Genetically Manipulated Food News

2 September 98

Table of Contents

From Agent Orange to tampered genes: Monsanto's life cycle.
Research: UK College Refuses To Return Fungi
UK Issues Guidelines On Xenotransplant Trials
Vegetarian Society Symbol To Exclude Genetically Modified Food
Humans Risk Deadly Virus From Pig Organs
Greenpeace reveals Monsanto's uncontrolled field test in Eastern Europe
Expression of the human milk protein beta-casein in transgenic potato plants.
Latin America: Patents, A New Form Of Colonialism?
GM Foods Need Better Labelling
Genetic label 'con to trick customers'
Pigs Make Great Organ Donors, But ....

Back to Index


Date: Sun, 23 Aug 1998 19:13:11 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty) for posting this:

From Agent Orange to tampered genes: Monsanto's life cycle.

Alexander Garrett reports. The Observer (UK) 23rd August 98.

But the company is spending 1m to convince the British consumer it's green.

The high profile campaign to persuade people that genetically engineered is safe suffered a fresh setback last week with a decision by the Vegetarian Society not to endorse products containing such ingredients.

The decision will hit several products containing soya beans produced by Monsanto, the US company behind a 1m advertising campaign to win the hearts and minds of UK consumers.

Although the debate surrounding GM foods has been well aired, little is widely known - on this side of the Atlantic , at least - about Monsanto itself.

Monsanto is not the only company seeking to foist GM foods on the public, but it is by far the most aggressive. Based in St Louis, Missouri, it used to be big into chemicals. But it has been rapidly reinventing itself in the last few years as a 'life sciences' company, specialising in the fast growing business of biotechnology.

With sales of $10.7bn last year, and a market capitalisation of $22bn, it dwarfs the many tiny biotech start ups that are competing for a slice of this new market.

But it is a company which also has a number of skeletons in it's closet, including Agent Orange, the defolient used 30 years ago by the US Government to impose a scorched earth policy in Vietnam.

The lethal cocktail is blamed by thousands of veterans for a litany of health problems including cancers and birth defects in their children - and helps explain why Monsanto's efforts to paint itself as a grren company have met a credibility gap.

Monsanto's attempt to become the world's pre-eminent 'life sciences company' is the latest chapter in a corperate tale that began acorss the Atlantic at the turn of the century.

Founded in St Louis in 1901 by Edgar Queeny - and named after his wife, whose maiden name was Olga Mendez Monsanto - it's first product was saccharin, supplied eclusively to the youthful Coca - Cola company.

After the First World War, Monsanto moved into chemicals , first buying the Commercial Acid Company of Illinois, the the RA Grasser Chemical Works ar Ruabon in North Wales.

In the twenties it became an important producer of aspirin, and in the ensuing decades it mowed through a swathe of new products areas, including detergents, plastics, fibre products, machine controls and silicon wafers.

For the last decade, the name Monsanto has been mainly synonymous with two blockbuster products: the artificial sweetener Nutrasweet and the herbicide 'round up'.

Nutrasweet was acquired as part of the pharmacuetical company GD Searle in 1985; Round up is the most succesful product to come out of Monsanto's agriculture divison, started in 1960.

In the mid eighties, Monsanto's then president Richard Mahoney decided to turn it into a Life Sciences company. That meant focussing on three areas: food ingredients, medicine, and most importantly, agricultural products.

Mahoney started selling off everything that didn't fit into the strategy, culminating in the spin - off of the remaining chemicals business into a new company, Solutia, early last year.

Bob Sapiro took over as president in 1993, and started buying again with a vengeance. His target was seeds. Over the last 12 months he has paid $4 bn for two companies that were involved in creating new varieties, De Kalb Genetics and Delta Pine Land, then added another $1.4 bn for the international operations of leading producer Cargill.

That could have left Monsanto over extended, even vulnerable to a takeover. So Shapiro engineered a $33 bn merger with American Home Products, a drugs company that numbers slimming drugs and contaceptive devices among it's products. Unveiled in June, it was one of the largest deals in American corperate history. Finally in early July, it splashed out another 320 m to take over UK based Plant Breeding International from Unilever.

Dan Verakis, a Monsanto spokseman who has been drafted in from St Louis to help sort out it's image problem, says the PBI aquisition marks the end of it's buying spree. "We are now involved in the areas and crops we want to be in", he said.

Critics claim Monsanto already has a potential stranglehold on a large slice of the world's food production, particularly in grains such as soya, corn and wheat. They claim that its target is to own the genes that boost productivity, the distribution of seeds and the seeds themselves, which farmers are not allowed to re-sow without paying Monsanto.

Verakis rejects that analysis. "There are 1500 seed companies out there, and at the most the companies that we own, have less than 10 per cent of the global seed market", he said.

He outlines Monsanto's utopian vision: it believes that biotechnology is set to unleash three waves of products for the benefit of mankind.

The first consists of genetically modified crops which are resistant to insects and disease, or tolerant to herbicides. These will allow farmers to meet the growing demand for food from a population set to double in size over the next fifty years.

The second wave, due to begin in five years, will see genetically-induced, 'quality traits' in food such as high fibre maize, or high starch potatoes, some of which will help docters fight disease.

And in the third wave, plants will be used as 'environmental - friendly 'factories' to produce substances for human consumption.

It is a vision that many enviromentalists believe is deeply flawed, but has proved seductive to investors, who have boosted Monsanto's share price almost 600% in five years. That valuation depends heavily on Monsanto's ability to win the argument about genetically modified products.

It's current financial health is difficult to discern: the disposal of Solutia, new aquisitions and 'research' write offs of $415m, all skewed the figures last year, but Monsanto ended up making a profit of $294m on it's continuing operations in 1997, compared with $413 the previous year.

Things are about to become more muddled with the AHP merger, which will see the Monsanto name disappear and the dawning of a new company with control split between the managements of the two entities.

One thing is clear: Monsanto is not the sort of company to retire meekly when things get bloody. It has demonstrated it's stomach to fight on numerous occasions. In 1988, it withdrew union rights from it's UK workers, and a couple of years later, it fought back successfully when doubts were raised about Nutrasweet. It has also waged an aggressive campaign to promote it's milk boosting hormone, Bovine Somatropin, which has nevertheless been banned by the European Union until the end of next year. The UK Licence for that product has now been sold to another US drug giant, Eli Lilly.

In the next month or two, it is expected to unveil it's latest weapon in the propaganda war: an advertising campaign in which some 49 representatives of countries around the world exhort Europeans not to be selfish by resisting biotechnology. The line of the campaign is 'Let the harvest begin'.

Liz Hosken of the Gaia Foundation, a non governmental organisation that promotes bio-diversity in the Developing World, said "I see it as emotional blackmail'

Jim Thomas, a campaigner at Greenpeace, accusses Monsanto of 'irresponsibility - for producing a technology that is inherently uncontrollable and unnecessary'.

Monsanto portrays itself as a company whose green credentials are second to none, but Hosken fears it's approach will replicate many of the mistakes made in the so called 'green revolution' 30 years ago, when small farmers across the developing world got hooked on the products of the West's agrochemical industries, and then sank into debt.

Verakis says this is illogical. "We have a great self-interest in all this. The more farmers we put out of business, the more we would harm ourselves."


Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1998 15:45:59 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Research: UK College Refuses To Return Fungi

by Uamdao Noikorn, The Bangkok Post
http://www.bangkokpost.net front page of 21 August 1998
© Copyright The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 1998

University Insists It Has Full Ownership

A British university has refused to return 200 strains of marine fungi on loan from a Thai research agency.

Portsmouth University said the shipment was not recorded, the fungi cultures were part of its collection and it had the right to keep them.

The Biothai network of environmental groups has accused the university of biopiracy and insists the strains be sent back.

Nigel Hywel-Jones, head of mycology at the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Biotec), said the fungi, with potential as a cancer cure, were extracted from a trunk found in the Andaman Sea.

Prof Hywel-Jones said Gareth Jones, a former Biotec researcher and fungi expert who had worked at Portsmouth, sent the strains to England in 1993 because Biotec lacked appropriate storage facilities. No record of transfer was made. "It's common in the science community to transfer or exchange samples without record. It's based on trust."

Since 1995, when Biotec opened a lab with its own culture collection, it had repeatedly asked Portsmouth to return the strains. On Aug 10, a fax under the University of Portsmouth Enterprise Ltd letterhead to Prof Hywel-Jones confirmed its decision.

"The fungi in this collection were collected from a number of locations, including Thailand, by staff at this University acting on behalf of the University. Consequently, legal title and ownership of all of the collection resides with the University," it said.

Prof Hywel-Jones said he later learned that Portsmouth planned to sell the cultures to a drug company.

Vitoon Lianchamroon, an anti-biopiracy advocate, said there had been many cases in which local plants and organisms were exported and later patented by drug companies.

Mr Vitoon faulted Biotec for lax practice and said many international groups were more eager to protect Thai bioresources than Thai authorities themselves.


Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1998 15:45:59 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty) for posting the following 2 articles:

UK Issues Guidelines On Xenotransplant Trials

August 21, 1998

Marketletter via NewsEdge Corporation : The UK took a step toward giving the go-ahead for human clinical trials of xenotransplantation - the use of animal tissues in human transplant recipients - at the end of July, with the publication of a Guidance document by the Xenotransplantation Interim Regulatory Authority. The XIRA will take comments on the Guidance until November 6.

The new guidelines have been hailed as a strict but unobstructive attempt to build a regulatory framework for this new technology. Novartis subsidiary Imutran, one of the companies hoping to bring xenotransplantation into the commercial arena, described the development as "an important step forward. "

In January last year, the UK Department of Health issued an interim ban on clinical trials of animal tissue transplants on recommendations put forward by the Advisory Group on the Ethics of Xenotransplantation (Marketletter February 3, 1997). At that time, the report's main conclusion was that it is not currently acceptable to move to trials involving humans, "due to the lack of knowledge...concerning aspects of physiology, immunology and risk of infection."


Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1998 15:45:59 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Vegetarian Society Symbol To Exclude Genetically Modified Food

CONTACT: The Vegetarian Society press office, Tel: +44 (0)161 928 0793, August 24, 1998

M2 PRESSWIRE via NewsEdge Corporation : The Vegetarian Society (UK) has announced a new policy concerning genetically modified foods and the licensing of its symbol.

The new policy states that: 'Genetically Modified products or products containing Genetically Modified ingredients are not acceptable to The Vegetarian Society because the Society believes it is impossible to guarantee that such products are completely in accordance with the Society's vegetarian principles.'

The Vegetarian Society's symbol, the most trusted guarantee of vegetarian suitability, currently appears on over 2,000 food products. From 1st August 1999 all food products using the symbol will also be GMO free.

Food companies, using the symbol, will be invited to sign a contract specifying that all the ingredients used in the manufacture of the product are from a non-genetically modified source. The symbol's existing free-range egg criteria, which exceeds current EC standards, guarantees that approved products containing egg or egg albumen will use only free-range eggs. The criteria also ensure that the product has not been tested on animals.


Date: Sat, 29 Aug 1998 20:50:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty) for posting the following article

Humans Risk Deadly Virus From Pig Organs

August 28, 1998

LONDON, Reuters [WS] via NewsEdge Corporation : Pig organ transplants, while offering hope of an end to a worldwide organ shortage, carry the risk of infecting humans with new, possibly deadly viruses, Britain's Lancet medical journal said on Friday.

Pigs are reckoned to be the most practical species to use for transplants into humans, being the right size, easy to raise and until recently thought to be fairly free of pathogens that could threaten transplant recipients.

But British scientists last year found that a virus -- called porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV) -- whose genes are found scattered throughout a pig's genetic make-up is shed by pig kidney cells, and, in cell culture, can infect human cells.

"The discovery sparked fears that if pig organs were used for transplantation they could introduce new, possibly deadly disease-cutting viruses into the human population," the weekly journal said.

According to the Lancet, a German research group has now found that the PERV virus is produced by cells from pig aortas, livers, lungs and skin as well as from the kidneys. These are all tissues likely to be used for transplants.


Date: Sat, 29 Aug 1998 20:50:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Greenpeace reveals Monsanto's uncontrolled field test in Eastern Europe

August 26, 1998 http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng

M2 PRESSWIRE via NewsEdge Corporation : International rules needed to control the trade of transgenic crops

Greenpeace announced today the result of its investigation into an uncontrolled genetic field test of Monsanto in the Eastern European country of Georgia.

The report reveals how Monsanto used the lack of legislation in Georgia to test its transgenic potatoes using local farmers to grow the potatoes without informing them of the potential risks to biodiversity and their traditional farming methods. Greenpeace is urging the international community meeting at the UN Biosafety Protocol negotiations in Montreal, to agree on legally binding rules to control the proliferation of genetically engineered organisms.

"Monsanto sold Georgian farmers transgenic seed potatoes without telling them what it meant", said Greenpeace Russia campaign director Ivan Blokov in Moscow. "Monsanto took advantage of the lack of legislation in Georgia and applied double standards since none of the precautions required in the US have been implemented in Georgia. As a result, organic farmers in Georgia could lose their best pest control tool and their organic status."

Monsanto's transgenic "Naturemark" NewLeaf potatoes were imported to Georgia in 1996 under a seed potato project initiated by the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture received USD 350 000 from European Union Technical Assistance programme to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) to buy these transgenic potato seeds. Apparently, the EU had not been informed that the project involved transgenic crops.

The Monsanto potatoes turned out to be a financial disaster for the farmers. The yield was only one third to one half of that expected and as a result several farmers fell into debt. Greenpeace's investigation shows that the transgenic potatoes are now circulating in Georgia and in neighbouring countries, Russia and Azerbaijan.

"This investigation is a good illustration of the need for international rules to control genetic engineering activities, especially the transboundary movements of genetically engineered organisms", said Louise Gale of Greenpeace International currently attending the UN negotiations for a Biosafety Protocol in Montreal. "We have always known that the agro-chemical industry will not act responsibly to protect biodiversity and human health unless there are binding rules to make them to do so. Such rules must include a thorough environmental and health assessment based on the precautionary principle and indicate who will take responsibility if things go wrong."

Greenpeace is calling on Monsanto, the US, Georgia and the EU to immediately recall the transgenic potatoes circulating in Georgia and neighbouring regions, to compensate farmers for any losses they sustain from these transgenic potatoes and to set up a compensation fund in Georgia to restore any potential damage to the environment.

"Monsanto has shown a cynical attitude to exploiting the lack of rules in this newly independent state. The genetech industry is placing pressure on governments across the world to weaken the Biosafety Protocol so that they can continue this sort of wild-west approach.

Greenpeace is appealing to governments not to succumb to these pressures and to place protection of biodiversity, including human health, first and foremost in their positions in these negotiations."

Note to editors: The full report is available on the internet site http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng.

CONTACT:


Date: Sat, 29 Aug 1998 20:50:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Here is a summary by Dr. Joe Cummins jcummins@julian.uwo.ca >, Professor Emeritus of Genetics at the University of Western Ontario, of the following article.

The scientific article below shows that potaoes are being genetically engineered to contain mother's milk. --- Dr. Cummins

Expression of the human milk protein beta-casein in transgenic potato plants.

Author: Chong DK; Roberts W; Arakawa T; Illes K; Bagi G; Slattery CW; Langridge WH
Address: Center for Molecular Biology and Gene Therapy, School of Medicine
Loma Linda, CA, USA.
Source: Transgenic Res, 6(4):289-96 1997 Jul Abstract A 1177

bp cDNA fragment encoding the human milk protein beta-casein was introduced into Solanum tuberosum cells under control of the auxin-inducible, bidirectional mannopine synthase (mas1',2') promoters using Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated leaf disc transformation methods.

Antibiotic-resistant plants were regenerated and transformants selected based on luciferase activity carried by the expression vector containing the human beta-casein cDNA. The presence of human beta-casein cDNA in the plant genome was detected by PCR and DNA hybridization experiments. Human beta-casein mRNA was identified in leaf tissues of transgenic plants by RT-PCR analysis.

Human beta-casein was identified in auxin-induced leaf and tuber tissues of transformed potato plants by immunoprecipitation and immunoblot analysis. Human beta-casein produced in transgenic plants migrated in polyacrylamide gels as a single band with an approximate molecular mass of 30 kDa.

Immunoblot experiments identified approximately 0.01% of the total soluble protein of transgenic potato leaf tissue as beta-casein. The above experiments demonstrate the expression of human milk beta-casein as part of an edible food plant. These findings open the way for reconstitution of human milk in edible plants for replacement of bovine milk in baby foods for general improvement of infant nutrition, and for prevention of gastric and intestinal diseases in children.


Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 08:30:42 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty) for forwarding this:

Latin America: Patents, A New Form Of Colonialism?

© Copyright 1998, Inter Press Service, August 31, 1998

MONTEVIDEO - Inter Press Service via NewsEdge Corporation : Latin American farmers now buy seeds made in labs in the North from genetic material they donated in the 1970s, just as South American nations imported British goods manufactured from their wool and leather in the 19th century.

That trend has not just continued. It has taken on huge proportions. For example, more than half the known plant species in Brazil, one of the countries with the richest biodiversity in the world, have already been patented by large transnationals.

At the first Latin American and Caribbean Indigenous Seminar, held this year in Mexico, participants charged that several international laboratories have patented in Europe and the United States the medicinal properties of 5,000 of the 13,000 plants used in traditional indigenous medicine in the region.

It was not just that the transnational companies (TNCs) did not pay a cent for these rights. Some of them went even further, such as one which, during its field research, took blood samples from Mexico's Yaqui Indians to extract and synthesize an antigen that their bodies produce naturally.

Tropical America is still a land of promise, according to experts in genetic resources, who cites the case of Zea diplorernnis, a variety of corn that is resistant to four out of the seven known illnesses that affect the plant.

This plant was not found growing in the forest. Scientists found it in 1997 being cultivated on a two-hectare plot in Western Mexico's Manatlan Mountains by an indigenous family who had been producing it for generations, and using it along with common maize as food for their animals during the dry season.

The potential value of this corn species, from a genetic standpoint, is in the region of billions of dollars. ...

The Green Revolution, spearheaded after World War II by the United States and TNCs linked to agriculture, hinged on the improvement of soils and the intensive use of industrial seeds and pesticides in most parts of the world.

It was often the same companies that provided the seeds, the fertilizers and pesticides. This monopoly generated huge profits and enormous accumulation of capital. ...

The new production pattern, called agriculture and sustainable development -- the name is drawn from the environmentalist terminology now in vogue -- is based on the widespread, almost exclusive use of genetically manipulated seeds produced in the laboratories of TNCs.

Through patenting, these companies ensure that they will have a monopoly in global agricultural production.

Transgenetic -- genetically modified -- seeds can be immune to certain herbicides, resistant to drastic climate change, mature more rapidly or more slowly and produce vegetables that are bigger, smaller, or have different nutritional values than the original ones.

In order to make the huge investments required to produce these seeds, several major transnationals have been merging. According to Enildo Iglesias, regional secretary for Latin America of the United Food and Commercial Workers international union, "the big race now is between two U.S. companies: Monsanto and DuPont, both of which aim to create an oligopoly."

"In the past few months, DuPont has spent $4.8 billion buying out or buying into various big companies," he says. "At the same time, Monsanto has been doing the same thing in another part of the market and its investment have amounted to $5.2 billion."

In their book, "Stealing from Nature," Brazilian agronomists Sebastiao Pinheiro and Dioclecio Luz point out that "biotechnology is going through a moment in history in which humanity needs to reflect on its destiny."

"In no other circumstances have human beings had as much power as now, " add the two experts, who are advisors to various Brazilian environmental groups. "They have the power of God, not just those of a medicine man. They can create plants, animals, small and large beings, manipulate genes until something comes out."

Pinheiro and Luz say they wonder if it is ethical for "a few people to dominate the production of food on the planet and to own life.

"Do they have the right to create beings that are going to serve their interests? Can they go into a country, take over its biodiversity, extract the raw material and register it in their names?"

According to statistics by the International Council for Plant Genetic Resources (ICPGR), the 1974-1985 period saw the heaviest traffic in genetic resources, with developing nations donating 91 percent of the samples analyzed and industrialized countries 8.8 percent.

On the other hand, the industrialized countries received 42.3 percent of the donated germ plasm through the ICPGR, while the countries of the South received only 14.5 percent.

In an article in a book titled Biotechnology: After the Green Revolution, Canadian author Pat Mooney argues that by 1982 the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) would report that developing countries contributed some $500 million each year to the value of the U.S. wheat harvest.

According to Mooney, this means the real contribution made by developing countries is greatly undervalued. If all the important harvests in North America were included in the calculation, the contribution would be in the region of billions of dollars each year. Developing countries also make such contributions to Europe and Australia.

Their contribution is in the form of germ plasm, the genetic characteristics added to new crop varieties throughout the world. The North may be rich in grains, but the South is rich in genes, the expert says.

Mooney concludes that the South donated this genetic material believing that its botanical treasures would become part of the common inheritance of humanity, but the North has patented the products of this legacy and now sells its seeds throughout the world, making enormous profits.


Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 14:07:51 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to: MichaelP papadop@peak.org for distributing this

GM Foods Need Better Labelling

The Guardian Leader, Tuesday September 1, 1998

From today, European laws will insist that food manufacturers clearly label products containing genetically modified, or GM foods. This is an important step in boosting consumer confidence in these novel foods which may in time dominate global diets, and the Government should be credited for pushing the legislation through after years of weak proposals being tossed backwards and forwards in Brussels. Despite massive corporate PR campaigns and the blandishments of scientists that these foods pose no risk whatever, European consumers continue to resist for quite reasonable environmental, health, even religious reasons.

But the consumer should not feel reassured at the new GM labelling regime. It is a curate's egg, designed by European governments to not inconvenience the powerful food barons and landowners, while at the same time recognising that there is much public disquiet. As always in this political climate, it seems that corporate interests have triumphed and the consumer has been fobbed off.

The new labels will appear in minute type on very few products and most people will assume that food not labelled as containing GM foods will be GM-free. In fact, GM soya and maize, and GM lecithins, or thickeners, may already be used in more than 60 per cent of all processed or packaged foods, but these may escape the new labelling laws because the manufacturing process can render them unidentifiable.

Fairly or not, Britain is widely seen to be one of the Europe's least trustworthy food producers and barely a month passes without another scare or more grisly revelations about how our animals are treated or how our food is produced. It is small wonder that people are turning vegetarian or to organics. Genetically modified foods are only the latest step in the industrialisation of our food system and its monopolisation by the very few. They have been launched into Europe in haste and we must not repent them in leisure.

The Iceland foodstore chain, the Vegetarian Society, organic food producers and others are proving it is possible, with determination and at not a little cost, to create GM-free supply chains. There is no reason why the big four supermarket chains and food processors should not follow suit. They should at least be honest, step beyond the new rules and require full labelling until better scientific testing is devised. Nothing else will reassure the battered and confused consumer, or more restore worldwide confidence in Britain's tarnished food reputation.


Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 14:07:51 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Genetic label 'con to trick customers'

EU measures exempt foods containing soya oil

By Sarah Hall, The Guardian (london), Tuesday September 1, 1998

New measures forcing food manufacturers to label genetically modified ingredients come into force today amid fears they are a "con" to trick consumers.

A European Union directive requires companies to show if genetically modified (GM) soya and maize are used in their food stuffs. But the regulation exempts foods which contain soya oil or other soya derivatives, such as the thickening agent lecithin - which account for up to 90 per cent of soya products.

Environmental and consumer rights campaigners attacked the loophole, which could mean most processed foods contain undisclosed GM derivatives in the future.

More than 60 per cent of processed foods contain soya - from sausage skins to hypo-allergenic milk, bread to chocolate, diet to baby foods - and more than half the soya in British products is expected to be genetically modified within two years.

The Friends of the Earth food campaigner, Adrian Bebb, said: "Shoppers are being conned by politicians into believing that this labelling will help them avoid genetically altered food. It won't.

"The majority of foods containing soya are in forms which are not covered by this directive, they won't be labelled and so the consumer will still not know if they contain genetically modified ingredients."

He added: "The Government have said only 1,400 products will be labelled but there are thousands on supermarket shelves, so you can see this will have little effect. It's being claimed as a great victory for consumers when clearly it's not."

Jim Thomas, genetics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, called for a ban on all GM food, and said: "This is just going to confuse the consumer. People have said they want clear labelling on genetically modified products but with this regulation they are not going to get that."

Julie Sheppard, of the Consumers' Association, added: "Consumers will still be in the dark about whether or not many foods they are eating contain genetically modified ingredients. And there is the risk they will wrongly infer unlabelled foods do not contain products from genetically modified sources."

The loophole exists since the directive stipulates labelling is only required when protein or DNA from the genetically modified ingredient can be detected in the finished product. Because of the way in which they are processed, soya oils, fats and lecithins are not picked up by current testing methods.

The Department of Health said such ingredients were so highly refined, they were no longer deemed to be genetically modified. Such products had been cleared by the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes, an independent body of scientific advisors, as being safe.

"The bottom line is, if something has genetically modified soya or maize in it it's going to have to be labelled," said a spokeswoman.

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **


Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 14:07:51 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

This following article is about the hazards of pigs that have been genetically engineered with human genes so that the organs of the pigs can be used for human transplants

Thanks to : jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty) for forwarding this:

Pigs Make Great Organ Donors, But ....

© Copyright 1998, American Health Consultants, September 1, 1998

Can porcine viruses infect human graft recipients? Evidence goes two ways

BioWorld via NewsEdge Corporation : Transplant surgeons have great expectations that the common pig (Sus scrofa) can become an organ donor for human recipients.

They point out that hogs are the right size, easy to raise, grow quickly to maturity and are free of infectious disease pathogens compared to subhuman primates, such as baboons. With upwards of 60,000 people on waiting lists for donor organs in the U.S. alone, porcine xenotransplantation could provide a virtually unlimited supply of graft organs, tissues and cells, to alleviate the cruel shortage of human material.

But, in recent years, a large, dark cloud has appeared on this bright horizon. Virologists now warn that these prospective porcine donors harbor retroviruses that may be able to infect graft recipients, and possibly spread through the human population, like a replay of HIV. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 18, 1997, p. 1.)

This week's Lancet, dated Aug. 29, 1998, carries a cautionary paper in its "Early Reports" section titled, "Expression of pig endogenous retrovirus [PERV] by primary porcine endothelial cells and infection of human cells."

Using sophisticated in vitro detection methods, first author Ulrich Martin and his co-authors found that pigs pose "a serious risk of retrovirus transfer after xenotransplantation." The German group is at the Leibniz Research Laboratories for Biotechnology and Artificial Organs, at Hannover Medical School, in Hannover, Germany.

In three breeds of pig, from 12 sites in Denmark, Russia, Germany and France, they detected PERV in every sample of skin, liver, lung and aortic endothelial cells. Co-cultivation of the aortic cells with human embryonic kidney cells "led to productive infection of the human cells and expression of PERV," they wrote.

Counterbalancing this somber heads-up warning were two other "Early Reports" in the same Lancet, describing in vivo human experience with porcine cells. "No evidence of infection with porcine endogenous retrovirus in recipients of porcine islet-cell xenografts," one article reported.

At Sweden's Karolinska Institute, in Stockholm, between 1990 and 1993, 10 patients with late-stage insulin-dependent diabetes received 400 million to 2 billion insulin-secreting islets of Langerhans from fetal pig tissue. In five of these subjects, the xenografts survived and functioned for up to a year.

That paper's first author is virologist Walid Heneine at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), HIV and Retrovirology Branch. A co- author is medical epidemiologist Louisa Chapman, project leader of the CDC's working group on porcine xenotransplantation.

She told BioWorld Today that, although the five Swedish subjects also received immunosuppressive treatment to prevent graft rejection, they "were unable to detect markers of PERV infection in any patient."

Another HIV-Like Pandemic?

Chapman explained that PERV "goes into part of its target cell's DNA. Every mammalian species harbors such endogenous retroviruses. They remain dormant in infected cells until activated to become exogenous retroviruses. The concern over PERV is that if it becomes exogenous - like HIV - rather than endogenous, it might spread as a new infectious agent in the population. "

It was this potential hazard that led the FDA last year to put a hold on all clinical trials of porcine donor organs, tissues and cells. "But it's not a global moratorium," Chapman pointed out. "Rather, [it's] a trial-by-trial hold. It imposes three requirements. Planners of a human study must develop or identify a PERV assay, undertake prospective monitoring of recipients, and test all other people exposed to the virus."

Diacrin Inc., of Charlestown, Mass., has four clinical trials of xenotransplanted porcine cells under way. The company's CEO, molecular biologist Thomas Fraser, said, "We have one Phase I trial of fetal pig cells transplanted into 12 Parkinson's disease patients, which is nearing completion. A second Phase II/III study [into Parkinson's disease] is still blinded."

A separate Phase I study is treating patients with Huntington's disease. The company is conducting these three trials in collaboration with Genzyme Tissue Repair, of Cambridge, Mass., a subsidiary of Genzyme Corp., also of Cambridge. On its own, Diacrin has a Phase I trial ongoing to treat epileptic patients with fetal porcine GABA- secreting cells.

"We have tested all our clinical-trial patients," Fraser concluded, "and found no evidence of PERV or any unknown pathogens."

Chapman observed that "whole-organ pig grafts are, ironically, years away. They still require a lot of preclinical work. In the short run, porcine cell preparations are more promising."

A different donor strategy consists of perfusing the blood of patients with kidney or liver failure through living porcine organs. Two such patients are reported in the third Lancet paper. Its title tells the story: "No evidence of pig DNA or retroviral infection in patients with short-term extracorporeal connection to pig kidneys."

Its first author, virologist Clive Patience, at the Institute of Cancer Research, in London, surmised that "the absence of porcine cells in the circulation of both patients, even in samples taken as early as six hours after the perfusion, suggests that any porcine cells dislodged from the kidney became rapidly sequestered from the circulation."

However, he concluded, "These negative findings on just two patients must be interpreted with caution."

Preconditions For PERV Hazard To Come True

British virologist Jonathan Stoye postulated that "for xenotransplanted PERVs to pose a public-health threat, a chain of seven events is required. " Infectious, human-targeted retroviruses must exist; they must occur in the germ line of pigs used for xenotransplantation; they must be expressed in transplanted cells, tissues or organs; they must infect the recipient; they must replicate and spread; they must result in disease; and they must be transmitted to others.

In a commentary accompanying the three Lancet reports, Stoye observed that there is now "substantial evidence [from the German paper] for the first three events in this chain." But he cited the diabetes and kidney dialysis reports as questioning whether infection of human beings exposed to porcine cells will inevitably follow.

"Some unpublished studies involving other examples of exposure to pig tissues seem to be reaching the conclusion that PERVs will not show very high levels of transmission," Stoye told BioWorld Today. He foresees that companies in the U.K. that have such studies ongoing "will report by year's end on 200 to 250 recipients exposed to porcine tissues."

British health authorities, like FDA, have no global moratorium on xenotransplantation in place, but require case-by-case consideration. "So far," Stoye said, "we haven't had any applications." * <>


Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596 email: rwolfson@concentric.net

Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering as well as previous genetic engineering news items Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 for 12 months See website for details.

Back to Index