Genetically Manipulated Food News

Thursday, 14. May 1998

All reports in this issue are thanks to
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
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596 email:

Our website, 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.

Table of Contents

UK: Iceland Foods Own Brands Don't Contain GE
'Organic' Label Ruled Out For Biotech, Irradiated Food
Animal-to-Human Organ Transplants Riskier Than Ever
Canada: Court rejects mouse patent
Patients Checked For Risk On Transplant From Pigs
GE Maize Kills Beneficial Insects
Getting Biotechnology Set to Hatch
UK: Sainsbury Claims GE Eliminated From Most Own-label Goods
UK: Organic Grower Seeks Ban On 'mutant' Maize.
US: HGS Applies For Patent On Menigitis Bacterium
Controversy Over Biotechnology
China Engineers Super Tomato With Fish Genes
Transgenic Pigs Sent Abroad For Experiments
Campaign To Label GE Food
Genetic Engineering will not Feed the World
Breast Cancer, rBGH and Milk
Anger as Europe votes to 'sell-off' genes
U.S. frustrated over exclusion at EU maize tenders
People need to know what they are eating
89% of Australians expect GE food to be labeled

Back to Index

UK: Iceland Foods Own Brands Don't Contain GE

BRUSSELS, April 30 (Reuters) - British retailer Iceland Foods said on Thursday a decision to market its "own label" brands as not containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was a cost-effective option.

The decision to market non-GMO foods had been taken in response to public fears that "scientists were playing around with food," Iceland's technical manager Richard Wadsworth told a Brussels conference on the new varieties of gene-crops that are finding their way into foodstuffs.

The retailer is the first major chain to move to segregation of GMOs, a process deemed too costly and unworkable by U.S. growers and exporters of new strains of soybeans and corn.

"We went back and found new sources in Brazil and Canada, and we were a lone voice. But once we told people this was the way we were going, then we were offered a lot of help," he said.

The company has renegotiated supply contracts for non-GMO soybeans, for example, which it ships to its processing plants in Europe in a single cargo. Any amounts in a shipment surplus to requirements are then sold on to the general market.

This meant there were no extra costs involved, and the segregation policy might lead to extra sales.

"I am expecting to be in the black on the GM issue," Wadsworth told the Agra Europe conference.

Soybeans presented the company with its most difficult challenge -- they are present in around 60 percent of processed foods and turn up as soy flour, soyoil or soy protein in 40 percent of Iceland's product range from sausages to chocolate.

A segregation model based on existing controls for organic produce was used to bring beans in from Canada, and in Brazil the non-GMO beans were processed at source, he said.

"We have shown supply can become available once the demand is is pleasing to see some bio-tech companies are now acknowledging that consumers should be given the choice of non-GM alternatives and that segregation is possible," he said.

'Organic' Label Ruled Out For Biotech, Irradiated Food

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 1, 1998; Page A02

Intense pressure and criticism from tens of thousands of citizens have pushed Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman to decide that genetically engineered and irradiated food, and crops fertilized with sewage sludge, should not be allowed to be labeled "organic," according to an administration official.

That decision, still not formalized but described by the official as all but inevitable, would remove three of the more contentious issues threatening to derail an effort to codify for the first time a federal definition of organic food.

But several other elements of the USDA proposal remain controversial, including the rule's relatively liberal allowance for the use of antibiotics, nonorganic feed and long-term confinement of animals in the production of organic meat.

An estimated 150,000 people flooded the Agriculture Department with cards and letters during the four-month comment period on the proposal that ended yesterday -- more comments than the department had ever received on any single rule.

Thanks to Patricia Dines for forwarding the press release

Campaign for Responsible Transplantation
PO Box 2751, Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10163-2751
Tel. (212) 579-3477

Animal-to-Human Organ Transplants Riskier Than Ever

March 31, 1998 Contact: Alix Fano

Group Cites Mounting Evidence of Viral Threats From Pigs and Primates

Evidence mounts, on a weekly basis, that we should not be transplanting virally contaminated animal organs into humans. Baboons and pigs are still designated organ donors for xenotransplants, despite warnings by prominent virologists that they harbor several endogenous retroviruses, some that can infect human cells. The swine flu of 1918 killed 20 million people worldwide; and both the Asian flu virus of 1957 and the Hong Kong flu virus of 1968 mutated in pigs.

"We could have another AIDS-like epidemic on our hands," says CRT spokesperson Murry Cohen, M.D.. The worldwide spread of HIV infection has been linked to a virus that allegedly jumped from monkeys to humans. "Transplanting organs from baboons and pigs into humans could make AIDS look like a party. Responsible health authorities would ban xenotransplantation outright," says Cohen. Recent events are cause for alarm:

Yesterday, the journal Nature Medicine reported that researchers discovered a simian foamy virus (SFV) in the bloodstream of four laboratory workers exposed to chimpanzees, baboons, and African green monkeys. The Centers for Disease Control admits there is a risk of SFV transmission, especially through donated blood. Virologist Jonathan Allan believes that foamy viruses represent "the greatest immediate threat to humans among the known simian retroviruses." Their pathogenic potential may only become known after they become well established in the human population (Molecular Diagnosis Vol. 1, No. 3 (September 1996): 211).

Last month, Australian virologist Peter Kirkland discovered an unknown virus in pigs which caused deformities and stillbirths in pigs and infected two workers who developed flu-like symptoms. Kirkland said there was no guarantee that the virus had been contained.

In December 1997, a laboratory worker at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, died four days after she was splashed with body fluids from a monkey infected with the deadly herpes B virus.

In September 1997, scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda announced that a previously unrecognized strain of hepatitis E may be circulating in the US pig population and might explain the high prevalence of hepatitis E antibodies in healthy individuals in the US.

Pigs and primates are likely to carry several unidentified infectious diseases which could infect organ transplant recipients and their contacts. Surveillance systems to guard against infectious diseases are inadequate. The General Accounting Office recently faulted the Food and Drug Administration for failing to track transplant patients who may have received human tissues infected with HIV and other viruses. Can this agency be trusted to monitor animal organ transplants?


CRT is a project of the Medical Research Modernization Committee (New York City), the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and the International Center for Technology Assessment (both in Washington, DC)

Canada: Court rejects mouse patent

SOURCE: CP (Canadian Press) Ottawa, Canada

You can't patent a mammal in Canada, the Federal Court of Canada has ruled, turning down Harvard University's attempt to patent a type of mouse that gets cancer easily. Harvard researchers*genetically*engineered the mouse to help in cancer research and have already won a patent in the United States. The university asked Canada's patent office to grant one here, which would have given it the sole right to create any mice with these genes, breed them, own them and decide who may use them in Canada.

Patent officials refused, and Harvard appealed to the Federal Court. Mr. Justice Marc Nadon ruled that the "oncomouse" (from oncology, the study of cancer) is not an invention under Canadian law. Harvard designed the mouse to be very prone to developing cancer, meaning researchers can use it without having to work at making a rodent sick. CP

Patients Checked For Risk On Transplant From Pigs

By Nigel Hawkes, Science Editor
London Times April 29 1998 BRITAIN

SAMPLES from 150 patients who have been given living pig tissue are being analysed to see if they contain pig viruses.

If they show no infection, the Cambridge-based transplant company Imutran will go ahead with a phased programme of experiments that may lead to the first kidney transplant from its genetically engineered pig within five years.

GE Maize Kills Beneficial Insects

London Times, May 4 1998 SCIENCE BRIEFING

THE FUTURE of maize (US corn) which has been gene-modified could be put in jeopardy by Swiss research that shows it can kill beneficial insects as well as pests. The new results may reopen the argument over European Union authorisation for the crop, which came despite British objections and which has been challenged by two EU states, Austria and Luxembourg.

The maize is made by Novartis (formerly Ciba Seeds) and incorporates a gene from a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, that makes a protein poisonous to the larvae of the corn-borer. The B. thuringiensis protein was used as a spray against the pest, but that required application at the time the larvae emerged and before they bored into plant stems. Novartis put the gene into the plant itself.

A team at the Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture in Zurich, led by Dr Angelika Hilbeck, has found evidence that the poisonous effects of the protein can spread further. It raised plant-eating insects on B. thuringiensis maize plants and fed them to the larvae of lacewings - which eat crop pests.

They report in Environmental Entomology that the death rates of the lacewings nearly doubled, and this happened whether or not the plant-eating insects were susceptible to B. thuringiensis.

This means that an insect could nibble the plant, then fly off and be eaten by a lacewing, which would die. Far from the protein killing only corn-borers, as Novartis intended, it would also damage other species. Using B. thuringiensis as a spray would be less likely to have such effects.

The finding is another strike against a crop that has been criticised because it contains, as well as the B. thuringiensis gene, genes conferring antibiotic and pesticide resistance. They were put in to simplify seed production, a process described by a Ministry of Agriculture official as "sloppy genetic modification". Britain's expert committee turned down the maize, worried that the antibiotic-resistant gene would get into bacteria and make those antibiotic-resistant.

After much argument, and despite objections from the European Parliament, the B. thuringiensis maize was approved by the European Commission. Michael Meacher, the Minister for the Environment, has said that he is "totally dissatisfied". The Commission, however, says that approval can be withdrawn only if new scientific evidence raises questions of safety. But Dr Ian Taylor, of Greenpeace, says that is what the Swiss scientists have provided. "The UK should ask the Commission to suspend authorisation immediately." he says. "If it won't, then the UK should follow Austria and Luxembourg and impose a national ban."

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

Getting Biotechnology Set to Hatch

By BARNABY J. FEDER, May 2, 1998 New York Times

ST. LOUIS -- As biotechnology pioneers like Monsanto Co. see it, the moment is arriving when science can give business the power to put the clock of evolution on fast forward.

To date, the tinkering has already produced products like Monsanto's New Leaf potatoes, which come armed with a bacterial gene that produces a protein deadly to the pesky Colorado potato beetle. But New Leaf springs from research in the 1980s when the available technology limited Monsanto to moving just 60 foreign genes a year into potatoes. Now, Monsanto can create 10,000 new combinations annually.

The more fundamental "genomics" research, which identifies genes and various combinations that might prove useful, is also accelerating. Monsanto's cost to figure out the sequence of amino acids that make up a gene -- the basic control unit of life -- has been slashed to $150 from $2.5 million in 1974. As a result, Monsanto estimates, its library of genetic information and the libraries of all other major drug and agricultural players in the biotechnology field are doubling every 12 to 24 months.

Sound familiar? In the world of electronics, that same rate of explosive growth is known as Moore's Law, after Gordon Moore, the cofounder of Intel Corp. who projected in 1965 that the number of transistors on a microchip would multiply at that clip, fueling a computer revolution.

"It means we are going to have the tools to address big and historically intractable problems with life as we know it, things like how to make plants grow in dry climates and how to live well with heart disease," said Robert Shapiro, Monsanto's chairman and chief executive.

There remain formidable political, marketing and technical risks to, as critics put it, "playing God." But with biotechnology's knowledge engine now running at Silicon Valley speed, Wall Street and many in the biotechnology business are convinced that their industry will produce "life science" giants as prosperous as Intel and Microsoft and that the next few years are likely to sort out many of the eventual winners -- and losers.

For now, Monsanto, based in St. Louis, is seen as the biotechnology front-runner. Sure, the company, which had $7.5 billion in revenues last year, is more than biotechnology alone. Moreover, the new products have a long way to go before Monsanto recoups the more than $1 billion it has invested in biotechnology research. But Monsanto is already raking in profits from having placed a lot of heavy biotechnology bets early in the agricultural sector and is now moving into other sectors, like pharmaceuticals.

"They have the best strategy in biotech and they are executing it better than anyone else," said Jerry Caulder, who recently retired as chairman of Mycogen Corp., a biotechnology pioneer now controlled by Dow Agrosciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co.

Shapiro says he owes the "fabulous hand" he is playing to Richard Mahoney, his predecessor at Monsanto, who began pouring money into biotechnology in the 1970s after scientists reported key breakthroughs in cloning and techniques to move genes between species. "He had a sense that the fundamental technology would succeed and the rest would fall into place," Shapiro said.

But Monsanto's coronation is hardly a done deal. For one thing, it has rivals that dwarf it, led by E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. in this country and Novartis of Switzerland. DuPont, which retains huge interests in oil and industrial chemicals, aims to quadruple its sales of agricultural products alone to more than $40 billion within 15 years.

The high-stakes scramble for an advantage made billion-dollar takeover prizes last year out of obscure companies like Holden's Foundation Seeds Inc. (Monsanto) and Protein Technologies International (DuPont). All the major biotechnology players in drugs, food and farm products are constantly seeking alliances and partners. (In its 1997 annual report, Monsanto listed 16 deals over 14 months.) And there have been mega-mergers, such as the 1996 marriage of Sandoz and Ciba Geigy of Switzerland to create Novartis, a farm-to-drugs giant nearly four times the size of Monsanto.

Currently, all eyes are on DeKalb Genetics Corp., a leading seed company that has put itself up for sale. The quickest way to move biotechnology into the food chain is to genetically alter the seeds of the best-selling strains of major crops that companies like DeKalb have developed through traditional breeding. Although it is a distant No. 2 to Pioneer Hi-Bred International in the domestic seed business, analysts predict that DeKalb will be worth more than $2 billion.

Monsanto is thought to have an edge in the bidding, which is expected to be decided as early as next week. It already owns 45 percent of DeKalb's nonvoting shares and 10 percent of the voting shares. DuPont is on the sidelines after having shelled out $1.7 billion last year for 20 percent of Pioneer HiBred. But Novartis, Hoechst of Germany, Dow Chemical and Cargill are seen as potential deep-pocketed bidders who may need DeKalb even more than Monsanto does.

It would be a great final exam question for an MBA: At what price is Monsanto better off losing DeKalb and pocketing a huge cash gain on its shares that could be used for other acquisitions? Whatever the outcome, Shapiro disagrees with analysts who say the showdown comes at a bad time for his company because it has been financially strained by its other investments.

"On the whole, it's in our interest for things to happen as fast as possible," he said.

That was not the attitude of Monsanto a generation ago, when it was known for plastics, synthetic fibers, industrial chemicals and its somewhat defensive slogan, "Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible."

Thanks to years of pruning and grafting, Monsanto now sells itself on Wall Street as the prototype "life sciences" company for the next century. To drive home the point, Monsanto spun off most of its chemical operations last summer into a new company called Solutia.

Although the future belongs to biotechnology, the current ace in the hole in Monsanto's life-sciences strategy is Roundup, the world's best-selling herbicide. It is widely used even by farmers who are not growing soybeans, cotton or corn that has been altered to tolerate spraying with it. And Monsanto's drug subsidiary, G.D. Searle, has a strong portfolio of products developed through conventional methods, including a potential blockbuster in a new arthritis treatment.

Still, Monsanto says all its operations -- from Searle to its food ingredient business (best known for Nutrasweet) to its herbicide and seed divisions -- will increasingly be linked to biotechnology. "Life begins at 97," say the signs posted here, referring to both the Solutia spinoff and the company's founding in 1901.

Wall Street is impressed. Monsanto's stock, adjusted for splits, soared from $13.75 in 1995 to a peak of $56.1875 on April 9, and that is not counting the value of the spunoff Solutia shares.

1/8Monsanto closed at $54.375 Friday, up $1.50, and Solutia at $28.50, up 12.5 cents.)

It helps that Shapiro and other senior managers have compensation packages heavily tied to the stock's performance, including requirements that they invest in options that will be worthless unless the stock increases 60 percent in the next five years. But the most telling endorsement of Monsanto's strategy is that analysts have been pestering broader-based companies with strong life sciences businesses, like DuPont and Hoechst, to divest their other operations.

DuPont, for one, doesn't see the need. It contends that biotechnology will eventually contribute to its industrial business -- plants could be altered to produce nylon and other oil-based products, for example. DuPont also says it is ahead of Monsanto in achieving breakthroughs in the genetics of food and animal feed. Monsanto's high-profile success, it contends, has been largely confined to inserting traits in crops that affect how much insecticide or herbicide farmers use, instead of actually changing what is grown.

Bragging rights are valuable, but each also has a lot to gain >from the other's successes. The industry needs hit products to knock down the barriers to faster commercialization of biotechnology.

But the specter that is haunting biotechnology, particularly in Europe, is the specter of what British tabloids like to call "Frankenstein food." Polls show that Europeans are more worried than Americans about genetically modified products.

Agrevo, the joint venture of Hoechst and Schering AG, recently postponed the introduction in the United States of soybeans it has altered to tolerate its Liberty herbicide because of doubts that American farmers would be able to sell their harvests to Europe, a major export market.

Here in the United States, the latest sign of tensions is the fierce opposition of consumer and organic farming groups to a proposal by the Department of Agriculture to label genetically altered crops as organic if grown without synthetic chemicals. The regulatory issues could become even more complicated as Monsanto and others home in on altered crops to promote human health. DuPont this year began contracting with farmers to grow a strain of soybeans that produces less fatty oil. Monsanto is aiming for cornflakes that reduce cholesterol and crops that stimulate the production of hormones to fend off osteoporosis.

"We will need to clarify the difference between drugs and nutrients, decide whether these products have to prove safety and efficacy, and figure out what kind of patent protection they will get," said Ganesh Kishore, co-president of Monsanto's nutrition operations, who is also in charge of integrating biotechnology research across Monsanto's businesses.

The uncertainty and the fast pace of change have led Shapiro to introduce some alien management genes into his company. Monsanto has adopted Silicon Valley's casual dress code, for instance. To mix technical and business skills, most operations are now headed by co-managers. Monsanto was an early adopter of the concept of using temporary teams from several departments to attack problems.

"There's some confusion now over who should make decisions," Shapiro conceded. "But the energy level is good, and people are thinking more broadly."

Shapiro is a New York City native and former law professor who freely admits to interest in management ideas he sees others laughing off as "too New Age." Monsanto, he said, may even one day experiment with having employees choose their own managers and with shaping budgets by how many people want to work on a project.

But Monsanto has to be careful about evolving a culture that is hard for outsiders to fathom. "Building a network of companies we can work with around the world is a key job for us," said Hendrik Verfaillie, Monsanto's president and the heir apparent to the 59-year-old Shapiro.

Shapiro suggests that biotechnology is developing so rapidly that the biggest cultural challenge of all may lie ahead: merging Monsanto with a major rival, even if that means the other company's chief executive emerges on top.

"The economic logic is there for more consolidation, although emotion gets in the way," Shapiro said. "I was very impressed with the creation of Novartis."

UK: Sainsbury Claims GE Eliminated From Most Own-label Goods

UK: Sainsbury claims modified soya 'first' Food Products Supermarket Eliminates Ingredient From Most Own-label Goods

By Peggy Hollinger and Maggie Urry Financial Times (London) May 2, 1998

J Sainsbury, one of the first retailers to sell genetically engineered food products, has become the first of the big four supermarket chains virtually to eliminate modified soya from its own-label products.

The news that Sainsbury has managed to eradicate modified soya from all but 20-25 of its own-brand products is expected to stir up the debate over the arrival of these controversial ingredients in the UK. Previously all the big supermarket chains had said it would be impossible to eliminate modified soya in their wide range of products. They have since voluntarily agreed to label products containing GM soya.

Yet Tesco confirmed yesterday that it had also eliminated modified soya from about 70 per cent of its own-label products.

UK: Organic Grower Seeks Ban On 'mutant' Maize.

By Paul Brown and Geoffrey Gibbs.
The Guardian. Thursday May 7.

Britain's leading organic grower is seeking a High Court Injuction to prevent his crops being contaminated by a company planting genetically engineered maize next to his fields in Devon.

Guy Watson has been warned by the Soil Association that he may loose his Organic status if cross-polination occurs between the genetically engineered crops and his own.

Mr Watson fears he may lose his business if the experimental maize flowers.

US: HGS Applies For Patent On Menigitis Bacterium

The Guardian Thursday May 7, 1998

An American company has applied to patent one of the bacteria that causes meningitis. It could lead to royalties being paid on every treatment if a new vaccine against the illness is found.

The application is one of three filed with the European Patent Office by Human Genome Sciences (HGS), who are seeking to be the first to own the whole genetic sequence of bacteria. If the application is granted, as seems likely, it will open the door for commercial companies to patent any lifeform from which they think they can make money - including human gene sequences.

The prospect has appalled scientists in the field, who believe discoveries should be shared for the common good and that the scramble for patents for commercial gain will damage research. ...

Julia Warren of the Meningitis Research Foundation said: "The idea that someone should try to patent bacteria and then claim a royalty on our research if we find a vaccine had never occurred to me. I am stunned. It could make treating children prohibitively expensive. All our money goes on research: we cannot afford royalties as well.

Reprinted with permission from the May 1998 issue of Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition, 7436 Fraser Park Drive, Burnaby, BC V5J 5B9

Controversy Over Biotechnology

by Richard Wolfson, PhD, Biotech News

Representatives from the Consumer Right to Know campaign met with Ministry of Health officials last December. They presented petitions with names of over 10,000 Canadians demanding mandatory labelling and long-term testing of genetically engineered foods.

Extensive documentation of the potential risks of genetically engineered foods was provided to Ministry officials, including quotes from international expert scientists warning of the hazards. A February 1998 follow-up letter from the Ministry of Health states that "Health Canada conducts a thorough safety assessment of all novel [genetically engineered] foods to ensure that they are equally as safe as their traditional counterparts."

The truth is that if biotech foods appear identical to conventional foods in a few limited characteristics, they are are considered "substantially equivalent" and allowed on the market with very little testing. This is clearly inadequate. We hope the Ministry of Health will soon wake up and recognize the worldwide concern about biotechnology.

Biotech Crops Halted in UK

Due to pressure from environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth, the UK Ministry of Agriculture has halted plans to grow genetically engineered herbicide resistant canola oil.

Adrian Bebb, biotechnology campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "This is a serious blow for the biotech industry, who have been rushing to get their new inventions into our food chain before anyone noticed. There are serious concerns that these new food crops may have irreversible environmental consequences. The Government should be congratulated for stopping these first crops before the damage is done."

Illegal Biotech Trade in Brazil

Federal police in Brazil charge that illegal biotech soy seeds were illegally smuggled in from Argentina, and planted in the municipality of Getulio Vargas. Farmers in nearby municipalities are also under investigation by federal police and by the Ministry of Agriculture. Officials fear that Japanese and European buyers, who refuse to accept genetically engineered soy, will reject Brazilian soy if they believe it has been contaminated by mixture of soy grown from these seeds. Ref: CORREIO BRAZILIENSE, January 31, 1998.

Biotechnology Promotes Poisons

Last month, this column reported that the US Environmental Protection Agency banned the herbicide bromoxynil (along with genetically engineered bromoxynil-resistant cotton), because of increasing evidence that the chemical is dangerously toxic.

Other herbicides are still being used in North America, along with genetically engineered crops designed to withstand these herbicides, in spite of growing evidence that these herbicides are also harmful. In fact, very little is known of the long-term impact from low-level chronic exposure to these chemicals.

Recent studies with animals has shown that the widely-used herbicide glufosinate can cause birth defects by killing brain cells in the embryo. [E.g. Neurosci Lett, 222(1):17-20, 1997; Teratog Carcinog Mutagen, 16(6):287-99, 1996] Glufosinate-tolerant canola and corn are being grown and sold in Canada and USA. These crops are genetically engineered to withstand the herbicide.

Last year, German researchers showed that the herbicide glyphosate (roundup) when sprayed on crops can increase levels of plant estrogens. Increased quantity of estrogenic compounds in the environment is known to produce unpredictable and damaging effects on wildlife, even causing male fish to lay eggs! Glyphosate is being used in North America, along with new varieties of soybeans and canola that are genetically engineered to tolerate higher applications of the herbicide.

For further information on biotechnology and its hazards, see the website: or email Richard Wolfson at:

China Engineers Super Tomato With Fish Genes


(AFP) - Chinese genetic engineers have developed a frost- resistant tomato plant by splicing genetic material from a coldwater fish into tomato pollen, the official Xinhua news agency reported Thursday. The result of 10 years of research, the plant can withstand temperatures below -4 degrees Celsius (24.8 degrees Fahrenheit) for six hours, allowing it to survive a late frost, the report said. Its seeds are also cold-resistant and can be planted earlier than ordinary specimens.

Wang Yong, who led research in the northeastern city of Harbin, was quoted as saying the resulting fruit contain 15 percent more vitamin C and "taste better."

Seeds of the super tomatos -- which received government approval last year -- are selling for 200,000 yuan (24,960 dollars) a kilogramme, the report said.

A kilogramme of ordinary tomato seeds sells for 400-800 yuan (48-96 dollars) in China.

Date: Sun, 10 May 1998 09:37:47 +0100
Thanks to (jim mcnulty) for posting this

Transgenic Pigs Sent Abroad For Experiments

by Marie Woolf, The Observer 10 May 98

Genetically modified pigs, bred for use in human transplants, have been secretly flown out of Britain for controversial experiments abroad - sparking fears that the tests are escaping British scrutiny.

Imutran, the Cambridge company that bred the pigs, carried out a pioneering pig to monkey kidney transplant at a primate research centre in the Netherlands last week, The Observer has learnt. Previous experiments involved 'pairing' animal organs with donor parts from another species. But last week's operation si part of an new wave of tests involving their complete replacement.

Experiments using genetically engineered pigs from outside the Netherlands do not need a licence from the Dutch Government. They are regulated by local review boards.

Experiments with genetically modified animals is governed by tough rules Britain. The Government's Animal Procedures Committee, which regulates transplabntations across species, said in a report last year that it did not apologise for delaying experiments involving transgenic pigs - which contain a human gene to prevent their organs being rejected by human recipients, with 'extraregulatory burdens'.

Imutran wants to farm thousands of human - compatible pigs to harvest their organs, and allay the shortage of transplant organs in Britain. Around 6,000 people are waiting for transplants.

Moving the pigs has been condemned by MP's, scientists and animal welfare organisations, who fear the company may be trying to, 'get around',the UK's strict rules.

"This appears to be an attempt to circumvent the public spotlight in Britain and our rules by transferring the pigs outside the country", Liberal Democrat spokesman Norman Baker said. "I would like to know if this has been approved by the Government. I will be taking this up with the Minister on Monday".

The Observer has learnt that the two pigs were flown to Rotterdam and taken to the Biomedical Primate Research Centre in Rijswijk last week. The RSPCA condemned the centre in a report two years ago for keeping monkeys in 'unacceptable conditions'. It found that their welfare 'was being seroiusly comprimised'.

One pig was killed soon after it arrived, while the other was operated on the next day. It's kidneys were transplanted into two Macaque monkeys which were fed anti- rejection drugs.

Imutran is understood to be close to signing a two year contract with the Dutch research centre to use 130 Macaque monkeys for pig transplants. Sources say the company carried out experiments on pigs at the laboratory late last year.

The company, which is now owned by drugs giant Novartis, said it did not wish to circumvent rules in the UK but to advance it's research.

The Home Office and the Dep't of Agriculture must give permission to take experimental animals abroad but neither would comment on their agreements with Imutran.

"Imutran is conducting it's research in collaboration with leading institutes all over the worldin order to 'share' expertise in the development of this potentially life saving technology", said a spokeswoman.

Thanks to Lorna Hancock and Health Action Network Society for forwarding the following message from Consumers International

Campaign To Label GE Food

Use Your Voice - Demand A Choice!

You have a right to safe food and to know about the food you and your children eat!

Do you want to know if your food has been genetically engineered?

Yes? Then demand your basic consumer right to information. Support Consumers International's campaign calling for mandatory and comprehensive labelling of all genetically modified foods.

From Consumers International's campaign site, you can send a free fax to the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the United Nations' food standards agency. Demand that they set a guideline for the labelling of genetically modified foods!


More and more, food is being genetically modified. Already, modified tomatoes, soybeans, papayas, squash, potatoes and rapeseed are on dinner tables in some countries. Consumers have the right to know if their food is genetically modified.

Demand your consumer right to information and act now - send your fax through CI's web-site!

The campaign site also carries:

For more information please contact Sara Jarvis on

Sara Jarvis
Development Assistant, Consumers International, 24 Highbury Crescent London, N5 1RX, UK
Tel: +44 171 226 6663 #203 Fax: +44 171 354 0607
Tell Codex to label all genetically modified foods! Demand a choice at

Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 18:01:21 +1100
From: (Bob Phelps)
Subject: Genetic Engineering will not Feed the World

All Codex Delegates, FYI

Genetic Engineering will not Feed the World

by Bob Phelps

Like the Green Revolution, the Gene Revolution, will intensify the huge environmental, social and health costs of industrial agriculture. Agribusiness may appear to deliver cheap food and fibre to Western consumers through global markets but its promotion of gene technology as the cure-all for world hunger is a cruel hoax.

Chemical/industrial agriculture produced rural poverty and dispossession in Australia, and hundreds of millions of Third World people suffer chronic starvation, urban slums, landlessness, and unemployment. CSIRO's Land and Water Division says two hundred years of Euro-centred farming has caused massive soil loss, salination, water pollution, species extinctions and desertification. Our ecosystems are being depleted at a rate far beyond replacement. For example, each kilo of grain fed to feedlot beef and battery chickens costs up to five kilos of topsoil, washed or blown away. We must reform the ways we are fed, clothed and housed.

Two main choices for agricultural production are now offered - the Gene Revolution or Sustainable Ecological Farming Systems. Genetic engineering would entrench industrial agriculture, through greater corporate control, just when The World Watch Institute is warning that the amount of food it can produce is in long term decline. In contrast, organics promise truly fresh, clean, green production, more employment and local food security.

Australian governments, committed to free trade and global markets, back the factory farming model and genetic engineering. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are pumped into engineering plants, animals and microbes to suit our degraded environments, to grow bulk commodities for trade. But as former CSIRO Chair Professor Adrienne Clarke laments, most of the genes being manipulated are already patented by foreign seed, chemical and food processing giants - the same companies which have pushed mechanisation, synthetic chemicals and crop monocultures for the past fifty years. Their aim is monopoly control, with every organism creating royalty and profit flows back to head office.

The first genetically engineered whole food is Monsanto's Roundup Ready Soybean, engineered to tolerate Monsanto's own herbicide Roundup. Growers spray the toxic chemical on their fields and plants, more often, less carefully, and at higher doses, to kill weeds better. The gene beans are grown separately but are mixed after harvest with conventional soybeans as the company and US government aggressively refuse to keep them separate. Roundup has a half-life of 60 days in soil and two weeks in water, and Monsanto has asked the Food Authority for a 200-fold increase (.1mg/kg to 20 mg/kg) in allowable Roundup residues in imported soybeans.

A majority of processed foods contain soy or soy products. The gene beans also contain potential allergens - microbial genes, new proteins, and increased chemical residues. There are no history of safe use, premarket human tests, and labels.

Herbicide tolerant canola and cotton are now intended for Australian farms.

In contrast to the genetic/chemical option, Modern Ecological Farming Systems could feed the world, produce environmental benefits, create permanent jobs, revitalise rural communities, strengthen local food self-reliance, and offer a healthier diet. A large body of modern, sustainable farming know-how exists in Permaculture, Organic and Biodynamic methods, from experience over the past four thousand years. These systems are successfully used by growers and seed-savers who use natural processes, ban synthetic chemicals, conserve scarce water, and restore depleted soils.

But more official support is needed for the transition from agribusiness to agriculture. Governments offer few development resources as organic methods, traditional wisdom, and natural seed varieties cannot be patented or monopolised, and companies denied control and profits are disinterested. Support the transition by spending your food dollars wisely, on foods from Ecological Farming Systems. Choose foods certified organic or biodynamic. Avoid any product with 'soy protein isolate' or 'soy protein' on its ingredient list. Buy products labelled as free from genetically engineered ingredients.

Together, we can make a difference.

First published in The Canberra Times and The Gene File.

Bob Phelps
Director, Australian GeneEthics Network
c/- ACF 340 Gore Street, Fitzroy. 3065 Australia
Tel: (03) 9416.2222 Fax:(03) 9416.0767 {Int Code (613)}
email: Web: (under construction)

This article examins the link from cancer to insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which has been found higher in milk from cows injected with genetically-engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH)


Subject: Rachel #598:

=======================Electronic Edition========================

Breast Cancer, rGGH and Milk
---May 8, 1998---
Environmental Research Foundation
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Breast Cancer, rBGH and Milk

A study of U.S. women published May 9 in the LANCET links insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) with breast cancer.[1,2] Earlier this year a study linked IGF-1 to prostate cancer.[3] (See REHW #593.) Prostate and breast cancers are major killers of men and women in the U.S. and in other industrialized countries. IGF-1 levels are now being artificially increased in much of the cows' milk being sold throughout the U.S. These new cancer studies raise serious questions about the wisdom of allowing IGF-1 levels to be raised in milk.

The latest study[1] found a 7-fold increased risk of breast cancer among pre-menopausal women younger than age 51 with the highest levels of IGF-1 in their blood. The prostate cancer study published in SCIENCE in January, 1998, found a 4-fold increase in risk of prostate cancer among men with the highest levels of IGF-1 in their blood.[3] Thus IGF-1 in blood is associated with larger relative risks for common cancers than any other factor yet discovered.[2]

It is not clear from these studies whether IGF-1 causes these cancers, or whether elevated IGF-1 accompanies some other factor that causes these cancers. At the very least, researchers are hoping that measurements of IGF-1 will identify individuals at high risk of getting these cancers, so that surveillance might be increased.[2] (However, it would be common practice in the U.S. for people under such surveillance to find their health insurance canceled, which tends to discourage participation in surveillance programs.)

IGF-1 is a powerful naturally-occurring growth hormone found in the blood of humans. Dairy cows injected with genetically-engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH) give milk containing elevated levels of IGF-1, and the IGF-1 in milk can pass into the blood stream of milk consumers. Cows' IGF-1 is chemically identical to that in humans. Ingested IGF-1 would ordinarily be broken down in the stomach, but the presence of casein in milk prevents such breakdown.[4,5,6,7,8] (See REHW #454.) Thus these latest cancer findings raise important public health questions about the safety of milk from cows treated with bovine growth hormone (rBGH).

rBGH is injected into cows to extend by several weeks their period of lactation, and thus to force them to produce more milk. rBGH is not needed in any way because U.S. dairy cows already produce such an excess of milk that the U.S. government spends more than $200 million each year purchasing surplus milk, a subsidy to the milk industry. (See REHW #381, #384.) Because rBGH injections can cause numerous ill effects in cows, veterinarians in Germany have refused to administer rBGH to cows on grounds that it violates their professional code of ethics, which forbids intentional harm to animals. (See REHW #483.) U.S. veterinarians have not taken a similar stand.

The latest study of IGF-1 and cancer, reported this week in the LANCET --approximately the British equivalent of the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION --examined 397 women with breast cancer, and 620 carefully-matched controls. Their blood had been drawn before any of the women were diagnosed with breast cancer, so this was a prospective study --the most convincing kind there is. (The prostate cancer study reported in January was also a prospective study.[3])

The study found no relationship between IGF-1 in blood and breast cancers among the entire group, or among the post-menopausal group. However among pre-menopausal women increasing levels of IGF-1 in blood were strongly associated with increasing risk of breast cancer in a consistent dose-response relationship. Adjusting for other known breast cancer factors (age at which menstruation began; age at birth of first child; number of children; family history of breast cancer; and weight in relation to height) did not change the results.

Two previous studies had reported a relationship between IGF-1 levels in blood and breast cancer.[9,10] However those were "retrospective" studies in which the IGF-1 levels in blood were measured AFTER the diagnosis of breast cancer, so it was possible that the cancers caused the IGF-1 increases instead of the IGF-1 increases causing the cancers. This latest study minimizes the likelihood that IGF-1 levels are raised by breast cancers.

The authors of the latest study say there is "substantial indirect evidence of a relation between IGF-1 and risk of breast cancer." They point to experiments showing that IGF-1 enhances the growth of cancerous breast cells in mice, and growth of healthy breast cells in rhesus monkeys. In humans, very-low-calorie diets protect against breast cancer and they also reduce blood levels of IGF-1. Low birth weight is protective against breast cancer and low birth weight also leads to low levels of IGF-1. Tall women tend to have an increased likelihood of breast cancer and they also tend to have increased levels of IGF-1. Tamoxifen, a chemical now being used to prevent breast cancer, is known to reduce IGF-1 levels in the blood. Several other chemicals thought to protect against breast cancer --such as vitamins A and D --may also lower blood levels of IGF-1.[11]

It will be difficult for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to acknowledge that milk from rBGH-treated cows might be implicated in common cancers. Historically, FDA has maintained a very close relationship with Monsanto, the chemical company that spent a billion dollars developing rBGH. FDA approved rBGH for cows in 1993 and issued regulations that made it appear to be illegal to label milk rBGH-produced or rBGH-free. Some of the FDA officials who approved rBGH and who established the regulations discouraging labeling had previously worked for Monsanto. (See REHW #381.)

In 1994, Monsanto sued two grocery stores that labeled milk rBGH-free, because the chemical giant feared that, given a choice, consumers would reject rBGH-produced milk. FDA's anti-labeling regulations --signed into law by a former Monsanto official --were clearly intended to help Monsanto succeed in this marketing ploy. Eleven separate surveys have shown that Americans strongly prefer to have rBGH-treated milk labeled as such. (See REHW #381.)

Monsanto officials say their rBGH product has been so successful among dairy farmers that they are building a new factory in Augusta, Georgia to produce a lot more of it. They say they intend to market the product world-wide.[12] However in Canada and the European Union, rBGH has so far not been approved for use, partly because of unanswered health questions. The new studies linking IGF-1 to breast and prostate cancers are unlikely to help rBGH gain approval in Canada or Europe.

Because of FDA's and Monsanto's aggressive steps to prevent labeling of rBGH-produced milk, U.S. consumers of milk, chocolate milk, buttermilk, cream, whipped cream, ice cream, iced milk, cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, frozen yogurt, custards --and perhaps many baked goods as well --are very likely ingesting increased quantities of IGF-1 today. (See REHW #383, #454, #483.)

The milk industry --a powerful lobby in the U.S. --is currently conducting a campaign to increase milk consumption and top U.S. health officials are participating in the campaign. Recent advertisements show Donna Shalala, the U.S. secretary of health and human services, with a glass of milk in her hand and a "milk mustache" on her upper lip.[13] Ms. Shalala oversees the U.S. FDA, among other agencies.

A few bold companies --such as Ben and Jerry's, makers of gourmet ice cream --now label their products as rBGH-free. However, other companies, such as Whole Foods, Inc. --an "organic" grocery chain that owns Fresh Fields stores --claim to sell no dairy products containing rBGH. Yet the Annapolis, Maryland Whole Foods outlet sells cheeses from Cabot Dairies in Vermont and Cabot readily acknowledges that it uses some milk from rBGH-treated cows. Thus rBGH may be even more widespread than advertisements and store policy statements would lead consumers to believe. In the U.S., it is legal for merchants to mislead consumers in this way.

Dr. Samuel S. Epstein at the University of Illinois in Chicago in 1996 published a paper arguing that IGF-1 from rBGH-treated cows may well promote cancer of the breast and of the colon in humans who drink such milk. Epstein pulled no punches: "In short," he wrote, "with the active complicity of the FDA, the entire nation is currently being subjected to an experiment involving large-scale adulteration of an age-old dietary staple by a poorly characterized and unlabeled biotechnology product [rBGH, which is genetically engineered by Monsanto]. Disturbingly, this experiment benefits only a very small segment of the agrichemical industry while providing no matching benefits to consumers. Even more disturbingly, it poses major potential public health risks for the entire U.S. population," Dr. Epstein wrote.[14]

Monsanto has bet the company's future on genetically-engineered products, and rBGH is the first such product to be marketed. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Monsanto will voluntarily terminate the uncontrolled IGF-1 experiment being conducted now on the American people. This is a company that plays hard ball. As we saw in REHW #593, Monsanto lawyers frightened Fox TV executives into killing an investigative series that raised questions about rBGH and cancer.

Just last month Monsanto wrote a threatening letter to Vital Health Publishing in Bloomingdale, Illinois over the proposed publication of AGAINST THE GRAIN, a book by Marc Lappe and Britt Bailey. Monsanto said the new book would libel its best-selling product, the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate). Lappe is an established medical writer and an acknowledged health policy expert. His earlier books include TOXIC DECEPTION (1991), BREAKOUT --THE EVOLUTION OF DRUG RESISTANT DISEASE (1995), and THE TAO OF IMMUNOLOGY (1997). Lappe and Bailey run the Center for Ethics and Toxics in Gualala, California (telephone 707-884-1700).

After receiving Monsanto's threats, Vital Health Publishing abandoned its plans to publish AGAINST THE GRAIN --even though the book had already been printed --for fear of a Monsanto lawsuit, which might put them out of business even if Monsanto lost in court. Happily, Common Courage Press (Monroe, Maine; telephone 800-497-3207) will publish AGAINST THE GRAIN in September. AGAINST THE GRAIN is a detailed account of the perils of the new genetic technologies in agriculture. Monsanto's rBGH represents the tip of a very dangerous iceberg.

--Peter Montague
(National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)


  1. Susan E. Hankinson and others, "Circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor I and risk of breast cancer," LANCET Vol. 351, No. 9113 (May 9, 1998), pgs. 1393-1396.

  2. Jeff Holly, "Insulin-like growth factor-I and new opportunities for cancer prevention," LANCET Vol. 351, No. 9113 (May 9, 1998), pgs. 1373-1375.

  3. June M. Chan and others, "Plasma Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I and Prostate Cancer Risk: A Prospective Study," SCIENCE Vol. 279 (January 23, 1998), pgs. 563-566.

  4. C.J. Xian and others, "Degradation of IGF-I in the adult rat gastrointestinal tract is limited by a specific antiserum or the dietary protein casein," JOURNAL OF ENDOCRINOLOGY Vol. 146 (1995), pgs. 215-225.

  5. R.K. Rao and others, "Luminal Stability of Insulin-Like Growth Factors I and II in Developing Rat Gastrointestinal Tract," JOURNAL OF PEDIATRIC GASTROENTEROLOGY AND NUTRITION Vol. 26, No. 2 (February 1998), pgs. 179-185.

  6. Toshikiro Kimura and others, "Gastrointestinal Absorption of Recombinant Human Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I in Rats," THE JOURNAL OF PHARMACOLOGY AND EXPERIMENTAL THERAPEUTICS Vol. 283, No. 2 (November 1997), pgs. 611-618.

  7. Douglas G.G. Burrin and others, "Orally administered IGF-I increases intestinal mucosal growth in formula-fed neonatal pigs," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSIOLOGY Vol. 270, No. 5 Part 2 (May 1996), pgs. R1085-R1091.

  8. A.F. Philipps, "Growth of artificially fed infant rats: effect of supplementation with insulin-like growth factor I," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSIOLOGY Vol. 272, No. 5 Part 2 (May 1997), pgs. R1532-R1539.

  9. Peter F. Bruning and others, "Insulin-Like Growth-Factor-Binding Protein 3 is Decreased in Early-Stage Operable Pe-Menopausal Breast Cancer," INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CANCER Vol. 62 (1995), pgs. 266-270.

  10. J. P. Peyrat and others, "Plasma Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) Concentrations in Human Breast Cancer," EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF CANCER Vol. 29A, No. 4 (1993), pgs. 492-497.

  11. David J. Hunter and Walter C. Willett, "Diet and Body Build: Diet, Body Size, and Breast Cancer," EPIDEMIOLOGIC REVIEWS Vol. 15, No. 1 (1993), pgs. 110-132.

  12. See Monsanto's rBGH information at where rBGH is referred to by its trade name, Posilac, or by another name Monsanto invented for the product, bovine somatotropin or BST.

  13. One of Ms. Shalala's milk ads was reprinted in the BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL Vol. 316 (February 14, 1998), pg. 498. The caption reads, "Donna Shalala, the United States secretary of health and human services, has been criticised for her promotion of milk. The milk industry is a powerful lobby in the US and critics say the endorsement could be the first step on a slippery slope."

  14. Samuel S. Epstein, "Unlabeled Milk from Cows Treated with Biosynthetic Growth Hormones: A Case of Regulatory Abdication," INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HEALTH SERVICES Vol. 26, No. 1 (1996), pgs. 173-185.

Descriptor terms: milk; igf-1; rbgh; bovine growth hormone; monsanto; carcinogens; breast cancer; prostate cancer; fda; donna shalala; canada; europe; whole foods; fresh fields; ben and jerry's;



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Anger as Europe votes to 'sell-off' genes

By Katherine Butler and Charles Arthur, The Independent, 13-5-98

The European Parliament yesterday approved new legislation which lets biotechnology companies claim exclusive rights to the commercial use of genes - including human ones.

Opponents of the new measure say that it will effectively allow companies to "patent life", and warn that it will lead to an explosion in healthcare costs.

They claim private companies which have patented tests for naturally-occurring gene sequences - such as genes linked with breast cancer - could charge huge royalties from medical researchers or companies making diagnostic kits.

Plant and animal breeders may also have to pay royalties to the patent owners, as the directive covers all life forms that include genetic modifications.

U.S. frustrated over exclusion at EU maize tenders

Tuesday May 12, 7:57 pm Eastern Time

BRUSSELS, May 12 (Reuters) - The United States is frustrated over its exclusion from European Union maize import tenders, which were originally set up to benefit the United States, a Washington trade official said on Tuesday.

"The tenders are worth $250-300 million a year so are quite important and everyone is getting frustrated," the official told Reuters.

"The United States does not segregate its varieties of maize and is therefore not allowed to participate in the tenders because of the ban on genetically modified strains."

The appearance of genetically modified maize is identical to ordinary maize, making differentiation almost impossible.

The EU officially approved the marketing of four new strains of so-called gene maize on April 22, including two strains produced by U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto (MTC - news), but France was blocking final approval, the official said.

Until the French government finally approves the U.S. strains, which could be as late as September, the ban would remain in place.

Thanks to Bob Phelps at the Australian GeneEthics Network for forwarding the following article:

People need to know what they are eating

by Gyorgy Scrinis This article was first published in The Age newspaper, Melbourne, Australia, May 4, 1998.

Every survey conducted in Australia and around the world has confirmed the overwhelming public demand that genetically engineered foods be labelled. But the Australia New Zealand Food Authority's (ANZFA) labelling recommendations, still to be endorsed by Health Ministers, would ensure that most genetically modified foods will be released onto the market without any labelling.

Genetic engineering techniques are being used to develop foods with novel end-product characteristics, such as vegetables with altered taste or nutritional content, tomatoes that stay firm, and potatoes that don't turn brown when cut. But most genetic engineering research and development is towards modifying the process of growing and producing the foods, such as crops that can tolerate being sprayed with herbicides, crops that produce their own insecticides, and genetically engineered growth hormones for animals.

ANZFA has decided that only the end products should be assessed for labelling purposes. They have recommended that any genetically engineered food products that are "substantially equivalent" to their conventional counterparts need not be labelled at all. It is only those food end-products with characteristics or properties that are judged by ANZFA to be "not substantially equivalent" to conventional foods that will require labelling.

A close look at ANZFA's recommendations reveals that 'substantial equivalence' is in fact being defined and applied narrowly and selectively, in order to lend legitimacy to its decision to label few, if any, genetically engineered foods.

On the one hand, ANZFA states that foods that are genetically engineered to have their nutritional value altered (such as a capsicum with higher vitamin content) or foods that have had their taste altered (such as a sweeter tomato) would be considered 'not substantially equivalent', and therefore would require labelling. In both cases, these engineered characteristics are deemed to be desirable to consumers and for this reason have been deliberately engineered into the food. The food industry is even permitted under ANZFA's proposed standard to advertise and label these foods as "genetically enhanced" in these instances. It seems as if it will be mostly those foods with marketable new traits that will require labelling.

On the other hand, ANZFA suggests that potatoes engineered to not turn brown when cut, and plants altered to produce their own insecticides or to tolerate greater applications of herbicides, will be considered 'substantially equivalent' and will not be labelled. Presumably, long-life tomatoes engineered to stay firm by silencing their softening genes will also not be labelled.

Yet both the non-browning potato and the non-softening tomato have end-product characteristics that are clearly different from their conventional counterparts. Under ANZFA's own definitions, these end products should be considered 'not substantially equivalent', and therefore be labelled. Similarly, transgenic foods that contain genes from foreign plant and animal species, virus resistant crops that contain viral particles, and crops that have been altered to tolerate higher doses of pesticides - and which therefore contain higher chemical residues - could also be interpreted to be 'not substantially equivalent'. Yet ANZFA appears very unlikely to require any of these to be labelled.

These apparent inconsistencies reveal that the plastic concept of 'substantial equivalence' is being selectively defined and applied to lend legitimacy to an essentially arbitrary labelling system. It would seem that there are in fact two filtering processes being used to determine what gets labelled. Firstly, a very narrow and selective range of criteria will be applied to decide which end products are considered 'not substantially equivalent.' Secondly, other selective criteria will be used to judge which of these 'non-substantially equivalent' foods are to be labelled. This second filtering process seems to target foods which industry thinks it can market as desirable to food buyers.

The overwhelming majority of genetically engineered foods will go unlabelled because very few products, if any, will fall within ANZFA's rubbery category of 'not substantially equivalent'.

We can conclude that the regulators and industry do not want genetically engineered foods to be labelled, but want the appearance of a clear and rigorously determined labelling system.

A range of environmental, health, producer, animal welfare and consumer groups have raised a number of issues related to both the end products and the production processes for genetically engineered foods. These include concerns over potential ecological and health threats, and the likelihood of greater corporate control and ownership of the food chain.

One particular concern relates to the presence of foreign genes from other plants animals and microbes, which may cause allergic reactions or offend one's religious or dietary sensibilities. Other issues include the likely increased use of herbicides on herbicide-tolerant crops, the intensification of environmentally destructive agricultural practices, the emergence of new pathogens and weeds, and the spectre of 'genetic pollution'.

Australia would be following the US in not requiring that all genetically engineered foods be labelled, whereas Europe has much more comprehensive labelling requirements in place. Australian Health Ministers should endorse a new standard on genetically engineered foods that defends the right of food buyers to be informed of all substantive changes to either production processes or end product characteristics by requiring labels. This means resisting industry's push to bypass such public scrutiny, in their attempt to smuggle genetically engineered products onto the market by stealth.

Gyorgy Scrinis is a postgraduate student in the Ashworth Centre for Social Theory at Melbourne University. Author of Colonizing the Seed: Genetic Engineering and Techno-Industrial Agriculture. Email: "Gyorgy Scrinis" gscrinis@adhocalypse.arts.unimelb.EDU.AU

89% of Australians expect GE food to be labeled

An Australian National University, International Social Science Survey, conducted by Jonathon Kelley in 1993, found that 67% of Australians would try genetically engineered foods, however, 89% expected such foods to be labelled and would reject them if they were unlabelled.

Bob Phelps, Director
Australian GeneEthics Network

c/- ACF 340 Gore Street, Fitzroy. 3065 Australia
Tel: (03) 9416.2222 Fax: (03) 9416.0767 {Int Code (613)} email:
Web: (under construction)

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