Genetically Manipulated Food News

14 September 1997

Table of Contents

Identifying Biotech Grains
Gen Manipulated Ginseng
Human Genetic Research
Transgenic Enzymes in Milk
Campaign "Consumer Right to Know"
Support "Consumer Right to Know"
Summary of Concerns

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Canada to study ways to identify biotech grains


(Reuter) - Canada will study creation of a system to identify genetically modified grains and oilseeds in response to concerns from consumers and overseas customers, a Canadian government official said on Tuesday. "Accountability has to be developed with industry," Canadian Grain Commission chief inspector Len Seguin told delegates at a seminar on agricultural biotechnology here. "The CGC will put together a group to discuss an identity - preserved system" for grains, Seguin said.

"We're talking about a system of evidence that will stand up in court," Seguin told the delegates. Labeling and segregation of genetically altered crops has become a sensitive issue in many countries, with grain exporters led by the United States maintaining that such "genetically modified organisms" (GMO's) were scientifically proven safe, no different from other grains and in no need of labeling.

Protests in Europe against unlabeled GMO's in the food system have led to arguments with the United States. Japan, which currently accepts GMO's, is considering reviewing Canada's food safety approvals, Canadian Food Inspection Agency scientist Stephen Yarrow told the meeting.

Canada markets almost two dozen food products developed through biotechnology, including genetically altered canola. "I think we're seeing a lot of specifications coming into (export) tenders and some are not readily distinguishable. Visual distinguishability won't be enough. We need a system that addresses concerns over GMO's," the CGC's Seguin said.

Genetically engineered Ginseng

I just received information about a company called Pure Ginseng Inc. on the west coast of Canada, which is seeking investors for a project of producing genetically engineered ginseng products. Pure Ginseng Inc. says that in Japan, commercial tissue culture of Asian ginseng and of Panax japonicus has been underway for some years. Pure Ginseng Inc. wants to become the world's first commercial producer of tissue cultured North American ginseng.

The tissue culture process (using genetically engineered culture) sounds alarmingly similar to the process that produced the genetically engineered tryptophan. Pure Ginseng Inc. says that genetically modified North American ginseng root cultures grow faster than natural species, producing ginsenosides The Canadian group says that its process is based on transgenic root cultures modified by the bacteria, Agrobacterium rhizogenes.

It would be useful to know the range of products being produced by genetically engineered cultures, and perhaps already on the market. This particular example of ginseng could be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of product being produced by genetic engineering technology, and already on the market.

Human Genetic Research

By Kalinga Seneviratne, SYDNEY, Sep 5 (IPS)

While any developing countries have denounced the Western practice of using their people as 'guinea pigs', the tiny Pacific nation of Nauru has signed an agreement on human genetic research with an international scientific institute.

The agreement, signed last month between the Republic of Nauru and the Melbourne-based International Diabetes Institute (IDI), was hailed as a model for medical research involving citizens of developing countries.

The human genetic research agreement allows IDI to carry out genome studies on the Nauruan population for the next 20 years, using its high incidence of diabetes to look into ways of curbing predisposition to the illness.

Dairy industry cautious on transgenic enzymes (1)

SNikkei English News via Individual Inc. : (Nikkei Industrial Daily, Aug. 20,1997)

Fearing a consumer backlash, the dairy industry [in Britain] is taking a cautious stance on genetically engineered enzymes.

Chymosin, commonly known as rennin, is an enzyme used in cheese making to coagulate milk. Since the enzyme must be extracted from the lining of cows' stomachs, supplies of natural chymosin are limited.

Genetic-recombination technology offers producers the prospect of an unlimited and cheaper supply of chymosin. The technology, which is widely used in the U.S. and the U.K., creates genetically engineered chymosin that is 40-50% less expensive than the natural enzyme.

In fact, industry analysts in Japan estimate that large domestic cheese producers could save almost 8 million yen (about 68,000 dollars) a year by using the genetically engineered enzyme.

So why have manufacturers shied away? The main reason is their desire to avoid a consumer backlash stemming from the heightened controversy over the safety of genetically engineered food products.

Campaign "Consumer Right to Know"

Dear Friend:

I have been involved with the campaign to ban genetically engineered foods. Recently, we joined with a larger effort, called the Consumer Right to Know initiative, which promotes mandatory labeling and long term testing of all genetically engineered foods before they are allowed on market.

The name "Consumer Right to Know" was chosen because it states very clearly our purpose. As individual citizens, we have a legal and moral right to know what we are eating, and to be able to choose whether we wish to consume genetically modified, foods that have not been fully tested.

Here are a few names of prominent individuals who already support this initiative:

These individuals are mainly from the USA, where the initiative began. However, the campaign is now spreading internationally, due to the global concern about genetically engineered foods.

Can you help us by asking some respected and recognized individuals (including celebrities and other well-known people) from Canada and other countries to support this initiative by signing the following statement -

I, the undersigned, support the Consumer Right to Know initiative for mandatory labelling and long-term safety testing (for effects on human health and the environment) of genetically engineered foods before they are allowed on the market. _____________________________printed name__________________________ organization (optional)

Please send us the signature(s) either by fax (613-565-1596) or by mail to Consumer Right to Know, 500 Wilbrod St., Ottawa, ON (Canada) K1N 6N2. You can also contact us by e-mail at: if necessary.

Once we have gathered enough names, we will be contacting food retailers, political leaders and the press. At the same time, we will be presenting the thousands of names that we have on petition for this cause.

For you assistance, a list of the hazards and concerns of genetically engineered foods follows:

Summary of Concerns of Genetically Engineered Food

Risks to Health, Environment and Ethic

Richard Wolfson, Ph.D., Campaign for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term, Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods

Natural Law Party, 500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2, Tel. 613-565-8517 Fax. 613-565-6546, e-mail:

Our website is: 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 e-mail message to , 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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