Genetically Manipulated Food News

1 October 98

Table of Contents

Canada: News Cover-up Pushed To Approve Drug
Genetically Modified Soybeans Controversy ...
ACTION ALERT: Designer Babies
Questions And Answers On Lectins
AHP merger US Grains urges email on Japan biotech label plan
Monsanto's GM Soyabean hit by worst ever outbreak of fungus
Support for Dr. Shiv Chopra ("Gag Order")
Canada: Report on Grievance Hearings ("gag order")
Addendum to recent news about BGH controversy in Canada
Judge Blocks Monsanto Genetically Modified Soya.
Companies must not be allowed to steamroller GE Food
Calls For A Ban On Use Of GM Organisms.
Scientific Paper on Bt and Refuge
Aid Agencies Say Biotechnology Won't End Hunger
BGH Controversy Continues in Canada
Printers pulp Monsanto edition of Ecologist
The devil we don't know
Monsanto finalises Control of Terminator Technology

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Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1998 08:08:26 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Canada: News Cover-up Pushed To Approve Drug

The Globe and Mail

ANNE McILROY Parliamentary Bureau 09/17/98 The federal Health Department has concealed evidence about the dangers of a genetically engineered hormone that boosts milk production in cows, environmentalists and scientists charged yesterday. The Health Canada scientists told an internal labour board they were being pushed to approve the bovine-growth-hormone despite their concerns that it wasn't safe.

The six scientists said they had been ordered by their superiors not to speak publicly on the issue.

The controversial hormone, manufactured by Monsanto, was approved in the United States in 1993, but is still prohibited in Europe and Canada.

In another development yesterday, the Sierra Club of Canada released government documents it says suggest far more research is needed before Canadian farmers are allowed to inject their cows with the hormone.

The documents show that the U.S. study that led to the approval of the hormone in that country actually found that 30 per cent of the rats given the drug reacted with increased levels of antibodies, and some had lesions and cysts in their thyroid glands, says Sierra Club executive director Elizabeth May.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stated that there had been no negative effects in a study of the hormone in rats, Ms. May told reporters yesterday.

"What it shows is that you need an awful lot more studies to be able to say that, on the basis of a feeding study for rats, there is no problems for humans. . . . Yet we are now on the brink of approving bovine-growth-hormone." The documents released yesterday were obtained under an Access to Information request by Barbara Robson, a researcher for Progressive Conservative Senator Mira Spivak. The Senate's agriculture committee is investigating the safety of the bovine-growth-hormone for humans and animals, and had asked Health Canada to provide the scientific evidence it is considering.

But Ms. Robson said yesterday the department provided the committee with a version of the scientific record that blocked out the potentially troubling results. It was only her personal request that netted the information the politicians had been seeking, she said.

"What I think is appalling is the Senate was denied this information," Ms. Robson said in an interview.

It is not the first time the Health Protection Branch has been criticized for secrecy or for putting the interests of drug companies before those of Canadians. The branch played a key role in the tainted-blood tragedy of the 1980s.

The bovine-growth-hormone is controversial, in part, because it is a genetically engineered drug, produced by inserting a bovine gene into the genetic code of a common strain of bacteria. In 1993, the U.S. FDA announced that the drug had been thoroughly evaluated and was safe, and that no special labels would be required on milk produced by cows that had been injected with it.

The technology has been criticized by public-interest groups and some scientists who warn it could increase udder infections in cows and lead to the increased use of antibiotics, which could end up in the milk produced by these animals.

The six Health Canada scientists have been told they will be disciplined if they speak to the media, said Blair Stannard, vice-president of their union. They are Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon, Chris Basudde, Rajinder Sharma, Gerard Lambert and Arrost Villim.

"There is politician and financial pressure to approve the drug despite the concerns of the scientists involved," Mr. Stannard said.

But Robert Joubert, Health Canada's director general of human resources, said yesterday the complaints have led the department to set up two expert panels -- one of doctors and one of veterinarians -- to examine the evidence. They are expected to report by the end of October, said Joel Weiner, a senior Health Protection Branch official.

"It is hard for me to understand why anybody can say we concealed evidence if in fact: A) We have a review that is still ongoing, and B) We have turned to both the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association to ask them to use their expertise to assess whether or not we've looked at all the science."

Yesterday, Ray Mowling, the vice-president of Monsanto Canada, said the company "stands behind our science," but didn't want to discuss the results of the study done on rats. He wouldn't speculate about when the drug might be approved.

Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1998 08:08:26 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Genetically Modified Soybeans Controversy ...

By Patrick Knight, FWN Brazilian Correspondent Sao Paulo-Sept. 17-FWN--

THE BRAZILIAN INSTITUTE FOR Consumer Defense has obtained a court injunction prohibiting the import into Brazil of genetically modified soybeans produced by the Monsanto company. The injunction, granted on the grounds that such beans are "potentially threatening to the health of the consumer and require a detailed study of their impact on the environment," may be contested by Monsanto. The injunction comes on the eve of a meeting of Brazil's National Technical Commission for Bio-security, the CTBio.

The group was expected to give the green light for the production of genetically modified beans in Brazil, and do away with the need for products containing them to bear a label to that effect.

The CTBio examined the question of risk to health of genetically modified beans in September of last year, officials say, and permitted the import of the beans, so long as their effect was monitored. However, the Institute for Consumer Defense, which is also backed by Greenpeace, thinks a long-term study of the impact of the beans on the environment needs to be carried out. The Institute believes the public has a right to know that it is buying products containing genetically modified raw material. As well as genetically modified beans developed by Monsanto, the CTBio has allowed the import or use of genetically modified soybeans and corn developed by Cargill, Novartis, Braskalb and Pioneer.

The Brazilian Agricultural Research Company, Embrapa, says genetically modified beans are biochemically identical to orginal beans, and to keep up with what it sees as inevitable developments, the government-run Embrapa is developing its own varieties of genetically modified soybeans.

Date: Sat, 19 Sep 1998 12:47:26 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Here is a message from: Phil Bereano from the Council for Responsible Genetics who is also professor at Professor at the University of Washington

ACTION ALERT: Designer Babies

From the Council for Responsible Genetics September 18, 1998

* * * Say No To Designer Children!! * * *

On September 24-25, a federal government advisory committee will consider proposals from a scientist who wants to insert new genes into a fetus. The geneticist seeking approval for this radical experiment, Dr. French Anderson of the University of Southern California, has acknowledged to Newsday (8-30-98) that "the likelihood is high that at least some of the germ line cells will be affected."

Scientists refer to this process as germ line manipulation because it involves genetic engineering of the human germ cells -- eggs and sperm -- which carry genetic material passed on to future generations.

This is it. This is how it begins. Of all the issues arising from genetic engineering, the threat of germ line manipulation is perhaps the most ominous. The Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG) strongly opposes any attempt to change future generations through genetic engineering. As CRG board member and developmental biologist Stuart Newman has said, "We must not accept a mindset that would subject human beings to manufacturing technologies and eventually lead to designer children."

Of course the two proposals submitted to the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) of the National Institutes of Health do not have germ line manipulation as their stated goal. NIH guidelines prohibit the RAC from entertaining proposals involving germ line manipulation. Only proposals involving somatic cell modifications are considered. Somatic cells are the cells of the body. When a genetic engineer changes the cells of the body, the effects of these changes is limited to that individual. Modifications of the germ cells, on the other hand, are passed on to future generations. Germ line modification, while commonly performed on other animals, has never been attempted in humans because the ethical consequences are so severe.

Dr. Anderson has submitted pre-proposals describing two experiments involving in utero somatic cell modification of a fetus, ostensibly to treat two inherited diseases, ADA-deficient SCID and alpha-thalassemia. But at that stage of fetal development, the inserted genes may result in "inadvertent gene transfer to the germ-line," to quote Dr. Anderson.

We know Dr. Anderson is quite eager to see if it works. He was a key speaker at a California symposium last March that amounted to the kickoff of a concerted campaign to make germ line manipulation acceptable to the public, step by step. In books and speeches this group of scientists has made it clear that they favor a future in which the human race would be "improved" through genetic engineering. We knew it was only a matter of time, and now here we are on the threshold of the Brave New World envisioned by Aldous Huxley earlier this century.

In addition to the ethical questions raised by the proposals, there are significant safety issues regarding the mother and the fetus. No one can predict the full effect that gene modification will have, but it certainly takes us farther down the slippery slope to eugenics. If this first proposal is accepted, how much longer will it be before difference becomes defect, and any child who doesn't measure up to some arbitrary standard of health, behavior or physique is seen as flawed? Do we want a future in which babies are produced according to genetic recipes?

Furthermore, Dr. Anderson's method is simply not needed, as parents concerned about passing on a gene mutation to their children have a number of safe alternatives, including carrier screening, prenatal testing and adoption.

This matter is of the utmost importance. We ask that you fax or e-mail a letter to the RAC, urging them to reject Dr. Anderson's proposals. Your letter must be received BEFORE WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, in order to be considered at the September 24-25 meeting. Letters in your own words are best, but if you are pressed for time, feel free to borrow wording from this action alert.

Send your letter to: Debra W. Knorr, Acting Director Office of Recombinant DNA Activities National Institutes of Health, MSC 7010 6000 Executive Boulevard, Suite 302 Bethesda, MD 20892-7010 Phone: 1-301-496-9838 Fax: 1-301-496-9839 E-mail:

RAC meetings are open to the public. The September 24-25 meeting will be held at the National Institutes of Health, Building 31C, 6th Floor, Conference Room 10, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892, from 9:00 to 5:00 both days. If you wish to attend the meeting and register your objections in person, you will need to arrive early to get a seat.

Make sure your voice is heard on this crucial issue! Council for Responsible Genetics 5 Upland Road, Suite 3, Cambridge, MA 02140 USA (617) 868-0870


Philip L. Bereano
Professor, Department of Technical Communication
University of Washington, 14 Loew Hall, Box 352195, Seattle, WA 98195-2195

ph: (206) 543-9037 fx: (206) 543-8858 e-mail:

Date: Sat, 19 Sep 1998 12:47:40 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

The lectin contoversy began a few weeks ago when a researcher in UK reported damage to rats who had been fed lectins. As potatoes are being genetically engineered with lectins to deter insects, the public was concerned. However, the researcher in UK who reported the findings was fired as his superiors say his findings were not conclusive, etc.


Questions And Answers On Lectins

by Dr. Joe Cummins Professor Emeritus of Genetic as University of Western Ontario.

The recent publicity surrounding the experiments with lectins in potatoes may have left the impression that such experiments are very new and the field tests an isolated incident. The information publicly available from patents and filed test notifications show that a number of toxic lexins have been field tested in a number of species during the past seven years. The subject is both new and intimidating to those who have not been involved in it.

Frankly, I believe that the field tests have not relied on precise information on injury to people and animals but instead has gone ahead risking all. The lectin experiments show that humans and wildlife are treated as experimental organisms by corporations and government regulators. The question and answer format below may help others to appreciate the threat of lectin experiments.

  1. What are lectins? Lectins are proteins that bind to sugars or blocks of sugars on sugar containing proteins (glycoproteins). The glycoproteins tend to be associated with cell membranes and are involved in organizing cells in a tissue or with communications between cells in, for example, the immune system or brain. Lectins have been used for over a hundred years to identify blood cells and to trigger cell division in white blood cells. Lectins are isolated from higher plants, fungi, bacteria, and animals from invertebrates to mammals

  2. Why are lectin genes used to resist insect and fungal disease? In plants lectins are believed to be defense proteins, they defend plants against virus, bacteria, fungi, invertebrates and herbivorous animals including humans(W.Peumans and E. van Damme, Histochem.J. 27, 253-71,1995).

  3. If lectins are natural and in crops why is their use in genetic engineering threatening? Lectins are present in most crop plants but in poisonous plants their levels are high and some poisonous lectins resist inactivation in the guts of birds and mammals making them potent poisons for mammals and birds.

    The genetically engineered lectins are activated in the plants by genetically engineered cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) promoters alowing the lectins to reach highly toxin levels in the crops. The engineered lectins are present at high levels allowing elimination of browsing pests including (perhaps) people.

  4. Are some lectins poisonous to insects but not mammals? Patent holders for some lectin genes claim the gene products poison insect but leave browsing mammals unharmed. Some lectin gene products are very poisonous to mammals causing immune dysfunction and growth stunting. It is claimed such toxic lectins resist stomach acids and digestive enzymes, while nice lectins kill insects which have neutral to very alkaline stomach conditions but are harmless to mammals which have acid guts and digestive enzymes that require acidity. People on antacid, ulcer medication or who drink milk (that buffers acidity with their meals ) will probably suffer the side effects of poisoned insects.

  5. Did the patents and field trials for lectin gene require testing to insure that the lectins patented or tested were not toxic to humans and wildlife? The patents did not require evidence about the toxicity of lectins but at least one application included speculation that the patented lectin(snowdrop lectin) was not toxic to mammals or birds.

    Field tests should have addressed the threat to humans and wildlife but appear to have taken the topic at all seriously. There does not appear to be published literature showing that some lectins are not toxic to mammals and birds. In most instances the lectins are toxic to mammals and vertebrates.

  6. Have crops genetically engineered with lectins been field tested? ICGEB Biosafety webpages reports that in UK pea lectin was tested in potato by Nickerson Seed 1991,1993,and1994,mannose specific lectin was tested in potato by Axis Genetics in Herfodshire 1995.

    In the USA wheat lectin was tested in Maize by Pioneer,1991: snowdrop lectin was tested in Maize by Ceba-Giegy 1994,snowdrop lectin was tested in potato was tested by Mich State U ,1994: barley lectin, rubber tree lectin and stinging nettle lectin were all tested in walnut by U Cal Davis,1995; snowdrop lectin was tested in sunflower by VanderHave,1996 ,finally, snowdrop lectin was field tested in grape by U Cal/Kearney.

  7. Have lectin genes been patented? USPatent 5,407,454 patents lectin genes from jacalin, camel'’ foot tree, codium fragile, Griffonia simplicfolia, elderberry, Phytollaca ammericana, osage orange, wheat germ, and fifty other plant species. USPatent 5,276,269 patented barley lectin. USPatent 5,604,121 patents soybean lectin and uses a phloem specific promoter. US patent 5,545, 820 was for snowdrop lectin.

    Patent EP-A-0351924 was for pea lectin. Patent EP-A-0427529 used various plant lectins as gene inserts or as purified proteins applied to plants to kill insects. This is probably not a complete list but it is the most I can find.

  8. Are lectins safer to non-target organisms (including human) than chemical pesticides? Lectins are not safer than chemical pesticides and their greatest threat is that foolish officials and cold blooded companies will claim that lectins are harmless to humans and wildlife.

  9. Are field tests with lectins safe? Field test with lectins are unsafe and should not have been allowed until full knowledge of the toxicity to non-target organisms including beneficial insects is clearly established. There is one report of lectin killing of ladybug beetles in potato.

  10. Have lectin genes spread to crops and weeds from the test plots to produce poison crops and super weeds? Most of the tests with lectin genes that have been done were done with potatoes. Potato pollen has been reported to drift up to a kilometer from a test site. Sunflower, grape and maize may pollinate crops while sunflower and grape have wild relatives. Weeds with elevated lectins would spread rapidly by resisting disease and damage wildlife who feed on them. The walnut experiment seems stupid because many lectins were loaded onto a tree, however, it takes many years for a tree to mature to produce flowers.

    However, any fool can graft a walnut and that will produce flowers quickly. There is little doubt that the lectin genes have spread from the test sites. Future US lectin field trials may not require notification because the government relaxed the requirement.

  11. Will crops with lectins be labeled in the market? No, crops with lectin genes will not likely be labeled. Those injured by the crops will be difficult to identify , as the companies distributing the patented seeds very well know. They seem to reason that the injury of some people is justified by the company’s huge profits and lavish lifestyle.

  12. Will I face recrimination from fanatic biotechnologists in government, academe and industry for writing unpleasent things about lectins? My direct experience with the biotechnology bureaucrats in the Canadian Government is that they are weak on knowledge of genetics but strong on intimidation, one explained to me that we should all consider ourselves employees of the government (and his subordinates). The government has a biotechnology committee made of biotechnology company officials and academics who lobby for government grants and tax relief for multinationals.

    They are frequently called on to make official pronouncements on issues like the lectin experiments. They usually hire company officials to write reports on such matters that are kept secret (such reports are kept secret because the are usually public relations fabrications aimed at keeping elected officials docile). I expect they will try to think of something to make me uncomfortable.

Date: Mon, 21 Sep 1998 22:06:45 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

AHP merger US Grains urges email on Japan biotech label plan

WASHINGTON, Sept 18 (Reuters) - A leading U.S. grain export group urged U.S. farmers to take to the Internet in opposition to a biotechnology labeling plan proposed by the Japan's agriculture ministry. Japan has long been the leading market for U.S. corn. It is also the largest overall export market for U.S. farm goods. We need to send word that the proposal would create a significant trade obstacle and is inconsistent with Japan's international trade obligations," said Jennifer Morrill, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Grains Council, said.

Date: Mon, 21 Sep 1998 22:06:45 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to Ronnie Cummins for forwarding this:

Monsanto's GM Soyabean hit by worst ever outbreak of fungus

Wed, 9 Sep 1998

Farmers see outbreak of soybean disease

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- A soil-borne fungus is threatening soybean crops in parts of central and northern Missouri, a problem some farm experts are linking to a sought-after genetically altered soybean.

The state's worst-ever outbreak of Sudden Death Syndrome is afflicting soybean crops and could affect production levels, officials said.

"It's showing up much earlier, and that's when you get severe yield loss," said George Smith, director of the University of Missouri's Integrated Pest Management Program. "For some guys the yield impacts will not be pleasant."

Heavy rains during the spring and summer fed the syndrome, known scientifically as Fusarium solani.

But another factor in the outbreak was the enormous demand for genetically-altered soybeans that are resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, agriculturists say.

Though Roundup-resistant beans aren't necessarily more susceptible to Sudden Death Syndrome than other beans, high demand for them meant farmers weren't as careful in choosing varieties that were disease-resistant.

Roundup-resistant beans make up 80 to 90 percent of the soybeans planted in Boone County this year, said Dave Schlemeyer, area sales manager of field crops with MFA. Other observers say the percentage is lower, but most agree that the Roundup beans are extremely popular.

"That's all they wanted because they had such tremendous weed control with Roundup," Schlemeyer said. "You put one quart of Roundup on and clean up the fields."

But that advantage may have blinded some farmers to practical considerations.

Brad Stubbs, a Columbia soybean farmer, said he could face a 50 percent yield reduction in some of his fields.

"In a rush to get these genetically-altered soybeans out, I think there was a rush to get some variations on the market that didn't really have good disease resistance," Stubbs said.

Monsanto, based in St. Louis, produces both Roundup and the technology to make soybean plants resistant to the herbicide.

Jerry Flint, soybean technical manager at Monsanto, said farmers aren't necessarily making bad decisions but factors such as the weather make it hard to predict what characteristics to select.

Date: Wed, 23 Sep 1998 16:32:02 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Support for Dr. Shiv Chopra ("Gag Order")

Several Health Canada scientists filed grievances that they were being pressured to approve BGH, drugs, and other products of questionable safety. The grievance meetings were held last week, and received extensive national news coverage in Canada. One of the articlse on this follows. Another article, which was reprinted from the Lancet, was sent out on our genetic engineering news service on Aug 8.

One of the main scientists involved, Dr. Shiv Chopra, had also been forbidden from speaking in public at a meeting on the hazards of genetically engineered foods. (Dr. Chopra has been helping our Consumer Right to Know Campaign in Canada.) Earlier, Dr. Chopra had spoken on national television about the continuing pressure on the scientists in Health Canada to approve BGH. He (and other scientists) described how public safety is being sacrificed for the sake of industry profit. After that, he received a "gag order."

Dr. Chopra is known to be outspoken in standing up for the public safety. He does not hesitate to "rock the boat" when human safety is at risk. He has also fought against racial discrimination in the civil service. Dozens of media reports over the past few years have reported on his efforts in supporting human rights and protecting public safety.

Many cultural associations have given Dr. Chopra awards for his service. He has also received an award from the Governor General for his service to Canadians. In addition, he has received awards from the Ottawa Police, the provincial Minister of Health in Ontario, the Ottawa-Carleton District Health Council, and the World Health Organization for his continuing service to the Community. He has also been the longest serving President of the National Capital Alliance on Race Relations (NCARR).

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada will be presenting a one-time Professional Institute Human Rights Award on December 10th of this year. Dr. Chopra has been nominated for this award. This award is an excellent opportunity to bring to public attention Dr. Chopra's dedication to public interest and public safety, this issue, and the importance of supporting those who stand up for what they know to be right, against government pressure. If anyone would like to support the nomination of Dr. Chopra, they can send an email to Sally Diehl, Coordinator, PIPSC Human Rights Award, at:

Nominations and supporting materials should be sent to Ms. Diehl no later than Septermber 30, 1998. The more people that support Dr. Shiv Chopra, the more likely it is that he will get the award. Ideally, it would be helpful to include with any nomination a reference to his service or why you feel he should receive the award.

Thank you


PS. No one should feel pressured to support Dr. Chopra. I just wanted to let Canadians know about the opportunity because Dr. Chopra has been very helpful to our campaign.

Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 15:37:47 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

I thought you might find this interesting. (When the GAPS report is on the Web or otherwise available for distribution, I will let you know.) I will also let you know of updates on the BGH issue here.



Canada: Report on Grievance Hearings ("gag order")

On September 15 and 16, 1998, six Health Canada scientists voiced grievances before the Public Service Staff Relations Board. The scientists described in detail how they were pressured by senior Health Canada management to approve BGH (genetically engineered bovine growth hormone for use in dairy cows) and other products of questionable safety.

During the grievance hearings, the scientists said that when they hesitated to approve drugs they considered unsafe, they were threatened by their superiors with personal law suits by drug companies. The scientists were also charged with insubordination, harassed, and isolated in their research.

The scientists also reported that files related to BGH were stolen from a locked filing cabinet belonging to one of the scientists. Also stolen were notes from a meeting in which an industry official allegedly attempted to bribe the scientist to approve BGH.

At the grievance hearings, the scientists also said that another hormone for use in livestock (Revlor-H) was approved for use in Canada by upper level management, even though the scientists recommended that the hormone not be approved due to very serious human health concerns. The pressure to quickly approve drugs was attributed to the powerful lobbying by industy on Health Canada management.

The Health Canada GAPS report on BGH, which was recently obtained through access to information channels, states that rats injected with BGH showed cysts of the thyroid, elevated antibody levels, and inflammation of the prostate- all strong warning signals that more investigation is needed.

The GAPS report was suppressed, clearly due to pressure from industry, which does not want the public to find out that their products are not safe. In the USA, where these research results have also been hidden from public view, BGH has already been approved.

Other countries, including the EU, have not approved BGH due to health concerns. Previous research has linked the use of BGH with cancer in humans and sickness in animals. Yet, upper level management at Health Canada were pressuring for approval of BGH.

BGH is among the first of hundreds of genetically engineered foods coming on the market. Foreign genes from animals, viruses, bacteria, and even humans have been spliced into our foods. Many of these biotech foods are already on our shelves, mixed in with other foods, even though their long-term effects on human health and the environment are largely unknown.

The biotech industry is apparently concerned that if safety issues stop the approval of BGH, other untested genetically engineered foods could also be delayed until they are extensively tested and proven safe.

Date: Sat, 26 Sep 1998 12:42:56 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Addendum to recent news about BGH controversy in Canada

Due to the increasing controversy over BGH, on Sept 21, the Prime Minister's Office sent "Talking Points" on BGH and HPB to all Liberal MPs and Senators. The talking points attributed the controversy over BGH to "management problems" and "lack of consensus" among HPB scientists. Two different reports on the safety of BGH were referred to, which were attributed to differing views among the scientists.

In fact, the second report on BGH was the result of direct orders from upper level management at Health Canada. The scientists were apparently ordered to produce a second report by omitting from the first report information that incriminated the management.

Date: Sat, 26 Sep 1998 12:42:56 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Judge Blocks Monsanto Genetically Modified .


--MONSANTO HAS HIT A stumbling block in its bid to expand genetically modified crops in South America. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday a Brazilian judge has blocked a government agency from allowing the Missouri -based agri-research company from planting its special soybeans in Brazil, a major soybean producer. The beans, which are genetically altered to withstand applications of a potent Monsanto weed killer, have also stirred controversy in Europe and elsewhere. Opponents say too little is known about the long-term effects of the technology.

Date: Sat, 26 Sep 1998 12:42:56 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Choice cut; Companies must not be allowed to steamroller genetically altered food in to the shops without a wider debate, argues John Elkington

Companies must not be allowed to steamroller GE Food

By John Elkington, The Guardian (London) Sept. 23, 1998, SECTION: The Guardian Society

Thanks Monsanto, but no thanks! That's what activists and consumers across Europe want to say to the US company whose attempts to get genetically modified soya beans and related products on to our tables and plates are meeting fierce resistance.

Britain's first 'citizen's jury' on the subject convened in Brighton recently, sitting for 10 evenings and taking evidence from expert witnesses. The jury was 'horrified' that multinational companies were being allowed to meddle with our food in what it saw as a 'covert and secretive manner'.

Date: Sat, 26 Sep 1998 12:42:56 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Calls For A Ban On Use Of GM Organisms.

Farmer's Guardian (UK) Sep 25th 1998

Calls for a ban on the use of genetically modified organisms in food products were made by agricultural farmworkers at the Trades Union Congress in Blackpool last week.

The call came from Don Pollard,Suffolk farm worker and Chairman of Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) Rural Allied Agricultural Workers Union Section, who said the sheer pace of change in food production is a concern to all.

Mr Pollard called for closely supervised experimentation over a reasonable period of time including the potential effects on plant life,the enviroment and animal and human health.

The issue, which was raised at the RAAW's biennial conference in Eastbourne earlier this summer, won support from Trade Union delegates.

Mr Pollard said the claim by Monsanto that plant genetic engineering will bring enviromental improvements by reducing the need for pesticide applications needed to be closely scrutinized.

He argued that major problems had already surfaced around the globe.

"Ther creation of superweeds through related crop transgenes has already been reported. The use of antibiotic resistance marker genes in genetically modified food has already been condemned by the Royal Society.

"The destruction of beneficial insects as well sa pests has already resulted from genetically modified crops", he claimed during his speech to congress last Wednesday.

In addition to health concerns, Mr Pollard agued that people needed to be aware of the issues of Multinational control of plant breeding , seed production, distribution and the use of seeds by farmers.

And he criticized current labelling regulations, saying they were virtually useless as most soya products were exempted.

Date: Sat, 26 Sep 1998 12:42:56 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Scientific Paper on Bt and Refuge

The following article forwarded by Dr. Joe Cummins, Professor Emeritus of Genetics at the Univeristy of Western Ontaria describes cases in which insects that are resistant to Bt, even if they mate with insects that are not resistant to Bt, may product insects that are resistant and produce ecological havoc. The article is a little technical, in the language of dominant and recessive genes, etc.

Prof. Joe Cummins says:

Those fighting trials of Bt engineered crops should note the publication below. It shows that some observed Bt resistance is not recessive (meaning it is dominant or semi-dominant). The refuge is setting aside areas where insects may grow. The idea, is that all resistance is recessive and mating between resistant and sensitive insects will yield sensitive offspring. If resistance is dominant or semidominant, the mating yields 50% or more resistant insects! Therefore resistance to Bt will rapidly develop, and crops with refuges will greatly speed the spread of resistance!
TitleGlobal variation in the genetic and biochemical basis of diamondback moth resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis.
AuthorTabashnik BE; Liu YB; Malvar T; Heckel DG; Masson L; Ballester V; Granero F; M´ensua JL; Ferr´e J
AddressDepartment of Entomology, University of Arizona, Tucson 85721, USA.
SourceProc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 94(24):12780-5 1997 Nov 25
Unique Identifier98058721


Insecticidal proteins from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are becoming a cornerstone of ecologically sound pest management. However, if pests quickly adapt, the benefits of environmentally benign Bt toxins in sprays and genetically engineered crops will be short-lived.

The diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) is the first insect to evolve resistance to Bt in open-field populations. Here we report that populations from Hawaii and Pennsylvania share a genetic locus at which a recessive mutation associated with reduced toxin binding confers extremely high resistance to four Bt toxins.

In contrast, resistance in a population from the Philippines shows multilocus control, a narrower spectrum, and for some Bt toxins, inheritance that is not recessive and not associated with reduced binding. The observed variation in the genetic and biochemical basis of resistance to Bt, which is unlike patterns documented for some synthetic insecticides, profoundly affects the choice of strategies for combating resistance.

Date: Sat, 26 Sep 1998 12:42:56 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to Renske van Staveren at International Forum on Food & Agriculture (IFA) for posting this:

Aid Agencies Say Biotechnology Won't End Hunger

By Claudia Parsons, LONG ASHTON, England, Sept 25 (Reuters) - (Reuters; 09/25/98)

Biotechnologists are mounting a major effort to persuade reluctant Britons that they can learn to love genetically engineered foods. But one of their key claims -- that the new products could help alleviate world hunger -- are dismissed as exaggerated and misleading by aid agencies working in famine regions. Demonstrators have torn up experimental crops at dozens of test sites in Britain to protest against what they call "Frankenstein food". Heir to the throne Prince Charles -- who is so fond of plants that he has even been known to talk to them -- has issued a warning that food genetic engineering "takes mankind into realms that belong to God and God alone".

Opponents say traits such as herbicide resistance in genetically modifed crops could cross over into wild species, and plants engineered to resist certain pests have harmed other insects that are actually beneficial. Proponents say genetic modification could reduce the use of harmful chemicals --

U.S. firm **Monsanto** is trying make blue cotton by introducing a gene from a blue flower so that less toxic dye will be needed to meet global demand for jeans. But one of the main arguments advanced by biotechnologists has been that the expansion of the world's population will mean we need to grow more and better food, and genetic engineering can help do that.

Monsanto Mounts Major Campaign

Monsanto is spending one million pounds ($1.68 million) on an advertising campaign to win over British consumers. "Worrying about starving future generations won't feed them. Food biotechnology will," reads the headline on full page advertisements in several national newspapers. Company spokesman Dan Verakis said that did not mean Monsanto was claiming biotechnology would "feed the world".

"Biotechnology is one effective tool at addressing that bigger issue of a global food source that is both stable and sustainable," he said. Professor Peter Shewry, whose independent research is largely government- funded, also sees potential for genetic engineering to help developing countries. At the Institute of Arable Crops Research in Long Ashton in southwest England he is trying to improve wheat for breadmaking.

"If we don't use modern methods we'll be looking at a situation of high cost food and food of poor quality," Shewry said. "That will be okay for people in Britain, but it will be harder for people in the developing world." With 800 million hungry people in the world today, and global population likely to rise by 2.5 billion in the next three decades, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation says food production must rise by some 75 percent in that period.

Aid Agencies Object

But Isabel McCrea, head of campaigns at one of Britain's largest overseas development agencies, ActionAid, said biotechnology could only ever play a minor role. Genetically engineered crops as they are currently being designed are for use in intensive agriculture, she said, which was not in the interests of small farmers growing a variety of crops for their own consumption.

"It's not to say that there is no way one could genetically engineer crop varieties that would be of use," McCrea said. "Our point is that by and large this is a technology that's being developed for profit. It is not to any degree going to help with world poverty. "We are appalled by the cynical use of that argument by the industry to convince northern consumers that this is a technology that they should accept."

Clive Robinson, a spokesman for Christian Aid, said the key flaw in the biotechnology companies' argument was the assumption that world hunger was caused by scarcity of food. "The world already grows more than enough food to feed all the people in it. The problem is that many people in developing countries don't have access to food or to the resources they need to grow more food for themselves. "Farmers in Africa need more or better versions of seeds that have been used in their own fields rather than the sort of hi-tech or external hybrids peddled by the international seed companies," he said.

David Cooper, a specialist on plant genetic resources at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation, said biotechnology would never replace conventional plant breeding. "In these difficult environments, the environment is so varied and so specific you need solutions that are tailored to those particular areas. "A one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to be the optimum approach in terms of production," he said.

"We're also worried about a jamming up of the free flow of access to genetic resources. There's no proper mechanism for sharing of benefits," Cooper said. "We have a concern with intellectual property rights and patents when they limit the rights of the farmer to resow his own seed. This will interfere with the need of farmers to selectively improve what they have," he said.

McCrea said another concern was that genetic engineering was almost exclusively in the hands of a few multinational agrochemical companies rather than in the public sector. "It's being developed by six to eight multinational companies who are also buying up seed companies. This trend towards monopolisation is very worrying because it does mean that farmers in the south will have little or no choice but to take genetically engineered seeds."

But Verakis of Monsanto said such criticism ignored the company's basic self-interest. "If there was any problem that occurred in the environment because of these crops it would be extremely damaging, if not fatal, to our future," he said. ($1=.5951 Pounds)

{Reuters:News-0924.00780} 09/25/98

Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 17:13:44 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

BGH Controversy Continues in Canada

The "Gaps Analysis" report by the Health Canada scientists on the gaps in our understanding of BST and its hazards has now been posted at the National Farmer's Union website

On the left side of this title page, there is a heading called "special interest". Under that is a link called rBST "Gaps Analysis" report where you can link to see the full report.

Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 17:13:44 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Printers pulp Monsanto edition of Ecologist

by Paul Brown, Enviroment Correspondent, The Guardian Tues Sep 29th 98.

The Ecologist, the flagship of radical green for 30 years, has become involved in a row with it's printers after an edition of the magarzine was pulped.

It had used the edition to attack Monsanto, the multinational genetic engineering company. But the Ecologist's printers - Penwells of Saltash Cornwall, destroyed the 14,000 print run without notice. Although it refused to comment on it's decision, it is understood the company was afraid of laying itself open to a libel action.

Penwells has been printing the Ecologist for twenty nine years without complaint.Zac Goldsmith, co-editor and son of the late Sir James Goldsmith, only discovered at the weekend that no copies of the edition survived.

His uncle, Teddy Goldsmith, Sir James's brother, funds the magazine. Mr Goldsmith is known well in green circles for his enviromental views.

The Ecologist has been controversial since it was founded. It is read on both sides of the Atlantic and was one of the first publications to point to the potentially dangerous power of multinational companies.

"We are shocked and amazed. We have a long history of being forthright about enviromental issues and attacking powerful organisations, yet not once in 29 years has this printer complained about or expressed the slightest qualms about what we were doing," Zac Goldsmith said yesterday.

"We have been good friends, but suddenly out of thge blue this happens. I asked if they could send us just one copy but they said no, the lot had to be destroyed. I just cannot find out what happened; they are not returning my calls.

Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 17:13:44 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

The devil we don't know

by Andy Coghlan, New Scientist September 12, 1998
SECTION: This Week: BA Meeting, Pg. 21

Viral resistance is what keeps genetic engineers awake at night

THEY could cause an environmental disaster - or have no effect at all.

It is almost impossible to predict the impact of crops genetically engineered to resist plant viruses, warns an adviser to the British government.

"Viruses are, in ecological terms, something of a black box," says Alan Gray, director of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology's Furzebrook Research Station near Wareham, Dorset, and a member of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE).

Because ecologists know so little about the role of viruses in restricting weed populations, he says, it is almost impossible to predict what will happen if genes for viral resistance spread from engineered crops to their wild relatives.

Gray presented unpublished results at the BA meeting revealing how little we know about the susceptibility of wild plants to naturally occurring viruses. He studied wild cabbages ("Brassica oleracea") and wild mustard ("B. nigra") on clifftops in Dorset. Gray found the plants were infected with four different viruses. What surprised him was the wildly fluctuating distribution of the viruses in both species. Some carried only one virus while their nearest neighbours had all four.

Gray then exposed lab-grown wild cabbages to viruses taken from apparently healthy clifftop plants. Sixteen per cent of the plants exposed to turnip yellow mosaic virus died, compared with 6 per cent of the unexposed controls and 4 per cent treated with a second virus, turnip mosaic virus. The plants infected with the turnip yellow mosaic virus also produced fewer seeds.

Gray has few clues as to why the natural distribution of viruses should fluctuate so wildly. And while his transmission experiments suggest that viruses may keep weed populations in check, much more work will be needed to understand how this works in the field.

"We're very ignorant," says Gray, who argues that risk assessments for plants carrying genes for viral resistance should be much more thorough than those for other engineered crops. So far, ACRE has received only applications for trials of potatoes containing resistance genes. These were given the go- ahead because potatoes have no wild relatives in Britain.

But virus-resistant plants with wild relatives should be much more closely scrutinised, Gray says. Oilseed rape or canola, for example, has a weedy relative in the wild turnip ("Brassica rapa"), which appears to readily crossbreed with engineered oilseed rape.

In the US, squash plants ("Cucurbita pepo") engineered to resist two viruses have already been approved for sale, though not without a prolonged fight over the risks they may pose.

Groups opposed to engineered crops, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, feared that the genes could spread to wild gourds ("C. texana"), which are native to Texas, leading to plagues of these weeds. For more science news see

Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 17:13:44 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Monsanto finalises Control of Terminator Technology

Monsanto in Closed Negotiations with the US Department of Agriculture to Finalize Control of Terminator Technology

Terminator: RAFI Launches Mail Campaign

Help Stop the Terminator
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Monsanto is moving swiftly to finalize its control over the Terminator technology. The company may extract an exclusive license from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) within weeks. RAFI is initiating an urgent internet-based international campaign to stop the USDA - Monsanto negotiations before it's too late.

A special WWW page has been set up at to enable anyone with internet access to send a customized message to the USDA asking it to cease negotiations and bury this anti-farmer, anti-biodiversity technology. Additional contact details are provided below.


A Monsanto subsidiary, Delta & Pine Land (D&PL), is currently negotiating with the USDA to exclusively license the US Government's interest in the controversial Terminator technology patent, a genetic technique that renders farm-saved seed sterile. The seed-sterilizing technology - developed with US taxpayer dollars - will prevent farmers from saving seed from their harvest, forcing them to return to the commercial seed market every year.

The Terminator patent (US # 5,723,765) is jointly owned by D&PL and the USDA. Under US law, since D&PL worked with USDA to develop the technology, the company has the option to negotiate an exclusive license. Hoping to find a gullible international public, Monsanto's PR machine in Brussels, New Delhi, Harare, St. Louis, and points in between, are massaging jittery governments and publicly trying to distance the company from the Terminator technology by referring to it as "conceptual" and "not yet proven." But the company's move to negotiate an exclusive license with USDA confirms that Monsanto is eager to commercialize Terminator seeds.

Despite international controversy boiling over in at least two UN agencies rather than engage in public dialog, a leaked internal memo by Deputy Administrator K. Darwin Murrell reveals that USDA hopes to quietly manage controversy over the patent. The memo warns USDA employees that Terminator research is "a sensitive issue that requires an extra level of review" to help "avoid potential political and legal pitfalls." But the USDA insists that the Terminator is a beneficial technology and confirms that its scientists are themselves interested in developing the seed sterilizing technique as platform to host a package of "stacked" traits in genetically engineered plants.

Say No To Terminator!

RAFI invites you to join an international e-mail campaign being initiated today to protest the licensing and commercial development of the Terminator technology. RAFI has set up a special web page that automatically sends a customized e-mail to US Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman (also see address information below). We urge you to write to US Department of Agriculture officials to demand that USDA cease licensing negotiations and abandon all international patent applications on a dangerous and immoral technology that should never see the commercial light of day.

RAFI is urging government institutions to hold public inquiries on the alarming rate of seed industry consolidation, and to take steps to safeguard - not eliminate - the fundamental right of farmers to save seed and breed crops.

RAFI is also calling for protest over the fact that public research funds were used to develop a technology that will bring no agronomic benefit to farmers, and no benefits to consumers. The Terminator technology is designed simply to increase seed industry profits by forcing farmers to return to the commercial seed market every year.

Global Issue

The potential impact of the Terminator technology goes far beyond US borders. It is an international issue, with global implications. Delta & Pine Land says that it will target the use of Terminator seeds in the South, where over 1.4 billion people - primarily poor farmers - depend on farm-saved seed as their primary seed source. Monsanto, which recently merged with American Home Products, is the world's second largest seed corporation and the number one agrochemical corporation.

The owners of the Terminator patent have indicated that they will apply for patents in 87 countries worldwide. The patent is pending at the European Patent Office, in Canada, Australia, Japan and South Africa. USDA should be asked to abandon all international patent applications, and to revoke Terminator patents that have already issued, on the basis of public morality as provided in Article 27(2) of GATT TRIPS.

The Terminator technology is the subject of controversy and debate worldwide. For example:

Negotiations between USDA and Monsanto are now underway, it is important to act now! Stop Monsanto's bid to license and control the dangerous Terminator technology. E-mail messages and/or faxes should be sent to the following USDA officials and members of Congress. To see sample letters, and automatic sending options, go to RAFI's web site:


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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