Genetically Manipulated Food News

21 October 98

Table of Contents

UK: All Sides turn on Meacher in Genetic Food Ban Row
Gene Watchdog Under Fire
Gene food improving on nature?:
Sri Lanka: Biopirates Patent Traditional Wisdom
UK Biotech/Moratorium May Render Varieties Obsolete
Euro-deputies Call for Moratorium on Gene Crops
'Organic Methods could Save Farming', says Prince Charles
Green Angel to be presented to Iceland
Biotech Firms Have Their Eyes on Africa, Euro MPs Say
New Report Exposes Myths About World Hunger
Health Canada Scandal Heats Up
Milk Controversy Spills Into Canada

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Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 07:30:15 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to Wainwright Churchill" w@onehandclap.demon.co.uk for forwarding the next 2 articles:

UK: All Sides turn on Meacher in Genetic Food Ban Row

Evening Standard (UK) 10-10-98

Government proposals for a three-year ban on the commercial planting of genetically modified crops - outlined by Environment Minister Michael Meacher - are under fire from all sides.

Mr Meacher acknowledged the widespread public opposition to the so-called "Frankenstein foods" as he confirmed that the Government was considering the moratorium.

But environmentalists campaigning against the introduction of GM crops said proper testing will take more than three years - while food manufacturers developing the new strains continued to opposed any ban.

Mr Meacher said: "There can be no question of commercial growing even if we did nothing before next spring. But of course we have to look at the case for a moratorium.

"First, we have to respond to the widespread public concern. Secondly, English Nature are very concerned about the impact on biodiversity. But thirdly, there is a need for more time for research to be completed."

No licences have yet been granted for the commercial planting of GM crops, but there are a number of field trials around the country, which have prompted angry protests from environmentalists.

Pete Rilly, of Friends of the Earth, insisted a three-year ban would not give scientists long enough to study the effects of the new strains. And he accused the Government of misrepresenting English Nature's views, saying it wanted a five-year moratorium rather than the three-year band being discussed by ministers.

"Much of the research currently on-going will not be completed for three years and that may well raise other questions," he said.


Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 07:30:15 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Gene Watchdog Under Fire

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent
The Independent (UK) 11-10-98

MINISTERS are considering reforming the committee that grants permission for the planting of genetically-modified crops amid concerns about its remit and impartiality.

The plantings, which have been carried out on a trial basis all over the country, will continue even if ministers succeed in their attempts (revealed in yesterday's Independent) to persuade biotechnology companies to agree to a voluntary three-year moratorium on full-scale commercial cultivation of the crops.

The official Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment has given permission for some 200 sites across Britain to be planted with genetically-modified seeds. The sites have become the centre of heated controversy this summer as ecological campaigners have uprooted the crops in protest.

Ministers cannot override the decisions of the committee without severe risk of being taken to judicial review.

Environmentalists and government sources say a majority of committee members have links to the food industry and that an application for a trial planting has never been refused. Friends of the Earth has called for the committee to be disbanded.

Julie Hill, the only environmental representative on the committee, suggested that it is "the wrong group of people doing the wrong job".


Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 07:30:15 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Gene food improving on nature?:

By Scott Edmonds
Montreal Gazette Tuesday, October 6, 1998 Final News A16

It's been called a nutritional time bomb - and the greatest thing since sliced bread

Some call it "Frankenfood." Others say it's the greatest thing since sliced bread - in fact, one day it might even be bread that slices itself.

"It" is genetically engineered food that has already found its way into a lot more stomachs around the world than many people suspect. Soybeans, tomatoes, corn, potatoes - the list grows daily. Genetic engineering differs from the domestic plant or animal breeding used for centuries to create new varieties. It recombines genetic material in the laboratory between species that do not interbreed in nature.

Promoters of the technology say it can increase food production, create organisms resistant to disease or increase shelf life.

Critics say it's a time bomb giant multinational corporations like Monsanto that could cause unpredictable changes and mutations throughout the food chain.

The Canadian government has jumped on the bandwagon in a big way, although it uses the more consumer-friendly term "biotechnology."

This summer Ottawa made public a new policy designed to "position Canada as a responsible world leader in biotechnology."

The University of Calgary is planning a conference in March to see how Canadians feel about all this science in the frying pan.

"It's an issue that affects everyone. Everyone eats," said communications Prof. Edna Einsiedel. "Most people are not really aware that there are products on the market."

Einsiedel insists conference organizers aren't taking sides. They just want to find out what average Canadians think, after presenting them with a range of information on the subject.

"Our interest is in the process. What kinds of conclusions do they come up with? What kinds of questions do they raise?" She says that a wide spectrum of views, not just those from the pro-side of genetic engineering, will be presented.

A citizens' panel will then write a report that will be widely distributed.

Einsiedel points to the public consultation process in Europe over the last decade, but that's a process critics of genetic engineering have said is more PR than genuine consultation.

British scientist Mae-wan Ho has suggested the public was lulled into a false sense of security in the belief that the best scientists and bioethicists were busy considering the risks associated with the new technology.

Writing in The Ecologist last year, she suggested nothing could have been farther from the truth.

"The large-scale release of transgenic organisms is much worse than nuclear weapons or radioactive nuclear wastes, as genes can replicate indefinitely, spread and recombine.

"There may yet be time enough to stop the industry's dreams turning into nightmares if we act now, before the critical genetic `meltdown' is reached."

Canada has yet to approve one of the most controversial substances to come out of Monsanto's food labs - a hormone to help dairy cattle produce more milk. It was approved in the United States five years ago.

A report last month said Health Canada has been ignoring the concerns of some of its own scientists about the need for more testing before a decision is made on bovine somatotropin.

Canada also has no specific labeling requirements for genetically engineered food, but Marnadian Food Inspection Agency says the existing legislation is adequate.

Health Canada decides whether there are any food-safety concerns, nutritional changes, alngs that should be mentioned on food labeling. That applies to all foods, genetically engineered or otherwise.

Jeff Wilson, chairman of the National Agriculture Environment Committee, says for the most part his members believe Canada has one of the best regulatory systems in the world.

But Wilson, a potato-grower near Guelph, Ont., says farmers need to have all the facts before they make any decisions about using genetically engineered varieties.

He decided not to seed potatoes genetically modified to resist the Colorado potato beetle, for example, simply because they cost more and the insect isn't a big problem in his area.

"Farmers are certainly putting a sharp pencil to any decision made these days," he said.

"Our concern lies in ensuring farmers know what to ask a salesman across the kitchen table who may be selling a product that may include a variety that has some modified traits."


Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 07:30:15 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

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

Sri Lanka: Biopirates Patent Traditional Wisdom

OTC 09.10.98 01:12

COLOMBO, (Oct. 8) IPS - Long before the arrival of Western drugs, indigenous doctors pounded and prepared medicine from wild plants and flowers gathered from Sri Lanka's thick tropical forests to treat a variety of illnesses.

The ancient formulations of the "ayurveda" system of medicine were zealously guarded and passed on from one generation to the next in families that could trace back their ancestry for many centuries. In the northcentral town of Polonnaruwa an indigenous doctor treats patients with heart problems who would otherwise require bypass surgery for a fraction of the cost of surgery which is at least $4,500 in hospitals in the country. Now giant global pharmaceutical drug companies, aware of the therapeu tical qualities of medicinal plants, are virtually stealing this ancient wisdom by extracting chemicals from local plants and patenting it abroad, particularly in the United States.

Upali Pilapitiya, director of the Bandaranaike Memorial Ayurveda Research Institute, says that the tremendous interest in the West about natural Ayurvedic remedies, has led to a growing interest in Asia's indigenous plant life.

Studies have revealed that more than 40 percent of western pharmaceutical products contain Asian plant extracts but these Asian countries including Sri Lanka have earned very little in return. Export of medicinal plants or their extracts is banned in Sri Lanka. However bio-piracy is flourishing, quite often with the assistance of Sri Lankans who have no qualms of selling indigenous knowledge and innovation. Last month, a university professor and another wealthy Sri Lankan, whose wife is a social activist, were detained for bio-piracy by security personnel.

"Loopholes in existing law s and other legal snags are robbing the country of millions of dollars that is rightfully ours," asserts Sirimal Premakumara, a scientist at the Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research.

He said that since the country does not have the hi-tech scientific equipment to analyze chemical components of indigenous plants or the capacity to pay the international patent fee of $60,000, wealthy countries are taking advantage.

For instance Salacil Reticulata, the scientific name for the loc ally grown Kothalahimbutu plant, has been recognized abroad for its ability to control diabetes. Ayurveda physicians in Sri Lanka have always advised patients to drink water left overnight in a hand-carved Kothalahimbutu mug or jug, whose production has become a cottage industry in the island. Newspapers here report that a Japanese drug company patented a product based on this herb through the American Chemical Society last year.

Many other patents, like from the plant Weniwalgeta -- used effec tively as a herbal remedy for fever, coughs and colds -- have been registered by Japanese, European and U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Environmental lawyer Jagath Gunawardene says, "although the law requires that a patent can be obtained only if it is an economically valuable invention created through a methodology, most multinationals have somehow obtained patents for products used in our country for thousands of years." Scientists say that the normal ruse adopted by drug transnationals is to befriend an indigenous doctor, learn the curative properties of plants and sometimes offer him a trip abroad. The process of extraction of the chemical and export of the product which is often in the form of a powder, chemical solvent or the bark of trees, follows.

The two recent cases of biopiracy last month involving a university botanist and a wealthy Sri Lankan got wide publicity and led to a sudden interest in the issue by environmentalists and scientists here. The botanist was intercepted by customs at Colombo airport trying to smuggle some plant extracts in his suitcase. In the same month, customs officials discovered a container load of Kothalahimbutu -- 1,512 cups weighing some 4 tons -- being shipped to Japan through a firm owned by the wealthy Sri Lankan. Gunawardene feels that the laws should be strengthened to prevent the smuggling of Sri Lanka's indigenous plants and ayurvedic knowledge.

Normally, product patents are given only if they fulfill the criteria of being new, specify the process and must necessarily have commercial value. If there are discrepancies in this process, the patent can be contested in court. Like in the case of the U.S patent for turmeric which was successfully challenged by India on the grounds that its medicinal properties are well known since ancient times. However, because India has no worthwhile law to protect its rich biodiversity or intellectual property rights another U.S company earlier this year took out patents on long-grai n basmati rice grown for centuries by farmers in India and Pakistan. Developing countries, rich in indigenous resources, need to tighten biodiversity laws to stop the usurpation of the resources and knowledge of its people, Sri Lankan scientists say. Copyright 1998


Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 07:30:15 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Here are some articles on the controversy brewing over the proposed moratorium in Europe:

UK Biotech/Moratorium May Render Varieties Obsolete

Dow Jones Commodities Service
10/13/98 Copyright © 1998, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

D'Souza fears that the moratorium will render many varieties of genetically modified crops in development obsolete. It has taken 15 years for the technology that surrounds these crops to be developed because of the strict regulatory hurdles," said D'Souza.

AgrEvo plans to have a herbicide resistant variety of spring oilseed rape registered for growing in the spring of 1999. AgrEvo is also awaiting the registration of herbicide resistant winter oil seed rape. The company expects to introduce gene modified sugar beet and corn within the next two to three years.

"If the moratorium is imposed, there will be an immediate impact financially. It could render the varieties outdated and could hold up our market access for five to ten years," he added.

AgrEvo has conducted between 30 and 40 trials of gene modified crops across the U.K. over the past year.

Of the estimated 300 trials of gene modified crops in the U.K., around 150 are run by the U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto Co (MTC). The issue of commercially introducing gene modified crops in the U.K. has been fraught with controversy.

Environmental groups fear gene modified crops could contaminate conventional crops leading to a possible BSE-type food scare. Activists have destroyed test sites containing the new crops.

The Soil Association, a U.K.-based environmental group which awards the nationally recognized organic status to farmers, welcomed the government move to consider a moratorium.

(MORE) Dow Jones Newswires 13-10-98


Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 07:30:15 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Euro-deputies Call for Moratorium on Gene Crops

BRUSSELS, Oct 13 (Reuters)

The European Parliament's environment committee is due on Tuesday to urge the European Commission to impose a moratorium on all new authorisations for the marketing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The move follows a vote in committee late on Monday, when Euro-MPs also urged the EU's executive not to force Austria and Luxembourg to lift their unilateral bans on a gene-altered maize developed by the Swiss company Novartis (NOVZn.S). The so-called Bt maize is engineered to poison the European corn borer as well as being antibiotic- and herbicide-resistant.

Committee chairman Ken Collins is expected to write to European Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard recommending that all new approvals be postponed until a review of the EU's current legislation on GMOs -- seen by some as inadequate, inconsistent and out of date -- has been completed, a process Collins predicted could take two years.

"We're not saying ban them (GMOs) for ever but there are doubts about the science and we need that checked," Collins told Reuters.

The Green group in the European Parliament and the environmental pressure group Greenpeace both welcomed the decision, which coincided with the publication by Greenpeace of what it said was new evidence from Germany that the Bt maize had cross-pollinated an adjacent field of conventional corn. "The current GMO legislation is very unclear and produces contradictory decisions," Greenpeace spokesman Thomas Schweiger told Reuters. European Commission officials were not immediately available for comment but Novartis' Sheena Bethell said the company did not believe a moratorium was necessary.

"We have concerns about the way (EU gene law) operates but in the end, the bottom line is that it does look very thoroughly at the crops and plants it approves," she told Reuters.


Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 21:28:56 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to Jim McNulty for forwarding this.

'Organic Methods could Save Farming', says Prince Charles

By Nick Meo, PA News

The Prince of Wales said today he believed agriculture had "lost its soul", but could be saved by organic farming.

He spoke of his sympathy for Britain's small farmers and rural communities struggling to survive - and warned of the dangers of rushing into genetic crop-farming - when he opened a university research centre.

The prince, who has farmed his Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire organically for seven years, made his call at the opening of the 5 million Aberdeen University Centre for Organic Agriculture.

The prince, who was later today expected to meet Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond for a private meeting, told his audience: "I believe agriculture lost its soul. Organic farming can put its soul back."

Farm management required "a bit of science and a great deal of art," and the prince said: "It would be a tragedy of immense proportions if we repeated the same mistake and became obsessed with genetic crops only to learn our mistake in 30 years' time."

He added: "We have treated the land and animals as machines. Hopefully we will learn from our mistakes before it becomes too late.

"The demand for organic produce is a consequence of great concerns over modern scientific farming."

Addressing an audience of farmers, scientists and academics, the Prince spoke of the crisis facing small farmers, and his particular concern at the plight of livestock farmers.

And he warned that Scotland's rural culture was at stake.

"I hope this centre can provide help to those farmers who are struggling to survive.

"The demand for organic produce is at an all-time high. There are real opportunities for farmers at a time other avenues are becoming unprofitable."

He said the arguments for organic farming were not just economic, but across a whole range of environmental benefits. "I believe they will become more and more apparent as time goes on."

Warning of a "catastrophic decline" in once-common farmland birds like skylark, red partridge and lapwing and tree-sparrows, he lamented: "We grew up with sparrows everywhere. Now you rarely see them.


Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 21:28:56 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Green Angel to be presented to Iceland

South West Green Party (from area press officer Martin Hughes-Jones 01884-821164.) 14 October 1998 http://freespace.virgin.net/martin.h/swgreens

David Taylor will present the 1998 Green Angel award to the manager of Exeter's Iceland supermarket, Mr Ralph Lowden at 10 am on Thursday 15 October.

This is the first annual Green Angel award. The trophy was commissioned by SW Greens and produced by Uffculme potter Anna Timlett who is better known for her range of clayware which she fires and glazes at Coldharbour Mill, Uffculme. Anna is a local member of Mid Devon Green Party.

The cheeky looking angel stands about 8 inches high. Iceland won the award for "their stand against genetic engineering and incorporating principles with profit." Iceland will keep the award for 12 months. Iceland director Malcolm Walker has ensured that the chain's own brand products are free of genetically engineered (GE) material despite the deliberate mixing at source of soya bean from conventionally grown crops and that produced from GE crops.

The awards was judged from a wide field of entries from members of the public and Green Party members across the South West region. The "Angels" contained such diverse entries as the Devon makers of organic composters from 100% recycled plastics to South Glos. County Council for promoting a lane ban for lone car drivers and encouraging car share. They included individual green campaigners and wildlife journalists. Another organisation fighting the unknown impacts of genetic engineering - Riverford Farm near Totnes was just pipped to the post by Iceland.

David Taylor commented "Iceland are to be congratulated for taking a stand at considerable cost in protecting the environment and public health. We very much hope their example will provide a lead to other supermarket chains."


Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 21:28:56 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to genetics genetics@gn.apc.org for the following two articles from their 16 Oct news:

Biotech Firms Have Their Eyes on Africa, Euro MPs Say

By Thomas Hirenee, Atenga

PARIS, Oct 14 (IPS) - European Union (EU) rules limiting the range of biotechnological activity appear to be prompting some biotech firms to look for new locations where they can operate more freely.

In fact, biotech industrialists and researchers have reportedly started hinting about relocating, possibly to Africa, so as to circumvent strict EU regulations prohibiting some activities.

Operations banned in Europe include cloning humans, modifying the genetic identity of a human being and artifically reproducing embryos that have the same genetic information as another person, whether alive or dead.

Also included on the banned list are inventions whose exploitation or publication would violate public order or morals, and any modification of the genetic make-up of animals that would cause them to suffer or to become physically handicapped where this is of no substantial medical usefulness to man or animal.

There are also restrictions to the manipulation of vegetable species and animal breeds.

To get around this arsenal of constraints, transnationals are reportedly looking towards Africa as the place to go to operate with total impunity, and they are said to be banking on the elimination of trade barriers under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and moves to dismantle barriers to investment, touted by various developed nations.

This holds dangers for Africa, as some European legislators pointed out at a late-September session of the European Parliament.

Catherine Lalumiere, president of the Radical Alliance (AR) faction in the European parliament in Strasbourg, fears that in a world in which communications technology wipes out distances, there is a high risk that the biotech companies will go to Africa and carry out research and other activities banned elsewhere.

She said the United Nations should call a global meeting of decision-makers, researchers, industrialists, bioethics committees and human rights groups to draw up an international code of conduct in this area.

Other parliamentarians agreed. Gijs De Vries of the Netherlands felt there was an imperative need for such a conference otherwise "the life sciences, whose aim thus far was to defend certain basic values, would become 'death sciences' on a continent that has to face other problems." The stakes of such a conference are all the higher since biotechnology has become a huge money-making affair. In Europe alone, the biotech market is expected to amount to 80 billion ecus in two years time. In 1997 it was a mere 10 billion ecus.

(One ecu is equivalent to 1.2 U.S. dollars.) Carlo Casini of the European People's Party said such a meeting needed to be held urgently "if we still hope to find solutions for facing up to the invasion of genetically modified organisms and the rapid advances made daily in research, for which Africa is, of course, unprepared." "What would these multinationals do if a crisis like the mad cow disease broke out in that part of the world?" asked Casini.

He pointed out that the United States boasts of having the safest food system in the world, yet its Food and Drug Administration - the federal body in charge of food safety - reports millions of cases of food poisoning each year.

Willi Rothley, vice president of the European Parliament's commission on legal affairs and citizen's rights, also saw such a meeting as necessary, although he felt consideration should be given to the fact that setting up biotech industries on the African continent can improve consumers' lives by providing them with quality food and keeping them in good health.

"Moreover, thousands of jobs would be created so, at such a meeting, a distinction would have to be made between what is useful and what could be a source of danger for these countries," he argued.

Global regulations of the type Lalumiere would like to see adopted would also govern farm products like bananas, tomatoes and oranges that many African nations export and which genetically modified fruits and vegetables might end up crowding out of the market.

For example, transgenic varieties of cash crops such as coffee and cocoa that Nestle is finalising at its centre in Tours, France, threaten African economies.

Over the next two years, the sale of medicinal drugs and chemicals in Europe will amount to 23.9 billion and 14.6 billion ecu respectively, said German parliamentarian Wilfried Telkamper, a member of the Green group in Strasbourg. However, "83 percent of the biodiversity and 80 percent of the resources needed for biotechnological inventions are in African countries in particular, and in the South in general." "Bear in mind that these resources are very often exploited without the agreement of the local populations," said Telkamper. Such a conference, "could draw up principles enabling these populations to derive benefit from the exploitation of their patrimony" so it needs to be held quickly, he added.

But some observers link this burst of solidarity with Africa to Europe's desire to seek support in the biotechnology market as it competes against the United States, the leading force in the sector.

Others note that while parliamentarians in Strasbourg are trying to get a summit on biotechnology onto the global agenda, in Brussels, the European Commission plans to spend 206 billion ecus on 152 projects related to biotechnological development.

This budget line is expected to increase with a view to the implementation of the EC's 1999-2002 research programme. (END/IPS/THA/NRN/KB/98)


Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 21:28:56 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

New Report Exposes Myths About World Hunger

By Danielle Knight

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 (IPS) - The myth that world hunger is the unavoidable result of the forces of nature, coupled with a population explosion, prevents policy makers from understanding the real causes of starvation worldwide, says a new report.

"The way people think about hunger is the greatest obstacle to ending it," says Peter Rosset, director of the California-based Institute for Food and Development Policy, in a report released Thursday - World Food Day.

"As millions of people starve, powerful myths block our understanding of the true causes of hunger and prevent us from taking effective action to end it." Rosset says.

The report - 'World Hunger: Twelve Myths' - says these notions prevent a true understanding of the real causes of millions of people starving around the world.

"The true source of world hunger is not scarcity but policy; not inevitability but politics," says the report. "The real culprits are economies that fail to offer everyone opportunities, and societies that place economic efficiency over compassion." Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world's food supply. The world produces enough grain and many other commonly eaten foods to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day, according to the report.

Even as countries have excess food, people still go hungry. In 1997, for example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that, in the developing world, 78 percent of all malnourished children aged under five live in countries with food surpluses.

"The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food," says Twelve Myths. "Even though "hungry countries" have enough food for all their people right now, many are net exporters of food and other agricultural products."

Believing that scarcity is the problem, many governments and international development institutions - like the World Bank - say the answer to solving the problem is increasing food production. Dramatic production advances of the 1970s known as the 'Green Revolution', did increase grain supplies.

"But focusing narrowly on increasing production cannot alleviate hunger because it fails to alter the tightly concentrated distribution of economic power that determines who can buy the additional food," says the report.

This is why that in several of the biggest Green Revolution successes - India, Mexico, and the Philippines for example - grain production and in some cases exports, have climbed while hunger has persisted.

That nature is to blame for famine is another popular hunger myth that blurs the real causes of starvation. "It's too easy to blame nature; food is always available for those who can afford it while starvation during hard times hits only the poorest," the report says.

"Millions live on the brink of disaster in south Asia, Africa and elsewhere, because they are deprived of land by a powerful few, trapped in the unremitting grip of debt, or miserably paid." Natural events rarely explain deaths, they are simply the final push over this brink. Population growth is another mythical cause of hunger, says the report.

"Although rapid population growth remains a serious concern in many countries, nowhere does population density explain hunger," it says. "For every Bangladesh - a densely populated and hungry country - we find a Nigeria, Brazil or Bolivia where abundant food resources coexist with hunger."

Costa Rica, with only half of Honduras' cropped acres per person, boasts a life expectancy - 11 years longer than that of Honduras and close to that of developed countries, explains the report.

About half of the myths listed in the report involve false assumptions used to develop current food, land and agriculture policy. Large farms, the free-market, free trade and more aid from industrialised countries, have all been falsely touted as the "cure" to end hunger.

Large landowners who control most of the best land often leave much of it idle, says Twelve Myths. "By contrast, small farmers typically achieve at least four to five times greater output per acre, in part because they work their land more intensively and use integrated, and often more sustainable, production systems," it says.

Redistribution of land would give millions of small farmers in developing countries the incentive to invest in land improvements, to rotate crops and leave land fallow for the sake of long-term soil fertility, according to the report.

Comprehensive land reform has markedly increased production in countries as different at Japan, Zimbabwe, and Taiwan. A World Bank study of northeast Brazil estimates that redistributing farmland into smaller holdings would raise output by 80 percent.

Free-markets and lifting tariffs on trade have also been touted as the solution to ending world hunger.

"Such a market is good, government is bad formula can never help address the causes of hunger," says the report. "Such thinking misleads us into believing that a society can opt for one or the other, when in fact every economy on earth combines market and government in allocating resources and distributing wealth."

Because the market responds to money not actual need, it can only work to eliminate hunger when purchasing power is widely dispersed, says the report.

As the rural poor are increasingly pushed from land, they are less and less able to make their demands for food register in the market.

Promoting free trade to alleviate hunger has proven to be a failure, says Twelve Myths. In most developing countries exports have boomed while hunger has continued unabated or actually worsened, its says.

"While soybean exports boomed in Brazil to feed Japanese and European livestock - hunger spread from one-third to two-thirds of the population," says the report.

"Where the majority of people have been made too poor to buy the food grown on their own country's soil, those who control productive resources will, not surprisingly, orient their production to more lucrative markets abroad." Pro-trade policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) promotes export crop production and squeezes out basic food production, it says. Foreign aid from industrialised countries, often seen as an essential key to ending hunger and famine, has propped up such free trade and free market policies. Foreign aid, says the report, "works directly against the hungry."

U.S. aid in particular is used to promote exports and food production - not to increase the poor's ability to buy food, it adds. "Even emergency, or humanitarian aid, which makes up five percent of the total, often ends up enriching U.S. grain companies while failing to reach the hungry." With different policies, says Twelve Myths, the world could feed itself.

"Hunger is caused by decisions made by human beings, and can be ended by making different decisions," says Rosset. "Informed social movements like those that fought for and won landmark civil rights legislation or abolished slavery or helped end the war in Vietnam, can end hunger too." Following its own call to action, the Institute for Food and Development Policy recently launched an "Economic Human Rights" campaign in the United States which calls for an end to hunger and poverty in the wealthiest country in the world.

"The scientific evidence shows it is possible to eliminate hunger," says Rosset. "As societies we have to decide that it is a priority." (END/IPS/dk/mk/98)


Date: Fri, 16 Oct 1998 15:51:33 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Scientists Testify before Senate Agriculture Committee

Thursday, October 22, 9:00 am, at the Parliament Buildings (Ottawa), Centre Block, Room 160-S (Meetings are open to the public)

Health Canada Scandal Heats Up

Ottawa - On Thursday, October 22, the Health Canada scientists who authored the "GAPS" report on BGH (genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, also abbreviated rBST) will be appearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee. The GAPS report describes the gaps in the understanding of BGH and its hazards.

Because of the extreme controversy over BGH and its safety, and due to the serious concerns by Health Canada scientists, the Senate Agriculture Committee, which is reviewing BGH, has asked the scientists to appear directly before it on October 22.

Several of these scientists are the same individuals who filed a grievance that they are being pressured to approve products of questionable safety, against their professional judgment. They have stated that the safety of Canadians is being sacrificed due to industry pressure.

The meetings are open to the public, but individuals coming to the meetings may want to come a little early.


Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 21:55:05 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 19:41:21 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Rachel #621: Milk Controversy Spills into Canada
From: rachel@rachel.org
Sender: montague@world.std.com

=======================Electronic Edition========================

RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY #621
---October 22, 1998---
HEADLINES: MILK CONTROVERSY SPILLS INTO CANADA

Environmental Research Foundation

============================================================

Milk Controversy Spills Into Canada

In late 1993, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave permission for Monsanto corporation to market rBGH, a genetically-engineered hormone that is injected into dairy cows to make them produce more milk.[1] In 1990, FDA had declared rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), "safe for human consumption."[2]

Now the scientific validity of FDA's 1993 safety decision is being challenged by Canadian government scientists. Consumer's Union (publisher of CONSUMER REPORTS magazine) and other U.S. consumer groups have called for a Congressional investigation into FDA's 1993 decision to approve rBGH.[3]

Today tens of thousands of U.S. dairy cows are injected with rBGH each week, and virtually the entire U.S. citizenry is exposed to milk from rBGH-treated cows through milk, cream, cheese, yogurt, frozen yogurt, buttermilk, cream cheese, ice cream, iced milk, and baked goods. No other country besides the U.S. has approved rBGH for use within its borders, though Monsanto has sought approval in Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and Canada.

In 1990, in SCIENCE magazine, FDA published a justification for its conclusion that milk from rBGH-treated cows was "safe for human consumption."[2] Such a public justification of a pending FDA decision is highly unusual, perhaps indicating the politically charged nature of FDA's decision to allow Monsanto to treat many of the nation's milk cows with a genetically-engineered hormone.

FDA's 1990 SCIENCE article offered seven tables of data to support its conclusion that rBGH is safe. The first two tables of data were taken from an unpublished Monsanto study of rats fed rBGH in high doses for 90 days.[4] In SCIENCE, FDA said the 90-day rat feeding study showed that rBGH "is not orally active in rats"[2,pg.875] and concluded that, "No oral activity was found when rBGH was administered to rats at exaggerated doses."[2,pg.883]

However, a recently-released Canadian government report indicates that the findings of Monsanto's 90-day rat feeding study were misreported by FDA in SCIENCE in 1990.[5] The Canadian report says that 20% to 30% of the rats fed rBGH in high doses developed primary antibody responses to rBGH, indicating that rBGH was absorbed into their blood. An antibody response is evidence that the immune system has detected, and responded to, a substance entering the body. Furthermore, cysts reportedly developed on the thyroids of the male rats and some increased infiltration of the prostate gland occurred. Despite these results, FDA reported in SCIENCE that there were "no... clinical findings" in the Monsanto rat study.[2,pg.878] The Canadian government report concludes flatly that "the 3-month rat study did show a physiological response."[5,pg.29]

One FDA official told the Associated Press this month that FDA never examined the raw data from Monsanto's rat feeding study but based its 1993 safety conclusion only on a summary of the study provided by Monsanto. John Scheid, of FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, told AP reporter Frederick Bever, "We do not have the data from that study."[6] Scheid said FDA had relied on a summary of the study provided by Monsanto. For the past two days, FDA officials have refused to return phone calls from REHW seeking comment. Drawing conclusions from a summary of a scientific study would be equivalent to describing the contents of a book by reading an author's summary of the book, instead of reading the book itself.

Furthermore, relying on a summary of a study, rather than on detailed data from the study, would violate FDA's published procedures. In its 1990 SCIENCE article, FDA said that "the FDA requires the pharmaceutical companies to submit all studies they conducted on their products" and said, "The companies also submit the raw data from all safety studies that will form the basis of the approval of the product;...."[2,pg.876]

Furthermore, FDA explained that, "If the initial toxicity study demonstrates that the protein [such as rBGH] is indeed orally active, additional testing may be required."[2,pg.876] Thus if FDA had known in 1990 that Monsanto's rat feeding study had indicated that rBGH was orally active in rats, additional testing could have been required before a decision was made to approve or disapprove the genetically-engineered drug.

Monsanto's application to market rBGH in Canada has reportedly created political pressures on government scientists there to sidestep normal safety protocols.

The Canadian government report concludes (pg. 5) that, in Canada, "Both procedural and data gaps were found which fail to properly address the human safety requirements of this drug under the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations." It is evident from the Canadian report that the U.S. approval process for this drug was equally flawed. None of the questions raised by the Canadian government scientists have been addressed by U.S. FDA.

--Peter Montague
(National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)

References:

  1. See REHW #381, #382, #383, #384, #454, #483, #593, #598.

  2. Judith C. Juskevich and C. Greg Guyer, "Bovine growth Hormone: Human Food Safety Evaluation," SCIENCE Vol. 249 (August 24, 1990), pgs. 875-884.

  3. Consumer Policy Institute, "Statement of Michael Hansen... on Canadian rBST (rBGH) 'Gaps Analysis' Report and FDA Inaction October 5, 1998" (Yonkers, N.Y.: Consumer Policy Institute [phone: (914) 378-2455], October 5, 1998. And see: Correspondence from Anthony Pollina, Vermont Public Interest Research Group [phone (802) 223-5221], and Ellen Taggert, Rural Vermont [phone: (802) 223-7222], to Senator James Jeffords, Senator Patrick Leahy, and Representative Bernie Sanders, dated October 1, 1998.

  4. The complete Monsanto rat feeding study has never been officially released, published, or, so far as we know, subjected to peer review. FDA has vigorously resisted all efforts by citizens, under the federal Freedom of Information Act, to obtain a copy of the complete study including the raw data.

    For the story of one citizens's attempts to obtain a copy of the study, see Robert Cohen, MILK THE DEADLY POISON (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Argus Publishing, 1997), pgs. 77-96. ISBN 0-9659196-0-9. FDA has successfully argued in federal court that release of the Monsanto study "would cause substantial competitive and financial harm to the company." If John Scheid of FDA is right, FDA could not release the study because, Scheid says, FDA has never possessed a complete copy of the study.

  5. Shiv Chopra and others, RBST (NUTRILAC) "GAPS ANALYSIS" Report By Rbst Internal Review Team, Health Protection Branch, Health Canada (ottawa: Health Canada, April 21, 1998). Health Canada is the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This report was recently made available on the world wide web at: http://www.nfu.ca/nfu/Gapsreport.html. [The Canadian government report is available from us for $5.00; write to Rachel's, P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403.] To avoid using the word "hormone" to describe rBGH, Monsanto renamed the drug recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST. In the U.S., Monsanto sells rBGH (or rBST) under the trade name Posilac; in Canada, they are seeking approval to sell it under the trade name Nutrilac.

  6. Frederick Bever [Associated Press], "Canadian Agency Questions Approval of Cow Drug by U.S.," RUTLAND [VERMONT] HERALD October 6, 1998, pg. unknown.

  7. Laura Eggertson, "Researchers threatened, inquiry told," TORONTO STAR September 17, 1998, pg. unknown.

  8. Anne McIlroy, "Health Canada cover-up alleged," [TORONTO] GLOBE AND MAIL September 17, 1998, pg. A3.

  9. Laura Eggertson, "Expert worked for drug firm," TORONTO STAR September 21, 1998, pg. A2.

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

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