Genetically Manipulated Food News

1. July 1998

Table of Contents

Government Faces Court Challenge Over "illegal" GE-crop Trial
GM Foods Face School Meals Ban.
Schools Cut Out Genetically Modified Foods
Key French Gene Crop Report To Have Wide Impact
Monsanto to buy Cargill foreign seed businesses
Health - Costa Rica: Agrochemicals Harm Banana Workers
National Union of Farmers (NFU),UK: Call For GM Crops Overview.
EU Convention Guarantees The End Of Secrecy??
UK: GM Ads Complaints.
Irish Court Case Preparations
UK: First Time Cancer Test For Embryo Raises Ethical Questions

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Thanks to (jim mcnulty) for posting thsi
June 26, 1998

Government Faces Court Challenge Over "illegal" GE-crop Trial


PRESSWIRE via NewsEdge Corporation: Lawyers acting for an organic farmer, supported by Friends of the Earth and the Soil Association, are today starting judicial review proceedings against the Government for its failure to halt a genetically-engineered crop trial. The result of any court action could affect all 20 national seed listing trials involving ge-crops and seriously delay the commercial planting of ge-crops in the UK.

Organic food and farming standards do not permit genetic engineering. The trial at Hood Barton, Dartington, Devon is being undertaken for the Ministry of Agriculture by the National Institute for Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and is next door to the organic farm owned by Mr Guy Watson. The Soil Association has indicated that Mr Watson could lose his organic certification if his produce is contaminated. The genetically-engineered maize is due to pollinate in July: the moment of maximum risk of contamination from cross pollination.

The legal action follows the failure of the Government's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) to respond to new evidence submitted by FOE on the trial showing irregularities and serious data gaps. ACRE has referred a decision on the case to Ministers, who have also failed to intervene. A formal submission setting out the grounds for the judicial review was sent to Environment Minister Michael Meacher and Agriculture Minister Lord Donoghue last week.

The submission argues that the trial is unlawful because:

Despite this legal submission and earlier repeated letters from FOE, Soil Association and Mr Watson's lawyers pointing out these irregularities, Ministers have failed to act. Therefore, Mr Watson has no option but to proceed to judicial review.

Robin Maynard, acting Campaigns Director of Friends of the Earth said: " The Government is allowing this genetic experiment to take place in flagrant disregard of its own rules supposedly governing genetic engineering. We're constantly told that this questionable technology is tightly regulated, yet this case reveals the rule book has been chucked out of the window. Commercial pressures are over-ruling public and environmental safety. Resorting to the courts is an expensive, last-ditch attempt to force Ministers to respect the law and regain control of this runaway industry."

Richard Young, Soil Association said: "It is totally unacceptable that genetically-engineered crops can be allowed to contaminate or impair organic farming. We strongly support this organic farmer who is standing up for his livelihood against the threat of genetic pollution. Ministers must intervene to halt this trial and tighten regulations so that farmers, organic and other, can exercise their rights to pursue their legitimate businesses without genetic interference."

Thanks to (jim mcnulty) for the following posting from UK:

GM Foods Face School Meals Ban.

Farmers Guardian. June 26th 98

Devon County Council is considering a ban on all genetically modified foodsfrom it's school menu's.

Council leader Brian Greenslade has called for a report on GM foods to be brought to the 14th July policy committee which will decide whether to remove GM foods from school meals or provide non-GM alternatives.

The report will be drawn up by Steve Butterworth, director of Devon Trading Standards and National foods officer for the Institute of Trading Standards Administration.

Thanks to Wainwright Churchill for posting this article:

Schools Cut Out Genetically Modified Foods

By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor The Independent (UK)
Sat, 27 Jun 1998

More than 1,300 schools in six council areas have taken genetically modified (GM) foods off their menus in the past few months. Two other councils, with hundreds of schools in their care, are expected to join them soon, as public debate about GM foods grows.

The move, which originated at Kent County Council, stems from the concerns of one of the biggest school meals caterers that food provided to schools should meet "the highest standards of safety".

It has imposed the anti-GM recipe on all the 1,308 schools it caters for in Kent, Sandwell Borough Council, Essex, and Durham county councils, and Lewisham borough in London.

Devon and Oxfordshire are also considering similar moves, which would exclude any food labelled as containing genetically altered components from school lunches.

Eventually, that could mean taking some standard fare, such as bread and biscuits off lunch menus, as they use soya grown in the United States which is mixed with genetically modified strains.

But the decision was described as "unnecessary" by a spokesman for Monsanto, the biotechnology company which makes the most widely used GM component, soya beans which are resistant to the company's herbicide Roundup.

"No novel food like this can go on for sale until it has been approved by seven government committees, four different departments and been approved by ministers from 15 countries," the spokesman said. "We are confident that it is safe to eat." Monsanto now intends to try to persuade Chartwell, the catering company which supplies the schools, to change its policy.

The news comes amid intensifying debate over GM foods and crops. Earlier this month the Prince of Walesspoke out against the technology. Recent polls have also shown that opposition among the public to genetically engineered foods has grown in the past 18 months: 58 per cent opposed it in a recent MORI poll, while only 22 per cent supported it.

However, Chartwell said yesterday that it is very difficult to ensure that no GM component enters food.

"The problem is to identify GM products, because there's no legal requirement to label products that have been made from genetically modified material," said a spokeswoman. "Our policy is that we would not knowingly use GM food."

The councils hope that they will be able to use their combined weight to pressure the Government to label foods containing modified components. Oxford City Council has written to the Government asking ministers to ensure that GM crops are segregated from standard ones.

The principal difficulty is with foods made with soya or its extracts. In the US this year, farmers have more than doubled their plantings of genetically modified soya and maize. Soya from the Monsanto company, genetically engineered to be resistant to the company's Roundup herbicide, now makes up 30 per cent of plantings - up from a couple of per cent in 1996, when the crop was first marketed.

Soya and soya oils are now used in about 40 per cent of standard foodstuffs such as biscuits, bread and cakes.

However, American soya growers do not separate the modified versions from the natural strains, meaning that most of the supply from the US, the world's largest soya grower, is intermingled.

Government proposals to label foods as "potentially containing" genetically modified components have received a mixed response.

Thanks to (jim mcnulty) for posting these articles:

Key French Gene Crop Report To Have Wide Impact

By Tim Hepher

PARIS, June 23 (Reuters) - A long-awaited report from parliament to the French government on genetically modified crops will be published on June 30, a parliamentary spokeswoman said on Tuesday. The report by a parliamentary commission is expected to influence government decisions on new varieties and will draw on recommendations from a jury of ordinary voters who debated the issue at the weekend. ....

What happens then will have a knock-on effect throughout the European Union and across the Atlantic. ... A French rejection means it would be up to another member country to start the EU authorisation process from scratch.

Monsanto to buy Cargill foreign seed businesses

ST. LOUIS, June 29 (Reuters) - Monsanto Co., already a powerhouse in the business of making genetically engineered crops, has agreed to acquire Cargill Inc.'s seed operations in Central and Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa for $1.4 billion, the companies said Monday.

The proposed acquisition includes seed research, production and testing facilities in 24 countries and sales and distribution operations in 51 countries, the companies said in a joint statement. ... Cargill is retaining its seed operations in the United States and Canada, and Cargill Agricultural Merchants in the United Kingdom.

The Guardian (UK). 30/6/98.

Monsanto increased it's lead in the development of genetically engineered food yesterday with the 843m purchase of Cargill's incorperated seed operation on four continents.

Seed companies act as distribution networks for new genetic traits in crops, and Monsanto which is already linking with American Home Products in the sixth biggest takeover in US history, said the new operation covers Central and Latin America, Europe,Asia and Africa.

Monsanto's work on genetically modified plants has caused controversy over whether such crops could produce unexpected results or whether it's pesticide resistant genes cou;ld 'leak' to other plants. Earlier this month it attacked Prince Charles for 'overreacting to the dangers of genetically modified foods.

The following article is not directly on genetic engineering, but on the hazards of agrochemical use. This is relevant to genetic engineering because biotechnology results increased dependence on such chemicals.

Health - Costa Rica: Agrochemicals Harm Banana Workers

June 29, 1998

SAN JOSE - Inter Press Service via NewsEdge Corporation : A study conducted by the Health Research Institute of the state University of Costa Rica has revealed that female banana packers who were exposed to agrochemicals have experienced damage to their genetic structures.

Now the women are worried about the long-term effects of this damage and, specifically, whether they will develop cancer, said biologist Vanessa Ramirez, who participated in the study. ...

"We found that the women in the banana packing plants have higher levels of chromosomal aberrations, especially fractures, which are particularly important," [Patricia} Cuenca [dicrector of the project] declared. ... The study also revealed damage to the DNA molecules of the women in the study.

Cuenca points out that the banana workers are exposed to fungicides like imazalil and trabendazol and to insecticides such as clorpirifos. According to studies done in the United States, clorpirifos can cause malformation in rats, she says.

The studies here also showed that agrochemicals have had specific effects on the children of exposed women workers. In the packing plant, they handle the powdered fungicides they find on the leaves of the banana plants that they receive for packing.

Date: 26 Jun 1998 15:18:29 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

National Union of Farmers (NFU),UK: Call For GM Crops Overview.

The Farmer's Guardian June 26th 98.

Calls for the creation of a new body to examine the wider issues surrounding the introduction of gm crops were made by the National Union of Farmers this week.

Reporting to the House of Commons agriculture select committee on Wednesday, the union's deputy president Tim Bennett and the head of the biotechnology Vernon Barber said the NFU believed an 'over arching body'would play a valuable role in considering the broader implications of genetic modification.

The union would like to see a case by case consideration given to all developments, and the new within the new Food Standards Agency, to monitor the situation on a broader scale.

Following the inquiry, which is reviewing E/U Regulations on labelling, novel foods and and the growing of GM crops, Mr Bennett said "caution was needed when dealing with biotechnology.

"Biotechnology promises many potential benefits for consumers and agriculture introducing pest resistant crops which would reduce the need for pesticides and lower production costs which would lead to lower prices. But of course caution is neede when dealing with any new areas like this."

The union told committee members that it wished to see a tightening of the regulations in a number of areas, particularly the amount of information available to the public on test sites in the light of attacks by enviromental campaigners.

Earlier this year they were forced to cancel a biotechnology open day after the owners of the site, Arable Research Centres, said they had received threats to vandalise the site in Hampshire.

References were also made in the NFU's oral evidence to the need for further consideration of integrated labelling systems and a post release monitoring programme for GM crops.

Date: 26 Jun 1998 15:51:51 -0500
From: (Joe Toth)

EU Convention Guarantees The End Of Secrecy??

Dear All,

Environment ministers from 54 nations across Europe, Central Asia and North America just signed a commitment in Aahrus, Denmark.

One may go as far as thinking that there might be opportunities in there. According to the news wire from AFP, this legally binding signature "guarantees the end of secrecy", "access to information", making sure the people closely participate in the decision-making process, etc. Biodiversity and genetically altered organisms are included...

Wishing you abundant success,

Joe Toth

--------------- start Copy (translation) ----------------
Wednesday June 24, 8:25 pm Eastern Time

European Nations, Canada, US To Phase Out Lead Petrol By 2005

By Gillian Handyside

AARHUS, June 24 (Reuters) - Twenty-eight European countries, Canada and the United States pledged on Wednesday to phase out leaded petrol by 2005 in a move that will demand costly changes in refinery techniques.

The decision came during a summit of environment ministers from 54 nations across Europe, Central Asia and North America, held in Denmark's second city Aarhus, from Tuesday, June 23, through Thursday, June 25.

The phase-out is part of a legally binding commitment, signed in Aarhus on Wednesday by 33 of the countries present, to bring airborne emissions of the three heavy metals -- lead, cadmium and mercury -- down to below 1990 levels by around the year 2000.


--------------- start Copy (original) ----------------
Jeudi 25 juin 1998 13:10:04 GMT

La "Convention d'Aahrus" met fin au secret dans le domaine de l'environnement

AARHUS (Danemark), 25 juin (AFP) - La convention internationale adoptee jeudi dans la ville danoise d'Aahrus met fin au secret en matiere d'environnement dans les pays europeens, au Canada et aux Etats-Unis.

Elle garantit "l'acces a l'information sur l'environnement, la participation du public aux decisions et le recours a la justice", afin de "proteger le droit de chacun de vivre dans un environnement sain". Aucun accord international de ce type n'avait jamais ete adopte, chaque pays gerant lui-meme une transparence plus ou grande en matiere de decisions publiques qui concernent toujours de pres les citoyens sans vraiment les y associer.

La convention concerne l'information sur "l'environnement" au sens large. Elle recouvre la diversite biologique - y compris les OGM (organismes genetiquement modifies) - la sante de l'Homme, sa securite et ses conditions de vie ainsi que l'etat de l'environnement (comme l'air, l'atmosphere, l'eau, le sol ...). Meme les analyses economiques sont concernees.


Please sign the Consumer Right to Know Million-Signature Petition demanding mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods,

Date: 28 Jun 1998 15:53:54 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

UK: GM Ads Complaints.

Farmer's Weekly UK. 26th June 98.

A series of advertisements highlighting the benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops is to be investigated by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).

The ASA confirmed that it would be looking at the four adverts, produced by the agrochemical firm Monsanto, after receiving 12 complaints from pressure groups and interested parties.

The advertising campaign was instigated by Monsanto in a bid to win consumer support for GM crops.

The three largest pressure gruops to complain were the Green Party, the Soil Association and GeneWatch.

Date: 29 Jun 1998 12:07:15 -0500
From: "Clare Watson"

Irish Court Case Preparations

Court Challenge to Genetic Sugar Beet Trial Opens Tuesday

On Tuesday, the High Court is to review the decision made by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1997 to allow U.S. Multinational Monsanto conduct genetically engineered sugar beet trials in Carlow. The case is expected to last about a week.

Although the case has been before the courts since May last year, a further four trials were given the green light by the E.P.A. this Spring. Legal proceedings on the additional trials may be taken depending on the outcome of this case.

The Judicial Review was sought by Clare Watson, a founder member of Genetic Concern, a voluntary group formed to raise awareness of the potential dangers of genetic engineering in food and agriculture. Genetic Concern is supported by a wide range of environmental, consumer, health, and ethical groups.

Legal Team

Clare Watson is represented by John Gordon S.C., Frank Clarke S.C., Michael OiDonnel B.L. and Fionnuala Cawkhill & Associates, Solicitors. Supportive Scientists

Scientists submitting affidavits for Ms. Watson include Dr. Mae Wan Ho, geneticist at the Open University in Milton Keynes, Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, geneticist and scientific advisor to Genetics Forum (UK), Dr. Paul Dowding of TCD and Dr. Detlef Bartsch of the Aachen University of Technology.


Photo Editors have been notified of a photo-call to take place outside the Four Courts at 10.00am on Tuesday 30th June with Clare Watson and supporters.

Monsanto's Simplistic approach

Dr. Mae Wan Ho has said that Monsantois description of the science is over-simplistic. "Parts of different genes have been spliced together to make up new artificial genes, three of which are inserted into the sugar-beet" said Dr. Ho, adding that "Monsanto uses DNA from viruses which are joined to genetic material from plants and other bacteria. There are bound to be unintended effects from the insertion".

Genes May Escape

Dr. Ho has submitted an affidavit in the case, citing a paper published in April this year showing that genes can move from genetically engineered plants into soil micro-organisms. This means that once released, these new artificial genes cannot be recalled if anything goes wrong. Use of Antibiotic Resistance Genes

Dr. Patrice Courvalin of the Pasteur Institute in France published a paper in May 1998 which demonstrates that antibiotic resistance genes used to develop plants such as Monsantois sugar beet may spread to other disease-causing viruses. This could result in many antibiotics becoming useless. Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher in her affidavit has challenged Monsantois claims that there is no antibiotic resistance gene present in the beet. Public Support for Moratorium

A MORI poll conducted in the U.K. in mid-June showed that 77% of the public believes that there should be a ban on growing genetically engineered crops and food in Britain. In France a lay panel chosen for a Consensus Conference voiced grave concerns about the lack of research on safety issues and called for more research and a more cautious approach.

Irish Response

Despite pre-election promises from Fianna Fail that they would implement a moratorium on the trials, in government, Minister Dempsey has refused to meet with Genetic Concern. There were over 3,500 submissions calling on the EPA to refuse a licence for the sugar beet trials this year.

"It is a sad indictment of the regulatory system that the High Court is the only avenue through which public concerns can be voiced and heard" said Quentin Gargan, spokesperson for Genetic Concern. adding "the public clearly want a moratorium on the use of this technology in food and farming at least until it is fully understood".

Awareness Campaign

Genetic Concern recently launched an Awareness Campaign to highlight the need for consumer choice on genetically engineered foods. Patrons include Darina Allen - acclaimed chef and cookery writer, Polly Devlin - novelist, Peter Hanly - actor presently appearing in Ballykissangel, John Hunt of the Hunt Museum, Brendan Kennelly - poet and Trinity Lecturer, John McKenna - Food Critic, Pauline McLynn - actress well known for her role as Mrs. Doyle in Father Ted, Dervla Murphy - travel writer, Alice Taylor - author of best-seller "To School Through the Fields".

Date: 29 Jun 1998 15:23:03 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

UK: First Time Cancer Test For Embryo Raises Ethical Questions

© Copyright 1998 The Australian Associated Press. AAP 28.06.98 02:34

LONDON, June 28 AAP - British Scientists have used a cancer test on an embryo before implanting it into its mother's womb, possibly the first time embryonic cancer screening has been successfully performed.

Although the pregnancy failed, the scientists now have five more couples whose embryos are expected to undergo cancer tests later this year.

Joy Delhanty, professor of human genetics at University College, London, performed the test. He acknowledged in an Independent on Sunday interview that the test might be seen by critics as paving the way for designer babies.

"Theoretically it could open the door," she said. "But for practical purposes, it's never going to be easy to do it."

The ethics of testing embryos for genetic defects before they are placed in the womb - called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) - is being scrutinised by government-appointed experts. It will be the subject of public debate in London this week by Wellcome Trust, Britain's largest research charity.

Up to 50 British children have already undergone PGD tests, but all were in families at risk of genetic disorders that usually strike in early life.

The recently-performed cancer test was for an inherited predisposition to bowel cancer which normally kills only adults. Opponents of genetic screening argue this raises the prospect of eliminating individuals who may have a perfectly healthy youth, but who might die prematurely.

Prof Delhanty argues that the decision to do embryo screening for late-onset diseases should not be made by scientists or politicians but by the family concerned.

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:

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