Genetically Manipulated Food News

19 November 98

Table of Contents

UK Parliament Bans Biotech Foods
Biotech Crops Producing Superweeds
Monsanto Ad Blitz
Monsanto Found Libel
British University Accused of Biopiracy
GE Pig Organs Could Carry Deadly Virus
Potatoes that Produce Human Milk
Limited Mandatory Labelling in EU
BGH Hazards Uncovered
Canadian Scientists Under Thumb Of Industry
War On Killer Seed
New Patent Could Hurt Farmers
Brazil struggles to stop Transgenis Imports
Five EU states impose restrictions on GE plants
European Parliament's Environment Committee Also Calls For Moratorium
Japan doesn't want GE Soya From Brazil
Effort to Make Part-Human, Part-Cow Cells Troubles Clinton
Old Monsanto Had A Farm.
Fired rBGH Investigative Reporters Get Ethics Award
Skyrocketing British Opposition To Gen-manipulated Foods
Scientists Create A Cow-human Hybrid
Canada: Scientists Reject Hormone Growth in Cattle

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Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:25:28 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GE News - Alive, Nov 98, Biotech News

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

Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD

UK Parliament Bans Biotech Foods

The UK government banned genetically engineered foods from restaurants and bars in the House of Commons. The Parliament has been accused of double standards, as these biotech foods are still allowed in the public food system.

According to Hugh Warwick of the Genetics Forum : "This shows hypocrisy at the heart of government. MPs have decided they want nothing to do with genetically modified food while ministers are denying the public this choice. "


Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:25:28 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GE News - Alive, Nov 98, Biotech News

Biotech Crops Producing Superweeds

American and Danish scientists produced new evidence that herbicide resistance genes from genetically engineered crops can spread to wild relatives, producing herbicide resistant superweeds.

Because these weeds are immune to herbicides, they would be very difficult to control and would wreak ecological havoc. Dr. Allison Snow of Ohio State University explained that by spraying with herbicides, the only weeds to survive would be the herbicide resistant varieties, which would cause them to then spread even faster.


Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:25:28 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GE News - Alive, Nov 98, Biotech News

Monsanto Ad Blitz

In August, the US based biotech giant Monsanto began a multi-billion dollar media campaign in Europe to promote genetic engineered foods. Monsanto's ads, entitled "Let the Harvest Begin," presented biotechnology to protect the environment and feed the starving. A few African leaders are being used by Monsanto to promote their campaign.

However, other leading African politicians, scientists and agriculturists stated, "We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically beneficial to us." They added "Its [Monsanto's] major focus is not to protect the environment, but to develop crops that can resist higher doses of its best-selling chemical weed killer "Roundup."

Monsanto is gaining increasing control of every stage of food production, from the farmer to the market place. In addition to Roundup and related products, recent acquisitions of Monsanto include American Home Products, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical and healthcare product companies, Dekalb Genetics Corp., a major corn-seed producer, Cargill, the giant grain trader and food processor, and the crop-breeding unit of Unilever.


Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:25:28 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GE News - Alive, Nov 98, Biotech News

Monsanto Found Libel

The Mississippi Seed Arbitration Council recently ruled that Monsanto has to pay nearly $2 million to three cotton farmers who suffered severe losses, due to the failure of Monsanto's Roundup Ready cotton. Cotton bolls were deformed and fell off the plants prematurely, causing millions of dollars of damage.

Last fall, 54 cotton growers filed for arbitration with the Council over failure of the biotech cotton. Monsanto had begun settling directly with farmers--reportedly paying out millions of dollars. The $2 million ruling affects three growers who refused the company's offers and argued for higher compensation. The Roundup Ready cotton failure is an example of the unpredicted side-effects of genetic engineering.


Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:25:28 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GE News - Alive, Nov 98, Biotech News

British University Accused of Biopiracy

British scientists working for the Thai Government accused Portsmouth University (UK) of breaking wildlife rules enshrined at the Rio Convention on Biodiversity, by refusing to return up to 200 strains of marine fungi collected in Thailand.

Genes isolated from the fungi could be used to create pharmaceuticals for treating everything from AIDS to cancer and be worth millions of pounds. Under agreements signed by John Major and other world leaders at Rio de Janeiro in 1992, taking wild plants, animals and other life forms without permission is forbidden.


Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:25:28 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GE News - Alive, Nov 98, Biotech News

GE Pig Organs Could Carry Deadly Virus

Pigs are being genetically engineered with human genes to provide organs for human transplants. However, according the UK medical journal, Lancet, organs from pigs could infect humans with porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV), a new, possibly deadly virus.


Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:25:28 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GE News - Alive, Nov 98, Biotech News

Potatoes that Produce Human Milk

Scientists in Loma Linda, CA, USA have successfully inserted human genes that code for human milk into potatoes. The researchers are seeking to create potatoes that generate human milk. Patenting of this process, if successful, could lead to huge financial gain. The potential side effects of the milk are clearly unknown at this stage.


Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:25:28 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GE News - Alive, Nov 98, Biotech News

Limited Mandatory Labelling in EU

Beginning Sept 1, 1998, genetically engineered whole foods in Europe need to be labelled. However, the mandatory labelling does not apply to derivatives of biotech foods that do not themselves contain measurable amounts of genetically modified protein or DNA. For instance, while genetically engineered soy beans need to be labelled, soy oil and lecithin derived from these beans do not require labelling.

Environmentalists and consumer groups are very concerned because the majority of genetically engineered foods may only contain genetically modified derivatives that do not require labelling.


Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:25:28 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GE News - Alive, Nov 98, Biotech News

BGH Hazards Uncovered

Genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), which is injected into cows to increase milk production, was approved in the US on the basis of studies on rats.

However, studies recently uncovered though access to information channels found that rats injected with BGH showed cysts of the thyroid, elevated antibody levels, and inflammation of the prostate- all strong warning signals. The Health Canada report that includes these findings was suppressed, clearly due to pressure from industry .

At recent grievance hearings in Ottawa, Health Canada scientists say they are being pressured to approve BGH and other products of questionable safety. More details will be reported in the next Biotech News column.

For further information on biotechnology and its hazards, see the website: http://www.concentric.net/~Rwolfson/home.html


Date: Sun, 8 Nov 1998 18:56:25 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Canadian Scientists Under Thumb Of Industry

By Andrea Hopkins

OTTAWA, Nov 6 (Reuters) - If money is the root of all evil, something sinister is stalking Canadian scientists searching for the next miracle drug.

In October, six researchers at Canada's health department, fed up with constant pressure to hurry drug reviews and ignore safety concerns, marched into a Senate hearing and aired Health Canada's considerable dirty laundry. The scientists said they were pressured by their managers and bribed by chemical giant Monsanto Co. (MTC.N) to approve the company's genetically engineered cow hormone, rBST. St. Louis-based Monsanto said the money was to oversee studies.

Another Health Canada reviewer said she was told she would be sued by drug manufacturer Hoechst Canada, a unit of Germany's Hoechst AG (HOEG.F), if she continued to delay the approval of the company's growth hormone Revalor-H. The scientists detailed incidents in which controversial files at the agency had been shredded, stolen and locked up, allegedly to protect the interests of the corporate clients.

Shiv Chopra, a 64-year-old reviewer with 30 years service at the department, said he could remain silent no longer.

"The department is saying all over the place that the client -- and this is in writing -- the client now is the industry and we have to serve the client...We just are unable to deal with it any more," he told the Senate committee.

The revelations came just as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed it was investigating possible wrongdoing in Health Canada's 1982 approval of the Meme silicone breast implant. The implant was taken off the market in 1991 after it was found to contain a suspected cancer-causing agent.

Allegations that industry influence pervades Canada's health department came as no surprise to Dr. Michele Brill-Edwards, who in 1996 left her senior review job there.

She said industry executives have quick and easy access to cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats who respond to the industry's "incessant agitation" for drug approvals.

"It creates an untenable tension for a reviewer who has genuine unanswered questions about safety," she said.

Now an Ottawa pediatrician, Brill-Edwards said Canadian scientists want to report the truth but fear reprisals from the powerful corporations who fund Canadian research.

"The (industry) can destroy people if they try," she said.


Date: Sun, 8 Nov 1998 18:56:25 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

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

War On Killer Seed

By Nigel Hawkes, TIMES (london) November 4 1998 SCIENCE BRIEFING

A gene for all heights ; Dinosaurs' monster growth

THE world's largest agricultural research organisation, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, has come out against the latest idea in plant biotechnology - the so-called "terminator gene" which makes plants produce only sterile seeds. At its meeting in Washington last week, the UN-funded organisation recommended that its 16 member institutes ban the technology in their crop-improvement programmes.

Since a patent on the gene was issued last March to the US Department of Agriculture and a small cotton seed company, Delta and Pine Land, terminator technology has become one of the most hotly disputed issues in an increasingly bad-tempered debate. It involves inserting three genes and their on-switches into plants. One gene controls the other two, and when it is dominant the seeds from the plants are fertile and will grow into new plants. But when the master gene is activated by the manufacturer before the seed is sold, the plants produce a toxin in their own seeds that kills them and makes them sterile.

The terminator gene was developed to protect the intellectual property of the seed companies - that is, to prevent farmers saving seed from one year's crop to plant the following year. If seed companies have spent a lot of money developing a drought-resistant crop, for example, they want to be sure they will get their money back. The age-old practice of saving seed would hinder that.

But the technology has another possible advantage, of greater potential appeal to environmentalists. They worry that herbicide-resistant genes engineered into plants will escape and hybridise with wild plants, creating weeds that are resistant. Terminator technology could prevent that, by making pollen infertile or by killing off hybrid seeds as they germinate.


New Patent Could Hurt Farmers

By GEORGE ANTHAN
The Des Moines Register, Register Washington Bureau

Washington, D.C. - The granting on March 3 of Patent No. 5,723,765 to [ Delta and Pine Land Co. ] of Scott, Miss., on a technologically advanced variety of cotton seed has created an international controversy.

Critics have dubbed the development of a "terminator" technology that they claim threatens world food security.

Officially called the "Technology Protection System," the seed was developed jointly by the Mississippi seed company and U.S. Agriculture Department scientists. Under the Technology Protection System, three genes have been inserted into the cotton seed, which can be planted by the farmer in the normal way. But when the first crop is harvested, the cycle stops there.

The new seed produced by those cotton or, subsequently, wheat or rice or soybean plants -through a series of actions triggered by the three genes -won't germinate and produce new plants. These second-generation seeds will, in effect, be sterile. [ Monsanto Co. ] , which is in the process of buying Delta Pine Land, describes the new technology this way: "The idea is one seed, one plant." Such a development, according to Pat Roy Mooney, director of the Rural Advancement Foundation International, "threatens the well-being" of 1.4 billion people who "depend on saved seed for their food security," he said.

Instead of being able to save some seed for use in planting a new crop, the farmer would have to return to the company and buy new seed.

Although these so-called "terminator" genes are being inserted into seeds through new, sophisticated genetic engineering techniques, the effect -the inability of the seeds to reproduce themselves -is nothing new.

The hybrid corn seeds that have revolutionized production of that crop and are the product of traditional plant-breeding techniques do not produce second-generation seeds that can be effectively utilized by farmers. Producers must buy new hybrid corn seeds for each crop if they want the plant uniformity and productivity-enhancing features of hybrids. But wheat, rice, cotton and soybeans are not usually grown with hybrid seeds.

Farmers traditionally have saved seeds from these crops and used them up to several years before buying new varieties. .....

Rural Advancement Foundation International states that "the 12,000-year-old practice of farm families saving their best seed from one year's harvest for planting the next season may be coming to an end."

If the "terminator" technology becomes widely marketed throughout the world, "it will give the multinational seed and agrochemical industry an unprecedented and extremely dangerous capacity to control the world's food supply," the group states. Rural Advancement Foundation International refers to the technology as an "elegant product of misguided science. . ."


Date: Sun, 8 Nov 1998 18:56:25 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Brazil struggles to stop Transgenis Imports

Colleagues from all over the world concerned with transgenic plants and food products

IDEC - Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense - is struggling to garantee food safety and labelling of transgenics in Brazil. In this sense, an important conquest has been achieved regarding the Roundup Ready soy of Monsanto, but we fear it will be strike down by this powerful multinacional entrerprise, as related bellow.

Last september, Brazilian Federal Government was about to authorize the first petition for growth in large scale (for future consumption) of genetically modified soil (the Monsanto Roundup Ready transgenic soil). Fortunately, IDEC brought an action in Court which resulted in a provisional decision to obstruct the Government authorization. It was based on the fact that Brazil still must implement rules related to food safety, labellying and trade of transgenic plants and food products. Another argument used was that the countryís legislation demands a preliminary study of environment impact.

It caused a significant impact in the country with repercussion in several sectors of society. In one hand, farmers, independent scientists and consumers approved the Court decision. Also, suppliers such as Carrefour have demonstrated its concern with commerce of products containing OGM without labelling and without segregation (of plain soil and soil with genetically modified genes).

Neverthess, as expected, Monsanto has dedicated an imense effort to convince Federal Government and the midia that the Roundup Ready soil is identical to the natural soil and therefore does not need to be labelled; also, they argued that OGM is the solution to the worldís hunger; and, finally, that transgenics are acceptable in developed countries!

IDEC fears that Monsantoís lobbying turns back this important achievement in our struggle. Therefore, it would be essential the international support of organizations concerned with the matter. For that reason, we believe it would help: 1) Multiply this information urgently throughtout the midia in order to spread the news and reach the international support necessary at this moment; 2) Letters to the Brazilian Federal Government demonstrating concern about the Brazilian position about labelling of food containing OGM, especially considering that the country is the world second largest soil productor and one of the largest soil exporter (as well as exporter of many other products); and finally, 3) Letters suggesting strict rules related to food safety and requesting plain labelling of the OGM.

Attached is a brief summary of the fact that, if you wish, may be used as a press release and at the end a list of Brazilian Federal Government bodies for correspondencies.

If any additional information is needed, please contact Andrea Lazzarini at IDEC / Brazil (telephone: 55 - 11 - 3872-8790 / fax: 55 - 11 - 38629844 / e-mail: idec@uol.com.br. We thank you for your support.

Press Realease

The Monsantoís petition to the Brazilian Federal Government regarding the right to use, growth and commercialization of Roundup Ready soil in the country (the world second largest productor of soil) which should happened last september did not occured thanks to a Court decision.

IDEC - Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense, a Brazilian non-governamental organization for consumer protection, brought to Court an action and achieved a provisional decision to obstruct the Federal Governmentí authorization to Monsantoís request. The main arguments sustained by IDEC were: 1) Lack of rules refering to food safety, labellyng and commerce of trangenics; 2) the impact over environment is unknown and has not yet been studied in the country, therefore it demands a previous study of environment impact, as stated in the federal legislation.

Monsanto has argued that OGM are the solution for the hunger, that OGM are acceptable in developed countries and that IDECís position reflects developing countries ignorance.

Many NGO in Brasil (such as Greenpeace, the Housewife Movements and consumers) are bringing up the discussion to society and are alert in order to prevent harm products to consumerís health and environment from being brought to the market and to garantee the consumerís rights of information (labelling) and choice.


Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 16:17:35 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Here is some info posted by Gill Lacroix 100717.1155@compuserve.com from a Friends of the Earth Newsletter

INFORMATION FROM THE BIOTECHNOLOGY PROGRAMME OF FRIENDS OF THE EUROPE

Five EU states impose restrictions on GE plants

FoEE Biotech Mailout Volume 4 Issue 7 31.10.98

Five of the EU member states - Austria, France, Greece, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom - have now imposed either specific bans, or some form of moratorium, on genetically modified plants:


Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 16:17:35 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

European Parliament's Environment Committee Also Calls For Moratorium

FoEE Biotech Mailout Volume 4 Issue 7 31.10.98

Amid this groundswell of opposition to genetically modified crops within the EU, the European Parliament has also made its voice heard in the escalating call for a moratorium. During a debate in the EP's Environment Committee on Monday, 12th October, the Committee Members were scheduled to exchange views on

  1. the provisional prohibition and placing on the market in Austria of genetically modified maize, and

  2. the provisional prohibition of the use and sale of genetically modified maize (measure concerning Luxembourg) - specifically the Commission's proposal to force Austria and Luxembourg to lift their bans on Novartis maize.

What, in fact, ensued from the highly animated debate was that the Committee not only voted (all in favour, bar one) for the Commission to withdraw its proposal to take action against the two Member States, BUT ALSO FOR A MORATORIUM ON NEW AUTHORISATIONS OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS FOR COMMERCIAL PURPOSES WHILE THE SCIENTIFIC ISSUES ARE BEING CLARIFIED.


Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 16:17:35 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to martin.rickinger@apis.com.br (Martin Rickinger) for translating the following article from Brazil:

Japan doesn't want GE Soya From Brazil

Today (13/10) the Jornal Gazeta Mercantil [similar to Wall Street Jornal] in Brazil published a half-page article; I'll only translate the beginning.:

"Transgenics in circle of waiting" - Brazil's Agriculture Minister had a negative reaction regarding import of soya

The Brazilian government will put the breaks regarding authorization for the comercialization of genetically manipulated soya. The agriculture Minister, Francisco Turra, confirmed to this newspaper yesterday that the negative reaction of Japan regarding the diffusion of transgenic varieties in Brasil will hold up the process of approving comercial roundup-ready soya, produced by Monsanto Brazil.

Turra returned last week from a trip to Japan where he met government members, businessmen and executives from trading companies. In his talks, he clearly felt the interest of Japan to increase the importation of soya from Brazil, but at the same time he heard condemnations regarding Brazil adopting transgenic soya.

"We must be more careful with this approval, independent of the decision that the Government commission CTNBio has decided that this new soya doesn't create damage to the environment or health problems to man, we have to discuss the whole thing from a marketing view point", said Turro. Or in other words, what would of greater advantage for Brazil - to adopt or not adopt transgenic soya. ....

Brazil soya exports correspond at present to 1,5 billion US$ out of a total of 5 billion; i.e. 30% of Japan's imports. Apart from the fact that transgenic soya costs the farmers 25% less than other varieties, the Japanese or Europeans put major restrictions on the entry of products into their territory.

Transgenic soya represents approximately 50% of the soya planted in Argentina and 30% in the US.

Now with the upsurge of a new green wave in Europe - the new German chancellor was voted with the help of a coalition with the Greens - it'll be even more difficult to open markets for transgenic soya.

Apart from marketing discussions, the decision on the use of transgenic soya and its liberation in the country is being obstructed by court actions. At present there are two court appeals in Brasilia: one by the judge Raquel Fernandes Perrini in favour of the Braz. Institute for Consumer Protection (Idec), which had been trasnferred to the justice in Brasilia at the beginning of October. The other one originates from the congressman Fernando Ferro.

These court actions have the goal of prohibiting the government from approving the planting, transporting, storing, comercialization, consumption, import, liberating and throwing away of transgenic soya. The government took actions against but couldn't succeed so far regarding the lifting of these court decisions. ......


Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 16:17:35 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Effort to Make Part-Human, Part-Cow Cells Troubles Clinton

By Nicholas Wade, November 15, 1998 New York Times

Saying that he is "deeply troubled" by the creation of part-human, part-cow embryonic stem cells, President Clinton has directed the National Bioethics Advisory Commission to consider the implications of the research at its meeting Tuesday in Miami and to report back to him "as soon as possible".

In a letter sent Saturday to the chairman of the commission, Harold Shapiro of Princeton University, Clinton also asked for a review of embryonic stem-cell research in general, including the all-human embryonic stem cells whose isolation was reported earlier this month. These cells -- the primordial, all-purpose cells from which all tissues of the body develop -- were derived from very early embryos or blastocysts and from tissues of aborted fetuses.

While the president signaled concern about the "mingling of human and non-human species," he was more positive about the all-human embryonic stem cell research, noting that it "may have real potential for treating such devastating illnesses as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson's disease."

But he also stressed the ethical concerns raised by the research, telling the commission that he wanted a "thorough review, balancing all ethical and medical considerations." The letter was sent after the president had consulted with the White House Domestic Policy Council and the president's science adviser, Neal Lane, "because he wanted the broadest views possible -- the policy people, medical ethicists, as well as the scientists," an administration official said.

A political issue that lies in the background of the commission's deliberations is the ban on federal financing of fetal research. The ban, imposed by Congress, has created the situation that university scientists, who mostly depend on federal money, cannot work on the human embryonic stem cells whereas the private sector may conduct whatever research it pleases.

A group of scientists and ethicists known as the Human Embryo Research Panel said in 1994 that research on human embryonic stem cells should be federally financed, provided that the cells were derived from excess pre-implantation embryos created for infertility treatments. This was the source of some of the human embryonic stem cells isolated earlier this month.

In response to the panel's report, Clinton said in December 1994, "I do not believe that federal funds should be used to support the creation of human embryos for research purposes." The statement did not rule out research on excess embryos created in infertility clinics but subsequent action by Congress banned all research in which a human embryo is destroyed.

Referring to this history, the president said in his letter Saturday that the ethical issues of human embryonic stem cell research had not diminished since his statement of 1994 but that the benefits had become less hypothetical.

Lane said the implications of human embryonic stem-cell research had been under review but news of the human-cow hybrid cells, reported last week, "clearly raised urgent ethical, medical and legal issues that the president wants addressed and that's why he asked for the commission to give it immediate attention."

Human embryonic stem cells can develop into any of the body's 210 types of cells, a process that happens naturally during fetal development. Biologists at Geron, the company that supported the research, hope to grow the cells in the laboratory and guide them to develop into heart cells, blood cells and other tissues.

The cells would then be injected into the patient and integrate with tissues under the control of local body signals. In principle, the method could address a range of otherwise untreatable degenerative diseases, as well as relieving the severe shortage of organs available for conventional transplants.

Many serious technical problems remain to be resolved, including finding ways to guide the stem cells down desired paths of development and ways to prevent immune rejection. The ethical problems are also important because of the source of the embryonic stem cells. In one case the cells came from excess pre-implantation embryos created in infertility treatments, and in the other from aborted fetal tissue. Both sources were legal, but research using the first would have been ineligible for federal money.

The human-cow hybrid cell also complied with all laws, said Michael West, chief executive of Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester, Mass., the company that supported the research. In the hybrid cell, the cow cell's nucleus is first removed and the cow proteins are expected to be rapidly replaced with human proteins as the human nucleus takes over the cell.

Although the mingling of species raises many questions, scientists at Advanced Cell Technology regard the operation as one in which the cow egg is used simply to make the human cell's nucleus revert to its embryonic state. As the human cells can be provided by the patient himself, from blood or skin, there is no immune rejection when developed cells grown from his embryonic state cells are injected back into the body.

Advanced Cell Technology performed its cow-human hybrid experiment only once, three years ago, and took the study only to a very preliminary stage. Other scientists say more evidence is needed to verify whether embryonic stem-like cells were created. West said he was announcing the research now to test its public acceptability before making further investments in the technique.

© Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company


Date: Sun, 15 Nov 1998 23:59:53 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

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

Old Monsanto Had A Farm.

By Nick Cohen, The Observer 15th Nov 98. E. I .E O

To the literal minded, the controversy stirred by the demand by Monsanto that it's weird science should be licensced in Britain seems simple enough to resolve. No one from bedraggled green activists to the most conservative patrons of the Sainsbury's ready shredded salad counter wants genetically modified food. The Government should ban it.

I'm sure all readers in the fixing business will be relieved to hear that the naive notion that democratic politicians must respond to the will of the people has been dismissed for the sentimental tosh that it is. As the courts impose draconian penalties on it's critics, as magazines reporting the history of the US chemical company are pulped and as Washington and New Labour lobbyists turn their discreet charm on a receptive Whitehall, Monsanto can gaze with satisfaction on the gap between democratic theory and practice.

The company's authoratarian successess may confuse those who remember it's feely advertising campaign of the summer. The firm promised to supply readers with the addresses of the food industry. It was rare for a firm to give free publicity to opponents, Monsanto boasted "but we believe that food is so fundamentally important that everyone should know all they want to know about it."

One critic is the Ecologist magazine, a small but well researched journal, which sent an issue on Monsanto to the printers Penwalls of Liskeard Cornwall. The special edition promised to be a fascinating read. The magazine promised to be a fascinating read. The magazine produced details of how Monsanto produced Agent Orange, the poison Americans carpet bombed on the Vietnamese. Various learned Authors declared that despite all the claims of openess - "Food Biotechnolgy is a matter of opinion," Monsanto's Adverts continued "We believe you should hear all of them." the company suppressed dissadent voices.

When American Farmers marketed their milk saying it was free of bovine growth hormone Monsanto produced called RBGH, the company sued them. The hormone has been banned in Europe because of possible fears of a link with cancer. Politicians in the US state of Vermont were threatened with legal action when they insisted that milk with the hormone must be labelled.

British consumers who believe that clear labelling will give the choice of not buying genetically modified take note. The Ecologist showed how processed food with genetically modified soya beans is being imported from the US and Euriopeans don't have the faintist idea if the beans are mushed into their meals.

Supermarket customers are, however, unlikely to learn too much from the Ecologist. The printers told Editor Edward Goldsmith, that they had destroyed the entire issue because of fears of a libel action. They had contacted the open company and been informed that they would be involved in any defamation charges and brought against the green journalists. Goldsmiths found another printer but with WH Smith and John Menzies, Britains leading newagents refused to stock the magzine.

Sweeping punishments have been imposed on six members of a direct action group with the anarchic name of GenetiX Snowball, who recieved injunctions against trespassing on Monsanto test sites by other members of the group or complete strangers. The authorities are reluctant to treat the company with comparable severity. Oil seed rape from a Monsanto experimental site in Lincolnshire contaminated nearby plants because a buffer zone around the rape was too narrow. The department of the Enviroment has failed to say if it will threaten executives with fines and prison sentences for breach of regulations.

More striking court cases come from the United States. They showed us that you don't have to believe the scientists, who warned that Monsanto's pesticide resistant crops wil lead to new superweeds and mweals that will be difficult tp stomach, to be worried about genetically modified food.

The company claims that it's crops will fed the starving and lead to a new era of cheap food, but they more likely to create expliotative agribusiness monopolies. Bacterial and insect genes are spliced into crops to make them resistant to one particular herbicide, Roundup, manufactured of course by Monsanto naturally (or rather unnaturally). User of the seeds are a captive market for the pesticide.

Framers will not even be able to take seed from their crops and replant them the next year . Monsanto is developing what is charmingly called 'terminator'gene. The terminator is a genetically engineered suicide mechanism which makes the next generation of seeds poison themselves.

As Alan Simpson, Labour MP and critic of the Biotechnology Industry, says "for the first time in history farmers won't be able to save seed. They will be forced to pay an annual 'fuedal levy' to Monsanto each time they sow a crop.

While they wait for the terminator to arrive Monsanto has developed a novel legal concept:seed piracy. It has hired private detectives to investigate 475 cases of farmers taking and replanting seeds from their own crops. The US courts have fined offenders as much as £20,000 each. Again, British farmers should take note: nature is being privatised,patenetd and ringed with copyright lawyers.

Whether the Government is paying attention is another matter. Nick Brown,the agriculture Secretary, is felt far less willing to stand up to the Industrial farming lobby than his predecessor Jack Cunningham. Monsanto meanwhile is finding ways of getting close to New Labour. Bill Clinton lobbied Tony Blair twice to allow Monsanto into Britain. David Hill, one of the party's senior strategists, has taken a £100,000 a year job with Bell Pottinger PR company and calls his old friends on Monsanto's behalf.

By contrast, Simpsons critism of corperate influence have earned him the unbending hatred of the Labour leadership. A hack who recently went to number 10 saw acopy of the lefty magazine 'red pepper' featuring an article by Simpson. He asked one of the Prime Ministers aides what he thought of him.

" Simpsons a bastard" came the reply, "suppose poeple start listening to him. it could wreck everything."


Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 00:12:50 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

I am told that this website has essays from most of the leading sceintists who are critical of GE http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~rone/gedanger.htm

..............

Fired rBGH Investigative Reporters Get Ethics Award

LOS ANGELES (October 24, 1998). Former WTVT investigative reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson have received one of the top honors in journalism for standing up to the station when they say they were ordered to broadcast false and misleading news reports.

The national Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) presented the husband-and-wife team its Award for Ethics at the group's annual conference Saturday in Los Angeles. It was only the _____ time the group has bestowed such an ethics honor in its 89-year history. In presenting the honor, SPJ President Fred Brown said the award recognizes those individuals who, through their actions and decisions, provide a role model for all journalists.

"(Jane Akre and Steve Wilson) actually lost their jobs for refusing to incorporate false information into an investigative story about bovine growth hormone," Brown said, "and then waged a post-employment campaign to make sure the record was set straight in the case." The two received a standing ovation in the cavernous hotel ballroom packed with journalists from around the country.

Akre and Wilson were both fired by Fox-owned Channel 13 in Tampa just before Christmas of last year. They filed a lawsuit April 2, claiming they were dismissed for refusing to following orders to broadcast what they knew and documented to be false and misleading reports about the presence of a potentially deadly hormone they discovered in the milk supply throughout Florida and elsewhere.

The journalists have charged Fox managers and lawyers ordered them to lie and slant their reports in wake of two threatening letters from a lawyer representing the Monsanto company which makes the hormone in question. Their state court whistleblower complaint details how Monsanto directed its strong-arm pressure to kill or influence the story to Fox News chief Roger Ailes. He reportedly passed it along to Rupert Murdoch's Fox Television Stations division which owns and operates Channel 13.

"We are both humbled and heartened by this unexpected honor," says Akre. Her co-plaintiff Steve Wilson added, "A WTVT producer testified under oath in a deposition just last week that Jane and I have terrible reputations at WTVT. This was especially troubling in light of the fact neither of us ever worked with this woman. In fact, for the entire year we were there, we essentially worked alone and could never get our best work on the air without misleading the viewers, which we refused to do. "Our lawsuit was never about a simple employment dispute, as some local journalists seem inclined to believe without taking the time to really look into the facts," Wilson said.

"As proud as we are to receive this award, its real significance is that our peers at SPJ reviewed the situation on their own and saw the issue the same as we: to what extent can viewers and readers be served if journalists anywhere start giving into pressure to falsify or slant their reports?" he concluded.

Wilson and Akre are also in the process of preparing a formal complain to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking for a full and complete investigation into the character of a licensee who would order journalists to use the public airwaves to present news reports known to be false or slanted. The 13,500-member SPJ represents journalists throughout America and is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism, stimulating high standards of ethical behavior, and perpetuating a free press. Respected Washington Post columnist David Broder also received an ethics award at the conference. Broder was cited for lifetime acheivement. KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City received an aware for its reports examining its own and other media coverage of the federal building bombing


Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 00:12:50 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

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

Skyrocketing British Opposition To Gen-manipulated Foods

By John Vidal and David Hencke
Guardian (london) Wednesday November 18, 1998

Genetic food facing crisis: Leaked internal documents show leading company's concern over 'skyrocketing' public opposition

Monsanto, the world's leading genetic food company, is facing public meltdown in Britain and Germany with a "society-wide" collapse of support for its radical technologies, according to leaked internal documents.

Amid deepening media problems, and resentment by supermarkets, only senior civil servants and (mostly Labour) MPs have shown growing support for Monsanto's controversial technologies in the past year.

Two internal documents, leaked to Greenpeace and confirmed by Monsanto last night as genuine, say that the company should now consider crisis management. A company spokesman said Monsanto "was not at the moment considering pulling out" of either country, but that it was concerned at the situation.

While many independent polls have shown the British public to be wary of the introduction of genetically modified foods, this is the first internal company analysis to have been made public. Monsanto's latest polls and focus groups, according to the documents, show that an earlier collapse of support for GM foods has now accelerated with public opposition "skyrocketing", despite a £1 million advertising campaign.

"At each point we keep thinking that we have reached the low point... but we apparently have not," writes the author of the papers, Stan Greenberg, a US poll adviser who has worked for President Clinton, Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Monsanto's strategy in Britain is shown to have been to try to persuade "a socio-economic elite" of the benefits of the technology, so that they would in turn lead others into accepting foods with GM ingredients. The only progress it says it has made in the past year is with the political elite, "upper-level civil servants and MPs", many of whom it is known to have met.

"Media reporting on biotechnology has been particularly difficult in Britain," says Greenberg, "with key papers and reporters waging a campaign on GM foods."

Greenberg recommends the company should prepare for a crisis in Germany, where Monsanto says support for GM foods is lower than anywhere else in Europe.

Daniel Verakis of Monsanto in London said last night: "This information is not new or different to what has already been said."

In a further development, the Ministry of Agriculture has bowed to pressure from the biotechnology industry and abandoned plans to insist on full-scale crop trials for genetically modified crops.

New regulations being rushed through Parliament halve the number of trials needed to test new plant and seed varieties - drastically cutting the amount of information collected by the ministry before the crops can go on sale to the public.

The regulations follow the threat of legal action from the industry - and are contrary to the Government's original intention to regulate new varieties. Objections to government plans have been lodged by the National Farmers Union, the Country Landowners Association, the Lincolnshire Seed Growers' Association and Friends of the Earth. But Lord Donoughue, parliamentary under-secretary at MAFF, has overruled complaints by tabling the regulations.

The Liberal Democrats are to try and block the changes - and objections to the Government's new regulations are to be tabled by Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes. Mr Baker said yesterday: "There is a case for more tests on new genetically modified seeds, not fewer."

The new rules abolish the need for seed trials to be replicated - causing concern in the NFU that new varieties could be grown in Britain based on foreign trials.

Pete Riley, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "Genetic engineering is a new and still unpredictable technology. To halve the amount of data needed is not only weak but in total contempt of public concern."

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


Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 00:12:50 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Scientists Create A Cow-human Hybrid

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
From the Independent 13 Nov 98

Scientists have fused the nucleus of a human cell with an egg cell taken from a cow to create the world's first embryonic clone of an adult man.

The human-cow hybrid did not survive beyond a few days but it developed to the stage of a 32-cell embryo in an experiment that has far- reaching ethical implications. An American biotechnology company, Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), based in Worcester, Massachusetts, yesterday stunned the scientific community by announcing in a press statement that it had created the hybrid embryo three years ago >from the cells of one of its own scientists.

The company's aim was to generate human embryonic "stem cells", which are the vital progenitor cells of all the body's many different tissues.

"This advance, based on fusing a human somatic [non- reproductive] cell with a bovine egg cell from which the nucleus has been removed, may enable the production of an unlimited supply of such stem cells for transplant medicine," the company said.

Although it is thought unlikely that a human-cow hybrid embryo would ever be able tobe implanted in a womb and develop normally, the research will raise fears that the company may be pioneering a form of human cloning.

However Michael West, ACT's president and chief executive officer, denied that the research would lead to the full cloning of an adult. "We will not use this technology to clone human beings," he said yesterday.

The research, which has not been published in a scientific journal, was performed by Jose Cibelli, an Argentine-born scientist at the University of Massachusetts, which has a commercial link with ACT. Dr Cibelli took 52 of his own cells - either white blood cells or skin cells >from the inside of his cheek - and fused each with a cow egg. Most failed to thrive, according to a New York Times report, but one embryo grew and divided five times.

Dr Cibelli and his university colleague James Robl, who is well known in the area of animal cloning, have filed patents on the process with ACT controlling the commercial rights.

Asked if he was concerned about destroying 52 potential twins of himself, Dr Cibelli told The New York Times: "I never thought about it. But if you use your own cells to treat a disease you may have, you are not taking cells from another person selfishly."


Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 00:12:50 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson

Canada: Scientists Reject Hormone Growth in Cattle

By Mark Bourrie

OTTAWA, Nov 15 (IPS) - Environmentalist are supporting six government scientists who blew the whistle on politicians and chemical industry executives trying to pressure them into approving the use of cattle growth hormones in Canada.

Growth hormones such as recombinant bovine Somatotropin (rBST) have been in use in the United States for five years but cannot be used here until approved by 'Health Canada' - the Canadian Department of Health. Although banned, traces of rBST have turned up in milk and cheese here as local farmers apparently have bought the hormone in U.S. border towns and smuggled it into Canada.

When the six scientists at Health Canada balked and went public with stories about the pressure being put on them to approve rBST, senior managers in the department created two scientific panels to look into the issue - one comprised of veterinarians, the other appointed by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Opponents of the panels say that one of the "independent" scientists on the phsyicians and surgeons panel is Rejeanne Gougeon, a nutritionist at McGill University in Montreal. She, according to her curriculum vitae, has worked as a consultant for a U.S. agrichemical firm inbolved in producing rBST Elzabeth May, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, says the six scientists, who have taken their complaints to a civil service arbitration panel, have risked their careers to expose the pressure being applied to approve new drugs.

"The crux of their complaint and their grievance is that the health of Canadians is being compromised by a culture of approvals within Health Canada," she said. "They're under pressure to approve pharmaceuticals, pressure to approve verterinary drugs, pressure to approve substances that get into the food supplies of Canadians before adequate testing. There are some very serious allegations that have been made." May says the six scientists came forward after a series of drugs and growth hormones were approved despite warnings from government scientists.

For example the growth hormone 'Revelor H', which is intended to improve beef production, was "approved over the objections of three Health Canada scientists who believed there was not yet adequate evidence that this growth hormone was safe to be in our food supply," she said. "This was while Canada was before the world trade organization challenging the European ban of beef hormones. Political interference and pressure from the manufacturer got Revelor H approved before it should have been." May's organization has called for a public inquiry into the way Health Canada approves drugs.

The Canadian government denies the allegations made by the scientists. Health minister allan Rock told the Canadian Parliament that his ministry has not yet approved rBST and will not do so until it is proven to be safe. But Maude Barlow, director of the Council of Canadians - a group that fights against free trade and the growing power of transnational corporations - says that the Canadian government is giving up its power over public health.

"We believe that Health Canada, under tremendous pressure from the drug industry, is about to approve this dangerous drug," she says. "Their bosses may have ordered the scientists not to speak about it publicly, but they have been brave enough to come forward." Quoting from a Health Canada document, Barlow said the government wants to make Canada "the prefered place of business from a regulatory point of view." It has ordered drug regulators "to advocate the strategic interests of our industrial clients ... no longer the Canadian public, but the person or company who pays for the service," she says. "Very simply, the health protection branch of the government of Canada is being dismantled and now directly serves transnational food, drug and chemical corporations. Scientists are forced to approve drugs that are not safe for animal or human consumption.

"Food inspection has been given over to a new agency whose mandate is to promote trade, not to protect health. In simple language, this is the corporatization of the government of Canada's health protection branch so that no one will be in charge of animal or human health." The panel hearings are expected to last for several months. (END/IPS/mb/mk/98)


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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