Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

30 January 2001

Table of Contents

Several activities of EU Commission planned for GM policies
De-facto-Moratorium for GM plants in EU at least until middle of 2001
EU Scientific panel gives opinion regarding Austria's ban of GM maize
Austria demands labelling of animal feed
Swiss University applies for GM trial
Norway denies approval for 3 GM products
Canadian state achieves immense reduction in pesticide use
StarLink in the Japanese food chain
Taiwan gives in to industry pressure and delays mandatory labelling
Regulatory chaos in Russian oversight of GE activities
The end of Brazil being GM-free?
Columbia puts first legal GM-crop in ground
GM plantings in 2000
Comprehensive study shows immense deficiencies in GM safety studies
GM potatoes have negative effects on soil bacteria
Bt-toxin from GM maize released into the soil
Slow development of soybean looper larvae on Bt cotton
Cotton bollworm resistant to Bt-cotton in China
Glyphosate application has negative effects on soil microorganisms
Again pesticides connected to Parkinson's disease
Monsanto takes over South-African seed company
Dole offering organic bananas
Increase for Canadian organic farming industry in future?
German hotel chain using organic food
USAID biotech in Africa
Madagascar – 2001 Year of alternatives to GM
NYT: Biotechnology Food: From the Lab to a Debacle
Article: Bush and Monsanto
Genetic Cow For RBGH Use
Americans wake up to threat of mad cow disease

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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

The current issue of the Genetic Engineering Newsletter Genetic Engineering Newsletter 18 January 2001

Coordinator: Biowatch South Africa
Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss
Tel : +27 22 492 3426
Fax : +27 22 492 3426

supported by Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft, Gerling-Foundation, Triodos-Stichting, Mahle-Foundation and Hatzfeld Foundation

You can order it as e-mail (mail to listserv@oeko.de, NO subject, text: subscribe gen-news-en@oeko.de.

Several activities of EU Commission planned for GM policies

The European Commission will put two main new proposals concerning EU GM regulation during the first half of 2001: A new horizontal instrument requiring traceability both for GMOs and for derivatives, plus labelling for all GMOs. This proposal is promised as early as February. The other main proposal will deal with labelling requirements for foods, covering both GMOs and ingredients "directly derived", mainly based on traceability. Furthermore, the Commission announced to work out several follow-up proposals, such as Novel Feed, GM seed rules, traceability guidelines under new 90/220, traceability requirements for seeds, a revision of Novel Food regulation in light of new labelling scheme presumably and a revision of maize/soya labelling scheme (GENET, Peter Einarsson, 21.12.2000).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

De-facto-Moratorium for GM plants in EU at least until middle of 2001

The European Union will not lift an effective ban on new genetically modified organisms until well into 2001, Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said. The 15-nation EU agreed a new law on the procedure for allowing new GMOs to be sold, but Wallstrom said national governments wanted to wait for further legal proposals before even thinking about lifting the 18 month-old moratorium. At the demand of national governments, the Commission is drafting additional legislation on labelling and tracing the supply of GMOs and on making companies liable for any damage their products might cause to the environment which should be published in the coming months (Reuters News, 20.12.2000, cited from GENET 6-Regulation, 29.12.2000).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

EU Scientific panel gives opinion regarding Austria's ban of GM maize

In May 2000, Austrian authorities invoked Article 16 of Directive 90/220/EEC and prohibited the marketing of genetically modified maize line T25 notified by Aventis CropScience. Austria took the decision on the grounds that the maize lineT25 had not been examined under realistic conditions of use of glufosinate and that neither the notification seeking approval nor the Commission decision foresaw a monitoring programme. The lack of a monitoring programme is seen by the Austrian authorities as important in regard to the protection of sensitive areas and furthermore regional ecological aspects were not differentiated. Recently the Scientific Committee on Plants has examined the information submitted by the Austrian authorities and concluded that it does not provide new scientific information to change the original risk assessment (GENET, 21.12.2000, http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/sc/scp/out85_gmo_en.html.


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Austria demands labelling of animal feed

Austria's Agriculture Ministry confirmed that the country is seeking a new EU-wide rule compelling animal feed containing genetically modified ingredients to be labelled as GM product. Background is the likely rise in soya imports after the EU's ban on animal ingredients in feed, in turn imposed to combat the mad cow disease BSE. The Austrian Agriculture Minister has told the Swedish government, currently holding the presidency of the EU, that Austria wants such a rule placed on the Agenda of the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers in the first half of 2001 (BridgeNews 03.01.2001, cited from GENET, Gill Lacroix, 04.01.2001).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Swiss University applies for GM trial

The Swiss Technical University of Zurich (ETH) applied for a trial with genetically modified wheat. In spring 1999 two applications for GM crop trials were rejected by the Swiss Ministry for Environment, Forestry and Landscape keeping Swiss fields GM-free. Now the ETH is trying again to get approval for GM-field trial. The genetically modified wheat which is supposed to be released has been engineered being resistant to a certain fungal disease. One of the inserted genes gives resistance to the broadly used antibiotic ampicillin (Greenpeace Germany, 10.01.2001, http://www.greenpeace.de/GP_DOK_3P/STRUKTUR/E.HTM ).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Norway denies approval for 3 GM products

Norway has refused to approve three genetically modified products which have been approved by the EU. The products concerned are two types of rapeseed oil and a test material to find out if milk contains antibiotics (Just-Food.com, 03.01.2001, cited from AGNET mail out 03.01.2001 II).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Canadian state achieves immense reduction in pesticide use

Pesticide use in Ontario is down by 40 percent since the government launched a reduction program in 1987. This happened while the trends were going in the reverse direction in the US, where pesticide use increased by more than 10 percent between 1992 and 1997. Much of the progress since 1987 comes from the corn industry which stopped using expensive and risky insecticides when researchers learned that rotating fields between corn and soybeans worked well (K-W Record, 26.12.2000, cited from AGNET mail out, 26.12.2000).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

StarLink in the Japanese food chain

The Japanese Health and Welfare Ministry confirmed that StarLink corn banned for consumption in Japan has been mixed with corn used for brewing beer and making processed foods. Officials estimate around 28.000 tons of 38.000 tons of corn imported from the United States were blended with StarLink variety (Kyodo News, 27.12.2000, cited from AGNET mail out, 28.12.2000).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Taiwan gives in to industry pressure and delays mandatory labelling

Taiwan's health department said the country had reached an agreement to give food manufacturers a grace period of up to four years before requiring products made from GMOs to be labelled, in response to mounting calls from the industry, which has complained about an earlier plan to impose labelling in 2001. The mandatory labelling on GMO foods will be implemented in three stages with raw corn and soybean products to be labelled by as early as 2003. A thorough labelling of processed GMO corn and soybean products will be postponed until 2005 (Reuters News, 26.12.2000, cited from AGNET mail out 26.12.2000).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Regulatory chaos in Russian oversight of GE activities

Environmental organisations revealed that field trials of GE crops are taking place throughout Russia and GE foods are being approved for human consumption, in the absence of any procedures. The report reveals that at least 18 notifications for deliberate release of GMOs, including field trials and processing/consumption have been granted. Monsanto leads with 8 notifications for deliberate release of potatoes resistant to Colorado beetle, which are being tested in 18 regions of Russia, herbicide tolerant soybeans, maize and sugar beet (SEU Press release, 29.11.2000, cited from AGNET mails out 22.12.2000 II).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

The end of Brazil being GM-free?

Monsanto said it hopes it will be able to sell GM seeds to Brazilian soybean farmers in time for the next planting season. A new law published at the end of December will likely put an end to a two-year-old legal battle that has kept the company from selling its Roundup Ready soybean seeds in Brazil. The law signed by President Cardoso takes effect immediately but requires future congressional approval (Dow Jones 02.01.2001, cited from AGNET mail out 03.01.2001 II).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Columbia puts first legal GM-crop in ground

Columbia's Biosafety Council has granted its first permit for planting a genetically modified crop in the ground. The permit went to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and the crop is rice, engineered for resistance to "hoja blance" (white leaf), an endemic virus. According to the head of the Council, the next of nine applications before the body may be Monsanto's Bt cotton, pending a preliminary survey of insects in the suggested field trial area (Information Systems for Biotechnology 04.12.2000, cited from GENET 2-Plants 17.12.2000).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

GM plantings in 2000

The estimated global area of transgenic crops for 2000 is 44.2 million hectares. The increase in area of transgenic crops between 1999 and 2000 is 11%. During the five-year period 1996 (the first commercial planting of GMOs) to 2000, the number of countries growing transgenic crops increased from 6 to 13. In 2000, four countries grew 99% of the global transgenic crop area.

GM plantings by country :

The USA grew 30.3 million ha, followed by Argentina with 10 million ha, Canada with 3 million ha and China 0.5 million ha. A significant increase of up to 100.000 ha of transgenic crop is reported in South-Africa. The other countries growing GMOs were (in alphabetical order): Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Mexico, Rumania, Spain and Uruguay.

GM plantings by crops :

Globally transgenic soy occupied 25.8 million ha in 2000, with transgenic corn in second place at 10.3 million ha, transgenic cotton in third place at 5.3 million ha and canola at 2.8 million ha.

GM plantings by trait :

In 2000, herbicide tolerance occupied 74% of the 44.2 million ha, with 8.3 million ha planted to Bt crops, equivalent to 19% and stacked genes for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance occupied 7% of the global transgenic area (ISAAA, December 2000, www.isaaa.org).
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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Comprehensive study shows immense deficiencies in GM safety studies

In a first comprehensive review of the published scientific data regarding genetically modified crops, researchers have reported that simple conclusions cannot yet be drawn because the crucial studies have not been done. For this review, the researchers examined only studies that other scientists had determined were of high-enough quality to merit publication. The researchers found that while GM crops hold potential for both risk and benefit, scientists still know little about the likelihood even of the environmental threats of greatest concern.

Also, almost no studies have been published documenting ecological benefits. In their study, in which they call for new research, the authors say current data indicate that assessing ecological risk is likely to be complex, with risk varying among crops, even among strains of a single crop, between environments and over time. Some risk, they say, may be so difficult and time consuming to assess to be effectively unknowable (Wolfenbarger and Phifer, 2000, Science 290).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

GM potatoes have negative effects on soil bacteria

A study undertaken at the Max Planck Institute for Soil Microbiology in Marburg, Germany has revealed that the planting of genetically modified potatoes result in changes to the bacterial communities in soil. The findings are an early indicator of the need for extensive research on the long term consequences of these changes in soil bacterial communities and their implication for biodiversity (FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 2000, 32.241-247).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Bt-toxin from GM maize released into the soil

Scientists showed that Bt corn released the insecticidal Bt toxin into root exudates from the transgenic corn during 40 days of growth in soil in a plant growth room and from Bt corn plants grown to maturity in the field. The presence of the toxin in rhizosphere soil was determined by immunological and larvicidal assays. No toxin was detected in any soils from isogenic non-Bt corn or without plants.

Persistence of the toxin was apparently the result of its binding on surface active particels on the soils, which reduced the biodegradation of the toxin. The release of the toxin could enhance the control of insect pests or constitute an hazard to nontarget organisms, including the microbiota of soil and increase the selection of toxin-resistant target insects (Saxena et al. 2001, FEMS Microbiology Ecology 33, 35-39).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Slow development of soybean looper larvae on Bt cotton

In 1998, soybean looper larvae from the Mississippi Delta were collected from Bt and non-Bt cotton to determine the numbers of loopers in each cultivar and also to compare the rate of larval development on the two cotton cultivars. There were significantly fewer larvae collected from Bt cotton than non-Bt cotton and the weights of these larvae were, on average, an order of magnitude smaller than larvae collected from non-Bt cotton. There was also an order of magnitude difference among the weights of larvae collected from Bt cotton, indicating considerable variability in the tolerance of the Bt toxin (Sumerford et al., Florida Entomologist 83, 354-357).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Cotton bollworm resistant to Bt-cotton in China

According to experts and the National Cotton Council of America (NCCA) it has been reported that cotton bollworm have developed resistance to Bt in two provinces in China. The study suggests that the populations of cotton bollworm were resistant to both Bt and transgenic cotton expressing the Bt toxin. According to NCCA, the risk of development of resistance in Bt cotton crops is probably greater than that for Bt pesticide formulations due to continuos and extensive expression of the delta-endotoxin in the plant tissue (International Cotton Advisory Committee November 2000, cited from GENET 2-Plants, 05.01.2001).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Glyphosate application has negative effects on soil microorganisms

A four year study by the University of Missouri researchers has found that Roundup herbicide applications change the microbial composition of soil in the field. They observed increases in fungi on the roots and in the soil around the roots of soybeans plants with potential implications in future management. RR (Roundup Ready) soybeans receiving glyphosate at recommended rates had significantly higher incidence of Fusarium on roots within one week of application compared with soybeans that did not receive glyphosate. Fusarium fungi are almost always found in soybean fields, but at elevated levels some can become pathogenic on susceptible plants and lead to lost yields through such diseases as sudden death syndrome and other root rots (University of Missouri, 21.12.2000,

http://agebb.missouri.edu/news/queries/showarc.idc?story_num-7andiln=.....


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Again pesticides connected to Parkinson's disease

Researchers reported that exposure to a mix of two crop-treating chemicals widely used in farming has been linked to Parkinson's disease. The laboratory mice injected with the twin combination of the herbicide Paraquat and the fungicide Maneb showed brain damage identical to humans suffering from Parkinson's. The study found that farmers, rural dwellers and people who drink well water were also more likely to die of Parkinson's disease than people who do not (Agence France Press 04.01.2001, cited from AGNET mail out 04.01.2001).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Monsanto takes over South-African seed company

South-African agricultural business Sensako became a wholly owned subsidiary of Monsanto, which runs a $66 million business in SA, 40% of which is crop chemicals, 47% seed sales and the remainder, biotechnology. Monsanto bought out a remaining 49% shareholding in Sensako for an undisclosed amount after the US-listed company obtained a majority shareholding in Sensako last year. Monsanto has operations in another 28 African countries (Business Day South Africa, 14.12.2000, cited from GENET 7-Business News 19.12.2000).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Dole offering organic bananas

Dole will begin offering certified organic bananas to consumers beginning this month. For several years, Dole has been conducting research into the production of organic bananas. The organic bananas will be grown in Ecuador and Honduras on farms that have been certified by US-based certification agencies and inspected by the Independent Organic Inspectors Association to ensure organic integrity. Initially the bananas will be available to the US West Coast consumers. Over the following months, the programme will be expanded to offer the new organic bananas to all of North America (Institute of Food Technologists 04.01.2001, cited from AGNET mail out 05.01.2001).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

Increase for Canadian organic farming industry in future?

The organic industry in Canada expected to get a big boost next fall when the largest health food chain in the USA makes its debut in Toronto. Along with Loblaws' slow move into organics throughout 2001, the organic industry will have the critical mass it needs to move beyond its roots (The Toronto Star, 28.12.2000, cited from AGNET mail out 28.12.2000).


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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:23:43 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: Genetic Engineering Newsletter No 18, January 2001

German hotel chain using organic food

The hotel-chain "Radission SAS" is the first partner of the German organic farming organisation "Bioland" and their catering-concept which aims at increasing the use of organic food in restaurants and other large kitchens. Advice and training of staff, finding of suppliers and use of advertisement material are part of the concept. Through this cooperation, 13 top class hotels will offer dishes with organic food products on their menu @grar.de Aktuell, 02.01.2001).

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Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001 09:37:09 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: "taynton" taynton@cdrive.co.za
From: "Steve Suppan" ssuppan@iatp.org

USAID biotech in Africa

© Copyright 2001, The Miller Publishing Company, a company of Rural Press Ltd.

USAID launches biotechnology initiatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with U.S. research groups and African organizations, has launched a series of initiatives to use the benefits of agricultural biotechnology throughout Africa to enhance food safety and security.

The initiatives include a regional biotechnology and biosafety program in East and Central Africa, biosafety regulatory training in southern Africa, public awareness of biotechnology through the region, development and distribution of livestock vaccines developed from biotechnology and testing of genetically engineered crops in Kenya and South Africa, a USAID official said.

According the official, the multidimensional approach to food security problems is aimed at developing collaborative links between U.S. and African public and private organizations, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations.

"A lot of USAID's strategy in agricultural research, more generally, has focused on collaborative technology development and training of developing countries' scientists," she said.

USAID is working with the Association to Strengthen Agricultural Research in East & Central Africa (ASARECA) in a collaborative research effort between African, U.S. public and private sectors, international agricultural research centers and other research institutions, USAID said. USAID's Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program (ABSP), managed by Michigan State University, is providing research support to ASARECA to develop and implement the regional program.

ASARECA, an organization of national agricultural and research institutions, includes Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

ASARECA aims to develop and promote the transfer of agricultural biotechnology applications and has initiated a program to develop and harmonize biosafety regulations at the regional level. A regional approach, USAID said, would streamline regulatory approvals and promotes technology transfer and private sector investment in biotechnology in Africa.

USAID's support to ASARECA is broader than just biotechnology. It includes agricultural research, seed policy, and food industry development, USAID said. USAID is currently working mostly at the regional level.

USAID's ABSP has established a partnership with seven Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries – Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe – to initiate a program to provide technical training in biosafety regulatory implementation. It will strengthen science-based regulation of biotechnology in the SADC region, as well as promote conformity with the science-based standards of the World Trade Organization's Sanitary & Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, USAID said.


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Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 12:45:44 +0200
From: BIOWATCH: "taynton" taynton@cdrive.co.za

Madagascar – 2001 Year of alternatives to GM

By JOHN MADELEY, Financial Times; Jan 23, 2001, COMMODITIES & AGRICULTURE

Madagascar rice trials lead to agricultural revolution: New methods break with centuries of tradition.

When small farmers in Madagascar employed a new way of growing rice in the late 1980s, the results were so startling that agricultural scientists could hardly believe they were possible.

Yields of about two tonnes per hectare had shot up to about 8-10 tonnes per hectare, without chemical fertilisers, pesticides or expensive seed varieties, and by breaking some of the conventional "rules" of rice management.

For years the new technique, known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), was virtually ignored. The system was developed in Madagascar by an agronomist priest, Henri de Laudani, working with a small farmers group, Association Tefy Saina.

Last week a representative of the group, Sebastin Rafaralahy, presented its work to a conference in London, "Reducing Poverty though Sustainable Agriculture", organised by the University of Essex together with the Department for International Development.

Traditionally, rice is transplanted into fields at about eight weeks, said Mr Rafaralahy, when the plant is strong and likely to survive, and three or more seedlings are planted in clumps in the hope that one will fully mature. But with SRI, seedlings are transplanted at about six days and planted individually, enabling farmers to use less seed.

For thousands of years lowland rice has been grown under flooded conditions to ensure water supply and reduce weed problems. But while rice can survive in water, it is not an aquatic plant, Mr Rafaralahy pointed out.

Farmers in Madagascar noted that root growth was far greater if the plant was not kept continually submerged in water – "the plants receive more oxygen and nutrients from the atmosphere and derive greater benefit from the warmth of the sun", he said.

Using the SRI system the soil is only kept continually wet during the reproductive stage when the plant is producing grains. During the rest of the growth cycle the fields are irrigated in the evening and dry during the day.

Using their own seed, some 20,000 farmers have now adopted the method in Madagascar, and the yields have proved sustainable.

After being evaluated by Cornell University in the US, the system has spread to other countries, including major rice growers such as Bangladesh, China and Indonesia. In China yields of 9-10.5 tonnes per hectare were achieved in the first year of the system, compared with the national average of 6 tonnes per hectare.

This initiative in Madagascar was one of a number presented to the conference, all of which are included in a database of sustainable agriculture projects built up by professor Jules Pretty of the University of Essex.

He told the conference that the database now contains information on 208 initiatives from 52 countries, which indicates that at least 9m farmers have adopted sustainable agriculture methods on 29m hectares of land – some 3 per cent of land under crops in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Sustainable agriculture makes the best use of "nature's goods and services to help with pest control, soil regeneration and nutrient cycling", said professor Pretty; "and better use of the knowledge and skills of farmers, so improving their self-reliance".

Modern agriculture, he believes, is "very successful in terms of food production but causes a lot of damage to the environment and has tended to damage the natural processes". The evidence, he said, shows that switching to sustainable agriculture "can lead to substantial increases in per hectare food production".

For non-irrigated crops, yields typically increase by 50-100 per cent "though considerably greater in a few cases. For 146,000 farmers cultivating roots – potato, sweet potato and cassava – average food production increased by 150 per cent". For irrigated crops, the gains were much smaller, 5-10 per cent, "through starting from a higher absolute yield base".

With policy and institutional support, the benefits of sustainable agriculture could spread to much larger numbers of people, believes professor Pretty, but he cautions that "even the substantial increase reported here might not be enough".

"We cannot yet say that a transition to sustainable agriculture will result in enough food to meet the needs of developing countries, but there is scope for considerable confidence," he said.

© Copyright: The Financial Times Limited


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Date: 25 Jan 2001 06:04:45 -0600
From: James Mackenzie james@mackenzie.nu

The following article was reported by Kurt Eichenwald, Gina Kolata and Melody Petersen and was written by Mr. Eichenwald.

NYT: Biotechnology Food: From the Lab to a Debacle

By KURT EICHENWALD, GINA KOLATA and MELODY PETERSEN
The New York Times, January 25, 2001

Sections:
Biology Debate New Microbes Bring New Fears
Reaching Out Monsanto Takes a Soft Approach
A Blunder Decision on Milk Causes a Furor
Scientists who watched the events remain stunned by Monsanto's decisions.
Turning Point Objections by Scientists
In the F.D.A.'s nearby offices, not everyone was so sure.

In late 1986, four executives of the Monsanto Company, the leader in agricultural biotechnology, paid a visit to Vice President George Bush at the White House to make an unusual pitch.

Although the Reagan administration had been championing deregulation across multiple industries, Monsanto had a different idea: the company wanted its new technology, genetically modified food, to be governed by rules issued in Washington – and wanted the White House to champion the idea.

"There were no products at the time," Leonard Guarraia, a former Monsanto executive who attended the Bush meeting, recalled in a recent interview. "But we bugged him for regulation. We told him that we have to be regulated."

Government guidelines, the executives reasoned, would reassure a public that was growing skittish about the safety of this radical new science. Without such controls, they feared, consumers might become so wary they could doom the multibillion-dollar gamble that the industry was taking in its efforts to redesign plants using genes from other organisms – including other species.

In the weeks and months that followed, the White House complied, working behind the scenes to help Monsanto – long a political power with deep connections in Washington – get the regulations that it wanted.

It was an outcome that would be repeated, again and again, through three administrations. What Monsanto wished for from Washington, Monsanto – and, by extension, the biotechnology industry – got. If the company's strategy demanded regulations, rules favored by the industry were adopted. And when the company abruptly decided that it needed to throw off the regulations and speed its foods to market, the White House quickly ushered through an unusually generous policy of self-policing.

Even longtime Washington hands said that the control this nascent industry exerted over its own regulatory destiny – through the Environmental Protection Agency, the Agriculture Department and ultimately the Food and Drug Administration – was astonishing.

"In this area, the U.S. government agencies have done exactly what big agribusiness has asked them to do and told them to do," said Dr. Henry Miller, a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, who was responsible for biotechnology issues at the Food and Drug Administration from 1979 to 1994.

The outcome, at least according to some fans of the technology? "Food biotech is dead," Dr. Miller said. "The potential now is an infinitesimal fraction of what most observers had hoped it would be."

While the verdict is surely premature, the industry is in crisis. Genetically modified ingredients may be in more than half of America's grocery products. But worldwide protest has been galvanized. The European markets have banned the products and some American food producers are backing away. A recent discovery that certain taco shells manufactured by Kraft contained Starlink, a modified corn classified as unfit for human consumption, prompted a sweeping recall and did grave harm to the idea that self-regulation was sufficient. The mighty Monsanto has merged with a pharmaceutical company.

How could an industry so successful in controlling its own regulations end up in such disarray?

The answer – pieced together from confidential industry records, court documents and government filings, as well as interviews with current and former officials of industry, government and organizations opposing the use of bioengineering in food – provides a stunning example of how management, with a few miscalculations, can steer an industry headlong into disaster.

For many years, senior executives at Monsanto, the industry's undisputed leader, believed that they faced enormous obstacles from environmental and consumer groups opposed to the new technology. Rather than fight them, the original Monsanto strategy was to bring in opponents as consultants, hoping their participation would ease the foods' passage from the laboratory to the shopping cart.

"We thought it was at least a decade-long job, to take our efforts and present them to environmental groups and the general public, and gradually win support for this," said Earle Harbison Jr., the president and chief operating officer at Monsanto during the late 1980's.

But come the early 1990's, the strategy changed. A new management team took over at Monsanto, one confident that worries about the new technology had been thoroughly disproved by science. The go- slow approach was shelved in favor of a strategy to erase regulatory barriers and shove past the naysayers. The switch invigorated the opponents of biotechnology and ultimately dismayed the industry's allies – the farmers, agricultural universities and food companies.

"Somewhere along the line, Monsanto specifically and the industry in general lost the recipe of how we presented our story," said Will Carpenter, the head of the company's biotechnology strategy group until 1991. "When you put together arrogance and incompetence, you've got an unbeatable combination. You can get blown up in any direction. And they were."

Biology Debate New Microbes Bring New Fears

In the summer of 1970, Janet E. Mertz was working at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, picking up tips on animal viruses from Dr. Robert Pollack, a professor at the private research center on Long Island and a master in the field. One day she began to explain to Dr. Pollack the experiment she was planning when she returned to her graduate studies in the fall at Stanford University with her adviser, Dr. Paul Berg. They were preparing to take genes from a monkey virus and put them into a commonly used strain of bacteria, E. coli, as part of an effort to figure out the purposes of different parts of a gene.

Dr. Pollack was horrified. The virus she planned to use contained genes that could cause cancer in rodents, he reminded her. Strains of E. coli live in human intestines. What if the viral genes created a cancer- causing microbe that could be spread from person to person – the way unmodified E. coli can. Dr. Pollack wanted Ms. Mertz's project halted immediately. .

"I said to Janet, `There's a human experiment I don't want to be part of,' " Dr. Pollack said in a recent interview.

The resulting transcontinental shouting match between Dr. Pollack and Dr. Berg set off a debate among biologists around the world as they contemplated questions that seemed lifted from science fiction. Were genetically modified bacteria superbugs? Would they be more powerful than naturally occurring bacteria? Would scientists who wanted to study them have to move their research to the sort of secure labs used to study diseases like the black plague?

"The notion of being able to move genes between species was an alarming thought," said Alexander Capron, a professor of law and medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. "People talked about there being species barriers – you're reorganizing nature in some way."

As researchers joined in the debate, they came to the conclusion that strict controls were needed on such experiments until scientists understood the implications. In 1975, the elite of the field gathered at the Asilomar conference center in Pacific Grove, Calif. There, they recommended that all molecular biologists refrain from doing certain research and abide by stringent regulations for other experiments. To monitor themselves, they set up a committee at the National Institutes of Health to review and approve all research projects.

It took just a few years – and hundreds of experiments – before the most urgent questions had their answers. Over and over again, scientists created bacteria with all manner of added or deleted genes and then mixed them with naturally occurring bacteria.

But rather than creating superbugs, the scientists found themselves struggling to keep the engineered bacteria from dying as the more robust naturally occurring bacteria crowded them out.

It turned out that adding almost any gene to bacteria cells only weakened them. They needed coddling in the laboratory to survive. And the E. coli that Ms. Mertz had wanted to use were among the feeblest of all.

By the mid-1980's, the Institutes of Health lifted its restrictions. Even scientists like Dr. Pollack, who sounded the initial alarm, were satisfied that the experiments were safe.

"The answer came out very clearly," he said. "Putting new genes into bacteria did not have the unintended consequence of making the bacteria dangerous."

That decision echoed through industry like the sound of a starter's pistol. First out of the gate were the pharmaceutical companies, with a rapid series of experiments on how the new science could be used in medicines. Hundreds of drugs went into development, including human insulin for diabetes, Activase for the treatment of heart attacks, Epogen for renal disease and the hepatitis B vaccine.

"It's been huge," said Dr. David Golde, physician in chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. "It has changed human health."

The success that modifying living organisms would bring the pharmaceutical industry quickly attracted attention from some of the nation's largest agricultural companies, eager to extend their staid businesses into an arena that Wall Street had endowed with such glamour.

Reaching Out Monsanto Takes a Soft Approach

In June 1986, Mr. Harbison took control of Monsanto's push into biotechnology, a project snared in mystery and infighting. A 19-year veteran of Monsanto who had recently become its president and chief operating officer, he formed a committee to lead the charge.

"There is little more important than this task in our corporation at this time," Mr. Harbison wrote to the 13 executives selected for the assignment.

"We recognized early on," Mr. Harbison said in a recent interview, "that while developing lifesaving drugs might be greeted with fanfare, monkeying around with plants and food would be greeted with skepticism." And so Mr. Harbison drafted a plan to reach out to affected groups – from environmentalists to farmers – to win their support.

That same month, the company's lobbying effort for regulation began to show its first signs of success. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration were given authority over different aspects of the business, from field testing of new ideas to the review of new foods.

In an administration committed to deregulation, the heads of some agencies had been opposed to new rules. At an early meeting, William Ruckelshaus, then the head of the E.P.A., expressed skepticism that his agency should play any role in regulating field testing, according to people who attended. That was overcome only when Monsanto executives raised the specter of Congressional hearings about the use of biotechnology to create crops that contain their own pesticides, these people said.

By fall, Monsanto's strategy committee was developing a plan for introducing biotechnology to the public. A copy of a working draft, dated Oct. 13, 1986, listed what the committee considered the major challenges: organized opposition among environmental groups, political opportunism by elected officials and lack of knowledge among reporters about biotechnology.

It also highlighted more complex issues, including ethical questions about "tinkering with the human gene pool" and the lack of economic incentives to transfer the technology to the third world, where it would probably do the most good.

To solve political problems, the document suggested engaging elected officials and regulators around the world, "creating support for biotechnology at the highest U.S. policy levels," and working to gain endorsements for the technology in the presidential platforms of both the Republican and Democratic Parties in the 1988 election.

To deal with opponents, the document said, "Active outreach will encourage public interest, consumer and environmental groups to develop supportive positions on biotechnology, and serve as regular advisers to Monsanto."

Former Monsanto executives said that while they felt confident of the new food's overall safety, they also recognized that bioengineering raised concerns about possible allergens, unknown toxins or environmental effects. Beyond that, there was a reasonable philosophical anxiety about human manipulation of nature.

"If this business was going to work, one of the things we had to do was engage in a dialogue with all of the stakeholders, including the consumer groups and the more rational environmental organizations," said Mr. Carpenter, who headed the biotechnology strategy group. "It wasn't Nobel Prize thinking."

A Blunder Decision on Milk Causes a Furor

Even as Monsanto was assembling its outreach strategy, other documents show that it was making strides toward what former executives now acknowledge was a major strategic blunder. The company was preparing to introduce to farmers the first product from its biotechnology program: a growth hormone produced in genetically altered bacteria. Some on the strategy committee pushed for marketing a porcine hormone that would produce leaner and bigger hogs.

But, simply because the product was further along in development, the company decided to go forward with a bovine growth hormone, which improves milk production in cows – despite vociferous objections of executives who feared that tinkering with a product consumed by children would ignite a national outcry.

"It was not a wise choice to go out with that product first," Mr. Harbison acknowledged. "It was a mistake."

Scientists who watched the events remain stunned by Monsanto's decisions.

"I don't think they really thought through the whole darn thing," Dr. Virginia Walbot, a professor of biological sciences at Stanford University, said of Monsanto's decision to market products that benefited farmers rather than general consumers. "The way Thomas Edison demonstrated how great electricity was was by providing lights for the first nighttime baseball game. People were in awe. What if he had decided to demonstrate the electric chair instead? And what if his second product had been the electric cattle prod? Would we have electricity today?"

The decision touched off a furor. Jeremy Rifkin, director of the Foundation on Economic Trends, an opponent of biotechnology, joined with family-farm groups worried about price declines and other organizations in a national campaign to keep the Monsanto hormone out of the marketplace. Some supermarket chains shunned the idea; several dairy states moved to ban it. The first step toward the shopping cart brought only bad news.

One year later, in 1987, the E.P.A. agreed to allow another company, Advanced Genetic Sciences, to test bioengineered bacteria meant to make plants resistant to frost. But under the agency's guidelines, it had to declare the so-called ice-minus bacteria a new pesticide – classifying frost as the pest.

On April 28 and May 28, strawberry and potato plants were sprayed in two California cities. Photographs of scientists in regulation protective gear - spacesuits with respirators – were broadcast around the world, generating widespread alarm.

"It was surreal," said Dr. Steven Lindow, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, who helped develop the bacteria.

For the executives at Monsanto, these troubling experiences reinforced their commitment to the strategy of inclusion and persuasion.

The most complex challenge came in Europe, where there was deep distrust of the new foods, particularly among politically powerful farmers. Faced with such resistance, Mr. Harbison said Monsanto began subtly shifting its attention from the lucrative European market to Asia and Africa. The hope was that the economic realities of a global agricultural marketplace would eventually push Europe toward a more conciliatory attitude.

But by the early 1990's, company executives said, everything would change. Mr. Harbison retired. Soon, Monsanto's strategy for biotechnology was being overseen by Robert Shapiro, the former head of Monsanto's Nutrasweet unit, who in 1990 had been named head of the agricultural division.

In no time, former executives said, the strategy inside the company began to change. Mr. Shapiro demonstrated a devout sense of mission about his new responsibilities, these executives said. He repeatedly expressed his belief that Monsanto could help change the world by championing bioengineered agriculture, while simultaneously turning in stellar financial results.

Eager to get going, he shelved the go-slow strategy of consultation and review. Monsanto would now use its influence in Washington to push through a new approach.

Mr. Carpenter, the former head of the company's biotechnology strategy group, recalled going to a meeting with Mr. Shapiro, and cautioning that it seemed risky to tamper with a strategic approach that had worked well for the company in the past. But, he said, Mr. Shapiro dismissed his concerns.

"Shapiro ignored the stakeholders and almost insulted them and proceeded to spend all of his political coin trying to deal directly with the government on a political basis rather than an open basis," Mr. Carpenter said.

Mr. Shapiro, now the nonexecutive chairman of the Pharmacia Corporation, which Monsanto merged with last year, declined to comment. But in an essay published earlier this year by Washington University in St. Louis, he acknowledged that Monsanto had suffered from some of the very faults cited now by critics. `We've learned that there is often a very fine line between scientific confidence on the one hand and corporate arrogance on the other," he wrote. "It was natural for us to see this as a scientific issue. We didn't listen very well to people who insisted that there were relevant ethical, religious, cultural, social and economic issues as well."

Turning Point Objections by Scientists

On May 26, 1992, the vice president, Dan Quayle, proclaimed the Bush administration's new policy on bioengineered food.

"The reforms we announce today will speed up and simplify the process of bringing better agricultural products, developed through biotech, to consumers, food processors and farmers," Mr. Quayle told a crowd of executives and reporters in the Indian Treaty Room of the Old Executive Office Building. "We will ensure that biotech products will receive the same oversight as other products, instead of being hampered by unnecessary regulation."

With dozens of new grocery products waiting in the wings, the new policy strictly limited the regulatory reach of the F.D.A, which had oversight responsibility for foods headed to market.

The announcement – a salvo in the Bush administration's "regulatory relief" program – was in lock step with the new position of industry that science had proved safety concerns to be baseless.

"We will not compromise safety one bit," Mr. Quayle told his audience.

In the F.D.A.'s nearby offices, not everyone was so sure.

Among them was Dr. Louis J. Pribyl, one of 17 government scientists working on a policy for genetically engineered food. Dr. Pribyl knew from studies that toxins could be unintentionally created when new genes were introduced into a plant's cells. But under the new edict, the government was dismissing that risk and any other possible risk as no different from those of conventionally derived food. That meant biotechnology companies would not need government approval to sell the foods they were developing.

"This is the industry's pet idea, namely that there are no unintended effects that will raise the F.D.A.'s level of concern," Dr. Pribyl wrote in a fiery memo to the F.D.A. scientist overseeing the policy's development. "But time and time again, there is no data to back up their contention."

Dr. Pribyl, a microbiologist, was not alone at the agency. Dr. Gerald Guest, director of the center of veterinary medicine, wrote that he and other scientists at the center had concluded there was "ample scientific justification" to require tests and a government review of each genetically engineered food before it was sold.

Three toxicologists wrote, "The possibility of unexpected, accidental changes in genetically engineered plants justifies a limited traditional toxicological study."

The scientists were displaying precisely the concerns that Monsanto executives from the 1980's had anticipated – and indeed had considered reasonable. But now, rather than trying to address those concerns, Monsanto, the industry and official Washington were dismissing them as the insignificant worries of the uninformed. Under the final F.D.A. policy that the White House helped usher in, the new foods would be tested only if companies did it. Labeling was ruled out as potentially misleading to the consumer, since it might suggest that there was reason for concern.

"Monsanto forgot who their client was," said Thomas N. Urban, retired chairman and chief executive of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a seed company. "If they had realized their client was the final consumer they should have embraced labeling. They should have said, `We're for it.' They should have said, `We insist that food be labeled.' They should have said, `I'm the consumer's friend here.' There was some risk. But the risk was a hell of a lot less."

Even some who presumably benefited directly from the new policy remain surprised that it was adopted. "How could you argue against labeling?" said Roger Salquist, the former chief executive of Calgene, whose Flavr Savr tomato, engineered for slower spoilage, was the first fruit of biotechnology to reach the grocery store. "The public trust has not been nurtured," he added.

In fact, the F.D.A. policy was just what the small band of activists opposed to biotechnology needed to rally powerful global support to their cause.

"That was the turning point," said Jeremy Rifkin, the author and activist who in 1992 had already spent more than a decade trying to stop biotechnology experiments. Immediately after Vice President Quayle announced the F.D.A.'s new policy, Mr. Rifkin began calling for a global moratorium on biotechnology as part of an effort that he and others named the "pure food campaign."

He quickly began spreading the word to small activist groups around the world that the United States had decided to let the biotechnology industry put the foods on store shelves without tests or labels. Mr. Rifkin said that he got support from dozens of small farming, consumer and animal rights groups in more than 30 countries. In Europe, these small groups helped turn the public against genetically altered foods, tearing up farm fields and holding protests before television cameras.

If the F.D.A. had required tests and labels, Mr. Rifkin said, "it would have been more difficult for us to mobilize the opposition."

Today, the handful of nonprofit groups that joined Mr. Rifkin's in lobbying the F.D.A. for stronger regulation in 1992 have multiplied to 54. Those groups, including the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen and the Humane Society of the United States, signed a petition this spring demanding that the government take genetically engineered foods off the market until they are tested and labeled.

"There is absolutely no question that the voluntary nature of the policy was unacceptable to many," said Andrew Kimbrell, one of the early activists to oppose biotechnology and now the executive director of the Center for Food Safety, which filed the petition.

The F.D.A. policy has also helped organizations like Mr. Kimbrell's raise money. In late 1998 groups opposed to biotechnology approached the hundreds of foundations that give regularly to environmental causes and told them about the government's decision to let the companies regulate themselves. Since then, the foundations have given the groups several million dollars out of concern over the policy, said Christina Desser, a lawyer in San Francisco involved in the fund-raising effort.

There was also an about-face in the approach to dealing with overseas markets. As the Clinton administration came to Washington, Monsanto maintained its close ties to policy makers – particularly to trade negotiators. For example, Mr. Shapiro was friends with Mickey Kantor, the United States trade negotiator who would eventually be named a Monsanto director.

Confrontation in trade negotiations became the order of the day. Senior administration officials publicly disparaged the concerns of European consumers as the products of conservative minds unfamiliar with the science.

"You can't put a gun to their head," Mr. Harbison said of the toughened trade strategy with Europe. "It just won't sell."

And it didn't. Protests erupted in Europe, and genetically modified foods became the rallying point of a vast political opposition. Exports of the foods slowed to a stop. With a vocal and powerful opposition growing in both Europe and America, the perceived promise of biotechnology foods began to slip away.

By the end of the decade, the magnitude of Monsanto's error in abandoning its slow, velvet-glove strategy of the 1980's was apparent. Mr. Shapiro himself acknowledged as much. In the fall of 1999, he appeared at a conference sponsored by Greenpeace, the environmental group and major biotechnology critic.

There, while declaring his faith in biotechnology, Mr. Shapiro acknowledged that his company was guilty of "condescension or indeed arrogance" in its efforts to promote the new foods. But it was too late for a recovery. Soon after that speech, with the company's stock price in the doldrums because of its struggles with agricultural biotechnology, Monsanto itself ended its existence as an independent company. It was taken over by Pharmacia, a New Jersey drug company.

In recent months, biotechnology has been struggling with the consequences of its blunders. Leading food companies like Frito-Lay and Gerber have said they will avoid certain bioengineered food. And grain companies like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill have asked farmers to separate their genetically modified foods from their traditional ones. That, in turn, creates complex, costly and - as the Starlink fiasco shows – at times flawed logistical requirements for farmers.

Efforts have been made by industry and government to assuage public concerns - although critics of the technology maintain that the attempts do not go far enough. Last week, the F.D.A. announced proposed rule changes requiring the submission of certain information that used to be provided voluntarily. But even supporters of the rule change say that it will make little practical difference in the way the business works, since companies have universally submitted all such information in the past, even under the voluntary standard.

And the industry itself has started down a new path, with a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign promoting genetically engineered foods as safe products that provide enormous benefits to populations around the world – an effort that some food industry officials say has come 10 years too late.

"For the price of what it would have cost to market a new breakfast cereal, the biotech industry probably could have saved itself a lot of the struggle that it is going through today," said Gene Grabowski, a spokesman with the Grocery Manufacturers of America, a trade group.

And in recent weeks, Monsanto itself has announced plans to chart a new course - one with striking similarity to the course abandoned in 1992 – reviving its outside consultations with environmental, consumer and other groups with concerns or interest in the technology.

For the corporate veterans who set the original strategy, this is scant solace. A dream they had worked so hard to achieve had, at the very least, been set back by years.

"You can't imagine how I have bled over this," said Mr. Carpenter, the former head of biotechnology strategy for Monsanto. "They lost the battle for the public trust."


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 26 Jan 2001 10:49:30 -0600
From: geno@zap.a2000.nl

Article: Bush and Monsanto

On 26 Jan 2001, at 11:14, David Conner wrote:

here's an interesting article http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0104/ridgeway.shtml#monsanto

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/25/business/25FOOD.html Note that the article has 8 pages!


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 27 Jan 2001 09:38:23 -0600
From: Paul & Katrin Davis davis@devatalk.com

Can you believe this???? Genetically engineer a disease,m then genetically engineer a cure(!?) then another disease and another cure and ... and ..

Genetic Cow For RBGH Use

TITLE: Transgenic cow cloned for mastitis resistance announced
SOURCE: The Miller Publishing Company, USA
DATE: January 22, 2001

- ------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------

Transgenic cow cloned for mastitis resistance announced

BELTSVILLE, MD. – U.S. Department of Agriculture and University of Vermont researchers have produced a clone of a purebred Jersey cow whose cells may offer a biotechnological defense against mastitis disease. Geneticist Kevin Wells of USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) said it will be at least another year before the cow "Annie," born March 2000, begins producing milk and scientists can begin testing for mastitis resistance. Though not the first cow clone, Annie is the first to be genetically altered with a gene for an agricultural application.

Mastitis costs U.S. dairy farmers about $1.7 billion annually, including lost milk revenues, said Wells, of ARS' Gene Evaluation & Mapping Laboratory (GEML) at Beltsville. About 30% of all mastitis cases in dairy cows are caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that destroy milk- secreting cells in the animal's mammary gland. Scientists hope Annie will resist such cellular attacks by secreting an added protein called lysostaphin. Antibiotics are only effective in about 15% of cows infected with S. aureus, so dairy producers are forced to cull these cows from their herds. However, lysostaphin may offer an alternative defense bioengineered into the animal's cells.

"We're also trying to identify naturally occurring resistance genes, though very few of them have been found," said Vernon Pursel, GEML's research leader. Whether bioengineered or naturally occurring, he said, "resistance would lessen mastitis's financial drain and provide the added public health benefit of reduced antibiotic usage."

In 1999 trials with seven transgenic strains of lysostaphin-producing mice, the protein effectively killed S. aureus bacteria in both the genetically modified rodents' mammary glands and their milk, GEML physiologist Robert Wall said. He and David Kerr of the University of Vermont's animal sciences department in Burlington, Vt., reported the results in the January 2001 issue of Nature Biotechnology.

S. aureus was targeted by scientists because it is among the most virulent of mastitis-causing pathogens and causes about 30% of all infections in cows. The gene for lysostaphin comes from the benign species S. simulans that competes with its virulent cousins. Large-scale testing of lysostaphin mice in the lab will help researchers learn whether results observed in these transgenic rodents will apply to Annie and her offspring. Practical application of the cloning technology is several years off, however, Pursel said.


Top PreviousFront Page

Date: 28 Jan 2001 14:31:36 -0600
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

Americans wake up to threat of mad cow disease

By Greg McCune, Sunday January 28, 9:28 am Eastern Time
http://biz.yahoo.com/rf/010128/n27191176.html

'Last summer, after repeated U.S. government and industry assurances that the use of gene-modified grain in U.S. foods was not a problem, a significant scare erupted over a gene-altered corn variety not approved for human consumption because it was suspected of causing allergies.'

Sections:
Outbreak Would Be A Calamity
Are Americans Safe From Mad Cow?

CHICAGO, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Americans are suddenly waking up to the threat the deadly mad cow disease ravaging Europe could pose to an icon of their culture – the hamburger.

This is, after all, the land of meat-eaters in search of a fast-food fix at a McDonald's restaurant, the land of the cowboy and of a president, George W. Bush, who retreats to his Texas cattle ranch to get away from it all.

While the triumph of vegetarians has long been predicted, Americans still are among the world's leading carnivores, each eating nearly 100 pounds (45 kg) of beef and veal a year. Beef was expected to feature prominently on the menu of many parties celebrating the leading American sporting event of the year, the uper on Sunday.

Until recently, the alarming spread of the brain-destroying illness known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), from Britain to several continental European countries – and the scare that has turned Europeans off beef en masse -- had barely registered on the American radar screen.

No case of mad cow disease has ever been found in the United States and government and industry officials have repeatedly pledged to keep it that way. British officials at first denied the disease could spread to humans but have since admitted it could when more than 80 people died of a human version called new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease after eating infected beef. Three people have died in France.

Just a whiff of trouble over mad cow disease on this side of the Atlantic was enough last week to send a shudder through U.S. agribusiness and some markets. Cattle futures prices and the shares of McDonald's (NYSE:MCD – news) fell on Thursday after the Food and Drug Administration announced it had quarantined some cattle in Texas on suspicion they had been fed rations containing cattle parts in violation of rules to prevent mad cow disease.

There was no suggestion that the cattle actually had contracted the disease, only that they had been fed the wrong rations. A leading producer of animal feed, Purina Mills Inc. (NasdaqNM:PMIL - news), admitted on Friday that it had produced the feed containing meat and bone meal from ruminant animals, and said it halted the use of such meat and bone meal in all its feed.

Scientists believe one way mad cow disease can be transmitted is through a cannibal-like feeding to cattle of ground up parts of other cattle or ruminants, a practice the U.S. has banned since 1997.

Outbreak Would Be A Calamity

can't imagine what would happen if ever we had a suspected case here said Chuck Levitt, senior livestock hat a calamity that would

The U.S. cattle herd is nearly 100 million animals, the single largest segment of U.S. agriculture. The production of grain-fed beef in the United States is among the most intensive in the world with massive feedlots containing thousands of cattle in close quarters.

Some of the feedlots are so large that visitors to the towns on the plains of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska where most are located, can smell the distinctive manure from miles away depending on the direction of the wind.

In Europe, intensive agriculture has come under attack as helping to spread mad cow disease.

Food safety advocates said the Texas quarantine has highlighted loopholes in U.S. efforts to prevent mad cow disease. They are skeptical of government and industry assurances that the disease could never happen here, citing the failure of similar food pledges in the past.

Last summer, after repeated U.S. government and industry assurances that the use of gene-modified grain in U.S. foods was not a problem, a significant scare erupted over a gene-altered corn variety not approved for human consumption because it was suspected of causing allergies.

The discovery of the unapproved corn variety, Starlink, in dozens of foods such as taco shells prompted a massive food recall and caused major disruption to the U.S. domestic and international grain marketing system.

Are Americans Safe From Mad Cow?

In the last two weeks, U.S. media have begun to highlight the mad cow scare in Europe with prominent stories in newspapers and on television, including a feature on ABC TV's leading re

The answer to that question, according to government and industry, is yes. But food safety advocates are not so sure. he government agencies say they have erected this firewall (against mad cow). We don't have a firewall. It's more like said Michael Hansen, a research associate with the Consumers Union in Washington.

The United States has not imported any meat or bone meal from Britain for a decade, which U.S. officials said was an important move to prevent the disease crossing the Atlantic. It also has banned imports of meat from Europe.

But critics such as Hansen said the possibility exists of a home-grown variety of mad cow disease.

At least two maladies of the same general family as mad cow are present in the United States – scrapie in sheep, and chronic wasting disease in some wild deer and elk.

Furthermore, the FDA has said that the rules banning the feeding of ruminant meat and bone meal to cattle have been policy to get producers of feed to comply with the rules.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has called an emergency meeting for Monday in Washington of feed industry and government officials to underscore the need for vigilance. f there are folks that don't understand the seriousness of the the organization's chief executive Charles Schroeder told Reuters in a recent interview.