Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

8 September 2000

Table of Contents

Book: 50 Harmful Effects of Genetically Modified Foods
BIOWATCH: Biotech, Poverty & Hunger in Developing Nations
"Free, Raw, Unregulated Capital and Free, Raw, Unregulated Genes"
Leaked Report: MONSANTO'S 'DESPERATE' PROPAGANDA
BIOWATCH: Risky Milk Linked To Cancer Sold In South Africa.
BIOWATCH: Ex-Napalm Maker Moves to Biopharmaceuticals
BIOWATCH: Biotech and rice research in Asia
BIOWATCH: Salt-resistant plants may help farmers keep deserts at bay
Shut Up And Eat Your GM Soup, Africans Are Told
BIOWATCH: Patent Evils Threaten Public Goods
Bursting the Biotech Bubble

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Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2000 14:22:49 +0200
From: "Anthony van Zyl" antvz@onwe.co.za
From: RBBAX@aol.com
Originated from: jon@cqs.com (Jon Campbell)

> Please circulate <

Book: 50 Harmful Effects of Genetically Modified Foods

New book on GMO harmful effects - now available online!

I have just (electronically) published a new short book on genetically modified food by Nathan Battalion of Americans for Safe Food, Oneonta, N.Y. It is called 50 Harmful Effects of Genetically Modified Foods and is available at

http://www.cqs.com/50harm.htm

From a great introduction to the technology - and philosophically, technically, and environmentall what is wrong with it - Battalion provides a point-by-point exposure of the reasons this technology should be banned worldwide.

Jon


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Date: Mon, 04 Sep 2000 19:48:11 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay glenda@global.co.za

United States Senate Subcommittee, Washington, DC

Testimony from Senate Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion at the Hearing on “The Role of Biotechnology in Combating Poverty and Hunger in Developing Nationsö

Brian Halweil's Biotech Briefing Remarks from the Biotechnology Forum hosted by the Worldwatch Institute.

BIOWATCH: Biotech, Poverty & Hunger in Developing Nations

By Brian Halweil, Staff Researcher, halweil@worldwatch.org , July 12, 2000
http://www.worldwatch.org/biotech/bhtest.html

Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and other members of the Subcommittee. My name is Brian Halweil, and I am a staff researcher at the Worldwatch Institute. Worldwatch is an independent, nonprofit environmental research organization based here in Washington, DC. Our mission is to foster a sustainable society in which human needs are met in ways that do not threaten the health of the natural environment or future generations. To this end, Worldwatch conducts interdisciplinary research on emerging global issues, the results of which are published and disseminated to decision-makers and the media.

At the Institute, I work primarily on issues related to food and agriculture, including the topics of malnutrition and biotechnology. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on the role of biotechnology in combating poverty and hunger in developing nations—a subject that I consider central to the broader debate on the use of agricultural biotechnology.

In searching for a biotech fix for hunger, we are pursuing an agricultural will-o’-the-wisp, a seemingly attractive sounding goal that is simply not well connected to the products which the biotech industry has brought to market. Instead of looking to as yet unproven and nonexistent biotech breakthroughs, we should be looking at the extremely full body of research that shows quite clearly those policies and agricultural interventions that will help to reduce poverty and eliminate hunger.

There are four basic points that I wish to make in my presentation. First, the dominant causes of poverty and hunger around the world are not technological in nature, but rooted in basic socioeconomic realities. This is not to say that technology—including biotechnology—plays no role in the alleviation of malnutrition, but there is no technology that can override the immediate forces keeping people poor and hungry.

Second, the global biotechnology industry has funneled the vast majority of its investment into a limited range of products for which there are large, secured markets within the capital-intensive production systems of the First World—products which are of little relevance to the needs of the world’s hungry.

Third, if we are interested in eradicating hunger and poverty in the developing world, there are approaches other than investment in biotechnology that are better understood, less risky, and which may ultimately prove more effective.

Fourth, because developing nations are home to the majority of the world’s plant biodiversity, and because crops in the developing world often exist in close proximity to wild relatives, the risk of cross-pollination between genetically engineered crops and wild relatives is greatest there.

Development economists, including Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, have persuasively argued that poverty—rather than food shortages—is frequently the underlying cause of hunger. In a report released on World Food Day last year, the United Nations showed that nearly 80 percent of all malnourished children in the developing world in the early 1990s lived in countries that boasted food surpluses. In other words, people often go hungry even where food is readily available.

The more important feature common to these hungry countries is pervasive poverty, which limits people’s access to food in the market or to land, credit, and other resources needed to produce food. Poverty also means poor access to non-food services, including health care, education, and a clean living environment, which increases the likelihood of hunger. Medical conditions like diarrhea, for instance, which is usually the result of an unclean water supply, prevent a child from absorbing available nutrients.

Poverty often strikes hardest among women, the nutritional gatekeepers in many families. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that more than half of the world’s food is raised by women, and in rural areas of Africa, Latin America, and Asia, the figure soars to 80 percent. Yet, because women have little or no access to land ownership, credit, agricultural training, education, and social privileges in general, their ability to provide adequate nutrition for their families is handicapped.

Eradicating hunger requires elimination of its root causes, including gender discrimination and desperate poverty which prevents access to food or the resources to produce it. A 1999 study of malnutrition in 63 countries by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the World Bank’s agricultural policy arm, found that improvements in social factors—health environment, women’s education, and women’s status—accounted for nearly three quarters of the reduction in malnutrition in these countries since 1970. (This study noted that increased food availability was an important fourth factor, responsible for roughly one quarter of the reduction in malnutrition in these countries.)

This having been said, consider where the majority of investment in agricultural biotechnology is going. The global area planted to genetically engineered crops has grown 23-fold since 1996, the first year of large-scale commercialization. Global area now stands at 39.9 million hectares compared to 1.7 million hectares in 1996. Despite this tremendous growth, 99 percent of the current area is found in just three nations—the United States, Argentina, and Canada; 72 percent is in the United States alone.

Dozens of crops—from apples to lettuce to wheat—have been genetically modified and are near commercialization, though only transgenic varieties of soybean, corn, cotton, canola, squash, and papaya are currently grown commercially. Of these seven crops, soybeans and corn account for 54 percent and 28 percent of the global transgenic area, respectively, while cotton and canola share most of the remainder with nearly 9 percent each.

The transgenic crops currently being grown around the world have been engineered either to resist spraying of herbicides (herbicide-resistant crops), to churn out the insecticide produced by the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) (Bt-crops), or to do both. In 1999, herbicide-resistant varieties of soy, corn, cotton, and canola were planted on 71 percent of the global transgenic area, while Bt-corn and Bt-cotton were sown on 22 percent. Corn and cotton varieties that both produce Bt and resist herbicides were planted on the remaining 7 percent.

These traits offer large-scale industrial farmers reduced production costs or increased ease of crop management by lowering the need to scout for pests, cutting labor costs, allowing a shift to cheaper chemicals, and generally simplifying pest control—which explains the exceptionally rapid adoption of transgenics in a few nations.

For the foreseeable future, these are the sorts of crops and traits that will dominate the global area planted to genetically engineered crops. There is very little connection between these applications and the needs of the world’s hungry—modified soy and corn are mainly used in livestock production and processed foods; modified canola is pressed into oil and used in processed foods; and cotton is used for its fiber and oil. Herbicide-resistant crops, for example, are not helpful to poor farmers who rely on manual labor to pull weeds because they couldn’t possibly afford herbicides. As a result, the immediate markets for biotech in the developing world are not the subsistence farmers, but the larger operations, which are often producing for export rather than for local consumption. The adoption of genetically engineered soybeans by Argentina’s industrial export producers illustrates this point well.

There is a basic disconnect between these research priorities and the alleged beneficiaries of genetically engineered crops—the world’s hungry. Compare, for example, the $4 million that has been spent on developing a Beta-carotene enhanced rice for use in Vitamin A deficient populations with the $500 million spent on developing Roundup-Ready soybeans, the dominant herbicide-resistant variety. This $500 million spent on developing Roundup-Ready soybeans also compares with the $400 million annual budget of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a consortium of international research centers that form the world’s largest public-sector breeding effort. In addition, a joint report released yesterday by the National Academy of Sciences and seven other academies around the world concluded that transgenic plants are not being used in many parts of the developing world where the needs are greatest.

There are other concerns associated with a technological landscape that is controlled almost exclusively by the private sector and defined by patent protection. Patents and similar legal mechanisms are giving a declining number of large private firms substantial control over crop genetics and farmers, with worrisome implications for seed saving, farm incomes, and food security. Although Monsanto and AstraZeneca recently announced that they would not commercialize the so-called “Terminatorö technology or other seed sterilization technologies, the biotech industry collectively owns at least three dozen patents that control either seed germination or other essential plant processes. This privatization of germplasm is already putting public sector agricultural research at a disadvantage, and might ultimately prove life-threatening to the majority of small farmers in Africa, Latin America, and Asia who depend on saved seed from year to year.

In addition to this financial obstacle, there is a biological obstacle that may limit the potential of biotech to combat poverty and hunger. The crop traits that would be most useful to subsistence farmers tend to be very complex. The kinds of products that would make sense in a subsistence context include crop varieties responsive to low levels of soil fertility, crops tolerant of saline or drought conditions and other stresses of marginal lands, improved varieties that are not dependent on agrochemical inputs for increased yields, varieties that are compatible with small, diverse, capital-poor farm settings. In herbicide-resistant crops and Bt crops, the engineering involves the insertion of a single gene. Most of the more complex traits mentioned above are probably governed by many genes, and for the present at least, that kind of complexity is beyond the technology’s reach.

The experience of the Green Revolution has shown that if the introduction of agricultural technology is not sensitive to social and economic inequalities, then it can actually exacerbate existing inequalities, poverty and hunger, as the better off farmers grab the majority of the technology’s benefits. Today, the majority of the world’s hungry are those farmers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America who were bypassed, or even marginalized, by the Green Revolution package of seeds that were highly dependent on fertilizer and irrigation inputs. Without addressing inequitable land distribution or differential access to credit, for example, the consequences of introducing even the most promising biotechnology are likely to be less than desirable.

I would like to point to some interventions other than biotechnology that may prove more effective at reducing poverty and hunger in the developing world. As mentioned earlier, land reform, improved access to reproductive health services, and improved educational opportunities for women are among those policies that have had a sizable impact on reducing poverty and malnutrition in the past and are likely to do so in the future. (These same policies are also the most effective ways to reduce birth rates and slow population growth.)

Investments in agriculture are key to boosting incomes and ultimately reducing malnutrition. This is particularly true in the poorest regions of the world, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where the majority of people make their living from agriculture and where the gross national products are still heavily dependent on agriculture. Pedro Sanchez, the Director-General of the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), one of the CGIAR centers based in Nairobi, argues that “Third World farmers don’t need improved seeds, but rather improved natural resource management, including soil and water conversation, crop rotations, and nitrogen-fixing crops.ö Sanchez notes that until these resource management issues are addressed, farmers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America will not be able to take full advantage of any potential offered by improved seeds, whether genetically engineered or traditionally bred.

Below, I have assembled a short list of agricultural interventions in the developing world that focus on improved resource management and that have all resulted in large yield increases. These interventions are often characterized as ecological or agroecological, because they depend on building or harnessing the ecological processes—including crop diversity, nutrient cycling, plant and pest interactions, competition, and symbiosis—occurring in the field rather than on external chemical inputs.

A recent survey of agroecological interventions in Latin America revealed that yield increases of 100 to 300 percent are not uncommon for a range of staple crops, including beans, corn, rice, potato, and cassava. A separate set of projects in Latin America that emphasized locally adapted green manures and cover cropping have increased maize yields from 1-1.5 tons/hectare to 3-4 tons/hectare. More than 300,000 farmers in southern and western India farming in dryland conditions, and now using a range of water and soil management technologies, have tripled sorghum and millet yields to some 2-2.5 tons/hectare. Some 200,000 farmers across Kenya who as part of various government and non-government soil and water conservation and agroecology programs have more than doubled their maize yields to about 2.5 to 3.3 tons/hectare. (Simultaneously, these Kenyan farmers have substantially improved vegetable production through the dry seasons, improving income generation and household nutrition.)

These sorts of yield increases are considerably higher than any present results with biotech seeds. And these interventions, in contrast to biotech interventions, depend on resources and know-how that is already available to resource-poor farmers, working in ecologically sensitive areas. I offer these examples to demonstrate that there are alternatives to biotechnology for combating poverty and hunger in developing nations.

Finally, as a representative of an environmental research group and as an ecologist by training, I would like to make a brief point about the potential ecological risks of genetically engineered crops and how that might affect poor and hungry populations in developing nations. Once genetically engineered crops are planted in close proximity to sexually compatible wild relatives, the spread of genes from one plant to the other through cross-pollination is inevitable. This sort of gene spread has already been reported for transgenic canola in Europe and Canada. Much of the research needed to assess the potential impacts of such cross-pollination has simply not been done, so it is not entirely clear what the likely impact on an ecosystem will be when a wild plant acquires the ability to churn out the Bt toxin or to resist an herbicide or to do any number of things that transgenic crops are being designed to do. Whatever the short- or long-term impacts, one thing is clear: because developing nations are home to the majority of the world’s plant biodiversity, and because crops in the developing world often exist in close proximity to wild relatives, the risk of cross-pollination is greatest there. In other words, developing nations are likely to bear the brunt of any ecological impact because of the greater likelihood of gene spread.

Mr. Chairman, in taking a global perspective in my research, I have come across publications on the subject of biotechnology and hunger from colleagues working in the developing world. I respectfully request that two of these documents be submitted as part of the hearing record to complement my own brief statements. In addition, I would also like to bring to the attention of the committee members a forum sponsored by Representative Tony Hall on June 29th of this year entitled, “Can Biotechnology Help Fight World Hunger?ö I respectfully request that the program for this event be submitted as part of the hearing record.

I would be happy to answer any questions. Thank you again for this opportunity to testify.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Feature Article from World Watch Magazine: Emperor's New Crops (available for free, but please register first).


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Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2000 07:55:50 EDT
From: RBBAX@aol.com

< Please circulate >

To: charnes@concentric.net (Rick Charnes)

Dear Rick,

Thanks for your excellent and chilling comment on the Monsanto 'seed mix-up' article (enclosed)

Fortunately Nature is infinitely more intelligent and adaptable than the gene splicers and the corporate giants could ever hope to be. So from our side we just have to keep raising our voice against genetic engineering in food production, etc..

Keep fighting. ...The tide has turned!

Ron Baxter.
Skelmersdale, Lancashire, UK
rbbax@aol.com

"A new thing of untold power is borne: the chaos of the new gene stripped from its organic body, powered by the chaos of the new market stripped from its social body".

"Free, Raw, Unregulated Capital and Free, Raw, Unregulated Genes"

By Rick Charnes

We now understand that we now have a new evil binary let loose unto the world, each facilitating and generating the other: Free, raw, unregulated capital and free, raw, unregulated genes.

The deadly twin has arrived: free capital, shorn of its regulatory coat that once mitigated its effects and provided fair warning to those species it attacked, and free genes shorn of their protein coat by which species could recognize them as a foreign gene and which provided fair warning to those species it attacked.

One can imagine the economic mixups and accidental releases of GM seed that we read about in these news reports, along with the 'social scenes' they engender, as a prefiguration of the horizontal gene releases of our future. As one can envision the Monsanto rep here with his 'oops, sorry' in front of the Australian senate committee, we now understand it as prelude and dress rehearsal to the 'oops, sorry' we will hear from this same rep when called before some governmental panel convened to investigate the major environmental or health catastrophe we can soon expect from the genetic pollution.

Even the language in the article mirrors what we've been predicting for the biosphere; while we've been waiting for the raw genes to enter other organisms and hence the food chain and drift from one species to another, we read here that the trade mixup 'could have entered the food chain'. No longer need we wait for 'nature' to spread the chaos of genetic pollution. THE CHAOS OF CAPITAL HAS BEAT NATURE TO THE PUNCH.

The virtuality of global free trade prefigures and facilitates the a-physicality of the brave new genetic world. One can imagine the bodylessness of Monsanto's CFO, and of the computer operators at the Australian grain board receiving his instructions, hunched over their terminals, performing the requisite computer functions that facilitated this 'accidental' release – as a mirror to the free, raw, naked DNA shorn of its original body. Virtual genes carrying virtual information via virtual networks into the virtual economy: this is our bodyless future.

What the genetic engineers hate more than anything else is real, sovereign, integral bodies. The corporeality and integrity of existing life forms is perceived as an affront, an outrage, a repulsion to them. It recalls them to the pain of their own physicality. Perhaps the genetic engineers and corporate technocrats loathe the sovereignty, independence and mindfulness of their own bodies and the needs imposed on them thereby. As the genetic engineers yearn to dissolve their own physical form into an amorphous virtuality, the technological webs of the net and their immersion into their computer careers can't entirely satisfy this masochistic pleasure. In the holy troika of genetic engineering-computer web-global free market, however, they have found the ultimate answer.

In frustration at their own failed will-to-virtuality, now they perform an ersatz disassembly of any other life form into its constituent genetic components, reassemble them at will, patent the finished product and sell it at instantaneous speeds over the free market, thus enacting their own dream of self-erasure and, ironically, immortality. Freed of their bodies through the computer revolution and its twin the free market, in an orgy of deconstruction they help liberate other bodies of their DNA and exult in the process if it represented their own liberation, as indeed it does.

Just as the 'materiality' and physicality of the earlier, extractive phase of capital (petroleum, minerals) facilitated and stamped its identity upon the 'materialist' industrial revolution, now the virtuality and bodyless-ness of the net provides the communicative capacity to power and indelibly imprint the new, genetic revolution of a-physicality.

A new thing of untold power is borne: the chaos of the new gene stripped from its organic body, powered by the chaos of the new market stripped from its social body. Both now globally triumphant, a melding of the organic and inorganic, it exists now as a cyborg, waiting, expectant, gleaming raw and naked in the cold sun.

Rick Charnes charnes@concentric.net

See article GM seeds may be in food chain: Monsanto


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Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2000 11:16:39 EDT
From: RBBAX@aol.com

< Please circulate widely >

GeneWatch UK Press Release

For further information please contact Dr. Sue Mayer on 01298 871898 (work)   01298 871558 (home)   07930 308807 (mobile)  

Embargoed until 00.01 Wednesday, 6th September 2000

Leaked Report: MONSANTO'S 'DESPERATE' PROPAGANDA

The full text of the leaked document is available on the GeneWatch UK website:
http://www.genewatch.org

CAMPAIGN REACHES GLOBAL PROPORTIONS

A confidential internal report leaked to GeneWatch UK reveals that Monsanto is involved in a global campaign to promote GM foods by influencing which experts get on international scientific committees, promoting their views through supposedly independent scientists and gaining influence with key decision makers in government departments in developing countries.

Monsanto's ten page internal report, headed 'company confidential', summarises the activities of its Regulatory Affairs and Scientific Outreach teams for May and June 2000. It describes developments in the regulation of GM crops in 20 countries world-wide and Monsanto's efforts to influence them. The countries include Japan, Bulgaria, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil and Korea as well as the USA and the European Union.

"The leaked report shows how Monsanto are trying to manipulate the regulation of GM foods across the globe to favour their interests," said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK's Director. "It seems they are trying to buy influence with key individuals, stack committees with experts who support them, and subvert the scientific agenda around the world."

"The scale of their campaign shows just how desperate Monsanto is to save its business," said Dr Mayer. "The report shows that they have virtually given up trying to influence the debate here in the UK, having failed to convince the public of their case. But it is worrying that Monsanto has clearly stepped up activity elsewhere, particularly in developing countries. And whilst Monsanto often claim they want to listen and engage in dialogue, it is quite clear from this leaked report that this is just window dressing for a behind-the-scenes campaign to promote their products come what may. Governments and scientists are going to have to take precautions against such pressure if they are not to lose even more consumer confidence."

The following extracts from the leaked internal paper illustrate how pervasive the Monsanto campaign is:

-ends-

For comment in the United States please contact the Council for Responsible Genetics, 5 Upland Rd, Suite 3, Cambridge, MA 02134. Phone: 00 1 617-868-0870

NOTES TO EDITORS

1.. The FAO is the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation
2.. The WHO is the UN's World Health Organisation.

Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK
The Mill House, Manchester Road, Tideswell, Buxton , Derbyshire SK17 8LN
Ph: 01298 871898   Fax: 01298 872531

Visit the GeneWatch UK web site at: http://www.genewatch.org


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Date: Wed, 06 Sep 2000 17:26:36 +0200
From: "taynton" taynton@cdrive.co.za

(PLEASE CIRCULATE WIDELY)

BIOWATCH: Risky Milk Linked To Cancer Sold In South Africa.

Dairy cows injected with genetically modified Bovine Growth Hormone (BST or rBGH) to increase their milk production produce an increased amount of Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) in their milk. IGF-1 occurs naturally in milk but not at these increased levels.

It has been found that IGF-1 is associated with increased risks of cancer in humans.

BST is banned in over 100 countries around the world but licenced for sale in South Africa.

Firstly some references on the Internet about BST. Then a copy of a press release on how companies suppress this knowledge of harmful products and how they get governments to approve them with the backing of scientists and the backing of bodies like the United Nations.

On investigation you will find South African government officials deny any harmful effects of BST on humans, despite independent scientific research to the contrary.

  1. Monsanto's Hormonal Milk Poses Risks of Breast Cancer........ http://www.psrast.org/bghcpc.htm

  2. Inadequate scientific basis for approval of Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) by the American FDA. Canadian government scientists threatened for not approving Monsanto's milk hormone: http://www.psrast.org/bghcanad.htm

  3. FDA regulation meant to promote rBGH (BST) milk resulted in antibiotic resistance (in humans): http://www.psrast.org/bghsalmonella.htm

  4. Top US investigative journalists fired for exposing the link between genetically modified Bovine Growth Hormone (BST or rBGH) used on dairy herds and cancer in humans drinking "GM milk". Follow their court cases: www.foxBGHsuit.com (latest; court case won by journalists , now the appeal by Fox TV.)

  5. I do have a fourth very comprehensive scientific report on BST quoting many studies. I would have to post it to you should you want it. (it mentions increased risks of bone cancer in children, colon cancer etc.) [Potential Public Health Impacts Of the Use Of Recombinant Bovine Growth Somatrotopin IN Dairy Production by Michael Hansen, Ph.D et.al]

  6. Document on how companies get governments to approve products that should under normal circumstances not be approved:

Sincerely

ANDREW TAYNTON

SAFE FOOD COALITION in association with THE NATURAL LAW PARTY
http://www.natural-law-party.org P O Box 665, Linkhills, 3652, KwaZulu-Natal, Republic of South Africa;
tel: 031-763 2634, Cell 083 662 0411, e-mail: taynton@cdrive.co.za


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Date: Thu, 07 Sep 2000 08:39:35 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay glenda@global.co.za
forwarded by: The Edmonds Institute beb@igc.org

BIOWATCH: Ex-Napalm Maker Moves to Biopharmaceuticals

SOURCE: The Dow Chemical Company
http://www.corp.powerize.com/digests/pharm/2000/09/05/dow.html

Dow, EPIcyte Enter Research, Licensing Agreement

MIDLAND, Mich. and SAN DIEGO, Sept. 5 /PRNewswire/ – The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW) and EPIcyte Pharmaceutical, Inc. of San Diego, CA, announced today that they have signed a research and licensing agreement to develop and produce monoclonal antibodies from plants. Monoclonal antibodies are used to prevent and treat human and animal diseases.

"Dow has more than 20 years of experience in manufacturing pharmaceutical products. This agreement represents Dow's expansion of that expertise into biopharmaceutical manufacturing," said Carolyn Fritz, global business director of Biotechnology for Dow. "The collaboration will leverage Dow's expertise in process development, clinical supply, and commercial-scale manufacturing and Dow AgroSciences' strengths in genetic engineering of crops."

The agreement encompasses a multi-year collaborative research program between the companies, in addition to supply of clinical material by Dow, ultimately transitioning into commercial supply, and licenses from EPIcyte for application of the technology in animal health by Dow AgroSciences (DAS). Dow, on behalf of DAS, will make upfront payments for licensing of EPIcyte's Plantibodies(TM) technology and for milestones on commercialization of products directed towards emerging opportunities for disease prevention to enhance animal health and the safety of the animal-derived human food supply.

"Over the next four years, the companies will commit the equivalent of at least forty fulltime employees to developing products and intellectual property in this arena," reported Mich Hein, EPIcyte's president. "This effort will expand the leadership position of our Plantibodies(TM) technology for production of antibodies and related molecules in plants. In addition to potential income from Dow AgroSciences' Animal Health products and the research and development funding, the commitment of Dow and Dow AgroSciences for manufacturing our initial products will provide EPIcyte's shareholders as much as $50 million in savings on construction and development costs in commercializing our own products."

"Plant-based systems can provide significant cost advantages over traditional mammalian cell culture systems to produce antibodies," said Fritz. Production from plants is anticipated to substantially lower the capital costs, dramatically reduce cost of goods for more complex antibody types and prove scalable to much greater production volumes than current systems for antibody production. "This new approach to production is expected to increase the utility and application of antibodies for established and innovative uses in human and animal health, as well as certain industrial applications," she said.

"We fully intend for this to be an important strategic alliance going forward. Working with Dow and Dow AgroSciences is a great advantage and will move our pipeline of immunoprotectant products to the market faster," said Hein. "Dow is already one of the most efficient manufacturers of intermediates and drug actives for the pharmaceutical industry. This relationship lays to rest for us and our collaborators the question of how these products will be manufactured, allowing us to focus on new product discovery, clinical evaluation and ultimately commercialization."

Potential for the products in animal health will support a new business area for Dow AgroSciences, according to Pete Siggelko, global director of Biotechnology and Plant Genetics for Dow AgroSciences. "We intend to develop a series of innovative plant-based products for food safety and animal disease prevention," he said. "The EPIcyte Plantibodies(TM) technology is a key food safety technology platform that we intend to build on. We will first focus on a definitive proof of concept, then follow with an aggressive development effort," Siggelko indicated. Products for animal health and food safety could be launched as early as 2006 or 2007.

Dow is a leading science and technology company that provides innovative chemical, plastic and agricultural products and services to many essential consumer markets. With annual sales of $19 billion, Dow serves customers in 162 countries and a wide range of markets that are vital to human progress, including food, transportation, health and medicine, personal and home care, and building and construction, among others. Committed to the principles of sustainable development, Dow and its 39,000 employees seek to balance economic, environmental and social responsibilities.

Dow AgroSciences LLC is a global leader in providing pest management and biotechnology products that improve the quality and quantity of the earth's food supply and contribute to the safety, health and quality of life of the world's growing population. Dow AgroSciences has approximately 6,000 people in over 50 countries dedicated to its business, and has worldwide sales of more than $2 billion. Dow AgroSciences is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company.

EPIcyte is a four-year-old company developing antibody-based products for the prevention and treatment of infections. The company currently has five antibody products in development. EPIcyte has extensive intellectual property for production of antibodies in plants licensed from The Scripps Research Institute and has a strategic alliance with Dow AgroSciences/Dow Chemical for product development and manufacturing of its Plantibodies(TM) products. It plans to license or partner its technology in areas outside its product focus.

Plantibodies(TM) is a trademark of EPIcyte Pharmaceutical, Inc.


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Date: Thu, 7 Sep 2000 16:47:20 +0200
From: "Biowatch" eps@intekom.co.za

BIOWATCH: Biotech and rice research in Asia

Full briefing available at http://www.grain.org/adhoc.htm

"Blast, Biotech and Big Business" New report shows corporate priorities driving rice research in Asia

Genetic engineering (GE) is fast taking the lead role in rice research, based on lofty promises of the "best tools science has to offer" against the pests and diseases that ravage the world's most vital food crop. However, it fails to offer real solutions to the problems affecting resource-poor rice producers in Asia. According to a new report, Blast, Biotech and Big Business*, "There is a fundamental conflict within agricultural research and development – between an agenda that caters to the needs of industry and one that addresses the needs of resource-poor farmers, the bulk of Asia's population." The report investigates these issues through the case of blast, a fungal disease of rice.

Blast is big fungicide market – and now a hot target for genetic engineering. Transnational corporations, which until now had little incentive to do rice breeding, are pouring money into rice research with the aim of doubling their income source from blast: not just the fungicide sales, but now also the genetically engineered seeds. Disease resistance genes are already being patented by major chemical conglomerates such as Syngenta (Switzerland) and DuPont (USA) and will soon be incorporated into GE rice. The catch is, the companies can prevent the disease resistance genes from functioning if the plants are not sprayed with their proprietary fungicides.

The motives are clear, but the science is shaky. GE rice will not provide effective or durable resistance to blast because the technology relies on a small number of genes when in fact disease resistance is much more complex. According to the report's principal researcher, Devlin Kuyek, "Genetic engineering is too static to deal with the dynamic relationships between plants and disease that are deeply tied to the surrounding ecology." In contrast, blast can be managed by farmers themselves through readily available means such as wider spacing between plants, less fertilizer, intermittent irrigation, and cultivating different rice varieties. "Genetic engineering will not provide poor rice farmers in Asia a solution to the blast problem." the report asserts. "Looking at it from their situation, the GE approach is impractical, expensive and unwarranted, s there are much more affordable and effective ways to control the isease."

As corporate payoffs are the fundamental drive behind GE research in rice, the real problems for rice farmers and consumers in Asia are disregarded. A recent study conducted in the Philippines identifies the most serious problems affecting the country's staple food supply: market conditions, lack of irrigation facilities, inadequacy of post harvest facilities, indebtedness due to high input costs, weak support services, typhoons, inefficient transport networks, and unequal land distribution. This shows that there is a severe mismatch between the real constraints to a healthy rice economy and the money being invested in biotechnological "solutions" such as blast resistance.

----------

*This briefing, available online at http://www.grain.org/adhoc.htm , was researched by Devlin Kuyek for a group of NGOs, farmers' movements and scientists cooperating in a joint project on current trends in agricultural R&D which will affect small farmers in Asia.
Participants are Biothai (Thailand), GRAIN, KMP (Philippines), MASIPAG (Philippines), PAN Indonesia, Philippine Greens and UBINIG (Bangladesh), and in an invidual capacity, Drs. Romeo Quijano (UP Manila, College of Medicine, Philippines) and Oscar B. Zamora (UP Los Banos, College of Agriculture, Philippines).

Email: mailto:intku@hotmail.com

Biowatch South Africa "-"Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss "-"
Tel : +27 22 492 3426 "-"Fax : +27 22 492 3426


Top PreviousNextFront Page
Date: Thu, 07 Sep 2000 23:12:56 +0200
From: ekogaia ekogaia@iafrica.com

Hope for the badlands

BIOWATCH: Salt-resistant plants may help farmers keep deserts at bay

By Haim Watzman, From New Scientist magazine, 11 September 2000.
© Copyright New Scientist, RBI Limited 2000

A WAY of breeding trees and crops that can survive in the increasingly salty soil of much of the world's farmland has been discovered by researchers in Israel. They have managed to make trees more salt-tolerant, and are now seeing whether the trick will work with crops such as tomatoes, too.

According to some estimates, more than half of the world's agricultural land will become saline in the next half-century. In countries like Israel, where fresh-water supplies are already overexploited, farmers are being forced to use salty water for irrigation and will have to use even more in the future. All of which makes the development of salt-resistant crops and trees essential, says Arie Altman of the Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture of the Hebrew University in Rehovot.

His team has isolated a protein called BspA that helps trees grow in salty conditions. The protein was discovered in a common European aspen, Populus tremula, which produces BspA when growing in salty soil. The researchers think the protein may protect cells from high levels of salt by attracting water molecules and also by binding to other cell proteins, though they are still trying to work out the exact mechanism involved.

The researchers managed to increase the aspens' salt tolerance by giving them more copies of the gene for the protein. While normal aspens shed their leaves about five days after being exposed to very salty conditions, trees with extra BspA genes hang onto them for up to 10 days, Altman says. The team is now transferring the BspA gene to tobacco and tomato plants to see whether it can make these plants more salt-tolerant too.

However, Altman suspects that many plants already have the BspA gene. If so, it may not be necessary to genetically engineer the gene into crops. "Once you have a molecular probe for the gene you can use it also in traditional breeding techniques to speed up selection. By developing molecular tools you can screen out the trees in which the gene is being expressed the most," he says.

Altman's work is significant, says Dorothea Bartels of the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding in Cologne and the University of Bonn. Discovering how a tree protects itself against high salt levels is a major advance, she says, as most work has focused on other plants.

Altman's team is also trying to uncover the secrets of a tree that handles salt even better than the aspen. The Euphrates poplar, Populus euphratica, survives in the salty soil near the Avdat spring in Israel. While part of its tolerance may be due to BspA, Altman suspects the tree uses other tricks as well.

"All policymakers must be vigilant to the possibility of research data being manipulated by corporate bodies and of scientific colleagues being seduced by the material charms of industry. Trust is no defence against an aggressively deceptive corporate sector," THE LANCET, April 2000

"When a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, it can cause a hurricane in New York."


Top PreviousNextFront Page
Date: Fri, 08 Sep 2000 13:23:55 +0200
From: ekogaia ekogaia@iafrica.com

Things get more and more interesting, dont they?

Shut Up And Eat Your GM Soup, Africans Are Told

By Sam Wainaina, The East African (Nairobi)
Africa News, September 7, 2000

Nairobi – The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Kari, teaming up with the international agribusiness giant Monsanto, achieved a coup of sorts when they went public early last month with their genetically modified sweet potato, described as highly resistant to viral diseases. It was a clever strategy that presented a fait accompli and pre- empted what critics would have said had these man-modified crops been subjected to an open discussion.

In their moment of glory and back-patting, Kari forgot that Monsanto is the agribusiness company that very nearly enslaved Third World agriculture with their "terminator" seed technology, which would have forced poor farmers into permanent dependence on Monsanto and similar companies for their seed needs.

Before Kari's announcement, Dr Harold Salter of the British biotech company, CropGen, had said casually on the BBC that Kari were proving quite innovative with genetic engineering technology. He cited the disease-resistant sweet potato. Dr Salter made me sit up and wonder what else we are eating locally that has been modified with exotic genes.

There is clearly no democracy in this matter; you eat what the scientists deem good for you or for your agriculture. In the past, I would shy away from American foods in supermarkets, but if Kari, with the covert assistance of Monsanto, and other American or British agribusiness giants, is bringing exotic genes into African nutrition with the simplistic assurance that it is all safe, then we need to worry.

Genetic engineering is the artificial insertion of the genetic material of one organism into another type of organism in order to effect a presumed advantage in productivity, disease resistance, taste and other qualities.

When one Dr Chakrabarty, an Indian born American scientist, succeeded in patenting a man-made bacterium able to lap up oil spills in the ocean, it was hailed at the time as a major breakthrough. I remember wondering aloud in the Sunday Nation at the time what would happen if Dr Chakrabarty's oil-eating bacterium extended its culinary preference to include all forms of plastics.

Now, 20 years down the road, truly exotic things are being done with similar technology to give us what Martin Walker, Chairman of Iceland Foods in the UK, has called "Frankenstein Foods." Genes responsible for the manufacture of deadly scorpion poison (in scorpions) have been transferred by man from where God put them, into some crops to produce toxins that kill crop-eating insects.

Scientists have also transferred genes from animals with an ability to withstand extreme cold into commercial crops to impart to them the ability to withstand frost.

Proponents claim that GM is merely an extension of hybridisation, which has given us so many of our crop varieties, such as Katumani maize. But hybridisation is a breeding process within related species. You don't force genes of fish into tomatoes and claim it is the same thing as breeding Katumani maize. As for our dwarf Ruiru II coffee variety, it was never a GM crop but a hybrid involving planting materials from coffee varieties obtained from Colombia.

The way Dr Salter presented his comments on the BBC was typical of many scientists in this field, who assume they are doing us a favour by stuffing all manner of combinations of genes down our throats.

The commonest argument one hears in reference to Africa is that the technology will ensure greater food supplies for a hungry continent. Sadly, in a manner reminiscent of the intolerance that prevails in African politics, not a whiff of dissent is allowed. Western scientists who have ventured to warn their African colleagues to be cautious of this newfangled science have been branded "racists" by some African scientists – as happened to Dr Hans Herren, director of the Nairobi- based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, at a recent conference organised by the African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum.

According to The People of March 4, Dr Herren was accused of racism and related diseases by, among others, Kari director Dr Cyrus Ndiritu, and scientists Dr Florence Wambugu, Professor Norah Olembo and Prof J.O. Ochanda, who, in classic Kanu witch-hunt style, "poured vitriol" on the hapless (and absent) Dr Herren with the support of (surprise, surprise) two officials from the biotechnology giant Novartis, Klaus Leisinger and Timothy Reeves.

Don't fool yourself that the scientists who are doing these things to us are remotely conversant with the repercussions. As an American media commentator, Myra Rosenblum has observed "the bottom line is money, money, money..." And as for those simplistic assurances of safety, "No long term safety studies have been carried out," according to Dr John Fagan, a top British molecular biologist and author of Genetic Engineering – the Hazards.

Charles Thomas of the British environment watchdog, Greenpeace, calls GM "living pollution" while the head of the British Food Standards Agency, Prof Phillip James, believes that those that see this technology as an advance in science "are being totally naive." ... The New England Journal of Medicine recently commented that the US Food and Drug Administration actually favours the genetic engineering industry. Should this be surprising, given that the deputy head of FDA recently joined Monsanto as senior vice president?

Whom do we in East Africa hold accountable once a genetically engineered food crop goes crazy leading to mass poisoning, sterility or fatal asthma attacks? If food crops act as their own pesticides, what is to stop us being poisoned by them? What is to stop bees and birds being decimated by them?

Furthermore, there is nothing to stop these genes spreading to species. "Designer crops" with an ability to withstand greater concentrations of herbicide than the common weeds of agriculture may spread their genes to the very same weeds. Once the weeds themselves become herbicide resistant and reach areas of the world where subsistence farming is still practised, they could spell the end of age-old farming traditions in the same way as the water hyacinth in Lake Victoria nearly wiped out artisanal fishing...

Beggars cannot be choosers. It is only a matter of time before we begin hearing reports that Africa's million-plus refugee population are living on GM foods. Research agencies working on food productivity in Africa should be reined in and made accountable to parliaments and consumers. The world has to go on long after the children of these scientists are old men walking with the aid of sticks.

"All policymakers must be vigilant to the possibility of research data being manipulated by corporate bodies and of scientific colleagues being seduced by the material charms of industry. Trust is no defence against an aggressively deceptive corporate sector,"

THE LANCET, April 2000

"When a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, it can cause a hurricane in New York."


Top PreviousNextFront Page
Date: Fri, 08 Sep 2000 15:35:27 +0200
From: ekogaia ekogaia@iafrica.com

BIOWATCH: Patent Evils Threaten Public Goods

News Release
Thursday, September 7, 2000

"Hippocrates, We Have a Problem!"

Patent Evils Threaten Public Goods

International agricultural research centres – struggling for survival, may find themselves brought up before the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by the poor they are pledged to help, new RAFI report warns.

An Occasional Paper published today by RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International) "In Search of Higher Ground" (the full text can be found at www.rafi.org) warns that the world's leading international public science institutions are in crisis and their inept patent policies and inexperience with multinational corporations could put them at odds with those their research is meant to serve. According to the study, public science patent policies could undermine the very concept of "public goods" and the original premises which made it possible for agricultural centres to obtain more than 600,000 samples of farmers' seed varieties throughout the Third World.

"Trojan Trade Reps": Focusing on international agricultural research centres, the report argues that public science is the victim of declining financial support (often the result of the mistaken assumption that giant companies can do science better) and intense pressure from agribusiness to adopt patents on living materials and particularly, U.S.-style patent policies.

Such policies will compromise or distort "public goods" in favour of corporate interests. Asserting that international scientific bodies are "genetically-incapable" of managing patent policies, the report warns that institutions are becoming "Trojan trade reps" for the U.S. Government when they fail to acknowledge the sovereign right of countries and the human rights of farmers especially in the Third World- to access the technologies they need for their well-being. "International scientists seem to believe it is unethical to utilize patented technologies in countries where the patents are non-applicable with-out the permission of the patent-holder.

If a company does not apply for patent protection in Ethiopia, Ethiopians have every right to avail themselves of the technology. That's international law," Pat Mooney, RAFI's Executive Director, says. "If public science fails to disseminate technologies that could be beneficial to Third World countries merely because they would offend patent-holders in other countries, they are siding with the multinationals against the poor. If they acquire licenses to use patented technologies and then pass on licensing restrictions to countries where the patent is invalid, they are, again, siding with the multinationals," Mooney insists. "Public science has to decide who they are serving. They cannot become the Trojan trade reps of the multinationals."

Human Rights Violations? The RAFI report notes that both the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Human Rights Commission have recently warned that the World Trade Organization's TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property) agreement could be in conflict with more than one Human Rights covenant. In June, the UNDP's Human Development Report specifically criticized the TRIPS accord as a threat to Human Rights. On August 17th, the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights unanimously challenged TRIPS as impacting negatively on the rights of poor people to benefit from new technologies.

"International Agricultural Research Centres, by submitting to the national patent laws of some Northern countries, are denying countries in the South access to potentially useful technologies, and/or imposing unethical constraints on their use, and/or misusing public financial contributions to pay patent-holders for technologies that are actually freely-available," Hope Shand, RAFI's Research Director, states, "This is unacceptable and it must not be permitted. The integrity of international public science is at stake."

"Hippocrates, we have a problem!" Despite its conclusion that international public science should not be allowed to set patent policy, the RAFI report is sympathetic to the conundrum facing researchers. "These are good and decent people trying their best for world agriculture," Pat Mooney acknowledges. "They are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they ignore corporate patents they could face reprisals not only from the companies but also from the Northern governments who fund international science.

If they acquiesce to corporate demands, farmers and consumers could – and should – protest their actions before the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Their predicament is not of their making," Mooney adds. "But they have the predicament nonetheless," Hope Shand concurs, "and they have to get themselves out of it. Rather than being taken to the Human Rights Commissioner, they should join with those they wish to serve and ask Mary Robinson (the UN High Commissione! r for Human Rights) to investigate the problem."

RAFI's report identifies three major steps that science networks such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) should take. "First, CGIAR should join with Civil Society Organizations in asking the Human Rights Commission to investigate and advise on this conflict," Shand says. "Second, when the CGIAR holds its annual meeting in Washington this October, it should ask either UNDP or FAO to seek an advisory opinion from the World Court on the implications of patents on biological materials and the consequences for national sovereignty and Human Rights. Third," Hope Shand concludes, "CGIAR should join with others in seeking political solutions to the problem through a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on science and innovation."

28 Steps to Higher Ground: Although "In Search of Higher Ground" emphasizes the perils of patenting and the failures of public science to meet the policy challenge, it also offers 28 specific steps that institutes could take to defend their interests. Among the 28 are several that would modify current patent regimes to safeguard public goods. There are also "trade union" opportunities for public science to adopt collective bargaining strategies and make common cause with wider social movements. "For scientists, a protest letter in Nature constitutes a primal scream. They just have no sense of political strategy or of policy alternatives," Pat Mooney worries.

Not all of RAFI's concerns are leveled at public scientists. "As Civil Society Organizations, we have to decide whether we want to safeguard public goods and public research, or let these institutions be absorbed into corporate globalization," Mooney continues, "Most of us, quite rightly, disagree with the biotech strategy being pursued by many of these institutions and it is hard to sympathize with their problems. Nevertheless, international science has shown itself to be much more responsive to farmers' concerns in recent years."

"I think we have to fight first for the public's right to access the technologies they want," says Shand, "and to develop new technologies in the public domain – high-tech or wide-tech (farmer-led research). Then we have to confront the institutions with our dissatisfaction over their research methods and priorities. If they will join us before the Human Rights Commission – be 'doers' rather than be 'done to' – this could be the beginning of resurgence in public support for public science."

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

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.

For more information, contact:

Pat Mooney, Executive Director, RAFI mooney@rafi.org
Hope Shand, Director of Research, RAFI hope@rafi.org

To add or remove your name from the RAFI listserver, please go to http://www.rafi.org and then "Sign Up" where you will be given the choice of adding or removing your name.


Top PreviousFront Page
Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2000 20:16:17 +0200
From: "Anthony van Zyl" antvz@onwe.co.za
From: RBBAX@aol.com
Originated: Ronnie Cummins ronnie@organicconsumers.org

Please circulate

Dear folks,

Enclosed is an informative and inspiring extract from Ronnie Cumins' excellent GM newsletter.

Ron Baxter

(NOTE TO EDITORS. This would make a good theme for an article on GM).

Bursting the Biotech Bubble

BioDemocracy News #29 (Sept. 2000)

The agbiotech bubble is bursting. Or is it? Across the globe the controversy over genetically engineered foods and crops has intensified. While strong resistance has continued in Europe, opposition is evermore evident in the Asia-Pacific region, in Latin America and Africa, and even in the North American heartland.

Yet industry, backed up by the US government, claims that the worst is over. Consumers, they say, are getting used to eating gene-foods, farmers are enthusiastic, scientists are proving that GE crops are safe, and international regulations are being harmonized. Is the Biotech Century back on track? A look at recent developments across the world should give us an answer.

- Shortened version.

"The fight against genetically modified foods is a fight that goes well beyond the simple world of farming. It is the future of humanity which is at stake,"

Jose Bove, the French farmer who was sentenced to a month in jail for demolishing a MacDonald's restaurant.