28 October 2000

Table of Contents

BIOWATCH: GM DNA fragments, human rights and biotech criminal trials
Key DNA fragments can enter the human food chain, reveals research by Commons committee
The Human Genome – The Biggest Sellout in Human History
South Africa: Woolworths Showing the way on GM foods
NOT such as an unstoppable technology!
Endorse Freeze on Genetically Modified Food etc. in SA.
GM food dangers. A declaration by Dr Richard Lacey
UNCTAD: Systems and National Experiences for Protecting Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices
VIDEO: Organic or genetic in Africa?
Beware: GM-affected Vitamin C, etc in "health" food products
GMO Fight Comes To Supplements Aisle
Action Alert on GE-Tainted Vitamin C Tablets Sold in Health Food Stores

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Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 09:45:27 +0200
From: "taynton"

BIOWATCH: GM DNA fragments, human rights and biotech criminal trials


Remember the dodgy animal feed at the centre of the UK BSE crisis? Whilst the precise implications of this latest research on GM animal feed (see 'Observer' article at end) are not yet clear it demonstrates yet again how biotech industry claims are regularly shown to be not based on science. The reason is simple – either the science hasn't been done or it has been covered up – and we are all participants in giant global experiment without anyone obtaining our prior consent.

With BSE few complained in advance of the problem – but that doesn't apply with GM. Governments around the globe are going to find themselves on the receiving end of hefty lawsuits before too long on this subject. The right to unadulterated food is a fundamental human right. Governments, regulatory officials and advisers, biotechnology companies and the rest of the food chain are now on 'notice'. BSE was just the rehersal. (In addition to the issues raised by the Observer article most GM crops contain genetic material from a virus related to Hepatitis B see - )

"I was recently on a TV talk show where I debated the safety of genetically modified food with someone representing the Food Technology Association. I began with a brief statement on the hazards of rBGH, the synthetic bovine-growth hormone that is now present in nearly all U.S. dairy products. I described how, in 1989, someone dropped off at my office a batch of documents that had been stolen from the Food and Drug Administration's files on Monsanto, the company that manufactures rBGH. Included was a Monsanto document from 1987 indicating that the company was fully aware of rBGH's danger and was conspiring with the FDA to suppress information critical to veterinary and public health.....

I've now come to believe that we need Nuremberg-type trials to hold industries accountable for these sorts of public-health crimes. The tobacco industry would be one example, but there is a wide range of other industries whose executives we need to begin holding accountable. Scientists, too. There are a vast number of indentured scientists in this country willing to jump through any hoop for the sake of profit. In addition, we need to bring to account regulatory officials and members of expert advisory committees and all the people who are supposed to be overseeing public health but are instead facilitating the poisoning of the American people, and, in fact, the people of the world. I am dead serious about this....

If we are able to assemble a collection of distinguished jurists and focus the world's attention on war crimes in remote Kosovo, how is it that we can do nothing similar about the massive, premeditated withholding of information on carcinogens by major multinational corporations?": from 'An Epidemic of Deception: Why We Can't Trust The Cancer Establishment', An Interview With Dr Samuel Epstein by Derrick Jensen, originally published in The Sun [not the UK one!], March 2000. In 1996, Dr Epstein represented the European Union at World Trade Organization talks about the use of genetically engineered hormones in meat production. He is currently professor emeritus of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health in Chicago.

"There is still no positive proof of a causal relation between the use of thalidomide during pregnancy and malformations in the new-born." Frank Getman, President Merrill Company, Feb 2nd 1961

Top PreviousNextFront Page
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 09:45:27 +0200
From: "taynton"

Key DNA fragments can enter the human food chain, reveals research by Commons committee

By Antony Barnett, Public affairs editor, Sunday October 15, 2000,2763,382845,0....

Health fear over GM cattle feed

Large fragments of genetically modified DNA could be entering the human food chain, according to findings of a key Government committee obtained by The Observer.

An independent study by the Advisory Committee on Animal Feeding Stuffs reveals that alien genes used by scientists to modify crops are surviving the manufacturing process which turns GM crops into animal food.

The report heightens fears that products such as chicken, turkey, beef and pork may be contaminated with modified genes if the animals they are from were raised on GM feed. Until now Ministers and industry bodies have reassured consumers that a heating process kills any DNA in animal fodder.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Joyce Quin told the House of Commons last December: 'Ministry-funded work has confirmed that DNA is degraded during the processing of most animal feed.'

But the new disclosure that genetic material remains in the food chain will raise widespread concern. More than two million tonnes of GM crops are imported into the UK for animal feed.

The major concern will be that the DNA can transfer to bacteria in the gastro-intestinal tracts of animals fed on this material.

All animals, including humans, have bacteria in their gut which helps to fight disease as well as easing digestion. But some GM animal feed contains an alien gene which confers resistance to antibiotics. If this gene were to transfer to the bacteria in cows, it could make it harder for farmers to treat infections. Another concern is that farmworkers inhaling the dust from GM feed could be affected.

Environmentalists further fear that humans eating meat or dairy products from livestock fed on GM crops could be at risk, although so far there is no evidence that bacteria in human guts have been affected.

However, earlier this year, The Observer revealed the work of a German scientist who had found that genes from GM crops could be found in bacteria in the guts of bees.

Fears of this kind led the Government's independent advisory committee - which reports to the Food Standards Agency – to commission the consultants ADAS to monitor the manufacturing of animal feed.

The draft minutes of the committee, seen by this newspaper, state: 'The results indicate that DNA fragments large enough to contain potentially functional genes survived processing in many of the samples studied.'

Members of the committee had 'expressed surprise that so much DNA survived processing', the minutes add.

Greenpeace has called on the Government to take immediate steps to stop the continuing import of GM crops from the US for use in animal feed.

A spokesman for the environmental group, Andy Tait, said: 'It is beyond belief that even in the wake of the BSE crisis, independent research into the potential for GM to cross into the guts of animals was not done before these crops were allowed to market.'

The GM firm Monsanto has always said the genes used in its soya crops are 'inactivated' by heat processing during animal feed manufacture.

Biotech companies argue that Britons have been happily eating and drinking milk, chicken, pork and beef from livestock raised on GM-rich diets since the early Nineties and shown no ill effects.

A Food Standards Agency spokeswoman said the findings had been a surprise but the body did not believe the study raised food safety issues. 'While we now know that DNA does survive the manufacturing process in some samples there is no scientific proof that this then crosses into the guts of the animals that eat it.'

The agency would go on pressing for the compulsory labelling of food from animals raised on GM feed, she added.

The possibility of the suspect DNA entering human food was first raised in the US in the early Nineties.

GM animal feed – the risks Quote:

"Animal feed derived from genetically modified plants presents unique animal and food safety concerns. These concerns arise partly because one crop—field corn—supplies 50 to 75% of the diet of most domestic animals, so small changes in nutrient levels from genetic engineering can have large effects on animal health. The antibiotic resistance marker genes contained in most crops would likely make animals resistant to some antibiotics, especially neomycin, which is used in animal feed. Furthermore, toxicant residues from transgenic crops could end up in meat and milk products and may pose human food safety problems".

Gerald B. Guest, the FDA official in charge of the Center for Veterinary Medicine, 1992.

Top PreviousNextFront Page
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 16:20:39 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Glenda Lindsay

Announcing New ISIS Report see for full text (to be posted 18/10/00)

The Human Genome – The Biggest Sellout in Human History

By Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Institute of Science in Society

Governments in the industrialized countries have handed over the human genome to private ownership together with the most triumphant hyperboles to boot, notwithstanding that it was mapped and sequenced at great public expense.

A multi-billion bio-informatics 'goldrush' is on, as private companies scramble to mine the public database for genes to patent and to assemble their own proprietary databases which are sold at exorbitant fees to subscribers.

Beneath the hype, bio-informatics is a desperate attempt to turn the exponentially increasing amount of information into knowledge. The human genome programme has dominated the scientific scene for the past ten years, raising hopes and fears in equal measure. Is it likely to deliver?

No, says Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, the author of the report, especially if it continues to be misguided by a discredited genetic determinist paradigm that serves to divert attention and resources away from the real causes of ill-health and to stigmatize the victims. We are already witnessing the resurgence of genetic discrimination and eugenics that have blighted the history of much of the last century.

Bio-informatics suffers from the reductionist fallacy that knowledge will automatically arise once information is exhaustively listed. Molecular biology is suffocating from information overload.

"What we need is a quantum leap to a new paradigm for understanding the organism as a coherent whole. Otherwise, human genome research will remain a scientific and financial black hole that swallows up all public and private resources without any return either to investors or to improving the health of nations."

Top PreviousNextFront Page
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 15:41:42 EDT
Originally posted by:

South Africa: Woolworths Showing the way on GM foods

Cape Times 17/10/2000

A Woolworths representative told a parliamentary committee that when it came to genetic engineering, he could not decide whether the glass was half-full or half-empty.

He probably reflected what many South Africans felt. On the one hand they're told genetic engineering is the answer to feeding the world's poor, and on the other they're told the health and environmental risks involved are unpredictable and possibly dire.

In the face of this uncertainty, the retail chain has done what our government failed to do – they have taken a precautionary approach. They opted to take products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) off their shelves, and where that was not possible, to label the food containing GMOs accordingly.

The Department of Agriculture, however, has rushed the genetic engineering issue without fully examining the risks. They allowed genetically engineered maize and cotton to be released commercially before the Genetically Modified Organisms Act came into effect. And the act is poor. It places liability for anything that may go wrong as a result of GMOs on the farmer or the consumer, not on the company that did the genetic engineering. It has no input from civil society and no standards for risk assessments. The act urgently needs to be rewritten.

There is a growing body of scientists who say genetic engineering could have unpredictable and serious consequences for health and the environment. Once engineered genes are released, it is unlikely they can be recalled. This could lead to an ecological disaster, but unlike an oil spill, one that cannot be cleaned up.

The British Medical Association has called for a five- year moratorium on the release of GMOs. Our government would do well to heed their advice and put a moratorium on any further commercial releases of GMOs pending further, independent, research. In the face of unknown risks, the government should adopt the precautionary approach, as laid down by our National Environmental Management Act.

----------==== ====----------

"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."

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Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2000 09:52:47 EDT

Please circulate

Dear folks,

The article below asks if biotech is an unstoppable technology. Well, as campaigners we already know the answer.

The Titanic was thought at the time to be so high-tech it was unsinkable.The biotech industry is only a few years old yet it is already leaking like a sieve, and just like nuclear power, it too, is on the way down.

Keep campaigning. The tide has turned.

Ron Baxter
Lancs. UK

PS: I've also enclosed Jonathan Mathews excellent analysis of the following 'article'.

NOT such as an unstoppable technology!

Behind the biotech push: world hunger saga
Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin): An unstoppable technology?

Behind the biotech push: world hunger saga

By Laurent Belsie
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor , FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2000


On the face of it, farming's biotech revolution is wavering.

As hearings on reapproval of genetically engineered crops begin this week in the United States, protesters have stepped up their attacks. Farmers have slowed the rate at which they're adopting the new crops. And industry missteps, such as the widening scandal over nonapproved modified corn showing up in taco shells and other food, has done nothing to reassure consumers.

But quietly, another biotech push is gathering momentum that may prove unstoppable. Universities and nonprofit research organizations are pressing ahead to genetically engineer hardier crops and more nutritious food for the world's poor. And while the US and Europe bicker over how to regulate these new crops, several developing countries are forging ahead with research that could lead to dramatic transformation of agriculture in poor countries.

"There's no way you are going to stop that technology, anymore than you could stop the automobile or the computer," says Al Clausi, an agricultural consultant. "It's just too good."

Here at Iowa State University, the technology is proving so useful that 265 of the university's 1,800 faculty are now working on it. Since 1984, the university has poured $70 million into biotech, including a plant transformation facility to do the genetic grunt work for researchers – the first public facility of its kind in the US.

At the moment, the facility handles 10 to 12 projects a year – half from inside the university, half from institutions as far away as Britain. And demand is growing, says director Kan Wang. "Other universities are starting transformation facilities, and I still see the increase."

Researchers say the technology offers more precision and speed than traditional plant breeding. Adding a specific trait to corn might take 10 to 15 years with conventional techniques, says Tim Reeves, director of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico. Genetic engineering could bring that down to five years.

By itself, the technology won't feed all the world's hungry. In Southern Africa, for example, Mr. Reeves calculates corn yields would have to double to provide enough food. Genetic engineering might provide 10 percent of that boost, but traditional breeding, fertilizer, and other efforts will be needed, too.

Since biotech only provides a piece of the puzzle – and a controversial piece at that – some researchers argue public money to battle hunger would be better spent elsewhere.

"We don't have to use genetically modified methods," says Hans Herren, director of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, Kenya. While seed companies have genetically engineered corn to resist a corn borer common to the US and Europe, Mr. Herren's center is teaching farmers to use natural grasses to repel the pests.

And genetic engineering carries risks – though how much remains unclear. Evaluating it is like trying to predict the effects of the Y2K computer bug in advance. It's possible the technology could spawn superweeds and pests with enough resistance to spread like wildfire.

But the potential payoffs are huge. By inserting pest-resistant traits into plants, the technology is already reducing the pesticides used on crops. Future advances could produce hardier crops in such abundance that farmers would be less vulnerable to the vagaries of weather and less inclined to carve out new land from rain forests because their old fields were exhausted.

For consumers in the developed world, who already have ample food, the potential benefits may not outweigh the risks of genetically modified food.

This week, the US controversy over biotech corn in taco shells widened dramatically. Aventis FoodSciences, an agricultural biotech company in Research Triangle Park, N.C., announced that its genetically modified corn may have moved into the nation's food system in much larger amounts than previously known.

Traces of the corn had already been found in taco shells sold under the Taco Bell and Safeway brands. Now the company, which is desperately trying to buy the crop back, says the corn was sold to 260 grain elevators, many of which resold it to food companies. The corn was only approved for animal consumption, and researchers say it might trigger allergic reactions in people.

The flap is likely to fuel further public distrust of the technology and more government scrutiny.

Meanwhile, many European nations are adopting such high safety standards that biotech seed companies could find it difficult to commercialize their discoveries. And the European Union, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand are considering mandatory labels on foods containing altered crops – a move the industry fears will scare consumers away.

"The next year could be crucial for biotechnology, particularly in the international arena," says US Undersecretary of State Alan Larson. The food standards body of the United Nations will address biotech crops next year.

But in the developing world, where food production is more marginal and population continues to burgeon, the risk-benefit calculus is different. In some regions of India, for example, crop losses can run up to 50 percent.

"The conventional approaches have not provided a solution," says Usha Barwale-Zehr, joint director of research for an Indian seed company. "We cannot afford to ignore the potential application of biotechnology for the Indian farmer."

Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin): An unstoppable technology?

Originated from:
Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin)

For more on these issues:

"The next year could be crucial for biotechnology, particularly in the international arena" – US Undersecretary of State Alan Larson

The quote comes from an interesting article, below, that identifies in passing the extent to which biotech hopes are now pinned almost entirely on the South, as well as the extent to which the wheels keep turning due to massive investment dollars.

Note, for example, how the comment "There's no way you are going to stop that technology" is linked to:

"Here at Iowa State University, the technology is proving so useful [read that hoiw you will] that 265 of the university's 1,800 faculty are now working on it. Since 1984, the university has poured $70 million into biotech"

Derived from where? Corporate research dollars are obviously great for researchers, offering "toys for boys", patents and profits. The lure, amidst scarce public resources and an almost feverish biobiz culture, has been irresistable but as the director of the Integrity in Science Project, at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, commented in a recent article from the Legal Times (October 16, 2000):

"Scientists and universities have had their chance to adopt and actively promote meaningful and fair standards of ethical conduct concerning conflicts of interest." [REGULATING Dr. FRANKENSTEIN: Money, Lax Ethics, & Clinical Trials]

And what ethical sense does it make to pursue a hi-tech food fix with regard to the South, when this doesn't address the real problems underlying hunger and malnutrition?

Jeremy Bartlett recently pointed out in a piece we posted to this list that world agriculture currently produces one and a half times as much food as is needed to adequately feed the world's population and in India, which is specifically referred to in the article below as an obvious example of where the technology has application, grain stores are full to bursting while people still starve. As Jeremy commented, "Fairer distribution of land and local control of the food supply are the keys to preventing hunger, not GM crops."

Indeed, piling massive resources into hi-tech approaches that ignore and indeed distract from the key issues, and where part of the motivation is to use human suffering to legitimate and shoehorn in a technology whose risks are highly unpredictable and whose introduction has not received the informed consent of those most directly affected by it, is a more than dubious contribution to the greater good.

No wonder Dr Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, has commneted that "Seeking a technological food fix for world hunger may be the most commercially malevolent wild goose chase of the new century."

For more on conflicts of interests see Appendix 1 of:

"Swapping genes between organisms can produce unknown toxic effects and allergies that are most likely to affect children"
- Dr Vyvyan Howard: expert in infant toxico-pathology at Liverpool University, UK. (Ref: The Guardian: 19/3/98)

"We are not against science, we are not against progress, but we are against the genetic manipulation of our food".
- Consumers Against GM Foods, UK, 1999.
Top PreviousNextFront Page
Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2000 14:40:58 +0200
From: "taynton"

(Please circulate to interested persons/parties)

Endorse Freeze on Genetically Modified Food etc. in SA.

Letter of Endorsement
References on Genetically Modified Foods and Crops

Letter of Endorsement

I/My organisation would like to express our support for The South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (SAFeAGE).

SAFeAGE is an alliance of organisations and individuals concerned about the effects of genetic engineering on our health, our farmers and our economy.

This campaign is calling on the government of South Africa to introduce a minimum five-year freeze on:

  1. the growing of GE crops for field trials or commercial purposes until the technology is proven to be safe, environmentally harmless, and in the interests of the people of South Africa and her neighbours. Consideration of alternatives to GE should be an integral part of this process. The only exception would be for strictly contained laboratory tests designed to assess ecological and health impacts

  2. the import and export of GE foods and farm crops;

  3. the patenting of genetic resources for food and farm crops;

During the Freeze the following must be developed:

Name of Supporting Organisation:.............................................
Main Contact(s):.............................................
Membership (no's):.............................................

Please email your completed form to Karen Kallmann at or fax it to (021) 762-2238

References on Genetically Modified Foods and Crops


  1. Responsible Scientists Call for Immediate Withdrawal of GM Foods:
    1. "Scientists and Physicians for the Responsible Application of Science and Technology" signed by 206 physicians & scientists from around the world.
    2. Institute of Science in Society: World Scientists Statement – signed by 363 scientists from 45 countries:

  2. NEW BOOK: 50 Harmful Effects of Genetically Modified Foods, available electronically at:

  3. GM CROPS WILL NOT BENEFIT FARMERS. Read up on the frequent poor physical and economic performance of GM crops:

  4. GM crops will NOT solve world hunger say scientists:

  5. Deutsche Bank predicts GM food industry will collapse:

  6. BOOM IN DEMAND FOR ORGANIC FOOD: First World consumers are totally rejecting GM foods. GM food export markets are grinding to a halt and being replaced by a booming demand for organic food. Several countries are creating GM free zones to protect their agricultural exports.

    Organic food sales have increased by 40% per year in the UK since 1995. It is estimated that the present demand for organic food will quadruple in the UK by 2005. 70% of organic food sold in the UK at present is imported.

  7. DEVELOPING COUNTRIES REJECT GM: Although under tremendous pressure from a desperate bio-tech industry trying to find a market for its products, farmers from developing countries such as India, Brazil are rejecting GM crops. South Africa is being targeted as the gateway to Africa by the giant GM seed companies. Will our government and farmers fall for sophisticated marketing over sound science?

  8. At this very moment world food production is 150% of global dietary requirements (UNWEP). Politics, poverty and inequitable distribution are what keep the hungry from accessing it. We do not need GM crops. Today's world produces more food per inhabitant than ever before. (Altieri & Rosset)

    Book: Biotech, Poverty, Hunger & Developing Nations (A "must read")

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Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2000 14:54:04 +0200
From: "Anthony van Zyl"
Originated from:
Via: Biotech Activists

There follows the declaration of Dr Richard Lacey, British food safety specialist- one of the very few who foresaw the BSE crisis - in the Alliance for Biointegrity lawsuit against US FDA for releasing untested GM food onto world markets. See



"It is my considered judgment that employing the process of ..genetic engineering in producing new plant varieties entails a set of risks to the health of the consumer that are not ordinarily presented by traditional breeding techniques".

GM food dangers. A declaration by Dr Richard Lacey


Plaintiffs v. DONNA SHALALA, et al. Defendants. Civil Action No. 98-1300 (CKK) DECLARATION OF Dr. Richard Lacey, M.D., Ph.D.

I, Richard Lacey, state:

  1. I reside at [ ] Leeds, UK.

  2. I earned both a B.A. in biochemistry and an M.D. from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Bristol. Since 1971, I have been a member of the Royal College of Pathologists, and since 1983, I have been Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of Leeds. (I have been on Emeritus status since 1995.)

  3. I am an expert in food safety issues, and my background makes me especially qualified to assess the potential risks of genetically engineered food products. I served four years on a U.K. government advisory panel on food as it relates to human and animal health, and I have written five books on food safety, including one published by Cambridge University Press in 1994 containing a detailed discussion of genetically engineered food. (This book has been translated into Japanese and Polish.)

    In addition, I have written over 200 articles published in standard scientific journals and attended and spoken at numerous scientific conferences both in the U.K. and abroad. (A list of my publications and honors is attached.)

  4. In 1989, I anticipated that there could be serious health risks to the British cattle and human populations from the practice of feeding cattle rendered meat from sheep and other animals. I published my warnings in Food Microbiology, 1990. In this article, I explained the nature of the malady that could result. This was the first prediction of what eventually became the "mad cow" epidemic in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the governmental authorities were slow to respond to my warning.

    Had they properly assessed and acted upon the information I presented, much hardship would have been avoided, and the citizens would not have been subjected to as high a degree of risk. (Because of the long latency period between exposure to the infectious agent and development of symptoms, there is a potential for widespread incidence of infection within the British public over the next forty years.)

  5. It is my considered judgment that employing the process of recombinant DNA technology (genetic engineering) in producing new plant varieties entails a set of risks to the health of the consumer that are not ordinarily presented by traditional breeding techniques. It is also my considered judgment that food products derived from such genetically engineered organisms are not generally recognized as safe on the basis of scientific procedures within the community of experts qualified to assess their safety.

    Paragraphs 6 through 10 explain why these new foods entail higher risks, and paragraphs 12 through 15 explain why none of them is generally recognized as safe.

  6. Recombinant DNA technology is an inherently risky method for producing new foods. Its risks are in large part due to the complexity and interdependency of the parts of a living system, including its DNA. Wedging foreign genetic material in an essentially random manner into an organism's genome necessarily causes some degree of disruption, and the disruption could be multi-faceted. Further, whether singular or multi-faceted, the disruptive influence could well result in the presence of unexpected toxins or allergens or in the degradation of nutritional value.

    Further, because of the complexity and interactivity of living systems – and because of the extent to which our understanding of them is still quite deficient – it is impossible to predict what specific problems could result in the case of any particular genetically engineered organism. Prediction is even more difficult because even when dealing with one variety of a food-producing organism and one particular set of foreign genetic material, each insertion event is unique and can yield deeply different results.

  7. The mechanics and risks of recombinant DNA technology are substantially different from those of natural methods of breeding. The latter are typically based on sexual reproduction between organisms of the same or closely related species. Normally, entire sets of genes are paired in an orderly manner that maintains a fixed sequence of genetic information.

    Every gene remains under the control of the organism's intricately balanced regulatory system. The substances produced by the genes are those that have been within the species for a long stretch of biological time. (In cases where mating is between closely related species, there is generally close correspondence between the substances produced by each.) In contrast, biotechnicians take cells that are the result of normal reproduction and randomly splice a chunk of foreign genetic material into their genome.

    This always disturbs the function of the region of native DNA into which the material wedges. Further, the foreign genes will usually not express within their new environment without a big artificial boost, which is supplied by fusing them to promoters from viruses or pathogenic bacteria. As a result, these genes operate essentially as independent agents outside the host organism's regulatory system, which can lead to many deleterious imbalances.

    Moreover, this unregulated activity produces substances that have never been in the host species before and are usually very different from any that have – which could lead to problems even if production were at a low rather than a high level. There are several other major differences between genetic engineering and traditional breeding, all of which could, as can the above-mentioned ones, induce the presence of unpredicted toxins or allergens or the degradation of nutritional value.

  8. Consequently, whereas we can generally predict that food produced through conventional breeding will be safe, we cannot make a similar prediction in the case of any genetically engineered food.

  9. Therefore, the only way even to begin to assure ourselves about the safety of a genetically engineered food-yielding organism is through carefully designed long-term feeding studies employing the whole food; and it would be necessary to test each distinct insertion of genetic material, regardless of whether the same set of genetic material in the same type of organism has previously been tested.

  10. Even if the most rigorous types of testing were performed on each genetically engineered food, it might not be possible to establish that any is safe to a reasonable degree of certainty, as is possible in the case of most ordinary chemical additives. However, we at least would be in a far better position than now to have greater confidence in these new foods.

  11. I regularly attend professional conferences in my specialities and I keep abreast of the scientific literature. I also stay in communication with many life scientists and health professionals.

  12. To the best of my judgment, neither genetically engineered foods as a general class nor any genetically engineered food in particular is generally recognized as safe among those experts qualified by training and experience to evaluate their safety.

  13. I base this judgment on two factors. First, although many life scientists (including some molecular biologists) claim that genetically engineered foods pose no unreasonable risk, I know of many well-qualified life scientists who do not think that their safety has been established. For instance, a recent official statement of the British Medical Association seriously questions the assumption that genetically engineered foods are in general as safe as those produced by traditional methods.

    In my opinion, the number of scientists who are not convinced about the safety of genetically engineered foods is substantial enough to prevent the existence of a general recognition of safety. Second, there is insufficient evidence to support a belief that genetically engineered foods are safe. I am not aware of any study in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that establishes the safety of even one specific genetically engineered food let alone the safety of these foods as a general class. Few properly designed toxicological feeding studies have even been attempted, and I know of none that was satisfactorily completed.

    Those who claim that genetically engineered foods are as safe as naturally produced ones are clearly not basing their claims on scientific procedures that demonstrate safety to a reasonable degree of certainty. Rather, they are primarily basing their claims on a set of assumptions that, besides being empirically unsubstantiated, are in several respects at odds with the bulk of the evidence.

  14. The main assumptions are: (a) that producing food through recombinant DNA technology in itself entails no greater risks than producing it through sexual reproduction between members of the same species and (b) that the same safeguards commonly employed by breeders using conventional techniques will suffice for genetically engineered foods. As I have explained in paragraphs 6 and 7, the first assumption is unsound and at odds with biological reality. Paragraphs 8, 9 and 10 explain the unsoundness of the second assumption.

  15. As far as I can ascertain, the current policy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is primarily based on these two assumptions. Therefore, although it claims to be "science-based," this claim has no solid basis in fact. The only way to base the claims about the safety of genetically engineered food in science is to establish each one to be safe through standard scientific procedures, not through assumptions that reflect more wishful thinking than hard fact.

  16. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. ¤ 1746, I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.

Executed on: May 28, 1999.


Dr. Richard Lacey

Top PreviousNextFront Page
Date: Thu, 26 Oct 2000 21:39:20 +0200
From: ekogaia
From: Biotech Activists
Posted: 10/26/2000 By

UNCTAD: Systems and National Experiences for Protecting Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices

Author: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Secretariat, Geneva
DATE: 22 August 2000 URL:

Trade and Development Board
Commission on Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities

Expert Meeting on Systems and National Experiences for Protecting Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices
Geneva, 30 October ­ 1 November 2000
Item 3 of the provisional agenda


Background note by the UNCTAD secretariat

Executive summary

The importance of protecting the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities (TK) is increasingly recognized in international forums.

Developing countries seek to ensure that the benefits of cumulative innovation associated with TK accrue to its holders while enhancing their socio-economic development. They also aim at preventing the improper appropriation of TK, with little or no compensation for the custodians of TK and without their prior informed consent.

Building on work carried out in other intergovernmental organizations, this note briefly describes possible instruments for the protection of TK, including traditional/customary law, modern intellectual property rights instruments, sui generis systems, and documentation of TK and instruments directly linked to benefit-sharing. In addition to national systems, the protection of TK and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of biodiversity resources and associated TK may also require measures by user countries or cooperation at the multilateral level.

Protection of TK is a necessary but not sufficient requirement for its preservation and further development. To harness TK for development and trade, developing countries need assistance to build national capacities in terms of raising awareness on the importance and potential of TK for development and trade; developing institutional and consultative mechanisms on TK protection and TK-based innovation; and facilitating the identification and marketing of TK-based products and services. There is also a need to promote an exchange of experience among developing countries on national strategies for TK development, sui generis systems for the protection of TK and the commercialization of TK-based products and services. Special attention should be given to building such capacities in LDCs.

This note provides some analysis and background information to aid experts in their work. The final chapter contains a list of questions proposed for discussion.






A. Objectives
B. Strengthening customary law
C. Existing intellectual property rights instruments
D. Sui generis legislation
1. Possible elements of sui generis systems
2. Examples of sui generis systems
E. Access and benefit-sharing mechanisms
F. Documentation of traditional knowledge


A. Promoting innovation and commercialization of TK
B. Capacity-building


A. Systems for the protection of TK and benefit sharing
B. Harnessing traditional knowledge for development and trade
C. Capacity-building needs

Notes References

Full document (in PDF format) at:

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Top PreviousNextFront Page
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2000 14:31:53 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: "taynton"


This is a most exciting read !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



By Florianne Koechlin, June 2000

Articles, information on ICIPE and biological pest-control: and

Biological Pest Control
Stemborers and the push-pull system
Stemborers and a small wasp
Stemborers and transgenic Bt-maize from Novartis
ICIPE – Integrated research on tropical insects
"Biological pest-control is not as sexy…"
Scents against locust swarms
Three other ICIPE projects, very briefly :
Video Documentary

Biological Pest Control

Together with a group of journalists I spent a week at the Research-Institute ICIPE (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology) in Kenya. I came home all enthusiastic about their projects, about their innovative approaches to tackle some of Africa's key-problems in agriculture. The ICIPE specialised on biological pest-control. Modern science is used to search for cheap and sustainable solutions to control stemborers, tsetse-flies, locust-swarms, ticks, fruitflies, anopheles-flies (vectors of malaria) etc. The collaboration with and capacity-building of farmers is essential.

Stemborers and the push-pull system

We're in West Kenya, in a field station of ICIPE near Lake Victoria. The small maize-field in front of us looks dreadful: the plants are only 1 m high, the leaves yellow and full of holes, and there are almost no cobs at all. Close by, Mrs Ouzo, the farmer of these fields, shows us another maize-field – the plants are over 2 m high, with darkgreen leaves and healthy cobs. It's the same maize-variety on both fields, planted on exactly the same day. The difference could not be bigger.

The first maize-field was destroyed by stemborers and striga (witchweed), the two most important pests of maize and sorghum in all Africa. Stemborers can destroy up to 80% of the crop in no time, the loss of crops due to striga varies from 20 to 80%. If both pests are present at the same time, they can easily destroy the whole crop.

Around the second field, Mrs Ouzo planted 3 rows of napier-grass. "The beauty of this grass is that its odours are attractive to stemborers", says scientist Zeyaur R. Khan. "The grass then produces a gummy substance that traps the pests. Only about 10% of the stemborer-larvae survive In the end". Between the maize-rows, Mrs Ouzo planted the leguminose desmodium, an earth-covering plant whose odour repells stemborers.

The stemborer is attracted to napier-grass (Pennisetum purpureum) at the outside of the field and repelled by desmodium (Desmodium uncinatum) from the inside of the field – this "push-pull"-system was originally developped by ICIPE. Starting point was the knowledge that stemborers must have been indigenous to East Africa long before maize was introduced there (about 100 years ago).

Originally, its host must have been different kinds of wild grass, only later on, it specialised on maize, which had no resistance against it – but was all the more nutritious. For 4 years, Khan and his team selected several species of wild grass with strong stemborer-attracting odours and cultivated them in a garden near the local station. Farmers from the surroundings were invited to choose from the different varieties: they mostly preferred Napier- and Sudan-grass, which both look very similar to maize and are good fodder. Varieties of wild grass looking more like "weed" were left aside.

The selection of "repellent-plants" was successful, too: molasses-grass (Melinis minutiflora) reduced the loss of crop from 40% to 4,6%. The analysis showed a complexe mixture of terpinoles, nonatrienes and some more volatile molecules (nature, 14.8.97, p. 631). Also, the leguminose silver-leaf-desmodium is a good stemborer-repellent. Furthermore, it binds nitrogen and thus enriches the soil. It keeps the soil moist and protects it from erosion. But most of all: desmodium is most effective against Striga – to everybody's surprise. With desmodium, striga is suppressed by a factor of 40 compared to maize monocrop.

Although striga is a very beautiful weed with its pink blossoms, it is a most deadly plant. Striga is a parasite to maize-roots. One single plant produces 20'000 tiny seeds, that disperse easily. In all Africa, problems caused by Striga are increasing. An ICIPE research project (funded by the Rockefeller Foundation) examines the reasons why desmodium suppresses striga.

"Last year, I sold my napiergrass and desmodium as fodder for 6000 shillings (about 100$, FK). With this money, I could afford to pay the school fees for my kids. This year, I am planning to produce Desmodium-seed as well because all of my neighbours want to go for this push-pull-system. Maybe, I can afford a cow then", says Mrs Ouzo. As one of the first farmers, she was chosen for the project because her fields were most heavily infested by stemborers and striga. ICIPE plans to establish the push-pull-system not only in further areas in Kenya, but also in Aethiopia, Uganda and Tansania, in close co-operation with the national programmes.

Stemborers and a small wasp

Stemborers have natural enemies, which can be used successfully as well: 5 different species of stemborers exist in Africa, the most aggressive one is the spotted stemborer (Chilo partellus). It was introduced from India/Pakistan to Africa some 70 years ago. ICIPE scientists went to India to do research in these centers of origin. They found Chilo partellus being a harmless pest kept well under control by several natural enemies. One of them is the little wasp Cotesia Flavipes Cameron: it tracks down the stemborer larvae deep inside the stem and lays its eggs into the pest; these then hatch out and consume the borer from within.

After careful testing, this wasp was released on 3 sites in Kenya. By now, the wasps are well established; they not only go for Chilo partellus, but for 3 other stemborer-varieties, as well. The latest results show that stemborer-infestation could be reduced by 53% in these areas. "Maize only came to East Africa some 100 years ago, and had no resistance against the stemborer. The immigrated stemborer Chilo partellus had no enemies. Any ecological balance that existed between native stemborer and wild grasses was severly disturbed. We try to reintroduce a natural equilibrium into this system", says Bill Overholt.

I wanted to know if Cotesia flavipes could not harm other insects as well. Overholt denied: "The host range of this wasp is limited by its searching behaviour, which restricts hosts to stemborer larvae found tunneling inside the stems of larger grasses. And then only certain stemborers, and only the later larvae instars of these, are suitable for the development of the wasp-parasites. We made careful evaluations, and we did not find one other insect matching all these requirements."

ICIPE is working closely together with national programmes in Kenya, as well as in Uganda, Somalia, Mozambique, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Zanzibar to release the wasp Cotesia in all of these countries.

Stemborers and transgenic Bt-maize from Novartis

A third – and very different – strategy to fight the stemborer consists in introducing genetically engineered Bt-maize. The African stemborer-species are close relatives to the European corn-borer, against which the Bt-maize was constructed. The Swiss company Novartis wants to test and introduce Bt-maize in Kenya: in spring 2000, they started a 5-year program with Bt-maize, at costs of 6,2 million$, in co-operation with the Kenyan Research Institute KARE and the Latin-American CYMMIT.

This project was presented at a meeting in March in Nairobi, "which turned into one single tribunal against Hans Herren (the director of the ICIPE). They accused him of being an ennemy of Africa, and of assuming Africans were incapable of handling biotechnology" (The Tages-Anzeiger, 21.6.00). Klaus Leisinger, director of the Novartis foundation for sustainable Development, accused Herren of having gone to the Swiss development Agency to get them off GMOs. This is not true.

Hans Herren is critical, but he is not a strict ennemy of genetic engineering, and he told an audience of Swiss governement officials about his sceptisism:"Possibly, transgenic maize will be part of the solution in the far future. But what about the other problems? The interesting thing about the push-pull-system is: It already exists and the farmers use it. It was developped together with the farmers. With the push-pull-method, we have an integrated solution for the problems of the stemborer and striga. We have protein-rich fodder, Nitrogen fertilizer and a good protection against soil-erosion. All this within one field. It's a system that's enhancing justice and a sustainable agriculture."

ICIPE – Integrated research on tropical insects

350 people work at the ICIPE, mostly Africans. The main issue of ICIPE are Africa's most damaging pests, at costs of millions of lives (humans and animals) each year and 30% crop-losses on average: the Anopheles-mosquito (vector for malaria), the tsetse-fly (vector for human sleeping sickness and several fatal animal-diseases, such as nagana in cattle and sura in camels), the tick, the locust, the fruit-fly (eg destroying each year 20-80% of the mango-crop) – and the stemborer. Useful insects are studied as well: ICIPE initiated a local silk-production with African silkworms and local honey-production. Another main issue at the ICIPE is capacity building (from farmers to PhDs).

Interdisciplinary teams of scientists are doing pioneering work in the area of biological pest-control. They are working on insect behaviour and population ecology, they study the ways of communication of insects, they analyze the odours of insects and plants, and search for the molecular conditions of vector-mechanisms, they do molecular insect-taxonomie and search for ways to protect – and use – the vast biodiversity. All the time, the goal is to use modern science to develop simple and efficient methods that farmers can afford.

"We are looking for solutions in nature, we want to understand the system and identify the weak links, where we can intervene. How can we favour natural enemies of the pests, what odours will attract or repell them, how can we reintroduce a better equilibrium?", says director Hans Herren. François Omlin, a scientist who started to work at the ICIPE recently, confirms: "I do not know of any other research-institute worldwide, working in this area in a comparable interdisciplinary way – in this place, molecularbiologists are working together with behavioural scientists and entomologists. And furthermore, all of us are in close contact with the farmers."

"Biological pest-control is not as sexy…"

Hans Herren, director of the ICIPE, won the World food prize in 1995 because he and his team could get control over the cassava mealy bug, that was endangering the staplecrop cassava in large areas of Africa (from Senegal to Moçambique) and threatening some 300 million people. They got control over the bug with the help of a small wasp – without chemistry, and without any extra costs for the farmers. Thoughtfully, Hans Herren says: "Today, I probably would not get the money for such a big programme. Today, all funds go into biotechnology and genetic engineering. The genetic people would try to construct a cassava that is resistant against the mealy-bug. Biological pest-control, as we do it here at the ICIPE, is not as spectacular, not as sexy. I see a big problem here."

Scents against locust swarms

In the world of insects, scents play a major role not only as a means of orientation (attracting and repelling 'road signs'). For insects, odours are the most important way of communication.

E.g. desert-locusts: since 10 years , Ahmed Hassanali and his team at the ICIPE do research on the desert-locusts, more strictly speaking: on their communication. The central question was: how and why do harmless single locusts suddenly turn into most dangerous swarm-locusts? What are the mechanisms of gregarisation and the development of locust outbreaks? In general, desert locusts are solitary insects.

Over several generations, at particular times, they build small swarms. Sometimes, they form bigger swarms, which can, all of a sudden, turn into one huge swarm of as much as 40 billion insects. In Madagaskar, in the years 1997/98, a swarm like this destroyed the vegetation in an area of 1,4 million ha. For ICIPE-scientists, odours were the key for the understanding of swarm-formation. Hassanili and his group isolated and identified 5 different sets of chemical messages. These 'morse-codes' regulate behaviour and life-style of desert-locusts. Some odours regulate the behaviour in swarms of young and of adult insects, others determine their behaviour of cohesion, the synchronous maturation, and the communal oviposition. Another volatile chemical attracts the females to their common egg-laying place.

At this point, the scientists intend to intervene: they exposed young hopper-gangs to a very low concentration of odours from adult locusts. The results were most fascinating: the hoppers became hyperactive; they lost their orientation and began to cannibalise. The hopper-swarm – shortly before a huge mega-organism – fragmented into separate parts. The swarm insects turned into solitary insects again, becoming an easy prey for birds. Electrophysiological studies at the University of Lund (Sweden) showed that the odours of adult insects blocked the signal-transfer between the hoppers, resulting in a total loss of communication between the individuals. "As if you cut the telephone line", says Ahmed Hassanili.

The moment communication breaks down, nothing happens anymore. The swarm is held together only by intense and constant communication between the insects. The ICIPE now produces the volatile chemical in larger quantities and hopes to test this method during the next out-break. "This would be a very simple und extremely environmental-friendly method", says Hassanili. "During the last big plague 250 million$ were used exculsively for insecticides, 12$ pro ha. We estimate, that with the odour-method costs will be at one dollar pro ha at the utmost. And all this, without spraying toxic insecticides and without longtime accumulation-problems."

Three other ICIPE projects, very briefly :

Tsetse-flies, the vectors for various fatal cattle-diseases, cause yearly losses of 20 to 40% of all cattle in Africa. Buffalo- and cow-urine turned out to be strongly attractive to the flies. With these odour baits the flies can be lured into simple traps. ICIPE scientists around scientist Rajinder Saini also developped a potent repellent now being tested on cattle. Other repellents are being isolated from body-scents of animals that are never attracted by tsetse-flies (like the water buck).

Other tsetse-programmes: R&D of larvae-pheromones to attract 'pregnant' female-flies; behaviour-studies of the tsetse fly, identification of tsetse-fly-hosts with ELISA-tests on blood-meals of the flies; investigating traditional knowledge of tsetse-repellent plants.

Neem-programmes: Development of natural pest control agents from the neem tree (see also mail-out 76): Neem is being used locally to control root-knot nematodes and fruit borers on tomatoes, aphids and Diamond black moth on cabbage, it is being tested against leafminers, banana weevils and ticks, for postharvest grain protection etc. We visited a neem-nursery at the ICIPE: They grow 10'000 neem-seedlings yearly and sell them cheaply to farmers. The responsible scientist is Ramesh Saxena, lovingly called the "Neem-guru", and even his screen saver shows a big floating NEEM- signature. ICIPE also developped simple on-farm technologies for the preparation of neem formulations, and initiated a series of workshops on the use and raising of neem, for farmers, womens groups and NGOs

Silkmoth conservation and utilisation: Breeding of a new domestic silkmoth hybrid which produces a high quality silk, growing of mulberry cultivars. The reeling of cocoons is done in a simple reeling machine which can be operated manually or by eletricity.This sericulture (silkworm rearing) already today enhances the productivity and economic returns of smallscale farmers and women's groups.

A survey of indigenous wild silkmoths in Kenya and Uganda has identified 2 species, Argema mimosae and Gonometa spp., that produce silk fibres of high quality; another 56 native species have been recorded in East Africa, indicating a high diversity and potential for wild silk production in this area.

Articles, information on ICIPE and biological pest-control: and

Top PreviousNextFront Page
Date: Mon, 23 Oct 2000 06:27:40 EDT
From: Florianne Koechlin

VIDEO: Organic or genetic in Africa?

Dear all

We made a (professional) 12-minutes video: "Organic research – An African success-story", which is now available (in english and german).

The video tape shows new projects of the ICIPE (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Nairobi Kenya; directed by Hans Herren). The ICIPE specializes on biological pest control, using modern science to search for cheap and sustainable solutions for farmers.

Main story: Africa's worst pest in maize and sorghum is the stemborer. ICIPE's strategy against this pest is the so-called "push-pull"method: At the outside of the field, napiergrass 'pulls' the stemborers out of the field with its attracting odours while desmodium 'pushes' them out from the inside of the field. It works, in close collaboration with the local farmers. As well as the introduction of a natural ennemy, a small parasitic wasp. (There are beautiful close-up scenes with the little wasp and the stemborer on the tape.)

Novartis started a 6,2 mio $ project in order to push the transgenic Bt-maize in Kenya, targetting on the stemborer as well.

I think this is an excellent example to show the 2 different strategies (organic and genetech) on a main problem (stemborer) in connection with Africa.



You can find an order-form, pictures and more infos at: (or direct order at: costs: US$15.-; Eu15.-; DM20.-; as cash in mail or on account

My very best regards
Florianne Koechlin

Top PreviousNextFront Page
Date: Sat, 28 Oct 2000 07:27:27 EDT

Please circulate widely to family and friends, etc.

Beware: GM-affected Vitamin C, etc in "health" food products

Dear folks,

As you will see from the enclosed article, the GM contamination of vitamin tablets and nutritional supplements is widespread. Such supplements are produced by a small number of pharmaceutical companies – who are often also biotech companies – so the same products are generally sold throughout the UK and USA, etc

Also enclosed is a list of some of the "health" food supplements that are affected, plus a sample letter which may help with the wording of enquiries to manufacturers.

The natural supplements industry is supposed to be responsible for supplying safe and natural products. It's time to demand non-GM derived vitamins – especially Vitamin C.

Best wishes,

Ron Baxter

Top PreviousNextFront Page
Date: Sat, 28 Oct 2000 07:27:27 EDT


"People think that health food stores are a kind of haven from things like GMOs"

GMO Fight Comes To Supplements Aisle

by Scott C. Yates, October issue of Natural Foods Merchandiser, front page

For more than a year now, supplements manufacturers have watched quietly as an angry chorus has risen up against genetically modified organisms. So far, though, GMO questions have stayed planted in the produce and grocery sections of natural products stores.

But now one small but vocal retailer concerned about GMOs in the environment has started asking his supplements suppliers if there are GMOs in the vitamin C he sells. The answers he says he's gotten have ranged from "we don't think so but we don't know for sure" to "probably." That's not good enough for Joe Lemieux, owner of the 2,500-square-foot Go To Health store in Brooksville, Fla.

"People think that health food stores are a kind of haven from things like GMOs," Lemieux said. "That's why this issue is so explosive, because I can't tell them that the vitamin C is made without GMOs." He's not saying the products are unsafe, but he says that genetically modified crops are bad for the environment, and the agriculture business needs to get that message from consumers and retailers, which is why he's taking a stand in his store.

Lemieux still stocks vitamin C but is telling his own customers not to buy the products, and he's letting others in the industry know about his boycott –hrough word-of-mouth and a Web site that deals with organic issues –ntil someone can make a non-GMO vitamin C.

The effort is small and local, but in an industry created by grass-roots movements and in an Internet age in which one man with a mission can be heard far and wide with the click of a mouse, supplements manufacturers are no longer able to ignore the controversy that has raged in all the other aisles of their most profitable product channel. Lemieux has written a boycott message, and it's featured as an "action item" on the Organic Consumers Association Web page.

For those manufacturers already under siege by a government they say treats them unfairly and a supplements market that has been flat for more than a year, a boycott organized by someone inside their own industry feels to those manufacturers a lot like getting kicked while they are down.

"I don't like people hammering me when there's no options," said Karl Riedel, CEO of Nature's Life, a Garden Grove, Calif., supplement maker, a member of the National Nutritional Foods Association board and the NNFA's Codex representative for the International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplement Associations. "A consumer boycott is the wrong way to go because it's going to damage the wrong people: the retailers and the natural products manufacturers. There are only a handful of huge companies that sell vitamin C, and they aren't budging," Riedel said.

"If they sold a non-GMO product, I'd buy it, but I've asked and they don't."

Riedel does have a track record of steering clear of GMOs. Nature's Life has been in the forefront of finding and marketing non-GMO soy for its soy protein products. Riedel said it costs Nature's Life an extra 15 percent; costs that he said he does not pass on to the retailer or the consumer. "I'm just eating that," he said.

Many supplements makers would love to sell a non-GMO vitamin C, but they aren't lying when they say that it's impossible to know.

"It's a difficult and lengthy process to test before the processing," said Larry Cunningham, a spokesman for the world's largest grain processor, Archer Daniels Midland of Decatur, Ill. "Then by the time the acids and enzymes and heat and so forth are applied, it makes it impossible to detect any evidence of biotechnology."

In short, there's no way to test for the presence of genetic modifications. Tests can't even show what kind of plant the ascorbic acid came from.

If supplements manufacturers were able to buy organic ascorbic acid, by definition it would come from non-GMO sources. But of the few companies that produce vitamin C, none has shown any interest in marketing an organic product.

Nor are any new players likely. To make a non-GMO, corn-based vitamin C would require a massive investment, first to buy enough corn to create a saleable quantity of ascorbic acid, and then to buy the machinery and personnel needed for the 17-step process to separate the vitamin C from the rest of the corn.

That means all supplements makers, including those that sell in the natural products channel, have to buy what's out there, with no assurances about the corn or other crops that became the ascorbic acid.

"If anybody, the fight should be taken up with ADM, Cargill and the big companies like that," Riedel said.

Cunningham said there's no technical reason why ADM couldn't create a separate set of ascorbic acid made with only non-GMO crops, but the market is too small to consider it at this point. Cunningham also said that ADM's view is that the government has done a good job of testing, and that GMOs allow farmers to use fewer pesticides. "The government has looked at all the angles and said that it's safe, so we don't feel we're in a position to tell farmers that we can't accept the crops that they've grown," Cunningham said.

He did say that if any company could segregate the products, it would be ADM, which controls 550 grain elevators and 2,500 barges. "When and if the market gets large enough I suppose we would look at [segregating non-GMO vitamin C]."

And while farmers are becoming more hesitant about planting GMOs, according to the USDA more than a third of all the corn planted over the last two growing seasons had a pesticide inserted into the corn's genetic code. Because only organic corn is segregated, it's almost a certainty that the ascorbic acid from corn comes at least in part from modified corn. "That's the nature of the market now," Cunningham said.

Lemieux said he doesn't dispute the claim of supplements makers that there's no appreciable health risk from eating the ascorbic acid pulled from modified corn. But to Lemieux, that's not the point.

Like many in the organic movement, he sees food decisions as essentially political. Buying food raised with GMOs encourages farmers to plant more GMOs, and he said he believes the environment suffers as a result. "Corn is doing more damage than any other GMO. The pollen can float four miles away. That's what's killing the monarch butterflies," he said. For a man who took his toddler children to picket for the United Farm Workers in front of supermarkets in the 1970s, the environmental concerns are no small matter.

He understands when Riedel, whom Lemieux has spoken with about the issue, says that he is "tilting at windmills," but the would-be Don Quixote said, "I think it would be selfish of me to hold on to all this information and not share it with people."


Top PreviousFront Page
Date: Sat, 28 Oct 2000 07:27:27 EDT


Please write to the supplements manufacturers

What to write / how to word it

When contacting companies to enquire if vitamins or medicines are GM-free, don't be fooled by assurances such as: "Our products do not contain any GM ingredients or GM materials". Such a statement usually implies that potentially health-damaging GM derivatives or enzymes are present, or that GM has been used in some part of the production process. So always try to obtain a guarantee in writing, that a particular product contains no GM ingredients, derivatives or GM-derived enzymes; and that GM has not been used in any part of the production process.


Action Alert on GE-Tainted Vitamin C Tablets Sold in Health Food Stores

From: Joseph Lemieux
Total Health Organic Foods Coop, Spring Hill, FL and OCA Coordinator.

=========== Note: Vitamin C may also appear on the label as 'ascorbic acid'. In addition to health food products, it is often present in bread, drinks, sweets and cereals etc.


Almost all vitamin C sold in this country (etc) is now being derived from Genetically Engineered (GE) Corn.

Soloray, Solgar, N.O.W., Schiff, Twin Labs, Country Life and Nature's Life all have acknowledged to me, that their Vitamin C is (all or partially) derived from GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CORN. None of these companies sell Vitamin C that is certified organic or labeled organic.


Let your local health food store and the vitamin companies know that this is not acceptable to you. Call the vitamin companies listed below and let them know you will be boycotting their Vit. C products and that you demand that they source a non-GMO (genetically modified) form of ascorbic acid and that you want it in writing that they can guarantee their Vit. C is not derived from GE corn.

[ Note: The following are USA numbers. UK campaigners – please write or call the suppliers or manufacturers of the brands that you or your family may be using. Thanks. Ron]

Vitamin C Manufacturers

This is a segment of the natural supplement industry that many of us have put great faith in. Let them know how you feel and demand non-GMO derived Vitamin C!

Prepared by Joseph Lemieux, owner: Total Health Organic Foods Coop, Spring Hill, FL and OCA Coordinator.

Note: Vitamin C may also appear on the label as 'ascorbic acid'. In addition to health food products, it is often present in bread, drinks, sweets and cereals etc.


GM health risks

"The unexpected production of toxic substances has now been observed in genetically engineered bacteria, yeast, plants, and animals with the problem remaining undetected until a major health hazard has arisen. Moreover, genetically engineered food or enzymatic food processing agents may produce an immediate effect or it could take years for full toxicity to come to light."

- Dr Michael Antoniou, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Pathology, London. UK.