Genetically Manipulated Food News

7 July 98

Table of Contents

British Organic Farmers Call For End of GE Experiments
Genetic Engineering Can Create Aggressive Plants
Reporters Fired Over Milk Hormone Story
Canada Denies Mouse Patent
Disappointing Biotech Crops
Biotech-Free Products Hot
Diseases Link to Gene Technology
Organic Farmer Fights for Rights
UK Retailers say no to GMOs
Genetics of Terminator
Some New Genetic Plumbing Tools
The Terminator (“Technology Protection System”)Patent US patent 5,723,765
Xenotransplantation in London Ontario
Monsanto Lead In Seeds Grows
Monsanto takes over Cargill Intl. Seed
Irish Court Case Begins
Researchers Develop Shortcut To Clone Cattle
Mycogen Wins Bt Patent Infringement Suit
Common Weakness Of The Organisms: Shikimate Pathway

Back to Index

Date: Fri, 3 Jul 1998 05:43:01 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

British Organic Farmers Call For End of GE Experiments

The Express. Tuesday June 30th 98. (UK)

Exclusive by Alun Rees.

Britain's leading organic farmer yesterday called for an end to all experiments with genetically modified crops in this country.

Helen Browning newly appointed chairwoman of the Soil Association called for the British Government to declare Britain a GMO-free zone.

She believes that this will not only protect our enviroment but provide a profitable future for our farmers.

In an uncroprimising interview with the Express, Ms Browning gave a stark warning of the global implications of GM agriculture. She said the danger is that non gm crops will cross pollinate with gm ones.

Meanwhile , material from GM crops, whose new genes are often inserted by means of a bacteria of virus, could enter the microbe life of the soil, changing it irrevocably.

She warned this would mean that eventually all crops would contain genetically altered material.

The 36 year old mother, who runs an organic farm in Wiltshire said "The problem is that we do not know and no one knows, what might happen if this goes wrong.

"We have not even had the results of feeding trials on rats published yet we are have growing tests sanctioned by the Government."

Genetic Engineering Can Create Aggressive Plants

Growing Disaster? Genetic Engineering Can Improve Crop Yield, But May Also Create Aggressive Plants That Are Super-resistant To Disease And Insects.

© Copyright 1998, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; 06/22/98

Contemplating world hunger from the vantage point of a well-laden breakfast table is certainly comfortable, if odd.

One morning last January, executives of Iowa-based Pioneer Hi-Bred International, the "world's largest developer, producer and marketer of genetically improved seed," gathered at a cafe in downtown Manhattan for a discussion about global food security.

The three officials and a group of journalists ate pancakes and muffins as Pioneer's chairman and CEO, Chuck Johnson, outlined his vision of the future.

"The business we're in is ensuring that the world has the capacity to have the food it needs to survive," he explained.

That future capacity, he is convinced, can come only from the crops that companies such as Pioneer are producing: high-yield, insect-resistant breeds of corn, soybeans, sorghum and sunflowers.

Pioneer makes some of its seeds conventionally, by creating hybrids. Back in the 1920s, though, the conventional was radical, and the average farmer looked upon the newfangled seeds, in Johnson's words, as "witchcraft and Satanism - until he got his first taste of the yield."

For the past few years, however, Pioneer has been offering genetically engineered seeds, which have genes spliced into their chromosomes that make them more resistant to insects and weed killers.

Johnson told the journalists about herbicide-resistant soybeans and a variety of corn that produces a toxin normally made by a bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.

Last year, he said, a million acres of the Bt corn were planted in the Midwest, with an increased yield of 10 percent to 15 percent, thanks to the way the Bt toxin discourages corn-eating insects.

Pioneer's vice president for marketing, Mary McBride, then chimed in, claiming that these "transgenic" crops have the power to increase food production in the developing world with minimal environmental impact.

Opponents of transgenic crops claim that ecological and evolutionary forces could turn these crops into disasters. Perhaps the plants will prove so robust that they will grow aggressively, like weeds, and invade other environments - including a neighboring farmer's fields.

Virus-resistance genes could escape into weeds and make them so hardy they'd outcompete endangered plants in the wild.

Antibiotic-resistance genes (which botanists insert into transgenic crops as supposedly harmless markers) might escape into soil bacteria and from there into those that infect humans.

Crops engineered to carry Bt-toxin genes might trigger the evolution of ever adaptive Bt-resistant bugs.

Is all this worry just more witchcraft and Satanism? The only way to know how seriously to take such doomsday scenarios is to run experiments.

Researchers have only begun to do this work, setting up experiments to see how readily transgenic genes and proteins can escape the crops they were meant to help. The results thus far are proving that the doomsday scenarios are not pure fiction.

But the researchers are split over whether the results should be cause for anxiety. Much of the concern over transgenic crops stems from the promiscuous sexual habits of plants.

Not only can pollen from one breed of plant fertilize another, but different species can sometimes mate and produce hybrids that can reproduce.

Genes in one population of plants (crops, for example) can thus seep into another population (neighboring weeds).

In the late 1980s, geneticist Norman Ellstrand at the University of California at Riverside began warning of the dangers of this genetic escape.

One could, for example, imagine an herbicide-resistance gene getting into weeds and making superweeds that could take over a field.

Yet this possibility hinged on how likely it was for crops and weeds to hybridize, and for the transgenic genes to establish themselves in the wild population.

Ellstrand decided therefore to measure the likelihood, and in 1996 he reported that domesticated sorghum, Sorghum bicolor, could readily form hybrids with a weed called Johnsongrass, Sorghum halepense. (Domesticated crops are often surrounded by their close weedy relatives, since both flourish under the same conditions.)

Using harmless gene markers rather than actual transgenes, Ellstrand found that wind-carried pollen could create hybrid seeds more than 300 feet away from the original crop.

These hybrids produced pollen and seeds as viable as the johnsongrass, meaning that they could spread just as aggressively.

More recent experiments with actual transgenic crops also show that inserted genes can move between species.

Plant geneticist Rikke Bagger Jorgensen of Denmark's Riso National Laboratory in Roskilde studied the yellow-flowered crop called oilseed rape, known in the United States as canola and in Latin as Brassica napus. Oilseed rape is a cultivated cross between a weed called wild mustard, or Brassica campestris, and Brassica oleracea, the cabbage plant.

Jorgensen planted a version of oilseed rape engineered to survive a weed killer called Basta alongside its wild ancestor (and weedy neighbor) B. campestris.

Fertile hybrids formed easily, and when Jorgensen sowed the hybrids together with the original weed, a second generation of seeds was produced. These seeds grew to adulthood and turned out to be impervious to Basta as well.

Jorgensen returned to her fields the following spring and discovered that this second generation had produced offspring of their own, which continued to be herbicide resistant.

Yet despite these results, she and others remain sanguine about the prospects of transgenic crops.

"If you can put in genes that give the plant itself a better resistance, for instance, to fungal pathogens or to insect pests, then you can minimize your use of pesticides, and that would be beneficial to the environment," Jorgensen says. And she believes that as long as transgenic oilseed rape is carefully managed, it can be safe.

"If you spray very early, before the campestris flowers, you minimize its potential to hybridize," she says. But it would be unwise to grow Basta-resistant oilseed rape alongside a crop resistant to a different herbicide. "Then what you'll have is Brassica campestris plants with multi-resistance in very few generations," Jorgensen says.

A weed with only one herbicide-resistance gene would, however, still be manageable. As one researcher said, you can always destroy the plants with another herbicide.

The prospect of herbicide-resistant crops creating the need for spraying still more herbicides doesn't fit well with the environmentally friendly image offered by companies like Pioneer.

Yet some critics think biotech corporations are actually comfortable with that prospect because they can make transgenic crops as well as herbicides.

"The biotech companies, since they make the herbicides, don't see it as a big problem, because it forces them to make a new herbicide," says botanist Hugh Wilson of Texas A&M University.

Wilson has been studying transgenic gene flow and its possible effects, not on the struggle between weeds and crops but between weeds and rare or fragile wild plant species.

Herbicide resistance isn't so much of a problem in this regard, since weed killers are found only on farms. Of far more pressing concern to him is the possibility that genes for resistance to insects, viruses and fungi can be just as important in the wild. It's conceivable that a spread of genes from transgenic crops into wild plants could allow them to outcompete other species.

One possible way to contain the threat of transgene escape might be to bar certain genetically engineered crops when weedy relatives already exist in a given place.

"There are no weeds related to maize in Europe," says French cytogeneticist Anne-Marie Chevre of the national Institute of Agronomic Research at Le Rheu. "But we have a lot of wild species more or less related to oilseed rape in the field everywhere." Therefore France has permitted transgenic corn to be grown on its soil.

The United States could similarly allow transgenic maize soybeans and potatoes to be farmed, since they have no wild relatives with which they are sexually compatible here. On the other hand, squashes and sunflowers do.

There are ways this policy might go wrong, however. A desperate farmer might ignore the law and plant a transgenic crop that can breed with local weeds.

And crop-to-weed gene exchanges are only one kind of change that transgenic crops can bring. Researchers have been developing a transgenic potato, for example, that can fight off the aphids that feed on it. The new potato produces a protein called lectin that ruins the aphids' digestion.

Greenhouse tests have shown that this transgenic potato can reduce populations of the peach-potato aphid by half. That's impressive, but not quite good enough to allow the potatoes to survive on their own. To fully protect their crop, farmers would need to introduce aphid-devouring ladybugs.

But as entomologist Nick Birch of the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee has shown, the lectin in the potato makes ladybird beetles ill: After eating transgenic potato-glutted aphids, ladybugs produce far fewer offspring and live much shorter lives.

Yet even though he has shown how transgenic crops can have harmful effects that spread through a food chain, Birch doesn't think his results are cause for alarm. If ladybugs can also find aphids in the wild that are unaffected by transgenic potatoes, the plant's harmful effects will be diluted.

In general, Birch thinks that with careful tests of their potential effects, transgenic crops can prove safe and useful in reducing our dependence on pesticides.

Who knows - maybe those witchcraft and Satanism theories are indeed wrong . . .

Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998 14:20:07 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD

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

Reporters Fired Over Milk Hormone Story

Steve Wilson and Jane Akre are two long-time investigative reporters in working in Florida. They were recently fired by FOX-TV after they refused to alter a TV series on rBGH (genetically engineered bovine growth hormone). Sectioons of th series were critical of the milk hormone and revealed some of its hazards, including a link to cancer.

According to Mr. Wilson, due to biotech industry lobbying just days before the series was to air, the reporters received pressure, to go along with a more "industry-friendly," version of the story, which left out important information and distorting the details. They were threatened with firing if they did not accept the new version, and then offered $200,000, which they describe as "hush money" to go along with the changes.

They declined the money and were ultimately fired for what they refer to as "standing up for the truth." On April 2, 1998 they filed a lawsuit against Fox. To read the journalists' original script, please see their website at

Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998 14:20:07 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD

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

Canada Denies Mouse Patent

The Federal Court of Canada recently turned down a patent filed by Harvard University for a new type of mouse that had been genetically engineered for cancer research. The "oncomouse" (the prefix "onco" refers to oncology, the study of cancer) is already patented in the USA, giving Harvard in effect ownership of this breed of mouse in USA, and the sole right to create, breed, sell, and collect royalties on it. However, Canada has ruled that a mammal cannot be patented. The patenting of life forms is a subject of intense controversy internationally.

Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998 14:20:07 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD

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

Disappointing Biotech Crops

Recent studies indicate that genetically engineered crops may provide less over all profit. University of Arkansas researchers recently found that, in three Arkansas counties, the net income from biotech Bt cotton was $25 per acre less than for conventional cotton. The loss was attributed to increased cost of genetically engineered seeds, reduced yields, increased costs of chemicals, and the need to harvest fields twice.

Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998 14:20:07 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD

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

Biotech-Free Products Hot

Iceland Foods (UK) is the first major chain to segregate biotech foods and carry "own label" brands free of genetically modified organisms. They've shown that segregation is cost-effective, in contrast to industry claims that it would not be practical.

"We went back and found new sources in Brazil and Canada, and we were a lone voice. But once we told people this was the way we were going, then we were offered a lot of help," said Richard Wadsworth, Iceland's technical manager. After renegotiating contracts, there were no extra costs. In fact, increased sales are expected.

Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998 14:20:07 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD

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

Diseases Link to Gene Technology

A recent article in the journal Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease suggests links between commercial gene technology and the staggering rise of drug and antibiotic resistant infectious diseases. Because genetic engineering has created new vehicles (called vectors) for transferring genes across species boundaries, the article claims there is increased potential for creating and transferring new viral and bacterial pathogens, and spreading drug and antibiotic resistance.

Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998 14:20:07 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD

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

Organic Farmer Fights for Rights

Guy Watson, one of Britain's leading organic growers, is seeking a High Court Injuction to prevent a neighbouring company from growing genetically engineered corn. Pollen from the nearby biotech crops would likely be carried by the wind into Mr. Watson's fields, cross-pollinating his crops and contaminating his corn. As manipulated genes are not allowed in organic crops, Mr. Watson could lose his organic status and his business.

UK Retailers say no to GMOs

J Sainsbury, one of the first retailers to sell genetically engineered food products in Britain, has become the first of the big four supermarket chains to virtually eliminate genetically modified soy from its own-label products. Tesco, another major chain, has eliminated biotech soy from about 70 percent of its own-label products. Previously, the major chains claimed that eliminating modified soy from their products would be impossible.

Date: Wed, 17 Jun 1998 19:30:26 -0400
From: joe cummins

Genetics of Terminator

Prof. Joe Cummins

There is an ongoing discussion about the possibility that the “terminator” technology could escape from the crop bearing its modified genes and spread sterility among both crops and weeds that would ultimately eliminate both human and animal life on earth. I have prepared a brief discussion of terminator and its possible dire impact.

Terminator technology is a patented process jointly developed by Delta and Pineland Corporation and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The patent is US patent 5,723,765 first applied to Cotton. The technique involves loading a cotton plant with a blocking set of genes that prevents a critical promoter from activating fertile pollen production. The blocking set of genes is removed from the chromosome by treating the cotton plants with an antibiotic tetracycline.

The tetracycline activates a cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) promoter that is linked to genes that initiate recombination within the blocking genes causing them to be removed from the chromosome as a circle of DNA. Once the blocking genes leave the chromosome the fertility promoter is active and the plant can produce fertile pollen. The circle of blocking genes normally stays in the nucleus of the plant cells but lacks the ability to replicate unless it is taken up by a bacterium, the plant mitochondia or a chloroplast.

The genetic property of the terminator complex is described as cis dominant and trans recessive meaning that the complex regulates genes on the chromosome strand adjacent to it. The crop plant is diploid and the terminator is expressed as a recessive gene. Both of the chromosomes bearing the fertility controlling gene must have blocking genes for the plant to produce sterile pollen.

Pollen escaping from the terminator crop is sterile and cannot spread too weeds or other crops. Pollen escaping from the tetracycline treated seed producing crop can spread the terminator blocking genes. When a weed is fertilized, for example, with the terminator pollen the new generation of seeds will bear plants with fertile pollen. In the next generation 25% of the terminator plants will produce sterile pollen. Since the sterile pollen cannot spread the terminator genes the spread of terminator genes by normal sexual means is limited but the terminator genes will always be in the population. The situation is similar to lethal genetic diseases in humans. Terminator doesn’t threaten plant populations if it is spread only by normal sexual processes. However, spread of terminator by other means is more intimidating.

The CaMV promoter is from a pararetrovirus meaning that the virus replicates by converting RNA into DNA. CaMV is related to the Hepatitis B virus and to HIV. Each virus particle is diploid because it contains two copies of the circular viral chromosome. The virus may pick up and spread the CaMV terminator blocking gene complex when one viral chromosome is replaced with CaMV terminator genes. Similar transfer commonly occurs in cancer viruses of animals. Spreading terminator genes by virus could easily cause a wide array of weeds and crops to be rendered sterile and genetic recombination could easily eliminate the reversing action of tetracycline. The terminator virus could have a have a profound influence on crop production. However, a terminator virus isn’t likely to eliminate humans and animals from the earth. A large number of plant species replicate normally by asexual propagation.

In closing, the gene site specific recombination genes used in developing the terminator are derived form bacteria or yeast. Such genes are be employed in a range of applications in plant and animal genetic engineering. They are powerful tools in genetic plumbing and wonderful toys in the hands of control freaks. However, they are potentially able to create chromosome mutations leading to genetic erosion and untoward changes in gene regulation and expression. They are very highly mobile and once introduced into higher plants and animals are likely to spread and not want to leave ever!

Date: Thu, 18 Jun 1998 19:16:33 -0400
From: joe cummins

Some New Genetic Plumbing Tools

Prof. Joe Cummins

Some interesting new tools have begun to be used in commercial genetic engineering of crops and in gene therapy. These tools have been used for over a decade in research but they have only recently begun to appear in products that will have a global impact. The fundamental process in the tools is called site specific recombination . Genetic recombination (exchange of blocks of genes between chromosomes ) is normally more or less random but in bacteria and their viruses along with yeast and other fungi there are specific genes that act as sites were blocks of genes may be exchanged at very high frequency and with great precision. Bacterial genes involved in transposition (jumping genes) which move genes form place to place on a chromosome or between chromosomes are also used in controlled recombination in crops and in gene therapy.

The common features of controlled recombination are pairs of small repeated genes that fit at each end of a number of genes that are to be selectively removed (selective adding is possible but a little more difficult) and act as signals for enzymes that recognize the DNA sequences of the signal genes and then slice out the genes between the two signals at the same time joining the free ends of the chromosome and the sliced string of genes forming a healed chromosome and a small circle of DNA which cannot replicate. Site specific recombination allows removal of genes from the chromosomes with surgical precision.

The most popular system used in genetic engineering is called CRE and LOX from a bacterial virus. LOX is the acronym for the small signal genes while CRE is the gene for the slicing enzyme. That system is used in genetically engineered animal and human cells along with a number of crop plants. With minor modifications it functions very well in higher cells. The FRT genes and the enzyme that cuts at the signal site, FLP specifying the enzyme flippase, are obtained from a circular nuclear plasmid (circle of DNA) of laboratory yeast. The FLP system normally just rearranges genes along the plasmid but can be used to cut out selected genes. Finally, SSVI a bacterial transposon is sometimes used as source of signal genes and genes for enzymes integration or transposition ( called integrase and transposase) in both animals and plants.

The site specific recombination systems are excellent toys for control freaks (genetic engineers who crave precise control of gene activity) but they are essentially untested outside the laboratory. Even though the systems are being put forward for immediate application their impact on crops and the those who consume them is unpredictable. The CRE LOX system and the FLP system are known to cause chromosome loss and rearrangements in crops and animals. The bacterial and yeast genetic system are more promiscuous ( in genetics a term describing a propensity to take up foreign DNA) than humans or animals where genes are precisely balanced. The site specific recombination systems being pumped into crops, animals and in gene therapy are very mobile and their impact on the higher systems is bound to be traumatic.

The site specific control genes were all included in US patent 5,723,765 of the USDA and Delta Pineland Corporation to control pollen fertility ( the terminator ). The patent seems broad enough to give the patent impact on all applications of site specific recombination in crop plants. A wide range of animal applications and use in gene therapy have been developed but none of these have the tremendous global impact of the crop plants and the patent controlled by USDA and Delta Pineland Corporation. However, it is clear that USDA has a great advantage in both promoting the patent and regulating the products that competes with its interests.

It seems that the risks of genetic engineering have been raised a full notch or more and the worlds human population will be serving as the laboratory animals for the experiments of the multinational corporations. With groundless assurances of safety most politicians seem to have been placated and they seem overjoyed to put their supporters at risk. Clearly the next introduction following the recombination genes will be even riskier and the risk spiral will be nearer the point of no return.

Date: Sun, 21 Jun 1998 11:55:37 -0400
From: joe cummins

Sunday, June 21, 1998

The Terminator (“Technology Protection System”)Patent US patent 5,723,765

Prof. Joe Cummins e-mail

I have sent quite a few letters about terminator because I think it is an important and threatening development. This letter will be my final effort to make the terminator threat clear. Us patent 5,723,765 is jointly held by the United States Department of Agriculture(USDA) and Delta and Pine Company (now part of Monsanto Corporation). I do not recommend the patent as a light read but do recommend people have a look at it The patent is far broader than just the “technology protection system” or terminator that makes the seed of patented crops sterile.

It controls a method using “blocking genes” and site specific recombination that includes a broad umbrella of economically important functions from seed development, through flower development, leaf development root development and vascular tissue development. To pollen development. After wounding (i.e. fruit shipping quality),heat or cold stress , water stress or exposure to heavy metals are all covered by the patent. Other genes covered include insecticidal genes, fungistatic genes, bacteriocidal genes, drought resistance genes, protein products, or genes that regulate secondary metabolism (such genes produces spices, drugs, rubber, etc.). In other words, the blocking genes can be applied to virtually everything that makes a crop economic.

Most know blocking genes and the genes that control their recombination are from bacterial viruses,bacteria and yeast and all of these are included in the patent. The genetic site specific recombination systems include very small target genes that are paired between a blocking set of genes that controls the plant function such as the dominant gene that causes pollen to be sterile. The blocking genes are removed by gene products (such as the bacterial cre gene or yeast FLP gene) that are activated by a chemical signal such as the antibiotic tetracycline.

The patents include a wide array of “preferred embodiments” or various ways to introduce the control gene combinations including use of a virus spray containing the genes regulating for seed sterility. The patent is so broad that it will include virtually everything to do with site specific recombination and all economic aspects of plants.

Site specific recombination is useful because its controls are both precise and more or less permanent. The downside includes the fact that blocking genes are not “natural” as claimed in the company press release. They are not natural because they add bacterial genes to the plant chromosome. When the blocking sequence is removed they leave a small target gene behind (like the stinger of a bee) and that gene may be influenced by the recombination genes that are retained in the plant nucleus. The products of the recombination genes from bacteria and yeast have not been tested in the diet of humans and animals. They are likely to be allergenic and may have untoward side effects.

The gene constructions include the use of genes from a plant pararetrovirus (the CaMV) promoter that can mobilize genes such as the dominant pollen sterilizer to be spread to a wide array of crops by virus transduction.

US patent 5,723,765 by USDA and Delta Pine(Monsanto) is incredibly broad and will likely dominate crop genetic engineering for a very long time. The muscle of USDA seems to have been used to provide the patent in record time without much thought about its ramifications of the patent in control of the agricultural biotechnology industry worldwide Even if the commercial products fail to live up to the claims used to promote investment in them investors seem to have a risk free investments covered by the very deep pockets of the United States Government.

The regulatory functions of USDA (such as APHIS) have been badly compromised by the departments commercial adventures. The use and promotion of herbicides that cause birth defects is a reflection of the deterioration of regulation. Bureaucrats in related government agencies such as the United States EPA fear jail if they reveal the dangerous components of commercial undertakings such as those promoted by EPA.

Finally, I suppose the lesson for Bill Gates President of Microsoft Corporation and his problems with the US government would have been to give USDA a piece of the action.

Date: Wed, 8 Jul 1998 11:54:00 -0400
From: "Joe Cummins"

Xenotransplantation in London Ontario

The University of Western Ontario Receives $1.5million From Novartis Corporation to Establish a Chair of Xenotransplantation

Prof. Joe Cummins e-mail:

Today the University of Western Ontario announced that Novartis Corporation had provided $1.5 million to endow a chair in Xenotransplantation. The first transplantations are to begin within two years. The news release and news articles mainly extolled the benefits to humanity by providing organs to people needing transplants. The researchers interviewed falsely claimed pigs are genetically similar to people and avoided the need to genetically humanize pigs.

With the short projected time scale for initiating transplantation it is clear that genetically humanized pigs will have to be imported from United States or British research farms where transplantation is presently prevented by a moratorium, The articles briefly mention an ethical concern about the the spread of disease between pigs and humans but the evidence and international concerns about spread of deadly virus were studiously avoided. British scientists have predicted that billions could die from activation of viruses through xenotransplantation.

I have an uncomfortable feeling that Novartis is going to make Ontario a global center for xenotransplantation because the Canadian Government is most receptive to dangerous genetic engineering endeavors and multinational corporations have firm control of the information media, while the population are blindly submissive. The Canadian public should be reminded about the secret damaging mind control experiments done in Canadian Universities funded by United States CIA during the 1950s.

Date: 30 Jun 1998 02:39:11 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

Monsanto Lead In Seeds Grows

Tony May, The Guardian. 30/6/98.

Monsanto increased it's lead in the development of genetically engineered food yesterday with the 163,843 million 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.

It's new deal will include seed research, production and testinfg faclities in 24 countries and sales and distribution operations in 51 countries.

The operations specialise in the development and marketing of corn, sunflower and rape seeds and also market soybeans, alfalfa, sorghum, wheat and hybrid rice.

The deal also doubles the number of acres of crops into which it can insert existing genetic traits such as resistance to insects and herbicides.

Cargill's seed operations in the US and Canada and Cargill Agricultural Merchants in the UK are not included.

"The potential for our existing biotechnology traits outside of North America is roughly double the potetial inside North America" said Monsanto President Hendrik Verfaillie."The Cargill International seed business gives us quicker access to these global markets".

Monsanto said it's expects to keep marketing Cargill seeds in Central and Latin America and Europe, Asia and Africa.

Best known for it's Round-up herbicide and Nutrasweet it's artificial sweetener, Monsanto has transformed itself over the past two years from a chemical company into one of the dominant producers of plant biotechnology.

Date: 30 Jun 1998 10:16:11 -0500
From: MichaelP

Monsanto takes over Cargill Intl. Seed

Monsanto Agrees to Purchase Cargill International Seed Operations In Central And Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa

SOURCE Monsanto Company
Web Site:
CONTACT: Scarlett L. Foster of Monsanto, 314-694-2883, or email,; or Lori Johnson of Cargill, 612-742-6204, or email,

ST. LOUIS, June 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Monsanto Company (NYSE: MTC) and Cargill, Incorporated, announced today that they have signed a definitive agreement for Monsanto to purchase Cargill's international seed operations in Central and Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa for $1.4 billion.

The acquisition includes seed research, production and testing facilities in 24 countries and sales and distribution operations in 51 countries in the five regions. Cargill's international seed businesses specialize in the development and marketing of corn, sunflower and rapeseed seeds and also market soybean, alfalfa, sorghum, wheat and hybrid rice seed in these markets.

The acquisition does not include Cargill's seed operations in the United States and Canada or Cargill Agricultural Merchants in the United Kingdom.

"The potential for our existing biotechnology traits outside North America is roughly double the acreage potential within North America. The Cargill international seed businesses give us quicker access to these global markets. We can accelerate commercialization through established distribution channels that will bring these and our future agronomic and quality traits to more farmers around the world in the varieties they want to grow," said Monsanto President Hendrik A. Verfaillie.

"The biotechnology revolution is rapidly changing the international seed industry, and Monsanto has been a key player in this arena," said Ernest S. Micek, Cargill chairman and chief executive officer. "This agreement combines Cargill's excellent germplasm and international research, marketing and distribution network with Monsanto's leadership in biotechnology."

Monsanto and Cargill expect that Cargill businesses in Central and Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa will continue to market Cargill seeds.

Cargill is a leading global producer of tropical corn seed and germplasm with significant sales in the Central and Latin American, Asian and African markets. It has a leading position in oilseeds globally and is one of the few seed companies with a long-standing presence in Asia and Central and Latin America. Its international seed business employs approximately 2,200 people.

The sale of Cargill's seed businesses in Central and Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa follows an earlier agreement between Monsanto and Cargill to form a global joint venture to create and market products improved through biotechnology for the grain processing and animal feed markets. In addition to this initial agreement, Monsanto and Cargill are exploring future opportunities to expand their partnership into other areas of agriculture and food.

Monsanto is a life sciences company, committed to finding solutions to the growing global needs for food and health by applying advanced bioscience and biotechnology to agriculture, nutrition and health. It makes and manufactures high-value agricultural products, pharmaceuticals and food ingredients.

Cargill, based in Minneapolis, Minn., is an international marketer, processor and distributor of agricultural, food, financial and industrial products with nearly 79,000 employees in more than 1,000 locations in 72 countries and with business activities in 100 more.

Date: 30 Jun 1998 12:14:14 -0500
From: "Clare Watson"

Irish Court Case Begins

Judicial Review Opens in the Irish High Court.

Genetic Concern today welcomed the opening of the Judicial Review into the EPAs decision to grant a licence to Monsanto for genetically engineered sugar beet trials in Carlow.

Opening the case for the applicant Clare Watson, a founder member of Genetic Concern, John Gordon S.C. outlined the following main areas of complaint:

The issue of whether or not planning permission should also be sought for trials was raised and is to be further raised in affidavits later in the case.

The release of genetically modified organisms is governed by EU Directive 90/220 which is transferred into Irish Law under the Genetically Modified Organisms Regulations of 1994. In relation to this, John Gordon S.C. argued that;

The case continued and is expected to last four to five days.

For further information or comment, please contact Quentin Gargan, spokesperson for Genetic Concern on 088 275 4857.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Legal Team on behalf of Clare Watson: John Gordon S.C., Frank Clarke S.C., Michael OiDonnell B.L., instructed by Fionnuala Cawkhill & Associates, Solicitors.

This case concerns a licence for three years of genetic engineering field trials in Carlow. The EPA has since given the green light for a further four trials. These are identical to those of last year, except that the risks are increased by the trials being conducted on private land in four locations instead of one. A decision to legally challenge the additional trials will depend on the outcome of the current case.

The Judicial Review is likely to have a bearing on trials throughout Europe. Indeed, Monsantois own affidavit, submitted to the High Court last May, states that "If it becomes apparent that approvals have been suspended by the courts in Ireland, this may affect the approach adopted by regulatory authorities in other Member StatesO..there might be a snowball effect throughout Europe with serious consequences for Monsanto in terms of the loss of advantage of the patent life".

Date: 1 Jul 1998 06:00:25 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

Researchers Develop Shortcut To Clone Cattle

© Copyright 1998, Reuters

WASHINGTON, Reuters [WS] via NewsEdge Corporation : Researchers said on Tuesday they had developed a shortcut making it easier to clone and to genetically engineer cattle.

They said their new technique could open the door to better farm animals, treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's, and even animal-to-human transplants.

The researchers, led by James Robl and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts, grew several calves using their shortcut method, which they said is much more efficient than other methods.

They used embryonic stem cells -- which still have the potential to grow into an entire animal, as opposed to cells that have "differentiated" into liver cells, skin cells and so on.

These cells are different from the adult mammary gland cell used to make Dolly the sheep -- the first mammal cloned from another adult.

The embryonic stem cells are the cells of choice for animal cloners, because of their potential. The problem is, they are hard to pick out and grow in the laboratory.

What Robl and his team would like to do is genetically engineer a cell, then grow pots full of cells that can be grown into animals. This would be much cheaper and quicker than going through the whole process of genetically engineering an animal, then cloning it.

Writing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, they said they had managed it.

They used both a cloning technique known as nuclear transfer, and a process in which very early embryos are melded together, to create genetically engineered embryos. Genetic engineering involves the insertion of an extra gene -- in this case a gene that gives resistance to the antibiotic neomycin, because it is an easy gene to check and make sure is there.

They got 12 calves.

All the calves were killed and the genes from a wide range of their tissues were examined. Nine of the calves carried the extra gene, to varying degrees.

The next step is to let one of the calves live and mate it, to see if it is normal and the new gene can be passed on to the next generation.

Neal First of the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Wisconsin in Madison said the method was a real shortcut to creating genetically engineered animals.

It could also be used to create lines of human cells that could be transplanted into patients to cure diseases, he said in a commentary on the study.

"The list of diseases potentially treatable by this approach is long and includes Parkinson's disease, juvenile onset diabetes and leukaemia," he wrote.

Brain cell transplants have been shown to help Parkinson's in highly experimental research, for instance. Doctors hope to transplant the pancreatic cells that produce insulin to help people with type-I diabetes, which is caused when the immune system erroneously destroys these cells.

A second use would be to create transgenic animals -- animals containing both human and animal cells -- for animal-to-human transplants. Pigs would be the most likely candidate for this, as they are about the same size as humans.

The third application, First said in a telephone interview, would be the creation of transgenic farm animals. They could be bred to secrete human proteins in their milk.

Robl's company, Advanced Cell Technology Inc, has a contract with Genzyme Transgenics to produce a herd of genetically engineered cattle that produce a human protein used to treat blood loss in their milk.

Farm animals might also be genetically engineered to produce extra meat or milk. This is done now, but current methods are hit-and-miss, producing a true transgenic animal only about one out of every 100 to 500 tries.

With this method, First said, scientists would get their transgenic animal every time.

"So I think it's one of the more efficient things we've seen in terms of being able to make an animal," he said.

Date: 1 Jul 1998 06:04:24 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

Mycogen Wins Bt Patent Infringement Suit

SOURCE Mycogen Corporation

Jury Declares Monsanto Patent Invalid

WILMINGTON, Del., June 30 /PRNewswire/ via NewsEdge Corporation -- A Federal District Court jury ruled today that a patent held by Monsanto Company that covers technology for modifying Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to make plants insect-resistant is invalid.

The verdict followed a two-week patent infringement trial in which Monsanto had sought damages from Mycogen Corporation (Nasdaq: MYCO) and Novartis. Monsanto claimed that Mycogen's NatureGard(R) corn seed and similar seed products marketed by Novartis Seeds contain a modified (Bt) gene sequence that is covered by Monsanto's patent.

Carl Eibl, Mycogen's president, said that the verdict is an important step toward clarifying the complex patent landscape relating to Bt-based insect- resistance in plants.

"Mycogen holds more than 60 patents that cover Bt proteins and technology for modifying Bt genes to optimize expression of insect control proteins in plants," Eibl said. "We believe that our scientists' pioneering work in this area ultimately will give Mycogen a very strong proprietary position for Bt-based insect-resistance in plants."

Mycogen introduced NatureGard hybrid seed corn with Bt-based resistance to European corn borer for planting in the U.S. in 1996. Ciba Seeds (now Novartis Seeds), which holds a license from Mycogen, introduced a similar product under the trade name, Maximizer(R), at the same time.

This verdict follows Mycogen's successful, March 1998, suit against Monsanto for breach of a Bt-related license agreement. In that suit, a California jury awarded Mycogen damages of $174.9 million as a result of Monsanto's breach of contract.

Mycogen is a diversified agribusiness and biotechnology company that develops and markets seeds and value-added traits for genetically enhanced crops and provides crop protection products and services. Mycogen (Nasdaq: MYCO) is majority owned by Dow AgroSciences LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW). The forward-looking statements in this document are based on projections and estimates regarding the economy and the seed and crop protection industries.

Various factors could cause actual results to vary significantly from management's expectations. These include the impact of weather on production and sales, actions by competitors and regulatory agencies, intellectual property positions, commodity prices, fluctuations in crop acreage and the effectiveness of internal expense controls.

For more information about Mycogen, please call 1-888-SEE-MYCO (1-888-733-6926) or visit Mycogen's website at

CONTACT: Michael Sund of Mycogen, 619-453-8030
Web site: (MYCO DOW)

Date: 1 Jul 1998 18:02:28 -0500

Today's Daily Telegraph (UK 1 July 1998 p18) reports a paper in Nature regarding a "Potential Achilles' heel" common to many disease causing bugs.

Common Weakness Of The Organisms: Shikimate Pathway

By William Hite, WRC Solutions - MS Office, VB, Access, Text, FTR tel +44 1695 556702 fax +44 1695 556703

According to this article...

"Apparently the common weakness of the organisms responsible for malaria, toxoplasmosis, diarrhoea, tuberculosis, pneumonia and other illnesses caused by apicomplexan parasites lies in the "shikimate pathway". This is a chemical production line crucial for manufacturing the building blocks of proteins and DNA in cells. It was at first thought that the shikimate pathway was only used in plants. This research shows it as an essential component of many single celled organisms.

Glyphosphate (roundup) was used to prove its existence in these organisms as it acts by stopping the shikimate pathway - this is how it kills weeds."

The article goes on to hold out the possibility of destroying these organisms "the wish that one might be able to find a compound active against a range of infectious agents is now at least a possibility" said Prof Coombs.

So what say I?

Do I not recall that GM Roundup Ready soy is protected from Roundup by extra genes which effectively stop the soy plant's shikimate pathway being disrupted by roundup?

Would it be reasonable to ask Monsanto if their testing of the GM soy encompassed the testing of apicomplexan organisms to see if the roundup resistance transferred to them - either in the wild (the fields), in animals fed the soy or in humans?

If the GM soy gene which gives protection to the shikimate pathway did transfer to these apicomplexan organisms then the medico's search for their new medicines would be in vain.

If science has only just discovered this pathway in these organisms would it not be reasonable to assume that Monsanto most likely did not test for effects on them? on say Plasmodium falciparum, the cause of malaria affecting 300 million people around the world and killing three million children annually?

How do we get the scientist and politicians to ask Monsanto these questions?

How can Monsanto and government food safety bodies still rely on the doctrine of "substantial equivalence" for assessing food safety in the light of new discoveries like this? Do they think there will not be new discoveries about the tremendous interconnectedness of life?


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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