Genetically Manipulated Food News

26.June 1998

Table of Contents

Prefers Genetically Modified Foods to be Clearly Labeled
Coming Soon To A Field Near You - A Field Of Genes
Blindness, Mad Cow Disease and Canola Oil
Monsanto`s Hormonal Milk Poses Serious Risks of Breast Cancer,
Genetic Manipulation Firm Wants Test Sites Kept Secret
Monsanto Seeks World Policy On Gene-altered Food
Agribusiness Lobbying To Avoid Liability For GEMA Accidents
Hazards' Body Sought On Modified Foods
Genetically engineered oilseed rape (canola) Overview

Public Prefers Genetically Modified Foods to be Clearly Labeled

Thanks to MichaelP papadop@peak.org for posting this on the Ban-GEF@lists.txinfinet.com news group.

TORONTO, June 22 (Reuters) - The world needs a single policy on genetically altered food to avoid trade impasses that could hinder global food security in the next century, the president of Monsanto Co. (MTC.N) said on Monday.
 

"Japanese consumers are not accepting this product and the benefits of biotechnology as quickly and that is creating trade problems,"
said Hendrik Verfaillie, president of Monsanto, a global food and pharmaceuticals concern.

Well the public in Toronto does not share the president of Monsanto's views, and perhaps the poll discussed below aroused him to his counterattack:

The vast majority of persons in a poll conducted by the Toronto Star wanted genetically engineered foods to be labeled. Of those polled, 98% said yes, while 2% said no.  The issue posed was, "In Canada, genetically engineered food must be labeled only when it changes the nutritional value or could pose a health risk to some people. Should all genetically engineered foods be labeled?"

The Toronto Star is one of that cities larger newspapers and reaches some others in the province of Ontario and the rest of Canada.  Respondents added comments to their reply indicating such concerns as allergies, the public's right to know, and whether the food is kosher.  One reader replied, "If there is nothing wrong with genetic engineering, then why do they not want to disclose whether food is genetically engineered? Consumers need to know so they can make their own choices.

Should health problems arise from a modified food, it will be much more difficult to track down the modified food which is to blame, especially if there are a large number on the market, some developed by competing companies.  Testing, judging by occasional problems in the pharmaceutical and medical appliance industry, are likely to arise.  Labeling would not only give consumers a choice and fosters competition, but provides a safety feature to speed tracking down of problems.

The poll suggests that Canadians probably side with the Europeans who either object to genetically engineered food, or at least want it clearly identified.  The question is therefore raised, whether the government and Health Canada will respond to Canadian citizens or to the agricultural and biotechnical corporations which develop and promote genetically modified organisms. [Toronto Star, 2 June 1998].


Bee Culture: Great Canola (and Soy) Cover-up, part 2
Wed, 24 Jun 1998 21:24:17 -0500

Coming Soon To A Field Near You Or Field Of Genes

by David Gerry
From the May, 1998 issue of Bee Culture

Sections: What is Genetic Engineering?
Coming Soon to a Field Near You
Bees and BT
Bees as Vectors
Allergies, Food and Biotech
How is Biotechnology Being Regulated
Who's Going to Know?
To Label or Not
Why Meet Trouble Half Way?

If your bees are not already foraging in fields of genetically engineered crops, they soon will be. In 1997, 14% of the US soy acreage was planted with beans that were genetically modified, up 12% from the year before. Next year, Monsanto is projecting 4.5 million acres of genetically modified cotton, more than a five fold increase over this years' 800,000 acres. Since this trend to transgenics is accelerating, how can you reconcile their presence in your honey with the customers expectations of a `natural' product? How should honey be positioned in future markets? How will these crops containing foreign genes affect brood or hive health?

What is Genetic Engineering?

Genes are like a living computer software which controls the production of every protein, the building blocks of all life. Genes ensure that correct proteins are made, at the right time and place and in the correct amount in all living tissue. Experience has now shown however, that genes are not interchangeable between plants, bacteria and animals the way blocks of computer code is moveable between different software programs.

Traditional plant and animal breeders cross related species to attain desirable traits. Developing a red squash this way would mean finding a red trait in a plant that could breed with squash. Genetic engineering, however will now allow a red gene from any source - a flower, tree or an insect - to be spliced into the genetic sequence of the squash.

One of the ways genetic engineers transfer genes between dissimilar organisms is via viruses. The disease causing portion of the virus is deleted and then the modified virus shuttles a package containing genes for the desired traits into the target plant or animal. The package often contains a portion of a bacteria which is antibiotic-resistant to act like a book mark. This marker is a convenient way for the biotechnechians to identify which of the numerous attempts at transference of traits has been successful.

Biologists have long held that species' boundaries are inviolate i.e. that different species cannot successfully reproduce with each other. Genetic engineering techniques enable us to circumvent these boundaries. Surprisingly (perhaps), more recent research has now shown that micro-organisms probably never abided by the species barrier `law'. For example when different types of plants genetically modified with an antibiotic resistant gene were grown with a commonly occurring soil fungus, the fungus subsequently acquired the antibiotic gene .

This means that the soil is both a reservoir and a highway for gene flow between plants and microorganisms. And as we will see subsequently, this has significance for bees and their keepers.

Proponents of biotechnology claim that it can produce plants and animals with previously unimagined characteristics, efficiently and precisely. This belief has been borne out in controlled environments, with simple micro-organisms (such as viruses, bacteria and fungi) producing compounds such as insulin for people and rennet for cheese making.

However, as many cotton farmers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana discovered this year, producing cotton in fields from transgenic crops is not as easy as producing rennet from modified bacteria in vats indoors. While it is not yet understood exactly why so many of the cotton bolls were either stunted or fell off, several things are well known (to geneticists) . A foreign gene placed in a new host will not reliably perform exactly the same function as it did originally. It may disrupt some other ongoing functions and the target plant may try to inactivate or eliminate the foreign gene.

An example of how genetic modification can disrupt normal cell function was the Flavr-Savr tomato. It incorporated flounder genes to resist frost damage, however the skins were too delicate and it bruised so easily that it could not be moved from field to market.

Coming Soon to a Field Near You

The best available data for last year's plantings of transgenics comes from Monsanto. Globally they have the largest market share of all of the biotech companies.
CropUS Acres
Canola70,000
Corn3,000,000
Cotton3,260,000
Potatoes25,000
Soybeans9,000,000
    Total US
15,355,000

Although the total acerage planted in Canada of transgenic crops was very modest compared (3%) to the US, 24% of the Canadian canola crop was genetically modified. This means that if current trends continue, not only will most commodity crops but also most common fruits and vegetables will be altered by this technology in 5-8 years (3)

Which Crops, How They Are Modified

There are at least 48 plants undergoing genetic modification for commercial release (see Rissler and Mellon page 12) . Characteristics being modified include; disease & insect resistance, herbicide tolerance and market qualities such as shelf life, frost resistance etc. Of particular interest to all beekeepers are those crops that have or will soon be released which contain their own insecticide. Potatoes, corn and cotton containing an insecticide comprised about one third of the US trangenic plantings last year.

Until now, this pesticide has been one of the safest and cost effective pesticides on the market. It comes from the common soil bacterium Bacillus thuringienis (Bt) and it kills specific target pests by binding to the midgut membrane . Since first commercially available in 1930 the sales of Bt has today grown to $60 million a year . Bt, in foliar form, does little or no harm to people, wildlife or even other insects. It does not accumulate in either the soil or water. It's safe enough that it is one of the few insecticides permitted for use by organic farmers and it can also be used in metropolitan areas to control mosquitoes. Despite various long term and wide applications, until now there is little or no evidence of the emergence of resistant pests.

Bees and BT

First year results from an ongoing three year study at the Laboratory of Comparative Invertebrate Neurobiology in France may indicate a possible build up in honey of insecticide toxins genetically engineered into rapeseed. While detectable levels of the protein were not found in the pollen or nectar of the rapeseed, it was assumed that the toxin could become concentrated in the honey. Experimenters fed bees a sugar solution containing up to 100 times the protein found in the genetically engineered rapeseed. Bees fed on this solution for 3 months died 15 days earlier than those fed normal sugar. These bees also found it difficult to distinguish between the smells of different flowers after 15 days.

In general, the impact of large scale, long term plantings of so many different transgenic crops is not understood. In particular, the effects on bees of genetically expressed insecticides are not known. To address this crucial gap in our understanding, building coalitions with groups such as farmers who depend upon your pollination services may be the quickest way to get these items on the research agendas of local colleges and universities.

Ground breaking research by North Carolina State University entomologist Fred Gould has shown that a cotton-eating moth (Heliothis virescens), could develop resistance to Bt in plants in just 3-4 years. There is also indication that the simplified toxins used in genetic engineering resist degradation and remain toxic . In September (1997), 31 groups began legal action against the EPA, seeking to have approval for Bt crops to be rescinded. One of their primary concerns was rising insect resistance could cause the loss of effectiveness of this important bio-pesticide.

The "one gene-one pest" approach will inevitably fail. For beekeepers, this means that new versions of these crops, with their unknown side effects, will continually have to be introduced to keep up with ever changing resistance in pests. As genetically engineered crops become prevalent, you will need to become vigilant not only about insecticides on the crops, you will have to become informed about insecticides in the crops.

Bees as Vectors

Researchers at the University of North Dakota have used bees to carry powdered Bt insecticide to control the sunflower moth. With all of the genetically engineered crops in the fields, bees may now also inadvertently become vectors for many other agents in the rapidly evolving farm environment.

The success of genetic engineering is due in part to constructing vectors, (often derived from disease causing viruses), which overcome the target species' defense mechanisms. Although the disease causing portion of the virus is deleted in preparing these vectors, experiments by Agriculture Canada show that the deleted characteristic can re-appear one in eight times in the next generation.

The risks of unwanted recombinations are not therefore just theoretical. The Austrian government has banned the import of genetically modified corn that was developed using an ampicillin resistant bacteria marker. Their concern is that this resistance could transfer to any number of micro-organisms in the gut of a cow fed such corn and then onward to people.

Bees are going to be exposed to genetic material in combinations which they have never previously encountered. The best way to understand these challenges is to find out; what crops are being grown in your areas of operation that have been genetically engineered, what the source of the new genes are and what markers were used to develop same etc. This information will assist you in both obtaining assistance from specialists and providing factual information to your customers.

Allergies, Food and Biotech

Proteins, not sugars (such as honey) are the cause of allergies, therefore alterations of pollen from transgenic crops might affect people. Critics claim however that allergic reactions are possible to some of these novel genes which have not previously been part of the human diet.

This claim has been at least partially borne out by research. To eliminate the need to supplement soy meal based live stock rations, Pioneer Hi-Bred International developed a transgenic soy bean using a protein from Brazil nuts. Exposure to Brazil nuts for some people can produce severe or even fatal allergic reactions. An experiment was designed to test whether or not the soy bean engineered with Brazil nut provoked allergic reactions. Blood samples from all 12 subjects indicated strong allergenic reaction. (As a result, Pioneer withdrew the transgenic soy bean because they recognized that it would be impossible to completely segregate this bean from the human food chain.)

Allergenicity can therefore transfer from the source genes to some target crops or organisms. Although a very remote possibility, this transference might have implications for marketing of honey (with traces of altered pollen) from transgenic crops. Dr. Marion Nestle is Chair of the Department of Food Studies at New York University. In an editorial in the same issue of the New England Journal of Medicine which published the landmark soy/brazil nut study, Dr. Nestle observed that "...the responsibility for protecting the public against uncommon or unknown allergens in transgenic foods will continue to be delegated to industry and [is] largely voluntary". So which agencies do you turn to find out about new transgenic crops, health standards etc?

How is Biotechnology Being Regulated

The best overview of these issues has been published by the Iowa State University and is called "Regulation of Genetically Engineered Organisms and Products". Although it may seem overwhelming to find out which gene or which antibiotic marker was used to make squashes resistant to viruses, many databases on the internet are available for just such a purpose. An annotated list of about 40 useful websites is available at http://www.nbiap.vt.edu

Who's Going to Know?

The reliability of tests which can detect genetically altered substances is currently controversial. There is one company in Iowa which can test specific kinds of products for the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The Europe Commission has just established a research facility which, within 2-years, is to be able to identify 26 of the 28 GMOs currently permitted on the market. More reliable testing methods are coming, so soon tests will identify the presence of a GMO in a final product.

More important than test results, how are you going to feel when customers ask you directly about biotech and honey? Trust is key to success in this dialog. It begins with being well informed yourself.

To Label or Not

US Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman is so adamant that GMOs not be either segregated or labeled that he has threatened to sue countries like Austria (through the World Trade Organization) which ban transgenic products. Unlike here, GMOs in food is highly controversial in Europe. Consumers there are very cynical about the role of government agencies in protecting public health after the (preventable) out break of mad cow disease. Caught between the bickering authorities and anxious customers, the Institute of Grocery Distribution in England has produced (after a 4-year study) a 28 page guide for grocers on how to label foods containing GMO.

Despite Glickman's intransigence, Safeways in England have successfully sold a tomato puree made from genetically modified tomatoes. They launched the product in 60 of their 398 stores February 1996, with point of purchase material explaining how the product was developed. Spokesman Tony Combs reported in November (1997) that they had sold more than 750,000 of the 170 gram cans, far exceeding their launch expectations.

A lesson to be learned here is that with adequate information, some consumers will accept transgenics in their food. Last year one acre in seven soy beans was trangenic (vs. 1:50 the year before) which means that genetically engineered plants are rapidly becoming part of most farming practices. It is therefore a case of when, not if you confront the issue of honey from transgenic crops with customers. Taking the initiative now rather than waiting until consumers raise the issue means greater influence, as Safeways has found, on the customers purchase decision.

Why Meet Trouble Half Way?

Even public relations experts like Burson Marsteller, retained by Monsanto, concede that the activists and environmental groups have been more effective in the controversy that has arisen in Europe surrounding the introduction of transgenic food. European consumers are much less accepting however of food produced with biotechnology than their American counter parts.

A recent survey (March '97) conducted for the industry sponsored International Food Information Council found that 78% of respondents predicted that they would benefit from biotechnology in the next 5 years. A similar survey undertaken by the USDA and the North Carolina State University found more men than women willing to buy food produced with biotechnology. As women are key decision makers in household purchase, marketing efforts by beekeepers should address these gender differences. 66% of those answering this survey expressed interest in learning more about biotechnology, a useful entrée perhaps for a marketing campaign for honey. The caveat here according to Dr. Nestle is that "attitudes to food biotechnology are product specific".

To avoid being trapped into responding to either the agenda of the biotech industry or it's numerous detractors, beekeepers and their packing co-ops should collectively decide now how best to position honey in the market, given the rising tide of transgenics.

"If scientists and managers want consumers to have the facts about food biotechnology, all they need to do is state them where they will do the most good-on the product labels.... labeling is the easiest way to inform the public and end the controversy" said Dr. Nestle.

Corrections:

Regarding the article from Bee Culture, I am told that the FlavrSavr tomato does not include a foreign gene from a flounder. There is a genetically engineered tomato that does include the fish gene, but that is a different tomato, which may not be on the market yet.

Thanks to Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew) for posting this to allsorts@gn.apc.org

Pt 2 - The Great Canola (and Soy) Cover-up
From a chapter in John Thomas' new book, "Young again: How to Reverse the Aging Process" published by Promotion Publishing, San Diego -----

Blindness, Mad Cow Disease and Canola Oil

By John Thomas

Rape Seed Oil or "Canola"?

Canola is a coined word. It appeared out of nowhere and is not listed in any but the most recent reference sources.

The flip side of the canola coin reads: "rape"! You must admit that canola sounds better than rape. The name canola disguised the introduction of rape oil to America.

Canola oil comes from the rape seed, which is part of the mustard family of plants. Rape is the most toxic of all food-oil plants. Like soy, rape is a weed. Insects will not eat it; it is deadly poisonous! The oil from the rape seed is a hundred times more toxic than soy oil.

Canola is a semi-drying oil that is used as lubricant, fuel, soap and synthetic rubber base, and as an illuminant for the slick color pages you see in magazines. It is an industrial oil and does not belong in the body!

Canola oil has some very interesting characteristics and effects on living systems. For example, it forms latex-like substances that agglutinate the red blood corpuscles, as does soy, but much more pronounced. Loss of vision is a known, characteristic side effect of rape oil which antagonizes the central and peripheral nervous systems, again like soy oil, again worse. The deterioration takes years, however.

Rape (canola) oil causes emphysema respiratory distress, anemia, constipation, irritability and blindness in animals-and humans. Rape oil was widely used in animal feeds in England and Europe between 1986 and 1991 when it was thrown out. You may remember reading about the cows, pigs and sheep that went blind, lost their minds, attacked people and had to be shot.

A woman called me from Chicago to tell me that she had been in England when the "Mad Cow Disease" had been at its peak. She said that she had seen a television news report that told people not to panic if they had been using rape oil in their diet and were over 65 years of age. The "experts" added that the effects of rape oil ingestion takes at least 10 years to manifest, and in all likelihood, most of these people would be dead by then anyway. Comforting!

In the reports I read, the "experts" blamed the behavior on a viral disease called scrapie. However, when rape oil was removed from animal feed, "scrapie" disappeared.

No longer a European livestock problem; now it is ours. U.S. farmers grow rape seed, and manufacturers use its oil (canola) in thousands of processed foods, with the blessings of government watchdog agencies, of course.

Officially, canola oil is known as "LEAR" oil - Low Erucic Acid, Rape. Industry experts love to tell how canola was developed in Canada and that it is safe to use. They admit it was developed from the rape seed, but that through genetic engineering, i.e. irradiation, it is no longer rape seed, but "canola" instead. ["Canadian oil", get it?]

They love to talk about canola"s qualities - its unsaturated structure (Omega 3, 6, 12), its wonderful digestibility and its fatty acid makeup. They turn us against naturally saturated oils and fats, while they come to the rescue with canola oil. They even tell us how Asia has warmly embraced canola due to its distinctive flavor. Isn"t it wonderful how internationalists brokers "help" third-world peoples? Reminds me of the introduction of the microwave oven.

An earthly expression from the Old West sums up the flimflam accompanying rape oil"s rebirth and promotion worldwide: "horseshit and gun smoke!". Its new name provided the perfect cover for commercial interests wanting to make billions in the United States. The euphemism is still very much in use, but is no longer needed. Look at the ingredients list on peanut butter labels. The peanut oil has been removed and replaced with rape oil. ------

This excerpt has been edited especially for Perceptions magazine March/April 1996.

Perceptions magazine is dedicated to the wholeness of life and sovereignty of the human being. They believe that to be truly free, you must have control of your political environment, access to crucial health information, and exposure to concepts that expand consciousness. The magazine is designed to bridge the differences between political ideologies and to bring people together. phone: 310 - 313-5185 / fax: 310 - 313-5198

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Date: 22 Jun 1998 04:03:29 -0500
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty)

Monsanto`s Hormonal Milk Poses Serious Risks of Breast Cancer,

by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health
©, Copyright 1998, PR Newswire

CHICAGO, June 21 /PRNewswire/ via NewsEdge Corporation -- The following was released today by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health and Chairman of Cancer Prevention Coalition:

As reported in a May 9 article in The Lancet, women with a relatively small increase in blood levels of the naturally occurring growth hormone Insulin-like Growth Factor I (IGF-1) are up to seven times more likely to develop premenopausal breast cancer than women with lower levels. Based on those results, the report concluded that the risks of elevated IGF-1 blood levels are among the leading known risk factors for breast cancer, and are exceeded only by a strong family history or unusual mammographic abnormalities. Apart from breast cancer, an accompanying editorial warned that elevated IGF-1 levels are also associated with greater than any known risk factors for other major cancers, particularly colon and prostate.

This latest evidence is not unexpected. Higher rates of breast, besides colon, cancer have been reported in patients with gigantism (acromegaly) who have high IGF-1 blood levels. Other studies have also shown that administration of IGF-1 to elderly female primates causes marked breast enlargement and proliferation of breast tissue, that IGF-1 is a potent stimulator of human breast cells in tissue culture, that it blocks the programmed self-destruction of breast cancer cells, and enhances their growth and invasiveness.

These various reports, however, appear surprisingly unaware of the fact that the entire U.S. population is now exposed to high levels of IGF-1 in dairy products. In February 1995, the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of unlabelled milk from cows injected with Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, rBGH, to increase milk production. As detailed in a January 1996 report in the prestigious International Journal of Health Services, rBGH milk differs from natural milk chemically, nutritionally, pharmacologically and immunologically, besides being contaminated with pus and antibiotics resulting from mastitis induced by the biotech hormone.

More critically, rBGH milk is supercharged with high levels of abnormally potent IGF-1, up 10 times the levels in natural milk and over 10 times more potent. IGF-1 resists pasteurization, digestion by stomach enzymes, and is well absorbed across the intestinal wall. Still unpublished 1987 Monsanto tests, disclosed by FDA in summary form in 1990, revealed that statistically significant growth stimulating effects were induced in organs of adult rats by feeding IGF-1 at low dose levels for only two weeks. Drinking rBGH milk would thus be expected to significantly increase IGF-1 blood levels and consequently to increase risks of developing breast cancer and promoting its invasiveness.

Faced with escalating rates of breast, besides colon, prostate and other avoidable cancers, FDA should withdraw its approval of rBGH milk, whose sale benefits only Monsanto while posing major public health risks for the entire U.S. population. A Congressional investigation of FDA's abdication of responsibility is well overdue.

SOURCE Cancer Prevention Coalition

/CONTACT: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago, and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, 312-996-2297/


Date: 22 Jun 1998 08:52:22 -0500
From: MichaelP papadop@peak.org

Genetic Manipulation Firm Wants Test Sites Kept Secret

London Times June 22 1998

Attacks by protesters are increasing, writes Michael Hornsby

THE Government has been asked to stop disclosing the locations of test sites of genetically engineered crops to prevent attacks by a new breed of "eco-terrorist".

Companies developing the controversial crops are worried by the growing number of guerrilla-style attacks aimed at preventing the plants being grown commercially in Britain. The first such crop, an engineered variety of oilseed rape, is close to receiving official approval, and farmers could be free to plant it as soon as next spring. It has been made resistant to herbicide, so that farmers can spray weeds in the crop without damaging it.

Over the past two months militant opponents of the new technology have damaged plants at a score of sites in England and Scotland. AgrEvo, a German biotechnology company with a base at East Winch, near King's Lynn, in Norfolk, has 40 trial plots around Britain growing genetically modified oilseed rape, sugar beet, maize and potatoes.

"During the past few months five of the 40 sites have been attacked, and we fear that many more will be damaged," Des D'Souza, a company product manager, said. "The protesters are destroying valuable scientific data which would help to answer many of the questions they themselves properly raise.

"The tests have been conducted with complete openness up to now, but we are discussing with the Government why the public needs to know the exact location of trial sites."

Activists can easily locate the experimental sites because the Department of the Environment is required by European law to keep a public register of crop test sites and makes the information available on the Internet. There are 64 licensed trials of genetically modified crops at more than 330 sites, mainly involving oilseed rape and sugar beet, but also new varieties of wheat, maize, barley, potatoes and chicory.

Opponents of the new technology, such as AgrEvo's modified rape, say that not enough is yet known about its long-term effects, claiming that the herbicide-resistant gene, transferred to oilseed rape from a soil bacterium, could "escape" into other crops, creating uncontrollable superweeds.

Genetic engineering makes it possible to identify and transfer single genes between widely different species, for example from animals to plants. The Scottish Crop Research Institute near Dundee is carrying out field trials of strawberries implanted with a gene taken from the North Atlantic cod.

The gene stops the fish's blood from freezing at extreme sub-zero temperatures and it is believed it could give the strawberries built-in protection against frost, one of the biggest causes of damage to soft fruit.

Ronnie McNicol, head of the institute's soft fruits and perennial crops department, said that the risks could be investigated only by proper study. "If we find there is a problem, we will stop," he said.

The Vegetarian Society said yesterday that any fruit containing animal genes should be clearly labelled. "The Vegetarian Society does not have an anti-genetics policy," Tina Fox, a spokesman, said. "What we are concerned about is the use of animal genes. Vegetarians clearly do not want to eat strawberries with fish genes in them."

********* 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.


Date: 25 Jun 1998 10:27:10 -0500
From: MCCLOSL@towers.com

Monsanto Seeks World Policy On Gene-altered Food

By Gilbert Le Gras

A lesson in "correct thought", properganda...

TORONTO, June 22 (Reuters) - The world needs a single policy on genetically altered food to avoid trade impasses that could hinder global food security in the next century, the president of Monsanto Co. (MTC - news) said on Monday.

"European and Japanese consumers are not accepting this product and the benefits of biotechnology as quickly and that is creating trade problems," said Hendrik Verfaillie, president of Monsanto, a global food and pharmaceuticals concern.

The European Union held a public debate this weekend on whether to approve genetically alterd crops. Diplomats said the European Commission may take France to court if Paris enacts laws blocking access to such crops despite a possible favorable outcome of the weekend's citizens' conference.

"We need to harmonize our policies in order to eliminate this trade draw," Verfaillie told 600 delegates at the joint American and Canadian seed trade association meeting here.

The acreage sown to genetically altered crops has burgeoned to 65 million acres this year from only five million acres two years ago, he said.

Verfaillie said genetically altered crops is the only viable solution to the likelihood of the world's population doubling to 10 billion by 2050 while trying to feed itself as the amount of arable land remains unchanged at six million square miles, an area roughly the size of South America.

Monsanto launched a $1.6 million campaign earlier this month to convince Europeans of the benefits of genetically altered crops but faces an uphill battle after scientists and politicians were discredited in the wake of mad-cow disease.

Sixty four gene crops have been approved in the U.S. and Canada, compared to nine in the European Union. Japan has approved 20 gene crops, he said.

"We have to convince the consumer this is good for him," Verfaillie said.

(Wow! Did you see THAT?!)

High stearate soybeans and high beta carotene canola are two examples of products Monsanto is currently developing that have nutritional as well as health benefits, he said.

High stearate content in soybeans will yield more viscous oil and reduce the need to hydrogenate the oil in order to make margarine, he said. Hydrogenating vegetable oil increases its fatty acid content which makes it less healthy.

High beta carotene canola should benefit many Asians consumers.

"In Asia, there is a lot of night blindness caused, basically, by a lack of sufficient levels of vitamin A," Verfaillie said.

(Hey, maybe they're drinking too many Diet Cokes.)

"With this canola oil, if you make it into margarine or if you spread it on your salad, then people would receive enough beta carotene to avoid night blindness," he said.


Date: 25 Jun 1998 22:39:57 -0500
From: Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)

Thank you to Margaret Weston for this post.

Agribusiness Lobbying To Avoid Liability For Gema Accidents

Brussels, 11 June 1998 -- The Green Party [European Parliament] is warning that the principle of public liability for accidental escapes of GMMs (Genetically Modified Micro-organisms), including genetically engineered viruses, could be overturned in Strasbourg next week. (Comment: in other words agribusiness is lobbying hard to remove all liability they would have for damages caused by GEMA plants.)

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Date: 24 Jun 1998 02:23:40 -0500
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty)

Hazards' Body Sought On Modified Foods

By Dick Ahlstrom, Science Editor Irish Times 23/6/98

The food safety bill should provide for a "hazards committee" specifically charged with reporting on health aspects associated with consumption of genetically engineered foods, according to Mr Joe Higgins TD of the Socialist Party.

Mr Higgins will move an amendment in the Dail today to the Food Safety Authority Bill (1998) seeking the establishment of a watchdog for genetically modified (GM) foods.

His proposals call for the establishment of a 10-person body, a Genetically Engineered Foods Hazards Committee, within the Food Safety Authority. At least three members of this group would have a record of opposition to GM foods, he said.

Mr Higgins also wants amendments on labelling so that all modified foods would be clearly marked as such. Amendments to the Bill would also include heavy penalties with fines up to #163#20,000 for those attempting to avoid labelling requirements.

Mr Higgins highlighted a preelection statement made in April 1997 by the Minister for the Environment, Mr Dempsey, in which he said Fianna Fail would not support "the largest nutritional experiment in human history with the consumer as guinea pig".

The Government should accept this amendment, he said in a statement yesterday. There were "deep and well-grounded fears concerning the possible effects of the release" of genetically modified organisms into the environment.


Date: 24 Jun 1998 22:35:44 -0500
From: Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)
Subject: Fwd(2): Genetically engineered oilseed rape (canola)

Here is a comprehensive paper on "canola" from the UK sent out in Dec. 97. I remember hearing about findings before this that it was found in 3 countries that oilseed rape easily transfers its genetic properties to its wild and weedy relatives, which are many. I will send whatever else I can find.

As far as brands with GE canola, I would assume that if it is not organic canola oil, then it will have some GE canola in it. But after reading that canola, even without being GE'd is toxic, I wouldn't mess with it in any case.

Judy

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Paper copies available by emailing adrianb@foe.co.uk

Friends of the Earth
Briefing Sheet

Genetically engineered oilseed rape (canola)

Sections:
Introduction
Oilseed Rape
What is GE oilseed rape?
What is Glufosinate?
Which companies are involved?
Why are we concerned about glufosinate-resistant oilseed rape?
Conclusions
Friends of the Earth position
What can I do?
REFERENCES
CorrectionS

Despite research showing possible environmental an agriculture problems, a new type of oilseed rape (canola) may soon be planted - making it the first genetically engineered crop grown in the UK. Friends of the Earth is calling for a moratorium on this crop until it can be shown that it won't damage our environment or risk our health.

Introduction

Genetically engineered foods have become a controversial issue in Europe. A new variety of oilseed rape may be the first genetically engineered (GE) crop to be grown commercially in the UK. It has been designed to be resistant to a weedkiller. Friends of the Earth have serious concerns over the impact this crop will have on farming, public health and the environment. This briefing outlines the issues and our concerns about herbicide resistant oilseed rape.

Oilseed Rape

Oilseed rape is the fourth most widely grown crop in the United Kingdom (1). In 1997 the UK was penalised under world trade rules for producing too much (2). Most (98%) of oilseed rape is grown for the production of food grade oil, while the pulp is used in animal feed. The oil is commonly used for margarines and vegetable oils and derivatives are used throughout the range of cosmetic and detergent products (3).

What is GE oilseed rape?

This genetically engineered oilseed is a new variety which contains a gene from a soil bacterium. This has made it resistant to glufosinate ammonium, a powerful herbicide. By making oilseed rape resistant to this chemical, the herbicide can now be sprayed at any time, killing all the weeds but leaving the crop intact.

Herbicide resistant crops are extremely desirable from an industry point of view as they will increase the market for herbicides. Research has mainly focused upon 2 herbicides: glyphosate (Monsanto's Roundup) and glufosinate (Hoechst's Challenge). It has been estimated that the production of glufosinate resistant crops could increase Hoechst s sales of this product by $200 million per year (4).

Companies have developed herbicide resistant crops as a way to increase the markets of existing herbicides rather than working to develop newer and safer ones, because "the development costs of a new herbicide are up to 20 times higher than those for a new (plant) variety" (5).

What is Glufosinate?

Glufosinate is a non-selective herbicide. This means that it is supposed to kill any plant with which it comes into contact. It is marketed under names such as BASTA, Liberty, Challenge, Harvest and Dash. It is used for completely clearing vegetation, and also as a pre-harvest treatment (particularly in potatoes and oilseed rape) to kill off the foliage, so making it easier to harvest. Recent reports have shown that it is not so effective as first thought, with serious weeds such as thistles and couch grass not being killed off. This has led to other herbicides being used (6).

Which companies are involved?

Most large agrochemical and seed companies, and many smaller ones, are involved in transgenic research. At present, the company attempting to market glufosinate resistant oilseed rape in the UK is Plant Genetic Systems NV, a Belgian company which during 1996 had 75% of its shares bought by AgrEvo. AgrEvo is also producing a glufosinate resistant oilseed rape variety but has not progressed as far as Plant Genetic Systems. AgrEvo is part of Hoechst Schering AgrEvo GmbH, a German company which produces the pesticide glufosinate.

Why are we concerned about glufosinate-resistant oilseed rape?

  1. Use Of Glufosinate

    At present, glufosinate is not widely used on oilseed rape. It is inevitable that the use of this new seed will increase the use of glufosinate, indeed that is the aim of producing it. Thus any risks to the environment and human health from using this herbicide will be increased.

    Although glufosinate residues have been found in harvested oilseeds (7), at present the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food does not test for its presence in oilseed products. Despite this, reports show that glufosinate has toxic effects on humans and animals (8), particularly affecting the nervous system. The US Environmental Protection Agency also states that it is toxic at very low concentrations to many aquatic and estuarine invertebrates (9,10).

  2. Possible increase in use of pesticides overall

    There is evidence that glufosinate tolerant oilseed rape varieties do not show a decrease in the amount of overall herbicides needed in comparison with unmodified crops (11). In addition, a study in Canada showed that some disease-causing fungi are highly resistant to glufosinate (12), whilst important fungi that protect plants from disease are highly susceptible to glufosinate (13). Oilseed rape has a wide range of fungal pests (14) therefore it is possible that widespread use of glufosinate will increase the need to use fungicides.

    The production of herbicide resistant seeds also encourages farmers to look upon the use of herbicides as the first choice for weed control. Having bought the herbicide resistant seed, farmers would be far more likely to use the herbicide when before they might have considered this as only one possible option. There are still a number of farmers who think that to have any weeds at all in a field is a sign of bad farming, when in fact a certain level may have no adverse affect upon the crop.

    The ability to use non-selective herbicides in the crop will further promote this attitude and encourage the use of herbicides, rather than promoting the real needs of the crop. Additionally, some weeds, if exposed often and long enough to a weedkiller, will adapt to this pressure and develop it's own resistance. This may lead to stronger doses being required in the future.

    Finally, oilseed rape commonly spreads into other crops as a weed. These too will be resistant to glufosinate so they may have to be controlled using alternative herbicides.

  3. Glufosinate tolerance will spread to all oilseed rape

    Two neighbouring fields of oilseed cross breed easily. If one field is the genetically engineered variety and the other not, then the two crops may produce seeds for oil production that could contain the genetically engineered material. Research in Scotland has found the new genes 2.5km away from test sites (15). Therefore it is highly likely that if planted on a large scale all oilseed rape will end up contaminated and consumers could never ensure that they were not consuming produce from transgenic oilseed rape. Even organic oilseed products could not be guaranteed. Organic standards do not allow for the presence of genetically modified materials in organic produce so farmers would be unable to produce organic oilseed rape.

  4. Glufosinate tolerance will spread to weeds.

    Recent studies have shown that transgenic oilseed rape is able to crossbreed with weedy relatives, making those weeds also resistant to herbicides (16). Oilseed rape can cross breed easily with other plants in the Brassica family such as wild turnip and wild radish (17). Research shows that these too can become herbicide resistant if crossed with the genetically engineered oilseed rape. Therefore the prospect of common weeds becoming agriculture pests (often labelled as "superweeds") is very real and may lead to more toxic chemicals being used to control them.

    Interestingly, one company at the forefront of this technology, AgrEvo, also agrees, suggesting that "...the farmer can always control these resistant weeds with other products" (18).

  5. Plants may develop multiple resistance to herbicides

    It has already been proven that herbicide resistance can be passed to conventional oilseed rape and other plants. If the newly resistant plants then comes into contact with oilseed rape resistant to other herbicides eg Roundup, then it is possible that they may develop resistance to both herbicides. As the agrochemical companies are in competition and all are trying to develop the market for their own particular variety, it is possible that adjacent fields of oilseed rape could be resistant to different chemicals. This potential mosaic of different herbicide resistant crops would provide just the right situation for multiple herbicide resistance to arise and stronger, more damaging herbicides may have to be used to control weeds.

  6. Oilseed pollen may pollute honey

    Honeybees are the primary pollinators of rapeseed (19), and honeybee ecology shows that given a large nectar and pollen source, such as fields of rape in flower, bees will tend to stick to that one source (20). Thus, honey from a hive close to transgenic rapefields will probably contain large quantities of pollen containing transgenic material. A study by researchers at the University of Leicester has found that in honey, pollen DNA and proteins can remain intact after seven weeks in honey (21).

    In view of the unknown results of genetic engineering it is possible that proteins could be present in honey that could have allergenic or toxic effects for both humans and bees. In addition, bumble bees would be also drawn to such sources of pollen. However, at present no information is available on the possible impacts of genetically engineered oilseed rape on these important insects. More research into the ecological effects of genetically engineered crops is urgently needed.

  7. This crop may have adverse impacts on insect and bird populations

    At present, broadleaved weeds often grow in amongst oilseed rape crops and provide valuable food and habitats for insects which in turn are a source of food for small mammals and birds (22). The use of glufosinate resistant oilseed would seriously reduce the number of weeds in a field and therefore the amount of food available to insects and birds. This could have a knock-on effect on insect eating mammals and birds. Since 1969 the populations of skylark and grey partridge have fallen by 58% and 82% respectively (23) and this has been blamed largely upon modern farming practices. Therefore, farming should be moving towards systems that will support and build biodiversity rather than adopting practices which may speed up its decline.

  8. Spread of Antibiotic Resistance

    In order to find out whether the genes researchers want to insert have been successfully transferred, antibiotic resistance is sometimes used as a "marker gene". This is totally unnecessary for the crop in the field, but instead of removing this gene once the research stage has been completed, the antibiotic resistance gene is left in. At least one glufosinate resistant oilseed rape variety carries this antibiotic resistant gene.

    It is thought that DNA fragments can survive the digestion process (24) thus there is a legitimate worry that antibiotic resistance will be passed further up the food chain. Problems of antibiotic resistance of pathogens is already a problem in medicine. It is obvious that including antibiotic resistance in crops is a dangerous and unnecessary game to play, and may lead to these valuable drugs being less effective on both animals and humans.

  9. Bad for farmers?

    Using patenting laws, such new crops are usually owned by large agro-chemical companies thus creating conditions where they have a bigger say into how we produce food. Patents may force farmers to buy the seed and herbicide as a pair, thus excluding competitors, and increasing farmers dependence upon the agrochemical companies. Examples of such pairings that already occur include Monsanto s Roundup Ready soybeans. Whether this benefits farmers is highly debatable.

  10. Bad for consumers?

    Under current legislation, genetically engineered rapeseed oils will not be labelled since oils do not contain proteins (which do have to be labelled). Therefore consumers not wanting to purchase genetically engineered products will be unable to choose to do so.

Conclusions

From the above concerns it is apparent that the growing of genetically engineered oilseed rape may cause serious problems to both nature and farmers.

Genetically engineered plants cannot be recalled or cleaned up like a pollution incident. Once planted the new organisms are 'live' and reproduce in the wild. Yet, despite these concerns, genetically engineered oilseed rape may soon be planted in the UK. Considering the scientific uncertainty it would seem prudent not to plant these crops until we know the full impact. Additionally it could be argued that the science of genetic engineering is far from complete. Do we really know what happens when we insert new genes? What effect will the antibiotic resistance genes have?

We should also be sceptical of the advertised benefits, in this case the supposed reduction in chemical use. From a long term perspective the reverse may be the more likely outcome and we may end up with a farming system that relies on more chemical herbicides with the environmental and health implications that it brings. Whatever the case, more research and public debate is needed before such developments are allowed to happen.

Friends of the Earth position

Friends of Earth is calling for a moratorium on the growing of genetically engineered crops until the implications have been fully evaluated and necessary action taken to avoid environmental damage and any unnecessary risks to human health.

Many questions remain to be answered. Will we end up using more chemicals to produce food? What about bees and other beneficial insects? Will they be harmed in any way? Furthermore, the question of whether we actually need these new varieties is missing not only from public debate but also from the legislative system.

Friends of the Earth is campaigning for sustainable farming practices that don't depend on unnecessary chemical inputs and produces food that is safe to eat and minimises the impact on the environment.

What can I do?

If you support a moratorium then write urgently to your MP, c/o House of Commons, London, SW1A OAA (if you don't know who it is then ring 0171 219 4272). Ask your MP to support a moratorium and take the issue up with the Ministry of Agriculture.

If you would like to choose not to support genetically engineered foods then let your local supermarket know. Ask them to ensure that conventional products are easily available and clearly labelled to enable you to choose what you buy.

Written by Emily Diamand for Friends of the Earth. November 1997. Friends of the Earth, 26-28 Underwood Street, London, N1 7JQ

REFERENCES

  1. Pesticide usage Survey Report 141: Arable farm crops in Great Britain 1996. Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food. p. 6
  2. MAFF helpline, personal correspondence, Nov 1997
  3. Kings, 1997. http://www.kings.co.uk/oilseed.htm
  4. Goldberg, R.1990. Biotechnology's Bitter Harvest. Biotechnology Working Group. USA 73pp.
  5. European Parliament Commission on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. 1986. Draft report on the use of Biotechnology. Brussels.
  6. Pesticide News No 27. Gaps in Basta's effectiveness? Sept 1997.
  7. Pesticide Safety Directorate evaluation on: HOE 39866 (Glufosinate Ammonium). 1990. Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food. p.74
  8. Cox, C. 1996. Herbicide Factsheet: Glufosinate. J. of Pesticide Reform Vol.16 (4) pp.15-19
  9. U.S. EPA. 1990. Estuarine invertebrate toxicity test. HOE 039866 technical. Data Evaluation record. cited in Cox 1996 op cit.
  10. U.S. EPA. 1986. Aquatic invertebrate acute toxicity. Soluble concentrate 200g/l. Data Evaluation Record. cited in Cox 1996 op cit.
  11. Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Workshop Report 1994. Safety-Considerations of Herbicide-Resistant Plants to be placed on the European Market. Service of Biosafety and Biotechnology, Brussels.
  12. Ahmad, I., J. Bisset and D. Malloch 1995. Effect of phosphinothricin on nitrogen metabolism of Tricherma species and its implications for their control of phytopathogenic fungi. Pest. Biochem. Physiol. Vol. 53. pp.49-59
  13. Ahmad, I. and D. Malloch. 1995. Interaction of soil microflora with the bioherbicide phosphinothricin. Agric. Ecosys. Environ. Vol. 54. pp.165-174
  14. UK Pesticide Guide 1997. (ed. R. Whitehead). pp.91-92
  15. Timmons, A.M. et al 1996. Risks from transgenic crops. Nature Vol 380. p 487
  16. Mikkelson, T.R., B. Andersen and R.B. Jorgensen. 1996. The risk of crop transgene spread. Nature Vol. 380, 7 March, p.31
  17. Chevre, A.M. et al. 1997. Gene flow from transgenic crops. Nature Vol. 389. p.924
  18. AgrEvo Homepage: http://www.agrevo.com/biotech/QA/
  19. Lackey, J. Rapeseed. USDA APHIS. Biotechnology Permits Document
  20. Seeley, T.D. 1985. Honeybee Ecology. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  21. Eady, C., D. Twell, and K. Lindsey. 1995. Pollen viability and transgene expression following storage in honey. Transgenic Research Vol. 4. pp.226-231
  22. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. 1997. Comments on MAFF discussion paper "Weed Control on the Farm: Management of Genetically Modified Herbicide Tolerant Crops". Unpublished
  23. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. 1997. op cit.
  24. R. Shubbert et al. "Ingested foreign (phage M13) DNA survives transiently in the gastrointestinal tract and enters the bloodstream of mice". Mol. Gen. Genet 242 pp 495-504

Corrections:

Regarding the recent posting about canola oil, several people have pointed out inaccuracies in the article. For instance, irradiation is unrelated to the production of canola. Also, there is no evidence linking canola to scrapie or mad cow disease.

_________________________________________________________

Richard Wolfson, PhD
Campaign for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods
Natural Law Party, 500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
Tel. 613-565-8517 Fax. 613-565-1596 email: rwolfson@concentric.net