Genetically Manipulated Food News

30 January 99

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Table of Contents

Scientists 'are losing war on superbugs'
Study casts doubts on genetically modified food
UK companies breaking labelling laws
UK Government Advisers Split On Frankenstein Crop Approval
The Truth about Aspartame - CNN calls it 'TOXIC TERRORISTS'
Multiple Sclerosis Or Aspartame Disease?
Sunday Times Article: Beans means genes
U.S. corn growers, seed firms agree BT corn rules
Got hormones? Bovine growth drug under fire
Pigs are genetically modified to make organs compatible with humans
Union of Concerned Scientists Newsletter Fall-Winter 98 'The Gene Exchange'

The Gene Exchange

Canada Takes the Lead on Bt

From the Editor's Desk
Dead Seeds

Update on Risk Research
  Process Counts
  More on transgene in wild populations
  Buildup of active Bt toxins in soil
  Intoxicating bacterium kills plants

  Terminator Technology

Terminator Technology
  and the Developing World

The Better Way
  Disrupting corn borer mating
  Health animals on healthy land
  SARE's first decade

Around the World
A Surge in Commerical Transgenic Crops

Ag Business News
  Hoechst and Rhone-Poulenc to form World's Largest Life-Science Company
  Leading Global Seed Companies

  What's Coming to Market?

In the R&D Pipeline
  Genetically Engineered Chickens

  The New Gene Exchange

Date: 28 Jan 1999 12:37:32 -0600
From: MichaelP

Scientists 'are losing war on superbugs'

By Anjana Ahuja, TIMES (London), January 28 1999

SCIENTISTS are losing the war against superbugs, an Oxford scientist said last night. New forms of highly evolved bacteria that have begun to appear in British hospitals can defy every known antibiotic.

Martin Westwell delivered the stark warning in the first of a new series of Royal Institution lectures, sponsored by The Times. The Scientists for the New Century lecture series has been established to promote the work of young scientists such as Dr Westwell, a 27-year-old Cambridge-trained chemist, who are in the forefront of research but rarely have the opportunity to explain their work to the public.

Dr Westwell explained that current strains of bacteria had evolved chemical tricks to outwit even the most powerful drugs. Vancomycin, often called the "antibiotic of last resort", was now powerless against some of the nastiest bugs.

As a result, he said, hospitals were having to contain, rather than combat, infections. It is possible that the infections could creep into smaller hospitals and nursing homes with less vigilant controls, and from there find their way into the general community. Such a scenario, Dr Westwell said, would be a public health disaster and might cripple the NHS.

If any new drug does prove effective, scientists will still have to keep searching. Bacteria typically evolve resistance to any drug within about four years of its introduction.

** 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: 28 Jan 1999 14:05:19 -0600
From: (Judy Kew)
Via: (jim mcnulty)

Study casts doubts on genetically modified food

January 28, 1999
© Copyright 1999, Reuters

The results show that DNA lingers in the intestine, and confirms that genetically modified bacteria ca genetically engineered crops is that antibiotic-resistant genes could transfer to animals and humans and create superbugs that cannot be killed by even the strongest antibiotics.

Some scientists claimed it could never happen because the modified DNA breaks down so quickly. But the Dutch research showed DNA from the bacteria had a half-life of six minutes in the large intestine. said Robert Havenaar, the designer of the artificial gut.

Hub Noteborn of the State Institute for Quality Control of Agricultural Products in the Netherlands said the results of the study contradicudies and are planning to ask the European Union for funding.

Last week, a committee from Britain's House of Lords (upper house) announced that the benefits of genetically modified food outweighed the risks. They also concluded it wt some have nicknamed

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Date: 29 Jan 1999 08:00:19 -0600

UK companies breaking labelling laws

GM products left off labels

By John Vidal Friday January 29, 1999 UK Guardian

Genetic fingerprinting has found that dozens of food companies are breaking European law by using genetically modified ingredients and not telling the public. An investigation into genetically modified organisms in the British food chain by Worcestershire's trading standards service found that one of three animal feed samples tested contained GM soya or maize, as did two out of six food ingredients, and two of 15 foods on retail sale.

The analysis, by Worcester Scientific Services, into more than 150 samples for other local authorities found a third contained modified DNA. Only one such sample was properly labelled. Most companies said they had no way of knowing which foodstuffs contained the ingredients.

Date: 29 Jan 1999 13:17:47 -0600
From: (jim mcnulty)

UK Government Advisers Split On Frankenstein Crop Approval

Did you see the English Nature Press release on the Lords report?

English Nature criticizes presentation of House of Lords report - 22 January 1999

Responding to the recent report from the Lords Select Committee dealing with Genetically Modified Crops, English Nature today issued the following statement:

"It is unfortunate that the presentation of the House of Lords report gave the impression of unqualified support for the benefits of genetically modified crops. The environmental risks of GMOs to wildlife and the environment have become increasingly accepted both by the regulators and the informed public. Indeed almost half of the Committeeis recommendations are concerned with broadening and making more rigorous the risk assessment and regulatory process necessary to deal with these risks."

"English Nature cannot understand how, while stressing the need for considerable tightening of the process of research and appraisal before any release of organisms was agreed, the overall message from the report can be that GMOs should go ahead."

"We are very disappointed that this Committee appears to have failed to understand the implications for farmland wildlife of growing genetically modified herbicide tolerant (HT) and insect resistant (IR) crops. They say that these crops may benefit wildlife but there is no scientific evidence from Europe, the US and Canada supporting this."

"The Committee has completely failed to grasp the point that applying broad spectrum herbicides to HT crops during the growing season will give many more farmers the power to remove all weeds from fields, putting yet more pressure on our already beleaguered wildlife. We are also concerned that IR crops containing insecticides may have serious effects on non-target insect populations, reducing still further the food available to farmland birds."

"In the past 20 years populations of 10 farmland bird species such as skylark, corn bunting and grey partridge have crashed to an all-time low and we now have strong evidence that a major factor in this decline is the increase in the use and effectiveness of pesticides, including herbicides."

Notes for editors.

  1. This statement should be read in conjunction with English Natureis earlier releases on GMOs, together with our Position Statement, which can be found on our website.

  2. The report, EC Regulation of Genetic Modification in Agriculture , European Communities Committee 2nd Report 1998/99, HLP 11-I, ISBN 0-10-432199-7 is available from the Stationery Office, or can be accessed via the UK Parliament home page at

Date: 29 Jan 1999 17:13:59 -0600
From: betty martini

The Truth about Aspartame - CNN calls it 'TOXIC TERRORISTS'

(What is on CNN - and about Nancy Markle and the World Environmental Conference )

Dear List:

Here is what is going on. You may remember that some weeks ago an article by Nancy Markle was circulating the globe about lecturing for the World Environmental Conference. I don't know who she is but I was the one who lectured for the World Environmental Conference in l995 when Dr. Gaylord of the EPA gave a keynote address and said: "We have an epidemic of MS and lupus and cannot identify the toxin." I said: "I'm Betty Martini with Mission Possible International and I'm here to lecture on MS and lupus and identify the toxin as NutraSweet.

When I returned to Atlanta I was on a neurological list explaining to neurologists how aspartame destroys the central nervous system. H. J. Roberts, M.D., who has now declared aspartame disease to be a world epidemic wrote a position paper at the time to help the physicians titled MS or Aspartame Disease which is on

Russell Blaylock, M.D., author of Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills also wrote me a letter to help explain to the physicians how Aspartame Disease mimics MS. Both are still on Later I wrote a post on the World Environmental Conference also put on DORway to help physicians understand.

A month or so ago a woman by the name of Nancy Markle picked up the post off DORway, changed the title, got it a little disorganized and added some other emails I wrote and published it under her name. Shoshanna Allison in Clarkston, Georgia saw the article and put it on a list of 450 global networks. I've now met Shoshanna by phone and can't thank her enough because this is what has happened!!! MS and lupus patients as well as other aspartame victims have called from around the world, ( and reporters as well) and a support list has had to be set up on the Internet for aspartame victims. The wonderful news is that in so many cases as they count the days off aspartame symptoms are disappearing. I have read enough case histories to make you weep at the shattered lives caused by this deadly neurotoxin. The phone has not stopped ringing day and night. These victims now knowing what aspartame causes realize how many people have lost their lives from this toxin. Because aspartame is marketed in 100 countries of the world this may end up being one of the largest epidemics in world history.

When 6000 case histories came in very quickly the computer crashed and my server said there is just not any system that is going to hold the kind of mail you are getting. We're going to have to put in more lines and call in volunteers.

In the meantime, industry, the FDA and EPA have tried to deny what was in the post. So the actual letter confirming my lecture at the World Environmental Conference has been scanned into Internet and is on the site, the nomarkle page. Monsanto put a disclaimer on their web site. I guess we should thank them because MS victims on Internet using aspartame searched the issue and, of course, they come up with the site or or, etc. And they are getting the Truth. The whole issue has broken open around the world. The story is being published in newspapers and magazines around the world as I have been talking to reporters constantly.

The EPA asked me who the doctor was who gave the keynote address and I told them but they still have the disclaimer on the web site, even though they know the truth.

The Nancy Markle article has not gotten to CNN and the FDA and the MS Association are saying anti-aspartamers are toxic terrorists. The interesting thing about the MS Association is they know. When they had a walk-a-thon here in Atlanta I gave out Dr. Roberts paper and Dr. Blalocks letter about how aspartame disease mimics MS. The MS people gave out Diet Cokes!!! They did everything they could to stop me from giving out that material.

You would think that if there was evidence that a product destroyed the central nervous system and was mimicing MS, and could also speed up the disease of legitimate MS they would want the people to know. They wanted it to keep it from the walkers even though it was medical documentation. I really gave it to them about giving out the very thing that was causing the problem. I also gave out Alicia Morris' case history where she was diagnosed by two doctors as having MS on 3 Diet Cokes a day, got off aspartame and all her symptoms disappeared. Her memory and vision returned and the pains in her legs disappeared. It was published in First for Women in l997.

So here the MS Association knows and tells CNN its not so. I spoke to the FDA myself and even they admitted they were getting so many calls. And I told them about telling people aspartame is safe when in fact we have their own FDA audit on, the Bressler Report, the damning CDC investigation and even the protest of the National Soft Drink Association. They simply said they couldn't refute that. That was Dr. Rudoloph Harris (202) 205- 4850. Then he said he would write up a report. You will notice on CNN they are party to the denial.

Below this is one of the posts going to CNN and its excellent. These victims getting off aspartame and getting their life back are writing CNN and I hope they are swamped. So any aspartame survivors need to email - address below.

Please forward this around and let people know what is going around.

Betty Martini
Mission Possible Internatinal, 770 242-2599

Date: 29 Jan 1999 22:32:04 -0600
From: betty martini

Via: "Dave Rietz ("

Multiple Sclerosis Or Aspartame Disease?

H. J. Roberts, M.D., F.A.C.P.,F.C.C.P.

Aspartame disease refers to symptoms and signs attributable to the use of products containing aspartame, a chemical commonly known as NutraSweet ® and Equal ®. In my opinion, it afflicts many consumers of such products, possibly in the millions. This is based on my own database of over 900 aspartame reactors, extensive researches, and more than 7,000 complaints volunteered to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Over half of adults in the U.S. currently consume aspartame!

The most vulnerable areas for this affliction are the brain, eyes, inner ear and peripheral nerves. Its frequent features include headache, dizziness, poor equilibrium, confusion, impaired vision or double vision, convulsions, ringing in the ears, slurred speech, tremors, extreme fatigue, motor and sensory disturbances affecting the limbs, and other neuropsychiatric complaints. They are detailed in my two cassette talk, Is Aspartame (nutrasweet®) Safe? A Medical, Public Health And Legal Overview - 1995, and Sweet'ner Dearest: Bittersweet Vignettes About Aspartame (nutrasweet ®) - published by the Sunshine Sentinel Press (P. O. Box 17799, West Palm Beach, Florida 33416; 1 800 -814-9800; Fax 561-832-2400; e-mail,

I have encountered scores of patients with aspartame disease in whom these features, in varying combinations, were diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. This has been particularly impressive in the case of weight- conscious young women who used aspartame as soft drinks, tabletop sweeteners and gum. The causative or contributing role of aspartame was indicated by

  1. the dramatic improvement within several days or weeks after avoiding aspartame products, and
  2. the prompt and predictable recurrence of these complaints after resuming aspartame (often inadvertently).

Each of the components of phenylalanine-aspartame (50%); aspartic acid (40%); the methyl ester, which promptly becomes methyl alcohol or methanol (10%) - and their multiple breakdown products after exposure to heat or during prolonged storage is potentially toxic to the brain, retina and nerves.

An erroneous diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can penalize a person in numerous ways and for years. It is my opinion that the diagnosis of "early" multiple sclerosis should not be made in individuals consuming aspartame products until they have been observed for many months of total abstinence. Some minor finding by CT or MRI scans of the brain does not justify this diagnosis in an aspartame reactor.

© 1996 H. J. Roberts, M.D., F.A.C.P.,F.C.C.P.
300 27th Street
West Palm Beach, Florida 33407


  1. Take the 60-day No Aspartame Test and send us your case history. Mission Possible International 5950-H State Bridge Rd. #215 Duluth, GA 30097 USA
  2. Tell your doctor and all of your friends!
  3. Return Asparcidal food to the store. (anything with Monsanto's NutraSweet / Equal / Spoonful / Benevia / NatraTaste)

VISIT Get links to over 30 sites on aspartame
VISIT ..FAQs & Cases
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Disability and Death are not acceptable costs of business!

Date: 30 Jan 1999 04:14:14 -0600
From: (jim mcnulty)

Sunday Times Article: Beans means genes

By Stephen Bevan and Jack Grimston report
Sunday Times - London © Copyright Times Newspapers Ltd, 1999

As the debate about genetically modified food grows, few realise that it is too late to worry: we are already eating it.

On the streets of Colchester last week the supermarket shoppers were clear: they did not want scientists monkeying around with their food. Forget stay-fresh tomatoes or ever-crunchy lettuce. What the citizens of Essex say they prefer is natural fare, not food derived from "mutant" species of genetically engineered plants.

"My main priority is to buy food that is nutritional and safe to eat," said Diana Rees, a local resident. "The thought of a scientist in a lab somewhere playing around with what is going to end up on our plates does not seem natural."

Anna Hammond, 36, a mother of two, was also con cerned, but like many people believed the day of genetically modified (GM) food had yet to arrive in Britain.

"I know that some stores are keen to sell the stuff but I am not happy about it," she said. "I would be very unhappy if they tried to sneak in things like gene-modified food without telling us."

Hammond should prepare to be unhappy. Pick up a packet of biscuits or a ready-made meal or many processed foods in any high street store and the chances are that it will already contain a GM ingredient. It will often not be included on the label, but it will be lurking there whether the stores like it or not.

About 60% of processed foods contain soya, according to some estimates. The largest supplier is America, where genetically modified soya and maize are grown across a greater expanse than all the cultivated land in Britain. That soya and maize are exported, mixed with ordinary crops. Nobody can be sure exactly how much ends up in food consumed in Britain.

But surely at least our green and pleasant land is free from "Frankenstein flora" because farmers are not yet allowed to grow GM crops? Wrong again. Two weeks ago the government approved the cultivation of a GM oilseed rape after its scientific advisers said the crop would pose no danger to the environment.

Other biotech crops are likely to follow. Last week a House of Lords committee examining genetic engineering in agriculture concluded that the benefits of GM food outweighed the risks. "Biotechnology in general and genetic modification in particular offer great potential benefits to agriculture, industry, consumers and even to the environment," said the committee.

Opponents accused members of siding with the interests of big business, not the consumer; they claim that nobody can safely predict the effect of letting genetically modified organisms loose among the hedgerows.

They also point out that Lord Sainsbury, a government minister involved in policy discussions about GM food, faces a conflict of interest: he has links to the Sainsbury's supermarket chain and to a charitable organisation researching plant science.

Professor Tim Lang, director of the Centre for Food Policy at Thames Valley University, said: "There is a juggernaut of billions of dollars of investment in biotechnology, mainly from US companies. It's the fourth revolution since settled agriculture began. I say, hold on. Let's be really sure about these things; let's take it on a case by case basis."

The science is spectacular. Where once cross-breeding was a haphazard affair, now it is possible to take a single gene from one organism and implant it in the DNA of another, altering the properties of plants and animals. Soya can be made resistant to herbicides; wheat can be engineered to produce better flour.

Other suggestions are more outlandish. A gene from a jellyfish, for example, can be used as a fluorescent marker and some scientists envisage it making plants glow to indicate when they are short of water or diseased.

At first it seemed as if such advances might cause no stir. Ten years ago cheese-makers looking for an alternative to rennet - which comes from the linings of dead calves' stomachs - turned to chymosin, an enzyme produced by genetically modified bacteria. It is now used in making more than 70% of hard cheeses. Nobody seems to mind.

By 1996 supermarkets such as Safeway and Sainsbury's had introduced GM tomato puree, clearly labelled as genetically modified. Monsanto , a giant American agri-business, was encouraged enough to mount an advertising campaign extolling the benefits of genetic engineering.

To a public suspicious after the BSE crisis, the campaign was a big mistake. Surveys showed opinion hardened against GM crops.

In Totnes, Devon, tempers boiled over. Guy Watson had built up a successful business there growing organic vegetables. Consumers were voting with their wallets, buying 2.5% more organic food each year. Sainsbury's reported re cently that sales of organic food had jumped from nothing 15 years ago to more than Pounds 1m a week.

Watson was enjoying the boom until a seed company chose to grow a trial crop of GM maize next to his farm. He believed the GM maize could cross-fertilise his organic sweetcorn, ruining his status as an organic farm.

Watson went to court, lost his case, but won in practice. Local campaigners (not including him) dug up the three trial plots of GM crops. His fears may not have been unfounded. Next month Monsanto is being taken to court for breaching the guidelines over the test growing of a GM crop in Lincolnshire, alleging it failed to separate the GM crop sufficiently from neighbouring fields.

Last week Farmers Weekly reported what is thought to be the first case of accidental cross-pollination between GM crops and conventional plants. The authorities are investigating.

Prince Charles, the country's best known organic vegetable grower, summed up the fears of many. We should not be "meddling with the building blocks of life", he said last month. "Mixing genetic material from species that cannot breed naturally takes us into areas that should be left to God."

In the face of public disquiet, some British local authorities and schools have introduced bans on GM foods, though they are hard to enforce. "It is down to trust between us, the contractor, his suppliers and the manufacturers," said Mark Sleep, manager of catering services at Kent county council.

The supermarkets, too, have begun to backtrack. Sainsbury's has no plans to introduce more GM products, said a spokesman, and has been trying to find sources of unmodified soya. Asda is reformulating its own-label products - among them its economy brand baked beans - to ensure they are free of GM ingredients.

The consumer, however, is left baffled. Regulations on the labelling of GM food products are a mess. Nobody can decide what should be the minimum content of GM ingredients that must be declared; additives derived from GM sources do not have to be listed; and European Union regulations on approving GM foods apply only to those introduced after May 1997.

The whole regulatory approach is flawed, says Julie Shepherd, of the Consumers' Association, because it is based on testing end products. But the testing technology has yet to be fully developed. "The entire labelling system is predicated on the accuracy of tests that no agency has accredited," she says.

AT MONSANTO, the GM enthusiasts talk excitedly of everything from more efficient farming to vitamin-enriched fruit and vegetables and plants that will produce biodegradable plastics. They dismiss the perceived risks as overblown, the science as misunderstood.

Dr Ray Mathias, of the John Innes Centre, which studies plant biology, argues that people have been interfering in the genetic make-up of plants and animals for hundreds of years through cross- breeding. What genetic engineering can do is bring precision to the process and greater benefits.

"Increasingly the focus will be on producing plants that can tolerate greater salinity, extremes of temperature or drought conditions," he said. The centre is working on enhancing the natural cancer-preventing properties of members of the brassica family, which includes broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Will these arguments wash with the public? Research by Sheffield University shows that at present they won't. People do not trust industry and government information. Sue Mayer, of the pressure group Genewatch, believes consumers will remain suspicious until they have a greater say about GM foods.

"The government has got to sort out its policy," she said. "At the moment there seems to be an implicit policy that, basically, GM crops and food are a good thing."

To GM sceptics, being safe is better than being experimental and sorry. "Why are these things needed?" asked Richard Lacey, emeritus professor of microbiology at Leeds University. "If you take a modified maize or soya, the average consumer won't taste any difference. We don't know what the risk is and there is no great benefit."

The advantages lie mainly with the agricultural companies and retailers, not consumers, say critics. Even some of the advantages are disputed: In America some farmers complain that GM crops have failed to live up to their promise, producing low yields and poor hardiness.

"The downside is that if you genetically modify in a substantial way, rather than in the gradual breeding and hybridisation programmes that have been going on for centuries, then if you get a dramatic change in food, animal or plant, how do you establish that the product is safe for the environment and the consumer?" said Lacey.

Until the industry can persuade people otherwise, opposition to GM foods is likely to intensify. The uncomfortable reality is, however, that consumers are already buying the stuff unwittingly.

Date: 30 Jan 1999 04:14:57 -0600
From: (jim mcnulty)

U.S. corn growers, seed firms agree BT corn rules

Friday January 29, 2:35 am Eastern Time

ST LOUIS, Mo., Jan 28 (Reuters) - The National Corn Growers Association said it reached an agreement with seed companies making genetically modified corn to back rules requiring BT-corn growers to also plant 20 percent corn. insect resistance strategy starting in the year 2000, respond to criticism by environmentalists who warn that the growing use of corn is a traditional corn hybrid with the gene from a soil-based organism, bacillus thuringiensis, added in. The BT organism is deadly to one of the biggest crop pests in the U.S. Corn Belt, the European Corn Borer.

The new corn strain has been effective and was planted on about 15 percent of U.S. corn acreage last year. Industry estimates say that figure could rise to 25 percent in 1999. The U.S. plants about 80 million acres to corn each year.

Environmental groups and growers have cautioned that the explosive growth presents a threat if bugs that survive the effects then produce resistant offspring.

Under the guidelines agreed on Thursday, biotechnology developer Monsanto Co (NYSE:MTC - news) and its seed maker DEKALB Genetics Corp (NYSE:DKB - news), Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW - news) units Mycogen Seeds (Nasdaq:MYCO - news) and Dow AgroSciences, Novartis unit Novartis Seeds, and industry leader Pioneer Hi-Bred acreage.

Growers buying BT-corn from the companies will be required to agree to plant a minimum of 20 percent non-BT corn acreage on their farm. In addition, in some cotton growing areas, a 50 percent refuge will be required. BT seed now in the United States. These actions will ensure environmental stewardship and product integrity said NCGA Board member Tim Hume.

The agreement follows a September meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, where the NCGA presented its plans to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. NCGA said on Thursday that details of the plan have yet to be finalized with EPA.

Date: 30 Jan 1999 04:15:42 -0600
From: (jim mcnulty)

Got hormones? Bovine growth drug under fire

Times Union (Albany, NY) Publication Date: January 26, 1999
© Copyright 1999 _____via IntellX_____

Canadian report
More studies
More testing

It was the confluence of two important events that made Carol Baxter start buying organic milk about five and a half years ago. Her oldest daughter had just turned 1 and soon would move from breast milk to cow's milk. And American dairy farmers had just received approval to inject their cows with recombinant bovine growth hormone, a genetically engineered hormone that increases milk production.

Baxter, who lives in Palisades, Rockland County, knew of environmental groups' claims that treated cows got more infections and needed more antibiotics, which could then enter their milk. And she learned that some scientists had raised the possibility of an increased cancer risk in people who drank the milk. "Milk is such an important part of a child's diet," she said. "I didn't want my child to be a guinea pig."

The Food and Drug Administration has long dismissed such concerns. In the journal Science in 1990, two agency scientists concluded that "no toxicologically significant changes" were seen in rats that ingested the hormone. The agency's approval of the hormone in 1993 rested on the strength of that 90-day rat study, which was commissioned by [ Monsanto ] , the manufacturer.

Safety questions about the hormone never went away among health- conscious consumers, and recently the old questions have resurfaced in light of new research and a fresh examination of the rat study.

Last week, the Canadian government said that it would not approve the synthetic hormone. Canadian scientists reviewed unpublished data from the study and found health effects that had not been cited in the Science report. Canada's decision leaves the United States the only major country to permit use of the synthetic hormone.

Canadian report

In its analysis of the Monsanto rat study, the Canadian scientists found that 20 percent to 30 percent of the rats that ingested high doses of the hormone developed antibodies to it, a sign that it was active in the bloodstream. And some of the male rats developed cysts on their thyroids and abnormalities in their prostates.

In December, after the Canadian researchers released their findings, Sens. Patrick Leahy and James Jeffords, both of Vermont, asked Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala to investigate whether the FDA overlooked evidence in the case. Shalala has not yet responded.

In addition, in December, 21 dairy farmer associations and consumer groups in the United States said they would file suit against the FDA for failing to require additional safety studies of the hormone. "The 90-day rat study doesn't show that recombinant bovine growth hormone is a human health hazard," said Dr. Michael Hanson, a research associate for the Consumer Policy Research Institute, a division of the Consumers Union, one of the groups. "But neither does it show that there is no possibility of any health hazard, as FDA claimed. It's clear that FDA has grossly misled us."

The agency is writing a response to the concerns, said Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of its Center for Veterinary Medicine. He acknowledged that the agency had not reviewed the antibody data in the approval process "for reasons I can't explain."

He said the agency had seen the information on the thyroid and prostate effects, but considered them "biologically meaningless" because they were no more prevalent in rats fed high doses of the hormone than in those fed low doses. Ordinarily, if a substance like a drug affects the body, the effects increase as the dose increases. "Consumers have no reason to be concerned about the milk," he said.

Monsanto said its product, called Posilac, is safe. Extensive evaluations have established that the hormone supplements for cows do not change the composition and wholesomeness of milk, Dr. David Kowalczyk and Dr. Robert Collier, Monsanto scientists, wrote in a statement released Jan. 12. The scientists point out that the United Nations Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, which determines the safety of residues from veterinary drugs in foods, affirmed in March that the growth hormone was safe.

More studies

In addition to the Canadian investigation, two studies published last year rekindled long-standing worries about a possible increased risk of cancer from consuming milk from hormone-treated cows. Reports from two continuing Harvard-based studies, the Physicians' Health Study and the Nurses' Health Study, found that insulin-dependent growth factor 1, a protein that is elevated in the milk of hormone- treated cows, is a strong risk factor for breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Researchers in the study say this protein circulates naturally in the human body at such high levels that the added amount in treated milk is unlikely to be noticed. Also, it occurs in breast milk in higher amounts than in the milk of hormone-treated cows. And, the researchers say there is no evidence that consuming the substance in food contributes to cancer risk.

Last January, scientists with the Physicians' Health Study reported in Science that men with the highest levels of IGF-1 in their blood were four times as likely to develop prostate cancer as men with the lowest levels. In May, scientists with the Nurses' Health study reported in The Lancet that premenopausal women with high levels of IGF-1 had up to a sevenfold increase in breast cancer risk over those with low levels. They said the findings suggest "that the relation between IGF-1 and risk of breast cancer may be greater than that of other established breast-cancer risk factors," except for family history and dense breast tissue.

Dr. Michael Pollack, who was involved with both studies, noted that the difference between the IGF-1 in milk from untreated cows and treated cows is relatively small. Levels range from 1 to 9 nanograms per milliliter of milk from untreated cows and 1 to 13 nanograms per milliliter of milk from treated cows, the FDA said.

Still, he said he could not rule out the possibility that daily exposure to the small additional amounts of IGF-1 in milk over a lifetime could increase a person's cancer risk. "It's a hypothetical concern," he said.

Even though the increased amount of IGF-1 in treated milk is small, Hanson said the possible health effects could not be dismissed. He cited a 1995 study in the Journal of Endocrinology showing that the breakdown of IGF-1 in rats is slowed in the presence of casein, a protein in milk. "If casein increases the half life of IGF-1, the effects could be dramatic," he said.

More testing

Several experts agree with the Consumers Union and the other parties in the planned lawsuit against the FDA that more testing is needed to establish whether bovine growth hormone supplementation is safe.

"More studies need to be done," said Dr. Marion Nestle, director of the department of nutrition at New York University, who opposed the approval of the hormone as a representative on the drug agency's advisory panel that approved it.

"The science on the effects of oral ingestion of IGF-1 is incomplete," the American Medical Association said in a statement last month, in response to a reporter's questions.

In the climate of uncertainty, one thing is for sure. Many consumers want milk without added hormones and antibiotics. Sales of organic milk nearly doubled to almost $31 billion in 1997, from about $16 million in 1996, according to dairy industry figures.

Some supermarkets, such as Price Chopper, which sells Organic Cow milk in some of its stores, offers milk that states on the label the cows haven't been treated with the genetically engineered hormone.

Wendy Gordon, executive director of Mothers and Others for a Livable Planet, said demand was strong for its list of milk manufacturers, organic and nonorganic, whose dairies pledge not to use the synthetic hormone. Those are the dairies whose products are typically sold at health food stores, such as Honest Weight Food Co- op in Albany.

"To the best of our knowledge, all of our dairy products, milk and cheese, come from dairies that say they don't use the bovine growth hormone," said Anton Burkett, merchandising coordinator. "We deal with a lot of producers who are organically certified, and get documentation from producers that say they don't use it."

Date: 30 Jan 1999 13:47:53 -0600
From: (jim mcnulty)


Pigs are genetically modified to make organs compatible with humans

By Corinne Podger of BBC Science, BBC NEWS 30 January 1999

Setback for animal to human transplants
Ethics questions

Setback for animal to human transplants

The Council of Europe has voted for a moratorium on clinical tests of animal organ transplants into human beings.

The decision will be a heavy blow to researchers working on the technique, known as "xenotransplantation". It also means the global shortage of human donor organs will have to be solved some other way.

Millions of dollars have already been poured into research on transplanting animal organs into humans.

Transplants postponed indefinitely until more is known Most researchers have focused on pigs, which are highly compatible with humans - and by adding some human genes to specially bred pigs, it reduces the risk that transplanted animal organs will be rejected by their human recipients.

But researchers have run up against persistent problems. These involve a number of viruses which - while harmless to pigs - might pose serious health risks to humans, and possibly cause new human diseases.

While not banning the idea of animal organ transplants altogether, the council of Europe voted to ban clinical tests on real patients in Europe - and wants to see that ban extended worldwide.

As a result, any trials of the transplants, which might have gone ahead in Europe this year, have been indefinitely postponed until more is known about the potential hazards.

Ethics questions

The council also expressed concern about the ethics of animal organ transplants, both for humans, and for animal welfare.

With an international shortage of human organs for transplants, many people die while waiting in vain for an organ - like a heart or a liver - that they desperately need.

But with the council's decision, animal organs are not going to be the answer - at least in the short term.

Date: 30 Jan 1999 19:11:54 -0600
From: (Judy Kew)

Union of Concerned Scientists Newsletter Fall-Winter 98 'The Gene Exchange'

Here is a recent newsletter from the Union of Concerned Scientists USA.

Their newsletter is excellent, a very well documented genetic engineering information source:

Their website is Interesting Reading

To obtain a paper copy: email Pam Abhyankar at

The Gene Exchange is published by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Copyright 1998 by UCS. Permission to reprint the Gene Exchange is granted in advance. Please acknowledge the source and notify UCS.

Jane Rissler, Ph.D., and Margaret Mellon, Ph.D., J.D., Editors

UCS is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing responsible public policies in areas where technology plays a critical role. You may become a UCS sponsor by sending a tax-deductible contribution of any reasonable amount to: UCS Development Department, Two Brattle Square, Cambridge, MA 02238-9105. World Wide Web address: .

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