Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

15 January 2001

Table of Contents

Biotechnology stocks dive 25 per cent
Excerpt from John le Carre piece 'The criminals of capitalism'
Biotechnology sector gets sinking feeling
Corporate Watch's briefing on Dalgety Agriculture
First GM monkey born
Guardian: Lab Creates Killer Virus By Mistake
Abstract of the Doomsday Virus Report
Little Green Monkys that Glow in the Dark
Scientists cautioned about genetically modified food
Some Iowa farmers love those specialty soybeans
Of course organic food is better
GM cow milk is on the way
Cloned buffalo dies
ANDi, first GM primate. Will humans be next?
Fuelling the fire – How the Net has driven the GM food debate
Three Steps to Commerce
Monsanto testing GM wheat
DuPont slips in GM plastic when nobody's looking
A Bright Future for Crops Converted into Plastic?
Conflict looms over EU plans to label GE Foods Imports

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Date: 11 Jan 2001 04:58:09 -0600
From: RBBAX@aol.com

Biotechnology stocks dive 25 per cent

Originated from: Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin),
http://members.tripod.com/~ngin

Agbiotech's been in the doldrums for yonks but now the rest of the sector has started taking a beating. An analyst with the pharmaceuticals research firm Mehta Partners in New York comments that investors

"...are now realizing that biotechnology companies have a lot in common with the 'dot-bombs'. They're very good at burning through cash and not showing a profit at the end of the year."


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Date: 11 Jan 2001 04:58:09 -0600
From: RBBAX@aol.com
From: Karly Graham

Excerpt from John le Carre piece 'The criminals of capitalism'

From his latest book The Constant Gardener.

'Do we ever stop to wonder what happens to suppposedly impartial academic medical research when giant pharmaceutical companies donate whole biotech buildings and endow professorships at the universities and teaching hospitals where their products are tested and developed? There has been a steady trickle of alarming cases in recent years where inconvenient scientific findings have been suppressed or rewritten, and those responsible for them hounded off their campuses with their professional and personal reputations systematically trashed by the machinations of public relations agencies in the pay of the pharmas.

'In the Constant Gardener I made an amalgam of these ufortunate cases and called them Lara. She is a chemical research scientist in Canada, hounded by the pharma giant that hired her, and by the academic colleagues whose livelihoods, like hers, depend on its favour. Multiply those concerns by tens and you begin to understand the corrupting power of pharmaceutical companies when they operate in emerging countries and can delegate huge slush funds to local "managers" who know how to get a drug accepted by local officials and ministers'.


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Date: 11 Jan 2001 04:58:09 -0600
From: RBBAX@aol.com
From: Lucy Michaels lucy@corporatewatch.org

Biotechnology sector gets sinking feeling

By Victoria Griffith in Boston
in the Financial Times (9th January 2001)

Biotechnology stocks have lost 25 per cent of their value in the last two weeks, prompting fears of a bursting bubble in the sector.

The Nasdaq biotechnology index fell from 1200 in the final week of December to about 900 in mid-day trading Tuesday. While biotechnology stocks were up slightly Tuesday compared with Monday, the damage to the sector is worsening. Since its March peak, the industry index has collapsed 45 per cent.

Analysts worry the sector may decline further, as investors increasingly question lofty valuations. Like internet companies, most biotechnology groups lose money. Even with the latest market downturn, profitable biotechnology companies – there are an estimated 20 to 25 – are carrying exorbitant price-to-earnings ratios. Genentech on Tuesday was valued at about 120 times earnings, while Immunex trades at nearly 150 times earnings.

The exuberance that surrounded the completion of the sequencing of the human genome last year led to a rapid run-up in biotechnology stocks. Between November 1999 and March 2000, the Nasdaq biotechnology index tripled, with biotechnology companies initially seeming immune from the sell-off in technology stocks. In a year during which the Nasdaq Composite Index posted its worst performance ever, the biotechnology component of the index rose 15 per cent.

But now investors fear genomics will not speed up the discovery and development of drugs as quickly as many had expected. Earlier this week, Genentech's chief executive Arthur Levinson warned investors that the sequencing would not translate into shorter development time for new drugs. No matter how promising, potential drugs still must be tested in laboratories, and human clinical trials and regulatory procedures continue to be burdensome.

"A lot of retail investors got into this sector with the false hope that brand-new drugs were just one or two years away," says Yi Ri, an analyst with the pharmaceuticals research firm Mehta Partners in New York. "They are now realizing that biotechnology companies have a lot in common with the 'dot-bombs'. They're very good at burning through cash and not showing a profit at the end of the year."

Much of the run-up in biotechnology shares was fueled by retail investors. Biotechnology chief executives, used to conversing with institutional buyers, suddenly found themselves at investor meetings addressing retail investors with a very limited understading of their technology. "We have to do a lot of hand-holding," says Joshua Boger, chief executive of Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

The biotechnology frenzy also triggered a spate of initial public and secondary offerings. Last year the sector raised a record $40 billion in capital. The capital influx has left some biotechnology companies flush with cash. Genomics companies such as Human Genome Sciences has $1.7bn in the bank, enough to survive nearly 15 years without turning a profit, while Millennium Pharmaceuticals has $1.4bn in cash.

Some of the newer and weaker start-ups, however, may soon be forced to shutter their operations. "Six months ago, there were a lot of bad companies launching on the market," says Eric Schmidt, biotechnoloy analyst at SG Cowen. "It won't be a bad thing to see them go."


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Date: 11 Jan 2001 04:58:09 -0600
From: RBBAX@aol.com
From: Lucy Michaels lucy@corporatewatch.org

Corporate Watch's briefing on Dalgety Agriculture

The Dalgety Group has now sold off its entire animal feed business mainly to Advanced British Nutrition (ABN), which trades as J Bibby Agriculture, a subsidiary of Associated British Foods PLC . This briefing is therefore out of date.

So at this highly critical time for campaigning on the GM animal feed issue, please focus your energies on persuading the major animal feed manufacturers (BOCM Pauls and ABN) the big international grain traders (Cargill and ADM) and, of course, the supermarkets, to go GM free.


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Date: 11 Jan 2001 11:11:48 -0600
From: James Mackenzie james@mackenzie.nu

Grim news from America...

First GM monkey born

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1112000/1112171.stm

Sections:
From a modified egg
'Accelerated discovery'
Morally abhorrent
Project aims

From a modified egg

The first genetically modified monkey has been born in the US.

The scientists who produced the animal at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center say their experiments may suggest a way to speed new treatments for a host of disabling human conditions.

The rhesus monkey was made from an egg that had been modified to include a simple marker gene. But the researchers say the same technology could be used to introduce more significant changes, such as those that would make primates mimic closely human diseases like breast cancer or HIV.

Such animals might make better models of disease than the altered mice and flies already used in labs. This could hasten understanding of disease processes and the development of new therapies.

Accelerated discovery

"We could just as easily introduce, for example, an Alzheimer's gene, to accelerate the development of a vaccine for that disease," said co-researcher Professor Gerald Schatten.

"In this way, we hope to bridge the scientific gap between transgenic mice and humans. We could also get better answers from fewer animals, while accelerating the discovery of cures through molecular medicine."

The first GM monkey is called Andi, which is backwards for "inserted DNA".

Many organisms have been genetically engineered. Flocks of GM sheep produce human proteins for use in the drug industry and engineered bacteria and yeast routinely provide human proteins such as insulin. But until now no-one had managed to put a new gene into a primate, the class of mammals that includes humans.

Morally abhorrent

Last year, Professor Schatten's team produced Tetra, a female monkey clone created by splitting an embryo in half, as occurs naturally when twins are formed.

Both Andi and Tetra remained fit and healthy at the research centre, said Professor Schatten. But the news that science has developed the technology to turn monkeys into models of human disease has outraged animal welfare groups.

In the UK, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), said the Oregon research would inevitably mean more death and suffering for primates. Wendy Higgins, the group's spokeswoman said: "This is just the start. Now we're talking about small numbers of animals and gene markers, but what will happen in the future is that scientists will either add or knock out genes in primates to see what happens to them.

"The end result is terrible suffering. It's bad enough using rodents, but for scientists to play God with primate genes is morally abhorrent."

Project aims

Professor Schatten counters such comment by saying modified primates would only be used in clearly defined circumstances.

He said the aim of the project was not to breed hundreds and hundreds of monkeys for medical research.

"We wouldn't want to make a monkey that carries a disease unless we knew there was a cure right in front of us. Our goal isn't to make sick monkeys. Our goal is to eradicate diseases," he said.

The Oregon research is published in the journal Science.


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Date: 11 Jan 2001 11:16:18 -0600
From: James Mackenzie james@mackenzie.nu

Guardian: Lab Creates Killer Virus By Mistake

By Tim Radford, science editor Guardian
Special report: the ethics of genetics, Thursday January 11, 2001
http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4115493,00.....

Australian scientists who made a killer virus by accident have raised the spectre of biological weapons in the hands of terrorists or rogue states.

The virus kills mice, not humans. The researchers were actually working on a mouse contraceptive vaccine for pest control, according to New Scientist today. But they started with a mousepox virus that normally made laboratory mice feel mildly ill. They inserted an extra gene, and ended up with a virus that wiped out all animals in nine days.

The news comes after years of increasing alarm about the potential of microbes - including modified forms of anthrax and smallpox – as weapons of war or terrorism. The US last year set aside $1.4bn (£940m) for protection against chemical or biological attacks.

Ron Jackson of CSIRO, the Australian research organisation, and Ian Ramshaw of the Australian National University in Canberra, chose the mousepox virus only because it was a standard way of transporting proteins into an animal to trigger antibodies. They inserted a gene from a natural molecule called interleukin-4 (Il-4) into the virus because this would boost antibody production.

The result astonished them: the Il-4 killed the mice by shutting down a vital part of their immune system. It also made the engineered virus unnaturally resistant to normal vaccines.

"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," Dr Jackson said.

Smallpox was systematically eradicated worldwide during the 1970s. But there have been no vaccinations for decades, and one of the scientists who conducted the eradication warned in 1999 that a genetically-engineered version of the virus, in terrorist hands, would have a catastrophic effect on a population. The speed of modern communications would spread the infection all over the world in days.

Biological weapon research accelerated during the 20th century. There are treaties against the use of such weapons but a number of governments are known to have developed them. Britain and the US have backed research into protection against biological weapons, which inevitably involves handling potentially lethal microbes.

Campaigners have repeatedly warned that such knowledge is easily available to terrorist groups.

A report of the Australian experiment will appear in the Journal of Virology next month.


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Date: 11 Jan 2001 11:49:22 -0600
From: jcummins jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

The abstract below provides the reference to the "doomsday virus" paper. The paper shows that the virus with GM interleukin 4 counteracts host defenses. Interestingly, human interleukin genes have been propagated in crop plants and field tested in the environment.Such field tests are seem to ignore release of the interleukin genes and proteins to the environment during plant injury and decay and buildup of the immune control product in ground and surface water.

Abstract of the Doomsday Virus Report

Journal of Virology, February 2001, p. 1205-1210, Vol. 75, No. 3

Expression of Mouse Interleukin-4 by a Recombinant Ectromelia Virus Suppresses Cytolytic Lymphocyte Responses and Overcomes Genetic Resistance to Mousepox

*** Ronald J. Jackson,1,2,* Alistair J. Ramsay,2, dagger Carina D. Christensen,2 Sandra Beaton,1 Diana F. Hall,1, Dagger and Ian A. Ramshaw2

  1. Pest Animal Control Cooperative Research Centre, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and
  2. Division of Immunology and Cell Biology, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Received 25 July 2000/Accepted 13 November 2000

Abstract

Genetic resistance to clinical mousepox (ectromelia virus) varies among inbred laboratory mice and is characterized by an effective natural killer (NK) response and the early onset of a strong CD8+ cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) response in resistant mice. We have investigated the influence of virus-expressed mouse interleukin-4 (IL-4) on the cell-mediated response during infection.

It was observed that expression of IL-4 by a thymidine kinase-positive ectromelia virus suppressed cytolytic responses of NK and CTL and the expression of gamma interferon by the latter. Genetically resistant mice infected with the IL-4-expressing virus developed symptoms of acute mousepox accompanied by high mortality, similar to the disease seen when genetically sensitive mice are infected with the virulent Moscow strain. Strikingly, infection of recently immunized genetically resistant mice with the virus expressing IL-4 also resulted in significant mortality due to fulminant mousepox.

These data therefore suggest that virus-encoded IL-4 not only suppresses primary antiviral cell-mediated immune responses but also can inhibit the expression of immune memory responses.

* Corresponding author. Mailing address: CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, GPO Box 284, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia.
Phone: 61 (02) 6242 1717. Fax: 61 (02) 6242 1511. E-mail: R.Jackson@cse.csiro.au.

[dagger ] Present address: Centre for Biomolecular Vaccine Technology, Discipline of Immunology and Microbiology, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.

[Dagger ] Present address: CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra ACT, Australia.


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Date: 12 Jan 2001 09:09:26 -0600
From: jcummins jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

The abstract below is the reference for the most resent breakthrough in genetic engineering. It is claimed that the breakthrough will advance medical science. Medical science appears to have been needing little green monkeys that glow in the dark. The next step is geared for March 17 (St. Patrick's day) for little green men who glow in the dark.

Little Green Monkys that Glow in the Dark

Transgenic Monkeys Produced by Retroviral Gene Transfer into Mature Oocytes

A. W. S. Chan, K. Y. Chong, C. Martinovich, C. Simerly, and G. Schatten

Science Jan 12 2001: 309-312.

Abstract

Transgenic rhesus monkeys carrying the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene were produced by injecting pseudotyped replication-defective retroviral vector into the perivitelline space of 224 mature rhesus oocytes, later fertilized by intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Of the three males born from 20 embryo transfers, one was transgenic when accessible tissues were assayed for transgene DNA and messenger RNA. All tissues that were studied from a fraternal set of twins, miscarried at 73 days, carried the transgene, as confirmed by Southern analyses, and the GFP transgene reporter was detected by both direct and indirect fluorescence imaging.
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Date: 12 Jan 2001 16:06:41 -0600
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

Scientists cautioned about genetically modified food

By MICHAEL LITTLEJOHNS, © Earth Times News Service

UNITED NATIONS – The Food and Agriculture Organization has again stressed its concerns in the international debate over the genetic modification of food sources, warning scientists of their "moral responsibility" to supply objective, peer-reviewed data and not rush to give publicity to "immature, insufficiently tested results." In short, avoid any temptation to whitewash.

But at the same time Louise Fresco, the agency's deputy head, also underscored its view that every means must be employed to improve food security – "subject to careful assessments being made."

She went on to remind the scientific community of their moral responsibility to speak up for the poor and hungry of the world, and the "small countries, small companies and small farmers [who] have very small voices" where the globalized economy is concerned.

Fresco, an assistant director general of FAO, said scientists were especially important because they best understood the likely consequences of keeping silent about the problems facing the impoverished masses. In a wide ranging inaugural address to the 3rd International Crop Science Congress, in Hamburg, she spoke of the uneven distribution of food, the responsible use of land and water and harnessing biological diversity, as well as the hot potato of genetic modification, a subject of lively debate in Europe and the US.

"Popular perception has it that the world of agricultural science has isolated itself from the man in the street, or the woman in the field, and is seeking to impose its ideas on the planet, rather than understand public needs," she said. "These views are not new, but they have quickly become more vigorous.

"The most forceful public questions are being asked about both the sharing of benefits and the perceived negative effects on human health and the earth's environment of the uncontrolled application of genetically modified crops. FAO's position is that we must use every means at our disposal to improve food security subject to careful assessments being made."

The agency was confident that a consensus could be reached on GM food standards, she said, while cautioning against a rush to judgment – an implicit warning to scientists working for corporations with a vested interest in playing down the risks in GM.

She noted that FAO recently set up an international ethics committee to include the advice of philosophers and religionists in an investigation of the human factors related to agriculture so that strategies might be developed to use genetic modification as a tool against hunger and malnutrition, while still taking all necessary precautions to protect health and the environment.

In her remarks, Fresco joined a rising chorus of senior officials in the UN community who still have serious reservations about the virtue of globalization. "Whatever its potential benefits, globalization also exacerbates the existing differences among countries and regions and calls for specific strategies to be developed according to different needs," she said.

On biodiversity, FAO recognized that food security called for continuing work on improving the main crops genetically. "However," said Fresco, "I also want to emphasize the need to explore a wide range of species that are already adapted to different and marginal ecologies." There was room to improve locally important minor crops that could make a big contribution to diets but attracted limited research and development cash.


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Date: 12 Jan 2001 16:16:58 -0600
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

Some Iowa farmers love those specialty soybeans

Source: Doane Agricultural Services, ProgressiveFarmer.com
Cropchoice news, January 12, 2001

Amid news of soybean futures slumping to their lowest level in eight weeks because of high stocks and lower exports, the picture appears to be much brighter for growers of specialty soybeans.

An Iowa State University survey found that 8 percent of farmers in the state grew specialty soybeans last year. These niche beans usually receive a premium for farmers over conventional – and increasingly genetically engineered – commodity soybeans.

According to ProgressiveFarmer.com, itheir estimated total production of all special output trait soybeans for Iowa in 1999 was about 26 million bushels, and included clear hilum and tofu soybeans, organic and pesticide free, STS soybeans, and non-biotech soybeans.i

Almost 40 percent of the respondents indicated that they plan to continue planting specialty soybeans.


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Date: 13 Jan 2001 10:42:59 -0600
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

Of course organic food is better

http://cnniw.yellowbrix.com/pages/cnniw/Story.nsp?story_id=17326010&I....

© 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.

LETTERS – Of course organic food is better
Source: The Providence Journal
Publication date: 2001-01-12
Arrival time: 2001-01-13

Commenting on the new U.S. Agriculture Department standards for organic produce in a recent AP article the Journal published (USDA sets standards for organic food, Dec. 21), Lester Crawford, of GeorgetownUniversity, stated that these standards would require a great deal of explanation and a lot of information, and it's going to create a lot of confusion. Why? Because consumers will mistakenly think the organic seal 'means the food is better.'

Of course, the food will be better! The food will be far better for the environment: No more anoxic dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico from fertilizer and manure runoff, no more carcinogenic, noxious chemicals will be poured into the same soil year after year, polluting groundwater and the atmosphere. It will be better tasting: Agribusiness companies grow and engineer plants for better marketability (i.e., color, size and shape), ease of transport, resistance to pests, and cost-efficiency, not for better taste.

In addition, restaurants nationally renowned for their food, such as Chez Panisse in San Francisco and Charlie Trotter's in Chicago, have decided to use organic foods as much as possible, for the greater diversity of species grown organically, and simply because it tastes better.

Organic food is more nutritious: Not only do nonorganic foods have toxic residues and hormones, but numerous studies have shown that chemical fertilizers and other such methods decrease soil fertility, and consequently, dramatically decrease the vitamins and minerals in produce compared with organic food.

Organic farming is better for society: The poorest counties in America are not in depressed cities, but rather in industrial- farming areas in some Southern and midwestern states. Industrial farming traps farmers in a financially devastating cycle of having to buy expensive genetically engineered seed, fertilizers and pesticides, and then selling the crop at low prices to the same conglomerates that sold them the seed and fertilizers. The groundwater that these people drink is typically dangerously contaminated with nitrates (fertilizer residue), herbicides and pesticides.

The only people for whom industrial agriculture is better are the agribusiness and food-processing conglomerates, which make enormous profits off of it. Perhaps what Crawford should have said is that consumers will mistakenly think that this is better for agribusiness and the industrial food manufacturers who make money off of chemically grown produce. They are the people who need to explain themselves.

ALAN DURBIN, Kingston


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Date: 13 Jan 2001 11:00:17 -0600
From: geno@zap.a2000.nl
From: Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin), http://members.tripod.com/~ngin

"This is yet another step on the slippery slope to designer babies ... It is science out of control and at its most irresponsible. People should wake up to the fact that genetic engineering of people could be just around the corner."

– Dr Dave King

"Experimentation on primates is particularly problematic because they are closer to us, because we know they are much more likely to suffer in similar ways to us. We should think extremely deeply before turning the clock back and increasing the number of experiments we sanction on primates."

– Dr Sue Mayer

This could be real handy with the way that Monsanto's genetically engineered cattle drug BST has been shown to up the incidence of pus in milk.

GM cow milk is on the way

Friday 12th January 2001
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_171495.html

A genetically-modified cow could soon be saving the dairy industry millions in cash.

The animal should be resistant to mastitis, an infection of the udder which leads to poor quality milk.

Researchers found and cloned the gene that kills the bacteria and used it in a Jersey cow.

It will be a year before she is mature enough to produce milk which can be tested for the infection.

The breakthrough was made at the University of Vermont. Mastitis costs dairy farmers millions of dollars every year in the US.

Dr John Bramley said the gene has already worked in mice. "Tests show that the animals are perfectly normal, their milk supply is perfectly safe and their offspring grows well," he said.


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Date: 13 Jan 2001 11:00:17 -0600
From: geno@zap.a2000.nl
From: Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin), http://members.tripod.com/~ngin

Cloned buffalo dies

Friday 12th January 2001
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_171293.html

Scientists who cloned an endangered species of buffalo say it has died days after being born. DNA from a rare Asian gaur was put inside the egg of a cow which later gave birth to it.

Scientists say their experiment is a success becasue the buffalo, named Noah, died of an unrelated infection.

Dr Philip Damiani, a researcher at Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts, said: "As a scientist, I am pleased. As a person, however, I am saddened that an animal died.

"In the short period of time Noah was with us, he showed himself to be a vigorous and friendly calf."

According to the BBC experts now think the technique could be used to boost the numbers of endangered species and resurrect recently extinct ones.

But conservationists say the causes of extinction should be tackled before extinct species are cloned.


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Date: 13 Jan 2001 11:00:17 -0600
From: geno@zap.a2000.nl
From: Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin), http://members.tripod.com/~ngin

ANDi, first GM primate. Will humans be next?

By James Meek, science correspondent Friday January 12, 2001

Scientists plant alien gene in monkey for first time

The prospect of genetically modified human beings moved a step closer yesterday with the announcement that scientists had for the first time implanted an alien gene in a monkey, a species closely related to man.

ANDi – "inserted DNA" backwards – a rhesus monkey, carries a gene which makes jellyfish glow green in almost every one of his trillions of natural cells. If he has offspring, they will also carry the gene.

The US researchers who enabled ANDi's birth are not seeking to make GM people. They are trying to create transgenic monkeys which perfectly mimic human diseases, so that ways can be found to cure them.

But rhesus monkeys and humans are so similar – they belong to the same order, the primates – that gene modification success in one is convincing evidence it would work in the other.

"We're not interested in using this technique in humans," said Anthony Chan, of the Oregon Regional Primate Research Centre, where ANDi was born on October 2. "We don't find any reason to do so. But I think there will be a lot of discussion."

Even setting aside the distant prospect of GM people, alarm was already being voiced yesterday about a future increase in experiments on transgenic monkeys.

In ANDi, the jellyfish gene was used as a trial run. "We could just as easily introduce, for example, an Alzheimer's gene, to accelerate the development of a vaccine for that disease," said Dr Chan's colleague Gerald Schatten. "We're at an extraordinary moment in the history of humans."

The easy availability of transgenic mice, modified to mimic human conditions like Alzheimer's disease and obesity, has already led to an increase in the number of animal experiments in Britain.

"Experimentation on primates is particularly problematic because they are closer to us, because we know they are much more likely to suffer in similar ways to us," said Sue Mayer, of GeneWatch UK. "We should think extremely deeply before turning the clock back and increasing the number of experiments we sanction on primates."

Last year the Oregon centre successfully cloned a monkey for the first time.

The birth of ANDi, reported in today's edition of the journal Science, leaves researchers a long way from their goal: to take a primate egg, suppress or remove an inherited gene and insert another gene in exactly the right place.

To create ANDi – who will probably now be patented – the Oregon team took 224 monkey eggs and used a modified virus to carry the jellyfish gene inside each one. The gene was then written into one of the monkey's chromosomes.

A few hours later, the eggs were fertilised with monkey sperm. A little over half developed into full-fledged embryos, and scientists implanted 40 of these in 20 surrogate monkey mothers.

Only three monkey foetuses survived to be born, and the jellyfish gene was detected in only one, christened ANDi. Even in ANDi, the gene does not seem to be producing the chemical it should, since the monkey's hair roots and toenails do not glow under fluorescent light.

Two monkeys which were stillborn did glow, however.

"Efforts to make a fluorescent green monkey are not quite a glowing success – yet," commented Science magazine. "... the cumbersome technique is not likely to lead to transgenic humans, green or otherwise."

Yet scientists point out that ANDi does represent the first evidence that primate eggs can develop normally after genetic manipulation. "Ethics considerations aside, the project might have been easier to achieve in humans, for whom IVF technology is much more advanced," the journal wrote.

Dave King, a campaigner against human genetic engineering, said yesterday: "This is yet another step on the slippery slope to designer babies ... It is science out of control and at its most irresponsible. People should wake up to the fact that genetic engineering of people could be just around the corner."

If a more reliable technique to silence and replace targeted primate genes could be developed, without the huge wastage of eggs involved, some doctors argue that human couples who carry inheritable diseases should be offered the opportunity to have GM babies.

"It all falls into the anti-cloning debate, the slippery slope, the Boys from Brazil – but I think we have to sideline that," said Simon Fishel, head of the IVF clinic at the Park Hospital, Nottingham.

"We've been striving for hundreds of thousands of years to eliminate human diseases. If we get to the stage in human development where the only way to do that is to attack the errors in our blueprint, then we have to try to attack those errors. It doesn't mean attacking God's work.

"I see this as positive research. It just can't be moved into the human dimension until we get, as best we can, a guarantee of the technology."

Dominic Wells, a reader in transgenic biology at Imperial College carrying out research into gene therapy for muscular dystrophy, said of the ANDi work: "This sort of technology would be totally forbidden in humans because of the risk of damaging human genes."

That might not always be the case, he went on. "At the moment, most of us hide behind the fact we couldn't conduct these sorts of techniques with any sort of certainty. If the technology gets to the point where you could, where we have eliminated many of the risks, we would carefully have to consider whether it was ethical or not."

He said the world was caught between trying to restrict research which could have huge medical benefits and allowing transgenic technology to fall into unscrupulous hands.

"Either we risk delaying medically important technologies, or we risk entering Brave New World," he said.

Dr Mayer argued that interfering in human DNA at the egg stage would never be acceptable. "You would be experimenting on babies and the mothers who carry them.

"All the animal work that goes on at the moment involves huge failure rates and huge suffering. I don't think we could even contemplate that with babies. The downside might not come out in the first generation but in the second or later."


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Date: 13 Jan 2001 12:36:30 -0600
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

I won't bother with trying to convince the CONVERTED.
Jim Mc Nulty

But if it were not for the Internet it would be impossible for any other medium to monitor the worldwide arrival, of what is one of the greatest ethical issues of our time. Net heads for sure have a view on GM foods.

Fuelling the fire – How the Net has driven the GM food debate

By Drew Smith http://www.organicts.com/newsnow
Copyright (c) 2001 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

The web is a valuable resource in providing information to a mass global audience, and as Drew Smith argues its role has been crucial in airing the real issues in the GM food debate.

Two respected, but not widely known scientists from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), threw another spanner in the works of the great GM food debate in the days leading up to Christmas. Genetic engineering and selective breeding may not have the same long-term effects, they argued. Though published in an obscure but respected journal, normally read by thousands, the story subsequently found itself on the Net and has been picked up by millions.

In the early days of the Net, publishers were busying grabbing GM stories for their publications because they knew it would boost the hit rates of their web sites. Without the Internet the GM war would in all probability be done and dusted by now. The Internet afforded small groups the chance to take on corporations and mobilise forces, and also to carry out research in areas they might not have researched before. Most importantly, the Internet facilitated communication.

It was only after the event that US citizens discovered that 60 per cent of their diet had been infiltrated by GM foods. The same applies to the Australian diet. Writing in the journal `Science', Mr LL Wolfenbarger and Mr PR Phifer said: "As more economically useful and health-related genes are identified and isolated, it appears that the variety of genetically engineered organisms will increase dramatically. This increase may collectively represent an environmental risk.

"The quality of modifications and modified products may also differ from those available through selective breeding. Traditional breeding is limited by the available genetic variability in the target organism or its relatives. The great potential, as well as risk, of genetic engineering is that it removes those limits." Mr Wolfenbarger and Mr Phifer concluded that risk management needed to be re-assessed. And for any food manufacturer or retailer, risk management means business management. It is comic to read in newspapers of protesters running amok in a field of GM corn in Scotland, when more sophisticated protesters are using the Internet to launch Excocet missiles at company share prices and swapping outrageously scandalous attacks on corporate giants.

The Internet is after all interactive, in a way that television and the press are not. Across the globe, stories crackle down the electronic wires. Opinions vary widely from country to country. In New Zealand there are increasing fears of up and coming trade embargoes being imposed on the back of perceived infiltration of GM crops. In Kenya the mood is bullish with meetings organised by the US trade delegation and speakers talking of poverty and starvation being more important than environmental concerns.

The GM sweet potato has just had its first harvest. It is said yields are up by 60 per cent because of pest resistance. In Iowa it is said that GM corn is responsible for wiping out the state population of butterflies. In the US it has become the ethical issue of the hour. In South America with the coffee plantations in disarray, the future of the rain forests is an environmental issue in which the GM tree is portrayed either as a miracle saviour or the death forest. And all the while technological advances seep out. Toyota is allegedly investing in GM trees. In Israel it is claimed GM poplar trees can grow so fast, they could counteract global warming.

And the US $400 bn wood pulping business is already concerned that it will not be able to meet demand in the next decade without GM help. GM grass that can be any colour you want is on its way to garden centres. From the laboratory, meanwhile, come rumours of tomatoes that can fight cancer and beans that won't give you wind (although there is a non GM bean grown on the Isle of Wight that can do that anyway). Monsanto is trying to give away its so called Golden Rice, which is enriched with vitamin A, as a weapon against third world poverty or colonisation of the paddy fields depending on your perspective.

Not all of this information is necessarily true. Genetically modified foods will be the number one issue for ethical investors in North America next year, according to a new survey of 350 account managers at the First Affirmative Financial Network. I have no way of verifying whether that story is true or not, or even who the First Affirmative Financial Network might be or where they live, but the story is carried quite happily on a news feed from an organic web site, to people who are unlikely to be too much in favour of genetic modification of anything. The myth grows.

Researchers looking at how Starlink corn got into taco chips, leading to major withdrawals in the US in September are still unsure if people really were allergic or were just reacting emotionally to stories they had read that the Cry9C allergen it contained, just might possibly not work its way through the human digestive tract as quickly as had been claimed.

(The writer is a member of just-food.com's editorial team) On the same day came the news of a contrite press conference from GM pioneer Monsanto, promising that in the future it would act honourably and listen to concerns. It had acted arrogantly it admitted in its enthusiasm for this scientific breakthrough. It could not help itself. More humble its new chief executive Heinrich Verfaillie, could not have been as he announced his new five point charter and to terminate the research in so called terminator gene stocks.Elsewhere, Monsanto executives were happily announcing the arrival of the GM potato and the GM rice grain in India. "Sweet, isn't it?," replied a spokesman from the environmental pressure group `Friends of the Earth' which seems to have a full time press office available for a quote against any story doing the electronic rounds. "Here's a company with its back to the wall and its technology going down the tube. We welcome its pledges but it must face up to the fact that people do not want its food."

If Monsanto executives wanted to listen, all they would have to do is send out a spider on the net and the concerns are there from New Zealand to Nagasaki. I am quoting from a single hour's snapshots: Bakers say no risks from GM foods; protesters halt GM shipment; Japanese develop GM crops tracking device; labelling would not have affected recalls of GM crops. A few hours later they will be replaced with another set of stories charting the exponential growth in debate and development around the globe.

This is a debate of speed and complexity. And of course, its being broadcast on the Internet means there is no clear line or decision, just a rampant wild argument in which neither side is really listening to the other. But if it were not for the Internet it would be impossible for any other medium to monitor the worldwide arrival, of what is one of the greatest ethical issues of our time. Net heads for sure have a view on GM foods.

Any food manufacturer or retailer that embarks on a plan to use GM foods, is going to find an organised and vociferous opposition ready in waiting and able to manipulate the Internet with vicious tools, particular in attacks on share prices and through board meetings. But on the other hand the forces at work are so ambitious for GM foods, that transparently they are hoping we as consumers will all get bored with the subject and let these invisible substances into our diet.

Politicians it must be said are conspicuously absent from the discussion, except that is of course for Bill Clinton who has been a major advocate in his presidency. Or perhaps the industry is just waiting for the one GM crop that might turn the tide of public opinion. For the moment GM crops need to carry another health warning: " Beware may contain substances that can damage your brand."


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Date: 13 Jan 2001 18:48:51 -0600
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

Three Steps to Commerce

http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,41171,00.html?tw=wn200101....

Gene Gives Clues to Melanoma (Technology Friday)

Researchers say the presence of one gene determines whether or not skin cancer will spread in people with tumors.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Step One: you find one gene you can blame
Step Two: you hint you'll fix its workings
Step Three: you hype it grotesquely
Now that sure
Seems like com- Merce to me

(with apologies to Eddie Cochran)

R

--------------------
Robt Mann
Mulgoon Professor emeritus of Environmental Studies, U of Auckland consultant stirrer & motorcyclist
P O Box 28878, Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand (9) 524 2949


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Date: 14 Jan 2001 21:21:09 -0600
From: MichaelP papadop@peak.org

Monsanto testing GM wheat

By Steve Connor, Science Editor, INDEPENDENT (London) 15 January 2001

Farm trials have begun for the world's first genetically modified wheat, which means the first GM loaf of bread could be on supermarket shelves within three years.

The GM wheat is under development by the American agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto, which intends to market it aggressively in the face of stiff opposition from environmentalists and the organic food industry. However, any attempt to sell American-grown GM wheat in Europe could reignite the simmering trade war between the Europeans and Americans over biotechnology and food.

The advent of GM wheat is likely to become one of the most controversial issues in global agricultural. It is almost certain to generate intense protests from consumer groups opposed to what they see as unwarranted interference in farming and food production.

Bread is a staple item in Europe and, unlike maize or soya, the advent of the GM loaf will have a resonance with consumers who may not otherwise worry about GM cereals destined for animal feed or specialised products such as tortilla chips.

Monsanto says that the technology it has developed for wheat – a genetically complex plant – is more or less complete and that it is now awaiting the necessary regulatory approval from authorities in the US so that American farmers can begin to grow their first GM wheat crop as early as 2003.

Mark Buckingham, a spokesman for Monsanto's headquarters in St Louis, Missouri, said: "Trials are taking place in North and South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota. We're working with existing US wheat breeders, particularly the universities in those states.

"We need a certain number of trials to achieve registration from the US Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We are looking at yield, disease susceptibility and weed control. We are also lookingat environmental impact, which is an important part of getting registration."

The US Food and Drug Administration is also following the farm trials closely, sensitive to the potential ramifications of any problems in a crop used for making a staple food item. A senior official in the US Department of Agriculture said the ubiquity of wheat was "one of the reasons why the industry is being very careful of this technology".

The first GM wheat will be a spring-sown variety engineered to include a gene for conferring resistance to Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller. It hopes to sell the wheat alongside the herbicide so that farmers can control weeds more efficiently.

Mr Buckingham said Monsanto would initially market the wheat in America and last month applied for the first part of the necessary product registration. Attempts to sell the wheat in Europe could, however, be blocked by European demands for GM products to be clearly labelled, which the US government is opposing.

American wheat exporters might find it difficult to convince Europe that its cereal crop is "GM free" if a GM wheat variety is widely grown on American soil.

Mr Buckingham said Monsanto was setting up a plan where wheat growers in America could ensure the grain harvested from GM varieties was kept separate from conventional breeds. "Our proposal is to launch it initially with a controlled marketing programme, with some form of traceability in place to ensure that buyers who express a preference for a minimum GM content can get that," he said.

However, similar plans to keep GM maize separate from conventionally bred maize have failed. Environmentalists demonstrated last year that a GM variety called Starlink, which was supposed to be used only for animal feed, ended up in tortilla chips sold in American supermarkets.

======================

*** NOTICE: 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 the included information for research and educational purposes. Feel free to distribute widely but PLEASE acknowledge the source. ***


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Date: 15 Jan 2001 05:38:29 -0600
From: RBBAX@aol.com
Originated from: nlpwessex@bigfoot.com (NLP Wessex)
Via: owner-food@foe.co.uk

Please circulate widely (we need to oppose this one)

Thanks.

Ron

DuPont slips in GM plastic when nobody's looking

Both Monsanto and Aventis have been on the receiving end of the brunt of anti-GM campaigns in global agriculture and their share price histories show it. The time may now be approaching where DuPont needs to get more attention.

As will be seen from the article below DuPont are now producing plastics from GM crops. Although the report from Farmers Weekly seems a little muddled it appears that DuPont began commercial production of its new plastic called 'Sorona' in October 2000 – with eventual plans to produce 50,000 tons per year. The article points out that DuPont and 'several others' use GM plants in plastic production.

According to Farmers Weekly 'Sorona' is a plant-derived polymer – although which plant it doesn't say. The technology 'involves inserting four genes taken from various species of bacteria and yeast into industrial strains of E Coli'. The resulting plastic is not biodegradable.

This situation appears to be in remarkable contrast to the main feature of the article, a plastic made from maize by Cargill Dow. This plastic is made from non-GM maize and is biodegradable, despite appearing to be remarkably versatile in its applications. It acts as substitute for nylon, polypropylene, polythene, polystyrene and cellophane. It appears to be durable and stable and yet can be composted. Cargill Dow have previously confirmed that no 'biotechnology' is used in the process. Surely this is more the direction DuPont ought also to be going? Surely it's time to start giving DuPont a hard time?

'Sorona? – Sorry, no.'

For more on the Cargill Dow initiative and GM industrial crop issues see: http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/gmindust.htm

Don't let anyone ever tell you that we need GMOs for sustainable development. It's just untrue.

NATURAL LAW PARTY WESSEX
nlpwessex@bigfoot.com    http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 15 Jan 2001 05:38:29 -0600
From: RBBAX@aol.com
Originated from: nlpwessex@bigfoot.com (NLP Wessex)
Via: owner-food@foe.co.uk

A Bright Future for Crops Converted into Plastic?

Farmers Weekly 12 January 2000

Sections:
What type of plastic is it?
Is this a new process?
What will it be used for?
A new agricultural industry?
Who else is involved?

Making plastic from maize, once a pipedream, is now a growing business in the US. Brendan James looks at what could be an important new use for the crop

THERE would seem to be little connection between farmers of the American Mid-West and petrochemical plastics factories burning precious reserves of fossil fuel. But what if their vast, rolling fields of corn had granules of plastic forming in the stalks and leaves?

For farmers like Brian Peterson, a Western Iowa corn grower, this is a far from academic question.. Mr Peterson farms near Mondamin in Harrison County, 30 miles from the wet milling plant of agricultural giant Cargill. It is also the site of Cargill Dow's $300m (£200m) plastic manufacturing facility that will be taking l000t of maize a day by the end of 2001.

"This is something farmers havebeen waiting for," says Kevin Swanson, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. "It represents a new market and a variety of new, high-tech products."

The effects will not, however, be limite to American corn growers. Cargill Dow is developing the technology to use annually renewable agricultural waste and other crops such as wheat, and sugar beet. It has also announced plans to open a similar facility in Europe within the next two years.

What type of plastic is it?

Cargill Dow, a 50/50 joint venture between Cargill Inc and the Dow Chemical Co, owns the most successful process. Currently Cargill Dow is manufacturing 6000- 8000t/yr of corn-derived plastics (PLA) at its plant near Minneapolis, but con- struction has started on a new $300m (£200m) 140,000t/yr plant in Blair, Nebraska. This will begin production by the end of 2001 and produce NatureWorks PLA, a polylactide polymer for worldwide sale.

"PLA is not just one plastic – it's a whole range that matches petroleum-based plastics on cost and performance," says Randy Howard, president of Cargill Dow. "It competes head-on with nylon, polypropylene, polyethylene, poly- styrene, and cellophane, as well as natural materials such as wool, cotton, and paper. Also, NatureWorks PLA is fully biodegradable when composted, and because the raw materials come from renewable sources it reduces consumption of fossil fuels by 30-50%.

Is this a new process?

PLA is the result of only 15 years research started by Cargill Inc and is reckoned to be a big achievement for a specialist grain trader with fermentation and distillation expertise. However, as an agricultural firm, Cargill had taken it as far as it could by 1997. The company needed an associate with access to chemical markets and polymerisation capabilities, and Dow Chemicals was the ideal partner.

PLA production starts with the fermentation of corn sugar which turns it into lactic acid. Condensation is then used to turn the lactic acid into short-chain polylactic acid which is turned into lactic by the vacuum distillation process. The final stage, called ring-opening polymerisation, then creates the final product.

What will it be used for?

By January 2000 two firms, Fibre Innovations Technology and Unifi, were already producing fibres and yarns from Nature- Works PLA. They are now developing new products with industry brand leaders such as Woolmark and several well-known sports wear companies.

Cargill Dow believes that it is the application advantages of PLA, rather than its environmental benefits, that will let it compete with conventional plastics. It is apparently soft and wrinkle resistant and when used in clothing drapes well. Used in carpeting, it has low flamability and excellent UV stability. In packaging, it offers outstanding gloss, a good printing surfface and resistance to moisture and grease.

Importantly, Cargill Dow's long term vision for PLA takes the process even further. "We may eventually go all the way from taking in local corn supplies to producing finished goods in the same location," says Gruber. "It is also conceivable that we could set up the whole process as a closed loop, in which we bring in the biomass, extract the sugar, and burn the rest as fuel to reduce dependency on imported hydrocarbons.

A new agricultural industry?

Clearly, harvesting the carbon which plants remove from the air to produce plastics from natural plant sugars is no longer just a vision. It is something that Cargill Dow and their closest rivals Du Pont already do on a global scale.

Cargill Dow uses maize that is not genetically modified, while Du Pont and several others use GM plants. One experimental process actually produces plastic granules in leaves and stalks within the plant itself, converting plant sugars to polymers during growth. Many researchers see this as the most efficient, and most elegant, way to make plastics from renewable resources. Developed first by ICI, then Monsanto, it was used to manufacture packaging for niche markets in the nineties but lack of funds and opposition by environmental groups has halted development.

Who else is involved?

Though commercially some way behind Cargill Dow, Du Pont has recently announced its intention to market a plant-derived polymer under the brand name Sorona. The technology involves inserting four genes taken from various species of bacteria and yeast into industrial strains of E Coli.

Unlike PLA, Sorona in its commercial form is not biodegradable.It is, however, recyclable, easily dyed, and stain resistant. It can also be stretched up to 15% while retaining its original shape and can be used in polyurethane and synthetic leather when mixed with other acids.

Du Pont began commercial production of Sorona in October 2000. Initial production will be 12,000t a year with the ability to expand to 50,000t a year. Manufacturing agreements are also in place with Du Pont's Dacron polyester businesses in Europe, the US, Korea, and Japan.

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

"Of all the technologies now in use, genetic engineering is especially dangerous because of the threat of unexpected, harmful side effects that cannot be reversed or corrected, but will afflict all future generations. The side effects caused by genetic manipulations are not just long-term. They are permanent".

- Dr J. Fagan. Award-winning molecular biologist and author of Genetic Engineering: The Dangers.


Top PreviousFront Page

Date: 15 Jan 2001 13:28:18 -0600
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

Conflict looms over EU plans to label GE Foods Imports

Source: The Independent – London 2001-01-15

IN A CLIMATE of growing concern over food safety, the European Union is preparing to toughen its rules on genetically modified foods.

And unless the American food biotechnology company Monsanto goes through a stringent EU process of licensing, labelling and traceability, Brussels will prevent its GM wheat being imported.

Few subjects are more sensitive than food safety in Europe, where recent scares over mad cow disease and dioxin have panicked consumers.

For at least two years there has, in effect, been a moratorium on the licensing of any new genetically modified organisms (GMO) for release into the environment, leaving some 18 applications in the pending tray. In theory this will change by Easter when the revised directive 90/220 should be in place, imposing tougher conditions and a new regime to continue monitoring GM foods once they come on to the market. Under this system new "risk assessment" rules will be introduced to monitor scientific evidence.

All new GM plants and seeds approved for sale will have to apply for reapproval after 10 years, scrapping the permanent consent currently available. Any company wanting to export to the EU will need to comply, even if they are based in the United States. The new directive will not be the end of the regulations that Monsanto will have to match to sell genetically modified wheat. One of these is a directive to ensure "traceability" – ensuring that any product deemed to be out of step with European rules could be withdrawn. It will also ensure that food made from GM products can be identified.

More measures will enshrine rules on labelling, in effect ensuring that any product containing more than 1 per cent of GM materials will have to be labelled. This has already proved controversial in America,where producers of soya argue that crops inevitably get mixed up.

But a Brussels official said: "Food is not supposed to come into Europe unless it is labelled. If you send in soya which is conventionally grown, and it is partially contaminated, it is breaking the current legislation. It is possible to test for GM contamination and we have checks."

Groups such as Greenpeace are pressing for limits lower than 1 per cent , including zero tolerance of any trace of GMO substances that have not been licensed in the EU. A spokesman for the Greenpeace European unit said: "For American farmers it is better economic and market choice, if they want to export to Europe, not to produce GM food. European consumers do not even want meat produced from animals fed on GM feed."

Officials in Brussels say that if production of GM wheat goes ahead in America it could provoke a bitter transatlantic dispute. "It has been looming for years," said one.

Publication date: 2001-01-15 © 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.