Genetically Manipulated Food News

Samstag, 4. April 1998

Table of Contents

Biotech Bacteria Highlights Limitations of Risk Assessment
GE and Traditional Breeding Methods: A Technical Perspective
Scientists Warn That GE Food May Have Serious Consequences
Will GE crops deliver benefits to farmers? (Quotes of Prominent People)

Back to Index


Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD Reprinted with permission from the March 1998 issue of Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition, 7436 Fraser Park Drive, Burnaby, BC V5J 5B9 Biotech Bacteria Highlights Limitations of Risk Assessment

Biotech Bacteria Highlights Limitations of Risk Assessment

Rhizobium meliloti is a nitrogen-fixing bacterium. It naturally colonizes the roots of legumes, converting nitrogen from the air into soluble nitrates that plants can use.

A new variety of the bacterium has now been genetically engineered. It contains additional genes coding for the nitrogen-fixing enzyme, in the hopes of increasing yields. (Whether the genetically altered bacteria can actually enhance yields is under question.) The new bacteria were also given foreign antibiotic-resistant genes.

The altered bacteria were approved by the USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on September 16, 1997, and can be used in alfalfa fields throughout the USA starting in the spring of 1998.

Approval Process Faulty

An expert scientist's evaluation of the EPA's official scientific review showed that the risk assessment for environmental effects contained little hard data. He said it was simply "speculation" that the organism would be harmless.

The review didn't adequately address issues like whether or not the bacteria would alter the ecology or fertility of the soil, or cause increases in antibiotic-resistant organisms. The basis for approval was that "the parent organism has been used without ill effect."

It is alarming that there is no standard process in the United States or Canada to evaluate the hazards of GE organisms. There are no formal risk assessment methodologies, no science policies, no significant debate on the scientific and social issues of genetic engineering, no understanding of the full range of hazards from GE organisms, and no significant discussion of or consultation with the public to determine what constitutes "unacceptable risk." There is no method to even measure magnitude of risks.

Each risk assessment for genetically engineered organisms is done on an ad hoc basis by different scientists in different departments or different agencies. Some of these agencies have conflicting missions- to promote and to regulate; to consider "benefits" as well as "risks." There is rarely any formal peer review, and even when peer review panels are put together, they are often biased.

Powerful Technology

In the early 1990's, a genetically engineered `bacterium used to produce ethanol from wood pulp escaped into the soil, rendering whole wheat fields incapable of growing crops, and endangering animal life. The bottom line is that we are confronted with perhaps the most powerful technology ever known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever to its consequences. The technology is being promoted by the very agencies that are supposed to be protecting human health and the environment, in the face of concerns by many respectable scientists.

Without appropriate scientific oversight by regulators, the only effective control of biotechnology will be political: a raising of public consciousness, especially that of the economically powerful public. Scientists are needed to point out the detailed technical problems with genetic engineering in food. It is also crucial for citizens to use their collective power to say "no." Tell your food outlets and political representatives that you do not wish to consumer genetically engineered foods.

For further information on biotechnology and its hazards, see the website: http://www.concentric.net/~Rwolfson/home.htm or email: rwolfson@concentric.net .

------------------------------------------------------
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 as well as previous genetic engineering news items Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 for 12 months See website for details.


Date: Sat, 28 Mar 1998 15:14:03 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson rwolfson@concentric.net
Subject: Dr. M. Antoniou Articles Thanks to Dr Michael Antoniou and the Soil Association soilassoc@gn.apc.org in UK for whose publication "Living Earth" this article was written.

Genetic Engineering and Traditional Breeding Methods: A Technical Perspective

by Dr Michael Antoniou,
Senior lecturer in molecular biology at one of London's leading medical schools and 17 years experience in the use of genetic engineering leading to clinical applications.

Sections:
The Fundamentals - Genes and Genetics
GE: a natural extension of traditional breeding methods?
GE Plants
GE Animals
GE: A No Holds Barred Technology
GE Disrupts Host Gene Functions and Possesses Inherent Unpredictability
Conclusion: GE and Traditional Breeding Methods Are Worlds Apart

The Soil Association's rejection of the use of genetic engineering (GE) in agriculture as simply having "no place in organic food and farming" (Living Earth, Jan. 97), is justifiable purely as a matter of principle. GE represents an extension of intensive, industrial agriculture and therefore reinforces environmentally damaging, non-sustainable husbandry. Evidence already exists which demonstrates that the claims that GE crops will result in less dependence on agrochemicals are, in the medium to long term, unfounded.

The greatest claim of those who endorse the use of GE in agriculture, is that it is a safe, more precise and natural extension of traditional cross breeding methods for generating novel varieties of crops and farm animals. It is said that this new technology simply gives nature a helping hand with something that would happen anyway. The aim of this article is to assess GE in agriculture from a technical and basic genetics viewpoint focusing in particular on plants and animals.

We will see that technically speaking, the use of GE in agriculture is a crude and imprecise technology which bears no resemblance to traditional breeding methods for producing new varieties of crops and farm animals. Given this imprecision, the outcomes of using GE in food production both in terms of potential ill health and negative environmental impact, are far from certain. There would therefore also appear to be good scientific grounds for questioning the validity of using GE in agriculture especially when there are safe alternatives available.

The Fundamentals - Genes and Genetics

Genes are discrete units of DNA. They are the blueprints which carry the information for the tens of thousands of proteins which act as the building blocks of all the structures and functions (biochemistry) that constitute the body of any organism from bacteria to humans. DNA can be likened to a long string of pearls where each pearl, representing a gene, occupies it's own special place in the "necklace" which is vital for it's correct function. Genetics, the study of genes, has two basic components. Firstly, there is the information content of each gene; that is, what gene carries the blueprint for which protein. Secondly, genetics has taught us that the activity or expression of each gene is extremely tightly controlled or regulated. Put simply, each gene has it's own set of sophisticated on-off switches to drive it's expression ensuring that the correct protein and therefore appropriate structure and function, is present in the right place, time and quantity in the body.

Just as all forms of life are interdependent upon each other for survival and growth, no gene works in isolation from all other genes. The latest discoveries tell us that genes are arranged along the DNA in groups or "families". The function of a given gene in a group is dependent on all the other genes that are present within the same family. Furthermore, the genetic activity in one family of genes can effect the function of genes in other groups of genes. It is also clear that genes and the proteins that they give rise to, have co-evolved together to form an extremely intricate, interconnected network of finely balanced functions the complexities of which we are only just beginning to understand and appreciate.

Such tight control of gene activity means you will never find liver functions in your brain or leaf specific processes in the fruit and vice versa! In addition, Nature has also evolved mechanisms whereby cross breeding can only take place between very closely related species. With traditional breeding methods, different variations of the same genes in their natural context (within the necklace of pearls) are exchanged. This preserves tight control and complex interrelationships between genetic and protein functions that are vital for integrity of life as a whole.

GE: a natural extension of traditional breeding methods?

In order to assess the validity of the claim that GE represents a natural extension of traditional breeding methods, it is important to know how GE ("transgenic") plants and animals are produced.

GE Plants

As an example, let us see how the herbicide resistant, GE soya was generated. The objective here was to introduce into the soya plants a gene from a common soil bacterium which would allow it to survive when sprayed with the herbicide Roundup. Clearly you cannot "cross" a bacterium with a plant. Therefore, the first step was to grow cells from soya bean plants on plastic dishes in the laboratory. Now, in order to allow the bacterial gene to be able to work once introduced into it's new plant host, it had to be linked to a genetic switch combining parts from a cauliflower virus and petunias. (As we discussed above, the bacterial gene's own switch will only work in the bacteria from which it came).

This combination of cauliflower virus, petunia and bacterial DNA was then introduced into the soya bean cells growing on the dishes in the laboratory using a procedure known as "biolistics" which employs a device called a "gene gun". In this technique, tiny spheres of gold or tungsten are coated with the DNA one wishes to introduce into the plant cells. These DNA-coated metal particles are then shot at the plant cells using the gene gun at high speed. As a result some of these metal beads enter inside the plant cells carrying the new DNA with them. Unfortunately from the point of view of the plant biotechnologist, the efficiency with which the new DNA is taken up by the soya bean cells on the dish is very low. Most of the cells don't take it up at all. So the key is to find those few cells among the many millions on the dish which have taken up the DNA. This is done by using another genetic trick.

The introduction of the bacterial gene into the soya bean cells for herbicide resistance, was accompanied by a second gene which confers resistance to an antibiotic (called kanamycin). The soya bean cells were then treated with the antibiotic. The few cells which had taken up the herbicide resistance:antibiotic resistance "marker" gene combination survived and flourished whereas the majority of the cells which had not taken up these genes were simply killed by the antibiotic. Finally, by changing the conditions under which the soya bean cells are grown, the cells clump together to form what is called a callus which in turn starts to put down roots and sprout green shoots. These little "seedlings" are then potted so as to grow into fully mature plants which will carry in all their cells (including those for reproduction; i.e. pollen etc.) the new bacterial gene. The plant which then displays the best agronomic performance, in this case resistance to herbicide, is then selected for further development (crossing to form new hybrids etc.).

GE Animals

The generation of transgenic animals is a somewhat simpler, but no less artificial procedure. Fertilised eggs are first removed from the animal of choice. These eggs are then injected with the genes one wishes to engineer into the animal. The DNA injected eggs are then returned to the womb of a surrogate mother where they complete their development and are born in due course.

Therefore, in marked contrast to traditional breeding methods, all transgenic plants and animals start life as individual or groups of cells growing on a plastic dish in a laboratory.

GE: A No Holds Barred Technology

It is evident from the procedure we just described that with GE there are no holds barred. GE allows the isolation, cutting, joining and transfer of single or multiple genes between totally unrelated organisms circumventing natural species barriers. As a result combinations of genes are produced that would never occur naturally. Transgenic crops containing genes from viruses, bacteria, animals as well as from unrelated plants have been generated. In the case of the herbicide resistant soya beans, the final outcome was the combination of genetic material from four totally unrelated organisms; a cauliflower virus, petunia, bacteria and soya.

Furthermore, again as we saw in the case of the GE soya beans, the newly introduced gene units are composed of artificial combinations of genetic material. Another example which illustrates the extreme combinations of genetic material that can be produced, is the introduction of the "anti-freeze" gene from an arctic fish (the sea flounder) into tomatoes, strawberries and potatoes in the hope of producing resistance to frost. As with the bacterial gene in the soya beans, the fish anti-freeze gene is joined to the cauliflower virus genetic switch to allow it to turn on and work in it's new host. (The fish genetic switch naturally only works in the fish). All this is in turn coupled to an antibiotic resistance marker gene to allow selection of the newly transformed plants.

GE Disrupts Host Gene Functions and Possesses Inherent Unpredictability

Clearly GE represents a great technological advance. However, as we have already discussed, genes have evolved to exist and work in families. Therefore, the claim that the reductionist approach of GE which moves one or a few genes between unrelated organisms, is a precise technology is highly questionable. Furthermore, the generation of transgenic plants and animals is currently an imperfect technique. Once injected into the cells of the organism, the introduced gene is randomly incorporated ("spliced") into the DNA of it's new plant or animal host. In fact, the manner in which GE animals and plants are produced, always selects for the splicing of the foreign gene into regions of the host DNA where other natural genes are trying to work. Given the interdependence of gene function within any grouping of genes, this random splicing of the foreign gene into the host DNA will always result in a disruption in the normal genetic order in the "string of pearls". Therefore, GE of animals and especially plants, always results in a loss, to a lesser or greater degree, of the tight genetic control and balanced functioning which is retained through conventional cross breeding.

With GE, host genes can be silenced (inactivated) or inappropriately switched on resulting in either a deficiency in a given protein(s) or the presence of the wrong protein(s) in the wrong place or in the wrong quantity or all these combined. In addition, it is also assumed that the introduced gene and the protein that it makes, will behave in exactly the same way in it's new host as it does in it's native environment which frequently will not be the case. As discussed above, gene and protein functions have evolved over millions of years to work together in any given organism. The anti-freeze gene/protein in the arctic sea flounder has evolved to work together with the other genes/proteins in this fish. It is purely an assumption that it will work in exactly the same way with no unwanted side effects in it's new hosts where it will now be surrounded by plant proteins!

These effects combine to produce a totally unpredictable disturbance in host genetic function as well as in that of the introduced gene. The resulting disturbance in biochemical function can unexpectedly produce novel toxins, allergens and reduced nutritional value.

Conclusion: GE and Traditional Breeding Methods Are Worlds Apart

The proponents of the use of GE in agriculture argue that mankind has been selecting and manipulating plant and animal food stocks for millennia and that this new technology is simply the next stage in this process. However, we have seen:

Clearly these procedures are worlds apart when compared to cross fertilisation between closely related species.

The totally artificial nature of GE does not automatically make it dangererous. It is the imprecision in the manner by which genes are combined and the unpredictability in how the introduced gene will interact within it's new environment which results in uncertainty. The balanced gene functions that have evolved together and which are preserved with traditional methods, are lost with GE.

Therefore, from the standpoint of the fundamental principles of genetics and the limitations in the technology, GE is neither more precise nor a natural extension of traditional cross breeding methods. If anything the opposite would appear to be true. Therefore GE foods possess new and unique safety considerations both in terms of health and to the environment. The availability of safe, sustainable, natural methods of breeding and husbandry utilising the many thousands of different varieties of a any given food crop, makes the risks associated with GE foods simply not worth taking. These risks are even less acceptable when one takes into account the fact that once released into the environment, genetic mistakes/pollution cannot be recalled, cleaned up or allowed to decay like agrochemicals or a BSE epidemic, but will be passed on to all future generations indefinitely.


Thanks to MichaelP papadop@peak.org for posting this:

Scientists Warn That GE Food May Have Serious Long-term Consequences

By Judith Perera
© 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
(END/IPS/JP/PD/98) Origin: Amsterdam/ENVIRONMENT/

LONDON, Mar 22 (IPS) - Scientists urgently warn that genetically engineered food could have serious long-term health and environmental consequences and may worsen chances of food security in the developing world.

Dr Michael Antoniou, a senior lecturer in molecular pathology in London, Britain, explains that normally gene function is extremely tightly controlled so that the right proteins are made in the correct place within the organism, at the right time and in the appropriate quantity.

"This ensures an integrated and balanced functioning of all the tens of thousands of structures and processes that make up the body of any complex organism, whether plant or animal. One will not normally find liver functions in the brain or leaf specific proteins in the fruit and vice versa!".

He also points out that natural cross-breeding can only take place between very closely related species while genetic engineering allows the transfer of single or multiple genes between totally unrelated organisms "circumventing natural species barriers".

For example, he says, transgenic tomatoes and strawberries are under development which contain the "anti-freeze" gene from an arctic fish to improve tolerance to frost. These plants have also been given parts of a plant virus which helps to "switch on" the fish gene as well as an antibiotic resistance "marker" gene.

He warns that such manipulation frequently has unexpected results. "Once injected into the reproductive cells of an organism, the introduced gene randomly incorporates itself into the DNA of its new plant or animal host. This disrupts the tight genetic control and balanced functioning which is retained through conventional cross-breeding."

In a recent study, the pressure group Consumers International (CI) called for better consultation on genetically engineered foods.

CI recommends that regulations and controls should be put in place to ensure the safety of all genetically modified foods. These foods should also be carefully monitored for any health, socio-economic and environmental repercussions, with special attention paid to the impact on developing countries.

The study says ways must be found to enable the public to participate fully in decision-making about genetically engineered foods, and that international guidelines on genetic engineering, including research, development, testing, production and marketing, must be agreed "as a matter of urgency". The public must be fully informed about all aspects of the safety evaluation of genetically modified foods.

All genetically modified foodstuffs that come on to the market should be fully and clearly labelled so that consumers are in a position to decide for themselves whether to buy products created as a result of this new technology.

"A symbol identifying food that has been produced using genetic modification, which will be recognised around the world, needs to be developed", CI urges.

The CI study warns of the potential impact of genetically modified foods on people with food allergies. "New allergens could be developed unintentionally, and known allergens could be transferred from traditional foods into the genetically engineered variants.

"For example, when a gene from the brazil nut was introduced into the soyabean, people allergic to brazil nuts were also allergic to the genetically modified soybean." In addition, the use of antibiotic marker genes may contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance.

Genetic engineering may also result in the creation of new toxins, or increased levels of toxins, in food. Dr Antoniou notes that in 1989 the U.S. faced an epidemic of a new disease, Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome (EMS). It was eventually traced to the consumption of a particular brand of food supplement derived from bacteria genetically engineered to overproduce the amino acid, tryptophan.

The engineering process had led to the formation of a novel toxin from the excessive amounts of tryptophan, which contaminated the final product. Out of the estimated 5,000 people who contracted EMS, 37 died and 1,500 are permanently disabled.

The CI study says the potential environmental consequences could be extremely large-scale. "Genetically modified organisms might migrate, mutate and multiply, and genetically pollute traditional crop varieties -- but they cannot be recalled like a faulty product.

"The long-term consequences of releasing transgenic species into the environment are difficult to predict, particularly if they start cross-breeding with other species."

Field trials in Scotland and Denmark using transgenic, herbicide resistant oilseed rape, saw the new plants easily cross-pollinate related, wild brassica varieties. Within a single growing season herbicide resistant "superweeds" were generated.

The possible impact on developing countries is also causing concern. Tom Campbell, a lecturer in Environmental Studies at the Development Studies Centre in Dublin, Ireland, says one of the biggest myths perpetuated by the biotechnology industry is that genetically engineered crops are likely to provide a solution to world hunger.

"Famines are not caused by lack of food but by lack of access to food and alternative sources of income in times of crisis." He says biotechnology creates dependency.

"The majority of Third World farmers are small-scale, farming a variety of crops. By switching to genetically engineered seeds they have to change their practices and become dependent on the companies which provide the 'package' of seeds, herbicides, fertilisers, irrigation systems, etc."

He points out that in India, farmers using Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds pay an extra 50-65 dollars per acre as a technical fee over and above the price of seed. Farmer must sign a contract stating that they will not buy chemicals from any one else.

Products developed by biotech companies are mostly aimed at markets in industrialised countries, says CI. "Genetic engineering research involving tropical crops tends not to be aimed at improving production of staple crops in those parts of the world where hunger and malnutrition are serious problems.

"Instead, it is mostly aimed at producing cheaper substitutes for commodity crops such as cocoa, sugar cane and vegetable oils on large, industrial farms.

"If these substitute products are dumped on world markets, the exports on which many Third World countries depend could be undermined, with serious consequences for local small-scale farmers and food security" says CI.

------------------------------------------------------
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 as well as previous genetic engineering news items Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 for 12 months See website for details.


From: "NLP Wessex" nlpwessex@bigfoot.com (by way of "Allsorts (also rts)" allsorts@gn.apc.org )
Subject: GE - Will GE crops deliver benefits to farmers?

Will GE crops deliver benefits to farmers?

Update From Natural Law Party Wessex (March 1998)
(NLP WESSEX LOCAL PAGE)

Sections:

The Editor, Leading Article, Farming News, 20th March 1998:
Pierre-Louis Dupont, AgrEvo's European head of marketing
Mike May of IACR Broom's Barn (Farming News 13th March 1998):
Frank Oldfield, Chairman of the Home Grown Cereals Authority (Farmers Weekly 27th February 1998):
GE OSR cross pollination found up to 2.5 km away - Scottish Crop Research Institute
Dr Colin Merritt, technical manager Monsanto UK,
John Lampitt, of the NFU Biotechnology working group
Dr Jeremy Sweet, National Institute of Agricultural Botany,
John Lampitt of the National Farmers Union biotechnology working group
Keith Jaggard, sugar beet specialist with IACR-Broom's Barn,
Geoff Lancaster, British Sugar communications chief,
Robert McCarty, director of Mississippi's Bureau of Plant Industry
Robert McCarthy (New York Times 1997):
Charles Merkel, a Mississippi lawyer

Biotechnology companies make many impressive claims about genetically engineered crops (and other GE products) which are theoretically attractive to farmers in simplifying their farm management and providing economic benefits. But how accurate are these claims?

Do they support, or do they undermine, important efforts to promote more sustainable systems of agriculture such as Integrated Crop Management (ICM)? Are they realistic or are they simply an agricultural economist's fantasy?

Oestrogen levels rise risk in Roundup Ready Soya beans - call for immediate worldwide ban by Working Group on Biosafety of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity

Monsanto pays millions in compensation to US GE cotton growers Here are some quotations from experts at the heart of the agricultural industry which illustrate some of the agronomic and other complications the introduction of this new technology is likely to create in agriculture:

The Editor, Leading Article, Farming News, 20th March 1998:

"Doubts over the long-term efficacy and safety of genetically modified organisms are growing. Evidence that modified oilseed rape cross-pollinates with weeds to produce herbicide resistant plant populations over a mile from the field boundary ought to be enough to make the most die-hard scientist take stock. From an agronomic point of view, it means that if we adopt varieties engineered to tolerate one specific agrochemical we could, in a relatively short time, be obliged to use ever newer and more expensive molecules to combat resistance.

From an economic standpoint, that increases the cost, and makes the resultant product still less marketable. Some supermarkets have already dampened the ardour for GMOs by demanding assurances from suppliers that their products are GMO-free. As a result, British Sugar will not buy GE-beet and Britain's bakers insist on GE-free grain, cooking oil and soya flour.

There's no doubt GMOs are the way forward. But there is no point rushing out with varieties that create as many problems as they cure. Customers need more reassurance - and that can only come from far more extensive trialing and testing."

Pierre-Louis Dupont, AgrEvo's European head of marketing

, on the need to use additional chemical types in order to control volunteers from harvested crops of its own glufosinate-ammonium tolerant "Liberty Link" varieties (Farmers Weekly 13th March 1998):

"However, in the case of Liberty Link products, farmers will be using a chemical which is not currently used for volunteer control."

Mike May of IACR Broom's Barn (Farming News 13th March 1998):

"I think we have to assume that we will get herbicide-tolerant volunteers. Their numbers are related to the amount of seed shed by the crop. In sugar beet this is low but we do get bolters. We may find need to be contolling bolters to limit pollen spread rather than seed return and this may be much more difficult to manage. With oilseed rape the rate of seed return can be very high."

Frank Oldfield, Chairman of the Home Grown Cereals Authority's oilseeds R&D committee (Farmers Weekly 27th February 1998):

"The biggest problem with GE crops, particularly rape but possibly the others as well, is the risk of a seed bank building-up in the soil due to seed dormancy. Shed seed must not be buried."

"Cross pollination is a worry, but so far there is no concrete evidence that GE crops have ever contaminated non-modified plants or wild species. [N.B Factually incorrect. Follow links below for actual position - NLP Wessex Webmaster] Until detailed research has been done we must rely on isolation to prevent any potential trouble, however small the risk. Modified rape must not be grown within 400m of other brassicas."

GE OSR cross pollination found up to 2.5 km away - Scottish Crop Research Institute

gene Transfer Between Canola (oilseed Rape) And Related Weed Species - full research paper: University of Idaho, and other references

Briefing paper on agronomic and other problems associated with GE Oilseed ape

Dr Colin Merritt, technical manager Monsanto UK,

on the need for extra management by farmers in order to reduce the risk of environmental problems from GE crops, including gene flow to wild relatives and problems with herbicide resistant volunteers (Farmers Weekly 27th February 1998):

"Our contracts will include technical support and an element of training to help growers manage crops properly. This is something which should not be overlooked. These crops may bring cost savings and agronomic benefits, but they demand extra management. We don't want that to be too onerous and we don't want a lot of bureaucracy and form filling. But a greater management input will be needed."

John Lampitt, of the NFU Biotechnology working group

at the NIAB Sparholt Conference 'Genetically Modified Crops in Practice', on factors which could lead to a decrease in the number of birds and other agricultural pest predators that rely on the weed and hedgerow environment and the animals that live therein (Farming News, February 27th 1998):

"Herbicide usage that would accompany the introduction of herbicide-tolerant crops should increase the effectiveness of weed kill. This more complete destruction of weed species at field margins and hedgerow bottoms could reduce the habitat available for insects. Also, if herbicide-resistant volunteers become a problem in following crops, a less acceptable herbicide may have to be used to contol them."

Additionally on the likelyhood that, in the case of crops genetically modified for pest resistance, pesticide resistance will develop rapidly in insect populations, as well as evidence that deleterious effects on predator insects (such as ladybirds) or on the behavior of pollinators such as bees may arise:

"Such results are only suggestive at the moment but do require that regulators will have to consider such possibilities."

And on the potential loss of farmers' rights:

"The final concern is the increasing domination of the seed and agrochemical market by a very small number of multi-national companies. These carry out most of the research and development on farming and could ultimately control access to GE seeds and agrochemicals, so potentially limiting farmers' traditional rights."

Dr Jeremy Sweet, National Institute of Agricultural Botany,

on the proposal to incorporate bio-vigilance programmes into an EU Directive on GE crops to monitor long-term environmental effects of herbicide tolerant crops (Farmers Weekly 20th February 1998):

"Its hard to design trials when you do not know what you are looking for."

"The interaction and impacts of these gene combinations will be increasingly hard to predict and risk assessments more difficult to perform."

John Lampitt of the National Farmers Union biotechnology working group

(Farmers Weekly 20th February 1998) on growing unease by farmers over the dominance of GE technology by a few big firms:

"Farmers worldwide are troubled that chemical and seed inputs are being controlled by a relatively small number of transnational companies."

Keith Jaggard, sugar beet specialist with IACR-Broom's Barn,

on GMO volunteer management (Farmers Weekly 20th February 1998):

"Roundup and Liberty are very efficient plant killers. They have a wider spectrum of activity than any existing beet herbicide, both in the spectrum of weeds they control and the size."

"Initially, the new chemistry will control weed beet, but eventually [weed] beet will become tolerant to both chemicals."

"Neigbouring oilseed rape crops with different tolerances could cross with each other. They could produce volunteers which are resistant to chemicals."

Geoff Lancaster, British Sugar communications chief,

on their decision not to accept GE sugar beet for processing following demands from retailer customers for guarantees that the entire production process from beet seed to sugar has not been "contaminated" by genetic engineering (Crops 31st January 1998):

"In the UK our original line was that as long as the industry abided by all the statutory controls, we were OK. That no longer applies. Media and public attitudes have hardened following the soya debate."

"I realise this paints a rather bleak future for GE varieties. We are now at a crossroads - public suspicion and mistrust may sink this technology without trace."

Some 320,000 hectares across the US were planted with Monsanto's Roundup Ready cotton in 1997, its first on the market. Most farmers are happy with the results. But in Mississippi, and to some extent in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana, entire fields have shed their bolls--the fluffy part harvested for fibre--or have developed small, malformed bolls.

Robert McCarty, director of Mississippi's Bureau of Plant Industry

in Starkville, says that only Monsanto plants seem to have failed, over an area totalling 12,000 hectares (New Scientist 1st November 1997):

"Cotton right across the road of a different variety was not affected."

Robert McCarthy (New York Times 1997):

"I sure couldn't recommend they plant one of these varieties and take that kind of risk, unless someone could assure them they wouldn't have the kind of problems we had in 1997."

New York Times Article On GE Cotton Failures

Charles Merkel, a Mississippi lawyer

representing about a dozen cotton farmers, accuses Monsanto of trying to play down the problem. He claims that his clients' losses alone may total millions of dollars (New Scientist 1st November 1997).

New Scientist report on GE cotton failures

Monsanto pays millions in compensation to US GE cotton growers

Back to Index