Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

8 February 99

Table of Contents

Starlings And Snails That Speak Nothing But Trouble
EU bans GE Canola
D-day looms on GM foods
Monsanto may face UK censure for GM food ads
Monsanto's GM Food Campaign 'misleading'
Bookreview: Against the Grain
US Agriculture loses Huge Markets Thanks to GMOs
The ladybird, an agricultural ally whose breeding potential may be reduced by GM crops
I was right, says GM row scientist
"How I told the truth and was sacked"
GM crops may polute rivers, lakes and reservoirs
Bioengineering: Irresistible Force, Immovable Object
UK: Consumers wise to the real GM agenda

Top NextFront Page

Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 15:46:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-5

Starlings And Snails That Speak Nothing But Trouble

by Dan Gardner, The Ottawa Citizen, March 01, 1999,

In the 1870s, New York theatre afficionado Eugene Schieffelin had the romantic thought of collecting all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's plays and releasing them into the New World.

Schieffelin assiduously scanned the Bard's work and found a single line I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak '). With that, starlings came to America and became a continent-wide plague that devastated native species like bluebirds and martins.

Eugene Schieffelin may seem a quaint and foolish relic of the 19th century but he has his modern disciples: The scientists and businessmen of the biotechnology industry. In the last 20 years, biotech's ability to snip genes from one species and splice them into others has exploded, creating countless life forms as novel as tomatoes with fish genes. By some estimates, as much as 40 per cent of all crops grown in the United States are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) .

In Canada, more than 40 per cent of canola is genetically modified, as is one quarter of the soy beans and corn. It may not be so romantic as Schieffelin's Shakespearean project, but the biotech industry is introducing its own exotic menagerie to the world. Despite the environmental dangers in this, the only tough public questioning the industry has faced is over the issue of human health -- and even that concern has mainly been restricted to Europe.

Certainly health concerns have to be taken seriously, but there is, so far, only the weakest evidence that foods made with GMOs may put human health at risk. What's more, those risks can be readily studied and determined. Human biology may be complex, but we are, after all, only one life form. The more intimidating question is what happens when GMOs are released into the environment to interact with millions of life forms? into the wider environment any number of ways. For one, a genetically modified crop can cross-pollinate with its wild cousins, passing on some of its engineered traits. A plant created to be resistant to herbicide could pass on that resistance, spawning weeds that cannot be controlled by conventional herbicides. Horizontal gene passes genes between unrelated organisms, a fairly common process at the microbial level. Some scientists believe GMOs, because of the way they are created, are especially likely to transfer genes horizontally. The biotech industry protests that GMOs are not just unleashed on the environment, they're controlled and tested for safety.

But the extent to which GMOs can be contained and their risks determined depends on how well we understand the environment. The problem is, we've learned only enough about the environment to know how little we know. Recent history bears this out. In the early 1980s, a century after starlings came to New York, the golden-apple snail was brought to south-east Asia from South America as a food crop.

With all our science and experience, it had to be safe, right? What harm can a snail do? Plenty. The snail spread through irrigation systems into rice paddies, where it devoured rice seedlings and thrived. Today, it devastates rice all over the region, and also acts as a carrier of a lungworm which can infect and kill humans. Oops.

There are hundreds of similar examples. Often it takes years to realize an invader is expanding and even longer to understand the full extent of the damage done. Who could possibly have anticipated that an alien grass in Idaho would set in motion a chain reaction which threatens the region's golden eagles?

And once invaders are established, they are all but impossible to stop. Not even DDT could touch the gypsy moth. Purple loosestrife, as wetland owners across Ontario are discovering, is all but indestructible.

So what can be done to ensure the mistakes made with starlings, snails, and countless other species aren't repeated with GMOs? For starters, we need an international agreement that allows countries to block the import of a GMO, without fear of trade sanctions, until it is proven safe to local ecosystems - -which may well be never. Biosafety talks in Colombia, but the implacable opposition of six countries scuttled it at the last minute. One of the six was Canada. So biotech companies will continue to spread GMOs, risking ecosystems in ways we cannot imagine. At least that romantic fool Eugene Schieffelin could say he didn't know any better. Dan Gardner is a member of the Citizen's editorial board. E- mail: dgardner@thecitizen.southam.ca Read previous Dan Gardner columns at www.ottawacitizen.com


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 15:46:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-5

EU bans GE Canola

The Western Producer (Saskatchewan, Canada) Feb 25, 1999

EU closed to modified food - Anyone betting that Canadian canola will soon be allowed into Europe just saw their odds worsen. Because some Canadian canola is genetically modified to be herbicide resistant, all of it has been banned from the European Union for some years. In the last six months the EU, particularly Britain, appeared to be warming slightly to genetically modified, or GM, crops as governments began to worry they were falling behind in a major new economic field. However, the direction was reversed dramatically two weeks ago.

That is when 21 international scientists announced they supported the findings of Arpad Pusztai, who was forced to retire last year after he said his experiments indicated GM food can damage rats' vital organs and weaken the immune system.

"Dr. Pusztai's results, at the very least, raise the suspicion that genetically modified food may damage the immune system," Dr. Ronald Finn, a past-president of the British Society of Allergy and Environmental Medicine, said in a story carried by Reuters news service.

Pusztai, a world authority on plant proteins, was forced to leave the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, two days after revealing preliminary findings in a television documentary. The institute said his claims could not be substantiated.

But a later review of Pusztai's research by Stanley Ewen, a pathologist at Aberdeen University Medical School, supported the conclusions.

The scientists said not enough is known about the effects of GM food and more research is needed. They want better labeling and suggested GM foods should undergo the same stringent trials as drugs before they are approved.

The news set off a media storm and outrageous talk of "Frankenfood." In British parliament, the opposition demanded labeling for GM foods.

A consortium of consumer, world development and environmental groups demanded a five-year moratorium on the growing of GM crops in Britain.

Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney vowed to eliminate GM ingredients from his late wife Linda's range of vegetarian foods.

A national newspaper poll said a strong majority of Britons are worried about eating the food and 96 percent want GM food labeling.

Canada cannot dismiss this as hysteria. For our own health, Pusztai's findings must be investigated further.

Farm groups encouraging research into GM crops must be cautious and watchful of how other major markets react to these latest developments.

We don't want to wind up with crops that are easy to grow, but which have no markets.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 15:46:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-5

D-day looms on GM foods

Rutland Times (Isle of Wight indpendent paper) February 26, 1999

'Frankenstein' food could be off school menus after the Local Government Association recommended a five-year ban on its use in council schools, residential homes and meals on wheels services. Members of the association approved the recommendation when they met on Wednesday. It will now have dramatic consequences for local authorities nationwide and Rutland County Council is just one that could be forced into action. LGA committee chairman Coun John Ryan warned: "As major buyers and suppliers of food councils should be very cautious on behalf of the public, many of whom are vulnerable such as children and the elderly.

The public's confidence in GM food is so low at the moment that councils would be well advised to follow our recommendations. As community leaders, local authorities have a responsibility to listen to people's worries and take measures to restore their confidence at all costs."

The council - which has no official policy on GM foods - has said that the issue is not a top priority.

And in a letter to the Rutland Times last week Director of Education Keith Bartley defended its position by saying he wanted to "put the record straight".

He said: "The reason that no policy has yet been established in Rutland is because I do not believe in formulating policies which are not capable of enforcement. As soon as we have sufficient, valid information to act on we will. Until then I see little point in banning something that we cannot detect and which we do not even know is capable of being defined."

He said that no-one knew for sure whether they were eating genetically modified food or not, "Even home-grown produce is grown from seeds and we have to take the supplier's word that our seeds are not from genetically modified stock.

I can give the assurance that the food served in our schools does not knowingly contain any genetically modified products."


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 15:46:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-5

Monsanto may face UK censure for GM food ads

LONDON (Reuters) -

U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. could face censure for an advertising campaign that critics claim misled the British public about the safety of genetically modified food, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said Monday.

The ASA confirmed it had prepared a draft report that condemned the company for making "wrong, unproven, misleading and confusing" claims in a press campaign it ran last summer. The ads claimed that GM technology had undergone "rigorous tests throughout Monsanto's 20-year biotech history to ensure our food crops are as safe and nutritious as the standard alternatives" and that GM foods were "grown in a more environmentally sustainable way, less dependent on the earth's scarce mineral resources."


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 15:46:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-5

Monsanto's GM Food Campaign 'misleading'

By Cahal Milmo, Birmingham Post March 1, 1999, Monday

A pounds 1 million media campaign by genetically -modified foods giant Monsanto has been criticised by the advertising watchdog as "wrong" and "misleading". The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld six out of 13 complaints in a draft report into claims made last year by the US-owned biotechnology company about the safety of genetically -modified crops. The document shows Monsanto is criticised for passing off its opinion "as accepted fact" and suggesting that GM potatoes and tomatoes have been approved for sale in Britain. Campaigners against the so-called "Frankenstein foods" welcomed the ruling, which has yet to be approved by the ASA's governing council, as proof of their claims that Monsanto was trying to distort debate on the issue.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 15:46:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-5

Bookreview: Against the Grain

Here is a book review on a new book on genetic engineering: Against the Grain: Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food by Marc Lappé, Ph.D. and Britt Bailey, Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press http://www.commoncouragepress.com, 1998. $14.95 Tradepaper.

BREAKING THE SILENCE

PULL OUT QUOTE: "A hasty genetic transformation of world food resources ignores the wisdom enshrined in eons of original evolution. Against the Grain gives abundant reasons for health, environmental and ethical concerns, and predicts that the world may be facing a disaster of epic dimension." From the foreward by J.B. Neilands, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UC, Berkeley

Prior to its publication in 1998, an excerpt from the Against the Grain appeared in Coast magazine. Shortly afterward, the authors Dr. Marc Lappé and Britt Bailey received a threatening letter from Monsanto Corporation, a St. Louis, Missouri-based company that has dominated the emerging agriculture/biotechnology (agbiotech) market. Taking an aggressive stance, Monsanto informed them that if they published "Against the Grains": "a book that questions the motives and safety of applying high levels of herbicides to our crop plants and the wisdom of planting wide scale genetically engineered products without long term testing for safety" they may be sued for liable.

Lappé and Bailey sent the letter to their publisher Vital Health with the assurance that if it should come to a lawsuit, every statement in their book was well documented. Vital Health Publishing, perhaps fearing the considerable political and economic clout of Monsanto, dropped the book anyway. Undaunted, Lappé and Bailey persevered eventually sending the manuscript to a small New England press rightly called Common Courage Press which decided to publish it.

Much of the content of Against the Grain revolves around this question: "Do genetically engineered food crops really offer the "risk-free" breadbasket for the world promised by biotechnology companies like Monsanto, or are there serious risks to human health and the ecosphere hidden in this silent revolution?"

Author Marc Lappé who holds a doctorate in Experimental Pathology from the University of Pennsylvania and is the director of The Center for Ethics and Toxics (CETOS) in Gualala, California and co-author Brett Bailey, a CETOS research associate who holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Policy tackle this question and others in their meticulously researched book. Their position is simply stated: "We are skeptical about pronouncements from government officials and optimistic commodity experts that tout genetically modified crops as a panacea for the world's food shortage and a solution to over reliance on pesticides. We see transgenic crops more as an extension of corporate dominance, one centered on short-term gains for shareholders."

I found Against the Grain to be solid investigative reporting. It's an impassioned yet thoughtful and methodical look at the technology that allows us to insert foreign genes into our food plants and the practical and ethical issues that surround a practice already implemented on a wide scale -- despite little public input.

Well versed in plant science, genetics, and ethics, Lappé and Bailey expose how companies like Monsanto, DuPont, RhŮne-Poulenc and Dow Chemical have been "feathering their own nests, introducing genes more to promote pesticides and build monopolies than to feed the world." The quest for corporate profits has overridden concerns about public health, freedom of choice and ecological stability.

Chapter by chapter the authors cut through biotechnology's propaganda to the science and politics behind "transgenic" food revealing how biotech companies are less concerned with how transgenic food impacts human health and more concerned with engineering crop plants to be compatible with their chemicals. Showcasing transgenic crops as the solution for the world food shortage, for example, biotechnology companies vigorously promote the technology that they claim will end world hunger. Yet the African delegation to the United Nations say these companies have exploited the image of the poor and hungry "to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us."

Although higher yields are central to the well advertised promise that genetically engineered crops will solve world hunger, LappČ and Bailey point out that to date biotechnology has been applied primarily to make agricultural products more "consumer friendly." Few manipulations have genuinely increased productivity and some have even lowered it.

"Instead of blocks of genes that will increase yield or improve efficiency as did judicious breeding ', geneticists usually inject only one [gene] that confers an aesthetic change or makes the plant tolerant to a proprietary chemical. Any increase in yield or nutritional value is usually incidental to a more readily achieved economic advantage."

An integral part of the agbiotech propaganda blitz is the discounting as irrational or exaggerated of any concerns about safety or health. And while the authors agree that most transgenic crops are genetically identical to their progenitors in all but a handful of their tens of thousands of genes, those arbitrarily chosen foreign genes inserted abruptly have the potential to cause a health hazard of unknown proportions. What's more, few studies have been performed on the ecological impacts of long-term reliance on transgenic cropping methods which include saturating our growing fields with particular herbicides and creating insects resistant to naturally occurring toxins.

The book starts with the basic mechanics of manipulating DNA in language that that even a non technical person like myself can understand. A popular approach to inserting a gene into a plant is to literally shoot micro-particles of DNA-coated gold, tungsten or other inert materials directly into its cells. The foreign DNA gives the plant recipient certain characteristics -- traits arbitrarily chosen for short-range economic goals and clearly not based on long-term objectives or public benefits. The downside of this scattershot approach is that no one knows where the new DNA has been spliced into the plant's own array of genes. Of the plants that survive the technique, each will have this new DNA in a different region of their genome and varying degrees of stability. And although it is technologically possible to track where the new DNA has been integrated, the biotechnology companies haven't found it economically worthwhile to do so -- even after the recent failure of two wide scale plantings of genetically engineered crops for unknown reasons.

Lappè and Bailey use two herbicides (Roundup -- a glyphosate herbicide made by Monsanto and bromoxynil made by Rhone-Poulenc) and one natural toxin (Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt which has been inserted into plants to make each cell of the plant toxic to insects) -- as examples to highlight the issues and ethics surrounding the genetic manipulation of our crop plants. Other issues addressed include the resistance to labeling these crops, the continued dangers of using pesticides and losing seed biodiversity, and the ongoing sidestepping of regulatory reviews and public feedback. They also provide recommendations that include insisting on a review of the regulation, testing and inspection of all engineered crops and the establishment of an Agricultural Biotechnology Commission to examine ecological health and safety consequences.

It is an understatement to say that this is an important, albeit little publicized, book. It breaks the veil of silence that has hidden from the average consumer the massive changes being made to the world's diet and lulled us into a dangerous complacency. It has also revealed the possibility that engineered plants and microbes will disrupt local ecologies, continue to undermine traditional farming practices and impact our health negatively. In the opinion of the authors, "the burgeoning use of transgenic food crops constitute a nonconsensual experiment on a mass scale." As the public whose lives this technology will impact, we need to find our voices. Then we might -- as the authors suggest -- hold these multinational giants accountable for creating innovations that really do improve health, protect biodiversity, and foster sustainable life enhancing agricultural practices.

Reviewed by Joanne Lauck, Book Editor for Loma Prietan, a Sierra Club's chapter newletter, March, 1999.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 15:46:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-5

posted by "NLP Wessex" nlpwessex@bigfoot.com

US Agriculture loses Huge Markets Thanks to GMOs

Participation in GM crops is costing US farmers heavily - no wonder their domestic farm prices are facing collapse.

Reuters (March 3 1999):

"Last year, U.S. growers exported only three million bushels of corn to the EU, down sharply from 70 million in the previous year. The drop was blamed on EU delays in approving several varieties of genetically-modified corn grown in the United States."

In the current climate it is difficult to see EU consumers buying such corn anyway even if EU approval is given. This is a gift to hard pressed EU farmers trying to compete against cheap imports provided they stay GM free.

Losing a 70 million bushel export market in one fell swoop shows how little American farmers know about matching their production to markets. This follows on from Canada losing the whole of its EU oilseed rape market because of non-segregation of GM varieties.

As the Americans love reminding us in all other sectors: "The customer is always right." British farmers take note!


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 15:46:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-5

next article posted by MichaelP papadop@PEAK.ORG

Friend in need...

The ladybird, an agricultural ally whose breeding potential may be reduced by GM crops

By James Meikle and Paul Brown Guardian (London) Thursday March 4, 1999

Scientists yesterday sparked fresh concern about the effect of genetically modified crops on Britain's wildlife when they suggested the lifespan and fertility of ladybirds could be reduced dramatically by poisoning their food chain.

Government-funded research has indicated that altering the genetic make-up of plants to resist destructive aphids might have serious effects on other, natural pest-killers.

The findings, now being studied closely in Whitehall, will keep the pressure on the Government over its GM policy. There is already a row over the significance and credibility of tests suggesting GM potatoes can harm rats, and other scientists have suggested that pollen from GM crops can cause contamination over great distances.

The latest study, led by Dr Nicholas Birch of the Scottish Crop Research Institute, Dundee, will encourage campaigners wanting a ban on commercial growing of GM crops until detailed research on their effects on the environment are completed. It may also prompt new questions about the food chain for birds. None is known to eat ladybirds, but several, including bluetits and warblers, feed on aphids.

Ladybirds are traditionally regarded as gardeners' and farmers' best friends and their well-being is a prime indicator of environmental stability.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher has said he will extend a one-year voluntary moratorium on commercial growing indefinitely until he is confident there is no damage to the countryside or wildlife.

The scientists involved in the latest research fed genetically modified potato plants to aphids which were in turn fed to ladybirds. The ladybirds' lives were shortened by up to half the expected life-span, and their fertility and egg-laying was significantly reduced. Females were apparently affected more seriously than males and a change of diet to aphids not exposed to GM plants seemed to reverse the process.

The researchers, who published their findings in the scientific journal Molecular Breeding, were funded by the Scottish Office, and included academics from Cambridge and Durham Universities. They genetically engineered potato plants to include an anti-aphid protein called lectin from snowdrops - similar to the potatoes that have caused the rumpus over research carried out by Dr Arpad Pusztai on rats. Potato aphids were fed to adult two-spot ladybirds for 12 days, before switching the ladybirds to a non-GM diet.

Female ladybirds fed GM-affected aphids died on average after 36 days, compared with the 74 days of those in a control group fed on aphids not exposed to a GM diet.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 16:58:05 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-7

posted by: MichaelP papadop@PEAK.ORG

I was right, says GM row scientist

INDEPENDENT (Sunday) March 8

ALARMING evidence that eating genetically modified (GM) food may harm health is to be presented to MPs tomorrow, writes Geoffrey Lean. The previously suppressed research by Dr Arpad Pusztai shows vital organs may be damaged and immune systems weakened, making epidemics worse and increasing cancer.

The research, to be submitted to the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, is likely to reignite the controversy over Dr Pusztai, of Aberdeen's Rowett Research Institute, who sparked a fierce scientific and political row last month.

Until now the dispute has centred on only skimpy accounts of his research, funded by the Scottish Office, because his data - based on 10,000 samples from rats fed GM and ordinary potatoes - were "confiscated" and his computer sealed when he made his concerns known on television last summer. Dr Pusztai was suspended, forced into retirement, and his research stopped.

He has only now recovered the evidence and subjected it to independent analysis for the first time. He will not give details before the results are seen by MPs, but says they broadly confirm his preliminary findings.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 16:58:05 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-7

"How I told the truth and was sacked"

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent INDEPENDENT (Sunday) March 8

NO ONE, says Dr Arpad Pusztai, could have been more surprised to find rats he had given genetically modified (GM) food developing alarming ill-effects. He had been "a very enthusiastic supporter" of the technology, and fully expected his experiments to give it "a clean bill of health", he said.

"I was totally taken aback; no doubt about it," he told the Independent on Sunday last week. "I was absolutely confident I wouldn't find anything. But the longer I spent on the experiments, the more uneasy I became."

His unexpected findings have landed him, bewildered, in one of the hottest scientific controversies for years. They have abruptly ended his career, and destroyed his international reputation. He was magisterially rebuked by a score of Britain's most august Fellows of the Royal Society, attacked by a collaborator on the study, and accused by Sir Robert May, the Government's respected Chief Scientific Adviser, of violating "every canon of scientific rectitude". Only now is he able to reply.

I spent nearly six hours with him in his modest semi-detached home in Aberdeen on Wednesday, as he told his side of the story in full for the first time. He is a small, vital man - grey-faced with the strain (he has recently had a minor heart attack which he ascribes to it), but retaining a self-deprecating humour - he spoke of the "intolerable burden" of being unable to clear his name.

From the day after he briefly mentioned some of his findings on television in August until three weeks ago, he was bound to confidentiality by his employer for 37 years, Aberdeen's Rowett Research Institute. Since then he has been preparing to make his case before the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology tomorrow.

"All I need is a chance," he said. "For the past seven months I haven't had one. I could not even defend myself against very heinous accusations. Sometimes I felt I should just get on a plane and go away. I couldn't take it."

It has been a devastating end to a brilliant career. He is the son of a Hungarian wartime resistance hero and fled when the 1956 rising was suppressed. But he had published his first scientific papers while still at university, and the Ford Foundation found him in an Austrian refugee camp. They gave him a scholarship to study anywhere in the world he chose.

He picked Britain, partly "because I knew I was an odd sort of guy, and the country then had a certain tolerance". He was recruited to the Institute in 1963 personally by Dr Richard Synge, a Nobel prizewinner in chemistry.

Dr Pusztai, 68, has published 270 scientific papers, and the Institute acknowledges he became "probably the world's expert" on lectins, proteins used in genetic modification. So valuable was his work he was asked to stay on after retirement age.

His nemesis began in 1995, when his group beat 27 contenders to win a £1.6m Scottish Office contract to test the effects of GM foods. He was particularly interested because he could find only one previous peer-reviewed study on feeding them to animals. It was led by a scientist from Monsanto, the controversial GM company, and found no ill-effects.

Dr Pusztai fed rats on two strains of potatoes genetically engineered with a lectin from snowdrop bulbs, a third with the snowdrop lectin simply added and a fourth of ordinary potatoes.

He has been repeatedly accused by top politicians and scientists of merely adding a poison to potatoes. But he says he spent six years up to 1990 proving the snowdrop lectin was safe, even at high concentrations - and it is due to his work that it is used in genetic engineering at all.

To his surprise he found the immune systems and brains, livers, kidneys and other vital organs of the rats fed the GM potatoes were damaged, but not those of the rats fed the ordinary ones or those simply spiked with the lectin. This, he says, suggests the genetic modification could be largely to blame.

By last summer, he says, the Scottish Office money was running out, and the Institute refused funding. He therefore agreed to appear in a World in Action documentary, with the Institute's support, to raise the profile of the work in the hope of attracting funds. He says the Institute's press officer sat through the interview and no objection had been raised to what he had said in the seven weeks before screening on 10 August last year.

He was "absolutely surprised" his brief comments hit the headlines, but the Institute put out press releases supporting him the same day, and the next. But on 12 August he was suspended from work on the experiments. The study was stopped.

He worked out his contract until the end of the year, but found himself "sent to Coventry" by his colleagues. His computers were "sealed" and all his data from the experiments "confiscated". Dr Pusztai was forced into retirement.

An audit committee of four scientists, set up by the Institute, reviewed his work and disagreed with his conclusions. He says he was given three days to write a reply, without access to his full data.

This reply, which the Institute put on the internet, has been attacked as "unpublishable". He agrees and says this is hardly surprising given the limitations. He has also been condemned for not publishing a refereed scientific paper in the normal way. He says this was impossible without access to the complete data, which he has only just recovered.

Martin Polden, of the law firm Ross and Craig and president of the Environmental Law Foundation, who has taken up Dr Pusztai's case, says this is "a classic case for the need for openness in science". The Institute says it has nothing to add to previous statements.

Dr Pusztai insists: "I believe in the technology. But it is too new for us to be absolutely sure that what we are doing is right. But I can say from my experience if anyone dares to say anything even slightly contra- indicative, they are vilified and totally destroyed."

But surely others will do the same research elsewhere? "It would have to be a very strong person. If I, with my international reputation, can be destroyed, who will stand up?"

===========

** 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. **


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 16:58:05 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-7

next article posted by MichaelP papadop@peak.org

GM crops may polute rivers, lakes and reservoirs

London TIMES March 5 1999

WATER companies are demanding a moratorium on the commercial planting of genetically modified crops amid fears that chemicals used on them may pollute rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

The water industry fears that widespread planting of herbicide-tolerant crops, such as oil seed rape and sugar beet, might lead to problems in meeting the strict legal limits on the levels of individual weed and pest-killing chemicals in drinking water. The companies are concerned that they may face multimillion-pound bills to put in herbicide removal technologies at water treatment works.

A spokesman for Water UK, the industry's body, said: "We have genuine concerns about the widespread use of crops which rely on just two chemicals, so we favour a go-slow, a moratorium. We need time to find the answers. We need several years." An industry team of environmental and scientific experts is to meet for the first time this month, to investigate the possible effect on drinking water. English Nature, the Government's wildlife advisers, has called for a three to five-year moratorium.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 16:58:05 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-7

next 2 articles posted by Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)

Bioengineering: Irresistible Force, Immovable Object

St. Louis Post-Dispatch; 03/01/99

Bioengineering

As the forces driving the biotechnology revolution advance upon the citizens of the world, they are being thwarted by powerful counter-forces: ignorance, fear and legitimate skepticism.

This should no longer come as a shock to Monsanto, the United States and other countries with huge political clout and financial stakes in the biotechnology revolution. The uproar over genetically engineered crops in Europe and Asia should have taught them by now that they can't outmuscle an uninformed, properly skeptical public. After all, they're messing with the world's food supply, using technology most people don't understand.

People fear what they don't understand. And to most of the public, including Americans, the principles and methods of biotechnology are a cipher. The public has a right to be skeptical about biotechnology. Its cultural, economic and unintended biological consequences could be as profound and far-reaching.

Bullying and strong-arming are not the way to build public confidence in new technology or the people selling it. Nor is it the way to address the legitimate need to protect human health, cultural continuity and the Earth's biodiversity. Yet that is precisely the behavior that the United States and five other countries displayed at negotiations sponsored by the United Nations last week in Cartagena, Columbia.

The purpose of the negotiations, attended by delegates from 138 countries, was to write a "biosafety protocol," a set of rules to regulate the global trade of genetically modified organisms. About 90 percent of the current world trade in genetically modified foods involves corn and soy beans. The negotiations grew out of the 1996 U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, an agreement that calls for protecting varieties of plants and animals. The United States is the only major country in the world that refused to sign the agreement.

The U.S. and other major grain exporters staked out a position that puts economic gain ahead of environmental and health concerns. At the Colombian conference they insisted that genetically modified grains and drugs be exempt from rules. They also objected to: liability provisions in case of an environmental accident; strict labeling requirements on products made from genetically modified organisms and any rules that might interfere with the booming international trade.

For large companies like Monsanto and its Swiss-based rival, Novartis, biotechnology is the future of its products and prosperity. They say such products also hold the promise of a better future for the poor in developing countries. There, crops modified to produce higher yields could feed more hungry people on shrinking amounts of arable land. Clearly, the potential for good is enormous.

But good for whom? Some skeptics fear that a few large companies holding the patents to genetically modified organisms could control much of the world production of staple food crops. That is a legitimate concern. Others worry about the safety of foods made from genetically modified organisms. Developing countries don't want to be dumping grounds for foods with untested new gene traits, and they resent American pushiness. They worry what will happen if certain engineered traits, such as pest resistance, accidentally spread to other crops. Could it cause an ecological disaster? If so, who is held responsible for the damage, and how can it be undone?

The business of weighing risks and benefits is enormously complex. Neither side in the biotechnology debate has anything to gain the longer the public lacks the capacity to assess its benefits and risks.

It would be foolish to let those with financial and political self-interest in genetically modified organisms make the rules about their use.

In fact, the American public and the citizens of the world won't stand for it. We don't like being muscled by corporations impatient for returns on their investments in biotechnology. We don't need "public perception campaigns" and sales pitches to prepare the way for genetically modified foods.

What we need is basic scientific education to help us learn more of the brilliant promise of biotechnology. We need to have enough information to ask the right questions about its potential for harm. We need to find ways to assess risk. We need more carefully controlled studies of genetically modified organisms. We need rational regulatory mechanisms - local, national and global - that ensure human health and environmental safety. We need trade regulations that preserve economic stability. We need more public discussion of biotechnology in the U.N. and at the local library.

They can start the biotech revolution without us. But without us it will fail.

(Copyright 1999)


Top PreviousFront Page

Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 16:58:05 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-7

UK: Consumers wise to the real GM agenda

John Gray, Guardian International, 3 March 1999

THE Blair government's defence of genetically modified food marks a watershed in its history. Over the past few weeks it has had to confront an inconvenient truth. The global free market has become a political liability.

In what is likely to be a pattern in British politics over the coming years, the initiative now lies with parties and pressure groups that voice the public's reasonable fears about the costs and risks of global capitalism. Over the past month the imperatives of global markets have been on a collision course with public opinion. British consumers do not want GM food and it is proving impossible to persuade them that they do.

Only last week the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that GM food advertising by the biotechnology giant Monsanto was misleading. However, the finding is not likely to have much effect on the long-term future of such products in Britain.The public believes that scientific knowledge of the effects of GM food is in its infancy. Rightly, it suspects that little is known of its risks to human health and next to nothing about its effects on the environment. There is a deep-seated public view that, given these limitations, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Pooh-poohing the risks of GM food has proved to be self-defeating. The British electorate is notably resistant to the combination of wide-eyed techno-utopianism and stock market-fuelled greed that, together with incessant lobbying by the genetic-industrial complex, has effectively stifled debate on genetic engineering in the United States.

It is unwilling to defer to the authority of politicians who tell them they are ignorant, hysterical and blind to undreamt-of prospects of progress. This is something even the benighted Tories have understood.


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

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