Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


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24 March 99

Table of Contents

So why all the fuss over GE Foods?
Monsanto Dairy Hormone May Be Carcinogenic -EU Vet Committee
Super-viruses threat to farms
Internl. Committee warns of Cancer Risk through rBGH
How Women Took On The Supermarkets - And Won
European Supermarkets Pledge Biotech-free Food
Bt Crops and Their Impact on Insects and Food Webs
EU Ban on Monsanto Hormone Likely to Continue
Altered Crops Will Get Safety Review
Body Shop to ban GM products from its beauty range
Environment-Brazil: South Seeks to Block Transgenic Soya
More GE Related Internet Websites
Monsanto blasted in UK Parliament Debate Pt 1
GM foods debate takes centre stage in the UK

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Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 22:09:08 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN-3-22

So why all the fuss over GE Foods?

by Jill Davies - - March 16, 1999
From the Sanders County Ledger, Thompson Falls, Montana, March 18, 1999
contact info: Jill Davies ~~~ River Care    nox2228@montana.com

Why are foreign countries ready to start trade wars with the U.S. over the import of genetically engineered (GE) foods?

First, it is because of what goes in to the creation of a GE variety. Plants have elaborate defense mechanisms for dealing with foreign compounds, including foreign DNA. To overcome these defense mechanisms in order to insert a gene into the germ cell of a host plant, which will then grow into a plant with the desired trait, biologists have to construct what are called "vectors" which will carry the chosen gene into the host cell.

The vectors are constructed using pieces of DNA taken from virulent pathological organisms (virus, bacteria) because these organisms have the ability to overcome a cell's defense mechanisms. Generally, there are three parts to a vector: genes which carry the package into the cell and invade the DNA, genes called promoters which assure that the package is 'turned on', and genes for antibiotic resistance that are used as markers to help the biologist find the plant cells in which the insertion has been successful (a small percentage).

The concern is that these sections of DNA from pathological organisms will recombine to form active pathogens once again, either new ones, or old ones with renewed virulence, or with new (broader) host specificity; and that antibiotic resistance will continue to spread throughout the microbial world. This process, called "horizontal gene transfer" is already known to be the cause of the widespread antibiotic resistance in disease organisms that has emerged in the past decade, facilitated by the over-use of antibiotics.

Second, it is because the insertion of this gene package - a complex vector with the trait gene attached - into the DNA of the host plant can disrupt the functioning of the host's DNA. This can and does lead to 'freak' plants which supposedly are weeded out by the biotech company, but subtle chemical changes would be very difficult to detect, and the testing that is currently required is inadequate.

What ignited the controversy last month in Britain, was the disclosure of a study (after it had been suppressed for 6 months) which tested GE potatoes that were engineered to express an insect toxin. This study was the first to carefully examine the chemical composition of the GE potatoes as compared to the regular potatoes. They found significant differences in levels of protein (20% less), starch, sugar, other enzymes.

Then they fed the potatoes to young rats for a time and examined the development of organs. They found impaired development in the intestine, pancreas, kidneys, liver, lungs and brain; an enlarged thymus, and a depressed immune response with evidence of intestinal infection.

Third, it is because people don't want to eat a plant that expresses an insecticide in every cell, or a plant that can resist an herbicide so that more of the herbicide is sprayed on the field while the plant is growing, and these are what are now being widely grown. Corn, cotton and potatoes are engineered to express the Bt insecticide and soy is resistant to Monsanto's Roundup.


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Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 22:09:08 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN-3-22

Monsanto Dairy Hormone May Be Carcinogenic -EU Vet Committee

By Daniel Balint-Kurti 44-171-832-9561; daniel.balint-kurti@cor.dowjones.com
DOW JONES NEWS 03-18-99 12:05 PM, Thu, Mar 18, 1999

LONDON (Dow Jones)--Milk from cows treated with a synthetic hormone produced by U.S.-based firms Monsanto Corp. (MTC) and Eli-Lily & Co. (LLY) may cause cancer, a key European Union veterinary committee has said.

Use of the hormone in dairy cows could also foster resistance to antibiotics and induce allergic reactions in humans, according to the E.U. Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health. The doubt cast upon the safety of synthetic bovine somatotropin (BST) by the E.U.-appointed scientists could mean the E.U. Commission will not lift the ban on sale of the product later this year. The ban on synthetic BST was imposed by the E.U. Commission some years ago due to similar health concerns.

The E.U. scientists made their statement in a summary of a report obtained by Dow Jones Newswires Thursday. The full report is due to be published within the next few days.

The E.U. Commission will debate the report and use it as a basis for its decision on whether to renew the E.U. ban on synthetic BST. The deadline for renewal of the ban is Dec. 31, 1999.

Synthetic BST, which stimulates milk production in dairy cows, is produced by inserting genes from cows into microscopic organisms, which then reproduce the hormone. It is widely used in U.S. dairy herds. Injection of the synthetic hormone into cows could mean consumers are exposed to "an increased relative risk of breast and prostate cancer" it was stated in the summary report.

The E.U. scientists said also that the increased use of antibiotics in cows treated with synthetic BST could lead to those antibiotics finding their way into milk and could foster the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

As the use of synthetic BST increases the risk of cows developing mastitis, a disease which causes the deterioration of cows' udders, cows treated with the hormone are typically given extra doses of antibiotics. An E.U.

Commission agriculture official declined to comment on what impact the report could have on E.U. policy but he did say the summary of the report was 'vague' in its conclusions.


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Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 22:09:08 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN-3-22

Super-viruses threat to farms

By Marie Woolf, Political Correspondent, Sunday Independent 21 March 99

Genetically engineered crops, altered to be resistant to common plant viruses, risk creating new mutant strains of "super-viruses" which could wipe out entire farms, a damning research report commissioned by the Government has warned.

The report, ordered under the Government's Genetically Modified Organisms Research Programme, has found that plants engineered to be resistant to common viruses could in fact lead to the creation of more virulent strains which could spread throughout the British countryside. The report, prepared for the Department of the Environment by the Scottish Crop Institute, has been seized on by ecological campaigners as evidence that the countryside could be irrevocably damaged by introducing GM crops.

The report says that there is insufficient research to determine the long-term effects of introducing viral resistance. Environmentalists fear that indigenous plants could be wiped out by the new viruses created by genetic engineering.


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Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 22:09:08 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN-3-22

Internl. Committee warns of Cancer Risk through rBGH

International Scientific Committee Warns of Serious Risks of Breast and Prostate Cancer from Monsanto`s Hormonal Milk

SOURCE Dr. Samuel S. Epstein March 22, 1999

CONTACT: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.,
Professor of Environmental Medicine,
University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago,
and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, 312-996-2297

CHICAGO, March 21 /PRNewswire/ via NewsEdge Corporation -- The following was released today by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health and Chairman of The Cancer Prevention Coalition:

The European Commission (EC) has just released a report by its authoritative international 16-member scientific committee, based on meticulous scientific documentation, confirming excess levels of the naturally occurring Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) in milk of cows injected with Monsanto's biotech hormone (rBGH).

The report concludes that the excess levels of IGF-1 pose serious risks of breast and prostate cancer. "Experimental evidence for an association between IGF-1 and breast and prostate cancer is supported by epidemiological -- evidence arising from recently published cohort studies -- . "

The report also warns that excess levels of IGF-1 may promote the growth and invasiveness of any cancer by inhibiting programmed self-destruction of cancer cells (apoptosis), and that contamination of milk with residues of antibiotics used to treat mastitis in rBGH cows is likely to spread antibiotic resistant infections in the general population.

The EC human health report finally emphasized the need for additional investigation of several other potential risks of rBGH milk. A parallel EC report also warns of serious veterinary risks of rBGH.

It may be noted that FDA has ignored such evidence reported in detail by the author in peer reviewed scientific publications over the last decade. The EC warnings are in sharp conflict with the policies of the Food and Drug Administration, largely based on unpublished and confidential Monsanto claims, that hormonal milk is safe.

As seriously, the report raises serious questions on the competence and conflicts of interest of Codex, the WHO organization responsible for setting international food safety standards, which has given an unqualified clean bill of health to rBGH milk.

It should further be emphasized that senior FDA officials and industry consultants are members of Codex, which meets in secrecy and relies on unpublished industry assurances of safety. Interlocking relationships between U.S. and Canadian regulatory officials and Codex are matters of critical concern to U.S. consumers and global food safety.

Faced with escalating rates of >breast and prostate cancers, besides other avoidable public health hazards, FDA should immediately withdraw its approval of rBGH milk whose sale benefits only Monsanto while posing major public health risks for the entire U.S. population. A Congressional investigation of FDA's abdication of >responsibility and of its reliance on Codex authority for food safety, analogous to that recently conducted on rBGH milk by the Canadian Parliament, is well overdue.


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Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 11:08:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-23

How Women Took On The Supermarkets - And Won

By Melanie McDonagh, Means Woman Power Evening Standard - London

The decision by stores not to stock genetically modified products is a triumph for purse power. Which, writes Melanie McDonagh.

THERE has been a quiet revolution this week; what's more, it's a women's revolution. What I'm talking about is the extraordinary decision by the supermarkets Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer to join Iceland in not using genetically modified ingredients in their products. Yesterday, it was followed by the news of measures to force eating places to designate GM maize and soya in meals, to oblige even the smallest hotdog vendor to label his ketchup for GM constituents. And you know who did it?

Women, that's who, because it's women who buy food for families and women who exercise most of the purchasing power in the above- named supermarkets. There aren't many ways that ordinary people - that is, women in shopping queues - can wield direct influence over politicians, still less over the way world trade and British agriculture is carried on.

But that's precisely the implication of what's happened. As a result of a vigorous public debate, conducted in the newspapers, on radio and on television, people buying their groceries have simply walked away from anything with "Genetically Modified" on the label. There is no other way to interpret this decision by the supermarkets, perhaps the most sophisticated registers of changing social habits, except as a rational concession to consumer preferences.

Certainly it wasn't belated concern for the environment that led Sainsbury's and the rest to reject GM ingredients as the equivalent of a skull and crossbones on a tin of tomato puree. Their anxiety is such that they'll even be trying to make sure that they don't crop up in the small print on ready-meal ingredients: things like soya oil or lecithin.

Think about it. Quite independently of the Government - actually, full in the face of the Government we've actually changed the course of the entire debate about food production. If supermarkets give the no-no to GM foodstuffs, then production methods have to reflect that.

Now the big chains are desperately trying to find pure, untainted food sources - Brazil and the former Yugoslavia have been mentioned. The moral is obvious for commercially minded farmers and for the Government, which is conducting noncommercial trials of GM crops over the next three years: we don't want GM products and we won't buy them. BUT before we can walk away from genetically modified produce, we have to know they're there.

Jeff Rooker's announcement, on behalf of the Government, that restaurants and cafes will have to designate GM elements in their dishes, is profoundly important in making that possible, however unenforceable and clumsy the measure sounds. It doesn't take much imagination to see what follows: no one normal, unless they're the Prime Minister, is going to touch a sausage roll with its GM soya content advertised. It's not, as they say, a selling point.

American trade negotiators want Monsanto soya exports from the US not to be labelled, precisely because they worry about adverse consumer reaction, (another girl-dominated consumer trend) instead.

What is absolutely certain is that the British political system is too clumsy to reflect people's prejudices and passions about issues like this, which simply don't register in party-political terms.

In Switzerland, where they hold referendums about everything, they had a vote on genetically modified produce. The result bucked the trend: the Swiss decided in favour of the Monsanto argument, but at least they had the chance to discuss the matter rationally, and then to vote on it. Here, people are expected to express their feelings in a single vote in a general election.

IF THIS expression of public sentiment about food has a moral, it is that there have to be better ways in a democracy for people to express their opinions about important individual issues. The Labour Party is, famously, conducting a poll to find out what women want from politicians.

What if it turns out that women feel exceptionally strongly about food which damages wildlife, promotes the use of damaging pesticides and may have damaging effects on human health? Then what?

But for the moment, it's good enough that individual shoppers have got the big boys, the global conglomerates , the party politicians, on the run. Well done, girls. but the battle against them is now half-won.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this stubborn exercise of consumer preferences is how much it wasn't determined from above. Mr Blair's famous sense for the instincts of Middle England failed him badly here. Terribly excitedly, he harangued us about how genetic technology was the way ahead, the equivalent of the computer revolution in this decade. It was a real boy's view: over-excitement about a scientific development on the grounds that it is new.

Mr Blair is a sucker for anything which can be perceived as modern - remember his squeaky enthusiasm for getting schools on the Information SuperHighway. But however much the Prime Minister assured us that he and Cherie and the children would be eating genetically modified food regardless of any old scares, we were unimpressed. People read the papers, took note of the television news, and for multifarious reasons, they decided that they weren't buying it. Cabinet ministers lined up on television to support the view that the debate as it was conducted, was hysterical, ill-informed, partial and girly. It didn't matter.

We listened and then we went and exercised our inalienable consumer right not to touch the stuff.This development - purse power - (market forces is too ungendered a word for it) could, of course, go much further. [ Monsanto ] , the leading company in genetically modified crop research and development, is in trouble on another front in the ethical food debate. A British scientist has condemned its use of BST, a synthetically reproduced cattle hormone which stimulates cows to produce more milk, as a cause of animal health problems. If milk cartons were labelled as containing the produce of artificial hormones, just how many people do you suppose would buy them?

Of course, there are other ways in which we could conduct the arguments about food production and labelling than simply boycotting those products we don't like, and pointedly buying organic

© (Copyright 1999), _____via IntellX_____


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 11:08:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-23

European Supermarkets Pledge Biotech-free Food

Environment News Service (ens)

LONDON, UK, March 22, 1999 (ENS) - A move by European food retailer chains to eliminate genetically modified (GM) ingredients and additives from their own-brand food products is of "major significance," EU supermarket association Eurocommerce claimed today.

For Full Text and Graphics Visit: http://ens.lycos.com/ens/mar99/1999L-03-22-03.html


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Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 11:08:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-23

Here is a newsletter from A SEED Europe steph@aseed.antenna.nl

Bt Crops and Their Impact on Insects and Food Webs

From: fkoechlin@datacomm.ch (Florianne Koechlin), March 1999

Dear friends

This mail-out is about a newly emerging risk-discussion: Do genetically engineered Bt-crops poison beneficial insects, bees, soil-organisms, fish, birds? What effects do they have on food-webs, what studies have to be done and why were they not conducted?

At an international meeting of entomologists in Basel in March 1999 scientists raised a red flag: Genetically engineered Bt-crops could poison beneficial insects as well as wiping out pests.

Angelika Hilbeck and her team (Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture) said they have found new evidence that lacewings, which eat caterpillars and aphids, can be poisoned by transgenic Bt-crops. (These crops contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis coding for a Bt-toxin. The transgenic plant thus produces its own insecticide.)

They showed already last year that in laboratory tests beneficial lacewings were killed by eating corn-borer caterpillars that had consumed the toxin. In other experiments her team fed identical quantities of purified Bt-toxin directly to lacewing larvae or via caterpillars that had consumed the toxin. 50% more lacewings died after eating the caterpillars than after eating directly the toxin.(N.S., 27.2.99).

At the same meeting Nicholas Birch (Scottish Crop Research Institute) presented his findings that transgenic lectin-producing potatoes (lectin is a toxin of the same group as the Bt-toxin) harmed ladybirds: Eating aphids reared on transgenic lectin-potatoes reduced the the lifespans and egg production of ladybirds.

Novartis, the producer of Bt-maize 175 (which is grown now in Spain), said that these laboratory studies do not reflect real conditions in the environment and pointed out that they had conducted extensive trials before bringing their Bt-maize to the market. But Hilbeck has an explanation why Novartis did not find any dead beneficial insects: "A standard test (..) is that an insect is fed eggs sprayed with Bt-toxins. The problem is, however, that lacelaws do not eat the eggs but suck them out from inside, so they do not get in touch with the poison on the outside of the egg. Only with long-time feeding trials and a very carefull set-up of the experiment can such impacts be studied."(Swiss Tagesanzeiger, 19.3.99). And such experiments have not been done.

Bt-crops are probably the most important transgenic crops: Bt-maize, Bt-cotton, Bt-potatoes or Bt-rice grow on fields all over the world. 14 out of 43 commercialised transgenic crops in the US are Bt-crops. Furthermore, in the US there is a giant patent-battle going on over who will get monopoly controll over these crops: Up to June 1998, 482 patents had been submitted or awarded mentioning Bt, some 95 of these patents involve transgenic plants. The top ten patentees hold 62% of all patents, with Dow holding 98 and Novartis 36 patents. (Robin Jenkins, in 'Seedling, Sept.'98)

Industry's main-argument for the safety of Bt-crops always was the fact that Bt-emulsions from Bt-bacterias have been used as a biological and sprayable insecticide throughout the world since the early 1950s, and nothing happened. However, there are 2 important differences between the sprayable Bt-insecticide and the form of Bt engineered into the genome of crops, as 'World Watch' (Jan./Feb.1999) points out:"First, while the naturally derived spray version of Bt is highly specific (its toxidity is activated only in the gut of certain species), the genetically modified version has been altered to work against an array of insects - harmful or not. The recent studies showed that beneficial insects were also harmed by Bt (...) The result was a 2-fold increase in adult mortality and reproductive failure in 2 very different beneficial species. The studies also showed dramatically reduced fitness and increased mortality in the beneficial larvae and eggs (..).

These side-effects of Bt crops have now been demonstrated for a wide variety of insects and soil organisms, and preliminary studies suggest that the adverse effects could even be felt by insect-eating bird populations, many levels up the farm foodweb - a foodweb that includes plants and animals consumed by humans.

The second significant difference is that Bt-crops deliver extremely high levels of the toxin - roughly 10 to 20 times the lethal dose of sprayable formulations. Mark Whalon (Michigan State University) notes, that in contrast to the carefully timed applications of sprayable Bt and the "micrograms" sprayed each time (...) "these transgenic crops are now pumping out huge amounts of toxins from all tissues throughout the entire growing season, from germination to senescence." The scientists also warn that the more aggressive the measures for pest eradication, the greater the likelyhood that successive generations of pests become more resistant.

The long-term results would be a mutual arms race between farmers and pests, in which plants engineered to secrete increasingly toxic chemicals would be deployed against increasingly resistant strains of pests. This heighened threat of Bt-resistence, coupled with the devastation of beneficial insect populations that help keep pests in check, could lead to massive crop losses. Although initial large scale plantings of Bt-crops may appear benign, it will likely take several seasons for toxidity and resistence problems to emerge. (..) The scientists advocate a moratorium on large scale releases of Bt-crops until the long-term ecological effects are better assessed".

All the best Florianne Koechlin

Genet News
---------


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Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 11:08:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-23

EU Ban on Monsanto Hormone Likely to Continue

-wsj

NEW YORK, March 23 (Reuters) - The European Union's five-year ban on the sale of Monsanto Co.'s (NYSE:MTC - news) synthetic cow hormone is likely to continue because a government-appointed scientific panel is raising human health concerns dismissed by other governments, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The moratorium on the company's genetically engineered bovine somatotropin that aims to increase a cow's milk output by as much as 15 percent was scheduled to expire on Dec. 31.

An EU panel issued a report Monday that requested more study into whether cows treated with bovine somatotropin also produced an insulin-like growth factor in their milk in such quantities that drinking it raised the risk of cancer in humans.


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Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 11:08:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-23

next article forwarded by From: T4shea@aol.com

Altered Crops Will Get Safety Review

By Bill Lambrecht, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau, Friday, March 19, 1999

The National Academy of Sciences is beginning an urgent study of the benefits and potential risks of genetically engineered crops with an eye toward recommending changes in government regulations.

Over the next six months, a special committee of 13 scientists and experts chosen by the National Research Council, which is an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, will examine not only safety issues but social and economic implications of plants modified with pesticide genes. That includes most genetically engineered crops. Studies by the research council usually take about 18 months. But the new effort will be conducted in a third of that time because of pressing questions in need of answers, said the study's director, Michael Phillips.

"Because of the urgency of this matter, we can't wait two years to slowly put out a statement," Phillips said. "There are a lot of questions, and the longer something like this lingers, it creates concern in the industry and society in general."


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Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 11:08:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-23

Body Shop to ban GM products from its beauty range

by Sean Poulter, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, UK Daily Mail 23 March 99

BODY SHOP said last night that it was to ban genetically-modified ingredients in its beauty products.

The chain's move came as the Government admitted it has not carried out any safety tests to assess the risks of using Frankenstein crop ingredients in cosmetics. Soya and maize - the main mutant plants licensed for use in food are also used in a huge number of beauty products.

Derivatives are included in expensive moisturizers, powder compacts, eye shadow, anti-ageing cream and lipsticks.

The Body Shop empire, founded by Anita Roddick and husband Gordon on a pro-green and anti-animal testing philosophy, is the first major cosmetics company to announce a ban on GM ingredients.


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Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 11:08:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-23

Environment-Brazil: South Seeks to Block Transgenic Soya

March 24, 1999

RIO DE JANEIRO - Inter Press Service via NewsEdge Corporation : Resistance to transgenic soya in Brazil has been concentrated in Rio Grande do Sul, whose Workers Party government is trying to make the southern state an area free of genetically modified products.

The Secretariat of Agriculture of Rio Grande do Sul prohibited the U.S. transnational corporation Monsanto from planting transgenic soya on five hectares, based on the state government's failure to authorize the biotechnology giant to experiment with soya resistant to its own Round-Up Ready weedicide.


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Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 14:51:15 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-24 UK Parliament, plus

More GE Related Internet Websites

...........

Jeremy Rifkin's Foundation on Economic Trends website - http://www.biotechcentury.org - is now online (some pages still under construction). He has some excellent articles about GE seeds, bio-pollution, etc.

.........................

The March issue of the MONSANTO MONITOR is available at

http://www.antenna.nl/aseed/monsanto/monitor.html

It contains some content on GE activities of Monsanto

.........................

Here is a website for the text of an excellent talk entitled

"Debunking the Myths of Genetic Engineering in Field Crops"

by E. Ann Clark, PhD, Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON aclark@plant.uoguelph.ca

It was Presented to Alternatives, Kitchener, ON Canada 2 March 99

http://www.oac.uoguelph.ca/www/CRSC/faculty/eac/myths.htm

More essays on GE are at Dr. Clark's website, http://www.oac.uoguelph.ca/www/CRSC/faculty/eac.htm


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Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 14:51:15 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-24 UK Parliament, plus

next articles Posted Tue, 23 Mar 1999 by: Paul Davis devatalk@mcmail.com, who said:

Monsanto blasted in UK Parliament Debate Pt 1

Sections:
Parliament debate
Mr. Simpson, M.P.:
Mr. Norman Baker M.P.

Parliament debate

In a UK Parliament debate on the World Trade Organisation, Monsanto came under heavy fire. Their appalling research on BST, corrupt politics, manipulation of vetting agencies and potential damage all came under the microscope. The following speaker also pointed out that Parliament was lagging behind the public, who have already 'cottoned-on' to Monsanto's crooked ways.

.....................................

Text from UK Parliament:

Mr. Simpson, M.P.:

The history of Monsanto's interests in bovine somatotropin milk and genetically modified crops is littered with the company buying its way into public policy decisions in its favour. Last week, evidence was published to show that the science on BST milk is wretched, the politics corrupt and the consequences for human and environmental health potentially devastating.

Monsanto faces a ruling either from us or from the European Union collectively that says that we are deeply unhappy about removing the ban on BST milk, because of the damage to livestock and the potential damage to human beings.

There are public movements against genetically modified crops. When Monsanto threatens to take us and the EU to the World Trade Organisation in pursuit of the free trade rights that it claims, it overlooks the fact that it has systematically sought to hide from politicians and the public the downside of all the magic science that it is sailing past us.

Monsanto has failed even to conduct the necessary broader-based research on environmental damage. It wants the right to pursue new monopolies in monocultures that it controls and that will be fundamentally self-destructive. It is an irony that, in the pursuit of free trade rights, Monsanto does not happily own up to the fact that it is invoking the part of the Uruguay agreement that gave it closed markets: the TRIPS agreements on trade in intellectual property rights. Those agreements allow the company to take out patents on the crops that it modifies and, in some parts of the developing world, it slaps patents on crops that it has found. Its rights to patent life are attempts to remove from common ownership things that we have had since civilisation has existed. The company also seeks to take away rights from democratically elected Governments to protect the diversity of their environments and adequately to protect the health needs of their citizens.

If Monsanto obtains the rights to introduce the terminator technology as part of any WTO ruling, it will have the right not only to take ownership of life itself, but to take out a patent on death. The company says that it has encountered no problems in its experiments in the United States, but one needs only to look at the vast acreage of GM crops on the prairies of Arizona where, apart from the Monsanto crops, the land is sterile. It has been soaked in the company's herbicide. It does not have a weed problem because nothing else can grow. When Monsanto is asked about the impact of its actions on bio-diversity, its representatives throw up their hands and say that it is not an issue for them.

The company has manipulated the rules of the vetting agencies in a way that is technically brilliant, but ethically corrupt and degrading for humanity. We have to be prepared to make a stand against that. We easily forget, in this country and in Europe, that there is no public demand for GM foods and no agricultural need for them. The GM process has been driven past the advisory committees on the basis that it is the science that will save humanity, but it is the science that will turn bad research into huge corporate profits at huge social cost.

As a Parliament, we have been slow to catch up with the public's understanding of the issue. They know, in ways that we are only beginning to acknowledge, that Monsanto's claims about safety are bogus. The public know now that Monsanto's research on milk was fiddled. They know that the inclusion of GM soya with the rest of the soya crop was the result of calculated efforts by Monsanto to discover whether the public would buy GM produce if it were clearly identified. The company knew that the public would not do so, and it manipulated the regulatory regime in the USA so that it did not have to meet the obligation to identify it. The environmental damage falls outside the terms of the monitoring agencies in the USA.

As we debate the relationship between Britain, Europe, the USA and the World Trade Organisation, we must understand that people have given up waiting for a parliamentary lead. There are good reasons for that: we have a 200-year history of the public taking food safety disputes into our own hands. It was about 200 years ago when the first of Britain's food riots was caused by the adulteration of food. Farmers adulterated flour with sawdust and supplied the flour as part of the workers' wages. The riots were about whether anyone had the right to adulterate food in that way and I say with some pride that that was the momentum behind the Rochdale co-operative. The people wanted to be able to provide food that was safe for themselves and their children to eat. The same is happening now in the riots in India.

The "Cremate Monsanto" campaign is not waiting for a Government lead before burning the fields of GM crops that they do not want. The campaign is being led by farmers and villagers who foresee the destruction of biodiversity in pursuit of corporate greed. It is echoed by the coalition of developing world countries who, at the Cartagena biosafety convention, said that they wanted the right to say no to such produce in order to protect their biodiversity. Any international trade agreement that fails to deal with workers' rights or environmental and food sustainability will not be worth adhering to. Social movements in France and Canada are attempting to take direct action to challenge the corporate rights assumed by today's global giants.

We should bear in mind the public movements staking similar claims in relation to genetically modified foods in today's supermarkets. If the United States of America and the food corporations are to threaten us with a trade war and World Trade Organisation rulings that define our actions as illegal, we must reply that the British public would probably deem a trade war to feed safe food to ourselves and our children a war worth fighting.

Those who want to open up the market without ethical or safety constraints are backing a horse that the public will not bet on. Rulings may go in their favour, but if Monsanto and the USA win the right to dump unsafe foods in United Kingdom markets, we can overrule that right with a civic right to dump those products in the sea or leave them stockpiled at supermarket check-outs. We can assert our right not to buy something that we believe to be endangering our health, the environmental viability of our country and the international sustainability of relationships in vulnerable economies.

........................................

Mr. Norman Baker M.P.

Monsanto has made itself public enemy No. 1. It has bulldozed elected Governments across the world and forced its wretched products on to the world's population, whether we want them or not. Monsanto must be brought urgently under democratic control. If the WTO rules permit such activities, they are wrong and must be changed. If we are not careful, Monsanto will become the bad news story of the 21st century. The company must be stopped.

Monsanto has deliberately refused to segregate GM and non-GM crops in order to deny consumer choice--something to which all hon. Members are committed. Monsanto also wishes to introduce GM crops, regardless of the possible environmental consequences. We know from the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, other Government advisory bodies and from the EU that there are significant environmental concerns about GM crops. Monsanto does not want to wait: it wants to steamroller those crops through and give us no alternative. When the crops are planted and problems arise, Monsanto will say, "Never mind, let's deal with it now."

The company wants to undermine alternative sources of non-GM crops. It is trying to stop us buying non-GM soya from Brazil by buying up Brazil and halting alternative supplies from that country. Monsanto is the antithesis of democracy. It is not worried about labelling; it is trying to persuade us that it is not necessary and that it is somehow a barrier to free trade. What nonsense. We are entitled to know what we are buying. To be fair, the Government have accepted that. They have always been committed to labelling. Monsanto does not want labelling: it wants its products to carry as little information as possible. It knows that if its products are labelled accurately--and they are not because most GM material is not labelled under the present regulations--people will not buy them, and it does not want that.

Monsanto has been forcing crops into India and onto the developing countries of the third world. It has intimidated farmers in the United States by hiring private investigators and then fining farmers when a Monsanto seed is found in their soil.

In this country, Monsanto has been condemned by the Advertising Standards Authority, which found it guilty of making

"wrong . . . unproven, misleading and confusing claims"

in a £1 million campaign.

How does Monsanto manage to do all that? It uses the revolving door policy, and makes sure that personnel from Monsanto and Government agency advisory bodies frequently switch positions. Marcia Hale, the former adviser to the US President, is now the director of international government affairs for the Monsanto corporation. Michael Kantnor, the former secretary to the US department of commerce is now a member of the Monsanto corporation board. Josh King, the former director of production for White House events, is now the director of global communications for the Monsanto corporation. Margaret Miller, the former chemical laboratory supervisor for Monsanto, is now the deputy director of the new animal drug evaluation office in the US Food and Drug Administration. We have seen confidential European Union documents that have been passed to Monsanto by Dr. Nick Weber of the FDA, and a former Monsanto analyst.

Monsanto is abusing and twisting the system and getting from it as much as it can. It is getting the Food and Drug Administration on board and it is getting the US to fight its corner. I am in favour of free trade and the World Trade Organisation, but I am not in favour of one company so using its muscle and contriving matters for its own ends that the opportunity for consumer choice and Government decisions by democratic bodies is effectively removed.

Dan Verakis, the public relations manager for Monsanto in the UK, has said, "Everybody here hates us." I have to tell Monsanto that I hate it. It is the antithesis of democracy and it needs to be stopped.


Top PreviousFront Page

Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 14:52:23 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-24 UK NLP GE news summary

The following summary was prepared by the Natural Law Party UK press office nlpnews@e-mailing.co.uk in response to numerous requests for information on the recent surge of public interest in the UK on the topic of GM foods.

GM foods debate takes centre stage in the UK

Sections:
Summary of recent developments, March 1999
Events of 1999
The controversy surrounding Dr Arpad Pusztai's findings
Government on the defensive
New research findings add fuel to the debate
Natural Law Party's role
Newspaper Article Headlines

Summary of recent developments, March 1999

In the first three months of 1999 public debate about GM foods has taken centre stage in Britain. Everyone in the country who follows the news knows about the risks of GM foods and the issues surrounding them, while opinion polls show that the great majority of the population do not want them.

The Natural Law Party can take much credit for this situation. It has been publicising the risks of GM foods since 1996 and was the first organisation in the UK to call for an outright ban. Its fact sheet on the dangers of GM foods, first produced in 1996, has been used by many other organisations and members of the public unconnected with the party. The Natural Law Party is widely acknowledged as having given impetus to the debate on GM foods and acted as a catalyst for other organisations. It was the Natural Law Party that announced to the press in September 1996 that GM soya had been passed for use in the UK, that the first shipment from the USA was due the next month, and that since it would be unsegregated from non-GM soya it could be included in up to 60% of processed foods in the UK, without being labelled. The Natural Law Party has since then consistently been involved in raising public awareness of this issue.

Events of 1999

This year GM foods came dramatically to public attention in late January 1999 with the publication of a statement signed by 126 influential food writers and journalists, condemning the use of GM foods. This initiative was promoted by the environmental organisation Greenpeace.

One week later, GM foods again came to the fore suddenly in a parliamentary debate on 3rd February. Joan Walley, an MP from the governing Labour Party (but not herself a minister in the government), voiced her concerns about GM foods and the tactics of the biotechnology industry. She told the House about the tryptophan incident in the USA, in which 37 died and 1500 were permanently disabled after eating a food supplement produced by GM bacteria. Her concerns were shared by MPs from all parties who spoke that day, apart from the government minister responsible. The same afternoon, the leader of the Opposition, William Hague, challenged the Prime Minister over GM foods, and asked him why he did not impose a three-year moratorium on the commercial release of GM crops as the government had been advised to do by English Nature, an official advisory organisation.

During the week that followed, three major national newspapers started campaigns to inform the public about the risks of genetically modified food. Two of these declared themselves in favour of a ban or a moratorium. The phrase 'Frankenstein foods' is now being used widely by all popular newspapers (a reference to the fictional scientist Frankenstein who set out to create a human being but ended up with a monster that he could not control).

The controversy surrounding Dr Arpad Pusztai's findings

On 12 February the debate went into a higher gear when a press conference was held in the House of Commons announcing that 20 internationally acclaimed scientists supported the findings of Dr Arpad Pusztai, a geneticist working at a government laboratory in Scotland who the previous year had unexpectedly discovered that rats who were fed GM potatoes incurred significant damage to the immune system and reduced organ growth. Dr Pusztai, who worked in the government-funded Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, had spoken about his findings, which were preliminary but significant, in a television interview in August 1998. Within a few days, his contract with the Institute was discontinued and he was forbidden to speak about his findings. The head of the Institute who had initially supported Dr Pusztai, now claimed he had muddled the data.

Dr Pusztai's findings, although still preliminary, clearly illustrate the risks of GM food. The potatoes he was testing had had a gene for a particular natural insecticide inserted - a protein known as lectin, produced by a flower (the snowdrop). Dr Pusztai has published over 200 papers on lectin, and has a world reputation. The rats who ate potato mixed together with lectin suffered no ill effects. But the rats who ate the potatoes into which the lectin had been genetically engineered, became ill. Dr Pusztai sums up the situation as follows: two harmless substances, potato and lectin, were found to become toxic after genetic modification.

Dr. Pusztai is the first world renowned scientist whose research findings question the use of genetic engineering as a whole, and it is significant that he is at heart not an opponent of genetic engineering. His experiment had not been done to see if the potatoes were safe as human food, but to devise a way of testing for safety in general, as part of a project set up by the government. The findings surprised Dr Pusztai as much as anyone else: 'I was totally taken aback,' he told the press. 'I was absolutely confident that I would not find anything, but the longer I spent on the experiment the more uneasy I became. I believe in the technology. But it is too new for us to be absolutely sure that what we are doing is right.'

Government on the defensive

The result of these developments was astonishing. GM foods now became front-page news almost every day. There were numerous television and radio debates, chat shows, phone-ins etc., all over the country, telephone polls by newspapers and other organisations.

The Government became on the defensive, following widespread criticism of its pro-GM stance and the easy access the biotech lobby has to government departments. The Minister of Science in charge of biotechnology, Lord Sainsbury, and members of approval committees have all been shown to have strong links to biotech companies. There were repeated calls for Lord Sainsbury to resign.

A report appeared in the newspapers that Prince Charles, who has spoken out strongly against GM food several times in the past two years, had been requested by the government to remove a page from his own Internet web site inviting people's comments on GM food. Most newspapers were very critical of the Government position on GM foods, pointing out that they were completely out of tune with the population.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister himself, Tony Blair, was accused of having been pressured by President Clinton to allow the American giant biotechnology company Monsanto to operate unimpeded in Britain. In an attempt to quell public concern, Blair announced that he himself would be happy to eat GM foods and insisted that he would not halt or slow down the introduction of GM foods.

The following day Blair was featured on the front page of the popular tabloid (Labour!) newspaper The Mirror as a Frankenstein monster, with the caption 'The Prime Monster'. Greenpeace dumped 4 tons of GM soya outside the gates of No 10 Downing Street, the Prime Ministers residence, declaring that this was the only address in the country where the resident actually wanted to eat GM food! The Prime Minister's response was to defend GM foods even more strongly.

New research findings add fuel to the debate

While all this was going on, more research continued to come to light on the risks of GM crops and foods.

A study by Europe's leading specialists on food sensitivity, the York Nutritional Laboratory in northern England, found that allergy and digestion problems caused by soya had increased significantly in the past two year, rising from 14th to 9th place in the list of leading allergens. As this period coincided with the widespread introduction of GM soya into processed foods, researchers at the Laboratory felt that these findings raised serious new questions about the safety of GM foods.

Government studies at the Scottish Crop Institute showed dangers to insects. Genetically modified potato plants were fed to aphids which were in turn fed to ladybirds. The ladybirds' lives were shortened by up to half the expected life-span, and their fertility and egg-laying was significantly reduced.

The National Pollen Research Unit released a study commissioned by the Soil Association - the organisation in Britain which certifies food as organic - showing that GM pollen could travel hundreds of miles and cross pollinate with non-GM strains. This finding, obvious to anyone with common sense, highlighted the inadequacy of present government regulations which stipulate that 200 metres is far enough to avoid cross-pollination between GM crops and neighbouring fields.

Newspaper reports claimed that the British Diabetic Association, whose role is to protect the interests of diabetic patients, had withheld evidence that some patients who were fed GM insulin suffered a deterioration in health.

Shift in public opinion reflected in policy changes by large organisations Bowing to pressure from public opinion, seven of the eight major supermarket chains have now changed their policy on GM foods, five of them imposing a complete ban on GM ingredients in their own-brand products, and all of them insisting on better labelling in their stores. These stores include Sainsbury's, owned by the family of the Science Minister Lord Sainsbury, and Asda, which is owned by the Conservative MP Archie Norman.

One of the supermarkets is Marks and Spencer, which has stores throughout Europe and which sells no products other than its own brands; in other words, the store will be entirely free of GM products. A precedent was set last year by Iceland, the biggest retailer of frozen foods, which banned GM foods from its own-brand products after receiving hundreds of letters from the public, many of them written by supporters of the Natural Law Party.

British Sugar, the national producer and processor of sugar beet, is refusing to use GM beet and has no plans to use GM materials. A spokesman for Novartis, a biotechnology company, said the company was unwilling to push ahead with commercial growing of GM crops without more evidence of the impact on the environment.

In response to consumer demand in Britain and elsewhere, the US giant miller and food processor Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) has announced a new 'identity-preserved' programme for its soya protein products based on segregation of non-GM soya beans. This move away from GM soya by ADM, which describes itself as 'Supermarket to the World', marks a significant shift away from the position maintained up to now by Monsanto and other biotech companies in the USA that it was not possible to segregate GM and non-GM soya.

The Local Government Association, an advisory body to the 500 local and regional authorities in Britain, recommended in February that all of them should impose a five-year ban on the use of GM foods in their institutions, including schools, retirement homes and child-care homes, and meal services for the elderly and disabled. Many local authorities have already stopped using GM foods.

The Consumer Association, which seeks to represent the interests of consumers and has so far focused mainly on the need for better labelling of GM foods, has recently issued a statement calling for no more GM foods to be introduced until the government's approval system addresses concerns about the long-term safety of genetically modified foods.

The prestigious Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has warned that farmers planting genetically modified crops risk a fall in land values and has called for a national register to be established showing all fields where GM crops have been grown.

The Soil Association, the organisation for organic farmers, which normally receives about 1000 inquiries per year from farmers wishing to change from intensive chemical farming, suddenly received over 100 requests in one week. One of the logical results of inadequate labelling of GM foods is that the only way to avoid them is to eat organic food. This fact has not been lost on the press and the general public.

In March, in response to increasing public and scientific concern about Dr Pusztai's findings, the government set up a special parliamentary hearing to look into the implications of his experiment and the circumstances surrounding his subsequent dismissal. This too was reported widely in the press.

The government itself has moved significantly, although it has officially not abandoned its pro-GM stance. In March Lord Sainsbury surprised everyone by suggesting a three-year freeze on the commercial growing of GM crops, though the government subsequently denied that this was official policy. The government's official position is that there is a moratorium on the commercial growing of GM crops until spring 2000.

The demand for organic produce in Britain has far outstripped the supply, with the result that 70% of organic food has to be imported from abroad. In response to this, the government has announced is going to double its subsidies to British farmers who wish to convert to organic farming. The government is also setting up a fully independent Food Standards Agency in order to protect consumers' interests. The result will be that food safety issues will be kept separate from the Ministry of Agriculture, which is perceived as representing more the commercial interests of farmers and the biotechnology industry than those of consumers.

Natural Law Party's role

During the recent surge in publicity, the Natural Law Party has spoken on local and national radio, spoken to MPs including leaders of other parties, and written to newspapers. This month (March 1999) the Natural Law Party released a video on the dangers of GM foods, with contributions from genetics scientist Dr Michael Antoniou, director of the Soil Association Patrick Holden who is one Britain's most respected environmentalists, health food wholesaler Craig Sams, and Dr Geoffrey Clements and Dr Reinhard Borowitz, leaders of the Natural Law Party respectively in the UK and worldwide.

Natural Law Party leader Dr Geoffrey Clements was invited to speak at one of a special series of conferences on genetic engineering organised by students at the University of London, on a panel with distinguished scientists including Nobel Peace Prize winner Sir Joseph Rotblad.

On 8 March in the Houses of Parliament, the Natural Law Party held a scientific briefing for MPs on GM food, resulting in an invitation to meet regularly and share further ideas with some of the MPs present. One of those MPs was David Drew, who had recently spoken at a rally organised in Stroud (in the West of England) by Dr Henry Brighouse, the Natural Law Party representative in that area, in conjunction with other groups. The rally has led to a widely supported campaign for a GM-free Stroud.

In addition to this formal briefing, Natural Law Party candidates and supporters have been writing and speaking to MPs individually throughout the past three years on the risks of GM food, as well as informing the public as a whole.

Newspaper Article Headlines

The following are just a sample of the numerous articles from national newspapers.

Selection of front page items:-

Other articles:

Mentmore Towers, Mentmore, Buckinghamshire, LU7 0QH,
UK Press Office: 44+ (0) 1296 662866
Fax: 44+ (0) 1296-662124
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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.