By Barry Wilson, Western Producer, Ottawa bureau, October 5, 2000
A federal government department's decision to join a biotechnology promotion and lobby group that lobbies the federal government has, according to this story, led to a complaint of conflict of interest to the ethics commissioner.
The story says that Industry Canada is a dues-paying member of Biotecanada, an Ottawa-based lobby for the industry. Last week, a new group called the Government Ethics Coalition wrote to federal ethics commissioner Howard Wilson complaining about this. Duff Conacher of Ottawa-based Democracy Watch was quoted as saying, "Here you have a department joining a lobby group which lobbies it. What more evidence do you need?"
The Edmonton Journal, Thu 12 Oct 2000, PAGE 8
Environmental activists wearing white overalls and mime-like white masks entered an upscale Mexico City supermarket Wednesday and boldly labelled mainstream corn-flour products that contain genetically modified corn with
Corn-flour processors targeted by Greenpeace Mexico, one of the country's most vociferous environmental activist groups, included Maseca , which is controlled by Gruma, and Grupo Minsa, Mexico's two main corn producers. Also labelled were products made by Mexican baker Grupo Bimbo.
By Judy Maddren (CBC-R), CBC Radio, 11 OCTOBER 2000
David McKie has the story.
DAVID MCKIE (Reporter):
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency describes the supplement as a primer, intended to answer consumer questions about genetically modified foods. The eight-page supplement discussed how genetically modified foods are produced, how many products the Agency has approved so far, and how the Agency ensures the food is safe to eat.
What wasn't included were comments from groups concerned about the safety of GM foods. They included Canadian geneticist David Suzuki, the Council of Canadians, and Greenpeace. Their comments were in an original version a writer had prepared for the magazine supplement, but Michael Khoo of Greenpeace says the Food Inspection Agency had his comment removed from the final text.
MICHAEL KHOO (Greenpeace Spokesperson):
Somewhere along the line they had a change of heart, or they got scared that the Canadian public might actually hear some of the concerns that scientists and groups like Greenpeace have about GMOs. They thought, we'd(?) better silence that opinion.
Bart Billmer is responsible for GM foods at the Food Inspection Agency. He denied Canadian Living magazine was ordered to remove negative comments from the final text.
BART BILLMER (Canadian Food Inspection Agency, responsible for GM foods):
It was their job to develop the story and not ours. We were... We sponsored the development of it, but our role behind that was the fact checker.
But Canadian Living is telling a different story. A public relations consultant hired by the magazine told CBC News that GM food opponents did not meet with the intentions of the Food Inspection Agency.
David McKie, CBC News, Ottawa.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes.
By Andrew Pollack, New York Times, October 12, 2000
The unapproved genetically engineered corn connected with a nationwide recall of taco shells has been found in a second brand of shells as well, a coalition of biotechnology food critics said last night.
The coalition, Genetically Engineered Food Alert, said it had found the unapproved corn in house-brand taco shells sold by the Safeway supermarket chain. Safeway, without confirming the discovery, immediately said it would remove the taco shells from its shelves and offer refunds to customers who have already purchased them. It also said it would halt sales of taco shells sold under the brand of Mission Foods, the company that manufactured the Safeway brand shells.
The new discovery, if confirmed, would indicate that the contamination of the food supply extends beyond the Taco Bell brand taco shells recently recalled from groceries by Kraft Foods, a subsidiary of Philip Morris, after they were found to contain genetically engineered StarLink corn.
The corn, which contains a bacterial toxin that kills insects, was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use as animal feed but not for human consumption because of concerns that the toxin could cause allergic reactions.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes.
Thanks to RBBAX@aol.com for posting this:
By KURT EICHENWALD, Joe Don Buckner for The New York Times, October 14, 2000
Efforts to trace shipments of a bioengineered corn unapproved for human consumption have raised concern among food and grain industry officials that the corn ’Äî which has already been discovered in two brands of grocery products ’Äî may have made its way more widely into production channels for the nation's food supply.
Millions of bushels of the unapproved corn, known as StarLink, have been delivered to more than 350 grain elevators around the country. Government and industry officials, uncertain how much of the corn has been properly segregated and identified, are now pushing the operators to test their supplies for evidence of contamination.
There is no evidence that the corn causes health problems in humans, but the discoveries have led to nationwide recalls of two brands of store-bought taco shells, a move that was extended yesterday to a larger group of brands and products.
Food companies, many of which are now testing every shipment of corn for signs of the unapproved grain, have reacted with dismay to growing evidence of contamination, saying that it demonstrates a breakdown in the procedures intended to keep products grown from genetically modified seeds separate from conventional grains.
"This whole system has been self- policing by the seed industry," one food company executive said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "And obviously it hasn't worked."
Source: University Of Wisconsin-Madison
Date: Posted 10/12/2000
MADISON Working with teosinte, a wild cousin of maize, a University of Wisconsin-Madison scientist has found a molecular barrier that, bred into modern hybrid corn, is capable of completely locking out foreign genes, including those from genetically modified corn.
The discovery is important because it means farmers will have access to a technology that can ensure the genetic integrity of their corn crop, making it easier to export to countries wary of recombinant DNA technology and providing a built-in buffer for potential environmental problems such as the threat to monarch butterflies from corn engineered to make its own biological insecticides.
"Governing the flow of genes between populations is what's at stake," says Jerry L. Kermicle, the UW-Madison professor of genetics who discovered teosinte's genetic barrier.
Corn varieties of all kinds from organic to genetically engineered -- are prolific traffickers in genes. Cross-fertilization between strains occurs as gene-laden pollen is carried by bees or blown with the wind from one field to another. The resulting contamination, especially from genetically modified corn, can ruin organic crops or make traditional hybrid corn worthless for export to countries where consumers are wary of the new technology.
The new discovery, however, could permit American farmers to recapture those profitable markets in Europe and Asia by ensuring that organic or traditional hybrid corn is uncontaminated by genes from genetically modified crops.
Moreover, the new technology can be used by farmers to plant buffers around fields of corn genetically modified to make their own insecticides and thereby limiting a highly-publicized threat to non-target species such as monarch butterflies.
For thousands of years, teosinte has co-existed as a weed with the maize cultivated in Mexican fields. Like corn, teosinte is a grass and its genetic makeup is so similar to that of cultivated maize that scientists suspect the genetic differences between the two plants may be confined to a mere handful of genes. Teosinte, in fact, is corn's likely ancestor.
Despite this genetic affinity and the ease with which cultivated corn plants exchanges genes through cross pollination the teosinte strains that grow as weeds within Mexican corn fields only rarely acquire genes from cultivated corn.
The reason, according to Kermicle, is that teosinte has a built-in barrier, governed by a single gene cluster, that keeps foreign maize genes out, enabling the plant to maintain its own unique genetic identity in an environment thick with gene-laden pollen. The ability to build a genetic barrier into hybrid corn is a significant technological advance, one that would permit farmers to assure buyers that the corn from their fields has not been contaminated by genes from neighboring fields. The technology, according to Steve Gerrish, an agronomist and licensing associate with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, would have instant appeal to organic farmers and farmers whose corn or corn products might be marketed to countries that now bar imports of genetically modified grain.
"This technology can potentially solve the problem of contamination of regular hybrid corn and organic hybrid corn by any genetically modified organism (GMO) during the growing season," says Gerrish. "This technology could also allow a farmer to grow both types of maize crops and maintain a market segregated product."
Today Greenpeace launched a new site, http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/gm.htm , an online shoppers guide to GM. The site is an online consumer guide to help shoppers get beyond the hype and find out whether the food in their shopping basket really is GM-free. The guide covers a wide range of food including top brands and supermarket own brands.
By Jeremy Rifkin, USA Today, October 13, 2000, Page 16A
Genetically engineered foods pose serious potential long-term risks to the environment and public health. Monsanto, Dupont, Novartis and other life-science companies argue that the new gene-splicing techniques they are using are merely a more sophisticated extension of classical breeding techniques. That's not true.
In classical breeding, researchers can cross close relatives within common families to create new strains and breeds. With recombinant DNA technology, however, genes from totally unrelated species can be inserted into the genetic makeup of animals and plants in ways that have never before been possible.
Publication date: 2000-10-17
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) ConAgra Foods Inc., one of the nation's biggest food markers, has stopped making corn flour at a Kansas mill because it may have received genetically modified corn that sparked a nationwide recall of some taco shell brands.
Tests for the corn variety called Starlink were being conducted and equipment at the plant in Atchison, Kan., was being cleaned, ConAgra spokeswoman Karen Savinski said Tuesday.
The mill, ConAgra's only corn flour plant, stopped processing corn on Wednesday. ConAgra told its customers, a variety of food manufacturers, about the potential problem and asked them not to use the corn flour. Savinski declined to name the companies involved.
How much corn flour might be involved was not immediately known, and Savinski declined to say how ConAgra found out Starlink may have been delivered to the plant.
The Starlink yellow corn contains a bacterium that makes it toxic to insects. Federal officials say the health risk is remote, but it is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency only for use in animal feed. The EPA's scientific advisers have been divided over whether it could cause allergic reactions in people.
The nation's largest manufacturer of tortilla products, Mission Foods Co., on Friday recalled all its tortillas, taco shells and snack chips made with yellow corn because the flour might contain Starlink.
The move by Mission Foods of Irving, Texas, followed a decision earlier last week by Safeway Inc. to remove all of Mission's taco shells from its stores and an earlier recall of taco shells by Kraft Foods.
The corn that was detected in the Kraft and Mission taco shells is believed to have originated at an Azteca Milling plant in Plainview, Texas.
Mission Foods is a subsidiary of Gruma SA of Monterrey, Mexico. Azteca Milling is a partnership of Gruma and Archer Daniels Midland Co., based in Decatur, Ill.
Mission said it also would switch from yellow to white corn in all its products, and Azteca Milling said it was recalling all its flour made from yellow corn.
The EPA said the seed's developer, Aventis CropScience, has agreed to cancel its license to sell the corn. Government officials have said Aventis was supposed to ensure that farmers kept Starlink corn separate from other varieties but failed to do so.
Omaha-based ConAgra is nation's second largest food company behind Philip Morris' Kraft Foods, and it is the nation's largest food service manufacturer. It sells products ranging from fertilizer and flour to brand name products like Healthy Choice frozen dinners, Orville Redenbacher popcorn and Butterball turkeys.
The Associated Press News Service Copyright 2000 by The Associated Press All Rights Reserved
By BARNABY J. FEDER, New York Times, October 17, 2000
Some farmers who planted a variety of bioengineered corn unapproved for human consumption say they were not adequately warned about restrictions on how it was to be planted, stored and sold, despite suppliers' claims to have done so.
Farmers in several Midwestern states have said they were not told that the corn, known as StarLink, must be kept separate from other crops until reports emerged last month that it had been detected in a brand of taco shells. And others said that while they were told last spring that the corn had not been approved by federal regulators for human consumption, they were also told that they need not worry because approval was expected shortly.
Like a number of other genetically engineered crops, StarLink has been altered with a bacterial gene to make a protein that kills the corn borer caterpillar. But unlike the others, StarLink was limited to use in animal feed and industrial products pending further testing because the Environmental Protection Agency could not rule out a link between the StarLink protein and food allergies.
Farm News from Cropchoice, 10/18/00, http://www.cropchoice.com
(18 October Cropchoice News) Health authorities in Taiwan announced yesterday that they will follow the lead of other Asian countries and require mandatory labelling of food with GMO ingredients. According to officials, the government will act quickly and develop the necessary regulations by the end of this year. Labels are to be required in 2001.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes.
By PHILIP BRASHER, AP Farm Writer,
Thursday October 19
WASHINGTON (AP) Millions of bushels of genetically engineered corn approved only for animals may have already reached the human food supply chain and could show up in a wide range of foods, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
Industry and federal officials are trying to find the corn to buy it back before it is made into more taco shells, chips, corn flakes and other corn products.
For Immediate Release
October 16, 2000 "Citizens' Voluntary Labelling Collective" email@example.com
HALIFAX Over a dozen citizens converged on some of Halifax's largest supermarkets over the weekend and stuck over 2000 warning labels on products containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. Members of the newly formed Citizens' Voluntary Labelling Collective (CVLC) Halifax blew the whistle on the federal government's blatant neglect of Canada's Food and Drugs Act, which requires that adulterated food belabelled as such.
"An alarming number of the products on the shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients and that has to be exposed," commented one labeller. "It's no longer possible to have any confidence in the safety of our families' diets."
BY ART HOVEY Lincoln, Journal Star, October 19, 2000
It's called StarLink, and it was supposed to give Nebraska farmers another high-tech connection to insect resistance, herbicide tolerance and a golden corn future. But as combines rumble out of fields and toward storage sheds for the winter, a product never approved for human consumption is turning up in co-mingled conditions in grain tests at a number of Nebraska elevators, including Dorchester and Laurel, operators at those elevators said Wednesday. "I don't think anybody realized what a Pandora's box we've got opened here," said Tim Gubbels, general manager of the North Side Grain Co. in Laurel. At the very bottom of that box is this: Elevators can't sell corn to buyers for tacos, corn chips and other food products at premium prices if it has co-mingled with StarLink. Co-mingled corn must be sold for nonfood purposes including animal feed for a lower price.
Thursday, 19 October, 2000, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Assembly Members have voted against rules that would govern the use of GM seeds in Wales.
If AMs had given the regulation the go ahead, it would have weakened Assembly's powers to restrict the release of GM crops in Wales.
The vote was 10 for, 42 against with no-one abstaining.
AMs felt that the draft Seeds (National List of Varieties) Regulations 2000 should be tougher.
By PHILIP BRASHER, AP Farm Writer, October 20, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) via NewsEdge Corporation -
Genetically engineered corn linked to a nationwide recall of taco shells may have spread farther than expected into the human food supply. The grain's developer said Thursday it was uncertain of ever retrieving the entire crop.
The corn was not approved for human consumption but some of it was mixed with other grains and sold to food processors.
About 9 million bushels, or about 10 percent of this year's crop, have not been accounted for, said officials with Aventis CropScience, which developed the grain. Obviously, we're going to do everything we can to try and track it down. whether the missing corn will be found, Aventis spokesman Rick Rountree said.
LONDON, United Kingdom, October 19, 2000 (ENS) The genetically modified maize under scrutiny at a government public hearing in the UK has not been thoroughly tested and should not be sold commercially, according to two scientists called as expert witnesses, Wednesday. Called maize in much of the world, in North America the grain is known as corn.
Cattle are at the center of intense debate in the UK over the use of GM maize, or corn, as animal fodder. (Photos by Ian Britton, courtesy http://Freefoto.com )
Professor Bob Orskov, director of the International Feed Resource Unit in Aberdeen, Scotland, told the hearing he would not drink milk from cows fed the genetically modified (GM) fodder maize, known as Chardon LL.
The biotechnology company Aventis applied to the government to have Chardon LL included on the National Seed List, which would allow it to be grown and sold commercially as cattle feed. Environmental group Friends of the Earth challenged the application, forcing a public hearing on the issue.
By MARC KAUFMAN, Washington Post,
Thursday, October 19, 2000
Millions of bushels of genetically engineered corn approved only for animal use have made their way into the human food- supply chain, officials said Wednesday, raising the possibility that the corn will be found in a wide array of foods.
Thanks to Jim McNulty firstname.lastname@example.org for posting this:
by James Neuger, Brussels, Bloomberg News World, Saturday 21 October 2000
Monsanto Co, Novartis AG and AgrEvo GmbH failed to win approval to sell four genetically modified foods in Italy, as a European Union committee upheld the Italian Government's ban.
Germany, Denmark, Greece and Austria had sided with Italy in a meeting of food experts from the 15 EU governments, an EU official said.
Italy banned the gene-altered maize in August, citing possible risks to human health.
Environmentalists welcomed the defeat of "fast-track" approval of gene-altered products. The notion that engineered food was the same as regular food "has been proven to be ambiguous and scientifically unsound", said Brigid Gavin, genetic engineering adviser for Greenpeace.
No new gene-modified product has obtained EU marketing rights since 1998, while five EU countries have banned already approved products.
October 21, 2000 Web posted at: 10:33 AM EDT (1433 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AP) The Kellogg Co., maker of Frosted Flakes and Special K cereals and other products, has shut down a plant because it could not guarantee that corn used in production would be free of a genetically modified grain approved only for animal consumption, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
Two food industry sources familiar with the situation told the Post that the food giant, based in Battle Creek, Michigan, had stopped production at the plant in midweek, and one said it remains closed. The location of the plant was not specified.
By LISA M. COLLINS, Associated Press Writer,
Saturday October 21
DETROIT (AP) The Kellogg Co. confirmed Saturday that it closed several lines at a cereal manufacturing plant in Memphis, Tenn., last week because a supplier could not guarantee its corn was free of a genetically modified grain not yet approved for human consumption.
By PHILIP BRASHER, AP Farm Writer http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20001021/sc/biotech_food_2.html
WASHINGTON (AP) The discovery of an unapproved variety of gene-altered corn in thenation's food supply is pointing out unanswered questions about human allergies that are likely to challenge the biotechnology industry for some time to come.
The genetically engineered corn, known as StarLink, is not approved for human consumption because of a special protein it contains that takes longer than normal to break down in the digestive system.
Scientists think, but don't know for sure, that the ability of a protein to withstand heat and gastric juices is an indicator that it will cause an allergic reaction. Peanuts, which can cause fatal allergic reactions, have that characteristic, and so do other foods known to be allergy inducing. said Ricki Hall, an allergy expert with the Arkansas Children's Hospital who is serving on a panel of scientists advising the Environmental Protection Agency on genetically engineered crops.
By K.T. Arasu, Friday October 20 7:41 PM ET
CHICAGO (Reuters) Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest poultry producer, said on Friday it has stopped feeding its chickens with a gene-altered corn approved for use only as animal feed but turned up in taco shells and flour.
The Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson is believed to be the first food company to stop the use of StarLink corn as an animal feed, as concerns emerged that the corn has spread through the U.S. food chain. Tyson has elected to stop acquiring corn that we know is StarLink Tyson spokesman Ed Nicholson told Reuters.
WASHINGTON, Oct 19 (Reuters) A coalition of green groups asked major U.S. foodmakers on Thursday to explain what safeguards they are using to protect American consumers from an unapproved variety of biotech corn that has turned up in taco shells and flour. The activists' demand comes at a time when several grocers have pulled corn products from their shelves because they have been found to be contaminated with a genetically engineered variety known as StarLink. U.S. regulators approved Aventis SA's StarLink corn for use only in animal feed because of unanswered questions whether the biocorn might cause an allergic reaction for some consumers.
The Food and Drug Administration launched an investigation earlier this month to determine how StarLink slipped into taco shells, and whether it had also contaminated other snack foods, cereals or foods. Kellogg Co., H.J. Heinz Co., Coca Cola Co and more than 30 other companies were asked by the coalition Genetically Engineered Food Alert on Thursday to detail if they are testing for StarLink, or requiring their suppliers to test. Yellow corn is a key ingredient in a host of processed foods ranging from corn flour in biscuit mixes to corn syrup as a sweetener for soft drinks. "We've got a problem that goes beyond taco shells this could be in any processed corn product," said Matt Rand, a spokesman for the coalition. "It shows the breakdown of a regulatory system."
By Richard Wolfson, PhD
Reprinted with permission from the November 2000 issue of Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition
Even though genetically engineered (GE) sugar beet has been approved for growing in the United States, farmers are stalling from planting it because of consumers resistance. Lindsay Jolly, an economist at the International Sugar Organization (ISO), said: "U.S. (beet) farmers got cold feet just before the planting season last year."
In a landmark lawsuit filed against the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nine eminent scientists, including some of the FDA's own life scientists, biologists and advisers, are taking the FDA to court to obtain mandatory safety testing and labeling of GE foods. They claim that every GE food in the U.S. is on the market illegally and should be recalled for rigorous safety testing. Numerous citizens's groups and other scientists have also joined the lawsuit against the FDA. See: http://www.biointegrity.org/index.html
Canadian farmers are pressuring to remove biotech flax from the national registry of approved GE crops. Farmers are concerned that if the engineered flax is not eliminated, it could cost farmers income by reducing exports to countries that refuse GE crops. The flax is not yet being used commercially.
The Shanghai government recently found rapeseed (canola) from Canada illegally contaminated with genetically engineered varieties. The contamination could jeopardize Canadian exports to Shanghai, which imports one million tons of canola seed a year.
The French government ordered the destruction of 46 hectares of soya crop contaminated with GE seeds. Recently, the French government destroyed GE-tainted canola from Canada.
New Zealand and Australian health ministers recently agreed to mandatory labelling for all foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
Australia and New Zealand authorities will be utilizing technologies already in use in Europe and Asia, which can detect GE contamination down to 0.1 percent. Previously the Australian State of Tasmania classified GE crops as "forbidden pests" and imposed a one-year moratorium against their trial.
The US biotech firm AviGenics is genetically engineering a chicken to yield more meat. In addition, the company plans to insert a DNA copyright tag among its genes to stop anyone breeding it without permission.
AviGenics is one of several US companies that are also adding HUMAN genes to chickens, in the hopes of turning the poultry into drug factories transgenic birds that produce pharmaceuticals that they can extract and market for profit.
Animals are being genetically engineered with human genes so that organs from the animals can be used for human transplants. However, new research by UK scientists shows that such transplants between species could trigger a global pandemic of deadly diseases, including cancer-causing retroviruses. As a result of these findings, Western health authorities imposed a moratorium on all xenotransplant surgery, although biotechnology companies are known to be continuing with research.
The Canadian Federal Court of Appeal recently awarded ownership rights to Harvard for "the oncomouse," a variety of mice genetically engineered for cancer research. The ruling means that all animals except humans are now patentable in Canada. The Canadian judges based their decision on a strict interpretation of the Canadian Patent Law, and said that questions over the the ethics of patenting of life forms needs to be decided by Parliament.
While the oncomouse has already been patented in USA and Europe, the patenting of living organisms is the subject of huge debate worldwide.
At a recent conference on genetic engineering, a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) spokesperson stated that pollen from GM crops did not harm bees. However, when questioned by a Canadian scientist about the research substantiating the claim, the CFIA representative refused to supply any details. He said the information was proprietary. Since it is standard practice in scientific circles to share such scientific results, one wonders whether the CFIA official was trying to avoid revealing a lack of safety testing.
Twenty five of Scotlands 32 school districts have banned GE foods from school menus. Four of the 25 districts are actively campaigning against GE and/or calling for a five-year moratorium.
Novartis, the Swiss agribusiness and pharmaceuticals giant, has removed GE ingredients from all its own food products. These famous brand products include Gerber baby food and Ovaltine. Novartis is continuing to market GE seeds and grains worldwide where there is a market.
Pulmuone, Korea's largest manufacturer of tofu and soy products, announced that it will stop using GE soy. The company is responding to public pressure.
Thanks to RBBAX@aol.com for posting this:Latest update on GM corn fiasco USA
Reporters: Stephanie Lambidakis,
CBS News Transcripts
Show: CBS Evening News (6:30 Pm Et), October 21, 2000, Saturday
Anchors Russ Mitchell
In this country, worries about genetically altered corn spread to a new product today.
Kellogg's is scrambling to make sure those cornflakes in your cupboard are what they're supposed to be. Stephanie Lambidakis explains.
STEPHANIE LAMBIDAKIS reporting:
The number-one cerealmaker confirms today that it's shut down production at one of its plants. The reason: Suppliers can't guarantee that the corn they sell Kellogg's is free of StarLink, a genetically engineered corn not approved for humans. The consumer group that exposed StarLink applauds the shutdown.
Mr. LARRY BOHLEN (Friends of the Earth):
Kellogg's is taking the cautious approach, which is the right approach. What we're worried about is whether the federal government is doing its job.
A food industry source tells CBS News that the Kellogg's plant is located in Memphis, Tennessee. Calling the stoppage a precautionary step, a Kellogg's spokesman says officials hope the plant is up and running next week. What began as a recall of taco shells has now mushroomed. As the company put it, 'This is not a Kellogg's-specific problem, but an industrywide problem and a governmentwide problem.'
Last week, the company that produces the genetically altered corn tried to find nine million bushels that couldn't be accounted for. The Environmental Protection Agency said it couldn't pinpoint where it was either. Mr.
STEPHEN JOHNSON (Environmental Protection Agency):
At this point, it's too early to tell exactly where or how the seed was eed was commingled and to what s o what extent.
The chief worry is that the genetically engineered corn can trigger allergic reactions in people.
My organization has received about 20 reports of people who think they were made ill by eating a contaminated product.
So far, government and industry officials insist there's no documented risk to humans.
We believe that, you know, if there are risks, they would be remote.
With millions of consumers now wondering if the suspect corn is in their cupboards, Kellogg's says it has found no evidence of contaminated products. They hope this temporary stoppage will keep it that way.
Stephanie Lambidakis, CBS News, Washington
excerpt from Asociated Press article, October 21, 2000
Food producers aren't the only ones suffering losses since the discovery of genetically altered corn which is not federally approved for human consumption was discovered in taco shells last month. At least 16 Nebraska grain elevators reported having a genetically modified strain of corn mixed in with other corn, according to early results from a Nebraska Grain and Feed Association survey.
Randall Schwartz, manager of Farmers Union Cooperative in Cedar Bluffs, near Fremont... has at least one truckload of the altered seed-corn product called StarLink in a building filled with 250,000 bushels. Because of that, he lost his market access to Minnesota Corn Processors in Columbus and the extra 10 to 15 cents per bushel he could get for selling corn that could be turned into sweetener and other food products. By his estimate, as much as 75,000 bushels of regular corn may have mixed with StarLink and will likely have to be kept out of the food chain. That could cost the locally owned cooperative $11,000. "That's a lot of money to us," he said. The problem, Schwartz said, is a breakdown in the system that was to keep genetically altered and regular corn separated. The farmer who brought the StarLink corn to his elevator apparently didn't know until after he dumped his corn that it was supposed to be kept separate and that it could only be used for livestock feed and other nonfood purposes, Schwartz said.
By Debora Mackenzie (Brussels), New Scientist, October 21, 2000, SECTION: This Week, Pg. 6
SUGAR beets genetically modified to resist one herbicide have accidentally acquired the genes to resist another. The accident provides yet more evidence that the widespread use of herbicide-resistant crops could lead to the creation of superweeds.
European regulations forbid the creation of plants resistant to several herbicides because they might become uncontrollable. However, in September, when trial plots of beets designed to resist the herbicide glufosinate were sprayed with glyphosate to kill them off, not all the plants died. In nine plots in Britain, France and the Netherlands, 0.5 per cent of the crop survived. "That adds up to a lot of plants," says Brian Johnson of the government conservation agency English Nature.
The errant resistance gene crept into the beets in the greenhouses of a German seed company, says Wolfgang Faust of Aventis in Frankfurt, the company that created the beets. A few of the beets were pollinated by another variety engineered to resist glyphosate, making their offspring doubly resistant. "If they can't prevent it there, there is little chance they will avoid it in the field," says Johnson.
By Pro Farmer Editors,
Oct 24, 2000
A Reuters report this morning says that Japanese importers are concerned over an unconfirmed report that traces of StarLink genetics were found in a cargo of U.S. corn before it left port.
The rumor further says that the 55,000-ton cargo was rejected by the Japanese buyer.
This is the latest incident in tracking down StarLink corn mistakenly blended into the general commercial flow of US elevator supplies, rather than being channeled only to feed use.
Although most of the roughly 16 mil. metric tons of corn imported by Japan are used in feed, It's possible that some of the corn purchased by Japanese traders would go into milling purposes for human use, such as snacks and beverages.
Japan is extremely sensitive on the GMO issue.
By William Ryberg October 24, 2000,
The Des Moines Register
The StarLink corn fiasco has cost the Superior Cooperative Elevator Co. in Dickinson County at least $15,000, said elevator manager Gary Strube.
"It's a mess," Strube said of the situation surrounding StarLink, a specialized corn that has received federal approval as livestock feed but not for human consumption.
"I'm just beside myself," Strube said. "I'm furious."
StarLink's manufacturer, Aventis CropScience, is attempting to recall corn grown with StarLink seed, but the recall began after the harvest had begun and farmers had begun delivering the corn to elevators like the one in Superior.
Aventis estimates that 40 percent of the acres planted to StarLink this year are in Iowa. The nearly 135,000 acres of StarLink in Iowa represent only 1 percent of the state's corn acreage, but the corn is causing big headaches for elevators who accepted it without knowing that it needed to be segregated from other corn.
The Superior elevator planned to send 265,000 bushels of corn on a 75-car grain train to an Archer Daniels Midland plant in Cedar Rapids to be processed into ethanol and products that could wind up in food.
ADM rejected the shipment Thursday before the train left Superior after testing found evidence of StarLink corn.
ADM helped find a buyer for the grain in Arkansas, where the corn will be used for chicken feed.
The sale price was 3 cents a bushel lower, and extra expenses meant the elevator received $15,000 less than it would have for the ADM deal, Strube said.
Cropchoice Opinion ...
(25 October Cropchoice Opinion) American agriculture keeps giving its customers a rough ride on GMOs. Just a couple of weeks ago, an emergency squad of the top brass of American grain exports were in Tokyo to reassure the Japanese that we wouldn't export the Starlink problem. Well, guess what?
It has been confirmed that we haven't just Starlinked ourselves (and, probably, Mexico), we've Starlinked Japan too. For America's customers, Starlink is proof that the US isn't up to the task of giving its customers what they ask for. The message America is sending to the world is, as one Kenyan recently put it, "Just shut up and eat your GM soup".
Yesterday the Japanese Consumers Union identified illegal Starlink in snack foods and animal feed, while Reuters reported that an entire 55,000 ton corn shipment to Japan may have been rejected because it contained the unapproved corn.
American elevators have started going public with the stories of processors rejecting Starlink, forcing the elevators to sell cheap to ethanol and animal feed makers. This offended poultry giant Tyson, which doesn't want Starlink concerns to spill over to chicken buying consumers. So, Tyson promptly declared that it wasn't going to buy any more Starlink, not even for chicken feed.
Consumer groups in Europe, and probably Canada, Korea, Mexico, Hong Kong, and a number of other countries and sending dozens of boxes of corn flakes, candy bars, tortilla chips, and anything else suspected to contain American corn to the genetic testers. At up to $400 a pop, it's a great time to be in business if you run a GMO testing laboratory.
When some of these tests results come back positive for Starlink, there will be more calls to reject American grain, and more suspicion about GMOs in general and American exports in particular. Already, a batallion of small scale tortilla makers in Mexico has banded together with anti-American slogans in the "GMO-Free Tortilla Makers Network". In their minds, there's an aspect of the Starlink story that's about protecting Mexican heritage from Yankee imperialism...
The following is a transcript from the ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation) National Rural News that is broadcast daily to all states on ABC Regional Radio's Country Hour and on ABC Radio National.
Australia's status as a producer of non genetically modified canola has put it ahead of its main international competitor.
The European Union is planning to buy Australian canola this harvest, rather than the genetically modified product from Canada.
Clint Munroe, from Riverland Oilseeds, Victoria's second largest canola crusher, believes Europe is looking to buy up to half a million tonnes from Australia.
Clint Munroe I think it's going to have a great impact for Australian farmers this season, having a GMO free canola crop, and the reason is that European supplies have fallen at the end of their season and they will require extra canola, they can't buy it from Canada because their crop is GMO, so I think Australia might export between three and five hundred thousand tonnes to Europe this season. And that'll have a great impact and increase prices for Australian farmers.
By PHILIP BRASHER, AP Farm Writer, October 26, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) via NewsEdge Corporation -
Amid taco shell recalls and food-processing plant shutdowns, the government was asked Wednesday to temporarily approve for human consumption a variety of genetically engineered corn that has slipped into the food supply.
By Julie Vorman, Reuters, 26 Oct 2000
WASHINGTON, Oct 25 (Reuters) The controversy over the safety of a gene-spliced U.S. corn widened on Wednesday as the maker of the corn, French firm Aventis SA , urged American regulators to grant a four-year grace period to allow the existing supply to wind its way through the food chain.
But Japan, the biggest foreign buyer of U.S. corn, urged U.S. officials to act swiftly to halt exports of food products containing the controversial corn, called StarLink. A Japanese consumer group said it found the corn in a baking mix and in animal feed.
StarLink has not been approved by U.S. regulators for human consumption. The corn also is illegal for American firms to export outside the United States for any use.
The Japanese news sent jitters through the Chicago Board of Trade, where corn futures contracts closed lower on Wednesday on worries that Japan might take its business elsewhere.
by Dr. Vandana Shiva
The Green Revolution
Transferring an Illusion to India.
Herbicide resistant and toxin producing genetically engineered plants can be objectionable because of their ecological and social costs. But who could possibly object to rice engineered to produce vitamin A, a deficiency found in nearly 3 million children, largely in the Third World?
As remarked by Mary Lou Guerinot, the author of the Commentary on Vit. A rice in Science, "One can only hope that this application of plant genetic engineering to ameliorate human misery without regard to short term profit will restore this technology to political acceptability."
The problem is that vit. A rice will not remove vit. A deficiency (VAD). It will seriously aggravate it. It is a technology that fails in its promise.
Currently, it is not even known how much vit. A the genetically engineered rice will produce. The goal is 33.3% micrograms/100g of rice. Even if this goal is reached after a few years, it will be totally ineffective in removing VAD.
Since the daily average requirement of vit. A is 750 micrograms of vit. A and 1 serving contains 30g of rice according to dry weight basis, vit. A rice would only provide 9.9 micrograms which is 1.32% of the required allowance. Even taking the 100g figure of daily consumption of rice used in the technology transfer paper would only provide 4.4% of the RDA.
In order to meet the full needs of 750 micrograms of vit.A from rice, an adult would have to consume 2 kg 272g of rice per day. This implies that one family member would consume the entire family ration of 10 kg. from the PDS in 4 days to meet vit.A needs through "Golden rice".
This is a recipe for creating hunger and malnutrition, not solving it.
Besides creating vit. A deficiency, vit. A rice will also create deficiency in other micronutrients and nutrients. Raw milled rice has a low content of Fat (0.5g/100g). Since fat is necessary for vit. A uptake, this will aggravate vit. A deficiency. It also has only 6.8g/100g of protein, which means less carrier molecules. It has only 0.7g/100g of iron, which plays a vital role in the conversion of Betacarotene (precursor of vit. A found in plant sources) to vit. A.
A far more efficient route to removing vit. A deficiency is biodiversity conservation and propagation of naturally vit. A rich plants in agriculture and diets.
Table 1 gives Sources Rich In Vit. A used commonly in Indian foods.
|Source||Hindi name||Content (microgram/100g)|
|Amaranth leaves||Chauli saag||266-1,166|
|Curry leaves||Curry patta||1,333|
|Drumstick leaves||Saijan patta1||283|
|Milk (cow, buffalo)||Doodh||50-60|
|Liver (Goat, sheep)||Kalegi||6,600 10,000|
Inspite of the diversity of plants evolved and bred for their rich vit. A content, a report of the Major Science Academies of the World Royal Society, U.K., National Academy of Sciences of the USA, The Third World Academy of Science, Indian National Science Academy, Mexican Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Brazilian Academy of Sciences on Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture has stated,
Vit. A deficiency causes half a million children to become partially or totally blind each year. Traditional breeding methods have been unsuccessful in producing crops containing a high vit. A concentration and most national authorities rely on expensive and complicated supplementation programs to address the problem. Researchers have introduced three new genes into rice, two from daffodils and one from a microorganism. The transgenic rice exhibits an increased production of betacarotene as a precursor to vit. A and the seed in yellow in colour. Such yellow, or golden rice, may be a useful tool to help treat the problem of vit. A deficiency in young children living in the tropics.
It appears as if the world's top scientists suffer a more severe form of blindness than children in poor countries. The statement that "traditional breeding has been unsuccessful in producing crops high in vit. A" is not true given the diversity of plants and crops that Third World farmers, especially women have bred and used which are rich sources of vit. A such as coriander, amaranth, carrot, pumpkin, mango, jackfruit.
It is also untrue that vit. A rice will lead to increased production of betacarotene. Even if the target of 33.3 microgram of vit. A in 100g of rice is achieved, it will be only 2.8% of betacarotene we can obtain from amaranth leaves 2.4% of betacarotene obtained from coriander leaves, curry leaves and drumstick leaves.
Even the World Bank has admitted that rediscovering and use of local plants and conservation of vit. A rich green leafy vegetables and fruits have dramatically reduced VAD threatened children over the past 20 years in very cheap and efficient ways. Women in Bengal use more than 200 varieties of field greens. Over a 3 million people have benefited greatly from a food based project for removing VAD by increasing vit. A availability through home gardens. The higher the diversity crops the better the uptake of pro-vitamin A.
In spite of effective and proven alternatives, a technology transfer agreement has been signed between the Swiss Government and the Government of India for the transfer of genetically engineered vit. A rice to India. The ICAR, ICMR, ICDS, USAIUD, UNICEF, WHO have been identified as potential partners. The breeding and transformation is to be carried out at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack and Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana and University of Delhi, South Campus.
The Indian varieties in which the vit. A traits are expected to be engineered have been identified as IR 64, Pusa Basmati, PR 114 and ASD 16.
Dr. M.S. Swaminathan has been identified as "God father" to ensuring public acceptance of genetically engineered rice. DBT & ICAR are also potential partners for guaranteeing public acceptance and steady progress of the project.
Genetically engineered vit. A rice will aggravate this destruction since it is part of an industrial agriculture, intensive input package. It will also lead to major water scarcity since it is a water intensive crop and displaces water prudent sources of vit. A.
The first step in the technology transfer of vit. A rice requires a need assessment and an assessment of technology availability. One assessment shows that vit. A rice fails to pass the need test.
The technology availability issue is related to whether the various elements and methods used for the construction of transgenic crop plants are covered by intellectual property rights. Licenses for these rights need to be obtained before a product can be commercialised. The Cornell based ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application) has been identified as the partner for ensuring technology availability by ensuring technology availability by having material transfer agreements signed between the representative authority of the ICAR and the "owners" of the technology, Prof. I. Potrykus and Prof. P. Beyer.
In addition, Novartis and Kerin Breweries have patents on the genes used as constructs for the vit. A rice.
At a public hearing on Biotechnology at U.S. Congress on 29th June 2000, Astra-Zeneca stated they would be giving away royalty free licenses for the development of "Golden rice".
At a workshop organised by the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Dr. Barry of Monsanto's Rice Genome initiative announced that it will provide royalty-free licenses for all its technologies that can help the further development of "golden rice".
Hence these gene giants Novartis, Astra-Zeneca and Monsanto are claiming exclusive ownership to the basic patents related to rice research. Further, neither Monsanto nor Astra Zeneca said they will give up their patents on rice they are merely giving royalty free licenses to public sector scientists for development of "golden rice". This is an arrangement for a public subsidy to corporate giants for R&D since they do not have the expertise or experience with rice breeding which public institutions have. Not giving up the patents, but merely giving royalty free licenses implies that the corporations like Monsanto would ultimately like to collect royalties from farmers for rice varieties developed by public sector research systems.
Monsanto has stated that it expects long term gains from these IPR arrangements, which implies markets in rice as "intellectual property" which cannot be saved or exchanged for seed. The real test for Monsanto would be its declaration of giving up any patent claims to rice now and in the future and joining the call to remove plants and biodiversity out of TRIPS. Failing such an undertaking by Monsanto the announcement that Monsanto giving royalty free licenses for development of vit. A rice like the rice itself can only be taken as a hoax to establish monopoly over rice production, and reduce rice farmers of India into bio-serfs.
While the complicated technology transfer package of "Golden Rice" will not solve vit. A problems in India, it is a very effective strategy for corporate take over of rice production, using the public sector as a Trojan horse.
By Julie Vorman, Thursday October 26
WASHINGTON, Oct 26 (Reuters) The White House called a meeting of top biotech food policymakers on Thursday to work out a strategy to address Japan's concerns about the possibility of its imported U.S. grain being contaminated with a gene-spliced corn not approved for human food.
The accidental commingling of corn known as StarLink has forced U.S. grocery stores to recall various brands of taco shells, and the widespread testing by U.S. foodmakers of other products containing corn flour.
By Robert Elliott, Friday October 27, 11:31 am Eastern Time
BUENOS AIRES, Oct 27 (Reuters) Argentina's corn sales are seen firing up in the short-term as the country vies for Spain's 2000 quota and takes advantage of transgenic crop-related troubles the U.S. has with Asia, pundits said.
By SARAH LUECK, Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, October 27, 2000
WASHINGTON Federal officials blamed the unauthorized appearance of geneticially engineered corn in the food supply solely on its manufacturer Aventis SA of France. The company, which designed Starlink corn to be toxic to insect pests, failed in its responsibility for segregating Starlink from breeds of corn that might be eaten by humans, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture said Thursday.
by Julianne Johnston Oct 27, 2000
USDA, the FDA and the EPA late Thursday issued the following Notice to Exporters:
"As stated in our letter of October 6, 2000, StarLink corn was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for domestic feed and industrial uses only.
"This is to advise you that the corn variety StarLink is not approved for food use, and that the prohibition on food use extends to StarLink com destined for export.
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with Aventis CropSciences and the grain industry, including exporters, to identify stocks of StarLink corn or other corn commingled with StarLink and direct them to domestic feed and non-food industrial uses.
"Exporters are reminded that they have responsibility to take all appropriate measures to ensure that this product is used only for approved purposes. All contracts for export should specify the intended use of the corn. Contracts for the export of any corn should require the importer to determine, in cooperation with the exporter, the import specifications, including any conditions required by the importing country.
"The exporter shall make available for audit by USDA/FAS records of shipments and contracts with respect to the sale of corn."
By Jae Hur,
October 26, 2000 4:18am
TOKYO, Oct 26 (Reuters) Controversy over a banned biotech corn called StarLink is casting a cloud over the outlook for U.S. grain exports to East Asia, which accounts for some 50 percent of the U.S. corn export market. Unless the United States takes action to reassure consumers, East Asian buyers could be driven to seek grain from other countries, traders said on Thursday.
(30 October Cropchoice News) Relieved officials from grain giant Archer Daniels Midland have embraced USDA's policy to allow grain handlers to export the contents of Starlink contaminated elevators without fear of US lawsuits.
ADM Vice President Larry Cunningham told Reuters "We can start doing business again." According to Cunningham, before USDA clarified its stance "We were handicapped because we could only go to domestic feed lots..." Now, Starlink-contaminated shipments can be more easily sent abroad.
ADM has identified Starlink in at least 24 of its elevators. Company officials said they are planning to send Starlink-contaminated corn shipments to Europe, Mexico, and South America. ADM has been having difficulty selling the corn. Some US feed operations, including poultry giant Tyson, are rejecting Starlink.
One place ADM will not be sending its Starlink is Japan. According to Cunningham "I think we are going to have to wait a little bit on Japan... That is a front burner issue over there..." Japanese health and agriculture authorities have asked the US not to send any more Starlink in the wake of last week's consumer scare after supermarket products tested positive for the banned corn...
Other Asian markets are unsettled. Grain traders are reportedly very nervous, although South Korea purchased over 100,000 tons of US corn that may have been Starlink-contaminated late last week. A Korean trader told the press "`We don't have any guideline for StarLink corn from our government."
Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin)
The UK Government is laying new genetically modified organisms (contained use) regulations before Parliament. These cover the disposal of GM micro-organisms (GMMs) from labs. The new regulations can hardly fail to improve on the existing situation.
This largely unnoticed issue was highlighted last year by Gene Watch UK's excellent report 'Leaking from the lab' which revealed that GM micro-organisms, frequently containing antibiotic resistance genes, are being released in waste from factories and laboratories into rivers and the atmosphere unmonitored by any Government agency.
The GeneWatch report also found that although the waste is treated, not all the GMMs are killed and one company alone, Zeneca, has said it expected to release millions of living GMMs per litre of waste into the "water drainage/sewage system".
GeneWatch also found that companies registered as using GMMs on a large scale are not required to supply details of what they are producing or releasing into the environment.
Download GeneWatch Report as a pdf: http://www.genewatch.org/Publications/reports.htm
View GeneWatch Report Summary and Recommendations: http://www.genewatch.org/Publications/Reports/CUseSumm.htm
Details of registered large-scale GMM users in the UK: http://www.genewatch.org/Fact%20Files/gmmusers.htm
Selected by Pro Farmer Editors,
Oct 30, 2000
United Press International
October 29, 2000
CHICAGO, Oct. 29 (UPI) Who would have thought such a small percentage of the U.S. corn crop could create so big a controversy.
StarLink, planted on just 352,000 acres and representing just 0.5 percent of the 10.4 billion bushel U.S. corn crop, was supposed to be just for animal feed or industrial use. Instead it has turned up in taco shells distributed by three companies including Kraft and sent ripples through the food processing industry.
It also has shown up in corn meal and chicken feed in Japan even though it was not supposed to be shipped overseas.
Now StarLink's developer Aventis CropScience, a subsidiary of the French firm Aventis SA, is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its earlier misgivings about approving StarLink for human use.
StarLink produces a protein Cry9C that is difficult for humans to digest.
Think of this as a giant clinical trial. Susan Hazen, deputy director of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, said Aventis submitted new data last week to support a request to allow the portion of the 4.8 million bushels of StarLink that remain unaccounted for to work their way through the food chain without forcing a recall.
"The data suggests three ways of looking at the problem," Hazen said. "First, they don't believe Cry9C is an allergen. They also suggested that even if it is an allergen, it would be present at such low volume that it would not be able to trigger an allergic response. You need a certain level.
"Their third argument is that for something to become a food allergen it has to be present long enough in the food supply for people to build up potential for an allergic reaction."
Hazen said all known food allergens exhibit certain characteristics. Among them are stability under heat and a lack of digestibility. Unlike other biotech proteins that are digested within seconds. Cry9C can hang around for 30 minutes, Hazen said.
At a meeting Oct. 20 of the EPA's Scientific Advisory Panel, Dutch scientist Hubert Noteburn presented a study indicating rats fed StarLink begin producing antibodies.
Hazen said she had not yet examined the data but that it would be taken into consideration in examining Aventis' request.
Hazen said the conditional registration granted Aventis in 1997 for StarLink made it clear it was the company's responsibility to track its corn and keep it out of the food supply.
"In cases where our registrant has not complied with terms and conditions, policy is to revoke or take away that license," Hazen said. "In this case, we strongly urged Aventis that they should voluntarily request that their registration be canceled or the agency would take action.
"In all cases because Aventis is the registrant for this product it is Aventis who is the ultimate entity who is responsible. If this were mislabeled (as some farmers claim), that was a breach of the agreement."
Though no penalties have yet been imposed against Aventis, the case still is under investigation by the EPA's Office of Enforcement.
The investigation so far has determined some 2,600 farmers planted StarLink and about 9.6 million bushels were shipped to 260 grain elevators. Of those 9.6 million bushels, Aventis has tracked 4.8 million that were shipped for feed.
Stewart Reeve of the National Corn Growers Association said the EPA should never have given StarLink a limited registration.
"This is a decision that should have been made two years ago. It should have gotten food and feed approval at the same time or not," he said.
"This could be a tough lesson for Aventis and for all of us."
By JERRY PERKINS, Des Moines Register Farm Editor, 10/28/2000
As much as half of the 2 billion bushels of corn in Iowa could contain traces of StarLink, a genetically modified corn not approved for human consumption. The mixing of conventional and StarLink corn could cost farmers and elevators "hundreds of millions of dollars," said Ed Beaman, executive vice president of the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, based in Des Moines.
By Deirdre Davidson, Legal Times, 30 Oct 2000
To some, it seemed inevitable.
First, bioengineered corn unapproved for human consumption was discovered in taco shells in the United States. Then it showed up in U.S. corn shipments to Japan. And for more than a week, millions of bushels of high-tech corn went unaccounted for.
Who's at fault? No one at least no one government agency. Regulation of biotech foods is spread among three federal agencies, leading to a system of oversight that critics say is too thin and disorganized to keep pace effectively with the rapidly changing field.
"The regulatory system is so fragmented and full of holes and inconsistencies that it's a stretch to call it a system," says Jean Halloran, director of the Consumer Policy Institute at Consumers Union. "There is a lot of smoke and mirrors to suggest there is real review when there isn't."
The article below deals with a lawsuit after a death in a gene therapy experiment. I think that criminal charges should have been laid in the case and cases like it.
Nature Biotechnology Business and Regulatory News
By Jeffrey L. Fox, Nature Biotechnology, November 2000 Volume 18 Number 11 p 1136
One year since the death of a volunteer in a gene therapy clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania (UP; Philadelphia, PA), a broadly framed wrongful death lawsuit has been brought against the university, two local hospitals with which it is associated, and its private sector biotechnology collaborator, Genovo (Sharon Hills, PA).
The lawsuit was filed by the patient's father and uncle in mid September in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. It not only names several UP faculty members who were directly involved in its gene therapy program, but unusually also singles out a bioethicist on the faculty who advised them as well as university trustees and specific administrators for alleged negligence and conflicts of interest.
As a civil action, the lawsuit seeks to collect both compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $50,000 on all of several claims that, besides wrongful death, include "assault and battery," "lack of informed consent," "infliction of emotional distress," and "fraud on the Food and Drug Administration." However, in the broad sweep of the lawsuit, it in effect demands higher standards for safety during such clinical trials, insists on more detail and candor when disclosing risks to volunteers who participate in them, and calls for sharply restricting the kinds of conflict of interest that would be permitted among corporate and university partners that undertake gene therapy and other high-risk clinical trials.
The demands coincide with espousals from Greg Koski of the new federal Office for Human Research Protections (Washington, DC) of stronger standards, and the American Society of Gene Therapy's (Milwaukee, WI) recent adoption of similarly stringent standards as a way of minimizing conflicts of interest (Nat. Biotechnol. 18, 1029;MEDLINE).
Jesse Gelsinger had a mild form of a rare inherited nitrogen metabolism disorder called ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency. He died in September 1999 while participating in the phase I clinical trial that was testing an engineered adenovirus vector carrying a gene intended to correct the defect. UP principal investigator James Wilson and other members of the UP team attributed Gelsinger's death to an acute respiratory system collapse and subsequent multiorgan failure induced, at least in part, by his immune system's response to the engineered viral vector (Nat. Biotechnol. 18, 377, 2000; 18,143, 2000; 17, 1153, 1999; MEDLINE).
The lawsuit claims that Gelsinger died because the members of the UP medical team and other defendants were "careless, negligent, and reckless" and that they failed to "properly and adequately evaluate [Gelsinger's] condition and eligibility for the gene transfer trial." Moreover, it claims that the adenoviral vector that "ultimately caused the death" was "defective" and "unreasonably dangerous." Among other specific claims, it contends that Genovo and UP researchers "allowed vectors to sit and/or be stored on lab shelves for 25 months before being tested on animals, making them less potent than they could have been." Moreover, the way the vector was stored "may have resulted in underestimation of [its] potency in humans.
We will be posting new items as they become available.
Ag BioTech InfoNet http://www.biotech-info.net
By Sarah Lueck And Scott Kilman , Staff Reporters of The Wall Street Journal
November 2. 2000, Dow Jones
WASHINGTON-The flap over StarLink corn, a biotechnology product not approved for human consumption, has, according to this story, led to the recall of nearly 300 food products and caused major disruptions in parts of the Farm Belt.
The story says that the recall involves companies ranging from restaurants such as Wendy's and Applebee's to small food companies. The products are included on a list released yesterday by the Food and Drug Administration, and its length suggests the costs of the recall are growing. The list, which includes more than 70 types of taco chips, more than 80 taco shells and nearly 100 foods served in restaurants, is the first opportunity for consumers to see a comprehensive roster of products affected by the recall. It is available on the FDA's Web site at http://www.fda.gov
Mission, which said it isn't sure how much the recall will cost, is telling consumers to take the products back to where they bought them for a refund or a replacement.
Thanks to "NLP Wessex" email@example.com for forwarding this:
By Barbara Keeler http://www.biotech-info.net/buried_data.html
How often have you heard that GE foods are extensively studied for safety? These "extensive" safety studies make an interesting read. The titles sound reassuring. For example: "The composition of glyphosate-tolerant [read Roundup Ready] soybean seeds is equivalent to that of conventional soybeans." That study was presented to the FDA in 1994 during the approval process for Roundup Ready Soybeans. Except that part of it was buried. And it failed to prove equivalence.
Even what Monsanto scientists presented to FDA and subsequently published in the JOURNAL OF NUTRITION shows significant differences between GE beans and controls in 3 of the 6 macronutrients measured and in one fatty acid. The researchers did not perform statistical analysis on even larger differences in Roundup Ready beans, such as 29% less choline. They found raw Roundup Ready meal contained 27% more trypsin inhibitor, an allergen that inhibits protein digestion, can retard growth in animals fed raw soybeans, and has been connected to enlarged cells in rat pancreases.
The most glaring flaw is a "file drawer" problem: the data on one out of 3 experiments, conducted on beans grown in Puerto Rico, was omitted from the published study and the data submitted to the FDA. In fact, none of the prominent dissenting scientists I consulted had seen the data on this experiment until I obtained it from journal archives and showed it to them.
In the unreported Puerto Rico trials, Roundup Ready beans were significantly lower in protein and the amino acid phenylalanine.
More disturbing were levels of the allergen trypsin inhibitor in toasted Roundup Ready meal, WHICH exceeded the highest levels per Levels were 18% higher in Roundup ready meal than in regular meal. And in the retoasted meal, levels of allergens called lectins In Roundup Ready beans almost doubled the levels in controls.
What might be the result of consuming foods with high levels of trypsin inhibitor and lectin? Well, maybe slower and lower growth, say scientists. And slower growth with less weight gain was observed in rats fed Roundup Ready beans. Cows eating Roundup Ready meal gave milk with higher levels of fat than controls. The improbable name of the feeding study is "The feeding value of soybeans fed to rats, chickens, catfish and dairy cattle is not altered by genetic incorporation of glyphosate [Roundup] tolerance." Go figure.
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering as well as previous genetic engineering news items. Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 (USD for those outside Canada) for 12 months, payable to "BanGEF" and mailed to the above address. Or see website for details.