23 April 99

Table of Contents

Monsanto's Celebrex Linked to 10 Deaths
Genetically altered foods already on American tables
FDA Unworried by Deaths Linked to "super-aspirin" Celebrex
Politics: GM food essential, says Blair guru
UK Monsanto Propaganda
Biotechnology May Turn into 'Farmaceutical' Delivery Systems
NorthEast Resistance Against Genetic Engineering (NE RAGE) UPDATE 4/99
Biotechnology Derived Foods in Brazil
US Corn Grower's being warned
Scientists Chew Over Pros and Cons of GM foods
Seed Companies Submit Plan to Keep Bt Corn's Punch
Asian governments respond to GM awareness
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH: Biotech industry's GM code won't work
Monsanto Profits Fall, Hurt By Acquisition Costs

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Date: 20 Apr 1999 09:52:42 -0500
From: Jason Boehk

Monsanto's Celebrex Linked to 10 Deaths

NEW YORK (AP) -- Monsanto's highly successful painkiller Celebrex has been linked to 10 deaths and 11 cases of gastrointestinal hemorrhages in its first three months on the market, The Wall Street Journal reported today. Half of those who died suffered from gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcers, according to reports submitted to the Food and Drug Administration that were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Various causes were given for other deaths, and no cause was given for one. Celebrex went on the market in January to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

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Date: 20 Apr 1999 14:09:03 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

Genetically altered foods already on American tables

Sunday Telegram Worcester, MA
© Copyright 1999 _____via IntellX_____ April 18, 1999

It's in our Food
No Downside
`Arthurstown 7'
Organic Protest

It's in our Food

Most people have heard of genetically engineered vegetables - crops spliced with genes of other organisms to make them resistant to pests and chemical weed killers.

What many don't know, however, is that they already are eating them, lots of them, and wearing them, too.

The corn syrup sweetener in your cola drink, for instance, may have come from a new form of corn that is engineered with bacteria genes to make it fend off bugs such as the corn bore. If you eat prepared foods made with soybean products, chances are you've eaten food from plants built by scientists in a lab with a single gene added in the DNA to make them resistant to the weed killer Roundup.

Roundup-resistant plants allow farmers to spray their fields with the chemical, killing every other plant except the resistant soybean.

It was just three years ago that the first commercial crops of GE - genetically engineered - plants were allowed in the United States. Since then, dependence on such plants has exploded.

Gary F. Barton, director of biotechnology communications for [ Monsanto ] , the company which dominates the market in GE plants, said their herbicide- and insect-resistant plants now account for 20 percent of all the corn grown in the United States, 30 percent of the soybeans and 45 percent of the cotton.

In three years, Monsanto-patented GE crops have taken more than 43 million acres of American farmland. Monsanto also manufactures Roundup weed killer.

No Downside

Barton says there is no downside to this manipulation of nature. No tradeoffs. No problems. Just better farming through genetic engineering.

After planting Roundup-resistant crops, he said, Roundup can be sprayed to kill all the weeds, replacing all the other herbicides farmers used to have to spray. Instead of spraying weed killers and pesticides 10 times a year, farmers growing insect- and Roundup-resistant cotton only spray five or six times a year.

The insect-resistant corn is made by splicing in a gene from BT, a naturally occurring soil bacteria that kills bugs and is widely used by organic farmers to control pests without chemicals.

The new plant is resistant to insects and farmers don't have to spray as many chemicals to raise a healthy crop. So far, Barton said, use of GE crops has reduced the use of insecticides in the United States by 850,000 gallons.

Critics have referred to Monsanto as the [ Microsoft ] of agribusiness because it owns the patents on the plants, prohibits reuse of the seeds and sells the only herbicides that work with them. Monsanto does agree that certain precautions are necessary in the use of its products.


One problem is preventing GE plants from pollinating wild plants. Unchecked, wild plants around the fields could also become resistant to weed killer.

To avoid that, Barton said, Roundup-resistant corn should be planted in the United States where there is no wild corn to cross-pollinate. He said that Monsanto isn't licensing use of Roundup-resistant corn in Mexico, where there are many varieties of native wild corn that potentially could be pollinated with the GE traits.

Another concern is that insects could become resistant to BT from the insect-resistant crops. To protect against that, for every 75 acres of insect-resistant crops planted, 25 acres are planted with natural crops so that a reservoir of insects not resistant to BT will be preserved.

Barton said that while cross-pollination of wild corn wouldn't be a big problem because wild corn plants don't compete with crops, more concerns surround crops such as rice, which is a grassy plant, and could pollinate with other wild rice plants that can be nuisance plants for rice farmers.

"What you don't want is a weed species to develop that is resistant to your herbicide," Barton said.

This enormous revolution in American agriculture has occurred with little controversy in this country. A few groups, including organic farming organizations, have objected, but consumers have barely noticed.

In Europe, however, Monsanto's new crops have been met with a firestorm of protest and prohibitions.

`Arthurstown 7'

In Ireland, seven agriculture writers and farmers, tagged in the press as "The Arthurstown 7," were arrested for trampling and uprooting a test plot of Monsanto genetically engineered sugar beets. Their case was widely publicized as they went on trial in County Wexford two weeks ago.

Crowds cheered when they left their trial after being found guilty of criminal damage, and they have been supported by protesters carrying hoes as a symbol of traditional farming. Elsewhere across Europe, commercial planting of these crops has been prohibited. In many parts of Europe even test fields proposed for demonstration purposes and safety testing have been banned.

Among those pulling up Monsanto beet plants in Ireland was John Seymour, a 84-year-old sugar beet farmer who worried the Monsanto plants could pollinate his natural sugar beet field a few miles away.

Other critics in Ireland, which has an economy highly dependent on agriculture, worry that pollination from "foreign" GE plants would damage the reputation of their naturally grown foods which are sold throughout Europe. Creation of "super weeds" from cross-pollination is another battle cry in the Irish protests against Monsanto.

Seymour told the judge in the Athurstown 7 trial, "To mess around with God's creation" by fundamentally altering the makeup of plants, is a "mortal sin."

"And it's a mortal sin, if you understand that, not to prevent it," he said in his defense.

The judge knocked down the charges, citing the honest intentions of the protesters and put six of the seven on probation. They vowed to continue non-criminal protests. Monsanto officials said they were happy with the outcome and are moving forward with more test fields.

Organic Protest

While there has been little visible controversy in the United States, organic farmers have rallied against use of GE crops here, according to Martin Teitel, executive director of the Council for Responsible Genetics, based in Cambridge, MA. "It's dangerous and it's unnecessary," he said of the new biotech farming.

Organic farmers, he said, believe the BT-resistant plants will create BT-resistant bugs, eliminating the irreplaceable natural pest control that organic farmers rely on to avoid use of chemical pesticides. "The theory is within three to five years you may have massive resistance to BT," Teitel said.

While Barton said pollen will only travel "a few feet," limiting dangers of the spread of genetically altered traits to wild plants, Teitel said pollen can travel "for miles."

"These products come at a price to the environment and, some people think, to human health," Teitel said, "and they only add to the bottom line of the company that owns them."

In Europe, he said, consumers and elected officials have demanded labels on genetically altered foods on store shelves. Here in the United States, the government has not required labeling and consumers remain largely unaware of any change.

Corporate crops, Teitel said, eventually threaten biodiversity and the inherent survival traits in natural seed plants. He said it isn't surprising that in Ireland, where millions died when potato blight struck a single variety of potato and where farmers remain terrified of mad cow disease infecting their herds from England, there is more caution.

Monsanto, Teitel said, has an interest in biological uniformity, but the risk is that a single blight could come along and destroy a nation's entire crop. "I think our food supply is put in jeopardy by this kind of agriculture," he said.

Barton counters that the lack of controversy here is because U.S. consumers have more confidence in regulators protecting the nation's food supply.

"In Europe, I think there is less confidence in the regulatory system. In the U.S. I think there is an appreciation that we have a great bureaucracy that makes sure these things are done safely," Barton said.

Teitel argues for a logo or label on GE products "so consumers would have a choice." Moreover, he argues, "Why not have a moratorium on them until their safety is proved."

The Environment column appears every other week.

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Date: 21 Apr 1999 13:02:06 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

"Such numbers are meaningless", another classic staement. J Mc Nulty

FDA Unworried by Deaths Linked to "super-aspirin" Celebrex

By Lisa Richwine, Tuesday April 20, 7:09 pm Eastern Time
(Adds comment from FDA adviser, Searle official)

WASHINGTON, April 20 (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Tuesday there is no need to worry about a new despite reports of 10 deaths among people who took the drug.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Celebrex has been linked to 10 deaths and 11 cases of gastrointestinal hemorrhage. More than 2.5 million prescriptions have been written for the drug in the three months it has been on the market.

But an FDA adviser said such numbers were meaningless. Dr. Steven Abramson, chairman of rheumatology and medicine at the Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York, who chairs the FDA's arthritis advisory committee, said in an interview.

Celebrex, made by Monsanto subsidiary G.D. Searle & Co. (MTC - news), is one of a new class of painkillers called COX-2 inhibitors. They were designed to battle pain and inflammation without the side-effects of aspirin and related drugs such as ibuprofen, which can cause internal bleeding.

The FDA keeps tabs on as many adverse reactions as it can. Just because a death has been reported in a person taking a drug does not necessarily mean the drug caused that death.

An FDA spokeswoman said she could not confirm the Wall Street Journal's figures, but said she was not worried. We don't believe this represents a signal at this point, because you have to take into account the 2 million We would continue to monitor this and look at

Monsanto spokeswoman Scarlett Foster said the Wall Street Journal story that were she said. At this time, there isn't any evidence that points to a causal relationship between a patient's death or hospitalization to You really have to consider other

Abramson agreed, saying more information was needed before any link could be made between Celebrex and the deaths. Were they taking an aspirin a day? Low doses of aspirin can cause acute We don't know

Steve Geis, Searle's vice president for arthritis clinical studies, said that of the 10 deaths reported, eight had prior histories of heart, liver or gastrointestinal problems.

Abramson, whose committee recommended approval of Celebrex, said information from trials showed Celebrex is safe and effective when used as prescribed.

Celebrex, known generically as celecoxib, went through the approval process on a fast-track basis, winning the marketing go-ahead six months after it submitted the application.

The FDA was eager to approve one of the COX-2 inhibitors because side-effects are so serious from aspirin and related drugs, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). NSAIDS can cause potentially fatal stomach bleeding.

Last year Dr. Gurkirpal Singh of Stanford University in California estimated that 16,500 people died from gastric bleeding every year in the United States.

Several companies are also developing COX-2 inhibitors which have the potential to take a huge chunk out of the $5 billion to $12 billion worldwide analgesic market. Abramson's panel recommended approval of Merck's (MRK - news) COX-2 inhibitor Vioxx on Tuesday.

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Date: 21 Apr 1999 13:03:23 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

Politics: GM food essential, says Blair guru

The Daily Telegraph London
© Copyright 1999 (c) The Telegraph plc, London, _____via IntellX_____ April 21, 1999

GENETICALLY manipulated crops are essential if we are to feed the world in 50 years' time, Sir Robert May, Tony Blair's scientific adviser, told a Commons select committee yesterday.

Sir Robert mocked the company [ Monsanto ] , which is developing genetically modified crops, for failing to deploy this argument, which he said was his main reason for endorsing GM technology.

Sir Robert said that the problems of starvation in the world were largely "problems of distribution, not production".

However, that would not have been true had it not been for the Green Revolution, bringing higher yielding crops which were dependent on fertilisers and pesticides, and also used more water and had adverse impacts on biological diversity.

The mathematical biologist said that organic agriculture was "good for us" but could not feed the world.

He told the Commons environmental audit select committee: "We could not feed today's population, much less tomorrow's, with yesterday's agriculture.

"We need to bio-engineer crops that work with nature to reduce the need for intensive use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides." He told Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes: "Properly handled, GM crops have the potential to be more wildlife-friendly than the ones we have now."

Sir Robert said that most GM crops had less potential for harm to wildlife than the shift to winter wheat and oil-seed rape - both of which required high inputs of pesticides and fertilisers - which has been a factor in the decline of farmland birds and insects over 30 years.

The dangers of GM crops to the environment were that new organisms would escape and spread, exchanging genes with other species, affecting creatures which ate them, or altering ecosystems. Other dangers were that they would accelerate existing trends towards driving out wildife.

He refused to give Helen Brinton, the Labour MP for Peterborough, reassurance that GM technology was safe.

"You probably thought it was safe coming in this morning, you probably thought it was safe walking down a cigarette-filled corridor to get here," he said. "Those are what I call risks. You are not going to get me to say I am certain about anything."

Ecological campaigners yesterday claimed an important legal victory against Monsanto.

The company went to the High Court in London to try to obtain an immediate order permanently banning six members of GenetiX Snowball from uprooting their plants at trial sites.

But Mr Justice Klevan refused to grant the injunction, saying he could not rule out the possibility that the protesters had a defence to the application for an permanent injunction. He said the matter would have to go to a full hearing.

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Date: 21 Apr 1999 21:26:48 -0500

UK Monsanto Propaganda

Just got this from the UK Monsanto Propaganda list...

It's no wonder they're having problems with their PR when they make statements like these:

One important issue, especially in developing countries, is that of small holder farmers who rely on saved seed to provide growing stock for the next year. We also hope that serious study and consideration will be given to the potential environmental, economic and social impacts of gene protection systems; how they should be developed; under what conditions or circumstances they should be utilized; and who should own them.

Having been an English teacher, I'm afraid I would fail someone for writing a paragraph with such a blatant non sequitur.

Or how about:

Until a thorough, independent examination of gene protection systems has been conducted and all points of view considered, we will not attempt to commercialize these technologies. Moreover, in considering whether to commercialize such technologies, we will respond publicly and fully to the conclusions, opinions and arguments that are raised.

They will respond publicly and fully to justify their commercialization of these technologies...that's how I read it.

And this:

Many parties, both private and public, have an important stake in the issues surrounding gene protection technologies. We hope they will participate in a careful examination of those issues.

Good grief, every living thing on the planet has a stake in whether they unleash this terminator "protect our patent" technology.

- ------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date sent:Wed, 21 Apr 1999 19:47:23 -0400
From:listmaster <>
Organization:Monsanto UK
Subject:News Update

We welcome those of you new to this list and would like to thank you for joining. We hope you will find this service convenient and instructive.

Thank you for your interest.



The Monsanto Company yesterday called for an international study and consultation on the use of "gene protection" or "gene control" technologies in agriculture; this is a group of plant biotech technologies under development by private and public institutions that includes the so-called "terminator" technology.

This message is sent to Monsanto UK subscribers on request. We never send unsolicited e-mails.

Your address is kept strictly confidential and will not be given to third parties.

You can leave the mailing list at any time. To do so, just send an e-mail to <> with "unsubscribe

monsanto_uk-list "<your_email_address>" in the body of the email. Should you notice any unusual activity, do not hesitate to notify us immediately.


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Date: 22 Apr 1999 06:40:56 -0500
From: (Judy Kew)

Biotechnology May Turn into 'Farmaceutical' Delivery Systems

By Kevin Bonham, Agweek Magazine Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

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 ot where or how it was grown. But the fact is, about 25 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. 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 1960's 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 U.S since 1987 were planted in 1998. He anticipates another record this year.

"Herbicide resistance is still the number on 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 U.S. probably already have difficulty avoiding biotech products. Here are a few examples, according to a report from Purdue University:

  • Genetically engineered corn is used in familiar foods, such as breakfast cereals and taco shells. It is used to produce corn syrup, which is used as a sweetener in many foods such as soft drinks, baked goods and candies.
  • Transgenic soybeans are used in hundreds of products, including cooking oil, margarine and candles.
  • In 1997, about one-third of all dairy cattle in the U.S. were given rBGH, a hormone created through biotechnology , to increase milk production.
  • The genetically engineered enzyme chymosin now is used in about 75 percent of the cheese produced in the U.S.

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.

  1. Rabies-vaccine corn, from a seed company. "In much of the world, rabies is a substantial problem with no mechanisms to economically and reliably deliver the vaccine, so raise a vaccine corn," Foudin says.

  2. Blood-protein potatoes. The applicant wants to produce blood protein in potatoes. Research is under way to produce potatoes that will include blood protein that can be used to fight off viral diseases and disorders, such as infectious hepatitis and AIDS. "You've never caught anything from a potato or a cabbage," Foudin says.

  3. Diarrhea-vaccine bananas, from an applicant originally from Texas A&M Univeristy, now from Cornell University. The researchers want to create a plant delivery system for an anti-diarrhea vaccine. Statistics show that 2 million to 3 million children overseas die every year of bacterial diarrhea annually. "We're hoping to test it in the next year," he says.

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 Internation Inc.?" he asked the group of farmers and buisnesspeople.

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 U.S.. 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 U.S. date back less than 20 years. Here is a quick historical peek:

  • 1983--First genetically engineered plant was created.
  • 1987--First genetically engineered plants grown in fields under USDA supervision.
  • 1990--First genetically engineered plants were grown under USDA supervision for commercialization.
  • 1996--Approximately 6 million acres of GE plants were grown in the U.S.
  • 1997--Approximately 25 million acres were grown.
  • 1998--GE plants grown in the U.S. expanded to 58 million acres.

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.

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

Minnesota is the regional pace setter, follwed by N.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 S. 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 of sugar beets.

The U.S. is not alone in biotech research. In New Brunswick, Canada, scientists are experimenting with blueberries, 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 U.S. 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 application 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 will you use it? Instead of going down to your heart surgeon, you would go 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."

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Date: 22 Apr 1999 06:53:56 -0500
From: (Judy Kew)
Via: Brian Tokar

NorthEast Resistance Against Genetic Engineering (NE RAGE)

Regional Actions:
Other Updates:
International reports:

Here's a brief rundown of the 3rd regional meeting of NorthEast Resistance Against Genetic Engineering (NE RAGE) , which happened in Cambridge, Mass. on Sunday 4/11:

Regional Actions:

  • Cambridge, 4/17: Mothers for Natural Law, Council for Responsible Genetics--rally in Central Square.

  • Laval, Quebec, 4/19: Biotechnology Action Montreal, demonstration outside Quebec Bion-Industries Association conference on Innovation and Trends in Biotechnology.

  • Burlington, 4/22: NERAGE, ISE, NFN + Goddard College and Univ. of Vt. (UVM) student groups -- focusing on UVM investments in Monsanto and other companies with poor environmental records (see below); meet in front of the Bailey-Howe library at 12:30 for rally and parade into town.

  • Amherst, 4/29: NERAGE and ISE, focusing on UMass ties to the biotechnology industry, including experiments on cloning and 'pharming' (GE farm animals that produce drugs in their milk); meet in front of the student union at 12 noon for rally, street theater and parade.

Other Updates:

  • Maine: Focusing on outreach to the community around UM/Orono in anticipation of a demo in the fall. Will do an Earth Day table, keep working for a statewide labeling bill, and are investigating a new 'technology park' in the state.

  • NH: Support activities for Dave Pike, who pied a biotech speaker at UNH. Felony and conspiracy charges have been dropped, but a trial is still likely.

  • Western MA: Lightlife Foods, which makes various snack foods, etc. using isolated soy protein is working w/ other local manufacturers to develop a GE-free source. Avail. sources are now all or part-GE. Also, John Reid of Bioshelters, Inc. (N. Amherst) was featured in the local paper--he is apparently seeking to improve his profit margin by raising fast-growing GE tilapia in his fish tanks, and also acting as a national broker for GE fish. Further investigation in progress. A well organized regional seed saving effort is underway in the Pioneer Valley.

  • VT: Working w/ campus group to draw attention to UVM's investments in Monsanto. Monsanto was the university's largest holding for several years, but they are now selling off individual portfolios (including Monsanto) and investing instead in 1 or 2 mutual funds, which also hold Monsanto stock. This appears designed to mute growing student activism around their investment policy. A march or demo at the state capitol is still in planning stages. Also, Brian Tokar will be receiving a Project Censored award in NY at the end of April for his article on Monsanto in The Ecologist.


Bills have been introduced in ME (labeling of GE foods, with various exemptions introduced in committee), NH (study effects of Terminator, initiated by RAFI), and VT (study of enviro. and economic impacts of GE). For details: (ME), (NH), (VT).

International reports:

Brian Tokar and Kim Wilson reported on the Biodevastation 2 conference in India, as well as subsequent travels to visit farmers who reject GE and are rediscovering traditional seed varieties that don't require chemical inputs. Vandana Shiva's Research Foundation for Sci., Tech. and Ecol. has a project (Navdanya) to offer them technical assistance, maintain a large seed farm, and help with marketing of organic foods. Matt S. from Maine described recent visits with the Movimento Sem Terra (landless people's movement) in Brazil, which has resettled over 100,000 people on land expropriated from absentee owners. They are also very involved in seed saving and distribution (Bionatur).

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Date: 22 Apr 1999 06:58:46 -0500
From: (Judy Kew)
Via: Brewster and/or Cathleen Kneen
S-12, C-11, RR.1
Sorrento, B.C. V0E 2W0, Canada
ph/fx: 250-835-8561

From jest-west:

Dear Jesters...

I am taking the liberty of forwarding this message as it sums up well the biotech struggle in Brazil. In addition to the content of this message, you should be aware that Brazil is the second largest soybean producer after the US, and it is benefitting now in the global marketplace as the sole major supplier of non-GE beans. Monsanto obviously seeks to destroy this preferred position. It is, therefore, worth a few minutes to write a brief letter/massage to the Brazilian authorities...

Brewster Kneen

Biotechnology Derived Foods in Brazil

Since 1996 , the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense (IDEC) has been accompanying the proposals for introducing genetically modified foods and plants onto the Brazilian market, initially as part of the National Technical Commission on Biological Hazards (CTNBio) and with the Codex Alimentarius technical commission. Faced with hasty decisions of the CTNBio, which approved the release of these products without elaborating the necessary regulation of safety and of labeling, IDEC joined with other Organizations to oppose these improper decisions. This articulation of forces was strengthened in 1998, when Monsanto requested the deregulation of the cultivation, industrialization and marketing of its Roundup Ready soy. The approval of this request was opposed by IDEC and other organizations which alleged that potential risks for human health and the environment had not been adequately evaluated. Nevertheless the CTNBio failed to respond to this position and gave indications that it would approve the product in September of 1998. Left with no other option, IDEC went to court and got a court order suspending the approval of the product.

Court order notwithstanding, the CTNBio ruled in favor of the approval of the product and sent the file on to the Ministry of Agriculture, for a final ruling, while appealing the court order. After the court ruling, IDEC began a campaign to stimulate public opinion in general and that of decision-makers and politicians in particular. IDEC requested and obtained, in collaboration with interested deputies, a public hearing in Congress on the issue on November 25, 1998, where the different sectors and opinions were broadly represented.

Marilena Lazzarini presented IDEC´s position and handed a petition signed by thousands of consumers from all over the country to the President of the Chamber of Deputies Consumer Protection Commission. In spite of the best efforts of Monsanto´s defenders, the many faults in the approval process were identified and questioned, the uncertainty as regards risks for health and the environment, and the repercussions in the internal and external markets for Brazilian soy of the approval of this product were discussed.

As a concrete result, a requirement signed by representatives of all of the parties requested that the Ministries of Agriculture and of Health respect existing law in their deliberations, and that the mandatory labeling of biotechnological derived foods be implemented. The event was widely and favorably covered by the press and the issue began to reach the public´s eye.

On November 26, IDEC raised a series of issues in relation to CTNBio procedures in the National Council for Standardization, Metrology and Industrial Quality (CONMETRO) -- the chief body which establishes policy for standards and technical regulations in Brazil, and of which IDEC is part.

The disregard of requirements for public comment periods in the development of regulations and the lack of regulations for labeling and for safety of biotechnologically derived foodstuffs, as well as the position defended by Brazil in the Codex Alimentarius and the issue of labeling -- which represented a turn-about in previous positions, were questioned. It was decided that CONMETRO would request CTNBio to employ public comment periods regularly in its regulation setting process and that its members should evaluate in greater depth these other issues.

On November a federal judge in Brasilia reversed the court order suspending the release of Roundup Ready soy but maintained the requirement for labeling and segregation from traditional soy, which can be considered positive.

In January of 1999, IDEC received important support for another demand in its court case -- the carrying out of environmental impact studies prior to the release of genetically modified soy, when the courts accepted the request of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Natural Resources - IBAMA -- the government´s main environmental protection agency - to enter the suit on the side of IDEC, and against CTNBio, which renders far a favorable decision far more likely . Monsanto entered the suit on the side of CTNBio.

During this period, IDEC received extensive support from various public consumer agencies and non governmental entities in Brazil. Consumers and of environmental protection from Europe, the US and Japan also sent messages of support with copies to the Brazilian Authorities.

Brazilian government is right now harmonizing its position among the ministries involved (Sciency and Technology, Agriculture, Environment, Health and Justice).

Any support from you or your organization is very important! (see addresses of Brazilian authorities)

IDEC is the largest non-governmental consumer protection organization in Brazil, with 40,000 associates.

Contact: Marilena Lazzarini
Phone; 5511 38624266    fax: 5511 38629844    E-mail:

Brazilian authorities - Addresses for correspondencies:

(President of Brazil)

Presidência da República
Exmo Sr. Dr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Praça dos Três Poderes - Palácio do Planalto, 4º andar
Brasília/DF - Brasil - CEP: 70.150-900
Tel: +55 - 61-4111573    Fax: +55-61-3215804    e-mail:

(Ministry of Health)

Ministério da Saúde
Exmo Sr. Dr. José Serra
Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco G, 5º andar
Brasília/DF - Brasil - CEP: 70058-900
Tel: +55-61- 3152575/+55-61-315-2380    Fax:+55-61-2259632/+55-61-224-8747    e-mail:

(Ministry of Agriculture)

Ministério da Agricultura
Exmo Sr. Dr. Francisco Sérgio Turra
Esplanadas dos Ministérios, Bloco D - 8º andar
Brasília/DF - Brasil - CEP: 70043-900
Tel: +55-61- 226-5161/+55-61-226-5487    Fax: +55-61- 225-9046/+55-61-226-9365    e-mail:

(Ministry of Environment)

Ministério do Meio Ambiente, Recursos Hídricos, e da Amazônia Legal -
Exmo Sr. Dr. José Sarney Filho
Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco B, 5º andar
Brasília/DF - Brasil - CEP: 70.068-900
Tel: +55-61-322-7819/+55-61-322-8239    Fax: +55-61-226-7107    e-mail:

(Ministry of Justice)

Ministério da Justiça
Exmo Sr.Dr. José Renan Vasconcellos Calheiros
Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco T
Brasília/DF - Brasil - CEP:70064-900
Tel: +55-61-2240954    Fax: +55-61- 322-6817    e-mail:

Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia
Exmo Sr. Dr. Luiz Carlos Bresser Pereira
Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco E
Brasília/DF - Brasil - CEP: 70067-900
Tel: +55-61-223-0552    Fax: +55-61- 225-7496

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

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Date: 22 Apr 1999 13:27:53 -0500
From: Colleen Robison-Spencer

A copy of the original letter was sent to me by an Indiana farmer. Any spelling errors are mine. Received Apr. 20th. C.

US Corn Grower's being warned

Consolidated Grain and Barge Co.
Post Office Box 548
Mt. Vernon, Indiana 47620

Southwind Maritime Centre/Bluff Road

Dear Producer,

We have had many calls in the last couple weeks concerning Genetically Modified (GMO) corn varieties and possible problems with marketing unapproved GMO corn this marketing year. Unfortunately, we have many of the same questions that you have. As seed companies rush new products into the market they have created concerns from our customers, especially the European market. Whether these concerns are founded or not is not for us to decide. Currently about 5% of the intended seed stock is not approved by the European Union and to its members.

In the last week both ADM and AE Staley Co. have stated that their processing plants will not be accepting non-approved GMO varieties because of their European customers concerns. Currently there is no restrictions on GMO grain in the export market being shipped from Mt. Vernon. The question is - Will this change?-the honest anwer is we do not know. We are very comfortable that we can find a home for all GMO varieties but we may have to segregate non-approved varieties. Could this mean a discount or delivery restrictions on non-approved varieties - possibly. Please take this into consideration when selecting your seed this year. If you have questions on whether varieties are approved please call your seed salesman for clarification.

The genetic advancements we have seen over the last 3-5 years are amazing. I'm sure that we will continue to see even more advancements in genetics in the future. But as suppliers we need to keep our consumers needs and concerns in mind.

We wish we could give you a clear picture to the future but in the short run there are a few unknowns. If you feel uncomfortable we recommend you talk with your seed companies for clarification on EU approval and lean to those varieties that are on the approved list.


Charles Lind
Regional Merchandising Mgr.


Ohio River Mile 829

Tel (812)838-4017    Fax (812)838-2572

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Date: 22 Apr 1999 15:14:02 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

Scientists Chew Over Pros and Cons of GM foods

Date: Thu, Apr 22, 1999, 8:01 pm

LONDON, Reuters [WS] via NewsEdge Corporation : Scientists and regulatory agencies say genetically modified foods are safe but many agree more research, monitoring and labelling are needed to reassure consumers. Ben Miflin said in a report in the science journal Nature on Wednesday which follows a wave of public anxiety crops.

The former director of the Institute of Arable Crops Research, a British government-funded group, is a proponent of the benefits of genetic modification and believes any harmful results will be detected through normal quality control.

But Miflin and other researchers questioned by Nature said they supported careful monitoring and a go-slow policy to avoid any unanticipated health or environmental problems.

Scientists say the risks of GM foods are only hypothetical but, in the wake of the disease which devastated British cattle farming, consumers are worried. by the addition of alien genes, removal of genes or modification of their genetic structure, intended to help them resist pests or weather, could also threaten human health or the environment. It is clear in Europe that the consumer backlash means that more investment in Gerry Moy, the head of food safety at the World Health Organisation, told Nature.

Chief among the concerns are potential health risks. The next generation of GM crops could include foods that increase vitamin levels, or plants that produce pharmaceuticals -- a prospect that has led to calls for safety trials similar to those used to approve drugs.

Other questions include whether or not modified crops can harm other plants and animals or spread their genes to other plants.

Scientists at a recent U.S. conference on the ecological impact of GM crops played down fears that the genetically enhanced traits of current GM crops would lead to

But they admitted the real impact of the exchange of genes among plants would not be known until GM crops were more widely used.

Jeremy Rifkin, of the Washington-based pressure group the Foundation for Economic Trends, said the unpredictability of the biotechnology was the main concern. You cannot have governments telling us the technology is safe when there is no science to judge it

He warned that if the modified genes started spreading to organic crops the damage claims could run into the millions and be the Achilles' heel of the biotechnology industry.

[Copyright 1999, Reuters]

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Date: 22 Apr 1999 15:31:19 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

Seed Companies Submit Plan to Keep Bt Corn's Punch

Wednesday April 21, 6:56 pm Eastern Time

WASHINGTON, April 21 (Reuters) - A plan developed by U.S. corn industry leaders and major seed companies should prevent new genetically-modified corn varieties from losing their bug-killing punch, an industry aide said on Wednesday.

The plan was submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency this week by four major companies that sell Bt-corn technology: Monsanto Co.(MTC - news), the second-largest U.S. seed producer; Mycogen Seeds/Dow Agrosciences, an alliance of two Dow Chemical Co. (DOW - news) subsidiaries; Novartis Seeds Inc., a U.S. affiliate of Swiss drug maker Novartis AG and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc.(PHB - news), the largest U.S. seed producer.

If approved quickly by the EPA, it could be implemented for the year 2000 growing season, Scott McFarland, a spokesman for the National Corn Growers Association said.

Bt corn contains genes derived from Bacillus thuringiensis, which allows the plant to produce a toxin that kills the European corn borer.

To prevent those bugs from developing a resistance to Bt corn, the plan calls for farmers to plant conventional corn on a portion of their crop acreage.

The idea is to encourage a diverse insect population, rather than one that gradually builds up a resistance to Bt corn through successive generations. McFarland said.

Under the plan, farmers in the Corn Belt and the northern portion of the corn/cotton region would have to plant a minimum of 20 percent of non-Bt corn on their acreage. In the southern portion of the corn/cotton region, the so-called non-Bt refuge would have to be 50 percent.

The plan also requires farmers to plant non-Bt corn within one-half mile of Bt corn, and recommends that farmers plant the two types within one-quarter mile, if feasible. We are optimistic

But McFarland said he did not expect the plan to vastly change U.S. planting patterns, if approved. he said.

Still, it could have a big impact in some parts of the country where Bt corn plantings have been heavier, he said. Insect Resistance Management Plan for Bt Field can be found on the corn growers' Web site at http:/

On Wednesday, Monsanto's stock was down 7/16 to 42-9/16, while Dow Chemical's stock was up 3/16 to 115-13/16, and Pioneer's stock was down 3/16 to 37-1/4, all in composite New York Stock Exchange activity.

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Date: 22 Apr 1999 15:31:53 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

Asian governments respond to GM awareness

April 22, 1999 © Copyright 1999, Reuters

Japan Latest
Australia Latest
Japan General

TOKYO, Reuters [WS] via NewsEdge Corporation : Governments in Asia are set to map out safety and labelling standards for foodstuffs containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as consumer awareness in such products catches fire in the region.

Japan Latest

In Japan, where GMO development took off in the early 1990s, a panel within the Agriculture Ministry hopes to decide, possibly by this summer, if to adopt labelling criteria for foodstuffs containing high-tech crops, said a ministry official. There is no definitive deadline set, but we're hoping for a swift solution, since said Tsuyoshi Usui, an official at the ministry's Standards and Labelling Division.

From a global perspective, the impact of biotechnology has been greater in the Western hemisphere, but a flood of imports containing transgenic crops and advances in GMO technology within Asia in recent years has spurred interest among the general public, GMO experts said.

Australia Latest

In Australia, officials of consumer groups and government agencies said authorities were working to produce a set of safety and labelling standards by mid-1999. The public does not dismiss it (GMO use) out of hand (but) needs to feel that it said Carole Renouf, senior policy officer for the Australian Consumers Association.

Safety assessments by the Australia New Zealand Food Authority, a joint governmental agency, has so far allowed onto supermarket shelves GMO products using Momsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans and cottonseed oil.

Japan General

Japan, which imports large volumes of grains from countries such as the United States every year, has approved 22 genetically altered products for food use such as corn and canola under its safety guidelines by December 1998.

An official at Japan's largest consumer group said that while the public accepted the government's guidelines, they would feel safer if they were informed which foodstuffs contain transgenic ingredients. We understand about the safety of (GMOs) upto a certain extent, but we feel there should be a set of rules (on labelling) so that consumers can make a said Shuichi Watanabe, manager of the group's safety policy service.

As in other countries, preference for organic food products and concerns over the possible health effects of GMO foodstuffs have prompted Japanese consumers to shy away from them.

Japan's self-supply ratio in key grains excluding rice is below 10 percent, and a significant portion of the grains it imports are believed to be genetically modified.


Meawhile, the debate on GMOs has been heating up in India, where activists voiced concern over the limited information that was available on the safety of this technology. The question now is do we have the mechanism for testing it (GMOs), we don't. While we shouldn't be unnecessarily scared about it, we should have monitoring said Dr Kunthala Jayaraman, Dean of Technology at India's Madras-based Anna University of Technology.

Reliable information about GMOs would be necessary in particular for India's farmers who have to choose between planting genetically altered seeds and ordinary seeds, she said.


In Thailand, an official at the state-run National Sciences and Technology Development Agency said the country had strict guidelines and processes to ensure safety.

Even though there was some public concern about transgenic crops and its possible impact on the environment, Thailand welcomes the use of biotechnology to boost the quality and quantity of its crops, said Yongyuth Yuthvong, head of the agency's protein engineering programme. Like every new technology, there are some uncertainties or risks. But evidence to date indicated that they are relatively small and manageable compared with the he said.

The agency is currently developing fungus-resistant fruits and long shelf-life chillies, used widely in Thai cooking, Yuthvong said.

In addition, biotechnology experts said GMO development has been active in China, but Chinese officials last month have refused comment on their policy regarding high-tech crops.

(Additional reporting by Michael Byrnes in Sydney, Anchalee Koetsawang in Bangkok and Suresh Seshadri in Madras)

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Date: 22 Apr 1999 15:32:13 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

FRIENDS OF THE EARTH: Biotech industry's GM code won't work

April 22, 1999

M2 PRESSWIRE via NewsEdge Corporation :

  • GM industry safety plan slammed
  • Government Urged: Reject Code of Conduct

Friends of the Earth today released details of the biotech industry's draft code of practice for the commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) crops. FOE calls the code, which is due to be discussed today by a key Cabinet Committee, "feeble, unworkable and unenforceable". Ministers have said that the Government must approve the industry's plans before commercial GM crop growing can begin.

The code of practice was produced by the biotech industry body, the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops (SCIMAC). It is dated March 1999 [1]. FOE has criticised the code, which is purely voluntary, because

  1. environmental monitoring of GM crops will be left to the industry
  2. farmers do not have to take any steps to protect farm biodiversity
  3. evidence that GM crops are likely to cross-breed with wild relatives is ignored
  4. safety barriers to prevent contamination of non-GM crops are inadequate
  5. organic farmers crops will not be legally protected from GM contamination.

Friends of the Earth is opposed in principle to a voluntary code of practice for GM crop growing. FOE has criticised Agriculture Minister Jeff Rooker for saying (on Radio 4's Today Programme) that a voluntary code is needed because there is no Parliamentary time to give it legal force. FOE has written to every member of the Cabinet Committee on Biotechnology (Misc 6), which meets today, to urge them to reject the SCIMAC code [2]. FOE has demanded a five year freeze on the commercial growing of GM crops, to allow time to assess environmental effects, including crop safety.

Friends of the Earth food campaigner Adrian Bebb commented: "These industry proposals are feeble, unworkable and unenforceable. If the Government endorses this code then the lawyers will have a field day sorting out the disputes that will inevitably arise between farmers. The Government should call a five year freeze so that the safety of these mutant crops can be re-assessed and debated. Farmers should steer clear of GM crops until these issues have been resolved".

Notes To Editors

  1. A copy of the draft code is available from FOE. SCIMAC consists of representatives from the biotech companies, seed breeders and NFU. To date the SCIMAC code of practice has not been available to farmers or the general public for comment.

  2. Misc 6 is chaired by "Cabinet Enforcer" Jack Cunningham. A copy of the FOE letter is available on request.

*M2 Communications Disclaims All Liability For Information Provided Within M2 Presswire. Data Supplied By Named Party/parties.*

<<M2 PRESSWIRE -- 04/21/99>>

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Date: 22 Apr 1999 17:28:42 -0500
From: (jim mcnulty)

Monsanto Profits Fall, Hurt By Acquisition Costs

Thursday April 22, 2:48 pm Eastern Time

ST. LOUIS, April 22 (Reuters) - Life sciences firm Monsanto Co. (MTC - news) said Thursday its first quarter profits fell 33 percent to $132 million as it spent more on interest payments and amortization costs related to last year's $6 billion in seed company acquisitions.

The maker of Roundup herbicide, Celebrex arthritis treatment and NutraSweet artificial sweetener said it earned 20 cents a diluted share, topping analysts' expectations, on sales of $2.5 billion. Last year, Monsanto earned $196 million, or 32 cents a share, on sales of $2.0 billion.

Analysts had expected Monsanto to earn 16 cents a share in the latest quarter, according to research firm First Call, which tracks such data. Robert Shapiro, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. Most notably, early patient demand for Celebrex arthritis treatment is at an unprecedented level for any new drug. Celebrex is on track to become the most successful new product ever launched in the history of the U.S.

Monsanto said it was advancing other new drugs in its product pipeline, and also saw strong demand for its crops with biotechnology traits.

Last year, Monsanto bought two seed companies and agreed to purchase a third for a grand total of more than $6 billion.