Genetically Manipulated Food News

14 October 1997

Table of Contents

Global Days of Action Against Genetic Engineering (2-16 October 97).
Gene Enhancements' Thorny Ethical Traits (Washington Post)
Bookreview: Milk -- the Deadly Poison

Back to Index


Global Days of Action Against Genetic Engineering

Press Release --- 13/10/97 --- for immediate use
Genetically Engineered Soya has Elevated Hormone Levels:
Public Health Threat
International Scientists Appeal To Governments World-Wide

Today, an urgent appeal has been made by scientists from around the world attending the Third Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on Biosafety of The UN-Convention on Biological Diversity (13-17 October) in Canada. The scientists implored "all governments to use whatever methods available to them to bar from their markets, on grounds of injury to public health, Monsanto's genetically manipulated (GM) [herbicide-resistant] Roundup-Ready (RR) soybean." New findings indicate that EU member nations should immediately invoke Article 16, the safeguard clause of Directive 90/220, banning the soya on the grounds of specific health risks.

Dramatic scientific evidence has revealed that the application of glyphosate (such as the herbicide Roundup) increased the level of plant estrogens of bean crops. Plant estrogens are known to affect mammals including humans. The signatories to the appeal, including Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher, UK Geneticist, stated: "Young children are especially susceptible to elevated levels of estrogen. Thus there is a clear and serious health issue at hand."

Further alarming evidence has now been released concerning the GM soybeans, hitherto ruled as been substantially equivalent to ordinary soybeans and safe for introduction into our food supply: Cows fed with the RR-soybeans were found to produce milk with significantly higher fat content than those fed with ordinary soybeans. The scientists concluded this to be direct proof of a substantial difference between the GM- and ordinary soybeans.

Monsanto's application for market approval of the RR-soybean provided no data on estrogen levels of RR-soybeans sprayed with glyphosate. Indeed, all data provided on the concentration levels of different compound was derived from unsprayed beans!

Scientific advisor to the UK Genetic Engineering Network commented on the findings: "It is horrifying that Roundup-Ready soya was released into our food chain with such insufficient data, especially as such as large proportion [60%] of supermarket products contain soya derivatives.... The lack of independent, full investigations prior to the approval of these genetically manipulated soybeans is illustrative of the US biotechnology industry's strangle-hold on the regulatory bodies entrusted with our food safety."

Further reports also presented at the Meeting, include the latest evidence of the detrimental environmental and agricultural impact of Novartis (formerly Ciba) insect resistant maize prematurely approved by the European Commission for marketing and cultivation (23 January 1997). The report calls for an urgent "moratorium for transgenic insect resistant plants" and details the evidence supporting legal action, which has been filed against the USA Environmental Protection Agency over its approvals by over 30 scientific, environmental and agricultural groups. The Meeting coincides with the Global Days of Action Against Genetic Engineering (2-16 October).

For further information or interviews, contact the Genetic Engineering Network in London at: 0181 374 9516


Subject: Gene enhancement article

Thanks to Dr. Ron Epstein at San Francisco State University for forwarding this article from the Washington Post. I apologize for the length of the article, but did not want to shorten it by cutting anything out.

Richard

..................................................

Gene Enhancements' Thorny Ethical Traits

Rapid-Fire Discoveries Force Examination of Consequences

By Rick Weiss Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 12, 1997; Page A01 The Washington Post

First in a series of occasional articles

As a medical researcher, Scott McIvor never suspected that his efforts to develop new cures would lead him to the edge of a brewing bioethical storm. Then, a few months ago, he got an e-mail message from a doctor who wanted McIvor to help him change a patient's skin color.

McIvor oversees the University of Minnesota's program in gene therapy, in which researchers inject healthy new genes into patients in an attempt to treat genetic diseases. The doctor knew that genes affecting skin pigmentation had already been identified, and he had a patient who wanted to change his racial appearance. Would McIvor please treat his patient with those genes?

A similarly disconcerting request recently came to Christopher Evans at his office at the University of Pittsburgh. Evans is helping to devise a genetic therapy for muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy, in which genes will be added to dying muscle cells to help those cells grow. A sports medicine doctor "put two and two together," Evans said, and asked whether he could get access to the treatment to help healthy athletes grow bigger muscles.

Evans answered with a definitive "no," and McIvor didn't even respond to the skin change request. Changes in skin color and muscle mass probably could be accomplished with current technology, they and others said. But the possibility of harm would be difficult to justify for a cosmetic procedure and, more important, genetic enhancement of healthy people raises a host of difficult ethical questions.

Would cosmetic gene therapy exacerbate racial or other prejudices, for example, by creating a market in preferred physical traits? Might it lead to a society of DNA haves and have-nots, and the creation of a new underclass of people unable to keep up with the genetically fortified Joneses?

The troublesome questions being raised by genetic enhancement are among many now arising as scientists break through long-standing barriers in various fields, such as human reproduction, genetic engineering and animal-to-human organ transplants.

Advances in farm animal cloning, for example, have stirred fears that human adults may also someday be cloned. And the mass production of gene-altered animals with "humanized" organs may bring not only an end to the shortage of transplantable organs but also new epidemics, as deadly animal viruses gain their first entry into people.

Some of these issues remain mostly hypothetical for now, but many are surprisingly close at hand. Given the accelerating rate of scientific advancement, experts said, it's not too soon to consider what limits, if any, ought to be placed on even some seemingly remote possibilities.

Until a few years ago, human genetic enhancement was one of those. But with the rapid-fire identification of genes affecting physical characteristics, such as height and skin color, and behavioral traits such as aggression and sociability -- and recent improvements in the art of injecting genes into people -- many scientists now believe that modest genetic makeovers could become a reality within the next few years.

"Certain types of enhancement will probably be upon us sooner than we'd like to realize," Evans said.

The federal government is taking that prospect seriously. The National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration convened a meeting last month to consider for the first time what regulations may be appropriate for cosmetic gene therapy. NIH officials organized the meeting so they might be prepared for the first such experiments, instead of reacting to them afterward, as happened when news broke in February that scientists had for the first time cloned an adult mammal.

"We all know it's coming," said Theodore Friedmann, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego.

Public opinion polls suggest that the demand for genetic enhancements may be substantial. Surveys in 1986 and 1992 showed that 40 percent to 45 percent of the American public approved of the concept of using genes to bolster physical and intellectual traits.

Those polls also suggested, however, that the science had gotten ahead of the public understanding about the possible consequences of a free market in genes. Few people realize, for example, that although gene therapy holds promise against inherited diseases and cancer, none of the approximately 2,000 patients treated so far has been cured by the still experimental technique. Meanwhile, the procedure -- which generally uses special viruses to inject new genes into peoples' cells -- has the potential to cause cancer or other problems.

Because of those risks, federally funded scientists who want to put new genes into patients must first convince the NIH and the FDA that the potential for harm is outweighed by potential benefits. Privately funded researchers generally submit their proposals for review as well, although they don't have to.

No regulations specifically preclude the use of genes for cosmetic purposes, and until recently none seemed necessary. But in March, after months of internal debate, NIH officials changed the equation by approving for the first time a gene therapy experiment in people who were not sick.

The gene being added will not benefit the participants; it's part of a larger effort to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. But scientists and ethicists immediately expressed concern that it might serve as a precedent for other gene modifications in healthy individuals. A slippery slope might ensue, some said, with doctors eventually offering elective enhancements in people's genetic makeup.

But as researchers and regulators discussed at last month's meeting, the line between treatment and enhancement won't be easy to draw.

"The central question is, `What is a disease?' " Friedmann said. "Disease is a spectrum, spanning from what we all clearly believe to be disease . . . to someone like me who would clearly benefit from a hair transplant."

Friedmann, at least, may be in luck. A San Diego company that specializes in getting genes into hair follicles already is developing a gene-laden lotion that would be rubbed into the scalp to reverse baldness. It's also experimenting with genes that will make gray hair grow dark again and to make straight hair grow curly -- a truly permanent permanent.

"Genetic enhancement is going to happen," said University of Southern California gene therapist W. French Anderson. "Congress is not going to pass a law keeping you from curing baldness."

Anderson is one of many scientists urging the government to postpone for as long as possible that inevitability. But the ethical arguments against cosmetic gene therapy are not open and shut. After all, no one is against improvements in diet to help children grow taller, or better schools to help them learn. What's wrong with using genes to accomplish those goals?

Moreover, cosmetic gene therapy would not affect eggs or sperm (that kind of gene therapy, in which acquired traits could be passed to children, is technically more difficult and is widely considered to be a decade or more in the future), so arguments against engineering future generations do not apply. And old-fashioned cosmetic surgery has been around for decades with little apparent damage to the social fabric.

Some experts suggest that genetic enhancement bothers people because it represents a kind of "cheating" more fundamental than that of cosmetic surgery. For example, scientists already know that a gene called IGF-1, which makes muscles grow, could be valuable to an athlete heading for an Olympic meet -- and would be virtually impossible to test for, since IGF-1 occurs naturally in the body. But as with steroid use and "blood doping," gene enhancement would undercut the Olympic spirit of earning rewards through hard work and training, said Case Western Reserve University ethicist Eric Juengst.

Others note that one person's cosmetic concern is another person's medical problem. Obesity, for instance, is a serious medical condition as well as an unpopular aesthetic. How should regulators view gene therapy for weight loss?

That question may soon be more than hypothetical, said Case Western researcher Hunt Willard. Scientists already have identified a gene that, when mutated, causes Prader-Willi syndrome, a disease characterized by a huge appetite and extreme overeating.

"If one copy of that [normal] gene keeps people from overeating, maybe two or three copies of this gene will be the new Jenny Craig," Willard said, referring to the popular weight-loss plan.

In fact, only rarely will cosmetic gene therapy be that simple. Very few traits are encoded by a single gene, and many genes do more than one thing. Researchers announced two weeks ago, for example, that IGF-1 enhances the growth of prostate tumors -- a big price to pay for bigger biceps. Similarly, children with the Prader-Willi mutation are not only obese but also are uniformly extremely cheerful. That suggests the gene plays a role in mood as well as appetite, and that injections of the normal gene may change more than a person's weight.

"The question is," Evans asked, "will you then have people who are very thin but miserable?"

That would run counter to the American Medical Association's position on genetic tinkering, which states that genetic enhancement of traits should be considered only when there is "no trade-off with other characteristics or traits." Those guidelines are subjective and nonbinding, however, leading some to suggest that professional self-policing is an inadequate regulatory option.

Another option is to restrict reimbursement, as Medicare already does, to the "treatment of illness or injury or to improve the functioning of a malformed body part." That would probably limit enhancement procedures, but would not preclude the wealthy from simply paying for the traits they want.

Yet another option is to rely on the FDA, which regulates gene therapy as a biological therapy, said Maxwell Mehlman, director of the law-medicine center at Case Western Reserve. But that agency generally requires less proof of safety and efficacy -- not more -- for cosmetic products, Mehlman noted. For example, the agency ultimately gave up its demands for proof of efficacy of liposuction, concluding that the benefits of the fat removal system are probably best characterized in terms of "patient satisfaction."

Would people be satisfied with cosmetic gene therapy? Or would enhancement just lead to a never-ending escalation of bigger and better?

The example of short stature may provide a clue. Researchers suspect that daily injections of human growth hormone throughout childhood may help many short children attain average heights. The treatment is controversial, however, in part because the enormous number of injections can leave a child feeling even more convinced that short stature is a serious disease. A single dose of growth hormone genes might overcome that problem by providing a lifelong supply of the hormone without the need for shots. But in the end it would simply raise the average height, leave a new group of kids at the bottom of the curve, and perhaps strengthen -- rather than weaken -- bias against shorter people.

To avoid such scenarios, some believe there may be a need for a ban on federal funding of genetic enhancement experiments -- or even a broader legislative ban to include the private sector, as has been proposed for human cloning. Even if gene therapy research were somehow restricted to bona fide medical applications, however, companies might still wend their way into the cosmetic market.

That's the hope among scientists at Anticancer Inc., the San Diego company developing a genetic cure for baldness. Andrew Perry, president of the company's consumer products division, said the company will apply first for FDA marketing approval for hair regrowth in cancer patients who have become permanently bald as a result of chemotherapy treatments. Once it's approved for that medical condition, he said, they will see if they can broaden the market.

Similarly, McIvor said, imagine a company that wants to offer a permanent tan -- a feat that might be accomplished by adding the gene for tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in the production of the skin pigment melanin. "Sunburns can lead to skin cancer, so it could be seen as sort of a melanoma vaccine," McIvor said. "But it may also be seen as a cosmetic thing. Is that enhancement or treatment? Well, it's a little of both."

The reverse example, in which people of color may someday consider the possible social benefits of genetically lightening their skin, carries even greater ethical freight, said ethicist Juengst, who is a member of the NIH committee that examines gene therapy proposals.

"Self-improvement and wanting the best for your children is acceptable and encouraged in this culture," Juengst said. "But would I be complicitous with some unfair cultural values if I chose to change my skin color" to one that offers the best chances of societal acceptance?

That question concerns not only racial minorities but also people who suffer from rare genetic conditions -- many of whom also face discrimination and worry that the field of gene therapy is abandoning them for more profitable cosmetic endeavors.

"There will be many wealthy people willing and eager to pay the price of making their child taller and more beautiful," said Michael S. Langan, a vice president of the National Organization for Rare Disorders. "Eventually there will be discrimination against those who look `different' because their genes were not altered. The absence of ethical restraints means crooked noses and teeth, or acne, or baldness, will become the mark of Cain in a century from now."


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: rwolfson@concentric.net

Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering. To receive regular news on genetic engineering and this campaign, please send an email message with 'subscribe GE' in the subject line to rwolfson@concentric.net To unsubscribe, please send the message 'unsubscribe GE'


Bookreview: Milk -- the Deadly Poison

Goodbye Bovine Growth Hormone/Milk

Genetic Engineering / Monsanto Exposed!

Date: 10 Oct 1997 16:58:03 -0600
From: Betty Martini betty@noel.pd.org

Dear Geoff:

Thank you for the note. I don't think anyone is going to have to worry about the bovine growth hormone much longer. I think its time to let the secret out.

Robert Cohen had been working with Canada to stop the bovine growth hormone from being allowed there. As you know, he has researched the issue for years now, and finally it was time to tell the world the facts.

I feel Robert Cohen's book now available will probably be one of the most controversial books in health ever to hit the market. It's titled MILK: THE DEADLY POISON. And the cover-ups are exposed. Everybody in the world should read this book. In my opinion, no one would ever consider using the bovine growth hormone after reading this incredible book. It has been reviewed by Jane Heimlich, wife of Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventer of the Heimlich Maneuver. Here is what she says:

"I suspected that milk was a health diaster in the Spring of 94 and was one of the few health writers taking a critical view of the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, rBGH. What was needed to bring the deleterious effects to the fore was an intrepid scientist who could confront scientists from these prestigious organizations (FDA, AMA, WHO),speak their language, interpret scientific data and reveal the facts about the true nature of the milk hormone.

Enter Robert Cohen, with rich experience in biological research. A call shortly after my July '94 article appeared (Health & Healing, a newsletter with one-half million subscribers) from Mr. Cohen divulged his suspicions that the FDA's approval of the bovine growth hormone represented not only collusion between Monsanto and the FDA but a cover-up of epic proportions by the scientific establishment. His three-year fact finding journey proved him chillingly right.

Reading this book, you will learn that milk contributes to heart disease and increases your risk of breast cancer. You will learn that milk is a poor source of calcium and why, and that milk is a prime cause of allergies and much more.

Cohen takes you by the hand as he uncovers layers of scientific fraud perpetuated by the FDA, with assistance from JAMA, SCIENCE NEWS and even the Cadillac of scientific publications, SCIENCE. In digging for scientific facts, he found that the web of deception concerning the bovine growth hormone involved not only key players - FDA and Monsanto, but reached members of Congress as well as a respected medical authority turned Monsanto lobbyist. At times this book reads like a detective story. Eventually our indefatigable scientific sleuth uncovered the smoking gun -- incontrovertible evidence showing that laboratory animals treated with rBGH developed cancer, but he could not induce the FDA to reconsider their approval of the hormone.

My husband, Dr. Henry Heimlich, devisor of the Heimlich maneuver, had a similar experience dealing with the American REd Cross. Stymied by scientific fraud and bureaucratic blindness, he took his life and death issue to the public. Robert Cohen has taken the same tack. Reading this meticulously documented book, written in a lively informed style and punctuated with irreverent humor, I feel sure you will be convinced, as I am, that milk is hazardous to your health."

Some quotes: "Everyone that useths milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." King James Version of The Holy Bible, Hebrews: 5:13-14

"Cows milk in the past has always been oversold as the perfect food, but we are now seeing that it isn't the perfect food at all and the government really shouldn't be behind any efforts to promote it as such." Benjamin Spock, M.D.

"These dairymen are organized; they're adamant, they're militant .. And they, they're massing an enormous amount of money that they're going to put into political activities, very frankly." Secretary of the Treasury John Connally to President Richard Nixon, from the Watergate Tapes, 3/23/71

"Cow's milk is not suited for human consumption. Milk causes constipation, biliousness, coated tongue, headache, and these are the symptoms of intestinal auto-intoxication. Soybean milk, and nut milks are excellent substitutes, and have practically the same analyses, and the danger of disease is removed." Jethro Kloss, BACK TO EDEN, l939

"My illness is due to my doctor's insistence that I drink milk, a whitish fluid they force down helpless babies." W. C. Fields

MILK: The Deadly Poison, by Robert Cohen is 317 pages containing 336 references ), ISBN #0-9659-196-0-9 Internet: http://www.notmilk.com
Copyright @ l997 Argus Publishing, 301 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07032

For the book you can call toll-free 1 888-NOTMILK (1-888-668-6455)

Geoff, a copy of this is going all over the world and to the press. This is the Press Release: (Not Beer Bellies, Milk Bellies)

"The average American drinks 8 ounces of beer per day while total milk and dairy products consumed equal 26 ounces per day,more than triple the amount of beer. One 12 ounce glass of beer contains 144 calories and no fat. On the other hand, a 12 ounce glass of milk contains 300 calories and 16 grams of fat. Beer takes the rap for dairy, and protruding stomachs should be labeled "milk bellies".

According to Robert Cohen, "A sip of milk contains hundreds of different substances, each one having the potential to exert a powerful biological effect when taken independently of the others. Proteins and hormones, fat and cholesterol, pesticides and vitamin D added, viruses and baceria (including bovine immunodeficiency virus, bovine leukemia virus and bovine tuberculosis virus) all combine to produce a vast array of ailments in our society."

Dairy cows are also injected with genetically engineered versions of their own growth hormones which make possible greater milk production. The new milk is different from the old milk. Biotechnology has opened up a Pandora's box of demons and dilemmas. "Wholesome" milk contains powerful growth hormones. The new milk from cows treated with the genetically engineered bovine protein contains increased levels of these same potent growth factors. This milk controversy, brought about by genetic engineering, has placed the dairy industry under an investigative microscope.

MILK; THE DEADLY POISON, investigates to what end billions of dairy industry dollars have been invested to influence the FDA and Congress as well as the scientific and medical establishment, misleading Americans about the dangers in consuming milk and dairy products. This book will reveal that milk is indeed a "deadly poison."

--- End of press release ---

Robert Cohen - Congratulations For An Incredible Job that took you years. I hope your dedication to human life and education wins you a Nobel Prize! I know this book will be talked about the world over. I hope you don't mind that I took this opportunity to spill the beans and encourage the world that dedication to the good of humankind will overcome!

Oh, and Bob, you know Dr. Roberts is about to release three books exposing the Monsanto poison, NutraSweet. We'll meet you at the Finish Line! You can decide who is going to carry the Torch! This is a race for the health and welfare of the human family!

Betty Martini, Founder
Mission Possible International

To the media: Bob's phone is 201 -599 -0325 for interviews - his email address is i4crob@mail.idt.net


For more information on aspartame email: betty@pd.org

VISIT http://www.dorway.com/possible.html
Get links to 29 other sites.

Disability and Death are not acceptable costs of business!

Back to Index