Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

24 December 2000

Table of Contents

More politics than science in food-safety concerns
Letter to the Editor, Ottawa Citizen
Oregon's Potato Crop
Canada – Saskatchewan Soon To Lead World In Organic Acreage
GM Foods A Tough Trade; Potentially Rich Markets Reject Biotech Exports
Ottawa Seminar (16 Feb.01): The impact of genetic engineering on food, people and the planet
Pioneer postpones 6 hybrids for 2001 that aren't cleared in EU
U.S.-E.U. Panel Urges Review of Biotech Foods
Panel Backs Stronger Rules for Some Food
StarLink found in U.S. corn set for Japan food use
Allergy Fears Trigger Action on GM Maize
Missouri demands $25 mln StarLink bond from Aventis
Canada: Loblaws explores organic market
Starlink Find Fuels Fresh Uncertainty in U.S. Corn
Biotech News: Jan. 2001 issue of Alive

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Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2000 12:25:34 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-17

More politics than science in food-safety concerns

By Douglas Powell, Calgary Herald
December 12, 2000, page A16,

Certainly there have been enough incidents over the years to warrant suspicion and scientists are well advised to disclose all inancial Readers should know that Powell receives thousands of dollars in funding from the beef industry.

When not defending beef hormones, Powell keeps himself busy promoting untested, unlabelled genetically altered food and other controversial agricultural practices. It should come as no surprise then that Monsanto substantially funded Powell's education with a $40,000 grant.

Don't swallow industry propaganda. Hormone-laced beef is dangerous.

Bradford Duplisea
Ottawa

Bradford Duplisea is a researcher for the Canadian Health Coalition


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Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2000 12:25:34 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-17

Here is a letter to the editor that I sent in to the Ottawa Citizen. It was not published. However, I am posting it, since it gives a report on the hearings on Dr. Shiv Chopra, the Health Canada scientist who was allegedly suspended as retaliation for testifying to the Senate about problems at Health Canada and genetically engineered bovine growth hormone. I am not sure how long it will take for the judge to make a ruling on the case.

Letter to the Editor, Ottawa Citizen

Dear Sir,

I was shocked at the behaviour of senior Health Canada administration at grievance hearings that I attended in Ottawa Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, 2000. These hearings, conducted by the Public Service Staff Relations Board of Canada, were in response to complaints by Health Canada scientist Dr. Shiv Chopra that Health Canada unfairly suspended him for 5 days without pay.

Health Canada says it suspended Chopra because of his speech at a 1999 Heritage Canada meeting where Chopra spoke about continuing racism at Health Canada. Irrespective of the validity of Health Canada's case, I was astonished at the testimony of Health Canada Senior Human Resources Advisor Mr. H at the grievance hearings, because H gave conflicting testimony under oath.

In the morning of Nov. 29, H testified that he had attended a July 23, 1999 disciplinary meeting with Chopra purely as a witness to take notes. H said he had no role in preparing for the disciplinary meeting and he played no role in deciding the disciplinary action against Chopra, which was the suspension.

In the afternoon of the Nov. 29 hearings, new documents surfaced that contradicted several points from H's testimony from the morning. These documents showed H had recommended the disciplinary action that was applied against Chopra. In addition, H had written the questions asked Chopra at the meeting. These documents also indicated H had altered his notes from the July 23 meeting, in consultation with others including a colleague from the Human Resources Branch who was not even at the July 23 meeting.

During cross-examination, H admitted his testimony from the morning conflicted with the new evidence. He then altered his testimony accordingly. H said he must have forgotten the details. However, his earlier testimony conveniently hid facts indicating senior management had conspired against Chopra.

The next day, Nov. 30, Mr. Bob Joubert (the supervisor of H) was removed from his position as Director General of the Human Resources Directorate. Several months earlier, Dr. André Lachance had been removed from his position as Director of the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs and as Chopra's supervisor. This allowed Lachance to avoid testifying about Chopra's suspension, which he himself ordered, before a Senate committee investigating the matter.

In his final statement on Dec. 1, Chopra's lawyer, Mr. David Yazbeck, argued that H had lied under oath. Yazbeck recommended that the whole case against Chopra be dropped. Mr. Yazbeck also questioned why Mr. Joubert and Dr. Lachance, who were most responsible for Dr. Chopra's suspension, did not testify at the grievance hearings.

Dr. Shiv Chopra, who is well known as a Health Canada scientist for safeguarding the health of Canadians, should be commended for standing up for the rights of Canadians.

Richard Wolfson, PhD


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Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2000 12:25:34 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-17

Oregon's Potato Crop

By Amy Martinez Starke, The Oregonian, December 11, 2000

Responding to consumers, Oregon potato growers have, according to this story, turned their backs on Monsanto's genetically modified NewLeaf potatoes. Oregon state and commodity spokesmen say they don't know of any Oregon growers who planted them this year after big potato processors refused them. Processors in other states are shunning them as well.

Oscar Gutbrod of the state's Oregon Seed Certification Services, an agriculture professor at Oregon State University, was quoted as saying, "Nobody in the United States is admitting they grow them."

Will Wise, president of the Oregon Potato Commission, was quoted as saying, "There is no known commercial interest in them. There may be some growing here and there, but I don't know of any. It's all over." Mark Buckingham, a Monsanto spokesman, was cited as saying that some small commercial plots were in southeastern Oregon, adding, "The market for them" nationwide, "is very small."


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Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2000 12:25:34 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-17

Canada – Saskatchewan Soon To Lead World In Organic Acreage

By Paul Hanley, The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon), December 12, 2000

Organic food production is, according to this story, exploding in Saskatchewan. In 1996, there were 380 certified organic growers in the province and 241,000 certified organic acres. Three years later there were 590 fully certified producers and 240 in the process of transition. It is expected that organic acreage will top 700,000 next year, which would give Saskatchewan the highest percentage of organic cultivated acres anywhere in the world.

Mary Beckie, who presented an overview of the Saskatchewan industry to 200 plus farmers attending the sustainable agriculture conference last weekend in Humboldt, was cited as saying the province has the fastest rate of adoption of organic farming in Canada, and based on the number of inquiries they are receiving, most organic certification agencies expect their membership to double this year.

Beckie, who recently completed a dissertation on organic and zero-till farming in Saskatchewan, outlined the economic reasons for the rapid expansion of the organic sector at a time when agriculture is in decline: n Organic farmer's input costs are about 20-60 per cent lower than those on conventional farms.

And organic farmers can utilize their time in ways that allow them to diversify into processing and marketing. But Beckie points out that as important as the economic benefits of the organic approach are the social and environmental benefits are probably more important.


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Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2000 12:25:34 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-17

GM Foods A Tough Trade; Potentially Rich Markets Reject Biotech Exports

By Don Lajoie, Star Staff Reporter; With files from Sarah Sacheli
The Windsor Star, December 11, 2000

According to this story, John Omstead has nothing against genetically modified corn, but the owner of Family Tradition Foods refuses to sell it to his customers, whether in North America, Europe or in Asia, adding, "In our business, canned vegetables, I think we're on the threshold of having GMO foods introduced in a really big way. But that doesn't matter. What our market is telling us is don't go there. So we're going to back off, for now."

Omstead, whose markets for such products as canned creamed corn include Japan, is one local trader forced to make a tough choice: sell GM Foods or back away from an important agricultural breakthrough. Omstead was quoted as saying, "I'm as global as anyone. I've sold in Europe, sold peaches and creamed corn, GMO free, in Germany. But if Japan says no to GMO foods, I'm happy to comply."

Therein lies the biggest hurdle facing traders as they hope to pry open international markets for the nation's burgeoning, biotech agriculture industry. Consumers in some of the world's richest and most populous markets don't want them.

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.


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Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 10:39:25 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-21

The Council of Canadians presents:

SCIENCE AND THE PUBLIC GOOD:

Ottawa Seminar (16 Feb.01): The impact of genetic engineering on food, people and the planet

Date: Friday February 16th, 2001

DAY EVENT (Crowne Plaza Hotel, 101 Lyon Street, Ottawa, Canada)

Time: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Moderator: Rod MacRae, Ph.D., food policy analyst, former director, Toronto Food Policy Council

First Panel: The Faulty Assumptions and Misguided Applications of Genetic Engineering Speakers include:

  • Ann Clark, Ph.D., Professor of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph
  • Susan Bardocz, Ph.D., former head of research unit, Rowett Research Institute, U.K.
  • Julie Delahanty, Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)
  • Warren Bell, MD, CM, CCFP, – practicing physician, President of the Canadian Association for Physicians and the Environment (CAPE).

    Second Panel: The Ecological and Health Risks of Genetic Engineering Speakers include:

  • Doreen Stabinsky, Ph.D., The Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG)
  • Michael Hansen, Ph.D., research associate, Consumer Policy Institute, U.S.A.
  • Leanne Simpson, Ph.D., Director of Indigenous Environmental Studies, Trent University

    Third Panel: "Sound Science"? Speakers include:

  • Katherine Barrett, Ph.D., Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN), U.S.A.
  • Elisabeth Abergel, Ph.D., Biotechnology Policy Analyst

    Fourth Panel: Public Interest or Commercial Interest? (A panel on whistle blowing) Speakers include:

  • Árpád Pusztai, Ph.D., former, Senior Research Fellow, Rowett Research Institute, U.K.
  • Michele Brill-Edwards, MD, FRCPC, Deparment of Paediatrics, University of Ottawa
  • Edwin Daniel, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Medicine, McMaster University and Chair, Working Group on Genetics and Biotechnology, Science for Peace, University of Toronto.

    EVENING EVENT (International Ballroom, Crowne Plaza Hotel, 101 Lyon Street, Ottawa, Canada)

    Time: 7:30 – 10:00 p.m.

    Speakers:

  • Maude Barlow, Volunteer Chair, Council of Canadians
  • Ann Clark, Professor of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph
  • Shiv Chopra, Veterinary Drug Evaluator, Health Canada
  • Margaret Haydon, Veterinary Drug Evaluator, Health Canada
  • Ralph Nader, renowned consumer advocate and U.S. presidential candidate for the Green Party

    REGISTRATION INFORMATION

    Whole Event:
    Before Feb. 2, 2001: $15
    After Feb. 2, 2001: $25
    Students, seniors and low-income: $10

    Registration starts:
    January 8, 2001 For more information or to register contact the Council of Canadians: Phone: 1 (800) 387-7177 ext. 250 or locally (613) 233-4487 ext. 250 E-mail: inquiries@canadians.org Mail: The Council of Canadians, 502-151 Slater Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5H3

    Accommodation:
    Book accommodation in Ottawa as soon as possible as the Winterlude (Ottawa Winter Festival) is on at the same time and accomodations are booking up very fast. To book accommodation at the Crowne Plaza Hotel call 1-800-2CROWNE or (613) 237-3600. To get their special conference room rate ($135 for single/double rooms) make reference to the Council of Canadians and book before Jan. 16, 2001

    Evening Event:
    Admission: $ 10 (cash only) Doors Open: 6:30 p.m.


    Top PreviousNextFront Page
    Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 10:39:25 -0500 (EST)
    From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-21

    Pioneer postpones 6 hybrids for 2001 that aren't cleared in EU

    By Roger Bernard, Pro Farmer, 12/18/2000

    Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., will postpone sales of six Pioneer(R) brand corn hybrids that contain a combination of the YieldGard(1) gene and LibertyLink(2) gene for the 2001 growing season. In a statement, the firm says the move is to minimize confusion in the marketplace for its customers. ...

    By removing hybrids with the combined traits from the market, Pioneer reduces one source of grain from the 2001 corn crop that is not yet approved for import into the European Union (EU).


    Top PreviousNextFront Page
    Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 10:39:25 -0500 (EST)
    From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-21

    U.S.-E.U. Panel Urges Review of Biotech Foods

    By Julie Vorman, Monday December 18 3:01 PM ET
    http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20001218/sc/food_biotech_dc_1.html

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A panel of American and European Union (news – web sites) biotech experts urged the U.S. government on Monday to adopt stricter regulations requiring new gene-spliced foods to win government approval before they can be sold and also to require that such food be clearly labeled. onsumers should have the right of informed choice regarding the said a report released as part of a US-EU meeting on trade, defense and other issues in Washington. herefore, at the very least, the U.S. and the EU should establish content-based mandatory labeling requirements for finished products added the report from the diverse panel made up of well-known U.S. and European scientists, environmentalists, biotech industry representatives and farmers.


    Top PreviousNextFront Page
    Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 10:39:25 -0500 (EST)
    From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-21

    Panel Backs Stronger Rules for Some Food

    By ANDREW POLLACK, New York Times, December 18, 2000
    http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/18/business/18FOOD.html

    A blue-ribbon biotechnology committee formed by the United States and the European Union is expected to recommend that Washington strengthen regulation of genetically modified foods and move toward mandatory labeling, according to some panel members.

    The report, scheduled to be made public today at a summit meeting in Washington between President Clinton and leaders of the European Union, says that consumers should have the "right of informed choice" about what they eat. It recommends that "at the very least," the United States and European Union "should establish content-based mandatory labeling requirements for finished products containing novel genetic material," according to an excerpt read by one panel member.

    Critics of bioengineered foods, who have started learning of the recommendations, are hoping the report will put new pressure on the Food and Drug Administration, which does not require such foods to be labeled.


    Top PreviousNextFront Page
    Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 10:39:25 -0500 (EST)
    From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-21

    StarLink found in U.S. corn set for Japan food use

    Tuesday December 19, 9:37 am Eastern Time

    TOKYO, Dec 19 (Reuters) – Japan's Health Ministry has found genetically modified StarLink corn, banned by Tokyo, in a cargo of corn for food use awaiting shipment to Japan from the United States, the Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday.

    The announcement came just a day after Japan's Agriculture Ministry said it had agreed to a U.S. plan for testing corn to be shipped to Japan for animal feed to ensure it does not contain StarLink gene-spliced corn.

    Japan, the single biggest buyer of U.S. corn, has cut purchases sharply since a consumer group in late October found traces of StarLink in Japan's food and feed products made from U.S.-imported corn.

    Kyodo said the sample containing StarLink was among five that had tested negative in the United States but were sent to Japan for a second check under an agreed procedure between the two countries,

    The ministry has asked the U.S. government to halt the shipment of the 1,500 tonnes of the corn from which the sample was taken.

    The finding could be a blow to U.S. exporters after traders said Monday's agreement on the plan for genetic testing to detect StarLink biotech corn in exports for animal feed would likely spur Japanese buying of U.S. corn this week.


    Top PreviousNextFront Page
    Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 10:39:25 -0500 (EST)
    From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-21

    Allergy Fears Trigger Action on GM Maize

    By Anchalee Kongrut, Bangkok Post, December 19, 2000
    http://www.bangkokpost.com/today/191200_News03.html

    Importers of food products made from corn will, according to this story, be

    required to declare their products free of Cry9C, a protein in a brand of transgenic maize, which could trigger allergy in humans. The Food and Drug Administration is drafting a regulation targetting StarLink transgenic corn, which was found to have been used to make certain types of food products in the United States.


    Top PreviousNextFront Page
    Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 10:39:25 -0500 (EST)
    From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-21

    Missouri demands $25 mln StarLink bond from Aventis

    By K.T. Arasu, Wednesday December 20, 2:18 pm Eastern Time
    http://biz.yahoo.com/rf/001220/n20454617.html

    CHICAGO, Dec 20 (Reuters) – Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon has given Aventis CropScience 15 days to issue a $25 million bond to compensate farmers and grain handlers hit financially by its unapproved gene-altered corn that entered the U.S. food chain, Nixon's aide said on Wednesday.

    Nixon said in a letter sent on Tuesday to Aventis, the U.S. unit of European pharmaceutical giant Aventis SA , failure to comply with his demand could result in legal action, aide Scott Holste said. ventis needs to put a $25 million bond or other equivalent funds to ensure that there is enough money to pay Missouri farmers and businesses he ...

    Of the 340,908 acres planted with StarLink corn in the United States this year, 18,702 acres were in Missouri. The state ranked sixth in StarLink acreage behind Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota and Kansas. e are working with elevators and grain handlers on a case-by-case basis regarding moving StarLink corn and corn commingled with StarLink to approved uses. Over one million test

    She declined further comment. roperly had led to farmers and grain elevators being forced to accept lower prices for corn ven having their corn rejected

    He said Missouri farmers and grain handlers had incurred substantial added costs in detecting, segregating and finding acceptable markets for StarLink corn.

    He said StarLink corn has had a depressing effect on the overall corn market because grain markets in Japan and Europe have been reluctant to accept the variety. ventis has poorly handled the situation of StarLink corn commingled with other corn, but Missouri farmers and small businesses should not have to Nixon said.

    He said any compensation must also include corn grown with a 660-ft buffer zone of the StarLink variety and corn that has been cross pollinated and commingled with StarLink.

    Nixon was among 16 attorneys general who jointly wrote to Aventis last month asking the company to compensate farmers and grain handlers adversely affected by StarLink corn.


    Top PreviousNextFront Page
    Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 10:39:25 -0500 (EST)
    From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-21

    Canada: Loblaws explores organic market

    By Stuart Laidlaw, The Toronto Star, Dec. 21, 2000

    New line free of genetically modified foods

    The first line of food products promoted as not genetically modified has hit the shelves of Canada's largest grocery store chain, with Loblaws' introduction of the President's Choice Organics line.

    The company plans to unveil between 20 and 25 organic products over the next year, said Geoff Wilson, the chain's vice-president of industry and investor relations. he said in a telephone interview.

    In the coming months, organic breakfast cereals, coffees, flour, jam and other products will be added to the company's PC organic line.

    The move comes just as the Big Carrot, a health food store on Danforth Ave. and Canada's largest such store outside Vancouver, announced that it has removed all GM products from its shelves.

    GM ingredients come from crops such as corn, soybeans or canola that have been genetically altered to kill insects or resist weed killers. ...

    The Big Carrot is betting it's a pretty big niche. The store has spent the last year telling suppliers it will no longer buy products that aren't GM-free, and this week removed items from the shelves that could not live up to the standard. M foods are no longer natural, so do not deserve to be on Big Carrot's Julie Daniluk, the store's nutritionist, told a news conference yesterday. The move has left some Big Carrot shelves bare, particularly in the cookie, crackers and chip sections. Signs advise shoppers that the vanished products have been pulled because they were not GM-free. Daniluk said, adding the lower selection has not hurt sales. She estimates sales have been increasing by about 12 per cent a year as consumers grow more concerned about where their food comes from and how it was made.


    Top PreviousNextFront Page
    Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 10:39:25 -0500 (EST)
    From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-21

    Starlink Find Fuels Fresh Uncertainty in U.S. Corn

    By K.T. Arasu, Reuters, Dec 19/00

    CHICAGO – The discovery of unapproved gene-altered StarLink corn in Japan and South Korea, top buyers of American corn, has, according to this story, triggered fresh uncertainty in U.S. corn exports, industry sources were cited as saying on Tuesday. U.S. National Corn Growers Association spokesman Stewart Reeve was cited as not ruling out the possibility of its officials making trips to the two Asian countries to calm nerves, adding, "It shouldn't have happened. It's a major concern...and as any good salesman does, we are willing to make those customer visits. A possibility of a trip (to Japan and South Korea) certainly exists."

    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.


    Top PreviousFront Page
    Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2000 11:28:10 -0500 (EST)
    From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net GEN12-24 Jan. 2001 issue of Alive

    ***********************
    Best wishes to everyone
    ***********************

    Thank you all for your support. And thank you for your dedication to preserving the safety of the food supply, amidst pressures from powerful biotech corporations who want to fast-track their products to market, which is putting the whole population and the environment at risk.

    Over the past year a lot has been achieved. Due to the efforts of many people worldwide, the public have increasingly woken up to the risks and expressed their concerns. I have especially appreciated connecting with so many wonderful people worldwide who are working on this issue. There is an enormous amount of power in our network. However, there is still a ways to go, especially in North America, the stronghold of biotech industry.

    Several people have asked me about renewing their email subscription to GE News for 2001. I will be taking a few weeks off, from now until at least Jan 8. The GE email news has been taking a lot of time. So next year, I may be gearing down. I am actually going away for a TM retreat in a few days, and I will be off-line until Jan 8. I may stay for a few weeks longer as well. I will keep you informed by email.

    There are two main components of the Natural Law Party approach regarding genetically engineered food. One has been informing the public about the hazards, and lobbying to stop these foods from being forced on us. The NLP's other approach is implement programs to raise consciousness, so that people naturally think more clearly, act more responsibly, and thereby do not violate nature, whether by tampering with the genetic code, dispersing toxins, or harming life in any way.

    In the coming year, I expect to be focusing more on the approach for raising consciousness. However, I am not sure how it is going to turn out. I still have articles coming out in Alive magazine until at least April, and perhaps for the whole year. I will be sending these out by email, as well as other GE news.

    Anyone who would like to continue subscribing to GE news, the funds would be appreciated. The yearly subscription fee will likely be $40, but I will confirm in the new year. (Donations above that amount would also be great). For those who do not subscribe to GE News by email, you will be able to read it at the website http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic

    The funds would also help support my contribution to the other programs for raising consciousness, which involve participating in a large group practicing NLP's consciousness raising programs. (You likely read about this on the NLP website.). I have some sponsors for that project, but more is needed. If anyone want to help with that please let me know.

    In any case, I will keep you informed. Here are the latest articles, which appear in the January 2001 issue of Alive.

    Best wishes
    Richard

    .......

    Reprinted with permission from the Jan. 2001 issue of Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition

    Biotech News: Jan. 2001 issue of Alive

    by Richard Wolfson, PhD

    Sections:
    Biodiversity Threatened
    Patenting for Profit
    Biological Farming
    Farm for Profit
    Clean Soil Naturally

    Biodiversity Threatened

    With genetic engineering (and the Green Revolution), we are growing fewer and fewer species of crops. Thousands of crop varieties have been replaced by a relatively few commercial varieties grown on large agricultural plots. However, monocropping creates a huge vulnerability in the food supply. Single varieties of crop can be more susceptible to plant diseases or environmental changes.

    For instance, in the 19th century, the Irish potato famine was devastating because, amongst other factors, the single, prevalent variety of potato was susceptible to a plant disease that spread wildly. However, when the same potato blight struck the Andes, the damage was much less. The Andes farmers were growing about 46 varieties of potatoes, only a few of which were susceptible.

    Similarly, biotech crops, which were at one time said to produce higher yields, often produce lower yields, because of their inability to adapt to various conditions. In Mississippi, for example, cotton bolls fell off genetically engineered (GE) plants prematurely because they could not withstand climatic variations, thereby causing millions of dollars of damage. In another case, GE soy plants cracked open in hot weather, while organic soy was able to withstand the heat.

    When scientists make major genetic changes overnight to crops that nature took thousands of years to develop, it's no wonder the crops are unable to adapt.

    Patenting for Profit

    Last August, the Federal Court of Canada decided that a breed of mouse genetically modified for cancer research (the onco-mouse) could be patented. Patenting equates to ownership, because anyone who acquires or uses that breed of mouse (or its offspring) would have to pay royalties to the company that owns the patent.

    Many find the idea of patenting life offensive, because they consider earth's genetic resources as the common heritage of the planet, and not something that can be owned by a corporation. The animal patent sparked an uproar, and the Federal Government is seeking to appeal the decision. However, all GE crops on the market in Canada and USA are patented.

    The patenting of living organism began 20 years ago. In 1980, the US Patent and Trademark Office awarded its first patent to a living organism, a bacterium genetically engineered to digest oil. Previously, patents were only given to new (or improved) machines, processes, or materials developed by man. Living organisms were considered products of nature, and therefore non-patentable.

    Chakravarty, the scientist who supposedly "invented" the genetically engineered bacterium, conceded he "simply shuffled genes, changing bacteria that already existed."

    "It's like teaching your pet cat a few new tricks," he said.

    Chakravarty admitted he did not create life, but merely moved genes around. However, the patent was granted. Industry quickly recognized the significance of the court ruling. The race to patent, buy and sell the genetic resources of the planet was out of the gate.

    A few months later, Genentech, a recently formed biotech company offered a million shares of stock at $35 per share. Within 20 minutes, the shares were $89. By the end of the day, the company had raised $36 million – before it had introduced a single product on the market. By 1985, patents had been extended to GE plants, seeds, and plant tissues.

    Industry gives various reasons for introducing genetically engineered crops. The underlying motivation is that because biotech crops can be patented, industry can gain control over the food supply and make huge amounts of money. Farmers who grow GE crops have to pay royalties and licensing fees to the manufacturer of the seeds. The seeds are considered a proprietary technology, belonging to the company, which it licenses to the farmers.

    Farmers even have to sign agreements that they will not save seeds from one season to the next, forcing them to buy new seeds each year. (Farmers have been sued for saving seeds.) Farmers also can be legally bound to use only the herbicides and other chemicals produced by the same company selling the seeds. The profit potential for industry is beyond their wildest dreams.

    Corporations have also been pushing the boundaries of patent law, staking claims to entire species of plants and animals. In 1994, Agracetus was awarded a European patent on all genetically engineered soybeans. Monsanto was outraged at the monopoly, until Monsanto bought Agracetus.

    Plant Genetic Systems (now owned by AgrEvo) has the US patent on all GE plants containing the Bt (insecticide) toxin gene. Mycogen has the European plant on the insertion of "any insecticidal gene in any plant." Sungene holds the US patent on all sunflower high in oleic acid.

    How can a company be granted private ownership over a plant, after making a single genetic alteration, when the plant they started with has been bred by nature and by farmers over thousands of years?

    Biological Farming

    by Richard Wolfson, PhD

    I recently spoke about genetic engineering to the annual meeting of a group of 10,000 farmers in North America who employ an innovative and exciting agricultural method.

    These farmers spray natural (non-genetically engineered) bacteria solutions on their soil to "eat up" and "break down" pesticide residues. They later test their crops for over 300 pesticides to show no pesticide residues are left, before they market them as "Certified Chemical Free."

    The technology is used by both organic and non-organic farmers. The non-organic farmers on this program use some pesticides (herbicides), but much less quantity and less toxic varieties than conventional farmers.

    Because the bacteria improve the health of the soil, the farmers can use less pesticides. These farmers also test their crops after using the bacteria to show there are no pesticide residues left.

    We do not want to imply that this method of using bacteria to get rid of pesticide residues is as good for the environment as organic (pesticide-free) agriculture. However, for those hesitant to switch over to organic farming all at once, this program is an excellent step; it allows for a dramatic reduction in use of pesticides, and the production of crops free of pesticide residues, without having to radically alter agricultural practices.

    For those already practising organic methods, these natural bacterial solutions can also help improve soil health, and break down any pesticide residues remaining or resulting from pesticide drift. As pesticide residues can last for tens of years, a proactive method of speeding up their decay is very timely!

    Farm for Profit

    The farming group employing this new agricultureal method is called "Farm for Profit: Research and Development". It is a farmer-to-farmer information service. The term emphasizes that their programs are practical and profitable, while benefiting the environment.

    During the conference, we visited a large nearby farm using their program. There were about 10 test sites, where one could compare the soil and plants from their program with conventional crops on adjoining plots. The difference was phenomenal.

    On the conventional "standard pesticide-use" sites, the soil was compactified and clogged up, so the roots could only go down a few inches. Also, there were fewer nitrogen fixing nodules, and very little good smell from the earth.

    With the Farm For Profit program, the soil is loose and smells rich and alive. The roots go down a few feet, with numerous nitrogen fixing bacteria nodules, and evidence of earthworms enriching the soil. Also, the roots were thicker with finer root hairs, which is important for drawing up nutrients from the soil. Above ground, with Farm for Profit the plants were healthier and bigger.

    Also, for the conventional crop, there were secondary roots springing out from the stem a few inches above ground indicating that the main root system was all clogged up. This did not happen with the "Farm for Profit" approach.

    Clean Soil Naturally

    The farmers usually apply these microbial solutions to their soil for 3 or more years before testing the soil. The natural bacterial solution can be used to clean up the soil quicker, but they use a more gradual approach so that the farmers can continue to farm the land while it is being cleaned.

    I asked the farmers who used some pesticides (including the owner of the farm we were visiting) why they used any chemicals at all. They said they needed to use at least a minimal amount of herbicides to control weeds.

    After checking with organic experts, I found out that there are organic methods of weed management that are effective in controlling weeds, even on large tracts of land. However, it could require some work and investment switching over. While the Farm for Profit approach may not be the ultimate goal of a toxin-free environment, it is much less toxic than conventional agriculture and it is relatively easy to implement.

    "Biodiversity" is the key concept in understanding the difference between organic and non-organic weed management. With monocropping (the growing of fields of single crops), weeds naturally arise because nature pushes towards biodiversity. The sprouting of weeds is the first step towards a diverse ecology that supports a wide range of plant and animal species.

    Conventional (non-organic) farmers use pesticides, which kill weeds (regardless of the fact that they can be beneficial), fight biodiversity, and are at odds with nature's longing for covered soil. In contrast, organic methods such as intercropping, crop rotation, mulching, and using cover crops increase biodiversity, and are therefore intrinsically more stable. "Allelopathic" cover crops (such as rye) exude chemicals that naturally inhibit the growth of certain weedy plants.

    Pesticides also kill the micro-organisms in the soil, many of which are very important for the growth of crops. The natural bacteria used by these farmers helps to restore the micro-organism content and health of the soil, and therefore supports biodiversity within the soil itself.

    For more information on using natural bacteria to break down pesticides, see http://www.farmforprofit.com . For more information on organic agriculture, see http://www.attra.org or http://www.eap.mcgill.ca

    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.


    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: rwolfson@concentric.net

    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.