By Richard Wolfson, PhD
Reprinted with permission from the December 2000 issue of Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition
Triffids- From Fiction to Fact
No Frankenfries Please
Contamination in Australia
FOX-TV Loses Lawsuit
Monarch Research Replicated
Bunnies Impervious to Disease
Biotech Crops Threaten Skylarks
"Eliminate Terminator" Outcry
Check Your Seed Pack
Manipulated Vitamin C
Promoter Gene Problem
Alan McHughen, professor and senior research scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, has developed a genetically engineered (GE) flax seed that is almost impossible to kill with herbicides. He has named his creation "the triffid," in reference to John Wyndham's 1953 novel, "The Day of the Triffids."
In the book, the triffid was a terrifying flesh eating plant that was almost impossible to kill. Prairie farmers have already reported that herbicide resistant plants are spreading like wildfire, creating problems for farmers.
Cavendish Farms, which manufactures French fries on PEI, is no longer accepting genetically engineered potatoes. The company, owned by the Irving family of New Brunswick, is responding to concerns by the public and retail food chains. McCain's, PEI's other large processing plant, is also not accepting GE potatoes.
Monsanto recently admitted that many tonnes of GE cotton seed had inadvertently been mixed with non-GM seed and released on the Australian market. The company said they had no way of know where it had ended up, and conjectured that it could have entered the food chain as cattle feed.
A Tampa jury recently returned a verdict on the lawsuit against FOX-TX for firing reporters after they refused to alter a story on genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH). The jury awarded investigative reporter Jane Akre $450,000 in damages. The jury concluded that she was fired from her job at FOX affiliate WTVT in Tampa for threatening to report to the Federal Communications Commission that the station wanted her to broadcast a false and misleading news report about Monsanto's rBGH.
Iowa State University scientists recently replicated research showing that monarch butterflies die after eating pollen from genetically engineered Bt corn. Cornell scientists who came to the same finding several months ago were criticized by biotech advocates.
However, both sets of researchers have now shown that the Bt corn, which is genetically engineered to contain a toxin to kill insect pests, can also kill monarch butterflies.
In the fields, pollen from the Bt crops would naturally spread to adjoining milkweed plants, which the monarch larvae eat. More than half of the larvae died after eating Bt pollen.
Researchers in Spain have created a genetically modified virus that acts on rabbits like a vaccine. The virus can spread from rabbit to rabbit, making the rabbits immune to two major diseases. Some scientists are concerned, since in areas where rabbits are spreading wildly, diseases are one of the only factors limiting the population size. In the UK, rabbits cause up to £100 million worth of damage annually.
A recent study in UK, published in Science, reports that genetically engineered herbicide-resistant crops could reduce the skylark population by up to 90 percent.
Herbicide resistant GE crops allow farmers to use more powerful herbicides and increased quantities of the chemicals to eliminate weeds. As a result, the skylark would lose its main food source, seeds from weeds.
Eleven members of the Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have sent a strong letter to the government asking it to pull out of "Terminator Technology."
The USDA and industry together own the patent on terminator, a genetic technology that causes plants to produce sterile seeds, so that farmers are forced to buy new seeds every year.
"Terminator technology has only one primary purpose to allow private companies to exert greater control over the seed markets and extract more income from farmers forced to buy their products on an annual basis," wrote the eleven members of the 38 member panel.
When legume seeds are sold to farmers, the seeds can come pre-inoculated with bacteria (Rhizobium ) that are meant to help nitrogen uptake in the soil. Farmers should be wary of these inoculants, because some of them are genetically engineered. Some organic farmers have lost certification on fields planted with seed that came pre-inoculated with GE bacteria.
A large percentage vitamin C in North America is derived from GE Corn. Consumers are encouraged to contact manufactures and tell them this is not acceptable.
Most genetically engineered crops on the market contain a "promoter gene." The promoter gene is used to "switch on" the herbicide-tolerance gene, the Bt gene, or other foreign genes inserted into the plant. The promoter gene (technically called the 355 promoter gene) is derived from the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV), a plant virus.
Biotech advocates have claimed that the inserted 355 promoter gene had been 'tamed' from the original CaMV virus, and would not interfere with activity in the cell. However, new research in Britain shows that infection by an external cauliflower mosaic virus can confuse the 355 promoter gene, so that it interferes with the functioning of other cellular genes.
By BARNABY J. FEDER,
New York Times,
November 24, 2000
I t might take weeks to figure out how the insect-killing trait in genetically altered StarLink corn migrated into a variety of corn that was not supposed to be genetically modified, according to the Garst Seed Company, the producer of the corn.
Garst, which announced on Tuesday that it had encountered the biological mystery while testing samples of corn seed marketed as early as 1998, said it might also take weeks to sort out how widespread the problem was and whether any of the corn had made it into the food chain.
Cowichan Valley Citizen, p.14, November 22, 2000
2. "The Patenting of Life"
3. "For Whose Benefit? Bio Medical Research:"
4. "Science and the Public Interest:"
5. "Tricks of the Trade."
6. "Genetically Engineering Democracy:"
7. "Sowing the Seeds of Empowerment:"
According to this story, Ruth Fenner, Barbara Wallace and Bev Cartwright, members of the South Vancouver Island Women's Institute Committee on big money Bad Science, a Nov. 10 at Vancouver's Vogue Theatre. The story says that the conference was a teachin to provide balanced information about the threats posed by biotechnology and genetic engineering to the environment, public health and sustainability. This is their report on the conference.
A SYNOPSIS OF THE SEVEN PANEL PRESENTATIONS:
European Commission Audit of the CFIA http://www.healthcoalition.ca/factsheets/EC-audit.pdf
European Commission Scientific Assessment of Potential Risk to Humans http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/sc/scv/out21_en.pdf
CHC letter to the Party Leaders: http://www.healthcoalition.ca/chretienletter11202000.html
Globe and Mail Lead Editorial (Nov.22) http://www.healthcoalition.ca/gandm11212000.html
There has been a lot of coverage of European concern over Canadian meat
products, because they are laced with hormones linked to cancer, and other
problems. This is not just a genetic issue, but I am including this
article because there is so much press on this right now.
Lyle Stewart is a Montreal writer. His Email is email@example.com
By LYLE STEWART, Freelance, Montreal Gazette, Friday 24 November 2000
Some groups of young anarchists across the country advocate eating your ballot on Monday. I'm skeptical of the nutritional value our votes might have, but they might be safer than the meat products the Canadian government has been approving for our consumption.
A potentially explosive European Union audit that surfaced this week concludes "that at present, Canada does not meet core elements of the EU foodsafety requirements." The report, based on laboratory and farm inspections in September, might lead to a ban on Canadian meat products in Europe because we can't guarantee the meat to be hormonefree, despite our promises after an earlier audit in 1998. More importantly, it calls into question our own safety since the Liberals began the wholesale offloading of monitoring responsibilities to the meat industry.
It's a complicated issue, not given to the facile demagoguery displayed by all parties over the last month. But it goes to the heart of the neoliberal philosophy that has captured the federal government and compromised the independence and credibility of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
As the EU audit notes, Canada has no legal provision for mandatory drugresidue testing of food animals. CFIA laboratories don't even test on a voluntary basis for 90 per cent of the substances listed in the Codex Alimentarius. We also allow the sale of many carcinogenic hormones that are banned in the EU.
Said the report: "Taking into account the free availability of veterinary drugs and medicating feed ingredients, including those having a carcinogenic and/or mutagenic potential and being banned in the EU for use in food producing animals, there is a clear potential for adverse effects on human health arising from the presence of residues of these substances in Canadian food commodities of animal origin."
The federal response was to bury its head in the sand. "There has never been any scientific proof of any danger," Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief said Monday.
Vanclief is obviously not listening to the government's own scientists. "That makes no sense to me at all," says Shiv Chopra, a scientist with Health Canada for 32 years, the last 13 in the Human Safety Division of the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs. "If we're not looking for (any dangers), how can he say there is no problem?"
Chopra has long criticized the widespread use of hormones and antibiotics in the livestock industry. Deputy Health Minister David Dodge even imposed a gag on Chopra last year, forbidding him from speaking on health and testing matters. Chopra fought and won in Federal Court for his right to free speech in what amounted to a disturbing coverup of the government's failure to properly monitor and protect our food supply.
In a phone interview from his Ottawa home, Chopra said the uncontrolled use of growth hormones is "dangerous because they can produce cancer. They produce other hormones. They produce tissue growths. One thing leads to another."
The drugs are strongly suspected of causing the early onset of puberty, he said. "Girls mature too fast and develop breasts earlier. The sperm count in boys is dropping. There is endocrine disruption in people. All these things are happening in the ecosystem. It's a whole, interdependent organism. You can't be a vegetarian and say, 'I'm safe.' You're not, because it's now coming via the ecosystem into the plants."
Chopra himself refuses to establish standards for acceptable hormone levels as his superiors have been demanding because he can't say there is any safe level.
The use of antibiotics is equally chilling. Drugs such as carbadox are fed to animals in such quantities that bacterial organisms in their digestive tract have become resistant and are being passed on to people, Chopra said.
"You have a situation of uncontrollable infections. You go to the hospital to have your appendix out but catch an infection that is resistant to antibiotics and you die. Once the organisms become resistant, because they interbreed, they transfer that resistance to other organisms."
It's a nightmare scenario that might be easily dismissed if it wasn't coming from many of our government's top scientists. In the past, they have repeatedly complained about pressure by upper management to approve drugs, particularly RevalorH, a hormone compound that was okayed in 1997 over their warnings.
Chopra blames corporate pressure. "These multinational companies work on big governments," he said bluntly. "Governments have been listening to their lobby that they are going to control all of the world's business through the WTO. The sovereign food and drug regulations don't matter."
Indeed, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency now functions as a marketing tool for huge biotech and agriculture companies. But as the EU audit reported, CFIA labs show "serious deficiencies" in their drugresidue control program, which "is more or less nonoperational since December 1999."
It's part of the Liberal food deregulation policy that inconveniently contravenes the Canadian Food Safety and Inspection Act. The Liberals let Bill C80, which would enshrine the policy, die when the election was called. But they likely will resurrect the legislation if they win a majority.
I know the vast majority of The Gazette's readers intend to vote Liberal on Monday, but this issue should give them pause in their reflection on whether a Liberal majority is a desirable result. The longterm health of Canadians is far more important than Jean Chretien's egomaniacal desire for a third consecutive majority, or, dare I say it, the threat of separation. And in this case, eating your ballot could lead to serious indigestion.
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.
SOURCE American Corn Growers Association
CONTACT: Keith Dittrich, 202-835-0330, or Lynden L. Peter, 202-320-7456, both of American Corn Growers Association, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, Nov. 26 /PRNewswire/, November 27, 2000
American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) President Keith Dittrich is urging EPA to suspend the temporary approval of StarLink corn for human consumption until production issues are addressed. Mr. Dittrich's comments are contained in ACGA's written comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a Public Meeting scheduled for November 28 on issues surrounding the contamination of unapproved corn into the food system.
The recall of the StarLink corn is wreaking havoc in corn growing communities, where billions of bushels of corn could be contaminated. No one knows the extent of the contamination.
In the statement to EPA, Dittrich underscored the role farmers play in finding solutions to the biggest scandal to reach the farm gate in this century. He said, "America's cornfields have become the laboratories for scientists who are studying genetically modified organism (GMO) corn. America's corn producers, many with advanced degrees in agronomy, genetics and related academic disciplines, are leading scientific experts on issues being discussed by this panel. Therefore, ACGA believes that their views need to be at the forefront of any decisions on StarLink and GMO production in general."
The ACGA contends that EPA ignored the natural consequences of approving StarLink corn only for animal consumption, yet unapproved for people. When farmers grow traditional corn next to genetically modified corn, pollen drifts and gene pools contaminate each other.
Mr. Dittrich also said, "As more and more countries are requiring the labeling of grain shipments to distinguish between GMO and non-GMO, segregation will need to occur anyway. So let's address this major problem now without sugarcoating it (through temporary approval)."
Biotech companies and some corn commodity groups are urging EPA to temporarily approve StarLink for human consumption to stave off large industry losses from the recall of the rogue seed variety. Yet farmers are losing the most. Since the scandal arose, corn prices have shrunk and foreign buyers are shying from purchasing U.S. corn feared tainted with StarLink seeds.
Dittrich urged other corn and grain groups to take a neutral position on GMO production as a service to their producer members.
"Our organization has taken a measured approach on issues related to GMO corn production," said Dittrich. "We promote neither GMO corn production nor Non-GMO production. We grow for the customer. Some other commodity groups have been promoting biotech corn blindly, without looking at the legal risks and production costs in a growing system where GMO and Non-GMO crops are raised side by side."
"We've been more neutral," Dittrich said. "We ask farmers to take a good look at all the possibilities. StarLink reminds us that buyers want separate products identified and preserved from the start - from when the bags of seed corn are delivered to farmers."
"When StarLink was approved for animal use but not human consumption, EPA apparently never thought of the problems associated with growing unapproved for human consumption corn next to clean corn," said Dittrich.
ACGA's comments to the EPA also stated: "StarLink is having and will continue to have profound economic and scientific consequences for production agriculture. Future determinations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not only set the stage for the regulatory predicament of StarLink, but of all genetically modified crops. EPA's actions touch all of us. Therefore, we encourage you to give this matter your full consideration based on facts and not on political expediency."
The comments went on to say: "The confusion for the customer stems more from how the non-approved variety was approved for planting and how it became contaminated to begin with. These questions will not be addressed by temporary approval. Either the entire food industry, including farmers, addresses the questions of segregation now or we risk the contamination of the entire food system in the future. Farmers, grain handlers, grain processors and grain shippers must all recognize that we have a problem with segregation either at the elevator gate or on the farm. Giving temporary approval at this stage will only whitewash the segregation problem, not make it disappear."
The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) was founded in 1987 by corn producers as an alternative to existing commodity groups. Since then, the organization has grown into one of the country's most respected voices exclusively for corn growers. The focus is on the farmer. The ACGA Board Directors are corn growers. Its producer members approve all policy decisions. Associate members provide support. ACGA is active in 28 states.
For more information on ACGA's position on new production technologies, including biotech corn, contact the ACGA website at email@example.com.
The Gazette (Montreal), November 27, 2000, B2
Lucy Sharratt of the Sierra Club of Canada writes that concern over the potential pitfalls of genetic engineering is no trivial matter and that the environmental and health risks, and even ethical questions, of genetic and much more than what his comparison to the debate over pasteurization would ).
Far from having been concerns over genetic pollution, harm to beneficial insect populations and the potential creation of new food allergies, among others, remain and, says Sharratt, are amplified each time there is new evidence of unexpected side effects. Here again we are faced with denials and silence rather than further investigation.
Sharratt says that environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club of Canada confront political, economic and social decisions that put all of us and our planet at risk. There are some very serious questions about genetic engineering that our government refuses to ask and others that it will not answer.
Sharratt says Mr. Schwarcz is flippant when he writes that he "might have Unfortunately, by the time this happens it will be too late for him and us. Changes to our environment will be irreversible; genetically engineered organisms are living organisms and, once released, cannot be controlled or recalled.
Monday November 27, 3:29 pm Eastern Time
WASHINGTON, Nov 27 (Reuters) Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and supporter of biotech crops, urged top Clinton Administration officials on Monday to ensure that farmers, grain elevators, foodmakers and others are fairly compensated for losses from StarLink bio-corn contamination.
Harkin said he was especially concerned that Aventis SA's (NYSE:AVE news) plan to sell the company's agricultural biotech unit could complicate matters for those seeking compensation from Aventis over the next few months.
By Julie Vorman, Monday November 27, 3:35 pm Eastern Time
WASHINGTON, Nov 27 (Reuters) Regardless of how the StarLink bio-corn safety debate plays out, more U.S. foodmakers will likely begin
voluntarily labeling products with gene-spliced ingredients to give consumers more information, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman told Reuters on Monday.
Labeling is one of the key issues in the battle between U.S. environmentalists and agribusiness over regulation of bio-foods.
Many European and Asian nations already require labels on foods containing genetically modified corn, soybeans, tomatoes and other crops.
27 November 2000
The Natural Law Party of Great Britain used the Public Hearing on 3 November on the proposed addition of Chardon LL Maize (a GM variety developed by Aventis) to the National Seed List to serve notice on the Government that it will not be able to plead “ignoranceö in defence of future claims of personal injury or environmental damage arising from the introduction of the new technology.
Placing a massive quantity of evidence (76 references altogether) before the hearing, Richard Johnson, Chairman of the Natural Law Party, said: “The extensive body of research clearly shows that there are significant risks for health and the environment from the introduction of this new technology. The controversy surrounding the use of recombinant DNA in the food supply is centred on the breaking of biological boundaries between unrelated species. Through this Public Hearing and other inquiries, scientists and concerned members of the public have placed all the evidence on public record and the Government cannot later say they were unaware of the potential problems.ö
No risk is acceptable with food supply
Mr Johnson said that pressing ahead with Chardon LL and other GM food technology is absolutely wrong. “The Government's insistence on doing so can only be explained by an overriding pressure from the biotechnology industry, putting money before life,ö he said. “This is especially evident in the light of the fact that there are readily available and perfectly adequate natural means to produce healthy, nutritious food for everyone.
Thanks to Bradford Duplisea Bradford.Duplisea@videotron.ca for posting this:
CBC WebPosted Tue Nov 28 2000
WASHINGTON Forty-four Americans claime that they became ill after eating foods containing StarLink bio-corn. However, investigators may never be able to determine whether the genetically modified corn was to blame, according to U.S. officials.
Scientists with the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration are looking into claims that Aventis SA's StarLink corn might have caused rashes, diarrhea, vomiting, itching and life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
The Environmental Protection Agency asked the CDC to assess whether Starlink, modified to repel destructive pests, presents a health risk to humans. Officials with the centres presented summaries of the reported illnesses to a panel of scientists in Washington Tuesday.
StarLink was approved for use only as animal feed two years ago. There were concerns that its special protein might cause allergic reactions in humans.
Traces of the corn turned up in taco shells in September. That led to the recall of more than 300 kinds of foods and widespread genetic testing by food manufacturers.
The EPA is now considering whether to temporarily approve the genetically modified corn as an ingredient in food for people.
By Julie Vorman, Tuesday November 28 7:17 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) Forty-four Americans have complained that they became ill after eating foods containing StarLink bio-corn, but investigators may never be able to pinpoint whether the genetically modified maize was to blame, federal officials said on Tuesday.
Scientists with the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration (news web sites) said they were investigating the claims that Aventis SA's (AVEP.PA) (NYSE:AVE news) gene-spliced StarLink corn might have caused rashes, diarrhea, vomiting, itching and life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Thanks to Jim McNulty for posting the following
by Roger Bernard, Pro Farmer Editors, Nov 28, 2000
StarLink corn continues to make impacts on agriculture as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) meets today to gather input on how to handle the StarLink corn that has already found its way into the food chain. Aventis CropScience has requested a temporary approval for the corn to be in the nation's food supply to allow it to work through the system.
But the news won't and hasn't stopped there. Monsanto Co. is the latest firm to "tweak" some of their plans for seed varieties that have beengenetically enhanced. The firm announced Monday it would alter planting/sale plans for a couple different genetically enhanced hybrid seed corn varieties. The move delays therelease commercially of one variety until 2002 and restricts the areas where another can be planted.
By Julie Vorman,
Wednesday November 29, 2000
WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters) The U.S. Agriculture Department is broadly reviewing the conduct of Aventis SA (NYSE:AVE news), the maker of StarLink gene-spliced corn that contaminated the nation's corn supply, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said on Wednesday.
Some environmental and anti-biotech groups have urged the government to fine Aventis or penalize the company in some way for failing to follow rules banning StarLink from human food.
Aventis is urging the US government to approve StarLink temporarily until it can make its way through the food system. Here is one story on this:
By ANDREW POLLACK,
New York Times,
November 29, 2000
WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 — Hoping to avoid further product recalls linked to a bioengineered corn, representatives of food, agriculture and biotechnology industries urged the Environmental Protection Agency today to approve the corn temporarily for human consumption. But critics said such a move would bail out the corn's developer and the food companies at consumers' expense.
"It is not E.P.A.'s obligation to clean up the mess," said Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Turning on a dime to assist industry would undermine confidence both here and abroad in the E.P.A. as a regulator."
The clash of opinions occurred at a public meeting of a scientific advisory panel to the E.P.A. Until now the agency has approved the corn, StarLink, for animal feed but not for human consumption because of concerns that the protein in the corn could cause allergies.
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.
ABC NEWS WORLD NEWS TONIGHT (6:30 PM ET) November 28, 2000, Tuesday
PETER JENNINGS and BOB JAMIESON reporting:
PETER JENNINGS, anchor:
We're going to take A CLOSER LOOK at corn tonight, genetically-engineered corn causing hardship. In Washington today, environmental activists from Greenpeace showed up at a government hearing on whether to approve a genetically-altered corn, called StarLink, for human consumption. Greenpeace is not in favor and we have reported before on the state of alarm, justified or not, when StarLink showed up in food products. The corn has now turned up in US-corn sold to Japan and the Japanese have stopped importing it. In many cases, the amount of StarLink is fairly small. But in some cases, a tiny amount is contaminating a larger amount of acceptable corn and it is driving farmers in Iowa crazy. In Iowa, StarLink corn represented 1 percent of the total crop, only 1 percent. It has tainted 50 percent of the harvest. Here's ABC's Bob Jamieson.
BOB JAMIESON reporting:
(VO) Iowa's harvest was almost complete when farmers like Gene Turner discovered StarLink had contaminated other corn they had planted.
Mr. GENE TURNER:
We thought these buffer strips was be enough to separate the different corns.
(VO) Even though Turner planted StarLink 200 feet away from his regular corn, it still contaminated his entire crop.
I think the whole system failed, because I don't think anybody was ready for this.
(VO) StarLink was engineered by Aventis CropScience to be toxic to insects, which means farmers save money on insecticides. It was approved for animal feed but not human consumption because of concerns it might cause allergic reactions.
Mr. DON KARWAL:
It's just over the hill here.
(VO) Don Karwal didn't plant any StarLink, but pollen from a neighbor's field contaminated part of his crop. He's left with 5,000 bushels of corn he can't sell.
Well, I don't know if it's a catastrophe, but it's getting there in a hurry.
(VO) Karwal's neighbor who planted the StarLink is John Klindt. His entire crop was contaminated.
Mr. JOHN KLINDT:
You can't see the difference, I mean, there's no difference.
(VO) Klindt says Aventis never warned him to be careful where he planted StarLink.
The restrictions, they really didn't say much on that.
Nobody told you that your corn might contaminate Don Karwal's?
No, no, that was not mentioned.
(VO) But it got worse. Farmers who didn't know their crop was contaminated sold it to grain elevators. There, much of it was mixed with non-StarLink corn. Now, officials believe half of Iowa's crop is contaminated and food processors won't buy it.
(OC) Iowa agriculture officials say the problem is so big they cannot even estimate what this will cost farmers and grain elevator operators, but they do think they know who is to blame.
Mr. TOM MILLER:
Aventis has to step up and take care of this problem.
(VO) Iowa's Attorney General Tom Miller leads 16 states pressing the company to compensate farmers and elevator operators. He argues Aventis didn't sufficiently warn farmers of the special requirements for growing and handling StarLink.
And Aventis never should have marketed it.
Was this irresponsible of Aventis?
I think it was irresponsible of Aventis. It looks like they wanted to sell it too badly.
It's possible you don't know the full extent of this yet.
Professor ROGER GINDER (Iowa State University Economist):
I think, yeah. It's quite probable, we don't.
(VO) In Iowa, they don't know what will happen to the millions of bushels of corn stored here. But they do know that no one will plant StarLink again any time soon. Bob Jamieson, ABC News, Prairie City, Iowa.
SOURCE: ASTA, New York Times, (29 November Cropchoice News)
The seed industry is pushing USDA to agree to a national tolerance level to allow sale of conventional varieties of corn, cotton, soybeans, and canola that actually contain up to 1% GMOs. According to the American Seed Trade Association, loose standards on biotech seeds mixed in with conventional varieties are required to "prevent potential disruption in seed trade". Critics argue that setting a loose standard could hurt farmers by interfering with non-GMO premiums and provoke even more international problems for the USA's biotech crops.
The new push to allow 1% contamination in non-GMO varieties was prompted by seed company alarm when Starlink showed up in non-Starlink types sold by Garst. While nobody has pinpointed the exact source of Starlink positive tests of some farmer's non-Starlink harvests, the case made clear that through cross-pollination, bagging and handling errors, mixing in bins, or other mistakes, the seed industry is unable to contain biotech traits and keep conventional varieties pure not only at harvest; but in the companies' seed production and distribution.
For growers, a 1% contamination level could very easily erase non-GMO premiums. Europe is pushing for a much lower .5% tolerance. The 1% level which might already be present in seed is potentially increased by cross-pollination and is above what many non-GMO grain buyers will accept - some want undetectable levels, or .1% or .5%. Under the proposed 1% rule, unless farmers bought certified non-GMO seed, they probably won't have enough information to be sure their non-GMO varieties will qualify for a premium.
Critics also say the standard could impact grain exports. Around the world, laws that require labels on GMOs in supermarket products are still unsettled. Some governments favor a 1% threshold for “Contains GMOsö labels on consumer products. This could lead to the strange situation of cornmeal, soy produts, or other consumer products grown from "conventional" varieties in the US being labeled as GMOs on foreign supermarket shelves.
The seed industry is working for international tolerance standards; but has not publicly identified other countries that might cooperate. According to the New York Times, industry says other ag exporters Canada, Australia, and Argentina may be willing to go along with 1% GMO tolerance in seed. But this might not solve the premium and threshold difficulties.
Careful! Big corporation have not a good reputation!
WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters)
Aventis SA , the maker of a biotech corn variety unapproved for human use, will send test kits to its seed corn dealers to prevent the corn from tainting other kinds of seeds, a U.S. Agriculture Department official said on Wednesday.
Last week, Aventis disclosed that some of the unique gene-spliced protein in StarLink corn had accidentally contaminated other bags of corn seed sold by Garst Co of Iowa.
That came on the heels of a massive recall of more than 300 kinds of taco shells, chips and other foods found to contain traces of StarLink.
Date: 30 Nov 2000 10:16:58
Subject: cautionary note: TOP SECRET BEE POLLEN (article below)
This message was sent later by the person who sent the original
On 29 Nov 2000, at 17:07, Terra Viva Organics wrote:
As an update to my last posting. I received this information:
I want to add a cautionary note to this article. Mark Winston is pro-GE, make no mistake about it. The article is based on a peice he wrote that was a criticism of the government and he used the GE pollen story as a device to do this. In May of 2000, a study came out, based on three years of research clearly demonstrating that glyphosate (roundup) resistance was transfered to bacteria and yeast in the gut of bees who ingested GE pollen, yet Mark Winston seems unaware of this study or else refuses to acknowlege it. Yes, he is a faculty member at SFU is he one Canada's pre-eminent biolgists only in his own mind. Is he one of the worlds top bee-experts if he was, he would know about this study.
By Andrew Nikiforuk, Canadian Business, pg.128, November 15, 2000
At a recent bee conference, Mark Winston, one of Canada's preeminent biologists and a professor at Simon Fraser University, was cited as asking a fellow from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (you know, the government folks who keep our food supply safe) if genetically engineered crops could harm bees.
The story says that Winston, one of the world's top bee experts, wanted to know if any research had been done on pollen from engineered crops, such as canola, and what effects engineered proteins might have on the insect's behavior and survival. The CFIA spokesman confidently replied that pollen from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) didn't harm bees. OK. But being a good scientist, Winston wanted some data. So he sent an e-mail to CFIA and asked the man to substantiate his claims with sound scientific research, a normal ho-hum request in the world of science.
The story says Winston knew something was wrong when his questions got bumped to a higher authority. He finally got some answers but not the ones he expected. Yes, there had been some tests on bees, but CFIA couldn't tell
Nor could it disclose the source of the study, experimental protocols or even the results. According to Winston, one CFIA gatekeeper was quoted as
The story says that Winston favors informed and balanced debate on technologies that could arguably work wonders as well as foster great calamities. But vigorous debate can't take place in the absence of basic information. And Winston finds CFIA's reluctance to answer legitimate scientific questions about health and safety alarming, stating, "If we don't have access to objectively collected data on issues of critical importance to all Canadians, how can we decide what is safe and what
Winston, who is now writing a book on the murky world of genetically engineered organisms, also can't figure out why CFIA would choose to declare data on the number of bees harmed by GM canola pollen a top government secret.
The story goes on to say that Winston has given up waiting for the government to answer his basic bee questions and has started a research program of his own, adding, "It's really bad when your government has some data and you can't see it. That's just a really sad comment on the state of
New York Times/AP/Reuters, November 28, 2000
WASHINGTON -Representatives of food, agriculture and biotechnology industries were cited as urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday to approve Starlink temporarily for human consumption, but critics said such a move would bail out the corn's developer and the food companies at consumers' expense. Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists was quoted as saying, "It is not E.P.A.'s obligation to clean up the mess. Turning on a dime to assist industry would undermine confidence both here and abroad in the E.P.A. as a regulator."
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.
Because it would take as long as four years for the corn now in the nation's grain-handling system to be processed, Aventis has also asked American regulators to approve the use of StarLink corn in food supplies, saying there is little evidence that it poses risks to humans.
By DAVID BARBOZA, New York Times,
December 4, 2000
CHICAGO, Dec. 3- A class- action lawsuit accuses the developer of StarLink, a variety of bioengineered corn that accidentally entered the food supply, of harming American farmers through negligence.
The suit, filed on Friday in United States District Court in East St. Louis, Ill., on behalf of farmers, is the first to seek damages. It contends that the developer of the corn, Aventis CropScience, a unit of Aventis S.A., was negligent in bringing StarLink to market.
The company, the suit says, failed to inform farmers that StarLink had been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use only in animal feed and for industrial purposes out of concern that a protein in the genetically altered corn might set off allergies in humans. The appearance of StarLink in the food supply led to a nationwide recall of millions of taco shells and other products.
The suit says that many StarLink farmers, who were unaware of the planting or selling restrictions, allowed their crops to cross- pollinate with traditional crops in nearby fields. They also allowed their crops to be mixed up with regular corn supplies at grain elevators and processing plants.
As a result, the suit contends, the crops of many corn growers who did not plant StarLink were contaminated by StarLink corn and the subsequent crisis in the nation's grain-handling system closed off foreign markets and depressed the price of American corn here and abroad.
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.