Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
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16 April 99

Table of Contents

Bt lawsuit update
Environmental Groups Sue EPA
European Hostility Toward Genetic Food Fiddling Sparks Trade Dispute:
Burger King Portugal franchisee bans GMOs
It's raining pesticides (full article)
The New Gene Exchange Newsletter
Bt-crop Refuges Fail to Meet Experts' Standards (posted April 1999)
Industry--small Steps Towards Refuges In Bt Corn (posted April 1999)
Environmentalists and Organic Growers Sue EPA to Stop Bt Crops
UK Govt Committee on GM Foods Reportedly Faces Overhaul
Snail's Pace In Europe
Biotechnology may Turn Farms into 'Pharmaceutical' Delivery Systems
Take the Gag Off Food Safety Issues
GM maize trials scrapped in Austria
EU Member States, Parliament in Dispute on GMO Directive
SOUTH AFRICA: Genetically Engineered Crops Ready For Harvest

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Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 10:03:13 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-10

Thanks to: Patricia Dines PDines@compuserve.com for posting this

In case you hadn't seen this yet - Bt is used in its natural state by organic farmers; there's quite clear evidence that the genetically engineering it into plants will lead much higher rates of use, pest resistance, and the decline of the usefulness of Bt as an organic tool. Thanks to David Letourneau for forwarding this to me

P. Dines

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed for research and educational purposes only. **

----------------- FORWARD ------------------

From: charles margulis charles.margulis@dialb.greenpeace.org
Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 1999 5:49 AM

Bt lawsuit update

From: Charles Margulis, Greenpeace

Hello all-

As you may know, on Feb 18 Greenpeace, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) and Center for Food Safety filed our lawsuit calling on EPA to cancel their registration of Bt crops. I apologize for this late report back to you, I was in Colombia attending the Biosafety protocol negotiations that week, and am just now getting unpacked and resettled!

By my observation, the press conference on the 18th to announce the lawsuit was well attended and received excellent media coverage. I've counted at least 20 newspapers that ran the story (I'm happy to forward the list I have, if you'd like to see it), and surely many more picked up the AP (below) or Reuters story. In Colombia the news of the lawsuit was greeted with much applause from many delegates,. and much chagrin >from the biotech industry and US delegation. The timing could not have been better: we gave out our press release announcing the suit just as the US delegation was holding a press conference to assert that ge crops are safely grown and tightly regulated here!

Our complaint listed 73 plaintiffs, including 34 farmers from 18 states. Also on board as plaintiffs are organizations that represent thousands more farmers. Businesses that may be effected by the adverse impacts of Bt crops are also plaintiffs, including the nation's oldest supplier of beneficial insects. Another plaintiff, Charles Walker of Terra Prima Inc spoke at the press conference; his company was forced to pull organic corn chips out of stores in 7 European countries when they determined that the product had been contaminated with genetically modified corn. Losses from the recall have cost his small company over $100,000.

Many thanks to Racine Tucker-Hamilton, our Greenpeace press officer who made the media success possible; Kalee Kreider, my Greenpeace colleague who so ably handled the press conference and follow-up duties; to the other speakers Sally Fox, Charles Walker, and Jane Rissler; and to Joe Mendelson, our attorney at the Center for Food Safety, for all his work putting the lawsuit together.

The full text of the lawsuit is avaialable on our website, http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng. If you can't access it and would like a copy of the "Statement of Facts" (about 15 pages), please let me know and I will be glad to send a copy (the first 50+ pages of the lawsuit is the list and description of plaintiffs-I'll send that along if anyone really wants it!)

Finally, thanks to you all for supporting and joining this action! I will be in touch as things develop and next steps are in order.

Peace,
Charles


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Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 10:03:13 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-10
From: charles margulis charles.margulis@dialb.greenpeace.org
Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 1999 5:49 AM

Environmental Groups Sue EPA

By JANELLE CARTER AP Farm Writer, Thursday February 18 9:30 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) - A coalition of environmentalists, organic farmers and consumer groups filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency today to force the agency to end its approval of a type of genetically altered crop.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court by Greenpeace International, the Center for Food Safety and the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements charges EPA with "wanton destruction" of Bt, which it calls the "world's most important biological pesticide." The complainants are concerned that using the pesticide in genetically altered plants poses environmental risks. They complain that EPA has failed to address their concerns since approving the product.

EPA approved the use of Bt in potatoes in 1995 and has since agreed to its use in corn and cotton.

The lawsuit demands that EPA cancel registration of all genetically engineered Bt plants; cease approval of any new Bt plants and immediately perform an environmental impact assessment.

Bt is actually a soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, that produces toxins to kill insects. It has been used for years as a spray by farmers and gardeners who like the fact that it kills insects while remaining nontoxic to mammals.

But the use of Bt has changed in recent years with advances in genetic engineering. Scientists are now able to develop plants that contain a gene for Bt toxin, giving the crops built-in protection.

The move has been controversial, however, as many groups have raised concerns that insects will become resistant to Bt, which would seriously hurt organic farmers who are permitted to use Bt insecticides as their only emergency pest control option.

"EPA has shown a blatant disregard for federal law and its own regulations by approving Bt crops without fully assessing their environmental safety," said Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety.

Added Charles Margulis, a Greenpeace genetic engineering specialist, "Genetically engineered crops are a threat to farmers, consumers and the environment."

An EPA spokesman disagreed.

"EPA carefully makes sure that the biotech products we review fully comply with all legal requirements designed to ensure that they are environmentally sound and environmentally beneficial," said spokesman Dave Cohen. "We believe the actions we've taken with regard to Bt will be sustained against this legal challenge."

But Jim Gerritsen, a plaintiff and potato grower from Maine, contends, "Genetically engineered Bt crops will lead to insect resistance in just a few years. My ability to provide consumers with quality organic produce should not be compromised for the short-term benefit of the biotech industry."

Organic farmers are also concerned that pollination will move genetically engineered products into their crops, whether they want them to or not, Mendelson said.

"I think the bottom line is the EPA should have done its homework on these plants before they registered them," Mendelson said. "They didn't do that. They didn't look at the adverse environmental impacts that this stuff creates."

Copyright c 1999 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Charles Margulis
Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaign 736 West End Avenue #8D, New York, NY 10025
(212) 865-5645     fax (212) 865-4128     charles.margulis@dialb.greenpeace.org


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Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 10:03:13 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-10

European Hostility Toward Genetic Food Fiddling Sparks Trade Dispute:

Row over U.S.-made `Frankenstein food' reveals larger issue

BY Anne Swardson PARIS
The Toronto Star April 7, 1999, Metro Life F6

Never mind bananas.

Everyone knows that a particular trade war is about politics, not fruit. Few ordinary Europeans care one way or the other. The next rounds in the transatlantic trade fight really are about food. They centre on U.S. export of hormone-treated beef and genetically modified plants and crops, and they hit Europe where it hurts: in the kitchen.

Both engender much broader, stronger negative feeling here than the banana battle has.

The European Union's 11-year ban on hormone-treated beef, which led to the of European exports for possible retaliation by the United States, is one of the few EU positions that real people here actually noticed - and support.

This, despite the fact that in 10 years of trying, the European Union has not been able to come up with scientific evidence proving beef-hormone treatment is harmful to human health, and despite the fact that the dispute-resolution system of the World Trade Organization has twice ruled against the European prohibition.

The matter of genetically modified plant products is not yet before the world trade arbitration system, but European consumers are so strongly opposed to these exports that experts are sure they, too, will lead to trade conflict.

Both cases - beef hormones and genetically modified products - reflect a European view of food fundamentally different from that in the United States, experts here say. Western Europe shares a deep hostility to food fiddling of any kind. The fact of the matter is that Europeans feel more suspicion of anything said EU Trade Commissioner Leon The United States is more

Europeans will happily eat raw hamburger with a raw egg on top, or oysters in summer, or unpasteurized cheese (which does indeed taste a lot better). But the idea of eating a hormone-injected steak, or tomatoes whose genes have been reordered by science - quelle horreur!

In France and Italy, in particular, food is definitely more art than science. In France, dozens of cheeses are displayed on straw trays; dozens of fish repose on ice. Italians care deeply about freshness and purity; they won't touch overdone pasta and always prepare their own salad dressing.

A recent poll by the French firm Sofres found that 63 per cent of respondents would refuse to eat genetically modified food.

Even where the fare is less elegant, in Britain and Germany for example, people are equally suspicious. In Germany, opposition is strong to There is said Susanne Commerell, spokesperson for But people don't see the benefit of manipulated gene

Under a World Trade Organization ruling, the ban on hormone-treated beef must be lifted by May 13, but the EU has served notice to the United States that it will not meet that target because studies are incomplete.

Negotiations are underway to find a compromise by, for instance, labelling beef that has hormones. The list of products subject to tariffs is designed to pressure Europe toward a solution.

The situation with genetically modified food and crops is more complex. There is no pending WTO case against them, and in fact some genetically modified crops already are being grown in Europe.

But consumer sentiment is strongly against them. Major grocery store chains ), Belgium, France and elsewhere have announced they will sell no food or produce that has been genetically modified, and in case of doubt they won't sell it at all.


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Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 10:03:13 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-10

Burger King Portugal franchisee bans GMOs

By David Brough, Washington Post

LISBON, April 7 (Reuters) - Burger King's franchisee in Portugal has banned genetically modified (GM) ingredients at its fast-food outlets because it was concerned over possible health risks, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

"We do not accept any genetically modified ingredients in any of the foods or components that we sell, including ketchups, oils and mayonnaise," Jorge Morgado told Reuters. We have sent letters to our suppliers, demanding written guarantees that they do not use GMOs (genetically modified organisms)," he added in a telephone interview.

"It is a cat and mouse game. It is not easy. You have to pester suppliers to make sure they are complying." The Burger King franchisee, which has 12 fast-food outlets across Portugal, took the decision to ban GM ingredients late last year.

Britain's Diageo Plc (DGE.L) owns the Burger King brand.

Morgado said the franchisee, a group of privately owned Portuguese companies, rejected the use of GM ingredients because it believed that food safety controls on GM products needed to be more stringent.

"People are trying to play God, changing products around," he said.

"The testing period for GM products is too short." The exact risks, if any, posed by high-yield GM crops are not known.

Critics say they fear GM seeds could affect human health and hurt the environment via cross-pollination.

In Britain, some food retailers, such as Iceland Group (ICE.L), have imposed bans on the sale of genetically modified products as shoppers shunned what the press has dubbed "Frankenstein foods."

Last month Britain ordered restaurants and fast-food outlets to tell consumers if their products contained GM ingredients.

Morgado criticised what he called inconsistencies in EU regulations governing labelling of GM products.

"If a soyburger contains soybean protein, you have to label it," he said. "But if you are selling a product that contains soybean oil, you do not have to label it. So you could be eating a mayonnaise with soybean oil in it that has been genetically modified, but with no reference to that on the packet."

Morgado said the Burger King franchisee was not planning to tell consumers in Portugal that it was selling food free of genetically modified ingredients.

"There is no point in raising the point to the consumer and raising the panic level," he said.

No other fast-food chain or food retailer in Portugal is known to have banned GM ingredients.

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed for research and educational purposes only. **


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Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999 15:55:12 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-11

Here is the full article from New Scientist on pesticide and herbicide residues. This is relevant to GE because many GE crops are herbicide resistant, allowing increases use of these chemicals. (Thanks to Cliff Kinzel for forwarding this.)

It's raining pesticides (full article)

By Fred Pearce And Debora Mackenzie
New Scientist vol:162, no. 2180, 3rd April 1999, P:23,

RAIN IS NOT what it used to be. A new study reveals that much of the precipitation in Europe contains such high levels of dissolved pesticides that it would be illegal to supply it as drinking water.

Studies in Switzerland have found that rain is laced with toxic levels of atrazine, alachlor and other commonly used crop sprays. "Drinking water standards are regularly exceeded in rain," says Stephan Müller, a chemist at the Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology in Dübendorf. The chemicals appear to have evaporated from fields and become part of the clouds.

Both the European Union and Switzerland have set a limit of 100 nanograms for any particular pesticide in a litre of drinking water. But, especially in the first minutes of a heavy storm, rain can contain much more than that.

In a study to be published by Müller and his colleague Thomas Bucheli in Analytical Chemistry this summer, one sample of rainwater contained almost 4000 nanograms per litre of 2,4-dinitrophenol, a widely used pesticide. Previously, the authors had shown that in rain samples taken from 41 storms, nine contained more than 100 nanograms of atrazine per litre, one of them around 900 nanograms.

In the latest study, the highest concentrations of pesticides turned up in the first rain after a long dry spell, particularly when local fields had recently been sprayed. Until now, scientists had assumed that the pesticides only infiltrated groundwater directly from fields.

Müller warns that the growing practice of using rainwater that falls onto roofs to recharge underground water may be adding to the danger. This water often contains dissolved herbicides that had been added to roofing materials, such as bitumen sheets, to prevent vegetation growing. He suggests that the first flush of rains should be diverted into sewers to minimise the pollution of drinking water, which is not usually treated to remove these herbicides and pesticides.

Meanwhile, Swedish researchers have linked pesticides to one of the most rapidly increasing cancers in the Western world. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which has risen by 73 per cent in the US since 1973, is probably caused by several commonly used crop sprays, say the scientists.

Lennart Hardell of Orebro Medical Centre and Mikael Eriksson of Lund University Hospital found Swedish sufferers of the disease were 2.7 times more likely to have been exposed to MCPA, a widely used weedkiller, than healthy people (Cancer, vol 85 p 1353).

MCPA, which is used on grain crops, is sold as Target by the Swiss firm Novartis. In addition, patients were 3.7 times more likely to have been exposed to a range of fungicides, an association not previously reported.

The patients were also 2.3 times more likely to have had contact with glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide in Sweden. Use of this chemical, sold as Round-Up by the US firm Monsanto, is expected to rocket with the introduction of crops, such as Roundup-Ready soya beans, that are genetically modified to resist glyphosate. The researchers suggest that the chemicals have suppressed the patients' immunity, allowing viruses such as Epstein-Barr to trigger cancer.

From New Scientist, 3 April 1999


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Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999 15:55:12 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-11

THE GENE EXCHANGE

A Public Voice on Biotechnology and Agriculture
April 1999
Part 1 of 2

The New Gene Exchange Newsletter

From: http://www.ucsusa.org

CONTENTS

*These charts are not in this e-mail version of the Gene Exchange. They are posted at www.ucsusa.org or available by mail or fax from Pam Abhyankar, UCS, 1616 P St., NW, Washington, DC 20036; phone 202-332-0900; fax 202-332- 0905; e-mail pabhyankar@ucsusa.org.

*************
THE NEW GENE EXCHANGE
(posted April 1999)

Welcome to the new Gene Exchange. This posting is the first for our new Web-based newsletter. We're pleased to be giving you new information faster than ever. Each month, you can expect to see new articles and other information to help you keep up with happenings in biotechnology and sustainable agriculture. We will continue to bring you the regular features you have become accustomed to in the old paper newsletter-the Better Way, Biobit, Around the World, and all the others.

Writing a newsletter on the Web is new to us. We expect the Gene Exchange to evolve over the months ahead and will appreciate hearing what you think we should be doing. Of course, we want to hear what you like about our new approach. Please send your comments to jrissler@ucsusa.org.

If you think you may forget to check the Web site, why not sign up for the e-mail version? Send a message to genex@ucsusa.org. In the subject line, write "subscribe genex" and in the body, write your e-mail address, name and postal address, and whether the postal address is home or work. At least every two months, we will download recent postings to send to e-mail subscribers. Twice a year, we will print postings and mail them to postal subscribers.


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Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999 15:55:12 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-11 Gene-Exchange

Bt-crop Refuges Fail to Meet Experts' Standards (posted April 1999)

From: Gene-Exchange April 99 http://www.ucsusa.org

The majority of Bt crops in the 1999 growing season will not meet the refuge standards recommended by scientists. With the exception of the two most recent approvals, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is allowing Bt potatoes, corn and cotton to be planted without the refuges that experts agree are needed to delay resistance. Refuges are nonBt-crop set asides that harbor Bt-susceptible insects which can mate with resistant ones that develop in Bt crops.

In the last two years, three groups of scientists have written reports which recommend large refuges in all Bt crops. The chart below, comparing those experts' recommendations with EPA requirements for the 1999 growing season, shows that the Agency mandates adequate refuges in only two kinds of Bt corn-AgrEvo/Plant Genetic Systems Bt field corn and Novartis Bt popcorn. These two types will make up only a minor proportion of the total acreage planted to Bt crops in the United States in 1999.


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Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999 15:55:12 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-11 Gene-Exchange

Industry--small Steps Towards Refuges In Bt Corn (posted April 1999)

From: Gene-Exchange April 99 http://www.ucsusa.org

Yielding to pressure from scientists, environmentalists, organic growers, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), biotech companies and corn growers are taking small steps towards establishing refuges in Bt corn, the nation's largest Bt crop.

Late last year, an industry-sponsored study called for large refuges in Bt corn. The report "An Evaluation of Insect Resistance Management in Bt Field Corn," funded by Monsanto, Novartis, and other biotech companies, concluded that Bt is at risk from resistant insects and that large refuges are necessary to save Bt. Specifically, the report's recommendations would place 40 or 80 percent sprayed and 20 or 40 percent unsprayed refuges on current Bt-corn varieties, depending on how much toxin the plants produce. Along with a US Department of Agriculture regional committee (NC-205) study and UCS's "Now or Never," the industry report establishes a solid consensus in favor of large refuges.

In line with that consensus, Monsanto has accepted EPA requirements for refuges, albeit small ones, in Bt-corn fields outside the South this year in return for the Agency's permission to sell more Bt corn in cotton- growing states. The original registration had restricted the number of acres that could be planted to Monsanto Bt corn in the South as a means of reducing the exposure of corn earworms where Bt corn and Bt cotton grow in close proximity. Corn earworms, which are known as cotton bollworms when they feed on cotton, move readily between the two crops and could be exposed to Bt in both. Last year, Monsanto petitioned the Agency to change the original registration to allow it to sell more seed to southern corn growers. EPA acceded but required 50 percent refuges, sprayed or unsprayed, in Bt corn in cotton-growing areas.

At the same time, Monsanto agreed to new registration conditions that require its Bt-corn growers outside the South to plant refuges. These setasides do not meet the standards recommended by the NC-205 committee, the UCS report, or even industry's own report. In contrast with these standards, the Monsanto refuges are too small and are not required to be close to Bt-corn plantings.

Also, a coalition of corn growers and biotechnology companies has volunteered to implement 20 percent refuges-sprayed or unsprayed--in all Bt corn in 2000. Though the sprayed refuges are smaller than experts recommend, it appears that the 2000 growing season will be the first in which all Bt corn will be planted with nonBt set asides.

Sources:

  1. R. Steyer, "Corn group backs rules on bioengineering," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/29/1999 (link);

  2. "An Evaluation of Insect Resistance Management in Bt Field Corn: A Science-Based Framework for Risk Assessment and Risk Management," International Life Sciences Institute, Washington, D.C., 1999 http://www.ilsi.org;

  3. 1998 Supplement to the NC-205 report, "Bt Corn and European Corn Borer: Long-Term Success Through Resistance Management," North Central Regional Extension Publication NCR-602, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, October http://ent.agri.umn.edu/ecb/nc205doc.htm;

  4. M. Mellon and J. Rissler, eds., "Now or Never: Serious New Plans to Save a Natural Pest Control," UCS, Cambridge, Mass., 1998 (web link);

  5. EPA Pesticide Fact Sheet on Monsanto's Bt corn, EPA Pub. No. 730-F-99-004, Office of Pesticide Programs, Washington, D.C., revised March 1999.

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Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999 15:55:12 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-11 Gene-Exchange

Environmentalists and Organic Growers Sue EPA to Stop Bt Crops

From: Gene-Exchange April 99 http://www.ucsusa.org (posted April 1999)

A coalition of environmental and consumer groups, organic grower organizations, and individual organic growers sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its alleged failure to assess fully the environmental risks of Bt crops and the impacts of their registration on organic growers. The lawsuit, filed in February by the Center for Food Safety, demands that EPA withdraw all current registrations and deny future approvals of Bt crops, pending appropriate evaluation of risks to the environment and economic impacts on organic growers.

The petition charges that EPA did not properly assess three major environmental risks: the development of insects resistant to Bt, the transfer of Bt genes to other plants, and effects of Bt crops on beneficial, nontarget insects. Listed among the more than seventy plaintiffs are Greenpeace, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (with 650 member organizations in 100 countries), individual organic growers, organic agriculture groups, and environmental organizations.

Source: Center for Food Safety, International Center for Technology Assessment, Washington, D.C. The text of the petition is at http://www.icta.org/legal/bt2.htm.

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed for research and educational purposes only. **


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Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 21:13:12 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-14

Next article posted by Jim McNulty

UK Govt Committee on GM Foods Reportedly Faces Overhaul

April 13, 1999

LONDON, AFX via NewsEdge Corporation : The UK government plans a complete overhaul of a key advisory body on genetically modified foods following claims it has been tarnished by links to the biotechnology industry, the Financial Times has reported.

Ten of the 13 members of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre) -- which approves trials of GM crops -- are to be replaced in June, the paper explained.

It reported environment minister Michael Meacher as saying that public confidence had been shaken by revelations that some members of the committee received funding from GM food companies.

Meacher plans to replace some of the food scientists with experts in wildlife, plants and farming methods, to assess the possible longer-term impact of GM crops, the paper said.


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Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 21:13:12 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-14

Snail's Pace In Europe

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

BIOTECHNOLOGY

Genetically modified crops appear to have hit another snag in finding acceptance in Europe. European Union officials now say an agreement on revising the current approval system for genetically modified organisms is unlikely before the summer of 2000.

Trade protectionism undoubtedly has quite a bit to do with the latest delay. But a large and undeniable force of resistance is consumer skepticism about both the safety of the technology and its social implications.


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Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 21:13:12 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN3-14

Biotechnology may Turn Farms into 'Pharmaceutical' Delivery Systems

Visit Agweek on the World Wide Web at http://www.agweek.com April 13, 1999

Agweek via NewsEdge Corporation : Apr. 12--WATERTOWN, S.D. -- That last ear of sweet corn you sank your teeth into last fall might have been genetically modified to resist plant diseases as it grew last summer.

You probably gave little or no thought to where or how it was grown. But the fact is, about 25 percent of the corn grown in the United States in 1998 was genetically engineered.

Now, chew on this thought.

In the very near future, maybe three or four years down the road, that mouth-watering sweet corn you enjoy on a family picnic might provide a vaccine that can eliminate your risk of contracting rabies.

Or, the potatoes you serve at the dinner table may provide enough of the right kind of protein in the blood to fight off viral diseases such as infectious hepatitis or even AIDS.

This isn't "The Jetsons," the space-age television cartoon series from the 1960s that showed the Jetson family popping a capsule into a microwave oven to create a four-course turkey dinner.

It is, however, cutting-edge technology that is being tested today, says Arnold Foudin, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. He talked about what he sees in his crystal ball in a talk last month at a Farmers Forum, hosted by a group of South Dakota Extension Service county offices.

"Plants as delivery systems for vaccines and pharmaceuticals is where we are," he says. "We can't get blood from turnips, but we'll be able to get blood protein in potatoes."

Foudin's job is to review all applications for commercial development of genetically modified organisms.

The pace of expansion is staggering. About 25 percent of the 19,500 research plots approved in the United States since 1987 were planted in 1998. He anticipates another record this year.

"Herbicide resistance is still the number one characteristic," he says. "But the picture is changing rapidly. We're seeing change in the things that are being field tested from on-the-farm characteristics to value-added crops.

Consumers in the United States probably already have difficulty avoiding biotech products. Here are a few examples, according to a report from Purdue University:

Other breakthroughs are on the horizon.

"This is the kickoff of what I believe is the real change, the evolution that is coming down to the farm," Foudin says. "Plants as delivery systems for vaccines and pharmaceuticals are no longer theoretical. We are getting the applications in the mail."

Here are some examples of field tests that already have begun or are planned in the next year or two, according to applications under review or already approved by APHIS:

Foudin's speech was delivered, coincidentally, at about the same time that headlines throughout rural America and beyond trumpeted the planned merger of DuPont Co. and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc.

Because of his position with the federal agency, Foudin is on the leading edge of industry change. He uses a crystal ball image to paint his version of the future of biotechnology in agriculture.

"Why would DuPont Co., the world's largest chemical company, pay $7.7 billion for a seed corn company like Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc.?" he asked the group of farmers and businesspeople.

The answer lies partly in something he heard last year from a vice president for DuPont. He explained that, today, nutraceutical-functional foods are a $25 billion industry. Within the next three to five years, it will grow to $100 billion annually.

"What will the public pay for food commodities with scientific information ... that it would decrease the occurrence of heart attacks by a substantial amount or that it would decrease cancer by substantial amounts?"

Foudin offers some insights, gleaned from applications and pending permits at APHIS.

One company, he says, is in the intermediate stages of doing rice genome research. Now, it wants to move more than 100,000 lines of genetically engineered rice to the United States. Other applications involve corn, soybean and cotton genomes.

"People are finding out not only how to move those single genes, but they are learning how to read the book, write simple sentences, write paragraphs, chapters, and I think shortly in the next century, they will be writing full books," he says.

Genetically modified organisms in the United States date back less than 20 years. Here is a quick historical peek:

Transgenic field tests now are being conducted with 52 different plants. Corn leads the way, with thousands of different tests.

Currently, wheat represents only about 1 percent of what has been tested in fields. However, Foudin believes wheat and other grains soon will be a large part of the nutraceutical movement in farm fields.

"We have no doubt that within the next 36 to 48 months, we will see development of commercial lines of wheat with genetically engineered disease resistance made available to the public," he says.

States that grow cotton top the list, since about 50 percent of the nation's cotton production now is genetically modified. Meanwhile, in 1998, about 38 percent of the nation's soybeans and 25 percent of the corn were genetically engineered.

APHIS does not keep track of the number of acres each state has planted with transgenic plants. However, it does provide information on the number of test plots or fields per crop in each state.

The upper Midwest is not a leader in the transgenic field.

So far, applications for about 300 field tests on about 10 different crops or plants have been approved for North Dakota and South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. About one-fifth of those field tests are for value-added uses.

Minnesota is the regional pace setter, followed by North Dakota.

Last year, for example, Minnesota had about 200 test plots of transgenic crops, of which one-fourth were being tested for value-added qualities. Half of the state's test fields involved corn, followed by potatoes and sugar beets.

North Dakota had about 90 transgenic test plots, including about 40 for potatoes and about three dozen for canola and sunflowers. The state also had more than a dozen rapeseed test plots devoted to value-added research.

Corn accounted for about two-thirds of South Dakota's three dozen test plots, including about a half-dozen for value-added properties.

Montana had about 30 test plots, with about two-thirds used for potatoes or sugar beets.

The United States is not alone in biotech research. In New Brunswick, Canada, scientists are experimenting with blue-berries, in hopes that, one day, the fruit that is so abundant there will contain enough antioxidants to prevent cancer. They also are testing genetically engineered cranberries designed to cure urinary tract infections.

While research into biotechnology and nutraceuticals explodes in the United States and Canada, the industry does not have an unobstructed road ahead.

The industry has its share of critics and others who warn to proceed with caution.

A large-scale battle is brewing in Europe over the use of transgenic foods sold in supermarkets and restaurants.

Recently, at least two large supermarket chains agreed to stop selling genetically modified food products, following pressure from consumers who are wary of the industry.

In Australia, a national committee appointed to investigate the genetically modified organism industry recently submitted a report recommending the government not approve any biotech foods for market until assurances are made that they pose no health risks.

Foudin is a firm believer in caution. More than a dozen applications for field tests were denied or withdrawn last year in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Montana.

"In the next decade, there will be a Bill Gates in the ag industry," he says. "There will be hucksters, too, trying to sell you that magic bean, that magic corn seed."

Foudin is not alone in his optimism for biotechnology in the 21st century.

Research is under way in universities and pharmaceutical companies around the world.

Peter Goldsbrough, professor of horticulture at Purdue, believes biotechnology holds great promise for agriculture. He sees biotech-derived foods growing on the market.

"Biological processes are so complex and diverse that somewhere there's an organism that is able to inhibit the growth of the soybean cyst nematode, the leading soybean pest," he says in a recent report. "We will find that organism, identify the gene or genes that are involved, and put them into our soybeans."

Foudin sees the field developing even further early in the 21st century. He speaks of research into building machines at the levels of molecules and atoms.

"Recently one was described as a hollow tube of molecules that have an opposite charge on both ends. They will stick charged atoms at the center and it will be kind of shot out of the tube," he says.

"How would they use it? Instead of going down to your heart surgeon, you would go down to your green grocer and get a prescription for a certain kind of broccoli that will perform like a Roto-Rooter and go into your veins and get rid of that cholesterol plaque.

"Does it sound crazy? It might be," he says. However, he says it could happen in as little as five to eight years.

Foudin suggests that industry trend is part of the reason for the recent rash of mergers between agricultural and nonagricultural businesses, such as chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

"DuPont is understanding that in the future your field will be the synthetic chemical plant of the world. Corporations worldwide have seen the light. They are moving at warp speed. If only 5 percent of the 5,000 field tests are commercialized, that will be 250 million genetically engineered products."

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed for research and educational purposes only. **


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1999 05:00:08 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-16

from genetics genetics@gn.apc.org

J. Robert Hatherill, a Research Scientist and Faculty Member of the Environmental Studies Program at Uc Santa Barbara, Is Author of "Eat to Beat Cancer" (Renaissance Books 1998)

Take the Gag Off Food Safety Issues

By J. Robert Hatherill
Los Angeles Times, Monday, April 12, 1999
© Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved

Environment: Laws that say you can libel broccoli keep the public from knowing the dangers in what they eat.

Times are tough when you have to talk in hushed tones about

hamburger safety. These days, merely implying that a food is unsafe can land you in court, as Oprah Winfrey learned with her now-famous comments against ground beef.

The lesson swiftly became a personal one when my publisher stripped lengthy passages from my new book. Simply put, I was not allowed to disclose dangers inherent in some common foods like dairy and meat products, as well as over-the-counter medicines like calcium supplements and nonprescription pain remedies. The problem had nothing to do with whether there was sufficient evidence to support the claims--there is--it came down to fear of litigation. I was told, "We could win the lawsuit, but it would cost us millions, and it's just not worth it."

My disturbing experience is part of a trend that is sweeping the country. We are losing one of the basic tenets our country was founded upon: free speech.

The safety of food is mired in a deep, politically charged battle being waged on many fronts: in Congress, convincing legislators of the safety of many types of food and drugs; in the courts, silencing consumers from voicing opinions; and in the media, via huge advertising budgets.

Behind all of this is the fact that America's food has undergone a startling change since World War II. The pastoral days of American food production have been replaced by a gigantic, mechanized industrial complex. In the last half-century, the modern food purveyors have centered their efforts on the use of chemicals--many of which are harmful--to produce larger crops, plumper livestock and better textured and flavorful food with long shelf lives.

To achieve these goals, the food industry has assailed Congress with more than 200 food-lobby groups. The deftly concealed agenda of the food industry is not to nourish or even feed but to force consumers into an ever-increasing dependence on processed foods. Rather than valuing food for its ability to sustain health, it has now become the object of catchy commercials with celebrity endorsements.

Modern food processing not only strips away natural anti-cancer agents, but searing heat forms potent cancer-producing chemicals in the process. In the end, it is consumers who suffer from the alien food. These profound changes in our diet are leading to enormous health consequences. Unfortunately, it is no coincidence that since 1950 cancer rates have steadily increased and are now at the highest point in history.

In the past few years, the food junta unveiled its new business strategy. While parceling out a new wave of junk foods, fresh from its chemistry laboratories, it conspired and began its ominous push for food-libel laws. The fight began with a report about Alar, the popular growth-regulator for apples that lessens bruising and imparts a richer color. The Alar controversy erupted in 1989, after a CBS-TV "60 Minutes" episode depicted it as a cancer-causing agent. Promptly, apple sales plummeted. Many schools banned fruit treated with Alar. The angry apple growers sued CBS and lost. The manufacturer eventually stopped making it.

The food industry, embittered by the high-profile defeat, put intensified efforts toward the new food libel laws. During the last decade, at least a dozen states enacted these laws. Traditional libel laws have stated that only a corporation or a living person can be disparaged. But with the current food-libel statutes, former President George Bush could be hauled into court for disparaging broccoli.

The mere presence of these libel laws is forbidding. They can entangle one in costly litigation, regardless of who wins the lawsuit. The Texas cattlemen's case against Winfrey cost nearly $1 million to defend at the trial level alone. That does not include the costs of the federal case that is on appeal and another proceeding in state court. Winfrey's victory is largely a symbolic gesture, a last gasp of free speech, since big industry can still drag anyone into court for merely discussing food safety. The end result is the silence of the majority of people who do not have the deep pockets or the time necessary to stage costly legal battles.

Food is shipped to market from all corners of the world, and consumers now have more reason to be watchful than ever before. Free speech is vital to those who speak on food safety issues. Food libel laws have made a mockery of our 1st Amendment rights to free speech and need to be quickly repealed. The public has every right to know about the safety and nutritional value of the food it purchases and eats. - - -


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1999 05:00:08 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-16

GM maize trials scrapped in Austria

ENDS Daily - 09/04/99

A planned first series of field trials of a genetically modified (GM) crop in Austria has been shelved, a group of major biotechnology companies announced yesterday. Adverse public opinion and the agriculture ministry's reluctance to take part in a steering group overseeing trials of a variety of GM maize were cited as the major reasons for the decision.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1999 05:00:08 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-16

EU Member States, Parliament in Dispute on GMO Directive

BNA International Environment Daily April 13, 1999

BRUSSELS (BNA) -- European Union member states and the European Parliament are headed for a major confrontation over the revision of the EU's biosafety regulatory scheme after key EP amendments on liability and an extended time limit approval for genetically modified organisms were rejected by the European Commission.

As a result of the disagreement over revision of the controversial Directive 90/220 on Deliberate Release of Genetically Modified Organisms, EP members and the German EU presidency said final approval of the new biosafety law will not be reached until the middle of 2000 as there will likely be a need for a conciliation committee process to work out legislative differences among the EU institutions.


Top PreviousFront Page

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1999 05:00:08 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-16

SOUTH AFRICA: Genetically Engineered Crops Ready For Harvest

By Gilian Farquhar

JOHANNESBURG, Apr 13 (IPS) - South Africa's first commercially grown genetically modified crops are ready for harvest, but an adequate biosafety regime is still lacking in this country, warns an environmental watchgroup. This new technology is being deployed too fast in South Africa without sufficient safeguards, regulations or public debate, says Miriam Mayet, a lawyer with the non-governmental organisation, Biowatch. Our legislation is not adequate to deal with the overall impact on the food web and on beneficial insects, and secondly with the risks of genetic pollution (through cross-pollination between transgenic crops and Mayet says. We need a tight safety regime established for all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) first and tightly controlled field trials to look at the long-term impact on the ecology. We also need a lot more discussion, debate she adds.

The danger is that the multiple side-effects of introduced genes cannot be predicted in advance and are not always visible or easily detected.

In 1996 and 1997 a cotton strain and two maize varieties were the first genetically engineered crops to be passed by the country's official regulator, the South African Committee on Genetic Engineering (Sagene). The crops were approved for commercial production.

Sagene has also approved field trials, which are now underway, for strawberries and potatoes using locally developed technology. Field trials on eucalyptus, apples and soya will use imported US technology, says a former Sagene official, Muffy Koch.

US food biotechnology multinational 'Monsanto' - one of the major players in the industry locally and globally - developed one of the maize varieties approved in South Africa and a smaller US company 'Pioneer', developed the other. Biowatch's concern with Bio technology crops is that the toxin is produced throughout the lifecycle of the plant - and the implications of says Mayet.

Local consumer watchdog, the Safe Food Coalition's spokesman Angus Durran, has raised concerns over health issues surrounding genetically engineered food. The types of genes and proteins introduced into high tech food crops could have dangerous side-effects as has been shown in a well-documented case where a food allergen from Brazil nuts was transferred to soyabeans he says.

There were concerns that bacteria in the human gut may become resistant to antibiotic from marker genes in such plants. Durran also cites research in the UK involving feeding rats genetically manufactured fungus, which it was found had resulted in adverse effects on the rats organs, including brain shrinkage.


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

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