Genetically
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 Food


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16 February 99

Table of Contents

UK: International Scientists Back Shock Findings of Suppressed Research into Modified Food.
UK: Ousted Scientists and the Damning Research into Food Safety.
Scientists Want Answers On Genetic Food
Scientists seek probe into GM foods report
Blair Rules Out Block on New Genetically Modified Crops
Food Groups Urge Halt on Use of Genetic Crops
Shops Warning Ordered on Gene Food
Miracle Foods that the Public Won't Swallow
URL to Protocol to Govern a New Agriculture Frontier
Setting Rules on Biotechnology Trade
Gene Lab Took Food Giant's Cash Gift
Labels For Gene-modified Food
Genetic minister 'should be axed'; GM crop lobby
Genetic Engineering Talks Hits Snag
Demand for More Research on Safety
Monsanto Defiant After 17,000 'Escaped Pollen' Fine
Protests in London
U.S. Lobbies Against Biotechnology Curbs

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Date: Fri, 12 Feb 1999 22:33:10 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-15

UK: International Scientists Back Shock Findings of Suppressed Research into Modified Food.

By Michael Sean Gillard, Laurie Flynn and Andy Rowell.
The Guardian newspaper, 2/12/99 .

Dr. Pusztai Vindicated!

TWENTY international scientists have signed an unprecedented memorandum supporting the controversial findings of suppressed research which found that rats fed on genetically modified pototoes suffered a weakened immune system and damage to vital organs.

In a report published for the first time today, the scientists from 13 countries also demand the immediate professional rehabilitation of the British scientist, Dr Arpad Pusztai, who discovered these preliminary findings last year and was forced to retire after speaking out about his concerns. Dr Pusztai's pioneering research into the effects of GM crops on animal nutrition and the environment included feeding genetically modified (GM) potatoes to rats to determine for the first time whether they had any harmful effects on their guts, bodies, metabolism and immune system. The unexpected results of the £1.6m Scottish Office-funded research project showed that after 10 days of feeding trials the development of the kidney, thymus, spleen and gut were adversely affected. The research also showed the rats' immune systems were weakened. The Guardian can also reveal that the rats' brain size decreased. Dr Pusztai did not publish this at the time because he judged the political repercussions would be too severe.

A more recent piece of research on the same rats by senior pathologist, Dr Stanley Ewen, of Aberdeen University Medical School, is understood to validate Dr Pusztai's preliminary findings and points towards new potential health risks.

Dr Ewen found that rats fed the GM potatoes used in Dr Pusztai's experiments suffered from an enlarged stomach wall after 10 days of feeding trials.

The implications for the biotech industry, already suffering from a public backlash against GM foods, could be severe, says Dr Vyvyan Howard, a foetal and infant toxico-pathologist at Liverpool University, who also signed the memorandum.

"What this means for the industry is that they will have to do rigorous hazard assessment and do it repeatedly and monitor it." Jonathan Rhodes, Professor of Medicine at Liverpool University, said: "One key problem that keeps coming back time and again is that regulation of food is nothing like as strict as the regulation for drugs. And when you start tinkering around with the genetic structure of food you have to move towards thinking of food products as pharmaceuticals."

The memorandum demands an immediate funding programme to research the effects further and determine the causes. If it can be shown that the lectin, a naturally occuring insect resistant protein inserted into the potato, was responsible, this could implicate GM crops containing other lectins, namely Bt toxin. Last year there were approximately 7.7m hectares of these crops, such as maize, planted worldwide. The maize is found in various forms, such as corn flour and tortilla chips, in British supermarkets. However, some scientists believe that the problem may lie with one of the key genes that forms part of the genetic engineering process itself. The so-called cauliflower mosiac promoter is used in most GM foods available in the UK, such as soya, present in an estimated 60% of processed foodstuffs. It was these far reaching implications for one of the world's most aggressively expanding industries, that put Dr Pusztai in the eye of the storm since last August when he spoke out on ITV's World In Action. He said he would not eat GM potatoes and found it "very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs."

Some of the scientists who have viewed the evidence believe that the circumstances surrounding Dr Pusztai's removal and the closing down of his research team cannot be understood outside of political and commericial parameters.

The Aberdeen-based Rowett Institute, where the research was done, said at the time of his removal that they were unhappy with his having made public the results of preliminary research which had not been subject to peer review. He was subsequently exonerated by an internal inquiry.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Fri, 12 Feb 1999 22:33:10 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-15

UK: Ousted Scientists and the Damning Research into Food Safety.

By Laurie Flynn, Michael Gillard and Andy Rowell, UK GUARDIAN 12/02/1999 P6

.. on the tests on rats that raised serious questions about the effects of genetically modified food on internal organs.

LAST WEEK in parliament William Hague asked Tony Blair why the Government was ignoring advice from its environmental advisers to call a three-year moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified (GM) crops until more research is done.

The Prime Minister, wary of mounting public concern, especially in middle England, replied ebulliently: "It is important that we proceed on the basis of the scientific evidence. The first stage of meeting public concern is to debate the information."

Today the Guardian publishes for the first time worrying details of publicly funded scientific research. The authors, two eminent British scientists, demand that the Government honours its commitment to transparency on the issue of biotechnology and initiates an immediate evaluation of the potential health risks.

They are backed by 20 international scientists, who call on the Government to release further funding for follow-up research and the clearing of one of the authors who has been maligned.

The story begins in October 1995 when the Scottish Office commissioned a research project from the Aberdeen-based Rowett Research Institute into the effect of GM crops on animal nutrition and the environment. This included, for the first time, feeding GM potatoes to rats to see if they had any harmful effects on their guts, bodies, metabolism and health. A former senior Scottish Office official involved in commissioning the project told the Guardian there was "little regard" at the time for research into the human nutritional and environmental consequences of GM foods. The #1.6m research grant was allocated to redress this imbalance. Dr Arpad Pusztai, a senior research scientist at the Rowett, beat off 28 other tenders to coordinate the project. He has always kept an open mind about GM foods and conditionally supported their release as long as there were rigorous and independent trials.

The other members of the project were the Dundee-based Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) and Durham University biology department who grew the GM potato used in the feeding trials. All three bodies had links with the biotech industry through the pursuit of commercial research contracts. There was no reason to believe that the research project would produce the controversial findings that could threaten the scientific foundations of the biotech industry they sought to embrace. In December 1996, Dr Pusztai suddenly became aware of the inadequate level of existing scientific trials on GM maize when a member of the Government's Advisory Committee on Novel Food Production (ACNFP) asked him to assess the validity of a licensing application from one of the industry's leading companies.

He faxed his two-page assessment to the Ministry of Agriculture warning that tests into nutritional performance, toxicology or allergenicity were insufficient and inadequate.

In his final paragraph he asked for "proper experiment" with the GM plants and added: "Do not leave it to chance." There was no legal requirement for further tests to be carried out and approval for licensing was granted.

His own project, now a year old, was also presenting difficulties. Rows had broken out after preliminary findings emerged from Dr Pusztai's team and the SCRI and Durham University's biology department showed growing discomfort sources told the Guardian about the validity of some of his methodology and the implication of the results.

A Scottish Office immunologist was called in. She approved the methodology used by Dr Pusztai's team. The preliminary results of Dr Pusztai's work had begun to show unexpected and worrying changes in the size and weight of the rats' bodily organs. The team found liver and heart sizes were decreasing worse still, the brain was getting smaller. There were also indications of a weakening of the immune system.

With so many unanswered questions, far more public money would be needed, Dr Pusztai concluded. But the Guardian understands that the Scottish Office and the Rowett Institute declined his funding requests. For Dr Pusztai, the funding crisis and the prospect of his unexpected results not being published led him to reconsider his attitude to the media. In January last year he appeared, with the Rowett Institute's permission, on BBC2's Newsnight and voiced his concerns in measured terms about weakening of the immune system in the rats fed GM potatoes. In April, Granada TV's World in Action approached Dr Pusztai and again with the institute's consent he gave an interview which was broadcast in the documentary that August.

Dr Pusztai told ITV viewers that he would not eat GM food. He found it "very, very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs. We have to find [them] in the laboratory," he insisted. Two days later Dr Pusztai was summarily suspended and forced to retire by the Rowett Institute's director, Professor Philip James, who had personally cleared the interview with Granada and put his name to official press releases supporting the programme.

Dr Pusztai was denied access to his research data and an internal investigation by the Rowett's senior management was launched after unsourced allegations of scientific fraud against Dr Pusztai appeared in a scientific journal. Six months later, the truth about what happened in those two days is still shrouded in mystery. The Pusztai camp claim there was industry and political pressure on the institute to silence him but a press release at he time stated that Dr Pusztai had presented provisional data in public without peer review. This week the institute director declined to discuss the matter or to be interviewed by the Guardian. The deputy director, David Blair, also refused all requests for further information.

But the institute did complete an audit report in August last year with the input of two outside scientists. The report concluded that the research data did not link GM potatoes to any health risks. Dr Pusztai wrote his reply once he was allowed access to his data. He strongly re-confirmed his findings.

In another twist, Professor James gave evidence to the House of Lords Committee on European regulation of GM in agriculture on the same day last October that his audit report was published.

Asked about events at the institute, Professor James told the Lords "there is no question of any malpractice [by Dr Pusztai]." He apologised for the confusion, saying: "Dr Pusztai has come out of this audit review exonerated." As for Dr Pusztai's conclusions, they remained unproven, said the Rowett report. Dr Pusztai was not called to the committee hearing. But the Guardian understands that a Liberal Democrat MP, Archy Kirkwood, provided the Lords with a copy of the scientist's alternative report.

By October, Dr Stanley Ewen, a pathologist at Aberdeen University Medical School, working on Dr Pusztai's team, was finalising his measurements on stomach sections of rats used in Dr Pusztai's experiments. Dr Ewen believed he had established that something in the GM potato had caused elongation of a section of the stomach. In addition, after 10 days' feeding, a section of the stomach wall had increased dramatically. The Guardian has seen evidence of this and also learned that Dr Ewen did not expect these results. According to a source close to the research, the differences caused Dr Ewen concern.

As a result of the preliminary findings, Dr Ewen and Dr Pusztai are strongly in favour of more research to further test their controversial results and their implications for human beings. The scientists are anxious not to repeat the mistakes of the BSE scandal.

They are asking for further funding to examine these problems in a more benign atmosphere away from the secrecy, intrigue and recriminations of the past six months.

The treatment of Dr Pusztai and the virtual disbandment of his research team led the international group of 20 scientists to go public. Two of the signatories have worked for the institute. Both were concerned about the attack on scientific freedom.

Dr Kenneth Lough, aged 71, who was the principal science officer at the Rowett Institute for 31 years until he retired 12 years ago, attacked the "draconian position" taken by the institute in suspending Dr Pusztai without the proper " free exchange" of data.

The absence of this free exchange of publicly funded data would be useful to the GM industry which is unable to convince the British public about the quality of their product. The 20 scientists want to know why the changes in organ size and weight are taking place whether the problem was the new gene or the method of transplanting.

Alternatively, was it the "virus promoter" the "light switch" which GM companies are using to turn on the genes? Increasingly, the Pusztai team began to focus on the promoter, the so-called cauliflower mosaic virus. Preliminary analysis redoubled their anxieties and with it the possible implications for the GM industry. This was the same virus that had already been used in the modified tomato paste, soya oils and maize that the Government and the European Union had approved for use in industrial and convenience foods and which were making their way into hundreds of products on supermarket shelves.

Dr Pusztai's preliminary research also questions the safety testing for the products the biotech industry is bringing to the supermarket shelves, in some cases unlabelled. None of the food that has been approved for consumption in the UK has undergone long-term feeding trials. "One key problem that keeps coming back time and again is that regulation of food is nothing like as strict as the regulation for drugs," Professor Jonathan Rhodes, of Liverpool University, told the Guardian. "And when you start tinkering around with the genetic structure of food you have to move towards thinking of them as pharmaceuticals."

Vyvyan Howard, also of Liverpool University, added: "We are saying that we need a moratorium." The vast majority of the British support this call, although Tony Blair's government stands by the biotech industry, recently putting another #13m into the DTI's Biotechnology means Business programme. A Mori poll last June showed 77% of respondents in favour of a moratorium; 61% did not wish to eat GM food.

A clear sign of the importance attached to the unpublished research was given last week in private by the Nick Tomlinson, secretary to the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods. In a letter to Dr Ewen on February 4, he stated: "If there are lessons to be learned, it is vital that these are taken on board as soon as possible." He asked for Dr Ewen's research as "a matter of urgency". At the weekend, British negotiators will fly to Colombia to negotiate the Biosafety Protocol in an attempt to set up international regulations governing GM organisms.

The Government is being criticised by many countries pushing for rigorous safety assessments in the protocol. Tewolde Egziabher, representing the African nations argues that "the position of the UK delegation is shaped by corporate interest, probably reinforced by transatlantic pressure." Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, argues: "Our aim is to establish a predictable, science-based and transparent regime which establishes controls proportionate to the risks."

Will these new findings force Tony Blair to change Britain's negotiating position to adopt a stance based on the precautionary principle? Mr Blair's position on GM organisms is now at odds with public opinion. Labour MP Alan Simpson said: "What on earth would it take to put the people's government at such a remove from the people that they have a delegation flying out to Colombia on Sunday that could end up signing the country to an agreement that prevents interventions to protect human health? "For a government that has been meticulous in courting middle income, middle England, there has to be a bigger explanation why they want to side with an industry increasingly heading towards zero public tolerance. "I think as the Government we have an obligation to identify who frustrated this research? If Dr Pusztai is right, this could be BSE mark two. "What is at stake here is the whole scrutiny process affecting human and environmental health."


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sat, 13 Feb 1999 16:05:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-13

Via: WebPosted Fri Feb 12 21:44:16 1999

Scientists Want Answers On Genetic Food

FULL STORY: http://newsworld.cbc.ca/cgi-bin/go.pl?1999/02/12/foodrsch990212

In Britain, there's a growing controversy over genetically modified foods.

LONDON - In Britain, there's a growing controversy over genetically modified foods.

Twenty scientists from around the world are backing the controversial findings of a Scottish researcher. Dr. Arpad Pusztai found modified potatoes were harmful to a group of lab rats. But his findings were never made public and he was forced into retirement.

In research at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, Pusztai concluded the immune systems of lab rats were affected by the engineered potatoes, and the size of the rats brains shrank.

The international scientists called on the British government on Friday to reinstate Pusztai's work. They say his work was legitimate and that it wasn't fair for the Rowatt Institute to question his results and force him to retire.

Dr. Stanley Ewan from Aberdeen University says, "In any court of law there's a prosecution and a defence, but unfortunately this time, the defence has not been able to acquit itself by making its case known."

Some groups have been asking the British government to put a moratorium on the production of genetically altered foods.

But Prime Minister Tony Blair says there's no need -- government testing ensures the food is safe.

Customers can make the choice to purchase it or not. In British supermarkets products like genetically modified tomato puree are labeled. Genetically altered products don't have to carry labels in Canada or the U.S.


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Date: Sat, 13 Feb 1999 16:05:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-13

Scientists seek probe into GM foods report

http://abcnews.go.com/wire/World/Reuters19990212_149.html
WIRE:Feb. 12, 4:46 a.m. ET FOCUS-

LONDON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Twenty international scientists on Friday urged more research into genetically modified foods and demanded the reinstatement of a British researcher who found that rats fed on GM potatoes suffered a weakened immune system.

Arpad Pusztai was last year forced to retire from the prestigious Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland two days after giving a television very, very unfair to use our fellow

He was accused of having presented provisional data to the public without it having been reviewed by fellow scientists.

The Guardian newspaper published the names of scientists from Britain, other European countries, the United States and Canada who had signed a public statement in support of Pusztai.

They say they have examined all the published data and concluded that Pusztai was right to be concerned about the effect on rats, which after 10 days of feeding trials showed signs of harm to their kidneys, thymuses, spleens and guts.

They call for further research to establish the risks of allowing GM crops to be used in foodstuffs.

One of them, Vyvyan Howard, from Britain's Liverpool University, said Pusztai's findings should have a massive effect on the world's burgeoning biotechnology industry. We are going to have to test these plants rather like pharmaceutical he told BBC radio.

Howard pointed out that it could cost some $400 million to bring a new drug to the market, largely because of the amount of testing needed to guard against side effects.

Left wing Labour MP Allan Simpson called for a moratorium on the use of GM crops while further research was done. If we don't want a BSE Mark Two, then we ought to put a halt to the whole he said. A mad cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, epidemic has produced a crisis in Britain's beef industry and resulted in 35 human deaths.

Jack Cunningham, a former agriculture minister who is now in charge of the presentation of government policy, said GM foods were not grown commercially in Britain at present and to stop the growing of experimental crops would be counter-productive. A moratorium on the experimental work is neither necessary nor sensible he said.

Cunningham said the government was planning to make labelling of genetically modified foods compulsory.

An opinion poll showed that 31 percent of Britons believe that GM food poses a health risk to their families and 53 percent wanted more statutory controls on them.

Copyright 1999 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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Date: Mon, 15 Feb 1999 17:14:06 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-14

Blair Rules Out Block on New Genetically Modified Crops

By Tim Radford Science Editor, Guardian Saturday February 13, 1999

Guardian evidence reveals full extent of scientific research as Cabinet tries to play down fears

Tony Blair yesterday ruled out a moratorium on the introduction of new genetically modified foods after the Guardian revealed evidence of danger from laboratory experiments with staple crops. Research showing that rats fed genetically modified (GM) potatoes suffered damage to their vital organs and a weakened immune system was endorsed by an international group of scientists, who yesterday warned of a potential doomsday scenario if more independent research was not undertaken.

But the Government yesterday tried to play down mounting concern from scientists, MPs and consumer groups as it committed Britain to a pro-GM policy at an international conference in Colombia beginning tomorrow. Cabinet minister Jack Cunningham repeatedly insisted that GM food was safe. But today the Guardian publishes for the first time the evidence showing that his reassurances are premature - photographs of the enlarged stomach wall of a rat fed GM potatoes.

At a press conference in Westminster, Ronald Finn, a former president of the British Society of Allergy and Environmental Medicine, gave warning that the research by Arpad Pusztai last year had shown that GM potatoes fed to rats had interfered with their immune systems. If they did the same to humans, cancer cases could be expected to rise, and the nation could be at prey from epidemic infection, in the way that BSE had posed a threat to humans after cattle were fed animal carcases.


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Date: Mon, 15 Feb 1999 17:14:06 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-14

Food Groups Urge Halt on Use of Genetic Crops

By Helen William, PA News, 10.02.99 13:44, © Copyright 1999 PA News.

The Government was today urged to stop the sale, import and manufacture of genetically- engineered foods amid widespread concern over food safety.

Delegates from the Genetix Food Alert campaign, which represents more than 100 health food companies, presented a petition to Downing Street calling for a moratorium on genetically- modified (GM) foods.

They are calling for a five-year ban on the use of GM soya, GM maize and on the commercial growing of GM crops in the UK so that safety testing can be carried out. Campaigner Lindsay Keenan of the Glasgow-based GreenCity Wholefoods company said that allowing GM products into the food chain was making the public part of a "dangerous genetic food experiment".

"The government must take action now to halt the use of genetic crops and to ensure that we all have the freedom of choice to avoid eating food that is inherently dangerous to us and our environment," he said.

Products containing GM soya and maize should be clearly labelled under current legislation but many foods do not carry GM labels if these are minor ingredients, campaigners warn. Mr Keenan added: "There is a strong market for GM-free products. Customers are asking for information on the issue.


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Date: Mon, 15 Feb 1999 17:14:06 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-14

Via: MichaelP papadop@peak.org

Shops Warning Ordered on Gene Food

By Patrick Wintour, Antony Barnett and Robin McKie
Observer (London), Sunday, February 14, 1999

Mandatory labelling of all genetically modified food sold in shops, takeaways and restaurants is to be introduced next month in an attempt to quell growing fear of the 'Frankenstein foods'. Firms breaking regulations -- to be policed by local authorities and government scientists -- will face tough fines. 'We are going to be ruthless in enforcing this,' Food Minister Jeff Rooker told The Observer yesterday.

But attempts to clean up the reputation of genetically modified (GM) foods are likely to be undermined this week. Monsanto, the American firm spearheading their production, is to admit illegally releasing modified oil-seed rape into the environment. Campaigners fear such breaches could lead to the creation of 'superweeds' resistant to herbicides.

They say the crop could pollinate nearby unmodified crops which might end up in human food without the public knowing. A Monsanto spokesman said it intended to plead guilty in a Lincolnshire court on Wednesday to breaking environmental law. The company faces a fine of up to #20,000. The case could not have come at worse moment for the GM food industry. Last week a furore erupted over a controversial, unpublished study which, it was claimed, links gene engineering practices to the development of immune system problems in rats. Government scientists were accused of suppressing the study, and the Government came under renewed pressure to introduce a moratorium on the commercial growing of gene crops. Supermarkets attacked Ministers for failing to create a system for labelling GM foods as fears of a consumer boycott intensified. Apart from mandatory labelling, the Cabinet Office -- under 'enforcer' Jack Cunningham -- will launch an urgent Whitehall review of the biotechnology sector.

The review will be completed in three months and may lead to a new body to advise on the environmental implications of GM foods. Ministers are also to promote a list of 59 US and Canadian firms that produce unmodified soya and maize to help shoppers make informed choices about the food they buy. Rooker warned Monsanto and the other big GM firms that they were provoking a consumer backlash by mixing the production of GM and non-GM products. Ministers say they are determined not to bow to pressure from environmental groups and some newspapers, but they are worried that the unrest could undermine Britain's growing biotechnology industry. 'The Government is not going to be forced into a complete volte-face because of this panic. We just have to get our message across.'

Monsanto's alleged breach of the existing controls arose last June at a Government-licensed trial site in Lincolnshire. A routine inspection revealed that control measures, required to prevent pollen from herbicide-resistant oil seed rape spreading to nearby crops, had been partly removed. As a result the entire site had to be destroyed, and any seeds harvested over the next two years within a 50-yard radius of the site will be destroyed.

'It was found that the pollen barrier surrounding the trial . . . was only two yards wide on the trial site, rather than the required six yards,' say minutes of the Government's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment. A Monsanto spokesman said: 'We don't have direct control over these trials. A third party conducts them.'


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Date: Mon, 15 Feb 1999 17:14:06 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-14

Via: MichaelP papadop@peak.org

Miracle Foods that the Public Won't Swallow

Doubts about GM food are tainting our dinner tables with fear. Science Editor Robin McKie asks how a once tasty concept turned so sour?
Observer (London), Sunday, February 14, 1999

It was supposed to be the food of tomorrow: a genetically engineered ambrosia to feed Earth's hordes next century. But it has turned into a political nightmare.

Last week unprecedentedly ferocious criticism fell upon the heads of those responsible for making genetically modified (GM) foods in Britain - an onslaught so fierce it is hard to see how their products can survive commercially.

Far from being nutritional saviours, GM foods now look like the pariahs of the European food industry.

But how did this PR calamity occur? How could such a wonder-food fail so spectacularly in the eyes of the public? The answers have much to do with misunderstanding the public's fear of science and failing to realise that consumers become suspicious and vulnerable to fear when they are starved of choice.

In particular, people worry that (GM) crops are dangerous to eat, that they threaten the environment, and that they will allow a few big pharmaceutical companies to monopolise agriculture.

In the first instance, there was little to upset consumers until the Pusztai affair erupted last year. Dr Arpad Pusztai, of Aberdeen's Rowett Research Institute, claimed that rats fed on GM food suffered immune problems.

An external investigation subsequently criticised his experimental procedures. He retired, and the matter seemed closed - until last week, when a group of scientists (none of whom, it must be said, were noted genetic engineers) signed a letter condemning Pusztai's employers for mistreating him.

They claimed that his studies revealed possible dangers in genetic engineering techniques. That is crucial. The group claims to have found a danger so far unrecognised.

Pusztai was working with lectins - a group of chemicals which include poisons found in some varieties of beans. He fed potatoes - some injected with lectins and some modified to make their own - to rats, and they suffered atrophy in various organs, including their livers.

The results caused a furore and the external inquiry was set up. Pusztai's results were blamed on the simple fact that he was working with lectins, which, it was argued, were the real cause of the atrophy.

But follow-up studies by one of Pusztai's colleagues, Dr Stanley Ewen of Aberdeen University, suggests that these reassurances are misplaced. More damage was done when the pototoes were modified than when they had simply been spiked with lectins: in other words, there was something in the process of genetic modification that was causing damage. 'We think we were showing up something that nobody has spotted,' said Ewen.

Neither Pusztai's nor Ewen's research has been published or subjected to peer review. 'This is the only study ever to claim there is something damaging about the business of genetic modification, but we cannot evaluate it because we cannot get access to their data,' said Professor Ray Baker, head of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

That was because the Government has not asked for information, the group retorted. Regardless of who is right, the Aberdeen work was seized upon last week as a 'food scandal': a lone voice trying to raise a matter of vital public concern was being silenced. In vain scientists tried to point out there was no scandal: no food for human consumption was involved.

'This was a safety trial,' said Dr Bernard Dixon of the European Biotechnology Forum. 'We have them all the time. New antibiotics are constantly being found to have adverse effects, and as a result are never marketed. No one suggests the fundamentals of antibiotics manufacture is suspect, however.'

It was also claimed that Pusztai's work was the first to use GM food in feeding trials, and that scientists were failing to carry out basic safety tests: feeding GM food to rats to study the impact.

'But that is exactly what we do do,' said Professor Nigel Poole of Zeneca, the manufacturers of one of the few modified foods on sale in supermarkets.

When we created puree made out of genetically modified tomatoes, the first thing we did was to feed it to rats and then study the effects on their bodies. It is utterly untrue to say we don't do such studies. People are making up facts as they go along.'

Then there were the pictures of healthy rat stomachs and those damaged because of GM food. 'Of course, they were damaged,' Poole said. 'They had been eating lectins, which are poisonous. It's got nothing to do with genetic modification.'

Unfortunately, the British public - distrustful of official assurances after the mishandling of the BSE crisis - is in no mood to listen to scientific 'reason'. Nor is the media. As far as most people are concerned, Pusztai has been vindicated, all GM products are 'Frankenstein foods', and there should be a moratorium on the growing of gene crops - as demanded by the '20 international scientists' who have backed Pusztai.

In making this last claim, the group is, in a sense, wasting its breath. Given the hysteria unleashed, there is absolutely no chance that modified crops will be grown commercially in this country for many years - though some small, experimental trials have begun.

'There is only one application currently in the pipeline - from AgrEvo, which would like to grow oilseed rape that can resist the use of the herbicide glufosinate,' said Dr Phil Dale of the John Innes Centre in Norwich.

'It will take years before they satisfy the regulatory process and pass safety trials - if the company decides it is worthwhile proceeding, that is.'

This leads us to the public's second major fear: that GM crops fitted with genes to resist pesticides and herbicides will devastate our countryside. The insertion of such genes is supposed to benefit the environment by making it easier to control weeds.

'So far, all studies show modified crops need less chemicals than standard crops,' Dale said. But many people fear that pollen from these crops will drift and be picked up by nearby weeds, which will then become resistant to herbicides. Britain will be invaded by superweeds that will strangle our fields.

'People forget that only weeds of species that are botanically similar to a particular crop will pick up its pollen and form a hybrid,' said Dale, who was one of the Government's advisers on the release of GM organisms. 'In the case of modified oilseed rape, the principal candidate for commercial planting in this country, there are no weeds with which it can hybridise in Britain.' Critics of GM foods are unabashed. They point to the fact that the industry refuses to release data from the trials of modified crops. The public wants reassurance, and is simply not getting it. And the Green movement - which has long disliked the intensive agricultural practices of modern farming - has seized on these fields of crops, genetically modified in some sinister way, as the battleground it has been lacking.

This takes us to the third great fear: that one or two GM companies are attempting to monopolise crop production. In the case of Monsanto, the world's biggest GM company, they have good grounds for concern. Much of the present crisis can be blamed on its persistence in exporting mixed consignments of modified and unmodified soya oil to Europe. Consumers could not tell the difference. Europe objected and was threatened with a trade war, and many GM foods appeared unmarked in supermarkets. Two years later, we are reaping the harvest.

** 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: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 21:24:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-16

URL to Protocol to Govern a New Agriculture Frontier

Negotiations have started to work out a protocol to govern a new agriculture frontier. The export and import of genetically engineered seeds and plants.

FULL STORY: http://newsworld.cbc.ca/cgi-bin/go.pl?1999/02/14/corn990214


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Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 21:24:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-16

Thanks to Epstein namofo@jps.net for posting this:

Setting Rules on Biotechnology Trade

By Andrew Pollack, New York Times, February 15, 1999

Delegates from about 170 nations are meeting this week to complete an international biotechnology safety treaty that the United States government and many American companies fear could greatly restrict exports of food and other products made using genetic engineering.

The Biosafety Protocol, which is being negotiated in Cartagena, Colombia, would require that exports of genetically modified organisms be approved in advance by the importing country.

The negotiations are an outgrowth of the Convention on Biological Diversity drawn up at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. They are scheduled because of concern that the release of genetically modified plants and animals into the environment.

In genetically altering an organism, genes from one species may be spliced into another to confer certain desirable traits, like resistance to blights or pests. One concern is that these enhanced organisms could overtake and displace native species, reducing the variety of the gene pool.

But Washington and many American companies say such new rules could impede tens of billions of dollars of annual exports of seeds, grains and perhaps even products like breakfast cereal made from genetically modified corn, or blue jeans made using genetically modified cotton.

"It could create enormous disruption to existing patterns of international trade with no benefits to the environment or human health," said Val Giddings, vice president for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group. "Some of the proposals would put in place a draconian regime that we have never seen before except for highly toxic and hazardous substances."

Washington thinks it is appropriate to have a treaty covering genetically modified seeds, said Rafe Pomerance, deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and development and head of the American delegation in Cartagena.

What worries the government and American companies is that some nations are proposing that the new rules cover not only seeds, plants and animals but also genetically altered corn, soy beans and other agricultural commodities. Some proposals would go even further and apply the treaty to products made using genetic engineering, like pharmaceuticals, cookies made from genetically altered grain, or even paper containing corn starch made from genetically altered corn.


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Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 21:24:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-16

Via: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty)

Gene Lab Took Food Giant's Cash Gift

Mail on Sunday Publication Date: February 14, 1999

THE Government-backed institute which sacked the 'Frankenstein' food whistleblower is receiving cash from the world's leading producer of genetically modified crops.

American biotechnology giant [ Monsanto ] is the donor of a GBP 140,000 grant to the controversial Rowett Research Institute which sacked GM food scientist Dr Arpad Pusztai.

Two weeks ago The Mail on Sunday revealed exclusively that officially discredited research by Dr Pusztai who was sacked last August had in fact been correct.


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Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 21:24:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-16

Labels For Gene-modified Food

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Feb 15, 1999

Mandatory labeling of all genetically modified food sold in British shops, carry-outs and restaurants is to be introduced next month in an attempt to quell growing fear of the foods.

Firms breaking regulations - to be policed by local authorities and government scientists - will face tough fines.

"We are going to be ruthless in enforcing this," British Food Minister Jeff Rooker said.

But attempts to clean up the reputation of genetically modified foods are likely to be undermined this week.

[ Monsanto ] , the U.S. corporation spearheading their production, is to admit illegally releasing modified oil-seed rape.

Campaigners fear such releases could lead to the creation of "super weeds" resistant to herbicides. They say this could pollinate nearby unmodified crops that might end up in human food without the public knowing.


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Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 21:24:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-16

Genetic minister 'should be axed'; GM crop lobby

The Guardian, Publication Date: February 15, 1999

Sections:
English Nature
National Farmers Union
British Retail Consortium
Consumers Association
Environmental charities
SCIMAC
The Government

English Nature

The Government's statutory advisers on wildlife have called for a moratorium on the commercial growing of herbicide and insect- resistant, genetically modified (GM) crops, fearing they could jeopardise wildlife. They want more field research, but do not expect this to be ready for three to four years. Only at this point, they say, should decisions be made on widespread GM releases.

National Farmers Union

Farm leaders say that GM foods offer some benefits but that they need to be regulated, labelled and monitored. `We are very aware of consumer concern and here is no point growing something for which there is no demand. The new Food Standards Agency is the sort of body that we would want to oversee developments,' said a spokesman.

British Retail Consortium

Britain's shopkeepers are increasingly concerned about the health side of GM foods. `It is not enough to wait for the Food Standards Agency . . . to respond to consumers' concerns,' says Elizabeth Phillips, deputy director general. `We urge the Government to put consumers' minds at rest.'

Consumers Association

Britain's leading consumer group called on the Prime Minister this week to block all further GM foods coming on to the market until the regulatory system has been overhauled. It wants full labelling, based on `traceability'. This would mean that almost all processed foods that use GM soya or maize, would have to be labelled. At present almost all escapes it.

Environmental charities

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the World Development Movement, Christian Aid, ActionAid, the Soil Association, and 23 other environmental and development charities, next week call for a five- year freeze on the growing of GM crops in Britain, and a halt to imports. The coalition includes Iceland supermarket chain and Townswomen's Guilds.

SCIMAC

The Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops is a biotech industry body set up to develop a code of practice. Members include GM company [ Monsanto ] , and the NFU. It has agreed to a voluntary one-year moratorium on the commercial growing of herbicide- resistant crops, and a three-year moratorium on insect-resistant varieties. However, loopholes mean the first crops may be planted within a month. European Parliament

This week the European Parliament voted for tighter regulation on GM crops. If passed, it would mean that biotech companies would be legally liable for any adverse health or environmental effects caused by the organisms. They would be required to have compulsory insurance.

The Government

The Government believes that biotechnology offers huge potential for better food and environmentally-friendly crops. However, ministers recognise the public concern. They claim to have a `comprehensive framework' of regulation to ensure products are thoroughly assessed before their approval.

(Copyright 1999)


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Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 21:24:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-16

Thanks to: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty) for posting this:

Genetic Engineering Talks Hits Snag

February 17, 1999 © Copyright 1999, Associated Press

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA - The Associated Press via NewsEdge Corporation : U.N.-sponsored talks on regulating trade in genetically modified organisms from pest-resistant food crops to pharmaceuticals were in knots Tuesday over developing countries' insistence they be allowed to restrict imports and be compensated for any environmental damage.

It was unclear whether an international treaty, an outgrowth of the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil, could be achieved in this weeks' negotiations attended by more than 130 nations in the Caribbean city of Cartagena. It's rare that you come into a negotiation at this stage with so many said Rafe Pomerance, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for environment at the talks.

A draft of the Biosafety Protocol which had more than 600 disputed passages is supposed to be defined by Friday and signed next Tuesday before it is ratified by signatories.

Developing nations fear genetically engineered crops could have devastating effects on their rich biological diversity, cultural traditions and more rudimentary agriculture. Our knowledge of these things is too scanty. Until proven not dangerous, Tewolde Gebre Egziabher, Ethiopia's chief environmental official, said of the new strains of plants that scientists have created by tinkering with DNA, the genetic building blocks of life.

Although widely accepted and approved in the United States, biogenetically modified crops have won less acceptance in Europe, where several countries, including Austria and Luxembourg, have banned specific biogenetic crops fearing potentially catastrophic environmental consequences. said he spoke for most developing nations spanning Africa, Latin America and including China in demanding that the protocol:

Grant individual countries the right to selectively ban or restrict imports of biologically engineered organisms and their byproducts or derivatives.

Make producers of such organisms legally liable for any damages.

Force biotech manufacturers to provide early warning to countries whose agricultural output would be adversely affected.

Egziabher said Ethiopia would, for example, want to be informed immediately if a new strain of genetically engineered coffee were to be developed that could cut into sales of its leading export crop. Many agricultural commodities are being replaced through genetic said Egziabher.

Vanilla, long a chief income source for the Indian Ocean nations of Madagascar and the Comoros Islands, was now being made in vats in California, he said.

The United States only has observer status at the talks because it is not among the 174 countries that have ratified the Biodiversity Convention produced at the 1992 Earth Summit. But it is still a heavyweight.

Backed by allies including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina, the United States is seeking to protect a rapidly growing multibillion-dollar industry whose proponents insist bioengineering is a safe, proven and environmentally sound technology with myriad benefits. Few products have received the scrutiny, the close attention and said Karil Kochenderfer of the Grocery Manufacturers of America, a U.S. industry group.

The head of the Chilean delegation, Roland Stein, said Tuesday that never in the two decades of international trade in genetically modified organisms has biodiversity been endangered.

Biotechnology industry groups accuse environmentalists like Greenpeace of using unfounded scare tactics based on unproven claims of biogenetic hazards to impede the spread of products that reduce the use of pesticides and raise crop yields dramatically. said Val Giddings, vice president for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization. In the United States last year, 25 percent of the corn crop, 38 percent of soy beans and 45 percent of cotton were genetically modified, said Giddings. 95 percent of all U.S. crops

Pomerance, the U.S. diplomat, said Washington believes that any protocol with overburdensome requirements would be perceived as impeding trade _ and might never be ratified by enough countries to take effect.


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Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 21:24:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-16

following article posted by Bradford Duplisea brad@pei.sympatico.ca at Sierra Club of Canada:

Demand for More Research on Safety

By Paul Brown, Environment Correspondent, The Guardian (UK), Wednesday February 17 1999

Forty organisations yesterday called on the Government to freeze commercial development of genetically engineered food and crops for five years. An unprecedented alliance between religious and environmental groups, aid agencies, and a frozen food chain, supported by scientists and MPs, demanded a moratorium to make sure that the genetic engineering was safe.

Their joint policy statement, made at a packed meeting at the House of Commons, said: 'Some believe there is no place for the technology in our countryside and on our plates; others think it could bring benefits as long as it can be properly regulated and the consumer is offered genuine choice. The thing that unites them all is the immediate need to stop and consider the massive social, economic and environmental effects worldwide. It will take at least five years for vital research to be undertaken and for genuine public participation processes to be established.'


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Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 21:24:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-16

posted by Paul Davis devatalk@mcmail.com

Monsanto Defiant After 17,000 'Escaped Pollen' Fine

PA News Service 17 Feb 99

American biotechnology giant Monsanto has vowed to fight any move to halt the development of genetically-modified foods in Britain after being fined for breach of existing laws in a landmark legal case.

The company was fined 17,000 with 6,159 costs by magistrates in Caistor, Lincolnshire, after admitting that a test planting of GM oil seed rape failed to meet rules intended to stop the spread of pollen to other crops.

The case - the first of its kind in Britain - was another setback for the Government in its attempts to extract itself from the deepening controversy over the safety of GM foods.


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Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 21:24:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-16

Protests in London

ED HARRIS and PETER GRUNER report Evening Standard - London
Publication Date: February 16, 1999

PROTESTERS were due to gather at the House of Commons today to call for a five-year moratorium on genetic foods. An unprecedented coalition of 29 consumer, health, environment and development groups want a freeze on genetically modified foods in the wake of widespread concern over their risk to health and the countryside.

Campaigners claim they are reflecting huge fears among the public. They also say that people simply do not know enough about the subject to make informed decisions. Their claims come at an uncomfortable time for food producer [ Monsanto ] , on the eve of its appearance at Caistor Magistrates Court in Lincolnshire to answer charges of breaching legally required safety measures on a GM oilseed rape test site in the county. However, biotech companies say their GM foods and products are perfectly safe. They claim that years of research and field tests mean that their products pose no risk to humans.

The genetic engineering industry dismisses the scare whipped up in the press as "hysteria" and says it is time to separate science fact from science fiction. Stories about fish genes being implanted in tomatoes do nothing but create rumour and obscure the truth, one company said today.

Dan Verakis of American biotech giant Monsanto said: "Everybody needs to calm down. There are good scientific answers to the questions that are being asked. "What is needed is good scientific discussion to separate the truth from the myths. It has become a political issue and it should not be.It is sad that there is such hysteria. It creates an anti-science climate."

But lined up against the GM companies are groups including Action Against Allergy, the British Society of Nature Conservation, the Catholic Institute for International Relations, Christian Aid, the Soil Association and the Vegetarian Society. They want a five-year freeze on the growing of GM crops for any commercial purpose, the import of GM foods and farm crops, and the patenting of genetic resources for food and farm crops.

"The Government seems to be deaf to all but a few, carefully selected, commercially-based opinions," said Sandra Bell, Five Year Freeze Campaign co-ordinator. "This flies in the face of the widespread public concern at the rush to embrace GM crops and food. Five years gives us all the time necessary to make informed decisions." They also want television to make prime time available for a nation-wide public debate on the issue with the support of Monsanto.

At today's campaign launch was Dr Vyvyan Howard, the leading toxicologist from Liverpool University, and adviser to the Government. He wants GM foods to be treated like new medicines and be thoroughly tested before they are given to the public. "There is no need to rush these foods on the public," he said. "The only reason we are rushing them is commercial pressure."

Dr Simon Lyster, director general of the Wildlife Trust, warned that British wildlife was already under threat from intensive farming and GM foods could make a bad situation even worse. "There has been a catastrophic decline in biodiversity in the farm landscape over the last 50 years," he said. "The message is that within the farming landscape wildlife is already in serious trouble and we need GM products like we need a hole in the head."

Malcolm Walker, chief executive of Iceland Foods, also supports the campaign. His company banned all genetically modified ingredients from their own-brand products almost a year ago.


Top PreviousFront Page

Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 21:24:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-16

posted on allsorts@pop.gn.apc.org newsgroup

U.S. Lobbies Against Biotechnology Curbs

by Rick Weiss and Justin Gillis, Washington Post/Front, Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999

THE U.S. government and scores of corporations are scrambling to prevent a proposed international accord from sharply restricting the global flow of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of genetically engineered products, ranging from cotton seeds to soft drinks.

The intense lobbying effort will climax this week as negotiators from more than 170 countries convene in Colombia to draw up final language on the pact, which would be the world's first accord to regulate the spread of genetically manipulated organisms. It could promote or restrict the burgeoning biotechnology industry worldwide.

Despite years of preparatory negotiations, however, philosophical rifts loom between the handful of countries ready and eager to ship genetically engineered products around the world and the many other countries that remain wary of the biotechnology revolution.

Environmental groups see the proposed agreement as their first opportunity to set ecological standards for trade in gene-altered crops, livestock and other products. Yet many American companies -- along with the governments of the United States, Canada, Australia and others -- are alarmed about draft language they say could severely disrupt world trade.

.


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

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