Genetically Manipulated Food News

9 August 1997

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Gene Crop Destroyed
Dutch Supermarket Chain looses Case against Natural Law Party

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GENE CROP DESTROYED

From: Reclaim The Streets < rts@gn.apc.org>

PRESS RELEASE: 7 August 1997

An experimental crop of oilseed rape, owned by the US based biotech corporation Monsanto, has been destroyed by local residents in a DIY public protest at a farm near Coventry.

The action took place "in the interests of public safety" on the evening of Wednesday 6th August at Tibs Hall Farm, Kingsbury near Tamworth, Staffs. The genetically altered crop containing mutant DNA was uprooted from its experimental plot by people wearing protective clothing. The plants were then broken before being mixed together with 'normal' plants to invalidate the experiment's results.

In a statement issued this morning, local people said: "The mutant DNA in this crop could easily spread to the surrounding area either through cross pollination or through virus infection. No-one can guarantee that this will not happen."

The statement went onto say: "Our natural world is being tampered with for private profit and it is only a matter of time before something goes seriously wrong. We are not prepared to see the people and plants of Staffordshire - or anywhere else in the UK - used as guinea pigs in somebody else's experiment."

Despite Monsanto's claims that their field trials of genetically engineered crops are entirely risk-free, several studies have shown that the pollen of transgenic oilseed rape can cross-pollinate with traditional or wild species, spreading the genetic pollution.

Critics of Genetic Engineering say that new patent laws are giving the inventors of genetically engineered crops a dangerous level of control over our food supply. Concerns have also been raised by scientists that say genetic engineering - the process of combining genetic material from unrelated species - is inherently unsafe, and could lead to the production of new toxins in food crops or even spark off allergies in consumers. "Once the genetic cat is out of the bag," says one geneticist, "there is nothing you can do to put it back in. Genetic pollution is the one form of pollution that is almost guaranteed to increase exponentially over time as transgenic plants escape into the wild and interbreed."

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. On April 21st 1997 activists occupied the High Wycombe headquarters of the Monsanto Corporation for an afternoon, hanging banners from the roof and forcing the company to explain its refusal to allow genetically modified soybeans to be kept separate from natural beans. This protest was part of a Global Week of Action against genetic engineering and was followed on 23rd April by a take-over of the offices and phones of the Soyabean Information Line. Supposedly set up to give impartial information, the Information Line is a public relations front for Monsanto - as files discovered in the office proved.

  2. In Germany the campaign against genetic engineering has already been taken to the fields where testing is carried out. In 1996 at least 12 fields were destroyed by protesters, and action by local people stopped the planting of several more. Four fields are currently being squatted full-time by German activists determined to stop them being planted with Monsanto's herbicide-resistant sugar beet.

  3. On 16 July the European Parliament bowed to industry pressure and voted in favour of the Directive on the Legal Protection for Biotechnological Inventions, despite facing fierce opposition from a broad coalition of consumers, green parties, churches and other ethical groups. A Green Party press release said: "The patenting of plant and animal genes will reduce genetic diversity, harm the environment and allow a few companies to control the markets. Nature will be viewed as no more than the means of making money at the expense of us all."

  4. A recent survey conducted by the London School of Economics showed that most consumers do not trust their governments to protect them from the possible dangers of genetically modified food. The survey, conducted across the European Union by George Gasket, showed most people want labelling on such products and are worried about the moral implications of genetically engineering animals.

  5. Another activist group, calling themselves 'The Super Heroes Against Genetics', have a Web site which gives further information about their activities and also circulates information about genetic engineering which biotechnology companies have tried to suppress. It is accessible on http://www.envirolink.org/orgs/shag/genetix.html

For Further Information:

Although the following people/groups have nothing to do with the above action they are available to talk about the ongoing campaigns against Genetic Engineering and the possible dangers of GE. David King, Geneticist and Editor of Genethics News - 0181 809 4513 Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher from the Test Tube Harvest Camapign - 0171 923 9511


RTS now run a genetics information email list. If you would like to be on it (and are not already) reply putting 'Subscribe Genetics' in the subject box.

Reclaim the Streets, PO BOX 9656, London N4 4JY 0171 281 4621( this tel number is not for Genetics info) < rts@gn.apc.org> http://www.hrc.wmin.ac.uk/campaigns/rts.html


Date: Fri, 25 Jul 1997 08:13:50 GMT

Biggest supermarket chain of the Netherlands loses case against Natural Law Party

'Same' quality of manipulated soybean is absurd

Albert Heijn the biggest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, published an article in the february issue of its free magazine (circulation 1.8 million) which gave an untrue and misleading representation of Monsanto's genetically manipulated soybean. Albert Heijn is part of the Dutch multinational Ahold which owns supermarket chains in many countries around the globe (e.g. Stop & Shop in US).

The Natuurwetpartij (Natural Law Party of the Netherlands) filed a complaint with the Advertisement Code Commission against Albert Heijn. The Advertisement Code Commission has decided now that three out of four charges of the Natuurwetpartij are justified and stated Albert Heijn should make no such misleading advertising any more.

The most important charge made by the Natuurwetpartij was that Albert Heijn wrote that the quality of the genetically manipulated soybean had "remained the same". The company admitted that the composition of the manipulated soy is different but, but still maintained the quality is the same. This is absurd. The Advertisement Code Commission concludes: 'The quality of the gentically manipulated soy [...] is not the same as the quality of non-manipulated soy. The composition has been changed and in that case one cannot simply state that the quality has remained the same. For this reason the statement is misleading.'

Monsanto, a multinational chemical company, has genetically manipulated soy by shooting genetic material into it derived from a flower (petunia), a bacterium and a virus. The bacterium is the Agrobacterium Tumefaciens, a parasite that causes cancer in plants. The genetic material from this parasite produces with the help from a so called promotor of the cauliflower mosaic virus a protein in the soybean which has never before been part of the human diet. The long term effects of consumption of this protein are not known.

Dr. Joseph Cummins, professor emeritus in genetics from the university of West-Ontario, warns: 'Probably the greatest threat from genetically altered crops is the insertion of modified virus and insect virus genes into crops. It has been shown in the laboratory that genetic recombination will create highly virulent new viruses from such constructions. Certainly the widely used cauliflower mosaic virus is a potentially dangerous gene. It is a pararetrovirus meaning that it multiplies by making DNA from RNA messages. It is very similar to the Hepatitis B virus and related to HIV.'

The Natuurwetpartij and the Advertisement Code Commission also objected to the way Albert Heijn referred to risk assessments of the bean by the Dutch government, the European Union and the Consumers Union. It created the impression that these institutions had themselves researched the bean, while they had in fact reviewed summaries of the literature.

The misleading advertising made by Albert Heijn is not an unicum. The Natuurwetpartij declares that false advertising is widely used by interested parties to promote genetic manipulation - an extremely objectionable practice. For example the false statement is often made that genetic manipulation is nothing but a further development of traditional breeding practices and of techniques such as the making of yoghurt and beer. Dr. George Wald, the professor emeritus in biology from Harvard and Nobel laureate in medicine who passed away recently, declared: 'Such intervention must not be confused with previous intrusions upon the natural order of living organisms; animal and plant breeding, for example; or the artificial induction of mutations, as with X-rays. All such earlier procedures worked within single or closely related species. The hub of the new technology is to move genes back and forth, not only across species lines, but across any boundaries that now divide living organisms. The results will be essentially new organisms. Self-perpetuating and hence permanent. Once created, they cannot be recalled.'

The genetic manipulation industry often falsely states that genetic manipulation carries not more or less risk than traditional breeding. Many scientists do not agree with this. Dr. Wald: 'Up to now living organisms have evolved very slowly, and new forms have had plenty of time to settle in. Now whole proteins will be transposed overnight into wholly new associations, with consequences no one can foretell, either for the host organism or their neighbors. It is all too big and is happening too fast. So this, the central problem, remains almost unconsidered. It presents probably the largest ethical problem that science has ever had to face. Our morality up to now has been to go ahead without restriction to learn all that we can about nature. Restructuring nature was not part of the bargain. For going ahead in this direction may be not only unwise but dangerous. Potentially, it could breed new animal and plant diseases, new sources of cancer, novel epidemics.' This statement of Dr. Wald annihilates the environmental claims that are often made with regard to 'modern biotechnology'.

Albert Heijn defends itself by saying that the quality of the soybeans has remained the same because according to our present knowledge the manipulated soy is not harmful to health. Our present knowledge however is utterly insufficient. Dr. John Fagan, professor in moleculair biology at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, US, points out that the present studies into safety 'fail to even begin to assess one very substantial class of risks that are inherent in genetically engineered foods. That class of risks consists of health hazards resulting from the unanticipated side-effects of genetic engineering. Such testing schemes are completely incapable of detecting unsuspected or unanticipated health risks that are generated by the process of genetic engineering itself.'


Richard Wolfson, PhD, Campaign to Ban Genetically Engineered Food

Natural Law Party, 500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2, Tel. 613-565-8517 Fax. 613-565-6546, email: rwolfson@concentric.net

Our website is: http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html It now contains previous biotech articles from Alive, articles from Joe Cummins and John Fagan, other GE website links, etc.

To receive regular news from the Campaign to Ban Genetically Engineered Food, please send an email message to rwolfson@concentric.net , with the words 'subscribe GE' in the subject line. To remove yourself from this list, please send the message 'unsubscribe GE'

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