Genetically Manipulated Food News

6 June 1997

Table of Contents

Appeal of Dutch retail chain fails
16,000 Sign Petition Opposing GE Foods in UK
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accused
Law suit against GE crops with BT filed today

Back to Index


Appeal by biggest Dutch retail chain in GE soybean case fails on all points

Press release - for immediate publication

In February the Natuurwetpartij (Dutch Natural Law Party) filed a complaint with the Advertisement Code Commission against false and misleading advertising by Albert Heijn, the biggest Dutch retail chain. Albert Heijn is part of the Netherlands based multinational Ahold, which has retail chains in different parts of the world. Albert Heijn had published an artcle in its free monthly magazine (1.8 million copies) in which it advertised genetically manipualted soybeans as having the same quality as natural soybeans. The Natural Law Party argued that this and other statements by Ahold's supermarket chain were untrue and misleading to the consumers. The Advertisement Code Commissiion confirmed three out of four charges made by the Natural Law Party and recommended Albert Heijn to not make such misleading advertising any more.

Contrary to the claims made by Albert Heijn, genetically manipulated soya has not the same quality as natural soya. The article also suggested that the Dutch government, the Consumers Union and the European authorities performed extensive testing of the soybeans. They did however not test the soybeans directly, but evaluated summaries of research performed by Monsanto, the US-based multinational which manipulated the soya beans.

Ahold's retail chain did not accept the decision of the Advertisement Code Commission. They sought assistance from an external law firm and filed an appeal. The Appeal Commission now has decided that the appeal fails on all points and maintains the decision by the Advertisement Code Commission.

Unpredictable risks

Monsanto has manipulated into the soybeans genetic material from a flower, a bacteria and a virus. The declaration of safety and permission given by the government are for a large part based on speculative expectations brought forward by the producer himself.

The research to date on genetically manipulated foods has hardly begun to evaluate the enormous range of risks brought about by the process of genetic manipulation. The Natural Law Party holds the standpoint that consumers should have the right to avoid those risks. General labeling of genetically manipulated products and separation of the manipulated crops are necessary to achieve this. If the retailers want it, they certainly can demand this and bring it about.

Next week the Advertisement Code Commission will hold a hearing concerning a second complaint brought by the Natuurwetpartij against Albert Heijn. The country's biggest grocer claims that lecithin and oil derived from genetically manipulated soybeans are exactly the same as those from natural soy. That also is not true.

info: Natuurwetpartij (Natural Law Party of the Netherlands) eMail info@natuurwetpartij.nl website: http://www.natuurwetpartij.nl


16,000 Sign Petition Opposing Genetic Engineered Foods in UK

Public tell M.A.F.F. "We don't want GM crops."

At 4.55 pm on Sept 12, representatives from the Genetic Engineering Network (G.E.N.) delivered 16,000 signatures into UK Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Foods (M.A.F.F.) representative Fiona James. This is in response to their call for public comments on genetically modified herbicide tolerant crops on UK farms. The petition called for the removal of all genetically manipulated foods.

"It is now time for consumers to join together with farmers and stand up to the pressures of the agri-biotech industry and instead work together towards truly sustainable alternatives to genetic manipulation."

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) threatens future of sustainable agriculture

Formal legal petition charges EPA with illegal and gross negligence in failure to adequately regulate genetically engineered plants

Washington D.C., September 16, 1997 - The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was charged with gross negligence over its approval of genetically engineered plants in a petition filed today by a coalition of environmental, farming and scientific organisations.

Greenpeace International, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the Sierra Club, the Centre for International Technology Assessment in Washington, DC, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis, the National Coalition for Mis-use of Pesticide were among the 31 groups which filed a formal legal petition to the EPA.

This is the first step according to US law in filing litigation against a US government agency in the Federal Court. Petitioners demand that the EPA withdraw the approval of transgenic plants carrying the genetic code from a soil bacterium called Bacillus Thuringiensis and abstain from any new registration of such plants.

The petitioners will take the EPA to the US Federal District Court if the agency does not react to their legal petition within 90 days. "EPA's approvals are in clear violation of Federal environmental and agricultural and procedural laws," said International Center of Technology Assessment attorney Andrew Kimbrell, "and no court in this country will let them get away with that".

Petitioners allege that, in approving transgenic plants carrying the Bacillus Thuringiensis (B.t.) toxin, the EPA is seriously threatening the future of organic agriculture and jeopardizing the genetic variety of major food crops, such as corn, potatoes and tomatoes. Petitioners also charge that EPA's actions violate numerous federal laws and regulations and will cause significant human health and environmental problems (1).

Natural strains of B.t. have been used as a biological pesticide for nearly forty years to protect crops, vegetables and forests without any known detrimental effects on the environment or human health. B.t. sprays today are the single most important bio-pesticide on the market with an annual overturn of over 60 million dollars in the US alone. They are esspecially important to organic farmers and integrated pest management programs (IPM).

Genetic engineers have transferred parts of the B.t. gene into a variety of plants such as corn, potato, rice, rapeseed, eggplant, grape, tomato, cranberry, cotton, apple, poplar, walnut and tobacco. As these plants permanently produce high doses of the B.t. toxin in all their cells, the manipulation makes them highly pest-resistant.

Major multinational chemical and genetic engineering companies including Monsanto, Novartis, AgrEvo and Pioneer have now started to commercialize such transgenic B.t.-plants. Transgenic B.t.-cotton, -corn and -potatoes have been planted in the range of 3 million acres (1,2 million hectares) in the US this year.

Large scale use of these transgenic B.t. plants is likely to create resistance within the populations of the targetted insects and thus create the need for new chemical or biotechnological pesticides - a well known effect with many chemical insecticides. This short term strategy of the agrochemical industry will also render the biological B.t. sprays useless within a short time and leave organic farmers with no biological alternative.

"Chemical companies commercializing transgenic B.t. plants are waging an undeclared war against sustainable farming practices," stated Benedikt Haerlin, Greenpeace International's Coordinator on Genetic Engineering. "Regulators around the world are well aware of this problem, but have not dared to draw the necessary conclusions. Instead they have agreed to the thoroughly inadequate voluntary "resistance management" presented by the chemical industry."

In addition, scientific research on the environmental effects of transgenic B.t. plants indicate that it may also make the plants toxic to non-target organisms and to predators of the target-insects. This results from the fact that the genetically engineered, truncated version of the B.t. toxins will be less specific and the toxins will persist in the soil for longer and in higher doses.

Finally the transfer of the engineered B.t. genes to wild relatives of the transgenic plants through cross pollination can have unpredictable and potentially environmentally-disastrous consequences, especially in the countries where these species originate. It could result in the irreversible reduction and genetic pollution of the environment.and of someof the world's most important food crops.

Notes

1. The petition alleges breaches of the National Environmental Policy Act where the EPA failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement which it is required to do so ; the Administrative Proceedure Act where other federal agencies and scientists should have been consulted but the EPA failed to do so; and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) where it must be proved that plant pesticides will only be approved if it can be determined they will not cause harm. The EPA's and Novartis's own data admits to herbicide resistance becoming an issue.

Law suit against GE crops with BT filed today

Today a legal petition was filed in USA against the Environmental Protection Agency for the release of genetically engineered crops that express Bt.

The press conference went well, with speakers from the Center for Technology Assessment, Greenpeace, and IFOAM. Also speaking were Sally Fox, a Bt specialist who is now president of Natural Cotton Colours; Jim Gerritsen from Wood Prairie Farm in Maine; and Roger & Sandy Sanders, organic cotton & vegetable growers from California. Media interest was good, with approximately 30 reporters attending; many were from science and industry journals, but the Reuters wire service, the Nation, and ABC News were also in attendance. We have also received several inquiries from the media, as well as an anonymous EPA employee who congratulated us on our action.

The petition alleges that in approving "transgenic" plants expressing the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is seriously threatening the future of sustainable agriculture. Petitioners also charge that EPA's actions violate numerous federal laws and regulations and will cause significant human health and environmental problems.

Bt has been a cornerstone of sustainable agriculture since the 1960's. The EPA's approval of transgenic plants producing Bt will lead to the development of Bt resistance in major pests within a relatively short period of time. Therefore, widespread use of transgenic Bt plants could permanently destroy the effectiveness of Bt against the world's primary agricultural pests.

Jim Gerritsen, one of the many organic farmers signing on the petition, commented, "We consider the transgenic application of Bt to be unwise because of the high likelihood that they will rapidly accelerate resistance to Bt. Should we ever lose Bt, our ability as organic farmers to grow quality produce will be in serious question."

Joseph Mendelson, Legal Affairs Director of the Center for Technology Assessment, stated, "The EPA has put the interests of a few major companies ahead of its mandate to protect the environment and the public. In doing so they have violated several federal laws and their own regulations."

The central demands of the petition are that the EPA:

  1. cancel the registrations of all genetically engineered plants that contain the Bt pesticide,
  2. refrain from taking any new registration procedures, ordeterminations of registration, and
  3. complete a programmatic impact statement analyzing the agency's registering of genetically engineered plants that express Bt.

The full text of the petition is available on the Greenpeace web site at: http://www.greenpeace.org/cbio.html


Co-Petitioners so far (supporters of the petition)


Richard Wolfson, PhD 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 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'

Back to Index