20 November 2000

Table of Contents

Internet links
Aventis Quits – Gene Giant To Sell Agbio Division
Planned Obsolescence And Plant Breeding
Possibly Extensive Unpredictable Ecological Harm
Gene patenting: Over half a million patents on genetic code are pending or granted
The Ethics Of Genetics – Special report on gene patenting
Useful Tips To Avoid GM Foods
'Sound science' as ideology
A Useful Reference On Canola Gene Spread
Spread Of Toxin Gene In E Coli By Use Of Antibiotics
Excellent Genetic Engineering Newsletter – internet link
Government, Industry Panel Approves High-Dose Radiation 'Treatment' of Global Food Supply
Organics under fire! – Strategies the AgChem + Food Industries are using to Discredit Organics
Another Report On Transgenes As Invaders To Be Silenced
Cheese: Biotechnological approaches to the understanding and improvement of mature cheese flavour
Where do all the Argentine GM crops go?

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Date: 15 Nov 2000 05:33:14 U
Via: Biotech Activists
Posted: 11/14/2000 By

Internet links

You're welcome to do a link on your websites with our campaign targeting Kraft/Philip Morris.

Laurel Hopwood, sierra club genetic engineering committee chair

Date: 15 Nov 2000 14:27:11 U
Subject: Genes patents ethics, biopiracy website

Have a look at the Guardian's special feature website, loads of subjects, debates and discussions etc, worth a look at:,2759,395698,00.html

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Date: 15 Nov 2000 10:20:42 U

On 15 Nov 2000, at 13:03, wrote:

Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin) -- marrying expertise in healthcare and agriculture. The divestments reflect the demise of this grand idea.

Aventis Quits – Gene Giant To Sell Agbio Division

Aventis to Sell Ag Chems and Focus on Drugs

LONDON, Wednesday Nov 15 (Reuters Securities, 6:00-AM) - Aventis SA said on Wednesday it planned to divest its agrochemicals and seeds business to focus on faster-growing pharmaceuticals in a move investors said could increase its market rating.

The majority-owned business – which has been tarnished by recent controversy over its StarLink genetically modified maize – could fetch some six billion euros ($5.14 billion), analysts estimated.

The Franco-German company is following the lead of Swiss and British rivals Novartis AG and AstraZeneca Plc which recently merged and spun off their agchem interests into a new company, Syngenta AG . -- marrying expertise in healthcare and agriculture. The divestments reflect the demise of this grand idea. said Eric Bernhardt, a fund manager with Clariden private bank in Zurich who owns Aventis. Agriculture is a low growth area and has been dragging down the rest of the company. The market growing only two to three percent a year against the 11 percent or so revenue growth expected from

Shares in Aventis, which have outperformed the market by 19 percent so far this year, gained 2.4 percent to 88.35 euros by 0950 GMT.

Tough Time For Agchems

Aventis – which was formed last year from the merger of Rhone Poulenc and Hoechst – said it would evaluate all value-enhancing options including a potential public offering of Aventis CropScience under the name Agreva. It aims to complete the divestment by the end of 2001. Since the creation of Aventis, market consolidation in both the pharma and agriculture sector has accelerated. By effecting the separation, Aventis would achieve strategic flexibility, clarity and it said in a statement.

But Aventis may find it tough to get a good price for the business, with the sentiment towards the sector soured by slack demand from a depressed farm sector and mounting public concerns about genetically modified (GM) produce.

The GM row was reignited by the recent discovery of StarLink corn, approved for animal feed, in consumer foods in the U.S., sparking worries about possible allergic reactions and leaving Aventis vulnerable to liability claims.

Syngenta's debut has not been auspicious. The stock floated on Monday but fell below an already low the issue price, reflecting widespread selling by fund managers.

David Beadle, pharmaceuticals analyst at UBS Warburg, said he had recently cut his valuation on Aventis CropScience to six times enterprise value/Ebitda, from nine times previously, reflecting the poor valuations achieved by Syngenta and U.S. firm Monsanto. That would imply a price around six billion euros. is not said Philippe Lanone, analyst at CDC Bourse in Paris.

He said it would have been worse if Aventis had decided to keep its agrochemicals division just because of Syngenta's lacklustre debut.

Schering Stake

Aventis spokesman Carsten Tilger said the company had been in touch with German pharmaceutical group Schering AG but he declined to speculate on whether or Schering would opt to retain its 24-percent holding in CropScience. We have informed them about our plans and now we are in talks about he said.

Schering confirmed it would begin talks with Aventis on the disposal of the unit.

UBS Warburg's Beadle said Schering might be reluctant to sell its stake in the business – particularly if such a move left it vulnerable to a takeover bid. Any predator will find Schering far more attractive with 1.5 billion euros of cash on its balance sheet than a stake in an agchem business, he said.

Schering shares, which have outperformed the European sector by 28 percent this year, dipped 1.6 percent to 66.30 euros. END.

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Date: 15 Nov 2000 13:45:21 U
From: Robert Mann

Just in case you thought the commercial mentality in seed supplying was novel with GMOs:

Planned Obsolescence And Plant Breeding


A discussion paper by Dwijen Rangnekar, 2000. The paper empirically examines strategies of appropriation in wheat breeding. The strategy of planned obsolescence is indicated in the effort to reduce the durability of plant varieties so as to induce regular replacement purchases by farmers.

To obtain a copy contact: Dwijen Rangnekar, Research Fellow, School of Public Policy, University College London, 29/30 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9QU, UK; tel: (44-0- 20) 7679-4903; fax: 7679-4969; email:; Internet:

----- -
Robt Mann, consultant ecologist, P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand, (9) 524 2949

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Date: 16 Nov 2000 00:11:33 U
From: Robert Mann

Possibly Extensive Unpredictable Ecological Harm

In the testimony of Dr Wills to the RCGM this Monday, he showed a diagram of a recent extinction of a large blue butterfly and the hypothesis for how it was indirectly caused by myxomatosis.

This diagram and some exposition of the extinction are available as a .pdf of 85K:

RV Sole & M Newman (1999) "Patterns of extinction and biodiversity in the fossil record", Santa Fe Institute Working Paper 99-12-079 at

This is a remarkable illustration of the possibly extensive unpredictable ecological harm from GM. (The particular case is not suggested to have had anything to do with GM, but it illustrates indirect ecological damage.)


----------- -
Robt Mann, consultant ecologist, P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand, (9) 524 2949

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Date: 16 Nov 2000 11:29:17 U

The Race To Buy Life!


Gene patenting: Over half a million patents on genetic code are pending or granted

By Emma Young , NEW SCIENTIST magazine, 15 November 2000

Patents on Genes from living organisms
Invest for success
Patent Groups

Patents on Genes from living organisms

Patents on over 500,000 whole or partial genes from living organisms are pending or have already been granted, according to new research.

Applications in the last month alone sought patents for another 34,000 segments of the human genetic code, says Sue Mayer of GeneWatch UK, the group that carried out the research for the UK's Guardian newspaper.

"What's striking is the speed and scale at which patent applications are being made," she told the paper. "Unless the rules are changed, in a few years' time we will find very basic knowledge and information has been privatised."

Patents on 161,195 human genes or gene sequences have now been filed. These genes cover virtually every tissue in the body, for example lung tissue and a light-sensitive pigment in the eye.

The French company Genset has applied for patents on 36,083 human gene sequences. Its applications account for 28.5 per cent of all human gene patents filed – more than any other company. Private US biotech companies are the next five most prolific human gene patenters, with the US Department of Health in at number seven.

Invest for success

Biotech and pharmaceutical companies claim that unless they patent genes, they can't invest the vast sums of money that are necessary to develop medical tests and treatments based on those sequences.

But other researchers will have to pay hefty fees to work on patented genes, and this may delay or even prevent the development of new treatments, claim gene patenting opponents.

Opponents also criticise institutions for patenting genes without giving any indication of what research on those genes will be used for. And they claim that genes are discoveries not "inventions", and so should not be covered by patent law.

Patent Groups

The new research also revealed that groups have applied for:

Correspondence about this story should be directed to

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Date: 16 Nov 2000 11:29:17 U

Guardian special investigation

The Ethics Of Genetics – Special report on gene patenting

Special report on gene patenting published in The Guardian (London) 15 November 2000

The Race To Buy Life

The Race To Buy Life

Carve up of the human heart: private firms, universities and charities are rushing to isolate and patent human genes before it is even understood what they do.

Beginner's Guide To Gene Patents

The issue explained.

Live debate, 3pm today

What Do You Think?

Have your say: Who controls life? Should private companies be allowed to patent human genes, or those of staple foodstuffs such as rice? Is the gene rush out of control, or will this scientific revolution benefit mankind? Andrew Sheard of the BioIndustry Association, Sue Mayer of GeneWatch UK and Guardian science correspondent James Meek will be here to debate the issues and answer your questions at 3pm today. Post your messages now.


The Price Of Life

Comment, Jeremy Rifkin: A call for radical reform, as the Guardian launches its special inquiry into the onrush of gene patenting.

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

Leader: the knowledge economy should be for all.

What is the human genome?

Interactive Guide

The Issue Explained

Quiz: Test Your Knowledge

Patenting life – a special report on biotechnology

Why You Are First In The Great Gene Race

The rush for rights to your body is under way and already patents have been applied for on a fantastic 127,000 bits of your genes

Your Life In Their Hands

When you patent a human gene, in what sense is it yours? European ministers have a chance to discuss the ownership of life when they meet in Munich next week. But they may already be too late

Your Day Has Been Patented ...

It's still dark outside, but by the glow of your alarm clock (a luminous bacteria living on a Hawaian squid has been patented by a US university)

Biopirates Who Seek The Greatest Prizes

At the frontier of the gene rush stands a breed of explorer who scours the world for traditional knowledge, then sells it on to the main players

Agribusiness Sows Its Seeds Down On The Pharm

"Biotechnology in drugs is well regulated and well understood. Ag-bio is less so," says Dave Hales, a biotech consultant at Ernst & Young. "It seems to touch a raw nerve with the public much more than biotech on the therapeutic side does."

Dark And Light

How biotech firms became trapped in a battle of good and evil.

Gold Rush

Microbes make millions in a new Klondyke of microfactories.

How Us Muscle Bent The Rules In Europe

European patent law is in a mess. But while the biotech industry wants it relaxed, developing countries are looking for a champion.

America Holds The Cards

Ethical unease is not about science – it's about the politics of power.

Genewatch UK's Patent Research For The Guardian

The information in this patent research was compiled by searching the Derwent GENESEQ database (

The Primary Patents

9,364 patents relating to the human body have been filed for so far. The applications made cover 126,672 genes or partial sequences. Here are some of them

The Top 10 Patenters On The Human Body

The Top Patenters In Food



"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

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 16 Nov 2000 11:30:58 U


Useful Tips To Avoid GM Foods

Updated November, 2000

While demand for organic food has soared recently, the vast majority of the UK public are still consuming GM-affected foods every day, mainly in the form of GM derivatives and enzymes – which are a potential health risk according to independent geneticists*.

The following tips should help those wishing to avoid GM foods:

  1. READ THE PRODUCT LABELS and avoid soya-based ingredients such as soya flour, soya oil, vegetable oil, lecithin and hydrolysed vegetable protein. And avoid maize-based ingredients such as modified starch, cornflour, corn starch, corn oil and polenta. Note: These ingredients are to be avoided simply because there is no way of knowing if they contain GM-soya or GM-maize derivatives (unless of course a particular product is guaranteed free of al GM ingredients and derivatives).

  2. BUY YOUR FOOD FROM A RELIABLE SOURCE: Certified organic products are far less likely to be affected by GM. Look for the Soil Association symbol or a label with a UKROFS registration number. Favour organic wholefoods where possible.

  3. CUT DOWN ON PROCESSED FOODS because they are more likely to be affected by GM. In addition, many brands of dairy products, cereals, jam, fruit juice, cooking oil, sweeteners, slimming foods, beverages, wine and beer etc. are produced with GM-enzymes. If you have any doubts about a particular product, contact the manufacturer for assurance – or just leave it out..

  4. HOME-MADE MEALS, bread, cakes and cottage cheese etc. are obviously far healthier and more nutritious than factory-made equivalents.

  5. AVOID "fast food" restaurants and "low budget" products because GM-foods are being introduced into cheaper brands initially. For example: Kwik-Save's No Frills bread and cheese products, and some of Asda's Farm Stores products etc are affected.

  6. BAKERY PRODUCTS When buying bakery products such as bread, avoid "flour improver" and "flour treatment agent", which may be a mixture of GM-enzymes and additives. The GM enzyme Alpha Amylase is sometimes listed on bakery product labels and is best avoided. Likewise, "ascorbic acid" may be GM-derived. (The Village Bakery (UK) now do an excellent range of yeast-free organic breads. Tel: 01768 881515).

  7. AVOID margarine. Favour organic butter. For dairy-free diets favour organic sunflower spreads etc – available from wholefood shops.

  8. DAIRY PRODUCTS and meat from animals fed GM soya and maize is not be labelled as such – in spite of evidence that modified DNA can cross the gut wall and enter spleen, liver and white blood cells. Favour organic milk, butter, cream and cottage cheese etc.

  9. CHOCOLATE can contain GM-soya lecithin, and "vegetable fat" and "whey" which are affected by GM. So favour organic chocolate. Green & Black's have a policy of using GM-free lecithin and avoiding all GM ingredients. Note: All lecithin is soya lecithin. Its E number is E322.

  10. SHOP WITH CARE when buying products such as baby foods, breakfast cereals, soft drinks and slimming foods, as these may well contain added vitamins etc produced from GM-organisms. (Weetabix breakfast cereals are apparently OK in this respect)

  11. REGARDING HEALTH FOOD SUPPLEMENTS, vitamins and medicines: check with the manufacturer, as some ingredients may be produced by biotechnology. In the USA, the GM food supplement Tryptophan killed 37 consumers and permanently disabled 1,500 more. Boots the Chemist (UK) now admit that their food supplements and pharmaceutical products are affected by GM. All such products are now under suspicion – contact the manufacturer to ensure 'GM-free' status. In addition, for the last ten years there have been reports of a GM version of human insulin causing problems in diabetics who happily used animal insulin for years. (Note: virtually all Vitamin C comes from GE maize! See GMFN01028)

  12. IS IT REALLY GM-FREE? When contacting a manufacturer to enquire if a particular product is GM-free, ask them to confirm that the product contains "no genetically modified ingredients or derivatives, and that no GM-derived enzymes were used in it's production". Ask for written confirmation rather than relying on verbal assurances.

  13. HONEY. Almost all honey is now suspect, as traces of oilseed rape DNA have already been detected in several brands. Honey sold in the UK can be a mixture of honeys from various countries, including Canada – which has a high-percentage of GM oilseed rape crops. So if the label on a jar of honey states: "Canadian honey", "Imported honey", or: "Produce of more than one country", then it may be advisable to avoid these. Instead FAVOUR LOCAL HONEY (cold pressed is apparently healthier) from areas not affected by GM crops; or organic honey, as attempts are made to preserve wide margins between hives and GM or agrochemical-sprayed crops.

  14. DRIED FRUIT. Many brands of dried fruit, including raisins, sultanas, currants, dates – and even dried fruit in some breakfast cereals – can be coated with oil derived from GM soya. Favour organic brands of dried fruit, or brands that don't list "'vegetable oil" on the label (available from wholefood stores).

  15. WARNING. Avoid all imported foods from America and Canada because these countries are much further down the biotech road than we are. Products to avoid include all fruit and vegetables, ice-cream, milk, milk powder, butter, soy sauce, chocolate, popcorn, chewing gum, health foods, vitamins, and cotton and denim clothing (which are likely to be derived from GM cotton).

  16. WARNING. Holidaying in America or Canada will almost certainly involve consuming GM food on a regular basis (including GM fresh fruit and vegetables). Most hotels, restaurants and theme parks are affected - including Disney theme parks. Favour alternative destinations; go self-catering, and avoid processed and packet foods wherever possible. Most in-flight meals, snacks. sweets and fizzy drinks may be affected by GM. Write to the directors of airline companies, and the large hotel chains; demand food that is free from GM ingredients and derivatives. British Airways need some persuasion to go GM-free. Write to: The Chief Executive, British Airways, Waterside, West Drayton, UB7 OGB. Fax: 0208-759-9597.

Source: GM Foods and How to Avoid Them


"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.

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Date: 16 Nov 2000 18:30:56 U
From: MichaelP


'Sound science' as ideology

By Les Levidow, Ph.D.,
Research Fellow, Centre for Technology Strategy
Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

In the risk debate over genetically modified (GM) crops, Europe's regulatory delays have often been branded as 'political', i.e. not based on science. According to some proponents of 'sound science', precautionary regulation is misguided on several grounds: that it imposes an unrealistic burden of proof for safety; that it discriminates against GM crops; and that it ignores the lower risk of GM products relative to the agrochemical risks of cultivating their non-GM counterparts. In this view, precautionary delays are a proxy for 'non-risk' issues, e.g. about trade policy or intensive agriculture; beneficial products have been sacrificed to accommodate public protest and irrational fears.

That diagnosis begs some questions: How can sound science be distinguished from unsound science? When research provides new evidence of risk (or of uncertainty), does the earlier science become unsound, retrospectively? Alternatively, is the new evidence to be discredited as unsound? Moreover, can there be an apolitical way of basing decisions upon science? To answer these questions, insect-protected Bt maize provides a case study for trans-Atlantic comparison.

As a general perspective on this case study: The regulatory role of science depends upon various socio-political influences. Risk regulation makes judgments about what 'environment' must be protected, what uncertainties matter for risk assessment, what research is needed to clarify them, and what counts as meaningful evidence. In practice the criteria are framed by regulatory institutions, official expertise, policy language, agricultural models and assumptions about a desirable society. For GM crops, the 'sound science' slogan has tended to restrict and conceal such political judgments, while 'the precautionary principle' has tended to open them up.

In early decisions to approve Bt maize, the US and EU procedures framed the risk issues within an intensive agricultural model. A 'genetic-pesticide treadmill' was accepted as if Bt were dispensable, replaceable by chemical pesticides. Non-target harm was deemed implausible. Superficial laboratory tests were accepted as evidence of safety.

Public protest led to a change in this initial framing, though with some trans-Atlantic differences. After US protest campaigns turned insect resistance into a risk issue, regulators acted upon and solicited new scientific evidence about insect-resistance pathways. After GM crops overall became contentious in Europe, its precautionary approach was reinterpreted; national regulators there too imposed greater controls for various risks, including non-target harm.

The protest stimulated more stringent norms of acceptable effects, as well as further scientific research on cause-effect uncertainties which were previously neglected. In such ways, the risk debate stimulated new bodies of knowledge, rather than simply shift the burden of evidence within existing knowledge. For example, new research has undermined optimistic cause-effect models of Bt resistance mechanisms and of available alternative genes. This new knowledge stimulated and informed more stringent protocols for Bt Insect Resistance Management.

For potential harm to non-target insects, however, new evidence of risk has been disparaged as unsound. Such evidence has been criticized on various grounds – e.g. 'unrealistic' experimental conditions or statistical anomalies – which could apply just as well to evidence of safety. Yet the latter was favorably cited by companies and largely accepted by regulators. Thus double standards have served to protect safety claims. Moreover, some comments have implied that any plausible harm would be acceptable, e.g. by favorably comparing Bt maize to harm from agrochemical usage – as if the comparison needed no evidence and involved purely technical issues.

In sum, the slogan 'sound science' tends to conceal value-laden features of safety claims, their weak scientific basis, their normative framing and their socio-political influences. In these ways, 'sound science' operates as an ideology, pre-empting debate on its framing of cause-effect uncertainties. By contrast 'a precautionary approach' can more readily identify scientific unknowns, while acknowledging the agricultural-environmental values which inform risk assessment.

Therefore, a purely 'science-based' regulation can never be achieved. The choice is not between 'science versus politics', but rather between ways of linking them.

[Note: This statement is based on a jointly-authored article in the International Journal of Biotechnology 2(1-3): 257-273.]

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Date: 17 Nov 2000 08:03:02 U
From: joe

The reference below is a useful reference on gene flow from canola to weed relatives.

A Useful Reference On Canola Gene Spread

Plant Breeding 119 (5) 417-420 © Blackwell Wissenschafts-Verlag, Berlin [Synergy]

Interspecific hybridization between Brassica carinata and Brassica rapa

B. R.Choudhary1,P.Joshi1and,S.Ramarao2

The crossability between Brassica carinata (BBCC, 2n = 34) and Brassica rapa (AA, 2n = 20), and the cytomorphology of their F1 hybrids were studied. Hybrids between these two species were only obtained when B. carinata was used as the female parent. The hybrid plants exhibited intermediate leaf and flower morphology, and were found to be free from white rust and Alternaria blight diseases.

One of the four F1 plants was completely male sterile, while the remaining plants had 4.8, 8.6, and 10.9% stainable pollen, respectively. No seed was produced on hybrid plants under self pollination or in backcrosses; but seed was obtained from open pollination. The occurrence of the maximum of 11 bivalents as well as up to 44.8% of cells with multivalent associations in the form of trivalents (0-2) and a quadrivalent (0-1) in the trigenomic triploid hybrid (ABC, 2n = 27) revealed intergenomic homoeology among the A, B and C genomes. Meiotic analysis of F1 hybrids indicated that traits of economic importance, such as disease resistance, could be transferred from B. carinata to B. rapa through interspecific crosses.

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Date: 17 Nov 2000 09:56:02 U
From: joe

The shiga toxin is the toxin in E coli 0157 and other killer Ecoli strains. The toxin gene is part of a virus that is integrated in the bacterial chromosome. Chromosome damaging antibiotics and environmental agents such as UV light or gamma radiation activate the SOS response which repairs gene damage but produces mutation among the survivors. They also induce bacteria phage (virus integrated into the chromosome like HIV in humans) and turn on production of the killer toxin.

This is fundamental stuff but worth knowing about because GM advocates falsely claim organic agriculture causes spread of toxin producing bacteria.

Spread Of Toxin Gene In E Coli By Use Of Antibiotics

Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol. 6, No. 5, September-October 2000 pp458-462

Toxin Gene Expression by Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli:the Role of Antibiotics and the Bacterial SOS Response

Patrick T. Kimmitt, Colin R. Harwood, Michael R. Barer

The Medical School, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom


Toxin synthesis by Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) appears to be coregulated through induction of the integrated bacteriophage that encodes the toxin gene. Phage production is linked to induction of the bacterial SOS response, a ubiquitous response to DNA damage. SOS-inducing antimicrobial agents, particularly the quinolones, trimethoprim, and furazolidone, were shown to induce toxin gene expression in studies of their effects on a reporter STEC strain carrying a chromosome-based stx2::lacZ transcriptional fusion.

At antimicrobial levels above those required to inhibit bacterial replication, these agents are potent inducers (up to 140-fold) of the transcription of type 2 Shiga toxin genes ( stx2); therefore, they should be avoided in treating patients with potential or confirmed STEC infections. Other agents (20 studied) and incubation conditions produced significant but less striking effects on stx2 transcription; positive and negative influences were observed.

SOS-mediated induction of toxin synthesis also provides a mechanism that could exacerbate STEC infections and increase dissemination of stx genes. These features and the use of SOS-inducing antibiotics in clinical practice and animal husbandry may account for the recent emergence of STEC disease.

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Date: 18 Nov 2000 01:10:15 U

Enclosed is a comprehensive update of the battle. (See also: "Maize DNA found in cows and even milk".)


Excellent Genetic Engineering Newsletter – internet link

supported by Gerling-Foundation, Triodos-Stichting, Mahle-Foundation & Gemeinnützige Treuhandstelle e.V. / GLS Gemeinschaftsbank eG in co-operation with Heinrich-Böll-Foundation

The current issue of the Genetic Engineering Newsletter Genetic Engineering Newsletter 16 November 2000


  • Legal and political developments
  • Europe
  • USA and Canada
  • Asia
  • Others
  • International
  • Science News
  • Business News
  • News from the Life Science Industry
  • Miscellaneous
  • Special Tip

    The Genetic Engineering Newsletter is available on the Internet You can order it as e-mail (mail to, NO subject, text:


    If you would like to support our work, we would appreciate tax-deductible donations to: OEko-Institut e.V. at Sparkasse Freiburg, account number 2063447, bank sorting number 680 501 01, please note 'Genetic Engineering Newsletter'.

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    Date: 19 Nov 2000 05:41:26 U
    Via: Vivianne Lerner, by way of:

    Please circulate

    Government, Industry Panel Approves High-Dose Radiation 'Treatment' of Global Food Supply

    Public Citizen, Nov. 15, 2000

    Dose Limit Is Removed Without Studying New Chemicals Formed in Food

    Government officials and corporate executives from around the world have decided that the planet's food supply can safely be "treated" with any dose of radiation, a conclusion reached without studying whether new chemicals formed by high-dose irradiation are harmful to humans. In response, Public Citizen is urging that these new chemicals be studied to avoid harm to the public.

    During a three-day meeting that was closed to the public earlier this month at the WHO, the International Consultative Group on Food Irradiation (ICGFI) decided that the maximum radiation dose for food could be eliminated without posing additional hazards to people. The current international radiation limit is 10 kiloGray – the equivalent of 330 million chest X-rays, or 2,000 times the fatal radiation dose for humans. The ICGFI reasoned that some food has to be irradiated at high levels to kill certain microorganisms, but it ignored evidence that food irradiated at high doses is nutritionally deficient and may be harmful.

    In reaching the decision, the ICGFI also ignored its own 1994 recommendation to study whether the new chemicals created by high-dose irradiation can cause cancer, mutations, immune system disorders, reproductive malfunctions or other health problems in people. Public Citizen has requested that this recommendation be followed. The request was made to the three international agencies that oversee the ICGFI: the WHO, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

    "The events in Geneva are doubly disturbing," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "Democracy and science were both thrown out the window, and the population of the entire world could suffer as a result. At a time when the need for thoughtful, transparent decision-making has never been greater, the outrageousness of this action cannot be overstated."

    The ICGFI, which met Nov. 1-3, effectively barred a Public Citizen staff person from entering the meeting room. U.S. government officials invited the staff person to join their delegation, but under ICGFI's rules, doing so would have made the organization a de facto supporter of U.S. food irradiation policies. Therefore, Public Citizen declined the invitation.

    Meanwhile, allowed in the meeting room were representatives from several irradiation companies and food industry trade groups, including Titan of San Diego, Isomedix/STERIS of New Jersey, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, and the Association of International Industrial Irradiation. In fact, some of the corporate executives are government-appointed delegates to the ICGFI.

    "This is a classic example of how corporations are granted special rights to shape public policy to their liking," Hauter said. "It shows how citizens are left out in the cold."

    Public Citizen is formally challenging several recent decisions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including this year's rulings to legalize the irradiation of eggs and sprouting seeds. In both rulings, FDA staffers relied on research they admitted was inadequate, requested no scientific data from corporate applicants, and made false statements in the Federal Register (the official record of federal agencies), a recent report co-authored by Public Citizen reveals.

    For nearly two decades, the FDA has relied on admittedly flawed scientific research, failed to follow its own safety rules, misled members of Congress, and ignored evidence suggesting that irradiated food may be harmful to people who eat it, according to the report, A Broken Record. Because of the report's findings, Public Citizen is requesting investigations into the FDA's handling of food irradiation by the Health and Human Services Department's Inspector General and appropriate congressional committees.




    "We should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society."

    – Albert Einstein May 1949

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    Date: 19 Nov 2000 05:43:23 U

    From: Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin)

    Below is one of Claire Robinson's illuminating articles from the great GM FREE magazine (first 4 issues still available via website). Apologies for formatting.

    Organics under fire! – Strategies the AgChem + Food Industries are using to Discredit Organics

    shortened: for full version check out:

    The anti-organic backlash has begun. We look at the strategies the agrichemical and food industries are using to try to discredit organics.

    In 1998 in the U.S., home to the GM industry, over five billion dollars worth of organic food were purchased. Organics sales are increasing over 25% annually. A 1997 poll by biotech giant Novartis found that 54% of Americans would prefer organic to become the dominant form of agricultural production.

    British people feel even more strongly. In a recent independent opinion poll run by Taylor Nelson, 81% of those questioned wanted food producers to spend more money on developing organic food rather than GM food. or people feel even more strongly. In a recent independent opinion poll run by Taylor Nelson, 81% of those questioned wanted food producers to spend more money on developing organic food rather than GM food.

    Consumers wishing to avoid GMOs are playing safe and buying organic. Supermarkets say they cannot keep up with the demand for organics, which has shot steeply upwards since the introduction of GM foods. A spokesman for Sainsbury's said, "This market is going to go one way – and that is up. We can't get enough organic foods... We are desperate to find ways of getting more farmers and growers to convert.

    Organic farming seems to be such good news for everyone – from earthworms to farm workers to consumers – that it's hard to believe that anyone could fail to rejoice at these developments. But there is a vociferous group of people who are very unhappy indeed at the organic trend and who are determined to reverse it.

    The agrichemicals lobby, whose tentacles reach into the food industry and government, have launched a vicious attack on organics. They have changed tack from their old message, "Organic food is no safer than conventional food". Now, they are determined to make us believe that organic food is dangerous, fattening, cholesterol-filled, disgusting (all that manure!) and selfishly contemptuous of third world needs.

    We'll look at each of their claims in turn, where they come from, and what evidence supports them. Claim no 1. 'Organic is not safer or healthier. Organic food does not mean safer. Organic food does not mean healthier' – Regina Hildwine of the National Food Processors Association during the debate over organic standards in the U.S. in 1998. Several studies exist showing that organic food has higher levels of vitamins and minerals, than non-organic food. The following summaries of these studies can be viewed at

    A study, commissioned by the Organic Retailers and Growers Association of Australia, with analysis conducted by the Australian Goverment Analytical Laboratory, examined four vegetable varieties from organic and supermarket sources. Tomatoes, beans, capsicums and silver beet were grown on a certified organic farm using soil regenerative techniques and were then analysed for mineral elements. A similar range of vegetables grown commercially and purchased from a supermarket was also analysed. Results indicate significant differences in mineral levels in favour of the organic produce. Calcium levels in some organic produce were eight times higher, potassium 10 times higher, magnesium seven times higher and zinc, a vital trace element for nutrition, five times higher. News release on the report online:

    Researchers from the University of Copenhagen report that organically grown produce has higher levels of nutrients than conventional produce. The organic crops had a higher concentration of vitamins and far more secondary metabolites, which are naturally occurring compounds that help immunize plants from external attack. Some of these metabolites are thought to lower the risk of cancer and heart disease in humans. The research was funded by the Britain's Soil Association and reported at the SA's conference on January 8, 2000. (Organic View v.2 n.1 January 23, 2000, Organic Consumers Association

    Long-term field experiments in Sweden over 32 years compared crop quality in biodynamic farming and conventional farming. The organic treatments resulted in a higher soil fertility capacity and in crops with higher quality protein (more relatively pure protein and essential amino acids, free amino acids lower), a higher starch content, and a greater ability to tolerate stressful conditions and long-term storage in comparison with the inorganic treatments.

    Furthermore, the crops produced in the organic treatments developed a structure that can be studied through a picture formation method (Crystallization with CuCl2), described as a higher organisational level which is evident in terms of both soil and crop formation. Yield increases were greater in the organic treatments. ("Long-Term Field Experiment in Sweden: Effects of Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers on Soil Fertility and Crop Quality", Artur Granstedt & Lars Kjellenberg, in Proceedings of an International Conference in Boston, Tufts University, Agricultural Production and Nutrition, Massachusetts, March 19-21, 1997. Online report:

    Over a 2 year period, organically and conventionally grown apples, potatoes, pears, wheat, and sweet corn were purchased in the western suburbs of Chicago and analyzed for mineral content. Four to 15 samples were taken for each food group. On a per-weight basis, average levels of essential minerals were much higher in the organically grown than in the conventionally grown food. The organically grown food averaged 63% higher in calcium, 78% higher in chromium, 73% higher in iron, 118% higher in magnesium, 178% higher in molybdenum, 91% higher in phosphorus, 125% higher in potassium and 60% higher in zinc. The organically raised food averaged 29% lower in mercury than the conventionally raised food. (Journal of Applied Nutrition 1993).

    Another study shows that organic food contains more dry matter (and less water) than non-organic food. Lampkin quotes a 12 year study, reported in 1975, of relative yield and composition of vegetables growth with composted manures compared with mineral fertilisers, which found, in respect of the former, 24% lower yield but 28% higher dry matter accompanied by varying higher levels of macro- and micro-nutrients. (Lampkin N, (1990) Organic Farming, 557 – 575, Farming Press, Ipswich.) This may be because non-organic food relies more on nitrogen-heavy fertilisers, which make the plants take up more water. More dry matter is likely to mean more nutrients and more food value per kilo eaten—not to mention a tastier culinary experience.

    Organic food may also be preferable for what it doesn't contain. Organic food production does not use a number of risky practices commonplace in industrial food production. Ronnie Cummins of Food Bytes, the Washington-based Campaign for Food Safety newsletter, says, "Under current organic certification rules enforced by over 40 state and private organic certifiers across the U.S., it is illegal to use toxic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, hormones, steroids, rendered animal protein (waste and diseased animal parts), genetically engineered ingredients, sewage sludge, or nuclear irradiation – all of which routinely contaminate conventional food.

    Pesticide residues in industrial food are a hot issue. A panel convened by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1993 reported that federal allowances for pesticide residues were too lenient, and that infants and children could be harmed by current pesticide residue levels that the government considers "legal". Often, residue levels exceed even the "legal" limits. A highly-publicized January 1998 study by the Washington-based Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that millions of American children are at risk every year from ingesting dangerous levels of at least 13 different neurotoxic organophosphate (OP) pesticide residues in their apples, apple sauce, apple juice, peaches, popcorn, corn chips, and other foods.

    According to the EWG report: "One out of every four times a child age five or under eats a peach, he or she is exposed to an unsafe level of OP insecticides. Thirteen percent of apples, 7.5% of pears, and 5% of grapes in the U.S. food supply expose the average young child eating these fruits to unsafe levels... Many of these exposures... exceed the federal safety standard by a factor of 10 or more."

    In another study of eight different non-organic baby foods produced by Gerber, Heinz, and Beech-Nut, the EWG found residues of 16 different pesticides – including probable human carcinogens, neurotoxins, endocrine disrupters, and oral toxicity no. 1 chemicals, the most toxic designation. Though industry groups sprang to the attack, accusing the EWG of "drumming up fears and new scares", the uncomfortable fact remains that EWG's figures came from more than 110,000 U.S. government-tested food samples and government data.

    At a time when food-related illnesses are increasing yearly in the U.S., American consumers would appreciate any move by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) to investigate the agricultural and processing practices that lead to contaminants in food. But USDA, with the perverse logic that only heavy corporate pressure induces, did no such investigation and decided instead to uncritically incorporate industrial practices into organic farming. In its first set of proposed national organic standards last year, USDA pushed for the inclusion of genetic engineering, irradiation, use of synthetic chemicals, antibiotics, indoor confinement of livestock, and use of sewage sludge as fertilizer.

    The effects of such a move would be to dilute organic standards and to blur the line between organic and conventional food, while agribusiness would get its hands on a share of the lucrative organic market. What better way to kill off an embarrassing competitor?

    As can be expected, supporters of the USDA's first organic proposal included powerful agribusiness trade associations. These trade associations represent hundreds of billions of dollars in capital assets, annual sales, and advertising revenue (not to mention millions of dollars in annual political contributions to both major U.S. political parties): the Grocery Manufacturers of America, the National Food Processors Association, the American Farm Bureau, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

    If the USDA organic proposal had succeeded, World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules would make it hard for any nation to set stricter organic standards than theirs. But the move was foiled by an unprecedented blitz of 280,000 letters, faxes and emails from outraged consumers and organic suppliers all over the world to USDA Secretary Dan Glickman, telling him to back off.

    USDA retreated and gave in – for the time being – though the beast is likely to be wounded rather than dead. The biotech industry will be back, lobbying for acceptance of GM foods in organic standards. Val Giddings, vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, has said, "Within five years – and certainly within ten – some 90-95% of plant-derived food material in the United States will come from genetically engineered techniques. It'll take a little bit longer for these technologies to penetrate into the organic market, but it [sic] will. As the benefits become clearer, you'll see that opposition will be replaced by understanding, and adoption will follow."

    Claim no 2. Organic food is dangerous because it is full of nasty bugs; "People who eat organic foods are eight times more likely to be attacked by the deadly new strain of E. coli bacteria... Organic consumers are at increased risk from natural toxins produced by fungi, some of which cause cancer. Organic foods carry far more of the dangerous bacteria (salmonella, campylobacter, and listeria) that kill thousands of people every year." – Dennis T. Avery of the Hudson Institute, in "The Hidden Dangers in Organic Food", in the Fall, 1998, issue of American Outlook, published by the Hudson Institute. The article reached a wide audience because it was syndicated in Knight-Ridder newspapers on Aug 3, 1998

    Avery likes to claim his statistics come from the U.S. government's Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). But spokespersons from both agencies have said that this was not true. As Larry Slutsker of the CDC said, "I cannot confirm [Avery's] numbers. We don't have routine data collection on whether things are organic or not." In a similar vein, Robert Lake, director of policy planning at the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said, "I'm not aware that there's a particular problem with organics and aflatoxins [the natural toxins of which Avery speaks]."

    shortened: for full version check out:

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    Date: 19 Nov 2000 16:20:46 U
    From: joe

    This article is an example of long distance defence against transgenes. Plants regard transgenes as invaders.

    Another Report On Transgenes As Invaders To Be Silenced

    By Fagard M; Vaucheret H, Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire, INRA, Versailles, France.
    Plant Mol Biol 2000 Jun;43(2-3):285-93 (ISSN: 0167-4412)

    Grafting experiments have revealed that transgenic plants that undergo co-suppression of homologous transgenes and endogenous genes or PTGS of exogenous transgenes produce a sequence-specific systemic silencing signal that is able to propagate from cell to cell and at long distance. Similarly, infection of transgenic plants by viruses that carry (part of) a transgene sequence results in global silencing (VIGS) of the integrated transgenes although viral infection is localized.

    Systemic PTGS and VIGS strongly resemble recovery from virus infection in non-transgenic plants, leading to protection against secondary infection in newly emerging leaves and PTGS of transiently expressed homologous transgenes. The sequence-specific PTGS signal is probably a transgene product (for example, aberrant RNA) or a secondary product (for example, RNA molecules produced by an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase with transgene RNA as a matrix) that mimics the type of viral RNA that is targeted for degradation by cellular defence. Whether some particular cases of transgene TGS could also rely on the production of such a mobile molecule is discussed.

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    Date: 19 Nov 2000 18:29:31 U
    From: joe

    Some cheesy information, I cannot say how much GM cheese is in our food at the market.

    Cheese: Biotechnological approaches to the understanding and improvement of mature cheese flavour

    Amanda Forde and Gerald F Fitzgerald
    Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 2000, 11:5:484-489



    There have been important milestones in biotechnological practice that have led to the determination and production of superior cheese flavours. Within the past year, the use of gas chromatographic techniques and sensory methodologies has been optimised by several groups in efforts to evaluate the organoleptic properties of a number of mature cheeses.

    The hydrolysis of milk caseins, small peptides, free amino acids and fatty acids, and the generation of sulfur-containing compounds are uniformly assumed to result in the formation of specific cheese aromas. Giant strides have been taken in molecular technology to aid the dissection and exploitation of the metabolic pathways that lead to the formation of these flavour constituents. Specific advances in molecular technology have included metabolic engineering of lactic acid bacteria for enhanced flavour development.

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    Date: 19 Nov 2000 19:17:49 U
    From: joe

    I wonder who is buying all the Argentine GM crops?

    Where do all the Argentine GM crops go?

    Widespread uses of genetically modified seeds

    Trends in Plant Science, 2000, 5:11:462


    There is no abstract for this article. The text below is the first paragraph of text within the article.

    In Argentina, over 60% of foreign currency from exports come from farm sales, mainly from genetically modified products. Monsanto Argentina's total volume of seed sales is between US$ 750-800 million annually. Of this, 25%-30% are transgenic seeds: soya seeds have sales of US$ 200 million (80% GM), the rest is from maize (20% GM) and a small proportion of cotton seeds. This year, nine million ha of soybean crop will be sowed ( Fig. 1 ).

    Farmers prefer the transgenic variety because it reduces their costs by 15% to 20%. A study claims that if Argentina continues implementing new technologies, it might reach a leading position in the global food market along with the USA.