Genetically Manipulated Food News

3 June 1998

Table of Contents

Landmark Lawsuit Challenges FDA Policy On GE Foods
EU Adopts Controversial Labelling Law For Gene Food
EU adopts controversial food labels
EU Listens to Consumers on Labelling Biotech Foods
Novel foods create novel dilemmas for trade partners
New Label Rules For Genetic Foods
Farmer Bars Crop Tests
Sterilizing Seeds
Swiss Hold Referendum About Ge
Switzerland: Genetic code of conduct:
Andean Farmers: Quinoa Patent Dropped
Food With Modified Genes Sold Unlabelled
GE News: Ottawa Citizen article on Codex Alimentarius
International News Conference
Lawsuit Challenges US Agency On Gene-altered Foods
"Terminator" technology leads to widespread chemical pollution
Health Officials Trying To Kill Critical Parts Of Drug Report
What's in your food?
High-Tech Foods
Monsanto taken over by American Home Products
USA: EPA approves Bromoxynil on Transgenic Cotton

Back to Index


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: 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.


Thu, 28 May 1998 05:56:40 -0500

Landmark Lawsuit Challenges FDA Policy On GE Foods

Contact: Steve Druker or Andrew Kimbrell, 202-547-9359

Washington D.C., May 27 - An unprecedented coalition of scientists, religious leaders, health professionals, consumers and chefs filed suit today against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to obtain mandatory safety testing and labeling of all genetically engineered foods.

The suit, filed in Federal District Court, alleges that current FDA policy, which permits such altered foods to be marketed without any testing and without labels, violates the agency's statutory mandate to protect public health and provide consumers with relevant information about the foods they eat. The suit also alleges that the policy is a violation of religious freedom. The suit has been coordinated by the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, with key collaboration from the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA). Both are nonprofit organizations dedicated to advancing human and environmental health through sustainable agriculture and safe technologies.

A press conference announcing the suit will be held starting at 9:45 A.M. May 27, 1998, at the Zenger Room at the National Press Club, 14th and F Street, N.W., Washington D.C. 20045. Several of the plaintiffs will be speaking and a copy of the complaint and other relevant materials will be available.

In the suit, plaintiffs challenge the marketing of 33 different genetically engineered whole foods which are currently being sold without labeling or adequate safety testing. These include potatoes, tomatoes, soy, corn, squash and many other fruits and vegetables to which a variety of new genes from different species have been added. These genetically engineered whole foods are also used as ingredients in processed foods, and have been reported to be present in a number of mass-consumed food products from major soy-based infant formulas to some of of the most popular corn chip brands. Because of FDA's failure to require labeling, millions of American infants, children and adults are consuming genetically engineered food products each day without their knowledge.

A central issue in the case involves the consumer's right to know about the new genetic material being engineered into their food. Labeling and testing are also vital given the health risks that scientists have associated with gene-altered foods. The most pressing health concern involves the impact of inserting novel genes into fruits, vegetables and other food products. With each gene insertion there is the possibility that a nontoxic element in the food could become toxic and create a human health hazard. This remains the most probable explanation for the dozens of deaths and hundreds of serious illnesses caused by the genetically engineered food supplement L-tryptophan several years ago.

Food allergies are another major health concern with genetically engineered foods. Those with food allergies will have no way of knowing what foods to avoid. The problem of food allergies was outlined in a recent study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine. In the study a gene from a Brazil nut was introduced into a soybean. The genetically engineered soybean was then tested on people who were allergic to the nuts, and they had an allergic reaction to the engineered soybeans but not the natural variety. Health professionals are also concerned that the mass consumption of genetically engineered foods could make treating infections more difficult in that some genetically modified foods contain antibiotic resistant genes.

In addition to health concerns, millions of Americans feel obligated to refrain from some or all genetically engineered foods based on their ethical and religious principles. Many Jews and Muslims need to avoid foods with substances from specific animals, while devout vegetarians want to avoid substances from any animal. Additionally, a considerable portion of the population is religiously motivated to avoid all genetically engineered foods in order to separate themselves from an enterprise they view as (a) based on anti-theistic assumptions and (b) carried out in a way that is irresponsibly and arrogantly disrupting the integrity of God's creation. Virtually all the religious plaintiffs share this motivation, even those who also must avoid foods with genes from particular species. The religious plaintiffs allege that by refusing to label, the FDA is significantly infringing their free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Commenting on today's filing, Steven M. Druker, president of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity stated, "This suit sends a clear message that government policy on genetically engineered food poses a real threat to the public and is unsound from the standpoints of both science and religion. Gene altered foods have not been proven safe through standard tests. Rather, the FDA accepts them on unsubstantiated assumptions. Eminent scientists say these assumptions are contrary to fact; religious leaders say they are at odds with a God- centered world-view."

Dr. Philip Regal,a professor at the University of Minnesota and an internationally recognized plant expert stated, "Over the last fifteen years, I and other scientists have put the FDA on notice about the potential dangers of genetically engineered foods. Instead of responsible regulation we have seen bureaucratic bungling and obfuscation that have left public health and the environment at risk."

"The FDA has placed the interest of a handful of biotechnology companies ahead of of their responsibility to protect public health," stated Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA). "By failing to require testing and labeling of genetically engineered foods, the agency has made consumers unknowing guinea pigs for potentially harmful, unregulated food substances."

Rick Moonen, nationally recognized chef and partner of Oceana and Molyvos restaurants in New York City stated, "People come to Oceana because they trust me. They know that I'm going to source out the highest quality ingredients in the market for their dining experience. By not requiring mandatory labeling and safety testing of all genetically engineered foods, the government is taking away my ability to assure customers of the purity of the foods they eat at my restaurants."

Rabbi Harold White, Director of Jewish Chaplaincy and Lecturer in Theology at Georgetown University, urges: "We must resist the irresponsible and irreversible sundering of nature's cross-breeding barriers through which genes from bacteria and animals are being permanently fused into every cell of our grains, fruits and vegetables in ignorance of the full consequences. Since the dawn of life on earth, Divine intelligence has systematically prevented such combinations. Limited human intelligence should not rush to make them commonplace."


EU Adopts Controversial Labelling Law For Gene Food

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - 05/26 European Union farm ministers Tuesday approved controversial plans obliging manufacturers to label foods containing genetically modified maize and soya.

The plans were drawn up by the EU's executive Commission in response to complaints from consumers, still reeling from Europe's mad cow crisis, that they no longer knew what they were eating or whether it was safe.

Some 60 percent of processed foods contain soybean derivatives. Many others contain maize derivatives.

Despite winning ministerial approval, the labeling plans are likely to remain controversial.

Under the rules, all foods containing gene-changed DNA or proteins must carry a clear label.


Novel foods create novel dilemmas for trade partners:

Financial Times (London) May 22, 1998 WORLD TRADE; Pg. 07

Americans are happy with genetically modified food. Europeans are deeply suspicious. Michael Smith explores the implications: Food is fast turning into a policy nightmare for the European Union.

The European Commission was forced into a humiliating climbdown earlier this year when member states refused to back its plans for banning cattle parts from the food chain because of fears over BSE or mad cow disease. Now it is being forced to implement a policy on the labelling of genetically modified food which some Commission officials believe may be unworkable. ...

The European Commission drew up EU labelling rules in the wake of a rapid increase in genetically modified ingredients in food. Initially the rules will apply only to modified soya and maize but other "novel foods" coming to market face similar regulations.


New Label Rules For Genetic Foods

By Jo Butler, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA News 21.05.98 20:10

© Copyright 1998 PA News. Copying, storing, redistribution, retransmission, publication, transfer or commerical exploitation of this information is expressly forbidden.

New EU rules forcing manufacturers to label all foods containing genetically modified soya and maize will come into effect later this year, it was announced today. The move follows agreement by EU countries to impose new labelling rules on foods containing GM ingredients.

Consumer groups who have been campaigning hard for compulsory labelling, welcomed the action, but said it did not go far enough to answer all consumers' fears about the new food bio-technology. UK manufacturers reached voluntary agreement last year to label GM foods in the face of consumer concern about the long-term effects of tampering with the genetic make up of ingredients. Soya is used in the production of around 60% of processed foods and is increasingly either genetically modified or mixed with GM crops.

Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham said the UK Government had been pressing hard for agreement on the issue in Europe and said it would mean consumers now had the right to choose whether or not to buy foods containing GM products.

But the Consumers' Association said they were disappointed that the regulations were only based on detectable GM ingredients.

Products which do not contain protein or DNA from GM crops - such as oil - were not detectable as GM derived and would not have to be labelled because the Commission said these would be treated as equivalent to normal foods.

A spokeswoman said consumers were worried about modification itself, and wanted all GM derived products to be labelled. "This agreement is welcome, but we're concerned that it doesn't go far enough," she said.


Farmer Bars Crop Tests

by JAMES MEIKLE
The Guardian (London) May 19, 1998
SECTION: The Guardian Home Page; Pg. 6

A DECISION by a farmer not to allow field trials of genetically modified oil seed rape on his property was hailed by environmental campaigners yesterday as "a serious blow" to the industry.

Peter Lemon, of Wilton, Wiltshire, said such crops should not be grown on farms until the concerns about them had been satisfactorily answered by regulatory bodies. Monsanto, which is running the trials in Britain, said it already had to satisfy Department of the Environment rules.


Sterilizing Seeds

By CURT ANDERSON WASHINGTON (AP) -05/24

A new technique that makes seeds sterile is sowing controversy among critics who say it will protect big-business profits while unfairly ending the age-old farm practice of saving a crop's seeds for next year. "We call it terminator technology," said Hope Shand, research director for the Rural Advancement Foundation International in Pittsboro, N.C. "It will force farmers to return to the same company year after year for their seeds."

Agriculture Department researchers and the Delta and Pine Land Co. of Scott, Miss., patented the new procedure this year for cotton seed. Companies like Delta and Pine -- now being acquired by biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. -- want in effect to copyright their plants developed through costly genetic engineering. ...

Jane Rissler, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said preventing farmers in poor countries from savings seeds could trigger more hunger because they cannot afford to buy the expensive genetically modified seeds. "The companies want to control all the seeds," Rissler said. "It gives the lie to the notion that the biotechnology industry wants to feed the world. It's the wrong way to go if you think biodiversity is important."

Seed companies already control the world's supply of hybrid corn seeds. In previous decades, hybrids developed in ways that prevent them from producing seeds after harvest that would grow into a viable plant the next year. Millions of farmers worldwide depend on saving wheat, soybean, rice and many other seeds to produce food, Shand said. "It is outrageous that the Agriculture Department used taxpayer money to pay for this research," she said. "It is dangerous and immoral."


Swiss Hold Referendum About Ge

Financial Times (London) May 23, 1998
LONDON EDITION 1 COMMENT & ANALYSIS; Pg. 09

4) Genetic code of conduct: Swiss people will vote on June 7 in a referendum asking whether they want to "protect life and the environment against genetic manipulation". It is the first time any country has had a chance to vote directly on this most contentious of modern scientific issues.

The vote could have a big impact. If a majority of voters and more than half of the 26 cantons into which the country is divided vote Yes, research projects using transgenic animals will be made illegal, the patenting of plants and animals forbidden and the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms prevented.

That would be a lot more than just a gesture. Switzerland contains two of the world's most successful pharmaceutical companies, Roche and Novartis. Their new product pipeline depends heavily on genetic research into plants and animals. The vote has set alarm bells ringing in their Basle headquarters.

The debate has also split Switzerland's political establishment, with the socialists, the biggest party, supporting the ban, while Ruth Dreifuss and Moritz Leuenberger, two socialist ministers and most of the trade unions oppose it. It is dividing some of Basle's most powerful families. Florianne Koechlin, 50, who comes from the Geigy pharmaceutical empire, now part of Novartis, is one of the leading campaigners for a ban.

----===#===----

Update on Swiss Referendum On June 6th, the there will be a national referendum in Switzerland, with 3 demands:

If there is a YES, these 3 demands will be in the Swiss Constitution. The campaign is intense and extremely controversial.

Genetic code of conduct:

Financial Times (London) May 23, 1998
LONDON EDITION 1 COMMENT & ANALYSIS; Pg. 09

Swiss people will vote on June 7 in a referendum asking whether they want to "protect life and the environment against genetic manipulation". It is the first time any country has had a chance to vote directly on this most contentious of modern scientific issues.

The vote could have a big impact. If a majority of voters and more than half of the 26 cantons into which the country is divided vote Yes, research projects using transgenic animals will be made illegal, the patenting of plants and animals forbidden and the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms prevented.

That would be a lot more than just a gesture. Switzerland contains two of the world's most successful pharmaceutical companies, Roche and Novartis. Their new product pipeline depends heavily on genetic research into plants and animals. The vote has set alarm bells ringing in their Basle headquarters.

The debate has also split Switzerland's political establishment, with the socialists, the biggest party, supporting the ban, while Ruth Dreifuss and Moritz Leuenberger, two socialist ministers and most of the trade unions oppose it. It is dividing some of Basle's most powerful families. Florianne Koechlin, 50, who comes from the Geigy pharmaceutical empire, now part of Novartis, is one of the leading campaigners for a ban.


Andean Farmers: Quinoa Patent Dropped

Press release from RAFI
URL: http://www.rafi.ca/communique/
May 22, 1998

Andean Farmers Defeat U.S. University

Andean farmers have forced Colorado State University (CSU) to surrender U.S. patent #5,304,718 on 'Apelawa' quinoa. The anti-patent campaign that began 14 months ago ended on May 1st when one of the quinoa "inventors" admitted that the patent had been abandoned.

One down - and about 120 Aussie "patent" abuses to go. Could the June FAO "gene" Commission help farmers win other battles?

Bolivia's National Association of Quinoa Producers (Asociaci█n Nacional de Productores de Quinoa - ANAPQUI) calls the defeat of Colorado State University's quinoa patent "...a great victory for the Andes and a wonderful day for Andean farmers." The announcement of the patent's demise came in the midst of the Bolivian May Day holiday.

One quinoa farmer, who worked with ANAPQUI to protest the patent at the UN General Assembly last June added, "This proves that small farmers with good friends can even defeat powerful U.S. universities."


Food With Modified Genes Sold Unlabelled

London Sunday times May 24 1998 BRITAIN Line

TWO of Britain's leading food manufacturers have been accused of selling products containing unlabelled genetically modified (GM) soya, writes Steve Farrar.

An analysis of 20 food products sold in high-street stores found two - Birds Eye Southern Fried Chicken Nuggets and Ross Tendergrill Bacon Flavour Burgers - contained traces of the soya without any warning labels.


GE News: Ottawa Citizen article on Codex

The Ottawa Citizen May 26, 1998 Final News A1 / FRONT

What's in your food?:

Food regulator to decide if gene-altered items should take labels BY Brad Evenson

The inside may be new, but outside, foods altered by genetic engineering are hard to spot. A cucumber may carry an Arctic char gene to prevent it from freezing, but it still looks like a cuke.

So it should not be surprising the rules that will govern the labels of these new-fangled foods are pretty hard to spot, too. But you can find them. They are tucked quietly behind the draft label standards for "Quick Frozen Fish Sticks" and organically grown carrots on the agenda of a pivotal meeting of the world's food regulators that begins today in Ottawa.

The CODEX meeting pits several European Union members, which are sensitive about genetic engineering, against countries led by the United States -- and Canada -- which have more relaxed rules. CODEX is a United Nations agency that co-ordinates global food safety and trade issues.

European countries want food labels to indicate when any morsel of genetically altered food is contained in a product, such as a genetically altered vegetable in can of soup. The U.S. and Canada think special labels are only required if a significant change is introduced to a food's taste, texture, nutritional quality or toxicity.

It's hardly a futuristic debate.

About 40 genetically altered foods have already been approved by Health Canada for sale. One is the Flavr Savr tomato, which has an altered gene sequence that prevents it from getting soft too quickly, so growers can ship it at a riper stage. Another is the Roundup Ready soybean, genetically modified to tolerate being sprayed by Roundup herbicide.

None of these foods must, by law, be labelled. Government scientists have already determined they are safe to eat.

In a notable departure, NatueMark potatoes, made by a unit of the Monsanto Company, have been labelled as genetically altered to resist Colorado Potato Beetles, even though it's not required. They are being test-marketed in the Maritimes.

Activists say big companies -- only they can afford to create genetically altered foods -- are applying pressure on the government to approve these products for sale and are risking public health. So far, none of the genetically altered foods submitted to Health Canada for approval has been rejected.

Furthermore, it is only a voluntary courtesy to submit such foods to Health Canada for testing; so-called "novel food regulations" that would make it mandatory have been crawling through the legislative process for nearly seven years.

"What they do is test for a few allergens that are known, but what they don't test for is all the allergens that are (so far) unknown," says Richard Wolfson, spokesman for the Consumer Right to Know Campaign.

"It could be 10 years down the line that there are birth defects or allergens (discovered), but there is no long-term testing on genetically engineered foods."

Mr. Wolfson and others say regardless of whether the government declares certain foods are safe, the public has a right to know how the food they buy and eat is made.

Manufacturers aren't so sure. The industry argues that if foods altered through biotechnology are virtually the same as natural -- or unaltered foods -- then labeling them creates a stigma and renders years of research and development worthless.

This could soon change, however.

The U.S. and Canadian governments have adopted the position at the CODEX talks that significant genetic changes to a food product would require a label. But if the EU countries push for greater restrictions, the issue could drag on for years.

"CODEX has an eight-step process for these guidelines," says Ron Burke, the Health Canada official responsible to the UN agency.

"This is only the third step." The meeting lasts until tomorrow.


Note: we had about a dozen press at the conference, and it resulted in many radio and TV news segments and interviews, as well as at least one major newspaper article, which I am sending separately. The whole press conference was telecast nation-wide many times on the Canadian Public Affairs Channel (TV)

...........

International News Conference

Tuesday, May 26, 10:30 am
Parliament Buildings, Ottawa
Centre Block, Rm. 130S

Consumers Being Kept in the Dark as Dangerous Genetically Engineered Foods Enter the Market

Should genetically engineered foods be marketed worldwide, unlabelled and indiscriminately mixed in with other foods?

Regulations that would permit such practices have already been formulated and will be considered for adoption by the Codex Committee on Food Labelling during its meeting in Ottawa, May 25-29. If these regulations are accepted, industry will have succeeded in cramming this dangerous technology down consumer throats, in spite of overwhelming evidence that consumers want genetically engineered foods labelled.

Surveys in numerous countries have consistently shown that the majority of consumers want genetically engineered foods labelled, so that individuals can choose for themselves whether or not to consume these experimental products.

Scientists, health professionals, and consumer groups worldwide are concerned about the lack of long-term research on genetically engineered foods. Evidence indicates that these foods may be allergenic, toxic, or reduced in nutritional value.

Long-term studies are needed to assess their safety. Yet dozens of genetically engineered crops are already on the market, unlabelled, with hundreds more in the R&D pipeline, and none of them have been tested adequately.

The Codex Committee on Food Labelling has been mandated by the World Trade Organization to establish regulations for labelling foods for international trade. Thus, the decisions of this committee dictate what information is available to consumers regarding the food they eat. Consumer advocates claim that Codex decisions are being dictated by industry pressure, at the expense of risks to consumers' health.

Speakers:
John Fagan, PhD, Professor of Molecular Biology, formerly with National Institutes of Health (USA)

Philip Bereano, PhD, Professor of Technology and Public Policy, University of Washington

Local contact:
Richard Wolfson, PhD, Consumer Right to Know Campaign Tel. (613) 565-1838 Fax. (613) 565-1596 Email: rwolfson@concentric.net

Lawsuit Challenges US Agency On Gene-altered Foods

By Julie Vorman, Wednesday May 27, 9:54 pm Eastern Time

WASHINGTON, May 27 (Reuters) - Genetically altered tomatoes, corn, soybeans and other foods should be pulled off the market until U.S. regulators have fully assessed the health risks to consumers, a group of scientists, religious leaders and consumer activists claimed in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The lawsuit challenged Food and Drug Administration policies, alleging that regulators have been too eager to let companies sell altered foods without requiring safety tests, or at the very least, special labels.

Green groups in several other countries have demanded that foods containing gene-altered DNA or proteins carry a label clearly informing consumers. But U.S. trade officials and agribusiness executives have insisted that such labels are unnecessary because genetic engineering does not affect food safety.

"By failing to require testing and labeling of genetically engineered foods, the agency has made consumers unknowing guinea pigs for potentially harmful, unregulated food substances," said Andrew Kimbrell, head of the International Center for Technology Assessment, a nonprofit group that led the lawsuit.

In an unusual coalition, consumer group's lawsuit was also joined by biologists from the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Minnesota and several other universities, as well as a rabbi, a Protestant minister and a prominent New York restaurant chef.

"My business is based on trust," said Rick Moonen, chef and partner of the Oceana restaurant. "Customers have the right to know about genetically modified foods so they can make an educated decision about whether to eat something.'


"Terminator" technology leads to widespread chemical pollution

by Joe Cummins, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Genetics, UWO jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

Delta and Pineland Corporation and the US Department of Agriculture patented (US patent no. 5,723,765) a process to make crop seeds sterile. This process has been called the "terminator" process.

The patented process involves inserting blocks of genes into the crop plants that turn off the crops ability to set seed. The seed production for sale to farmers is triggered by a special chemical spray that turns off a "blocker" switch thus allowing the crop to set normal seed. A great deal has been said about the moral aspects of preventing farmers from collecting seed. However, I believe the process sets the stage for even more threatening moves by large companies such as Monsanto who seem to own the USDA.

I have tried to obtain the name and formula of the chemical spray used to turn on flower production. Dr. Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists, told me she thinks the chemical is a trade secret. Indeed, for the system to work the chemical will, I believe, have to be kept a trade secret for otherwise brainy farmers could buy the chemical from the local drug store.

Now, it is clear that the chemical will leave some residues in the seed and the crop sold for food, fodder or fiber. If the formula of the chemical must remain a trade secret ( and it must to make the process benefit the corporation) then there is no obvious way to for the public to be assured that the chemical does not cause cancer, birth defects, allergy , autoimmune disease or a range of things that chemical sprays frequently do.

Can the public be expected to behave like quite little white mice and trust implicitly the good judgement of chemical corporations and their loyal servants the USDA? I can't think of a worse recommendation than the history of the chemical companies.

The biotechnology industry has opened the door to a nightmare of chemical abuse where "secret" sprays waft through the environment and secret pollutants contaminate the food supply. I have pointed out repeatedly that the herbicide glufosinate (Basta) used on genetically engineered crops in North America and now in Europe is well known to cause birth defects. Officious agricultural bureaucrats in both North America and Europe falsley claim that that there is no evidence that the herbicide is harmful. When those contemptible bureaucrats can keep the formulas of chemical sprays secret we will no longer be safe, none of us.


EU adopts controversial food labels

By Michael Smith in Brussels
Financial Times (London) May 27, 1998 LONDON EDITION 1 WORLD TRADE;

European Union nations yesterday formally adopted controversial proposals on the labelling of genetically modified foods in spite of opposition from Denmark, Sweden and Italy.

Although final details of the scheme have yet to be negotiated, farm ministers approved measures which will make labelling mandatory on food shown to contain genetically modified maize and soya through DNA and protein testing.


Health Officials Trying To Kill Critical Parts Of Drug Report

by Laura Eggertson, The Toronto Star May 29, 1998,

Scientists raise concerns over milk hormone

OTTAWA BUREAU - Top federal health officials are trying to suppress parts of a secret report criticizing the department's study of a drug that increases milk production in cows, The Star has learned.

Health Canada commissioned the internal report in January to review its study on whether milk from treated cows is safe for people to drink.

The four scientists who wrote the internal report conclude that earlier Health Canada reviewers didn't ask the U.S. manufacturer for enough data.

Senior Health Canada officials have directed the report's authors to kill sections that name names and accuse the original drug reviewers of not being as thorough as the Food and Drugs Act requires.

The controversy surrounding the drug, one of the world's first genetically -engineered products, has split scientists and poisoned the atmosphere in the department's health protection branch.

Several scientists have publicly accused their managers of threatening their jobs and pressuring them into approving drugs they consider unsafe in order to please industry.

The hormone, called rBST, or recombinant bovine somatropin, is the subject of an international debate over the possible long-term health risks of genetically -engineered products, including links to cancer.

Missouri-based Monsanto Inc. manufactures the controversial drug, to be sold in Canada under the trademark Nutrilac. When injected with the hormone, the company says cows produce 10 to 15 per cent more milk.

Senate agricultural committee begins hearings next week The United States approved the drug four years ago, but the European Union has banned such hormones. It has yet to be formally approved in Canada.

The Senate agriculture committee will hold hearings on the rBST controversy beginning next Thursday. Several Progressive Conservative senators have been pushing for a moratorium on the drug until further studies can be done.

Health Canada's official line is that milk from hormone-treated cows does not pose any safety risks for people. The department says it is still reviewing the drug's effects on cows.

But the report makes clear just how divided the department is over the drug.

Records indicate that the manufacturer of this product did not subject it to any of the normally required long-term toxicology experimentation and tests for human safety, nor at any time did the chief of human safety division, Dr. M. S. Yong, appear to have asked for these tests from this or any other manufacturer of rBST submissions," the report says.

Yong and two of his superiors have written memos this month directing the report's authors to kill sections that name names and accuse the original drug reviewers of not being as thorough as the Food and Drugs Act requires.

Yong's memo also dismisses the team's scientific concerns and accuses members of being biased. Yong had signed off on the majority of the reports ruling that milk from rBST-treated cows is safe to drink.

There is no reason for more exhaustive and longer toxicological studies in laboratory animals just because rBST is a hormone.

This statement reflects the team's prejudice against hormones in general and rBST in particular," Yong writes.

Four senators have asked for a copy of the report and have been refused, as was The Star.


What's in your food?:

The Province May 27, 1998 (Vancouver, Canada) Final News A18

UN delegates debate labelling genetically altered products OTTAWA -- Russet potatoes from Eastern Canada and golden yellow Canola oil from the Prairies were at the heart of an international debate yesterday on whether consumers should be told when they're buying genetically altered food.

The federal government, participating in a United Nations conference, appeared to be onside with the U.S., which opposes mandatory labelling.

"If we thought there was a health and safety concern with these foods, then they would not be getting into the marketplace," said Margaret Kenny of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

"That's what it really comes down to." The debate over whether consumers have a right to know that their plump red tomatoes are genetically engineered has pitted consumer groups against advocates of biotechnology.

As about 100 delegates gathered in a downtown Ottawa conference centre for the Codex meeting on food labelling, demonstrators outside waved a giant mascot of a fish head attached to a strawberry body to illustrate their opposition to the government's position.

"The concern is these genetically engineered foods are coming on the market unlabelled, indiscriminately mixed with other foods even though the long-term effects of these foods are not known," said Richard Wolfson of the Consumer Right to Know Campaign.

Advocates of biotechnology counter that labelling should be on a need-to-know basis and reserved only for food that has additives or alterations that pose a health risk or change the nutritional value.

"It really comes down to whether it's giving the consumers meaningful information," said Joyce Groote, president of BIOTECanada, a group representing the industry

"The food has been assessed as safe by Health Canada and we don't believe it needs to be differentiated in any way because it's virtually identical to any other product that's out there." The Codex commission is a UN agency that sets legally binding standards. While representatives will try to agree on common standards before the meeting wraps up Friday, indications are that many European countries support compulsory labelling.

The first genetically engineered Newleaf potato appeared in Canadian supermarkets three years ago. The potato, containing a bacterium that kills beetles, is now commonplace.

John Fagan, a U.S. biologist who has spent years studying the industry, estimates there are genetically altered components in about 70 per cent of products available on store shelves.

Soybean, for example, which is engineered to be resistant to pesticides, is in everything from ice cream to breakfast cereal, he said.

He said he believes there are safety hazards linked to genetic engineering: "It gives to rise to unexpected and unintended changes to foods and these unexpected changes can manifest in terms of foods that are allergenic, foods that are toxic, foods that are reduced in nutritional value."

YOU'RE ALREADY EATING ...

Some genetically altered foods available in Canada:


High-Tech Foods

OTTAWA - Broadcast News May 27, 1998

Do consumers have a right to know if their plump red tomatoes are genetically engineered?

That's the question pitting consumer groups against advocates of biotechnology at a U-N conference in Ottawa. Advocates of biotechnology say labelling should be on a need-to-know basis.

They say it should be reserved only for food that has additives or alterations that pose a health risk or change the nutritional value.

Margaret Kenny of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says if there was a health and safety concern, those foods would not be getting into the marketplace.

Opponents worry that genetically engineered foods are coming on the market unlabelled, and indiscriminately mixed with other foods.

Richard Wolfson of the Ottawa-based Consumer Right to Know Campaign says there's also concern that no one knows what the long-term effects are.


Monsanto taken over by American Home Products

June 1, 1998

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Drug giant American Home Products Corp. agreed Monday, to buy Monsanto Co. for $33.9 billion in stock, creating a powerful pharmaceutical company with a massive presence in the growing market for genetically engineered agricultural products.


USA: EPA approves Bromoxynil on Transgenic Cotton

Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News May 14, 1998

Reversing a controversial decision the agency made last December, EPA this week approved the use of bromoxynil on transgenic cotton and established permanent tolerances for the herbicide and its metabolite DBHA.

EPA Assistant Administrator Lynn Goldman had written to cotton growers Dec. 24, 1997, informing them that the EPA "cannot extend the tolerance for bromoxynil on cotton during the 1998 growing season because of serious concerns about developmental risks to infants and children. In particular, we are concerned that the data show significant and irreversible human health effects," she wrote.

The agency had earlier established a time-limited tolerance for residues of bromoxynil and its metabolite DBHA on transgenic cotton on May 2, 1997. That tolerance expired January 1.

However, in January, Rhone-Poulenc Ag Company, which manufactures bromoxynil, submitted new residue data and risk assessments using Monte Carlo methodology to EPA, agency spokesperson Denise Kearns told Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News May 12. "Based on that information, EPA concluded that use of bromoxynil on cotton does meet EPA standards," she said, adding that "farmers will be able to use it this spring." ...

"We are disappointed in the decision because Bromoxynil is a dangerous chemical, " Jane Rissler, a scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an interview. "Basically, the agency is not acting out the Food Quality Protection Act as it should . It is accommodating the chemical industry and putting the public at risk."


Here is a summary of the Codex meeting. Because Codex did not come to a consensus, individual countries and the EU are free to set their own standards and require labelling of genetically engineered foods.

EU Listens to Consumers on Labelling Biotech Foods

by Richard Wolfson, PhD, Consumer Right to Know Campaign, Ottawa
From the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Canada June 3, 1998 (Letters to the Editor section)

The May 26 article, "What's in your food?" by Brad Evenson on the front page of the Citizen was well done. It correctly quoted me saying consumers are concerned about genetically engineered foods coming on the market without adequate testing.

However, the final comment, that the European Union was slowing down international approval of these products by requiring labelling, did not give the full story. Subsequent meetings of Codex (the international food regulating body) showed that most countries, particularly in Europe and Asia, supported mandatory labelling of genetically engineered foods.

The majority of counties were listening to consumers. Surveys in many countries show that the vast majority of consumers want genetically engineered foods labelled, so they can choose for themselves whether to consume these foods.

Consumers International, a federation of some 235 consumer organizations in 109 countries, also joined numerous other non-governmental organizations and lobbied Codex for mandatory labelling.

However, delegates from Canada, USA, Brazil, Australia, and a few other countries chose not to support mandatory labelling, and to instead support the position of the biotech industry. Industry does not want genetically engineered foods labelled, clearly for fear that consumers will not buy their products if they were labelled as genetically engineered.

We should commend the efforts of the EU, India, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, UK, etc. for not bowing in to industry pressure, and instead supporting the wishes of consumers.

The issue of labelling of genetically engineered foods is what Marcel MassÚ pointed out on the Citizen's fron page article on May 29. Mr. MassÚ states that special interest groups such as the biotech lobby are becoming too powerful, at the expense of sacrificing the interests of consumers.

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