Genetically Manipulated Food News

29 January 99

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Table of Contents

Canada rejects BGH - details
Major GE Seed Producers under Pressure
Canada to reject Monsanto growth hormone - report
Terminator Technology Vital For Farmers' Interests'
Germ warfare 'could target ethnic groups'
USDA Redefines `Organic' Labels
Genetic food findings 'biased'
Animal Feed Containing GE Hits the Markets
UK Supermarket Loyalty Cards to Track GM Food Threat
Leading Food Writers Demand Answers from Blair on Gene Food
Genetically Engineered Foods: Unnecessary, Unwanted, Unsafe
Critics of Experimental Plant Gene Technology Puzzle Monsanto
Monsanto's Seed Patents have Horrified Plant Growers Everywhere.
Time Magazine article: The Suicide Seeds
GENETICS/CANADA: A blow to Monsanto
Over 100 Chefs and Food Writers Slam GE Food.
Can we really stomach GM foods?

Date: Sat, 16 Jan 1999 22:11:03 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GENews 1-15

Canada rejects BGH - details

Several people have been asking where they can see the report by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, which concluded there are safety problems from BGH for animals

The reports on BGH are at the website

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/archives/rbst

Note there are two reports

  1. The report on Animal Health by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, which concludes there are safety problems for animals

  2. The report on Human Health by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. There is still a lot of controversy regarding this report, which concludes that there are no human safety problems. Politics are involved.

I will give more info on this as it surfaces. In the meantime, both reports can be seen at the above website

Richard


Date: Sat, 16 Jan 1999 22:11:03 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GENews 1-15

Posted by: Mark Graffis ab758@virgin.usvi.net

Major GE Seed Producers under Pressure

EarthVision Reports 01/12/99
Source: Washington Post/Daily Environment Report/EPA

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

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.


Date: Sat, 16 Jan 1999 22:11:03 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GENews 1-15

Thanks to NATURAL LAW PARTY WESSEX nlpwessex@bigfoot.com for posting this

Canada to reject Monsanto growth hormone - report

OTTAWA, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Canada's health department has decided not to approve the use of a controversial hormone manufactured by Monsanto Co. (NYSE:MTC - news) that boosts milk production in cows, a newspaper report said on Thursday.

Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper said Health Canada will reject the bovine growth hormone recombinant bovine somatropin (rBST), because of a new report that finds the drug may hurt the health of animals injected with it.

Although Health Minister Allan Rock has said no decision on approving the drug would be made until June, the newspaper said the report's findings will effectively quash approval.

Official announcement of the decision is expected Friday.

Monsanto's nine-year battle to have the genetically engineered hormone approved in Canada has been mired in controversy, including allegations that the chemical giant offered Health Canada reviewers bribes in return for the hormone's approval.

St. Louis-based Monsanto said the money was to oversee studies.

The failure to win approval in Canada would come as a huge blow for Monsanto and likely fuel opposition to the use of the hormone in the United States, where rBST has been approved for use by dairy farmers since 1993.

Critics of the hormone say its use could result in more udder infections in cows and thereby lead to increased use of antibiotics, which could end up in milk.

According to the newspaper report, Health Canada consultants concluded that there are legitimate animal welfare concerns associated with the use of the hormone. These included an increased risk of clinical mastitis and lameness and a the newspaper said, quoting the report.

Copyright 1999 Reuters


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 10:46:44 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-24

Terminator Technology Vital For Farmers' Interests'

By Our Special Correspondent
The Hindu
January 13, 1999

Dr. Autar K. Matoo, a NRI scientist working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture was cited as questioning the wisdom of opposing the use of for protecting innovative seeds, adding that the technology protection system, popularly called terminator technology, was necessary as it costs $10 millions to $15 millions to produce a genetically engineered seed and it is essential that the interests of those who produce them was protected.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 10:46:44 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-24

Germ warfare 'could target ethnic groups'

By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor INDEPENDENT - Jan 22, 1999

Genetically engineered biological weapons capable of targeting particular ethnic groups could become reality within 10 years, an expert panel warned yesterday.

Viruses and other micro- organisms tailored to detect the differences in the DNA of races could offer warmakers and terrorists of the future a new means to carry out "ethnic cleansing", said the panel convened by the British Medical Association (BMA).

Yet the scientific advances that would make such weapons possible will be a spin-off of two areas of medicine with potentially huge benefits. The first is the Human Genome Project, which aims to unravel the 100,000 or so genes in human DNA by 2003. The other is the nascent technology of gene therapy, which tries to repair defective genes in the body.

Launching a book entitled Biotechnology, Weapons and Humanity, members of the panel insisted yesterday that they were not scaremongering. "We went into this being very sceptical, with a position that 'It can't be done'," said Professor Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of health policy and research. "But then after examining what is going on we decided that it might be possible after all."

The idea of "genetic weapons", which the panel said are at present just a theoretical possibility, added urgency to the need to add verification procedures to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Though first signed in 1972 by the UK, US and Russia, and now having 140 signatory nations, the BWC differs from other weapons conventions in having no mechanisms for oversight, to ensure that signatories obey its rules.

Russia was among the countries that attempted to produce a genetically enhanced version of the anthrax virus during the Cold War. The Aum Shinrikyo religious terrorists in Japan also sought genetically to enhance bacteria they had acquired, but failed.

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


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 10:46:44 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-24

posted by jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty)

USDA Redefines `Organic' Labels

January 22, 1999

PACIFIC GROVE, CALIF. - The Associated Press via NewsEdge Corporation : In a reversal, the government is planning to issue rules prohibiting the label for any food that is irradiated, genetically engineered or treated with antibiotics, a top agriculture official told farmers Thursday.

The new labeling plan responds to an outcry from farmers last year against an earlier set of rules the farmers considered too permissive.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 10:46:44 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-24

posted by Paul Davis devatalk@mcmail.com

Genetic food findings 'biased'

UK Guardian - Friday January 22, 1999

Objectors say peers 'bamboozled' by biotech companies, writes John Vidal

Leading consumer and environment groups yesterday accused a House of Lords select committee on genetically modified foods of being biased, muddled and inaccurate after publication of a report that strongly backed the controversial technology.

Objections centred on the fact that nine of the 12 peers on the Lords' European select committee are farmers or have interests in the food industry. Two were government ministers or opposition spokesmen on agriculture officially in favour of the technology. One, Lord Joplin, is a shareholder in one of the biggest biotech companies and was minister of agriculture when US companies first lobbied to bring the technology to Britain.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 10:46:44 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-24

Thanks to MichaelP papadop@peak.org for posting this

Animal Feed Containing GE Hits the Markets

INDEPENDENT January 24 1999

Animal feed for cows, pigs and chickens containing genetically modified crops is about to go on the market, raising fears in Whitehall of another BSE-style health crisis.

Government officials, environmental groups and scientists believe that genetically modified DNA from the animal feed could pass though the food chain to humans, with unknown effects.

They also say that consumers will be denied the opportunity to avoid GM food, as there are no laws saying that meat or milk containing the product must be labelled as such.

Earlier this month, Monsanto, the biotechnology giant, applied for government approval to sell two new GM ingredients to animal feed producers in Britain. Its applications, one for GM cotton and the other for GM corn for specified use in animal fodder, were considered by government advisers.

Insiders have told the Independent on Sunday that officials at the Ministry of Agriculture (Maff) animal feed unit, which dealt with the BSE crisis, were "very worried indeed" when the applications came before the Maff approval committee.

They called for more "toxicology tests" on Monsanto's GM cotton and have privately expressed fears about unknown implications of using it as feed.

"Maff officials wanted full toxicology tests on the cotton," said a source from the meeting. "They were very concerned and agitated. One of them was virtually shaking. They are not happy and they have been saying so privately."

Sources close to the committee have confirmed that Monsanto is about to be given the green light to sell GM maize to animal feed producers in Britain.

Some scientists, however, say that by the time the meat and milk is consumed by humans, the DNA will have broken down and only infinitesimal quantities will remain.

"The truth is that no one has any idea whether the GM organisms fed to animals pose dangers to human health," said Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association. "But surely the very least the consumer should have is the right to choose whether they consume these products or not."

The crisis comes in the week the Government is to announce the setting up of a Food Standards Agency, which will preside over food safety, including that of GM food. Supermarkets, pubs, and shops will all be expected to pay a flat rate of #90 each in a food "poll tax" under plans which will go out for consultation this week.

Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, recently said at an organic food conference that people should be able to choose whether to eat GM food.

Already, two varieties of Monsanto's genetically modified corn and soya have been approved for general consumption by humans and animals in Europe. It is not known whether they are yet being used in animal feed.

Nervous farmers, who had to destroy generations of cattle because of the BSE crisis, have begun asking feed companies whether the processed food contains GM ingredients.

A spokesman for the National Farmers Union said: "Farmers are asking what is in the feed; it's a big problem. There is certainly concern among farmers who don't want to use GM crops in their feed."


Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 06:41:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-27

UK Supermarket Loyalty Cards to Track GM Food Threat

Public to be guinea pigs in GM food experiment

The Government is planning to use supermarket loyalty cards to help investigate the possible health impacts of eating genetically modified (GM) food. Official minutes show that discussions have already taken place with Sainsbury's, Tesco and Safeway who have "agreed in principle". The move will undermine confidence in the claim that there are no health concerns associated with GM food.

The plans are outlined in the latest minutes (10 December) of the Government's official Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP). Information on GM foods would be made available "in a form that can be analysed on a product by product basis at postcode level." Using health databases the information would be used to find out whether eating GM foods is linked to illness. The study would specifically look for increases in childhood allergies, cancer, birth defects and hospital admissions.

There are around 30 million loyalty card-carrying customers in the UK. Customers are told that information gathered with the cards will not be passed on to third parties.

Pete Riley, Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: "If the Government is so concerned over the health impacts of genetically modified foods they shouldn't be introducing them. Supermarket customers will be outraged to discover that they are to be part of a massive public health experiment on GM foods. Despite the fact that their customers have made it clear that they don't want supermarkets to sell GM foods, it is clear that they are not only being ignored; but their loyalty is being abused as well. Supermarkets must decide whose interests they are protecting: their customers or the big biotech firms?"

Despite public concern over GM foods the Government has been planning a pro-GM propaganda campaign with leading supermarkets. Last week Friends of the Earth revealed that the Government had discussed the possibility of running a pro-GM food video campaign at supermarket checkouts.

Friends of the Earth has also attacked the Government for allowing Science Minister Lord Sainsbury to be involved with decisions over GM food. Lord Sainsbury has various links with the GM food industry.

In October a NOP survey for Friends of the Earth revealed that 58 per cent of supermarket customers did not want their supermarkets to sell GM food.


Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 06:41:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-27

"Hambling, Joyce" Joyce.Hambling@uk.greenpeace.org (by way of genetics genetics@gn.apc.org)

For immediate release: 26th January 1999

Leading Food Writers Demand Answers from Blair on Gene Food

Over 120 of Britain and Ireland's leading food writers today challenged Tony Blair to put consumer's health and the environment before the interests of the agrochemical industry' and ban genetically engineered (GE) food.

Speaking at the launch of the Greenpeace food writers campaign against genetic engineering, food writer Lynda Brown told a packed Savoy Hotel that it was time to challenge Tony Blair, "We shall be writing to Tony Blair to inform him of the strength of feeling amongst food writers against gene foods and asking him for once, to put the interests of the consumers ahead of the agrochemical companies. Up to now Tony Blair has only listened to the Monsantos of this world. He cannot ignore the huge public concern over gene foods any more - or the potential recipe for disaster they pose. We are at a turning point. Which way will this people's politician jump?".

Also attending the launch was MP Alan Simpson who urged Greenpeace and the food writers to bring their campaign to Parliament, which he described as out of touch with public concern on the issue. He said, "I have heard more relevant discussion here today than I've ever heard in Parliament on the issue of genetic engineering".

The Greenpeace campaign has gained the support of over 120 leading food writers who have pledged to oppose the use of GE food in their recipes, books and columns and to encourage restaurants to avoid the use of GE products. The campaign will expand to include chefs, growers, gardeners, consumers, anyone with an interest in food and the environment.

Greenpeace Campaign Director John Sauven said of today's challenge "We shall wait to hear from Tony Blair with interest. He can't sit on the fence about this one any longer, food affects everyone and he has to take sides; does he care about consumers and the environment or about the agrochemical industry."

The launch was held at the Savoy Hotel in London this morning (26th January).

For further information please contact the Greenpeace Press Office on 0171-865 8255/6/7/8

Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 06:41:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-27

posted by Hugh Warwick hedgehog@gn.apc.org (by way of genetics genetics@gn.apc.org)

Genetically Engineered Foods: Unnecessary, Unwanted, Unsafe

Today, Wednesday 27th January at 4pm, Environment Minister Michael Meacher will see the launch of an influential report on the use of genetic engineering in British agriculture at the House of Commons.

The report is the result of the first 'Citizens' Jury' on the subject of food. Twelve randomly selected members of the British public were brought together. And over ten weekly meetings, they interrogated expert witnesses from academia, government and the food industry on the way our food is grown, processed, regulated and presented to consumers.

In their final verdict, the citizens' jury has concluded the following:

Members of the jury will be present to defend their conclusions, as will the project's stakeholders, including representatives from Sainsbury's, the National Farmer's Union and the Consumers' Association.

Graham Harvey, author of the influential book 'Killing of the Countryside', and agricultural story editor to the 'Archers', will present his conclusions based on 20 years work as an agricultural journalist.

Copies of the citizens' report will be available at the press conference.

For further information and copies of the report, please call: 0171 837 9229

Co-ordinator of the project, Dr Tom Wakeford, is a member of Science Minister Lord Sainsbury's Biosciences Advisory Group and lectures at the University of East London.


Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 06:41:39 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-26

posted by Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)

Critics of Experimental Plant Gene Technology Puzzle Monsanto

By Robert Steyer,
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wed 13 Jan 1999

Monsanto Co. Chairman Robert B. Shapiro was cited as saying Tuesday that he is puzzled by loud criticism of the "terminator gene" technology, an opposition that he said is based on "concept rather than reality." Even though Monsanto has had nothing to do with developing the technology, which renders a plant sterile, the terminator has become a proxy for anti-biotechnology and anti-Monsanto protests in several countries.

The story says that the experimental technology, developed by the U.S. Agriculture Department and a U.S. cotton seed company, is many years away from any commercial development. Its formal name is "control of plant gene expression"; the nickname was penned by an anti-biotechnology activist. Shapiro was cited as likening the technology to copyright protection for a recording artist or a developer of computer software, adding that without a copyright for a recording, "Anybody can make a million copies and I don't get paid."

The same principle applies to biotechnology. "One of the hardest issues in biotech has always been, given you're investing all this money, will you get paid for the product?" Shapiro said.

Anti-biotechnology groups portray the "terminator," which is really three genes, as enabling giant multinational corporations to control worldwide agriculture by preventing farmers from saving seed. Delta & Pine Land Co., says the technology would be used only to protect biotechnology traits inserted into new seed. And Shapiro said it is ridiculous to think that Monsanto or any corporation would spend the money to stop Third World farmers from replanting seed that "basically is not very good. We wouldn't have any interest in preventing farmers from saving seed that they haven't purchased [and] that doesn't have any of our traits. If you want to continue to use seed that doesn't contain any of our traits, you are free to do that."


Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 06:41:39 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-26

posted by Judy Kew

-----------------------------------------------------------

Matthew Townsend is a barrister and lecturer in environmental law at Victoria University of Technology. mdt@ozemail.com.au

Monsanto's Seed Patents have Horrified Plant Growers Everywhere.

By Matthew Townsend mdt@ozemail.com.au
The Age, Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday 15 December 1998

Monsanto, the company that gave the world Agent Orange, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormones, and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), is on a spending spree. The world's largest agro-chemical producer has just invested about $6 billion in seed operations in Africa, Asia, Central and Latin America and Europe.

This might not mean much were it not for Monsanto's shareholding in the company that owns the so-called "Terminator-patent" a process of genetically modifying plants so they produce only sterile seeds. If Monsanto and other seed companies succeed in inserting Terminator genes into their expanding array of patented seeds, farmers around the world could have little choice but to buy non-reproducing varieties.

As the New York Times put it, "The Terminator will allow companies like Monsanto to privatise one of the last great commons in nature - the genetics of crop plants that civilisation has developed over the past 10,000 years." The technology appears to be directed towards the developing world. Willard Phelps, the Spokesman for the US Dept of Agriculture, the government agency that co-sponsored the Terminator's development, has reportedly acknowledged that the "second and third world markets are the main targets for the Terminator seed."

Seed producers are worried that developing nations are saving their patented seeds from one season to the next and thus reducing their purchasing costs. For example, Monsanto demands that its Roundup Ready seeds are only used once, and monitors compliance using private investigators. However, companies have been unable to do the same in developing countries, where patent protections are weak.

The primary inventor of the Terminator technology, Melvin J. Oliver, has said: "Our mission is to protect American technology and to make us competitive in the face of foreign competition." However, if Terminator seeds become established in international markets, it could devastate traditional farming practices.

The Director of the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) Mr. Pat Mooney says: "Traditionally, women farmers not only save seed but they use purchased seed to cross with other breeding stock to improve and adapt the seed to their local needs. The Terminator makes all this impossible." Monsanto responds that people who don't want the Terminator seeds don't have to buy them. But in many developing nations government rules or commercial credit often force farmers to grow particular crop varieties.

The threat posed by Terminator seeds is not only economic. If the technology goes wrong, they could sterilise surrounding crops through cross-pollination. It has already been shown that genes can jump from crops into weeds, creating new species of superweeds resistant to herbicides. An experimental crop of herbicide-resistant oilseed rape in Britain had to be destroyed after it cross-pollinated nearby plants. The British Government considered prosecuting Monsanto for allegedly contaminating the environment.

There are also questions about the new seeds' potential toxicity. Martha Crouch, Associate Professor of Biology at Indiana University, says: "The key to Terminator is the ability to make a lot of a toxin that will kill cells, and to confine that toxin to seeds." Yet she questions the toxin's effect on other life-forms: "How will a particular toxin affect birds, insects, fungi and bacteria that eat or infect the seeds?" Professor Crouch points out that even if the toxin is not harmful to animals, it "may cause allergic reactions and if the seeds are being mixed with the general food supply, it will be difficult to trace this effect."

The Terminator raises serious questions about food security. Indian agriculturalists, for example, are concerned that once farmers in developing countries are reliant on imported patented seeds, they may be subject to gene tampering to make their crops either less productive or to fail completely. Unsurprisingly, the public response to the Terminator-gene has been poor.

Since the Terminator patent was granted in the United States last March, concern has been expressed worldwide from environmentalists, farmers and scientists. The world's largest agricultural research network, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research has now announced it will boycott the use of Terminator technology. The group expressed concerns about inadvertent pollination; the sale of flawed seeds; the importance of farm-saved seed to resource-poor farmers; and the potential impacts on genetic diversity.

The controversy surrounding the Terminator patent has done little to dispel the criticism that the biotechnology industry is on the wild west frontier of development, and that Monsanto is one of its principal cowboys.


Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 06:41:39 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-26

Posted by "Philip Elmer-DeWitt" ped@well.com
via Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)
and jeaton@fox.nstn.ca (Janet M. Eaton)

http://cgi.pathfinder.com/time/magazine/articles/0,3266,18814,00.html

ENVIRONMENT FEBRUARY 1, 1999 VOL. 153 NO. 4

Time Magazine article: The Suicide Seeds

Terminator genes could mean big biotech bucks -- but big trouble too, as a grass-roots protest breaks out on the Net

By Jeffrey Kluger, Time Magazine article.

For farmers hoping for a healthy harvest, the best place to turn for help these days is the Monsanto Corp. One of the world's leading biotechnology companies--and lately a pioneer in genetically engineered seeds--Monsanto has been incorporating flashy traits like herbicide and pest resistance into everything from canola to corn. But such supercrops don't come cheap. Farmers pay a premium for Monsanto seeds, and to make sure they keep paying, the company requires them to sign an agreement promising not to plant seeds their crops produce. If farmers want the same bountiful harvest next year, they must return to the company for a new load of seeds.

While this arrangement makes sense for Monsanto, it works only if farmers honor it--something that's difficult to police in the U.S. and almost impossible in the developing world. Now, however, Monsanto hopes to enforce biologically what it can't enforce contractually. With the help of clever genes currently in development, future Monsanto crops may be designed with a new feature in mind: sterility. No sooner will the company's plants mature than the seeds they carry will lose the ability to reproduce.

>From Monsanto's point of view, the set of new genes--which others have >dubbed Terminator--is a perfectly legitimate way to protect their >intellectual-property rights. Not everybody agrees. And in the 10 months >since the patent for the seed-sterilizing technology was issued, >Terminator has become the focus of a grass-roots protest that is spreading >through the Internet like, well, wildfire.

Let the new science take hold, opponents warn darkly, and farmers could find themselves coming to Monsanto, seed cup in hand, paying whatever the company demands before they can plant that season's crop. Worse still, some doomsday scenarios suggest, pollen from Terminator plants could drift with the wind like a toxic cloud, cross with ordinary crops or wild plants, and spread from species to species until flora all around the world had been suddenly and irreversibly sterilized.

No serious scientist thinks anything so dire will come to pass. For Monsanto, however, with a technology in its pocket and a fight on its hands, the situation is about as grim as it can get--at least in terms of public relations. "From a marketing perspective, the technology is brilliant," says biotech critic Jeremy Rifkin. "From a social perspective, it's pathological. This is a question of who controls the seeds of life."

To get a feel for the p.r. beating Monsanto is taking, check out the Web. Activist groups like Rural Advancement Foundation International are using the Net to rally Terminator opponents, urging them to flood the U.S. Department of Agriculture with letters of protest. At least 4,000 people from 62 countries have responded--an anti-Monsanto army raised by the electronic vox pop alone. "The group R.A.F.I. masterfully called this Terminator," says Gary Toenniessen, deputy director for agricultural science at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City. "It's not what Monsanto would call it."

For all the heat Monsanto is taking, the company did not create Terminator. The technology was developed by the USDA and a Mississippi seed company known as Delta and Pine Land, and the patent was awarded to both of them. Monsanto later made a $1 billion-plus offer to buy Delta--an offer that was quickly accepted.

Opponents don't care who made Terminator. To them the idea is Frankensteinian on its face. After tweezing out a toxin-producing stretch of DNA from a noncrop plant, gene scientists managed to knit the lethal genetic material into the genome of commercial plants. They also inserted two other bits of coding that would keep the killer gene dormant until late in the crop's development, when the toxin would affect only the seed and not the plant. But because the seed company needs to generate enough product to sell in the first place, the scientists included one more DNA sequence--one that repressed all the sterilizing genes they had just inserted. Once they had grown all the seeds they needed, they would soak them in an antibiotic bath that neutralized the genetic repressor--rendering them infertile. "This is the most intricate application of genetic engineering to date," says Margaret Mellon, a senior scientist at the Union for Concerned Scientists.

But clever science isn't necessarily popular science, and Terminator has made a lot of enemies, particularly in the developing world. The USDA and Delta and Pine Land have filed Terminator patent applications in dozens of countries. In many of those countries farmers can't afford to buy top-of-the-line seeds every year and must rely on saving a portion of each crop in order to plant their fields the following year. Monsanto insists that weak patent protection in many of these countries makes a technology like Terminator especially important. But that argument carries little weight in parts of the world where food bowls are going empty. "This technology brings no benefit to farmers," says Hope Shand, research director of RAFI.


Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 21:14:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-27

GENETICS/CANADA: A blow to Monsanto

In a powerful blow to chemical giant Monsanto, Canada rejected the use of the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone last week. From Environment News Service (ENS), featured on the OneWorld News Service 26 January 1999

See http://ens.lycos.com/ens/jan99/1999L-01-25g.html


posted by MichaelP papadop@peak.org

Over 100 Chefs and Food Writers Slam GE Food.

INDEPENDENT (London) JAN 27 1999

More than 100 chefs and food writers launched a campaign to oppose "freakish" genetically modified food yesterday. Antonio Carluccio, Antony Worrall Thompson, Fay Maschler and Annie Bell, food writer for The Independent, were among those who pledged to secure a ban on the release of all genetically modified (GM) organisms into the food chain.

The writers, who are backed by the environmental group Greenpeace, said they would not lend their names to any products including GM ingredients and would endorse restaurants that do not use GM food.

In a joint statement, they said: "As food professionals we object to the introduction of [GM] foods into the food chain. This is imposing a genetic experiment on the public, which could have unpredictable and irreversible adverse consequences. "

The launch of the campaign came after a report by a House of Lords committee last week, which concluded that the benefits of GM foods far outweighed the risks. The report said that the technology could bring benefits and help to feed the world.

But the author Joanna Blythman, who is spearheading the anti-GM campaign, said yesterday that it was not a precise science and the long-term effects were not known.

"People are fed up with technological tinkering and they want food they can trust," she said.

"You would have thought people would have learnt the dangers after the BSE crisis, but if this goes wrong it will make the fall-out from BSE look like child's play." She warned that GM food could endanger health and imperil the environment because the genes could escape from the crops through the release of seeds and create "superweeds", which would lead to ever-increasing use of herbicides.

"Once they are released into the environment there is no way to get them back," she said.

Peter Melchett, the executive director of Greenpeace, said the food writers were reflecting public anger about the way food was produced.

In a recent Mori poll, 61 per cent of respondents said they would not be happy to eat genetically modified food.

"The public must be told about the GM ingredients that are already appearing in processed foods. People are eating GM food without knowing it," he said. A spokesman for Monsanto, the leading genetic food company, said GM foods were rigorously tested and strictly regulated.

"Monsanto has always wanted a debate about this but we are concerned to hear criticism that is without foundation. There is a strict regulatory process and the products are tested for allergies and other effects."

A spokesman for Asda said the supermarket chain had asked suppliers of its own-label brands to stop using GM ingredients, or, if that was not possible, clearly to label the products that contain them.

Hundreds of foods containing GM ingredients are already on supermarket shelves.

They include bread, biscuits, pasta and packet soups. The main GM ingredients are some types of soya, maize and tomatoes.

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


Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 21:14:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN1-27

posted by: Paul Davis devatalk@mcmail.com

Can we really stomach GM foods?

Gut reaction

Debora MacKenzie, New Scientist, 30 January 1999

Fears that genes for antibiotic resistance could jump from genetically modified foods to bacteria in the gut may be fuelled by new research from the Netherlands. The results show that DNA lingers in the intestine, and confirm that genetically modified bacteria can transfer their antibiotic-resistance genes to bacteria in the gut.

Using an "artificial gut", the Dutch researchers showed that DNA remains intact for several minutes in the large intestine. "It was a surprise to see that DNA persisted so long in the colon," says Hub Noteborn of the State Institute for Quality Control of Agricultural Products in Wageningen, who helped organise the research.

One concern about some genetically modified (GM) crops, such as maize used as animal fodder, is that they include a gene for antibiotic resistance. The resistance genes are used to track the uptake of modified genes, and are not expressed in the crops.

While some scientists fear that these genes could jump into bacteria in the guts of livestock and create antibiotic- resistant pathogens, others have said there is no such risk because the modified DNA breaksdown quickly. The Dutch results cast doubt on these assurances, Noteborn says.

The computer-controlled artificial gut, dubbed TIM, was designed by Robert Havenaar and his colleagues at the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute in Zeist to mimic the digestion of food. It provides a mechanical model of the stomach and intestines, and contains the normal microbes and enzymes in the gut.

When TIM was used to study the effects of digestion on bacteria engineered to contain antibiotic-resistance genes, Havenaar found that DNA from the bacteria had a half-life of 6 minutes in the large intestine. "This makes it available to transform cells," he says.

If the modified bacteria were a type normally found in the gut, such as Enterococcus, the experiment showed each had a 1 in 10 million chance of passing DNA containing antibiotic resistance genes to an indigenous gut bacterium when they came in contact.

There are normally around a thousand billion gut bacteria, suggesting many would be transformed. If some normal gut inhabitants were killed off--as in the guts of people or animals on antibiotics--the transfer rate from gut-type bacteria increased tenfold. "This is the first time the rate has been measured," says Noteborn.

Bacteria not normally in the gut, such as Lactobacillus, did not transfer antibiotic-resistance genes to a normal population of gut bacteria at a detectable level, according to a TNO internal report.

Nor did the Flavr Savr tomato, engineered by the California based company Calgene to resist rot, although up to 10 per cent of its DNA reached the colon. The researchers hope to carry out the crucial test of whether foreign bacteria and GM foods transfer their genes when gut microbes are depleted. "We plan to ask the European Union to fund further research," says Havenaar.

Finding the answers could resolve a long-standing debate. In Britain, a report from the House of Lords select committee for the European Communities last week judged it "extremely unlikely" that genes introduced into edible crops

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

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