by Richard Wolfson, PhD
Reprinted with permission from the September 2000 issue of Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition
According to reports from the Rural Advancement Foundation International, biotech companies are continuing to develop terminator technology, despite announcements in 1999 that the technology was on hold.
Genetically engineered (GE) terminator genes, when inserted into crops, makes the crops unable to produce seeds that sprout. This forces farmers to buy new seeds every season, and sabotages the age-old farming practice of saving seeds from one season to the next.
Genes from genetically modified crops can spread from biotech plants into other forms of wildlife, new research shows. Researchers in Germany studied honey bees fed pollen from GE canola. When they looked at bacteria and fungi from the gut of the bees, the researchers found that the biotech genes had jumped from the canola to these microorganisms.
The results indicate that gene crossovers are occurring on a greater scale than previously assumed. Such genetic transfers are likely taking place in the intestinal track of humans and animals as well, which could impact our health. For instance, doctors in Europe have repeatedly voiced concern that the antibiotic-resistance genes present in many biotech crops could be transferred to disease-causing pathogens, producing diseases that can't be controlled by antibiotics.
Beginning in Europe, GE foods are being driven off the world market. In the European Union, United States corn exports have fallen from $360 million a year to near zero. US soy exports fell from $2.6 billion annually to $1 billion, and should fall much further as GE soy is banned from animal feed. Canada's canola exports to Europe have fallen from $500 million a year to near zero. Meanwhile Brazil is doing a brisk business selling "GE-free" soybeans to Europe, while Australia has been cashing in selling "GE-free" canola
Consumer rejection of gene-foods is steadily spreading to Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, and a host of other nations. Japan and South Korea have the biotech industry extremely worried, since these two nations alone buy $11.3 billion of US agriculture exports every year. On May 18 the Tokyo Grain Exchange soy futures market began offering the choice of GE or non-GE soybeans. On the first day of trading, non-GE buyers committed to 914,000 tons, compared to only 364,000 tons for unsegregated (GE-tainted) US soybean futures.
"Stink Bugs" are infesting Bt cotton fields in North Carolina and Georgia, devouring the cotton crop. The "insect resistant" cotton is genetically engineered to contain Bt toxin to kill insect pests. However, the Bt cotton is failing miserably at repelling the Stink Bugs. In fact, the insects seem to love the mutant plants.
Farmers are being advised by industry to spray the Stink Bugs with toxic pesticides, including methyl parathion, one of the deadliest chemicals used in American agriculture. So much for the claims by biotech promoters that Bt crops are more environmentally friendly and will get farmers off the toxic treadmill.
Large seed companies are moving to regions free of genetically modified production to reduce the risk of contamination. The move comes in the aftermath of the recent uproar in Europe caused by the contamination of "non-GE" canola from Canada with GE seeds.
Advanta, the company that imported the contaminated seeds from Canada, had to compensate European farmers who were sold the contaminated seeds. Now Advanta is moving its operation out of western Canada because of the high risk of contamination from cross-pollination with GE crops. Pioneer Hi-Bred, another major seed company, has moved to Romania, Hungary and Austria to avoid contamination.
Recent research released by Monsanto shows that its genetically engineered Roundup Ready soybeans contain unexpected, foreign fragments of DNA, whose effects on human health and the environment are unknown. Since it took almost a decade to map the biotech soy and locate the "rogue" fragments, scientists and environmentalists are concerned that other biotech crops could also harbor unknown fragments of DNA, whose effects are also unknown.
"These results demonstrate that genetic modification is a clumsy process, not precise as is often claimed," said Dr. Sue Mayer, director of Genewatch, an independent research group. "There is no control over how many genes, in what order, or where they are inserted."
Here is a second article of mine that was published in the September 2000 issue of Alive magazine. While it is not about biotechnology, I included it for those who might be interested.
Reprinted with Permission from the September 2000 issue of Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition
by Richard Wolfson, PhD
Sewage in the Environment
Warren Bell, MD, CM, CCFP, is President of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE). During his talk in Ottawa, Dr. Bell spoke about the chemical residues from drugs and cosmetics, which work their way through the human body or the sewage system and into the water supply.
Sewage effluents routinely contain antibiotic residues, and stream waters and wild animals routinely harbor multiple-antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ref 2).
The accumulated volumes of drugs released into the environment can approach that of agrochemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers. Yet, regulation over the dispersal of pharmaceuticals into the ecosystem is negligible.
We know virtually nothing about the cumulative effects of recurrent, low-level, multiple-agent exposures of these drug residues. However, this kind of exposure routinely occurs every day in the natural aquatic environment, and increasingly in our own bodies.
"The few things that we do know about the effects of these drugs on aquatic life are especially disturbing," said Dr. Bell.
For instance, the widely used cardiac drug verapamil, the psychiatric drug Stelazine®, the cardiac rhythm altering drugs quinidine and amiodarone, and the anti-rejection drug cyclosporin all interfere with a critical, biochemical process used by many organisms to eliminate toxic compounds (ref 3). In the presence of even minute quantities of any one of these commonly prescribed drugs, tiny amounts of other chemicals not normally toxic suddenly become deadly.
In its first 13 weeks, Viagra® sold 2.7 million prescriptions (ref 4). Dr. Bell explained that Viagra® disrupts a common enzyme that occurs in many animal species and is related to many different functions beyond the sexual. Yet, have you heard its manufacturer, any government regulator, or any medical body express the slightest concern about its environment impact?
"When will we wake up and address our reckless folly?," asked Dr. Bell. "When will we compel our regulators to start exercising the precautionary principle? When will we stop saying: Let's use [drugs] until people and animals start dying and instead say: Let's not use them until we test them?"
Of course, drug residues are only one component of the contamination of our water supply. Like most industrialized countries, Canada discharges vast quantities of toxic or potentially toxic substances into ocean and inland waters. Pesticides and other agrochemicals, disinfectant agents and their by-products (such as trihalomethanes) and other industrial chemicals of an astonishing diversity constitute our "contaminants of choice."
"I urge you to act to stem the tide of chemicals and other pollutants that are pouring into the Planet's waters," Dr. Bell charged the conference participants on Parliament Hill. "I urge you to do so in order that, literally, the lives of our grandchildren may not be blighted with suffering and insidious pain."
He added that we not only need to stop contaminating our water, we also need to quit wasting it. The average Canadian uses 340 liters of water daily, while the average citizen of a developing country uses 10 liters per day (ref 9).
"We need to act now to preserve our water supply for future generations. We need to become aware of what we are doing to the biosphere, and we need to begin acting responsibly," said Dr. Bell.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes.
By Julie Ingwersen
Reuters Online Service,
August 16, 2000
No tracking of GE in food chain
DNA Tests $450 A Shot
Looking To The Usda
U.S. exporters want to meet the demands of customers in Europe and elsewhere who want their grain free of genetically modified (GMO) organisms. But traders and analysts agree that the current means of testing for GMO content are imperfect. Experts also say there is no "magic bullet" test to certify the absolute absence of GMOs.
"There's clearly a need to have a single test that would give us accurate, affordable and timely results, but right now there really isn't one single test that does that," Thomas O'Connor of the National Grain and Feed Association said. Moreover, even as scientists try to develop the "magic bullet" to detect GMO traits, the booming biotech industry is posing new challenges to test makers by developing even more seed varieties, some with multiple genes "stacked" together.
Users crush a small sample of grain for corn, about 50 to 60 kernels and mix it with water, then dip a treated test strip in the solution. After a few minutes, either one or two dark lines appear on the strip, depending on the presence of the protein. At a cost of less than $10 per test, manufacturers say such kits are popular among operators of small grain elevators and others who need quick information to make marketing decisions. Nicholas Phillips, of Delaware-based test maker Strategic Diagnostics Inc. (SDIX.O), said that while the strip tests may not provide a thorough analysis, "It's enough for the risk management decisions to be made."
But because the strip tests are so specific, it helps to know what to look for. Phillips said SDI collects information on what GMO crops are grown where, so elevator operators have a rough idea of which tests they will need.
How practical that is for grain traders needing to handle a record 10 billion bushels of corn and three billion bushels of soybeans this autumn at harvest remains to be seen. But PCR can quantify the GMO content in a grain sample and can detect the presence of several traits in a single test. One U.S. testing company, Genetic ID Inc. of Fairfield, Iowa, claims its technology can detect as little as two molecules of DNA.
Genetic ID spokesman Jeffrey Smith says that unlike the dipstick tests, PCR also works on many processed foods. He said his company's clients include food ingredient suppliers, manufacturers and large farmer cooperatives, among others. Genetic ID announced last week that all of its testing methods for GMOs had been accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service, an independent organization that has multilateral agreements with counties on five continents.
COMTEX Newswire http://www.netlink.de/gen/Zeitung/2000/000620.html
Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) (Panafrican News Agency, June 20, 2000) - A huge window of opportunity exists both in South Africa and Europe for non- GM soy ingredients and products, a worldwide marketer in protein products said.
Hannes Terblanche, who is International Marketing Manager of Specialised Protein Products (SPP), made the remarks Monday when he addressed some 200 delegates currently attending the International Soy conference in Pretoria. He pointed out that South Africa was one of the few countries where only non- GM soybeans are available because the government does not allow importation of genetically manipulated soybeans into the country or their cultivation in South Africa.
He said South Africa's stand on genetically modified soy was to be lauded ...
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 2000-08-19
More than 100 activists demonstrate at Monsanto's headquarters in Creve Coeur. Later, three are arrested outside Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond's office in Clayton.
Genetically engineered seed is bad business for family farmers. That was the claim of more than 100 activists who converged on Monsanto's Creve Coeur headquarters at noon Friday to protest the company's production and sale of genetically engineered seed.
(20 August - Cropchoice News) A Reuters report from Down Under claims that Australian farmers have started cashing in on European demand for non-GMO canola. According to the story, European buyers paid an extra $750,000 (US) on recent orders for 150,000 tons of Aussie canola. Reuters quotes a "well placed" Australian grain dealer as saying "We believe that we're starting to see the early stages of the much-waited premium for non-GMO canola."
Australia is Canada's main competitor in the international canola market. But unlike Canada, Australia has not approved the commercial planting of any GMO grains, which simplies life for the Aussies. They have no need to segregate.
Some US companies, including snack food giant Frito Lay, are also looking for industrial-size supplies of non-GMO oil, which are reported to be difficult to find in North America.
Although some US grain industry groups continue to say the demand for segregation...
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.
The Guardian, Special report: GM debate,
Staff and agencies Monday August 21, 2000
The RSPCA has warned that experiments involving genetically engineered animals may be getting out of control, and has called for greater scrutiny.
Home Office figures published last week showed a 14% rise in scientific procedures involving genetically modified animals between 1998 and 1999, up by 63,000 to 511,000.
The RSPCA is calling for tighter legislation and wants an independent body to consider the ethical, social and welfare implications.
Its senior scientific officer Vicky Robinson said it was vital to scrutinise the clinical relevance of using GM animals in research.
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.
Greenpeace USA, August 22,2000
On Friday, a jury found that Fox TVs Tampa station illegally fired reporter Jane Akre for refusing to run a false report about genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (BGH), a controversial drug used to increase milk production. The 6-member jury awarded Akre $425,000, including $88,725 for lost wages, $120,750 for lost earning capacity, and $215,525 for other damages.
The landmark decision was the first time Florida's whistleblower law has been successfully used to protect a journalist who is fired for refusing to slant the news. In the original version of their report, Akre and her husband and co- reporter Steve Wilson revealed the risks of BGH, including potential links to breast cancer and other human and animal health effects.
Testimony during the trail showed how Monsanto, the biotech company that developed BGH, warned Fox of "dire consequences" if the station went ahead and aired the critical report. In finding for Akre, the jury ruled that she was fired for refusing to participate in "the broadcast of a false, distorted, or slanted news report" which violated journalistic ethics that prohibit distorting the news.
Commenting on the verdict, she said, "(A)fter the FOX-owned station in Tampa was threatened by Monsanto, the direction of my story about bovine growth hormone changed dramatically. There has never been any doubts in our minds that with virtually every cut, trim, and edit to this four-part series, the public interest suffered at the hands of the station's lawyers. For me, it's past time now to get back to our daughter Alyx Anne. She was the reason we stood up for the story in the first place. We believe parents have the right to know how the milk they feed to their children has been adulterated with a chemical we don't need and many don't want."
See http://www.foxBGHsuit.com/jasw081400.htm or http://www.foxBGHsuit.com
August 23, 2000
Posting from Dr. Joe Cummins, Professor Emeritus of Genetics, University of Western Ontario, Canada e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Cummins' comments:
"Studies showing that Bt Corn Threatens Monarch Butterflies Faced a Biased EPA Review"
During August this year a field study showing that monarch butterflies were injured by consuming corn pollen from crops genetically modified with an insect toxin from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
The abstract from scientific study is shown at: Oecologia Report
Dr. Cummins comments continues:
The conclusion of the important study that transgenic insecticidal crops need fuller study before they are planted over extensive areas is an important one. Vast areas of the United States (US) are planted to insecticidal corn, cotton and potatoes with numerous crops and trees being prepared for massive exploitation. However, the response of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been to try to minimize the important study and to promote dangerous planting.
In the US regulation of transgenic crops is mainly handled by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) their control extends to pesticide tolerant genetically modified (GM)crops while crops with genetically modified pest resistance genes (plant pesticides) are regulated by EPA. A study of numerous APHIS regulatory reviews shows that the service very strictly ensures that reports questioning the safety or substantial equivalence of GM crops reached the highest levels of "scientific" certainty.
Their standard for rejecting GM crops goes well beyond statistical significance ( many nutritional characteristics were found statistically significantly different from unmodified crops but those differences failed to meet the high standards of APHIS). APHIS reviews shout of bias in promoting GM crops. EPA reviews seem to have taken on a similar bias in smoothing the approval of GM crops. For example, EPA publication Number: EPA 730-F-00-003 issued April 2000 reviewed the studies and data gaps on Monsanto Bt corn. The EPA report prepared in April 2000 noted that the study of Hansen and Obrycki (abstract above) was not useful for risk assessment referencing a preliminary meeting report on the study even though the full publication had been submitted for publication in full prior to preparation of the EPA report and was certainly available for their perusal.
The EPA very very high standard for evaluating studies was greatly relaxed in evaluating a study submitted by the registrant of traps set to catch insects near Bt corn and control plots. EPA admitted that the plots contained 28 plants each and were a bit smallish but they seemed overjoyed that the registrant had condescended to submit anything at all and they reviewed the results with joy.
EPA acknowledged that they really did not care much for Monarchs and did not consider them threatened at all. They noted that forests sprayed with Bt (bacterial spores) actually recovered a few years after the spraying. They seemed to feel that they really would not miss Monarchs even if they disappeared forever.
EPA also reviewed Swiss studies on the impact of Bt toxin on corn on the green lacewing predator of harmful insects. They acknowledged that the lacewings had died after eating insects that had fed on corn treated with Bt toxin. EPA dismissed the Swiss study on the basis that the Lacewings had not died from the Bt corn consumed by the insect pests but because the insect pests eaten by the Lacewings had been really sick and lacked nutrition! That's the kind of thinking that dominates EPA! Most scientists would have surely missed such an important distinction, only the highly paid EPA experts could have dreamed up such a spin to save the day for the registrant.
APHIS and EPA may have recruited the most hypercritical reviewers in the history of science. However, the extremely "elevated" standards of proof appear to be levied against studies critical of the registration of GM crops. Frankly, many of the critical points are simply silly, but only the registrants are laughing. The precautionary principle seems to be despised by APHIS and EPA, perhaps, because the US courts ignore the important concept. The damage being done by the biased reviews may be felt for centuries.
Thanks to RBBAX@aol.com for reposting the following from the Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin), http://members.tripod.com/~ngin
By John Ingham,
The Express (UK) Aug 25, 2000
BRITISH farmers will be warned today that GM crops will become an albatross round their necks.
The American Corn Growers Association says growing biotech crops is costing US farmers up to £700million in lost markets as consumers around the world shun GM food. It also claims that the whole of the US corn industry is being undermined by the minority who grow GM varieties.
The warning will be delivered by ACGA chief executive Gary Goldberg at a conference in Copenhagen and reinforced on a visit to Britain this weekend.
Mr Goldberg, who represents 14,000 corn farmers in America, is issuing his warning amid growing confusion over Britain's GM farm-scale trials. Ministers have admitted they may have to send in teams to pull the flowers off up to 100 acres of GM trial crops to prevent them cross-pollinating with neighbouring farms.
Mr Goldberg, who says his views on GM issues are commercially driven, has spoken out because of plummeting American corn exports. He also attacks the "arrogance" of the US government in trying to force GM crops on the world.
"What was presented as clear-cut and non-debatable technology that will save farmers money and allow for increases in productivity and efficiency has instead become an albatross round farmers' necks.
"This is a warning for British farmers. These markets will disappear for any farmers with GM crops. Now it seems to be an advantage or a marketing opportunity to have GM-free crops."
Mr Goldberg cited trade figures which show declining sales abroad for American corn growers. In 1997-98 the US shipped two million tons of corn to Europe.
But last year Europe took only 137,000 tons from America - less than 10 per cent of the previous total. Meanwhile Japan, America's largest corn export market, took 15.8million tons last year but has now demanded that corn for human consumption is GM-free.
Mr Goldberg said: "We have lost £120million in sales to Europe and the forecast losses around the world are about £700million."
He claimed the soya bean industry - which in America grows large volumes of GM crops - has suffered similar setbacks with exports to Europe dropping by 44 per cent over two years as shops opt for GM-free supplies from Brazil.
Mr Goldberg said: "Europe has been a very important market for the US farmer for decades and we are throwing that market away. The reason we are losing our foreign markets is that we have taken a conscious decision to push the planting and export of GM crops. Somewhere we have lost the premise that we should grow what the customer demands."
Mr Goldberg claimed his industry was being dictated to by a minority because GM corn accounted for only 25 per cent of all corn grown in the US.
Last night organic farming's Soil Association said British farmers would do well to learn from the experience of their US colleagues.
Director Patrick Holden said: "There could be no more powerful expression of concern from someone who represents the very heart of America's farming industry.
"Any British farmer who has been sitting on the fence over GM issues should take note. That is why it is so important that we keep Britain GM-free."
Helena Paul, chairwoman of the Five Year Freeze campaign, said: "What AGCA says is further proof that there should be an immediate five-year freeze on the commercialisation of genetic engineering for food and farming."
MARKET BOOST FOR GROWERS
farmers' markets - where growers sell direct to the consumer - offer a lifeline to the beleaguered industry, a new report reveals.
Sales in the US have topped £600million a year with a third of the 20,000 farmers surveyed getting all their income in this way.
The phenomenon has also had a major impact in Canada with sales in
Ontario alone totalling more than £300million and generating spin-offs worth nearly £1billion to the economy.
The Friends of the Earth report says there are about 240 regular farmers' markets in Britain. After starting up three years ago in response to the mounting agricultural crisis, they already have a turnover of £65million.
One market in Winchester, Hampshire, took £85,000 in three days with each farmer receiving £500 on average. And local stores reported big increases in takings while the markets were on.
The report praises ministers for backing the boom with EU Rural Enterprise Scheme cash but urges them to provide start-up grants in poorer areas.
FoE spokesman Simon Bullock said: "Farmers' markets can boost the rural economy and offer a lifeline to farmers fed up with the exacting demands of supermarkets and the poor return for their produce." © Express Newspapers, 2000
Here are some quotes reposted by RBBAX@aol.com from the Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin), http://members.tripod.com/~ngin :
"I've been a seed dealer for Monsanto for 18 years and this is the year we are going to have to part ways. They've forgotten that they have to serve farmers. I don't think they care who we've got to grow for. They're just concerned with making a fast buck."
-Steve Mattis, an Illinois farmer and seed dealer, February 18, 2000
"We could be coming back to a situation like the Middle Ages where producers have to depend on a single, powerful company for their livelihood."
-Quebec Agriculture Minister, Remy Trudel, July 7, 2000
US soybean sales to Europe have dropped by more than a billion dollars: from $2.1 billion in 1996 to $1.1 billion in 1999.
"The promise was that you could use less chemicals and produce a greater yield. But let me tell you none of this is true."
-Bill Christison, President of the US National Family Farm Coalition
For the low down on the problems of GM farming: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/farming.htm
By MIKE SECCOMBE,
Sidney Morning Herald,
Tonnes of genetically modified cotton seed had accidentally been released on to the market, and could have entered the food chain as cattle feed, the giant chemical company Monsanto admitted yesterday.
The technical director of Monsanto, Mr Bill Blowes, told a Senate committee investigating genetic modification that modified cotton seed had inadvertently been mixed with non-GM seed, and the company now had "no way of knowing" where it had ended up.
Mr Blowes said "some tonnes" of GM cotton seed had accidentally been mixed with non-GM seed on a farm in Queensland.
The mixed seed went into "one big pile", which might have been crushed for oil, used for stock feed and/or export.
Asked if any of it ended up as food, Mr Blowes said: "It could have. There's no way of knowing."
If it became stock feed, it was probably fed to cattle.
But when asked if it was now part of the Australian food chain, he said: "If it is part of the Australian food chain, it would be as oil, cotton-seed oil."
Mr Blowes conceded the exposure of the accident had been "considerably damaging" to the company, and highlighted the need for the company to improve operating procedures.
He said the complexity of interim procedures, imposed by the Department of Health, for regulating genetically modified crops was "difficult to work in" and made such accidents more likely.
The committee, inquiring into the proposed Gene Technology Bill, which would regulate genetically modified crops and animals, has heard evidence of several cases of accidental release of GM crops into theenvironment.
It also has heard considerable criticism of the regulatory body for slowness to act in cases of releases of GM crops; often only after media publicity has it released details of accidents.
Mr Blowes told the committee the interim office which regulates GM experiments had indicated after a preliminary investigation of the Queensland cotton-seed accident they did not believe the accidental release posed any "issue to the environment or to human health or animal health".
He ducked a question by the committee chairwoman, Labor Senator Rosemary Crowley, on whether he could give any assurance to the committee or community that the GM seed was not now "being eaten by the cows of Australia".
"I can give the assurance, madam chair, that we have provided to the regulatory agencies around the world our submissions for this technology," he said.
"Without exception they have been accepted. We have import clearances for the use of round-up ............
By Matthew Harris, August 14, 2000, Reuters
SAO PAOLO The Brazilian Institute of Consumer Defence (ICD) this week called for an official investigation to be launched after tests carried out on a range of over 30 food products showed the presence of genetically modified DNA in 11 of them.
Several companies have been ordered by the Centre for Sanitary Vigilance of the State of Sao Paulo to withdraw their brands from supermarket shelves in response to the tests.
The ICD, in partnership with Greenpeace and the Swiss laboratory Interlabor Belp AG, found transgenic soya or corn, in quantities of up to 10% of the contents of the food products. The transgenic ingredient was not indicated on the labels of any of the products, contravening state and federal law.
Member states are voicing concerns over the European Commission's plans to push for legislation which would make producers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) liable for any harm their release may cause to human health or the environment.
The New York Times/AP/
St. Louis Post-Dispatch/CBC/etc, August 22, 2000
Ever since scientists reported last year that pollen from genetically engineered corn could kill monarch butterfly caterpillars in the laboratory, scientists, industry representatives and activists opposed to genetic engineering have, according to these stories, been battling over one central question: Are these butterflies being harmed by the millions of acres of biotech corn being planted across the country?
Now, in what the stories are calling the first study published on the subject since the debate began, scientists from Iowa State University say plants growing in and near the corn fields are being dusted with enough toxic pollen to kill monarch caterpillars that feed on them. The genetically modified corn produces the insecticide Bt in its tissues, including its windblown pollen.
Scientists say it is the first published data showing the potential for genetically engineered pollen in the wild to harm monarchs, but leaves open the crucial question of what impact the corn actually has on the butterfly population. Critics of the original study, published by researchers at Cornell University, said caterpillars in the study could have died because they were fed levels of toxic pollen that were much higher than those found in nature.
Dr. John Obrycki, who along with Laura Hansen, wrote the article published Saturday in the journal Oecologia, was quoted as saying, "This is telling us that with naturally deposited pollen there's a good probability you'll get some mortality. "In the field you may have higher mortality rates because of the cumulative effect of being exposed to the toxin throughout the larval stage. Coming up with a good ecological assessment of this technology probably needed to be done before planting it across the Midwest."
In their study, the researchers gathered leaves from plants growing in and around corn fields and onto which pollen had blown. The leaves were then fed to caterpillars in the laboratory. Twenty percent of the caterpillars eating leaves bearing genetically engineered pollen died, while all caterpillars eating leaves with regular corn pollen survived.
Dr. John Losey, one of the authors on the original Cornell study, was quoted as saying, "This is a big deal. It's an important next step." But the new study seems to have only fueled the battle for public opinion inspired by the monarch butterfly, which has become a symbol to many of fragile nature threatened by genetic engineering.
Dr. Rebecca Goldburg, a scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, a group that has been critical of the biotechnology industry and its regulators, was quoted as saying, "This study should dispel any doubts about whether or not the effect observed in the Cornell study is a real one in the field. The Environmental Protection Agency should take some steps to ensure that butterflies in this coming planting season are protected."
By Heather Scoffield,
Globe And Mail (canada)
Parliamentary Bureau - Ottawa, Fri Aug.25,2000, Page: A2
A second scientific study has suggested that genetically modified corn is threatening the lives of fragile Monarch butterflies, reigniting the debate over whether Canada's biotech corn crop is safe.
Entomologists from Iowa State University have published a new study in the respected scientific journal Oecologia saying that Monarch caterpillars are seven times more likely to die if they eat milkweed plants covered in pollen from genetically modified corn.
By Greg Avery, Camera Staff Writer,
August 25, 2000
Another locality has taken official action to curb plantings of genetically modified crops. One California community's city counsel discussed such a limit on public property earlier, and now the City of Boulder, Colorado, has taken specific action barring farmers from using GMO crops on the land it rents to them.
The Boulder Open Space Department barred genetically modified agricultural crops from city lands Wednesday, endorsing the argument that too little is known about the engineered plants' long-term ecological impacts. The policy is similar to a proposal being studied by Boulder County for its open space land. Concerned about the possibility of having herbicide-resistant plants introduced to open space, department Director Jim Crain asked the city's Open Space Board of Trustees to add language to leases for agricultural operations on open space that would bar any genetically modified organism from being introduced.
By Fraser Nelson,
The UK Times,
August 25 2000
The Highland Council has, according to this story, used its planning permission powers to stop Aventis from conducting genetically modified crop experiments on a farm near Inverness. James Grant, a farmer in the Black Isle, was, the story says, yesterday served a notice banning him from sowing so much as one genetically-modified seed without securing "change of use" permission from the local council. He must now decide whether to appeal, or to carry on with the rape seed trials and risk what the Highland Council believes would be criminal proceedings.
By ELLEN KNICKMEYER, Associated Press Writer, August 30, 2000
Pope John Paul II sought Tuesday to lay down guidelines for rapid 21st-century advances in organ transplants including condemning human cloning as morally unacceptable.
Prof. Joe Cummins Summary
Nature Biotechnology Article
Comment from NLP Wessex on the above abtsract
Thanks to Dr. Joe Cummins for posting the following scientific abstract. Here is our summary of the abstract in less technical terms:
However, this research shows that infection by an external cauliflower mosaic virus can drive the 355 promoter gene to act like a cauliflower mosaic virus, which can interfere with or damage the functioning of the transgene and possibly other cellular genes. As the 355 promoter gene, derived from CaMV, is inserted into most genetically engineered crops to switch on the foreign transgenes, this finding is particularly worrisome.
The abstract follows:
September 2000 Volume 18 Number 9 pp 995 - 999
Nadia S. Al-Kaff, Maria M. Kreike, Simon N. Covey, Robert Pitcher, Anthony M. Page & Philip J. Dale
John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich NR4 7UH, UK. Correspondence should be addressed to N S Al-Kaff. E-mail: email@example.com
Crop plants genetically modified for herbicide tolerance were some of the first to be released into the environment. Frequently, the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter is used to drive expression of the herbicide tolerance transgene.
We analyzed the response to CaMV infection of a transgenic oilseed rape line containing the bialaphos tolerance gene (BAR) from Streptomyces hygroscopicus, regulated by the 35S promoter. Oilseed rape is susceptible to CaMV, but plants recover from infection.
CaMV infection altered the expression of the herbicide tolerance gene such that plants became susceptible to the herbicide. The effect on transgene expression differed in infections with viral pathogenic variants typical of those found in natural situations worldwide.
Susceptibility to the herbicide was most likely a result of transcriptional gene silencing of the transgene. Our results show that transgene phenotypes can be modified by pathogen invasion.
In other words had the farmer sprayed this rape in the field with the recommended herbicide the oilseed rape would have been killed as well as the weeds - not quite the idea of this technology! This could lead to some interesting crop loss claims by farmers against biotech companies if it happened on a large enough scale in the field.
The Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV) is a common pathogen of brassicas (cabbage, caulifower, rape etc). In this case genetically modified rape which became infected by it (a common occurrence with brassica crops) lost its resistance to the herbicide. The relevant gene conferring herbicide resistance appears to have become switched off.
The herbicide in this case is bialaphos. Such 'gene silencing' has previously been considered to result from an interaction between the invading environmental pathogen and the viral 'promoter' (itself taken from the CaMV) which is used to artificially fire up the foreign transgene in the first place. This particular viral promoter is used in most transgenic crops, into whose every cell it is embedded.
This study is particularly interesting as it concerns the bialaphos herbicide which is related to glufosinate-ammonium, the herbicide to which most of the crops in GM fieldscale trials in the UK have been developed by Aventis to have resistance. ... The use of the CaMV 35s promoter in most transgenic crops is one of the most controversial technical aspects of the use of GM in agriculture. The risks associated with it go well beyond the 'gene silencing' apparently demonstrated in this case. For more information on those risks see: http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/camv.htm
This particular paper abstract from Nature Biotechnology finishes with the words: "Our results show that transgene phenotypes can be modified by pathogen invasion". In other words the characteristics of genetically modified crops may change when they are released into the environment and interact with naturally occurring pathogens such as viruses.
By The Associated Press, September 1, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) A British study suggests that the use of a new biotech crop could lead to a steep decline in the population of the skylark, a tuneful bird beloved in English poetry.
The study, appearing Friday in the journal Science, claims that if most British farmers use a genetically altered sugar beet it would deprive the skylark of weed seeds, a main source of food, and cause the bird numbers to decline by up to 90 percent. ...
William J. Sutherland of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, said he and colleagues believe that gene-altered, herbicide-resistant sugar beets will allow British farmers to use more powerful plant-killing sprays and more effectively control weeds in their fields.
But the weeds, said Sutherland, produce seeds that are a mainstay of the skylark diet. If you measure the abundance of skylarks in some fields, one finds that said means more herbicides, he said.
Message from Steve Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org, re the FOX-TV BGH lawsuit:
Thanks to all of you who have called and written to ask about how Jane Akre and I are doing in wake of our victory in the Fox/BGH suit here in Tampa. Funny thing, our media brethren are not ringing the phone off the hook to hire us. Seems nobody in the mainstream media wants anything to do with either of us now. What a shock!
And if you're wondering what effect the jury verdict has had on the conduct of Fox Television, please see the latest at:
And while they've been spinning the loss as "total vindication" and media writers have remained largely silent, Fox lawyers have been busy preparing papers asking the judge to set aside the jury verdict. Details of that will be posted soon.
If you live in a city with a Fox-owned station articularly Tampa and Los Angeles where the man behind what happened here is now in charge of KTLA Fox 11, you may want to e-mail your local media critic and pass along this link in an effort to wake them up with a polite note wondering why they've ignored this issue..
Thanks again for your continued support! This fight is not over. Please don't forget us as we continue the struggle on behalf of all of you. Jane has begun to schedule some Fall speaking dates...please contact her if you're interested. mailto:email@example.com
31 August - Cropchoice News
American city councils are getting downright ornery on biotech. First it was George Bush's town of Austin, Texas calling for GMO labels. And there was Cargill's home turf, Minneapolis, Minnesota, which recently did the same. Not to be outdone, Boulder, Colorado just banned GMOs from 15,000 acres of city-owned farmland.
Now, Cropchoice has been sent a copy of a GMO labeling resolution recently passed by the city council in Cleveland, Ohio.
Except for the Boulder action, the new resolutions don't have any legal teeth - they're just political documents. But they are a pretty good urban barometer on GMOs. The most unexpected aspect of them may be the geography. You might have expected these resolutions coming from San Francisco or New England; but instead they're from cities in middle of America.
By Tim Radford,
Friday September 1, 2000
Genetically modified crops could spell trouble for skylarks on farms, according to a study published in the US journal Science.
Andrew Watkinson and his colleagues, from the University of East Anglia, fashioned a computer model of what would happen as farmers sowed herbicide-resistant crops, such as sugar beet, and then sprayed them to wipe out the weeds that lower farm yields. They found that the introduction of such crops could reduce weeds by more than 90%.
The drawback is that farmland birds such as the skylark depend on weed seeds such as fat hen, especially in winter. The more weeds in a crop, the greater the number of skylarks in the vicinity.
"For a variety of social, ecological and economic reasons, some farms contain much higher seed densities than others. If farms such as these opt to grow GM crops, the impact on birds could be particularly severe," said Professor Watkinson.
Although there have been claims that GM foods could present a hazard to human health, most of the objections to their introduction in Britain have been based on their effect on wildlife. Researchers in the US have twice proposed that some genetically modified crops could affect monarch butterfly populations.
(1 September - Cropchoice News) Eleven members of the USDA's Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology have sent a scathing letter to the Agriculture Secretary calling on Glickman to pull the plug on government involvement in Terminator technology.
USDA owns Terminator with DeltaPine, the Mississippi-based cotton and soybean seed company. Critics say that Terminator is a financial nightmare for farmers and will cost producers millions. The GMO, which is being tested by DeltaPine, makes it impossible to brown bag seed, since the second generation is programmed not to germinate. DeltaPine calls Terminator "Technology Protection System", or TPS, and says it needs TPS to protect its profits from seed-saving farmers.
According to the committee members, "We are steadfast in our view that USDA’s continued association with the Terminator patent is a fundamental mistake." The 38 member USDA committee, formed by Glickman earlier this year, studied and discussed Terminator at its last meeting in July. Those signing the letter concluded that "Terminator technology has only one primary purpose - to allow private companies to exert greater control over the seed markets and extract more income from farmers forced to buy their products on an annual basis...
Minneapolis, Minnesota City Council
Meeting August 25, 2000 Resolution 2000R-396
Sponsored by City Council Representatives
Urging the City of Minneapolis to include certified organic food vendors as an option in contract negotiations and to urge the federal government to label and test genetically engineered (g.e.) foods as well as to assign liability to the commercial developers of g.e. technology. ... [there were many whereas statements, but here is the finale}
Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved by The City Council of The City of Minneapolis:
That the City Council of Minneapolis formally state to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that all g.e. foods should be labeled clearly, that all g.e. material should be thoroughly researched and regulated, that liability should be assigned to the commercial developers of g.e. foods, and that, until these materials are proven safe, that the FDA, the EPA, and the USDA should establish a moratorium on these products.
Be It Further Resolved that the Minneapolis City Council endorses House Bills 3883 named the 'AuGenetically Engineered Food Safety Act,'Au and 3377 and its companion Senate Bill 2080 named the 'AuGenetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act.'Au
Be It Further Resolved that the City Council urges that all City departments and agencies include certified organic food vendors as an option during any and all contract negotiations.
Be It Further Resolved that the City Council urges that, by January of 2001, special events held by City departments and City agencies include caterers that avoid g.e. ingredients and use certified organic foods and Minnesota Grown organic foods as an option.
Be It Further Resolved that the City Council urges the Minneapolis School District to consider offering certified organic lunches as an option.
Adapted. Yeas, 11; Nays, 1 as follows:
Here is another resolution-
Passed, Cleveland City Council, 8/7/00.
Signed by Mayor Michael White, 8/17/00
RESOLUTION NO. 1432-2000
An Emergency Resolution Urging the federal government to require labeling of genetically manipulated foods and further urging a moratorium on the production of such foods until acceptable testing systems are in place.
By: Council Member Brady
WHEREAS, genetically engineered foods have not yet been proven safe and are not tested by any federal agency; and
WHEREAS, the Food and Drug Administration requires only that companies producing such genetically engineered foods state, on the "honor system", that such foods are safe with no further testing required; and
WHEREAS, a class action lawsuit has been brought against the Food and Drug Administration to prevent it from continuing to rush such untested foods on the market;
WHEREAS, numerous bioengineers and scientists have stated that the technology of genetically engineered foods is clearly different from traditional methods and could lead to a host of undesirable health and environmental problems; and
WHEREAS, such technology further has potential negative effects in genetic cross-pollination of beneficial plants, insects and other fragile ecosystems;
WHEREAS, this resolution constitutes an emergency measure for the immediate preservation of public peace, property, health or safety in that it is essential that the public know and understand how the foods it purchases are being produced and the possible health and environmental risks of such production, now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CLEVELAND:
Section 1. That this Council urges the federal government to require labeling of genetically manipulated foods and further urges a moratorium on the production of such genetically manipulated foods until acceptable testing systems are in place.
Section 2. That this resolution is hereby declared to be an emergency measure and, provided it receives the affirmative vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to Council, it shall take effect and be in force immediately upon its adoption and approval by the Mayor; otherwise it shall take effect and be in force from and after the earliest period allowed by law.
Here are some headlines from the recent newsletter, GMF Market Intelligence, of GENETIC ID, Inc.
The full newsletter can be viewed at http://www.genetic-id.com/newsletter/news47/index.htm
U.S. Grain Industry Looks at Segregation
Foreign Buyers Building Supply Network
Greece Destroys Cotton, Arrests Protestors:
Italy Bans Four Strains of GM Maize:
Saudi Arabia Bans Imports of GM Foods:
Scotland Takes GMOs Off Menus but Grows GMOs in Crop Trials:
Some overseas buyers have been paying higher prices for non-genetically modified (non-GM) grains, prompting the U.S. grain industry to look more closely at segregation. Buyers in Japan, South Korea, and to a lesser extent Europe, are paying premiums of 30 to 40 cents per bushel for conventional U.S. grains
Japan, the world’s top grain importer, gets 80 percent of its soybeans and 90 percent of its corn from the United States. Labeling laws go into effect April 2001 in Japan and will require food products containing GMOs to carry labels. Grain traders say the Japanese are already building a network of buying and contracting channels to ensure a sufficient supply of certified non-GM grains.
AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND: At the end of last month, health ministers for Australia and New Zealand announced they had voted in the world’s strictest labeling laws. " ... where you have genetically modified food material, then basically that food should be appropriately labeled," he said. Exemptions include: highly refined ingredients and GM processing aids, foods with less than 0.1 percent GM ...
PHILIPPINES: A bill has been introduced into the Philippine legislature calling for the mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs or produced with technology using GMOs.
According to a Canadian flaxseedand oil company, Frito Lay, the Dallas-based snack food giant, is looking for non-GM cooking oils. “Frito Lay was looking for non-genetically modified canola oil to use in their product and asked if we could supply them.
Canadian flax farmers want a GM strain [of flax] taken off the market because they fear it could interfere with exports to Europe.
Scientists at Iowa State Universitysay they have found additional evidence that pollen from Bt corn could be deadly to monarch butterflies. The study was published in the journal Oecologia
Two weeks ago, I spoke to a group of several hundred farmers about genetic engineering. The farmers were practising a unique form of agriculture, which I thought you might find interesting. So here is my summary of my experience there:
I just came back from Minnesota, where I spoke about genetic engineering to several hundred biological farmers at their annual national meeting.
The farming group is called "Farm for Profit: Research and Development". "Farm for Profit" indicates they are very practical, providing guidiance to farmers on program they can easily implement and increase profits, while saving the environment.
These farmers spray natural bacteria solutions on the soil to eat up pesticide residues. They later test the soil for over 300 pesticides to show no pesticide traces left, before they market their product as free of pesticide. (The microbial bacteria is non-GE, and the farmers are committed to non-GE seeds.)
The farmers usually apply these microbial solutions to their soil for 3 or more years before testing the soil. Their products can be used to clean up the soil quicker, but they use a more gradual approach so that the farmers can continue to farm the land while it is being cleaned up.
I should mention that in their program, they still use some pesticides, but much less than conventional farmers, and less toxic varieties. However, they use the bacteria solution to remove the pesticide residues. They then test to show there are no remaining pesticide residues.
Their products can be used with organic agriculture as well. However, these farmers do not think that organic is feasible for them because of the large personnel used in organic. (Removing weeds by hand is labor intensive, etc.) These farmers use large equipment on large plots of land. There are about 10,000 farmers in North America on their program.
While they use some pesticides, these farmers explain that "Farm for Profit" can be "cleaner" than organic. For organic certification in N. America, it is usually only necessary that pesticides not be used for some period of time, such as 3 or 5 years. There is no general requirement for organic certification that there be any testing for pesticide residues. It is likely that some organic food in North America has pesticide residues, as it can take tens of years for pesticide residues to decay naturally. However, for the Farm for Profit program, the residues are removed.
On the second day of the conference, we went out to visit a large farm of one of the nearby farmers using their program. There were about 10 test sites, comparing the soil, plants, etc. from their program with conventional methods on adjoining plots. The difference was phenomenal.
On the conventional pesticide use sites, the soil was compactified and clogged up, so the roots could only go down a few inches. Also, there were fewer nitrogen fixing nodules, and the earth smelled little.
With the Farm For Profit program, the soil was loose and smelled rich. The roots went down a few feet, there were lots of nitrogen fixing bacteria nodules, and there was evidence of earthworms enriching the soil. Also, the roots were thicker and there were finer root hairs, which is important for drawing up nutrients from the soil. Above ground, with Farm for Profit the plants were healthier and bigger.
Also, for the conventional crop, there were secondary roots springing out from the stem a few inches above ground indicating that the main root system was all clogged up. This did not happen with the "Farm for Profit" approach.
It was a fabulous experience, and the people there were wonderful to meet. Their website is www.farmforprofit.com in case you want to check them out.
GENETICALLY ALTERED FOODS:
By Martha R. Herbert,
September 3, 2000
BOSTON - Today the vast majority of foods in supermarkets contain genetically modified substances whose effects on our health are unknown. As a medical doctor, I can assure you that no one in the medical profession would attempt to perform experiments on human subjects without their consent. Such conduct is illegal and unethical. Yet manufacturers of genetically altered foods are exposing us to one of the largest uncontrolled experiments in modern history.
In less than five years these companies have flooded the marketplace with thousands of untested and unlabeled products containing foreign genetic material. These genetically modified foods pose several very real dangers because they have been engineered to create novel proteins that retard spoilage, produce their own pesticides against insects, or allow plants to tolerate larger and larger doses of weed killers.
Despite claims that these food products are based on "sound science," in truth, neither manufacturers nor the government has studied the effects of these genetically altered organisms or their new proteins on people-especially babies, the elderly, and the sick. Can these products be toxic? Can they cause immune system problems? Can they damage an infant's developing nervous system? We need answers to these questions, and until then genetically altered ingredients should be removed from the food we eat.
As a pediatric neurologist, I especially worry about the safety of modified foods when it comes to children. We know that the human immune system, for example, is not fully developed in infants. Consequently, pediatricians have long been concerned about early introduction of new proteins into the immature gut and developing body of small children.
Infants with colic are often switched to soy formula. Yet we have no information on how they might be affected by drinking genetically engineered soy, even though this product may be their sole or major source of nutrition for months. Because these foods are unlabeled, most parents feed their babies genetically altered formula whether they want to or not. Even proteins that are normally part of the human diet may, when introduced too early, lead to auto-immune and hypersensitivity or "allergic" reactions later.
Some studies suggest that the epidemic increase in asthma (it has doubled since 1980) may have links to early dietary exposures. The behavior problems of many children with autism and attention disorders get worse when they are exposed to certain foods.
Yet as more unlabeled and untested genetically engineered foods enter the market, there is no one monitoring how the millions of people with immune system vulnerability are reacting to them and the novel proteins and fragments of viruses they can contain. In fact, without labeling, there is no possible way to track such health effects. This is not sound science, and it is not sound public health.
The biotech industry and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say there is no reason to test genetically modified foods, because they are no different from the products of old-fashioned plant breeding. Never mind that chicken genes are being put in apples and genes from fish are being used in strawberries. Yet because of the way genes are inserted into unrelated organisms, they have the potential to disrupt other areas of essential genetic information.
We have no idea what these effects may be, or what form the disruptions may take. We don't know because no one has studied these questions in depth, and biotech corporations are not required to conduct thorough health analyses as a precondition for putting genetically engineered products on the market.
Finally, there is the question of antibiotic-resistance genes. Biotech corporations put these genes into genetically modified foods as "markers" to see if the alien genetic material has successfully penetrated the cell's defense system. If the sample resists an antibiotic, the gene has invaded the new organism.
Manufacturers use this technique purely for convenience, cavalierly ignoring the potential health risks from breeding more virulent antibiotic-resistance germs.
Scientists know that in nature antibiotic resistance genes can pass from one organism to another. If such genes take up residence in our bodies, many of the currently available drugs such as ampicillin, an often-used antibiotic, could become useless.
Before we produce and market untested genetically altered foods, we need to conduct a complete, thorough, long-term, and independent evaluation of all of these novel organisms. And we need to label foods containing altered genes. As pediatricians often advise parents, "better safe than sorry."
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.