Genetically
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12 January 2001

Table of Contents

The Killing Fields – Terminator Crops at Large
Roundup Ready Soybean Yield Gap Closing
The exact page of GP's GE & non-GE brand name foods list
B-GE: Henry I. Miller & Hoover Institution
All LibertyLink Hybrids Approved for Feed and Food Use in Major US Corn Export Markets
Times of India: Scientist warn against GM food
Aussie scientists stumble across the Doomsday Bug
US to take temperature of mercury threat
Study points to Problems with GE Cotton
Vilsack: $3 million for Biotech at Iowa State Univ. & NOTHING for other universities

Top NextFront Page

Date: 9 Jan 2001 04:23:28 -0600
From: geno@zap.a2000.nl
From: Biotech Activists biotech_activists@iatp.org
Original: press-release@i-sis.org

On 8 Jan 2001, at 22:56, Biotech Activists wrote:

The Killing Fields – Terminator Crops at Large

Prof. Mae-Wan Ho, Prof. Joe Cummins and Jeremy Bartlett
ISIS Report, January 2001

Sections:
Abstract
Key words
Deceiving Regulators
Terminator Field trials
US Patents
Publicity and Research don't match
Serious hazards
Denials
How seed/pollen sterility is engineered into crops
Insufficient Data for Authorities
Terminator crops cannot prevent gene flow and introduce new hazards
Significant Hazards
Researchers warn
References:

Abstract

'Terminator technology' renders harvested seeds sterile, for no other reason than to enforce corporate patents on GM seeds. The first terminator patents that came to the attention of the public were those jointly owned by US Department of Agriculture and Delta and Pine Land Company, which Monsanto had intended to acquire. As a result of universal condemnation and rejection by farmers and non- Government organisations world wide, Monsanto had announced it will not commercialise terminator crops, and assurances were given that such crops do not yet exist. It was clear that research had continued unabated, and other companies were actively developing terminator crops.

Towards the end of last year, the US and UK Governments carried out 'public consultations' in which terminator technology is being promoted as a means of preventing the spread of GM genes. In the course of preparing our submission to the UK Government, ISIS discovered that terminator crops have been field-tested in Europe since the beginning of 1990, while 132 field trials have been carried out in the United States starting in 1992, the vast majority done without risk assessment.

The public consultations can only be seen as an exercise in smoothing the path for commercial development of a technology condemned as contrary to basic human rights, because it prevents farmers from saving, replanting and exchanging seeds, practices going back thousands of years that are essential to food security. To require containment of GM genes by terminator technology is to admit that those genes are unsafe. It is an argument for stopping GM crop development altogether, and is not an excuse for validating a morally bankrupt technology.

Moreover, terminator technology uses genes and constructs that introduce serious hazards over and above those of GM crops in general.

Key words

terminator technology, seed/pollen sterility, barnase, recombinase, barstar

Deceiving Regulators

Are the regulators knowingly deceiving us or have they been fooled? Last December, one of us (MWH) was acting as expert witness in defence of citizens who have taken civil disobedience action against GM crops. Among the crops in question were GM oilseed rape varieties used to produce F1 hybrids, as described in the application for release from AgrEvo UK (now Aventis) [1]. At the time, we were just preparing our submission to the consultation document, "Guidance on Best Practice in the Design of GM Crops" put out by the UK Government's Advisory Committee for Release to the Environment (ACRE). One of the main 'enabling technologies' for 'best practice' – to prevent gene flow - is precisely the seed/pollen sterility system mentioned in AgrEvo's application.

It soon dawned on us that the GM oilseed rape lines undergoing field trials in the UK are engineered using 'terminator technology' – so named by critics because it can render harvested seeds sterile – for no other reason than to enforce corporate patents on GM seeds. Not only that, according to AgrEvo's application, similar crops produced by the company Plant Genetic Systems (PGS), a subsidiary of AgrEvo, have been undergoing field-trials in France and Belgium since the beginning of 1990, and subsequently on larger scales, also in Sweden and Canada before coming to the UK.

Terminator Field trials

A search on the US database on field trials [2] revealed that similar male sterile lines engineered with the 'terminator-gene', barnase (see below), have been tested at least as early as 1992. Since then, there have been 132 field trials, the vast majority of them done without risk assessment, as the first environmental assessment came up with 'FONSI' – Finding of No Significant Impact [3] Crops modified for male sterility include rapeseed, corn, tobacco, cotton. Brassica oleracea, potato, poplar, Cichorium intybus, petunia and lettuce.

Separately, the other genetic component in terminator crops, the site-specific recombinase (see below), has also been engineered into corn and papaya, and there have been 14 field trials between 1994 and 1998. No environmental impact assessment had been carried out at all, as it was deemed unnecessary.

US Patents

There are more than 150 US patents listing barnase or site-specific recombination or both [4] the oldest, on site-specific recombinase, going back to 1987 [5]. The first terminator patents that came to the attention of the public were those jointly owned by US Department of Agriculture and Delta and Pine Land Company, which Monsanto had intended to acquire. The novelty in those patents is the proposal to combine the terminator-gene system with the site-specific recombinase system, giving the company complete control over the hybrids as well as proprietary chemicals that control gene expression.

Publicity and Research don't match

As a result of universal condemnation and rejection by farmers and non-Government organisations world wide, Monsanto had announced it will not commercialise terminator crops, to everyone's relief. Research and development, however, have continued unabated, and the technology kept surfacing in different forms [6]. But on the whole, everyone has been duped into thinking that such crops only exist in theory, when they have been out there in one form or another for more than 10 years.

ACRE's consultation can only be seen as an exercise in smoothing the path for commercial development of a technology condemned as contrary to basic human rights, because it prevents farmers from saving, replanting and exchanging seeds, practices going back thousands of years that are essential to food security.

It is no coincidence that simultaneous consultation is going on in the United States on the USDA-Delta and Pine terminator patents. The USDA is indeed considering commercial development of the technology, and also recommends it for preventing GM gene flow. Surely, to require containment of GM genes is to admit that they are unsafe, which is an argument for stopping GM crop development altogether. It is not an excuse for validating a morally bankrupt technology.

Serious hazards

What the regulators and the public are not yet aware of is that the technology introduces serious hazards over and above those of GM crops in general [7]. The terminator-gene barnase is a universal poison that breaks down RNA, an intermediate in the expression of all genes. The recombinase, in theory, breaks and rejoins DNA at specific sites, but is far from accurate, so it has the potential to break and rejoin DNA inappropriately, thereby scrambling the genome in unpredictable, lethal ways.

After a report in the Scottish press, a spokesperson from the UK Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) denied that the enzyme barnase was in the crops undergoing field trials. The DETR spokesman was reported to have said that it was the barnase gene and not the enzyme which was present in "a few oil seed rape crops currently being trialled." and that "where the enzyme would be poisonous, the gene was not harmful."[8] Obviously, he did not know that the barnase gene had to be expressed to make the barnase enzyme in order to have male sterility. Furthermore, the barnase gene could spread, either by crossing with related species, or by the GM DNA being taken up and integrated into the genome of unrelated species, and it may become expressed in other cells and tissues, with potentially fatal consequences.

Denials

On seeing our press releases,[9] Dr. Ian Woiwod of Rothampstead, a scientist involved in overseeing the UK field trials, indicated that he had no knowledge of such crops in the field trials [10]. Indeed, in a correspondence describing the trials published in Nature in 1999 [11], there was no mention of the male sterile spring and winter oilseed rape. Have our regulators been kept in the dark? During a workshop at the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety held in Montpellier last December [12], the UK Government delegate from the DETR actually thanked MWH for providing the information on terminator crops.

How seed/pollen sterility is engineered into crops

There are two key components to terminator technology, which is being widely used, not only in plants but in animals as well, as revealed by the 150 plus patents filed in the US alone (see above). The first component is 'site-specific recombination', carried out by a recombinase, an enzyme that recognises specific 'sites', or short DNA sequences, labelled 's' in the diagram below. Any stretch of DNA sequence flanked by two such sites will be spliced out by the recombinase.

...s-any DNA sequence-s...

The other key element is literally the 'terminator'. It is barnase, an enzyme that breaks down RNA. RNA is an intermediate in the expression of all genes, and that is why barnase is lethal to all cells in which it is expressed, unless its specific inhibitor, barstar, is also present. Both barnase and barstar are produced by a soil bacterium, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. Inside the bacterial cell, barstar binds to barnase in a one-to-one complex, disarming the latter so it can do no harm. However, when barnase is secreted outside, it is no longer bound to barstar and is thus harmful to other cells.

To engineer pollen sterility, the barnase gene is placed under the control of a promoter that allows the gene to be expressed only during anther development, ie, in the male part of the flower. The barnase with its anther-specific promoter is stitched next to the transgene of interest, say, a gene coding for herbicide tolerance, also with its own promoter. Theoretically, there will be no fertile pollen from this transgenic crop. In the case of crops that are normally self-fertilised, there will be no seeds set.

In out-crossing plants, the only fertile seeds set will be those fertilised by non-GM varieties nearby, which will not be herbicide tolerant; so farmers who want the herbicide tolerant trait will have to buy fresh seeds from the company every season. The problem is that such a male-sterile line by itself cannot be propagated, it does not breed true.

To propagate the line, the company makes use of site-specific recombination. For example, the promoter of the barnase could normally be blocked by a sequence flanked by sites recognised by a recombinase

.. anther-specific promoter-s-blocking sequence-s-barnase gene..

The recombinase can be engineered into the same GM line with the barnase gene for male sterility, or it could be introduced by crossing the GM line containing barnase with another that contains the recombinase to generate a hybrid. The recombinase is placed under the control of a promoter that responds to an external chemical, say, the antibiotic tetracycline.

..tet-specific promoter-recombinase gene...

When tetracycline is applied, the recombinase is expressed, and splices out the blocking sequence in the barnase promoter, so barnase is expressed. By treating harvested seed with tetracycline before they are sold to the farmer, the company can ensure that the plants grown from the seeds will be pollen sterile.

If female-sterility is required, the barnase gene could be placed under the control of a promoter that works only during ovule development, ie, in the female part of the flower, and the rest is similar.

Alternatively, the recombinase may be engineered into a GM line with the gene coding for barstar, which, when crossed with the male sterile GM line containing barnase, will produce a hybrid. The hybrid, treated with tetracycline, will produce plants that will still set seed, at least in theory, because the barstar inactivates the barnase. However, if the harvested seeds were re-sowed, the farmer will find that only about half (7/16) [13] of the seeds will have the same characteristics as those originally purchased from the company, and about one fifth (3/16) of the seeds may be completely sterile. It could be considerably worse.

Insufficient Data for Authorities

In AgrEvo's application for field trials, only two lines are mentioned. These are the 'male sterile oilseed rape line' engineered with barnase under the anther-specific promoter and a gene for phosphinothricin (glufosinate herbicide) tolerance; and the 'restorer oilseed rape line' engineered with barstar, also under the anther-specific promoter plus the same gene for glufosinate tolerance.

No detailed genetic map or other molecular genetic data were supplied with the document, as it was clearly intended for the public register. Companies are currently allowed to conceal molecular genetic data under 'commercially sensitive information', and most of them do so. Does either of these lines contain the site-specific recombinase? Does the barnase gene exist in a blocked form in another line in which male fertility can in principle be indefinitely maintained?

If barnase is not blocked, then the 'male-sterile' line cannot possibly be a true-breeding, uniform line; as it must be fertilised by pollen originating from non-male sterile oilseed rape. A male-sterile line can only be heterozygous for barnase and herbicide tolerance.

Terminator crops cannot prevent gene flow and introduce new hazards

The system is ineffective for preventing gene flow for the following reasons:

  1. All gene control systems are known to be 'leaky' in the sense of not being 100% effective, and the proposed system is no exception, particularly as so many elements have to be engineered perfectly, which is beyond current capability. As a result, some fertile pollen/seeds are likely to be produced.

  2. Pollen sterile GM plants can still be fertilised by non-GM pollen, just as GM pollen from ovule-sterile plants can cross with non-GM plants, thus enabling gene escape.

  3. This system does not at all prevent horizontal gene transfer, a process whereby the GM DNA is taken up directly into cells of unrelated species and incorporated into the cell's genome. If anything, horizontal gene transfer may be enhanced due to the increased structural instability of the complicated constructs involved. Transfer to bacteria and viruses in all environments can be envisaged. Plant residues, dust and pollen may all contribute. Transfer to insect pollinators or feeders could take place; and these may also become vectors for further horizontal gene transfer.

Significant Hazards

Significant hazards are introduced by this system, over and above those due to GM crops in general.

First, barnase is a potent RNAse that breaks down RNA indiscriminately, and is known to be harmful, if not lethal, to all cells, animals and humans included. When perfused into rat kidneys, barnase causes kidney damage [14]. It should not be permitted in any GM crop, let alone GM crop intended for animal feed or human food.

Second, the 'site-specific' recombinases are known not to be 100% specific. There is already evidence suggesting that unintended rearrangements and deletions of genomic sequences have resulted from the use of such recombinases. In other words, the recombinases have the potential to scramble genomes in unpredictable, harmful ways (see Note 7). This has now been demonstrated for the first time, basically because some researchers have finally cared to look for it.

The recombinase Cre is part of the 'site-specific recombination' Cre/lox system originally isolated from the bacteriophage (bacterial virus) P1. Cre catalyses recombination between two lox sites, splicing out any stretch of DNA in between.

The system is not only used in plants, but extensively exploited in transgenic mice. Studies in the test-tube have shown that Cre recombinase can catalyze recombination between DNA sequences found naturally in yeast and mammalian genomes. These 'illegitimate sites' often bear little similarity to the lox element. However, there have been no reports on such illegitimate recognition in the animals or plants themselves. And there have even been pilot studies using the Cre/lox system in human gene therapy.

In a study just published [15], researchers in the United States showed that high levels of Cre expression in the spermatids of heterozygous transgenic mice leads to 100% sterility in the males, despite the absence of any lox sites. Heterozygous mice carry only one copy of the Cre recombinase gene.

The sterility is caused directly by the recombinase enzyme scrambling the genome, essentially by breaking and rejoining DNA at inappropriate sites on the same or different chromosomes. The researchers have pinpointed the genome-scrambling event to the time at which the two 'daughter' spermatids and their paired chromosomes have just separated from each other, but are still joined by a 'cytoplasmic bridge'. This is enough to allow the enzyme to pass from the spermatid containing the recombinase gene to the other which does not, thereby to scramble up the chromosomes of both the transgenic and nontransgenic spermatid. The result is 100% sterility. Embryos fertilized by these sperms arrest predominantly at the 2-cell stage, and do not go beyond the 4-cell stage.

Researchers warn

The researchers warn: "These results indicate that Cre can catalyze illegitimate recombination having overt pathological consequences in animals." A similar recombination system is found in animals containing the RAG recombinases. Illegitimate recombinations in somatic cells are linked to human leukemias.

The greatest danger of terminator crops stems from the spread of the genes and constructs, not only to related species by out-crossing but by horizontal transfer to unrelated species. The increased complication of the GM constructs involved will only increase structural instability and hence the tendency to horizontal gene transfer and recombination. Transfer of both the terminator gene barnase and the recombinase will have drastic, potentially fatal effects on agriculture and on biodiversity.

It is high time to stop these killing crops once and for all.

References:

  1. Application for field trials from AgrEvo (now Aventis) March 1999 "Part B: Information about the release application to be included on the public register".

  2. http://www.nbiap.vt.edu/cfdocs/fieldtests3.cfm US Terminator Field trials

  3. "Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact" Prepared by Biotechnology Permits, Biotechnology, Biologics, and Environmental Protection Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Permit Number 92-017-01: rapeseed; male sterility; restorer gene http://www.nbiap.vt.edu/biomon/relea/9201701r.eaa

  4. http://www.delphion.com

  5. US04673640 06/16/1987 Regulated protein production using site-specific recombination.

  6. See "Terminator in different guises" ISIS News #3, December 1999 http://www.i-sis.org/i-sisnews3.htm#terminator

  7. ISIS has warned of this more than once. See "Why patents on life-forms and living processes should be rejected from TRIPS – Scientific briefing on TRIPS Article 27.3(b)" by Mae-Wan Ho And Terje Traavik, TWN and ISIS Report, 1999 http://www.i-sis.org/trips99.shtml ; "Terminator in different guises" by Mae-Wan Ho, ISIS News #3, December 1999 http://www.i-sis.org/i-sisnews3.htm#terminator ; "Terminator gene product alert" by Joe Cummins, ISIS News#6, September 2000 http://www.i-sis.org/i-sisnews6.htm#term

  8. "GM 'poison' allegation denied" http://uk.news.yahoo.com/001205/79/ar32n.html

  9. "Terminator alert: UK GM field trials contain 'terminator' crops" ISIS Press Release 6.12.2000; "Terminator recombinase does scramble genomes" ISIS Press Release 8.12.2000 http://www.i-sis.org/terminatorrecomb-pr.shtml

  10. Personal communication by e-mail to ISIS from Dr. Ian Woiwod, 8.12.2000.

  11. Firbank, L.G. et al, (1999). Nature 399, 727-8.

  12. Critical Issues on Biosafety, Third World Network Workshop during the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, 11 Dec., Le Corum, Montpellier

  13. It deviates from the usual 9/16 Mendelian ratio for the inheritance of two genes, barnase and barstar. On account of a one-to-one complex between barnase and barstar; plants in which there are two copies of barnase to one copy of barstar will be expected to be partially sterile.

  14. Ilinskaya, O and Vamvakas, S (1997). Nephrotic effect of bacterial ribonucleases in the isolated and perfused rat kidney. Toxicology 120, 55-63

  15. Schmidt, E.E., Taylor, D.S., Prigge, J.R., Barnett, S. and Capecchi, M.R. (2000). Illegitimate Cre-dependent chromosome rearrangements in transgenic mouse spermatids. PNAS 97, 13702-13707.

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Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 9 Jan 2001 14:33:05 -0600
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz
From:"Carpenter, Janet" carpenter@ncfap.org

Roundup Ready Soybean Yield Gap Closing

Study by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy (NCFAP)

Roundup Ready soybean yields are catching up to conventional varieties, according to a recent study by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy (NCFAP). University variety trial results for 1999 showed an average 3% difference in yields for Roundup Ready varieties relative to conventional soybean varieties, compared to a 4% difference in 1998.

Roundup Ready soybeans were genetically modified to withstand treatment with the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) by inserting a gene from a soil bacterium, which allows for the continued production of essential amino acids that would otherwise cease after the herbicide treatment. Roundup is an effective, broad spectrum herbicide that would normally destroy a growing crop. The insertion of the soil bacterium gene allows growers to use Roundup over their crop, controlling weeds while leaving the crop unharmed.Roundup Ready soybeans have proved extremely popular with U.S. farmers sincetheir introduction in 1996. In just 5 years, adoption reached 54% of total soybean acreage.

The analysis of 1999 variety trials is based on trials conducted in 8 states and is similar to an earlier analysis of the 1998 trials. Nearly 9400 entries were included, 4443 conventional and 4955 Roundup Ready. In five of the eight states included in the analysis, the disparity in yields between Roundup Ready and conventional varieties was smaller in the 1999 trials than in 1998, indicating the availability of the Roundup Ready trait in higher yielding varieties.

Yield Performance of Roundup Ready Relative to Conventional Soybean Varieties
State19981999
Illinois103%102%
Iowa93%95%
Michigan97%101%
Minnesota92%91%
Nebraska88%97%
Ohio97%89%
South Dakota90%94%
Wisconsin97%100%
Average96%97%

Critics of agricultural biotechnology distorted the results of the 1998 variety trials, asserting that the difference in yields was due to an inherent problem with the Roundup Ready varieties resulting from the process of genetic modification. However, the differences are more likely due to differences in the agronomic background of the varieties in which the Roundup Ready trait is available. The Roundup Ready trait was introduced into a single soybean variety that is appropriate to growing conditions in a limited area. In order to introduce the trait into other varieties, several years of "backcrossing" using conventional breeding is necessary to recapture the agronomic characteristics of the recipient variety. Therefore, it was expected that it would take several years for seed companies to make the Roundup Ready trait available in the highest-yielding elite varieties.

As the Roundup Ready trait is introduced into the highest yielding varieties, it is expected that the difference in yields between Roundup Ready and conventional soybean varieties will disappear, or even be overcome. However, one must be cautious in interpreting the results of variety trials as many other factors besides yield potential, such as costs and weed control efficacy, affect growers' planting decisions and, ultimately, yields.

Comparing Roundup Ready and Conventional Soybean Yields 1999, by Janet E. Carpenter, is available at www.ncfap.org. Preparation of this report was supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.

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


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 9 Jan 2001 15:04:49 -0600
From: Judy Kew judy_kew@greenbuilder.com

The exact page of GP's GE & non-GE brand name foods list

http://www.truefoodnow.org/gmo_facts/product_list/pf-list.html


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 9 Jan 2001 16:17:55 -0600
From: "Diane V. McLoughlin" dianevmc@attcanada.ca

B-GE: Henry I. Miller & Hoover Institution

Following up on Robert Mann's latest submission, re: the National Post article written by Henry I. Miller ('The monumental hoax behind the StarLink scare'; 06/01/01).

Subsequent to reading the article last Saturday, I searched for the Hoover Institution, wanting more info.

The Hoover I. can be found through Stanford University's website. On the H.I. website, there are several other essays of Miller's on the same theme.

The H.I. shares that it's aim is to support the philosophy of small government and individual freedom. However, there is an important caveat: federal governance is necessary where localized governance, or laissez faire is unable to protect the common good.

In one of his on-line essays, 'Global Food Fight'; Hoover Digest 2000 No. 1, Mr. Miller writes of Dr. Pusztai's Lancet paper on the GM snow drop lectin potato rat feeding study, the following: 'What the paper actually demonstrated was that rats don't like raw potatoes.' (Should you be clairvoyant, please ignore expletive deletive.)

On another note, The Ottawa Citizen, one of Canada's leading newspapers, published a letter of mine yesterday, wherein I argue that GM foods should be labeled; in a democracy consumers should have the right of choice. This point is obvious to you and I. However, I would mention that Mr. Miller's National Post article is standard fare in the papers here in Canada. ('Is the rule of experts hurting democracy?'; 08/01/01; which can be viewed at the ottawacitizen's website. Tried to use a 'Send to a friend' option to post to B-GE but does not seem to have worked.) Warmest personal regards to you all,
Diane.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Date: 9 Jan 2001 14:22:25 -0600
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz
Subject: PR: StarLink(r) non-problem

The monumental hoax behind the StarLink scare

Henry I. Miller, National Post

What do consumers need to know about biotechnology? The bottom line is that the controversies currently raging over gene-splicing, or genetic modification (GM), are a complete hoax. GM is merely an extension, or refinement, of less precise and predictable techniques for genetically improved products with which consumers and government regulators have long been both familiar and comfortable. GM-derived food and other products are safer than those made with less precise techniques.

Consider the widespread hysteria over "contamination" of chips, tortillas, taco shells, and even chicken feed with tiny amounts of a GM variety of corn called StarLink. Not a single person is at all likely to be harmed by any of these products. Having said that, there is a problem: the wrong-headed regulatory policies toward GM plants of the United States and other governments.

StarLink corn differs from other commercial varieties by containing a protein called Cry9C. This bacterial protein, introduced into corn with GM techniques, has been approved in the United States for animal feed but not for humans because, although it resembles no known allergens, it did not immediately degrade in digestion tests. (Because most food allergens are not readily digested, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wanted more data before concluding consumers could not be allergic to Cry9C.)

The food products in question are actually far less likely than thousands of other products on the market to cause allergic or other health problems. Fava beans, a fixture of upscale restaurant cuisine in North America and Europe, can be life-threatening to persons with a hereditary enzyme deficiency, for example, and occasionally there is contamination with peanuts – a known, potent allergen – of products like candy bars that are supposed to be peanut-free. Unlike those situations, however, even after exhaustive testing no allergic reactions, toxicity or any other problem has been demonstrated with Cry9C or any substance similar to it.

The ripple effect of this non-problem concerning StarLink is monumental, and growing. Mission Foods, the United States' largest manufacturer of tortilla products, recalled all its yellow corn products – a move that may cost the company as much as US$10-million. Major U.S. grocery chains removed certain corn products from their shelves. Tyson's, the world's largest producer of chickens, won't even feed StarLink to its birds.

Finally, StarLink "contamination" has been found in corn exported to Japan – an important development because Japan annually imports about 16 million tons of U.S. feed corn (worth around $2-billion) and has a policy of zero tolerance for the banned variety. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has accepted a baroque U.S. plan for testing corn exports to ensure that they are free from StarLink. Under the agreement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will assume responsibility for sampling and certifying all export corn at certain export locations.

Predictably, U.S. officials have blamed the manufacturer of the corn, Aventis SA, accusing the company of failing in its responsibility to segregate StarLink from other varieties of corn that are normally eaten by humans.

But the real blame lies in the United States' regulatory policy toward GM plants and foods. The EPA holds GM foods to a higher standard than similar foods, requiring GM crop and garden plants that have been genetically improved for enhanced pest or disease resistance to undergo hugely expensive testing, as though they were chemical pesticides. The policy fails to recognize important differences between genetic approaches to enhancing plants' natural resistance and spraying plants with synthetic, toxic chemicals.

The EPA's policy is so potentially damaging and outside scientific norms that it has galvanized the scientific community. A consortium of dozens of scientific societies representing more than 180,000 biologists and food professionals published a report warning that the policy will discourage the development of new pest-resistant crops and prolong and increase the use of synthetic chemical pesticides, increase the regulatory burden for developers of pest-resistant crops, limit the use of biotechnology to larger developers who can pay the inflated regulatory costs and handicap U.S. companies competing in international markets.

Scientists worldwide agree that adding genes to plants does not make them less safe, either to the environment or for humans to eat. Dozens of new plant varieties produced through hybridization and other traditional methods of genetic improvement enter the marketplace each year without scientific review or special labeling. Many such products are from "wide crosses," hybridizations in which genes are moved from one species or one genus to another to create a plant variety that does not and cannot exist in nature. For example, Triticum agropyrotriticum is a new man-made "species" which resulted from combining genes from bread wheat and a grass sometimes called quackgrass or couchgrass. Possessing all the chromosomes of wheat and one extra whole genome from the quackgrass, T. agropyrotriticum has been independently produced in Canada, the United States, the former Soviet Union, France, Germany and China, and is grown for both forage and grain.

Gene-splicing is more precise, circumscribed and predictable than other techniques, and can better exploit the subtleties of plant pathology. For example, the corn in the recalled products was made by splicing in a bacterial gene that produces a protein toxic to corn borer insects but not to people or other mammals. The GM corn not only repels pests but also is less likely to contain Fusarium, a toxic fungus often carried into the plants by the insects. That significantly reduces the levels of the fungal toxin fumonisin, which is known to cause fatal diseases in horses and swine that eat infected corn, and esophageal cancer in humans. Thus, GM corn is not only cheaper to produce but is a potential boon to public health. Moreover, by reducing the need for spraying chemical pesticides on crops, it is environmentally friendly.

Yet, regulatory agencies have regulated GM foods in a discriminatory, unnecessarily burdensome way. They have imposed requirements that could not possibly be met for conventionally bred crop plants. Paradoxically, only the more precisely crafted GM crops are exhaustively, repeatedly (and expensively) reviewed before they can enter the field or food supply. Policy makers have ignored a fundamental rule of regulation: The degree of scrutiny of a product or activity should be commensurate with the risk.

Rather than punishing those who develop and market insect-resistant, chemical pesticide-replacing, low-fungal-toxin, potentially more healthful corn, we need to regulate as science and common sense dictate. Regulation would then cost less, offer greater benefits to the consumer and the environment, and stimulate innovation.

Henry I. Miller, a physician, is a fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. From 1979-94 he was an official at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 10 Jan 2001 02:12:14 -0600
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

All LibertyLink Hybrids Approved for Feed and Food Use in Major US Corn Export Markets

Research Triangle Park, N.c.--(business Wire) Via NewsEdge Corporation - January 10, 2001

Jan. 9, 2001--Aventis CropScience said today that all corn containing the company's LibertyLink(R) gene is approved for feed and food use both in the United States and in the country's major export markets.

Aventis' statement comes in the wake of recent announcements from two seed companies to postpone the introduction of eight corn hybrids that contain a combination of the LibertyLink gene and the YieldGard(R) Bt gene.

The seed companies – Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., and Cargill Hybrid Seeds – have withdrawn plans to market the seed for the 2001 season because the European Union has not yet approved the eight LibertyLink/Bt hybrids for import into its member countries.

"In 2001 growers can plant any LibertyLink hybrid offered for sale and be certain the grain produced is fully approved for feed and food use by all of our major export partners," said Don McAghon, seed account manager for Aventis.

"By postponing their introduction of these eight hybrids, Pioneer and Cargill have reduced a great deal of the confusion surrounding the marketing of LibertyLink grain," he said.

Like all other major U.S. corn export partners, the EU has fully approved LibertyLink corn hybrids and YieldGard corn hybrids separately. The EU, however, requires an additional registration for hybrid corn made from one parent line that contains the LibertyLink gene and another parent line that contains the YieldGard gene.

By contrast, the EU has approved all Novartis NK(R) brand LibertyLink/YieldGard hybrids for import because the two traits are joined together in the same genetically enhanced parent line.

Pioneer and Cargill will continue to market their already approved LibertyLink-only and YieldGard-only hybrids.

The LibertyLink gene confers resistance in corn to Liberty(R) herbicide, a tool growers throughout the United States depend on to control more than 100 tough broadleaf and grass weeds.

For more information about LibertyLink corn, go to http://www.cornexperts.com or call 1-888-AVENTIS (1-888-283-6847).

©2000 Aventis CropScience 2 T.W. Alexander Dr., Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27709. Liberty and LibertyLink are registered trademarks of the Aventis Group. YieldGard is a registered trademark of Monsanto Company. NK brand is a registered trademark of Novartis Seeds.

CONTACT: Rhea & Kaiser Marketing Communications | Paul Baker, 919/368-4686 | paul_baker@rkconnect.com


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Date: 10 Jan 2001 05:05:53 -0600
From: RBBAX@aol.com

Times of India: Scientist warn against GM food

From Times of India 9th Jan 2001
http://www.timesofindia.com/090101/09hlth11.htm

NEW DELHI: Genetically engineered plants and animals to feed a hungry world and genetically-derived sources of energy to meet the increasing fuel needs of the future may sound music to the ears of anyone, specially the policy-makers of the third world.

But a group of biotechnologists warn that the genetically modified food and medicine may expose us to new and unexpected health hazards and harm the environment.

As these food and medicine are being developed against the principles of nature and being thrust on us without proper risk assessment studies and regulations, they would cause long-term health hazards, they say.

A major controversy has erupted recently on the multinational companies' plans to introduce genetically modified food crops in India that they say would increase productivity and have better traits like enriched vitamins. Even the Indian Science Congress last week came out openly in support of introducing these crops to increase production in the country.

One group of scientists and biotechnologists claims that the food needs of an increasing population could only be met by the recent advances in the field of biotechnology which uses genetic engineering, cloning and introduction of beneficial genes in the food crops consumed by human beings while other group is horrified of the idea of genetically modified food.

They caution that it was a golden trap as the genetically modified food have been rejected by the people in the west for conventional items, so the multinational companies were now trying to make poor people of Asia and Africa as guinea pigs.

Eminent biotechnologist Pushpa Bhargava says that the ground work was being prepared by multinational companies to promote genetically engineered food like golden rice variety by claiming that it was a rich source of vitamin A. However, no proper risk assessment studies of the variety has been done till now, he says. Once launched, it could cause havoc with the native varieties, he cautions.(PTI)


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Date: 10 Jan 2001 16:13:45 -0600
From: jcummins jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

The interleuken discussed below are being introduced into crrop plants which are field tested in the open environment. There is poor control of gene and protein release to the environment by plant wounding, sucking insects or root , stem and leaf decay.All are genetiuc engineering running amok for quick profits.

Aussie scientists stumble across the Doomsday Bug

Yahoo! Asia – News World
PARIS, Jan 10 (AFP) - Thursday, January 11 3:00 AM SGT

Australian gene engineers accidentally created a mouse virus that kills every one of its victims by wrecking their immune system, a discovery with the potential for making the ultimate terrorist weapon, New Scientist reports.

The killer bug was invented quite inadvertently, while the researchers were trying to create a contraceptive vaccine for mice as a pest control, the British weekly reports in next Saturday's issue.

They inserted into a mousepox virus a gene that creates large amounts of interleukin 4 (IL-4), a naturally-occurring molecule that produces antibodies in the immune system.

The idea was to stimulate antibodies to destroy eggs in female mice, thus making the rodents infertile.

Mousepox, a close relation to smallpox, normally only causes mild symptoms among the type of mice being used in the study, and was only being used as a vehicle to deliver the IL-4.

But when the IL-4 gene was inserted, the engineered virus ran amok, attacking the "cell-mediated response" – the part of the immune system that fights viral infection. All the animals in the study were wiped out in just nine days.

Worse, the engineered virus was astonishingly resistant to vaccines. A vaccine that would normally protect these mice from mousepox only worked in half of the mice exposed to the killer version.

Co-researcher Ron Jackson, of the Canberra-based institute CSIRO, said the discovery was a frightening indicator of what could happen if the human smallpox virus was similarly modified.

"It would be safe to assume that if some idiot did put human IL-4 into human smallpox, they'd increase the lethality quite dramatically," he told New Scientist.

"Seeing the consequences of what happened in the mice, I wouldn't want to be the one to do the experiment."

"It's surprising how very, very bad the virus is," said Anne Hill, a vaccine experts from Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon.

Smallpox has been eradicated as a disease thanks to a global vaccination campaign, although two laboratories – one in the United States, the other in Russia – still have ampoules containing the virus, under an arrangement with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The incident highlights how easy it could be for some with bio-engineering knowledge to create a murderous virus for which there would be no cure or effective vaccine, New Scientist said.

"Vast amounts of time and effort have gone into policing the military's use of biotechnology. But the activities of civilian biologists have been ignored," it said.

"Yet genetic engineering techniques are now so widespread that potentially dangerous results are bound to emerge accidentally."

It suggests tougher vetting of research proposals; a greater effort to train students in biological subjects about potential dangers arising from lab work; and encouraging greater openness among biologists to discuss the misuse of genetic engineering.


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Date: 10 Jan 2001 18:27:19 -0600
From: jcummins jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

The article below is on the problem of airborn mercury pollution and its fall out over cities. The plant genetic engineers are pushing to cleanup polluted soil by causing the plants to take up and release mercury to the air. EPA is currently evaluating the soil mercury removal project. Please join me urging that the plant mercury remediation scheme be outlawed because it will pollute the air even further with mercury.

US to take temperature of mercury threat

By Mark Schrope, Nature 409, 124 (2001) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

In the United States alone this year, some 60,000 babies may be born with neurological damage caused by mercury poisoning of their mother

Throw it back: mercury emitted by power plants enters fish, and then the people that eat them. Scientists believe that much of the mercury enters the food chain through seafood whose habitat has been polluted by emissions from power stations burning mercury-rich coal. But it would be expensive – and therefore controversial – to regulate such emissions.

However, as one of several parting shots, President Bill Clinton's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month laid out plans to implement such regulation by 2004 – and a research strategy to back it up.

Jonathan Herrmann, assistant director of the EPA's National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a co-leader of the team that devised the strategy, says that the nature of the regulations will depend on the research. The plan is to explore the feasibility of different approaches to mercury removal, the distribution of emissions, and their effects on human health.

Some mercury is already removed from power-plant emissions along with other pollutants. The research will investigate by how much mercury emissions can be reduced using existing and emerging technologies, the relative cost of reductions, how much of the mercury in the environment can be attributed to power plants, and the probable effect of regulation on environmental mercury levels.

The answers will help the agency to determine not only how much mercury the power plants should be required to remove, but how much removal is economically reasonable. Currently, the EPA thinks regulation will cost between one billion and two billion dollars to implement, whereas industry estimates range from two billion to six billion dollars.

"It seems like a well-balanced strategy and I support wholeheartedly the work that they're doing," says Leonard Levin, a manager at the Electric Power Research Institute, based in Palo Alto, California. Levin, who was one of the strategy's outside reviewers, says it should provide a framework for establishing mercury regulations.

Mercury is released from power plants and waste incinerators in an inorganic form. But in water, microbes convert it into methylmercury, which accumulates in fish and shellfish. When the fish are eaten, methylmercury accumulates in the brain, where it reverts back to an inorganic form.

A National Academy of Science (NAS) study last year estimated that the mercury problem was substantial enough to influence the total number of children who struggle in school and require special help.

The NAS report, which contains the estimate that 60,000 mothers could be affected each year, also recommended research to understand the extent of mercury's effects on humans. For instance, there is some evidence that mercury causes cardiovascular problems in children.

Thomas Burke, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and a lead author of the NAS study, says that, despite gaps in understanding, increased regulation is warranted.

"There is nothing to indicate that mercury risks are less than we thought," he says. "I think it is very appropriate to move forward aggressively to limit mercury in every way possible."


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Date: 10 Jan 2001 12:09:40 -0600
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

Study points to Problems with GE Cotton

Sources: http://Rooster.com ,Journal of Cotton Science
Cropchoice News, January 9, 2001

A recent study raising possible concerns for farmers about genetically modified cotton has received much less attention than the seed and chemical companiesi endorsement of transgenic technology.

Scientists writing in the Journal of Cotton Science point out some potential concerns with cotton thatis genetically modified to resist the tobacco budworm and the herbicide glyphosate, also know as Roundup. Researchers found that the transgenic cotton they studied was less resistant to root-knot nematode, a serious cotton pest. Farmers typically control nematode infestation by planting different types of traditional hybrid seeds.

Despite this study, the StarLink debacle, consumer concerns about genetically engineered foods and fibers, and European and Japanese opposition, the International Cotton Advisory Committee recently reported that, ithe GE cottons approved pose no risks to human or animal health, the environment or natural biodiversity, and in that regard, are no different than conventionally produced cotton."

Phil Wakelyn, chairman of the Committee and senior scientist with the National Cotton Council, predicts that 50 percent of the worldis cotton acreage will be of genetically engineered cultivars within five to seven years. Thatis a 12 percent increase over the numbers today. Wakelyn says that U.S. genetically modified cotton acreage will be much higher.

Of course, cotton farmers do not have to prove this prediction true. They can insist on planting only non-genetically engineered varieties.


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Date: 10 Jan 2001 22:58:57 -0600
From: Ericka doodles@netins.net

Vilsack: $3 million for Biotech at Iowa State Univ. & NOTHING for other universities

By Sara Langenberg, Iowa City Press-Citizen, Wednesday, January 10, 2001
http://www.press-citizen.com/news/011001vilsack.htm

Vilsack curbs UI's funding: Money for university programs denied

True to his word, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack presented a proposed state budget Tuesday that reins in funding for Iowa's three public universities but bumps up state dollars for community colleges and the K-12 school system.

He granted a $3 million increase for a biotechnology initiative at Iowa State University but denied $6 million increases for programs at the University of Iowa and Northern Iowa University.

On the bright side from the universities' perspective, however, Vilsack also recommended "full funding" for salaries at the three state colleges next year.

"We are very enthusiastic about the full funding for salaries. Just to keep people, it's critical that we keep up with good salary increases," University of Iowa President Mary Sue Coleman said. "We said all along the salaries were our No. 1 priority."

Vilsack also supported $55.2 million in university building projects statewide but calls for borrowing the funds instead of granting the schools the cash up front.

His proposal marks the first step in an approximate four-month process in which UI officials will lobby legislators against a repeat of the funding cycle that left them short of money for salaries and some programs in this year's budget.

In a cutback that dropped UI's state funding for salaries by about $10 million, State Budget Director Randy Bauer said the governor's intent was to stop supplementing tuition-funded positions with state appropriations. But it forced UI officials to dip into funding intended for other programs and building repair projects in order to raise salaries by the percentage decided largely by state officials during union contract negotiations.

While Vilsack reversed the trend and pledged to restore funding for salaries this year – including money for positions also supplemented by tuition revenue – he held back program funding.

In all, his proposal grants $3 million of $15 million requested for university programs.

UNI wanted $3 million to hire 65 new faculty members to accommodate spiking enrollment. UI wanted $3 million for its Public Health Initiative and $3 million to improve instructional quality, such as digitizing library collections and improving classroom space and technology. None were granted.

On the other hand, ISU's Plant Sciences Initiative reflects the agricultural school's growing involvement in biotechnologies such as genetically engineered corn, which Vilsack strongly supports. He granted $3 million of ISU's request for $6 million.

"Without a doubt, one of the objectives of the budget is to attain more economic growth and new target industries," Bauer said, explaining why the governor funded ISU's program but not UI's or UNI's. "Biotechnology is one of the things we think will grow Iowa's economy."

Meanwhile, UI's Public Health program would be unfunded after getting $2 million in the past two years. Coleman was disappointed.

"It is one of our top priorities to serve the state's growing elderly and rural populations," she said. "Not getting state support to create the infrastructure we need for that college to grow is going to make it difficult for us."

She said it's too soon to tell if that will prompt a tuition increase, however. Tuition rose about 10 percent after the most recently completed state funding cycle.

"We'll have to look at where we are at that point," she said.

Coleman was pleased with Vilsack's recommendations for capital-project funding, she added.

UI's share includes $7.3 million for the second phase of construction on the Biology Building upgrades and about $16 million for a new Art and Art History Building.

Aside from the cost of paying back the first year of debt, borrowing the $55.2 million will free up money in the state's budget for other things.

In other areas of the budget, Vilsack recommended funneling $42 million from this year's state budget into next year's budget to supplement the widely supported initiative to raise teacher salaries in K-12 schools. He also wants to increase funding for community colleges by $5 million. They requested $9.3 million.In several recent visits to the UI campus, he has complained that the state contributes more money per-student to its universities than to its community colleges or its K-12 schools.

The estimated state aid per university student this year was estimated at about $11,340, compared to about $5,319 per K-12 student and about $2,968 per community college student, he said.His proposed budget would shift those numbers somewhat but not resolve the disparity, Bauer said. "Make no mistake, even with the changes in this budget, the per-student appropriation for state resources for regents institutions is still much higher," he said.

None of the numbers will be final until the Legislature has a chance to weigh in on them, however. And so far, it's unclear whether having a Republican-led Legislature act on a Democratic governor's recommendations will have a positive or negative impact on UI.

When university officials complained about this year's salary funding shortfall, Republican legislators blamed Vilsack.

"There's always that tension when you have two parties," Coleman said. "All I can do is to be a good advocate for the university. I'm going to try to work across the aisle and work with everybody for the sake of what's good for the state."

Mark Braun, UI's statehouse lobbyist, added that he will continue to lobby for the funding not provided in Vilsack's proposed budget. "We still have a lot of the process to go through yet, so we are going to work with the Legislature and the governor to see that our requests make their way through the process," he said.