9 February 99

Table of Contents

No AgrEvo maize in Brazil
Modified crops 'out of control'
GM foods - Why we must end this now
Q & A: GM foods - what does it mean? how is it done? is it safe?
Genetically modified politics - Hold on a minute.
Latin American Declaration on Transgenic Organisms
Cow's milk to be made more human with New Zealand DNA engineering
Daily Mail: This terrifying tampering
Washington Post: Sowing Dependency or Uprooting Hunger?
Anti-genetic linkup opportunity

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Date: 7 Feb 1999 04:10:56 -0600
From: (Martin Rickinger)

No AgrEvo maize in Brazil

"Transgenic Maize Remains Forbidden"

The braz. daily Correio Braziliense wrote on Saturday, 6th February, 1999:

The Technical National Commission for Biosafety (CTNBio) rejected yesterday the quest of the company AgrEvo fro comercial planting of the maize Liberty Link, resistant to herbicides. Each of the 18 commission members had received a copy of the process to deepen his studies and present his statement during the coming meeting, which should take place in the beginning of March. According to commission members, seven specialists, that do not partake to the commission, already analyzed the process. Some of them were in favour to maintain the product forbidden, while others thought this maize offers no risk fo health."

Those on the list (Prof. Cummins, etc.) who can write a clear scientific statement on the dangers of Liberty Link can send it to me and I'll get it distributed to all 18 commission members and 18 submembers. Please do so!

Martin Brazil

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Date: 7 Feb 1999 13:35:07 -0600
From: MichaelP

Modified crops 'out of control'

By Marie Woolf, Political Correspondent London INDEPENDENT Sunday Feb 7

THE MINISTRY of Agriculture has privately admitted that it has no idea how many genetically modified (GM) crops are being used in animal feed, despite warnings from its own advisers that this could lead to the creation of "superbugs" resistant to antibiotics.

A confidential briefing note from civil servants to Food Safety Minister, Jeff Rooker, seen by the Independent on Sunday, says: "It is not possible to know the extent to which GM material is being used in animal feed in the UK."

On top of this, the Government also intends to give its approval for US company Monsanto to sell GM cotton to animal food producers throughout Europe, in a crucial Brussels vote this week, despite further warnings from advisers.

A letter written last week by Dr Paul Burrows, head of biotechnology controls at the Department of the Environment, says: "[The UK] will be content with these products [GM Cotton] in terms of safety to the UK environment but will still have reservations about their use in animal feed due to the antibiotic resistance marker genes." Some GM crops which could be in the feed have been manipulated by scientists to be resistant to antibiotics. Scientists and environmental campaigners fear that the antibiotic resistance could be passed to animals, then the humans who eat them. Civil servants have warned it could create bacteria immune to antibiotics.

It was fears of just such a superbug which led Brussels, with UK government backing, to recently ban five antibiotics used to treat animals. Recent random tests in Worcester showed that GM crops have been creeping into the animal foods from America, where they are not grown separately from ordinary plants. Food campaigners want nationwide tests to discover the extent of the problem.

The revelations will shock farmers who have been seeking reassurances from ministers about GM crops in animal food, following the BSE crisis. At present, there is no legal requirement for animal feed which contains genetically altered material to be labelled, so there is no way of knowing how much of it is being fed to cows, pigs and chickens. Following the outcry from farmers over BSE, the Ministry of Agriculture set up a committee of experts on animal foodstuffs. Its remit has now been widened to cover use of GM crops in animal food.

"This is the first time something like this has been proposed," said Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher, a geneticist conducting the research. "The Government is making decisions in an almost improvisational manner."

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Date: 7 Feb 1999 13:35:07 -0600
From: MichaelP

The second piece below is by Joanna Blythman, author of last Sunday's "OBSERVER" item on the topic of Brit. Chefs not wanting genetically manipulated produce.

JOANNA BLYTHMAN is a specialist food journalist and author of 'The Food We Eat' (Penguin, #6.99)

GM foods - Why we must end this now

Joanna Blythman warns of the catastrophe that scientists could unleash on our food

Genetically engineered foods are the biggest threat in history to the safety and integrity of our food chain. Yet there is a good chance you just ate them for breakfast.

Genetically manipulated ingredients are turning up, unlabelled, in everyday items such as bread, cornflakes and margarine, despite every indicator of public opinion showing that we don't want them.

Such products are the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. They represent the initial applications of a new, unpredictable technology which when it goes wrong - and it already has - could have catastrophic, irreversible consequences.

Despite the biotech industry's clumsy attempts to portray genetic manipulations of our foods as natural, unthreatening extensions of natural breeding and "improving" techniques, the truth is that gene technology is being used to create huge, accelerated changes in food that could never occur naturally. This offers big business the prospect of mixing and matching genes to create new, profitable food "constructions", even to the extent of swapping genetic material across species barriers.

But nature is a beautifully organised and complex system. When we start tinkering with that even the cleverest geneticists cannot predict the knock-on effects.

Once altered genes are released into the environment, there is no way of recalling them or predicting what changes they might trigger. New-variant Creutzfeld-Jacobs-Disease (CJD) - the human BSE - can theoretically be eradicated in time. When genetic manipulations of our food go wrong, we will need to live with them for ever.

The new gene food revolution is being brought to us by the same profit-driven corporations that gave us pesticides and drugs to prop up the miserable conditions of factory-farm animals. The text remains the same. Only this time it is gene foods that are going to give us better food and save the world from hunger.

We have every right to be cynical. Far from feeding the world, genetic manipulation of the food we eat will simply tie up control of food production - right down to seeds - in their hands. You can forget about organic food, too. Released into the environment, altered genes can end up anywhere.

Gene foods are being foisted on British consumers against our will. A clear majority wants them banned, a call backed by the Conservatives. Yet, only last week, Tony Blair showed how cosy he has become with the biotech industry by dismissing this as based on "prejudice", and preferring to take "best scientific advice" from the same discredited committees and civil servants - wined and dined by the Monsantos of the world - who got it so spectacularly wrong with BSE.

Is this just stupidity? Mr Blair's gene food expert, Jeff Rooker, the Food minister, has already shown himself to be out of his depth. He assures us that gene foods are strictly tested before being released on the market and tells us there are only four foods on the market anyway, so what's the fuss? The truth is that scientists cannot even agree how you can test for safety, because the ramifications of genetic manipulation of foods are so far-reaching, and genetically manipulated ingredients are now in at least 60 per cent of processed foods. Nick Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, says he will get tough and make sure gene foods are all labelled. Come off it. We already know they aren't.

At best, labelling is a token gesture towards informing consumers. Once altered genes are released into the environment, any link in the food chain can be affected.

The Science minister, Lord Sainsbury, who seems to be dictating the Government's gene food policy, has huge commercial interests in the biotech industry as well as being a financial backer of the Labour Party.

We know through leaks that the Department of Health has already asked supermarkets to give it confidential information, gained from loyalty cards, so it can monitor any adverse health effects in shoppers who eat genetically engineered food.

Indeed, it seems desperate to force gene foods down our throats - even to the extent of making government propaganda films in supermarkets.

We are in an extremely frightening situation. Huge risks are being taken with our precious food chain by corporations that will play fast and loose with the environment and public health to line their pockets. Our would-be defenders are in bed with them.

It's down to us to use every consumer trick in the book to call a halt to gene foods now. If we push hard enough, we can make that happen.

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Date: 7 Feb 1999 13:35:07 -0600
From: MichaelP

Q & A: GM foods - what does it mean? how is it done? is it safe?

Q: What does it mean if a food or crop is genetically modified?

A: That the DNA in its cells has been altered to add genes from other organisms, such as bacteria, other plants or even animals. (The "antifreeze" genes that fish produce has been added in experiments to some plants, though none is on sale.)

Q: How is it done?

A: Either by using a naturally occurring plant virus to "infect" the target plant with the new genes, or by literally firing the extra DNA on tiny gold beads into the cell nucleus, where the DNA resides. Neither method is precise, but once the new genes have been successfully added, the cell can be multiplied to produce a brand new plant that nature could not have. This does not, however, make it a "mutant": those are naturally occurring.

Q: Is the controversy about how genetically modified foods might affect us if we eat them, or about how genetically modified crops might affect the environment while they are growing?

A: Both.

Q: What's the difference between genetically modified, genetically engineered and transgenic?

A: None - they are synonyms.

Q: What are the main ways in which plants are currently genetically modified?

A: For eating, they can be modified to last longer, look different or taste better. But for growing, they can be modified to be tolerant of large amounts of powerful weedkillers and insecticides which would otherwise kill them. That potentially means increased productivity.

Q: What are the fears arising from these modifications?

A: For foods, that we might swallow something with genes which could behave unpredictably - for example, somehow mixing with bacteria in our stomach to produce a strange new organism. DNA has a half-life of about 10 minutes in the stomach, so some of those fears have a basis in fact. But processing, such as turning a crop into oil, destroys the DNA. For growing, the worry is that the powerful pesticides will kill everything else in and around the field, such as wildflowers and insects, and thus the bird life which depends on the seeds and grubs. The genes for pesticide resistance might also cross into wild plants, creating an "arms race" in that more, rather than fewer, pesticides have to be used to suppress weeds.

Q: What sort of food is currently genetically modified?

A: You can buy tomato puree made from tomatoes modified to stay fresh longer. Some vegetarian cheeses are made with genetically modified bacteria, which carry out the same function as rennet, the animal protein. But many breads, biscuits, cakes and other foods may contain traces of modified soya: about 30 per cent of the soya beans grown in the US, the world's major producer, are modified to be resistant to a particular herbicide.

Q: Why doesn't the Prime Minister back a moratorium on the commercial growing of GM crops, if the Government's official adviser, English Nature, does?

A: We do not know. At Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, he took the line that ministers in trouble often do, which is that they are "following the best scientific advice". The problem is that on this topic, the advisers are divided. The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre) thinks no moratorium is needed; English Nature does.

Q: If GM crops are so safe, why do they need all these planting trials and so many regulations?

A: Because of scientists' worries that cross-pollination with wild plants will lead to the new genes spreading uncontrollably.

Q: Will they?

A: Nobody knows for sure.

** 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. **

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Date: 7 Feb 1999 14:01:16 -0600
From: (jim mcnulty)

Genetically modified politics - Hold on a minute.

by Nick Cohen, The Observer 7 Feb 99.

The perky writers of the Paliamentary sketches were united in derision. William Hague revealed himself to be a tired and tiresome crank Prime Minister's Question Time, last week. He 'rambled on, like a man on a bus, about genetically modified seeds' (The Times);showed his mockery of this irksome thing called Blairism, has faded as badly as a beach donkey on the home straight'(the Telegraph);and left the impression he'd rather be anywhere than facing this compulsory dish of innefectual protest' (The Independent).

When the light infantry of conventional wisdom fire as one, you can rely on them to miss every available point. The despised Hague had raised a pertinent question and perplexing question;why was a democratic government ignoring the wishes of it's scientific advisers at English Nature, and virtually every citizen, and allowing genetically modified food to be sold without labels to warn supposedly soveriegn consumers whats going into their bellies?

The 'irksome thing they call Blairism' is meant to be dedicated to giving the voters what they want. Philip Gould,Blair's private pollster, flutters over the land listening to focus groups and telling new labour to adulterate any policy which might furrow the brow of a Bromsgrove marketing manager. A grass but common line of critism holds that Blair believes in nothing apart from retaining power. Yet here is oyur supposedly gutless Prime Minister dismissing authoritative concerns over the effects of Frankenstien foods on the enviroment, wildlife,public health and small farmers so he can stand by his principle that American conglomerates must always get their way.

Enlightenment begins when you realise that the public is not meant to have an opinion on the manipulation of DNA. Monsanto, the most agressive of genetic capitalists, doesn't need to address the electorate - the corperation even refused to appear on the current issue of Radio 4's mild and balanced 'food programme' when it is a market leader in the global influence peddling business.

In the US , Monsanto has become a retirement home for members of the Bill Clinton's biddable administration. Trade and enviromental protection, and administrators , ambassadors,and social security and treasury officials , have left government for well padded seats on the Monsanto board. Clinton has returned the compliment,and the revolving door between Monsanto and government is in continual spin. Bob Shapiro, Monsanto's chief executive, advises the President on tradepolicy. Clinton himself told Blair to let genetically modified food into Britain. (Picture if you can two statesmen with the affairs of the world on their shoulders taking a break to cut a deal on the marketing of seeds spliced with the genes of insects and bacteria.)

As Clinton is New Labour's inspiration, the conflicts of interest of Washington are imitated in London.

I'm sorry if the following list bores you, but the behaviour of the political class makes sense only when you grasp the extent of the industrial food's penetration of Whitehall. To date we know that Dave Hill, one of the party's grandest advisers, resigned to work for Bell Pottinger lobbying company, were he pesters his former colleagues on Monsanto's behalf. He has been joined by Cathy Mc Glyn, who advised Jack Cunningham when he was Agriculture Secretary. By one of those weird coincidences which make you wonder if there is anything in all those New Age superstitions, Jack Cunningham is now in charge of of the Cabinetcommittee on monitoring the genetic food industry.

Spookier still, the consultancy of Philip Gould, the Prime Minister's confidant, earns a crust by interviewing MP's and senior civil servants for Monsanto. Meanwhile Blair has put Lord Sainsbury, the supermarket billionaire, in charge of the Government's drive to persuade the public to love GM food. Sainsbury is also Science Minister, responsible for the biotech policy, even though his family's firm sells unlabelled genetically modified food with abandon.

The genetic food company Zeneca has an executive on the Department of Health Committee on the Toxicity of Chemicals Food. The Department of Trade and Industryput Peter Doyle,Zeneca's chief executive, on the Biotech Research Council.

Not to be outdone,Novartis,a rival of Monsanto and Zeneca, has taken to groping New Labour like an ardent lover. The GM food company sponsored last year's party conference, paid for a training session to tell New MP's how to behave and one of it's employees, Nick Palmer, sitting in the Commons as the New Labour MP for Broxtowe. 9Novartis gives him £5,000 a year to be it's Parliamentary adviser).

The seduction of Government has been rewarded with access. An analysis by Friends of the Eart showed Monsanto's executives secured 17 audiences with Ministers in Blair's first year in office- one meeting every three weeks.

Put it like this, the rise of genetically modified food appears to be the consequence of Third Way abasementbefore multinationals. With luck, we may one day gety better politicians willing to defend the public interest and all will be well.

But the chances of any leader standing up to big business are microscopically small. Last summer, Blair,Clinton and the European Union agreed to form the Transatlantic Economic Partnership, an innitiative which deserves far closer scrutiny that is has recieved.

The EU did not worry that it is impossible to be elected to the US Congress or Precidency without millions of dollars of corperate campaign donations,=. The result is dangerously weak regulation. A hormone produced by Monsanto, to pick an example out of the air, which makes cows produce more milk is banned in Canada and Europe, but sold in America. Under the terms of the partnership, a product licensed in one country must be sold in all countries and European consumers will have to take the consequences of the corruption of the American political system.

Free trade, like independent central banks, entails a hollowing of democracy. However you vote, you won't be able to stop Monsanto. Two of the best Ministers in Government, Jeff Roker and Michael Meecher, have a nominal responsibilityfor food policy. Yet their options are closed and they tramp the streets of Westminster with the pained faces of god men fallen among thieves.

All the citizen can do is boycott Sainbury's and retain a good lawyer (the biotech has no fear of elected politicians but is terrified of claims for legal damages).

At the ned of Prime Minister's Question time, Blair was peeved that Hague had broken the rules of consensus politics by discussing a concern best kept out of public discourse.

"With the greatest respect,I do not think that this should be a great political issue between the parties," he said. With all the deference, I can see why he'd prefer to keep it that way.

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Date: 8 Feb 1999 00:20:07 -0600
From: (Judy Kew)
Subject: Latin American declaration on transgenic organisms [BIO-IPR]

Contact me for a Spanish translation. JK

Via: GRAIN Los Banos

NOTE: This declaration is open for signatures. Please pass it on to others. Send your name and the name of the organisation you represent directly to Acciòn Ecològica.


Latin American Declaration on Transgenic Organisms

Latin American peasant, indigenous, environmental and other civil society sector organisations, gathered in Quito, Ecuador, in January 1999, reject the invasion of transgenic organisms in Latin America the greatest area of agricultural biodiversity on the planet and now the second region in the world in terms of transgenic crop acreage and we declare the following:

  1. We reject genetic engineering because it is an ethically questionable technology which violates the integrity of human life, of species which have inhabited our planet for millions of years and of ecosystems.

  2. This technology is in part a consequence but also exacerbates a global development process that is based on inequity between regions, exploitation of people and nature, and the subordination of peasant and traditional economies of Third World countries to the profit drive of transnational companies (TNCs) in the food industry.

  3. Genetic engineering is a technology driven by commercial interest. It is not necessary. It forces us to become dependent on the TNCs which control it, putting our autonomy to take decisions about production systems and food security into real danger. Especially in the field of agriculture, there are traditional and alternative technologies which do not pose such risks and which are compatible with the conservation of biodiversity.

  4. Even though genetic engineering shares the same reductionist logic as the Green Revolution, it is radically different from conventional genetic improvement.

  5. Science is incapable of predicting the risks and impacts affecting biodiversity, human and animal health, the environment as well as production systems -- which the deliberate release of transgenic organisms may produce.

  6. The deliberate release of transgenic seeds is an extremely grave threat to the countries in our region which are countries of origin or diversity for cultivated plants and their wild relatives, as it could result in dangerous and irreversible forms of genetic pollution.

  7. The commercial introduction of transgenic organisms into the market has been made possible by intellectual property laws which privatise life and undermine basic ethical values and principles such as respect for the integrity of life. We therefore reject every type of intellectual property over life forms.

  8. The introduction of transgenic crops destroys productive traditional farming systems and local rural economies by violating, among others, the collective rights established under the Convention on Biological Diversity and other multilateral agreements such as Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation and the UN Convention on Human Rights.

  9. Equally, the introduction of transgenic organisms subverts the survival of cultural and technological practices by farmers, peasants, and indigenous, black and local communities, so that they may conserve, use, improve, innovate and exchange their seeds. This violates the millenary rights of these communities, which have been recognised by the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and Article 8(j) of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

  10. Furthermore, the large scale spread of production systems based on the use of transgenic organisms represents a terrible threat to national economies of the countries in our region.

  11. We are warning everybody about this danger and we condemn the imminent introduction of controls over genetic expression such as the so-called "Terminator" technology but also others which will produce sterile seeds and have no other objective than to consolidate monopolistic power of the global seed cartel.

In light of the above, we demand that:

  1. No transgenic organisms should be released where they have not yet been released

  2. The right of local and national governments to reject the introduction of transgenic organisms in their territories must be upheld

  3. A moratorium on the release and commercial use of transgenic organisms and products derived from them should be established until complete evidence of their safety and absence of risk is secured and until our societies have had the full opportunity to understand and have informed debate about these technologies, including their risks and impacts, and exercise their own right to decide whether or not they should be used.

  4. All decisions concerning the development, use and release of transgenic organisms should be subject to consultation and informed participation of all sectors of society which could be negatively affected, given that genetic engineering bears risks which can unleash unpredictable and irreversible impacts.

Quito, 22 January 1999

The over fifty organisations that met in Ecuador are distributing the above Declaration and it is open to signatures. Please pass it on to others. Send your name and the name of the organisation you represent to:

Acciòn Ecològica
Casilla 17-15-246-C


ABOUT THIS LISTSERVER -- BIO-IPR is an irregular listserver put out by Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN). Its purpose is to circulate information about recent developments in the field of intellectual property rights related to biodiversity & associated knowledge. BIO-IPR is a strictly non-commercial and educational service for nonprofit organisations and individuals active in the struggle against IPRs on life. The views expressed in each post are those of the indicated author(s).

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Date: 8 Feb 1999 10:39:39 -0600
From: MichaelP

Cow's milk to be made more human with New Zealand DNA engineering

Agence France Presse

AUCKLAND, Feb 8 (AFP) - A New Zealand government research project is planning to put human genes into cows so that their milk is more like human breast milk, a scientist confirmed Monday.

The proposal has outraged the Green Party here which called for public debate on the proposition.

Agresearch, the government's biggest research institute at Ruakura, south of here, is running the project which scientist Phil L'Huillier said was a world first.

"We think there are a lot of opportunities in the area and internationally there are a number of companies using goats and sheep for the production of drugs. No one is doing anything like this," he said.

Agresearch plans three genetic modifications, two of them designed to alter the protein content and composition of the cows' milk.

Cattle carrying a "myeline basic protein" would secrete it in their milk, from which it could be used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

L'Huillier said the cattle would be housed in an area at Ruakura research centre near Hamilton, fully enclosed with double two metre (six foot) perimeter fences.

Management procedures would reduce the possibility of escape or release by accident or sabotage.

The first two or three years will be spent putting transgenic embryos into cows and breeding from them to produce transgenic calves which will in turn breed to produce herds of up to 30 animals for milking.

L'Huillier said trials would take five years and it would be at least 10 years before the project could be used for commercial purposes.

The research institute has applied to the government's environmental watchdog, the Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) for approval for the project, and public submissions on the issue will be sought.

But Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons called for a wide-ranging probe of the public's wishes in such transgenic research.

She said it was outrageous that taxpayer money was being used for the proposal.

Fitzsimons said the ethics of the issue needed to be discussed.

"There is no plan for any official debate about the ethics of this even though putting human DNA into cows is a highly contentious act," she said.

An application still being considered by Erma -- for sheep with human genetic coding to produce a milk to be used in pharmaceuticals -- late last year drew opposition from Erma's own indigenous Maori advisory committee over the concept of mixing human and animal genetic codes.

It said manipulation of the genes that made up humans could clearly be seen by Maori as interference with the basic structure of relationships between generations and species -- central to practical and spiritual aspects of Maori life.


** 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. **

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Date: 8 Feb 1999 11:02:19 -0600
Subject: Daily Mail on the attack with GM & rBGH

Is the UK media playing games with the biotech industry??? They are all continuingly sniping, but the main thrust keeps shifting from paper to paper. At the moment the main barrage is coming from the Daily Mail with its 'Genetic Food Watch' campaign. Today was a two page article with double bold headlines:-

Daily Mail: This terrifying tampering

from DANIEL JEFFREYS in New York

GM foods are playing games with nature. If cancer is the only side-effect we will be lucky.

U.S. genetic engineers have created plants that contain their own resistance to weedkillers and antibiotics. Genes in tomatoes and strawberries have been thrown together with DNA from cold-water fish, producing plants that will thrive in freezing temperatures. Potatoes have been modified so that pests such as Colorado beetles are poisoned when they eat the leaves. There have been problems with all these products.

The manufacturers of weed-killer-resistant plants claim there is no chance that the modified genes in the new plants can jump to other species, creating weeds that cannot be killed by existing pesticides. Yet several accidents suggest otherwise. In Lincolnshire last year a field of GM oilseed rape planted by the American firm Monsanto cross-pollinated with a field of normal oilseed rape. A prosecution is pending. More alarmingly, the fish-gene tomatoes have cross-pollinated in the U.S. with pigweed, making the weed also resistant to cold and increasing its chances of unchecked proliferation.

Milk is the first GM food to be sold across the U.S. in bulk. For ten years a growing number of farmers have been injecting their cows with recombinant bovine growth hormone, a product developed by Monsanto. BGH exists naturally in cows but rBGH is designed to speed lactation and can increase the amount of milk produced by 20 per cent.

As with all GM foods, the biggest concern is increased risk of cancer, eThis milk is supercharged with the hormone IGF-l, the strongest known risk factor for prostate cancer, says Andrew Kimbrell, the director of the Centre for Food Safety in Washington. The milk has ten times as much of the hormone as normal, and the hormone itself is ten times more powerful than usual. Dr Epstein believes that drinking this GM milk will increase the risk not just of prostate cancer, but also breast, colon and childhood cancers.

It was recently introduced into the Dominican Republic by scientists from the University of Florida who were funded by the bioengineering industry. According to Andrew Kimbrell, it is now implicated in an outbreak of bubonic plague. The Centre for Disease Control is investigating the link, It is probable that rBGH caused over-milking, which, in a hot climate, can fill the milk with dangerous bacteria he says. 1,000 children are sick, more than 50 are in hospital.

FLORIDA dairy farmer Charles Knight was one of the first to use rBGH. My cows produced about 20 per cent more milk but their feet swelled up, he says. Almost my entire herd was crippled. I had to replace more than 75 per cent of them because their udders became infected and I had to pump them full of antibiotics which would have been passed on to the consumer in the milk,

Knight complained to Monsanto. It replied that his problems were the result of poor animal husbandry It said that with better management techniques his problems would disappear and that he was the only farmer to get bad results. Knight followed Monsantois suggestions but his problems did not go away. He also discovered dozens more farmers had the same difficulties but Monsanto was failing to pass on their complaints within the required 40-day time limit.

Knight now avoids the hormone but British consumers cannot. Although banned in Europe it is in many American products on UK supermarket shelves. Not that the consumer would ever know. Like its British counterparts, the U.S. bioengineering industry has fought tooth and nail against any labelling which indicates rBGH is present in its milk products causing many to ask what they are trying to hide.

Consumption of the hormone in Britain could soon rise rapidly. A moratorium against it is scheduled to be removed next year and it is probable that rBGH will be approved for use by British farmers before 2001. Monsanto has lobbied hard to achieve just this result. I pity British farmers. says Knight. Genetic modification is a tool that can be used but you had better be careful because it can burn you. The results I saw in my herd made me sick.

Monsanto says health concerns about the hormone are groundless. It says neither rBGH or any extra antibiotics needed by the cows are in the human gut long enough to be absorbed but a recent experiment says otherwise. A test by Dutch scientists showed DNA lingers in the gut long enough for its altered strands to transfer to bacteria there, passing on new genetic characteristics with unpredictable results. Exactly the kind of problem which occurred with L-tryptophan.

Scientists in the U.S. says the Dutch test could also be used to show the DNA takes even longer to be absorbed if certain other foods are present. The questionable tactics of Monsanto in the GM foods boom have been increasingly criticised by U.S. opponents.

SOME say that the company, the worldis largest manufacture of such products, has won approval for them at a reckless speed from an accommodating U.S. government which has threatened trade sanctions against countries which try to block American GM products. There is evidence that Monsanto has taken short cuts in its testing, says Kimbrell. And it has subverted the approval process so short cuts are either covered up or ignored.

Canada which recently sustained its ban of rBGH milk, discovered evidence of this practice after Monsanto allegedly tried to bribe government health officials. Health Canada, a government organisation which monitors food and drugs, was told rBGH could not be absorbed into the human bloodstream. The claim was based on a Monsanto 90-day study of rats. In fact the study found 20 to 30 per cent of rats did seem to be absorbing rBGH and some male rats had cysts on the thyroid and some prostate problems.

Health Canada concluded Either the FDA or Monsanto covered up the results of the major human safety test. Monsanto also violated federal law by illegally promoting rBGH before it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration The stakes for Monsanto and the U.S. in gaining global approval are enormous. GM food sales will soon be worth £8billion a year to Monsanto alone and could boost U.S exports by 10 per cent.

Yet, according to Professor Epstein, the stakes for humanity are much higher. I am not against genetic engineering, he said. But this is truly a Pandorais box which America and especially Monsanto have opened too fast in their haste to build a dominant position. They have to realise a biogenetic accident is not like a chemical spill. A biogenetic disaster cannot be undone. Once a modified gene mutates in a dangerous way it cannot be put back in the bottle. Experts say this is probably the most compelling argument for slowing the pace. Introducing a GM food is always a multi-part experiment, says Andrew Kimbrell. And the last part is always the test or the human population which is the most unpredictable. It is not until a GM food has been in general use by millions of people in thousands of different situations that we can say it is probably safe. It is hard to imagine any other risk taken by humanity that is quite so reckless as the rapid introduction of GM foods.

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Date: 8 Feb 1999 16:12:10 -0600
From: (jim mcnulty)

Washington Post: Sowing Dependency or Uprooting Hunger?

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 8, 1999; Page A09
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

After focusing for decades on getting crops to grow bigger and better, agricultural scientists are turning their talents to a more difficult task: making plants that kill their own offspring.

Depending on who's talking, the quest is either a sincere effort to solve the world hunger crisis or a corporate plot to impose economic slavery on the world's farmers.

So far, the so-called Terminator system of seed-killing genes exists in just a few experimental tobacco plants in U.S. greenhouses and is at least five years away from being commercialized anywhere. Yet the debate over the technology has already become so polarized and emotional that farmers in India recently went on a rampage and burned several fields of crops rumored to harbor the deadly genes.

The "Technology Protection System" (TPS, dubbed "Terminator" by critics) was developed by scientists at the Agriculture Department and the Delta & Pine Land Co., a Mississippi seed company that is being purchased by St. Louis-based Monsanto Co.

The goal was to help U.S. biotechnology companies retain control over their patented, genetically engineered crops by making it impossible for farmers to collect the seeds from those crops for replanting the following year. Seed saving is a tradition in much of the world, but the practice makes it difficult for seed companies to recoup their research and development costs.

TPS is a clever, three-gene system that forces plants to produce a toxin that is fatal to their own seeds, compelling farmers to buy new seed each year. The poisoning--by a plant toxin that is harmless to people--occurs late enough in the season so the seed retains its value as a source of food or oil.

The tricky part, said TPS co-inventor Mel Oliver of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Lubbock, Tex., was to make a plant that kills its own seeds when growing in farmers' fields, but makes healthy seeds when growing on company land. That is necessary if the company is to grow multiple generations of the plants as a source of seeds to sell.

To do so, the researchers manipulated the plant's DNA so the seed-suicide gene was under the control of yet another genetic mechanism, which suppresses the death gene indefinitely. In the suppressed state the plants produce fertile seeds, and the company can replant those seeds to grow more plants to make more seeds for sale.

Just before they are sold, however, the seeds are sprayed with a chemical "inducer" (in one version, it's the antibiotic tetracycline), which overcomes the suppressor, waking up the dormant seed-killing gene. The seeds grow into plants that make any of several seed toxins, such as the appropriately acronymed Ribosomal Inhibitory Protein (RIP).

Several international agricultural and environmental organizations have been raising alarms about Terminator, saying it directly threatens the more than 1 billion families in the developing world who are subsistence farmers unable to afford new seed each year. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a foundation-supported global consortium that develops new seed varieties for the Third World, has declared that it will not incorporate the technology into any of its seeds.

"Once you've got farmers hooked on it and they've lost their traditional [crop] varieties, it is very hard to go back again," said Geoffrey Hawtin, director general of CGIAR's International Plant Genetic Resources Institute in Rome. "Then these companies will be sitting pretty on a captive market."

Other groups have called for a ban on the technology. "It is a threat globally to food security, which is a basic human right," said Mark Ritchie, president of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis.

Critics also worry that pollen from Terminator plants could fertilize nearby native plants and make them sterile, triggering an epidemic of crop sterility. Recently, warnings to this effect have been popping up on Web sites and in seed catalogs and agricultural newsletters. "Plant diversity, world food supply at risk. Terminator seed technology threatens farmers worldwide," read a special alert inserted in the spring 1999 catalog of the Burlington, Vt.-based Gardener's Supply Co., recently mailed to about 1 million customers.

But supporters see in Terminator a possible solution to Third World hunger and poverty, which could become more widespread in coming years as populations expand and farmlands are lost.

"The rhetoric has been extremely alarmist without looking at the whole situation," Oliver said.

Henry Shands, assistant administrator for gene resources at the USDA's ARS, said foreign farmers need to recognize that biotech companies are not going to export their best-engineered varieties to parts of the world where patent protection is weak unless they can be assured that farmers won't resell or replant harvested seeds. TPS, he and others said, will give poor farmers access to better seeds.

"This is going to give the subsistence farmer a superior crop," said Harry Collins, Delta & Pine Land's vice president for technology transfer. "He will get a crop that allows him not only to subsist, but to become productive."

The situation will resemble that with corn in this country, Collins said. Scientists 40 years ago developed hybrid corn that has better annual yields but produces lousy seeds, and farmers have found it worthwhile to buy fresh corn seed every year to get the better crop.

As for getting "hooked," others said, it would not be economical to put TPS in every, or even most, seed varieties, so farmers will always have the option of switching back to nonengineered seeds.

Supporters also note that the technology is intended for self-pollinating crops that rarely mate with neighboring plants. Even if pollen grains bearing the toxin genes were to fertilize some nearby plants, those plants would themselves become sterile and could not spread the death trait in their seeds.

Indeed, Collins said, if TPS were incorporated into other genetically engineered crops already in use--such as those endowed with genes that make them tolerant to weed killers--it could eliminate one of the big fears that activists have expressed about those gene-altered crops: that they will spread their foreign genes to native plants, making "superweeds."

"It's a plus as far as biosafety goes," Collins said. "The system would stop any outcrossing within one generation."

Several companies are now rushing to create similar systems for controlling gene activity in plants, not only to trigger seed sterilization but to turn on growth-enhancing or disease-resistance genes just when they are needed. These too have stirred concerns among critics, who fear that crops will be designed to respond only to fertilizers and chemicals made by the company that sold the seed, as a means of gaining corporate market share.

But farmers are very astute about the bottom line, Shands said, and won't buy products that don't serve them well. There's no need for a gene war of words, he said. "The marketplace will sort it out."

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Date: 8 Feb 1999 18:36:26 -0600
From: (Judy Kew)


Anti-genetic linkup opportunity

Fellow anti-genetiX campaigners

By a bit of good fortune, some progressive journalists who have developed a network of journalists, sources of information, human rights activists and lawyers who are prepared to go over the barricades about Pinochet, have offered to help a broad anti-geneti X coalition comprising all the people who would benefit from putting all the pieces of the anti-geneti X jigsaw.

This journalist network have been influential in the Pinochet case in quickly countering the myths of the well funded prominent pro Pinochet lobby in the establishment and the commercial media. They have developed expertise in selecting the appropriate documents to make the key legal, political and news points. They also have connections to the mainstream press, and use them for promoting their own truthful agenda. They deal mainly in the web which has many advantages and their site is at Many activists operate on newsgroups and email lists or personal sites for flexibility but have vital information which can be pieced together revealing the overall picture. No doubt we all have lessons to learn from each other as well with such differing groups all having approximately the same interest. Ideas can maybe be exchanged on the best mix whereby we all get the best of everything in cooperation, plugging in to bits convenient for our own groups and all seeing the bigger picture.

If you are interested in linking up you or your network with this kind of cooperative project, please express an interest in the first instance by email to

The situation is fluid and more details soon but in the meantime if you could drop a few details of how you could fit in and what others maybe able to help with, then it will give us more idea on what to focus on, and I will reply as to progress

The groups that might be interested will be wider than I know or can contact individually but will probably include organic groups, farmers, pesticide groups, anticorporate, antiMonsanto, journalists, agribu$iness sources, farmers UK, US and other, US antitrust, vegetarians, vegans, scientists, geneti X activists and spin offs, third world agriculture networks, antiMAI networks, some anti-EU movements, pie movements, individuals . . . plus more


Reply-To: (Margaret Weston)

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