Genetically Manipulated Food News

19 December 98

Table of Contents

Newbury school board says no BGH
Monsanto To Be Prosecuted Over Crops
UK: Bad taste; It is consumers, not scientists,
Monsanto India: Seeds of Confusion
New Study Questions Rbgh Safety (first Edition)
Cashing In On Life - Operation Terminator
New URL-Monsanto and Media Progaganda Radio Show
GMO potatoes deregulated by USDA - that means, its not GMO anymore?

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Date: Sat, 19 Dec 1998 13:48:25 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GENews

Newbury school board says no BGH

Associated Press, 09/15/98 01:04

NEWBURY, Vt. (AP) - Milk that comes from cows treated with a controversial hormone will not be served at Central School in Newbury.

The School Board has voted to make it the first community in the state to explicitly ban milk products that come from cows treated with the bovine growth hormone.

In the absence of studies on the long-term effects of drinking milk from BGH- treated cows, the School Board decided to be cautious. After close study, the board decided it was better to err on the side of There haven't been any long-term health studies in humans on the effects of

Date: Sat, 19 Dec 1998 13:48:25 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GENews

Monsanto To Be Prosecuted Over Crops

By Steve Connor, Science Editor, The Independent (UK) 18 Dec 98

Monsanto, the multinational chemicals company, is to be prosecuted for allegedly breaching the rules on the growth of genetically modified crops. It is the first prosecution of its kind.

The Health and Safety Executive yesterday said that it is prosecuting both Monsanto and an agricultural seed company, Perryfields Holdings, over their failure to comply with regulations designed to control the spread of pollen from modified crops.

Details of the alleged incident appeared this summer in the minutes of the government's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment. Members of the committee found that herbicide-resistant oilseed rape was growing too close to neighbouring crops.

The minutes stated: "It was found that the pollen barrier surrounding the trial . was only two metres wide on the site of the trial, rather than the required six metres. The trial . had already flowered and pollination with the surrounding crop may have taken place."

The HSE said Monsanto and Perryfields Holdings allegedly failed to comply with one of the conditions agreed under the Enviromental Protection Act by which the companies were permitted to grow modified oilseed rape at a site in Lincolnshire.

Caistor Magistrates Court in Lincolnshire is to hear the case next month and, if found guilty, Monsanto faces a fine of up to £20,000, or an unlimited fine if the case goes to a Crown Court.

Monsanto yesterday said it regretted the breach of consent and that it had taken immediate steps to limit any potential enviromental impact.

Date: Sat, 19 Dec 1998 13:48:25 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GENews

UK: Bad taste; It is consumers, not scientists,

By Peter Melchett, The Guardian (London) December 17, 1998 SECTION: The Guardian Features Page; Pg. 20

Blair should be listening to on the subject of genetically engineered food

AT a seminar on science this week, Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and David Blunkett were told that genetic engineering represents "opportunities to be seized" and that they should beware of "bio-fundamentalists". As the only "bio - fundamentalist" present, I said that industry and UK government scientists were not trusted by the public - and for good reason.

In crucial areas such as food -from pesticides to mad cow disease - they've simply got it wrong. Chatham House rules prevent other comments being attributed.

Throughout the last 50 years, the Government has poured millions of pounds into intensive, industrialised food production. The problems that Rachel Carson highlighted in her book, Silent Spring, should have forewarned us of the disasters to follow - the stripping of nature from the face of our countryside, the revolting cruelty of industrialised livestock farming, culminating in the catastrophe of mad cow disease.

At the seminar, it was clear that, 20 years later, nothing has fundamentally changed. The agenda of official British science is still dominated by the old -fashioned mindset that big is best, and that the more intense our manipulation or interference with nature through science, the better the outcome will be. Environmentalists are enthusiasts for science, which plays a crucial role in identifying environmental problems like damage to the ozone layer and climate change.

But scientific policy advice given to politicians comes from a tightly drawn "inner circle". Although knowledgeable in their fields, these "experts" have often proved to be incapable of appreciating how the real world works (as with BSE), and equally incapable of taking seriously issues that matter to the public (cows shouldn't eat cows).

In the UK, there is a strong presumption that the comfortable smoking-room consensus among elite decision-makers is automatically right. They even fail to ask the right questions, let alone provide sensible answers. THE seminar was dominated by genetic engineering.

This new technology involves even greater conflict with natural systems than the industrialised agriculture it builds on. It is now the dominant force in British science.

Most of the scientists seemed to want the Government to treat applications of genetic engineering in food and in medicine in the same way. The public see them quite differently. Buying food for your family and getting a prescription from your doctor are not the same, whatever the genetic engineering enthusiasts may say. Someone who is ill, and voluntarily takes something to make them better, chooses to take a risk explained to them, for a clear, hoped-for, personal benefit. None of this applies to genetically engineered food.

The Prime Minister was given some very unscientific speculation, for example, that genetic engineering is needed to feed the world's growing population. There is no evidence for this, and a study, just reported in Nature, found that the positive alternatives of organic agriculture can "produce equivalent crop yields to conventional methods".

Science has a role to play in decisions about food production.

But as a Government Research Council group of scientists said of the arguments about dumping the Brent Spar: "Any decision to proceed, or not to proceed, with such activities involves social, economic, ethical and aesthetic considerations which are outside the competence of the group, and judgments in which the technical assessment of the environmental impacts is only one factor, and not necessarily the most important one."

The decision on whether to proceed with genetically engineered food also involves social, economic, ethical and aesthetic considerations - and questions about need, who benefits, who runs the inevitable risk, and questions about the unpredictable and the unknowable. Above all, if it is to represent the public interest, Government must listen to environmentalists, non- establishment scientists and the public, who just do not want it at all.

In saying some of this to Tony Blair, I was accused of exaggerating to make a point. But my overwhelming impression was that the Prime Minister and his colleagues, like their predecessors over the last 50 years, were being presented with a cosy consensus, which ignored overwhelming public concerns, and establishment science's record of failure, not success.

Lord Melchett is executive director of Greenpeace UK

Date: Sat, 19 Dec 1998 13:48:25 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson GENews

Monsanto India: Seeds of Confusion

By Subhadra Menon, India Today December 21, 1998, SECTION: Science; Pg.69

The MNC's woes grow with the terminator gene mix up

It's perhaps only a case of mistaken identity. But the controversy raging over it is assuming serious proportions. At the centre are two tiny seeds no more the size of a pea. One is reported to be the panacea to the woes of the Indian cotton farmer.

The other is the dreaded terminator gene that threatens the sons of the soil with permanent dependence on western technology. Coincidentally Monsanto, the US seeds and bio-tech company, is connected with the development of both the seeds.

While the multinational's Bollgard is a genetically engineered strain of cotton, the terminator -- which Monsanto is currently in the process of acquiring from Delta and Pine Land, another American seeds concern -- is a technology that would allow seeds to be generated only once.

For many Indian farmers and grassroots activists, this is why Monsanto is a red rag. When the company started conducting field trials of Bollgard, claiming it was a huge success in six countries worldwide and that it was resistant to bollworms -- pests that feed on cotton -- farmers were furious. The trials, carried out jointly with the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco), covered 25 sites across eight states -- Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. The Bollgard gene was tailored to well-known Indian hybrids like MECH 1, but it did little to allay the fears of farmers who set fire to some trial sites and launched a nationwide protest.

Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 11:12:55 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GENews

Posted by: (jim mcnulty)

Date: Sun, 20 Dec 1998 18:32:06 +0000

New Study Questions Rbgh Safety (first Edition)

The Capital Times
(Copyright © Madison Newspapers, Inc. 1998)

Consumer Group Wants RBGH Pulled Off Market (second Edition)

A consumer group is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to pull bovine growth hormone off the market, charging the agency ignored potential health risks.

The Washington D.C.-based Center for Food Safety filed Tuesday with the FDA to withdraw or suspend use of the synthetic growth hormone, which is sold by [ Monsanto Corp. ] under the trade name Posilac to increase milk production. The agency has 180 days to conduct the investigation and either reject the claim or pull the drug.

Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy, Democrat, and James Jeffords, Republican, also have asked Donna Shalala, secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, to formally investigate the FDA's approval and whether it overlooked key evidence about the drug's safety. The request was filed Dec. 3, but no action has been taken so far, said Bill Hall, Shalala's deputy press secretary.

Andy Kimbrell, director of the Center for Food Safety, said he expects the action will end up in federal court given that "the FDA throughout has been very recalcitrant on this drug to come clean." The charge is resurfacing now after years of debate in states like Wisconsin and Vermont, Kimbrell said, because a group of scientists with the Health Protection Branch of the Canadian government have come forward during that country's nine-year approval process with a study that contradicts the FDA's most basic conclusions about the drug.

During the approval process, the FDA relied in part on an unpublished animal study done by Monsanto that said rats fed high doses of the hormone over a 3-month period showed no evidence they had absorbed the hormone. However, the Canadians claim their review of the Monsanto study actually provides evidence that 20 to 30 percent of the rats absorbed the hormone into their bloodstream. They also say some male rats developed cysts in the thyroid and had higher levels of the hormone in the prostate.

The contention that the hormone could not be absorbed was the linchpin in Monsanto's case in Wisconsin and nationally, and convinced the government to approve rBGH without long-term toxicity studies, said Kimbrell, who was one of the lead attorneys in the Wisconsin court battles. Kimbrell said the FDA should have known the hormone survives digestion and called it unconscionable that this information has been hidden from the public, which for the past five years has been consuming rBGH-treated milk, often without labeling.

Monsanto spokesman Gary Barton said Posilac, which is sold in all 50 states and 15 foreign countries, is the most tested drug in U.S. history and didn't just slip through the FDA approval process. Barton called the Canadian scientists' statements a "non-peer review look at some of the data" that doesn't represent a final conclusion from Health Canada. He said the safety of rBGH will be "reaffirmed" in the coming weeks when two Canadian peer review panels, empowered by Health Canada, are expected to release their findings.

"They are asking all the questions and we support good science," Barton said. "But if you look at this product's history, research around the world, there just has been no change in the scientific support of this product."

Still, Barton admits there is reluctance in Europe to embrace rBGH. In June 1997, the United Nations food standards committee voted overwhelmingly to continue a ban on the use of rBGH and delay for another two years any review of the drug. Barton said the moratorium is based on political and economic reasons, not health safety concerns.

Longtime rBGH opponent and Middleton scientist Dr. William von Meyer disputes Barton's claim rBGH was well researched. He said the government lacks such basic information on rBGH, milk containing rBGH and the parallel hormone IGF1 as: metabolism data that would examine the effects on reproductive systems and chronic safety tests done on large groups of animals over 18-36 months that would examine the effect of the hormone on all organs and the development of tumors.

"When you have no metabolism data and no chronic safety tests, what you are saying is you don't know a hell of a lot about this stuff," von Meyer said.

In the fall of 1996, von Meyer took his concerns to Rep. Scott Klug, R-Madison, who approached the FDA on his behalf. Klug's district director Sam Gold said 20 months passed and the FDA refused to answer what Klug's office felt were some very straightforward questions. Klug went to the FDA personally and arranged a meeting this past spring, but both sides came away frustrated that it took so long and the answers seemed to be evasive, Gold said.

Gold said Klug was not aware of the Canadian study nor had he seen the [ ABC ] news story that ran this week on the subject. He reiterated Klug's position that rBGH-treated milk remain labeled. In Wisconsin, that means the dairy case and the innocuous expression - Wisconsin's Choice - on cartons of rBGH-free milk. Gold said the issue has raised few concerns among constituents in recent years after heated debates that ended at times in milk dumpings. But he added that the Canadian reports need to be looked at by the FDA.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Madison, an outspoken opponent of rBGH, could not be reached for comment.

State Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel was not aware of the action and said he would be surprised if the FDA didn't do a thorough job in its approval process, as it is usually criticized for being too slow compared with other countries. He said the issue has "fallen off the radar screen" in Wisconsin and that state officials do not track the use of rBGH.

No one seems to know exactly how many farmers are using Posilac, but the most recent study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison released in July 1997 shows that 12 percent of state dairy farmers are using rBGH, compared with 6.5 percent in 1995. The adoption rate is 50 percent for farms with more than 200 cows, but only 4 percent for 50-cow herds. Approximately 75 percent of the state's milk volume still comes from herds of fewer than 100 cows.

UW assistant professor of agricultural economics Brad Barham said the chances of Posilac being pulled from the market are slim, but if it were, the overall effect would be negligible to Wisconsin farmers as it increases milk supplies by just 1-2 percent.

"Politically, it would be another story," he said. "It would be a lot of backtracking for a lot of levels of government and scientists."

Fellow UW ag economist Bill Dobson said the economic impact would be felt more strongly in California and Idaho, where there are larger herds and where it is more widely used, and would put further upward pressure on already high milk prices.

Barton said sales of Posilac, which is now made in Austria, were up 30 percent in both 1998 and 1997, and up 45 percent in 1996. The company does not release specific sales figures, but he said, this year Monsanto surpassed the 100 million dose mark.

Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 11:18:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GENews - LE MONDE DIPLOMATIQUE - December 1998

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Posted by Genetic Resources Action International

Cashing In On Life - Operation Terminator

by JEAN-PIERRE BERLAN and RICHARD C. LEWONTIN, Le Monde Diplomatique - December 1998

Richard C Lewontin is Respectively Director of Research at the National Agronomic Research Institute (INRA); and holder of the Alexander Agassiz chair in zoology and professor of population genetics at Harvard University.

Translated by Malcolm Greenwood

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are under fire. But the multinational firms which make up the genetic-industrial complex - like the military-industrial complex we used to talk about before - are hiding experts", most of which they have infiltrated, in their effort to dodge questions from a worried public: is it acceptable to play with living things, or even sterilise them, in order to increase profits? Can the heads of public research establishments, and the ministers they report to, continue - through ignorance, thoughtlessness or self-interest - to back this complex so little concerned with the common good? In December, the French Council of State will rule on the authorisation by the agriculture ministry last February for the marketing and cultivation of three varieties of transgenic maize developed by Novartis. This follows suspension by France's highest administrative court on 25 September of any implementation of the ministerial decree on grounds of caution.


Life has two fundamental and paradoxical properties (1): the ability to reproduce and multiply (while preserving its characteristics) and the ability to adapt, change and evolve. The first has given us farming, the second selection.

Geological time has seen an extraordinary genetic variability develop both between and within species. In the course of their very short history, men have domesticated plants and animals, selecting them and adapting them to their needs by exploiting and expanding this natural variability. But towards the middle of the 19th century, these two complementary properties became incompatible. Selection was no longer a way of satisfying needs, but of making money. Seed-producing "investors" realised that their work could not become a source of gain if farmers sowed grain they had harvested themselves. Nature became set against the "natural law" of profit; farming and farmers against selection and breeders. As nature's unfortunate property of reproducing itself and multiplying could not, at the time, be legally taken away by political means, the only way of achieving the same result was to use biological methods. Agricultural genetics was to devote all its efforts to doing this.

In March 1998 genetics scored a new victory with the Terminator patent granted to the United States Department of Agriculture and a private company, Delta and Pine Land Co. The technique consists of introducing a killer "transgene" that prevents the germ of the harvested grain from developing. The plant grows normally and produces a normal harvest but the grain is biologically sterile.

In May 1998 the multinational Monsanto bought Delta and Pine Land Co and the Terminator patent - by now registered, or in the process, in 87 countries - and is currently negotiating exclusive rights to it with the Department of Agriculture. Also in May, Monsanto tried to woo French public opinion with an expensive advertising campaign about the philanthropic wonders of genetically modified organisms (GMO). Neither the scientists concerned nor the media nor the French Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Options went to much trouble to understand the issues at stake, let alone explain them to the public.

Terminator is merely the outcome of a long process of seizing control over living things (2) that began when biological heredity (3) started to become a commodity. In 1907 Hugo de Vries, the most influential biologist of his day who "rediscovered" Mendel's laws (4), was the only one to realise that in an applied science like agricultural genetics, economics took precedence over science: what is profitable affects, or even determines, what is "scientifically true" (5).

He investigated replacing the technique of improving cereals by isolation, which dated back to the early 19th century and was based on the fact that the plants go on to breed true - and therefore bring no profits to the investor - by the continuous selection method. According to this method, justified by the best science of the time, Darwinism, varieties "deteriorate" in the farmer's field. This method cannot improve the plants, as was demonstrated empirically by Nilsson at the Svalöf Institute in Sweden in 1892 and confirmed by the earliest work inspired by Mendel at the beginning of this century. Thus, even then, a technique that was profitable but incapable of bringing the slightest progress replaced one that was useful to society but generated no profits.

Sterilising the harvest

Ignorant of the history of their own discipline and of the work of de Vries in particular (6), the 20th century's agricultural geneticists repeated the same scenario. At the end of the 1930s they triumphed with "hybrid" maize, which was extravagantly fêted (7). The technique of hybridisation, which has become the model for agronomic research the world over, is now used in around 20 food species and a dozen others are likely to follow. Poultry of every kind and a large number of pigs are also "hybrids". On the strength of a sham theoretical explanation of hybrid vigour, heterosis-superdominance (8), geneticists have tried since the mid-1930s to get the hybrid technique generally accepted following their success with maize in the United States. "Hybrids increase yield", they say. This puts the theory of heterosis in a nutshell: having different genes - "hybridity" - is beneficial per se.

In reality, what distinguishes this varietal type from all the others is the reduction in yield in the next generation - that is, in plain terms, sterility. As a result, the farmer is obliged to buy his "seed" in every year. But varietal progress can only come from improving populations by selection, the very thing that this quest for hybrids prevents. Apparently unaware of what they are doing, the agricultural geneticists have dialectically overturned reality: they state they are using a biological phenomenon, heterosis, to increase yield, while actually using inbreeding to create sterility. But if they were politically successful in sterilising maize, they had to focus attention on the illusion created by selection - improvement - to mask their real objective. There is therefore no difference between the late 19th century "deterioration" technique - hybrids - and the Terminator technique. The only innovation is the political context.

Until recently, the investors could not reveal their true design - the sterilisation of living things - without making it unachievable. The peasantry were a powerful social group. Life was sacred. But peasants are disappearing: they have become farmers, eagerly awaiting the smallest sign of "progress" capable of delaying their ultimate demise. And life has been reduced to a source of profits in the banal form of strands of DNA.

Numbed by 20 years of neo-liberal propaganda, people have been conditioned to look to science and technology for the answers to society's major political problems, while politicians are content to "manage". Finally, the small breeding firms have given way to a powerful genetic-industrial complex with ramifications extending into the very heart of public research (9). Terminator shows this complex now feels so powerful it no longer needs to hide its quest for control over life itself.

For example, Monsanto, the firm that is most advanced in "life science" applications, has no compunction about publishing threatening display advertisements in American farming journals. Under a banner headline pointing out the cost of planting pirated seed, it reminds farmers who purchased Biotech seed - genetically modified and including a gene for resistance to Roundup, its flagship herbicide - that they are not entitled to keep any of the harvested grain for use as seed the following year. This is "contractual sterility". But the farmer may have bought Roundup Ready grain without signing a contract - from neighbours, for example. In that case the company can prosecute him because the variety is patented. So now we have "legal sterility".

Monsanto, which has just made 2,500 people redundant, is using the old familiar response of hiring Pinkerton agency detectives (10) to track down farmers who "pirate" its seed as well as using more conventional informers: neighbours, crop-spraying companies and seed merchants. To avoid a potentially ruinous lawsuit, more than 100 farmers have been obliged to destroy their crops, pay compensation and allow Monsanto agents to inspect their accounts and their farms for years to come. It is perfectly legal to keep harvested grain to sow the following year: the farmer's only obligation is not to sell that grain to his neighbours. But according to Monsanto, that right does not apply to genetically modified seed that is covered by a patent (11).

As for the risks of "biological pollution" and the consequences - quite unknown - of genetically modified varieties for public health and the environment, the genetic-industrial complex's philosophy was clearly summed up by Monsanto's communications director Phil Angell when he said with unusual frankness that his company had "no need to guarantee the safety of genetically modified food products"; it was only interested in selling as many as possible and safety was a matter for the Food and Drug Administration (12). This from the people who paint the benefits of genetic manipulation in such glowing colours (13).

Monsanto and its ally-competitors, Novartis, Rhône-Poulenc, Pioneer-DuPont and many others, have specialised in the "life sciences". Strange life sciences that conspire against the marvellous property of living things to reproduce themselves and multiply in farmers' fields so that capital can reproduce and multiply in investors' bank accounts. Will we soon be forced to brick up doors and windows to protect candle makers from unfair competition from the sun (14)? There is no shortage of arguments that the sun should shine for everyone. Here are just four.

First, the wealth of variety was created by peasants all over the world, the third world in particular. It is a point always being raised by non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations like the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The domestication and selection/adaptation work done by peasants over thousands of years has built up a biological heritage from which the industrialised nations have greatly benefited - and which they have plundered and already partly destroyed. American agriculture was built from these genetic resources freely imported from all over the world, the only important species native to North America being the sunflower. If justice still means anything, the US - where there is much opposition to allowing a few companies to expropriate the universal biological heritage - should repay their "genetic debt" to the world.

Second, we owe the unprecedented increase in yields in the industrial countries, as well as the third world, to the free movement of knowledge and genetic resources and to public research. (Yields have increased four or five fold in two generations, after taking 12 to 15 generations to double and being no doubt much unchanged for thousands of years before that.) The contribution of private research has been marginal, including in the US with its hybrid maize.

For example, in the course of the 1970s nearly all the hybrids in the US Corn Belt were the result of crossing two public lines - from the universities of Iowa and Missouri. It is public research and public research alone that does all the basic work on improving the populations of plants on which everything depends. An expert from the National Agronomic Research Institute (INRA) recalled that at the start of his career packets of seed often came free with scientific publications. Thirty years later, he suspects some of these journals of deliberately misleading the reader - and the competition. Research work is being hampered by the privatisation of knowledge, genetic resources and the techniques for their use. Tired of paying royalties on genetic resources that were snatched from them in the first place, many countries in the Southern hemisphere are now trying to stop their circulation.

Third, experience shows that the price of privatised "genetic progress" is and will be exorbitant. For example, in 1986 an INRA researcher estimated the additional cost of hybrid wheat seed - that is, the cost of bricking up doors and windows plus the cost of hybrid candles - at between 6 and 8 quintals per hectare (15). Another researcher, in charge of the INRA hybrid wheat programme - which is continuing despite this incredibly high estimate - recently came up with an even higher figure of 8 to 10 quintals per hectare sown (16). This means, at the very least, $500 million a year, or the entire INRA budget, for a net gain of scarcely a few quintals - a gain that can be more easily and quickly obtained using lines or varieties reproduced by the farmer. But those lines were of no interest to INRA's "partner", Lafarge-Coppée.

Fourth, giving up our rights in living things means giving the genetic-industrial complex a free hand to guide technical progress into the paths that will bring it the most profits rather than those that will be most useful to society. Rambling on about progress in general while ignoring how things are done in practice smacks of deception. As does invoking some alleged "social demand" in justification of the scientific choices made by the authorities. Public opinion is massively against GMO. So there is no "social demand" for GMO; the term is simply being used as a smokescreen for the demands of the genetic-industrial complex. And yet, in France, ministers have just opened a genetic research centre in Evry.

Easy prey for investors

The myth of hybrids is easily exposed. On the one hand, farmers want better quality varieties that are more productive per unit cost. But they are unable to specify in what form. Unfortunately, they can't rely on scientists to tell them that there are a number of routes to improvement and that the choice between a free variety and a hybrid is a political, not a scientific one. Scientists are not political animals, as we know.

On the other hand, investors, looking to maximise the return on their investment, choose the most profitable varietal type: they take the hybrid route of sterile varieties. Whether spontaneously or working to order, researchers set to work, devoting their efforts exclusively to the success of these hybrids. And, sooner or later, the technique is made to work, proving the initial choice was correct. A technical choice is like a self-fulfilling prophecy - the farmer's demand for better varieties is transformed into a demand for hybrids.

In the twin fields of applied biology, health and medicine, we are trying to get rid of the great scourges of cancer, obesity, alcoholism, etc. But we don't know how to reach this objective. The genetic-industrial complex, for its part, is trying to make more and more money. Confusing the agent with the cause, it drums into us that these social ills are genetic and therefore individual, transforming every well individual into a potential patient, expanding the market to the limit - as it previously did for seed with hybrids and as it will with Terminator.

By definition, we are all carriers of genetic diseases. Since genes produce proteins and proteins are involved in every function of life, to speak of a "genetic" disease is a virtual tautology. But in a society where the social and political causes of disease are absent, the genetic agent manifests itself very rarely, if at all (17). The deception of individualising and naturalising a social and political cause is the death knell of any system of social security. In France we see this every day with the endless debates about the chronic but oh-so-profitable social security deficit.

By cutting themselves off from society in the name of objectivity and technology, biologists are falling victim to their own narrow concept of causality and their "a-historicity" - easy prey for investors. But the way for researchers to work for that better world that the vast majority want is for them to open themselves up to the scrutiny of their fellow citizens. That means scientific democracy.

The genetic-industrial complex is trying to transform political questions into technical and scientific ones so that responsibility for them can be shifted on to bodies it can control. Its experts, dressed in the candid probity and the white coat of impartiality and objectivity, use the camera to distract people's attention. Then they put on their three piece suits to negotiate behind the scenes the patent they have just applied for, or sit on the committees that will inform public opinion - quite objectively, it goes without saying - and regulate their own activities. It is a serious thing when democracy no longer has any independent experts and has to depend on the courage and honesty of a few scientists and researchers, as it must, for example, in the nuclear industry.

Such abuses are beginning to elicit a timid reaction. American biological journals, for example, are asking their contributors to declare their personal or family interests in biotechnology companies and their sources of funding (18). This is the minimum level of transparency that should be asked of anyone who takes the floor or sits on committees of supposedly independent experts. We would then become aware of the genetic-industrial complex's many and various ramifications.

In short, do we want to allow a few multinationals to take control of the biological part of our humanity by granting them a right - legal, biological or contractual - over life itself? Or do we want to preserve our responsibility and our autonomy? Will farmers' organisations continue to allow ruinous techniques to be imposed upon them or will they debate what would be in the farmers' and the public's interest with renewed public research and a network of breeder-agronomists? Finally, what are the intentions of "public" agronomic research - which for decades has been privatising the material of life economically, and now biologically?

There is another way. Turn our backs on the present European policy of allowing life forms to be patented, which is nothing but a servile imitation of what is happening in the US, and declare living things "the common property of humanity". And reorganise genuinely public research around this common property in order to block the already well-advanced private hold that is seeking to eliminate any scientific alternative that would make ecologically responsible and sustainable agriculture possible. Guarantee the free movement of knowledge and genetic resources that have made the extraordinary advances of the last 60 years possible. Restore power over living things to the farmers, that is to each one of us. Replace economic warfare and the plundering of genetic resources with international cooperation and peace.



(1) This article takes up the theme of a European workshop on the subject "Should we create a right in living things?" held, because of opposition from the board of the INRA, at the Montpellier Centre for Higher Agronomic Studies on 26-27 September 1997.

(2) In his article "Playing God in the Garden", Michael Pollan writes that with the rise of biotechnology, farming is entering the information age, and Monsanto, more than any other firm, looks set to become its Microsoft, providing the proprietary "operating systems", to use its own metaphor, that will manage the new generation of plants. The New York Times Magazine, 28 October 1998.

(3) The biological concept of heredity appeared in the mid-19th century, at the same time as the heredity of property. See the contribution by Jean Gayon to the European workshop mentioned in note 1.

(4) The botanist Johann Rehof ("Gregori") Mendel was the founder of genetics. He described the laws of hybridisation (or Mendel's laws) in a seminal article published in 1886 but generally unknown until rediscovered in 1900.

(5) Hugo De Vries, Plant-Breeding, The Open Court Publishing Co., Chicago, 1907.

(6) For the elimination of history from scientific projects, see Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond, La Pierre de touche. La science à l'Épreuve de ... la société, Gallimard, coll. Folio, Paris 1996.

(7) From the start of the development of "hybrids" (1922) - when the Department of Agriculture imposed the technique on reluctant breeders - to their conquest of the Middle West in 1945-46, the maize yield increased 18% while that of wheat increased 32%. But the small wheat breeders only serve the general interest, while the "hybridisers" create a new source of profit and therefore become scientific heros.

(8) See "The Genetics and Exploitation of Heterosis in Crops", Book of Abstracts, International Symposium, Mexico City, CIMMYT, 1997. This symposium, whose purpose was to popularise the "hybrid" technique the world over and to extend it to new species, was sponsored by the cream the genetic-industrial complex, including Monsanto, Novartis, Pioneer, DeKalb and Asgrow, as well as by US Aid and the American Department of Agriculture. China was also among the sponsors.

(9) In France, a former chairman and director of INRA boasted in 1986 of being on the boards of Rhône-Poulenc, Entreprise minière et chimique, and Société commerciale des potasses d'Alsace et de l'azote. The present director of this public research institute was formerly (1989-94) on the board of Rhône-Poulenc Agrochimie.

(10) The Pinkerton private detective agency traditionally supplied employers with auxiliaries to break trade unions and whip up provocation.

(11) See Progressive Farmer, Birmingham, Alabama, 26 February 1998. Monsanto has recently spelled out the penalties to be imposed on farmers found to be "pirating" its varieties: they will have to pay a royalty and allow their farms to be inspected for a period of five years. Two farmers in Kentucky were obliged to pay it $25,000. In France, farmers belonging to the Confédération paysanne are actively fighting against GMO. See the Confederation's monthly, Campagnes solidaires (104, rue Robespierre, 93170 Bagnolet. Tel.: (+33) 143-62-82-82). See also the dossier on GMO published in the October 1998 edition of the monthly Regards, Paris.

(12) Reported by Michael Pollan, "Playing God in the Garden", op. cit.

(13) See interview with Axel Kahn, "Les OGM permettront de nourrir la planète en respectant l'environnement", Les Echos, 18 December 1997. Mr. Kahn, a member of the National Consultative Committee on Ethics and chairman of the Biomolecular Engineering Commission from 1988-1997, is director of research unit 129 at the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) and assistant director of life sciences at Rhône-Poulenc.

(14) See Jean-Pierre Berlan and Richard C. Lewontin, "Plant Breeders' Rights and the Patenting of Life Forms", Nature, London, 322: 785-788, 28 August 1986.

(15) Michel Rousset, "Les blés hybrides sortent du laboratoire", La Recherche, Paris, No. 173, January 1986.

(16) Gérard Doussinault, report to the scientific committee of the Economics Department of the INRA, December 1996.

(17) See Richard C. Lewontin, The Doctrine of DNA. Biology as Ideology, Penguin Books, London, 1993.

(18) In his article "Study discloses financial interests behind papers" (Nature, vol. 385, 30 June 1997), Meredith Wadman shows that one third of the main authors of articles published in 14 cellular and biomolecular biology and medical journals had a direct financial interest in the work they were reporting. The definition of "financial interest" is narrow, however, since it does not include consultations, private shareholdings or fees.


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 1998 Le Monde diplomatique

Date: 18 Dec 1998 11:54:07 -0600
From: (Judy Kew)

New URL-Monsanto and Media Progaganda Radio Show

Judy Kew,,Internet(CapMac) writes:

MONSANTO AND MEDIA PROGAGANDA RADIO SHOW Go to for audio of recent Counterspin radio program exposing the dark side of the PR industry and how it serves the corporate agenda and defines public policy for corporate benefit (Monsanto and rBGH revealed about 18 minutes into program)

Just to clarify. The URL above is for the Counterspin's current weekly show.

The PR industry program was originally aired during the week of November 27 - December 4, 1998, so it has gone into the archives and is at the URL:

There are a lot of good programs in the archives and worth a listen!


Reply-To: (Margaret Weston)
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 16:43:39 -0600

Green Building Professionals Directory:



Date: 19 Dec 1998 01:08:32 -0600

GMO potatoes deregulated by USDA - that means, its not GMO anymore?

[Federal Register: December 17, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 242)]
[Page 69610-69611]


Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service [Docket No. 97-094-2]

Monsanto Co.; Availability of Determination of Nonregulated Status for Potato Genetically Engineered for Insect and Virus Resistance

AGENCY: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice.

SUMMARY: We are advising the public of our determination that certain potato lines developed by the Monsanto Company, which have been genetically engineered for insect and virus resistance, are no longer considered regulated articles under our regulations governing the introduction of certain genetically engineered organisms. Our determination is based on our evaluation of data submitted by the Monsanto Company in its petition for a determination of nonregulated status, an analysis of other scientific data, and our review of comments received from the public in response to a previous notice announcing our receipt of the Monsanto Company's petition. This notice also announces the availability of our written determination document and its associated environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact.

EFFECTIVE DATE: December 3, 1998.

ADDRESSES: The determination, an environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact, the petition, and all written comments received regarding the petition may be inspected at USDA, room 1141, South Building, 14th Street and Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. Persons wishing to inspect those documents are requested to call before visiting on (202) 690-2817 to facilitate entry into the reading room.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. James White, Biotechnology and Biological Analysis, PPQ, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 147, Riverdale, MD 20737-1236; (301) 734-5940. To obtain a copy of the determination or the environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact, contact Ms. Kay Peterson at (301) 734-4885; e-mail:



On July 23, 1997, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) received a petition (APHIS Petition No. 97-204-01p) from the Monsanto Company (Monsanto) of St. Louis, MO, seeking a determination that seven NewLeaf? Plus Russet Burbank potato lines, which have been genetically engineered for resistance to the Colorado potato beetle (CPB) and potato leaf roll virus (PLRV), do not present a plant pest risk and, therefore, are not regulated articles under APHIS' regulations in 7 CFR part 340. Subsequently, Monsanto requested that all but two (RBMT21-129 and RBMT21-350) of the NewLeaf? Plus Russet Burbank potato lines be withdrawn from consideration in the subject petition.

On November 20, 1997, APHIS published a notice in the Federal Register (62 FR 61961-61962, Docket No. 97-094-1) announcing that the Monsanto petition had been received and was available for public review. The notice also discussed the role of APHIS, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration in regulating the subject potato lines and food products derived from them. In the notice, APHIS solicited written comments from the public as to whether these potato lines posed a plant pest risk. The comments were to have been received by APHIS on or before January 20, 1998. During the designated 60-day comment period, APHIS received 14 comments from the following: Potato farmers and processors; State and national trade associations; a State congressional delegation; the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service; a research entomologist from a university agricultural research center; and a European crop research institute. All of the comments were in support of the subject petition. Analysis

Russet Burbank potato lines RBMT21-129 and RBMT21-350 have been genetically engineered to contain the cryIIIA gene derived from Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. tenebrionis (Btt), which encodes an insecticidal protein that is effective against CPB, and the orf1/orf2 gene derived from PLRV, which imparts resistance to PLRV. In addition to the cryIIIA gene and the orf1/orf2 gene, these potato lines contain the nptII gene, which encodes the NPTII protein used as a selectable marker in the initial stages of plant transformation. The subject potato lines were developed through use of the Agrobacterium tumefaciens transformation method, and expression of the added genes is controlled in part by gene sequences derived from the plant pathogens A. tumefaciens and figwort mosaic virus.

The subject potato lines have been considered regulated articles under APHIS' regulations in 7 CFR part 340 because they contain gene sequences derived from plant pathogens. However, evaluation of field data reports from field tests of these potato lines conducted under APHIS permits and notifications since 1994 indicates that there were no deleterious effects on plants, nontarget organisms, or the environment as a result of the environmental release of the subject potato plants. Determination

Based on its analysis of the data submitted by Monsanto, a review of other scientific data and field tests of the subject potato lines, and an analysis of comments from the public on the subject petition, APHIS has determined that Russet Burbank potato lines RBMT21-129 and RBMT21-350:

  1. Exhibit no plant pathogenic properties;

  2. are no more likely to become a weed than pest-resistant potato lines developed by traditional breeding techniques;

  3. are unlikely to increase the weediness potential for any other cultivated or wild species with which they can interbreed;

  4. will not cause damage to raw or processed agricultural commodities;

  5. will not harm threatened or endangered species or other organisms, such as bees, that are beneficial to agriculture, or have an adverse impact on the ability to control nontarget insect pests.

Therefore, APHIS has concluded that the subject Russet Burbank potato lines and any progeny derived from crosses with other potato varieties will be as safe to grow as potatoes that are not subject to regulation under 7 CFR part 340.

The effect of this determination is that Monsanto's Russet Burbank potato lines RBMT21-129 and RBMT21-350 are no longer considered regulated articles under APHIS' regulations in 7 CFR part 340. Therefore, the requirements pertaining to regulated articles under those regulations no longer apply to the field testing, importation, or interstate movement of the subject potato lines or their progeny. However, importation of the subject potato lines or seeds capable of propagation are still subject to the restrictions found in APHIS' foreign quarantine notices in 7 CFR part 319.

National Environmental Policy Act

An environmental assessment (EA) has been prepared to examine the potential environmental impacts associated with this determination. The EA was prepared in accordance with: (1) The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), (2) regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality for implementing the procedural provisions of NEPA (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), (3) USDA regulations implementing NEPA (7 CFR part 1b), and (4) APHIS' NEPA Implementing Procedures (7 CFR part 372). Based on that EA, APHIS has reached a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) with regard to its determination that Monsanto's Russet Burbank potato lines RBMT21-129 and RBMT21-350 and lines developed from them are no longer regulated articles under its regulations in 7 CFR part 340. Copies of the EA and the FONSI are available upon request from the individual listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

Done in Washington, DC, this 14th day of December 1998. Joan M. Arnoldi,
Acting Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
[FR Doc. 98-33435 Filed 12-16-98; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410-34-P


The above information was sent to you by:

Jack L. Cooper
Food Industry Environmental Network (FIEN)
33 Falling Creek Court; Silver Spring, Maryland 20904
Phone: 301/384-8287 --- Fax: 301/384-8340 ---
E-Mail: World Wide Web Site:

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

Our website, 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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