Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

3 March 99

Table of Contents

Hi-tech Canola Causes Stir in Saskatchewan
Coming Soon: Cow's Milk With Added Hormones
Risk of Escaped GM Food Genes
Biotech firms welcome GMO talks breakdown
UK Seed Merchant Confirms Huge Commercial Opportunity for Non-GM Foods
Indian Supreme Court Notice Given To Monsanto
Third World rejects GM
UK GM Foods: Cunningham faces Commons quiz on fiasco over new crops
GM Foods - Watchdog's Silence on the Guilty Broke Law
GM Foods - The Price Of Disaster Will Not Be Paid By Those Responsible
Ottawa Accused Of Scuttling Biotech Deal
Canada blocks move to regulate trade of "Frankenfood"
Firm is rapped for GM adverts
Seeds Of Dissension
Global Resistance Mounts Against Monsanto & Genetic Engineering
Global Days of Action Against Monsanto and Genetic Engineering April 15-30, 1999

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Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 11:17:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GENEws2-27

Subject: Monsanto in Saskatchewan
posted by: peter.w@sk.sympatico.ca (Warren Peterson)

Hi-tech Canola Causes Stir in Saskatchewan

Candace Holmstrom reports for CBC Radio. WebPosted Tue Feb 23 04:27:23 1999

REGINA - A battle is brewing in Saskatchewan over farm seeds. At stake is patent-protected canola.

Round Up Ready Canola was developed by the multi-national company Monsanto.

After spending millions of dollars coming up with the product, Monsanto wants to make sure its special seeds are protected. And it's willing to go to court to make sure that happens.

The seed has been changed genetically. Once a farmer plants it, instead of needing three or four herbicides, the only weed control the crop needs is Round Up -- a Monsanto product.

If farmers want to use Round Up Ready Canola, they have to sign a contract with Monsanto.

"You cannot re-plant this seed a second year. If you're not comfortable with the term and condition that we can come and inspect your fields and bins for up to three years afterwards -- if that disturbs you -- then please do not buy the technology," said Aaron Mitchell, in charge of biotechnology in Western Canada for Monsanto.

So far, 16 farmers in Western Canada have been caught breaking the contract or patent rules. They re-planted or grew seed for which they didn't even pay. Most are in Saskatchewan.

Noreen Johns, who farms north of Regina, signed the contract with Monsanto -- and follows the rules. But Johns worries how much control farmers are losing with this kind of technology and marketing.

"So now we see the chemical companies not only marketing chemical to us, but controlling in the seed market," Johns told CBC News.

One of the ways Monsanto is catching farmers who break the rules is through an anonymous tips telephone line. But people like Johns aren't picking up the phone to tattle on neighbours.

She asks who's the real culprit: the farmer who breaks the rules, or the chemical company which sets them.

The courts will decide.

The first legal test for Monsanto's patent on canola is expected to begin this fall in Saskatchewan.


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Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 11:17:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GENEws2-27

Coming Soon: Cow's Milk With Added Hormones

By George Monbiot, The Guardian Weekly Volume 160 Issue 9 for week ending February 28, 1999,

Thanks to free trade rules, Britain will be powerless to resist imported GM food, warns George Monbiot

LIKE a family in the midst of a massive domestic row, the participants in the great genetic war are already having trouble recalling how it began. Dr Arpad Pusztai's potatoes and their effect on rats have been all but forgotten, while the underlying tensions, ever present, but seldom acknowledged, have burst out into the open. At last Tony Blair's sordid affair with the corporate seductress and the terrible mess she has made in the garden are being discussed.

The row is threatening to split the Labour household apart. Jack Cunningham, the Downing Street "enforcer", has been roaring up and down the stairs telling everyone else to shut up. The environment minister, Michael Meacher, having hidden in the potting shed, has run back indoors with the news that he's seen something nasty in the vegetable patch.

While Dr Cunningham continues to insist that the new plants carry no conceivable risks, Mr Meacher has hinted at the need to delay the introduction of commercial planting of GM crops in Britain. His department told journalists that there will probably be no approvals for full-scale cultivation before 2001. The neighbours are beginning to weigh in on his side.The Government's chief scientist, Sir Robert May, has expressed grave concerns about the damage that the new crops might do to wildlife -- herbicide-resistant crops allow farmers to eliminate almost all other species from their fields. The environment department has been forced to publish a delayed report in which these warnings are echoed. Last week the biotechnology company Monsanto was fined for failing to isolate one of its test crops from the wider environment.

And Middle England has begun to realise that when Mr Blair is faced with a conflict between its needs and those of his other constituency, big business, he sides with the corporations. If the Prime Minister begins, at last, to listen to Mr Meacher's anxieties, he will soon run into a new problem: that whether or not it wants to act, the Government might be unable to do so. Both Tory and Labour governments have been so determined to facilitate "free trade" that they have progressively signed away their right to intervene.

If the Government seeks to prevent corporations from forcing us to grow and eat their crops, the corporations will appeal, first to the European Union, then to the World Trade Organisation. And they will win, because the governments of the First World have already determined that, in cases like this, private profit outweighs public protection.

Food scares happen in Britain because people feel they have no control over what they eat. Our decisions are made for us by invisible and unaccountable corporations. We are just about to discover precisely how powerless we are.In just under three months the media will stumble across another issue that it has managed to ignore for years. This one is even scarier. Monsanto has developed an injectable growth hormone that increases the production of cow's milk. Some scientists argue that it also increases the levels of something called Insulin Growth Factor 1. IGF-1 can cross the digestive tract intact from milk to the bloodstream of consumers. People with elevated IGF-1 levels are at greater risk from breast and prostate cancer.The EU banned milk and beef from cattle treated with this hormone. On behalf of Monsanto, the United States government appealed to the WTO. The organisation has given Europe until May 13 to start importing hormone-treated beef and milk. Mr Blair will wriggle, Dr Cunningham will roar, but, short of provoking a trade war, they can do nothing whatever to protect British consumers.

The European elections will be fought, four weeks later, in the midst of this crisis. The Greens could win even more votes than they did in 1989, and this time they will carry seats. Labour's backbench guerrillas will launch a frontal attack. And Mr Blair, lost as he always is when the politics of presentation yields to the politics of substance, will wonder how on earth so vigorous a vine grew from a humble potato.


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Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 11:17:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GENEws2-27

Thanks to MichaelP papadop@peak.org for posting this:

Risk of Escaped GM Food Genes

By Sarah Hall, The [London] Guardian February 26 1999

GENES from genetically modified foods could evade scientists' control, "leak out" and infect other organisms, an eminent genetics professor warned yesterday.

Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College, London, said evolution was " predictable" and organisms' genetic make up altered naturally as they developed resistance.

He added: "The genes you put in may actually leak out and get to places where we can't control them ... Genes can leap in the most extraordinary and alarming way. There's no reason to say the same thing cannot happen in genetically modified plants. It only has to happen once. The dangers are really quite real."

Prof Jones was speaking last night at a Guardian debate - GM Foods: Where does the truth lie? - at Westminster Central Hall, central London.

Likening the Green movement to Nazism in its reactionary ignorance and emotiveness, he said he [nevertheless] supported a moratorium on growing GM crops in Britain.

"I definitely think we need more knowledge before we make the same mistakes with GM foods that we made with penicillin - and I most clearly think we should stop doing this until we know more about it," he said.

Guardian columnist and visiting professor at Green College, Oxford, George Monbiot, warned there was a major gulf between the manufacturers' claim for GM foods and what they really intended to do: rather than increase food production in the next century, they would be "the hunger merchants of the new millennium. "

He said the aim of genetic engineering was to wrest control of "the biggest commodity market of all - namely food".


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Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 11:17:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GENEws2-27

Biotech firms welcome GMO talks breakdown

ENDS Daily - 25/02/99

European and international biotechnology industry groups have welcomed the breakdown on Wednesday of talks on an international protocol on trade and use of live genetically modified organisms (GMOs). According to the European biotechnology industry association EuropaBio, the biosafety protocol was so deeply flawed that "it's better to have no protocol".

Paul Muys of the association said that the biotechnology industry would welcome "a protocol that proved we are serious about maintaining biodiversity," but that the current proposal would in fact mean "more red tape and bureaucracy". EuropaBio and other industry groups particularly object to the demands of some countries that the biosafety protocol should be given a scope wide enough to cover agricultural commodities, such as soya and oilseed rape. For several of these genetically modified varieties are beginning to appear on the market. The international Grain and Feed Trade Association (Gafta) backed EuropaBio's position on this today, saying that it did not want a protocol that "gives unnecessary disruption to trade".

EuropaBio also attacked a proposal for the biosafety protocol to include a requirement for importing countries to be informed by exporters before any individual shipment of GMOs covered by the instrument. This would be "madness," said Mr Muys. EuropaBio and its sister organisation in the USA are also unhappy with a proposed framework of legal liability under discussion.

Contacts: EuropaBio http://www.europa-bio.be, tel: +32 2 735 03
Gafta http://www.gafta.com, tel: +44 171 814 9666


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Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 11:17:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GENEws2-27

UK Seed Merchant Confirms Huge Commercial Opportunity for Non-GM Foods

Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 22:02:31 -0000

Hampshire seed merchant Robin Appel was interviewed this week by the British "Independent" newspaper (20 February 1999) about a new variety of non-genetically modified soya his company has developed for growing in the UK. Robin Appel confirmed the huge commercial opportunities for UK businesses being generated by consumer demand for food sources which are not genetically modified.


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Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 11:17:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GENEws2-27

Indian Supreme Court Notice Given To Monsanto

OTC 23.02.99 10:37

NEW DELHI, Feb 23, 1999 (Asia Pulse via COMTEX) -- India's Supreme Court (SC) has notified the federal government and life sciences multinational Monsanto on the grounds of a violation of environmental laws that regulate genetic engineering.

The SC's notice is in response to a writ petition filed by Delhi-based NGO Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) against illegal trials conducted by Monsanto on genetically engineered Bacillus Thuringensis (Bt) cotton.

Monsanto has been under scrutiny since it tied up with Maharashtra Seed Company MAHYCO in June last to conduct trials in nine states for genetically engineered cotton. The petitioner has requested a moratorium on commercial sales and distribution of seeds and crops while strict ecological test designs and environmental regulations are formulated. RFSTE also asked the Court to declare the August 1998 guidelines framed by the Department of Biotechnology as Ultra Vires.

Monsanto was also sued in England and lost the case, an RFTSE statement said. The UK government is said to have announced a two-year ban on commercial planting of genetically engineered plants. (PTI)


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Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 06:48:32 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-1

Third World rejects GM

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent Sunday Independent (London) Feb 28, 1999

The world's hungriest nations have resolved to oppose genetically modified foods. A senior Ethiopian government official last night told the Independent on Sunday they were "absolutely united" in resisting US plans to "decide what we eat".

Dr Tewolde Gebre Egziabher was speaking after last week's talks collapsed in Cartagena, Colombia, following the United States' accusation that the developing countries were endangering free trade. An international treaty to regulate trade in GM produce had been discussed by 132 nations.

The revolt will strike a chord in the West, with many associating the 1980 Ethiopia famines - which sparked Live Aid - with severe food shortages. Some biotechnology firms have consistently argued that GM crops' increased resistance to parasites and disease makes them suitable for the Third World.

Dr Egziabher, the senior Third World negotiator at the talks, said Third World resistance to the imposition of GM crops was increasing. Last week the government of Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil, the country's second largest soya-producing region, said it would ban the planting of GM beans produced by the US giant, Monsanto. And India's Supreme Court stopped trials of GM cotton.

The Third World's tough stance undermines the biotech companies' justification for GM crops - that they will help end world hunger; Dr Egziabher said that instead they could worsen the plight of the hungry.

The developing countries insisted the US and other food exporters ship GM foods separately from normal ones, and seek their "prior informed consent" before exporting. But the US and five other exporting countries - including Canada, Australia and Argentina - fear Third World countries would boycott GM produce.


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Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 06:48:32 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-1

UK GM Foods: Cunningham faces Commons quiz on fiasco over new crops

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent, Sunday Independent (London) Feb 28, 1999

One of Parliament's most powerful committees is to scrutinise the Government's policies on genetically modified (GM) foods.

Its members plan to call the cabinet "enforcer" Jack Cunningham to account for this month's fiasco, when panic-stricken ministers were overwhelmed by the strength of public outrage, and were forced to go on the defensive, backing the products.

The urgent inquiry, by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, will alarm the Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues, who had hoped to draw a line under the issue after the embarrassment of recent weeks.

Mr Blair, who is deeply committed to the development of GM crops and foods, has been privately telling MPs that the recent outcry is a "flash in the pan" and predicting that it would disappear. But the inquiry will ensure that it will remain a political issue until the committee completes its report in the spring. The committee, established by the Government last year to scrutinise environmental policies throughout Whitehall, starts its inquiry on Tuesday.

Members will finally decide who to call as witnesses on Tuesday, but they have already discussed calling Dr Cunningham, who chairs a cabinet committee on biotechnology. He acted as spokesman for the Government during the recent outcry, and noticeably failed in his attempts to reassure the public.


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Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 06:48:32 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-1

GM Foods - Watchdog's Silence on the Guilty Broke Law

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent, Sunday Independent (London) Feb 28, 1999

The official watchdog on genetically modified crops has broken the law by refusing to name companies that have flouted safety rules in growing them, or even to give full details of how often such breaches have taken place, writes Geoffrey Lean.

The Health and Safety Executive, which inspects trial plantings of the crops to make sure the rules are being observed, said that it would not identify the companies because doing so might "unreasonably disadvantage them". It has now admitted that it acted illegally in trying to keep the information secret.

The revelation is likely to cause an outcry following the recent conviction of the controversial US giant Monsanto and Perry Fields Ltd for breaking the rules at a trial site near Caister, Lincolnshire. Monsanto was fined £17,000 and Perry Fields £14,000 in the first case of its kind.

The HSE's secrecy undermines constant assurances from ministers about the strictness and openness of the regulatory authorities on GM crops in Britain.


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Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 06:48:32 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-1

GM Foods - The Price Of Disaster Will Not Be Paid By Those Responsible

Justine Thornton is a barrister specialising in environmental law at Simmons & Simmons Solicitors. She is co-author of 'Environmental Law'.
Sunday Independent (London), Feb 28, 1999

There is a gaping hole in the law, says Justine Thornton. Farmers, not seed companies, may be held to blame for any damage Who takes responsibility if the worst does happen and huge "superweeds" darken our skyline and our wildlife disappears as a result of GM crops? The law governing genetically modified organisms avoids this question, with the result that nothing can be done about the loss of any wildlife and farmers, rather than the seed companies, may find themselves in the firing line.

The UK was one of the first countries in the European Community to develop a legal framework for genetic engineering and laws governing the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms have been in place since 1990. Anyone wishing to release GM organisms into the environment, or market them, must apply to the Government for consent. The application must be advertised in local newspapers and must include an assessment of the risks to human health and the environment.

The laws do not, however, go on to consider who will take responsibility for the consequences of growing the crops. In the absence of any specific legislation, it is the farmers who plant the crops who may well be liable for any damage caused to the environment. A farmer could be sued by neighbouring farmers whose organic crops have been killed by powerful herbicides sprayed on the genetically modified crops, or by residents whose gardens have become overrun by "superweeds".

If a farmer is sued, it will not matter how careful he has been in spraying the herbicide or how many precautions he has taken to contain his crops. The very fact that the damage has happened will be enough to make him liable, providing the damage is reasonably foreseeable.


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Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 06:48:32 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-1

Ottawa Accused Of Scuttling Biotech Deal

By: ANNE MCILROY, Parliamentary Bureau, GLOBE AND MAIL (Canada), Fri Feb 26, 1999

Canada helped broker agreement regulating imports of genetically altered foods in 1992

Environmentalists say Canada helped torpedo an international agreement that would have regulated shipments of genetically altered food and crops such as potatoes that produce their own pesticide.

The talks in Cartagena, Colombia, ended Wednesday without an agreement on the multibillion-dollar trade in genetically modified products. These foods are grown and eaten in Canada and the United States, but are far more controversial in the United Kingdom, Europe and the developing world.

"Canada played the heavy," said Benny Haerlin, spokesman for Greenpeace International.

Canada was part of a group of grain-exporting countries, including the United States, Australia, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, that rejected a compromise and insisted on a narrowly focused treaty that would have little impact on the industry. The group insisted the treaty should apply only to seeds and not to commodities, and opposed requirements to label genetically altered products.

Labels are required in many European countries, although in Canada and the United States consumers have no way of knowing whether the bread or potatoes they are consuming contain genes for herbicides or pesticides.

The agreement on biosafety was the first protocol the nations of the world attempted to negotiate under the international treaty on protecting plant and animal species that was signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil. Then-prime-minister Brian Mulroney has been credited with helping broker a compromise on the convention, and as a result, Canada was the first country to sign it.

The United States did not sign the treaty, so could not even have signed the protocol being negotiated in Colombia had an agreement been reached. Canada acted as a mouthpiece for the Americans, said Mr. Haerlin, as well as pushing its own hard-line views.

Canadian environmentalists were appalled.

"Canada played the lead in trying to sink this thing, event though we brokered the convention at Rio. That is why it is so embarrassing," said Mark Winfield, research director at the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy.

But Paul Haddow, a member of the Canadian delegation, said the proposed agreement was too broad, too complicated and had too many important trade implications.

"It would have been an environmental mistake for us to have signed that agreement," he said. But negotiations, which were supposed to end this week, will continue. Canada is anxious to help developing countries implement a regulatory approach to genetically modified crops that is similar to the one in place here, Mr. Haddow said.

The issue of genetically engineered crops is related to protecting plant species, because there is fear they will breed with, and replace, native varieties in some countries.

There has been conflict between the Environment Department and trade officials over Canada's position. In an interview before the negotiations began, a Canadian official explained that as a major exporter of genetically altered canola, Canada couldn't agree to sign something that would make it far more difficult to sell the product. Officials also say there is little connection between labelling genetically modified food products and protecting plant species.

Earlier this month, the first evidence of health problems connected with genetically modified foods emerged in the United Kingdom, where there is a growing scandal over products that have not been properly labelled so that consumers can make an informed choice.


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Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 06:48:32 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-1

Canada blocks move to regulate trade of "Frankenfood"

by Christopher Shulgan Ottawa Citizen, February 26, 1999

Canada has taken another step away from its status as a "green" country, environmentalists say, after it acted to end an international convention aimed at regulating the trade of genetically engineered "Frankenfood" on Wednesday.

More than 110 nations were ready to agree to the Biosafety Protocol on Wednesday at an international conference in Cartagena, Columbia.

But Canada, supported by the United States and four other major agricultural exporters, moved to suspend negotiations because the agreement failed to make special accommodations for exports destined to be eaten or processed instead of planted.

The latter poses a much greater risk of being released into the environment than the first two sorts of exports.

Calling Canada's part in the first international environmental negotiation in 20 years not reach a consensus a "fiasco," Steve Shallhorn, campaign director for Greenpeace Canada, said the country is acting in the interests of the biotechnology industry rather than for public health and safety.

The national has lost its status in the world forum as an environmentally friendly nation, he said. "Canada is a brown country, not a green one."

The countries agreed to resume talks no later than May 2000.

At the Cartagena meeting, governments discussed the risks that biotechnology may pose to biological diversity and human health. The issue is of key importance in Europe, which is weathering concerns about public health following the mad cow disease scare.

Canada and the rest of the "Miami group" of big agricultural exporters -Australia, Argentina, Chile, the United States, and Uruguay- will agree to some regulations, principally for agricultural products such as seeds that will be released into the environment

But the Miami group differed from the rest of the international community in calling for different treatment of agricultural products such as canola, corn and soy, which are exported for food and pose only a small risk of escaping into an importer's ecosystem.

Other contentious regulation included requiring exporters to inform the importing country what portion of an exported commodity has been genetically engineered.

Countries also disagreed over who would be held liable for damages if genetically engineered crops do enter the ecosystem and subsequently harm the environment.

A big reason Canada and the Miami group were against the proposal is because they felt it would restrict international trade too severely. Canada argued that specifying what proportion of a crop is biologically engineered on a shipment-by-shipment basis is virtually impossible, because of the way the crop distribution system works. Shippers do not differentiate between engineered and "natural" canola, for example, so the mix can vary drastically shipment to shipment.

The main genetically engineered crops in Canada are potatoes, corn, soy and canola. About 30 to 50 percent of Canada's $3-billion canola crop is genetically engineered, principally for resistance to herbicides and pesticides. About 25 percent of the nation's soy and corn crop is genetically modified.

The United States has a particular interest in the matter. The country holds a clear international lead in biotechnology, and some countries have voiced suspicions about the link between the Clinton administration and biotechnology giant Monsanto Co., which is owned by a key supporter of the president.

The Biosafety Protocol also would have made it easier for countries to ban shipments of genetically engineered crops out of concerns that they might harm ecological diversity.

Environmentalists fear such super-crops could cause eco-disasters. They say cross-pollination of such crops with wild plants could lead to that are near impossible to control.

Current World Trade Organization rules allow a country to bar agricultural shipments only if they stand to harm people or wildlife. Possible harm to an ecological system is not grounds to ban a crop, said Mark Winfield, director of research at the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy.

Since the U.S. has not ratified the convention that led to the Cartagena meeting, the superpower was not a voting member in the talks. Canada's action to end the conference has led to some observers alleging that it was a puppet of the Americans. "We carried the ball for them," Mr. Winfield said.


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Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 06:48:32 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-1

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

Firm is rapped for GM adverts

The Scotsman, March 01, 1999

A MILLION pound media campaign by the GM foods company [ Monsanto ] has been criticised by the advertising watchdog as "wrong" and "misleading", it was revealed yesterday.

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld six out of 13 complaints in a draft report into claims made last year by the US- owned biotechnology company about the safety of genetically modified crops.

A leaked copy of the document criticises Monsanto for passing off its opinion "as accepted fact" and suggesting that GM potatoes and tomatoes have been approved for sale in Britain.

Campaigners against the so-called Frankenstein foods welcomed the ruling, which has yet to be approved by the ASA's governing council, as proof of their claims that Monsanto was trying to distort debate on the issue.


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Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 06:48:32 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-1

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

Seeds Of Dissension

The Ottawa Citizen, February 26, 1999

For the first time in 20 years, international negotiations on a key environmental issue have failed to meet their deadline. The collapse of talks in Colombia this week is a serious blow to environmental security, leaving the world with no agreement on how to regulate the international transportation of plants and animals produced by the relatively new science of genetic modification. Who is responsible? Canada's own Jean Chretien, among others.

Canada joined five other nations to thwart an agreement that had been reached among the other 125 nations represented in Colombia. The thread binding Canada and her allied nay-sayers (the United States, Argentina, Australia, Chile, and Uruguay) is our reliance on exports of crops created by genetic modification -- in which scientists snip out bits of genes from other plants or animals and implant them in crops, creating new plants that may, for example, be resistant to certain insects or likelier to survive drought.

In the U.S., somewhere between 25 and 45 per cent of all crops are the result of genetic modification. More than 40 per cent of Canada's canola crop is genetically modified, as are about a quarter of our soy beans and corn.

Currently, these crops are treated like any other. If a nation restricts their import, it risks sanctions under international trade agreements. Only if it has hard scientific proof that a genetically modified organism (GMO) is dangerous to human health or the environment can it stop its entry.

Clear evidence of human health effects is hard enough to get, and the environment is notoriously difficult to predict. What happens if genetically modified crops brought into a country, either for planting or consumption, escape into the local environment? Will they out-compete local species and drive them into extinction? Will they swallow habitats and defy efforts to stop them? Until the GMO is actually introduced, it is difficult to answer these questions with scientific clarity. And once it is introduced, it's too late. This is not mere speculation.

>From rabbits in Australia to purple loosestrife suffocating Ontario wetlands, we have ample experience of how the introduction of species alien to an ecosystem can go horribly wrong. That's why most governments strictly regulate importation of foreign species. GMOs contain novel genes and trade law should allow governments to treat them accordingly.

Such safeguards could be twisted into protectionism, but are not inherently precautionary and forbid the entry of GMOs until there is evidence they are safe. In this way, the benefits of biotechnology can be balanced with the safety of ecosystems.

There is a cost to be paid with this approach: slower growth of the biotech industry and more expensive food. This is why Canada and its five allies did all they could to hamstring the biosafety negotiations, including enshrined in the agreement, and even more modest proposals like allowing nations to require the separation of genetically modified and unmodified crops.

The failure in Colombia has no doubt delighted biotech giants like Monsanto, but it was only one in a string of wins. When the European Union considered requiring products made with genetically modified crops to be labelled accordingly, the U.S. government bullied the Europeans into backing down with threats of trade war. New Zealand capitulated even faster. Oh, and did we mention that Monsanto's CEO is a major financial backer, and chum, of William Jefferson Clinton?

The success of American stonewalling in Colombia is particularly galling given that the U.S. isn't even a signatory to the 1992 Biodiversity Convention, which is the basis of the biosafety talks. The U.S. even opposed opening the negotiations in the first place.

Canada's opposition goes beyond galling to disgusting, since it was Canadian leadership that helped create the Convention that we are now obstructing. But of course that leadership was provided by Brian Mulroney. Jean Chretien can hardly be expected to follow the policies of such a notorious deep ecologist.


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Date: Wed, 3 Mar 1999 15:40:24 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson Food Bytes newsletter

I thought you might find this newsletter interesting. Richard


FOOD BYTES #17 March 2, 1999

News and Analysis on Genetic Engineering, Factory Farming, & Organics
by: Ronnie Cummins & Ben Lilliston
Campaign for Food Safety & Organic Consumers Association
alliance@mr.net
http://www.purefood.org
http//:www.organicconsumers.org

Affiliated with the Center for Food Safety (Washington, D.C.)
http://www.icta.org

Special Issue:

Global Resistance Mounts Against Monsanto & Genetic Engineering

Quotes of the month:

"Everybody over here hates us."

Dan Verakis, Monsanto PR spokesman in the U.K., quoted in the London Observer 2/21/99.

"Tony, Don't Swallow Bill's Seed."

Greenpeace banner on their delivery truck Feb. 18 in London as they dumped four tons of US GE-tainted soybeans on the front steps of #10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Tony Blair's official residence.

______________________________________________________________

In what the Financial Times of London characterized on Feb. 23 as a "public relations disaster for transgenic foods," global resistance to Monsanto and genetic engineering (GE) has sharply intensified over the past 60 days. As reported previously in Food Bytes (#13 & #15 ), the international anti-GE movement is rapidly developing into a serious threat to Monsanto and other biotechnology titans.

The growing crisis over gene-foods has reached the point where financial analysts are warning the Clinton administration that the European Union will not back off on efforts to label untested GE foods. Many believe this controversy could spawn a major trade war within the World Trade Organization (WTO). In Britain commentators have similarly warned Prime Minister Tony Blair that his cozy relationship with Bill Clinton and Bill's favorite corporation, Monsanto, could do severe damage to Blair.

It has been a rough last several months for Monsanto and the ag biotech special interests. Here is a chronological blow by blow account:

  1. The Fall/Winter 1998 issue of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Gene Exchange warns of recent US research showing that genetically engineered Bt crops are building up Bt toxins in the soil, thereby damaging the soil food web and harming beneficial insects.

  2. On December 15, 1998 attorneys from the Center for Food Safety, on behalf of a broad coalition, filed a legal petition in Washington, D.C. against the FDA to have rBGH taken off the market. The legal action received major attention from the mass media, including a widely-viewed segment on ABC TV national news. The CFS petition cites mounting evidence that the original testing of rBGH was flawed. In 1990 the FDA said BGH was "safe for human consumption." Part of its findings were based on 90-day rat feeding studies in which they reported "no toxicologically significant changes..."

    Based largely on this conclusion, FDA did not require human toxicological tests usually required for a veterinary drug. However in April of 1998, researchers from Health Canada, the Canadian equivalent to FDA, issued a report which contradicted FDA's findings. Canadian researchers found studies showing that rats were absorbing rBGH after all. In fact, between 20 and 30 percent of the rats were developing distinct immunological reactions. Additionally, cysts formed in the thyroid of some male rats and infiltrated the prostate--both warning signs for potential cancer hazards.

    "These are toxicologically significant changes in the rats and they should have triggered a full human health review, including assessment of potential carcinogenic and immunological effects," said Dr. Michael Hansen, an expert on rBGH and a scientist with the Consumer Policy Institute, a division of Consumers Union. According to CFS attorneys it is "unclear" how or why these results were overlooked in the original FDA review of rBGH. Monsanto says it submitted the studies to the FDA, while the agency says it only saw summaries of the rat tests.

    "We're going to go to the courts and say--you were lied to," said Andrew Kimbrell, lead counsel for the CFS. "Essentially it was fraud by the agency and fraud by Monsanto in telling the court that there were no human health effects possible from consuming these products made with rBGH treated milk." The EU has already banned rBGH, but this policy comes up for review later this year. The US government has warned that they will file for damages under the WTO if the EU continues to ban Monsanto's rBGH.

  3. Australian trade authorities announced on Jan. 8, the largest shipment of canola (rapeseed) ever exported from Australia. The $16.5 million dollar shipment is bound for oilseed crushing plants in Europe. According to Graham Lawrence, managing director of the New South Wales Grains Board, "Europe has moved to become a major buyer this year because Australia is the only country to guarantee non-genetic modified canola." Canada has lost $300-400 million in canola sales to Europe over the last year because government authorities have followed the US model of co-mingling GE and non-GE grains. This year over 50% of Canada's 13.4 million acres of canola are genetically engineered.

  4. The mid-January 1999 issue of the California Farmer magazine reports that Bt resistance has emerged among pink bollworms, a major cotton pest, in Arizona cotton fields Biotech critics have warned for years that genetically engineered Bt crops will cause major crop pests to develop resistance to Bt, thereby destroying the usefulness of the world's most important natural biopesticide.

  5. On Jan. 14 Canadian government officials announced that they were not going to allow Monsanto's controversial recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH or rBST) to be injected into Canada's dairy cows. The ruling came after nine years of heavy lobbying by Monsanto and a major nationwide debate. Although the Canadian government and the media stressed that the permanent ban on rBGH was based primarily on animal health concerns, the data posted on their web site by the Canadian scientists who reviewed the drug made it clear that human health hazards were also a consideration, namely increased antibiotic residues and elevated levels of a potent human growth hormone factor and cancer promoter called IGF-1 found in rBGH-derived milk and dairy products. (For further information on the hazards of rBGH, see our web sites and )

  6. On Jan. 22, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that financial difficulties were forcing Monsanto to slash 1700 employees from its global workforce of 28,000. As indicated in previous Food Bytes, Monsanto now finds itself strapped for cash in the wake of last fall's failed merger with the American Home Products Corp. Monsanto's recent aggressive multi-billion dollar acquisitions of seed companies, research labs, and grain trading operations have increased their power and control over world markets, but have drastically reduced their available capital and lowered their stock values, leaving them potentially vulnerable to an unfriendly takeover by Dupont or Dow or another mega-corporation. Wall Street investment analyst William Fiala told the St. Louis Post Dispatch, "It seems like they (Monsanto) bit off more than they could chew after the merger collapsed. They are taking a risk that they could cut too deep in terms of personnel or could sell things out of necessity that are still good investments. Their debt is beyond Monsanto's comfort level and beyond most analysts' comfort level."

  7. Almost 200 cotton farmers in Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina are suing Monsanto for damages after crop failures of Monsanto's Bt and Roundup Ready cotton seeds, according to a news story in the Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on Jan. 25. In a separate lawsuit 25 cotton farmers in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana are suing Monsanto for fraud and misrepresentation--also in regard to Bt cotton crop failures.

  8. On Feb. 5, Carrefour, France's largest supermarket chain, announced that they were taking all genetically engineered foods off their shelves. A representative from Greenpeace France, Arnaud Apoteker, told anti-biotech activists at an conference in Cuernavaca, Mexico on Feb. 7 that Greenpeace and their allies were planning on driving all GE foods and crops out of France by the end of next year.

  9. On Feb. 12 front-page headline stories in the British press revealed that Dr. Arpad Pusztai's explosive research findings on the potential human health dangers of genetically engineered potatoes--first aired in the UK media last August--had been verified by a panel of 20 international scientists. Dr. Pusztai, a world renowned researcher on plant lectins, was fired last August from the government-funded Rowett Institute in Scotland, under very suspicious circumstances, shortly after he went public with research indicating that laboratory rats fed genetically engineered potatoes had suffered significant damage to their immune systems, thymuses, kidneys, spleens, and guts. According to press reports, Pusztai's firing and the ensuing scientific coverup by the UK government were a direct consequence of ongoing White House pressure on Tony Blair to keep the door open to Monsanto and other biotech companies to market and grow GE products in Britain and across the EU.

    When Dr. Pusztai fed conventional potatoes and snowdrop lectin (GNA) to rats, no damage occurred. But when Pusztai fed the rats an equivalent amount of potatoes which were gene-spliced with the snowdrop lectin, significant and startling damage became quickly evident. Despite deliberately false U.K. government allegations that Dr. Pusztai's experiments were purely theoretical, a number of biotech companies are currently carrying out similar lab and field tests on gene-spliced potatoes, rapeseed, rice, and cabbage, calculating that snowdrop-spliced food crops will repel crop pests.

    Perhaps even more alarming than Pusztai's mutant potatoes, scientists have subsequently pointed out that Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a gene routinely spliced into millions of acres of US corn, cotton, and potatoes is now considered to be a form of lectin. And more alarming yet, another scientist, Dr. Stanley Ewen, said that a commonly used vector or production aid in gene-splicing, the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus, may have caused serious damage to the stomach and internal organs of the rats in Pusztai's study. If the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV) is confirmed as being hazardous to mammals, this could literally become the "Chernobyl of Biotech"--since Roundup Ready soybeans, Bt corn, and most other GE crops are produced using the CaMV as a genetic splicing vector.

  10. On Feb. 13, eight days after Carrefour's announcement in Paris, a major British supermarket chain, Asda, announced that they were going to remove all genetically engineered ingredients from their own-brand goods. Asda's move comes in the wake of similar moves by other UK retail chains, including Iceland and Marks and Spencer. As Sheila McKechnie of the UK Consumers Association pointed out in the Daily Mail newspaper on Feb. 11, grocery chains banning GE foods like Carrefour will now "have an enormous competitive advantage" in the marketplace.

  11. Bloomberg News reported on February 13 that EU authorities had rejected Monsanto's request to grow GE Roundup Ready and Bollgard Bt cotton plants in Europe. Two days earlier the European Parliament voted to tighten GE regulations, demanding that GE corporations be compelled to purchase liability insurance to cover any and all damages resulting from gene-altered crops or foods. The Parliament also demanded stricter measures for the prevention of gene transfers from GMOs to other crops or wild species, as well as a ban on antibiotic-resistance marker genes in genetic crops.

  12. On February 18, an international coalition of public interest organizations, led by attorneys from the Center for Food Safety (Food Bytes and the Campaign for Food Safety are affiliated with the CFS) filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. to have all Bt crops taken off of the market because of the hazards they pose to the environment and public health. The February 18 Bt lawsuit was announced at a well-attended press conference in Washington, and generated significant coverage in the US press. Last May (see Food Bytes #13) the Center for Food Safety sued the FDA to have all genetically engineered foods taken off the market on the grounds that they are neither properly labeled nor safety-tested, and that lack of mandatory labeling illegally restricts the freedom of choice of those who would choose--on religious or ethical grounds--to avoid GE foods.

    "Genetically engineered crops are a threat to farmers, consumers, and the environment," said Charles Margulis, a spokesperson for Greenpeace, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety stated, "EPA has shown a blatant disregard for federal law and its own regulations by approving Bt crops without fully assessing their environmental safety. Their continuing failure to regulate this untested technology forces us to turn to the courts for protection." For further information on these lawsuits see

  13. On Feb. 23, the Daily Mail newspaper in the UK reported that three of Britain's fast-food giants--McDonald's, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken--are responding to customer pressure by eliminating genetically engineered soya and corn ingredients from their menus. According to McDonald's spokesperson Jackie Graveny: "Our aim is to have McDonald's GM (genetically modified) free as soon as possible." Similarly Burger King stated: "The company is set to ban GM food as soon as possible." In a related development the Agriculture Minister in the UK, Nick Brown, announced on Jan. 31 that UK restaurants will soon be required to start labeling "meals which contain certain types of genetically modified food."

  14. With more and more major food retailers, restaurants, and processors in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Scandinavia, the UK, and other nations going "GE-free" a tremendous market now exists for certified "non-GE" and organic products. This makes it increasingly difficult for governments such as the US, Canada, and Brazil to keep telling farmers that their "no labeling and no segregation" policies on co-mingling GE and non-GE grains and crops make good economic sense.

  15. On Feb. 23 India's Supreme Court ruled that all field trials of Monsanto's genetically engineered Bt Cotton must be halted. The court ruling and temporary legal injunction came in response to a legal petition filed by veteran Indian activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology. According to Dr. Shiva, "This case does not merely have national significance, it has international significance. Around the world scientists, environmentalists, consumer groups and farmers are calling for a moratorium on commercial releases of genetically engineered crops because of growing evidence of ecological hazards and threats to food safety." The court ruling comes in the wake of months of protests by Indian farmers and consumers, many of whom have organized themselves into a Monsanto "Quit India" movement. Dr. Shiva and other activists brought together over 100 grassroots organizations in Hyderabad on Jan. 7 to launch a nationwide campaign against Monsanto. On March 9-10 Food Bytes will be attending an international meeting of biotech activists in India organized by Dr. Shiva.

  16. A major backlash has developed against the United States and major transnational biotech corporations after an international Biosafety Protocol treaty was sabotaged in Cartagena, Colombia. The Biosafety Protocol, supported by over 135 nations and public interest groups worldwide, would have tightened regulations on the international transfer and trade of genetically engineered seeds, grains, and foods. In a vote on Feb. 24 the US and five of its allies, the so-called "Miami Group" (Canada, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile) managed to prevent the passage of the internationally binding treaty.

    As US biosafety expert Beth Burrows of the Edmonds Institute told the New York Times, "There was no moral high ground here (on the part of the US). There was no scientific higher ground. It was just cheap power politics." According to the Financial Times of London and other EU sources, the US' bully boy tactics at the Biosafety Protocol meetings will only serve to exacerbate anti-biotech feelings in Europe. A recent statement by George Monbiot in the London Guardian (Feb. 19) aptly sums up the mood of EU consumers: "Food scares happen... because people feel they have no control over what they eat. Our decisions are made for us by invisible and unaccountable corporations."

  17. On Feb. 25 a group of US activists in San Francisco calling themselves fabRAGE (Fabulous Resistance Against Genetic Engineering) stripped off their clothes and disrupted a conference panel on genetically engineered cotton featuring a speaker from the Monsanto Corporation. "We'd rather go naked than wear genetically modified cotton!" shouted Biogrrl, a fashion diva at the event, as half a dozen activists charged through the room and stripped off their biohazglam gowns, chanting: "We don't want it, won't buy it, and won't wear it. Super Gene Girl, in a biohazard suit shouted, "Gene-spliced cotton is not sustainable!" Monsanto representatives appeared apoplectic in the face of the action.

  18. On Feb. 27 Greenpeace activists in Mexico City hung banners protesting "Genetic Imperialism" and the US sabotage of the Biosafety Protocol on a historic monument, the Angel of Independence, in the center of the city. Police arrested the demonstrators, but the banner-hanging generated significant coverage in the Mexican media, where until recently there has been very little discussion of the GE foods controversy.

  19. On March 2 the Reuters news agency reported that the UK's Advertising Standards Authority wil soon "censure" Monsanto for a misleading series of ads on the safety of genetically engineered foods which appeared last year in the British press.

Top PreviousFront Page

Date: Wed, 3 Mar 1999 15:40:24 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson     Food Bytes newsletter

Global Days of Action Against Monsanto and Genetic Engineering April 15-30, 1999

On February 7, 1999, over 40 representatives of activist groups from around the world met in Cuernavaca, Mexico to share experiences and to plan a global grassroots campaign against the Monsanto Corporation and genetically engineered foods. While mass-based grassroots campaigns have partially blocked genetically engineered foods and crops thus far in Western Europe and India, activists in North America, South America, Africa, and much of Asia and the Pacific still have a long way to go in terms of grassroots education, Movement-building, and mobilization.

Especially in the United States activists have been stymied by a powerful Monsanto lobbying and PR campaign that has coopted or bought off the Congress and the White House, intimidated the media, and forced several dozen unlabeled, untested genetically engineered foods onto the marketplace. At the present time 51.3 million acres (out of a global total of 69.5 million) of US farmland are planted in genetically engineered crops, including 45% of all cotton crops; 32% of soybeans; 25% of corn; and 3.5% of potatoes. In addition 700,000 dairy cows are being injected with Monsanto's rBGH every two weeks. Most non-organic processed food in the US now contains at least trace levels of genetically engineered ingredients.

To help build the kind of U.S. and global Movement required to bring Monsanto and the other GE Giants under control, and to move global agriculture and global economic development in a sustainable and organic direction, food and agriculture activists at the February 7 Cuernavaca meeting endorsed the call for Global Days of Action against Monsanto and genetic engineering on April 15-30.

The interim Monsanto Campaign steering committee of Vandana Shiva (India), Mika Iba (Japan), Tony Clarke (Canada), and Ronnie Cummins (USA) are calling on activists all over the world to step up their activism against Monsanto and genetic engineering, using the fourth annual April 15-30 Global Days of Action as a vehicle for amplifying our message, building our local and national activist networks, and further strengthening our international solidarity.

Food Bytes was endorsed at the Cuernavaca meeting as an international clearinghouse for anti-Monsanto and Global Days of Action activities. If you are planning anti-Monsanto/GDA activities during April 15-30, please send us the details at Food Bytes so we can inform the media as well as activists all over the world. And of course in Western Europe and India, where nearly every day has now become a Global Day of Action against Monsanto and genetic engineering, keep up the good work! Further details on the April GDA will be posted on the web at

### End of Food Bytes #17###

Ronnie Cummins,
Director Campaign for Food Safety/Organic Consumers Association
860 Hwy 61 Little Marais, Minnesota 55614
Telephone: 218-226-4164 Fax: 218-226-4157
email: alliance@mr.net   URL: http://www.purefood.org

Affiliated with the Center for Food Safety (Washington, D.C.) http://www.icta.org
and the Organic Consumers Association http://www.organicconsumers.org

To Subscribe to the free electronic newsletter, Food Bytes, send an email to: majordomo@mr.net with the simple message in the body of the text: subscribe pure-food-action


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

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