that wild salmon may be decimated by GM fish.
On the question of interbreeding, alarming results have come from laboratory studies conducted by William Muir and Richard Howard of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Using the fast-breeding Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) as an experimental model, Muir and Howard looked at the role of size in mating success, and found that big medaka males had a fourfold advantage over their smaller competitors.
The researchers then compared the viability of normal medaka with another group to which they had added a human growth-hormone gene. Under aquarium conditions, the fast-growing GM fish were 30% more likely to die before reaching sexual maturity. The final step was to plug these and other results into a computer to model to see what would happen when 60 transgenic fish were introduced into a population of 60,000 wild medaka. The results were disturbing. It took only 40 generations for the GM fish, which mated more successfully but produced offspring that did not survive as well, to drive the population to extinction. Muir and Howard called it the "Trojan gene effect"2.
The Purdue researchers stressed that their results should be treated with caution. Among other things, the dire prediction of population extinction assumed that mature transgenic fish would be bigger than their wild counterparts — whereas the human growth-hormone gene only increased the medaka's juvenile growth rate, and produced adult fish no bigger than average.
Muir has since been experimenting with the gene for a salmon growth hormone and has found that it can make adult medaka grow up to 50% larger than normal. The viability of these fish was even worse — their survival to sexual maturity was reduced by as much as 78% compared with wild-type medaka, which suggests that they could wipe out a wild population very quickly. These results have yet to be published, but make the Trojan gene seem like a real threat if the techniques used to make GM fish sterile prove less than 100% reliable.
Fletcher argues that skilled aquaculturists can apply this method unerringly, but other scientists are less confident. "Even when you're pretty good at it, you get a lot of batch to batch variation," argues Anne Kapuscinski, a specialist in biotechnology and aquaculture at the University of Minnesota in St Paul.
Devlin, who has raised growth-enhanced transgenic coho salmon in the lab, finds that they are about 50% larger at sexual maturity than their wild counterparts. But that may in part reflect the difference between cosy lab conditions and the harsh natural environment. The key test is to grow transgenic and wild-type fish under identical conditions. When scientists at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana, Cuba, conducted such experiments with GM tilapia, the genetically engineered fish grew up to twice as large at maturity as non-transgenic fish3. So far, no one has published this type of experiment with salmon.
Studies addressing the ability of transgenic salmon to disrupt ecosystems irrespective of their ability to interbreed with wild populations have yielded similarly inconclusive results. Devlin and his colleagues, for instance, have found that growth-enhanced transgenic coho salmon eat nearly three times as much food as their natural counterparts under laboratory conditions4 — their elevated growth-hormone levels appear to make them hungrier. Whether this would hold true in the wild is uncertain. But if so, the transgenic fish, which also mature faster, could be foraging ravenously at times when natural food availability in a particular stream is low, which could seriously disrupt its ecology.
Arnold Sutterlin of Aqua Bounty Farms, working with Mark Abrahams of the University of Manitoba in Winnepeg, has conducted similar experiments with growth-enhanced Atlantic salmon. Again, the fish were hungrier, but they were also less careful about avoiding predators — judged by experiments in which young fish had to get their food from a portion of a tank containing a large trout5. This, together with the observation that young transgenic Atlantic salmon appear to have less effective camouflage, should mean that they are less likely to survive in the wild, minimizing the ecological damage that escaping fish might cause.
Devlin and his colleagues also report that their transgenic coho are slower swimmers6. But Aqua Bounty Farms' scientists have found that the GM Atlantic salmon appear more active than the wild-type fish5, 7. These varying results may reflect the different species being studied, or just the strain-to-strain variations caused by the vagaries of transgenic technology. Depending on where exactly the extra genes are incorporated into the fish genome, they can exert subtly different effects. For example, although Muir's experiments with a salmon growth-hormone gene in medaka showed that survival to sexual maturity was depressed by up to 78%, in some strains the figure was only 40%. To conduct an accurate environmental risk assessment for GM fish, he says, you need to evaluate each genetic line individually. "We're not sure of all the reasons why," says Muir, "but every transgenic founder is unique."
To Devlin, the catalogue of scientific uncertainties shows why more research is desperately needed. And it will not come cheap. "These are not small experiments," he says. "When you're talking about raising a family of transgenic fish, it's not a vial. It's large tanks." Muir would start by conducting aquarium experiments to test how transgenic fish compare with normal fish over a range of parameters related to their biological 'fitness'. In the manner of his medaka experiments, he would then generate a computer model to consider the likely impact of the fish in wild populations. To this Devlin would add laboratory studies that simulate stream conditions. Even better, says ecologist Jeff Hutchings of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, would be to conduct tests in the wild, blocking off a portion of a stream to prevent fish escaping into a larger aquatic system. Whether it would be feasible to isolate streams in this way is unclear — and any experiment involving the deliberate environmental release of a transgenic animal is likely to prove highly controversial.
The FDA is still considering Aqua Bounty Farms' application to market its transgenic salmon, and has yet to clarify the experiments it wants to see conducted before deciding whether to approve the fish. The FDA's main task is to examine whether transgenic salmon are fit for human consumption, and whether the fishes' own welfare is compromised by the addition of growth-hormone genes. But the agency is also charged with assessing the environmental impact of the fish, and so it is consulting with two other US government agencies, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Given the uncertainties, many ecologists argue that a 'safety first' approach is essential. Kapuscinski would even go so far as to demand that transgenic salmon should be raised in isolated artificial ponds, so they cannot escape to the wild.
Coming ashore: concerns about damage to wild salmon (left) may force fish farms inland (above).
For salmon farmers, such measures would impose economic penalties. Because they reach market size faster, Aqua Bounty Farms has touted its GM fish as being superior in terms of 'feed conversion' — how much it costs to feed them while they are being raised. But Fletcher is cautious about putting any firm figures on this. And the advantage would have to be large to counter the costs of the measures suggested by Kapuscinski.
Aqua Bounty Farms is assuming that the FDA will demand it raises only sterile, female triploid fish. Individual screening for sterility is relatively cheap, costing only 20 cents per fish, claims Kapuscinski. But any regulations preventing GM salmon from being raised in coastal waters would pose problems. Production of Atlantic salmon is presently conducted almost exclusively in sea pens. Unless the performance of transgenic salmon becomes truly remarkable, Fletcher believes it is unlikely that a sizeable portion of the industry would switch to contained land-based, pumped systems given their high capital and operating costs.
But Elliot Entis, chief executive officer of Aqua Bounty Farms, takes a more sanguine view. Even if the FDA imposed a ban on the rearing of growth-enhanced GM salmon in coastal net pens, he believes the transgenic fish could become a viable economic proposition in the long term. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that global aquacultural production will more than double over the coming decade. Given that coastal aquaculture is already causing ecological damage, by spreading fish diseases, modifying habitats, causing nutrient pollution, and through the escape of exotic farmed fish8, Entis believes regulators may eventually demand that fish farms move from coastal pens to contained ponds. "A lot of salmon farming is going to move inland regardless," he says. If so, argues Entis, fast-growing transgenic salmon might be just what the industry needs to remain economically competitive.
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by Robin McKie, The Observer, UK, July 23, 2000
Transplanting animal organs into humans could trigger a global pandemic of a deadly new disease. A new study by British scientists has found that cancer-causing retroviruses are spread relatively easily between different creatures in the wild. The discovery, outlined last week by the Natural Environment Research Council, will reinforce concerns raised by experiments which recently revealed that pig hearts and kidneys carry potentially deadly animal retroviruses, dashing hopes that animals could one day supply spare parts for human surgery.
As a result of these initial experiments, Western health authorities imposed a moratorium on all xenotransplant surgery, although biotechnology companies are known to be continuing with research. Human organs are desperately scarce, as are supplies of brain tissue for treating stroke victims and Parkinson's sufferers. It was hoped specially-reared animals, mainly pigs, would provide tissue and organs for tens of thousands of operations a year.
The dangers of this plan are underlined in the study by biologists Michael Tristem and Joanne Martin of Imperial College, London, which focused on murine leukaemia viruses, close relatives of the cancer retroviruses that are known to infect pigs. Traces of virus DNA were found in a range of mammalian species in the wild, suggesting that pig retroviruses are capable of infecting other animals - including humans - with relative ease.
'There are two ways to demonstrate that animal retroviruses pose risks,' said Tristem. 'You can show they can be grown in human cells in the laboratory. Scientists have done that. Or you can show such viruses jump easily between species in the wild. Our study now proves this also happens - that cancer viruses will jump species in the real world, not just in artificial laboratory settings.'
Finding leukaemia virus DNA mixed up with the genes of different animals does not prove these creatures were all made ill by their infection, Tristem admitted. 'However, when viruses jump species they usually acquire pathogenic properties, just as HIV did when it leapt from monkeys to humans. There is a real, but small risk that pig organ transplants could trigger a new disease epidemic.'
Virologist Professor Robin Weiss, who first demonstrated that pig viruses could infect human cells, agreed. 'Xenotransplants do not seem to pose a big risk. But then BSE or HIV were not thought to pose big risks when they were first discovered. We obviously have to be very careful.'
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes.
On 25 Jul 2000, at 17:47, Robert Vint wrote:
Time Magazine is holding an online poll on your views on GM Food. You can vote at http://www.time.com/time/daily/poll/0,2637,foodpoll2,00.html
by Deborah Toler, The Toronto Star, July 25, 2000
Deborah Toler writes that proponents of biotechnology are on the offensive. They say it can alleviate hunger. But don't be fooled. Biotechnology could, says Toler worsen the situation.
The solution to global hunger is political not technological. The Royal Society of London, the Third World Academy of Science and the national academies of science from the United States, Brazil, China, India and Mexico all claimed in a recent white paper that bioengineered food is necessary to feed the worldís poor in the future without destroying the environment. But the call for widespread adoption of biotechnology is based on the longstanding myth that global hunger is caused by too many people for existing food supplies.
Instead of alleviating global hunger, this proposal promises to worsen it by strengthening the control of private global corporations over food supplies and food production technologies. Corporate control of the food industry contributes to global hunger by exacerbating rural inequalities.
Toler says that the higher cost corporations charge for agricultural technologies and the low prices farmers receive for their crops make farming huge parcels of land almost the only way to earn enough to cover the costs of farming. It also results in commercial farmers trying to lower the cost of production by replacing farm workers with mechanization, increasing the poverty of agricultural workers.
The environmental and health effects of crops created by biotechnology remain largely unknown. Toler says that recent studies have suggested that some genetically engineered crops may kill monarch butterflies. The biggest fear is that biotech crops producing their own pesticides might make insects more pesticideresistant, thus creating a vicious cycle.
By MARK METHERELL and MARK RAGG,
Sydney Morning Herald 27.7.00
International advances in testing for genetically modified food have blown a hole in the campaign by the Prime Minister and Australian industry to relax mandatory labelling of GM products.
A testing system used by British retail chains, European and Asian government agencies and the Australian Wheat Board's partner, Agrifood Technology, routinely achieves a certifiable detection level of 0.1 per cent GM content.
Mr Howard argues it would be too costly and unreliable to insist on GM labelling for foods that contain less than 1 per cent of genetically modified ingredients.
The Herald has a document showing the British retail conglomerate, Sainsbury's, has formed a consortium of food processing giants including Unilever, Nestlé and Safeway to work with the system to set a common standard for GM testing.
The system was developed by the American company Genetic Id Inc. It claims to be a world pioneer in testing for GM foods and says it has tested tens of thousands of food and agricultural products in the past three years.
Herald, 28th July 2000
Pulmuone, the nation's largest maker of tofu and soybean products, announced yesterday that it would stop using genetically modified (GM) beans.
"Considering the heated debate over the safety of genetically modified organisms, we decided not to use GM beans in our tofu and bean sprout products beginning next month," the company said in a press release distributed yesterday.
In order to prevent itself from being embroiled in further GMO controversies, the company also said that it had repeatedly visited non-GM-bean-cultivating complexes in major import sources such as China, Russia and the United States. All processes at these complexes, from cultivation to transportation, were carefully checked, Pulmuone added.
Pulmuone suffered a significant drop in sales after the Korea Consumer Protection Board disclosed last November that the company used GM beans in the majority of its tofu products produced and sold in Korea.
28 July - Cropchoice News , Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Resource News International, AgWeb.com
Canadian farmers want a university-developed GMO flax variety taken completely off the market. It's the first and only commercially-available biotech flax in Canada, where the fiber and oil crop is important, especially in the northern prairies. Growers say that if biotech flax is not eliminated, it could cost farmers income by interfering with exports to Europe.
The President of the Flax Council of Canada, Barry Hall, told the Saskatchewan press "Just do away with it - get it out of peoples vision."
The Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission agrees with the stance, and has joined the Council in calling for the GMO variety to be de-registered in Canada, meaning that seed would not be available for planting.
The variety, called Triffid, was developed by the University of Saskatchewan. While it has been available for several years, by agreement between producers and exporters, nobody has been planting it commercially. The Director of the University's ag research center, Rick Holm, says he's very concerned by the rejection and, now, the call for the variety to be entirely withdrawn. According to Holm this is the first time that farmers have ever asked for a University variety struck from the national registry.
The flax growers want to avoid the problems that GMOs are causing with other crops. Hall's Flax Council has concluded that there's little evidence that European markets will begin to accept GMO flax, whose oil is increasingly used in food products. Even if most farmers did not plant the Triffid variety, the producer associations are concerned that if biotech varieties are on the market that the industry will be faced with difficult IP issues and concerned buyers. According to Hall, "Why not just lower the profile? We (in the industry) are all in agreement on this. [Buyers' concern] is not going away."
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Release from RAFI - Rural Advancement Foundation International
Delta & Pine Land Gets One Step Closer to Commercialization
Two days of contentious debate on Terminator has ruptured the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Advisory Board on Agricultural Biotechnology. Terminator technology, the genetic engineering of plants to produce sterile seeds, has been widely condemned as a dangerous and morally offensive application of agricultural biotechnology, because over 1.4 billion people depend on farm-saved seeds.
USDA ignited the worldwide controversy in March 1998 when it won the first of three patents on genetic seed sterilization, which it holds jointly with Delta & Pine Land — the world’s largest cotton seed company. At its second meeting, July 26-27, the 38-member advisory board learned that the USDA has decided not to unilaterally terminate its contractual agreement with Delta and Pine Land, despite the fact that they have the legal option to do so.
Instead, the Board was given the option of exploring restrictions on the exclusive licensing of its Terminator patents to Delta & Pine Land. In the end, however, all licensing restrictions would have to be mutually agreed upon by both the USDA and Delta & Pine Land.
"Taking this issue to the Advisory Board and calling for public comment on Terminator was a giant charade, and a mockery of the democratic process" concludes Hope Shand, Research Director of RAFI. "Apparently, the USDA had already decided that abandoning the Terminator was not an option."
At the Advisory Board meeting this week, the Agency revealed that an official public comment period on agricultural biotechnology, from March 30-July 21, 2000 yielded 213 comments. Of the comments received, 207 were negative towards biotechnology, and 162 comments called on USDA to ban and abandon its work on Terminator technology. "There is no public support for Terminator, because it’s anti-farmer and benefits only the corporate seed industry," concludes Shand.
Despite intense opposition from some members of the Advisory Board, the group discussed one possible caveat to the licensing agreement, though even this condition must first be accepted by the seed enterprise. "Faced with almost total global opposition to Terminator from the United Nations, scores of national governments, scientific institutions, and a commitment by the USDA not to use the technology, the Advisory Board considered a proposal that Delta & Pine Land agree not to apply Terminator to heirloom seeds and existing varieties!" Hope Shand reports. "Delta & Pine Land has no interest in heirloom seeds. By definition, heirloom seeds and existing varieties are not transgenic anyway. Infected with the suicide sequence, any variety becomes "new"! This option is inane and nonsensical."
"USDA obviously favors private gain over the public good and the rights of farmers," said Michael Sligh, a member of the Advisory Board and RAFI-USA’s Director of Sustainable Agriculture. "All members of the Advisory Board have 30 days to submit their views in writing, but USDA has already concluded that abandoning the patents and condemning the technology is not an option."
RAFI and its sister organization, RAFI-USA met with Secretary Glickman and/or senior USDA officials several times in the past year. At every meeting, the officials expressed embarrassment about the technology and vowed that the USDA would not support further Terminator research nor permit its use in breeding programs for public release. "We advised them to abandon the patents and to adopt a policy prohibiting public funding of genetic seed sterilization," Michael Sligh recalls, "Their response was always that they wanted to use the deal as 'leverage' on the company to protect the public interest."
"Secretary Glickman needs to tell the world why this deal is being cut," asserts Julie Delahanty of RAFI. "During the UN Biodiversity Convention meetings in Nairobi in May, the delegates agreed to a moratorium on all field testing and commercialization of Terminator and other similar technologies. Many countries requested an outright ban on Terminator, and others expressed the concern that Terminator could be used as a trade weapon to force them to obey US trade and patent laws. Some countries even see Terminator as a form of biological warfare since poor farmers could become dependent on seeds that they are prohibited from saving. To date, nobody in the Administration has offered a convincing excuse for giving the technology the go-ahead," concludes Delahanty.
Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman took the helm of USDA in March, 1995. During his watch USDA’s Agricultural Research Service applied for and received three Terminator patents with Delta & Pine Land. "Terminator is a bitter biotech legacy to leave to the world’s farmers," notes Shand, "and that’s how Glickman’s USDA will be remembered, unless the Agency reforms its pro-Terminator policy."
For Further Information:
RAFI-USA is a private, non-profit organization based in Pittsboro, NC dedicated to community, equity and diversity in agriculture.
RAFI (The Rural Advancement Foundation International) is an international civil society organization based in Canada. RAFI is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and to the socially responsible development of technologies useful to rural societies. RAFI is concerned about the loss of agricultural biodiversity, and the impact of intellectual property on farmers and food security.
RAFI International Office, 110 Osborne Street, Suite 202, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3L 1Y5 Canada Tel: 204 453-5259 Fax: 204 925-8034 email: email@example.com http://www.rafi.org
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes.
SYDNEY, Friday, July 28 5:32 PM SGT
New Zealand and Australian health ministers agreed Friday to a mandatory system of labelling for all food which contained genetically modified ingredients.
The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council said all foods would have to be labelled where "novel" DNA or protein was in the final product, or where the food had altered characteristics.
The ministers rejected an Australian government call for a general 1.0 percent threshold for genetically engineered content before a food had to be labelled.
Instead, they exempted highly refined foods such as oils, starches and sugars, where the processing removed novel DNA or protein.
All food prepared at the point of sale, such as restaurants, will also be exempt, as will genetically engineered flavours where they are present in a concentration of 0.1 percent or less in the final product.
"An overwhelming number of states and territories and the New Zealand government supported the final proposal," said South Australian Health Minister Dean Brown from Wellington.
"It's been agreed that where you have genetically modified food material then basically that food should be appropriately labelled.
"What has been achieved here is a consensus view that consumers will be very happy with."
The move puts Australia and New Zealand on a par with Europe.
(21 July - Cropchoice News) The Australian National Farmer's Federation (NFF) has warned its members that "there's no use rushing in" to biotech crops, saying the current benefits of GMOs are questionable. According to NFF President Ian Donges, "in some of our developed western markets there is rejection of GMOs, and until that changes [biotech] might not be worth developing."
By Kevin G. Hall,
July 29 2000
RIO DE JANEIRO The global battle over genetically modified food is, according to this story, spilling into Brazil, South America's largest economy and the consequences will be huge for U.S. exporters to Brazil of nearly $2 billion a year in food products and commodities such as corn and soybeans. They'll be big for Brazil, too, forcing it to choose between the United States and Europe as its target export market.
The story says that currently, Brazilian law permits imports of genetically modified seeds on a case-by-case basis, but lawsuits have stymied every effort to do so. Brazil also has a new law requiring labels on genetically modified consumer foods. But so far, the commission named to carry out the law has failed to agree how it should work.
BBC News, July 28, 2000
The Shanghai Administration of Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine has, according to this story, announced that it has discovered trans-genetic ingredients from a batch of rapeseed imports from Canada, the first of such cases found in China.
The story says that earlier last year, the Shanghai Quarantine Bureau was the first quarantine bureau to report tests of biotech ingredients from rice imports.
As the safety of genetically modified crops is controversial, biotech products should be labelled according to international treaties. Shanghai Customs handles one million tons of rapeseed imports annually. None of them is labelled.
By Kamal Ahmed and Gaby Hinsliff
(UK) The Observer, Sunday July 30, 2000
To the fury of religious groups, permission for the use of so-called `Frankenstein technology', to be announced by Ministers in September, may ultimately mean that cells from embryos can be cloned and used to grow new tissue for medical use. Initially, however, scientists will be allowed to clone embryos only for research purposes.
The decision will allow British scientists to take a world lead in cloning research. By taking cells from the embryos, scientists will not only be able to grow new brain tissue to replace damaged material, but also new skin for grafts for burns' victims and ultimately new organs such as hearts.
Cloning would also allow people to have a `tissue bank' to deal with any illness from lung disease to diabetes. Eventually whole limbs could be grown in laboratories. It will mean an end to waiting for donor organs, a situation that often ends in the death of patients.
Although the news will be greeted with delight by the scientific community, it will plunge the Government into a new battle with `pro-family' groups and religious organisations who argue that using embryos is tantamount to sacrificing one human being's welfare for another.
`We are fundamentally opposed to any such development,' said Tom Horwood, spokesman for the Catholic Church. `A human embryo is a human life. It is creating a human life for the purposes of cloning.'
Lord Alton, the pro-life peer, has described the technique as `technological cannibalism'.
A majority of Scottish local authorities have banned the use of genetically modified ingredients in their school meals, according to a survey.
Friends of the Earth Scotland said its study has revealed that 25 of the country's 32 authorities have insisted that GM products be taken off the menu.
It said the survey's results showed that councils have been listening to public concerns about potential health and environmental dangers.
The environmental body wrote to all of Scotland's authorities asking them what steps they had taken to ban GM ingredients from school meals.
Twenty five wrote back, indicating that they had banned them completely.
The other seven said they had taken limited measures such as writing to suppliers asking them to provide GM free food.
Edinburgh, West Lothian, Angus and Shetland indicated that they had gone further than just a ban.
They had either set up campaigning groups or joined the call for a five-year moratorium on commercial growing of GM crops.
GUARDIAN (London) Monday July 31, 2000
Genetic chickens get DNA copyright tag /Biotech firm plans to create strain with extra large breasts for more meat James Meek, science correspondent
A US biotech company plans to create a strain of chicken genetically engineered to have an extra large breast to yield more meat, with a DNA copyright tag inserted among its genes to stop anyone breeding it without permission.
If successful, the firm, AviGenics, based on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens, would be one of the first to enable GM meat to appear on US supermarket shelves, opening up new tensions with Europe over genetic engineering in food.
AviGenics is already one of three US companies racing to turn poultry into drugs factories - adding human genes to chickens to create "transgenic" birds which would then produce human proteins such as insulin in their egg whites.
AviGenics claims to have already created transgenic roosters which have successfully passed on to new generations of chicks the human gene for a substance called alpha interferon, used to treat hepatitis and certain cancers.
The company hopes to use the same technology to create a new kind of everyday eating chicken. Instead of adding human genes to make birds lay drug-rich eggs, genes - not necessarily human - would be added, or chicken genes removed, to give the birds bigger breast muscles, faster growing rates or greater disease resistance.
To keep proprietorial control over these valuable new animals, AviGenics is working on a novel kind of trademark, a unique sequence of DNA which would be introduced into the chicken's genes. The "trademark" would not only be locked into each of the chicken's millions of cells, but would be handed on to the bird's offspring indefinitely.
Contacted by the Guardian last week, the chief executive of AviGenics, Carl Marhaver, confirmed that his company was working to create genetically engineered and trademarked poultry for the dining table, but did not want to comment further.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes.
Here is the latest from the FOX TV BGH suit
Sorry that it is so long. I did not want to leave anything out
Freedom of speech , the integrity of the news that is broadcast over the public airwaves, the safety of our food, the ability of reporters to tell stories that are free from the dictates of corporate coercion and a deliberate slanting of the news by those same corporations and media managers, are all issues vitally important to Americans and the future of democracy itself.
Yet, at the present time, in a Florida courtroom where those very same issues are being decided in the trial --- STEVE WILSON and JANE AKRE, Plaintiffs, v. CASE NO. 98-2439 Div. D NEW WORLD COMMUNICATIONS OF TAMPA, INC. d/b/a WTVT-TV --- there has been to date a virtual national media blackout.
Because the readers of this newsletter, as well as the public, have a right to know about this case and the issues it addresses THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER will be publishing a series of "Extra" editions in the days ahead with timely reports by both Akre and Wilson as their trial progresses. For more details on their suit and how you can help them see: http://www.foxbghsuit.com/home.htm
Special report: GM debate / Society Sowing seeds of doubt
By Andy Rowell,
Wednesday August 2, 2000
A leading GM company is trying to weaken a national campaign for a moratorium on the growing of GM crops in Britain by questioning whether some of the coalition's constituent organisations truly represent the views of their members.
A UK representative of DuPont has sparked the behind the scenes row by attempting to persuade four of the largest and most influential partners in the five-year freeze to withdraw their support. The coalition, set up in February last year, now comprises over 100 national trade unions, religious, environmental, consumer and development groups, along with 500 local authorities and 100 companies. In total they represent over 3m people.
The coalition is calling on the government to introduce a freeze on the commercial growing of GM crops; on the imports of GM foods and crops and on the patenting of genetic resources for food and crops.
Now Unison, the Townswomen's Guilds, the Local Government Association and the National Federation of Women's Institutes have been approached by Martin Livermore, an external affairs manager for DuPont UK, asking them to stop supporting the freeze and join an alternative coalition.
By Dr Christine Dann,
the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand
1996 was the first year in which economically significant amounts of GE food crops were first grown in the world. Most of them were planted in the USA. By 1999 33% of US corn (maize) acres, 44% of soybean acres and 55% of cotton acres were planted with GE seed (St Louis Dispatch, 23.5.99). US farmers had obviously embraced the technology enthusiastically. Unfortunately for them, they did so largely in ignorance of the actual performance of GE seed, and of the market demand. They believed what the GE seed and agrochemical producers and suppliers told them about the agricultural and economic performance of their products. As the bullet point history of the rise and fall of GE markets given below proves - they were conned. Farmers in the rest of the world need to learn the lesson, and not be sucked into the brave new world of GE lies and half-truths.
The story of the fall of GE markets is woven from the threads of market manipulation, international trade regulation, consumer resistance, retailer initiatives, decline in investor confidence, and things going wrong down on the farm. It is difficult to separate the strands, as they all impact on each other. The following points trace these strands from the beginning of 1999, when the boom started to go bust.
* All dollars quoted are US dollars, unless otherwise stated.
Information in this history comes from media releases, research reports and other documentation posted on the following website addresses:
A fully referenced paper incorporating this information and containing further analysis of global food markets will be available in November 2000. From boom to bust in three seasons - the rapid rise and fall of GE markets
Dr Christine Dann
for the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering as well as previous genetic engineering news items. Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 (USD for those outside Canada) for 12 months, payable to "BanGEF" and mailed to the above address. Or see website for details.