Genetically Manipulated Food News

12 September 98

Table of Contents

Field Testing Dangerous Genetically Engineered Crops in Scotland
Is the Royal Society helping GE?
GE Lectins in Crops: why do They Threaten Humans and the Environment?
New Trait Surfaces in Altered Plant
New Study Backs Up Biotech Fears
Call For Moratorium On Xenotransplants
Clinton leant on Blair to allow modified foods
Insurance Companies Fear Because Of Genetic Engineering
British Schools Cut Out Genetically Modified Foods
Prince Charles Enters Genetic Engineering Debate
AAAS Scientists Warn of Biotech Risks
rBGH Report Suppressed
Mississippi Farmers Receive $1.9 million for Biotech Crop Losses.
Seventy-Five percent of the British Oppose Biotech Crops
Video: Hazards Of Bovine Growth Hormone (bgh) In Milk
GE - Of the top 100 economies 51 are multinational companies, the rest are countries.
School's ban on genetic food.
Food Key To Democrats' Environment Policy

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Date: Thu, 20 Aug 1998 23:40:41 -0400
From: Prof. Joe Cummins

Field Testing Dangerous Genetically Engineered Crops in Scotland

Prof. Joe Cummins e-mail August 20, 1998

The incident at the Rowett Instituite in Scotland has quieted down. Dr. Pusztai has been sacked and disgraced. The goons from Monsanto are threatening slap suits right and left. An experiment was reported in which lectins added to potatoes caused immune damage and stunting in rats. The potatoes grown in the field in which lectins were produced by the genes of the plants then fed to rats had not yet been analyzed.

Dr. Putztai has been accused of a major misrepresentation. However, it is very clear that the genetically engineered potatoes are expected to behave like crops to which lectins have been added and thus poison animals that browse on the experimental potato crop. Furthermore, the lectin genes from the experimental plot have undoubtedly spread to potato crops in the vicinity of the test plot and as well to wild plants.

There is little doubt that both wildlife and humans will be poisoned by the spread of genes form the field test. Why was the field test of such dangerous crops allowed? How many more such dangerous experiments have been allowed or even promoted in Scotland and throughout Great britain? Why isnít the process for permitting field tests being investigated and those responsible being sacked?

Turning to the results of the rat tests on potatoes genetically engineered with lectins, such results should reflect the concept of substantial equivalence the principle guiding approval of genetically engineered crops. That principle is that genetically engineered crops are equivalent in nutrition and behavior to crops that have not been genetically engineered.

Thus lectin added to crop should be identical lectin produced by crop genes. If genetically engineered crops with lectin are harmless to animals then the concept of substantial equivalence is not valid and all the crops approved based on that principle will have to be recalled, Monsanto will face a staggering disaster. It is easy to see why that company is bullying everyone in sight.

The main point to this communication is to point out that dangerous field tests were undertaken while the system for evaluating such tests has broken down. The impact on wildlife and humans from such tests may spread all over Britain. Equally dangerous tests are being undertaken in Canada and the United States with tacit approval from governments who have lost interest in the wellbeing of their citizens.

Date: Sun, 23 Aug 1998 11:10:56 -0400
From: Prof. Joe Cummins

Is the Royal Society helping GE?

Prof. Joe Cummins e-mail

On Aug. 21 Jim Mcnulty contributed his usually valuable article on genetic engineering.

An article from the Farmers Guardian UK included unusually unctuous comments from the President of the Royal Society :"Concern that the 'premature release and misinterpretation of unsubstantiation research' into genetically modified organisms could only mislead the public has been voiced by Sir Arron King, president of the Royal Society. He was commenting on potato work at the Rowett Institute In Aberdeen.

Sir Aaron seems to be obfuscating the most fundamental concern of the Rowett experiments. That concern is the field testing of potatoes containing poisonous lectins.

Clearly the field tests injured browsing animals and spread dangerous lectin genes to potato crops and wild plants in Scotland. Speaking for the Royal society he seems to be steering the public away from threatening lapses in judgment of those regulating and conducting field tests on genetically engineered organisms.

"His comments have followed recent intense publicity surrounding the work conducted by the Rowett Research Institute into the safety of GM potatoes. "

"GMO research is a rapidly developing and controversial field in which rational debate based on rigorously reviewed data is essential if we are to realize the full potential of this technology," said Sir Aaron.

Sir Aaron doesn't mean the wrongness of the field tests, he means,I believe, Dr. Pusztai's effort to alert the public about the dangers of the experiment on potato.

The Royal Society should be made aware of the need for rational regulation of field tests and consumption of genetically engineered crops.

Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 23:52:58 -0400 From: Prof. Joe Cummins
Organization: University of Western Ontario

GE Lectins in Crops: why do They Threaten Humans and the Environment?

Prof. Joe Cummins e-mail:

Recently a research institute in Aberdeen Scotland tested genetically engineered potatoes containing genes for plant lectins and potatoes mixed with pure lectins . To no ones surprise the lectins stunted the growth of test animals and disrupted their immune systems. Based on the principle of substantial equivalence , the argument used by government and industry to market genetically engineered crops that have not been tested, the lectins in the genetically engineered crops are equivalent to those added to the crops that cause damage to the immune system.

US patent 5,276,269 by Natasha Raikel and Michigan State University (1994) patented using cDNA genes for lectins in crop plants to provide resistance to insects and to fungi. Field tests or release of such genetically engineered crops poses a serious threat to humans and to the environment.

Lectins are proteins that bind to specific sugar residues such as the sugars of the glycoproteins that interact with cell membrane and signal control information that controls cell growth and development. Since the 1880ís plant extracts from certain (frequently toxic to human) plants can aggultinate blood cells. Such lectins were used to discriminate between types of red blood cells beginning in the 1940ís. Some plant lectins can trigger cell division in white blood cells creating an impact like leukemia.

One lectin now used in genetic engineering (Con A) has been used for many years in providing mitotic figures in blood cell culture to be used in chromosome analysis. Lectins frequently disrupt the human immune system but they have been used to treat human cancers. Lectins are not only present in plants but also appear in viruses, bacteria, yeast, fungi and invertebrate animals Natural antibodies to plant lectins are observed in humans , these have been called anti-dietary antibodies. The role of lectins in plants and microbes is not entirely worked out.

The powerful plant lectins seem to be a product of plant-animal warfare. Throughout evolution plants have devised thorns, thick coats or toxic chemicals to limit animal predation. For example, potatoes exposed to the sun and turned green contain a powerful alkaloid poison called solanum, that is capable of killing people who graze on them. The lectins appear to be a defense against grazing animals including people. Many plant lectins thwart fungi and insects, but also poison people and farm animals as well, very much like the chemical pesticides they are replacing.

If lectins have been around and eaten by people as long as they have existed and by animals for millions of years, why is their use in genetic engineering particularly threatening? The answer is in the quantity of lectin being introduced into the plant, to gain control of the pests, a super supply of lectin is produced in leaves and other tissues of the plant. Researchers, at the agricultural institute in Aberdeen acknowledged that the lectins were expected to be toxic to animals.

Field tests and releases of genetically engineered crops are dangerous because the engineered lectin genes may spread through pollen to nearby crops and to weedy relatives. The lectin containing plants have a competitive advantage in resisting insect and fungal predation. Lectin may be inactivated on cooking but sometimes this is not sufficient.

The impact of crops with lectin and weeds on the ecology of a region will be very severe. Insects, invertebrates, birds and mammals will suffer and some will disappear. People who eat unlabelled agricultural products including bread, pasta , vegetables and even fruit will suffer severe and unexplained maladies.

Like most genetic engineering products lectin was developed with little regard for human and environmental risk. It is almost as if testing was downplayed to limit financial liability (what you donít know canít be sued). The issue of lectin toxicity has been obfuscated and ignored in the Aberdeen incident and deftly focused on an aging researcher. The president of the Royal Society, Aaron Klug, took the opportunity to promote biotechnology while denigrating those who recognize the risks.

What can be done? We first must locate the areas where crops with genetically engineered lectins have been or are to be field tested. We must be aware of when and where final approval of such crops for commercial release are being evaluated (after the Aberdeen incident lectins are likely to be called by their individual laboratory designations while the term lectin is struck from reports). The burden of learning is just fiendishly difficult for those who get entrapped in the bureaucratic maze of genetic engineering.

Date: Fri, 4 Sep 1998 20:33:18 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to (jim mcnulty) for forwarding this:

New Trait Surfaces in Altered Plant

Associated Press, Associated Press Writer, Sept 3, 1998

Heightening environmentalists' fears about the dangers of genetic engineering, a weed that was altered by scientists to resist a herbicide also developed far greater ability to pollinate other plants and pass its traits on.

The findings raise the possibility of the emergence of "superweeds" impervious to weedkillers.

The weed's enhanced ability to pollinate other plants was an unintended consequence of experiments with Arabidopsis thaliana, a species commonly used in genetic research.

Joy Bergelson, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, said the findings show that genetic engineering can substantially increase the chances of "transgene escape," or the spread of certain traits from one plant to another.

Her study was published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. ...

Ms. Bergelson compared the fertilization rate of plants that were mutated to make them resistant to the herbicide chlorsulphuron, and plants that were genetically altered for the same trait.

The genetically altered plants were able to fertilize other plants at a rate 20 times greater than that of the mutants.

Why this was so is not clear. Ms. Bergelson speculated that the pollen from the genetically altered plants might have a longer lifespan than normal pollen or have some other competitive advantage.

Date: Fri, 4 Sep 1998 20:33:18 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

New Study Backs Up Biotech Fears

September 4, 1998

WASHINGTON - Inter Press Service via NewsEdge Corporation : A just published scientific study bolsters worldwide fears that biologically engineered organisms will have an adverse affect on other species and the environment.

The report, released yesterday in the scientific journal Nature, says species of genetically altered plants examined in field tests showed a dramatically increased ability to reproduce sexually and spread their modified genes to non-modified plants.

This new finding strengthens the fears of many small farmers, scientists and environmentalists worldwide who claimed that the modified or added genes of biologically engineered organisms might "escape" into other related crops or weeds through sexual reproduction or cross-pollination.

"This is a big deal," says Jane Rissler, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based advocacy group. "This study confirms one of the largest fears of what genetically modified plants can do. The flow of genes from biologically engineered species to wild species could change the genetic diversity and processes of whole ecosystems."

Chemical and agribusiness corporations have developed a new generation of transgenic or biologically engineered crops that contain genetic traits from other plants, viruses, bacteria, and animals. These new plants are designed to perform in ways that could never have been achieved by scientists working with classical breeding techniques.

Scientists, for example, have inserted "antifreeze" protein genes from flounders into the genetic code of tomatoes to protect the fruit from frost damage. U.S.-based Monsanto has altered soyabeans to withstand the herbicides the chemical company manufactures. And, chicken genes have been inserted into potatoes to increase disease resistance.

In the new study published by Nature, Joy Bergelson and other scientists at the University of Chicago in the state of Illinois say that, normally, the risk of a gene spreading to other plants is low if the plants self-fertilize. Yet, after several field tests, Bergelson and colleagues report that a genetically engineered plant that was modified to be resistant to the herbicide chlorsulphuron is unusually promiscuous.

Normally this plant, a weed known scientifically as Arabidopsis thaliana, would self-fertilize and cross-pollinate. But after its genes were modified, it was 20 times more likely to pollinate with other thaliana plants that were not genetically modified, or wild.

Therefore, the researchers say, the study shows that wild thaliana are more likely to be fertilized by the pollen of biologically altered thaliana rather than self-reproduce.

"Although A. thaliana is unlikely to become a (sexually reproductive plant), these results show that genetic engineering can substantially increase the probability of transgene escape, even in a species considered to be almost completely self- pollinating," says the study.

While the researchers do not know why the plant has become more fertile after being biologically engineered, they say their findings may have serious consequences since "this (biologically altered) gene has been introduced into dozens of agricultural crops."

Researchers, farmers and environmentalists are concerned that transgenic genes for herbicide tolerance, and pest and disease resistance might escape and through cross-pollination, insert themselves into weedy relatives or other crops. This would dramatically alter the balance in ecosystems by creating weeds or crops that are resistant to herbicides, pests and viruses, says Rissler.

Scientists, for example, have transferred to Indian rice the gene of a naturally occurring bacteria, called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, which acts as a pesticide. Biologists that study bugs worry that this new Bt rice which is pollinated by wind, might spread to wild grasses that are close relatives. This would lead to pest resistance of the weeds and increase the likelihood of creating bugs super resistant to pesticides.

The implications of the Nature study have also caused alarm among those concerned about a new biologically engineering technique that would enable seed companies to switch a plant's reproductive processes on and off. This means that if farmers attempted to replant the harvested seed, it would be sterile.

Mississippi-based Delta and Pine Land -- the largest cotton seed corporation in the United States -- which was recently bought out by the chemical giant Monsanto, has come under strong criticism for its new technology by farmer organizations in developing countries. They fear that since many farmers who rely on keeping seeds from a previous harvest for the next season will suffer the consequences of this new technology even if they do not buy the modified seed.

"Pollen from crops carrying the new trait will infect the fields of farmers who either reject or can't afford the technology," says Neth Dano, director of the Philippines-based SEARICE, an organization that workers with farmers in South-east Asia. "When farmers reach into their bins to sow seed the following season they could discover -- too late -- that some of their seed is sterile."

This new seed technology is hardly an isolated case say, farmer organizations. Zeneca BioSciences, a British corporation, just applied for patents in 58 countries for its new chemical that works together with a biologically engineered crop to activate or halt genes crucial to normal plant development.

Farm organizations in developing countries charge that this new invention renders it impossible to save protected seed from growing season to growing season. Findings from the new study published in Nature rekindle indicate that this genetic trait might spread easily to other crops through sexual reproduction.

"Farmers could find that their neighbor bought the technology and it cross-pollinated into their field, leaving them with dead seeds," says Monica Opole, the Kenya-based coordinator for the Community Biodiversity Development and Conservation Program.

"Who knows how this technology will interact with nature, especially as it spreads out over time and inevitably crosses with farmers' varieties."

Date: Fri, 4 Sep 1998 20:33:18 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to Prof. Joe Cummins e-mail: for forwarding this:

Call For Moratorium On Xenotransplants

by Fritz H. Bach Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA, e-mail:
Correspondence, Nature 391, 326; 1998
Nature © Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1998 Registered No. 785998 England.


The Asilomar moratorium on applications of recombinant DNA research, agreed to by molecular biologists in 1974, marked a turning point in the approach of biologists to their responsibilities to the public in developing a technology with unpredictable consequences.

That the worst-case scenarios envisaged at the time did not materialize in no way detracts from the merit of the caution taken. Today, we are once again faced with a similarly perplexing quandary.

Xenotransplantation, the transplantation of animal organs, tissues and cells, promises substantial benefits in the long term 1,2 yet also creates a risk that infectious agents from the donor animal might jump the species barrier to man, not just infecting transplant recipients but also spreading to the general population . We believe that a decision on whether to proceed at present with clinical trials of xenotransplantation should not be left to the traditional technical-based approaches that regulatory agencies use to evaluate new medical technologies.

Given the potential risk to the public, the issue is first and foremost an ethical one. Before introducing a regulatory framework driven by technical considerations, an informed public debate is needed so that the public can decide whether it wishes to consent to clinical xenotransplantation at all and, if so, under what conditions.

Until such a review is completed in the United States, we advocate a moratorium on all forms of clinical xenotransplantation, a recommendation discussed more fully elsewhere 4. At the same time, fundamental research in xenotransplantation should be actively supported, given that it promises not only to advance our understanding of the immune and vascular systems, but also to fill some of the many gaps in our understanding of the problems, benefits and risks of potential clinical application of this technology.

Fritz H. Bach Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA e-mail:

Harvey V. Fineberg Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA e-mail:


  1. Bach, F. H. et al. Nature Med. 3, 944-948 (1997).
  2. Isacson, O. & Breakefield, X. O. Nature Med. 3, 964-969 (1997).
  3. Patience, C., Takeuchi, Y. & Weiss, R. A. Nature Med. 3, 282-286 (1997).
  4. Bach, F. H et al. Nature Med. 4, 142-145 (1998).

Date: Tue, 8 Sep 1998 14:01:02 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to (jim mcnulty) for forwarding this:

Clinton leant on Blair to allow modified foods

The Independent - London Sun, Sept 6, 1998
© Copyright 1998 Newspaper Publishing PLC

BILL CLINTON has personally intervened with Tony Blair to stop Britain from halting the controversial production of genetically engineered foods.

The US President telephoned the Prime Minister during the summer to try to persuade him that genetically modified (GM) crops - worth millions of pounds to the US economy - would not be bad for Britain.

The two leaders also discussed the matter during Mr Clinton's visit to Number 10 in May, Foreign Office officials have confirmed.

Sources close to the Government say that the US President is pressing Blair to support commercial production of GM crops in Britain despite growing consumer opposition.

Consumer and environmental groups including English Nature, the Government's official wildlife adviser, want the Government to introduce a moratorium on growing such crops commercially in the UK for at least three years.

France and Austria have temporarily banned the growth of GM food until more is known about its effects on the environment.

Clinton's intervention has outraged MPs and environmentalists. They accuse the US President of intruding in a sensitive domestic matter.

"It is quite wrong for the British Prime Minister to be conspiring behind the back of the British public about American business interests," said Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat environment spokesman.

The Clinton administration has close links with [ Monsanto ] , the powerful biotechnology conglomerate which develops the seeds for GM crops.

Monsanto, which made a profit of almost $300m (pounds 177m) in 1997, is one of five companies spearheading Clinton's welfare to work programme, and the President singled out the biotech company for praise during his State of the Nation address last year.

During the 1996 election, Monsanto was among those donating thousands of dollars in "soft money" (legal funds which are not included in the ban on corporate donations) to the Clinton camp.

MPs say Clinton's move is resonant of Tony Blair's telephone intervention earlier this year on behalf of media baron Rupert Murdoch. The Prime Minister sparked political outrage when he spoke to Italian premier Romano Prodi about Murdoch's bid to buy Mediaset, an Italian television company.

The first commercial GM crop, oil seed rape, is set to be sown in Britain next year, following Government approval. Hundreds of acres of trial crops have already been planted throughout the UK.

Date: Wed, 9 Sep 1998 16:36:13 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to Alfred Pfeiffer for translating from German and forwarding the following article. This article appeared in Switzerland on the 6th of September 98 in the newspaper, SonntagsZeitung!

Insurance Companies Fear Because Of Genetic Engineering

by written by Peter Knechtli

The Swiss reinsurance company Rueck rings alarm in a study

Zurich - Never before it was expressed so clearly as by the Swiss reinsurance company Rueck: The risks of genetic engineering cannot be insured anymore with traditional means.

The simple brochure is playfully illustrated with Japanese Folded-Art Photos, the title (Gentechnology and Liability Insurance) is in small print and cool, but the content of the article is dynamite: A few month after the Genprotection Initiative the Swiss insurance company Rueck rings alarm on paper.

The tone: The potential risks of genetic engineering can not be covered with classical liability insurance models: "No, whatsoever high insurance coverage is capable to reduce the potential risk of genetic engineering.

The focal point of the rigorous analysis are the pharmaceutical, agricultural, and food companies, which are applying unproportionally genetic technologies without in most cases being insured themselves against likely Genetic-damages. Therefore the Swiss Rueck not only on a global level intends to alert the primary level of the insured, but also the second level, industry and society, said author Thomas Epprecht in the SonntagsZeitung.

The main danger of genetic technologies for insurance companies according to the opinion of the Swiss Rueck insurance company lies in the fact that political and legislative rules may change suddenly, the so called "Changerisk".

Positive thinking towards genetic engineering may collapse suddenly.

The public opinion worldwide is an unpredictable factor. Gentechnology in the area of medicine is more easily accepted than in the area connected with food, even though "the few Gentechnology damages that occurred until now ", occurred in the area of medicine. The tendency for a pragmatic handling of Gentechnology may already collapse with the occurrence of a minute instance of damage.

The dangers as undertakers to which insurance companies feel exposed to due to the Gentechnology is hidden in many different areas:

Allergic reactions to transgenetic foodingredients are "possible in principal" and could in the form of lawsuits by the inflicted "grow worldwide to a insurance-relevant size". It cannot be the task of the insurance-buisiness to satisfy lawsuit claims, which are the result of a change in social valuing: "This risk is to be attributed to the undertakers risk of the producer."

The change of trend of obligation of proof in the European legislation moves from causing, to being the actual causal reason. The report states about this: "In case potential claimants are not obliged to bring the proof of a guilty negligence then one has to assume that claims for damages will grow out of hand.

The transmission of transgenetic animal organs to humans in the context of xenotransplantation could -"unless medicine and research were not already aware of this danger" - cause a serial damage for the insurances, "which could not only upset completely (cause the collapse of) the whole healthinsurance system".

The Rueck report without any make-up states that the profile of risks of genetic engineering is "highly rich in facets and hardly anticipatable. A "direct answer" how the risks of today"s genetic engineering should be insured is "not possible today".

That the insurance systems with the large risks of Gentechnologies is finding itself in suspension, is also confirmed by Giovanni Pelloni, a lawyer of Winterthur International. The problem is that the insurance fees are calculated respectively on the basis of experiential values, which is not possible in the area of new biotechnology"s. The legal development of liability is also an uncertainty: "Nobody knows which direction it will take.

In future companies must be held liable for risks.

Pelloni has this touchy report lying on his desk unread. But the Winterthur lawyer says that "alerting of the primarily insured equally is not necessary", also the insurances knew "exactly what this is about".

Only a indicative answer is found in the report about how these large risks could be financed. Author Epprecht only believes that the companies should also "carry part of the riskprofile of Gentechnologies: "We don"t want a higher price in general, but the right one.

What is mentioned in the brochure in a neutral way as "alternative risk financing", can practically only mean: The riskafflicted companies will have to pay more in future. The subject in the debates initiated by Rueck are also innovative financing models in which the risk becomes the subject of investment. These mixed products of bank and insurance solutions are so highly complex that even the experts that were asked for a detailed explanation by the SonntagsZeitung were not able to do this.

"An investor is playing roulette", is the expressive description of a liability insider of the possible financing of high risks in the future. Investors invest in risk obligations. In case no damage occurs the profit grows, in case there is a gentechnological damage, it will also be a disaster for the investors.

Swiss Reinsurance Company was established over 130 years ago and is one of the ten largest companies quoted on the Swiss stock exchange. Swiss Re is the partner insurers turn to when the risks are beyond their reach. With an annual premium volume of approximately CHF 13 billion, Swiss Re is the world's second largest reinsurance company.

Swiss Reinsurance Company
Mythenquai 50/60, P.O. Box, CH-8022 Zurich
Tel. 0041 1 285 21 21, Fax 0041 1 285 29 99

Date: Wed, 9 Sep 1998 16:40:29 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD

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

British Schools Cut Out Genetically Modified Foods

In the last few months, over 1,300 UK schools in five council areas (Kent, Sandwell borough council, Essex, and Durham county councils, and Lewisham borough in London) in UK have removed genetically engineered foods from their menus. Two other councils, with several hundreds more schools, are expected to join them soon. The move, which originated at Kent County Council, stems from the concerns of caterers that food for schools should meet "the highest standards of safety."

Date: Wed, 9 Sep 1998 16:40:29 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Prince Charles Enters Genetic Engineering Debate

In early June, the Prince of Wales was quoted in many articles appeared across Europe and in North America, speaking about the hazards of genetically engineered foods.

In The Daily Telegraph (UK), Prince Charles said: "We simply do not know the long-term consequences for human health and the wider environment of releasing plants bred in this way... The lesson of BSE and other entirely man-made disasters on the road to 'cheap food' is surely that it is the unforeseen consequences which present the greatest cause for concern. Even the best science cannot predict the unpredictable."

Date: Wed, 9 Sep 1998 16:40:29 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

AAAS Scientists Warn of Biotech Risks

Scientists at an American Association for the Advancement of Science forum in Washington, DC in May warned of the potential risks of agricultural genetic engineering. "I've come to believe that the potential power of genetic engineering dwarfs that of nuclear power," said Liebe Cavalieri, Professor of Environmental Science at State University of New York at Purchase. Dr. Cavalieri said that society "shouldn't be carried away with fantasies" promised by biotechnology promoters.

Dr. Margaret Mellon, Director of Agriculture & Biotechnology for the Union of Concerned Scientists, cautioned that agricultural biotechnology is "not a miracle technology. It's had lots of mistakes. It's an expensive technology that's problematic." She added that there are "alternatives to biotechnology for feeding the world and achieving a truly sustainable agriculture, which are worthy goals, but the hype of biotechnology is obscuring the path."

Date: Wed, 9 Sep 1998 16:40:29 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

rBGH Report Suppressed

The Canadian National Farmers Union and consumer groups are requesting access to a recent report written by Health Canada scientists on the safety of genetically-engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH). The hormone, which is not yet approved in Canada, is injected into dairy cows to increase milk production. The National Farmers Union claims that the report is being suppressed by Health Canada because of the potential hazards of rBGH described in the report.

Link Between rBGH and Cancer Grows

An article on May 9 in the Lancet showed that the rate of breast cancer is up to seven times higher in women with a relatively small increase in blood levels of the growth hormone Insulin-like Growth Factor I (IGF-1). Elevated IGF-1 levels have also been correlated with other major cancers, particularly colon and prostate. The January 1996 issue of the International Journal of Health Services reported that IGF-1 concentrations are up to 10 times higher in rBGH milk. As IGF-1 can be absorbed through the intestine, scientists are concerned that drinking rBGH milk could increase the risk of cancer.

Date: Wed, 9 Sep 1998 16:40:29 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Mississippi Farmers Receive $1.9 million for Biotech Crop Losses.

Monsanto Company, Delta and Pine Land Company, and Paymaster Technology Company were forced through legal proceedings to pay more than $1.9 million to three Mississippi cotton farmers who planted Roundup Ready cotton seed, that was defective due to unforeseen side-effects. The farmers lost millions of dollars because the bolls from the genetically engineered cotton were deformed or fell off the plants. While 55 Mississippi farmers filed complaints, most of the cases were settled privately.

Date: Wed, 9 Sep 1998 16:40:29 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Seventy-Five percent of the British Oppose Biotech Crops

A poll commissioned by GeneWatch, an independent organization that monitors genetic engineering developments, showed that

The Toronto Star recently invited Canadians to express their views on genetic engineering. 98% of respondents wanted genetically engineered foods to be labelled.

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

Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 12:40:14 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Video: Hazards Of Bovine Growth Hormone (bgh) In Milk

a video documentary that was censored because of industry pressure (BGH is injected into dairy cows to increase milk production)

Video Showing

Monday Sept. 14, 7:30 - 8:30 pm*
Ottawa Public Library Auditorium, Laurier at Metcalfe Free Admission

Introduced by Elizabeth May, Executive-Director, Sierra Club of Canada

Origin of this Video

Fox TV in Florida pulled this documentary from the air because of pressure from the manufacturers of BGH. The investigative reporters who produced the documentary say that they were ordered by Fox TV to omit crucial information on the hazards of BGH and offered $200,000 in hush money.

When they refused, the reporters were fired. Their half-hour video is public record in their court case against Fox TV. For more information, see their website:

What is BGH ?

Genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (BGH) is injected into cows to increase milk production. BGH is approved for use in the USA, but not in Canada yet.

Scientists at Health Canada have filed a grievance that they are being pressured to approve BGH even though its long-term safety for human health has not been established. There are major health concerns, including links to cancer..

Sponsored by Ottawa Public Working Group on Food Concerns, the Sierra Club of Canada, the Council of Canadians, and the National Farmers Union. For more information, call Brad Duplisea at the Sierra Club 613-241-4611

Date: Sat, 12 Sep 1998 11:56:50 -0400 (EDT)
From: Richard Wolfson

This first appeared in the October edition of BBC Tomorrow's World Magazine. Danny

GE - Of the top 100 economies 51 are multinational companies, the rest are countries.

By Danny Penman, BBC Tomorrow's World Magazine

First, some figures. Of the top 100 economies 51 are multinational companies, the rest are countries. The international trade in bulk foodstuffs such as soya, corn and wheat is controlled by just seven multinationals.

In the space of three years, genetically modified foods have come from nowhere to representing thirty per cent of all the soya grown in the USA and over a quarter of the maize. Much of these crops are grown from seeds produced by just one biotechnology company, Monsanto.

Monsanto now controls ten per cent of the global seed supply and its share is growing rapidly. Now Monsanto is on the verge of winning an even bigger prize - it's buying the company that jointly holds the patent on the hugely controversial "Terminator Technology". He who holds the Terminator patent could gain unprecedented control over global agriculture.

Terminator Technology allows crops to be copyrighted by tricking them into producing infertile seeds. Farmers planting these crops, in other words, will not be able to save seeds from their own crop but will be forced to buy new stock from their dealers every year. Saving seeds is the bedrock of peasant agriculture and one which costs Western multinationals billions in "lost" profits every year.

Terminator Technology, or the Technology Protection System as it's officially known, is as ingenious as it's controversial. Terminator positive crops are produced by inserting an array of genes which renders the crop infertile unless it's sprayed with a specific and secret chemical. This chemical turns off a "blocker" switch which controls fertility. Turn the switch off by spraying it with the chemical and the plant breeds normally. Leave the switch on and the plant is infertile. This allows seed companies to produce fertile seeds for sale whereas peasant farmers, lacking the technology, can produce only infertile seeds, forcing them to return to the dealer for next year's supply.

"Terminator Technology hits those least able to defend themselves," says George Monbiot, a land rights' campaigner. "Many farmers in the developing world just scrape through year by year. If they have to buy new seeds every year then this could push them over the precipice. Because most staple foods are produced by small farmers this will grossly undermine food security in the developing world. This is not something the genetic engineers promised us. "

George Monbiot says that Terminator positive crops will be tailored for the bigger more intensive farms. The small farmers, says Monbiot, will just have to "tag along as best they can".

"Companies like Cargill, which has a joint venture with Monsanto, have an effective monopoly in many parts of the Third World. So farmers will have little choice about growing these crops because they'll be the only seeds available. This will lessen food security and increase hunger across the developing world."

This argument cuts little ice with the biotech industry. Far from harming third world farmers, they say, Terminator Technology will actually help them by encouraging seed companies to breed better crops tailored for developing countries. At present, says Dr Melvin Oliver, lead inventor of Terminator Technology, Western seed companies not only fail to tailor crops for the Third World but actively conspire to keep their best seed lines out of developing countries. This ensures that peasant farmers are forever on the edge of starvation. Seed companies do this because many peasant farmers buy seeds only once and then save seeds from their crops in perpetuity.

"Only when seed companies can be sure of a decent return on their investment," says Dr Oliver, "will they begin selling crops specifically tailored for the Third World." "We thought through all these concerns before we invented the technology. None of us would do anything detrimental to society. We genuinely hope to help farmers drag themselves out of subsistence farming and allow them to produce surpluses which they can then sell and make themselves a little wealthier."

It's not only the ethics of Terminator Technology that's worrying campaigners; some geneticists are concerned that it could also wreck the environment or even induce a range of debilitating diseases, including cancer, in people. They are worried that terminator technology in particular, and genetically modified foods in general, impose new, unknown and unquantifiable risks on people and the planet.

Dr Mae-Wan Ho, a geneticist from the Open University, says: "The problem with Terminator Technology and with a lot of the techniques used by genetic engineers is that virus-like agents are used to get the new genes into the plants in the first place. These agents could spread to bacteria and then to people. We already know that virus genes can spread to mice if they eat food containing those genes. These virus genes can then end up in white blood cells and in the cells of the liver and spleen. I see no reason why this couldn't happen in people too.

"There are all kinds of uncertainties associated with this technology and it troubles me deeply. I'm especially concerned about the Terminator Technology because it works by scrambling genes. It's like randomly splicing heavy metal music into a Mozart symphony. It starts out as a balanced and coherent whole but when you scramble it you end up with a completely unknown end product. This can cause cancer."

Genetic engineering is generally a hit and miss affair. The genes may be inserted the wrong way round or multiple copies may be scattered throughout a plant's genome. They may be inserted inside other genes - destroying their activity or massively increasing it. More worryingly, a plant's genetic make-up may become unstable - again with unpredictable results. Genes may switch on or off unexpectedly with possible knock-on, unexpected or unknowable effects. Genes can hop around the genome for no obvious rhyme or reason. Rogue toxins may be produced or existing ones amplified massively. Such problems may only arise hundreds of generations after the crop's are originally modified.

Dr Oliver dismisses these worries: "This technology won't cause cancer. It's impossible. In the case of our Technology Protection System [Terminator Technology] we are using a ribonuclease which means when its switched on it attacks the RNA not the DNA where the genetic information is stored. It does not affect the genome at all. It cannot have any cancer causing effect. In addition, there's absolutely no evidence that bacteria will pick up plant genes. It does not happen because it has no evolutionary advantage. But even if it did happen, the chances of any gene even getting inside the body's cells are so remote that it just does not happen."

Biotechnology companies claim that there will be numerous advantages to genetically modified foods. Agriculture could in principle become more sustainable with a reduction in the need for fertilisers and pesticides. Crops could be engineered to make their own fertiliser or to fight off pests and disease. Yields could be boosted and entirely new multipurpose crops produced. Fuels and plastics could be grown rather than extracted from increasingly rare fossil fuels. Plants could be engineered to produce new drugs and vaccines or even to clean-up toxic or contaminated land.

The reaches of agriculture could also be extended with, for example, crops being engineered for greater tolerance to arid or salty conditions. It may also be possible to grow crops beyond the Arctic circle. All these advances, claim the biotech companies, could be used to feed a burgeoning global population and to fuel an increasingly industrialised world.

Environmentalists, however, tend to worry about the two main categories of risk posed by genetically modified crops. The first - but probably least likely - are the potential health risks posed directly by the new foods. These could range from triggering allergies through to the full scale poisoning of the population. Poisoning could result from the creation of entirely new toxins or the unexpected build-up of existing ones.

The second main area of risk is the unintended creation of new weeds, pests or diseases, which could wreck the environment. "Super weeds" could arise if existing weeds pick up herbicide resistance from engineered crops through cross-pollination. New pests and diseases could be created if existing bacterial or viral pathogens pick up new or useful genes from modified plants or animals. Entirely new viruses could also be created by chance.

The biotechnology industry dismisses these concerns as alarmist. They say that their new crops and foods pose no greater risk than the stuff we've been growing and eating for thousands of years.

So just how risky are they?

"We just don't know," says Dr Ian Taylor of Greenpeace. "That's the fundamental problem with this technology.

"Genetic engineering crosses a fundamental threshold in the human manipulation of the planet - changing the nature of life itself. Because genetic engineering deals with living organisms, which can reproduce, any mistakes cannot be reversed."

"In addition," he says: "Certain risks are statistically small but the consequences, if things go wrong, are catastrophic. But one thing is certain, the Government and policy makers often have the wrong mind-set for assessing risks.

"They believe that these sorts of risks can be managed and contained. But there's a whole category of risks which cannot be managed. The BSE fiasco shows this clearly. You cannot just release these things into the environment and hope for the best." Colin Merritt, of Monsanto, says that the rigorous screening performed before the crops are released into the environment ensures that they are safe. The screening, he claims, will identify all known risk factors.

"What it comes down to is this: do you cease to approve all new technologies until every last thing that you could conceivably imagine as a risk has been evaluated to the Nth degree? Or, do you press on when you have sufficient information to make a rational decision?

"I have never known risk evaluation procedures like those concerning genetically modified crops. I am confident that they are safe."

One example of the possible dangers, highlighted by Greenpeace, may already have killed 36 people and disabled thousands of others.

The deaths were linked to contaminated batches of tryptophan, an essential amino acid used in food supplements, produced by the Japanese company Showa Denko.

These batches were presumed to contain an unknown and undetectable toxin produced either by a new strain of genetically engineered bacteria or introduced during a newly modified production process. Investigators were unable to find out exactly how the toxin was produced; partly because the factory burnt down before the they could complete their work.

Interestingly, the deadly batches of tryptophan would have sailed through Europe's food safety legislation. These allow a genetically modified food to pass easily through the screening procedures if it is "substantially equivalent" to an existing variety. It would only be when people began dropping like flies that the problem would become apparent.

Dr Taylor says: "In these situations it's helpful to take a step back and ask 'Who benefits?' Is it society. Is it the environment? The only ones who will benefit from this technology is a small group of very large companies."

Hotlinks Monsanto's GE web site:

Greenpeace's home page (follow the genetic engineering link):

Further Reading: "Genetic Engineering: Dream or Nightmare - The Brave New World of Bad Science and Big Business" By Dr Mae-Wan Ho.

Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 23:02:32 +0000
thanks to (jim mcnulty) for posting this:

School's ban on genetic food.

Exclusive John Ingham Enviroment Correspodent, The Express (UK). Wed September 9, 98

Schools across the country are banning genetically modified foods from their canteens in a dramatic vote of no confidence in the new agricultural revolution.

Councils from North Tyneside to Southampton have ordered suppliers of school meals to shun the new foods. The latest to take action is Stockport Council in Cheshire which has banned GM foods from 120 schools because of 'health concerns'.

It is also planning to ban GM foods from staff canteens and meals on wheels for the elderly.

The move follows a House of Commons ban genetically modified foods from the canteens, restaurants, bars and kioks that feed the nations MP's. Details of the councils' stance emerged as a top government adviser cast fresh doubt on the claim that genetically modified crops posed no threat to the enviroment.

GM crops are created in the laboratory by adding genes from species with which they cannot naturally breed to give the properties - such as pest resistance.

Professor Alan Gray, of the Institute of Teresstrial Ecology in Dorset, said it was difficult to be sure if the new genes that were being put into plants were safe. He told the annual British Association Festival of Science at Cardiff that defects from in GM plants could have been overlooked and ignored because the plants died before they could be examined.

Professor Gray, who is a member of Acre - the Advisory Committee on Releases into the Enviroment. - also backed enviromentalists' fears that herbicide resistant or virus proof GM crops could breed with their wild relatives and create 'superweeds'.

His comments came just weeks after the government's own advisers, English Nature, called for a moratorium on the introduction of commercial GM crops.

At Stockport Council, the councillorwho proposed the move against GM foods in schools and staff canteens said that she hoped it would force the Biotech industry to reassure the public.

Councillor Ann Walker said: "These products are finding their way into all areas of the food chain without clear labelling, We don't want to be alarmist but it is our responsibility to respond to health concerns."

"If big customers like local authorities give a lead to this matter, then this may eventually work it's way back to the USA through market forces and make the American government and their big food producers think again.

Liberal Democrat leader Fred Ridley said the jury was still out on GM foods with concerns with parents and public alike.

But yesterday food giant Monsanto which is at the cutting edge of the revolution in genetically modified crops, criticised the councils for their bans and dismissed fears that the plants were a threat to the enviroment.

A spokesperson for the company said all it had produced had been throughly "to maturity".

He said "The decisions of these councils are very regrett. Today's products have been proven to reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals in food production and they have passed a very strict regulatory process designed to prove them safe."

Local authorites whcih have banned known GM foods from their schools include Kent, Surrey and Oxfordshire, North Tyneside, Southampton and Lodon's Lambeth. A North Tyneside spokesperson said "We carry out regular spot checks to ensure they are not used."

Several other councils have effectively banned the new foods without formally introducing a an anti-gmo policy by asking sub-contractors not to use or supply them.

These include Dorset and Nottinhamshire County Council says it's suppliers have a policy of not using gm foods, while Leicstershire says it's supplier does not use the foods in school dinners and has no plns to do so.

In London, Lewisham asks contractors to avoid GM foods where they can identify them, while Torbay in Devon wants labelling to be improved and for children to be given more information about the foods being served.

Perhaps the most radical policy is being persued by Somerset Council which plans to give all of it's 68,000, primary, middle and secondary school pupils a choice over genetically modified food - just as they were with beef following the BSE crisis. It means children as young as four will decide whether to eat meals with geneticaly modified ingredients.

Council spokesman Roger Smith said "WE are not saying it is dangerous - and we are not saying it is dangerous. But while there are question marks we feel the way forward is to give people a choice.

Date: Sat, 12 Sep 1998 11:56:50 -0400 (EDT)
From: Richard Wolfson

Food Key To Democrats' Environment Policy

By By Valkerie Mangnall

ADELAIDE, Sept 9 AAP - Genetically engineered food would be clearly labelled and store owners would pay a two cent levy for every plastic bag they used under the Australian Democrats' environment policy launched today. The Democrats also vowed to push for a referendum on constitutional changes to force parliament to take the environment into account when making laws, and a 10 per cent tax on woodchip exports.

And in their policy, welcomed by green groups, they called for all existing uranium mines to be closed and a ban on development of any new uranium mines. On the issue of genetically engineered food, Democrats Deputy Leader Natasha Stott Despoja said people had the right to know what was put in foods for ethical, religious and health reasons.

"We're not happy with the government's work on this issue so far, they've failed to ensure that there's a mandatory code or mandatory labelling or some kind of minimum standard to ensure that consumer rights are protected," Senator Stott Despoja said. "We're not suggesting that this should be banned, what we're saying is it's just about effective consumer protection and the right to know for all Australians."

Democrats Leader Meg Lees dismissed suggestions the anti- uranium measures would increase dependence on fossil fuels, saying wind power was economical and money currently spent on uranium could be used for solar power research. "Looking around the world now people have learnt the lesson about uranium, surely we don't need another Chernobyl to know that this material should be left in the ground," Senator Lees said. Other policy measures include:

The Australian Conservation Foundation, Humane Society International, World Wide Fund for Nature and Friends of the Earth all welcomed the policy, describing it as a benchmark for other parties.

Representative of the Mirrar people, who are opposed to the Jabiluka uranium mine, Jacqui Katona, also welcomed the policy. "We've seen here today the Democrats releasing a policy which is really absolutely logical and takes into consideration steps that have been taken everywhere around the world," Ms Katona said.

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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