Genetically Manipulated Food News

9 October 1997

Table of Contents

BST on the Brink
US Firms Team To Make Cloned Cattle, Human Milk
All Milk contains Human Proteins
Problems with Herbicide Tolerant Cotton in U.S.

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Reprinted with permission from the Oct. 1997 issue of Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition, 7436 Fraser Park Drive, Burnaby, BC - V5J 5B9 Canada

BST on the Brink

by Richard Wolfson, PhD

As of last August, genetically engineered bovine growth hormone or rBGH (also called bovine somatropin or rBST) had not been cleared for use in Canada.

Earlier this year, there was growing speculation that the government, under pressure from the biotech industry, might push for approval for rBGH (also called bovine somatropin, rBST or Posilac). But strong opposition from the public, scientific evaluators, farmers, and industry has held it back for now. We must remember that continued pressure is still needed as licensing could be given at any time.

The bovine growth hormone issue has been a long and drawn-out battle in this country. A huge wave of consumer opposition in 1994--much of it from alive readers--forced Health Canada to place a one-year moratorium on its use. The moratorium ended on July 1, 1995. In October 1995, Health Canada requested further studies on animal health, safety, and efficacy issues, which have not yet been evaluated.

Documents Withheld

In Canada (and USA), there is continued concern about the health effects of rBGH on both humans and cows. This past June, evaluators in the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs in Health Canada stated with concern, that management in their department were moving to get rBGH approved-- without providing the relevant evaluators with documentation on its human safety. By law, before rBGH can be approved evaluators in the Bureau need to determine its safety.

One important human health issue is the increased levels of insulin-like growth factor (or IGF-1, a suspected carcinogen) claimed in milk from cows injected with rBGH. Another concern is whether cows injected with rBGH show increased incidence of mastitis (udder infection), thereby compromising the health of the cows. No definitive studies have yet resolved these issues.

Dairy Industry Opposed

Due to unresolved issues of safety and consumer concern, both the National Dairy Council of Canada (the processing industry) and the Dairy Farmers of Canada are strongly opposed to the introduction of rBGH at this time. In addition to requiring a thorough safety evaluation of rBGH by Health Canada, the Dairy Farmers request that the Auditor General completes a comprehensive audit of Health Canada's evaluation process (which is clearly under question) prior to approval of rBGH. Both the National Dairy Council and the Dairy Farmers of Canada recognize the extensive public opposition to rBGH. In order not to lose public confidence in dairy products, they also require that rBGH stay off the market as long as there is such opposition.

The National Farmers Union, too, has long opposed rBGH. The international food standards body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, decided in June to suspend discussions of introducing rBGH on the international market, asking for more scientific studies and broader evaluation. Due to concerns from many countries, particularly in Europe, a proposal from the USA that would have supported the introduction of rBGH globally was put on hold.

Smuggled BST in Milk?

Three farmers were recently caught smuggling rBGH into Canada from the USA. This has led to allegations of Canadian dairy farmers illegally using smuggled rBGH to increase milk production. Whether rBGH smuggling (and usage) is common in Canada, as one Ontario farmer says, or is just a few isolated cases, is not known. We can only pressure government inspectors to be more vigilant at the border, express our concerns to the dairy industry, and take heart that both the Dairy Farmers of Canada and the National Dairy Council are now strongly opposed to rBGH.

While the government has not made any clear statement on this issue, concerted opposition from consumers, farmers, industry, and scientific evaluators has kept rBGH approved at bay. However, due to the continued lobbying of the biotech industry, we need to continue our pressure. We also need to watch out for dairy products from the USA, where rBGH has been approved and is being used by a growing number of dairy farmer.


Continue to pressure both government bodies and the dairy industry to demand no genetically engineered milk hormone in Canadian milk!

  1. Call, fax or write: your M.P., the Hon. Allan Rock, Minister of Health, the Hon. Lyle Vanclief, Agriculture Minister. To obtain their phone and fax numbers, call 1-800-463-6868, or 613-992-4793. You can also write them postage free at: House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6.

  2. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper stating your concerns.

  3. Tell your local supermarket or dairy that you do not want milk from cows injected with rBGH.

From: MichaelP , published on "Ban-GEF"
Tuesday October 7 4:59 PM EDT

US Firms Team To Make Cloned Cattle, Human Milk

BOSTON (Reuter) - Two U.S. companies said Tuesday they had teamed up to make cloned cattle that would in turn produce milk containing human proteins.

Genzyme Transgenics Corp of Framingham, Massachusetts, and Worcester, Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology Inc said they would combine both genetic engineering and cloning to create a herd of cattle genetically identical to one another, and carrying human genes.

Genzyme said it would pay Advanced Cell Technology $10 million over five years in the deal, which combines Genzyme's ability to create transgenic, or genetically engineered, animals wth Advanced Cell's techniques for producing cloned cattle embryos.

The companies are using similar technology to that being developed by Scotland-based PPL Therapeutics and the Roslin Institute to make Dolly, the cloned sheep whose birth was announced earlier this year.

The idea at both laboratories is to first create an animal that is successfully transgenic -- one that contains the human gene and in which the gene causes the animal to produce the human protein in its blood or milk.

Genetic engineering does not always work. The gene is put into an egg cell or newly fertilized cell, called a blastocyst.

Sometimes the inserted genes do not "take", so the researchers are keen to develop the few successful ones. So they want to clone the successful animal to make several others just like it and eventually a herd.

Advanced Cell Technology's cloning technology involves clones made at the embryo stage -- not clones made from adult cell, like Dolly was. Using embryos to make clones is easier.

The company inserts the genes into the embryo cells, then implants the embryos into surrogate mothers.

All of the embryos transferred into the surrogate mothers are female, and therefore are milk producers.

Genzyme Transgenics said the first protein to be produced in the cow milk under the agreement would be human serum albumin, which is used to maintain fluid balance in the blood.

The protein will then be purified out of the milk for medical use.

Human serum albumin is currently derived from pooled human plasma. About 440 metric tonnes of plasma-derived albumin are used annually worldwide, with annual sales of about $1.5 billion.

Serum albumin is given to patients who have lost a great deal of blood and is used widely in a range of other problems from extreme malnutrition to burns.

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for research and educational purposes. **

Date: 8 Oct 1997 05:19:34 -0600
From: i4crob@IDT.NET

All Milk contains Human Proteins

MichaelP wrote:

BOSTON (Reuter) - Two U.S. companies said Tuesday they had teamed up to make cloned cattle that would in turn produce milk containing human proteins.

Dear Michael,

ALL MILK AND DAIRY PRODUCTS CONTAIN HUMAN PROTEINS! The most powerful growth hormone in the human body is insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I).

This protein contains 70 amino acids in human and bovine in the same exact gene sequence. Every time you drink a 12 ounce glass of milk you double the amount of the most powerful growth hormone naturaly present in your system.


Robert Cohen i4crob@IDT.NET

Pesticide Action Network
North America
Updates Service

October 7, 1997

Problems with Herbicide Tolerant Cotton in U.S.

According to a report by the Center for Ethics and Toxics, farmers throughout the mid-south region of the U.S. began experiencing problems with Roundup Ready cotton in August 1997 as cotton bolls began falling off the genetically engineered plants. The failing cotton plants contained an inserted gene that should make the plants able to withstand two seasonal applications of Roundup herbicide (Monsanto's brand name for the herbicide glyphosate). The Center for Ethics and Toxics is a California-based, non-profit organization.

Roundup Ready cotton was grown commercially in the U.S for the first time this year. In early spring, approximately 600,000 acres of the bioengineered crop, created by Monsanto, were sown across the cotton belt. This equals about 2.3% of the 14 million acres of cotton planted nationwide.

Approximately three quarters of the way through the growing season, some cotton bolls became misshapen after the second Roundup application and began to fall off the plants. These failings reportedly occurred in the states of Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana.

In August, Robert McCarty of the Bureau of Plant Industry in Mississippi stated, "We are receiving complaints from farmers everyday." According to McCarty, the complaints were all identical: the bolls become deformed and subsequently fall off the plant. Bill Robertson, a cotton specialist in Arkansas claims that farmers in his state had similar problems. "We call the malformation 'parrot beaked,' because the bolls look like the beaks of parrots, then they fall off of the plant before they are mature," Robertson said. The first reports of the crop failure estimated that between 4,000 - 5,000 acres were affected, although according to McCarty, there were at least 20,000 affected acres in Mississippi alone. "Now that is a lot of acreage, economically speaking. Some farmers are losing $1 million due to this problem," he said.

According to Karen Marshall of Monsanto, "There are a number of environmental factors that can put stress on cotton plants." But the failures do not appear to be occurring in all cotton varieties, just those that are genetically engineered to withstand Roundup. Sunny Jeter, a marketing representative for Monsanto, insisted that the failure was only occurring in a very small portion of the Roundup Ready cotton crops. She emphasized that Monsanto is being very proactive in getting information to farmers about the problem. However, Tommy McDaniel, a State of Mississippi agricultural specialist stated that "Monsanto is not talking to anyone and they are not saying what is causing the problem."

The failure is occurring in Roundup Ready Paymaster varieties #1244, #1215, #1330, and #1220. These same varieties without the Roundup Ready gene were used in the two previous years without any apparent problems.

Researchers at the Center for Ethics and Toxics stated, "We tried to speak to a Monsanto scientist to ask why crop failures are occurring and were told that the information is not available. The U.S. government does not require this type of reporting, leaving the public and the farming community alike in the dark about the true cause of the problem."

According to the Center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Director of Biotechnology and Scientific Services admitted he was "totally unaware of the problem."

"We think this result underscores our concern that mass planting of transgenic crops are at the least premature," said Britt Bailey from the Center for Ethics and Toxics. "We are left with disturbing questions as transgenic crops go into mass production. How much are we willing to jeopardize the evolutionary future of food crops? How much uncertainty is generated by transgenic creation of new plants?"

Source: "Genetically Engineered Cotton in Jeopardy," by Marc Lappe and Britt Bailey, Center for Ethics and Toxics, September 10, 1997.

Contact: Center for Ethics and Toxics, Box 673, 39175 S. Highway 1, Gualala, CA 95445; phone (707) 884-1700; fax (707) 884-1846; email or Internet

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. 613-565-1596 email:

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