Genetically Manipulated Food News

15 January 99

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Table of Contents

Experts reject drug to boost milk production
More scientific studies, this one on plant-soil interaction
Ottawa Refuses to Approve Bovine Growth Hormone
Planting Scheme for Engineered Corn Raises Eyebrows
Protection Racket
Terminator Technology that's being passed around
Resolution on Terminator Technology
GMOs & the precautionary principle
Monsanto Questions Canada Ruling on Growth Hormone
Health Canada rejects bovine growth hormone, rBST
Open Letter to Dr. Friedman, US FDA

Date: 14 Jan 1999 04:05:12 -0600
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty)

Experts reject drug to boost milk production

Globe and Mail, Canadian Press/Associated Press
Publication Date: January 14, 1999 Powered by NewsReal's IndustryWatch

TORONTO (CP) -- A government-appointed panel of experts has advised Health Canada against approving a controversial drug that boosts milk production but may harm cows, the Globe and Mail reported today.

Some public interest groups and scientists have warned humans could also end up consuming additional antibiotics given to the animals to treat the side-effects of bovine growth hormone.

The hormone, manufactured by Monsanto Corp. , has been approved in the United States since 1993 and has been under review in Canada for more than eight years.

The expert panel will announce Friday that there are legitimate animal-welfare concerns associate with the use of the hormone, the Globe said in a report from Ottawa.

"These included an increased risk of clinical mastitis (udder infections) and lameness and a reduction in the life span of treated cows," the panel's report says.

The drug's supporters, including its manufacturer Missouri-based Monsanto, claim that American farmers who have used the drug since 1994 would have stopped by now if risks to their cattle were as high as critics claim.

Health Minister Allan Rock has said the drug would not be approved until Health Canada was sure it is safe for both animals and people. Health Canada has said no formal decision will be made until June.

The panel of animal-health experts was appointed by the Canadian Veterinarian Medicine Association at the request of the federal government.

Another panel, chosen by the Canadian Medical Association at the request of the government, will also release its report Friday.

In October, five federal scientists appeared before a Senate committee to complain that they were receiving pressure from within the department to approve the drug, without enough evidence to confirm its safety for human consumption.


Date: 14 Jan 1999 05:20:37 -0600
From: akb@akb.a2000.nl

More scientific studies, this one on plant-soil interaction

We have been made aware of a study on the interaction between transgenic plants and the soil by researchers from the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands.

The Royal Botanical Society has published this already in March 1997 but somehow it got no attention. However it is a very significant one. The study is called:
TitleInfluence of the production of antibacterial and antifungal proteins by transgenic plants on the saphrophytic soil microflora.
By:D.C.M. Glandorf, P.A.H.M. Bakker and L.C. van Loon
Institute:Department of Plant Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Section of Plant Pathology Utrecht University, the Netherlands.
Published in:Acta Bot. Neerl. 46(1), March 1997, p85-104

Basic conclusion is that transfer to fungi can happen and that a lot of the fungi never have been researched on this transfer. "no literature is available".

Telephonenumber of the faculty of Biology in Utrecht is: +3130.2532276 Faxnumber is: +3130.2534526. Ask for subdivision plant ecology and evolutionary biology. If I find the time I will write parts of it to this list


Date: 14 Jan 1999 15:38:19 -0600
From: MichaelP papadop@peak.org

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1999 13:55:24 +0000
From: "Janet M. Eaton" jeaton@fox.nstn.ca

"Although [Health Minister]..... Rock's office had said no decision on approving the drug would be made until June, tomorrow's announcement in effect will turn it down."

FYI je

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

Ottawa Refuses to Approve Bovine Growth Hormone

ANNE McILROY, Parliamentary Bureau
Globe and Mail (Canada) Thursday, January 14, 1999, Page A1
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/gam/National/19990114/UBOVIM.html

Ottawa -- Health Canada has decided not to approve the use of a controversial hormone that boosts milk production in cows, because of a new report that finds the drug may hurt the health of animals injected with it.

The announcement on bovine growth hormone to be made tomorrow is the latest development in a controversy that dates back almost a decade.

The hormone, manufactured by Monsanto Corp., has been approved in the United States since 1993 and has been under review in Canada for more than eight years. It has been criticized by public-interest groups and some scientists who warn it could result in more udder infections in cows and so lead to the increased use of antibiotics, which could end up in milk. The report that has given Health Canada grounds not to approve the drug was prepared by six animal-health experts appointed by the Canadian Veterinary Medicine Association at the request of the government.

The panel concludes that there are legitimate animal-welfare concerns associated with the use of the hormone.

"These included an increased risk of clinical mastitis [udder infection] and lameness and a reduction in the life span of treated cows."

The panel found that the hormone increases the frequency of udder infections by about 25 per cent in animals treated with it. It also concluded that there was about a 50-per-cent increase in the risk of lameness in cows given the drug.

"Many of the cases of lameness involved joints, and dairy producers and vets currently have a limited ability to control this increased risk."

The report "will be enough for the government not to approve the drug under the Food and Drug Act if that is what they want to do," said one source familiar with the document.

Health Minister Allan Rock has appeared uncomfortable with the drug and has repeatedly said that it would not be approved until the department is sure it is safe for both animals and people.

The controversy over bovine growth hormone focused attention on problems at the health protection branch, which is responsible for drug approvals.

The branch's scientists have pushed internally for more study on the growth hormone, although documents show that several years ago their managers had decided it was safe. Six scientists alleged they were pressed to approve the drug despite their fears that it wasn't safe, although their complaint was recently dismissed by a labour board. One of the scientists told a Senate committee that Monsanto had offered government scientists a bribe of research money if they approved the drug, an allegation the company has denied.

Two expert panels were set up because of the controversy, one to look at the drug's impact on animal health and another to look at human health.

The human-health panel was chosen by the Canadian Medical Association, also at the request of the government. Its report will also be released tomorrow.

Although Mr. Rock's office had said no decision on approving the drug would be made until June, tomorrow's announcement in effect will turn it down.


Date: 15 Jan 1999 00:42:10 -0600
From: Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)

Via: Mark Graffis ab758@virgin.usvi.net
EarthVision Reports 01/12/99

Planting Scheme for Engineered Corn Raises Eyebrows

Source: Washington Post/Daily Environment Report/EPA

WASHINGTON, January 12, 1999 - Major producers of genetically engineered corn seed, under pressure from regulators and environmental groups, announced that they would require farmers to grow sizable areas of non-engineered corn along with the new crops. The announcement aims to allay fears among scientists and others that some varieties of genetically altered corn will speed up the evolution of pesticide-resistant insects. The announcement, made by an official of the Monsanto Company at a meeting with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meeting, surprised farmers. While EPA officials welcomed the news, the Agency is cautious.

"We have not had an opportunity to review the details of this agreement. However, we hope the final version will contain the elements EPA feels are required for the effective management of these products," said Loretta Ucelli, EPA associate administrator for public affairs.

The plan was criticized by some scientists and environmental groups because they believe the plots of non-engineered crops will not be large enough to prevent the insects from developing resistance.

"It's like having your doctor prescribe five pills a day to prevent a heart attack: It might help a little bit to take only one, but probably you're going to die," said Jane Rissler, senior staff scientist at the Union for Concerned Scientists. "These companies are responding to an overwhelming scientific consensus that they have to do something, but what they are proposing is far, far from what is needed."

As an insect population is exposed to a pesticide over a long period of time, resistance to the pesticide develops within the population. The concern with genetically engineered crops arises from the fact that the crop produces its own insecticide, such as the one known as bt. While spraying bt is expensive and troublesome, it is seen as more environmentally friendly than the new crops. It breaks down quickly in sunlight, so insects don't have time to develop a resistance to it. The bt-producing plants however, create a steady amount of the pesticide giving the insects a chance to evolve immunity.

References

1. http://204.255.211.112/ColdFusion/news_top10.cfm

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Date: 15 Jan 1999 01:06:34 -0600
From: Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)
Subject: Protection Racket

Via: jest-west@sfu.ca From: Brewster and/or Cathleen Kneen ramshorn@jetstream.net

Hi folks: I wrote the attached for the Gateway Greens of St. Louis who organized the biodevastation conference last summer. Thought you might find it of interest. - BK

Brewster Kneen is the author of "Farmageddon: Food and the Culture of Biotechnology", to be published by New Society Publishers, spring, 1999.

Protection Racket

By Brewster Kneen (bbk\greens)
for Gateway Greens, November 1998 Nov 29, 1998

'Safety' and 'choice' are words often used in discussion of biotechnology, but both are traps to be avoided.

Back in the middle ages -- the middle of the last decade, that is, when rBGH was being promoted as the wonder drug for dairy cows -- the drug's pushers, led by Monsanto, had planned on confining the debate to a matter of the technical 'safety' of the drug for cows and humans. They knew that if they could define the discourse in this way, the debate could go on, and on, and on... while they went ahead with their marketing plans.

'Safety' could be defined, and redefined, so that the debate would never end. (We see this with agrotoxins and allowable residue levels etc.) If we could be preoccupied with questions of 'safety', the drug pushers, and their alter egos, the agrotoxin makers and salesmen (I've never yet seen a woman selling agrotoxins), could work quietly on the FDA, Agriculture Canada, and similar agencies to change the rules of the game.

The rule change that industry wants, and which it is quietly getting, is a radical redefinition of 'burden of proof'. Instead of the manufacturer having to prove to the public authorities that their product is safe, it is rapidly becoming the rule that it is the responsibility of the regulator to prove that a product is harmful in order to deny approval or licensing. Harm, however, is much more difficult to actually prove, in the current ideology of 'science', than no harm.

For example, the manufacturers of rBGH and their scientists, such as Dale Bauman at Cornell, simply pointed to the absence of "catastrophic effects" on the health of cows as proof of the drug's safety. Similarly, there are any number of agricultural chemicals that cannot be clinically proven to be specifically harmful but for which anecdotal evidence indicates a level of probable harm that is quite unacceptable, as with endocrine disruptors.

For the manufacturer of genetically altered foods, the reversal of the burden of proof from having to prove safety to demonstrating the absence of harm also makes it possible to transfer liability from itself or its agents to the regulatory agency. If the regulatory agency does not find the g.e. food harmful or unsafe -- which might mean the impossible task of identifying previously unidentified and unknown allergens or toxins -- then a person affected by eating the food in question cannot hold the manufacturer liable. This will protect corporate profits, but not public health.

The reversal of 'burden of proof' is now being engineered from Codex Alimentarius down to national regulatory standards. Instead of requiring the proponent of a 'novel food' to show that it is 'substantially equivalent' to a traditional or already recognized food, the regulators, if the biotech industry gets its way, will have to prove that the 'novel food' is 'substantially different' and therefore will not be approved or will require labelling.

In the case of rBGH, Monsanto wanted us to believe that the only issues were safety and efficacy. If there were any deleterious consequences for the cows who were injected, or if the drug did not force the cow to give as much milk as Monsanto claimed it would, then the problems were not those of the drug or its manufacturer, but the result of poor management by the farmer; a clever shifting of the burden of proof so that Monsanto need never take responsibility for the failure or consequences of its products. We have seen this with cotton, canola and corn, where any problems are the fault of bad management, the weather, or unusual pest conditions.

In Canada we chose to fight rBGH on the larger issues of animal welfare, long-term human health problems, effect on the structure of the dairy industry, and the essential immorality of pushing drugs. The drug has not been approved for use in Canada.

Another problem with the 'safety' debate is that it can absorb any amount of energy without ever being decided. Meanwhile all the larger and more holistic issues get ignored; questions such as, Why is this product being produced in the first place? What will its environmental effect be? What are the likely consequences of the production of the crop or food on the structure of society and the distribution of wealth and power? How else could the purported purpose of the product be achieved?

The second issue is the 'right to know' or the 'right to choose'. While I recognize that American individualism likes to argue in terms of 'rights', I think that this is a bad way to frame the real issue, which is one of social responsibility.

What is at issue is my responsibility to think and act ethically and holistically, that is, socially. I cannot do this, and I cannot exercise my responsibility to society and ecology, if the implications of my choices are hidden from me. This is the real significance of labelling. We should not argue for the labelling of either organic or genetically altered foods simply on the grounds of an abstract right to choose, or even right to know, even if my preference is for my own good health. If I argue for this kind of 'choice', then I am not challenging the production and marketing of genetically engineered foods, but simply saying that I want the choice, personally, to avoid them. There is no inherent social consequence of my choice; it is simply my individual choice.

Yet we must demand comprehensive labelling if we object to g.e. foods on ecological, ethical and social grounds and wish to act in a socially responsible way. Labelling is a necessary and useful tool for public education and action.

The argument we should be using is that if genetic engineering is so good, then the products of g.e. ought to be prominently labelled and priced at a premium. When their manufacturers argue against labelling, then I have to get suspicious of what they are trying to hide!

When they say that they cannot label because it is not possible to segregate g.e. crops and foods, we simply have to say that they are lying. The very same companies are producing crops, genetically engineered and no-g.e., such as canola, corn and soy with special characteristics that require segregation from beginning to end. In addition, the farmer gets a premium for growing and segregating such 'Identity Preserved' crops.

On the labelling issue, the biotech promoters are up to the same trick as they are with the food safety issue. They are trying to reverse the burden of proof. What they want is the right to conceal, while putting the burden of labelling on the public. So now Monsanto is saying that they are all for labelling -- if it is required by the regulators in the interest of public health and safety.

"Crop protection", "technology protection" (the Terminator), consumer protection... to listen to the chemical-biotech industry they are in the protection racket. Pay them enough and they will provide all the protection you and your food need. Or they might even leave you alone. But who asked for their protection, or their products, in the first place?

Actually, what companies like Monsanto want is protection from the public. Shifting the burden of proof is a clever way of trying to achieve this.

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Date: 15 Jan 1999 01:23:04 -0600
From: Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)

Terminator Technology that's being passed around

Alain Braux, alaingb@flash.net writes:

I've just read this post and scares "the socks" off me. This forwarded post is about a remarkable patent for killing second generation seeds of crop plants.

I urge ya'll to read this post and follow the links, and if you feel, as I do that this has validity, please pass it on.

Alain

from bmeacham@compuserve.com-:

Hi.

My name is Bob Mueller. I'm not a paid activist, nor am I really an activist at all, aside from the fact that I've been jostled out of complacency enough to write this alert. I am, however, an ordinary citizen who is quite unsettled by one specific issue: U.S. Patent 5,723,765, entitled "Control of Plant Gene Expression". The patent covers technology referred to as a plant "Technology Protection System" (TPS), otherwise known as Terminator Technology.

My goal is simple: to share my concern with you, in the hope that you will be alarmed enough to more completely educate yourself regarding this matter. For if I can accomplish this, I am convinced, you will surely ACT.

The USDA, spending public money, has developed a technology whereby seeds can be stripped of their ability to propagate. They are in the process of patenting the process worldwide on behalf of Monsanto, through a subsidiary (Delta and Pine Land Company).

The driving force behind the Terminator technology is the ability for Monsanto, and Delta and Pine Land Co., to protect their "inventions" from being "duplicated" unlawfully, which, granted, sounds appropriate and fair.

The result, however, will be to replace natural crops worldwide, with genetically enhanced, superior, high yield crops. Superior, that is, except for the fact that they can no longer reproduce themselves, effectively forcing farmers worldwide to buy their seeds annually from Monsanto...the world's only supplier.

The patent applies to ALL PLANTS.

This is the ultimate in Capitalism. We're going to remove nature's ability to propagate herself, so we can charge money for that privilege.

However, I only wish this were the full extent of the issue. The part that pushes my button; the part that really unnerves me, is the probability that, for all their careful planning, this genetically altered organism will share its suicidal genes with OTHER plant species.

Most children know about the "birds and the bees" ...

Indeed, Martha L. Crouch, Associate Professor of Biology at Indiana University, has published a series of papers specifying how the resulting castrated plants WILL be able to sterilize nearby normal species, via the spread of Terminator pollen. Not only that, but how these plants will be able to actually pass the toxin gene to other plant species through cross-pollination:

... when farmers plant the Terminator seeds, the seeds already will have been treated with tetracycline, and thus the recombinase will have acted, and the toxin coding sequence will be next to the seed-specific promoter, and will be ready to act when the end of seed development comes around. The seeds will grow into plants, and make pollen. Every pollen grain will carry a ready-to-act toxin gene. If the Terminator crop is next to a field planted in a normal variety, and pollen is taken by insects or the wind to that field, any eggs fertilized by the Terminator pollen will now have one toxin gene. It will be activated late in that seed's development, and the seed will die. However, it is unlikely that the person growing the normal variety will be able to tell, because the seed will probably look normal. Only when that seed is planted, and doesn't germinate, will the change become apparent.

In most cases, the toxin gene will not be passed on any further, because dead plants don't reproduce. However, under certain conditions I will discuss later, it is possible for the toxin gene to be inherited.

http://www.bio.indiana.edu/people/terminator.html

Yet this "product" has been virtually assured of being passed as safe, in the USDA's own words: "These approvals are expected because there appear to be no crop or food safety risks to the new technology. There also appear to be no environmental risks."

http://www.rafi.org/translator/termtrans.html

Now why would the USDA come to this conclusion on a technology that has only been tested by those having a vested interest in its commercial success?

Could it be because it's worth an estimated 1.5 billion dollars a year in licensing fees alone, and the USDA is LICENSING the technology to Monsanto?

Awesome economics on a global scale. Patent has been applied for in 87 countries.

Please, please, go to the following web page, and read the data... both sides of the story. There are many more potential problems with this technology than I have outlined here. Follow the links. Assure yourself that you are, indeed, awake, for you may be tempted to think this is merely a bad dream -- or a science-fiction story.

http://www.rafi.org/usda.html

If you are as affected by the nature of this venture as I was, at the very least, please use the RAFI site to model a letter of protest that will be sent simultaneously to the Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture, the Administrator of the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the Chair of the US House of Representatives Agriculture Committee, and the Chair of the US Senate Agriculture Committee.

This technology has NOT yet been commercialized. We are, in fact, in the uncommon position of being able to say no before it becomes widespread -- pun intended.

I hope I have convinced you to examine this issue.

As a concerned individual, I thank you for your time.

Bob Mueller 10/18/98 bobm@lightspeed.wa.com

Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1999 19:49:56 -0600
From: Alain Braux alaingb@flash.net

Again, I am in no way affiliated with the above web sites or any organized "campaign" against this technology. I write to inform. Please feel free to forward this notice to your family and friends. Post where appropriate. However, I ask that this message be posted or forwarded in its entirety, without editing.

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Date: 15 Jan 1999 01:31:25 -0600
From: Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)

Resolution on Terminator Technology

THE NORTHEAST SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE WORKING GROUP
P.O. Box 608, Belchertown, MA; Ph: 413-323-4531; Fax: 413-323-9594
PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- JANUARY 7, 1999

CONTACTS:

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) members officially condemned the use of public funds by USDA for the development and patenting of the "terminator technology," at its Annual Meeting on December 12.

Members noted the profound global implications of this technology on agriculture, biodiversity, and food security, as well as the national implications of using U.S. tax dollars on the development and licensing of a technology that will solely benefit a private corporation, while causing hardship to small farmers around the world. The terminator technology creates plants whose seeds will not produce new plants the following year.

"The "terminator" seed-sterilizing technology threatens to eliminate the age-old right of farmers to save seed from their harvest, jeopardizing the food security of 1.4 billion people -- resource poor farmers in the south - -- who depend on farm-saved seed," noted Hope Shand of Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), an organization actively working against this technology.

"Both the patent and the technology should be rejected on the basis of public morality," noted NESAWG member Elizabeth Henderson of NOFA-NY. "Farmers everywhere must have the right to save seed and develop locally-adapted strains of a plant variety."

"In addition to human rights concerns, there are serious biosafety concerns with this technology," Henderson added. "There is the possibility that the sterility trait of this seed could infect open-pollinated crops growing nearby. Because this technology is largely untested, this is an important concern."

In its resolution, NESAWG members demanded that USDA, as patent-holder, permanently refrain from licensing any use of the patent.

More information about details of the "terminator technology" is available from the Rural Advancement Foundation International at: www.rafi.org.

The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) is a broad network of groups in the Northeast United States committed to building a more sustainable and just regional food and agriculture system.

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

THE NORTHEAST SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE WORKING GROUP

P.O. Box 608, Belchertown, MA; Ph: 413-323-4531; Fax: 413-323-9594

RESOLUTION

The members of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group resolve that:

We condemn the use of public funds by USDA for the development and patenting of the "terminator technology" and any similar genetic seed sterilization technology, and

We demand that USDA, as co-owner of US patent 5,723,765 permanently refrain from licensing any use of this patent, cease all research and development on genetic seed sterilization, and withdraw all patent applications on the technology in foreign jurisdictions.

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

Liana Hoodes, National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture
P.O. Box 396, Pine Bush, NY 12566
P: 914-744-8448; F: 914-744-8477 campaign@magiccarpet.com

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Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1999 15:37:23 -0800 (PST)
To: gentech@gen.free.de
From: colibri@west.net (Beth von Gunten)
Subject: NESAWG resolution on Terminator

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Date: 15 Jan 1999 02:32:17 -0600
From: Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)
Via: Christine Massey cmassey@sfu.ca
Via: jest-west@sfu.ca

GMOs & the precautionary principle

The entire issue of THE NETWORKER was posted on jest-west: Here is an excerpt. If you want the whole issue, please email me.

Judy Kew - -----

THE NETWORKER

The Newsletter of the Science and Environmental Health Network January, 1999 - Volume 4, #1

The Case of Genetically Modified Organisms and the Precautionary Principle

By Katherine Barrett

Sections:
Increase of GE Crops
International guidelines
Current Decision-Making Criteria
Criteria for a Precautionary Approach

Increase of GE Crops

In the past 10 years we have witnessed exponential growth in the development and release of genetically engineered crops (I refer primarily to crops developed using recombinant DNA techniques). The first small scale, confined field trials were conducted in late 1980s. By 1998, over 25 million hectares of genetically engineered crops were planted world wide, including herbicide- and/or pest-resistant soy, corn, canola and cotton. [Science 1998, 282:2175-2178] Private sector corporations constitute 20 of the 22 proprietors of genetically engineered seed [James, C. 1997. Global Status of Transgenic Crops in 1997. ISAAA Briefs. No.5 1997], and have been responsible for 87% of field trials since 1987 [Altieri, M.A. The Environmental Risks of Transgenic Crops: An Agroecological Assessment. http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~agroeco3/risks.html].

International guidelines

International guidelines have attempted to address the environmental hazards of global-scale genetically engineered crop production, and many countries have established national policies and risk-assessment strategies. Often, these policies cite the precautionary principle as a guiding ethic. The rationale behind this claim is two-fold:

  1. Genetically engineered crops have not caused environmental disaster to date, policy makers say, but safety regulations have already been put in place.

  2. Developers of genetically engineered crops carry the "burden of proof." That is, they must demonstrate to government regulators that genetically engineered crops are no more harmful than conventional crops.

These arguments by policy makers, as well as more flagrant claims by the biotechnology industry, that genetically engineered crops are the environmentally sustainable solution to world hunger, make agricultural biotechnology a good test case for the precautionary principle.

Current Decision-Making Criteria

The claims of policy makers and the biotechnology industry illustrate that there is a crucial difference between "cautious," preventive action and the precautionary principle. And until these issues are addressed, shifting the "burden of proof" to developers of genetically engineered crops may actually give them an advantage.

Evidence currently used in government risk assessments for genetically engineered crops often suffers from the following shortcomings:

  1. Restricted geographic and temporal scale. Experiments are often limited to one or a few field seasons and test sites.

  2. Insensitivity to context. Conclusions about large-scale releases are extrapolated from small-scale, controlled field studies, and rarely account for the complex, variable conditions under which genetically engineered crops are grown and sold.

  3. Limited definitions of harm. Studies often use narrow definitions of key terms such as "hazard," "weed," and "pest" and tend to focus on the probability of foreseeable events such as gene escape or increased weediness, rather than the consequences of these events or other unprecedented impacts. Effects of genetically engineered crops are measured relative to impacts of current industrial agriculture using "no greater potential for harm" as a standard of acceptability.

  4. Narrow concepts of scientific uncertainty. Uncertainties are often unacknowledged or are rendered controllable or irrelevant by requesting more data from the applicants, or by developing management plans to mitigate adverse effects (e.g. rotation of herbicides to control resistant weeds).

  5. Unsubstantiated conclusions. Conclusions are often based on unsubstantiated or uncited reference to general principles or are drawn from existing literature. These sources are often used in place of direct experiments and/or to support the notion that lack of evidence is equivalent to lack of harm.

    [This list is based primarily on Canadian and U.S. decisions and is drawn from Wrubel, R.P. et al. 1992. BioScience. 42(4):280-289; Purrington, C.B., and Bergelson, J. 1995. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 10(8):340-342; Parker, I.M., and Kareiva, K. 1996. Biological Conservation. 78(1-2):193 203; and unpublished analysis by K. Barrett.]

Enacting regulations based on risk assessment before any disaster occurs is indeed "cautious." But the precautionary principle goes much farther, establishing ongoing participatory processes to address the root of technological hazards, standards of acceptable evidence, and feasible alternatives.

Criteria for a Precautionary Approach

Central to the precautionary principle is recognition of the limits of scientific knowledge. We currently--perhaps permanently--lack appropriate models, tools, and precedents to accurately predict the effects of new gene/crop combinations, released on millions of hectares in diverse ecosystems, subject to various methods of cultivation, and fed to millions of humans, animals, and other organisms. However uncertainty need not cause paralysis: The precautionary principle is action oriented and calls for MORE, not less, research, discussion, organizing, and education.

What kinds of evidence might inform more precautionary decision-making about genetically engineered crops? The following list may offer guidance. In keeping with the principle, assessments should place strong emphasis on procedural as well as substantive elements and should be flexible enough to account for complex, dynamic circumstances. First, two procedural criteria:

  1. Establish participatory, open, and decentralized processes for gathering and assessing evidence and making decisions. Complex, far-reaching decisions about food and ecosystems should not be left to industry or policy-makers. It is easy to pronounce a technology safe if questions are restricted and vested interests narrow. Drawing on a wide range of expertise and experience not only constitutes fairer process, but may raise new questions and fill in existing gaps in knowledge.

  2. Articulate assumptions, goals, and values. Current risk assessments for genetically engineered crops are grounded in several (usually implicit) assumptions: industrial agriculture is acceptable; unforeseen problems can be overcome through technological solutions in a free market; and genetically engineered crops are essentially the same as non-engineered crops and pose no new environmental threats. These assumptions shape both the goals of risk assessment and the evidence required to meet those goals.

    The precautionary principle has a broader scope. It aims not simply to revise risk assessment checklists or guidelines but to revisit societal needs, goals,and values, and to cooperatively direct technology toward these purposes. Skeptics of genetic engineering argue less about the fine details of risk/benefit tradeoffs and more about issues of long-term sustainability, social justice, and the control of technology and food systems.

    Nonetheless, the potential environmental harm posed by genetically engineered crops is a necessary component of these broader issues. Laboratory, greenhouse, and field experiments could yield valuable evidence and a more reliable basis for decision-making, given the procedural changes outlined above, and the more substantive changes below:

  3. Expand the definition of harm. Several recent experiments have demonstrated that the effects of genetically engineered organisms can be long-term, unpredictable, and potentially disastrous [For example: Holmes, M.T. et al. 1998. Applied Soil Ecology. 326:1-12; Birch, A.N.E. et al. 1997. Scottish Crop Research Institute Annual Report 1996/97] . Definitions of harm should therefore be expanded to include indirect, cumulative, and synergistic effects within and between ecological and social systems. How will genetically engineered crops affect populations of beneficial insects and soil microorganisms--as well as local farmers? Of course, this requires a concentrated effort to LOOK for evidence of harm.

  4. Establish measures of acceptability. It is meaningless, for example, to claim genetically engineered crops will not adversely affect biodiversity without establishing a measure of "adverse" or "unacceptable" impacts [Angle, S. 1994. Molecular Ecology. 3:45-50]. Similarly, the reliance on herbicides or the next wave of genetically engineered crops to solve current problems is a standard that must be articulated and openly debated.

  5. Broaden the scale of inquiry. Predicting global environmental impacts involves a well-recognized paradox: small-scale confined trials have limited relevance, yet large-scale unconfined trials amount to using society as a laboratory. However, some models and small-scale experiments have provided useful information on the characteristics of genetically engineered crops and their interactions with other organisms.

    Such research must aim to simulate conditions relevant to a particular release. For example, studies should encompass ecological, evolutionary and multi-generational time scales, rather than a few field seasons [for example: Kareiva, P., et al. 1996. Ecology. 77(6):1670-1675; Lefol, E., et al. 1996. Field Crops Research. 45:153-161; Snow, A.A., and Palma, P.M. 1997. BioScience. 47(2)86-96].

    Assessment should also consider the range of environments that may be affected by genetically engineered crops through intentional release or inadvertent transport. The current focus on agronomically important sites should be expanded to include ecologically and socially relevant scales (for example, effects on centers of species origin or local communities; and long-term effects of technology transfer).

  6. Identify and explore alternatives. Meaningful assessments of genetically engineered crops must not present genetic engineering as the only solution. This evokes a false sense of inevitability and urgency, as well as a false dichotomy between biotechnology and economic collapse or world starvation. The current concentration of research funds and efforts on biotechnology further marginalizes critics and forecloses development of diverse agricultural systems.

Increased funding, incentives, and rewards are needed to promote research on the long-term effects of genetically engineered crops, as well as alternatives to the entire genetic engineering project.

Katherine Barrett
University of British Columbia

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Date: 15 Jan 1999 04:55:01 -0600
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty)

Monsanto Questions Canada Ruling on Growth Hormone

Thursday January 14, 9:57 pm Eastern Time

CHICAGO, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Life sciences firm Monsanto Co. (NYSE:MTC - - news) said Thursday it was surprised and disappointed that Canada's health department did not approve its controversial bovine growth hormone, which boosts milk production in cows. Monsanto scientists have serious concerns with the accuracy and completeness of the (Canadian Veterinary Medical Monsanto said in an Ottawa, Ont., news release received in Chicago. After holding the product in the review system for nine years, Health Canada gave Monsanto less than 72 hours to view a 400-page report on animal safety submitted by the Canadian Veterinary St. Louis-based Monsanto said.

In rejecting the hormone, Health Canada's veterinary experts cited an increased risk of mastitis, infertility and lameness in cows treated with the genetically engineered hormone. The findings of the animal safety committee, when combined with our own assessment, made it quite clear that Health Canada had to reject the request for approval to use (the growth hormone) rbST in Canada, as it presents a sufficient and Joel Weiner, a director general of the department's Health Protection Branch, said in a statement.

Monsanto said Canada's ruling runs contrary to decisions made by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Union's Committee on Veterinary Medicinal Products and the World Health Organization's Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives.

Monsanto said Health Canada made its decision without allowing the company a chance to respond to the animal health issues raised.

"The prospect of a final decision being made without any opportunity for a response from Monsanto on the specifics of the science is contrary to normal regulatory approval processes and a basic affront to widely practiced decision-making and fairness, Ray Mowling, Monsanto's vice president, Canada, said in the statement.

Shares of Monsanto closed down 1-15/16 at 42-1/4.


Date: 15 Jan 1999 04:55:31 -0600
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty)

Budget INDEX: Health, Agriculature, Politics

Health Canada rejects bovine growth hormone, rBST

By Kevin Carmichael, Canadian Press/Associated Press

OTTAWA (CP) -- Health Canada has rejected the controversial dairy hormone rBST.

The drug, also called bovine growth hormone (BGH), increases the amount of milk cows produce. It has been approved in 29 countries, including the United States, which has made it available for sale to its dairy producers since 1994.

But Canadian farmers won't be getting a crack at it. That's because an independent committee of scientists decided the risks posed to cows is too great.

A separate committee found the drug poses no direct risks to human health.

"It's a decision that's based on more than nine years of comprehensive review," Joel Weiner, an acting director with the Health Protection Branch, said Thursday. "When we take the findings of the animal safety committee and combine them with our own assessment it's pretty clear we have to reject the request for approval to use rBST in Canada.

"In our view it presents an unacceptable threat to the safety of dairy cows." Monsanto , the St. Louis, Mo.-based company that made the request, has invested millions of dollars developing the hormone, which is a bio-engineered version of one cows produce naturally.

A spokesman said Thursday the company isn't about to let all that go to waste.

"We're not finished with the approval process," Ray Mowling, a vice-president with Monsanto Canada, said Thursday. "We're going to respond to the animal side."

Both independent committees reviewed existing data on the drug.

The human health committee, headed by Dr. Stuart McLeod of McMaster University, found no significant risks from ingesting products from rBST-injected animals.

But the animal health committee, headed by Dr. Ian Dohoo, a professor at the Atlantic Veterinary College of the University of Prince Edward Island, found several problems.

The report says rBST increases the chance of mastitis, a bovine udder infection, by 25 per cent; increases infertility by 18 per cent and increases the chance of lameness by about 50 per cent.

"These increased risks and the overall reduced body condition of dairy cattle lead to an increase risk of culling from the herd in the order of 20 to 25 per cent," Weiner said.

Mowling said the 400-page report is riddled with errors.

For instance, he said, the six animal health experts appointed by the Canadian Veterinary Medicine Association to do the study used data based on a competitor's product for some of their conclusions.

"It's a totally different formulation."

But Mowling's biggest concern was that Monsanto didn't get a chance to respond to the report. He said the report was received 48 hours before Health Canada made its announcement.

"That's not sufficient time to respond to such a complex report," Mowling said. "It's unusual to have the decision at the same time the reports are released."

The Council of Canadians, one of the most vocal critics of rBST, isn't done with the issue either.

Six scientists in the Health Protection Branch allege they were pressed to approve the drug despite their fears it wasn't safe.

Their complaint was dismissed by a labour board.

One of the aims of Health Minister Allan Rock when he called for the two independent studies was to erase doubts about the product.

Jo Dufay, a spokeswoman for the council, said there are still problems in the Health Protection Branch.

She pointed to a Jan. 11 memo in which Andre Lachance, director of the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs, tells Health Department scientists they have to seek his approval to gain access to files on 17 products, including rBST.

Calls Thursday to the Health Department to explain the memo weren't returned.

The council wants a judicial review.

"For years and years the bureaucrats in Health Canada have been saying BGH is safe even though they're own scientists have been saying that it's not," Duly said. "Why is that?"

The animal health report could also face scrutiny from more people than Monsanto.

Doug Powell, an assistant professor at Guelph University who has studied the Health Department's handling of the rBST issue, says the committee's findings contradict those of the U.S. Federal Department of Agriculture.

The department asked new rBST users to report any problems they found over the first two years the product was available in the United States.

None of the health problems farmers reported in their herds could be linked conclusively to rBST, Powell said.

"I want to see how the American scientists respond to this," he said. "They've got five years of usage data. These problems just aren't coming out of the U.S. as far as I know."

Publication Date: January 14, 1999


Date: 15 Jan 1999 07:46:17 -0600
From: betty martini Mission-Possible-USA@Altavista.net

We call this one of the worst crimes in world history - the consistent murder of babies in their mother's womb. Those that live can have birth defects or be mentally retarded. Open letter to the FDA - being asked to be published throughout the world

Open Letter to Dr. Friedman, US FDA

Dear Dr. Friedman:

How can you people allow Monsanto to push this on pregrant women and infants? Allowing this by the FDA makes you look like part of the gestapo. Some babies are being born with no eyeballs, brain tumors, neurological problems, other cancers, etc.

The European Union has outlawed aspartame for in fants and small children.

Why don't you , Dr. Friedman, have a steady diet of NutraSweet. Experience the headaches, the memory loss, the confusion, the MS symptoms, the blindness, the agonizing joint pain and the other horrors. I bet you don't let your family have it? What shame and horror the FDA has brought to the world !

Be sure to read Dr. Elsas testimony before congress on http://www.dorway.com and Dr. Roberts position paper on pregnancy and aspartame. Dr. Roberts says it so eloquently - to push this on pregnant women is absolutely OBSCENE. I would just add its also murder. What I ought to do is take the case historires of these horrors and give them to one of the doctors and let him publish them as a book - its already written. "This is what the FDA approved and what it has caused - the systemic murder and birth defect horrors to thousands of babies."

Monsanto writes the material of the trade organizations so you have the American Diabetes Association (aspartame precipitates diabetes) and the American Dietitic Association putting out this same material so more and more babies can be murdered. Merck picked it up and put it in their home edition of the Merck Manual of Medical Information (saying aspartame is safe for pregnant women) - even though they have been told, and told and told. Headache from aspartame is #1 on your list of 92 complaints from aspartame so Merck decided to do something about it - have you approve Maxalt for headache and then they added aspartame to it.

A week or so ago I handed a pharmacist , Carol Kulaga, in Atlanta a flyer and told her aspartame had been declared a disease and world epidemic by H. J. Roberts, M.D. As she stood back it was obvious she was 6 months pregnant. She is not very happy with the FDA either. What kind of horrors will her baby be born with if it survives the other 3 months. Another lady walked up and sai d "Oh no, my niece wasn't warned either and both of her twins died . I tried to tell it also to someone at work who said 'the FDA would have put a warning if that was so as she drank her Diet Coke. Her baby was born blind and with cancer."

Books are constantly being written about aspartame, but I hope there will be a great number now written about the FDA allowing this since FDA has been getting the case histories for years and know, and have sat back and done nothing but protect Monsanto Chemical Company. As Julie Kelly wrote Dr. Kessler when he granted blanket approval of this drug that interacts with other drugs and changes brain chemistry "May God Have Mercy On Your Soul, no one else will !" She was writing about all the people she knew with problems from aspartame and the recent death of her dear friend from the poison." Did the FDA care? Did they write back and say they would investigate and even show some concern? No, they sent a propaganda packet defending Monsanto ! How digusting and insulting can the FDA get?

Listen to neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock, M.D's lecture on www.dorway.com as he explains the reactions to aspartame are not allergic in nature but toxic like arsenic and cyanide. It is a chemical poison. Of course, I don't know why I tell you to access DORWAY since the FDA and their "Defenders" have been on consistently. What is the Defender FDA? Is there now a legal department of attorneys to figure out how to defend the FDA for this crime against humanity? Tell them there isn't a chance, we have the case histories and know that more people have died from aspartame than in some wars. Its common knowledge that aspartame is a neurotoxin and teratogen (triggers birth defects). Why is Monsanto allowed to put out false propaganda!

And you send this IFIC brochure which appears to be written by Monsanto with the same kind of lies as on their web site. I suspect you know it has been answered and rebutted on DORWAY brilliantly. Yet, you still send it out.

I've decided to make this an open letter so it not only can go to the press, but I'm sending it to someone who will put it on a list of 450 global networks. You people should be made to answer this and the 26 questions that you have had for over two years and refused to answer. The FDA last told Newt Gingrich's office "we have to see what our attorneys will allow us to say". Naturally then FDA continues to ignore them. Isn't the truth good enough to answer the questions!

Betty Martini, Mission Possible International
770 242-2599

CC: Press

Press if you want to retrieve the government documents showing Monsanto and the FDA is lying when they say the studies showed safety, etc., simply email help@dorway.com and you will get the FDA report of 92 symptoms from coma to death along with a map around DORway's 450 pages including the actual government documents.

When they say aspartame studies showed safety

It is time to stop Monsanto and the FDA from putting out false propaganda and allowing continued sickness and death throughout the world from a chemical poison marketed for human consumption. And we hope the media will print in its entirety the statement of James Bowen,M.D. to the FDA that aspartame is mass poisoning of the American public and more than 70 countries of the world (now 100).

They were given this in the 80's and ignored just like they ignored the petition to ban aspartame by the Community Nutrition Institute in l986 because people were going blind. Ignoring petitions and thousands and thousands of complaints, the FDA actually granted blanket approval for this drug to be used like sugar in l996. And now Monsanto knowing if aspartame is recalled people will wake up well all over the world, has a new plan, have the FDA approve a more potent aspartame, neotame. If they do this consider it a crime in line with treason!

All those on lists we ask put this open letter on all of your media lists throughout the world. Those wanting to distribute our warning flyer email flyer@dorway.com with nothing in the subject line or message text.

Betty Martini

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