12 April 99

Table of Contents

(NZ) Monsanto & Co in Timber deals.
Article from New York Times Archives,
Maine, US: GE legislation
Time of India Articles
Europe's Current Legal Situation re GE
Monsanto legal move sparks (brit) civil rights row
UK Environmentalists want 25 acres of GM crop seeds ploughed up
Stop Monsanto: Letters Needed to Stop More Assault to Health and Environment
The Dutch situation re GE
Worldwide conformity kills Kiwis' GM-free option
The significance of the tryptophan disaster
Biotech experts to lose GM role

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Date: 7 Apr 1999 10:52:45 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

Company Press Release

(NZ) Monsanto & Co in Timber deals.

SOURCE: Fletcher Challenge, International Paper, Monsanto, Westvaco, Genesis Tuesday April 6, 2:00 pm Eastern Time

Fletcher Challenge Forests, International Paper, Monsanto Company and Westvaco Corporation Announce Forestry Biotechnology Joint Venture

NEW YORK, April 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Fletcher Challenge Forests (NYSE: FFS - news), International Paper (NYSE: IP - - news), Monsanto Company (NYSE: MTC - news) and Westvaco Corporation (NYSE: W - news) announced today their intent to form a forestry biotechnology joint venture to produce and market tree seedlings that will improve forest health and productivity for the forestry market worldwide. The four companies will contribute $60 million (US) in total over five years to the joint venture.

The companies also announced their intent to contract with Genesis Research and Development Corporation Limited, an Auckland, New Zealand, biotechnology research company, to provide genomics research. The joint venture also will acquire forestry intellectual property from Genesis.

The participating companies envision the joint venture as a worldwide magnet for future developments in forestry biotechnology and believe that as international demand for wood fiber increases, significant business opportunities will result from additional breakthroughs in forestry science. Each company possesses significant biotechnology capabilities and will share its individual strengths as an equal partner in the joint venture. The joint venture also plans to actively seek technological advances from independent laboratories, universities and other companies in order to position itself to market new advances in forestry biotechnology to the world's tree growers in the shortest possible time.

The joint venture will focus on tree species that represent a majority of the seedlings now planted by the forest industry around the world and will initially direct its efforts toward various eucalyptus and poplar species, Radiata pine, loblolly pine and sweetgum. Targeted genetic improvements include:

These improvements are expected to enable forest landowners to meet the growing demand for paper and wood products while strengthening their ability to manage forestlands in a sustainable and eco-efficient manner for the benefit of future generations. Increasing the productivity of tree plantations safely and sustainably will help meet the world's wood and fiber needs without increasing pressure on native forests.

Fletcher Challenge Forests, a part of the Fletcher Challenge Group, is a New Zealand based company focusing on developing solid wood products for the Australasian, North American and Asian markets. The Fletcher Challenge Group employs some 15,000 people worldwide in building, paper, energy and forestry businesses.

International Paper is a worldwide producer of printing paper, packaging and forest products. The company also operates specialty businesses in global markets as well as a broadly based distribution network. Headquartered in the United States at Purchase, N.Y., the company has operations in 31 countries, employs more than 80,000 people, and exports its products to more than 130 nations.

As a life sciences company, Monsanto is committed to finding solutions to the growing global needs for food and health by sharing common forms of science and technology among agriculture, nutrition and health. The company's 30,000 employees worldwide make and market high-value agricultural products, pharmaceuticals and food ingredients.

Westvaco, headquartered in New York, NY, is a major producer of paper, envelopes, packaging and specialty chemicals. The company produces the full range of its products in the United States and further supports its global packaging business with wholly owned manufacturing operations in Brazil and the Czech Republic and a joint venture in China. International business accounts for approximately 25 percent of Westvaco's annual sales and the company has customers in more than 70 countries. Westvaco also owns 1.5 million acres of timberlands in the United States and Brazil.

SOURCE: Fletcher Challenge, International Paper, Monsanto, Westvaco, Genesis

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Date: 8 Apr 1999 16:03:42 -0500

Article from New York Times Archives,

February 25, 1999

"U.S. and Allies Block Treaty on Genetically Altered Goods"


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Date: 8 Apr 1999 18:36:45 -0500

Maine, US: GE legislation

Hi People - the Maine Legislative Committee on Agriculture, which is to hear the Bill to Label Genetically Engineered Food, has changed the time of the hearing. It is now Monday, April 12 (same as was), but at 1:30pm now.

At the same hearing are a bill to label irradiated food and a bill to label foods with their country of origin. We will certainly support those two.

Below is the text of the bill my legislator introduced. Unfortunately, I had to be away when it came out of the law-writer's office and, as you can see, there are several problems with it. Amendments are possible, but not always accepted. I'm going to propose severe amending, of course.

Please come. This is a coming issue that not enough people know about, and this is a major chance to get some media exposure for the issue. I'm sending out a news release to Maine media that people will be testifying to label all g-e foods, etc., along with some informational material for them.

If you have any questions about the below bill, you can ask me, but I can't guarantee I'll know the answers. (Some of this stuff, like the unfortunate exclusion of dairy and therefore rBGH, came from Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Assoc.-- MOFGA -- when they put a bill in last year and the Legislative Office just recycled it without asking this bill's primary sponsor.)

Hope to see you Monday.........Love, Nancy O.


An Act to Establish Mandatory Labeling for Genetically Engineered Foods

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:

Sec. 1. 22 MRSA b2152, sub-bb2-A, 4-C and 4-D are enacted to read:

2-A.Distributor. "Distributor" means a person who sells or transports or causes the sale or transportation of food for human consumption at a point between a manufacturer and a retail food establishment.

4-C.Genetically engineered food. "Genetically engineered food" means a substance for human consumption that contains a genetic material from another species or a genetic material assembled in vitro, which genetic material is introduced into the substance by nonsexual means as the result of a current or previous application of a recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid, or rDNA, technique or other similar technique for genetic manipulation capable of combining or introducing genetic material from dissimilar organisms.

"Genetically engineered food" also means a substance that contains a genetically engineered food or part of that genetically engineered food as an ingredient. "Genetically engineered food" does not include a food developed exclusively through traditional methods of breeding, such as artificial insemination, embryo transfer, hybridization or nondirected mutagenesis, nor does it include foods containing extracted products of a genetically engineered organism with no more than trace amounts of the organism itself or its genetic material.

4-D.Genetic material. "Genetic material" means deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, or ribonucleic acid, or RNA.

Sec. 2. 22 MRSA b2152, sub-b7-A, as enacted by PL 1979, c. 672, Pt. A, b53, is repealed and the following enacted in its place:

7-A.Retail food establishment. "Retail food establishment" means an establishment at which food is sold or offered for sale for off-premises consumption and does not include restaurants.

Sec. 3. 22 MRSA b2152, sub-bb9 and 10 are enacted to read:

9.Manufacturer. "Manufacturer" means a person who owns, leases, operates, controls or supervises a plant, farm or any other facility at which food for human consumption is produced.

10.Retailer. "Retailer" means a person who owns, leases, operates, controls or supervises a retail food establishment.

Sec. 4. 22 MRSA b2157, sub-b11, as amended by PL 1985, c. 676, b2, is further amended to read:

11. Artificial flavoring and coloring. If it bears or contains any artificial flavoring, artificial coloring or chemical preservative, unless it bears labeling stating the fact. If the artificial flavoring and artificial coloring declaration does not refer to the entire contents of the package, the words "artificial flavoring" and "artificial coloring" must follow immediately each of the ingredients of the package containing one or more of these substances. The common or usual name of any chemical preservative must be immediately followed by the words "chemical preservation"." To the extent that compliance with the requirements of this subsection is impracticable, exemptions shall must be established by regulations promulgated rules adopted by the Commissioner of "Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources" commissioner. This subsection, and subsections 7 and 9, with respect to artificial coloring, shall do not apply in the case of butter, cheese or ice cream; or

Sec. 5. 22 MRSA b2157, sub-b13, xC, as enacted by PL 1989, c. 115, is amended to read:

C. There is a conspicuously displayed directory to which customers can refer for information on the contents of unpackaged products offered for sale.;

Sec. 6. 22 MRSA b2157, sub-b14, xC, as amended by PL 1991, c. 506, b5, is further amended to read:

C. The owner or manager of a retail outlet shall ensure that produce without post-harvest treatment, as determined by the commissioner, is identified by a sign contiguous to the specific produce.;

Sec. 7. 22 MRSA b2157, sub-bb15 and 16 are enacted to read:

15.Sale by manufacturer or distributor of genetically engineered food. If a manufacturer or distributor sells a genetically engineered food unless the invoice for that particular food is correctly marked with the words "genetically engineered"; and

16.Sale by retailer of genetically engineered food. If a retailer sells, offers for sale or exposes for sale a genetically engineered food unless:

  1. The package in which that food is offered for sale conspicuously bears a label or stamp indicating that the food is genetically engineered; or

  2. When the food is offered for consumption and is not packaged, a conspicuous label or sign is placed on the food or immediately next to the food indicating that the food is genetically engineered.

Sec. 8. 22 MRSA b2166, as amended by PL 1991, c. 230, b2, is further amended by adding at the end a new paragraph to read:

It is an affirmative defense in an action or proceeding against a distributor or retailer for a violation of section 2157 if the person from whom the distributor or retailer purchased genetically engineered food did not provide notice on the delivery tickets and invoices of the information described in section 2157, subsections 15 and 16.


This bill requires the labeling by retailers of genetically engineered food.

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Date: 8 Apr 1999 23:02:02 -0500

Time of India Articles

Monsanto's R&D center in Bangalore, opened March 4th (from Times of India)

KRRS warns farmers of Monsanto sugarcane

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Date: 9 Apr 1999 00:32:57 -0500
From: (Judy Kew)
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 1999 11:15:36 -0400
From: Brian Tokar

Europe's Current Legal Situation re GE

The Current Legal Situation within the EU Concerning the Marketing and Commercial Growing of GMOs

Tom Schweiger, Greenpeace International, April 1999

Commercial growing of a GE crop has so far only happened in Spain in 1998, where about 20.000 ha of Novartis' Bt-maize were grown. Experimental field trials are much harder to monitor, because they are regulated purely on a national level. We don't have any up-to-date overview, but do know that no field trials have ever taken place in Austria.

Greece Calls for European Moratorium on GMOs and Bans Field Trials

Brussels / Athens 01/04/1999 -- Greenpeace International today welcomed the initiative of the Greek government for a European wide moratorium of all commercial releases of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and of any trade in genetically engineered seeds.

The initiative was released yesterday by the deputy minister for the environment Theodoros Koliopanos in Athens. Koliopanos also announced that all experimental plantings of GMOs presently pending in Greece have been rejected. (1)

"This is another strong voice for precaution", said Greenpeace Internationals genetic engineering expert Benedikt Haerlin, "and it is a clear signal against the genetic contamination of Europe." Haerlin welcomed Kolliopanos' announcement that Greece will seek to form an alliance with like-minded European governments to at least block any further approvals of GMOs.

At the next meeting of Environmental Ministers on June 24/25th the revision of the European Directive on the deliberate release of GMOs (90/220) is expected to be discussed.

"We call upon member states, especially the German Presidency, to take swift action to stop further releases of GMOs in Europe as this appears to be the consensus of a great majority of member states, and as all European Institutions agree that the present regulations of Directive 90/220 are no longer adequate" said Haerlin.

Presently the only member state of the European Union where commercial releases of GMOs have taken place is Spain. According to the Swiss multinational Novartis, around 20.000 hectares of their antibiotic resistant and insect killing Bt-Maize had been planted there last year. Novartis announced it will try to sell GMO maize again in Spain and Germany this year. Planting of the same maize had been banned in France last year. The maize is also banned in Austria and Luxembourg. In Great Britain a voluntary agreement seems to prevent any commercial releases and a similar agreement has been reached in Denmark.

For further information:
Thomas Schweiger, Greenpeace EU Unit, +32 2 2801400
Nikos Charalambidis, Greenpeace Greece, +30 1 380 63 74
Benedikt Haerlin, Greenpeace International, +49 30 30889912

(1) The field trails blocked by the ministry refer to two GE sugarbeet varieties (Novartis, AgrEvo), four cotton varieties (3 Monsanto, 1 Rhone-Poulenc) and one maize variety (Monsanto).

----------------------------------- modem: 512.288.3903

Green Building Professionals Directory at

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Date: 9 Apr 1999 05:43:30 -0500
From: MichaelP

Monsanto can probably find out who'all sends email messages aimed at ruining their corporate reputation as money-grabbing exploiters, but this is a new twist. Presumably there's a legal proceeding in the brit courts, and presumably Monsanto is is seeking evidence of who has received a particular handbook.



Monsanto legal move sparks (brit) civil rights row

By Charles Arthur and Arthur Neslen, INDEPENDENT (London) April 9

Prince Charles and Tony Blair could soon receive legal notices from the biotechnology giant Monsanto, which is seeking legal powers to identify people who have received a campaign handbook from the pressure group Genetix Snowball.

The company wants to be granted a court order allowing it to find out the names of the 650-odd recipients of the book on the grounds that by reading the book, a person could legally be described as a "conspirator", and so would be covered by an existing injunction made in July against the authors.

The Handbook for Action, published in December, provides a guide to identifying sites where genetically modified crops are being tested, and describes how to uproot the crops, which would disrupt the trials. In the past two years people claiming to act for Genetix Snowball have torn up dozens of GM trial sites around Britain.

After those disruptions, Monsanto obtained an injuction against six members of the group to stop them trespassing on various pieces of land.

While the Prince and the Prime Minister are the highest-profile names to whom the book has been sent, a new court order - if granted - would require Genetix Snowball to hand over the names and addresses of everyone who asked for a copy of the book. Civil liberties groups criticised what they saw as a corporate attack on free speech. John Wadham, of the civil rights group Liberty, said: "The collection and retention of names and addresses of people by Monsanto is very worrying for us. These could be people who have merely read a book and are in subsequent danger of being caught up in court proceedings when they have done nothing wrong."

Monsanto said: "We are not against freedom of speech. It is just that the book's recipients need to be notified, because if they take action then the responsibility would ultimately fall on to the defendants at Genetix Snowball." The penalty for breaking the injunction is up to two years in prison.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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Date: 9 Apr 1999 13:19:00 -0500
From: MichaelP

UK Environmentalists want 25 acres of GM crop seeds ploughed up

BBC Friday, April 9, 1999 Published at 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK

Environment Minister Michael Meacher insists that the UK's first farm-scale trial of genetically-modified crops will not be ploughed up despite protests.

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth (FoE) says the planting was carried out illegally because the firm responsible failed to inform the public about the trial at Lushill Farm, near Swindon, Wiltshire.

Under rules laid down by the Department of the Environment any company carrying out a trial must publicise the event in the local press.


FoE said that AgrEvo had acted illegally because it had published details in the Gloucestershire Echo - a newspaper not widely read in the trial area and not available in the newspaper shop of the nearest town.

It has written to Mr Meacher urging him to order the crops to be ploughed up. But Mr Meacher told the BBC's Today programme that the company had complied with regulations.

He said: "They haven't broken the rules. The farm is within the circulation area of this newspaper."

The company was informed of the situation by FoE and it now plans to advertise in the Swindon Evening News, but it said it had no plans to halt the trial.

Mr Meacher said: "It's going to be published in another newspaper in case there is any doubt in anyone's minds.

"That's not the issue. The issue is that we do need these tests to be undertaken in order that we can evaluate exactly what is going to be the effect on weeds and insects and on wildlife."

A spokesman for the biotechnology company said: "We took information from a local source about which paper would be best to place a public notice about the site.


"There has been no breach of the regulations but as an act of good faith when FoE came to us we agreed to post the notice again."

Peter Riley of the Friends of the Earth: Local people were not informedFoE food campaigner Peter Riley said: "The government must take decisive action and stop these farm-scale trials from going ahead until the correct procedures have been followed."

The trial site measures 25 acres and is planted with oilseed rape.

Four trials are expected to be held to assess the environmental impact of growing GM herbicide-resistant rape and maize.


The government has been urged to halt the sale of GM foods while more tests are carried out.

Even the government's advisory body English Nature has expressed doubts about the tests, saying that the small scale and design of the trials does not render them 'scientifcally sound'.

Mr Meacher said: "I accept that four or six fields is inadequate for our purposes.

"The reason for this is nothing to do with the government. It's because the industry has not managed to come up with more GM seeds than will cover six fields."

The tests are due to be carried out over a four-year period. Mr Meacher said he could not say whether there would be enough information to judge whether GM crops should be planted commercially.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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Date: 10 Apr 1999 00:36:52 -0500
From: Betty Martini

Stop Monsanto: Letters Needed to Stop More Assault to Health and Environment

Dear Lists:
Food Additive Petition by Monsanto

Dear Lists:

This issue on Neotame is very serious and FDA , Monsanto's Washington Branch Office, will end up approving another assault unless they are stopped. Read the letter below from H. J. Roberts, M.D., who has declared Aspartame Disease to be a world epidemic, to Dockets Management.

Also please sign the petition for recall of aspartame at More information on Neotame and aspartame on, and

CNN and national news today has tried to again deny the aspartame issue. Obviously their first attempt only brought thousands more to the web site, crashed my computer with thousands of case histories of the sick and dying from aspartame, and kept my phone ringing around the clock, which still hasn't stopped four months later. I've told the FDA the fire cannot be put out. There are now two support groups on line for aspartame victims. Don't allow another Monsanto travesty. This must be stopped. Read below!

Betty Martini, Founder
Mission Possible International
Mission Possible Aviation

April 7, 1999
Dockets Management Branch (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1051
Rockville, Maryland 20852

Food Additive Petition by Monsanto

for Neotame

(Docket No. 99F - 0187)

Dear Sirs: You have received my previous letters of March 3, l998 and February 25, l999, (copies enclosed) expressing my extreme professional opposition to the approval of Neotame as an all-purpose sweetener without further data concerning its safety.

This correspondence is prompted by my analysis of Monsanto's "Environmental Assessment", dated December 17, l998, which came to my attention today. I am troubled by its shortcomings, based on my 15 years interest and researches on its analog, aspartame. In view of the April 10, l999 DEADLINE for further comments, I am writing added criticisms to supplement my prior letters. These comments only can be summarized here.

  1. Environmental Impact

    I believe that there is a potentially significant impact of Neotame that cannot be necessariily shown by limited rat and dog studies, or in the extremely short (13 week) tests on healthy subjects.

    Contrary to the Monsanto submission, I have considerable data that point to asparame being neurotoxic, mutagenic, carcinogenic, diabetogenic, allergenic and teratogenic. These assertions reflect the experiences of over 1,200 (!) aspartame reactors in my own data base.

    The instances of multiple chemical sensitivity syndromes apparently triggered by aspartame products, and the personal reports of severe illness effecting plant workers who inhaled aspartame compound the environmental hazards.

  2. Animal Testing

    It is a gross error to project the animal foregoing studies onto humans when the massive consumption of this chemical is envisioned. (Currently, over half the population consumes aspartame products.) For example, these species metabolize phenylalanine 4 - 5 times faster than humans. Moreover, phenylalanine concentrates much more on the fetal side of the placenta, and readily crosses the blood -brain barrier to affect the fetus brain.

    Comparable arguments could be made for aspartic acid and methanol, which I have addressed in many publications.

    I am shocked by the absence of any reference to long-term rat studies concerning the Brain Tumor issue which I detailed previously. This is currently a MAJOR concern in humans. Moreover, it was a prime objection against approving aspartame.

  3. Methanol

    It is my opinion that chronic low-dose poisoning with FREE methanol is a serious public health hazard. There is a mounting body of clinical and scientific evidence for this - especially the extraordinary tissue effects of formaldehyde and formate. I am insulted by (a) assertions from the FDA that there is more free methanol in juices, etc. than aspartame products, and (b) my tax monies pay for such ignorance and arrogance.

  4. Diabetics

    The assertion that aspartame products and (presumably Neotame) does not affect glycemic control is WRONG! As a Board-Certified internist and endocrinologist, I have repeatedly found that aspartame products aggravate both diabetes control and its complications - and have written on this subject. My requests of corporate-sponsored researchers to justify their published "negative" conclusions in this realm have not been answered.

    I also must warn that there are severe metabolic and other consequences of extremely sweet chemicals (that is, 500 - 10,000 times sweeter than table sugar). In particular, they involve the release of excessive insulin, which profoundly affect brain and enhance obesity.

  5. "Small Amounts"

    It is erroneous to assume that "a dietary concentration of less than 10 ppb of each minor degradant" is innocuous. From my work on highly toxic pesticides, there are several molecules in each cell even in parts per TRILLION exposure.


I am a totally corporate-neutral physician who is concerned about the ongoing exposure of the population to aspartame and numerous other chemicals that were approved without adequate long-term studies by corporate-neutral investigators and politically neutral-regulators.

Let me repeat: I anticipate a public health tragedy if the aspartame problem is allowed to be repeated in the absence of these safeguards!

Yours truly,

H. J. Roberts, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.C.C.P.


  1. Take the 60-day No Aspartame Test and send us your case history. Mission Possible International 5950-H State Bridge Rd. #215 Duluth, GA 30097 USA

  2. Tell your doctor and all of your friends!

  3. Return Asparcidal food to the store. (anything with Monsanto's NutraSweet / Equal / Spoonful / Benevia / NatraTaste)

VISIT Get links to over 30 sites on aspartame
VISIT ..FAQs & Cases
VISIT Exposing Bovine Growth Hormone

Disability and Death are not acceptable costs of business!

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Date: 10 Apr 1999 12:11:01 -0500
From: wytze

The Dutch situation re GE

Something interesting is developing in the Netherlands. Parliaments Agricultural committee had sent 49 questions on GE, foodsafety and freedom of choice recently to the governement.Two Ministers now have answered all the questions and next wednesday there will be a new debate. Governement response is very disappointing but also full of mistakes, so it may become interesting. In the mean time the Dutch Platform on Genetechnologies (NPG) has spread a Full Moratorium Petition among NGO's and the response is really GREAT! All the major environmental , some big Nature org's and one of the most important North-South ngo's have signed within two weeks. Besides there were many smaller groups who signed, the importance of which should not be underestimated because they are the real Grassroots organisations. The NPG yestreday held a pressconference which received reasonably good attention. The big hit will probably come later. Also Greenpeace released a report which exposed the shortcomings and mistakes in the procedure of granting persmission for field trails. This is done by the Ministry of Environment.

Wytze de Lange

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Date: 10 Apr 1999 13:42:05 -0500 From: MichaelP
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 17:11:51 +0100 (BST)

Worldwide conformity kills Kiwis' GM-free option

Sunday Star Times, NZ, March 21, 1999

THE genetically modified food controversy is not just about what we eat. There are far larger dimensions to the debate, such as the lack of democratic decision-making, the claims of science to supremacy over other paradigms and the sovereignty of individuals and nations. Labelling is an issue, but an "after-the-horse-has-bolted" one. Why isn't being GM-free an option? When consulted, this is what Kiwis said they wanted.

The matter of GM food encapsulates the predicament of nation states after trade liberalisation. We are now told we must adopt GM food practices or fail economically. Conformity is required even at the risk of the population's health. The market was meant to deliver consumers more diversity, more choices. In reality, there are boundaries within which companies and countries compete and these are set and enforced by the market. The level playing field turns out to require conformity within and across national boundaries. The metaphor for this homogenisation is McDonald's, which is marketed in carbon copy form everywhere in the world, no matter how incongruous the setting.

Free trade requires a culture of sameness. There is little to distinguish a supermarket in Apia, Auckland or Atlanta. We are rapidly losing the cultural identity of our commodities and our markets. Food production and retailing are increasingly monopolised by trans-nationals which operate on a global scale. Food is more likely to be shipped great distances from wherever it is cheapest than obtained locally. Primary food producers are forced to reduce overheads and cut cost to compete. The supermarket system has led us to expect we can obtain out-of-season fruits and vegetables and to expect a perfect appearance, even though this may have little correlation with taste.

Globalisation has led to the development of mega-corporations which dominate their lesser competitors and are bigger even than nations. For instance, Monsanto, the major producer of GM foods, has annual sales around the world of $14.5 billion. This is larger than the gross domestic product of New Zealand. The entire organics industry in the US turns over only $8billion a year. The size of biotechnology interests explains why we are not well placed to debate and make decisions about the wisdom of developing GM foods.

The industry has such huge resources it dwarfs those of potential critics or even moderators of the debate. The biotech food industry promotes itself as the font of credible knowledge. Add to this the industry has become so closely intertwined with opinion leaders, regulators, and decision-makers it is not safe to trust normally sound sources of information. People have reacted suspiciously to claims of scientists that this technology is safe.

Barely a week goes by when we don't hear of some scientific disaster -- nuclear test sites that are leaking, contraceptives that cause blood clots, health effects from contaminated polio vaccines given 40 years ago, compensation for women with silicone breast implants. Common to all these tragedies is the insistence of science, over a long period, such practices were safe. No wonder there is considerable scepticism about the claims for the safety of GM food. In fact, there has been far less scrutiny of GM foods than most medicines. Pharmaceuticals must go through many levels of trials -- in the laboratory, on animals and on small groups of humans -- before they are used on populations. Even then science can get it wrong as very large numbers of people need to be exposed to pick up rarer risks. Third generation oral contraceptives are a case in point.

These are still early days in knowledge about GM foods. Yet we have already moved to the global population level. In the US, 75% of processed foods contain GM ingredients. More than 50 million acres of farmland are growing GM crops. Four years ago, there were virtually none. As GM foods are not segregated it is virtually impossible to guarantee processed foods are GM free. Last week, it was discovered a top-selling baby milk formula in the UK contained SMA Wysoy, made from GM Roundup Ready soy. The makers of the milk said it had become impossible to screen it out. As things stand in New Zealand, we are not to be told whether foods contain GM ingredients. But this huge, important issue cannot be reduced to allowing us simply to exercise a choice over what we do or do not take off the supermarket shelf. In a democratic society, citizens are entitled to a full, open public debate about whether they wish to take part in the GM experiment, or to decline to participate altogether, as users or producers of GM products.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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Date: 11 Apr 1999 01:24:21 -0500
From: "Jon Campbell"

The significance of the tryptophan disaster

Hi, folks,

In a previous posting I indicated that, through connecting the threads of research about the tryptophan disaster of 1989, we have revealed that the disaster was due to genetic engineering. As a result of further research into the issue, I have found something much more profound and prophetic. In short, the "novel" protein in Monsanto RRS discussed in an earlier post has a frightening potential for harm.

In order to show what I have found, I'll give a summary of the disaster, and then the revelation.

In 1989, a large number of people (thousands) began to have a peculiar crippling syndrome, which was referred to in the medical literature as Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome (EMS), in some ways similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It appeared to be an auto-immune-type disease, that is, the body was attacking itself. (Note: hold this thought...important later). 37 people died and about 1500 people were permanently crippled by it. Eventually, the cause was isolated to a "contaminated" batch of tryptophan - an amino acid - produced by a Japanese company, Showa Denko. (I believe this is the same company that had been responsible for the mercury contamination of Minimata Bay...I need to look into this).

At the time, tryptophan was widely used in the US for depression and insomnia. This very large batch of tryptophan (apparently the company provided upwards of 90% of the tryptophan in the US, according to one source) was made using a process developed by Showa Denko that used a genetically-engineered bacteria to speed up the synthesis of the amino acid. In the process, they created 60 identifiable contaminants. One of them - which turns out to be the critical one - is a DOUBLE-LENGTH (dimer) tryptophan called 1,1'-ethylidenebis[L-tryptophan]. At least one researcher referred to this as a "novel" amino acid (that is, does not exist in nature), and it is referred to as "Peak E" in gas chromatograph analyses of the tryptophan samples.

[Now a digression. Amino acids are normally derived from plant and animal protein. Our bodies break down this protein into amino acids and then rebuild it according to our own human blueprint into proteins in our bodies.]

Apparently fascinated with the finding that EBT was at fault for EMS, and looking for the mechanism of EMS, researchers began looking at what reactions this "novel" amino acid would have that would cause a crippling auto-immune disease. What they found is truly frightening: this "novel" amino acid had been METABOLIZED and used by the body for protein synthesis, and THEN the immune system recognized it as a "foreign protein" and crafted antibodies to attempt to destroy it.

So here was a product of genetic engineering that caused a horrible, crippling, deadly affliction, through a mechanism that called into question the use of genetic engineering for making anything. I don't need to tell you that the FDA did not exactly splash this fact on the front page of the New York Times. Instead, they maintained (and, as far as I know, still maintain) that the exact cause of the EMS outbreak was unknown (other than its connection with tryptophan supplements), kept tryptophan off the over-the-counter market, but allowed baby formula companies to use it and physicians to prescribe it (!). Furthermore, right after tryptophan was taken off the over-the-counter market, Eli Lilly had huge spreads in all the major media announcing FDA approval of Prozac to counter clinical depression.

And now to the important issue at hand. The gene(s) added by Monsanto to make it resistant to Roundup appear to create a "novel" protein (again, meaning a protein that does not exist in nature). Monsanto did minimal testing of RRS and this protein; I seem to recall they fed it to mice or rats for a few months and since the animals did not die (at least that is what was reported...) it was declared safe. No human experimentation was done before commercialization; we are now part of a vast human experiment.

There are researchers in Europe who are seeing increased allergy to soy. This is a hint of a potential disaster in the making. Allergy is an immune, antibody response: the bodies of those people who had an immune response apparently recognized the "novel" protein as foreign, and had an antibody reaction to it.

We do not know if the human immune system has any serious reactions to this protein, whether some breakdown amino acid might be "novel" (new, not from nature) and potentially cause the same or similar problems as the tryptophan contaminant - a latent widespread antibody reaction and auto-immunity. Monsanto certainly does not know, since they did no human studies, to my knowledge.

Jon Campbell

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Date: 12 Apr 1999 00:45:46 -0500
From: MichaelP

Biotech experts to lose GM role

By Paul Waugh, Political Correspondent, INDEPENDENT (London) April 12

SCIENTISTS with current or recent links to the biotechnology industry are to be barred from a key government committee on genetically modified crops.

Increased public concern over the safety of GM foods and crops has persuaded ministers to draw up sweeping plans to reform its main body of advisers on the issue.

The overhaul of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre) will see more "pro-green" representatives placed on it to ensure that there is a more even balance of opinion.

Ten of Acre's 13 members, including its chairman, will be replaced this June when their terms come to an end. The Government sees the change as the ideal opportunity for reform.

Only one member of the committee, Julie Hill, of the Green Alliance, has expertise in environmental affairs, while all the others are academics or industry figures.

Acre's retiring chairman, John Beringer, has long maintained that GM crops "are here to stay" and is seen by his critics as a confirmed advocate of their benefits.

Some ministers were also astonished that another committee member, Nigel Poole, works for Zeneca Seeds, part of the multinational biotech company that wants to promote GM crops across the globe.

In a big push to transform the body, Michael Meacher, the Minister for the Environment, has now ordered his officials to look for new members who do not have current or recent past contacts with the biotech industry.

Instead, people with expertise in farmland systems, wildlife biodiversity and ecological practice will be encouraged to apply for membership of the committee.

Mr Meacher told The Independent that he was keen to respond to recent allegations that Acre's membership had in the past been too closely tied to companies or organisations that carried out gene research or crop trials.

"There is a general view that some of the people were rather too close to the industry and rather too pro-GM. As a government, we are not taking sides but we do want a better balance of opinion," he said.

"This is not an ideological clear-out, but the changes in membership of the committee allow us the ideal opportunity to respond to public concerns on the issue."

Mr Meacher added that he would also extend the remit of the committee to include the effects of the indirect as well as the direct impacts of GM crops on the environment, including influences on other GM strains.

"I want a wide trawl of people to ensure that we get the right balance. It is difficult to find experts who have had no links with industry but it is not impossible.

"Ministers are not scientists and we rely on committees like this to provide us with a breadth of scientific opinion and to reflect the wider balance of debate. I'm determined that we do get that balance, while retaining the scientific and analytical benefits."

Green groups and leading members of the Local Government Association, which has banned GM from school menus, have recently asked for an overhaul of Acre along such lines.

Professor Beringer recently told a Commons select committee that it was extremely difficult for scientists not to have links with industry in the 1990s because of cuts in state aid to universities.

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