Genetically Manipulated Food News

7 August 98

Table of Contents

Sound fishy? Scientists eye fish-enhanced ice cream
Pig Livers May Be Used As Human Dialysis Machines
Trashing the crops
Fears Admitted On Genetically Modified Food
Plants Without Seeds Challenge Historic Farming Practices
Pollutants Blamed For Dual-sex Polar Bears
Canada: Biotech clampdown continues
France Imposes Moratorium on Biotech Crops
Monsanto Doses EU with Biotech Ad Blitz
Biotech Labelling Issue Stalls at Codex
A New Insecticidal Protein To Challenge The Bt Monopoly?
7,000 Farmers Denounce Wto-trips
UK: House of Commons has banned GE food from its restaurant
Don't Assume Your Bt is broken Because Borers Are Biting
Yet public still expected to eat it
Attention Owners of Birds! GE corn Stays in the Throat
Genetically Engineered Crops Breed Hardy Weeds
Genetic Crops Can Aid Superweeds, Claim Scientists

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Date: Sun, 2 Aug 1998 11:11:43 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Sound fishy? Scientists eye fish-enhanced ice cream

By J.B. Legault TORONTO (Reuters), July 28, 1998

Anybody feel like fish ice cream? Although it probably wouldn't affect the taste, a protein produced by the ice-loving flounder could soon make its way into ice cream to protect it from frost damage, according to a team of Canadian scientists who released their findings Tuesday. The flounder winters off the coast of Newfoundland in waters where temperatures often fall well below the freezing point. To keep from prematurely becoming frozen fish sticks, the winter flounder produces a protein that a team of scientists from the University of Toronto and Toronto's Hospital of Sick Children have been able to synthesize.

"This protein is one of the only ones to bind to ice, to modify ice morphology and to inhibit the growth of ice crystals," Dr Choy Yew, professor of biochemistry at the University of Toronto, told Reuters Tuesday. This protein could have several practical applications, said Yew. For example, scientists have been able to transplant the flounder gene that produces the protein into Atlantic salmon, creating a transgenic species of salmon that can be raised in much colder waters.

Through genetic engineering, this gene could also be spliced into plants to protect them aginst the cold. This could be of immense value, for example, to citrus growers whose crops are sometimes damaged or destroyed by unusually cold weather. As for the ice cream industry, said Yew, the formation of large ice crystals is a major problem that could be solved by the protein's inhibiting properties.

Date: Sun, 2 Aug 1998 11:11:43 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Pig Livers May Be Used As Human Dialysis Machines

July 31, 1998

LONDON, Reuters [WS] via NewsEdge Corporation : Imutran, a leading company in the development of animal to human transplants, announced plans on Thursday to use pig livers to treat human patients.

The British subsidiary of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis said the genetically modified pig livers could be an interim measure until a suitable human organ is found.

"What we are thinking of doing is using the liver as a temporary support, outside the body, as a sort of dialysis machine for patients in liver failure to allow the doctors to buy time until a human organ becomes available for transplantation," Dr Corrine Savill, Imutran's chief operating officer, told BBC radio.

Date: Sun, 2 Aug 1998 11:11:43 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Trashing the crops

By John Vidal, Guardian (london) Friday July 31, 1998


Patrick Whitefield is a lecturer with no history of civil disobedience. After hearing that five women had earlier this month gone into a test field and pulled up some genetically modified plants being tested for the US chemical firm Monsanto, he phoned a Manchester-based group called GenetiX Snowball and offered to do the same. Should Whitefield do so, he risks being sued, fined and given a criminal record.

Within weeks of his offer, a Manchester community worker, a Welsh lawyer and at least 250 others including TV chef Antony Worrall-Thomson had phoned to support or to join others taking "non-violent direct action" against the controversial crops. Hardly eco-warriors in the road-protest style, their concern ranged across health, environment, consumer choice and the concentration of the food chain into very few hands.

Date: Sun, 2 Aug 1998 11:11:43 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Fears Admitted On Genetically Modified Food

By Camillo Fracassini, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, The Scotsman July 30, 1998

MOST people in Britain oppose the idea of genetically modified crops, citing fears about tampering with nature and the possible effects on health and the environment, according to a survey. The poll by NOP found more than six out of ten people were opposed to the genetic modification of crops.

Researchers also discovered that of those who were against genetically modified food, 57 per cent believed humans should not tamper with nature, and almost a third said they were concerned about the possible effects on health. More than one in five said not enough was known about the possible effects of genetic engineering on the environment.

The findings follow a series of recent attacks on genetically modified crops in Scotland by environmental activists and a warning by the Prince of Wales last month that geneticists should stop "playing God" with nature. A threat from a group of environmentalists to destroy crops on 40 sites in Scotland has reportedly prompted genetic engineering companies to press the Scottish Office to stop publishing the location of genetically modified crops.

Date: Sun, 2 Aug 1998 11:11:43 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Plants Without Seeds Challenge Historic Farming Practices

By Laurent Belsie, Staff writer, The Christian Science Monitor July 30, 1998

Ever since humans started farming 10,000 years ago, they have followed a basic tenet: Save some of the harvest as seed for next year's crop. Saving seed shaped more-modern notions of avings and investment. "Eating one's seed corn" became, in America, a metaphor for desperation. So when Mississippi-based Delta & Pine Land, the world's largest cottonseed company, announced in March a technology that could put an end to seed-saving, reaction was swift and negative. Farm groups in developing nations condemned it. One British newspaper carried the headline: "Terminator seeds threaten a barren future for farmers."

The so-called "terminator" seeds are stirring deep concerns that a handful of global corporations will use their control over biotechnology to ensure profits for themselves, whatever the impact on agriculture. Given the increasing reliance of public plant-breeding programs on private support, the future looks especially ominous, say agriculture experts.

Date: Sun, 2 Aug 1998 11:11:55 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson Source: See below

This is not actually a genetic engineering article, but I thought you might like the diversion, and it is related since genetic engineering can result in increased chemical use.



Pollutants Blamed For Dual-sex Polar Bears

By Nick Nuttall, June 1, 98, The British Times

Scientists have, according to this story, discovered polar bear cubs with both male and female sex organs. The deformities are thought to be linked to the increasing pollution in polar regions.

The four hermaphroditic bears were found in the Norwegian Arctic territory of Svalbard, where pollution levels are known to be high. Government officials and the researchers who found the newborn cubs on the islands of Edgeoya and Hopen suspect that the deformities are caused by polychlorinated biphenol chemicals (PCBs). The chemicals, which accumulate in fat reserves, are used in everything from electrical transformer fluids to degreasing agents in nuclear submarines, and are building up in the seals on which the polar bears feed.

PCBs are among the thousands of man-made substances that scientists believe mimic animal and human sex hormones. Sex changes in fish have been monitored in Britain and in alligators in America, but the polar bears are believed to be the first mammal to show such acute damage. Dagfinn Stenseth, the Norwegian Government's special adviser on polar affairs, was cited as saying yesterday that the findings had implications for wildlife and human beings, adding, "The polar bear, like us, is at the top of the food chain. We are very concerned."

The story says that PCBs are banned in many countries, although Russia is believed still to use them. They are persistent pollutants that remain in the environment for many years. The polar bear research adds to worldwide attempts to identify possible links between man-made chemicals and sexual deformities and diseases in human beings, as well as animals. Over the past 50 years, the story says, sperm counts have fallen in men living in industrialised countries. Some of the chemicals appear to mimic the female hormone oestrogen, while others appear to block or copy the male androgen hormones. A spokeswoman for the Norwegian Polar Institute, said researchers had studied 90 polar bears this season out of the territory's population of some 2,000.

Andrew Derocher, the research scientist who made the findings, said yesterday that the bears were seen in April and May. The researchers had been discovering polar bears with both female and male characteristics for three years, he said, but this year's tally was the highest so far. It means that bears with both sex organs may make up nearly 4 per cent of the population, which is far higher than chance, and indicates that up to 80 polar bears in Svalbard may now be affected.

Details of the findings have been published during the 22nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, taking place in Tromso, Norway. Delegates from 43 nations that have signed the treaty, including Britain, are discussing how best to deal with a string of threats to the continent in the wake of the ratification of the Protocol on Environmental Protection earlier this year.


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Date: Tue, 4 Aug 1998 10:15:28 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Canada: Biotech clampdown continues

By Stephanie Power, Capital City Issue 15 July 30-Aug 5 Ottawa, Canada

Biotechnology: Federal scientist files grievance against food safety gag order

In a struggle that will affect what food will hit your plate in the next millenium, the battle between scientists and administrators at Health Canada over biotechnology testing secrecy is growing more heated.

Dr. Shiv Chopra, a drug inspector with the department who was ordered this month not to speak at a community meeting on genetically engineered foods, has filed an official grievance with Health Canada seeking to repeal the gag order and assert his freedom of speech.

Chopra, who has worked with the department for 28 years, is also appealing an official reprimand he received for appearing on Canada AM in June with Dr. Margaret Haydon, who works with him in the Human Safety Division of the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs. The scientists told CTV reporters that Health Canada was succumbing to pressure from industry to approve drugs that were not passing the safety tests of the department.

Neither scientist will speak on the record now, for fear of consequences from the department, which has 10 days to respond to the grievance.

Franca Gatto, a representative of Health Canada, says the private nature of a grievance prohibits her from speaking about it and that none of Chopra's supervisors were available to comment.

But in an earlier interview with Capital City Robert Joubert, Health Canada's Director General of Human Resources, said if the department had been approached for a speaker, they would have found someone more suitable to present information on genetic engineering. Joubert said that the department was "of the opinion that Dr. Chopra was not the best person to do that."

Bureaucratic coercion

Chopra and Haydon were among five scientists in their division who filed grievances last year stating that they were being coerced into approving drugs without adequate safety information, including the highly controversial milk production stimulant bovine growth hormone.

Michele Demers, vice president of Chopra's union, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPS), says Chopra's grievance is evidence of the need for protection for dissenting public servants, and is being taken very seriously by union officials.

"PIPS has been advocating for a number of years some form of whistle blowing legislation in order to allow public service employees to denounce unacceptable doings on the part of the department that have an impact on the public," says Demers, adding that the Liberals have failed to act on a 1993 promise to enact protections for whistle blowers.

A spokesperson for blood groups in the blood scandal, Michelle Brill-Edwards worked for Health Canada for 15 years, during which she served as the senior physician responsible for prescription drug approvals. Brill-Edwards resigned in 1996, alleging that, faced with corporate pressure, the ministry was passing drugs that weren't safe.

"Dr. Chopra's experience is absolutely in character with the past history of the department. This is a department that is very vigilant in precluding any expression of professional opinion," says Brill-Edwards.

In Chopra's case, the public health issue that dare not speak its name - or that Health Canada employees dare not speak of, at least, for fear of official reprimand - is whether the Canadian government is testing genetically engineered foods thoroughly before allowing them on the market.

Spliced sequences

Genetically engineered or genetically altered crops are plants that have had sequences of DNA from other species spliced into them that would not naturally have been able to cross species - such as fish genes into agricultural plants for example - to make the recipient more resistant to pesticides, cold weather or other perils.

Critics of genetic engineering claim that its effects on human and environmental health have not yet been sufficiently tested and that, at the very least, products that have been genetically engineered should be labeled so that consumers can choose whether they want to eat them.

Bruce Bilmer from the Office of Biotechnology at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says Health Canada tests all genetically engineered for food safety and then decides which of those foods should be labeled.

"There is mandatory labeling in Canada for foods that may have a safety difference or that have undergone significant compositional or nutritional change," says Bilmer.

Health Canada information indicates that the department has thus far approved for the market the Flavr Savr Tomato, genetically modified corn, genetically altered Roundup Ready Soybeans and genetically altered NewLeaf potatoes, among other genetically modified crops.

Richard Wolfson of the Consumers Right to Know Campaign, the group that invited Chopra to speak, says not testing such radical gene alterations over a longer term before allowing products on the market is a dangerously nonchalant attitude.

"The scientists are dealing with a very limited paradigm when they say that they insert one little gene and doesn't affect anything else because we just don't know enough about gene interactions to say that. We don't know what the long term effects are, particularly in terms of allergies and long term toxicities," says Wolfson.

Wolfson and Public Working Group on Food Concerns have been meeting at the YMCA on Argyle for the past three weeks and are planning events at local grocery stores and farmers' markets to lobby for the labeling of all genetically altered foods.

Date: Tue, 4 Aug 1998 10:15:38 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to Jim Mcnulty for posting this:

France Imposes Moratorium on Biotech Crops

PARIS, France, August 3, 1998 (ENS) - The French government has announced a partial moratorium on the introduction of genetically modified crops for the next two years. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said last week that no approvals would be given for the commercial-scale growth of oilseed rape, also called canola, or any other modified crop which poses the risk of gene transfer to related species.

Applications to the French government for other modified crops - including maize - will be assessed on a case-by-case basis for their risks to human health and the environment.

Date: Tue, 4 Aug 1998 10:15:38 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Monsanto Doses EU with Biotech Ad Blitz

By Zadie Neufville

LONDON, UK, August 3, 1998 (ENS) - All-out war over acceptance of genetically engineered foods has broken out across Europe. Some are calling it the new colonisation. For others it is a battle for the control, or the protection, of the world's food supply. The threat is not bombs or guns - it is hunger.

At the heart of the war over the genetic engineering of plants are the rights of peoples worldwide to grow the foods they want to eat.

This week, United States based multinational company Monsanto begins a major media blitz in Europe aimed at winning the hearts of Europeans and overcoming the European public's opposition to genetic engineering of foods. The company comes armed with the declarations of leading African personalities wooing consumer support.

Monsanto is the second largest agrochemical company in the world. One of the leading manufacturers of genetically-engineered seeds, the company has asked prominent Africans to endorse genetic engineering as an essential contributor to the world's food supply in the next century.

Endorsements for the genetically-modified plants are expected to come from former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere and Gracia Machel - wife of the late Samora Machel who just married President Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

The Monsanto statements supported by the African signatures will be prominently placed in the European press in the coming week.

The Monsanto ads, entitled "Let the Harvest Begin," include these statements. "We all share the same planet - and the same needs. In agriculture, many of our needs have an ally in biotechnology and the promising advances it offers for our future. Healthier, more abundant food. Less expensive crops. Reduced reliance on pesticides and fossil fuels. A cleaner environment. With these advances, we prosper; without them. we cannot thrive...Biotechnology is one of tomorrow's tools in our hands today. Slowing its acceptance is a luxury our hungry world cannot afford."

A counter-attack has been mounted. A media alert distributed by the Panos Institute of London, a non-governmental organisation that works to stimulate debate on global environment and development issues, said Friday that senior African politicians, scientists and agriculturists have released counter-statements to the European press.

African delegates to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in a counter-attack on the planned Monsanto ads said in a joint statement. "We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically beneficial to us."

The delegates who included representatives from all African nations in the UN except South Africa, accused Monsanto of "threatening and jailing" U.S. farmers who save seeds for planting the next year's crop.

The delegates denounced Monsanto's interest in the environment. "Its major focus is not to protect the environment, but to develop crops that can resist higher doses of its best-selling chemical weed killer "Roundup."

Maize, called corn in some parts of the world, is one focus of the battle over biotech crops.

Monsanto's European advertising campaign reportedly cost $1.6 billion, Panos said, and is aimed at winning consumer support for genetically modified food. Millions more could be spent in a climate where consumer groups and environmentalists, speaking out against the use of genetically engineered seeds for human consumption, appear to be winning.

Several European countries - Austria, Luxembourge and Italy - have attempted bans on the planting of genetically modified seeds. Consumers have picketed grocery stores protesting biotech foods. One major UK supermarket chain, Iceland, has refused to sell genetically modified food products.

In March, Britain's sugar barons refused to accept any genetically-engineered sugar beet through their factory gates. They did not want a repeat of what happened in Holland in 1997 when a tiny amount of sugar from genetic-engineering trials was accidentally introduced into bags of Dutch sugar. Once discovered, there was a public outcry, and all 12,000 tonnes of the mixed sugar had to be disposed of at great expense.


The argument gained momentum a few weeks ago when Britain's Prince Charles, spoke out in a newspaper article against genetic engineering, accusing the multinationals of "playing God."

Monsanto and their supporters claim genetically engineered seeds will solve world food supply and many medical problems. But, large numbers of farmers, scientists and environmentalists see genetic engineering as "tampering with God's creation "with little regard for possible side-effects," a sentiment echoed by Prince Charles in his article.

The prince called for additional testing to ensure that bio-engineered food products are safe for human consumption, and refused to eat these foods.

Monsanto's Technical Manager, Dr. Colin Merritt, responded to the prince's comments by saying no one should be denied the choice of food modified by genetic engineering.

Dangers to the environment, some scientists warn, include the loss of biodiversity, potential dangers to human health, loss of income and opportunities for small farmers, and the control of the world food supplies by a small number of people.

According to recent reports from the biotechnology sector, over the next year chemical companies will release 75 million hectares of genetically altered grains onto the world market - more than three times the amounts from 1996 trials.

Tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers are some of the products now being produced on a vast scale. According to recent newspaper reports, 1.25 million hectares of carrots and the first potato crops will be reaped in 1998.

Estimates are that more than 150 million hectares of genetically engineered foods will be available on the world market by the year 2,000.

The dilemma of the world's poor farmers was highlighted recently when an Australian company attempted to patent rice seeds developed through research of wild plant material. Indian farmers recently lost the right to grow one variety of "basmati" rice, a traditional crop on the sub-continent for over 2,000 years. In June a variety of the chick pea was patented.

In response to Monsanto's Africa-endorsed European campaign, African delegates to the United Nations have expressed fear the company is working towards controlling the world's crop production. The company which produces one of the world's largest selling agro-chemicals, the herbicide Round-up, also produces seeds which can only be used with this brand of chemical.

Genetically modified seeds reportedly produce higher yields. They also enable plants to repel attacks from pests and weeds. But the seeds must be bought anew for each year's crop. Poor farmers can no longer save seed from last year's harvest to plant the following spring.

While they are expected to reduce the amount farmers must spend on pesticides, the seeds need intensive farming and will be too expensive for small and subsistence farmers. Many genetically engineered crops need more water than most small farmers can afford


Six chemical companies: Monsanto, Enimont, Du Pont, Sandoz, Zeneca and Ciba Geigy , dominate research and development in plant genetics. The big six, together with Shell, WR Grace and Cargill, the world's largest grain and oilseed trader, dominate the international seed market.

Important crops for which genetically engineered seeds already exist include maize (corn), soya, sugar beet, and cotton. Biotechnology to modify other crucial food crops such as rice, wheat, potato and cassava is now being explored.

These crops are among the most important of the 20 crops that provide the world's population with 90 percent of its food. Just four crops: rice, wheat, maize and potatoes, account for 50 percent of all food worldwide.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) was a chief supporter of the 1960s Green Revolution which increased food production worldwide with improved seeds, pesticides and fertilisers, but also left degraded land and disrupted communities behind. Now the FAO emphasises that "intensified food production can be achieved by the sustainable use of a broader range of genetic material."

The genetic modification of food is already a multi-million dollar global business. This year alone, 3.5 million hectares of genetically modified soya have been planted in the U.S. Monsanto expects another 1.4 million hectares to be reaped in Argentina.

In 1996, Monsanto earned $9.26 billion in revenue. The company is growing rapidly through a number of mergers. It is now involved in farming, food processing and distribution in addition to its seed and agro chemical production operations.

Monsanto sent ripples of fear through the agricultural sector in March when it merged with the Delta and Pine Lands Company, developer and patentee of the "terminator technology" which robs plants of their reproductive abilities.

Monsanto further shocked the international community when it attempted a merger last month with the Grameen Bank, Bangladesh's world-famous microcredit agency. The merger was aimed at "bringing technology to the poor" reports said. Grameen Bank President Muhammad Yunus has since announced that his organisation is abandoning the idea of a Grameen/Monsanto partnership.

On June 29, Monsanto Company and Cargill, Incorporated, announced 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 US$1.4 billion.

Date: Tue, 4 Aug 1998 21:10:16 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

You may have already seen this information, as the article was submitted to Alive two months ago.

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

Biotech Labelling Issue Stalls at Codex

Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD

The Codex Committee on Food labelling reached an impasse on the issue of labelling of genetically engineered foods.

The Committee met in Ottawa, May 25-29, 1998. Although most countries, particularly in Europe and Asia, supported mandatory labelling of genetically engineered foods, there was some variation between these countries. The European Union (EU) pushed for mandatory labelling only of products containing detectable levels of genetically modified DNA or protein. Other countries, such as India and Norway, called for mandatory labelling of all products produced by genetic engineering.

The nations who supported mandatory labelling were listening to consumers. Surveys in many countries show that the vast majority of consumers want genetically engineered foods labelled, so they can choose for themselves whether to consume these foods. Consumers International, a federation of some 235 consumer organizations in 109 countries, also joined numerous other non-governmental organizations and lobbied Codex for mandatory labelling.

Delegates from Canada, USA, Brazil, Australia, and a few other countries chose not to support mandatory labelling. They supported the position of the biotech industry, which does not want genetically engineered foods labelled. Clearly they fear that consumers will not buy their products if they were identified as genetically engineered.

Canadian representatives ignored petitions from over 10,000 Canadians calling for mandatory labelling of all genetically engineered foods. Due to the polarization between countries regarding labelling, Codex did not reach a decision on this issue.

Europe Supports Labelling

The EU, India, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, UK, and others should be commended for not bowing in to industry pressure. They supported the wishes of consumers. In the interim, individual countries and the EU are free to set their own standards. In fact, the EU has already approved regulations requiring mandatory labelling of genetically engineered food. The legislation will go into effect later this year.

Under the new rules, foods containing genetically altered DNA or proteins must carry a clear label identifying the product as genetically engineered. The ruling may not affect biotech products that do not contain detectable levels of genetically modified protein or DNA, such as certain genetically engineered oils.

When Codex meets in Ottawa in one years's time, the regulations will be reconsidered in the hopes of adopting international standards. In the meantime, we must continue to pressure our government and our food outlets for mandatory labelling. (In Europe, mandatory labelling was only instituted as a result of overwhelming public pressure.)

Due to consumer concern, major European food chains instituted segregation and mandatory labelling of genetically engineered foods even before the government officially legislated it. We need to pressure our food chains to do the same.

The issue of labelling of genetically engineered foods is one illustration of what Treasury Board President Marcel Massé pointed out in an address on May 28 to the Association of Professional Executives in the Public Service. (See Ottawa Citizen: Fri., May 29, p. A1) Mr. Massé stated that special interest groups (in this case, the biotech lobby) are becoming too powerful, at the expense of sacrificing the interests of consumers.

FDA Sued Over Labelling

On May 27 in Washington, DC, a coalition of scientists, religious leaders, health professionals, consumers and chefs filed suit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They want mandatory safety testing and labeling of all genetically engineered foods.

The suit alleges that current FDA policy, which permits such altered foods to be marketed without any testing and without labels, violates the agency's statutory mandate to protect public health and provide consumers with relevant information about the foods they eat. The suit also alleges that the policy is a violation of religious freedom.

For further information on biotechnology and its hazards, see the website:

Date: Thu, 6 Aug 1998 11:20:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

The following report was extracted from ISB News Report - Aug 1998

A New Insecticidal Protein To Challenge The Bt Monopoly?

A new insecticidal toxin has been discovered that may challenge the Bt monopoly. A team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, led by Richard ffrench-Constant and David Bowen, has discovered new toxins from a bacterium that may represent the "next generation of microbial insecticide" (1, 2). The gram-negative bacterium Photorhabdus luminescens packs a considerable arsenal within its cell: toxins, antibiotics, antifungal compounds, lipases, proteases, and even light-producing genes.

The bacteria thrive inside the gut of an insect-attacking nematode. When the nematode invades an insect host, it releases the bacteria into the insect's hemocoel. The bacteria then kill the insect, leaving a cadaver that eerily glows in the dark! The nematodes then eat both the bacteria and insect carcass, with hundreds of nematodes eventually bursting out of a single insect victim. "This makes Alien look like a cakewalk," says ffrench-Constant.

Photorhabdus "is a voracious pathogen. One bacterial cell can kill an insect," says Jerald Ensign of UW-Madison, who with then-graduate student Bowen, discovered the toxic potential of this bacterium which kills its host in 24 to 48 hours. Even picomolar quantities of Photorhabdus toxin can be lethal to many pests such as caterpillars, mealworms, and even cockroaches and ants.

Date: Thu, 6 Aug 1998 11:20:09 -0500


7,000 Farmers Denounce Wto-trips

Los Baños, 5 August 1998--Last 17 July, over 7,000 people--from peasants to priests, rural women to students activists--marched, chanted and assembled in the center of Kabankalan City, in Negros Occidental, to denounce the intellectual property rights treaty of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This was the first time in Philippine history that such a massive outpouring of people mobilized in the streets to express opposition to the patenting of life forms.

In bold red letters one placard read: "Ang mga dumuluong nga nagsabwag sang kalautan, dapat pamatukan kag palayason" carried by a young, angry protester. That is Ilonggo for "those foreigners who perpetuate destruction should be opposed, condemned and thrown out of the country." His message was directed simultaneously to the WTO, to transnational corporations pushing genetic engineering, and to the perpetrators of biopiracy: three of the most highly-criticized subjects at the mobilization.

Date: Thu, 6 Aug 1998 11:20:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

UK: House of Commons has banned GE food from its restaurant

BBC Internet source -- UK Politics, Aug 5, 1998

Genetically modified food has been banned from restaurants and bars in the House of Commons.

Full-time catering managers have decided to avoid using genetically modified (GM) food - developed from crops given genes from other species - until more is known about the long-term effects. The ban has led to accusations of double standards since the government is still issuing licences for GM crop tests.

Some MPs have complained that they were not consulted about the decision. In a recent parliamentary answer, Dennis Turner, the Labour MP who chairs the Commons catering committee, revealed managers had decided wherever possible they would avoid using GM food.

Mr Turner has called for the Agriculture Select Committee to hold an inquiry into genetically modified food. He said the decision was not an absolute ban and stressed it was not always possible to tell from labels whether food had been modified. ...

The move at the Commons has been welcomed by the Liberal Democrat MP, Norman Baker, who originally questioned the use of the food. But he warned that people were already eating genetically modified food without realising it. "We have stuff coming into this country which is not segregated at source, so it is not possible to say whether it is GM-free. Unless the government challenges the practices of the biotech companies, we will be flooded with these foods."

'Double standards'

A food and biotech campaigner from Friends of the Earth, Pete Riley, expressed digust at what he said were parliamentary double standards.

"Genetically engineered foods are banned from parliament yet they are being forced on the general public despite the fact that opinion polls show they don't want them. The government should listen to the growing clamour and call a moratorium on the development of these controversial crops until it can proved that they are safe."

Hugh Warwick, of the Genetics Forum think-tank, said the MPs' action was "outrageous". "This shows hypocrisy at the heart of government. MPs have decided they want nothing to do with genetically modified food while ministers are denying the public this choice. Instead, they are sanctioning genetically modified crop trials."

Date: Thu, 6 Aug 1998 11:20:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to Steve Sprinkle for forwarding this information, which was extracted down from a more detailed release for farmers:

Don't Assume Your Bt is broken Because Borers Are Biting

Purdue University Extension Bt advisory 8/4/98
Cissy Bowman, Vice President of the Organic Farmers Marketing Association

For farmers fighting corn borers, one of the most welcome arrivals in their fields was Bt-enhanced corn.

For the same farmers, no arrival could be less welcome than corn borers munching through their genetically enhanced crop.

Four possible reasons are given for the presence of the corn borers:

  1. "No bag of Bt seed is pure. No quality control can manipulate the amount of control in each plant," Purdue Extension entomologist Larry Bledsoe says. "If a farmer was in a field and found a couple of plants being chewed up by corn borers, that would be normal."

  2. Another explanation for finding corn borer caterpillars in resistant corn may lie in where the Bt-corn is planted. "If you plant next to a field with no resistance, some of those corn borers are going to come into the resistant field and feed along the edges for a while before they are killed," Bledsoe says.

  3. A third reason for corn borers in resistant corn is that the amount of resistance in the plants isn't consistent through the growing season. "There's a slow loss of resistance in the plant," Bledsoe says. "It's very strong at the beginning of the season, but later in the season the amount of resistance drops."

  4. Unfortunately, there's a fourth possibility for why a farmer might find corn borer caterpillars in the corn, and it is that a new strain of corn borers have evolved in that area. There have been more than 500 examples of insects that have developed resistance to various chemical insecticides, and widespread overuse of genetically enhanced crops could cause the same thing to happen with those control methods.

The information originated with: Cissy Bowman, Vice President of the Organic Farmers Marketing Association Website:

Date: Thu, 6 Aug 1998 11:20:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Yet public still expected to eat it

Written Answers, Hansard, 20 July 1998. In
M2 Presswire Via Newsedge Corporation : August 6, 1998

MPs have banned genetically engineered crops from restaurants and bars in the House of Commons because they don't meet ethical and environmental criteria. However, despite these concerns food eaten by the public does not have to pass such strict criteria: genetically engineered food, often unlabelled, is common in shops and supermarkets.

The ban was revealed in a written Parliamentary Answer [1]. Dennis Turner MP, Chair of the Catering Committee was asked "what ethical and environmental policies are in place in respect of the purchasing of food by the Refreshment Department?" He replied that the committee "takes into account criteria such as the quality and wholesomeness of the produce available, food safety issues and consumer confidence." This includes "to avoid, where identifiable, the procurement of foods which contain genetically modified organisms"

Pete Riley, Food and Biotech Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: " MP's are voting with their stomachs. Genetically engineered foods are banned from Parliament, yet thet are being forced on the general public, despite the fact that opinion polls show that they don't want them. The Government should listen to the growing clamour and call a moratorium on the development of these controversial crops until it can be proven that they are safe. At the moment the Government of the people appears to be more concerned with the interests of the biotech industry rather than the people who elected them."

Date: Fri, 7 Aug 1998 10:46:51 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

If you have been having problems accessing some of the files on our website , it should be fixed now.



Here is an article forwarded by Martin Rickinger

Attention Owners of Birds! GE corn Stays in the Throat

Translation by M. Rickinger:
from the May/June 1998 issue of the German magazine Raum & Zeit.

The creator of papagais in Italy saw every time more of her birds dying with burst open heads. As it was a fairly rare race she created, she started inquiries to discover the cause. She found out that those birds that had received mixed food didn't swallow all the components; a part stayed in their throats and that made their heads burst open. What stayed back were grains of corn. More detailed research found that only GE corn stayed in the bird's throats. The birds preferred to die rather than swallowing the transgenic corn!

Date: Fri, 7 Aug 1998 10:46:51 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks for Wayne Skerritt for forwarding the following article, which summarizes the article that follows it:

Genetically Engineered Crops Breed Hardy Weeds

InfoBeat News Aug 7, 1998.

Genetically engineered crops spread their new genes to nearby weeds, and the resulting hybrid weeds are just as strong as wild weeds, researchers said Thursday. They said their studies dashed hopes that the nearby weeds would somehow inherit a weakness with the new gene, and perhaps die out. Plant biologist Allison Snow studied rape plants grown in Denmark. Snow's team crossed the rapeseed plant, with a weedy cousin, Brassica Rapa. Ecologists theorized when weeds crossbred with genetically engineered plants, they would be less healthy than normal weeds. However, Snow found just the opposite.

Date: Fri, 7 Aug 1998 10:46:51 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to: MichaelP for forwarding this

Genetic Crops Can Aid Superweeds, Claim Scientists

By Tim Radford, Science Editor Guardian (London) Friday August 7, 1998

Scientists last night confirmed the green campaigner's worst nightmare: genetically-engineered crops can lead to superweeds which shrug off weedkiller.

In a bid to tackle the problem of dealing with weeds using weedkiller which can also destroy crops, genetic engineering has been used to develop crops which can withstand one specific herbicide. In theory, with one spraying, farmers should have weed-free harvests.

But Dr Allison Snow of Ohio state university yesterday told the Ecological Society of America meeting in Baltimore that she and Danish scientists had discovered new evidence that the genes can also spread from crops to weeds - making them just as strong as their ordinary relatives.

The scientists had crossed a herbicide-resistant oilseed rape with a wild relative in laboratory conditions. The theory was that although the resulting weed would inherit the artificial gene, the weed would also produce fewer flowers, or seeds as a result.

But the only difference between the genetically-altered weed and ordinary weeds lay in the looks, and even that did not last. "By the third generation, the weeds that carried the gene for herbicide resistance looked exactly like normal weeds. The only way to tell them apart was to expose them to herbicide or test their DNA," she said.

The report is a gift for campaigners who want to halt the spread of genetically-altered crops in Europe. A number of field trials in Britain have been disrupted. A genetically-engineered maize produced by Novartis - altered to provide its own pesticide - has been shown to kill "useful" insects as well as crop pests.

The Ohio discovery is not the first to show that crop genes altered by humans can escape into the wild. Cultivated crop plants cannot compete with weeds: they need human help to eliminate the competition, or they perish. The thinking behind genetically-engineered resistance to one particular herbicide has been that the grower could eliminate all the weed competition in a field by spraying.

The calculation was that any accidental hybrids would inherit the vulnerabilities of the crop parent along with the artificial benefit. It proved wrong. The outcome was the worst of all worlds. The laboratory hybrids had all the aggressiveness of the weed parents with weedkiller-resistance built in.

Many crops - potatoes, for instance - do not have close relatives co-existing as weeds. Oilseed rape is a member of the brassica family, and wild weed brassicas often grow nearby, which would make it easy for genes to transfer with the pollen. Experiments last year showed that oilseed rape pollen can reach weeds more than a mile away.

"If farmers spray their crops with the same herbicide every year, the only weeds to survive will be the ones with the transgenes - and then the transgenes will spread even faster," Dr Snow said. "That's why the area of crop transgenes is so controversial."

Sue Mayer of Genewatch said: "We've been warning people about these risks and they have been ignored by the regulators. They have continued to license and encourage the development of these crops."

Zeneca, which is pioneering genetically-engineered crops in Britain, said such discoveries were no reason to stop the research. "But we do believe it is imperative that farmers continue to have a wide variety of chemical and mechanical methods available to control weeds."

** 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. **


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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