Genetically Manipulated Food News

8 February 1998

Table of Contents

Most important enviromental issue of our time
Robert Cohen on Monsanto's Questionable "Science"
Some Questions Raised by the Proposed USDA Organic Standards
Postcard in Organic magazine
USDA's Comment Period Extended
Prof. Philip James warns of "Frankenstein Foods"
Calls for EPA Plan to Slow Insect Resistance to Natural Pesticide
Trial in France to Focus on Genetically Altered Maize
Genetic Engineering: Technology or Cookery?
New tomato keeps men healthy - with a bit of sauce on the side
Duped consumers swallow genetically altered food

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Date: Fri, 6 Feb 1998 07:07:48 -0700
From: pmligotti@earthlink.net (Peter M. Ligotti)
Subject: Most important enviromental issue of our time

Most important enviromental issue of our time

Post from Renu Namjoshi
Texas Consumers For Safe Food:

Frankly, I am amazed at the lukewarm reception I have received about the USDA's proposed organic standards from environmental activists, especially the well established environmental organizations. The majority of the them are too deeply entrenched in their own particular issues to switch gears and become concerned about the possibility of losing the organic sector. I have not even been able to get enthusiasm from an organization whose mission is to promote traditional ways of growing and cooking.

I understand that all issues are critical - clean air, clean water, polluted rivers, PCB's, nuclear waste or whatever the environmental group is fighting for. However, what most environmentalists are failing to see is that this one is the most important environmental issue of our time. Let me explain why. When it comes to clear air, for example, the powers that be point out to us that people are not willing to give up driving or flying, or are unwilling to buy more expensive cars.

The organic sector is different. It is a win, win situation for the environment, the producers and the consumers. It was created voluntarily by consumers who are willing to pay higher prices for foods they consider to be superior and grown in harmony with nature. Where will we be able to make effective changes to preserve the environment if we cannot do it here - a thriving segment of our economy? If we loose this one we environmentalists might as well pack up our bags and go home. How can we expect to keep GEO's out of conventional foods if we cannot even do it in organic foods?

To illustrate how ludicrous the USDA's proposed organic standards are I like to use this example. The EPA decides that consumers can no longer buy high quality indoor air purifiers unless they spew out small amounts of contaminants.

The organic approach is a "holistic" approach to living and must be preserved. Its success can be used to promote other environmental issues.

Finally, we must have high organic standards so that other standards of food production can be measured against them. Without organic standards we are headed for a further decline in the way in which our food is grown and processed in this country.

Renu Namjoshi
Texas Consumers For Safe Food


Date: Fri, 6 Feb 1998 09:12:29 -0700
From: pmligotti@earthlink.net (Peter M. Ligotti)
Subject: Robert Cohen on Monsanto's Questionable "Science"

Robert Cohen on Monsanto's Questionable "Science"

Robert Cohen leads the charge in exposing fine details regarding Monsanto's multiple layers of questionable "science."

Robert Cohen 1-888-not-milk wrote:

Dear Quenten,

As per your request...I sent this letter to McLoughlin of your EPA.

Regards,

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

Robert Cohen
P.O. Box 36
Oradell, NJ 07649
United States
http://www.NOTMILK.com

February 6, 1997

Environmental Protection Agency
Ardcavan, Co.
Wexford, Ireland

Ladies and Gentlemen:

MONSANTO represents the "leading edge" in BIOTECHNOLOGY. That edge is razor-sharp and shows no mercy as it cuts its way through the world's laboratories.

Recently our own Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was deceived by MONSANTO. During the transcription process for the recombinant bovine horomone (rbGH/rbST) an incorrect translation occurred and a "FREAK" amino acid was produced.

Amino acid #144 should hgave been lysine. Instead, MONSANTO created epslon-N-acetyllyine. MONSANTO did not inform our FDA of the error, as they were required to. Proof positive was published in the July, 1994 issue of the Journal of Protein Science by MONSANTO scientist, Bernard Violand.

We are not ready for this new technology. MONSANTO is not prepared to reveal problems to government authorities. One rbGH study (authored by Richard, Odaglia and Deslex) will never be released because there were so many problems created including a vast array of cancers on the subject animals.

Until that time that all existing research is available for peer review, it would not be appropriate to have the citizens of your nation as unpaid and unsuspecting laboratory animals.

I urge you to reject the MONSANTO proposal.

Very truly yours,

Robert Cohen

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The address for any administrative command like unsubscribe, subscribe or help is:

GENTECH-REQUEST@ping.de


Date: Fri, 6 Feb 1998 15:22:53 -0700
From: pmligotti@earthlink.net (Peter M. Ligotti)
Subject: Some Questions Raised by the Proposed USDA Organic Standards

Posted by Judy Kew:

Some Questions Raised by the Proposed USDA Organic Standards

By: Claire Cummings

Just about everything we care about: our land, air, water, food, personal health, social justice, and even democracy, is affected by an action currently being taken by the [US] federal government. For the last thirty years, the organic farming movement has grown and matured, producing food in ways that are more ecologically and socially sound than conventional farming. Now, the USDA has proposed regulations for the organic industry that would destroy all that we have created. And the way this was done was an undemocratic and unpleasant surprise to those who worked hard to formulate acceptable federal standards, not to mention the thousands of small farmers who developed the standards and practices that built the organic industry, literally from the ground up.

What does the word "organic" mean to you? The new proposed regulations would redefine "organic" to include toxic sludge, genetically engineered organisms, and irradiated food. By demeaning the term, it would effectively prohibit the use of the word "organic" on labels for foods produced under stricter guidelines. The high standards already set in California by its organic foods law would be superseded by the new federal law. These ecological practices, the health of the land, the hope of the consumer are all jeopardized.

The new law changes the qualifiying requirements and raises the costs of registering as an organic producer and will put hundreds of small farmers and many third party certifiers out of business. Public confidence will be jeopardized because people would not be able to rely on organic labels as meaning what they have come to expect, a pure product, grown or prepared with concern for the highest level of safety. For instance, instead of requiring livestock feed to be 100% organic feed, the new regulations would allow 20% non-organic feed, confinement operations and liberal drug use (only for the livestock, of course, not the producer.)

What is your favorite issue? Democracy and freedom of expression? These new regulations were not produced by the agency that was created to do this work. In 1992, the USDA formed an advisory board to write these rules, The National Organic Standards Board. The NOSB met for years, did their job, and made a complete set of recommendations to the USDA that were acceptable to growers, processors and consumers. The USDA ignored the work of the NOSB and promulgated their own set of rules instead.

Who is behind these substandard rules? Clearly, the beneficiaries would be the agribusiness conglomerates who would not have to adhere to the high standards that were developed by the organic industry. The losers, as usual, would be the organic farmers and the consumers who care about how food is produced. Why would the agribusiness interests care about organics? Because it is not a marginal market anymore.

The U.S. organic industry is worth 4 billion dollars in annual sales and is growing at over 20% a year. In a press release last year, Swissair announced that "the trend towards organically grown foods is increasing across the globe", and by the year 2000 Swissair will ensure that 90% of the products they use to prepare meals are organically grown and even their coffee will be fair trade coffee. Must be something good going on. And this re-writing of the rules amounts to nothing less than a hostile takeover of the success of the organic industry by industrialized agriculture interests, hoping to cash in on the trend.

There must be a story here, about how the interests that stand to gain, whoever they are, were able to re-write the rules that were already drafted by the NOSB, and get the USDA to promulgate them, in the face of all the contributions already made by the organic industry and the expectations of the American public. This is a misappropriation of the word "organic" and the value that it has come to mean to the consumer. It is an abuse of the public's trust in nation's organic farmers. It may even be a theft of the organic industry's ownership of the word organic, a "takings" by the government of the intellectual property of the leaders who developed the meaning of the word "organic", organizations like California Certified Organic Farmers, the Organic Trade Association, and the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

The USDA defends their rule making procedure. They say that this is just a proposal, not set in stone, and point to the "public process" of comment that is now being conducted. As if. First, it should be pointed out to the USDA that the experts who worked on these rules, the NOSB, took six years to do their work. The rules are hundreds of pages of technical material. The NOSB recommendations were then ignored, and an entirely new set of rules were proposed, by the USDA, as a nasty surprise for all of us.

What is the public supposed to do, write a third version of their own? The timing of the comment period would be a joke, if it were not such a serious matter. The public, not even having the resources or the expertise of the NOSB members, are supposed to review hundreds of pages of complicated regulations, and in less than 90 days, read and respond to the USDA's version of these enormously complex and technical regulations. Even the comment process itself is highly complex, requiring citations to specific rule sections to be considered. This is democracy at work? Appoint a committee, ignore its recommendations, dump a load of bureaucratic sludge on the public and expect us to dig our way out?

And how did it happen that the NOSB proposals were dumped? Who wrote the new rules? The USDA is avoiding the public outcry that would result if this story gets told. They have made it very difficult to get informed and they do not want to hear from us. California is the largest agricultural state in the nation and home to most of the growing organic industry. The USDA has scheduled no hearings on the rules in California. And the State of California is going along with the gag. California farmers and the public were given only one month to comment to the State Department of Food and Agriculture about these rules and how they should respond to USDA.

Why are these regulations being shoved down our throats? As a former USDA attorney, having witnessed the rule making process myself, I have little confidence that the agency will pay attention to the public. As my friend, and superb organic farmer Janet Brown says, even a dog knows the difference betweeb being tripped over and being kicked on purpse. But does the public recognize a denial of due process here? Even if the timing were better, will the USDA listen? I doubt it.

Does anyone know of a federal agency rule making process where the public has been able to stop the process? The agency is forcing the public to comment on rules that are so fundamentally flawed that no good outcome is possible. The public comment period is only playing the game on their turf, according to their rules, but we absolutely have to respond. These rules must not be allowed to stand, and the process for drafting any new ones must stand up to public scrutiny. Small changes to a bad law at the last minute are not a remedy for this wholesale theft of the public's confidence in organics, but what choice do we have? We deserve an accountable, transparent process.

Care about international trade? The new rules declare that their major purpose is to encourage agricultural exports. But the new standards are actually lower than those of some of our trading partners in Europe and Japan. So is this a stealth attempt to use the World Trade Organization to reduce the standards in other countries and create a new lower common denominator, one more friendly to agribusiness? The GATT rules on agriculture are up for renewal. Instead of being a world leader in setting high standards in food health and safety, the United States is continuing to push for the interests of industrialized agriculture.

Care about social justice issues? Labor and employment practices by agribusiness, health problems related to pesticides by farm labor and the security of the small family farmer are related issues. If corporate farms continue their take over of our food supply, then these businesses and their giant trading corporate partners can set the price of basic food commodities, dictate the wages and working conditions of farm workers and put family farms out of business through the consolidation of land holdings and economies of scale.

Polluting farming practices and poor labor conditions are cheaper and are more likely to occur if corporations are allowed to continue taking over our food production. Preserving the family and small scale farm that can employ alternative methods and that can produce food for local consumption ensures food safety and is more environmentally sound than industrialized farming methods, and the organic industry is made up of primarily small sized producers. We have not fully addressed the issues of sustainability within the growing organic industry, but that question may become moot if these laws are passed. Lower standards will allow for a greater take over of organic farming by agribusiness and put the small producer out of work and off the land.

Care about personal or public health? A recent report by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation stated that, in 1995, the last year studied, pesticide related illnesses are up 20%, overall. That figure is admittedly low, since so little pesticide illness is reported or verified. The largest component of this rise in illnesses is the use of agricultural chemicals. The report stated that the number of farm illnesses related to pesticide use increased 46%. Isn't one of the major reasons the consumer is buying more organic food, particularly the fastest growing segment of the industry, organic dairy products, due to concern about health? Why would we want to lower those standards and risk losing the trust that we have created in the public, a sophisticated consumer market that has been willing to pay higher prices for food that they know has been produced in a healthy way with pure ingredients?

Our food is so plentiful and the earth is so generous, we have come to take it for granted. These days, almost half of our food is purchased already processed and consumed outside the home, mostly at fast food restaurants. If we care about food, it is often about price or purity; we want our food to be cheap and safe. But as the price we pay for food steadily declines, along with it we are losing our interest in how it is produced. This disconnection, on a spiritual and social level, with the source of our nourishment, must be our greatest loss. We can continue to abdicate responsibility for our food supply or we can take it back. Now. Begin by telling the USDA to withdraw these rules and start over.

Claire Cummings

Attorney, former farmer, writer, activist. Board of Directors of Food First and Community Alliance with Family Famers; Marin Food Policy Council, and Commentator on Food and Farming on KPFA radio.

Claire Cummings
P.O. Box 5124
Mill Valley, California 94942

tel: 415 - 491-1948
fax: 415 - 491-1240

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Date: Sat, 07 Feb 1998 03:48:50 +0100
From: Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)
Subject: Postcard in Organic magazine

Postcard in Organic magazine

The March issue of Organic Gardening Magazine has an insert that contains a preprinted postcard to the USDA asking them to conform to the National Organic Standards Board's recommendations.

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Date: Fri, 06 Feb 1998 21:20:03 -0800
From: Craig Winters craig@craigwinters.com
Subject: Secretary Glickman Extends Comment Period

USDA's Comment Period Extended

Dear BanGenFood Folks,

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman announced Friday that action on new national organic labeling rules would be postponed for 45 days to allow for more public comment. The new deadline for comment is April 30.

The Agriculture Department has received over 4,000 comments on the rules so far. That's not bad, but if we really want to make our point, I would suggest we set as a goal at least 50,000 comments by April 30. As more and more natural product retailers get active in this campaign, this 50,000 figure should be realistic goal.

If you know any retailers who should have displays in their stores, have them contact the Pure Food Campaign. The Pure Food Campaign has a toll-free number (1-800-253-0681), but that will only get you a recording on how to contact them by e-mail or mail. The better telephone number to call the Pure Food Campaign at is 218-226-4164. They also have another web address that is easier to remember than the previous one. It is http://www.purefood.org

Craig Winters
6920 Roosevelt Way NE #250
Seattle, WA 98115
Telephone: 425-775-7644
Fax: 425-776-3262
E-mail: craig@craigwinters.com
Web: http://www.craigwinters.com


Prof. Philip James warns of "Frankenstein Foods" MONSTER OUTLOOK ON NEW NOSH!

Scottish Daily Record, February 3, 1998
by Ken Oxley

Health expert Professor Philip James warned yesterday of the dangers of "Frankenstein Foods"

A health expert warned yesterday of the dangers of "Frankenstein Foods". Professor Philip James said he believed genetically - altered grub had not been properly tested. And he feared scientists could be stocking up serious health problems for the future.

Professor James, of the new Food Standards Agency, said the new nosh could lead to an antibiotic-resistant superbug with devastating consequences.

He said genetically -modified soya was found in up to 60 per cent of processed foods. It's already on supermarket shelves in bread, biscuits, pizzas and even baby foods and scientists insist it is safe.

But Professor James, of the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, warned: "The perception that everything is totally straightforward and safe is utterly naive. "I don't think we fully understand the dimensions of what we're getting into."

Genetically -modified food involves combining genes from different plants and animals to create a new super species.

The controversial practice will be examined in tonight's BBC 1 Frontline Scotland report, Forbidden Fruit, at 10 pm.


Calls for EPA Plan to Slow Insect Resistance to Natural Pesticide

SOURCE: U.S. Newswire Feb 03, 1998
BYLINE: Suzy McDowell of the Union of Concerned Scientists, 202-332-0900
DATELINE: WASHINGTON, Feb. 3
BODY: With the 1998 planting season around the corner and a critical meeting of an Environmental Protection Agency advisory group on genetically engineered crops just a week away, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) today released new plans to forestall the loss of Bt, a valuable natural insecticide. In "Now or Never: Serious New Plans to Save a Natural Pest Control," UCS and six prominent scientists call upon EPA to immediately adopt the plans outlined in the report to slow the development of insect resistance, which would render the Bt toxin ineffective.

"If we are to save Bt, EPA must adopt resistance management plans that live up to the standards set by this report," said Dr. Margaret Mellon, director of UCS' Agriculture and Biotechnology Program. "Failure to do so now could mean we lose our chance to prevent resistance, perhaps forever."

There are currently three crops on the commercial market -- corn, cotton and potatoes -- that have been genetically engineered to produce insecticidal toxins from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This natural pest control is both environmentally safe and effective and has long been used in spray form by organic farmers, gardeners and vegetable growers. The authors of the report are concerned that the current EPA management plans for gene- altered Bt crops will not substantially delay the evolution of resistance.

"Even though adequate resistance management plans have not been adopted, EPA has rashly approved the planting of millions of acres of Bt crops," said Mellon. "EPA's actions have put Bt on a high trapeze before the nets have been installed."

"If resistance occurs, organic farmers and others will lose one of their most valuable natural pest controls," said Dr. Jane Rissler, senior staff scientist for UCS. "Deprived of the Bt crops, farmers would turn once again to multiple applications of synthetic chemical pesticides."

UCS is urging EPA to make all plans mandatory. Under the recommended strategies, farmers would not be permitted to plant all their acreage in Bt crops, but would have to devote large areas (20 to 50 percent of total acreage) to non-Bt crops. The non-Bt crops would have to be planted close to the Bt crops in specified arrangements.

UCS will submit the new report and its recommendations to EPA and the Scientific Advisory Panel subpanel, which will meet to address the issue of Bt resistance Feb. 9-10.

"EPA has a responsibility to protect Bt," said Rissler. "To lose it within a few years -- a distinct possibility if current management plans are not improved -- would be a tragic waste."


Trial in France to Focus on Genetically Altered Maize

PARIS, Feb 2 Reuters

In a case expected to put the spotlight on genetic engineering of foodstuffs, three farmers accused of tampering with bio-engineered maize seeds go on trial tomorrow in the southwestern French town of Agen.

The activists from the Confederation Paysanne farmers union are accused of breaking into the site of Swiss drugs group Novartis in the nearby town of Nerac, slashing bags containing genetically altered seeds and mixing the seeds with others to make them useless for cultivation.

Coinciding with the trial's beginning, a coalition of consumers, farmers and environment groups has launched a campaign to reverse a French government decision allowing the cultivation of the genetically altered maize developed by Novartis.

The coalition has called for a moratorium on all bio- engineered crops so that more research can be conducted and the public given

"For the Confederation Paysanne the authorisation (to produce) genetically modified maize will be on trial on February 3," the union said in a statement.

Opponents of the modified maize hope the trial will draw public attention to the risks from bio-engineered crops as scientists and consumer groups are due to testify in court and explain why they oppose the use of genetic engineering techniques in food crops.

Various demonstrations were planned in front of the law courts throughout the day, a union spokeswoman said. Some 3,000 to 4,000 people were expected in Agen for the trial, she said.

During the weekend opponents of bio-engineering staged protests at two Novartis sites in northern and central France.

The government's decision last November to clear the production of genetically altered maize was however good news for mainstream maize producers association AGPM.

The group said the approval meant that French farmers would be able to compete with their rivals in the United States where gene-crops are authorised.

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

Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
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' to rwolfson@concentric.net for details. To unsubscribe, send the message "unsubscribe"


The following article was published in the December 1997 issue of the Newsletter of Academie Culinaire de France (Filiale de Grande Bretagne).

Genetic Engineering: Technology or Cookery?

Dr Geoffrey Clements
Leader of the Natural Law Party of UK

A review of the actual and potential hazards of genetically engineered foods

What is genetic engineering?

Genetic engineering is the term given to the manipulation in the laboratory of the genetic code of a living organism plant or animal. The main applications put forward by its proponents are in the areas of food and medicine.

To understand the main features of genetic engineering and the enormous risks posed it is necessary to have at least a basic understanding of what the genetic code (also known as the DNA) is, and how it functions in a living organism.

What is the DNA, or the genetic code?

A comprehensive understanding of the DNA requires a background in quantum physics, chemistry, and molecular biology. It is possible, however, to describe in a few sentences some of the most important features and qualities of the DNA molecule. In this article, I would like to portray some of these qualities, in layman's language, highlighting some of the features that are often left out of the picture when genetic engineering is being defined.

Simply speaking, the DNA is the code of all life. It is a very long molecular structure, consisting of a string of units or genes that encode all the information regarding the structure and functioning of a living organism for its entire lifespan, as well as the biological information that is passed on from one generation to the next. Human DNA is arranged as complex double helix, coiled on itself, with of the order of 100,000 genes, as well as substantial lengths of the DNA about which very little is known so far. Human DNA is arranged in 23 pairs of chromosomes, and although the DNA of all living organisms consists of the same four fundamental molecular units, there is a huge variety in terms of the length and shape of DNA from one species to another. Only in the case of extremely rudimentary organisms, such as bacteria, has the sequence of genes in the DNA been completely deciphered, although even here its functioning is far from being completely understood.

The functioning of DNA

The DNA expresses itself through a complex set of processes. These allow the DNA to create the proteins that are at the basis of the multitude of structures and functions in the body. The DNA is "read" or "transcribed", a process which involves specific genes for each specific function. Also involved are other sections of the DNA which switch the gene on or off. (This includes genes known as "promoters" and "operators", as well as molecular complexes called "repressors" and "inducers", which are associated to specific sections of the DNA.) Although this may seem highly technical, these concepts are crucial in understanding why genetic engineering is so hazardous.

A final point on the structure and functioning of DNA. It is often represented as a chain of units, into or out of which sections can be inserted at will, rather like computer chips or spare parts in a car. In reality, it is a beautiful, elegant, and highly complex quantum- mechanical structure, whose configuration and properties are only understood to a meagre degree. This is a very important, but rarely noted, point, since any infinitesimal change to the DNA at any point will change its properties throughout its length, in ways that no scientist could possibly predict.

The elements of genetic engineering

Genetic engineering involves taking bits of DNA from one species, and putting it into the DNA of another, in order to mimic certain desired characteristics.

Contrary to the promotional literature, genetic engineering is not the natural extension of natural breeding or natural selection. Where in nature do we find DNA from a fish, a scorpion, a spider, a virus or bacterium, an animal, or even human DNA, introducing itself into the DNA of a vegetable? Yet these are all examples of the types of genetic transplants that have already been done.

Of equal or even greater concern is the fact that highly active genetic parasites are used to implant the new genes (transgenes) in the DNA of the target species. These are derived from viruses that can cause cancer and other diseases, and are themselves engineered to be active in a wide range of host DNA environments (unlike most viruses, which can survive and multiply only in a limited range of species).

Another myth to be dispelled is that laboratory techniques are perfectly precise, enabling the new gene to be inserted in an exact location in the DNA. This is far from the case. The precision is akin to attaching a string of words on to a brick, throwing it through the library window, and expecting it to lodge in a precise position in a poem in a particular book. Literally thousands of experiments are usually performed before a gene implant performs properly. Even then, there may be one or many unpredictable and uncontrollable secondary effects.

There are two important reasons for this. First, the inserted gene must interrupt the natural sequence of the DNA. Secondly, as pointed out earlier, even the smallest modification will inevitably result in completely unpredictable changes in the form and structure of the DNA on the quantum-mechanical level.

The use of bits and pieces of DNA from viruses and bacteria, crucial to the technology, is also of potentially dire consequence. The control sections for the new gene (promoters, repressors, etc) are much cruder in their operation than for "natural" genes. Therefore they may switch the new gene on or off in an unpredictable manner, leading again to side-effects that could turn up at any time in the future. This aspect of the technology also means that natural barriers that stop DNA hopping from one species to another no longer apply. The highly virulent components (from viruses and bacteria) of the inserted genes could transfer to other plant species, to animals, and to our own DNA, leading to new diseases in plants, animals and humans, or mutations of a completely unpredictable nature.

There are a number of other technicalities that should be mentioned for completeness, and which are described in the articles referred to below.

HOWEVER IT MUST BE EMPHASISED THAT THOSE CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN GENE TECHNOLOGY HAVE NO GUARANTEES AGAINST THESE EFFECTS OCCURRING.

Misadventures so far

Already, in the brief history of genetic engineering, there have been more than enough "mistakes" to show that we should call a halt to the introduction of new modified products. Some examples:

Toxicity: a food supplement, which had been manufactured by a process using a genetically engineered enzyme, killed 37 people and permanently disabled 1,500 more. Allergies: soybean containing a brazil nut gene was found to create allergic reactions similar to those caused by brazil nuts themselves (these reactions can of course be fatal). Fortunately, the problem was found at the research phase and the soybean was not marketed. (Soybean is a component of 60% of processed foods.)

Damaging effects through ingesting modified products: bees consuming pollen from genetically modified plants suffered from impaired sense of smell and had shortened lifespan. DNA is difficult to destroy; it survives boiling, and ingested DNA can survive the digestive process. From there it can pass into the bloodstream and into other cells. Possibilities include genetic disturbances, including cancer.

Changed hormone levels and altered milk content: cows eating genetically engineered soybeans showed increased fat content in their milk. This was probably related to increased plant oestrogen, which can also affect humans, especially children (The USA company, Genetic ID, can detect the presence of as little as 1 in 10,000 modified soybeans.)

In another case, the use of genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (BST) created sickness in cattle and unhealthy milk. Uncontrolled gene transfer to other species: modified oil-seed rape is closely related to wild plant species. The modified genes have been shown to be transferred to the wild species through pollen. This can lead to: The development of superweeds: that are resistant to herbicides.

Evidence of this has already been observed, and the creation of new super-viruses. Build up of antibiotic resistance: this is already a rapidly-growing problem in medicine, leading to the emergence of super-diseases, that are virtually untreatable. Many genetically modified plants carry antibiotic-resistant genes.

Loss of biodiversity: the range of crop seed species is restricted and the use of herbicides curtails wild plant species.

Loss of food quality: there is already evidence of poor quality in some modified foods, eg soft, easily damaged fruits.

Crop failure and unexpected results: failure of a genetically modified cotton crop; the unexpected and unpredictable change in colour of modified petunias.

Proliferation of crops that are dependent on high input of chemicals: a designer feature of many crops is their dependence on fertilizers and pesticides. (Incidentally, these crops are also singularly unsuitable for developing countries, for whom genetically engineered foods are held as the long-awaited saviour.)

Increased pollution of food and water supply: the increased use of chemicals is a hazard for our food and water.

Pollution of the soil with transgenes: this has already been observed in soil fungi and bacteria.

Ethical concerns: there are many issues here, eg religious and vegetarian, when animal and human genes are found in plants and other animals.

Considering that genetically engineered foods have been around for such a short time, these are surely enough examples to show that we must call a halt to such dangerous experimentation with the code of life. Many foodstuffs, ingredients, and processing substances are already subject to genetic engineering; many more are on the way. The need for a moratorium is urgent. There are no good reasons why such an untried technology, subject to such a range of lethal hazards, should be rushed on to the market.

Labelling is not adequate it is a tacit admission that either the technology is acceptable, which clearly it is not, or that commercial forces have conquered common sense and prudence regarding the future of life itself. There can be no product recall for genetic transformations once released into the environment, these mutations will be around as long as life survives on earth. There is a saying "If you violate Natural Law, Natural Law will violate you." To avoid the proliferation of such dangerous technologies, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that life, including science and technology, is lived in tune with Natural Law.

Dr Geoffrey Clements, November 1997

Suggested further reading

Useful internet and e-mail addresses Internet http://www.natural-law-party.org.uk (Natural Law Party manifesto and materials on genetic engineering)
http://www.shef.ac.uk/uni/projects/doe/pre93.htm (listing of genetically modified organisms released in the UK)
http://www.shef.ac.uk/uni/projects/doe/pubreg.htm (gives the names and addresses where public registers of genetically modified organisms released in the UK may be found) E-mail The following e-mail addresses are good sources for upttotdate information: Dr Richard Wolfson, Canada: rwolfson@concentric.net
Dr Mae Wan Ho, Open University, UK: M.W.Ho@open.ac.uk

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

Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
email: rwolfson@concentric.net
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Date: Sat, 7 Feb 1998 21:59:13 -0800 (PST)
From: MichaelP papadop@PEAK.ORG

New tomato keeps men healthy - with a bit of sauce on the side

by Steve Connor, Science Correspondent
London Sunday Times February 8 1998 BRITAIN,

SCIENTISTS have captured the secret of the sun-dried tomato. They have created a genetically engineered tomato plant that could prevent prostate cancer and so prolong men's sex lives.

The tomato has been altered to boost its production of lycopene, a natural ingredient which has been shown to reduce significantly the risk of men developing the cancer.

The research marks a new era in the genetic enhancement of food. Until now changes have concentrated on improving the crop yields or the shelf-life of supermarket products.

A "virility" tomato is one of the first in a new line of genetically engineered products which are aimed at improving the extra nutritional content of a wide variety of foods. The tomato is generating intense interest from biotechnology companies which want to sell lycopene-enriched products.

Tomatoes have the highest levels of lycopene of any fruit or vegetable and could account for the low incidence of prostate cancer in some Mediterranean countries, where older men are renowned for their continued interest in love-making.

Several studies have shown that men who eat between five and 10 servings of tomato a week decrease their risk of developing prostate cancer by nearly a half.

Levels of lycopene in the body are highest in the testes, prostate and adrenal glands, which are intimately involved with generating the hormones that are necessary for sexual performance.

Zeneca, the British biotechnology company, is running a lycopene research project aimed at boosting the naturally high levels of the substance in tomatoes.

Camilla Beech, a Zeneca executive, said the company's scientists have identified many of the genes involved in the production of lycopene in tomatoes and are developing ways of increasing its concentration. "We are trying to get the plant to overproduce lycopene in the tomato fruit. We have identified the genes and created transgenic plants," she said.

Beech said it was too early to say whether Zeneca will market the tomato as a "virility product" given that it will take at least two years for it to receive the approval of regulatory bodies. "We would have to see what the market potential is," she said.

Jack Winkler, an independent policy analyst on the health aspects of food, said it might be easier for Zeneca to sell the tomato as a virility booster than as a product for preventing prostate cancer.

"As the regulations stand it is more permissible to say something maintains and enhances health than it is to say it prevents disease. I think this tomato is more likely to be sold as something that maintains natural powers than something which can help to avoid cancer," Winkler said.

The creation of new foods with medicinal properties is not restricted to tomatoes. Many companies are experimenting with adding extra calcium to products such as chewing gum to prevent osteoporosis in older women.

Healthy shoppers in America can buy eggs from hens fed on fish oil: the eggs are enhanced with antioxidants, vitamin E and essential fatty acids for guarding against heart disease and cancer.

Gerblé, the French confectionary company, sells a chocolate called Barre Memoire that is enriched with a substance believed to help improve the memory; in Britain, Allied Bakeries has recently launched Burgen bread with added phyto-oestrogens to help menopausal women cope with hot flushes.


Date: Sat, 7 Feb 1998 22:15:14 -0800 (PST)
From: MichaelP papadop@PEAK.ORG
Subject: genetically altered food - London piece

London Sunday Times February 8 1998 INNOVATION -- Nutrition

Duped consumers swallow genetically altered food

SCIENTISTS are warning consumers that within the next month they run the risk of unwittingly eating genetically modified food, writes Sean Hargrave.

The Food And Drink Federation, which represents food manufacturers, is launching a web site devoted to the issue and is distributing CD-Roms on the subject to schools.

The main concerns about modified food are that its long-term effects on health have not been exhaustively tested and that altered crops could damage the environment, by harming insects that feed on them. Cross pollination between plants could lead to "super weeds" that can resist herbicides, making them impossible to kill.

Geneticists are raising the alarm because within the next few weeks soya harvested last autumn in America will reach the shops - the beans can be found in processed foods, including pizza, margarine, chocolate and ice cream.

The concern is that 15% of last year's American crop - five times more than in 1996 - was genetically modified to enable the beans to resist a herbicide used to keep weeds down. The figure is expected to double during this year's harvest.

The American farmers have not had to segregate modified and unmodified crops and so it is now increasingly likely that manufacturers could be unintentionally adding modified soya to food.

A voluntary labelling agreement has just come in to force which labels all food containing soya protein as being genetically modified.

Critics say the system does not empower consumers to make informed purchases because nearly all products will be labelled as containing modified soya, regardless of whether they really are.

The Genetics Forum, which is opposed to the rapid introduction of modified food, says the labels are meaningless as they do not have the force of law behind them. The modified soya looks and tastes like the original product, and there is no law to force shops to admit that an item may contain genetically altered ingredients.

The forum is also critical of the voluntary code that applies to products containing soya protein but not soya oil, which is used in many products, such as flour and chocolate.

"What we've got now is a mishmash that we're not happy with," says Susan Casey from the forum. "The system we have is being put together on an ad hoc voluntary basis. We think if the population was aware of how modified food is creeping into shops without them knowing they would be horrified. You only have to look at the demand for organic produce to realise the importance people place on knowing what is in their food and where it has come from."

There is no proven health risk associated with modified food, but opponents claim this does not prove it is safe because there have been no long-term tests. Malcolm Walker, chairman of Iceland, the supermarket chain, is one of the industry's strongest opponents of, what he terms, "Frankenstein food".

"It takes seven years or so to get a new pill on the market, but these new foods are getting approval at the drop of a hat," he says. "The Americans are purposefully not separating the modified and unmodified soya because they know, if given the choice, we would go for the unmodified. There can be no categorical assurance that these new foods are not bad for us, the long-term tests have not been done. And soya is the thin end of the wedge, later this year we will probably be seeing altered maize and wheat."

Iceland is due to announce that its own-brand products are free of genetically altered ingredients. It buys from suppliers who have secured unmodified ingredients.

The Food and Drink Federation's web site can be found at www.foodfuture.org.uk

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