Genetically Manipulated Food News

12 December 98

Table of Contents

Press Conference announcing lawsuit against FDA
Breast Implant: Pierre Blais thought it was his duty.
A Sampling Of Health Protection Branch Controversies:
Leaked Monsanto Report Reveals Retailers Fear They Will Lose On Gm Foods
OFMA Demands A Complete Ban of GE and GE related Products
Revealed: Risks Of Genetic Food
Japanese Report Cloning of 8 Calves
Good news and help needed to make it better
Things are not going well for Monsanto
Building the European Movement Against Genetic Engineering
Fed up with Mainstream Journalism: Too Damned Late.

Back to Index


Press Conference announcing lawsuit against FDA

Here is some information on a very significant event. A press conference this Tuesday in Washington DC, about the hazards of BGH, and announcing a lawsuit against FDA if they do not take BGH off the market.

Several hundred of the media are expected at the press conference.

Also, I have been told that a few hours after the press conference, it will be telecast at their website. http://www.ems.org

Richard

__________________________________________________________

Environmental Media Services (EMS)

Fired TV Reporters to Describe their Battle to Air Series on Bovine Growth Hormone

100th EMS Press Breakfast: Tuesday, December 15, 1998, 9:00 AM

Lawsuit charges Fox pressured reporters to broadcast false information

When Steve Wilson and Jane Akre - award winning reporters at Fox-owned WTVT in Tampa, Florida - sought to air their series on bovine growth hormone (BGH) last year, Monsanto warned Fox executives that "dire consequences" would result if the stories ran as originally written. Fox rewrote the stories over 70 times and eventually fired the reporters. The series never aired.

Now Wilson and Akre - who recently received the National Society of Professional Journalists Award for Ethics - are suing Fox asserting the network broke the law when it fired them for refusing to broadcast inaccurate reports. Steve Wilson and Jane Akre will join health and legal experts to discuss their suit and the possible dangers of BGH at the 100th EMS Press Breakfast, Tuesday December 15, 1998 in the Crystal Room of the Willard Hotel.

Monsanto describes BGH as "a dairy management tool" which safely boosts milk production in 30 percent of US cows. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved BGH in 1993 but failed to consider important information that recently became public after a review by FDA's Canadian counterpart, Health Canada. Monsanto's own studies link BGH to cysts in rats. The BGH derived substance believed to have caused the growths has been linked to cancer in humans according to research at Harvard Medical School.

Also at the breakfast, the Center for Food Safety will unveil a legal action asking the FDA to suspend approval of BGH immediately. If the FDA does not take BGH off the market it will face a lawsuit.

WHO:
WHEN:
Tuesday, December 15, 1998, 9:00 am
WHERE:
The Willard Hotel - In the Crystal Room on the ground floor 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

- A continental breakfast will be served -

Tom Lalley, Program Director
Environmental Media Services (EMS) 1320 18th Street NW, Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20036
Tel: (202) 463-6670, http://www.ems.org, tlalley@ems.org


Date: Sat, 12 Dec 1998 16:37:22 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GENews

Thanks to Bradford Duplisea brad@pei.sympatico.ca at Sierra Club of/du Canada for posting the following article.

It is a few weeks old, but excellent

*****************************************

Safety's tarnished stamp of approval The agency that guards the health of the nation is in disarray. Can it be trusted? Nightmares of 'the next thalidomide'

Breast Implant: Pierre Blais thought it was his duty.

ANNE McILROY Parliamentary Bureau
Globe and Mail, Canada Wednesday, November 18, 1998

Ottawa -- As a scientist employed by the federal health protection branch, Mr. Blais wanted to ban a popular breast implant because he had evidence that its foam coating could make women sick.

His superiors disagreed. They tried to bully him into backing off and when that failed, they fired him. Mr. Blais challenged his dismissal and won, but he decided to leave anyway.

It was eight years ago, but time has not eased the anger or fear in his voice as he compares his former workplace to East Germany under the Communists, a secretive place where those who speak out are intimidated and big business really calls the shots.

"I left for fear I would be the person who would have been forced to approve the next thalidomide," he said in a recent interview. "Imagine the nightmare."

He left in 1990. The following year, the manufacturer took the product off the market. It was the notorious Meme breast implant.

Today, Mr. Blais is still in Ottawa, working as a consultant and watching with keen interest as his old workplace is put under the microscope.

Clearly something has gone terribly awry in the complex on the Ottawa River that houses the health protection branch. Its 1,360 scientists and support staff are the biomedical guardians of the nation. Their job is to protect Canadians from bad drugs, contaminated food, tainted blood and unsafe baby cribs and other consumer products.

Now the question is, can they still do it?

In recent weeks, six of the branch's scientists have complained that their superiors tried to force them to approve the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone despite their concerns that it isn't safe. Already in use in the United States, the hormone increases milk production in cows, but critics fear that such milk may not be safe for children to drink. The scientists' testimony before a Senate committee was like a scene from the conspiratorial television show The X-Files.

Margaret Haydon, her voice quavering, told how her files had been broken into and how she was taken off the case after she recommended that the drug not be approved.

She said Monsanto, its manufacturer, had offered Health Department officials research money they interpreted as a bribe, an allegation the company denies.

The senators were stunned by the accusations, but Mr. Blais wasn't surprised.

"It isn't an isolated incident, but this is part of a pattern," he said in an interview in his Ottawa home. "But over the years they have only gotten more sophisticated at concealing what is going on."

The RCMP believe that the truth is out there, and it has launched three investigations involving Health Canada.

They are looking into the tainted-blood tragedy of the 1980s, when thousands of Canadians were infected with the AIDS virus and hepatitis C while the health protection branch was responsible for regulating the blood system.

The police are also investigating the destruction of key documents by Health Canada officials. A damning report from the federal Information Commissioner found that officials destroyed what might have been crucial evidence because of pressure from the Red Cross, which feared victims would be able to use the documents in lawsuits.

The third investigation is an attempt to determine whether Health Canada officials approved the Meme breast implant despite knowing that it wasn't safe.

The Public Service Staff Relations Board is hearing a grievance from the six scientists over bovine growth hormone. Their complaint seems to mirror earlier accusations levelled against the department and the day-to-day concerns of other scientists who work there.

They say pharmaceutical manufacturers have far too much influence in the drug approval process and scientists often feel that their careers are threatened if they stand in the way of a drug they don't believe is safe.

"The department is saying all over the place that the client -- and this is in writing -- the client is now the industry and we have to serve the client. Although we have to ensure that safety is there, our situation has changed," researcher Shiv Chopra told the Senate committee.

Michelle Brill-Edwards, a medical doctor who quit the branch in 1996, said the culture of the department is such that scientists who raise questions about new drugs are deemed to be troublemakers, while those who quietly approve them are promoted. She left, charging that the branch was putting the interests of the pharmaceutical companies ahead of public safety, and went public with her accusations.

Mr. Blais said he was frequently called in for questioning by his superiors in a manner that made him feel like a criminal for wanting to protect public safety. Although reluctant to give specifics because of the RCMP investigation, he said he also was pressured by industry.

"On one occasion they called and said, 'Don't you know we are millionaires? Why are you making life so difficult for us?' " Mr. Blais said.

The scientists also say cuts to the branch's budget have denied them the tools they need to challenge manufacturers if a product seems unsafe.

In 1993-94, the budget was $237-million; in 1999-2000, it will be $118-million. Laboratories have been closed or scaled back and staff reassigned.

"I am miserable," one researcher said, speaking on condition she not be identified, "because I am responsible for deciding if a product is safe and I can't do my own research, or even access the research of others, to find out. It is a terrible feeling, knowing you are responsible but that you can't do your job."

The scientists also complain that managers without scientific experience regularly overrule their decisions. The result has been strained and at times poisonous employee-management relations.

"The frustrations in the workplace that detract from job satisfaction generally involve the lack of support, inaccessibility, lack of technical knowledge and the inability to admit mistakes," a 1994 report on morale reads. "The decision-making process was thought to be untimely, inconsistent, unfair and, at times, politically based."

A culture of intense secrecy makes it difficult for scientists to do their jobs and for Canadians to know whether they can have faith in the system, the six scientists say.

They were ordered not to speak out publicly. They testified before the Senate committee only after receiving written assurances from Health Minister Allan Rock that they would not be punished.

Mr. Blais said the problems began in the mid-1980s, when the Progressive Conservatives took office in Ottawa. In an effort to cut the backlog of drugs seeking approval, the government contracted out safety reviews to private consultants, some of whom also work for drug manufacturers.

The Liberals took power in 1993 determined to cut the deficit, which exacerbated the problems.

More of the costs have been transferred to the pharmaceutical industry, which now pays for about 70 per cent of its product reviews. Critics say that gives it far too much control over how the department works, an allegation that Health Canada says is unfounded.

Mr. Rock became Health Minister last summer, eager to avoid controversy over a branch that posed problems for his predecessor. He froze the budget cutting, set up an advisory board of independent scientists to help him make decisions and launched a three-year "transition process" to consult Canadians on the future of the branch.

But the furor over bovine growth hormone -- including accusations that managers shredded key documents -- blew up just as the first stage of public consultations were ending.

Obviously frustrated, Mr. Rock has insisted repeatedly that the hormone will not be approved until it is proved to be safe, and his deputy minister, David Dodge, has attempted to reassure the public.

"The job of the department, and we must be extraordinarily clear about it, is to protect the health and safety of Canadians . . .," he told the Senate committee.

Mr. Dodge, a former deputy finance minister, told the committee that the branch suffers the pressures of competing interests.

On one hand, when new drugs -- for example ones used to fight AIDS -- are available elsewhere but not in Canada, the public clamours to speed up their approval. On the other hand, approving unsafe drugs can be deadly.

Mr. Dodge added that the secrecy is necessary because drug companies invest millions in research and do not want it to fall into a competitor's hands. If that were to happen, they will simply ignore the relatively small Canadian market.

However, there has to be a way to "shine light" on branch activities without giving away secrets, Mr. Dodge said. The options would include using the Internet or allowing consumer representation in the approval process.

As for social and moral questions such as those raised by bovine-growth hormone, he said the answer may be to give Parliament a greater role in the decision making.

One major obstacle to the "transition" process for the branch is the low morale among the staff and the deep suspicion some researchers have of their managers and political masters. There is a fear that the proposed reform is actually the final step in the deregulation of health protection begun by the Conservatives.

For example, the government has been accused by the Canadian Health Coalition (made up trade unions and other groups with an interest in the branch) of wanting to rewrite the Food and Drug Act to remove the government's criminal liability should something go wrong. It's an allegation that Ian Shugart, who is in charge of revamping the branch, has denied many times.

And what does Pierre Blais make of it all?

He remains convinced that any change will be cosmetic. "The biggest danger of the process is that it will lull the general public into believing they are protected."


Date: Sat, 12 Dec 1998 16:37:22 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GENews

A Sampling Of Health Protection Branch Controversies:

Bovine growth hormone

The big current item, this drug has been under review for more than eight years. The Health Minister says it won't be approved until he is satisfied it is safe. Documents show that senior branch officials have already told the manufacturer that it poses no threat.

Vinyl toys

This week, the Health Department issued a warning about toxin dangers in soft plastic toys that youngsters might put in their mouths. Environmentalists want the warning also applied to plastic raincoats, backpacks and dozens of other toys. An earlier study found no risk associated with any such products.

The Meme breast implant

Allowed on the Canadian market without a safety review, it prompted branch scientist Pierre Blais to seek a ban in 1990 after finding that it was covered with a foam used in carpets and upholstery. A year later, the manufacturer withdrew the product after the U.S. government determined that the cover leaked a potential carcinogen.

Tainted Blood Supply

Tainted blood This fall, Health Minister Allan Rock announced the spending of $125-million over five years to implement the recommendations of the Krever inquiry, which was highly critical of the branch's handling of the blood supply in the 1980s, when thousands of Canadians were infected with hepatitis C and the AIDS virus.

Imitrex

Dr. Michelle Brill-Edwards resigned from the department in part over the approval of this migraine drug, later found potentially dangerous to people with heart conditions.


Date: Sat, 12 Dec 1998 16:37:22 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GENews

This is from a european newsletter

Leaked Monsanto Report Reveals Retailers Fear They Will Lose On Gm Foods

GenetiX Update December/ January 1999 Number 11
Newsletter of the Genetic Engineering Network: Information for Action

There is now no doubt about the tremendous impact that campaigns across the UK against genetically manipulated foods are having on Monsanto and major food retailers.

The massive propaganda campaign run by Monsanto over the summer has completely failed. A report leaked to Greenpeace, written for Monsanto by a former polling advisor to Clinton, Blair and Nelson Mandela, reveals "an on-going collapse of public support for biotechnology and GM foods. At each point in this project, we keep thinking that we have reached the low point and that public thinking will stabilise, but we apparently have not reached that point." Retailers interviewed in the report suggest that GM food could "turn out like irradiation. Which is, you don't do it." Others talk of a "fifty-fifty" chance of "losing to the pressure groups".

Such comments reflect the amazing amount of work that has gone into the campaign against GE and provides inspiration for it to continue to grow. More and more people are opposing the activities of biotech giants like Monsanto and the complicity of major retailers and food producers. The public perceived the biotechnology companies as " willing to risk great human danger in order to make profits." The message for Monsanto is clear: stop genetic manipulation of food.

What is also depressingly clear from this report is the acceptance by politicians of the "benefits" of genetic manipulation, "70% of the MPs (interviewed) reacted positively to GM foods." Just how out of touch are these people? Even a moratorium " gets little support among the MPs and civil servants."

For a copy of the Monsanto leak phone 0800 269065 or visit the Greenpeace website: http:/www.greenpeace.org.uk/monsanto


A Public Policy Press Release

OFMA Demands A Complete Ban of GE and GE related Products

From the Organic Farmers Marketing Association (OFMA)
Communication/Telecommunication Committee Co-chairs: Cecilia Bowman,
cvof@iquest.net, Eric Kindberg, erorganic@aol.com
Website: http://www.iquest.net/ofma

December 4, 1998

After due consideration the Board of Directors of the Organic Farmers Marketing Association has determined the following:

The Organic Farmers Marketing Association calls for an complete prohibition on the use of Genetically Engineered plants, seeds, microbials, animals and derivatives from GE products in certified organic farm food and fiber production.


Revealed: Risks Of Genetic Food

By Marie Woolf, Political Correspondent
Front Page - UK Independent on Sunday, 13 December 1998

A KEY government report on the effects of growing genetically modified crops has been suppressed because of its controversial warning of serious environmental risks. It says there are serious dangers to Britain's hedgerows, birds and indigenous plants from growing GM crops on a commercial scale.

The report, commissioned by ministers to assess the potential effects of cultivating GM food in Britain, concludes that there are insufficient safeguards to stop the creation of hybrid multi-resistant plants.

It lists a series of "gaps" in the UK's regulatory framework, leaving Britain's wildlife at serious risk of damage from genetically modified plants and other intensive farming methods.

The news comes as the Health and Safety Executive, responsible for monitoring GM crop trials, has revealed that in the six months between April and October this year more than one in 10 of the 49 sites inspected during that period had been breaking the regulations governing trials. This week it is expected to prosecute Monsanto for such breaches - the first ever criminal case of its kind.

The study, written by civil servants after widespread consultation with government advisers, also warns that the commercial growth of GM crops could lead to more pesticides being sprayed on Britain's fields.


Date: 9 Dec 1998 04:19:56 -0600
From: Shane Morris shane.morris@ul.ie

Japanese Report Cloning of 8 Calves

By PAUL RECER AP Science Writer , AP Headlines , Tuesday December 8 7:10 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) - Japanese researchers report that they have cloned eight, genetically identical calves from cells removed from a single adult cow.

In a study to be published this week in the journal Science, researchers from three Japanese institutions report that the calves were cloned with techniques similar to those used to clone the famed Scottish sheep known as Dolly.

The Japanese said they transferred the nuclei from cells removed from a single adult animal into cow eggs from which the nuclei had been removed. The eggs and the transferred cell nuclei fused and grew into blastocysts, an early embryonic stage that resembles a ball of cells. Ten blastocysts were placed into five unrelated cows, all of which became pregnant. Eight calves were born from the 10 blastocysts, but four of the eight animals died shortly after birth from what the

Each of the surviving calves is a genetic duplicate of the cow from which the cells were removed, the researchers.

Cloning cows in this manner, the scientists said, gives an important economic benefit because it could, in effect, duplicate cows that are

Japanese researchers reported last month that they had cloned at least 15 calves using the Dolly technique. Japan imports much of its beef and agricultural researchers have been aggressively studying cloning techniques as a way of improving the meat and milk production. Dolly was the first mammal in history to be cloned from an adult cell. Researchers announced last year that the Finn Dorset sheep was cloned from using the nucleus taken from a cell that had been removed from the udder of an adult sheep.

American researchers have since cloned calves using cells taken from unborn cows. Laboratory mice also have been cloned using the Dolly technique.

In the new Japanese work, the researchers used two different types of cells removed from the reproductive tract of a single Japanese beef cow. Both types of cells carried the same genetic pattern as the donor adult cow, and all of the cloned calves retained this same pattern, proving that they were true clones, the researchers said.

However, the Japanese researchers said they have achieved a higher degree of efficiency than earlier Scottish and American researchers. They said that 23 percent of one type of cell, the oviductal, developed into advanced embryos, while 49 percent of another type of cell, the cumulus, were successful.

Dolly's creators had hundreds of failures and some American researchers reported a success rate of only about 12 percent.


Date: 9 Dec 1998 12:51:07 -0600
From: Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)

Good news and help needed to make it better

Hi Everyone,

The Boston Globe had a good article on the Mothers for Natural Law and the petition campaign to get GE foods labeled in last Sunday's edition. The Associated Press picked it up on Monday (according to Laura Ticcati). But it got held up at the Washington AP office. New Hampshire got it because they have a version of the Boston Globe.

Iowa now has it because people there called their local newspapers asking them to get it from the Washington AP office. They said they wanted to see it and they wanted their papers to carry it. So now it is "in newspapers all over Iowa."

Apparently this is the only way for it to get anywhere. Individuals can just phone the Washington AP office and request it.

So, can you please call your local newspapers and ask them to get you the article and encourage them to print it since there is local and state interest where you are.

Perhaps someone knows the title of the article from the website or from the Boston Globe itself. That may help in this endeavor. (And does the article mention how many signatures we have?)

Thank you very much for your help.

Judy

--------------------------------------
Green Building Professionals Directory: http://www.greenbuilder.com/directory

Calendar: http://www.greenbuilder.com/calendar

Bookstore: http://www.greenbuilder.com/bookstore


Things are not going well for Monsanto

By Ronnie Cummins
Campaign for Food Safety/Organic Consumers Action

As reported in Food Bytes #13 ("Monsanto Under Attack") things have not been going so well for the gene engineers at Monsanto. In fact lately their situation seems to have degenerated from bad to worse. Besides slipping stock prices and persistence rumors of an unfriendly takeover by Dupont or another corporate giant, the Biomasters of Biotech have suffered from a rash of recent reversals including:

  1. Destruction of several heretofore secret test plots of Monsanto's Bt "Bollguard" Cotton in India. On Nov. 28 and again on Dec. 2 contingents of Indian farmers in the Karnataka region, chanting "Cremate Monsanto" and "Stop Genetic Engineering," uprooted and burned Bt cotton fields in front of a bank of TV cameras and news reporters. Once again Indian national and provincial governments came under fire for secretly collaborating with Monsanto and other agri-chemical transnationals. In the wake of the controversy, government officials in New Delhi were forced to reiterate that "Terminator Technology" seeds--patented by the USDA and Monsanto--will not be allowed into the country. NGOs (non-government organizations) including the Karnataka State Farmers Association have called on Monsanto to get out of India, and for the government to ban field tests and imports of genetically engineered seeds and crops. On Dec. 3 the Andhra Pradesh provincial government was forced to ask Monsanto to halt all field trials of Bt "Bollgard" cotton going on in seven districts in the state.

  2. Informed sources in Thailand and South Korea report that government advisors and officials have begun discussions and deliberations to require mandatory labeling and safety-testing of genetically engineered foods and crops, despite anticipated objections from the US Embassy. On November 6 the influential Thailand Biotech Centre admitted that "genetically engineered foods and agricultural products may pose a health hazard." Dr. Suthat Sriwathanapong, of the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Technology, said that to "protect consumers against this possible health risk," the Thai Food and Drug Administration should issue a more comprehensive rule to regulate genetically engineered drugs and products.

  3. The Consumers Union of Japan and other NGOs continue to call for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and crops. With several million petition signatures already in their hands, Japanese government officials are finding it increasingly difficult to ignore the demands of consumers. In a national survey in 1997, 91% of Japanese consumers stated their desire for "safety information" on GE foods. Despite Japanese consumers concerns, US trade officials have repeatedly warned Tokyo that mandatory labeling of GMOs is unacceptable, and could lead to a US/Japan trade war.

  4. The Southeast Asia Regional Institute for Community Education searice.c@philoline.com.ph and 12 other environmental NGOs organized a militant mass demonstration outside of Monsanto's corporate offices, near Manila, on Dec. 8 under the slogans of "Stop the Terminator Seeds" and "Put a Face on the Enemy." The genetic engineering controversy has recently been covered prominently in a number of major Phillipines newspapers, and two senators have introduced government resolutions to hold hearings and investigations on field trials and imports of GE foods and crops into the country.

  5. In New Zealand, a major controversy has developed over revelations that a US government official threatened serious economic reprisals if the country went forward with a law on mandatory labeling. Former associate Health Minister Neil Kirton revealed in an interview in the national press that the United States Ambassador, Josiah Beeman, visited him twice in February and March and "bullied" him over the testing and labeling of genetically modified food. Kirton was later fired and replaced by another government official who was willing to go along with the US "no labeling" position. Polls in New Zealand and Australia show that consumers overwhelming support mandatory labeling. In one 1993 poll in Australia, a full 89% of citizens said they wanted labeling and would reject foods that were unlabeled. A recent nation-wide survey conducted by Central Queensland University researchers found strong resistance to genetically altered food among Australian consumers, particularly women.

  6. In mid-November the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) of Asia and the Pacific launched a Safe Food Campaign at the Asia Pacific People's Assembly in Kuala Lumpur. PAN is collaborating with its network partners in the region to carry out this campaign. "Growing concern over these 'miracle' foods and the lack of information has prompted coordinated action over this issue", said Jennifer Mourin, the Campaign coordinator. Indian activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, speaking in Kuala Lumpur, described Monsanto, the biggest player in the ag biotech industry, as a "global terrorist," forcing "hazardous food" on countries, using "tremendous pressure and misleading promotional campaigns" to prevent people from choosing "the food they want," and refusing to segregate and label genetically engineered foods and crops.

  7. In Mexico City, national parliamentary representatives of the Green Party have begun work on federal legislation that would require mandatory labeling and safety-testing of GE foods and crops. The Greens expect to receive support from other opposition political parties as well.

  8. In Brazil, one of the nation's largest supermarket chains, Carrefour, has come out against the commercialization of Monsanto's herbicide-resistant "Roundup Ready" soybeans. Brazil is the second largest producer of soy in the world, second only to the United States. At this time, Brazilian soybean growers are benefiting from the higher prices that many buyers in the U.S. and Europe are willing to pay for non-genetically engineered crops. A lawsuit filed earlier this year by the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense (IDEC) idec@uol.com.br has temporarily halted the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture's approval of Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" soybeans. Brazilian NGOs including Greenpeace are gearing up to make their presence felt at the final session of the Convention on Biodiversity's Biosafety Protocol negotiations in mid-February in Cartagena, Colombia--where citizen groups and developing nations will try to push through a legally binding international treaty to regulate genetically engineered organisms.

  9. At a November international conference of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) ifoam@t-online.de, at Mar del Plata, Argentina, delegates from more than 60 countries, representing the world's leading organic farming organizations, called for governments and regulatory agencies throughout the world to immediately ban the use of genetic engineering in agriculture and food production because of threats to human health, the environment, and farmers rights.

  10. In Europe the controversy over gene foods continues unabated. Consumer studies by Monsanto's American polling firm recently leaked to Greenpeace International showed that public opinion in Great Britain and Germany has turned even more strongly against GE foods in recent months. According to the poll, conducted by Stanley Greenberg, "the broad climate is extremely inhospitable to biotechnology acceptance. Over the past year, the situation has deteriorated steadily and is perhaps even accelerating, with the latest survey showing an ongoing collapse of public support for biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) foods." The report goes on to state that even the "media elites are strongly hostile to biotechnology and Monsanto. They think the Government is being too lax and believe they must expose the dangers..."

  11. In Ireland a major row has developed after a national television network, RTE, ran a program entitled "Safe Harvest," critical of genetic engineering. Monsanto and the Irish biotechnology industry immediately complained that the program was "unfair and inaccurate," and demanded a retraction. Although threats by Monsanto will undoubtedly force Irish TV to grant "equal time" to biotech proponents on a later program, the incident has once more served to discredit Monsanto, already notorious in Europe for their strong-arm tactics in trying to suppress dissent.

  12. In October SPAR and all of Austria's major supermarket chains declared that they will not sell GE-derived products and intend to take them off their shelves. Meanwhile Greece has decided to ban the import of GE rapeseed (canola). In addition the Scientific Committee on Plants of the European Commission ruled against the release of a GE potato containing antibiotic-resistance marker genes.

  13. On Oct. 12 the European Parliament's Environment Committee called on the EU Commission to impose a moratorium on new GMO releases across the continent. Shortly thereafter the UK government announced a de-facto three-year moratorium on insect-resistant plants (e.g. Bt crops) and a de-facto one year moratorium on herbicide-resistant plants. The British government has apparently come to an agreement with the biotech industry in the UK that they will not apply for authorisation of Bt or herbicide-resistant plants during this time period.

  14. In late-October Greenpeace Germany released an internal memo issued by the Raiffeisen Co-operative in Baden Württemberg. Raiffeisen, one of the EU's biggest grain merchants, announced that they will refuse to accept deliveries of genetically modified maize from farmers. Grain handlers, animal feed dealers, and cooking oil suppliers all over Europe are coming under increasing pressure from supermarkets, consumer groups, and food producers to supply them with guaranteed "GMO-free" ingredients.

  15. In a speech delivered at a sugar industry trade meeting in the U.K. experts warned that the forthcoming export of non-segregated (GE mixed with non-GE) sugar from the US by Cargill and other commodity traders will likely set off a major controversy. "Current regulations in the sugar trade Associations make no mention of genetically modified quality," said Jonathan Drake, of Cargill's Geneva-based sugar trading office. In a speech prepared for an International Sugar Organization seminar, Drake warned that "Whether it [American sugar] will be freely accepted at destination is still unknown and perhaps dependent on labelling restrictions. EU officials may be quick to impose some restrictions in the wake of all the food scares in Europe."

  16. Hungarian protesters took to the streets on November 18, in front of the Ministry of Agriculture to pressure government authorities drafting final implementation legislation for Hungary's genetic engineering law (coming into force January 1, 1999). Chanting "Ne Kukoricazz a Kukicoret!" ("Don't Cream the Corn!), Environmental activists from five NGOs (including ELTE Nature Conservation Club and Energy Club) inflated a 6-meter high helium balloon of a corncob with bar-code, in front of the Ministry of Agriculture. Protesters are demanding a complete moratorium on the growth, use, and importation of genetically-modified plants, animals, and foodstuffs in Hungary.

  17. In the United States there are recent reports among agronomists of problems with Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" Cotton in Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona. In addition informed sources in Arizona report that Bt cotton is failing to repel pink bollworms, a major cotton pest. Lagging sales of Monsanto's Bt corn seeds in the Midwest have already forced the company to slash prices by 30%.

  18. In the US, according to the April 1998 journal, Cotton Grower, Bt-cotton growers in Arkansas had less than a banner year last season. A University of Arkansas study of several Bt and non-Bt cotton fields showed that on average Bt cotton yielded fewer pounds and lower income per acre. One farm showed a remarkable difference in yield--Bt cotton produced 168 fewer pounds per acre than the non-Bt variety. Bt cotton, on the farms studied, yielded an average of 24 fewer pounds per acre. Also, the new varieties required more growth regulator to synchronize plant development and had to be picked twice. Non-Bt cotton is typically picked only once.

    Also in Arkansas, on Nov. 24, seven farmers filed legal complaints against Monsanto, claiming that they were sold soybean seed with low germination rates. The complaints, filed with the Arkansas State Plant Board, involve several seed varieties that utilize Monsanto's Roundup Ready gene technology.

  19. In Maine on Nov. 20, pressure from the Green Party and other citizens groups caused Monsanto to withdraw its application to register and grow its genetically engineered corn in the state.

  20. Beginning October 31, more than 140 restaurants nationwide joined Greenpeace USA in calling on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require labels on genetically engineered foods. These restaurants will distribute information on the dangers of transgenic foods, including a postcard that customers can send to the FDA to support a lawsuit calling for labeling.

    "As a chef who is concerned about food quality, I want to be able to serve my customers the purest foods I can find," said Peter Hoffman, chef of the New York restaurant Savoy and board member of the national organization Chefs Collaborative 2000. "This means locally grown food from farmers I trust, not untested foods which may harm my customers." Chefs Collaborative is a non-profit membership organization of 1500 chefs across America who are dedicated to the ethic of sustainable cuisine.

  21. On Nov. 26 activists calling themselves the "California Croppers" destroyed a test plot of Novartis Bt corn on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. In a communique the Croppers warned Novartis and other biotech companies that further GE test plots were likely to come under attack. The Biotic Baking Brigade also struck again on November 23, throwing pies at a University of California official and an executive from Novartis.

  22. On November 18, the industry journal Chemical Week reported that cash-strapped Monsanto is trying to sell its controversial chemical sweetener, NutraSweet. Although the artificial sweetener has generated enormous profits for Searle, Monsanto's drug subsidiary, over the years, it has also generated thousands of complaints from consumers who claim that NutraSweet has damaged their health. Chemical Week also cited Wall Street analysts who report that Monsanto is also trying to sell its even more controversial genetically engineered animal drug, the recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone. So far there are no companies willing to buy rBGH.

  23. In yet another public relations setback for Monsanto (and Rupert Murdock's Fox Television network), fired Florida investigative reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson were presented a prestigious Ethics Award from the US Society of Professional Journalists for their investigative reporting on Monsanto's Bovine Growth Hormone. Akre and Wilson were fired by the Fox network last year after Monsanto claimed the two had produced a bias report on the controversial animal drug. On December 16, Wilson and Akre will be receiving the Joe Callaway Award from the Shafeek Nader Trust for "civic courage" in Washington, D.C.

  24. In addition to receiving continuing adverse publicity in the US from harassing and prosecuting 480 farmers for the "crime" of saving seeds (see Food Bytes #13) Monsanto now faces an a potentially even more explosive situation in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada. According to a Saskatchewan newspaper, the Western Producer, Monsanto has filed legal charges against a Saskatchewan farmer, Percy Schmeiser, for growing Roundup Ready canola without a license. But Schmeiser claims he's innocent and that Monsanto is the guilty party. He says that his farm has been contaminated by genetic material which has drifted from the fields of adjoining farmers who are growing genetically engineered canola. "It's in the ditches and the roadsides; it's in the shelter belts; it's in the gardens; it's all over," said Schmeiser. If Schmeiser ends up facing Monsanto in court, he says he going to be putting the company's genetically altered crops and patents on trial.

  25. And finally in Canada, the government announced on December 4 that it will not be giving approval to Monsanto's rBGH--at least for the foreseeable future. In an enormous controversy that will simply not go away, federal Health Canada officials have been exposed in the national media for conspiring with Monsanto to get the drug approved, despite objections by the government's own scientists--who warn that the drug has not been proven safe--and strenuous objections by farmers and consumer groups. Previous reports in the media have pointed out that Monsanto offered two million dollars to government health officials in exchange for speedy approval of rBGH, while shortly thereafter dissident scientists files' were burglarized and documents damaging to Monsanto were stolen. Several years ago Monsanto threatened to pull all investments out of Canada if rBGH were not approved, and has threatened the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for airing stories critical of the company's strong-arm tactics.
Pressure continues to build across the globe for an internationally coordinated anti-Monsanto Campaign. Stay tuned to Food Bytes for further details.

---|||### End of Food Bytes #15 ###|||---

Ronnie Cummins
Campaign for Food Safety/Organic Consumers Action 860 Hwy 61, Little Marais, Mn. 55614
Tel. 218-226-4164, Fax 218-226-4157, email alliance@mr.net, http://www.purefood.org

To subscribe to the free electronic newsletter, Food Bytes, send an email to: majordomo@mr.net with the simple message: subscribe pure-food-action


Date: 9 Dec 1998 15:10:42 -0600
From: biotech@aseed.antenna.nl

Building the European Movement Against Genetic Engineering

A SEED Europe is looking for an activist to work for a period of 6 months in Amsterdam in our campaigning against genetic engineering. The main focus of our work is to Round Up Monsanto and some of the other GE giants, such as Novartis. We also run other campaigning activities designed at movement building against GE in Europe.

The main aspects of the position will include

Producinga directory of activism and campaigning against genetic engineering Coordinatingthe production of a comic book on GE Publishinga Monsanto & Co. Monitor Newsletter Organisingand coordinating actions

The job will begin on March 1 1999.

We are looking for an activist with someknowledge of genetic engineering (GE) and the politics of GE experiencein networking generally someknowledge of activism against genetic engineering in Europe experiencein organising and coordinating action creativityand a sense of humour!

A SEED Europe (Action for Solidarity, Equality, Environment and Development) is the European hub of a global youth network committed to environmental and social justice. Currently, the A SEED Europe office is made up of 10 people. Campaigns running from A SEED Europe include Oilwatch Europe, a campaign against the K2R4 nuclear power plants in the Ukraine, transport issues, Forests and Rounding Up Monsanto and Co.

A SEED Europe is primarily a youth network. For this reason, we are looking for some one (preferably) under 30.

For further information on the position and our campaigning work, contact the A SEED office.

TO APPLY Send a C.V. and a letter stating your motivations to A SEED Europe (details below) by Wednesday, January 20 1999. (Emailed applications are accepted).

Interviews will take place in Amsterdam January 29- February 1 1999, so please keep these dates free.

A SEED Europe
P.O. Box 92066, 1090 AB Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tel: 00 31 20 468 26 16, Fax: 00 31 20 468 22 75, e-mail: aseedeur@antenna.nl, biotech@aseed.antenna.nl


Date: 9 Dec 1998 15:16:23 -0600
From: Sprinkraft@aol.com

Fed up with Mainstream Journalism: Too Damned Late.

Indiana organic soybean farmer Paul Vidrine seems to have come to the end of his patience with mainstream ag journals:

Dear Editor,

I have read the Soybean Digest for many years. I tended not to put too much stock in what I read in it because I know where a lot of the advertising money is coming from, large chemical companies.

I know a lot of farmers buy into these chemical companys' idea of what farming should look like in the future (Steve Pitstick, etc.), so I never bothered to write to you.

But two letters in the Dec. '98 issue caught my eye and made me think that there may still be a few farmers out there who have enough sense to think for themselves.

Mr. Samuel Justice voiced a concern I have long had with the issue of bio-engineering, which, according to it's proponents, is supposed to be good for farmers (more yield), good for the environemnt (less insecticides), and good for consumers (end-use specific crops, cheap food, etc.). These sound like wonderful things, but the fact is that the reason they are being pushed so hard is because they are good, extremely good, for the bank accounts of the companies dealing this technology.

As Rose Marie Guetterman noted, how can farmers continue to pay the high technology fees for this while getting the current poor prices for their crops? I have long wondered why farmers have been told that they must be more efficient and raise more food in order to feed a hungry world, and then have those same farmers pay some promotional organization to figure out what to do with all the crops they are producing. Soybean crayons and candles are interesting, but I thought I was supposed to be FEEDING the world, not supplying it with candles and crayons. And if the food is so important to a hungry world, why aren't grain prices 4 times what they are now? They should be, if our food is so important.

More and more scientific evidence has been coming out supporting the view that bi-engineering is potentially, and quite likely, unsafe. It is surely un-needed, since, judging from the prices being paid for grain, the grain isn't worth much. As bad as Bt corn or RR beans may be, they are nothing compared to the "terminator" technology coming out, with the help and support of our very own USDA. I am frightened, really and truly frightened, by this. Has ANYONE stopped to think what could happen if this gene were to become spread around in our environment? As soon as you plant a field of it, it WILL be. It doesn't sound to me like too many people are THINKING about this at all. Scientists are too arrogant (or ag companies are too greedy) to admit that they do not fully understand this technology. And they certainly have no historical data or evidence to support their claims that this technology is safe. Our farms and our planet is the testing ground. Doesn't that frighten anyone besides me?

Here's what I'd like to know: If or, more correctly, when this happens, and some of our most important crops become "terminated", what will we then do?

Will we get together and sue the USDA or the ag company responsible for this "termination"? Fat chance. What good will that do? Will that eliminate the problem? No. Will we pass a law banning the "terminator" gene? Will some judge order the USDA or the ag company to go out and collect all the "terminator" genes? No. It will then be too late. Doe's anyone understand that?

It will then be TOO DAMNED LATE.

Paul Vidrine
Glass Hill Farms, Indiana


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

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

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